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Which Series Had The Best Ending?

Last week, I asked which season finale has excited you most, but following a week that’s seen the series finales for Lost, Law & Order, 24 and FlashForward, I’m thinking bigger. Which show’s final episode made the biggest impact on you?

I’m not just thinking about this year, either (in part because, really, that’s slim pickings – I was deeply unimpressed by the FlashForward finale); I’m talking any of the Star Treks, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica on top of the shows that ended this season. Which finale not only didn’t disappoint, but made you feel even better about the series as a whole?

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  • Kevin

    Of the listed shows, Battlestar, without a doubt.

    Of all time? The Prisoner. Moore's BSG and Lost would have both been non-existent without Patrick McGoohan's masterwork of lunacy.

  • emmapants

    This year? Ashes to Ashes, man. Hands down.

  • Mr. M

    The best series finale is still Newhart.

    The Quantum Leap series finale made me tear up a little, and I liked the last 15 minutes or so of the Miami Vice finale. Law & Order got absolutely screwed by not getting the opportunity for a series finale, and I hope when The Simpsons goes off the air (if ever), they get to do one. Arrested Development's was ok but seemed kind of rushed

  • dave

    i liked the 'six feet under' finale!

  • Ben

    Damn, those are some good finales. Of the list, I picked Next Generation… loved the Q ending. But Lost was no slouch either. MASH of course was epic. ST. Elsewhere's was a little lame, but memorable. You forgot Newhart though, and Justice League Unlimited which was a very epic ending for a cartoon. Boston Legal had a great ending as well. Might throw out West Wing's ending as a suitably notable one…. there's just too many to name.

  • JayE

    The Shield.

  • Chris McAree

    Dang, I was hoping the Sopranos would be on the list. I loved the fact that, to paraphrase Muhammed Ali, it didn't have to be what you wanted it to be. (Possible SPOILERS) Maybe everything got wrapped up and Tony got a bullet in the head, maybe nothing happened and they just carried on, or maybe, just maybe, it was David Chase's way of saying that we, the viewers, were the ones getting the bullet in the head referenced by Fat Bobby earlier in the series, and that that, is all we get to see of the Soprano's world!

  • Dantecat

    The Fugitive. Boston Legal. But Newhart was the best.

  • Tom Fitzpatrick

    Put me down for the ending of Twin Peaks.
    And FlashForward.

    Both endings left me wanting more despite the fact that they were being cancelled.

  • tomdaylight

    The Wire, probably.

    I voted Lost, not to belittle 24 though – that had a great finale too, but it felt more like a season finale than a summation of the series as a whole. In fact it really felt like the story could have gone on from there.

    Buffy had a superb ending… but I can't really think of anything it did that Lost didn't (even to the point of half of it being set in an underground cavern). Lost still has the edge…

    Angel's ending was a brilliant mindbender that completely illustrated how they felt about the show being cut short – but they still pulled out all the stops in a proud fashion.

    Dollhouse had the best series finale – but it was Epitaph One rather than Epitaph Two…

    Lost really said something profound, not just about the Island, not just about the series, but about life itself. “Everyone dies sometime, kiddo.”

  • Cyrus

    yes finally angel is in second place!

  • Bill Reed

    Of the ones on the list, I'd have to say Angel, probably followed by MASH.

    I agree with Emmapants that this year's best was Ashes to Ashes, which made way more sense than it should have, and also beat the insufferable Lost to the punch.

  • Peter David

    For sitcom, “Newhart.” For one hour drama, “The Fugitive.”

    To this day I'm still disappointed by the end of MASH. We were told we'd see them go home; no, we saw them leave the camp. I wanted to see Hawkeye's dad, I wanted to see BJ hug his wife and daughter. “AfterMASH” just made it worse.

  • Lapidus

    agree with Kevin – The Prisoner (original of course) is best finale of all time. But on this list, I liked St. Elsewhere's ending for its audacity. The Lost finale was appropriate and well done. BSG was close but not quite there (that last Times Square sequence was rough).

  • Steely Dan

    “Slings & Arrows.” “The Biederbecke Affair.” The British version of “The Office.” Michael Palin's “Around the World in 80 Days.” “Tanner '88.”

    In my book, those shows all had the best endings. What they all had in common was that each series ran for only a limited number of episodes. The problem with most American television is that it goes on for too long, often well past its natural expiration date.

    If “Justice League” had ended with the “Epilogue” episode, it would have been brilliant. It didn't and went on one season too long in my opinion.

