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Cliffhanger Wall

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A franchise or series has an entry end on a major climactic moment or shocking event that indicates that things are going down in the next installment. Yes, coming up next is a huge shake-up in the status quo, or the Final Battle, or the answers to one of the biggest mysteries of the series.

Except... no. The next video game, book, or film isn't about any of that. Actually, the next few stories aren't about any of that. Instead of a proper sequel, we get prequels, interquels, spin-offs, and remakes. The creators just don't want to resolve the storyline they left their audience on years ago, and so leave them staring at a Cliffhanger Wall.

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The reasons for this may vary. Maybe the creators just want to flesh out other elements of the world first, to better setup the resolution. Perhaps they have a serious case of writer's block and can't think of a satisfying resolution, so they're stalling until they can. Or they wrote themselves into a corner, but like the story too much to actually retcon the events. Whatever the case might be, creators must be careful — if the audience decides that the cliffhanger will never be resolved, then they may decide to abandon the series entirely.

To qualify for this trope, a series should have a minimum of two entries released after the cliffhanger installment that don't pick up where that story left off, or at least some combination of a prolonged Sequel Gap and a plot unresolving entry. Either way, the creators must have released other works in that franchise afterwards. If they didn't, you've just been Left Hanging instead. Can overlap with Non-Linear Sequel if a series that started off going in chronological order begins to permanently jump around the timeline.

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Sub-Trope of Anachronic Order. Can overlap with Sequel Gap, where a significant amount of time passes between any releases. Compare and contrast with Stillborn Franchise, as the franchise does continue, but it nevertheless neglects to further the storyline. Not to be confused with Capcom Sequel Stagnation, where the intervening time is filled with a multitude of Updated Re-releases rather than any new stories.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ever since Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force was quietly canceled in 2013 (in the middle of a chapter, no less), the primary timeline of the Lyrical Nanoha series has never advanced past its last chapter. Instead, the creators have only published interquels like ViVid Strike! and outright alternate timelines, like the Reflection and Detonation movies and the INNOCENT games.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion ends with Homura stealing Madoka's powers, becoming a devil, and gaming control of the world while trapping everyone in a Lotus-Eater Machine and erasing their memories. But despite this ending being done specifically to set up sequels, with the "Concept Movie" being the planned sequel film, said film has yet to come out. Instead, all the subsequent works have been spin-offs such as mangas, mobile games, and Drama CDs, none of which take place after Rebellion.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Foundation and Earth ends with half of the path to the Second Empire yet to come, and reflections about how humanity might have to face new threats. However, Asimov never continued further, and instead wrote two prequel novels.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle has not received a proper sequel since 2011. Instead, Patrick Rothfuss seems content with publishing side stories, like the short stories "How Old Holly Came To Be" and "The Lightning Tree", the novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things, and even a podcast mini-series — all while assuring the waiting fans that he is working on the next (and final) full installment of the Kvothe trilogy.
  • George R. R. Martin released the last mainline A Song of Ice and Fire novel A Dance with Dragons in 2011. Since then he's released no fewer than six books set in the universe but fans are still waiting for him to release the last two planned mainline novels The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lampshaded in Sledge Hammer! At the end of the first season, the producers were sure the show would be cancelled so they decided to literally go out with a bang. At the end of the last show of the season, Sledge accidentally detonated a nuclear bomb. Then, much to everyone's surprise, the series was renewed. The first episode of Season 2 started with a repeat of the Season 1 ending where Sledge blew himself up, before showing a "Sledge Hammer: The Early Years!" Title Card; the remainder of the series would nominally take place five years before the events of Season 1.
  • For 18 years, the last entry chronologically in the Star Trek franchise was the final TNG film, Star Trek: Nemesis. After that, the franchise saw the Ultimate Universe "Kelvinverse" films based on a reboot of TOS, before returning to the "Prime" timeline with the Star Trek: Discovery television series. Even then, Discovery was a prequel to the original series. At least until the third season, which would Time Skip to the late 32nd century, moving the timeline forward once more. Star Trek: Picard, set several decades after Nemesis, would also debut around the same time.
  • After the cancellation of Twin Peaks left the show with a massive cliffhanger, David Lynch decided to follow up the show with a movie. Infamously, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me decided to focus on the events leading up to the series premiere, barely alluding to the show's finale, leaving events unresolved for twenty-five years before The Return finally put it to rest. Sort of.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park did this intentionally: The first two-parter of the series was to reveal who Cartman's father is. Of this two-parter, the first half became the last episode of Season 1, which meant that the other half wouldn't be aired before the start of Season 2. To top this off, instead of going with said second half of the two-parter, South Park opened with a Terrance & Phillip special.
  • Infinity Train: In Book 3, after learning that she's actually a denizen of the train rather than a passenger, created by Amelia in an attempt to recreate her lost love Alrick, and feeling betrayed by Grace, Hazel agrees to leave with Amelia to be quarantined as part of her work cleaning up the messes she made as the Conductor. However, Book 4 doesn't follow up on this, instead being a prequel taking part in the 1980's about two passengers unrelated to anything in any of the previous books, and the only thing that ties it together is that it happened during Amelia's takeover of the train. Book 5 would have been another prequel focusing on how Amelia became the Conductor, and would have answered several of the fan's questions along with future books, but the show was unfortunately cancelled, so we never get to find out what happens to Hazel.

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