With Twitter abuzz with a huge backlash over the finale of How I Met Your Mother, I started thinking about my favorite final television series episodes. It’s a fairly short list, which only proves that even the greatest of shows (Yes, you Sopranos) can outstay their welcome, at least in my house.
A quick note: I have yet to watch Breaking Bad, which explains its exclusion. This is meant as a list of my personal favorites, not as a definitive list of best episodes ever. However, I will defend my #1 choice against all comers.
Bob Newhart took his straight man persona to the wilds of Vermont in this series, in which he starred as an innkeeper surrounded by eccentrics. It’s the gold standard for how to end a comedy because the final scene is an absolutely perfect punchline.
2. The West Wing
Despite a dip in quality in the middle of the seven seasons, the final season featuring a presidential campaign that eerily predicted the real-life 2008 campaign took the show out on a high note. The final episode, the changing of the guard, still puts a lump in my throat.
“What are you thinking about?” “Tomorrow.”
3. Hill Street Blues
Surpassed in public memory by its flashier successor, NYPD Blue, Hill Street was an outpost of semi-sanity in a thinly disguised bad neighborhood of Chicago. All the cops were imperfect, some more so than others, but they kept trying. The final episode featured the Hill Street precinct being nearly destroyed.
Yet, it would be re-built and life would go on, completely in the spirit of the show. One day at a time.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The last two seasons of Buffy sometimes felt like they were treading water between standouts like “Once More With Feeling,” but the finale brought its A-game with Willow taking charge of her magic and imbuing all potential slayers with their personal power.
Buffy, by shear force of will, made certain no future slayers will ever have to go through life as the “only one.”
“The world is doomed.” Not so much.
5. Batman Beyond
This is an odd choice, I know, simply because the last episode of the series was actually an episode of Justice League Unlimited entitled “Epilogue.”
Yes, we find out Terry McGinnis has a closer connection to Bruce Wayne than anticipated. But we also discovered Batman has a worthy successor as guardian of Gotham and one who, it seems, will have a happier life.
So what are your favorites?