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May 14 2007

Top 20 All-Time Best TV Cliffhangers. Buffy again makes a best cliffhangers list, this time AOL Television's. The show comes in at #4 for Buffy's death in "The Gift."

If there were a list of the Best Cliffhangers That Weren't Really Cliffhangers, Joss would sweep.

[ edited by Pointy on 2007-05-14 20:35 ]
In my opinion the Gift is neither a cliffhanger nor the best. I still don't like the episode too much.

He does lists my absolute favourite cliffhanger though. At number 15: the cliff hanger at the end of the West Wing S1.
Seeing as how pretty much everybody knew there was a Season 6 coming up, I'd say Angel's "Not Fade Away" is much more of a cliffhanger.

Damn it.
Seeing as how pretty much everybody knew there was a Season 6 coming up, I'd say Angel's "Not Fade Away" is much more of a cliffhanger.

I'd agree, even though Joss doesn't like it referred to as a cliffhanger...it was!!

cliff·hang·er (klĭf'hāng'ər) Pronunciation Key
n. A suspenseful situation occurring at the end of a chapter, scene, or episode.


Our heroes may or may not die...I'd call that suspenseful.
The end of Becoming Part 1, now there was a cliffhanger...
Buffy ended on teasers (leaving Sunnydale, the Future is Our's, "you think you know...", Buffy's grave, and Spike's soul. Even "what are we going to do now?" was a teaser for the comic book. It was Angel that operated on season-ending cliffhangers. Willow at the end of season two, Cordy up/Angel down in season three, Wolfram and Hart takeover, and "Not Fade Away." Those were cliffhangers. Buffy sort of wrapped things up while hinting toward the future.
Some of my favourite non Jossverse cliffhangers would be the season 2 finale of The 4400 - where just about everything happened in the last minutes leaving me gagging for the third season. And also the Babylon 5 season 3 finale. It left a huge impact on me when I first saw it 14 years ago. Last month I watched it for the first since then and it still holds up in terms of emotional impact and "how the hell is he going to get out of this one?" plot drama.

The Angel season 3 finale was pretty darn cliff hangery as well. Angel sunk to the bottom of the sea? Yikes.
One of my favourite non Jossverse cliffhangers would be the season 2 finale of The 4400 - where just about everything happened in the last minutes leaving me gagging for the third season.

Yeah that was a blinder, and they did not too bad with season 3 either :)
For some of us, Buffy Season 2's ending was a cliffhanger. When Buffy died, you knew the show was coming back and you can't come back without Buffy. But you could have come back without Angel and I, for one, would have missed him terribly!

And, I'd agree, that Not Fade Away was a huge cliffhanger. When you don't know if your characters live or die - I'm going with cliffhanger. But still, a great ending, leaving lots of possibilities (that I'll never see). I'm not a comic book person. I've tried. I could go for some canon novels, however.
It was a great cliffhanger but it also could have been the best ending to any tv show ever...if it actually ended there. My grandmother couldn't spread the schmaltz on a piece of toast any thicker than Joss did with The Gift's ending--and we love our schmaltz.

It was 1 am when I decided to "watch just one more" to end season 5. So of course, when it ended my eyes popped out of my head and onto the floor. I had to stay up for another 90+ minutes to watch the start to season 6, how could I not? Plus it took a while to find my eye balls...
Wrong! Bad list, bad!

Picard/Locutus of Borg is the best cliffhanger ever. There is no way the Alias cliffhanger and "who shot J.R.?" can touch it.

Most of the cliffhangers on the list were nice. But none of them made me want to skip from May to September (sacrificing my summer!) just to get to the conclusion of a tv show. The summer after the end of ST:TNG season 3 was grueling that way. No show had done that too me before nor has any since.
Angel season 3 finale was a better cliffhanger. Cordy up, Angel down. So poetic.
Yes, Storyteller, the juxtaposition was just brilliant, wasn't it? The camera work is just astounding...I was watching season 3 and 4 on VCDs that I bought on eBay (the DVDs weren't out yet, and my wife and I wanted to get caught up in time for Season 5--and, no worries, Mr. Whedon, I had both on pre-order and have bought multiple copies of, well, all of your DVD sets, including 2 Chosens, so please don't send the cops after me...hell, I'm practically putting your kids through college!), and that ending to Season 3 was mind boggling. It didn't help that Season 4 was essentially one prolonged cliffhanger (I adore that season, by the way.)

Boy, I miss these shows.
True. Try to name an Angel season four episode that didn't end on a cliffhanger. Um, none.
I love The Gift. Despite knowing Buffy would return in 6, we didn't know how it would be accomplished.

Even though I've seen it countless times, I still cry during the last 5 minutes of The Gift whenever I rewatch it.
Spike falling into a sobbing heap on the ground always makes me burst into tears.
I loved that west wing cliff hanger, first episode of season 2 had the best u-turn on tv! The end of angel made me stand up and scream at the tv. i loved the alias one too.
I dunno, strict definitions aside, isn't a cliff-hanger ending one you assume will be resolved ? As in the old Saturday serials where the hero/heroine would literally be hanging off a cliff and you'd have to wait until the next week to see how they survived (usually by the creators cheating but that's another discussion ;) ?

In that case 'Not Fade Away' is definitely not a cliff-hanger ending. We understood it was the end since, as far as we knew, we'd never find out what happened in the alley (and, originally, were never intended to - which is why Joss has always said it wasn't a cliff-hanger).

Personally, I would have the end of 'Farscape' season 4 on there and pretty high up too. Technically, by that stage we assumed we wouldn't find out because Sci-fi - despite promising a 5th season before the finale was written - refused to renew the show at the last minute but it was intended to have a resolution (and eventually, thankfully, did). I'd swap that for 'Alias' and then have 'Cylons shoot Adama' at 4 ('The Gift' didn't feel like a cliff-hanger cos it didn't feel unresolved to me - though i'dve been very sorry to see it happen I could imagine Buffy ending there and originally I actually didn't know the show was coming back) and 'Baltar surrenders on New Caprica' at 5 (just because it was so bold).

('Who shot JR ?' despite what we might think now was a great cliff-hanger at the time - he was truly a villain people loved to hate - and a huge cultural phenomenon appearing on T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, even on news programmes)
I would also hesitate to call 'The Gift' a cliffhanger, because I interpret a cliffie to be an episode that ends in the middle of its story arc.

The final scenes of 'The Gift' felt like a resolution to the whole Dawn/Key/Glory arc (albeit one with tantalising possibilities for a different, future story arc).

We, as viewers, had the knowledge that another season was forthcoming, and so we looked beyond that resolution and speculated on what was to come, specifically on the possibilites for Buffy's resurrection. But the episode feels pretty conclusive and as alexreager points out the series could potentially have ended there. It was the prospect of more eps to come that turned a full stop (or period, as you American would say :D) into an ellipsis.

'Becoming part 2' is more of a season finale cliffhanger because there's so much unresolved stuff. Although my favorite Buffy cliffies were the mid-two-parter ones, like 'What's My Line Part 1'and 'Becoming Part1.'

PS - first visit to Whedonesque in about 2 million years. New job = insane busy! But thrilled as ever to be following one of Saje's wise contributions!

[ edited by Mythtaken on 2007-05-15 12:27 ]
oh yeah - also

List contains some MAJOR spoilers for Australians! And does it seem to anyone else that it's all very recent stuff? Meh.

As for The West Wing - I nomiate not only Season 1's 'What Kind of Day Has It Been' but Season 4's extraordinary 'Twenty Five.' It was almost the first ever episode of the show I saw, and despite barely knowing the characters at all, I was massively sucked in! MIND YOU, the ep's subsequent resolution in S5 belongs on the 'Most Unsatisfying Conclusions Ever' list. Bah!

The X-Files - 'Anasazi.' Rocked my tiny 16 year year old world at the time. Can I get a hell yeah?!
Amazing, the whole content is Flash! Damn incompetent "web" designers. Should be fired the lot of them.
But thrilled as ever to be following one of Saje's wise contributions!

Aww shucks ;). And ta.

The X-Files - 'Anasazi.' Rocked my tiny 16 year year old world at the time. Can I get a hell yeah?!

Hell yeah ! ;) The X-Files were at or near the top of their game by the end of season 2 and 'Anasazi' was an absolute corker. Good character stuff while still really moving the arc on (or throwing it wide open at least). I tend to forget the show because of the muddled shadow of itself it became in later seasons (IMO) but when X-Files was good it was really, really good.
The Gift is not a cliffhanger. No season finale of Buffy ever was. Think back to the source of the term. As Saje reminds us, "cliffhanger" comes from the old serials in which somebody we care about, usually the hero, is in great peril--hanging from a cliff, for example--and we must wait until the next installment to find out what happens. By definition, a cliffhanger lacks resolution, but not every unresolved ending is a cliffhanger. For it to be a true cliffhanger, an episode of a serial must clearly intend to resolve the suspense it creates in putting a sympathetic character in peril. There is no suspense at the end of The Gift. Buffy is dead. End of story, even if we know the story really doesn't end there.
Add another to the vote for "Best of Both Worlds--Part 1" for best cliffhanger, ever. It was just played beautifully. It would have been suspenseful to just leave it with Locutus on the viewscreen, but the writers really outdid themselves with one word. Riker's command to fire did it for me.
PErsonally I'll never forget the series finale of Peyton Place which ended right in the middle of Mike Rossi's murder trial. And I've never seen the reunion movies.
While Joss usually designed the BtVS season finales to have resolution (in case they became series finales) - if one considers the "HOW are the writers going to get out of this one? How am I going to survive waiting all summer to find out how they get out of this one?" factor - I personally would count The Gift as a cliffhanger :)

Reddygirl, UnpluggedCrazy - I can relate. We just watched it again this past weekend; always gets me a little choked up (at the least). And my poor wife... Along with Spike, I'd also like to give props to Giles' anguish as especially moving. (Not to take away from anyone else, of course.) Anthony Stewert Head does some remarkable, emotive face-acting - the "There, now. That's fixed," sort of moment he takes while making tea as the just-returned Buffy chats with her friends in the next room in Dead Man's Party, and the sort of sarcastic anger he shows during "The battle's done/And we kind of won/So we sound our victory cheer," in Once More, With Feeling, are two more of my favorite examples of this facility.
[Grr. Arg. Double post.]

[ edited by LKW on 2007-05-16 02:31 ]
The X-Files - 'Anasazi.' Rocked my tiny 16 year year old world at the time. Can I get a hell yeah?!

You get two! That episode was magical at the time.

"Gethsemane" too. Actually it was similar to Gifted in a "he's not really going to stay dead but it's all very suspenseful and dramatic" way. I'm surprised X-Files is not on the list at all. I thought they did cliffhangers quite well.
So behind the curve here, but bless you Simon for mentioning Babylon5. I didn't think I'd survive the break between seasons three and four, and I'd never felt that way about a TV show before.

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