40 Most Upsetting TV Finales of All Time, Ranked
Ending a TV show is hard. Actors fall through, audience expectations are too high, and budgets call for a quick finish. Here are the 40 most upsetting TV finales of all time!
We’ve all been there. After watching an entire series, we’re nearing the end. We’re lucky enough to get a series finale, but is it any good? There are plenty of shows that do it right, and they leave the audience pleased with the ending. Viewers don’t feel like the series left anything out and answered most of their questions. But, for every series that got it right, there is always one that leaves its fans angry and questioning, “What was that?”
Ending a TV show is hard, for viewers, writers, directors, and actors alike. Some shows get it so, so wrong for one reason or another. In the end, things just don’t go as planned whether the actors fall through, the audience has high expectations, or budgets call for a quick finish. Sometimes, it’s even all three! Worst of all, sometimes directors have completely different ideas for the series that are just…off according to the viewers. Well, regardless of the reason, it really upsets audiences and leaves us feeling betrayed.
There are tons of series we can put on this list, but we’ve found 40 of the worst finales of all time that have had fans rioting in one way or another. We've ranked them from bad to the worst TV finales ever to hit our screens.
‘That ‘70s Show’
While we’d like to pretend the entire last season of That ‘70s Show doesn’t exist, we can’t. The finale was the best of the season, but that doesn’t say much. The actors did what they could, but it was weird that Eric only showed up for five minutes during the finale. Still, Kitty’s raw emotion will always break our hearts.
‘Beverly Hills 90210’
You know you’ve messed up when your finale makes fans happy that your show is ending. The writing was never too fantastic in Beverly Hills 90210, but the ending left a bad taste in fans’ mouth. Some actors didn’t even show up to reprise their roles—one even just sent a video message with warm wishes.
‘Will & Grace’
The last episode of Will & Grace was just bloated. The series tried to wrap it up in a sweet way by ending it right where it began—a phone call with faux flirting. That being said, the final scene where all the characters, now older, toasting their friendship felt like it didn’t do justice to every season prior.
First of all, if you’re doing a Superman TV show, you should put Clark Kent in the full Superman costume. Everyone expected it, and the best shot we got was him ripping off his shirt. The actor tried to explain the show’s choices, but fans weren’t having it. Apparently, the show’s mantra was “No tights, no flights.” Also, putting on the costume would make life “too easy.” Whatever. It’s Superman.
Twin Peaks was one of those heartbreaking shows that started so good that there was nowhere for it to go but downhill--and downhill it went! By the middle of the second season, the series had completely abandoned its roots as a surreal, slow-burning Lynchian masterpiece and instead turned into an aimless supernatural soap opera. Here’s hoping that the Showtime revival atones for the sins of the original run!
The Mad Men finale was one that fans either hated or loved. While some thought it was a fantastic ending—one of the best—others thought it really sucked. The finale felt as though the loose ends and heart-tugging was forced to the point where it was phony. The worst part was that it was tying up loose ends and tidying the show up in a way it hadn’t before, which overall made it feel like a different show.
The unusual, abrupt conclusion to the final episode of The Sopranos is either the best or worst series ending ever--depending on who you ask. If you love ambiguity and TV shows that take risks, this is the episode for you! However, if you were expecting a satisfying conclusion that ties up loose ends and sends off your favorite mafiosos in style, you’re in for a disappointing finale!
Dinosaurs became one of the most successful shows of an already-bizarre decade, but that just makes the last episode even more of an insult. The finale is basically an ecology parable that ends with the onset of an ice age that Earl is directly responsible for, one that will presumably destroy him, his family, and everyone else on the show.
Fans don’t need a finale to end happily, and someone should have mentioned that to the Charmed creators. The series finale has Paige going back in time to save Prue and Phoebe from dying. Then, they all end up in their respective perfect relationships to live happily ever after. It was unrealistic, and fans were livid.
‘Once Upon a Time’
Once Upon a Time made a major mistake by doing a soft reboot after all of the actors quit. They brought on new characters, and it didn’t have the same flair as the original. Honestly, that’s why we think it deserves to be on this list.
‘Sex and the City’
Sex and The City wasn’t supposed to be a love story with a happy ending, but the finale chose otherwise. Fans were pretty disappointed when Carrie ended up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend Mr. Big. Most of us just wanted her to remain alone. So much for female empowerment, right?
'The Office' (USA)
Yes, Steve Carell did return for a much-anticipated guest appearance as Michael Scott in the finale of The Office, but aside from that high point, there was not much to write home about in the episode. However, considering that the last two seasons were abysmal at best, most fans had braced themselves for a subpar conclusion to this once-great comedy.
