A series finale gives the creative team a chance to give the fans a heartfelt thank you for the time they’ve invested. M*A*S*H*, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and recently DC’s Stargirl, are all shows that went out on the right foot, not always giving the fans what they wanted, but all giving them what they needed to bring closure to their experience. Then there are the ones that give the fans a big royal bird, ending the show by leaving a sour taste that, in some cases, taints the entire run of the show with just how awful the finale is. Here are some of the worst TV series finales.
Game of Thrones “The Iron Throne” (May 19, 2019)
Game of Thrones was, during its run, the must-see television show that enthralled viewers with its twists and turns, the small screen barely able to hold the spectacle of wild battles, dragons, zombies, allegiances lost and won, the tension of not knowing if any of the characters would make it to the end… and often they didn’t. And so, with the promise of wrapping up the story satisfactorily, the multitude of fans waited with bated breath to see who would take the Iron Throne. And it outright failed. It was decried as boring, and unfaithful to the core of what had been established so carefully before it. Bran (Isaac Helpstead Wright) became king, not because of some battle heroics or stirring calls to action, but because Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) suggested it at a meeting and everyone agreed. And somehow it managed to still go further downhill.
Battlestar Galactica “Daybreak” Part 3 (March 20, 2009)
Battlestar Galactica, the reboot of the sci-fi classic TV series of the 1970s (and the ill-fated Battlestar Galactica 1980), is another case of must-see television that promised answers and delivered few. Like Game of Thrones, the show blended politics, suspense, philosophy and action (no dragons though, just Cylons). Then we end on a rescue of human-Cylon hybrid Hera (Iliana Gomez-Martinez), they find Earth and abandon their technology to live peacefully on the planet… which is 150,000 years ago from today. Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) is an Angel, who disappears after fulfilling her destiny, Hera is “Eve”, and the events are all summed up “as all part of God’s plan”. The word you’re looking for is huh?
Dexter: “Remember the Monsters?” (September 22, 2013)
Having a serial killer as the protagonist of the show is a tricky thing to do, but Dexter managed just that for 7 seasons. Except that it ran for 8. The final season was a gong show in many ways, with nonsensical decisions, mood swings, and plot contrivances. But it was going to work out in the end, with the beloved series pulling it together. It sort of started down that path: Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) was Dexter’s (Michael C. Hall) final victim, he parted with Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) and his son Harrison (Jadon Wells), and Dexter just knew he was a bad person, no better than those he killed over the years. We were going to see the only resolution there could be, Dexter’s story come to an end with a reckoning that, despite his rationale, was deserved. But no… he’s still alive, and now a lumberjack, having escaped from his past. What the serious hell?
How I Met Your Mother: “Last Forever” (March 31, 2014)
Okay, so here’s the pitch: the show is about a man… let’s call him “Ted” (Josh Radnor) telling his children all the events that led to him meeting their mother. Along the way, we drop red herrings about her identity, we introduce his friends and cover their hilarious antics, and then we end the show with the revelation of whom the mother is. But we don’t! Instead, we introduce the mother, kill her off between the penultimate episode and the finale, and Ted is given the blessing of his children to pursue… Robin (Cobie Smulders). Yes, we’ll call her Robin. Aunty Robin, and even though their romantic relationship was long dead and buried, and she was married, he goes after her anyway. I just know the people are going to love how this ends!
Dinosaurs: “Changing Nature” (July 20, 1994)
Jim Henson Productions’ Dinosaurs was a fun family sitcom featuring the Sinclairs, a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs whose antics in 60,000,003 B.C. delighted viewers from 1991 through to 1994. It was a lighthearted, fun show that introduced the world to “Not the Mama”, the catchphrase of Baby Sinclair (Kevin Clash) as he hits his father Earl (Stuart Pankin) with a variety of objects. The show did tackle some heady themes but overall was just a fun half-hour on a Friday night. Which made the dark, ominous series finale so out of place. Long story short, a factory gets built over the swamp where a type of beetle lived, effectively wiping out the species. In turn, the creeping vines that the beetles kept at bay grew out of control, so a defoliant was used to poison the vines… except it called all plant life. To revive the plants, bombs are dropped into the planet’s volcanoes in an effort to create rain clouds, but instead, it brings snow, which begat global cooling, which begat the Ice Age and the end of the dinosaurs. And that’s how the series ends, with the family shivering together as snow falls outside, forever traumatizing a generation of TV viewers.
