Ranking the 22 best TV series finales from 2022

Ranking the 22 best TV series finales from 2022

As the year comes to an end, we're counting down the shows that went out with a bang

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(Clockwise from bottom left): Search Party (Courtesy HBO); Kevin Can F**K Himself (Courtesy AMC); Peaky Blinders (Courtesy Netflix); Derry Girls (Courtesy Netflix); Queen Sugar (Courtesy OWN); Dead To Me (Courtesy Netflix); black-ish (Courtesy ABC); Atlanta (Courtesy FX); Grace And Frankie (Courtesy Netflix); The Expanse (Courtesy Prime Video); Better Things (Courtesy FX); Better Call Saul (Courtesy AMC); This Is Us (Courtesy NBC)
(Clockwise from bottom left): Search Party (Courtesy HBO); Kevin Can F**K Himself (Courtesy AMC); Peaky Blinders (Courtesy Netflix); Derry Girls (Courtesy Netflix); Queen Sugar (Courtesy OWN); Dead To Me (Courtesy Netflix); black-ish (Courtesy ABC); Atlanta (Courtesy FX); Grace And Frankie (Courtesy Netflix); The Expanse (Courtesy Prime Video); Better Things (Courtesy FX); Better Call Saul (Courtesy AMC); This Is Us (Courtesy NBC)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Some truly great TV shows aired their final episodes in 2022. Over the past 12 months we’ve said goodbye to cult hits like Derry Girls, massive network dramas like This Is Us, and critical darlings like Atlanta and Better Call Saul. And while audiences will feel the loss of these shows no matter what, that final episode can make or break a show’s legacy—look no further than Dexter for proof that a terrible finale can leave a lasting impact. To help cope with the sting of some of our favorite TV shows no longer gracing our screens, we’ve ranked 22 major series finales from 2022 based on how well they wrapped up the series as a whole. We didn’t include any shows that were canceled without notice, as it didn’t seem fair to compare them to series that had a planned ending. Here, then, is our look back at 2022's TV series swan songs.

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22. Killing Eve

22. Killing Eve

Killing Eve Season 4 Official Trailer | BBC America & AMC+

Killing Eve’s series finale might be the most disappointing TV experience in a long time, primarily because BBC America’s Emmy-nominated drama began with a stellar premise and performances. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer’s volatile chemistry stood out as their characters—MI5 agent Eve Polastri and wickedly funny assassin Villanelle—got entangled with each other. However, Killing Eve’s fourth season took it downhill with unnecessarily complex, dragged-out plots (does anyone know what The Twelve actually is?). And all of it wrapped up with a rushed ending, made worse by the show succumbing to the “Bury Your Gays” trope for a poorly executed shock effect. The lead characters and the show’s audience deserved a far more thoughtful conclusion. [Saloni Gajjar]

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21. See

21. See

SEE — The Final Chapter: An Unforgettable Journey | Apple TV+

See was one of Apple TV+’s first shows and, much like the rest of that initial bunch, was met with a shrug at best from critics and audiences. It’s not that the show was bad, per se; it’s more that it was unremarkable, and even the star power of Jason Momoa wasn’t enough to draw viewers to the then-new streaming service. Still, Apple admirably let the story, which takes place in a world where everyone has lost their sense of sight, play out without canceling it prematurely. While its audience didn’t grow much over the course of its three seasons, See’s action-packed finale delivered a satisfying conclusion to the show. [Jen Lennon]

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20. Claws

20. Claws

Niecy Nash Recaps Claws Before The Final Season

Season four of Claws had a difficult task in trying to pull together the show’s disparate and often chaotically absurd (in the best way possible) storylines to forge a satisfying conclusion. In focusing on Desna (Niecy Nash) and the impact her decisions have had on her nail salon and her crew, the show managed to give her an appropriate send-off. Sadly, Claws couldn’t give that same depth and exploration to the rest of the cast—even after four seasons, some of the characters felt frustratingly one-note. [Jen Lennon]

