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12 Unanswered Questions From Famous TV Shows That Are Still Killing Us

One of the many benefits of the TV format over film is that writers are able to grant their audience stronger investment in characters on a far larger canvas.

After all, how many movie characters are as well-known to audiences as the likes of Homer Simpson, Walter White, Tony Soprano, Frasier Crane, and Tyrion Lannister, to name just a few? The flip-side of spending potentially 50-100+ hours with these characters, however, is that when writers decide to get bold and not just give viewers what they want, it can be immensely frustrating.

As such, these 12 TV shows are all fine examples of that. Each is strongly acclaimed without question, but fans are still in utter agony debating a resolved plot thread, unanswered question, or infuriating cliffhanger ending.

Obviously, the ambiguity is very much the point in many of these examples, and it’s probably for the best that the questions aren’t actually answered, but that doesn’t stop fans relentlessly obsessing over what the truth might be.

12. Did Jesse Get Away? – Breaking Bad

AMC

The last time we saw Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), he had been rescued from the cartel’s grasp by Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and was speeding off into the night in a burst of tearful relief.

As for what became of Jesse beyond the show is left up in the air. Did he manage to successfully evade the authorities, or was he quickly caught?

Creator Vince Gilligan has at least chimed in on the subject, stating that with Jesse’s fingerprints all over the meth lab and him being on the hook for several murders, it was probably just a matter of time before he got captured. Gilligan did, however, add that in his hopeful mind he wanted him to escape to Alaska, change his name and start a new life.

With the recent announcement of a Breaking Bad sequel movie, however, fans will soon get some answers. The synopsis for the follow-up notes that Jesse gets kidnapped on his way out of Albuquerque, but beyond that we’ll just have to wait and see whether he makes a clean getaway or not. Assuming we actually get closure this time, that is.

11. What Is The Waitress’ Name? – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

FX

In FX’s hit offbeat comedy, the frequent object of Charlie’s (Charlie Day) affections is a waitress simply referred to as “The Waitress” (Mary Elizabeth Ellis). Even though Charlie has gravitated away from being quite so creepy towards her in recent seasons, she’s still a constant entity in the lives of The Gang.

She’s always been a bit of an enigma, as best evidenced by the fact that, after 13 seasons, we still don’t know what her actual name is.

Fans initially thought her name had been slyly given away in the season seven episode “The High School Reunion” – where her name tag, bearing the name “Nikki Potnick”, was stolen – but Glenn Howerton later confirmed that this was actually not the case.

It seems pretty unlikely that The Waitress’ name will ever be revealed, because isn’t it just so much more fun to agonise over it?

10. Did Don Really Achieve Enlightenment? – Mad Men

AMC

Mad Men’s final episode gave troubled ad maestro Don Draper (Jon Hamm) a deliciously ambiguous ending, leaving him meditating at a hippie commune as he appears to have found some measure of inner peace if not flat-out enlightenment.

But given the implication of the show’s final smash cut to the legendary 1971 “Hilltop” Coca-Cola commercial, did Don’s closing smile actually mean something else?

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has since confirmed that, yes, Don did indeed create the famous commercial, and an understandably cynical reading of the ending would suggest that Don only smiled because he had realised how to exploit the commune to market Coke.

A more optimistic reading would be that Don’s smile is him genuinely finding enlightenment, and this simply inspired him to create an earnest commercial for the soft drink product.

Though the uncertainty regarding Don’s mental state is perhaps a little frustrating, it’s also a pretty genius stab at the now-famous “Sopranos ending”, by immortalising Don in advertising history yet not quite giving him a concrete “happy” ending.

9. What Happened To Peter’s Girlfriend Caitlin? – Heroes

NBC

Heroes remains one of the most frustratingly messy TV shows of the 21st century.

After a tremendous first season, things quickly went down the tubes thanks to the 2007-2008 WGA Writers Strike, leaving (among other things) the fate of Peter Petrelli’s (Milo Ventimiglia) girlfriend Caitlin (Katie Carr) up in the air.

Peter and Caitlin travel to a future post-apocalyptic New York City, but when Peter is thrown back to the present, Caitlin isn’t transported with him, leaving her in the virus-ravaged wasteland in a plot-line that was never returned to.

