TV Series Finales: From 'Caliphate', the best and worst farewells of 2023

Claudette Barrios/HBO

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin in the final season of HBO's Succession.


It has become rare for series to run for years on end in the streaming era. More ambitious shows have created higher turnover, which means that the challenge of coming up with a “series finale” often becomes an issue after just three or four seasons, as happened with many of this year's most high-profile farewells.

In another departure from the past that owes heavily to Lost, it has also become common for shows to decide to conclude well in advance and build on that, a factor that distinguishes said shows from those that concluded without the benefit of a clear ending.

The final debate has become a spectator sport, from ardent defenders and detractors of “The Sopranos” to people understandably disappointed by “Seinfeld” (can Larry David do better?) “Curb your enthusiasm” Next year? We'll see) to the surreal ending of “St. Elsewhere,” which remains a landmark in terms of taking big, unexpected twists.

While it's difficult to produce a great finale for a mediocre show, it can also ruin a great show.

So which series stopped falling and which didn't? A look at some of the offers that signed in 2023, in descending order of satisfaction. Some spoilers ahead (especially in links to full reviews), and footnote: This list excludes Amazon's “Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan” and the FX crime dramas “Mayans MC” and “Snowfall,” which ended after four, five, and six years. . Although I watched all three for a while, I didn't continue to watch closely enough to do justice to how they tied things together.

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David M. Russell/HBO

Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Brown in “Succession.”

'Succession' (4 seasons, HBO): Unsurprisingly, the best show of the year had the most impressive payoff, starting with the brave decision to kill off Logan Roy (Brian Cox) early in the season, before leaving out the real succession battle. A Hall of Fame nominee in the series finale, for Jeremy Strong's reading of the line “I'm the eldest boy!” Single.

'Billions' (7 seasons, Showtime): After seven seasons and the daunting task of replacing star Damian Lewis, the show lures him back for a final showdown with billionaire Michael Prince (Corey Stoll) in a coordinated effort to thwart his presidential ambitions, part of a twisty season that lives up to the series' best take on the nexus of power. Money and politics are at their peak.

'Barry' (4 seasons, HBO): This hitherto dark comedy was marred by an uneven final season from co-creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg, bringing a bloody, seemingly inevitable end for the killer who really wanted to be an actor. A good example of a show crossing the finish line on its own terms, but not to the level one might have hoped.

'Ted Lasso' (3 seasons, Apple TV+): The producers in particular avoided calling this a “finale”, but the final episode enjoyablely and appropriately wrapped up the story of football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) and his adventures in the UK, while leaving interesting life threads to play out moving forward.

“Dog reservation” (3 seasons, FX/Hulu): The bittersweet series about Native American youth in rural Oklahoma ended on a low-key note that seemed very much in keeping with the overall tone of the series, but in such a simple way that it didn't leave much of a lasting impression.

'the crown' (6 seasons on Netflix): While the finale appropriately brought the story back to Queen Elizabeth, the episode's more emotional touches — featuring the three characters she played over the course of the six seasons and allowing them to interact — felt too precious and imaginative, in the same way that Diana's ghostly interactions did earlier. . In season. A less than regal end to a great series.

'The wonderful Mrs. Maisel' (5 seasons, Amazon Prime Video): Credit series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino used flash-forwards throughout the season to build toward the finale, which not only provided a triumphant end to the series' namesake (Rachel Brosnahan) but set up the real-life downfall of her real-life mentor, Lenny. Bruce (Luke Kirby). Ultimately, though, the story returns to the central relationship between Midge and her manager Susie (Alex Borstein), a sweet if somewhat sarcastic character who thrives on another one of those shows that peaked early and never seemed to make headlines afterward. .

Philip Antonello/Prime Video

Rachel Brosnahan in the title role in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

'the light' (9 seasons, CW): In addition to marking the end of this superhero series, the finale of “The Flash” coincided with the end of The CW and the “ArrowVerse” as we knew it, as the network transformed under new management. Initially, The Flash was a really good series, but it fell victim to several wrinkles involving different Earths, alternate realities, and characters flying among each other over the course of its run, despite the producers being credited with creating what at least seemed like a finale.

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'Star Trek: Picard' (3 seasons, Paramount+): The entire third season of the Paramount series felt like one long exercise in fan service, reuniting the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” for a (very) emotional send-off. However, the subplot involving Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his as-yet-unknown son (Ed Speleers) felt tired, and in terms of wrapping things up, it certainly felt like it was time, as the man himself would say, to make it so . .

'Black list' (10 seasons, NBC): Fueled by the mystery that underpinned its procedural aspect in its early days, “The Blacklist” represents a classic case of a show that ran too long and was supposed to end in 2021 when Megan Boone (aka Elizabeth Keen) has exited the series. James Spader still made the show somewhat watchable, but the long fate of Raymond “Red” Reddington seemed as anti-climactic as a climax can be, in a series that scrapped its name a few years too late.

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