Read enough tv reviews, and you’ll start to see the same observation pop up – have they left enough space to wrap everything up in the final episode? This usually follows observations about how slow the story is, or how it’s taking its time, you know the kind of thing.
Reviews are, of course, not the best yardstick of a successful piece of art. Fundamental misunderstandings of how stories work are standard for the field. But if enough different people tell you it’s noon all at the same time, it might be worth looking up at the sky.
Thing is: the final episode doesn’t have to be where all the work gets done.
Instead, consider the possibility that your big climax should be planned for the episode before last.
Outwardly, this achieves a couple of things. The big bang happens where it is possibly least expected, which is often good. It also allows you to spend the final episode “wrapping everything up” by getting to spend extra time with the surviving characters, sitting with the aftermath and closing the arcs of their journeys.
It also makes you look a lot harder at the episodes that precede it. You may find you have to let some air out of the story in order to achieve that confluence of events in the penultimate chapter. This is the “killing your darlings” that writers talk about — losing the moments and conversations and grace notes that may enchant you but do nothing to retain attention, maintain focus and drive the story forward. You may find that you suddenly have some pace and attack back in the story.
And if you can’t achieve the whole of that big confluence in the penultimate chapter after all? You do still have a whole other episode to accommodate the overspill.
Speaking personally, it was important for me to establish early in the process that the penultimate episode of CASTLEVANIA Season 4 was the one where I was going to bring the hammer down, so that I had the whole last episode to deal with its reverberations.