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19. Love, Victor

19. Love, Victor

Love, Victor Season 3 | Official Trailer | Hulu & Disney+

Of course Love, Victor was going to have a happy ending; it was a foregone conclusion from the very first episode. The show was designed to be an uplifting gay YA rom-com—whether it accomplished that goal or whether it merely presented a sanitized version of queerness is a matter of perspective. After season two cranked up the drama with several break-ups and a bizarre lack of focus on its title character, season three course-corrected and tied everything up in a neat, sweet bow. The series finale was everything viewers expected, but it still rang a little hollow. [Jen Lennon]

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18. Animal Kingdom

18. Animal Kingdom

Behind The Scenes Series Finale | The Making of Animal Kingdom | TNT

The family that breaks the law together stays together—that’s the saying, right? Over Animal Kingdom’s six seasons, the Cody family’s criminal enterprise held strong in Oceanside, California, though there were more than a few deaths along the way, including family matriarch Smurf (Ellen Barkin) at the end of season four. Without Smurf to hold things together, the rest of the family quickly devolved into chaos, and the series finale appropriately sent the remaining Codys out with a bang. It certainly wasn’t a happy ending, but it was right for the show. [Jen Lennon]

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17. Ozark

17. Ozark

Ozark - The Final Scene | Netflix

Netflix’s Ozark took a while to find its footing. The first season felt like an off-brand Breaking Bad, with its similar premise about a formerly unremarkable and law-abiding family man getting swept up in the criminal underworld. As the show continued, though, and as it further distinguished itself from its most obvious influence, the Jason Bateman-led series began to make a strong case for its existence. By focusing on its excellent performances, the show really began to shine. It’s too bad, then, that the otherwise strong finale killed off fan-favorite Ruth (Julia Garner, who won three Emmys for the role)—and it’s even worse that her death felt unnecessary and cruel, especially when the Byrdes mostly got off scot-free. [Jen Lennon]

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16. The Walking Dead

16. The Walking Dead

Rick Grimes Returns | The Walking Dead Series Finale

The Walking Dead ended its 11-season, nearly 200-episode run with a satisfying but appropriately open-ended finale, given how many spin-offs are currently in development. While the episode leaned into fan-service territory a little by teasing the return of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, it mostly tied up the necessary plot threads, ending on a surprisingly uplifting note. For a show that spent so much time focused on day-to-day survival, it was nice to see the residents of Commonwealth, Alexandria, and Hilltop get enough of a reprieve from the fighting that they could look to the future with hope. [Jen Lennon]

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15. Locke & Key

15. Locke & Key

Locke & Key 3 | Final Season Trailer | Netflix

Locke & Key, despite a very uneven final season, pulled off a satisfying finale by revisiting the show’s most important themes: family, loss, and grief. The Lockes’ whole journey with the keys was set in motion by their father’s death; why shouldn’t this show end with the realization that they never really needed the magic—they just wanted a chance to say a proper goodbye? By using the time-shift key to revisit the past and get closure with his father, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) gives his family—and the audience—a heartfelt ending. [Jen Lennon]

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14. The Good Fight

14. The Good Fight

The Good Fight | A Farewell | Paramount+

A sequel series to CBS’ The Good Wife, The Good Fight continued its predecessor’s legacy of quietly being one of the best legal dramas on television. A somewhat rocky season five tried to tackle the madness of the COVID pandemic, but the final season brought everything back together for a more grounded finale. Against the backdrop of a simmering protest outside the law firm’s front doors that grows throughout season six and finally explodes in the series finale, The Good Fight played to its strengths by reminding us that if we want to change the world around us, we need to keep fighting the good fight. [Jen Lennon]

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13. Black-ish

13. Black-ish

The Johnson Family’s Final Farewell - black-ish

Black-ish never shied away from how Dre (Anthony Anderson) struggled with his identity as a financially successful Black man living in a mostly white neighborhood. Over the series’ six seasons, it’s something he ruminated on frequently: The life he’s living is certainly someone’s version of the American dream—but is it his? In the finale, some advice from Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles convinces him that he needs to live his best life, and he can’t do that in a place that has never really felt like home. It’s a nice note for the show to go out on—a reminder that being true to yourself is more important than anything else. [Jen Lennon]

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12. Grace And Frankie

12. Grace And Frankie

Grace and Frankie | A Farewell to 7 Seasons with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin | Netflix

