Shonda Rhimes is famous for her shock factor. Here, her most jaw-dropping plot twists

By Diana Pearl
Updated September 21, 2015 11:15 AM
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Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/ABC;ABC/Ron Tom;Craig Sjodin/ABC

Shonda Rhimes is famous for her shock factor – and in Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal, there isn’t an episode that goes by where it doesn’t rear its head. Here, the most jaw-dropping of these plot twists

Warning: Many spoilers ahead!

GREY’S ANATOMY: GEORGE WAS JOHN DOE
When baby-faced George O’Malley enlisted in the army, it was hard enough to deal with (for viewers, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and the knowledge that he was off to defend his country helped us cope). But when he was revealed to be the mangled man who jumped in front of a bus to save a stranger, and died later in the episode, our hearts really sunk into our stomachs.

How to Get Away with Murder: WHY IS YOUR PENIS ON A DEAD GIRL’S PHONE?
Adding even more intrigue to Lila’s already mysterious death was the revelation that Sam, Annalise’s husband, had been having an affair with Lila before she died. The news came to light with what perhaps was the best line of the entire series thus far, delivered by Annalise (Viola Davis): “Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?”

SCANDAL: FITZ KILLED VERNA
With all of the negative buzz that clouded his first term in office, it’s a wonder that Fitz was able to get reelected. Luckily for him, his worst deed hasn’t (yet) come to light – his murder of Verna Thornton, which he committed after learning the truth behind his tampered-with election.

GREY’S: A SHOOTING AT THE HOSPITAL
It isn’t a Grey’s Anatomy season finale without some sort of insane disaster – and season six brought a dramatic shooting, which saw the death of two characters, as well as the near-death of McDreamy. He managed to survive the gunshot wound and stick around the show for another five seasons, however.

HTGAWM: REBECCA’S DEATH
The show’s got “murder” in the title, but that didn’t stop jaws everywhere from going slack when Rebecca, Wes’ mysterious neighbor-slash-girlfriend, was found dead in the first season’s final moments – without a clue as to who the killer was.

SCANDAL: OLIVIA’S MOM IS ALIVE – AND A TERRORIST
Olivia Pope’s parents take family dysfunction to a whole new level – her father runs a secret government organization that specializes in killing people, for one. But once we met Mama Pope, suddenly confidential government-orchestrated murders didn’t seem so bad – she’s a terrorist who sells government secrets for cash, and was kept in a secret prison for years.

GREY’S: THE PLANE CRASH
The final episode of Grey’s Anatomy‘s eighth season was one of the most heart wrenching. During a trip to Arizona, Mark, Derek, Lexie and Meredith headed to a hospital in Idaho to assist in a surgery – and then their plane went down, leaving all four on the brink of death. It was one of the saddest episodes in Grey’s history: Lexie died, and Mark died from injuries sustained in the crash during the next episode.

HTGAWM: FRANK KILLED LILA
It’s Lila’s death that was the driving force behind HTGAWM‘s first season. And throughout its run, audiences were more and more convinced that it was Sam, Annalise’s husband who had an affair with Lila, who was responsible for her death. But in the last episode of the show’s first season, we learned that it was actually Frank who did it – leading everyone to promptly lose it on Twitter.

SCANDAL: OLIVIA’S DAD KILLED FITZ’S SON
Oh poor, Gerry – we hardly knew thee. Fitz’s son became the ultimate pawn in the never-ending power play between President Grant and Rowan Pope when he was killed by a rare strain of bacterial meningitis (which he was infected with at the hands of B613).

GREY’S: BYE-BYE, MCDREAMY
There’s a lot of over-the-top tragedy on Grey’s Anatomy – plane and train crashes, bombs going off in hospitals, the list goes on – but without a doubt, the moment that really broke hearts was the death of Derek Shepard, the husband of Meredith Grey and the object of the audience’s affection, in a fiery car crash.

HTGAWM: ASHER & BONNIE HAD AN AFFAIR
In a show full of murderous plot twists, learning that Asher and Bonnie were sleeping together was a welcome relief from all the affairs and death going on. A shock, yes, but thankfully, not one that led to a character’s death.

SCANDAL: SALLY MURDERED HER HUSBAND
Don’t mess with Sally Langston. President Grant’s VP went a little (okay, a lot) nuts when she discovered that her husband, Daniel Douglas, was sleeping with a man – and stabbed him in the back (literally) with a letter opener.