Forgive me for this taking a little longer than usual. This show’s ending has taken me a while to digest.
The best revenge stories bread down like this. 90% of the plot’s spent getting you to hate the bad guys, while the final 10% is all about savoring their comeuppance. DEATH NOTE’s 36 episodes and 12 hours of content have set Light up as a thoroughly-detestable, ultimately- loathsome wretch… and I got serious satisfaction watching him squirm, panic and finally lose in such an undignified way. And I relished each successive humiliation leveled upon all of Kira’s accomplishments: how Misa’s presumably walking to her own death like some brainless lemming (possibly because Ryuk wrote her name down, too,) how proud Mikami scurried like a rabid rat (and spewed blood,) how this whole grand ordeal began and ended on the capricious whims of a bored demon.
Actually, you think about it, and this whole show’s quite nihilistic (although, that shouldn’t be too surprising for a show called DEATH NOTE.) All this drama could start all over the next time a shinigami wants some diversion. The revelation about how Mello’s death was actually him sacrificing himself to force Light’s hand and identify the note… that’s touching, but how profound is it when it all it takes is another book dropping to invalidate it? I cheered for Matsuda finally stepping up and saving the day, but you can’t help feeling like everybody’s really as clueless as he usually is.
Despite all of that, this ending wasn’t actually much of a downer. Like I’ve always said, this show doesn’t push themes that force you to read it in one way. Rather, it just presents events as they would likely happen in this world and lets you read into it as you'd like. I’d say my only criticism of the show is that it presents so many rules and plot threads that it’s couldn't possibly address. Like what was the point of specifying that shimigami eyes come at a cost if we never actually see the consequences of the deal (unless Misa’s suicide is an example of that?) And I really wanted to see a little more about L and Near’s backgrounds revealed - - although I suppose that might take away their mystique.
There aren’t really any lingering mysteries to this show, I suspect. Not like EVANGELION, at least. I give this show great respect for maintaining such highly-strung tension over so many episodes, for being so intense without ever needing to have a brawl and for having no other show, comic, novel or movie I can adequately compare it to. DEATH NOTE truly stands alone and it's truly inspiring.
Watch this final episode "New World" on Hulu here and decide for yourself. Read my comments on the previous episode here and be sure to vote on what I should watch next for this column here.