The polar opposite of a Grand Finale: a series ends abruptly, without resolution of its basic premise, due to some unplanned event such as cancellation or Author Existence Failure. The story does not end, it simply stops in medias res, possibly with a Cliff Hanger. In a few lucky cases, The Resolution Will Not Be Televised, but goes directly to DVD. In even luckier cases the series will be able to Wrap It Up with a miniseries or theatrical film. More often than not, however, there is no final resolution.
Even more frustratingly, often shows create Myth Arcs haphazardly, stringing viewers along and never really intending to offer any conclusion to the story arcs they tell the first 2/3s of, or answering the questions they raise. This is called The Chris Carter Effect, and it typically occurs when They Just Didn't Care. Those that do care utilize the Front 13, Back 9 episode plan in an attempt to avert this Trope, though that's no guarantee when Real Life Writes the Plotnote i.e. Any Tropes in that index plus TV Strikes.
Sadly common in Webcomics, since these are often one man shows, and hobby ones at that, and Real Life Writes the Plot (or doesn't, to be accurate) when the authors get too busy to continue. Moreover, quite a few television shows had also got cut short by The Writer's Strike of 2007. Some did manage to continue, but others were left in the dust.
If the work has a sufficiently dedicated fanbase, this can become Fanfic Fuel for a Continuation fic.
Compare No Ending, in which there is a deliberate decision to end a work abruptly, and Left Hanging, where while the series ends, many questions are left unanswered. Can also happen to curses. If it doesn't deal with the major plot issues, a Gecko Ending will include this. See also Orphaned Series.
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Anime and Manga
Anime based upon Rumiko Takahashi's manga seem usually subject to this. The anime versions of Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, and InuYasha are all Cut Short. Possibly because Takahashi manga are so long. However, Urusei Yatsura did get a theatrical wrap-up and InuYasha was eventually finished with a second anime series called Inuyasha: The Final Act, which covered the manga from the point where the first series left off to its conclusion.
The original Bubblegum Crisis OVA is rather infamous for this. It got to about episode 8, which was a big Character Development moment for Nene Romanova and the Midseason Upgrade for everyone, and then... a combination of internal politics and budget issues caused a schism between the two companies that produced the show, ending production abruptly. Bubblegum Crash! tried sometime later to tie things up, but didn't have everyone on board, and the result was... not well received by fans.
Baccano!, its anime first episode is a huge indication of that, apparently the unknown blond girl sliced Isaac's ear off for no reason; her name is Adele by the way and she is a major character further where the anime left off. It seems Brain Base didn't expect this much of a flop; the series had to be cut short.
Silent Möbius ends like this. The manga, however, completes the story... and was released before the series, so its a rare case of the trope working in reverse.
The Left Hanging nature of Martian Successor Nadesico was intentional. The non-ending of its movie continuation was not, since it was a planned trilogy that had its second and third installments canceled.
Fire Candy ended with a particularly violent Cliff Hanger after only nineteen chapters, leaving the biggest part of the plot entirely untouched.
The anime version of Ai Yori Aoshi ended at volume 12 or so of the manga, leaving the "Kaoru and Aoi" plot thread unresolved. (The manga ran for 17 volumes and did have a proper ending.)
Gantz, or rather the anime version: due to the very slow updating of the source manga, only the first three arcs were adapted before a confusing filler ending concluded the series.
The Love Hina anime finished its first season, began setting up a second...before getting canceled a few episodes in and with zero resolution. Eventually, a few OVAs came out that tried to rush through the missing plot arcs.
The Berserk anime notoriously ends at the conclusion of "Band of the Hawks", a very long flashback that explains How We Got Here for the first few episodes. Not only does this leave the series with a massive Downer Ending, it isn't clear how they'd get out (even though you know they do because of the opening episodes), because the Skull Knight - who rescues Guts and Casca in the manga - isn't in the anime. It's interesting to note that the anime series did not end abruptly because of cancellation or Author Existence Failure - it just... ended.
Rozen Maiden, whose anime Overtook the Manga and whose manga tragically ended with a Deus ex Machina (and an apology) following a dispute between the producers and the publishers. The manga did get a sequel that picks up almost right where the original left off.
The Rave Master anime just ends right after the introduction of Lucia, the true Big Bad of the series, is shown. The show had promptly been canceled due to low ratings and its assumed this was a gambit to get readers to check out the manga to see what happens next.
The Pretty Face manga was also cut short. While the ending was clearly intentional, only one of the major plot points was resolved on screen, and a whole additional year passed with the basic premise, with no clear reason why that didn't deserve to be shown, whilst the year we did see did.
Ditto Mx0. How the guy was able to continue illustrating after those is an incredible feat altogether.
Ditto To Love-Ru, which had a very very unsatisfying ending due to the Creator Breakdown the artist Kentaro Yabuki went through — the Girl Next Door was based on his wife, who turned out to be anything but a Girl Next Door — sleeping around on him, kidnapping their daughter, selling the daughter back to him, stealing his computers and life savings, and then threatening to sue him for the rights of the aforementioned Girl Next Door if he didn't end his hit series. The ending was extremely, extremely abrupt, solved no plot threads, and generally pissed off the fanbase — until Nico Nico Douga and 2Channel put together the news articles about the divorce and figured out what happened.
