A composite of TV series characters showing Bran from Game of Thrones, Tony Soprano from the Sopranos and Phoebe Waller-Bridge starring in FleabagIMDB / HBO / BBC

Five of the best and worst finale episodes

Game Of Thrones’s long-awaited climax proved very divisive with fans - but how did other classic TV shows deliver when it came to signing off?

Harvey Day
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Warning: While we've tried to steer clear of revealing too much about each episode, by this article's very nature there may be some spoilers along the way. 

Putting together the finale for one of the most-talked about TV shows - even with a season budget of £70m ($90m) - while satisfying every one of its millions of devoted fans, was always going to be a monumental (if not impossible) task.

But the team behind HBO’s Game Of Thrones gave it their best shot - even if reviews have been fiercely divided.

While some critics and fans praised the stunning graphics and “powerful performances', others have accused the finale of being “anticlimactic', with The Guardian asking whether it was the cheesiest in TV history?

And what about those fans who are hoping George RR Martin will save the day by providing a more satisfying conclusion when he finally finishes the books? Well, the big man himself has some thoughts on that.

“How will [the books] end? I hear people asking,” he wrote on his blog. “The same ending as the show? Different? Well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.

“I am working in a very different medium than David and Dan [the show’s co-creators and writers], never forget. They had six hours for this final season. I expect these last two books of mine will fill 3000 manuscript pages between them before I’m done… and if more pages and chapters and scenes are needed, I’ll add them.

“How about this? I’ll write it. You read it. Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.”

The record for the most-watched TV finale still belongs to the last episode of US comedy-drama M*A*S*H, with more than 105 million viewers reported to have tuned in to watch the episode in 1983. But whether they pull in high viewing figures or not, it’s never an easy job for producers to round up a beloved cultural phenomenon. While some manage to finish on a high, there’s others which, well, don’t quite live up to expectations. So how did the finales of these classic TV shows fare?

1. Breaking Bad

Ranked by USA Today as one of the best final episodes of all time, the last ever Breaking Bad aired in 2013.

“Although the show often chronicled its everyman’s boundless cunning and ruthless ambition, the finale - Felina - presented the long-awaited consequences, doled out with grim, compelling inevitability,” raved Rolling Stone. 

And in a clever move, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan managed to leave enough room in the finale for a sequel film, which is set to hit Netflix at some point in the future. 

2. Lost

The finale of Lost, which aired in 2010, has gone down in history as one of the most confusing TV endings ever.

Across six seasons we watched as the survivors of a plane crash, flying between Sydney and Los Angeles, tried to get by on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. But many felt the two-and-a half-hour finale left them, well, unfulfilled.

“The finale, especially one that was that unbelievably long, was an opportunity to right some of the wrongs from the past few seasons, to cohesively deliver a send-off that was satisfying on an intellectual and emotional level,” wrote a critic for IndieWire." Instead, neither worked, and ‘Lost,’ what was once thought of as one of the most engaging and entertaining television puzzle-boxes of all time, turned out to be mostly empty inside.”

3. The Sopranos 

The Sopranos, a modern mob-based drama series, was another show that amassed a huge, cult-like fanbase with one critic calling it the "most masterful show ever".

And when the programme - about New Jersey gangster Tony Soprano - finally came to a close in 2007, expectations were through the roof.

But the show’s decision to end by cutting to black proved extremely controversial. Had Tony’s gangster lifestyle finally caught up with him and he was hit with an assassin’s bullet? Or, did he instead live out his days with his family in peace? Fans never found out.

Some long-time watchers of the show were so annoyed by the famous cut to black moment that they bombarded HBO’s official website with complaints, forcing it to temporarily shut down.

But critics praised the final episode - called Made in America - with one reviewer calling it the “perfect end to a perfect series".

4. Friends

US sitcom Friends is one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

And critics seem to agree that its final episode - when Ross confesses his love for Rachel and Chandler and Monica move to the suburbs - ticked all the right boxes.

“An entertaining, satisfying one-hour finale,” a reviewer for USA Today wrote at the time. 

"It's exactly what I had hoped," added David Schwimmer of the final episode. "We all end up with a sense of a new beginning and the audience has a sense that it's a new chapter in the lives of all these characters."

5. Fleabag

A new entry in the realm of TV finales, season two of BBC Three’s Fleabag came to a close earlier this year.

At the end of the series, we discover whether Godmother and Dad finally tie the knot and if Fleabag and sister Claire get some of the resolution they're looking for.

“The most electrifying, devastating TV in years,” said The Guardian.

And show creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has officially confirmed that’s it - there will be no more Fleabag. “I have thought about it and there isn't going to be one," she told the BBC earlier this year when asked if a third series might be made. 

Going out on a high? Yes, but also a little bit heartbreaking.

While we're still not sure where we stand on the Game of Thrones finale, we do know that we'll miss its dragons, unexpected deaths and sometimes gratuitous sex scenes. At least there are the prequels to look forward to. Although, right now, we're not sure we can go through all that again...