A common form is a contestant who does extremely well in the main game, but loses the Bonus Round.
Any game show where the contestant makes it to the finale of the game where the big prize is within their reach, only to screw up and lose out.
Any game show that relies on questions and answers in the format used by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? will have a downer ending if the contestant gets the first question wrong.
The Price Is Right has a downer ending if both contestants in the Showcase game overbid on their prizes, resulting in neither of them winning anything.
Even more so if they failed to win anything in the game they played. They literally walk away with only the small prize that got them out of Contestants row.
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?: If a contestant (A.K.A. a gumshoe) did not complete eight locations in 45 seconds (or 60 seconds if the continent map theme is Asia) on the map round, The newspaper headline cover will show up with the caption that reads: "Carmen Escapes Again!" In Season 4 (1992) and beyond this point on, The newspaper headline illustration will have Carmen Sandiego vanished and leaving just the white shadow of Carmen. The chief would say "Carmen was very tricky today. But don't worry you did capture (one of her allies such as: Vic the Slick, Robocrook, Top Grunge, Double Trouble, Patty Larceny, The Contessa, Eartha Brute, Wonder Rat, Kneemoi, and Sarah Nade...) and you found the loot as well." And gives the contestant a consolation prize (such as a portable CD player and CD's of songs around world, Even a Rockapella CD featuring the show's theme song).
The first season of 24 when Jack rushes to his wife only to find her dead. While certainly depressing, it arguably set the tone for all subsequentseasons of the show.
That's certainly an understatement. This entire series is one massive downer, and if a season ends with any apparent brightness in it it's going to be bittersweet at best. This goes Up to Eleven in the final season: pretty much any character in it who's still alive gets completely screwed over in some fashion by the series finale.
ALF gets caught by the military in the final episode. This was NBC's fault as much as anyone else's.
There was a post-series made for TV movie where he makes some friends in the government by going on a wacky road-trip and gets officially recognized as a citizen of the United States with human rights, though.
Not a US citizen but an officially-recognized alien ambassador, even though Melmac itself is destroyed. Oh, and the Tanners are still in Witness Protection, although they may get released after Alf's existence is made public.
Alphas ends with Gary making his way through the bodies lining Grand Central Station calling for Dr Rosen, who, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, has presumably also been killed. It would have been a great end-of-season cliffhanger, if there'd been another season.
Andromeda seasons tended to end like this. Especially the first one.
It has now been revealed in the official comic continuation that all of the remaining characters are alive, although some have gone through some...changes.
Wait, dying and having one's soul tied to the Evil Corporation that you tried to destroy and now being forced to do their bidding counts as alive?
Are You Afraid of the Dark? had a few downer endings, for example "The Tale Of The Pinball Wizard", where Ross has apparently won the game, only to find that he's trapped in a pinball machine replica of the mall, doomed to play the game forever.
Also "Tale Of The Chameleons," which ends with the hero drowning in a well trapped in the form of a chameleon, and the villain about to do the same to the hero's family and friend.
Nearly every episode of Arrested Development has a Downer Ending for its characters, although usually the endings are funny for viewers. Season four is particularly bad; by the end:
Both Maeby and Tobias are registered sex offenders, made all the worse by virtue of the fact that Maeby inadvertently sets her own father up. Maybe has yet to graduate from high school, and Tobias has also given up hope on his newest love because she has a drug problem.
Buster has been kicked out of the Army and has lost both his mother and Lucille Two (the latter to his father Oscar), and now has nowhere to go. He also sees himself as a monster and may or may not have killed Lucille Two.
GOB has finally made a friend in his longtime rival Tony Wonder, but has very likely screwed that up now that the two have actually slept together. Oddly, they were both intending to sleep with each other anyway to ruin the others' careers, but then feelings got in the way.
Lucille and George Bluth, Sr are getting for-real divorced. To make matters either worse or stranger - possibly both - Oscar and George, Sr have somehow managed to switch personalities.
Lindsay is still struggling with her identity, going from a sideline liberal to a campaigning Republican within the span of a few episodes. Her rival, Sally Sitwell, is planning on releasing photos of Lindsay with her enemy-turned-lover-turned-boss-turned-man she is now running in place of, which will ruin Lindsay's reputation. Oh, and this campaign Lindsay is now running to "put up that wall" will bankrupt her family.
George Michael has finally learned how to lie, but has now gotten himself so far deep in his lies that admitting the truth now will get him in just as much trouble as the lie inevitably will - and as per usual, none of his relatives are of any help with advice. He is also being threatened by the hacker collective Anonymous over his supposed privacy software, but doesn't know it.
Michael is supposed to be getting his family's signatures so that Ron Howard can do a movie about his life story, but Michael has cut everyone in his family out of the movie. It also turns out that both he and George Michael have been dating the same woman: Rebel Alley, Ron Howard's illegitimate daughter. In the final scene of the season, George Michael is confronted with this news and punches his father in the face. Roll credits.
Even side characters don't make out well: Ann Veal finally gets revenge on both Tony Wonder and GOB by tricking them into having sex with each other, but she's still a Fundamentalist Christian unwed mother. Steve Holt has been abandoned by his father and looks so different than he did in his high school days that even Maeby doesn't recognize him. It's also his birthday, and no one has remembered.
Even Annyong is seen only once, being arrested for failing to pay a huge tab the other Bluths had run up at an exclusive club.
In all, the development of the characters is just as arrested now as it was at end of the last season - which was meant to be the original last season.
Delenn knows her husband's fate far too early for most spouses. She sees everyone she ever loved (her mother, her father, Dukhat, Sheridan, Lennier) taken from her. She outlives the rest of her friends (Ivanova, Garibaldi) and is left with only her son (her connection with whom seems to be somewhat... dubious given his conspicuous absence when Sheridan died) and possibly Vir. The last time we ever see her is when she emerges from seclusion to mount a feeble defense of her husband's personal honor eighty years after he died. After eight decades, Sheridan is still the only thing she cares enough about to make her presence known. Not what they accomplished together, not the role they played, not even what he accomplished. Just him.
Londo and G'Kar will die at each other's hands as the Centauri civilization falls apart, but it's a good thing.
Ivanova: A clone of her was brought back to life in the far future by Marcus, after he was revived and healed of the cause of his near-death, and is trapped alone with him on a planet with no other inhabitants.
Mid-season finale for Season Four is one of the most downer endings coming after the most uplifting: the fleet, allied with the rebel Cylons, finally find Earth and there is much celebration. That is until they land on Earth and find everything is a nuclear wasteland. All the characters stare out at the ruins of a city and the episode ends.
AND in the final season Ron Moore, in Nazi-writer Deathcamp Execution style, breaks and then kills just about every Cutie and Woobie on the ship (Duala, Gaeta, and Boomer in season 4 alone) so as to severely strain your mileage when rewatching the series. Honestly, who can see those characters in the miniseries and not weep for how it will end?
Finally, the series ended with an apparently hopeful note, but let us consider: the people gave up their culture and technology, as well as their chance to warn the future generations of their errors in favor of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Think of what all that entails: dying of trivial diseases and injuries, struggling to stay alive in a manner unknown to most of the population, and generally leading at least as shitty existence as they did back on Galactica, apart from the bit about being hunted by Cylons, though natural predators and at least some of the native humans probably take care of that aspect in their lives. Oh, and cute little Hera is destined to die at young age after popping out enough babies to sire modern humanity, which means she probably started in her early teens. Kind of a dark version of Babies Ever After...
And, that's not considering the possibility of it all being a Stable Time Loop...
Let's look at it psychologically: all remaining characters, without exeptions, decide their intire culture, history and technology is not worthy of preservation for the coming generations and they all just give up to become cavemen. The intire human race is so overcome with self-hatred they willingly forget everything. Future generations learned nothing from the whole ordeal too, because no one wanted to remember it. When you think of it, maybe things would have ended up less bleak if Gaeta had won?
Being Human is a drama with plenty of comedy and light-hearted moments about three housemates who happen to be a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost just trying to live their lives as normally as they can. Except that at the end of season two the vampire, Mitchell, snaps and kills an entire train carriage full of innocent people. Nevertheless, the season still manages to end on a relatively hopeful note, with him back to his normal self trying to find a way to atone and the other storylines also wrapping up in satisfying ways for a season end. Enter season three, in which Mitchell spends the entire season being slowly forced to admit to himself that he's a danger to society as long as he lives. The season ends with him convincing his best friend in the world to stake him since that's the only way he can prevent another slaughter in the future. Thus answering the central question of "can these people live amongst humanity?" with a resounding "NO".
Black Adder ended every season with the death of at least one, and usually several, major characters, before "reviving" them in a new era for the next series. These are usually Played for Laughs. The final season, Blackadder Goes Forth, ends with most of the major characters being sent out into battle and presumably to their deaths, with the last shot fading slowly into a field of poppies. This one was decidedly notPlayed for Laughs.
Not quite every season. The final special episode in modern times ends with Blackadder fixing all the time-continuum screwups, and maneuvering himself into becoming king.
