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  #1  
Old 04-04-2016, 11:03 AM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Do season-ending cliffhangers piss you off?

Inspired, as some of you will doubtless realize, by last night's season finale of The Walking Dead, in which

SPOILER:
someone DIES! Only we don't know who, except that it wasn't Rick or Carl. And yes, I'm sure of that. Negan's orders to his men as he begins the last-minute execution -- "Make the rest watch, and if anybody tries to interfere, cut the boy's remaining eye out and feed it to his father -- only makes sense if the person he was about to use for batting practice was someone other than a Grimes. Anyway, the point is that as Negan starts swinging Lucille, it's not remotely clear which of Team Grimes is getting his or her brains removed.

Oh, and Carol was gravely injured on account of being suicidally depressed, and Morgan did something stupid, and both of them were taken in by an apparently non-villainous group. And Tara appeared at the last minute making out with Beth.

One of those statements may be a lie.


A lot of people were annoyed by the spoilered non-resolution. And though I was glad to not actually SEE the murder to the degree of detail that was shown in the comic books, I'm among them. But that's because I dislike season-ending cliffhangers in general. I'm not a huge fan of long-term storytelling in TV shows in the first place; I rather prefer the Law & Order paradigm, in which there are character arcs but for the most part you can watch the episodes in any order without getting lost. But if a series simply must tell extended stories, I prefer each season to be more-or-less self-contained. It's fine to plant a seed for the next season in the finale, but don't cut out in the middle of a sequence.

But that's just me. What do the rest of y'all think?

Don't wait for the poll, there isn't one. And while I do have pie, there's not enough to share.
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  #2  
Old 04-04-2016, 11:06 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Doesn't matter to me.

Though I did like how Grimm handled it: "To be continued....oh, come on. You knew this was gonna happen."
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  #3  
Old 04-04-2016, 11:12 AM
DigitalC DigitalC is offline
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If the entire season has been building up to one event and that gets pushed back to another season, yes very much so. To the point of completely dropping the show like with The Killing. Having a cliffhanger to set up a new season is fine, screwing the viewers out of a resolution for the current season is a big no.
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Old 04-04-2016, 11:13 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I can wait. But just so the writers know... I really like this show and don't need to be tricked into tuning in again in the fall. But it's not like I'm going to be agonizing all summer over who got killed. We'll find out when the show starts up again.
  #5  
Old 04-04-2016, 11:32 AM
MrAtoz MrAtoz is offline
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I don't like them as much as I used to.

I'm old enough to remember "Who Shot J.R.?", and all the hype and excitement surrounding it. And I fell for the hype. I wasn't a regular viewer of Dallas, but I tuned in to the season premiere the next fall, because it seemed like the thing to do. Interestingly, the premiere didn't actually answer the question "Who Shot J.R.?" It confirmed that J.R. was going to live, but you had to wait until three or four episodes into the new season before they finally gave you a resolution to the question everyone was asking. Maybe they didn't quite know how to do cliffhangers back then.

Cliffhangers "worked" then, to the extent that they worked at all, because it was something surprising and unusual. "Who Shot J.R.?" got so much attention precisely because no other show was doing anything like that at the time. But these days, it's become an expected part of a program's seasonal cycle. You know it's the season finale (and you can't avoid knowing, because it's splashed all over the commercials for weeks leading up to it, and very likely every other show on the network is also having their finale that week as well), so you know that there will be a cliffhanger. Heck, even sitcoms often have season-ending cliffhangers these days. Like RealityChuck mentioned about Grimm, it's possible for the show itself to joke about it, because everybody knows it's going to happen.

I don't hate them, but it does kind of irritate me just because it's so predictable. It smacks of the producers checking things off a to-do list--it's the end of the season, so we have a cliffhanger. That's just what you do.
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Old 04-04-2016, 11:41 AM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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Hate cliffhangers? Only when I know he didn't get out of the cockadoodie car.
  #7  
Old 04-04-2016, 11:59 AM
bump bump is offline
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They don't bother me when they're on shows that are "healthy", in the sense of popular and getting high ratings. They serve a purpose of generating interest in the beginning of the next season.

