Anubis: Silence! Now, after 5000 years of waiting, I'm going to challenge you to a children's card game! And then I'll destroy the world! Yami: Why would you want to do that? Anubis: What? Yami: What's the point in destroying the world? What do you gain from it? Anubis: ...I don't understand the question. Yami: Look, you must have some reason for wanting to destroy the world. Otherwise, this whole movie was just pointless bickering! Anubis: Of course I have a reason! Yami: Oh, goodie! Do you feel like sharing it with the class? Anubis: No, it's a secret.
In Digimon Adventure, Mimi asks what exactly Ogremon would do if he beat Leomon. Ogremon seems baffled by the question—he'd never actually thought of it, and eventually dismisses it as a pointless question. As far as he's concerned, the two of them are just going to keep fighting, forever coming to standstills.
Then again, this is one of the Digimon continuities where all dead Digimon are reborn as Digi-Eggs and hatch into the same characters, so Leomon and Ogremon can beat the snot out of each other as long as they like without needing a long-term plan.
A rare variant is done in the Japanese version of Digimon Tamers, both with Renamon and Bezelzemon (after both try to strike out on their own without Tamers). They think about how they'll continue to load Digimon and become stronger, and the question enters the audience's mind without it actually being said.
In an early Dragon Ball arc, Emperor Pilaf's mook Shu once asked him what he was going to do after acquiring his wish of controlling the world. Pilaf shrugged off the question.
Il Palazzo in the Excel♥Saga anime is forced to confront this problem in the three part series finale. Having finally conquered the city he realizes that he's now going to have to conquer another one and another. It actually drives him insane, until Excel returns to knock some sense into him.
Inuyasha: Towards the end of the story, Naraku's last servant asks him what Naraku will wish for on the Shikon no Tama if he wins. Naraku realises that there will be nothing for him if he no longer has a Worthy Opponent. His wish therefore becomes to ensure he is locked forever in eternal combat with a Worthy Opponent who just happens to be the reincarnation of the woman even the Shikon no Tama couldn't let him have.
Early on, minor Ragnarok member Tsuji tries recruiting Kenichi for his street gang to become the top town delinquents. A pause, and then Kenichi asks what the point of that is as they won't be in school forever, and they can't be delinquents forever. Tsuji has no response, so he gets frustrated and attacks Kenichi instead.
Also played with rather humorously in a conversation between Honoka and Tanimoto.
Honoka: What are you gonna do if you get that strong? Tanimoto: Kill someone I don't like. Honoka: What happens after you kill him? Tanimoto: Find someone else. Honoka: And what happens after you kill him? Tanimoto: FIND ANOTHER GUY, FOREVER!
A prominent theme in Legend of Galactic Heroes by the end of the series. When talented soldiers who have gained fame and recognition in wars have nothing more to use their talents on, tragedy ensues.
In Shinryaku! Ika Musume, when Ika has tied up the principal of Eiko's high school and hijacked the PA, she begins broadcasting her plans on what to do when she and her "army" Take Over the World. When Ika gets to the "all of the world is taken over" part, she realizes that she doesn't know what to do beyond that point.
The question strongly underlies the conclusions and main themes to Mizukami Satoshi's The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer and Psycho Staff. You have phenomenal powers! You can save the world! ...and then what? It turns out that you have a life you still have to live after saving everything. And in Biscuit Hammer, that is probably the most intolerable thing Samidare can think of because she's terminally ill and won't have very long to live after saving the world and her power leaves her.
Collectable Card Game
The Babylon 5Card Game has an Alternate Universe version of G'kar called "G'kar Forsaken", who had an answer to the trope question, unlike his show counterpart (see the Live-Action TV entry). Although extremely powerful in a Shadow-themed deck (especially if other players are Shadow-aligned), G'kar Forsaken has a Doom Mark, cannot develop further (unlike regular G'kar, who has extreme Magikarp Power potential) and is implied to be corrupted beyond redemption.
In the dark comedy miniseries G.L.A. Misassembled, Mr. Immortal does this to villain Maelstrom, convincing him not only of the futility of his current scheme to destroy the universe, but of evil schemes in general, and convinces the villain to commit suicide. "Here, I'll go first." Mr. Immortal gets back up again...
Disney Comics' version of the Big Bad Wolf has finally captured the Three Little Pigs in one story, when his mis-named son Li'l Bad Wolf asks him what he will do with his life after he has eaten them. After pondering alternatives like playing the comb and reading the almanac, BBW lets the pigs go.
Played with in a pocket issue of Donald Duck: Donald and his nephews happen to stumble upon a Mad Scientist who plans to destroy all of Earth's technology. When called out on it, and questioned what he, himself would be without all his gadgets and devices, the scientist states that he did go insane for a reason. The ducks all realize that there's an undeniable, yet severely disturbing logic behind that argument.
In an early issue of Thunderbolts, Graviton is being all villainous, crowing about how easily he can defeat the Thunderbolts. Moonstone replies that, sure, you can beat us. Then the Avengers, the Champions, the Defenders, the X-men and so forth (most of these teams no longer existed at this time). So then what? Graviton stopped, realized he had no long term plan at all, and disappeared for about a year.
When he came back, he'd actually thought about it. And decided that essentially ripping San Francisco out of the ground to be his personal party/orgy palace was the "what". Letting him win in the first place might have been less destructive in the long run.
