Ghosts' final farewell was undermined by its odd double ending
The sitcom tried to have its (Christmas) cake and eat it too.
*Warning: Full spoilers for the Ghosts Christmas 2023 special*
The BBC's beloved sitcom Ghosts bowed out on Christmas Day with an episode that saw homeowners Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) leave their haunted property to start the next stage of their lives.
This dramatic exit from Button House – a Buttxit, if you will (pronounced 'butt zit', FYI) – should have easily emerged as one of the show's most impactful scenes, yet it ended up falling rather flat.
That's partly because it comes so soon after the season 5 finale, which aired on BBC One just two months ago and hit on a lot of the same themes – but weirdly, came to a completely different conclusion.
Yes, the writers tried to have their cake and eat it, too, by presenting both logical endings; one that sees Mike and Alison put down roots in Button House, another depicting their departure.
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It's a move that feels designed to please as many fans as possible, some of whom were calling for the bleakest imaginable twist (Mike, watch your step!), while a sizeable chunk hoped for a cuddlier crescendo. This way, you can essentially choose whichever flavour you prefer for your personal head canon.
But having these two clashing finales so close together lessens the impact of both. In hindsight, it feels somewhat odd that Julian's impassioned plea for the Coopers to stay – and their subsequent agreement to do so – was pitched as such a defining moment when it was destined to be reversed in the very next episode.
Of course, the couple's circumstances do radically alter in that time, and it's not implausible that the underestimated pressures of parenthood would cause a change of heart.
But narratively, it feels a little jarring to see Alison and Mike go from "I love it here" to "get me out of here" in the space of 30 minutes. And if this was always the plan, you have to wonder what the point of the earlier story beat was, besides tugging at the heartstrings with some manufactured peril.
This final act might have worked better with some restructuring. If there was a desire to wrap things up at Christmas, the climactic elements of both the season 5 finale and the existing special could have been merged into one bumper-sized festive episode.
The outing of Julian's big secret and his resulting speech could still be part of the story, but perhaps Alison and Mike remain undecided on their future when the baby suddenly arrives.
Then, all the residents of Button House could start to realise that the rickety and remote manor isn't necessarily the best place to raise little Mia. It avoids the awkward U-turn we're currently faced with, and would facilitate more thoughtful deliberation over one of the biggest decisions our characters are likely to ever make.
Instead, the curtain drops on Ghosts rather abruptly, with so much time dedicated to inconsequential antics that it doesn't particularly feel like a concluding chapter until the last few minutes. But even these are a tad underwhelming, as the most dramatic cards were played in the preceding episode.
It's also a shame that the current ending gives Charlotte Ritchie relatively few opportunities to shine in a role she has excelled at playing over the last few years.
Again, it's perfectly realistic that a new mother would be close to exhaustion in the weeks after giving birth, but in practice this means that Alison doesn't get to be her usual chaotic self in her final appearance – a tough pill to swallow when everyone else remains much the same.
If Mia's birth occurred roughly halfway through an extended length finale, we could at least have had some last laughs with Alison before she retreated inwards.
Of course, there's still a lot to like about the final episode of Ghosts – the exorcism, particularly, is a novel idea, which ticks off another horror subgenre for the sitcom to pay homage to. But I suspect that season 5's Last Resort and tonight's A Christmas Gift will make for an odd double bill in repeat viewings.