Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The 16 Best And Worst TV Series Finales

Features
by The Playlist Staff
October 1, 2013 2:49 PM
90 Comments
  • |

"Futurama" ("Meanwhile," original airdate: September 4, 2013)
Technically, "Futurama" has ended for good twice: first way back in August of 2003 and then, more than a decade later, after being revived for a series of direct-to-video movies and original episodes on cable. Unlike the first time, the "Futurama" crew knew that this would probably be the end, and fashioned it appropriately: the Planet Express gang return to the Moon, the site of their first delivery together ("We're whalers on the moon, we carry a harpoon…") and, thanks to a glitch in the space time continuum caused by one of Professor Farnsworth's crackpot inventions, imagines Fry and Leela's life together until they grow very, very old. The best episodes of "Futurama" mix the bittersweet with the genuinely bananas, and this episode is no different. While the episode culminates in a beautiful, nearly wordless exploration of love and the passage of time, gorgeously animated and wonderfully written, it also includes a looping (almost to the point of repetition) gag involving Fry's attempted suicide (he jumps off the Vampire State Building). There's also a running joke about a ten dollar bill Zoidberg finds and subsequently loses. The genuinely touching and haunting image of Fry and Leela, walking hand in hand across a frozen ocean, is one of the most heartbreaking moments the show had ever committed, and the final idea of Fry and Leela reliving their love one more time (at the cost of remembering their time together) is a testament to the show's inherent romanticism and winky metatextuality, as it suggests that the last ten years has been a kind of cosmic redo following their initial cancellation. If this is the last we ever see of the "Futurama" gang (and, barring some act of the Space Pope, it will be), then what a way to go out on. For realzies this time. 

"The Shield" ("Family Meeting," original airdate: November 25, 2008)
Very few shows start out great and get even better. Such is the case for “The Shield,” which featured a moment in the pilot—where corrupt cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) takes out a fellow officer he suspects of being a rat—that set viewers on edge and elevated it to an immediate talking point for anyone who would become a fan of the show. As the years went on, however, Internal Affairs would bear down on Mackey and his crew, investigating every single dollar and drug that went missing under their watch, give or take an Armenian money train or two. But most importantly, “The Shield” never forgot its roots, closing with an episode that wraps up that single shot fired by Mackey into the temple of a fellow officer. The pressure becomes overwhelming for the Strike Team to turn on each other, and with longstanding member Lem (Kenneth Johnson) now dead, the noose is tightening. That last hour is one gut-punch after another: Lem’s murderer, the unhinged Shane (Walton Goggins, excellent), takes his entire family to the grave with him after being haunted by painful guilt, leaving only Vic and unassuming Ronnie (David Rees Snell) left. Except Vic, the baddest bad boy of prime time, has already turned himself in, giving up the rest of the team in order to survive. Poor Ronnie is taken into custody as Vic is later seen like an animal in captivity. Years later, he slaves away in a cubicle, isolated from any more crime scenes or police departments. It’s not heaven or hell, but purgatory that Vic finds himself in, the superstar of the LAPD turned into a suit-and-tie lapdog. He still has his gun and his holster, though, upsetting any straight reading one can give of an isolated Vic miles away from police work. Is the beast dead, or at rest?

"The West Wing" ("Tomorrow," original airdate: May 14, 2006)
The first three seasons of "The West Wing" remain, in our eyes, Aaron Sorkin's finest achievement to date—funny, fast, smart and moving television that wasn't like anything else on the air. But the show had a decidedly imperfect run: an uneven fourth season as Sorkin's work schedule and extracurricular love for certain substances got the better of him, followed by a near-disastrous fifth season after the creator was removed and new staff awkwardly tried to recapture his voice. But things perked up near the end, as new showrunner John Wells essentially rebooted the show, shifting the focus from the Bartlett White House to the campaign to be next commander-in-chief, fought between Democrat Representative Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and liberal Republican Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). It was a different series, but one that at least deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as the golden years, and the two sides were united neatly in the finale, which sees President Bartlett's last day in office, and the swearing-in of President-elect Santos. Almost every character gets their moment in the sun, even some of the show's missteps are corrected (the President pardons long-time staffer Toby Ziegler, who'd gone to prison after one of the show's most ridiculous plotlines), and while it presumably wasn't in the original plans, the death of series regular John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry until he passed suddenly a few episodes before the show wrapped up, becomes the emotional lynchpin of the finale, giving added emotional weight to proceedings without feeling exploitative. Is it indulgent and sentimental? Sure. But to be anything else would have been false to the sentimental, indulgent and mostly brilliant show that came before it.

The Great Divider

"The Sopranos" ("Made in America," original airdate: June 10, 2007)
What makes the finale to "The Sopranos" so amazing, particularly as "the great divider" between the good and bad portions of this list, is that the particulars of the actual episode remain fuzzy, even to those who will defend the episode's merits voraciously. The crux of the great "The Sopranos" finale debate boils down to a few precious minutes, towards the end of the episode, when Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is gathered with his family in a diner. The familiar chords of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " starts to play, and the tension becomes palpable (it might as well be sitting in the diner alongside the family). Dread builds and builds, as writer/director/creator David Chase cuts around the diner. Are jack-booted thugs going to come in and wipe out the family? Is Tony going to impart some words of wisdom to his family? Maybe Tony himself will pull out a gun and start shooting? But instead, the music just continues to soar until… blackness. It was this cut to black that caused endless debate and countless online essays, as people either saw it as a visionary work of genius or a misguided, hubristic attempt at artistry that ended up just being a huge fucking copout. However you saw the conclusion to "The Sopranos," chances are you felt strongly about it, and shared that opinion with anyone who would listen. It's a testament to Chase's chutzpah that we're still discussing the ending today, and the cut to black has become just as indelible a series finale image as a little autistic kid with a snow globe or Bob Newhart waking up in the bed of a different TV wife.

