9 Series Finales and Why They Were Or Were Not Successful

25
Apr
2014

A successful final episode of a show is tough to pull off. You have to wrap up multiple story arcs, give proper send-offs to each character, remind everyone of why they became fans of the show, and make everyone feel satisfied. Sometimes a final episode is the most talked about episode for the whole series. But that is not always a good thing. The Sopranos was loved by fans and critics alike, but the final episode had fans upset, and left a bad taste in many mouths. In this article I’ll dive into the series finales of 9 shows that I loved. I’m not saying these are the best finales or the worst finales. Instead, this is an analysis of why these final episodes either worked or didn’t work, from the perspective of both a fan and a television critic. I’ll also be giving each episode a grade out of 10. Let’s jump in, shall we?

 

***********MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*****************

 

HIMYM

How I Met Your Mother Finale

This one is the most recent on the list, and also one of the most disappointing. How I Met Your Mother told the tale of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), who was telling his own stories to his children in the year 2033 about how he met their mother (get it?). Throughout the season, Ted recalls many stories of relationships and adventures with his four closest friends: Robin (Colbie Smulders), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris in his best role yet), Marshall (Jason Segel), and Lily (Alyson Hannigan). Not only was the show hilarious and heartfelt, it captured the feelings and struggles of 20-somethings everywhere. Even though the show was great for a majority of it’s 9 year run, like most shows, the finals seasons were just not as good. The 9th season spent it’s whole time on the weekend that Barney and Robin were set to marry, and that’s what hurt the series finale. Even though we just spent the previous 22 episodes watching Robin and Barney get ready to marry, 15 minutes into the final episode, they get divorced. The final episode is full of downers. Robin grows apart from the rest of the group. Ted is too busy with the mother (Cristin Milioti) to spend time with his friends. Barney refuses to change his ways, until he causes an accidental pregnancy with woman he had a one night stand with. And the mother dies several years before older Ted starts telling the story about how they met. In a way, it was well done in the sense that it showed a lot of ups and downs throughout the character’s lives, reflecting what goes on in most of our own lives. But still, Robin and Barney getting divorced just like that?! And Barney getting some random girl pregnant but being ok with it? And Ted going after Robin to end the entire series? A lot of it just wasn’t satisfying and left many fans scratching their heads. The show was great, and I’m glad I got into it, but the final episode was not as well done as it could have been.

Score: 6/10


scrubs-1

Scrubs Finale

Scrubs was a show with a great cast, and writers who seamlessly blended comedy and drama. You had characters who bounced back and forth between wacky and realistic, while dealing with the seriousness of being doctors in a hospital. After 8 seasons and a network switch, the folks at Scrubs decided to end the program (Sidenote: some of you will be quick to point out that Scrubs actually went 9 seasons. You are incorrect. There were 8 seasons, and then one season of a bullshit half-assed spinoff with the same name as the show I loved. So as a REAL fan of Scrubs, I only acknowledge 8 seasons). The series came to a close with main character JD (Zach Braff) leaving Sacred Heart and moving to work at a different hospital so he can be closer to his son. Having a grand personality like JD does, he wants everyone in the hospital to make a huge deal about him leaving, but no one does. His friends will still see him regularly, so they don’t care as much, and his begrudging mentor Dr. Cox (John C McGinley) won’t give him the credit that he feels he’s due. But as the episode comes to a close, he starts to have his final inner monologue as he walks out of the seemingly empty hospital. He then starts to imagine seeing past characters on the show who had a big impact on his life, including a whole line of them down a hallway. During his walk down the hall, fans get to hear a few final words from some beloved minor characters. Then he walks out of the hospital to a beautiful, projected montage of what the future could possibly hold. Images of him marrying his longtime love-interest Elliot (Sarah Chalke), spending holidays with his closest friends, his son growing up to marry the daughter of his best friend Turk (Donald Faison), amongst other images. And then the film goes away, the music stops, a janitor takes away the screen (a brilliant cameo by show runner Bill Lawrence), and JD walks down the parking lot, onto his new life. Of course the ending seemed cheesy, but in the spirit of the show, it was beautiful. I could not imagine a more perfect sendoff for the show. It left on a note of hope for all of the characters, that even though things seem uncertain, beautiful things are always ahead. A great metaphor for life, and a damn good message for a series finale.

