Top Ten: Last Episodes
Last week we brought you our list of our Top Ten: First Episodes. But what has a beginning must also have an end, so this week we're looking at our favourite last episodes. As always, let us know if you agree, disagree or think we're just plain nuts in the comments.
10. Babylon 5
Rebecca Brodeur: The final season of Babylon 5 may have been patchy compared to the strength of its previous seasons, but there’s no denying it drew to a more than satisfactory closure with its final episode. Twenty years after the end of The Shadow War, Sheridan’s impending death is used to bring together all our favourite characters and to bid them and the space station farewell. We already knew Sheridan only had twenty years to live, and he uses the same knowledge to reach out to his old friends, calling them together for a final dinner and letting us to see what they’ve been up to since leaving Babylon 5. Sheridan says his goodbyes and leaves, via the Babylon 5 station, to the Coriana system, where Lorien appears to him and tells him that The First Ones are waiting for him. Ivanova, Garibaldi, Zack Allen, Franklin, Delenn and Vir then attend the decommissioning ceremony for Babylon 5, taking one last look around the station before everything is turned off (by J. Michael Straczynski in a cameo) and the fusion reactors are set to go off. Ivanova gives the final narration.
9. Cold Feet
Nick Bryan: A thirtysomething British equivalent of Friends, ITV’s Cold Feet was one of the TV success stories of the late nineties. Mixing comedy, drama and a supremely likeable cast led by James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale, it dominated for years, leaving a string of lesser imitators in its wake.
It’s true to say the show lost its way in later series, but still pulled itself together to deliver a finale that reminded us why we loved these characters in the first place. This was helped by the return of departed star Fay Ripley, not to mention the untimely death of a main character to tug on our heartstrings one last time. It’s certainly not a work of standalone art, but for those of us who’d invested in the whole shebang, the Cold Feet finale was a sad, comprehensive farewell, and that’s why I hope these rumours about a revival never come to pass.
Amy Jones: The thing that made Monk work was never the clever plots or the puzzling murders. From the very first episode when we were introduced to broken widower Adrian Monk, his long suffering nurse Sharona, his ex boss Leyland and Leyland’s partner Randy, it has always been about those characters (and later Natalie, who replaced Sharona).
This is why the last, two part episode worked so well. It gave a solid, happy ending to all the characters we had come to love over eight seasons. We left all five of the main characters happy and in love, with a family and a future. It’s the kind of ending you hope for and almost never get.
It was an incredibly emotional two hours that saw me in turn laughing, worried, sad, glued to the screen with my heart racing, shocked, crying, desperately heartbroken, laughing again, crying again and tremendously, chest-burstingly happy. This is the genius of Monk and this is why it’s one of the best last episodes. It makes you feel like little else can. Watch the last episode on its own and it's good. Watch it after having seen all the other episodes and it's a masterpiece.
7. Quantum Leap
Luciano Howard: The question everybody asks is did Sam ever get home? The question they probably should be asking is why would they want Sam to get home? Yes, the man we watched put right what once went wrong countless times probably deserved to finally rest. But did he want to?
The final episode of Quantum Leap was as enigmatic as they come and an early example of the writers letting the viewer draw their own conclusion. Some who prefer the first question will take that; others may find themselves agreeing with Al the bartender in that Sam decides his own fate and always had. Others will just appreciate the lingering question and approve of his help – at last – for Al, his observer from his own time. Quantum Leap was never about Sam. We didn’t have episodes of exposition at the start and instead we jumped straight in with Sam. Quantum Leap was effectively a story of the week every week with some characters stringing all the way through. It was a fitting finale, staying on the course it had set (the opening narration did not talk about hoping the next leap would be the leap home) rather than going for the obviously happy finale with Sam going home. He didn’t want to, after all.
6. Six Feet Under
Rebecca Brodeur: Six Feet Under ended its five season run with a work of art, not just an episode of television. The show made a name for itself with quality black humour and fascinating characters, and one of the lead characters actually died in the run up to the final episode. However, after showing us a little of how the people we’d grown to know and love would deal with this death, the series chose to end by showing viewers just how each remaining character would live the rest of their lives and when they would die. Most of the episodes of the show started with a death that would then lead to a funeral arranged by Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, and we’d grown used to seeing amusing, tragic and bizarre deaths along the way. But watching how each person’s life would play out before their death as the credits rolled ensured there were no dry eyes, and establishing this episode as one that would be talked about for a long time.
