I always hesitate to criticize a show that's as great as this show is, because a) what the hell do I know about how to construct a story of this scale?, and b) maybe I just haven't seen it enough and thought about it enough yet. Also, I wouldn't have been disappointed if not for the fact that this was such a stellar and tightly constructed story thus far.
But despite some great moments in the finale, overall it felt kinda rushed and I don't think they tied everything up as skillfully as they had before.
Ultimately I just think they had too much to clean up in a single half-hour show. I wish they'd given themselves a full hour. And I wish they'd planned out more elements of the finale in advance. (Hader has implied that they had the idea for the "Mask Collector" movie way back in season 2, but it doesn't seem like they figured out a clean way to get to that planned endpoint.)
My biggest complaint is the Jim Moss/Gene/Barry resolution. They'd set up Jim Moss as some kind of supercop, as masterful at his job as everybody else was ultimately incompetent (except Janice). But then he gets so thrown by the $250,000 that he shifts ALL of the blame to Gene? And he leaves Barry to wake up and escape the garage on his own with no further questions? If they'd taken the time, I guess a logical argument would have been that Jim couldn't question Barry legally anyway after he basically kidnapped him, so he'd have to let Barry go regardless -- but the way they showed it just looked like Jim suddenly dropped the ball. Or I guess this could just be another example of a character in this show seeming competent until their veneer is cracked and everything collapses.
And then Barry gets completely exonerated and buried in Arlington, despite military records of his dishonorable discharge and his old friend in the FBI knowing basically everything? Maybe he wouldn't want to admit that he figured it out and let Barry off, but he'd then allow Gene to go away for life just to cover his own ass? Maybe, and maybe clarifying this point would have been too much of a distraction in the story.
More implausible, for me, is the idea that Sally's testimony couldn't have implicated Barry and earned Gene at least a mistrial. She's obviously living publicly as Sally Reed by then, and she wanted Barry to turn himself in anyway. She didn't have much to be afraid of (she did kill that guy, but that was entirely in self defense, and everyone would have been reasonable to conclude that Barry killed him anyway). She would have let Gene get locked up for life over this?
I have seen one fan theory that *probably* isn't something the writers intended, but it does give the finale a different (and more plausible) spin: maybe the "real" end of the episode was just the moment that Barry got shot in the head, and everything after that moment was images in Barry's mind, the epilogue that Barry himself wanted to have. That epilogue kinda did wipe away all of Barry's sins in just the way that Barry asked for in that amazing prayer earlier in the episode.
And whether or not God or death-visions might have been involved, it was interesting that Barry was ultimately redeemed through the power of Hollywood storytelling, just as he'd dreamed of since the pilot episode. And it was all just an empty facade, as he should have also known since the pilot. That idea: that you can remake yourself by remaking your outward appearances, but it doesn't last for long, was the core of this show and I think they closed it out beautifully.
Okay maybe I'm coming around on this episode, lol.
Weirdly, I think the (obviously intentional!) hacky and jingoistic movie scenes at the end kinda yanked me away from the much better show that I'd rather be watching, and it might have put me in a mood to be cranky about the whole episode.
Some elements were undeniably great. Hank's character was always such a cartoon figure, engulfed in such deep, rich stories, that I don't think it could have possibly been resolved fully. But they gave us more than we could have hoped for and more. Anthony Carrigan gave the performance of a lifetime in his closing minutes, outdone only by one of the best actors alive today, Stephen Root, who also totally outdid himself. The one story (other than Hank), that I thought they could never possibly tie up in a satisfying way was Fuches, but they did it with some of the best dialogue in the series and one of the best in a long line of great performances from Root.
Shit I'm gonna go watch this again now, disappointed or not.