The Red Wedding, Dr. Patrick Reid, And TV’s Most Unexpected Moments
We did not see these coming, but now we'll never forget them.
The best moments in life are often the most random or unexpected ones. Just ask party whisky, J&B. To celebrate the launch of J&B Mash-Up, we’re bringing you a series of articles on some of the best unpredicted moments and mash-ups in life.
The great strength of television is its ability to find unique ways to surprise you even when you’re already completely immersed in a program. We all love to be shocked and to have our hearts soar, only to have them mercilessly torn out by characters we know better than most of our friends. It’s that unpredictability that keeps us tuning back in week after week after week.
In no particular order, here are ten of the most unexpected moments in television history — those classic cliffhangers and bombshells that we’ll probably never forget. Depending on how far behind you are on things (you know, like a few months to uh, 20 years or so), there may be spoilers.
Game Of Thrones
The moment: ‘The Red Wedding’
Game Of Thrones is our era’s most beloved TV phenomenon. When it’s airing, it dominates every conversation, and when it’s not, people wait with remarkable impatience for the next season to premiere. But whether you watch the show or not, chances are you’ll know the phrase ‘Red Wedding’.
When the closing scenes of the third season episode ‘The Rains Of Castamere’ finished rolling, it brought with it an online fan explosion, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen before. Social media practically caved in on itself, buckled under the weight of exasperated overuse of caps lock and a record amount of exclamation marks. In one fell swoop, the show brutally slaughtered several main characters, and promptly wiped the Stark clan off the face of the earth. And it caught just about everyone off guard — even despite the fact that, y’know, there’s a book where the exact same thing happens.
Parks And Recreation
The moment: Ben proposes to Leslie
GIFs via Uproxx
Has there even been a pair of television characters more fundamentally perfect for each other than Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope? If there is, I certainly don’t want to know about them. Go to hell, other characters!
Many of us are deeply, ridiculously in love with Parks And Recreation, and particularly with the sweet and charming Leslie and that wonderful goofball Ben. So when he appeared in their soon-to-be new home one episode, just as everything appeared on the brink of collapse due to their respective careers, our hearts leapt. And then Ben got down on one knee, and then I think the screen got all blurry or something. All I know is suddenly my eyes were salty and nothing hurt anymore, and I was terrified that I’d never be that unabashedly happy ever again.
And all this from an episode with one of the greatest strings of fart jokes you’ll ever see. Sigh.
The moment: Dr. Patrick Reid kicks the bucket
On a local scale, genuine surprise is often a little harder to come by, particularly when the network advertises the fact that a bombshell is coming for a whole week in advance. But WHOA NELLY, did we all lose our minds when Dr. Patrick Reid unexpectedly met his maker, tragically leaving the pregnant Nina Proudman behind. Fans around the country howled in grief as one. A lot sent out impassioned tweets about it. Some were directed to the wrong account, and the wrong account even trolled them back.
When Channel Ten revealed that either Patrick, Nina’s older sister Billie, or younger brother Jimmy would meet their end towards the conclusion of the show’s fifth season, no one actually suspected that the show would once again put the boots into the forever suffering Nina by ripping away yet another partner. Boy, how wrong we all were.
The moment: Gossip Girl is revealed
The thread that held Gossip Girl together — the one running commonality between all the wild, raunchy, well-to-do goings on in the Upper East Side — was an anonymous muck-raking blogger who drew pleasure from keeping everyone informed of everyone else’s business, for better or worse.
Throughout the show’s six seasons, the face behind the fingers was never once revealed. The characters had their suspicions and fan speculation was rife, but it wasn’t until the very final episode where doubt was cast aside and the identity of ‘Gossip Girl’ was finally revealed.
Turns out it wasn’t even a girl at all. In the series’ finale, viewers were left completely aghast when Dan Humphrey owned up to his gossip girl-ish ways and confessed to running the whole scheme right from the very start. Jaws, needless to say, were dropped.
The moment: Godric burns
True Blood is anything but subtle — the show’s made its name from gratuitously laying on the gore, the violence, and the sexy bits — so the real surprises come when it decides to take an emotional and poignant turn. Eric Northman’s 2000-year-old maker Godric provides the show with one of its most emotionally powerful scenes, and one of its most unexpected moments. In order to appease the religious, anti-vampire group The Fellowship Of The Sun, Godric sacrifices himself by facing the morning light, and letting himself burn in the hopes of mending relations between humans and vampires.
