We know, we know, this list had been done to death. But in honour of Breaking Bad’s penultimate season finale this week (& the OMGWTFBBQ head exploding final moment) we thought it was time for Limited News to give you our look at the top five TV season finales of all time. So let’s have a look at shows that went all out with their last hurrahs and gave us the happy (or otherwise) endings we deserved.
Six Feet Under
I have watched the season finale of Six Feet Under four times now and cried so much every time that I checked the house for Gatorade tonight and when I discovered there was none I decided I would not be able to watch it again for this piece. Sorry. Doctors orders. Based on the Fishers, a family who lived their lives in and around a funeral home, finding the best way to say goodbye was always going to be challenging. Every episode of the five seasons began with a death (except the last), so there was no shying away from the inevitable when it came to the end of the line. But when the youngest Fisher, the luminous, brave and beautiful Claire sets off on the road towards her future, the writers decided it was time for the final sucker-punch: a beautiful, realistic and devastating montage through the ultimate fates of everyone we know and love on the show. The tagline for the series is “Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.” They mean it. Like having those you love taken away from you one by one until there’s only you left with your memories (sob), this is some seriously emotional shit. Take all the tissues and all the Gatorade: you’re gonna need them.
Friday Night Lights
The scrappy East Dillion Lions beat poverty, tradition and all the odds to make the Texas State Football Championships in this series finale, and in a final montage set to the elegant, beautiful sounds of Explosions in the Sky, this one last game gives us all the things that made FNL great – the edge of our seats adrenalin rush of well-written fictional football, a look at all the players (on the field and off) who got the team there – all seen through the eyes of everyone’s dream parents, Coach Eric & his wife Tami Taylor, re-directed into a view of all the characters that we’ve come to know and love over the course of five seasons and how their lives will go on without us (sob). While the five series were sometimes patchy in parts (Landry the murderer wasn’t convincing until about a month ago, for example), the journey is well worth it, even if football ain’t your thing. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!
Look, sure, Oz embraced the cray long before it reached its end, but for commitment to the insanity and triumph of portraying the prison system with no holds barred and no “beg your pardons”, Oz is a rare beast of a series that encourages a Breaking Bad level of stress along with an almost Shakespearean appreciation of the human psyche. Part of the charm of Oz (now more than ten years old, starting in 1997) is the range of great actors who went on to far more notable and less violent careers: the power-mad neo Nazi rapist who became the voice of the yellow M & M (J.K. Simmons), the sexiest sociopathic bisexual to ever switch teams and become one of Law and Order’s finest (Christopher Meloni), and a sweet talking Irish-Catlick murderer with big plans who goes onto become Liz Lemon’s dodgiest boyfriend (Dean Winters). Part of what makes Oz so great is that right to the very end, episodes were written or co-written by creator Tom Fontana. Go back to the start, grit your teeth and go through to the end with Oz. When Meloni’s sociopath Chris Keller manipulates an end for all the inmates at Oswald Correctional Facility, you’ll be mighty glad you went to prison with them in the first place.
Starting off in episode one by killing one of their own, this cop drama was a testosterone trip through ego, corruption, brotherhood and criminality in modern America. After watching Vic Mackey and his team (mostly) escape their judgment day time and time again, the seventh season is a hell-ride in watching what happens when gravity finally comes for its winnings. Guns loaded in the very first episode are finally fired in all sorts of directions and creator Shawn Ryan somehow manages to subvert obvious expectations to impress and surprise us with a more than satisfying denouement. For those of you who have seen it: this image was all I could think about after it was over. For those of you who haven’t: start at season one then come back and tell me I’m right.
The Office (UK)
“Life isn’t about endings, it’s a series of moments. When you turn the cameras off, I’m still here. Life goes on.”
Despite your feelings for Ricky Gervais nowadays, the season finale of the original UK series The Office (Christmas Specials Part One and Two) are still remarkable pieces of television. Starting off with the boss everyone hates doing cringe-worthy nightclub appearances between selling cleaning products, we revisit David Brent, super-suck up Gareth, Tim, Dawn and the rest of The Office for a special reunion. Like many offices, not a whole lot changes, but what makes this finale notable is not the romantic resolution for the heart of Wernham Hogg, but the turn in character we see for Gervais’ Brent. His unknowing, cripplingly embarrassing awkwardness continues as it always has, but we see something wonderful happen: that dickhead we all hate at our day job (I know you know the one I mean) might actually grow and change into someone who is almost – only slightly, but still – a little bit ok after all.