Five Favorite Finales

I hate goodbyes. As a couch potato, I never want to see good TV come to an end. As I once said to my sister, “I love TV! It’s like a movie that never ends!” Not entirely true, as even the longest-running shows have to end eventually. May sucks. Not only do you have nothing to look forward to each night, but sometimes favorite shows reach the end of their lifespans for good. Which got me thinking about some of the finales that always punch me in the feels—or make me want to punch the writers. So, in the order in which they broke my heart, here are five finales that I look back on fondly … and one, er, not so much.

(Warning: Serious SPOILERS ahead!)

1. Boy Meets World
May 5, 2000: “Brave New World”

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The two-part finale to my all-time favorite show, although disjointed and lacking continuity from a storyline perspective, was a fitting send-off to the TGIF sitcom. It was one of those perfect hour-long clip episodes that took you back through everything you knew you loved about the show. Seven seasons’ worth of favorite moments play at rapid speed, so even though the show ends in tears, at least it has the good form to give you 45 minutes of hysterical laughter first. (The Eric montage is my personal fave—and, of course, the Feeny Call.) My heart starts to pound a little when they step into the classroom because I know what’s coming … and then, the very second the music dips into that three-staccato-note melody and Mr. Feeny tells them to believe in themselves … dream … try … do good … the tears are already flowin’. I cannot handle this finale, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. I learned more from that man than I ever did from any teacher in my own life, so I feel their pain as they say goodbye to him. That final scene is brutal, especially coming from a show that went heavy on the silly humor and light on the heavy stuff for seven seasons. I’m a sobbing mess by the time Cory says, “You’ll always be with us. As long as we live, OK?” (Because truth.) And when Feeny finally says those final words? Oh, it hurts so good.—DT

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
May 20, 2003: “Chosen”

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Joss Whedon’s supernatural series spanned seven seasons (try saying that five times fast) and chronicled Buffy Summers’ transition from high school new girl to college student to struggling young adult, all while battling vampires, demons, and “the forces of darkness”—the big baddies ranged from half-human/half-robots and immortal gods, sometimes her own friends (and boyfriends) and finally, to evil itself. The epic finale found the Slayer and her trusty Scoobies (plus a legion of potential slayers) battling it out down in the Hellmouth, trying to save the world (for real this time). They don’t all make it out before the high school starts to crumble and the entire town of Sunnydale, CA is sucked into the ground. It’s not really a tearjerker (unless you have a soft spot for Spike’s champion moment, which I kind of do), but it does have a certain finality to it, made all the more poignant with the final line spoken: “What are we gonna do now?” as they all stand together, contemplating their victory and their futures. I’ve always thought season seven doesn’t feel as connected to the previous six, but it still ends on a perfect note of closure. Buffy, no longer the one and only, can do whatever she wants. Her future is no longer written in stone. Her mortality is no longer in question. That last frame of her simply smiling into the sunshine always makes me smile too. Go get ‘em, Buff.—DT

3.Friends
May 6, 2004: “The Last One”

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You can’t get much more final with an episode title like that. Another two-parter, the long-running popular sitcom about “the lives, loves, and laughs of six young friends living in Manhattan” came to a close with this episode that not only tied up loose ends, but allowed for happy endings. Ross and Rachel’s will-they-or-won’t-they dance finally stopped on a resounding “They will!” and Monica and Chandler, now the proud parents of unexpected twins, are ready to start their next chapter. The friends tearfully all turn in their keys and stand in the empty apartment where nearly every episode for ten seasons took place. “This is harder than I thought it would be,” Monica says, crying, and I always well up, because even though I wasn’t a fan of the show while it was currently airing (it became one of my many late-to-the-party favorites after I started binge-watching shows on Netflix) and even though I didn’t have a deep-seated connection to any of the friends or their experiences, we’ve all had to say goodbye at some point. We’ve all had to sit and watch, unable to do anything about it, as a situation we were used to finally came to an inevitable end. Time to grow up, the show says. Life moves on. And you can understand it all you want, but that didn’t stop me from sobbing in my car for 30 minutes after I left college. So it’s that bittersweet resonance that always gets me.—DT

