Is there a truly good way to end a TV show? It’s a question that literally every series that’s ever broadcast has, or will have, to try to answer.
Over the years, many great characters have seen their stories wrap up in some spectacular ways. However, even some of the best characters or TV shows aren’t immune to producing a real stinker of a series finale.
Below are some of the best and worst TV series finales that have graced viewers' TV screens over the years.
[SPOILER ALERT: This article will discuss the final ends to the some top TV shows.]
What better way to end a show about awful people than to put them on trial for being awful? The “Seinfeld” gang gets arrested for cracking jokes about a carjacking victim rather than helping him out. In the two-part finale, they’re put on trial and a host of people they’ve wronged over the years get the chance to testify against them. While ending the series with them going to prison is dark, it felt like the perfect resolution to their ongoing story about nothing.
Many fans criticize the final two seasons of “The Office” because it lost the powerhouse comedic performance of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. However, in terms of the finale, which Scott returned for, it gets high marks for bringing each and every character’s story to a reasonable end. Some fared better than others. With Jim and Pam reconciling their marital differences and chasing big dreams in Texas, others were less ambitious, such as the always-depressed Toby, who never quite finds his bliss. At the end of the day, everyone is where they should be in life, but the closure comes from the fact that they’re no longer all together.
Walter White started out as a regular guy, but by the end of the series he was an irredeemable villain, and he knew it. Not only did the finale manage to tie up the loose end of his mission to take care of his family, it finally proved that wasn’t the point of the show at all. After admitting he became a drug kingpin because he enjoyed it, the main character meets his end after ruthlessly taking out his last remaining enemies in a way that only a maniachal chemist can. Additionally, fans get the rush of seeing Jesse Pinkman escape his ruined life and speed off to parts unknown.
Cheers, at the end of the day, was a story about the family you choose. The finale starts with everyone on journeys that aren’t quite right for them. However, by the time it’s done, they’ve all landed where they’re supposed to be. Sam Malone exemplifies this best when he changes his mind to leave Boston with Diane Chambers. In the end, he learns that family isn’t the lady who tells you she loves you, but the people you choose to love every day. For him and the rest of the cast, that was the rabble that came through Cheers. The beloved sitcom ended with the story continuing, but just off camera.
Don Draper’s journey was one of many ups and downs. However, when it all ended, it was on a high note as his journey painted him as the mastermind behind the famous “Hilltop” coke commercial. The episode began with Draper lost, almost on the verge of a breakdown. However, in the end he becomes something new and the audience is left with a sense of satisfaction at seeing the almost iredeemable character's arc come to a close.
After eight season of narrowly escaping being discovered for the serial killer he is, Dexter ended his run with a controversial finale that saw him indirectly kill his adoptive sister, Deb, steal her body and run off to become a lumberjack in Nebraska. Fans spent years wondering if Dexter would die or get caught, but were shocked to see an ending that included neither event. The main story arc of the final season saw Dexter try to quit serial killing, but it was left open ended as to whether he succeeded or not.
"How I Met Your Mother"
By Season 9, “How I Met Your Mother” gave us a lot of things to care about besides Ted Mosby’s eventual meeting with the titular “mother.” However, fans were shocked to find that the finale had plans to ruin not only each of those things, but the motherly reveal as well. In the final minutes of the series, it’s revealed that the mother, who fans spent nine seasons being promised Ted would fall in love with, has been dead the whole time. Audiences weren’t into the idea of Ted ending up with Robin, especially since it meant that her wedding to Barney would have to be completely undone. Needless to say, the show's ending has become a topic of heated discussion ever since.
This is an odd inclusion to the list as, objectively, the finale wasn’t terrible and conveyed an effective end to the story of Tony Soprano. However, the day after it aired, everyone was not talking about the story, but the final moment. Fans will remember that the Soprano family gathered in a diner for a rare family meal. Viewers across the country watched with increasing tension as Tony looked up from the table to the front door before the screen cut to black. The moment was meant to be poetic, but fans just found themselves rushing to check their TV sets for defects. In the end, you want people talking about your episode, not its gimmick.
Although most of the finale was retconned by the revival of the show, it originally ended on a controversial note. It’s revealed through voiceover that the events of the show all took place in the title character’s imagination. Roseanne became a writer and revealed viewers had been seeing an amended version of her life that existed inside her imagination. It was certainly creative, but it colored literally every moment of the show that came before it, which did not sit well with some fans. Throw in the fact that it offhandedly mentioned Dan Connor was dead, and you've got a finale that's more of a head-scratcher than an ending.
"Two and a Half Men"
What started as one of the most beloved sitcoms on TV quickly became a lightning rod for its star, Charlie Sheen, and his growing controversy. Amid a very public meltdown, Sheen left the show in Season 8. The show lasted four more seasons before taking its final bow in an episode that was rife with references to the absent Sheen character. The final moments featured a very meta joke involving Chuck Lorre, the show’s creator, that made fans puzzled more than anything else. For a show that did so much work to get past the Sheen controversy, its ending was obsessed with it.