The Worst Finales

The finale of "Lost."

"Lost" ("The End," original airdate: May 23, 2010)
The entire final season of "Lost," which took place largely in a "sideways" timeline where major events and characters were drastically rewritten (Josh Holloway's career criminal Sawyer was now, for some reason, a police detective), was largely a "miss," weighed down by the series' clunky, ever-expanding mythology and, unlike "Breaking Bad," a dogged unwillingness to tie up any loose ends. Both on the island, where the evil Man in Black (Terry O'Quinn) tries to destroy the island which would result in… something happening... and in the sideways timeline, where a beleaguered Jack (Matthew Fox) discovers the truth about what is going on with the characters in this universe, there was a decided lack of dramatic tension and any real thrills. Adding insult to injury was the episode's two-and-a-half-hour airtime (the final episode runs over 100 minutes) and the fact that the ending most predicted for the series in the first season (They're all dead!) was actually a component for the finale. In short: it was something of a boondoggle. It can be argued, in some way, that the episode delivered emotionally, with there being something cathartic about seeing almost all of the characters, back together once more, hugging in a multi-denominational church. But what does that ending mean? Especially in the context of the larger episode and world? With the introduction of a pair of bickering deities a couple of seasons earlier, much of the fun and spark of "Lost" went out the window. Instead of coincidence and fate, the show became about two warring white guys, and much of the mystery was replaced by flimsy plotting and awkward pacing, culminating in this final season, which seemed even more directionless than usual. The finale, especially one that was that unbelievably long, was an opportunity to right some of the wrongs from the past few seasons, to cohesively deliver a send-off that was satisfying on an intellectual and emotional level. Instead, neither worked, and "Lost," what was once thought of as one of the most engaging and entertaining television puzzle-boxes of all time, turned out to be mostly empty inside.         

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ("Chosen," original airdate: May 3, 2003)
For some reason writer/director/creator Joss Whedon, in his infinite wisdom, chose to close the story of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in the most annoyingly grandiose fashion imaginable, complete with an army of undead beasties that looked like something out of a deleted scene from "Lord of the Rings." The resulting mayhem had a requisite number of heartbreaking character deaths (so long, Anya), but failed to ever be all that gripping. Some of the drama was diffused by the premature announcement that lovable British vampire Spike (James Marsters) would be hightailing it to spin-off series "Angel" the following year (making his sacrificial death beyond anticlimactic), other moments were clunkily handled, like Angel's brief return. And while it was cool to see the Hellmouth finally open up and unleash its demonic minions, some of the special effects were iffy and the episode was weighed down by the general waywardness of the final season, which saw the creative principles devise a Big Bad that didn't have much meat (literally—it was kind of a ghost) and and overly complicated plot involving an army of "Potentials," girls who could become Slayers, an idea that wasn't even introduced until this season. Also, a number of the characters felt weirdly sidelined (why didn't Dawn finally, you know, show us what a Key is all about?) and the entire episode seemed driven by a need to get to a large-scale battle instead of, in season's past, a fitful mixture of action and theme. It's one of the more disappointing finales, series or otherwise, that Whedon has been responsible for; thankfully this was partially rectified by the brilliant "Season 8" comic book that followed. Still, what we're judging here is the finale itself and 'Buffy' was found wanting. Although it was nice to know there's another Hellmouth in Cleveland. 

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

90 Comments

  • Nia | August 24, 2014 10:35 AMReply

    The idea of Potentials was introduced at the beginning of the series. Finding and training the girls that might one day become Slayers was one of the main functions of the Watchers Council. They find the girls while they are still Potentials and get them ready. Its another thing that made Buffy Summers an anomaly, she wasn't found until after she became the Chosen One and the WC were not able to exert control over her. In S2, Kendra said she was sent to the WC for training so young she barely remembered her parents.

    The S7 Potentials were annoying and horrible but the concept of them was brilliant. And it was great to see the girl that Quentin Travers declared as just "a weapon" become, at 21, the head of the Watchers Council and almost single handedly train the next generation of Slayers.

    I thought that Spike's death was still very meaningful. It wasn't about whether or not he would end up coming back. It was about him finally fully reclaiming his goodness and truly being a hero. It was about Buffy healing from years of romantic relationship trauma and being able to say "I love you" in that way for the first time in 4 years. It was about Buffy literally feeling Spike's goodness and his love for her after a long time of believing that she wasn't worthy of being loved and that her love brought destruction. It was about Buffy permanently having "the fire" (her ability to feel strong emotion) back.

