Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Final Episode Moment

As you may know, How I Met Your Mother's final episode is less than a week away. (Unless you're reading this from the future. Hello to the world of the future! Do we have hover boards yet?) Final episodes are a bittersweet experience, especially if you've been watching the show since the beginning. You're sad to say goodbye, but if done right, you leave with a wonderful sense of closure.

One factor of a good final episode is that moment, the Final Episode Moment, that can't occur in any episode except the series finale. It's a moment that signals a definite end to one story, and perhaps the beginning of another one. It's a moment the show's been building towards, even if you didn't realize it. It could be something out of left field, something completely surreal, or even fourth wall breaking. There's no one rule for what makes a good Final Episode Moment, only that we know it when we see it.

So as we anticipate the Final Episode Moment of How I Met Your Mother, here's a list of eight other shows that had fantastic Final Episode Moments.(And sorry, Breaking Bad isn't on the list. Not because it didn't have a great final episode, but I'm still catching up and haven't seen the ending. My apologies, internet.)

Oh, yeah, spoiler warning.

Babylon 5

"Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don't, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope, that there can always be new beginnings. Even for people like us." -Sleeping in Light

Final Episode Moment: J.M.S. shuts the station down.

Over the show's 5 year run, the space station of Babylon 5 faced many threats to its existence: hostile aliens, a military coup on Earth, Martin Sheen. However, it survived all those threats until it faced once it couldn't overcome: budget cuts. Set twenty years in the future, this final episode revolves around, among other things, the end of this once great station. The space station is obsolete and gets demolished.

The final episode moment begins when we see a workman stroll through the station, walk up to a switch, and with a sigh, shut the station down. (That workman, by the way, is none other than J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the show. Who better to pull the plug?) We then see a moment that brought a tear to many an eye, as this once proud station burst into a million pieces in a beautiful, fiery explosion. It truly is the end of an era.

That moment is both a moment of triumph and sadness. Because J.M.S. did succeed in his bold story-telling mission, to tell an epic space opera the likes of which we've never seen before. We've all had those challenges, things we've devoted our lives to, and it can be just as hard seeing them succeed. because even in success, things come to an end. Babylon 5 had to end, and us fans are grateful that we got a fantastic ending.

Secondary Final Episode Moment: The Sunday Drive. How can I talk about this episode without mentioning the other heartbreak: the death of John Sheridan. We've known since season 4 that he had 20 years to live. This final episode shows revolves around his final days. He gathers with friends, revisits old places, and says his final goodbyes

The most important goodbye is to his wife Delenn. Sheridan decides that he doesn't want to die on Minbar. He wants to die in space, so he tells her he's going to leave on a Sunday drive. That morning, after putting on the old uniform, he heads out. But not before seeing Delenn one last time. What do you say to someone you'll never see again? How do you tell this person goodbye? This is one of the most perfect goodbye scenes ever written or filmed. It's been 16 years since this episode aired and I still get choked up by this scene as well.


"It's never good to live in the past too long. As for the future, thanks to Dan, it didn't seem so scary anymore. It could be whatever I want it to be... Who's to say this isn't what happens? And who's to say my fantasies won't come true just this once?" My Finale

Final Episode Moment: J.D's Long Walk

Yes, I know that there was an additional season after this episode. Two things: they didn't know about the next season when they made this episode, and I consider that season to be more of a failed spin-off. The show Scrubs as we know it ended at the end of its eighth season.

The show began with J.D.'s first day in the hospital, and it was fitting that it ended with his last day. And while there might not have been a lot of real-life pomp and circumstance, he had plenty of it in his head. (Where he spent most of his time anyway.) As he walked out of that hospital, he took with him eight years of memories, and they all appeared to give him one final send off.

It was an embarrassment of cameos, and long-time Scrubs fans recognized every single person, having watched the episodes again and again. Even people who appeared in just one episode (such as the lovely and very much missed Kathryn Joostyn) were a familiar sight, and I admit to cheering when I saw her there. What better way to celebrate eight amazing years than remembering the faces of everyone you met?

We were then treated to a possible flash-forward in which J.D. sees what his life might be like, including marrying Elliot, having children, and seeing his and Turk's children get married. Plus, there's lots and lots of hugging. While we don't know for sure if that's how his life turns out, we have no reason to believe that's not how it goes.

Second Final Episode Moment: J.D. finally learns the Janitor's name. After eight years of just calling him The Janitor, J.D. finally asks him his name. It's Glen Matthews.

Third Final Episode Moment: J.D. finally gets his hug from Dr. Cox.

