Clockwise from left: ABC/Getty Images; Chris Haston/NBC; Mario Perez/ABC
The time jump can be a much-needed tool for TV writers looking to skip humdrum plot developments. When done right, a leap forward can prove to be a brilliant plot twist, shocking viewers while also generating a whole new slew of storylines. Here are some of the more effective (and exciting) TV time jumps that dropped viewers right into the middle of more mystery, action and drama.
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Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars fans may have gotten some of the answers
they were looking for in the Season 6 mid-season finale, but minutes before the episode ended, the show leaped forward five years, which opened up new questions about what Aria, Hanna, Emily, Spencer and Alison have been up to in the meantime. This fast forward is a smart move, as it allows the show to not only set up another big season-long mystery but also gives the actresses—whose characters have been attending high school for almost five seasons—a chance to play their own ages.
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Lost As the Season 3 finale kicked off, viewers had no reason to suspect that the various flashbacks shown throughout the episode were anything but. Then the final scene revealed that everything viewers had seen were actually flash forwards. Not only had some of the survivors made it off the Island, but they were attempting to get back. This plot device gave all the show a more fluid timeline in later seasons, as the show eventually experimented with not only flash forwards but flash sideways.
Carole Segal/SCI FI Channel/NBC
Battlestar Galactica When newly-elected president Gaius Baltar put his head down for a brief respite during the second season finale, the show seized the opportunity to leap one year into the future. So when he was interrupted, for what seemed like seconds later, one year had actually passed already and the Cylons have arrived to occupy New Caprica. Season 2 was already jam-packed with developments—a presidential election and a new, habitable planet—that viewers did not expect the additional surprise.
Norman Jean Roy/ABC
Alias The second season of the twisty espionage drama saw the downfall of SD-6, as well as the long-awaited romance between Sydney and her handler, Vaughn. But just when it seemed like all was right within the show’s world, another shocker appeared: not only was Sydney’s roommate dead, but she’d been replaced by a doppelgänger. After a brutal brawl, Sydney managed to take down the impostor before passing out herself. When she eventually woke up, Sydney (and viewers at home) slowly began to realize that she was not only in Hong Kong, but that two years had passed…and Vaughn had moved on to marry someone else.
Liane Hentscher/©20th Century Fox Film Corp/Everett Collection
Fringe With only 13 episodes left to wrap up its tale of science-gone-wrong—or science used for nefarious purposes—Fringe wasted no time catapulting viewers into the future. First, the show jumped ahead three years (for a glimpse of Peter and Olivia’s familial bliss) and then sped 20 years into the future in its Season 5 premiere. When Peter, Olivia, Astrid and Walter were eventually freed from their frozen-in-amber states, they were greeted with a completely Observer-run dystopia, forcing them to save the world (yet again).
Parks and Recreation The sweet-hearted sitcom proved that time jumps aren’t just for science fiction shows: the clock moved forward three years at the end of its sixth season, revealing that government servants (and power couple) Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt were at a new place in their lives, along with the other Parks and Recreation compadres. The show would later reuse the time jump for its series finale at the end of the seventh season, allowing viewers to see just how all their favorite characters fared.
Young Justice After a season following the adventures of Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Artemis and Aqualad, fans were surprised when the animated series’ second season was set five years after the first. This meant that most of the original team had grown up and become full-fledged heroes in their own right, which in turn allowed the show to widen its already-impressive roster.