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Posted

So @mandikaye was watching The West Wing recently and having reached the end of a season went immediately into the next. This sparked a conversation about whether you take a break in between seasons when watching older episodes of a show or binge straight on.

Personally, I always take a break. Not the 3-10 months that you would have experienced when it was showing as released, but a bit of a break gives the chance for a palate cleanser and a consideration of what happened and what could happen in the upcoming season.

This is particularly important in shows that have major cliffhangers at the end of a season. Going straight into The Best of Both Worlds part 2 (Star Trek The Next Generation) answers some significant questions, but there was so much potential for how the show could proceed and change following whatever might happen.

This is also the same with game changers, which we'll come to soon at the end of Angel S3. Major events happen that are themselves resolved, but mean some big differences for the show you know.

From this conversation I have two questions for everyone - are there any cliffhangers that are particularly memorable to you for any reason? And what is it that makes a cliffhanger or game changer work on a show you enjoy?

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Posted

I can tell you what makes a cliffhanger work for me: getting resolved the week after! I hate when TV seasons don't manage to reach any kind of closure by the end of the season. Makes me feel cheated for investing in them. Also, three months later I'm sure to be somewhat less invested. I need a new season to have a real beginning even more than I need an old one to have an ending. If only to get a feel for where all the characters are.

Only few shows have me so invested that I'm all in from minute one. Movies, too. Tere was a period a couple of years ago when sequels didn't have real beginnings - theyt just took off whereever the previous installment had left off. Even Harry Potter left me. That scene in the seventh movie where (spoilers, btw) they lose one character crossing over to Hogwarts and I already had no clue who that was. Never watched the last part.

Game changers, on the other hand, sure. Especially when it's not tacked on but an actual result of the events in the season. Nikita was really good at that. By the end of a season, they'd routinely upset the whole show's premise. And they'd stick to it moving on.

In general, both game changers and cliffhangers need to matter, though. A cliff hanger that gets resolved within a minute and then the show moves on to the next plot (looking at you, Alias) is a cheap device. A cliffhanger is a promise that this is going to be the focus of the next episode - the next couple of episodes if it's a season finale. If the writers back away from that promise, it makes me trust ttem less. The Buffy and Angel two-parters were usually pretty good with keeping their promises. Agents of SHIELD, too.

StrangelyLiteral likes this

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Posted

The most memorable one for me was at the end of Buffy S2. Having to wait three months to find out if Buffy was okay or not, and how the Buffyverse would change as a result of Buffy leaving Sunnydale... well, it wasn't a fun summer. 

But it was the first time I realized just how much television can affect you emotionally. 

Bones has also had some really nice cliffhangers that have kept me reeling.

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Posted

When it comes to the subject of cliffhangers the first thing that comes to mind is my least favorite. And this is a popular least favorite--the finale to season six of The Walking Dead. It was completely unnecessary, especially considering how they actually ended up handling it. That is, if they were going to do the thing twice, might as well have had the first time at the end of the season instead of leaving this moronic heavy-handed cliffhanger for us to think about off-season. 

And seriously, after teasing Glenn's death several times, we all kind of knew what was going to happen anyway. They should have killed him at the end, we all still would have been shocked and appalled with Abraham died at the beginning of season seven.

In general, I feel like extreme cliffhangers in season finales are lazy. I agree that the end of S2 Buffy is great--but it's not a cheap "is Angel dead" cliffhanger, it's a crunchy "how will Buffy deal with this" cliffhanger. High emotional stakes, but we (viewers) aren't forced to speculate over one dramatic event all off-season. That is the sort that works for me. 

 

mandikaye likes this

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Posted

Five words... "Guys, I know kung fu."

That's the end to the season 2 finale of Chuck, and that episode is maybe the most enjoyable hour of television I've ever watched in my life. It's a good example of a cliffhanger that works because it is consistent with the universe of the show - the new powers it suggests for our hero and how he gets them all make sense within the narrative - but it's also a massive shock when it happens, is only just barely teased at the end of the episode, and gives us just the smallest hint of how the show will change in the next season. If you spoiled someone during the first few episodes that this was coming a year and a half down the pike, they'd believe it and understand it, but they'd also be surprised. That's the logical space you need a cliffhanger to be in - makes sense after you see it, isn't obvious until you do, promises a heightening of the premise and a fundamental change in the central relationships.

GarrettCRW and matthewvose like this

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Posted

As those above have explained, great cliffhangers resolve the season's story arc, but cause you to be further invested in future character and story arcs.

For me, Lost S3.

One of those "Did they just do that...? They really just did that!" moments.

matthewvose and Nicole like this

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Posted

I haven't watched Chuck but that sounds interesting enough to make me watch it sometime - does the show as a whole get wrapped up satisfactorily @lupinejohn?

Lost S3 is a great example @Achates. It subverts everything we expected from the show by that point, and gives us excitement for what they might do in future seasons.

For me the stand out one is Farscape S3. It had me on my feet screaming at my television, and unable to imagine what they were going to do next. Every season did something like that, but this one was even more wild.

And @HelloIamHawt I haven't seen TWD, it's a bit grim dark for my tastes. This makes it sound like I'd get more and more upset with it as it goes on.

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Posted

I haven't watched Chuck but that sounds interesting enough to make me watch it sometime - does the show as a whole get wrapped up satisfactorily @lupinejohn?

Oof. That's a loaded question.

Chuck ended up getting 5 seasons, but from season 2 on it was constantly on the cancellation bubble and it got many last minute reprieves. There were several episodes that the producers thought MIGHT have been the series finale when they made them - the Season 2 finale, the S3 mid-season and season finale, and the S4 mid-season and season finales. By my count, that's five times they had to craft an ending that might not end up being (and in each case wasn't) the real ending, and every time they did at least a very good job. A couple of those were exceptional (if anyone wants to think of the show ending in a hospital hallway at the end of season 4 episode 13, I will not quibble). The actual ending to the series is a bit more controversial within the fandom, and if you do decide to check out the show I might suggest skipping the final season. YMMV.

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