The Joker’s Ex-Girlfriend has moved on and grown, and so has her story.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)
Having beaten the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and with Batman (Diedrich Bader) and the Justice League out of the way, Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) is now poised to take over the city of Gotham. Unfortunately, Gotham is quickly declared No Man’s Land, and it turns out that the Injustice League wants it too. They get the drop on Harley and divvy up the territory. With the help of Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), King Shark (Ron Funches), Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander), Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove), Clayface (Tudyk), and Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), she’s out to get revenge on the Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Two-Face (Jim Rash, Wayne Knight, Alfred Molina, James Adomian, Andy Daly) and claim Gotham for herself. Also, Batgirl’s there (Briana Cuoco).
So, my main criticism of Harley Quinn Season 1 was that the show often tried to go a little too exploitative with the violence and swearing to the point that I thought it distracted from the show. I will admit that, on rewatching, it still was a little over-the-top, but I might have let my feelings towards DC Universe’s show Titans color my opinion on how they were handling “mature” superhero shows. It still bothered me when I watched it again, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought on the first go-around. Whatever problems there were, however, have been almost completely fixed in the second season.
It’s not that the show is any less exploitative in the second season, in fact the violence and swearing are probably even increased, but the show has started to use them as a form of self-commentary. Harley even says, while defending a show-within-a-show, that “violence ups the dramatic effect,” and honestly, this season that’s mostly what it did. In the way that the John Wick films manage to make killing hordes of people into slapstick routine, season two frequently makes violence cathartic or humorous.
Moreover, the subject matter of this season was almost uniformly made more mature and relatable. While I thought that the first season forced the plot of Harley getting over the Joker to last longer than it should have which killed the relatability of dealing with an abusive ex, this season covers a number of plots that interweave and keep the relationships and topics fresh. They range from having feelings for a friend, to dealing with your own feelings of inadequacy, to dealing with repressed emotions and trauma. Instead of being a simple set of plots with a lot of swearing and ‘splosions, it’s a lot of blood and cussing that heightens the emotions of the scenes. It’s everything I wanted out of this series, and it feels so damned good.
If you have a chance to check it out, do it. The first season is pretty good in retrospect, but this season should earn it a following.
Charlize Theron leads a team of immortal warriors against Big Pharma.
Andy (Charlize Theron), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) are four soldiers who are recruited to rescue a group of kidnapped children in the Sudan by CIA agent Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They’re betrayed, but end up surviving because the four are actually a group of ancient warriors with nigh-immortality. At the same time, U.S. Marine Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne) is mortally wounded in Afghanistan, but recovers, revealing her to be the next in the line of immortals. She’s soon recruited by the four and they discover that they are being hunted by Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), a billionaire pharmaceutical executive who wants them for his research.
If you’ve never seen Love and Basketball, you absolutely should, because it is a well-crafted story that combines a tight script with a lot of non-verbal storytelling to craft a drama. This movie is basically that, except that instead of telling a romance about athletes, it’s a series of amazing action set pieces combined with some solid character moments that really flesh out what could easily have been one-dimensional characters. The reason why I compare these films is that they both are directed by the incredibly talented Gina Prince-Blythewood, who is now, officially, the first black woman to direct a superhero film (and she’s already set to direct another in the next year or so). Her films, including The Secret Life of Bees or Beyond the Lights, are marked by something that almost seems rare nowadays: Sincerity. She doesn’t mock her subject matter, regardless of what it is, and for a comic book film that can be a game changer.
It’s that same sincerity that really sets the characters apart. Rather than just telling us how each of the characters is haunted by the fact that everyone they know will die, the film gives us a number of flashbacks and memories that reflect upon the pain and loss that they’ve suffered. We’re shown the story of Quynh (Van Veronica Ngo), a former immortal who was trapped in an iron coffin and drowned over and over again for centuries, and that image is burned into the cast as well as the viewers. That’s the kind of stuff that would normally be subverted in a modern comic film, but instead here is played painfully straight. These kind of character moments are peppered throughout and make everyone a little bit deeper and a lot more complex than you would expect from a movie with a team of gun-toting immortals.
Neither the story of this film nor the characters themselves are particularly original. The concept of a super-regenerating or nearly unkillable action hero has been done from Wolverine to Painkiller Jane. However, The Old Guard is one of the first movies where the choreography actually reflects that these people know they can take a beating, but they still feel pain. You see them willing to use their immortality to throw people off guard, since most people would evade things like “getting shot in the heart,” but they still only do it sparingly. As a reflection of their age, they also are all experts with melee weapons that are indigenous to their origins, including Andy, who wields a battleaxe, which is basically the most kickass of backup weapons. Unfortunately, I kept waiting for someone to say “let me axe you a question,” because that seemed like a thing that would eventually happen. I was happy that such a pun did not, in fact, occur.
Sometimes a show just can’t keep the quality up to the end. A lot of the times shows go downhill for a while after they start running low on ideas, and sometimes they just won’t give up and die with dignity. However, even if the writing is on the wall and you’re given a year to plan to go out, you can still screw it all up with a bad ending.
For this entry, I am going to make two caveats:
The episode has to be intended as a finale. That means either it’s clear the production team knew the show was over, or didn’t have reason to believe it was going to keep going. So cliffhangers don’t count unless they were made AFTER the show was cancelled. Additionally, if an episode was meant to be the finale, but the network aired it out of order, only the intended finale counts.
If the show was rebooted later, the original finale still counts.
Also, The Sopranos is not going to be on here, because I have a long-running theory that makes me like that finale, and I refuse to debate it right now. If I’m wrong, then… well, it sucks.
RUNNER UP: Of Course He’s Dead (Two and a Half Men)
The Show: Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) is a jingle writer who lives a hedonistic lifestyle. His brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), and nephew Jake (Angus T. Jones) move in after Alan’s wife leaves him. Eventually, after Charlie dies, his house is bought by billionaire Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), who lets Alan and Jake stay. Eventually Jake leaves and Charlie’s unknown biological daughter Jenny (Amber Tamblyn) moves in.
The Finale: Alan receives a letter from a lawyer saying that Charlie has millions in unclaimed royalties, but can’t find Charlie’s death certificate. It turns out that Charlie is actually alive, having been kept prisoner by his crazy stalker Rose (Melanie Lynskey), after she caught him in bed with a goat. Alan, Jake, and Walden start to receive threats and the police tell them that they caught Charlie, but it’s actually Christian Slater. Charlie approaches the house, but a piano he ordered crushes him. The camera then shows creator Chuck Lorre, who says “winning!” then is crushed by a second piano.
This doesn’t make the list because this show had pretty much lost all of its quality when Charlie Sheen left. The writers never figured out what to do with Walden or Jenny, constantly shifting their characters, and it just kind of limped on for four years. Ensemble casts exist on relationships and when you can’t keep characters consistent, then the relationships can’t be consistent. However, dedicating your finale to throwing a tantrum at Charlie Sheen over him being a d*ck doesn’t really age well, particularly since it’s been revealed that Sheen’s behavior was related to him being diagnosed HIV positive. While the viewers would have understood what was happening at the time, I think anyone that watches this in a decade (if anyone does) probably won’t get what the hell happened and it’ll just seem like a waste of time.
10) These are the Voyages… (Star Trek: Enterprise)
The Show: This show takes place before any previous Star Trek series, in the 22nd century, aboard the spaceship Enterprise, the first vessel capable of real, effective interstellar exploration by humanity. The crew includes Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), Science Officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock), Chief Engineer Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), Tactical Officer Reed (Dominic Keating), Communications Officer Sato (Linda Park), Helmsman Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), and Medical Officer Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley).
