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.