Writing television is not born out of a powerful compulsion to torture imaginary people.
Really! At least hypothetically. In a few rare cases, it isn't.
One purpose of a Story Arc
is to provide the necessary time to really get in there and just destroy everything. Crunch up the Love Interest
, alienate the friends, heap a bunch of victories on the Big Bad
, let all the phlebotinum
leak out of the superpower, maybe throw in a scorching case of herpes and a drug dependency... you know, just do everything you can to grind a protagonist into a sticky paste
While this is fun and all, it can occasionally get to be a little overbearing for the audience. The trick is to throw in a Breather Episode before they become too terrified to tune in, something a little Lighter and Softer
The Breather Episode is used after a particularly grueling and emotional story arc or episode, and serves to lighten the mood; to contrast with the "dark" mood of the previous episode. These might feature several musical numbers and comic relief
appearances by minor characters
. They are presented in a fun-house manner, with plenty of bright and cheery colors. Children's shows play with this trope by being more lighthearted than usual.
It is tricky to get this just right as, improperly done, it makes the characters appear unsympathetic or in denial about the overarching plot.
This is not to be confused with Filler
, though many breather episodes would qualify.
, this will often be the beach
or vacation episode
In Video Games
, this trope may occur as well, but there's also a variant of the trope applied to the game's difficulty rather than the game's content: see Breather Level
See also Mood Whiplash
. Contrast Wham Episode
. Occasionally, this will be a Bizarro Episode
, and may involve a Wacky Wayside Tribe
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Anime and Manga
- Slayers NEXT has an episode, in the middle of a Stern Chase, where they stop everything to fish for lake dragon, when Lina tries to buy some "dragon cuisine" and finds that it is fake. The series breaks the fourth wall at the end of one such episode right before the final act of the series, when Zelgadis laments that the adventure will probably be the last easygoing thing they'll get to do this series.
- Slayers TRY has a breather episode disguised as a plot episode. Lina finds herself in a strange sort of wonderland pastiche, and is given to believe that it is the chaos between worlds, and that she ended up here after having failed to save the world from destruction the previous episode. Turns out it's just a theme park they got knocked into.
- The 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist featured a comedic episode centering on the State Military members directly under Roy Mustang's command, right in the center of an intense plot arc involving a rebellion in a remote city.
- Mai-HiME had no less than two breather moments (the first consisting of two episodes), each directly following a Wham Episode. Episodes 9-10 were a Beach Episode followed by a Cooking Duel, but even they advanced the plot. Episode 16 turned out to be a Wham Episode by itself, thus making it two Wham Episodes in a row.
- The "Dungeon Dice Monsters" story in Yu-Gi-Oh! is an interesting case. In the original manga it most definitely wasn't a breather, as it saw regular Yugi fighting to reclaim the Millennium Puzzle and save his other persona all while going through a nasty case of Break the Cutie and nearly dying by the end. The anime version on the other hand saved these darker elements for a later episode, so the arc was subsequently made Lighter and Softer and followed this trope straight to the letter, with Yugi now instead trying to get Jonouchi out of debt.
- A Yu-Gi-Oh! GX example is Jun's love-motivated duel with Asuka, coming directly between the defeat of the last 7 Star and the final battle of the arc.
- Black Lagoon had one breather episode between the Nazi arc and the Roberta arc, and a very over-the-top free-for-all gunfest mini-arc between the disturbing Hansel & Gretel arc and the final Japan arc (which was surprisingly deep at times... For Black Lagoon, anyhow).
- The first episode of each Higurashi no Naku Koro ni arc is usually nice and light-hearted, spending most of its time displaying anime comedy tropes, or simply showing a slice of life in Hinamizawa village. The episode will usually end on a slightly chilly note... And next episode, it gets dark. Big time.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni is like this too, following a similar episode structure to Higurashi, except the spike from cheerful to fearsome is much sharper.
- Eureka Seven most notably has a breather episode where the main protagonists take a break to play a soccer match at the direction of their spiritual leader. When asked why he directed them to do so, he reveals that it is, literally, a breather episode for both the audience and the characters.
- Sky Girls has several breather episodes. However, each breather episodes almost always turn to plot-relevant, and sometimes a Wham Episode combined. Examples: one episode has Otoha running around the base to look for the owner of a very large bra. It's all fun, but the beginning starts as Elise's backstory (her home getting destroyed). One Onsen Episode gives The Reveal as the girls learn that they're not just an aerobatic team, they're there specifically to take down a breed of monsters long thought to have been extinct.
- Code Geass uses School Festival episodes to keep the show from getting too serious. However, as per the show's standard operating procedure, even the silly comedy episodes contain at least one serious plot point or a Cliff Hanger ending in order to keep things running.
- In the audio commentary for Stage 21 (the infamous "pizza festival" episode), it's actually directly stated that head writer Ichiro Okouchi thought that the plot at that point in the show was getting very serious and wanted to give everyone a break.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! breaks formula a little by dumping a Furo Scene episode in the middle of a dramatic arc, right as the plot was building toward The Reveal.
- Basilisk, otherwise a very brutal and tragic story, has a breather episode two-thirds through which consists of flashbacks to flesh out some characters who have previously not been seeing doing anything but fighting. There are some very funny scenes with Oboro as a child, which are perhaps the only comedic moments in the series.
- Full Metal Panic! gave us an entire breather season in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, which served to seriously crank up the Mood Whiplash for when The Second Raid came along.
- The Second Raid also has a breather episode of its own; episode six takes some time off from the warfare to focus on Sousuke and Kaname's relationship, providing some comedy and some quiet, touching moments before things get worse.
- The original series had these in a fixed rhythm: serious story - comedy episode(s) - serious story - comedy episode(s) - serious story... so things never got too gloomy.
- Shakugan no Shana episode 9 ("The Poolside of Love and Desire") is a breather after the defeat of the first major villain and the fierce fight between Shana and Margery Daw.
- For Soul Eater, only one word is necessary: EXCAAAAALIBURRRRRRR!!
- A few more, technically: one breather chapter also followed the Asura resurrection arc. The kids play basketball, the grown-ups regroup and talk. And panic about getting fired, if you're Spirit. It serves to deal with the outcome of the arc, plus introduce some secondary characters in the form of three more of the Death Scythes.
- Chapter 88 of the manga is mostly a Breather Episode, about the main cast helping a village in their annual Sky Whale hunt, coming right after the end of the Book of Eibon arc and Crona killing Medusa. At the same time it foreshadows The Reveal the next arc was based on (Asura is on the moon) and ends with the announcement that Spartoi have been ordered to kill Crona.
- In Fairy Tail, after a long arc about a war with a rival guild and Lucy confronting her father, we get a one-chapter story about the main cast taking a mission to perform at a failing theater then having to replace ALL of the actors who left after it got a bad review.
- Black Butler has a couple breather manga chapters. After the Jack the Ripper arc and Madam Red's funeral we're treated to a much more lighthearted chapter where Ciel's aunt and his fiancee Elizabeth stop by for a visit.
- Episode 23 of Darker than Black is a breather between November 11's death and the Grand Finale. In particular, about half the episode is spent on a Ship Tease-y sorta-date between Hei and Kirihara.
- The Bleach musical No Cloud in the Blue Heavens has a rather obvious one, where the dramatic reveal of Aizen being alive and the Big Bad is delayed so Aizen, Hinamori, and Hitsugaya can sing a happy little song while watching winter fireworks (A scene that happened in an omake that appears at the start of the volume in which the said development occurred).
- Odd One Out in Halo Legends is the only non-canon short of the group, is comedic, and is shown between the two most tragic episodes.
