The last episode or episodes of a season, consisting of a story which ties up most of that season's loose ends and aims to be as dramatic as possible. They may be The Climax
of an ongoing Story Arc
, or simply a new story, the most dramatic yet. They may kill off main characters, bring back villains from earlier in the series, and set up the next season
endings are common.
Season finales are pretty much guaranteed to draw in large audience figures.
While this is by no means universal
, it's still very common.
Of course, when the show is ending for good, they really pull out all the stops
See "What Now?" Ending
, Series Fauxnale
, Cliff Hanger
and Dénouement Episode
for specific varieties of Season Finale.
- The new Doctor Who has so far ended every series up until 2010 with multi-episode arc-ending stories. The first series had "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways", the second had "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday", the third had "Utopia"/"The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords", and the fourth had "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End".
- Despite being specials, the 2009 episodes were filmed as a continuation of series 4, and thus the The End of Time was treated as a series finale, rather than just a two part Christmas/New Year's special...
- The 2010 series finale, "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" in contrast to the previous post-revival finales, does not solve every mystery from within the series. Most of these are resolved in series 6, which broke form and had a single-part finale, "The Wedding of River Song".
- Each series of Torchwood ends on something game-changing, like a departure or even a death. In Torchwood: Miracle Day's "The Blood Line", the finale ended on the death of Esther and the resurrection and immortality of Rex.
- The first and second series finales of The Sarah Jane Adventures featured returning villains set to give Sarah Jane a rematch.
- While Heroes is more of a continuous story, "How To Stop an Exploding Man" probably qualifies as this.
- House season finales usually show something going wrong with the titular character. How he became a cripple (actually the episode before the series finale, much more memorable than the real one), when he got shot, losing all his team, being in an accident, possible brain damage and losing his best friend are some of these.
- Primeval series one ended with the dramatic "Episode 6", and series 2's "Episode 12"/"Episode 13" was even more dramatic.
- lonelygirl15 has so far ended two series with multiple episode dramatic stories. The first ended with the 12 episode epic "lonelygirl15 Season Finale", the second with the four-part story "Bloodlines".
- Each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended with a huge fight against the Big Bad.
- Season 1: The Master is killed after escaping. Buffy has died for a few moments previously, an important plot point for the next 7 years.
- Season 2: Angel is reensouled, however Buffy is forced to stab him and send him to a hell dimension, presumably killing him. Buffy leaves for
LA an unknown city.
- Season 3: At graduation, the Mayor turns into a giant snake. He's blown to hell along with Sunnydale High. Faith is in a coma. The third happiest season ending in the show
- Season 4: Adam is defeated by having the Scoobies combine their power with Buffy as well as every Slayer in history. This really pisses off The First Slayer, who proceeds to try to kill them in their dreams, which are major mind fucks. They stop her. Second happiest ending to a season.
- Season 5: Glory is stopped, but Buffy is dead. Really dead. Deader than last time. Not that it stops her from getting better next season. Most depressing season ending and some believe it should be the Series ending.
- Season 6: Dark Willow is stopped via The Power of Love, Buffy and Dawn are getting along better than ever and Buffy promises to lower the sheltering, which actually does happen in Season 7 (notable occurring as Buffy really becomes a bitch in S7).
- Season 7: Sunnydale is destroyed, Faith is back and is fighting for the side of good (and is actually in a relationship, though it falls apart before Season 8 even starts), Willow is officially the most powerful being on the planet, only really limited by the fact that using all that power would turn her evil, Xander's a cyclops, Anya's dead and all the potential Slayers on Earth have been activated. Still the happiest season ending if only because the characters are no longer alone in their fight.
- Season 8 The source of all magic is destroyed and Giles is dead. If you haven't read the comics and highlighted this I bet you're saying something along the lines of "HOLY SHIT!"
- Stargate SG-1 often has a huge, dramatic season finale, ending on a cliffhanger.
- In fact, of the ten seasons only season 5 and 7 aren't cliffhangers if we don't count the series finale. Stargate Atlantis had every single season finale being a cliffhanger:
- Season 1, The Siege: Atlantis coming under siege from two Hives... until the Daedalus fights them off
- Season 2, Allies: two Hives are on the way to Earth... until the Daedalus and the Orion stop them
- Season 3, First Strike: Atlantis is stuck in space with critical power levels... until they steal a ZPM from the Asurans
- Season 4, The Last Man: Sheppard travels 48000 years into the future... then the team recovers Teyla
- Season 5, Enemy at the Gate: Atlantis fights off a Super-Hive and makes an emergency landing on Earth
- Life On Mars came to a head in the first series, but it wasn't the conclusion Sam Tyler thought it would be. Similarly with his spiritual successor, Alex Drake, in Ashes to Ashes.
