A good mystery keeps the viewers coming back for more. A bad mystery leads to them watching as the credits roll on yet another episode full of unsatisfying non-information and heading off to find something else to watch…preferably a show that doesn’t string them along quite so much. We’ve all watched a show, hoping for some sort of resolution, and been disappointed when the story ultimately keeps us hanging on for far too long without any real explanation.
Here are 10 TV Show Mysteries That Dragged On Far Too Long
(**spoiler alert for most of these, obviously**)
10. The Flash – The Man in the Iron Mask
At the time of writing, we still don’t know who this person is. We were introduced to the Man in the Iron Mask (not to be confused with the novel of the same name) way back in the thirteenth episode of season 2 of The Flash, and as we draw near to the finale, all we’ve gotten out of him are some vague knockings.
Sure, not every mystery has to be wrapped up within the space of a single season, but this one has been particularly irritating because of all the hype being drummed up around his character, both in-universe and out. We’ve been repeatedly assured that we’re ‘not gonna buh-LIEVE who he is!’ and that it’ll ‘blow all of your collective minds!’ and that it’s ‘the emotional reveal of the century!’, to the point where it’s really getting hard to care. They could rip off his mask in the next episode to reveal a time-traveling Lindsay Lohan merged with a Xenomorph, and it still wouldn’t quite live up to all the buzz.
9. Doctor Who – The Cracks in the Universe
Before season 5 of the revival, Doctor Who had always managed to tie up most of its plots in the space of a single season. A few lingering call-backs still came into play, but otherwise, it had been the whole-season version of episodic, tying up everything with a neat bow for the next batch of writers to do with whatever they wished.
That changed during Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, as we were introduced to the mysterious concept of the Silence and the cracks in the universe. A few one-off characters dropped the name, weird timey-wimey things happened, the whole concept just grew and grew until finally, the finale had the universe blowing up, which caused the cracks and did indeed make things a whole lot quieter. Silent, you might say. Mystery solved?
Nope! The whole concept ran on into season 6 with the introduction of the ‘Silents’ (aliens), who were working for the ‘Silence’ (a religious organization) who super-duper wanted the Doctor dead for some reason. That reason wouldn’t be fully revealed until after the end of season 7, when we’d long since begged for an end to the whole saga. And then it all just got wrapped up in a single conversation. Multiple creator syndrome, everyone.
8. Lost – The Smoke Monster
Lost was just one giant myth arc that never seemed to end, which can mostly be blamed in the network wanting it to run as long as possible. Thus, endings were rewritten, mythology exploded to Biblical proportions and fans began to drop off as it was made very clear that they were never getting answers to anything, ever. Because screw you, dear viewers, there’s money to be made.
Perhaps the best known of these was the Smoke Monster, a.k.a. the Man in Black, a.k.a. a 2000-year-old ghost, a.k.a. a shape-shifting manipulator who wants… vague things. Evil vague things.
Initially one of the most mysterious and terrifying parts of the already pretty mysterious and terrifying island, it took the better part of a season for the true form of the Smoke Monster to be revealed at all. That just raised a whole load of new questions (namely ‘why is there a Smoke Monster half-heartedly trying to kill everyone?’) which themselves took entire seasons to answer. When they were eventually answered, it was only in unsatisfying half measures; we know the Man in Black needs to kill everyone to escape the island and… do whatever, but why? Why is he stuck in human form, and how did he become an evil Smoke Monster to begin with? Oh, right, the magical island. How does that work again?
Watch as closely as you like, but at best you’re getting the vaguest of whispers for an answer, or ‘a wizard did it’. At worst, Lost will give you a collective shrug and hope you don’t notice any of the other gaping plot holes.
7. The Walking Dead – Who Did Negan Kill?
Mystery, cliffhanger… call it what you will, but that’s what HBO have turned it into, and now we’re waiting months to find out the answer to a marketing stunt. That is, if you’ve chosen to wait at all.
People have done all sorts of research into what really happened in the last moments of that finale, extrapolating audio and writing angry blog posts, which is what the showrunners were probably going for in the first place. That still doesn’t change the fact that the only people still in the dark are us, the viewers. The writers, producers, cast and crew have all been sworn to secrecy except in the way of extremely vague hints, and even the actual fictional characters know exactly who ended up on the receiving end of Negan’s baseball bat. We’re the only ones who don’t know, which renders the whole thing pointless. It’s not a cliffhanger when an early camera shutoff is the only reason we don’t know something; it’s a sinister marketing cash grab.
6. Pokémon – What’s In the GS Ball?
If you were into Pokémon like many, many children were at the turn of the century, you might remember the GS Ball. Given to Ash and friends by Professor Ivy, it was a mysterious Poké Ball appropriately colored gold and silver that just appeared one day. Nobody could get it open, so Ash had to take the ball to Professor Oak and later into the Johto region in the hops of unlocking its magnificent secrets.
That’s still about as much as we know to this very day, after fifteen years. Starting off as a plot device to goad Ash into visiting a new region (as if he needed any encouragement), the GS ball would steadily fade into obscurity after that, occasionally being fished out of someone’s backpack with some comment made about how they need to get it to wherever it was going. About a quadrillion episodes later, Ash finally handed it over Kurt in Azalea Town, who opened it up at the end of the episode to reveal the wonders within, allowing the fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Except no, psyche, we’re STILL waiting to hear what was inside that frigging Poké Ball. Masamitsu Hidaka has stated that their original purpose for the GS Ball (it held a Celebi) had to be scrapped, and they were hoping that people would just forget about it. Legions of inner children across the world would disagree.
