What are some actually good television endings?

Game of Thrones ended.

Yep, it definitely ended.

I only absorbed it through twitter (like a whale consuming krill), but I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch to say that the finale was a little… bland.

I’m not going to be too hard on D&D though, television shows seem to have a tough time ending right. It can’t be easy to find a way to wrap up years/hours upon hours of arcs, plotlines and motivations and GoT is far from the first to seemingly drop the ball.

So, let’s instead focus on those apparently uncommon instances of tv wrapping up satisfyingly. What are your favorite endings that you saw on the magic picture box?

Oh, and SPOILERS, obvs

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Angel is probably my gold standard. Every character gets a satisfying conclusion, it represents the themes of the series incredibly well, and it is a huge culmination of a conflict that has been going on since the start.

Fight the good fight even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Also I like Lost’s.

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The Knick, the short lived medical drama that starred Clive Owen and aired on Cinemax for only two seasons is my favorite show and it was UTTER MISERY PORN

You may think that, after nineteen episodes that left a black pit in your gut, Soderbergh, Amiel and Begler might let people off easy. They do not do this. The finale is sad and deeply unsatisfying. Thackery is probably dead, Edwards can’t perform surgery because his sight has degraded too far, Gallinger is going to tour America promoting eugenics, Barrow’s got cancer from his casual use of the new fangled x ray machine, Cornelia’s fleeing to Australia and it’s revealed that Cleary ratted out Sister Harriet’s secret abortions so he could romantically pursue her.

Like, damn dude.

It works fantastically though, everyone more or less gets what they deserve and the final scene kills me. Doctor Algernon Edwards, the Knickerbocker’s first black surgeon, treating John Thackery’s last patient on his addiction ward with the only thing that seemed to work, talk therapy. It’s tough to swallow, but that seems like a pretty apt descriptor for the history of medicine

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Off the top of my head, I think Adventure Time ended very well.

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Twin Peaks reached an inscrutable, haunting end with The Return. That whole experiment was so much itself and nothing else that I might have given it a pass for just about anything, but Agent Cooper’s final line still gives me chills in a way I can’t explain.

I also got really choked up at the finale of The Wire which totally made up for some of its missteps in the final season by landing nearly every character’s fate.

Weirdly I actually mostly liked the end of GOT despite shouting at the screen for the past two seasons.

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1990s TV Show About A Space Station er, I mean, both Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine had very satisfying endings. B5’s feels especially pertinent here because it came at the end of a disappointing season. As I understand it, it went something like this:

B5 was planned to last 5 seasons from the beginning. It wasn’t renewed for a 5th season, so they crammed two seasons’ worth of plot into the 4th and filmed a series finale that they thought would air at the end of that season. The show was saved at the last second, but there wasn’t much left to do, so the 5th season meandered and was kinda bad, but ended with the finale they’d already shot, which was very good.

I have less to say about DS9’s finale, because the last time I watched it in its entirety might have been when it originally aired.

It didn’t feel great at the time, but if we’re doing 90’s SF, we can’t not talk about Farscape. Twice.

Farscape was also cancelled after a fourth season, but unlike B5 they did not get a chance to rework their ending, so the season ends as follows:

The two leads are in a boat on a peaceful looking water word.

They’re going to have a baby, and they’re going to get married after about four seasons of will-they-won’t-they.

And then an alien ship we’ve never seen before shoots them with a weird gun that disintegrates them into a pile of loose spheres about the size of marbles. And these two piles just sorta slump into the boat and out onto the water.

That’s it.

At the time I was devastated, but in hindsight if that had been the last we ever saw of Farscape, I would be forced to admit that it had been an unforgettable finale.

Then, a few years later, the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries (what would have been season 5 condensed into about 4 hours) proceeded to break my heart (into small, marble-sized pieces) all over again.


I think a lot of Anime I’ve seen sticks the landing? I remember liking the end of PLANETES. If Gainax/Trigger stuff is your cup of tea (and if it’s not I completely understand) TTGL, Kill La Kill, and Space Patrol Luluco turn all the knobs to 11 and somehow also end up feeling earned and satisfying?

Finally, I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t mention Utena. Haven’t seen the movie (yet), but the end of the TV show is a tour de force.

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  • Gravity Falls. The only nitpick I can think of that is somewhat valid is that some of the mysteries that people obsessed over since the start of the show ended in contrived ways, but that’s so minor versus every other aspect that was just… perfect.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. Such a great way to finish Aang’s journey from goofy kid in an iceberg to (minor spoilers) filling the big shoes of his predecessors without sacrificing who he is. Also yo but that agni kai tho
  • Futurama. Even as someone who was against the idea of bringing back this show for additional seasons (and for the movies), the ending is more moving and appropriate than the previous two “endings” combined.
  • Dinosaurs. With every passing year, this grim as fuck ending hits closer and closer to home. If you don’t care for spoilers and don’t know how this strange 90s sitcom ends,I implore you to watch it.
  • Way more anime than people (including me) give credit for. Sure, there are a lot of really BAD anime endings, but the nature of the anime industry means that every show must be made with an ending in mind, an ending that, unless you are looking for a multi-season deal, is only going to occur a dozen or so episodes from the premiere… and maybe with an OVA. And with endings being so necessary early in the creation process, they somehow end up being better for some reason than shows that meander aimlessly from season to season. :thinking:
  • That said, there are anime that DO go a long time and still manage to knock the ending out of the park. Dragon Ball Super finale might be the best single episode of Dragon Ball across all 4 shows.
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FRINGE had a whole of a lot of missteps telling a multi season story, but in the end they focused back on the theme of failed fathers in away that made the story retroactively worthwhile.

