TV Club: The Z Nation season finale climbs high, then falls off a cliffhanger

What makes a good cliffhanger? Stories must earn the ability to make viewers wait to find out the conclusion to a narrative arc. It requires wrapping up previous plot threads, in order to focus attention on a single event, something that organically builds from the previous rising action to deliver a startling conclusion, one that teases a definitive answer while leaving the details unclear. Say what you will about The Walking Dead‘s irritating summer-long wait to learn which character its big new villain had beaten to death (and there’s a lot to say about how the show got that wrong), at least the basic contours of what transpired were outlined. Someone was beaten to death—we just didn’t know who. It’s cheap manipulative storytelling, but at the bare minimum, it wasn’t a narrative muddle. We knew what went down. For an even better example, see …

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