Screen Time: Our best & worst TV finales

Screen Time is a bi-weekly blog featuring TPN staff member’s takes on all things film and television.

More stories from The Pitt News Staff


Providence Journal/TNS

“Game of Thrones” production still.

All good things must come to an end. This includes long-running television series, though sometimes they may not end the way we would like them to. In this week’s edition of Screen Time, TPN staffers share what they believe are some of the best and worst television finales.

Readers beware, there are major spoilers ahead.


Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011-2019) // Megan Williams, For The Pitt News 

In a show about dragons and zombies, the most unbelievable episode did not stem from any of the above — instead, its finale bred disbelief and anger so widespread that more than 1 million people petitioned for a rewrite of the entire eighth season.

After wondering for nearly a decade who would sit on the Iron Throne, the end result was … Bran. All because a war criminal gave a speech asking the question “Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” Uh, literally anyone. Every true “Game of Thrones” fan knew that Bran being on screen meant you could go pee without missing anything good.

The greatest injustice of all was the conclusion to Daenerys Targaryen’s story line. To turn one of the most iconic female characters of all time into a raging monster in only one episode is appalling. To see her brutally murdered in the arms of the man she loves, only to paint Jon as the true victim of his actions, is a gross statement for the times. Culture does not exist in a vacuum. “Game of Thrones” got everything wrong in its finale, from sensible character choices to well-developed plot twists to lasting social impact.

True Blood (HBO, 2008-2014) // Delilah Bourque, Contributing Editor

“True Blood” is one of the most ridiculous shows I’ve ever seen. The series, based on “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” series by novelist Charlaine Harris, follows Louisianan waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) as she navigates life as a telepath in her small town of Bon Temps.

Oh, and vampires are real. Two years after a synthetic blood replacement called Tru Blood allowed vampires to publicly announce their existence because they no longer need to prey on humans to survive, Sookie falls for the one vampire in town, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). She quickly falls deeply into the world of supernatural beings‍ like werewolf Alcide Herveaux — noted University of Pittsburgh alumni Joe Manganiello.

My issue with the series finale is how much of a left turn it takes with the content from the rest of the show. Storylines that took multiple seasons to wrap up get completely reversed in the course of two episodes. The most frustrating one is the biggest plot line in the show — Sookie’s love life.

Personally, I thought Sookie was destined to end up with 1,000-year-old Viking vampire Erik (Alexander Skarsgard). Multiple seasons have plot lines devoted to Sookie’s struggles with her attraction to Erik, who is kind of evil but extremely sexy, and her getting over Bill, who sucks.

The very last episode of the show features a pregnant Sookie hosting a dinner party for her family and friends, including a nameless human husband whose face the audience never even gets to see. As a viewer, I will never get over the betrayal.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 2005-2014) // Mary Rose O’Donnell, Digital Manager

Over the course of nine seasons, “How I Met Your Mother” delighted audiences — until it messed everything up over the course of a two-part season finale. It is finally revealed who “The Mother” is and how Ted (Josh Rador) finally meets her. Great stuff. What’s not so great is how this poor woman gets mere minutes of screen time before narrator Bob Saget informs the audience that she dies of cancer just a few years into her and Ted’s marriage. The show rushed what is supposed to be the most important relationship of the series. Ted would not be telling this story of how he met the mother of his children if he did not have said children to tell it to — just to get back to a plot point that had been hashed and rehashed over the course of nine years, Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted’s relationship.

It all came back to Robin and Ted, who hadn’t officially dated since the second season, but whose lingering feelings for each other kept being brought up throughout the series, even as Robin and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) get together over the course of seasons five through eight, finally getting married in season nine. And then subsequently getting divorced over the course of the series finale. Here is another instance of character development and the slowest of slow burns resulting in one of the most unsatisfying endings in television history. Ted, Robin and Barney’s character development and various plot points throughout the series were thrown away, and the titular character killed off, just so Robin and Ted could end up together with their stupid blue french horn. It’s been five years since this episode aired and I am still angry at how the show ended.


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Adult Swim, 2009-2010) // Thomas Wick, Senior Staff Writer

The original “Fullmetal Alchemist” was a solid show, but, much like “Game of Thrones,” the source material it was adapting wasn’t complete so the writers had to make stuff up, leading to a messy finale. Fortunately, the creators decided to remake the show and make it more faithful to the manga, so we got “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” Very few shows’ endings will leave you as satisfied as this one — the Elric brothers’ arc is completed perfectly and nearly every character gets some kind of closure.

The finale is filled with some of the best fight scenes in anime history, such as Wrath vs. Scar and Alphonse vs. Kimblee and Pride — all of which show us why Studio Bones are the gods of animation. Every villain gets a poetic death that also serve as clever symbolic metaphors of the show’s underlying themes. There are even some genuine moments when I started crying — and I made it through “Grave of the Fireflies” and “Toy Story 4” without shedding a tear. It truly is the pinnacle of finales.

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2009-2015) // Megan Williams, For The Pitt News 

Our last look into Pawnee, Indiana, after seven seasons spent with Leslie and Co. could’ve gone in the way of other beloved comedy shows — a certain Scranton office comes to mind — and taken itself way too seriously. Instead, fans of “Parks and Rec” said goodbye to the gang in the show’s sweet, funny style. Through a series of small moments happening in the present, Leslie says goodbye to her friends — intermittent flash-forwards reveal their various futures post-Parks and Rec.

Several hilarious and well-deserved outcomes occur. Tom becomes a success because he acknowledges his failures, Ben and Leslie climb the government ladder and, perhaps most poignant of all, Jerry becomes the town’s most beloved mayor until his death. The send-off struck a chord with many fans who adopted the mantra of Friends First — followed, of course, by waffles and then work — and loved the relationships forged in Pawnee. The “Parks and Recreation” finale was so successful because the central themes of the show that touched its viewers still soared, even in its final moments.

Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008-2013) // Thomas Wick, Senior Staff Writer

The conclusion of Walter White/Heisenberg’s story is one that definitely divided fans of the series. Some say that this ending was unsatisfying and it denied the viewer of getting to see Walt face justice for his crimes. He dies, yes, but it’s on his own terms. However, I certainly was not unsatisfied because this show managed to conclude with a bang. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul give some of their best performances on the show, all the loose ends are tied up and we finally get to hear Walt say the line we’ve been wanting to hear him say since season one — “I did it for me.”

Too often TV series finales fail to conclude character arcs in a satisfying manner, but that is not the case here. Jessie, the white knight of the series, gets the freedom he deserves — unless “El Camino” has something to say about it. Walt saves his legacy by ending his drug business once and for all, and seeing Todd getting choked out by Jessie for all the terrible things he’s done was incredibly cathartic. That final scene of Walt walking through his chemistry equipment made me incredibly nostalgic, as it mirrored a similar appearance from the first season. I didn’t expect this series with a concept so crazy to be this great and for it to end in a satisfying way was all I needed. While some are upset by the franchise continuing to release new spinoffs and films, at the very least we got a satisfying conclusion to the main storyline.