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 72% 

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 69% 

Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman in The Killing (AMC)

(Photo by AMC)

Highest-rated season: The Killing: Season 1 (2011) 97%
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) 95%
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 75% 

Arrested Development (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Highest-rated season: Arrested Development: Season 1 (2003) 100%
Final season: Arrested Development: Season 5 (2018) 56%
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 (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

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