After a brutal fight with the evil doppelgänger of her roommate Francie (Merrin Dungey) — who had murdered the real Francie and taken her place, of course — superspy Sydney (Jennifer Garner) passed out in this ABC drama’s second season finale and woke up in Hong Kong with a scar she didn’t recognize. And when boyfriend Vaughn (Michael Vartan) came to retrieve her, he was wearing a wedding ring she didn’t recognize! Only then did she realize she was missing nearly two years of memories.
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The election of a blowhard demagogue was just a science-fiction plotline by the time of this Syfy drama’s second season finale. Weasley scientist Gaius (James Callis) became President Baltar before the storyline skips a year ahead to see how disastrous his New Caprica settlement plan turned out to be… and to see his knee-jerk surrender to the invading Cylons. On the bright side, though, Adama (Edward James Olmos) grew a mustache in the intervening year.
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This primetime ABC soap reclaimed some of its narrative verve in Season 5 by jumping five years into the future and introducing Lynette’s (Felicity Huffman) teenage twin sons, Gaby’s (Eva Longoria) new reality as an overworked mother, Bree’s (Marcia Cross) successful business career, and an ill-advised relationship between Mike (James Denton) and Katherine (Dana Delany).
This sci-fi FOX drama had explored multiple timeframes and alternate realities for its entire run, but the fifth and final season transported the drama two decades into the future. The Fringe team hadn’t aged a day, however, since they had sealed themselves in an amber stasis to avoid capture by the invading alien Observers. Having effectively traveled through time, Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv) were thus able to team up with their then-adult daughter Henrietta (Georgina Haig).
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After the authorities finally apprehended cannibal Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) midway through this NBC drama’s third season, the action picks up three years later, when Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Crawford (Jack Crawford) reluctantly rely on Hannibal’s expertise to thwart a new killer: the Red Dragon (Richard Armitage).
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For three seasons of ABC’s mystery-filled hit, the island drama mirrored relevant flashbacks from each castaway’s past. The Season 3 finale seemed to be no exception… until Jack met Kate outside an airport and pleaded with her to return to the island. (“We have to go back!”) Only then did fans realize the episode’s flashbacks were actually flash-forwards, and the fourth season continued showing the (dismal) futures of the so-called Oceanic 6 who managed to find rescue.
One Tree Hill
This CW drama sidestepped the complexities of transitioning from a high school drama to a college drama by fast-forwarding through its characters’ college years in Season 5 — meaning the writers didn’t have to split up the characters up for long or explain why they’re all going to school in the same place. (Incidentally, the actors looked too old to be college students anyway.)
Masters of Sex
After bounding over two years in a single second-season episode, this Showtime drama did the time warp again for Season 3, skipping ahead four years to show Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) interacting with the sexual revolution of the 1960s — and to keep the storyline’s timeframe aligned with the timing of Masters and Johnson’s real-life breakthroughs.
Parks & Recreation
After this NBC comedy jumped three years into the future in the Season 6 finale, it hit the fast-forward button again a year later for the series finale to show the futures of Pawnee’s civil servants. Andy (Chris Pratt) and April (Aubrey Plaza) become parents, for example; Ron (Nick Offerman) becomes a National Park Service superintendent; Ben (Adam Scott) becomes a congressman, and Leslie (Amy Poehler) becomes a two-term governor of Indiana and then, presumably, President of the United States.
TV writers tend to be trigger-happy when their fingers are on the fast-forward button!
Sometimes, TV show time jumps mark a flash of creative genius. Other times, they’re last-ditch efforts to boost sagging ratings.
Amid the rumors that one popular drama is planning a 20-year time jump, we're looking at nine other shows that vaulted over years of potential storylines. Click through the gallery above!