Buffy? Battlestar? Tell us your best and worst show finales

I’m beginning to suspect that my critical faculties leave something to be desired. The number of times I’ve found myself listening to (for some reason usually male) friends panning a season finale or a show ender while I sit in puzzled silence is starting to alarm. [OK, not really “silence”, I’m not much good at muteness.]

Now, I’m aware that I’m often a little too easily pleased (I quite enjoyed Hulk for goodness’ sake – though even I draw the line at The Incredible Hulk) but I can’t help feeling that fangirls and boys are a difficult bunch.

Is there a single geek show that doesn’t suffer from severe criticism once it reaches its end?

Buffy’s finale lead to howls of protest; Battlestar Galactica caused all kinds of upset, and the death of the 10th doctor in Doctor Who got the grumblers going into overdrive (it’s a kids’ show people, give over). But were they really so terrible?

Since I’m so easily pleased, I quite liked the BSG finale (I’d been beaten into submission by the religious mumbo jumbo seasons ago so I didn’t expect any better) and I thought Buffy did a pretty decent job of coming up with something bigger than the previous “world’s going to end” season enders (though I’ll never forgive Whedon for Anya).

Are your favourite shows ever going to please, when ending them is such an unnatural process (life very rarely comes to a halt after a neat story arc), or is there a show out there that bucked the trend and left the fans feeling all warm and fuzzy inside?

Twin Peaks? Quantum Leap? Angel? Is there a show out there that didn’t set forums alight with the fire of geek ire? What are you favourite show enders? And what are your most hated finales?

Katie Lee

Dork Adore's Editor! Katie started out life as a tech journalist and blog obsessive, launching the UK's first and biggest blog publishing network, Shiny Media. Favourite dork things: knitting, crochet, Press Gang, Buffy, Battlestar, Doctor Who and lifehacks.

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  1. Charles says

    Honestly, of the ones you mentioned, I massively loved the end of Angel (I’ve never actually watched Twin Peaks, so pass on that one), and pretty much hated the others.

    Quantum Leap was a slightly surreal kick in the teeth, Buffy’s finale was at least consistent with the quality level of the last 2-3 years of the series (i.e. terrible), but BSG was the one I was most disappointed by. Although as a good friend of mine has said many times, if you just assume Starbuck was eaten by cougars while Lee turned his back for that split-second, it’s much more palatable.

  2. says

    the end of the digitally remastered return of the jedi.

    anakin skywalker is edited out and replaced with some teenage doofus from the new star wars movies, instead of baldy sick-looking man from the proper film.



    the ewok victory song is replaced with a generic peter gabriel-esque new age world music wishy washy happy guff played over lame CGI images of places from star wars films made 20 years later.

    i was inconsolably violent when i saw it.

  3. says

    I really liked the Angel finale. Yes, they were cancelled before their time, but at least it meant it didn’t wind down in too obvious a way. The Buffy one was okay, although the season leading up to it was often rather dodgy. So I was pleasantly surprised that it was even that good.

  4. says

    Technically, Buffy’s adventures continue in comic book form (Dawn had sex with a wizard or something and has grown 200 feet; Buffy’s the leader of an international crack team of slayers; Xander now lives in what looks like NORAD).

    The finale left me somewhat cold (apart from Anya outrage), but I’d been losing interest in both Buffy and Angel for the last few seasons. The BSG finale felt a bit like the last third of Return of the King, which seemed to have at least four endings. I didn’t like the way they really hammered it home (do you SEE those iPods? Do you SEE those robots? Do you UNDERSTAND? DO YOU?) but was impressed that they managed to tie up the long, wavering strands of plot relatively effectively (although I do prefer the Starbuck/cougar theory).

    My favourite season finale has to be that of hospital soap St. Elsewhere – the ER of its day – which featured Denzel Washington, Ed Begley Jr and six years of intertwingling storylines which, in the final episode, all turned out to be the DREAM OF AN AUTISTIC CHILD.

    THAT’S how you do a season finale.

  5. says

    it was a terrible show so the fact the finale was rubbish shouldn’t have been a surprise…but the last episode of Charmed was a particularly awful pile of schmaltzy crap. Too neat and tidy and sentimental.

    I am now on series four and have high hopes that the final episode of The Wire will involve them finally catching all the dealers and murders, ending racism for good and tidying up Baltimore completely, turning it into something resembling Pleasantville.

    I’m right, aren’t I?

    • says

      That’s exactly what happens at the end of the Wire,yes.

      The Wire isn’t amazing at the end, but it doesn’t shit all over itself like some shows.

  6. says

    The end of the Sopranos was fantastic.

    You entered Tony Soprano’s world for the final time, and really got inside his head: A simple scene featuring a family getting together for dinner shot in such a way that you knew something was going to happen – but when? You became suspicious of every face, every noise, anything that happened. This was how Soprano would live the rest of his life.

    The fade to black, the ambiguity, all designed to leave you with uncertainty (and probably a movie tie-in someday) because real life is never all wrapped up nice. And that’s how the Sopranos had always been.

  7. says

    Star Trek: Enterprise ranks as one of the worst. After Manny Cotto et al did their best to make the show watchable in its final couple of years and the characters genuinely likeable, “These Are The Voyages …” became a victim of Exec Rick Berman’s apparent need to commemorate his television legacy by having Archer & co become guest stars on their own programme to TNG’s Troi and Riker, who was trying to make a decision related to one of that series’s most inconsequential episodes. The result was a mish-mash that on reflection no one seems happy with apart from Berman, with most of the cast members disowning it. Plus it features all the finale cliches — set in the future, random death of a much loved character, hithertoo unexpected romances and so much time “celebrating” that the core elements of the series are ignored. See also Dawson’s Creek.