Even though the story has taken a rather drastic change in tone and major characters, it has seemed to successfully subvert this trope and is now continuing.
The second series of Genshiken stops at a point in the storyline just before the eighth manga volume begins. It had previously added to and extended the manga's material in order to have enough for a third series.
The Naru Taru anime ended at about halfway through the manga's story, giving next to no closure.
Depending on who you ask, The Big O qualifies. Some will argue that they tried to wrap it up when they discovered they wouldn't get a third season, others believe they left the end of season two as is in the hopes of getting a season three.
The Galaxy Angel anime parodies this. At the end of every single season, a huge cliffhanger is set up, and the next season makes absolutely no mention of it whatsoever.
Pet Shop of Horrors only had FOUR episodes made, there's no introduction of the plot from the manga or any explanation of why Count D does what he does, for a ten volume Manga (which is complete and with a sequel in progress) it is very disappointing that the anime didn't get into any of it.
The anime version of Bobobo-bo Bobobo ended so abruptly, even the characters were shell-shocked, because there was a large petition (or something of the sort) from parents in Japan who thought the show was offensive, stupid, and encouraged bullying.
The Katekyo Hitman Reborn! anime ended this way, right after the Future Arc when they come home, all they do is say that Tsuna needs more training before coming a boss and just stare at the sky right when the credits roll.
School Zone ends with the lead characters discovering what they have to do to put an end to the thirteen ghost stories... and ending the current crisis at the school as they start on it. It ends without their actually finishing their new task... and without fully resolving the subplot regarding the mystery of twins Mako and Miko.
The author seems to have a thing for this — or perhaps is just Screwed by the Network — because Presents ends the same way. The main plot thread is never resolved — after we finally get a hint how it might be a few chapters before the end — and the final collection ends with a piece that doesn't even match the theme of the rest of the series.
Ero-manga story Junk Story, featured in Eros Comix's Silky Whip Extreme ends with the heroine captured, waiting for a rescue by a character who appears to have been Killed Off for Real. This would just be a Downer Ending combined with No Ending, except for the fact that it leaves every single plot thread unresolved, and even introduces new plot threads that will never be resolved.
The Aoi Hana anime cuts off right at the crucial moment at which Fumi realizes Akira was her first love. Originally more seasons were planned, but due to disappointing DVD-sales it's highly unlikely any more will be produced.
The SWOT manga ended rather abruptly at chapter 20, right after the conclusion of a fight that would've been building up to a Tournament Arc.
The anime of Kare Kano got cut off after one season for several reasons, among them Studio Gainax having the usual Studio Gainax problems and, rather more importantly, the manga's author reacting very badly to the direction the anime took and pulling the rights.
Faeries Landing started off slow and then built up to ramming speed with the plot, finally hitting important and very well put together plots and scripts, introduced a new love interest, finally had the main heroine meet her parents completely and both the main villain of the heroine and the main villain of the hero attack their respective targets and just as the hero and heroine go towards their targets for battle...... the volume ends. What makes this a problem? The author dropped the series to start on another promising to come back for it and never doing so. Effectively the series ENDS on a cliffhanger just before the resolution!
The anime of Psychic Academy ends after the Beach Episode, barely a third of the way through the manga storyline. Not only does it not resolve the love triangle, it barely managed to finish defining it!
The Tokko anime ends on a cliffhanger with no resolution to the story. The manga also ends with no real conclusion, only a brief monologue by Ranmaru saying that the world ended two years later. with no further explanation
Happened twice with the 1999 Hunter × Hunter anime, at first immediately after a big reveal right in the middle of an intense story arc due to overtaking the manga. Needless to say, fans weren't pleased and as a result the animation studio released a series of OVAs that covered the rest of the arc and the one after that. Unfortunately those ended in the middle of a chapter.
The Durarara!! anime. By the time it's over, Celty still hasn't found her head, two major characters from the light novels are introduced in the very last episode, and it still hasn't been revealed what Izaya's ultimate plans are. It did eventually get another season, though.
Gun Blaze West ended with the heroes managing to pass a test and allowed to be shown a secret way to the fabled location but never actually showing them reaching there. The final bits showing a earlier character thought killed coming upon the gun he gave to the main character who left it as sort of a bread crumb to follow him.
Bleach: The anime regularly Overtook the Manga prompting long arcs that would last for a year at a time. When the anime caught up to the manga again at the end of the Lost Agent Arc, the anime was instead cancelled. There has been no official word on either the reason for the cancellation or whether it will ever be continued in the future.
Tatsunoko Productions' '90s remake of Mach Go Go Go was planned to be 52 episodes, but a change in directors and a significant drop in ratings caused the series to wind up overhauled midway through production. It wound up being pulled after 34 episodes were produced. A dub of this version titled "Speed Racer X" would air on Nickelodeon in 2003, but only got through 13 episodes before it was abruptly cancelled due to Speed Racer Enterprises filing a lawsuit against DiC over ownership rights to the dub.
