Usually, the season finales of television shows annoy me.

They’re supposed to set up something to keep viewers interested between now and the fall but more often, I’m aggravated by the emotional manipulation.

I wrote earlier about how I thought The Good Wife muffed it last season by carrying over an arc to the next season rather than finishing it off and creating a new one to draw viewers in.

Well, this year they did it right.

But they were still out done by two other shows.

The Mentalist ending was hard-core but it had to go exactly where it went to be true to the characters.

And Bones set-up an entirely new status quo for next season with a two-word sentence.

Be warned, spoilers after the jump.

For the last three seasons, the only thing the audience knew for sure about Patrick Jane of The Mentalist is that once he uncovered the man who’d killed his wife and child, Jane would kill him.

And, oh yes, they went there in the third season finale.

Not only did they go there but the show pulled absolutely no punches with Jane’s act.

In a terrific bit of casting, Bradley Whitford was finally revealed as the face of Red John, the man who’d haunted Jane for years. In typical TV fashion, they had to have a conversation first. In even more typical TV fashion, the serial killer taunted the person he’d wronged the most at gunpoint and then, of course, walked away, leaving our hero to stew in his own grief.

That this scene took place in the food court of a fancy mall made it more interesting, as people are walking around without realizing the evil in their midst, but it wasn’t exactly satisfying.

All through their talk I thought “Jane would come armed to this meeting. Jane would not care about a gun pointed at him so long as he could kill Red John.” Jane had revealed in the first season finale that he didn’t care if he died, so long as he took Red John with him.

But I thought when Red John got up and walked away from Jane that the show was going to drag this out again. Yet more chasing of Red John next season and so on and so on.

But, no, Jane followed Red John. Jane asked for proof his opponent really was the infamous serial killer. Red John responded by talking about how Jane’s wife and daughter smelled on the night he killed them.

Cut to wider shot of Jane and Red John staring at each other. Shots are fired. At first, I thought this is where they’d cut to next season, leaving viewers wondering who was shot.

But the scene continued. Red John falls to the floor, dead.

Patrick Jane calmly sits back down and finishes his tea as bystanders are horrified.

Cut to next season.

Damn. They couldn’t have found a better way to entice me to watch next season.

Will Jane stand trial for the murder? Will he even care that he’s on trial? One could argue that since Red John was armed, he posed an imminent threat to everyone in the mall and Jane was right to kill him. And that’s not the only question left. Agent Lisbon is shot by Red John’s accomplice in the season finale as well. And the accomplice turned out to be the fiance of one of the CBI team members. Who had to shoot him to save their lives.

Awkward, as the wedding invitations had already gone out.

Though I have to say, this one plot point was the only sour note. It seemed a bit cliche but it did set up a lot of angst for next season. Only the unflappable Agent Cho really didn’t get hit by the angst train on this episode, though one assumes Lisbon won’t feel too good about being shot–and that she also will be the one trying to help Patrick the most next season.

Over on Bones, the season finale did what the show does best–light comedy with a lot of heart. Bones and Booth go under cover in a bowling alley to find out who bashed a guy to death with a bowling ball. In true fashion for this show, the body had to be horribly mangled inside a bowling pin changer machine.

Naturally, Bones’ errant father is part of the bowling league, giving Ryan O’Neal a chance to return in a role that suits him. Seeing Bones trash up her wardrobe a bit was also very fun. But the heart of the episode was the birth of Angela and Hodgins baby boy. I was guessing when watching the episode what the final cliffhanger would be, especially given all the hints and clues dropped. And especially knowing the news about Emily Deschanel. But I never thought they show would really take that step.

They did.

As Bones and Booth walk together from the hospital, I thought they might have a heart-to-heart talk about what happened when Bones crawled into Booth’s bed the previous episode. Ah, but there was more. Booth asked what was up with Bones and her somewhat off-kilter behavior.

“I’m pregnant,” she says.


Yes, that’ll keep me excited about next season.

So, compared to that, the season finale of The Good Wife doesn’t come close. But still, so much good stuff.

The fascinating thing about the last three episodes of the series is that Alicia really does finally let got of her emotions and we’re not really sure that’s a good thing. Repressed Alicia is good and formidable. Emotional Alicia is someone you do not cross, ever.

Peter gets kicked out of the house for sleeping with Kalinda years ago and not telling Alicia at the time. (Shades of the real-life Governator’s marriage, unintentionally.) Kalinda gets completely shut out, even when she tries to explain. MIL Jackie gets basically told to go to hell.

Alicia’s emotions do help her deal with her confused children, who thought their parents had finally patched it up. She doesn’t tell them the reason for the sudden break-up but she does become emotionally vulnerable in front of them, which I think they needed.

Meantime, Kalinda seems to have learned something, as when she finds out that her newest lover is married, she gets out fast. The old Kalinda wouldn’t have cared. (This time it’s a woman Kalinda’s sleeping with, so I think the show finally established that, yes, Kalinda is bisexual. About time they cleared that up.)

I’m almost rooting for Peter at this point as he’s really tried to change. This wasn’t a new sin, it was the revelation of an old one. He even sends a key piece of evidence anonymously to help Alicia win a case. Alicia, however, has had it with being the good girl. She gets drunk and heads up to a hotel room with her lifelong crush, Will. The door closes, the season ends.

Lots of potential there as I would assume that this particular liaison, complete with necking in the elevator, is going to become public very soon. Chris Noth as Peter has reason to show up beyond being Alicia’s husband, as he’s the new state’s attorney. And Kalinda and Alicia will still have to work together.

ARGH. I don’t want to wait for more of any of these shows.

I was going to close this by saying that, on the good side, Mad Men is due back this summer but now I see it’s not coming until 2012.