It’s been a week when we’ve all been thinking about the end of grand television institutions, whether it’s David Letterman’s final Late Show or the last time that we’ll get to see Don Draper on our screens, instead of being impossibly smooth in our nightmares, effortlessly outclassing us despite being a broken human being and — I’m sorry, I got distracted for a second by my own insecurities. Nonetheless, it’s a time for beloved television entities to leave our lives forever, which prompted a wave of nostalgia for other final appearances, from the brave — Sam Beckett never made it home, and Angel never even made it to the end of his own story — to the misguided (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). Here are 10 classic final episodes you can relive on Netflix right now.
MASH: “GOODBYE, FAREWELL AND AMEN” (1982)
Yes, MASH went on longer than the war it was set during, and yes, somewhere along the line it gained an unfair reputation for trying to make a point instead of trying to get a laugh. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive, as anyone watching this year’s amazing Inside Amy Schumer can attest.) The final episode of the series, however, remains a masterpiece, saying everything the show attempted to say in its previous 11 years in a way that felt particularly charged and important.
QUANTUM LEAP: “MIRROR IMAGE” (1993)
Poor Samuel Beckett. After five years of being thrown throughout the time stream with a Swiss cheese brain and Dean Stockwell as a grouchy hologram sidekick, it only seemed fair that he’d be allowed to go home in the final episode of Quantum Leap, but his dual creators Donald P. Bellisario and, well, God, had different ideas. The final episode of the show makes it clear why a return trip isn’t on the cards, and does so in such a way that your heart won’t break… too much.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: “ALL GOOD THINGS…” (1994)
Star Trek: The Next Generation could be a little too dry and on the nose at times, but its final episode is a model of how to finish up a successful series after seven years. A fan-pleasing mix of nostalgia, hints of what happens to beloved characters in the future and a plethora of easter eggs, it’s an episode that goes back to the show’s first episode to give a new shape to the series as a whole. Of course it was all about Q in the end…!
THE OFFICE (U.K.): “CHRISTMAS SPECIAL PART 2” (2003)
Proof that, under the hard shell of the most cynical Brit, there’s a sentimental bastard waiting to escape, the final episodes of the original Office arrived more than a year after the show’s final season, which ended with David Brent redundant and Tim rejected by Dawn. At first, everything seems to have gone even worse for everyone involved, but at the last moment, an unexpected happy ending arrives for almost everyone. Turns out, bittersweet really works out when you were only expecting bitter.
ANGEL: “NOT FADE AWAY” (2004)
The final season of Angel was a strange thing, a quiet reboot of the show that repositioned all of its main cast and gave them new things to do — and in a couple of cases, new people to be in the process. The show’s final episode continued to buck the trend of going quietly into the light, ending with what felt more like a cliffhanger than any previous season finale of years gone by. Against all odds, Angel’s final hour might have ended up being its rest, proving that the show had a lot of life left in it.
LOST: “THE END” (2010)
To this day, the final episode of Lost is held up as an example of how not to end a long-running series, but rewatching the episode divorced from the massive expectations it faced at the time reveals… well, something that’s not as disappointing, at the very least. (Your mileage may continue to vary when it comes to the more spiritual overtones of the final reveal, still.) If nothing else, Jack versus Fake Locke is far more fun than you remember.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: “ALWAYS” (2011)
The stealth contender for America’s Greatest Television Drama About America has, unsurprisingly, a massively fulfilling final episode that manages to pay off the emotional tension not only from the preceding season, but the entire series up to that point. It is, of course, all about Coach and Tammy Taylor, but everyone else that you’ve fallen in love with up to this series — and also Julie, whom no-one but Matt could fall in love with — shows up as well for one last appearance. It’s like the best high school reunion imaginable for the best high school you never attended.
30 ROCK: “HOGCOCK/LAST LUNCH” (2013)
The two-part finale for Tina Fey’s none-more-meta sitcom (originally aired as one episode) combined just enough sarcasm with what was essentially a feel-good sentimental celebration of everything that had gone before, up to and including providing a surprisingly touching conclusion to the platonic love story between Liz and Jack. Even in what the show would’ve decried as the self-consciously liberal cesspit of New York City, true friendship and happiness could be found.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: “LAST FOREVER” (2014)
The highlight of the final episode of the long-running CBS sitcom wasn’t seeing Robin and Ted finally end up together (because, really, who wanted to see that happen by this point anyway?), but the chance to see the kids tell their dad that his story has been going on for way, way, way too long. Yes, kids, we’d been thinking the same thing for a few years now, as much as we’ll miss Barney when they whole thing’s over.
BREAKING BAD: “FELINA” (2015)
Before the emotional trauma that surrounded the Mad Men finale, there was “Felina,” the final episode of *Breaking Bad" that left grown men trembling in its wake. Or, perhaps more appropriately, left the Internet trembling under the weight of the countless think pieces about whether or not it lived up to expectations. Months down the line, and the answer appears to be yes, even if things don’t wrap up with a happy-go-lucky Coke jingle from the New Seekers. Nonetheless, this is definitely the real thing.