As How I Met Your Mother comes to an end on Monday night, the circle of life in television is again complete. Expectations always run high with series conclusions and, no matter how Ted meets the mother, someone is bound to be unhappy. Here are some famous and infamous finales that satisfied, mystified, and enraged viewers.
Often disparaged for being too tidy a resolution, the final episodes of the series put the gang on trial (literally) and featured a Fellini-esque parade of past characters testifying against Elaine, George, Kramer and Jerry. The final moments, where the gang again dissolve into a conversation about nothing, seemed like the most appropriate ending possible, but still, many grumbled.
"I got off the plane." Rachel's declaration to Ross was the high point of the sitcom's finale. The low was the sad guitar pan of the empty apartment. Ending on a coffee at Central Perk would have been a much better final image for the gang; this was not a show about sad guitar pans!
The debate over the fate of Tony Soprano rages on. When the episode cut to black, a nation ran to their phones to call their cable providers. I personally loved the quick cut and the mystery. I dare not make a guess as to Tony's fate, but there was something so gasp-inducing and perfect about the final second leaving fans on suspended nerves, a feeling they'd gotten familiar with over so many seasons.
Inglorious and fitting. Walter White doesn't get to triumph: his bitter-sweet half-win of going down with his enemies was the best he could ever hope for. Ultimately, in the series' violent conclusion, White did not get the one thing back he most needed; his humanity remains the ultimate victim. Surprisingly, most people were happy with this ending.
As devastating as the losses of the Dexter series finale were, it was only appropriate that Dexter would lose his true tie to the human race, his sister Deb. A happy ending with Harrison and the happy poisoner didn't seem possible so Dexter's staged boat crash death and lonely exile to the lumber yard actually seemed fitting. Many hated this ending, but I continue to defend it.
Maybe one of you can explain the Lost finale to me? They were/were not dead the entire time? Or just the flash-sideways universe of season 6 and on? It's purgatory? Did the plane crash or not? Never has a title been so prophetic.
I include Desperate Housewives on this list because it was a show so dramatically uneven in quality one season to the next. The first season was brilliant, the second set a bad tone for the rest of the series, the third and fourth were marked improvements and, by the time you get Vanessa Williams in the final seasons, you're just waiting for the alien abduction. The jumps forward do not work in this finale and audiences universally groaned when the dead all lined Wisteria Lane. If this had ended on a more mysterious note, it might have redeemed the series.
Six Feet Under
EVERYBODY DIES! I've told you everything and nothing about the brilliant conclusion of this incredibly worthy HBO series. After years of seeing strangers die, it was so appropriate to follow each of the characters to their ends; haunting, beautiful and one last de-sentimentalizing of what's in store for everyone. It wasn't just a series finale; it was a metaphor for all series finales.
Find out if How I Met Your Mother hits it out of the park like Six Feet Under or if the show pulls a Desperate Housewives this Sunday (March 30, 2014) on CBS.