A television series has the power to make an audience feel emotions so strong that they have to be reminded from time to time, “Hey, it’s only a TV show!” When we attach ourselves to a new show we dedicate time to adoring favourite characters, following plot lines, admiring locations and even exploring fan theories online. When it all comes down to a big season finale, some of us can become quite distraught at the thought of it all ending.
The pressure is on for TV producers to not only make a great show but also to give dedicated audiences what they really deserve – a ground-breaking finale. However, there are some producers who completely throw this up against the wall and deliver the viewers a very dismal final scene. It isn’t a complicated science, just simply: the bigger the show, the better the ending. Some long-running series have such an explosive run that it appears the writers have trouble trying to extinguish all the drama at the end of it all.
Can a terrible season finale actually ruin a whole show? Judging by the audience reactions on social media after these following shows came to an end – the answer is yes. Here are the most infuriating, bizarre, confusing endings to a TV series of all time.
***CONTAINS SPOILERS: As these are all season finales please be aware that major plot twists and end of show spoilers are up ahead***
10. How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) followed Ted (Josh Radnor) on his search for true love with a series of flashbacks and flash forwards. The supporting cast played by Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Jason Segal and Alyson Hannigan won over a strong following of fans. After nine seasons of 208 episodes it finally was brought to an end with “Last Forever” which was a double-length finale episode.
Fans were quite hyped about the season finale but they were left very disappointed and confused once it aired. Ted became romantically involved with Robin after she divorced Barney (Yes, fans dedicated all that enthusiasm for the big wedding and then it was all over in a flash). At this point Ted’s children realize that the whole story has been about their Aunt Robin who Ted had since moved on from, so essentially the whole show was about Robin all along.
Internet discussion groups were loaded with questions from fans asking if the writers of the show had actually seen any of the previous episodes. The finale twist is even more obscure when comparing the ending to reruns as it appears the writers had become stuck within their own plot.
The finale of Seinfeld (1989 – 1998) was labelled one of the laziest show endings of all time by fans – even the title itself was called simply “The Finale”. After nine seasons it was finally time to say goodbye to Jerry Seinfeld and friends. How do you end the greatest TV comedy series of all time? The answer from the episode writer, Larry David, was clearly “terribly”.
In the final episode, which was aired in two parts, the four main characters are all charged with breaking the Good Samaritan Law. Characters from the previous seasons were called upon as witnesses in court and they all gave negative accounts on the narcism within the group. The final scene shows Jerry in an orange jumpsuit whilst locked away in prison. He is performing a stand-up comedy routine of prison related jokes to his fellow inmates including Kramer (Michael Richards) and George (Jason Alexander).
His comedy routine goes down so badly that he is forced off the stage by a prison guard but not before he delivers his final line, “Hey, you’ve been great. See you in the cafeteria.” Just as he lost the love of his audience in the prison, he also managed to lose the love of most of his loyal fans too.
There will be some fans screaming at their screens right now with pure rage at the very mention of this show. Lost (2004-2010) was a sci-fi series that, from the moment the survivors walked out onto the island after a plane crash, people worldwide could not stop talking about it. After six seasons of head-scratching and wondering what the hell was going on – fans finally got a finale. Lost had hundreds of questions left unanswered and “The End” did nothing more than throw in a few more.
Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) can be seen in a church embracing members of the cast who were involved in the final plane crash as an emotional, classical number plays in the background. At the same time the scene is spliced together with him walking through the island covered in blood, he then lies down in the same place he woke up during the first episode which opened up questions of the island being limbo. Another plot line was that the crash on the island was to determine who would become the island’s new caretaker – which was won by Hurley.
So were all the characters dead all along and the island was purgatory? This theory was shot down by show runners in 2014. Damon Lindellof and Carlton Cuse who worked on the show cleared up a few points when they confirmed: “The characters definitely survived the plane crash and really were on a very real island. At the very end of the series, though? Yep, they were all dead when they met up in heaven for the final ‘church’ scene”. Easiest way to write an ending if you simply use the “and then everybody died” technique.
Much loved Western, Justified (2010-2015), ended its run quite calmly. The show was well known for its bloodshed and violence so fans were expecting a grim finale for the show’s three main characters. Instead we got to see Raylan, Ava and Boyd four years in the future alive and well. To end on such a whimsical note in “The Promise” was such a contrast to all the action that fans were used to and this disappointed many.
The episode places the triangle of the main characters in difficult situations and each of them are forced to do the right thing. Viewers were expecting a final shoot down between U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his criminal opponent Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). However after six seasons of trying to track him down and kill him, Raylan actually showed mercy and hands him in.
We also learn that in the future Raylan moves to Florida to be close to his daughter and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) makes a new home for her son in California. The show which was well-known for it’s staggering body count actually went out lightly which was completely unexpected.
6. Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014) created possibly one of the most heartbreaking and poignant endings to a TV show of all time, even if it was completely off-tone for the show. For seven seasons fans followed closely the lives of a close-knit motorcycle group and its club leader Jackson “Jax’ Teller (Charlie Hunman). Each season plays out with two parallel plot-lines that intertwine together. With over 4 million viewers tuning in each week it became FX’s most-watched show.