Princess Rouge was supposed to be six episodes long, but funding ran dry, and it got cut off at two episodes, with the second episode even going so far as to hint at a new villain for the third episode... which does not exist.
Atsuhi Ohkubo's first manga B.Ichi has a intense build-up to the final confrontation, Big Bad Friend Emine starts the Gathering of the Masks, the protagonist Showtaro has taken a level in badass and is ready to jump in, determined to save his friend… and a big END is splashed at the bottom of the page. The series ends abruptly just before the final arc, with several questions unresolved and others only vaguely answered. It's safe to assume that it wasn't meant to end this way.
D.Gray Man: The English Dub ended when Allen Walker and co. were leaving on a ship still on the search for General Cross with the Millennium Earl and Road Kamelot looking at a large amount of Akuma (that are clearly meant for the exorcists). Then...nothing. The English Dub ends at that point halfway through the series with no plans at the moment to dub the other half.
When it comes to the rest of the series, the anime stops after Lenalee and Allen defeat the Level 4 Akuma, with Lenalee discovering the new Crystal Type Anti-Akuma Weapon. Aftwerwords, there's a shot of the main cast, who have survived the attack, and the Noah Clan with different appearances, indicating a time skip. The show ends with Allen and the Millennium Earl preparing for the inevitable fights ahead. The last thing we get is a cut to black with the word "FIN" covering the screen. The show was cancelled due to a combination of low ratings and the anime getting close to overtaking the manga.
CrossGen's entire Myth Arc was cut short due to financial collapse, and even the Wrap It Up mini series was nipped in the bud. Especially ironic for fans who were leery over getting involved due to having experienced the same thing with Valiant, a few years earlier.
The CrossGen characters are now owned by Marvel and a revival of some kind is in the works.
The collapse of Dreamwave Comics cut several Transformers comics short; none of the titles were picked up by IDW. This is a particularly bad example, since when Dreamwave collapsed, the comics were right square in the middle of resolving the epic Myth Arc that had been set up. Dreamwave's bankruptcy left numerous plotlines hanging, ended the series on a cliffhanger, and made several scenes that were important foreshadowing look like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
The second volume of Batman Adventures, which had taken comic book tie-ins to cartoons to a new level; it was set in the DCAU after Batman: The Animated Series and during(ish) Justice League, acting almost like a sequel series with well-written stories that averted the original status quo while also bringing closure to various characters and foreshadowing new ones. It was canceled after only 17 issues to make way for The Batman's tie-in comic. Before going out, they were able to resolve some plot threads: revealing the truth behind the Penguin's mayoral election, having Penguin quit as mayor, making a major revelation about Poison Ivy which acted as her exit from the series, providing closure for the stories of Clayface and Mr. Freeze, and having Batman confront Joe Chill without even knowing it. But that also left various plot threads unresolved... The identity of the DCAU's new Red Hood who was only able to make one full panel appearance, the Phantasm's motivations for allying with him, the Riddler being left in a coma, Talia's reactions to being abandoned by Batman after taking a bullet for him, Eel O'Brien was introduced but never got around to becoming Plastic Man, and so on... On message boards creators Dan Slott and Ty Templeton have spoken of much more awesome sounding ideas for future issues which would tie DC Animated Continuity together in new and awesome ways... they had planned for up to their 40th or so issue!
Quantum and Woody was canceled suspended after issue #17, then resumed eleven months later with issue #34 as a meta Time Skip. The comic then resumed at #18, building towards the events in #34, but was canceled for good before that could be shown.
The 1980s UK Zoids comic (written by Grant Morrison) was canceled just as the story started to become really interesting.
X-Men Forever was intended to be an ongoing series that was cut short due to lackluster sales. it was an attempt for Chris Claremont to wrap up long simmering plot points from his original legendary run with X-Men from '74-'91. While some of the plot points were wrapped up, the comic was cancelled just as a whole new set of plot points had been introduced. However, while for most comic writers, this is a severe annoyance, for Chris, it was just Tuesday.
The Maggie the Cat mini-series, a spin-off from Jon Sable, Freelance, was cancelled after two issues with no resolution.
Omaha the Cat Dancer ground to a halt with none of its plots resolved when creators Reed Waller and Kate Worley split up. With Worley's death in 2004, there is now no chance it will ever be finished.
In 1998 Werewolf by Night volume 2 was published, intended to be a continuing series, but was canceled after 6 issues due to poor sales. It was decided to move the storyline to the Strange Tales anthology, of which four issues were solicited with the specific intention of wrapping up plot lines that the first cancellation left hanging. Ironically, Strange Tales was canceled as well after two issues, killing the chances of seeing those nagging questions answered.
