Created By: Euan2000 on March 28, 2013 Last Edited By: Elbruno on August 25, 2013
Troped

Ray of Hope Ending (To be launched soon)

An otherwise Downer Ending focuses on some source of encouragement.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
When a Downer Ending does not mean that everything has been lost. Things might have gone bad for our heroes; they might have lost the base, have the villain remain victorious, or even have themselves killed. But even amongst all that tragedy, there's still something that assures that it doesn't end there, that there might be a chance to make things better.

This is different from a Bittersweet Ending, where the protagonists win but at a great cost, and is not simply a Downer Ending with a few happy tones either. This trope means that, despite the heroes being soundly defeated, physically and/or emotionally, there's still some hope left; a reassurement that things are not as bleak as they may look, and there could be a chance to turn the tides around, even if everything that has been lost can't ever be truly recovered.

Compare to A World Half Full, which is a world that despite its broken state can still be turned for the better, Fling a Light into the Future, which is a more deliberate hope establishment and usually happens at the start of the story, Hope Springs Eternal, which is the very concept of hope always living on no matter the circumstances.

Contrast Surprisingly Happy Ending, in which a seemingly bittersweet or downer ending turns into a happy ending thanks to a plot twist, and Esoteric Happy Ending, where the creator thinks they have ended things on a positive note, but the Audience Reaction is Fridge Horror.

Depending on the circumstances, this kind of ending may be (or become) a Sequel Hook.

This is an Ending Trope, so beware of unmarked spoilers.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked is infamous for its Kill 'em All ending, but the final moments are of the characters' souls happy and laughing as they go to be reincarnated. (Though after all the suffering they go through, one has to wonder whether just staying dead would be a better option.)

Film
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire Strikes Back: The Rebellion is on the run without a base, Han Solo's debt with Jabba the Hutt comes back to bite him and he has been frozen solid in carbonite, Luke gave up his Jedi Training to walk into Darth Vader's trap, lose his hand and finds his true parentage. But the main cast minus Han are able to escape the Empire at Cloud City and it ends on a high note with Luke's replacement hand and the team getting a lead on Han's whereabouts.
    • Revenge of the Sith: Anakin Skywalker has fallen to evil. The Jedi have been all but destroyed. The Republic has fallen, and the Empire has risen to power. Obi-Wan and Yoda, the only survivors of the Order, are in hiding. But the Skywalker twins have been born, and we know from the original trilogy that they will be the ones to change the state of the galaxy for the better.
  • The ending to the European film, Acla also known as Acla's Descent would almost be a Downer Ending, but it has a touch of hope since it's shown that in spite of everything, Acla can still dream of a better future.
  • 12 Monkeys: Protagonist James Cole, a time traveler from After the End, dies trying (and failing) to stop the villain from releasing the virus that triggers The End of the World as We Know It. But in the next scene, another time traveler appears in disguise to speak with the villain -- implying that, thanks to Cole's work, the scientists of the future will finally get a pure sample of the virus so they can make a vaccine. The past can't be changed, but the future can still be saved.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World ends with the male characters ending up in the hospital after losing the $350,000 worth of money, but Captain Culpepper assures them with this line:
    "I don't think any of you have anything to worry about. My wife is divorcing me, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked, and the only reason you 10 idiots will very likely get off lightly is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at. I'd like to think that sometime, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, there will be something that I could laugh at, anything."

