Shocking Swerve

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"Think of it this way: if Russo was managing the local Pizza Hut, you'd order a pizza and they'd deliver a newspaper. Sure, it was a surprise, but it didn't make much sense, nor did you want to order from them again. But it sure fooled you, didn't it?"
R.D. Reynolds on Vince Russo's writing style, from the book Wrestlecrap

A good Twist Ending is surprising, and seems to come out of left-field. You're shocked at first, but then you look back and realize that that's what they were building to all along. It takes a great writer to pull off believable twists on a regular basis.

That doesn't stop less-than-great writers from trying, however.

The Shocking Swerve is a kind of twist made just to have a twist. There's little-to-no rhyme or reason involved, no Foreshadowing, and no way that the viewer could have ever seen it coming. They just pulled it out of nowhere due to a possibly misguided desire to "shock" the viewer. Characters may be derailed, subplots may be ruined, and generally everything that's occurred so far may be thrown out the window, just to pull off this twist.

Contrast The Untwist, where the plot twist is ruined by making it so obvious that the audience confuses it for a Red Herring. See also Gambit Roulette, Cruel Twist Ending, Mandatory Twist Ending and Ass Pull.

Examples of Shocking Swerve include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • For some viewers, Code Geass R2 Turn 21, where it's revealed that Marianne (who for most of the series had been painted as practically a saint) not only fully supports her husband's Instrumentality plan, but she's committed multiple Kick the Dog moments herself, including using her Geass to possess a young girl after her death, and not particularly caring about the Mind Rape her daughter went through. And that's only one of the plot twists thrown into this episode.
  • In Bleach, Yammy going from #10 to the #0 Espada certainly qualifies for this, especially since The Espada ranks go from 1 to 10, and of all the surviving Espada, Yammy had the worst combat performance. He arguably still does, even with his "ultimate" released form.
    • Word of God did sort of explain this one, but in a way that makes it really suck to be Yammy. The Espada ranks are based on the amount of power they put out when they release their Zanpakuto. Yammy puts out the most, so he's technically the top ranked only when his sword is released, however he doesn't have the awesome, game breaking powers that made all of the other Espada so dangerous. The swerve turns out not to matter too much because he gets his ass kicked pretty quickly anyway.
    • In the Zanpakuto filler arc, Muramasa, a zanpakuto claims to have killed his master and that he wants to liberate all zanpakutos from their owners, but it's revealed that he actually wants to free his master, Kouga Kuchiki. Byakuya's apparent Face Heel Turn is also revealed to be as a result of wanting to kill Kouga himself.
  • In Naruto, the revelation that Itachi Uchiha, the man who had murdered his entire clan, joined the evil organization the Akatsuki, and Mind Raped his little brother twice turns out to be a loving brother under orders from his village the entire time.
    • In the same vein, the revelation that Yashamaru was lying to Gaara when he claimed that his mother hated him under orders from the Kazekage, as part of some utterly nonsensical test of Gaara's mental stability.
    • Also, under Kakashi's mask is another mask, though this one can be chalked up to Rule of Funny.
  • Il Palazzo in the last episode Excel Saga (ignoring the non-canon 26th episode) abandoning his dreams of conquest to fall down a hole with Excel. Though, given that it is a Gag Series, the lack of buildup works fine and doubles as Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle lives for this. Basically, every plot point after Acid Tokyo qualifies. They even sneak a couple into the epilogue.
    • Because of this series, xxxHolic periodically suffers as well. It's tends to be fine when left alone, though.
  • School Days (manga only) Kotonoha & Sekai abruptly going Axe Crazy in the last chapter with virtually no foreshadowing at all, just to shock the reader at the story having one of the game's few bad endings as opposed to the majority of happy endings. Note this occurs only in the Manga, the Anime does a much better job of building up Kotonoha & Sekai's gradually decreasing mental stability making it much more a Twist Ending.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh 5 Ds: Word of God actually admitted that the fact that there turned out to be a sixth Dragon Birthmark was one of these; while it was stated to have been planned from the beginning of the series, the writers felt that dropping any hints at all would've ruined it.
  • The ending of Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, which might as well have been Gainax self-parodying their usual ending tendencies, most certainly qualifies. While the pair of protagonist depraved "angel" sisters are walking back to their home after the already mind-screwing final battle with the Big Bad, Stocking casually asks if her katanas could cut an angel, Panty says she think so, then out of nowhere Stocking starts chopping up Panty in 666 pieces and while everyone is gasping in surprise (just like the viewers), she just says "Sorry, I am actually a demon", the BigBad reappears out of Brief's privates, Garterbelt's head explode ("Oh My God!"), Big Bad lectures Brief on the trail of Panty's pieces he'll have to pick up to get her back and reopen the Hell's mouth, Garterbelt's head unexplodes ("God My Oh!"), and the Big Bad and Stocking walk away, while the other characters are still visibly shocked, even the Daemon Sisters!. Cue the "To Be Continued in Next Season" sign.
  • Master of Martial Hearts: Your Mileage May Vary on whether the 5th and final episode of the OVA is this or a Twist Ending. Aya finds out that every one of her friends was a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who had manipulated her right from the beginning. They mentally broke all the losers of the tournament, making them into "perfect women" to be sold into sexual slavery. Aya's "friends" did this because her parents did the same thing to their parents, and they want to kill her to get back at her mother. Then Aya's mother shows up and kills them off, revealing to her that this is a Cycle of Revenge going back to their grandparents. So Kill 'Em All ensues, with Aya limping away from the blown up building. Then her so-called best friend's mother gets a visit from someone that she is very scared to see.... There was little Foreshadowing, like Aya finding out that her boyfriend is in charge of the tournament, and her 5th clairvoyant opponent warning her that her friends are not friends and that this is all just a game. Still, no one could have expected an ending like that!
