Takako and I started watching FX’s infamous Nip/Tuck this fall and, on a Christmas day unlike any other, we finished season 3. At its best Nip/Tuck was the story of three friends; plastic surgeons Dr. Sean McNamara, Dr. Christian Troy and their med school crush (now Sean’s wife,) Julia all locked in a three way tug of war in which their family and business practice were all hanging in the balance. At its worst, it was sensationalist, misery porn which pushed boundaries at the expense of being true to its characters. To the show’s credit, the first three seasons somehow managed to temper the shock and awe nonsense with the tug of war and ended about where it should.
So that’s why Takako and I quit. With the show’s multiple season spanning Carver arc ended, Julia and Sean having found themselves through mutual self destruction and then reinvention, and Christian having finally rediscovered the family he has in them and their son (his son) Matt and the end of his self flagellation, what more needed to be said?
Apparently a lot. The damn thing went on for 6 or 7 seasons of which the internet writes: “all that needs to be said about the last season of Nip/Tuck is that Matt becomes a mime thief.”
Quitting a show midstream is not something I take lightly. I’m one of those people that refuses to stop watching a movie before the credits roll. I have in fact never walked out on a film as so many people claim to have. I believe that once you commit to watching a film you need to see the filmmakers’ whole vision before you can judge it. But in the case of Nip/Tuck I’m willing to declare creator Ryan Murphy, who went on to make the wholesome Glee of all things, unfit to continue his series simply because he did continue it after wrapping things up so neatly in the Season 3 finale. It’s not a happy ending but it was a logical place to say farewell.
That’s not why people watched though and FX knew it. People watched for three ways, four ways, gore and rape after rape after rape. So it went on and according to my netflix queue, each subsequent season is less beloved than the one prior.
It’s a moral dilemma for me because I am basically ignoring the fact that Sean and Julia don’t return to one another as better people, that Christian hasn’t moved on past his medschool crush, that Matt isn’t a good person who has seen the error of his ways, and that their daughter Annie won’t grow into a nutcase because all of my semi-happy endings will be undone in Seasons 4-6.
Can feigned ignorance be bliss? Can people who disagreed with the direction of Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull just pretend it’s some fan fiction joke outside the canon of the series? How can we have a conversation about it as art if some people simply refuse to recognize it as part of a whole that affects the former? For example: When we first see Indiana Jones meet with Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s impossible not to consider how those two will end up at the finale of Crystal Skull. Even if you try to ignore the refrigerator scene and Mutt Williams, you will accept that Indiana Jones and Marion get married at the end because it’s a happy ending for two characters you like. Perhaps canon is selectively cumulative?
That’s how I feel about Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Full Metal Alchemist) which was a series I actually did finish despite my reservations about where the author was taking us. Anyone will tell you, and in fact, Tatsurou from Mucc did tell me, that the series wrapped up nicely in the anime. So much so that it felt done. The problem was that the comic book version continued on and on long after the story seemed to reach its climax.
Hagaren adds new characters to muddy up everything for the grand finale, which felt like it ended mostly because it had to not because the story demanded it to. It also gives in to the pressures of its shonen manga roots, going so far as to have a One Piece moment in which a character, in their moment of redemption, says “What I really wanted was friends like you.” BARF.
I can’t ignore the last 12 volumes of the Hagaren story because there’s no proper ending without them but I wish for the sake of the story, which is a very intimate one when you get down to it, that they had found the courage to wrap things up around the time when Hoenheim confronts his doppleganger. What happens in the finale, if it had just happened earlier and with less distractions, would have been sublime.
I think the point that ties these two very different series with very different problems together is that things have a natural end -a point at which the story is told, the characters exhausted, the audience’s patience tried. Storytelling is a lot like sex. Bring it to climax once and you can tease it out a little more, but you gotta hit the big finish and then slowly and steadily build up for round two if you want a second one. The problem with Nip/Tuck and its strange bedfellow, Hagaren, is that they try to extend a climax for multiple seasons/volumes and end up just sort of whimpering across the finish line. Limply.