We all love a good finale. Who doesn't? What happens, though, when a beloved series doesn't quite deliver on fan expectations? Is that show's legacy tainted forever?
If that flash-forward didn't tie everything together in the "Parks and Rec" finale -- answering all the questions we had about the fates of Leslie (Amy Poehler), Ron (Nick Offerman), Andy (Chris Pratt) and the rest -- we would've probably thrown a fit. And "Breaking Bad" just wouldn't be the same if Walter White (Bryan Cranston) didn't meet his tragic end, clinging to his kingpin life until his final dying breath.
As TV has evolved, so have audience expectations. The one thing that will never change is that, ultimately, we're all here for a satisfying story. If you consider the many moving parts that go into creating a successful show, the ends don't always quite justify the means.
We will always love them from the bottoms of our collective hearts, but some truly epic shows -- like the six below -- didn't say goodbye in ways that befit their overall greatness.
Honestly, "Dexter" could've ended after five seasons and we would have been completely satisfied with that. With Rita (Julie Benz) dead at the hands of the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), that fifth season would've tied a nice bow around this meaty story and given us some satisfying closure. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Instead, the show lasted eight seasons, and in the end Dexter was forced to face his crimes head-on: While his Bay Harbor Butcher identity was finally out in the open, the loose ends we were hoping to see tied up only became bigger plot holes in the end. It's possible the show backed itself into a corner they simply couldn't have gotten out of, but it's hard to reconstruct this crime scene. The shocking bombshell of Deb's (Jennifer Carpenter) death landed with a thud, and then Dexter gives his son to Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski) and sails his boat into the maw of a killer hurricane... Only to survive, and live out the rest of his life as a bizarrely bearded lumberjack-in-exile?
Like "Twin Peaks" and "The Sopranos" before it, "Lost" was a TV game-changer. With its unpredictable narrative structure and stellar ensemble cast, the series presented a delightful array of layers -- catering beautifully to J.J. Abrams' mystery box mentality. What began as a story unfolding in crazy flashbacks and flash-forwards culminated in a final season that relied on a similar narrative tool: Those flash-sideways segments.
It's possible the buildup to that big end may have been too much -- after all, the supernatural nature of that island regularly outshined the importance of the journeys Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and the rest were on. Maintaining the balance was key, and it's a thing "Lost" struggled with -- especially in its middle seasons. We may have finally figured out what that Smoke Monster was, but did it matter in the end?
More often than not, the show's finale is the polarizing topic people firmly remember: Each survivor of Oceanic Flight 815 found themselves in purgatory, in the end, leaving many to wonder whether the gang had been dead the entire time. They weren't: It's something that has been explained by the cast and crew. Still, after all that investment, it was a comedown. Jack didn't wake up in those final moments to realize everything was all just an elaborate dream, but the reality wasn't too far off.
When it was first announced that we'd get more "X-Files" episodes, we were simply ecstatic. Season 9 didn't end where fans of Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) would've liked. Getting the band back together plucked all of our nostalgia-loving heartstrings.
Then the actual revival happened, presenting six episodes that were uneven in structure and tone. The first and last episodes, "My Struggle" and "My Struggle II," introduced a new conspiracy for our heroes to investigate. But as the pieces of the puzzle presented themselves, it seemed clear more time would be needed to explore this story all the way through. We have to think it was the six-episode limit that kept "The X-Files" revival from really hitting with fans, but that finale remained a mystery.
To sum it all up: Mulder gets a world-killing virus, leaving Scully hopeless in finding a cure. As the Cigarette Smoking Man's (William B. Davis) plan for global domination goes into motion, a UFO drops from the sky to throw a whole new wrench into things. That fade to black left us with so many questions -- and so hopefully, a future continuation of the "X-Files" story will provide the answers we still seek.
So maybe Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) were never role models... But their quirks and on-screen chemistry propelled "Seinfeld's" show about nothing into a nine-season juggernaut.
It looked like all the time fans invested in the series was about to pay off, as George and Jerry's TV show idea "Jerry" was on the verge of being picked up... Until an emergency landing in Latham, Massachusetts changed everything, and the gang ended up arrested for their lack of action as a man gets carjacked right in front of them. The trial that followed put our heroes up against many of the fan favorite characters that graced the series over its nine season run, and in the end, instead of seeing "Jerry" get off the ground, the group gets put in jail -- for simply being the awful people we all fell in love with from the start.
'How I Met Your Mother'
The entire premise of "How I Met Your Mother" relied on the eventual reveal of Ted Mosby's (Josh Radnor) wife. Along the way, audiences fell in love with each and every character -- from Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Lily (Allison Hannigan) to Marshall (Jason Segel) and Robin (Colbie Smulders). The nine-season journey was satisfying on multiple fronts -- but once they presented the Mother herself, things quickly got weird.
Sure, we didn't love seeing Barney and Robin get married. And while that didn't last very long, it was the revelation that Tracy (Cristin Milioti) -- the mother in question -- had been dead this whole time that really got fans' goats. Not only did it feel like a cop-out in the show's final moments, it created a strange chain of events that brought Ted into the arms of Robin: The woman he should've ended been with in the first place.
The final scene of "The Sopranos" finds the Soprano family gathering for dinner, and with the audience sharing Tony Soprano's (James Gandolfini) dread that he was surely about to die. As the show's creator, one would expect David Chase to take the series out on his terms... But leaving things open for fan interpretation -- especially given the engaging subject matter of the mafia-themed series -- was a dramatic way to go.
For such an enduring series, the ending polarizes the fanbase to this day, leaving some to think of "Made in America" as brilliant, enabling the story to live on forever in our minds, while others wanted a clear-cut answer on what happened. It's frustrating and beautiful -- but in the finite world of television storytelling, that cut to black still leaves us forever wanting to know more.