Before the summer season gets into high gear I wanted to take a minute to take a look at some of the finales that we saw in the past couple months. I was going to do a “Top 5” type list but then I realized I’d have more fun with a looser structure. This ended up being significantly longer than I expected so this is the first of two parts. I’ve tried to keep things vague but minor spoilers do lie ahead!
Most Satisfying: Justified, “Bloody Harlan”
By the end of its first season, Justified had become one of the best dramas on TV. It had action, great characters, Timothy Olyphant, and one of the most well-developed relationships on the air in Raylan (the aforementioned Olyphant) and Boyd (Walton Goggins). Season two took that winning formula and made an even more compelling story by introducing us to the Bennet clan. Mags (Margo Martindale) and her boys (including the always wonderful Jeremy Davies) were fascinating characters who drove most of the season’s plot. The twelve episodes leading up to “Bloody Harlan” beautifully set up all the intersecting storylines and relationships. The finale brought them all together to produce a satisfying end to the season without any pretty bows. I also have to say that if Margo Martindale doesn’t get an Emmy for the last scene alone there is no justice in this world.
Disappointing, but Still Awesome: The Vampire Diaries, “As I Lay Dying”
The first season finale was one of the most exhilarating and purely awesome episodes of television that year and I say that without a hint of irony. This show has probably the fastest pace of any show right now and actually answers questions before raising new ones. Crazy, right? The first season left off on an unbelievable cliffhanger that would have consequences all through the second season. Needless to say, “As I Lay Dying” had a lot to live up to. While it did much of what the first season finale did so well (character deaths, an unexpected kiss, game-changing cliffhanger) I still couldn’t help but feeling let down. I’m excited to see where the show goes from here, particularly with Stefan (Paul Wesley), but it didn’t carry the oomph I was expecting.
Most Quietly Effective: The Good Wife, “Closing Argument”
Here’s another case, like Justified, of an exceptional second season following a solid first season. The Good Wife, though, had a much quieter season finale. This show does subtle extremely well (just look at Will and Peter’s conversation for a perfect example) and the final was no exception. Most of the episode played like a normal episode with a high-stakes case and limited time to win. It spent some time setting up new plot lines for next year (Eli’s in the office, y’all!) and focused just enough on the fractured friendship between Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). Of course, the last few minutes were the most hyped but they managed to surpass all my expectations. The scene was awkward, sexy, stressful, and finally joyful for both the characters and the audience.
Most Insulting: Bones, “The Change in the Game”
Just a warning: this section has a MAJOR spoiler. From the cutesy title to the pointless case of the week to the infuriating twist, I was thoroughly unhappy with this episode. The only part I did like was the birth of a healthy baby boy, but other than that there was nothing redeeming about this finale. In fact, since the only other part of this episode that anyone cared about was the last minute, I’ll just focus on that. I say it was insulting because after years of patiently waiting for these two to get together, it happens off screen and all the viewers get is, “Oh, guess what! I’m pregnant! Surprise!” We saw very little change in the two of them before the announcement besides other characters commenting that there had been a change. I feel like that’s just lazy writing. Having said that, I will watch next year if only because I’m intrigued about the fallout.
Best Comedy Finale: Community, “A Fistful of Paintballs” and “For A Few Paintballs More”
Seriously. This show is at its finest when it parodies various genres and last year’s paintball action-adventure episode was a breakout moment for the show. But this two-part finale built on that in a truly inspired way. Beginning with a Western parody and ending in a full-on Star Wars one complete with Storm Troopers and Abed (Danny Pudi) as Han Solo, this finale is the stuff hilarious dreams are made of. The villain was a giant ice cream cone for goodness sake! Well, a rival dean inside a giant ice cream cone, but still! I can’t even go into all the perfect moments (look – it’s Josh Holloway!) in these two episodes so just go watch it (again) for yourself.
Expect Part II tomorrow sometime. And in the meantime, I’m not kidding: go watch the Community finale.