Season Finales That Ended With One Final Emotional Gut Punch
Television fans love a good tear-jerker season finale, especially one that delivers a final emotional blow before the episode cuts to black. Season finales are generally designed to do two things: signify the ending of a particular story arc, and give viewers a reason to tune in to the following season. The best finales often do both.
These finales not only delivered heartbreaking conclusions to season-long (or even multiple-season) storylines, but also delivered one final blow to the gut before the end of the episode.
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‘M*A*S*H’ Season 3 Ends With An Abrupt Helicopter Explosion That Angered FansPhoto: CBS
Overzealous TV fandoms aren't a new thing. In 1975, fans of the army-medical comedy M*A*S*H were outraged by the shock ending to the Season 3 finale, "Abyssinia, Henry." The finale is centered on Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) saying his goodbyes before heading home after he is discharged from the Army. In the episode's final moment, Radar (Gary Burghoff) delivers a terrible announcement: that Blake's plane has been taken down over the Sea of Japan, with no survivors.
The cast was truly surprised because the crew didn't tell the actors about Blake's demise until the last moment. After the episode aired, CBS received many angry letters from upset fans. Although Stevenson had asked to be written off the show, producer Gene Reynolds said in an interview that the writers decided to end his character at the last second to showcase the reality of fighting overseas and the probability of not making it back home.
"A lot of young men... did not get home... it was honest to that extent," Reynolds said.
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‘Cheers’ Season 5 Ends With Sam Telling Diane To Leave Him To Focus On Her CareerPhoto: NBC
Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) just wouldn't stay together no matter how hard people rooted for them. It was painful to watch, but still kind of beautiful, especially in the Season 5 finale of Cheers, "I Do, Adieu." In the episode, Sam and Diane's wedding plans are ruined by the news that Diane's book is going to be published. Although Diane offers to stay and marry Sam, he insists that she go off and focus on her career. The episode ends with the two alone in the bar, saying goodbye.
Perhaps the most gut-wrenching part of the finale is Sam's daydream at the very end of the episode. He pictures a world where they grow old together and share a dance in the living room of their house. Before leaving, Diane promises she'll return in six months, but Sam doesn't think that's true, and responds with, "Have a good life." Diane doesn't return to the show the following year; in fact, she doesn't return until the finale of the series.
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‘Dexter’ Season 4 Ends With The Trinity Killer Getting One Last LaughPhoto: Showtime
In Dexter, a show about serial killers, it's assumed that someone (or many someones) will perish, but Rita's (Julie Benz) death hits like a ton of bricks at the end of the Season 4 finale. After tracking down the vile Trinity Killer, AKA Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow), Dexter (Michael C. Hall) finally bashes the psychopath's head with a hammer. But Mitchell still manages to have the last laugh when Dexter returns home to find his wife, Rita, slain in the bathtub.
Mitchell had somehow managed to get to Rita before Dexter could. To make matters worse, he left Dexter's son Harrison sitting in the pool of her blood on the bathroom floor. Dexter was suspected of the murder in the show's fifth season, but was eventually cleared. The Season 4 finale was a reminder that even though Dexter was "saving lives," he was putting others at stake, especially his own family.
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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 6 Ends With The Murder Of A Beloved CharacterPhoto: FX
After another bloody and gruesome season, Sons of Anarchy Season 6 was wrapping up nicely. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) had made a deal with the district attorney to take the fall on charges that would absolve the club and his wife Tara (Maggie Siff) of any misdeeds they've been wrapped up in due to Jax's reckless behavior. It seemed like the anti-hero finally grew up, and would do what was right for the people he loved.
But a sick and twisted series of events ensues. Jax returns home to turn himself in when he finds Tara's body lying lifeless on the floor in a pool of blood. She was stabbed to death earlier in the episode by his overprotective mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) after she assumed Tara ratted him out to the police. He cradles Tara while screaming out in pain as the episode cuts to black.
Sons of Anarchy was never going to have a happy ending, but this shocking finale, which led to the equally dark final season, was unexpected.
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'Frasier’ Season 7 Ends With Niles And Daphne Finally Running Away TogetherPhoto: NBC
Frasier, following the finale of Cheers, explores the life of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) as he moves back to Seattle to become a radio psychiatrist. But one of the show's key storylines involves the relationship between Frasier's eccentric brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and physical therapist/live-in maid Daphne (Jane Leeves). Their secret infatuation for each other becomes not so secret in the two-part Season 7 finale, "Something Borrowed, Something Blue." Problem: Niles has eloped with Mel (Jane Adams), and it's the eve of Daphne's wedding to Donny (Saul Rubinek). At the end of the episode, however, Daphne shows up in her wedding gown after fleeing her wedding, and the couple run away together.
After building up to their eventual relationship since the first season, the episode satisfied fans who waited all this time to see them get together. Their storyline became a major turning point for the series, and this finale was one of the most-watched Frasier episodes.
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‘24’ Season 1 Ends With An All-Time Tragic TV Twist (And A Silent Countdown)Photo: Fox
The action-packed drama 24 had a clever premise that made for some genuinely shocking plot twists. One of the most heartbreaking took place in the Season 1 finale. After successfully stopping an assassination attempt on a US senator and saving his family, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is finally in for a well-deserved rest - until he finds his wife Teri (Leslie Hope) murdered in a shocking twist. He cradles her body in utter silence as the episode cuts to the infamous on-screen countdown timer.
The Season 1 ending made 24 one of the most talked-about shows of its time, proving that a lot can happen in 24 hours from a storytelling perspective, even up until the last second of the day.