Top 10 Uses of Foreshadowing in TV
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nathan Sharp
Wow, they really do think far ahead! Join http://www.WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Instances of Foreshadowing in TV. For this list, we're looking at examples of television foreshadowing, such as the use of a seemingly unimportant plot point or piece of dialogue that ends up revealing an important part of the story later in the series.
Special thanks to our users TheRimGreaper, Sanderson Sister, TheHappySacs and rockstar9108 for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Nathan Sharp
Top 10 Instances of Foreshadowing in TV
Wow, they really do think far ahead! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 instances of foreshadowing in TV.
For this list, we’re looking at examples of television foreshadowing, such as the use of a seemingly unimportant plot point or piece of dialogue that ends up revealing an important part of the story later in the series. To be eligible, it has to be a legit form of foreshadowing that was clearly intended by the writers, meaning no fan theories or coincidences. We’re also limiting it to one instance per TV show. Also, a spoiler alert is in order.
#10: Finn’s Lost Arm
One of the Cartoon Network’s treasures, “Adventure Time” has been a hit for both teenagers and older audience members alike as it follows a human boy and his magical dog in the Land of Ooo. On their adventures, they meet alternate versions of themselves, many of which portray Finn without his right arm, which is odd considering that he has both of them. It’s not until season six that we get our answer as to why he’s portrayed this way, as Finn loses his arm to the Grass Sword.
“Adventure Time” (2010-)
#9: Lane Pryce’s Suicide
“Mad Men” was still in its heyday during its fifth season, and this episode only helped raise the excitement. In the 12th episode, Lane Pryce hangs himself after being forced to resign for stealing money from the company. However, if you paid close attention throughout the season, this act by Pryce would be no surprise to you. Examples include Pete discussing life insurance in the event of suicide, Pryce himself ironically exclaiming, “I’ll be here for the rest of my life!”, and even Don sketching a noose. Suffice it to say that the show’s writers knew exactly where they were going with Pryce.
“Mad Men” (2007-15)
#8: Scully’s Howler
This season 4 episode is not only notable for being written by Vince Gilligan of “Breaking Bad” fame, but also for introducing a major story element. “Unruhe” sees Mulder and Scully track down a killer who gives lobotomies to women. When he captures Scully, he tells her that she has “howlers” in her head that he wants to remove. Fast forward to a few weeks later in the 12th episode, when it is revealed that Scully has brain cancer, and wouldn’t you know it… it’s in the exact same place that the lobotomy killer pointed to.
“The X-Files” (1993-2002)
#7: Expiration Date
“Buffy” became a major contender for fantasy show of the decade, thanks in no small part to its numerous uses of foreshadowing. This includes the famous lesbian alternate Willow and the character’s eventual revelation of her sexuality. But for this entry, we’re focusing on Joyce’s credit card, which has an expiration date of May 2001, as read out loud by Faith. Fast forward one season, when Buffy tragically dies by jumping into a portal. This episode’s airdate? May 22, 2001. Looks like the expiration date of the credit card was actually referring to the expiration of Buffy’s life - and knowing Joss Whedon, there is no way that this was just a coincidence.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)
#6: Watch Your Back
This space western is notable for being planned out in advance from the beginning, so of course the head writer, J. Michael Straczynski, would drop many hints and bits of foreshadowing throughout its run. One of the best examples has to be when Walker Smith tells Chief Warrant Officer Michael Garibaldi that he’s going to learn to watch his back. Well, you can guess what happens next. During the first season finale, Garibaldi is shot in the back in an attempt to keep an assassination plot a secret. If he’d been watching it like Smith told him to, then maybe this wouldn’t have been an issue.
“Babylon 5” (1993-98)
#5: Nibbler’s Shadow
Well-known for its intricate stories and complex lore, Matt Groening’s other cartoon baby follows an eclectic group of individuals in the 31st century. In the pilot, Fry accidentally falls into a cryogenic device. Or does he? If you look very closely, you can see a mysterious shadow on the ground right after he tips over. It’s not until the fourth season that we discover that Nibbler is actually responsible for pushing Fry into the cryogenic tube, which accounts for the extra shadow seen in the pilot sixty-three episodes earlier.
#4: Ben Sullivan’s Absent Camera
In one of the “feelsiest” “Scrubs” episodes of all time, Ben’s famous death proves just how fine a line this show walks between comedy and drama. While Ben is a little irritating, he means well. He also always has his camera, even proclaiming that his camera will be with him until he is no longer alive. Well, later in the episode, his camera is mysteriously absent, and no one seems to acknowledge Ben except for Cox. It’s not until the end of the episode that it’s all painfully put together.
#3: Marvin Eriksen’s Death
“This is supposed to be a comedy!” That’s what everyone yelled at their screen as they discreetly wiped away their man tears after hearing of Marvin’s death via heart attack. However, an innocent throwaway joke predicted the event two seasons earlier. As Marshall cuts the Thanksgiving turkey in a flash-forward, his father Marvin is mysteriously absent from the family table. While this is obviously not a 100% accurate scenario, since, you know, light sabers, it’s still a haunting depiction of their family life in the near future when Marvin senior is no longer with them.
“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)
#2: Light vs. Dark
“Lost” is chock-full of foreshadowing, lore, and complexities, but that’s what fans love so much about it. In its first season, as John Locke and Walt Lloyd play backgammon, Locke explains the game using the concept of light vs. dark. To all those English majors out there, it’s obvious that the scene is not just filler about backgammon, as it explains the moral complexities of the characters, and reveals the rivalry between Jacob (white) and the Man in Black (dark). And as it turns out, the island is just one big game of backgammon…
Before we go into the future with our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Loose Seal
- “Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-)
- The Snare
- “The Walking Dead” (2010-)
- Leslie Knope’s Womb
- “Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)
- George Washington Portrait
- “House of Cards” (2013-)
- Lion Turtle Images
- “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)
#1: Pink Teddy Bear
“Breaking Bad” had a fantastic second season thanks in no small part to the black and white cold opens, which included haunting images of dead bodies and a mysterious pink teddy bear. It left us wondering just what the hell it meant all the way until the season finale when we finally find out the devastating truth. After Jane dies, her air traffic controller father accidentally causes two planes to crash when he loses focus as a result of his grief for his deceased daughter. Thanks to Walter White’s indirect role in the collision, and the eventual discovery of the teddy bear’s origins, we realize that the bear is also a dark and horrifying symbol of the protagonist’s descent into evil.
“Breaking Bad” (2008-13)
Do you agree with our list? What instances of foreshadowing in TV did you notice? For more mind blowing top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.