Loving TV shows often means suspending disbelief. When it comes to sci-fi, fantasy, and the like, it’s to be expected. Worlds filled with superheroes, demons, and magical islands don’t exactly make for realistic settings. But what makes these shows so great is that the characters themselves are relatable, and grounded in such a way that we see ourselves in them, allowing us to imagine that we exist in the same universe, somehow.
But even TV series that take place in the “real world” are filled with plot devices that perplex and annoy the viewer. Hyper-realism doesn’t usually make for the most intriguing storylines, and writers often have to come up with ways to make particular plot lines work. This is when characters change inexplicably, literally getting away with murder or taking on unbelievable identities. While a little mystery can be fun, the shock of an extreme shift in direction can yank an audience out of the story completely. Here are 15 Ridiculous TV Twists That Made No Sense Whatsoever, and the backlash that resulted from them.
15. Diggle’s Sentence – Arrow
The CW’s reinvention of itself arguably began several years ago, and one can pinpoint that to just around the time Arrow began. For a formerly teen soap-centered network, the adaptation of a DC comic was a bit outside its wheelhouse, as though it was reaching back to the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the now-defunct WB. Even so, the transition was a success — the CW now boasts four interconnected superhero series, creating an empire only paralleled by Netflix’s Marvel TV deal.
Now in its fifth season, the big brother of the pack, Arrow, is facing some growing pains. John Diggle, Oliver’s once devoted teammate, left Team Arrow to return to the army. After having literally saved the world, and now resuming active duty, you’d think people would have a pretty high opinion of Diggle, right? Wrong. His superior frames him for murder, and easily has him thrown in prison. Wouldn’t someone question this? Apparently not, and so it was once again up to Oliver and co. to jailbreak Diggle shortly thereafter.
14. It Was All a Book – Roseanne
Taking it back a bit in sitcom history, Roseanne was a landmark show. Depicting the working class of middle America in a realistic and humorous fashion, comedian Roseanne Barr and the rest of the cast delighted audiences throughout the 1990s with their frank comedy, and made waves with positive portrayals of LGBT characters in a time when there were very few on TV.
Throughout the series, the Conners face many ups and downs, adding depth to the realistic characters depicted on screen. The final season, however, sees more positivity than those prior, with the family winning the lottery in the first episode. But it turns out that this was one very long joke that was too good to be true…
The series finale reveals that the entire final season has been the narrative of a book Roseanne was writing based on her life. However, she changed many things. No one won the lottery, different people were paired off, and her husband, Dan, had died during his heart attack the previous season. It was a fairly apt end to series that liked to push boundaries, but it still seemed like an awful, spit-in-your-face twist to fans who had been rooting for the Conner family.
13. Joey and Rachel – Friends
Everyone’s favorite group of New Yorkers graced our TV screens for 10 years and fed us promises of a life where you get your high school crush, date a billionaire, score your dream job with little experience, and live in a giant rent-controlled Manhattan apartment across the hall from a soap opera star. Yes, Friends was absolutely unbelievable at times, but because we could see ourselves and our 20- (and 30-) something growing pains in them, we felt like they were our friends, too.
The gang dated a lot throughout the series, with several marriages thrown in there as well, but no couple was as iconic as Ross and Rachel. The two just kept coming back to each other. Which is why it was absurd when after nine years of friendship, Joey and Rachel decide to give it a go as a couple. Joey having a crush on his gal pal wasn’t that weird (let’s be real: who didn’thave a crush on Jennifer Aniston at some point?), but her reciprocating his feelings and the two actually trying to make a relationship work was the show’s definitive jumping-the-shark moment. Thankfully, the writers put the kibosh on that storyline fast, and we all got the Rachel-Ross ending we’d been dreaming of.
12. Medical School – Scrubs
Few shows have made us laugh out loud the way Scrubs did. NBC’s long-running comedy starring Zach Braff and Donald Faison as two best friends/doctors at Sacred Heart hospital featured hilarious co-stars, a variety of musical numbers, and a plethora of running jokes.Towards the end, the show began to get a little convoluted, and struggled to depict its characters in the more adult situations they now faced with the same humor as their younger days.
