Oh, spoiler alert.
We here at The 500 only respect those that respect themselves enough to respectfully spend every waking minute of free time scouring Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, network television (just kidding), and bootleg internet downloads for the best the now decade long Golden Era of Television has to offer. By 2016, we’re already winding down from the heights of said, media created era, with high brow and high entertainment shows like Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Lost having come and gone. But the coming of winter, along with snippets of Soviet intrigue and weirder White House intrigue, have kept the second era of this age moving at a nice, bingy speed.
The Netflix-ization of TV has allowed for many stories to be told that would never have made it on the air in the ancient days of three network domination, but the plethora of storytelling hasn’t diminished the quality of the art either. TV (and film) can be our go to escapism for our stories, but plot alone doesn’t keep us glued to the auto-credit of $7.99 a month. Despite the existence of a script and spoiler filled internet, we the audience still revel in the moments of the unknown, caught off guard moments that TV and movies can provide. Its the reason many screenwriters and TV show runners recognize as their most valuable tool to wield: timing. After LOST and Reddit gave birth to the concept of internet water cooler talk for TV conspiracy theory and fan guessing din, those making television drama realize the timing of already assumed plot points is their best weapon against this off screen experience. So, what better way than to pick out our favorite TV moments that intentionally, completely, and successfully caught us off guard, blindsinded our expectations, and sent us reeling and aghast that such a thing could happen to our investment in people that don’t actually exist. We might hate expecting the worst to our favorite characters, but it’s actually what keeps us coming back every Sunday/clicking “next episode”. A chance to share in that moment of simultaneous anticipation and surprise. Its pretty much like watching baseball, minus the 3 hours of preceding boredom.
On to the “OH SH#T” Moments!
5. LOST – Season 2 Episode 1 “Man of Science, Man of Faith” [Season Premier] aka Desmond in The Hatch
LOST, fairly and unfairly, became the Donald Trump of TV’s Golden Age. Initially started off as a glitzy and expensive network TV drama, then welcomed as a strange, national icon, only to spiral into a world of public ridicule and hatred with a cult like following at the very end. My personal take was there was always way too much focus on a need for answers to questions that had no answer to begin with and just enjoy the ride. Which admittedly was not most fans. But hey, that alternative approach is like hopping on a roller coaster expecting to go somewhere, only to realize it ends where you got on. But its the ride we remember! Following this (very large) cast of characters on their journey into the unknown (which ended exactly there, in the unknown) was a welcomed nurturing of sorts. We got to know Jack, Kate, Locke, Charlie, Hurley, Sawyer, Desmond, even Mr. Ecko (Nikki and Pablo?) over 6 years and they became something to cherish. Even if we didn’t know what we were rooting to happen to them, we were rooting for them all the way.
Of course, LOST was also a masterpiece in TV making. The massive set piece that was a Hawaiian island, the concept of flashbacks to dive into the backgrounds and contradictions of each character, the utilization of mystery and symbolism, all fed into the off screen internet frenzy that LOST fans made and consumed, to make it one of our first 365 days TV shows. So credit to where credit is due, including the first time LOST really messed with our heads in the first episode of Season 2. After settling in on the beach with the occasional jaunt into the jungle, Season 1 seems like a calm Sandals getaway compared to the insanity and twists the show would throw at the audience for the next 5 years. The Hatch went from some weird C Plot in season one to the core of all things DHARMA and Others. And LOST show runner Damon Lindelof sure wanted to make an introduction. Expecting to see tiki torches and beach camp survivors, Season 2 starts with some weird montage of uber healthy, upper middle class apartment living only to reveal to us where the hell we really are. From the beeping that LOST fans would soon know all too well, to the iconic eye opening, all glazed with Cass Elliot’s 60s pop vibes that quickly devolves into at “wtf is going on?” mode, Season 2’s opening scene is everything we loved and hated about watching LOST.
4. Inception – Final Scene aka The Spinner
Ok, we’re cheating. Not a TV show, but hey, just as powerful and every media related blog post should always have a tribute to Mr. Christopher Nolan, aka the Spielberg of the 21st Century. While Nolan’s movies always hem on the interesting, weird, but somewhat not too far outside of our own reality, Inception was probably one of the most daring blockbuster movie plots of the last 10 years. In most movie makers’ hands, the thing would have been too confusing and flopped. But Nolan was able to pull off explaining a concept that really can’t be explained, dreaming, and put together an entertaining, action thrilling plot with plenty of intrigue and even more fantastic acting. Non footnote, footnote: Leo in the midst of peak Leo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s breakout, Ellen Page at the height of her little run, the vastly and consistently underrated Ken Watanabe and Cillian Murphy, the return of Tom Berenger, Michael Caine filling his usual Nolan movie space, Marion Cotillard giving us a glimpse of things to come and of course Tom Hardy. Hardy needs no explanation for his greatness as a 500 GOAT. Here’s to you Tom, forever and ever.
