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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

HBO

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.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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.

HBO
Literally.

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

Disney

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.

Disney
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.

Disney
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.

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2
Twin Peaks Was Canceled Before David Lynch Had The Chance To Ruin It

CBS

By now, everyone knows that Twin Peaks is being revived for a nine-episode miniseries in 2016. If you don't? Hi. This is Earth. Welcome.

A sizable portion of the original run of Twin Peaks was based around the murder of Laura Palmer. Lynch wanted to hold onto that card for as long as possible. When ratings declined, ABC pressed for the identity of Palmer's killer to be revealed. The killer's identity was revealed in the second season, after the network pressured Lynch to at least pretend the show was going somewhere. It was a letdown, and the show ended soon after. Not an ideal way to go.

CBS
The face of millions of fans as they watched the subpar final episodes, trying to convince themselves it was still good.

All of that, plus the prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and the upcoming Showtime series, will hopefully make for a more fitting ending, considering David Lynch's original idea for the series had it continued the first time around. Lynch had never wanted the mystery of Laura Palmer to be solved. Eventually, he believed, audiences would be so enamored with the pies and quirkiness and magic that the show's central question would slip away into irrelevance. That kind of thinking is just as untrue today as it was then, and as it will always be.

ABC
Right, Lost?

Makes you appreciate the ending we got the first time. What better way to cap off a show that was ripped from your grasp than by directing an above-average finale that left more questions than it answered? A long, meandering, cocktease of wacky David Lynch-ism, or a big final explosion of Lynchian what-the-fuckness? You take the latter and brace yourself -- shit's about to get weird.

1
My Name Is Earl Never Needed To Finish The List

NBC

The eponymous Earl from My Name Is Earl was a dimwit on an epic quest to collect good karma. He had a list of every person that he'd wronged. He'd find them and fumble his way into doing something nice for them to atone, hoping to wipe clean his spiritual slate.

As My Name Is Earl went on, Earl became a better person, and doing nice things for the people around him became easier. He was less concerned with the -1/+1 karma equation, and more concerned with trying not to ruin anyone else's life. Finishing the list doesn't matter in the long term, because it eventually becomes unnecessary. By the end of it, the show wasn't about a list as much as it was about Earl's journey towards positive morality. The final episode ends with a "To Be Continued ..." because the showrunners thought they were a lock for another season. But it doesn't matter. The show's dangling central question, it turns out, didn't need to be answered. Can Earl, in a moment of self-reflection of his accomplishments, look at his path of goodwill and feel redeemed? No, and that's fine.

NBC
Not that the character could have come to that conclusion on his own, anyway.

Being kind rarely counts when you get all quantitative about it, and it's not something that you do with the singular hope that it will pay off later. The world has far too many variables to worry about leaning luck on the side of those who open doors for people. You just do it because it comes naturally to you. For it to become a habit, you have to work at it a bit, as Earl did. Waiting for it to loop back around is a waste of time. Be good because the act is the reward itself. That's the ending to a show Siddhartha would love.

Daniel has a blog.

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