6 Shows That Should Have Ended Sooner
When I say shows that should have ended sooner I am not saying they are shows that are now bad and should no longer be trying but rather shows that have reached their logical conclusion. When storytelling is at its best, it becomes a living breathing thing. The reality that is created and the motivations of your characters become so richly developed that they can start making their own decisions. Unfortunately, one of those decisions is to reach the end, an end that resolves the original premise and thematic arc, leaving your characters in a state of either true finality or in position to move on having been changed by the events of the show in a very symmetrical way. All of these shows that I am about to mention have delivered and continued from specific episodes that could have functioned as a better series finale if they simply stopped. So…um…..SPOILERS if it already wasn’t obvious.
The episode: “Election Night” Season 4, Episode 10
Veep is the show that kind of inspired this list because they just finished the first season since their logical conclusion point. The show follows the hollow, cuss-filled days of the Vice President of the United States, Selina Meyer (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her staff as they try their best to get a political upper leg. It features an insanely awesome ensemble cast who spit out insults at each other with great precision while satirically jabbing at the American political system, maybe the most worthy target of satirical jabbing that ever existed. It should come as no surprise since it is the newest show by Armando Iannucci, who made a name for himself with his Brit political satire The Thick of It. In its fourth season, VP Meyers has been acting as President since the President’s resignation and is now campaigning for her first legit Presidential run. The final episode of that season depicts the events of election night where Democrat Meyers goes head-to-head with a live action version of the oil tycoon from The Simpsons that ends with a 269-269 tie in the electorate college. That means the vote goes to the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote. 50 states means 50 votes, which means there is still a chance of a tie. In that case, Vice-President-elect, as determined by the Senate, would be the President (technically interim President until the House can make a decision, but for the show, Meyer’s running mate could basically snake the Presidency from her). It is the ultimate karmic takedown of the horrible people Meyers and her team turn out to be, not to mention that it literally ends with her running mate, Tom James (played by Hugh Laurie) taking her aside and offering her the chance to be his “Veep.” The combination of Meyers failing and getting a pity offer for her old job back, which also happens to be the damn title, is just too great to pass up. I think Iannucci might agree because he left the show after its fourth season, and the show has been going for broader sitcom humor than the profane political biting that it once had.
The episode: “Swan Song” Season 5, Episode 22
Supernatural was just renewed for its 12th season. 12th! It is the last surviving show from the merger between WB and UPN into The CW. It stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki as the Winchester Brothers, Dean and Sam, respectively, a pair of road tripping monster hunters. It was a surprisingly good show that included legit thrills whether they be of the horror or action variety, a lot of 80’s action hero one-liners, and a killer soundtrack of classic rock. These two would eventually graduate from taking out the occasional vamp or werewolf to fighting off multiple apocalyptic events. The first, of course, was the prophecy spelled out in Revelations, and it really should have been their last. The Judeo-Christian dogma would be introduced in its 4th season when angels start interfering in their lives. Eventually, Sam and Dean find out they they are ancestors of the Biblical brothers, Cain and Abel, and destined to be the vessels (bodies to be possessed) for Archangels, Michael and Lucifer. This would allow the warring angel brothers to do literal battle on Earth thus destroying it. The Winchesters with all their blue-collar, middle America smugness say “to hell with that” and fight tooth and nail for 2 seasons to never let that happen. Except it kind of does anyway. In a gambit to destroy Lucifer for good, Sam agreed to let Lucifer possess him to bring him out in the open (unlike demons, angels need permission to possess, even Lucifer). It backfires, and now Lucifer is in corporeal form on Earth. In the season 5 finale, which also happens to be the creator’s last episode, Dean is able to emotionally reach his brother long enough for Sam to take control and sacrifice himself to save the world. It is more poignant an ending than you would expect from a (mostly) horror franchise. It weaponizes the love and nostalgia these brothers have for each other allowing them, in the war between Heaven and Hell, to choose each other (and by extension the rest of humanity) than a side in this petty cosmic hissy-fit.
