After last night’s disappointing (to me, at least [but I don’t have any overly insightful thoughts on it so I won’t really elaborate — I just thought it was too normal/straightforward/not-twisty-enough]) Battlestar Galactica series finale, I started doing some thinking on the nature of series finales (I seem to be watching a few this season: Boston Legal, The L Word, and now Battlestar Galactica (but unfortunately not Smallville which seems to keep going and going and going…).
Overall, I’ve been watching so much television lately that I feel like I’m starting to uncover some of the basic formulas and tropes used so much in television: there is often a single home/gathering place that everyone hangs out at… and, well, that’s the only one I can think of now — but I know I had more at one time.
Anyway, in my “analysis” of series finales, I’ve noticed that they tend to fall into three main categories. I purposely didn’t elaborate on my reasoning behind the shows so as not to spoil them. I think it’s safe to continue reading even if you haven’t seen some of the finales for some of the shows, yet.
Also: there is a bonus “type” of finale: The Flashback. But in my “studies” this seems to overlap with the three other categories, so I’ll note the episodes that use flashbacks with a *.
Total War: Especially in sci-fi shows with a “big bad” or overarching enemy, the series finale will involve confronting this big thing in a huge all-out war. It’s almost certain that some of our favorite characters will die in the process and in the end good will win. In non-sci-fi shows, this could also be considered the Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again ending: something huge happens that affects the lives of everyone on the show (someone gets married, the office where people work closes, etc.) and the show has to end because, like total war, the premise of the series would be so different if it kept going.
- Battlestar Galactica
- Boston Legal
- Star Trek: Voyager (my favorite ending to a sci-fi show so far, by the way)
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Sex and the City
- X-Files *
- The L Word *
Just Another Day: As opposed to Total War/Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again, the Just Another Day ending tries to show that while this may be the final episode of the series, the lives of the characters we’ve come to love will keep going on just like normal. That’s not to say there won’t be any big events or resolutions to long plot lines, but for the most part Things Stay The Same or don’t change too much. The show could conceivably keep going after the final episode.
- Six Feet Under
- Veronica Mars (this one sort of doesn’t count since the show was canceled…)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation *
- Arrested Development
- Knots Landing
- The West Wing
- The Sopranos (depending on what happens…)
The final type of series finale is by far the worst (depending on the circumstances): The Unresolved. Sometimes this happens when a show is unexpectedly canceled and the creators cannot create a proper ending. Or sometimes it happens when a show is unexpectedly canceled and the creators don’t want to do a proper ending. While I am usually a fan of twists and strange endings in a show, these endings are mostly “I wish it wouldn’t have ended so soon”-type of endings.
- Millennium (I think the show should have ended with the Total War ending that season 2 had)
- Twin Peaks
So what do you think about my categorization? Am I off the mark on some? (I’m sure I am!) Looking to the future, which finales am I most looking forward to based on the shows I watch now? Lost, Weeds (this show goes in all sorts of crazy directions!), Desperate Housewives (so long as it’s not an overly-sentimental flashback-based one), and Damages.