I think everyone can admit that shows have had awful finales recently. Game of Thrones, Dexter, Weeds, and that’s just to name a few. We put a lot in a show’s ending, and it can be hard to live up to those expectations. Execs often say that “fans won’t like what we do no matter what,” but that just isn’t true.
I’m going to argue that Breaking Bad had one of the best series finales of all time, if not the best. Not only that, but Breaking Bad also came out with a movie, El Camino, that finished the story for one of their beloved characters. That one also ended well, so it’s almost like two finales in one – both being just as good as the last.
There was quite a bit riding on the finale since wrapping up Walt’s drug empire wasn’t an easy feat. As an audience, we grew to love Walt for his flaws, and in the end, he finally admitted who he really was (and to Skyler of all people). The best thing about the two finales? They wrapped up every loose end that we had floating in our minds.
The M*A*S*H finale aired over 35 years ago, but it’s still one of the best series finales that ever released. A total of 106 million people tuned in to watch the two-and-a-half-hour ending, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.” Even to this day, it’s one of the highest-rated finales that have ever aired.
By the end of the episode, the war had drawn to a close. Creators decided that keeping the show going wouldn’t have been right, and I applaud them for making that tough decision. I can still remember the last scene: Hawkeye’s chopper taking off, he looks down, and there’s the message from B.J., “Goodbye.” It can still draw tears.
Nurse Jackie was a whirlwind of a show. The series was about a drug-addicted nurse who did everything she could for her hospital, her patients, and her co-workers (except quit using). The showrunner felt that it was time Jackie experienced some consequences for breaking the trust of everyone around her – having kicked the habit and hopped back on several times throughout the series.
The finale definitely hit those consequences hard. Jackie passed out on the floor while her co-workers were celebrating, forcing them to take immediate action to save her life. It was hard to see those around her affected by her drug use, and in the end, the finale made it clear that she was an addict first, a nurse second, a mother third, and the list goes on.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec was a hilarious show that took a look into the lives of public service workers for the parks and recreation department. Sure, it was funny, but some moments brought a tear to your eye. The finale was one of those. If you could keep your composure there at the end, you have a heart made of stone.
The finale summed up everything we knew about the characters – Leslie Knope’s ambition, April’s weird personality, Andy’s childlike wonder, and best of all, Ben’s love for his wife. Leslie and Ben were set to run for governor, choosing by a toss of a coin. Only, Ben announced without warning that Leslie would run instead of him. After all, who better to serve the public? It’s a finale you can watch time and time again.
Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under is a unique show with tons of resolutions, new beginnings, and flash-forwards. Honestly, I wasn’t sure they would be able to wrap it up like they did, but they did! Granted, it didn’t make me cry nearly as much as Nate’s funeral, but it was still pretty emotional.
The episode starts with a birth, and everyone thinking that the ending may be heartwarming, but nope. It flashed-forward to everyone’s deaths. It wrapped up each character, many of them in a brutal fashion. It was hard to see all of our favorite characters go, but it was certainly one of the best finales of all time.
The Americans went under the radar for quite a while. Despite being critically acclaimed, this series only began to get recognition for its final seasons. While all the seasons were really good, the final season was one of the best, especially the ending. Audiences knew that there was only one real way for this spy story to conclude, but somehow, it still managed to feel suspenseful at the same time.
The spies had been contemplating a return to their country (Russia), and the last season was their final escape. It really connected the dots in an unforgettable away that left us, as an audience, with tons of emotions. I’m honestly not surprised it won so many awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Television Series and three Critics’ Choice Television Awards.
This one is a bit controversial. For a show about nothing – literally, how the show is described – it wouldn’t be easy to wrap everything up. Throughout the whole series, the characters pull antics and never deal with any consequences. Well, the finale certainly changed everything up. The group witnesses a crime while in a small town, and their “do nothing” attitude lands them in jail.
That’s when everything comes crashing down as their negative karma comes calling. Characters come back while the cast is on trial, reminding audiences of how many awful things George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine have done. If you didn’t like that ending, the faux ending from Curb Your Enthusiasm might have been better in line with what you expected.
I’m not gonna lie to you and say the fifth season of The Wire was good. It certainly wasn’t the best one of the bunch, but no one can deny that the finale was the pièce de résistance of the whole show. One of the best parts of the finale episode was the montage of McNulty looking over Baltimore.
It was everything we loved about The Wire, as fans. The sounds and the sights —it was easy to remember how far we’d come since episode one. The finale helped us recall the wins and losses the characters had gone through while on the streets.
Finales are usually about one thing: goodbyes. Sitcoms are especially like that, with the characters wrapping up one chapter of their lives to move onto another. Not Newhart, and that makes this series different. Newhart’s season finale took that premise and tossed it on its head.
Instead, the end reveals the whole series to be Dr. Hartley’s dream, a character from The Bob Newhart Show. It was ambitious and a bold move. It shocked audiences, but it paid off. We haven’t seen a series this surprising (in a good way) since.
The writers of 30 Rock were some of the best that ever graced television, and the finale showed just that. Throughout the series, the characters were weird, but it felt almost real. The rapid-fire wit didn’t stop as we watched “Last Lunch,” but this one had a different vibe.