The Finale: Taking place in the 24th Century, Star Trek: The Next Generation characters William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are looking for guidance on an issue (the TNG Episode “The Pegasus”) and decide to review the decommissioning of the first Enterprise. They interact at points with the Enterprise crew, who are holograms here. Captain Archer is set to give a speech, but gets sidetracked trying to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an ambassador. The kidnappers board the ship and Trip Tucker dies saving Captain Archer. Archer makes his speech and Riker figures out what he’s going to do. The last shot is a montage of Star Trek footage and Captains Kirk, Picard, and Archer giving the “where no man has gone before” speech.
This would probably be higher up if I had ever really liked Enterprise, but it remains the worst Star Trek series in my opinion. The only episodes I really liked were the ones set in the Mirror Universe where humans were the bad guys, because those seemed original and compelling, but most of the series just felt like recycled old ideas with skimpier outfits. What a waste of a Bakula. However, this has to go down as one of the worst finales because it’s a finale that doesn’t even really feature the characters of the show. Instead, the episode takes place during a different series and everyone from Enterprise appears only by hologram. Moreover, the events in the hologram take place six years after the rest of the series without a compelling reason for doing so and one of the main characters is killed as an afterthought. This episode was so bad that I don’t think I’ve seen a list of the worst Star Trek properties that didn’t include it, often at number one. It was so bad that it ended 18 consecutive years of Star Trek being on the air. When you can tank an entire franchise for a while, you earn this spot.
9) Remember the Monsters? (Dexter)
The Show: Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer who targets other serial killers. He uses skills taught to him by his adopted father (James Remar) to avoid detection and eliminate the monsters who evade the law. He spends most of the series hiding it from his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), only for her to find out what he does in season 7. Also, she’s in love with him despite them being raised as siblings, so… that’s a thing. Look, there’s a reason I tell people to stop watching after season 5.
The Finale: Dexter is planning on fleeing the country. Debra gets shot by serial killer Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson) while a hurricane prevents Dexter’s flight. Dexter leaves his son Harrison with his girlfriend Hannah and heads to the hospital where he is told Debra will recover. Saxon is captured and Debra tells Dexter to live a happy life, but then suffers a clot and goes into a coma. Dexter then kills Saxon in police custody and pulls Debra off life support. He takes her body and drops it into the ocean as he drives into the hurricane. Later, he’s seen working as a lumberjack in Oregon.
I have to admit I’ve softened towards this over the years, because for a long time I considered it the worst finale ever. It’s dropped down the list for two reasons: 1) Jennifer Carpenter’s performance as Debra is actually so good it almost single-handedly makes this episode okay. 2) Other shows since (mostly Breaking Bad) have convinced me that giving a bad person a happy ending isn’t inherently bad. However, I still think it’s a terrible ending to this show. A big part of why is that it missed the tone of the rest of the series, having a somber and sincere quality that the rest of the show never had. That might have worked for a finale, except that all of the sincerity felt crammed in and manufactured, rather than developing naturally. The characters are told that Debra is going to be okay, but their last conversation is still them saying goodbye in a last-rites kind of way. Then she dies anyway, making the previous recovery nothing but a device to keep the audience off-guard, particularly since the clot happens off-screen apropos of nothing. Oh, and as she’s dying, she tells him she loves him, which means… she might have been okay if he had left her on the machines? So, Dexter killed her, but it’s not really given as much weight as it should. Oh, and then the ending is that he’s abandoned his son and girlfriend (who he could find and join) to go be a lumberjack and somehow survived a hurricane, which was just such a cop-out. Also, can someone from Miami Metro get fired for being just the worst investigators on Earth? For what was briefly one of my favorite shows, the mighty fell hard.
8) Into That Good Night (Roseanne)
The Show: Roseanne (the show) focused on the lives of the Conner family: Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), her husband Dan (John Goodman), Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), and Dan and Roseanne’s kids Becky (Lecy Goranson/Sarah Chalke), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), D.J. (Michael Fishman), and Baby Jerry (Cole and Morgan Roberts). They’re a working-class family in the 80s and 90s living in Illinois, and possibly one of the most realistic ones ever put on television.
The Finale: In the 9th season of the show, the Conners win the lottery, suddenly becoming very wealthy, but Dan and Roseanne’s marriage has been on the rocks throughout the whole season, culminating in a revelation that he cheated on her. During the finale, after the family welcomes a new grandson from Darlene’s marriage, everyone is set to move on with their lives. Then, in the last 10 minutes of the show, Roseanne reveals to the audience that the entire show had just been a book she was writing. Dan was dead from a heart attack, Jackie was gay, and Darlene and Becky were, in fact, married to each-other’s husbands. No explanation is given for any of this except that Roseanne thought it was more interesting this way.
Roseanne had taken a massive dive in the last season due to destroying the thing that most people liked about the show, it’s blue-collar realism. The Conners were constantly screwed by normal problems that most sitcoms would just gloss over, like a malfunctioning fridge they can’t afford to replace or a light bill late fee that builds up. They lived the way that a lot of America lived. Once they were rich, that stuff all fell away and they stopped being relatable. That was bad enough, but to literally spend the last 10 minutes of the show revealing that everything in the show was fake, even within the reality of the show, was just icing on the crapcake. Roseanne is revealed to be a writer, a profession that stood completely against her character’s usual employment in various menial jobs. Dan’s dead, meaning that any of their drama in the last season was just Roseanne taking shots at her deceased husband. None of the relationships were real. What’s most astonishing is that all of this was just completely unnecessary. When they rebooted the show, they made the decision to just ignore all of this, which was smarter than anything in the finale.
7) Daybreak (Battlestar Galactica – 2004)
The Show: Humans lived on a set of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. The humans created the Cylons, a race of robots, that then rebelled. There was a peace accord, until the Cylons surprise attack and destroy most of humanity and the planets they populated. Only one military ship survives, the Battlestar Galactica, which sets off with the other ships to head to the thirteenth colony, Earth, while being pursued by Cylons. The survivors include Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), pilot “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), pilot “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Barber), and scientist Gaius Baltar (James Callis). There are also Cylon infiltrators known as numbers 6 and 8 (Tricia Helfer and Grace Park)
The Finale: Turns out the Cylons got to Earth first, but blew it up. As the group tries to figure out what to do now, the Cylons capture Hera, a human-Cylon hybrid, and are studying how they can reproduce. Admiral Adama orders a rescue. Gaius and Six join the mission, and it’s revealed that the two can see each other’s “inner visions.” It’s complicated to explain, but each one has a hallucination of the other that they talk to, and here it’s revealed that those are not just hallucinations. The rescue ends with an all-out battle that is ended by Gaius promising to give the Cylons back their lost resurrection ability in order to buy peace. He’s told that he sees Angels telling him that both sides are governed by God. However, this ends up failing. The fighting resumes and damage forces Adama to order the ship to jump to anywhere it can. Starbuck uses “All Along the Watchtower” to arrive at our Earth in the distant past. The survivors, and the surviving Cylons, spread out and interbreed with the hominids that populate the planet. Starbuck turns out to be an Angel and disappears. Bob Dylan is implied to be God.
Okay, did you read the last four sentences of that summary? Yeah, that’s why this whole thing fell apart. The show, which had been a cold and depressing character study and a cautionary tale against the advances of human technology, ends on a happy note because of a literal deus ex machina. To be clear, this show was almost entirely sci-fi for most of its run, and the concept of having everything in the series designed as part of the ineffable plan by God seems to have been pulled out of nowhere. I once lauded the show Quantum Leap for dealing with cancellation by having an ending that said “God did it,” but that’s because that show’s continuity and logic had never made sense. This show had never even approached that level of metaphysics until the last four episodes hinted at it loosely. A lot of people liked the happy ending, but I will stare into the face of Bob Dylan and walk backwards into Hell proclaiming this to be a complete failure of screenwriting.
