​Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi, Okayplayer.
Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi, Okayplayer.

2023's Best and Worst Season Finales So Far

Ted Lasso, South Side, Ziwe, Snowfall, Succession, and more ended this year. Here’s how we feel about their farewell episodes.

As we are in the throes of a Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strike, it’s time to appreciate the work that the actual creators do — the good, the bad, and the in-between wouldn’t be possible without these artists. 2023 has seen a ton of great television debuts like Poker Face, The Last of Us, Hijack, Jury Duty, Beef and Silo. Sophomore seasons from Abbott Elementaryand The Bear saw fan favorites get even better than they were the first time. On the flip side, a lot of slop hit your screen.

A handful of our beloved shows met their fate this year by network cancellation or because their stories ran their course. Here is a truncated list of some of the best and worst of them.

7. Ted Lasso

Seasons: Three

Finale: “So Long, Farewell”

Ted Lasso’s final season is the definition of putting too much dip on your chip. Detractors of the show labeled it too saccharine and obsequious, takes that have typically been met with derision. The maxim was that only the most ornery, cynical people would hate Ted Lasso’s brand of feel-good comedy. However, in season three, those critiques couldn't ring more true. For some reason, the show transformed into an hour-long drama, and its humor took a turn from cute dad jokes to eyes-rolling-out-of-your-skull corny. The finale, with a few engaging and funny beats, was the most boring part of a boring season. Most of the value in “So Long, Farewell” is derived from the curiosity to see what might happen to the characters — goodwill earned from the previous two seasons.

6. Barry

Seasons: Four

Finale: “wow”

Jason Sudeikis’ former SNL co-worker, Bill Hader, also had a hit show that lost its way during its final season. Barry’s first three seasons were home to some of television's best writing and directing. That episode with that feral little martial arts girl? Magnificent. When Barry rode down a Los Angeles freeway on a sputtering dirt bike as a biker gang shot at him? Brilliant. Throughout season four, we see Barry as a lost and aimless soul seeking redemption by becoming pious to wash away his evils. However, Hader’s nihilism takes center stage as “wow” concludes, and Barry is crowned an undeserving hero — a cultural God. Thankfully, Barry’s finale isn’t as uneven as most of the season preceding it and is more akin to the show's spirit we all knew and loved. As a side note: NoHo Hank and Cristobal forever 💔.

5. Ziwe

Seasons: Two

Finale: “Juneteenth”

If we stand on the shoulders of giants, Ziwe Fumudoh stands tall on Eric Andre’s. The way she expertly played with her interview subjects, curtly and plainly deconstructing matters of race, gender, and class, made for hilarious entertainment and is a masterclass in interviewing subjects — especially people you might hold at least a little contempt for. Its season two finale, ”Juneteenth,” aired on Christmas Day before getting canceled in April. During the final episode, we see Ziwe’s guest, Wayne Brady, freestyle, talk about important holidays, horniness, and his Blackness. Keeping with the theme, there’s a trailer for a fake Juneteenth movie starring white people called Collard Greens in Heaven, and Larry Owens teaches five white folks Juneteenth-inspired gospel songs and has them sing the hymns on a corner in Bed-Stuy. To cap off the wild ride that is “Juneteenth,” Ziwe forces her writers to give her gifts and refers to herself as “mommy.” The unknowing finale is quite good, but the second episode of season two, "Celebrity Rights Activist," which features Chet Hanks and DeuxMoi, is one of the singularly funniest things to happen on a talk show.

4. The Other Two

Seasons: Three

Finale: "Brooke & Cary & Curtis & Lance"

The Other Two didn’t jump on my radar until about a month ago. I saw a clip on Twitter and decided to give it a shot. Once I heard “Marry U at Recess,” a couple of minutes into the pilot, it hooked me immediately, and I binged the series in less than a week in time to watch the finale as it aired. The Other Two is about craven fame and power-hungry siblings Brooke and Cary Dubek, whose star pales in comparison to their little brother, Chase, who is a fictionalized version of Justin Bieber, and their mother, who eventually becomes a fictionalized version of Oprah. What The Other Two did so well was capture the absurdity and narcissism inherent in the entertainment industry, from top to bottom. "Brooke & Cary & Curtis & Lance" is the perfect send-off to three seasons of Brooke and Cary cascading deeper and deeper into depravity, which sees them finding solace in a little thing called humility.

3. South Side

Seasons: Three

Finale: “Littlepalooza”

When we talk about representation, what we want — what we need — are opportunities to tell stories that speak to us. What was so special about South Side is that it was an extremely Black show, with all types of Black folks on it. “Littlepalooza” is an outstanding coda for this raucous television show that will hopefully one day take its rightful place in the canon of great Black television programs in the rafters somewhere near “Martin” and “The Bernie Mac Show.” With bated breath, I’m waiting to see what series creators Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle do next.

2. Snowfall

Seasons: Six

Finale: “The Struggle"

Snowfall had its ups and downs. At its best, it rivaled every hour-long award-darling drama on television. At its worse, it was like something you’d see on USA Network during the “Characters Welcome” era. Snowfall’s sixth and final season was a whole lotta the former. Snowfall came from John Singleton, a child of Compton. The way he knew his subjects on an intimate level bled through the screen, even in his absence — may he rest in power.

When “The Struggle" ends and Leon catches up with a drunken, dirty, rambling Franklin, it’s… heartbreaking. Franklin’s descent into madness, into a fiend for cash and booze, is a poetic tale. Saint could have been successful in any industry where he needed to use his smarts, but his situation and circumstances drew him into the drug game. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he, along with the CIA, is an architect of the destruction of Black life. In a sense, he got exactly what was coming to him. But, behind those bloodshot eyes, you see every Black man and woman who has been torn apart by the system, despite being intelligent, beautiful, and capable.

1. Succession

Seasons: Four

Finale: “With Open Eyes”

C’mon, you knew this was number one. There’s not much to say about Succession that hasn’t been said, but the show never missed a beat in all four seasons. We’ll miss Its humor, sharp critique of blood-sucking capitalists, top-notch acting, shocking twists, and subtle direction as we look ahead to an uncertain future in television and film as writers and actors are currently on strike.

Succession peered into the lives of the men and women who were so foul in their bones they would wish for the downfall of the masses in the name of value for shareholders. During “With Open Eyes,” I screamed when Kendall, Roman, and Shiv fought in the conference room down the hall. I paused the show when Tom walked in; his head held high as the new CEO. I winced when Shiv joined him in the black, tinted SUV and coldly took his hand, leaving us with a frame that’s indebted to The Graduate. Those things will stick with me. But I’ll always remember that Succession wasn’t only an outstanding dramatic force. I’ll also remember it as a melodramatic conduit for commentary on capitalism.