  • Digimon Xros Wars:The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time has 2 in the finale. Ryouma's digimon parter, who had previously barely talked at all and showed no personality turns out to be the big bad in disguise, brain washing his tamer and an even "better" one where The previous generic evil Big Bad is now a good guy, and a human with a clock digimon (despite previously having nothing to do with time) wondering through dimensions collecting humans to beat up the new big bad he inadvertently created. WHAT A TWEEST!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The bulk of recent "big events" in comic books, such as Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and Civil War in Marvel Comics, and Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis in DC, have been focused on creating Shocking Swerves that often seem aimed specifically at tweaking or even outright insulting fans with any emotional attachment to long-term continuity.
    • This isn't a new phenomenon by any means. The DC Comics Crisis Crossover Armageddon 2001 (back in 1991!) had a Mystery Villain called Monarch, who was originally meant to be the hero Captain Atom. The problem was that the Foreshadowing for this was so obvious that fans figured it out well before the story was over and posted about it on the Internet. The DC brass, desperate to preserve the shock value, changed the ending at the last minute and had a completely different character, Hawk (one of the few characters who the story up to that point had explicitly said couldn't be the Monarch), Freak-Out and turn evil even though it didn't make sense, because his series was getting cancelled anyway.
      • When they reintroduced a "new" Monarch to be one of the villains in Countdown to Final Crisis, they didn't even bother hiding his identity anymore - Captain Atom, natch.
  • In Star Wars: Legacy, the revelation that Morrigan Corde is Nyna Calixte despite them looking completely different.
    • In fairness, the former's makeup hides one of the key features of the latter.
    • Wookiepedia says that the authors were explicitly told not to drop any hints, so as not to ruin the "surprise".
    • Similarly in Legacy, the reveal that Darth Krayt is actually A'Sharad Hett came out of absolutely nowhere and was sure to confuse readers who are unfamiliar with the Clone Wars comics.
  • Grant Morrison's run on X-Men finishes with the reveal that the wise Eastern mentor character was actually Magneto, who then proceeds to go berserk and level Manhattan. This isn't this trope; it's a hell of a surprise, but when you go back and re-read Morrison's run, it becomes obvious that it was planned right from the start and makes sense, thus making that a good old fashioned plot twist. No, the Swerves came when Morrison left and Marvel went into "Oh my God, did we seriously just let him kill off Magneto?!?!?" panic mode. That wasn't Magneto, that was a guy pretending to be Magneto, and also he has a twin brother who's a good guy and has the exact same powers that Xorn never really actually had! No, wait, neither Xorn existed, and neither did that Magneto, they were all just the Scarlet Witch fucking with reality! No, wait, Xorn is somehow the conciousness of a bunch of disembodied mutant powers! Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote that last swerve, actually apologized to the fans afterward, and nobody's touched the character since. For obvious reasons.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic actually manages to have a revelation that's simultaneously a Shocking Swerve and The Un-Reveal. While many readers had guessed that Mad Scientist Demagol had switched places with Warrior Poet Rohlan Dyre (using the fact that as Mandalorians, both wear full body armor, to conceal the switch) as much as three years before it was explicitly revealed to have happened, no one predicted that Demagol's true identity was Antos Wyrick, Jarael's childhood mentor and the father of her nemesis Chantique.
  • There were more than a few Shocking Swerves in Spider-Man's Clone Saga. One issue in particular ended with the discovery of what seemed to be the corpse of the original clone, indicating that it was neither Ben nor Peter and raising the mystery of what the double's origin really was. It turned out that the writers didn't have a clue, they just thought it was a cool twist.
    • A similar situation was with the "death" of Peter and MJ's baby. The issue where that happened ended with an associate of Norman Osborn- the perpetrator of the entire Clone Saga and whose resurrection was a shocking swerve in and of itself- taking a mysterious "parcel" and heading off on a boat to parts unknown. Savy readers would have suspected that this would be the Parker's child, whose death was faked. Turns out this wasn't the case. Although later revealed to be just a cat, the creators revealed that there was never intention to have the Parker's child survive and they just planned on endlessly teasing the fans with this with no plans of resolving the issue.
  • The body-swap of Terra and the Ultra-Humanite in the Power Girl ongoing series did not feature any foreshadowing or rational explanation, and actually seems to directly contradict previous established facts (In the issue before the reveal, Satanna actually comments that her sources are still looking for Humanite, and so far have not had any luck in locating him). The conflict itself was handled well and lead into one of the best issues of the series, but the actual swap came completely out of nowhere and even Terra's half-explanation after she was rescued does not clear up all the points, since she refers to lengthy torture sessions and stays in a psychiatric hospital, even though the entire affair occurred in only a single day. Good idea, good follow through, but horrible lead-in.
  • The end of Wildstorm's six-issue Friday the 13th miniseries reveals Jason is powered and driven to kill by the vengeful spirits of a Native tribe massacred on the shores of Crystal Lake centuries ago. The series was still pretty good, regardless.


Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • Happens in pretty much every chapter of Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami. Past swerves include: Light's dad is trying to kill L! Light's dad works for L! Sayu stole Misa's death note! Takada is Naomi! L tried to kill Light's mom! The royal death note was fake! Dark has an everything note! Light has a twin sister! Part of the fun is trying to guess what ludicrous Ass Pull will happen next.
  • Quoted above is the second-to-last paragraph of Doom: Repercussions of Evil, spoken by Cernel Joson (presumably, as he had been speaking on the radio before) after John Stalvern insists that he has to fight the demons. This contradicts Joson sending John out to fight the demons.
  • At the end of Latias' Journey, it turns out Mewgle had stuffed everyone, including the Physical God Big Bad and Big Good, into a giant virtual-reality simulation so he could take over the multiverse. And then Leo the Squirtle comes out of nowhere and beats the crap out of him.

Film[edit | hide]

  • In the movie Dark Shadows, it is revealed that the daughter in the family is actually a werewolf. This might have been all fine and good except for the fact that there was absolutely no way to predict this happening, the movie ended 10 minutes later, and the reveal had ABSOLUTELY no effect on the movie. The cause of the reveal was explained away in half a line and questioned by no one. "I'm a werewolf. Deal with it." almost came across as a taunt towards the audience, challenging them to try understanding what just happened.
  • The two endings that didn't make the final cut of the thriller Joy Ride both had Rusty Nail being killed, but the ending that made it to theaters had him get shot numerous times by police, only to make yet another threatening CB call to the heroes just as the movie ends. Oh no, he's Not Quite Dead; he just posed a victim in his truck to get shot in his place! It would have made for a nice twist except for the fact that he had a live and unblindfolded hostage in his passenger compartment who would have seen the entire ruse being set up. Not only does she not tell the police about it, she's just as surprised as the rest of them when Rusty calls again. Hell, with a shocking twist like that, who needs logic?
    • The direct-to-video sequel did it again, with Rusty Nail's truck going over a cliff with no way he could have jumped to safety. Cue the "surprise" epilogue where he's back in a new truck, picking up victims again.
  • Likewise, the ending of the film Perfect Stranger (with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis) has the one character who could not possibly be the killer (Halle Berry's character) be the killer. This is why you don't let test audiences pick the ending.
  • At the end of the 2007 film The Mist, convinced that they are doomed to a gruesome death, the protagonist kills the other 4 members of his party (including his own child) with the last 4 bullets he has. About a minute later the army show up, along with thousands of survivors they have rescued. Some critics praised the director for making this bold nihilistic statement. Others thought it was a ridiculous and contrived ending which hurt the rest of the film. Stephen King, writer of the original novella, has gone on record saying he approved it.
  • In the Ashley Judd/Morgan Freeman movie High Crimes, Judd's character spends the entire movie trying to clear her soldier husband of war crimes charges (with Freeman's help). Only to find at the very end after they succeed in clearing him... Yeah, he did it. And then some. And then he tries to kill Judd because she knows about it. But she only knows - and not just suspects - because he tells her so.
  • Titan A.E.'s big revelation, in order to work, required the character in question to throw out everything his character had been established as, in every scene, right up until The Reveal.
  • The forgettable film Lifeforce wanted a Tomato in the Mirror ending. It would have worked, too, if this didn't contradict the rest of the movie (and if the whole thing were more than an excuse for actress Mathilda May to walk around nude).
  • Saw IV ended with the out-of-nowhere, completely unforeshadowed revelation that Hoffman was a Jigsaw apprentice. This actually hurt Saw V, as the producers apparently thought the best way to (presumably) respond to criticism about a clumsy twist ending is to have around seventy percent of the next movie dedicated to explaining it. Oh wait, it doesn't feel like a Saw movie now? Well, just throw in a "seemingly random group of people wandering through a maze of traps" plot which you've already done much better in Saw II!
  • Monster A Go-Go, featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, is probably the worst offender out there. It featured a man who was turned into a radioactive giant. Near the end, people are going after the giant only to find out the man was found elsewhere, and the giant just disappeared like he never existed. That swerve left some earlier plot events unexplained and inexplicable.
  • Mark Of The Vampire: The dead man was killed by a person who deliberately faked a vampire attack. The "vampires" were actors hired to trap that murderer. All the main characters (other than the killer) were in on the trap.
  • The independent feature Bloodletting, about a woman who tracks down a serial killer so he can show her how to kill, has one of the most Shocking Swerves of Shocking Swerves: It turns out the supposed killer the girl tracks down was not the serial killer she was looking for, but a pathetically lonely guy who pretended to be the one she was after to make her stay. They both wind up dead after the man has killed half a dozen people. He had never killed before he met her, mind you.
  • The 1974 car chase movie Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. They got away! Oh, they crash and die.
  • The revelation near the end of Ill Always Know What You Did Last Summer that the killer actually is Ben Willis, the killer from the previous two films. He's become some vaguely demonic entity, apparently summoned by the actions of the protagonists in the opening.
  • The Wizard of Gore is in love with this trope. Montag's murder method seems to by mass hypnosis, but the film points out repeatedly that there are several events that contradict that. Combine that with an ending where not only do we have a scene where the two main characters lampshade how unlikely the events were before one shows themselves to be the killer in disguise, but then the other person in the conversation reveals that it was her manipulations the entire time, fooling the villain. And then the villain wakes up and realizes it was All Just a Dream.
