“Fore-shadowing.” A term that I’ve heard being used more and more in the last few years, and a technique that has been picked up by many writers and directors as an element of storytelling. I’m no expert in cinematography, so I can’t offer a proper definition, but “fore-shadowing” roughly refers to when an important plot point in a series or movie is announced before, in the form of a subtle clue that may or may not get picked up. In the case of TV shows, this technique often involves having certain story elements spoiled episodes, if not seasons, before it actually happens. When the big moment rolls in, the audience is divided in two categories: those who are surprised and those who (somewhat annoyingly so) become the “Told you!” kind of people. However, there are some of those “fore-shadowing Easter eggs” that were so subtly introduced into the narrative, that most people barely even noticed the warning. We went looking for them, and combined a list of 7 Shocking Fore-Shadowing Moments In TV Shows, which will prove that some things were actually announced a long time prior.
Also, this goes without saying: beware of the major spoilers ahead.
1. The X-Files
A big turning point for Scully in The X-Files series was the season four moment when she was hit with the heavy news that she has brain cancer. Her disease is, however, fore-shadowed by an earlier season four episode, when she finds herself kidnapped by a psychopath who abducts women just to give them lobotomies. The Easter egg of this episode is referred in the reason why he kidnapped Scully. He claims he did it because there are “howlers” all over her head, and in doing so, he points to the source where her tumor was growing.
2. Game Of Thrones
No one could ever doubt the cinematic and storytelling mastery of an Emmy winning series, surely. More than that, actually: Game Of Thrones also managed to deliver one of the most shocking fore-shadowing moments in TV shows, by using the power of Petyr Baelish, more commonly known as Littlefinger. He is well known for his scheming, tactical intelligence and stealthy danger, but he also managed to predict not one, not two, but three deaths in the series when he said the quote, “People die at their dinner tables, they die in their beds, they die squatting over their chamber pots.” This statement was eventually followed by the deaths of Joffrey, Shae and Tywin, all three of which died, in order, in the scenarios mentioned by Littlefinger.
3. How I Met Your Mother
Despite being a brilliant comedy series that has won the hearts of its numerous audience, How I Met Your Mother was just as capable of exhibiting greatly emotional moments and amazing fore-shadowing. In what is perhaps one of the most creative forms of it, the creators count down to Marshall’s dad’s death in season six, by having numbers that appear in various places over the episode, starting from 50, count down to the moment of his demise. This is even more frustrating, since it’s not exactly that subtle, and it could have been picked up by almost anyone, but who would have ever guessed what the countdown was actually for?
4. Mad Men
Doesn’t it seem like we almost have a pattern here? That’s because we kind of do. What writers and directors love most to fore-shadow, is the death of a character. In Mad Men’s case, it’s Lane Pryce, who hangs himself in his office during season five. This moment has been built up to, by having various hints subtly inserted into otherwise insignificant moments in the TV show. He jokingly says, “I’ll be in my office for the rest of my life!” and we get a peek at a noose that’s been doodled in Don Droper’s notepad, among other things.
5. American Horror Story
The third season of American Horror Story, titled Coven, had in the center of the plot a group of apprentice witches, who train in order to become The Supreme, the leader of the coven. The plot twist of the series was that none of the students eventually claimed the title, and instead it was underdog Cordelia. However, this isn’t so surprising if all you do is closely analyze the opening of the show. When the name of Cordelia’s actress, Sarah Paulson, appears in the credits, so does an image of Santa Muerte, also known as The Lady of the Seven Powers.
6. House Of Cards
If there is a TV show that has left before a death scene a blindly obvious number of hints leading up to it, this is House Of Cards. Zoe Barnes’ death, resulted from being pushed in front of a train, is fore-shadowed by clues from the very first episode, when she complains about how her job at the metropolitan pages is “killing her.” Among other things, the most obvious preceding hint is the scene where Frank is asked by his wife how he plans to deal with Zoe, as he thoroughly studies a map of the metro.
While most of the fore-shadowing is the work of a director, a writer or a convenient team up of both, without the actors knowing much about it (until the last moment, maybe), in the case of Firefly, we had a case confirmed by an actress herself. Morena Baccarin, who plays Inara in the series, said that the fact that her character was dying has been teased in a particular scene before. When the Firefly gang encounters the Reavers, notorious savages with cannibalistic and other vile tendencies, Inara enters her quarters and is seen gazing upon a box with a syringe in it. Apparently this was her medicine, which Inara would have rather skipped, than to have to face the barbaric Reavers.
Perhaps some of these are more obvious than the others, but there’s no denial that it’s a technique growing in popularity that we must keep our eyes open for. Not only does it make for a really fun and interesting game for the viewers to play, but it’s also a good way to ensure that the tiny details of a series won’t be as omitted as before. These were 7 Shocking Fore-Shadowing Moments In TV Shows, which hopefully are the beginning of a trend that we don’t want to end.