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First Episode Spoiler
The First Episode Spoiler is a specific type of plot twist in which the first episode of a series contains a plot twist which comes as a surprise to viewers who have just started watching, but immediately goes on to become an important plot point or premise to the series. As such, it may be hard (and in many cases impossible) to describe the series without completely ruining the suspense during the first episode. This is most common in plot-driven series, although it can occasionally be found in the pilot episodes of premise-based series. For a literary example to qualify, the twist should take place within the first few chapters, or else it becomes a regular plot twist.

If a First Episode Spoiler is at the end of a book or series and is ruined by subsequent installations, then it becomes Late Arrival Spoiler. First Episode Spoilers are prone to being ruined by trailer or opening credits for the series. Some shows use a shorter, or completely absent opening in the first episode in order to avoid this.

If there are Powers in the First Episode, this becomes exponentially more likely.

Contrast with All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" and/or compare with It Was His Sled, where the spoiler doubles as being known to all the late-arrival viewers.

This is a spoilers trope, so consider yourself warned. Compare Late Arrival Spoiler and Mid-Season Twist.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto is one of the most famous anime/manga examples. The protagonist has a nine-tailed fox sealed inside him, and this is revealed as a surprise in the very first episode.
  • Shakugan no Shana, the first episode reveals that the hero, Yuji Sakai, is Dead All Along. His existence was long-devoured by a Crimson Lord, killing him. Now he is a "Torch," a false person created with the existential residue which helps maintain the balance of the world by burning out slowly rather than vanishing all at once.
    • What kind of Torch (and which specific kind of that subtype) he is is also revealed quite soon (at the end of the first story arc), and keeps the story going, since him burning out would most likely end the story, or at least change the genre.
  • Flame of Recca. The fact that Recca has flame-based abilities isn't revealed until the end of the first episode, then goes on to drive about half of the plots in the series. The remaining plots are driven by Yanagi's abilities that are revealed in the same episode, albeit a bit earlier.
  • Mazinger:
  • Ouran High School Host Club. While there are various clues throughout the episode (most of which are only obvious in hindsight or with foreknowledge of the twist), Haruhi's gender isn't explicitly revealed until the end.
  • Valvrave the Liberator. The anime's first episode is a very well-executed take on the Ordinary High-School Student Falling into the Cockpit setup, with him saving his neutral home space colony from hostiles sent to steal the very robot he's leapt into. To activate it, Haruto had to answer "yes" to "Do you resign being human?" The twist at the end of the episode is that the Child Soldier, L-Eft who'd infiltrated his school just to get the eponymous Valvrave stabs him in the heart and shoots him in the chest several times. Haruto then springs back up and bites L-Eft in the neck. The episode ends there.
  • In Hellsing, the introductory chapters/episode ends with Seras Victoria being killed and brought back as a vampire.
  • Most covers of Now and Then, Here and There spoil the fact that it's a Grim Dark war story rather than the generic shonen action-comedy it appears to be in episode 1.
  • The first episode (and chapter, for the manga) of Fullmetal Alchemist sees us discovering that Edward Elric has two prosthetic 'automail' limbs and that his brother Alphonse is a disembodied spirit bonded to a suit of armour. We are also treated to several extremely transparent 'hints' regarding the crime they committed in the first place: trying to bring their mother back from the dead. For the rest of the series this information is commonplace and, in many cases, paramount to understanding the plot.
  • Fruits Basket looks like a normal shojo manga for most of the first chapter/episode...and then Tohru manages to turn Kyo into a cat. The next chapter/episode explains the Sohma curse and how Kyo, Yuki, and others transform into animals of the Zodiac upon being hugged by the opposite gender.
    • More specifically, it is very difficult to describe any of the characters' personalities without also revealing the various traumas and abuse they've undergone (or inflicted on others).
  • Code Geass. Within the first episode we are introduced to the Geass, and by the next it's revealed that not only are Suzaku and C.C. still alive, but that Lelouch is a dishonored prince of Britannia, points which are, needless to say, central for the rest of the series.
    • Geass actually had two- in the first episode of R2, which, due to the new evening time slot, got quite a few additional viewers compared to the first season, the fact that Lelouch is Zero isn't revealed until the end. It's a pretty big reveal to those who haven't seen the first season, and amusingly, it comes as quite a surprise to Lelouch himself.
  • Gungrave tells us that Beyond the Grave is Brandon Heat revitalized by a special necroizing process, and he was betrayed by his best friend Harry MacDowell, the head of Millennion.
  • Ratman takes place in a world where superheros are a common occurrence. The main character is Shute, a boy who dreams of one day becoming a hero. Naturally, he becomes an Ascended Fanboy. The twist that needs to be explained if one wants to understand the actual premise and main plot of the series at all, and is even explained on the back of the books even though the initial story avoids any major tipoff? A crime syndicate tricks Shute into becoming their personal Anti-Hero. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Shanghai Youma Kikai identifies Jack as a demon, Jack the Ripper about halfway through the first chapter. It's very important in chapter two. (Not so much in chapter three, but still very interesting.)
  • School Days: Most of the first episode (and a good chunk of the next three) are taken up by Sekai trying to get Makoto and Kotonoha together. Then she kisses him at the end, kickstarting the Love Triangle that drives the rest of the series.
  • Many mecha series end the first episode with the main character Falling into the Cockpit. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, RahXephon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and so on.
  • YuYu Hakusho begins with the main character Yusuke dying after being hit by a car. Details involving how he returns to life play a very important role in the rest of the entire story. How he is given the assignment of Spirit Detective and the "ghost files" play directly into the events of the first episode.
  • Monster opens with Dr. Tenma finding his calling in life after saving a young boy, only to reveal not much later that the boy grows up to be the titular Monster.
  • The first episode of Princess Tutu opens with Ahiru (which means "Duck" in Japanese, and is translated as such in the dub) having a dream that she's a bird, but waking up to be a human. She insists in her introduction that she's just a girl that happens to be named after a bird, but by the end of the episode she remembers that she really IS a duck, and her human form was just a magical disguise.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has its first episode resembling a quirky, everyday high school series, with the male lead surrounded by several girls, but ends with said male lead discovering the town's dark secret and the resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander holding a cleaver over his head.
    • Semi-related to the above is Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Higurashi's spiritual successor. Although this doesn't really apply to the anime, the first "episode" of the Umineko Visual Novel reveals in the end that Beatrice exists, and she subsequently challenges Battler to a battle of minds. This game is the main driving force of the plot from the Episode 2 onward. This doesn't apply quite as much in the anime version, where that event appears in about the fifth episode.
  • In The Daughter of Twenty Faces the spoiler is the reason Chiko is an Ill Girl.
  • The original television run of the first episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross had a cobbled-together opening designed to hide the fact that the fighter planes are, in fact, Transforming Mecha.
    • Also the Space Fold that occurs in the third episode. The fairly convoluted plot of defending South Ataria island against the Zentraedi fleet suddenly stops, and a new status quo is established (the Macross, not the island, is the main setting) which never quite changes for the rest of the series.
  • Koshiro and Nanoka from Koi Kaze are siblings who haven't seen each other in years. They don't realize this until their father meets up with them at the end of the first episode...after they've already gone on their first date.
  • Darker than Black: The fact that Li Shenshung is a bit more than he appears isn't clear until the middle of the second episode, and exactly what he can do isn't clarified until around episode 6. Li is the alias of Hei, a.k.a. "The Black Reaper," a contractor, spy, and assassin with electricity-based powers. Oh, yeah, and that black cat we keep seeing in the background? It can talk.
  • In Fairy Tail we have both that the guy casting Charm in the port city and then throwing a party on his boat is not a member of Fairy Tail, and that Natsu, the man with the most-easily-induced motion sickness ever, is a member of Fairy Tail. Comes as an initial surprise in the manga, but the latter part is spoiled by the anime's opener.
    • Three, in fact, if we count that he also is the real salamander, which the fake member said to be.
  • Trigun: That goofy, spiky-haired blonde with the excessively complicated red coat? He's Vash the Stampede.
  • Episode one of Cross Game opens with a cute little introduction to the main characters. Then, with absolutely no warning at all, Plot Happens. (Yes, that's deliberately vague. It's too good to spoil, even here — Just Watch It Already.) And it's not until episode two that you'll find out what the last item on that list was...**sniff**
  • Ga-Rei Zero- is a very interesting and shocking case. The first episode (as well as practically all promotional materials) featured a Badass Five-Man Band; the leader specifically had a vendetta with an established villain from Ga-Rei. The spoiler in question? Dead Stars Walking, ALL of them. At the hands of a former main protagonist, at that.
  • Subverted by Baccano!. It appears to give away which characters will survive the story, but this masks the intended reveals.
  • Skip Beat! features two. The first is that Kyoko isn't an obsessed fangirl over unreachable idol Sho, but is in fact a childhood friend of his and they're living together. The second is that Sho reveals that he doesn't care one bit about Kyoko, which kicks off the main plot of the series: Kyoko's journey to become a greater celebrity than Sho.
  • In Chrono Crusade, the cute little boy is really a Demon. Almost everyone that watches or reads the series these days knows this going in (and pretty much any summary will spoil it), but it's actually hidden until the second chapter/episode of the series, with the first only showing that he has strange powers
  • Psyren: The first chapter starts with the protagonist investigating a secret society in an attempt to rescue his childhood friend from vague peril. It ends with him being transported to a post-apocalyptic landscape for no obvious reason. The series is spent explaining this landscape.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne. Hitomi gets taken to the world of Gaea at the end of the first episode. When this originally came out in Japan as can be seen in early VHS fansubs, it left off the opening credits on the first episode, just to keep this a real surprise.
  • Soukou No Strain: The main character is a happy girl who idolizes her awesome big brother and gleefully awaits her graduation alongside Those Two Guys and the Dogged Nice Guy. At first. Neither her friends, her brother's sanity, or her own mental health survive the first episode.
  • Saikano: Chise is the Ultimate Weapon. The first episode of Saikano didn't even have any titles, with the name of the show only coming onto the screen after The Reveal of Chise standing in front of Shuji in the middle of a ruined city with wings and a minigun where her right arm should be. If you didn't know anything about the series (including what the title meant) before you started watching, it was genuinely shocking.