The most recent storylines in Sonic the Hedgehog was hit with this bad due to a major case of Screwed by the Lawyers - former writer Ken Penders had sued Archie and Sega to regain custody of the characters he created and won. However, he was willing to let them use them again under two stipulations that both companies balked at - that the storyline "Mobius: 25 Years Later" became the comic's future canonnote Which not only went against Sega's mandate of "Sonic can't have a steady relationship", but also required writers to keep certain people unaltered, including Julie-Su, Lara-Su and Locke, the last of which was Killed Off for Real during the whole legal mess and that everything involving his characters had to be vetted by himnote Which meant that Archie had to get approval from two groups and Sega also had to sign off to him, turning him into a second licencor.. During the height of the mess, Archie opted to put the Echidnas created by Penders into an alternate dimension, then reboot the universe duringSonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, thus not only making the comic universe video game-friendly, but also forcing a lot of stories to be stopped abruptly - the King Naugus storyline ends with Naugus having a major freakout and running away when he's hit with visions of the old universe, Antoine no longer comatose, Bunnie back to being a cyborg and Sally no long roboticized.
There's an interesting case with the Argentine comic book El Eternauta. The writer Héctor Germán Oesterheld joined the Montoneros, a terrorist organization, and became a fugitive of the military government (all this is real world stuff, not comic book plot). And yet, he managed to continue writing the comic book (with an Anvilicious tone in support of the Montoneros) while being on the run, sending the scripts by mail to the artist Francisco Solano López, who made the weekly comic book and sent it to the publisher. The comic book is a finished work, but Oesterheld was captured and killed at some unknown point. To this day, it is not known if he has really managed to finish the comic book before his capture, or if some other Montonero sent scripts in his name afterwards.
This appears to be the fate of the Erast Fandorin series of Russian mystery novels, at least for English-speaking readers. Thirteen books have been published in Russia but book #10, The Diamond Chariot, is the last to be translated into English.
Although the principal story is resolved, many, many plot points are never answered in A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is especially noticeable because the author makes the books constantly remind you of these points, and never answers most of them, actually making "you can never know all the answers" a major theme of the last book.
.Hack//Zero: a series of novels set in the main .hack canon that tells the story of a (female) Heavy Axmen named Carl and her encounters with Aura and Skeith/Sora. The series abruptly ended with no real resolution after it's first volume relegating Carl's story to side materials (She ends up Data Drained by Skeith apparently) and since the .hack series as a whole has moved on a good number of years in the timeline (being on the 3rd version of The World now) it shows no signs of ever being finished. It's also a case of No Export for You, likely due to it's unfinished nature.
In-universe in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The main characters love a book called An Imperial Affliction; "the books ends right in the middle of a"
"The Time Traders" ends its book run just as its portraying a long time series of enemies as good guys. Author Existence Failure, though Andre Norton had lived a long life and the new books were made fairly late in it.
The Salmon of Doubt was the novel Douglas Adams was working on at the time of his death and remains, as yet, unfinished with no indication of plans to create a completion.
The Edgar & Ellen book series ends partway through its second arc.
The Resident Evil novelizations by S.D. Perry end with Code Veronica. All the gaping plot holes between games have been tied up nicely thanks to Trent and a couple of original novels, and the entire plot as a whole has built up to a final stand against the Nebulous Evil Organisation Umbrella that we'll never get to read.
The famed So Bad, It's Good fantasy novella The Eye of Argon suffered this problem for a long time: the most-distributed copy was a xerox that had accidentally misplaced the final pages. Copies of the original fanzine in which it was published, including the ending, were eventually found; but given the nature of the work, most didn't mind the presence of this trope, and indeed some prefer it.
Averted with The Wheel of Time - many fans feared this would happen due to Jordan dying, but enough notes were left behind that the series could come to a conclusion.
Live Action TV
Cliffhangers, from 1979, a game attempt by NBC to popularize the concept of old-time movie serials in a weekly television series format. Each week had three installments:
"Stop Susan Williams," inspired by the old "Perils of Pauline" serio-dramas of the 1930s. Here, the "Pauline" character is filled by model Susan Anton as the title character, a journalist who — while investigating her brother's murder discovers that the killing was part of an international conspiracy.
"The Secret Empire," a U.S. marshal who discovers a futuristic underground city. This installment was based on "The Phantom Empire" movie serial starring Gene Autry.
"The Curse of Dracula," about the famous Brams Stoker character taking the guise of a college professor, in an attempt to achieve mortality. Only one of these — "The Curse of Dracula" — reached its conclusion within the 10-week run. Low ratings and the absurdity of the storylines, plus ABC's one-two punch of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, turned "Cliffhangers" into a show that truly left the viewer hanging after cancellation. As a postscript, the "Stop Susan Williams" and "The Secret Empire" installments were re-edited into two-hour "made-for-TV" movies for later re-airing by NBC, and included their intended conclusions.
Dallas: The 14th season finale, "Conundrum," also was billed as the series' finale of the original CBS version. However, the episode itself was not unlike the other season finales (a massive plot development to entice the audience into tuning in that fall). Here, J.R. fears he has lost his empire and everyone that means everything to him, and contemplating suicide, is visited by an angel(?), who, in a It's a Wonderful Life-type dream, shows him how others would have fared without him. In the end, J.R. trains the gun at his head; Bobby, concerned for J.R.'s welfare, arrives at Southfork just in time to hear gunfire coming from J.R.'s bedroom, rushes to the door and says, "Oh my God!" Viewers are left to wonder whether J.R. killed himself ... a question that wouldn't be answered for another five years and the first of the reunion movies.
