Created By: neoYTPismJune 18, 2011 Last Edited By: leurzOctober 19, 2015
Nuked

Open Ending

The creator left the ending unexplained

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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!

Examples:

  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • June 18, 2011
    Damr1990
    for many people preffer to see magic tricks without kowing where's the trick
  • June 18, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    Related to The Chris Carter Effect, where the writers usually don't care about actually resolving mysteries that come up, but about providing fun along the way. Of course all the fans will focus on the mystery and howl when it isn't revealed (or howl when it is revealed and turns out to be disappointing).
  • June 19, 2011
    Koveras
    I am pretty sure this is covered under Leave The Plot Threads Hanging.
  • June 19, 2011
    neoYTPism
    ^ Not quite. This would be more of a supertrope to that.
  • June 19, 2011
    Koveras
    Then please put the difference explanation to the write-up...
  • June 21, 2011
    neoYTPism
    How is what I have so far?
  • June 22, 2011
    jaytee
    I agree that this is just Leave The Plot Threads Hanging. I don't understand the explanation of the difference. If it's just that this can happen in-universe and LTPTH doesn't, I call Ridiculously Similar Tropes. If there really is a difference, it needs more than a single, half-explained sentence.

    Also, the idea for a Self Demonstrating Article is just... not good.
  • June 22, 2011
    jaytee
    Wait, is the difference that this is not necessarily about plot threads? In that case, get rid of your Inception and Calvin and Hobbes examples, because they're just making things confusing.
  • June 23, 2011
    neoYTPism
    Well, this COULD be the supertrope to Leave The Plot Threads Hanging, or it could just be the in-universe equivalent. I'm flexible in the writing of this trope, depending on what others suggest and why. o.o
  • June 23, 2011
    jaytee
    I don't think we need an in-universe equivalent, I think those can safely be filed under the original article with the proper explanation.

    I could see this as a supertrope of sorts, since there are mysterious things that are not necessarily relevant to the plot.
  • June 23, 2011
    jatay3
    I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who was annoyed at actually showing a physical Sauron in the Lord Of The Rings movie.
  • June 24, 2011
    Tambov333
    Pretty much the entire reasoning behind Measuring The Marigolds.
  • June 28, 2011
    SenshiSun
    It seems this trope would work as is, but I don't know how well it would funtion. Is this where the character/ creator intentionally left something out, or where they didn't really care. I'd say this would be best with the intentional examples.

    Maybe call it Biss In The Unknown?
  • July 2, 2011
    Tambov333
  • July 2, 2011
    OneMore
    This may or may not qualify, as the "mystery" if the whole game's plot...

    Video Games:
  • July 2, 2011
    Aielyn
  • July 2, 2011
    NetMonster
    A supertrope of Nothing Is Scarier, I think.
  • July 2, 2011
    Aielyn
    Also a supertrope of Noodle Incident and Noodle Implement.
  • July 4, 2011
    MorganWick
  • July 5, 2011
    Speedball
    I was just going to say this was Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane.
  • July 9, 2011
    neoYTPism
    Mentioned @ Morgan Wick and Speedball
  • July 11, 2011
    billybobfred
    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.
  • July 11, 2011
    tropetown
    Makes sense as a supertrope to Shrug Of God as well.
  • July 11, 2011
    revolverzanbolt
    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.
  • July 11, 2011
    Andygal
    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.
  • July 16, 2011
    neoYTPism
    Mentioned @ tropetown
  • July 19, 2011
    bwburke94
  • July 19, 2011
    benjamminsam
    The French movie La Moustache features this: the protagonist Marc shaves the moustache he's had his whole life, and becomes distraught when nobody notices. His wife and everyone else around him insist he has never had a moustache and they try to have him committed. Marc flees to Hong Kong and eventually China, where it appears that he and his wife reconcile, and the Ambiguous Ending doesn't reveal whether he truly ever had a moustache or not.
  • October 7, 2011
    leurz
    I'm resurrecting this because of http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=1309075777061060100 this thread. This trope could be objective, while Leave The Plot Threads Hanging is inherently YMMV. I would also like to propose the title Open Ending for this trope.
  • October 8, 2011
    TTurtle
    We have an entire index on ambiguity, called This Might Be An Index. I'd recommend taking a look at that to see which tropes might be related to Open Ending. We do have some tropes for specific ambiguous endings, such as Or Is It? That doesn't overlap with this, but it is clearly related. When the part left open is a romance plot, it's probably No Romantic Resolution.

  • October 8, 2011
    TBTabby
    The Adventure Continues could be a subtrope.
  • October 8, 2011
    Fanra
    The final episode of the original The Prisoner TV series was deliberately designed to be a WTF? ending.
  • October 9, 2011
    MorganWick
    A boatload of examples would need to be thrown out if we kept the Open Ending title, as well as the quote, and it'd also be close to No Ending and other related tropes. Either clarify what the trope is or take "Ending" out of the title.
  • June 29, 2015
    eroock
    How does this differ from Ambiguous Ending? Otherwise motion to discard.
  • June 29, 2015
    Generality
    The Calvin And Hobbes one is just Noodle Incident. I have the feeling some of the others are, as well (where they mention the audience reaction instead of the characters').
  • June 30, 2015
    Snicka
    Is this a supertrope to Bolivian Army Ending?
  • October 18, 2015
    eroock
    What's the difference to Ambiguous Ending? Motion to merge.
  • October 18, 2015
    DAN004
    And why the heck you bumped this when you know it's really faulty?
  • October 19, 2015
    eroock
    In order to get other's opinion on the matter.
  • October 19, 2015
    DAN004
    I suggest discard this. The op seemed to have no idea what he's talking about, and he's no longer here. It's also a very old ykttw.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable