Sometimes an author will spend a lot of time blatantly Foreshadowing
something, only to play with the audience's heads. When The Reveal
comes, the promised (implied, really) development never occurs. Which, by the way, is Irony
. May be the result of an Aborted Arc
. If what was foreshadowed seems to the audience to have been a lot more interesting than what ended up happening, They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot
Here there be spoilers.
See also The Untwist
, Bait and Switch
, Red Herring
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- Any and all subversions of Chekhov's Gun. See that page for examples.
Anime and Manga
- In the Sinnoh arc of Pokémon the Elite 4 and the Champion all make an appearance at separate points and it's almost set up that Ash will actually get to battle them. Shame he doesn't, no thanks to Tobias.
- The first half of Best Wishes has Ash's badge case have a clear slot for the Legend Badge. After getting the Icicle Badge, the Opelucid Gym is temporarily closed, so Ash eventually wins the Toxic Badge from Roxie instead.
- It's practically tradition that an (obviously) Always Someone Better trainer would be the one to prevent Ash from getting a tournament victory, which, in the Unova arc, fans would believe to be Virgil. Instead, it was Cameron, a worse Idiot Hero than Ash was.
- Despite all the hints through the series as to the real identity of Marin as Seiya's sister in Saint Seiya, she doesn't end up being his sister at all, the real sister is somewhere else.
- The very first scene of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which appears to be a Flash Forward, but never actually happens.
- The introduction of Chrono's Disappeared Dad in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's made it appear that he was the Mysterious Protector of the Wolkenritter, especially since the Mysterious Protector looked like an older Chrono and acted like he was familiar with Chrono. Nope, he was eventually revealed to be the disguised Cat Girl familiars of Gil Graham, the friend of Chrono's father who was trying to execute a plan to seal the Book of Darkness that killed him. Rewatching the season after knowing The Reveal shows that the writers foreshadowed that one too, but the popularity of the Luke, I Am Your Father trope allowed the Fauxshadowing to hide the actual Foreshadowing in plain sight.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds foreshadowed that the Big Bad Z-one was Yusei from a Bad Future. He turned out to be A random unnamed scientist who just assumed Yusei's identity so he could bring the world hope.
- Project Ako shows us A-ko a Person of Mass Destruction capable of feats of incredible speed and strength. Space aliens are searching for their long lost princess they left behind on Earth. Obviously the aliens have come to take A-ko away. Oh wait, no they're not. They're here for C-ko.
- This ended up happening to Orihime Inoue in Bleach. At the start of the series, her main power seems to be healing people, along with creating defensive shields. Partway through the Arrancar Saga, she's kidnapped by people working for the Big Bad, Aizen. Aizen tells her that her powers go far beyond what they seemed. Her real power is to flat out reject reality. If she wants, she can alter objects or restore them to a previous state. He demonstrates this by having her repair Grimmjow's missing arm, something that he claims can't be done with regular healing. Orihime develops a plan to use her ability to unmake the Hogyoku, a mystical object essential to Aizen's plans. Later on, Ulquiorra implies that Aizen has done something to modify Orihime. Ultimately, Orihime gets left behind in Hueco Mundo while Ichigo goes to confront Aizen, whom he manages to beat with a new power that leaves Aizen completely helpless, and causes him to be rejected by the Hogyoku. The possibility of her destroying it isn't brought up again, and Ulquiorra's words are never explained. In the end, despite all of the build up, she didn't contribute to Aizen's defeat in any way.
- The original ''Star Wars'' trilogy features several:
- Han Solo getting the feeling he's never going to see the Millenium Falcon again; probably a holdover from an earlier draft of the script, where he didn't see it again.
- Yoda proclaiming that Luke was not their last hope, implying that he would fail and that the "other" he was talking about (Leia) would have to take his place. An Infinities arc was later written that demonstrated this possibility.