Alf: The series cancellation in the spring of 1990, after its fourth season, left unresolved the fate of the title character, as government agents surround the alien and he faces certain vivisection. This is all resolved in a made-for-TV movie aired several years later (he is rescued).
Dear John's star Ralph Bates died in 1991, so plans to continue the series were scrapped.
Firefly was cancelled with no clear conclusion, but was later able to wrap up several important plot points in Serenity.
My Name Is Earl. While it was a comedy and therefore didn't have a huge Myth Arc or anything, it did have Earl's karma list. Also, for four seasons, viewers had never known who Dodge's father was (though Earl was not a likely candidate for several reasons) and had assumed that Darnell was the father of "Earl Junior" (given that they're both black, while Joy and Earl are white). The last episode reveals that Earl is Dodge's dad (which makes some jokes in the episode "Guess Who's Coming Out Of Joy" Harsher in Hindsight), and proves that Darnell isn't Earl Junior's dad. The episode ended just as Joy was about to begin explaining, and then the series got canceled. We don't even know how far along on his list Earl was, or what all he had left to do.
Lois and Clark ends with them finding a baby that does not belong to them. There was going to be more explanation of the baby's origins had the show continued.
This was the same episode where they were told that Kryptonians are genetically incompatible with humans (or, at least, Clark and Lois aren't), destroying their hopes of starting a family.
Hotel Babylon: While not having many, if any, continuing story over the show the finale episode produced a huge amount of development and a rather cruel WHAM episode. This left the main character with a decision chosing between two potential love interests and overall what will happen to the hotel... and no ending was ever given because it was cut short due to low ratings.
The 1970s UK scifi show The Tomorrow People was cut short due to a strike at ITV. It was meant to end properly with an epic two-parter, but plans had to be scrapped.
Stargate SG-1: One of the lucky ones. They averted it as they were able to wrap up the major, major plot points of the entire series by the end of Season 8. The series was Uncancelled after season 8, and the Ori Arc was subsequently introduced as part of a Retool at the beginning of the ninth season. Then after ending with no real resolution at the end of season 10, the Ori Arc is concluded with The Ark of Truth, a direct-to-DVD movie. They were also able to conclude another unfinished plot with the movie Stargate Continuum: the defeat of the villain Baal, who had been the last threatening Goa'uld in the series.
The spinoff Stargate Universe was unceremoniously cancelled midway through its second season. The series ends on something of a Cliffhanger, with no resolution whatsoever to any major plot arc. Almost the entire main cast goes into stasis pods for a projected three-year bypass of the galaxy that the Destiny is in. However, the crew is short by one (1) stasis pod, and whoever remains outside it would have only two weeks to live and attempt to repair it; if he or she leaves the life support on for any longer than that, Destiny will not have enough power to make it to the next galaxy for 1,000 years or more. Eli Wallace, of all people, elects to show that has indeed undergone Character Development, and remains outside the stasis pod. Whether he repairs it successfully or not, and the ultimate fate of the crew of the Destiny, are left completely indeterminate.
Supernatural has an In-Universe example. Turns out that the adventures of the Winchester brothers were unknowingly recorded by a Prophet of the Lord, who had been publishing his writings as a series of adventure novels. Unfortunately, the publisher goes bankrupt and the last book ends with one of the main characters dragged off to Hell.
Terra Nova first series ended on a pretty epic cliff hanger, about an old boat, but alas, was mercilessly (or thankfully, was mercifully) cancelled, but a make your own comic internet game has been created to fill up some of the sadness with the abrupt ending.
Twin Peaks. This one is up for debate, as the series does resolve its premise, but in such a way that most viewers couldn't figure it out. A theatrical film follow-up, Fire Walk with Me, ended up being a prequel rather than resolving any remaining story points from the TV series.
Space Cases ends before any of the various mysteries could be solved or before the characters made it home.
Joan of Arcadia ended right in the middle of a cliffhanger with God and the Devil fighting over her soul as a tick bite throws everything she's ever believed into question.
Season two ended with her meeting the mysterious Ryan Hunter, who apparently either also spoke to God in the past or spoke to the Devil or was the Devil.
In Hogan's Heroes, the ending may have been a Foregone Conclusion due to it being based on real history (the Allies would defeat the Germans and the characters would be liberated) but it was still never shown.
That said, the heroes and Klink had involvement in D-Day, Operation Valkyrie, and scuttling Germany's Heavy Water experiments.
Tru Calling is (sadly for its unluckily small cult fanbase) an excellent example of this. Not only was the final episode never actually aired, but even the network's initial episode order for the second season turned out to be only 6 episodes... when the writers had not only obviously been settling in for the long haul by setting up an epic-level Myth Arc, but, according to the writing staff, they had already planned through episode eight of that season. Ouch.
Not to mention, the series was cut directly after the episode with extremely important plot lines - namely that Tru had just learned that others have her same powers... that other being her own father and Jason Priestley's character, although they both try to do the opposite of what Tru does i.e. make sure people stay dead..