Only example I can think of where it seemed to go nowhere then wrapped up at least half satisfactory.

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I completely agree with Adventure Time and Twin Peaks. So many anime. Justice League Unlimited ended with a huge fight culminating with Lex Luther giving the anti-life equation to Darksied and they immediately disappear leaving our heroes just completely jawdropped

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Twin Peaks is a really good example of one that’s not conclusive but is a fantastic ending and I’m perfectly happy if I get no more Twin Peaks.

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I didn’t think so at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate the way Seinfeld ended.

It may have just been a clip show, but it was the best excuse for a clip show, because it was basically every single horrible, stupid, ridiculous thing those four people had done all coming to bite them in the ass at the exact same time and in the worst possible way.

And in the end, none of it mattered, because they keep doing exactly what they’ve always done, and just sit around and talk together.

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Life on Mars is my gold standard tbh. It’s probably my favourite ending of all time.

The whole series has Sam unsure whether he is in a coma or in the past, or both. As he hears glimpses of what appears to be the hospital room he was in but then also changes he is making in the past seem to impacting the real world. This is further muddied by the final season having someone calling him giving him instructions on how to “leave” by betraying and abandoning the friends he had made there. Sam does this and wakes up in the present day again, documents everything he experienced in his coma, goes back to work and feels disconnected from everything. The episode ends with him going to the roof of his work and leaping off while Bowie’s “Life on Mars” plays. He wakes up in the past again, saving his friends and the show ends with it being unclear whether he is back in a coma, actually fully in the past or dead and this reunion is just the final moments of his brain flickering out.
Ashes to Ashes kinda ruins this by going out of its way to explicitly explain what is going on which I didn’t like so much but on its own it still works

On the other hand, the American remake of the show has one of the worst endings but I also kinda love it?

instead of waking up from his coma in the present day in hospital, Sam wakes up in a cryopod, going through space to somewhere or other. It is so stupid, doesn’t fit anything that happened leading up to it and misses the point of the original show entirely. But…I kinda love how stupid an ending they came up with just to make it different.

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Definitely The Wire. It just addresses ends on this conclusion addressing the continuous cycle of things. As yet, I haven’t seen how GoT ends but I feel they’d have to do something similiar and address the cyclical nature of that world too, with new or older characters fulfilling roles that were open before.

The ending for Six Feet Under always breaks me. That series wobbled throughout but it ends pretty devastatingly albeit with some ropey makeup to make all the characters appear elderly. Sia completes it.

I think Madmen ended really well too. The Sopranos too.

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The Leftover’s two hour finale is some of the most amazing television I’ve ever seen. That show ended absolutely perfectly.

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Friday Night Lights.

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Was gonna post this. The Leftovers was committed to being itself and the ending was absolutely incredible. Phenomenal show.

Also surprised that The Sopranos hasn’t been mentioned yet.

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I know most people had stopped watching it by then, but Frasier had a great ending. Everybody had a happy ending to their arcs. Martin got married, Niles and Daphene had a baby and Frasier turned down a TV gig in LA to go to Chicago and be with his girlfriend.

I doubt anyone here watched it but Made in Canada also had a satisfying ending. It was a comedy about shitty TV executives always backstabbing each other. It ended with the company being bought in a hostile take over and them all losing their jobs. Then the CEO’s secretary (who was the only decent person and who was running the company anyway) became the new CEO.

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I’ll just use this space to rave about The Americans some more, because apparently that’s my lot in life. The final season isn’t my favorite (that would be season 4), but it did pay off a lot of long-running threads in incredibly moving ways. In no particular order:

-The parking garage scene. It says so much about this show that one of its most gut-wrenching moments is a fifteen-minute-long conversation where almost nothing happens and it’s impossible to gauge whether the protagonist is baring his soul to his best friend or manipulating a mark into doing something incredibly stupid.
-The shot of Paige on the train platform. Not only does it use a U2 song, of all things, to devastating effect, but it fits the entire emotional payload of the series into the span of about two seconds.
-The ambiguity of Philip and Elizabeth looking out over the Moscow skyline.
-Stan coming home to watch Renee sleep and realizing the woman he loves is utterly unknowable to him.

One of the criticisms I’ve seen of the final season is that so little happens, but I love that it stayed true to itself and stuck to plot beats that hinged on buying into the characters as fully-fledged people with their own internal lives, rather than suddenly swerving towards flashy pyrotechnics and shootouts.

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I was just coming here to post about THE AMERICANS. I’m a little biased (I did a feature with one of the designers and had a tiny, essentially featured BG role on the final season) but it stands out with some gutsy choices (a final showdown be all words and no bullets) and a tremendous comfort with ambiguity. Like TWIN PEAKS, it feels like a solid button even though it leaves a whole bunch of threads essentially open.

I’m also partial to MAD MEN for its (similarly gutsy) decision to have the most important monologue in the show go to a day player, and its incredibly bleak, biting ending.

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I too am very happy about how The Americans ended. Like that one scene in the final episode, that you thought, how the heck are they ever gonna pull this off, and then they did. That’s a wowy.

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