“And the two grand ladies made their escape together” — Josh’s Favorite TV Series Finales, Part II!
The great Battlestar Galactica saga comes to an end, tomorrow. I am trying to be brave! In preparation, I have been thinking about some of my favorite series finales. Click here to see numbers 10-6.
5. Arrested Development — “Development, Arrested” — Cut down before its time, creator Mitch Hurwitz and co. at least had enough notice to be able to craft a fantastic finale. Structured to echo the events of the pilot (I love it when series finales bring things full circle like that), it’s another momentous party-boat ride for the Bluth Clan. Young George Michael confronts his feelings about his cousin Maeby (Michael: “How long has this been going on?” George Michael: “I don’t know… about 53 weeks?”). Lindsay stresses about getting older (“I’m going to be 40 in three years!” Michael: “You know, being twins, our birthdays are pretty close to one another…”). Tobias… well, remains Tobias (“Perhaps I should call the hot cops and tell them to come up with something more nautically themed. Hot Sailors. Better yet, hot se–” Michael, interrupting: “I like hot sailors!” Tobias: “Me too.”). And many, many long-running jokes are revisited (“Ann.” — “Her?” — “That was a freebie” — “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake” — “Annyong!”) You might have noticed yesterday in part 1 of this list that I focused a lot on the final scene as the true measure of a series finale’s worth. No surprise, the geniuses behind this show bring it all home in a note-perfect epilogue, in which Maeby attempts to sell the Bluth family story to Ron Howard (who was, of course, the narrator of the show for its entire run). Says Howard: “I don’t see this as a series. Maybe… a movie?” We can only hope!!
4. The Wire — “-30-” — As the fifth and final season of The Wire unfolded, I was petrified as to what would happen, in the end, to all of the beloved, damaged characters on this take-no-prisoners show. Would ANYONE get a happy ending?? Somehow this finale managed to bring proper closure to almost every member of this amazing, one-of-a-kind sprawling ensemble cast. Without breaking from the tough, down-beat tone of the series, I still felt throughly satisfied with where everyone wound up — quite a feat. This episode is filled with all of the intensity and emotion that made this series such a powerhouse. In particular, the Irish wake for one of our good friends was a profoundly effecting scene. And the final montage of life in Baltimore? Phenomenal. Makes one want to watch the entire series through again.
3. Quantum Leap — “Mirror Image” — To be honest, while I really enjoy Quantum Leap, I can’t say that I’m an enormous fan. I’m sure I haven’t seen every episode. I know the finale was controversial, but I have to say, it is by FAR my favorite episode of the series, and one that I have found myself revisiting many times. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaps into a strange bar… and discovers that rather than leaping into someone else’s body, he seems to actually be himself, on the day of his birth. The bartender (Bruce McGill), who may or may not be God, gives Sam some answers about his leaping and offers him a momentous choice. The closing words of the episode, written across a black screen, give us one of the saddest endings of a TV series that I have ever encountered: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” Brutal, and yet, somehow — perfect.
2. Star Trek: The Next Generation — “All Good Things…” — As with the Quantum Leap finale, this final episode of Next Gen stands as one of the finest of the entire run of the series. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds himself moving backwards and forwards through time — living parallel lives in the past (just a few days before the series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”), the present, and the future. Providing us with a poignant look back at the characters as they were when the show began and intriguing hints as to where they might all wind up, “All Good Things…” is also a sci-fi brain-puzzle of the best kind as the viewer races along with Picard to solve the mystery of the paradox that, apparently, threatens humanity’s very existence. A return visit from Q, who was the main villain of the pilot, also provides us with a nice bookend to the start of the show — and he gets to deliver some of the episode’s best lines. Also, there is some slam-bang action with the three-nacelled Big E in the future. Finally, it all comes down to a marvelously written and performed final scene, as Picard finally joins the rest of his command crew — his family — in their regular game of poker. “Nothing’s wild… and the sky’s the limit.”
1. Babylon 5 — “Sleeping in Light” — I wasn’t a fan of B5 when it originally aired. I only discovered it when it was re-run in syndication on the Sci-Fi channel a few years after it ended. I have seen the show through in its entirety three times now, and while it has its flaws (and I still prefer Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when it comes to my favorite sci-fi show set on a space station), I have tremendous respect for the achievements of J. Michael Straczynski and the rest of his team on the creation of their “novel for television.” Without question, the series’ finest hour is this, its final episode. I am not embarrassed to admit that each of the three times that I have watched “Sleeping in Light” it has reduced me to a sobbing mess. In this episode, twenty years have passed since the events of the series, and Captain John Sheriden summons his friends together for one last time before his death. There is no action in this finale, no sci-fi shoot-’em-ups, just potent emotion and a sad, somber meditation on life and death. The episode is a masterpiece of writing and acting, with so many powerful scenes and moments: The toast at Sheriden’s dinner in which everyone names their absent friends; the simple act of Delenn turning towards the empty spot in her bed; and Ivanova’s voice-over line: “but I never saw him again in my lifetime.” I get a little chill just typing that. Not just a satisfactory ending to the show, “Sleeping in Light” almost feels to me like the story that the entire series has been building to — its reason for being. It is a masterpiece.
So there you have it! Ronald D. Moore, show-runner of the new Battlestar Galactica, was a key player in two of the finales on this list — that of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Will he and his team give us a finale to BSG that deserves a place on this list? Or will the entire thing turn out to be the fever dream of a young, autistic Zak Adama? We’ll see!! I’ll be back here on Monday with my thoughts.
And maybe next week I’ll also post my thoughts on some of the WORST series finales that I’ve ever seen…? Could be fun!