As we prepare to bid adieu to 2020, we say goodbye to a slew of long-running series that helped define the last decade (or four!) of television.
Having already taken stock of the 110+ TV shows that ended in 2020 (some of which were outright cancelled and even un-renewed), we are now taking a moment to reflect upon the series finales from this calendar year that left a lasting impression on us — usually for better but sometimes for worse.
Here, you will find our thoughts on the grand finales of several broadcast (Criminal Minds, Modern Family, Will & Grace), streaming (13 Reasons Why, BoJack Horseman, Fuller House) and cable (Homeland, Power, Schitt’s Creek) series. You’ll also come across commentary on a smattering of genre shows (like Arrow, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Magicians) and a few niche gems (including Brockmire, Steven Universe and Vida) that were afforded the opportunity to bring their stories to a proper conclusion.
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING FINALES ARE NOT RANKED. Rather, the grades chosen reflect how each TV show did (or did not) stick the landing based on their respective runs. Also, as stated above, we did not grade every single series finale from the past year, but instead chose a select few series that ended on their own terms.
Scroll down to see which finales made their mark on Team TVLine, then share your opinions on the best (and worst) series sign-offs of 2020.
13 Reasons Why
We can all agree that very few characters got what they deserved in the final episode of Netflix’s controversial teen drama. (To name a few examples: not only should Justin still be alive, but a handful of his pals should definitely be behind bars.) That said, the impressive performances — particularly those from Dylan Minnette and Brandon Flynn — went a long way to salvage the otherwise frustrating hour.
Given how much the “last war” was hyped throughout the CW drama’s final season, the end result — a series of monologues about humanity set against a starry backdrop, followed by a brief battle on a field — was anticlimactic, to say the least. And while we appreciated seeing Alycia Debnam-Carey one last time, the decision to have her play a character other than Lexa was disappointing. (Fine, one more gripe: Not even a flashback of Bellamy?!)
The Oliver-less team’s final mission — to rescue a kidnapped teenage William — was a bit perfunctory, and the new Season 1 flashbacks it teed up were conspicuously missing Felicity (due to former cast member Emily Bett Rickards’ limited availability). But Oliver’s funeral, well-attended as it was by favorite and even some “resurrected” characters, ended the series on a properly reverent note, the hint of Diggle’s “green” destiny was pleasingly teasy and the closing scene that reunited Olicity in some sort of “afterlife” promised the ultimate (if kinda lonely?) Happily Ever After.
Blindspot‘s series finale doubled as its 100th episode, and the show marked both of those milestones with a dazzling, nostalgic look back at its five seasons: Dozens of previous guest stars and series regulars returned for short encores, and the episode featured Blindspot‘s most ambitious fight scene ever. But the ample fan service didn’t quite make up for that ambiguous ending, in which Jane may or may not have died of ZIP poisoning, depending on how you interpret the episode’s closing moments. Jane, Weller and the rest of the FBI team had earned peace after all this time, and it was frustrating to get no actual closure on these characters after five years of investment.
BoJack‘s last hurrah was a rollercoaster ride that toyed with our emotions like Princess Carolyn would with a ball string. While a 14-month prison sentence helped BoJack break his sobriety record (along with his spirit), the finale offered him a glimmer of hope in the form of some much-needed closure and wisdom from Diane. While a recovering addict’s struggles may always ebb and flow, BoJack finally seemed ready to face his guilt and future head on. Sure, he could have easily been killed off, but the bittersweet and more fitting end is that he had to keep living.
Though the future-set final season didn’t see the return of the drunken, drugged-out, sexed-up version of Jim Brockmire that portrayer Hank Azaria had initially hoped for, the IFC comedy still managed to deliver during its last at-bat. After Jim and Jules tied the knot and saved Major League Baseball, Jim received some much-needed good news: his body was responding to an experimental Parkinson’s medication, which would offset some of the debilitating symptoms for some time. It resulted in a rare moment of silence for the league commissioner, as the underrated series drew to an emotionally fulfilling close.
