When done poorly, the cliffhanger is all about shoddy craftsmanship, the creepy manipulation by a storyteller who has run out of tricks. When done well, however, it can be about much more: surprise, shock, outrage, and pleasure—the sort of thing that might send you dancing off the sofa. The cliffhanger is part of some of the silliest shows on TV; it’s also key to understanding many of the greatest ones. It’s the visceral jolt that’s not so easily detached from television’s most erudite achievements. But, then, that’s the mind-body problem of TV, a conversation that has only just begun.
Emily Nussbaum, “Tune in Next Week”, The New Yorker (30 July 2012), 74.