A number of major TV shows have come to an end this decade, and these are the best series finales. There's no harder job for a TV series than sticking the landing after viewers have invested hours and even years in a show, and the 2010s decade has seen TV series finales both delightful and disappointing.
It can be a huge blow when a TV show you've watched for multiple seasons comes to an underwhelming conclusion, such as the tame ending to True Blood or the awful climax of Dexter. But at the other end of the scale, there's an opportunity to reward fans for how much time they've put into a show. A great TV series finale could be happy and uplifting, like Friends'; tie up the story with a promise of hope for the characters, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer's; or feature an ambiguous ending that inspires over a decade of debate, which is exactly what The Sopranos' did.
The following TV shows all did at least one of those things, and often more. There have been some truly exceptional TV series finales between 2010-2019, whether it was a series that had lost its way or had a seemingly impossible weight of expectation, and these are the very best of them. With major spoilers, of course.
15. How I Met Your Mother - "Last Forever"
Although divisive, How I Met Your Mother's finale is brilliant because it's so true to life: loved ones do pass away, and eventually you have to move on; nothing can last forever. That's why the gang drifts apart in the finale too. But as the Mother herself tells Ted, it's about looking forward, not back. That's what HIMYM's finale does: in two old friends connecting in a new way; in Ted having and losing the love of his life; in that beautiful conclusion for Barney Stinson - How I Met Your Mother's ending respects the past, but pushes on into the future.
14. Fleabag - "Episode 6"
Fleabag is a rarity: an acclaimed TV show that went out after just two seasons on its own terms, knowing exactly when to end. The series finale of Fleabag was never likely to go out with a huge bang; Phoebe Waller-Bridge is too subtle and smart for that. It's not even really an end. The part we get to see is over, and came to a close with a funny, emotional story about love: for others and, more importantly, yourself. Fleabag may end up with the Priest, but that's not what matters. As she leaves the viewers behind, it's with us safe in the knowledge that we've helped her on this journey, to a point where she can love herself again. The show may be over, but Fleabag's going to be ok.
13. Community - "Emotional Consequences Of Broadcast Television"
By the time of Community's series finale, it was impressive the show was still going at all. It'd lost and regained Dan Harmon; Donald Glover's Troy was missing; Chevy Chase's Pierce had been killed off. What makes "The Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television" so great is that it still manages to be such a fitting send-off to these group of characters. As the study group prepares to leave Greendale behind, they each imagine a fictional season 7, but what's real are the friendships they've made. This band of misfits has made a community for themselves, and Community's finale is a poignant reminder of their time together, while also leaving plenty of hope for the #AndAMovie part of the show's slogan.
12. Parks & Recreation - "One Last Ride"
Parks & Recreation was always an incredibly sweet sitcom (unless your name was Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry), so it had to have a happy ending. But it's the way "One Last Ride" does it that's so impressive. Expertly blending the 'present' of the show in 2017 with a future in the 2020s, it's a touching tribute and emotional farewell to these characters, each of whom gets an ending so personally fitting to who they are. It hits hardest when it plays on the strongest connections - Leslie and Ron; Leslie and April - and when it allows Leslie to so deservedly realize her dream of being Governor (and maybe President). While it still finds time to be supremely funny too, Parks & Recs' finale is all about saying goodbye. It couldn't have done so in a better way.
11. Game Of Thrones - "The Iron Throne"
Game of Thrones season 8 was divisive, to put it mildly, but while there were issues with pacing in that final season, the finale itself - "The Iron Throne" - is about as fitting an ending as the show could've managed. Each major character gets an ending that feels true to who they are, and make sense with where the story has taken them. It's not overly happy: the Starks separate again, and Daenerys is killed. But with events like Jon going back to the Wall, or Sansa being crowned Queen in the North, Game of Thrones' ending gives us an emotional send-off that mixes twists, spectacle, and pure character-driven drama to deliver a bittersweet conclusion to the biggest TV show of all time.
10. Halt And Catch Fire - "Ten Of Swords"
Halt and Catch Fire emerged from the ashes of its underwhelming first season to become one of TV's phoenixes: a shining example of how to tell great, character-driven stories and go out at exactly the right time. Halt and Catch Fire was a show about the past, but its finale, "Ten of Swords", made sure to look to the future, leaving us on an optimistic note for the characters we'd come to care so much about. This was a show all about getting "to the thing", and that's exemplified by its finale: it gives Joe a surprising but fitting ending as he becomes a teacher for the next generation, but best of all is in the way it professionally reunites Donna and Cameron. They're the show's greatest strength, and we leave them knowing their own future is secured, together, and exciting.
9. Sharp Objects - "Milk"
Sharp Objects, HBO's Southern Gothic miniseries starring Amy Adams, led us into the finale believing we had it all figured out: Adora was the murderer, and was poisoning her own daughter, Amma. The majority of "Milk" lets us think that, and plays out in thrilling, often claustrophobic fashion, the atmosphere as sweltering as the Missouri heat. If Sharp Objects had ended with Camille and Amma making it out and being happy, it still would've been an excellent finale. But it's the last surprise that makes it such a stunner. With the discovery of some teeth and three little words - "Don't tell mama." - we're given a plot twist for the ages, followed by some of the most haunting imagery to come from a TV screen in recent memory.
