As depressing as it is, all good things must come to an end, and the same goes for some of our favorite television shows. When a TV show has the power to capture you, suspend you into their world and wrap its fist around your emotions, to the point where you laugh when they laugh, you cry when they cry, you grieve their losses harder than they do and you worry what you will do with your own life when that last episode finishes; that, my friends, is called a gut wrenching series finale. It’s not only about the tragedy that may or may not happen to a character, it’s about what that show posseses that gives it the power to have that affect on your life. Read on for a glimpse of 10 of the most gut wrenching series finales.
10. Freaks and Geeks – “Discos and Dragons”
Starting off our list is a show that most people wouldn’t even consider for a list such as this one; however, Freaks and Geeks was in its own right, a controversial show. With teenage characters going through high school trying to find themselves, the show would take tough everyday situations and chronicle the good and bad of them showing a true depiction of life. The series finale cleverly titled “Discos and Dragons”, centered around a school dance and a game of dungeons and dragons, exhibited the most character development through the short 18-episode run, mainly with our protagonist, Lindsey Weir. Viewers were able to see a transition with Lindsey from episode one; no longer wanting to spend her cherished high school days practicing math with the mathletes; the finale shows Lindsey opting for a wilder side of life. So, what makes this gut wrenching? When the viewer sees the path that Lindsey chooses to take, they automatically feel a tinge of regret for her. Instead of going on to taking an offer to go to a summer camp for gifted students at a University (that could help her get into the University she has been vying for years), the viewers see Lindsey’s mistake, even if she, herself, does not. In an article from Mental Floss creator, Paul Feig stated that if the series had continued to season two, he imagined something bad would happen to Lindsey on her road trip.
9. Big Love – When Men and Mountains Meet
Talk about depressing; now we all must admit that season five of Big Love was not the greatest, it was however, the most informative; we learned that bill married Margene whilst she was underage and could possibly go to jail, Ana can’t hang with polygamy (which she conveniently learns after she has married Bill and settled into their family) and Nikki’s illegitimate child is not as innocent as she seems, carrying on a illicit affair with a man 15 years her senior. But when the Patriarch, and the main character, Bill Hendrickson is shot right outside of his own home and by none other than his newly aggressive neighbor Carl, the scene takes a somber turn. In the scene where Bill is using his last breaths to udder the words “I need a blessing”, he knows he is dying. The emotional birds-eye view shot of his three devoted wives hovering over him, begging him to hold on, and the final look that he gives to his first and truest wife Barb, is heart breaking. The final embrace between Margene, Barb and Nikki, as Bill’s spirit looks on, puts into perspective for the viewer that a new life has begun without Bill.
8. Ashes to Ashes – Episode 8
In true British fashion, there is no name for this episode, adding even more to the mystery of this finale. For three seasons, we follow Alex, as she urgently tries to find out who she is and where she is, as she also desperately searches for clues to get back to her daughter. Stuck in 1981, Alex tries to carry on her life all while trying to piece together clues left by Sam Tyler. The two-part finale reveals that not only are Alex and Sam dead; but so are her fellow officers. Being stuck in 1981 is her limbo and the limbo for many officers who die tragically on the job. To make matters worse, Alex is told by closest confidant, Gene Hunt that she will never make it back to her daughter. The montage that plays at the end showing the tragic circumstances of how each character dies, and the three walking arm and arm into a pub that represents heaven; followed by a closed door and rolling credits, is shattering for viewers who hung on to the bitter end.
7. Sopranos – Made in America
This finale is the epitome of shocking. I would not consider this to be gut wrenching character-wise, simply because we don’t know what happens to the characters at the end. However, it is gut wrenching for the viewers who held on for six action-packed seasons hoping to get a glimpse into Tony Soprano’s final moments on screen, when all they got was a sudden, black screen. What a way to leave your fans, with their jaws dropped down to the floor, wondering, David Chase.