Gossip Girl had been one of the most popular shows on The CW, so everyone expected a quality ending. Some say that the finale answered questions and tied up loose ends, but it honestly didn’t. There were so many plot holes left behind that it turned the whole show sour.
True Blood had a die-hard fanbase, and it was going to be hard to satisfy everyone. That being said, they didn’t really satisfy many. It wasn’t the worst by far, but it was pretty disappointing to see Sookie not end up with a better choice, killing characters for stupid reasons, and that horrible wedding scene.
If you’re going to take the time to do a finale, don’t rush it. The finale of Girls felt incredibly rushed, making it a disappointment to fans across the United States. The story focused on Hannah’s pregnancy and how mature she’d gotten, which was a huge stretch. Other main characters also had little to no screen time, so if Hannah wasn’t your fave, then too bad.
The series started going downhill long before the series finale, but that’s when things started to get really weird. The characters began to change what they cared about. Nancy is a great example of this. Nancy would do anything for her kids, but by the last season, she was an uncaring mother and a terrible person. Then, the finale went really off-the-rails and showed a jump in time where everyone is super old. Nancy didn’t even have any consequences for her actions!
A lot of fans felt like Warehouse 13 was the ultimate act of betrayal, but others feel as though the show fell victim to a cut episode count. That would’ve forced them to wrap up faster than initially planned. The last season left a pretty bad taste in our mouths and can only be described as a “clip show of clips that weren’t from the show and a shoehorned romance.”
If Scrubs ended with the season finale of JD walking off and reliving his memories, then that would easily be one of the best series endings out there. But (big but), the series decided to bring in students and continue. Scrubs didn’t technically have a finale considering it was canceled due to low ratings. The show should have ended with JD’s montage.
Heroes started to go downhill when Sylar became a good guy, but this is about the finale. Surprise: it also sucked. The worst part of the finale is how much you realize the writers relied on characters’ powers to tell a story. Instead of putting effort into wrapping up the series, the creators used whatever loop-holes (powers) they could come up with to get it quickly over and done with.
This show just came back for a mini-series, but at the time, nobody knew we'd be getting more X-Files. The finale was spent laying groundwork for a big alien invasion due to come in 2012 (instead of wrapping up any of the threads it had left hanging for nearly a decade). When fans finally did get a movie, it had nothing to do with the show's mythology. Maybe we really were invaded by aliens and they're making the show stop talking about it. That's the only explanation we can come up with.
‘House of Cards’
There isn’t much you can do when you fire the main character, even if it was justified. After Kevin Spacey was removed from the show, House of Cards was forced to end the show without him using his character’s wife, Claire. Claire was never strong enough to hold the show on her own, and the last episode was beyond lackluster.
Alright, so, there were some things we expected from Merlin, and one of those was an epic fight between Merlin and Morgana. Spoiler alert: we didn’t get it. On top of that, Arthur dies, and Merlin goes off to be alone forever. Uh, excuse us? The writing was pretty trash in the final episode, and fans had a lot of feelings about it.
Private Practice is a prime example of what happens when you give a network control over a finale. Sure, the characters got happy endings, but it was rushed and poorly put-together. There also wasn’t enough screen time for characters people really cared about, i.e. Addison and Amelia. To add to that, we didn’t get to see Charlotte and Cooper resolve their issues.
Audiences don't like having the rug pulled out from under them, and they don't like being told that what they've been invested their time in "doesn't count." After some increasingly surreal hijinks, the last episode of the show revealed that Dan had actually died in a heart attack we saw him survive in season eight and that the entire show had been the attempt of a devastated writer to give her broken family a happier ending than the one it got. Wow, just wow!
‘Sons of Anarchy’
Sons of Anarchy was all about head-strong characters that fought to live, fought for what they loved, and fought to survive. That being said, the finale ends with the main character killing himself via semi-truck. It was supposed to be this whole sacrificing-himself-for-everyone thing, but it was a worn-out cliché. Never end your show on a cliché.
This finale had to reactions: like it or hate it—no one really loved it. It was nice to see House doing something for someone else, but the death of a major character rubbed people the wrong way. Not to mention the fact that Cuddy wasn’t in the final season. That just made the whole thing feel odd, but it ended up being a smart decision on her part.
In all fairness, Quantum Leap's finale was only supposed to end the season, but they got a cancellation and tacked stuff on to give the series some kind of send-off. The episode ends with a title card telling you that Sam fixed things for his friend Al, but that "Dr. Sam Becket never returned home." You may notice that Beckett's name was missing a "t" there. If you did, then congratulations! You officially care more than the show did, because that's how they spelled it on the title card.
