10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

By Abigail Stevens Published 11 minutes ago

Lost, Gossip Girl, and Sherlock include some of the biggest character reveals in TV history, which are fan-favorite moments or ruined the whole show.

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Warning: This list contains major spoilers for several TV shows.



  • Shocks can elevate shows, like when Stan's brother was revealed in Gravity Falls .
  • Some twists can backfire, as with Dan being Gossip Girl in Gossip Girl or the mother having passed away in How I Met Your Mother .
  • Kaz Brekker's introduction in Shadow and Bone conveys his cunning character.

Having a shocking character reveal involving a persona the audience isn't (or is) expecting, or the full extent of their plans are explained, can be very satisfying and elevate a show. Shows like Gossip Girl and Gravity Falls are built around the eventual reveal of an anonymous character. How and when this character or their plans are revealed may determine the success of the entire show.

However, there are several shows associated with a big character reveal that have been criticized for their plot twists or other reasons. Writers are challenged with balancing shock value and accepting that something will not be shocking but will make for a better story. However, even when everyone is aware of a character's arrival, delivery can count for a lot and their first scene will still be riveting. For instance, if the show is based on iconic source material, everyone will be expecting a key character to appear and will be thrilled when it does happen.

10 The Author Is Stan's Brother

Gravity Falls (2012-2016)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Jason Ritter , Kristen Schaal Release Date June 15, 2012 Seasons 2 Streaming Service(s) Hulu , Disney+

While the author of the mysterious Gravity Falls journals being revealed to be "Grunkle" Stan's long-lost twin brother Ford was not exactly shocking, the showrunners played it well. Fans had predicted this twist long before, leading to a misdirecting image being leaked as a red herring and a meta-joke about the whole situation in a later episode. However, the episode "Not What He Seems" is masterfully written, gradually and tensely raising the stakes as Dipper and Mabel discover Stan's base and the portal. The lead-up to and dramatic reveal of the author is still satisfying, even if viewers knew it was coming.

9 Grant Ward Is A HYDRA Agent

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-2020)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Ming-Na Wen , Brett Dalton , Chloe Bennet , Clark Gregg , Elizabeth Henstridge , Iain De Caestecker , Henry Simmons Release Date September 24, 2013 Seasons 7 Network ABC

The MCU did an excellent job of depicting the HYDRA uprising in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This includes the devastating reveal that Agent Ward, a member of Coulson's core team, works for HYDRA. When given the chance to kill the villain John Garrett, Ward shoots two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents instead. However, this twist is essentially robbed of any rewatch value when viewers learn that actor Brett Dalton had no idea that his character was a HYDRA agent until 15 episodes into the show (via marvel.com). Therefore, there are no real hints to look out for.

8 Kaz Brekker First Appears (And Always Knows What Is Going On)

Shadow And Bone (2021-2023)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Daisy Head , Kit Young , Julian Kostov , Ben Barnes , Jessie Mei Li , Simon Sears , Gabrielle Brooks , Amita Suman , Kevin Eldon , Danielle Galligan , Jasmine Blackborrow , Freddy Carter , zoe wanamaker , Sujaya Dasgupta , Luke Pasqualino , Archie Renaux , Calahan Skogman Release Date April 23, 2021 Seasons 2 Streaming Service(s) Netflix

Kaz Brekker's first appearance needed to establish him as a cunning conman. Freddy Walker and the Shadow and Bone writers accomplish this with Kaz interrupting Jesper's game at the Crow Club with deadly precision. Kaz also constantly surprises everyone when it is repeatedly revealed he knew exactly what was going to happen all along, while it appears that the plan is going to pieces. Book fans should know to always trust Kaz's instincts, but with the show's new plotlines, they are surprised all over again when Kaz knows exactly what is going on and has planned for it.

7 Neal Is Rumpletstiltskin's Son

Once Upon A Time (2011-2018)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Ginnifer Goodwin , josh dallas , Lana Parrilla , Robert Carlyle , Jennifer Morrison , Jared Gilmore Release Date October 3, 2011 Seasons 7 Streaming Service(s) Netflix

It would later become a running joke that everyone on Once Upon a Time is related, due to the number of long-lost family member plot twists the show includes. However, the first time it was actually surprising. Seasons 1 and 2 tease the eventual reunion between Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold and his now-grown son Baelfire.

Meanwhile, Emma's relationship with Henry's father Neal is quietly revealed in a flashback in season 2. This builds up to a shocking reveal: When Emma and Henry accompany Gold to New York to find his son, they find Neal, because Neal is Gold's son. This reveal drastically alters the dynamics among Once Upon a Time's main characters.

6 Henry Gale Is Dead

Lost (2004-2010)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Evangeline Lilly , Naveen Andrews , Henry Ian Cusick , Daniel Dae Kim , Harold Perrineau , Dominic Monaghan , Emilie de Ravin , Jorge Garcia , Josh Holloway , Michael Emerson , Terry O'Quinn , Matthew Fox , Ken Leung , Elizabeth Mitchell , Yunjin Kim Release Date September 22, 2004 Seasons 6 Network ABC

"Henry Gale's" story is so wildly specific that the reveal of the smiley face balloon should have been enough to close the case and accept his identity as real. It was possibly enough for the audience and the other characters & but not for Sayid. After cutting away from the site, Sayid reveals that he still didn't believe the story and dug up the alleged grave of Henry's wife, and found a man's body with the I.D. of Henry Gale. It is a horror-like plot twist that makes Sayid look cool for trusting his instincts, no matter how illogical.

5 Michael Is A Demon (And The Good Place Is The Bad Place)

The Good Place (2016-2020)

Close Cast Kristen Bell , William Jackson Harper , Jameela Jamil , D'Arcy Carden , Manny Jacinto , Ted Danson Release Date September 19, 2016 Seasons 4 Streaming Service(s) Hulu

The twist that The Good Place is actually The Bad Place is still considered one of the most shocking plot twists of a TV show, at least in recent TV history. This twist has major implications for Michael's character, who is presented as a benevolent figure overseeing the neighborhood throughout season 1. The quick recap of the season from his perspective reveals that he is a maniacal schemer, but also that he will be in trouble if his new version of the Bad Place doesn't work out. All in all, this revelation completely changed the circumstances of the show.

4 Dan Is Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Dan being Gossip Girl doesn't make any sense and is considered one of the worst parts of the show. However, because it didn't make any sense, no one guessed it and it was still shocking. The writers also arguably did the right thing by waiting until the very end to reveal Gossip Girl's identity. Therefore, the show was able to benefit from the mystery for as long as possible and put off ruining it with the truth. However, it goes to show that shocking does not always mean quality storytelling.

3 Sylvie First Appears

Loki (2021-2023)

10 Biggest TV Character Reveals, Ranked By How Shocking They Were

Cast Tom Hiddleston , Richard E. Grant , Erika Coleman , Gugu Mbatha-Raw , Sophia Di Martino , Owen Wilson , Wunmi Mosaku , Sasha Lane Release Date June 11, 2021 Seasons 2 Streaming Service(s) Disney+

Whether the viewer guessed it or not, the first appearance of "female Loki" is impactful. The show sets up the anonymous variant as an unparalleled threat, and Sylvie does not disappoint. Her classic "pull back the hood" reveal is dramatic and well-suited to the character and the show. Sylvie's straightforward reveal and subsequent schemes contribute to her characterization of being Machiavellian and relentlessly determined to have her revenge on the TVA. Sylvie keeps Loki, the TVA, and the audience all on their toes with her constant curveballs and refusal to give up.

2 The Mother Finally Appears

How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)

Close Cast Josh Radnor , Jason Segel , Cobie Smulders , Neil Patrick Harris , Alyson Hannigan , Bob Saget Release Date September 19, 2005 Seasons 9 Streaming Service(s) Amazon Prime Video

After 8 seasons of teasing the anonymous woman who will become the mother of Ted's children, the audience sees her face for the first time in the season 8 finale. This leads up to the plot twist that provoked outrage in the controversial How I Met Your Mother series finale. While most will agree that this ending was a mistake, the shock of seeing the mother for the first time is amazing. It is a hopeful and romantic moment that promises an epic love story that will begin soon.

1 Moriarty Finally Appears (And Has Master Plan In Motion)

Sherlock (2010-2017)

Close Cast Martin Freeman , Benedict Cumberbatch , Rupert Graves Release Date August 8, 2010 Seasons 4 Streaming Service(s) Disney+ , Netflix

Anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes knows that the great detective's ultimate nemesis is the criminal mastermind James Moriarty. Luckily, Andrew Scott makes Moriarty's first on-screen appearance thrilling. His first official episode is filled with many twists as Sherlock navigates and solves the deadly puzzle Moriarty has laid out. In this case, everyone knew that Moriarty would appear eventually. However, despite Sherlock being criticized in later seasons, the writing surrounding Moriarty's first appearance is nerve-racking, making it one of TV's most shocking character reveals.

Source: marvel.com

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