6 Unresolved Cliffhangers That Ruined Great TV Shows
The cliffhanger is one of the most useful tricks in the book for TV writers: Not only does it keep viewers coming back week after week to find out whether our favorite heroes will finally meet their doom (spoilers: they won't), but it also discourages network executives from pulling the plug on a show before the story is resolved. That's why huge, dramatic cliffhangers are so popular in season finales -- if the execs cancel the show before we find out what happens next, they'll look like giant douchebags.
However, if your show isn't doing all that well in the ratings, that sure as hell won't stop said execs from giving it the ax. So let's take a moment to sympathize with the cult followings of these shows who will never know how their stories turned out ...
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles -- John Kills the Whole Franchise
The Sarah Connor Chronicles was a TV spinoff of the Terminator movies that took place after the events of T2 : A teenage John Connor and his mother, Sarah, having prevented the future annihilation of mankind at the hands of killer robots (but not really), are transported from the '90s to our present ... because look, they could either spend the show's budget on grunge shirts and Spice Girls posters, or they could use it on killbots and explosions.
Guess which one they went with.
Anyway, the show mostly dealt with several time travelers from the machine-dominated future bumping into each other: Terminators sent to terminate things, members of the future resistance sent to terminate Terminators ... hell, they even had Terminators sent to terminate Terminators. In short, it was a fun time for the whole family.
Basically, they undid the whole Terminator franchise in two minutes.
In the last episode, a time machine dumps young John Connor and Weaver the Friendly Terminator in the post-apocalyptic future where John is the legendary leader of the rebellion against the machines. However, because John left his spot in the present and never grew up to resemble Christian Bale, no one in this future has heard of him ... effectively wiping out the premise for the entire series. Even John's dad, Kyle Reese, is there and doesn't recognize him, and that guy was like the Connor family's #1 fan.
And without future John as his role model, Kyle ended up going with a decidedly more metrosexual look.
Then a confused John sorta stares at everyone for a really long time and the credits roll. What happens next? How will John go back to the present and fix the timeline? We'll never know, because the show was cancelled after only 31 episodes. One of the reasons given was that it was too expensive, so maybe they should have gone with the grunge shirts instead of the explosions after all.
So, to recap, as of now future John Connor doesn't exist and Skynet has no reason to send Arnold Schwarzenegger back to the first Terminator movie to kill John's mother, erasing the entire series from existence, along with several million dollars from James Cameron's bank account (we're guessing he eventually went back to trucking in this reality). But hey, at least this means T3 and Terminator Salvation never happened.
Twin Peaks -- Agent Cooper Gets Possessed, Then It Ends
Twin Peaks was ostensibly a show about FBI agent Dale Cooper's investigation of the murder of teenager Laura Palmer, but in practice it was about literally everything else, from backward-speaking dream dwarfs to aliens to that fine, fine coffee. In fact, the Laura Palmer mystery was wrapped up halfway through Season 2, although the party responsible, an incorporeal demon called Killer Bob, was still out there.
Lurking behind your furniture.
Everyone's favorite character becomes possessed by a demonic rapist.
In the Season 2 finale, Agent Cooper goes into a mysterious extra-dimensional place called the Black Lodge to rescue his love interest, but instead he bumps into an evil version of himself. Rather than settling for that and finding out what it's like to give yourself a BJ, Cooper confronts his doppelganger and only one of them comes out of the Lodge -- the evil one. In the last scene, Bad Cooper smashes his head on a bathroom mirror and we see that his reflection is that of Killer Bob, the demon who raped and killed Laura Palmer.
It's that or Hobo-Gandalf.
And that's how the show that had captivated America one year earlier ended -- not with a delicious cherry pie, but with blood running down a defeated Cooper's smiling face. In an attempt to save Twin Peaks from cancellation, the producers had brought back series creator David Lynch for this episode, and while he provided the David Lynchest 50 minutes imaginable, the ratings apparently still sucked. This means that Killer Bob has been joyriding in Agent Cooper's body for 20 years now -- even if Coop did escape the Black Lodge at some point, he'd have serious brain damage from all those intentional bumps on the head.
