The Long Goodbye


While I probably never got as excited about my school textbooks as Susie does, the rest of her sentiments in the above comic from Bill Watterson’s brilliant strip Calvin & Hobbes mirror a feeling that has occurred to me multiple times, most recently last week.

Ever since I discovered that many TV shows I used to watch exist online in one form or another, I’ve been going back and revisiting a lot of old favorites from various times in my life.  I’ve even gone back and watched some old cartoons from my childhood for nostalgia, the most recent example of which was Pokémon.  Back when the original video games came out in 1998, I quickly became a fan of the series.  I had the Blue Version, and my best friend at the time had the Red Version.  We would trade and battle our Pokémon during marathon gaming sessions, and also both became fans of the animated show, which chronicled the adventures of main character Ash Ketchum as he embarked on a journey similar to the one that players took in-game.  Thus, the cartoon became very easy to relate to for anyone who had played the game.

(from left): Misty, Ash Ketchum, and Brock. the protagonists of the Pokémon anime
(from left): Misty, Brock, and Ash Ketchum, the protagonists of the Pokémon anime

Remembering how much fun I’d had watching the series as a kid, I added Pokémon to the list of shows that I wanted to revisit as an adult, and watched what I consider to be “my generation” of the show on and off for almost 3 years, finally finishing it last week.  After I finished, a strange thing happened… I missed it.  It probably didn’t help that the penultimate episode I watched featured Ash parting ways with longtime traveling companions Misty and Brock in an emotional scene.

Let me be clear, Pokémon is kid’s show, through and through.  It’s not a show that makes you think very hard, like Friday Night Lights, Firefly, or others I’ve discussed on here.  It’s not secretly brilliant or anything, just fun.  Yet still, I missed it.  Simple as the plot designs and characters were, I felt like these characters had been part of my life for just under three years, and saying goodbye to them was like saying goodbye to a longtime friend, just like Susie says above.  I feel like, by watching the show for a long time, it was almost like I was inviting the characters into my home and sharing my space with them, and even though they were fictional, and it was hard to let go.

Pokémon is by no means the only show that I’ve had trouble finishing.  I remember putting off watching “Daybreak,” the Battlestar Galactica finale, for at least a week because I simply didn’t want the show to end.  I feel like this phenomenon occurs most acutely when you’ve watched a show for a long time.  Shows that only last a season or two don’t really allow you to bond with the characters much and form any sort of relationship with them.  Also, some shows have different priorities than others, such as telling a good story or pumping a lot of action into the plot, rather than character development.  I don’t find myself connecting as with the characters as deeply on a show like Doctor Who, for example.  I watch that more for the plotlines and story, as well as the interesting historical references that are sprinkled throughout it (and there haven’t been a lot of those lately… bring them back, Steven Moffat!).  Royal Pains and Revenge fall into this category for me too, among others.  Those will be easier to let go when they end, I think.

I find this happening to me when I reach the end of a good book, as well.  I don’t read a ton of fiction, but when I do, the ones that connect me with the characters are the hardest to close.  I can think of two examples off the top of my head.  Jodi Picoult’s book My Sister’s Keeper depicts a family who conceives a child, Anna, through in vitro fertilization to be a perfect bone marrow donor for her sister, Kate, who is suffering from acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL).  Thoughout the book, I felt great sympathy for what the family was going through, and I can’t imagine what I would do if one of my own children was ever in the same situation.


I also felt the same way after reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (this is the popular Girl With The… series).  The character of Lisbeth Salander really struck me for her tenacity and bravery in the face of terrible circumstances, and made that book series difficult to finish as well, though I did plow through the trilogy pretty quickly because it was so gripping.


The one nice thing about saying goodbye to your newfound TV and book friends, though, is that unlike when you say goodbye to a friend in real life, your fictional companions only as far away as your TV or laptop.  You can visit them again whenever you want, which I plan to do with the very best 🙂


  1. Dear J.P.,
    Loved the column. I am sending it to Grandma. Here is a twist on the “rediscovering an old friend” theme. I have found that sometimes I have very fond memories of a book or tv show. I remember it as gripping and brilliant. Then I go back to it and it seems less compelling, dated, or even melodramatic. For example, I love World War II history. Way back when, Herman Wouk wrote a best seller called “The Winds of War”. I devoured it as a teenager and thought it was one of the best novels I had ever read. I picked it up again many years later. While it was still good, it had lost some of its magic. I felt a little bit of a sense of loss, of time passing. So those sentimental journeys can be like finding an old friend and picking up where you left off, or finding an old friend and realizing you don’t have as much in common anymore.

    • Thanks Dad. That’s an interesting take on the idea. I don’t know that I’ve experienced that as of yet, but I suppose I might later in life. Tastes change as you get older, and I’m sure mine will too. I do plan to reread MSK and other books down the road, so it will be interesting to see if I have an experience like the one I express in the post, or like you express in your comment.

  2. […] The ending is also rather satisfying, and ties all the plotlines together to a satisfying denouement.  The only thing there is that it rather definitively shuts the door on any kind of sequel, which is perhaps a good thing in the age of “everything is a franchise.”  But this definitely qualified as a story where I bonded with the characters sufficiently to make it difficult to say goodbye. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s