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Walter White, Tony Soprano and the other undead

By Frank Lovece
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Sat May 31, 2014
Quite possibly the biggest anticlimax in TV history: Tony Soprano meets his family in a restaurant, looks up and then, with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " playing in the background, the screen fades to black. "Sopranos" fans have long debated the ending and in August 2014 creator <a href='http://www.vox.com/2014/8/27/6006139/did-tony-die-at-the-end-of-the-sopranos' target='_blank'>David Chase finally broke his silence about whether Soprano died. </a>Shows have let down fans before. Here's a look at some of the best, and worst, finales (of course, there are spoilers): Quite possibly the biggest anticlimax in TV history: Tony Soprano meets his family in a restaurant, looks up and then, with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " playing in the background, the screen fades to black. "Sopranos" fans have long debated the ending and in August 2014 creator David Chase finally broke his silence about whether Soprano died. Shows have let down fans before. Here's a look at some of the best, and worst, finales (of course, there are spoilers):
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'The Sopranos'
The best and worst TV finales
The best and worst TV finales
The best and worst TV finales
'Seinfeld'
'Cheers'
'Freaks and Geeks'
'Roseanne'
'Friends'
'The Cosby Show'
'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
'M*A*S*H'
'Lost'
'Frasier
'X-Files'
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
'The Hills'
'ALF'
'St. Elsewhere'
'Dinosaurs'
'The Fugitive'
'Life on Mars'
'Smallville'
'The Office'
'Big Love'
'Medium'
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bryan Cranston dropped teaser to CNN's Banfield: Walter White really dead?
  • Frank Lovece: There were other finales where doomed characters were not what they seemed
  • He speculates on what real outcome was for "The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad," "Xena" ...

Editor's note: Frank Lovece is an entertainment writer and film critic whose work has appeared in publications including Newsday, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide and the Los Angeles Times.

(CNN) -- Walter White might not have faded to black. Despite collapsing at the end of the "Breaking Bad" finale, everyone's favorite meth kingpin could still be alive -- or so star Bryan Cranston teasingly implied to CNN's Ashleigh Banfield on Thursday.

"Hey, you never saw [body] bags zip up or anything," he quipped.

Frank Lovece
Frank Lovece

But it gets us thinking: If comic books (and comic-book movies) teach us anything, it's that when some characters appear to die -- we're looking at you, Superman, Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson -- appearances can be deceiving. We never saw body bags at the end of "The Sopranos," either; did Tony get a non-fatal heart attack from too much cannoli? Or stress? Tony had stress.

What about the others? Jack Shephard on the finale of "Lost" ... Maddie on the finale of "Burn Notice" ... Xena on the finale of "Xena: Warrior Princess" ... we never saw literal or metaphoric body bags there, either. What if -- grievously but not mortally wounded, captured but not killed, sent to the land of the spirits with a round-trip ticket -- they survived? Could there be spinoffs? Movie sequels?

Cranston on 'Breaking Bad' return: Maybe

Hey -- death be not proud, and neither am I. Let's examine some possibilities....

"Lost"

How you think it ended: On a mysterious, supernatural island, a wounded Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) lies down on a forest floor and closes his eyes.

What really happened next: The island had been purgatory all along, and his soul now ascends to Heaven. But all is not right in God's kingdom. A mysterious plague has been killing the archangels, while leaving the seraphim and others untouched -- and only Dr. Jack Shephard has the knowledge and skills to isolate the virus, find the culprit and answer the burning question: Where do angels go when they die?

"The Sopranos"

How you think it ended: The mob war over, the Soprano family is together at Holsten's diner when suddenly everything goes black.

'Breaking Bad' finale leaves fans happy
Edie Falco talks 'Sopranos' movie rumors
2007: 'The Sopranos' TV legacy

What really happened next: After awakening from his angina-attack blackout, Tony (James Gandolfini) vows to leave the business and get healthy. He slims down, grows a scruffy beard and opens a quiet little bar in Astoria, Queens, while wife Carmela (Edie Falco) becomes an ER nurse and develops a drug problem.

"Burn Notice"

How you think it ended: Maddie (Sharon Gless) tells her secret-agent son Michael that she needs to blow up her house to take out some gunmen and give her grandson Charlie and his protector Jesse a chance to escape. Unfortunately, she has no remote detonator.

What really happened next: Maddie realizes she'd actually been listening to Michael's voiceover narration about spy-craft and absorbing it. Using two cell phones, she whips up a remote detonator, blows up the house from a safe distance and escapes with Charlie and Jesse -- who discovers he has a thing for older women. They form a very modern family and buy a house near Michael, who finally marries Fiona, and surrogate grandpa Sam (Bruce Campbell). Wacky complications ensue.

"Xena: Warrior Princess"

How you think it ended: Xena (Lucy Lawless) sacrifices herself in battle in order to free the souls of 40,000 people. Xena's spirit appears and reassures sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) she's at peace.

What really happened next: "Xena's spirit appears" ... and she'll appear again! The partnership continues! New series: "Xena: Ghost Warrior "!

"Breaking Bad"

How you think it ended: Wounded, cancer-riddled, former drug kingpin Walter White collapses in a meth lab as police storm in.

What really happened next: He was just passed out, and after struggling with cancer in prison volunteers for experimental drug therapy in exchange for clemency. The treatment works, but he can't return to his family and he's broke. Solution? Write a best-selling memoir! Called "Bad Breaks," it makes a fortune and gets optioned for a TV series. Given casting approval, he confounds the industry by choosing the goofy dad from "Malcolm in the Middle" to play him.

We could go on. We bet you could, too. Few series wrap things up perfectly ("Newhart" the rare and brilliant exception).

Are there other series finales where we could resurrect the dead? Let us know in the comments field.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

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