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Top 10 TV Finales That Don't Mean What You Think

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Oh, NOW we get it. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV Finales That Don't Mean What You Think. For this list, we’re taking a look at TV show finales that audiences generally didn’t understand or that are commonly misinterpreted.
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Top 10 TV Finales That Don’t Mean What You Think

Oh, NOW we get it. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV Finales That Don't Mean What You Think.

For this list, we’re taking a look at TV show finales that audiences generally didn’t understand or that are commonly misinterpreted.

#10: “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-09)

After seemingly biting the dust, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace’s resurrection was one of this sci-fi drama’s greatest mysteries going into its final season. Her reappearance is only made more confusing when she suddenly vanishes in the midst of a heart to heart with Lee. No, Lee didn’t just go crazy and imagine Starbuck. While it remains unclear how exactly she came back, Starbuck’s last scene is supposed to emphasize that she’s been dead this whole time and returned as a guardian angel to guide her people to a new home. Having served her purpose, she’s finally able to move on. Of course, while the future seems bright for humanity, it’s revealed that all this happened in our own past - and could happen all over again.

#9: “The Good Wife” (2009-16)

This legal drama worked up to a controversial final confrontation between Alicia and Diane. Having thrown Diane under the bus to save her husband Peter, Alicia receives a slap across the face from her former boss. What many people miss is the parallel between this scene and the first episode where Alicia slapped Peter for his deceit and betrayal. Despite her frustration with Peter, Alicia played the role of the good wife throughout the series. At the same time, Alicia has significantly evolved throughout the show’s seven seasons, going from the victim to the victimizer. Although she may not want to admit it, Alicia has become more like her husband, thus ending up on the other end of the slap.

#8: “Seinfeld” (1989-98)

The “Seinfeld” finale upset numerous viewers and we can understand why. As shallow and inconsiderate as these characters were, nobody wanted to see them end up behind bars after nine years. That being said, the final scene between the four is classic “Seinfeld.” Rather than reflecting on their poor behavior, Elaine dwells on her phone call and Kramer gets the water out of his ear. Jerry and George’s meaningless discussion about button placement is a callback to the pilot’s first scene where the two have the exact same conversation, which George is quick to remember. It goes to show that even after being sentenced to a year in prison, the gang has learned nothing and will just repeat the same cycles once they’re released.

#7: “Master of None” (2015-17)

While he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a third season, Aziz Ansari currently seems content with where he left Dev in the season two finale of “Master of None” . . . as vague as that ending might’ve been. The final scene between Dev and Francesca lying in bed leaves their relationship “open to people’s interpretation,” as Ansari put it. One detail that makes the ending more conclusive than people think, however, is the absence of Francesca’s engagement ring, implying that she left her fiancé to be with Dev. Then again, since the ending is intended to be ambiguous, you could also argue that this is a dream of what could’ve been. In any case, their future together remains up in the air.

#6: “Frasier” (1993-2004)

Sometimes a single line of dialog can change an entire ending. Such is the case for “Frasier.” At the beginning of this two-part finale, Frasier finds himself on a plane, reminiscing about his last days in Seattle. Throughout the episode, we’re led to believe that Frasier is on a flight to San Francisco where a new job awaits him. When the plane lands, however, the captain announces that they’ve landed in Chicago, meaning that Frasier actually chose to pursue his relationship with Charlotte. Since Frasier never overtly announces his decision and the captain’s words fly by so fast, it’s easy for viewers to overlook the show’s final destination. In the end, Frasier took a chance on love, adding to the poignancy of his goodbye speech.

#5: “The Leftovers” (2014-17

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If you think “The Leftovers” was all about the Rapture, you’ve misinterpreted the meaning of the whole show. This series was more about how people cope with tragedy and search for answers in a world where nothing is etched in stone. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the final scene between an aged Kevin and Nora. Having been apart for years, Nora claims that she crossed over to an alternate reality where 98% of humankind disappeared. Based on Nora’s hesitation before she supposedly crossed over, however, it’s possible that she never went through with the procedure and fabricated this entire story. In the end, it doesn’t matter, as Kevin and Nora have at last found each other and in due course have found closure.

#4: “Cheers” (1982-93)

Where Frasier Crane chooses to start over in a new city, Sam Malone decides to let Diane go, realizing that Cheers is his one true love. The final scene finds a patron knocking on the Boston bar’s door, to which Sam replies, “sorry, we’re closed.” While this seems straightforward enough, Sam’s final line led some viewers to believe that Cheers had closed its doors for good. Having reflected on how much this bar means to him, though, Sam most likely meant that Cheers was only closing for the night and would reopen in the morning as usual. It may be the end of the series, but life goes on at Cheers even after the credits roll.

#3: “Mad Men” (2007-15)

“Mad Men” never spelt its underlying themes out to viewers and the finale is no exception. Meditating at a retreat center, a slight smile stretches across Don Draper’s face. We then cut to an iconic Coca-Cola commercial from 1971. Although this ending left people with question marks over their heads, there are a couple different ways to interpret it. The most likely explanation is that Don came up with this groundbreaking commercial, going to advertising heaven. Of course, it’s also possible that Don decided to leave his life as an adman behind and start over as a free-spirited hippy. Either way, “Mad Man” was largely about one man’s journey of self-discovery and in this moment, Don finally sees where he belongs in the world.

#2: “Lost” (2004-10)

Given this supernatural drama’s various twists and turns, it should come as no surprise that the ending left more than a few people scratching their heads. As Jack met up with his fellow islanders in a church, some audiences jumped to the conclusion that they’d been dead this entire time. Based on what Jack’s father tells him, though, it’s safe to say everything that took place on the island actually happened and the Oceanic 815 survivors have reunited in this purgatory as a way of letting go. Time moves differently in this flash-sideways universe, allowing everyone to come together regardless of when they died. Yeah, even with that explanation, the finale isn’t the easiest to follow, but what else would you expect from “Lost?”

#1: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)

Eating onion rings with his wife and son in a public restaurant as “Don’t Stop Believing” plays, Tony Soprano awaits his daughter’s arrival. The front door opens, Tony looks up, and… cut to black! While not the most conclusive ending, several clues indicate that Tony was killed. For starters, there was Bobby’s comment in an earlier episode about how you probably don’t even hear it when you die, hence why the music stops. What’s more, Meadow fails to park her car twice, just as Tony has survived two assassination attempts. Meadow successfully parks on her third try, but three doesn’t seem to be Tony’s lucky number. There are other examples of foreshadowing alluding to Tony’s death, although hardly anyone likely caught them at first glance.

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