The Pretender was canceled at the end of season four on a cliffhanger. There were two made-for-TV movies that continued the story, but didn't finish it. (There were supposed to be 4 movies made, but the last two were also canceled.) Although, in the words of series creator Shaun Cassidy, "we saw the ending coming soon enough to wrap the story up," the last episode of American Gothic left a lot of unanswered questions: what did Merlyn's disappearance mean? Was her Heroic Sacrifice a failure, or not? Was she absorbed into Caleb? Does he now possess her powers and innate goodness with which to fight Buck's sinister influence? Will Gail still be under Buck's thrall, or will she snap out of her Chickification and bite him in the balls again? Will Selena ever stop going through that Heel-Face Revolving Door? Is Buck going to succeed in corrupting Caleb or not? Even for a mystery show, and one which by its very nature is cyclical, not much makes sense here.
Night Court ended with an episode that seemed part Cliff Hanger and part Wrap It Up, with roughly one third of the cast electing to stay in their current jobs and half the cast moving on to some new life outside the courthouse. While some of these career changes seemed poised to start a spin-off series (Christine is elected to Congress) most of them seemed poised to continue the series. Perhaps the strangest of these was bailiff Bull Shannon being persuaded to leave Earth by humanoid aliens who needed a tall guy to reach the things on their high shelves...
The final episode of the sci-fi war series Space: Above and Beyond sets up a great cliffhanger, with two of the main characters trapped behind enemy lines, another main maimed and possibly near death, the battle plan Earth Forces had pinned all of their hopes on compromised...and then it's over. We never even find out if Earth wins the war or not. Thanks, FOX!
The 2002 sci-fi series Odyssey 5 ends with astronaut Angela Perry abducted by the AI's and scientist Kurt Mendel being arrested on suspicion of killing her. Plus the mysterious Cabal, which the team assume have something to do with the AI's and the impending destruction of the Earth, turn out to be a government force trying to stop the AI's and who believe that the Odyssey 5 team are the traitors.
Kyle XY ended with Kyle uncovering a nefarious plot and discovering the identity of his mother. It's left at a Cliffhanger with Kyle only partially stopping the plot. It's left unresolved who his true love interest is. Word of God described the rest of the series in broad strokes. Very annoying as the series was cancelled halfway through the season and no moves were made to provide even the slightest of a better resolution.
The last episode before the cancellation reveals that one of the leaders of the Phoenix Organization appears to be John's best friend. Word of God claims that this is false, though, and the man was supposed to have been revealed an impostor who underwent plastic surgery.
Riget ended after two seasons with many loose ends due to a rare TV case of Key Person Existence Failure: two leading actors died, the risk of this having been heightened due to the lengthy gaps between seasons and the advanced ages of several characters.
Nowhere Man. Ended on a huge cliffhanger. Gets extra points since it was one of UPN's most-watched and most critically-acclaimed shows. Was replaced by a show that was so horrible that it didn't even last 10 episodes.
Reunion ended before its murderer could be revealed. A small but dedicated group of fans asked the producers to reveal the murderer, causing the producers to admit that they hadn't decided yet.
Angel is an odd example - it cuts short the resolution, as a result of cancellation, but it actually worked as the grand finale for the show - "You never stop fighting..."
The '90s AMC series Remember WENN ended with an unresolved cliffhanger after the network's new management abruptly canceled the show.
Soap. Creator Susan Harris had written out a five-season arc for the show, but it was yanked by the network after season four, leaving several unresolved cliffhangers in the finale.
The Upstairs Downstairs spinoff Thomas & Sarah was supposed to have a second series, but this was wiped out by a technicians' strike at ITV. The first series had ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.
Besides those examples already listed above, any series which ends with the on-screen notice "to be continued" by default falls into this category.
My So-Called Life. Ended on a cliffhanger that would have been answered in Season Two.
Heroes ended with a cliffhanger that had clearly been intended to set up another season.
Intelligence was cancelled abruptly after two seasons. The last image of the series, therefore, was the main character lying in a pool of his own blood after being shot repeatedly, with no resolution.
Defying Gravity, after being Screwed by the Network, ends just as everything appears to be reaching a climax of sorts. The sets were destroyed by the time the episodes were shown, dashing all hopes of a revival. While by that point the identity of Beta was revealed, this only raised more questions than it answered. Word of God helped fill in some of the blanks but not enough to get an idea of where the show was going.
Drive only lasted 6 episodes with the final episode showing the main characters robbing a bank and one of them getting shot and bleeding badly.
JAG: The last episode of the first season, ”Skeleton Crew”, ended on a cliffhanger with Rabb arrested as a murder suspect. At the same time JAG was cancelled on NBC but soon got uncancelled on CBS. The story was eventually resolved in third season episode ”Death Watch”.
Gilligan's Island never got a finale in the show itself. There were, however, a few TV movies that tried to wrap up the series.
Keen Eddieonly got thirteen episodes, and only a handful were aired before it was canceled. Watching the rest of the episodes, especially the last, shows they were building up to something, and while there thankfully wasn't a cliffhanger, none of the character-arcs were even kinda resolved.