Anyways, Nolan pulled it off, with just enough dash of confusing and questioning that hit the sweet spot between thriller and mystery. Of course, that feeling lingered well after leaving the movie thanks to the final scene’s wobbly sendoff.
3. Breaking Bad – Season 5 Episode 8 “Gliding Over All” [Mid-Season Finale] aka Hank’s “Oh Shit” on the Toilet
Somehow I still feel like Breaking Bad has been underwatched, even though its race to the end during the Summer/Fall of 2013 captured America’s TV audience like a 2 month long Bronco chase. If you’re a diehard Ted Cruz fan, you might not appreciate BB’s best quality as a TV show: evolution. As simple as the initial pitch of “Chemistry Teacher Cooks Meth to Pay for Cancer Treatment” with Malcolm’s Dad in the lead, I guess all complex species have to start at some single sell organism somewhere. I know, bio, not chem, but I got a B- in chem, so the science jokes are going to be limited from here on out. As most of us were binging BB to catch up to the start of the final season on Netflix, we soon realized we started to question our own moral/litigious compasses when we started to vehemently root for a drug making, substance dealing, off and on murderer, only to be reinforced by the internet’s declaration of war against his really just innocent, normal wife. By the time we rolled through nights with a fly, air catastrophes, and local chicken fronts, we were fully on Team Heisenberg by mid-season 5 finale. The set up is amazing. Walter White has vanquished Gustavo and what was left of his imprisoned network (via a wonderfully, sadistic montage), goes global (or at least Czech) with his new found friend Lydia, and builds up a nestegg that seems to satisfy his fiduciary needs. Jesse and Walter seem to come to terms and peacefully part ways while Walt finally tells Skylar “ok, I’m out”. BB’s show runner Vince Gilligan even lulls us into a sense of satisfaction and comfort, letting our minds wonder if all is well in the world of Walter White, as his family gather’s with the Schraders for some afternoon grilling. And then, Hank takes a poo…
2. LOST – Season 3 Episode 23 “Through the Looking Glass Part 2” [Season Finale] aka We Have to Go Back!
You might guess by now, I’m a diehard LOST defender. And from Season 1-3, it really is the most unique, fun experiences in television history. Then something about time travel and a guy that sees ghosts and I get why America bailed.
Personally, the Mount Everest of the show’s moment of surprise (in a series built out of shocking turns) was the final episode of Season 3. By this time, Team Survivors vs. Team Others is at a peak and hope is on the horizon with signs that a ‘rescue team’ is offshore. The episode featured one of LOST’s most iconic moments with Charlie warning Desmond in The Looking Glass station that said rescue team might not be who they say they are.
Of course, this is unbeknownst to the chaos on the island as Jack and Locke continue their hyper-philosophical battle of dick-measuring while survivors of an airplane crash are once again marched through a jungle in reluctant reliance. By the time Jack gets a radio signal from apparently Not Penny’s Boat, we start to question whether anyone is ever getting off this rock.
But the treasure, as usual, is in the LOST flashbacks. Parallel to the on-island chaos, this episodes’ flashback follows a bearded, drunker than usual Jack around Los Angeles and airplanes, with little explanation for his actions. Flying to nowhere, visiting a funeral parlor in a part of LA that is not frequented by surgeons, and random car crashes where Jack performs rescue heroics like he will on Day 1 of The Island. And then the twist. A random meeting near the LAX runways with someone we already know, but possibly couldn’t be from Jack’s past. After about 30 seconds of asking 57985915 questions about how this was possible, I immediately realized what was going on, I subsequently LOST my shit. From that moment on, I was all in. No matter how wacky the show got, I had to go back…
1. Game of Thrones – All of It
This should come as a surprise to no one. The entire universe is built on a bedrock of fire, ice, and wtf?! I won’t even write anything, other than we’ll all probably crucify Benioff and Weiss if/when they actually kill off Jon Snow, Arya, and Tyrion. Although no single scene resonates like the previous 4 (mainly because we all learned to let our guard down very early on and I personally thought the Robb Stark storyline died long before the Red Wedding), the fact that GOT has so many moments that shocked our collective confidence (except for the book nerds, albeit they would have felt the same earlier, if nerds had human emotions), means it has to be number 1. Without further ado, the 5 most OH SH#T moments from GOT, least shocking to most OH SH#T-ness:
1a. Ned Stark’s Execution
1b. The Red Viper’s Headache
1c. The Red Wedding
1d. The Purple Wedding
1e. Jon Snow’s Assassination (?)