There’s no denying that series finales in general have a whole lot of pressure put on them. As the final episodes of a series, they can make or break the lasting impressions viewers have of the shows that they’ve committed a sizable amount of time to watching.
Sometimes, they leave viewers sentimental and satisfied, as with the case of Friends and a finale that left audiences everywhere gasping with joy when Rachel got off the plane. In other cases, the passionate fanbase is left eternally hanging, as in the case of The Sopranos‘ enigmatic final scene. Other times finales are just plain confusing and divisive, as with the head scratcher of a finale turned in by Lost.
However, in certain cases, series finales have grown all the more divisive, confusing, and upsetting due to one simple fact: the series were never meant to end that way.
Shows often air season finales loaded with dramatic reveals and frustrating cliffhangers, banking on the fact that they will be renewed to provide answers and closure. As we all know, though, not every show will get renewed, and more often than not, the shows that have over the top cliffhangers are the first to be canceled.
Here are the 15 Unintended Series Finales That Completely RUINED TV Shows.
Ever a cat and mouse story of twisted proportions from start to finish, there was no denying that NBC’s Hannibal would need to go out with a bang when it came to the sickening relationship between the titular cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Special Agent Will Graham.
While countless fans certainly hoped for Will’s gifted mind to overcome the evil tutelage of Lecter’s demented ways, the series decided instead to use its season three finale to show the two joining forces in murderous, blood soaked revelry, before plunging to their (possible) deaths in a Holmesian twist.
It’s that grisly twist of fate and disturbing image that the series ended on, as NBC canceled the low-rated series after three years. Bryan Fuller has expressed interest in returning to the franchise in the future, but sometimes, you really don’t need second helpings.
14. Twin Peaks
Simply put, there’s no denying that Twin Peaks isn’t exactly everyone’s damn fine cup of coffee. A zany ride from beginning to end, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s logic-bending, over the top cult hit series initially probed the mystery of the murder of Laura Palmer, but soon delved into other worldly supernatural events and beings.
Following central character Special Agent Dale Cooper, among a sea of quirky and irreverent small town weirdos, the series only grew weirder and weirder with time, before culminating in its second season finale with the reveal that Cooper had been overtaken by his own evil doppelganger.
Then, for 26 years at least, that was it. The final image viewers would be left with was a maniacally laughing, blood soaked Dale Cooper, at least until Showtime’s incredibly polarizing Twin Peaks: The Return aired in the summer of 2017.
When it first premiered on NBC in 2006, Heroes was truly unlike anything else on television. The series was a smash hit… at least until the writer’s strike would hit in season two. Although later seasons never matched the first season in quality, the series continued to follow the central Petrelli-Bennet family for its entire run, all the way down to its undoubtedly polarizing final moments.
From the pilot episode of the series, viewers knew that invincible girl Claire Bennet was commited to showing off her mind-blowing powers on film as much as she could. Yet no one could have foreseen the decision she made to go public on the national news with a death defying stunt, nor the fact that NBC decided to cancel the series after this shocking reveal.
An unsuccessful return to the franchise, Heroes Reborn, aired in 2015, but rather than deal with the immediate fallout, the series instead shifted into a dismal, disenfranchised future with almost wholly new and unfamiliar characters.
12. Veronica Mars
For three seasons, Veronica Mars followed the light noir adventures of father and daughter private eyes Keith and Veronica. Season three in particular found the series’ characters transitioning from the relative safety of high school to college, where the show tackled topics such as serial assault.
The season three (and series) finale left viewers on a few particularly unfortunate notes. Privileged bad boy Logan had just beaten up someone to protect Veronica’s honor, despite the fact that they were broken up. Veronica and co. uncovered a secret society on campus that exploited her. Keith was up for election for the position of sheriff, but was accused of tampering with evidence.
However, before any of these plots could be resolved, the series faded to black with Veronica in the rain.
The Kickstarter-funded 2014 followup film provides some resolution: Keith is still a private eye, and Logan and Veronica patch things up. However, it took almost a decade to get anything remotely close to closure, and that would leave a sour taste in almost anyone’s mouth.