4. Will & Grace
September 29, 2005: “The Finale”

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Another after-the-fact binge-a-thon, I started watching Will & Grace because I’d crawl into bed with my college roommate at night and watch a couple reruns with him every once in a while. The show was definitely funny and it piqued my interest enough that I thought I’d give it a shot. It instantly became a new favorite. The writers put some of the snappiest one-liners I’d ever heard into Jack and Karen’s mouths and, at times, I found myself thinking it may have been the funniest sitcom I’d ever watched. The finale was, in my opinion, a wonderful twist. The characters didn’t get an easy way out; even though it was sad to see that Will and Grace eventually stopped being Will & Grace, it was more rooted in reality than most sitcoms would dare to venture. Just when you think you have the ending figured out, fate steps in. Having their kids wind up exactly where they were (across-the-hall-mates in college), fall in love, and get married, bringing the two soul mates together again, this time for life—even though it’s been 20 years, it’s beautiful to see their paths cross again in such a permanent way. And despite being middle-aged parents, they instantly revert back to the best friends they were when the show first started out. They simply know each other too well to ever be strangers. In a way, they had to have their falling out so that the rest of their lives could fall into place, but their story was never meant to end. I just love it. (P.S. Tearjerker moment: Jack and Karen’s impromptu performance is ‘Unforgettable.’ Gives me chils.)—DT

5. Gilmore Girls
May 15, 2007: “Bon Voyage”

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One of the most famous mother/daughter duos in pop culture, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore redefined “fast talker.” The seven-season exploration and inadvertent glorification of what could happen if you get pregnant at 16 (best friend for life, yay) was equal parts hilarity and heartache. The drama came to a reluctant close with Rory, journalist extraordinaire, setting out to cover Obama’s on-the-road presidential campaign. Having just graduated from Yale and declined a marriage proposal to her hunky Huntzberger boyfriend, Rory is ready to take on the world. Her tiny hometown of Stars Hollow sends her off with a spectacular goodbye party thrown in the town square in the middle of the pouring rain. Meanwhile, Lorelai adjusts to the idea that she may not see her daughter for months at a time. Luckily, our lovelorn Lorelai at least gets one happy ending by reuniting with on-again/off-again Luke. The finale may not have been what I expected, but there really would be no other way to fully close on the Gilmores’ story without shipping Rory somewhere. Otherwise, we’d all still be suffering from severe FOMO. The final shot brings us full circle to the pilot, something I’ve always liked about it and any other show that does the same.—DT

Honorable Mention

How I Met Your Mother
March 31, 2014: “Last Forever”

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I wanted to hurt somebody after this finale and a quick glance at Twitter showed I wasn’t alone. Some people have applauded the show’s full-circle attempt at Ted’s happily ever after, but countless others, myself included, feel gypped at the laziness of Ted ending up with Robin after nine seasons of telling us at every turn that it wasn’t Robin. All of season 9—and I mean all 22 episodes leading up to the finale—was spent on Robin and Barney’s wedding weekend. (Don’t even get me started on the wasted 22 minutes of total RHYMING.) Then, in less time than it takes to say “I do,” they’re divorced. Barney is back to his old womanizer ways until he knocks some poor girl up and becomes a father. Robin and her 17 dogs are still living in what looks like the same apartment. Ted’s wife, who we didn’t feel we knew well enough to defend so fiercely but did so just the same, was indeed sick and passed halfway through the episode, leaving the path clear for Ted’s kids to say, really, that’s it? That wasn’t a story about Mom, that was a story about how you’re in love with Aunt Robin! Aaaaand cue the blue French horn from the pilot … the culmination of the story just felt so cheap. I’ve read a number of arguments and analyses and opinion blogs and critic reviews and I still can’t come at that controversial finale from any other angle. It gave the entire show a “What’s the point?” connotation, which irritates me given how much I truly liked the comedy and its characters. I can’t happily cry at Barney’s beautiful rooftop proposal anymore, knowing that it’s eventually all for naught—and that upsets me most of all.—DT

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3 thoughts on “Five Favorite Finales

  1. The HIMYM finale was so bad, some of which I elaborated on myself, even though I feel like I only scratched the surface. Not many finales have been so bad that they retroactively ruined all the episodes that came before, but HIMYM may have done that much damage with the way they ended things.

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    • I couldn’t agree more. Now that so much time has gone by, do you feel the same? I’ve since somewhat softened to the idea now that Ted and Robin were always meant to be, but I still don’t forgive the writers for the way they went about it.

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