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Finales

Sunday night, Juliette and I stayed up way past our bedtimes to watch the series finale of Lost. As I think anyone would have predicted, reactions to that show have been sharply divided, with some people holding it aloft as the new canonically perfect final episode and others complaining that it retroactively ruined everything about the previous six years of their lives. (I'm exaggerating, of course, but probably less than you might think.) For my own part, I thought it had its flaws, and it did seem to reveal how much less of the show was pre-planned than I thought at the beginning, but it was so emotionally satisfying that I don't really care about the rest. Indeed, I found myself getting choked up far more often than I would have predicted.

What's interesting to me is how, in our post-show discussion, Juliette and I almost immediately started comparing it to other show closers. I, for example, couldn't help but recall how frustrated and disappointed the ending of Battlestar Galactica left me, while Juliette mentioned how the feeling of sadness she had reminded her of how we felt after the last episode of Six Feet Under.

Now, a lot of shows have left their marks on my psyche, but when I stop and think about it, it's kind of surprising to me how few of their endings made any lasting impressions. Friends, for example, was one of the biggest pop culture phenomena in the past twenty years. I've seen every episode more than once, and references and quotations still surface pretty regularly among my friends. Yet I almost never think about the last episode. Even Star Trek: The Next Generation, possibly the most influential show of my young life, doesn't stand out much for its ending.

Contrast that with a show like Six Feet Under, whose finale I still can't get out of my head, five years later. The entire run of the show was filled with moments that were shocking or moving, or otherwise memorable, but when I think of that show, the first thing that always comes to mind is that ending sequence.

I have a feeling that Lost is going to be somewhere in between for me. The last episode will almost certainly stay with me, especially the last few seconds, but there are other parts of the show that stand out just as much. Time will tell.

So, what are some of your most memorable series finales? What are the closing episodes that moved you or frustrated you the most? For the sake of the discussion, we'll define "finale" to mean episodes that were planned and written to be the end, rather than the ones that merely happened to come right before the show was cancelled. We'll also leave out the endings to miniseries; Band of Brothers, for example, would be out.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Comments

BG39:

I still haven't seen the Lost finale, but I'm sure I'll run into it in reruns or online. What I keep hearing is entertaining, however.

Many people seem to have wanted all the answers wrapped-up in a neat little package. That would be the antithesis of the show. There should be outstanding questions, not for sequel purposes, but to carry on in the spirit of the series.

My wife could never get into it. She was frustrated by the unending "question answered poses new questions" aspect of it. That, however, is what I found keeping me coming back. I can't watch the reruns of episodes I've seen before. Lost is always about what happens next, referencing what has happened in the past. I like that.

I've been on hiatus on watching since the beginning of the last season. I did that on season four as well. I get tired of waiting, then lose interest for a while. I intend to pick it up at the beginning of this season again, likely in a marathon session, and view it to it's conclusion.

Other finales? I seem to have been absent in many of them. I'd been an absent viewer of MASH for years before it's supposedly stunning finale. I don't remember STTNG's finale, though surely I must have seen it. It was likely overshadowed by my interest at the time in STDS9. I sort of liked the finale of Quantum Leap, but my interest was cooling at that point anyway. I didn't like it when "God took over the experiment."

But that's me. YMMV.

Great review of the finale of Lost. It makes me look forward to it, because it sounds like they got it right.

Corwin:

I haven't watched even an episode of "Lost", so I've got nothing on that part. On the other hand, I think the "Friends" finale did everything it was supposed to do, and while I may not remember *everything* from it, I do remember the parts that made me like it a lot. Yeah, they were predictable, but we're not talking about the "edgiest" show here so I wasn't disappointed by that aspect as others were. Almost the same can be said of "Gilmore Girls"; although I heard at the time that it wasn't supposed to be the series finale, it worked so well that I think it was at least envisioned as one.

As for most of the other series I watched I have either lost interest by the end or felt they could have ended several seasons earlier and couldn't have cared less about the finale.

"Battlestar Galactica" was an exception to pretty much all the rules, in that I was interested until the end, felt that the ending wasn't very good but had no idea how they could have tied it up in a satisfying way, so I didn't bother hating the finale. I just thought it didn't diminish in any way the journey to it.

pooka:

I just watched the finale of BSG this week, so it's a timely question for me. I guess I kind of gave up on BSG partway through the first season, but we kept watching. I also had significant spoilage of the epilogue, and it wasn't as hamfisted as I had been expecting.

I can't remember now if it was the final episode of MASH that was so traumatic for me. Probably. I remember the hubbub around it being aired and it was years later that I saw a key scene replayed on TV, that would make it hard for me to ever enjoy the series.

I also remember the X files finale. I only tuned in for a couple of minutes, and there was kissing on TV! I hate kissing. ;) I had been an avid fan for several years but stopped watching when they steered more to horror.