- The "love triangle" of Luke/Leia/Han. Han and Leia end up together, but only after Luke and Leia have shared a few kisses that are never re-visited after they learn they're brother and sister.
- The whole film Sleepaway Camp seems to be setting up a reveal that Angie, the obvious suspect, is innocent, and Ricky is the real killer. Every time someone victimizes her who later ends up dead, Ricky always witnesses what they're doing to her and gets angry. That the head of the camp suspects him seems to be obviously part of the fake-out. Everything seems calculated to add up to Ricky being the killer for those who are watching carefully, but it's not too terribly overt. Then at the end it turns out that Angie really is the killer, and the real surprise is...well, let's just leave it that it's something else entirely, although that has been conservatively foreshadowed. A little bit.
- Wes Craven said on the commentary track of Wes Craven's New Nightmare that he had deliberately made two characters seem, very subtly, to be possible villains in disguise. He did this by introducing them with "was it really a false alarm or just foreshadowing?" moments, and by making their performances seem suspicious. One is a babysitter (who in the original draft of the screenplay was in league with Uber Freddy) and the other is a slimy chauffeur. Neither of them turns out to be either a villain or a threat: the babysitter ends up dying to save Dylan and the chauffeur is never seen again after his one introductory scene.
- Unstoppable has an excellent example in the form of Frank's death. He has a Fatal Family Photo, he retires in less than a month, and he even Tempts Fate at one point by remarking offhandedly to Will, "Don't get sentimental on me; it makes me feel like I'm gonna die." He survives to the end of the movie.
- Steven Spielberg has stated that upon seeing Forbidden Planet as a child, he was very disappointed that the movie never revealed what the Krell actually looked like, after the line about a characteristic triangular door shape throughout their compound being the only clue to their physical appearance.
- While everyone who knows about Audition (or catches sight of its DVD cover) knows just what's up with the enigmatic Asami, watching it in the mindset of someone unaware of the twist makes it apparent that the first half of the film set up many indicators of Asami being a ghost: her ethereal white-dressed beauty, Aoyama's friend commenting that something seems off about her and that none of the references she gave exist, and her sudden and mysterious disappearance one day that baffles Aoyama — all of which would make The Reveal even more shocking to an unknowing viewer who was expecting a quiet, romantic story.
- Martha Marcy May Marlene: The cult leader takes the protagonist (Martha) out to the woods to practice shooting. Turns out she's barely involved in the murder the cult perpetrate (and that is with a knife). Martha also spends much of her time swimming alone in a large lake by her sister's summer house and near the end of the film her sister cautions her that the day is quite cold for swimming, suggesting that Martha might meet a watery end. She doesn't.
- David Farland's The Runelords draws heavily upon Mormon theology, philosophy and symbolism, and one of the clearest examples is the wizard Binnesman, based on a Book of Mormon prophet named Abinadi. His confrontation and continual opposition to the evil king Raj Ahten make the comparisons clear almost from the first encounter between the two. Raj Ahten's ever-growing affinity for fire only serves to heighten the foreshadowing: Binnesman is clearly going to end up being burned to death by Raj Ahten, or at his command, which was the fate of Abinadi. Except... in the end, Raj Ahten is defeated and Binnesman is still alive, preserved by the author to meet an even stranger fate in the books that follow.
- Some people were very disappointed while reading The Shining. Early in the book, a character mentions a large picture window, how expensive it was to install, and to take care that it doesn't get broken. It doesn't get broken presumably until the scene where the hotel explodes, which does not mention the window.
- In the beginning of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery The Nine Tailors, the bumbling vicar explains how his dear old clock is going a bit slow these days. He always sets it an hour early when he winds it on Sunday morning - but if you can only remember that it is before time on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, accurate on Wednesday, and late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, why, it's a very excellent clock indeed! The Genre Savvy mystery reader expects a tricky alibi problem, but it never happens. The clock is only mentioned once more in the book. Lord Peter's manservant and the vicar's maid has an argument about cleaning it.
