HBO and Netflix are producing some of the most watched and most successful shows in history; the dramatic and comedic serial programs that have been unfailing popular for decades are showing no sign of waning in popularity. Shows can run successfully for years, becoming a part of our daily routines and evoking significant emotional investment from the viewers. So of course, when a well-loved series comes to an end, viewers need to experience closure when faced with losing the characters they have loved and connected with over the years.
For some reason – maybe writers feel so much pressure to get the ending just right, or want to create television history by doing something outside the box – a lot of excellent series manage to get the ending completely wrong, sometimes (though not always) even ruining the reputation and credibility of the entire series with just one episode.
There are so many ways to get it wrong – if the ending’s too saccharine it can seem tacky and unrealistic, if it’s too depressing it can seem morbid – but the very worst way to get it wrong is to fail to stay true to the rest of the series. The shows listed here with the worst ever season finales are, for the most part, some of the best TV shows in history. Yet, the writers seem to have suffered temporary amnesia when penning the final episode, forgetting what made the show so great in the first place. General fan consensus, though debated by some, says that these ten series finales (spoiler alert!) constitute some of the most disappointing endings to great TV ever.
10. Battlestar Galactica
Arguably one of the best science fiction shows to ever hit TV, Battlestar Galactica also delivered one of the most disappointing and unsatisfying endings in science fiction history. Although theology has always been a major part of the show, most describe the finale as a complete cop-out because all the burning questions that viewers had so patiently waited for throughout all four seasons were hurriedly and simply answered in the finale as a product of God. God answering all questions in a science fiction program seemed inadequate and inconsistent, and left a sour taste in the mouths of many fans.
Alf, the friendly, witty and humorous alien living with a human family, was the main character of a sitcom that ran for four seasons and was quite popular among American children – and it left most children with nightmares with its out-of-character finale. The Alien Task Force arrives, surrounds Alf and captures him and while the credits roll. It’s understood that he is being brought as a captive, and possibly to be tortured. Geez. In the show’s defence, however, this was only supposed to be a cliffhanger episode, but the show got cancelled before they had time to save Alf.
8. Sex and the City
For a show that has never been scared to take things up a level, the Sex and the City series finale was a little too sappy and too lame for most of its dedicated fans. All of the show’s issues and each of the characters’ issues were neatly taken care of and tied up in a figurative bow. Unusually for an HBO show, this finale’s credibility suffered due it’s unrealistic happily-ever-after feel. We watch Carrie Bradshaw fall back into the arms of the man that has hurt her unimaginably over the years, simply because he assured her that he had changed. It’s adorable and all, but incredibly frustrating for any independent-minded modern woman.
7. True Blood
Many interpreted this world of vampires, werewolves and other creatures as sympathetically representing marginalised people in society, including members of the LGBT community. The series finale is quite controversial – vampire Bill regains his humanity and chooses suicide. The finale further leads viewers to believe that Bill’s suicide had a positive impact on everyone else’s life. Although it may not have been the intention of the writers, this ending was seen by many as anti-LGBT – a position which had no place in a refreshing and somewhat revolutionary show such as True Blood. Besides the controversy, the finale was otherwise generally received as bland.
After eight seasons of a genuinely funny show that still managed to tastefully portray the underlying difficulties of a blue-collar working family, Roseanne had a bit of a rocky final season. John Goodman‘s character was no longer on the show, and his absence was felt particularly in the final episode.
The series finale fell upon the sword of the worst possible final-episode cliche: The last couple of minutes of the last show revealed that everything viewers had spent so much time watching was actually just a product of Roseanne’s diary. The entire final season was a sham, and unfortunately, left many with a bad taste for the entire series.
The series finale of Dexter drew huge attention from TV viewers and met with a mixed reaction from fans, but many branded this finale as one of the worst in TV history. So extreme was the vitriol that writers were forced to release a statement explaining and defending the ending they had chosen.
