[List] - 6 More Shows That Could Have Ended Sooner


At this time last year, I brought to your attention 6 television shows that could have ended sooner then they did. The important word in that sentence is "could." Not should. Should have ended sooner is pretty much all of NBC's dramatic line up from the past decade. Could have ended sooner are those shows that have a point in their run where enough of the plot is wrapped up, where the characters are in a comfortable enough place to leave them in peace, and where there isn't a ugly cliffhanger keeping viewers from having getting a real conclusion.

These "could have ended" moments can be helpful when introducing new viewers to shows, allowing them to experience the best a series has to offer without suffering any potential drops in quality, which doesn't always happen, but is sadly common. I, for instance, suggest new viewers stop watching LOST at the end of season 4. It's not perfect, but it helps. And, a "could have ended" moment can really save your budget when buying a series on DVD, allowing you to guiltlessly refrain from buying latter seasons.

After the jump, we explore six more series that "could have" ended sooner. This means that there will be spoilers from throughout the various series' run, so be cautious when continuing.

Smallville Season 4
Yes, I know this wasn't from the finale, but I couldn't
find an image of him hucking the crystal
Let's be honest here: Smallville was never a good series. The writing was all over the place, the acting was terrible, the plot never made anything close to sense, and the longer it went on, the more ridiculous it became. In fact, it's evolution mirrors pretty well the previous TV instalment of the Superman mythos, Lois and Clark. But those early seasons, whose melodrama can be easily blamed on the WB/CW being what it was, were at least earnest. They seemed like a genuine attempt to cover the "superboy" era of Clark Kent's life. They had character and purpose, which was to explore the boy who would become the man who would become Superman. The longer the series lasted, the farther it moved away from that core principle, while never allowing itself to move onto the next stage of Clark's life. So, he was permanently stuck as not-Superman long after he really should have been, which necessitated such nonsense as The Blur. By the end of the run, the entire Justice League existed, Clark and Lois were married, and he had faced and defeated every single one of Superman's greatest foes, and never put on the blue and red.

The core intent of the series came to an end with the conclusion of season 4, by which time Clark had begun to learn about his Kryptonian heritage (a subject that would only get murkier as the series went on). A second meteor shower decimates Smallville, thus providing symmetry with the pilot. Clark has a final face off with his Luthor enemy, in the form of Lionel, and is transported to the Arctic, where a Kryptonian crystal grows into the Fortress of Solitude. Ending the series here allows it to exist pretty neatly within the Smallville segment of Superman '79, from which Smallville took it's every influence and design, and without much conflicting story elements. If the point was to show Clark develop and accept his powers, and learn to embrace his superhumanity, then the best possible place to stop watching the series is as Clark is removed from the world, put on a path to be trained by Jor-El, and become the hero he needs to be. With not a leather jacket or Lex Luthor Christmas Carol in sight.

X-Files Season 7

Ask X-Files fans when the show stopped being worth it, and you'll get a range of answers. A lot would suggest after the film that followed season five. The X-Files had been shut down, in universe; Mulder and Scully had exposed the conspiracy; and the existence of aliens was not only confirmed, but in such a way that Scully could never again be sceptical.  Another valid option is the end of season seven, for several reasons. One, it allows what few plot threads were left lingering after season five to be wrapped up. The details of the conspiracy are laid out to bare. The ongoing mystery of what happened to Mulder's sister is resolved, thus concluding the primary motivation for the character. On going protagonist Cancer Man is dealt with, with as much finality as was believed until it was retconned in later years. And it ends with Mulder being abducted, which is a poetic way for his story to end.

It is a practically perfect ending. And the reason for that is, it was meant to be. Despite being a hit for FOX, by season seven the numbers were dragging, Duchovny wanted out, and there was no clear future for the show. So, Chris Carter designed the season seven finale to be the series finale, filming only a single alternate scene, the final one with Gillian Anderson, in the event of a last minute renewal. Which they got. And barely any fans of the series would say that the best place to finish the series is when it actually finished. Season eight has it's charms, but season nine is a squanderous waste. Better to leave the series on as high a note as possible.

Battlestar Galactica Season 4.0

Easily, the best example of both could and should have ended. The writer's strike was baring down on production, and season four was shut down. No one expected the show to return, to the point that Edward James Olmos said his final goodbyes to everyone on set as they wrapped. And in perfect Battlestar fashion, the journey came to an end not with fields and rainbows, but with a desolate wasteland, leaving the desperate survivors absolutely none of the salvation they had sought for so long. Considering the bleak nature of the show, there is no better way to end than that.

