Created By: TTurtle on January 5, 2011 Last Edited By: TTurtle on January 8, 2011
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Maybe Ever After

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We can all recognize a happy ending to a romance plot. The tale may end with True Love's Kiss, an embrace, a mutual Love Confession, or even a wedding. Babies Ever After may ensue, particularly in the credits.

But what about those romance plots that end on an ambiguous note? What if both parties seem interested, and there's no definitive "no," but there's no kiss, no embrace, and no wedding? This can occur when a story ends with the tentative start of a new relationship, rather than with the culmination of the relationship. Alternatively, separated lovers are reunited, but they don't confess their love. In some cases, a quarrel between the two involved characters is resolved, but it isn't clear where the relationship is going to go. Instead of a "yes" or "no" answer to Will They or Won't They?? we get "probably" or "kinda sorta maybe."

When Maybe Ever After is in play, the ending of a romance plot hints at or leaves open the reasonable possibility of a successful conclusion to a romance arc. However, the degree of resolution can vary widely. At one extreme, a Maybe Ever After ending can strongly imply that the characters in question are entering into a long-term relationship, coming just short of explicitly indicating that. At the opposite extreme, there may be just the merest hint of something romantic developing between the characters. Especially at the latter end of the scale, there may be disagreement among fans as to how to interpret the ending. That said, when adding examples, don't forget that there must be a reasonable possibility that the characters in question would end up together. Wishful thinking doesn't count: if there is no evidence of a potential romantic relationship, leave it out. Likewise, there must be at least some degree of ambiguity about the status of the relationship: if the ending leaves absolutely no doubt about the fact that the two characters are a long-term item now, the example doesn't belong here.

Compare Hooked Up Afterwards, where there's little or no previous romance plot to speak of, and No Ending, which offers even less resolution. See also Belated Happy Ending, where a sequel clears up the ambiguity of a Maybe Ever After, as well as Downtime Downgrade, where the resolution gets unraveled in between the first work and the sequel. Contrast with Happily Ever After, Last Minute Hookup, Bittersweet Ending, and Did Not Get the Girl.

This is an ending trope, and not all spoilers will be marked.

Examples

Anime/Manga
  • The anime of Kaze no Stigma ends with Ayano using her "bond" with Kazuma to bring him back to himself. However, despite the fact that she's been forced to acknowledge her feelings for him, there's no real resolution to the romance arc: just a hint that there's potential for their relationship.
  • The anime for Trigun also ends with a Maybe Ever After: Meryl is left waiting for Vash to return to her. She loves him, but it isn't entirely clear how he feels about her.
  • Ranma ˝ ends with this.
  • GUN×SWORD: The finale ends with a reunion between Van and Wendy. They don't do anything but stare at each other, but the jingle from the ring on his hat suggests that he's happy to see her.
  • Roy and Riza from Fullmetal Alchemist. Fans can debate forever on whether or not they love each other, but even in the epilogue where there's Babies Ever After for other characters there is no hint of what happens between them since the end of the series.
  • Ergo Proxy fits this: Vincent/Ergo Proxy chooses Re-l over Monad, and they both escape from Romdeau unscathed, but they're separated and it's unclear what Re-l thinks of his new self-appointed duty to kill off the human founders of Romdeau.
  • The anime of Kuragehime leaves Tsukimi's UST with Kuranosuke and Shuu unresolved, despite otherwise being a happy ending.

Film
  • My Fair Lady: Henry's last words to Eliza are "Where the devil are my slippers?" She brings them to him, suggesting a reconciliation. It isn't clear, though, on what terms they are being reconciled.
  • Sleepless In Seattle, a chick flick that ends with the romantic leads meeting for the first time.
  • In the romantic comedy One Fine Day, the protagonists don't even make it as far as dinner together. Instead, they fall asleep on the couch at the end of a tiring day.
  • At the end of The Graduate, Ben saves Elaine from the wedding she doesn't want to have, and they jump on a bus. So what happens then? We don't know.

Literature
  • In the revised ending of Great Expectations, Dickens implies (without explicitly stating) that Pip and Estelle will end up together. It's noteworthy that the original ending had Estelle marrying someone else instead.
  • Unlike The Song of The Lioness and The Immortals, both of which ended with clear romantic couplings, Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small ended on a Maybe Ever After note, just hinting that something might develop between Kel and Dom.
  • Patricia C. Wrede's The Raven Ring ends with Eleret turning down one suitor and traveling homeward with the other. However, the relationship with Karvonen is just beginning, so this falls into "Let's see where this goes" category.

Live Action Television
  • Spaced ends this way for Tim and Daisy. They had some very subtle UST built up, and the finale revolves around Tim getting Daisy back to live with him, but it's not a romance that pulls them back to each other. It was intended to be followed up in a third season, but the show was ended by the creators. A while later, a DVD extra was filmed showing they had hooked up and had a baby.
    • Marsha and Mike are the same as they share a final scene together that implies but doesn't state at all that they will get together.
  • While wasn't the end of the entire series, Goren and Eames leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent after the later takes a promotion and keeps it just long enough to protect the former from going through a lengthy trial (which will lead to him being sacked in disgrace) by firing him is played like this (Word of God says it was left open so the Broken Base can just pick the one they prefer).

