Friday night’s series finale of “Glee” was titled “Dreams Come True,” so there wasn’t much of a mystery about what was going to happen. The episode flashed forward five years in the future to see where everyone ended up; clearly, the writers weren’t going to let the McKinley High glee club say goodbye without everything being okay.
Still, we didn’t expect everything to be so perfectly wrapped in a bow, from Mercedes becoming Beyoncé’s opening act, to Kurt and Blaine triumphing on Broadway, to Rachel Berry landing a Tony Award, to Sue Sylvester as Jeb Bush’s vice president. It was similar to the “Parks and Recreation” series finale from last month, with a jump into a future that found every single character married, rich and deliriously happy; or “The Mentalist” just before that, when the tortured Patrick Jane got a fairy-tale ending.
Series finales are a dicey proposition — there are, memorably, quite a few that are still hated by many viewers. But after sitting through multiple recent final episodes where everything couldn’t have been more perfectly wrapped up, it’s worth asking: Is a too-perfect finale worse than a vague one?
It’s a natural inclination for TV shows to leave the airwaves in a teary, problem-free fashion, especially as a nod to loyal fans who have stuck by the show. But part of the reason we tune into the shows in the first place is the conflict. Plus, not every character deserves to have everything work out. While it’s great that Sue Sylvester learned her lesson about arts education, the writers still made her a pretty horrible person for most of the show. Do we really need to see her elected to one of the highest offices in the land?
Think about some of the more frustrating series finales in memory, such as “How I Met Your Mother” on CBS. It turned out that the mother (played by guest star Cristin Milioti) had been dead the whole time, and Ted actually did end up with Robin — someone that the creators repeatedly insisted was not his soulmate. Frustrating? You bet. But it also led to an intense level of discussion afterward, as people debated the reasoning and logic and went back in time to point out all of the instances that the show contradicted itself.
It was maddening at the time. But compared to the “everything’s perfect!” series finale with no real need for analysis afterwards, those debates about terrible finales were actually … kind of enjoyable. What fun is watching TV if there’s nothing to argue about the next morning?
The list of TV finales hated by viewers is lengthy, from “Lost” to “The Sopranos” to “Dexter” and hundreds more, for their lack of sufficient answers and endings that were absurd to fans. Though when you bring them up, to this day, it can still result in a heated debate about why exactly it was so bad. That’s part of the fun of getting invested in a show. But it certainly won’t happen with a finale like “Glee” where everything wrapped up for the best. Nice fan service, sure. And at the same time? Kind of lame.