Six of the greatest TV endings (as Succession and Ted Lasso wrap up)

From American classics The Sopranos and Mad Men to UK hit Fleabag, we round up some of the most surprising yet satisfying series finales

Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in Succession, which comes to an end on Sunday. Photo: HBO
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In the next few days, two of the most popular television shows of recent years will, sadly, be coming to an end.

Succession’s satirical look at capitalism and Ted Lasso’s uplifting comedy about an unlikely football coach have been rewarded with critical acclaim, awards and devoted audiences.

Darkly comedic crime drama Barry, about a hitman, was also a runaway hit with fans and critics, and came to an end last week.

But while fans will undoubtedly be disappointed that their favourite series are concluding, they’ll also be excited to see how the creators bring the series to an end. There is, after all, a lot riding on how they do it.

Looking back through the history of television, the likes of Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Breaking Bad delivered adequate finales. Newhart, Dinosaurs and St Elsewhere decided to finish in a downright weird manner. While The Wire, Lost, Dexter and Game of Thrones culminated in such disappointing styles that the episodes almost ruined everything that had gone before.

But there are some shows that climaxed perfectly, bringing an end to their stories in a surprising yet satisfying manner that made audiences feel both happy and sad to be bidding farewell to its characters.

So, which TV shows have particularly great conclusions? Here we take a look at six.

Warning: There are many spoilers ahead

The Sopranos

Audiences were literally left in the dark when The Sopranos came to an end in June, 2007, after 86 episodes. A very intense scene, set to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin', showed gangster Tony Soprano eating dinner with his family in a diner, a suspicious man watching him and Meadow Soprano struggling to park.

Then, suddenly, its creator, writer and director David Chase cut to black. Audiences were left to wonder if this signalled Tony’s death. Years later, Chase has yet to give a concrete answer, which just makes the intrigue and debate over the entire show all the more intense.

Mad Men

Going into Mad Men’s final few minutes, it was hard to tell whether or not its concluding episode would be a success. While viewers had been shown the fates of Pete Campbell, Joan Holloway, Roger Sterling and Peggy Olson, they still didn’t know how Mad Men would leave its protagonist, Don Draper. All its creator, writer, and director Matthew Weiner needed was a smile, though.

After spending the final few episodes suggesting that Don was going to have an epiphany that would change the direction of his life, a small smile grows on his face during a meditation class, before then cutting to the ground-breaking 1971 Coca-Cola advert, which features several people Don has encountered throughout the episode. Proving that, even though he really wants to, the character would never change.

The Good Place

While The Good Place never quite had the consistency of other hit comedies, its final episode surpassed those of 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation and even the US version of The Office.

After a hefty amount of time in the afterlife, Jason, Tahini, Eleanor and Chidi each decide that they’re ready to move on and end their existence in the universe. Not only was it told in an emotional yet deeply profound manner, it also proved that knowing when to end your series is just as important as how you do it.

Six Feet Under

Another show that never managed to hit the heights of its dramatic peers, Six Feet Under almost immediately made up for its shortcomings with its finale, which was instantly deemed one of the finest in television history.

After bringing to an end its storylines, Six Feet Under then used numerous flash-forwards to show the main events in the characters’ lives, including their deaths. Set to the song Breathe Me by Sia, we see Ruth dying in hospital, Keith being shot and killed by robbers, David and Rico having heart attacks, and Brenda and Claire dying at home, with the latter surrounded by photographs of family members. It was a poignant and all-encompassing farewell to a show that dealt with grief and death in an honest fashion.


Even though Fleabag lasted for just two seasons and 12 episodes, it’s rightfully acclaimed as one of the finest dark comedies yet created. After seemingly suggesting that Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag was going to finally have her happy ending with Andrew Scott’s Priest, she is instead rebuffed by him. Even though he loves her, he chooses God over Fleabag.

Rather than being inconsolable, Fleabag accepts his decision. Then, as she walks away, rather than addressing the camera, she leaves the audience behind. Waller-Bridge expertly incorporates the fourth wall storytelling device that made Fleabag so original into the narrative, and uses it in such a way that it makes the finale feel all the more fulfilling and ingenious.


Probably the most famous ending on the list, the fourth season of Blackadder, which is set in the trenches during the First World War, ends with the men finally having to go into No Man’s Land. Just before they do, Baldrick tells his commander that he has a plan to avoid certain death. But Blackadder tells him it has to wait. Instead they run into a hail of machine-gun fire.

This sad and tragic scene fades from the muddy trenches of war to a peaceful field of poppies in 1989, signalling that, despite the silliness of the show and its characters, people just like Blackadder, Baldrick, and George gave their lives for their country.

Updated: May 26, 2023, 6:02 PM