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Unexpected Character / Live-Action TV

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As one of the entertainment world's staple mediums, it's no surprise that television is full of surprises.

  • 24: Live Another Day has Cheng Zhi as the main antagonist. Although fans were expecting some familiar faces to show up other than Jack, Chloe, Audrey, and James Heller, he was genuinely the last person anyone was expecting to see.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., continuing the tradition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include minor comic characters like Deathlok, Graviton, Lorelei, Blizzard, Blackout, and some of The Inhumans, most notably Mister Hyde and Quake, who was main character Skye all along.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Supergirl (2015) combines this with Not His Sled, as the Hank Henshaw we're introduced to turns out to be the Martian Manhunter in disguise rather than a cyborg supervillain.
    • Though it was announced beforehand, those familiar with canon were probably surprised that Non would appear as a major villain, sans his usual boss Zod. (And this is before he's reduced to Dumb Muscle.)
    • Legends of Tomorrow: No one expected the Reverse-Flash to be running from something... namely, the Black Flash, the abomination that used to be Zoom before the Time Wraiths got to him.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Most had Rosario Dawson pegged as Echo, White Tiger, or even Elektra. Nobody considered the possibility of her playing an obscure character like Claire Temple.
    • The introduction of the Punisher in season 2 was initially a surprise considering the poor reception to every previous attempt to bring him to the screen.
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    • Season 2 featured the reappearances of Wilson Fisk, Madame Gao, and Nobu, plus the appearance of Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones (2015). In these cases, Fisk and Gao had been sent away the previous season (in fact, Fisk's return was quite a major twist due to the fact that it was a complete surprise despite the intense scrutiny every MCU property has been put under these days; it helped that a lot of the marketing for season 2 revolved around the addition of the Punisher and Elektra), Nobu was seemingly killed, and Jeri Hogarth was from a different show, making them all a bit of a surprise to many viewers.
  • Da Vinci's Demons has the titular character meeting none other than Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Dracula).
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master is a frequent subject of this, appearing halfway through to turn out to be The Man Behind the Man of one alien scheme after another. During Anthony Ainley's tenure, the production team sometimes went so far as to conceal his presence in a story by using his current alias as the character name and turning his actor's name into an anagram. This was deliberately inverted in "Frontier in Space", however, when the Master turned out to be working for the Daleks.
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    • Davros does this all the damn time; it might as well be his defining character trait.
    • In "The Invasion of Time", no one was expecting the Sontarans, of all races, to be the masterminds behind the plot.
    • Omega turning out to be The Man Behind the Man in "Arc of Infinity" is unexpected not only from a character standpoint, but from the show's perspective as he hadn't appeared or been mentioned for ten years.
    • "Asylum of the Daleks" starts off with Jenna Coleman showing up several episodes earlier than expected, seeding her character's story arc.
    • "The Night of the Doctor" has the Eighth Doctor appear after 17 years.
    • And in "The Day of the Doctor", it wasn't much of a surprise when all the past Doctors show up... but when Twelve makes an appearance, a month before the Christmas special where he was supposed to debut, that turned quite a few heads. On top of that, Tom Baker makes a surprise appearance at the end as the Curator.
    • The end credit stinger in the Series 8 finale "Death in Heaven", by way of teasing the 2014 Christmas special, has Santa Claus entering the TARDIS!
    • The production team can pull this off all the time these days by not listing important characters and actors on prereleased cast lists and only crediting them in the episode itself.
    • For Series 10, it's John Simm's Master, who hadn't been seen in seven years and was in no way expected to return. Especially given the implications: there's never been a multi-Master story before. It would have been even more unexpected, however, had the BBC publicity department not interfered by announcing his appearance early (although this was to head off the tabloid newspaper The Sun, which was about to leak the story).
    • Also from Series 10 is Nardole. First appearing as a bumbling Comic Relief character in "The Husbands of River Song", the thought he would become one of the Doctor's companions never crossed anyone's mind; especially since all promotion of companions for this series was given to Bill with no hint up until his reveal there was a second one.
    • Big Finish Doctor Who:
      • "Zagreus" has the Third Doctor appear through Stock Footage.
      • "The Light at the End" similarly features the first three Doctors via voice impersonators.
      • Davros again, at the very end of the Divergent arc.
  • Vinnie Jones once guest starred on Elementary as a character known simply as "M". He's strongly implied to be Sherlock's longtime nemesis Moriarty. He actually turns out to be Sebastian Moran, another character from the Sherlock Holmes mythology.
  • General Hospital blindsided many of its longtime viewers with a surprise appearance from Colonel Sanders, as portrayed by George Hamilton. In-Universe, he's apparently an expert programmer on the run from a shady syndicate, and close enough friends with Maxie to entrust her and Lulu with the secret recipe for his 11 herbs and spices. Out of universe, the episode's airdate (July 6) is National Fried Chicken Day.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim has a completely standalone villain for its final episode. It is indeed someone from the past, but it being Kougane, the Big Bad of the summer movie, came right out of nowhere.
  • Legion has an unexpected main character. When a series set in the X-Men universe was announced, few expected it to star Professor Xavier's son David Haller, an immensely powerful and flexible mutant who is relatively obscure and known for Mind Screw plots about mindscapes and multiple personalities.
  • The Mandalorian's debut episode shocked the Star Wars fandom when the bounty target was revealed to be a fellow member of Yoda's species, and a baby at that. This is significant as the franchise shied away on expanding the lore related to Yoda or his species.
  • Merlin:
    • At the end of series 4, Tristan and Isolde were introduced. It felt a little random considering a) they bore no resemblance whatsoever to their legendary counterparts, b) they didn't actually contribute much to the plot, and c) they disappeared entirely after their two episode appearance (Isolde being Killed Off for Real and Tristan disappearing without explanation).
    • The Grand Finale saw the return of Balinor, Merlin's father who hadn't been seen since the end of season two (and had been killed off in the same episode he was introduced).
    • In season three a character calling himself Taliesin has a minor role; an odd inclusion given that the legendary/historical Taliesin is only tangentially related to Arthurian legend.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 shocked people when Dr. Larry Erdhart, Dr. Forrester's original sidekick from the KTMA era and the first season of the cable run, reappeared.
  • Once Upon a Time is about "story book characters", which the creators consider to be all fictional characters, but the show puts a heavy emphasis on Fairy Tale ones, particularly Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. So it surprised quite a few people when Dr. Frankenstein showed up. And the last few seconds of Season 3 suddenly introduce Queen Elsa from Frozen (although admittedly Elsa is an adaptation of the title character of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen).
  • Power Rangers:
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Ami's mother and Rei's father. In the manga, each only appeared once long after the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, making their appearances in this series a little unexpected.
  • The second season of Sense8 had hacker Nomi Marks reach out to help from someone known only as "the Guy". In a clandestine meeting at the cinema, it turns out to be none other than Anonymous, appearing in his familiar Guy Fawkes mask. It's safe to say no one saw that coming!
  • Smallville is a major offender. While sometimes the cool and unexpected DCU characters who have never appeared in live action television may be awesome to watch and being a Long Runner may justify some of it, other times it is out of nowhere and somewhat jarring when they were never involved with Superman before.
    • The Persuader, whose sole purpose is to teleport in, smash a crystal to make Clark's life harder, then getting flattened by the Legion who sent him back to the future in the matter of seconds.
    • Some of the Injustice League. Parasite is a long-time enemy, Livewire is from Superman: The Animated Series, but Neutron, a lesser known character from the comics, definitely counts. His role on the show was so minor, he doesn't even have a page on the wiki.
    • Some members of the Justice Society is slightly more well-known, but they are usually in an alternate dimension or something.
    • Booster Gold. Television Without Pity sums it up nicely.
      "With just three episodes left till the series finale, let's spend some time getting to know Booster Freaking Gold."
    • In the second to last episode, "Prophecy", Black Manta, Captain Cold and Solomon Grundy.
    • The friggin' Wonder Twins from Super Friends had their own episode.
  • Star Trek: Voyager, "Death Wish" When a being identifying himself as Q shows up wanting to die, we definitely expect John de Lancie to show up at some point. But who would have expected JDLQ to conjure up Will Riker to help him argue against Quinn's request to die?
  • The Strain (TV series) had an inversion. Joan Luss' children are saved from her by a group of Strigoi. Their leader, the only one who speaks, was assumed by many to be Quinlan from the novels, a Strigoi who was born as one instead of being an infected human. At the start of season two, it's revealed that the character is actually named Vaun. The character Quinlan does show up later in the season after Vaun is killed.
  • Supernatural:
    • Even though he's a mainstay of the series today, Castiel's first appearance took everyone for a loop. In spite of all the mythical creatures and monsters Sam and Dean have run across, nobody ever imagined apocalyptic angels would be something they'd encounter.
    • Nobody expected that the brothers would ever team up with the Mystery Inc. gang of all characters, especially considering they're from an animated show targeted toward a completely different demographic.


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