From The Sopranos to Fleabag: 10 of the best television finales

Demons, dinosaur attacks, an inspired advertising pitch … There are many ways to conclude a much-loved show. Here are the most memorable

Mad Men

Don Draper has an existential breakdown at a new age healing camp, then closes his eyes, smiles and invents the most famous television commercial of all time. The cynicism is breathtaking. Draper is lost as a person. Everything around him has been destroyed, and he is totally alone in the world. But it’s OK because he’s figured out a way to sell fizzy drinks. Money always wins.

Byker Grove

In which, after spending a decade and a half as a largely realistic drama about the members of a youth club, the characters suddenly learn that they are fictional characters in a TV show and attempt to write their own fate. After being attacked by a dinosaur, the youth club is rigged with dynamite and destroyed. This is a real thing that actually happened.


What makes the Fleabag finale so special is its very last moment. After the trials of the preceding episodes – weddings, miscarriages, love affairs, gins in tins – Fleabag has a moment of realisation. The fourth wall, the thing she has been confiding with since we met her, is holding her back. And so – with a sad, sweet smile – she waves us goodbye.

Oil be fine ... Larry Hagman as JR in Dallas.
Oil be fine ... Larry Hagman as JR in Dallas. Photograph: Lorimar/Kobal/Shutterstock


As in It’s a Wonderful Life, an angel comes to Earth to show JR Ewing what things would be like had he never been born. Unlike It’s a Wonderful Life, however, the angel then turns into a glowing-eyed devil who starts screaming about how JR should definitely kill himself. Which, as endings go, is fairly unexpected.

Breaking Bad

Some say that the Breaking Bad finale was too neat: Walter White made his way around his world trying to right the devilish actions of his time as Heisenberg before he died saving his friend. But the episode moved like a sleekly designed machine; a fitting end to one of the best shows of all time.

Little House on the Prairie

When this quaint little drama ended, the land the sets were built on had to be returned to its normal state. This meant destroying several buildings. And this is why, to save on production costs, the Little House finale ended with the characters blowing up their own homes. Totally inspired.

Jurassic five ... Dinosaurs.
Jurassic five ... Dinosaurs. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy


The show that was meant to be like The Simpsons, but with animatronic anthropomorphised dinosaurs, ended with everyone dying. Earl, the Homer-ish dad dino, neglected the environment, brought about an apocalypse and had to spend the final moments of the series explaining to his toddler that they were all about to be killed. This was a kids’ show, remember.

The Sopranos

A cut to black so abrupt viewers complained to their cable providers. The final sequence builds in quiet dread. A family eat at a diner. Their daughter struggles to park. A man keeps glancing over. What happens to Tony Soprano? Is he murdered? Doomed to spend his life shooting panicky glances at the door? The show’s creator, David Chase, refuses to explain. Hopefully it stays that way.

The Leftovers

In episode one of Damon Lindelof’s surreal supernatural drama, 2% of the world’s population disappeared. In the final episode, a woman claimed to have answers but described them so diffidently that even she didn’t seem to believe them. That was it. So what happened to the missing? Are they dead? In heaven? Sometimes you just have to let mystery be.


Some people say that the Lost finale was bad. Those people are welcome to line up and fight me. The episode ended with most of the castaways leaving the island, to eventually be reunited in a location that existed outside of time and space, in a waiting room for the afterlife. Yes, fine, it looks pretty rubbish written down. But you weren’t there, man.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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