M*A*S*H Finale: Looking Back on the Bittersweet End to the Iconic Series

by Atlanta Northcutt
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The legendary, long-running television show M*A*S*H continues to live on years after its last episode leaving fans to continue loving the characters and storylines.

The Story of the Final M*A*S*H Episode

Most know the opening tune to the iconic CBS television show. Focusing on the work of servicemen, nurses, and doctors serving during the Korean War, the program resonated with many Vietnam veterans.

After 11 seasons, M*A*S*H came to an end with a finale celebrating the lives of the characters and the love they shared.

The show consisted of talented actors and actresses, including Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan, David Ogden Stiers, and Wayne Rogers.

The program used humor, as well as drama, to tell the stories of the individual impact the war had on the members of the army surgical hospital.

“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen”

The first season aired in 1972 and quickly gained a large fan base until its finale. The episode is entitled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” and is the only one to be titled throughout the series.

Following a ceasefire, the 4077th members take down the well-known mobile army surgical hospital where they worked throughout the war. After all the time spent working together and becoming a type of dysfunctional, yet loving family they finally say their last goodbyes.

Perhaps the most beloved character, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, played by Alda, seems to meet a disheartening end. “Hawkeye” always seemed to have a comedic and bright outlook. However, the show ends with him entering a psychiatric hospital due to a nervous breakdown.

The show hit the nail on the head when it comes to “Hawkeye” displaying what many servicemen suffer from after the war.

Charles Winchester listens to a Mozart performance after finding and capturing soldiers. He receives the job he wanted at a hospital in Boston. However, he discovers he only received the position due to Margaret Houlihan’s help. He questions whether or not he actually deserved the position and feels distraught.

The always kind and bighearted Klinger finds love with a Korean refugee. BJ Hunnicut receives discharge papers but decides he will find a surgeon to replace him. Father Mulcahy sustains an injury while trying to help victims following a crash.

All of the characters go through something life-changing and tell a unique story from their perspective.

The Importance of Raw Reality in M*A*S*H

The finale is unlike most shows at the time. Everything isn’t wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. The stories of the men and women of the 4077th unit are very real issues. The topic of the devastating effects war can have on many who serve sheds an honest light on what many veterans who watched the show experienced.

One of the most touching moments is when BJ uses rocks to spell out GOODBYE. As Hawkeye is flown away in a chopper he sees the word displayed by BJ. Deep emotion is felt by Hawkeye, BJ, and viewers alike, as heartstrings are tugged on.

Over 121 million viewers tuned in for the two and half-hour episode. M*A*S*H was so popular an exhibit for the show was even opened at the Smithsonian. The finale made $450,000 just from commercial breaks, which was more than the Super Bowl made.

Although the television program came to an end, many still watch reruns while both laughing and learning from the show. The characters in the unit are still beloved after 35 years.

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