    If “Moonlighting” had ended with the episode where Dave and Maddie finally get together, that would have been a great ending. But not only was that not the end of the series, it wasn't even the last episode of its season.

    I really wish more TV series were built around a finite story idea. When the story is over, the series is over. If there are more stories to tell, then do a sequel series.

  • Jay

    Did anyone but me see the Finale for “Life on Mars” (the British version). Sam, after recovering from his coma, elects to jump off a building to go back to help the people he left in danger when he “woke up”. It was a brilliant and totally unexpected ending.

  • demoncat

    though Mash would win given that its ending is still talked about and compared to all others not matching its viewers.

  • TS

    I thought the LOST finale was amazing. I know some people were disappointed with some of the answers that were given and more disappointed that other mysteries were left unanswered or open ended, but I thought the writers did a beautiful job of tying up the characters and leaving enough ambiguity for LOST fans to do what they do best: Speculate. There have been a lot of standout shows over the years, and while I won't say LOST was my favorite show ever, it made an impact like no other I've seen.

  • tomdaylight

    Exactly. An explain-it-all show would have killed it in terms of rewatch value. Indeed that's part of the problem, deep down, with the BSG ending…

  • epg

    No Babylon 5? Really?

  • claude

    Nitpickers be damned, Lost gets my vote just because I don't think any episode of any television show has had that kind of emotional impact on me. finale-wise I'd have to say Buffy and Angel would be next best on that list but I can't say in which order. However anyone who says that Enterprise's finale was their favorite is clearly insane.

  • MacG

    How is Newhart not on the list? The finale (spoilers) showed that the entire series was a dream from Bob Newhart on the Bob Newhart show. That's the best ending for a show I have ever seen.

  • Kevin Barry

    The Shield.
    Without a doubt it was the best series of the decade – with a pitch perfect ending.

  • Bill Reed

    Sure, but does anyone remember what happened in the episode before that bit? No.

  • John J

    Newhart, for sheer off the wall zaniness.
    The Fugitive, for being the first long running drama to want to give the loyal viewers closure. I know, I was one of them. William Conrad's final vo was the best.
    Recently? Scrubs, ruined by the reboot/ failure.

  • Joshua

    For me it was a toss up between Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I chose Angel, simply because the losses in Angel seemed more heartbreaking. On Buffy only 1 main cast member (Anya) REALLY died. (Fans know what i'm talking about), where as in Angel we (in a way, lost 3 main cast members (Wesley, Fred was an illusion for Wesley and Lorne had lost what made him different with his attitude towards life) Plus Gunn was injured at the end of the series really badly. Harmony betrayed the team, and it ultimately left Angel, Spike, Illyria and injured Gunn to face the Apocalypse.


  • Anthony

    I have always found “All Good Things” to be a very very satisfactory ending. Frankly the movies never lived up to the promise of that finale.

  • TNG

    Star Trek: TNG- a finale so good Lost ripped it off for The Constant

  • Marvin

    Twin Peaks.

  • Mr. M

    I disagree with you on that one, Bill Reed. I know I remember, and I'm sure many many many viewers do too.

  • RJBowman

    Newhart had the best finale, and it didn't even make the list.

  • Darkowl

    The Shield indeed. I was wondering why it did not make the listing, the ending was picture perfect. Vic got everything he wanted and lost everything he had, perfect.

  • s1rude

    I voted for Angel – I'm not sure if it's the best or even a necessary characteristic for a finale, but it's the only one whose ending caused me to jump up in a true “F#@% YEAH” moment. Considering it came on the heels of Wesley's last act (which hit me Hard, as he is my favorite Buffy-verse character), that's saying something.

  • Darkstream

    David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS

  • Rob Tipton

    It's not on the list, but the original finale for Magnum P.I. was the best! I'm not talking about the final season 8 finale, but the original season 7 finale “Limbo.” Some folks don't know that the series was set to end with season seven, and in the finale episode, “Limbo,” Thomas Magnum dies after being in the coma for the duration of the episode. During the offseason, the powers-that-be at Universal, decided to go one more season, and the opener, “Limbo 2″, had Thomas come out of the coma. The season 7 “Limbo” was a great way to end the series, even though it was really sad. This is what great writing is supposed to do–evoke emotions. I really felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. We all want to see oour heroes live forever, but this was a fitting end, and people can not help feeling a deep, personal loss.