6) Project: ALF (ALF)
The Show: Gordon Shumway (Paul Fusco) is an Alien Life Form (ALF) from the destroyed planet Melmac. He follows a radio signal to the home of the Tanners: Willie (Max Wright), Kate (Anne Schedeen), Lynn (Andrea Elson), and Brian (Benji Gregory). The Tanners hide ALF from the Alien Task Force that seeks to hunt him down.
The Finale: In the last episode of the original show’s run, ALF is captured by the Alien Task Force. This picks up with ALF in custody under Colonel Milfoil (Martin Sheen) who is going to kill ALF. Two scientists help him escape, but after they are chased by Milfoil, they end up deciding to reveal ALF’s existence to the world. This ends up failing, but Milfoil is fired and ALF is declared an ambassador to Earth.
The original finale of ALF can’t be on here because the show was cancelled unexpectedly and thus ended on a cliffhanger. That’s not the fault of any of the writers, particularly since the show was still in the top 40 at the time and had just had a spin-off last two seasons. Even the network later apologized to the crew, saying that they’d screwed up by cancelling it too early. However, since they were given over a year to come up with a way to end the series with this three-part episode (or TV movie), and had 5 years to think about it before that, this was truly disappointing. Except for ALF, none of the Tanners were present in this, and all we hear is that they went to Iceland. As such, a ton of plotlines, including the cliffhanger about ALF leaving the Tanners, were left unresolved. Moreover, this episode made it clear exactly how much of an a**hole ALF actually was, retroactively making the show less cute. It’s like if you ended the Muppet Show by having Kermit be revealed as a Soviet Spy. Honestly, the cliffhanger would have been a more dignified way to go out.
5) Chapter 73 (House of Cards)
The Show: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is a politician who constantly lies, cheats, steals and murders his way to becoming the President and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), becomes Vice President. He’s assisted by Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), his Chief of Staff who routinely does Frank’s dirty work. Frank typically narrates to the audience his true, cruel thoughts.
The Finale: In Season 6, Claire becomes President following Frank’s impeachment and subsequent getting killed off for being a rapist. Claire also takes over Frank’s role as narrator. Doug, who stood by Frank loyally, has now flipped to testify to all of Claire’s bad acts, but Claire pardons him to gain his silence. In the finale, Claire promises a new level of honesty to America, then creates a new fictional threat so that she can keep her position. Doug is sent in to kill her by some of her rivals, but after he admits he killed Frank, she ends up stabbing him to death and then suffocating him. She turns to the audience and says “No More Pain,” mirroring Frank killing a dog in the pilot.
This is mostly on here for how completely unnecessary this finale was. After Kevin Spacey was removed from the show for being a rapist, the show was completely justified in writing him out. Despite that, his character still basically dictated everything over the last season. Claire was constantly saying how she denounced his legacy, but she always kept it alive rather than tossing it to the ashcan of history where it belonged. This finale made it much, much worse, focusing on Frank’s last will, which cut Claire out, then revealing Doug to have killed Frank because Frank was hurting his own legacy, then having Claire stab Doug to death in the Oval Office and use one of Frank’s own lines, cementing her as now being essentially just Frank all over again. It essentially made Claire a secondary character in a season where she was supposed to be the lead. If you’re going to write a character out, write them out, don’t let their ghost loom over the entire series.
4) The End (LOST)
The Show: A bunch of people survive a plane crash and end on an island. The island turned out to be filled with mysteries, ranging from a smoke monster that turns out to be the embodiment of evil, to a hatch that requires a code to keep being entered into it, to some polar bears. The show had too many cast members to really list here, with 14 star roles in the first season alone, but among the key ones in this episode are: Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and Locke/The Man In Black (Terry O’Quinn). It frequently has flashbacks, flashforwards, and flash-sideways. The last season has two parallel timelines, including a new one in which the crash never happened.
The Finale: Some of the survivors head to the heart of the island, including Jack who has taken on the role of protector of the island. The Man in Black, who is trying to destroy the island, manages to unstop the source of the island’s power, but is killed by Kate. Jack then dies replacing the island’s light. In the alternate timeline, everyone suddenly remembers the island, meet up in a church, and then they are revealed to be dead.
So, from the beginning of the show, a huge number of fans (myself included) were worried that the series would end with the revelation that everyone was actually dead all along. The creators and the writers all strongly denied that it was anything like that. Instead, it’s revealed that, in fact, the events of the island were real, but that the parallel timeline was actually a form of afterlife which is powered by the island, so… I felt like this was cheating. A ton of people were confused by it, a ton more were angered, and I don’t think anyone ever thought it was a perfect way to wrap up the series. The island is revealed to be the source of the light that exists inside of every living thing, but also what grants those things a second chance, represented here as an alternate world where everyone is a little bit closer to what they wanted to be. It’s not a paradise, it’s a purgatory, and then at the end apparently everyone moves on towards the actual afterlife, maybe. If that explanation sounds kind of boring or weird or confusing, then you know why this made this list.
3) Last Forever (How I Met Your Mother)
The Show: In 2030, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor/Bob Saget) is narrating to his kids the story of how he met their mother (Cristin Milioti). It turns out to be a story involving Ted’s best friends from his 20s and 30s: Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) and his wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), and Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
The Finale: After spending a season at the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding, we find out that Ted’s wife is the bass player in their wedding band. While she has met everyone from the group, she has not yet met Ted, until they share an umbrella that they both previously owned. It’s then revealed that the mother, Tracy McConnell, passed away in 2024. The kids reveal that the story was clearly about how Ted is still in love with Robin, and encourage him to get back together with her. The show ends with Ted and Robin smiling at each other.
This one is really a tragedy on two different levels. The show had always prided itself on the fact that they had already filmed the ending when they started the second season, because that meant that the kids, who had since stopped being kids, would still be in the finale at the same age. Unfortunately, they were so dedicated to this that they stuck to it even after their own writing and character development had rendered it a bad idea. Ted and Robin ending up together was a really good idea for a long time, until we spent two seasons building up Barney’s and Robin’s relationship and then an entire season on their wedding itself, only to have the finale tell us they broke up like 15 minutes later for vague reasons. It also doesn’t help that Cristin Milioti was so much more amazing than expected, particularly in the episode dedicated to her history. Everything about her was so perfect for Ted that you wanted to see them happy together. This meant that when the writers stuck with the original ending, it broke up two relationships we were invested in. At the same time, they undid all of Barney’s character growth and instead ended with him learning to love by being a father. To Neil Patrick Harris’s credit, his performance was so good I almost bought it, but it’s still bad writing. The reason why this is so high is because multiple people apparently brought up that this was a bad idea and that they should ditch the original ending, but the show wanted its gimmick more than a solid conclusion.
2) The Finale (Seinfeld)
The Show: It’s a show about nothing starring four friends: Jerry Seinfeld (himself), George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). In general, the series is just about the kind of weird things that happen to the four of them and consists of them talking about it. All four are generally crappy people, but make up for it by being funny. It was created by Larry David and Seinfeld.
The Finale: Jerry and George have pitched a series to NBC that resembles Seinfeld called Jerry. The four decide to go to Paris to celebrate before moving to California to work on the show, but a problem on the flight forces them to land in Massachusetts. While they wait for the plane to be fixed, they see a man get carjacked and record it while mocking him. They’re then arrested by the police for violating the Good Samaritan statute by not helping. The four are then put on trial and a number of witnesses from throughout the series testify to their bad character. They are ultimately convicted and put in jail.