- One episode of Inuyasha dealt with Inuyasha trying to get Kagome's brother a date, most episodes have them fighting horrible demons.
- Inuyasha in general loves these. After every multi-part epic battle against some Naraku-related/Jewel-shard-related uber-powerful demon you can bet there will be some goofy filler episode(s) before the action returns. And most of them are pretty hilarious, too.
- Rave Master takes a breather chapter before the final battle where everyone gets incredibly drunk and Haru fails to confess to Elie.
- One Piece has a breather story arc. After a huge, epic adventure where they fought a wannabe god, and right before another huge, epic adventure where they declared war on the world government, the Strawhat pirates took part in a decidedly light-hearted and thoroughly odd series of athletic challenges known as the Davy Back Fight. Although the crew would have been enslaved by a rival pirate captain if they had lost, the overall tone and the severe goofiness of the arc's villain made the whole thing feel like a nice break in between more serious storylines.
- Arguably the Amazon arc is part of this as well. It's not as lighthearted as many examples, but compared to Kuma blasting the Strawhats apart and both Impel Down and the Whitebeard War it's practically cotton candy.
- The anime features many examples in the form of short filler arcs or small series of individual filler episodes. The infamous moment mentioned in the above point was followed immediately after by a strictly Alternate Universe story about the Straw Hats participating in a palanquin race in an Edo Era-esque town. The climax of the Alabasta Arc was followed (even before the Rainbow Mist filler arc) by a trio of light-hearted episodes focusing each on Chopper, Nami, and Usopp. Similarly, a trio of lighthearted filler episodes premiered after the intense Enies Lobby arc focused on Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji individually. Toei loves this trope.
- Transformers Energon followed the episodes "Farewell Inferno" (Inferno struggles against Megatron's programming and ultimately dies) and "Scorponok's Scars" (Scorponok beats up Ironhide, and Alpha Q is forced to turn against his formerly constant companion) with "Crash Course", a silly episode about the Autobots having a big race. The characters themselves admit that having a race is a good way to release their recent tensions.
- Shukufuku no Campanella sets up the catalyst for the second half of the series in episode 7, which it does follow up on in episode 9. Episode 8, however, focuses on the comic relief characters of the Tortilla sisters and has hijinks ensue for all the cast involved during the harvest festival.
- After the display of Crazy Awesome that was episode 22, the creators of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann understood that viewers wouldn't be able to withstand the incredible amounts of Pure Awesomeness present in the last four episodes without a breather. So episode 23 was mostly made up of Team Dai-Gurren preparing to launch themselves towards the final battle. Oh, and Simon invented teleportation just so he could punch Rossiu in the face.
- Persona 4: The Animation has episode 5, bringing the plot to a halt after the Shadow Yukiko battle.
- Right after Mitsuo's capture, we get episodes 13 and 14 (summer vacation).
- Episode 19 focuses on the cultural festival right after a tense episode about Nanako's mother's death.
- Episode 6 of GUN×SWORD is a goofy parody/comic episode, coming right after a fairly intense episode about revenge. The episode provides the opportunity for some development for the two main characters, but it doesn't do anything to advance the story arc until the last few minutes... when it drops a Wham Line.
- Episode 5 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is considerably lighter than the episodes that preceded or followed it. No mind-scarring trauma, Awful Truths, or horrible angst. Still not actually happy, though.
- The Elfen Lied OVA (a.k.a. episode 10.5) takes place between Nana's settling in the inn and Mariko's arrival, and consists mostly of comedic Slice of Life and bonding between Nana and Nyu. And Heartwarming.
- The entire reason why Fuuko makes appearances throughout CLANNAD After Story is so that the audience doesn't crawl up into a little ball in the corner and cry.
- Ga-Rei -Zero-: Episode 5 deals with the romance between Yomi and Noriyuki, and is all lighthearted fun before the tragic main storyline kicks in.
- Eyeshield 21's breather episodes tend to be pretty justified, given that serious athletes DO have to take rest days right after big games. Even the breather episodes tend to have bits of relevant information.
- Episodes 6 & 7 of Kore wa Zombie desu ka? is fairly light-hearted in tone compared to the vicious fighting that takes place in episodes 5 & 6. Episode 12 is more like a Slice of Life episode where they hang out at a water park and then the female characters have a singing contest, in stark contrast to episodes 10 & 11, where they fought the Big Bad and attempt to foil his plans.
- Episodes 20 and 21 of Oniisama e... feature Nanako, Tomoko and Mariko going a school festival in Takehiko's university, as well as Mariko meeting Takehiko's friend Takeshi and being very Tsundere towards him. (Pretty much the only time Mariko's misandry is Played for Laughs.) And it happens right in between Nanako's Anguished Declarationof Love to Rei (episode 19) and Nanako witnessing Fukiko's behavior (episode 22) and Fukiko's absolutely disastrous birthday party (episode 23).
- Subverted in episode 8 of Another. It's fairly light-hearted in stark contrast to the earlier episodes where people were getting killed left and right. Then the ending for the episode comes along...
- Revolutionary Girl Utena gets a few of these, though they get less common as the series goes on and becomes more serious. The best examples are the ones focused around Nanami that don't revolve around her relationship with Touga - namely, the episode in which she is turned into a cow, the episode in which she believes she's laying eggs, and a Clip Show episode revolving around her Break the Haughty moments in previous episodes.
- The first half of the Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo anime is jam-packed with drama—except episode 7, which doesn't progress the plot much, nor does it contain a lot of drama like the other episodes, and instead allows the characters to have a little fun, largely at Sorata's expense.
- The first 4 episodes of Kotoura-san was unusually intense and dramatic for a Romantic Comedy—we're talking about how a girl was broken and cured. The episode that follows it was mainly about the cast enjoying some time together and at school.
- During the bleakest part of the series, Hikaru no Go aired two back-to-back episodes set in happier times. The first one, "Keichou Flowerpots," is purely a fluffy side story about Hikaru and Sai in seventh grade as they play Go to punish a dishonest shopkeeper. The second, "The Fated Encounter," is about a couple of pivotal games in Akira's backstory, and ends with his first meeting with Hikaru, shown from his perspective.
- Gear Fighter Dendoh managed to fuse this with a Wham Episode: episode 12, set right after the three episodes with an epic and desperate battle with Ogre, is a light-hearted episode, set in the middle of an in-universe breather (as the Galfa have ceased to attack and are planning the next move) and with part of it composed by footage from previous episodes... And then, right at the end, Vega's true identity as mother of one of Dendoh's pilots and younger sister of Altair is revealed, and Eris deduces the existence of a seventh Data Weapon.
- Many comic books do this between long arcs. JSA, for instance, usually has an issue between arcs that follows the individual characters as they recover, and also allows for roster changes.
- After a particularly draining arc in Ultimate Spider-Man, where Gwen Stacy was killed, the next two issues were a Freaky Friday-esque romp, as the still-teenage Spider-Man changed bodies with Wolverine because of Jean Grey, who picked Peter as "the person Logan would least like to be."
- Another Spidey example: In Spectacular Spider-Man, there was an arc called The Child Within with Harry Osborn's Green Goblin and Vermin. It was a six-part storyline with a seventh issue epilogue. It was emotionally brutal, heartwrenching, and helped set up Harry's death a year later. The issue following the epilogue, however, featured TWO Fabulous Frog-Men teaming up with Spidey to take on the White Rabbit and the Walrus, two villains bent on revenge against one of the Frog-men and his sidekick Spider-Man for defeats and humiliation suffered before.