5. Life on Mars
Amy Jones: How this managed to simultaneously finish the series off so nicely but not answer any questions whatsoever — and in fact give the viewers about eleventy billion more to think about (NB: May be a slight exaggeration) — is beyond me. But the final episode of Life on Mars did just that, and was brilliant in the process.
Sam returned to the present (leaving his colleagues to die in the process) but realised that he couldn’t feel anything, that he was more alive back in 1973. So, rather spectacularly, he jumps off a building in order to return to that world. He saves his colleagues, finally kisses the girl he’s been eyeing up for two series, and drives off into the sunset with his new colleagues, leaving us wondering what the hell was going on. Had he actually woken up from a coma and put himself back in it? Had he just imagined going back to the present, which was why he couldn’t feel anything?
Even with these questions, the finale was satisfying. Seeing Sam happy after two series of being miserable was lovely. It was a good ending to his story.
Amy Jones: I should be clear that we mean here the finale of season eight of Scrubs. Series nine was so different it might as well have been a totally different series; this is about the episode when JD left Sacred Heart.
The thing that is so amazing about Scrubs is the way it juxtaposes funny and sad, making the sad even more powerful. The finale of Scrubs had this juxtaposition perfectly. All the way through was a mix of the usual bizarre humour with sudden stabs of sadness that you think would make a pretty decent final episode.
But then we get the last five minutes or so.
JD tricking Dr. Cox into finally saying what he really thinks about him is one of the most delightful things that could have shown long term fans of the show. Then suddenly we’re plunged into almost painful bittersweetness. JD imagining all the important people he met at the hospital lining the corridors to say goodbye before seeing his future – marrying Elliot, having a daughter, spending Christmas with Turk, Carla, Jordan and Dr. Cox. It’s truly, truly beautiful. A magnificent finale.
Rebeccaa Brodeur: Angel came to its conclusion after five series of variable quality. The closing episode “Not Fade Away” ends with Angel and team facing off against a multitude of monsters.There is some closure for our characters, as is usual in a finale. Angel advises his friends to spend a day acting as if it was their final day on Earth, so they each do things that hold importance to them – as night falls they separate to attack targets from the ‘Circle of the Black Thorn’– the earthly instruments of the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart – their nemesis for most of the series. As the group come together after finishing their separate missions, an army of supernatural creatures descends upon them. Instead of the usual finale, “Not Fade Away” makes an impression by letting our heroes stand and fight together, however futile their battle, and almost certain that they’ll all die in the attack. It’s rousing, empowering and a fitting end. And even the humour is remembered with Angel’s final words ‘personally, I kind of wanna slay the dragon’.
Luciano Howard:Friends was always there. Except it wasn’t. Not anymore. It finished after ten glorious seasons where it had began life as a bunch of twenty-somethings who happened to know each other and charted a course through a variety of funnies, relationships, parodies (of itself, or at least one character – Ross!) and life in general for people as they grow-up and move onto the next stage.
But like everyone’s dream it didn’t change. As the six friends grew up and got married, had kids, moved away from Central Perk and sorted it out once and for all (Ross & Rachel of course), they were still the same six friends and always would be. It may have been a big cheesey American ending but it perfectly closed the show and ensured it remained in the hearts of all who’d grown-up with Monica et al exactly what it had always set out to be – the perfect Friends.
Ed: We're also counting Sex and the City in with Friends. Not in terms of how good the episode was, but the last episodes of both Friends and Sex and the City had huge, huge impact on people. Very rarely do TV shows ending cause as much fuss and heartbreak as these two shows did.
Nick Bryan: Blackadder is well known for being one of the finest TV shows the British have produced, if you exclude that slightly rough first series. And although it is a very funny comedy, the thing that pushed it from great sitcom to beloved masterpiece might be the final episode of their last full series.
In this last outing, we see Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson and company in their WW1 solider guises, facing the prospect of finally going over the top and rushing the heavily armed enemy forces. And after the initial patriotic fervour and lunatic escape plans subside, the awful reality starts to set in.
After six episodes of surreal laughs, just as you’d started to find this war business kinda funny, the sad turn at the end hits you all the harder. I wouldn’t want every sitcom episode I watch to leave me staring blankly and misty-eyed at the television, but Blackadder earned it here. One of the best last episodes of comedy, possibly of anything.
Do you agree? Did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments.