Perhaps the most amazing thing about marathon runners isn’t the fact that they run 26 miles. Rather, it’s that when they are nearing that 26th mile, they are often running faster and stronger than they did in mile number one. This is an equally incredible feat for most TV shows. They make their way through the ups and downs of a very long season but when they reach the month of May, many become even better.
That's what makes Season Finale Month the best month of the television season. In the fall, shows are just trying to get noticed and stick around. In the winter, they simply tread water in order to survive. But then spring comes and it's time to really prove your worth. Since shows will be going away for the summer months, they have to leave you with something to remember them by (kind of the opposite of a summer love).
Hence, they pull out all the stops. You get big name guest stars. You get "very special episodes." You get cliffhangers putting your beloved characters in jeopardy. That's why for television fans, it's like Christmas in May. Season finales are the presents you'll keep thinking about….at least up until fall premieres give you new gifts you can't wait to take a look at. In the spirit of our current season, though, here are five classic examples of what a season finale should be like.
“Lost,” “Through the Looking Glass, Part 2”
To paraphrase Al Pacino, just when you thought you were out of “Lost,” the show pulled you back in with this Season 3 finale. By the time this two-parter rolled around, the show had become something so complex, it made a Rubik’s Cube look like a game of tic tac toe. Fans were starting to grumble that perhaps the show had nothing new to offer and then….Jack and Kate (Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly) flash forward instead of the usual flashing back the surreal series was back on track.
“The Office,” “Search Committee”
It’s usually the dramas that get the best cliffhangers and biggest guest stars but for one go around anyway, this sit-com got to join in at the end of Season 7. The suspense? Boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) had departed the series and somebody had to replace him. The stars lining up for the gig? Jim Carrey, Will Arnett, Ricky Gervais, Ray Romano, James Spader….at least you don’t have to ask for their resumes.
“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Death and All His Friends”
Nothing says “season finale” like putting a main character in a life or death situation. When you’re one of TV’s most popular dramas and you’re set in a hospital, though, what better way to celebrate the end of Season 6 than put a shooter inside Seattle Grace and let him have it? With our hero Derek (Patrick Dempsey) already on his deathbed thanks to said crazed gunman, this episode put every other doc in jeopardy from the same bad guy as well. And here, you thought the only thing that left you feeling in jeopardy after a hospital visit was waiting for your bill….
“Damages.” “The Next One’s Gonna Go In Your Throat”
Legal shows are to TV what Lindsey Lohan jokes are to late night comedians. They can’t exist without a healthy supply. And in the end, if you’ve seen one television courtroom drama, you’ve seen them all. But then, there’s “Damages,” which was as consistently twisty as any drama ever. And with this third season finale, there were so many surprises that the episode made a solid case that this was the best legal drama ever.
“Desperate Housewives,” “Free”
This series was never one to shy away for shockers, but very few topped the way it ended Season 4. Sure there was some physical torture, an escaped fugitive and a major character making an exit. However, even though she wasn’t an original member of the Wisteria Lane crew, Katherine Mayfair’s (Dana Delany) big reveal about her hidden past made for as fun and freaky a finale as the “Housewives” ever had.