2. "The Telling," Alias
Air Date: 5/4/03
Nowadays most of the dramas worth watching are on cable, which means audiences have to suffer an excruciating wait—sometimes nine months, sometimes 17—between seasons. A simple three-month wait sounds trivial in retrospect, but believe us, the summer of 2003 spent waiting to see the resolution to Alias' jaw-dropping cliff-hanger was a cruel one.
J.J. Abrams solidified himself as an auteur not to be fucked with long before he took his producer talents to Hawaii for LOST. In fact, he was more hands-on with this balls-to-the-wall spy actioner than almost any of his other series. The finale, written and directed by him, finds CIA super-spy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) squaring off with her nemesis Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), whose main ally happens to be Sydney's duplicitous mother, an ex-KGB agent.
That emotionally-charged confrontation isn't even the episode's main talking point, though. That honor goes to the physically-charged, knock-down, drag-out brawl between Sydney and her roommate Francie (Merrin Dungey), whom she discovers is a double agent planted by Sloane. Alias boasted some of the best action choreography ever seen on TV (then and now) and it's on full display as Sydney and Francie effectively fuck the apartment up with knives, roundhouse kicks and, of course, plenty of bullets.
When Sydney passes out after winning the fight she awakens in Hong Kong, with a mysterious scar on her stomach. The revelation that follows is quite possibly the best television cliff-hanger of all time.