In New Avengers, the Wrecker grabs a crowbar and starts to toss around Spider-Man, Wolverine and Luke Cage. Then, Spider-Woman walks up and asks "why?". She wonders why despite having the power of a god, a bunch of kids in Los Angeles managed to beat him and his whole team up. She very nearly converts him to the side of good, until it's revealed she wasn't even trying, just lulling him into a false sense of security.
It helps that she is both an experienced spy and exudes pheromones that make men fall in love with her.
This is the whole point of Mark Waid's Empire series. It features a Dr. Doom esque villain who has killed all the Super Heroes and is the sole military and political power on earth. What now?
Used to great effect in the graphic novel Enigma by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. In the comic-within-a-comic, "The Enigma" taunts "The Rich Cat" with the pointlessness of his goals by saying "And then what? ...and then what? ...and then what?" until "The Rich Cat" can only say "aw, geez, I don't know." The phrase then becomes a catchphrase used by the Enigmatics, a cult inspired by the comic, who say it before committing suicide en masse.
In All Hail Megatron and the following series, Starscream, of all people, brings this up when talking with Megatron. First, after they spend a couple of issues trashing effectively-defenseless Earth cities with Autobots nowhere in sight:
Starscream: Our cruisers could have annihilated them from space. You're stalling. You've beaten the only real threat we've ever faced. I can see what's coming. So can you. Who will it be? Scourge? Who would have thought the worst move you could have made would be to win?
By their next confrontation, they have defeated the Autobots, and are in the process of conquering the galaxy. He actually becomes rather upset about it, as he realises that all of Megatron's rhetoric about the superiority of the Decepticon race has been just that...and that with victory in their grasp, they don't really know what to do with it.
Starscream: Your philosophy, Megatron... Megatron: Starscream... Starscream: The Strong should rule.... Megatron: Again Starscream? We find ourselves here AGAIN? Starscream: All this... for what? Where to NOW Megatron? WHERE TO NEXT!?!
Emperor Doom features something like this, with Doctor Doom using the enslaved Purple Man to essentially brainwash the world into accepting him as it's ruler. He eventually gets bored of all the niggly little things that a ruler of the world actually ends up having to do, and decides to let the heroes destroy the machine keeping Purple Man prisoner.
Reed Richards asks this of Doom several times whenever Doom's captured him again and is gloating about how he's going to kill Reed and destroy everything he holds dear. Doom has no proper answer, because the be-all-end-all of his existence is to cause Reed Richards as much anguish as possible. Unlike, say, the Joker however, Doom can't admit this (having convinced himself that he's doing it because he's superior to everyone else and deserves to rule the world) and so whenever Reed mentions this, Doom usually just starts screaming about college grudges and beating the snot out of Reed. Doom is kind of nuts.
At the end of Punisher Noir, Frank Castelione, Jr. has killed everyone responsible for his father's death. Jigsaw, Barracuda, the Russian, Dutch Shultz... all of them are gone. As he visits his parents' graves, he asks his father what he should do now. Detective Soap called him the Punisher - does he keep punishing forever? Does he keep taking it to the underworld? It's 1935, there's no shortage of mobsters. Frank, Sr. doesn't have an answer for him, but he gets one all the same when a newspaper is blown into his face — featuring an article on Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist party.
One Green Lantern story had magnetic supervillain Dr. Polaris try to absorb the "magnetic glue" that holds the universe together, increasing his powers to infinite levels. It would also destroy the universe. The comic lampshades that Polaris is too drunk with power to stop to think what he would do afterward.
At one point in Marvel's 1989 crossover Atlantis Attacks, B-list heroine Firebird comes across several invading Atlantean/Lemurian troops who have gotten lost in the desert. After a Curb-Stomp Battle (if you breathe water, and have to use a specially enclosed suit to survive on land, don't fight someone who controls fire and heat without being REALLY prepared). Once that's over and she talks to them, she asks them that even if they win this war, what exactly are they going to do? She asks this as they stand...in a desert. They shrug. They come to a compromise wherein she destroys all their weapons and guides them to Tahiti, where they promise to sit out the rest of the war and decide to try and pick-up land-dwelling women.
After going mad, Genis-Vell helps the cosmic villain Entropy successfully destroy the universe. Afterward, Entropy, Genis, Epiphany, and Rick Jones are left foating in a void of nothingness, and Entropy realizes he never expected to actually succeed and doesn't know what to do, now. So they do some Timey-Wimey Ball jiggery-pokery and the universe comes back.
Played for Laughs in one strip from a series that ran in several of Marvel Comics' series. A young Silver Surfer gets a young Thanos to change his plans by asking him hypothetically, if he succeeded in getting Lady Death's attention by destroying the universe and she fell in love with him, what he would get her for her birthday. Thanos thinks carefully for a moment.
Thanos: A pair of shoes? Silver Surfer: You just destroyed the universe! There are no shoes! Thanos: Oops!
In the first Marvel/DC crossover, Supes and Spidey are battling their arch-nemeses on a satellite when one announces the intention to really destroy the world, instead of blackmail it with the threat of destroying it. Spidey asks the other Super Villain, "Where are you going to spend your money then?" Not only does he mentally hit the brick wall, he fights to save the world in a major (if temporary) Heel-Face Turn for Doctor Octopus.