When it comes to unintended series finales, Jericho is truly in a class all of its own, as it suffered that same fate not once, but twice. After the post-apocalyptic show’s first season, CBS decided to pull the plug, not caring at all that the season finale ended with an all out civil war beginning between the civilians of Jericho and the insurgents from New Bern.
After an unbelievably passionate fan campaign, which involved fans bombarding the CBS offices with packages of nuts (in homage to the season’s final line), CBS brought the series back for a short second season.
Yet, no matter the furor that had been stirred up by the fans, Jericho would soon join the leagues of canceled series with unfortunate finales once again, this time with protagonist Jake Green and the mysterious Robert Hawkins traveling to Texas to test a nuclear bomb.
As a fringe cult series about vampires that had the unfortunate double whammy of airing during the writer’s strike season, and predating the revival of the vampire craze, Moonlight consistently turned in entertaining, yet procedural vampire camp content week after week.
With a steamy “will they, won’t they” vampire/human romance, a fresh, urbanized take on vampire culture, and a witty bromance with charm to spare, the series had the makings of a would be hit, had it only aired a few years later.
However, no matter how inspired some of its storytelling choices, or the passion of its small but vocal fanbase, Moonlight would be canceled by CBS after a shortened first season, and as a result would leave viewers everywhere to grapple with a twofold cliffhanger.
Central couple Mick and Beth had finally given into one another, after all the drama that had gotten in the way, but at the same time, the identity of every vampire in Los Angeles was about to be made public information. So… small yay, but not really yay at all.
9. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman
For four years, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman chronicled the relationship of one of the most iconic couples in the history of pop culture, with a modernized twist.
By the end of the fourth season, the back and forth dance the couple danced so well was all but over, as they had gotten married and seemed well on their way to being a perfect partnership for all ages to come.
Then, the fourth season finale ended with a surprise arrival: a baby on the couple’s doorstep, just waiting to be taken in.
Despite initial plans for a fifth season, nothing ever materialized, leaving fans of the series everywhere to puzzle over what the series’ final twist could possibly mean for the crime-fighting couple’s future.
Yet another entry into the highly populated post-apocalyptic genre, the short-lived series Revolution followed the Matheson family as they navigated the world of 2027. In this version of reality, a debilitating global event in 2012 called The Blackout eliminated all electricity around the world.
The series spent a lot of time on confusing experiments with nanotechnology in this future, but in the unintended series finale, the hive mind mentality associated with the new form of technology rears its truly ugly head.
With power restored in Bradbury, Idaho, and influential people convinced that they have to travel there as soon as possible, a large horde of people walk toward the eerily lit clown sign.
In the 2016-2017 TV season, one of the shortest-lived series had one of the loudest fandoms in the social media sphere. FOX’s Pitch, a series that included a partnership with Major League Baseball, told the groundbreaking story of Ginny Baker, the first female player in the major leagues.
Fans of the show, known as Pitches, consistently had the series trending on every social media platform, with multiple campaigns undertaken to try and get the critically praised but ratings starved series a second season.
Ultimately, the campaigns proved to be unsuccessful, as FOX canceled the low-rated series after just one ten episode season. Also, unfortunately for Pitches everywhere, they were left on a few decidedly sour notes: the series’ ever reliable marriage between Blip and Evelyn was suddenly on the rocks.
For three years, HBO’s swear-filled, violence-laden old fashioned western drama Deadwood chronicled the formation of what would become Deadwood, South Dakota. The series incorporated countless real historical figures into its freely told fictional narrative, including Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok.
Since airing, Deadwood has been considered far and wide as one of the strongest dramas to air in the modern era of television. However, even the strongest series aren’t free from producing truly divisive finales, and in the years since it ended, the discussions around the tasteless display of the final episode and final scene has been never ending.
In the finale, the foul-mouthed Al Swearengen is forced to kill one of his own prostitutes in cold blood to selfishly protect the woman he loves. Also, as the series ends, he’s left to clean up the overwhelmingly bloody mess he’s made.
5. Pushing Daisies
Much like many shows already discussed on this list, the quirky series Pushing Daisies is one that had its narrative affected in large part due to the writer’s strike season of television.