But I really don't like them when they're done by "unhealthy" shows, where the literal last thing we see concerning the show is the cliffhanger. That sucks to be left eternally hanging.

What I think is best is when the shows are the standard 22 episode season, but are broken into sub-series separated by a few months, and we have a mid-season cliffhanger separated by a few weeks. You get all the suspense and what-not, without the threat that we won't ever find out what happened.
  #8  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:12 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Personally, I prefer shows with long story arcs. Cliffhangers I don't have any particular strong feelings about, beyond the fact that they seem an inevitable consequence of a seasons-with-a-break-between format. I guess if I have any feeling at all about them, it's that it's a little bit awkward that major story-changing events need to be spaced uniformly rather than occurring whenever is most natural.
  #9  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:26 PM
Miss Woodhouse Miss Woodhouse is offline
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I'm used to them, I guess. I am bothered when a show pads the long term plot to be sure they get their cliffhanger episode. The writers have come up with a good few episode arc and somebody gets the bright idea to make it last half a season and then not fully resolve it so they get the cliff hanger. It makes what could have been good, suspenseful television weak and overdone.
  #10  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:32 PM
steronz steronz is offline
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I don't know if Animal House started the trend, but it's the first example I remember of a pre-credits rundown of what happens to all of the characters in the future. I always wondered if that was supposed to be satisfying/serious or if it was lampooning the idea that anyone would care about the characters. The latter idea basically sums up how I feel about cliffhangers. The major plotlines, who lives or dies, relationships forming and ending, who gets rich/poor, etc etc, it's all just an arbitrary framework that the writers come up with to hang the actual entertainment on, which can be witty dialogue, zombie gore, PG TV sexy time, ethical dilemmas that make you think, whatever.

I think cliffhangers are cheap but I really don't care because I know the resolution can never be epic, it's always just going to be whatever decision was hashed out in the writers room and won't really affect my enjoyment of the show in any way. It's like The Lady and the Tiger, that sort of story only works because there's no resolution. If you turned the page and it said, "Yup, it was the tiger," it's completely unsatisfying because that the outcome was just an arbitrary choice of the author.

That said, my issues with TWD specifically are that the moments of actual entertainment I described above are few and far between, and the rest of the show is spent dryly explaining the framework that the writers have come up with, often without any actual payoff. In that regard, I think writers sometimes mistake cliffhangers for entertainment.

tl;dr -- if the show is entertaining I don't care at all about cliffhangers, but excessive cliffhanging can be a symptom of a lack of entertaining content.

Last edited by steronz; 04-04-2016 at 12:35 PM.
  #11  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:36 PM
iljitsch iljitsch is offline
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I hate them.

Not so much because I hate cliffhangers, although I do, but because of the extra infusion of artificial drama that creates them. I don't remember which show this was, a science fiction show I think, where the season would end uprooting the status quo significantly and then the first 3 or 4 episodes of the new season would have to be used up to backtrack the whole thing. Very annoying.

I always liked the way Alias handled its episodes: whenever something was done, the next thing would start even if that happened in the middle of an episode. This is how season need to work, too. The reason is that the amount of time a story arc needs very rarely matches the number of episodes it needs to be crammed or stretched into, so either everything is rushed or there are long stretches of nothing much happening.

These days I tend to save up whole seasons. And then sometimes when I fall out of watching a show with 5 or so episodes to go I just save them, then wait for the next season and watch 10 or 20 or 30 episodes in a row. Most TV is better when you don't wait an average 1.5 weeks between episodes, anyway.
  #12  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:38 PM
ISiddiqui ISiddiqui is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steronz View Post
In that regard, I think writers sometimes mistake cliffhangers for entertainment.
Yes, I agree with this. Also, a great reliance on cliffhangers seems to indicate that the writers aren't sure how to keep the interest of the audience. Or, for that matter, how to write actual suspenseful screenplays. It's more of a cheap trick than anything really worthwhile.