In the Riot at Xavier's story arc in Grant Morrison's run of New X-Men, the radical young mutant Quentin Quire leads an anti-human riot by the mutant students. Quire declares that the rioters will take over the entire school. An unimpressed Emma Frost asks the question verbatim.
Bastion posits this during the "Second Coming" event. Just as his endgame is about to go into motion, he asks one of his underlings what will define them once the mutants are all dead, and what purpose they will serve afterwards (Doesn't stop him from going through with it, though).
In the Ultimate Spider-Man event The Death of Spider-Man Peter asks this question of his arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn. Unfortunately for him, Osborn has an answer. It's not a GOOD answer, but it's good enough for a madman:
It's not phrased in the form of a question, but the end of Watchmen has this exchange:
Ozymandias: I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end. Dr. Manhattan: "In the end"? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
This is how the very first story arc of George Perez's reboot of Wonder Woman ended, with Wondy ensnaring Ares in the Lasso of Truth, forcing him to realise that starting World War III would superpower him immensely in the short term as conflict and disaster engulfed the word...but there'd be nobody left After the End to fight, much less kill, each other, and without any living memory of the gods, he'd fade into nothingness.
In the Film/Serenity comic, "Those Left Behind," Mal asks a vengeful Dobson this question, what comes next after killing Mal. Dobson shrugs and says he'll pick up a hobby, probably.
In A Pikachu in Love, Pichi asks Pikachu this when Pikachu is telling her about how Ash will always be a trainer. In response, she asks Pikachu if he wants to be a sports Pokemon all his life, and what he plans to do once he's done. Though it stuns Pikachu for a few seconds while he tries to think of an answer, he eventaully decides to leave it up to the future. Though, later on, he eventually starts asking this question to himself when he realizes Ash won't be young and a trainer forever...
This is Lampshaded in the Tamers Forever Series when the Big Bad of Omni-Tamer; Blackwargreymon, outright states that he has absolutely no idea what he is going to do after he's killed Takato. Unlike most examples, he doesn't really seem to mind all that much.
"Connecting the Dots", a Naruto/DCAU crossover, has The Spectre asking Naruto what he'll do when he becomes Hokage. This shuts him up enough for the Spectre to explain how sometimes it's better to fail than to succeed because A) there's nothing to do after a goal has been completed and B) sometimes what we've been working for really isn't that great.
Danny: [sarcastically] Well, isn't this an amusing little development?
Calvin and company have this discussion with the Lightning Man in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series after he announces his plan to kill everyone in the world by giving them all heart attacks simultaneously via massive amounts of electricity. He alters the plan to only kill half of the population, but Calvin points out that would leave enough for a sizable rebellion to form, and he changes it again to three-fourths.
Edgeworth asks Phoenix in Dirty Sympathy what will he do if he has Klavier and Apollo arrested and jailed for their crime. What will Phoenix do for the innocent people they helped whose cases might be overturned or for the horrible people they put away if their crimes come to light.
Haku asks Sasuke what will he do and who would be by his side when he avenges his clan in First Try Series.
Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act I: After they're finally free of their abusive master thanks to Inner Moka, Apoch and Astreal admit that they never really thought of what they would do with their lives after getting their freedom. Ruby solves the problem by making them their assistants.
This briefly comes up in Lilo & Stitch. Stitch, after trashing Lilo's room, looks around impatiently, and Jumbo observes;
Jumbo: This is interesting. Pleakly: What? Jumbo: 626 was created for destruction, but now there is nothing to destroy. You see, I never created a greater purpose for him. What must it be like to have...nothing...not even memories to visit...in the middle of the night?
Finding Nemo: in The Stinger, all of the dentist's fish finally manage to escape the tank and return to the ocean!... but they're stuck in plastic bags. After an awkward silence, Bloat asks "Now what?"
Expanded Universe materials show that they make it out of the bags and find Nemo again.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, the Soothsayer asks Shen if taking over the world will finally make him happy. He replies "It's a start. I might also convert the basement into a dungeon."
In Meet the Robinsons, Bowler Hat Guy makes a checklist of what destructive things to do with the Robinsons and their company and asks himself what he'd do once he succeeds. He's not sure and writes a question mark as that next item, intending to go back to it later. This trope kicks in later when he HAS checked off everything on his list and still hasn't figured out what to do after that.
In Up, Carl has no idea what he's going to do once he gets to Paradise Falls. It was his and Ellie's dream to live there for the rest of their lives. However, since Ellie is dead and Carl is an old man, not much can be accomplished. The first thing he does when he sets his house down, he moves his and Ellie's chairs together... and sits in dead silence.
Rapunzel: I've been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything I dreamed it would be? Flynn: It will be. Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then? Flynn: Well, that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
Films — Live-Action
Dog Day Afternoon has loads of this, with Charles Durning repeatedly trying to convince Al Pacino and John Cazale to turn themselves in.
In Alexander, Hephaistion at one point asks Alexander what he would do once he conquered his way all the way to his much sought "Outer Ocean". Without missing a beat, Alexander turns to his boyfriend, and moral center, and answers: "I turn around and conquer the other half!", leaving Hephaistion with the perfect Okay then-face.
Check out his entry in the Real Life section below for more details.
