One of the wonderful things about our television obsessions is, they keep us guessing. But sometimes, when someone asks a straight question and doesn't get a straight answer, it can get a bit annoying. Mysterious non-answers are a staple of television science fiction and fantasy — and sometimes it feels like people are just bending over backwards to avoid saying what they know.
Here are 10 cases where television shows left us without any real answers to the questions they raised over and over. Plus we've edited together a huge video supercut, featuring a ton of scenes where someone asks a straight question, and doesn't get a straight answer.
To some extent, just answering questions in a simple, honest way feels kind of prosaic — and a weird non-answer can feel more poetic on occasion. The most ambitious SF shows are often ones which substitute mystical clues for technobabble and bland explanations. But at the same time, sometimes you just want to reach into the screen and shake people until they just answer the freaking question.
Warning: Old spoilers ahead...
1. "What is the Temporal Cold War?" (Enterprise)
We never really got a sense of exactly who the factions were in this conflict, and what their aims were, and why they were so fixated on the birth of the Federation, and who the shadow guy was. And what, really, was the point of all the time-spy-vs-time-spy stuff.
2. "Who is Jon Snow's mother?" (Game of Thrones)
The clip we feature above is just heart-breaking. I mean, Ned freaking Stark knows he's riding South to King's Landing, and Jon Snow is riding North to the Wall, and there's an excellent chance they'll never see each other. Even if Ned Stark didn't meet the same fate as his predecessor as Hand of the King, they're traveling in the opposite directions. And (say it with me) Winter is Coming. Traveling in the wintertime? Kind of hard. So why not just answer Jon Snow's question, Ned?
3. "What is The Event?" (The Event)
Okay, we get a kind of explanation of The Event in the final episode of The Event. But not really. I mean, we know that the aliens have been here before and they're coming back again, and when they live amongst us on Earth they will evolve into a new species — but humans won't survive that. But that still doesn't explain just what the Event means, and what's supposed to happen. As shown in the clip above.
4. "What really happened in the Time War?" (Doctor Who)
Russell T. Davies gave us a lot of closure in his final episode of Doctor Who — but he also gave us a ton of WTF. Like, who was that woman who seemed like the Doctor's mom? And was that really Rassilon? Why were all these other people involved in the war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, like the Nightmare Child and the Travesties and the Could-Have-Been King? Why did the Time Lords turn so evil? We may never find out.
5. "What exactly is Ben Linus up to?" (Lost)
I know, we sort of got some answers to this... but Ben Linus always seemed like a guy who had a master plan, causing him to do quirky unpredictable stuff like murdering John Locke after having just saved him. Ben was always our mystery badass, who bewildered and bedeviled us... and then, in the final couple seasons, we found out that Ben was... a pawn. And not even a really good pawn. We're still hoping Ben actually had a master plan after all.
6. "Who is the Cigarette Smoking Man?" (The X-Files)
Seriously. Is he Mulder's father? Mulder's half-brother? How come Mulder didn't recognize him when they met in Skinner's office? Was his real name really Spender, or something else?
7. "What is the Pattern?" (Fringe)
I feel like we got a sort of answer to this, but not really. I mean, I get that the Pattern was caused by the ZFT organization, who were trying to protect our universe — but early episodes of Fringe hint that there is a deeper series of connections to many of the weird cases the Fringe crew investigates, and in fact, it's a bit more complicated. Some of those cases are tied to Massive Dynamic in one way or another. Some of them are caused by ZFT. Some of them relate to Walter's old research, and some of them, in retrospect, are just random. So is there such a thing as the Pattern? And what shape does it take?
8. "What was the deal with the Log Lady?" (Twin Peaks)
We never really got an explanation about her. Plus what happened with Agent Cooper apparently being possessed in the final episode, plus all those other cliffhangers?
9. "Who's really controlling Dan's time travel?" (Journeyman)
In what turned out to be the series finale of Journeyman, Dan Vasser has a couple of conversations with that mysterious physicist guy, and he offers a few breadcrumbs. But we never really learn the mechanism by which Dan is traveling — and who is sending him back in time to help specific people whose timelines need to be altered. We really want to know!
10. "What's the deal with the Angels?" (Battlestar Galactica)
I kind of love the scene we feature above, where Baltar asks Head Six to explain about "Shelly Godfrey," and she just responds by taking off her clothes and making with the sexytime. That sort of sums up a lot of stuff, about the angelic Head Six and Head Baltar — plus the amazing disappearing Starbuck, of course.
Additional reporting by Marykate Jasper, Ben Vrignon and Jennifer Griffith-Delgado.