  • The end of Pieces has the mix and match corpse the killer made out of bodyparts taken from his victims randomly come to life and rip a guy's balls off.
  • The killer in High Tension turns out to be Marie's evil split personality, manifested as a filthy trucker. Watch the film with this information in mind and realize how little sense it really makes.
  • Parodied in The Man With Two Brains. The oft-mentioned Elevator Killer turns out to be none other than Merv Griffin. The only foreshadowing leading to this is a scene where a character watches his talk show on TV.
  • M. Night Shyamalan's original use of a genuine, excellent twist ending in The Sixth Sense eventually spiraled into a total overreliance on the Shocking Swerve instead. Unbreakable isn't bad, but then it just went to hell. The aliens are real, but they're vulnerable to water and the main character's wife had psychic visions or something before she died! It's not really in the past, they just pretend that it is! Plants have gone homicidal for no reason! Also, plants have the ability to kill people now! With, ummm... spores! Shut up!
    • The sharp nose-dive in Shyamalan's skill as a writer is most likely because he nicked The Sixth Sense's big twist from an old episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
    • In addition, The Village is just a rip-off of "Running Out of Time" by Margaret Peterson Haddix and yet Shyamalan managed to ruin Haddix's legitimate twist by turning it into a Shocking Swerve.
  • The 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives tries for a Twist Ending, but just ends up contradicting itself on what the wives actually are.
  • The 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes ends with the hero returning to Earth in his own time, only to find that it is ruled by apes, and the Lincoln Memorial has been replaced with a statue of the movie's Big Bad (who won't even be born until 3 thousand years in the future, on a completely different planet). The filmakers have admitted that they have no explanation for this, and that it was only done to be surprising.
  • Murder By Death plays it for laughs.
  • In The Nun, it turns out there isn't a killer ghost nun, it was the main character all along. Under scrutiny, this makes even less sense than Haute Tension's similar twist.
  • Dead Silence: You know, it would have been nice to state that also human dolls are to be considered. Or that they exist at all.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • David Weber's Out of the Dark ends a fairly typical alien invasion story, that humanity was already winning, with VAMPIRES coming out of the woodwork to save humanity in a totally unnecessary Deus Ex Machina.
  • Illuminatus, being a Mind Screw of the first degree, throws out any number of shocking swerves, among the most shocking the revelations that the three main female characters are all the same Tantrically-enhanced individual and that Hagbard Celine is one of the Illuminati Primi, and the entire story was a Scheme on his part to eliminate the most negatively aligned Ancient Conspiracy groups claiming the name "Illuminati", in which he had joined to either alter or destroy it from the inside. And he's actually a member of an even more esoteric group that used to be called Illuminati, but switched its name due to the copy-cats into A∴A∴, which is not Argentum Astrum despite using Thelemic passwords.
  • A lot of Jodi Picoult novels have sudden plot twists, many of which count as Shocking Swerves, but particularly notable is My Sister's Keeper; Anna spends most of the book fighting for the right to not give her kidney to her terminally ill sister after spending her life thus far as a walking donation bank. Near the end, after winning the court case, she's suddenly rendered brain-dead in a car accident. After some mourning, her parents turn off the life support and her sister gets the kidney anyway, thus rendering the entire lawsuit pointless. It ruined the entire BOOK for more than a few readers.
    • Another example is the ending of Handle with Care: Picoult spends the whole novel setting up for Charlotte's losing her lawsuit. This makes the final verdict shocking, but not in the way Picoult intended. Then, in the very last chapter, Charlotte's daughter Willow (the whole reason for the lawsuit) drowns, again rendering the entire lawsuit (and arguably the entire plot) pointless. Picoult seems to have a thing for that ending.
  • The ending of John Grisham's The Partner comes right out of the blue. After the main character's conspirator goes through all the effort to find and rescue him, she steals the money and disappears. She could have done that any time.
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday drops a plot twist that makes perfect sense within in its' own storyline, but is a huge change in direction for the series as a whole. After two books of Kitty/Cormac Ship Tease Kitty hooks up with her lawyer Ben instead, and Cormac goes to Prison in an unrelated incident. Tropes Are Not Bad, though. Kitty and Cormac never really made a convincing couple, largely because Kitty isn't the type to fall for a bad boy. She has much better chemistry with her new Love Interest, despite the somewhat contrived nature of the Relationship Upgrade.
  • Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule is a fairly classic fantasy tale about a boy with a legendary sword and a woman with mystical powers and an old catankerous wizard who go to a magical land across the mountains to fight evil. Three quarters of the way through the book the main character is kidnapped by a dominatrix with a magical taser and taken away to be tortured for a while until he accidentally enters a Zen state that unlocks his magic sword's true power and causes the dominatrix to Heel Face Turn in the process..
  • There is at least one in every installment of the Never Again series. In the first book: the main character's student is part of an Ancient Conspiracy! In the second: did the Moe Friend to All Living Things just get killed?! (And later in that book, the main characters die too!) In the third: there's a Time Police?! When did that happen?! There are most likely more examples in the other books, which this editor will add when he has gotten around to reading them.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Bones, it was revealed in the third season finale that Zack was Gormogon's apprentice. The initial plan had been to slowly hint at it up until the big reveal, but the Writers' Guild strike threw a wrench in that plan.
  • Guiding Light 2003, from actual YouTube video description:

"Reva's stalker was supposed to be Jonathan, which is why Marah felt a bond with him online. This was scuttled by incoming hack Head Writer Ellen Weston, who made Alexandra the stalker which made little to no sense whatsoever."

  • The later seasons of Alias suffered from this a lot. Season 4 reached an all-time low with the constant back-and-forth between both Arvin Sloane and Jack Bristow having either good intentions or hidden agendas/being untrustworthy/evil all along, so much that you just want to yell at the TV screen, "We've already been through this a few episodes ago, and the episode before that!"
    • And related stories with Sidney's mother and aunt, Lauren Reed, her mother etc. By the end of the series it had gotten so ridiculous you almost expect to have Sidney turn around and show that she's been a villain all along.
    • The "shocking" season 4 tacked-on epilogue. My name is not Michael Vaughn.
  • House: Kutner's suicide. The fact that it is so unexpected makes it, in some ways, more true to life but no less of an Ass Pull. The reason they did that on such short notice was because the actor left the show for a government job.
    • In a later episode the team's patient is a homeless man who, despite lying to the team repeatedly about his name, shows no signs of being anything more than a homeless ex-junkie. Until the ending, where its revealed that he is a serial killer that eats his victims.
  • Satisfaction: Tippi being shot by loansharks going after her former client at his house. This also left quite a few plot points, such as her one-night-stand with Chloe's boyfriend, unresolved.
  • The "Who killed Colin McIver?" storyline on One Life to Live. There was only one person in town who couldn't possibly be the murderer: Nora, because she was drugged by Colin. Naturally, she did it.
  • The last 30 seconds of season 4 of Farscape give this impression. Whether it was planned may have been clearer had the series continued to its planned fifth season.
  • In Dollhouse, the reveal that Boyd Langton was the head of the Rossum Corporation, which turns the character into a lunatic with a stupidly impractical master plan and, in retrospect, makes a lot of their earlier actions in the series unnecessary at best and nonsensical at worst.
  • The revelation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that Doctor Bashir is genetically enhanced was thought of right before The Reveal episode.
    • There was, however, some unintentional foreshadowing for this reveal. Bashir not getting a perfect grade on an exam because he mixed up two wildly separate body parts and his Secret Agent program (in which he plays himself as a secret agent, and not a fictional James Bond character) being two large ones.
    • This was the second time that happened to the character, as the two-parter 'In Purgatory's Shadow'/'By Inferno's Light' revealed that Bashir had been replaced by a changeling several episodes before. The actor didn't learn until he got the script for the two-parter.
  • In the Skins series four finale, Effy's therapist, who had been introduced in the same episode, beat Freddie to death with a baseball bat.
  • Depending on the viewer, many twists, including several Cylon identity revelations in the later episodes of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series may fall under this trope. Naturally, one viewer's Shocking Swerve may be another one's Wham! Episode.

From Robot Chicken
Seth Green: "Wow! Ron Moore! Creator of Battlestar Galactica. How about letting us come aboard and help you with your whip-smart plots?"
Ron Moore: "Help? Why would I need help writing plots? I just throw a dart at the cast list and *boom*: they're a Cylon. Rinse, repeat, cash the frakking check. Watch...(Moore throws several darts at a board with cast member photos taped to it)...(mocking) oh, please help me, this is so hard!"

    • The identities of the Final Five Cylons, in particular, were pulled out of left field. One of the clearest indicators of this was that Chief Tyrol's baby had to be clumsily retconned into an adulterous offspring, since there was only supposed to be one fertile Cylon in the series.
  • Not nearly as shocking as most of these swerves, but Serena Southerlyn's Suddenly Sexuality was pretty damn surprising.
    • The only thing that vaguely and possibly hints at this was a few few episodes earlier when McCoy, in order to get around a claim of spousal privilege on the part of a gay couple, files suit (and wins) to prevent the state from recognizing gay marriages. Southerlyn was uncharacteristically more upset than usual about McCoy's cynical tactics (as he doesn't indicate he personally is opposed to gay marriage) and outright refuses to assist him.
  • The first season of Roswell introduced a character played by Julie Benz as their new teacher. Liz becomes suspicious of her and suspects she's secretly a government agent looking for the aliens. Instead she reveals that she's actually the school's new guidance counselor. Needless to say, this does nothing to explain why she was impersonating a teacher in the first place. She later gets involved in the plot for reasons resulting from her actual job.
  • iOMG for iCarly has Sam suddenly revealed to be 'in love' with Freddie, despite no concrete foreshadowing. Freddie himself is shocked at Sam's change during the episode itself, not to mention when she kisses him right at the end.
  • The entirety of St Elsewhere turning out to be the daydream of an autistic child staring at a snow globe.
  • In the season finale of the first season of The Killing, not one, but TWO of them were clumsily attempted (specifically, the prime suspect is randomly shot out of nowhere and the until-then-incredibly likable Lancer is revealed to have been in all probability in on the titular murder)... during the last fifteen seconds. Fans and critics rage ensued.
  • In the Community episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" a Gambit Pileup causes about five in the space of two minutes.
  • 24 is known for its HSQ inducing twists and occasionally out-of-field subplots, but during season six, when it revealed that season five villain dubbed Bluetooth was suddenly Jack's brother, Graem Bauer, it threw off the fanbase to such baffling proportions that was never seen again. Even with the show's crazy logistics and fast paced events, this was a twist too far. And this is coming one season after an ex-President got gunned down by a sniper and another President was involved in the terrorist plot...
    • There's season seven's out-of-nowhere revelation that Tony Almeida betrayed everyone he knew on both sides to avenge the death of his unborn child. Although it could make sense for his actions in the current season, this completely contradicted the way he acted through what little he appeared in during the fifth season.