Now, saying that, sometimes cliffhangers can actually be really good, but only if they come sparingly and aren't use to tease the viewers. If the viewers are waiting for some payoff for an entire season (or half-season), then to delay that payoff for a cliffhanger is just a bad idea.
  #13  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:40 PM
ISiddiqui ISiddiqui is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iljitsch View Post
I don't remember which show this was, a science fiction show I think, where the season would end uprooting the status quo significantly and then the first 3 or 4 episodes of the new season would have to be used up to backtrack the whole thing. Very annoying.
Battlestar Galactica? Because that cliffhanger is an example where, IMO, it was used very, very well.
  #14  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:41 PM
YogSothoth YogSothoth is offline
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I don't mind cliffhangers but I minded this one. We've known for a while that this was going to build up to a death of a major character. That was the hook, the shock, the thing that draws us in. Now that we have a death and they don't tell us who it is, it feels like the show is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Not only do we have a death that's shocking, but we won't know for 6 months? They seem to be dragging it out for no reason. The tension that was built up in that last 30 mins, with the chase in the dark and Negan's speech is supposed to pay off, and now we're supposed to keep that up for 6 months? That's bullshit

If we knew who died, then this season's big payoff would have been there. There would be fan discussions, anger, debate about how the group moves on, what the death is going to do to them, how Rick gets revenge, all that.

For them to hold it off until the first episode of next season makes the pacing kind of weird. We'll see who dies, then immediately instead of getting angry or grieving or coming to terms with it, we'll see Rick and company's reaction to it and move on. It cheapens this finale because most of us will essentially see it the reveal as an extended version of season 6, and doesn't allow us to move on in anticipating of season 7.
  #15  
Old 04-04-2016, 12:52 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YogSothoth View Post
I don't mind cliffhangers but I minded this one. We've known for a while that this was going to build up to a death of a major character. That was the hook, the shock, the thing that draws us in. Now that we have a death and they don't tell us who it is, it feels like the show is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Not only do we have a death that's shocking, but we won't know for 6 months? They seem to be dragging it out for no reason. The tension that was built up in that last 30 mins, with the chase in the dark and Negan's speech is supposed to pay off, and now we're supposed to keep that up for 6 months? That's bullshit

If we knew who died, then this season's big payoff would have been there. There would be fan discussions, anger, debate about how the group moves on, what the death is going to do to them, how Rick gets revenge, all that.

For them to hold it off until the first episode of next season makes the pacing kind of weird. We'll see who dies, then immediately instead of getting angry or grieving or coming to terms with it, we'll see Rick and company's reaction to it and move on. It cheapens this finale because most of us will essentially see it the reveal as an extended version of season 6, and doesn't allow us to move on in anticipating of season 7.
Moreover, there was so much padding in this ep that it was clear the production staff was just screwing with us on both cliffhangers. And if they wimp out and kill

SPOILER:
Aaron, most minor character in that group of potentials

I'll be quite annoyed, not least because

SPOILER:
damn it, Daryl needs to have sex at some point, and we all know he ain't into girls. Beth proved that.

Though I supposed

SPOILER:
that if Aaron bites it, his boyfriend Eric will be available.
  #16  
Old 04-04-2016, 01:01 PM
Sam Lowry Sam Lowry is offline
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Cliffhangers can be annoying when they feel like they are messing with the audience, or when it feels like the show is stretching things out in order to have a cliffhanger. The Killing is a good example of it done badly. From what I remember of the show, the first episode was great, and then as the season went on it got somewhat bogged down. Since it was one investigation over the entire season, there were some detours and some people who acted shady just so there could be an episode where they were a suspect until the investigation moved on. So by the end of the season, some people were mainly watching to find out who did it, and then when they didn't even reveal that, it felt like a cheat.

I felt like Lost did some good season finale cliffhangers because they deepened the mystery, although some might disagree on Lost. The first season of How to Get Away with Murder also did a decent one, because the whole season had been leading towards who killed a character, and that was definitely answered, but then the cliffhanger at the end of the episode was that another character was discovered to be dead.

