We are coming up on that time of year when many of our favorite shows are coming to an end. Some will be back after a brief hiatus, but others won’t have any new episodes. It has long been a theme to have the last episode of a season, and especially series, be a special event that shakes the foundation of the show. The purpose of the season finale is to leave you with an episode that brings you back for more, which is why they are so often cliffhangers. Some have done better than others, and these are the season finales that have not only brought people back for future seasons, but have had a tremendous impact on the series in general.
Who Shot Mr. Burns – The Simpsons
The Simpsons basically spoofed an old season finale of Dallas with their Who Shot Mr. Burns story arc. The finale had Mr. Burns plotting to build a device that would block out the sun and make the citizens of Springfield rely on his power plant to provide light for them. It was a cruel and devious plan, even by his standards. Of course everyone in Springfield was outraged by this, and at the end of the episode Mr. Burns was shot. The only problem was that everyone in town could be considered a suspect. Mr. Burns has never won any popularity contests. Fox built up the mystery with various promotional deals and contests, and we were left with a Simpsons episode we would never forget.
The Kiss – The Office
Jim and Pam’s romance on The Office is something we take for granted these days. It seems so long ago that Jim was constantly hanging around Pam’s desk and Pam was engaged to some guy in the warehouse. The season finale of season 2 had Jim finally confess his love for Pam in the middle of a rainy parking lot. She looked at him, they had a moment, then she said no and ran away. It looked like all was lost for Jim, until he tracked her down. While Pam might have been saying no, her body was most definitely saying yes. Jim and Pam end the episode with a kiss that cements their romance for the rest of the series.
Borgified – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Captain Jean-Luc Picard was the indomitable Captain of the USS Enterprise who had triumphed over every alien threat he had faced. He was the stalwart character, the leading man who could do no wrong. You just don’t expect anything to happen to a character like that. He just saves the day. That was the story until the Borg showed up at the end of Season 3. The Borg proved that resistance was futile, and set about assimilating people all over the place. This time there was no last second triumph, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard was Borgified himself, becoming that which he most despised.
The Mystery of Cartman’s Father – South Park
There are several themes in South Park. Kenny is poor, Stan and Kyle learn life lessons each episode, and Cartman’s mom is a big slut and possible drug addict. The promiscuous ways of Cartman’s mom led up to the events of the season 1 finale. Cartman’s mom had been with so many men, that nobody could be sure of who Cartman’s father actually was. Cartman was seriously hoping that his dad was John Elway of the Denver Broncos, but pretty much every other guy on the team was potentially his father as well. With most of the town gathered around Cartman, the mystery of his father was soon to be revealed, with lasting repercussions. It was not until the 201st episode that the mystery of Cartman’s father was truly solved.
Grave Danger – CSI
By season 5, most of us were tired of seeing the same old routine of the crime being solved after the CSI team analyzes a boot print, bullet casing, or semen sample. Luckily the season 5 finale shook things up by bringing in Quentin Tarantino to direct the episode. It was one of the most suspenseful episodes in the series, with one of the main characters, Nick Stokes, becoming trapped in a coffin. If that wasn’t creepy enough, the coffin has plenty of devious contraptions to prevent his escape or rescue. Quentin Tarantino did a great job in mixing things up on this season finale.