Meta Twist

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Say you're into a particular writer who likes giving each of his stories a special kind of Twist Ending. He likes using it so much it's practically a signature element for his works. For some readers, it's predictable and groanworthy, others might like it. Imagine the surprise when, after you've put down the book, the twist isn't there. Much like an Empty Room Psych, the author willingly removes that twist from his latest work to throw avid fans (and the Genre Savvy who expected It Was His Sled) for a loop.

    Maybe he realized that using the trope was becoming predictable or worse, a crutch, and ditched it. Or perhaps he plotted a perfectly good waste from before even writing the first book just to give fans a huge surprise. And of course, maybe he just wanted (horror of horrors) to surprise readers in order to entertain them. It doesn't matter which it is, the net effect is the same: The plot twist for that story becomes the absence of an established twist. So, a Meta Twist.

    For a moment, the Genre Savvy have become just as easy to surprise as the completely new reader. In fact, a newbie into the works/genre will be pleasantly surprised regardless. The avid reader will get the added bonus of not knowing what happens next. This can be a good way to keep the reader reading her future stories.

    Compare with The Untwist.

    This is an ending trope. Here there be spoilers!

    Examples of Meta Twist include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: When it was revealed that Urobuchi Gen was working on the series, many fans immediately suspected that the show would be a lot darker than it at first seemed. And they were right... mostly. The ending, while still bittersweet, was much happier than he is normally known for. Also a possible subversion of Lying Creator - when he claimed he wanted to write a heartwarming anime, few believed him.


    • The storyline of David Lynch's Blue Velvet is far more straightforward than most of his other films.
    • M. Night Shyamalan is so famous for adding completely unexpected (but in a good way!) twists to his works that when The Happening lacked one, people were disappointed.
    • Due to it being the Speed Racer Movie, you expect The Reveal from Racer X that he's Speed's missing older brother Rex Racer. Speed is even Genre Savvy enough to expect this. The Meta Twist comes from The Reveal being an Untwist, that it isn't Rex Racer. ...Then they subvert this untwist at the end of the film, revealing to the audience that he really is Rex Racer. Meta enough?
    • Inception, somewhat. As Chester A. Bum put it, "The twist is that there may or may not be a twist."
    • The Brothers Bloom is about con-men, and it has become something of a cliche that any story about con-men is usually a con itself—the viewer waits for the twist to be revealed. The twist at the end of The Brothers Bloom is... there is no twist. The movie has played fair with the audience all along, and what you saw is what really happened. The feeling of the viewer's plot-twist-sense tingling was just paranoia.
    • In his debut movie House Of Games, David Mamet played the aforementioned trope that the events in a con man movie are revealed to be part of a massive con straight. But when he directed his second con man movie, The Spanish Prisoner, he must have realized that viewers were now expecting this kind of a Plot Twist. To counter that, the movie keeps constantly introducing new plot elements that may be innocent, or may (to a viewer expecting the twist) be part of a con. The result is that by the end of the movie, a sufficiently paranoid viewer can't be sure how large the actual con was, or who exactly was involved in it.


    • The "twist" of one Agatha Christie novel, The Hollow, was that the person found standing over the corpse, holding the smoking gun that killed him, was the murderer—despite all the evidence to the contrary.
      • Agatha Christie's first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, could be considered a meta-twist of the trope "the prime suspect is never guilty", but the good lady meta-twisted that one too often for subsequent examples to count as a meta-twist of her own twists.
    • The first four, maybe five, Harry Potter books follow a specific pattern: the people Harry suspects are never the actual bad guys. In Half-Blood Prince, Harry is actually right about who's responsible. (There's a slight twist, admittedly, but we don't find that out until Deathly Hallows.)
      • Half-Blood Prince also has another one: Up until then, the DA-teacher always had been a character newly introduced in the respective book. (Except in the first book of course, where everyone was "newly introduced".) This turned out not to be the case in HBP. Even Harry & friends were surprised by this.
    • Most of Dan Brown's work to date has involved the final villain of the story actually being a trusted ally in disguise, and the obvious villain just doing the dirty work for said person. So it was quite a surprise in The Lost Symbol when the obvious villain was the primary antagonist from start to finish.
    • In the opening chapters of Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, a main character thinks about her secret lover and why nobody can ever know about their relationship. As Waters' previous books centred on lesbians, it seems obvious where this is going - but the lover is actually a man (the forbidden love aspect is because he's married.)
    • Goosebumps is notorious for having a Mandatory Twist Ending in practically every book. In the few episodes where there effectively is no twist ending, we get this.
    • Harry Turtledove is well known for his Loads and Loads of Characters, to the point where most of his books start out with a filler scene for each one that only serves to remind you of the position each of the many viewpoint characters were in at the end of the last book. Except on the rare occasion that one of them dies in this section.
    • The Lincoln Lawyer: Haller does a good job and gets his client off, even though he knows he's guilty. However, he arranges matters so the client's earlier murder is found out without anyone being able to pin anything on him. That's not the twist. The client makes bail after the cops arrest him, and Haller frantically tries to find and stop him from hurting his daughter and/or ex-wife. The twist is that the client's oblivious-seeming mother, the one paying for his defense who thinks her kid is a perfect angel, is actually his accomplice in his earlier murders, and tries to kill Haller at this point. Oh, and the ex-wife and daughter were in protective custody the whole time.