  • Dragged out for a little bit longer than one episode, but in Bokurano, the fact that the current pilot of Zearth will die after a battle is not revealed fully until episode 4 (volume 2 of the manga). This fact becomes the major element of the rest of the series. This is masked by having the first pilot disappear, and the second one seems to die for unrelated reasons.
  • The Pokémon anime's Third Option Adaptation of the games (Ash's first mon being Pikachu, the former Trope Namer) is of course one of these.
  • By the end of the first episode (or first manga chapter) of Kuragehime, it is revealed that the pretty girl who saved Tsukimi at the pet store is actually a cross-dressing dude.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid reveals at the end of the first chapter via Page Turn Surprise that, not only is Vivio's Older Alter Ego back (albeit, in a much weaker version from the one forced on her in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS), but she can now access it whenever she wants. Prior to its release, all promotional material related to ViVid only showed her as a child.
  • The first episode of Berserk lays out Guts's circumstances before the big Band of the Hawk flashback. He kills demons for a living, he has a mark on the back of his neck that draws them like a lightning rod, he's minus a right eye and a left hand (which he's replaced with a cannon), and he has one hell of a vendetta against a demonic god who he knows as Griffith.
    • The circumstances are more explicitly laid out in the manga. In addition to the details mentioned above, the second volume reveals that Guts knows what Behelits are and what they generally do, and in the third volume, we actually get to see one in action, right before we actually meet the Godhand themselves.
  • If Naruto, listed above, isn't the most famous manga/anime example, then Ranma ˝ certianly is. That strange young girl that showed up at the Tendo dojo when the family was expecting a boy? Well, You Should Know This Already.
  • Detective Conan starts out like a normal tale of a young wanna-be detective. Then the first episode ends with Gin ambushing Kudo, and a twist is born.
  • The very first chapter in the Lupin III manga is about the police trying to find Lupin. If you're aware that Lupin's a young guy with black hair and long sideburns, you're probably not gonna be fooled by the Red Herring. Lupin is wearing glasses.
  • ARAGO: Ewan is murdered by the Patchman in the first chapter, and his death is the driving force behind Arago becoming a detective.
  • Light Yagami becoming Kira in Death Note.
    • Not to mention the Japanese chief of police at the meeting with L and Watari is Light's father Soichiro.
  • At first Wandering Son seems like a normal Slice of Life about some elementary kids. After two or three chapters we learn that the protagonist likes wearing girls' clothing.
  • Both of Kimba's parents get killed in the first episode of Kimba the White Lion.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: At the end of the first episode, it turns out that the guy going around killing people under the name of "Battousai" is not the legendary assassin. That goofy, red-headed wanderer carrying a Reverse Blade Sword that Kaoru had dismissed earlier, on the other hand...
  • The first two episodes of Axis Powers Hetalia has Germany's search for the "mighty" descendent of the great Roman Empire end with the discovery that he is in fact the weak, stupid Italy. The rest of the series has Italy latch on as Germany's ineffectual ally, who Germany tries in vain to teach to be competent.
  • The first two episodes of Dragon Ball Z reveal Goku to actually be an alien from another planet who was originally sent to conquer Earth, only to receive brain damage which resulted in him becoming a hero.
  • Episode 1 of GaoGaiGar reveals that Tagalong Kid Mamoru Amami is actually an alien brought to Earth by Galeon.
  • Blue Exorcist: Rin is the son of Satan and his adoptive father dies. Also in the second chapter, Yukio's revealed to be an exorcist.
  • In the first episode of Armitage III, we learn that Armitage is actually a robot. Also potentially spoiled by the covers, depending on the version.
  • Kotoura-san looks like a lighthearted Romantic Comedy from the previews, but the first episode is about 75% angst, revealing that the show is actually a dramedy and the very embodiment of Mood Whiplash.
  • Symphogear does this. Twice within the first five minutes. The first is that Hibiki is shown to have a grave but it turns out she's actually alive by the end. The second is that Kanade dies during a Noise attack.
  • Il Sole Penetra Le Illusioni: Killing the demons kills the hosts. Then retgones them. Possibly a second episode spoiler, since the first episode merely strongly implies that this is the case.
  • In Saki Shinohayu Dawn Of Age, midway through the first chapter after the prologue, it's revealed that Shino's mother disappeared without explanation one day, and by the end, it's revealed that she's motivated by a desire to get her to come back by competing in a mahjong tournament.
  • Gakkou Gurashi's first chapter looks like a fairly normal Slice of Life Schoolgirl Series. Then it turns out that the main character is delusional and it's set in a Zombie Apocalypse.

     Comic Books 
  • At the end of the first issue of Thunderbolts it was revealed that the heroes, who were portrayed as noble replacements for all of the Marvel Universe's fallen non-mutant heroes were actually villains in disguise.
  • Watchmen: That big guy murdered in the first few pages is former superhero The Comedian.
  • At the end of Detective Comics #27, it is revealed that The "Bat-Man" is actually the Commissioner's young socialite friend, Bruce Wayne.
  • Runaways : Their parents are secretly supervillains. Karolina does not know it herself, but she's an alien.
