The success behind any television show is dependant on the viewer asking questions that future episodes can answer. These questions can range from simple, such as "What's going to happen next week," to the complex, as in "Where did the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon disappear to when he vanished into the night on Westeros' tiniest rowboat?" While most questions do get answered within their own shows, some
unanswered questions and mysteries from television shows still haunt viewers years, sometimes full decades, after the series' conclusion.
There are a lot of reasons these unsolved TV mysteries exist. Some television shows leave things on an intentionally ambiguous notes, hoping that the unanswered questions that are asked by the show will leave fans talking about it for years to come. Other shows, however, may have a bad habit of introducing seemingly important story elements and then completely abandoning them, leaving fans wondering if the show ever meant to circle back or if we were never meant to pay that much attention to those specific details in the first place. Other times, a show ends prematurely, never getting the opportunity to answer the questions it raises.
While there are surely countless unanswered tidbits and details from television history, these 20 loom large above others in how much it pains audiences to not have answers to these burning questions.
'LOST' – What Was Going On With Walt?
LOST is a television show whose entire lifeblood is questions, so it's not surprising that many of them go unanswered. Popular fan site Lostpedia lists 49 unanswered questions and 51 questions that were answered "ambiguously," so it can be hard to keep track of them all.
But no mystery looms larger than the nature of Walt's powers. Was he psychic? Where did his supernatural abilities come from? Whatever the writers had planned, he was written out of the series after Season 2 leaving fans to ponder his abilities forever.
At some point over the course of
Friends, either Ross forgot he was a father or he stopped being able to see Ben, played by future , and never brought it up. Ross is constantly forgetting things — like who he's getting married to or whether or not he and Rachel were on a break — so it's frankly par for the course that he would forget about his son. We never got an answer, but it's fun to imagine that Ben went on to Riverdale heartthrob Cole Sprouse have a pretty sweet life.
'The Office' – What Did Pam Say To Michael?
After nearly a decade of living their lives with microphones catching every single word, perhaps one of the most heartfelt moments in
The Office happens with no sound. Pam runs through the airport to say something to Michael before he gets on a plan to Colorado — but to this day, fans don't know what Pam said. Whatever it was, the hug they shared indicates that her words came from the heart.
'Game Of Thrones' – Where Did Those Chains Come From?
One of the most shocking moments of
Game Of Thrones is when the White Walkers command the wights to pull the dead Viserion out of his icy grave and resurrect him. They do so by attaching massive chains to the dragon, which begs the question — where did those chains come from?
Did they spend the first six seasons teaching an army of
zombies how to forge chains instead of being relevant to the plot? Where is the White Walker forgery? What are the working conditions like there? Not since meat's return to the menu in LOTR has a single detail in a fantasy epic left such confusing implications.
'Gilmore Girls' – Who Is The Father Of Rory’s Child?
Gilmore Girls finally got to have the final four words its creators always intended to end the series with, but did it have to be a cliffhanger? Rory Gilmore is pregnant but the audience never learns who the father is. Could it be Logan Huntzberger? The Wookie-costumed one-night stand from New York City? Was It Paul, and if so will his child be cursed to constantly forget his father?
'How I Met Your Mother' – What's The Story Behind The Pineapple?
How I Met Your Mother, audiences were introduced to "The Pineapple Incident," in which a pineapple mysteriously appeared on Ted's nightstand after a hookup. Despite many references, the mystery wasn't solved until after the season finale in the form of a deleted scene released after the series ended – meaning anyone who didn't go looking for the answer in a DVD sub-menu is still wondering about that pineapple.
'The Good Wife' – What Happened To Julianna Margulies & Archie Punjabi?
The Good Wife left many questions unanswered after it's seven-season run, including "What was Will's last call to Alicia Florrick about?" and "What was Taye Diggs doing there?" but the show's biggest mystery actually involves behind-the-scenes drama. The rumored feud between actresses Julianna Margulies and Archie Punjabi resulted in their characters, supposedly two best friends, not sharing a scene together for over 50 episodes before Punjabi's character, Kalinda Sharma, was written off of the series. Despite some public comments, the details of the show-affecting feud are still the show's biggest lingering mystery.
'Twin Peaks: The Return' – What Year Is This?
The question that ends
Twin Peaks: The Return is just the tip of the mystery iceberg for this series. Where exactly is Dale Cooper at the series end? Why doesn't this woman who looks like Laura Palmer know nothing about Laura Palmer? Who is living in Laura Palmer's house? Is this a future that never was? An alternate dimension, perhaps? How did the booking agent for the Roadhouse nab such A-list acts? What monster is living in Sarah Cooper's body? Where in the world is Audrey? Hopefully fans won't have to wait another 25 years for the answers to these questions.
'Heroes' – What Happened To Caitlin?
Long-distance relationships are tough, but that's nothing compared to stranding one's girlfriend in an alternate future that may no longer exist. While Peter Petrelli was able to return to the present day, he accidentally left his girlfriend stranded in that alternate future. Is she alive in that timeline, or did the timeline simply wink out of existence and take her along with it? Her plight was never fully addressed, and it's hard to imagine things ended well for Caitlin.
'The Sopranos' – Did Tony Soprano Stop Believin'?
The Sopranos finale was one of the biggest television events of the 21st century, but the show ended without a bang or even a whimper — simply the sounds of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" playing in a busy restaurant before sudden silence and darkness. Did Tony Soprano die, or did the writers decide that an anticlimactic ending was better than the risk of not sticking the landing to a momentous series? The show proved that sometimes, it's better to be confusing and memorable than clear and forgettable.
'Pretty Little Liars' – Too Many To List In Full
'The Haunting Of Hill House' – Who Put Those Buttons On Nell's Eyes?
The answer to any mystery in
The Haunting Of Hill House is probably "ghosts did it," but that doesn't make the series' mysteries any less unsettling. During the episode "Two Storms", while no one is paying attention someone or something places two buttons over the eyes of Nell's corpse at her own viewing.
It's a bone-chilling moment that suggests either an unworldly presence following her or, possibly worse, that one of her family members is being possessed for the purposes of creeping the rest of the family out.
'The Good Place' - Is Mindy Really The Best Human?
In Season 3 of
The Good Place, Michael discovers that no one has made it to the Good Place in over 500 years — but there is one person who has made it to the Middle Place, the one and only Mindy St. Claire — who isn't that great a person. Is she really the most morally ideal person to live in the past five centuries, or is there a deeper mystery here that is going unexplored?
'The Leftovers' – Was Nora Telling The Truth?
The Leftovers is all about how people respond in the fact of unexplained phenomenon, so it's no surprise that the series ends at it begins — with a seemingly impossible event. Nora Durst explains to Kevin Garvey that she has somehow traveled to and from an alternate dimensions where 98 percent of the world went missing and decided to hang out in Australia for the rest of her life. The audience never learns if she's lying or not, but the show suggests that when it comes to this answer, faith is more important than trust.
'The Handmaid’s Tale' – Who Carved The Latin Phrase?
"Nolite te bastardes carborundorum" is undoubtedly a badass phrase, but the mechanics of how the phrase came to June's life are questionable. There are a lot of precautions taken to ensure that the handmaids don't have access to sharp objects, so why did Offred's predecessor go through all the trouble of stealing one just to inscribe an empowering message in an obscure language only to commit suicide by hanging herself? There's a story behind this carving, but it's not clear if
The Handmaid's Tale will take the time to tell that story.
'Russian Doll' – What Caused The Loop?
When Nadia finds herself caught in a death-defying time loop, she quickly sussess out the rules of the loop but never determines what caused her to have to repeat her life over and over again from the same starting point. The journey is far more interesting than the mystery behind its origin, but the fact that the question is never addressed combined with the metaphysical-timeline shenanigans that occur once the loop is ended suggest something deeply weird is going on.
'Doctor Who' – Doctor...Who, Exactly?
At this point, it seems like
Doctor Who is never going to reveal what The Doctor's real name is. Is it unpronounceable? Do they not have a name? Is their real name something silly like "Doctor Worm" or "Scoop?" The show is just taunting fans at this point, even naming an episode "The Name Of The Doctor" and then not cluing the audience into that name when it's whispered mid-episode.
'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' – Was It All Just A Delusion?
The Season 6 episode "Normal Again" sees Buffy having demon-inspired visions of a reality where the events of the show are all in her head as she stays in a mental institution. Yet after the demon has been defeated, the last shot of the episode is Buffy in that asylum, seemingly retreating into her fantasy. So are the events of the show real life, or are they just Buffy's fantasy?
'Stranger Things' – What Happened To Subjects 1-7, 9, & 10?
met Eleven and Eight, and the numbering pattern indicates there are at least nine other super-powered people who are unaccounted for. Are any of those other test subjects alive? Have fans already met one and not known it? The show will likely answer this question in the future, but for now it's a major gap in the show's history that raises a lot of questions.
'My Name Is Earl' – Did He Ever Finish The List?
My Name Is Earl was all about one man's massive list of ways he's wronged others and his attempts to make things right with every name on that list. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before he got a change to finish that list. While the show never got to air the conclusion of Earl's list, creator Greg Garcia revealed in a Reddit AMA that he has his own idea of how the series would've ended if it hadn't been cancelled.
While it may feel natural to want to know every detail about a beloved show, the fact that this list contains some of the greatest television programs of the past few decades suggests that answering questions is not what makes a show great. Instead, the ways that characters respond and react to a show's mystery are what keep audiences coming back for episode after episode. Answers may be more satisfying, but the act of pondering unsolved mystery is almost always more fun than getting an answer.