The 30 most shocking TV moments of 2020
From Baby Yoda's name to McDreamy's return, we've rounded up 30 television moments from 2020 that we won't soon forget.
When Eminem won an Oscar in 2003, he was nowhere to be found. So it was particularly shocking when he showed up to perform "Lose Yourself" in 2020, 17 years after the track won for Best Original Song. His performance really made no sense, but it left us with some great crowd reactions, most notably an unamused Martin Scorsese. —Samantha Highfill
Netflix “un-renewed” many series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this one hurt the worst. GLOW was an award-winning, unique, female-created/ran show about a diverse group of women. And the show's BIPOC stars revealed that they came together to demand better, more inclusive, and authentic storytelling for their characters in what was to be the show's last season. After a productive Zoom call with the showrunners and Netflix executives, the cast was presented with "specific, tangible resolutions to address our concerns… We were all so hopeful and very excited by the opportunity to do a new season with these changes implemented. But now, unfortunately, because the show is canceled, the fans of GLOW won't get to see what could have been, and how our show would have been different… an actual 'ensemble' show." —Sydney Bucksbaum
Heading into the Supernatural series finale, fans knew to expect something big. But what they didn't expect was for a Winchester to be taken out by some vamps less than halfway into the hour. After dying more than 100 times on the series, Dean Winchester went out for good thanks to a strong vamp and a poorly placed piece of rebar. His death was utterly devastating, but once fans cried all the tears, they still had half an hour left to see how the Winchester story would end. Series finales often feature big moves, but it's not often that they happen so quickly into an episode. —S.H.
This Is Us loves a twist, a puzzle, a chance to upset the equilibrium in Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) life. The latest development arrived in the season 5 premiere, when viewers revisited the day of Randall’s birth/adoption. As it turns out, the story that Randall had been told by William (Ron Cephas Jones) — that his biological mother, Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes), had died from a drug overdose shortly after the was born — was not the full one. When the paramedics pronounced Laurel dead, William fled the scene. But then…. one of the paramedics noticed that she still had a pulse, and sure enough, she suddenly gasped for air. Is she still alive today? Did William later learn that she was revived? And who is this Vietnamese grandfather that holds her dear? A new mystery — and another family member — comes to life. —Dan Snierson
Nicholas Gonzalez’s Dr. Melendez was gravely injured in an earthquake that rolled through San Jose in The Good Doctor’s season 3 finale. But with a burgeoning romance with Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) in the offing and no word of behind-the-scenes drama, we all expected him to survive his injuries — and were wrong. Melendez succumbed to his wound in the second hour and Gonzalez exited the show. “It was a really, really difficult choice," showrunner David Shore told EW. "But I’ve always felt in running shows that it can’t just be, 'Oh my God, is he going to die?! No he’s not.' I think in a medical show in particular, you have to set up situations where people might die regularly, guest cast and your regulars. Every now and again you have to be true to that, or else the stakes lose their stakes even in the other stories.” —Chancellor Agard
The 100 has always been a deadly and bloody TV shows, but killing off Bellamy (Bob Morley) three episodes before the finale in an unnecessarily cruel way crossed a line. His entire character evolution and betrayal of his friends in the final season wasn’t earned (even though he turned out to be right about Transcendence) and having his best friend Clarke (Eliza Taylor) shoot him because of that just didn’t make sense. It ruined the main relationship of the series, and as a result, the ending as well. —S.B.
The return of live television brought with it a few unforgettable moments, most notably that time Emmys host Jimmy Kimmel and presenter Jennifer Aniston nearly burned down the whole show. What started as a funny bit about how to properly sanitize envelopes nearly ended in disaster. And quite frankly, it would've if Aniston hadn't been so ready and willing to put that extinguisher to good use. —S.H.
When Grey's Anatomy abruptly killed Derek (Patrick Dempsey) in 2015, fans were shocked. The actor's contract was cut short, and there was talk of drama on set. So imagine how shocking it was when, in 2020, Dempsey returned! With Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) battling COVID-19, her dreams find her on a beach, where her dead loved ones love to gather. Derek was the first major surprise but not the last: A couple episodes later George (T.R. Knight) returned to the series after 12 years away! —S.H.
