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The finale of The Killing and expectations

Posted on June 21, 2011

The season finale of The Killing, episode 13, has angered fans like no other television show has in the past.  Everything pointed to resolution of the murder case in the 13th and final episode, but the writers instead left us with a cliffhanger and series of unanswered questions.  For the best rant on the topic, see Bill Simmons (the sports writer) at: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6680958/hackery-first-degree.  He lets his anger spill over into a retroactive slamming of what was actually a very compelling show for 12 episodes (though he does it with such energy and humor that it’s still a worthwhile read), but his essential point is right on target.  Fans were cheated and even actively misled.  What was AMC thinking?

It reminds me again that life is so much about expectations.  If the producers had said “The case will carry onto next season, though the final episode of the episode will point to one most likely suspect and raise a number of provocative questions,” we would have expected the ending we got and been satisfied (or we could have chosen not to commit to a two-season show).  The Dutch series on which the show is based was 20 episodes long.  We could have understood that they needed another seven episodes and adjusted our expectations.

The principle applies to so much in life.  Take food, for example.  Go to an expensive restaurant for a pricey meal and it better knock your socks off, but that rarely happens.  Go to the non-descript Golden Bowl restaurant on Queen’s Boulevard and have the Pho Ga and you walk away, joyfully rubbing your belly, and feeling like you got more than you could have…expected.  The food at the former place may be as good and even better than the Pho, but one’s expectations are set high and it’s hard to deliver on those hopes.  The unadorned cinder block walls and old tables and chairs of the Bowl do not heighten expectations (nor do the prices) and then they bring to the table a sublime noodle soup that exceeds all reasonable expectation.  In fact, I’ve had more memorable meals from street vendors, a fisherman’s wife, or a Chinese farmer than from many of the high end jointsin which  I’ve eaten in NYC or San Francisco or Boston.

Remember the hype around Ginger, the code named world changing technology that Dean Kaman was working on som eyears ago?  Speculation was rampant and we all wondered what the NH genuis was about to make public.  Personal flight like we saw in sci-fi movies?  A cure for cancer?  A car that would run on beer?  It turned out to be the…wait for it….Segway.  Yawn.  Actually a pretty cool technology, sort of fun to ride, and a new way to declare one’s nerdiness.  But far, far less than we had been expecting.  Than what they had led us to expect.

I think SNHU is often at its very best when we go beyond expectation (reflected in our often maligned tag line “We go the extra mile”) and it’s something people do here with regularity.  When a visiting family searches for a location on campus they expect a passing student to point them in the right direction, but they are wowed when that student walks them there.  When an employee is dealing with an illness, he or she expects words of encouragement from co-workers, but is moved when people pitch in to help in all sorts of ways.   Students expect faculty to give them lower grades when they do not perform well, but when those faculty seek them out, offer extra help, and voice concern they realize someone believes in them.  Going beyond expectation is a powerful act.  It builds reputation loyalty, and support.

Disappointing people’s expectations or worse,  misleading them, is a sure fire way to lose their trust and support.  AMC is finding that out the hard way this week.

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