Played straight: the male protagonist's response to his female companions urging him to drink the elixir that grants eternal life is a puzzled "...And then what?" From the puzzled reactions from those around him, he appears to be the only person who's actually considered this rather than just greedily giving in. He then goes on to list the numerous reasons why living forever would suck, especially if it involved being trapped with the rather horrible women in his life for all eternity as well.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Barbossa asks of Elizabeth, "I'm curious. After killing me, what is it you're planning on doing next?" as he pulls a bloody knife from his chest. After all Elizabeth thought very little about it, and if she had successfully killed Barbossa, she had a ship full of pirates to get through, combined with the fact that the ship was out in the middle of the ocean with miles to go before reaching land.
In Batman Forever, The Riddler presses Two Face to think about what happens after he succeeds in killing Batman. Explaining how unsatisfying a quick death would be, he is able to convince Two Face to consider a more involved scheme to thoroughly destroy his enemy.
A hero-to-hero version: Bruce says this to Dick when the latter is still bent on killing Two-Face.
The Joker: Do I look like a guy with a plan to you? I'm a dog chasing cars, wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it!
Subverted in Chinatown: The hero intends it with the villain. It doesn't work:
Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million? Noah Cross: Oh my, yes! Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford? Noah Cross:The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.
A variation in Fierce Creatures. After hearing the plans to increase revenue from their new corporate owner, one of the zookeepers asks the spokesperson: "how much does he want in the end?" Rather baffled at this, the spokesperson asks for clarification, and realizes that the zookeeper is asking for a total sum of money that the boss wants to gain from his new venture, completely unaware that there is no set goal beyond just making more and more money.
Coach Carter asks this of his players and the people of the community. He's bothered by the fact that the players don't have plans for life after the current season and school careers are over. He even at one point sits them down and SHOVES the gravity of the situation in their faces to drive the point home.
In Nixon, when president Nixon argues that he wants to end the Vietnam war, but he cannot do it, a student ask him: Then what was the point to being president?
Young Student: You don't want the war, we don't want the war, the Vietnamese don't want the war, so why does it go on? [Nixon hesitates. Haldeman whispers "We should be going" to him.] Young Student: You can't stop it, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it's not you, it's the system. The system won't let you stop it. Richard M. Nixon: There's... there's more at stake here than what you want, or what I want. Young Student: Then what's the point? What's the point of being President? You're powerless! Richard M. Nixon:[firmly] No. No, I'm not powerless. Because, because I understand the system, I believe I can, uh, I can control it. Maybe not control it totally, but tame it enough to make it do some good. Young Student: Sounds like you're talking about a wild animal. Richard M. Nixon:Yeah, maybe I am.
There was something like this in the climax of The Muppet Movie. When Kermit asked Hopper just why he was so crazy as to chase him all the way across the country and put so much effort and money simply to recruit him for an advertising campaign (which Kermit would not do because it was for a frogs legs restaurant, something you really couldn't blame him for), Hopper said it was his dream all his life to own a successful nationwide chain of restaurants. For the first time, Kermit could relate slightly, seeing that he and his friends had a dream too, but he asked Hopper just what he would do if he ever did accomplish his goal? Who would he share his fame and wealth with? Hopper honestly had no answer, and for a minute it looked like he was about to listen to reason. Unfortunately, he did not, and ordered his men to open fire on Kermit; fortunately, Kermit was saved by Animal, who had taken Dr. Honeydew's "insta-grow" pills, turning him into a giant, who scared the villains away.
The villain in the second The Transporter movie has a rather justified response to this. He reveals that a number of cartels hired him to kill lead members of an Anti-Drug coalition. Frank asks "And then what? You think that will really make a difference?", pointing out that new leaders will take over and continue to fight the cartels. The villain merely replies out that that isn't his problem. He was hired to do a job, and he's doing it. It's the cartels that should've asked themselves this question.
Arthur: What happens now? Bedevere: Well, now, Lancelot, Galahad and I wait until nightfall and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French soldiers by surprise. Not only by surprise but totally unarmed. Arthur:Who leaps out?? Bedevere: Lancelot...uh, Galahad...and I...(running out of steam) leap out of the rabbit...
A variant appears in Animorphs #48, when Rachel asks herself the question, and realizes what the consequences of her Deal with the Devil will be.
Dr Mabuse wants to destroy the world and then rule the ashes. His Meaningful Name is derived from the French "m'abuse" - "I abuse myself".
German author Walter Moers' Zamonien books feature a Big Bad who owns the Moloch, the biggest ship on Earth. As it brags about its plans: "And one day, all the ships in the world will become part of it! And then... well, I have to see..."
In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, what Thalric asks Fenise when she has him helpless again. After having him nursed back to life so she could hunt him and he could know it.
In Soon I Will Be Invincible, Doctor Impossible muses on what would happen if he actually succeeded in taking over the world, and "whether this is the best thing that the most intelligent man in the world could have done with his life". (But his Science-Related Memetic Disorder will keep him at it, nonetheless.)
In the Gentleman Bastard series, Locke's mentor has trained the gang up to be perfect robbers, but died before he told them what they were accumulating money for. So they've succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings, but they have no actual purpose for doing it, and they can't spend their wealth or they'll be detected.
