The Teen Drama Series Finales
It’s that time of year — when shows go off the air for the season or (gulp) forever. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane with a look back at the teen drama series finales.
Beverly Hills, 90210
Episodes 10.26 & 10.27, “The Penultimate… Ode to Joy”
May 17, 2000
The series finale of the teen drama that started it all revolved around David and Donna’s wedding. But there were two things up in the air: Would Kelly break up with Matt and get back together with Dylan? And would Steve accept being a stay-at-home dad while Janet worked for a new magazine? It still amazes my shipper heart that the last exchange of dialogue in the entire series went to Kelly and Dylan: “Dance with me? It’s not a one-time offer. We can wait.” “I don’t wanna wait.” (The irony of that being the last line and the same as the “Dawson’s Creek” theme song lyrics is just now hitting me.) The overall feeling is euphoric with a bittersweet undercurrent as the final moments show the gang dancing — and crying — to “Celebration.”
Episodes 6.23 & 6.24 “All Good Things… Must Come to an End”
May 14, 2003
You’d be forgiven if you thought the preceding installment, “Joey Potter and the Capeside Redemption,” was series finale-esque. It was in fact intended to be the final episode until it was decided to bring back creator Kevin Williamson for a two-hour movie-like ender. And what the “Beverly Hills, 90210” series finale lacked in sadness, the “Dawson’s Creek” series finale made up tenfold. Set five years in the future, the gang reunites in Capeside for Dawson’s mother’s wedding… only to learn Jen is dying of a heart condition. While everyone is grieving, there’s also the matter of the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle to settle. I am, of course, thrilled that Poey was endgame, but I still feel a bit cheated. We never get to see the climactic moment when Joey and Pacey actually reunite and decide to be together. Instead, the final moments jump ahead (again) and simply show us they are together. Still, while the finale is a tearjerker, it certainly makes you smile at the end.
Episode 4.16, “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here”
February 22, 2007
Following in the footsteps of “Dawson’s Creek,” “The O.C.” series finale has not one but two time jumps. The show first fast-forwards six months after the earthquake that destroyed the Cohen home. A pregnant Julie is about to marry Bullit and a pregnant Kirsten gives birth at the old home she and Sandy used to share in Berkley. Then there’s another flash-forward in the final minutes, with the action now set several years in the future. Seth and Summer take their own walk down the aisle and Ryan, now an architect, offers a seemingly stranded kid help… just like Sandy did for him all those years ago. This is a series finale that certainly brought the show full circle.
One Tree Hill
Episode 9.13, “One Tree Hill”
April 4, 2012
It’s the 10th anniversary of Tric (don’t try to do the math — the “One Tree Hill” timeline is notoriously confusing) and there’s quite a few other milestones too: Brooke opens a Baker Man store, Julian buys Brooke’s childhood home, Quinn and Clay tie the knot and adopt Logan, and Mouth uses the money Dan left him to start a scholarship in Keith and Jimmy’s honor. At the anniversary concert, everyone sings the show’s theme song, and then the final moments bring — surprise, surprise — a flash-forward. The gang is back in the Tree Hill gym, watching Jamie play for the Ravens, just like his dad Nathan and uncle Lucas did. We’ve come full circle again!
Episode 6.10, “New York, I Love You XOXO”
December 17, 2012
The adrenaline is pumping from the start of this series finale, with Blair and Chuck escaping the scene of Bart’s death. The couple soon decide to wed, in part because then they can’t testify against one another, and they marry with just a few loved ones in attendance (and Cyrus officiating!). They’re then hauled away by the police, only to be cleared. In bits and pieces, we see Dan explaining to Serena that he was Gossip Girl all along… and then everyone else learns Gossip Girl’s identity as well. (Please don’t get me started on the logic of this revelation. The logic does not exist.) A five-year time jump follows (it’s a trend!), with Nate exploring a run for mayor, Blair and Chuck parents to a little boy, and Serena and Dan getting married. In the final moments, viewers see a new generation of young gossipers… though they won’t have any connection to the newbies we meet in the upcoming “Gossip Girl” spinoff.
Episode 5.22, “We All Fall Down”
May 13, 2013
It’s another heart-pumping opener with the aftermath of the concert explosion (which now feels… uncomfortable… in the wake of the 2017 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert). It’s quite some time before everyone is rescued, but Naomi seizes the moment to throw a relief benefit where the Goo Goo Dolls perform (nearly 20 years after they performed on “Beverly Hills, 90210”). Silver finds out she has breast cancer (the same disease that killed Jackie Taylor in season 1 — and you know how I feel about that) and the drama still isn’t over with a rubble collapse nearly taking Navid’s life. But there’s a happy ending with Liam and Annie getting back together and engaged. And given that Lannie is one of the few things I like about nu90210, I was quite pleased about that. I should probably also mention that Robbie Jones (Quentin, One Tree Hill) has a key role in the finale and several episodes leading up to it.
Almost all of these series finales were preceded by retrospectives that are just as memorable. It should also be noted that some of the teen dramas had shortened final seasons and, as you can see, not all of these series finales aired in May. But this time of year always has me feeling wistful and nostalgic for my favorite shows and how they ended. I still mark the “Beverly Hills, 90210” series finale every year.
There are clear trends and themes (weddings, time jumps, full-circle endings) among the finales, but you know I have to ask: Which teen drama series finale is your favorite?!
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