What's one of the most exciting things that can happen in a TV show? That thing that gives us the utmost confidence in the writer and only gets better the more times you rewatch the show? That's right: someone getting their foot run over by a lawnmower at an office party. Just kidding (sort of).
One of the most exciting things to happen on a TV show is foreshadowing. Sure, it may sound like a dull device used mainly in literature, but foreshadowing happens in movies and TV, too. And it's a lot more exciting in TV shows because sometimes, the writer hints at what's going to happen a couple of episodes or even seasons down the line, illustrating just how well planned-out the show you're watching is — as in, you won't get to the last season and there's suddenly twin brothers, one of which is a smoke monster (I think), battling for... something to do with electromagnetism?
Foreshadowing shows us that the writer has a Whedonesque approach to planning their show, and that all the hours we've spent binge-watching will be worth it in the end. This device also creates an exciting Easter egg for second-time viewers, who know what's coming and spot the clues and hidden references in the time leading up to it.
So, without further ado, I present to you my favorite foreshadowing and Easter eggs in TV shows:
OK, I know I just sort of bashed the last season of LOST up there, but that's only because I hold a grudge. In truth, there was quite a bit of foreshadowing in the series (although — ahem — some of it never amounted to anything). If you watch closely enough, you will notice that, in the pilot episode, John Locke basically gives away the entire final season when he mentions, during a game of backgammon with Walt, that it is the oldest game in the world, with one side light and one side dark.
The sixth and final season deals with two brothers, each representing light or dark, challenging each other for thousands of years (yes, in the show, it tells us that it has been thousands of years; I'm not just referring to what it felt like having to sit through it).
Although foreshadowing is generally used in more dramatic shows, some sitcoms, like Arrested Development, are just that good, and clues are planted seasons in advance. Seasoned viewers of the show will have noticed the numerous clues leading up to Buster losing his hand and it being replaced by a hook (starting as early as a year before the fact).
Added to this, in the season 3 episode "Development Arrested," it is revealed that the Bluth's adopted song, Annyong, is a mole for the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as for his own family, and he has been the one causing the Bluths much of their issues. Ten episodes prior to this, Annyong can be seen wearing a t-shirt with a mole on it, which he wears again in "Development Arrested."
Game of Thrones
In this never-dull (OK, sometimes dull) HBO series, the Starks' family signet is the dire wolf. In the pilot episode, Theon, who was kidnapped by the Starks but seems to be kind of cool with it now, is willing and ready to kill the dire wolf. Within the first few episodes of season 2, Theon turns on the Starks by seizing Winterfell.
When The X-Files wasn't giving aliens the desirability that Twilight gave to vampires, it was dropping hints all over its viewers. When Scully finds out that she has cancer in the fourteenth episode of season 4, we can't say that we weren't warned; the episode "Unruhe," which takes place 12 episodes prior, has a crazy man strapping her to a chair and trying to lobotomise the exact area where her cancer is, because he believes there are "the howlers" there.
How I Met Your Mother
Because of the popularity of this show, I have been unable to avoid watching a good portion of it. Even though I'm not a fan, I must admit that it does a pretty good job at foreshadowing future reveals. For example, the thirteenth episode of season 6, "Bad News", we learn that Marshall's father is dead at the end of the episode (although the whole episode, we are thrown off, thinking that the "bad news" will be Marshall and Lily's infertility). The entire episode features a countdown hidden in the background, starting from 50. This news was also foreshadowed two seasons prior, when, in the tenth episode of season 4, in a flash forward, Marshall's father isn't present at the Thanksgiving table.
This series is not known for its clever writing for nought. It brings us many subtle hints, lines of dialogues that you may miss if you so much as breathe and somewhat ambiguous relationships (there's a reason for all the Tumblr "shipping wars," and it isn't all our imagination). In and amongst this are some delightfully inconspicuous clues.
In the final episode of series three (hello, in England it's called "series" and not "season" because there are only, like, two episodes every couple of years, so it doesn't technically last a full season), it is revealed that Charles Augustus Magnussen is the big villain who owns a newspaper, called CAM, and blackmails people to gain power. One of these people turns out to be John Watson's new bride, Mary. If you watch the previous episode, "The Sign of Three," Sherlock, as best man, reads the telegraphs at Mary and John's wedding and one of them is from "Cam." Mary is visibly upset by this, but we assume it is because the message mentioned her family, who all died, and not that she is a liar with a double life.
Another Magnussen-related clue is a copy of a newspaper in the series 3 mini-episode "Many Happy Returns," which features the CAM logo on it.
In 30 Rock's final episode ever (RIP you sweet beast), it is confirmed that Kenneth is probably immortal and listens to a pitch from Liz's great-granddaughter.
The throwaway jokes about his age have been noticed here and there, but did you know that the first reference made to Kenneth's undiscernible age was four seasons prior, in the third episode of season three, when he states that he has "worn this jacket since nineteen-hubeduh"? Following from this, there are over 20 Kenneth age-related jokes throughout the course of the show. You may now go and rewatch from the beginning and look out for them. You're welcome.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I sometimes think that Joss Whedon has Sherlock-like mind-palace abilities when it comes to planning out his shows. The instance of foreshadowing that stands out the most for me from BtVS (and believe me, there are many) is the hint of the arrival of Dawn, Buffy's sister, which takes place in the first episode of season 5.
Upon rewatching, the first clue takes place two seasons prior, in "Graduation Day, Part Two," when Buffy asks Faith, in a dream, "Who's going to look after him?" to which Faith replies, "It's a she." Faith also makes reference to Little Miss Muffet, a recurring reference used for Dawn.
In the next season, episode 15, Faith tells Buffy while they're making the bed in another dream that "little sis is coming". At the end of season 4, Tara tells Buffy to "be back before Dawn" in another dream sequence. In hindsight, some foreshadowing may be created by the viewer and never confirmed by the writers, but in this case, I'm pretty sure that it was no coincidence.
One of the most shocking things to ever happen on Mad Men (besides someone's foot getting ridden over with a lawnmower — seriously) was Lane Pryce's suicide in the penultimate episode of season 5. If you were watching closely, though, it shouldn't have been that shocking, considering the clues we were given all season long. A little conversation here, a little symbolism there and I'm surprised that I was surprised.
Episode 5 of the same season sees Don doodling nooses during a meeting. Lane jokingly remarked on the telephone in the first episode of the season, "I'll be here the rest of my life." The whole season was riddled with death symbolism and clues, as Vulture's video on the topic is quick to point out.
In what feels like one of the most exciting TV Easter eggs to ever happen, the writers of Community had been setting up a joke for THREE YEARS before the payoff. In the third-season episode "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," Annie says the name Beetlejuice for the third time in the show's history — the first two times being in the season 1 episode "Communication Studies" and the season 2 episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" — and, sure enough, Beetlejuice passes by in the background. Remind me why this show was cancelled? (Special Easter egg mention goes to the time Abed was in the background of an episode of Cougar Town).
This show is littered with hidden references, lines and Easter egg images. And, no, I'm not going to talk about the pink teddy bear. Too obvious (although, it does appear in more episodes (and webisodes) than you'd imagine).
Instead, let's cast our memories back to season two, in which the pink teddy bear appears. Every episode that the teddy bear appears in has a title that, when combined, reads "737 Down Over ABQ", a reference to the crash in the season's finale.
The titles of the show are always something to look out for. Many, if not all, of them give away what the episode will entail. For example, the show's third-to-last episode is called "Ozymandias", which is a poem about the decline of once-great rulers, serving as a metaphor for Walt's life. So, if anyone missed out on watching the show, it's not too late — just take a gander at the episode names and you're all set.