The question mark hanging over the season finale of The Walking Dead Season 6 isn’t so much ‘who did Negan kill?’ as ‘did Negan just kill the entire series?’ After a drawn-out, ad-friendly feature-length episode, fans were left screaming ‘NOOOO!’ at the screen – and not in a pleasing ‘what a shocking revelation’ or ‘cripes, that’s a gory decapitation’ sort of way – when the series makers (MASSIVE, TEN-TON SPOILER ALERT) decided to switch to a first person camera as Negan’s barbed wire baseball bat swung down onto the skull of an unknown major character. It was, in murderous zombie show terms, a bit like Paul McCartney ending ‘Hey Jude’ by going “better, better, better, BETTER, BETTER… thanks for coming, goodnight!”
Too many franchises have ended seasons – and even entire long-running series – on that most evil and easy scriptwriting trick, the frustrating cliffhanger. Here’s more of the worst, obviously featuring spoilers thrown around like Haribo at Halloween…
Much ire was provoked by the uncertain ending of The Sopranos, with viewers left guessing whether the jarring cut to black in the final seconds meant that Tony Soprano had been unexpectedly ‘whacked’ over a family meal in an ice-cream parlour to the tune of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’. Frustrated fans have penned shot-by-shot dissections of the scene attempting to prove without a doubt that Tony now sleeps with the fishes, but the biggest hint came from director David Chase last year: “When it’s over,” he said, “I think you’re probably always blindsided by it. That’s all I can say.” Definitely dead, then.
Over time, the closing sequence of Buffy spin-off Angel has become revered as a classic, but when aired back in 2004 it received the same dumbstruck response as The Walking Dead. There’s Angel, Spike, Illyria and a wounded Gunn cornered by an insurmountable army of supernatural nasties when Angel squares up to them saying, “let’s go to work”. The end. No cataclysmic final battle, just the inference that this is one tormented vampire who’d go down fighting.
If you’d managed to fathom your way to the end of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, you weren’t exactly expecting an ending with the multitude of demonic loose ends tidily tied up. But even for this bewildering surrealist murder story, the climax – in which the Dale Cooper who left the Black Lodge was revealed, by smashing his head into a mirror and cackling “how’s Annie?” to be either his evil doppleganger or the real Cooper who’s become possessed by Bob – has had fans scratching their overheated heads for decades. Fire Walk With Me didn’t exactly wrap anything up, so we’re still holding out hope for the new series, now delayed until 2017, confusion fans.
A slow-burn cliffhanger, this. When Season 8 ended in 2010 with Jack Bauer a fugitive on the run from both the US and Russian governments, we expected a relatively swift resolution to his predicament – there were plans for a feature film in the works. The film project stalled though, leaving Jack presumably sleeping on his mates’ couches and calling himself Pablo for four years until the six-episode event series 24: Live Another Day finally landed him in the hands of vengeful Russians.
The X Files
King of the cliffhangers, most seasons of The X Files ended under a gigantic question mark, usually while being bottom-invaded by a Venusian laser probe. But with no further episodes planned, for the recent season that fans had waited 14 years for with a scene in which Scully, racing to a hospital with the antidote to a bioweapon, is unexpectedly abducted by a spaceship, was like the entire TV viewing section of the human race had been infected by an alien virus that made them hurl their remote controls at their flat-screens.