Sep. 30, 2013 at 9:00 AM ET
Everyone knew the series finale of "Breaking Bad" was going to be epic. There were high hopes for "Dexter" too, seeing as how the show has offered some amazing stories in its eight years. But in the grand scheme of things, how did the two series finales fare compared to past drama series enders that had fans buzzing for weeks?
Here's how we would rank things:
1. 'Six Feet Under'
HBO's award-winning drama centered around the Fisher family and their independent funeral home still has, hands down, the best TV finale of all time, eight years after it aired in 2005. (But kudos to "Breaking Bad" for a solid effort to take the top spot!) As Claire Fisher drives away from the family home in Los Angeles to pursue a photography career in New York, the entire family's fate is unveiled in a flash-forward scene that captured the essence of the show perfectly and provided exactly the closure any fan would want: the complete and deeply emotional story of how each character lived out their life and died. We challenge you to keep from crying!
2. 'Breaking Bad'
The finale had all the winning elements: action, emotion, revenge and closure. Bryan Cranston's ultimate antihero, Walter White, bit the dust, but only after making sure Walt Jr. would get his money and dismantling his empire by poisoning Lydia, killing Uncle Jack and Co., freeing Jesse and letting his one-time protege have his revenge. He managed all this and went out known as Heisenberg. The only flaw? Perhaps the insanely high levels of expectation brought about by a nearly flawless season — or series, really — that was tough to surpass.
3. 'The Shield'
Fans of police dramas — and others who just appreciate any hard-hitting, well-crafted television offering — have dubbed "The Shield" series finale one of TV's most satisfying bows. Seven seasons of intense and morally ambiguous action came to a halt with almost all of the loose ends tied up, which is always a treat when dealing with such a complex plot. The bad guys, on both sides of the shield, got theirs in the end (but not until one of them broke hearts by being worse than ever). And main man Vic? He got what was coming to him too — sort of. But in the tradition of other great series enders, "Shield" left just enough in the final scene (where Vic grabs his gun again) to keep the story alive in fans' hearts forever.
4. 'The Sopranos'
Love it or hate it, you talked about the ending to HBO's mob family drama. (And you're likely still talking about it when the subject of series finales comes up, so another win for the series!) Granted, the ending jarred with its abrupt cut to black as Tony and family gathered in the diner for a meal. What happened?! Did they die?! Did nothing happen?! Where's the resolution?! It doesn't matter. The finale encapsulated what the big guy's life was like — rather ambiguous.
First reaction? Overwhelming anger. (After wiping away the crazy amounts of tears as Vincent the Dog lied down next to a dying Jack, that is.) Didn't the folks behind the show swear over and over again that the stranded gang wasn't dead and in a purgatory of sorts? Well, guess what? THEY WERE! No wonder fans were so upset. But after some time apart and another viewing (or three), some fans now find that it was really pretty good. Sure, not all questions were answered (what was that smoke monster?!), but it was stirring to see how the characters — who were so touched by each other in life (wherever that was) — created a place to find each other again in death. Spiritual or not, it's a lovely idea.
'Dexter' — ?
Oh, where to begin? Let's just put it this way: At least Michael C. Hall is already at the top of this list, having starred on "Six Feet Under" as beloved gay funeral director David Fisher. But the actor's vigilante serial murderer, Dexter Morgan, doesn't make it anywhere near the top of this "best of" discussion — he could have, had Showtime only ended the killer drama after the critically acclaimed season four. It would have been perfection to end it right then to give fans the satisfaction of the story coming full circle. After all, what's more complete and emotionally jarring for this series than baby Harrison crying in a pool of Mommy Rita's blood to begin the cycle all over again?