A cliffhanger is a literary device or plot device in which the main character is put into a perilous or otherwise suspenseful position and left there until the next chapter or the next installment of a serial. Cliffhanger may also describe a sporting or other event that is suspenseful to the very end. The term cliffhanger comes from early film serials that each ended with the main character in a perilous situation, such as hanging from a cliff. This plot device kept movie-goers coming back week after week to see how the main character would escape his dangerous situation. However, the word cliffhanger wasn’t coined to describe these types of film serials until the 1930s. Note that the word cliffhanger is properly rendered as one word, unhyphenated.
The show’s contempt for its own audience was in evidence even before a season-ending cliffhanger that featured a character receiving a likely-fatal blow—but not revealing which one. (TIME Magazine)
In fact, we didn’t get an ending at all, just a cliffhanger with our reliable narrator trailing off. (Entertainment Weekly Magazine)
Co-showrunner Terence Paul White opened up to TVLine about the May 16 finale, titled “Crossfire,” revealing that if ABC brings the show back for Season 9 fans will get a “cliffhanger” ending. (The International Business Times)
Not only have cable shows adopted shorter orders, but even series with longer annual runs are now dividing their seasons into “A” and “B” editions, doubling up on cliffhangers. (The Chicago Tribune)
Cliffhanger of a week for Senators as future home, top draft pick, coach hang in balance (The Ottawa Citizen)
ROW eventually ran out winners by five wickets in a low-scoring game that went back and forth all day and almost ended with a cliffhanger finish. (The Napa Valley Register)