News

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) 54%
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% 

Lifetime

(Photo by Lifetime)

Highest-rated season: UnReal: Season 1 (2015) 98%
Final season: UnReal: Season 4 (2018) 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

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