Technically, by accumulating it they have achieved his purpose, just by stealing it; the short version is that there's a complex socio-legal arrangement in place that means the police and rich people don't get robbed, which goes against the teachings of the God of Thieves, so Locke's little crew is (in a cosmic sense) there to ensure that the city doesn't get smited into the ground by a god widely regarded by most of the rest of the world as heretical apocrypha (and also getting a spiteful little giggle of their own in since neither their mentor nor they actually like the arrangement much). Spending the money afterward is just gravy, but gravy you can't put on your pork isn't much good, now is it...
In I, Jedi, Corran Horn references this trope in his epic rejection of Exar Kun's attempted seduction to the dark side. See the Quotes page.
A heroic attempted aversion is found in the first Horus Heresy novel, where Horus has decreed that all of his Astartes are to learn skills and talents outside of warmaking because the Great Crusade has to end eventually, and he wants his sons to have a purpose in the new order that would follow. Things.....didn't turn out that way.
Legacy of the Dragokin: Zarracka has no idea what to do with herself after her revenge is accomplished. Becoming a better mother for Benji than Daniar gives her a new goal to focus on.
A sort of meta-example applies to the The Silmarillion. Tolkein points out this why Morgoth's Omnicidal Maniac plans are ultimately doomed to fail. He could kill everyone and grind the universe into dust. And then? Well then, and then he would hate the dust because it was made by Eru (God), but the dust would still exist, frustrating Morgoth...and even then the world could in theory by restored by the other Valar.
Plus to truly destroy everything Eru ever created he'd have to kill himself too.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the final question asked to Buffy once everything's said and done at the end of Season 7.
In the final episode of Galactica 1980, Starbuck strikes up a conversation with a Centurion after they are both stranded on a deserted planet. At some point, "Cy" (the Centurion) mentions that the ultimate aim of the Cylon Empire is to "organize" the entire universe. When Starbuck asks what's next after that, Cy admits that no-one had ever asked that question.
Stargate SG-1, "Window of Opportunity." A man has trapped everyone in a time loop to attempt to go back in time to see his dead wife. O'Neill asks the title question when he learns that her death is unavoidable. The villain (if you want to call him that) admits that she'll still die and render the entire exercise moot, 'cause the death was unavoidable. O'Neill adds that seeing a person die once is painful enough and that's not something you want to see again. This helps get him to back down and avert the crisis.
In the Babylon 5 episode "Signs and Portents", Mr Morden asks Narn Ambassador G'Kar "What do you want?" G'Kar replies that his closest-held wish is to see all the Centauri — the former oppressors of the Narn — exterminated. Morden then asks him "And Then What?"... and G'Kar is at a loss, and responds that "as long as my homeworld is safe, I don't see that it matters." Morden realizes that the second part - the safety of his people - is G'Kar's real answer, and that though the Narn is bloodthirsty enough for the Shadows' purposes, he only lacks sufficient ambition to twist to their ends. Morden thus dismisses him and moves on to greener pastures. Namely...
...the Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, who has a doozy;
I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or to look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want it all back the way that it was.
In other words, Londo wants, well, everything and doesn't care about collateral damage - and will thus Jump At The Call to make a Deal with the Devil. To his credit, Londo eventually figures out what an obviously stupid deal he made, but by that time Morden has already wormed his way into the Centauri high command.
In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Killer Shrews", Dr. Forrester declares in the Invention Exchange that he will "cleave in two this puny planet", but can't think of a good reason when Joel and the Bots ask why.
A zig-zagging trope from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Bond Parody episode. At the end Bashir tries this on Dr. Noah to buy enough time to save the crew, but this fails. So he decides to go one step further down the line, and forces the plan into Step 3 by setting off the villain's plan; destroying the holographic world. By the time Noah decides to destroy Bashir after all, the holosuite program is safe to deactivate. Just before it all ends, though, Dr. Noah admits that he honestly didn't expect to win.
Subverted in Lexx, where the villains always knew exactly what they were going to do after scouring, dismantling, or otherwise ruining a planet: the exact same thing to the next planet, until the entire multiverse was used up.
Mantrid: And once I have done that, I'll rest.
In season 1 of Being Human, George asks this both times Mitchell tells him to run away.
In Doctor Who, the Doctor likes to deconstruct his enemies' plans with this question sometimes, like in "The Pirate Planet":
Doctor: You don't want to take over the universe, do you? No. You wouldn't know what to do with it, beyond shout at it.
Jonathan Creek: In "Jack in the Box", Maddie proposes an elaborate solution for the Locked Room Mystery they are facing, only for Jonathan to bring her to a screeching halt with a single word: "Why?".
Jonathan: Why would anyone undertake this extraordinary series of actions you have just described?
In Casanova, the titular character tries to convince Henriette to run away with him and live his footloose and fancy free lifestyle. She just keeps asking "What then?" until he runs out of plans. It turns out that she grew up in a slum and is determined to have a better life. As such, she has to prioritize a comfortable life with a man she doesn't love over spending her life with Casanova.
There's no clear idea of what Nora in iCarly was going to do to keep the main characters locked in her house. If she were smart enough, she would have realized that people would start looking for them after a certain period of time.
Than again, it's shown that Nora is absolutely bat-crap insane (the one-hour special she stars in is even called "iPsycho"), so she wouldn't care what would happen next if asked.
"Then What?" by Clay Walker has the narrator asking this question of a friend who plans to commit adultery:
Then what? Whatcha gonna do When the new wears off and the old shines through And it ain't really love and it ain't really lust You ain't anybody anybody's gonna trust Then what? Where you gonna turn When you can't turn back for the bridges you've burned And fate can't wait to kick you in the butt Then what?