Still, the series finale was arguably flawless, invoking the show’s sentimental core while preserving the comedic timing that made it a hit. Having changed over to ABC for the eighth season, many assumed that was the end — but wait! A ninth season was commissioned, with all of the series regulars reduced to recurring roles, and a new subtitle: Med School. This lasted just 13 episodes before its swift cancellation, thoroughly annoying fans who effectively wrote off the final season from the series canon. (Well, they would have if they could have…)
11. The Carver – Nip/Tuck
Before he got super dark with American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy showed his love of the creepy with the medical drama Nip/Tuck. Airing on FX for six seasons, the show depicted a pair of plastic surgeons, Doctors Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, their shared practice, and their convoluted personal lives. Embracing the absurd from the start, the series captured the surgery-of-the-week nature of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, but also played up the darker side of this particular world.
Things started to get very gruesome in season two, with the entrance of the Carver, a serial rapist who disfigured his victims. Rather than tummy tucks and breast implants, the surgeons were now tasked with repairing the brutal scars of the victims who continued to show up at their practice. They decided to take matters into their own hands, and the season finale had Dr. Troy meeting the perpetrator in a very violent encounter.
The resolution of the mystery doesn’t come until the third season finale, when it’s revealed that the Carver is none other than twice-exonerated fellow plastic surgeon Quentin Costa, with help from his sister, a cop. The entire plot was full of red herrings and ridiculous twists, and it seemed as though the writers were trying way too hard to make the mystery unsolvable.
10. Frank Gets Away With Murder – House of Cards
When House of Cards premiered on Netflix, it was the first time the evolving platform had a true hit on its hands. Based on a British miniseries of the same name, the series follows politician Frank Underwood, a Southern Democrat who served as the House Majority Whip. Frank and his wife, and partner-in-crime, Claire had plans to take over the White House, and nothing would get in their way, even the press looking over their shoulders.
The thorn in Frank’s side was Zoe Barnes, a reporter whom he began an affair with in season one. As their relationship was primarily an exchange of sex and information, Zoe’s moral compass began to spin, and she and her colleagues started to dig deeper in order to discover all of Frank’s wrongdoings before he was sworn in as Vice President. Desperate to save his career, Frank pushed Zoe in front of a train at a DC metro station — and two seasons later, her murder is still considered an accident. Other reporters have attempted to gather all of the evidence to expose Frank as her killer, but he’s still sitting pretty at the end of season four.
9. Landry is a Murderer – Friday Night Lights
Season one of Friday Night Lights, the acclaimed NBC drama based on the film of the same name, was essentially TV perfection. There were the high school students experiencing first love, heartbreak, academic and familial struggles, and of course, football. There was the small town Texas life, and right in the center of it all, there was Tami and Eric Taylor, a shining example of the teamwork, friendship, and love required for a happy marriage. The first season concluded with a championship win, and things were great for the residents of Dillon, Texas.
The next season began well enough, but at least some of the realism was lost when the sweet and nerdy Landry, in an attempt to save his crush, Tyra, murders the man who tries to rape her. Yes, he was protecting her, and of course he was upset, but the act was so far out of character that the show had to spend the next several episodes justifying it. Season two suffered from other issues, and is widely considered the worst of the series, also due in part to the WGA strike that caused an abrupt season end at only 15 episodes. But fear not — the show eventually regained its stride in season three, and maintained that quality until its cancellation after season five.
8. Mrs. Botwin Goes to Mexico – Weeds
Sometimes a show is just ridiculous enough, which is what makes it great. Weeds was that series, in both premise and execution: an upper-middle class widow sells marijuana in order to make ends meet for her and her sons. The setting is their cookie-cutter California neighborhood, where bake sales and snobbery are juxtapose with the dangerous world that Nancy has begun to delve further into. Our anti-heroine maintains her moral high ground by refusing to indulge in any drugs, and by trying to separate her day job from her home life.
