Recently I watched the very last episode of the tv series Becker. It was fabulous.
(Spoilers ahead - spoilers of the finale as well as of the general continuity. However, if you don't know this yet, you should really just go watch more Becker!)
It wasn't planned or anything, it was just on tv. On thing that meant was that before the show started, I didn't know it was going to be the series finale. However, I had the feeling it was going to be the series finale in the first few minutes.
Quite often series finales are quite recognizable. Often they have the "bigger than life" plots, the plots that are supposed to feel epic and awesome, the plots that break the status quo that had been held for very long - if not the entire series. Usually they try to tie up all the loose ends. An episode being a two-parter (or more-parter) is also a good sign that it might be a series (or season) finale, because tying up all the loose ends and being epic are two things that are a lot easier when you have more time to do so.
There are good reasons for a finale to do those things. First off, the finale is the last thing people are going to see of the show - thus an important thing to remember the show by, so they need to be awesome. Also, as you no longer need to maintain the status quo for the next episode, so this is a good chance for you to break it. Secondly, people don't want to be left with questions, so tying up the loose ends makes a lot of sense as well.
Becker did none of those things. Alright, the status quo was broken, but it was done subtly. Usually breaking the status quo means real changes - like in Becker, Reggie being replaced with Chris or the moment when Becker and Chris started dating. There was no such thing here - there was no status quo change in such a sense of the word.
The episode didn't have something awesome or bigger than normal happening to the cast. No, this was an episode that just had the normal parallel plot lines. Nothing bigger or more awesome than normal.
The episode tied up some loose ends, but not all that much. The most obvious loose end was one that had been introduced a few episodes earlier - which was a great use of continuity, by the way - which actually ended tying up another end as well, but this end had so far been under the table cloth, so it was actually a surprise that it ended up being tied up.
The thing that made this episode a real finale was something entirely different. In the first few minutes Becker actually asked Chris out.
Even Chris replied with "You're actually asking me out without me asking you to ask me out?". It wasn't normal. From that moment on, it became clear that this just wasn't the normal bitter Becker, something about him was different. The story then went on about how Chris thought this was the moment Becker was going to dump her. A pretty simple storyline and very similar to other things they have done. And even though nobody told me, I just felt that Becker was sincere and was actually not going to dump Chris - there was just something about his attitude that made me feel that way. Finally, Becker was making some progress. Finally, he was getting over his midlife crisis.
The deal was of course sealed when Margaret convinced Jake to go study with the money his nana had left him. The Bob-replacement guy had his own storyline here, where he tried to find a job by padding his cv, and turned down a job because the person who matched the cv would actually be underpaid for the job. That too is tied up nicely as he gets to take over Jake's news stand.
The last thing was that Becker and Chris have their confrontation and Becker actually tells that he doesn't want to break up with her and that his strange behavior might be related to him actually thinking he might happy. Chris plays a very strong role as she is clearly glad with this fact, but is also here to support Becker through the emotional changes - even if for the better, emotional changes may well be hard. The episode then ends on a very strong note, as Becker shouts at a guy pissing on his doorstep. There may be a huge change in Becker, but it isn't going to be instant.
Anyway, a great episode *thanks to the entire staff of Becker* which provided me with some very satisfying comedy tv, but which also taught me a lot about series finales. Don't try to overachieve, but pick the right things. It was truly fabulous.