And technically Blackadder the Third only ended badly for George. Blackadder successfully switches positions with George and presumably poses as the Prince Regent (later George IV) for the rest of his life.
Blakes Seven ended its third and fourth (final) seasons with Cliff Hanger Downer Endings. Series 3 ended with the Liberator destroyed, the crew abandoned on a desolate planet and Blake revealed to be an illusion. Series 4 ended the series on a downer with Scorpio wrecked in a crash; Avon killing Blake (the real one this time); Vila, Tarrant, Dayna and Soolin all killed; and Avon, the last man standing, surrounded by heavily armed Federation troopers. Gunshots played over the start of the credits. (This was intended by writer Chris Boucher to be a Cliff Hanger; those actors who wanted to come back for a fifth series would turn out to be Not Quite Dead. However, the BBC decided not to commission another series.)
The third season finale of Bones, in which, even though Booth wasn't dead, it was revealed that Zach, one of the main characters, was Gormogon's (a cannibal serial killer) apprentice, having been duped by a much stronger personality and forced to kill. In the end, he realizes how wrong he was, tells them how to find Gormogon, pleads guilty, and is sent away to a mental correctional facility. And this from Bones, where the usual endings are light and fluffy.
In a subsequent episode Zach reveals to Sweets, the team's psychologist, that he didn't really kill anyone and merely aided and abetted Gormogon, but telling the truth would land him in actual jail, where he'd be toast.
And what about the sixth season episode "The Hole in the Heart"? Nigel Murray ends up dying, and even worse, it's not even planned - Booth (the real mark) hands him his cell phone and Nigel Murray dies because the sniper was using Booth's cell phone to identify his target.
And then there's the Season 7 finale which ends with Brennan being framed for murder and forced to flee with her and Booth's newborn baby.
On Boy Meets World the episode "We'll Have a Good Time Then..." ends with the death of Shawn's father in the hospital.
Season 2 ended with Buffy alienating her friends and her family, stabbing her lover through the chest with a sword and sending him to a Hell dimension, and then leaving town for places unknown. To Sarah McLachlan. Season 5 ended with the second death of Buffy.
And then there's the series finale, where Spike sacrifices himself, bringing the entire town down with him in a Crowning Moment of Awesome; Xander is understandably grief-stricken following Anya's demise; Andrew is in shock over his survival, and they're all just standing there, on the edge of the crater that was the town a few of them grew up in, wondering what they can do next. Even though we later learn that they get through it, even Spike, who comes back in Angel, it can still be something of a downer.
In the Season 7 episode "Help," in her role as a guidance counselor at Sunnydale High, Buffy encouters a student who predicts her own death. Buffy investigates and discovers that Cassie is to be sacrificed to a demon. Buffy defeats the Big Bad by the end of the episode. In the final scene, just when Buffy feels she's stopped Cassie's prediction, the girl drops dead in her presence...from a congenital heart defect.
The first season finale ended with Ben murdering Lodz; Sofie, Apollonia and Jonesy all possibly dying in a fire; Balthus failing to kill Justin; Samson sleeping in the truck; and Justin himself losing his last traces of goodwill and developing a larger following over the radio.
"Babylon" ends with Dora Mae being found dead and Ben lost in the mines beneath the town.
"Pick a Number" ends with Samson killing Stangler and weeping after seeing Dora Mae's spector, then getting drunk while telling Jonesy to head south.
Oh, god, the Season Three finale of Charmed. To retcon a world where everyone finds out the sisters are witches (which resulted in Piper's death and Prue in a Mexican Standoff with authorities), Phoebe and Cole must make a Deal with the Devil that supposedly ends with them all dying anyway: Phoebe must stay a prisoner of The Source of All Evil, who says he's going to kill her anyway, and Prue and Piper are left for dead at the hands of the monster they faced in the the beginning. The fourth season premiere turned it into a Bittersweet Beginning by revealing that only Prue died.
The Canadian show The Collector was about a man trying to save those who've sold their soul to the devil before they're damned to hell. To keep from getting too boring and predictable it would an episode would end where the hero doesn't get to save his client in time just as often as he does.
The fourth season finale of Corner Gas had Brent selling Corner Gas, Davis being transferred to Woolverton and, saddest of all, Lacey moving back to Toronto. Fortunately, it was All Just a Dream.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episodes do this unusually often, considering the show's genre. They usually get the bad guy, but there's a fair number of episodes where things just go bad. In particular, "Alter Boys" comes to mind- where they arrest one brother as a suspect in a double murder, find out his brother is the actual killer and he was just burying the bodies as he's easily manipulated, convince him to tell them about what happened with his brother to avoid jail (as he's convinced he simply couldn't make it in jail), then find themselves completely unable to provide concrete evidence against the brother; the bloodstain they find has flour caked into it enough to prevent DNA sampling, he's scratched the interior of his gun barrel so the markings won't match, and got his brother to handle the murder weapon. In the end, the actual killer walks free, the DA is pushing for death penalty on the one that's still in jail, and the brother in jail commits suicide by ripping open his wrists with his own incisors. Cue to anvil-dropping symbolism with Grissom looking at his hands covered in the suicide's blood.
The Season Three episode, "Random Act of Violence" has Warrick insisting on leading an investigation of a drive by shooting murder of a young daughter of the head of a community center who helped him as a kid. Unfortunately, Warrick takes it too personally and eventually fingers the wrong suspect because of his bias, who is eventually proved innocent of the murder. Unfortunately, Warrick's angry certainty of that suspect leads to the that community centre leader finding the cleared suspect and beating him up and thus getting arrested for assault. The team is able to find the real killer, but the community centre is now shuttered, depriving other needy kids help, with Warrick now painfully aware that his unprofessionalism led to this loss.
Season Eight finale. Warrick is cleared of charges and on the path of redemption, and everyone is happy... then Warrick is shot dead by the Undersheriff, the man who set him up in the first place.
In one episode, the team is perplexed by the body of a young girl with the DNA of multiple people in her blood. As it turned out, this was because her father was a major drug lord who was known to be highly protective of her. When some of her father's employees, fearing his wrath, refuse to supply her with cocaine, she steals some of the nearby product and snorts it, not knowing that is was uncut, so the employees try to replace her blood to keep her (and themselves) alive. The episode ends with a montage of every civilian interviewed in that case (roughly 10-15 people, including her aunt, the drug lord's sister), each with a bullet hole in the center of their forehead.
The recurring plotline of the West siblings (a teenage/young adult brother and his super genius little sister, Marlon and Hannah) where the sister (is at least heavily implied to have) killed multiple people, the cheerleader in their debut episode and others, while her brother goes to prison for her crimes. At the end of their plotline, the brother hangs himself in prison, and she breaks down in regret of everything she did.
In the first episode with the cheerleader, the girl manipulated the evidence to make it seem like she committed the crime because she was still a minor and would spend less time in prison than her brother (who, it was revealed at the end, was the one who really killed the cheerleader). In the second episode, however, she did kill her brother's girlfriend out of jealousy, and he was suspected of it, resulting in his suicide. It gets worse in that, earlier in the episode, it was revealed that their parents had died and her brother was the only person in the world who still cared about her.
The second of those episodes was also the one that finalised Sara's burnout and ended with her leaving the show (for a while); Hannah got the better of Sara at almost every turn.
A girl is gang raped, and Sara tries to get her to identify one of the attackers in a lineup, but she freezes up and can't do it, meaning he goes free in the full knowledge that she went to the police. The end of the episode is Grissom being called to attend to her dead body, shot down in the street.
The short-lived ABC Dramedy Cupid relied on surprise Downer Endings during its short run as well.
In the series finale for Dallas, J.R., with his oil empire in shambles and his family having left him, is Driven to Suicide by Satan. Whether he actually kills himself or not is left ambiguous, but strongly implied. This was eventually resolved in a television movie five years later, but still.
The ending of Dead Set, in which all of the main characters, as well as the entire British civilisation, are either dead or undead.
The first season of Defiance ends on a particularly low note, with at least one main character dead (and possibly three others), and The Empire moving into town.
Despite its premise, Dexter usually ends on a more or less upbeat note. Season 1 ends with Dexter killing the Ice Truck Killer although it can be seen as a Downer Ending because The Ice Truck killer is actually Dexter's brother and the only person who understands him. Season 2 ended with Lila dead and Dexter back together with Rita although it's also got a bit of a Downer ending because Lila killed Sergeant Doakes and he never gets the chance to acquit himself of the accusations that he is the Bay Harbor Butcher. Season 3 ends on the happiest note of the entire show with Miguel Prado killed, Miguel's brother on the road to recovering from the grief of losing his two brothers, the Skinner killed, and with Dexter happily married. Season 4, however, has a complete Downer when after Trinity is killed, Dexter comes home to find his wife dead with her blood drained in the bathtub when they were about to go on a retreat. This becomes even sadder when you realize that Dexter could have killed Trinity several times throughout the season but chose not to. Dexter also hints that his son Harrison may grow up to be like him.