This one is so high up because Seinfeld was one of the best shows on television and I remember being absolutely pissed off watching the finale. The build-up had been huge. Other shows, including Dharma and Greg, literally had episodes that were based on the assumption that this finale would be amazing. However, I think it completely failed. First off, the set-up was ridiculous. Having the characters get arrested due to an insane law and go to trial immediately was a weird decision. That’s not how laws, courts, or even civil rights work. The fact that the prosecutors are then allowed to parade a list of people as bad character witnesses is even weirder, because, again, not how that works. Also, if they had a duty to provide aid to the victim (they didn’t), they actually did, because they recorded the face of the carjacker on film. That’s more helpful than trying to fight him. Everything about this framing device was stupid. Second, they really just used it to do a glorified clip-show as the finale. That’s one of the weakest ways to handle any episode of television, typically reserved for when shows run out of money for an episode, as opposed to the finale of a top-rated show. Third, finally calling out how bad the characters were in such a stupid fashion basically mocked the audience for liking them. If you’re flipping the bird on the way out, you’ve messed up. While Larry David has defended it, Jerry Seinfeld has pretty much stated that they dropped the ball on this one. I concur.
1) The Iron Throne (Game of Thrones)
The Show: I cannot really summarize this. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are thrown into a massive war after the death of the king Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). This ends up massively affecting the Stark family, including Sansa (Sophie Turner), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), and Arya (Maisie Williams). At the same time, an army of zombie warriors start to descend from the North to destroy the world. Also, the daughter of the previous king, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), hatched three dragons and uses them plus two separate armies to try to come back and retake the throne. Her nephew and lover is Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who is also the adopted brother of the Starks. A lot of people die and there’s a lot of nudity. Also, there’s Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is amazing, and Cersei and Jaime Lannister (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who suck.
The Finale: Daenerys has taken over King’s Landing and claimed the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, even after the people surrendered, Daenerys kept attacking, destroying a ton of the property and killing hundreds or thousands of people for no reason. When confronted, she insists that she has “liberated” the town and that she now plans to “liberate” the rest of the world. After finally realizing that Daenerys will never stop until she has conquered the world in the name of forcing her version of utopia, and will kill anyone that doesn’t submit immediately. Jon kills her and is imprisoned by her troops. Ultimately, he is banished and Bran becomes king.
I realize that this probably will not seem as bad years down the line and that the freshness of the wound is why this feels like the worst finale, but I will say that following: It’s impressive to get every character to the end of their arc and still feel terrible. Seriously, every character finishes in the position that they clearly were always going to have, ranging from Bran being the king to Daenerys being dead to Jon being banished, but at the end all of the ways they get there appear to be completely contrived or insane. Rather than having Daenerys’s madness be a result of her destiny as a Targaryen and a breaker of chains, it came off as being because Jon didn’t want to sleep with her after finding out they’re related. Rather than Bran being made king because of his abilities, he’s instead made king because “he has the best story,” despite Jon literally having resurrected from the dead and Arya having slain an undead king. Everyone gets to close their story in the right place, but it feels so forced that it undermines the rest of the series and its great plotting and character progression. Mostly, though, this whole thing felt completely unnecessary. HBO had the hottest show on the planet and had already stated they would basically give the showrunners carte blanche if they needed more episodes to come to a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the show rushed from the death of the Night King to the finale in only 3 episodes. This isn’t just dropping the ball, this is firing the ball straight down out of a cannon so hard that it currently resides in the molten core of the planet.
If you disagree with any of these, let me know. If you have other episodes you think should have made it, put them in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter.
Almost all of the women on Earth die, but misogyny does not.
A comet passes Earth and its ash (that somehow makes it onto Earth and through the atmosphere intact) carries a virus that kills almost all of the women on Earth. Eva (Freida Pinto) is one of the last women alive and is traveling with her boyfriend Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) to live out her final days after being exposed. She and Will travel to a waterfall that they saw when they were first dating while trying to avoid those who would try to take Eva to be dissected or to have her eggs harvested.
If you’ve never read Y: The Last Man, well, it’s much better than this. The premise of that series is that everything on Earth with a Y chromosome dies at the same time except for a guy named Yorick. A tv-show adaptation is set to come out next year. It will almost certainly be better than this movie.
Part of it is that much of the movie tries to feel “serious,” but comes off as “slow.” Having a lot of quiet scenes can sometimes be good for character development, but here it just felt like they hadn’t figured out how to actually fill 90 minutes. Much of the film is flashbacks of their relationship and subsequent quarantine mixed with somber moments of their journey to the waterfall, but the flashbacks are frequently repetitive and the scenes in the present just feel like a slog.
What’s most annoying about Only is how close it came to having a solid point. There are a ton of things this movie could have addressed, from a woman’s right to bodily autonomy to right to die with dignity to government overreach to the callous way people act in plagues if they aren’t personally affected (this one would have REALLY been prescient) to the way religion starts to dominate during times of crisis, but it instead chose to pay some slight lip service to feminism and then do absolutely nothing real. At the end of the film, I feel more like it was a giant misogynist mess, rather than a movie that was supposed to subvert or criticize that exact thing. Most of the flashbacks of Will and Eva’s relationship show Will being extremely controlling, particularly while they’re in quarantine. He spies on her texts, calls her emotional when she says he’s being overbearing, and basically gaslights her on any decision she makes. Meanwhile, the camera frequently treats her like a sex object, even when she’s supposed to be pretending to be a guy. It’s ridiculous that anyone is fooled by that disguise.
Overall, even though the two leads are both skilled actors, this movie can’t be saved by a good performance or two. Skip it.
Bender dies and his spirit seeks revenge. Also, Ghostbusters.
On Parade Day (the day with all the parades), Fry (Billy West) dives in front of a runaway float and saves a human, letting a robot die in the process. Bender (John DiMaggio) yells at him because this act indicates that Fry values human life more than robot life, something Fry admits is true. Bender threatens to kill himself, but the crew point out that he regularly says that and never does it. When he goes to the suicide booth, it turns out that the booth is Lynn (Tress MacNeille), one of Bender’s exes. Lynn kills Bender, leading the crew to believe that he really did commit suicide.
Unbeknownst to them, Bender is now a ghost. He doesn’t realize it at first, until the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta) tells him he’s dead and haunting the computational cloud. The Robot Devil offers Bender a deal: scare Fry to death and Bender gets to live again. If he fails, then he spends eternity in hell. Bender discovers that, although Fry can’t see him, he can possess technology and use it to scare Fry. The crew don’t believe Fry until Bender takes control of Leela’s (Katey Sagal) wristlojackimator. They call in the robot Gypsy (MacNeille), who tells them that a robot ghost is haunting them. The Reverend Preacherbot (Phil LaMarr) is called in to banish the ghost, which ends up working by providing Fry with a “sacramental firewall” that keeps Bender 20 feet away. Bender pushes through the firewall and possesses it, using the software to project horrifying images onto Fry, causing him to have a heart attack.
Bender returns to the Robot Devil to collect, but it turns out Fry is still alive. Fry is sent to the Amish Homeworld, where electronics are forbidden, so that he won’t get shocked again. As Bender tries to kill him one last time, Fry laments that he misses Bender and that he now respects robot life. So, Bender stops trying to kill Fry and follows him to the Amish Homeworld to watch over him. When the rest of the crew comes to visit Fry, the Robot Devil also comes to visit. He tricks Bender into scaring some oxen, which causes a giant dome to roll towards Fry. Bender possesses the Robot Devil and uses his body to save Fry. This leads Fry to head home and Bender to head to Robot Heaven. However, Bender annoys Robot God into kicking him back into his body.
