Created By: SharleeD on November 22, 2011 Last Edited By: SharleeD on April 21, 2012

End Is Nigh Ending

A work ends just as a civilization-ending cataclysm is getting underway

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Trope
Rather than actually showing a Cataclysm Climax, some films or other works skip the actual carnage, fading to black and rolling credits just as the wave of destruction begins building on the horizon. Nukes might be seen launching ominously from their silos; the Big Red Button might get pushed; the plague-bearer might be seen striding into an airport, clearly about to spread contagion across the planet. The End of the World as We Know It is obviously nigh, but for reasons of budget, drama, and/or use of an Apocalypse Discretion Shot, the audience doesn't actually get to see it happen.

The global version of a Bolivian Army Ending. Not to be confused with Inferred Holocaust, in which Fridge Logic leads viewers to independently conclude that a disaster must necessarily follow the events in-story. Compare Cliffhanger, when consequences of imminent disaster are expected to be shown in the next episode.

Warning: This is an Ending Trope, so expect unmarked spoilers!

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • If my memory serves, the anime Tokko ends like this, seemingly just before the Final Battle should have happened if the series were longer.

Film
  • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the film's last scene is of a virus-infected airline pilot heading off to work. The credits play over a global schematic of how the resulting lethal epidemic spreads rapidly from city to city.
  • Played with in 12 Monkeys, where the pandemic's aftermath is amply depicted in scenes of the future, and the movie ends with the post-apocalyptic time traveler failing to change events in the slightest, although his boss appears at the end to collect a viral sample and thus, make the more distant future less grim. The actual progression of the outbreak is not shown.
  • The end of Doctor Strangelove plays this for laughs.
  • The film version of Fight Club ended with the Narrator and Marla watching the destruction of the financial companies' buildings, which was intended to eliminate debt and 'reboot' society: the destruction of our consumer culture and the dawn of a new hunter/gatherer civilization.
  • The Cabin in the Woods ends with the Ancient One's gigantic hand ripping its way out of the ground, as it emerges from below to destroy humanity.

Literature
  • Jeff Long's novel Deeper ends with Chinese nuclear missiles heading for the United States.
  • Isaac Asimov's classic science fiction short story "Nightfall" ends with the planet's first darkness in centuries and civilization starting to break down.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God" ends with the stars starting to wink out, implying the end of the universe.
  • Lady of the Lake ends with Ciri cheerfully failing to fulfill her destiny of saving the world (or at least, its inhabitants) from the impending global glaciation. But then again, it is a Dark Fantasy classic.
  • The Burning Realm ends with Pandrogas and Amber realizing that the events of the novel have accelerated the decay of the fragments' orbits, ensuring they'll become uninhabitable in a year or less rather than the decades they'd expected.
  • In Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry, the heroine and her boyfriend save the little town, but the boyfriend going back for his girl is why the government is not notified in a timely fashion of Patient Zero who is a sentient zombie, cheerfully infecting everyone he encounters while everybody was trying to contain the infection in the small town.

Live-Action Television
  • The series Dinosaurs ended with the self-inflicted end of the dinosaurs fast-approaching.
  • Several episodes of both The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone conclude this way, as anthology-series don't need a Reset Button and neither show's budget allowed for much on-screen devastation.

Video Games
  • Final Fantasy VII was long thought to end with this, until the sequels set the record straight.
  • This is one of the two most likely interpretations of the ending to Mother 3.
  • Golden Sun Dark Dawn ends with the biggest Psynergy vortex ever seen ready to engulf Matthew's house.
  • In Riven, your character falls into the Star Fissure just as it begins to spread, and thus miss witnessing the final breakup of that Age.
  • Halo: Reach ends with the planet in the final stages of being reduced to glass, And then it cuts to the Distant Future showing the planet being rebuilt.

Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • November 22, 2011
    Koveras
    • Final Fantasy VII was long thought to end with this until the sequels set the record straight.
  • November 22, 2011
    burnpsy
    • This is one of the two most likely interpretations of the ending to Mother 3.
  • November 22, 2011
    greyscalefuzz
    Subverted in Twelve Monkeys, where the apocalypse's aftermath is amply depicted, and the movie ends with the time traveller from the future preventing it.
  • November 22, 2011
    TrustBen
    Dinosaurs ended with the self-inflicted end of the dinosaurs fast-approaching.
  • November 22, 2011
    condottiera
    The end of Doctor Strangelove plays this for laughs.
  • November 22, 2011
    condottiera
    Aso, Knowing ends this way.