True Blood: “Thank You” (August 24, 2014)
True Blood dared to be different. It was hedonistic, gory, diverse, weird (one story had people made to lick ostrich eggs), deep, and a metaphor for the LGBT community. The finale, however, was so radically different in tone it still angers fans to this day. It’s crime? Just being meh. Bland. Vanilla. Conservative. Some beloved characters got little screen time, like Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis), while others had too much of it. For a show that revelled unashamedly in its uniqueness, the fact the finale ended up not unlike series finales seen a hundred times over, without a hint of fun about it, hurt.
Roseanne: “Into That Good Night” (May 20, 1997)
Season 9 of Roseanne was a departure from the working-class family sitcom of the first eight seasons, particularly the arc that saw them win the lottery. “Into That Good Night” attempts to right that wrong but epically fails, using a variation on the tried and true it was all a dream finale trope (see Dallas or St. Elsewhere). Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), apparently, has been writing a novel the whole time, taking liberties with the lives of those in her life in order to make the story better. So not only was everything we knew about the characters from Season 1 on a sensationalized account of reality, but the actual reality sucked, topped off with the “fact” that Dan (John Goodman) died a year prior of a heart attack. The season and the series finale were so derided that when resurrecting the series in 2019, the events of Season 9 were completely ignored.
Two and a Half Men: “Of Course He’s Dead” (February 19, 2015)
Two and a Half Men was never going to win any awards, but there were worse ways to spend a half-hour. The interaction between Charlie (Charlie Sheen), Alan (Jon Cryer), and the “half-man” Jake (Angus T. Jones) was often very funny, if crude. Then Sheen left the show, and went on a very bizarre, and very public, meltdown, ranting about “tiger blood” and other weird things. His role was replaced by a new character, Walden (Ashton Kutcher), and the show limped along for another four seasons. Creator Chuck Lorre, however, couldn’t let Sheen go. And so came “Of Course He’s Dead”, which ultimately was just a big, giant “f**k you” to Sheen resulting in Charlie (a stand-in, not Sheen) being squashed by a piano. There were so many digs against Sheen in the episode it can only logically be explained as some sort of catharsis for Lorre, coming across as just needlessly petty.
Quantum Leap: “Mirror Image” (May 5, 1993)
The series finale for the original Quantum Leap gets a bit of pass, given NBC didn’t choose to cancel the show until the Season 5 finale and ending had already been shot. But not that much of a pass. The series itself followed the adventures of Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) as he would “leap” into the bodies of different people throughout history to correct historical mistakes. The end goal from the beginning was to see Sam find his way back to his own time to be reunited with his wife. Instead, the episode wraps up the series with… okay, remember the classic The Simpsons episode “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”, when Poochie is killed off-screen and a title card reads “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet”? Quantum Leap ended exactly the same way, with a tacked-on title card revealing that Sam never returned home. With Beckett’s name misspelled as “Becket”
St. Elsewhere: “The Last One” (May 25, 1988)
Adjectives ascribed to medical drama St. Elsewhere: Gritty, realistic. Ironically, it would end up being neither. All six seasons took place in the daydream world of a little boy named Tommy Westphall (Chad Allen). Autistic, by the way, as if somehow that mattered. Oh, and the hospital building is in a snow globe belonging to Tommy, which somehow didn’t result in a number of earthquake and/or blizzard fallout episodes.