    The FE worked really well since it was the anti-force. The force or holy ghost or kama or the unified field theory is about this pure essence that exists inside all of us and infuses life into everything in the physical universe. But the FE was this evil essence that infuses darkness and death. And the FE and its goal to darken the hearts of everyone on earth and tip the scales of Good v. Evil to the side of evil was a direct parallel with AtS S4 with the fallen Power That Be Jasmine wanted to tip the scales for Good by trying to bring about world peace by taking away humans ability to really think for themselves and be corrupted. Angel & Buffy both fought for free will and moral choice but in opposite ways.

    The scene with Angel was definitely rushed. That scene should've been written better and been twice that length.

  • Linda | August 23, 2014 8:34 AMReply

    I disagree with your determination to place the series finale of, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," in, "The Worst Finales," category. I think it was a perfect way to end the series. What were you thinking?!

  • alan lough | August 6, 2014 6:46 AMReply

    you opinion of "lost" was miles off the mark.i think it it is the most beautifully written show of all-time.it is so obvious that the whole thing was planned right from the start.and as for the criticism of the "parralel universe "storyline with all the characters in season 6,the writers wanted to do the last season in such a way that for that whole season,the characters could be seen living the life that they COULD have had if they hadnt screwed everything up.even though this was all in purgatory and was a dream(the parallel universe)it was the writers showing how they COULD have lived if they had chosen a different way to live,so instead of sawyer,for example,being an idiot like he was in real life,they create a "false" life where he gets a chance to live the right kind of life that he could have had if he wasnt such an idiot.and in that "life" he is a cop.i thought it was brilliantly written and as for the last episode,the show ended the only way it COULD have ended.their has NEVER been a show anything like this,which is why it will go down in tv history as being more to say. totally unique ,and to try to do anything like it again would just be a rip-off from "lost".the best show of all-time for me.i have watched other shows but "lost"is the best of them all because nothing like it has EVER been done before and to try to do anything like it again would just be an insult to "lost".no more to say.

  • JJ | August 14, 2014 1:24 PM

    Ladies and gentlemen, I think Mr. Lough's rambling, incoherent mess of a paragraph is a metaphor of sorts for the Lost finale.

    Watch Breaking Bad.

  • gc | June 20, 2014 9:41 PMReply

    Missed Babylon 5

  • Nancy | May 22, 2014 9:35 AMReply

    "Due South" may not count because the last two seasons were only in syndication, and not on a major U.S. network, but the two-part finale started out great, then fell apart during the second half after Paul Gross decided he wanted to make the Fraser/Kowalski fangirls happy and have the second part be only about them, and completely ignore the other characters. Then all of the characters except for Fraser and Kowalski receive less-than-happy endings according to Fraser's "where are they now" voiceover, while Fraser and Kowalski go on their merry way without a thought for anyone else on their "adventure" in Canada - ugh! :-( I particularly hated Paul Gross ignoring Fraser's friendship with Ray Vecchio by making Fraser not seem to care about him and want him as a friend any longer, and the two of them being far away from each other at the end. I later learned that this wasn't the original finale, which had both Rays in Chicago and Fraser in Canada at the end. The first version would have been a much better and more satisfying finale for more fans than just the drooling F/K slashgirls.

  • bob | May 4, 2014 8:30 PMReply

    How can you say that Lost was a bad finale?

  • JJ | August 14, 2014 1:37 PM

    Your explanation of Jack's "afterlife" as cute leaves a whole mess of questions still unanswered. A show must direct its audience to an end that is commensurate with its run. That's what Lost's meandering teased us with and didn't answer (smoke monster much?).

    Sometimes the answer are not clear. And should never have been. Like The Wire. Or, as above, Breaking Bad.

    The Sopranos interestingly went about it in what appeared to be more of a "Lost way", but when you microanalyze it, it makes perfect sense. The ending was the point where Tony died. We saw the show from his perspective-- as soon as he failed to exist, the show did. The first episode is between Dr Melfi and Tony-- the show was an openended explanation of Tony's mindset, not of the characters of the show itself. It was called "the Sopranos", the last name being the focus, and the show documents Tony's father. It is about Tony assuming an identity I never thought he was entirely comfortable with-- he had to continue his identity, continue the universe created for him because, again, like the name of the show and Italian culture in general, the family is everything.

    Do you frankly think AJ will continue the Soprano legacy? And Moltisanti's dead because of Tony's actions. The end of Chase's show was then, appropriately, the end of the Soprano "family" line.

  • catherine | May 21, 2014 9:53 PM

    I know!! I think a lot of people misunderstood it. I thought it was amazing and cried so hard when Kate asked Jack if she'd ever see him again and he didn't respond. Them meeting up in Jack's "afterlife" was so cute too.

  • Rearden | April 24, 2014 3:29 AMReply

    RE: Alias.
    So having the main character finally find happiness after all the personal crap she went through from the pilot episode forward was an affront? Come one. Everyone searches for their happy ending. We would all love to sit on a beach with our significant other while watching our children.

  • Resigned Sidekick | April 13, 2014 1:28 AMReply

    " Jack (Matthew Fox) discovers the truth about what is going on with the characters in this universe, there was a decided lack of dramatic tension and any real thrills. Adding insult to injury was the episode's two-and-a-half-hour airtime (the final episode runs over 100 minutes) and the fact that the ending most predicted for the series in the first season (They're all dead!) was actually a component for the finale.:"

    This further proves that one shouldn't comment on something they don't understand. No, they all didn't DIE in the crash. That was just misinterpretation that many people til this day still believe. Even though that idea has already been debunked several times.