The new series of Doctor Who has ended the first four season finales with one of these. For the first three, however, it's tossed in something lighthearted in the very last scene to break up the Tear Jerker mood. The first season ended with the Ninth Doctor dying. The newly minted Tenth Doctor gives a (possibly vaguely unnerving) grin, but if you were a fan of Nine, there was no way you were smiling along with him. (Jack's face when he realizes he's being left behind is pretty damn heartbreaking, too). That ending looks practically cheerful next to the second season's finale, in which Rose is torn from the Doctor and trapped (seemingly forever) in an alternate universe against her will. Lots of sobbing, on the characters' and viewers' part, ensued. The episode's final scene is the arrival of Donna, which some found to be a badly timed mood breaker, while others welcomed the distraction. The third season ended with the Doctor mourning the loss of the Master, the only other member of his race and a Magnificent Bastard and then having the only friends he has left walk out on him. In the last scene, the Titanic crashes into the TARDIS. The fourth season ends with the Doctor, all alone, again. Jack, Martha, and Mickey walk off into the sunset together after a quick goodbye, Ten palms off his clone on Rose in the alternate universe because he can give her what the Doctor never can, and he quickly mindwipes Donna to prevent her from dying a horrible brain-frying death. It gets increasingly tragic, and the episode makes no effort to lighten the mood. It ends with a rain-soaked Doctor in his shirtsleeves, staring brokenly at nothing in his empty TARDIS. Then comes "The End of Time", where after repeatedly failing to find a new companion, the Doctor sacrifices himself to save Wilfred and dies alone. His final words (deliberately spoken to the audience thanks to the camera angle) are "I don't want to go." (sniff)
The third season ending also involved the remnants of the human race, in the year one hundred trillion, having made a desperate attempt to escape the end of the universe by flying to Utopia, trapped at the end of the universe and 'screaming at the dark'. Very little was actually made of that.
Doctor Who has actually had a surprisingly small amount of these downer endings. Of particular note is the 3rd Doctor adventure "Inferno," where an entire alternate world, filled with people the Doctor knows in the original world and has spent the last 4 or 5 episodes trying desperately to save, winds up being infested with proto-human Zombies. Further, the Doctor's last-second escape leaves him with the sight of those few redeemable people left in the world about to be killed by lava. Oh, didn't I mention that the entire world was also coated in insane levels of lava along with those zombies? About the only good thing to come from this adventure is that the Doctor is at least able to prevent it from happening to our own world. But he's still left essentially scarred from the experience in the other world.
And what about the ending of "The Green Death"? Jo and her new boyfriend off getting married, the UNIT gang celebrating and the Doctor sadly walking off to his car and riding off into the twilight. That's one of the most powerful endings of the series, hands down.
While they may not be strictly downer, most episodes have a definitely bittersweet touch (to say the least) because the Doctor's life itself is inherently bittersweet. He may get a TARDIS and a sonic screwdriver, be wholly fantastic and incredibly brilliant but he's immortal, the Last of His Kind and incredibly lonely. At least one good character is killed per episode and if they've helped out the Doctor or a companion, it's even more likely.
"The Caves of Androzani" is one of the biggest downers in the history of the show, "Inferno" notwithstanding. Almost every single person who appears in the serial dies for small, petty reasons, and the Doctor is forced to crawl across a burning landscape in order to save a companion he's only known for five minutes. He regenerates, but only just. This is made even worse if one realises that the Fifth Doctor has managed to lose every other companion up until then due to his own ineffectualness.
Peter Davison, who played the Doctor in this story, is fond of joking just how much of a downer ending "Caves of Androzani" has: after you've been poisoned, yelled at by megalomaniacs, chased by drug smugglers/gunrunners, dodged cave monsters, crash-landed spaceships, and tried to escape the planet quaking beneath your feet... you turn into Colin Baker!
"Doctor Who and the Silurians" ends on a poignant note. The 'Silurians' of the title are a reptilian species that dominated the Earth at the time of the dinosaurs, and are portrayed with a degree of sympathy. The Brigadier blows up the Silurian base, killing them all, and the Doctor, seeing the explosion, realises what's happened.
Also the Fifth Doctor story "Warriors of the Deep", which has massive character slaughter on the magnitude of a Shakespearean tragedy and, famously, ends with the line "There should have been another way."
This goes at least as far back as The Daleks' Master Plan. In the end, Everybody Dies except the Doctor and Steven. The last few minutes are dedicated to mourning the three companions who only appeared in this story and met their end while helping their friends.
The Doctor: The waste... the terrible waste...
And in between, we have the utter heartbreak of "The War Games". Having failed to escape in the TARDIS at the end of the story, the Doctor is sentenced to death by the Time Lords (As in forcing him to use a regeneration), who then wipe the memories of his two companions and send them back to their own time lines with no inkling of the wonderful adventures they had or how much they had learned. Jamie McCrimmon's case, he was a Jacobite rebel being returned to Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.
Season 7 ends with Amy and Rory being sent back in time by a Weeping Angel. Unfortunately, due to a massive paradox that they just caused, the Doctor can never cross their path again. He receives a letter from an 87-year-old Amy letting him know that she and Rory (who passed away a few years before) lived a good life. A short epilogue also reveals that Rory also sent a letter to his father, who will probably end up blaming himself for their fate, since he is the one who convinced the couple to keep traveling with the Doctor. Cue the Christmas Special, where it's revealed that the loss of Amy and Rory has hit the Doctor much harder than the others, and he has actually given up traveling through time and space, settling in Victorian London.
The historical stories led to this. The Aztecs ends with the TARDIS crew leaving Aztec Society knowing it will soon be destroyed, the High Priest of Sacrifice ends up in control, and the best that they did was cause the man who was opposing the High Priest of Human Sacrifice to leave society for life as a hermit.
The Massacre ends with the Doctor and Steven leaving the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre while possibly all their friends are murdered, leading to Steven giving a What the Hell, Hero? speech to the Doctor and nearly leaving the Doctor. It is implied at the end that Anne Chaplet could have survived, but thousands were still killed.
There are a few instances of this in Drake & Josh, but two in particular stand out, both in the show's final season:
"The Wedding". While the boys are stuck in the middle of the road, after they are able to make it into Trevor's El Camino, they manage to be able to start it up, and it looks like they are going to make it. But before they can start moving, the engine starts burning. The boys get out of the truck and watch the fire expand to the back, where the wedding cake is. Speechless, they walk away, and the episode ends with a shot of the truck and cake burning.
"Tree House". In the final scene, the boys attempt to bring the tree house down by throwing themselves against the wall of it. They do so after three tries, but the episode ends showing it still on the floor. During the end credits, they say nothing but words that express bad feelings.
It's pretty safe to say that Dan Schneider is the king of the comedy Downer Ending.
Eastenders - The Secret Mitchell storyline. In 2008, we discovered that Ronnie Mitchell had given up her baby daughter for adoption as a 14 year old. She'd spent a lifetime regretting it, and always wore a locket carrying a picture of the child. She'd given away an identical locket carrying her own photo as a keepsake to her daughter. We then learnt from Ronnie's cruel and manipulative father, Archie, that Ronnie's daughter had died as a young child. A few weeks later, a young woman called Danielle moved onto Albert Square. Danielle became friends with Stacey Slater, and Ronnie, not being Stacey's biggest fan, quickly took a dislike to Danielle too. It was then that the viewers learned that Danielle had a locket identical to Ronnie's. She was the daughter that Ronnie had given up. Later, the two began to bond, though Danielle was still scared of Ronnie's reaction if she found out the truth. Every time Danielle felt close to Ronnie, her mother would become emotionally distant. Ironically, this was because Ronnie was constantly tormented by her grief over her supposedly-dead daughter. When Danielle fell pregnant, Ronnie convinced her to have an abortion, telling her that she regretted having her own baby all those years ago. Unfortunately, Archie realised who Danielle was before she could tell Ronnie. Unwilling to let his lie be exposed, he convinced his granddaughter that Ronnie knew who Danielle was, and didn't want to know her. The plan backfired when Danielle confronted Ronnie. Archie convinced his daughter that Danielle was crazy and lying, causing Ronnie to throw Danielle out on the street, telling her "who would want a daughter like you?". A few minutes later, Ronnie found the locket that she'd given away with her baby and realised that Danielle was telling the truth. Running after her, Ronnie calls out to her long-lost daughter. Danielle turns and sees Ronnie, who pleads "Baby!" Danielle laughs with joy - for both of them, this is the moment they've been dreaming about their whole lives. She runs across the road for an emotional reunion with her mother. And gets hit by a car. Moments later she's died in her mother's arms. Nine months that storyline went on for before that ending.
Emergency Vets: The "Saving Missy" special. Despite their best efforts, the vets failed to save her.
FlashForward (2009). Not only was it cancelled, the entire cast's struggles were rendered moot when the blackout they spent 22 episodes trying to prevent happened anyway.
Though not entirely - since the world knew about the blackout this time, it certainly resulted in fewer deaths and injuries than the first one.
Forever Knight ended its third and final season by killing off almost its entire cast in the last two episodes. Not only did the vampiric hero not achieve his wish of becoming human, but he ended up killing his girlfriend, and he finally begged for his master to stake him.
