10 Bizarre Fan Theories on TV’s Most Popular Shows


In the year ahead we’re expecting to get answers from some of television’s most mystery-ridden shows, from How I Met Your Mother and Homeland to The Office, and even, one day, Breaking Bad (it’s hard to believe now, but that day will come). And so, while we still sit in the space between questions and answers, we decided to round up the most popular and/or bizarre fan theories we’ve seen (some spoilers may be ahead). Have some to elaborate on or share? Let us know!

Mad Men: Everything ends up being Kenny Cosgrove’s roman à clef

Last year Slate’s Julia Turner shared an interesting commenter theory on why Peggy didn’t take Kenny Cosgrove with her to CGC, per their “you go, I go” pact. It goes:

My theory/prediction about Cosgrove is that, in the end, it’s revealed that he’s written everything we’ve seen in the series, a memoir or thinly veiled fiction of his time in advertising. I think the episode with Pete’s dinner party hinted at that. He always seems to be hanging around the edges, no doubt observing what’s happening, keeping a low profile and writing in his spare time. So, a reason Peggy didn’t bring him with her when she jumped ship could be that functionally, he needs to stay so we have a witness to everything that happens at SCDP.

Our take: We love this theory, but also admit it totally plays on our uptick in warm feelings towards Kenny Cosgrove (after Michael Ginsberg, who’s still Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s most moral employee). As others have reminded us, in the pre-Alex Mack days he wasn’t always a good guy, but this idea is totally plausible and romantic in the context of his increasingly sensitive writer characterization. See the above clip from last season’s “Signal 30,” in which we got a taste of his short story about Pete Campbell, “The Man With the Miniature Orchestra.”

Breaking Bad: The copy of Leaves of Grass in the bathroom was a gift from Gretchen Schwartz, not Gale Boetticher

Hank’s discovery in the final minutes of “Gliding Over All” spawned a flurry of stunned reactions and predictions (as well as some scatological YouTube spoofs), from which this particular theory gained some traction. The argument is that the book is a memento from Walt’s affair with Gretchen, and that the second initial in the “G.B.” inscription stands for her maiden name, “Black.”

Our take: While we’ve always wanted more on the Gretchen/Walt backstory, we have to agree with Erik Kane over at Forbes , who took the theory to task with some handwriting analysis and Gilligan’s own words: “Walt Whitman’s poetry was something that Gale Boetticher loved. It touched his heart and he wanted to share it with his new friend and mentor Walter White. And unfortunately the sharing of it and Walt keeping this book in hindsight proved to be a bit unwise.” Either way, the aftermath of the discovery isn’t going to be simple, and we’ll continue enjoying the speculation until we get answers.

Breaking Bad (#2): Gomie is the mole

Over the years many fans have speculated that Hank’s partner Gomez is (or was) Mike and Gus’ DEA informant, citing his reluctance to investigate Fring, yet his willingness to take Hank’s abuses (who would really endure this long without a motive?), as well as the fact that he would be an entirely pointless character otherwise. Some have simply called it a gut feeling that something is just off.

Our take: We too have been suspicious of Gomez’s purpose, but this particular theory is wearing thin, especially after his takedown of Mike this season (and that winning grin at the bank, which strikes us as genuine pride). That said, we don’t feel comfortable declaring much out of the realm of possibility on this show (unless, as mentioned, we hear it from the horse’s mouth). There was a time, remember, near the end of Season 4 when people were downright livid at the suggestion that Walt could poison a child.

How I Met Your Mother: The mother is Barney’s half-sister Carly

Robin, Zoey, and now Victoria are most decidedly out of the running, leaving us with the Carly theory. It’s actually pretty flimsy, based on the revelation in Season 6 that Barney has a younger half-sister in college. As we know, the mother was in Ted’s class the first day he taught the wrong class at Columbia (so there’s the college connection) and they officially met at Barney’s wedding (where his kin would naturally be).

Our take: Sure, fine. Just tell us already!!!

Homeland: Saul is the mole

When Homeland wrapped up last year, no CIA mole was revealed, leaving many to speculate that it still may be Saul. The evidence? He failed a polygraph test when asked whether he handed off a razor to an al-Qaeda prisoner. He also ended up betraying Carrie to the authorities in the finale. Also, it would be a devastating twist.

Our take: We get the sense this theory is going to fall to the wayside over time. The show has spent significant time developing Saul’s character, and his mentor-affection for Carrie never seemed less than genuine. Many times he went far above the call of duty to look out for her, making it difficult to pin an ulterior motive (unless it’s just to keep her under his thumb, which, again, doesn’t fit the character). Also, a lot of Mandy Patinkin fans would be really upset. But you can never say never, especially this early in a show.