    "Instead of coincidence and fate, the show became about two warring white guys, and much of the mystery was replaced by flimsy plotting and awkward pacing, culminating in this final season, which seemed even more directionless than usual. "

    So the fact that they actually gave an answer to some biggest questions on the show made it more directionless? That makes little sense. The theme of coincidence and fate can only go so far until it becomes tedious. People have to make up their minds is their problem with Lost is answer too much or not enough?

    "It's one of the more disappointing finales, series or otherwise, that Whedon has been responsible for; thankfully this was partially rectified by the brilliant "Season 8" comic book that followed. "

    Other than your assessment on Season Eight (which I agree was great). You couldn't be more wrong about this finale. It was about Buffy redefining the mythology that only one girl in all the world could be a slayer.

  • Resigned Sidekick | April 12, 2014 8:55 PMReply

    " Jack (Matthew Fox) discovers the truth about what is going on with the characters in this universe, there was a decided lack of dramatic tension and any real thrills. Adding insult to injury was the episode's two-and-a-half-hour airtime (the final episode runs over 100 minutes) and the fact that the ending most predicted for the series in the first season (They're all dead!) was actually a component for the finale.:"

    This further proves that one shouldn't comment on something they don't understand. No, they all didn't DIE in the crash. That was just misinterpretation that many people til this day still believe. Even though that idea has already been dunked several times.

    "Instead of coincidence and fate, the show became about two warring white guys, and much of the mystery was replaced by flimsy plotting and awkward pacing, culminating in this final season, which seemed even more directionless than usual. "

    So the fact that they actually gave an answer to some biggest questions on the show made it more directionless? That makes little sense. The theme of coincidence and fate can only go so far until it becomes tedious. People have to make up their minds is their problem with Lost is answer too much or not enough?

    "It's one of the more disappointing finales, series or otherwise, that Whedon has been responsible for; thankfully this was partially rectified by the brilliant "Season 8" comic book that followed. "

    Other than your assessment on Season Eight (which I agree was great). You couldn't be more wrong about this finale. It was about Buffy redefining the mythology that only one girl in all the world could be a slayer.

  • Maz | April 2, 2014 4:17 PMReply

    What about The Closer ??!! It was a great show maybe one of the best police phorensic shows in recent years and wrapped up quite nicely !

  • Scott | April 1, 2014 9:40 AMReply

    Really, no M*A*S*H*?

  • Rob | March 23, 2014 12:50 PMReply

    I must have missed something about "The Shield" finale. I didn't get that he was in a cubicle years later. I've watched whole series plus finale twice. Finale was immediately following the events from what I saw. Explain how I'm wrong if I am.

  • Vic Mackey | June 23, 2014 2:06 AM

    I agree with you. I believe that the police cars he watched drive by were a continuation from the last scene so it can't be years later.

  • Donovan | March 23, 2014 10:14 AMReply

    of of the best endings to a series ever had to have been one of the least-watched ...

    The Mortal Kombat tv series ending was AMAZING. Say what you will about the show overall (had a cult following), but the ending was absolutely PERFECT. You couldn't get any better.

  • Topster | February 13, 2014 9:33 AMReply

    "Worst" list is debatable. Although I don't see why this writer didn't just stop at best list. There are in fact worst finales than what was on the list, like those of shows we didn't really care about or of ones that got canceled before they get a chance to conclude the story. The title should have been best and debatable/least favorite finales according to list compiler.

  • charlie | February 11, 2014 8:46 PMReply

    i hate people who actually believe that " they were all dead " refers to the finale of lost!! i mean how narrow-minded does one have to be, it is made so abundantly clear in the end that what happened on the island happened. Jack, just before the final church scene is told by his dad that they " are all dead" referring to how in the end everyone died, as one does, in both the normal life and the afterlife but the people on the island were the most important in making each other realize how to properly live it.

  • Sarah | April 2, 2014 12:01 PM

    Thanks for pointing that out, I was about to write that too!

  • Rosie | January 29, 2014 12:00 PMReply

    You placed the "BUFFY" finale on the "worst" list? The hell with that opinion.

  • Linda | August 23, 2014 8:35 AM

    I agree.

  • Nicole | December 31, 2013 3:36 PMReply

    The Medium finale ruined the entire series for me. The entire show was built on Joe & Allison's relationship. Obliterating that was just terrible. Also, every ghost on the show was stuck at whatever age they died at. Why did Allison's ghost get to be young again? A perk of being a medium? Ugh.

  • Joel | December 30, 2013 7:19 AMReply

    Awful list. They bash Buffy (which I thought was a great show ending, leaving the "silly" behind until the very end, encapulating how the show "grew" with it's fan base over the years, becoming more mature and serious....well, as serious as a show with Buffy, Vampire, and Slayer in the title can be anyway. So he bashes that, but puts LOST and SEINFELD on the list??? Really? The two WORST endings to a series in the history of the world. Simply awful list from someone who seems to have chosen which shows to list by throwing darts.

  • Drew | January 12, 2014 5:53 AM

    Did you not notice that this was a list of best AND worst? Seinfeld and Lost were in the worst category.

