Going back to watch older television is a fun endeavor.
Recently, I’ve been sucked back into Lost. You can argue
about the series finale of Lost until you’re blue in the face, but the truth is
– Lost had some of the best season finales in history.
What am I talking about?
A lot of shows have gone out with a whimper when their
series finales ultimately disappoint fans. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, had three of the
best season finales on record but that series finale was a travesty.
So, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of the best
season finales ever (series finales are not allowed).
So, what are they?
10. Gethsemane, The X-Files Season Four: The truth is out
there and in the final episode of season
four, Fox Mulder was grappling with
the certainty that he had been wrong, not right. All those aliens he’d been
chasing? Well, it looked like the real government conspiracy was faking these
alien altercations. Mulder didn’t handle the revelation well, and while Scully
struggled to protect him from afar Mulder continued to chase the truth and it
looked like that truth would end with Mulder’s death. Sure, fans know that
Mulder didn’t really die – but those moments where he questioned himself on his
life’s work were both powerful and terrifying.
9. The Reichenbach Fall, Sherlock Season Two: It’s probably
not fair to include Sherlock here – especially since each season is only three
episodes – but The Reichenbach Fall is so phenomenal it would be criminal to
leave it off the list. As Sherlock finally comes face to face with Moriarty, he
realizes that he doesn’t have a choice but to kill himself – in spectacular
fashion – if he wants to protect his friends. With John Watson watching from
the ground, Sherlock appears to step from a building and fall to his death –
his friend looking on in horror and grief. Sure, as Watson visits Sherlock’s
grave several weeks later, fans are shown that Sherlock somehow survived his
fall. Still, though, the moments leading up to that revelation – including Moriarty
being deranged enough to shoot himself in the head just so he could "win" – are so terrific that fans
of the series are still chattering about it.
8. The Telling, Alias Season Two: I’m not going to lie,
Alias was up and down. Each season had
dizzying highs and terrifying lows. The
pinnacle for Alias
, though, came at the end of the second season. The Alias
crew was never happy for long but it looked like Sydney and Vaughn were at
least going to get a few minutes of happiness when things completely fell apart. The second season saw the end of
SD6, the disappearance of Sloan and the murder of Sydney’s roommate Francie.
While I never got the appeal of Francie, once they “doubled” her and placed a
spy in Sydney’s own home, the show really picked up some momentum. In the
season two finale, Sydney finds out that she’s the woman at the heart of the
Rambaldi prophecy (and then watches her mother jump off the top of a building)
and then goes home and realizes that Francie is not really Francie. After a
bloody battle – one that appears to end with Sydney shooting (and killing) the
Francie double before passing out – we flash to Sydney waking up on a Hong Kong
street. She has no memory of how or why she’s there. When Vaughn comes to pick
Sydney up, we find out a terrible truth: She’s been missing for two years. And,
oh yeah, Vaughn is married. What a punch in the gut that was.
7. The Best of Both Worlds, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season Three: The first two seasons of the Star Trek spinoff weren’t great.
Somewhere in season three, though, the show finally hit its stride. The season
three finale found the Enterprise crew grappling with emotional and physical
hardships. Riker found himself questioning his place on the Enterprise – while everyone
else was just trying to survive. Once the Borg kidnap Picard, though, and turned
him into a Borg things get really ugly. Riker has to take over as captain –
something he doesn’t want to do – and fans are left wondering if Picard is
truly lost. In the final moments of the season finale, Riker orders his
shipmates to do the impossible: Fire on the Borg ship to destroy it – also destroying
Picard at the same time. It’s a chilling order and fans were left with the
summer to wait for the outcome.
6. Na Triobloidi, Sons of Anarchy Season Two: Translated
into “The Troubles” (from Irish), Na
Triobloidi was a turning point in Sons of
Anarchy lore. We found out that SAMCRO was going to keep getting bloodier (and
that’s saying something) and that nothing was off limits. In season two, fans
still had hope that Jax and Tara would get their happily ever after (everyone
knows that’s not happening now), so just when it looked like Jax and Clay were
about to win the day, viewers were socked in the gut with a kidnapping. The
final scene, a beaten and despondent Jax falling to the ground and screaming at
the loss of his son, is one that sticks with fans of the series even today.
5. Abyssinia, Henry, MASH Season 3: MASH was one of those
rare shows that successfully managed to merge humor and drama – before it was
popular. At its heart, MASH was about a group of military misfits – and Henry
Blake was the head misfit. You can’t have a military show without some cast
turnover, so it was no surprise when Henry Blake was due to rotate out of Korea
and head back home. Fans thought Henry was getting a happy ending until Radar
interrupted the doctors in the middle of surgery to say that Henry’s plane had
gone down – and there were no survivors. The looks on the faces of every doctor
and nurse in that operating room were heartbreaking and, yet, in the great
tradition of television, they all continued to do their job. Henry Blake left a
legacy of fun on MASH that was never quite captured again.