Score: 9.5/10


seinfeld

Seinfeld Finale

Many people think of Seinfeld as one of the funniest shows of all time… And I am one of those people. This show about nothing had comedy fans everywhere obsessed, and 17 years after the final episode, the show still holds up perfectly. However, the series finale had some fans upset. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer witness a mugging and do nothing to stop it. In fact, they mock the man who is being mugged. This leads to their arrest and prosecution for doing nothing to help a fellow citizen in distress. Not only do they go to court, but almost every side and supporting character show up to testify, and lend a few final words before the gang goes to prison. The soup nazi, Puddy, George and Jerry’s parents, Jackie Childs, Newman, and countless others make their final appearances. The last scene shows the 4 friends sitting in a jail cell, having the same exact conversation about buttons that George and Jerry had on the very first episode. While the last part was very clever, the idea of them going to prison left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt like Larry David (the show’s creator) wanted to do something overly big since it was the final episode, but the show was never about big events. It was about 4 friends being selfish and getting into weird situations with memorable characters. It was a simple plot that was pulled off brilliantly by great writing and a perfect cast. That being said, the final show should have reflected the rest of the series by keeping things simple, yet hilarious. Overall not a bad episode, but just a bizarre way to end a show about nothing.

Score: 7/10


the office

The Office Finale

The Office was an Americanized version of the British show with the same name, but instead of Ricky Gervais, we got Steve Carrell in a career-defining role as Michael Scott, the buffoonish and offensive manager of Dunder Mifflin. An office setting (no shit) mixed with the mockumentary style of story-telling, created a downright hilarious series. The characters, the writing, the style, the commentary on society – it was all very well-done. However, in season 7, Steve Carrell left The Office to focus more on his films, which left a gaping hole in the show. In season 8, Carrell’s departure was very noticeable, and the show as a whole suffered. Season 9 marked the finale season for the show, and even though the season was lacking, the series finale wrapped up the show nicely. It took place one year after the cameras stopped rolling on the Dunder Mifflin crew, and was a reunion show for the characters. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) was set to marry Angela (Angela Kinsey), and Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) were set to move. All the characters from past and present seasons came back for a beautiful send off. Each character arc was settled in a fitting manner, and a cameo by Steve Carrell was very impactful. The episode ends with most of the office co-workers going back to the Dunder Mifflin offices after Dwight’s wedding, and they all gave their final words into the camera. One of the best final lines came from Andy (Ed Helms): “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good times before you’ve left them.” A line that brilliantly echoes sentiments of fans everywhere. Overall, the series finale was a beautiful wrap up, even if it seemed cheesy at times. But even though the final two seasons were lackluster, the final episode was a proper send-off in every sense. I was left begging for more… that’s what she said.

Score: 9/10


 