Additionally, some viewers assert that Nick does become human (regardless of whether he is staked), noting that in the episode's final scenes, he is seen crying ordinary tears (and, according the show's mythology, vampires can only cry tears of blood).
Frasier: "Ask Me No Questions". Niles asks Frasier, in the midst of his reconciliation with Maris, if Frasier thinks they are meant to be together. Frasier realizes the huge impact this could have because Niles has always come to him for advice on big decisions and values his opinion highly, and while he believes that Maris has always been bossy, demanding and selfish, he also hears that she has become much nicer since the procedings have begun and is a better person. After agonizing over what to do, he shows up at Niles's apartment late at night to give his answer: no. Niles thanks Frasier for his advice and tries to say goodbye, when the Twist Ending kicks in—Maris is at the apartment, Niles has taken her back, and judging from the bell rings and the whistle as she calls for him, she has not changed one bit.
A Very Special Episode ended with Will, in hospital after a mugging, sobbing to himself after talking Carlton out of shooting the perpetrators in revenge.
Another episode ended with a crying Will being comforted by Uncle Phil after Will's worthless father once again let his son down.
And let's not forget the one where Hilary's boyfriend, bungee jumping on television, is killed when it turns out the bungee cord was too long. Not only is Hilary watching it happen, but he was proposing to her at the same time.
There is also the episode where Will breaks down and apologizes to the family for the drugs he had in his locker that Carlton inadvertently took and almost cost him his life.
What may be the first in the series is the episode that ends with Carlton insisting that the police that pulled he and Will over were just doing their jobs, while Will seems to realize that it was because they were two black men driving a fancy car. Carlton asks Phil about it, which Phil says that he asked himself that same question the first time he got pulled over, leaving Carlton's "Police are all good" mentality violently shaken.
The series finale. Will's cousins all move out and leave for their new lives in the East Coast, Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian decide to sell the house and move out east too— heck, even Geoffrey goes back to England. Pretty much the whole cast gets on a bus and leaves Will behind.
In Friday Night Lights, downer endings are a constant occurrence. At least one character an episode will have a depressing moment.
The short-lived live action Hell Girl series had a really depressing Gecko Ending. Like Tsugumi in the anime, Hajime is offered a straw doll by Ai, then forgives his target and chooses not to use the doll. But then the target pulls the string! Even though Hajime refused the contract, he still gets Ai's mark on his chest, letting him know he'll go to hell when he dies — for a contract he never accepted!
Hex. Since they'd already killed off the original main character, the last few episodes consisted of the main characters repeatedly screwing up, betraying each other, and narrowly failing to save the day. The finale involved one of the few surviving original cast members being used as a human sacrifice to bring about the end of the world while the heroes flee in terror and the Big Bad enjoys an orgy. Not that Hex was ever subtle, of course.
Simon Schama's A History of Britain episode 9 "Revolutions" ended with a simple and stark description of the aftermath of the Battle of the Boyne.
"No prizes for guessing who won. Nobody."
In House, Dr. House usually makes a last minute diagnosis that saves the patient's life. Not so in "Wilson's Heart," where the patient was Amber, Wilson's girlfriend and former member of House's intern team. House figured out what was wrong with her, but there was nothing that could save her. Wilson woke her up for one final goodbye, and then she died. And if that wasn't enough, 13 finally gets the nerve to get a test done on herself, and it turns out she does have Huntington's disease, which gives her around twelve or so years to live, by her own estimation.
It might have only involved House being miserable but the ending of Season One was just as heartbreaking. Stacy (his ex) has just told him that she loves him but she can't be with him, Cuddy has offered her a job in the hospital so he has to be around her even more and while Stacy and her husband hug and celebrate his partial recovery, House summons up his courage to try and walk with his bad leg but fails and collapses in agony. Who knew that an ending shot of House chewing on a pill could be so depressing?
Also the season 2 episode "Forever", where a mother's cancer causes her to smother and kill her own baby. If there were ever a justification for suicide, that would be it.
Then there's the Season Five finale, where it turns out that House has been losing his mind more than he thought, actually admits that he needs serious help and Wilson ends up admitting the sad, terrified man into a mental institution. Wow.
Also qualifying as a WHAM Episode, is "Bad News". The episode revolves around Marshall & Lily visiting a fertility doctor (Barney's doppleganger), to figure out why they can't conceive (although it still features plenty of humor, including a Running Gag of Barney trying to get his friends to go with him to a lazer tag championship). After Lily checks out, Marshall thinks he's the problem, and explains what's going on to his visiting parents, who say they're fine if he doesn't give them a grandchild right away. At the end, Marshall is told his sperm count is fine and goes to celebrate... only for Lily to pull up in a taxi and tell him his dad died of a heart attack on the way home. Word Of God is that Jason Segel wasn't told ahead of time what Alyson Hannigan would say when she exited the cab to make his reaction all the more real.
"Tick, Tick, Tick..." is one of these. Barney realises he wants to be with Robin and breaks up with his girlfriend Nora because he'd cheated on her with Robin and it meant something to him. He waits at the bar for her at midnight, because they agreed to meet up and talk about their relationship. Only Robin comes in with her boyfriend Kevin because she didn't tell him that she cheated and just shakes her head sadly at Barney. Barney holds back tears, walks out of the bar, and you kind of wish that would be the end of the episode right there because we later see him in Robin's room clearing rose petals off her bed and blowing out candles. He was so sure they were getting back together.
The end of "Symphony of Illumination" has Robin tell her children that not only are they imaginary, but she can't ever have kids of her own. Made worse by Future Ted confirming that Robin never does become a mother.
However, despite the utterly devastating tragedy of the penultimate scene, the final scene is more of a Bittersweet Ending, with Ted staying with Robin despite not even knowing what she was upset about, and swearing that nothing can ever stop him from trying to cheer her up, and Future!Ted reflecting that in spite of everything, in spite of the horrible unfairness and in spite of the fact that Robin never became a mother and no miraculous happy ending ever happened to bring about those wonderful kids she imagined, her friends were always there for her and she was never alone.
Oddly enough, for a tween comedy like I Carly, it had a downer ending in "iGo Nuclear". Carly, distraught over getting a poor grade for a solar-powered electric scooter, takes desperate measures to avoid going on a camping trip for extra credit. And by desperate measures, that means using nuclear chemicals.From an escaped criminal. Just when things were going great for the girl, beans were spilled and the criminal was arrested. Cue a tent on a miserable, rainy night. The teacher's pan flute playing barely made it better. WTF, Dan Schneider? WTF?
What's worse, she had no idea Cal was an escaped criminal, or that she was using nuclear. Cal lied to her, so it's technically his fault.
And there's another episode that can't give poor Carly a break: "iBeat the Heat". Long story short, Carly made an important diorama for school, about a hundred people take shelter in the Sheas' apartment because their air conditioner is working, and the worst part is, Freddie's date accidentally breaks Carly's diorama, complete with the over-the-top Slow No from Carly. Does Dan not know that Carly is the freaking protagonist?!
The season 7 finale. After being humiliated by the popular clique, the gang ends up humiliating themselves over Plan B (a dance routine that, needless to say, went horribly wrong) while the cool kids get away without even a scratch (maybe except for the ringworm Rickety Cricket gave them). Dee is back in her back braces and everyone else shoots down Dennis' ego. To top things off, Charlie finally gets an opportunity to get with a drunkenWaitress, only to get cock-blocked by Schmitty. Fuck.
Kamen Rider 555: A lot of the main characters end up dead, including one of the main protagonists. Takumi survives, but his life expectancy has been greatly damaged due to his repeated Orphnoch transformations. Furthermore, the Orphenoch King survived, is being cared for by Saeko, and could resurface at any time.
"Inner Tube". After a cold-ridden Doug works up the guts to go to where Carrie's having her meeting and apologize to her, when he does, she throws water onto his face and venomously says "You make me sick!" (which is in sharp contrast to his Honeymooners fantasy where she gladly accepts his apology). On top of that, at the episode's end, they show him in a parody of the football movie Brian's Song with a voiceover that says "But when they think of him, it's not how he died that they remember - but how he lied. How he did lie!".
While not as bad, the episode "Fight Schlub" didn't exactly end on a high note either. Even in Doug's fantasy, the IPS workers don't win the bar fight with the Priority Plus workers; as a matter of fact, some of the IPS guys don't even try to fight back (although to be fair, it was Doug's imagination). So in the end, the IPS guys don't get their restaurant back, Doug doesn't get his dignity back and he's left with a fear of bubble wrap (but it doesn't last long). To be fair again, it was sort of a dim episode, with Carrie's subplot serving to lighten the mood a bit.
And then there's the two-parter "Pregnant Pause". Carrie unexpectedly gets pregnant, so she and Doug frantically try to make plans for the baby, including Doug getting a second job as a limo driver, which quickly exhausts him. In the end, she miscarries. If there were a sadder way to end a season, that would be it.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit uses this trope often. It seems to be in full force in the 10th season. If everything seems to be (relatively) alright but there's still five or so minutes left, expect someone to die. Maybe several someones.
