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Secret TV Show Endings You Never Knew Existed

Unlike a film, which can be cleanly divided into a beginning, middle, and end, a television show is heavily weighted in favor of the middle for the vast majority of its run. The pilot episode sets everything in motion, and the final episode brings it all to a close, with every other episode — including season finales — comprising the middle. Finally ending a TV series after however many episodes and however many seasons is always a tall order. Ending a series on the right note is even harder, and that's without even getting into the threat of premature cancelation faced by many shows.

Whether because of worries over audience reaction, indecisive creative teams, or changing circumstances beyond the writers' control, some television shows have alternate endings planned or even fully shot and edited. Of course, only one ending can reach viewers when it comes time to air the finale. As this list is examining secret TV show endings, there will be spoilers abound for the original ending of each series as well, so consider yourself warned. Note also that this list doesn't cover endings that writers bandied about but never actually filmed. 

Twin Peaks

The original run of David Lynch and Mark Frost's "Twin Peaks" lasted for two seasons on ABC before being met with an untimely cancelation. Season 2 had resolved the core mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, but there was so much more left to explore in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington. The season finale, which unwittingly became the series finale, left viewers with a massive cliffhanger. The shocking reveal that Cooper had been taken over by the malevolent Bob entity would remain unresolved for decades until Showtime revived the series in 2017 with "Twin Peaks: The Return."

Only hardcore "Twin Peaks" fans know that there was a definitive, conclusive ending to the show out there long before "The Return" and even before the original series was canceled. The first episode of "Twin Peaks" was feature-length and aired on ABC in 1990 as a 94-minute–long pilot episode. As a fallback in case the series wasn't picked up, David Lynch shot an additional 19 minutes' worth of scenes that tied up the plot and allowed the pilot episode to be packaged as a feature film for the international market instead. This secret ending is completely different from what the full series eventually delivered and is not canonical. The international cut has Cooper and Sheriff Truman finding Bob in the basement of the hospital and ends with the one-armed man shooting him, killing the supernatural antagonist who would otherwise loom over the entirety of the show.


The genre-defying sitcom "Seinfeld" — created by the show's namesake, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David, who would go on to create "Curb Your Enthusiasm" — ran for a lengthy nine seasons and 172 episodes from 1989 to 1998. Considering "Seinfeld" was a self-proclaimed "show about nothing," finding a satisfying way to draw the series to a narrative close was bound to be challenging. The original broadcast ending finds the four main characters receiving a guilty verdict in court for violating the Good Samaritan law and closes with them awaiting their fate of confinement in a jail cell. The closing scene also circled back around to Jerry and George's idle banter about shirt buttons that they had earlier discussed in the very first episode of the show.

Since the main characters are all inarguably bad people, the original ending to the series makes sense as a way to give them their comeuppance for all the people they wronged throughout the prior seasons. This ending was not well-received, however, and it was met with considerable backlash from fans. Though they stuck to their guns and went with the downer ending, the writers were aware that it might make fans angry. They went as far as to shoot an alternate ending in which the jury finds them not guilty instead, but it never aired. This secret ending was eventually included in the special features when Seinfeld was released on DVD.

Squid Game

The South Korean series "Squid Game" took the world by storm when it hit Netflix screens in 2021. The upcoming second season is hotly anticipated but might not be happening in the same way or at all if the first season had stuck with its original ending.

The ending that was released on Netflix has series protagonist Seong Gi-hun coming to terms with post-Squid Game life, giving away the majority of his prize money, and booking a flight away from home to Los Angeles. At the last possible moment, he has a change of heart. Unable to let go of the destructive experience and his hatred for the people who put him through it, he enlists in the next edition of the games and turns around, abandoning the happy ending that may have awaited him on the plane.

The alternate ending that nearly hit Netflix would have seen Seong Gi-hun staying the path and boarding the plane, leaving it all behind and making the healthier choice. This change in the closing moments of the show completely redefines Gi-hun's character arc and either ties up the show with a neat bow as a mini-series or leaves it with an open-ended cliffhanger to be pursued in a second season. The latter was, of course, the route the show ended up taking.

Black Mirror

Given the vignette nature of "Black Mirror," each episode of this dark, sci-fi anthology series tells a contained story with its own beginning, middle, and end — except one episode in particular that has several endings instead of just one. "Bandersnatch" is a special installment in the "Black Mirror" series and stands out from the vast majority of television as an interactive narrative experience. Though each viewer who watches "Bandersnatch" begins the story in the same place, choices made within the Netflix app throughout the runtime alter the course of the story and can result in drastically different outcomes.

The plot of "Bandersnatch" consists of many branching decision paths that unfold in accordance with a complex flowchart. Depending on the choices made by the viewer, they can reach several "dead ends" or eventually arrive at one of five main endings. There is also an extra super-secret ending that extends beyond the bounds of the Netflix app. By following an incredibly precise and purposefully obscure sequence of choices, viewers can find themselves presented with this extra post-credits ending with the main character back on the bus from the beginning. It might seem trivial at first glance, but the sounds produced by his cassette tape are actually coded data, which when decoded present the viewer with a QR code. This QR brought viewers to a secret website that had numerous "Black Mirror" easter eggs and even a playable game, but the website has since gone offline.

How I Met Your Mother

The driving narrative force surrounding the episode-by-episode antics of "How I Met Your Mother" was the lingering question of who the mother in question really was. The external framing device of the series has main character Ted telling his children the story of how he met their mother, with the bulk of the show essentially being flashbacks to the story he is telling in the future. Prolonging such a simple mystery seems like it could quickly run out of steam, but series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas managed to wring over 200 episodes out of the premise before finally drawing it to a close with a two-part finale at the end of the ninth season.

Unfortunately, the show didn't stick the landing in the eyes of many of its fans. As covered by Rolling Stone, fans reacted not only with disappointment but also with outright betrayal and violation. The fan outrage surrounding the ending was so inflammatory that the series creators felt compelled to respond and defend their choices.

When the full series was released as a DVD box set, an alternate ending was included that provided a less depressing and unfulfilling resolution. Most fans were more satisfied with this unused ending, which didn't include the death of the titular mother of the children from the framing device and didn't couple up Ted and Robin, keeping both Ted and Tracy's marriage and Robin and Barney's marriage intact.


"Jericho" was a post-apocalyptic television series about the residents of the titular town of Jericho, Kansas attempting to survive and rebuild in the wake of a nuclear attack on the U.S. The show ran for just one season on CBS before being canceled. A strong petition and outpouring of fan support managed to convince the network to bring it back for a second season, but the scope was drastically reduced to just seven episodes, as opposed to the previous season's 22 episodes.

Even when the show was brought back, it was clear that the writing was on the wall and "Jericho" wouldn't last long. Rather than leaving fans hanging without any resolution when the show was inevitably canceled again, series creators Stephen Chbosky, Jonathan E. Steinberg, and Josh Schaer used their remaining seven episodes to tie up some loose ends. The series ends with Jake and Hawkins successful in their bomb-delivery mission but worrying about the threat of a new civil war on the horizon.

Just in case the series was miraculously renewed by CBS and either extended with additional episodes in the shortened second season or renewed for a third season, the creators shot and edited a different ending. This secret ending, which was eventually released on DVD, was left much more open-ended and provided a hook to continue the story in the event that it was renewed.


"24" quickly became a phenomenon after it premiered in 2001. The exploits of counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) ran for eight seasons and led to a host of spin-offs like "24: Legacy," "24: Live Another Day," and "24: Japan," among others. But, long before the series reached its apex, it almost went in a different direction. Rather than the secret ending of "24" arriving at the series finale, this alternate version came with the end of the first season.

The finale of season one has Jack in a mad rush to rescue his daughter Kim after she has been abducted and held captive for the second time. Meanwhile, Jack's wife Teri discovers that Nina Meyers is the undercover double agent embedded inside the CTU. Jack succeeds in rescuing Kim, but Teri is shot by Nina in a shocking moment that kills off one of the show's main characters. The secret ending, which was later included in the DVD special features, has Teri knocked unconscious and bound but not killed, with Jack finding and rescuing her in time. This change would have had a massive ripple effect on the entirety of the series that followed. Teri's death was a key moment of character development for Jack and Kim, and her death factored into the plot of the show moving forward. 

Game of Thrones

Few television series finales have engendered quite as much vitriol amongst their fan base as HBO's "Game of Thrones." The entire final season drew more criticism than the show had ever received before, but the reaction to the ending with King Bran taking the iron throne was cataclysmic. The outrage even led to a petition to "Remake 'Game of Thrones' Season 8 with competent writers," which amassed over 1.8 million signatures.

Despite how universally hated the show's ending was, there has always remained a sliver of hope that a better ending is out there. It has been confirmed that multiple endings were shot that went unused. Kristofer Hivju, who played Tormund Giantsbane in Seasons 3 through 8, let it slip to Metro that an alternate ending was filmed, but he wasn't able to reveal any details about it.

It had earlier been confirmed that the multiple endings were being filmed as a tactic to avoid leaks and keep spoilers from reaching the public. Emilia Clarke echoed similar sentiments on The Hollywood Reporter's podcast while shooting the final season, saying, "There are lots of different endings that could happen; I think we're doing all of them and we aren't being told which is actually what's going to happen." Even if these secret endings were never intended to be released, there is a decent chance they may have satisfied fans more than the real ending they received, especially since the bar is so low.

The Shield

Created by Shawn Ryan, "The Shield" was a gritty cop show that ran for seven seasons on FX. The series follows corrupt Strike Team head Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and the other officers of The Barn, a police headquarters in the fictional region of Farmington, Los Angeles. The final moments of the show follow Vic as he confesses to the numerous crimes he has committed throughout the series while under an immunity deal. The secret ending of "The Shield" is one instance where the closing moments are the same in both versions while the moments that lead up to them throughout the finale episode are drastically different.

Viewers who watched the finale of "The Shield" in the United States and viewers who watched the finale in the United Kingdom were treated to two wildly different experiences. The U.K. finale was aired as a two-part conclusion spaced a week apart, whereas the U.S. finale was condensed into a single climactic episode. With this structural change came a litany of additional changes to the plot to make up for the extreme difference in runtime between the two versions. Entire narrative arcs appear or disappear depending on which version you watch, including an extra subplot with Dutch and one last appearance from the Robert Huggins character who was introduced much earlier on in Season 3. Superfans of "The Shield" may want to seek out and watch both versions of the finale to round out their consumption of the series.