A surreal police station — Cars pull up to the station. There’s Shane’s Jeep, Alice’s Mini, Bette and Tina’s Lexus, Kit’s badass boat.
Accompanied by a macabre screechy-strings-with-bass-and-drums version of the theme song (alas, we didn’t entirely escape it), they stroll into the station. The scene morphs into a kind of curtain call. One by one, they sashay in slow motion as if on their own private runway, first with blank faces and then — beginning with Bette and Tina, as everything must — with a glint of something like triumph in their eyes. Their smiles say … what? So much. Nothing at all.
Eventually Jenny herself joins them, her own cryptic expression taking on a new pallor.
Postmortem — Well. That’s that. No play-by-play (or even hint-by-hint) of the murder; no univocal answer to the question of "Who killed Jenny?" Instead, we have a chorus — of primaries, not erstwhiles. Maybe she fell; maybe she jumped; maybe they all killed her, à la Murder on the Orient Express (but where’s our Hercule Poirot to spell it all out?). Maybe Jenny’s not actually dead, having learned how to breathe underwater while she was studying the language of manatees and beluga whales.
The sauntering, slyly smiling curtain call was even more confounding. It felt like a show of solidarity, but they also looked a little diabolical — cracked somehow. What were the actresses trying to convey as they floated over the lights of L.A. one last time?
Leaving a mystery unsolved is risky. You might call it hubristic, cheeky or ballsy. You might call it maddening, infuriating, disappointing or frustrating. Forget the "might" and the "or"; it’s fair to call it all of those. But — and I know I’m in the tiny minority here — you might also call it a way to let the characters live on, or a way to let the audience choose its own adventure. Believe it or not, I ain’t mad at that ending.
If I haven’t lost you with that last sentence, I’ll say a little more on the subject: I like series finales that let me imagine the characters going on, living their lives, continuing without me. An open-ended finale gives me room to picture them on different paths. Without answers, I can ask "what if?" The finale of The Sopranos was a little too formless, leaving me nothing but Journey lyrics to hook my daydreams to. And Six Feet Under (a truly moving finale) was a little too finalized, leaving me only enough room to wonder how they got to where they’re going. But I like wondering what Melanie and Lindsay are up to in Canada, or what Buffy and Faith and Dawn did after Sunnydale became a crater. (I’m ignoring the BTVS comic book for the moment!)
So, what if? What if Jenny’s death has changed everything? Maybe Tina will go back to Shaolin Studios with the Lez Girls negative in her vindicated hands. Maybe Shane will get Molly back. Maybe Alice will get to work on that talk-show-host-and-cop film after all. Maybe Bette will finally feel safe and stable now that she no longer has to worry about protecting her family from a Jenny-shaped threat (just a negligence-shaped lawsuit). Well, one of those isn’t really possible: Alice is going to The Farm and thus to jail. But for the rest, the sky’s the limit and I can picture them in lots of different futures.
Or maybe I’m just brainwashed now, and have learned to accept that the threads of The L Word are, more often than not, left to flutter and flap in the winds of the writers’ whims. Why should this story line — yes, even this major, central story — come to a satisfying end? We’ve all noticed the many out-of-character moments on the show. I think it’s fair to say that tying things up in a big bow would be out of character for Chaiken herself. (Not that I didn’t want her to fix that particular flaw — and many others — in her writerly character. I did, many times over these six seasons, but not in the finale. That would almost feel like a slap in the face, to fix that stuff now.)
Plot holes and dead threads aside, I liked the surprisingly raw tone of the episode (not counting the snoozy first half). To me, the finale did what the season as a whole tried (and mostly failed) to do: give us a peek into the darker side of this shiny, happy, pretty group of friends. Whether or not anyone actually murdered Jenny, the characters’ baser instincts were exposed over the last eight episodes, and several carefully laid plans turned out to have weak foundations. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went — nobody really confronted those crises, despite all the processing — but the finale did give us a glimpse of the group’s response to their shaken-up snow globe: their collective instinct is to circle the wagons, possibly at the expense of individual morals and without much concern for the truth. Twisted, yes, and way too deep and far too ambitious for this show, but fascinating anyway.
Shrug. Or maybe it’s all a big f— you to the audience: "You hate Jenny? Fine — she’s dead, and I won’t tell you how she died! Neener neener!"
I do know one thing for certain: that was a big waste of Lucy Lawless’s considerable talents. A few more shots of that smirk and swagger could have made it all so, so much better.
Viva la revolución — Just before the finale, we got to enjoy a "finale special," a look back at the show. It reminded me how very exciting it was when the show first started. That didn’t last, but I won’t soon forget the feeling. And we’ll all feel the lack of a lesbian-centric show — most keenly on Sunday nights. There were frustrations, mishaps and wasted opportunities, but there was a show. On TV. About lesbians. So for that, I say this: Thank you, Ilene.
A personal postscript — Just over a year ago, I said so long to AfterEllen.com, and now I’m saying it again. Thank you for reading my ramblings all these years. Keep in touch (scribegrrrl [at] gmail) or follow me on Twitter. Don’t take any wooden nickels, and watch out for those unfinished railings!