20 Disappointing Second Seasons Of Beloved TV Series

·8 min read

We've all been there: You've found yourself hooked on the newest hit show, watching each nail-biting episode with anticipation of what's to come. And then the second season comes along and the next thing you know, you're fighting the urge to throw on anything else.

Believe it or not, it's not just you, as there have been plenty of solid television shows that nearly sank due to their sophomore slump.


James Marsden in "Westworld"

An adaptation of Michael Crichton's sci-fi classic, Westworld was an amazing, suspenseful, and violent puzzle box of a series that culminated in an OMG finale. With many of the central mysteries revealed, the second season attempted to maintain its secrets by utilizing surreal filmmaking techniques, introducing new characters without context, and leaving the fates of fan favorites in the air. Unfortunately, these decisions backfired more often than they succeeded, causing many fans to drop off and decry the second season.

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2.Big Little Lies

Meryl Streep in "Big Little Lies"

David E. Kelley's adaptation of Liane Moriarty's critically acclaimed novel met similar success when it debuted on HBO in 2017 as a "limited series" event. However, not even a powerful performance from Meryl Streep could help the second season from feeling wholly unnecessary.

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3.True Detective

Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell in "True Detective"

The first season of True Detective was some of the most compelling and creepy television ever produced while arguably launching the subsequent wave of star-studded "limited series" on cable and streamers. The second season, however, failed to deliver on almost every front, with miscasting, pacing issues, and an anticlimactic central mystery that nearly sunk the entire series.

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4.Jessica Jones

Krysten Ritter in "Jessica Jones"

The first season of Jessica Jones rivaled the storytelling success of the first season of Daredevil, which were Netflix's inaugural Marvel properties. Unfortunately, the lack of David Tennant's Kilgrave and an underwhelming narrative that seemingly runs in place across 13 episodes gave the second season a noted dive in quality.

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5.American Gods

Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle in "American Gods"

When American Gods debuted on Starz, the combined visions of author Neil Gaiman and showrunner Bryan Fuller offered audiences a bold and shocking fantasy tale unlike anything else on television. However, Fuller departed the series prior to Season 2 due to creative differences with producers, which effectively declawed the provocative series and resulted in a fairly aimless and lackluster second outing.

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6.Wayward Pines

Jason Patric in "Wayward Pines"

Wayward Pines was a pleasant surprise in its first season, positing an eerie, mind-bending science fiction story that encapsulated its source material with a nice, fitting bow in its "limited series" intentions. Upon its critical and commercial overperformance, Fox rushed a second season, which failed to capture the same magic and stumbled over its own convoluted existence.

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7.Bates Motel

Freddie Highmore in "Bates Motel"

Bates Motel is a series that feels almost as tragic as its main character, having been so close to greatness and yet never quite reaching heights for one reason or another. For its second season, Bates Motel was held down by its maligned "weed trade" subplot as well as the snails' pace in which Norman's ambiguous guilt was addressed.

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8.Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Clark Gregg and Iain De Caestecker in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

For Marvel fans, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a fun and action-packed expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as a clever excuse to revive fan-favorite Phil Coulson. Though the first season largely fired on all cylinders, the second season dropped the ball more than once, especially once the main cast became entangled in the drama of the Inhumans.

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9.Making a Murderer

Title Card for "Making A Murderer"

It's not a stretch to call the first season of Making a Murderer a pop culture sensation, which has been imitated, parodied, and discussed on countless platforms since its release in 2015. Netflix eventually commissioned a second season of the documentary series, and while there are definitely memorable moments and the story remains intriguing, the follow-up was less focused and far more speculative, which kept it from gaining the steam of its predecessor.

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10.Friday Night Lights

Jesse Plemons and Adrianne Palicki in "Friday Night Lights"

Though Friday Night Lights remains one of the most celebrated television dramas of its era, you may be hard-pressed to find a fan that will stand up for its hair-brained second season, which was another victim of the 2007–8 Writer's Guild of America strike.