The explosive climax of the first hour’s hunt for Everett Lynch aka The Chameleon left Reid hospitalized, and during his unconsciousness he encountered several blasts from the past — though some choice of characters (Foyet instead of Cat?) were head scratchers. Similarly, the lack of any Derek Morgan (played by CBS employee/S.W.A.T. star Shemar Moore) in the finale was odd. And while the penultimate sequence tried to have it all — no, everyone is not leaving the BAU! Just Garcia! — it’s nice to know the team’s adventures will ostensibly continue.
This Netflix guilty pleasure piled on all the cheese for its final episode, serving up a triple wedding for D.J., Stephanie and Kimmy; a joyful pregnancy announcement; and the wonderfully ludicrous returns of characters who would never have attended this ceremony in real life, including several of their ex-boyfriends. (Joey McIntyre, who served as the couples’ surprise minister was actually among the more sensible wedding guests.) But that’s what this show has always been about, and it’s exactly what the fans wanted — so we’ll grade this one on a curve.
God Friended Me
Recognizing that CBS drama was unlikely to be renewed, the series’ creators crafted a conclusion with the help of some editing magic and a voiceover montage. Although it was rushed and not ideal, the makeshift series ender provided closure on where and with whom the characters ended up. But the flash forward of Miles on a snowy mountaintop, being led to the “She” behind the God account – an image that was always intended as the show’s endgame – left us wanting more when it came to the central mystery.
The Good Place
It’s strange to say how much we enjoyed a finale that saw most of our beloved characters cease to exist… and yet we did. NBC’s afterlife comedy wrapped up its four-season run on a beautifully philosophical note, with Eleanor and her fellow humans all separately deciding to end their eternal existences by walking through a door in a serene redwood forest. (Even heaven gets old after a while, it seems.) We laughed (at Jason’s perfect Madden score), we cried (during Chidi’s “waves” speech) and we took comfort in the fact that Michael finally found a way to “take it sleazy” on Earth as a human. If you’ll pardon our language, it was forking lovely.
Not just good, divine, the series finale of OWN’s superlative primetime soap sewed up loose ends (burying poor Bishop and sending off Grace to her new life), dangled the threads of new intrigue (well, hey there, Tasha/Jacob/Tara love triangle) and unleashed Lynn Whitfield’s Lady Mae on a sermon that was so galvanizing, it not only made her a Performer of the Year finalist, it left us praying that we wouldn’t have to wait long for the spinoff.
Capping 10 seasons, “Aloha” delivered the expected amount of action and derring-do, but more importantly it spoke to the family of “broken toys” Steve had assembled over the years — including BFF Danny, who flirted with death after a very badass escape. And though by design it teed up a new variation on the Five-0 team (which would add Lance Gross’ character for any potential Season 11), it still offered great closure for the current ohana, allowing Steve a chance to find some peace but eventually return to his island home.
Much to our relief, the Showtime drama did not wrap its eight-year run with Carrie murdering her beloved mentor Saul — as we were led to believe she might. Instead, the series’ central, embattled duo both received happy-ish endings that felt true to the spirit of the show, and by that we mean hard-fought, unpredictable, morally complex and (just a smidge) contrived.
How to Get Away With Murder
The ABC drama had quite a few mysteries to solve in its final hour, and it delivered with a series of satisfying reveals: The long-teased Wes twist was explained, Annalise was acquitted and lived a long, full life, and a flash-forward montage revealed where the Keating Four ended up after Middleton. Despite the abundant closure, though, Murder‘s finale also brought the sudden, back-to-back deaths of Frank and Bonnie, two tortured characters who’d spent years trying to better themselves and let go of their hefty emotional baggage; to watch them perish so tragically, just as they neared a happy-ish ending, left us slightly bitter about the show’s finale choices.
Much like every season, the show’s fifth season concluded with an episode that could also function as a series finale, if need be – and this time, it did. The focus on character arcs, with Alice coming to terms with her grief over Quentin’s death and Eliot finding a new calling and, potentially, love, gave the hour a sense of fulfillment. At the same time, it was difficult to see so many of the characters separated in the end, with the door left open for a new quest in a potential sixth season. And if we’re being honest, we would have loved one last appearance from Q.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Across an at-times thrilling two hours, we got great fights (including Daisy versus a Quake-ified younger Malick), timey-wimey exposition dumps (Fitz has been where/when?!), heartwarming reveals (Hi, Alya!) and, in the closing act, all kinds of Marvel-ous fan service (S.W.O.R.D., anyone?).
Though the premise of the one-hour finale was a bit predictable — Phil and Claire’s house went from unacceptably overstuffed to sadly nearly vacant, while Mitch and Cam’s big move promised to get even bigger — it satisfyingly hit every emotional note (Jay’s been secretly learning Spanish!), while also clearing the way for any eventual reunion special.
While some of the suspects in the lead-up were non-starters (did anyone actually think Paz killed Ghost?), the revelation of who actually offed James St. Patrick — and the consequences of Tariq’s fatal actions — provided a twisty and satisfying end to Starz’s sprawling drug drama. Plus: The series-capper provided a firm jumping-off point for the show’s four (!) spinoffs, particularly the immediate sequel Power Book II: Ghost.
The Bennetts’ bad-luck streak came to an end in the Netflix dramedy’s final episode, which saw Colt save Iron River and earn himself a rare hug from Beau. The family’s series-ending toast was preceded by Luke attending his first veterans support group meeting, and Colt and Abby finally moving into their new home (whilst contemplating Baby No. 2). It was all a bit predictable — but after seven consecutive cliffhangers, it was nice to see everything work out for these fine Coloradan folk.
Admit it: You can’t even flash back to Johnny seeing the Welcome to Schitt’s Creek sign that Roland had rejiggered as a parting gift for the Roses without getting misty-eyed. We don’t blame you. The Pop TV gem’s sendoff was near-perfect, a combination of the bittersweet (Moira’s wedding speech) and the silly (David’s very satisfying massage), thrown in a blender with so many feels that we were never sure whether we wanted to ugly-cry or do a spit take with a mouthful of fruit wine.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
From the Rebellion’s epic final battle against Horde Prime to the long-awaited first kiss between She-Ra and Catra — the latter of which empowered our titular heroine to claim victory — this emotional masterpiece gave fans everything they could have possibly wanted at the end of their 52-episode journey.
Steven Universe: Future
In true Steven Universe fashion, the Cartoon Network series went big for its final (for real this time!) adventure. The four-part event pit the Crystal Gems against Steven, who took on a monstrous form after becoming corrupted, with everyone learning one last lesson about love and support in the process. It wasn’t nearly as memorable as the original series’ 2016 finale, nor did it carry the same dramatic weight as 2019’s Steven Universe: The Movie, but we still appreciated getting a little more closure with some of our favorite characters.
After 15 seasons, the long-running CW drama had an almost impossible set of expectations to live up to when it came to its series finale, so it was never going to please everyone. And yes, there were faults: Coronavirus production restrictions clearly dampened a potential Heaven reunion, and the relegation of Cas to passing mention was awkward at best. But Dean’s tragic death and his heartbreaking goodbye with Sam packed an emotional wallop that we’re still not over, and in the end, we just wanted to be moved by the characters we’d spent so many years with.
Starz’s dramedy about a pair of sisters deciding what to do with their dead mother’s lesbian bar ended as it began: with humor, bone-deep grief and award-worthy performances by leads Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada. Both Lyn and Emma purged their manipulative father from their lives, figured out what (and who) they truly wanted and ended the series on a note of hope for the future. What more could you want (aside from a couple more seasons)?
Will & Grace
Marred as it was by rumors of a feud between Debra Messing and Megan Mullally, it’s downright miraculous that the NBC comedy’s second series finale managed to be as funny and moving as it was. Then again, the bar was set pretty low. (The first ending made our list of the worst ever!) In any case, Grace went into labor, Karen reunited with Stan, Jack made his Broadway debut, Will got a hint of a happily ever after (with Matt Bomer, no less), and we all got to leave Apartment 9C feeling upbeat about the Fab Four’s futures.