This spring, AMC's Mad Men will end its remarkable seven-season run. While we wait to see if the critically adored drama goes out on a high note or falls flat, click ahead to look back at some of the most memorable series finales of all time!
Photo by: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Parks and Recreation
Jumping ahead to 2017
in the final season was just the beginning for our favorite Pawnee residents.
Although the premise of the finale seemed simple enough – the former
Parks and Recreation employees team up one last time to fix a broken swing –
the final hour was actually a heartwarming, hilarious journey through time
that saw Ron take over the National Park Leslie created in Pawnee; April give
birth; Tom fail, and subsequently succeed, at writing a book about his
failures; Garry die peacefully at 100 after 10 terms as mayor; and Donna turn
the superficial "Treat Yo' Self" into the philanthropic effort
"Teach Yo' Self." The burning question on every fan's mind? Did
Leslie become president?! After successfully befriending Joe Biden and then
serving two terms as the governor of Indiana, the series-ender never said for
sure. But when two mysterious men dressed in suits -- Secret Service agents
perhaps? – told Leslie and Ben it was time to go at Garry's funeral, the
writing appeared to be on the wall.
To the surprise of almost no one, Zeek's season-long struggle with his
heart came to a solemn end when the patriarch quietly died at home with
Camille. However, fans had plenty of good reasons to reach for the tissues. The
Braverman clan added Hank Rizzoli to their ranks when he and Sarah tied the
knot, and the family's baseball game to commemorate Zeek's life included
heartwarming and shocking flash-forwards to show Jasmine's third pregnancy, the
two (!) more children a reunited Joel and Julia eventually welcomed, Max's
victorious graduation from Chambers Academy and, the best of all, Amber finding
love with another single parent played by none other than Friday Night Lights' Scott Porter.
Ted finally met The Mother, aka Tracy McConnell, as promised, but the lovebirds didn't get the happily ever after fans wanted for them in the divisive finale. As predicted, The Mother died in 2024 and Ted once again blue French horn-ed Robin, who had divorced Barney, reducing The Mother to a plot device of sorts to reunite Ted and Robin. Perhaps there would've been greater impact had the last three seasons — or more specifically, the last season — not built up Barney and Robin's wedding.
Breaking Bad's finale might have been a little too tidy for some viewers' tastes, but there was no other way for it to go out. For a show with as acute a narrative as Bad's — turning Mr. Chips into Scarface — that meant Walter White could leave no loose end. In his final days, he dotted every I, crossed every T left, including freeing Jesse from Uncle Jack & Co., and he finally stopped lying to himself about why he did what he did: "I did it for me." Plus, he bid adieu right next to his "Baby Blue."
It was no secret that Showtime's serial-killer drama Dexter lasted long past its prime, but its final hour was indefensibly so. After an uneven eighth and final season full of uncharacteristic mistakes and implausible twists, Dexter ends up mercy-killing his sister Deb and disposing her body. Even worse than killing off a character who was the heart of the show? He somehow survives steering his boat intentionally into a giant hurricane. Showtime may have ordered producers not to kill off Dex (mistake No. 1), but we expected something more satisfying than watching him live out the rest of his days as a lonely, bearded lumberjack. Even Michael C. Hall hated it.
What's there to say about this finale that hasn't already been said? The much-anticipated closer had everyone waiting to see if Tony was finally going to go from whacker to whackee. Instead, they got Journey, a greasy plate of onion rings and a black screen. But, the fact that we're still talking about it proves — for better or worse — that the episode did its job.
The crazy docs of the 4077th ended their 11-year run with the now-iconic "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen." The two-and-a-half hour extravaganza saw many teary goodbyes (plus one huge one made of stones) as Hawkeye, BJ, and Hot Lips all headed back to their lives stateside. The fact that the finale remains one of the most-watched episodes in TV history pretty much says it all.
Newhart ended with one of the most shocking twists ever to hit TV screens. After being hit in the head with a golf ball, Dick Loudon wakes from a crazy dream. The dream, it turns out, was the entire eight-season run of the show, since Newhart's character is in bed with his wife from the decade older The Bob Newhart Show, played by Suzanne Pleshette. Makes that season of Dallas erased by a dream seem like small potatoes, no?
Was there really any way this finale could match fan expectations? After six puzzling years of questions about hatches, mysterious numbers and smoke monsters, the show limped to the finish line with answers many viewers found unsatisfying or, in some cases, no answers at all. As a character piece, there was much more to enjoy, as many of the survivors were reunited in an afterlife of sorts to remember and celebrate the time they shared on the island. Watching Vincent the dog snuggle up with Jack in his final moments is a visceral image that's hard to forget, but overall it's hard to say the destination was worth the journey.