Jax is the president of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO) which is involved primarily with gun running. Each episode was high energy, powerful entertainment as they had to deal with dodgy gangs, politicians and authorities. Based on this, fans knew that the ending was going to deliver something special.
Despite having cheated death time and time again, Jax finally met his demise on his own much loved motorcycle. With cops chasing him along the highway, he extends his arms religiously and drives straight into an oncoming truck. His suicide was in aid of saving his sons and with “Come Join The Murder” by Forest Rangers playing over the final scene – it was a moment that was so over-the-top and dramatic that it ruined the entire atmosphere of the show for many fans.
Roseanne (1988-1997) had its big finale after nine seasons of wisecracking between The Conner family. The show, which set out to be an honest portrayal of modern life in America, took a dramatic (and very bizarre) turn for the worst when the Conners won the lottery. Overnight the family had jumped from barely getting by to now instant wealth and the fans weren’t buying it.
Then just to make matters worse, the entire show came to one of the most disappointing ends in TV history when we were told the whole thing was just Roseanne dreaming all along. She had not actually won the lottery at all and her husband (played by John Goodman) had died of a heart attack. Critics complained, audiences complained and Roseanne Barr just took her final pay check and ran for it.
4. Two and a Half Men
Two and a Half Men (2003-2015) brought back almost everyone from the series for the finale including familiar faces from the past, celebrity guests, one-off cameos but wait…no Charlie Sheen? Despite that the episode was largely centred around jokes about his character, Charlie Harper, the actor who struggled with alcohol and drug related problems did not appear in the final episode.
Sheen was fired in 2011 by the producers after his erratic personal life began to attract unwanted press attention. He was the highest paid actor on television at the time but was let go after insulting the shows creator and producer, Chuck Lorre, in several interviews.
In the most bizarre series finale, Lorre had a piano dropped on what seemed like Charlie’s head, after saying the words, “Winning”. This was a reference to one of the intoxicated interviews Sheen had given on television but the word was not directly linked to the show other than from the actor himself. It came across to audiences as both a jab at the actor and a homage to him. Either way, the ending was lacklustre without Sheen involved.
3. The Sopranos
After six seasons The Sopranos (1999-2007) could have ended very dramatically. Although the tension was crushing in the final scenes, the actual ending is still debated to this day. The open ending of “Made In America” secured this TV show a place as one of the most debated endings of all time.
Audiences around the world were left questioning, “Does Tony Soprano live or die?”. The final episode takes place during the aftermath of the mob war between the DiMeo’s and the Lupertazzi’s. Tony (James Gandolfini) meets his family in a diner and just as he hits play on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), enters and then shortly after his son, AJ (Robert Iler) joins them. In an emotional moment with the music fitting perfectly, they make small talk agreeing it is always better to “remember the good times.”
The last moment cuts to black as Tony looks directly ahead when hearing the door to the diner open. Accompanied by the length of the shots capturing a few other men in the diner, many fans suggested that he was killed by a bullet to the head – this was the most favoured theory amongst hundreds of others online. The truth is – we will never really know.
2. Breaking Bad
Walter White (Brian Cranston) became one of the most admired good guy turned bad TV characters of the decade. By the time the show ended in 2013 he had already gained cult status worldwide. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, White teams up with ex-student Jesse (Aaron Paul) as they cook crystal meth together and outsmart many along the way.
In the final episode, “Felina”, White finally manages to tie up all his loose ends and he sure has a lot of them. After setting up his family with enough cash to keep them safe for life he then heads off to slaughter his enemies. He does this in the most over-the-top way possible; White parks a car outside the front of a clubhouse belonging to the gang who have Jesse captured, when inside he uses a remote attached to his keychain which pops the trunk of the car exposing a machine gun which sweeps back and forth killing everyone in the room. Luckily Jesse manages to drop to the floor in time.
Director, Oliver Stone, was one of the many who were left gobsmacked by the ending. In a rant during a press release in 2013 he said, “Nobody could park his car right then and there and could have a machine gun that could go off perfectly and kill all of the bad guys! It would be a joke. It’s only in the movies that you find this kind of fantasy violence. And that’s infected the American culture; you young people believe all of this s**t!”
Dexter (2006-2013) was a drama series about a serial killer born with an urge to murder that won critical acclaim worldwide. That was until it aired the finale. After eight seasons of brutal killings the show came to end when Dexter (Michael C. Hall) picked up an axe and began to chop up…wood. No comeuppance for all his butcherings, no epic last kill and no major ending. Basically, Dexter gave up his Miami lifestyle and retired to the life of a lumberjack in a forest.
The “Remember The Monsters” episode had many voicing their angered opinions on Twitter. Fan @NannetteNewz tweeted, “Still wondering what just happened on Dexter finale. 8 years of loyalty and that was my finale reward? Disappointed”. The season finale was viewed by 2.8 million people who witnessed their favourite sociopath retire to a life of secludedness. Quite far off the big finish everyone was hoping for.