The Final Goodbye: Television’s Best Series Finales

It seems like just yesterday we were introduced to Chemistry teach Mr. Walter White and his ex-student Jesse Pinkman, who became entrepreneurs with their booming meth business. And for some of you, it was like yesterday if you’re of the late-to-the-party-binge-watching ilk. And this weekend, it all comes crashing down to an anxiety-ridden end. Will Jesse die? What will happen to Skyler, Walt Jr. Flynn & Holly? Will Todd kill any more people? Who will Walt use the Ricin on?  Will anyone in ABQ ever have an A1 day?

While we anticipate Sunday’s series finale, I decided to take a look at some of my personal favorite series finales. To be clear, I only considered shows I’ve seen from beginning to end, so don’t complain that The Sopranos finale isn’t on here because I’ve never seen it. Buuut I would like to hear what your favorite series finales are! And then at approx 10:16pm on Sunday, we can all add Breaking Bad to that list and cry together knowing there will never be a new episode of one of the greatest TV shows ever again.

(In chronological order) ((Also, spoiler alert??))

Friends (1994-2004)

Besides being one of the most legendary sitcoms in TV history, Friends also has a special place in my heart as well. It was the first show that I ever became obsessed with – to the point where I wore out the VHS tapes I used to tape every episode on. I went through the seasons multiple times, reference it daily, held day long marathons called ‘Friends-travaganzas’ and it even had some influence on this very blog (In high school, Molly & I made a bet on who we thought the father of Rachel’s baby was going to be, and the winner had to buy the loser our cafeteria’s famous cookies. We both lost.)

That being said, as a fan of a series for 10 years, you want the last episode to wrap up everything in a nice package with a perfect bow. You want the best for the people/characters you’ve spent the past 10 years laughing with. And the finale did just that. Monica and Chandler finally got the family they desperately wanted, Phoebe was also able to find a family she never really hard growing up with her husband Mike, and after their epic on-again, off-again relationship, Rachel got off the plane and promised that ‘this was it’ with Ross and they could build upon their own family too (My only qualm is that Joey still didn’t end up with anyone, even if it was because of the awful spin-off).

Co-creator David Crane has said that he and Marta Kaufmann were inspired to write about their own lives, living in NYC in their 20s. They pitched the show as such: “It’s about searching for love and commitment and security, and the fear of love and commitment and security. It’s about friendship – because when you’re young and single in the city, your friends are your family.” And in the end, all the characters achieved and surpassed that. The finale was like a graduation for the gang, even though they spent pretty much the past 10 years relying on each other, the end of the series signified that their friends weren’t the ‘ultimate family’ anymore. It was time to go make their own.

Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

I binge-watched Six Feet Under last year, and even though I found it too dark for my taste at times, overall it lived up to its hype. Not only that, but the finale was everything that people said it would be. Seriously, just watch SFU for the finale alone. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything, but the last montage ^AS SEEN ABOVE, SO DON’T WATCH IT IF YOU PLAN ON WATCHING IT IN THE FUTURE^^ is the best, most genius, satisfying ending I’ve ever seen. I honestly can’t even talk about it because it is that good.

Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

Much like Six Feet Under, I was a little late to the Friday Night Lights game – and I’m assuming most of its fans are. Right after the series finale aired in May, the entire show was available on Netflix Instant – a moment I had been waiting for for years! I spent the summer (ok, like a month and a half) of 2011 bonding with Netflix, the Taylors and Tim Riggins abs. It was one of those instances where all I could think about was the Panthers. I would be at work just dreaming about what would happen next, and rushing home to watch the next episode.

But when it came down to the final season, I had mixed feelings. I wanted to know what happened to the gang, but absolutely did not want it to end. The problem was that I watched it so fast that five years of drama in Dillon was condensed into just a few weeks – but it was there. The bond I had with the team was there. It literally took me almost as long to watch the final five episodes, particularly the finale, than it did to watch the whole thing. But when it did, it was perfect. Stories were tied up, characters found their happy endings, and Mr. and Mrs. Coach were still the perfect role models they were from the pilot. Clear eyes. Full Hearts…

30 Rock (2006-2013)

There’s a reason why 30 Rock has won 16 Emmy Awards – it’s just that good. It’s a rare breed of show that has been able to be intelligent, biting, sentimental and most importantly funny throughout the seven seasons on air. The combination of the final three episodes was incredibly fulfilling for all 30 Rock fans, as the show highlighted everything we loved about it in the first place. Liz dealing with the ragtag group of writers, Jenna vying for attention, and Kenneth, well Kenneth ends up exactly where he was meant to be all along.

