7. "Christmas Special," The Office
The original U.K. Office is darker, more cynical, more uncomfortable, and more awkward than the brilliant U.S. version could ever hope to be. It took its darkness and cynicism to the greatest lengths possible for the two-part, series-capping "Christmas Special," in which everyone has moved on, is trying to navigate life after having been featured on a semi-successful documentary series (curiously, the U.S. version has never commented on the fact that they're taping a show which will presumably be seen by the public), and absolutely no one is happy. Ricky Gervais' David Brent is the saddest, trying and failing to be a comedian; he wants to make others forget their problems yet hasn't even begun to work on his own. And then there's Tim and Dawn: Tim is still sadly stuck at Wernham Hogg and Dawn is off in Florida living with her wretched fiancé Lee. How all of this manages to turn into one of the happiest, most life-affirming endings of any sitcom is exemplary of Gervais and Stephen Merchant's twin ability to turn the mundane into the magical. When Dawn finally ditches Lee and comes back to Tim, there isn't a dry eye in the house.
6. "Daybreak," Battlestar Galactica
Through numerous political, social, and spiritual upheavals, Battlestar Galactica's driving theme was always, "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again" (even though it took some time for that now-iconic phrase to be voiced). It opened with a healthy, Earth-like planet being nuked by the man-made Cylon robots, which were thought to have been destroyed in a violent war. It turned out that they had been so efficiently made that they had evolved into humanoid form to come calling for revenge. The series ends with a new healthy, Earth-like planet (heavily implied to be our own) on its way toward the same kind of omnipresent technology that led to all of this in the first place. In between, its characters grappled with fate, destiny, and all manner of other heady, life-or-death matters.
And yet it was always about cycles. As "Daybreak" so brilliantly shows, there was always a script these people were unknowingly following, and as prophetic vision after prophetic vision is fulfilled in an extremely intense final battle, we begin to realize that the show's still got a frakking hour left. So then it goes on to pose the question: once your purpose has been executed, what's next? You live. You continue on. You find new destinies, new purposes. It may all lead back to the same thing, but it's crucial to realize that it doesn't have to. If "Daybreak" is frustratingly vague on a few storytelling points, that's okay, because emotionally, it's as satisfying a conclusion as I've ever seen. Adama's ode to departed love Roslin, as he watches a fresh morning dawn on their new planet, is particularly heart-tugging: "When the sun rises behind the mountains here, it's beautiful. It reminds me of you."