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Spoil a Year of TV with the Most Jaw-Dropping Scenes from 2017

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Vladimir Furdik. Photo courtesy of HBO

What’s the difference between state secrets and TV spoilers? Your friends might not hate your guts for leaking state secrets. To spoil a show is to devalue not only those stunning scenes where everything culminates -- or pivots -- but the entire narrative that delivered them for our gasping pleasure. So let’s go invalidate those now!

Whether it’s a scream of outrage or a holler of joy, the staggering vignettes below -- whether declarations of purpose from the pilot, midseason twists, or cliffhangers from the season finale -- will leave you looking freshly slapped in the face. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS!

The show: Game of Thrones

This year was rife with nominees for biggest “Wow!” Seven seasons of grim staring to the North has culminated in an alliance so shaky it vibrates AND JON SNOW TOUCHED A DRAGON! Even closer runners-up: Jon’s true heritage (he’s a Targaryen!) or his concurrently boinking of the only other living Targaryen, but both were foreseen by sleuthy fans and Tumblr shippers with head-canon loaded for icky dalliances.

The closest contender for slackest jaw struck when the poutiest man of the north crawled out of an icy lake without frostbite -- but come on, fans cheered twice when Daenerys walked through fire. We’re going to cry foul when the ice half of this song exercises the same privilege? In the end, only one scene sat upon the Iron Throne...

The moment: The frigid north gets Wight-hot
We’d barely even processed the death of Visierion by a magnificently hurled ice spear when the Night King bade his minions to drag the carcass out of the lake to resurrect poor Viz as a blue-eyed Wight. (Don’t call him an ice dragon! He breathes blue flame, which is rad as hell.) We knew The Wall would get breached -- but by the time it did, its impact was an afterthought to the jab/hook combo of how that came to be possible.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Sorry you're excited for the finale, but the Night King warged into Bran in S6 and is going to kill everyone you love.

Colleen Hayes/NBC

The show: The Good Place

Accidental resident of heaven Eleanor Shellstrop bonds with an increasingly frantic divine being Michael, the fretful psychopomp of a crumbling corner of paradise. All signs indicate Eleanor’s presence is upsetting his careful designs, making her a secretly bad buddy to her benefactor.

The moment: Eleanor ruins everything
Eleanor realizes The Good Place is actually The Bad Place and the faithless friend is Michael! Holy forking shirtballs!

It's a perfect twist: everything that didn’t make sense falls into place, while everything that did is recontextualized. While Eleanor worried she was ruining her benevolent angel’s hard work, his grand designs were actually functioning perfectly to torture her. The Good Place never stopped plucking the taut string of whether Eleanor could improve from lousy person to a member of the divine crowd... but while we knew the answer, we were asking the wrong question. Will someone please give producer Michael Schur his Emmy now?

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
The “Bad” Good Place is actually a rehabilitative purgatory for medium people to work their way upwards, and is created by rebel architect of the Good Place Gabriel (also played by Ted Danson).

BBC/Colin Hutton

The show: Doctor Who

The Doctor is a two-hearted, time-traveling alien Time Lord who reincarnates, but less believably than that, every single one of his regenerated bodies is a man. Funny enough the Doctor has been portrayed by a woman in an official capacity, but it was the fundraiser parody Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, in which Joanna Lumley trod the boards as “The Female Doctor.”

The moment: The 13th Doctor’s incarnation
The biggest moment in British television didn’t happen on the show. In July the BBC released a commercial teaser to stoke the fires of fandom, in which actress Jodie Whittaker pulls back her hood to reveal The 13th Doctor. She officially debuts in the show’s annual Christmas Day special. (Oh, and Lumley’s enactment? Well, if you count all the Doctors back in 1999, plus the ones who stepped out in Fatal Death, she was the first Thirteenth Doctor.)

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
All of the misogynist critics of Whittaker’s casting are revealed to be Daleks.

The Show: The 89th Annual Academy Awards

The Academy Awards: that thing you never view, but everyone at the office always asks if you will. If watching people you’ve never met thank people you’ve never heard of appeals to you, you’re in luck, because occasionally some drama interjects itself in the proceedings.