Flash Forward - with only one season, it was never really given a chance to prove itself, so now the screwed-over viewers are left to wonder what may have been, what D. Gibbons' wall of crazy said, and why 2016 meant "The End".
The Black Donnellys ends on a major cliffhanger with many dangling plot threads and the central question (exactly what the cops want to know from Joey "Ice Cream" completely unanswered, or in this case, as it's a question, unasked)!
The HBO series Luck had good enough ratings to renew it early in its first season, but they were forced to cancel it when three horses died during production.
Being a Sketch Comedy, The Amanda Show itself didn't suffer from this after its abrupt cancellation, but Show Within a ShowMoody's Point had ended the final season on a huge cliffhanger in which the main character learned that she'd been Switched at Birth and that she wasn't who she thought she was. Even creator Dan Schneider doesn't know what would have happened next, because he never got a chance to write it.
After the third season Lie to Me wasn't renewed. So the series basically concluded on the season ender, which included Lightman admitting to his daughter that he loves Foster.
Alcatraz ended its first (and only) season with the female protagonist dying on an operating table after getting shot. Clearly meant to be a Cliffhanger, unfortunately the show was cancelled after the season ended.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles: ended its second season with a cliffhanger and John Connor trapped in the future ... and was then cancelled.
Earth 2: ended its only season with a cliffhanger.
Dead Like Me: a rare inversion of this trope. Although the series was cancelled abruptly after only two seasons, the show's somewhat unique storytelling format, which resulted in most episodes ending in such a way that they could almost all stand as finales, allowed it to end in a satisfying manner (so much so a later revival TV movie was seen as superfluous).
How To Rock: Only got a season, the show ends on the Christmas episode, nothing more. Not because of ratings, but because the channel it airs on was on transition.
Last Resort: Averted. The serialized military drama was cancelled, but the network allowed the series to air its allotted 13 episodes, as well as film a concluding episode written to wrap up the storyline.
Star Trek: Enterprise: An example of an unresolved story arc. The first two seasons centered around a Temporal Cold War. The storyline didn't impress fans, so it was dropped in favor of the year-long Expanse arc, and then the fourth season consisted of a number of mini-arcs. Had the series not been cancelled, it likely would have returned to the Temporal Cold War arc and wrapped it up (given past precedent of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager all more or less going full-circle in their finales). Despite the fact the Trek franchise has a healthy literary and comic book component, so far The Resolution Will Not Be Televised has not applied.
The Others, a midseason show on NBC in 2000, ran for thirteen episodes and ended in truly brutal fashion: almost every main character apparently dies in a cliffhanger that was never resolved, since the show was not renewed for a second season.
Canadian series MythQuest ended after 13 episodes. The final episode, despite introducing a new, potentially important recurring character, has elements of And the Adventure Continues. It's not clear whether it was a half-season that wasn't renewed, or an outright cancellation.
Alphas: Ended on a huge cliffhanger just after Stanton Parrish's attack on Grand Central Station, with Dr. Rosen (potentially) dead, and a possible new batch of enhanced Alphas. Parrish's group of terrorist Alphas were also still on the loose.
The Hour ended its second season on a massive cliffhanger (Freddie was left beaten senseless outside Lime Grove Studios) and was canceled soon after.
Victorious: For some reason, Nick decided to cancel the show despite it getting ratings on the same reason the aforementioned How To Rock got cancelled, and thus, has no happy ending, and also led to the Fandom Rivalry of Victoria Justice and Ariana Grande (which destroyed their friendship) to boot.
Many LEGO lines ended without concluding their stories — Slizers just as the forces of good and evil were about to clash, Robo Riders before they revealed who the Big Bad was, but nothing got hit harder than BIONICLE. Beginning from the 2009 line, the creative team attempted a drastic Retool, taking the story away from the Matoran Universe onto other planets. They eagerly planned the story ahead for at least 3 years, there is evidence to believe that some sets were also partially designed, they contracted voice actors and made a trilogy-starter movie, wrote a draft for the sequel, the story writer was covered up to his glasses in all the potential plot threads he set up, and fan interaction hiked... then, Mr. LEGO called that they're canceling the line. Although in 2010, 6 meager little figures were released (though reluctantly, and under the guise of a 10th year Milestone Celebration commemorative line, in place of the sets they originally wanted to make), and the writer was allowed to continue the stories, Real Life soon forced him to just abandon the whole thing, leaving a tremendous amount of plotlines unresolved. Despite how tragic this may sound, the line still lasted for an impressive decade, while most other LEGO themes only go for just a couple years.
The Norse Mythology tale "Rigsthula" abruptly breaks off after introducing two named characters who may be Rig's adversaries, because its only source is a manuscript whose final pages have been lost.
Phase 3 of the Gorillaz storyline had been building up to a supernatural confrontation involving a 50-foot drummer and a demon-man living on an island made of plastic with a hostage. There was also a subplot involving a young female super soldier and her robotic doppelganger. Sadly, it was never completed, and a lot of fans are upset about it.
This often happens to Fanfictions due to various reasons.
