Game of Thrones fans flooded Twitter with complaints about the beloved series' final episodes for weeks, but the disappointment surrounding our last days in Westeros was just the latest in a long legacy of television shows failing to deliver in their eleventh hour.
Horror fans saw it with Dexter, teens got their first taste of disappointment in Pretty Little Liars, and sci-fi lovers will never forgive NBC for what they did to Quantum Leap. These series finales were so bad that it's practically impossible to rewatch these sixteen shows without getting mad, sad, or smad all over again.
Chuck followed a cute but hapless Zachary Levi in his pre-Disney Prince days as a Best Buy worker who accidentally memorizes government secrets and gets pulled into the world of international espionage. The beating heart of the series was Chuck’s blooming relationship with his CIA handler, Sarah Walker. After watching Chuck and Sarah fall in love for five seasons and heavily investing in their relationship, showrunners decided to end the series by giving Sarah amnesia and never telling us if she regains her memory. This wasn’t even a situation where a cliffhanger is never resolved due to an unexpected cancelation. NBC did this to us on purpose.
There’s a popular Twitter sentiment that two types of television writers exist: “plotters” who carefully decide where a story will go and fit the character choices to their necessary paths and “pantsers” who write by the seat of their pants and see where the characters they’ve created naturally end up. After pantsing for nine seasons, How I Met Your Mother decided to plot only their final episode, undoing nearly a decade of character development and some light fan service in favor of ending the series how they’d originally envisioned it. Not only did it make barely any sense for the characters, but a season’s worth of action is shoved into one episode after spending the last 24 episodes focusing on the marriage for a couple that showrunners knew wouldn’t last.
Even Michael C. Hall hated the Dexter finale. The Atlantic said the dark series’ finale episode made them so angry they wanted to throw things at their television, Vulture called it “A Terrible End,” and it’s been on more worst-of lists than any other television show in modern history. Basically, Dexter's a lumberjack and he's okay. The serial killer disappears into a self-imposed exile after a mediocre final season, letting the series end with a whimper. The original ending showrunners envisioned saw Dexter strapped to a table at the county jail right before being administered lethal drugs, so at least we know there was a decent plan suggested at one point.
I think the priest’s face in this photo says it all: We know Dan Humphrey is Gossip Girl, and we don’t approve. Viewers were totally fine with Chuck and Blair’s version of a shotgun wedding — we expected nothing less than a spousal privilege plot from our favorite schemers — but revealing Dan as the series’ titular tormentor then having him marry Serena van der Woodsen was complete nonsense. Dan's unmasking made the series impossible to rewatch without being annoyed by how clearly the showrunners never planned for Dan to be the famed teen gossip machine.
This might be the only cop-out worse than “it was all a dream.” We still don’t completely understand the final season’s “sideways timeline,” but since the characters were dead all along, apparently it doesn’t matter! The series forgets to clear up mysteries like Libby and Hurley’s mainland connection, Walt’s powers, the origin of Kate’s black horse, or those freaking numbers that were always around and supposed to have some deeper meaning. But again, it doesn’t matter, because oh my f*cking God they’re f*cking dead. Technically, they weren't dead until the sideways timeline, but the concept was so poorly explained that most fans think the survivors never made it out of Flight 815.
Okay, we take it back. “They were dead all along” isn’t the worst ending a show can use. St. Elsewhere took it even further by deciding that the entire series was an autistic child's daydream about a snow globe. Because of other NBC television shows crossing over with St. Elsewhere during the 137 hours of programming that apparently didn’t matter at all, people with a little too much time on their hands have figured out how many series have to take place in Tommy Westphall’s imagination. Based on the idea that any show that crossed over with St Elsewhere, any show that crossed over with *those* shows, and any shows that referenced these shows were also figments of Tommy’s imagination, 90% of American television takes place in a snow globe dream. Good going, NBC.
It’s hard to sum-up Quantum Leap’s central story in a way that actually makes sense, but let’s give it a try. Sam Beckett jumps into an unfinished time machine because the government is threatening to pull funding from his time travel research. Obviously, he gets stuck in the past, but he weirdly ends up in a different person's body and has to solve whatever is going wrong in their life before he can make another leap through time and hopefully land back in his own body. After prefacing every single episode with the hopeful statement that Beckett is “hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home,” the writers broke the news that he never made it home in a hastily assembled title card that didn’t even spell his name correctly. Sam Becket never made it home, but hopefully Sam Beckett got there eventually.
Considering the books ended with a convoluted plot twist and were clearly more carefully constructed than the show, I’m not sure what we were hoping would happen in Pretty Little Liars’ televised grand finale. The time jump at the beginning of the final season didn’t exactly bode well for the series' send-off, but making the mastermind Hannah, Spencer, Aria, and Emily had been facing since high school a character we’d never even met was more than a bit of a letdown. Evil Spencer’s unnecessary forced English accent didn’t help things either, and they managed to ruin the perfectly cute doctor Wren in the process. The show was going for shocking, but they made the ending literally unbelievable. As in, no one really believed it.
