Endings are hard, especially on TV. The anticipation of a TV series finale is an event that almost every fan approaches with a combination of trepidation and excitement. A series finale not only represents the end of your favorite show, but it can also completely ruin everything that preceded it with an awful, abrupt or otherwise rushed conclusion. The sad fact is that many TV shows don’t stick the landing. There are a few finales, however, that are unjustly hated by most fans.
Every series finale on this list isn’t perfect. There are some undeniable problems with a few of these infamous TV series closing chapters. However, the hate is not unjustified-- it just might be a little misguided or off base. Every finale that is gathered on this list is redeemable in some way, no matter if it’s big or small.
These aren’t flawless episodes of TV but they’re far better than the popular opinion of them would imply. Some of them might bungle the very last scene or keep annoying plot thread left hanging forever, but overall these series finales manage to satisfyingly wrap up their respective shows.
Here are 15 HATED TV Series Finales That Were Actually Amazing.
Dexter does get off very easily in his series finale. While the final Dexter episode toyed with the idea of the eponymous killer finally being caught and even teased that he might die, eventually Dexter escaped … to become a literal lumberjack in some nondescript rural area.
The ending of Dexter, described in those basic terms, is bizarre, considering how the series first began as a moody, gritty show about a “good” serial killer. The truth is that after the season 4 finale, Dexter became a very different series. Dexter stopped being presented as a very dark anti-hero and really became more of a superhero than anything else.
By the end of Dexter, the character was more of a Batman or Punisher-type figure than anything based in reality. With this in mind, the series finale feels like the rather perfect end to the character and series. Plus, as many jokes can be made about Lumberjack Dexter, it’s not exactly a happily ever after for him. He is punished, even if it's an unconventional way.
Superhero fans love seeing their favorite spandex heroes in their famous costumed outfits. Therefore, it was a hugely controversial move when Smallville ended the series by never showing Clark Kent in his iconic Superman duds. The series ends with Clark running up, up and away, ripping open his shirt to reveal the popular “S” but never showing Superman in all his glory.
Of course, there are other reasons that fans were annoyed with the Smallville series finale, beyond the teasing final shot. While the gripes are reasonable, Smallville and its series finale are a perfect encapsulation of the time it was created. The show was never really about Superman, it was about Clark Kent. Nowadays that would be unacceptable, especially on The CW, but Smallville feels right for its time.
While Smallville had its up and downs, ultimately the series (and finale) nailed the character of Clark Kent. The show might never had shown Clark in his Superman glory but the series finale proved that Welling’s iteration of the character was among the best of Supes' live-action interpretations.
13 How I Met Your Mother
The final moments of the How I Met Your Mother finale are a gigantic and weird disappointment. Robin and Ted ending up together comes about far too quickly and doesn’t mesh with the rest of the series. However, a series finale should be judged on more than its very final moments. How I Met Your Mother doesn’t stick the landing but everything that precedes it was well worth the wait.
After a lot of build-up-- way too much, actually-- Ted and the mother (Tracy) finally meet in the finale and the chemistry between them is perfect. Cristin Milioti had a ton of expectation on her as Ted’s future wife and she absolutely nailed it. Even seeing Tracy grow sick and die is full of a surprising amount of emotion and heart.
Ted doesn’t belong with Robin but the HIMYM series finale got the most important part right, Ted and the mother were wonderful.
12 Mad Men
The quality of Mad Men’s final season has been debated nearly as much as its final episode. Mad Men’s final year isn’t the best season of the show but no matter how mixed the initial reception was, the series finale does bring it altogether.
There’s a lot of unconventional elements to the Mad Men series finale. Don is alone for almost the entire episode. His only interaction with Peggy takes place over the phone and there’s not even an appearance by an incredibly important character like Betty. For all that, though, the series finale is the right ending for Mad Men.
The show was about Don Draper and the series finale brings Don's story to a close. Don finally accepts himself, on some level. Even if it is left ambiguous if Don came up with the famous “Buy the World a Coke” ad, it’s an emotionally satisfying ending to one of TV’s most messy and emotional characters.