Music[edit | hide]

  • In scissorsloid, when Miku goes to Luka's charge room and starts to cut the cable to let her "sleep forever", Luka wakes up and tells Miku how much she loves her and how cute she is. While Miku is distracted, Luka says "Just kidding", pulls out a knife, and stabs Miku with it.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • The Trope Namer is former WCW, WWF and TNA writer Vince Russo, who loved to put these into his shows. He also loved to use wrestling insider lingo (in this case, "swerve" meaning "plot twist") in his shows. When this combined with WCW play-by-play commentator Tony Schiavone's irrational exuberance, it resulted in Tony often declaring, "This is the most shocking swerve ever!", thus resulting in a whole mess of "most shocking swerves". Russo's most notorious "shocking swerve" was making actor David Arquette (yes, the deputy from the Scream movies) the WCW World Heavyweight Champion after pinning Eric Bischoff in a match where the previous champion was Arquette's team-mate.[1] The Internet Wrestling Community have near-collectively decided that the Shocking Swerve is in fact more shocking when it doesn't happen. There are a number of recappers out there who can predict down to individual promos as to when the shockers happen.
  • Probably the most infamous Shocking Swerve in the WWE was the "Higher Power" twist. To make a very long story short: it was 1999, and Corrupt Corporate Executive Vince McMahon had made a Heel Face Turn. His son Shane had seized control of Vince's stable - "The Corporation" - and merged it with The Undertaker's pseudo-satanic stable "The Ministry of Darkness" to form the super-stable "The Corporate Ministry", which was slowly taking over Vince's company. This forced Vince to make peace with all the people he had pissed off over the last year, most notably his arch-nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin. A couple of months into the feud, The Undertaker began to hint at a "Higher Power" which he secretly served. Rumors and Wild Mass Guessing flew all over the place. Eventually, The Undertaker brought the black-cloaked Higher Power to the ring, who revealed himself to be... Vince McMahon! His stated reason for going through with this impossibly-contrived Gambit Roulette? To piss off Stone Cold Steve Austin. In fairness to the bookers: this was actually Plan B. The Higher Power was supposed to be Mick Foley, which would have made total sense and given us a good feud, but Foley didn't want to make a heel turn without any buildup to it, and also felt that he was too physically broken down at this point to do a feud with Austin justice.
  • According to The Death of WCW, the "ultimate swerve" was received by WCW itself: just when things were looking bright again, with former executive Eric Bischoff in line to buy the company and ratings starting to creep back upward, suddenly all its programming was canceled (by order of Jamie Kellner, an AOL Time Warner exec who had never been involved in the wrestling business in any way shape or form) and it was forced out of business. What a twist!
  • Most TNA Face Heel Turns have absolutely no foreshadowing, and while they're shocking, they don't make any sense, and just piss people off most of the time.
    • The Jeff Hardy heel turn is already the most notorious of these swerves.
    • The Samoa Joe heel turn was godawful, he layed down in the 2009 King of the Mountain match at the last second for no reason. Despite the fact that he had been going after the Main Event Mafia for months, had fought like crazy up to that point, and was probably seconds away from becoming World Heavyweight Champion, it was all supposed to be a ruse. That sure makes sense.
    • The Sting heel turn made no sense, and fans didn't even boo the guy anyway. So the whole thing was dropped, and Sting went back to being a face anyway.
    • The Tomko heel turn about killed his career. All the momentum he'd built through Christian's Coalition and then the brief "Tomko's for Tomko" phase was completely destroyed just to job him out under Kurt Angle's thumb. It should probably also be noted that Tomko, instead of going on to do things in TNA, did this.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • A rare example of this done effectively was in the Monty Python musical Spamalot, which was essentially a retreading of the same old well-known jokes from the films and TV series. That is, until about halfway through the second half, when the characters, without warning, break into a song about the prevalence of Jews in the musical theatre business. It's the biggest and most spectacular number in the show, culminating in a giant illuminated Star of David descending from the ceiling. Many saw it as not only a gratuitous (and successful) attempt to shock the audience, but in doing so an attempt to remind the audience that Python was shocking in the 70s, and it's only because it was so popular that it is now considered safe and harmless.