  • Jim | December 21, 2013 10:06 AMReply

    Ok, I hate to be this way but everything listed is within the last two decades. Maybe there was a disclaimer that I missed. As if TV series just started with the 30 somethings. Guess what? There were great shows before that. I'm not even that old. For the record, my favorite ending of all time was "Newhart". Simpler times I guess.

  • a p garcia | November 11, 2013 1:40 PMReply

    My nomination for worst TV finale is Stargate. After 10 seasons, "no ending" on broadcast TV! Episodes were leading up to a grand finale, but it was cancelled and stopped production before the end so there was no proper end.

  • tv prime time | November 11, 2013 1:12 PMReply

    i guest walking dead is the best one and shoud be the first horror movie on this year

  • Jake M | November 7, 2013 7:44 PMReply

    I'm sorry but Breaking bad deserves number one mate. No loose ends, ended on time, perfect ending basically. Felt like reading an amazing book or watching a great play, no show has captured me more.

  • Scott j | October 15, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    Sorry, the Lost finale was great. People just went overboard thinking that every single shot on the shot had some deep meaning, which is ridiculous. And please don't try to sum up the show by saying everyone was dead. Everything that happened on the island really happened. It wasn't until the sideways universe in the last season that the characters were in a purgatory-like state.

    There should be no debate about The Sopranos finale. Pay attention to the POV shots throughout, and it is clear that Tony gets killed by the man in the members only jacket.

  • guy | December 18, 2013 9:21 AM

    I thought Lost finale was good, not great, and it is still one of the best shows of all time. They told us why they were on the island, what they had to do, and whether the characters did it or not. It showed what happened to them, some died, some finally managed to escape. Yes, the side-way universe was a little weak, but "The Wire" was also weak in its last season, and that did not diminish the show. I do not understand what more people wanted without a character just answering questions around a campfire, which is telling not showing. They answered like 100 questions and 40 or so are left to the imagination. The answers had to fit into the story and those that did not were unanswered. Also, the snark about two white guy deities was a little unfair, the cast was very diverse. Also, they already joke about the "magic minority" in movies, and if a minority was the evil one, people would have complained even more.

    There is a difference between not liking the answers and complaining about the story. Lost, like Battlestar Galactica, told the story the writers wanted to tell. If you did not like the answers fine, but saying they did not answer the questions is unfair, they did.

  • Trebuchette | October 26, 2013 8:38 PM

    The Lost finale was an incredible cop-out. It showed how bad the producers had LOST their way, but that's about it. Cringeworthy. People who stopped watching in S3 when Jack wanted to "go back" had been right all along — the show could never make sense. And they even missed the really bad stuff (travel back in time, flash-sideways, "make-a-heaven"). It was really that bad.

    But ITA about The Sopranos finale being pretty clear-cut. Also genius, because you can *still* watch the show and come away with something new, or change your mind about what may have happened after Tony was killed. (Sometimes, I'm sure Paulie worked with New York to whack Tony because he was paranoid about becoming capo; other times, a Patrisi hit sounds good.) To this day, the penultimate and that finale sends shivers down my spine.

  • Keith | October 14, 2013 12:27 PMReply

    Never knew there were any questions about the Sopranos ending. Pure class, just like pretty much every episode (other than the extended dream sequences).

  • j jay | October 12, 2013 9:59 AMReply

    if the buffy the vampire slayer finale looked like a deleted scene from lord of the rings that it was obviously the best finale ever

  • Daniel | October 28, 2013 3:38 PM

    Screamy, it wasn't until The Hobbit that the Tolkien world went mostly digital. The LOTR films were shot mostly on location in New Zealand, with most characters altered by camera angle or makeup. Also, CGI doesn't make a film suck.

  • Screamy | October 21, 2013 12:55 PM

    Lord of the Rings sucked. You must live in a state of constant amazement if CGI effects bedazzle your mind so much.

  • m | October 12, 2013 2:18 PM

    HA. So true.

  • - | October 6, 2013 10:58 AMReply

    Of the ones I've seen, I'd say Six Feet Under was the best. I think it's far from the best show, but the finale was so perfect and I don't see any show surpassing it. I would say The Sopranos' is the next best (although obviously that's controversial) followed by The Wire's.
    I haven't seen The Shield.

  • Derek | October 5, 2013 8:56 PMReply

    You missed the mark on the Angel Premise. Angel didn't set up to stop Wolfram & Hart for good, they were extra dimensional, and thus out of his reach. Because he knew he could never stop them for good, they were cut off from the slayers because of joining the firm, and working at the firm was tearing him and his friends apart, he decided that working from within long term would be pointless, and he decided to cripple Wolfram & Hart, temporarily to show people that they weren't invincible.

  • Dan | October 5, 2013 8:10 PMReply

    In The Shield when Vics at the office cubicle thats surely not years later, but like the first night on the job.

  • MBlaize | October 4, 2013 5:50 AMReply

    Disagree with Lost.
    I thought it an extremely beautiful ending.

    Concluded everything
    SPOILER ALERT.
    Though they were in Limbo, and chose to move onto the next life together, it tied up the ending of them moving on from the island together.

    For people, who claim it was "confusing" I agree with you in certain in certain episodes you were "lost." Could that have been the intention of the writers? I believe it was. The ending was not confusing and if you didn't understand you weren't really paying attention.