The Office (2005-2013)

Add The Office right next to Friends, because this show is one of my all-time favorites. Now I admit that the show kind of lagged towards the end of its run, but I maintain that it was still funnier than most shows on TV at the time. In my opinion, NBC landed the jackpot with smart comedies like 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, Community, and of course, The Office. Executive Producer Greg Daniels proved that he could not only adopt the UK version, but alter it to fancy American audiences and make it last twice as long as its namesake.

For me, The Office blended that perfect mix of comedy with heart, that only few shows have been able to master. The perfect example of this is in the boss himself, Michael Scott. He may have done asinine things like almost commit suicide in order to show the risks of depression and suicide, or hold a funeral for a bird in order to cope with the death of a former co-worker or organize the ‘Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure’. When you whittle it down, he does all these things because he cares. He cares about his employees, the people who became his friends, and ultimately his family.

The entire Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch may have been filled with shenanigans, feuds, intertwining relationships but as seen in the series finale, they all went through the documentary together – as a family. Not to be a broken record, but the show came full circle – from Angela and Dwight, to Michael’s surprise appearance and That’s What She Said moment, to Jim and Pam finally getting to courage to do what they wanted- get out of the rut they were in in Scranton. In honestly couldn’t have ended any better (and if we’re speaking honestly here, I’d say it’s my number one finale in this whole list). It was so good in fact, that I still haven’t been able to get myself to watch an entire episode of The Office since – I couldn’t even make it through the first 10 seconds of this video without crying…. I might have a problem.

BONUS:

ER (1994-2009)

Alright, I admit, I’ve probably only seen 10 out of the 15 seasons of ER, give or take a few episodes throughout the last five. But come on, 15 seasons is one hell of a commitment. The cast changes, writers and executive producers come and go, but through the heart of it all, it was always about these doctors, and their relationships with their patients and each other.

Clearly the heyday of ER was towards the beginning, when Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Juliana Margulies and some guy named George Clooney started off as regular folk on a medical TV drama. It was really nothing like TV had seen before, and became a critically acclaimed hit, essentially paving the way for Shondaland and Grey’s to leave its own mark on TV. And while it may have stumbled towards the end, the finale was purposefully (and wonderfully) mirrored the pilot, a full circle maneuver that I personally enjoy in any series.

For me, the most poignant part of the finale was seeing Rachel Greene, daughter of the hospital’s late Dr. Mark Greene, come back to County General in hopes to follow in the footsteps of her revered father. In the early seasons, viewers saw Rachel as a kid wandering around the ER aimlessly, but now she had a purpose. The end scene (as seen above), may not be too flashy, but it’s a reminder that even if we don’t get to see what happens in this hospital for another 15 years, it will keep on going without us.

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8 thoughts on “The Final Goodbye: Television’s Best Series Finales

  1. Series finales make me sad even when I don’t watch the shows. Everyone is saying goodbye! Lives are changing! Wahh! Like, working in TV is the dream and I just feel like if you’re lucky enough to have that chance, then leaving it must really hurt.

    And if I do love the show? I’m pretty much a wreck forever, because I have to say goodbye too. I bawled at The Office and Friends. And Lost, because I apparently never cared about the mythology and I was only in it to watch people hug each other and cry a lot. But we also can’t forget Boy Meets World, which is pretty much when I realized what finales do to me in the first place. Ohhh the nineties.

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    • I am SO with you on being a wreck after season finales of shows I love. I’ve only watched the series finales of Friends and Gilmore Girls (in its entirety) like 3 times, because I can’t get myself to accept that it’s over/I get wayyy too emotional and cry every 10 seconds.

      And I can’t believe I forgot Boy Meets World!!!! I watched the finale a couple months ago and AGAIN was crying for that entire last classroom scene!!! I mean, I should get a grip.

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    • I’ve never seen The Shield! Perhaps I should add it to my (never ending) list. But I did love The Commish as a child, so maybe I’ll like The Shield too 🙂

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  2. May I add the series finales of Dawson’s Creek and Sex and the City? I know a lot of people hate on the SATC finale (I’m working on a head over feels post in defense of not only the finale but the series as a whole) but I think it’s damn perfect. I wept. Not just over Carrie and Big but how it left the other three ladies as well.

    And I’m afraid to admit how much I sobbed over Dawson’s…

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    • I’m a horrible girl and have not seen either Dawson’s Creek or SATC in its entirety :\ But clearly, I am in full support of (ir)rational crying over the end of fictional characters. But I stand by the thinking that if a show makes you feel something so deep that you physically emote tears of joy and/or sadness, then it’s worthy to be praised. #HatersGonnaGate 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Saturday Spotlight: Pop Culture Alone Is Changeless | cookies + sangria

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