11 Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise is not the best iteration of the Star Trek franchise. This is not a controversial opinion. To say the absolutely hated finale has redeeming elements certainly does qualify as an outlandish point of view. Nevertheless, the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise is far from perfect but it's not as bad as people claim.
The biggest criticism of the finale, that is framed as a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, is actually one of the finale’s strengths. It gives a feeling of unification to the universe. This has always been an element of Star Trek but rarely been drawn that clearly, with maybe the exception of the Next Generation episode that included original series characters.
It clearly wasn’t intended to be the finale, as Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled “prematurely.” However, there is something historical and at least ambitious about the finale. It feels unfinished in some parts but history isn't always that clean and Enterprise was always approached as "historical" series.
The popular opinion about the Seinfeld finale is that it sees the main characters receive an ultimate fate that is far too harsh for their actions. Seinfeld ends with the (admittedly terrible) quartet being locked up for all their many instances of selfishness and literal crimes. It’s dark finale for a show that wasn’t exactly morbid to begin with, but there is something rather perfect about it.
While they’ve been outdone in recent years with the likes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, You’re the Worst an even Julia Louis Dreyfus’ own Veep, the cast of Seinfeld are some horrible people. Like many modern sitcom characters, Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer are very funny but very awful human beings.
The fact that they get locked up in the finale is harsh but it’s also unexpected and clever. It’s weird but as a joke it works. It’s not as if the four didn’t deserve it in some form too. It's shocking and quirky but so was Seinfeld.
9 Quantum Leap
Quantum Leap was an incredibly optimistic and hopeful show. The finale of Quantum Leap is decidedly bittersweet and maybe even downright depressing. After helping others get their happy endings across time, it is revealed-- in on-screen captions no less-- that hero Sam Beckett never returns home to his own family. He is stuck leaping through time forever.
It is a downer note to end the series on and it wasn’t the “intended” ending. Yet, there’s still plenty to love about the final episode of Quantum Leap. The show, at its end, is still full of the same heart and joy as the rest of the series. Scott Bakula perfectly embodies Sam’s wholesome attitude to the very end.
Even if Sam’s fate is left an (ominous) mystery it does make more sense for the character. Sam feels more at "home" out there leaping through time than living any type of domestic life.
The final season of Scrubs angered a lot of fans as it threw out most of the major cast in favor of completely new doctors and interns. It’s because of this cast switch-up that the official final episode of the show involves almost none of the series' beloved characters from the previous eight seasons, besides Donald Faison’s Turk and John C. McGinley’s Dr. Cox.
Yet, the final season of Scrubs (and its last ever episode) are a ton of fun, even if it does feel like a completely different show. Scrubs (and network ABC) made a mistake in branding the final year as another season and not a spin-off. However, there’s nothing wrong with the quality of Scrubs at its end.
It’s different but change isn’t always bad, especially on TV, when a surprising change-up in the cast or plot can lead to unexpectedly excellent results. Scrubs season 9 might not be the same old show, but it's still a good one.
7 The Office
It’s no secret that, once Steve Carrell left the series, The Office went downhill. Without Michael Scott, The Office wasn’t just a fundamentally different show, but also a worse one. However, despite the fact that the final two seasons stumble, a series finale was delivered that managed to tie everything up into one nice little bow.
The Office series finale is light on laughs and it might deal with the events of season 8 and 9 more than most viewers had wanted, but it still manages to be heartwarming and clever. It even brought Steve Carrell back into the fold for one final stint as Michael Scott that brought the series full circle.
As Michael explained during the finale, “I feel like all my kids grew up, and then they married each other. It's every parent's dream.” It's the perfect, weird quote to sum up the series.
Chuck might’ve had the trappings of spy comedy but ultimately it was a show about a romance. Chuck was always about telling the love story of its titular character with his spy handler and eventual wife, Sarah Walker. Therefore, it came as a bit of shock in the series finale where Sarah’s memories of the previous five seasons were wiped and she forgot all about Chuck and their love.
The ending of Chuck is undeniably bittersweet but with an optimistic view, the right view, things lean more to the sweet side. Sarah does lose her memories but that also allows Chuck, the character and the show, to have the retell their love story from the start. The end parallels the beginning in a lovely symmetry.
