Advertisement

The 15 Best Pilot Episode Twists From Lost, This Is Us, How I Met Your Mother, Game of Thrones and More

The 15 Best Pilot Episode Twists From Lost, This Is Us, How I Met Your Mother, Game of Thrones and More
The 15 Best Pilot Episode Twists From Lost, This Is Us, How I Met Your Mother, Game of Thrones and More

We’re used to finales and midseason cliffhangers delivering shocking twists, but every so often, a series premiere comes along and blindsides us with a surprising turn in its very first episode.

More from TVLine

Below, TVLine has gathered a list of the best pilot twists, from Lost’s puzzling polar bear to How I Met Your Mother’s infamous bait-and-switch to Game of Thrones’ incestuous affair/near-deadly coverup.

Some of our picks feature unexpected plot reveals that had us yelling, “What do you mean he/she is married?!” or exclaiming a simple-but-effective “WTF?!” Meanwhile, other selections stunned us by killing off their big-name stars in the show’s opening hours.

Then there’s the now well-used “they’re all related!” twist, which managed to catch us by surprise not once but twice. Speaking of unpredictable family ties, This Is Us creator Dan “Mr. Gotcha! Plot Twist” Fogelman also made the cut with another show that served up a big shocker, the cult fave Pitch.

And had NBC’s new drama Found not spoiled its juicy kidnapper twist in its trailer, it probably would have been included in our roundup.

Review TVLine’s picks for the Best Pilot Episode Twists, then hit the comments to share which ones shocked you most!

Big Sky

Big Sky
Big Sky

The pre-premiere promos for David E. Kelley’s ABC crime thriller placed Ryan Phillippe (Shooter) squarely at the center of the action. So imagine our surprise when Phillippe’s Cody Hoyt wound up dead in the final moments of the series opener, courtesy of a point-blank bullet to the face from state cop-but-really-human trafficker Rick Legarski. The show that Big Sky actually turned out to be was a buddy-cop drama featuring Cody’s exes, two kickass private investigators (played by Kylie Bunbury and Katheryn Winnick) who kept Montana’s criminals on the run.

Dead to Me

Dead to Me
Dead to Me

Across three seasons of Netflix’s dark comedy, we came to expect some bonkers plot twists, largely because the pilot set that tone. The mid-episode reveal that Judy’s fiancé was not, in fact, actually dead — as she’d told her grief support group he was — ultimately paled in comparison to this closing jaw-dropper: Judy was the hit-and-run driver who killed the husband of her new BFF, Jen!

Fleabag

Fleabag
Fleabag

We were charmed right away by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her saucy title character’s habit of talking directly to the camera, pulling us into her outrageous sexual misadventures. But the mood changed abruptly when she confessed to a cab driver that her best friend Boo accidentally killed herself after her boyfriend cheated on her. It was like a sudden taste of acid in the middle of a sweet dessert, warning us that the journey ahead would get very dark indeed.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones

From Cersei and Jaime’s first scene in the fantasy saga’s premiere, we knew they shared a secret they desperately did not want getting out. But it wasn’t until the last scene of the episode that the audience — via a curious, tower-climbing Bran — learned what it was: The glib knight and his cunning twin sister, who happened to be queen, were illicit lovers. And then, adding injury to incest, Jaime pushed Bran out the window in an attempt to silence him. The things we do for love, eh?

How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother

Ted spent most of the CBS comedy’s premiere smitten with Robin, even dropping the L-bomb on her after one date, as he told his children the story of how he met their mother. So the kids (and viewers) were blindsided when he revealed that, after all that wooing, that was actually the tale of how he met their Aunt Robin.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth

Perhaps we were a bit naïve heading into the pilot, believing that Will Forte’s Phil Miller would be the only cast member in this inventive network comedy. Then came the surprise introduction of Kristen Schaal as Carol Pilbasian — aka the last woman on Earth (or so we thought at the time) — whose late-minute arrival had us itching for Episode 2.

Lost

Lost
Lost

Sure, the first “appearance” by what would become known as the Smoke Monster was violently jarring. And Charlie’s “Guys, where are we?” after hearing the distress signal that had been on a loop for 18 years was unsettling. But really, it was Sawyer’s shooting of a charging polar bear, in the middle of a jungle, that most made us wonder what the hell the 815 survivors had gotten themselves into.

Mad Men

Mad Men
Mad Men

When we met advertising whiz Don Draper, we naturally assumed he was a swinging bachelor, since he romanced two different women during the course of a workday. But then he returned home to the suburbs where his wife Betty and two children were waiting for him. It was a sharp jab of a reminder that, like in Don’s best ad pitches, things are not always how they first appear.

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian

Disney+’s first Star Wars series felt like a bold shift away from the franchise’s established lore, presenting us with a solitary bounty hunter who is tasked with bringing home some sensitive cargo. We all gasped, though, in the final minutes as Mando laid eyes on his cargo — and it turned out to be the adorable alien infant we would come to know as Baby Yoda. And suddenly, millions of voices cried out and said, “Where can I buy that?!”

Modern Family

Modern Family
Modern Family

We likely would have kept tuning in if the 2009 ABC comedy was simply about a guy named Jay being married to a younger, hotter woman… a “cool” dad named Phil who exacts unusual punishment on his son… and a gay couple who had quietly adopted a Vietnamese baby. But when the final scene revealed that were all part of one giant, modern family? That made the big laughs all the richer.

Monarch

Monarch
Monarch

Fox’s Susan Sarandon-led country music drama may have been short-lived, but at least it lasted longer than Sarandon’s character, who was killed off at the end of the first hour. (And in truly “WTF” fashion, we should add. Guilting your daughter into assisting with your suicide? Dark!) Sarandon’s disappearing act might have been forgivable if she regularly appeared in flashbacks throughout the season, but out of the show’s 11 total episodes, she was only seen in four. Yikes!

Pitch

Pitch
Pitch

After popping up in several flashbacks to Ginny Baker’s childhood, her dad Bill (played by Michael Beach) appeared in the present day to coach her through a rough first week as Major League Baseball’s first female player. But as the pilot episode drew to a close, we came to learn that Bill had died in a car accident a short while before Ginny joined the San Diego Padres, and her current conversations with him were really happening in her head.

The Shield

The Shield
The Shield

Two things went through your head when first sampling this FX crime drama: 1) Vic Mackey was one dirty cop, and 2) Captain Aceveda was probably gonna take him down. But then a third thing went through the head of Detective Crowley, and it hit you — Mackey was as slippery and ruthless as they come, and he would not go down easy. At all.

Superstore

Superstore
Superstore

The pilot for NBC’s underrated comedy laid the foundation for TV’s Next Great Workplace Romance between Amy and Jonah. It also established that Cloud 9 employees are not allowed to wear jewelry at work. Yet we were still stunned when Amy slipped on her wedding ring at the end of her shift, revealing an unforeseen obstacle for the future couple that would take upwards of 50 episodes to overcome.

This Is Us

This Is Us
This Is Us

Creator Dan Fogelman loves a twist (see: the Pitch pilot above and the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love). Plus, the NBC drama’s initial premise — characters share a birthday? that’s it? — couldn’t have really been that simple. So we should have seen the reveal coming that we were watching one family across two different timelines, but the sight of Jack and Rebecca adopting baby Randall into their brood was still an emotional wallop.

Best of TVLine

Get more from TVLine.com: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter