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The Best TV Series Finales with Surprise Endings

The last job I would ever want is to be the guy that has to come up with the script for the series finale of a popular TV show. Can you imagine how much pressure screenwriters have to face when assigned to that daunting task? Take shows like Lost or the Sopranos, for example. Both series were critically acclaimed and had a huge fan base, but in the end, the writers simply weren’t able to meet everyone’s exceedingly high expectations. Honestly though, in Lost’s case, it just seemed like they gave up on trying to make sense of everything. If you have any idea what actually happened, let us know in the comments. Was that purgatory or what?

Endings are always tricky. After fans have spent years of their time and emotional energy investing into beloved characters, they become almost like extended family members. They expect when the series ends for there to be some sort of closure that not lonely wraps things up on a high note but also ties up all of the series’ loose ends, mysteries, and plot arcs.

With so many anticipation, it makes sense that a lot of shows would end up up feeling remarkably disappointing. We’re looking at you Seinfeld! So, when a show ends well, that’s really a pretty impressive accomplishment.

In this video, we’ll be taking a look at a few series that most fans consider to have ended pretty decently. Granted, not everyone is going to agree with this list, but that’s okay. Feel free to spam the comments with all of your criticisms.

Mad Men

When Mad Men wrapped up in 2015, the series’ American setting was a very different place from where it was in the beginning of the show. Not only had America gone through some profound changes, but Mad Men’s protagonist, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm, was also in a very different place.

Throughout the show, we saw Don go down a deliciously entertaining to watch downward spiral. While he was at one point in control of everything, by the end, he had relinquished all of that control.

In the finale, we saw Don dressed in all white, meditating on a cliff in California while dreaming up what would end up becoming one of the most famous commercials of the era, the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad.

Don’s apparent spiritual revival just seemed so fittingly cynical. It made sense that through his rebirth, he would end up using his newfound ‘enlightenment’ to sell bubbly, brown sugar water. Of course, the ending divided Mad Men’s fan base, but in our opinion, the way that the series remained truthful to Don’s character was perfect.

Star Trek: The Next Generations

This series quite literally boldly went where no one had gone before. Ask any sci-fi nerd what their favorite Star Trek series was, and they will almost always point you in this direction. Not only did Next Generation have an incredible cast, but it also featured some truly out-of-this-world writing. Even those cheesy Holodeck episodes that took place in settings like the “Wild West” or Nottingham, England, during King Richard’s reign were television gold.

Patrick Stewart could do no wrong and is arguably the best captain of the Enterprise to ever take on the duty.

The aptly titled finale “All Good Things…” proved to be the emotional and cathartic conclusion that fans of the series had hoped for. In the episode, Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean Luc Picard gets sent through time to three critical periods in his life.

The best part was when Picard went back to check in with his fellow Enterprise crew at the beginning of their journey when they were still gearing up to take those first brave steps out into the realm of the unknown in search of strange new worlds and to seek out new life.

The episode provided just the right amount of fan service to the most faithful and devoted of fan bases, Trekkies.


Created by David Crane and Marta Kaufman, Friends was all about a group of six friends in their 20s and 30s who lived in Manhattan. Throughout the show’s ten-season run, audiences fell in love with Joey, Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, and Phoebe. Over that decade, we got to see just about everything that 20-somethings living in the Big Apple would have to go through. So, when we had to say farewell to them, it was naturally quite a bitter-sweet affair.

What made the Friends finale so heartwarming was the fact that we were leaving them all better off. Each character had grown up quite a bit right before our eyes. They were no longer the same people we first met back in 1994.

On-again-off-again couple Rachel and Ross were finally together for good. Monica and Chandler had finally gotten over themselves and were now the proud parents of Twins. Phoebe was happily married, and Joey was the same old lovable Joey he always was.

St Elsewhere

The finale of this award-winning medical drama, which incidentally introduced the world to Denzel Washington, is notable for being one of the most ambitious finales in television history. Now, we just got to say, in 2022, you can no longer end a series the way that this one ended. No, you’d end up with a whole lot of angry fans demanding your head on top of a sharply pointed stick in town’s square, but back in 1988, the way that St. Elsewhere ended was still pretty novel.

At the end of the show, audiences learned that all of the characters and drama that took place at Boston’s St. Eligius Hospital were actually just the daydreams of the autistic son of Ed Flanders’ Dr Westphall as he peered into a snow globe that contained a miniature of the hospital.

Breaking Bad

For five glorious seasons Breaking Bad explored the nature of evil while documenting how a good man could go bad. Crime, drugs, secrets, and murder – Breaking Bad had it all. Bryan Cranston, previously best known for playing the dad on Malcolm in the Middle, gave an incredible performance as high school science teacher-turned-blue meth kingpin Walter White.

Walter White is quite possibly one of the best anti-heroes ever to be depicted on television. His descent into darkness began when he received a terminal cancer diagnosis. To help provide his family with money after his passing, he decided to make a quick buck by using his chemistry knowledge to whip up a batch of methamphetamine. What could go wrong with a plan like that? Well, as we learned throughout the series, just about everything.

In the fantastic finale. Walter left this world behind on his own terms. In a blaze of bullet-filled glory, Walt is seen lifeless on the ground with what looked strangely like a smile on his face. After the unbelievable journey that his voyage into darkness took him on, it seemed fitting that he would go out in such an explosive way.


For the first few seasons of the hit NBC comedy, the will-they-or-won’t they sexual tension between Boston bar owner Sam, played by Ted Danson, and high-class grad student-turned bartender Diane, played by Shelley Long, kept audiences glued to their TV screens. Amazingly, the series didn’t seem to lose anything after Long left the series and was replaced by Kirstie Alley.

Still, Diane still remained in the back of the audience’s minds. So, at the end of the show, when she showed back up, the question became whether or not Sam would leave his bar behind and follow Diane across the country.

In the end, Sam remained true to his first true love, his bar. How could he leave behind Norm, Woody, Cliff, and the local drinking spot where everybody knows your name?

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Arguably the best workplace sitcom in television history, The Mary Tyler Moore Show featured an incredible cast where every member was flawless both in their performances and their dialogue. For the series’ finale, the new owners of the Minneapolis TV station WJM ended up canning the entire news team except for Ted Knight’s dim-witted anchorman Ted Baxter.

The finale episode was quite emotional. Tears were shed, and everyone hugged, but since it was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, these heartfelt moments were peppered with comedic gold. That one scene where all the hugging coworkers shuffled across the newsroom as a single entity to fetch some tissues was downright brilliant.


While Bob Newhart’s second sitcom never quite reached the same heights as 1972s The Bob Newhart Show, it did surpass the original and arguably just about every other long-running sitcom when it came to it’s finale.

Newhart played a Vermont innkeeper. In the finale, he goes to sleep and ends up waking up in the Chicago bed seen in his previous series. Lying next to his wife, Emily, played by Suzanne Pleshette, Newhart wakes up with a  look of total amusement on his face. The entire show had just been one long, elaborate dream. Sure, St. Elsewhere did something similar to this just a couple of years prior, but while that ending was a bit confusing and polarizing, this one was nothing short of hilarious.


After being on the air for 255 episodes over 11 critically acclaimed seasons, this Korean War-era dramatic comedy series about a mobile army medical unit bid farewell to it’s fans with an emotional two-and-a-half hour TV film that aired on the 28th of February, 1983. To this day, it’s still the highest-rated series finale in TV history, as more than 106 million people tuned in to watch it.

At the end of the series, the Korean war had came to an end and the members of the 4077th exchanged their tear-jerker farewells as they finally set out to return to their lives in the United States.

The best moment of the finale was reserved for right at the end when Allan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce is flying off in a helicopter. As he’s flying off into the horizon, he looks down to see the word ‘goodbye’ spelled out in rocks on the ground. Mike Farrell’s B.J. Hunnicutt was responsible for this touching gesture, and just like that, all 106 million people watching simultaneously wiped a tear from their eyes.

Before we wrap things up and sign off, we’d love to hear from you! What do you think was the best series finale of all time? What about the worst? Let us know in the comments.

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