This all comes crashing down in season four, when, after burning her town to the ground, Nancy takes her family to the Mexican border, begins a sexual relationship with a drug lord, tries peyote, and conspires against a politician. The plot continues into the fifth season, with the birth of Nancy and Esteban’s baby, who is used as leverage, and a continued entanglement with the Mexican government and the DEA. The season concludes with Shane, Nancy’s middle child, murdering her rival. Everything that was subtle about the show disappeared, leaving a screwed-up family committing crimes. Weeds never did recover from this fall, despite subsequent attempts to mirror early season plots.
7. Nanny Carrie – One Tree Hill
Teen soaps in the ’00s seemed to toe the line between realism and drama. One Tree Hill, which aired on the WB (later CW) from 2003-2012, was a perfect example of this. The show began following a pair of half-brothers from a small town in North Carolina, both of whom were excellent basketball players, and the family dynamics that both separated them and brought them together. OTH evolved to focus on Lucas, Nathan, and their intertwined group of friends. After the gang graduated high school, the showrunners made the inspired choice to jump forward in time four years in order to skip the college conundrum.
The shift in dynamic brought about a few positive changes for the show: the characters were now closer in age to the actors portraying them, and the more adult issues brought a nice tonal adjustment. However, one storyline was about as ridiculous as they come: Nathan’s relationship with his child’s nanny became a little less than professional. After he ultimately rejected her, she retaliated by kidnapping his son, and then, when she was caught, held Nathan’s father, Dan, hostage. The plot served to bring Dan and his estranged family closer together, but ultimately, it was a failed tactic and came across as simply absurd.
6. Jasmine and Cordelia – Angel
As a spinoff of the immensely popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, Angel was poised to do well. Though it took a little while to find its own groove, Angel Investigations and those who ran it soon became a Scooby Gang all their own, with a slightly darker premise and grungier tone. The additions of Wesley, Fred, and Gunn especially solidified the burgeoning series, and comic relief Lorne made for a delightful recurring presence.
Season three brought with it a few very strange storylines, specifically the addition of Connor– Angel and Darla’s impossible son who fans never warmed up to. Connor also put into motion the events that came about in the next season, wherein Cordelia, having been brought down from a higher plane, slept with Connor amid her confusion. Cordy got pregnant and gave birth to Jasmine, a demonic power that brainwashed (almost) everyone. There is a lot more to this, of course, but the entire season was full of out-of-character proclamations and otherwise ridiculous scenarios.
It has been said by some that Joss Whedon was punishing Charisma Carpenter (who played Cordelia) for getting pregnant and ruining his planned season three arc, and then fired her after assassinating her character. Regardless of why, the entire Jasmine plot was ludicrous, and the show never regained its fan base with season five.
5. Time Travel – Felicity
Many teens and twenty-somethings of the ’90s loved the WB drama Felicity. After shows like Beverly Hills 90210 painted a glamorous life in California, Felicity took to the east coast to show us the nitty gritty of NYC. While highfalutin young adults living in very large dorm rooms isn’t exactly the height of realism, the curly-haired beauty and her pals did struggle with money, academia, and the pressures of “the real world,” making them probably the closest reflection of themselves that young people saw on TV at that time.
The series was poised to wrap up cleanly: four years of college would take four seasons, and things would finally come full circle for our heroine with one question: Noel or Ben? Episode 17 “The Graduate” closed the show out perfectly — and then the network ordered five more episodes. With the perfect ending already written, J.J. Abrams and co. cooked up a very strange solution: send Felicity back in time so she can relive her senior year over again, with different results. This wasn’t the first time the show got a little weird, but it was definitely the most jarring twist of the series. Well, after that haircut.
4. The Mom is Dead – How I Met Your Mother
Few TV finales this decade have been as divisive as that of How I Met Your Mother. The acclaimed CBS sitcom lasted nine seasons, though many would argue that was at least a few too long. After all, when you’re telling a story from the future but recalling events as they unfold in the audience’s time, there are bound to be a few missteps. Despite the valiant attempts of creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, there were a few mysteries left unsolved at the end of the series. But the question that the title is framed around was finally answered, with a frustrating and bizarre twist added.