- Gotham Knights #32, which comes straight after the Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive arc (a Batman crossover arc in which Bruce Wayne is accused of a murder and goes on the run for months) is a really nice breather issue. Only, of course, being about Batman, it's called 24/7 and it involves him getting up at 8 in the morning, spending his day in meetings convincing big business to be a little nicer, remembering the name of his paperboy, visiting the elderly, and then suiting up and fighting crime (and checking in on the rest of the Batfamily) until 5 am the next morning. It counts as a breather episode because there are no supervillains! (It's actually a really lovely issue. Bruce is practically mellow.)
- Invoked in Catwoman. The Relentless storyline was a particularly brutal arc with Black Mask—one of the darker Bat-villains—as the main antagonist. Cold-Blooded Torture, forced cannibalism, that sorta thing. After all was said and done, Selena thought her friend Holly could use a break and took her on a road trip to the various DC locales. The resulting story arc is intentionally lighthearted so that the readers could have a break as well.
- From issues 149 through 152 of Uncanny X-Men, we saw a pivotal confrontation between the X-Men and their Arch-Enemy Magneto, followed by a stand-off against the Hellfire Club. Issue 153 provides the breather in "Kitty's Fairy Tale" as Kitty invents a bedtime story for Illyana, casting herself as a heroic pirate and the rest of the X-Men as other characters. By the end of the issue, the entire team is gathered around Illyana's room, listening to Kitty's story, and enjoying it immensely.
- We get another one in New X-Men. After a dramatic story arc in which Jean discover's Scott's infidelity and a traitor at the mansion tries to kill Emma, Scott goes out for a nice "boy's night out" with Logan and Fantomex, which involves them battling some cyborgs and breaking into Weapon Plus' space station. Then as soon as they get back from space, the "Planet X" arc snaps us back, as Magneto comes back from the dead to destroy half of Manhattan, and he and Jean are both killed in a dramatic battle.
- From the second volume of New X-Men, focusing on the students, you have the "Children of X-Men" two-parter, which comes after twenty issues of post-M-Day death and dismemberment. Featuring Rockslide trolling his classmates via explosions, Elixir's unnecessarily creepy naval-gazing, and Pixie dosing Wolverine with hallucinogens.
- Only in Red Hood and the Outlaws can the superhero equivalent of the hospital scene of Hardboiled be considered the "Breather Episode", but Issue # 8 fits the description.
- Runaways had at least two of these. The first comes just before the introduction of the "New Pride" in volume 2; Molly falls asleep after a battle, gets kidnapped, and has a short, bizarre misadventure where she fights to liberate a far-less competent team of runaways from an evil kidnapper before finally finding her way back to the Hostel. It's pretty stupid, but that's actually the point - when it's mentioned in later issues, everyone assumes she's making the whole thing up to get out of being punished for wandering off. Another issue, meant to fill in the gap after Terry Moore's departure from the series in volume 3, is split into two stories. The first has Molly visiting the Xavier School and making life a living hell for Wolverine, who is hilariously forced to be her tour guide, before the two of them are kidnapped by one of Molly's parents' old enemies. The second has the older Runaways playing truth-or-dare and inadvertently corrupting the hell out of poor Klara Prast.
- The Adventure Time comic book follows a pattern of a four-issue story arc, followed by one of these often coupled with Something Completely Different. Issue 5 is a Breather Episode in which Finn and Jake run into a kid who looks like Finn and calls himself "Adventure Tim". Issue 10 has Ice King accidentally giving the reader control over Finn and Jake, resulting in "Choose Your Own Adventure Time". Issue 15 involves Finn and Jake being cursed by Magic Man into speaking in Rebus Bubbles. Issue 20 features "Adventure Me", a story shown from the first-person perspective of a friend of Finn and Jake hanging out with them, whose identity is not revealed until the very end of the story (for the record, It's Princess Bubblegum.).
- In Kalash93's Racer And The Geek, chapter 4 is definitely one of these, especially considering the contact of chapter 3 and chapter 5. The story seems to be undergoing Cerebus Syndrome.
- In One Piece: Parallel Works, after the awesome, heartwarming, sad, and epic Baleeira Porto Arc and the Crazy Awesome Tequila Wolf Arc, we have the Restaurant Row Arc, a light-hearted (if you can get past Sebastian's backstory) and comedic arc where the Capricorn Pirates look for a chef to join their crew.
- The one-shots "Kazuma and the Magic Toaster", "Why we Can't Celebrate Spring Break", and "Blame it on Flogging Molly Songs" can be considered breather episodes to One Piece: Parallel Works, since they're comedic, Crack Fics that have nothing to do with the main storyline.
- Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, a Neon Genesis Evangelion/Cthulhu Tech/First Encounter Assault Recon crossover fic with individual chapters having 20,000 words avarage of heavy descriptions of Eldritch horros, madness-inducing technology and other stuff has Chapter 6, a very short chapter about the cute and adorable 4-year old Asuka living happily with her mother.
- Two of these are in the Glee fic Hunting The Unicorn: "The Outlaws" (chapter four) is a well-needed Crowning Moment of Heartwarming (and funny) after three chapters of slowly breaking Kurt. "The Men At Arms" (chapter ten) comes after seven chapters of exposing Blaine as an insecure, fragile, seriously damaged Love Martyr who's put Kurt on a huge pedestal. It's also right before the Warblers drag Blaine into therapy, where he reveals that he's not a virgin and had a horrible, horrible breakup with his first. Oh yeah, and he now has a Stalker with a Crush.
- In the Pony POV Series, this happens in "Second Family". It comes right after the fearsome-filled Final Battle with the first Big Bad Loneliness. It's pretty much just the Mane Cast getting to know their Sixth Ranger Trixie and celebrating her Heel-Face Turn with a party. This is directly followed by Fluttershy breaking completely and transforming into Princess Gaia.
- Happens again with "New Game Plus", which is set right in the middle of the "Mind Games" arc — the first half of Mind Games involves Onyx Tiara finally dealing with his issues and getting over them while Discord goads Diamond Tiara into freeing him, then New Game Plus has the author trying to link some more canon episodes with the fic's universe (there are dark moments, yes, but it's still mostly light-hearted), and then the second half of Mind Games has Diamond working up to freeing Discord and going completely insane in the process, and is set to lead right into the Finale arc.
- There's also "Different From Everypony Else", which is set right after "New Game Plus", but was published between the last two chapters of "Mind Games", giving one last break from the darkness of that arc. True, this installment still has its dark moments, but it's ultimately lighthearted, and even it's dark moments don't compare to the content of Mind Games.
- "ecnarbmemeR-Remembrance" is a short little chapter establishing how Shining Armor fits in this series. And while it has a few moments of creepy undertones, it's still pretty light hearted. It also happens to be published right smack in the middle of the Dark World arc.
- "Family Reunion" is about as lighthearted as it gets in the Dark World arc: before meeting the Apple/Pie family to recruit Apple Pie as the new Element of Laughter, Twilight and the gang decide to make themselves look more presentable by taking a bath; Hilarity Ensues as they try to bathe Rarigreed, the filthiest of the gang after spending a thousand years wallowing in rocks and dirt. Even their meeting with the family that follows goes over fairly smoothly (that is, as smoothly as things can get after some of the family members greet them with a few cautionary explosives).
- "Retcon-Struction Blues" is sandwiched between two Dark World chapters, one being the beginning of an all out brawl between Discord's remaining minions and the heroes, and the other being the continuation of that battle and a major Wham Episode. The chapter itself is about Twilight reconciling with the CMC from the Smartypants Incident.
- Shining Armor Part 11 is a short, uncomplicated story about the trip to, and the group enjoying their first day in, the zebra nation Zamura. This comes right after all the drama Shining went through in Columbia, and is posted right after the Dark World Mane Cast confront Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox.