- The Discworld novel Maskerade, which is heavily inspired by the various versions of The Phantom of the Opera, has several characters remark that the giant chandelier in the middle of the Opera House is an accident waiting to happen. At the end of the book, it still hasn't fallen, though that's not for lack of the villain trying.
- In Hero of Ages, the third book of Mistborn, a character, Marsh is under mind-control from Big Bad Ruin. He has enough Heroic Willpower to resist once, and his thoughts in his POV sections make it clear he intends to use this to kill himself at a key point, depriving Ruin of his services. Nope- he uses it to rip out Vin's earring- revealed as a kind of minor Artifact of Doom- thereby allowing her to break free of its influence and ascend to a Physical God type state, where she can face Ruin directly. Marsh is one of the only POV characters to survive the entire series.
- Happens quite a bit in Egil's Saga. One example is of Egil himself, who had a long and incredibly bitter feud with his king's wife. Multiple times murder plots are staged against Egil because of the woman, and his king turns on him and believes him guilty of treason because of her manipulations. After a buildup of this feud over several chapters Egil finally resolves the issue...by reciting a poem. After that his king no longer doubts him and the wife is never mentioned again.
- In The Wheel of Time, prophecy is commonly used as a tool for Foreshadowing; Talents thought extinct or dying are resurging, several of which allow insights into the future, with varying accuracy and clarity. There are characters who mostly just crank out one serious-sounding prophecy after another; however, most prophecies are quite diluted in importance as a resultnote , and there is no telling which prophecies are important or even fulfilled during the timespan of the series.
Live Action TV
- Heroes season 2, probably as a side effect of the Writers' Strike cutting the season short, had three main plots: 1. slowly-building storyline about a character with the uncontrolled power to produce a deadly virus and her antigen-producing brother, 2. major plot about a future deadly apocalyptic virus outbreak and 3. Hiro gets set back in time to meet his ancient Japanese samurai hero. The brother is offed by Sylar and the sister arrives in New York just in time to not be involved in destroying the virus at all, and the ancient samurai hero ends up being a foreign Immortal who tries to release the virus.
- There's also the Isaac Mendez comic of St. Joan which is supposed to be Monica. Also, a kriss bladed dagger appears in the vault at the end of Season 2. As we all know, the Monica arc doesn't go anywhere.
- Also, just about anything in the vault.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles the untouchable. The Big Bad of Buffy's last arc could take the form of anyone who had died, but only as a non-solid illusion. There was a scene that suggested Giles may have died, and his later appearances had him never directly interacting with anything, hinting that he may be aforementioned Big Bad in disguise. The characters themselves eventually pick up on this and panic, especially as Giles just went off to mentor the very group of teenage girls the Big Bad has been trying to kill. When they finally catch up with him and find that he is indeed still a living, tangible person, he gets a great line about how "they thought he was evil because he wasn't touching underage girls?".
- Locke's special destiny is foreshadowed for about five seasons. Then he dies uselessly.
- Caesar for season five. Prior to the premiere, they heavily hyped him up with bits and pieces of information. When it airs, the hype grows as questions are asked: why is he on the plane? Why does he seem to already know about the Island? Why is hiding a gun and other items from what appears to be his lancer, Ilana (who comparatively seems boring, just some bounty hunter who escorted Sayid onto the plane)? What is his agenda? Surely he'll be a important player in the show's endgame...then he dies in the middle of a episode. He's never mentioned again, while his lancer turns out to be a important character with a personal link to Jacob and a promotion to regular for the final season
- In the pilot episode of Dollhouse, Topher explains that he deliberately worsened Echo's vision in her hostage negotiator imprint hence her wearing glasses, because that was the case in one of the people the imprint was built on, and to get a a copy of such a person great in their field you need the entire package and their flaws along with their strengths (hence also giving her asthma, which comes into play later.) However this does not appear in any later episodes. The only one where a doll is given a deliberate flaw is a later episode where Echo is made blind, and this is only because her eyes are basically serving as cameras making direct vision for her impossible.
