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The final episode of The Sopranos is one of the best finales ever.
The final episode of The Sopranos is one of the best finales ever.
HBO

Stream 19 of the best TV series finales ever

Some people only like the endings of things. They skip to the last page of the book. They beg their friends to tell them the movie's biggest twist. And when a new show pops up on Netflix, maybe they start with the series finale, just to see how it all turns out.

There's no shame in this. Plenty of people are going to watch the next big series finale, that of Mad Men on Sunday, May 17, having never seen another episode. And they might decide from there to go back and watch the show from the start. (They absolutely should.)

For all of those folks, as well as everybody who wants to relive some of the best TV endings of all time, here are 19 amazing series finales that you can stream right now. All of these were planned series finales. We left out accidental ones, which became series finales thanks to cancellation. What you're seeing is what the show's producers intended as their final message to fans.

1

30 Rock, "Hogcock!"/"Last Lunch"

30 Rock creator and star Tina Fey is a savvy student of the sitcom form, and she turned the final season of her backstage satire into a surprisingly heartwarming curtain call for her wickedly funny series. The two-part finale is a loving tribute to what made her characters so great, wrapping them (and the audience) in a giant hug and only letting go a second or two before it would become suffocating.

Available on: Netflix

2

Angel, "Not Fade Away"

It's rare for the best episode of a show to be its last one, but there's a real case to be made for the final hour of this vampire detective/lawyer series. (Yeah, he switched careers midway through. Go with it.) This Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff spent its final season examining the moral compromises necessary to work within the corporate world, and its final moments are an emphatic restatement of the show's main theme: the struggle never ends.

Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Netflix

3

Blackadder, "Goodbyeee"

Blackadder, a darkly comedic spin through British history that took place in a different time period in each of its four seasons, concluded its run with Blackadder Goes Forth, which sent the characters into the heart of World War I. Though some feared the series might trivialize the Great War, it instead made the losses sustained in the conflict all the more poignant, especially in this finale, which has a deeply devastating ending.

Available on: Hulu Plus

4

Cheers, "One for the Road"

No series finale celebration would be complete without an example of the gigantic, overstuffed sitcom finale, an episode type that became hugely popular in the 1980s and '90s. Of these episodes, the best is probably Cheers, which brings back Sam Malone's old paramour, Diane Chambers, before having him realize that his one true love is the bar in the show's title. It concludes with a late-night conversation among the series' regulars that attains its own kind of profundity.

Available on: Hulu Plus, Netflix

5

Everybody Loves Raymond, "The Finale"

Here's the exact opposite of Cheers's final hour. In the Raymond finale, the show seeks to let viewers know that life for its characters will go on, much as usual, even though we won't be there to look in on it. Ray has a health scare that provides the episode with a weightier feeling than usual, but other than that, this is a superbly executed example of a finale that wants nothing more than to provide a tiny grace note at the end of a long story.

Available on: Netflix

6

Friday Night Lights, "Always"

Never a show to back away from jerking tears, Friday Night Lights ended its run with an episode that embraced both the necessity of change and how wonderful it can be when things stay the same. Football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tammy (Connie Britton), face a huge decision in this episode, and since it's a finale, you know how it will turn out. But that's not the point. The point is how showrunner Jason Katims offers beautiful, quiet farewells to every character. The last five minutes are breathtaking television.

Available on: Netflix

7

Futurama, "Meanwhile"

True to its spirit, the animated sci-fi comedy Futurama left the air with an episode that turned a big science-fiction idea into 22 minutes of weird comedy. Protagonist Fry, a 20th-century man displaced in time, gains access to a button that allows the user to return to 10 seconds in the past, as well as one that guards from the previous button's effects. That the show turns all of this into a surprisingly romantic tribute to love and marriage is the episode's neatest trick.

Available on: Netflix

8

Life on Mars (UK), "Series 2, Episode 8"

A finale that's meant to explain everything that happens in a series is always a dangerous thing to attempt, but few have done it better than this British drama, about a 2000s cop who slips back in time to the 1970s after a traumatic injury. This brilliant, elliptical finale answers questions, but mostly without the kind of exposition that can make such things painful, and it has a jaw-dropping, audacious conclusion. Note: avoid the American remake's finale at all costs.

Available on: Hulu Plus

9

Lost, "The End"

Hugely controversial, this finale takes much the same approach as Life on Mars, only answering question in the abstract and spending more time on making sure its characters' journeys are wrapped up. Depending on where you land on those characters, it may take that decision much too far, but I love this finale wholeheartedly, and I love its gooey, openly sentimental conclusion, too. It's worth seeing, if only to see what so many people are so mad about.