The moment: Moonlight wins Best Picture!
Having been mistakenly handed the wrong envelope, Warren Beatty mistakenly bestowed Moonlight’s laurels on musical romp La La Land instead of the drama’s deep portrayal of complex identity. The mistake was quickly rectified, and America added Moonlight to its Netflix queue.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
With almost every male producer or director uninvited due to harassment claims, female filmmakers sweep the awards for unfairly overdue victories.

The show: The Handmaid's Tale

This vision of a regressive America where women are treated as nothing more than brood terrifies at every turn, but The Handmaid’s Tale’s most impactful incident is its lone ray of hope.

The moment: ’Til death don’t ye part
Shot and hauled away by the racist Gileadans, it was a given that June/Offred’s husband Luke was dead. But at the six-episode mark, we found out that he is (or was) safe in Canada. There’s a whole lot of horror in the space between, but if Offred sees the opportunity of escape, a glimmer of happiness awaits her in Toronto.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Serena turns out to be a deep undercover spy for the resistance, real name: Sarah Walker. Zachary Levi guest stars as “Ofsarah.”

The show: The Flash

Armored villain Savitar’s superior speed and ability to possess people makes his retractable blades seem like a quaint afterthought. He’s the latest in a long line of dimensional travelers out to kill Barry Allen, but claims to be the first speedster.

The moment: The God of Speed’s identity revealed
Flash and Savitar go head-to-head, but it’s the same dang head: Barry Allen’s! Bearing a butt-ugly burn from his misadventures as Other Barry, the speed-cult leader turns out to be a vestigial Flash from an evaporated timeline, driven mad by how much he sucked.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
In the episode “Rebirth,” a still-older Barry appears, explaining he’s the true Flash and our Barry is a time remnant created during a calamity nobody remembers called “The Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The two team up with Ezra Miller to stop “The Final Crisis.”

David Giesbrecht

The show: House of Cards

Behold House of Cards, a show scuppered by Kevin Spacey’s entire life catching up with him. But it doesn’t have to be this way, America! The stage was already set for Claire to supplant her husband -- heck, it was the basis of the entire fifth season. And it’s all thanks to...

The moment: Claire questions our intentions
Frank’s been breaking the fourth wall to engage the audience for the entire series in his loathsome rise to power. But as he flies too close to the sun, another Underwood prepares to take his place. In episode 11, Claire speaks frankly -- er, clearly -- to us directly about how irksome we are. She concludes the season (and series? Nooooo!) with her declarative acknowledgement: “My turn.”

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
That we get a next season. Starring Claire. Because Robin Wright is a national treasure.

The show: G.L.O.W.

In the seedy glitz of G.L.O.W., gorgeous ladies wrestle, yes, but also vye for success and support. It’s a showbiz tale masquerading behind the soap opera of pro wrestling. Character-driven scenes gave body to the coked-up plot twists, and the biggest “wow” of the season married both strengths.

The moment: An emotional rear naked choke
Of the many moves these characters pull, none is more concussive than the one Sam puts on Justine outside the ring. Already loathing himself for his many failures, Sam -- no stranger to sleeping with his coworkers -- tries to capitalize on Justine’s long-running interest in him. But she stops him, aghast -- “I’m your DAUGHTER!” Oof. The soap opera reveals aren’t confined to the turnbuckles.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Ruth’s victory-turned-loss this season showed she deserves her place but has a ways to go. Now she has to summon up a Rocky II-style championship nobody takes away from her.

The show: Wynonna Earp

Some people inherit the family business. Wynonna Earp, great-descendent of Wyatt, wields his mystical revolver Peacemaker to send revenants (demons who used to be human) back to the grave.

The moment: Things get ominous
Wynonna’s pregnancy was a stunner, but not jaw-dropping. That comes when Wynonna realizes her baby may be half-demon. She dispatches her Beelzebubbian babydaddy back to Hell, because she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. Thankfully, Earp’s daughter turns out to be the child of the immortal Doc Holliday, so they name her Alice instead of Legion.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Earp dispatches all 77 revenants, only for an alien craft to land, disgorging the misogynist aliens from Wynonna Earp creator Beau Smith’s other series Parts Unknown. It’s a whole new war.