After opening every episode for five seasons with a death, this HBO drama began its finale with the birth of Nate and Brenda's son. But the producers made up for it by killing off everyone before the credits rolled. Mixing humor with moving emotion (Brenda was talked to death and Claire died blind at 102), the show brilliantly gave us closure for all the characters we'd grown to love.
This show's "last call" served up a tough decision for Sam: his lover Diane or his one true love, the bar. Ultimately, Sam stays in Boston and Cheers lives to pour another cold one. It was just a shame we couldn't peek in on the regulars anymore.
Imagine if Twitter were around in 1998 for this. In some ways, sending Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine to jail for being d-bags in a Massachusetts town is befitting a show about nothing. That still doesn't change the fact that the hotly anticipated finale was a major letdown and overstuffed (with cameos). It's biggest crime? It was frankly unfunny.
"Daybreak" has been called the worst ending in sci-fi history — and for good reason. For the majority of its run, BSG was close to perfection, delivering character-driven drama and philosophical mysteries week after week. But the show attempted to wrap up seasons' worth of complex questions with one simple answer: God did it. This solution not only seemed like a cop-out, but it also robbed the characters of all meaning by destroying any autonomy we believed they maintained. Oh, and don't even get us started on the eyeroll-inducing use of "All Along the Watchtower." This finale frakking sucked. So say we all.
When WJM-TV is sold, everyone except the incompetent Ted Baxter is axed due to low ratings. Between the reunion Lou arranges with Rhoda and Phyllis and the group hug, this one had us alternately laughing and reaching for the tissues.
If anyone needs proof that Friday Night Lights was about so much more than high school football, look no further than the series finale, during which Eric and Tami Taylor make the extremely tough decision about whether to stay in Texas for his career or move to Philadelphia for hers. (They end up choosing the latter, and we're still waiting for the Tami-focused spin-off, BTW.) A perfect closing chapter to an underappreciated series, the finale sets the stage for new beginnings in the lives of many characters, and leaves viewers with teary eyes and full hearts.
Always one to push the boundaries, Roseanne Barr once again turned convention on its ear with the final chapter of her ABC sitcom. Coming at the end of a final season that saw the blue-collar Conner family living the high life after winning the lottery, the series-ender reveals the entire show was an imaginative version of the story Roseanne would soon tell in her literary career. Among the stories she made up? The Conners didn't strike it rich, Jackie was the lesbian not Beverly and, most heartbreakingly, Dan didn't survive his heart attack after all. So much for a happy ending!
After capping off his penultimate episode with Bette Midler, Johnny Carson used his last show to look back at his years as host. He ended his television career sitting alone on stage on a stool and saying: "I am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it." So did we, Johnny.
Although it came at the end of the critically lauded HBO drama's weakest season, this episode tied up a number of threads while also remaining true to the show's message. Yes, there were happy endings — we still get misty every time we watch a clean and sober Bubbles climb those stairs out of the basement to join his sister's family for dinner — but McNulty's forced early retirement and Dukie's descent into addiction reminded us that the game was always rigged. The closing shot of the Baltimore skyline suggested that the troubled city — just like messy, complicated life — will continue to go on and on.
Cliff-hanger finales often seem unsatisfying, but there was something fitting about the way Angel left the fates of its characters unknown. As an army of monsters descended upon the gang, Angel declared, "Let's go to work." And that's it. While it didn't necessarily give us closure, the finale was true to the series' message: The fight between good and evil never ends.
Though it wasn't designed to be a series finale, "Discos and Dragons" is the perfect ending for the short-lived series about self-discovery during high school. We saw some characters trying out new things, be it Dungeons & Dragons or disco, while others simply became more comfortable with who they are. Though we never got a concrete resolution about what would become of Lindsay or the other freaks and geeks, the episode presented a sense of limitless possibilities. And we know, somehow, that everyone turned out alright.
The Bartlet Administration came to an elegant end in May 2006, with newly elected president Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) settling into the Oval Office that had been occupied by Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) for two presidential terms and seven television seasons. Amid all the pomp and circumstance of Inauguration Day, the episode has an added emotional resonance thanks to numerous references to the deceased character of Leo McGarry — played by John Spencer, who died suddenly of a heart attack five months prior.
After a forgettable final season, The Hills found a way to go out with a bang (and one helluva wink). Addressing the criticisms of the show being staged head-on, the episode revealed that the entire final tearful scene between Kristin and Brody had taken place on a backlot. While the series has never fully addressed exactly how fake it was, the finale pointed out how little that actually mattered as long as we were entertained.
The polarizing "what if" time-travel approach the show took for its last handful of episodes examined what Felicity's life would have looked like if she had picked Noel over Ben. It wouldn't be a J.J. Abrams finale if there weren't a ton of unanswered questions — How did Elena come back from the dead? What happened to Ben's kid? — but at least the Team Ben fans got the ending they were looking for.