dexter

Dexter Finale

Dexter was a brutal and unforgiving series, chronicling the serial-killing ways of Dexter Morgan – a classic anti-hero tale. Dexter is a family man and blood-spatter analyst for the Miami homicide division by day, and a murderer by night. But there’s a twist – Dexter has a code, and only kills those who he feels truly deserve it. Murderers, rapists, crooks, and other serial killers are the only ones who would find themselves on Dexter’s table before he plunges his knife into their hearts. The series was captivating, and Michael C. Hall played the role of Dexter perfectly. After 8 seasons, the show came to an end, and it was a controversial one. In the final episode Dexter finishes his standoff with his final serial killer enemy; the Brain Surgeon (Darri Ingolfsson). He kills him, but not before Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) dies from an earlier injury caused by Brain Surgeon. Dexter feels like his sister’s death is his fault, since he brought pain on his sister throughout the whole series. In a way, Debra was another victim of Dexter, and obviously the saddest one as they loved each other very much. So he takes his sister’s body out on his boat, and drives straight into a major hurricane. It is assumed that the storm kills Dexter, but instead, at the very end of the episode we see a logging site in northwest America. The camera goes to a room where a bearded Dexter is sitting at a table alone. End of series. Commence angry fan reactions. Many people were upset about this, including my friends and I. It just seemed too random for the finale of the serial killer show. You’re going to take one of the darkest characters in television history, and turn him into a lumberjack? It made no sense. To play devil’s advocate, there is a way this ending makes sense: Dexter blames himself for his sister’s death, and since the police were never able to capture Dexter for his murders, he felt like he had to bring justice upon himself. So what he does is seclude himself as a logger in the northwest, far away from his son and girlfriend who both moved to South America. No family, no more killing. This is Dexter’s own personal version of hell, and he feels like it’s all he deserves. If you look at it like that, the finale is brilliant. However, it still felt too random and didn’t do enough justice to the rest of the series. I felt like he should have died, perhaps after being prosecuted for the dozens of murders he committed. The finale they went with just felt wrong, and ended the show with an angry sigh, instead of a gasp or a tear.

Score: 5/10


KingoftheHill

King of the Hill Finale

King of the Hill was an animated show that seemed to fly underneath the radar for most of its run, despite the fact it was on Fox for 13 seasons. It was a simple show, but also very funny and had a humor that was based around one man’s refusal to accept the ever-changing world around him. Hank Hill (voiced by show creator Mike Judge) was a normal Texas family man. He loved his family, his dog Ladybird, his lawn, the Dallas Cowboys, and selling propane and propane accessories. His hilarious reactions to his family and friends’ attempts to get him to adapt to the new times was a long running joke, and through 13 seasons there were many funny moments. The final episode did not feel like a final episode at all, just another way for Hank to get frustrated at the world. It revolved around a theme that the show used a lot for episodes: Hank just doesn’t get his son Bobby (voiced by Pamela Adlon). But in the series finale, they find one thing in common: a love for steak. Bobby becomes a steak judging expert, and Hank finally finds one of Bobby’s hobbies to support. In the end, Bobby has trouble with the other steak judges, and he and his father also bond over mutual enemies, as they both have often hated snobby people. Although most of the last episode did not have a “last episode feel” to it, the last scene was a nice wrap-up. The Hill family hosts another BBQ, all of their friends join, they grill up steaks, and one last shot of beautiful Arlen, Texas is shown. And a bonus for fans of the series, you find out that Boomhauer (also voiced by Judge), was a police officer this whole time. The man was impossible to understand when he talked, and had a lot of mystery to him because of this. Overall the series finale just felt like another episode, save the last few minutes. It wasn’t great or terrible. It was a solid episode, and a pretty fitting final episode, I tell ya what.

Score: 7/10


NipTuck

Nip/Tuck Finale

Scandalous. Probably the best word I could use to describe Nip/Tuck. It was a show that centered on two plastic surgeons in Miami who had interesting patients, and a lot of problems with their own personal lives. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) was a ladies man who was extremely superficial, and had a personality that fit his career as a plastic surgeon. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) was the family man, and was a polar opposite of Christian. Despite this, the two were best friends, and successful in their practice. There were hook-ups, cheating, murders, rapes, child molestation, betrayals, arrests, and any other possible depraved story line that a show could do. With that being said, the final episode was lackluster. Sean decides to finally move on from Christian and take his son to South America, and Christian decides to remain a womanizer. With a show that had so much craziness to it, a fan like myself expected more from the final episode. But it seemed like they had run out of things to do, which negatively impacted not only the final season, but the series finale as well.

