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The Worst TV Plot Twists Of All Time

Plot twists can be wonderful. Who hasn't watched a TV show and marveled at the genius of the writers when an inspired plot twist happens? As exciting as a well-executed twist is, that's not what we're dealing with in this list. For all the brilliance that writers demonstrate with exceptional plot twists, there's an equal number of examples from the other side: plot twists that are so infuriating, it's hard to understand how the writers got them on the air. This list is meant to capture the worst of the worst.

From the revelation about the sideways world in "Lost" to Daenerys going all Red Queen in the last season of "Game of Thrones," and from every character in "Seinfeld" ending up in jail to the mother being dead before we even meet her in "How I Met Your Mother," there are a lot of doozies here. We can't know what the writers were thinking, but we can presume all of them were trying their best. However, for one reason or another, they all failed spectacularly. Here are the worst TV plot twists of all time.

Lost: The sideways world is the afterlife

"Lost" told fascinating stories about the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 as they fought to stay alive after they crash-landed on a seemingly deserted tropical island. The show also offered flashbacks to their lives before the island and flash-forwards to their lives after the island. Then, in the final season, they flashed-sideways to an entirely new place that gave each of them a different life. But we finally know the whole story of "Lost" after that final season, when the show revealed that this isn't life but purgatory. This is the place the plane crash survivors all agreed to meet up after they died, so they could move on to whatever comes next together.

When the sideways world was revealed to be purgatory, it left many fans perturbed. "As time went on, it became obvious the fans would not accept 'they were dead all along' as an explanation, so they rigged it into this mess," Reddit user u/Forbizzle said in the r/Lost subreddit. "Considering the corner they painted themselves into with season 3 onwards, it was an alright ending. But I don't give the writers credit, they had no grand vision when they started the series." Another user, u/SpecialSause, praised the ending despite recognizing its limitations: "I think there was a point to be made by not revealing the mysteries of the island. The point is that the mysteries of the island do not matter; the characters and their stories are what matters." Most viewers' biggest complaint was that the finale didn't offer them answers to the show's myriad mysteries, leaving longtime fans disappointed.

St. Elsewhere: The whole show is a figment of a child's imagination

From 1982 to 1988, "St. Elsewhere" was a fairly standard hospital show. It had a cast full of great actors, including Denzel Washington, Ed Begley Jr., Howie Mendel, and David Morse, and a plot that revolved around the staff of the Boston teaching hospital St. Eligius. That is, until the final couple of minutes. That's when Dr. Westphall (Ed Flanders) came home to reveal he wasn't a doctor at all, but a construction worker, and that he had a non-verbal, autistic son, Tommy (Chad Allen), who stares at a snowglobe all day with the facade of the building viewers had come to know as St. Eligius Hospital in it. While Westphall pondered what Tommy could be thinking about with the snowglobe, viewers knew: He's dreaming up the episodes of "St. Elsewhere."

This was a polarizing ending for the show and, according to Dan Snierson at Entertainment Weekly, "helped define the WTF? sign-off." Kenneth Lowe at Paste Magazine said, "'St. Elsewhere' was a solid drama ... but it will always be a peculiar show for that final detail." Some viewers were less even-handed about it, with u/Aeroeee writing on Reddit, "Great show. F***ed up ending," and u/Mountain_Exchange768 simply saying, "I hated the ending." Regardless of what you thought of the show, the final moments were a mind trip. It also ushered in the idea that every show exists in the Tommy Westphall Universe, which, because of crossover episodes, includes everything from "Cheers" to "Star Trek" to "Law & Order" and "The Walking Dead."

Game of Thrones: Daenerys becomes the Mad Queen in the final season

Though HBO's hit fantasy series was a beloved show for most of its eight-season run, the final season of "Game of Thrones" was a major letdown. While Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) going all Mad Queen in the penultimate episode, "The Bells," was far from the only plot twist to be annoyed with, it is perhaps the most frustrating. While up until this point, Dany has always been something of a hero, caring deeply for her people and never taking out her enemies without reason, she snaps in mere seconds and takes out her anger on the defenseless people of King's Landing.

Emily St. James in Vox said it best when she observed that the final season did "an exceptionally poor job of tracking on just what Dany is thinking and feeling, beyond what she directly tells us she's thinking and feeling. Her motivation ends up feeling more elemental than real, which may be why 'The Bells' drags in the notion that she's simply 'gone mad.'" And SeanF wrote at A Forum of Ice and Fire, "Her genes were her downfall. Which is lazy plotting." Ultimately, had what happened played out over a longer period, maybe it would've made more sense, but instead it came off as inexplicable.

Veronica Mars: Logan dies right after he and Veronica get married

"Veronica Mars" had already come back for a crowdfunded movie in 2014 when it was announced she'd be back again, this time for a fourth season of her popular TV series — 12 years after the first finale of the series aired. This time, the story revolved around a guy who set off bombs because he hated spring breakers. He was eventually caught, but he left a parting gift for Veronica (Kristen Bell): a bomb in her car. Unfortunately, it was Logan (Jason Dohring), Veronica's longtime on-again, off-again boyfriend, who set it off mere minutes after the pair got married.