In one Garfield strip, Garfield is being chased by a dog and wonders what the dog would actually do if it catches him. So he turns around and surrenders to the dog, asking it what it's going to do now. The dog then starts a waltz with Garfield, with an irritated Garfield demanding that he gets to lead next time.
In another one, a mouse tells Garfield mice would rule the world some day. Garfield asked "Then what?" and the mouse said they'd then live in people's house and eat cheese. Garfield was unimpressed by the answer.
Sally: I've decided to embark on a program of serious discipline... I'm going to eat properly, sleep properly and exercise properly! Charlie Brown: Then what? Sally: You're right... forget it!
In Warhammer 40,000, the Chaos God Tzeentch is pretty much the god of "And then what?" As the god of change, he constantly schemes to bring about his dominance. Except by his nature any victory must be transitory or he can't actually seek it out, and it must be so transitory it's meaningless. Tzeentch doesn't scheme to win, he schemes to scheme and that's all he can do.
In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, Mephistopheles, the ruler of the Eighth Layer of Hell, has been scheming to usurp the throne of Hell from Asmodeus for eons. Still, he doesn't seem to have any plans for what he'd do should he succeed. (The other Lords often say that he's such an egotist, that it would take less than an hour for him to start wondering why he wasn't also the ruler of Mount Celestia.)
Orobas, a sidequest boss in Shadow Hearts: Covenant, declares his plan to Take Over the World. Anastasia, who's seen this before, steps forward and asks what he plans to do with it once he's done. After an awkward pause...
Orobas: Can I get back to you on that?
In Kirby's Epic Yarn, Yin-Yarn at one point admits that he doesn't know what he'll do with Dreamland once he conquers it, but says he'll figure something out.
A more heroic example occurs in Pokémon Black and White. Cheren is obsessed with being strong and becoming the Champion and whatnot. The current Champion, Alder, does ask Cheren several times what he plans to do when he becomes the strongest trainer, and tells him that being the strongest isn't all the Champion's about. Cheren just replies "Er, er, I dunno, get stronger still?" or words to that effect. This is a part of Cheren's character development later in the game.
By the end of the game, Cheren has an answer: Protect the powerless, and help them become stronger, too. Consequently, he becomes a Gym Leader and the head instructor of a Trainer's School in the sequels.
In Mass Effect 2, the goal of the geth is revealed to create a Dyson-Sphere like structure for all their programs to inhabit. When Shepard asks what they will do next, Legion admits they don't have another plan, they are expecting their combined intelligence will be enough for them to come up with a new goal.
Happens in the ending sequence of Mass Effect 3. When Shepard finally meets the Illusive Man face to face, the latter gloats about how much he will gain by taking control of the Reapers. Shepard asks him what he's going to do with their "gifts", but the Illusive Man is so power-drunk (and indoctrinated) that he can only respond by hijacking Shepard's motor functions and forcing them shoot Anderson.
Red Dead Redemption: John Marston, dealing with Rebel Leader Abraham Reyes, tries to get him to stop promoting his own glory for five seconds and think about what he'll do to improve Mexico. Eventually he comes down to asking, "And after all the shootin' and fightin's over, then what?" To Reyes's credit, he actually has an answer to that:
Reyes: Then, like all men of power, I will delegate.
In Katawa Shoujo, late in Rin's route, Hisao gets the chance to ask Rin this when she expresses her desire to have someone who can understand her without asking questions. If you make this choice, you get the good ending, in which Rin comes to terms with herself.
After learning that fal'Cie chief Barthandelus's Evil Plan is to have the entire fal'Cie race commit mass-Suicide by Cop in order to summon their creator back from a higher dimension because they miss him, it's repeatedly pointed out to him that even if Lindzei returns to the physical realm (and the prospect of him even coming back anyway was very much in doubt), the fal'Cie are going to be dead, so what's the point of the plot? Barthandelus literally does not care about that.
Towards the final half of season 1 in The Walking Dead, Kenny gets the idea of finding a boat for his fellow survivors so that they can escape to the ocean and get away from the zombies. Several survivors ask Kenny what exactly he plans to do once he gets to the ocean and Kenny only responds with some variation of "I'll think of something". As time goes on, Kenny still insists that his group finds a boat, but he slowly starts to question his goal.
In thisxkcd, both Black Hat Guy and Google are hit by this; after acquiring loads of login data, he is unable to come up with anything he wants to do with it, and as for Google...
Google Executive: Okay, everyone, we control the world's information. Now it's time to turn evil. What's the plan? Female Board Member: Make boatloads of money? Google Executive: We already do! Board Member: Set up a companywide "CoD4: Modern Warfare" tournament each week? Google Executive: That's not evil!
Lots of Sparks have plans along the lines of "Create invincible army of lobster-constructs And Show Them All," without considering what happens after they've conquered the kingdom just to prove that they can. Most of them end up attacking the Baron Wulfenbach. Assuming they survive the experience, they're mostly happy in his labs, where they don't have to worry about anything but inventing.
Subverted with Othar. His plan of "Kill all Sparks, then myself, ending the threat of Sparks forever" isn't exactly genius, but at least he has an answer to And Then What?.
This is the job of Evil Efficiency Consultant Edwin Windsor in How to Succeed in Evil. He has little success, since most of his clients are dim, insane, or a combination of the two.
