As an audience, we know that a doomed character can be saved at the last minute. There's always an Eleventh Hour Superpower
, Deus Ex Machina
, or Big Damn Heroes
moment to rescue them. Other times, we get an on-screen death, or even a Fate Worse Than Death
. Very rarely, though, characters can be left in a limbo; there's still a last minute, but we never see what happens after that.
This trope is the fate of any character whose ending is never told. This can happen at any point in a story, but happens so frequently at the end that we have tropes devoted specifically for them. Rule of thumb: if it is the ending of a work, it's one of the Bolivian endings.
When the audience doesn't even know if the characters are in danger, see also Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
and What Happened To The Mouse
Anime And Manga
- Marvel Zombies vs. Army Of Darkness ends with Ash escaping the zombie-infested dimension via Dr. Doom's portal only to end up in a dimension inhabited by werewolf superheroes, and the last frame is a shot of them running after him. Qualifies as a Bolivian Army Ending for Ash, but the crossover is a prequel for the entire Marvel Zombies universe.
- Another Batman case, the Legends of the Dark Knight character Cavalier chooses a Bolivian Army-esque Suicide By Cop as an honorable end.
Live Action TV
- Alien. Brett and Dallas are taken by the title monster but we never see them killed nor are their bodies ever found, except in a deleted scene.
- Ripley finds them- Dallas is in the process of mutating into an alien egg, and Brett has already nearly finished doing so.
- The last time Doug Murphy is seen in Scrubs is being locked in a morgue drawer. After this, he disappears and no mention is made of it.
- Stargate Atlantis; Lt Ford, who went rogue during season two, was last seen on an exploding Wraith ship. It was never explicitely said he was dead, and he never appeared in the series again.
- Discworld played with this in Thief Of Time; on the Disc, characters know what awaits them after death. But in this story, the Glass Clock will kill you if you get near, but what will happen to you afterwards is uncertain. One of the characters gets too near...
- Artie Ziff's ultimate fate in The Simpsons is a classic Bolivian Army Ending. "Somehow, I don't think we've seen the last of Artie Ziff!"....squirt, squirt..."Kids, take a last look at your Uncle Artie..."
- Played for laughs and lampshaded in the Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon Gee Whiz-zzzzzz; as Wile E. Coyote falls for the last time, he holds up a sign asking that the cartoon end before he hits. As the screen begins to Iris Out, he holds up a second sign saying "Thank you."
- South Park: The episode Trapped In The Closet ends with Stan, after revealing that he isn't the reincarnation of L Ron Hubbard and that "Scientology is just a big, fat, global scam!" getting threatened to be sued by all of his former followers, a threat Stan proudly accepts.
- Avatar The Last Airbender examples:
- American Dad: Played with. Steve and his friends are trapped by an angry mob in a van. "We're going to die," they say, "but at least we can take a few of them with us." They leap out of the van and the image freezes. The noise, however, continues, with blows landing and a cry of "We're not taking any of them with us!"