- The second-season finale of Desperate Housewives was padded out to two hours with Mary-Alice flashback scenes.
- After the epic "Siege of the North" and the Wham Episode that was "Crossroads of Destiny", the incredible Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender managed to blow both out of the water completely.
- LOST has ended each of its five seasons with a two-hour (in season 1 and 5, this is a two-parter with three hours total) finale. Each has featured simultaneous action on multiple parts of the island, involving all regular characters (in contrast to weekly episodes, which often have multiple characters who do not appear.) Each finale has partially wrapped up that season's focus, setting up the focus of the following season. Each has also featured a "secret scene," referred to by a code word. Only the actors who appear in the scene know its contents:
- Season 1's "Exodus": "The Bagel": Walt is kidnapped by the Others.
- Season 2's "Live Together, Die Alone": "The Challah": the island is detected by an Arctic listening station and reported to Penny, the first non-flashback, off-island scene in the series.
- Season 3's "Through the Looking Glass": "The Rattlesnake in the Mailbox": the flashback is actually a flashforward; Jack and Kate, and possibly others, have left the island.
- Season 4's "There's No Place Like Home": "The Frozen Donkey Wheel": Locke is finally revealed to be the person inside the coffin.
- Season 5's "The Incident": "The Fork in the Outlet": Ben stabs Jacob and Jacob's nemesis (in the form of Locke) kicks him into a fire.
- The Grand Finale also had one, but not codenamed: Christian reveals to Jack that they're in Purgatory.
- Supernatural always has huge season finales where all the events and issues in the season come to a head.
- The first had Devil's Trap - Meg gets killed. We meet Bobby for the first time. All but one of the bullets from The Colt get used. John is possessed, pins them both to the wall and tortures Dean. And the Impala gets totaled, leaving all three men unconscious and bloody.
- The second had All Hell Breaks Loose - Sam and the other psychic children get kidnapped by Azazel and then he dies in Dean's arms at the end of the first half. Dean, driven over the edge of emotional endurance, makes a Deal with the Devil to bring him back, doesn't actually want to tell him and has a year to live. Azazel pins Dean to a grave, Sam to a tree (sensing a pattern here?) and Sam learns that he was dead. With a little help from John, they manage to kill him but are told by Bobby that the war's just begun.
- And the third had shout-outs all over the place, fanservice with the boys singing Bon Jovi, pure Nightmare Fuel with Lilith and a massive Downer Ending with Dean getting torn apart by hellhounds while Sam watches, Sam sobbing while he cradles Dean's dead body and Dean in hell screaming for Sam to help him. They have been known to produce many Tear Jerker scenes and Crowning Moments of Awesome for all characters.
- Serial Escalation means nothing when it comes to season finales here. Season Four's finale reveals the entire series has been planned by the start by Azazel and Lucifer. The angels reveal one of the most foolish ideas in the series, Ruby is outed as The Mole and is killed, and Lilith is killed. The only problem is, that was part of the plan too. Lilith's death releases Lucifer, and the screen fades to white, as the Light Bringer comes...
- And then, in Season Five's finale: Sam allows Lucifer to possess him, then regains control long enough to jump into Hell, taking Michael with him. Then Dean gives up hunting to live a normal life, and it's implied that the Prophet Chuck is actually God
- And in the Season Six finale: Castiel absorbs all the souls in Purgatory, kills Raphael, and declares himself the new God, demanding the brothers and Bobby to kneel down before him.
- Season Seven ends with: Sam and Dean teaming up with Broken!Castiel, Meg, and Crowley to take down the leader of the Leviathans, Dick. With Castiel's help, Dean manages to kill Dick, but in the process the two of them are sent to Purgatory, where they are trapped with the souls of every dead monster (and Leviathan). Meanwhile, back on Earth, Crowley betrays Sam, leaving him to take care of the remaining Leviathan, while kidnapping Meg and the newest Prophet of the Lord, Kevin, in what appears to be an attempt to become the new Big Bad.