- In Doctor Who, Amy and the Doctor getting together and/or being together off-screen seemed like this. In series 5, Amy was especially flirtatious with him, even attempted to have sex with him on her wedding night. In "Amy's Choice" she chooses her fiancé Rory, but it's revealed that the Doctor had been battling with his attraction to her. Eventually the couple do get married, but they keep the tension up; when kidnapped Amy keeps up a constant monologue, saying she loves a man, "even though you think it should be him," without specifying which 'him' it is, only that he has a 'stupid face'. It's Rory. Later, when Amy and her child are kidnapped, she tells the baby to look out for her father, who is The Last Of His Kind and Older Than He Looks. She actually means The Last Centurion, Rory's alter-ego. Later, when the two of them have been (briefly) rescued, they beg the Doctor to tell them what's going on, because this is their baby. His response is "It's mine." He actually meant the cot.
- In the prequel season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, obviously any character who appeared in the first season was not going to die. Anyone else was fair game and most of the important characters introduced that season were indeed killed. However, that wasn't the case with the champion Gannicus. He was never mentioned in the first season and anyone unfamiliar with the legend would very likely assume it was a question of when and how rather than if he was going to die. The writers exploited this by giving him some close calls, but ultimately he won his freedom and left the Ludis, then reappeared in season 3.
- We are led to believe in the "Conspiracy" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that we might have another encounter with the "Bluegill" aliens after Remmick sends out a transmission. Nothing ever comes of it (at least within the main canon), and what remained of the ideas regarding them were repurposed into the Borg.
- In an early episode of Red Dwarf, the cast sees a "future echo" of an aged Lister with a mechanical arm. Six series later, Lister gets his arm chopped off in an attempt to cure him of a sentient virus that had been driven into that arm, apparently fulfilling the foreshadowing... until the next episode where Lister's body is reconstructed by nanites, giving him a whole new flesh and blood arm.
- At the beginning of Ace Attorney Investigations, a shadowy figure holds up Edgeworth in his office. We can't hear the voice, obviously, and Edgeworth only refers to them as 'that person', leaving open the possibility that the mysterious person might not even have been a man despite the masculine silhouette. It turns out to be Detective Badd.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2, whenever Snake's name is brought up in front of the Colonel, he dodges the subject, only referring to him as "that man", eagerly accusing the terrorist of being Solid Snake as if desperate to kill even a lookalike to get some closure, and getting irrationally angry whenever anything is mentioned about Snake's competence, prowess, or heroism. However, Snake and the Colonel parted in the previous game as close friends. Raiden explicitly asks the Colonel if Snake did something terrible to him, and he doesn't give a straight answer - every implication is that Snake somehow betrayed the Colonel or hurt him on a very personal level, and the absence of Snake's love interest from the previous game, Campbell's daughter, adds to this suspicion. As personal secrets come out, The Reveal is actually that Snake had nothing to do with anything and that Raiden has been talking to a crazy AI that had been imitating the Colonel and attempting bring about a plot to control human will and consciousness.
- In Tales Of Symphonia, a game full of betrayal as is, it was heavily suggested that Genis Sage would betray the party and side with the Big Bad, Mithos. In fact, there is one scene where he openly states that If The Hero, Lloyd, and the Big Bad, Mithos (who wasn't known to be the Big Bad at that time) were to get in a fight, he (Genis) would side with Mithos. When it all comes out, Genis sides with Lloyd, mainly because he knows by that point that Mithos is the Big Bad.
- Subverted in a sense with Kratos. Most of the foreshadowing that he might be Lloyd's father is heaped on early in the game, and if you're going into the game expecting a plot twist - which you should, it's a Tales game, after all - that is most likely what you'll guess. However, when you arrive at the Tower of Salvation, it seems to be Fauxshadowing because Kratos pulls a pretty blatant and unexpected Face Heel Turn. So then you believe that's the plot twist, and all of the father stuff was fauxshadowing. In the end, it turns out that Kratos is Lloyd's father and the Face Heel Turn was actually a sham, so he could go on helping Lloyd from inside Cruxius. Kratos is a complicated guy.