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/courtesy of HBO

The show: Big Little Lies

Suburbia swells at the seams with underlying evil, and after teasing out a death in the pilot (but whose?) the show was driven by the questions “Who will it be?” and “Why were they killed?” Also, the characters all kept choking each other. Yet it turns out a lot of the angst revolved around one central figure...

The moment: Ziggy’s father is found
After spending the series tracking the rapist who fathered her child, Jane finds him right at home, abusing his wife (and her friend) Celeste. It’s not quite the answer to “Who died and why?” but it is the setup for it -- and frankly, more powerful than finally watching Perry bite it in a well-deserved fall. That’s right, Perry dies. Two-for-one special on spoilers.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
We’d be cool with there actually being a next season, considering this was a limited series based on a book to begin with.

The show: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The moment Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealed Hydra had thoroughly infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., the series was given fresh purpose as friends became foes. That paranoia returned in the fourth season, when three “pod” storylines all dealt with untrustworthy allies: from the supernatural incursion of “Ghost Rider” to a robot uprising in “LMD” and life inside a simulacrum in “Agents of Hydra” the biggest shock tied them all together.

The moment: Coulson takes his vengeance
As the LMDs press their advantage, the lights go out on everybody in The Framework, while our heroes’ only hope is the dangerously demonic book of Darkhold. Coulson holds the hot potato, as the (mostly) invulnerable android Ophelia moves in to kill him... but it’s hotter than she knows, because he’s let himself be possessed by the Ghost Rider, who burns our LMD antagonist up like greased newspaper.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
With Infinity War set to drop next season, half the cast die at a snap of omnipotent villain Thanos’s fingers.

The show: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot constantly deceives viewers along with its reality-deprived protagonist Elliot Alderson. The noir series about a hacker in a modern-day dystopia stutter-steps past all expectations, but its biggest one dawns slowly and magnificently outside the show itself.

The moment: Mr. Robot is officially becoming an ARG
The presence of a particle accelerator hints that reality may be as pliable as Elliot's tenuous grip on it. Is he in a simulacrum, or is the show bending towards a parallel universe? Either option would be mind-blowing, but so far, so sci-fi.

What gives depth to the question is the revelation that the show itself has started acting like an alternate reality game (ARGs thus far have mostly been video games, not TV shows). QR codes show up within the episodes, and internet whirlpool Reddit has discovered some viral marketing subreddits like r/REALMysterySpot and r/inside_e_corp, where seeds planted two years ago have hinted at what’s to come now. Oh, and let’s not forget the show’s fictional ECoin cryptocurrency has now debuted in reality.

So are we watching a TV show about a guy fighting a corporation who’s edging towards some sort of alternate reality? Or are we the audience now playing an alternate reality game with a corporation? Mr. Robot is traversing the membranes between real life and fiction to make us question what’s real alongside Elliot.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Elliot plays a version of The Sims featuring a character just like you -- yes, you, reading this.

The show: Bojack Horseman

This season Bojack having fathered a child he’s never seen seems inevitable, given the misanthropic horse’s penchant for drugged-out sex.

The moment: That’s a horse of a different color
Turns out the Horseman to blame is not Bojack but his Bo-dad, Butterscotch. Our self-loathing hero experiences one of his rare moments of happiness when he’s able to slough the guilt of being an absent father, gaining a sibling in the process. Until he screws it up, Hollyhock will be calling him “brother.”

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Bojack screws it up.

Cate Cameron/A&E/Universal Television

The show: Bates Motel

Nobody expected this prequel series to a 1960 thriller swimming in dated notions to turn out so dang good, but keeping you off-kilter is how it stays killer.

The moment: Revisionist history
Of the two iconic scenes in Psycho, the murder of Marion Crane is the one that makes cinephiles shudder. That’s why it’s completely unexpected when the unfortunate bather that Norman stabs is not Marion but Sam Loomis. Fakeout! Consider this the crown jewel in five seasons of escalating eeriness. Well played, series. You’ll be missed.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Finding out that A&E killed a different series in the shower.

The show: Rick & Morty

It’s Back to the Future, if Doc were an omniscient alcoholic beyond good and evil, and Marty were a simpering survivor of PTSD. The two meet many parallel world versions of themselves, thanks to Rick’s dimension-hopping portal gun.

