Normally, "The Wire" is a totally Sisyphean experience -- the cops never really make a dent in the drug scene, the city never really makes much headway in improving schools, etc. -- but the finale was a respite. It recognized the frustrating beauty in the very human experiences the show had been describing over and over for five years. This is who we are, it says, and we tried, damn it.
The first ending of "24" -- talking about season 8 here -- is pretty upbeat for this show. A shellshocked Jack Bauer goes on a righteous murder spree late in the series, and the corrupt president opts not to have him murdered and instead fesses up. And Jack goes off the grid (again). For "24" it was actually kind of sweet.
Of course it didn't last, as the "24: Live Another Day" revival a few years later had a much harsher fate in store for Jack.
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Walt ties up pretty much every loose end and then, in the final shot, he dies in his lab. It's beautiful.
“Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke’s on you: We got paid anyway!” Indeed, Tracy Jordan. And you deserved every penny for this finale.
Series creator Kevin Williamson describes
"Dawson's Creek" as his coming of age opus, and decided the death of a member of the main group of friends as the final part of that. It's bittersweet, effective and it just worked.
A pure and emphatic punch to the gut, closing loops and bringing Vic Mackey's arc full circle while still acknowledging that it isn't really over yet. It's just open-ended enough for a show that was never going to provide any easy answers.
Through a series of wacky, but normal-for-"Futurama" events, time is stopped in the universe for everything and everyone -- except for Fry and Leela. They grow old together, and it's perhaps the sweetest bit in a very sweet show, even though at the end of it all time reverts to before it froze and Fry and Leela lose all their memories of their decades together.
Diane returns for the first time in six years, and Sam almost leaves Cheers to go to Los Angeles with her. Almost. As Norm points out, Sam's "one true love" will always be right there in Boston. He's talking about the bar, of course -- Sam wouldn't be Sam anywhere else.
"Friday Night Lights"
It was never about football, and it was always about everything else. Sure, they win state, but what matters is they did it as a family. This finale drives home every bit of theme that "Friday Night Lights" had contemplated over the years, with great reverence.
The Korean War is ending, and the 407th throws a going away party for everyone. And we finally face the stark realization that "home" for each of these characters is a different place. Bittersweet, but also triumphant.
In the finale, a Japanese businessman buys nearly all the property the Vermont town that Dick and Joanna's inn is in, but they won't sell. Years later, the inn is surrounded by a golf course. Dick gets hit in the head with a golf ball -- and then wakes up in bed as Bob Hartley, Bob Newhart
's character on "The Bob Newhart
Show." The entire show was just a dream, you see.
"Parks and Recreation"
Quite a novel finale here, with flash forwards showing what happens with each of the series' staple characters years after the events of the show. There's some grand wish fulfillment involved -- Leslie becomes governor of Indiana, and maybe even the U.S. president -- which is perfectly apt for this ever-sunny series.
One of the greatest series ever on the air, about an advertising creative obsessed with preventing anyone from ever seeing him for what he really is, ends with that man seemingly achieving enlightenment -- but he's really just thinking up a really great Coca-Cola ad. It's impossible to imagine a better ending than that one.
A lot of people didn't like it
, but the ending to "The Sopranos" was a metaphor about TV. Unless everybody dies, their lives will go on -- hence the weird cutoff at the end. It works -- the saga of the Sopranos is not actually over, even if it's over.
Another controversial finale
. On trial for breaking a "Good Samaritan" law by pointing and laughing at a guy getting mugged instead of trying to help him, Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer have face a parade of witnesses -- notable guest stars from past episodes -- who testify about how terrible they are as people. It's perfectly appropriate.
"Six Feet Under"
The funeral home drama couldn't have ended more perfectly -- it flashed forward years and decades to show us how every single character died. Some went sadly, some beautifully. But everyone dies.