  • Daring D

    I think LOST had the greatest Series Finale Ever. However I feel The Sopranos should be on the poll. That was just…..genius

  • Daring D

    Also when Jerry gets wacked in front of Sil (Season 6 episode 14 Stage 5) Sil doesn't
    hear or notice Jerry had been shot.

  • Niel J.

    Arrested Development.

  • Mou

    In my opinion, the “Angel” series finale was the best of any series ever…or so I've thought since “Angel” ended. Now, “Lost” has come along and equalled it–and surpassed it in some ways.

  • Paul

    M*A*S*H*, by far. One of the greatest pieces of drama ever crafted for television.

    It's disappointing, if predictable, to see so many middling genre finales beating it in the poll.

  • paul

    Buffy still ranks the highest for me overall – but this year? I have to agree – Ashes to Ashes was awesome. When they put their minds to it, they produce some cracking TV – think The Prisoner ; Callan ; Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes ; Manhunt ; Minder….

  • Toby Kernan

    I think the 'Lost' ending everybody is praising was weak and disappointing. They gave us what many suspected all along, and made it all sappy and feel good, while leaving too many questions unanswered.

    M*A*S*H* ending was much, much better. So was Newhart. The St. Elsewhere was brilliant for that grand WTF moment. The Prisoner was also one of greatest ever. Battlestar was also the perfect ending to the series

    How can Seinfeld be there? That ending was terrible.

  • Steve

    Although I'm voting for “Lost”, which I thought was a very appropriate end, I'd actually go with “The Wonder Years” ending, for those who remember that show (and WHY is this incredible show STILL NOT on dvd? Grr…). Kevin running from home after quitting the job his dad gave him. The poker game with the adults. Kevin's jealousy over Winnie, their fighting, the night in the barn. The return home for the 4th of July. The final voiceover by adult Kevin explaining what happened to his siblings, parents, Winnie, and Paul. Classic.

  • rpriske

    FlashForward was a great season finale. However, because the quality of the show was not equalled by the ratings it was also a series finale… and there it fell short.

  • jonah

    dude, where's Fringe ?

  • Zach

    I might've voted Buffy, if it had ended in the fifth season

  • Captain Wham

    BBC's Life on Mars. Hands down the best series finale ever. I'm surprised it was left off the list.

  • Eric

    The Fugitive.

  • Dean

    Battlestar Galactica will be my best finale. Almost made me tear up and i was glued to my seat for the whole episode.

    Buffy was rather extreme. Entertaining but not satisfying.

    Many season finales came at the end of a declining slope of quality for the tv series. SG:Atlantis and SG1 are prime examples. If SG1 had stopped at the end of season 7 with what looked and felt like the most epic season (and potential series) finale, then it would have ranked.

    The X-Files and 24 are other examples of the above.

    Angel had an extremely abrupt finale for my liking as it was a rushed wrap resulting from a rushed (and misguided) cancellation.

    And I can't comment on Lost because i cannot watch it for another few months…..

  • Alex

    Six Feet Under is definitely the best. But from that list, Lost.

  • the real joe ben

    Of the above options, I voted for Star Trek the Next Generation, it's one season finale that I never get tired of watching. My favorite season finale of all time is Six Feet Under.

  • tomdaylight

    They answered the ultimate question: what happens when you die? Rarely do you get such a meaningful story shown on television.

  • /mjh.

    None of the above? Well, Buffy, but the actual ending, “The Gift”, the final episode from season five before UPN or whomever backed a dumptruck full of money up to Whedon's house.

    Both 24 and Lost were wholly predictable, though I'd take 24 by a wide margin. Lost was horribly manipulative and, as with the rest of the series, dangled carrots while explaining little (which is better than nothing; at least we more or less learn the casts “fate”, but as to the mechanics of the island, it's all pixie dust and moonbeams. Feh.) BSG was embarrassing with their deus ex machina ending. MASH, well, I'm well known as a Henry & Trapper fan, so that show really ended with Henry getting killed.

  • s1rude

    Word. Season 6 had some highlights, but “The Gift” was such a great finish for Buffy the character.

  • Sandra Weingolden

    None of the above, He-Man – original series.

  • Allen T

    What no Babylon 5?

  • Angelo

    Few things have ever brought tears to my eyes. My Granma dying. The first time my heart was ever broken. 9/11.

    Lost did just that. It wasn't a lot of tears. A couple of streams here and there. Watching Jin and Sun remember their lives and deaths on the island. Seeing Claire/Charlie and Sawyer/Juliette reunited. Watching Christian break the news to Jack that he was dead. And most of all, the passing of the torch from Jack to Hurley, combined with the last scene of Jack finally dying.