Toys[edit | hide]

  • The Bionicle web serials use this as one of their main ingredients. Who knew Toa Tuyet would be alive and her "corpse" was just that of her poor Alternate Universe-self? That vile Dark Hunter Ancient was in reality a double agent for the good guys? That the Sisters of the Skrall all got their psychic powers because they were pawns of a Cosmic Horror character that apparently has been living beneath the earth for all this time, yet no one ever suspected? But the fact that one of the classic and relatively well known characters was actually a disguised Great Being all along has got to be the biggest example.
    • Another kind of twist that wasn't a kind of reveal was the ending to the serial Brothers in Arms. It has been a quite straightforward tale of two Badass Normal mortal enemies with a shared past clashing again and again during their ventures, and was set up to end in a spectacular final confrontation between the two. Then, literally right when they were about to hit each other, a random dimension-portal opened up between them, teleporting them to a Bizarro World, and thus ending the serial with no final fight. Instead, the villain gets trapped in that other universe, while the hero brings home an ultra-powerful warrior (the benevolent Expy of the original Big Bad, no less) in exchange to "cap up" the story. What?
    • To make it more clear (and perhaps more insulting for the fans), there was no action scene involved in this resolution. The characters simply stood in a room and talked.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Braid. It's the story of growing up, love found, love lost and... detonating the atomic bomb? Really now.
  • Star Ocean 3 has a particularly infamous example. It turns out that the entire 'verse is a video game being played by extra-dimensional beings. Your characters discover this by jumping through a portal into "4D Space" and coming out of a high-tech television screen. Not only was this a Shocking Swerve for the game, it was a retroactive Shocking Swerve for Star Ocean 1 and Star Ocean the Second Story as well, and the fans did not like it. This was partially retconned by Star Ocean 4's invoking of Alternate Universes, leaving an out for fans who hated the twist without completely retconning it for those who didn't.
  • The truth behind Liquid Snake's possession of Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is, to say the least, the only plot point in the series that succeeded in pissing off some fans of the series. Basically, it turns out at the end that you were never fighting Liquid and that Ocelot was using a combination of drugs, nanomachines, and hypnotherapy to make himself think he was Liquid for his most complex Gambit Roulette to date. However, this not only cheapens Liquid's character, but effectively and retroactively turns the final boss fight into a big pile of... meaninglessness... by destroying all the previous epicness it portrayed, turning it into something completely impersonal and rendering the victory hollow. Knowing Kojima, this was probably completely intentional, but still, annoying.
    • It's also a waste of what could have been pure Fridge Brilliance, in that actual possession would've made much more sense. Why? Ocelot is the Sorrow's son, a famous (and genuine) telepath! It stretches suspension of disbelief much less to think that Ocelot inherited some of his father's ability and that it unintentionally left Liquid take control.
  • Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty ends with previous villain Dr. Nefarious marching onto the screen and apparently being allied with the Zoni, without him ever having been mentioned or referenced in the Future saga beyond some IRIS computer trivia and Qwark's arena narration. The fact that Nefarious and his butler Lawrence were a smash hit in regards of comedy value may have something to do with it.
  • Xenogears has this in paced orders-of-magnitude; two nations are at war and level Fei's hometown, but those are being manipulated by humans living on a floating city Solaris in order to dig up and test technology from an ancient, destroyed civilization. Then it leaps up again with Fei and Elly continually reincarnating in an attempt to free God from a physical prison and destroy the wicked Demiurge who created humankind as organic components to repair his physical form. Whew!
    • And there's more than that, those are just the main ones.
  • It's a staple for the Mega Man series to have a Big Bad that would have to be behind everything in the game they appeared in. So, Mega Man X delivered a Shocking Swerve the fans weren't expecting: Sigma is not the Big Bad of X8, and instead he's just an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Bubble Bobble: According to what little information we are told, two bubble dragons have to rescue their human girlfriends. Turns out that those two bubble dragons are humans themselves and yet, in the True Ending, out of the Final Boss come the two protagonists' parents.
  • Akane's ending in Suika is just disturbing and comes out of nowhere. She apparently stabs Yoshikazu to death and hypnotizes his girlfriend into thinking that she (Akane) is him.
  • Parodied with the ending to Earthworm Jim 2, when at the very end Jim unzips his body and reveals that he was a cow all along. And so was Psycrowe. And Princess Whats-Her-Name.
  • Taken to horrifying levels in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories with the non-canon worst ending in which real Overlord Zenon possesses Adell and makes him brutally kill and devour his adopted siblings. So infamous that it gets compared to Silent Hill or NICE BOAT.
  • No More Heroes plays this for laughs in the final cut-scene of the real ending, when Henry reveals he's both Travis' long lost twin and Sylvia's husband.

Travis: What the hell? That's the craziest shit I've ever heard! Why would you bring up something like that at the very last minute of the game?
Henry: I would have thought you and the player would have at least expected a twist of fate of some kind.

  • Mass Effect 3 has an example that quickly became infamous: The Citadel houses an incomprehensibly ancient AI that created the Reapers to save organic civilization from the synthetic war they would 'inevitably' bring upon themselves. Shepard either controls, destroys, or pacifies the Reapers with the Crucible, which results in the destruction of the mass relays and a lot of Inferred Holocausts..