I love almost any episode with the Robot Devil and this is no exception, despite how little he actually appears in this one. The idea that the Robot Devil bears a grudge against Fry for taking his hands in “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings” is amusing because it’s so petty. He’s literally got an entire underworld to run, but he also still complains about how his hands smell like candy corn because of Fry. The episode also takes a bunch of shots at some of his previous appearances, mostly his tendency to punctuate everything with a song. This time he does make it much more clear that the songs themselves are actually a big part of the torment of Robot Hell, including the fact that he’s rehearsing the exact song that he played for Bender in his debut episode. Admittedly, he does manage to rhyme pyrrhic later when improvising, so he clearly has a lot of talent.
The concept of a robot afterlife has long been played with in the show, but this is the first time that we consider the ramifications of Artificial Intelligence existing as data outside of a physical body. I think this is a fun reflection of how much technology developed during the run of this show, because when the show started cloud computing had only been in its infancy, and wasn’t really commercially viable until after the show was cancelled the first time. However, by the time this episode was produced in 2010, Amazon and Google had both started to offer cloud computing services. If computer science were to advance to a certain point, then it is possible that the cloud could eventually process, transmit, and store an amount of data that is greater than the sum total of a human, or artificial, consciousness. Maybe it is inevitable that, like Bender in this episode, we’ll find out that we can create afterlives for our own consciousness. Am I saying this episode is a prequel to Black Mirror’s “San Junipero?” Yes, yes I am.
There are a number of other fun future touches in this episode that round it out. I think it’s hilarious that the Amish eventually move off-planet in order to maintain their lifestyle, but that, due to the passage of time, they still end up advancing technologically. Rather than just barns, they now live in geodesic domes. There’s a day dedicated solely to parades because there are too many holidays, which makes sense when you consider that Earth has been unified for hundreds of years. Also, this episode only makes sense because we learned in “Lethal Inspection” that Bender is mortal.
Overall, I think this is one of the better episodes of Season 6.
This one is going to hurt a bit. I think my favorite joke is when Hermes is going to call someone to “bust” the ghost of Bender. When asked “who you gonna call,” he starts to say Ghostbusters, but is interrupted by a voice that tells him that the number he is dialing has been lame since 1989. Why 1989? Well, I think there are three reasons: First, that’s the year that Ghostbusters II came out and, let’s be fair, that movie is not as good as the first. While I don’t think it’s a bad movie, it still represents a controversial sequel to an amazing film. Second, in 1989, Ghostbusters was supposed to release a game on the Atari 2600. This ended up being so late in the Atari cycle that it was never actually put out, a sign that the franchise was behind the times. Last, Arsenio Hall stopped voicing Winston on The Real Ghostbusters in 1988, so I think we can agree that was when the cool started to leave that show and therefore the franchise. Still, I do love the hell out of the original.
It starts off kind of creepy, then straight to adorable.
Miyo Sasaki (Mirai Shida/Cherami Leigh) is a middle school girl with a crush on her classmate Kento Hinode (Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch). Unfortunately, while she is an outgoing and emotional person, Hinode is usually cold and distant. However, Miyo receives a mask from a talking cat (Koichi Yamadera/Keith Silverstein) that lets her turn into a cat whenever she puts it on. She uses this mask to pretend to be a stray cat that Hinode plays with, named “Taro.” Using her time as Hinode’s cat, she tries to build her relationship with him. Unfortunately, it turns out that magic tends to have a price in stories like this.
Okay, so, I realize that there’s something inherently a little weird about a story of spying on your crush, but a big part of the movie is that Miyo (or “Muge” as she is called) is being immature. As the movie continues, she starts to realize that her worldview has always been undeveloped and she grows as a result. At the same time, she starts to get a better picture of who Hinode is, which does nothing to deter her feelings, but instead deepens them. We discover that both of them are hurting, but that they both have responded to their pain in completely different ways. Their relationships with their families are strained by circumstances beyond their control and, like kids do, they have difficulty really coping with it.
The depth of the characterizations of the two leads is what makes A Whisker Away work. Miyo’s need for affection may make her seem weird to the rest of the world, but it’s just a representation of her desire to receive love. As a cat, she receives all of the cuddles she could ever ask for from the object of her desire. On the opposite end, Hinode is always repressing his feelings due to having to provide for his family. Their financial burden embarasses him a little and puts unnatural pressure on him to get a job to support them, but his loyalty to them prevents him from complaining. This is presented mostly through show rather than narration, which benefits heavily from the very expressive animation style.
That brings me to the animation, which is… just so damned cute. Seriously, when Miyo is “Taro,” she is one of the most adorably animated animals I’ve ever seen. She still has a lot of expressions that reflect her status as having human consciousness, but anyone who has owned a cat will still acknowledge that they can give you those looks. It gets even better when the film decides to say that every cat out there really IS sentient, even having a secret place to go that is accessible only to cats. Despite relying on a supernatural premise, the movie doesn’t really dip heavily into fantasy until the third act, and the slow build-up really helps heighten the drama.
Overall, just a really cute movie, if a bit weird. I recommend giving it a try.
Based incredibly loosely off of a comic series. Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) is a recently deceased quadriplegic. When a demon attacks the orphanage where she lived, a nun is forced to shove an artifact known as the Halo into Ava’s corpse. She promptly revives, now with super-strength and other abilities. It turns out she is now the chosen one, the Warrior Nun, who fights against the forces of Hell on behalf of the Order of the Cruciform Sword, a secret Catholic organization. She is aided by the other members of the OCS: Sister “Shotgun” Mary (Toya Turner), Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea), Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), and Father Vincent (Tristan Ulloa). She must defeat an evil Tarrasque demon and deal with the machinations of the scientist Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten).
Did you miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, good news, here’s a more violent and less quippy show in the same vein. It’s not close enough that you ever feel like it’s cribbing, but it gives you some of the same beats. It’s a line of female superheroes that fight demonic powers that are presided over by an ancient and secret order, so it was naturally going to draw some comparisons. Still, aside from the broad strokes, Warrior Nun is its own animal. Also, I never read the comic this is based on, but a quick Google search tells me that it is wildly different than this series.
Alba Baptista plays the main character with a decent level of complexity. That makes sense when you realize that she is a near-lifetime quadriplegic who lost her family and was tormented by her caretaker for years. She now has a level of freedom that almost no human will ever have. Watching her joy as she starts to move and run is captivating. We also get a lot of internal narration from her which comically sometimes comes out of her mouth. Her isolation in her life prior to this makes her an outcast almost as much as her status as a resurrected human does, and Baptista manages to make this endearing.
The supporting cast, too, are well-crafted. Some of them seem one-dimensional at first, but most of them are revealed to have deeper motivations, particularly Salvius and Shotgun Mary. While they’re all too divorced from reality by the nature of the show to seem like “real” people, they do seem like people that have had to deal with being privy to a hidden world. I also like the fact that, despite the show being called Warrior Nun, most of the nuns are not particularly holy, nor is the show particularly preachy. As Shotgun Mary tells us, she negotiated her way into only having to follow commandments 5 and 8 (murder and bearing false witness).
The set pieces in the show are excellent, regularly featuring ornate cathedrals, as you might expect from any show with a lot of nuns. Similarly, the clothing is often a combination of religious and tactical garb, which can look pretty awesome. The special effects are pretty solid, given the amount of demonic creatures and superheroes that are featured. The biggest problem with the show is that it has a ten episode first season with the plot for about eight. It also drops a few subplots pretty cold, which may get picked back up later.
There’s a documentary about a strange pageant that isn’t strange enough.
Every year since 1958, in Sweetwater, Texas, the Sweetwater Jaycees conduct the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. Hundreds or even thousands of rattlesnakes are captured and turned into exhibits, boots, and, of course, delicious snake meats. The festival includes a gun and coin show, a literal giant tub of snakes, and the Miss Snake Charmer beauty pageant.
