Series finales are often sad, but sometimes they really surprise us. The writers of many of the most popular series have given us food for thought while others tied everything up in neat little packages so we weren’t left wondering. Viewers are fulfilled in different ways and so writers tend to try to give their specific audiences what they want. Some writers hit the mark while others are way off.
For example, on the 1994 sitcom Dinosaurs, the finale ends with the dinosaurs all facing their demise. In an attempt to save the planet, Earl’s boss orders the task force to make rain, but the plan doesn’t work. In fact, it creates the Ice Age. So the series ends with the Sinclair family accepting their futures together. The finale had youngsters everywhere in tears, as it carried many fateful messages.
So our list includes some of the great endings and some not-so-great, but both are definitely series finales we were not expecting. See if you remember any of these. Warning! If you haven’t finished the series yet, this article definitely contains spoilers!
10. ABC – Lost
This American adventure series aired on ABC from 2004 to 2010. The finale was titled, “The End” and lasted two episodes at the end of season 6. The series was so popular that 13.5 million Americans tuned in with baited breath. The reaction was mixed as it was so unexpected. Here’s what happens: The man in black (Terry O’Quinn) carries out his plan to destroy the island as Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) tries to stop him for good. The thing that bugged faithful fans is that their questions about what they had witnessed were never answered. For example – the alternate reality situations – what were they? Curious minds want to know more about what they invested nearly 121 hours in.
9. CBS – How I Met Your Mother
The finale of How I Met Your Mother was called “Last Forever” and was a sheer disappointment for fans as the mother was pronounced dead. The finale recapped the years prior and brought back some of the most detailed and memorable moments as we are heartbroken when we discover she has been deceased for six years. Tracy McConnell is dead. We were hoping for a happy ending which is what was promised when the whole series began. The series lasted nine seasons and included many of life’s little moments that wind up being monumental.
8. HBO – Six Feet Under
Alan Ball created this unique drama about a family-owned funeral home in Los Angeles. The show lasted 63 episodes and viewers were sad and happy with the way the writers ended this story. Since the premise revolved around death, the finale was themed the same. “Everyone’s Waiting” was the last episode of the fifth season. Unlike every other episode, this one begins with Brenda’s premature birth that happens after Nate’s death in the previous episode. This triggers visions of Nate and the love that surrounded their lives. Ruth, the mother, decides to sell the funeral home and moves in with her sister. Claire drives off. In the last few minutes, we are given the most lovely flash-forwards that provide key moments in the various characters’ lives and then ultimately, their deaths with Claire outliving them all.
7. NBC – Seinfeld
Seinfeld lasted nine seasons and the season finale was aired over two episodes, the 23rd and 24th. There was so much anticipation that the episodes were given fake working titles to throw off fans and the media. Part one and part two were completely unexpected and not all that well liked. After Jerry is given the green light to produce his pilot and series about nothing, he is given a private jet for his personal use. He and his sidekicks plan a trip to Paris where they have a near-death experience on the plane. We learn that Elaine has always loved Jerry as the plane lands safely. Then when they witness someone getting carjacked, they crack jokes and make fun of him instead of helping him. Long story short, the four end up in jail for being bad citizens. It wasn’t very funny by normal Seinfeld standards, but, was as irreverent as always.
6. NBC – St. Elsewhere
The writers really took a leap to end this show. In an attempt to be creative and unique, the ending shows that the entire series was a product of Donald Westphall’s autistic son Tommy, who is seen holding a snow globe with the St. Eligius hospital inside. Some fans loved this while some thought it was a cop-out ending.
5. HBO – The Sopranos
This series was so well loved that it periodically reappears on HBO. It was cutting edge when it first aired in 2007. “Made in America” is the name of the series finale and is the 86th and final episode. The premise of the finale is about the aftermath of the mob war between the two mafia families. Tony deals with his family members and wraps things up to viewer’s satisfaction and all is well. The episode garnered 11.9 million viewers and was nominated and won an Emmy for writing.
4. Showtime – The Big C
When this series started, it was difficult to see how it would end. Throughout the seasons, we watched Cathy go from complete depression and illness to a healthy and happy version of her former self. The cast was great and Laura Linney couldn’t have been more perfect for the role. When it ended, we were heartbroken that she actually died. We thought it might happen but had as much hope as she did until the end when she said her goodbyes and gave her family the closure they needed to go on. It was wonderful and fans were reported as being satisfied.
3. USA – Burn Notice
The creation of Matt Nix, Burn Notice started in 2007 and ran through to September 2013. That’s one of USA network’s longest running series and fans were sad to see it end. However, the ending was spectacular and brought out every emotion a spy-thriller-love story could evoke all the way to the very last moment. When Michael’s mother sacrifices her life for her son, we are devastated. But when Fiona and Michael don’t escape the final explosion, we are grieving. Just when we are ready to don our black mourning clothing, we see Michael and Fiona relaxing together in the lap of luxury and safety and our mood skyrockets to happiness. Unique show and great finale.
2. HBO – Big Love
When Big Love ended its five season run, it had a pretty big fan base. The series was, at times, like watching a train wreck where you can’t look away even if you don’t want to see what is in front of you. The great part about this finale is that it resolved each thread. The negative part of that is it was done in neat and clean ways that were borderline predictable.
1. NBC – The West Wing
Viewers loved this inside look at American politics that aired from 1999 to 2006 and after the last 22 episodes, it came to an end. Evidently, it was in a time slot that competed with ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and CBS’s Cold Case. The shame of it all is that the series was nominated for six Emmy’s in 2006 and won two in 2006 among other accolades. Jimmy Smits who succeeded Martin Sheen as the president was starting a new political era just as the series came to a close. Our favorite line from Bartlett (Sheen), “I’m gonna take one final stroll around the joint, to make sure nobody’s making off with the cutlery.” It was considered to be a warm and gracious ending.