Available on: Netflix

10

M.A.S.H., "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"

Believe it or not, there was a time when TV shows didn't much care about their final episodes. That began to change with the last installment of The Fugitive in 1967, followed by the endings of some of the great 1970s sitcoms, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And the floodgates opened with this massive, oversize ending for the Korean War dramedy M.A.S.H. Basically every trope of the sitcom finale is used (and, depending on your point of view, abused) here, and when it ends, there won't be a dry eye in the house.

Available on: Netflix

11

My Lovely Sam Soon, "Love Like You've Never Been Hurt"

As with British series, Korean "K-dramas" live set lifespans, ending within a certain number of episodes. That can sometimes result in series where the finale works overtime to make sure absolutely every single endpoint is wrapped up with a nice little bow. But that also might be just what you want, in which case we suggest the ending of this 2005 romantic drama, billed as a South Korean spin on Bridget Jones's Diary, set in the restaurant world. You know how this will end, but that's the appeal.

Available on: Hulu Plus

12

The Office (UK), "Christmas Special, Part 2"

When I interviewed him around the time his series Parks and Recreation ended, TV writer Michael Schur described this finale as "brutal" and said, "You were happy with the little tiny scraps of happiness that they slipped into it at the very last second." Indeed, the bleakness of this cringe comedy's finale is part of what's so brilliant about it. But there's a rich humanism running through it, as well, one that allows for the slightest of happy endings.

Available on: Hulu Plus, Netflix

13

Parks and Recreation, "One Last Ride"

Using time jumps, Greg Daniels and Schur's series fills in everything that happened to small-town government functionary Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her friends after they all slowly began to leave Pawnee, Indiana. It's the opposite of the Office finale, in that it gives all of these characters everything they ever could have wanted, but that's part of the fun of the episode, too. You like these characters well enough to want to see them attain happiness.

Available on: Hulu Plus

14

The Shield, "Family Meeting"

Shawn Ryan's glorious cop drama, which put FX on the map, ends with an episode as closure-filled and despairing as anything in American television. Bad cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) has destroyed almost everything he's touched, but little more than he's destroyed the life of his protégé-turned-enemy Shane (Walton Goggins). This Shakespearean ending sends the two characters spinning off into new orbits, surrounded at all times by horrible, unspeakable tragedy.

Available on: Hulu Plus

15

Six Feet Under, "Everyone's Waiting"

I am not the world's biggest Six Feet Under fan, but the power of this finale is undeniable. Where sitcom creators usually have to decide how much happiness to leave their characters with (and usually decide on "lots of happiness"), drama creators have to decide how much closure to bring to their stories. Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball took the idea of "lots of closure" to its logical conclusion, with an enormously powerful ending that will leave absolutely no questions as to what happens to anybody.

Available on: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

16

The Sopranos, "Made in America"

"Made in America" takes the opposite approach of "Everyone's Waiting." If that episode wanted to make sure viewers knew the ultimate fates of every single character, "Made in America" wants to leave you tense, uncertain. It's a brilliant gambit from series creator David Chase, and no matter how many times he explains what he was going for (including to us), it can't take away from the sudden, jarring power of this episode's final cut to black.

Available on: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

17

Spartacus, "Victory"

"Closure" doesn't get much more pronounced than one last battle to settle everything, and that's what this sterling Starz drama concludes with. The titular character leads his forces into battle against the Roman leader Crassus. Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight's script never lets the outcome of the battle seem certain, and director Rick Jacobson stages a truly epic struggle on a TV budget. Spartacus was always a little underrated in its three-season run. This finale will make you want to jump back to the beginning.

Available on: Netflix.

18

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "All Good Things..."

Next Generation's chief appeal was just how fun it was to hang out with its characters. By the middle of its run, it was a science fiction show about exploring the cosmos, sure, but it was also just as effective an ensemble workplace drama as anything in, say, the cop show genre. As such, the series didn't need an explosive ending but one, rather, that brought the characters to a proper ending point. "All Good Things..." is the rare drama finale that doesn't strain for a definitive conclusion but, instead, embraces the beauty of open-ended adventure.

Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Netflix

19

The Thick of It, "Series 4, Episode 7"

Some finales are such where you're primarily wanting to know what happens to one character. Such is the case with Armando Iannucci's scabrously funny satire of the British government, where all you want to know is whether the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) will dig himself out of trouble one last time or see his career finally destroyed. True to form, this series went out with the cynical certainty that government isn't so different from all other forms of human interaction: everyone for themselves. That it manages to be incredibly hilarious while imparting this idea is what makes it all work so very well.

Available on: Hulu Plus


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