This new golden age of television is full of surprises. Fans have seen a bump in quality across all networks, from streaming services like Netflix to niche channels like the CW. The sudden flood of spectacular programming, along with the newfound profitability of risk-taking (i.e. killing off main characters and still keeping viewers engaged), has resulted in an era of TV that is not only fulfilling, but also endlessly unpredictable.
To a certain point at least. It seems we’ve reached a point as viewers where plot twists have become such an episode by episode commonality that they no longer trip us up. Since Ned Stark had his head chopped up, TV audiences have trained themselves to pay close attention to stories so that they can anticipate the big reveals before they even come. So while big plot twists have become more popular in the past few years, they’ve also become more difficult to pull off.
Writers try their best, but there are some occasions when their attempts to blindside their fan-base are met with a big “womp-womp.” Even shows that stunned us in one season might end up making us groan in the next. Below you’ll find 15 Big TV Show Twists That EVERYONE Saw Coming.
15. The mother is dead (How I Met Your Mother)
Long before How I Met Your Mother‘s polarizing conclusion, writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had solidified the mother’s fate. To maintain the illusion that Ted’s children never aged (even though actors David Henri and Lyndsy Fonesca inevitably would), Bays and Thomas shot the kids’ reaction to their father’s story back during season two. This decision ensured the show’s ending and, in a way, the largely negative reaction to it.
Ted wasn’t lying when he revealed Robin was not the mother. As he said in the pilot, she really was “Aunt Robin.” But due to the spectacular chemistry between Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders, Bays and Thomas badly wanted Ted and Robin to end up together. The solution was not unexpected, and it certainly wasn’t pretty.
Ted meets the love of his life, Tracy, and has kids with her. They live a happy life until Tracy dies from cancer, leaving the door open for Ted to be with Robin. Bays and Thomas compared their tough decision to The White Stripes; how the band challenges themselves to make music solely with a guitar and drums. While their motivations were admirable, their end goal was easy to predict and hard to watch.
14. Zoom’s identity (The Flash)
Pro tip: if you’re Barry Allen and you come across mysterious father figure, think twice (at minimum) before trusting him. CW’s The Flash did a commendable job in season one slowly building to its Reverse Flash twist. Greg Berlanti and his team of writers were less successful with the grand reveal of Zoom’s true identity.
Zoom was a compelling villain throughout season two, causing Barry and his team pain and suffering at every possible turn. But when it came to guessing Zoom’s alter ego, the answer seemed pretty obvious from the jump. It was impossible to shake the odd coincidence that Jay Garrick and Zoom both came from Earth 2 and winded up on Earth 1 at the exact same time. And Jay’s trustworthiness was doubtful at best when he entered S.T.A.R. Labs, claimed to be a speedster, but then claimed to have lost his speed. That’s not suspicious at all!
Add all of this to the fact that Jay himself confirmed to Caitlin that his doppleganger, Howard Zolomon, existed on Earth 1, and you have an easy to spot twist. Also, it’s hard to see at first, but you can spell Zoom with letters from “Zolomon.”
13. Jon Snow is brought back to life (Game of Thrones)
Goodnight, sweet prince. Until you wake up again later. Five seasons into Game of Throne‘s run, it seemed the only characters immune from writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ kill stroke were Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow. But here’s the rub: George R.R. Martin had already written Jon Snow’s death in the books, and Benioff and Weiss decided to stay loyal to Throne‘s source material.
But you can’t keep a good bastard down for long. Two episodes into season six, Jon was brought back to life by way of Melisandre’s magic. Alive, if not necessarily well, Jon quickly relinquishes his place on the Night’s Watch, fed up with the order that had him temporarily killed.
Fans of Thrones could never really bring themselves to believe that Jon was actually dead. The character was so easy to root for, thanks in no small part to Kit Harrington’s appeal as an actor. Perhaps because Benioff and Weiss suddenly had to operate without Martin’s written material (as he had none beyond book five), the show-runners decided it was time to cut viewers a break from the slaughter of fan favorites.
