Where ‘Game of Thrones’ Lands in the Most Historic TV Series Finales Ever
As long as great television has existed, opinionated and angry fans and critics have always been waiting around the corner looking to tear every episode apart piece by piece, especially series finales. Game of Thrones is one of the most groundbreaking television shows that has ever graced our blessed eyeballs (no, we’re not necessarily talking about the gratuitous sex scenes).
Love it or hate it, the series finale now reigns supreme among the most memorable conclusions that will be hashed out for years to come. Storytelling and endings are hard, and some do it better than others. Now that our watch has ended, we ranked HBO’s epic saga on our list of the most historic TV series finales ever, from worst to best.
18. 'How I Met Your Mother'
We learned how Ted met his wife. And then how she died and he ended up with Aunt Robin, anyway. Long story short, if you mention How I Met Your Mother to any hardcore fan, be prepared to have your ears burned off as they rip the finale to shreds.
Dexter still stands as one of the best and most intelligent series ever made. Unfortunately, besides the self-punishment of Dexter isolating himself even in all of his lumberjack glory, the finale is as much of a disaster as the hurricane the serial killer drove his boat into with his dead sister on board.
Not everyone was a fan of the fact that the gang ended up in prison for the last episode of the massively popular sitcom. But, they were only locked up for a year and probably deserved it, let's be honest.
15. 'Mad Men'
Many people felt the final episode of Mad Men was too pat, whereas lead Jon Hamm and the writers argued that it was all about the emotional state of the characters by the end. The series finale avoided any predictable narratives and allowed a bit of sappy sweetness for each character to be sent off with. Whether or not all of those characters deserved a happy ending is up to the audience to decide.
Newhart stunned fans with the infamous reveal that every event in the show's eight seasons had just been a dream of main character Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart). The twist also became the prime example of a series finale fans never want to see play out on their favorite shows ever again.
Photo: MTM Enterprises
The last episode of the popular comedy war series came to a close with a feature-length episode in a bittersweet culmination as the close-knit army surgical team disbanded. It was impossible for loyal viewers not to cry when seeing the goodbye message spelled out in rocks as Alan Alda flew away.
12. 'Parks and Recreation'
Amy Poehler's hit sitcom came to a close in a two-part conclusion, flashing forward into the future and providing one of the most feel-good endings you could ask for with Leslie Knope fulfilling her dream as becoming President of the United States.
There will probably never be a more polarizing finale than Lost, but there's a reason why it doesn't hit the bottom of our list. Showrunner and co-creator Damon Lindelof does not deserve the harassment over the years he's received and shame on all of you who drove the poor man off of social media.
Whatever your thoughts on the flash-sideways plot, the reunion in heaven, or the fate of the island, the series ended in true odd, imperfect, thoughtful Lost fashion that has impacted fans since the show came to a close in 2010. Say what you will, but people will probably never shut up about this finale which is what, in part, makes it so historic.
10. 'The Office'
Surprise, not everyone was a fan of The Office's series finale. What the show accomplished, however, was an ending that provided a real sense of closure for the characters along with an open-ended vibe that supports the ever-evolving enigma that is life. They were also able to bring back Steve Carell to guest star as his iconic TV character Michael Scott, delivering one last perfect, "That's what she said."
9. 'The Wire'
Much like the heavily cynical series, The Wire refused to give viewers an upbeat ending. More importantly, the finale made the audience reflect on how messy the world can be and society's various perspectives on justice.
8. 'Sons of Anarchy'
Sons of Anarchy was full of characters capable of mostly terrible, but sometimes good, actions. Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), having lived a life full of crime and violence, finished out his story in bloodshed and attempting to protect his children by getting them away from the biker gang world -- a feat he was never capable of for himself. The SAMCRO leader then ended his own life in a gut-wrenching yet very Jax Teller way. We may or may not still cry about it every once in a while.
7. 'Six Feet Under'
Six Feet Under provided closure to their characters in the most efficient and emotional way: By literally killing them all in a flash-forward of milestones in the main characters' lives before revealing their final moments. Perhaps it wasn't a huge surprise, considering the title was essentially a foreshadowing of everyone you cared about on the series inevitably being put into the ground.
"We dug coal together," is the key phrase of Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder's (Walton Goggins) complicated friendship, and the most important line of the show's finale. Justified was a near-perfect series capped with a near-perfect last episode that brought the lawman and the criminal's relationship full circle.
The series did not get the overall recognition it deserved, but those lucky enough to experience the twisted cat and mouse game between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) were rewarded with a heartbreaking yet satisfying conclusion to the show's complex love story.
The ending also made perfect sense considering the complex relationship between the criminal profiler and the serial killing cannibal who made some delicious looking meals. The final moments of Bryan Fuller's unique vision was, as they say, a chef's kiss.
4. 'The Sopranos'
Long before fans were arguing over the ending of Game of Thrones, many of the same voices were screaming as their TV's faded to black at the end of HBO's highly-acclaimed The Sopranos. The series took a bold step by going out on a massive cliffhanger, cementing the show's legacy as not only the best crime drama series, but one of the most talked about final scenes ever.
3. 'The Shield'
Before Walter White, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) was giving harsh lessons on how to be an antihero lead character. The writers approached the finale with an ingenious conclusion, with Vic miraculously surviving the series despite being the villain of the story.
However, everyone in his life has left him, and following an immunity deal with the FBI, the dirty cop is stuck in his worst hell: pushing papers in an office sporting an uncomfortable suit instead of out on the streets where he thrived. Not a happy ending, but a fitting one for the character and his Strike Team.
2. 'Game of Thrones'
Winter has come and gone and deserves the second spot on our list. The Stark family came out on top (headless Ned Stark is beaming with pride somewhere beyond the grave), Ghost received some good boy pats, Drogon burned the true villain of the story, Jon Snow came through and tragically ended the Mad Queen before she set the world free (a weird term for mass murder) by turning it to blood and ash, and Peter Dinklage delivered one last final mesmerizing speech. What more could you ask from a show that's always dabbled in the unexpected?
1. 'Breaking Bad'
When talking iconic shows, Breaking Bad and its series finale are almost impossible to beat. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) fully owns up to his corruption that progressed over each season and is allowed one last good deed in the form of saving Jesse (Aaron Paul), before meeting his end.
The episode was every bit of what made Breaking Bad phenomenal television, leaving viewers with a satisfying conclusion to Heisenberg's story while also carving out space for a prequel series, Better Call Saul, and an upcoming movie that was teased earlier this year.