To be a worst TV finale, you have to be a disappointment on some level. So if a show always stunk and it ended badly, no one cares. If a show only had a single season, good or bad, and it ended badly, no one cares. Instead, we’re going to look at sci-fi shows that had passionate fan bases and then just botched their finale. That doesn’t always mean it ruined the show, but sometimes it does. So from cancellations to poor writing to production decisions, here are ten TV finales that really stunk, going from not-so-bad to godawful. It’s interesting to note that four of these ten pissed people off so much that they ultimately had to return as movies or TV movies to give people some sort of sense of closure.
This is low on the list because it didn’t really ruin the show. In fact, it has some inspired moments within it. But it also doesn’t really make sense. There’s no real closure to the central mystery of who Number 6 is or what the Village is. I mean, he finds Number One but he has an ape mask and under that is… Number 6. It just wasn’t coherent but the gist of the story is that Number 6 can never escape the Village because the Village is the world. At least, that’s how I interpreted it. And it’s cool that you can interpret it, I suppose. But… yeah. Patrick McGoohan went very surreal with this so your ability to enjoy it depends on how literal you like your stories to be.
The final episode of Quantum Leap got pretty metaphysical. Behind the scenes, the producers gambled that they would get another season even though the network warned them they really might not. So they introduced some weird ideas about other leapers and a bartender that might have been god or something like that. They probably intended to make sense of it later because it was a bunch of new ideas without a lot of exposition to explain things. There was one nice part of it where Sam Beckett gives up his freebie leap to help his friend Al instead of finally leaping back into his own body. And then, after the episode ends, we get a bit of text that tells us: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” Ugh! Way to stick a knife in us, Quantum Leap.
It was a terrible finale but the show itself had been bad for a number of years so no one cared that much anymore. Will Sookie choose vampire Bill or Eric? No. She marries someone unnamed offscreen. What a love story this show turned out to be! Also, she needs to be saved at the beginning of the episode, so she never really became a proactive character in her own story. It was just a mess and no one cared about the characters that were left or at least what happened to them.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
The Incredible Hulk was a big hit for its time. It produced 82 episodes over 5 seasons running on CBS from 1978 to 1982. Over the course of the series, Dr. David Banner sought a cure for being the Hulk, wandering from town to town and helping people. You’d think it’s only natural for the finale to lead to Banner curing himself, right? Or coming to accept that he will be the Hulk and can use it for good? Maybe he’d face down one of his iconic enemies from the comics! But you know what they did instead? Just another episode. He comes across a deserted town only to learn that there’s a biological problem that’s putting his life and the lives of some looters at risk. He solves the problem and wanders off to the next town. No change at all from any other episode. You could literally slot it anywhere in the show’s running order and no one would ever be able to tell it was out of order.
Smallville was intermittently entertaining. But TEN YEARS of Clark Kent before he was Superman? That’s… that’s a lot. So the least they could do is reveal Clark in full Superman suit, fighting Darkseid, right? It’s what they’ve been building to for a decade. You know what they did instead? Clark (NOT in costume) flew into a guy possessed by Darkseid and instantly defeated him within seconds. Darkseid’s planet, Apokalips was threatening to crash into Earth. So Clark finally suits up as Superman. And the show uses every trick in the book not to let us see it. Every shot is him as a blur, or from a really far distance, or an extreme closeup on his face. Ten years.
On the sitcom ALF, an alien crash lands and the Tanner family basically adopts him. ALF is abrasive but they decide they have to protect him when a government agent comes to their house looking for a potential alien. He tells the Tanners what they would do if they ever found ALF (this is a quote from the pilot episode): “We’ll see how it responds to intense heat, freezing cold, high voltage, toxic substances, pain, sleep deprivation, inoculation, and of course, dissection.” So how does the finale end? Well, ALF gets word that two of his fellow Melmacians will be coming by Earth and can pick him up. ALF has a tough choice to make between his new family and his old one but ultimately decides to be with his people. He goes off to the outskirts of town and is surrounded by the Alien Task Force. His fellow aliens speed off into space, fleeing. And ALF… is surrounded by agents as the credits roll. DEPRESSING.