For this reason, the series' tend to be a case of Truth in Television as well, since real life works out this way far too often.
One particular instance that stands out involved a man wrongfully imprisoned for statutory rape when he slept with a girl who later turned out to be under 18. Turned out the girl in question was actually an adult and pretended to be a minor as part of a blackmail scheme. The real downer comes when she is arrested... for manslaughter. The innocent man had been beaten to death in prison.
And then there's the season 9 finale. Sure, the Dirty Cop gets his just desserts, but one of the supporting characters had to become a murderer for it to happen, Stabler and Fin's friendship is in shambles due to the way the former handled the case, and Novak is disbarred (cannot work as a lawyer ever again) on charges of forgery in a gamble of a plan everyone knew would fail.
One particular episode of the original series that stands out is "Mayhem", which follows 3 different cases. The primary one deals with a man randomly killing people making out in the backseats of cars. A suspect is eventually arrested based on eyewitness testimony and his refusal to provide a believable alibi for his whereabouts at the times of the killings. Turns out the suspect was gay and with his lover at the times of all the murders, but was afraid of his mother finding out. Briscoe and Logan go to get him released from jail only to find out that he'd been killed over a bologna sandwich. And to twist the knife? Mom had figured out his sexuality YEARS ago and was just waiting for him to come out himself.
A man was speeding in an African American neighborhood and hits a kid. He's scared so he drives away, calls his lawyer and turns himself in. They find that it was an accident and he couldn't have done anything to stop it, so he gets off not guilty. The people in the neighborhood where the boy died go into a rage because they think he only got away because he was white, and kill an Italian man who was driving through with his wife by yanking him out of the car and bashing his skull in. When it's brought to trial, the defendant plays the race card, and the man who killed the Italian man gets away. You see the wife of the murdered man sitting there, crying.
Paul Sorvino's last appearance. They convict a Colombian cartel hitman but he is shot by the father of one of his past victims. He pleads guilty and is given 2 days to arrange his private matters before he goes to jail. He is then revealed to be also a hitman and escapes. While everyone was busy with him, everyone related to the case dies in mysterious circumstances. The victim's daughter was last seen being picked up from school by her uncle, except she doesn't have one. Who's the leader of the cartel Keyser Soze?
Season 10 of L&O was particularly egregious in this regard. It opened with this stretch:
Gunshow: Guilty verdict is overturned by judge.
Killerz: Sociopathic child isn't charged with murder. Final scene implies it's only a matter of time before she kills again.
DNR: The victim goes to her death blaming herself for her own murder attempt.
Merger: Two rich families run interference for each other, scuttling the case
Justice: The right party is nailed, but ends with Jamie Ross facing ethics charges (call back to her final regular episode where Jack was the one facing charges)
Patsy: The victim of the week turns out to have put herself in a coma to frame the man she blames for her sister's death. Defense lawyer paints her as the real killer. The ending implies the defense was right.
On Lizzie Mcguire, Lizzie falls in love with a boy named Ronnie. All goes well until he tells Lizzie that he wasn't interested in her and that he was interested in a girl from his school. The episode ended with Lizzie crying and ripping the paper that she doodled Ronnie's name on and she talks about how she thinks that the other girl that Ronnie was interested in was prettier than her, but her best friend, Gordo, tells her that there isn't anyone he knows who isn't as pretty as Lizzie is and the episode ends with Lizzie walking with her friends.
LOST: Although the show doesn't usually have "happy" episodes (and when it does they're usually bittersweet or subverted at the last moment), but the "The Candidate" is just miserable. Three of the major characters (and candidates) explode or drown and the rest of the remaining cast cries on the beach. End episode.
The made-for-TV movie The Lottery (very loosely based on the Shirley Jackson story of the same name) ends with the protagonist escaping the town and making it safely home, but then he decides to tell authorities that an entire town stones a resident to death once a year. When the police investigate, bringing him along, everyone in town denies his story, and has erased all traces of their ritual—the girl whose mother was sacrificed this year and who helped the protagonist escape calls him a liar, saying her mother died of a stroke. The last moments of the film show the protagonist locked up in a mental institution as a psychiatrist speaks to him, remembering his father's last words to him, and digging up a repressed memory: his mother being chosen as a sacrifice when he was small, and him striking her with a rock as she screams and begs him not to.
The short-lived superhero series M.A.N.T.I.S. ended by having the hero and his love killed battling a dinosaur. By then, there was no budget for a full-scale dinosaur, so they were effectively killed by falling trees. The final scenes have the sidekick narrating about how he buried the hero and dismantled his lair. This is one case where just canceling the series without a final episode would have been better.
Yes, folks, Sam Raimi's attempt at a more realistic superhero was killed by an invisible dinosaur from another dimension.
Season 3 of Mash has the well-known, heartbreaking ending of 'I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors.'
Save for Alan Alda, the actors of the series weren't told that Col. Blake would be killed until after they finished shooting the second-to-last scene— a particularly upbeat one, despite Blake's depatrure. That they weren't told at all is an urban legend.
McLean Stevenson, who played Blake (and now has a trope named after him) was still on set and looking forward to the wrap party when his character's death was announced and he was not pleased, nor was he told beforehand.
Season 1's "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" has Hawkeye visited by his old friend Tommy Gillis, who's serving on the front lines and writing a book about his experiences. The episode climaxes with Gillis - who'd ended his visit and rejoined his unit - brought in as a casualty after getting shot, then dying on Hawkeye's operating table.
"Yessir, That's Our Baby" involves the 4077th staff struggling to secure a Stateside adoption for an abandoned infant, after discovering that that her being of mixed race (American G.I. father, Korean mother) will condemn her to life as an impoverished, enslaved outcast in Korean society. Their inability to get around Army bureaucracy finally forces them to leave the child in the care of a nearby monastery, where she'll be shielded from the locals and might have a chance to leave Korea...in 15 or 20 years.
In "Preventive Medicine", Hawkeye removes a healthy appendix of a careless colonel to try to stop causalities from coming in. Obviously, it fails miserably, and Hawk violates the most precious code of doctors, the Hippocratic Oath, for nothing.
The last line of dialogue in the 1977 Made-for-TV MovieMary Jane Harper Cried Last Night - about a troubled young mother and the titular little daughter who she takes out her problems on - is "Mary Jane Harper died last night."
One season of Medium ends on one hell of a downer. Alison is forced to choose between her ability to dream the future, or her own life, due to a tumor growing in her. Meanwhile, she's busy trying to solve a case that's been going on for YEARS with a Mexican drug lord. She is having dreams about the results of her possible operation, and how they'll take away her powers... blah, blah, blah. She saves the day, has her surgery, and the episode ends after we and her husband and boss find out she had a stroke during the operation. (This is also the series finale, for the station it was running on). However, after the episode fades out on Alison lying comatose, we get a bit of joy at the words "To be continued" showing up on screen, even if it will be on another channel.
Sadly enough, the final finale had Joe's plane go down over the Pacific then jumps forward 10+ years to Alison as the D.A. and the youngest daughter as a troubled teen who never got over her dad dying (or rather, his never showing up to any of them AFTER he died). Alison starts having dreams that Joe is alive and amnesiac somewhere in Mexico and ends up compromising a major case against a dangerous drug-lord in order to obtain Joe's location. She tearfully reunites with him only for Joe to tell her it's all wrong and he's sorry. Joe died in the plane crash, everything after that was him trying to give Alison a vision of how it would be ok eventually, that life would go on. But she loved him so much she couldn't accept life without him and started putting him still alive in the dream.
Meerkat Manor (the original, not "Next Generation") had the ultimate tragic ending, when their superstar Flower had her life tragically cut short in an incident documented right on the air. She will be missed, always.
Merlin, though it was always kind of forgone, due to the way the legends end. The titular protagonist doesn't die, but Arthur, Morgana and Gwaine do. Merlin is left to walk the earth alone, an immortal old man long after everyone he's ever known has passed on, for the hope of Arthur's eventual return.
Most episodes of Miami Vice tend to end on this or a Bittersweet Ending. This was one of the first cop shows where the good guys didn't always win, or if they did there was a high price to pay.
In The Return of Preston Giles, the episode character who had been released from prison discovers who the murderer of one of his employees was and shot and killed by her. He only had one final moment with Jessica and revealed he recorded the confession before he died. It didn't help that the last freeze-frame of the episode was Jessica holding his hand while he was dying from thee gunshot wounds.
The ending of the fifth series of Murphy's Law involves the police officer who Murphy had earlier saved killing herself and Murphy himself coming frighteningly close to pulling the trigger on himself.
The season two finale, "Twilight," ends with Caitlin Todd getting her brains splattered over the landscape (and some on a co-workers face) by a high-powered sniper rifle, in mid sentence no less. "I thought I'd die before I ever heard—"
The season three finale, by comparison, is a bit milder, but it still ends with Gibbs quitting, after most of the episode showed them struggling to function in his absence.
