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Verge ESP: Final girls

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Do you have what it takes to survive?

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Today on Verge ESP, Liz and Emily are talking endings. How do endings influence how we think about events, stories, and TV shows? What does a good ending do? How does a bad ending torpedo a good movie?

Who gets to survive to the end? If it's a horror movie, you already know: the final girl. She's young, virginal, and pure — unlike the sexually active girl who is usually the first to get murdered. Her purity and self-sufficiency are what qualify her for survival. A series of movies in the last several years have played with the trope — and just this year, The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Don't Breathe have taken it to new places.

The final girl often makes for a satisfying ending — but what else makes a good finale? Liz talks about how we recall experiences, relying heavily on the work of Nobelist Daniel Kahneman. (Thinking, Fast and Slow is an excellent introduction to his research.) Take a vacation: the parts that shape how you recall it are the emotional peaks, and the way it ended — but both count more than the rest of the experience. Emily considers how this applies to great shows with terrible endings (Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica.) Can we call a show with a terrible ending good? Why does a bad ending feel like it tanks the entire enterprise?

Speaking of endings: this is the final episode of Verge ESP. Spoiler alert: both Emily and Liz survive.