12. William is the Man in Black (Westworld)
Westworld is set to be Game of Throne‘s replacement once it concludes (at least until another literal GoT comes along). And while Westworld has matched Thrones scale, it has yet to pull off any twists and turns that measure up to Thrones. The above entry excluded, GoT really knows how to pull the rug out from under peoples’ feet. Westworld might have to yank at the rug a little harder in season two if they want to trip anybody up.
From the outset, Westworld theories ran amok on the internet. And TV fans, smart cookies that they are, were able to craft some concrete theories, many of which proved true. Perhaps the easiest story point for fan’s to sniff out was the true identity of the nameless Man in Black, played in this rendition by Ed Harris. While Jonathan Nolan likely meant this to be a heart stopper of a twist, most fans already had an inkling that the Man in Black was Jimmi Simpson’s William.
Thankfully, William’s journey was still engrossing. His transition from holier-than-thou observer at Westworld to tireless participant was suspenseful and tragic. It still ends on more of a whimper than a bang.
11. The sideways universe is purgatory (Lost)
The Lost finale didn’t lack for high stakes drama and emotional performances. It did, however, lack for concrete answers to lingering questions. Most diehard Lost fans are able to forgive this in the long run, but what they might be less forgiving towards are the definite answers that they had had already called episodes earlier.
Granted, most Lost viewers had predicted that the island itself was purgatory. But that theory came into question when, in the show’s last season, flash-forwards were replaced with what appeared to be flashes to an alternate reality, one where Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed. This place, eventually referred to as the sideways universe, started to seem more and more like the real in between space for our characters, a waiting room for their ultimate deaths.
There were a lot of sweet moments in the final episode of Lost and the final season in general. Most of these involved two characters finding each other in the sideways and reuniting to go into the great unknown. Sweet as these moments were, they also heavily suggested where the show was going to end up, which might tarnish some fans’ opinions towards them.
10. Malcolm Merlyn killed Sarah Lance (Arrow)
Arrow‘s surprising decision to kill a fan-favorite deserved a more satisfying payoff than it received. However, by justifying Sara Lance’s death with flimsy reveal, Berlanti and his writers made her (temporary) absence feel all the more needless. The truth behind Sarah’s murder not only left fans pouting in frustration, but also caused them to scratch their heads.
After stealing scenes left and right during season two, the original Black Canary met with an abrupt death in the season three premiere. Sara would rise again the next season, and soon hold a leading role on Legends of Tomorrow. But in the meantime, fans demanded the identity of her killer. Unfortunately, when they discovered it was Malcolm Merlyn, they walked away feeling less gratified than they might’ve hoped.
Merlyn coercing Thea into killing Sara seemed like something of a forgone conclusion by the time it was confirmed. The concept was teased, seemingly debunked, but then brought back and stated as truth. But the truth rang false, as Merlyn arguably created more problems for himself that he might not have had if he’d kept Ra’s al Ghul’s disciple alive.
9. Kallus is Fulcrum (Star Wars Rebels)
Star Wars set the bar high for its twists with a little line back in Empire that goes, “Luke, I am your father.” Since then, Star Wars has yet to shatter our worlds with the same magnitude. This is fine considering people go to Star Wars for comfort and escapism. But if you expect some shock-value from your Star Wars, the cartoon Star Wars Rebels might let you down on that front.
Of the many villains the Ghost crew have faced, Kallus has always been a constant. As time went on, Kallus became a more fleshed out character, developing exponentially in a powerful episode titled “The Honorable Ones.” Here we saw Kallus bond with Zeb, and discovered there might be good in the Empire’s agent after all.
Given this major advancement of Kallus’ character, it wasn’t hard to imagine that he’d turn to the light sooner or later. And with the resurgence of an agent Fulcrum inside the Empire, viewers didn’t take long to connect two and two. Kallus departed the Empire officially at the end of season three, and it now seems he’ll be an active participant in destroying it.
