The "Fall finale" - or "Winter break," as it were - has become not just a rite of passage on network television, but also an art-form
Case in point: This past Fall's final 2018 episode of the CBS sophomore hit "The Good Doctor," where a quarantine has befallen the hospital, our titular doc is laid out on the floor mid-anxiety attack, and popular characters have begun dropping dead due to the disease literally wheeled into the E/R just hours earlier
When the credits rolled, so did eyes across the country, but will it pay off?
Many a midseason return has not delivered on said promise, while others have not only delivered - they exceeded audience expectation
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Scandal - Olivia Pope is Kidnapped
The ABC hit, starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, returned from its fourth season break with a whopper of an episode titled "Run." Olivia is kidnapped in her apartment by masked men, who take her across the hall to the neighbor apartment. She is then drugged. Olivia wakes up in a demolished cell and with a cell mate. What made this such a memorable midseason return was that what preceded it was such a lighthearted episode by comparison, with Olivia's love life front and center, and her ultimately choosing "her" over the two male options (with one not even truly being an option, as he is the President) and dancing wildly.
Gotham - Jim Gordon begins security detail at Arkham
Season One of the FOX hit ultimately established itself as "must-see" with its first midseason return. Having left off just months earlier with hard-scrabble, stalwart cop Ben Gordon reassigned to security detail at Arkham Asylum, how could the second half of the season do anything other than return with a bang?
Gossip Girl - Life after a car wreck can be challenging
The series that helped launched Blake Lively's career was a master of the midseason return, and might have never done it better than when it returned after Chuck and Blair lost their baby in a car wreck. The audience is teased, almost painfully, as drawn-out flashbacks convey the pact Blair made with God in order for Chuck to survive the crash.
The Flash - There are speedsters everywhere!
Season Two's winter finale was a whopper, with Joe's flesh-and-blood son (as opposed to his "kindred spirit " son Barry) serves up a surprise visit to his home. But the midseason return upped the ante like crazy. Joe and Wally don't get off to the greatest start, Barry's solid season two love interest, Patty, leaves Central City by episode's end (which absolutely no one saw coming), and a second evil speedster- who the audience already knew all too well - showed before all was said and done: Reverse Flash.
Walking Dead - Negan finally arrives, fresh from the pages of the graphic novels
The AMC blockbuster is another master of the midseason finale. Season five's saw Emily Kinney’s Beth suddenly die by gunshot and the Season 4 last show of 2013 had a double death with Scott Wilson’s Hershel beheaded by David Morrissey’s the Governor, who was killed himself in the December 1, 2013 ‘Too Far Gone’ episode. (With it being a zombie show, "dead" is loosely used here, it should go without saying.) Season six claimed Deanna but the post-credits scene set up the fruitful return: Negan was en route, the legendary villain from the comic that the series is based upon, and when he showed, none other than Jeffrey Dean Morgan was playing him.
Grey's Anatomy - Derek is gone, but the E/R be jammin'!
Season 11 of the ABC Thursday night bedrock returned from Winter break with multiple car crashes rendering the E/R one busy place in "Where Do We Go From Here," the January 29 episode after more than two months off the air. Meredith, of course, has an existential crisis to deal with on top of this - both Derek and Cristina will be gone by the time the credits roll.