Literature
  • The Lorax would have been a total Downer Ending, had the Once-Ler not given the child the last Trufula seed.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four concludes with an appendix about Newspeak which is phrased in the past tense and written in standard English. Some people have interpreted this to mean that the reign of Ingsoc was eventually broken.
  • First King of Shannara ends this way. While the Second War of the Races is won and the Warlock Lord defeated, this Big Bad isn't permanently destroyed. In spite of this development and the destruction of the Druids, Allanon remains as the last Druid, the Sword of Shannara is still capable of destroying the Warlock Lord, and Jerle Shannara continues his bloodline -- leaving his descendants to eventually destroy the Warlock Lord.
  • At the end of The Dark Tower, when Roland is sent back in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, he holds the horn of Eld, which implies that he could break the loop eventually.
  • John Wyndham's novelette Out of the Deeps/The Kraken Wakes. At the end of the story the invading underwater aliens have melted the polar ice caps and caused worldwide flooding. However, the Japanese have developed an unmanned device that broadcasts ultrasonic waves lethal to the aliens. It has wiped out some of the aliens and might succeed in destroying all of them.
  • The fourth book of A Series of Unfortunate Events ends this way, with the Baudelaires reflecting on the small blessings that allowed them to survive this latest attempt on their lives, and conclude maybe they do have some luck on their side after all.

Live-Action TV
  • The Cut Short V-2009 ended on the big downer of the Visitors gaining the ability to bliss humans en-masse, which could very well be the backbreaker for the human race. Plus many key characters die, and a very hopeful-looking plot against Anna by her estranged mother fails utterly. But Erica is introduced to a deeper underground resistance involving members of the FBI, military and intelligence communities, which may, with some perseverance, cunning and luck, just have enough resources and high connections to succeed, should there ever be a continuation or sequel...
  • The X-Files ends with half the main cast chased by the authorities, Mulder still being wanted and the revelation that an alien invasion will begin in December 2012. However Mulder expresses his belief to Scully that they have a force more powerful than the aliens on their side and that there's still hope to defeat them. And then the second movie happened.
  • The fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ends with the Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, Deep Space 9 is quickly captured by the Dominion forces and the heroes retreat. The ray of hope comes in the form of the massed Federation-Klingon fleet ready to fight back and Captain Sisko leaving behind his baseball on the station, a message that he will return, and shove it up the Dominion's ass when he does.

Video Games
  • In the second part of Vacant Sky, it turns out Auria is really the Big Bad after all, one of the second heroes Serijala has made a pact with the Virad, and Mia is dead. Things are looking kinda grim. ...And then, we discover that the Virad are infected by demons, meaning demon-killing weapons have a chance of permanently killing them off, and also there is the hope that stopping Ejaro will put an end to the Virad.
  • Spec Ops: The Line. In the best ending, it is implied that despite all the horrible things Walker did, he still has a chance at possible redemption. The achievement for getting this ending is even called "The Road Back".
  • The Purple Clan's ending in Fahrenheit would be a downer ending, had it not been for Lucas and Carla's child who has potential to save humankind where his/her father failed.
  • Infinity Blade: In the second game, Siris manages to defeat Radriar the God King for the second time and makes sure not to kill him. He takes Radriar to the Worker of Secret's cell, so that the Worker will be freed and Radriar will be imprisoned in his place. Unfortunately, Siris discovers too late that his "old friend" is a Consummate Liar and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. The Worker takes the Infinity Blade with plans for world domination, and leaves Siris and Radriar to rot in his cell, as well as claim that Ausar/Siris was the one who imprisoned him there in the first place. By all accounts, this is a Downer Ending, but the last scene shows Isa approaching the castle.
  • The third act of the FreeSpace 2 mod, Blue Planet: War In Heaven ends with the GTVA forces about to invade Earth, Noemi's revelation that the Vishnans have given up on preserving humanity because of the Sol-GTVA war and have ordered the Shivans to destroy humanity and Noemi is forced to fake her death to escape from the Elders' grasp. The ray of hope comes in the form of Ken saying that the Shivans have a plan to prevent humanity's end from happening but it will only come to pass if the war ends quickly and also in Noemi learning that Lorna is still alive and vowing to end the war no matter the cost.
  • Halo: Reach: The Covenant conquer Reach and burn its entire surface to glass. Humanity's second most important planet is lost. The fleet's attempts to stem the invasion end in failure every time. Almost all of NOBLE Team is killed including the player. The only thing that keeps the story from being a complete tragedy is that the player manages to evacuate the ship Pillar of Autumn with Master Chief and Cortana aboard, who will turn around the course of the war in the subsequent games. In the final cutscene, Dr. Halsey gives your eulogy and assures you that your Heroic Sacrifice was worth it, as shown by Reach now being a green paradise being colonized again.

