10 Great TV Shows That Failed In Their Final Seasons

From Game of Thrones to Dexter, it was all downhill on the Tomatometer in the end for these mostly Fresh series.

by | May 23, 2019 | Comments

Daenerys in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4 (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

Expectations for the final season of Game of Thrones were higher than the Red Keep’s tallest spire, and, unfortunately, fans and critics alike were not universally impressed with the way creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ended the story. Unlike the previous seven seasons — all of which are Certified Fresh with Tomatometer scores well into the 90s — season 8 is not only the lowest-scoring season on the Tomatometer, it is also the first-ever Rotten season of HBO’s fantasy series.

How does that work? Let’s do a bit of math: While the average score of each of season 8’s episodes is a Fresh 68%, a number of season-level reviews (those that consider the season in its entirety) published following the finale have brought the overall season score down into the Rotten range.

“This final season was all about big-huge set pieces, and a lot of the complexity burned away,” wrote Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich of the season as a whole. And Slate’s Willa Paskin noted in her review of the series finale, “Benioff and Weiss organized their entire series around an ending that they didn’t write to.”

But Thrones is not the only beloved series that critics felt whiffed its final at-bat. Series with high expectations for their final episodes include everything from HBO’s bro-tastic showbiz satire Entourage to PBS’ prestige TV detective drama Sherlock. And though those expectations might not have been quite as high as the dizzying, dragon-y heights that GoT needed to live up to, both of those series similarly seemed to let down longtime viewers.

Below, Rotten Tomatoes has gathered a list of beloved series whose early seasons were high-scoring and usually Certified Fresh — meaning they all received a large number of reviews, with many from top critics, and a score of more than 75% on the Tomatometer — and whose last season or two descended into Rotten territory. Some shows, like The Office, The West Wing, or How I Met Your Mother, managed to turn Rotten penultimate seasons around into Fresh final ones (which is why those three are not included below). But others, including Game of Thrones, Dexter, and Arrested Development, take their place among history’s best-reviewed shows with poorly reviewed endings.

A note: We’ve only included series with robust scores, and we would also like to reiterate that this is not an indictment of the included series, but rather a numbers-focused presentation of score drops.

Game of Thrones 89% 

Starks at the funeral in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4 (Helen Sloan/HBO)

(Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

Highest-rated season: Game of Thrones: Season 4 (2014) 97%
Final season:  Game of Thrones: Season 8 (2019) 55%
Drop: 44%

While showrunners Benioff and Weiss were never going to please everyone, critics pointed to the series’ penultimate episode, “The Bells,” as a prime example of how “a transportive, well-acted, smartly written drama even non-genre fans can appreciate” (per the RT Critics Consensus for season 1) could devolve into such a divisive experience for fans. The Critics Consensus for “The Bells” in particular echoes a common complaint from the show’s closing moments: “too much plot in too little time muddles the story and may leave some viewers feeling its conclusions are unearned.”

Dexter 71% 

Michael C. Hall as Dexter (Showtime)

(Photo by Showtime)

Highest-rated season: Dexter: Season 2 (2007) 96%
Final season: Dexter: Season 8 (2013) 33%
Drop: 61%

Seasons 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 of Showtime’s serial killer drama are all Certified Fresh, but seasons 6 and 8 plunged into Rotten territory. The Critics Consensus for season 6 counts “heavy-handed symbolism, an unimpressive villain, and a redundant arc for America’s favorite serial killer” among the reasons for its low score, while the season 8 summary calls it a “a bitterly disappointing final season that is so hesitant to punish its anti-hero for his misdeeds, it opts to punish its audience instead.”

Weeds 70% 

Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds (Showtime)

(Photo by Showtime)

Highest-rated season: Weeds: Season 2 (2006) 100%
Final season: Weeds: Season 8 (2012) 40%
Drop: 60%

The dark comedy followed suburban widow Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) as she began to deal pot to make ends meet following the unexpected death of her husband — and eventually transformed into an international drug kingpin. But while the first season was Certified Fresh and the subsequent ones were generally well-liked, RT’s Critics Consensus for the eighth and final season notes that the “final installment burns the series’ remaining goodwill down to a sorry roach with perfunctory plotting and a sense that this story no longer resembles the one fans fell in love with.”

The Killing 68% 

Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman in The Killing (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

Highest-rated season: The Killing: Season 1 (2011) 94%
Final season: The Killing: Season 4 (2014) 47%
Drop: 53%

The Seattle-set slow-burn mystery pursued by homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) started off with “thoughtful writing, believable characters, and realistic horror, even if its season finale was unsatisfying,” per the first season’s Critics Consensus. By the fourth season, resurrected by Netflix following AMC’s cancellation, it succumbed to “silliness” and strayed into “distractingly overwrought territory.”

