Rarely does a series finale end up with a bang, let alone with a literal one. Little House on the Prairie did that with The Last Farewell, the series’ last episode seeing the town of Walnut Grove being razed from the face of the Earth.
As New York Times noted in 1986 (two years after the episode was aired), it was an apocalyptic sight which brought the perfect finale for a long-running series. But it wasn’t just that: it was an organic ending which was meant to both put an end to the show (the destruction of Walnut Grove was a definitive one and so nobody could ever return to it), while also providing a memorable ending for a beloved series.
As Michael Landon said, The Last Farewell to Little House on the Prairie didn’t come just because the audiences began dropping. It was the right thing to do: the characters were now mature enough to go their own separate ways.
When the first episode was aired in 1985, Melissa Gilbert was just a young girl, so in the show it was normal for her character to come and seek help and advice from her father. But time passed, so young Laura became a woman – it felt unnatural for her to still depend on her father, even after she became married.
So the show had to end, no matter what – the story was complete and the people of Walnut Grove were ready to move on.
As said, The Last Farewell was made with a bang – a literal one, since the entire set was dynamited for this two-parter. The set was built on a leased terrain and the contractual agreement was to return the land to the owner in its initial condition. While Walnut Grove could have been kept for the fans to visit later on, it had to go.
So a plot needed to be found which would presume this miniature apocalypse: a railroad tycoon is discovered to be the rightful owner of the land on which the town was built, so the citizens prefer to destroy it rather than seeing it fall in the hands of an unscrupulous business-man.
It was the perfect ending for the show, according to the same Michael Landon, since it also stayed true to the times in which the story took place: it was the age when the frontier was broken, the age when America changed and was tamed.
The Last Farewell is the definite ending of Little House on the Prairie, even if Little House: Bless All the Dear Children was aired afterwards.