Schitt's Creek was never one for a shocking twist. That simply wasn't part of the DNA of the show during its six-season run. But when it came time for the series finale, the beloved comedy surprised everyone by revealing that the entire time the Roses have been in town, local waitress Twyla (Sarah Levy) has been rich. Turns out, she won the lottery years ago! Sometimes good things do happen to good people. —S.H.
The internet still isn't over Hulu's decision to cancel the Zoe Kravitz-led High Fidelity series after its great first season. But that wasn't the only cancellation to catch us by surprise this year. The CW announced the final seasons of not one but two of its superhero series, Supergirl and Black Lightning. —S.H.
Atticus Freeman’s (Jonathan Majors) mortality loomed over him throughout Lovecraft Country's first season as many forces conspired to kill him — from everyday racists to an ancient secret society hoping to sacrifice him in a terrible ritual. Nevertheless, we all assumed he’d find a way to survive because he was the show’s main character and this is TV after all. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and Tic died during Christina’s ritual in the season 1 finale. And, according to Majors, he’s very dead. —C.A.
Due to the pandemic, The Good Fight’s fourth season ended early with the seventh episode, which saw the show’s lawyers investigate convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death. The investigation led Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) and Marissa (Sarah Steele) to Epstein’s private island in search of something called “Bud” — except they didn’t find anything when they arrived, or so they believed. As the duo left, the camera traveled through a crack in a wall and revealed what Bud was: Epstein's cytogenetically preserved penis and brain. Odds are no one could’ve guessed that would’ve been the season's final visual. (Even more surprising is that this fictional reveal is inspired by fact.) —C.A.
One of the biggest mysteries in The Boys’ daring second season was the secret identity of whoever’s been psychically exploding heads. Turns out, the answer was in our faces in the premiere episode. The Boys hold a secret meeting with CIA Deputy Director Susan Raynor (Jennifer Esposito) only to find themselves drenched her blood when her head spontaneously explodes all over them. Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) asks Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), “Who do you know who can do that?” The screen then cuts to a television interview with Congresswoman Neuman (Claudia Doumit), the AOC-esque politician supposedly fighting to hold the corporate supe overlords at Vought accountable. The season finale reveals that she is actually the head-popping supe. —Nick Romano
They say the devil works hard, but Bachelor producers work harder — and that certainly was the case for this date between Peter Weber and season 24 villain Victoria F. During a visit to Cedar Point amusement park in Cleveland, Peter surprised Victoria with a special concert by country star Chase Rice… who, unbeknownst to him, used to be Victoria’s boyfriend! “He was singing to me and he was, like, making these faces at me,” she whimpered in a confessional. “Because he told me that he didn’t want me to come on the show.” Things got even more uncomfortable when producers had poor Peter chat with Chase after the concert… only to find out hours later that they both swapped spit with Victoria. If the Emmys handed out awards for trolling, The Bachelor’s trophy case would be full. —Kristen Baldwin
On May 17, Batwoman season 1 ended with Alice (Rachel Skarsten) making Hush (Gabriel Mann) a new face so he could infiltrate the Bat-Team as Bruce Wayne (Warren Christie). That exciting cliffhanger left audiences eager to see how Bruce’s cousin Kate Kane/Batwoman (Ruby Rose) and his friend Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) would react when they came face to face with him. But then two days later, news broke that Rose was leaving the show, raising so many questions about Batwoman’s future — especially since the entire story was built around the Kane family. Well, the producers found a way because Javicia Leslie was cast as the new Batwoman two months later. —C.A.
