TV Finale Blitz: ‘The Deuce’ Scores an Ace & ‘The Affair’ is Up Next

In at least this one sense, television is a zero-sum game: The number of premieres will always exactly match the number of finales.

For some reason, though, it feels like an unusual number of interesting or once-interesting shows have ended or will be ending this season.

This Sunday it’s The Affair (9 p.m. ET on Showtime). The Affair had felt like it was smothering in its own soap for a while, then this season it expanded two previously peripheral characters who perked it up.

Most shows, logically enough, spend their final season wrapping up the characters we’ve spent the previous seasons getting to know.

The Game of Thrones finale was widely roasted for how it handled or didn’t handle that. On a smaller scale, the Designated Survivor finale left fans puzzled and, frankly, annoyed.

On a happier note, HBO’s The Deuce wrapped up its short three-season run quite nicely this week.

The Deuce, a tangled drama about the seedy, corrupt and dangerous world of Times Square during its Wild West years of the ’70s and early ’80s, didn’t deal everyone a happy ending. It didn’t give some characters an ending at all. Chris Bauer’s Bobby Dwyer was last seen walking out the door saying he had no future plans because “I thought it would last.” Oops.

But the characters who survived seemed headed to the places they deserved to go, good or bad. The individual arcs felt true.

The Deuce also played a familiar trick exceptionally well. The last scene fast-forwarded to the present day, taking a single character back to the old haunts. In the distance we hear “The Sidewalks of New York” — not at its familiar jaunty sing-along pace, but slower and reflective. Exactly like the character. It’s the right song used perfectly.

With luck, we’ll get a similar win with more winding-up shows, which among others include Power, 13 Reasons Why, Poldark, Criminal Minds, The Good Place, How To Get Away With Murder, Madam Secretary, Empire, Blindspot, Preacher, Man in the High Castle, Arrow, The 100, Mr. Robot and Homeland. Oh, and maybe Doc Martin.

We go into finales, let’s be honest, with a range of expectations.

Empire was a lot of fun at the beginning. Now it’s time to go. We want the finale to remember the fun, even though that may mean that for some characters, it’s a finale in more ways than one.

Empire’s cousin Power is a different story. You could argue that Power has to end because everyone will be dead, and that’s certainly a possibility. Meanwhile, Power has remained a tense, fast-paced drama that’s constantly twisting back on itself. It will be missed.

The same holds true for The Good Place, which is bowing out after only four seasons. We’re really going to miss this one, yet it could be argued that it will have explored all its best ideas already. Better to leave a year early than a year late? Or do we just say that to make ourselves feel better?

Some viewers feel that way about Poldark, that there are only so many gallops those noble steeds can take across those wind-swept cliffs. Or, more to the point, maybe George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is running low on ways to be evil.

Homeland creator Alex Gansa has been saying for several years that he planned Homeland for about seven or eight seasons, with a definite endpoint. While the show has had its redundant moments over the last few seasons, it has secured a place in TV lore. No matter how the final season shakes down, the most casual fan will want to know what happens to Claire Danes’s indelible Carrie Mathison. And her best friend Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

There’s also, of course, this: TV shows are entirely a matter of personal taste. Personally, I’m sorry Man in the High Castle will be wrapping up, while I really don’t care whether How To Get Away With Murder is on or not.

I never thought Preacher clicked, but I will miss the sometimes overheated Blindspot. While Mr. Robot has been a critical fave, I’m sorrier about the end of Suits. Which had a good finale, by the way. A little too neat, perhaps, and so what.

The Affair finale has renewed interest for me because co-creator and showrunner Sarah Treem has spent more of this season’s airtime on Whitney Solloway (Julia Goldani), daughter of Noah (Domenick West) and Helen (Maura Tierney). The parents went into reruns a while ago and Whitney freshens things up. So does the risky decision to create a fast-forward future storyline with Joanie Lockhart (Anna Paquin), the formerly young daughter of the ill-fated Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Cole (Joshua Jackson).

Joanie needs help, which is 100% credible, and Paquin turns her into someone whose fate we care about.

Even though, in a sense, we know every TV character’s fate. The show will end.

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”