Criteria for selection:
1) Strength of the finale
2) Strength of the episodes/season that preceded the finale
3) Whether or not the series had already overstayed its welcome
2. 5. Chuck - “Chuck Versus the Goodbye”
The little show that could. The show that most people didn’t think could make it one season made it through five. The complicated thing with “Chuck” is that it essentially aired FOUR series finales prior to its actual series finale since it never knew when it was going to get renewed. Most shows can’t do one satisfying series finale. “Chuck” did five. Thankfully, they saved the best for last in “Chuck Versus The Goodbye.” A finale that included numerous heartwarming callbacks, a final performance by Jeffster, a nod to Subway’s support and the final, beautiful, heartbreaking, tear-inducing scene between the couple at the heart of this show: Chuck and Sarah.
You can go listen to “Rivers and Roads” and cry now.
3. 4. Extras - “Christmas Special”
“I’d be the penguin, cause I could eat the flying fish.”
Underneath the silly celebrity cameo surface of the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant creation, “Extras,” was a show making a serious commentary about celebrity culture and true friendship. We came to “Extras” to see Patrick Stewart play an oblivious pervert or Daniel Radcliffe bragging about his sex life, but we stayed for the relationship between Andy Millman (Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen). Throughout the series, Millman constantly caved and compromised to try to balance his desire for fame with his artistic integrity, alienating his one true friend the whole time. Much in the way, “Breaking Bad” has taken Walt to his lowest level, “Extras” took Andy Millman to his.
And if you click over to the link below (not an easy to scene to find on YouTube, sorry), you’ll see how the show brought together its themes while redeeming a character we always knew was redeemable. Meanwhile, enjoy Patrick Stewart being hilarious.
5. 3. Friday Night Lights - “Always”
High school dramas…those never overstay their welcome, right? When you create a high school drama, you’re really rolling the dice in a lot of ways. You could have bad, young actors, soapy plots, melodrama or a lack of stakes. “Friday Night Lights” had zero of those things (except in season 2 which didn’t happen). It’s finale, “Always,” was a testament to everything made the show great. It was a reminder of the greatness of Coach and Mrs. Coach (played by the Emmy winning Kyle Chandler and Emmy nominated Connie Britton). It was a staggering display of talent from up and coming actors including Zach Gifford, Michael B. Jordan, Jesse Plemmons, Taylor Kitsch and many, many others. It was a reminder that this show was always about more than just football.
Once again, no finale scenes available on YouTube, but the whole series is on Netflix. In the meantime, enjoy the ultimate Coach Taylor speech.
6. 2. The Wire - “-30-“
“Let’s go home.”
Finishing “The Wire” is comparable to closing a book you’ve been reading for 5 years. It doesn’t all register right away and it takes a while to fully process. “The Wire” finale is, strangely, arguably the most conventional out of those I’ve listed. It doesn’t attempt to do anything too groundbreaking, but that’s probably because it spent the rest of its series doing that with its meticulous storytelling that amounted to every single person we cared about losing in big ways and succeeding in very minor ones.
“The Wire” isn’t about Baltimore or the drug trade. It’s about life in America. And like life in America, “The Wire” just sort of ends when not a lot has changed. Some things have taken tragic turns for the worse and some things are on slow marches towards progress. Characters we were made to care about are shooting up heroin in an alley while Bubbles is finally allowed to go upstairs.
It’s America, man.
7. 1. The Sopranos - “Made in America”
“Isn’t that what you said one time? Try to remember the times that were good?”
I wonder how many people came into this article ready to be angry at me for naming this the best series finale of all time (hey, at least it’s not “Lost,” right?). There’s so many reasons why “Made in America” is the perfect finale. It challenged our expectations of closure. It respected the viewer enough to trust that they’d be able to interpret its many pivotal moments. Much like “The Wire,” it challenged the viewer to define what’s progress and what’s failure.
There’s never been anything like it, before or since. Whereas “The Wire” makes a subtler statement about things just ending, “The Sopranos” came right out and smacked the viewer in the face with it. Some people didn’t like that, but I hope that everyone can appreciate what David Chase and Co. did here. They cut to black during “Don’t Stop Believin’” and people have been heatedly debating it ever since. And beyond that controversial final scene we still had a heartbreaking final moment between Tony and Uncle Junior, a hilariously dark murder and AJ’s car fire.
I don’t doubt that “Breaking Bad” will have a great finale. It’ll have one of the best we’ve ever seen, undoubtedly. But it might be a while before we see something as groundbreaking as “Made in America.”