Many of the finales on this list worked so well because they were narratively consistent, but Grace And Frankie’s final episode worked because it subverted expectations. It’s a show about seniors; clearly, at some point along the way, at least one of them is going to die, right? But Grace And Frankie was never about adhering to tropes. And even though season seven seemed to be telegraphing Frankie’s death, the overwhelming positivity of her relationship with Grace saved her—with a little help from Dolly Parton. It was a nice rescue, and a fitting ending, for a show that consistently surprised audiences. [Jen Lennon]

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11. Queen Sugar

11. Queen Sugar

The Bordelons Hold Onto Hope | Queen Sugar | OWN

Over the course of six seasons, Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar was quietly revolutionary both on and off the screen. All of its 89 episodes were directed by women, and the show itself was the kind of nuanced portrait of Black American life that’s rarely depicted on television. The show followed the Bordelon family as they tried to figure out what to do with the sugar cane farm they inherited from their father. DuVernay returned to direct the finale, as she did the pilot, and brought the story to a heartfelt conclusion. [Jen Lennon]

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10. Dead To Me

10. Dead To Me

Dead to Me: Season 3 | Official Trailer | Netflix

Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) went through a lot over Dead To Me’s three seasons. There were accidental deaths, murders, and cover-ups—and through it all, they stuck by each other. And even though the finale ended with them going their separate ways, it’s clear Judy left because she thought it was an act of kindness, a final gift to a friend that had been with her through so much. Though it could’ve bordered on sappy, Jen and Judy’s bond was strong enough, and the writing was good enough, that the ending felt earned. [Jen Lennon]

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9. The Expanse

9. The Expanse

The Expanse Series Finale Explained | The Takeaway | Prime Video

The Expanse had a lot to wrap up in its final season, but the writers smartly realized that six episodes—a truncated run compared to the previous season’s 10 episodes—simply wasn’t enough time to resolve every mystery and plot. But the things they left hanging (like what’s going on with Laconia) didn’t feel forgotten. The Earthers, Martians, and Belters might have finally reached a fragile truce, but there are still trials ahead that will likely test that alliance. And, even though the series is officially over at Amazon, there’s still plenty of material from James S.A. Corey’s novels that a potential future adaptation could take on. [Jen Lennon]

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8. Kevin Can F**K Himself

8. Kevin Can F**K Himself

Kevin Can F**K Himself | Season 2 Official Trailer | AMC

As a miraculous treat, Kevin Can F**K Himself ended after two seasons with a properly planned conclusion. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a diss. It’s the opposite. A show with a genre-bending gimmick like KCFH runs the risk of overstaying its welcome. The AMC drama proved with its series finale that sometimes, ending a show early is a good thing. “Allison’s House” is a titillating episode that almost leaves you wanting more: We finally see Kevin in single-cam, Allison is free of her toxic husband, and she’s reunited with her BFF, Patty. It’s not necessary to know what comes next for Allison; it’s enough to realize she’s begun her healing journey. [Saloni Gajjar]

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7. Peaky Blinders

7. Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders Series 6 Trailer 🔥 BBC

We couldn’t have faulted Peaky Blinders if the show had taken the easy way out and used the series finale purely as a set-up for the upcoming movie. And while the final episode did tee up the movie, it didn’t sacrifice a good conclusion to the series. Season six focused a lot on Tommy Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy) belief that he was dying from an incurable brain tumor; the final episode pulls out one last fantastic twist in revealing the truth about his diagnosis. The final shot is a lovely nod to the first shot of the pilot, too: nine years ago, Tommy entered on a black horse. Now, he’s leaving on a white one. [Jen Lennon]

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6. This Is Us

6. This Is Us

Rebecca and Jack Will Always Stay with Us | NBC’s This Is Us

This Is Us’ series finale was always going to be a tear-jerker. NBC’s acclaimed drama spent six seasons making audiences sob, so why would the last episode be different? But not only was “Us” a crushing goodbye, it was also a sweet and hopeful note to end on. The show closed out with a somber hour, catching us up on how the Pearson’s lives change after Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) death in the previous episode, while flashbacks give another glimpse into Rebecca and Jack as loving parents. It’s This Is Us at its soulful best. [Saloni Gajjar]

