End Is Nigh Ending
A work ends just as a civilization-ending cataclysm is getting underway


(permanent link) added: 2011-11-22 10:56:34 sponsor: SharleeD (last reply: 2012-04-21 13:17:36)

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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.

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