8. The Office - "Finale"
Considering how The Office had dipped considerably in its final two seasons, it wasn't a bad thing that it was ending with season 9. Despite that, "Finale" managed to wonderfully wrap-up all those years of storytelling in a way that was funny and sentimental, striking the ideal balance between the two. With a number of characters returning, including, of course, Michael Scott, The Office calls closing time on its nine-season arc by giving all of its characters a happy ending, but in a way that feels right rather than forced, and even finds time for one last "that's what she said."
7. 30 Rock - "Hogcock!"/Last Lunch"
How else could 30 Rock go out than with a series-finale-within-a-series-finale? As Liz Lemon bids goodbye to TGS with the final episode of the series, so too do we say goodbye to Tina Fey's character and all the rest of the 30 Rock crew. There's time for heartwarming sentiment as Jenna performs her final song and Liz and Jack manage to mend their broken friendship, but 30 Rock stays true to itself by filling its two-part finale with more gags than most sitcoms could deliver in a season. It's nostalgic, warm, and emotional, but laugh-out-loud funny too, proving just how great 30 Rock was at doing both.
6. Lost - "The End"
Before Game of Thrones' finale, there was Lost's: "The End" has spent most of this decade as one of TV's punching bags; a prime example of a TV show that had no idea how to stick the landing. Except, of course, that simply isn't true. Lost's finale might not offer up easy answers, but it didn't need to; it just had to provide closure. What was more important than the mysteries were these characters, and the way their journeys are ended is beautifully done. It's a funny, weird, heartfelt, emotional, thrilling, and above all else satisfying conclusion to a show that should've been almost impossible to end.
5. Mad Men - "Person To Person"
Matthew Weiner obviously took notes from The Sopranos (which he worked on as a writer) when crafting Mad Men's series finale. "Person To Person" is ambiguous, daring, and to a section of the audience, highly infuriating, but it's all the better for it. Don Draper may have gone back to New York and created the Coke advert, but he did so as a changed man, and one who, in the finale, finally found the one thing that always seemed beyond him: inner-peace. He was able to make a genuine human connection and a sense of self-recognition, allowing him to "buy the world a Coke." Add in fitting conclusions for the other major players, and Mad Men's ending is as good as can be.
4. Twin Peaks: The Return - "Part 18"
Twin Peaks ended its first run on a cliffhanger that teased its greatest hero being consumed by the ultimate villain. 25 years later, David Lynch gave us an even better ending to his magnum opus with Twin Peaks: The Return which, after 17 episodes that were as confounding as they were mesmerizing, came to an end with the two characters it had to: Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer. The finale is a breathtaking affair; unraveling the tidy resolution of "Part 17" in favor of something both grander and more bewildering. But as that indelible scream erupts from Laura's throat, we know one thing: whether it's Dale and Laura, or Richard and Sarah, there'll always be evil in the world, a Laura Palmer will always need saving, and Cooper will always be there to help as an agent of pure good.
3. Breaking Bad - "Felina"
Ahead of Breaking Bad's finale, the question wasn't so much what would happen, but how on Earth you could even end something so epic in scope and with so much pressure riding on its shoulders. Vince Gilligan and co shrugged it off to deliver an exhilarating conclusion to Breaking Bad. It's an experience: at once intense and methodical; explosive and calm. Questions are answered, characters are given moving goodbyes, and at the end of it all Walt dies, because of course he had to. But he does so not as a hero nor a villain, but a man whose purpose has been fulfilled, and whose story has now come full circle. It's touching, shocking, and ultimately, worth it.
2. The Leftovers - "The Book Of Nora"
For any Damon Lindelof doubters out there, The Leftovers was the series to prove them wrong. Across three seasons he and Tom Perrotta crafted what felt like watching the five stages of grief play out across 28 episodes of TV. So in The Leftovers' series finale, "The Book of Nora", we come to acceptance. What started out in grand mystery and unthinkable tragedy ultimately comes down to just two people - Kevin and Nora - finding their way back to each other, dancing, and listen to each other's story. It's about the power of belief, of human connection, and of love. The Leftovers' series finale, like Lost's, doesn't give many answers. Instead, it provides us with a beautiful, remarkably human and tender conclusion, and that's far more powerful.
1. The Americans - "START"
The Americans is one of the decade's greats, and it went out true to form with "START", an episode that was as much about new beginnings as it was endings. Capping off not just the brilliant season 6 but the entire run of the show, "START" delivers everything The Americans' fans could have wanted and never would've predicted. The long-awaited showdown between the Jennings' and Stan is better than anyone could've hoped for, and handled in a surprisingly quiet, moving fashion. Likewise the big twist with Paige. The episode is constantly building and surprising; there are moments that will cause your heart to race and others to make it ache. As Philip and Elizabeth arrive back into Russia that is both home and yet oddly foreign to them, it's a melancholy ending that suggests no easy path forward, but they'll manage because they have each other. With "START", The Americans ends exactly where it needs to; it's powerful, poetic, and, well, perfect.