The ending is left as an exercise for the viewer

Probably everyone has made this connection except me, because for the most part, I steer clear of meta-fanfic discussions, mostly because I am ill-equipped to participate. I know that Joss invited fans to write fanfic after the shows were over, and of course, I knew very well, as do we all, that “Angel” was left on an ambiguous note where the gang is about to take on an alleyway full of demons, but then (urgh!!) we never see the outcome of that. What I didn’t do was connect those two factoids together, and see the ending of NFA as a deliberate attempt to invite the fans to finish the story themselves. Then I stumbled across this little bit of quotage in londonkds‘ journal, where azdak did the math for me:

And of course AtS makes the idea explicit. By having the narrative end when the story isn’t yet over, it forces everyone to commit fanfic, if only in their heads, in order to provide an ending.”

Of course, we know that AtS was cut down prematurely, when Mutant Enemy had more story to tell and more story planned. And there was all sorts of speculation about why Joss ended it the way he did, including “screw the WB, I’m going to do the ending I was going to do anyway when it was supposed to be a cliffhanger for season 6.” That annoyed me because it seemed to be punishing the fans, who needed closure. And a lot of closure-needing fans just decided the gang died like noble heroes in the alleyway, which I didn’t like, not the least because season 5 was something of a “dark night of the soul” for Angel which I wanted him to come out of, and not in a quick-fix way the end of the season attempted, especially given how ruthlessly Angel went about his plan.

At any rate, my immediate reflex after “Not Fade Away” was to indeed commit fanfic (darn Joss and his sinister attraction!), which for those that know me well, I never do. Or didn’t do, with the little exception of The Fanged Four Fic a couple years ago. Not even “Home”, which traumatized me psychologically for months, could get me to write the little “Origin”-esque fanfic I threatened to write that summer as therapy.

But this idea, that the open-ended ending of “Not Fade Away” was Joss’s way of dealing with cancellation, by inviting the fans to finish the story, each in his/her own way, is at least a bit of speculation on the man’s reasoning that I can live with.

Masq’s (and friends’) two (so far) possible endings to “Not Fade Away”:

I kind of want to slay the dragon.

Oh, they’re not for you.

15 thoughts on “The ending is left as an exercise for the viewer

  1. I had pretty much the same reaction and came to the same conclusions…with the caveat of I know he’s been screaming about making an Angel movie a.s.a.p. DB was willing to do a full length movie but not a tv one. Though one could only speculate would Joss actually set it post NFA or would he shove it into another season as an ‘episode’ he wanted to do and didn’t get the chance to.
    As for your endings…I’ve liked them both. I’ve had several of mine

  2. Is that movie rumor new? Because there were a lot of movie rumors floating around last year, and they all seemed to fizzle out.

  3. It’s older but getting kicked around more now that Firefly’s movie is underway but really if he doesn’t do it soon it won’t be done. The actors will be too old and too hard to get back in one place. I know both James and Vinnie have movies coming out.

  4. Vinnie always has movies coming out. I’ll be pleased if I actually get to *see* any of them. Still waiting on “Dandelion”!

  5. Dandelion seems to be languishing in the never to be released pile.
    Alpha Dog is one I doubt I want to see. I already know the case they based it on too well and I’m afraid (especially knowing Vinnie’s tastes in movies) that this will be an exploitive look at this dirt bag instead of villifying him like he deserves…and Justin Timberlake is going ot be in it so that just makes my skin crawl.

  6. I’ll probably watch it. I didn’t like “Another Day in Paradise”, and I thought I wouldn’t like “Ricky 6” but I still have them both in my tape collection.

  7. Oh, I never got that connection as well – I always thought that the cliffhanger at the end of S5 was a kind of closure – though we don’t know what happened, we know they kept on fighting. Which I think was the point of the episode and the season – that they shouldn’t “fade away,” that they should keep fighting no matter the odds and what happens.
    Of course, if Joss did it to force the audience to resolve it themselves – literally keeping Angel alive in their minds – that would be so awesome.

  8. I think your answer has merit as well. It’s the one I use in my analysis of “Not Fade Away”, with lots of Joss and Mutant Enemy quotage to support it.

  9. I pretty much assumed that the ending of NFA was deliberately a) layered and b) ambiguous, and thus would allow for multiple interpretations. Besides, offering ‘closure’ doesn’t prevent the desire to have the story continue, unless the character dies and is going to stay that way. BtVS had ‘closure’, but I still fervently want to know what happens next.
    Have you heard the NFA DVD commentary track yet? If so, I’d be curious to hear your reaction.
    BTW, cornerofmadness makes a point about the actors aging, but I don’t think that’s really a big problem anymore. With digital image processing techniques gaining power by leaps and bounds, DB could age ten years, and still shoot an Angel flick. Then, he could be digitally made younger so he looks the same as he did when the series was shot. You couldn’t manage this on a TV budget, but on a film budget it would be do-able even today, let alone 10 years from now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s