Toward the end of this Showtime drama’s fourth season, Alison (Ruth Wilson) died when a drunken Ben (Ramon Rodriguez) turned violent during an argument with her. And then came an even bigger real-life twist: Wilson revealed that she wanted to leave the show but isn’t allowed to say why.
Bachelor Nation never thought there’d be another Jason Mesnick situation — i.e. the Bachelor proposing to one woman only to go crawling back to the runner-up — and then came Arie Luyendyk Jr, who dumped winner (and subsequent Bachelorette) Becca Kufrin as we watched in split-screen view on the ABC reality show.
Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) saved Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) from an assassination attempt in this BBC drama, but he needed saving from himself. Beset by PTSD from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, David put a gun to his head in the fourth episode and pulled the trigger. (Luckily, someone had replaced the bullets with blanks.)
It was no secret Roseanne Barr wouldn’t be returning to the ABC sitcom formerly known as Roseanne — with her character, Roseanne Conner, dying from an opioid overdose off-screen — but the real shock was the racist tweet that got the reboot canceled and reconfigured in the first place.
Dancing With the Stars
Sure, country radio host Bobby Bones was a charming contestant on Season 27 of this ABC reality competition, but fans were still upset he won, especially because his dances consistently scored lower than those of runners-up Milo Manheim, Evanna Lynch, and Alexis Ren.
House of Cards
Following Kevin Spacey’s sexual harassment scandal, the sixth season of this Netflix drama was supposed to focus on a female future fronted by new President Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). But much of the plot still revolved around Frank Underwood, and in the abrupt series finale, Frank’s longtime right-hand man Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) admitted he killed the late president, then pressed a letter opener to Claire’s throat. She got the upper hand, though, and stabbed him — leaving fans with narrative whiplash.
Patrick Wymore/The CW
Jane the Virgin
For a CW dramedy that celebrates and often emulates telenovelas, we should have seen Season 4’s resurrection coming. In the finale, Rafael (Justin Baldoni) reveals to Jane (Gina Rodriguez) that her ex Michael (Brett Dier) is alive. If you were surprised, imagine how the cast felt.
Dean Buscher/The CW
But Archie (KJ Apa) is too pretty for prison! No sooner is the redhead elected student body president in this CW drama’s second season finale, than he’s arrested for the murder of one of Hiram’s (Mark Consuelos) thugs. Luckily, Veronica (Camila Mendes) finds exonerating evidence early in Season 3, and he expresses his undying gratitude by — [checks notes] — breaking up with her.
Think Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was twisted? Her debut novel was even more so, as this HBO limited series proved. In the season’s brutal final minutes — after we’d all been duped into thinking Adora (Patricia Clarkson) killed two young girls in Wind Gap out of Münchausen syndrome by proxy — we realize the murderer was actually young Amma (Eliza Scanlen) when half-sister Camille (Amy Adams) finds human teeth lining the floors of Amma’s dollhouse. We’ll never hear the song “Don’t Tell Mama” the same way.
This Is Us
Fans of this time-hopping NBC drama have long understood that Nicky (Michael Angarano), troubled brother of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), died in Vietnam. And we saw Nicky struggling with the horrors of war in flashbacks throughout the first half of Season 3. In the midseason finale, Nicky apparently dies in a bombing… but then, like magic, he appears alive and (maybe) well in present-day Bradford, Pennsylvania, not far from the Pearsons’ home base in Pittsburgh.
2018 is the year the world turned against Adam Levine. First came the unpopular decision to have Maroon 5 headline Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, an epicenter of hip-hop culture. Then Levine sabotaged his team member DeAndre Nico on this NBC reality competition by campaigning for Reagan Strange — who was under the weather during that week — after Nico brought the house down with his performance of John Legend’s “All of Me.” Unsurprisingly, viewers have since voted the entirety of Team Adam out of the running.
The Walking Dead
Can Rick Grimes ever die? In Season 9, during Andrew Lincoln’s final episode as a full-time cast member, Rick even survived a bridge explosion, rescued by a helicopter when everyone — both his allies and the show’s viewers — thought he was a goner. Turns out, Lincoln isn’t really leaving the franchise: He’ll be returning for a trilogy of Walking Dead TV movies.
Whereas other shows end seasons on a big twist, this TV Land dramedy started its fifth chapter with a game-changer: Charles (Peter Hermann) finding out Liza (Sutton Foster) lied about her age to get back in the publishing biz. That revelation started a new era in their on-again, off-again romance… and left Diana (Miriam Shor) as the only major character who doesn’t know about Liza’s deception.
We couldn’t limit a slideshow of 2018’s most jaw-dropping TV moments to a Top 10 list, and we’re undoubtedly still leaving out some biggies!
Nevertheless, here are the shockers that stand out from the last 12 months of scripted and unscripted programming, from a slow-motion Bachelor breakup to a toothy Sharp Objects twist to the characters who cheated death on multiple shows. And yes, spoilers abound!