- Season Eight: The Winchesters try to purify Crowley as the last trial to seal the gates of Hell, but Dean talks Sam out of it when he realizes that doing so would kill Sam in the process; despite stopping, however, Sam is still left crippled with pain. Meanwhile, Naomi has a Heel Realization, only to be killed by Metatron, who reveals that the other "trials" he's had Castiel undertaking won't seal off the now corrupt Heaven, but are actually components of a spell to banish all angels, as petty revenge for being cast out himself. The last scene is of the angels falling to Earth as their wings burn off.
- Firefly, which only ran for one season, arguably had what qualifies as a true Season Finale in its fourteenth episode, "Objects in Space." By the end of this episode, most of the immediate loose ends in the plot have been tied up. The romantic tension between Mal and Inara is more or less resolved. Simon and River have settled into fairly solid positions as part of the crew. There were plenty of hooks to hang a second season off of, some of which were used in the subsequent movie, but most of those hooks would require a new story arc to develop fully.
- A rare video game example: Both seasons of Telltale Games' episodic Sam & Max games have ended with a big reveal of the mastermind behind the season's events.
- The Secret Life of the American Teenager is usually just 90% dialogue, but something significant/show-altering always happens in the season finale.
- Season 1: Amy gives birth to John, and her father and sister move out of the family home.
- Season 2: Leo and Betty get married, Cindy and Reuben get married, and Adrian finds out she's pregnant. They try to play the last one off as a maybe/maybe not Cliff Hanger, but practically every viewer could tell.
- Season 3: Adrian and Ben's daughter is stillborn and Ricky and Amy have sex for the first time. Well, technically, It's the second time, but the first time they'd done it while being in a committed relationship with each other
- One of the most famous season finales is the third season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is also a Cliff Hanger. Riker gives orders to fire on Picard's ship.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager had a stardate system that corresponded to the season, meaning that many of the important events in the season finales (and season premieres) tended to happen right around the same time of the year: Wolf 359, the Klingon Civil War, first contact with the Jem'Hadar, the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, the Dominion taking control of Deep Space Nine, the invasion of Species 8472, the first invasion of the Chin'toka system, the final battle of the Dominion War, and so forth. (Not to mention all of the other major personal events that tend to go on right around this time too!) Rule #1 of the Star Trek universe: celebrate New Year's Eve in a isolated, quiet part of the galaxy, well away from everyone!
- The season Two finale of Danny Phantom ends one of the biggest ongoing Story Arc in the show: Vlad's quest to obtain Danny as his protege and son. It ends with him throwing off a HUGE Villainous Breakdown and the next season has the two in completely different circles.
- Each season finales in Prison Break not only left the audience on a cliffhanger, but effectively wrapped up the then-current premise of the show and introduced the new one: the season one finale has them escaping prison, the second season finale has the protagonist being thrown in a new prison, and so on, so forth.
- Battlestar Galactica (The 2004 revival) loved Cliff Hangers, Mind Screws, and HSQ for its finales.
- Season 1 ended with a two part epic that revealed supposedly fictional Earth is real. It ended with Sharon shooting Adama.
- Season 2 closed with Karma Houdini / Jerkass President Gaius Baltar surrendering humanity's colony of New Caprica to the Cylons.
- In one of the greatest Mind Screws of all time, the Season 3 closer revealed that not only is Starbuck alive, but Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory are four of the Final Five Cylons.
- The writer's-strike-induced halfway finale of the final season ended with humanity reaching Earth to find a nuked-out, radioactive shell.
- The actual finale to the series blew previous Mind Screws out of the water. In summary: Head Baltar and Head Six, along with Starbuck, are really angels. The series takes place 150,000 years before our present day, and Hera is a precursor to humanity as we know it. The song All Along the Watchtower is apparently one of God's tools for change. Non- Mind Screw, but still big: The Galactica, along with the rest of the fleet is flown into the sun by Anders. Humanity and the human-model Cylons settle down on our Earth. Roslin finally dies. Tyrol strangles Tory, preventing Resurrection technology from ever again being created. The Centurions take the last remaining Basestar for parts unknown. And it ends with footage of modern-day robotic advances.
- Half of the Friends season finales involved a Cliff Hanger: Ross is coming from China with a new girlfriend; Ross says the wrong name in the altar; Ross and Rachel got married in Vegas; Rachel is pregnant; and Joey enters Rachel's hotel room and kisses her.
- Beast Wars:
- "Other Voices" - the Vok decide that the Maximals and Predacons have contaminated their experiment, and activate their Planet Buster, which will destroy the entire planet by detonating every energon deposit. Primal stops it, but at the cost of his life...apparently.
- "The Agenda" - Megatron delivers one of the biggest TF cliffhangers of all time by shooting the stasis-locked Optimus Prime in the face, creating a massive time storm.
- "The Nemesis" - Grand Finale.
- Transformers Animated:
- "Megatron Rising" - after eleven episodes as a scheming head, Megatron regains his body and makes his move for the Allspark, eventually forcing Optimus to shatter it, scattering fragments of it everywhere.
- "A Bridge Too Close" - Megatron's space bridge plot comes to a head, and two big reveals set up since the first season are made: that beat-up repair ship is really Omega Supreme, and Sari is part-robot.
- "Endgame" - the Grand Finale.
- Blue Heelers, in its later seasons, went the cliffhanger route.
- 2000 had Jack being taken into surgery for a riskyoperation for his back.
- 2001 had Hayley reveal to Tess her real mother was going to take her away.
- 2002 ended with Tess revealing she was married, with it being hinted it was to Evan.
- 2003 had Ben shoot Susie's husband, in self defense.
- 2004 portrayed Tom murder the girl who killed his dog in cold blood.
- Teen Titans ended every season with an epic two (or in one case, three) parter:
- Season One: "Apprentice" I and II - Slade blackmails Robin into being his apprentice by threatening to kill the other Titans. They eventually break Robin free and curbstomp Slade's ass.
- Season Two: "Aftershock" I and II - Terra fully becomes Slade's Dragon, and they take over the city by nearly killing the Titans. Terra pulls a Heel-Face Turn and performs a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Slade.
- Season Three: "Titans East" I and II - Cyborg starts his own team, which Brother Blood then brainwashes. Cyborg defeats Brother Blood and goes back to the main Titans.
- Season Four: "The End" I, II, and III - Raven becomes the portal for her father Trigon to enter the world and destroy it. The Titans are forced to ally with Slade to stop him.
- Season Five: "Calling All Titans"/"Titans Together" (with one more episode, "Things Change", as a sort of epilogue) - The Brotherhood of Evil gathers every villain from throughout the series (except the other Big Bads) and use them to capture most of the Titans and other young heroes from around the world. Beast Boy leads the remaining heroes in a rescue attempt that leads to an epic Final Battle.
- Smallville also tends to use cliffhangers in its season finales (and in the later seasons, battles with the Big Bad of the season):
- Season One: "Tempest" - A series of tornadoes hits Smallville, threatening Lana's life; reporter Roger Nixon threatens to expose Clark's secret; Clark's ship activates for the first time.
- Season Two: "Exodus" - Clark destroys the ship in an attempt to free himself from Jor-El's will, but accidentally causes Martha to miscarry; guilt stricken, Clark starts using red kryptonite and runs away to Metropolis; Lex's plane goes down in the ocean.
- Season Three: "Covenant" - Lionel is arrested and sent to prison; Pete and Lana both leave Smallville; Lex is poisoned; Chloe's house is bombed; Jonathan is placed in a coma; Clark is taken by Jor-El to prepare for his destiny.
- Season Four: "Commencement" - A second meteor shower hits Smallville; a black Kryptonian ship arrives; Clark gathers the Stones of Power and is transported to the Arctic.
- Season Five: "Vessel" - Brainiac unleashes a computer virus that shuts down the world's power; Chloe and Lionel are attacked by a mob; Zod possesses Lex and sends Clark to the Phantom Zone.
- Season Six: "Phantom" - Clark reveals his powers to Lana, whose car is bombed; Lex is arrested for Lana's murder; the last Phantom copies Clark's body and becomes Bizarro.
- Season Seven: "Arctic" - Brainiac sends Kara to the Phantom Zone; Chloe is arrested by the DDS; Clark and Lex confront each other in the Fortress, which is destroyed.
- Season Eight: "Doomsday" - Clark confronts Doomsday; Lois is teleported to the future; Clark abandons his human emotions; Zod returns.
- Season Nine: "Salvation" - Zod's army makes its move to conquer Earth; Zod and Clark engage in an epic final fight.
- Season Ten: "Finale" - Clark confronts Darkseid and embraces his destiny.
- Castle season 3, episode 24.