An episode of Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy called "Die, Sweet Roadrunner, Die", had Wile E. Coyote going through an existential crisis after finally catching and eating the Roadrunner.
From Suburban Knights, though that is less of a lack of further plans and more about how it is shown Malachite is a hypocrite and enjoys several technologies, even though he is supposed to destroy it all.
The Nostalgia Critic: And what are you going to do when all the technology is destroyed? Malachite: ...think of something.
This is ultimately how the Entity Missing No from another universe is defeated. Linkara's diatribe is especially remarkable. He doesn't just ask The Entity what it plans to do afterwards, he continues to point out the pointlessness of its own existence, its quest, and the rather unimpressive ending to its goal which just keeps reiterating the question. This gets so bad, it sends The Entity into an existential crisis where is begins babbling to itself incoherently, unable to comprehend its own worthlessness despite being a god.
Seems to be his M.O. for dealing with insane and powerful entities. He used the same tactic to convince Linksano to give up on trying to take over the world and come work for him instead when he makes the doctor realise that ruling the world will involve 'running' the world as well.
Linkara tries this again with Dr. Insano, who is completely unimpressed by the question. He has a wild enough imagination, going from carnal desires to dreams of glory to simple malicious fun. He also rejects the holodeck and its fake people. However, the speech was in this case a distraction.
Step 1: Fight a bunch of superheroes. Step 2: Use their powers to rob some place. Step 3: Bitches and booze. Repeat as necessary.
It works remarkably well, too, since he's careful not to draw too much attention to himself, and because managed to squeeze every iota of training he could out of his time at Whateley Academy he often knows how to use his opponent's powers better than the heroes themselves do. That, and the fact that copying regeneration reverses his age temporarily, meant he was able to keep going for fifty years and only get caught twice - and one of those times when he was just thirteen, which is how he ended up at Whateley in the first place.
Actually he did, he just completely forgot what the reason was. Until the end.
In Red vs. Blue Season 10, Sarge asks this with regard to killing the Director of Project Freelancer. Although the vast majority of problems that plagued the Reds and Blues stemmed from that program, Sarge is unsure what they'd actually gain by running off to go after him. Combined with the fact that Carolina planned to use the Blood Gulchers as more or less cannon fodder, this leads them to decide Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Uncle Iroh asks this of recurring antagonist Zuko when he discovers Appa in the Earth King's dungeons and intends to kidnap him. While up to this point he had more or less passively allowed Zuko to pursue the Avatar in his quest to "restore his honor", by that point they were wanted criminals of the Fire Nation, and Iroh rightly points out that his actions chasing the Avatar were downright Quixotic. In what suspiciously sounds like a reference to Babylon 5, he ends by asking the questions, "Who are you, and what do you want?" Zuko is forced to recognize the facts, and decides to simply release Appa. The resulting conflict of character resulted in an Angst Coma and gave him nightmares.
In an aversion of Aesop Amnesia, the lesson with Appa had stuck with Zuko quite nicely. His uncle complained specifically that kidnapping Appa wouldn't work because they had no place to shelter a flying bison in their apartment. Zuko brings up the same problem when Sokka tries to sneak off with Appa to visit the Boiling Rock by saying high-security prisons in the middle of volcanoes don't have accommodations for flying bison and offers a non-living form of transportation in its place.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers had the planeteers reason this way with an elephant hunting tribe that their excessive hunting would eventually kill all the elephants, and render them even poorer.
They tried a similar reasoning with a fishing village that started using dynamite. It turns out the villagers were too concerned about the present to care about the future.
This was a long-running aesop for the series in general. Aside from when the villains were in it For the Evulz, the Planeteers could convince some villains, or average people who were being influenced by the villains (or even, in Captain Pollution's first appearance, a whole mercenary army of enemy mooks) that looting and polluting was not the way, because it would just leave the world a lifeless waste, and then what? It actually stuck with two of the villains, Hoggish Greedly and Sly Sludge (both of whom were more profit-motivated and less overall evil), who underwent Heel-Face Turn by the final season.
In Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor pulls this on Brainiac, who intends to absorb and destroy "all of creation". Luthor instead suggests they merge their bodies and personalities together to become a godlike being, then destroy and remake all of creation according to their own design. Brainiac not having much of an ego, this effectively puts Luthor in control.
He practiced this much earlier in Superman: The Animated Series on Metallo, pointing out that Metallo could kill him but without Luthor's help he'll never be normal again.
Also when Wonder Woman is fighting Bizarro helping Giganta free Grodd from prison, he says he's doing it to help his new girlfriend free her boyfriend, she then invokes the trope, and Bizarro is all uhh... and pow!
In one particular episode of the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote actually manages to catch the bird... only to pause and hold up a sign, explaining that he doesn't know what the devil to do with him: "Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him - now what do I do?". Although he is a lot smaller than the bird at that point.
A Seth Macfarlane cartoon answered this question: Wile E. becomes horribly depressed, having no purpose, and attempts suicide (hysterically enough, he does so with an ACME product). Then he finds God and becomes a Jehovah's Witness.
Spoofed in a commercial for Cartoon Network that had the cast of Looney Tunes answering various questions. Sylvester is asked what he would do if he actually caught Tweety, and he responds that he'd give him back his wallet that he dropped twenty years ago.