The finale was emotional because we watched Jack and Liz reconcile their friendship while calling back all the best gags and jokes. It’s a finale you can watch over and over and still see something new each time. This alone makes 30 Rock one of the best comedies that ever existed.
Friends was the most popular show from the ’90s until the mid-2000s, so it had to have an amazing ending. Thankfully, fans got exactly what they asked for. “The Last One” is still one of the most-watched TV finales in history, and that’s not an easy feat.
Hearing all our friends say goodbye wasn’t easy. We got everything we wanted. Monica and Chandler had twins, Ross and Rachel were together (permanently this time), and everyone gets their bittersweet ending. The cast drops off their apartment keys on the counter, and that was that.
ER was a 15-year series, and it was everything a fan could want out of a medical show (out of any show period, in my humble opinion). It made us laugh, it made us cry, and it made us angry at choices the characters made. It had a lot to do to wrap up the series. Thankfully, ER gave us a big-scale medical emergency that let us say goodbye to everyone we loved and remembered.
The finale also gave us the chance to reminisce about Dr. Green, Rachel, John Carter, and so many other characters. It was hard to say goodbye, but the well put-together episode made it much easier. At least we can watch the series over again, knowing the finale is good, unlike other shows (looking at you, Game of Thrones).
There is absolutely no way Battlestar Galactica could wrap up everything in just one episode. That’s why creators made a three-part finale that answered questions and wrapped things up. It had flashbacks before the Cylon attacks (which were even harder to watch since we knew the aftermath), but the real tear-jerker came when we watched the Galactica escape to Earth.
The group had to split up, but we knew they would start their own lives. The creators gave every character a little love, too, which is something unique to many series finales with so many characters. Everything about the three-part closeup felt just right.
For years, we listened and watched Dr. Frasier Crane go through life while hosting Seattle radio show. By the time we got to the end, everyone had someone, and their new lives were blossoming. But Frasier? Not so much. That was when the gut-wrenching finale closed Frasier’s radio chapter.
He told his family and friends that he wanted “what all of you have,” and we were excited to see him move on. But where was he going? It isn’t until later that we realize he’s going to Chicago to be with Charlotte. In all honesty, Charlotte was always my favorite, so I was so happy he hopped on that plane.
Boardwalk Empire was tough to watch sometimes, mostly because of the number of injustices that occurred throughout the series that went unpunished – seemingly, anyway. The finale of Boardwalk Empire was everything audiences wanted and more. It finally punished those who rightfully deserved it.
Nucky was certainly one of them. It was almost like nothing bad could happen to Nucky, but the finale brought back the son of a character Nucky killed. If anyone was going to kill Nucky, it had to be him. We also finally got to see Margaret starts her own life with her own money. As far as Capone, I could certainly see a series just about him alone continuing his criminal empire.
Cheers was an incredibly successful series, and even spurred other spin-off TV series (Frasier, for example). Even today, Cheers is funny, and it had one of the best on-screen romances we’ll ever see – I’m talking about Sam and Diane. “One for the Road” felt perfectly put together like the rest of the series, and it was one of the best episodes.
One of our favorite moments was seeing how far everyone had come, and that they got what they needed out of life. Rebecca was going to be engaged, Cliff got a job at the post office, Sam had sworn off flings and found something stable, and Diane made it on an awards show.
The Office (U.S.)
The Office was one of the best series that ever aired on TV (and one of my personal favorites). For (almost) the whole show, we were waiting for Dwight and Angela to get married, and that turned out to be the finale. We went through as Dwight prepared, met old characters again, and got to see where everyone was at years later.
The biggest surprise was when Michael (Steve Carell) came back on the show. Some of us didn’t see it coming but just hoped with fingers crossed. Then, he showed up on the screen, and it was impossible to keep your composure. All in all, The Office finale was spectacular.
Justified was pretty underrated when it was airing. A lot of people missed it, which is a shame since it had an amazing finale. Everything wrapped up – some bows neat, some bows not so neat. We all knew what was going to happen, or rather what had to happen. Raylan and Boyd had to have a standoff, but there were a lot of things we didn’t expect.
The biggest was Ava’s little secret. Honestly, I’m glad to see that she got away and created some sort of happy life for herself. Considering Ava spent most of her life taking care of people who just took advantage of her, she certainly deserved it. Instead of an emotional tear-jerker, Justified’s season finale just brought everyone’s story to the most realistic end possible.
Throughout the Veep, Selina did a ton of terrible things, and it seemed like she never got any comeuppance. Even in the finale, she sold out everyone she knew (and everyone that loved her) just to secure the presidency role. Thankfully, there were still some minutes left on the clock to see her karma.
Skipping ahead, we find out that the president died, but everyone else lived on. If you really think about the ending the characters deserved, each one of them got exactly that (including Selina). Then, as if a final middle finger, Selina’s funeral is overshadowed by the death of another huge celebrity. Talk about just desserts!
I know, I know. Scrubs had a ninth season, but I’m honestly going to pretend like it never happened because the finale of season eight was one of the best. Throughout the show, we watched as J.D. learned and grew from those around him to become a fantastic doctor and an even better husband and friend.
The finale recapped all of the inside jokes and moments that we loved about Scrubs. It was heartfelt, funny, and just right. That was how you end a beloved series like Scrubs (not with whatever trash season nine was).