To add insult to injury, Lynch went on to make a Twin Peaks movie ... but it was a prequel, for the most part, so it didn't continue the cliffhanger. Of course, knowing Lynch, if he did try to provide a resolution, it'd be something like "Bad Cooper eats a squirrel and transforms into Michael Jordan, the end."
Spider-Man: The Animated Series -- Spidey Loses Mary Jane and ... That's It
For those who grew up in the '90s, the 1994 Spider-Man animated series was a wonderful introduction to the impressive clusterfuck of plotlines that is comic books. Unlike the earlier Spidey shows with their blatantly recycled episodes and shitty animation, this one actually had ambitious years-long storylines and character development.
... and shitty animation.
For example, at one point in the fifth season Spider-Man finds out that his wife Mary Jane Watson is actually a clone who dies melting into a puddle of genetic goo, while the real Mary Jane had fallen into a dimensional vortex two seasons earlier and was still missing. Spidey then goes off to desperately search for his missing MJ (usually when that happens, it's your roommate who smoked it).
After jumping across realities and teaming up with other Marvel heroes for several episodes, in the very last one Spider-Man is finally reunited with ... Stan Lee.
Yes, as a reward for saving every reality that ever existed, the mysterious Madame Webb rewards Spider-Man by taking him to our world and introducing him to the guy who created him. Rather than punching Stan in the nuts for causing the death of his uncle and dozens of other misfortunes, Spidey takes him for a swing across town and leaves him stranded on top of a building. Madame Webb then promises that now she'll really take Spider-Man to search for his missing wife ... but of course that never happened, because the show ended.
"Hey, swing by Jack Kirby's place. I want to moon his widow."
The series did get a pseudo sequel called Spider-Man Unlimited where our hero is briefly seen back together with Mary Jane with no explanation, but then that also ended in an unresolved cliffhanger. That's how devoted these cartoons were to recreating the experience of reading Marvel comic books: They even replicated the part where you just lose interest one day and stop reading them in the middle of a storyline.
Stargate Universe -- Eli Will Freeze to Death in Two Weeks
Stargate Universe debuted in 2009 under the ground-breaking premise, "What if we did a Stargate show that wasn't completely dumb?" The overarching plot of the series is about the crew of the starship Destiny trying to find a way back to Earth and the various misadventures they get into along the way, sort of like Lost in Space, but without the annoying robot.
And with an awkward version of Will Robinson that better reflects today's sci-fi-watching audience.
The show gained a cult following made up of widowed Battlestar Galactica fans and was enthusiastically praised in Wikipedia's "critical reception" section, saying: "Metacritic summarizes the response as 'generally favorable reviews'."
A main character will suffer a slow, painful death.
There's an unspoken rule that all Stargate shows must end in a TV movie: Stargate SG-1 got not one but two direct-to-DVD offerings after it ended, and when Stargate Atlantis wrapped up, another film was announced. So when Universe was cancelled, the writers apparently got a little overconfident and left a central character in the worst possible position: about to die all alone in a cold, empty universe.
In the last episode, all of the crew members in the ship are forced to put themselves into stasis for three years ... except one guy, Eli Wallace, whose stasis pod is broken. Eli has two weeks to fix his pod before the ship's life support gets turned off to preserve energy for the remainder of the trip, and the show's final scenes show him calmly walking around the now deserted ship, when he should have been freaking the fuck out, trying to think of a way to save his ass.
"So, uh, that pod looks like it can fit two people ..."
"Sorry, I like to sleep diagonally."
The plot would have been resolved in the traditional postmortem TV movie, but that movie never happened (the Atlantis one was canned too). So that's where the series and the franchise ended, with Eli having days to fix up a broken pod made from alien technology that he has little experience with repairing or rebuilding. At some point, the rest of the crew will wake up to find a frozen Eli corpse jammed into the ventilation system, forever hugging the last Twinkie found in the ship's kitchen pantry.