The season four finale is more of a Wham Ending than a Downer Ending, but the season five finale, "Judgment Day," involves the death of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard and ends with Gibbs's True Companions being summarily disbanded and scattered to new assignments.
The season six finale has Ziva off the team and back in Israel with Mossad after forcing Gibbs to choose between her and Tony. Then in a shocking last scene, she is shown captured and badly beaten, being questioned by terrorists.
Season seven has the woman who is out for revenge on Gibbs, walking into his father's shop (who she had said she wanted to shoot in the head like Gibb's had to her father (he deserved it)).
Subverted at the end of the Noah's Arc first season. Wade just broke up with Noah, Chance's new husband is unconscious, Trey separated from Alex for a 6 month relief mission, and Ricky broke up with his love Junito. Though it seems objectively depressing, Noah, Chance, Alex and Ricky find comfort in each other and all just laugh about it. The trope is played much more straight at the end of season 2 however.....
The final episode of Noddy ends with Noah having closed and sold the Noddy shop, all of the toys being cleared out, and all of the kids feeling very sad, saying that the shop is gone forever.
The first season of The O.C. had a downer ending with Ryan and Seth leaving town and Marissa turning to drink.
The Office (UK) ended on quite a low note in its second series. Tim is rejected once again by the receptionist Dawn, who is leaving for America with her skinflint boyfriend, while David Brent has been made redundant and practically breaks down trying to make them take him back. The series as a whole ends on a much more positive note after the two Christmas special episodes. (Indeed, the happy ending of the Christmas special is all the more uplifting, given that it's a series where things often end in disappointment and failure.)
Okupas: In the “final showdown” between the four main and the Pablo’s band, one of them shoots Chiqui to death. Chiqui ask their friends to carry him to the house, so he can die there. Chiqui dies in the arms of his best friends.
One particularly crushing episode ("Dead Man's Switch") involved a group of four or five humans being put in special underground bunkers while the rest of humanity prepares to meet an alien race. The humans can only talk to each other, but live in their bunkers alone. Every six hours, an alarm goes off, and they have to push a button to prevent nuclear missiles from devastating the world in case humanity was wiped out by the aliens. The routine continues endlessly until one by one the humans in the other bunkers mysteriously get cut off, leaving the last guy alone with his thoughts. He slowly goes crazy, and finally resolves to let the missiles fly, convinced humanity has been wiped out by the aliens, until he's contacted by the general in charge of the program, who tells the protagonist that everything is fine, the aliens have been defeated, and they'll get him out of there soon. The protagonist accepts this, still marginally crazy, and deactivates the alarm time and time again, while the camera switches shots to show the general being mind controlled by an alien while the Capital building and all of Washington DC burns in the background.
Power Rangers Turboin spades. The Bad Guys Win. The mentors are all captured or MIA. Any heroes with experience are either missing, captured, or retired and beyond reach of communication, with the remaining rookies having no idea who to contact or how. The season ends with four of the five Rangers leaving for another planet on a suicide run, lacking directions to that planet, any powers, knowledge of how to operate a space shuttle, or, in all likelihood, the ability to travel faster than light.
The final episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers also ended on a downer, with Goldar and Rito successfully blowing up the Command Center, and the Rangers staring at disbelief at the smoldering remains of the building. It returned in the first episode of Zeo, though.
Steven Moffat's teen dramedy Press Gang ended with an episode where the main character was either burning to death or had been sent to hell. She later appears to have survived the fire, however.
Punky Brewster: Season three's episode "Divorce Anderson Style" has Allen concerned because he hears his parents fighting. At a neighborhood picnic, the Andersons' bickering comes to a boil with Allen's mom saying she wants a divorce. Following Allen's ill-fated attempt to live in the treehouse, he reluctantly says his goodbyes to Henry, Cherie, Betty and Punky. Of all people to lose it emotionally, it's Punky, whom in the final scene after Allen leaves is sobbing uncontrollably in Cherie's arms.
Quantum Leap: Sam makes a noble sacrifice, but this causes a temporal reaction that results in him never getting home.
That's something of an optimistic interpretation. The finale reveals that Sam can go home whenever he wants... but he also implicitly realizes that each subsequent leap will be more personally difficult, because the people he's saving need his help that much (in keeping with the Darker and Edgier final season). It's not that Sam's never able to get home, it's that he knows that doing so would mean others suffer for it, even if it's not his fault.
Part of that also means that he can never remember his own wife, who's still waiting for him in the present. Otherwise, he would never continue leaping.
Series VI ends with the regular characters killed one by one in a space battle with their future selves. The final image was of their craft, Starbug, exploding. However, because it was a Time Travel episode that ended in a severe Temporal Paradox, the next season was able to begin by assuming the timeline had been repaired by the explosion and it had all been undone.
Series VIII ends with Rimmer alone on a burning, decaying Dwarf while the chemical formula that could save him burns and the Grim Reaper comes for him. Granted, he's been dead for most of the series anyway and there is a last-second joke, but it's very dark compared to most of the series.
"My Life in Four Cameras" sets the show in an ever-happy sitcom-environment for the second half: A man has been wrongly diagnosed and may live another 20 years, two main characters' relationship gets magically fixed and an employee on the brink of being fired may stay working at the hospital. This is dissolved with a hard cut near the end of the episode. The patient is dead, the relationship rather messed up, and the former employee - fired. JD explains that "around here, things don't end as neat and tidy as in sitcoms".
In "My Lunch", after a female patient (who has a history of attempting suicide) dies from an apparent OD, they discover that her organs can go to multiple patients in need of new ones. However, it's realized too late that the donor actually died of rabies—which means that each of the recipients now have rabies, too. In the end, all of the patients (including one who was a good friend of Dr. Cox's and who didn't need the organ immediately) die. This sends Cox over the edge and into a deep, horrible depression. The outcome is made worse by its stark contrast to the episode's lighter, happier subplots (which include JD trying to force Cox to have lunch with him, and Elliot and Carla trying to help The Todd cope with his homosexuality - only to discover that he's using his sexuality to be close to the two girls, and is actually bisexual, now ogling and making a pass at everyone).
Setting the stage was "My Old Lady", which opens with JD, Turk, and Elliot each getting a patient to deal with, with the narration saying that the statistic is one of three people who go into a hospital will die there. Turns out the statistic was wrong this time: all three patients die.
A similar thing happens in "My Occurrence": Ben, Dr. Cox's best friend and ex-brother-in-law, is tested for leukemia, and the results are positive; instead of revealing the results to Ben and Dr. Cox, J.D. insists there's been a mixup (like what had already happened with Turk and Elliot's subplots), and spends the episode trying to find where the mistake was made. Eventually, the lab runs the test again, and the results are indeed negative. Then, just as Ben is about to leave the hospital, he tells J.D. that "none of this is real"....and we learn that the entire second half of the episode has taken place in J.D.'s head. He's still standing in front of Ben and Dr. Cox, and has to tell them that Ben has leukemia, for real.
For being a humorous show, Scrubs is unusually full of episodes with a Downer Ending. They are usually especially vicious, since everything seems to be going well until the final crashdown. See episode "My Screw Up", in which everyone's happily preparing for Jack's birthday party (with Ben back in town after several years on the road with his cancer in remission) while Dr. Cox has a subplot about being in denial and blaming J.D. for losing a patient he couldn't have saved while covering for Cox. Eventually, with Ben's urging he accepts that J.D. did everything he could and that he's not blame either for not being there. After he apologizes to J.D. on the way to his son's birthday party, Cox is confronted with Ben's funeral instead of the party. Ben was the patient that died at the beginning and his appearances were all in Perry's head.
The season 1 finale "My Last Day," made when it was unknown whether the show would get picked up for another season, is just such an episode. The episode seems like it's wrapping up to a relatively upbeat conclusion, but in the last 30 seconds, Jordan comes up to the assembled cast and reveals all their secrets which she had previously kept to herself— including she and J.D. having sex, Dr. Cox's secret attraction to Carla, and Dr. Kelso lying about Cox's promotion—leading to a near-total destruction of trust between them all that kept them together for the entire season.
Not to forget "My Butterfly", which is split into two halves, each showing a different chain of events hinging on JD and Turk watching a butterfly. In the first half, everything goes wrong, Turk and Carla fight, Elliot lets her 8 year old patient down, JD misses a diagnosis, cultimating the death of a patient. In the second half, exactly the opposite happens and everything goes right, they make the right diagnosis early through a stroke of luck and the patient can get surgery quickly....but he still dies.
The title character of "My Cabbage" is an intern to whom J.D. has taken a liking, and consequently J.D. does not notice the intern's dangerous incompetence. All foreshadowing suggests that, if allowed to continue at Sacred Heart, the intern will do something stupid and a patient will die. At the end of the episode, J.D. finally works up the nerve to tell the intern that he's not cut out for medicine, and the intern walks out of the hospital dejected. On his way out, the intern finds a used glove on the floor and throws it away, getting a dangerous pathogen on his hands, then shakes hands with a patient, unwittingly exposing her to the illness that would later kill her.
