Remember when the Mystery Man was the hero? Zorro? The Lone Ranger? They would swoop in, rescue the heroine and then ride off into the sunset.
Wait a minute. Ride off into the sunset? What about the Happy Ever After ending?
I suppose it was a simpler time then, but the rescue was the HEA. There have been similar television shows in more recent times. After all once the hero falls in love and settles down to have little heroes, there isn't much of a show left, is there?
I believe we really don't want to go past that HEA. The few TV shows that finally married off their characters didn't last another season. There's something about striving for that HEA that we enjoy. But once it's reached, we don't want the reality of what comes afterward.
That's why Zorro and The Lone Ranger worked. They allowed us to dream that we might be the one to finally touch the lonely heart of the Mystery Man. We might rescue them from their life of fighting outlaws and settle down with them somewhere in peace.
The reality is once they gave up their crime-fighting lives they would no longer be nearly as fascinating. And we surely find them fascinating even in this day and age. Now they're SEALS and Rangers and firemen and soldiers. But we're still as fascinated with them now--we still weave fantasies around them--we still dream about them long after they walk into the sunset.