    Not only was I blown away as a huge Lost fan, but I honestly couldn't have come up with such a great storyline to conclude their journey of being lost. The island brought them together, they tried to leave the island on their terms, the island chose candidated them for someone to take Jacobs place, and the candidate was chosen and they moved on back to reality, and the conclusion of them being woken up in Limbo and brought to the church where they moved on in the afterlife together was so beautifully written. And yes the show ended where it began with Jack lying back down.

    Wonderful show and conclusion.
    This writer is pretty bias about saying it was terrible.
    I know certain people, who were in favor of it, many who didn't use their brain and understand it, and others, who just weren't happy with it.

  • Trebuchette | October 26, 2013 8:43 PM

    No, pretty much everyone hated LOST except fangirls or shippers. Maybe there was a bit of bait-and-switch going on, like letting people believe they were going to watch Monday Night Football, showing a little football for a while, then finishing the football game with a random teenage beauty pageant that has nothing at all to do with football. There will ALWAYS be hatred for LOST on that point, alone: bait-and-switch.

  • MBlaize | October 4, 2013 5:54 AM

    I would also like to add that Battle Star Galactica was a phenomenal ending. Another disagreement in this article.

    The ending summed up the show (which is the rise and fall of civilizations)

    I really don't think you were a fan of Lost or BattleStar. B/c they were both exceptional.

  • Fairportfan | October 3, 2013 7:34 PMReply

    The "Seinfeld" finale should be at the top of the list of great finales: It put that lousy excuse for entertainment out of our misery forever.

  • KG | October 5, 2013 2:09 AM

    boo this man.

  • Viewer | October 3, 2013 6:44 PMReply

    I agree on the ones I've seen, except Buffy and Angel - I'd flip them. Those shows were about character arcs; on Buffy, we were given conclusions for all the main characters, while on Angel, we were not. I'm a little rusty, but with the Buffy finale, Spike makes a true sacrifice, Anya becomes truly human/mortal by dying, Buffy becomes almost a regular girl by being only one of many slayers, etc. With Angel, we don't have that completion, and the show was about redemption one day at a time, but it ends in the middle of a suicidal battle? That was weird and didn't seem true to what had been the message of the show.

  • Monique A Williams | October 3, 2013 3:19 PMReply

    I'm so glad to see both Angel and Buffy on this list. Angel's final season was such a great turnaround, given how awful that 4th season was, and the finale was ultra satisfying. Buffy, possibly my favorite show of all time, had a weak 7th season and didn't have that same feeling. Though I enjoyed what season 6 brought to the show, if it ended at season 5, it would have been on the list for best finales.

  • Randall | October 3, 2013 10:23 AMReply

    Roseanne really needs to be on the list of worst finalés. And as someone else mentioned, Newhart is among the best.

  • Karan | October 3, 2013 7:42 AMReply

    You probably missed the Scrubs Finale... I think it was one of the best finales for a show ever!.. A reason why you might not consider it is because they came back another season with an all new cast & setting. But the original finale was a perfect to an amazing series.

  • Fenil | October 3, 2013 4:42 AMReply

    You cannot be serious about Seinfeld. You might dislike the finale but to put it in the worst finale list is totally bonkers.

  • Monique a williams | October 3, 2013 3:15 PM

    I remember thinking it was crap too. Especially for as amazing a series as Seinfeld.

  • Shame | October 3, 2013 5:44 AM

    "Seinfeld" is a perfect choice here. The finale felt like the creators were saying, "I'm so sick and tired of these characters and this show. I hope you are too." It was a big middle finger to all "Seinfeld"'s fans.

  • AV | October 2, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    Babylon 5 had a very satisfying ending (actually filmed the season before its final year but only aired at the end of that final season). I would love to say my other 90s sci fi series DS9 had as good a final ep but to me it fell short (although I appear to be in the minority on that front).

  • Marcelo | October 8, 2013 8:36 AM

    Babylon 5 had -probably- the best final in scy-fi series and one of the best in tv. Really great! Now, so may years later, i cry when i watch it again. I invited to watch the serie ant specially the final ep.
    Saludos desde Argentina!

  • Dara | October 4, 2013 3:02 AM

    Oh very much this. Just fantastic. Series 5 was... not all it could've been, but that ending episode was just phenomenal.

  • Rita | October 2, 2013 7:52 PMReply

    Don't you watch anything before 1995? What happened to the Newhart finale, one of the best; or the Dick Van Dyke final show; and of course, the last show of Mary Tyler Moore.

  • TOM JORDACHE | October 2, 2013 7:31 PMReply

    Rich Man Poor Man had a poor ending too

    the good guy dies in the gutter with the villain

  • Paul Borawski | October 2, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    Great article! One I have to throw out there for worst was Night Court. I loved that series and it ended soooo bizarre that it's incomprehensible as to how it got made. Bull went to space with Alens?! Dan Filedling became a wuss to follow Christine?! Harry had all of these amazing life choices and he chose to stay in Night Court with Mac?! WTF?!! That episode really hurt to watch.

  • Monique A Williams | October 3, 2013 3:14 PM

    That's why Kenneth wanted a do-over on 30 Rock for Night Court's series finale. It was terrible!!!