If you’re from a small town you’re probably familiar with a festival like this. I’ve been around Florida to many of their festivals, ranging from watermelon to railroad to ‘possum (not to be confused with opossum, which is how it’s spelled by Yankees). All of them are usually fun, local events that are designed to boost the local economy. Much like the Rattlesnake Roundup, there’s often a beauty pageant or a similar contest associated with it. Sadly, the Miss Snake Charmer pageant is pretty much the same as those: Cute and unconventional, but only moderately interesting.
When this documentary started, I imagine that the people filming it assumed that any festival dedicated to capturing hundreds of rattlesnakes must inherently be staffed by the kind of crazy people that we usually see only in Christopher Guest movies. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most of the people featured, ranging from the festival hosts to the pageant contestants, are painfully normal. Despite the fact that they hold a festival dedicated to poisonous snakes, the citizens of Sweetwater are mostly just regular folks, most of whom only value the festival for the fact that it clears out snakes and brings in revenue. Given that the town of less than 11,000 people gets an $8.3 Million boost from the festival, that’s understandable.
While, yes, the media day for the pageant does include having the girls kill and skin a rattlesnake, the other parts of the event are fairly mundane. It’s not that it’s not a nice pageant, it’s very well done, but it’s not likely to be what you envision when you hear “Miss Snake Charmer.” It would likely have been more fun to follow a snake handler church service. Honestly, the roundup looks fun, it just doesn’t have anything too out of the ordinary.
Overall, the documentary is a bit of a letdown, unless you want to see a literal tub of snakes. This seems like the kind of thing that needs to be seen live to be fully enjoyed.
Jon Stewart and Steve Carell bring us a political satire that doesn’t quite go far enough.
Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) is a Democratic campaign manager who was devastated by the results of the 2016 election. He finds a video of Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) taken by his daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), defending the rights of immigrants in his town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, and decides to use Hastings to try to reconnect the Democratic Party with “America’s Heartland.” The Republican National Committee sends Gary’s nemesis, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), to oppose him. The pair keep escalating the election until it’s national news, rocking the small town.
The opening to this movie consists of a moment of Steve Carell and Rose Byrne both being honest about their jobs, telling the people around them that they literally lie for a living. It is a refreshing scene of political operatives from both parties just dropping all of the bullsh*t and being sincere, with each basically saying the same thing. It’s particularly funny hearing them both say: “Whatever you think you saw tonight, you didn’t. You saw what I saw, as long as I say it repeatedly, doggedly, and with unearned confidence. I lie, and you know I lie…. You all know that and yet, here we are…. F*ck you to America. I look forward to lying to you in the future. Let’s hit the bar.” This is the exact kind of language I want starting a movie like this off. I want some damned honesty about exactly how culpable a large number of groups are for the state of our politics, ranging from the media to, well, us. The problem is, the rest of the movie just doesn’t quite hold up this well. It doesn’t have the guts to keep this kind of satire up.
Instead of being an aggressive piece of political satire, the rest of the movie becomes a kind of morality tale whose message ends up being “politics is really just a bunch of rich people playing games with poor people they don’t care about.” Raise your hand if you haven’t felt that point becoming ABUNDANTLY clear over the last few elections. If your hand is up, then you should absolutely watch this movie, because that is crucial information. Otherwise, you, like me, might spend ninety minutes waiting for the film to reach a bigger point and be disappointed. The problem with the movie is it’s telling us something that would have been very important to recognize in 2013 or so, but now feels like the word of the day.
As to the other half of “political comedy,” Irresistible doesn’t quite have enough comedy for my taste. The humor from the movie largely depends on the “country mouse meets city mouse” formula that arises from Gary and Faith interacting with the townspeople who, naturally, aren’t the redneck stereotypes they expected. I will admit that, as someone who grew up in a rural area near a college town, this sometimes was amusing. There’s even a really funny bit involving nuns. Every few minutes, I think there’s a decent laugh in the movie, but a big problem is that almost all of the jokes have been done and done better by other films. Hell, I think a few of the jokes were just updated versions of bits from The Daily Show, which… I guess isn’t plagiarism? I understand that much of it is supposed to be a deeper kind of humor, but I just never felt like the satisfaction was worth the dive. Comedy is subjective, though, and I can see by the audience Rotten Tomatoes score that a lot of people disagree.
Ultimately, though, the thing that I think will be most divisive is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that it ends up letting a ton of people off of a ton of hooks. It doesn’t help that the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Instead, it tries to just pull the rug out from some of the characters and hopes that the audience falls down, too. If you think it’s funny, then you’ll probably like it. If you don’t, then you won’t. Mostly, I just was really let down that the movie didn’t try to drop a bigger bomb at the end, which might have redeemed more of the other flaws.
Overall, this movie was okay, but if you want a movie that does what this movie was trying to do, but better, check out Bulworth on Amazon Prime. It stars Warren Beatty as a politician who just decides to quit lying and it contains some of the funniest dark satire out there.
How you start is important to getting popular, but how you finish is the key to being a legend. After all, who wants to sit through 75 hours of a show for a giant letdown? Here are ten series that managed to really stick the landing.
Runner-Up: My Finale (Scrubs)
The Show: John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) is a doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital with his best friend Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Turk’s wife Carla (Judy Reyes), his girlfriend and fellow doctor Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), his mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), the head of the hospital Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), and his nemesis the Janitor (Neil Flynn).
The Finale: Okay, this is only a runner-up because I am not willing to deal with people sending me messages that say “technically, the show had another season,” followed by me slapping my face in frustration and saying “Then why did they call it Scrubs: Med School? How come it changes location, most of the cast, and central character?” But, the DVD release still says Season 9, so… fine. It’s not the “finale.” That’s particularly sad because I think it would be a strong contender for the number one spot here if it was. Unlike many great finales, this one didn’t rely on any kind of subversion or loss. Instead, this episode gives its main character, J.D., the exact send-off that we probably hoped he’d get.
It probably stands out because of the last 5 minutes of the episode, when J.D. starts to walk out of the building, and the show, and is suddenly surrounded by every guest from the show’s run that they could manage to fit and afford. As he walks down a literal memory lane, he finally stands at the exit, and we see a projection of the future he’s headed for, filled with love, happiness, and friendship. It’s a happy ending that never feels too cheesy or overdone.
10) The Last Show (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
The Show: Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) is a single woman who is an Associate Producer for WJM’s 6 o’clock news, starring Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). She works alongside Executive Producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner), and head writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod). Mary’s best friend is Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), Rhoda’s nemesis who is also Mary’s friend is Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Mary’s friend who works at WJM is Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White). The other main character, introduced later, is Georgette Baxter (Georgia Engel), Ted Baxter’s girlfriend.
The Finale: For a show that contains what I consider to be the single best episode of all time, it’s pretty impressive that it managed to end with what was, for a while, considered the “gold standard” of finales. It was a regular exhibit in screenwriting courses. The creators of Friends said it was a major influence in how they wrapped their show. The key is that it really is an ending for the characters as well as the show. When a new station manager (Vincent Gardenia) takes over WJM, he decides he wants to fix the 6 O’clock News ratings. Unfortunately, he determines that the only person worth keeping is Ted, the person who repeatedly causes the show to tank. Everyone else is fired, devastating Mary. To cheer Mary up, Lou Grant arranges for Rhoda and Phyllis to visit her (both now had spin-offs), with both offering vastly different methods of support for Mary (and hatred for each other). Ultimately, Ted tries to do a sincere send-off, but instead quotes the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Everyone says goodbye, resulting in a group hug that no one wants to break, giving rise to the hilarious image of the entire team moving together in order to get tissues. Mary ends up smiling at the good times and turning off the lights on the set.
