No spoilers. No spoilers, no spoilers, no spoilers.
Anders Loves Maria wrapped a few hours ago, and I knew that when this day came, however Anders, and Maria, and all the others ended up, Rene Engström would wind up breaking my heart, because I didn’t (still don’t) want to say goodbye to these characters. A little more than two years ago, I wrote:
And that’s where we are, on the cusp of 100 strips, with a pair of protagonists that I feel emotionally drained by. They act so utterly, confusingly, exasperatingly real, that I want to comfort them, scream at them, advise them, and kick their asses. Engström has put me through this wringer, leaving me enraged and empathetic towards her creations at the same time. The last time a character left me this deeply conflicted, he wore a red ski cap and a Speedo (for the record, that’s a very good thing to remind me of); seriously, I halfway believe that Rene Engström is really just a front for Wes Anderson. There is a precedent, after all.
One last thought — I’d emailed Engström earlier in the week that I was possibly going to hold this review to sometime past strip #100; I was waiting for a point of resolution in the story to say, Okay, here’s a good break, jump in. She pointed out that I might be waiting for a while if I was waiting for these latest emotional wounds to close — they aren’t even fully open yet.
And that right there is why I adore this strip — just like real life, there are no clear intervals in the story, there is no upswell of music at the end of the reel, there never will be a neat resolution where everybody gets to go Awwwww.
Nearly 200 strips later, all of those feelings are mangnified. Engström could have made the ending sunshine and lollipops — I’m not sayin’ she did, and I’m not sayin’ she didn’t … no spoilers — and I’d still be on the verge of welling up¹ right now anyway, because I love this work and now it’s over. I could be angry and ask if she set the end of this story in place just so she could touch us and keep us, and the response would be a slightly guilty shift of the eyes before a defiant SO!
She wins this round; this story is over (even as it goes on), and she has more stories to tell, more characters to introduce us to, and I am eager to read them, no matter what emotional sucker-punches await.
Thank you, Rene. Thank you.
¹ Are you surprised at my tears, sir? Strong men also cry.