- Chapter 9 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has Pinkie Pie throwing a huge party for Rainbow Dash and her wingmares before they will go on a mission to destroy the griffin superweapon.
- Futari Wa Pretty Cure Blue Moon has a handful of them, none more obvious than episode 19. The preceding arc revolves around the girls losing all but one of their Moon Pieces, discovering Echoes, and learning about Mekuramast's and Kainatrol's Start of Darkness. The following arc starts with the School Festival being derailed and leading into the climax. Episode 19, aside from revealing Dawn's identity, just focuses on the main characters trying to put together a talent show in under a week.
- Nobody Dies has piles of them, the most memorable being the one where Rei learns to drive. Most of them end up being Innocuously Important Episodes, though.
- Examples from the Calvinverse:
- In The Tainted Grimoire, after all that happened during the Grazton arc, Clan Gully took a much needed break during the arc's conclusion.
- Clash of the Elements: The battle against the Lightning Djinn is noticeably less tense in comparison to the other guardian battles before and after it, though this is because the "battle" is actually a simple, friendly game of chess instead of a physical brawl. Though the threat of death still exists for the heroes.
- A Growing Affection: Chapter 26: The Night Out has Naruto and Hinata go out dancing. Sandwiched between Sasuke's crushing defeat and the loss of his team, and the Leaf going to war with the Sound.
- The Chaos Verse has Twilight: Puppet or Pony, which is all about the chaos world Twilight realizing she and the others are constructs, and Discord helping her come to terms with it. Overall, it's a very lighthearted story — which happens to come right after the installment that covers the Starts of Darkness for Discord, Luna and the Big Bad Nightmare Phobia, and right before the Final Battle with said Big Bad.
- Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons: After Chapter 33 and all that happened in it, things can only go up. And they do in Chapter 34. Blackjack comes Back from the Dead, learns how to use her new cybernetic implants, and goes on a drunken romp with Littlepip.
- In the Facing The Future Series, the humorous and lighthearted Pairing Off takes place between the emotional Heart and Minds and the whammy A Family Thing.
- In Mass Effect Human Revolution, the crew take a break on Ilium after the insanity of Caleston. Then a bunch of goons show up looking for Conrad... and a Justicar for Manah...
- In Perfection Is Overrated, Chapters 11-13 take a break from the action for the characters of Mai Hime to reflect on some of the challenges they have faced and will face in the future, and write in diaries about their Character Development.
- A New Order: Invoked or Lampshaded. The first chapter which doesn't have Sailor Moon fighting a youma is titled, "Just Breathe, the Bus is Here."
- In With Strings Attached, the craziness and near-constant running around in the New Zork chapter is followed by a quiet chapter where John and Ringo sit on the edge of the cliff near their house and just talk.
- PeabodySam's chapters towards the end of The Rock Raiders Meet BIONICLE Season 3, in comparison to the darker and more serious tone that Primis's chapters had adopted by that point.
- The Miracles AU has Mop Heroism, in which Chartette and Ney fight Satan. It's utter crack, in stark contrast to literally every other story in the AU.
- The Infinite Loops is about numerous universes stuck in a time loop, usually consisting of the events in their canon story. Not only will the loopers sometimes take vacation loops and screw with their own canon, Equestria has declared itself a sanctuary loop for any looper that visits, encouraging them to relax and helping them psychologically heal.
Film - Animated
- Cars 2 is more or less this among Pixar films following 3 years of ever increasing tear jerkage from WALL•E, Up, and Toy Story 3. It ended up being Pixar's first critical flop, mostly for this reason.
- Gore Verbinski intended Rango to be this career-wise following his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Of course, he underestimated how painstaking and time-consuming animation really was.
- Allegro Non Troppo (a feature film composed of animated shorts, like Fantasia) has its most depressive short, Valse Triste, followed by an hilarious short of a bee having her meal interrupted.
- Hercules is this, sandwiched in the middle of some of Disney's Darker and Edgier Renaissance films - namely, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, and Tarzan.
Film - Live-Action
- Literature example: In John Dies at the End, immediately after Dave reveals that the reason he was sent to a special school was that he was implicitly gangraped in highschool and retaliated by cutting out the eyes of the ringleader, there's an entire chapter narrated by the Cloudcuckoolander sidekick and Unreliable Narrator John, which involves backflips, kung-fu fighting, and horse-theft.
- Also, after one story arc, there is a chapter that consists entirely of "Nothing happened for the next few months".
- Very similarly, in Stephen King's It, right between one epic battle with the monster and the beginning of the events leading up to the last, is the mini-chapter (he numbers sections within titled chapters) which consists entirely of "Nothing much happened for the next two weeks."
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could be viewed as this for the Harry Potter series, being a comparatively laid-back story (apart from the Dementors) which does not have anything directly to do with Voldemort and immediately precedes his return in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It also comes after Chamber of Secrets, which is an Actionized Sequel involving students being attacked by a monster, leading to a year-long reign of terror which threatens to close the school. In comparison, Sirius Black coming after Harry in particular is rather low stakes.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even more so; the bulk of the book is made up of exposition of Voldemort's backstory, romance plots, with precious little happening in the wizarding war until the very end.
- So Long And Thanks For All The Fish
- Q & A, from the Star Trek Expanded Universe. And considering the plot hinges on the destruction of every universe in existence EVER, that's really saying something about the other novels, no?
- Animorphs #44 The Unexpected qualifies. It comes right before the 11 book arc that ended the series, it has nothing in the way of character or plot development, and the events (Cassie getting stranded in the Australian outback) are not mentioned again.
- #24, The Suspicion also qualifies as it's largely comedic and directly follows a major Wham Novel.
- Book 51 is a pretty good example. The two episodes right before it and the three right after it were some of the darkest books in the series, filled with emotional trauma and huge changes to the status quo. Book 51, on the other hand, is basically one big chase scene, and although it does change the status quo some when the Yeerk invasion is made known to the public, it doesn't end up mattering too much.
- Another good example is Book 20. It came right before two of the darkest books so far and right after The Departure, a Wham Episode. However, the book itself is pretty light and primarily funny rather than dramatic.
- Book 32 stands out for being relatively light, compared to the thee books before it (many of which were on the borderline of Wham Novels), and other than introducing the AMI, it didn't introduce much to the continuity.
- The Ribbajack is an anthology made up of six short stories, one of which, "Miggy Mags and the Malabar Sailor", about the adventures of a girl and her pet mongoose, has a more lighthearted tone than the other five, playing out like a standard adventure story instead of a cautionary tale. To wit: an Eldritch Abomination turns on the Enfante Terrible that summoned it, a school is haunted by a smiling dead girl with a red rose, a fisherman sustains permanent brain damage from an encounter with a kelpie, a school bully gets turned to stone by Medusa, and another Enfante Terrible transforms into a werewolf.
- In "The Maltese Falcon" there is a chapter that didn't make it into the movie. While Sam Spade and Bridget O'Shaughnessy are sitting around waiting for something to happen between several murders and several other murders and Spade sending Bridget to the gallows he tells her the totally irrelevant story of a previous case, a missing man named Flitcraft who went out to lunch one day and vanished. Spade found that he had a near miss with a falling girder and simply walked away because "someone had pulled the lid off life and showed him the works". He later got back into the same business as before, married a woman like his abandoned wife and was pretty much back where he started, although he didn't see it that way.