Will & Grace

"You look nothing like your mother." The Finale

Final Episode Moment: Will and Grace's kids meet at college

This is an interesting moment because it really doesn't feature the title characters. At least at first. When we see these two people meet, at first we think we're flashing back to when Will and Grace first met in college, because these two are exactly like Will and Grace. That's when they introduce themselves and we learn that this isn't the past, this is the future. And this is destiny.

The show was about the ups and downs of Will and Grace's relationship. As the final episode began, we flash forward several years into the future and learn that these two best friends haven't spoken to each other since Grace got back together with her ex-husband, her baby's father. When they reunite, we learn that Will also has a son. The two reconcile, but it isn't the same. They know that they will never be as close again.

Until their kids meet at college. Unbeknownst to either one, their Will's son and Grace's daughter are attending the same college. It's an incredible scene, because at fist you think that it's a flashback to when Will and Grace met at college. Instead, like the classic third season finale of Lost, we journey into the future. It's a bold move for the show to jump that far ahead.

That's when it all comes together, because of course their kids fall in love and get married. This gives Will and Grace the chance to rekindle their friendship, and we see that while life sometimes gets in the way of friendship, sometimes its for a greater purpose that you don't see at first. So while this was a big moment for their kids, it was just as important for their parents. And it lets us know that no matter what the immediate future held, they were always meant to spend the rest of their days together.


"I just had had the strangest dream. I just dreamt that I was married to a beautiful blonde and we owned an inn that was going to be turned into a golf club." The Final Newhart

Final Episode Moment: Bob wakes up

Perhaps the greatest twist ending in all of television, with one of the best inside-jokes of all time. Newhart had always been a weird show, and the final episode cranked it to 11. The episode begins with the entire town being bought out by a rich, Japanese developer. (Echoing fears of that time about Japan buying up all of America.) He tears down the town and turns it into a resort and golf course.

Five years go by, and we see what's become of Bob's hotel, since he was the only one who didn't take the money. All his friends come back to town for a reunion, and their new-found wealth has made them even stranger. They decide that they miss the town and have decided to move in permanently. Bob gets fed up with his life, with everyone, and before he can storm out he's hit in the head with a gold ball.

And he wakes up. It was all a dream. He's also in bed with Suzanne Pleshette, his wife from his other series. That's the twist, that the entire series was the dream of his other character. Other shows have tried the "it was all a dream" trope, but the reason this one succeeds is because it wasn't a cop-out. It was, instead, a brilliant callback to his earlier work and a great explanation for why everything on that show was so crazy. Plus, we never saw it coming.

Second Final Episode Moment: Daryl and Daryl finally talk. A running gag for the entire series was that these two men never uttered a single word. The streak was broken when they get fed up with their wives and yell at them to be quiet.

Malcolm in the Middle

"You know what it's like to be poor and you know what it's like to work hard. Now you're going to learn what it's like to sweep floors and bust your ass and accomplish twice as much as all the kids around you and it won't mean anything because they will still look down on you. And you will want so much for them to like you and they just won't. And it will break your heart. And that will make your heart bigger and open your eyes and finally you will realize that there is more to life than proving you are the smartest person in the world." -Graduation

Final Episode Moment: Lois tells Malcolm his destiny.

The entire show revolved around a boy genius and his miserable life. We also see how his mother, Lois, never made it any easier. In the final episode, she torpedoes his chance to skip college entirely and get a six-figure salary at a tech firm. naturally, this is the final indignity and he and Lois have it out. That's when his mother reveals why she's kept him on a short leash and made him miserable: he's their only hope.

You see, Malcolm doesn't get the easy road. He has to suffer and suffer some more. Until his heart breaks and he finally sees, truly sees, the suffering around him. Only then will be be able to get over himself and help the world by becoming President of the United States. And according to his mother, he's got no choice in the matter. He's got to do it because he'll know what it's like to be poor, and finally we'll have a truly compassionate President who gives a crap about the poor.

It's a great moment, because we finally see Malcolm begin to see his intellect and genius not as a curse, but as a way to truly help the world. He's spent his entire life on the outside, and in that moment, he begins to understand that it might be for a greater purpose. In that one moment, he groups up more than in the entire series. And we can rest assured that in a few decades, Malcolm will indeed be President.

The Cosby Show

"How can you expect your father to contain himself. I can't contain myself, and why should I have to? My baby's graduating from college." And So We Commence

Final Episode Moment: Clair and Cliff's final exit. (Clip is dubbed, but you don't need to hear the words)

In The Cosby Show's first classic episode, Theo tries to explain to his father why he doesn't need college, and Cliff uses Monopoly money to explain why his son is an idiot. Eight years later, Theo has clearly turned his life around and is graduating college. It's a great episode that serves as an excuse to bring in every cast member (save Lisa Bonet) because Cliff is bringing everyone to the graduation, whether there's room or not. It's a nice story that hits on one of the major themes of the show: the value of a good education.