The key to this ending is that everything goes wrong for all the right people. Everyone who has spent years cleaning up Ted’s mistakes gets fired because of Ted, but because they kept making him look good, Ted keeps his job. He tries to protest the firings, but ultimately backs down when threatened, leading to Murray saying “When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.” When Lou tries to cheer Mary up, she calls in two of her friends… who hate each other and fight viciously. When Ted tries to be sincere, he just quotes a completely unrelated song. That’s what made the show great, watching people deal with all of life’s crap and unfairness with a laugh and a joke. It was the best way to end the show.
9) Come Along With Me (Adventure Time)
The Show: Adventure Time follows the journeys of Finn, the last human (Jeremy Shada), and his adopted brother Jake the dog (John DiMaggio), through the land of Ooo. They usually are accompanied by Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch) and Marcelline, the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), and sometimes the Ice King (Tom Kenny).
The Finale: The last episode of this show takes place far in the future from the normal timeline and the show now apparently stars two new characters named Shermy (Sean Giambrone) and Beth (Willow Smith), who appear to have a similar relationship to Finn and Jake. They go to meet with the King of Ooo, who is revealed to be BMO (Niki Yang), Finn and Jake’s AI game system. BMO tells them the story of the “Great Gum War,” what the show had been building to for a season, then tells them of the coming of GOLB, the anti-God of that universe. Ultimately, the war is averted and the world is saved, and Shermy and Beth take up the mantle of Finn and Jake.
The reason this is on this list is mostly because it contains three great elements. First, the Great Gum War is literally averted, rather than fought. Finn ends up convincing both sides of the war to stand down, and does so by forcing each side to view the situation from the other’s point of view. This represents the culmination of Finn’s growth from a boy to a man, finally realizing that violent solutions propagate violence, but that forgiveness can bring true peace. Afterwards, Shermy, now representing young Finn, complains that he thought the War would be more important, like the end of the world, only for BMO to casually say “no, that’s what happened next.” Second, after the apocalypse is averted, Shermy and Beth, acting as audience surrogates, ask BMO what happened next, only for BMO to respond with “Eh, y’know. They kept living their lives.” I think this may be one of the most perfect summaries to end a show. It’s not a bland “happily ever after,” but it is a way to tell everyone that, even though life goes on, this story has hit the end. However, the true ending is Shermy and Beth taking the pose that Finn and Jake take in the title screen, meaning that the adventure will always continue. Lastly, we see Marceline and Princess Bubblegum finally become a couple. Given how much crap the show had gotten in the past for even hinting at this, I love that they decided “we’re at the end, let’s go for it.” This finale summed up everything that was good about this show.
8) One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)
The Show: The series follows the lives of all of the people who work for or are associated with the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana: Idealist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), her husband Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), her Libertarian boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), her coworkers Tom (Aziz Ansari), April (Aubrey Plaza), Garry (Jim O’Heir), Craig (Billy Eichner), and Donna (Retta), as well as April’s husband Andy (Chris Pratt), and Leslie’s best friend Ann (Rashida Jones) and her husband Chris (Rob Lowe).
The Finale: By the end of the series, everyone is leaving and no one works for the Parks Department anymore. However, Leslie asks everyone to help her when a man asks them to fix a swing near his house. As they work together to navigate the bureaucracy to repair the swing, the show flashes forward and shows how almost every characters’ life progresses. We see Garry get a happy ending after being the sad sack for most of the series, Donna turn her success into helping children with her husband (Keegan-Michael Key), and Tom become a celebrity through writing a bestseller. Ron is shown to retire from his business to run a major park with Leslie’s help. April and Andy start a family and Leslie and Ben both become successful politicians, with one of them implied to eventually be president.
This episode should be terrible. It’s saccharin beyond anything else the series had done up to this point and it’s little more than an extremely elaborate “and they all lived happily ever after.” However, the way in which their flash-forwards are told give us a real picture of how all of these people, despite drifting apart, are always bonded by the events of the show. Even though they live in different parts of the world, they’re still a family and they always will be. Moreover, the world we see in the future is a hopeful and just one, with Leslie, who has always been thwarted by the stupidity of Pawnee, becoming governor of Indiana. We see a world where, despite still having problems, we find a group of people who are fighting for the right thing, even if they all disagree on what that is. To drive it home, Leslie even quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s line “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is to work hard at work worth doing.” We see a future where that kind of dedication is celebrated, and that’s what really makes this episode work.
7) Basil the Rat (Fawlty Towers)
The Show: Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run a hotel in England. Basil is an angry jerk obsessed with class mobility, always trying to become one of the elite, but his own incompetence usually dooms him. His staff includes the sensible Polly (Connie Booth) and the hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs).
The Finale: A health inspector (John Quarmby) informs Basil that the state of Fawlty Towers’ kitchen is below standard. If they don’t fix the problems in 24 hours, the hotel will be closed. At the same time, Basil discovers Manuel is keeping a pet rat, named Basil, in the kitchen, having been sold it as a “Siberian Hamster.” Basil tries to get rid of it, but Manuel protests and he and Polly hide it in the shed. After Manuel foolishly lets the rat back into the hotel, Basil the human poisons a veal shank in an attempt to kill the rat, but the shank gets cooked by accident. After every customer, including the returning health inspector, orders the veal, hilarity ensues. Eventually, the health inspector is handed the rat, but the cast attempts to cover for it as the episode ends.
The key to Fawlty Towers was the incredible combination of tight writing and amazing physical performances. Each episode typically took Cleese and Booth six weeks to write, which is probably why there are only twelve of them in two seasons over five years. This episode is the pinnacle of that, because all of the beats in the episode have to be precisely timed in order to keep the tension building. In the meantime, all of the characters have to keep scrambling and covering for their actions as they keep trying to find Basil the Rat. It also helps that this episode is the opposite of what Basil Fawlty had been hoping for. Rather than becoming an elite establishment, his hotel is almost closed down for being a dump, and at the end of the episode, it seems extremely likely that it will be shut down. Rather than a happy ending, we get a shot of Basil, having passed out from stress, being dragged unceremoniously from the room.
6) Weirdmageddon (Gravity Falls)
The Show: Gravity Falls is a town filled with strange happenings and mysteries. When two kids, Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal), come to stay with their Great Uncle “Grunkle” Stan Pines (Alex Hirsch) for the Summer at his Mystery Shack, they get caught up in the town’s weirdness, along with Stan’s two employees Wendy (Linda Cardellini) and Soos (Hirsch). Their greatest enemy is a dream demon named Bill Cipher (Hirsch).
The Finale: The final episode begins with Bill winning. He has finally figured out a way to enter the real world in his true form and he immediately reveals himself to be one of the most horrifying villains ever to be featured in a show for kids. He and his gang start to wreak havoc upon the town, until Dipper, Mabel, and the surviving cast fight back. Ultimately, they’re able to trick Bill into entering Stan’s mind, which they then wipe, destroying him as Stan’s dream self punches the demon out of reality. Then, finally, the Summer ends and the kids have to go home in a tearful goodbye.
The greatest strength of Gravity Falls was that it always focused on how the characters felt and what they were going through internally more than externally and this finale is no exception. The strength of the episode isn’t just in finally showing us the power of Bill Cipher and having the team overcome him, it’s that the last 20 minutes is just having a slow, sad, emotional goodbye from all of the characters to the two kids that changed the town so much. We see some nice flash-forwards explaining that most of the characters will be okay, and still be the eccentric oddities that we came to love, but also that everyone will be separated in their own lives. Maybe they’ll be together again one day, but it seems likely that this is the end of this story. It ends with a cryptogram that deciphers to: FADED PICTURES BLEACHED BY SUN. THE TALE’S TOLD, THE SUMMER’S DONE. IN MEMORIES THE PINES STILL PLAY. ON A SUNNY SUMMER’S DAY. I’ll admit that I still tear up reading that, because it’s just that adorably sincere.