  • The latest Heroes for Hire series: Misty Knight is comatose and the heroes are really being directed by the Puppet Master.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Magneto learns Professor X is recruiting mutants to his cause and decides he must be killed, and he already knows who he's going to send to do the job. To Quicksilver, he says "Tell Wolverine he has a new assignment".
  • The Origins comic book miniseries detailing Wolverine's untold origin introduces Dog, the son of Thomas Logan (a gruff, violent groundskeeper with Wolverine's trademark mane and the last name that has been Wolverine's assumed name for a long time) and doesn't reveal who Wolverine is until issue 2 when sickly boy James Howlett pops his claws to kill Thomas. Since then, James Howlett, or at least "James", has been his real name in the main comics and in various other adaptations including X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
  • Amazing Fantasy #15: and any other media adaptation of Spider-Man's origin story: Uncle Ben's killer turns out to be the same burglar Peter allowed to escape, making his inaction indirectly responsible for Ben's death.
  • Within the first few issues of The Goon (Within the first anthology, specifically), we know that Labrazio, the Goon's "boss," is dead, and has been dead for some time. The Goon killed the mob boss and is collecting money from everyone who owed him money, pretending that Labrazio went into hiding and that he's his henchman.
  • Earth 2: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman die fighting off the parademon invasion; which makes way for the true premise and characters of the series.
  • From Hell: Walter Sickert's younger brother, Albert "Eddy" Sickert, is really Albert, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) living as a commoner under an assumed identity. The child that he fathers in the opening chapter is the catalyst that sparks The Conspiracy behind the Jack the Ripper murders.

     Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Childs Play: the original script pushed back the reveal that the possessed Chucky doll could move independently until the end, with the audience being left to suspect the murderer was Andy. In the finished product, only the first murder (Andy's babysitter) is left ambiguous as to whodunnit.
  • The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne is an ex-assassin who used to work for the CIA until he grew a conscience on his last mission.
  • The Terminator:
    • The fact that its title-character is a time-traveling cyborg and its reasons for targeting all women named Sarah Connor, to prevent the birth of her future son, John Connor. Then there's the entire Stable Time Loop that the first & second film sets up regarding Kyle Reese being John's father and the Terminators being both the precursors to Skynet (both directly as agents and indirectly when Cyberdine builds upon their remnants) as well as things Skynet invented in the future.
    • The sequel makes an early spoiler/twist out of the second Terminator of the same model being the good guy and the new face being the bad guy, not another resistance fighter. It's difficult to tell in retrospect that they were trying to keep a lid on the idea that Ah-nuld is supposed to be the good guy this time around.
  • The time travel aspect in Back to the Future was a complete surprise to test audiences in 1985, since the first fifteen minutes of the film seem like an Eighties teen movie (albeit with a quirky scientist as a side character). Naturally, time travel is more than a bit crucial to the trilogy as a whole.
  • Iron Man: The film is just the first part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and Tony Stark is going to be a part of The Avengers.
  • The Fast and the Furious: Dom Toretto and his crew are criminal truck hijackers.
  • The Matrix: the world we know is a computer simulation run by machines. The film's relatively low-key marketing presence in its debut helped to keep the twist under wraps but with the big imprint the Matrix has made on pop culture and reality/philosophy debates, the cat is out of the bag.
  • Saw: The Serial Killer Jigsaw is the guy played by Tobin Bell.

    Literature 
  • Ender’s Game. The first chapter of the book has Ender being rejected from Battle School, with it later being revealed that it was actually a setup for the final test.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a couple; one, Queen Cersei is having an incestuous affair with her twin brother, Ser Jaime of the Kingsguard. Two, Bran sees them together, and gets pushed out a window by Jaime because of it. This sets up the most complicated of the series' three plot lines.
  • One of the reveals of Men at Arms is that Angua is a werewolf. Treating this as a spoiler makes it fairly difficult to say pretty much anything else about her.
  • Try to explain anything about Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series without mentioning that in the first book main character Eugenides turns out not to be a street urchin from Sounis but a member of the Eddisian royal family. It gets worse in book two, when Eugenides winds up married to the queen of Attolia. Good luck describing book three without giving those away.
  • The end of the first Codex Alera book reveals that the apparently brain-damaged slave Fade is actually the legendary swordsman Araris Valerian, generally believed dead, and he's actually a Failure Knight protecting Tavi — who is heavily implied to be Gaius Octavius, son of the dead Gaius Septimus and rightful heir to the seat of First Lord, although it isn't stated outright for the next few books.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Bilbo's ring is an Artifact of Doom. Of course, this one practically verges on It Was His Sled now.
  • This happens a lot in Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World-type fantasy novels— the protagonist spends the first four or so chapters having a normal life and wondering why strange people are following him; meanwhile you picked up the novel from the fantasy section and learned from the blurb that he's The Chosen One/the heir to a clan of werewolves/a wizard, and want the book to Get On With It Already.
  • At the end of the first novel in the Sword of Truth series, it's revealed that Richard is the illegitimate son of the villain, Darken Rahl, a revelation that becomes central to the plot, world-building, character development and conflict resolution of nearly every book afterward.
