After spending years with TV characters and developing genuine care for them, it is hard to say goodbye. That is why there is a lot of pressure when creating a finale episode, especially for a series that has been on the air for a very long time. The pressure combined with multiple storylines that need closure is sometimes the recipe for disaster and the reason why a beloved series can become the object of hostility from fans.
Updated December 27th, 2022: This article has been updated with additional disappointing series finales and to reflect recent revivals and series continuations.
There have been some series that had good endings, such as Breaking Bad and Friends. However, those are still very rare nowadays. The finale of Lost is probably one of the most discussed and for lack of a better word, hated in the world. Unfortunately, one of the most successful series at the time ended in a way that disappointed most fans. This is only one of the various examples of series that created such intricate stories that it became impossible to finish them with the same level of quality as the previous episodes and seasons. It is extremely difficult to end a complex story in the right way, as these otherwise great shows attest to. Here are some finales that were disappointing to the fans.
10/10 Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls had one of the best mother-daughter relationships on television. It was fun and heartwarming to see their relationship develop as Rory grew older. However, the ending felt rushed, and the entire last season seemed to be missing the core feeling of the show. It is no surprise that the creators of the series left before that season started, which ultimately led to its cancelation. After a few years, they did get a chance at a revival, but it was also disappointing and didn’t feel like the show that so many people loved.
9/10 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was a nice addition to the young adult horror series on Netflix. Set in the same world as Riverdale (Sabrina even returned in season 6 of Riverdale), the show was based on a series of Archie Comics and the previous classic ’90s show Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The modernized series dealt with various relevant topics such as gender, sexuality, women’s rights, and mental health. So, when the last episode has one of the characters dying by suicide so that they can reunite with another character in hell, it felt like a sick joke to the fans and a disappointing conclusion with troubling implications.
Entourage certainly has a complicated legacy, and as a comedy might not have aged the best. Yet at the time of its release, it was an incredibly popular and well-regarded HBO comedy, seen to many as the male Sex and the City. The story of a rising movie star, his childhood best friends, and his agents may not have had the highest stakes. Nonetheless, it made for an enjoyable comedy.
However, the final season features many rushed storylines, and the final episode speed runs through many major developments. Everything comes out of nowhere and despite ending with the characters flying off into the sunset, it felt unearned and incomplete as if something was missing. Clearly, something was wrong as four years later when the Entourage movie hit theaters, every major storyline from the final episode is quickly jettisoned in the opening prologue and forgotten about to get the story moving. While the movie serves as a somewhat satisfying conclusion, that final episode of the series just felt like a big plate of nothing.
7/10 Gossip Girl
To have a secret identity that is only going to be revealed at the end of the show is a big bargain to make. Various series did that, such as Pretty Little Liars (another show set in the Riverdale universe), which had trouble meeting the expectations created after years of following the story. Unfortunately, Gossip Girl wasn’t an exception. The main problem was that the gossip girl’s identity was switched in the middle of the series because the fans picked up on who it was supposed to be. Not only that, but a lot of the other characters, such as Nate Archibald, had bleak and unsurprising endings that didn’t make sense with what the show was about.
6/10 The X-Files
The X-Files changed television and was a cultural phenomenon. This sci-fi criminal procedural had nine seasons and a feature film before it ended. Nevertheless, the fans felt that the show had reached its limits (something David Duchovny even agreed with, as Mulder had left the show in its seventh season) and that the ending which was given to long-time viewers did not meet the expectations of what the series could offer.
Double identity and unwanted pregnancy didn’t sit well with the iconic FBI duo, nor with the audience. The actual original finale of The X-Files was the least-watched finale of any season of the show, which is saying something. The follow-up film after the end of the series, The X-Files: I Want to Believe was released six years later, and then in 2016, 14 years after the original series ended it was revived and ran for two seasons, making up for the original’s lackluster ending.
BBC’s Sherlock had what many people consider the best Sherlock Holmes portrayal. However, the intricate cases, incredible cinematography, and the duo that is impossible not to love, Watson (Martin Freeman) and Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), didn’t hit the mark on the finale – and the last season of the show overall. The series has not been technically canceled but also has not been renewed by the channel. There is still hope that these actors might make a comeback and finish the show as it should end: with something only Holmes could come up with.
Roseanne was a great series that focused on the struggles of a low-income family. It was funny, relatable, and occasionally heartfelt. Yet in the series finale season, it took a major nose dive, jettisoning the relatable working-class plots with a storyline where the family won the lottery. The storyline involving Dan Conner cheating on Roseanne was also a controversial one that felt out of character, and to make matters worse the finale revealed that most of (if not the entire series it’s actually unclear) were actually a novel that Roseanne had written and that Dan had actually died of a heart attack. The ending felt like a betrayal of everything audiences had grown to love about the series over the previous eight seasons.
The finale and every development in it were so poorly received that when Roseanne was revived in 2018, every reveal was ignored and joked about as never having happened. Like many series on this list, Roseanne’s revival seems to be an attempt to rectify the mistakes of a bad series finale.
Dexter quickly became the world’s most loved serial killer. So, after following the various characters and the progression of Dexter’s arc in particular for eight seasons, the ending was extremely disappointing to the fans. There was no real payoff for the protagonist, the actual decisions and plot were extremely illogical and improbable, and most of the storylines that happened throughout the entire show didn’t close. The ending felt incomplete and a bad goodbye for this series. Dexter: New Blood brought back the main character, but also didn’t end in a way that make the long-time fans happy.
2/10 How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother had everything in its favor: the characters were compelling, the jokes were funny, and the audience developed a close relationship with the group of friends over nine years. However, after focusing the entire last season on a couple that ultimately just broke up in the last episode merely for a plot twist, felt lacking from the other stories on the show, and even seemed like a cheap bait and switch. The finale didn’t meet the expectations it created after such a long run and cast a shadow over the legacy of one of the great 21st-century comedies.
1/10 Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones had probably the most anticipated last season in the history of modern television. Unfortunately, most fans disliked the entire season and hated the last episode. From significant character changes that didn’t make sense with their arcs and motivations in previous seasons, to some harsh decisions about the iron throne, the Game of Thrones finale was a deeply messy way of ending one of the biggest fantasy shows ever made. The author of the novels stated that he was not extremely present in the later seasons (and hadn’t even written the books they were supposed to be based on), and it shows.
While the final episode of Game of Thrones certainly left fans disappointed, it certainly didn’t kill the franchise goodwill as the prequel series House of the Dragon has been a major hit for HBO. Game of Thrones might be the best example of even a bad ending not entirely ruining a series’ legacy, although it certainly leaves a bitter note to end on