    Live-Action TV

    • By the third season finale of 24, fans have come to expect some huge cliffhanger twist. Jack enters his car, there's a long silence as the viewer waits expectantly... and then Jack breaks down crying. Woah.
    • Lost is well known for its use of flashbacks, a fact which was taken into account in the first episode of both seasons two and three, each of which began with what appeared to be a flashback but was revealed to be showing a previously unseen area of the island.
      • The most notable example is the season 3 finale, with what appears to be a typical flashback turns out to be a flashforward instead. This twist has since entered It Was His Sled territory as being one of Lost's most famous.
      • And yet again in the season 6 opener, where what looks like a flashback to the crash diverges from the actual events, and we get our first flashsideways. However, the twist is not the plane's failure to crash, because the viewer was previously informed of the likely creation of a no-crash alternate timeline. Instead, the twist happens when we pan down to see the island submerged underwater.
        • Season 5 has an interesting variation: by this point, most of the audience knows that the opening scene will be set on the Island, but this time the opening scene turns out to be set in the 1970s with Pierre Chang and then we see Daniel Faraday, so the audience has no idea if this is a flashback or flashforward. Indeed, it isn't until much, much later in the season that this scene is revisited.
    • During the 2009 season of Home and Away, police officer Angelo Rosetta is investigating a people smuggling ring operating out of the bay, and confides in Charlie that he suspects Hugo, Martha's new boyfriend. In the season final, after several months of Angelo focusing on Hugo, it's revealed that, yes, he is involved.
    • House's catchphrase is "everybody lies", and indeed most episodes hinge on a patient or someone close to them having lied about some fact which turns out to be vital for a diagnosis. However, in the episode "DNR", no one lies, and the team eventually just figure out the right diagnosis.
    • A suspect in The Closer was a junkie arrested while he was high, showed violent tenancies when he chucked a chair through a window, had blood on his clothes, and possessed the keys to a stolen car with a murdered girl in the trunk. Rarely is the guilty party quite so obvious. The episode was largely dedicated to convincing Brenda that it was probably exactly what it looked like.
    • HBO helped pull this off in Game of Thrones. Who's the marketing of? Who's the obvious main character? Sean Bean, who's the biggest name and most recognizable actor. Fans of the book loved it because they fell for the Decoy Protagonist when reading it and from the sheer amount of reviews and youtube videos so did most of television fans.
    • In the pilot episode of Firefly, Kaylee is shot and treated by Simon, with Mal threatening to pitch Simon off the ship if she doesn't recover. And Joss Whedon is well known for being willing and eager to kill off characters, levity, and anything resembling cuteness with extreme prejudice. So, of course, Mal walks in on Simon and declares simply that she didn't make it—and is lying through his teeth because he thinks it's funny (as does the rest of the crew).
    • In Doctor Who, Stephen Moffat is regarding as something of a master of the shocking twist (though Your Mileage May Certainly Vary). So when River Song was announced to have killed 'a good man, the best [she'd] ever known' it was thought it was just too obvious for it to be the Doctor. After all, it was the first name which came to everyone's mind the second it was suggested. It just couldn't be true, right? In fact, entire sections of the fandom (across more than one discussion group) dissected the idea. They argued that River Song, knowing and often mentioning the Doctor's flaws, would never call him the best man she'd ever known. They argued that this Doctor had even said why he wasn't truly a good man because 'good men don't need rules'. Meanwhile, Rory (who doesn't need rules) was repeatedly stated to be a good man throughout the series. He showed a habit of dying several times (almost as though the universe were trying to make him...). Then when he turned out to be River's father it seemed guaranteed (and many fans were sitting back quite content with themselves and saying 'I told you so'). After all, who would a daughter be more likely to consider the best man she'd ever known than her father? In the end, she 'killed' the Doctor.

    Professional Wrestling

    • At Wrestlemania 27, Edge and Christian headed into Edge's title match vs Alberto Del Rio with a series of tense promo's that caused most to assume that Christian's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder would rear it's head again and cause him to screw over Edge during the match. The match itself, never even teased the possibility, leading to a clean win for Edge, with the two of them leaving the stage together. In a way, it was quite fortunate, as due to a medical condition Edge retired legitimately before he could wrestle another match. Instead of going out being screwed by the the other half of the Edge and Christian Those Two Guys vibe, he retired as the champion with his best friend still in his corner.

    Video Games

    • The first two Uncharted games had the twist of there being supernatural monsters (zombies and Yeti, respectively) involved in the events. The third game, Drake's Deception, has its supernatural enemy, the Djinn (Arab fire demons), turn out to be just a hallucination.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All's final case, Phoenix's client really is guilty. Many consider it one of the best cases in the series.
    • Sigma has always been the Big Bad and Final Boss in every Mega Man X game... except for one where there was someone else controlling Sigma all along (Mega Man X8) and one where he doesn't even make an appearance (Mega Man X: Command Mission.)

    Western Animation

    • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, it is hinted, and eventually confirmed, that Harry Osborn is the original Green Goblin, rather than Norman Osborn as in other continuities. And then, in the second season finale, we find out that it was Norman all along, framing Harry for the crime.
    • South Park fans know that Cartman is always, always doing good deeds for his own twisted reasons, which may range from Poke the Poodle to all-out Moral Event Horizon in scope. No matter how good he seems, fans and the characters can bet that he's really being manipulative. This makes his subplot in "Major Boobage" something of a surprise, when he really does take in all the town's cats (which had been recently outlawed) simply out of the kindness of his heart.
    • Scooby Doo is well known for its Scooby-Doo Hoax, though sometimes, the monster they are chasing is, in fact, a monster, and not a guy in a costume.