Over 10,000 fans signed a Change.org petition to bring Logan back, and there were many critical pieces about why this plot twist didn't work the way "Veronica Mars"' creator Rob Thomas had thought it would. For example, CBR wrote, "Veronica's life has been one tragedy after another. Taking away her longtime love just felt like piling on. And to have it happen for such nonsensical reasons ... was even worse." Thomas bet that people would embrace this change and that "Veronica Mars" would be back, but he acknowledged to TV Guide, "If you never get to see another 'Veronica Mars' episode ... then I lost the bet." Unfortunately, it appears that, as of this writing at least, the show died with Logan.

Angel: Cordelia gets intimate with Angel's son

Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) went through a lot on "Angel." Most egregious of all, though, has to be Cordelia having sex with Connor (Vincent Kartheiser), Angel's (David Boreanaz) teenage son, in the Season 4 episode "Apocalypse, Nowish," after she told Angel she still loved him at the beginning of the episode. We find out later that she did it because she was possessed by a demon, but the damage was already done.

Cordy helped to raise Connor, and the fact that she now had no problem shagging him was deeply problematic. In 2022, Carpenter described how "Angel" creator Joss Whedon had to work around her real-life pregnancy. She told Newsweek, "I wasn't crazy about 'Angel' Season 4, but my pregnancy threw things for a loop." Whedon's solution for suddenly needing to explain Carpenter's pregnancy in the world of the show was to have the character have sex with Connor, leading to Cordelia's pregnancy and the birth of a full-grown "daughter," Jasmine (Gina Torres).

Most people couldn't stand this storyline. Perhaps u/musing_amuses on Reddit put it best when they wrote, "It doesn't fit with Cordelia's character because it wasn't Cordelia. Cordelia was the container, but the brains behind the operation belonged to Jasmine. That being said I think it was a terrible, disgusting, misogynistic storyline, and no matter what the explanation, I wish the writers had never done it."

Gossip Girl: Dan is Gossip Girl

After six seasons of Upper East Side drama, it was revealed in the final episode of "Gossip Girl" that the person behind her was ... Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley)? That's right, the outsider who harbored an infatuation with ultimate Upper East Sider Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) was pulling the strings the whole time.

As Marlow Stern with The Daily Beast said, this reveal went "against all logic and reason." While it seems everyone on the show, including Serena, were ultimately fine with it, fans hated the Dan reveal. As Emma Dibdin wrote for Cosmopolitan in 2021, "It's something people continue to get pissed off about even today, almost 10 years after the season finale aired, as the show lives on in streaming." For example, on the "Gossip Girl" subreddit, u/mrsscorsese said, "People are saying, 'well if not Dan, then who?' but that's the thing.. GG should not have been anyone we know. Because no one would have made sense. That's why the books didn't reveal anyone as GG. The idea that they had to choose Dan is so frustrating." This is one reveal that fans clearly wanted redone.

Dallas: One whole season is nothing but a dream

"Dallas" was one of the top shows on television after premiering in 1978. But then, at the end of Season 8, it killed off one of its most popular characters: Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy). Duffy heard the call of the movies, so he wanted off the show, but that led to a steep ratings decline. The opportunities Duffy had anticipated materializing didn't happen, so by the time producers of the show came calling about Duffy coming back, he was open to it. So Bobby was found in the shower by his wife, Pam (Victoria Principal), at the end of Season 9, and in the Season 10 premiere, Pam explained that she had dreamed he had died. Just like that, Season 9 was retconned as "nothing but a dream."

Fans were rightfully unhappy. The show never again saw the top spot in the ratings, and the moment is still a popular entry on lists like this one. Even some "Dallas" actors were angry. "I don't want to mention them, but various cast members were pissed because their storylines were lost as a result of that," Steve Kanaly, who played Ray Krebbs, told People. "It had a big impact."

Jane the Virgin: Michael is alive after all but has amnesia

When Jane's (Gina Rodriguez) husband Michael (Brett Dier) died in the middle of Season 3 of "Jane the Virgin," Jane and the audience mourned for him. But when Michael came back in the last moments of Season 4, the audience was less than excited to see him. This could be because Michael had amnesia and, as a result, was completely different from the character they knew. He wasn't the devoted husband Jane loved; he was gruff and stoic and called himself Jason, and it was the villain, Rose's (Bridget Regan) fault. See, she had staged his death by slowing his heart rate, bribing a coroner, and using electro-shock therapy to deprive him of his memories.

Despite fans accepting so many telenovela twists from "Jane the Virgin" over the years, this was one twist they couldn't get on board with. As Jess Howard said in Paste Magazine, "While the choice to bring Michael back works in strengthening [the show's] connection to the telenovela genre ... the addition of this plot point weakened the show, as it's more rooted in chaos and the allure of seeing Michael back on screen than compassion and character development. ... Michael's return was disingenuous and frustrating, which was incredibly unfortunate when his character ... was initially such a beautiful part of the show's legacy." 