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11.The Following

Jeannane Goossen and Kevin Bacon in "The Following"

While the exploitative first season of The Following ironically found a loyal audience of its own, it became abundantly clear that the story was stretching thin early into Season 2 as the primary cat-and-mouse game ran in circles to justify its own existence.

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12.Vice Principals

Danny McBride, Kimberley Gregor and Walton Goggins in "Vice Principals"

The first season of Vice Principals felt like yet another addition to Danny McBride's pantheon of comedy masterworks, with Jody Hill steering the show into their darkly humorous sweet spot. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Season 2's most frequent director, David Gordon Green, as the "Who Shot Gamby?" storyline dives too deep into self-important drama, and the comedy fails to properly click until its final few episodes.

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13.Mr. Robot

Christian Slater and Rami Malek in "Mr. Robot"

When viewed as a whole, Mr. Robot can hold its own with some of television's best dramas, from its experimental bottle episodes to its truly heartbreaking twists. However, as individual seasons, Mr. Robot's unwavering dedication to hide its details from its protagonist and audience caused its second outing to flounder creatively while alienating its weekly watching fanbase.

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14.Twin Peaks

Kyle MacLachlan in "Twin Peaks"

There are plenty of people who continue to go to bat for Season 2 of Twin Peaks (this writer included), but there's no denying that it's a completely different beast than its monumental first season, descending into full-blown melodrama, confusing mysticism and cartoonish comedy, even while touching upon some rather sensitive subject matter in its main mystery.

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15.Scream Queens

Billie Lourd, Emma Roberts and Abigail Breslin in "Scream Queens"

Scream Queens' first season was an unexpected blast, with hysterically campy performances, outrageously bloody humor, stunt casting, and a self-referential, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The second season attempted to capitalize on that goodwill, but the laughs tragically came much fewer and far, far between until departing with a lame-duck finale.

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16.House of Cards

Robin Wright in "House of Cards"

As Netflix's first television production, House of Cards came out of the gate strong, especially with David Fincher's vision driving the show forward. Though the series largely stayed the course through its controversies and criticisms, the second season of the show definitely trended downward, with the president unbelievably committing murder in public in the premiere and narrative stretches to shoe-horn some of Season 1's tertiary characters back into the mix.

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17.Penny Dreadful

Eva Green and Josh Hartnett in "Penny Dreadful"

Penny Dreadful's debut season was one filled with promise, as it exhibited legitimate scares, big-budget special effects, and interwoven characters from beloved horror literature on a grand, star-driven scale. While the second season didn't necessarily lose the series' luster, the underwhelming villains and languishing character development certainly robbed Penny Dreadful of much of its excitement and suspense.

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KJ Apa in "Riverdale"

Riverdale's first season was a sleazy and strange yet endlessly watchable melodrama in the vein of those that ruled primetime network television in the 1990s. Though the first season stuck the landing and had fans waiting with baited breath, Riverdale's second season grew stale, repetitive, and needlessly complicated in short order, causing the series to lose nearly half of its viewership from its premiere.

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19.Prison Break

William Fichtner and Paul Adelstein in "Prison Break"

With an ingenious concept at its heart, Prison Break's first season was something of a home run, with excellent performances, twists and turns, and a rougher edge than most network television shows. After the breakout that concluded the first season, Prison Break decided to shake things up to mixed results, as they axed a number of fan-favorite characters and gave plenty of screentime to an eccentric new villain whose motivations seemed muddied at best.

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Santiago Cabrera in "Heroes"

The first season of Heroes hit audiences like a speeding bullet, with a great assembly of characters, a thrilling "good vs. evil" conflict, and a web of mystery that drew your further and further into its growing mythology. However, the second season of Heroes decided to change its formula for the worse, tossing away much of the goodwill by introducing far too many side characters, slow-burn timeline jumping, and bone-headed story decisions cratered by the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike in 2007.

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