The creators of Degrassi: The Next Generation also introduced American audiences to Instant Star through TeenNick and The N. Those were the good old days. Instant Star followed a teenager who wins a Canadian singing competition and is thrown into the music industry alongside demanding label execs, catty rival pop divas, and a former boy bander-turned-producer who's more than just his "I Want It That Way" '90s fame. The series was always going to be about Jude and her producer, Tommy, falling in love, but showrunners thought they would have a fifth season to reconcile these two lovebirds after torpedoing their relationship in the eleventh hour of season four. The N and TeenNick both abruptly pulled their funding from the show, so now we're stuck with the most depressing love story since Shakespearean times.
Merlin’s utterly depressing finale being released on Christmas Day was like finally receiving the coal we’d been promised for being bratty children. The rushed ending saw Merlin finally reveal his magical powers to King Arthur just in time for Arthur to die in Merlin’s arms in a tragic scene befitting of their homoerotic subtext. Basically, everyone dies and to make matters worse, everyone who *didn’t* die would be long gone by the final shot of the series, which saw an elderly Merlin just aimlessly walking around waiting for the second coming of Arthur… in modern England.
ALF was supposed to be a children’s show, but it had a darker final episode than most HBO dramas. Early in the series, viewers are informed in no uncertain terms that if ALF was found by the Alien Task Force, he would be subjected to a cacophony of torturous experiments including having his fingernails pulled out. The idea of putting this poor little guy through so much pain is the reason he’s taken in by the ATF in the first place, but the series still ended with ALF being captured by the scientists he’d been avoiding this whole time. The episode was meant to be a cliffhanger that would be resolved in future seasons, but the show’s cancellation doomed our favorite alien seemingly forever. Not even the revival, Project ALF, did much to fix what the finale broke, explaining that ALF’s family had moved away and he didn’t remember them anyway. It literally made children cry.
Who on Earth would get off that plane? It’s no surprise that Friends chose to end with the final word on Ross and Rachel, but it was a major letdown to see Rachel choose a man that was never good enough for her over the opportunity of a lifetime in Paris. Who does she think she is, Lauren Conrad? If showrunners absolutely had to end the series with their endgame couple dramatically choosing to be together, they could have done it without robbing Rachel of the ambition she had spent so many seasons cultivating. Also, Ross is the worst, but that’s a whole other article.
True Blood has one of the lowest-rated series finales on IMDB, probably because most of the episode was dedicated to stuff that didn’t really matter. We’re not mad, just disappointed. Jessica and Hoyt got married, yawn. Bill decides Sookie needs to have kids, but Sookie needs to talk to her Reverend about God’s plan because suddenly it’s the 2019 Republican Party up in here. Oh, then Sookie has to kill Bill to have a normal life because this show completely forgot why it had any fans in the first place. What happened to the shocking, sexy, LGBTQ-friendly series that flipped gender roles on their head and had fun with sex and murder?
Gilmore Girls was lead to its demise when Amy Sherman-Palladino tried to pressure her network into a two-season renewal and failed, leading her to walk away from the show and doom it to becoming another entry on this list of the worst TV finales ever. You think showrunners would learn from each other's mistakes because a similar thing happened to Joss Whedon when he tried to get The WB to grant him an early renewal but just ended up p*ssing them off and getting his show canceled. Not even the horrible cliffhanger where Angel, Spike, and friends are about to face down an entire army in the rain was enough to entice the network into bringing them back for one final brawl.
Speaking of Gilmore Girls, that final season was rough, but it didn’t hold a candle to the dower Netflix revival Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. Can it really be called a revival if it murdered all of our hopes and dreams? The entire mini-series suffered from a lack of Gilmore spirit, out-of-character extremes, and TBH a little *less* fan service than we would have liked, but it was sadly Amy’s plan all along to end the Gilmores’ story with history repeating itself. Rory’s pregnancy mirrors Lorelei’s in such a way that it’s clear ASP thinks we’re all destined to become our mothers, which puts a strange pallor over the delightful original series.
Not to beat a dead dragon horse, but the Game of Thrones finale was not good. Daenerys Targaryen’s abrupt 180 to power-hungry cruelty might have been weakly foreshadowed in past seasons, but the series didn’t show *or* tell her descent into so-called madness and robbed themselves of what could have been a beautifully-acted story of a woman who couldn’t handle being unloved. Putting that mess aside, making Bran the ultimate king after a few seasons of doing *nothing* was yet another instance of women like Sansa and Arya doing all of the work and a man getting all of the credit.