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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.


TV series with their own subpages:

Individual examples:

  • 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.
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    • Similarly, Season 8 brought back Charles Logan to fill the role of Big Bad, despite him having no involvement at all with the conflicts going on during the first half of the season, being on the way to pulling a Heel–Face Turn during his last appearance, and being last seen in a state of Uncertain Doom.
    • Milo Pressman was a minor tech guy working at CTU during the first season who disappeared without explanation. In Season 6, he returned from his Long Bus Trip to become a main character for the season, long after most fans had forgotten about him entirely.
  • 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.)
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    • 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.
    • The Arrowverse adaptation of Crisis on Infinite Earths has quite a few (as befitting its' status as an end-all/be-all crossover), with characters from both other DC TV series (such as Lucifer, and via Stock Footage, Robin and Hawk) and even DC movies (like Alexander Knox).
      • One in particular was shocking enough to get some major discussion after the fact (as the secret was kept until it showed on TV) was the Snyderverse version of the Flash. In other words, the Arrowverse is connected to the DCEU.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • "Saul Gone" has a surprise appearance from Marie Schrader of all people, there to testify against Saul for his crimes he committed during Breaking Bad as part of Walt's empire.
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    • In the same episode, Gomez's wife Blanca makes her first on-screen appearance to testify against Saul as well. She was previously an unseen character only spoken about a couple of times on Breaking Bad.
  • Buffyverse:
    • In season 5 of Angel, Giles sent a member of the Scooby Gang to help Angel. Buffy? Willow? Xander? Faith? Dawn? Nope. Andrew. This is justified however, as Andrew explained that the group didn’t want to work with Angel anymore after his decision to join Wolfram & Hart, meaning that it would make sense for them to send one of their least useful members who also didn’t have a history with Angel.
    • Who ends up being the final Big Bad of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The First Evil, a Monster of the Week who tormented Angel in one episode of Season 3 and then never appeared again once during all of that time between seasons 3 and 7. No one could have predicted such a minor character would get such a big role.
  • 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.
    • 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 had the BBC publicity department not announced his appearance early to head off the tabloid newspaper The Sun leaking 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.
    • Series 12 premiere "Spyfall" kicks things off with a cliffhanger involving the return of the Master. While pre-publicity had revealed that recurring antagonists the Judoon and Cybermen would be back for the season, absolutely nothing hinted at the Master, especially since series 11 had gone out of its way to avoid using old enemies. No one even knew that the actor cast in the role would be on the show, let alone who he was playing.
    • "Fugitive of the Judoon" featured the surprise return of Captain Jack Harkness, 9 years after Torchwood: Miracle Day and 10 years after "The End of Time". It says something about this episode that this is not the most surprising thing to occur in it.
    • The trailer for The Centenary Special shows not one but two classic companions returning! Ace Mc Shane and Tegan Jovanka!
    • 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.
  • The Drake & Josh episode "Honor Council" features an appearance by Addie Singer from Unfabulous, who's apparently friends with Megan. While it's not uncommon for Nick shows to cross over, Unfabulous was not made by Dan Schneider.
  • 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.
  • The finale of the second season of The Flight Attendant had the return of Feliks, the main antagonist of the first season. It's safe to say nobody expected this, as the character had only been briefly mentioned within the second season and there was nothing to suggest they would be showing up again.
  • 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.
  • It seems pretty safe to say that The Gifted (2017) isn't a show that focuses on "expected characters", so this could apply to anyone going forward.
    • Beautiful Dreamer, renamed Dreamer, is a highly obscure character, debuting in Power Pack of all things. No one expected her to be in this series.
    • Despite being an evil mutant hunter, no one expected Ahab considering he is closely associated with Rachel Summers and the contemporary setting of the show.
    • Shatter, a very minor character whose most significance was being a victim of a Sentinel attack and losing his powers in the wake of M-Day, is also an unexpected addition.
    • The Strucker family as a whole, due to the rights of Wolfgang Von Strucker clearly being with Marvel Studios, Andrea and Andreas Von Strucker are mutants whose rights lies with Fox. The X-gene being inherited means their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all are potential mutants.
    • The Season 1 finale features a cameo from Evangeline Whedon, complete with a tease of her dragon form.
  • After the tragic death of Alex Trebek, Jeopardy! had spent several months going through a series of guest hosts. Some of them were no surprise, like longest-running winner Ken Jennings or longtime Jeopardy! fan and Star Trek: The Next Generation actor LeVar Burton. Less anticipated, however, was Aaron Rodgers, the main quarterback for the NFL team Green Bay Packers. This was lampshaded later in the year on Monday Night Football when the commentators were discussing Rodgers's performance history and he was depicted in a CGI mockup as a confused Jeopardy! host.