"My Princess" is a Storybook Episode where Dr. Cox recounts the events of his day at work as a bedtime story to his son. He tells the story of a princess (Elliot) whose servant (Elliot's patient) was being menaced by a terrible monster (unknown disease), so the princess and a village idiot (J.D.) tried to save her with the help of a brave knight (Dr. Cox.) He finishes by saying that the monster was defeated and everyone lived happily ever after, but then suggests to Jordan that the patient actually may have died.
The Shadow Line. Jonah Gabriel and Joseph Bede, the show's two most sympathetic characters, wind up dead, while Gatehouse and his allies get away and are free to start up their new version of Counterpoint, with the only people able to stop them already dead.
Sharpe's Waterloo. Not only do his friends die, the way he strides off at the end, leading his old regiment, and disappearing into the mists - after achieving what he wanted, which was seeing Napoleon - makes it feel like this is the end for him. After a last goodbye to Harper. Sure, there are more books, and more movies even, but it's still depressing as hell.
In Skins, there are frequently downer endings. In the first season finale, a character gets hit by a bus right before trying to redeem himself. In the second season finale, a favorite character dies.
In Sid's episode in Season 2, after beginning to repair the fraught relationship between himself and his father, he wakes up to find him dead in their living room, having silently passed away in the night.
The Smallville episode "Ryan", where despite all his fantastic powers, and even conquering his fear of heights, Clark Kent still fails to save his adoptive little brother Ryan from a brain tumor.
While Ryan dies, Clark has given him peace and friendship. "Pariah" on the other hand, with the death of Alicia certainly counts as a downer ending.
Space: Above and Beyond had a Cliff Hanger downer ending where three of the major characters died and the remaining two are left feeling empty and unsure. The episode was still very satisfying.
"I believe in all of you."
The worst part was the Hope Spot, in which a Chig representative comes aboard the Saratoga to negotiate. It seems as if things may finally resolve peacefully, but the talks break down and the Chig self-destructs with a Corrupt Corporate Executive who may have been responsible for starting the war in the first place (the Chig reveals that they sent warnings not to settle near them, but the corporation ignored them). The ceasefire is over. Oh, and the resident Colonel Badass McQueen is gravely wounded in the explosion.
Stargate SG-1 is generally good fun, but it has its moments. A good example is season 3's "Forever And a Day" in which Daniel loses his wife for the last time. Owie.
The season 1 episode "The Trials of Tantalus" was close to the ultimate downer ending. Trapped for 50 years alone, with nothing but knowledge about the universe, only to be rescued hours before the building containing the knowledge is destroyed forever and all knowledge lost
The episode "Ethon" was uber-dark by SG-1 standards. Not only does Earth lose one of its Cool Ships, along with the deaths of dozens (including the popular Colonel Pendergast), but to top it all off, all the destruction proved for naught. The "peaceful compromise" Jackson hoped could be reached never comes to be.
There's also the episode where everyone is teaming up for a major battle against the coming Ori fleet. Even the Lucian Alliance appears with a few Ha'taks. Then the Ori motherships arrive and blow most of the good guys away without suffering so much as a scratch. One of the new Earth warships is also destroyed with Colonel Chekhov aboard. As you can expect, the following episodes are not the brightest ones.
Who Mourns For Adonais: Apollo realizes that his late cohorts (the other Greek gods) were right in that "There is no room for Gods" in the 23rd century. Thus, the last of the Olympian gods dissipates himself joining his old comerades in oblivion. Kirk regrets this, noting that the Greek Gods inspired much of the culture, narrative traditions, and philosophy that still live on. He muses about if it would have hurt just a little to "gather a few more laurel leaves?"
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield: The fact that racial prejudice amongst humans was a thing of the past totally fell on deaf ears to enemies Bele and Loki. Discovering that their world and people were destroyed in a war over a stupid racial issue, they simply beamed down to their ruined burining world to continue the eternal fight between each other, last of their respective sides. Uhura wonders if hate is all they ever had. Kirk responds "No...but it's all they have left." A very appropriate ending for an episode made in a decade where racism was a very hot issue.
The City on The Edge of Forever: Kirk does what he has to do and prevents the saving of the life of a person that he had grown close to. A person who was destined to die in our timeline and must die to restore the timeline. He is successful but does not celebrate. This episode ends with the only profanity uttered in the original series: Kirk's famous line "Let's get the hell out of here."
Symbiosis: The episode on drug addiction essentially left the Brekkians and Onarans to their own devices. Picard adhered to the prime directive stating that this is one problem that they can't solve for others. The episode ends with the crew simply glad to wash their hands of them.
Legacy: Ishara Yar disappoints the Enterprise crew by turning out to be the opposite of her noble late sister, Tasha Yar. She originally seemed to be helping the Enterprise only to be revealed to have been using them in a setup to gain a strategic advantage for her cadre. Data, in his quest to understand human emotions, realizes that he has now learned about the emotion called betrayal.
"Real Life" ends with Doctor's holographic daughter dying in a freak accident, the station they were trying to contact destroyed with no survivors or clues where the rest of their civilisation is, and their plan to recharge the replicators failed.
"Course: Oblivion", where the entire crew turns out to be clones created in an earlier episode. These clones start to die and spend the episode trying to get to one of the rare examples of a planet with an environment they could survive in, and, failing that, send the real Voyager crew evidence that they existed. They fail on both counts.
Even worse is "Thirty Days", when the Prime directive forces Janeway to non-interference with the inhabitants of a water planet, who are slowly destroying the only thing keeping the planet at one piece, even going so far as stopping Paris from interfering (the title to his punishment - 30 days in prison). Unless a wonder happens, the planet wil be gone in the future.
The finale of St. Elsewhere saves it for the literal end: This is what viewers usually saw after the credits. This is what they got in the last episode.
Supernatural is a pretty miserable show anyway but there are still tons and tons of episodes that have downer endings.
The show loves to end its seasons on a downer:
The season three finale, "No Rest for the Wicked"; after spending the entire season trying to void Dean's contract with Lilith, they finally get a chance to kill her, but she escapes. Dean dies and goes to Hell. The final shot shows Dean strung up by meathooks in hell while the sound of his screaming for Sam echoes over the closing credits.
In season 1 Sam was frantically trying to drive his dad and brother to the hospital and discussing their next move when they were smashed by a semi.
Season 2 ends with Sam back from the dead, but only because Dean sold his soul and now only has one year to live.
season 4. Turns out that Dean was right about Ruby being evil, and after convincing Sam that Dean saw him as nothing but a monster, she leads him to kill Lilith who turns out to be the last seal holding Satan in hell. The brothers work together to kill Ruby, but then the credits start to roll just as the end of the world is beginning.
The season five finale, which would originally have been the final ending of the show, had Sam facing an eternity in Hell, with his brother Adam, the Archangel Michael and Lucifer for company (although Dean and Castiel fared slightly better.)
"Time On My Side" has Bela turning into a sobbing, terrified little girl as the hellhounds come to take her away.
"Jus in Bello" - nearly everyone dies because their plan ended up not working on account of Lilith.
"All Hell Breaks Loose - Part One" - After a Please Wake Up speech, Sam dies (he gets better) and Dean ends up sobbing on his brother's shoulder.
"What Is And What Should Never Be" - Dean's in too much pain to believe Sam when he tells him what they do is worth it, "Heart" - Sam has to kill a sweet girl of the week because she's a dangerous werewolf.
"Crossroad Blues" - Dean really, really wanted to make that deal to bring his Dad back.
"Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" - Dean's crying about their Dad's death and there's nothing Sam can say that would make it alright.
"Everybody Loves A Clown" - Dean takes his frustration out on his beloved car with a crowbar and looks like he's going to break down any second. And, as a proper depressing finale, the second season premiere.
"In My Time Of Dying" has John die while his sons look on helplessly.
"..And Then There Were None" has Bobby being possessed by a monster and killing his best friend Rufus, right after an argument over a very sore matter. The episode ends with Bobby drinking over Rufus' unmarked grave.
The first two episodes of season seven both had downer endings. In the first one, Cas loses possession of his body to the purgatory monsters and bursts. In the second, Bobby's scrapyard has been burnt to the ground by the Leviathans , and Dean, thinking Bobby's dead, is left all alone with an unconscious-from-head-injury Sam who was basically insane even when he was fine. And they're being rushed to a hospital where Leviathans have a foothold.
The Thick of It ends on this note. Malcolm is about to be locked up and Glenn might follow him, Ollie's taking Malcolm's job just after we find out how emotionally and spiritually draining it is, Nicola's doomed to a backbench position, Stewart's been sacked, nothing has changed in politics whatsoever and Terri can't start up her tea shop.
This Is Wonderland ends with Alice having to talk her sister into going to jail, James being left in critical condition with a stroke, which was strongly implied to kill him, and fan favourite Anil Sharma getting killed by gangsters. On the plus side, Elliot found true love. But there wasn't enough happiness to qualify as a Bittersweet Ending.