Live Action TV
- All in the Family: The 1977-1978 season is acclaimed for having some of that series' darkest and most memorable episodes: Archie buys Kelsey's Bar and is addicted to amphetamines, Edith's cousin comes out of the closet, Archie has an all-too-close encounter with the Klu Klux Klan, Edith witnesses a murder, Edith is nearly raped, Archie admits to Mike he was abused as a child, Mike gets a job offer in California, Mike and Gloria say goodbye. But, lest we forget, there were a number of lighter episodes – Edith being hired to do a TV commercial, Archie hosting his first Super Bowl party (even if he was robbed that day), Archie wants to go on a fishing trip but must host an impromptu wedding between two old codgers and a few others. Even though themes of ethics and morals came into play for several of the "lighter" episodes, they were considerably easier and more family friendly than the most memorable of the season's episodes.
- Speaking of which, each one of the seasons, from the second season on, had episodes that were played more for laughs (in the vein of the traditional sitcom of the 1950s and 1960s) than to break another of TV's taboos or address a controversial topic. One of the first – and perhaps the signature episode of the entire series – was a 1972 episode featuring a beloved singer and dancer named Sammy Davis Jr.
- In Smallville, the Darker and Edgier post-Jumping the Shark season nine is punctuated by Warrior, in which a kid gains superpowers by reading a magical comic book.
- The second half of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured one of the show's darker arcs. Comedic episodes such as "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" and "Go Fish" lightened the mood.
- "Tabula Rasa," an episode of wacky mind-loss comedy before we plunge head long into darkness, and don't surface again until the end of the season. May even count as a subversion, as it is the episode where Tara leaves Willow and Giles leaves for England.
- "I Was Made to Love You" is a fun, light-hearted episode just before Buffy's mother suddenly dies and the gang spends most of the rest of the season running for their lives.
- That episode is strangely sadistic though, since Buffy's mother's death happens at the end of the otherwise fun episode in question, instead of waiting until the next episode to do it and just leave "I Was Made to Love You" as fun filler. And of course, the next episode, "The Body" is completely morbid and freakin' TERRIFYING.
- Joss loves the subversion involved in ending a breather episode with a harsh return to the darkness of the main plot ... or even ending a happy moment with a cruel twist. Take "Seeing Red," where Willow and Tara are all giddily happy in their newly reignited relationship at the beginning of the episode, something many fans had been waiting for since their breakup, only to have Tara shot to death 40 minutes later.
- "Intervention". After the previous 2 episodes, the show needed an(other) episode featuring a sex robot.
- In Angel, the first half of Season 3 is a moderately dark arc involving the birth of Angel's son. Then we have "Provider", which includes moments between Wes and Fred, Gunn and Fred, Angel and Cordy, Cordy and Gunn, and especially Wes and Gunn.
- It's followed immediately by "Waiting in the Wings", where the crew attend a performance by a cursed ballet troupe just before the very dark arc dealing with Holtz's plan to kill Angel and kidnap his son.
- In Season 5, Cordelia's and Fred's deaths are separated by "Smile Time", which is this trope writ very large indeed.
- While less well known than "Smile Time", "The Girl in Question" is also a perfect fit for this trope. The episode was immediately before the show's extremely dark and depressing final two episodes. It featured, among other things, Angel and Spike's "arch nemesis" The Immortal, a decapitated demon's head held for ransom, and more than a few Ho Yay moments between the aforementioned vampires.
- This is a recurring trope in multiple Kamen Rider series. Usually done before some kind of big reveal, or other plot twist.
- Kamen Rider Ryuki had a couple, although it did introduce the Sixth Ranger to ORE Journal.
- Kamen Rider Blade had a story arc in which one of the Riders loses his memory and is found by a rather wimpy Identical Stranger, who swaps identities with him in order to escape his family struggles.
- Kamen Rider Kabuto has the infamous Dark Kitchen arc, in which Cooking Duels are very very serious business.
- Kamen Rider OOO has the anniversary arc, in which the cast parodies the first Kamen Rider show in a rather hammy way.
- Kamen Rider Wizard features an actual Christmas episode, during which Santa Claus saves the day. There's also an arc involving a myna bird and hijinks revolving around not getting the Victim of the Week arrested. Considering what happened in the previous episode and the fact that the endgame gets kicked off right after this episode, it's probably necessary to get one good laugh in.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did this regularly in the later seasons to break up the darkest and most complex storyline in the entire franchise: the Dominion War arc. Comedic episodes featuring the Ferengi were especially prominent. It should be noted, however, that Ferengi episodes were being done before the Dominion War as well.
- The last episode to air prior to the Dominion conquering Deep Space Nine seemed designed to lighten a mood that was about to get pretty bleak.
- Other examples that are placed in the middle of a string of arc episodes include the holosuite-centered "Badda Bing Badda Bang" (a heist caper in 1960s Las Vegas) and "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" (a baseball game versus a team of Vulcans).
- "In The Cards" provides a big change in pace to break the tension before the season finale, with Jake and Nog getting into all kinds of hijinks.
- "In the Pale Moonlight" - widely recognized as possibly the darkest episode in Trek canon - was immediately followed by "His Way", a romantic comedy episode explicitly written to get Odo and Kira together.
- Babylon 5 had a mix of Wham Episodes and Breather Episodes earlier on, but even the latter usually advanced some aspect of the overall series Arc, if only in B-plot. By the climax of the arc, they were rarer. They returned some in the fifth season, though they were not necessarily light or fluffy. For example, the fifth-season episode "Day Of The Dead," written by Neil Gaiman, was a completely stand-alone story, and a definite breather after the missteps of the Telepath plotline and before the Centauri War; it was not, however, simple fare.
- Since JMS didn't know if he'd get a fifth season, he packed two seasons' worth of the A plot into season 4, and season 5 was mostly made up of the leftover B plots.
- Wizards of Waverly Place employs this trope, usually after a major story arc.
- Xena: Warrior Princess employed this trope quite often, particularly when Xena and Gabrielle are each forced to kill each other's children in one particular episode.
- Homicide: Life on the Street had Season Five's very funny, self referential "The Documentary" placed between "Blood Wedding" and "Betrayal", two of the most emotionally wrenching episodes in the show's history.
- The episode "Boom Town" in the 2005 season of Doctor Who provided a much-needed break between the gritty darkness of "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" and the climactic "Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways".
- Despite "The Next Doctor" and "Planet of the Dead" having the subject matter of a man having missing identity due to a fugue state, and a race of aliens that turned a thriving world to dust, they were fun romps in comparison to the horrifying "The Waters of Mars" and David Tennant's tragic regeneration story The End of Time.
- Following all-out war in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" and "The Doctor's Daughter" and before the nightmarish Library in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", we have a murder mystery parodying Agatha Christie's works. Attempted murder through cyanide has never been so hilarious!
- After the viewers start to come to turns with Rory's time-erasure in "Cold Blood" and the depression factor of Vincent van Gogh in "Vincent and the Doctor", we get "The Lodger", a nice funny episode where the Doctor pretends to be human and plays football rather well before the HSQ hits the fan in the finale "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang".
- Then for the first half of Series 6, we get the fun little pirate tale "The Curse of the Black Spot" wedged between the thrilling, terrifying and heart wrenching season premiere and the sad and scary "The Doctor's Wife". After Amy, Rory and the Doctor had their egos completely broken and their faith challenged in the second half, leading to the Doctor leaving Rory and Amy behind, we got "Closing Time", which got pretty scary, but nonetheless was far lighter hearted than the preceding episodes (and, incidentally, featured Craig from the previous year's Breather Episode). Although in that case, the Breather managed to finish slightly before the actual episode, with a scene at the end thrown in to remind the audience what was coming.
