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6 TV Plot Twists That Audiences Hated

These story turns have been accused of ruining their shows.

There's nothing worse than finding your new favorite show and binging as many seasons as you can find, only for it all to go bad. While a well executed plot twist can ignite discussion and leave audiences wanting more, a poorly-handled one can leave viewers feeling betrayed. Brace yourself as we delve into six TV series that made audiences squirm with big reveals that just didn't pay off. (Spoilers ahead!)

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Roseanne: It was all a dream

Roseanne Barr in Roseanne

The ninth and final season of Roseanne's original run transformed what had once been a down-to-earth, blue-collar, slice-of-life family comedy into something much weirder. The unexpected twists stacked up one after another: the Conner family wins the lottery, patriarch Dan (John Goodman) considers having an affair, and Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) saves Hillary Clinton (?) from terrorists (??). Any one of these plot turns might have made this list, were they not all in service of one larger, darker, and altogether fan-alienating twist: The series finale revealed that the entire ninth season amounted to Roseanne's fantasy, the plot of a book she's writing she's mourning Dan's death from a heart attack. The finale received scathing reviews upon initial airing, and 20 years later, The Guardian characterized the entirety of Season 9 as, "a truly terrible thing to unleash upon a viewing public." When the series was revived for a 10th season in 2018, the writers wisely chose to ignore the entire thing and revive Dan.

Gilmore Girls: Luke's secret daughter

Vanessa Marano in Gilmore Girls
Warner Bros. Television

Just as it was all coming together for Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham), in the ninth episode of Gilmore Girls' sixth season, a pretentious middle schooler waltzes into the diner, gets a sample of Luke's hair, and turns out to be his biological daughter. April (Vanessa Marano), a poorly written Rory (Alexis Bledel) ripoff, went on to drive a wedge between Luke and Lorelai, leading to their wedding being postponed. Fans were annoyed by both the character and her obvious function as an clunky plot device to prolong the romantic plotline. As Ben Hewitt wrote for The Guardian: "In a show that prioritised characters over brash storylines, April was Chekhov's Secret Daughter: a transparent plot device to prolong unnecessary Ross-and-Rachel-style dithering." The show never quite found its footing in subsequent episodes featuring a brief marriage between Lorelai and Rory's dad Christopher (David Sutcliffe), and many fans would come to agree with The A.V. Club writer Gwen Ihnat's assessment that the "April storyline is the worst thing Gilmore Girls ever did."

Friday Night Lights: A small-town murder

Jesse Plemons and Adrianne Palicki in Friday Night Lights
Universal Television

Based on an award-winning non-fiction book (earlier adapted into a well-regarded feature film), the mid-aughts sports drama Friday Night Lights enjoyed unparalleled acclaim from critics and fans for the duration of its five-season run… save for an infamous Season 2 plot twist that saw Jesse Plemons' Landry commit murder to protect his friend Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) from her potential rapist. The resulting storylines, in which the pair attempt to cover up the crime, were decidedly out-of-step with the otherwise grounded small-town drama, which is probably why the writers chose to completely ignore it come Season 3. It probably didn't help that the fans absolutely hated it from the opening whistle.

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The X-Files: Who's the daddy?

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files
20th Television

Self-proclaimed "X-Philes" who spent seven seasons tracking the ups and downs of the will-they-or-won't-they dynamic between FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) got to celebrate—a little bit—when Scully gave birth to Mulder's child, named William, at the end of the eighth season, albeit after Duchovny went from main cast to recurring character. Or did she? Nearly two decades after the show ended, it came back, and in the 11th season, it was revealed that William may have been fathered by the show's primary antagonist, the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), as part of a bizarre experiment. Even for fans of a show steeped in conspiracies, it was a step too far—though series creator Chris Carter claimed the twist was the plan all along, Bustle commented that the show had '[done] something incredibly cruel to Scully and fans are so angry."

How I Met Your Mother: The finale that ruined the entire series

Josh Radnor in How I Met Your Mother
20th Television

It was all leading up to this: The entire point of How I Met Your Mother was learning how lovelorn Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) encountered the mother of his future children—the ostensible audience for the entire narrative, which unfolded as a nine-season story told by future Ted (voiced by Bob Saget). But moments after the series finale confirms that Tracy McConnell (Cristin Milioti) is the mother, the voiceover reveals that she had died young of a terminal illness, and Ted's kids spur him to get over her and run back to his one-time flame "Aunt Robin" (Cobie Smulders). MTV put things mildly in stating that "most fans were disgruntled by the show's romantic endgame;" Salon writer Steven Lloyd Wilson hit closer to the mark in calling it "the worst finale ever."

Game of Thrones: Daenerys becomes the "mad queen"

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

HBO's massively popular epic fantasy series Game of Thrones spent seven years setting up Emilia Clarke's Daenerys—the "Mother of Dragons"—as a potential savior to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and the only high-born ruler concerned with the rights of the "smallfolk." Then it all went up in flames in the penultimate episode, "The Bells," in which Dany finally managed to defeat her enemies and take back King's Landing from the Lannisters with the help of her dragons—only to then order the beasts to set fire to the entire city, bringing death to thousands of innocents. Many fans viewed it as such a betrayal of the character as written over the course of 70-odd episodes that it quickly gained the reputation as series-ruining misstep. Vox noted that, as written, Dany's heel turn "made no narrative sense" and "did [the character] wrong."

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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