Peter did manage to prevent the future catastrophe, so fans were left to assume that Caitlin was most likely wiped from existence, something Peter seemed oddly unfussed about given his lack of any attempt to rescue her. Nice.

The show’s creator Tim Kring has since stated that Peter was intended to mount a rescue attempt in the second half of the season, but with the strike cutting the episode order down from 24 to just 11, it was ultimately nixed.

By the time season three started production, Kring felt it was too late to return to the plot and better to simply abandon it.

8. Did Tony Die At The End? – The Sopranos

HBO

Is there any cliffhanger ending to a TV show more infuriating – and more brilliant – than that of The Sopranos?

David Chase left many fans thinking their TV reception has shorted out when, in the show’s final scene, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) met with his family in a diner, and after looking up at an opening door, we abruptly cut to black.

Many fans interpreted the smash cut to indicate that Tony had been shot dead in the diner, reflecting a conversation with Bobby Bacala (Steve Schirripa) earlier in the season, where he talked about the victim of a fatal gunshot not even hearing it.

There are other clues – the presence of several suspicious figures in the diner who could’ve whacked Tony, and the belief Tony appears to be reaching into his pocket, possibly for a gun, in the show’s final frames – but nothing conclusive.

On the other hand, some have suggested that this only indicates the paranoia Tony will have to live with for the rest of his life, and cutting Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” off on the lyrics “don’t stop”, in fact implied he was still very much alive.

Though it left many fans furious on its initial airing, over a decade later it’s widely accepted to be one of the most masterfully non-committal endings across all forms of media.

Audiences can use their own connection with the show to form their own opinion about Tony’s fate, and whether or not they feel good about it.

7. What Exactly Happened In The Final Scene? – Twin Peaks: The Return

Showtime

David Lynch’s long-awaited return to the world of Twin Peaks was one of the most expectation-defying revivals in TV history, and if you were (for some reason) hoping that Lynch would tie everything up with a neat bow, you were being set up for immense disappointment.

The season’s final scene sees Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) driving Laura Palmer-resembling waitress Carrie Page (Sheryl Lee) back to Twin Peaks to be reunited with “her” mother Sarah (Grace Zabriskie), only to find different owners living in the house.

Cooper asks, “What year is this?”, before Carrie hears Sarah’s voice calling to Laura, lets out a blood-curdling scream and we cut to black. The end.

The most common interpretation is that Cooper and Carrie were transported to a parallel dimension by the malevolent force referred to as “Judy” in the season’s last few episodes, and there they will seemingly remain trapped.

Though Cooper did appear to prevent Laura’s death in the original Twin Peaks timeline, it seems that the battle over her soul will continue, regardless of whether or not there ends up being a fourth season in another 25 years (we kid but not really).

Of course, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost don’t have much interest in answering fans’ questions, and at least it’s less annoying than the “Cooper is Bob” cliffhanger from the show’s second season.

6. What Was Jack Bauer’s Fate? – 24

Fox

The last 24 episode to feature Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was the finale to the London-set mini-series 24: Live Another Day, which aired in the summer of 2014.

The cliffhanger ending saw Jack surrendering himself to the Russians in order to secure the freedom of his long-time confidante Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), and that’s all she wrote.

24 has since been resurrected with the failed Bauer-free reboot 24: Legacy – which didn’t address Bauer’s fate – and a second reboot is currently in the works which may end up following a young Bauer.

Given the strong possibility that we’ll never learn what became of him, it’s a pretty damn depressing end for one of the most iconic TV characters of the last 20 years.

Sure, he could’ve escaped and fled to safety, but given how much he’s been through, would it surprise anyone if he just lived out the rest of his probably-short life in a dirty Russian gulag?

Amusingly, Sutherland did in fact lobby to have Bauer killed off at the end of Live Another Day, but Fox execs ultimately vetoed the idea. Considering nothing’s been done with the character for almost five years, the closure honestly would’ve been nice.

5. Who Left The Baby? – Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman

ABC

The iconic 90s Superman series ended on an infamously baffling cliffhanger, due to ABC granting the writers a fifth and final season only to change their minds at the last minute.

Season four’s series finale concludes with Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) and Clark Kent (Dean Cain) finding out they can’t have kids, only for a baby boy to be delivered to their apartment by an unknown party, complete with a Superman-branded blanket and a note telling them the child is theirs. Wait, what?

