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November 18 2006

TV's Best Cliffhangers. Buffy makes the list!

I suppose S5's ending would have been a real cliffhanger for those of you who lived through it in real time. For me, watching the entire thing in retrospective, S2 was the best cliffhanger ending to any Buffy season. Of course ATS 3 ending was arguably far more cliffhangerish, but it's not Buffy, and ATS never gets the props it deserves...
AtS5 is the biggest cliffhanger - still waiting for that to resolve.
As we are for the fate of the Scoobies post Chosen... :-)
The Gift is my favorite season finale. It was so much fun speculating who Buffy would be brought back the summer between 5 and 6.
I think for Buffy,the true cliffhangers were the season 2 finale,the season 4,finale and the season 6 finale.They all ended with lingering questions and unresolved issues.Buffy running away from home,The awakening of The First Slayer and what that means to Buffy discovering her heritage setting up elements for the next season,and Spike getting a soul.Restless in particular always feels like a season premiere to me more then a season finale.Also in each of these cases,Joss and company knew there was going to be another season ahead of time.

Prophecy Girl,Graduation Day,The Gift,and Chosen had more complete closure feels to them IMO.Any one of these four could of been satisfying series finales and in Chosen's case,was.At the same time,they don't completely close the door.I guess I sort of see each of these episodes as the end points of different phases of Buffy and her friend's lives with the following seasons after each as next chapters.Also in each of these cases,the shows fate was more up in the air whether uncertainty over renewal,a change in setting with major characters departing or plans for those episodes to end the series.
This was the arc that hooked me on the series. I had only watched casually up until then. It was smart and fun, and very subversive, but I didn't watch often enough to get into the drama.

Then I heard the radio ad about Buffy dying.
Gill, if there had been any resolution to NFA, yes, ATS 5 would have made the list, although I don't think it would have topped ATS3.

Imagine, if you will, that Battlestar Galactica got cancelled after the end of Season 2. Now, that would have been an egregious breach of the viewers' trust, on the scale of NFA, but the similarities are there: You have the world turned upside down, a setup for something completely different, as well as the immediate peril which needs to be resolved.

The two questions that make a good cliffhanger, in my mind, are 1) "Where do we go from here?" and 2) "How can they possibly survive?" BSG 2 and ATS 5 prompt both of them very well, but there is no post-NFA resolution as of this writing.

ATS3 poses both very well. ATS4 poses the first question very well. I'll generally agree with Buffyfanatic about the seasons that had resolution, but I disagree about BtVS 4/Restless. I just don't "get" it. Well, also, Spike getting his soul back was just a bit too peripheral from the rest of the action at the end of BtVS 6 for me to call it a really good cliffhanger, even thout it did a reasonably good job of prompting the first question.
Now, that would have been an egregious breach of the viewers' trust, on the scale of NFA, but the similarities are there: You have the world turned upside down, a setup for something completely different, as well as the immediate peril which needs to be resolved.

I disagree - NFA gave us resolution on a larger scale - our heroes will keep on fighting until they can't anymore, whether that's ten minutes from now or ten years. BSG's season finale last year didn't have that kind of thematic resolution, so the dangling plot threads were dangling plot threads not a deliberately open-ended resolution.

For what it's worth, I do think of The Gift as a cliffhanger not because it wouldn't have been a fantastic finale (although I'm glad it wasn't!) but because we knew it was going to continue and so were left speculating as to how. And I'd say the same about NFA if Angel had been meant to continue because what was intended as thematic resolution there wouldn't have been.
No X-Files on that list? Instant fail. Cliffhanger after cliffhanger, that show.

That said, yes, The Gift was a fantastic cliffhanger. But because it doesn't have Full of Grace playing in the background (for everyone's amazing acting, and Joss' amazing directing and writing, that sequence would not have worked anywhere near as well without the song), it loses to Becoming Part 2.
I going with Becoming Part 2 as the best Buffy cliffhanger. Up until that point the Buffy/ Angel relationship was a major selling point of the show, so to kill Angel was so unexpected. And David was so hot! He was the one of the main reasons I started watching the show. I liked the vampire thing, I liked the writing, but in the first show when they introduced Angel ...well that made the show a must see from that point on. I was so bummed to see him go, of course this was before I learned of Joss's skill for bringing back the dead ;)

Season 5 was not really a cliffhanger for me. It is a wonderful finale, and still makes me cry (like Becoming Part 2). It could have been the last Buffy, but I already knew there were talks with UPn about bringing Buffy back, and by season 5 I knew Joss would bring her back.

Season 6 - the only real cliff hangery thing for me was Spike getting his soul, I really love Spike but it was such a minor part of the finale.

Angel season 3 is my choice for Angel's season cliffhanger - Angel locked in a box and decending into the water, as Cordy ascends really left me hanging - I remember thinking "oh no - How can I wait until the next season to find out what happens?!"
Yep, 'Becoming 2' for me too (as far as Buffy goes anyway. 'Who shot JR ?' is still up there in general). I'm in the 'The Gift' wasn't a cliff-hanger camp not because I knew Buffy was continuing (though I hoped) but because it felt like a worthy end. As an aside, I watched it on the BBC and the very next day I was walking through town and saw a poster for Sky with 'Buffy Season 6: Buffy's return !' (or similar) hammering the message home. So even if there was any doubt in my mind it only lasted one night ;).

And for Angel, yep again Passion, it has to be season 3. NFA never felt like a cliff-hanger since I knew by then that that was it for the show and because of the edgier nature of Ats the unresolved ending fit perfectly. Season 4 certainly roused the curiosity, there just wasn't enough immediate peril with the Wolfram and Hart deal so that comes second.

(the article talks about 'Green Wing', BTW, which I haven't seen much of but the knowingly literal cliff-hanger ending goes back to at least the original 'The Italian Job' with the bus left dangling half off a cliff and Michael Caine's 'Hang on lads, i've got an idea' VO. Could well be that 'Green Wing' were nodding thataway since 'The Italian Job' is seen as pretty much hallowed filmic ground over here)
That was a great way of seeing the question of Buffy's death--do heroes have to die? Though probably obvious, I hadn't looked at it that way before.
i strongly disagree with the season they picked
i'd chose the end of season 2. i mean, damn, the hero up and left town!!

and i wasn't sure if there would be a season 3. yet the story still felt resolved, if not complete.

best. season ending. ever.
My choice would also be Becoming 2. Not only was this episode a cliff hanger, it remains the best damn hour of television ever made.
I love the Gift too but there is nothing like Becoming. Just nothing.
The Friends cliffhanger wasn't...cliffhangery. They did a close up of Rachel after Monica said she can't be pregnant. Meh!
"Chosen" was the best cliffhanger..errr...literally speaking.

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