- Series 7 has two, both written by Chris Chibnall. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was a fun little romp that came after an emotional and horrifying Dalek episode. "The Power Of Three" was a fun and heartwarming Slice of Life episode that focused on the Ponds who get a heartbreaking send off an episode later...
- Way back in the days of William Hartnell, a twelve-part epic called The Daleks' Masterplan was broadcast. Episode 7, The Feast of Steven, was a comedy piece with no Daleks in it.
- After the rather bleak trio of episodes revolving around the death and resurrection of Owen, the Torchwood episode "Something Borrowed" featured Gwen trying to prevent her wedding to Rhys being ruined by an unexpected alien pregnancy. Cue a genuinely funny runaround as the shape-shifting alien's mommy appears at the service looking to retrieve her baby by tearing it out of Gwen's belly.
- Parks and Recreation is never anything but lighthearted, but the season 4 Valentine's Day episode breaks completely from the season-long city council campaign arc.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had the lighthearted Lower Deck/Bottle Episode "You Kill Me," about The Lab Rat Hodges running the other Lab Rats through elaborate (and absurd) murder scenarios as part of a CSI-themed board game he was creating. The previous episode featured the Put on a Bus departure of a main character, while the following episode concerned another main character breaking down after becoming addicted to prescription drugs.
- After the hiatus, Supernatural had a Something Completely Different episode called "Ghostfacers". It was meant to a light and silly little episode to give the fans a break before the last three episodes of the season. Fans literally scoffed until they actually saw the gore, the unhinged crazy and the massive angst-wallowing of those episodes.
- As "Monster Movie" was supposed to air between "Are You There, God..." and "In The Beginning" - but aired after "Metamorphosis" - it certainly counts as this. Fans generally loved it and it can be agreed that it was a lovely break from the increasingly unrelenting misery that Season Four episodes have so far inflicted on the boys. And therein lies the problem: Season Four was so angsty and the boys are so fucked up that it makes this episode unable to fit in anywhere, thus making it a complete standalone.
- It's also remarkable how most of the season 4 "Monster of the Week" episodes were incredibly goofy. First, there was "Monster Movie". Then "Yellow Fever" (Even though it had an extreme Mood Whiplash). Then "Wishful Thinking" with the suicidal teddy bear.
- There is usually at least one breather episode per season, where the show becomes ridiculously self-aware. See "Tall Tales" and "Hollywood Babylon", as well as those mentioned above. Although, this being Supernatural, it is hard to have a completely light-hearted episode.
- In season seven, there was "Plucky Pennywhistles Magical Menagerie" and "Party on Garth" as breather episodes. Except the former ended up angsty because Sam and Dean were actually happy for once note and the latter made everybody tear up because it addressed the possibility of Bobby's ghost hanging around.
- Season nine has "Slumber Party" and "Dog Dean Afternoon" between two episodes heavy with a star-crossed bromance.
- Firefly made it a point to follow some of the more intense episodes with much lighter-hearted ones, such as following the tense, horror-themed episode "Bushwhacked" with the lighter swordfight-y episode "Shindig," or the violent and gunplay-heavy episode "War Stories" with the much more humorous caper episode "Trash."
- The X-Files fourth season is generally considered the darkest, what with Scully's cancer and all. Towards the end of the season the mood is thankfully lightened by "Small Potatoes." The more light-hearted, monster of the week episodes are definitely welcome breaks in the show given how dark things start getting during the "mythology episodes" (episodes that further the over-arching storyline instead of telling a one-off story).
- A much lousier one comes in the middle of three excellent season 2 episodes: "Duane Barry"/"Ascension" (Holy shit! Scully's been abducted!) "3" (Hang on...Mulder wants to bang a vampire...) and "One Breath" (Holy shit! Scully's been returned and might die! What was "3" about again?)
- There were several times in almost every season in which the X-Files would suddenly shift from aliens, demons, ghosts, and civilization-threatening conspiracies to straight-up comedy and back again. "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" is considered one of the best episodes of the entire series, despite being self-parody on every level possible (or maybe even because of it).
- LOST broke from the darkness of season 3 with "Tricia Tanaka is Dead".
- Semi-lampshaded by Hurley in the episode:
- Season 2 is filled with these, most notably (and least annoyingly) the episode centered on Bernard and Rose's backstory.
- Season 5's "Some Like It Hoth": a Miles flashback episode whose present day portion features he and Hurley bumming around.
- The Office had the amusing "Café Disco" episode towards the end of the fifth season to break up the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline and the (assumed) Pam/Jim baby storyline.
- Farscape had "Revenging Angel", which was mostly done in the style of a Looney Tunes cartoon, wedged between the two episodes dealing with the death of one of the Crichtons.
- In the midst of the dark and grim Ori storyline, Stargate SG-1 had "200", the show's 200th episode, which revisited the Show Within a Show introduced in the 100th episode as a way for the creators to parody themselves and Lampshade the hell out of everything without having to break the Fourth Wall. It takes the form of a Vignette Episode in which the eponymous team, SG-1, is meeting with an old acquaintance who is writing a sci-fi action film based (loosely) on them and their experiences. Most of the humor comes from the (often bizarre) ideas that the characters propose, including blatant references to The Wizard of Oz, Farscape, and Star Trek, as well as parodies of related genres. Now sandwich this episode between one involving savage murders and evil aliens who have infiltrated Earth, and one involving genocide and presumed character death. And put the main characters through plenty more situations just as nasty throughout the course of the season.
- Ronald D. Moore attempted do this once or twice with Battlestar Galactica. After nearly a dozen hours of the most dramatic and emotionally draining stories that the Sci Fi Channel had seen, the network pleaded with him to create a lighter, more humorous episode. That episode ended up being "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down". While somewhat more schticky than any previous or following episode, it certainly didn't help the goal that Eddie Olmos himself took the reins as director.
- The writing team of Battlestar Galactica was notoriously incapable of producing such episodes. The third season episode "Taking a Break From All Your Worries" was another response to a plea from the network for a breather. It was originally intended to be a fun, light stand-alone episode concerning the establishment of a bar on the Galactica. what made it onto screen was an almost unbearably grimdark episode in which the B-plot involves the suicidally depressing dysfunction of several romantic relationships, while the A-plot covers the force-feeding, mock execution, and drug-induced torture of a major character. Fun!
- Star Trek: The Next Generation did this immediately after the climactic events of "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2". Picard was rescued and cured of Borg assimilation, and rather than dive straight back into adventure of the week, he took some shore leave on Earth to recover, in the episode "Family". This was also incidentally the first episode in Star Trek history to feature no shots of the bridge of the Enterprise. (Unless you count animated episodes, in which case, TAS: The Slaver Weapon was the first. This was the second.)
- The original series episode "All Our Yesterdays" had no Enterprise scenes at all. The only link to the Enterprise was Scotty's off-screen voice over Kirk's communicator. The entire episode took place on the planet with the landing party.
- Of course, "Family" was originally meant to have a big science fiction plot as the focus. Instead, they made "Family" a breather episode and moved the sci-fi plot to its own episode, "Remember Me".
- The first four seasons of The Amazing Race had a non-elimination leg between the final elimination leg and the finale. Since there were no penalties given out to teams saved by the non-elimination for those seasons, most teams considered this a free leg.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles had two comedic episodes "Barcelona: May 1917" and "Prague: August 1917" that were edited together in the DVD release as "Adventures in Espionage". "Barcelona" was directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones, and features young Indy getting caught up with a bunch of bumbling international spies. "Prague" fares worse, the whole episode is Indy's quest to...install a telephone.
