Just after Angel (David Boreanaz), Gunn (J. August Richards), Spike (James Marsters), and Illyria (Amy Acker) take down the Circle of the Black Thorn, a Senior Partners-issued army of demons confronts them in a rainy alley in the Season 5 finale. Angel swings his sword and… well, that’s all fans got until the story continued in comic book form.
The Event (NBC)
In the Season 1 finale (and series finale) of this serialized drama, our heroes just barely stop an alien virus from running rampant around the globe. But then the aliens’ homeworld teleports into Earth’s orbit—and First Lady Christina Martinez (Lisa Vidal) reveals herself to be an alien sleeper agent.
After three seasons of being under the spell of Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) throws both himself and the titular cannibal over a cliff in what ended up being the last episode. (So, less a cliffhanger than a cliff-dropper?)
My So-Called Life (ABC)
Fans never got a resolution for the love triangle between Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), Angela Chase (Claire Danes), and Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall) in this teen drama after Claire discovers that Brian wrote Jordan’s apology letter in the Season 1 finale.
Off the Map (ABC)
In a rare Shondaland miss, this jungle-set medical drama was axed after its first season finale, in which Lily (Caroline Dhavernas) finds love interest Mateo (Nicholas Rodriguez) bleeding out from a gunshot wound as his family’s coca crop burns.
In a curveball for this baseball drama, the first (and only) season ended with star pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) overexerting himself and injuring her elbow, putting her future with the MLB into jeopardy.
Pushing Daisies (ABC)
This fantastical and dark comedy—another series from Hannibal mastermind Bryan Fuller—got the “touch of death” after two seasons, just as Ned (Lee Pace) and Chuck (Anna Friel) decided to reveal Chuck’s resurrected status to her beloved, grieving aunts.
Fans of this globe-trotting series were up in arms after Netflix canceled it after a Season 2 cliffhanger involving the Whispers (Terrence Mann) kidnapping Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) and the other sensates—i.e. strangers linked psychically and emotionally—teaming up to rescue him. Happily, Netflix eventually ordered a two-part finale to provide a proper ending.
This police drama ended after five seasons with a cop-on-cop shooting—after John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), still traumatized by his kidnapping, got into a fight with his neighbors and is shot by a responding officer who sees a gun in his hand. Even more tragically, fans never got to find out whether he survived.
Veronica Mars (The CW)
Devotees of this neo-noir show eventually got a novel series, a big-screen movie, and a Hulu revival, but they were understandably devastated in 2007 when The CW canceled the show after three seasons—and a cliffhanger involving Veronica’s (Kristen Bell) breaking into the Kane residence and dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) tampering with evidence to hide her misdeed.
Closure is such a scarcity in the cutthroat television industry. TV networks often cast off their lowest performers rather than outlaying any more expense to wrap up the shows’ loose threads.
And before the news of their shows’ cancellation, TV showrunners often end their seasons with cliffhangers to keep viewers wanting more — and, in some cases, to try to strong-arm the networks into a renewal.