What makes a great TV series finale? It depends on the show, of course. But no matter what series you may be watching, you want a finale that ties up loose ends without being annoyingly completist, gives you heart without seeming overly sentimental, and of course makes you feel just as happy, sad, thrilled, or compelled as you did with each previous episode. It’s a very tricky needle to thread, and some series have undoubtedly done it better than others.
In celebration of what it takes to deliver a great final episode, here are (some of) the greatest series finales of all time.
Parks and Rec
The Sopranos // “Made In America”
“Made In America” is, infamously, the episode of television that made millions of viewers briefly think that their cable had just gone out at some crucial moment, when in reality what happened was creator David Chase simply decided one seemingly random moment was the exact second where Tony Soprano’s journey would end. The series finale of The Sopranos spent the better part of its runtime wrapping up a mob war that crippled the family, and then devoted its final minutes to a family dinner set to Journey. Fans still debate the meaning and merits of the final scene, but the sense of palpable unease Chase built up in those last moments—signifying Tony’s perpetual state of watching his back—were a brilliant way to end a show that began as a meditation on existential dread in the first place.
Six Feet Under // “Everyone’s Waiting”
The final minutes of “Everyone’s Waiting” are among the most famous in the history of television, and even if the rest of the episode had been a disappointment, they would still rank among the greatest farewells in the medium. As it is, Six Feet Under’s final episode with the Fisher family is a gripping, heartfelt, and bitterly funny gem, all building to that last montage. As Sia’s “Breathe Me” plays, we see the deaths of every member of the
main cast, which reminds us that death takes many forms beyond mere tragedy, all culminating in the last breaths of Claire. Just thinking about it is enough to make fans of the show burst into tears.
Breaking Bad // “Felina”
Few series finales have ever faced such high expectations and managed to rise to meet them so powerfully as Breaking Bad did with its final episode in 2013. “Felina” has everything you could ever want from a Breaking Bad send-off: Walt’s final conversation with Skyler, that incredible revenge shoot-out featuring the rigged machine gun, Jesse’s defiant cry of freedom as he drives away, Walt’s collapse, and that little smile of victory on his face. Some series finales deliver what you want; others deliver what you need. “Felina” somehow manages to do both.
M*A*S*H // “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”
M*A*S*H was on longer than the Korean War was actually fought, and was more than 250 episodes into its run by the time “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” aired and became one of the most-watched television events in the history of the medium. You’d think the staff of the 4077th might have run out of things to say after such a run, but the series finale manages to be absolutely jam-packed, featuring everything from Hawkeye’s dark repressed memories to Klinger’s wedding. It all builds to that final shot of “GOODBYE” written in stones, which still ranks as one of the most iconic moments in TV history.
Seinfeld // “The Finale”
The series finale of Seinfeld is also among the most divisive in the history of television, and it all begins with an amusing swerve. The show leads off by making us think Jerry and George are about to embark on a typical sitcom sendoff, bidding New York City farewell as they head to California to make a television series, but then the real plot kicks in as the show’s quartet of main characters is arrested for literally doing nothing as a man is carjacked.
The brilliance of the show’s protagonists getting in trouble for the very
same thing they’d been doing for nine seasons in a “show about nothing” then pivots to a trial that does play by the sitcom rule of allowing old fan- favorite characters to come back as witnesses, then launches into a wrap- up that mocks the characters, the show’s fans, and the show’s own place of seeming importance in the pop culture landscape. Sitcom finales are usually more like curtain calls; “The Finale” was a provocative final joke.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer // “Chosen”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent weeks setting up its series finale, laying out a last stand that would either end Buffy and her gang of allies forever or wipe Sunnydale off the face of the Earth—or both. The final battle itself has since been dwarfed by more epic series like Game of Thrones, but what makes “Chosen” so magical isn’t its fight scenes, but its heart. With her own army of potential Slayers at her back, Buffy asks Willow to perform a spell that will give them all the powers of a Slayer, leading to one of the most empowering montages in the history of television. Then, even while mourning absent friends, Buffy is able to look toward tomorrow.
Newhart // “The Last Newhart”
So many sitcom series finales are all about final goodbyes. Very often characters leave their longtime TV homes for somewhere new, leading to tearful farewells or at least a final moment for everyone to spend one last day together. Newhart absolutely blew that premise up with a twisty, joke- filled finale that includes the entire town being turned into a resort, a five- year time jump, and that brilliant final scene which reveals all of Newhart to have been the dream of Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show. The level of ambition is admirable. That the ambition translated to genuine laughs is wonderful.
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Star Wars: The Truth About Kylo Ren and Rey’s Connection
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver discuss the intergalactic will they/won’t they.
For a certain segment of the Star Wars fandom, the juiciest nugget from Vanity Fair’s exclusive new cover story on The Rise of Skywalker has to be this:
For lack of any more obvious Anakin and Padmé or Han and Leia-type romances in the trilogy, fans have latched on to
Kylo and Rey as potential star-crossed lovers ripped apart by opposite sides of the Force. But do actors Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver see them that way? Vanity Fair contributor Lev Grossman attempted to find out.
Unlike some potential romances that have preoccupied fans, the Kylo and Rey relationship has gotten plenty of support from inside the Star Wars production team.
Mark Hamill referred to the pair’s “romantic tension” in The Last Jedi. But things looked decisively done between the two at the end of Episode VIII. And, at any rate, Rey has a lot more on her mind—like saving the galaxy. So where do they go from here?
