Season finales: Prison Break, My Name is Earl, The Unit, Jericho

As you may recall, last year I cast my reviewing eyes over the end-of-season finales for various US shows. The tissue-thin rationale I gave was “A good finale to a TV series can keep you watching even the biggest rubbish imaginable. They can be exciting, tense and a whole load of other things.

“Stress, of course, is a major health hazard. Therefore, so that UK viewers can brace themselves to an appropriate degree, I’ll be giving near-spoiler free guides to just how tense and exciting each of the major US TV shows’ finales were, starting today. US TV shows don’t end all at once: they’re spread over a period of three weeks or so, so there’ll be another couple of updates to come after this over the next week or so.”

Guess what. I’m doing it again this year using pretty much the same reasoning as I did last year. So here goes: there’ll be more to come over the coming days and indeed weeks.

Prison Break‘s finale was a good few weeks ago and I neglected to cover it then. Whoops. Mea culpa. A surprisingly large number of character arcs got wrapped up, all with the maximum amount of carnage possible. We’ve also gone back to basics with a cliffhanger for the next season. While it’s not as “hangy” as some of the episodes themselves have been, we do leave our heroes in an exciting range of predicaments, so brace yourselves. Can you wait?

Tension: 8/10

The finale of Jericho

Jericho

After a meandering beginning followed by a season that’s wandered between mad conspiracy theory show, Alias, Survivors and Farming Today, Jericho eventually settled down for a good fight to round it all off. To a certain extent, it had no choice, since it took the alternate route to Lost and splurged most of its secrets during the season, leaving only occasional appearances by Daniel Benzali (Teddy Hoffman in Murder One) to brighten up the gaps that even “the coolest black man on mainstream US TV”, Lennie James, was having trouble filling. You’re going to have to brace yourself for this one as well, since there’s a death of at least one major character. But as the show’s taken Jericho and the US further and further away from reality as we know, filling it with extremely tepid soap opera instead, we’re left only with the hope that James, Benzali and military-grade hardware will become the focus of the second season, instead of the the crop rotation discussion we were starting to get.

Tension: 5/10

The finale of The Unit

The Unit

The Unit‘s had an extremely variable second season. With Lynn Mamet and Eric Haney writing only a few episodes, the show has become a touch more conventional in its plotting, veering away from some of the more authentic military situations that were the first season’s hallmark in favour of stuff cribbed from jingoistic, rubbish B-movie spy flicks. The cliffhanger final episode (written by – oh would you look at that – Eric Haney and Lynn Mamet) was a marked improvement over the episodes that had gone before it, with a potentially show-changing series of twists that make you wonder whether they’re going to be brave or flick a magic reset button next season. Either way, it makes me have high hopes for the third season, if it ever comes to pass.

Tension: 9/10 (or 3/10 if you suspect a button)

The finale of My Name is Earl

My Name is Earl

Surprisingly, My Name is Earl also chose to end with a cliffhanger, and not an especially funny one at that. Which is odd, because the season has – bar a scratch and sniff blip – been getting better and better, funnier and funnier with each episode. In an effort to wrap up some of the plotlines set in motion at the start of the season, the producers have pulled the rug out from underneath us all and given us a somewhat downbeat episode to end the series with, although one with plenty of good moments. Still, at least it’s back for another season, so I’m guessing they will find a magic reset button, probably in a cake.

Tension: 5/10

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