At the end of the episode, Cliff and Claire have a rare moment by themselves. Throughout the final season, the show had a running gag of Cliff trying, and failing, to fix the doorbell. Now, in this last moment, he shows her that he's finally fixed it. He pressed the doorbell, but instead of a chime, there's music. (Another of the show's themes.) Claire and Cliff dance for a moment, and then they turn to the audience, hand-in-hand, and walk off the set to the cheers of the studio audience.

What better way to end a classic, American institution? It's hard to overstate just how big the show was in the 80's, and even in its final few seasons, it was still a very important part of television. This move not only served as a final curtain call for the actors Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad, it was a classy way of thanking the audience for being a part of the show for eight years. By making that last, dramatic exit, Cosby let us all feel like were were there, as part of the live studio audience. He also acknowledged that yes, it was just a television show, but what a great show it was.


"Ladies and gentlemen, five minutes ago, at 10:01 this morning, the truce was signed in Panmunjon. The hostilities will end twelve hours from now at ten o'clock. The war is over!" Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

Final Episode Moment: "Goodbye"

If there was a show that was more of an instituion that The Cosby Show, it was M*A*S*H. Set in the Korean War, but serving as an allegory for Vietnam, M*A*S*H was on the air three times longer than the actual conflict. The episodes ran the gamut from zany to serious, often in the same one. It was revolutionary television, including an episode in real-time (complete with a clock ticking away) and an entire episode shot from the perspective of a patient. But no matter what the subject matter, there was one overriding theme of the series: we want to go home.

That's why the final episode become one of the most-watched television events in history. Everyone wanted to see their beloved friends go home. It was, as usual, bittersweet, because it also meant saying goodbye to people they'd welcomed into their homes for 11 years. The entire final episode is the length of a movie, as we see the final set of tragic adventures that set the stage for the best news ever: it's over.

All throughout the episode, B.J. has had a hard time trying to say goodbye to his best friend Hawkeye. After all, when they go back home, they'll be on opposite coasts and have lives to get back to. B.J. doesn't want to say goodbye, even though he needs to. In the show's final, iconic moment he figures out how.

As Hawkeye leaves the camp for the final time and looks down at the empty frames and abandoned buildings, he sees B.J.'s final message. It's a message both meant for the character and the viewers watching at home. It's the word "Goodbye" spelled out in rocks. It was also a final love letter to the fans, and a classy way to end one of the most iconic series of all time. (And give everyone something to think about when they all went to the bathroom once the episode was over.)

Boy Meets World

"I love you all. Class dismissed." Brave New World

Final Episode Moment: Farewell to Mr. Feeny (the clip is edited)

This show never quite knew what it wanted to be about, which was part of it's charm. But no matter what changes the show made in its continuity, no matter what characters disappeared without another mention, there was always one constant: Mr. Feeny. he was Cory, Shawn, and Topenga's teacher in the sixth grade, when the show first premiered, and he followed them through Junior High, High School, and even college. Plus he was Cory's next door neighbor, so there was no escape. Mr. Feeny was a part of their lives, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

That's why the episode ends where it does, back in the original sixth grade classroom. Cory and Topenga, now married, are moving to New York. Shawn, of course, is coming with them, as is Cory's brother Eric. The three of them say all their goodbyes in the final episode, but save the hardest one for last. They ask to meet Mr. Feeny back in sixth grade classroom where it all started, for one last goodbye, and some final parting wisdom.

Many of us have had a Mr. Feeny in our lives, a mentor whose wisdom we slowly grew to appreciate over the years. But as we grow up, we also have to leave the comforts of home and strike out into the world, leaving those mentors behind. Graduating high school, graduating college, moving to follow your dream, these are all good steps, but they don't come without a hint of sadness at what, and who, you leave behind.

It's also hard for those you leave behind. Eventually you get older and become that mentor to a group of young people. They might become more than just people you mentor, but your family. You care about them, you come to love them, but you also know that you must let them go. This moment is just as tough for Mr. Feeny as it is for the gang. The final moments of the show leave us with Mr. Feeny alone in the classroom, his children leaving the nest one final time. It is then that he says what he feels. "I love you all." While he could never say it them directly, he feels it would cross a line, it doesn't mean he didn't love them.

So these are eight of the great final episode moments in television. There are many more I didn't include, but that doesn't mean they weren't also fantastic. Let's hope that How I Met Your Mother's final episode has at least one of these scenes so I can add it to my next list.

No comments:

Post a Comment