  • Rick | October 2, 2013 2:09 PMReply

    Seinfeld was one of the funniest finales of all time. Bringing back all the characters that made us laugh over the years was a perfect way to wrap it up. It didn't need to be deep, just funny. Cheers is Meanwhile, Cheers, M.A.S.H and Newhart are almost universally accepted as all-time great finales.

  • Alex | October 2, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    I have to disagree with your opinion on Alias. I just watched the Alias finale last night and thought it was absolutely wonderful. Sydney had wanted to be out of the spy game since episode 2. She told Vaughn she wanted to take down SD6, and then she would be finished. The problem was she always kept being pulled back in. The fact that she's finally able to relax easily is a great thing for her character. Even if she didn't have kids, I'd imagine she'd be doing the same thing with Vaughn. Is a strong female character supposed to keep up the fight forever just because she represents something positive? How long does a marine have to serve their country before they can finally relax? My only complaint about Sydney is that she still wanted to save her mother. That was her only weak point I thought in the final episode. Also, Jack Bristow and Sloane had fantastic endings, fitting their characters, I think.

    And I love Buffy but I can agree about that though.

  • X | October 2, 2013 12:13 PMReply

    The Spartacus finale was EPIC. It had everything you'd want in a finale, tying up loose ends....some characters having a happy ending, others not so much. After a stellar season one the show struggled to get back on its feet after the talented Andy Whitfield passed away but the Finale really delivered.

  • Pupster | October 2, 2013 9:34 AMReply

    Perhaps it's because I'm an oldster, but the most perfect series finale I can remember is the one for Newhart. Can't imagine a better one.

  • oobug | October 2, 2013 3:02 AMReply

    While I like this list, the worst finale I can think of is that of the 2000s Battlestar Galactica series. After 4 seasons of episode introductions claiming that the Cylons "have a plan," this plan appears to get subverted without ever being revealed. Instead, we get highly dissatisfying emotional... resolutions? ...for the lead characters, which play out as if they were specifically crafted to disappoint optimistic fans.

    Granted, the show was on a steady downhill climb since the midpoint of season 3.

  • guy | December 18, 2013 9:31 AM

    They had a plan, it was the destruction of the colonies in the first episode, and they did it. I do not know what other plan people wanted revealed. I thought the finale was very well done. It called back to the original series, as the premise was our ancestors were "up in the stars", and it turned out (spoilers) they were our ancestors. It was a popular "junk science" theory in the 70's that there were advanced civilizations on Earth before recorded history, like Atlantis, and the original series played up on that. The finale showed what happened to the characters and finally gave them a home and they broke the cycle of destruction. It was a very good finale.

  • serena | October 1, 2013 7:58 PMReply

    The worst series finale in recent memory was THE OFFICE (USA). The most mundane thing any storyteller can do is to give their characters--and their audience--everything they want, finale or not. THE OFFICE began as an awkward comedy about everyday embarrassments, and its big clincher was the Jim/Pam romance, all about withholding romance. So for it to become so saccharine in the last few seasons, and end on a note where literally every single character, even the minor ones like the real estate agent, get what they want, it strikes me as a finale that will not stand the test of time.

  • Alice | June 2, 2014 3:12 PM

    And yet the series finale of The Office (UK, Original) was brilliant!

  • Alan B | October 2, 2013 4:19 AM

    Not everyone got what they wanted, although they all got what they NEEDED. By the end of last season, Andy got everything he wanted: his nemesis was gone, he got the manager's job back, the usurper was demoted, he brought David Wallace to the company, he had the respect of his workers and he earned back the love of his life, Erin. In the final season, he lost his job, his girlfriend, his status and the affection of the staff. However, in the final episode, he got what he needed, which was self-respect. That arc is important and ignoring it diminishes your little "everyone gets everything" narrative.

  • Sean | October 1, 2013 9:04 PM

    It died when Michael Scott left. I pretend the series when the last shot was Pam was watching Michael fly away (not the awful tag of Will Ferrell and how he snapped mentally)

  • HS | October 1, 2013 5:15 PMReply

    "Why didn't Dawn finally, you know, show us what a Key is all about?"

    She did. In Season Five.

    Taste is subjective, of course: it's more than fine not to like the Lost or Buffy finales (and Whedon fan that I am, the latter did underwhelm me somewhat). That said, your write-ups of them do kind of betray a failure to understand certain aspects of the episodes / shows. Snark is all well and good, but it's worth backing that snark up with something substantial, otherwise it comes across as hollow.

  • HS | October 1, 2013 5:20 PM

    Silly me: the Lost and Buffy entries irritated me enough that I leapt in before I got to the end of the article. Your Alias assessment is pretty duff as well: much of the final season of that show rang false, but the ending was something of a grace note for all the regular characters. If you think that being able to retire with the man she loved was out of character for Sydney Bristow, you probably didn't pay much attention to the character and her motivations over the course of the previous several years.

  • Keil S. | October 1, 2013 5:03 PMReply

    The Shield's finale is the best of all time, though I feel The Wire and The Sopranos are better series overall.

  • Alan B | October 1, 2013 4:34 PMReply

    "Instead of coincidence and fate, the show became about two warring white guys"

    If you can get through that many hours of television and still only see those characters are white, then you are obsessed with race to an extremely unhealthy degree.

  • Rob | October 1, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    I agree with all of these, but there is one giant hole in this article: WHERE THE HELL IS STAR TREK: TNG?!! The last episode of TNG was one of the only shows to end PERFECTLY and you completely disregarded it.

