Stock Epileptic Trees
Things that are frequently proposed in fan theories
at a rate disproportionate to their occurrence in actual works of fiction
See Also: Grand Unifying Guesses
, Poison Oak Epileptic Trees
Theories common to general fandom
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory:
- The cast died in the first episode and now they're all in Purgatory. Explicitly Jossed by the creators of Lost, among other writers. There was an infamous (false) rumor that this was how Dungeons & Dragons would end. After being explicitly Jossed, Lost actually ended this way, though its characters ended in Purgatory after they died, either during or after the series, rather than being Dead All Along.
- There's also the one where character X is literally Jesus/God/Satan.
- Inversion: pick any character who died. They aren't really dead / they'll come back.
- All Just a Dream: This sometimes reflects either some fans' lack of faith in the writers or their lack of imagination; revealing that the whole story was a dream as a Deus ex Machina has been a Dead Horse Trope for quite a while. Variations of this include:
- The hero is insane and delusional, and the entire story is his hallucination in an asylum.
- Dying Dream is a very commonly speculated form, especially if the series starts with a near-fatal accident.
- The Tommyverse is well-known outside of TV Tropes. Essentially Six Degrees of St. Elsewhere it postulates that every show that has ever crossed-over with St. Elsewhere exists in a shared universe wherein everything takes place entirely within the mind of autistic child Tommy Westphall, and the shows that crossed over with them, and so-on. This ultimately leads to a staggering number of television shows stretching from The X-Files to Arrested Development. On the other end of the spectrum it has sparked some fascinating (and pretentious!) discussions about the nature of intertextuality, metafiction, As Himself, and other such post-modern concepts.
- Luke, I Am Your Father. A legitimate trope, but fans take it way too far, especially with their tendency to assume that the Big Bad is the father of The Hero, even when there is obvious evidence against it. This is probably influenced by the widespread belief that Freud Was Right and that all conflicts can be reduced to Oedipus Calling the Old Man Out.
- The Big Bad is actually a pawn of the real Big Bad, who is the character you would least suspect (for example, the ridiculously cute Non-Human Sidekick).
- The story is actually being told by Character X, who may be an Unreliable Narrator. If the story actually is being narrated by one of its characters, they can't be trusted; if the story admits they can't be trusted, they're lying about different things than are implied.
- The protagonist is the villain.
- The protagonist is fighting on the wrong side. The agency they work for is secretly working for the enemies, or has a conspiracy going.
- The protagonist is fighting on the wrong side, because the "evil" characters are actually in the right and he/she is too blind or prejudiced to notice.
- Character X is a mole or traitor who will Face–Heel Turn. Alternatively, villainous Character Y is working for the heroes or will make a Heel–Face Turn. It used to be less common for a villain to receive enough development to make this one plausible unless it was bound to happen; these days, more creators are interested in humanizing the opposition, but that doesn't stop audiences from speculating.
- Any fantasy setting is often presumed to be Earth All Along either far in the future or far in the past, the epileptic trees even covering up cases where the dates are explicitly stated through an Unreliable Narrator. For stories that take place in a Constructed World (which isn't supposed to have anything to do with our world): Show X takes place After the End, or else in the distant past and two of the characters are Adam and Eve.
- Character X and Y share the same last name, therefore are related. This one might fly in a world with Minimalist Cast — but the closer you get to Loads and Loads of Characters, the less likely it is. Unless, of course, your name is Charles Dickens.
- Any "Character X and Character Y are the same person" theories qualify, even when there's no clear reason for one or the other character to change his identity and they don't look anything alike. (Lost gets this a lot, too). By extension, Character X is actually a Shape Shifter or Body Snatcher pretending to be Character X (in universes where they exist).
- Any given pair of characters who played a big role in the backstory and then vanished (or one such character and a current character with a mysterious past) will have a theory postulating that they're the same person, usually latching onto minor details in both stories to "prove" it. (Granted, this is more likely than a lot of these theories to be true.)
- Show X is set in the same universe as Show Y.
- Inversion: The spin-off is not really set in the same universe as the original.
- Or sometimes: The spinoff IS set in the same universe as the original
- The entire story is an Author Tract regardless of Word of God. Common topics include sexuality, religion, politics, nukes or drugs.
- The Future is actually in the past, and vice versa.
Theories common to TV Tropes fandom