True Blood 70% 

Anna Paquin and Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood (HBO)

(Photo by HBO)

Highest-rated season: True Blood: Season 3 (2010) 91%
Final season: True Blood: Season 7 (2014) 44%
Drop: 51%

HBO’s vampire drama, based on the Southern Gothic Sookie Stackhouse book series by bestselling author Charlaine Harris, took a few seasons for critics to warm up to it (it started at a barely Fresh 61% in season 1 and reached a series high of 95% in season 3). But the third season’s “graphic thrills, steamy romance, and biting satire for its fans” made way for a Rotten final two seasons, as the series ran out of steam and its seventh season was “content to limp along on familiar plot points.”

Arrested Development 74% 

Arrested Development (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Highest-rated season: Arrested Development: Season 1 (2003) 100%
Final season: Arrested Development: Season 5 (2018) 55%
Drop: 45%, though the drop from season 1 to season 4 was even more drastic at 73%

The first season of the formerly short-lived Fox gem is among the rare seasons Certified Fresh at 100%, and the subsequent two seasons that aired on the broadcast network are also strong with 94% and 100% Tomatometer scores, respectively. Netflix’s revival, on the other hand, can’t quite “live up to its own past.” At least the series’ fifth season (55%) was a bit of a second chance for the cast and creators, as season 4’s Critics Consensus put it simply: “They’ve made a huge mistake.” (Though the series has not officially been canceled, there’s no word on whether Netflix plans to make another season.)

UnREAL 81% 


(Photo by Lifetime)

Highest-rated season: UnREAL: Season 1 (2015) 98%
Final season: UnREAL: Season 4 () 50%
Drop: 43%

All three seasons of the dark, Bachelor-skewering drama that aired on Lifetime were Certified Fresh and brought renewed respect to the female-focused network. The fourth season, however, “fizzled out” and went directly to Hulu (“but the clever antics, confidence, and high energy” remained intact, per the season 4 CC).

Sherlock 78% 

Sherlock - BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH (Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE)

(Photo by Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE)

Highest-rated season: Sherlock: Season 2 (2012) 94%
Final season: Sherlock: Season 4 (2017) 54%
Drop: 39%

The first three full seasons of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations were all Certified Fresh with scores in the 90s. But the 2015 Christmas special wasn’t quite as well-received, and the fourth season, which came four years after season 3, was marred by “the lofty expectations created by the series’ lengthy hiatus.” Hm, sounds familiar…

Entourage 66% 

(Photo by HBO)

Highest-rated season: Entourage: Season 5 (2008) 76%
Final season: Entourage: Season 8 (2011) 46%
Drop: 30%

While the Hollywood antics of heartthrob Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his hangers-on were mostly well-received — most seasons of the HBO comedy are sitting comfortably in the 70s — the seventh season saw a turn as poorly received as Chase’s fictional epic, Medellin. As season 8’s Critics Consensus put it, “With Entourage‘s best stories behind it, the series finale feels like a merciful end.”

Prison Break 60% 

Prison Break's Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller (Fox)

(Photo by Fox)

Highest-rated season: Prison Break: Season 1 (2005) 77%
Final season: Prison Break: Season 4 (2008) 50%
Drop: 27%

The Fox drama’s self-explanatory title meant that the series was always going to have to fight against its own premise — there are only so many prisons to break out of, after all — but after a Certified Fresh debut season and a second installment that maintained the series’ “propulsive momentum,” per season 2’s CC, things went downhill. The third and fourth seasons were both Rotten at 50% — and while the original series finale delivered closure for fans, “the season’s ludicrous, plot-breaking twists betray the feeling that this saga should have ended a jailbreak or two before.” Fox’s 2017 revival nearly a decade after the series’ original end, didn’t fare much better: “familiar faces and frenetic action aren’t enough to make up for a plot that manages to bore while beggaring belief,” per the Critics Consensus.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

