from Nick Suss
March 28, 2014, 1:57 p.m.
In eager anticipation of this week’s upcoming finale of the great sitcom How I Met Your Mother, we at StoriesHouse (READ: Nick) decided that it would be fitting to honor some of the other great sitcom finales of history. This is the third of the seven-part countdown for the site. Don’t forget to air your grievances or compliment us in the comments. Probably grievances.
As you probably have noticed at this point, this is a list of series finales. This is not, as some people I have spoken to assumed, a list of season finales that just so happened to begin with two series finales. The fact of the matter is, encompassing season finales into this list would have made it at least five times longer of a list. That being said, not all shows end in the same way. The first two series on this list each lasted nine seasons. Of all the shows after this on the list, no show lasted fewer than nine seasons. Those shows all built to their finales after years of laughs and emotions. But today’s entry on the list ended a little differently. And this might spark a little bit of a debate from some readers as to whether this episode truly is a series finale.
No. 5: Development Arrested – Arrested Development
Arrested Development had one of the best series finales of all time back in 2006 when the show ended. In fact, this finale ended the run of one of the best series in the history of comedic television. It was a great episode to end a great show. Therefore, it was a great finale. But, as all of you should know, this show came back in 2013 for a long-overdue fourth season, which is some people’s minds nullified the previous finale as a series finale and made it a season finale. Well, that’s not how I see it.
Here’s the thing. The finale to Arrested Development’s third season is among the greatest, most iconic wrap ups in television history in my mind. The episode was cyclical without being gratuitous. It was frantic without being frenzied. It was emotional without sacrificing humor. Above all else, it was a sendoff worthy of the Bluth family. This is my argument: Though the series did continue in name with great and revolutionary episodes in season four, the season three finale was still the series finale. Season four was merely a sequel to the show shedding light on a different time in the Bluth history.
Sequels are rare in television. Spinoffs are relatively common, as are spiritual successors, but sequels are rare to come by. The fourth season of Arrested Development wasn’t the same show as the previous three. Too much time had passed and the characters evolved too much to be the same people as where they left off years before. Ergo, this show was a sequel. And lead-ins into sequels do have endings. So there is my justification. Now let’s just analyze this great work of television.
If you haven’t watch Arrested Development at this point, I pity you, so I feel no obligation to warn you that spoilers will abound throughout the rest of this post. The finale of Arrested Development, aptly titled Development Arrested, wrapped up the plot in a way that only Arrested Development could. It would have been weird for a show this deep and this attention-intensive to wrap up the show neatly. No, Mitchell Hurwitz and the gang physically could not do that and stay true to the show. So they left the ending up to the interpretation of the viewer. No, it wasn’t like an Inception kind of brainscrew ending. It was just an ending that didn’t really end. I’m not talking about the fan-fodder that was Ron Howard’s appearance at the end of the episode, I’m talking about the events that occurred as the SEC pulled up beside the Queen Mary.
It was revealed earlier in the episode that Lucille was actually the mastermind behind the entire criminal empire of the Bluth family. So as the episode’s events took place, it became more and more clear that she would get her just desserts by the episode’s end. But, in typical Arrested fashion, we never actually learned what became of Lucille. The show cut to black before we could figure out whether or not she would be caught.
It was revealed earlier in the episode that Lindsay Bluth was actually an adopted daughter of the Bluth clan. So as the episode’s events took place, it became more and more clear that the family dynamic of the Bluth’s themselves would be shaken to its core. This created a chain of events that was almost resolved before the ending allowed to unresolve itself once more. Let’s start a little earlier in this chain game: George Michael and Maeby finally succumb to their passions when George Michael tells Maeby she may have been adopted. They learn this is untrue and things get awkward. George Michael confesses to his dad, giving all of the essential information to Michael in a great nod to the show’s fans. (How long has this been going on? About 53 weeks.) Michael tells George Michael to go back and try to win over his ex-girlfriend Ann. Michael tells Lindsay. Not but a day earlier, Lindsay learned she was adopted. Lindsay comes on to her no-longer-brother Michael. Michael turns her down because, obviously. Lindsay gets mad. George Michael goes to ask his Uncle G.O.B. for advice. George Michael learns that G.O.B. is dating Ann. George Michael punches G.O.B. in the face. G.O.B. tries to take revenge on Michael for his son’s fist by hitting on Lindsay, because logic. Michael and George Michael escape on G.O.B.’s yacht. Michael reveals the truth about his no-longer-aunt Lindsay to George Michael. George Michael realizes Maeby isn’t his cousin. We’re back at square one. You see how resolution actually complicated things in this episode? The fact that all of these secrets were revealed didn’t actually make anything better. But we don’t know if it made anything worse. Things just got cut off before we could learn. Classic Arrested Development.
I mentioned earlier that the finale was great because it was cyclical. Much like my previous two paragraphs before this one, the finale and the pilot of this show began exactly the same way. However, and this should have given away the ending immediately, all of the words were pretty much being said in the opposite way. Instead of Michael being happy because he never has to see his family again, Michael was sad because he would be forced to see his family. Instead of saying family was the most important thing as he had in the pilot, Michael said breakfast was the most important thing, as George Michael had in the pilot. Instead of learning he had a cousin as he had in the pilot, George Michael learned he did not have a cousin. Instead of watching his dad get arrested and trying to fix it as he did in the pilot, Michael watched his mom get arrested tried nothing to change it. The episodes were perfect mirrors of each other. It was as if the writers simply put the pilot episode into the Aztec Tomb and spun it around once to get the mirror image.
Where some brands of humor are outward or prey on your base emotions, Arrested Development was subtle. No joke was obvious unless it came out of the mouth of good old Uncle T-Bag. And that’s what this finale was. It was subtle. The show could have made a big deal out of how good it was and how it didn’t deserve to be cancelled and ended in a way that incentivized the network to bring the show back. But that wouldn’t have been right. The show had to end on a high note. The had to go out with a weird blend of dignity and class mixed with some desperation and a whole lot of references to seal attacks. The finale was great. It was one of the greatest finales I’ve ever seen.
But I can think of four better.