4. The Office
The episode: “Goodbye Michael” Season 7, Episode 22
The American The Office was a doomed remake of a cult classic that became one of the greatest sitcoms ever and then ended up outstaying its welcome. Unlike Ricky Gervais’ Brent, who seemed insufferable to the bitter end, Steve Carell made his buffoonish and often offensive Michael Scott into a surprisingly sympathetic character. It made his farewell episode in the 7th season a mix of teary-eyed goodbyes and a collective sigh of relief for his put-upon employees. The producers decided to bet on the ensemble being able to carry the show without Carell, which at the time, honestly seemed like a good bet. Without that foil of Michael Scott’s inherent friendly antagonism, the show was never the same. And it missed the chance to go out in a blaze of glory. After many personal goodbyes between Michael and his co-workers (except for intrepid ladder climber, Pam), Michael ends up going to the airport a day earlier than he said he would and pulling the old Irish Goodbye. He finally makes a very direct reference to the camera crew following him around, asking when the documentary would air while giving them back the microphone equipment he was wearing rendering his final “That’s what she says” inaudible. Then he finally gets his goodbye with Pam, a character whose own development rivaled that of Michael’s over the course of the series, a silent moment only shared between them. In the end, the staff of the office must now contend with their new, equally strange boss, played by Will Ferrell. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
3. The X-Files
The episode: “Existence” Season 8, Episode 12
The X-Files teamed up the rational medical doctor turned FBI agent, Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) with the FBI’s most promising profiler, Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovany), who was blackballed for his crackpot alien conspiracy theories. Together, they investigated the X-files, cold cases based around unexplained phenomenon. It really holds up by today’s standards as long as you don’t laugh too hard at the PC dinosaurs that they use. It mixed standalone episodes of the 2 taking the supernatural head on and bigger mytharc episodes including abductions, men in black in smoky rooms, shape-shifting assassins, and all manner of shady shit. And then some real shady shit happened: Duchovany wanted to move on from the show. This sounded like a death knell since one of the strongest elements of the show was the chemistry between Anderson and Duchovany, ending up as one of the more infamous will-they/won’t-they relationships in television (that will be important later). Despite all this, Season 8 was tailored to Duchovany’s limited role. He was abducted by aliens at the end of season 7, and Scully teamed up with new agents (played by Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish) to search for him. Oh also Scully is pregnant and she won’t admit how. Scully, having been a victim of abduction much earlier in the series, is implied to be carrying an alien fetus, the first birth of a super soldier, a pure version of the genetically modified kind they have already faced. In the season 8 finale, while the super soldiers descend on Scully’s location to steal her baby, she ends up giving birth to a normal child. With this knowledge, the bad guys retreat. Our final image is Mulder and Scully sharing a kiss after marveling over the child, the three of them finally off the radar of government creepos. It is not very climatic, but you have to love the balls that the showrunners answered the will-they/won’t-they question with “They already did.”
2. Parks and Recreation
The episode: “Ann and Chris” Season 6, Episode 13
Parks and Recreation was a pseudo-spinoff of The Office. It employed the same fake documentary structure that followed around an eccentric group of co-workers, who also happen to be really close friends. The office this time is the parks department of a small Indiana town. It gave breakout performances to some of the most likable screen presences working today including: Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, and Aziz Ansari. However, it was ultimately Amy Poehler’s show. She plays the go-getting civil servant, Leslie Knope, who liked throwing her time and energy into making her city just a little bit better with every project. The first project that kicks off the series has to do with a pit, a plot of land dug up and then abandoned by a construction company. It is brought to Leslie’s attention by a local nurse, Ann Perkins (played by The Office‘s Rashida Jones). Their friendship would come to define the early seasons, and Jones was underrated as an audience stand-in living in a Simpsons’ Springfield-like town of weirdos. Unfortunately, as the ensemble started stealing focus, they had less and less for Ann to do, and it was announced Jones would leave the show. In mid-season finale, Ann prepares to move away with her boyfriend and baby daddy, Chris (played by an excellently over the top Rob Lowe). It is an emotional episode where Leslie has to come to terms with her best friend leaving. Before she does, there is one thing they have to do: break ground on the lot that used to be the pit, the thing that started their friendship (and the show) in the first place. Then Ann and Chris drive off, into the proverbial sunset, with their friends to see them off. Leslie, sad to see them go but happy for their new life, is on the verge of losing it when someone suggests breakfast, a love of which is a recurring element on the show. As the group make plans for a diner trip, the camera pans up looking at the city that they all love and work for. What better way is there to end it?
The episode: “The Getaway” Season 4, Episode 12
Dexter stars Michael C. Hall as the titular Dexter, a forensic expert for Miami PD, adopted by a cop when he was just a toddler, and secretly feeding a need to kill people by hunting those who have escaped justice. His adoptive father found him covered in blood next to his dead mother at a crime scene chocking up his bloodlust to PTSD. The show has a voice over narration that informs us of Dexter’s cold calculating thought process which stands in stark contrast to his fake game-show-host-like chemistry he has with everyone. Whether he likes to admit it or not, Dexter is a hell of a lot more loving person than he lets on. He definitely loved his dad and loves his sister. He is driven to make them proud. He is also in a relationship with a woman with 2 children. He swears he is only into it so that his life looks like a postcard to suspicious minds, but Hall melts Dexter’s icy heart with nuance as the show progresses. Eventually, he marries and has a kid of his own, fighting to keep his family together when, in season 4, the Trinity Killer rears his ugly head. He was a serial killer, played by John Lithgow, with a really specific pattern. Every few years he would kill three people. Each of those people were killed with a different MO so it was hard to link to one person. The Trinity Killer also had a family of his own and seemed to be all his friends’ favorite person. Dexter thought he could learn something from this guy on how to make himself more available to his own. Eventually, they would come to blows, and Dexter would come out victorious. Or so he thought. Dexter returned home after taking out Trinity to an empty house. He believed his family was on their way to a vacation destination, and he was about to catch up. Just then, he hears his son crying from the bathroom. He opened the door to find his dead wife, her blood overflowing out of the bathtub, and his baby son sitting in the puddle. The cycle has restarted, and Dexter looks mortified. The symmetry is too perfect not to be the ending. The only thing missing is the beginning of Season 5. The police, all his friends, show up and ask what happened. Dexter, seemingly in shock, says, “It was me.” For the first time in his life, he feels responsible for taking a life, and ironically, after all the murders he has committed, he is going to be caught for one he didn’t do.