A Cliffhanger ends an Act Break
, 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 To Be Continued
caption is often used here. Typically the longer the viewer is made to wait, the larger the seeming peril. Indeed, this can be a Downer Ending
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 'hanger has a flaw: if the show gets canceled
, the 'hanger stays unresolved
. A few such 'hangers are listed below. This is not to be confused with a Bolivian Army Ending
, 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 Fan Fiction
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.
, Mind Screw
, and Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
series all use cliffhangers as often as possible, some of them with every episode.
contains a comprehensive list of unresolved cliffhangers.
Not to be confused with an area for aircraft set into a mountainside (a cliff hangar), the sort used to hang up clothing (a coat hanger), the laserdisc-based video game
from the Lupin the 3rd
franchise, the pricing game Cliffhangers
on The Price Is Right
(AKA The Yodely Guy game), the movie of the same name
(you might be able to find that here
) or either of the two comic strips
also using the name.
Beware of these being executed badly, too. 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 What Cliffhanger?
. A Cliffhanger Copout
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 To Be Continued Right Now
See also Literal Cliffhanger