6. Friday Night Lights – Always
The team you rooted for both in the game and in their personal lives, does not disappoint; they have overcome adversity, loss and tragedies to come out on top. However, it is the foreshadowing of episode one that gives this finale a spot on our list. Like episode one, the finale brings the community back together through the game that started it all, they are playing the State Championship game. Tami and Eric’s rough patch seems to be non-existent, as she cheers on her man; and as that final pass soars through the air and into a montage of most of the characters lives 1 year later, it is bittersweet. Matt and Julie are living what looks to be a blissful life together, coach Taylor is back on the field with the 5:45 speech and what’s more emotional is the last 5 seconds of Tami and Eric walking off the field together, hand in hand. Now, if that doesn’t throw a tear in your eye, what will?
5. The L Word – Last Word
Who Killed Jenny? This was the open ended question that still stings The L Word fans all over the world. This final episode was comprised of sweet video messages to a freshly coupled up (again) Bette and Tina, who have been the relationship rock of their group of misfits for 6 seasons; they were now moving for Bette’s new job. Although they were the ones leaving; the episode was rife with highs and lows; Alice and Tasha getting back together, Max’s pregnancy being embraced by his peers and of course, Jenny’s death. However, the real gut wrenching moment is the juxtaposition of Jenny’s farewell message playing while the women discover her lifeless body in the pool.
4. Lost – The End
The smiling face of a dying Jack flashing across the screen makes this series finale distressing. On one hand, he is reunited with his friends and family but on the other hand, the viewer realizes that after 6 long seasons, the journey of Oceanic flight 815 survivors is over. The scene in the church that plays in slow motion of Jack finally finding his way out of purgatory and getting ready to take that next step with his loved ones, definitely tugs on the heart strings and what makes it worse is his previously lost dog, running to his side and laying down beside his dying owner.
3. The Corner – Everyman’s Blues
First, this is a show based on the hard times of a REAL Baltimore family whose lives revolve around the infamous drug corner of Fayette and Monroe. The first sentence alone can tell you that nothing happy and joyous can come from this mini-series, especially because the creator is David Simon. The McCullough family has dealt with it all; crime, death, desperation and addictions; drugs are the heart of this family. Main Character DeAndre is in the center of this game; he is a dealer and both his parents are addicts. There are a handful of things that make this series finale heartbreaking; DeAndre’s son is born and he only gets to spend a few months with him, as he later gets arrested on the corner. His mother, finally clean, falls on hard times and begins using again and DeAndre’s father, ever the addict, is deeper into it, eventually dying from his addiction. The series’ final moments consists of updates of most of the characters; some have died violent deaths on the corner, and others died from the drugs they got from the corner. The narrator does a final interview with the real Fran, Blue, DeAndre and Tyreeka, where they share their thoughts of the corner and how they hope it helps. As the end credits run, real pictures are shown of the characters and staple landmarks on the corner. In addition to several of the characters dying, according to a NY Times article, our main protagonist and inspiration for the series, Andre McCullough also died in 2012, no cause of death was released.
2. The Wire – -30-
The finale of The Wire, some would say came full circle. The fans got to see what became of characters like McNulty, Michael Lee, Duqui and Marlo Stansfield. In most cases, these characters foreshadowed younger versions of older characters; Michael is the new Omar and Duqui is the new bubbles, but mostly it shows that life goes on. What makes this sad is the idea that nothing really changes; yes, characters like weebay, Marlo and Omar are no longer running the streets, but on the down side, they are replaced by younger, smarter versions of themselves. It shows the viewer that no police officer and no one man can change the lives of others; everybody has to survive and if that means hustling on the street corners yelling, “red tops, blue tops..” then so be it.
1. Six Feet Under – Everyone’s Waiting
Our number one spot goes to Six Feet Under. This has to be by far, one of the most depressing series finale of any TV show. Alan Ball does justice to the characters and shows the viewer respect by giving us a goodbye that literally sums up every main character’s life; however, it is the way he goes about it. Set to the haunting voice of musician, Sia’s Breathe Me, a montage plays as Clair drives away to her new life in New York, leaving behind her family, and her deceased brother Nate, is seen running behind her in her side mirror. Clips of the family’s progression succeed the next 6 minutes of bittersweet futures. The montage turns to a darker note, as it begins to show individual progressions of characters ending each progression with the time stamp of their death, beginning with Ruth, all the way to Clair and every meaningful soul in between.