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18th of December 2018


13 Canceled Finale Twists That Would've Hurt Shows (And 7 That Would've Saved Them)

One of the main things that separates television series from movies is TV's season-based structure. Even when a show has an overall ongoing plot, the pacing is designed so that things ramp up over the course of a season, reaching a climax with the finale. It didn't take long after the innovation of this structure for writers to discover that finales should have some sort of unexpected twist that either keeps viewers hungry for the next season, or leaves them with mouth agape over the surprise(s) that wrapped up the entire series.

Needless to say, it's not easy coming up with a great finale twist. Writers have to walk a fine line between surprising viewers in a compelling way, and a twist just for the sake of a twist. People can often spot the latter from a mile away, and cry foul at what they feel was a cop-out, intentionally controversial twist. Those cheap twists are just one of many ways of framing a finale that hopefully get weeded out by cooler heads, though it doesn't always work out that way.

In the following examples, we have divided up planned but scrapped twists into two categories: ones that they were right to nix, and ones that they would've been better off sticking with. In some cases, the canceled twists were actually shot before they were changed, and you can watch them online or in DVD special features and make the call yourself as to whether the correct decision was made.

Here are 13 Canceled Finale Twists That Would've Hurt Shows (And 7 That Would've Saved Them).

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Start Now advertising 20 Hurt: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

One of the reasons why Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is so popular is the many ways that it broke with convention-- being set in a space station rather than the Enterprise or another single starship, adopting cast members from another series (TNG), and having the first black captain.

It's that last point that comes into play here, as it led to contention over DS9's planned twist. It was originally intended that Captain Sisko wasn't going to live to see the end of the finale, but actor Avery Brooks objected to the first black Star Trek captain being the first that doesn't survive his series. Brooks had a good point, and it's better for Sisko's legacy that things didn't play out that way.

19 Hurt: 13 Reasons Why

Based on the popular book of the same name, Netflix's adaptation of 13 Reasons Why focused on a teenager named Hannah who takes her own life and leaves behind tapes for her classmates that explain why she made that fateful decision. The writers almost had an unexpected season finale twist that would've been even more earth-shaking, even for a show about such a dark topic.

The idea was floated out that the season finale reveal Hannah had in fact survived her attempt on her own life, with season two dealing with the aftermath of that. It would've certainly been a surprise, but it would've also completely betrayed the emotional heft of the show. It's debatable whether or not having Hannah return in season two as a ghost was a great call, but having her survive would've definitely been worse.

advertising 18 Saved: Lost

Few finales in television history were as baffling as Lost's. In fact, even the most hardcore fans have trouble making much sense out of the show's entire last season or two. Lost is definitely a case study for what happens when you try to steer such a complicated show without already having a clear road map.

In one of the more well-known abandoned finale twists ever, Lost was originally going to end with an elaborate setpiece involving Jack and the Smoke Monster (in the form of Locke) having an epic battle in the island's referenced (but never fully explored) volcano. Fans are divided over how they feel about this planned ending, but one thing is for sure-- it would've been much more exciting, and less obtuse, than the ending we got. Ultimately, the grand volcano battle was deemed too ambitious and expensive.

17 Hurt: The Magical Black Hole - True Detective McConaghey and Harrelson in True Detective

Like a lot of the best dramas surrounding a hard-to-solve case, there were many mystical elements hinted at in the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Sometimes those elements are revealed to be real within the fiction of a given universe. Generally speaking, however, such things are usually shown to be a misdirect of some sort, often involving a twist near the end. That is how True Detective season one wrapped up.

It almost went in the opposite direction. The original idea was to have the detectives find an actual magical black hole of sorts in the middle of the maze at the bad guys’ compound, and be sucked into it, never to be seen again. It was ultimately decided to have the show stay grounded in reality, and the magical hole was never seen instead.

16 Hurt: Anya loses her life in The Gift - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Xander and Anya Engagement Buffy

You could probably fill an entire book with the ideas that Joss Whedon has had for his various television shows that he ended up scrapping. In order to make a show as creative and original as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was bound to be a whole lot of shaping and cutting that had to happen in order to get the version we actually got to see.

Buffy is one of those shows where almost nobody is safe, so to speak, and even major characters can meet their end. This was almost the case with Xander's fiancee, Anya, who was intended to meet her end during "The Gift", the very same season finale where Xander first popped the question. Whedon and his team liked Anya and her actress too much to let her go, and we got to enjoy her until the series finale.

15 Saved: Dexter's punishment - Dexter michael c hall dexter finale beard

Whether you actually “rooted" for Dexter’s titular character or not, it was hard to imagine any fate for him except having to pay for his many, many crimes. Even if you take the stance that he mostly took out bad people, that doesn’t change the fact that the guy needs to be locked up and kept away from society.