    Lost was the kind of show that comes around once in a generation. The kind of show that doesn't just throw itself at you, forcing you to accept it. Instead, it grabbed you by the hand, and brought you along for the journey it wanted to take.

    What a journey it was.

  • VanGoghX

    'Six Feet Under' did have an awesome finale. Following the characters all the way through was a stroke of genius.

  • VanGoghX

    Mine was ST:TNG as well. Excellent finale!

  • VanGoghX

    Fringe is coming back for a third season, that's why it's not on the list.

  • percane

    yes, the last 5 minutes completely destroyed the BSG finale. as if the times square sequence wasn't bad enough, youtube videos? really? you're going to end one of the most talked about series with cheap ass youtube videos?

    of the shows on that list, LOST was my fave

  • Jose Ulloa

    The best series finale would have been Scrubs had they been wise enough to leave it there at the end of Season 8.

  • paulski

    I agree completely, TS. The last few minutes of the Lost finale was some of the most beautiful television I've seen in my 40 years. And I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at the end.

  • Casey

    seriously? you thought it was good? I mean, don't get me wrong, one of my favorite series of all time, but also one of my least favorite finales of all time. Quite possibly the worst. It was terrible.

  • JD

    There are too many to list as I loved how the Shield, BSG (minus the Starbuck vanishing), Angel and numerous others ended. I did NOT like how Lost ended though (resolution of none of the mysteries and wasted time on an alternate timeline that was meaningless) and now wish I had stopped watching after the 2nd season. Oh well.

  • JD

    Yeah the Shield rocked. Vic is Vic no matter where he is!

  • JD

    Yeah, Angel had one of the best endings I've ever seen. Real resolution that was uncompromising and intelligent (unlike the recent Lost 'emotional' copout) and moving.

  • JD

    Quantum Leap did end well, forgot that one!

  • JD

    Anything but Lost! Worst copout blatant pandering emotional yet empty ending ever. No real resolution and I'm not a 'hater' as I WAS a fan who wanted just a few answers. And the alternate timeline being nothing relevant just smacks of lazy writing.

    Angel, The Shield, Quantum Leap, Sopranos, and Battlestar Galactica (and I did gripe about the Starbuck vanishing and the weird religious stuff, but still great ending with the final battle!) all infinitely better!

  • bob

    What about Cheers? You guys forgot about that one as well?

  • jpooch

    One of my favorite shows ever and I was really young when it first came out… can't imagine how awesome it was for people who lived during that time (Kevin is like the same exact age as my Dad so my dad always loved the show). The ending at the parade was really an awesome end to everything and wrapped up the stories of the characters perfectly. It really captured the essence of what the show was about.

    To answer your question about the dvd release… it hasn't happened because all of the music in it would be too hard to get rights for again. If they had to take out a lot of the music it would take away from what made the show so great, so if something doesn't get worked out I don't think they will ever release it

  • hardcpy

    yes so true, worst ending: 24

  • marcogo

    I would also add “Cheers” to this finale list…

  • Vishal Kotecha

    For me it's a tie between MASH and Quantum Leap simply because of the way they both moved me to tears. great acting, well written well paced and in the spirit of the shows as a whole. MASH was a historic ending.

    Honourabl mentions go to Star Trek:Tng(even though DS9 is my fav ST)

    Lost was very good but not profound as some put it.

  • Bry

    How was the alternate timeline “nothing relevant”? Unless “relevant” to you means something that relates only the island itself. For the characters and their journey(s), it was incredibly relevant, and important.

    I guess it comes down to what you're looking for as a view. I cared more about the characters than I did solving every last tiny island mystery. The major island arc was dealt with and the characters were given an emotionally-satisfying send-off, so I was completely satisfied.

  • Bry

    Echoing this one.

    In hindsight, “Scrubs” was a great show (at least in seasons 1-3) that just didn't know when to stop. The latter seasons got zanier and sillier, and too far removed from what made the show great to begin with, like the writers let the little fantasy sequences run amok and take over the entire show. And after the show rights itself in the eighth season and delivers an excellent finale… it came back for a mediocre, wholly forgettable ninth season.

  • Cpl_Otter


  • James Soward

    I still think that no one has surpassed MASH. But ANGEL, FRASIER, and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT have been my favorites since.

    LOST and 24's series enders were great and I enjoyed them a lot.