  8. says

    I loved Battlestar, but I felt it really started to go down hill during the third season. I think most people should probably stop watching after the fourth episode of season three, as that’s where it peaks. The overly religious ending bothered me quite a lot. (Here’s a spoiler warning for those three people who may not have seen it yet). Starbuck was and angel? Head Six and Head Baltar were angels? It was all God’s (sorry, he doesn’t like to be called that) plan? WTF? It would have fitted so much better if Head Six and Head Baltar were actually hallucinations of the actual Six and Baltar. It would have been far truer to the characters and their story arc. I honestly don’t know what they could have done with Starbuck though. Really they killed her off for the shock value and didn’t think it through. Which I guess is where they went wrong after the second season. No one planned ahead so we got the crap about The Final Five. Really? I mean come on…

    • says

      I agree with everything you’ve said Chris. I think that BSG lost its way long before the finale, and I’d been warned that the religious stuff doesn’t go away so I was prepared for it to be nonsense. But ultimately, I still quite enjoyed the episodes running up to the end.

      It all went downhill after the mini-series anyway.

      • says

        “It all went downhill after the mini-series anyway.”

        I’m not sure that’s a fair comment. Yes, the mini series was excellent, but the first season had some brilliant episodes and arcs (notably “33” and the season finale, as well as watching Boomer trying to work out is she’s a Cylon or not), and season two, while having more filler due to the increased length, worked very well. The Cylon occupation of New Caprica, the resistance movement and the evacuation from New Caprica was brilliant. After that it was all downhill.

        And here’s why. Nothing was planned out after season two. The writers had no idea where to go with it, so just made stuff up as they went along. They stuck Baltar on a Cylon Baseship and had to use him to retcon the fact that we’d only seen seven of the supposed twelve Cylon models at that point. Where was the rest? Hence the “Final Five”, who turned out not to be the final five, but in fact, the original five. And there wasn’t actually twelve, there was thirteen, but you only mention the last one four episodes before the end, and don’t even tell us who it is (or was). Great.

        Still, it was one of the best sci-fi TV shows I’ve ever seen. Even with all it’s (many) faults.

        • says

          If I’m honest, I though the mini-series was awful, it wasn’t until about a third of the way through S2 that it became a decent watchable sci-fi show. Then it all went down the pan again.

          I actually looked forward to the end as I wanted to stop watching it but was curious to see how it worked out.

          Biggest shock…Lee Adama is British and born in Hammersmith. See him in Law & Order UK

  9. says

    I tell you one show with a crappy finale. Gilmore Girls. But that’s hardly surprising since the entire show was crap. I really don’t know why I watched the whole bloody thing. I think it’s because I thought that if so many people I knew liked it, it must get good at some point. But it turns out that there was just some sort of mass hysteria going on that lead usually sane people to believe that Kurt, Miss Patty and the rest of the idiots of Stars Hollow were somehow well-written and interesting characters.

  10. says

    I’m going to go old school and say the best ending of a show ever was M*A*S*H.

    I’m not sure it was the worst, but I was left distinctly “meh” about the ending of the latest Being Human series.

  11. says

    I’m going to go old school as well, all the way back to BLAKE’S 7. It’s OK, I don’t expect anyone else to remember it…

    … But it’s the first time I remember seeing an unhappy ending on TV. I was only a childling, and was a big fan of the sho- *programme* in the same uncomprehending way as I was a big fan of Dr Who and, um, Pebble Mill. Anyway, the end of the series was this – for me, as a kid – utterly mindblowing finale where, basically, all the goodies got the shit shot out of them. All of them. Dead. The baddies won. In a child’s world, the baddies never win.

    I was asking my mum about it for months afterwards apparently, completely dumbfounded.

    It would be overstating it to say it shaped me as the miserable shit I am today, but, you know, it DID. Bye then!

  12. says

    No-one’s mentioned Twin Peaks yet. That went from masterful first season finale to migraine material at the end of season two. And Agent Cooper!? Nooooooo.

    • says

      Your mention of Twin Peaks makes me think of a similarly tricksy one – Lost. Will be back here in a month or two I expect, because I can’t see how that’s going to end well.

  13. John says

    I remember the Blake’s 7 ending too. These days I’d have been given counseling.

    How about Edge of Darkness (the Bob Peck one not the Mel Gibson one)? Ending was arguably bonkers – “did he turn into a _tree_?” – but it was an _ending_. “We, the writers, have nothing more to say about this.” I admire that sort of finality.

  14. RealKeiron says

    The end of Sarah Connor Chronicles was pretty lame. Maybe if the writers had been told earlier that the show was being axed, they could have tied up more loose ends. As it was, “Born to Run” was just a rushed mess.

    Then, there was Blake’s 7 (from the early 80s) , everyone gets shot in the finale. No chance of a 30th anniversary reunion show.

    • says

      And Ashes to Ashes can now be added to the list of shows that had a great ending. I’m still not quite over the whole thing. Was super.

  15. Hil says

    Six Feet Under had the best finale ever. By best I mean, it made me cry like a baby for about 15 minutes afterwards. Nothing has ever done that before.

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