Open Ending YKTTW Discussion

Open Ending
The creator left the ending unexplained
(permanent link) added: 2011-06-18 12:48:06 sponsor: neoYTPism edited by: leurz (last reply: 2015-06-30 11:32:33)

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I have no idea, to this day, what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it.
- Red, from The Shawshank Redemption, on the opera music played over the prison loudspeakers

This is when a work ends with Plot Threads that have no clear resolution. Often this was a deliberate decision by the creator so that different people can come to different conclusions that explain the same thing. The intent may be to

Other times, the creator Did Not Do The Research. In these cases, expect a Shrug of God when questioned.

This can apply to any plot or major subplot that remains unresolved when the work is complete.

If there are two possible outcomes, one reasonable and one magical, it's Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. When the ending is a complete Mind Screw, it's a Gainax Ending. In a horror context, see Nothing Is Scarier. When fans wish this would have happened, but it didn't, then it is a case of Leave The Plot Threads Hanging. Also see Noodle Incident and Noodle Implements for unexplained events that aren't central to the plot.

This is an ending trope. There are spoilers!


  • The above in-universe example from The Shawshank Redemption, of course.
  • Christopher Nolan movies seem to apply a trace of the "leave an explanation only for viewers who actively seek it out" variety to an audience-reaction version of this.
    I don't know what that noise is, and I purposely avoided finding out. I like to think that it's Satan playing a vuvuzela in hell.
    • Inception applies this to its ambiguous ending.
  • Bill Watterson references this in the Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary book.
    "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie (like "the Noodle Incident" I've referred to in several strips) is left to the reader's imagination, where it's sure to be more outrageous."
  • Homestuck. Just before Vriska's death, there were a few flash images of a clock, which had just the right trappings to be connected to it in some way. Andrew Hussie explicitly says that taking his word for it on how would be missing the point.
  • The tabletop RPG In Nomine has certain things (most notably the true nature of Jesus) that are defined as Canon Doubt and Uncertainty. These are things that will never receive an official answer and are there to provide plot threads for individual G Ms to fill in if they wish. And also because some of them like the above example deal directly with religion and the developers didn't want to offend anybody.
  • In Y: The Last Man, several explanations are given for the Gendercide, and Word of God confirms one of them is correct. Which one is never revealed.
  • In Baccano! the old man and granddaughter decide the story is better off with no ending, so the audience can imagine what happens next.
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