Some series get cancelled and Cut Short. Other series last far longer than any fan had wanted and become a Franchise Zombie. But some series decide to end the show on their own terms, long before the network decides to cancel them and before the fans begin to tire of them.
This is not simply the last season of a series or a celebration of a series that ends before it can become a Franchise Zombie. The defining characteristic of The Final Season is that it is a planned final season and is announced as such from the very beginning. The Final Season will work to tie up any loose ends and answer any unanswered questions. During the Final Season, the writers may feel the freedom to tackle themes and stories they would otherwise not attempt, and to upset the Status Quo so much, they risk Jumping the Shark. Think of it as a Grand Finale, but stretched across an entire season.
This is an Ending Trope, so expect unmarked spoilers.
- 30 Rock's seventh season had been announced as its last.
- The last series of Ashes to Ashes (2008) was explicitly made out to be the last in pre-broadcast trailers, and functioned as both the final series of Ashes To Ashes and an epilogue to Life On Mars.
- Bones made it all the way to Season 12, with the final season providing closure for a lot of characters' personal plotlines. Including Zack's.
- The fifth season of Breaking Bad was announced as the final season—by the point it was renewed, the writers decided Walt's story needed to reach a definite end. So they'd have enough time to do so, they split the season into two eight episodes halves completed a year apart.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer established pretty quickly that the seventh season's Big Bad was the First Evil, a being manifested from all evil in existence, and the season was then spent on Buffy getting an army together to fight the First Evil when it finally entered the physical realm.
Joss Whedon (7.01 DVD commentary): Anybody who didn't get that this is the last season after this scene was missing the point.
- The anouncement of Chuck's fifth season renewal was swiftly followed two days later by the announcement it would be the final season, after two seasons which received 13 episode renewals which were written as the Grand Finale before NBC ordered more episodes to extend the seasons, which subsequently ended on cliffhangers instead.
- Season eight has been announced as the final season of Desperate Housewives.
- The final season of ER resolved several storylines, and brought back many members of the show's original cast.
- The fifth season of Flashpoint was also planned as the finale from the start.
- The tenth season of Friends was known to be the final season, so once the fallout of season 9 had been dealt with, the series immediately started building towards the Grand Finale & gave everyone closure. Except Joey, who not only didn't get an ending to his character arc, but also had absolutely no set-up for his spin-off series.
- The fifth season of Fringe was announced as its final season.
- The final season of Hannah Montana is so special, they changed the name to Hannah Montana Forever. This season brings us a change of residence for Miley, a change in the romantic pairings, as well as Miley revealing her secret to the entire world.
- The ninth season of How I Met Your Mother was the final season, and while the mother was first shown in the finale of the previous season, season 9 was all about Barney's wedding to Robin and the entire gang meeting the mother.
- Though never advertised as such, season 8 was also expected to possibly be the last season and so was written as such before the season 9 renewal.
- The final season of Lost distinguished itself from the other seasons by attempting to answer the big questions concerning the island, instead of posing more. A new plot device was introduced revealing the existence of a possible alternate Universe. The characters found themselves involved in a massive centuries-old power struggle.
- Similarly, all the commercials for the episodes of the last season of Monk always had the tagline of it being the final season.
- For the final season of Murphy Brown, show creator Diane English returned and gave the show an almost complete overhaul. The biggest change was a season arc in which Murphy is diagnosed with cancer, thus giving the show more gravitas. Also, Miles Silverberg was written out and replaced by a new executive producer played by Lily Tomlin, and Phil, who was killed off a few seasons back, was brought back, his death retconned as going into hiding because of all the secrets he knew about Washington.
- Nikita was renewed for a fourth season which was also confirmed to be its final one.
- After One Tree Hill was renewed for a ninth season, it was confirmed as the final season. Season 8 was also written as a Finale Season & wrapped up most of the character arcs over the season, but was never advertised as such, before a surprise renewal.
- The sixth and final season of Oz marked the occasions by having past dead characters such as Dino Ortilani, Antonio Nappa, the Schillinger brothers, Shirley Bellinger, Jefferson Keane and Eugene Dobbins return to co-narrate
- Power Rangers in Space was written as the final season of the show, but was so well received that the show continued for another season (And continues to this day). It did more or less wrap up the "Zordon Era", ending with a battle royale featuring heroes and villains on different planets from the past five seasons.
- For the final season of Roseanne Roseanne won the lottery and had lots of OOC adventures; it turned out in the end to be all just a book she was writing to get over the fact that Dan had died of a heart attack.
- Season 9 of Scrubs is an example of what happens when this isn't pulled off right. The writers and everyone else were sure Scrubs wouldn't be renewed, so the eighth season wrapped everything up nicely with a bow. And then they got renewed. Oops.
- Smallville put the words "The Final Season" above the title in the commercials for its tenth season.
- In fact, the "previously on" sequence at the beginning of the season premiere ends with Tom Welling's (Clark's actor) voice saying "And now, the final season of Smallville".
- It was pretty much known from the beginning that season eight would be the final season of Magnum, P.I..
- The last season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine closed out the Dominion War arc with a bang, switching to a fully serialized format for the final ten episodes, showing massive space battles and finishing up every character's development and personal arcs.
- The ninth season of The Office (US) has been announced and planned as the final season. It was even advertised with the words "farewell season". It is also the season where the Elephant in the Living Room (the series being a documentary) is finally not only lampshaded, but also addressed and becomes a plot point.
- The final season of Parks and Recreation was planned as a final season and features all the cast in a different setting, three years after the events of the previous season.
- The Wire saw cameos for nearly living character that had previously been Put on a Bus as well as the resolution of numerous story arcs and fairly definitive endings for numerous lead characters with things more or less coming full circle in the finale.
- The Fifth season of Warehouse 13 was announced as its last.
- 12 Monkeys ends with its fourth season, which ties up every loose end from the previous seasons, tying everything together into the overall Stable Time Loop, before setting the stage for the Final Battle with the Witness and allowing the heroes to earn their happy endings.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was specifically designed to run for exactly four seasons, so the fourth (and final) one spends much of its time resolving character arcs and plot threads, i.e. Rebecca's unfinished business with Greg, who was put on a bus in season two.
- Not long after Arrow was renewed for an eighth season, it was announced that it would be its final season.
- After a very long run, it was finally announced that season 15 of Supernatural would be the show's last.
- Sonic for Hire's seventh season is specifically advertised as the last season.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender was planned as a three season series from the get go, even having the seasons named Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3, like a book trilogy. Book 3 was their Finale Season, in which the battle with the Big Bad gets resolved and all loose ends are tied up.
- The Legend of Korra follows suit with having Book 4, "Balance", advertised as the final season, and living up to it with both the world and Korra in a broken, chaotic state after the events of the previous season, featuring both a villain presented as an Evil Counterpart to Korra with an extremely powerful new weapon, and the culmination of Korra's character development.
- The last season of Regular Show has the setting moved into space (literally; the whole previous season led up to the park being moved into space), and follows a (previously hinted-at) Story Arc about Pops' role as The Chosen One preventing the end of the universe.
- The first four seasons of Teen Titans have Half Arc Seasons focusing on a specific member of the team. The final season (which came after a surprise renewal) focused on Beast Boy, but also shifted the format to be about a large number of teenage superheroes and villains, establishing an international Teen Titan network. The very last episode, "Things Change", also (sort of) resolves Terra's arc from the second season.
- The ninth season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was announced as its last. As such the major plot arc is the princesses of Equestria moving towards retirement, leaving Twilight Sparkle and her friends as the ruling council of the land by the end.