Almost every show and movie has them: left-turn plot twists that defy all expectations and sense of reality. But sometimes a story’s premise is supposed to be unbelievable. While these unconventional plots make for great material, most times, it’s easy for a production to miss the mark. For better or for worse, we applaud creative risks and bold visions. Below are TV shows whose plot twists managed to leave the writers’ room.
‘Black Mirror’ (2011 to Present)
This list would be incomplete without “Black Mirror,” the popular show that never fails to elicit raised eyebrows and shock the conscience. It owes its fame to its unbelievable and shocking plots featuring dystopian storylines about an increasingly technological world. Often compared to “The Twilight Zone,” “Black Mirror” episodes all take place in their own twisted little worlds.
In the episode “Nosedive,” for example, our protagonist is a woman living in a world where people rate every single one of their social interactions on a five-star scale, which then affects their socioeconomic standing. Think of it as our credit score system taken to an extreme not too far from our reality. When a series of banal interactions upend her life in the blink of an eye, we’re left feeling anxious about the next time our phone asks us to rate something.
‘The Magicians’ (2015 to 2020)
This show is about, well, magicians. That’s all you can surmise from the title, and nothing we tell you is definitive. By the time you read this, it’s likely that major characters have died only to come back as ghosts before eventually dying again for good. The thing about a show set in Magic Land is that nothing’s off-limits and everything’s constantly reinvented.
“The Magicians” follows young adults studying wizardry at a wizard school (don’t say “Harry Potter”). Many of these wizards, which include historical figures, live in secrecy among humans. The action picks up when various forces threaten the universe time and time again and our favorite heroes have no choice but to rise to the occasion. This show is so all over the place that we can’t really give a complete summary. It’s something you’ll have to watch to believe.
‘13 Reasons Why’ (2017 to 2020)
“13 Reasons Why” caused quite a stir when it came out, and understandably so. The series focuses on high school students in the aftermath of a classmate’s suicide. The narrative unfolds in flashbacks after a student finds a box with recorded cassette tapes that function as suicide letters from Hannah (Katherine Langford), with each tape providing a reason for her suicide (yes, you read that right).
As you can imagine, the series was promptly criticized for being insensitive to the topic of suicide. Many of the episodes leave you with an unpleasant aftertaste and secondhand guilt. Even worse, there’s a plot twist near the end featuring gun violence. The series got renewed for a total of three seasons, all revolving around very unfortunate deaths — including Hannah’s.
‘Riverdale’ (2017 to 2023)
“Riverdale” is a cartoonish TV series that’s hard to explain. It starts off rather mild: we think we know what we’re getting into when we learn about an unsolved murder in the first episode. However, our expectations are quickly challenged as our protagonists undertake a series of unconventional quests to protect their town.
“Riverdale” spent seven seasons surprising us each time we thought things couldn’t get any weirder. Some memorable plotlines include (keep in mind all of these kids are in high school): a classmate runs a nightclub and then a casino; another classmate joins the mob; the same classmate is also an underground boxer; the town is transported back to the ’50s; and multiple family secrets come out, including some paternity drama. And don’t worry, we haven’t even spoiled any of the big stuff yet.
‘Mrs. Davis’ (2023)
“Mrs. Davis” is a new stand-alone show that tells the story of a devoted nun who embarks on an epic journey to destroy “Mrs. Davis,” a powerful AI that has taken over the world. Blending genres and flying through centuries of world history, this show is a fun amalgamation that feels sacrilegious in the best way possible.
Sister Simone (Betty Gilpin) is joined on her trek by an ex-boyfriend who doubles as her sidekick. More than just providing roadside assistance, he also provides some much-needed comic relief against a bleak landscape, as well as a humorous take on our present condition and the looming threat of AI. But as long as we have someone like Sister Simone on our side, I think we’ll be just fine.
‘Poker Face’ (2023 to Present)
Not quite sci-fi but definitely a hearty comedy, “Poker Face” stars Natasha Lyonne in one of her most refreshing and unique roles yet — which is saying something for the celebrated actress. She portrays a woman by the name of Charlie Cale and tackles a new mystery every week with an uncanny talent: the ability to tell when someone is lying. While she can’t read minds, she’s a walking lie detector that hits the road asking the right questions.
Charlie becomes a fugitive after the first episode, and the series chronicles her adventures on the run. Each episode introduces us to new cast members and the accompanying mystery that our woman of the hour just can’t help but solve, as it would be a waste of her talents not to. There’s no other show like “Poker Face,” and its appeal escapes categorization. Take Charlie, for example: on the one hand, she seems to be superhuman, but on the other, some people just have really good gut feelings. Lyonne has a knack for combining contradictions.