  • 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 mutant who is relatively obscure and known for Mind Screw plots about mindscapes and multiple personalities.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduces the hobbits way earlier than the material source, where they came into existence barely in the Third Age, and not Second age like in the show. Same goes for the introduced Istari who were send on Arda in the Third Age too.
  • Merlin:
    • At the end of series 4, Tristan and Iseult 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. 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:
    • In an early episode of Power Rangers in Space, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (their Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation incarnation to be exact) make an appearance. This is even unexpected in-universe, as both the Power Rangers and the Ninja Turtles assumed the other group were just fictional characters.
    • Power Rangers Megaforce has the appearance of the Gosei Sentai Dairanger costumes outside of Kibaranger (who was our White Ranger), along with the assumption that the costumes of the series from Himitsu Sentai Gorenger to Choujin Sentai Jetman are just alien powers that weren't brought to Earth.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Steel adapted a Metal Hero crossover episode featuring Jiraiya (who becomes a new character called Sheriff Skyfire).
    • Power Rangers: Beast Morphers goes completely and utterly bonkers with the second half of season 2:
      • Episode 9 begins with a cameo appearance of Doctor K, who helps the team to figure out a way to save Mayor Daniels.
      • Episode 10 and 11 was another Metal Hero crossover adaptation as we get the American version Space Sheriff Gavan Type-G as Captain Chakku.
      • Everyone knew they were going to adapt the three dinosaur Ranger teamup from the Go-Busters vs. Kyoryuger. No one expected the lead-up to not only give us a proper Beast Morphers/Dino Charge team up, but also bring back Keeper and Sledge!
      • You think we'd get a breather after that, right? NOPE. Suddenly, we find out that Evox is more than just some snake-like virus. He's actually the Venjix Virus resurrected, finally completing a Sequel Hook nearly ten years old!
    • Power Rangers Dino Fury had a couple.
      • Early preview photos revealed that Ninja Steels Mick Kanic would be making an appearance. Then the episode he appeared in also had the appearance of the Nexus Prism artifact from the same series.
      • Later on, Lord Zedd, pre-Z Wave, was revealed to have been revived.
  • 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 Red Dwarf episode "Cured" is about a space station where scientists have reincarnated history's greatest villains through cloning and genetically cured them of evil. The villains in question are Hitler, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler and... Messalina, who is not only comparatively obscure, but also nowhere near as evil as the others, leading to speculation that she was only included because the production felt one of them should be a woman.
  • 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 are 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?
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • Bruce Maddox, the antagonist in "The Measure Of A Man", plays a major role in the series' backstory and even appears in person in the "Stardust City Rag" episode.
    • Season 2 features a major return few expected: the Bus Punk that Spock neck-pinched in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, complete with a Call-Back to that very moment. Wesley Crusher shows up in the Season 2 finale, having Took a Level in Badass in the process.
    • Season 3 isn't just going to bring back the entire TNG crew, but also the holographic Professor Moriarty from "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Ship In A Bottle", and Lore.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Mandalorian'
      • The 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.
      • Season 2 threw a few more surprises along the way, with the live-action debut of fan favorite Ahsoka Tano, a still alive Boba Fett, and Luke Skywalker, looking exactly like he did in Return of the Jedi!
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi: Given the basic premise of the series — a character study of Obi-Wan during a bleak, uncertain period of time for the Jedi — people assumed, pre-release, that the main plot of the show would involve Obi-Wan watching over Luke. However, the actual adventure of the series involves him protecting Leia, whose involvement in the series was hardly guessed at, especially since Leia and Obi-Wan never directly interacted in A New Hope. However, this storyline does help explain why Leia sounded so excited when she heard that Ben Kenobi came to rescue her, as well as why she would name her son "Ben".
  • 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.
    • In Season 5, the resurrection of Sam and Dean's younger half-brother, Adam, was shocking. He had been a one-off character that turned out to have been Dead All Along and replaced with a ghoul impersonating him. The brothers mourned the brother they never knew at the end of the episode in a way that felt final. So, it was a genuine shock when Castiel shows up with the newly resurrected Adam.
    • In Season 10, the brothers learn that Oz is a real alternate dimension and eventually meet Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, and Glinda.
    • 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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