ABC 45 Walt Disney Pictures Biopics nfl Writers Guild of America Comic-Con@Home 2021 dogs toronto period drama animated Shondaland Mudbound high school critic resources teaser Columbia Pictures YA cartoon cancelled television boxoffice what to watch political drama monster movies series Premiere Dates sequels Interview news Election harry potter Spike revenge TV Land Pop TV NBA dramedy Television Academy PaleyFest CMT politics dark The Arrangement lord of the rings boxing cancelled CNN SundanceTV Disney streaming service biography ratings First Reviews Mary Poppins Returns ESPN space RT21 4/20 science fiction DC streaming service action-comedy saw debate TBS Pet Sematary CBS All Access jurassic park spider-man fresh Trailer movie ID new zealand BBC new star wars movies A24 Bravo spinoff joker Comics on TV TCA razzies Hallmark Christmas movies kaiju basketball The Walt Disney Company Action natural history independent chucky Ghostbusters Quiz gangster Tokyo Olympics Fox News Baby Yoda Christmas Fantasy women anime miniseries japanese The CW royal family Trivia Emmys Tomatazos Rocketman Pop Netflix Holidays spanish New York Comic Con screenings rt archives Sci-Fi justice league rotten movies we love scene in color mission: impossible A&E Nominations 72 Emmy Awards Mary poppins National Geographic Alien 2018 TCA 2017 Reality Competition Syfy satire hist archives Acorn TV Creative Arts Emmys game of thrones FX on Hulu Apple TV+ kong king kong breaking bad VH1 anthology spain Box Office Summer Food Network E! Ellie Kemper golden globes movies El Rey streaming twilight 1990s police drama RT History Travel Channel USA festival Wes Anderson Paramount richard e. Grant Reality indiana jones Star Trek hispanic heritage month Awards Rocky Fox Searchlight Lifetime Christmas movies thriller disaster dragons BBC One DC Universe Arrowverse diversity technology NYCC X-Men cats Amazon Prime Video The Academy mutant Nickelodeon comic books HBO Max 73rd Emmy Awards war pirates of the caribbean green book Character Guide Holiday Netflix Christmas movies Martial Arts adenture TruTV toy story live action Pixar wonder woman Image Comics TNT YouTube Red DirecTV stoner Countdown Turner know your critic Lucasfilm 90s rt labs critics edition Freeform aliens TV One 2015 cops Valentine's Day Masterpiece Vudu 2017 Song of Ice and Fire mockumentary scary movies adaptation ABC Family streaming movies 99% zombies films 24 frames WarnerMedia remakes heist movie laika TLC GLAAD critics tv talk quibi marvel comics composers PlayStation latino crime thriller docudrama BET Endgame Winter TV AMC halloween tv Amazon Studios black YouTube Captain marvel Marvel Disney Family Schedule 21st Century Fox Sony Pictures prank Comedy Central Nat Geo Video Games documentaries criterion theme song cults Superheroes GoT Oscars historical drama Best and Worst Television Critics Association popular Universal ghosts crime concert Lionsgate Amazon Emmy Nominations universal monsters IFC Elton John name the review facebook talk show hollywood french die hard new york Pacific Islander NBC a nightmare on elm street Britbox stand-up comedy 2019 FXX E3 batman Kids & Family young adult USA Network Film Festival award winner Sneak Peek 20th Century Fox football golden globe awards venice First Look japan Rom-Com ITV Epix rotten Chernobyl travel olympics deadpool Polls and Games blockbusters The Purge scorecard Photos The Walking Dead Musicals sag awards obituary all-time Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Esquire docuseries Adult Swim sitcom CBS cinemax Fall TV TCM children's TV festivals renewed TV shows Crunchyroll American Society of Cinematographers Ovation free movies stop motion book adaptation biopic Turner Classic Movies Legendary Hulu cancelled TV shows ViacomCBS Comic Book psychological thriller video worst movies true crime crime drama book comic book movie reboot superhero hidden camera Crackle king arthur comedies slasher worst Cosplay posters superman Pirates Watching Series Year in Review franchise PBS godzilla versus video on demand Amazon Prime Drama Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Super Bowl zero dark thirty The Witch hispanic strong female leads See It Skip It IFC Films Showtime finale San Diego Comic-Con TV renewals Spring TV Broadway YouTube Premium VOD OneApp Set visit Starz feel good FOX Paramount Plus Star Wars witnail spy thriller asian-american SDCC kids Academy Awards Funimation Tarantino Animation Marvel Studios Infographic casting 2016 TIFF FX rom-coms MCU Classic Film Superheroe foreign LGBT crossover Podcast cancelled TV series psycho OWN TCA Winter 2020 Red Carpet Binge Guide marvel cinematic universe Women's History Month adventure Comedy Disney Channel 93rd Oscars medical drama Anna Paquin international telelvision serial killer dexter robots suspense rt labs romance Grammys TV movies classics Country australia Stephen King Opinion 007 2020 Cannes ABC Signature Logo Exclusive Video trailers Awards Tour Music VICE Thanksgiving Warner Bros. Teen Trophy Talk screen actors guild elevated horror MTV directors best child's play Spectrum Originals Apple Film SXSW unscripted BET Awards Cartoon Network target emmy awards Toys DC Comics comics Disney Plus blockbuster WGN doctor who game show President Hear Us Out Mindy Kaling werewolf Apple TV Plus cars Horror MSNBC indie Marathons reviews based on movie TCA Awards canceled TV shows Avengers south america transformers HBO Go supernatural social media aapi fast and furious zombie Tumblr Western TV LGBTQ vampires Sundance Now DGA Black Mirror Disney+ Disney Plus CW Seed documentary parents nbcuniversal romantic comedy dceu Sundance BAFTA Certified Fresh Sundance TV GIFs Tubi sports cooking Pride Month Mystery sequel Mary Tyler Moore television spanish language canceled binge comic christmas movies 71st Emmy Awards Shudder halloween Calendar Heroines mcc nature comiccon HBO 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Paramount Network Discovery Channel dc Rock Winners History Black History Month APB discovery italian Marvel Television 2021 Extras Musical Lifetime james bond singing competition slashers Dark Horse Comics comic book movies BBC America Peacock Hallmark legend Brie Larson blaxploitation jamie lee curtis