Created By: acrobox on November 17, 2012 Last Edited By: acrobox on February 9, 2014

Then They Came

A stock plot about a vague group of invaders upsetting the established (usually idyillic) order

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Trope
See Laconic. Basically any stock plot that essentially follows this scheme - For vague reasons, everything is running smoothly and people are happy. How or why things got this way needn't be explained. And then They come, which forces the heroes into action.

Sometimes They are actually named. They can be either aliens, foreigners, or demons. Once They come there is more room for fleshing out who They are, They might tell you what They are doing, and if you're lucky you might even find out where They came from. But the point is any extra details can be superfluous and sometimes the stories thrives on the ambiguity of They.

The important thing is that before They came things were good, now things are bad, and now They must be dealt with.

Related to Vagueness Is Coming (future oriented), or War Was Beginning (In Media Res - present tense), but Then They Came is more about past events. Like its sister tropes, commonly advertising, trailers and prologues as its a easy way to get audiences head around the main plot. Sometimes used in story during flashbacks and explanations. A quick fix to introduce the Evil Army.

They usually end up bringing about the End of an Age, that causing survivors and storytellers to muse about how life was Before The Dark Times. See also You Know the One.

For more specific types of who They might be compare Alien Invasion, The War of Earthly Aggression and The Dragons Come Back

Examples Literature

Radio
  • The War of the Worlds has the people of England going about their daily business, and then one day Martians show up and heat ray the dogshit out of a small town and the surrounding countryside. The martians prefab together some tripod mecha and take over, and then they drop dead of a cold within a week.

Literature
  • In YA lit, there is How I Live Now, where the invaders aren't even identified.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Justice League, Martian Manhunter describes the history of how the martians went extinct this way in the first episode.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara introduces the concept of the war this way in the opening, "Long ago the four nations used to live together in harmony, then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.' The first season plays it straight and keeps the villains simple. The final season had an episode dedicated to examining the who, what, where, when, and why behind that attack.

Real Life
  • In real-life the Shashu and Habiru peoples who may or may not have been the ancient hebrews. to this day nobody knows who they were really but Egypt complained about them sacking their lands and causing trouble in parts of the levant. Also the Monguls when they first showed up.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • November 17, 2012
    dvorak
    • The War Of The Worlds has the people of England going about their daily buisiness, and then one day Martians show up and heat ray the dogshit out of a small town and the surrounding countryside. The martians prefab together some tripod mecha and take over, and then they drop dead of a cold within a week.
  • November 17, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    I'd have to watch this again to get the exact wording (it's not in IMDB quotes, and I'm not finding it on You Tube), but my loose recollection of the pilot for the 2009 V remake (the entry on this site is V-2009) had captions at the beginning rhetorically asking what "you" were doing on the day JFK was shot, on 9/11/2001, and on... "this day" (scene with the V ships arriving and shaking the ground).

    Does this fit what you're aiming for?
  • November 17, 2012
    acrobox
    yeah it gets the point across. The Day They Came. and thats all you need to know.
  • November 17, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Okay, I'll fire up the dvd when I get home from work, and get that exact wording--unless someone else here knows what it is.
  • November 18, 2012
    Arivne
    Compare:
  • November 18, 2012
    Koveras
    The current title will be picked at for sounding like a stock phrase.

    The Dragons Come Back is often a subtrope (not always: sometimes the dragons come to help).

    • In The Elder Scrolls series, both Oblivion and Skyrim feature this setup. In the former, it's an invasion of demons from another dimension who have been kept out in centuries by the Septim dynasty. In the latter, it's the return of the immortal dragons who have been beaten back long ago but never really gave up.
  • November 18, 2012
    Stratadrake
    For titles, I just want to say something like Invasion Of The Troublemakers.
  • November 18, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • Happens several times in the Warrior Cats series: the climax of the first series involves a large group of city cats, "BloodClan", trying to take over the forest. The plot of the second series kicks off with humans starting to destroy the forest to build a new highway. There's a minor plot in the third series where a random group of cats in the mountains starts intruding on the Tribe's territory (hunting all the prey and attempting to kill anyone who fights them); this has apparently been going on for about a year by the time the plot of the book rolls around. The Expanded Universe book SkyClan's Destiny features flashbacks to when another group of rogues came to the city and started causing trouble for Stick's gang; this leads to Stick coming to SkyClan in the present-day plot.
  • November 18, 2012
    aurora369
    In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, "they" are the Sith. Though they were unseenly present for 1000 years, they revealed their existence to the Jedi during The Phantom Menace, and started upstaging the Republic in a Xanatos Gambit that culminated in Episode III.
  • November 19, 2012
    Koveras
    Compare also Before The Dark Times.
  • November 20, 2012
    DracMonster
    You know, this is actually sounding like a more of a "meta" narrative concept, where the point is that the work is not getting into specifics of the invaders, because that's beside the point of focusing on the trouble they cause.

    Invaders In Vague Terms

    Invasion Of The Vague Annoyances

  • November 20, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • November 20, 2012
    Krashlia
    in real-life the Shashu and Habiru peoples who may or may not have been the ancient hebrews. to this day nobody knows who they were really but Egypt complained about them sacking their lands and causing trouble in parts of the levant.

    also the Monguls when they first showed up.
  • January 6, 2013
    acrobox
    bump?
  • January 6, 2013
    hevendor717
    There have to be dozens of video games with this concept.
  • January 7, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Metroid has a form of this, with the Space Pirates turning over the peaceful worlds of both Zebes and K-2L. Later in the Prime Trilogy, Phazon brought by meteors becomes the overturning villain.
  • February 18, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    Bump.
  • February 19, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In YA lit, there is How I Live Now, where the invaders aren't even identified.
  • February 19, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    Par to the course for Bungie, Destiny has the same premise, though the attackers have yet to be identified.
  • February 8, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    @ the title: Thats What She Said.

    I know a good trope namer: Then Everything Changed When The Fire Nation Attacked <<replace with "they".

    okay, damn long... Then They Invaded?
  • February 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Just The Invasion should work, I think
  • February 8, 2014
    Green5
  • February 8, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
  • February 8, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The 2004 adaptation of Walking Tall has decorated ex-Marine Chris Vaughn return to his hometown to find that the peaceful lumber mill town he left has become a tortured blight in the shadow of the corrupt casinos. Vaughn runs for sheriff of the county to displace the puppet lawman, and begin reversing the decadence wrought by the casino mobsters. The 1973 adaptation was closer to a biopic of Sheriff Buford Pusser, who similarly terrorized narcotic and extortion racketeers that had targeted McNairy County, Tennessee.

    In these cases, the "invaders" are organized criminals, who bring their "Screw The Rules" pathos with them.
  • February 9, 2014
    LeeM
    Music: "No Place to Hide" by Mermaid Kiss is about a village waiting in terror for an attack by Viking-style sea raiders.
  • February 9, 2014
    DAN004
  • February 9, 2014
    Lakija
    This shows up frequently in After The End type stories. For example: In the game The Walking Dead and the show The Walking Dead, this keeps the plot moving along. Once the characters get comfortable and established in a colony or settlement, something or someone comes to upset the order they've established.
  • February 9, 2014
    frosty
    Aurelio Voltaire: One of his songs, entitled "Fear and Anguish", is about a town experiencing and attempting to deal with an invasion by Them. The song is very vague about what/who They are, but things are defintely bad and will never be the same again.
  • February 9, 2014
    somerandomdude
    The orcs' invasion of Azeroth is this for the Alliance in the War Craft universe. Also applies in the backstory for the orcs' invasion of Shattrath.
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