Cliffhangers… We love to hate them. They keep us going while our favorite shows are on hiatus, but it can be frustrating as hell waiting months to find out what happens. Want to know what the ten best TV cliffhangers are? We won’t leave you hanging.
10. ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 4 Finale
We’re not used to seasons of AMC’s zombie saga ending on cliffhangers. So it was a shock when Rick and the group ended up imprisoned in a train car at a hipster commune with an inordinate number of guns and barbecue. Rick’s ominous closing line still gives us the shivers.
9. ‘Breaking Bad’ Season 5 Midseason Finale
As Walt almost gets away with a list of crimes bigger than a New Mexico breakfast burrito, he blows it by leaving a poetry book in the bathroom signed by his accomplice for DEA agent (and in-law), Hank, to find. Why didn’t he just keep ‘People’ in there, like everybody else?
8. ’24’ Season 5 Finale
The show that put cliffhangers back on the map, it’s hard to pick the most precarious. But the cliffhanger that left everything up in the air (or, rather, at sea) was Jack being kidnapped and taken to China. The writers were as clueless as viewers about how exacly they were going to get him back.
7. ‘Twin Peaks’ Season 1 Finale
A series-worth of cliffhangers was packed into one episode — which was lucky because it only lasted two seasons. Virtually all the cast are left hanging on, in mortal danger (in Shelley’s case, quite literally). It’s great suspense, and it gets even better when you see how they laugh it all off in Season 2.
6. ‘The Simpsons’ – Who Shot Mr. Burns?
A parody of another famous TV cliffhanger that just might make the top ten, Fox’s animated sitcom managed to turn a spoof into a national television event, as viewers speculated throughout the summer of 1995 about who shot Springfield’s most-hated man. Turned out it was a baby. Doh!
5. ‘ER’ – Carter Gets Stabbed
Not even a season finale, this heart-stopping episode of the hospital drama saw Dr. Carter and his student, Lucy, both stabbed by a schizophrenic patient while the rest of the ER celebrates Valentines Day. This cliffhanger came out of nowhere and made a week seem like a year as we waited for the next episode.
4. ‘The West Wing’ Season 1 Finale
Just as the political drama was getting settled, creator Aaron Sorkin decided to shake things up again at the end of Season 1 with an assassination attempt. The series cleverly blocked viewers from seeing what happened. If a week is a long time in politics, imagine what a summer feels like.
3. ‘Friends’ Season 4 Finale
This was a big shock, since sitcoms don’t really go in for cliffhangers. Ross accidentally says Rachel’s name during his wedding to his British bride, Emily, to which the priest asks ”Shall I go on?” We wish the producers had asked the same of the show soon after (our response would have been a wholehearted “Yes!”).
2. ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Season 3 Finale
This was the moment the world finally forgot about William Shatner. Up to this point, the ‘Star Trek’ sequel hadn’t been anything special. Then, Picard was assimilated by The Borg, and we suddenly found ourselves hooked. Superbly done, it was a dark enough move to make us wonder whether Picard would ever come back.
1. ‘Dallas’ – Who Shot J.R.?
This is the least surprising number one, but it’s because it is still the most surprising TV cliffhanger of all time. J.R. was such a popular character that the prospect of him dying was unthinkable. And the mystery went on throughout the summer of 1978. It was a master-class in edge-of-your-seat television.