One question we do have: What ever happened to Virgil’s suspiciously awkward little brother Max? Any theories there?

Revenge: Nolan and Emily are brother and sister

The discussions concerning this show are crazy intense — so much so that creator Mike Kelly decided to drop the possibility of bring David Clarke back from the dead to avoid fan wrath. Nonetheless, nearly anything is still very much possible at this point, although the widely popular notion that Victoria Grayson is Emily’s mother has ostensibly been ruled out by the casting of Jennifer Jason Leigh (and which wouldn’t have made much sense timeline-wise since Victoria was married to Conrad when she met David). But one popular theory that still might hold up is the speculation that Nolan, whose relationship with Emily’s father is still very much cloaked in mystery, is her half-brother.

Our take: We wouldn’t be surprised, but we hope they don’t go overboard with the paternity reveals. That’s when a show starts feeling desperate, which would be sad, because it was only a year ago that we fell hard for this refreshing little soap.

Community: The darkest timeline actually started to cross over

It was looking like the darkest timeline (introduced when Troy left to get the pizza) would stay within the confines of “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but then Evil Abed reappeared in the Dreamatorium, and fans started speculating whether the darkest timeline was starting to take over the prime timeline. Did Evil Vice Dean try to break up Troy and Abed? Was the one-armed lawyer who delivered Star-Burns’ tape Evil Jeff? Or was, as Alan Sepinwall at Hitfix suggested, the show turning into a Lost situation in which viewers saw that it was Troy, not Jeff, who was supposed to be the leader of the group?

Our take: We’ve always felt it up to the viewer to subscribe to Community’s bendy reality as much as they see fit (one of the many beauties of the show). So, whether Abed’s defeat of his evil self in “Introduction to Finality” was all in his head or the kibosh on an encroaching darker timeline is, we believe, up to you. That said, we haven’t forgotten “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps,” in which a personality test revealed Abed to be the only sane member of the group. Just sayin’…

True Blood: Lafayette is the litmus test for whether or not it’s gonna be a good season

This year a little thought piece at Vulture entitled “The Lafayette Theory of True Blood,” postulated that the strength of a True Blood episode, or season for that matter, is dictated by the quality of Lafayette’s storyline. As Margaret Lyons wrote:

For the first ten seasons of ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ you could tell within the first few minutes how good the episode was going to be based only on how good Mariska Hargitay’s hair looked. A nicely groomed Detective Olivia Benson means a solid episode; too much hair gel and overly “piece-y” bangs means the episode is skippable. There’s a similar test for ‘True Blood’: Does Lafayette appear in a meaningful capacity in the “previously on ‘True Blood'” segment? If so, that’s probably going to be a decent episode. If not, that’s because you don’t need to be refreshed on what his story line is, which means it’s either lousy, insignificant, or disconnected from the rest of the plot — which is a bad, bad sign. Not as bad as the reemergence of the werepanther stories, but bad.

Our take: We totally agree this test holds up for Season 3, but don’t quite agree the ratios match for this past season, which we agree was a far worse year for Lala, but an improved season overall (in comparison to last). The main point here is the important one, though. As discussed, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for fan pattering to influence shows, and here’s an observation that we’d love True Blood writers to take to heart. In other words, yes, give this guy a better storyline next year!

The Office: The Scranton Strangler is Creed

Fans have long speculated on the identity of the Scranton Strangler — in fact, here is an entire breakdown considering every Dunder Mifflin employee past and present, which actually pinpoints it on Roy. The most often-listed suspect, though, seems to be Creed, the employee with an already pretty sketchy past (Ryan coming a close second). It’s also a known fact that the man can eat a potato — raw (see above).

Our take: Despite his moral ambiguities and ironclad stomach, we still find it hard to believe Creed, or anyone at Dunder Mifflin for that matter, could be the Strangler. But we certainly stand to be corrected, as Greg Daniels confirmed we’ll finally get our answer this season.

Game of Thrones: Ned Stark is not Jon Snow’s father

The most thorough debates over Jon Snow’s lineage are in the A Song of Ice and Fire community, but even if you’ve elected to only watch along, chances are you’ve started to question who Jon Snow’s true parents might be. You can read an entire breakdown of possibilities over at The Citadel, the most popular one being Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.

Our take: Based on everything we’ve read, the most popular theory seems to be the most conclusive. But for now we’ll just say we stand by actor Kit Harrington, who told Vulture, “All I’ll say is that it’s interesting that a man with a moral compass like Ned Stark’s would have had affairs and dalliances that resulted in babies outside of his marriage. That’s my only question about it.”