  • Animorphs: Tobias is a hawk. Tobias will always be a hawk. He reveals that he's stuck as a hawk in the last few pages of the first book. He gets the ability to morph again later in the series, but even then his "default" form, the only one he can stay in without getting trapped again, is still a hawk. Also in the first book, after much denial, Jake realizes that his older brother Tom is a Controller, which is mentioned in pretty much every book afterward.
  • Twilight: The Cullens are vampires.
  • In The Parasol Protectorate, Alexia Tarabotti gets married at the end of book 1, and learns she is pregnant at the end of book 2. Given that the main plot of book 3 involves her trying to prove she could be pregnant by her allegedly sterile husband, it's nearly impossible to describe without giving away the plot twists of book 1 and 2.
  • In the first book of the New Jedi Order series, Chewbacca dies.
  • The first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: the fact that the Greek gods are still around isn't revealed for several chapters, and which god is Percy's father is a mystery for even longer, but even the vaguest familiarity with the series assures you know that much.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In A Study in Scarlet, the fact that Sherlock Holmes is a detective is treated as a spoiler for the best part of two chapters.
  • Griffin's Daughter: Jelena is the title daughter. "The Griffin" is the ring Jelena carries, a keepsake from her late mother which turns out to be a copy of the White Griffin, a magic ring traditionally worn by the king of the Elves. The prolog itself establishes Jelena's elven father is a member of the royal bloodline, but which one is a secret until the end of the first book.
  • Try to explain the premise of the Destroyermen series without spoiling the twists in the first novel...or even at the end of the first chapter for that matter. Honourable mention goes towards the skull aboard the first Grik ship captured.
  • The eponymous hero of John Connolly's Charlie Parker supernatural detective novels begins to develop psychic powers from the first book onward. A big twist in that the book was marketed as a straightforward crime novel; impossible to miss the later on you get in the series.
  • The Last Werewolf: The narrator, Jake, is not the last werewolf. The title belongs to his Love Interest, Talulla, who isn't even introduced until more than halfway through the first book. It's impossible to read even the most vague blurb about the second and third books in the trilogy without realising this.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey: Christian Grey is revealed after hundred pages as secretly practicing BDSM and wants Anna as his sub. This is the first book of a trilogy.
  • The second book of the House of Night reveals that Neferet- the protagonist's kind, wise mentor-figure is actually the Big Bad and a Manipulative Bitch. It is very difficult to describe the main story arc without revealing this. (Which is a pity, as the relevant reveal was enjoyably unexpected.)
  • Michael Vey reveals in the first book that Taylor had a missing twin sister and that Michael's bullies, Jack and Wade, become friends with him.

     Live Action TV 
  • In general, it is almost impossible to read a synopsis of a mystery show or book without a description of who the victim will be, despite the fact that often the victim will not be killed until a good quarter of the way into the production. This is counterbalanced by how the more important spoiler (Whodunnit) tends to be protected with particular fervor.
  • 666 Park Avenue: Gavin Doran is an evil supernatural entity. Jury's still out on whether or not he is actually The Devil.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Simply put: #CoulsonLives! - which is revealed by the first scene of the pilot, the briefest of teasers/trailers for the same, and the fact that the series happens at all.
    • A much more minor example from the same show, but this character called FitzSimmons we've heard mentioned a few times? When they finally show up on-screen it turns out they're actually two people.
  • Alias: Let's see: Danny dies, Jack is a spy, Sydney has been playing the villain's side by accident, Jack is actually a double agent, Sydney becomes a double agent.
  • American Horror Story: Asylum: Lana, who came to the Briarcliff asylum to investigate, is committed against her will. Also a Second Episode Spoiler: Sister Mary Eunice is possessed by the devil.
  • Arrow: This show wasted no time in revealing that Oliver's mother Moira is a villain and the shipwreck that got him marooned on an island for five years and resulted in his father's death was the result of a sabotage she was a part of.
  • Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): The miniseries ends with the revelation that Boomer is a Cylon, which is central to her character in the main series.
  • Boardwalk Empire: The random chubby thug is a then unknown Al Capone. The two masked guys that hijack the convoy in the opening scene are Al and Jimmy.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • This show is very difficult to describe without including the fact that Walter is diagnosed with cancer in the first episode.
    • However the show manages to make it a Subverted Trope with the first scene of the pilot. Most people know that Walt "breaks bad" and starts cooking methamphetamine before they watch the series, and expect the first scene of the pilot, with it's intense action to be a flashforward to a much later part of the series, even the final scene. However that scene is reached well before the end of the pilot, and the series progresses far past that point. Even if someone has had the plot completely spoiled for them, the first scene of the pilot would still throw them for a loop (unless one of the main things they remembered was Bryan Cranston losing his hair).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Has a Mid-Season Twist, the revelation that Angel is a) a vampire and b) a vampire with a soul. This was a genuine twist when the episode first aired, but after Angel became the star of his own five-season spin-off, with the whole "vampire with a soul" thing as a basic premise, it's very hard to watch that episode years after transmission and still be surprised.
    • For that matter, when rewatching the first six episodes, you tend to forget that you weren't supposed to already know he was a vampire.
  • Caprica: Zoe is in the robot. Zoe and Tamara get blown up.
  • Crash Zone: The first episode is all about the question: which of the five kids gets the job? The second episode likewise has a lot of tension about the fate of Virgil. All of these characters end up becoming regular protagonists.
  • Dark Blue: The first episode revolves around trying to pull main character and team member Dean out from a long undercover gig, with no idea if he's still loyal to the badge or become his criminal undercover persona, until the bust at the end when he kills his target in the line of duty.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Susan and her doctor grandfather are time travellers from another planet and the Doctor steals Ian and Barbara away in his time machine the TARDIS so they wouldn't tell anyone. Also, many serials had a surprise twist at the end of their first episode (usually the reveal of the villain/alien/monster) that were central to the rest of the story. These are almost always spoiled by the DVD cover now.
    • For example, it wasn't until the second episode of the second serial we got to meet the mysterious inhabitants of the mysterious apparently deserted city on a planet covered with radiation. They're called the Daleks. That planet is called Skaro. You may have heard of either of them.
  • NBC's Dracula reveals at the end of the pilot episode that Dracula and Van Helsing — traditionally portrayed as archenemies — are in this interpretation working together against the Order of the Dragon.
  • Farscape: Crichton gets shot through a wormhole and finds himself stranded in a distant galaxy. Upon arrival, he accidentally crashes into a starfighter piloted by a Proud Warrior Race Guy...whose very vengeful brother happens to be captain of a large and heavily armed capital ship. He takes refuge aboard a Living Ship that used to be a prison transport, crewed by a Ragtag Band of Misfits who used to be its inmates. Also aboard: an Action Girl who works for the vengeful captain and subsequently does a Mook-Face Turn. They all go on the run from the vengeful captain as Crichton works to uncover the wormhole technology that could take him home. (Incidentally, the producers were aware of this trope, which is why the monologue that usually accompanies the Title Sequence, which spoils all of these plot twists, is not included in the pilot episode.)
  • Firefly:
  • FlashForward (2009):
  • Fringe: The pilot is about a young FBI agent trying to save the life of her partner/lover after his infection by a bioweapon by recruiting a Mad Scientist and his son. Of course it all turns out to basically be a Shaggy Dog Story, she saves him only to have him die in a car accident ANYWAY, be revealed to be a double agent and play a bit of a posthumous role in a few later episodes but be mostly forgotten with the assembled team taking over as the focus.
  • Game of Thrones is the television adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the events mentioned above end the Pilot Episode.
    • It happens in the following seasons, as well. The first episode of Season 2 reveals that Melisandre, the Mysterious Backer of Stannis (who had been The Ghost in the first season), has real magical powers when she survives a suicide attack against her by Dragonstone's Maester, and ends with Joffrey ordering the massacre of King Robert's bastards in King's Landing. The first episode of Season 3 ends with the reintroduction of Barristan Selmy in a different plotline, after spending a whole season Put on a Bus.
  • The Handler: The first episode of this short-lived show has the handler assign his new recruit to investigate a gang leader. When it seems like she's in over her head, he comes in and reveals that the gang leader is another of his agents and it was only a training exercise. The agent posing as the gang leader is another regular. Similar to the Taxi example below, this revelation works better due to the fact that the agent posing as the gang leader is played by a virtual unknown, Hill Harper, who isn't that unknown anymore.
  • Heroes: We find out at the end of the pilot episode that HRG is Claire Bennet's father and that she is adopted. Their relationship becomes one of the most prominent running story arcs throughout the series.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In the pilot, Ted meets and begins a long relationship with Robin; at the end, narrator Future!Ted tells his kids "And that's how I met your Aunt Robin." In other words, she is not the mother of the title.
    • Within the context of a single episode, the trope pops up again. When Ted refers to a woman as "Blah-Blah" because he forgot her name, then it is a good indication she is not their mother.
  • Jack & Bobby: The commercials teased that one brother would become President while the other would die before it happened. The narration at the end of the pilot revealed that Bobby would become President, Jack would die, and Bobby would marry Courtney.
  • Jericho: The last shot of the pilot is a view of mushroom clouds, setting up the series for survival in a post-nuclear-apocalypse America.
  • The Killing: Rosie is, in fact, dead. Though the title still kind of gives it away up front.
  • Kyle XY: The protagonist having no memories and no experiences of human life are central to the rest of the series.
  • Life on Mars (2006): This show is about a police detective who is struck by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1973. If you were one of the very lucky few not to know the premise of the show before you sat down to watch the first episode, then the sequence in which this happens was one of the most surprising "Wait. What? WHOA!" moments ever, transforming what initially appeared to be a rather uninspired by-the-numbers cop show into an intriguing Ontological Mystery.
  • LOST:
    • The first (unseen) appearance of the monster about halfway through the pilot made it clear that there was much more to the island than it seemed, which set the stage for the rest of the series.
    • And the reveal that Locke was paralyzed before the plane crash at the end of "Walkabout", the fourth episode, counts as well.
    • A few other revelations, such as that it was actually Kate that was the prisoner being escorted by the US Marshal, and that Sun can speak English, also occur very early in the series.
  • Mad Men: At the end of the first episode, Don Draper, who starts off the episode by spending the night with a woman he has a relationship with in the city, is characterized by gossips throughout the ad agency he works for as a womanizer, and later attempts to charm a female client who he meets for dinner, returns to a home in suburbia where he greets his wife and two children. There'd been no indication throughout the episode that he was married.
  • M.A.N.T.I.S.: Keeps the title hero in shadow for the first half of the pilot, suggesting he could be another character who is very physically fit, while wheelchair-bound industrialist Dr. Miles Hawkins is a shady industrialist with his own agenda. Then Dr. Hawkins applies the M.A.N.T.I.S. suit to himself, revealing that the suit enables him to walk on two feet.
  • Mister Ed: Ed doesn't talk until halfway through the first episode, at which the talking comes off as a surprise. And he didn't give his "Hello, I'm Mister Ed" greeting until after the first few episodes.
  • Modern Family: This show was initially advertised as a show about three separate families. The end of the pilot revealed that they were all related (Claire and Mitchell are Jay's kids), a fact that is impossible to miss in every other episode.
  • Nikita: Alex is set up throughout the first episode as a possible main rival to Nikita, a girl in the same position she was once in as she's recruited by Division to stay out of jail. At the end we learn that she's working with Nikita, as her agent inside Division.
  • Once Upon a Time: Emma is the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White.
  • Oz: You know what happens to Dino Ortolani...
  • Perception: Dr. Pierce has schizophrenia and he occasionally interacts with people who are revealed to be hallucinations including his friend Natalie.
  • Prison Break: The last minute of the pilot reveals that Michael Scofield tatooed the plan of the prison on his body in order to free his incarcerated brother.
    • And before that, midway through the pilot, there's the revelation that Michael Schofield (the soft-spoken, well-to-do structural engineer) and Lincoln Burrows (the hard-edged thug on death row) are brothers.
  • Raines: Similar to Perception, the first episode ends with the revelation that his ex-partner was killed in his career-ending shooting and is another figment of Raines's imagination.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Lister is the last human alive and is stranded 3 million years into deep space, accompanied by the hologram of his dead bunkmate and a creature that evolved from his pet cat. Naturally, watching the pilot episode means waiting for this situation to establish itself.
    • An early plan for the show, discussed in DVD commentaries, was to take this idea even further. The senior staff of the ship would have been played by well-known actors and the first episode would focus on them, right up to the point where they all died and attention shifted to characters who had been treated as little more than extras up to that point.
  • Ressha Sentai Tokkyuger: The main characters are Dead All Along.
  • Revolution: Ben Matheson's keychain that he gives to Aaron is a device that can undo the effects of the worldwide blackout and restore power to nearby electronics. Nate appears to be a well-meaning stranger who offers Charlie water and later saves Charlie's life, but he's revealed to be an incognito militia member. Miles' army buddy from the pre-blackout time is Monroe, aka, the present-day Big Bad General Monroe and head of the militia. All this is revealed in the pilot episode.
  • Ringer: Siobhan faked her death to get away from people trying to kill her.
  • Roswell: The first scene of the first episode has Max, the main protagonist, heal Liz, the main love interest, from a gunshot wound, thus revealing himself to be an alien. (The "missing" gunshot wound plays a key part in most of the first season, including explaining why the sheriff, FBI, and local alien hunters all suspect Max.)
  • Rude Awakening: Seemed to be a comedy about a Hard-Drinking Party Girl along the lines of Absolutely Fabulous, but in the first episode turned out to be a comedy about 12-Step Programs.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles: John Connor's new classmate Cameron is a Terminator sent to protect him.
  • Sherlock: At the end of the first episode, Mark Gatiss's character is revealed to be Mycroft, not Moriarty as we've been lead to believe.
  • The Shield: Ended the first episode by showing Vic to be not merely a semi-corrupt cop who bends the rules against deserving criminals but one who kills in cold blood a fellow officer the audience was led to believe would be a main character because the officer was secretly working for IAB to bring down Mackey and the Strike Team's corrupt activities.
  • Stargate Atlantis: That guy named Sheppard will turn out to be very important. Robert Patrick, on the other hand, is a Dead Star Walking.
  • Stargate SG-1: Daniel and Jack come out of retirement, and the Stargate goes to more than one other planet. Those aren't exactly spoilers so much as departures from the movie. However, Teal'c changing sides and Kowalski dying in the second episode would certainly be spoilers.
  • Stargate Universe: The Congressman makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Same as Voyager and the station's move to near the wormhole.
    • In Deep Space Nine the wormhole is a part of the opening credits. They made a special version of the credits for the first episode without the wormhole in order to keep the First Episode Spoiler unspoiled.
    • Which they distinctly failed to do in the opening credits for the first episode of the seventh season, which revealed the existence of Ezri Dax a good forty minutes before she shows up at the end of the episode.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The entire premise of the show is the ship being stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Guess what the plot of the first episode is.
  • Supernatural:
    • By the way, about Sam Winchester's beloved fiancee...
    • And again with the first episode of season four - actually, the very fact there is a season four tells you exactly what happens to Dean. Revealing how it happens is more of a surprise, but it still comes out at the end of the episode.
  • Survivors: The BBC remake had headline stars Shaun Dingwall and Freema Agyeman, the latter even playing a character carried over from the seventies series, unexpectedly dead by the end of the first episode.