Throughout the course of the second season, Godric’s presence weighed heavily on the shoulders of Eric, and his suicide elicited a moving reaction from him. Of course, this reaction is something that fans expected, but a previously brutal, human-hating vampire sacrificing himself for the good of both species? Not a single person saw that one coming. For a show that throws as much at the viewer as possible, it’s the subtle moments that prove to be truly shocking.
The moment: The finale
We all waited patiently for nearly ten months before the final string of Sopranos episodes went to air. We held our breaths as the growing crisis between the New York and Northern Jersey crews grew to a fever pitch and boiled over. Our mouths hit the floor as fan favourites fell to foul play. Then, at long last, Tony Soprano entered a diner to meet his family, and we figured we’d finally learn the fate of this horrible (yet undeniably endearing) tyrant of the streets. But then, suddenly, nothing. No sound. No vision. No closure.
Viewers frantically checked their TVs, thinking that reception had cut out at the most critical moment. But this odd ending was exactly what series creator David Chase had intended — every stone left unturned, every question remaining unanswered. There are theories as to what became of Tony Soprano, but still no concrete answers. As infuriating as it seemed at the time, in hindsight it was perfect.
The moment: Hank’s realisation
It’s probably quite taxing having a DEA agent for a brother-in-law. It’s probably even more problematic when your main source of income is cooking and distributing crystal meth. Still, even despite the two paths being invariably related, we never really thought for sure that Hank had the mental chutzpah to discover the true identity of Heisenberg, or at least not for a little while longer. But then Hank went to the toilet, and everything changed.
Hank’s discovery of Walt’s inscribed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves Of Grass — a gift from fellow meth cook, Gale Boetticher — provided undeniable evidence that Walter White and Heisenberg were one and the same, and Hank was left just as shocked as the audience who were along for the ride. As much as any ‘will they/won’t they’ romance on any other show, viewers had long pondered the implications if the two worlds were ever to meet. We’ve since learned that it was a door that, once opened, could never be closed again.
The moment: Monica and Chandler hook-up
The first few seasons of Friends follow some fairly standardised patterns — right up until the final episode of season four it was very much the Ross & Rachel show. The other friends had their own relationships, but they were always with people from outside the group. So when Ross jetted off to London to get married to someone who wasn’t Rachel and burst into Chandler’s hotel room to squee with excitement, we all assumed that Chandler was just hiding another stranger-ly hook-up. But then Ross left, the covers peeled back, and SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, THAT’S MONICA.
With that leftfield moment, the show’s best romantic coupling came into action. You can keep all your Rosses and your Rachels and your on again/off agains; it’s the ‘Mondlers’ that became the show’s real winners.
How I Met Your Mother
The moment: ‘The Final Play’
For a show that told us exactly where we were heading in the very first episode, finding and delivering an element of the unexpected is a daunting prospect. I mean, we all know what lies in Ted Mosby’s future, so the surprises have to come from elsewhere.
The most surprising character on the show then is, naturally, Barney Stinson. What started out as an entertaining but one-dimensional character was gradually fed some ‘real boy’ qualities until, eventually, he grew into the show’s secret weapon, both for laughs and emotional punches.
When Barney’s relationship with Robin appeared all but done, the show put the wheels in motion for one of its biggest and most unbelievable swerves: the final play in Barney’s “legen-wait for it-dary” playbook, a masterstroke of planning and manipulation designed to land him the woman of his dreams.
The moment: George manages to stay single
Ahh, George Costanza — the hot-headed, shameless, miserly bastard of a friend we all secretly wished we’d had, if only for the entertainment value. Seinfeld’s classic seventh season saw George getting engaged on a whim to ex-girlfriend Susan Ross, and immediately regretting it. Despite his ambivalence, his stubborn nature refused to let him admit his mistake, so he begrudgingly proceeded with the wedding preparations, almost like he would get married just to spite himself.
In the season finale, though, we were hit with one of the all-time great blindsides when George’s cheap nature saw him settling for some remarkably cheap wedding invitations.
After licking one too many envelopes, Susan keeled over. At the hospital, George, Elaine and Jerry learned that Susan has died — a victim of toxic envelope glue. Notable for the apparent lack of care, the gang’s reaction has now become the stuff of television legend. George might have just lost his future wife, but at least he didn’t have to get married. Serenity now.
Cam Tyeson is a Melbourne-based writer, comedian and Essendon Football Club member. Find more of his stuff at www.camtyeson.com or follow him on Twitter at @camtyeson.