10 TV Shows That Lied To Their Audience – CBR – Comic Book Resources

While TV shows rely on plot twists and reveals to shock their audience, some series outright lie to the audience.
Television needs to shock audiences, there's no denying that. If a TV show wants to create memorable moments and keep audiences hooked, it has to drop bombshells, which requires careful control of information. The audience can't know everything in advance or nothing will shock them. However, there's a difference between a twist and a lie.
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Some shows go further than just misdirecting their audience and actually tell outright falsehoods. Sometimes, they rely on characters to lie, but other times, the creator lies to fans directly. Even if a lie isn't outright stated, it can be heavily implied without the audience being given a reason to think otherwise.
Seymour Skinner is a long-running and central character in The Simpsons. He's the principal of Springfield Elementary, often an episode's antagonist, and rarely gets to lead a storyline himself. He's also at the center of The Simpsons' most infamous episode.
In "The Principal and the Pauper," The Simpsons reveals that he isn't actually Skinner. He's actually Armin Tamzarian, a soldier who stole Skinner's identity. This comes out of nowhere and proves that several episodes about Skinner's life were a lie. The episode is notorious for invalidating several years of the character, so most fans prefer to ignore its existence.
Jaime Lannister spends much of Game of Thrones as a villain. However, seasons three through eight show him undergoing one of the series' lengthiest redemption arcs. At its core is a central revelation: Jaime didn't kill Aerys Targaryen to help the Lannisters, he did it to stop Aerys burning down all of King's Landing.
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This act of genuine heroism is central to Jaime's character, as is his bitterness over his poor reputation because of it. This act spurs Jaime's attempts to become a better person in Game of Thrones. Then, in season 8, Jaime abandons his redemption and goes back to Cersei. He tells Tyrion that he never cared about the people. The show reveals several years of development to be a lie.
Outright lying can be a controversial writing choice. Sometimes, however, it pays off. The entire first season of The Good Place focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop, who has ended up in the wrong afterlife. She's a terrible person, but an accident sees her arrive in the heavenly Good Place.
Several characters identify the show's setting as the Good Place. The series' advertising plays up the wrong afterlife aspect of its storylines, so the focus is on helping Eleanor earn her spot in the Good Place. However, the season 1 finale reveals that it's all a lie. Eleanor and the other characters are all in the Bad Place. This is an incredibly effective twist, even with the large amounts of lying.
Black Mirror is known for its shocking twists. The anthology show has many storylines that end in a revelation that forces the audience to re-evaluate the entire episode. One episode, however, undoes its events and reveals them all to be a lie. "Playtest" follows traveler Cooper as he tests an augmented reality video game.
A simple test turns into nightmarish horror. The episode actually layers fake-out on fake-out. It has several dark endings that are revealed to simply be deeper layers of augmented reality. At the end, "Playtest" reveals that Cooper died before he playtested anything. The entire episode is in his head and none of its nightmarish events happened.
How I Met Your Mother's central premise is in its name: Ted Mosby tells his children how he met their mother. Several long-running storylines are simply used as build up to the fateful meeting. The show even suggests that Barney and Robin's wedding is so important because it's where Ted meets the mother.
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In its finale, How I Met Your Mother reveals that it's all for naught. The Mother is hardly relevant to the show. She dies in the finale, several years before Ted tells the story. Instead, the show's focus is on how Ted met and fell in love with Robin. After years of lying about the Mother's importance, fans were bitter to see her be treated as a secondary concern.
A major part of Doctor Who's revival is that the Doctor is the last Time Lord. He destroys Gallifrey to end the Last Great Time War and is almost the only Time Lord to survive the destruction. The Doctor's loneliness is a major theme of the series, as is his guilt over total genocide.
"The Day of the Doctor" completely undoes this. It retells the last moments of Gallifrey and reveals that the planet was never destroyed. Instead, the episode shows several versions of the Doctor sealing it in another dimension. This twist makes several seasons of Doctor Who, and several major episodes, downright false. It's also inconsequential, as Gallifrey gets destroyed again soon after.
Westworld's first season follows several diverse storylines. It has storylines helmed by the Man in Black, Bernard, William, and Dolores. The audience isn't given any major reason to believe that these storylines aren't happening at the same time, as Westworld cuts back and forth between them without any indicators of time.
The first season's major twist is that William's story takes place well before anyone else's. William and the Man in Black are the same person, the latter simply hardened by 20 years of murder in the park. There are hints throughout the episodes and plenty of foreshadowing, but Westworld goes out of its way to lie to audiences to make the reveal more impactful.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is notorious for its character deaths, as several beloved characters die throughout the show. However, it deliberately builds up the audience's hopes to make one death hit harder. Tara Maclay is a significant presence throughout several seasons, but she's never a main character.
RELATED: 10 Most Sudden Character Deaths In TV Shows
In the season six episode "Seeing Red," Tara finally rejoins the main characters after several episodes. Her actor, Amber Benson, also gets a spot in the opening credits. Audiences are led to believe that she's become a main character and has a big role in the future, but this was all a lie. Tara dies in the same episode, meaning her importance was lied about to make her demise hit harder.
The Walking Dead kills off plenty of characters, but some seem untouchable. For a long time, Rick Grimes was one of them. He was the show's protagonist for most of its run and the leader of the survivors. The ninth season's first half focuses on Rick entering increasingly dire straits. These episodes were promoted specifically as the 'end of Rick Grimes'.
The show and the showrunners clearly try to make the audience think Rick is going to die. In particular, the real-world media buzz touted it as the likely possibility. In The Walking Dead, Rick's end isn't particularly final. He survives, despite his horrific injuries, and is escorted away by a helicopter. He's due to get a new miniseries in 2023.
Cruel Summer hangs on one question: whether Kate Wallis is right that Jeanette Turner left her imprisoned in a basement. The show leaves the circumstances deliberately vague, building up to the events in question in three different timelines. It gives plenty of evidence for either side, but sometimes, these storylines lie to the audience.
Jeanette is a central, sympathetic character. The audience is made to believe her, and the final episode even confirms her innocence. Jeanette isn't the one who sees Kate in the kidnapper's house and instead, it was Mallory. However, the very final scene flips this on its head. Jeanette does break into the house, hears Kate calling for help, and leaves Kate to her fate.
NEXT: 10 Most Tragic Plot Twists In TV Shows
Isaac Williams is a movie-goer, TV watcher, journalist, blogger, gamer, comic book-fan, and roleplayer. He’s been a bartender and a waiter, and now he writes lists for CBR. He focuses on TV shows and movies. In his free time, Isaac can be found gaming, reading, playing D&D, walking Birmingham’s lengthy canals, and catching up on movies.
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