The ‘final’ episode of Futurama aired this week on Comedy Central, and while this show has seen its end on at least three separate occasions, this time they were ready for it. What better way to say goodbye to the crew of Planet Express than with an episode that focuses on the love of Fry and Leela, with a side order of the Professor mucking about in time and space. This episode wins by confirming no matter what happens to the timestream, nothing can undo the romance of Freela. (Is that their portmanteau? I’m just guessing.) Not every show gets to know when the end is nigh, and some that do turn in finales with a bittersweet note – or just completely fuck it up. Some have perfect finales, then ruin it by bringing the show back for additional, unnecessary seasons. (Supernatural.) But some shows know how to bid farewell to beloved characters, and the audiences who champion them, even when we’re not ready to let go. They might reference the pilot, bring back familiar faces we’ve missed, or simply honor the relationships that have been built. Mostly, they don’t end on a fucking cliffhanger.
- Avatar: the Last Airbender – This Nickelodeon cartoon is a near-perfect TV show. Diverse characters, well-rounded women, magic, martial arts, drama, suspense, laughter, and heart. Not to mention the successful execution of a three-season story arc that culminated in the four-part ‘Sozin’s Comet.’ While no one actually thought the Fire Lord would win in the end, the question that took viewers to the very last episode was always, ‘Would Aang kill him, or would he find another way?’ The question was answered in the only way it could be, and our favorite Gaang started to build a new world.
- Charmed – Say whatever you want about this fluffy, soapy, skimpy-outfitted show about a trio of sisters with magic powers – the series finale was the perfect end for the Charmed ones. After years of demons ruining their lives, each sister got a happily ever after, and the audience got closure, which is really all you could ask from this WB fantasy.
- Eureka – The Syfy dramedy about a town full of super-geniuses and their everyman sheriff really soared in its fourth and fifth seasons, which made its sudden cancellation all the more shocking. Syfy first promised an abbreviated sixth season to wrap things up, but later scrapped those plans, leaving the writers in something of a lurch. Finally, negotiations led to the promise of one extra S5 episode so that they could say a proper goodbye, and the writers delivered an hour that balanced both digs at the network’s treatment and the sweet moments between characters that was Eureka’s strength. There were cute references to the pilot, closure to an aborted S1 alternate future, and an eleventh hour save for the town. If only there had been one for the show itself.
- Flashpoint – A CTV drama I discovered a few months ago about a Canadian SWAT team (or, Strategic Response Unit) I completely fell in love with. The series finale, ‘Keep the Peace,’ threw everything it could at Team One and definitely brought the tears in the wake of some serious devastation, but despite the show’s attempt to make us think a crucial team member sacrificed himself, the last scene, a year later, tells us that though things have changed, all is well.
- Fringe – The final episode of season five, ‘An Enemy of Fate,’ is not the greatest episode in the history of the show that gave us parallel universes, Cortexiphan, Observers, and Gene the cow, but it wrapped those pieces in love and respect for an audience that had gone a long way on what had started as a questionable premise at best. The series finale engaged in some timey-wimeyness, erasing the dystopian future we had all come to loathe, restoring Peter and Olivia’s family, while giving John Noble’s Walter the redemption he was always looking for. So while the finale essentially erased the developments of the fifth season, nobody was particularly sad about it.
- Leverage – ‘The Long Good-bye Job’ is a culmination of the growth and development five misfits underwent for five years. From the beginning when their team was motivated by revenge, to the end when their family would risk everything to see justice done. The episode pulls a con on the audience, but finally Mom and Dad pass the reins to the kids and go off to have a life together. That moment was beautifully forshadowed in the midseason finales, and though we’ll miss our ‘bad guys,’ at least we can believe that they’re still out there grifting for good.
- Lost – Undoubtedly one of the more controversial finales on this list, and for all time. If you accepted the fact that you weren’t going to get answers to every single question raised during the course of the series, then you were free to love what they did at the end. It was a showcase of what the show had become – something many fans just didn’t want to believe. Ultimately Lost was about the crossroads of science and faith, and that’s exactly what the finale delivered – along with a chance to see old faces and true loves reunite. Was it perfect? No. Was it a fitting end to a phenomenon? Yes.
That’s what I’ve got – if you have other picks for the most satisfying series finales, add a comment!