- The Infocom game Wishbringer: Throughout the feelies and prologue, repeated mention is made of the threat of the dragon Thermofax, who doesn't play any role in the game whatsoever. Naturally, there are a number of fake-clues in the hint book about dealing with him.
- Mega Man X 4 foreshadows the title character's Face Heel Turn for the Sequel Series Mega Man Zero. (Un)fortunately, because the series continued on after the creator's planned ending, that plot twist never comes to be. At least it succeeds in foreshadowing the Maverick Hunters' transformation into the evil Neo Arcadian regime.
- Prototype: The only surviving child born in Hope, Idaho, was taken into government custody and codenamed PARIAH. According to the few people who know about him, it would be "extraordinarily bad" if he and protagonist Alex Mercer were ever to meet one another. Fortunately, they don't.
- In Mass Effect 2, Shepard rescues Tali from the geth on Heastrom. Before being attacked, she was researching the planet's star. It turns out the star is dying, but is nowhere near old enough to actually be in the stage of decay it's at. Later, she hypothesizes that dark energy is decreasing the star's mass and killing it, noting that if it's not just an isolated, freak phenomenon, it could be very bad for galactic civilization. This plot point is never brought up in Mass Effect 3; supposedly, stopping it from becoming widespread was originally the true goal of the series' villains, but this was discarded early in the third game's development.
- A fairly bizarre scene in The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess seems to imply that Link or Midna will wind up corrupted by the Fused Shadows they spend the early parts of the game tracking down. Upon getting the final Fused Shadow, they're stolen by the villain (who's already evil, so the Fused Shadows didn't seem to do anything to him). Then the heroes get the Fused Shadows back, Midna turns into a monstrosity!... for only two different scenes, and in both of them, she is completely in control, still on the side of good, and goes back to normal a few seconds later. After all this, the scene Lanayru presents to you seems like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
- MS Paint Adventures is built on this trope... (and most of the other ones). The overall plot is planned ahead of time, but the actual details of the story are mostly ad-libbed, making foreshadowing difficult. The author's solution? Foreshadow everything, and decide which ones were red herrings later, shortly before the reveal.
- The second season finale of Avatar The Last Airbender: After spending an entire season giving Zuko every reason to do a Heel Face Turn, he makes the choice to stay loyal to his father instead. This was then doubly subverted because he does do a Heel Face Turn later.
- Winx Club, season 3 (you decide if this was intentional or not): An episode has Stella saying, "I hope I don't have to save Chimera", of having to save someone from her own realm to earn her Enchantix. You know what that means, right? Well, wrong. When Chimera and her mom and her dad come under attack at a party later, Chimera's mom takes her daughter and escapes, leaving just Stella's father for Stella to save
- Executive Meddling has an example of executives putting the Faux in Fauxshadow (the Exo Squad entry).
final episode of Futurama, "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", has a scene where Fry makes a deal with the Robot Devil to replace his clumsy human hands with those of a "random" robot chosen by a giant Wheel of Fortune with the name of every robot featured in the series. The scene drops numerous blatant hints that the Robot Devil has rigged the wheel to stop at Bender's name... and when the wheel spins, it moves just past it and lands on "Robot Devil".
- The last season of Justice League Unlimited seems to be building up to the resurrection of Brainiac, with Lex Luthor bent on that singular goal. However, this is twisted in the second-to-last episode when Darkseid, who was killed with Brainiac in the second season episode of Justice League, is accidentally revived instead. The Luthor-Brainiac plot thread dies away in the last episode (although Darkseid's new appearance led to fan speculation that he had been fused with Brainiac, Word Of God said otherwise).