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5. Search Party

5. Search Party

Search Party Season 5 | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Watching the Search Party finale for the first time and realizing, “Oh shit, they’re about to be the first show to truly satirize the pandemic, lockdowns, and Millennials in a smart way,” was thrilling. What started as a small comedy kept getting bigger and wilder, changing genres every season until ultimately arriving at a zombie apocalypse spawned by scientific narcissism and a cult of personality. The final moment sees our protagonists wandering around a ruined Brooklyn, past flyers for missing people. In a callback to the first episode of the series, Dory (Alia Shawkat) stops and stares—but, this time, she decides not to get involved. [Drew Gillis]

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4. Better Things

4. Better Things

Final Scene: Always Look On The Bright Side of Life | Better Things | FX

Sam Fox (Pamela Adlon) has always been a little messy, but she’s also always been honest about it, and that’s what makes Better Things such an unforgettable show. Sam is a single mom living in the L.A. suburbs trying to make a living as an actress, and the series has never shied away from showing the unique struggles of that situation. But what the show as a whole, and season six in particular, excelled at was conveying an overwhelming sense of positivity and hope. The drive to be better was a central tenet of the show, so it was more than earned when Sam realized she was finally happy. [Jen Lennon]

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3. Derry Girls

3. Derry Girls

TRAILER | Derry Girls Series 3 | Channel 4

The ending of Derry Girls after three delightful seasons was a bittersweet affair, for the characters and fans alike. The final episode exemplified what the show always did best, mining ordinary high-school situations for comedy—in this case dueling 18th birthday parties—against the political backdrop of Northern Ireland in the 1990s. But growing up comes with grown-up responsibilities, like the right to vote in the historic Good Friday referendum. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect ending than the emotional final montage of the characters going to the polls to make their choice, set to the Cranberries song “Dreams.” Except maybe the wonderful coda with Chelsea Clinton in the present day, finally getting the letter the girls (and James) wrote to her when she visited Derry in 1995. It wasn’t just a full-circle moment for the characters, but for Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee herself, who wrote a similar letter when she was a Derry teen. What a privilege to be a part of her semi-autobiographical journey through this hilarious and heartfelt show. [Cindy White]

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2. Atlanta

2. Atlanta

Atlanta | Season 4 Finale Trailer – It Was All A Dream | FX

Atlanta was a surreal, divisive show that ended with an appropriately surreal, divisive finale. We enter a sensory deprivation tank with Darius, following him down different rabbit holes and tangents before rescuing his friends from a deranged sushi restaurant, never ultimately seeing whether Judge Judy was thicker than usual, the Inception-esque tell of whether this had all been a dream. It felt more like a typical episode of Atlanta rather than what we’d expect from the conclusion to a years-long story; in short, the perfect end to a series that always shirked easy (or any) answers and normative narrative structure. [Drew Gillis]

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1. Better Call Saul

1. Better Call Saul

Saul’s Confession | Better Call Saul Series Finale S6 E13 “Saul Gone”

Better Call Saul might have started as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, but it ended with a legacy that challenged even its predecessor’s reputation and acclaim. It’s miraculous, frankly, that Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould managed to take the criminal lawyer whose name, as it turns out, is not only a pseudonym but a cheesy pun to boot (it’s a play on the phrase “S’all good, man”) and turn his story into one of the most compelling dramas on TV. Bob Odenkirk, of course, deserves much of the credit for his brilliant portrayal of Saul, but Rhea Seehorn also deserves some serious accolades for her performance as Kim Wexler, Saul’s partner. We knew ahead of time where Breaking Bad left Saul. And we knew, even though Better Call Saul is a prequel, that the timeline would eventually merge with and move past Breaking Bad’s. That gave Better Call Saul a unique challenge: how do you give a character a proper sendoff when he’s already had one on a different show? The way BCS threaded that needle, and Saul’s final fate, felt inevitable but still somehow surprising; it was everything a fan could hope for in a series finale, but it was also an all-time great episode of television. [Jen Lennon]

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