Shows that get cancelled and end with a cliffhanger are eternally screaming echoes. No matter how great, the fact that it was unresolved drowns out any conversation that you could have about it. "Man, remember the awesome part where--" "IT WAS CANCELLED AND YOU'LL NEVER KNOW WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN. THEY SAY THAT HUMAN TEARDROPS ARE SWEET TO DRINK, AND MY THIRST IS ENDLESS."
But some shows lend themselves to cancellation pretty well. So, looking at their themes, I propose cockamamie silver linings to the dark clouds that have gathered over these shows' graves. These are series with cliffhangers that actually sort of work, and while they won't heal all wounds, they'll hopefully at least wave something sparkly in front of you to keep you momentarily distracted from the grief.
#4. Deadwood Doesn't Need A Happy Ending
Deadwood had an inevitable conclusion, as it was mostly based on events that had already been written into history books. Unless there was a swerve planned in which Timothy Olyphant would be revealed to have been a cyborg the entire time, it would've ended with the town dealing with the further ramifications of being annexed into the Dakota Territory, and the fire (and, possibly, the later flood) that ended up destroying a lot of it. But before showrunner David Milch could burn the TV version of the town to the ground, HBO did it for him with a cancellation after season three.
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Timothy Olyphant being a cyborg is a plot twist that is already being planned for real life.
Deadwood's improper sendoff left most of the characters in a state of impotent distress. Mining magnate, sociopath, and Foghorn Leghorn impersonator George Hearst had captured the largest gold claim in town. Al Swearengen, town mascot and warrior for fair-priced liquor and whores, is left scrubbing a blood stain off of his office floor. The bad guy wins, and the good guys have only withstood his wake. The victory they claim is that their throats remain uncut.
While Deadwood takes a few liberties with real-life events, I sincerely doubt that Milch would have opted to conclude his magnum opus with all the protagonists eternally locked in a freeze frame high-five. It was a show about a lawless town's ascent into law and order. Yet, regardless of how many constables and businessmen you shake hands with, there was always a chance that someone was going to fuck you over. And being fucked over in Deadwood usually meant that you'd wind up as pig food.
A group of unhappy townsfolk outlasting the assault of an cold-blooded Old West business tycoon exemplifies that theme. Time will go on and their ups and downs will continue, but the closure of season three of Deadwood is as clean an ending as it would have gotten. The town had been irrevocably changed, but the people inside of it -- those wonderful cocksuckers -- were still fuckin' breathing.
#3. The Spectacular Spider-Man Was All About Problems With Balance
When it comes to having awesome shows cancelled before their time, Greg Weisman is the David Milch of animation. Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man, and Young Justice were all instant classics, but only one of them was on for more than two seasons. (Gargoyles, coming in at a mighty three).
The Spectacular Spider-Man was axed after only two seasons, and is the purest example of "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long" that I can think of. If only it had more time, it could have been on par with Batman: The Animated Series. It chronicled Peter Parker's high school struggle as he balanced his life between trying to make out with girls and fighting a vaguely Eastern European man named after a cephalopod with a doctorate.
It's a PhD in philosophy, hence the life the crime.
Would Peter Parker ever truly find balance? That, and why can't we see the mushroom shape of his dick through his spandex, are the central questions Spider-Man has been trying to answer for half a century.
In the final episode, Peter has beaten the Green Goblin, but lost his love to the Goblin's son. That encapsulates everything that made The Spectacular Spider-Man more than just a kid's show about web-swinging and puns. Spectacular honored the 50-plus year history of Spider-Man while laying the emotional depth on thick enough to satisfy fans of all ages. That took skill, and not only on Weisman's part. The cliffhanger mirrors the skills of the crew behind it, and the themes that saturated the show's short run. Weisman repeatedly said that The Spectacular Spider-Man was all about the "education of Peter Parker," and outside of a grand finale, there is no better way to end the show than with Peter learning a lesson about the sacrifices you make when you want to be a hero.
A nerdy high school teen has spider powers and has to choose between a beautiful redhead and a beautiful blonde. Why do we think he's so relatable again?
It's mostly sacrificing making out, but when you're 16, that's a big goddamn deal.