  • DoctorTom

    Babylon 5 should have been on the list; that would have been my choice. I also agree that the original Prisoner should have been on the list. Sapphire and Steel had a better ending than 90% of what was listed. Heck, if you don't count the Peacekeeper Wars and stick to the series proper (as the DVD sets want to), Farscape would have been a good one to have had on the list. For that matter, if you don't want to limit it to live action, then Cowboy Bebop should certainly be on the list as a serious contender.

  • William

    I went with Buffy. Lost was close though. I hated the Angel finale. Never understood what people saw in it.

  • Justin

    Twin Peaks, definitively, never heard anything but praise for the mind blowing, character altering, fully satisfying and deeply disturbing last episode. Those in the know know. Recommend the series for everyone, just make sure to watch the original version of the pilot first. Damn good coffee!

  • Chris B.

    I know it's not scifi, but Scrubs final episode in Season 8 (the original ending) was perfect. As for this list, LOST takes it as it was the only show I watched every episode of. Seinfeld's end was great, though.

  • Micheal

    Battlestar was the best ending IMO. It stuck with the overall theme of, “This has all happened before, and it will happen again.” Each character got to say their goodbye in a unique way. Even Boomer, who I had hated most of the series, gained redemption by the end.

    Lost was a close second for much of the same reasons. Each character had a good farewell to the show, gaining redemption by the end. And I liked the idea of an afterlife before an afterlife.

  • JD

    The relevance to the characters was their response to the island. They were there because of it and Jack even put it above his relationship with Kate so for him to end up with her in the afterlife is pointless in this regard. And Sayyid ends up with whatshername after all that happened with Nadia? Even the relationships make no sense! Walt went where? The resolution was simplistic and even the character development was pandering. The alternate timeline is a gimmick of no value to the plot either. Terrible ending for me, but he to each his/her own.

  • LucasT

    In no particular order my favorite finales would be:
    Seinfeld, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The X-Files, Friends, Dollhouse.
    Serenity was a great ending for Firefly, although it really came a few years after the series ended.

  • UnAbsoluTe

    Any of the Babylon 5 multiple finalies?

  • Mr. M

    If we're going the Firefly/Serenity route, the Homicide TV movie was a great ending to the series.

  • CrispyCritters

    LOST, BSG, Buffy, Angel? Shit, you people like some bad fucking TV. Dollhouse? Such bad television.

    MASH or The Wire. I'd throw Life on Mars in there too. That was great.

  • Daniel

    Without a doubt 24.

    It was a fantastic finale to the show, it maintained it's identity throughout, and even though this last season started out feeling a little slow or rehashed it ended up being fantastic, a really interesting story that showed us that what the character has been through has taken a huge toll on him.
    It was fantastic and it made me realize how much I'm gonna miss the show.

    By the same token, the lost finale was a complete disappointment for me, it felt cheap and it felt like throughout the series the writers used the 'mysteries' simply as a way to keep people watching without really having anywhere to go with them, the whole last season was, in my opinion a disaster, and it's a shame, because lost was such a fantastic show at one point, it was a 'smart' show that kept people guessing, made people do research, watch the episodes and analyze them, had the viewer looking for clues, and in this last season all of that seemed to go away: People claim that it was 'about the characters', but really, to me even that seemed to go away, character development felt like it came to a crawl. Too many unresolved plots, unused good characters, and pointless episodes and story arcs about characters people didn't care about.
    Did we really need ANOTHER episode about Kate running from the law in this last season?

    But anyway, 24's finale fantastic. Lost, not so much.

  • Amros Oronar

    Prison Break

  • Amros Oronar

    Prison Break

  • Bill

    What about the finale of Babylon 5? That would definitely get my vote as the best finale of all time.

  • Soul

    Personally I haven't got round to seeing the Lost final two series yet so I can't comment on them, as a teenager though my favorite TV show ending was Angel (that I have voted for) as I've always been able to remember Angel's last couple of lines as he swings his sword: “Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon….. Let's go to work.” Also it was the first TV show (other than Buffy) that I can remember actually feeling sad at the loss of a character Wesley's death was very emotional and as for the badly wounded Gunn it just made me feel sorry for the character, the fact that the team was crossed by Harmony was also a kick in the teeth, Lorne having to come to terms with getting his hands finally dirty. Aaah just love(d) that show.

  • Jones

    …'Six Feet Under'…

    Without a doubt the best ending to a tv show I've ever seen. I'm really surprised it didn't even get a look in as an option for your poll!