The moment: Morty wins the election
Remarkably, Politician Morty, a plainspoken parallel politician version of our hero, goes from joke candidate to newly elected leader of The Citadel of Ricks -- but in a terrifying sequence of events, we find out he’s actually the resurfaced Evil Morty from season one, and he doesn’t brook any interference from the shadow lords in the Council of Ricks.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Evil Morty has some greater plan for Morty Smith C-137, and will likely kidnap and replace him while keeping him alive for nefarious purposes.

The show: Riverdale

Recasting the wholesome crew of comic characters formerly found in your dentist’s office as seamy, steamy noir gave them an entirely new existence among the post-post-apocalyptic YA audience that had its fill of Hunger Games knockoffs and was hungry for something new. If you want a declaration of intent, it doesn’t get more authoritative than this makeover from the pilot...

The moment: Miss Grundy hits a low note
For decades readers have wondered whether Archie would choose between Betty or Veronica -- but when he finally settles on a paramour, the law says he’s actually incapable of making an informed choice. The high school sophomore accepts a ride from his music teacher, Miss Grundy, whose entire backstory is a sorrowful tale of domestic abuse, stolen identity, and a gruesome crossover with The Black Hood, a vigilante character who was at least moderately heroic in the comics.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
Archie’s musical career leads him to open for KISS and The Ramones.

Courtesy Netflix

The show: Stranger Things

This tale of juvie supernatural suspense is so note-perfect it’s as likely The Montauk Project sent a camera crew back in time as that the show was based on the conspiracy theory.

The moment: These go up to Eleven
There had to be other experiments before Eleven, but did any survive? YES! We meet Eight, AKA Kali. Her powers differ, but she can access the Upside Down to communicate with Eleven (yeah, she’s alive. Have a bonus spoiler on us). This means there could be another nine kids (or more!), each with their own flavor of superpower.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
A dissection lab in Hawkins reveals that no, the rest did not survive.

The show: Twin Peaks

It’s not that Twin Peaks is so weird, it’s that beneath the fever dream, body possessions, and numerous iterations of Kyle MacLachlan and/or Agent Cooper running around, everything still kinda makes sense. Take this bit of surrealism for example.

The moment: A face-off at the bar
When Laura Palmer pulled her face off to reveal a bright white light, it was like -- yeah, okay, anything’s game in The Black Lodge, and it’s not like she and reality are talking these days. But then her mom Sarah casually does the same thing at the bar, revealing a black hole of terror. It’s... indicative of her pain since she lost her daughter? Maybe?

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
A barefoot time traveler stares unblinkingly into a coffee cup full of maggots. Look, man, Twin Peaks is a weeeeiiiirrrd show, but we’d watch Ray Wise in anything. His character’s dead, but that means nothing.

The show: This Is Us

If anybody asks you what this show is about, just tell them “Life, man… life.” Or maybe “Family.” But officially, it’s about a bunch of people who share a birthday. Anyway, it’s really good, and you’ll probably enjoy it after it’s done tearing out your heart with comedic drama.

The moment: There is no hope left in 2017
Remember last month when you worried about Kate taking care of herself, but it turned out great, because it was all due to pregnancy? You were like, “Ahhhh, show, you had me going! What a great reveal!” Well she lost the child, because America has no future and a very sorrowful present. It’s all a metaphor, and just… let’s all eat chocolate and stay indoors until this decade is over.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
We’ll probably all be dead.

The show: The Walking Dead

Zombies shamble amok! But we, humanity, are the real monsters, man.

The moment: The definition of insanity
Negan’s a great villain, but this series hasn’t had a shock since the second time Lucille got thirsty. What is amazing is just how many times over the past 20 episodes that someone’s saved from the moment of death by a colleague with a gun/crossbow/axe/tiger paws. If it happens once more this season, it’s going to become a meme. It’s not surprising, anymore.

Predicted jaw-dropper next season:
With nowhere left for his character to go, Rick dies, and the way-more interesting Michonne is now group leader. Ezekiel and Jerry get their own spinoff.

Brendan McGinley will never, ever forgive HuffPo for outright spilling Joffrey’s death in the sidebar to an article he was reading. 

Christie Rotondo is a staff writer at Thrillist and her New Year's resolution is to watch more TV.


Andrea Morabito is a senior editor at Thrillist who is still upset about the cliffhanger ending to "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life."