Despite its ubiquity, the cliffhanger has received little critical attention. This essay takes a closer look at the device, and finds that cliffhangers perform important functions for many narratives. Drawing on the rhetorical theory of narrative, I define the cliffhanger as a unique misalignment of story and discourse, and consider some of the device’s core features. I highlight aspects of the cliffhanger that demonstrate its range of functions: its effects on narrative progression, its role in highlighting continuity and discontinuity in the story, and its capacity to mislead readers in instrumental ways. I argue that we should attend to what cliffhangers have to say about the narratives they interrupt because cliffhangers are elements of authorial design that serve as signals for interpretation. Whether a cliffhanger misleads its reader or not, it makes a claim about the narrative it interrupts. Acknowledging these claims allows us to better understand how narratives maneuver readers to witness a story as it unfolds.