As the U.S. shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic in March, it bred the perfect storm for the booming success of Netflix’s Tiger King. Audiences clamored for a distraction as the train wreck documentary about controversial wildcat owners, mainly Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, unraveled across seven episodes with a focus on Exotic’s obsession with bringing down Baskin, which led to a 22-year prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot against her. Baskin, who now owns Exotic’s zoo as part of a settlement, sparked suspicion of her own in connection to the 1997 disappearance of her husband. Between the terrible music videos, surprise love triangles, and possible connections to murder, everything about this series was shocking. —Rosy Cordero
Despite the best efforts of Lucasfilm to get us to use the moniker “The Child,” The Mandalorian’s adorable tyke quickly became known by his nickname “Baby Yoda.” But in season 2, we got an official name for the child that melted a million hearts: Grogu. The reveal came via jedi Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) when she was able to commune with Grogu using the Force. Mando (Pablo Pascal) had some fun addressing him by his newly discovered name, but let’s be honest, we’re all still going to call him Baby Yoda, right? —Maureen Lee Lenker
Ken Jennings’ victory in January’s Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament was riveting if not exactly shocking, as the 74-time Jeopardy! champion adopted rival contender James Holzhauer’s game-changing strategy to prevail. Much more surprising was a moment earlier in the tournament, when Jennings gleefully said “OK Boomer” to host Alex Trebek. Although it was a (correct) response to a clue, Jennings’ sheer joy in delivering the much-memed putdown (“I get to say it to Alex!”) made the moment an instant candidate for all Jeopardy! highlight reels. —Tyler Aquilina
Before shows were able to go back into production, the COVID-19 pandemic forced series to get creative if they wanted to deliver new episodes. Shows like Mythic Quest and All Rise shot entire episodes via Zoom. Then there's The Blacklist, which ended its seventh season with an animated finale, a first for the series. Needless to say, the early days of the pandemic gave new meaning to the phrase "the show must go on." —S.H.
The final half-season of BoJack Horseman was full of twists and turns, unraveling the redemption arc the equine antihero (Will Arnett) had seemingly completed in the first half. But the show saved its most shocking turn for its penultimate episode, which found BoJack reunited with all the characters we’d seen die over the previous five seasons, including Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci), and Zach Braff (yes, that Zach Braff). And that was mere prelude to yet another twist, as BoJack slowly realized he was near death himself, drowning in his pool while on a bender. The show ultimately pulled him back from the abyss, but the effect of that chilling half-hour lingered through the series finale and the rest of the year. —T.A.
After The Challenge competitor Dee Nguyen tweeted racially insensitive comments, MTV officially and publicly cut ties with her. And while the network announced that the rest of season 35, aka The Challenge: Total Madness, would air "as planned," the second half of the season was actually edited to cut Dee completely out, with some episodes clocking in at only an hour instead of an hour-and-a-half. The rest of the season suffered greatly as a result, because Dee was embroiled in much of the drama and yet she and major events talked about by other contestants were never shown onscreen. The hatchet job was so obvious and frustrating to watch, knowing that fans were missing most of the good stuff. Thankfully she didn’t make it to the finale. —S.B.
The snowy-blasphemous offshoot of Bravo’s Housewives franchise was already coming on strong with frequent divorce, ambient pole dancing, incoherently passionate feuding at theme parties, and the surprising revelation that Salt Lake City has some heavy drinkers. And then there was Mary, arriving for her first scene in yellow leggings, purple sunglasses, sparkly beret, and clothes of every color. Mary happens to be married to her former step-grandfather. “It was kind of in my grandma’s will for us to marry,” she explained in a confessional. Look, Entertainment Weekly is not here to judge anyone’s life choices. But this unique marital arrangement certainly got RHSLC off and running! —Darren Franich
Hunters’ first season definitely made an impression with its gutsy, often provocative storytelling. But its biggest shocker came in the final moments of the finale. Hitler didn’t die in 1945 by suicide as the history books tell us. He’s still alive and has been living in Argentina under the radar this whole time. A battered Joe (Louis Ozawa) is kidnapped and brought there at the behest of the head of the Nazis who we've come to know as The Colonel (Lena Olin). She looks upon his face at her estate and remarks, “You look like tomorrow, and tomorrow we begin anew.” Before we can learn what she means by that, Joe is sat at a table for lunch. That’s when an old man with a familiar mustache who’s addressed as "Adolf" emerges. He then refers to The Colonel by another familiar name, "Eva," as in, Evan Braun, Hitler’s wife. It then becomes even more brutally clear that all the blonde-haired children running to take a seat at the table are their children. What's a more direct way in 2020 to say, "Hey, America didn’t actually squash out Nazism like they said they did"? —N.R.