5. Young Justice – The Plans of The Light
Far be it for anyone to criticism Young Justice, the near-perfect animated adaptation that, like so many before it, was cancelled because the network can’t comprehend kids liking something for more than two seasons.
Still, one point of contention with many fans was The Light, a not-shadowy board of supervillains whose main purpose seemed to be appearing at the end of every episode and confirming that everything the heroes did – even when they succeeded – was helping the bad guys. It put a damper on a lot of incredible episodes when the obligatory evil board meeting scenes were tacked on the end, making us think that everything the main characters were doing amounted to spinning their wheels.
Nothing about The Light or their plans was really wrapped up at the end of season 1, while season 2 fed us meager morsels of hints that eventually culminated in a generic ‘turn-em-evil’ plot and an alien invasion. And The Light STILL weren’t done, because all of it had been for the advancement of their ‘plan’. Their end goal was never revealed, because the show was cancelled. Maybe we could’ve sped things up just a little, guys…
4. Death Note – Who is Kira?
This one is an interesting inversion, since the viewers know exactly who the mysterious ‘Kira’ is from the very start. We see Light pick up the Death Note, learn how it works and dole out death and destruction, laughing as he chows down on dramatic potato chips. The main drive of the series is a cat-and-mouse game as the police try to find out who Kira truly is, which L comes close to doing through some frankly inhuman detective work.
Before he can prove his claims, Light manages to manipulate a Shinigami into killing L, essentially leaving Kira as the winner and solidifying his role as secret judge of the entire world.
This is where the mystery starts to drag. Where we could’ve believed that L was capable of figuring out the mystery, we’re suddenly introduced to Mello and Near, suspiciously similar bench-warmers who separately tackle the case. Near becomes an infinitely less likable L-clone while Mello is just kind of insufferable in most other ways, the both of them never coming across as threatening or competent enough to fill L’s shoes. Thus, it’s the opinion of many a fan that the mystery of Kira’s identity should’ve come to a close at the end of season 1, instead of a dragged out season 2 which had to hand characters the idiot ball left right and center just for the plot to keep moving forward without L.
3. How I Met Your Mother – How Ted Met the Mother
How I Met Your Mother had something of an odd premise to begin with, given that it was entirely told via flashbacks and supposedly just one story split into a thousand tiny events that had little to do with said story. It’s perhaps the worst example on this list by virtue of having the mystery right there in the title and stretching it out a record-breaking eight seasons, with only the scarcest of hints dropped before this.
An argument could perhaps be made that the whole story was just a vehicle for your average, wacky sitcom mishaps, but that would be misunderstanding the viewpoint of those tuning in: comedy or not, people really do get invested in fictional shows. Promising the answer to a tantalizing question in the pilot episode and taking nearly a decade to answer it is unforgivable, especially when it’s in the title, all the time.
And then it was revealed that it was basically a sham story all along, instead being the origin tale of a completely different love story. And that woman you waited eight seasons to meet? Yeah, she’s dead. Hope you managed to catch that alternate ending on the DVD release.
2. X-Files – What Happened to Samantha?
The X-Files practically wrote the book on keeping the audience guessing, even though we all knew there were aliens all along and the big reveal was more of a big eye roll. In fact, it popularized ‘The Chris Carter Effect’, wherein an audience steadily catches onto the fact that these bizarre plots are going nowhere and the writers clearly have no real end goal in mind.
The most egregious? The fate of Mulder’s sister, Samantha. She was missing from before the start of the series, and the mystery of what happened to her was dragged through seven-and-a-half seasons before finally…not being wrapped up at all. Okay then!
In the meantime, Mulder is constantly tormented by clones, visions, hallucinations, ghost visitations, creepy messages and impostors, all building up to something clearly massive. The big reveal: she was abducted by aliens. In X-Files. Most people had guessed that already, given the frightening amount of clone storylines, but the plot thickened and soured at once when we learned that Samantha was alive all along. And then we learned that, whoops, she actually wasn’t; we never got to see Mulder reunite with Samantha. She’d been spirited away by fairies (obviously), and that was more or less all the explanation we were getting.
1. Gossip Girl – Who is Gossip Girl?
Once again, the mystery is right there in the title: who was the mysterious blogger known as Gossip Girl, wreaking a tumultuous trail of destruction over the lives of a small group of attractive main cast members? Unlike the other example, the actual question thoroughly takes a back-seat to the drama, but it still played in the minds of the viewers.
The show ran for six seasons, during which the Gossip Girl blog caused damage both social and physical; several characters had their lives put in very real jeopardy, making it clear that the perpetrator must either be gleefully sadistic or straight-up psychopathic, not to mention a criminal, obsessive stalker. As the episodes dragged into seasons without a reveal, things got to the dire point where it couldn’t possibly have been satisfying without revealing that the mystery blogger was a literal demon.
And surprise, it was Dan, the goofy, romantic and all-round nice guy! Yep, all he was doing was trying to win the hand of his crush, by way of extortion, stalking, blackmail, slander and generally being a massive, life-wrecking douche to everyone around him. It came across as a last-minute change thrown in for shock value… the end result of which was quite a number of fans wishing they’d ended the series without revealing the mystery at all.
Any more TV show mysteries that wore thin after a while? Let us know in the comments!