Western Animation
  • The first Season Finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. The identity of the Creep of Crystal Cove is revealed to be Mayor Jones, Fred's father and the gang is separated and grounded by their parents. When things seem lost however Scooby Doo renews his resolve and vows to put the gang back together.

Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • March 28, 2013
    Koveras
    A subtrope of Sequel Hook?
  • March 28, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    I think this can overlap with Sequel Hook, but it doesn't have to.

    The ending of THX 1138 has a few birds flying across the sunrise at the end. George Lucas decided to use the shot with the birds in it to provide a bit of hope that the hero might actually be able to survive on the surface.
  • March 28, 2013
    Rainbow
    Would the ending of Barefoot Gen count as this? His baby sister dies before they can get her the milk they bought, but the ending also shows plants starting to sprout again and Gen's hair growing back.
  • March 28, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
  • March 28, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    What about the Bittersweet Ending, where the ending isn't exactly happy but the characters figure it's for the best?
  • March 28, 2013
    VPhantom
    It's similar to Fling A Light Into The Future, but definitely not the same, as that trope is often used as a backstory foundation used for the main plot. Also, it is a trope actively set-up by the story characters, (they know the end is near, so they do something about) while a Ray of Hope Ending can be born from an unforseen circunstance.
    Also different from a Bittersweet Ending because that one is a proper conclusion, (the main conflicts are resolved, and the end result is a mix of light and darkness) while this trope involves more uncertainty and open questions, besides being mostly bleak if not for that little bright spot.
  • March 28, 2013
    helterskelter
    So, this is an ending where the chips are down, but it ends on the possibility of things getting better? I like it. Since it shares similarities from Fling A Light Into The Future, perhaps you should clarify that it's a ray of hope for the heroes in question, or the specific group of people that we're rooting for.
  • March 28, 2013
    Elbruno
    Sounds like a great concept for a trope. I feel it's like a "reverse" Bittersweet Ending, as in instead of being "Heroes win, but at a great cost" it's "Heroes are defeated, but not everything is lost".

    PS: The description could use some work, it's far too short.
  • March 29, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Holdon, I'll help with the description.

    Urgh, nevermind, it got reverted. Add this as an edit to middle and last paragraph and you'll be golden.

    " This is different from a Bittersweet Ending where the protagonist win but at a great cost, and is not simply a Downer Ending with a bit of happiness either. This trope implies the expression "where there is life, there is hope." Yes, the party has soundly been defeated, but they are all still alive, and they look determined to stop the villain. And now, they have the means or knowledge to fight and win.

    Compare to Fling A Light Into The Future, except this story typically begins with such a thing, whereas here the found Mac Guffin or Chosen One appears at the final hour. May (and often does) overlap with Sequel Hook. "

    • In the second part of Vacant Sky, it turns out Auria is really the Big Bad after all, one of the second heroes Serijala has made a pact with the Virad, and Mia is dead. Things are looking kinda grim. ...And then, we discover that the Virad are infected by demons, meaning demon-killing weapons have a chance of permanently killing them off, and also there is the hope that stopping Ejaro will put an end to the Virad.
  • March 29, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    The Cut Short V-2009 ended on the big downer of the Visitors gaining the ability to bliss humans en-masse, which could very well be the backbreaker for the human race. Plus many key characters die, and a very hopeful-looking plot against Anna by her estranged mother fails utterly. But Erica is introduced to a deeper underground resistance involving members of the FBI, military and intelligence communities, which may, with some perseverance, cunning and luck, just have enough resources and high connections to succeed, should there ever be a continuation or sequel....
  • March 30, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Nineteen Eighty Four concludes with an appendix about Newspeak which is phrased in the past tense and written in standard English. Some people have interpreted this to mean that the reign of Ingsoc was eventually broken.
  • March 30, 2013
    cfive
    Is this any good?:

