People become personally invested in shows on TV, far more so than they do movies. TV shows, after all, are experienced in your own home. The characters and the situations they find themselves in are consumed alongside our meals, and we flick on our favourites as comfort food when we’re sad, sick, insomniac or sheltering from outrageous weather.
That’s why we react so strongly to the finales of the shows we watch: even the TV we’re not that passionate about is TV we’ve let into our homes once a week for anything from a few months to half our lives.
But TV finales can be strange, changeable beasts. Usually, they’re pretty predictable. There’s the wrap-up finale, beloved of sitcoms, where the main characters move on, move away, get married or get closure. There’s the resolution finale, where story arcs converge and characters collide for the final time, resolving plot threads and offing antagonists.
And then there’s the WTF finale: the one where they give you the opposite of what anyone sane would expect, breaking your brain, leaving you desperate to discuss it with someone… provided you can pick your jaw up off the floor first.
This article is dedicated to the series finales that made you throw chips and dips at the TV and leap at the internet with the caps lock on. And of course, here be spoilers…
10. Battlestar Galactica - ‘Daybreak’
Critically acclaimed from the beginning, Ronald D. Moore’s grim, ferociously topical update of late seventies Star Wars rip-off Battlestar Galactica felt like a modern classic from the word go.
On the verge of extermination by the artificial intelligences they created, the last of the human race escapes the genocide to search for a new home in the stars. So far, so identical to the high-camp original: but Moore’s version, tightly plotted and light on fluff, debated ideas of politics, revolution, and the nature of the soul. Buck Rogers, it was not.
As the series progressed, it began to change shape, the alluring mystique of the high concept devolving into oblique mysticism positing an Orphic take on spirituality: unless they could break the pattern, humans were doomed to repeat a ‘grievous circle’ of events over thousands of years.
‘Daybreak’, a three part capstone to that elaborate narrative, doubled down on the cod-religious shenanigans, substituting vagueness and a deus ex machina ellipsis for anything resembling closure. The audience felt cheated, and they had been: because no one expected the show they’d been watching for four years to end 150,000 years further in the future... in 21st century New York.