What makes a modern happy ending?

Bringing a narrative to a satisfying conclusion is one of the most difficult challenges in TV and cinema. While convention still reigns in certain shows, CR looks at how ‘happily ever after’ is beginning to change in a compelling new era for storytelling

Warning: this article contains spoilers for El Camino, Game of Thrones, Fleabag, and Someone Great

This year has been another blistering year in telly. Talking points came particular from dramas based on real-life trauma, from a recreation of the Chernobyl disaster, to Netflix’s compelling retelling of true crime stories in Unbelievable and When They See Us.

Meanwhile, we saw some old favourites drawing to a close. Some shows did this with aplomb: Orange is the New Black, for example, bade farewell to its stellar range of characters in a moving finale. Other shows, however, saw their final series sparking intense debate.

After eight seasons of drama, trauma and fire, Game of Thrones called it a day, and in the process upset a lot of loyal fans of the show. Having flouted convention and embraced controversy for the best part of a decade, the show built its reputation on dramatic plot twists. Yet its closure caused discussion not for a dramatic twist or two, but instead for erring on the conventional side.