Ah, the gotcha moments: Some of the most memorable scenes on television are the ones that no one sees coming. They sweep you off your feet and slam you to the floor. You’re appalled, angered, overjoyed, jumping up and down or utterly speechless. These are TV’s most shocking moments, and 2017 has already seen its fair share of stunning twists.
Below, we’ve collected the most shocking scenes of the year so far. Some are dramatic and overpowering. Others are hilarious and exciting. The only mandate is that they happened on TV in the past six months, so sit back, relax, and prepare to be stunned all over again… and again, and again, and again.
[Editor’s Note: We’ve done our best to keep spoilers out of the bolded titles and photos, but read the explanations with caution if you’re worried about being exposed to major secrets.]
“Twin Peaks” – The Arrival
Literally everything about “Twin Peaks” has been surprising — Dougie, talking heads floating through space, its very existence — but when “The Return” revealed a character we’ve never seen before, her arrival changed the game forever. For years, decades even, there was an argument over whether or not we should have ever seen Diane, the mysterious secretary Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) always spoke to when recording his thoughts. Some argued we had to meet her, now that “Twin Peaks” was coming back, while others said it was better to keep her a mysterious, inexplicable force in Cooper’s life. Still others thought she didn’t even exist. Well she does, and she looks a lot like a pissed off Laura Dern. Whether you love her, hate her, or still think she’s a figment of Cooper’s imagination, the arrival of Diane is a major shift for a series built on constant unpredictability.
“The Detour” – The Kiddie Pool
“The Detour,” aside from being one of the most loving portraits of family on TV right now, has never shied away from especially disgusting moments. (This was the show, after all, that prominently featured projectile vomiting during Season 1’s roadtrip from hell.) But early on in this second season, as a jarring wake-up call to the realities of life in the Parkers’ new home of New York City, father Nate comes face-to-face with a very unexpected consequence of home birth. Running around his neighbors’ apartment, Nate tumbles headfirst into a kiddie pool filled with assorted, natural by-products of the birthing process. As Nate emerges from the pool with his face covered in stringy goop (the makeup/effects team earned their paycheck on this one), the look of sheer terror on Jason Jones’s face is a fair representation of what we’re guessing the average audience reaction was. The baby turned out just fine, but the miracle of life has never been quite this surprising.
“Guerrilla” – A Handful of Glass
Sky UK Limited/SHOWTIME
Throughout the opening episode of John Ridley’s miniseries about underground revolutionaries in 1970s London, there’s an undeniable feeling that a storm is coming. As the pieces are meticulously set in place for the drastic action of freeing political prisoner Dhari Bishop, one of the bits of preparation involves preparing shards of shattered glass. Watching Freda Pinto’s Jas have to smuggle the mixture into the prison is harrowing enough. But when the time comes for Dhari to make his escape, he takes some of the glass in his hand and considers it just long enough before swallowing all of it whole. It’s a horrific sequence to imagine, delivered with enough patience for the audience to realize what’s about to transpire mere seconds before it happens. Nathaniel Martello-White — the series’ unsung, simmering standout — plays both the act and the aftermath with the fortitude to make the viewer care about his cause.
“13 Reasons Why” – The Bathtub
It’s not so much what Hannah (Katherine Langford) did in that bathtub that was shocking — it was how much we saw happen. All season long, we’ve known that Hannah took her own life, but the series leaned on a mystery format to draw us in, make us work for the details… until we get a painful amount of information, all at once. Hannah cleans her room, climbs into a full bathtub, and slits her wrists, complete with a close-up on the actual razor slicing her skin.
It’s one of the most controversial moments of television this year, with many critics deeply concerned that it was so explicit that it bordered on exploitative. In a recent interview with IndieWire, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez said that he felt “it needed to be presented, because I think that omitting it, in fact, actually creates more trouble. It actually creates the ability for the audience to romanticize or kind of glorify in their minds.” Whatever side you fall on, there’s no doubt that it left an impression.
“American Gods” – The Sex Consumption
We’ve seen it before: flirtatious strangers at a bar who eventually end up back in someone’s bedroom for a impromptu encounter. What happened shortly thereafter in the pilot episode of “American Gods” set it apart from all other 2017 sex scenes entirely. Right at the height of passion, the unsuspecting, unnamed man slowly finds his way being willingly absorbed directly into his partner until he disappears. Bilquis’ sheer ecstasy of power made this more than just a dominant show of sexuality. It was a reminder that in this world, anything can happen, especially when the insatiable needs of the gods of lore demand to be met. We can’t wait to see what more Yetide Badaki gets to do in Season 2 (and we’re wondering how this changes the way we’ll rewatch Freddy Rumsen episodes of “Mad Men”).
“Orphan Black” – The Stomp
Losing any of the beloved “sestras” on “Orphan Black” was bound to be painful in the final season, but the manner in which the show viciously kills off MK (Tatiana Maslany) is a scene we wish could’ve been rewritten. When Ferdinand (James Frain) sees MK in a Rachel (Maslany) wig and realizes who she is, his crazed brain conflates the two: he hates MK for past indignities and stealing his money and still desires his ex-lover Rachel, who recently rebuffed his sexual advances. Ferdinand basically stomps MK to death by slamming his foot into her chest repeatedly. The camera doesn’t cut away fast enough, and her death is all far too convincing and inevitable. “Orphan Black” may be ending, but it will not go gentle into that good night.
Continue reading for more shocking moments from 2017, including traitors, snakes, and one doozy of a time jump.