  • Nicole | December 31, 2013 3:42 PM

    AWESOME finale. It still pops in my mind every now and then, like I'm still trying to figure out how all that time-jumping and beginning of life on Earth unmaking worked... Also, Picard joining the crew for poker - *sniff* Absolutely perfect!

  • Eric | October 5, 2013 9:29 PM

    Yes - I was going to post the same comment. It was a perfect finale. But I think there's a certain snobbery and sadly trek doesn't get taken seriously.

  • DrAsimov | October 2, 2013 8:34 AM

    Bless you.

  • o_O | October 1, 2013 8:54 PM

    Totally agree with you!

  • TheoC | October 1, 2013 3:38 PMReply

    I loved Six feet Under but I remember being very disappointed with that final episode. The Sopranos finale is genius but overall the final season was disappointing.

    I just loved all of Enlightened, weirdly it not being renewed is a good enough ending for me.

  • Wesley | October 1, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    @Andrew, I completely agree with about Lost. If you were in it for the mysteries you probably hated it, but on a thematic, emotional and character level the finale was perfect.

  • Mark Johnson | October 1, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    Once again, a group of people who don't "get" what LOST was all about, and bash the perfect ending as a result. Ugh. Tiresome.

  • FehtaCheese | October 13, 2013 5:22 PM

    The LOST finale was fine. It was emotional, action packed and true to the characters. The entire sixth season of LOST was NOT fine. It was a terrible season, with characters trapped inside the temple with people we neither knew nor cared about for weeks, barely advancing the plot, and with other precious series-ending episodes devoted to Jacob/MIB as tweens and their crazy mother. It seemed intent on NOT giving us resolution and that was what was frustrating. The length of "The End" seems to be a huge problem for this writer but I have watched it probably ten times since the show aired and I like it more each time. As a final season, it ended weakly but the final episode was lovely.

  • MBlaize | October 4, 2013 5:57 AM

    Mark, I am totally with you.
    I feel like people just didn't get it.

    It was the most beautiful ending. I don't cry much, but I was in tears in that finale.
    Amazing writing. I have never been that blown away by a show in my life.

  • Sean | October 1, 2013 4:06 PM

    Fans need to stop telling people that their opinions are wrong. LOST, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, whatever you like, just learn to like it yourself (or dislike) but accept that others are different than you and might not have the same view.
    If LOST was a good finale, maybe instead of doing the LOST fanboy tactic of saying "you just didn't get it" and maybe elaborate why.

    I was a huge LOST fan for 4 seasons. I loved season 1 like everyone else, and when people said seasons 2 and 3 where weaker, I didn't agree and still loved it. Then season 4 happened, and the show had a season to rival season 1. Season 5 is where it lost (bad pun) me. Once 6 rolled around, it became tired. It still had good twists and turns, but it got mixed in with the whole having to tell the story but with a twist.
    People say the show was about the characters and not the story. To a degree, yes that's right. But I also exclaim bullshit on that. It was show that sold itself on the mysteries this island had. we watched because we wanted to know what was in the hatch or what that monster was. Season 6 and it's finale did the incorrect thing by still introducing story plots that they had to wrap in a few episodes, along with new characters that they had to get us viewers to love and care for in 13 episodes. That was Lindeloff's mistake: introducing too much in it's final hour (or 13), rather than bringing everything to some nice, warranted closure.

  • Lauren | October 1, 2013 3:26 PMReply

    Anyone who thinks the Sopranos finale was good is an absolte idiot.

    Signed,

    The Universe

  • FehtaCheese | October 13, 2013 5:21 PM

    The LOST finale was fine. It was emotional, action packed and true to the characters. The entire sixth season of LOST was NOT fine. It was a terrible season, with characters trapped inside the temple with people we neither knew nor cared about for weeks, barely advancing the plot, and with other precious series-ending episodes devoted to Jacob/MIB as tweens and their crazy mother. It seemed intent on NOT giving us resolution and that was what was frustrating. The length of "The End" seems to be a huge problem for this writer but I have watched it probably ten times since the show aired and I like it more each time. As a final season, it ended weakly but the final episode was lovely.

  • 0_O | October 1, 2013 7:05 PM

    how dare you speaking for the universe. that ending was genius and i'm form the universe so.

  • lol | October 1, 2013 3:33 PM

    "absolte idiot." Amazing

  • Andrew | October 1, 2013 3:14 PMReply

    For me personally it's hard to imagine that any show will be able to top The Shield's finale. It really is the perfect end to an incredibly great show.

    I personally do really love the Lost finale. I understand that for many the show was about the mysteries, but for me the most interesting aspect of the show was the whole theme 'Science vs. Faith' and the finale I thought really embraced that very concept without definitively choosing a side. On an emotional level, I couldn't imagine anything more satisfying. The final season as a whole certainly wasn't the greatest, but I did really like the finale regardless.

  • Marco | October 1, 2013 8:08 PM

    Well put, Andrew. It got to be a pain to defend the entire series based everyone's anger over the final season, but for those that were invested in more than the mythology, that finale worked on an emotional level. Also, they didn't rewrite the character storylines, it was a bait and switch tha didn't impact the characters original stories at all. It was just - ah to hell with it, I give up.

Email Updates