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50 best season finales in TV history

  • 50 best season finales in TV history

    When it comes to television, wrapping up complex seasons—and entire shows, in the case of series finales—in a way that does justice to their complex characters and lengthy storylines can be difficult to accomplish.

    This is especially true when the final episode of a season hinges on a major reveal, like Kendall Roy betraying his father at the end of “Succession” season two; ends on a cliffhanger, such as the season four finale of “Supernatural”; or the ultimate fate of an iconic protagonist—think Walter White in the “Breaking Bad” series finale.

    When done well, the final episode of a season of television can be a rewarding climax that offers a cathartic end to a gripping installment in a favorite TV show. Perhaps even more importantly, the good or bad buzz surrounding finales can ultimately convince potential viewers to begin or skip a television series that is dominating the current pop culture conversation. The series finale of “Game of Thrones” is a negative example of this. But how can audiences determine which finales, and by extension, shows, are most worth their time?

    To find the best TV finales, Stacker compiled data on every TV finale with more than 750 votes on IMDb, then ranked them according to IMDb user score. Ties were broken by the number of votes, and miniseries and documentary series were not included. However, midseason premieres that were followed by large gaps in their air date, such as “Mad Men” season seven, were included.

    This data, compiled by Stacker on Sept. 15, 2020, includes 50 episodes from 35 different television shows. So sit back, grab a refreshment and some popcorn, and read on to see if your favorite season ending made the list. Beginning at #50 and counting down to #1, here are the best TV finales of all time.

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  • #50. Daredevil - A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen

    - IMDb user rating: 9.3
    - IMDb user votes: 7,388
    - Season 2, Episode 13
    - Air date: March 18, 2016
    - Director: Peter Hoar

    The season two finale of this Marvel Netflix series follows Matt Murdock/Daredevil, played by Charlie Cox, as he and anti-heroine Elektra Natchios, take on a villainous ancient ninja clan known as the Hand. The organization has kidnapped 20 people who Daredevil previously saved or brought to justice in an attempt to lure him to them, which results in a tragic season ending for Elektra. This episode also marks the end of Foggy Nelson and Matt’s law firm, as the protagonist makes the decision to work as Daredevil full time.

  • #49. The Originals - The Feast of All Sinners

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 1,062
    - Season 4, Episode 13
    - Air date: June 23, 2017
    - Director: Bethany Rooney

    In the season four finale of “The Originals,” the vampiric Mikaelson family are forced to confront The Hollow, an all-powerful entity that threatens the life of Hope, the infant daughter of Klaus Mikaelson, played by Joseph Morgan. Their ally Vincent comes up with a plan to stop The Hollow that involves splitting her into four parts and placing each part of her soul into a vampire—in this case, Mikaelson family members Kol, Klaus, Rebecca, and Elijah. However, this forces the siblings to live apart from one another forever, a cliffhanger that carries into season five.

  • #48. Ray Donovan - Exsuscito

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 1,275
    - Season 3, Episode 12
    - Air date: Sept. 27, 2015
    - Director: David Hollander

    At the end of “Ray Donovan” season three, Ray, a “fixer” who makes celebrities’ problems disappear and played by Liev Schreiber, discovers that his teenage daughter Bridget is being groomed by her high school teacher Mr. Donellen. Ray retaliates by beating him, which prompts Bridget to run away. At the same time, the Minassian crime family punishes Ray’s father, Mickey, played by Jon Voight, for betraying them.

  • #47. Shadowhunters - Beside Still Water

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 2,098
    - Season 2, Episode 20
    - Air date: Aug. 14, 2017
    - Director: Matthew Hastings (as Matt Hastings)

    In “Beside Still Water,” demon-hunting Shadowhunters Jace, played by Dominic Sherwood, and Clary, played by Katherine McNamara, are tasked with stopping series antagonist Valentine, played by Alan Van Sprang, from summoning the archangel Raziel, the creator and patron of Shadowhunters. Valentine hopes to then control Raziel and compel him to create a new race of Shadowhunters and violently replace his current enemies.

  • #46. Once Upon a Time - There’s No Place Like Home

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 2,324
    - Season 3, Episode 22
    - Air date: May 11, 2014
    - Director: Ralph Hemecker

    The season three finale of “Once Upon a Time” follows Emma, played by Jennifer Morrison, and Hook, played by Colin O’Donoghue, as they are pulled into the evil sorceress Zelena’s time portal and are trapped in the magical Enchanted Forest of the past. While navigating back to the present, the pair must be careful not to alter anything around them, or they could permanently affect their loved one’s lives. Notably, this episode introduces the character of Elsa into the show.

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  • #45. Arrow - Fadeout

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 2,532
    - Season 8, Episode 10
    - Air date: Jan. 28, 2020
    - Director: James Bamford

    “Fadeout,” the series finale of “Arrow,” unfolds in two different timelines. In one, Oliver Queen/Arrow, played by Stephen Amell, apprehends a human trafficker in 2012. In another timeline set in the present, the remaining members of Team Arrow rescue Oliver’s son William from the same trafficker.

  • #44. Silicon Valley - Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 3,211
    - Season 1, Episode 8
    - Air date: June 1, 2014
    - Director: Mike Judge

    At the end of “Silicon Valley” season one, programmer Richard Hendrick, played by Thomas Middleditch, and his startup, Pied Piper, scramble to create a product to present to investors after their competitor copies Pied Piper’s cloud storage technology at the last minute. The episode garnered a nomination for outstanding writing for a comedy series at the 66th Emmy Awards.

  • #43. The Sopranos - Funhouse

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 3,823
    - Season 2, Episode 13
    - Air date: April 9, 2000
    - Director: John Patterson

    In “Funhouse,” James Gandolfini’s mob man character, Tony Soprano, makes the complicated decision to kill Big Pussy, played by Vincent Pastore, after realizing that his close childhood friend is a double agent for the government. The episode was nominated for an Emmy in the category of outstanding writing for a drama series.

  • #42. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - S.O.S.: Part 2

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 3,990
    - Season 2, Episode 22
    - Air date: May 12, 2015
    - Director: Billy Gierhart

    In the second half of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” season two finale, Phil Coulson and his team fight to bring S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Skye back after a race of altered, superhuman people called the Inhumans take her prisoner. The Inhumans plan to use terrigen crystals in order to suddenly reveal all the Inhumans on Earth, and kill all ordinary humans around them.

  • #41. Supernatural - Lucifer Rising

    - IMDb user rating: 9.4
    - IMDb user votes: 4,341
    - Season 4, Episode 22
    - Air date: May 14, 2009
    - Director: Eric Kripke

    The apocalypse looms in the season four finale of “Supernatural” as Sam Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki, and Ruby, played by Genevieve Padalecki, rush to stop Lilith, an ancient demon who is preparing to raise the devil Lucifer from the cage in which he’s imprisoned. Meanwhile, the angels Castiel and Zachariah tell Dean Winchester that he will play a key role in stopping Lucifer. The season ends on a cliffhanger, as Lucifer’s arrival is imminent.

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