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What’s Your Favorite (and Least Favorite) Series Finale?

We've got ones we love, and ones we love to hate.

Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation

Oh, the series finale—the bane of all television fandoms, as it means that the story you love is coming to a close. That doesn’t mean the fandom fun stops, because hey, the fun never really has to stop, but it means no new content, everyone moving on to different projects, and a lot of either tears or rage, because a good series finale? That’s hard to pull off—concluding a story in a way that is satisfying to fans while still wrapping up the loose ends in a narratively strong way.

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Most of the time, however, a series finale is hardly anyone’s favorite episode of television. There are too many expectations riding on them to be perfect, and often, they end up as among more controversial episodes of a series. Characters suddenly get paired off, or there’s a surprise death or twist, and then no one is happy and everyone’s angry-blogging. Still, it’s better than having a cliffhanger season finale as your unofficial ending after the cancellation gods strike back, right?

There are always the classics when it comes to finales. If you ask me, the best series finale for a drama is Breaking Bad, while the best series finale for a comedy show is Parks and Recreation. Both of them embrace the overarching themes of their shows—which couldn’t be more wildly different—and give us the conclusions we needed for the stories they were telling. Spoilers for both shows will follow, so tread with caution. 

Breaking Bad was always a Shakespearian tragedy, and so it had to end with the death of the “hero.” Walter was no hero, and showrunner Vince Gilligan decided to embrace his lack of heroism by having him return to try to undo all the wrongs he’s done, without getting the benefit of forgiveness from any of the other characters. He gets the money he needs for his family, he gets Skyler out of her legal troubles, and he saves Jesse from imprisonment.

The cost? His life. He dies alone, in a meth lab, surrounded by the one thing that made him feel alive. It’s the ending Walt deserved: alone, having fixed his mistakes but without any sort of redemption outside of his own personal quest for it.

Parks and Rec, on the other hand, is a bright tale of hope and friendship, and so it ended on that note. We got flash-forwards into the characters’ lives after the final scene: April and Andy have a kid, Tom goes on to find more success, Jerry lives to be a hundred and is mayor of Pawnee until his retirement, and Leslie goes on to be Governor of Indiana (with the promise of a potential presidency hinted at in one scene).

For a show that stumbled towards the beginning, but found its strength in making Leslie a beacon of light in a world of apathy, to show how Leslie changes everyone’s lives for the better, and how they changed hers, is the best ending for such a bright series to have.

Of course, we can’t talk about good series finales without the bad ones. LOST might have a lock on the “Most People Angered by the Fact They Were Making It up as They Went Along” award, if we want to talk famously infuriating finales. I tend to not care about the endings of series, outside of just loving a complete story, so for me, it’s hard to name a finale I absolutely despised, outside of the disaster that was the How I Met Your Mother finale. (Bad enough that it’s forever spoiled my ability to rewatch the show.)

So, dear readers, do you have a favorite series finale? Which ones always make you cry, or which ones sent you raging to Twitter? Let us know in the comments!

(image: NBC)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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