Catch up on previous episodes here)
In my experience, when becoming a writer, one of the hardest things to learn is how to end a story. Because it's the last impression one leaves with the audience, it is often the most criticized aspect of any story. This seems especially true with television shows where series finales are usually remembered as moments of disappointment rather than triumph. I'm happy to say that Last Exile avoids this fate, though at times these episodes did feel slightly rushed and did leave me with many unanswered questions. But that's okay, I always like to leave readers of my novels with unanswered questions too. As a storyteller, you don't want to give everything away -- you want the story to live on in the imagination of the audience so that the characters never actually 'end', they are simply passed on.
One technique for concluding a story that I've always enjoyed is the idea of bringing things full circle back to the beginning. In Last Exile, Claus and Alvis need to make their way back to Exile in order to prevent the Guild from gaining absolute control over the world. In order to do this, they make their way to various checkpoints, allowing us last glimpses of many characters. During their flight, we also see how much Alvis has grown. Acting as Claus's navigator, using Lavie's notes, she is braver and coming into her own. We also see Claus realize his full potential. After being attacked by two Guild ships, he displays some amazing piloting skills to defeat them. On the final leg of the journey, they reunite with Lavie and their original vanship. In order to save the world, they must cross the Grand Stream in their fathers' ship, just as they had always dreamed of doing. I really enjoyed how their personal journey ended up coinciding with the greater fate of the world.
Another good rule for an ending is that you should never give the audience exactly what they may want. During the course of a story, there are certain hopeful outcomes one wants to set up. But I firmly believe you should only deliver on some them because stories, as in life, should never work out too perfectly. There is a great deal of tragedy in the end of Last Exile, but this is offset by the overwhelming sense of good will that comes after the massive battle that concludes the story. This is definitely a series worth investing the time to watch from beginning to end. It has compelling characters, a wonderful sense of story arch and development, and is completely satisfying.
Final Grade: A