Twin Peaks exploded in popularity from moment one. After a hugely successful first season, the second season’s ratings began to dwindle, not coincidentally with the reduced involvement of its creator, David Lynch. But he returned before the end of the season and steered the story and characters right back into really interesting directions. The season ended with cliffhangers for every major character. Characters hit in the head and dropping, bloody to the ground. Characters stuck in a bank vault as a bomb explodes. Main character Agent Dale Cooper possessed by the evil entity known only as BOB. And then a season three was never ordered. It’s an amazing show and it was brutal that it ended on such cliffhangers. The closest thing we could get to closure was a prequel movie that was made right after season two that had some snippets of the future. Not enough to tell anything concretely, just stuff to speculate about. It was SO painful that even though the show ended in 1991, Showtime is working with Lynch and the original actors to bring the show back next year to resolve what happened and move forward with new stories. Almost 30 years later, people are still hurting over the painful lack of closure.
The X-Files was a great show. It just went on too long. Because it was successful, Fox renewed it past the point where the writers had any clear idea of where the story would go. So instead of bringing together all their various conspiracy threads, they just kept adding more until it became quite unwieldy. In season 9, Mulder, one half of the duo behind the show, was completely gone. He was only in about half of season 8. The show really should’ve been over. But then the final episode deals with Mulder suddenly returned from an alien abduction and instantly captured and put on trial by the government. It was a decent framework to bring in important characters from the past to testify. But after about two years of being told to not care about Mulder, he’s suddenly the centerpiece of the episode. And really, it made not a lot of sense. The mythology was just too dense. I was a massive fan and without looking it up, I can’t really remember what happened. I remember that Scully and Skinner help Mulder go on the run and that somehow the evil Cigarette Smoking Man blew himself up. I think they may have learned that aliens planned to invade in 2012. That never led to anything. Of course, they WAY too late made a movie that brought Mulder back to the FBI easily as though going on the run was no big deal. And supposedly Cigarette Smoking Man will return in next year’s revival season. So really, none of it mattered that much.
F— you, Lost. Seriously. After six seasons of wondering what the mystery of the island is, we got our answer. And it made zero sense. For the first five seasons, scientists were always talking about the strange properties of the island that some airline passengers had crashed on. But the ultimate answer had nothing to do with science. Instead, we were told that the island had a cave of magical light. It was just… magic. And there were some guys playing a wager about good and evil, which somehow translated to the main character having to put a cartoon-looking plug into the cave’s light hole. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the show spent pretty much its entire run telling fans that no, the characters were not in purgatory. They were on a literal island. But the final season showed characters in two realities – one surviving on the island and one as though they’d never crashed. And the final episode revealed that’s because the ones where they hadn’t crashed were them all in some limbo-type of reality after they had died and they were all waiting to go to heaven together. So fans’ first guess was pretty much 100% true. There is a contingent of fans that will defend this as a good finale, but it’s like dealing with someone defending their abuser.
STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE
No one will defend this finale, not even the actors from the show or the showrunner. Okay, the executive producers will. Because they basically used their power to make the final episode which they had the gall to say would be a “love letter to the fans” and instead stomps on the characters fans had invested in for four seasons. Manny Coto ran the show and knew there would be no fifth season. The final batch of episodes told interesting stories about the Eugenics War and a hybrid Vulcan/human baby between the will they/won’t they couple of T’Pol and Trip, created by a guy trying to create anti-alien sentiment (played by future Star Trek Into Darkness actor Peter Weller). It was a really good season. And then the executive producers, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, stomped in and created the single worst finale I’ve ever witnessed.
The show jumps ahead six years and we quickly learn that the episode we’re watching is actually a holodeck recreation and that Riker and Troi, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, are supposedly watching this so Riker can make an important decision. It’s set during season 7 of that show even though that was made 11 years ago and the actors look every bit of it. It’s so insulting to suddenly turn the denouement for Enterprise into something a character from another show is watching to help him make an unimportant decision. It breaks up T’Pol and Trip and then, in a super-forced and completely unnecessary moment, kills off Trip. There’s no emotional weight to it. It’s just a thing tossed in to spice up a dull episode. It really, really, really sucks. Notice I haven’t even mentioned Captain Archer, the protagonist? He’s bringing the ship to the signing of something or other that forms the Federation but he’s really not important to the episode. None of the cast is. It’s all about Riker having fun on the holodeck. Awful.