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • For years, Maytag of Flipside would at least proposition anyone who wasn't actively trying to kill her, and a few people who were; meanwhile, her paladin Bernadette seemed more-or-less asexual, even toward her. During a Retool, it was revealed that the two of them were not only monogamous lovers, but had been all along, followed by a series of unconvincing, probably accidental "hints." Not only that, but Bernadette had, before the series started, been involved with a minor character whose only role on camera was to be killed by The Dragon, and left her for infidelity. Technically, she never saw Maytag cheat, but that's when this contributor packed up his Willing Suspension of Disbelief and left.
  • In Irregular Webcomic, the "Me" character announced he was going to permanently kill off a popular major character. The death was him. It may also have possibly been Gwen Stacey from Spider Man.
  • Mortifer, has Wham! Episode as its staple trope, and it usually does a good job of having The Reveal make perfect sense in retrospect (through copious use of Chekhov's Gun and Foreshadowing). However, there is one twist that's notable for coming right out of nowhere—Namely, The Reveal in chapter 29 that Zebidiah is a demon, forced to serve Vlad against his will.
  • Platypus Comix's Keiki comic "Beefer Madness" started out with Beefer getting placed in an afterschool support group and meeting strange kids, such as a girl named Darcy who had a strong obsession with DC Comics. As the cartoonist continued the story, he realized Halloween was approaching, but he didn't have time to start a new, supernatural story. As a result, he decided to throw in some dramatic revelations about Darcy being a vampire and the support leader being a vampire hunter.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Mega 64 has what may be one of the biggest example. The episode "What the Hell Happened to Mega64?" starts with one of Dr. Poque's college friends coming to see him. In the first five minutes they're taken hostage by a mafia and the friend is killed, complete with blood splattering. The rest of the episode has Rocko, Derek and Shawn trying to rescue him. The episode ends with them learning the friend was the head of the Mafia. It's never really explained why he wants to kill Dr. Poque, why the Mafia were selling plush parrots, or how the friend is even alive. It gets even weirder when the friend is shot in the back by a guy wearing a sombrero, who then warps out. The creators said that it was a twist for the sake of a twist, and even the characters question it.
    • Not to mention the Super Mario Brothers episode in which Shigeru Miyamoto himself shows up in the video out of nowhere.
      • That's not a Shocking Swerve if you remember that the episode premiered during the 2007 Game Developers' Conference where Miyamoto was the keynote speaker.
    • They pulled off a similar, but bigger one in their The Beatles Rock Band episode, where they run into Gabe Newell. Who admits he has nothing to do with The Beatles.
  • How to Write Badly Well: End with a twist no reader could have reasonably foreseen

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • One Robot Chicken sketch parodies this by having several Shocking Swerves in a row. Each time, M. Night Shyamalan lampshades it by turning to the camera and exclaiming "What a twist!"
  • Revealing what actually happened in Guatamala between Abby and Heinrich in the Codename: Kids Next Door Operation: C.A.R.A.M.E.L.: Turns out Heinrich was actually Henrietta...
  • Winx Club, season 2: One of the teachers turns out to be an evil clone. It's a legitimate twist in the original... but not so much in the dub, where the spell that was shot at the teacher in an earlier episode was changed to a Sphere of Truth spell, which should have revealed this.
  • Adventure Time: The ending of Tree Trunks consists of lovable old Tree Trunks, for those who haven't seen the show is an old elephant who makes apple pies, suddenly explodes right out of nowhere at the end of the episode after taking a bite from the Crystal Gem Apple.
    • It turns out she was sent to a crystalline dimension where she's queen. But Jake and Finn were able to take her back home.
  • South Park ran a three part arc where the mystery of Kenny's ability to die endlessly was explained. The boys had been playing superheroes, with one of the children playing the laughable "Mint-Berry Crunch," a half-man, half-berry. Everything built up to a confrontation between Kenny and Cthulhu. Then, out of nowhere, Mint-Berry Crunch turns out to be an actual superhero sent to earth as a protector, and he literally punches out Cthulhu.
    • Scott Tenorman Must Die. The perfect South Park example for this trope.
    • The Critters from "Woodland Critter Christmas" start out as a regular parody of saccharine, insipid Christmas specials...until we find out that they are devoted followers of Satan, hellbent on bringing about the advent of the Antichrist. One moment they are happy and cheerful, the very next they're sacrificing a disturbingly willing Rabbitty and having an orgy with his corpse (and they're still happy and cheerful).
    • This is also seen as one of South Park's funnier episode, showing that it IS possible to use this trope right.
      • But only in Comedy.
  • As mentioned in further detail on the Wham! Episode page, the season finale of Total Drama World Tour is one of these, what with the feral Ezekiel stealing and destroying the money and some of the cast possibly being killed by Chekhov's Volcano, probably just so there's an implicit excuse to use new characters in the fourth season.
    • Actually it's been confirmed that everybody survived, although characters like Alejandro have received serious injuries.

Notes

  1. The match was DDP (Champion) & Arquette versus Jeff Jarrett & Bischoff, with a stipulation that whoever scored the pinfall would win the championship. Without making any kind of Face Heel Turn, Arquette innocently pinned Bischoff and won the title from his own team-mate