I think it also has to do with the quality of the show. Fringe and Breaking Bad both had cliffhangers that I was fine with, and it was because those shows were good and I felt like I could trust the show creators. It felt like the cliffhangers weren't just tricks to get the audience coming back, but felt true to the story, and that whatever happened when the show came back it wouldn't just be the audience getting jerked around.
  #17  
Old 04-04-2016, 04:22 PM
Sam Lowry Sam Lowry is offline
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Originally Posted by Sam Lowry View Post
Cliffhangers can be annoying when they feel like they are messing with the audience, or when it feels like the show is stretching things out in order to have a cliffhanger.
Someone in the comments on the Walking Dead recap on io9 summed it up as such:

Quote:
They fucked up. At the end of season 6 we should be thinking “What will happen in season 7?”, but instead we’re left thinking “What the hell happened back in season 6?”.
That applies to most shows and cliffhangers. If the cliffhanger is just to withhold information from the audience in an unnatural way, it's probably not a good cliffhanger and will bother a lot of the audience. But if it's setting up things going forward, it can be good and exciting.
  #18  
Old 04-04-2016, 05:01 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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The cliffhanger at the end of the season bothers me less than the continuation at the start of the next season. Almost invariably, the cliffhanger points to major, irrevocable changes to the show - a dead character, the world has been infested by a plague, cats and dogs having sex - and then the next season starts and within the first 10 minutes they've figured out a way to sweep it all under the rug and reset everything so that the show can continue on with no changes from the way it had always been. I hate the reset button. And I know they're going to do it, so it ends up annoying me when I see the cliffhanger at the end of a season now.

Or even if they do try and continue the "big honking event" into the new season, after the long break, the tension is gone. The revelation isn't a big deal any more. So it still just isn't worth it.
  #19  
Old 04-04-2016, 05:27 PM
desertmonk desertmonk is offline
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It's been about twenty five years and I'm still waiting to see how The Alf cliffhanger resolved. Yes, I know there was a TV movie years later. That doesn't count.
  #20  
Old 04-04-2016, 06:14 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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And that's part of the reason why I prefer long story-arc shows, because they usually don't just use the magic reset button. When Delenn went into her cocoon, she came out as something different, and stayed different. When Zuko fell completely out of the graces of the Fire King, he didn't regain his status, he started helping Aang.
  #21  
Old 04-04-2016, 06:49 PM
seal_cleaner seal_cleaner is offline
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New X-Files cliffhanger. No reason to think it will ever be resolved. If it is resumed, I won't watch.
  #22  
Old 04-04-2016, 07:00 PM
standingwave standingwave is offline
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It beats the hell out of series-ending cliffhangers.

I don't mind them so much. At the very least it's a promise that the series will return.
  #23  
Old 04-05-2016, 02:10 AM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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In theory there's nothing wrong with cliffhangers. By its very name, the "cliffhanger" is a venerable plot element in popular entertainment. The "serials" that accompanied feature films, back in the early 20th century, commonly showed Our Hero tied to the railroad track or heading to a nasty encounter in a sawmill or hanging from a cliff by his fingernails--only for the "Tune In Next Week!" story card to appear.

But the concept is older--didn't Scheherazade invent it? More recently, how about the end of the 3rd episode of Sherlock, back in Series 1? Then we all had the endless wait for Series 2....

However, I've read some critiques of the last episode of The Walking Dead, a show I do not watch. Where it appears that the cliffhanger really, really sucked....
  #24  
Old 04-05-2016, 03:13 AM
Banquet Bear Banquet Bear is online now
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...Leverage didn't have cliff-hangers: the show-runners were never quite sure if they were going to get another season so they made sure they ended each year with a complete story. Which worked really really well, and when they actually got cancelled in Season 5 it ended with the perfect ending.
  #25  
Old 04-05-2016, 05:16 AM
ekedolphin ekedolphin is offline
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*sings*

Cliff Hanger hanging from a cliff! And that's why he's called Cliff Hanger!

Can't... hold... on... much... longer!

My first experience with a cliffhanger (indeed, where I learned the term) was "Best of Both Worlds" from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Man, that was annoying. But gripping.
  #26  
Old 04-05-2016, 08:55 AM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Will they ever get off that island?!
  #27  
Old 04-05-2016, 09:56 AM
Quimby Quimby is offline
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Bad ones do. Indeed this week's Walking Dead was a good example. Hiding away information just to tease people (and as such telling an incomplete story) is just manipulative BS. There is a difference between telling half a story and telling a story with loose ends.