5) All Good Things… (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
The Show: It’s the 24th Century and mankind has spread itself among the stars, meeting new life forms and threats along the way, and forming the United Federation of Planets. The top ship among the Federation fleet is the Enterprise-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Along with crew members William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Picard explores the unknown along the Final Frontier.
The Finale: Picard finds himself unfixed by time, his mind jumping between the present, twenty-five years into the future, and seven years in the past, just before the show’s pilot. These jumps are random, making people think he’s going mad. In the present, he goes to investigate a space anomaly. He then uses a jump to convince his future ex-wife Beverly to travel to the same anomaly, which is happening in the future as well. In the past, he declines to go to the anomaly so that he can have the encounter at Farpoint with Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent being who threatens humanity. However, it turns out that Q is actually causing Picard to jump through time, telling him that solving the mystery of the anomaly is the only chance to save humanity. Picard discovers that investigating the anomaly is actually what causes it, and sacrifices all three different versions of the Enterprise to stop it. This is revealed to be Q’s test and that Picard passed, saving humanity.
It’s one thing to manage to tie in the themes of a show with the finale, it’s another to literally tie the entire series together into one single cohesive expression of what the show is about. Star Trek has always been about humanity at its best; challenging the unknown, exploring the unexplored, bettering themselves for the sake of being better. This episode reveals that the entire series, from the Pilot to the end, was a test of whether humanity can evolve, with Picard as its focus. Picard proves not only that he can solve a four-dimensional problem, but that he and his crew are willing to sacrifice themselves in three different time periods in order to save the universe. It proves again that humanity has limitless potential both scientifically and socially, if only we can evolve beyond our selfishness.
The Finale: Fry (Billy West) decides to propose to his longtime flame Leela (Katey Sagal), and uses a device that rewinds time by 10 seconds (and has a 10 second recharge time) to set up the perfect proposal. Unfortunately, he ends up breaking the device, trapping him and Leela in a frozen world. Together, they live a long and happy life, until they’re discovered by the Professor, who fixes the device. He warns Leela and Fry that when he undoes the time freeze, it’ll take them back to before the episode started, with no memory of the events. Fry and Leela agree that, while they enjoyed growing old together, they both want to do it all over again.
This show gets bonus points because Futurama actually had four separate finales: “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” “Overclockwise,” and then this one. Despite having tried to wrap the show up multiple times, I am always impressed that this one is, in my opinion, the best of the four. It’s not just telling us that Fry and Leela will ultimately find happiness, we get to see them being happy together, with each of them clearly influenced by the other for the better. It helps that so much of the episode is really funny before that. We see Fry messing around with time in a number of fun gags, a throwback to the pilot, and Fry dying multiple times to the point that Leela starts to get bored with it. It’s a solid set of comedic scenes that turn into a sincere and emotional third act, which is basically what Futurama did at its best.
3) Goodbyeee (Blackadder Goes Forth)
The Show: Each season of Blackadder featured Rowan Atkinson as a different descendant of the Blackadder family. This one was a Captain in the British Army during WWI. He was commanded by the incompetent General Melchett (Stephen Fry) and his nemesis Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny). Each episode features his attempts to get out of actually having to fight, usually involving Blackadder’s incompetent aides George (Hugh Laurie) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson).
The Finale: Blackadder finds out that there’s going to be a full-scale attack the next day, meaning that he, along with all of his soldiers, will be running all-out into No Man’s Land. Since all of them will likely die, Blackadder pretends to be crazy in order to get sent home, but it fails. He tries to contact the British High Command to get sent home, but it fails as well. Darling is sent to the front line, despite his attempts to protest, while Melchett sits miles back. George and Baldrick discuss their losses during the war in a humorous way, until finally George admits that he’s afraid of dying. Blackadder and the rest of the group go over the top and are killed, with the shot fading to a silent poppy field.
It was a tradition for each season of Blackadder to end with death, usually that of the entire cast, but it was always done in a comic fashion. This entire season had frequently played off the massive casualties of World War One as a dark joke, which set everything up to do a similarly humorous or absurd conclusion to this season, but instead, they played it perfectly straight. It’s a sad, somber, painful ending to the show. It’s a subversion of the nature of the series, but it fits the theme of the season, that war is hell. The show sacrificed its own cast to make sure that people remember that the price of war is blood and tears.
2) Felina (Breaking Bad)
The Show: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a chemist who finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to partner with his ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to make meth in order to provide for his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and his son Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte). He does surprisingly well, eventually becoming a kingpin.
The Finale: Having managed to lose most of his money and betraying Jesse in the last season, Walt threatens former partners to leave a fortune to his son and decides to “make things right.” He rigs a machine gun to a mechanical arm and tries to make amends to his wife for all of his misdeeds, having a conversation in which she points out that his actions were always about him, never the family. Walt goes to meet the Aryan Brotherhood members holding Jesse hostage and uses the machine gun to kill almost all of them, with him and Jesse killing off the survivors. Walt is mortally wounded, but dies smiling surrounded by meth cooking equipment as Jesse escapes.
This episode works on so many levels. First, the title is an anagram for finale and a reference to the song “El Paso,” which mirrors the events of the third act. Like the subject of “El Paso,” Walt dies in the arms of his beloved: Meth. Second, it mirrors the pilot, both beginning and ending with sirens headed for Walt. In the pilot, Walt declines to shoot himself, but here, he dies by a shot from his own gun. Walt even dies in the same outfit he wore in the pilot. Third, it provides a satisfying conclusion to a series that was constantly escalating tension by doing exactly the opposite, being a quiet denouement for Walt after one last blaze of glory. The show was always building towards his death, and Cranston’s final moments on-screen send the character off in exactly the right way.
1) The Last Newhart (Newhart)
The Show: Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) is a writer who moves to Vermont to run an inn with his wife Joanna (Mary Frann). While Dick is a relatively normal and sane person, the town is populated by eccentric people whose inability to operate within the bounds of reality constantly drives Dick crazy.
The Finale: After years of putting up with the locals, the entire town is purchased by a Japanese tycoon who wants to turn it into a golf resort. While Dick and Joanna make a show of wanting to keep the town the same and refuse to leave, literally everyone else takes a huge payout and vacates. Years later, Dick and Joanna now run their inn in the middle of a golf course. All of their former neighbors pay them a surprise visit, but quickly drive Dick crazy until he gets hit in the head with a golf ball. He then wakes up in bed… as Dr. Bob Hartley, the main character of The Bob Newhart Show, next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). He reveals that the entire series of Newhart was just a dream he had, something that annoys his wife when he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blond.
This finale should be terrible, because the idea that the whole series was a dream would normally be stupid or seem like a cop-out. However, The Bob Newhart Show was a series about Bob Hartley questioning his own reality and Newhart was a series where everyone somehow played by rules that defied any established rules of logic, except for Bob Newhart’s character. It not only made sense that Newhart was a dream of someone who constantly questioned reality, it made MORE sense than any other explanation. Bob Hartley always defined himself as the “only sane man” in his life, so he still does that in his dreams. Bob Newhart essentially spent 20 years setting up this punchline across two different series and it served as a perfect finale for both of them. I think it’s telling that after Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston did a “fake ending” where he wakes up as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle that was inspired by this. When the second best ending has to pay tribute to something, you know that thing has to be the best.
Let me know if there are any others that you think I should have added by posting in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter.