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The Reveal

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It was the comic buyer all along!
The pivot in many plotlines is the Reveal. A character is revealed as another character's father, a god, or secret suitor or arch nemesis in disguise. More broadly, the audience is given new information which had been withheld to create suspense. The Reveal changes the nature of the plot, often pushing it from suspense towards action. A good reveal will also create a new set of questions and further suspense. On some occasions, The Reveal Prompts Romance.

A key moment in most Gambit Pileup plots, when the heroes or the audience discover how the villains have been manipulating everyone. Can also be used to make a cliffhanger more dramatic. Myth Arc and Mind Screw series love springing these; Jigsaw Puzzle Plots pretty much require them. Eventually necessary for a Mysterious Employer.

The Reveal is in fact a rather easily explained trope. A lot of mystery stories wouldn't work without either the criminal or the detective explaining how the crime was committed, and a lot of other plots would leave people with more questions than answers if they never bothered to explain the plot to other characters... and by extension, the viewers. It's easy to explain it off-screen, but doing so would confuse the viewer and make them think they missed something.

If you're set up for this but it's then subverted by not revealing it, it's The Un-Reveal. When made too obvious ahead of time, it's The Un-Twist, a Captain Obvious Reveal, or an Obvious Judas (depending on how it happens). If it comes out of nowhere, it's an Ass Pull and/or a case of The Dog Was the Mastermind. If the thing revealed is named in the title, then it's The Namesake. If a Driving Question is involved, this is where it's finally put to rest. If it happens in the first episode of a series, it's probably a First-Episode Twist. Can overlap with Remembered Too Late, Wham Episode and Wham Line.

Compare Internal Reveal when the audience was in the loop all along and only characters in-universe are taken by surprise.

Aristotle referred to it as anagnorisis (generally translated as "discovery" or "recognition") in his Poetics, making this one Older Than Feudalism.

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Warning: Expect every example listed below to be a spoiler for something. Since the title alone can be a spoiler, proceed at your own risk.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

  • In this ad, it first looks like a mother and her child running away from suspicious and dangerous people, only for the end to reveal that the woman is a kidnapper and the people who were chasing her got an Amber Alert about the woman kidnapping the young child.

    Films — Animation 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy: Ansel Beauregard, the biological father of half-alligator boy Arlo Beauregard, is a Half-Human Hybrid just like him — a bird-man, and had forsaken him at birth because he was bullied by his appearance as a child and disguised himself as a normal person to blend into society, and feared his alligator son would expose him.
  • The Bad Guys: Two reveals come at the end of the film's second act and lead into the third: Professor Marmalade was Evil All Along and was setting up the Bad Guys to take the fall for his own master scheme, while Diane Foxington was once the legendary thief Crimson Paw, but had retired to become a Reformed Criminal.
  • Big Hero 6: Robert Callaghan is Yokai and Abigail was his daughter.
  • BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui:
    • The film revealed how Turaga are created, and at what cost. Although fairly obvious to viewers from the outset, the Toa are surprised to find out that their mysterious helper is Lhikan himself, having lost his Toa powers and transformed into a wise Turaga.
    • Turaga Dume, the ruler of Metru Nui, was Makuta all along, masquerading under the mask of the real Dume who's kept comatose in a metal pod.
    • BIONICLE co-creator Bob Thompson claims that Lhikan's line "Makuta! You were sworn to protect the Matoran!" was intended as a twist, revealing that Makuta had originally been a good guy and that Lhikan had already known him. This is faintly foreshadowed in the intro, where the stone representing Makuta has a blue glow that turns red, symbolizing him becoming evil. The line was meant to set up a prequel film about Makuta's backstory, which ultimately never came to be — however, both the pasts of Makuta and Lhikan would be detailed in later books and online stories.
    • Makuta's offer to Vakama to join him and his brothers hinted at the existence of the Brotherhood of Makuta, setting up later storylines which would show that Makuta isn't just one person, but an entire species.
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz is not Miguel's great-great grandfather and only became a musician after poisoning Héctor and stealing his music. Héctor is the true great-great-grandfather.
  • Frozen:
    • Hans never really did love Anna and only wanted to marry her so he can marry into Arendelle, stage a "little accident" for Elsa, make himself look like a hero for bringing back summer and seize the throne.
    • It never had to be a True Love's Kiss that would rescue Anna. It was an act of true love, such as sacrificing yourself for your sister.
  • How to Train Your Dragon (2010): Later on once the Red Death shows up in the film, the reason for the dragons stealing the village's food supply is made clear; they steal the food to feed it to the Red Death, and if they fail or didn't bring any food, the Red Death will eat them.
  • The LEGO Movie: The entire movie has taken place in the mind of an imaginative boy named Finn, who snuck down into his basement to play with his father's LEGO collection. Lord Business is actually based on Finn's image of his overly strict father (aka "The Man Upstairs"), who insists on building a perfectly ordered LEGO world with no room for playing or experimentation.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Mr. Waternoose is working in league with Randall in the plan to kidnap children and extract their screams to stop the energy crisis.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: During their encounter in the Cave of Lost Souls, the mysterious Wolf hunting Puss down reveals himself as none other than Death taking on a physical appearance to claim Puss's last life as punishment for his reckless wasting of his past lives whilst boasting about being an immortal legend who "laughs in the face of death".
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: We see the researcher that created Fisk's Super Collider at several points early on; a thin, bespectacled, shaggy-haired woman who habitually wears a lab coat. It is only when Peter B. realizes that she is far more personally invested in observing his horrible demise from being in the wrong dimension than would be expected from the usual pathologically ethics-deficient researchers that he asks her name... at roughly which point Dr. Olivia Octavious's lab coat comes off, her glasses are swapped out for goggles, and her tentacles come out.
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: It turns out that the spider that bit Miles and gave him his powers didn’t come from his universe; it was brought to his dimension by the Collider by the experiments Jonathan Ohnn (or currently the Spot) conducted for Kingpin. Without the spider bite and the powers it bestowed, the Earth-42 that the spider originated from has no native Spider-Man, and Miguel states that as a result, Miles is a walking temporal anomaly within the Multiverse — the original anomaly. This is supported by Miles getting confronted by the Earth-42 version of himself at the end, revealing that thanks to the displaced spider, Miles wound up becoming the Prowler instead, showing that Miles was originally destined to become a villain rather than a hero.
  • In Turning Red, the date of the 4*Town concert that Mei and her friends spend much of the movie working toward attending is on the same night as the ritual Mei has committed to undergoing.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • Vanellope is not a Dummied Out character or a Glitch Entity. Her image is on the side of her game box, meaning that she's a legitimate character who was meant to be part of Sugar Rush from the beginning, but was made into a glitch after the fact.
    • Sugar Rush's ruler King Candy is actually Turbo, a character from an older game who's an arcade cautionary tale about why not to game-jump, as his doing so led to his game being unplugged. He escaped to Sugar Rush, and he shoved himself in place of Vanellope, the game's true ruler, who he made a glitch.
  • Zootopia: Assistant Mayor Dawn Bellwether is the true mastermind behind a massive conspiracy involving poisoning innocent predators with Night Howler pellets, turning them savage with the goal of inflaming historic predator/prey tension and using the resulting civil unrest to rise in political power.

  • In Cirqus Voltaire, completing "Unmask Voltaire" reveals that Ringmaster Voltaire is actually Madame Voltaire, who was also the Announcer throughout the game.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The reason masked wrestlers used to be popular in 1930s USA wrestling and why mask vs mask remained a staple of Mexican lucha libre is that a good deal of the masked wrestlers never reveal their public identity until they are unmasked. El Santo never revealed his face until a week before his death. When a luchador is forced to unmask per stipulation, he/she also tends reveal much about their personal and professional history to the audience (as Konnan, turning him into a giant sympathetic baby face in CMLL).
  • The shocking revelation of the identity of the Outsiders' Third Man in WCW's 1996 Bash at the Beach: Hulk Hogan.
  • The very long-awaited reveal of the identity of The Undertaker's "higher power". It was revealed to be Vince McMahon himself all along.
    Vince: IT'S ME, AUSTIN!
  • Or the true horrific reveal about Pro Wrestling itself? It's scripted. Dun Dun Dun. GASP!
  • In WWE, the man who drove a car and ran over "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at 1999 Survivor Series was revealed to be Rikishi, as well as the mastermind HHH.
  • Can't wait to find out who the mystery RAW GM is in the WWE. Unfortunately, the Mystery GM was Put on a Bus and never mentioned again when Triple H took over as COO. Turns out it was Hornswoggle.
  • Leading up to the 1990 Survivor Series, a giant egg was displayed at WWF shows and it was implied that the egg would hatch around the time of the card. During the show, Mean Gene Okerlund listened to the egg, said it was about to hatch and out came ... The Gobbledy Gooker, credited as one of Vince McMahon's stupidest ideas. He and Mean Gene danced for a little bit while fans booed. That same night, Ted DiBiase's team had a mystery member. After the rest of his team was introduced, DiBiase brought out his fourth man, a new WWF wrestler managed by Brother Love named ... The Undertaker.
  • Back in the 1980s, Paul Orndorff was slated to face Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji in a tag team match at Madison Square Garden with a mystery partner. For a few weeks, Orndorff would do promos with a large cardboard box jostling around, saying his partner was inside. The week before the match, Orndorff used a power saw to cut the box open and reveal the Junkyard Dog.
  • At the end of the Black Scorpion storyline in WCW, Sting defeated him at Starrcade 1990 and removed his mask to reveal Ric Flair.

  • A trope-worthy twist on the source novel turns up at the very end of the 2013 stage adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Remember the tramp at the junkyard, who met and conversed with Charlie at the start of the show and later encouraged the boy to buy that Wonka Bar that turned out to have the last Golden Ticket? He was Willy Wonka in disguise.
  • Dear Evan Hansen has this near the end. Socially awkward Evan repeatedly tells everyone else of an accident that involved him climbing a tree and falling, leading to one of his arms being broken. Come the middle of the second act, it's revealed that the fall wasn't an accident, but a botched suicide attempt due to his social anxiety. Evan had been denying that to himself for the whole play and subconsciously used that experience to console a bereaved family with a Snowball Lie.
  • The Mrs Hawking play series: In part IV: Gilded Cages, the crime boss known as the Kingmaker is revealed to be Elizabeth Frost, née Danvers, Mrs. Hawking's childhood governess and friend.
  • In Sophocles's Oedipus the King, Oedipus searches for the man who assassinated King Laius, only to find that he himself killed the king. As the seer Tiresias tells him, "You are the murderer you seek." This is one of Aristotle's examples of anagnorisis in the Poetics.
  • National Theatre's 2014 production of Treasure Island uses a small one near the beginning: During the scene where Squire Trelawney is hiring crew for the voyage, a man seated nearby engages him in conversation, offers advice on who to hire, and ends up signing on himself as the ship's cook. At the end of the scene, the departing Trelawney asks his new friend's name, and the man twitches aside the cloak that was covering his legs, revealing a deficiency in that area, pulls a crutch from under his seat, and introduces himself: Long John Silver.
  • Wicked has a few:
    • The Wizard and those working for him are the ones responsible for the Animals of Oz losing their power to speak. Elphaba and Glinda learning this changes the course of the entire story, as Elphaba goes from idolizing the Wizard and wanting to work for him (and in fact, came to see him partially because of this very issue) to instead beginning a rebellion against him.
    • The lion cub that Elphaba and Fiyero saved grew up to become the Cowardly Lion.
    • Arguably the biggest one of the whole play: Elphaba's real father, her mother's mysterious lover we only saw in shadow at the beginning, is the Wizard of Oz himself. Elphaba being the product of two different worlds—Oz (via her mother) and our world (via her father)—is the reason her powers are so potent.
    • At the very end of the play, we learn that Elphaba did manage to save Fiyero's life earlier (she believed she had failed) by turning him into the Scarecrow. We also see that Elphaba faked her "death" at Dorothy's hands. She and Fiyero end up leaving Oz together, letting everyone else think they both died.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Reveal


"Daddy's Gone Now..."

(Spoilers) After unpacking the boxes that are never unpacked, looking at his stuff, and notices that his journal is completely blank, it is revealed that Charlie, Emily's imaginary friend is actually David's twisted split personality. Flashbacks shows "Charlie" murdering Alison with a pillow for making out with another guest at a New Year's Eve party & pretending that she commit suicide in the bathtub, pushing Elizabeth out the window & receiving an arm scratch from her, and killing a butterfly in half after coming out of a cave.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / NotSoImaginaryFriend

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