An example of a good cliff hanger would be The Best of Both Worlds in Star Trek TNG. It told a story, ended in a way that said "WTF is going to happen now?!" but didn't feel like a cheat.
  #28  
Old 04-05-2016, 09:57 AM
zamboniracer zamboniracer is offline
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Beware series cancellation!

I used to like the UPN sitcom "Half & Half", which starred the lovely Essence Atkins and the equally lovely Rachel True. The season ended on a cliffhanger about which of two man True's character would choose, then the series got cancelled. True's poor character (Mona Thorne) deserves better than to be stuck in eternal TV purgatory torn between her two different lovers. :-)
  #29  
Old 04-05-2016, 12:56 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Bad ones do. Indeed this week's Walking Dead was a good example. Hiding away information just to tease people (and as such telling an incomplete story) is just manipulative BS. There is a difference between telling half a story and telling a story with loose ends.

An example of a good cliff hanger would be The Best of Both Worlds in Star Trek TNG. It told a story, ended in a way that said "WTF is going to happen now?!" but didn't feel like a cheat.
They showrunners mentioned "Best of Both Worlds" on Talking Dead, doubtless in anticipation of complaints like these. And I thought it was bullshit. BOBW wasn't padded the way the other night's TWD was. And, as you say, the cliffhanger left you thinking, "Man, I can't WAIT for the next season to start! This is gonna be awesome!" as opposed to "Fuck this shit. At most I'm watching the first five minutes of the ep."
  #30  
Old 04-05-2016, 01:30 PM
E-DUB E-DUB is offline
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Well, at least the second season cliffhanger from Twin Peaks is going to be resolved.
  #31  
Old 04-05-2016, 01:30 PM
doorhinge doorhinge is offline
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Schrodinger's cliffhanger?

Cliffhangers in cinema have been around since the silent era's The Perils of Pauline. They continued to draw audiences with the Saturday matinees such as Flash Gordon and the original Batman. The most famous was probably Dallas with it's Who Shot J.R..

The format works if they do it right, and don't over do it.

As related to TWD - Oh My, did Glenn die at the end of season 5? That seems to have worked better than this seasons "somebody died and you get to guess who" shtick. Is it someone I care about, or is it someone who hasn't spoken 100 words of dialogue during the series? They killed Glenn. Those basturds! vs They killed what's her name. Who is she again?
  #32  
Old 04-05-2016, 08:09 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is online now
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I only hate them when the show doesn't get renewed for another season.
  #33  
Old 04-08-2016, 07:14 PM
TBG TBG is offline
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Depends how they're done, if well, it's fine. If badly, of course it'll piss the shit out of me.

I thought the Walking Dead one was fine, for the record. I'd rather have hope for a few months that it was stupid Aaron dead instead of someone like Glenn or Abe.
  #34  
Old 04-09-2016, 11:04 AM
Quimby Quimby is offline
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To be honest, as weak as the rest of the episode was, TWD would have worked better if they had just showed who he killed. Hiding the victim's identity was the BS, manipulative part. Showing it would have made the audience more invested and still been a fine cliff hanger because you have no idea how Rick and Company are going to deal with this New World Order.
  #35  
Old 04-09-2016, 04:37 PM
Critical1 Critical1 is offline
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I posted about this in the relevant TWD thread, and instead of rehashing I will just post that it was the cliffhanger that killed the show for me. The incredibly inconsistent writing on that show was already hard to put up with, the fact that they simply could not decide if they were going to go for good writing over cheap crappy writing from episode to episode was already the worst part for me. This episode was balls deep in the crappy episode camp. There was zero good reason and plenty of cheap reasons to go the route they did.

It's almost as though they honestly thought the Glen Dumpster Miracle Escape was some sort of sublime and now the show needs to just keep on that route and its all good.

I am not even going to complain, I have been on the fence with the show for a long time and they just gave me the push I needed to walk away.
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