This article is about the last episodes of television series. As such, it is absolutely chock-a-block full of spoilers. A river of spoilers. Welcome to Spoilerville! Population: this article.
Fate: after eight seasons, no feature film version in sight
24 was a reprehensible torture-happy show that glorified state-sanctioned brutality, but it deserved better than it got. Instead of wrapping up the series in a dignified fashion, the writers hedged their bets on a feature film and turned Jack Bauer into a vengeful freak instead of giving the character any kind of resolution. The news just broke that 20th Century Fox has rejected the script for a big-screen 24, so it looks as if all that plot wrangling was for nothing.
9. Dark Angel
Fate: cancelled after 41 episodes
The second season of this show about a near-future dystopian Seattle got into weird territory, as genetically enhanced bike messenger/cat burglar Max Guevara (Jessica Alba) encounters an ancient cult of snake-handling übermen and becomes the leader of a micronation of genetic freaks. It’s also implied that she may be the saviour of the human race. None of that gets resolved because the network cancelled it at the end of the second season. James Cameron took the themes from Dark Angel and made Avatar.
8. Lois & Clark
Fate: cancelled after 4 seasons
Verdict: probably a good thing
At the end of the final episode, Lois and Clark come home to find – an infant in a bassinet, with an ambiguous note announcing that the baby is theirs. I guess alien übermenschen don’t have to bother with birthing the natural way. Exec producer Brad Buckner explained that the baby was Kryptonian royalty, but viewers never got to see what became of the little nipper.
7. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fate: cancelled after 31 episodes
The ending of the Terminator series is either the best or the worst unresolved cliffhanger ever pulled on the viewing public. John Connor follows a liquid metal terminator (played by Shirley Manson, of all people) into the future, where the machines hold sway and no one knows who the hell John Connor is. The show had been hinting at the twist ever since the sixth episode, but when it came it was completely unexpected. A third season would have lead to a remarkably different series, but the show had lousy ratings and Fox dropped it.
Fate: those cocksucking bastards cancelled the goddamn show
Verdict: I’m going to stab those HBO pricks in the eye
What in the ever-living fuck happened to Deadwood? Those motherfucking cocksucking claim-jumping sons of bitches at that tittyfucking HBO cancelled the best goddamned glorious bright star in the firmament of their miserable pissant little Sunday night lineup, and they didn’t even open their precious pink rosebuds to give David Milch one last hurrah at the toll booth. Now they shake their fucking pans in the river and leap on every last lousy refracting surface sparkle to proclaim it gold, those soak-fingered farting bastard-pinching hog skins that walk like men.
I miss Deadwood.
Fate: cancelled after two seasons
Verdict: Hey, wait.
Never has television achieved the blue-balling of so many geeks at once. Season two ends with the long-awaited for confrontation between Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl) and Father Justin Crowe (Clancy Brown). Crowe is strung up and dying in a cornfield when Sofie (Clea Duvall) comes along and heals him, the cornfield blighting as the life drains from the plants and flows into Crowe. What? What’s going to happen next season? Oh wait.
4. Veronica Mars
Fate: cancelled after three seasons
Every season of Veronica Mars ended on a cliffhanger, the best of them being the last shot of the first season, when Veronica opens her door and says “I knew it would be you” to an unseen visitor. The end of season three leaves everyone at loose ends: her father in hot water, Veronica dejected, and the powerful (as always) vindicated. Creator Rob Thomas tried to land a fourth season for the show by setting it a few years in the future with Veronica as an FBI agent in training, but the network didn’t bite.
3. The Prisoner (1968)
Fate: cancelled after 17 increasingly weird but glorious episodes
Verdict: I do not understand what just happened, but I liked it
What the – what was that? Why did they do that? Who were the people in the hoods? Why’d they shave that guy’s beard? What about the tunnel full of guys driving mopeds? Could someone explain about the mopeds? And what exactly happened to No. 6? Did he escape back to London, or is he now living in some hyper-real fusion of The Real and The Village? Did No. 6 drag us all into some weird alternate universe that resembles ours but is actually a gigantic prison? Or did The Prisoner show us that we live in a prison overlaid on our reality like some ghastly palimpsest? Is Patrick McGoohan still the coolest guy to walk this earth? Yes.
2. Twin Peaks
Fate: cancelled after 30 episodes
Everyone remembers the start of Twin Peaks: the body of a young woman is found wrapped in plastic. The question of who killed Laura Palmer fueled the show and allowed David Lynch and Mark Frost to wander off in all kinds of strange directions (remember Nadine and her quest for the silent drape runner?). Once they revealed the identity of the killer, though, viewer interest dropped, and the show went out on a bizarre cliffhanger, with the revelation that Agent Cooper was possessed by the spirit of Bob.
Fate: cancelled after five seasons
Verdict: oddly perfect
After the operatic but over-budget clusterfuck of season four, the WB network gave Angel a drastically reduced budget to work with and a demand for more easily digestible ‘monster-of-the-week’ stories. The creators took the money and pushed the show in a completely different direction, shifting from a supernatural Wagnerian comic book to a supernatural law dramedy, as Angel and crew attempt to run an evil law firm and still fight the good fight. The finale ends with (most of) the main characters in a rain-drenched alleyway, facing down a massive army of demons, dragons, what have you. They rush forward, weapons held high. “Let’s go to work,” Angel says. Perhaps the best possible ending of any series, ever.
And those are my top series-ending cliffhangers from shows that were shot down in mid-flight. Do you have any cancelled-too-soon cliffhangers in mind? Are there some closeted Tru Calling fans out there? Let us know in the comments.