6 unresolved cliffhangers from television that still haunt us

6 unresolved cliffhangers from television that still haunt us

Gif: Natalie Peeples
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

This week’s AVQ&A comes from editor-in-chief Patrick Gomez:

What unresolved TV cliffhanger still haunts you?

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Popular

Popular

Now you can’t turn on a screen without bumping into a Ryan Murphy project, but back at the turn of the century, the fledgling creator was just getting his footing in television, and audiences apparently weren’t ready for his biting and satirical tone. The result of being ahead of his time was the cancellation of his first series, Popular, which ended after two seasons in 2001. The cancellation came as a surprise to Murphy and the producers, who have said they were told by The WB to go big with a finale cliffhanger. And boy did they: Season two concluded with a love triangle between Harrison and nemeses-turned-step-sisters Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and Sam (Carly Pope), which remained unresolved in the final moments as irate Nicole (Tammy Lynn Michaels) struck Brooke (or maybe Sam?) in her car. I still often wonder if Brooke ended up in a wheelchair (since the show had already done a Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? fantasy); or if teen newlyweds Josh (Bryce Johnson) and Lily (Tamara Mello) ever consummated their marriage; or if Mary Cherry (Leslie Grossman) found peace with her crossdressing dad, Sweet Honey Child (RuPaul), or made up with her mom, Cherry Cherry (Delta Burke)…. Yes, this show was ridiculous. It’s Ryan Murphy, what else did you expect. [Patrick Gomez]

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John From Cincinnati

John From Cincinnati

Just because I can’t tell you what happened in the season-one finale of John From Cincinnati doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see where it was going. David Milch’s notoriously impenetrable surfing drama was canceled by HBO the day after it aired its final episode, an unceremonious end for a show that may or may not have contributed to the premature end of Milch’s Deadwood. And while JFC is no Deadwood—what is?—I grew to love the way Milch’s lyrical soliloquies flowed from the mouths of his seaside eccentrics and deadbeats. But, while the cast always intrigued me more than the story’s miraculous healings and prophetic visions, I still find myself returning to that first season’s parting shot. John, the mysterious, Christ-like figure at the center of the narrative, intones, “Mother of God, Cass-Kai,” as Kai, a relatively minor character played by Keala Kennelly, surfs across the screen. I’ve turned it over again and again in my head over the years, weighing it against the show’s Christian allusions and explorations of community and miracles, but every time I come up empty. Milch got a chance to wrap up Deadwood with a movie, maybe he can do the same with JFC? I’m not holding my breath. [Randall Colburn]

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Marvel’s Daredevil

Marvel’s Daredevil

I’m happy with the three seasons of Netflix’s Daredevil

that we did get, but damn it, the final episode ended right at the point where it could’ve left all of the grim Frank Miller bullshit behind and embraced the optimism and emotional stakes of Mark Waid’s absolutely brilliant run in the Daredevil comics. Matt and Foggy were friends again, Karen Page defied the fate of all Karen Pages by surviving a run-in with Bullseye, and the three of them were able to share a laugh that seemed to foreshadow some slightly more lighthearted adventures ahead—none of which we’ll ever get to see since Netflix canceled the show and Disney killed all of Marvel Television. Not a traditional cliffhanger, but it still stings. [Sam Barsanti]

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Hannibal

Hannibal

Credit where it’s due: NBC’s Hannibal ends about as well as a romantic comedy about two men deciding whether or not they’re going to eat each other possibly could, with series finale “The Wrath Of The Lamb” featuring not just the resolution to the show’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, but also to the long, delicate, series-long maneuvering between Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter. Even so, creator Bryan Fuller (who’s never stopped trying to drum up hope for a fourth season) can’t help but twist the knife—possibly literally—with the series’ ending, closing not on the fitting conclusion to Will and Hannibal’s last dance, but on a shot of Gillian Anderson’s ever-enigmatic Bedelia Du Maurier, apparently sitting down to a lovingly prepared shank of Bedelia Du Maurier. As tantalizing as any of the gorgeous food to pass across Dr. Lecter’s table over the years, it’s a haunting invocation of the question that forms the core of so much of Hannibal’s blood-soaked drama: Who are we having for dinner? [William Hughes]

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Soap

Soap

When I was a kid, I wasn’t supposed to watch Soap, but I did anyway. The ABC comedy staple spoofed the outlandish storylines of soap operas, from alien abductions to cults to demonic possession. But the heart of the series was lovely Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond), whose daffy portrayal always included a lot of sweet actual affection, especially for her butler/best friend Benson (Robert Guillaume). I can’t think of a worse unresolved cliffhanger than Jessica’s: The very last image of the series shows her being shot by a firing squad (guessing that the series cancellation came as something of a surprise). Fortunately, Benson’s spin-off series was able to resolve this somewhat, having Jessica appear as an apparition. But what a horrible way for a great show to go out. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Freaks And Geeks

Freaks And Geeks

I do enjoy the mystery of not knowing what happens to the characters of Freaks And Geeks after the 1980-81 academic year. The not knowing and the endless possibilities (all of which are probably, inevitably, tinged by some sense of personal dissatisfaction) are the bittersweet beauty underlining Lindsay Weir’s decision to ditch the academic summit to follow the Grateful Dead. If only Paul Feig and Judd Apatow hadn’t spent the last 20 years laying out all the tantalizing roads not taken due to the show’s cancellation: First and foremost the fallout of Lindsay’s decision, but also the diverging paths that would find her brother and his friends either burrowing deeper into geekdom (drama club for Sam, show choir for Neal) or running away from it completely. (“Your new starting center for the McKinley High Norsemen: Biiiiiiiiiiill Haverchuck!”) Like so much of Freaks And Geeks, the real ending makes the best of a bad thing—but, also in the spirit of the show, it’s hard not to think about all that unrealized potential. [Erik Adams]

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