    Spec Ops The Line: In the best ending, it is implied that despite all the horrible things Walker did, he still has a chance at possible redemption. The achievement for getting this ending is even called "The Road Back".
  • March 30, 2013
    Elbruno
    "This trope implies the expression "where there is life, there is hope." Yes, the party has soundly been defeated, but they are all still alive, and they look determined to stop the villain. And now, they have the means or knowledge to fight and win."

    I'm not a fan of that part of the description. There may be plenty of examples out there that don't involve the heroes walking out alive, or the chance to fight the villain once again.

    As I said before with other words, we don't have a trope for a Downer Ending that leaves a source of encouragement for the heroes (or at least to their side of the conflict). Narrowing down the area covered by this trope will only cause trouble in the future.
  • March 31, 2013
    Euan2000
    Made description a bit more all encompassing.
  • March 31, 2013
    ChaoticQueen
    • The Lorax would have been a total Downer Ending, had the Once-Ler not given the child the last Trufula seed.
  • April 5, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Maybe change the name for Downer Ending Cushion (name adapted adapted from Curb Stomp Cusion)?

  • April 11, 2013
    Chabal2
    One Scrooge Mc Duck story ends with him having lost his entire fortune on a bet with the Beagle Boys (that he'd be able to grow a three-thousand year old bean found in Mesopotamia). The comic ends with Scrooge sleeping dejectedly on the roof of his giant safe for the last time... and the narration stating that the bean only grew in elevated conditions like, say, rooftops.
  • April 12, 2013
    Larkmarn
    This seems very similar to Hope Springs Eternal. That said, none of the examples overlap so... yay?
  • May 3, 2013
    Koveras
  • May 3, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Speaking of Star Wars, the ending of Revenge Of The Sith. Anakin Skywalker has fallen to evil. The Jedi have been all but destroyed. The Republic has fallen, and the Empire has risen to power. Obi-Wan and Yoda, the only survivors of the Order, are in hiding. But the Skywalker twins have been born, and we know from the original trilogy that they will be the ones to change the state of the galaxy for the better.
  • July 12, 2013
    Melkior
    • The ending to the European film, Acla also known as Acla's Descent is a Downer Ending, but with a touch of hope since it's shown that in spite of everything, Acla can still dream of a better future.
  • July 12, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    • The ending of Star Trek II was altered to give Spock a chance to come back (since this film convinced Nimoy the series was worth doing again).
  • August 10, 2013
    Elbruno
  • August 10, 2013
    Larkmarn
    So no one's addressed the fact this is covered by Hope Springs Eternal.
  • August 10, 2013
    Elbruno
    ^ Not necessarily, that trope (which I had no idea existed) is about hope always living on no matter what. This one is about a Downer Ending that assures that not everything is lost. There is a lot of overlap, true; but one does not necessarily imply the other.

    For example, the Spec Ops The Line entry deals with a single character having a chance of redemption, which is a long stretch from "hope lives on".
  • August 10, 2013
    Elbruno
    I've done a rough re-writting of the description in order to broaden its coverage, so it also includes cases where the hope does not come from the heroes being alive or the villains having a chance to be defeated:


    When a Downer Ending does not mean that everything has been lost. Things might have gone bad for our heroes; they might have lost the base, have the villain remain victorious, or even have themselves killed. But even amongst all that tragedy, there's still something that assures that it doesn't end there, that there might be a chance to make things better.

    This is different from a Bittersweet Ending, where the protagonists win but at a great cost, and is not simply a Downer Ending with a few happy tones either. This trope means that, despite the heroes being soundly defeated, physically and/or emotionally, there's still some hope left; a reassurement that things are not as bleak as they look, and there could be a chance to turn the tides around, even if everything that has been lost can't ever be truly recovered.

