Regularly scheduled programming: I haven’t finished it yet! My problem with series finales

An old TV displays clouds and sky across the screen.
(Annika Larson • The Student Life)

This article contains spoilers for “How I Met Your Mother.”

Picture this. It’s March 2014. A young, innocent, seventh grade me is sitting in her living room, beyond excited to watch the “How I Met Your Mother” series finale. I’ve watched every episode of the show, and even though I know I will probably shed a few tears, I’m more anxious than anything else, antsy to see how the creators will wrap up what was, at the time, my favorite show. 

Cut to 40 minutes later. I am crying harder than I ever had up to that point, yelling and screaming at the TV. It wasn’t my finest moment, but how can I be blamed when the entire premise of the show was abandoned in the span of one episode? This turn of events did not just make for an uncomfortable viewing — it caused me to be extremely cautious when watching any series finales since then, to the point where I essentially never watch them.

If it’s not evident by the fact I am a TV columnist, I watch a lot of TV. Even though it takes me a long time to get through a season, I can’t even count how many shows I’ve started and not finished. Sometimes, it’s because I lost interest or found another show, but most of the time, it’s because I can’t watch the series finale. 

Gilmore Girls” is one of my favorite shows ever, and I’ve rewatched it multiple times. I can quote and reference every line from every episode — just not season seven, episode 22, aptly titled “Bon Voyage.” Take “The Office” as well — I can describe the whole storyline, except for whatever happens in the last episode. 

Recently, the series finale for one of my all-time favorite shows, “The Good Place,” was released. I was excited for the last season because the creators had decided to end the show rather than subject it to the typical TV treatment of being canceled after multiple meandering seasons that decline in quality.

I was planning on watching it, until my brother texted me asking if I had watched it yet. When I told him I hadn’t, he told me he “cried the whole time.” 

To this day, I haven’t watched the finale because I know that it will make me emotional, and it’s a lot of commitment to watch something that I know will make me cry. I have to thoroughly plan out when I’m going to watch a series finale to ensure that I am emotionally and mentally prepared. 

Crying over a TV show is nothing new to me. I cried so hard when they canceled “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” that the people around me showed real concern — until I told them the tears were over a TV show. (Thankfully, the show was saved by NBC.) But with a series finale, there is a lot more to lose. It’s a somber combination, having to endure the sad parts of a show with the knowledge that it is the very last episode.

Besides, feeling disappointed about watching series finales is nothing new in the TV world. The finales of shows like “The Sopranos,” “Lost” and most recently “Game of Thrones” are among the hall of infamy for the worst series finales of all time. Some finales have a hard time tying up meandering plot lines, living up to expectations and not relying on gimmicks.

Some people even argue that because of the abundance of TV shows, there might not be as much pressure on series finales. There is no doubt, though, that series finales can make or break an entire show, either creating a wonderfully executed cap to end a show, or ruining the entire point of having the show in the first place.

At this point, so much time has passed between now and when I first watched shows like “Gilmore Girls,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” that watching their series finales probably won’t have any real effect on me. Since I’ve forgotten what was happening in the plot, the experience of watching the finale will be less emotional. But forgetting what happened before also makes the ending mean a lot less.

Over the last winter break, I started watching “Fleabag.” I watched most of the episodes with my brother, who had already seen it and warned me that since there aren’t many episodes and they go by quickly, I had to make sure to savor them all. 

I was completely planning on doing so until one day, the Amazon Prime autoplay started episode six of the second season. I asked my brother how many episodes there were in the second (and final) season, to which he cautiously replied with “six.”

My worst nightmare had become real: watching a series finale without knowing it. In the end though, the “Fleabag” ending was beautiful and one of my favorites, and I would never have known the full experience had I waited months to watch it. 

I think it’s time that I embrace the emotion and possibility for disappointment and start to finish shows. In the span of writing this, I finished “BoJack Horseman,” so I’m already off to a great start.

Claire DuMont SC ’23 is one of TSL’s TV columnists. She is from Manhattan Beach, California and loves her dogs, cats and talking about TV (obviously). She would like to thank her mom for having to endure the night she watched the “How I Met Your Mother” finale. 

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