As we now know, that wasn’t where he ended up. Nor did he end up on the receiving end of an injection, as was the plan of Dexter’s writers. For whatever reason, Showtime wanted Dexter to survive the finale, so instead of him getting any sort of legal comeuppance, he just escapes to live on the run in the woods. It’s hard to imagine a more anticlimactic end to the show.

advertising 14 Hurt: A modern crash - Battlestar Galactica

There was no other feasible way that Battlestar Galactica could've wrapped up other than to have the ill-fated ship at the center of the show meet a tragic end. From the very beginning, the series had a very grim tone and a happy ending just didn't seem to be in the cards.

However, while the Galactica crashing was in most plans for how the show could end, there was one variation that would've been downright weird. Creator Ronald D. Moore says that they considered a finale-ending twist that would've had the Galactica crash land on Earth and be discovered during our present day, buried in South America. Moore and his team realized that this had too many implications and caused too many issues with the show's timeline and universe in trying to tie it into our own, and left the show set in an entirely separate reality.

Featured Today 13 Hurt: Ephram bails on the Ferris Wheel - Everwood

Here is another example of a show that didn't know if it was just ending its season or its entire run. In this case, the creative team behind Everwood had an idea that both of those possibilities were on the table and decided to plan accordingly.

Had the season four finale just been a season-ender, the twist was going to be that Ephram never made it to his Ferris wheel reunion with Amy because he changed his mind after getting a call from his ex-girlfriend en route, leaving Amy waiting on a guy that never shows up. When the team were informed that there wouldn't be a fifth season, they didn't want to end the show on a sour note and so they had the Ferris wheel date go off as planned and left fans feeling satisfied with the happy ending.

12 Saved: Neither Damon nor Stefan survived - Vampire Diaries

It's hard to know how long a show is going to be on the air. Sometimes, writers come up with a general idea for how a show is going to end, but its popularity keeps it on the air longer than expected and that causes things to change over the course of the series' run.

That is what happened with Vampire Diaries, with co-creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson having to change course after losing one of the main components of their finale plans. The original ending twist was that both Damon and Stefan would meet their end in trying to jointly save Elena. Nina Dobrev leaving the show before it ended meant that we only got Stefan sacrificing himself. It definitely wasn't as satisfying the tragic end for both brothers.

11 Hurt: The Janitor isn't real - Scrubs Scrubs' janitor

Scrubs is one of those shows that always seemed to be teetering on the brink of cancellation but had just enough fan support behind it to keep it on the air.

Fitting with the show's theme of focusing on the imaginations of its characters, Scrubs’ wise-cracking janitor was actually conceived of as literally just a figment of J.D.’s imagination-- as evidenced by J.D. being the only one to interact with him in the early episodes. This reveal was left in the writers' back pockets in case of cancellation, but he turned out to be too good of a character to be limited in that way, and was made “real.”

advertising 10 Hurt: "Archer" is crazy - Star Trek: Enterprise Enterprise - Complete Guide to Star Trek

When even the person who writes a finale later refers to it as "a slap in the face," you know you are dealing with a finale that has some issues. Star Trek: Enterprise was always one of the more troubled versions of the brand, but it still had its fans and they deserved to see the show have an ending that was actually about the show itself-- not just be a glorified lost episode of TNG.

If you can believe it, the original finale twist that they didn't end up going with would've likely incensed fans even more. Not only did it also tie into another Star Trek series-- only this time, it would've been the less-liked Voyager-- but it was going to insinuate that all of Enterprise was a delusion of a sick man who may or may not have been Jonathon Archer at all, being treated by Voyager's doctor.

9 Saved: Charlie returns - Two and a Half Men Two and a Half Men

Two and a Half Men was a ratings juggernaut for years that made enough money to justify Charlie Sheen's paycheck growing to almost $2 million per episode at its peak, but also a show that few people were willing to step up and proclaim their love for.

We won't retread Sheen's very messy, very public exit from the show, but suffice it to say that things were still so tense on his end that he refused an offer to cameo in the show's finale. Him making a surprise appearance at the end that poked fun at his real-life troubles would've been much funnier than how the show actually ended-- with a piano falling on series creator Chuck Lorre.

8 Hurt: Carrie ends up with Petrovsky - Sex and the City

Although series creator Darren Star has said he isn’t fond of the original ending where Carrie ends up with Mr. Big in the Sex and the City series finale, it’s the ending we got, the ending most of us loved, and the ending that paved the way for the first, awesome Sex and the City movie-- the lest said about the sequel, the better.

We have to imagine that Star would’ve hated one of the original planned twists even more: the one where it would’ve ended with Carrie announcing to her friends her engagement to Alexandr Petrovsky, the ballet dancer who was even more selfish that Big.

7 Hurt: Dawson and Joey get back together - Dawson's Creek TV Couples Dawson Joey Dawsons Creek

While the romance between Dawson and Joey dominated the earliest seasons of Dawson’s Creek, the time that the characters actually spent in a relationship together was fairly brief in the grand scheme of the show’s six seasons. Their long and brief courtship was eventually replaced with Joey and Pacey getting together, setting off something of a Team Dawson vs. Team Pacey dynamic among Dawson’s Creek fans for whom should win Joey’s heart.