- Community, The first season really has three Season Finale episodes, while the second season ends in a two part Season Finale.
- All season finales of How I Met Your Mother featured major shakeups to the status quo:
- Season 1: Ted and Robin get together, while Marshall and Lily break up.
- Season 2: Marshall and Lily get married, while Ted and Robin reveal that they have already broken up.
- Season 3: Ted proposes to Stella, Barney realizes he is in love with Robin.
- Season 4: Barney and Robin get together.
- Season 5: Marshall and Lily decide to try for a baby, Robin breaks up with Don.
- Season 6: Lily gets pregnant, Robin realizes she is still in love with Barney, it is revealed that Barney is going to get married in the near future.
- Season 7: Marshall and Lily's baby, Marvin, is born and it is revealed that Barney marries Robin eventually
- The West Wing always rained down the shock and awe for their season finales:
- Season 1: two gunmen open fire on the ropeline where the president is shaking hands with supporters, multiple hit the ground, and in the complete chaos, neither the viewers nor the characters are sure of "who's been hit".
- Season 2: Bartlet decides after much debating that yes, he will run for a second term.
- Season 3: Bartlet orders a successful assassination of a terrorism sponsor, Agent Donovan is fatally shot.
- Season 4: Bartlet invokes the 25th Amendment in light of his daughter's kidnapping and gives power over to the Speaker of the House, Toby and Andy's children are born.
- A webcomic example: Homestuck always ends an Act spectacularly.
- Act 1: The main character's neighborhood is hit by a meteor, with him escaping just in the nick of time.
- Act 2: It's revealed that the desert a secondary character is wandering around on is post-apocalypse Earth. Meanwhile, Rose's mother opens a secret doorway that leads to a nearby laboratory, and Dave prepares to fight his brother.
- Act 3: Rose finally enters the Medium. Jade gets her hands on the SBURB discs, which turn out to somehow be Dave's copy, hidden in a time capsule, and John finally goes through his first gate.
- Intermission: The Midnight Crew Intermission is canon, and it turns out Slick is Karkat's exile.
- Act 4: Jack slaughters WV's army and starts the Reckoning weeks ahead of schedule. He then wrecks Prospit, sending its moon plummeting to the Battlefield below. Dream Jade throws Dream John out of the way, but is too late to escape the blast radius herself and is killed, causing her dreambot to explode and the real Jade to fall from her bedroom. The resulting chaos wakes Dream John up. Finally, Rose decides she's had enough of destiny and blows up her first gate. And that's not even getting into what happens in between acts 4 and 5.
- Act 5 Act 1: The kids activated a rift called the Scratch, which somehow sent an unstoppable demon into the troll's universe. This meant that they were unable to claim their ultimate reward for completing SGRUB: entry into the kid's universe, which they had CREATED.
- Act 5: The big one.
- John starts the Scratch. As a number of huge enemies approach him, he takes them out with lava tornadoes and a single, well-placed hit of his now very-powerful hammer.
- Courtyard Droll kills Jade, sending Jack into a furious rage. He kills CD, then takes Jade's body to her Quest Bed before hiding in the Frog Temple's time capsule. He's finally released 413 million years later on post-apocalyptic Earth, ten seconds after the White King is. He murders WK, WQ, and AR, and mortally wounds WV in order to get the uranium from his stomach. He then uses the uranium to power a transportalizer in WV's station, which sends him to the trolls' universe and allows him to destroy their Prospit, Derse and Lands, as well as kill all of the Trolls' dream selves. Finally, Jack uses Red Miles to attack the Genesis Frog representing Earth's universe.
- Piloting Derse's moon through the Furthest Ring using a map Dave drew, Rose and Dave are surprised to find that the Green Sun isn't where it should be. Undaunted, they take the Tumor to a crypt in the center of the moon, where their Quest Beds await. They set up the Tumor, and it opens up to reveal ectobiological equipment, with Earth's universe on one side and Alternia's on the other. As Jack's Red Miles ravage Earth's universe, Spades Slick finally kills Snowman, ending Alternia's universe as well.
