By all means, TV fanatics are a discerning bunch – a fact that makes crafting a show’s finale a difficult task. After spending years with their favorite series, moreover, fans expect an ending that ties up loose ends and concludes in a satisfying way. But for all the great endings that wrapped up their shows with aplomb, these series finales fell wide of the mark. From unresolved questions to downright stupid scenarios, these are the popular TV shows that concluded in the worst ways possible.
After eight seasons spent hoping that Dexter Morgan would change his murderous ways, fans expected big things from Dexter’s 2013 finale. Instead, they received a nihilistic ending that left the show’s titular killer missing out on a shot at redemption. And so the show’s 2.8 million viewers certainly weren’t impressed with what the Associated Press called “the lamest series finale since Seinfeld.”
Speaking of which, Seinfeld’s finale still provokes outrage in fans 18 years after it aired. Following nine seasons of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer’s questionable antics, the series ended with the gang being sentenced to prison purely for being horrible people. And while the characters arguably got what they deserved, audiences felt that the absurd conclusion didn’t fit the show’s overall tone at all.
18. The Sopranos
Sopranos fans expected HBO’s violent mob saga to end with a bang, but all they got was an abrupt fade-to-black. And while many speculate that the jarring cut represents Tony Soprano’s death, the enigmatic ending left both its 11.9 million viewers and it cast members very confused. “When I first saw the ending, I said, ‘what the f**k,’” actor James Gandolfini told Vanity Fair in 2012.
Prior to its official 2013 ending, Futurama had already aired three finales due to the show’s constant threat of cancelation. And so perhaps this is why “Meanwhile” – a final episode that sees Fry and Leela spend their lives together in a state of frozen time – feels a little played out and a less than momentous end to the series’ seven-season run.
16. Sex and the City
While Sex and the City promoted the strength of single women, its 2004 finale made an abrupt 180-degree turn. By pairing lead Carrie Bradshaw with love interest Mr Big, in fact, many felt that thhe show went against its feminist ideals – and creator Darren Star agreed. “I think the show ultimately betrayed what it was about,” he would go to lament in a 2016 interview with Kindle Singles.
15. Dragon Ball Z
Few anime shows are as loved as Dragon Ball Z, but the production’s 2003 finale left hardcore fans enraged. The 291st and final episode aired in Japan in 1996 and saw hero Goku take newcomer Uub under his wing. But unfortunately, due to Uub’s untested status, many felt this ending could have been better served with a more famous and established character.
14. Mad Men
Though Mad Men’s seventh-season ending left Don Draper’s tortured story on a high, the rest of the episode was rife with forced resolutions for its remaining characters. In particular, Peggy’s declaration of love for co-worker Stan was entirely unexpected and ended the 2015 episode on an overly schmaltzy note.
13. The L Word
Seemingly inspired by Dallas’ “Who Shot JR?” storyline, Showtime promoted LGBT drama The L Word’s 2009 finale with the murder of much-hated character Jenny. However – much to the chagrin of its 756,000 viewers – the sixth season closer refused to reveal the killer’s identity. Naturally, then, that left the show’s fans on something of a downer.
What’s the best way to end a prehistoric sitcom aimed at a family audience? If you said “mass extinction,” then congratulations – you have the same strange ideas as the makers of ABC’s Dinosaurs. Because rather than concluding with a high, the puppet-led series ended its four-season run in 1994 with the titular characters facing an Ice Age. Talk about grim.
11. The Good Wife
Despite star Julianna Margulies’ assertion to the Daily Beast that her show’s finale was “nothing but brilliant,” The Good Wife’s closer left fans and critics divided. Of particular note, Variety critic Maureen Ryan argued that career-climbing lawyer Alicia’s descent into ruthless isolation was “poorly conceived.” Meanwhile, IMDB users rate this 2016 episode as one of the show’s weakest.
10. Two and a Half Men
For many fans, Two and a Half Men ended with Charlie Sheen’s much-reported 2011 departure from the show. Indeed, 13.5 million viewers tuned in to the series’ 2015 finale hoping to see his character again, only to witness a Sheen lookalike unceremoniously killed off by the episode’s end. And audiences – and Sheen himself – were far from amused.
Although Scrubs’ first eight years were praised for their freshness and originality, the sitcom’s ninth and final season was an exercise in flogging a dead horse. After all, with most of the show’s original cast gone, fans had already made their peace with the medical comedy ending. What’s more, its official 2010 finale received 1.6 million fewer viewers than the previous season’s closer.
After six seasons of twists, turns and red herrings, Lost ended with few answers except the revelation that the islanders were actually in limbo. During a 2014 PaleyFest Q&A, however, showrunner Carlton Cuse insisted that the characters were alive throughout the show’s run and were only dead for the 2010 episode’s final scene. Thanks, Carlton, but that still makes no sense.
7. How I Met Your Mother
In retrospect, How I Met Your Mother’s title is one of the most misleading in TV history. Because although Ted Mosby did indeed reveal the identity of his children’s mother in the 2014 finale – after nine seasons of often infuriating suspense – his decision to pursue his old flame Robin instead somewhat neutered the show’s point. Sometimes a happy ending isn’t always required.
6. True Blood
Thanks to its mixture of blood, sex and LGBT subtext, True Blood earned a reputation as one of TV’s edgiest shows. However, its 2014 cookie-cutter finale left the series on an overly sweet note. After seven seasons of the vampire drama, moreover, the show coupled its main characters off in an ending that felt more like The Notebook than Nosferatu.
5. The X-Files
Despite the return of David Duchovny after a season-long absence, The X-Files’ 2002 finale didn’t live up to its hype. And as it centered on Fox Mulder’s murder trial, the episode failed to answer nine seasons’ worth of questions and raised many more to boot. Thankfully, however, the show’s 2016 revival sensibly ignored this episode’s confusing plot.
Much like the similarly themed Breaking Bad, Weeds concluded with its pot-dealing lead Nancy losing her friends and family due to her questionable activities. However, a sudden jump forward in time killed what character development the show had established over eight seasons. As a result, then, the 2012 closer had little substance behind its ultimately happy ending.
3. Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise is possibly the least loved entry to the Star Trek franchise, and fans try their hardest to forget the show’s 2005 finale. In fact, the episode – which reveals the entire series to be a holodeck simulation – is routinely rated as the franchise’s worst. Indeed, it even prompted guest star Jonathan Frakes to call it “an unpleasant memory” during a 2011 Q&A.
2. Battlestar Galactica
Although Battlestar Galactica’s finale answered many lingering questions, the 2009 episode’s reliance on deus ex machina plot points led many to criticize it for lazy writing. In particular, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin was incensed by the conclusion. He went on to ask fans on LiveJournal, “Doesn’t anybody know how to write an ending anymore?”
1. St. Elsewhere
A predecessor to medical dramas like ER, St. Elsewhere garnered plenty of critical acclaim during its six-season stint. However, the show’s probably best known for its contrived 1988 finale, which reveals the entire series to be the product of an autistic child’s imagination. Moreover, the ending actually spawned the “Tommy Westphall Universe” theory, which posits multiple crossover shows to be imaginary as well.