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"Is my slayer too far gone to care?"
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June 12 2009

The best sci-fi cliffhangers. SFX Magazine picks the Angel episode 'Calvary' and the Buffy episode 'Surprise' for their 15 greatest sci-fi cliffhangers (only one episode per show if you were wondering). Spoilers if you haven't seen the series 2 finale of Ashes to Ashes.

Surprise and Calvary are two of the greatest choices they could have picked for cliffhangers (though perhaps Not Fade Away is the ultimate cliffhanger). SFX has managed to actually know something about the shows they write about. Good job.

Surprise really was the cliffhanger that changed the entire direction of the franchise. It was transformative.

[ edited by NileQT87 on 2009-06-12 21:40 ]
I probably would've picked the end of "The Leap Home, pt. I" for Quantum Leap. Though their choice was pretty good too.
Nice to see some 'Calvary' appreciation, especially since 'Awakening', although I like the episode more, is more of a twist than a cliffhanger. 'Surprise', obviously, is a vintage choice.
I'm biased because the whole evil Cordy thing rubbed me the wrong way. I'd vote for Not Fade Away too.
They got the line wrong. "Why do you think I let him out." Not that's why I let him out.
Glad they didn't choose awakening, because it would have been the same plot point that they chose for Buffy. I like the cliffhanger when Glory finds out Dawn is the key and everyone looks at eachother. Or Seeing Red. Oh so many to choose from.
Personally, I disliked season 4 because (and I could never pin down my own feelings exactly) either on some level I felt like they were just throwing plot against the wall, or they knew exactly what they were doing from start to finish and I just didn't like what they produced that season. Season 2 was a great story about Angel's self discovery. Season 3 was a brilliant rendition of a good man (Wesley) doing the wrong things for the right reasons and growing up. Season 4 was just kind of there... The band got back together, Cordy died, and another self destructed.

That said, that particular episode probably was the best cliffhanger in that you didn't see it coming at the time. Not Fade Away was also a cliffhanger but the reason I give Calvary higher marks is that I didn't see it coming, it was midseason, and on a very basic level I didn't like investing 5 seasons in a show for a Butch Cassidy copy-cat ending. I'm not saying it didn't work for a lot of people, it just didn't work for me personally.

And just so we're clear, I thought Angel the series was brilliant. It's just funny that this conversation brought up two things that just kind of irked me about it.
The site gets a big fat FAIL for making that a tedious slide show for every. Single. One.
For me the end of Becoming part II was the ultimate cliffhanger of the Whedon series. To get so pulled into the story and then be made to wait so long... painfull in the best possible way.

I'm with azzers on the lack of love for Angel S4 (though I do not agree about Not Fade Away, absolutely love that). Though it did got a little bit better from the moment Jasmine appeared and sounds quite good on paper (Faith returns, Angel goes evil, it could all be interesting) but it all lacked that special Whedon magic that actually makes you care (except the Wesley arc. That just rocked.)

I don't remember what episode "Calvary" was, the whole 4th season of Angel is just a blur of badness to me, so I certainly wouldn't rate it as Angels best cliffhanger. Especially since Angel had so many brilliant ones in season 2/3.
I could get on board with Calvary, though Angel S4 was my least of its five. I don't actually remember many cliffhangers from Angel vividly. Which means it's probably time to rewatch the series.

As for the entire list: where's Babylon 5? That show had some great cliffhangers, like Sheridan's jump in Z'ha'dum, like one of the commenters on the SFX site mentioned.
I think Season 4 works well on DVD, when you can cram the episodes together. When it was on first run-TV, it did drag on when spaced over 8 months.

I wouldn't have picked "Calvary" for Angel. I thought season 3 had a lot more "cliffhangery" episodes. Three in a row: "Loyalty" (Wesley almost has hope, before the prophecy kicks him in the face), "Sleep Tight" (zapped by lightning wasn't what hurt Angel the most), and "Forgiving" (Boreanaz having that slight mouth froth was a great acting touch). Or season 2 "Reunion" (lawyer massacre, and Angel impersonating Trump).
Definitely needed more B5 in that list. And Alien Nation, it unexpectedly ended on a cliffhanger after Fox canned it. It took them a few years to finally finish that story with a movie.

Hooray for the Quantum Leap cliffhanger though. Haven't seen those episodes in a long time.

I also endorse Ashes to Ashes season 2 as a great cliffhanger.
Glad to see Farscape getting it's props. Few shows did cliffhangers as well as her.

