The current cover story of Entertainment Weekly is all about TV finales, featuring in-depth interviews with the showrunners behind memorable finales like The X-Files and 30 Rock. “The Art Of Saying Goodbye” remarks upon the tough process of crafting an episode that is satisfying for the creators, the audience, and the fictional characters. It’s not an easy task, and plenty of shows have mucked it up, but the process showrunners go through is fascinating. One of the most interesting interviews is with Vince Gilligan, who reveals some original ideas he had for the Breaking Bad finale. Gilligan’s not the only indecisive writer — many creators have pondered, shot, and even released different endings from the ones that aired. Here are seven TV shows and the spoiler-filled alternate endings that almost were.
The series finale of Breaking Bad was polarizing but overall it got a positive reception and for good reason. It was a satisfying ending to a satisfying television show, and one that no one will soon forget. Jesse got away and Walter got what he deserved — what else could you want? Well, according to creator Vince Gilligan: a bloodbath.
In the EW interview, Gilligan reveals that the writers had tossed around a ton of different endings, including a few particularly bloody ones. One earlier version: “We had an idea for the longest time that Walt was going to break into the downtown jail in Albuquerque and just shoot the s— out of the jail with this M60 machine gun and rescue Jesse.”
Later, Gilligan elaborates on another, different violent ending: “At one point, we talked about killing off every major character, and one particularly dark week along the way we talked about killing everybody — having some sort of Wild Bunch bloodbath of an ending.”
I’m certainly happier with the ending he ultimately chose.
Oh, Dexter. It hasn’t even been a year since the finale aired, but it’s already considered one of the absolute worst of all time — I recommend checking out Joshua Alston’s A.V. Club review, which perfectly captures the mix of anger, frustration, and hysterical laughter that accompanied the final hour. Dexter didn’t get caught or die, as he should have, but instead threw his dead sister’s body into the water and sailed away to become a… lumberjack? Yeah, OK.
After the finale, former executive producer Clyde Phillips (who worked on the show during its earlier, better years) told E! Online how he wanted the show to end, with Dexter on the execution table at Florida Penitentiary getting a lethal injection as his life flashes before his eyes. Phillips elaborates:
“And in the gallery are all the people that Dexter killed—including the Trinity Killer and the Ice Truck Killer (his brother Rudy), LaGuerta who he was responsible killing [sic], Doakes who he’s arguably responsible for, Rita, who he’s arguably responsible for, Lila. All the big deaths, and also whoever the weekly episodic kills were. They are all there.”
That’s the ending we were looking for.
The backlash against the How I Met Your Mother finale was harsh and immediate. The ending, which retroactively destroyed many of the good parts of the show’s nine-year buildup and forced Robin and Ted together, was despised. Co-creator Carter Bays defended the ending but did reveal that there will be an alternate one on the Season 9 DVD set:
Update for those who’ve been asking: Alt #himym ending will be on s9 DVD and also in the series box set.
— Carter Bays (@CarterBays) April 5, 2014
Bays didn’t reveal exactly what the ending is but did expand a bit on Twitter, saying, “16 days ago today we were in the HIMYM edit room, trying to decide between two very different endings. We only shot one script, but through edit room magic we had two possible outcomes for the series. We chose the ending we chose and we stand by it. But we loved the other version too.”
It sounds promising, but we’ve been duped before.
Drama finales tend to be more debated and scrutinized than sitcom finales, but Seinfeld had perhaps the most controversial sitcom ending — or at least it did until How I Met Your Mother came along. In the aptly titled “The Finale,” the group is arrested after failing to stop a carjacking. After a trial, the four characters are found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison.
Some responses for the episode were negative — the show was criticized for mocking and antagonizing its fans — though Jerry Seinfeld has continued to stand by it (even after that unofficial do-over on Curb Your Enthusiasm). An alternate ending featured as an Easter egg on the DVD didn’t do much to change the conversation, but did end with the friends being found innocent.
If you think the rivalry between Team Logan and Team Piz is heated, then you weren’t around during the great Pacey vs. Dawson War spanning 1998-2003. The love triangle was the anchor of the teen drama for many seasons, with audiences divided between the two camps, taking a stance with fan-fiction and angry posts on message boards (and even now, YouTube fan videos).
The series finale had a few shocking twists (Jen dies! We’re supposed to believe Dawson is actually talented and Steven Spielberg is interested in working with him!), but all anyone could talk about was how Joey finally (RIGHTFULLY) chose Pacey. This wasn’t always the plan; creator Kevin Williamson (who left the show but returned for the finale) toyed with the idea of Joey ending up with Dawson but thankfully came to the correct conclusion. Vampire Diaries EP Julie Plec, who was working with Williamson at the time, told EW this:
[Williamson] walked in and he was like, “I got it. I got it. Joey chooses Pacey because her childish love for Dawson has given way to her grown-up love for Pacey but Dawson still gets what he wants. Dawson gets what [he wanted when we] started the show, he gets to work with Spielberg. Dawson’s eternal wish, as a character, was delivered so Dawson found his happiness.”
While the 2009 series finale of Battlestar Galactica mostly garnered favorable reviews, a handful of fans were disappointed by the ending — including Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, who expressed disappointment on his LiveJournal. Creator Ronald D. Moore originally planned a different ending that he ultimately decided wasn’t “epic enough.”
There was a different ending that we had, it was all about Ellen aboard the Colony. She was sort of turned by Cavil, because she found out that Tigh had impregnated Caprica Six, and that deeply embittered her. And she sort of became dedicated to the idea of destroying Galactica and the fleet out of revenge. And [she and Cavil] got Hera, and then the final confrontation became very personalized between Tigh versus Ellen, and should they forgive.
Last summer, MTV re-aired its huge reality soap opera hit The Hills, but when it got to the finale, the network debuted the alternate ending. The original ending — which blew teen’s minds — featured Brody and Kristin waving goodbye to each other right before the camera panned back to reveal the backlot and Kristin stepping out of her limo.
The alternate ending has Kristin’s limo driving away and Brody returning to his apartment, only to find that Lauren Conrad has returned. According to creator Adam DiVello, “So the tongue-in-cheek thing there is that he comes home and Lauren is the one sitting on the couch. Lauren is the one who got the guy in the end.”