Shenmue. The second installment ended with Ryo finally meeting Shenhua and discovering that the mirror he's been carrying does indeed have some sort of supernatural power. Then Yu Suzuki got the plug pulled on his series due to poor sales, so we'll never know the significance of this, nor Lan Di's ultimate role in the story. Then Suzuki quit at Sega, guaranteeing that we'll really never know how it all would have turned out.
The 1999 PC Survival Horror game Nocturne ended on a positively agonizing cliffhanger, which over a decade later has yet to be revisited thanks to the game's storyline morphing into Bloodrayne. All is not lost, though: an interview with the developers stated that Nocturne is not Canon Discontinuity, and that they created Bloodrayne specifically to have an intellectual property they could relinquish to Majesco if and when they severed ties with the company. They still hope to release a true sequel to Nocturne someday.
Freedom Force 2 ends with the Jean Grey Expy, Alchemiss encountering an entity calling itself Energy X. Unfortunately, there has been no confirmation one way or the other if we'll ever see a third game...
The Legacy of Kain series. The last game does give a glorious send off (of a sort) to one of its two main protagonists and does end on a hopeful note but the Big Bad is still at large and there's plenty of dangling story strings to be resolved. A final game to wrap the series up will almost certainly not be made due to the main writer departing and the death of Tony Jay.
Two series of remakes were also Cut Short by Capcom. The Powered Up series and the Maverick Hunter X series would have continued on from being remakes of their respective source series if not for the fact that both remakes were commercially unsuccessful.
Namco's Xenosaga franchise was also Cut Short after Episodes I and II fell short of sales expectations. Originally intended to be six games produced over a decade and spread out across the PlayStation 2 and what was to become the PlayStation 3, it was wrapped up after only three games, with the final one ending on a non-commital Sequel Hook just in case it somehow sold well enough to warrant an actual Episode IV. It didn't. Episode II is derided as a Franchise Killer, and for good measure (it was not a very good game), but it wasn't the only factor fans like to single out.
As per the Neverwinter Nights example, it would probably be quicker to list Mario fan games and ROM hacks that DO end up as part of a full series than ones that get abandoned before then. Given that fan works are usually spare time deals done for no monetary return, this probably shouldn't surprise anyone. And getting just one finished game is already kind of a 'likely to never happen' kind of thing.
Seems to be back, if sporadically, as of September 2009.
pictures for sad children is an odd example of a webcomic doing this deliberately. The story of Paul and Gary just ended without any resolution; since this, John Campbell has continued writing comics in the same style, just with no overarching plot or recurring characters.
The Dragon Age machinima series "Warden's Fall" ends just after Kristoff tracks down Cyril, who had been bringing human sacrifices to the Mother's servants to feed her hunger. Cyril kills himself by jumping off a building and Kristoff stalks off having reached a dead end in his investigation. Apparently a sixth episode was planned but was never made.
Samurai Jack: Ran for four seasons but Genndy jumped ship to focus on other ventures leaving no real ending. He promised a movie to wrap up the series, but so far it's been stuck in Development Hell.
Another Spidey example is The Spectacular Spider-Man which left many a plot thread hanging. You can thank Sony and Disney's purchase of Marvel for this. Sony had to relinquish the television rights to keep the film rights.
Duckman, which went three seasons without a single Cliff Hanger, ended its run with an episode where the title character (a talking duck, private detective and widower) remarries only to have the wedding disrupted by the return of his dead wife, Beatrice. She asks why he didn't wait for her. He says he thought she was dead. She asks why Cornfed (Duckman's partner) didn't tell him the truth. Cornfed says he can explain everything. And To Be Continued pops up on the screen. Naturally, the one time they ended the season with a Cliff Hanger expecting renewal, the show was canceled.
Clone High. At least it was some kind of resolution since it was supposed to be the season finale, but it was a Cliffhanger.
Transformers Animated seems to have fallen victim to this. Due to its abrupt cancellation, it ended with many unresolved plotlines and unexplored characters. The final episode itself only resolved a fraction of the many plot points introduced earlier in the season.
Obscure 1980s cartoon The Bluffers centered around a Gang of Critters trying to find out the secret of a villain named Clandestino. It got canceled before they could say what his secret was.
Hey Arnold! never did explain what happened to Arnold's parents on their final mission, all because the show's creator couldn't agree with Nickelodeon over the necessary contract extension. Result: no extension at all. There was going to be a Jungle Movie which would have resolved practically everything - Arnold goes back to San Lorenzo to find his parents, and he probably hooks up with Helga. Sadly it never got produced. Though many a fan have petitioned to have it made and even Craig Barlett expresses his wish to come back and make it.
Sym-Bionic Titan, which was cancelled because they could not interest toy companies and a splintering of the production team that made it hard to keep it going, despite it being a widely loved show.
Megas XLR, while having something akin to a finale, still had the Glorft on the loose and Coop with a replacement for his Megas but with much better firepower.
And now, from the same creators, we have Motorcity, cut down before it's first season had even finished airing. Fortunately, they remembered what happened with Megas and prepared for this by delivering a glorious finale to soften the blow.
Dungeons & Dragons was cancelled prior to a final episode (which was scripted but never animated) that resolved plot threads such as whether the characters got home and the relationship between Dungeon Master and Venger.