And Not Fade Away doesn't end on a cliffhanger.
As it happens, I've been re-watching Angel season 3 and 4 on DVD for the past week or so (I'm on the third to last ep currently) and I would have to agree that there are better cliffhangers than Calvary (btw, shouldn't the title be "Cavalry"?). Particularly, I'd point to Couplet, where we first see the translated prophesy in the first place.

I know a lot of people don't care much for season 4 (certainly no one else at my house did) but I've always enjoys its darkness, its dense seriality and its claustrophobia. Particularly, Soulless is brilliantly written and structured, with that virtuoso 10 minute scene at the front of the first act, and Angelus proceeding to taunt everyone in turn.

Can Not Fade Away be considered a cliffhanger? Since it wasn't intended to be resolved at the time?
Both Calvary and Surprise were exceptional episodes, but l was thinking Becoming Parts 1 & 2 and Orpheus were good cliffhangers as well.
Epic fail for not having the cliffhanger of season 2 Alias on the list. Which is not only one of the best scifi cliffhangers, but one of the greatest cliffhangers period. (maybe the best)
I also think that Forgiving was the best cliffhanger. Angel trying to smother Wesley was one scene that really shocked me.
Ashes to Ashes rather than Life on Mars???? Huh?

Yay to see Farscape but I'd have chosen all 4 years of final eps, especially Dog with Two Bones.

I'm OK with the Joss verse choices. Actually, really good coices all around and how much of a geek to I feel knowing everyone one of the eps and shows mentioned.
totally agree with the Angel and Alias ones... both had me on the floor for about 20 minutes then running around for the next hour with my head cut off trying to figure out wtf just happened <3
seermagicx the season 2 ender for Alias was mention but 4 blew it out of the water... "My name isn't Michael Vaughan"

Also don't get me wrong I didn't care for the whole evil Cordy thing either... which is why I was totally unprepared for it and was sent into shock on the floor
season 4 did not blow season 2 finally out of the water. not even close.
"my name isn't Michael Vaughn" didn't come close to (or have any effect on anything later) "you've been missing for 2 years" and vaughn getting married.
Heh, I don't remember either of those two episodes.
But then I don't think neither Buffy nor Angel qualifies as Scifi.
And it doesn't take much to get listed does it, Farscapes “Bad Timing”? Come on that was a silly ending (only overshadowed by the way the resolved that *g*)
I agree with them though, that "Best of both worlds" *is* a very good one.
And where was Babylon 5s "Chrysalis"? Garibaldi learns of a plot to kill the president and is shot in back by his lieutenant. The Centauri Ambassador accepts the help of an old old ancient power who wipes out a Narn base on his behalf. The galaxy is balancing on the edge of war, and the president is killed - and your main leading lady is spinning herself into a cocoon! *g* Ah, those were the days. Not nearly enough spaceships on TV anymore :-/
And it doesn't take much to get listed does it, Farscapes “Bad Timing”? Come on that was a silly ending (only overshadowed by the way the resolved that *g*)

Please, explain your faulty logic.
Joining the chorus of "what, no B5"??? I'd put Z'Ha'Dum in my top three or four.

I've never seen Ashes to Ashes, but loved the #2 spot for BSG's Kobols Last Gleaming pt2. Although I would have also made room for Lay Down Your Burdens, pt2.

I don't think Calvary was the best choice for Angel, and not just because I dislike everything about the "evil Cordy" arc, and don't much like season4 in general. Except for Wesley's arc, which was brilliant.
I would have chosen Loyalty or Sleep Tight or Reunion (although the end of Reunion wasn't, as someone said above, Angel locking the Wolfram and Hart party in the wine cellar, it was the more elegant "You're all fired". (Although the wine cellar scene is right up there with my favorite ever Angel moments).

I would have picked a different Buffy ep, either Becoming pt2 (what could be more cliff-hangery than the "where do we go from here?" of Buffy leaving Sunnydale after losing literally everything that gave her life meaning?
Or The Gift. Hello, dead now - where do you go from that one?
Becoming and The Gift don't really end on cliffhangers.
Becoming and The Gift don't really end on cliffhangers.

Gouki | June 13, 15:54 CET

Well I have to disagree. I think the most basic definition of "cliffhanger" would be something along the lines of "where can this possibly go from here?" In which case both of my examples would qualify.
Well I have to disagree. I think the most basic definition of "cliffhanger" would be something along the lines of "where can this possibly go from here?" In which case both of my examples would qualify.