Western Animation

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • January 5, 2011
    dotchan
  • January 5, 2011
    StarryEyed
  • January 5, 2011
    TTurtle
    Good examples! The Mulan and Sleepless In Seattle ones prompted me to change the description a bit, because I think this trope is pretty common with stories that end with a relationship just beginning.
  • January 6, 2011
    mack
    • Spaced ends this way for Tim and Daisy. They had some very subtle UST built up, and the finale revolves around Tim getting Daisy back to live with him, but it's not a romance that pulls them back to each other. It was intended to be followed up in a third season, but the show was ended by the creators. A while later, a DVD extra was filmed showing they had hooked up and had a baby.
      • Marsha and Mike are the same as they share a final scene together that implies but doesn't state at all that they will get together.
      • Brian and Twist likewise, with another ambiguous final scene that indicates that they are clearly on each other's minds, implying they will get back together at some point.
  • January 6, 2011
    DAN004
    What separates this from Or Is It?
  • January 6, 2011
    TTurtle
    @ Dan004. Shorter answer: It's related in that both are about endings that lack complete closure, but I think there are significant differences. Or Is It? seems to be about an ending that leaves you hanging because the threat isn't really defeated. The description of that trope says: "The closing of the show where we see that the villain/monster/threat is still out there." Maybe Ever After is about an ending where it looks like a certain situation (specifically, a romantic relationship) exists, but that isn't explicitly stated to be the case. In one case, you think something is true (that the Swamp Monster from Mars has been defeated), but then you see confirmation that that is not true. In the other case, you think something is true (that Alice and Bob are falling in love), but that is never fully confirmed. To put it another way, Maybe Ever After would normally not be a Twist Ending, while an Or Is It? would.

    Longer answer: As I understand it, after watching an Or Is It? ending, you'd walk out of the theater and say "Oh no! It looked like they defeated the Swamp Monster from Mars, but he's still alive! Will all the orphans be eaten anyway?" At the end of Maybe Ever After, people would walk out of the theater and say "Looks like Alice and Bob are probably going to get together after all!"

    You could view Maybe Ever After as the optimistic counterpart to Or Is It?, I guess, except that they really apply to two different genres. Maybe Ever After would be found as the conclusion of a romance plot within a larger work, or as the ending to some romantic comedies. (As the title suggests, this is intended to an alternative to a clear Happily Ever After.) Or Is It? would primarily be a trope associated with drama, wouldn't it?
  • January 6, 2011
    Blunderbuss
    Roy and Riza from Fullmetal Alchemist. Fans can debate forever on whether or not they love each other, but even in the epilogue where there's Babies Ever After for other characters there is no hint of what happens between them since the end of the series.
  • January 7, 2011
    TTurtle
    We've got some good examples now, but is there any feedback on the description? Is it clear enough what this means? (I've been tinkering with it to try to get it clearer.) Is this trope sufficiently different from existing love tropes and ambiguity tropes to work?
  • January 7, 2011
    DAN004
    @T Turtle: So this trope is Or Is It ABOUT ROMANCE?
  • January 7, 2011
    TTurtle
    @ Dan004: Unless I'm misunderstanding Or Is It? the answer is no, it's not a recycled version of that trope. Or Is It? isn't an all-purpose ambiguous ending, as far as I can tell from the description. Rather, it's a specific kind of ending where it first appears that X is the case, and then the final few minutes/pages/whatever suggest that actually, Y might be the case after all. This proposed trope does not follow that pattern, or at least, doesn't necessarily follow that pattern. This trope is for when there are signs that X is the case, but those signs are not certain. The lack of certainty COULD come from an "or is it" kind of stinger, but it wouldn't have to do so.

    The best way to describe this trope, I think, is as the current description indicates, it's where the question Will They Or Wont They? is answered with a "looks like they will, but we don't know for sure" rather than a clear "yes." For instance, if Bob and Alice broke up early in the movie, then are reunited at the end, and they smile significantly at each other just before the screen goes black (thus ending the movie without indicating that they are definitely a couple again), that would be Maybe Ever After. A true Or Is It? about romance would be better described as answering Will They Or Wont They? with a "Yes, they will . . . but wait, maybe not! Psyche!" That might look like the following: Bob and Alice walk off holding hands and affirming their undying love, but then we see that Bob still has a slip of paper with Susan's phone number on it (which he promised Alice he'd throw away), suggesting that maybe he's not so committed to Alice after all.

    Is the title problematic? I initially thought of calling this A Shot At Happily Ever After to indicate that it left the two characters with the possibility of romance, but I like Maybe Ever After much better. It might be the case, too, that not all of the examples above really fit with the current description, which I've tried to make clearer.
  • January 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    While wasn't the end of the entire series, Goren and Eames leaving Law And Order Criminal Intent after the later takes a promotion and keeps it just long enough to protect the former from going through a lengthy trial (which will lead to him being sacked in disgrace) by firing him is played like this (Word Of God says it was left open so the Broken Base can just pick the one they prefer).
  • January 7, 2011
    randomsurfer
    How about the end of The Graduate? Ben saves Elaine from the wedding she doesn't want to have, and they jump on a bus. So what happens then? We don't know.
  • January 8, 2011
    melloncollie
    Maybe Ergo Proxy. Vincent/Ergo Proxy chooses Re-l over Monad, and they both escape from Romdeau unscathed, but they're separated and it's unclear what Re-l thinks of his new self-appointed duty to kill off the human founders of Romdeau.

  • January 8, 2011
    Tumbril
    The anime of Kuragehime leaves Tsukimi's UST with Kuranosuke and Shuu unresolved, despite otherwise being a happy ending.
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