Cliffhangers are a classic storytelling trope, usually occurring when a plot-line has reached peak intensity. The heroes will be in serious trouble or a shocking twist has been revealed, only for the viewer to be told to return for the next instalment to see what happens. They’re a sneaky – and frankly annoying - way of ensuring the audience will come back for more.
The downside to a cliffhanger ending is the question of what happens when there is no next instalment?
It can be embarrassing for all involved if a movie intended to kick off a franchise (like Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes or Ryan Reynolds’s Green Lantern) falls at the first hurdle and a teased follow-up never emerges. The characters are left in a Schrodinger’s Cat situation, with their fates left permanently up in the air.
Television fans know this pain better than anybody. On the small screen there are endless examples of shows cancelled before their time or important plotlines being dropped and never resolved properly, because show leaders change and writers apparently struggle to stay focused on their own work. In some rare instances the story will continue elsewhere (in a movie spin-off or a comic book) but for the majority of fans all that’s left is frustration and poorly written fan-fic to fill in the blanks.
10. What The Hell Happened To Behrooz? - 24
24 had a bad habit of dropping plotlines and characters. An infamous example comes with the season two finale, which ended with President Palmer on the brink of death and the villain responsible remaining free. Cut to the next season and Palmer is fine and the aftermath of season two's events are essentially just shrugged off.
The show’s most notable character to vanish without trace is Behrooz Araz from season four, the teenage son of a family of terrorists. Behrooz had an attack of conscience about his family’s plans and helped CTU stop them. In his final episode he’s forced into a hostage exchange for Jack and driven away by the bad guys. Then his implanted tracker is destroyed and his fate looks bleak, to say the least.
And that’s the last anyone saw of him. A deleted scene revealed he was rescued from imminent death but the show itself never revealed his fate, which is an odd outcome for a character who played such a major role that season.
His disappearance became so infamous that anytime a character’s fate was left unresolved, such as Evelyn Martin or President Keeler, they were said to have been "Behroozed."