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Top Saddest Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show Finales of All Time

My younger sister and I slumped on the sofa, staring glumly at the cheerfully decorated Christmas tree. Our family’s smiles as they opened their presents just made us feel worse; they were totally oblivious to the world-shattering tragedy that had occurred the night before. One of our favorite TV shows ended it’s five season run by killing two main characters and giving another a fate worse than death. To add insult to considerable injury, the finale aired on the usually joyous Christmas Eve. The inconsiderate showrunners completely ruined our Christmas, and over a year later I still wince whenever anyone mentions that traumatizing finale. Over the years of watching a series, you can get very attached to the characters. Their weekly visits become a fixture in your life, and saying goodbye feels like losing a beloved friend. It’s hard enough when they are granted a happy ending, but some shows insist on depriving you of even that small comfort. These are some of science fiction and fantasy TV shows who’s finales left me reaching for the tissues. Major spoilers, obviously.


Some may debate whether Fringe deserves a spot on the list, but I think it does. There were two major themes that drove the narrative throughout the show’s run: Olivia and Peter’s love story, and Walter’s love for his son. I would argue that Walter and Peter’s relationship was even more important than his romance with Olivia. While Peter and Olivia got their happy ending, Walter was stranded in the future, forever separated from Peter. To make matters worse, Peter might not even remember Walter’s sacrifice and why he had to make it.


Throughout the series, viewers became very invested in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, which started as a fake cover and ended up in a church. They were happily married until Sarah’s memories were erased and she was tricked into trying to murder Chuck. Thankfully she didn’t succeed, but we never found out if the “magical kiss” restored her memories or if they had to rebuild their relationship from scratch.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike heroically sacrifices himself to save the world, and Anya, everyone’s favorite ex-demon, died instantly and quite gruesomely in battle without getting any closure with Xander. But the most depressing thing about “Chosen” was that there was no more Buffy the Vampire Slayer to binge watch. The impact of Spike’s death was somewhat mitigated when he was resurrected on Angel several months later, but it is still painful to watch.


Speaking of Angel, the finale was extremely depressing not only in that Wesley and probably Gunn died, but also on a philosophical level. I don’t know who thought the message “the fight against evil never ends” was uplifting, because it’s basically the opposite of that. Angel and his friends had been through so much, and they deserved to get a happy ending or at least some closure. But we never got an ending (I don’t read the comics), and will always be left wondering how everything turned out for a character we’d known and loved for eight years.


Thanks to the finale, I will always remember Merlin as the show that ruined Christmas. For me, Merlin was a bit of a guilty pleasure; sometimes it was epic and inspiring, but the mostly it was a slightly silly but endlessly endearing show primarily aimed at families. The fans were all dreading the finale, as the myths that the show is based on have King Arthur dying young in battle. But Merlin was a family show, so we assumed they would find some way to get around it or at least soften the blow. Not so; Merlin went seriously dark. Morgana killed Gwaine, one of the knights, and his last words were, “I’ve failed.” Arthur died in his friend Merlin’s arms, and the final scene revealed that a homeless Merlin is still alive today and has been wandering the earth alone for at least a thousand years waiting for Arthur to return. He still hasn’t.

Life on Mars (UK)

Suicide is never the answer, except on the last episode of Life on Mars. After desperately trying for two seasons to make it back home to the 21st century or out of his comma or wherever the hell he was, he finally got his wish. But he’d grown so fond of his 1970s pals that he stormed out of a business meeting, climbed to the top of the building, and promptly jumped off. Sure, he died, but at least he got to spend the rest of his life with his possibly imaginary friends, right? Of course the whole thing doesn’t make a ton of sense when you factor in what we learned in the sequel, but I think Life on Mars is viewed best as a standalone. Speaking of Ashes to Ashes….

Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes pretty much define the phrase “lack of payoff.” After three years of will-they-won’t-they, Alex and Gene didn’t. Instead, it was revealed that the hard-drinking policeman of questionable ethics was some sort of savior of lost souls and that Alex had been dead all along. Alex and friends disappeared into a pub that was actually a portal to an unknown afterlife and Gene was stuck with a new batch of lost souls to care for. Where did they go, why did they have to go, and couldn’t Gene have gone with them for God’s sake?

Let me know in the comments if I missed any sad endings to your favorite sci-fi/fantasy shows.

One Comment

  1. Avatar Hannah Frank says:

    Certainly missed Battlestar Galactica.

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