Top 10 Cartoon TV Plot Twists You Didn’t See Coming
These cartoon TV plot twists you didn't see coming prove that cartoons can be just as exciting and nuanced as live-action shows.
What a twist! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Plot Twists You Didn’t See Coming in TV Cartoons."
For this list, we’re looking at the shocking moments in some of our favorite animated series that threw everyone for a loop—whether they’ve changed the outlook of the series for better or worse, or opened our eyes to a new perspective on things. Needless to say, spoilers are expected.
Finn and Jake come across a video diary about the Ice King and make a jaw-dropping discovery about their wizarding nemesis. 1,000 years ago, Ice King was a normal human named Simon Petrikov whose life was transformed the day he found the magic crown—he was gifted with ice powers, but his sanity completely crumbled. This adds a DEPRESSING new depth to the icy, princess-chasing psychopath—he once had a normal life, a beautiful fiancé—who he ironically called his “princess”—and was even best friends with a young, not yet vampire queen Marceline. Tragically, there’s little hope for him remembering the happier life he once lead.
It turns out that Eclipsa Butterfly, the Queen of Darkness and Princess Star’s supposed ninth great-grandmother, had a monster hybrid daughter —and yet she does not show up in the Butterfly Family scroll. The Butterfly matriarchs hope to squeeze the truth out of the Magic High Commission at Eclipsa’s trial… but what they find out is a doozy. Eclipsa’s daughter was to inherit the throne, but she was switched at birth with another baby. Having been kept in the dark for so long, Star is horrified to learn that she may not be actual royalty… and that her family stole the throne from its true owner… but would giving it back later REALLY help things?
During a brawl at T.C.R.I., the Turtles band together to bring the Shredder down, only to be greeted by a nasty surprise—Shredder is actually a fugitive Utrom alien. This little pest went on a rampage against his fellow aliens, and then escaped to Earth where he took on his faux identity—inspired by the legend of the ACTUAL Shredder of old- and vowed to conquer the Utroms… and anyone who got in his way. While he’s technically not the genuine article, he took this stolen identity and made it his own as the Turtles’ most formidable and ruthless adversary—it’d be safe to say that he WAS the one true Shredder.
In her early days as the Avatar, Korra found herself up against the mysterious Amon—a revolutionary planning to equalize Republic City by taking away all benders’ bending abilities—thanks to some unknown “mystical” power. However, after learning bits and pieces of his family history, it’s revealed that Amon is a bender himself—a bloodbender—and his “gift” is actually a bloodbending technique that severs bending abilities. While his image is a complete lie, his mission was real—he grew to HATE bending after being pushed too hard as a child by his father, and the pressure turned a once innocent kid into a cold and calculating political terrorist.
Timmy Turner has been put on trial for being the worst godchild in history. After a rocky start, it seems as though Timmy may have finally won the case… until Foop drops a major bombshell—Timmy made an illegal SECRET wish. The wish was that everyone would stop aging so he could keep his fairies… and it was made 50 years ago—meaning that it’s been five decades since the very first pilot episode where Timmy first got Cosmo and Wanda. This was definitely a unique take on the never-aging cartoon characters cliché… but it gets completely swept under the rug and resolved by the end of the episode—because status quo.
#5: Chad Is a Double Agent “Codename: Kids Next Door” (2002-08)
Chad Dickson, aka Numbuh 274, was considered the best there was in the Kids Next Door organization… until he supposedly turned traitor in the wake of his 13th birthday. Since then, he became a recurring teenage villain, forming a heated rivalry with Numbuh 1… but had he REALLY betrayed his comrades? In the penultimate episode, it’s revealed that Chad was a double agent for the Kids Next Door, and that every time he and Numbuh 1 have clashed, he was secretly helping them from the sidelines—adding a new perspective to all of his “defeats.” As he departs—his loyalty no longer questioned, he leaves his former pupil one last cryptic clue.
Many say that THIS is where The Simpsons began to decline in quality. In the midst of his 20th anniversary, Principal Skinner makes a shocking announcement… he’s been lying about his identity. In reality, he was a street punk who served in the platoon of the REAL Seymour Skinner—who became like a mentor to him. When his sergeant was declared dead, the faker ended up living Skinners’ life and dreams in honor of his memory. While some twists can be clever like the mystery of who shot Mr. Burns, this revelation on a well-developed character came out of nowhere, and we were expected to pretend that none of it ever happened afterwards.
In the far-off Citadel of Ricks, dynamic duos gather from across the multiverse, and a Morty has dared to run for election as president. While everyone laughs off the idea of a MORTY being president as a lost cause, this Morty wins the election with his promise to end the division between the two classes… but is he really what he seems? No, he’s actually the Evil Morty from season one—he had been hiding in plain sight and managed to deceive his way into the highest power in the Citadel—and his very first order is to dispose of ANYONE—be they Ricks or Mortys—who oppose his new reign without a second thought. Yikes…
Ever since the series’ beginning, one question has been on the minds of Gravity Falls fans: who wrote the mysterious journal that Dipper found? It turns out that the journal was just one of three, all chronicled by Grunkle Stan’s long-lost twin brother, Stanford Pines. Ford became obsessed with the supernatural activity surrounding Gravity Falls and wrote down all of his findings in three journals—only to leave them behind when he vanished through an interdimensional portal during a quarrel with his twin. The real payoff for this revelation was how cleverly hidden the mystery was—a few subtle clues in the background, plus a hilarious misdirection from the show creator himself.
Before we unveil our number one twist, here are a few jaw-dropping honorable mentions.
- Mr. Krabs and Plankton Were Once Besties, SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-)
- Karai’s Real Father, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012-17)
- Daring Do Is Real, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010-)
It was believed that Rose Quartz, the loving leader of the Crystal Gems and Steven’s mom, shattered Pink Diamond to protect Earth—with a few hints suggesting otherwise. In season 5, however, we learn that Rose didn’t shatter Pink Diamond… Rose WAS Pink Diamond! She masqueraded as a Rose Quartz to spark up the rebellion, faked her own shattering to end the war, and forced Pearl to keep everything a secret. While it’s touching that Pink gave up her royal status and inspired countless gems to fight for Earth, she LIED to her own allies, pulled everyone into the crossfire of her fellow Diamonds’ wrath, and put everything the Crystal Gems believed in into question.