5 TV series finales that left us hanging (and 5 that didn’t)
From 'Lost' to 'Buffy,' these series ended their epic runs with conclusions that both touched and frustrated fans.
Caution! Spoilers ahead!
When it comes to beloved TV dramas, nothing is as heart-wrenching to the passionate fan as the inevitable series finale. For writers, it's a pressure-cooker situation where storylines must wrap and beloved characters satisfyingly written off into the sunset. For audiences, it's a nail-biter, sometimes stress-inducing event that can lead to both great joy and sadness from having to say goodbye.
Below are just a few of the series that have both succeeded and fallen flat before the final credits. Here's hoping the creator of our current favorite series like "Homeland," "Game of Thrones," "Orange is the New Black" and "Genius" take note of what to embrace and avoid.
5 finales that confounded fans ...
While some "Lost" fans had tears in their eyes at the end of the series' six-season run, others were left baffled by the show's refusal to answer some of its more pressing questions. Debates to such dead-end plot lines like "What is the smoke monster?" or "What was the true purpose of the mysterious island?" have remained alive and well years after more than 12 million people tuned into the finale.
According to American co-creator Damon Lindelof, not explaining all of the series' mysteries was his intention all along. "It’s not that I didn’t care about the mythology of the show, it’s just like, many shows have come and gone that are very focused on their mysteries and their mythologies and their ambiguity and there is no worse scene in the history of genre than the Architect explaining to Neo everything that happened in 'The Matrix,'" he told The Verge, "and I wasn’t going to touch that with a 10-foot pole."
Considered one of the worst TV series finales of all time, "Dexter" ended its brilliant and twisted run of eight seasons with its beloved serial killer protagonist, played by American actor Michael C. Hall, retiring as a lumberjack. The self-imposed exile, a prison of sorts to prevent harm to those he loved, was viewed by fans as a disappointing and morose conclusion for the character.
"It’s the horrible awareness of what it was to be a human being and how overwhelming that is for him," executive producer Sara Colleton told Entertainment Weekly in defending the finale. "His punishment is banishment. He sends himself into exile. Killing himself is too easy. When he turns and looks into the camera at the end he’s stripped everything away."
"The Sopranos'" infamous dining scene finale both enraged, bewildered and dropped jaws of audiences expecting something more than the now-iconic fade-to-black conclusion. Nonetheless, in the 10 years since the finale's premiere, the open-ended nature of the show's conclusion has aged with increasing reverence. According to American creator David Chase, the 10 seconds of black was meant as a kind of metaphor for life and death.
"There are attachments we make in life, even though it's all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we're so lucky to have been able to experience them," he told the Director's Guild of America. "Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it's really worth it."
The Netflix drama "Bloodline," which concluded its three-season run in May 2017, purposefully left several plot lines unresolved when the final credits rolled. According to co-creator Todd A. Kessler, this open-ended approach allows the audience to come to its own conclusions as to the fates of the main characters.
"Hopefully the experience of the series and spending time with the characters is one that will resonate and reverberate and maybe comes to mind maybe six months later or a year later or who knows how much afterwards," Kessler told The Hollywood Reporter. "Our approach in general is not to have all of the ends resolved but hopefully it sticks with you as the characters have stuck with us."
The dramatic finale to American filmmaker Joss Whedon's "Angel" series was sad, thrilling and extremely frustrating. As a supernatural horde of creatures from hell descends on the Angel and his team, the "vampire with a soul" shouts "Let's go to work," races towards the camera with a sword in hand, and then – fade to black, roll credits.
According to Whedon, that finale was supposed to offer a setup for a gestating season six. Unfortunately, network execs had other plans and cancelled the show. "The word 'cliffhanger' is really a misnomer here," Whedon told TV Guide. "This was not the final grace note after a symphony, the way the 'Buffy' finale was. We are definitely still in the thick of it [at the end]. But the point of the show is that you're never done; no matter who goes down, the fight goes on."
And 5 finales that pleased fans...
The beloved supernatural crime drama "Grimm," which ended in March 2017, tied up its six-season run on NBC with exclamation points both tragic and heartwarming.
"We wrap things up, I think, in a way that the fans are going to be quite pleased and quite surprised about," Israeli star Sasha Roiz said. "I'm just really proud of what we've done, what we've accomplished."
Despite the loss of most of the series' characters in the finale, fans still cheered a final scene indicating a potential future for the franchise.
"We always thought it was a fairy tale ending, and fairy tales don't seem to end," American showrunner Jim Kouf told IGN. "They don't go away, they're always with us and they keep going on, so what a perfect way to end this type of series with a new beginning."
Leading up to its series finale, "Justified" fans grew increasingly worried that either U.S Marshal Raylan Givens, played by American actor Timothy Olyphant, or criminal mastermind Boyd Crowder, played by American actor Walton Goggins, would not survive to the end credits. Surprisingly, the happy ending no one expected actually came to pass.
“It was a different way to go," Canadian creator and producer Graham Yost told Variety. "Everyone’s thinking that Raylan’s going to kill Boyd, and for us, the feeling was, whether or not Boyd deserved it – and he did, because I don’t care what Walton says, he’s a bad guy – it wouldn’t serve Raylan, and Raylan would then not have grown over the course of the show. That was his little bit of growth."
As for a possible future spinoff thanks to the show's open-ended conclusion, Yost is receptive to one day revisiting these characters. "If there’s a demand or an appetite, I think we would be open pending availability and all," he told Entertainment Weekly. "It was a great run and we had a lot of fun doing it with a great group of people."
Considered one of the finest series finales ever crafted, AMC's "Breaking Bad" expertly completed the story arc of the show's antihero Walter White.
"It’s a real mixed message at the end," American creator Vince Gilligan said. "Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished."
The series, which had a finale rating of more than 10 million viewers, is listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-rated TV drama of all time.
'Six Feet Under'
The funeral drama "Six Feet Under" wrapped up its five-season run on HBO with a tear-inducing finale showing the future deaths of all of its beloved main characters. Set to the haunting tune of pop star Sia's "Breathe Me," the series' last six minutes is considered one of the best montages in television history.
"In the writers' room – I beat myself up for this constantly because I can't remember who it was that suggested it – we were talking about how we should end the show and someone said, 'We should just kill everybody,'" series creator American Alan Ball told The Hollywood Reporter. "They said, 'No, we should flash forward in time and be with each one of these characters when they die.' Something in my head just went, 'Click. Of course. How else could you possibly end this show?'"
The series, which won nine Emmy awards and three Golden Globes, was awarded a distinguished Peabody in 2002 "for its unsettling yet powerfully humane explorations of life and death."
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
One of the most celebrated horror-comedy dramas of all time, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" completed its epic seven-season run with a climactic showdown between good and evil. Unlike "Angel's" stunted conclusion, this finale aimed to please; with Buffy, played by American actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, closing down a hellmouth threatening the town of Sunnydale.
"You want the last episode to mean something that no other episode has," creator Joss Whedon told Empire. "And it is large. It was so hard to shoot. So we went out with a bang and hopefully an emotional one."
Despite the series' conclusion on TV, Whedon chose to continue Buffy's story in comic form; releasing seasons 8-10 through Dark Horse Comics. No word yet on whether Israeli Gene Simmons and the rest of KISS will make a cameo in future editions ...
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