Before watching tonight's "Reaper" season/probably-series finale, I caught up on last week's season finale for "One Tree Hill," a show I hate but watch anyway. The contrasts couldn't have been greater.
Even though the "OTH" team wrote the season finale with full expectation of being renewed for another year (if not in perpetuity, given The CW's overall lackluster ratings and the show's protean ability to reinvent itself without any variation in quality), they wrapped up every storyline in a nice, happy, redemptive bow. It was an hour of hugging, reunions, "I Love Yous" and "I'm Sorrys." Why anybody, myself included, would every feel the need to watch another episode is beyond me. Is there such a thing as an anti-cliffhanger? Where instead of ending things by driving off a cliff, you end things by pulling into your garage, unbuckling your seatbeat and taking the key out of the ignition? "One Tree Hill" did the latter.
The "Reaper" finale was presumably written before a single episode aired this season, when the writers weren't exactly sure why they'd been given a second season at all and didn't have any expectation of a third season. With no real future to count on, they could have aimed the story toward a finale that sent the fans home content. Instead, with five minutes to go in Tuesday's (May 26) finale, with the potential of concluding and ending on a happy note, the writers chose to push the show in a new direction for its third season. The problem? The CW didn't renew "Reaper" and the rumors of a possible syndicated/affiliate-generated reprieve feel really unlikely.
So that's the way you wanted to end things, "Reaper"? I can deal with it.
[Some thoughts on the finale -- not a recap, but with spoilers -- after the break...]
We had to know that the series was not going to culminate in a game of quarters. Yeah, it might have been a fitting resolution, for the Devil's slacker bounty hunter to reclaim his soul by besting father/mentor/master at the only task at which he excelled, a drinking game. But would that have validated all of the effort that Sam went to to get the incantation to challenge the Devil to the duel in the first place? It was almost better that for all of the effort, all of the people set on missions to hell, all of the souls lost, that Sam's best laid plans fell apart so spectacularly, than if they had succeeded at something so menial.
There were nice payoffs along the way, including Sam getting fitted with one of the Devil's suits to be a reflection of his father -- Did Michael Ian Black's Steve find a way to resurrect Satan's deceased tailor, or did he find an alternative, comparable haberdashery? -- only to learn that the actual translation of the incantation didn't say that Sam was to be a reflection of the Devil, but that the Devil's love of his own reflection would be his undoing. The Devil, distracted by his vanity, put himself in a position to lose, but Steven showed up and crushed Sam's hand, claiming to be on a mission from On High. That left Sam failing at quarters and the Devil controlling both Sam and Andi's souls.
It was an episode of sacrificial female characters, wasn't it? Nina willingly underwent an exorcism to help Ben get back on his grandma's good graces. And Andi admitted that she's been a useless pill all season long and put her faith in Sam (and her rarely articulated love for Sam) and per her soul up for collateral. It's a bit sad that that's all Andi was good for all season, but she got some very cute moments when Sam got her drunk practicing quarters ("I'm gonna need your help. I'm getting nuded for you"). Isn't it a bit pathetic when writers can't figure out how to keep strong female characters interesting and have to resort to plying them with alcohol to bring them back to life? It's a fate that at least a dozen female film and TV characters suffer from every year.
The episode ended with Andi and Sam now both intertwined and indentured to the Devil, which would probably suck for most characters, but as Andi put it, "If nothing else, then we have time together." At the very least, putting these two characters on an equal plane would eliminate the disparity that the show never figured out how to conquer. Without secret-keeping, or Andi's ridiculously undeveloped fear that Sam was evil or any of the other artificial impediments the writers kept providing, maybe the characters can now be happy, off in that fictional neverwhere in which the "Reaper" will return next year.
In that neverwhere, we'll get to find out what mission Steve was sent on, how all of the angels at the end relate to Sam and what in what mysterious ways, exactly, Heaven was working. If Sam is the son of the Devil, might Andi be the daughter of... I dunno... somebody holier? Might their union bring about... Cancellation?
It's just as well. You can tackle the idea of the Devil, a spiritual darkness, without alienating or offending most religious people in any specific way. The minute you flip the coin and start dealing with Heaven and who does or doesn't reside there, that's when you start playing with the real fire (and/or brimstone).
I've already written my column on why The WB should have considered bringing "Reaper" back, or at least considered it more strongly. The CW didn't listen to me. I didn't expect them to. Why not bring back "Reaper" and air it on Friday nights after "Smallville" instead of "America's Next Top Model" encores? Money, silly.
As I mentioned earlier, though, there have been rumors that some involved parties were looking into the possibility of bringing "Reaper" back as part of The CW's non-CW Sunday nights, as a syndicated program. Why would that be a good thing? Presumably this renewal would be done at a fraction of the price, with chunks of the cast missing and many/most members of the creative team moved on to other projects. The show would them be dumped into The CW's Sunday wasteland, where it would be watched by fewer people than most cable programming or TeleMundo test patterns, becoming almost a Nielsen afterthought. No matter how much Bret Harrison or Rick Gonzalez or Missy Peregrym or Ray Wise like their characters, do you really think that's a situation they'd want to be in?
I'm a fan of "Reaper." A loud and vocal fan of "Reaper." But I wouldn't wish The CW's non-CW Sunday night on my worst enemy, much less something I enjoy.
How about some comic highlights of the "Reaper" finale:
*** R.I.P. Jimbo the Dancing Monkey, whose untimely demise led the Devil to put a funny hat on Sam and order him "Dance, monkey! Dance!"
*** New sexual move to try out? The Shark Attack. As Sock explains it, "It's like in 'Jaws' where all you can see is the shark's fin, right? So what happens is the lady lies on the bed, naked, preferably, dude does a crab-walk around the foot of the bed so all she can see is his shark-fin. You dig?"
*** As sad as it was to see Sam dancing like a monkey, it was even sadder to see him trying to come up with an attitude with which he could beat the Devil, including playing the clarinet. I do wish Sam's gift had been something that had been previously introduced at least in passing, but I'm somehow missing any memory of his skills at quarters. So I'm glad that wasn't what got him out of his deal with Satan.
*** Words of wisdom from the soul-of-the-week: "If you want to get high, yet keep your body clean, licking a toad is really the best way. Unless you get a poison one."
*** Words of encouragement from Satan: "I'm a bad loser, alright? And if you should eventually win this thing, don't expect any hugs or grab-ass."
*** I loved how the only person who ended up with his soul intact and who didn't have a crazed toad-licking trip was Ben, generally my favorite character and always the show's most sympathetic, even in the midst of his psychological warfare against his grandmother, consisting of stealing all of the arts and crafts projects he made for her in childhood.
*** Ben's full name? Benjamin Casper Perez Gonzalez.
*** "Monkey Dance! He's doing the monkey dance!"
Your thoughts on the finale? And would you *really* want to see "Reaper" come back on Sunday nights without Tyler Labine, with a lower budget and without any sort of promotional push?