Score: 4/10


30Rock_MediaVillage_570x300

30 Rock Finale

30 Rock was one of the funniest shows in recent memory. It was a critical darling that won 3 straight Emmy’s for Outstanding Comedy Series. It had what every great show needs: great writing, and cast that can elevate the material even more. Led by show creator Tina Fey, who played main character Liz Lemon, the characters were bizarre and selfish, which often led to hilarious situations onset at a sketch show on NBC. What was great about the show was it was always comedic, and almost every joke landed. But, like others on this list, towards the end the show lost steam and just wasn’t the same. Despite always being critically acclaimed, the show struggled to maintain viewership. After 7 seasons, NBC decided to pull the plug. And for good reason, considering how the story lines on the show just weren’t as grabbing as previous ones. The last episode had all of the characters go their own way. Despite Liz always being stressed out by running a show, she decides to work on a new show. At the end of the series, she has a less stressful show to work on, and a family at home that closely resembled the family she developed working on TGS. Jack (Alec Baldwin) starts working on a clear dishwasher, Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) becomes president of NBC, and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) remain selfish, crazy, and rich. Everyone moves on, but it wasn’t in a satisfying way. Despite a few cool cameos and last jokes, the final episode can be described in one word: forgettable. The show that was so funny during seasons 1-5 ended in as soft of a whimper as possible. It was disappointing, and the show deserved more. But I guess with a weak ending about people moving on, it was easier for fans such as myself to move on as well.

Score: 2/10


BreakingBad
Breaking Bad Finale

You can probably sense a theme with most of these shows, in that they were all way past their prime by the time the final episode aired. It seems like that happens to most shows. At a certain point, the magic is gone and the writers struggle to keep the show fresh and relevant. That was the opposite of what happened with Breaking Bad, a show that might have started off slow, but only gets better as each episode goes on. The suspense was built up tremendously, and each payoff was devastatingly effective. I, like most people on the internet, can go on and on about how amazing of a show Breaking Bad was, but this article is about series finales, so let’s focus on that. On the final episode, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was a man on a mission. He knew he only had limited time left on this Earth with his illness, and it seemed like he might finally want to right his wrongs, or at least get revenge on a few people. He found the couple who made billions off of a company that he helped start, and threatened them into giving his fortune to his children when they were old enough. Then he used what few dollars he had left to buy a giant machine gun. After saying his final goodbye to his ex-wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) and seeing his son Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte) one last time (albeit from a distance), he went to go after the neo-Nazis who had stolen his money, killed his brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) and gone into hiding. Not only had they done all that, they had Jesse. Poor Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He went through so much shit in the series – from his girlfriend overdosing, to having to shoot a nice guy just to keep him quiet. And in the finale episode the neo-Nazis had Jesse imprisoned and were using him as a meth-making slave. Walt goes to find the neo-Nazis, kills most of them with his car-trunk machine gun device, and frees Jesse, who is able to strangle one of the Nazis to death with his chains. There is so much that goes on in this final scene – I could spend hours dissecting it. Even though Jesse and Walt have no love for each other, Walt offers Jesse the chance to end Walt’s life, and Jesse refuses. Instead he drives away off to freedom (and into the Need For Speed movie). At this point you might think Walt will once again get away, but instead you find out one of the bullets from the machine gun got him, and he only has a little bit of time. And with his last few minutes on Earth, Walt walks into the meth lab on the Nazi compound, and looks at the equipment he has spent the last few years around. He reflects on how much he loved cooking meth, and dies laying next to his precious toys. The camera pans out on a dead Walter White as police swarm the compound – a powerful and poetic ending if there ever was one. There were so many meanings and metaphors in the show, but in the end, it came down to the man and his meth equipment. It was one of the most effective and fitting endings to any series, and should be the blueprint for series finales for years to come.

Score: 10/10


 

Let us know if there are any other season finales you either thought were brilliant, or were a complete waste of time!