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Spoiler Alert!

Our favorite surprise endings of 2011 in television, movies, videogames and music.

By / Posted on 05 December 2011

Spoiler Alert

More often than not these days, excellent media is defined by the surprises packed along the way, most commonly as twist endings. Let’s blame Shyamalan. Not all of them are good (let’s once again blame Shyamalan), but some of them are absolutely jaw-droppingly wild. Here are the surprise endings of 2011 that kept us talking about them all year long.

It should kind of go without saying, but spoilers ahead. If you’re not keen on knowing how our favorite bits of media ended this year, stop reading now. If you enjoy reminiscing about a good surprise, though, read on:

Super 8

Young Joe has to literally let go of the memory of his dead mother. More importantly, the kids finally finish their zombie movie and it’s kind of great, mostly because that creepy pyromaniac kid with the braces gets brutally murdered by the most boring kid in the movie. Three times!

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Sissel was never actually Sissel? The body we thought was Sissel is actually Yomiel, an assassin with ghost tricks of his own. Sissel was the name of Yomeil’s dead fiance. The Sissel that the player has been controlling the whole game is actually the ghost of Yomiel’s dead cat, whom Yomiel forced Lynne to shoot against her will way back at the beginning of the game. Also, that possessed lamp calling itself Ray that taught Sissel how to use his powers and set him off on his one-night mission of polter-justice? Turns out Ray is actually Missile, the lovable pomeranean puppy from an alternate timeline where he was killed when Sissel failed to intervene, went along with the whole game’s storyline without Sissel saving the day, then waited ten years for the events to transpire again so he could convince Sissel to help. Even in death, Missile’s loyalty to his master Lynne is unparalleled. And Ghost Trick turns out to be a game about a cat and dog who traveled back in time ten years to solve crimes and become immortals.

Fringe, Season 3

Season 3 will likely be remembered as the absolute best season of Fringe, one of the last stalwarts of hard-edged science fiction on American television. The first half of the season was spent hopping back and forth between two parallel universes, maintaining two entire storylines independent of one another on a week-by-week basis. Once the two collided head-on it was all out war and a particularly sweet LSD trip. The real kicker, though, was the pulse-pounding finale where Joshua Jackson’s Peter Bishop forcibly joined the two universes with a gateway at Ellis Island and, in the process, erased himself from history. POOMF! The moment Peter just up and disappeared mid-sentence was easily one of the most stunning moments of entertainment in years and made the wait for season four all the more harrowing.

Peter Bishop disappearing


Albert Brooks turns out to be the biggest badass in the whole movie, which is quite a claim as he out-intimidates two of the most stone-faced monsters on current television, Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston. The hero “wins,” of course but clearly doesn’t care as much about his shiny jacket and white leather shoes as originally implied as they both become positively soaked in sweat and blood as the film progresses and he never once attempts to clean them off.

Holy Ghost!

43 minutes of solid dancefloor groovin’ that is thoroughly modern if completely unsurprising. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Michael McDonald, the original white soul brother, croons out a pained exclamation of universal dissatisfaction.

Portal 2

GLADoS learns a valuable lesson about herself and about humanity. Then deletes the memory of learning that lesson and decides that the real lesson is that the player is annoying and casts her out into the barren world to die alone. Well, not alone, per se… the weighted companion cube joins you in horrible horrible freedom. The turrets see you off with a haunting sonata. Who programmed this ridiculous artificial intelligence?

Breaking Bad, Season 4

Remember that thing a couple paragraphs ago where we referred to Bryan Cranston as one of the most stone-faced monsters on current television. The finale of Breaking Bad season 4 sold that idea. All season, Cranston’s Walter White watched himself becoming systematically neutered while Gustavo Freins made it evidently clear that White was no longer needed. Beaten, humilated, left to die alone without an ally in the world, things were looking just about as bleak as ever for the cancer-survivng, meth-cooking high school chemistry teacher. And then Walter orchestrates a masterful powerplay, working off of multiple enemies’ hatred of Gus to bring abotu his spectacular end. Walter even poisoned Jesse’s surrogate son and made it look like Gus’s doing just to get his old partner back on his side. That’s cold, White. Baller, but cold.

Those were our favorite surprises of 2011. What were yours? Let us know in the comments below or via Facebook and Twitter. Surprise us!

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.