The Ten Best Television Cliffhangers
10. The West Wing
“What Kind of Day Has It Been?”
The first season of the West Wing was a show full of spirit and good-hearted drama. Sure, it was somber at times and dealt withsome heavy themes, but it was also full of fast-paced energy and witty dialgue. Therefore, we were all surprised to see the season end in such a vilent and dramatic manner as a group of white supremecists opened fire on the president and his staff. We were left pondering all summer; who was hit? And who survived?
“The One With Ross’s Wedding”
The on-again, off-again love story between Ross and Rachel in the hit comedy Friends has become a legendary staple on network television. And just when audiences thought it way have died down and that the story arc may be over as Ross prepares to marry his new girlfriend Emily, they hit us with a bombshell: Ross says Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s during the wedding vows.
8. The Office
But enough about Ross and Rachel. They’re old news. Lets get on to the new wave of will-they wont-they TV couples, Jim and Pam. In the original British The Office, Tim and Dawn went striaght to the bitter end with their sexual tension. We assumed that the Jim-Pam relationship would be much the same, until Jim took matters into his own hands. He kissed Pam outside and expressed his true feelings, shocking viewers everywhere. But the real cliffhanger would come a few minutes later when he kissed her again…
“Day 1: 11:00 pm – 12:00am”
When 24 aired in 2001, it was stretching the barriers of TV, and so the ending of their first season was no different. In the last few mintes of the last hour, Jack Bauer finds that his wife has been murdered. At this point, fans of the show knew that the producers of the show, from taht moment on, would not be afraid to take bold chances. What would happen with Jack now? How is his wife’s death going to change the fabric of the show?
This shocking conclusion is a cliffhanger for these reasons,, yet it is also, strangely, a resolution to the season as a whole.
“Through the Looking Glass”
Lost has always used flashbacks as a way to tell its character’s stories, and in their third season finale, Lost used this staple storytelling device to give us the show’s best cliffhanger. DUring the two-hour seaon finale we follow the cahracters’ exploits to get off the island, while following Jack’s flashbacks intercut throughout the show. It isn’t until the very end, when Kate appears in Jack’s flashback, that we realize thatwe were never watching a flashback, but that it was in fact a flash forward. Jack and Kate had made it off the island! But how? When? What about everyone else? This revelation shocked Lost viewers and gave them a plethora of questions to ponder over the summer months.
5. The Simpsons
“Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1”
No one is better at homaging and spoofing great movie and televison moments better than The Simpsons. And so who better to do a spoof of the infamous “Who Shot JR” moment? This time, Mr. Burns was the gunshot victim, and everyone in town was a suspect. The producers also played up the mystery by giving clues throughout the summer and having cans write in their thoughts on who was the guilty culprit. This was the only time in the SImpsons twenty year run that theyended their season on a cliffhanger, and it was a good one. (even though it just turned out to be Maggie, but oh well)
4. Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Best of Both Worlds: Part 1”
Usually the best cliffhangers are the ones that hit us with something completely unexpected. Something like the main characters becoming one of the enemy. That is what happened at the end of TNG’s third season, where Picard is not only captured by the Borg, but is made to be one of them. And when Picard turns toward his former crew and says “I am Locutus of the Borg”, geeks everywhere were on the edge of their seats.
Alias was a show which seemed to end every episode with a cliffhanger. Therefore, when it came time for their season finales, they had to find ways to step up their game and bring those cliffhangers to the next level. The first season finale was okay; she was captured by who turned out to be her mother after years of believing she was dead. But the second season finale was when the producers of Alias really outdid themselves.
After all o fthe events of the final episode transpired, Sydney found herself exhausted after a fight with the agent who was doubling as her best friend, passing out onto the floor. When she awoke, however, she was in an entirely different city; Hong Kong. It was only until after she contacted the CIA and Vaughn that she, and we the audience, discover that she has been missing for two years.
2. The Sopranos
“Made in America”
Here we have a unique sort of cliffhanger; a cliff hanger in the final episode of a TV shows run (a purposeful cliffhanger, as opposed to a show which just got canceled. David Chase ended the Sopranos’ 6 season run with a scene where Tony and his family meet for dinner. Against the backdrop of an old Journey tune, a shady figure comes out of the bathroom, looking ready to make a hit. And just when we think something is about to happen, the screen cuts to black.
Fans were split on what they thought of this ending; any were angry while others thought it was a brilliant and original way to end the series. We don’t know what happens at the end, and we are never going to find out. It is a cliffhanger without a resolution, and a stroke of genius.
“A House Divided”
Its hard not to put this one at number 1. Back in the days of Dallas, a season finale was simply the last episode of the airing season. There was nothing really special about them. But suddenly Dallas comes along and has their main character shot in the closing moments of the season, making TV audiences everywhere wait a whole summer to learn who the culprit was. “Who shot JR?” became a cultural phenomenon in 1980 and it built the trend of television cliffhangers which TV audiences now enjoy almost every May.