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->''"To be resolved...in two weeks! (because I am an evil motherfucker)"''
A Cliffhanger ends an ActBreak, episode, or even a whole season (or a film or novel in a series) with some or all of the main characters in peril of some kind and the audience is made to wait for the outcome. The ToBeContinued caption is often used here. Typically the longer the viewer is made to wait, the larger the seeming peril. Indeed, this can be a DownerEnding to the part just finished -- although many apparent perils and catastrophes are not as serious as they appear. It is a rare Cliffhanger that will cut back simply to watch 'em fall.
A Cliffhanger can also be centered around surprising revelations; either one just made, or one being saved for the 'hanger's resolution.
Named for the old Saturday matinée film serials which would frequently leave a character literally hanging from the side of a cliff, revealing how the character escaped in the next episode.
The season type of cliffhanger has a flaw: if the show gets canceled, the cliffhanger [[LeftHanging stays unresolved]]. A few such cliffhangers are listed below. It is by far, ''[[ThisIsUnforgivable the very worst thing]]'' a producer/studio/company can do to its fans and viewers alike, since it [[TheResolutionWillNotBeTelevised leaves their work incomplete and unfinished]], ultimately resulting in a unsatisfying experience. This is not to be confused with a BolivianArmyEnding, which is an ''intentionally'' unresolved cliffhanger as an ending. If this happens, the cliffhanger may be resolved in a movie or miniseries later on. Or, it may not... and that's why we have FanFiction.
Stories need not end with just one cliffhanger; there can be one for every independent plot thread if the writers think the audience will stand for it.
Beware of these being executed badly. When a cliffhanger is so deliberately vague that it's not even suspenseful enough to hold a viewer's interest until the next chapter, that's WhatCliffhanger. A CliffhangerCopout is when a creator deliberately messes with a story's continuity of events when resolving a cliffhanger or outright refuses to reveal a piece of information that is promised at the end of one chapter to the next. A lampshaded, immediate resolution would be ToBeContinuedRightNow.
MythArc, MindScrew, and JigsawPuzzlePlot series all use cliffhangers as often as possible, some of them with every episode.
[[http://web.archive.org/web/20140405051240/http://rover_wow.tripod.com/tvcliff.htm This site]] contains a comprehensive list of unresolved cliffhangers.
Compare NoEnding. See also BolivianArmyCliffhanger, LeftHanging and LiteralCliffhanger.