Elements That Make a Series Finale Satisfying


by Ashley Binion

Recently, networks have given many series, like Chuck and Fringe, a final season to wrap up their stories. It isn’t easy to wrap up  a series that lasted for years in a forty minute episode, let alone  one that will satisfy everyone who watched. With Fringe’s last hours airing on Friday, here are a few key elements to include  in a series finale that will make the ending satisfying for fans.

Callbacks and Montages

I love when there are callbacks throughout the  series, but a series finale is when they should be in abundance. By  recalling poignant episodes or moments that happened throughout the  series is a great way to service fans. Subtle winks and nods to these  moments make the ending feel more personal for the viewer.

Many series, including Lost, Smallville, and Eureka featured these moments of reflection that included  a montage. This moment flashes many key moments in the main character’s  journey throughout the course of the show. During these montages, a  viewer can pick out moments they remember and cherish.

Returning Characters

Throughout the course of a series, many characters  come and go.  One of the best ways to reward loyal viewers is to  bring them back for an encore.

Eureka and Smallville’s series finales did this exceptionally well. It would be difficult  to imagine The Man of Steel’s early chapter end without bringing back  Lex Luthor. On Smallville, Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex was a major player during the first seven  seasons and to see him come back was satisfying as a viewer. Eureka’s series finale also brought back many characters including Sheriff Carter’s daughter  Zoe, scientist Henry Grant, and the town’s oddball Taggart.


Questions Answered


In a mythology-driven show  like Fringe, there are overarching  mysteries that continue throughout many seasons. These questions should  be answered.


This is where Lost’s series finale came under  intense scrutiny. People were unsatisfied with the lack of answers they  were given in the series finale. Instead, the episode focused mostly  on character development and demonstrating the arcs the major characters.


An “open” ending


I think might be the best  way for a series to end.  This way an audience knows that this  ending onscreen isn’t the ending for the characters and that they continue  on after the final minutes. But, too open of an ending creates misunderstanding  within the audience.


Of course, this can cause  much disagreement, like Lost. In their case, the ending  was so open that people were actually confused by it. On multiple occasions,  I have had to explain the ending. Many people I have encountered believed  that (Spoiler Alert!) the castaways were always  dead, but then I have to explain that they weren’t.


A too firm of an ending  also creates controversy, for example the 2004 Battlestar Galactica. The first part of “Daybreak” was  phenomenal and in my opinion this is where the series should have ended.  But, they seemed to press their luck and made the ending too literal. (Spoiler Alert!) I mean, did the audience  really need to know that Hera, a human and Cylon hybrid, is actually  our great-great-great-ect. grandmother? Not really. Sometimes less is  more.


What do you think makes  a series finale great?


  1. maryJanuary 16th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    good article! At first, I have to say that I didn’t like the Chuck ending because I am a sucker for all things circular however, the more I watched it, the more I realized that is EXACTLY what they did. I think now that it is one of the greatest endings.

    I also like FRIENDS ending because it gave closure. If they would have ended it with (Spoiler Alert) Ross not knowing if Rachel gets off the plane, people would have been VERY UPSET. I wasn’t a Lost fan so I am not really sure about that ending but I know people either hated it or loved it.

    If an open ending is like you said, not too open with adequate closure, I think those are best. It allows fans to keep the show alive by envisioning what might happen.

  2. DKDJanuary 16th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I don’t think there is one type of ending that is satisfactory for all types of shows. The ending of “Six Feet Under” is one of the best series ending I’ve ever seen. If you never watched the show, it was a show about a family that ran a funeral parlor. Death permeated the series.

    In the last few minutes, they flashforwarded and showed the deaths of every surviving character on the show. What happened in the years between was “open”. But, how they would die–and who would live longest–was not.

    It was utterly unique, brilliant, and appropriate for the show.

    So, I think that is an important element to a good ending. It has to be consistent with what the show was.

  3. hazelJanuary 16th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Two shows that I think got their series finale’s pitch perfect are Scrubs and Leverage. They gave all the fans exactly what they wanted/needed, and they did it with style, humor, and heart-felt good-byes.

  4. DKPJanuary 16th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    My favourite ending… Angel. As far as I’m concerned they’re still fighting!

  5. SilJanuary 16th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Open endings are great but I feel like they only work for certain shows. As mentioned, the ‘Lost’ ending probably could’ve done with a bit more conclusion.

    I think that every hard-core fan of a television show always hopes for some amount of closure. While it’s always fun to imagine possible scenarios that may take place after a series end, it’s equally nice to know that favorite characters were given a proper and satisfying send-off.

  6. JuarhelaJanuary 19th, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I think the ending depends on the show. Sitcoms should just have a straightforward-give-us-closure ending, or at least hint towards an unambiguous ending. I think dramas and sci-fi have a little more leeway.
    The ending of Chuck was perfection. We had callbacks all throughout the finale. The ending was at the right point between open and closed – it was open enough to allow the fans to imagine the future for their hero and the characters we know well, but closed enough to let us know that the ending couldn’t be anything but happy.
    Is it too much to hope for a movie? LOL

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