Tragic, but then again, the mortality rate in the Stargate program has always been pretty high if you aren't Richard Dean Anderson.
Soap -- Everyone Is About to Die
Soap, the iconic late '70s sitcom, had a tendency to flip-flop between satirizing soap operas and just being one, with its sprawling storylines about love affairs, amnesia, and murder. Also, alien duplicates who have sex with your wife and spawn flying babies (you never see that on Dynasty). The show also had the distinction of being the first one ever to piss off absolutely everyone before it even aired, from Catholic anti-slander groups to the gay community.
Yes, that's Billy Crystal in drag. Pleasant dreams.
Everyone's gonna die. Not eventually. Like, in two seconds.
As we mentioned, Soap had long, soap-opera-like storylines, and you knew that if someone got killed in this show, they actually had the sense to remain dead. By the end of Season 4, main character Jessica Tate wound up being put in front of a firing squad in South America, while her ex-husband Chester was about to kill his son Danny after catching him hooking up with his stepmother. And on that semi-incestuous note, the show ends.
The best outcome for both stories would be someone shooting blanks.
The last thing we see is Jessica being shot at by the firing squad and closing her eyes. That's how this mostly light-hearted sitcom ended its run: with the main character less than a second away from a painful death. Holy shit, Soap beat The Sopranos by 30 years! Sure, the writers could have probably pulled something out of their asses to get Jessica out of that situation in the next season, but the point is, that never happened because the show got cancelled.
Apparently, Soap's main sponsors dropped their support shortly after the episode aired. Combine this with the outrage the show constantly generated and the series became more trouble than it was worth, so ABC just pulled the plug. The only survivor was the butler character, Benson, who was starring in his own sitcom at this point.
Marking the first time a black character was the only one to avoid a senseless death.
Wolverine and the X-Men -- The Bad Guy Takes Over the World
In this incarnation of the X-Men franchise, Professor X is exploded into a coma in the first episode and Wolverine steps up as leader of the team, because who the hell is gonna say no to that guy? The Professor then contacts Wolvie from the future to tell him that everything is fucked: the world will be taken over by giant mutant-killing robots, and it's up to our favorite bicentennial Canadian to reunite the scattered X-Men and stop this disastrous event from happening.
By stabbing as many people as possible, naturally.
Everything is even more fucked.
In the Season 1 finale, Wolverine and his team finally succeed in preventing the bad future ... only to be contacted by Professor X, who tells them that their victory has given rise to a WORSE one. Instead of a future where mutants are oppressed and stomped by giant metallic boots, the world is now under the control of the ancient mutant Apocalypse and his cronies, major creep Mr. Sinister and an evil version of Cyclops, who is now an actual cyclops.
After a horrific accident involving a bathroom mirror.
The last shots of the series are of the grim, pyramid-littered landscape of the Age of Apocalypse, and that's where it ends. The series was reportedly cancelled because of "issues with the show's funding," which is TV-executive code for "We spent all the money on coke."
While shitty futures are nothing new to the mutants of Marvel (as things go to hell for them pretty much every time someone steps on a caterpillar), considering the Mengele-style genetics obsession Apocalypse had in the comics, we're going to go ahead and say that they were probably better off with the flying Nazitrons.
Say what you will about flying Nazitrons, at least it's an ethos.
The next season would have shown the X-Men trying to prevent Apocalypse's apocalypse, although we prefer to think that it would have simply revealed the future Professor X to be senile and unwittingly sending his delusions to the past via telepathy. Think about it: The guy is pretty old in the present, how the hell is he even alive decades into the future?
Anyone interested in seeing more of Henrik's work, but with pictures, can check out his webcomics over here: http://www.drunkduck.com/Twisted_Mind_of_Stranger/.
Related Reading: These cliffhangers are insane, but not nearly as insane as Steel Justice- the show about a flamethrowing metal tyrannosaurus robot. And have you ever wished you could watch the Golden Girls, but without Bea Arthur and with Cheech Marin? That show totally exists! And, oddly enough, it isn't nearly as racist as the shows on this list.