The 10 Best TV Series Finales of All Time (Spoiler Alerts Abound)
Series finales are so damn bittersweet. While we can bid farewell to characters who have consumed our lives for hours—even years—not all final episodes succeed in tying up loose storylines, settling long-held questions or showing us a glimpse of what the unseen future for our dear friends might hold. (We’re looking at you, Lost.) On the other hand, a few do just that. Here, the ten best TV series finales of all time.
‘Mad Men’ (2007-2015)
For seven seasons, AMC gave us a glimpse into the complicated and ever-changing world of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Madison Avenue and the 1960s. The series finale of Mad Men suitably ended in 1970, and couldn’t have left off on a more satisfying note: Draper supposedly experiencing a revelation about his life, but of course, it wasn’t as it appeared. The epiphany was the famous 1971 “Hilltop” Coca-Cola ad. In the words of Draper himself, “Back to work!”
‘Parks and Recreation’ (2009-2015)
After accepting a job offer in Washington, D.C., Leslie (Amy Poehler) reunites with the gang for one last park-saving mission. The episode concludes with a series of bittersweet flash-forwards, which feature Ron (Nick Offerman) as a park superintendent, Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) having children and Leslie and Ben’s (Adam Scott) questionable involvement with the White House. Until next time, Pawnee…
In 1983, the Korean War comedy ended with a two-and-a-half-hour TV movie. The war had come to a close and residents were ready to move on, so B.J. (Mike Farrell) gave Hawkeye (Alan Alda)—and the show—a proper farewell with a stone-clad “Goodbye” message we (and all of our dads) can’t be mad about.
‘Friday Night Lights’ (2006-2011)
Based on H.G. Bissinger’s book and the 2004 film adaption, Friday Night Lights had a lot to live up to. But the NBC high school drama totally surpassed our expectations. After five emotional seasons, it wrapped up with an engagement for Matt (Zach Gilford) and Julie (Aimee Teegarden), new jobs for Tami (Connie Britton) and Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler), a happily-ever-after for Tim (Taylor Kitsch) and Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) and a well-deserved state championship win for East Dillon. Happy characters, satisfied viewers, can’t lose.
In the Seinfeld series finale, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) find themselves in jail for videotaping a robbery and violating the Good Samaritan law. Was it flawed? Sure. But in retrospect, there was no better way to bring back the best part of the show: all the hilarious side characters. From George Steinbrenner (Larry David) to the Soup Nazi and more—so many more—it was nice to see everyone back together…even though they did all testify against the gang, which resulted in a one-year prison sentence. Bazinga!
‘Sons of Anarchy’ (2008-2014)
After seven gripping seasons, Sons of Anarchy came to a sad but poignant end. The law-breaking FX series concluded with Jax (Charlie Hunnam) killing his mother (Katey Sagal), then riding into the sunset and welcoming death with open arms…morbid yet oddly conclusive.
‘The Wire’ (2002-2008)
HBO’s The Wire had us on the edge of our seats for five seasons, but the series’s final episode tied up every loose wire storyline. Carver (Seth Gilliam) became a lieutenant, Carcetti (Aidan Gillan) won the election, Bubbles (Andre Royo) redeemed himself and McNulty (Dominic West) had an early retirement party, in the form of an Irish wake. Dukie (Jermaine Crawford), on the other hand, left us with a harsh foreshadowing of his problematic future—and a lot of anxiety.
The beloved sitcom consumed our lives for 11 years, so we would have been really ticked off if Sam (Ted Danson) actually moved to L.A. with Diane (Shelley Long) in the emotional series finale. Thankfully, he changed his mind, ditched his flight and returned home to the bar where everybody knows your name.
The Seattle-based show ended its 11-year run in a bizarre setting: a veterinarian’s office. In the conclusive finale, Daphne (Jane Leeves) went into labor, Martin (John Mahoney) had a spur-of-the-moment wedding and Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) decided to run off to Chicago with gal pal Charlotte (Laura Linney). Only one of these events didn’t occur in said vet’s office… Any guesses?
After ten years of hilarious one-liners, on-and-off romances and the unbearable odor of “Smelly Cat,” the Friends series finale gave us a sense of closure we didn’t know was possible. Monica (Courteney Cox) had twins, Chandler (Matthew Perry) was a new dad, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) found a new flavor of the week, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was happily married and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) had an “I got off the plane” moment with Ross (David Schwimmer) that still gives us goose bumps.