- Jadesprite and Davesprite are about to be obliterated on the Battlefield when Jade and Jadesprite merge to become God Tier Jade, with Witch of Space powers, Bec's reality-warping powers, and a sprite's knowledge of the game. She then shrinks the meteor to the size of a baseball, and using her new-found powers, enlarges a battleship, and shrinks the Battlefield, LOWAS, LOLAR, LOHAC, and LOFAF, picking up John along the way. On Earth, PM witnesses the approaching Red Miles. She finds the White Queen's Ring, which WV had had the whole time. Jade enlarges a Fourth Wall, which she had had on standby ever since she created Jadesprite. Finally, as the Critical Moment approaches, a dying Doc Scratch takes a moment to send a final message to Gamzee, informing them that they are all suckers.
- The Tumor detonates, creating the Green Sun, rather than destroying it. The light finally arrives in the troll session, and Sollux expends the last of his energy to hurl their meteor towards the Sun. Rose and Dave ascend from the Sun as freshly minted God Tiers, and meet God Tier Aradia and half-ghost Sollux. A prototyping PM arrives in the Trolls' session, visibly shocking Jack for the second time in the whole series. Finally, Jade finishes enlarging the Fourth Wall, and hurls her battleship through it right before the Scratch resets the universe.
- Act 6 Act 1: Jane Crocker, Nanna's post-Scratch incarnation, goes to her mailbox to get the Sburb alpha...and it explodes. Andrew Hussie (who is now a robot for some reason) muses about dead characters, and in lieu of messing with John and Jade (who are passing through his study at light speed at the moment), he levels them up, then introduces Act 6 Intermission 1.
- Act 6 Intermission 1: Prototyped PM heads for the Green Sun at top speed, in pursuit of Jack, who is in turn pursuing the trolls, Rose and Dave. Dreaming on Prospit, Jane sees visions of things to come in the Skaian clouds, including Imperial Drones bearing the Condesce's sigil, Roxy Lalonde (Rose's Mom's post-Scratch incarnation) hurling a cat through a Fourth Wall, and Jake English (Grandpa's post-Scratch version) on his island as the volcano there erupts. Jane witnesses the miracle of a new beginning, but is stabgreeted by post-scratch Jack Noir, who absconds just as Jane is about to do a "lifey thing".
- Act 6 Act 2: As a meteor quickly approaches her house on Earth, Jane does all the setup she needs to enter the Medium, but is confused when her Cruxite Artifact never appears. The countdown ends, and she enters anyway, but as she does, she gets a glimpse of what the "meteor" really is — Her Imperious Condescension's flagship. Years in the future — but not many — we see a flooded Earth where Troll society has been rebuilt under the Condesce's rule, with humans and Dersites apparently reduced to struggling minorities. It is further revealed that Roxy and Dirk have been living in this time all along, as they prepare to fight hordes of Imperial Drones. Meanwhile, back in the past, Jake has descended into the Frog Temple for reasons that aren't further elaborated on.
- Act 6 Act 3: Dirk and Jake are knocked out and Jane and Roxy are both killed. Dirk enacts a plan to save them which involves decapitating himself and sending his head to Jake for him to kiss so his dreamself is awoken which travels around on his hoverboard collecting Jane and Roxy and kissing them alive, too. The three of them travel back to where Jake is and, after ordering Sawtooth and Squarewave to enter Roxy and Dirk's mediums, enter Jake's. Then, Caliborn awakens, chews his leg off to free himself from the chain, and releases his kernelsprite, which turns into a black hole, sucking in everything around it. Also, Lord English appears and destroys a dreambubble, vaporising all of the dead characters inside it.
- Season 1: Ari, the terrorist from earier in the season, returns and kidnaps Kate.
- Season 2: In the penultimate episode, Tony is infected with pneumonic plague and almost dies, and then Ari comes back yet again and kills Kate.
- Season 3: Gibbs is injured in an explosion, causing amnesia, and the rest of the team is forced to work on an assignment without him. Gibbs ends up leaving the NCIS, although not for good
- Season 4: Tony and his girlfriend are held hostage.
- Season 5: The last episode of t0he season ends with Director Shepard dead. The first thing the new director does is split up Gibb's team, putting McGee in another place in the building, assigning Tony as Agent Afloat and sending Ziva home to Israel.
- Season 6: After Tony kills Ziva's boyfriend, Ziva doesn't want to work with Tony anymore since she thinks he did it for the wrong reasons, so she asks Gibbs to choose between her and Tony. Gibbs chooses Tony and leaves Ziva in Israel.
- Season 7: It turns out Gibbs is guilty of killing the Mexican drug dealer who killed his wife and daughter. The children of the drug dealer, who now run a drug cartel, would very much like to see him punished for it.