The series ends with the state of Sarah’s memories still in doubt. Yet, importantly, in the show’s final moments Sarah does ask Chuck to kiss her, implying that, no matter what happens, she’ll always find her way back to him.
5 The Sopranos
The ending of The Sopranos hit the TV landscape like a train, or more accurately a gunshot from a rival mobster. The Sopranos infamously ending on a sudden cut to black was outraging for many. It’s understandable as cliffhangers are almost always controversial, especially for a series finale.
As much as The Sopranos seems like an abrupt ending to a beloved and well-crafted series, it’s not. There are enough clues hidden through The Sopranos that the ending makes perfect sense. It's not a cliffhanger, it's perfectly explained. Whether Tony dies during the sudden cut to black or not, it’s obvious that this is the way his story was always going to end.
Tony Soprano was never a type of character that was going to go out quietly, his end was always going to be sharp and sudden. This is the brilliance of The Sopranos finale as it truly forced people to think about its main character and the life he led.
On a very similar vein there’s the series finale to Angel. While unlike The Sopranos, Angel’s final season wasn’t designed as the final season it still comes to roughly the same end. Angel and his (remaining) crew are about to go into a huge battle before the scene (and series) abruptly cuts to black.
It’s another seeming cliffhanger ... that is anything but. The fate of Angel and friends is left unconfirmed but it’s heavily implied that this is their final battle. They're going out in one final blaze of glory. Whether Angel and the gang dies in this battle or another, though, they will always go out swinging.
Throughout its five seasons, Angel made David Boreananz’s steamy love interest on Buffy the Vampire Slayer into a fully-fledged hero. Angel became someone who never stops fighting evil and that is what the series finale represents to a tee.
3 Battlestar Galactica
The harshest critics of Battlestar Galactica’s series finale claim that it took all the multi-layered and interesting questions posed by the series and offered the simple answer of “God did it.” While that critique isn’t entirely off-base, it is unfair. Religion and faith were always a part of the show, so naturally they factored it into the series finale.
As much as Battlestar Galactica left many plot threads hanging, the series finale still delivered an emotionally resonant finale for every character.It’s true that Starbuck’s “resurrection” is never fully explained and he cylon’s “plan” never comes to fruition but none of these things really matter. The answers that the Battlestar series finale lacks is more than made up for in satisfying character conclusions and moments. Few scenes are more emotional than Laura Roslin's end.
After a long struggle, the joint forces of humanity and cylon finally arrive home on Earth, and even though the explanation of how they get there is very weird and vague, it’s perfectly Battlestar.
As much as Battlestar gets taken to task for leaving viewers hanging, the outrage over the Lost finale is tenfold. Lost does have a metric ton of unanswered questions and plot holes but anyone who was truly watching Lost for the mysteries was probably watching the show for the wrong reasons. Lost was always about the human element of the story, not the supernatural one.
Lost doesn’t tie everything up, but it does satisfy the emotional arcs of every character. Lost was an ambitious show with an even more ambitious finale. It didn’t get everything right but the successes outnumber the failures.
The most infuriating reaction to the finale though is from those viewers who think the series finale confirmed that it was all a “dream” and everyone was dead the entire time. While there is a purgatory twist in the series finale, it’s also firmly established that every weird and wonderful event of the series happened and was important, even if they’re not all explained.
1 St. Elsewhere
St. Elsewhere might not be the first TV series to end on an unbelievable and head-scratching twist. It is, however, one of the most iconic examples. In the final episode it was revealed that the quirky but otherwise straight-ahead hospital drama wasn’t taking place in any type of reality. Rather, the entire series was from the imagination of an autistic child, Tommy Westphall, who had been staring at a snow globe of the medical building.
St. Elsewhere is the ultimate example of the dreaded “it was all a dream” finale. At first take, the entire series taking place in Tommy’s mind does seem like a slap in the face to the audience. However, the idea of the St. Elsewhere finale is so very bonkers that it crossed the line from disappointing to oddly brilliant.
It’s weird but it’s audaciously weird and incredibly creative. It's not something to be imitated but the uniqueness of the finale has to be praised.
What's your favorite hated series finale? Which finales would you add to this list? Sound off in the comments!