“a source close to the movie says that [Kylo
Ren and Rey’s] Force-connection will turn out to run even deeper
than we thought.”
When speaking about The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams referred to Star Wars as “a fairy tale” calling out both Kylo as a “prince” and the duo’s “interesting relationship moving forward.”
When speaking about their characters with Grossman, both Ridley and Driver wound up describing similarly lonely and isolated
childhoods for these Force-sensitive figures. Rey was literally
abandoned by her parents—whoever they may be—and so has
trouble comprehending how Kylo could shun his. But Ridley herself is
much more understanding of the stress that might come from being
raised by Han Solo and Leia Organa: “Having the two coolest parents
and sometimes I’m sure it works amazingly, and sometimes it just
For Driver, this concept is the key to understanding Kylo Ren. “If you were the product of those two people, two very strong personalities
who seemed to be almost more committed to a cause than anything else, what’s that like?” he says. Ben Solo is born to privilege, yes, but also tremendous pressure.
Though their shared childhood isolation set them on two very different paths, the Rian Johnson-directed Last Jedi showed Kylo and Rey finding kinship in each other. Ridley describes them as “two quite powerful people who feel.” Driver adds that his character “had been forging this maybe-bond with Rey. The Last Jedi ends with the question in the air: is he going to pursue that relationship more or, when the door of her ship goes up, does that also close that camaraderie? This idea of being alone.”
If Kylo is still questioning, Rey is, at least initially, more resolute. Ridley says that as The Rise of Skywalker begins,
Looking back over the long arc of nine films, it’s easy to see the Skywalker saga as not only a story about repairing fractured bonds and escaping repeated patterns of a specific bloodline, but also the families we create for ourselves. John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron are both options of support for Rey as she tries to build something new out of the ashes of her first attempt to reach Kylo Ren.
Ridley says Rey is also part of that relationship, but kept apart a bit due to her Force sensitivity. Will Kylo Ren and Rey reforge their own connection? And, if they do, will it be love or simply friendship that unites them? The answer,
Driver likens the Skywalker–Solos to a
royal family, and notes the isolating power of being born with those
spectacular gifts: “How do you form friendships out of that? How do
you understand the weight of that? . . . It can easily go awry.”
Burdened by her own talents, Rey also feels that solitude. “It’s a bit
lonely having that much on one’s shoulders,” Ridley says.
inclined to believe that Kylo potentially could redeem himself.”
“Rey is less
“It’s not about just one person,” Isaac says of how his
character deals with the strain of leadership and heroism in The Rise
of Skywalker. “[It’s about] reaching out to his family, and particularly
Finn is his family.”
Driver says, is incredibly complicated: “I
don’t think it’s any one thing. The strength in what Rian [Johnson]
wrote and what J.J. [Abrams] wrote is it’s never all one thing.”
Avengers: Endgame Writers Confirm Identity of Peggy Carter’s Husband
Following the climax of Avengers: Endgame, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers went back in time to return the Infinity Stones his team borrowed, only to remain in the past and marry Peggy Carter. However, rather than this being an alternate reality, Endgame’s writers have said they believe this was merely closing the loop and Steve had always been married to Peggy, referencing what we saw on screen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
“It was always our intention that he was the father of those two children. But again, there are time travel loopholes for that,” Endgame writer Stephen McFeely told The Hollywood Reporter.
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In The Winter Soldier, an older Peggy told Steve she had two kids with a husband whom Cap actually saved in World War II. This indicated she’d moved on when Steve went under the ice, although we never found out the identity of the man or saw their children.
More importantly, if Steve really is the father, then their kids would have super- soldier blood running through their veins. “It does introduce the idea that there are two children who have somewhat super soldier DNA,” co-writer Christopher Markus added.
It’s an interesting notion because it indicates this time-traveling Steve lived a secret life with Peggy away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and let everything, including the start of Nick Fury’s Avengers initiative, play out as seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also hiding two super-soldier kids from the rest of the world.
Endgame Writers Confirm Whether Captain America Told Bucky His Plan
While the ending of Avengers: Endgame took some of the characters — and fans — by surprise after Steve opted to stay in the past and live out a life with his love, Margaret “Peggy” Carter, there was at least one person that knew of Steve’s plans before he journeyed into the past with the stones and Mjolnir — Bucky.
At the end of the film, after the group returns from saying their goodbyes to Tony, Steve readies to return the stones to their rightful timelines — along with Mjolnir — by re-entering the quantum realm. We see him working with Bruce, who assures everyone that it’ll only take a matter of seconds for Steve to return. However, after the five seconds are up and Steve doesn’t return, Sam, aka Falcon, demands Bruce figure out what went wrong while Bucky wanders off with a knowing smirk. It’s an implication that he knew Steve didn’t intend to return, but for the first time, the writers have confirmed it. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely state that Steve and Bucky briefly talked about Steve’s plans.
“Steve, clearly, before he stepped on that platform… told Bucky what he was going to do. Whether he knew he was going to appear on that bench, I don’t think so. Why would Bucky say, ‘I’m going to miss you pal,’ if it was only going to be five seconds?” McFeely said.
As for the passing of the mantle, did Steve ever offer Bucky the mantle? Per Markus and McFeely, that was not a conversation that happened between the best friends. Instead, the only conversation regarding the passing of the Captain America mantle is the one we see on screen between Steve and Sam, with Bucky urging the latter to accept. Unfortunately, for some fans, this is in direct contrast to the theory that Bucky had rejected the mantle prior to Steve offering it to Sam.