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The 10 biggest TV moments that left us hanging

Love/Hate's Nidge about to be gunned down
Love/Hate's Nidge about to be gunned down

They are the TV moments that had us jumping out of our seats and left us gagging for more.

Water-cooler moments have come a long way from dead oil barons stepping out of the shower in stupid dream sequences or a drunken Cockney publican issuing his philandering wife with divorce papers on Christmas Day in front of 30 million viewers. 

Nowadays, TV companies know that if they can nail the finale to a season they are guaranteed traction on social media, as many follow-up series as they desire and the all-important ratings spikes. 

Killing off lead characters, clandestine revelations and unsuspected hook-ups are all tactics rolled out by show writers to create the most talked-about cliffhangers in modern TV history. 

TV editor and self-confessed tell addict Daragh Keany takes a look back at his favourite show-stopping finales…

Oh, and this read obviously comes with a gigantic dollop of SPOILER ALERTS.


24

Day 2, Episode 24

Day 1 and 2 of the ground-breaking, real-time show excelled at the sort of insane twists that made the show instant morning-after fodder. One of the best season-ending cliffhangers came when President Palmer had come through an apocalyptic threat (thanks to Jack, of course) but in the final scene he receives a poisonous handshake from Mandy and collapses to the ground. 

Gomorrah

Season 2, Episode 12

Yes. You heard me. Gomorrah. If you haven’t seen it and want to indulge in the most underrated show on telly, then stop reading now and move on. Season 1 gave us the cold assassination attempt of one leading character in front of children at a school play but not even the most outside-the-box-thinking fans would have predicted how Don Pietro Savastano would meet his maker in the finale to season 2. Two more series have been confirmed. 

Game of Thrones

Season 5, Episode 10

Writers of GoT seem far more focussed on creating hype around the penultimate episode (Ned Stark being decapitated, The Red Wedding, The Battle of the Bastards and the wildfire attack on the ships) of each of their seasons, but in season 5 they finally decided to load up on the finale. In ‘Mother’s Mercy’, Stannis is killed, Sansa and Theon jump for freedom, Jamie loses his daughter, Arya murders Ser Meryn Trant, Cersei endures the walk of shame and (LOOK AWAY NOW) Jon Snow is murdered by the Nights Watch.  

The Sopranos

Season 6, Episode 21

If Twitter was as big back in June 2007, can you imagine the uproar about David Chase’s decision to finish one of the greatest shows of all time with a black screen and an annoying 1981 hit (it topped out at 8 in the charts) called ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey? Let-down or masterpiece? Whichever camp you fall into (I’m in the masterpiece squad, by the way) you have to admit it got TV fans talking. Almost 60 minutes of suspense, lots of answers and even more questions makes ‘Made In America’ one of the best TV episodes of all time. 

Love/Hate

Season 5, Ep 6

For such a small country it is remarkable that the crew, cast and publicity team kept Nidge’s demise a secret until transmission time. When Darren was gunned down at the end of season 1, Love/Hate fans became slightly desensitised to out-of-left-field assassinations. But when traveller Patrick catches up with Nidge in his back garden and kills him at point-blank range, splattering his Nikes with blood, the country went ballistic. Bravo Stuart Carolan. 

The West Wing

Season 2, Ep 22

I admit that the West Wing is not for everyone, but in the midst of 155 brilliantly written and acted episodes – there was an absolute jump-out-of-your-seat-while-the-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-to-attention episode at the end of Season 2. For the entire season, fans watched as President Bartlet hid his MS from the American people. As the circle of trust grew and grew, no one knew if he was going to run again for a second term. Throw in dramatic weather, incredible locations, the perfectly-chosen ‘Brothers in Arms’ by Dire Straits and Leo McGarry’s “watch this” and you have TV gold. 

Breaking Bad

Season 5, Episode 8

Okay okay, so this wasn’t officially the end of the season. But because Vince Gilligan left 11 months in between episode 8 and episode 9 in the final season, I have to include ‘Gliding Over All’ in my list. It all hinges on Hank taking a dump in Walt’s toilet. He casually grabs a copy Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and notices the inscription ‘WW’ from Gale matches the ‘WW’ in Gale’s drug-making diaries. It turns out that the drug lord than Hank has been chasing for the previous 54 episodes was none other than his brother-in-law. The screen faded to black — but unlike the Sopranos, fans of BB had eight enthralling episodes left to binge on. 

Sherlock 

Season 2, Episode 3

The term “cliffhanger” actually comes from a Thomas Hardy novel where he left a character hanging off of a cliff, where the audience does not know what his fate is. In the Sherlock season 2 finale (The Reichenbach Fall) we witnessed a repeat of this, except for the fact that we see Sherlock throw himself off the roof of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Thanks to social media, even those of us that never watched a single episode of the BBC drama knew something special had happened. 

The Wire

Season 5, Episode 10

It was probably the least warmly received of the five seasons but the show’s writers decided to go out with an emotional bang in the final episode. Bubbles got to join his sister and her family for dinner, McNulty was forced into retirement and lots of other big questions were answered. But then we watched in horror as a young boy named Dukie, who was introduced in season 4, attempted to shoot up, scuppering everyone’s efforts to keep him clean. In the greater scheme of things it should not have bothered us but such was the calibre of writing over that last season that we found ourselves rooting for the poor kid. Powerful stuff. 

Lost 

Season 3, Episodes 23

The convoluted premise of Lost kept the audience guessing throughout the entire series, but there was never a bigger bombshell than the one dropped at the end of the season 3. The sucker punch revelation caused us to completely re-evaluate EVERYTHING we knew about the show. Aptly titled ‘Through the Looking Glass’, the episode ends with a flash sequence where Jack and Kate meet and confusingly discuss the island. The flashbacks were now flash forwards. Mind. Blown. Oh, and poor Charlie died earlier in the same episode saving others.