TV endings done right: 7 shows that bowed out in style

It's so hard to say goodbye, it almost feels like a breakup when our favourite show finishes. Here are 7 that did it right
When we fall in love with a show, we fall hard. And when it’s all over, when the series finally decides to break up with us forever, we’re beyond heartbroken – ‘why, why, why did it have to end’, we howl to the blackened screen. Hell, we’ve been more upset over the ending of a TV show than an actual relationship. So this got us thinking, what are our favourite endings on TV – who broke up with us with style, with grace, with panache, with gravitas. There are plenty of series that have broken up with us badly: Seinfeld, Lost, Mad Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter, True Blood. You all broke our hearts with your parting words, leaving us with an explanation we didn’t buy. Finally, there are those departures that caught us by surprise, abandoning us without warning – like Deadwood – prematurely axed so the final episode was never intended as the series capper.

So while we pine for those dearly departed, lets rejoice and recap on 7 shows that bowed out in style...

#1 RIZZOLI & ISLES

rizzoli

A gorgeous ending, perfectly executed. Even though these best friends are about to part ways indefinitely, we know they will be in each other’s lives forever. The surprise twist, where Jane (Angie Harmon) announces she’s going to spend her extra vacation days with Maura (Sasha Alexander) in Paris, is a glorious love-letter to sisterhood. Sometimes platonic love is the deepest, most heart-tugging of all. Showrunner Jan Nash stated about the grand finale: "I think the most important thing for me is no matter what happens in these two characters' lives, they will continue to be best friends forever." That’s the happy ending we always dreamed of for Rizzoli & Isles.


#2 FRIENDS

friends

Over 52 million viewers tuned in for the 2 part ending titled ‘The Last One’ – this was a dream wrap-up for the six characters whose lives felt so entwined with our own – they really were our Friends. The beloved apartment is now empty and the gang are cherishing their final moments together. But of course, they have to go for one last coffee at their usual haunt. The final line of the series is Chandler asking ‘where?’, as if we all didn’t know. Then all that is left are the six friends’ keys sitting on the counter. A touching, quiet and reflective moment in a series with so many standout moments. Perhaps like Will and Grace, they’ll be back again one day?


#3 THE SOPRANOS
 
sopranos

To the chords of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, the show that launched the New Golden Age of TV came to an end. With none of the foul language, threats and violence that were the hallmarks of the series, the scene in the diner with Tony and his family is both poignant and laden with symbolism. That abrupt fade to black at the end of the ‘Made in America’ episode is more a question mark than a full stop. It created a gasp heard around the world - one that has sparked conversation and debate ever since. As the diner door opens, someone walks in; is it his daughter or an assassin? We’ll never know whether Tony lived or died – and that’s what makes it so special. A beautifully confounding and mysteriously evocative statement of intent: The Sopranos never was and never will be what you expect.


#4 SIX FEET UNDER

six feet

Digital Spy summed it up best: “Is Six Feet Under's final episode the best TV finale of all time? 15 years on, the Fisher family's emotional departure remains unmatched.”

Alan Ball’s ground-breaking family-in-a-funeral-home drama peaked with its epic finale ‘Everyone’s Waiting’, which flipped its usual tradition of starting with a death. This time it started with a birth and concluded with the future deaths of all the lead characters, travelling decades into the future. Their fate, delivered in an exquisite and powerful near 10 minute montage cut to Sia’s ‘Breathe Me’ was the most breath-taking, exquisite and touching ending imaginable.


#5 BREAKING BAD

breaking bad
Source: Sony Pictures Television

The stakes were really high to get the ending of this series right. Would Walt finally die in the hugely anticipated final episode ‘Felina’? Breaking Bad pulled no punches and doled out Walt’s fate with grim, compelling inevitability. Creator Vince Gilligan admitted that fear of getting the ending wrong had kept him awake at night. So even though Walt had long ago become a bastard whose soul wasn’t worth saving, his final act was moving beyond belief – rescuing those closest to him while finally realising that he’d been the one who'd endangered them in the first place. On the floor of his treasured meth lab, the world’s favourite antihero got the ending he deserved.


#6 M*A*S*H


mash
Source: 20th Century Fox Television

This is one from the Hall of Fame... for 27 years this Korean War based dramedy starring Alan Alda held the record-breaking title of the highest-rated single television broadcast of all time, watched by a gob-smacking 125 million people. It was only unseated by the 2010 Super Bowl, though it still stands as the most-watched finale of any TV series. M*A*S*H didn’t draw fans, it drew obsessives, devotees and acolytes – and the 2 ½ hour finale ‘Goodbye, Farewell and Amen’ drew as many tears as it did laughs. The fate of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital will remain forever in our hearts...and ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan remains forever in our teenage fantasies.


#7 30 ROCK


30 rock
Source: NBC

Slanket-wearing, night-cheese-eating, Princess-Leia-impersonating Liz Lemon – you made nerds cool again and we love you forever...


‘Last Lunch’ sees the show within the show, TGS, facing its final episode. But in true satirical ‘winking’ fashion, 30 Rock uses its closing ep to acknowledge and poke fun at finales of the past, including Lost and St. Elsewhere. Tina Fey’s brilliant send up of her time working at Saturday Night Live even managed to reduce us to tears, culminating in Jenna’s Maroney’s (Jane Krakowski) weep-inducing closing song. Has there ever been a TV duo so wonderfully mismatched and sparkling with banter like Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack (Alec Baldwin)? A comedy masterpiece that’s head and heart above anything else.

What are some of your favourite TV endings?

The End. Closing credit sequence. Fade to Black.



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