8. Bernard is a host (Westworld)
Once again, fan theories took the air out of Westworld‘s twist balloon. The Bernard reveal came much earlier than the Man in Black’s, so it wasn’t quite as much of a bummer when viewers anticipated the twist early on. Still, the twist about Bernard that we got (and the equally expected followup twist) elicited more shrugs than gasps.
When Bernard’s investigation into Ford’s dealings gets deeper, he comes across a rude awakening. Thinking this whole time that he was a human working for the park, he suddenly discovers that he’s actually a host built by Ford. But by the time Westworld revealed this, the show was just playing a game of catch up with internet theorists.
Soon after we learn that Bernard is not only a host, but also a recreation of Ford’s old partner Arnold. This realization might’ve jarred audiences a bit more, but ultimately comes off as a “Sure, why not?” kind of story point.
7. Dawn didn’t exist before (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Dawn’s introduction into Buffy shook up the series in a lot of ways, few of them for the better. The episode narrated by her is a fitting introduction to the grating character she would be practically until the end of the show. Most viewers couldn’t help but ask if this was actually happening. And, in a sense, it wasn’t.
Halfway through season five we find out that Dawn never existed before. Buffy and her friends all accept her as a part of their world even though we as viewers swear we’ve never seen her. When it’s finally revealed that she is the human embodiment of something called the Key, placed under Buffy’s protection disguised as her little sister, audiences reacted with sighs of relief rather than with gasps of surprise.
Dawn was introduced so Buffy could have a fierce emotional connection with somebody other than a love interest, and she never made a case for herself beyond that. We all knew something was up with Dawn from the minute she came on screen. We might not have known what that was, but we could easily guess that Dawn was counterfeit in some way, shape, or form.
6. George-Michael and Maeby aren’t cousins (Arrested Development)
It turns out George Michael’s incestuous anxieties were unfounded (if not entirely unreasonable). For three seasons, Arrested Development mined comedy gold from the supremely uncomfortable “will they, won’t they” dynamic between cousins George Michael Bluth and Maeby Fünke. Perhaps because viewers, disturbingly, rooted for the two, they resisted the idea that the two were actually related. By the end, it was revealed they’d hit the nail on the head.
Viewers eventually found out that George Michael and Maeby weren’t blood relatives. The first confirmation of this ended up being false, as George Michael found out from Lucille that Lindsay was never pregnant and thus couldn’t have had Maeby. George Michael and Maeby discovered later, through photo evidence, that this was a lie and that Lindsay was in fact Maeby’s mother. Too bad this information came after the two went to second base.
Fortunately, further twists ensured that George Michael and Maeby still were not cousins. This time it was due to Lindsay not actually being the daughter of George and Lucille. Still, this hasn’t necessarily made the road easier for George Michael and Maeby.
5. Elliot is Mr. Robot (Mr. Robot)
Mr. Robot broke new ground USA. A singular TV show in its own right, with its twisted style, unhinged characters, and heady themes, Mr. Robot elevated USA out of the buddy comedy doldrums. The show was so good for USA that it ended up getting the network an Emmy for Rami Malek’s lead performance as Elliot. While Elliot’s character is certainly an enigma, one of his secrets was pretty easy to decode.
Amidst the praise for Mr. Robot, there were some complaints regarding the show’s similarities to Fight Club. Both properties involve a character who despises their humdrum life and then gives it up to follow a mysterious charmer into an underground organization, one hell-bent on crippling society. So if you saw Fight Club and were watching Mr. Robot, chances are you weren’t all too shocked with the ultimate reveal.
Turns out the Mr. Robot is just a figment of Elliot’s imagination, taking the shape of Elliot’s long deceased father. Really Mr. Robot is the alias Elliot goes by, unknowingly, when carrying out tasks for the hacker group F Society. Mr. Robot is still chock full of surprises. This just wasn’t one of them.