- Queer as Folk:
- Season 1: Justin is gay-bashed at his senior prom.
- Season 2: Brian helps Michael and Justin to advertise their new comic book and organizes a huge party at Babylon to launch it for them. Justin leaves Brian for Ethan, whom he's been sleeping with.
- Season 3: A good part of the season is devoted to police chief Stockwell's mayoral campain. In the final episode, it's finally the day of the election, and the episode ends with the entirety of Liberty Avenue dancing in the street, celebrating Stockwell's loss.
- Season 4: The end of the Liberty Ride. Justin gets an offer to move to Los Angeles to work on the movie about Rage. Jenny Rebecca is born.
- Season 5: Also the Grand Finale. Ben and Michael offers to adopt Hunter. Melanie and Lindsay move to Canada, taking Gus and baby J. R. with them. Justin and Brian are planning their wedding, but in the end decide not to get married after all, so Justin can move to New York to become an artist.
- Episode 26 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is the season finale and it ends in a cliffhanger. The gang has been fragmented by the revelation that Fred's dad, the Mayor of Crystal Cove was the Big Bad all along and isn't his real dad, so he's broken the gang up to find who he really is. Meanwhile, his engagement to Daphne is now in indefinite abeyance, Shaggy is being sent to military school, Scooby is being sent to a farm, Daphne is taken home to wallow in misery and Velma is taken home to stew about not coming clean to her friends about who Angel Dynamite really is.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- The first season finale, "The Best Night Ever", features the main characters attending the Grand Galloping Gala, which has been built up in several previous episodes as the biggest social event in Equestria, only to be disappointed in various ways.
- The second season finale, "A Canterlot Wedding", blows the first season finale out of the water in terms of excitement. It's a two-parter that revolves around central character Twilight Sparkle's brother getting married to royalty, and features an evil shape-shifting Emotion Eater impersonating the bride and hypnotizing the groom, a huge fight between the Mane Six and an army of mooks, and a climax that involves a force-field bolstered by The Power of Love.
- The third season finale, "Magical Mystery Cure", is a Musical Episode revolving around Twilight accidentally switching the cutie marks and destinies of her friends, ruining their lives. This gets resolved by the end of the second act, but sets up a stunning third act, wherein Twilight fulfills her own destiny by becoming an alicorn, and is then crowned as Equestria's newest princess.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
- Season 1: "The Case of the Rogue Water Balloon", a Noir Episode which has Calvin facing a Clear My Name plot, eventually finding out Hobbes was the culprit.
- Season 2: "The Alien Huntress", which blows the first one away by introducing Sheila Brainstorm as she captures and attempts to kill Calvin, as well as brainwashing several of his acquaintances.
- Season 3: "Thunderstorm", this time really blowing the first two out of the water. This one again introduces a new villain - Thunderstorm, who along with his Killer Robot Shadow is the series' first really competent villain. He manages to actually Take Over the World with Shadow, and killing the MTM after Calvin attempts a Batman Gambit on him. Plus, Hobbes finally grows a backbone after a pretty impressive "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Calvin.
- Season 4: "Our Solemn Hour", a two-parter in which Holographic Retro reveals himself as the Big Bad of the season, having orchestrated some of the season's events in a year-long effort to best Calvin, and sets up a deadly time-limited trap. The duo barely make it, and then the ensuing duel ends with Calvin and Holographic Retro taking each other with themselves, ending the season on a cliffhanger. Wow.
- Merlin aims for at least one iconic moment of Arthurian lore for each season finale.
- Series 1: Nimueh dies at Merlin's hands.
- Series 2: Merlin finds his father, masters his Dragonlord abilities, and defeats the dragon.
- Series 3: Arthur forms the rudimentary Knights of the Round Table and Merlin retrieves Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake.
- Series 4: Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and marries Guinevere.
- 24, in addition to wrapping up the season-long plot and having the Big Bad either killed or brought to justice, usually has some sort of change up in the finale:
- Day 1: Jack discovers that his wife has been murdered.
- Day 2: In what's probably the happiest ending for him in the entire series, Jack manages to finally reconnect with Kim, while an assassination attempt is made on David Palmer's life.
- Day 3: The events of the day cause David Palmer to ultimately leave the Presidency while Tony Almeida is imprisoned for treason.
- Day 4: Jack is forced to fake his death and goes into hiding
- Day 5: After exposing President Charles Logan as the one who made a deal with Russian terrorists, Jack is taken prisoner by the the Chinese Government.
- Day 6: Jack is forced to say goodbye to his love Audrey Raines and dejectedly leaves with nothing really left in his life, while Chloe discovers she's pregnant.
- Day 7: The now Fallen Hero Tony Almeida reveals that everything he's done for the day has been to avenge the death of his wife and unborn child and ultimately gets arrested, this time for good, while a dying Jack prepares to accept his death only to have Kim come in after he's put into a medical-induced coma and agree to a procedure that could save his life.
- Day 8: Allison Taylor ultimately decides to expose the Russian Government as the masterminds behind a foreign President's assassination while stepping down from her own Presidency after previously taking part in covering their involvement up, Jack is now an international fugitive after his actions against said government, and an epilogue on the DVD and Blu-ray sets reveal that Chloe has been arrested for helping Jack escape.
- Chuck was well-known for pulling out all the stops in its Season Finales. This was driven by the show's struggle to find an audience, with each season finale being written as if it were to also serve as the Grand Finale. And then taken Up to Eleven in seasons three and four, which were actually given two season finales: Originally the show was only picked up for thirteen episodes in each season, before receiving an extended order (6 additional episodes in season 3, and 11 in season 4). Which means two very climactic and satisfying season finales had to be topped again by the actual finale. Season 3 and 5 also had two-hour finales on top of that.
- Season 1: The only season to not have a preplanned finale, as the first season was ended prematurely by the Writer's Strike. A Fulcrum spy plants a listening device which discovers Chuck is the Intersect. Chuck is nearly forced to be taken into government custody unless the device can be recovered, while Devon proposed to Ellie.
- Season 2: Devon and Ellie's wedding is nearly ruined by a vengeful Ted Roark. Bryce Larkin is killed, and Chuck downloads Intersect 2.0.
- Season 3:
- Original Finale: Shaw's Face-Heel Turn is revealed, and he uses the team to help the Ring steal intelligence to repair their Intersect while also attempting to kill Sarah. Chuck kills Shaw instead, and he and Sarah begin their relationship.
- Actual Finale: Ellie discovers Chuck is a spy, while Shaw is revealed to be alive, and stages a coup to take over the CIA and discredit Chuck and his team, capturing them one by one and killing Chuck's father. Devon, Morgan and Ellie rescue Chuck, Sarah and Casey. The rest of the team then plan a counter attack to unmask Shaw and destroy the Ring. The Ring Elders are successfully captured and Chuck defeats Shaw. The Buy More is destroyed.
- Season 4:
- Original Finale: Ellie is about to have her baby, and Chuck launches a final push to take down Volkoff and bring his mother home. Chuck proposes to Sarah.
- Actual Finale: Chuck must team up with Volkoff to secure a remedy for the poison killing Sarah. Chuck rebels against the CIA when they attempt to prevent him from doing so and has the Intersect removed. Chuck manages to convince Vivian to save Sarah and start her life anew with her father. Chuck and Sarah marry and purchase the Buy More as a cover to establish a freelance spy team. Morgan downloads the Intersect.
- Season 5: Sarah's memory has been forcibly destroyed by Quinn using a malfunctioning Intersect, turning her against the team in an effort to steal a working copy of the Intersect for himself. Chuck manages to break Sarah free from Quinn, but with her memory destroyed she leaves to go after Quinn. When her attempt to kill him fails she returns, and Chuck helps her seek out the components of the Key, the final secret to the Intersect. Sarah shoots and kills Quinn, Jeffster! buys the team time to defuse the bomb, and Chuck downloads the Intersect once more. The team breaks up, to pursue their own lives, and the series closes with Chuck and Sarah kissing on the beach from the pilot.
- White Collar Is pretty much the master of season finales (and mid-season finales for that matter)
- Season 1 went into hiatus with suggesting that Peter was the bad man behind the curtain and ended with Neal's watching the love of his life getting blown up
- Season 2 went into hiatus with Mozzie getting shot and ended with the reveal that Neal somehow acquired the treasure
- Season 3 went into hiatus with Mozzie supposedly leaving New York with the treasure and Elizabeth being kidnapped by Keller and closed with Neal being forced to cut his anklet and leave New York
- Season 4 did offer the weakest hiatus so far with The reveal that Sam was Neal's father and ended with Peter being arrested for a murder Neal's father is responsible for