After eight seasons of wondering if Dexter did, in fact, have a conscience – and wondering how his inner-conflict might pan out – fans believed they deserved more answers than the finale provided. It didn’t just fail to answer these questions – it raised even more of them. Dexter was not given any redemption, nor did the finale give any suggestion as to how Dexter would proceed in life or how he would now handle his murderous impulses. The unusually serious tone and inconsistencies in the final show were discussed by Dexter’s producers in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, one of whom stated “I think it was more a gradual move rather than a sudden turn at the end of the final season”. Clyde Phillips, who had been the showrunner in the early seasons, criticised the way Dexter ended and told E! what he would have done, in an ending most fans agree would have been far superior:
“In the very last scene of the series, Dexter wakes up. And everybody is going to think, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ And then the camera pulls back and back and back and then we realize, ‘No, it’s not a dream.’ Dexter’s opening his eyes and he’s on the execution table at the Florida Penitentiary.”
For a really complex show, Lost actually started out with quite a simple premise – a bunch of strangers were forced to band together after being stranded on an island because of a plane crash. But, as the show went on, the writers brought in so many different elements and went in so many different directions that by the time it came to an end, it seemed as if even they had no idea what was going on. And that was the reaction to the finale of Lost – confusion.
More questions were raised than answered, and the writers seemed to have taken the easy and tacky way out by ending the entire series as if it took place in a dream-like state. Six seasons of confusion ending without certainty that anything was real? It seemed like a waste of time for what was originally a great show.
3. How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother aired its series finale this year, after nine seasons, and caused an outrage among fans. HIMYM focuses on the main character, Ted, telling his children the story of how he met the love of his life, their mother. The entire series is brilliantly written and every moment and person that passes through Ted’s life has a purpose and ties into the moment he meets his wife and the mother of his kids.
Everything was set up perfectly, yet the writers decided to completely unravel nine seasons of character development in the span of about 23 minutes. In 23 minutes, we barely get to know the mother, watched her die and watched Ted revert back to the woman fans took nine years to accept he wouldn’t end up with. To add insult to injury, the writers set up the entire final season around the preparation of Barney and Robin’s wedding, only to divorce them in about 4 minutes with practically no explanation. After all the backlash the show received, producers released a much happier alternate ending that tied things up neatly without going on to unravel it.
As the third most-watched series finale of all time, Seinfeld managed to disappoint 74 million people at once. After nine seasons, the writers had mastered the art of “nothing” – Seinfeld was always known as the “show about nothing” as it never focused on plot or sense but just on sheer stupidity and humor. After nine seasons of nothing, the writers decided to steer away from everything they had been doing and make it about something. The entire episode focuses on the four main characters being tried in court, criticized as awful human beings – which, by the way, made viewers question themselves for admiring and laughing at these awful people – and winding up in jail. The episode in itself is not a horrible one – it contained lots of cameos from previous guest characters and had a few good moments – but was not nearly as funny or as true to itself as it should have been. Luckily, this final episode did not damage Seinfeld’s reputation, and it’s still one of most popular sitcoms of all time.
1. The Sopranos
The Sopranos is the perfect example of a phenomenal show that was on it’s A-game consistently, but somehow cracked under pressure, and ended on a displeasing note. One of the most successful drama series in television history, the Sopranos series finale was one of the most watched ever. However, it led to a universal infamous moment of audiences blankly staring at their screens after it had faded to black, half-expecting, half-hoping that something else was going to happen.
The final scene sees Tony Soprano sitting at a booth in the diner with his wife and son, waiting for his daughter to arrive, with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” in the background, when we hear the door of the diner open, see a close up of Tony’s face, the screen goes black – and credits roll. After six seasons of blood and gore and very clear-cut endings, the series finale offers no such thing. In the wake of much controversy over the ending, Soprano’s actor Michael Imperioli summed up the finale to Entertainment Weekly: “Christopher is dead and [Steve] Schirripa’s character is dead and Steve Van Zandt is in a coma — it’s kind of like the ruins of the Soprano family.”