- The Glee episode "Dream On" deals with how dreams don't always come true, and is by far the darkest episode in the first season, as it brutally forces wheelchair-bound Artie to accept that he'll most likely be paraplegic for the rest of his life. The next episode was a tribute to Lady Gaga and Kiss.
- Stargate Universe used "Faith" to give the audience a break after the political tension and space battles of "Space" and "Divided".
- Earlier, "Earth" was the first episode which did not involve an imminent threat to the survival of the crew. They then got right back on it with "Time".
- "Cloverdale" provided a mostly-humorous breather in the middle of a darker arc involving Chloe's transformation and Rush's control of the ship.
- Most of the recent Super Sentai series have these kinds of episodes for either Christmas or New Year's Day, though there have been some exceptions - Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters had theirs around episodes 31-32, tying it into a Cross Over with Gavan Type-G.
- The popular Power Rangers Wild Force episode "Forever Red", the franchise's 10th-anniversary celebration featuring (almost) all of the series' Red Rangers going on a stand-alone mission, was just after the end of the Animus arc, and is followed by a two-parter that kicks off the final story arc when Master Org returns.
- The Boy Meets World episode "Bee True" from season six was the first purely comedic episode after eight straight episodes with at least one dramatic plotline. In those eight episode the show dealt with themes such as death, grief, finding oneself, parental abandonment, parental responsibility, and premature birth. "Bee True" involved Cory and Shawn concocting a Zany Scheme to help Mr. Feeny win over Dean Bolander.
- According to Stephen Colbert, A Colbert Christmas was a breather episode for real life. After the intensity of the 2008 elections, this is quite believable.
- For being a show where almost every episode includes at least one murder, The Closer has had surprisingly many:
- The relatively light episode "The Round File" immediately follows "Ruby", which features a man who rapes and kills black pre-teen girls.
- "Dial M for Provenza" is a mostly comedic episode about a woman who tries to put out a hit on her husband but is too stupid to pull it off, and is immediately followed by "Problem Child", about a missing 14-year-old boy who turns out to have been a budding psychopath, who terrorized everyone he knew.
- "Tapped Out", the episode with the over the top fake cop, the screaming woman and the sleazy victim who kind of had it coming, is definitely a breather episode.
- "Smells like Murder", the episode with the body in the cooler that's sent to the LAPD by mail, is sandwiched between "Identity Theft", about a man who's on trial for murder and pleads guilty to protect his schizophrenic son, and "Maternal Instincts", about a teenage boy who is shot in a parking lot but doesn't die right away and bonds with Brenda's niece.
- The format of Skins - where each episode focuses on a different character in its ensemble - gives it a lot of room to do this, as it can easily bounce from a character who is dealing with more serious issues to one dealing with more lighthearted ones, without losing its place in either. Probably one of the most notable examples in the series' history is JJ's episode in Season 4, seeing as it was sandwiched between Freddie and Effy's episodes dealing with a very dark storyline about mental illness, self-harm and an Ax-Crazy psychiatrist. JJ's episode, on the other hand, was a cute, lighthearted romp about him pursuing another employee at the grocery store where he worked, and his friendship with Thomas.
- The third season's last episode of Downton Abbey may qualify, with a Bratty Teenage Daughter as the main problem, after the episodes about Sybil's death, and Thomas' first serious trouble because of his orientation.
- ER tended to follow its sadder, wrenching episodes with slightly more upbeat ones that made the lingering effects of the tragedy the B-plot of the episode rather than the main focus—"Love's Labor Lost (Greene mishandles a childbirth, resulting in the woman's death), with "Full Moon, Saturday Night" (a very quirky episode that was basically Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with Greene's subsequent Heroic BSOD being in the background), "The Storm 2" (Doug resigns in disgrace, abandoning Carol), with "Middle Of Nowhere" (taking us completely out of the ER, following Benton as he travels to Mississippi), "All In The Family" (Lucy's death), with "Be Patient" (a very run-of-the-mill episode).
- From the Earth to the Moon episode "That's All There Is" depicts Apollo 12, which was almost a Real Life breather episode between the monumental achievement of Apollo 11 and crisis of Apollo 13. With flippant, foul-mouthed Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and New Meat Alan Bean making the trip, it's much more lighthearted and comedic.
- "Walk of Life", by Dire Straits. "After all the violence and double talk, here's just a song in all the trouble and the strife."
- "A Warm Place" from The Downward Spiral, a calm instrumental sandwiched between the short, violent 'Big Man With A Gun' and the death-wish clatter of 'Eraser'.
- The Vienna Teng album Warm Strangers sandwiches "Passage", a haunting high-octane Tear Jerker with a bit of eerie thrown in for good measure, in between "Anna Rose", a lullaby that is probably the closest Vienna gets to Tastes Like Diabetes territory, and The Atheist Christmas Carol, a calm, soothing song (which, despite what the title suggests, is not an Author Tract).
- "Pinball Wizard" by The Who became a famous hit mainly because it's a Breather Episode on Tommy.
- Portishead's "Deep Water", a simple ukelele song between the percussion-heavy "We Carry On" and "Machine Gun".
- David Bowie's darker albums usually have one or two uptempo/hopeful numbers breaking up the gloom.
- "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock and Roll with Me" on Diamond Dogs (the other songs bespeak the album rising from the ashes of an aborted Nineteen Eighty-Four stage musical).
- "Boys Keep Swinging" on Lodger.
- "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" and "Everyone Says 'Hi'" on Heathen.
- "Dancing Out in Space" on The Next Day.
- A few of these have taken place, including Atton Rand's focus on the antics of Enter and Return after LEGO Island was sent into the Torn World, the periods between Story Arcs, and the calm before the Final Battle.
- Crisis Core features a breather mission. Right after a very dramatic point, where Zack has to fight and kill his mentor and best friend, then spends the rest of the cutscene crying and being comforted by Aerith, Zack is next seen on vacation in Costa Del Sol. He's then attacked by scuba-geared enemies, and has to fight them off with a beach umbrella in lieu of his BFS.
- The original Final Fantasy VII featured one as well, after Aeris dies at the end of disk one, the beginning of disk two immediately gives you a snowboarding minigame to lighten the mood.
- Chapter 8 of Final Fantasy XIII has Sazh and Vanille going to Cocoon's theme park, featuring an absolutely gorgeous FMV cutscene. Shortly after this, the shit hits the fan - Dajh reappears and just as quickly turns to crystal, Sazh finds out that Vanille is partly responsible for turning his son into a l'Cie, and by the end of the chapter both characters have tried to kill themselves.
- The actual Breather Chapter would be the tenth, where the crew (and the players) enjoy some leisurely Dungeon Crawling after the massive whams of chapter 9.
- After the intense emotional drama and Bittersweet Ending of Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 may be considered a breather game, with its all-female cast, bouncier J-Pop soundtrack and more upbeat storyline.
- Within X itself, the Calm Lands could be considered this; after the intense Macalania, Bikanel and Bevelle sections ( during which the game's first major reveal occurred), you're treated to a beautiful open plain, featuring some new (and sometimes, challenging) enemies, that the party can trek and wonder at their leisure... before getting pulled straight back into drama with Mt. Gagazet.
- Episode 9 of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness could be considered one of these as it's one of the funniest episodes of the game place right after one of the series' biggest tear jerkers.
- The Hundred-Acre Wood, and later Atlantica, serve this purpose in the Kingdom Hearts series.
- Chapter 6 of Mother 3 is simply a walk in a field of flowers and a bunch of flashbacks. This is just after the battle-heavy, tower-climbing fifth chapter, and just before the boss-filled, massive seventh chapter.
- It's worth noting that it was a break only in gameplay; emotionally it is rather heavy.