For me, a cliffhanger is clearly mid-scene. That means that the ongoing plot of a scene is interrupted by the end of the show, hence leaving is with the need to find out how this particular scene might conclude. "Becoming" and "The Gift" have concluded scenes at the end. Sure, the overall storyline leaves you with wanting to know how it goes on, but that's true for every end of every episode of every show you really like (slightly exaggerated, I know, but you get my point). The main difference is kind of like: "Becoming" and "The Gift" leave you wanting to know how the next day might look like, while a true cliffhanger provokes that response for the very next second.
I've never seen Not Fade Away as a cliffhanger. It was an ending. Even with the comic continuation, for which I hold much love (well. The Lynch parts anyway. The current one, not so much, anxiously awaiting #23), the ending of NFA still feels like a period, not a comma (or rather, I guess, those two dashes some people make to signify a cut-off sent--).

The point of it was never "OMG, what happens next??!!!11!", it was that they keep fighting the good fight, no matter what. Which is what the entire series was about. Which is one of the reasons why it is possibly the best series finale ever.

Actually, no, it is. Screw that possibly crap.

So, yeah, choosing Calvary is fine by me. Though I might have nominated Sleep Tight myself, for sheer "No, nononono, you can't leave it here, whatareyoudoing, nonono!"

Well. I'd imagine, at least. I was a bit of a Johnny-come-lately, and watched the whole thing on DVD. But still.

[ edited by Winther on 2009-06-13 17:37 ]
First I gotta say the website will not load for me. Tried yesterday and again today but nuttin.
To the topic at hand
I love Angel Season 4. It's epic. And I think evil Cordy was the best use of her in 7 years of both shows. I didn't watch the first year of Angel when it aired, cause I was so happy they got rid of my 2 least favorite things about Buffy (Cordy and Angel) why would I wanna watch a show about just those 2.
Maybe because Season 4 was my first one watching new, I feel like I do but I don't think so.
As for Becoming and the Gift and wether or not they are cliffhangers. I say Becoming is the iffier of the 2 because the gang talking about Buffy as she's leaving does suggest the story isn't over. But the Gift is in no way shape or form a cliffhanger. It's an ending. You could give someone the first 5 seasons of Buffy to watch on dvd and tell them that was all there was and they would believe it because the Gift is a satisfying emotional ending. Just because you want to know what's going to happen to next doesn't make it a cliffhanger, it makes it a good ending. If you aren't curious about what comes next then they haven't done their job, or it ends with everyone dying or something to tell you there are no more possibilities for the characters or their world.
Now the Alias season 2 finale is a cliffhanger.
Lost season 3 is a cliffhanger (well ok every Lost finale is)
Battlestars season finales (and midseason finales) were all cliffhangers to varying degrees.
Not Fade Away is technically a cliffhanger but to look at it that way is to miss the point.
As for the best clifhanger, I woulda imagined Seeing Red but as my local network didn't play it I had to start Villains and find out everything had changed in the previous episode. Still bitter about it. I mean finding out Tara died in a previously that is so fraking cruel.
Babylon season 3 finale would be one of my all favourite cliffhangers and The 4400 season 2 finale as well. I just couldn't wait to see what happened next. Oh and Becoming part 2 coz that was amazing television.
I'm still waiting on what happens to HAL with the 2001/2010 Space Odyssey. "Dave, are you there?"
Shey: although the end of Reunion wasn't, as someone said above, Angel locking the Wolfram and Hart party in the wine cellar, it was the more elegant "You're all fired".

I was the only other person who mentioned Reunion, and I had it right to begin with. What do you think "Angel impersonating Trump" meant?

I get the feeling that some of the people, who didn't like evil Cordy, spent half a season thinking the writers screwed up her character (which happens far too often on other shows), instead of realizing that her character being off was a clue that something was going on. And preferred to cling to the "bad writer" idea instead of enjoying the twist.
Well, I know for me it wasn't the writing, but the fact that I felt that CC didn't pull it off (playing evil) all that well. Which made it slightly painfull to watch every time. I felt the season definately took a turn for the better when Jasmine showed up.
I'm with GVH. Charisma's acting as evil Cordy was on occasion actually groan-inducing. Which is the only time I've ever thought that about any actor on any Joss show.

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