4. Swan Song, Supernatural Season Five:
had a planned story arc for five seasons. And, the truth is, those five seasons
are magic. The seasons since have been a rough road – and yet Supernatural
going into its 10th
season next year. When it comes down to it,
greatest moment came in the angelic throwdown between
Michael (who had taken over Adam’s body) and Lucifer (who had taken over Sam’s
body). Even though he no longer had the strength to affect the outcome of the
fight, Dean refused to abandon Sam to his fate. So, he arrived on the
battlefield, received a bloody beating from Lucifer, and somehow managed to
help Sam get control of Lucifer long enough to plunge into hell – taking Michael
with him. Would it have been sad to see Sam go out that way? Yes, but it was a
heroic death. From the opening strains of Wayward Son
to the closing seconds of
a lost Dean finding his way to the only place he had left to call home, the
entire episode was perfection – even when we caught sight of a very much alive
Sam watching Dean from afar in the closing seconds.
3. A House Divided, Dallas Season Three: Who shot JR? That
was the biggest moment in television history for a very long time. Sure, the
answer to the question was kind of a letdown, but watching the soap’s titular
hero take one in the chest and drop down to what should have been certain death
was a jarring moment for Dallas fans. Larry Hagman’s JR is one of those
television characters that transcends the genre. Just last year, Hagman
succumbed to cancer and JR – this time on the reboot – was finally killed off
for real. While the reboot did a terrific job with Hagman’s send off, nothing
will ever really topple JR’s gasp and chest clasp and viewers were forced to
sit through several long months of doubt (remember, television reporting wasn’t
as prevalent back in the day) about whether or not JR would survive.
2. The Gift, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Five: This is
another show that could have had
multiple entries. See the honorable mentions
for another one, in fact. Picking the best finale of Buffy, though, is
difficult. In the end, you have to go with Buffy’s sacrificial dive into a
glowing chasm to save Dawn’s life. This really should have been the series
finale, especially given how poor the final two seasons of the show were. As an
ending, though, The Gift
offered fans a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is,
slayers never live long – and we had five seasons with Buffy. Slayers almost
always got killed by vampires, but by sacrificing herself for Dawn – Buffy was
choosing when and how she was going out. Her speech to Dawn played over her
swan dive into death, which was truly a magical sequence. Watching Willow,
Giles and Spike react to her broken body at the bottom of the abyss left
viewers in tears. But it was Buffy’s final words that gave fans hope: “Be
brave, live, for me.”
1. Through the Looking Glass, Lost Season Three: Two Lost
season finales really could have made this list. The season five ender, The
Incident, could have also made the list but I wanted to limit the top ten so
one show couldn’t take more than one spot. Through the Looking Glass was a
game-changer for Lost fans. Not only did we have a mysterious figure parachute
onto the island, but we also had Charlie swim out to the Looking Glass station
with the express purpose of dying. The writers gave us a small reprieve there
at the end where there was a chance that Charlie would survive after all. But
then they threw a bucket of cold water on us (literally) and let Charlie die –
but not before he managed to convey the terrifying message that the boat that
had made it to the island was not Penny’s boat and that the castaways were in
mortal danger. Again. One of Lost’s strengths has always been the score and
that haunting score as Charlie drowned sticks with viewers. When you couple
that sad death with the shocking realization that the Jack we’ve been seeing –
presumably in flashback – is really a flash-forward after he (and at least some
of the other castaways) have escaped from the island. “We have to go back!”
That’s great television folks.
Honorable mentions go to:
The Incident, Lost Season Five: While season three’s finale
was the saddest, season five’s finale of
had an emotional wallop, too.
Between Juliet’s death and Jack’s certainty that, if they just blew everything
up, time would reset itself. We all know that didn’t happen, but Sawyer and
Juliet’s heartbreaking goodbye as he tried to save her from falling to her
death is one of those indelible Lost
moments that will stick with you forever.
The Getaway, Dexter Season Four: Rooting for a serial killer
is hard. Still, fans managed to do just that with Dexter. That’s why, at the
end of season four, when Dexter returned home to find his infant son playing in
the blood of his dead mother, fans knew that things were about to change.
Becoming, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Two: Was there
ever a more tragic television moment than Buffy shoving a sword through a
suddenly reensouled Angel’s heart? The lovebirds were reunited for thirty
seconds before Buffy had to make a choice and save the world. Sure, Angel
returned next season (dropping from the ceiling naked), but the couple was
never the same.
Death And All His Friends, Grey’s Anatomy Season Six: This
show hasn’t been relevant for years, but there was a brief resurgence in the
season six finale when a hospital shooter wiped out most of the Mercy West
people and rejuvenated the series. It only lasted one episode, though.
The One With Monica and Chandler’s Wedding, Friends Season
Seven: A wedding and a surprise pregnancy? Friends knew how to keep fans
Bloody Harlan, Justified Season Two: There’s nothing better
than watching Raylan win. This time,
though, Raylan is saved by Art and then has
to go and save Loretta (from herself) before watching Mags drop dead of poison.
It really was Justified’s finest moment.
How to Stop An Exploding Man, Heroes Season One: This is
a show that had one good season and then fell into total chaos and crap.
Still, that first season is so well done and the finale is so grand and
fulfilling, that I often look back on Heroes with a certain fondness that it
probably doesn’t deserve. As Peter takes on Sylar, Claire struggles with having
to shoot her beloved uncle to save everyone and Nathan arrives in time to save
the day – the entire thing is just masterful. “You saved the cheerleader so we
could save the world.” The show really should have used the first season arc
for its entire run.
What do you think? What are the best season finales of all