Most fans saw the finale’s flash-forward, where Joey ultimately chose Pacey, coming from a mile away, and it made the most sense given the events of the most recent season. The show very nearly ended with the twist that Joey had in fact reunited with Dawson for good, which would’ve certainly delighted some fans but would’ve betrayed the show as a whole.

advertising 6 Saved: "Will they live?" Cliffhanger - Castle

Unfortunately, the creative team behind TV shows don't always know for sure if they are getting another season or not. Worse, oftentimes they have to have a season finale written and even filmed with the possibility that a network will change its mind and decide it is actually a series finale.

This was the case with ABC crime dramedy Castle, with the writers believing they had a ninth season on the way, but being later told that wasn't the case. As such, season eight was to end with a finale that was ambiguous about the fates of its two main characters. While open-ended series finales aren't always popular, it would've at least been better than the cheesy, tacked-on ending that was added to Castle's finale; a flash-forward to Castle and Kate married with children.

5 Hurt: Dick steals Mary - 3rd Rock From The Sun John Lithgow in 3rd Rock from the Sun

3rd Rock From the Sun hearkened back to the days of silly, extremely gimmicky sitcom premises like Gilligan’s Island and Hogan’s Heroes. It worked, thanks in large part to the performances of the brilliantly over-the-top John Lithgow, the always-reliable Jane Curtain, and a charming up-and-comer by the name of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Nobody could’ve expected the show’s surprisingly poignant finale, where Mary changes her mind at the last minute about returning to the aliens’ home planet and Dick has to erase her memories of him entirely. It was a perfectly bittersweet ending that was almost ruined by the planned twist of having Dick return again to abduct Mary, even though she has completely forgotten about him and would’ve been scared by this alien stranger abducting her.

4 Saved: Jack sacrifices himself - 24: Live Another Day Kiefer sutherland and Mary Lunn Rajskub in 24 Live Another Day

From almost the very beginning of 24’s run, protagonist Jack Bauer was portrayed as basically a superhero who could escape and survive a dozen situations per episode that should’ve made short work of a mere mortal. Things only escalated as the show went on, with Jack was making it out of increasingly absurd situations.

That being said, both Jack and the show itself had to eventually have their luck run out, and comeback season Live Another Day is thus far the final appearance of the character. It would’ve been fitting to have Jack Bauer end his time as a glorified supersoldier with some spectacular act of self-sacrifice, and that’s what producers wanted. Ultimately, they just couldn't go through with it, and instead left him captured instead, where he indefinitely remains.

3 Hurt: Sam Gets Sick - Cheers

Few people dispute Cheers’ standing as one of the great sitcoms of all time. It is among the few TV shows that stayed on the air for 10+ seasons, and remained a critical and ratings darling for its entire run. Like most great sitcoms-- with the possible sole exception of Seinfeld-- it dealt with plenty of heavy topics and had its share of more serious episodes and plotlines.

That said, there was one storyline that was deemed too dark for Cheers' standards. The show’s sixth season was going to end with Sam finding out that one of the girls he had been with was HIV positive, prompting him to face the very real possibility that he may have the virus as well. Not sure how to find any humor whatsoever in that scenario, the writers decided to cut it.

advertising 2 Saved: Smithers shot Mr. Burns - The Simpsons Burns and Smithers in The Simpsons

One of the biggest events in the history of The Simpsons was the season six cliffhanger, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” A parody of Dallas’ famous stunt involving the character J.R., both the fictional townspeople of Springfield and viewers of The Simpsons were tasked with solving the mystery of who tried to take down power plant-owner Mr. Burns.

To have the perpetrator be none other than Burns’ only real friend, Smithers, would’ve been a twist for the ages, and that was the original plan. Producer James L. Brooks said that it had to be a member of the Simpson family since they are the stars of the show and all. Instead of making one of the Simpsons clan out to be a cold-blooded criminal, they cooked up a ridiculous idea where Maggie accidentally pulls the trigger-- a silly conclusion that the show itself would later mock.

1 Hurt: Walter White becomes Rambo - Breaking Bad Bob Odenkirk and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

During Breaking Bad's run, creator Vince Villigan often spoke of how he wasn't sure how to end the show, and it was clearly a source of stress. While no finale is ever going to please everybody, it's hard to find much fault in the way the show ultimately wrapped up, with one of the most acclaimed series finales in modern television.

Once Breaking Bad ended, Gilligan opened up about the various other twist endings that were bandied about, and one in particular would've definitely been the wrong move. This ending would've been something of an amplified standoff that wiped out basically the entire cast in a single, violent scene. There are few cheaper ending tropes than that, and it's a good thing such a groundbreaking show didn't go that route.


What twist would you have liked to see? Let us know in the comments!

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