While Tracy was revealed to be the mother at the end of season eight, viewers had to endure a final season stretched so thin that it took place over the course of only a few days. In the end, few were surprised, and many were disappointed: Ted and Tracy have their meet-cute at long last, delight in a whirlwind romance, procreate twice… and then Tracy just dies.
Ted was telling this story to his children to show them that, while he loved their mom, their “Aunt Robin” was the love of his life, and they get together in the end. Had the show ended around season three or four, Robin and Ted as endgame would have made a lot more sense, but after so much character development and “will they, won’t they,” the predetermined end infuriated those who’d put in so many hours of viewing time.
3. The Cheerleader Dies – Heroes Reborn
2006 was a simpler time. NBC was coming off its killer comedy block, and decided it needed to spice things up in the drama department. Enter the slogan heard literally everywhere: “Save the cheerleader. Save the world.” It was short and sweet, just like the title of the upcoming series: Heroes, which exploded onto the TV scene. The cheerleader in question was Claire Bennet (played by Hayden Panettiere), a pretty blonde teenager with the ability to magically heal any wound in seconds. She remained a central character throughout the show’s four seasons.
But when 2015 brought with it miniseries continuation Heroes Reborn, Panettiere was busy with her latest hit show, Nashville. Other characters returned, including Noah Bennet, Claire’s adoptive father. He travels through time and discovers that Claire has, miraculously, been killed. There’s a powers-related explanation that is eventually revealed, but when it comes down to it, it feels like the real reason was so that the writers could explain Claire’s lack of involvement in the plot. The show was canceled shortly after, so maybe they should have updated the tagline to “Kill the Cheerleader, Kill the Show.”
2. Everyone’s Dead – Lost
Apparently J.J. Abrams really liked what he’d done with the end of Felicity, because shortly, he went full force into sci-fi/fantasty. For six seasons, audiences were enraptured by Lost, another drama, but with a lot more to it. Rife with metaphors, unending mysteries, and a large and constantly rotating cast of characters, Lost was more than just a TV series: It was an obsession, maybe even a lifestyle, complete with its own lingo and a multitude of fan and critic theories.
No, every mystery was not wrapped up, and yes, we could spend years attempting to decipher each minute detail of the series, from the numerology, to fertility, to the alternate timeline. Because the show invoked so much speculation from the outside, the writers even threw a potential red herring into the mix, intentionally or otherwise. When you break it down, the island was metaphorically (not literally) purgatory — but oh yeah, they all still die in the end. Wait, what? Ultimately, there was never a super concrete way to end a show with so many obscure elements, and while we can try to make sense of it, sometimes it’s best just to enjoy something for what it is: an entertaining fantasy with little basis in reality.
1. It Was Dan the Whole Time – Gossip Girl
“If I wasn’t born into this world, maybe I could to write myself into it.” Which world is that? The Upper East Side of New York City, where wealthy teenagers (and their parents) cause drama and then buy their way out of it. From the beginning of Gossip Girl, Dan Humphrey was our middle-class window into the lives of Serena and the rest of the elite whose wealth and status made them (almost) untouchable. As his life began to interweave with theirs, Gossip Girl, an anonymous blogger who shared secrets about high society NYC, was there to comment on it all.
But it turns out that Gossip Girl and Dan were one and the same. Though in theory this sort of makes sense, and the series goes to great lengths to justify the reveal in the finale, there are plot holes here. Ignoring the times when GG posted and Dan was otherwise occupied, some of the information shared later comes as a complete surprise to him, or reveals something that he wouldn’t want the world to know. The writers try to explain this away by having Rufus confront Dan about how he posted that Jenny lost her virginity to Chuck in season 3, and Dan replies that he had his sister’s permission. Whatever the reason, the kid sounds insane, doesn’t he?
Which TV show twists drove you crazy? Let us know in the comments!