  • Taxi: For much of the first episode, Louie De Palma, played by then-unknown Danny DeVito, shouts his usual bile from inside an elevated dispatcher's cage that only reveals his face. At the climax, he emerges from the cage and appears at the bottom of the steps, and is revealed to be incongruously short for his personality — estimates vary but DeVito is well under 5 feet tall. It's a trick that only works once, ever.
  • Torchwood:
    • Begins with Gwen as a Cardiff police officer, observing the title mysterious Black Ops team. Afterwards, she becomes a team member.
    • The first episode of Torchwood also has the second-in-command - who'd been featured in the publicity for the series just like all the others - being revealed to have gone insane, and then she commits suicide, and a definite and obvious example of this trope, the revelation that Captain Jack is now immortal. In the first episode, this is very surprising. Thereafter it's used constantly.
  • Veronica Mars: In the first episode of season two, the bus crash that serves as the big mystery for the season happens at the very end, which may be shocking to anyone who watched the show initially, but anyone who started watching later (or read the description on the back of the DVD box) knows it's going to happen.
  • White Collar: The basic premise is that a con man is released from jail into the FBI's custody to help solve crimes. Therefore, the entire first quarter or so where the Federal Agent main character is debating whether to actually release him or not is completely pointless.

     Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Girl Genius. That mousy lab assistant? She's a major Spark who turns out to be the most important figure in recent history and is about to turn the world on its ear. Didn't the title clue you in?
  • Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes. Practically everybody gets killed, and the five remaining goblins decide to become adventurers so they can gain levels and stand a fighting chance against the players who consider goblins to be easy exp.
    • The joke is that the goblins still don't know just how doomed their hometown, for which they're leveling up in order to protect, is. Odds are Kore will've destroyed it long before they ever get back there.
  • Domain Tnemrot: Angel becomes one of the lead female characters.
  • In Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name, Conrad becomes a vampire. But since he's been portrayed as such in official art ever since BEFORE it happened...
  • More of a first act spoiler, given the nature of Homestuck, but playing Sburb causes a meteor shower which is meant to destroy the Earth. The 'How' and 'Why' for this aren't fully answered until the fifth act.
    • Homestuck often introduces new concepts which then become focal points of the plot. This means just about everything from Act 3 onwards is technically made of spoilers. The difficulty inherent with this led to Homestuck's page on this wiki being stripped of spoiler tags.
  • The first Electric Wonderland comic takes its time revealing Aerynn Arlia's magical abilities.
  • Skin Deep: the main world premise of the series, along with the true natures of all the central characters. It begins as a normal college story, and has a big reveal at the end of the first chapter.
  • O Human Star: Al dies and comes back as a robot, and Sulla is a copy of Al's mind who was raised by Brendan and is a transgender girl.
  • El Goonish Shive: The first Goo is destroyed and the silhouetted figure at the beginning of the "Shade, Part 1" storyline is Grace.

     Web Original 
  • Tasakeru: Hanami is a mage with the power to grow anything, anywhere.
  • Whateley Universe: Erik Mahren has an explosive burnout and turns into an artificer. Admittedly this isn't the first episode (It doesn't even happen until around the third story with Erik's viewpoint), but you try explaining any of the Eldritch stories without revealing this.
  • Worm: Taylor joins the Undersiders, a group of villains, instead of becoming a hero as she'd planned.

     Western Animation 
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. The entire show is based upon the premise that Grim loses the contest against Mandy, but towards the end of the first episode it appears that Grim has won.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Bloo goes to live in the foster home.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : Aang is the Avatar. He has to wait until the 2nd episode to find out he's also the "Last Airbender" since the good guys don't know they're in a show titled...
  • In Megas XLR, the entire plot of the series is a guy with a self-modified giant robot fighting evil aliens with his best friend and a chick from the future, but that doesn't become obvious until halfway through the first episode.
  • Galaxy Rangers: Eliza doesn't escape the pirate ship. Zachary does, and has to undergo an Emergency Transformation in order to fight back. What Could Have Been made the scenario even worse.
  • Gargoyles: The Scottish Clan of Gargoyles from 995 AD are all slaughtered except for Goliath and 5 others, who are reawakened in 1995 New York by David Xanatos, who also reveals Goliath's former gargoyle mate survived too. Xanatos is in fact not the nice guy he claimed to be: he's a Magnificent Bastard who has been manipulating the Gargoyles for his own ends. Goliath's former mate is a villain too; she helped betray their slaughtered clansmates and she's taken a name: Demonanote .
  • Transformers Prime: Cliffjumper's death in the first ten minutes is referenced to in several episodes after it happens, driving Arcee's primary character plot.
  • Beast Wars: Dinobot's defection to the Maximals in the 2-part pilot.
  • Motorcity: Julie, one of the Burners, sneaks into Kane Co. It appears she's been caught by Abraham Kane! But instead, he hugs her much to her annoyance. Turns out she's his daughter. The rest of the Burners don't know this.
  • TRON: Uprising: Tron Lives!
  • Young Justice has the Pilot end with a mysterious meeting with a group known as "The Light", who are behind everything that happened.
  • Thundercats2011note  has Lion-O and Tygra's father being murdered by Mumm-Ra.
  • Transformers Rescue Bots: The entire Burns family finds out that the Rescue Bots are actually aliens from Cybertron.


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