As students fill their calendars to the brim with end-of-the-year events — final exams, term papers, Spring Fling and the like — a group of less substantial, but equally important dates loom in the month of May: TV season finales. Season finales are the rare breed of episode in which something so unforgettable happens that it carries you over to the fall — characters die, life-changing decisions are made (usually accompanied by the requisite sappy music) and cliffhangers are hung.
Last year’s finales offered Jack Bauer heading to China, mysterious Portuguese men phoning Penny on “Lost” and Denny’s overdue death. This year’s finales promise to one-up last year’s at the risk of fan panic and abandonment. Some are easy to predict — Elis will be transfixed as Rory Gilmore graduates from Yale on May 14 — but others revel in unpredictability. Sans any inside dirt from the cable networks, scene puts on its show-writing shoes and takes its best shot at predicting the conclusions to five must-watch series.
May 17: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
“Grey’s Anatomy” is a show that continually feels the need to raise its stakes, and the writers will surely try to “beat” last season’s finale.
Another Mer-Der cliffhanger — the first season ended with Addison’s arrival, and the second ended as she was about to choose between Derek and the vet — would be disappointing. The show has been worst this year when it has been contriving ups and downs for the central relationship. Izzie took center stage last season with Denny’s death, so it should be someone else’s turn. With Addison out of the picture (in Los Angeles) for the finale, expect a three-pronged season finale: the George/Izzie/Callie conflict will come to a head, Burke/Cristina wedding crisis is certain to ensue and a Meredith trauma unrelated to Derek should close out the season.
May 17: ‘The Office’
In the half hour before the “Grey’s” finale, “The Office” will air with what is sure to be a soap operatic finale, despite the show’s comedic tag. With the introduction of Karen this season, the writers have kept the Jim and Pam relationship fresh and, as always, unrequited. Last season ended with Jim baring all his emotions for Pam, so this season cannot end the same way. It’s up to the writers to find something momentous and new to happen to Jim and Pam, but they have always found something satisfying in the past, so there is little reason to fret.
A nice surprise would be plot movement for one of the peripheral relationships that makes “The Office” the best comedy currently on television. Michael and Jan or Dwight and Angela are sure to play a prominent role in the season-ender, but hopefully the always entertaining Ryan and Kelly relationship will get a moment to shine.
May 22: ‘24’
It’s hard to enjoy a “24” season finale — the closing hour is always well-written and well-acted, but it’s difficult to appreciate when you know something huge is going to happen out of nowhere to end the season on a dramatic note. Past closing scenes have included everything from the murder of Jack’s wife, to the apparent assassination of the president, to Jack’s abduction to China last season. As ridiculous as these cliffhangers have gotten, it’s a Catch 22 at this point. If the writers abandon the device, the finale will be unsatisfying for fans, but continuing the trend of increasingly ridiculous final scenes ruins the episode and, in a way, the season as well.
This season has seen the rise of a CTU agent played by Ricky Schroder — who is almost an exact replica of Jack — and the conclusion of all of Jack’s loose ends. This season, one shocking conclusion seems increasingly likely: Jack is going to die.
May 23: ‘Lost’
Many fans have complained about the third season of “Lost”; however, after the disappointing six-episode “pod” in the fall, the show has seen a creative resurgence. The writing and acting are sharp as ever, and complaints by fans that the show is revealing answers too slowly are unfounded. The introduction of Juliet has been exactly what the show needed, and actress Elizabeth Mitchell is currently doing the strongest work on the ensemble cast. The season finale will likely expose Juliet’s ultimate allegiances, both between the Others and the survivors and, more interestingly, between Jack and Ben.
The writers have promised a game-changing scene at the end of the episode that will alter how fans think about the show forever, trumping even last season’s reveal in the snowy tundra. Expect something seemingly inexplicable related to what’s going on in the “real-world” and the survivors’ perception of time and reality.
May 23: ‘American Idol’
It’s easy to dismiss “American Idol” as sophomoric, and many do, but as the top-rated show on television and the catalyst for several objectively successful careers, the show deserves a modicum of respect. In terms of talent, this season has been one of the weakest, but the show is about a lot more than the singing (see: Sanjaya’s hair), which is why it continues to entertain.
The race is between Melinda, Blake and Jordin. Most likely, either Melinda or Jordin will join Blake in the finale. Either way, after a month of suspenseful scripted cliffhangers, it may be refreshing to receive ultimate closure as the winner is announced.