There are few harder tasks in television than ‘sticking the landing’. 

No matter how much goodwill and acclaim you’ve built up over the years, an unsatisfying final episode will leave a sour taste in viewers’ mouths and potentially undermine the show’s reputation. 

With a record 59 Emmy awards and HBO’s biggest ever viewing figures, Game of Thrones was a colossus, earning critical raves while thrilling audiences for the majority of its eight-year run. 

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Its ending, however, was panned by critics and loathed by fans. Google ‘Game of Thrones’ ending and the ‘related features’ option suggests ‘why did game of thrones end so badly’, ‘why did everyone hate game of thrones ending’ and ‘game of thrones ending terrible’. 

As one of the most talked about British dramas in years came to an end on Sunday night, viewers found out whether Happy Valley would suffer a similar fate. 

What other shows have bungled the ending?

Many fans were unimpressed with Seinfeld’s finale, which saw the sitcom’s four main characters end up in jail. Crime drama Dexter, meanwhile, was widely agreed to have been on a downward spiral for some time, with its underwhelming ending just another nail in the coffin of its reputation. 

And which shows got it right?

As confounding as it may have been at the time, the Sopranos’ famous fade to black is now widely considered one of the great TV conclusions. Both Breaking Bad and its spin-off series Better Call Saul pulled off endings that provided moments of drama without sacrificing realistic character development. 

The Herald: Sopranos stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco with their Screen Actors Guild awards in 2003Sopranos stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco with their Screen Actors Guild awards in 2003 (Image: PA Images)

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Providing a happy ending for Tim and Dawn, while offering David Brent a glimpse of something better, The Office quit while it was ahead and ended on a heartwarming and plausible note. We’ll just pretend 2016’s David Brent: Life on the Road never happened. 

What’s Happy Valley?

A BBC One crime drama created, written and directed by Sally Wainwright. It stars Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood, a policewoman with a complex family life and demanding job dealing with an assortment of West Yorkshire wrong ‘uns. 

Since first airing in 2014, it’s collected two Best Drama Series BAFTA awards, and its third and final season has been attracting audiences of over six million.

Did it stick the landing?

The consensus among viewers and reviewers was a resounding ‘yes’. Immediately after the finale, screenwriter Emma Kennedy tweeted: “I already feel sorry for any drama or actress up against Happy Valley and Sarah Lancashire at next year’s BAFTAs. Forget it. It’s over. You haven’t got a chance.”

In her five-star review, Herald writer Alison Rowat said: “in Wainwright and her avenging angel, Catherine Cawood, we trusted - and they did not disappoint. Happy Valley went out in a blaze of fire, brimstone and glory.”

READ MORE: Happy Valley, BBC1: Agony and ecstasy as curtain falls

How did they get it right?


While there was a helping of action, most notably in Tommy Lee Royce’s (James Norton) bloody fight with the men escorting him from his hideout, the real drama lay in Catherine and Tommy’s extended confrontation across a kitchen table.

The writing was flawless, and both Lancashire and Norton delivered powerful performances that matched the material. 

So the show’s reputation is safe?

To paraphrase Sergeant Cawood in one of the finale’s last moments, ‘they won, obviously’.