In the age of social media spoilers, how do you still shock an audience? Well, try pulling a Janet Leigh in Psycho and plastering your show’s most recognizable star all over billboards and promotional material, only to kill him in the pilot. When Big Sky was first announced, audiences were excited to see Ryan Phillippe return to TV as private detective Cody Hoyt. But the show pulled the rug out from everyone when Officer Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) shot Cody in the head in the premiere’s final moments. That’s one way to make a mind-blowing first impression. —M.L.
Writing a historical drama can sometimes make it harder to pull off a true shock, but despite the historical record being available to all, The Spanish Princess landed an emotional gut punch with the execution of Edward Stafford (Olly Rix). Over the course of two seasons, Stafford went from carefree playboy to one of Catherine’s (Charlotte Hope) fiercest supporters, but that ultimately proved his downfall. When Henry VIII (Ruari O’Connor) sentenced Stafford to death on trumped up charges of treason, Catherine expected the king to grant a last-minute reprieve. When he didn’t, Stafford lost his head in a truly gory sequence that was perhaps the show’s most tragic moment as we watched this stalwart courtier go down with dignity and unwavering loyalty. —M.L.
Given the amount of morally and legally questionable acts committed over six seasons, we knew not everyone would make it out of How to Get Away With Murder alive. But while Frank’s (Charlie Weber) death was expected (and probably morally necessary given his tally as a hitman), we didn’t anticipate the brutal one-two punch of Bonnie (Liza Weil) going down alongside him. When Frank gets taken out by secret service after assassinating the governor on the steps of a Philadelphia courthouse, a stray bullet also hits Bonnie. She clings to Frank as he dies in her arms, but suddenly, she and Annalise (Viola Davis) realize it’s not just Frank’s blood pouring from her blouse. It’s a gut-wrenching moment, and an acting master class from Davis as she begs Bonnie to come back. But for this twisted Romeo and Juliet, it’s also a fitting conclusion to their tale of woe. —M.L.
When you know, you know. And the moment season 16 Bachelorette Clare Crawley saw former pro football player Dale Moss in the flesh, she knew. “I definitely feel like I just met my husband,” she gushed to producers when Dale stepped out of the limo on night one. And a few weeks later, Clare told host Chris Harrison that she was ready to leave the Bachelorette bubble in Palm Springs with Dale in tow. That night(!), Dale dutifully got down on one knee and received Clare’s final rose — which made everyone, especially all the viewers who were sick of watching The Clare and Dale Show, very happy. And since producers had fan favorite Tayshia Adams waiting in the wings to fill Clare’s heels, Bachelor Nation’s viewing “journey” continued uninterrupted. —K.B.
One star singing this Sondheim standard would have been enough to make us happy, but when you’re saluting a musical icon like Stephen Sondheim turning 90, you go bigger and boozier. Which is why we were treated to the surprise roller-coaster of seeing Christine Baranski(!), then Meryl Streep(!!), and then Audra McDonald(!!!) all in their bathrobes, fixing drinks while singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, marking perhaps the only time since the pandemic started that you felt FOMO over not being included in a video chat. We’ll drink to that. —Jessica Derschowitz
For its first five seasons, Schitt's Creek seemed to live under the radar, but in its sixth and final season, it got all the recognition and then some. The comedy made Emmys history when it broke the record for most wins by a comedy in a single season and also became the only show to ever win all four acting categories in the same year as stars Dan Levy, Eugene Levy, Annie Murphy, and Catherine O'Hara all took home acting trophies. In total, the series won seven Emmys (and two Creative Arts Emmy Awards). We love that journey for them! —S.H.
The Breaking Bad spin-off has had its fair share of gunplay, but plot threads about cartel violence usually played out far away from the courtroom antics of ever-shadier attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). In “Bagman,” directed by Bad creator Vince Gilligan, Jimmy goes to the desert to fetch $7 million worth of bail money for his murderous client Lalo (Tony Dalton.) All plans go awry when he’s stopped by three cars full of gunmen, who take his moneybags and put a gun in his face. Jimmy’s life is saved, sort of, when guardian angel Mike (Jonathan Banks) takes out most of his attackers. It’s a moment of shockingly eye-opening brutality, showing Jimmy the fatal facts of life in the dangerous criminal world he has chosen to inhabit. —D.F.