We talked about how best to introduce characters in your story. Now let’s talk about how stories should end.
Some writers are called pantsers and some are plotters. Pantsers don’t know the end of the story before they begin. They discover the story as it goes along. Plotters plot out their story, knowing how it ends before they begin.
Because of the uncertain nature of television, many shows are borne from great ideas, but after they become popular, they don’t know how to end it. Case and point? How I Met Your Mother forgot it was a comedy during its series finale and it left most everyone unsatisfied.
One of my favorite shows is NCIS, however, I feel it should consider ending its run. The dynamics of the characters have been explored and past traumas overcome, leaving the writers almost nothing left to do, evident by the season premiere where they brought back a dead rival, Ari, as the catalyst for a new bad guy. It’s obvious they’ve run out of ideas.
But, how should a show as successful and beloved as NCIS end? Well, in my mind, it has two choices. It could die a slow death where the lack of new ideas or challenges diminishes the audience and it fades into oblivion. Or, you do something so epic people would talk about it for years (see Sopranos and Breaking Bad).
On my drive home from work one day, I came up with a perfect ending. The last four episodes should unfold as follows.
- Bishop is investigating something off book for a friend. She doesn’t show up for work. The team finds her murdered.
- The investigation leads Tony and McGee to a dangerous situation. McGee sacrifices his life to save Tony.
- Tony, distraught and feeling guilty, continues along with Gibbs to find the culprit behind the death of two of there team. Tony uncovers the bad guy and is killed.
- Gibbs, having lost his team, discovers the massive scope of the plot and sacrifices himself to save everyone at NCIS.
Yes, my idea is, in each of the last four episodes, one of the team members die. Boom, boom, boom, boom.
It would be sad and frustrating and devastating and memorable as hell.
When I broached this idea with my film and television savvy daughter, she hated it, because she loved the characters. She loved it, because it was perfect. That night, she wrote the final few scenes that end the series, which I’ve included below this blog post.
Shows that don’t know when to end are as irritating as friends who don’t know when to leave your house. NCIS has been such a tremendous success and a wonderful source of entertainment. Doing something as drastic as killing off the team one by one to end the series would make it one of the most memorable endings in television history.
What do you think? Don’t be shy. Let me know in the comments.
Here’s the script version of NCIS – The End.
NCIS – THE END
by Dorothea Bauer
FOOF: Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Bishop sit smiling at a dinner table.
Gibbs lays on the ground, weak and bleeding.
FLASH: Memories from Gibbs’s life flash before his eyes.
Gibbs weakens as POLICE storm the building. Their guns and voices fade into silence, and a hand caresses his cheek. Looking up, SHANNON, smiles at him.
It’s ok, Jethro. It’s ok. Come home.
While police seize the building, Gibbs closes his eyes.
EXT. CEMETARY – DAY
The summer sun shines brightly through the leaves. A breeze sways the trees, breathing life into its branches. Standing in the sun, hundreds of men, women, marines, sailors, NCIS agents, friends, and loved ones surround four caskets.
LEON VANCE stands with his CHIDLREN by his side.
TOBIAS FORNELL and DIANE STERLING, each place a hand on their DAUGHTER’S shoulders.
TONY DINOZZO SR. dabs the tears escaping his eyes as his WIFE comforts him.
SARAH MCGEE cries openly and without shame as she holds DELILAH’S wheelchair still.
Next to them stand Bishop’s HUSBAND and Tony’s GIRLFRIEND.
Separate from the rest, DUCKY, JIMMY, BRINA PALMER, and ABBY SCIUTO stand by the final resting place of their team, facing the sea of people before them. With a black lace umbrella in one hand, Abby clutches ZIVA DAVID with her other, places her head on Ziva’s shoulder and cries. Ziva pats her arm gently.
The camera dollies from the team standing to the team sleeping. A framed photo of the fallen resting within sits atop each coffin. In them, ELLIE BISHOP smiles, TONY DINOZZO laughs, TIM MCGEE grins, and JETHRO GIBBS, with the American flag adorning his final bed, stares boldly into the distance.
Concluding his prayers, a PRIEST invites Vance to speak. He pulls a crumpled paper from his pocket. As he speaks the names of his team, the camera cuts to those in the crowd who loved them.
Ellie Bishop, Anthony DiNozzo, Timothy McGee, and Leroy Jethro
Gibbs were among the finest individuals I’ve ever known.
As agents, they embodied the dedication, honor, strength, and courage
of their agency. NCIS was not just a job, it was their home. And they gave
their lives protecting it. It has been the greatest honor of my life to have
In the background, a BUGLER plays TAPS.
MONTAGE: SEVEN MARINES each fire three shots into the air. The MARINE HONOR GUARD folds Gibbs’s flag and places it respectfully in Abby’s lace-covered hands.
Uniformed soldiers salute, and GUESTS come forward to lay flowers on the graves of those they loved:
Ducky lays a lily on Gibbs’s coffin.
Sarah and Delilah place a wreath on McGee’s.
Ziva and Tony’s girlfriend each place one red rose on his.
And Bishop’s husband lays his shaking hand on her casket, one final time, to say goodbye.
The sun shines brightly and the leaves rustle in the breeze.
INT. BAR – NIGHT
Vance enters a bar and walks purposefully to the back wall. Pulling a blue-framed photo from his jacket pocket, he hangs it on the wall. With a final glance and a respectful nod, he leaves.
The camera pans back to reveal the bar wall, crammed with photos of agents and military men and women. Sitting in the middle, in a blue frame, Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Bishop smile at a dinner table.
Painted in yellow, above smiling and stern faces alike, a sign reads, “Honoring Our Fallen.”