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From The Sopranos to Fleabag: 10 of the best television finales

·3-min read

Mad Men
2007-2015

Don Draper has an existential breakdown at a new age healing camp, then closes his eyes, smiles and invents the most famous television commercial of all time. The cynicism is breathtaking. Draper is lost as a person. Everything around him has been destroyed, and he is totally alone in the world. But it’s OK because he’s figured out a way to sell fizzy drinks. Money always wins.

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Byker Grove
1989–2006

In which, after spending a decade and a half as a largely realistic drama about the members of a youth club, the characters suddenly learn that they are fictional characters in a TV show and attempt to write their own fate. After being attacked by a dinosaur, the youth club is rigged with dynamite and destroyed. This is a real thing that actually happened.

Fleabag
2016-2019

What makes the Fleabag finale so special is its very last moment. After the trials of the preceding episodes – weddings, miscarriages, love affairs, gins in tins – Fleabag has a moment of realisation. The fourth wall, the thing she has been confiding with since we met her, is holding her back. And so – with a sad, sweet smile – she waves us goodbye.

Dallas
1978–1991

As in It’s a Wonderful Life, an angel comes to Earth to show JR Ewing what things would be like had he never been born. Unlike It’s a Wonderful Life, however, the angel then turns into a glowing-eyed devil who starts screaming about how JR should definitely kill himself. Which, as endings go, is fairly unexpected.

Breaking Bad
2008–2013

Some say that the Breaking Bad finale was too neat: Walter White made his way around his world trying to right the devilish actions of his time as Heisenberg before he died saving his friend. But the episode moved like a sleekly designed machine; a fitting end to one of the best shows of all time.

Little House on the Prairie
1974–1983

When this quaint little drama ended, the land the sets were built on had to be returned to its normal state. This meant destroying several buildings. And this is why, to save on production costs, the Little House finale ended with the characters blowing up their own homes. Totally inspired.

Jurassic five ... Dinosaurs.
Jurassic five ... Dinosaurs. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Dinosaurs
1991–1994

The show that was meant to be like The Simpsons, but with animatronic anthropomorphised dinosaurs, ended with everyone dying. Earl, the Homer-ish dad dino, neglected the environment, brought about an apocalypse and had to spend the final moments of the series explaining to his toddler that they were all about to be killed. This was a kids’ show, remember.

The Sopranos
1999-2007

A cut to black so abrupt viewers complained to their cable providers. The final sequence builds in quiet dread. A family eat at a diner. Their daughter struggles to park. A man keeps glancing over. What happens to Tony Soprano? Is he murdered? Doomed to spend his life shooting panicky glances at the door? The show’s creator, David Chase, refuses to explain. Hopefully it stays that way.

The Leftovers
2014–2017

In episode one of Damon Lindelof’s surreal supernatural drama, 2% of the world’s population disappeared. In the final episode, a woman claimed to have answers but described them so diffidently that even she didn’t seem to believe them. That was it. So what happened to the missing? Are they dead? In heaven? Sometimes you just have to let mystery be.

Lost
2004–2010

Some people say that the Lost finale was bad. Those people are welcome to line up and fight me. The episode ended with most of the castaways leaving the island, to eventually be reunited in a location that existed outside of time and space, in a waiting room for the afterlife. Yes, fine, it looks pretty rubbish written down. But you weren’t there, man.

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