Of all shows to do this, the Season 13 Finale of Top Gear was quite a surprise, given the show's usual nature. Jeremy Clarkson was reviewing an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, and unlike previous supercar reviews, which usually involve POWERRRRRRRRR races against other supercars, this review simply consisted of Jeremy driving through the countryside. Cue a bit of Brian Eno, and an aesop of how the time for supercars seemed destined to run out, what with the economy being in the crapper, fuel prices having gone through the roof, and continuing troubles around the world, Jeremy closed the segment by stating that a car like this felt like 'an ending'. And unlike previous show endings, which usually consist of wild studio applause seguing into the show theme with credits rolling, the credits rolled as the segment came to an end. There was much speculation if it was meant as a stealthy series finale.
In Day Four of Torchwood: Children of Earth, Ianto dies in Jack's arms after Jack calls the bad guys' bluff and the bad guys call it right back with supervirus to the face. This is the second most horrible thing to happen in this episode, the first being the part where the government of the UK talks itself around to giving the "lowest-achieving" 10% of the nation's children up to alien extortionists for more-or-less-eternal torture — with the implication that every other government on Earth is currently having the same conversation. It gets darker from there.
By the end of the miniseries, the heroes have given up so thoroughly that a couple of the villains have had to step up and save the world, the kind-of-sympathetic bureaucrat character who's been getting thrown under the bus by his superiors all season long has murdered his family and committed suicide because all the alternatives are worse, the crappy amoral government officials have been replaced by ambitious amoral government officials, Jack has delivered the coup de grace to the alien threat by ordering his young grandson's painful and graphic death while his daughter screams his name and tries to claw her way through steel and reinforced glass bare-handed to get to him, and Gwen has lost every friend she has and is hanging on to her pregnancy only because it would hurt her husband to abort and spare herself the pain of bearing a child in this fucked-up world. Jack's decision to run from Earth as far and as fast as he can and not come back for a few millennia is pretty understandable.
Tour Of Duty ended with a surrounded Lt. Goldman and Sgt. Anderson calling down an artillery strike on their own position.
"Time Enough at Last" is probably the most famous and is a perfect example of a Cruel Twist Ending.
"On Thursday We Leave for Home." Captain Benteen can't let go of his leadership of the settlers and, deluding himself, elects to stay behind while Colonel Sloan takes the settlers back to Earth. Benteen realizes too late that he truly did want to go home, and he must remain on the desert world alone for the rest of his days.
"And Then The Sky Was Opened." The astronauts disappeared forever.
"The Big Tall Wish."
"The Last Night of a Jockey"
"Number Twelve Looks Just Like You"
"Spur of the Moment"
"Come Wander With Me"
"It's a Good Life"
"The Long Morrow"
"To Serve Man" shockingly ends (to quote from the wikipedia page): The book, To Serve Man, is actually a cookbook, and all the aliens' gifts were subtle methods of causing humans to be put in peak condition, gain weight and become complacent, much like fattening pigs, chickens, or cows before they're shipped to a slaughterhouse. Chambers says to the audience, "How about you? You still on Earth, or on the ship with me? Really doesn't make very much difference, because sooner or later, we'll all of us be on the menu... all of us." The episode closes on him as he finally breaks his hunger strike.
"The Silence". An aristocratic snob wagers $500,000 with a talkative fellow member of his men’s club that he can’t refrain from speaking completely for one year, which the latter accepts. The aristocrat then imprisons him in a glass box wired with microphones that would capture any noise he made. When the man does indeed keep silent for a full year, he is released. It then turns out that the challenger never had any money in the first place, having lost it years ago, and he was too proud to admit it. He apologizes profusely for the ordeal he put the other man through and waits for a response — which doesn't come. Instead, the other man scribbles down a note for him to read: "I knew I could never hold up my end of the deal, so one year ago I had the nerves to my vocal cords severed." He then removes the scarf he’s been wearing to reveal the resultant scar on his throat. So essentially, he’s not five hundred thousand dollars richer, he can’t tell the challenger to suck on it, and he’s mute for the rest of his life.
Twin Peaks has an ending which seems to take fiendish delight in screwing over every likable member of the cast. For some viewers, this Anvilicious quality is brilliant, because the nihilistic 'moral' is very much in tune with the inaccessibility of the series itself.
V-2009. Thanks to cancellation, humanity is essentially screwed note Nearly everyone on the planet gets blissed, Ryan's daughter kills him, Lisa is replaced by a clone who kills Tyler
Veronica Mars ended with the titular character's reputation sullied by an online sex video, while her father faces prosecution for evidence tampering and probable defeat in the election for the county sheriff's office against an inept and crooked successor. And Logan likely will get a hit placed on him after beating up a mobster's son. Thankfully The Movie will remedy this.
The show's stand-alone episodes had a higher ratio of downer or at least bittersweet to happy endings than most. Veronica always solved the case, but there were sometimes negative consequences. Literally every regular character was put through the wringer at some point as well.
The Wire loved these. The ending of the fourth season — only one of the four main kids introduced this season had a particularly happy ending in Namond, who was adopted by Colvin; conversely, Michael and Dukie end up working in the drug trade and Randy is stuck in a group home, despite Carver's efforts to keep him out, where he's beaten up in the final montage. Elsewhere, Bubbles accidentally kills his young protege and attempts suicide, Carcetti is made to look like an idiot by the governor of Maryland, and Bodie is killed after being seen getting into a car with Officer McNulty, who seemed to have genuine respect for him and yet was inadvertently the reason for his demise.
And it gets worse for some characters in the fifth season. Butchie is tortured to death. Omar Little finally finds happiness in Puerto Rico but is lured back by Butchie's death and is then killed by maybe the least sympathetic character ever. Dukie is socially promoted out of middle school, but is so viciously bullied in high school that he drops out and starts shooting heroin. Michael is thought to be a snitch, so he is forced to leave Bug with a distant relative and take up Omar's old trade. Randy has become hard to the world in the group home. Johnny Fifty (from Season 2) is seen homeless. Gus the saintly newspaper editor is busted down to the copy desk while lying reporter Scott Templeton wins a Pulitzer prize. Carcetti actually wins the governorship after completely selling out, and promotes the backstabbing Rawls to state police commissioner. Daniels is promoted to Commissioner, but is blackmailed on the first day and forced to retire. Valchek is himself promoted to commissioner to replace him. The Greeks escape scot-free yet again. The prosecution of Marlo collapses, and he walks free, though his Karma Houdini is subverted in the end. McNulty has alienated the two women who loved him and lost his job (though he and Beadie may reconcile). And worst of all, Herc actually has a good job, working for the scumbag lawyer. There are some high points, but * damn* .
"Alex Tells the World". Alex and Justin are found guilty of revealing magic to the world and are demoted back to Level 1 wizard studies, which results in everyone thinking that Max will become the family wizard.
Everything that happened in "Wizards Exposed" was revealed to be Super Dickery at it's finest, courtesy of Professor Crumbs version of a 'pop quiz'. Even Jerry remarks that 'tests have gotten a lot tougher' since his days as a wizard.
Xena: Warrior Princess had a downer ending where the main character sacrifices herself. There was huge disagreement in the fan community as to whether or not this was appropriate for her character.
Don't worry, though! In the Dynamite comics, Gabrielle hit the Reset Button.
Season 4 of The X-Files ends with Scully terminally ill, and Mulder apparently having committed suicide upon learning that he is indirectly responsible for her illness.
There are several downer endings in this show. For example:
"Soft Light" (Season 2 Ep 23) involves a man who through an accident during an experiment is altered so that anyone who is touched by his shadow dies. He doesn't want to hurt anyone, and is afraid of being caught by the government and experimented on. The episode ends with the reveal that exactly that fate has befallen him, with little hope of rescue since as far as most people are concerned he's dead.
"DPO" (Season 3 Ep 3) involves a psychotic teenager with electrical powers, who kills several people. The episode ends with the teen likely to get away with it all, as the tests performed on him show that he seems to be normal, meaning that they can't prove he killed anyone - and it's made very clear that he still has his powers.
"Hell Money" (Season 3 Ep 19) involves a secret lottery where people who enter can either win money or lose an organ depending on their luck. It turns out that the man in charge of it has rigged the contest so that he won't ever have to pay up...but he gets away with it anyway, as most of the people involved refuse to talk, and the one witness willing to talk dies horribly before he can.
"Sanguinarium" (Season 4 Ep 6) has a doctor who commits multiple murders to perform a ritual that will let him change his appearance to a younger - and completely different looking - man. He pulls it off, and the final scene shows him getting a job at a new hospital, where he will presumably eventually start killing again, as it's shown that this ritual is one he has already performed multiple times.
Also in Zoey 101, in the episode Chase's Grandma, Zoey and friends plan a surprise birthday party for Chase. At the same time, Zoey discovers that Chase's grandmother has the same birthday of Chase, also that she is sick. Finally in the day of the party, just after Zoey prepares for it, she is told that Chase is gone, which upsets her. Michael reveals that Chase's Grandmother died from, according to him, something "more than a flu". Inmediately Zoey looks for Chase, catching him in the PCA's fountain, mourning his late grandmother.
The final scene reveals Zoey comforting a depressed Chase.