As the fall TV season starts up, shows are resolving their agonizing summer cliffhangers — but for some unlucky shows, that resolution never arrived. Here are the most frustrating "cancel-hangers," cliffhanger endings for shows that got cancelled too soon.
First of all, let me apologize for giving away spoilers for last week's Warehouse 13 in my post on best cliffhangers — I should have realized that many people wouldn't have had time to see the episode yet, and I should have been more careful. Sorry about that — I'll be more careful next time. That said... tonight's season finale, in which Artie reveals that the new Warehouse 14 is ready in the trunk of his car, and then a hundred dinosaurs come attacking over the horizon — is awesome! (Just kidding. Or am I??) That said, there are spoilers for some long-cancelled TV shows below.
With that out of the way, here goes:
Criminally unresolved cliffhangers:
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman The show ended with Lois and Clark discovering a baby left for them — a storyline which was supposed to continue on into a fifth season. Executive producer Brad Buckner told Kryptonsite the baby would have grown up rapidly and turned out to be exiled Kryptonian royalty, who would have needed to learn to use his powers responsibly.
Sliders A psychic named Mark who sees the Sliders' future makes a dire prediction — the next time they "Slide," they'll die. But the gang manages to open a vortex using Kromagg technology, but they decide to send only one person — Rembrandt injects himself with an anti-Kromagg biological weapon, leaving himself the logical choice. But after he jumps through, Mark dies, leaving the gang no way of knowing if he survived.
Invasion The aliens are taking women into the water — and after Larkin gets shot and is dying, Tom sees no choice but to put her in the water as well, so the aliens can take her. Tom is left standing there on the shore, while Russell and Mariel demand to know what he's done. Sadly, we never got to see what happened next.
Dark Shadows The 1992 revival of this long-running soap opera ended on a storyline where Victoria traveled back to 1791 and met her counterpart from 200 years earlier, who was put on trial for witchcraft. And then she traveled back to 1991, and met Barnabas... still alive after all this time. In the original show, Victoria never knew that Barnabas was a 200+-year-old vampire, so fans were curious to see how the show would deal with this departure. But the continuation never came.
Kings It's finally official that David is annointed by God as the new king, but then he has to flee to Gath to get away from the vengeance of King Silas. And meanwhile, Jack is trapped in a loveless marriage until he produces an heir. Sadly, even a host of divine butterflies couldn't get this show a second season.
V: The Series Kyle stows away on a shuttle that's carrying the Starchild — unaware that Diana has left a little "present" on board it — a bomb. Oh noes!
Odyssey 5 Just as we start to get some answers, this show fades to a caption that says "TO BE CONTINUED." If only! Karen is kidnapped by the A.I.s, and we learn the truth about the mysterious Cabal, and its relationship to the impending destruction of the Earth — just as the show ends forever. Bah.
The Dead Zone The sixth season ended with a vision of nuclear armageddon, and the hint that it could be partly Johnny's fault. The season finale revealed that Johnny's father was alive, and brought up a zillion new plot threads — none of which we ever got to see resolved.
Earth 2 This show ended with the colonists getting sick from an unknown illness — including Devon Adair, who gets stuck into suspended animation until she can be cured. To add insult to injury, the episodes aired out of order, so the season-ending cliffhanger actually aired as the third-to-last episode, with no explanation.
VR.5 This mid-1990s series ends with Sydney discovering a virtual realm called VR.7, where she rescues her mom and sister before being trapped herself. She's stuck in a coma — and it's not clear if she would have woken up at all, if the show had gotten a second season. One fan theory is that her sister Samantha might have replaced her.
Threshold According to Wikipedia, the producers found out the show was canceled halfway through shooting the final epsiode,"Alienville," and so they changed the ending. In the aired version, Molly has a dream in which a boy tells her that her plan will succeed in defeating the alien invasion, but she won't live to see it. Molly wakes up and tells Baylock, "I'm just getting started."
Surface The city is flooded by a huge tsunami, and then our heroes see a giant sea monster swimming around nearby. "It's a whole new world," says Laura — but we never get to see it develop.
Tru Calling Tru almost finds out that Richard and Jack are working together against her — but Jack uses his "rewind day" to tell Richard to cover his tracks, so she never learns the truth. OMG major cliffhanger! To make matters worse, the final episode, a Christmas-themed outing, didn't even air for a few years in the U.S.
Carnivale The show ended with a bunch of stuff unresolved: Ben is wounded and unconscious in Management's trailer, and even if he survives, he'll be a changed man. HBO decided to pull the plug on this show at the last minute, depriving it of the chance to finish telling the story of the carnival and the preacher.
Space: Above And Beyond This show ended with the 58th still fighting the aliens, but a whole bunch of plot threads were left up in the air. What was that mysterious explosion? What happened to Vansen, Damphousse, and Wang? Did the women make it safely to the planet's surface and get rescued? We'll never find out. The war was just beginning, but it'll have to go on without us.
