13 Famous TV Cliffhangers That Still Get Fans Talking
These finales really lit the pop culture world.
Rory and Lorelai Gilmore built up quite the following during their seven-season run, so much so that the fandom grieved when the series came to an end. Thankfully, in 2016, Netflix brought us Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, a revival we hoped would give us a glimpse into what the Gilmores were doing in present day, plus a little more closure on their lives. But the finale episode only left us with more questions when Rory admitted to Lorelai that she was pregnant. Who’s the father? Will she raise the baby on her own? We may never know.
Viewers may have been a tad disappointed in the series finale of Angel in 2004, which featured the do-gooding vampire and his squad bracing themselves to tackle a group of supernatural villains. Angel simply says, “Let’s go to work,” and the sound of swords clashing follows as the screen cuts to black. Some think this may have been the crew’s final challenge that didn’t end well, while more optimistic fans are certain that Angel and his cronies are continuing to beat the bad guys to this day. Hey, at least the writers kept it open for a revival.
Back in the 1980s, CBS sure did get a lot of mileage out of the “Who Shot J.R.?” cliffhanger. It was during the finale of Dallas’ third season when the oil baron was shot twice, and just about every character became a suspect. It took eight long months before television audiences found out that it was Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s mistress, who ultimately pulled the trigger. The series’ long hiatus gave fans plenty of time to ponder conspiracy theories, making this one of the most iconic cliffhangers in TV history.
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People are definitely still talking about Seinfeld’s series finale, though perhaps not the way the cast and creators would have liked. The last episode shows Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer being shipped off to prison after a media circus of a trial after they didn’t help a man while he was being car-jacked. It left fans wondering how the quartet fared behind bars, and many were also disappointed that the finale didn’t feature a more heartwarming send-off.
After spending six seasons with ultimate TV mob boss, fans couldn’t wait to see how the life of Tony Soprano would wrap up. But that’s just the thing—we never really found out. At the end of the series finale, we’re still left wondering if Tony lives or dies as he waits for his family at Holsten’s in New Jersey. The screen cuts to black with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” playing in the background. So should we “not stop believing” that Tony could make it out to live another day? Or did the cut to black mean his time was up? We still want to know.
This one is for the folks both young and less young who couldn’t get enough of the soapy high school drama when it was in its prime. The second season finale left fans wondering what was going to become of Marissa after she shot Trey, her attacker and Ryan’s brother. “It was dark and we’d never done anything like it before,” said The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. The final scene had such an impact that it was later parodied on Saturday Night Live.
Friends fans are a passionate bunch with differing views on favourite episodes and the series finale, but one thing almost all can agree on is the shock of the fourth season’s cliffhanger finale. Ross is in the middle of his wedding to Emily when he accidentally says Rachel’s name as he recites his vows. It was the moment that made viewers gasp and squeal at the same time, wondering how this slip of the tongue could possibly play out during the show’s fifth season.
It’s easy to argue that essentially every Lost finale is a wild cliffhanger, but we’re focusing on the last episode of the third season, which still has us scratching our heads. As if the series wasn’t confusing enough (and didn’t require a ton of attention to detail to make sense of what was going on), here we found out that some of what appeared to be flashbacks were actually flash-forwards. It was a game-changer for viewers who thought maybe, just maybe, they were finally catching on to the writers’ playbook.
Game of Thrones
As Jon Snow lay looking very much dead in the season five finale of Game of Thrones, viewers wondered how in the world the series would bring one of its pivotal heroes back to life. After all, Snow couldn’t really be dead for good… or could he? Actor Kit Harington went along with the charade, telling Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve been told I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season.” But as we know, it’s a tangled web they weave on GoT, and we had not yet seen the last of Snow, thankfully.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Can one really have a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer after Buffy herself has met her maker? That’s an idea the series tinkered with when, at the end of the fifth season finale, our heroine sacrificed herself to save others by throwing herself into a portal that closed when she died. Viewers didn’t know how the series would continue to play out without Buffy, making this one of the most heart-wrenching of the original episodes.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The season three finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation had fans freaking out as the Enterprise responded to a distress call only to find something shocking at the site. It left viewers repeating a few infamous lines over and over:
“I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us.”
What would become of the captain and his Enterprise crew? Fans had to wait until season four to find out and, boy, was that a wait.
For some reason, Alias often goes overlooked in terms of outstanding cliffhangers, but season two’s whopper is one for the record books. After Sydney and her roomie Francie go toe-to-toe once our heroine learns that her former friend is actually a double agent, all hell breaks loose. Sydney wins the fight, only to wake up in Hong Kong to a scar on her abdomen and the news that she has been missing for nearly two years.
Viewers were dying to know if Olivia Pope would ever get her happy ending—living a slower, small-town life making jam alongside her beloved Fitz. But Scandal series creator Shonda Rhimes wasn’t about to tie things up so simply. When the series ended in 2018, we never did find out if Olivia and Fitz live happily ever after, but we do know that she’s finally able to be her own person, free of the dirty dealings she was constantly cleaning up in D.C.
Originally published as 13 Famous TV Cliffhangers That Still Get Fans Talking on ReadersDigest.com.