Gilmore Girls: Luke has a secret 12-year-old daughter

Halfway through the sixth season of "Gilmore Girls," Luke (Scott Patterson) and the audience are thrown for a loop when Luke finds out he's the father of a 12-year-old girl named April (Vanessa Marano). Luke is also engaged to Lorelei (Lauren Graham), and instead of being open and honest with her about April, he keeps her existence a secret and then tries to keep the two apart when she finds out. It's a truly bizarre storyline when the show jumps the shark, and it ruins the magic of the show's central romance.

Needless to say, fans were less than thrilled about this turn of events. Samantha Graves at Collider explained it well, saying, "Perhaps this storyline could've worked better had it been introduced earlier, and been given a bit more time to be fleshed out — instead, it felt like it was used for shock value and needless drama." This was seconded by many fans on Reddit. For example, u/Shayvt82 wrote on the "Gilmore Girls" subreddit, "I don't even hate that Luke has a daughter. Or that Anna was never mentioned before. ... But what they did with Luke having a daughter and how they used it to split Luke and Lorelei up and have Luke start acting like an idiot (and not at all like the man who adored Lorelei and her parenting) was the thing I really hated."

Seinfeld: The characters end up in jail in the finale

"Seinfeld" started its two-part series finale much like the rest of the show: George (Jason Alexander) and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) discuss minutiae. Soon, though, it takes a turn. The four main characters, Jerry, George, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Kramer (Michael Richards), are arrested for violating a new "good samaritan" law because they had stood and watched (and in Kramer's case, video-recorded) as a man was carjacked and his wallet was stolen. The rest of the episode sees a parade of guest stars return to testify to the four's selfishness.

There's been much talk about the "Seinfeld" finale in the years since. Brett White wrote in the Decider, "As an episode of television, the 'Seinfeld' finale just doesn't hang together. ... 'The Finale' is too big, with a network meeting and a private plane and a long courtroom scene, and it's nothing like the mundane farce the show was during its best seasons." The finale caught a bad rap with fans, too. On the r/Seinfeld subreddit, u/ShiftlessElement wrote, "I might overlook some of the illogical, cartoony aspects if it was funny, but it settles into such a boring rhythm. ... It's a slog." Series creator Larry David seems to have learned nothing from that finale and admirably, hilariously doubled down by copying it for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" many years later, but unfortunately, the finale of Seinfeld still stands among the worst plot twists ever.

Sugar: The private investigator is an alien

"Sugar" seemed at first like a straightforward neo-noir show. Centering on the private investigator John Sugar (Colin Farrell) as he looks into the disappearance of a Hollywood producer's granddaughter, it had the moody atmosphere and performances viewers expected. Then, out of nowhere at the end of the sixth episode, it was revealed that the P.I. in question was an alien. Like — from outer space. While this might have worked had the reveal happened earlier, with only two episodes left in the season, that twist in "Sugar" instead changed the show's tone. Plus, it never answered all the new questions it opened up.

Saloni Gajjar at The AV Club wrote, "Apple TV+'s thriller ... makes the grave error of resorting to a ridiculous plot twist that should've been the damn plot all along." Fans on Reddit agreed, as u/King_medicine925 wrote in the r/television subreddit, "I adore the show, until the twist ... I just didn't need Sci-fi added in." Another user, u/Noarchsf, concurred: "I loved the show but thought the twist was completely worthless. ... The twist seemed like one of those ideas that was cool when they were writing it, but then eventually needed to be edited out. ... It didn't add anything to the story for me and was distracting. They were really close to having a great revival of that style of story."

How I Met Your Mother: The mother was already dead

"How I Met Your Mother" spent nine seasons building up the mysterious mother as the ultimate romantic choice for main character, Ted (Josh Radnor). It's right there in the name; this is a show about how Ted meets his kids' mother. Or at least that's what viewers thought, until the finale robbed them of that notion. In the final season, the writers quickly introduce the mother, Tracy (Cristin Milioti), and mere minutes later kill her off, compressing years of Ted and Tracy's relationship into a few key moments. Then the finale quickly pivots and turns out to be about Ted wanting to ask Robin out. 

On the r/television subreddit, u/halfralex expressed it this way, "We spent 9 years waiting for a reveal and [the mother] was killed off and forgotten about in 2 minutes. By having them end with Robin and Ted, it seemed forced and made the viewer forget about the mother and latch onto Ted and Robin."

Other fans were fine with the ending, just not its execution. In the same thread, u/Catterjune explained, "They could have shown Ted speaking with the Mother on her dead bed, they could have shown him mourning at the funeral, they could have shown Robin and his friends consoling him. But it was all just so quickly glossed over." The ending seemed like a betrayal of everything the show had been building toward for years.