As we head into the summer TV season, where it’s required to maintain a marked effort to find quality programming to spend one’s time with, there remains a thick sheen of disappointment from all of the lackluster season (and series) finales that are still fresh on our memories from the 2015-2016 season. We’re hoping that the June sun will allow us to sweat out those same memories so that we can learn to appreciate the simple things again.
Here are 9 recent TV finales that were pale representations of their respective series as a whole. Perhaps reliving the head-shaking moments – the deaths, the possible deaths, the characters who sadly didn’t die, etc. – all at once will allow us to forget that any of it happened. Spoilers will be shared.
The FlashWhile The Flash remained fun throughout Season 2, doubling down on its bonkers comic book science fiction, it was obvious the huge problems with Zoom’s storyline probably weren’t going to be all fixed up by the time the finale aired. Indeed, this season’s big bad was at the center of both a dispiriting reveal about the masked man as well as an anticlimactic non-death, and the episode ended with Barry apparently retconning everything we’ve watched over the past two years. That final decision could lead to amazing things, sure, but it felt like a big narrative sucker-punch meant to shock rather than support what came before it.
NashvilleNashville almost got it right for its Season 4 finale. So many characters found happy endings, such as Scarlett and Gunnar, and it seemed like the showrunners got the cancellation news early enough to craft the perfect exit. But instead of offering up the cheerful all-tied-up ending that was already filmed, Nashville put Juliette on a plane that went missing, delivering a huge cliffhanger anchored by the blind optimism that some other network or streaming service would step in to fund Season 5. Even if that works, though, the shrewd move to keep things unresolved can’t take back how pissed off fans have been since the episode aired.
Sleepy HollowDespite kicking things off with a fun and inventive first season, it didn’t take very long for Sleepy Hollow to drift off the rails before rocketing into space and leaving a burning pile of ashes behind it. Things reached an unpredictably infuriating apex in the Season 3 finale, during which Nicole Beharie’s Abbie Mills, one-half of the show’s core duo, sacrificed herself so that The Hidden One could be defeated. WTF, Sleepy Hollow? And then Fox inexplicably renewed the show for Season 4. But Abbie isn’t coming back, and there’s not much the show can do at this point that will reclaim the viewer interest lost over the past two uneven seasons.
The Good WifeThe Good Wife is one of those shows that managed to maintain its core audience without doing anything too out of character to ruin its reputation among fans. That is, until the Season 7 finale, which also served as the series’ last installment. The episode, “End,” was strapped with the arguably unnecessary choice to mirror the series premiere for certain plot points, essentially taking everything away from Alicia (except for her own slap across the face) in a manner that felt far more mechanized than natural. It was a conscious choice, so it’s hard to knock creators Michelle and Robert King for sticking to their guns and not making the finale feel like a Very Special Episode as some veteran series opt to go with. But…that had to be the guns they stuck with?
ArrowGet a group of Arrow viewers together, and some are guaranteed to insist the past two seasons have tumbled downhill in quality; the Season 4 finale, “Schism,” only managed to get more people joining that side. (Here’s one great example of that backlash.) Damien Darhk couldn’t have conceivably nuked the entire planet – minus The Flash’s reset button, anyway – so that threat carried no high stakes, and his lame-o death was coupled with the haphazard dismantling of Team Arrow. Mayor Oliver Queen does indeed have a nice ring to it in terms of where Arrow’s narrative paths can be paved, but some kind of a memory-loss arrow will need to be utilized to knock enough dust onto the Season 4 climax to keep it out of sight and out of mind.
The Walking DeadThe mack daddy of all the complaint-producing finales this season, The Walking Dead’s Season 6 capper did a huge service to the series by introducing Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s highly anticipated tyrannical antagonist Negan, but it was done in such a way that the character’s iconic comic book scene ended in a cliffhanger that left it completely up in the air who Negan killed. I’m pretty sure the moments after that episode ended saw a rise in viewers digging holes in their backyard on the vaguest off-chance they ever found themselves in a situation where they could bury showrunner Scott Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman alive. It didn’t seem likely that The Walking Dead could top the backlash from Glenn’s fakeout death, but it happened a dozen times over.
CastleFor seven-ish seasons, Castle dependably delivered twisty stories and romantic sparks that fans ate up. Season 8, however, got new showrunners and the ho-hum LokSat storyline became its live-in albatross. Season 9’s mysterious fate first fueled rage over Stana Kasic’s forced exit, and then made things calmer by signing on cast members for another year. But then the cancellation dropped, and the now-series finale was spent not-shocking anyone in wrapping up a plotline that kept the main characters apart for extended periods, and it ended by putting bullets in both of them and then offering fans an shoehorned olive branch of a seven-years-later coda that had Rick and Beckett married with kids. (Nobody wanted to run that one, either.)
The X-FilesAs one of modern television’s most popular dramas, The X-Files understandably had a lot of eyes on it when it returned to Fox at the beginning of this year. The shortened season was pretty polarizing, serving largely as a six-episode medley of familiar series elements, but even the revival’s biggest flag-wavers haven’t all been able to defend the baffling finale. The hour’s overstuffed story rapidly brought in a possible global pandemic that could kill everyone, since all humans have some alien DNA, as well as the secret-cloaked return of the thought-dead Cigarette Smoking Man and that beam-of-light cliffhanger teasing Scully getting re-abducted. The complaints have not been eased by the fact that Fox and Chris Carter haven’t yet agreed on details for the show’s future.
Downton AbbeyOn both sides of the pond, Downton Abbey’s sixth season was more criticized than others, with both its “season finale” angering some viewers over misguided treatment of particular characters, and its Christmas Special/series finale angering others by too-neatly tying bows on everyone’s stories. Yes, these specials are known for their cheeriness, and yes, it was great that Edith finally got her day in the sun. But Mary also got her day in Edith’s sun, and the rest of the episode was largely a revolving door of mild and often predictable post-scripts for most everyone else. It wasn’t the riot-starting ending that others on this list put forth, but it also didn’t hold a candle to the flames that lit up the show’s best years.
Which Recent TV Finale Disappointed You The Most?