‘Brothers & Sisters’
After five seasons, Brothers & Sisters was abruptly canceled, meaning there was no real finale. What fans were left with was an episode that tied up a few loose ends but left more questions than anyone wanted. The worst part was that season six would have brought “big drama,” according to the executive producer.
There’s a major reason everyone hates the finale of Friends: Rachel gives up her dream to stay with Ross. Yeah, we all wanted Rachel and Ross to be together, but it makes no sense that she gave up her dream to work in Paris. Plus, Ross didn’t seem to care that she was doing it for him. After all the trouble they’ve had, Rachel would be smarter than that.
'Mork and Mindy'
An idea from an 8-year-old kid who just happened to be the son of Happy Days creator, Garry Marshall, Mork and Mindy was an unlikely success. The show got increasingly bizarre, and what had been a pretty standard sitcom, ended with Mork and Mindy stranded in prehistoric times being pursued by a villain from another world.
The cyclical nature of Battlestar Galactica was harped on throughout the series. So when the crew just sort of put down on a good planet and decided if it wasn't Earth it was good enough, that felt okay. But when they flashed-forward to show our modern world, it was super forced and a little too predictable. It also didn't make sense at all, and having characters listen to a Jimi Hendrix song just confused everybody.
It’s not that the Seinfeld finale wasn’t hilarious--it was just...extreme. While our four favorite New York nobodies found themselves in all sorts of ridiculous trouble throughout the series, being sentenced to prison time was probably a bit over-the-top for a show that prided itself on finding humor in the mundane.
'Two and a Half Men'
We all knew that Two and a Half Men was doomed when series front runner Charlie Sheen was given the boot. And when his “surprise return” in the finale consisted only of a Charlie Sheen double being crushed by a falling piano, we all breathed a sigh of relief that our collective nightmare was over.
‘Star Trek: Enterprise’
The ending of Star Trek: Enterprise should have been nothing other than fantastic, but it’s almost a trope that a great TV show has to have a horrible finale. Fans were appalled when the finale turned out choppy, rushed, and disconnected because it skipped to parts that were only relevant to one character—Riker. Then, the producer had the gall to call it a “valentine to the fans.”
'How I Met Your Mother'
The girl Ted was obviously supposed to be with from the beginning (Robin) ends up with his best friend Barney. Not the ending most fans hoped for, but then the writers did a 180. They undid years of Barney's character development by having him cheat on Robin, and they robbed the last season's female lead by revealing that Ted married her and then she died. All of this so that Ted could get back with Robin. Why didn't they just do that in the first place?
The entire country was devastated when everyone's favorite Melmacian was hauled off by government agents, presumably for all sorts of horrible tests and dissections. It turns out that the episode was supposed to be a cliff-hanger, but the series was canceled before they could explain what happened to Alf. It took six years for the makers to make a TV movie that tried to undo some of the damage. In it, Alf found the Tanners, who had moved to Iceland for some unknown reason. Alf couldn't remember his family, and it literally made some fans cry, so we're not sure which finale is worse.
Did you watch St. Elsewhere if you didn’t complain about the finale for years after? After six seasons, St. Elsewhere decided to wrap up the series by showing a shot of an autistic boy holding a snow globe that had a replica of St. Eligius inside of it. Then, the audience finds out that the whole thing was all the kid’s imagination. Yikes. Just yikes.
When Lost began, it came with promises that every part of the show had a rational, scientific explanation and that the creators already had an end in mind. None of that turned out to be true. Abrams & Co. took to the internet and the press to deny all of the claims about what was happening. But when the series finale turned out to be the purgatory-esque copout that most of its fans had already predicted, all of that secrecy turned out to be meaningless anyway.
Not many people even made it to Dexter's last season. In some ways, the finale was a return to form; In others, it was problematic. Dexter is forced to mercy-kill his own sister after a blood clot renders her brain-dead. Then, in a very modern ending, Dexter fakes his death, abandons his life, and shuffles around as a lumberjack in Oregon. His inner monologue is gone, and he is just a dead-inside shell of his former self. There's a certain poetry to it, but this finale just kind of petered out.
‘Game of Thrones’
Of course, Game of Thrones had to be on the list! The entire season was rushed, and that caused a lot of issues with character choices. This biggest problem was that the series led up to this epic battle between Dany and Cersei, and it fell completely flat. Speaking of flat—killing the main villain with falling rocks? Seriously? Most fans were upset by this finale, and a million of them signed a petition to have it redone!