    As this is an ending trope, I suggest that this should come with a warning that spoilers will be unmarked.
  • November 22, 2011
    Koveras
    That's called Spoilered Rotten, I think.
  • November 24, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Isaac Asimov's classic science fiction short story "Nightfall" ends with the planet's first darkness in centuries and civilization starting to break down.
  • November 24, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Arthur C Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God" ends with the stars starting to wink out, implying the end of the universe.
  • November 24, 2011
    SonofRojBlake
    You've misunderstood the ending of Twelve Monkeys. NOTHING changes. The apocalypse still happens, exactly as the film shows throughout. It's just that, thanks to Bruce Willis's efforts throughout, his boss is able to put herself next to the man who started it, which gives them what they need to start to rebuild... starting from the time we see Willis being projected back from.

    The whole structure of the film and the way time travel is depicted as working in that film is that nothing the time travellers do changes *anything* in the past, because the past is the past. All they can hope for is to go back there, participate in things that have already happened, and return to their present with additional information, or possibly actual material (e.g. the spider Willis eats early on...). It's heavily implied that the woman "in insurance" we see at the end is making a heroic sacrifice in that she'll be returning with something in her body, too... a first-generation copy of the apocalypse virus, which will give the medics of the future something to work from.
  • December 9, 2011
    SharleeD
    Any more suggestions for this one?
  • December 9, 2011
    RiviyanQuesta
    The film version of Fight Club ended with the Narrator and Marla watching the destruction of the financial companies' buildings, which was intended to eliminate debt and 'reboot' society-- the destruction of our consumer culture and the dawn of a new hunter/gatherer civilisation.
  • December 9, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Compare Cliffhanger.

    But better play the Needs A Better Title card just to be safe.

    Cataclysm Cut? Apocalyptic Ending? The Ending Is Nigh?
  • December 11, 2011
    RossN
    Knowing is not an example - we see the disaster unfold and the destruction of life on Earth.
  • December 12, 2011
    Koveras
  • December 27, 2011
    Koveras
    @OP: You've added the above example twice but none was properly linked...
  • December 27, 2011
    CharacterInWhite
    Divergent ends with Tris and Tobias narrowly escaping the Erudite's plan to overthrow Abnegation, resulting in the collapse of their former government.

    Not sure if it counts, since it's a planned trilogy and we will, in fact, get to see what happens next.
  • December 27, 2011
    SharleeD
    ^^ D'oh! Sorry, my bad. Fixed. ;-)
  • December 27, 2011
    Chabal2
    The end of Golden Sun Dark Dawn ends with the biggest Psynergy vortex ever seen ready to engulf Matthew's house.

  • December 27, 2011
    BearyScary
    If my memory serves, the anime Tokko ends like this, seemingly just before the Final Battle should have happened if the series were longer.
  • December 29, 2011
    Vyctorian
    Halo: Reach ends with the planet in the final stages of being reduced to glass, And then it cuts to the Distant Future showing the planet being rebuilt.
  • December 29, 2011
    randomsurfer
    How big of an ending must be nigh? In Blackadder Goes Forth, set during World War One, the end shows the cast running out of a trench and then crossfades to a field of poppies.
  • December 29, 2011
    ArtilleryOmni
    The TV series Surface ended this way due to being canceled. The series ends on a cliffhanger, with the stranded protagonists looking out on the devastation of a tidal wave from a church steeple while the series' mysterious sea monsters from the deep emerge and begin to invade the land.
  • December 29, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • In Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry, the heroine and her boyfriend save the little town, but the boyfriend going back for his girl is why the government is not notified in a timely fashion of Patient Zero who is a sentient zombie, cheerfully infecting everyone he encounters while everybody was trying to contain the infection in the small town.
  • December 30, 2011
    MorganWick
    Essentially the Bolivian Army Ending writ large.
  • April 21, 2012
    chicagomel
    edit: I don't think 'Conquest' counts, becuase the apes caused the end, it wasn't something else doing it while they took over.
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