Deaths, daddy issues, and a “Did she just do that?!” moment. These five single moments had lasting effects on their shows — and their shocked viewers.
5. Cliff hanger, Dallas
The original gave us “Who Shot J.R?” and this reboot has kept the surprises coming. Most shocking of all: Rebecca is Cliff’s daughter! You voted this clever turn of events, revealed in the season 1 finale, the “Single Most Clever Plot Twist” in our Summer TV Awards 2012.
4. Turn… turn… turn, The Vampire Diaries
After three seasons of setting up Elena’s Very Big Choice between Damon and Stefan, imagine our surprise when that choice was quickly and unceremoniously dispatched, only to pave the way for the biggest blindside of all: Elena wouldn’t live to see the consequences of her choice because she died in a car accident in the season finale — only her death would not be everlasting because she unknowingly had vampire blood in her system at the time of the crash. Elena’s transition threw everything in the TVD universe, including her long-awaited choice, into question.
3. Opie out, Sons of Anarchy
This show exploded in the zeitgeist this year, thanks in no small part to the compelling drama. While it may not have been the most unexpected plot twist of the season for diehard viewers — that honor goes to the disturbing gasoline torching of Tig’s daughter. But the moment that made fans double over was Opie’s death on Sept. 25. Opie was a character shrouded in “tremendous loss,” according to Sons‘ creator Kurt Sutter, but his brutal end still made fans sob, feel sick, and, for some, want to stop watching entirely.
2. Brody’s busted, Homeland
As our own Ken Tucker pointed out, part of the pleasure of Homeland is the series’ unflinching willingness to turn on a dime and take the show to the next level well ahead of schedule. But, when yet another tense reunion between Brody and Carrie resulted in the jittery CIA operative unleashing on her one-time lover — in episode 4 of the second season — there wasn’t a closed mouth anywhere this side of Abu Nazhir.
1. EVERYBODY DIES!, Grey’s Anatomy
Okay, not everybody, but most of the Seattle Grace staff. The cataclysmic plane crashed that played out in the season 8 finale and has had lasting effects on season 9 was arguably Grey’s most intense episode ever. It killed off several pivotal characters and fan favorites, and solidified our suspicion that survivor’s guilt-afflicted Meredith Grey truly is one of TV’s most unfortunate characters.
Written by Lanford Beard and Erin Strecker
More Best of 2012:
The couples we’re shipping
The 5 best non-Adele songs of the year
Episodes we can’t erase from our DVR
On-screen couples with great chemistry
Say what? The worst movie lines of the year
The year in lyrics, from Taylor Swift to Carly Rae
The crying game
5 movies that stuck the landing
The breakout kids