And then they came back, and undercut all of that with ten episodes that squander precious time, and focus way too much on the mythology of the show, and not enough on the characters. As the show went on, and certainly in that last season, the writers obsessed over the mysteries of the show, and forgot what it was that had made the show great in the first place: the complex humanity that was driving the fleet's survival. Does ending it at the war scorched Earth mean never knowing who the final Cylon is? Yes, but it also doesn't matter who the final Cylon is (and certainly, with the direction they went in, not knowing makes more sense and holds together better than knowing). Battlestar was one of the few series to come out of the writer's strike worse than when they went in. As far as I'm concerned, those last ten episodes don't exist. I don't own them, and doubt I'll ever watch them again. Because the best ending is right here.

Scrubs Season 6

Scrubs, like MASH that inspired it, outlasted itself. Not that seasons seven and eight aren't good. They retain the same basic quality the previous seasons did, though moved in a decidedly more dramatic direction rather than the absurdism soaked in heart that had driven the earlier years. But season six was the last year the show was it's honest self. NBC had begun to loose interest in the series, delaying the show, and moving time slots, resulting in a truncated season seven that is prone to occasional "very promotable episodes.". The move over to ABC was also shortened, and had less laughs, as the characters finally matured into adults (it also didn't help that Bill Lawrence had left the show to focus on Cougar Town). And the less said about season nine, the so called After Scrubs, the better.

Season six saw a lot of the characters move in positive directions in their lives: JD became a father, Elliot and Keith got engaged, and Nurse Roberts died (OK, so maybe not completely positive directions). Leaving off with JD and Elliot seeking comfort with each other as the weight of their lives bares down on them becomes a very dark ending if nothing follows it, because it reinforces the idea that the characters are unable to grow so long as they have influence over each other. Both are posed to destroy their found happiness in favour of a moment of regression.Which is exactly what had happened every previous time the two characters had gotten together. Alternatively, because they are never seen touching in those final moments, it could be a moment of epiphany for both of them, shrugging off the final crutches of youth and moving on.

Dexter Season 4

It doesn't really need to be said that Dexter should have ended in season four. The last four seasons have been directionless, prone to status quo worship and lack any of the bite that made the show original and successful early on. But this is "could have," not "should have." And Dexter could have easily ended in season four as well. The theme of the season was family, and whether or not a monster like him could maintain that sort of relationship. The Trinity Killer's life did a pretty good job of convincing him that he couldn't, but the Trinity Killer's actions proved it, by removing part of that family.

If the series ends with Rita, his connection to humanity, gone, he has nothing left but the monster. Since he has always been adamant about being as good a person as he can be, and his adherence to The Code, the concept of fully becoming what the Trinity ultimately was would be crippling. His stumbling out into the yard and admission that he did it can be seen as his only option. If he remains free, he'll only continue to slip further out of the world, until he's no different from Trinity. Rather than suffer that fate, and to salvage some shred of the person Harry and Rita believed that he was, Dexter turns himself in. What better way for the series to end? In a fireball, or a fist fight? Or whatever shallow way the series inevitably will conclude?

Nip/Tuck Season 4

So... Nip/Tuck is a very strange show. Hedonistic plastic surgeons with just about the worst personal lives put on modern television have lots of sex, hunt down serial killers, feed dead patients to alligators, and are generally unlikable in every meaningful way. There were very few moments of Christan or Sean's lives that endeared them to the audience. In fact, the majority of episodes would be spent yelling at the TV, because they were being self destructive assholes. But they were great self destructive assholes, and the show was a hit. Famke Janssen, Peter Dinklage, Alec Baldwin, Bradley Cooper, Sharon Gless, Portia de Rossi and many more guest starred over the run of the series, and it is the only reason that Dylan Walsh played Doctor Doom in the Fantastic Four films, in what is the strangest attempt to capitalise on brand recognition I've seen in a while.

The series lasted 100 episodes, but after the end of the fourth season, things got weirder and more unhinged. Characters, as unstable as they already were, started making decisions that made no sense. Plots were repeated, or didn't go anywhere, or made any sense, and status quo was not only paramount, but all. However, at the end of season 4, there is a convenient cut off point. Lingering plot points are resolved, each character gets as much of a resolution as they deserve, and Sean and Christan move to Hollywood. There was even an extended flash forward sequence that showed the cast having finally achieved some measure of normalcy in their elder years. The whole thing seems so much like a series finale that, when it originally aired, I thought for certain the show was over. And it really could have been.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. Ah, yes, that ending where they finally get to Earth (after finally putting aside their differences, at least with one group of Cylons) and it is, instead, a radioactive wasteland. That was a fantastic way to end a series.