Are Ambiguous Endings Just Lazy Writing?

**Warning, contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle season 4**


The Man in the High Castle. A triumph in modern television and novel-based adaptations. It just concluded its fourth and final season. But despite some of its most incredible performances to date, the ending came feeling a bit rushed and not all that satisfying. It ended with myself and many others asking “what just happened?” And not in a Game-of-Thrones-how-did-a-show-end-this-badly kind of way either. I was left just a bit confused by how everything came to a close.

For those who haven’t seen the show, or read the novel by the same name, here’s the gist. The series takes place in an alternate reality where the Axis powers of World War Two were victorious, and we find ourselves following a series of characters who live in a now divided and oppressive America where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have claimed territory. But some mysterious films start showing up with footage from alternate realities, like our world, where history turned out a bit different. These films inspire some dissent, yadda yadda yadda, it’s a threat to the new world order, the Nazis want the films destroyed. Now most importantly, in the TV adaptation, the Nazis build a portal to our world in a plot to raise an infinite Nazi army from parallel universes. Lots of interesting narrative potential there, right? Well, when you’re cut off at four seasons apparently, not so much.

The final shot of the series ends with our heroes in the resistance finally capturing and preparing to destroy this dangerous portal when it just kinda turns on and people start coming out of it. More evil Nazis? No. Allied soldiers ready to help push back the last of the Nazi scourge? Nope. Just a bunch of regular people. Who are they? We don’t know. This event was heavily alluded to when the main character, Juliana Crane, enters a mysterious, other-worldly, meditative state several times in the season, but it’s never really explained then who these people would be. Now that does make sense if you’re building for a big reveal later, but it’s a plot point that doesn’t get addressed at all.

The ending feels very much like a symptom of the larger problem that is a rushed finale. Seeing some characters greet the end of the show with loose ends is disappointing, but at least understandable coming from such a complicated narrative. But leaving your grand finale open to the point of confusion? That just feels lazy. I don’t want to imagine my own fan-fiction ending. Sure, there are plenty of ways that I think it could or should have ended, but I want to be told first. Don’t make me do the leg work when I have nothing to hold it up against.

Again I want to reiterate, the show is phenomenal, with some of the best writing I’ve ever seen. Even the likes of Stephen King had this to say. But the ending of any writing is one of its most important parts, and I think fans of any show or story deserve a conclusion that at least feels conclusive.


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