“Nobody knows anything,” screenwriter William Goldman of Hollywood once said, but it’s hard to think of a truer account of this political moment. Within days of the elections, the nation’s fate is all too dramatically at hand. On some level he has felt this way since Donald Trump stepped off his gold escalator in 2015 and threw us all into his whiplash reality TV presidency. Along the way we observed – on Twitter, among friends – that Hollywood writers’ rooms wouldn’t dare to offend the public with such obvious plots (the anti-masking president who contracted COVID-19? Come on). Yet we all have private endings, whether it’s bloodbaths, anticlimaxes or Mad Max horizons. We have, like the New York Times‘Michelle Goldberg attested, she wasted precious time thinking about it. As seasoned TV viewers, we all have our own ideas about what makes a great ending. We speculated, for example, about who could betray Trump from the inside: Melania? Jared? Tiffany? If this were scripted for maximum enjoyment, wouldn’t Marla Maples have emerged in the eleventh hour as the nation’s shock savior?
With that in mind, we asked some of the most creative people we know – novelists, journalists, politicians, poets – to present a description or scene from the “final episode” of the Trump era. Not forecasts: it would be courting fate. The predictions should be left to the pollsters, whom no one believes enough. Indeed, the end could be next week, or it could be 40 years from now, depending on how our democracy writes it. In these fevered dreams and comic fantasies, published in two parts, Trump is sometimes intimidated and humiliated, a führer clown in his bunker; sometimes, he and his family hold out until 2040 and beyond, a plague that manifests itself until the end of time (science fiction writers, natch). These imaginary endings are expressions of hope and fear. They are talismans or diversions that, ideally, allow us to stay sane at a time when no one knows anything.
Tom Perrotta, novelist, author of The leftovers, the election, is Mrs. Fletcher
EXT. LAWN OF THE WHITE HOUSE – DAY
A helicopter waits on the lawn, the rotors spinning lazily.
INT. OVAL OFFICE – CONTINUOUS
CLOSE ON: A half-eaten cheeseburger on a presidential plate
PULL BACK TO REVEAL: Trump is seated at the large desk, a cloth napkin tucked into his shirt collar, while a secret service agent with a face mask waits in the doorway.
Trump takes a delicate bite of the burger, trying to make it last.
Trump: Did I ever tell you about my uncle who taught at MIT? Very smart guy. That’s how I know so much about viruses and whatnot. All the doctors were stunned, they said: Sir, how come you know so much about viruses and what …
Secret Service Agent: We really have to go.
Trump: Have you seen Tony Fauci’s shot? Pathetic. Like a little girl. Good boy, though. He said: Sir, you have saved 2 million lives. Not even Abraham Lincoln did. His words, not mine.
The secret service agent takes a couple of steps towards the desk.
Secret Service Agent: Come on. Everyone is waiting.
Trump examines the burger. There isn’t much left.
Trump: I am still hungry. Order me another one.
Secret Service Agent: The kitchen is closed.
Trump: It is open 24 hours.
Secret Service Agent: Not anymore.
The secret service agent walks around the desk and starts pulling Trump out of the chair.
trump [rising reluctantly]: Have you ever seen Fauci’s wife? What is she, centenarian? But he’s probably 200 years old, so I guess he’s not complaining.
Secret Service Agent: Time to go, sir.
Trump is on his feet now. He looks sadly at the butt of his hamburger. Only one bite left.
Trump: These were delicious, but now I don’t know. It’s like you can’t even taste them.
He puts the last tasteless bite into his mouth, chewing with a melancholy expression as the intelligence agent leads him to the exit, and we …
FADE TO BLACK
Peter Blake, writer, creator of The candidate (Amazon Prime) and author of Studio Notes on the Trump Presidency, @DJTSTUDIONOTES
Date: January 19, 2021
From: The Studio
A: The Writers
Re: Final Series
So excited for the series finale! What a trip we all took! We love how the textures fit together so beautifully. Melania’s kiss with Comey? We broke up. And what end to the Giuliani arch?! Quite frankly creepy, but we asked for “loud” and you delivered !! And we love the revelation that the Big Villain really was Stephen Miller, who has worked to discredit republicanism for generations – we’ve never seen it coming, but it seems so obvious in retrospect. Does this make Miller the “great good”? LOL. (Nitpick: When Miller declares himself a “Deep State Deep Cover Agent”, too many “Deeps”?)
Honestly, our only questions are about the final scene. Trump’s leap from the burning White House to the helicopter piloted by Ivanka is certainly nail-biting suspense. (And thanks for taking our note for making Trump tougher and better at his job.) But we don’t like the explanation that Trump has “COVID force.” (Does it exist? It doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t seem like that, which is the problem.) We also worry about his statement, before pulling the trigger, “You’re fired … come on.” A bit of a bow, right?
But more importantly, this doesn’t seem like a bit, I’m sorry but you don’t know how else to put this … network-y? Can we rely on premium / streaming instead?
So we were noodle and came up with something like this (obviously, we’re just spitting, this is just a suggestion):
The final scene is a little jewel of a chamber piece, gloomy and theatrical. The oval study. Trump is watching Fox as Don Jr. packs his bags. Trump is depressed and angry but covered in sour grapes. We see him calling Putin and Xi, but his OS secretary says they aren’t available. Don Jr., meanwhile, is agitated. Trying to get his father to face the legal danger they are in with the New York Attorney General. Don Jr. finally asks: “If one of your children, say Jared or Eric, testified against you to save his skin and that of his girlfriend, Kimberly … would you still love him?” And Trump just stares at him and in the end says: “Jared and Eric would never have been stupid enough to get caught.” And Don Jr. curls up a little and it looks like he could say something more …
But at that moment, the secretary calls from OS: “I have Erdogan on the line”. Trump lights up and for a moment, as he starts launching a Trump Tower Istanbul, we see the charisma he displayed in the pilot as he glided up that golden escalator. And as Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” begins to play, we slowly push on Don Jr. until, finally, …