Forever Knight Fans are still upset about the cliffhanger that ended this series. Knight bites Natalie in the hopes that it'll make him human — but instead it brings her close to death. So Knight asks LaCroix to stab him with a stake.
Mork And Mindy The show ends with an evil alien, Kelnik, pursuing Mork and Mindy. Mindy's home gets destroyed in explosion and Mork's secret is revealed to the entire world, and then Mork and Mindy attempt to escape using his magic shoes — but they're damaged, and although the alien is defeated, the couple ends up lost in the time vortex, with Mork desperately shouting, "Whatever happens, we'll have each other." Because the network aired the episodes out of order, this was actually shown as the penultimate episode, but the last aired episode does nothing to address the huge cliffhanger. According to a poster on the Straight Dope message boards, the episode ends with a disturbing image:
The final shot is (presumably) a primordial Earth. Mork and Mindy are facing the camera and holding hands, but their bodies are...altered. They still have their hair and their clothes, but their flesh has been transformed into either goo or ice. Their faces are gone.
Whoa. Actually, you can watch the final moments here, and it sounds like the Straight Dope person was not in fact using the right kind of dope while watching this episode — it's clearly a cave painting of Mork and Mindy. But nevertheless, this still is a weird cliffhanger to end a series on.
Kyle XY This one still bugs me. We find out in the very last minute that Cassidy is Kyle's real father... and then the show ends. Forever. Plus we never get to see what would have happened between Kyle and Jessi, with their weirdly ambiguous sibling/lover relationship.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles And then there's this one — I can't believe some people felt this was a good ending for the show. John Connor jumps forward in time to a future that's never heard of him, where his father and uncle are still alive. And Allison from Palmdale is there too! Season three of this show would have been beyond epic.
Shows that got some resolution after cancellation:
Jericho actually got brought back for a second season after being cancelled for the first time, and we got a ton of answers in a fairly short time. But then also, we got a comic book that continues the story after season two as well.
ALF ends on a weird cliffhanger where the cutest alien gets captured by the Alien Task Force (ATF) — but then we got a TV movie, Project ALF, in which he gets rescued before he can be executed.
Farscape also ended with a huge cliffhanger, in which John Crichton and Aeryn Sun were "crystallized" — but a mini-series, The Peacekeeper Wars, picked up the story and showed how they were restored and finally found a measure of happiness togehter, with their son.
Pushing Daisies is another series that got cancelled with a huge cliffhanger — Chuck reveals she's still alive to her mom and aunt — but there's going to be a series of comic books to explain what happened.
Alien Nation got a series of five TV movies to resolve its cliffhanger ending, in which a genetically engineered infection, designed to wipe out the alien Newcomers, hits Susan Francisco and her daughter Emily.
The Lone Gunmen. We did get to find out their fate on their parent show, The X-Files. (Although it wasn't a particularly happy fate.)
Dark Angel James Cameron himself directed this show's 90-minute season finale, but it wasn't enough to save the show from being yanked off the air, leaving viewers hanging. The show ended with a stand-off between cops and transgenics, which it seemed unlikely that all of Max's people would make it out of alive. Luckily, Max Allan Collins' novels do help to explain what happened after this episode aired.
The 4400 also got some tie-in books, written by Greg Cox and David Mack, which went some way towards answering our unresolved questions after the show ended with Baldwin deciding whether to take the superpower-causing drug Promycin.
Shows whose cliffhangers actually served as a great ending:
Angel Some people will argue that this show ended on a terrible cliffhanger — and for those people, there are comics which do continue the story. But to me, the final moments of "Not Fade Away" are the perfect ending to this series, including Angel's "personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon. Let's go to work." The show ends, but the fight goes on. What more could you ask for? Okay, I would kill a few TV execs for a sixth season — but this is a fine ending.
Blake's 7 I've said it before — this is one show that when you know how the series ends, it actually makes all the earlier episodes better. It's only open-ended in that you don't see Avon's inevitable demise after the screen goes black — Avon has already shot his friend and erstwhile leader, Blake, to death, and all of his other friends appear to be dead as well. It's as final as you can get really. There is actually a terrible novel, Afterlife by Tony Attwood, that does continue the story with Avon and Vila still alive.
Twin Peaks We covered this cliffhanger ending the other day — but it's actually a great twist-the-knife ending.
Sapphire & Steel Some people list this show as having ended on a cliffhanger — but the ending is by far the best thing about this show in which the guy from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the woman from AbFab go around solving time rifts. The show is mostly pretty forgettable, but this ending — in which they get trapped in a time-space trap — will stick in your mind forever.
Heroes Many of us were glad to see this show end — but even the haters have to admit that the final moments of the show were a fitting ending. The big issue of the show was whether the mutants should "come out" or live in secrecy, and Claire finally settles the question, in a scene that's a call-back to her videotaped suicide attempts in the first season. It's a good way to go out, resolving the show's main dilemma.