Occasionally affects Pinky and the Brain. The most obvious case was from 'It's Only a Paper World', where the scheme is to empty the Earth. It works, but without any actual subjects, the Brain gets bored. Sometimes they need that Reset Button.
In Phineas and Ferb, some of Doofenshmirtz's plans end up this way. He actually tends to call attention to this himself, rather than have somebody ask since he faces off against Perry The Platypus. In the very first episode, Doof admitted he had no clue to what one could expect to gain by reverting Earth's rotation.
In an episode of Earthworm Jim the Animated Series, Evil the Cat plans to destroy the universe. One of his hench-rats asks what they're going to do after that.
Evil the Cat: I hadn't really thought about it. Gloat, I suppose. Cackle wickedly amongst the ashes, that sort of thing.
Plankton: Alright Krabs! Now hand over the secret formula! Krabs: Or...what? Plankton: I don't know. I never thought I'd get this far.
The Daffy Duck cartoon "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" has J.L. invoking this a couple of times late in the short as Daffy starts ad libbing his script.
In the Gargoyles episode "The Price", Xanatos tries to become immortal. Hudson gives him a variation of this trope. Xanatos actually seems disturbed by this.
Hudson: When all your scheming's done, what will be your legacy, Xanatos?
El Tigre has Manny's mother breaks El Oso with this question when she shows him using circular logic for stealing a diamond. He wants to steal the diamond so he can sell it. To get money to buy things like the diamond so he can sell it...
An episode of Freakazoid! had our hero confront a giant snake. He lets out a "Conan yell", leaps at it, grapples with it... then realizes he never had a next step because he didn't know it would actually work. The snake responds by smashing him against the ceiling.
According to Plutarch, when Pyrrhus (yeah, the one the victoryis named after) went to war with Rome, his adviser, Cineas, asked him what he will do after Rome. Pyrrhus said he will conquer another territory. The adviser asked "and then"... In short, the final answer of the king was "I'll live a good life and have fun". He had no answer to the next question, which was "can't you do it without all the wars"?
This is an alternate version of an older anecdote where the characters were Alexander the Great and Diogenes of Sinope. Diogenes' response was a somewhat more snarky "Why don't you save yourself a lot of trouble and just do that now?" Given Alexander's personality type, it's likely the answer to the question would be a sound "no." That man could never be happy unless he was conquering someone/thing. Ultimately he had nothing to worry about considering that his lifestyle of constant battle and hedonism killed him at 32 years old.
"And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer". This quote is almost certainly untrue, given that Alexander must have been well aware that there was more land outside his empire, but it seems like the sort of thing he would have done if he had actually conquered the entire world.
In fact, the original version of the quote was "And Alexander wept, and said, 'So many worlds and I have not even conquered one'."
The end of the Cold War counts for the United States and NATO. For almost 50+ years, they had been embroiled in unarmed political subterfuge in a game of international chess with the only other superpower in the world. Entire strategies had been cooked up for end-of-the-world contingencies, as well as shelters built just in case. Armies had been completely built around what was considered an inevitable ground-war bigger and nastier than anything seen in World War II. And then, in possibly one of the largest anticlimaxes in history...the USSR collapsed under its own weight, leaving the USA as the lone superpower in the world. What were we going to do with this massively bloated defense budget now?
During The Seventies, this was a party game, like other psychology-inspired games and discussions. One person would talk about what they wanted to do, and the other one would permanently ask "And Then What?", nothing more. One biography of Warren Buffett mentions that he also played this game once (he was the asker), and the nice lady who was his game partner was in tears afterwards. The Seventies were strange...
This is a common argument used against investment in environmentally-unfriendly industries. The investors say it will create new jobs and boost the economy, but that only works in the short term. In the long term; if all the forests are leveled for wood and all the fossil fuels are mined, there'll be nothing left to profit from and it will eventually lead to mass redundancies and economic collapse.
It was especially common in World War One, where most operations had few objectives beyond 'make a breakout and march on Paris/Berlin/Vienna/Moscow/Ankara'. The one time either side made a major breakout on the Western Front (Germany's Operation Michael), the whole thing foundered because while the new tactical doctrines needed for the breakout had been planned meticulously, there were no overall goals as to what to do once the line were broken, and the starving and exhausted German soldiers simply were left free to plunder the (mostly evacuated) French and Belgian villages behind the lines while the Entente forces regrouped. By the time Marshal Ludendorff finally settled on Amiens as the main objective, not only was the city partially in German hands, but the soldiers were too far beyond their supply lines to continue fighting and were being pushed back out.
The American Civil War, which was in so many ways a dress rehearsal for WWI, had plenty of mistakes of this sort, perhaps the most tragic being the Battle of the Crater, led by the notoriously incompetent Gen. Ambrose Burnside during the siege of Petersburg. While Burnside had actually had a good idea for once (undermine the enemy lines and attack aroun d the resulting crater), the execution was botched, in part because of Executive Meddling (the trained assault troops were switched out at the last moment for an untried African-American unit, who weren't given time to train for the maneuvers needed to pull the attack off, so most fell into the crater rather than skirting it, becoming target practice for Confederate sharpshooters who were offered a bounty for each black soldier killed), and partly due to lack of supplies (namely scaling ladders for getting people who fell into the crater back out), but mostly because there was no clear objective for what to do if the assault had succeeded.