The Simpsons has to come to an end sometime... but just how will it go out?
It probably shouldn't be a surprise that The Simpsons is enjoying a mini-renaissance in pop-culture relevance. In the pantheon of ways you might get someone to pay attention to a TV show again, running it for a weeks-long 24-hour-a-day marathon is filed neatly in the "Duh!" section. That, plus last week's high-profile Family Guy crossover have put a series that -- while still popular -- had been taken for granted for a few years back into the spotlight... but it's also reminded longtime fans that it has indeed been a long time. And it's got many folks realizing that it's a near-certainty that they'll live to see the actual end of The Simpsons -- and speculating on just what that ending might be.
It's a harder question than you'd think: The series is episodic in structure, devoid of almost any semblance of long-running plot threads or long-term goals in need of accomplishment that would serve as an automatic capper to the narrative -- there's no "if only" hanging over various characters' heads. But surely, a series that's been on the air this long and has become so deeply ingrained into the worldwide cultural psyche that it can't just end on an average episode.
With that in mind, here are four hypothetical ways the curtain could come down on Springfield for good:
THE DEATH OF HOMER
The most obvious place to go for calling it quits is to kill off a main character, and while Bart remains The Simpsons' "mascot" Homer surpassed him as its de-facto main character years ago. Sure, other passings would conceivably leave the series so wanting that it would feel pointless to go on -- some have already begun to suggest that the absence of Edna Krabapple following the death of voice actress Marica Wallace has left so pronounced a hole in the series' world as to make continuation untenable. But killing off one of the family? You don't come back from that, and everyone knows it.
If so (and, let's be realistic, there's basically zero chance this happens), Homer is clearly the obvious choice. The kids are all too young, and "long-suffering" is such a part of Marge's foundation as wife, mother and woman that ending on her death would seem almost obscenely overblown. Homer, on the other hand, has actually cheated death so often that there could be a certain finality to seeing it "stick" after all these years. Sad, obviously, but it can't be said he didn't lead a full life -- and that his loss wouldn't provide the most varied mourners and colorful reminiscences out of anyone in the cast. This is particularly true if he went out in heroic fashion i.e. stopping another nuclear meltdown, preventing some new villainy of Mr. Burns' or even getting Bart (or Lisa or Maggie -- but probably Bart) out of a more-perilous-than-usual jam.