4. Matthew Crawley stands again (Downton Abbey)
Matthew’s exit from Downton Abbey might have been a kick in the teeth, but an earlier twist in the show did little to dismount avid viewers. Though Downton played host to many tragedies throughout its run, fans felt assured that the show would never go too too dark (Matthew’s death aside). So when Matthew came back from war paralyzed, the audience knew it wouldn’t be long until he was literally back on his feet.
When Matthew returned from fighting in World War I, he was confined to a wheelchair due to injuries sustained on the battlefield. While in the care of two potential love interests, Mary and Lavinia, Matthew had begun to believe that he would never walk again. But, at the end of the day, Downton Abbey is a hopeful show. Matthew suddenly stands up again when he helps Lavinia from tripping and falling. No real surprise there.
Of course, Matthew didn’t immediately rush out the door and run a marathon. His road to recovery was still long and ahead of him. But it was a road that viewers knew he was destined to walk down, upright on two feet. Sadly, this journey still came to an untimely end.
3. “Hank Henshaw” is not evil (Supergirl)
Nice try, Supergirl. But The Flash already played the secret baddie tune. Surely the CBS aired superhero show wouldn’t attempt the same thing. In its first season, Supergirl teased the possibility that Hank Henshaw, the stiff, hard as nails leader of the D.E.O. was actually an evil alien. The latter was true. But the former, as all viewers could guess, was false.
Like The Flash did with the alleged Harrison Wells in its first season, Supergirl included quick scenes in many episodes of Hank’s eyes flashing red out of sight of the other characters. Kara and Alex took a while to grow suspicious of Hank, thinking for a long time his methods were just him being cranky rather than the bi-product of malicious intent. Luckily, they were right. Hank’s biggest secret was that he wasn’t actually Hank Henshaw. He just stole the identity from the original Henshaw to protect his own true identity.
Viewers were pleasantly surprised, if not downright shocked, to discover Hank was actually J’onn J’onzz, better known as Martian Manhunter. Supergirl is now on the CW directly alongside The Flash, so it’ll have to try even harder to not resemble its sibling superhero show.
2. Sherlock faked his death (Sherlock)
In book form, Sherlock Holmes cheated death in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem.” The story ends with Holmes tripping over a waterfall with his arch nemesis, James Moriarty. So when Benedict Cumberbatch faced off against his Moriarty on the roof of a hospital, it wasn’t difficult to see where things were headed.
To save the lives of John Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock had to follow Moriarty’s demands and commit suicide. He does so by jumping to his death. John watches from across the street in horror. Of course, the final shot of the episode shows that Sherlock is actually still alive. He returns in season three to surprise of everyone. Except the viewers that is.
While Holmes’ death and resurrection in the book was the result of Doyle’s decision to end and then revive the character, Sherlock’s death in the TV show seems like the result of Sherlock getting too clever for its own good. Plus, with the show being such a hot commodity featuring stars like Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, there was no way Sherlock was going to end at season two. Thus we could deduce that Sherlock the character was not actually dead.
1. Glenn survived zombie attack (The Walking Dead)
Glenn’s ultimate demise was no doubt a shock to fans’ systems. Especially since it came at the end of an agonizing wait following the infuriating season six finale. But before that, Glenn had survived a different near death experience to the surprise of nobody. Still, the wait to figure out Glenn’s fate had been agonizing then too.
A show known for playing cruel games with its audience’s hearts, The Walking Dead pulled a particularly dirty trick on viewers early on in season six when it “killed” a fan favorite, Glenn. The episode “Thank You” showed Glenn falling into a dumpster of flesh eating zombies. But then, only several episodes later, viewers found out that Glenn had miraculously survived the incident. Upon that realization, fans couldn’t help but wonder what the point of all that stress was.
Glenn couldn’t evade death forever. Negan’s bat made sure of that. But while Glenn’s ultimate offing was shocking and heartbreaking, his first death scene left a lot to be desired.
What TV plot twists were you disappointed by? Sound off in the comments!