The cliffhanger is an indelible and inescapable part of the television viewing experience. And whether we like it or not, we're always going to have to suffer through a whole bunch of them.
However shocking and oftentimes gut-wrenching these cliffhangers heading our way may be, they're not necessarily a bad thing. It's been more than 40 years since Dallas practically invented the practice, as the CBS soap wrapped up its third season on March 21, 1980 with the villainous J.R. Ewing (the late, great Larry Hagman) shot by an unknown assailant, leaving fans everywhere to debate the now infamous question "Who shot J.R.?" until the show returned that fall.
And since then, we've been subjected to countless surprise twists in the final moments of episodes of some of our favorite shows. And nearly all of them have made the increasingly fleeting communal experience of watching TV all the more enjoyable.
While we wait for the next cliffhanger to throw us through a loop, we'd thought we'd take a walk down memory lane and relive 20 of the most memorable cliffhangers to ever grace our TV screens. Oh, and it should go without saying, but there are (decades old) spoilers ahead. Enjoy!
This story was originally published on Sunday, March 29, 2020 at 7 a.m. PT.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)