Its first season, originally meant to consist of a standard 22 episodes, was cut short to nine episodes due to the sudden strike in the 2007-2008 season. Also, its second season, likewise hoping for a full 22 episodes, was unfortunate canceled after the completion of 13 episodes.
In the final scenes of what would turn out to be the series finale, resident sweetheart Chuck reunited with the family who had believed her to be dead, lovable grump and private eye Emerson Cod is surprised by the return of his daughter, and waitress Olive Snook embarks on a romance with an unlikely partner.
All the while, the touch-defying romance between Ned the Piemaker and Chuck is left permanently hanging in the balance, one of many frustratingly open-ended threads not even the series’ cheeriest narrations could close.
From 1986-1990, ALF followed the zany antics of the extraterrestrial, cat-eating Gordon Shumway, also known as ALF (Alien Life Form), and the human Tanner family.
Consistently a ratings hit, the sitcom fit perfectly into the warm and fuzzy family-oriented sitcoms vibe of the 1980s, while leaning on the familiar and successful fish out of water tropes and the growing interest in science fiction.
Much of the series was decidedly light-hearted, with many episodes consisting of ALF trying to get into some trouble with Brian or Willie, or trying to eat the family cat, Lucky. However, the series took a shockingly dark turn in its unintentional series finale, as the fourth season ended with ALF being apprehended by military officials and a “To Be Continued…” message appearing onscreen.
A fifth season had been planned, but NBC ultimately decided against renewing the series. Six years later, however, rival network ABC would air the TV movie Project ALF, in order to provide closure for the shocking twist the series had unfortunately ended on.
3. Night Court
It’s not uncommon for other series and films to comment on the failings of past series. You don’t need to look any further than the infamous Fonzie jumps the shark episode of Happy Days to see how one bad writing decision can lead to a communal critique that becomes immortalized in the cultural consciousness.
Sure, maybe Night Court‘s inadvertent series finale isn’t a gaffe on the same level of Happy Days, but that didn’t stop 30 Rock from devoting half of an episode, “The One with the Cast of Night Court”, to fixing the wrongs omitted by the series’ last episode.
After negotiations with the cast to move to a syndicated format broke down, Night Court was canceled following its ninth season. As a result of this, certain storylines, such as the back and forth between Judge Harry Stone and Christine Sullivan, were left unsatisfactorily resolved.
2. Mork & Mindy
For four years, Mork & Mindy offered a showcase of the brilliant comedic talent possessed by a young Robin Williams. His endearing childish charm and unflappable comedic energy carried the series to great success in its early seasons, as did the ever reliable formula of the fish out of water forced to grow accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings.
The more settled Mork became on Earth, however, the more formulaic and less zany the show became. For its final season, the series introduced Mork and Mindy’s child, portrayed by the older comedian, Jonathan Winters, as Orkans apparently aged backwards.
In addition to this odd bit, the fourth season ended on a truly shocking note, as the couple fled into the past to escape a villain set on killing them, only to realize they have no way to return as easily as they had left.
The final image of the three part series finale featured Mork and Mindy as a cave painting. A fifth season had been conceived of by the writers, but ABC canceled it after the fourth season’s jarring end nonetheless.
1. Quantum Leap
For five seasons, the cult hit series Quantum Leap blended science fiction with just the right amount of heart, humor, and historical fiction. Following the adventures of Scott Bakula’s time traveling Dr. Sam Beckett, each episode chronicled Sam’s travels through time and space, during which he would “leap” into another person’s shoes and interfere with history in the way that every time traveler inevitably does.
In the fifth season finale, however, Sam does things a little differently, as he leaps back in time as himself and no one else. He encounters people who seem to be fellow leapers and is presented with the option of returning home or going on to spend the rest of his days leaping through history. As a particularly bittersweet epilogue reveals, Sam chooses to continue leaping, never returning home again.
The episode was never meant to be a series finale, but a season finale; yet due to the sudden cancellation of the show, the bittersweet ending was added to give it a sense of finality.
What unintended series finales totally ruined shows for you? Let us know in the comments!
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