    Compare to Fling A Light Into The Future, which is a more deliberate hope establishment and usually happens at the start of the story, and Hope Springs Eternal, which is the very concept of hope always living on no matter the circumstances. May (and often does) overlap with Sequel Hook.

    This is an Ending Trope, so beware of unmarked spoilers.

    PS: Is the original sponsor still around? If not I can supervise this YKTTW.
  • August 11, 2013
    Melkior
    "can't never" should be "can't ever", otherwise you have a double-negative, cancelling itself out.

    Also "Ending Tropes" should be just "Ending Trope".

    If the OP doesn't show up, I'm okay with you taking over the trope.
  • August 11, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized all work titles that needed them and divided the examples by media.
  • August 11, 2013
    TiggersAreGreat
    Infinity Blade: In the second game, Siris manages to defeat Radriar the God King for the second time and makes sure not to kill him. He takes Radriar to the Worker of Secret's cell, so that the Worker will be freed and Radriar will be imprisoned in his place. Unfortunately, Siris discovers too late that his "old friend" is a Consummate Liar and a Bitch In Sheeps Clothing. The Worker takes the Infinity Blade with plans for world domination, and leaves Siris and Radriar to rot in his cell, as well as claim that Ausar/Siris was the one who imprisoned him there in the first place. By all accounts, this is a Downer Ending, but the last scene shows Isa approaching the castle.
  • August 11, 2013
    Larkmarn
    @ Elbruno: Makes sense to me. I withdraw my question. Thanks for responding.
  • August 11, 2013
    Elbruno
    Altered the description to make it more emcompassing, and also added some missing examples (at least the ones that seemed to be explained well).

    Could use a little elaboration the the Star Trek II example. What was the original outcome?
  • August 11, 2013
    MaxWest
    First King Of Shannara ends this way. While the Second War of the Races is won and the Warlock Lord defeated, this Big Bad isn't permanently destroyed. In spite of this development and the destruction of the Druids, Allanon remains as the last Druid, the Sword of Shannara is still capable of destroying the Warlock Lord, and Jerle Shannara continues his bloodline - leaving his descendants to eventually destroy the Warlock Lord.
  • August 12, 2013
    DAN004
  • August 13, 2013
    Tardigrade
    The Road -- both book and film -- seem relevant. Without knowing how to white-out spoilers, I'll leave it to someone else to elaborate.
  • August 13, 2013
    dalexterminate
    At the end of The Dark Tower, when Roland is sent back in a Groundhog Day Loop, he holds the horn of Eld, which implies that he could break the loop eventually.
  • August 14, 2013
    Arivne
    ^^ To spoiler something:

    [[spoiler:Text to be spoilered]] --> Text to be spoilered

    Even more available at Text Formatting Rules. :)
  • August 15, 2013
    MetaFour
    Film:
    • Twelve Monkeys. Protagonist James Cole, a time traveler from After The End, dies trying (and failing) to stop the villain from releasing the virus that triggers The End Of The World As We Know It. But in the next scene, another time traveler appears in disguise to speak with the villain--implying that, thanks to Cole's work, the scientists of the future will finally get a pure sample of the virus so they can make a vaccine. The past can't be changed, but the future can still be saved.
  • August 16, 2013
    Melkior
    More information for the Star Trek II example: Spock was originally planned to be Killed Off For Real but the popularity of the films convinced Leonard Nimoy that it was worth bringing him back.
  • August 16, 2013
    Elbruno
    ^ I mean the ending itself. Spock being killed off for real does not make a Downer Ending. It could mean a Bittersweet Ending, which is obviously not covered here.
  • August 16, 2013
    DracMonster
    • Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked is infamous for its Kill Em All ending, but the final moments are of the characters' souls happy and laughing as they go to be reincarnated. (Though after all the suffering they go through, one has to wonder whether just staying dead would be a better option.)
  • August 16, 2013
    CaveCat
    • The movie Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World ends with the male characters ending up in the hospital after losing the $350,000 worth of money, but Captain Culpepper assures them with this line:
      "I don't think any of you have anything to worry about. My wife is divorcing me, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked, and the only reason you 10 idiots will very likely get off lightly is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at. I'd like to think that sometime, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, there will be something that I could laugh at, anything."
  • August 16, 2013
    DracMonster
    Compare Esoteric Happy Ending (with which this may occasionally intersect,) where the creator thinks he has ended things on a positive note, but the Audience Reaction is Fridge Horror.
  • August 18, 2013
    windower
    Video Game:
    • The third act of the Free Space 2 mod, Blue Planet: War In Heaven ends with the GTVA forces about to invade Earth, Noemi's revelation that the Vishnans have given up on preserving humanity because of the UEF-GTVA war and have ordered the Shivans to destroy humanity and Noemi is forced to fake her death to escape from the Elders' grasp. The ray of hope comes in the form of Noemi learning that Lorna is still alive, Ken saying that the Vishnans might be persuaded to spare humanity if the war ends quickly with the UEF being victorious, and the mod ending with Noemi vowing to end the war no matter the cost.
  • August 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • John Wyndham's novelette Out of the Deeps/The Kraken Wakes. At the end of the story the invading underwater aliens have melted the polar ice caps and caused worldwide flooding. However, the Japanese have developed an unmanned device that broadcasts ultrasonic waves lethal to the aliens. It has wiped out some of the aliens and might succeed in destroying all of them.
  • August 19, 2013
    Elbruno
    ^^ I don't really like to add fan works without a link or a proper article to examples lists.
  • August 19, 2013
    windower
    ^^^
  • August 19, 2013
    Elbruno
    That's better.
  • August 21, 2013
    robinjohnson
    The whole novel Nineteen Eighty Four is written in standard English in the past tense, as is almost every other English-language novel, for goodness' sake. Grudgingly, it's true that some people interpret it that way, but still, yuck.
  • August 22, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Halo Reach: The Covenant conquer Reach and burn its entire surface to glass. Humanity's second most important planet is lost. The fleet's attempts to stem the invasion end in failure every time. Almost all of NOBLE Team is killed including the player. The only thing that keeps the story from being a complete tragedy is that the player manages to evacuate the ship Pillar of Autumn with Master Chief and Cortana aboard, who will turn around the course of the war in the subsequent games. In the final cutscene, Dr. Halsey gives your eulogy and assures you that your Heroic Sacrifice was worth it, as shown by Reach now being a green paradise being colonized again.
  • August 23, 2013
    windower
    LiveActionTV
    • The X Files ends with half the main cast chased by the authorities, Mulder still being wanted and the revelation that an alien invasion will begin in December 2012. However Mulder expresses his belief to Scully that they have a force more powerful than the aliens on their side and that there's still hope to defeat them. And then the second movie happened.

    • The fifth season of Star Trek Deep Space Nine ends with the Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, Deep Space 9 is quickly captured by the Dominion forces and the heroes retreat. The ray of hope comes in the form of the massed Federation-Klingon fleet ready to fight back and Captain Sisko leaving behind his baseball on the station, a message that he will return, and shove it up the Dominion's ass when he does.
  • August 23, 2013
    Elbruno
    ^^^ I'd rather not start an argument regarding it (especially since I don't remember nearly anything about that book), but I believe that interpretation of that last part is common enough to deserve a mention.
  • August 24, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    The fourth book of A Series Of Unfortunate Events ends this way, with the Baudelaires reflecting on the small blessings that allowed them to survive this latest attempt on their lives, and conclude maybe they do have some luck on their side after all.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=oove0n7mi8gbzfltnm7h818c&trope=RayOfHopeEnding