So, who was the child? Where did he come from? Who delivered him? And why did anyone think fans wanted to watch a season of Lois and Clark raising a baby?

Series writer Brad Buckner did chime in with some apparent answers a few years ago, that the baby would be Kryptonian royalty sent to Lois and Clark to protect him from assassins. He would grow at an abnormal rate, possess Superman’s powers and at the end of the season return home to save his endangered people.

On second thought, a season focused on superhero child-rearing doesn’t sound quite so bad. As this hypothetical plotting was thankfully never made canon, the ambiguity is certainly preferable despite its undeniable weirdness.

4. Where Did Vic Go? – The Shield

FX

The finale to FX’s brutal cop show The Shield remains one of the most stridently unsentimental of all time: there’s no forced redemption for corrupt cop Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), instead maintaining a grim authenticity all the way to the finish line.

Vic ends the show selling out his only remaining friend Ronnie (David Rees Snell), while his family disappears into witness protection to get away from him, and though he has immunity from his many crimes, he’s left confined to a desk job for the rest of his career.

The final scene sees Mackey hearing police sirens in the distance, taking his gun out and heading out of the office, his intentions unknown. Did Vic decide to flout his orders and re-insert himself back into the field, or does he have other intentions?

Either way, it sure doesn’t seem like Mackey’s going to be a desk jockey for long, regardless of the hot water it might land him in.

It’s a terrifically consistent ending for a character whose entire arc has been defined by self-interest and defiance of authority, even if his actual destination is maddeningly unclear.

3. Was Varga Set Free? – Fargo

FX

Fargo’s divisive-but-brilliant third season concluded with criminal mastermind V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) being interviewed by plucky cop Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), who informs him that he’s going down on money laundering and murder conspiracy charges.

Varga confidently disagrees, though, insisting that Gloria’s superior will arrive within five minutes and order his release. The season ends with the two running out the clock, Varga’s fate left ambiguous.

It’s an ending the Coen brothers themselves would surely be proud of, leaving audiences to ponder what happened to Varga depending on their own assessment of his Machiavellian genius combined with a sprinkling of their own worldview (namely, are bad people usually punished?).

The season was framed entirely by the theme of uncertainty, so this isn’t something that ever should be answered, even if fans are still desperate to know for sure.

2. So. Many. Things. – Lost

ABC

J.J. Abrams’ hugely popular sci-fi show ended in predictably contentious fashion, leaving not just one or two unanswered questions, but an entire thesis’ worth of them.

Some of the more pressing questions include the mysterious “special” nature of young Walt, the bizarre absence of certain crucial characters in the final scene (perhaps a logistical issue more than anything), the tendency for pregnant women to die on the island, the true utility of the all-important numbers, and the generally opaque nature of the time travel mechanics.

You can argue “it’s about the journey, not the destination” until you’re blue in the face, but many fans were understandably flummoxed by the show giving up even trying to answer many of its most imposing questions.

Though Lost did at least remain fairly tantalising to the end, it’s clear that Damon Lindelof and co. wrote themselves into a corner they had no ability to write themselves out of.

And while a dispassionate checklist of answers in the series finale would’ve been awful, it sure would’ve been nice to get something for at least a few of these enduring mysteries.

Fans will instead have to make do with the abundance of theories doing the rounds online (which, honestly, might be better than what Lindelof et al. could’ve come up with).

1. What Was Next For McNulty? – The Wire

HBO

David Simon’s incredible crime drama series aired its final episode 10 years ago this past March, believe it or not, and much like The Shield’s finale, it left its troubled protagonist in a decidedly dubious state of existence.

The show ends with Detective McNulty (Dominic West) being fired for fabricating evidence suggesting a serial killer was operating in Baltimore, in order to restore overtime to the police department.

The audience is left to ponder on what might become of the alcoholic cop whose only constant in life was his dedication to his work.

With his history and disgrace, would McNulty be able to find solid work elsewhere, and if not, would this send him down yet another alcohol-induced spiral?

Considering that The Wire’s closing montage very much suggests that the world is cyclical and people don’t change too much, it’s tough to be optimistic about McNulty finding peace in his post-police life. But you never know.

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