- Though Planescape: Torment is not that combat-based a game, the Brothel Of Slaking Intellectual Lusts, and in fact most of the Clerk's Ward is basically combat-free, epitomized by a sequence in which your characters hang out with a bunch of sexy women, swap stories, solve mysteries, and discuss philosophy with them while pleasant music plays in the background. You will find that hours have passed since you last killed anything. And after that everything goes to hell. Literally. Twice.
- The chapter "Black Mesa East" in Half-Life 2 provides a welcome break between the long canal sequence ("Route Kanal" and "Water Hazard") and the zombie-filled Survival Horror slaughterfest "We Don't Go To Ravenholm".
- Chapters 12 and 13 of Super Robot Wars W don't advance the plot at all, but rather are two Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu-based comedy chapters. A New Game+ replaces them with two different, equally goofy chapters.
- The third case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All fits between the extremely heavy second case (where Phoenix's assistant is accused of murder) and the perhaps-heaviest-in-the-series fourth case (where his assistant is kidnapped, forcing Phoenix to defend someone he knows to be guilty.) The third case takes place at a circus, features an effeminate magician as defendant, and a clown and Ventriloquist Dummy as major witnesses. It's not particularly well liked as an installment.
- Also applies to the third case of the first game, which, aside from introducing two recurring characters, is a lot less plot relevant than the previous or subsequent cases.
- Arguably, Case 2 and 3 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Both introduce characters who will be important later, but little about either case has consequences in subsequent levels.
- Case 2 and 3 of Trials and Tribulations. The former introduces the new prosecutor and the latter revisits a defendent from the previous game, but both have little relevance to the overarching story arc.
- Case 3 is actually a subversion. Godot's inability to see the color red turns out to be an extremely dangerous piece of evidence during the last case.
- Averted in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth - all 5 cases are somehow tied in to one smuggling ring, although the third (notice a pattern) has the most tenuous link.
- In general, the third case of any given Ace Attorney game will be a breather episode.
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of <insert version> ends the main story on a very powerful and emotional note, wherein you die, and the last thing you see before the credits roll is your partner breaking down in tears. The first mission in the postgame arc? Playful hazing while you look for fruit.
- The Cardbridge area in Alice: Madness Returns is a peaceful, beautiful, enemy-free level composed entirely of jumping puzzles. It offers a break from the constant horrors of the previous stage and sets you up to be punched all the harder by the even worse shit in Queensland.
- Asura's Wrath, episode 10, which is basically an Onsen Episode where Asura rests up after his fight with Kalrow to get ready for his epic fight on the moon with his master Augus in episode 11.
- The iDOLM@STER 2 - Mami's route compared to the others. In fact, depending on the answers the producer gives them during their story scenes, it can be even more amusing.
- The tournament in Wysteria serves as this for Wizard 101 since it's suppose to take place somewhere between the player attempting to prevent a master criminal from escaping and having to perform a spiritual and mental detox on both the emperor and the land itself. Do note this is NOT an Breather Level as this is the earliest place the player can encounter cheating bosses.
- The Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 could be interpreted to be this. Much of the main mission set in it is one comedic moment after another. For example, Shepard is at one point more incensed that s/he sounds corny when saying "I should go" than the fact that s/he and his/her squadmates are trapped in a sealed vault with limited air.
- inFAMOUS 2 features a cutscene where Cole returns to his and Zeke's hideout and, rather than discuss absorbing the Blast Core he found earlier, shut off their cell phones and simply watch TV while drinking beers. Cole doesn't actually get around to absorbing the Blast Core until later that night, after Zeke passes out.
- El Goonish Shive has a breather arc of sorts; after the intense Damien arc, the next story arc involved throwing Grace her first birthday party. However, as that arc took nearly a year to resolve and was stuffed to the gills with filler, it may have been too much of a breather from the main plot; in fact, you may have to think for a good five minutes to recall that there was a larger plot beyond people being turned into things.
- One could also consider the "New and Old Friends" arcs to be breather episodes after the "Sister" arc and the current "Bringing Silly Back" arcs to be
all mostly breathers following the very angst and action heavy "Sister II".
- YMMV, considering the angst-heavy "Hammerchlorians" and the action-heavy "New and Old Flames".
- Done frequently in Sluggy Freelance. One of the most notable examples is the "Oceans Unmoving" arc, which was fairly serious and even depressing by Sluggy Freelance standards. It's broken into two halves, however. After the first half, Pete spent an arc showing everyone not involved in the "Oceans Unmoving" story going about their daily lives, trying to earn money and arguing over videogames. Then he did another arc that was an extended parody of 28 Days Later. Then another arc parodying the Harry Potter franchise, before finally resuming the "Oceans Unmoving" story. Then there's the "Aylee" chapter (also one of Sluggy's more serious outings) which took a break in the middle of the climax so Torg could tell a silly story about Riff sawing people in half with dimensional portals.
- Most recently, an incredibly heavy moment with Riff discovering that Zoe is alive, but that her burns from the encounter with Oasis are so severe that she's been trapped in life-support ever since. Riff ends up resolved to find her and save her from the pain. This is followed by marooned villains Crushestro and Monicruel being rescued by Crushie's
- Webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del intersperses the story arcs with random stand-alone strips. For this trope in particular, Chef Brian.
- After an especially epic conclusion to a story arc, Homestuck went off on a tangent with the Midnight Crew intermission. Also a breather episode for the author, who needed to fix up his server before he could continue to the next arc.
- After two tiring battles with the big bad in Jix, the comic switches tracks and has a story about Lauren trying to get the alien androids living in her apartment to do chores.
- And after Jix's recent fight with the big bad's daughter, Lauren and Jix took a relaxing roadtrip to hunt down the remains of the big bad's daughter's ship before they reached Area 51.
- Voodoo Walrus recently broke the tension of a storyline that was going from bad to worse for the main characters by cutting to reoccurring femme fatale Mac, quite literally, getting off on the pair's misery.
- Several arcs in Schlock Mercenary. "Massively Parallel" in particular has three of the five sections (Credomar Command, High Olympus Command and Mallcop Command) devoted to largely safe and light-hearted activities for the various groups of Toughs, which provides a nice break from Barsoom Command which involves Schlock's team getting tangled in a government conspiracy to flush Lunnesby out of the Luna computer systems, and provides a soft start for the insanely action-filled final section of the book, "Command and Conquer," where the team must rescue Tagon's father and KevynPrime from an angry mob boss.
- Most arcs that appear to be breathers, however, end up becoming charlie foxtrots in a hurry. Another relative breather would be the entire book "Longshoreman of the Apocolypse," which while occasionally violent had little relevance to the galaxy on the whole and rarely seemed exceptionally dangerous, a nice break from the past four books that alternated between government conspiracies, threats to the galaxy and character bloodbaths.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has a few. Funny chapters are often thrown in between more serious ones.
- After a long string of Wham Episodes, lonelygirl15 had "Backyard Bikini Patrol", an episode devoted largely to characterization and fanservice.
- After the heavy dramatic exposition in episodes 18 and 19, Unforgotten Realms made Episode 20, A Day in the Limelight with ROAMIN the paladin, watching him solve crimes in his... unique fashion.
- Entry #23 of Marble Hornets is the most brutally scary of the series, with J returning to the abandoned house and being teleported all over the place, hearing the horrible static, somehow ending up in the factory seen in #22, and actually meeting the Slender Man. Entry #24, by contrast, 'only' has the Paranoia Fuel of J's own house apparently making him disappear for hours at a time, which by the standards of the series is relatively calming.
- And again in the more recent entry #46 which returns to an only slightly lesser scary than that of #23. In it Jay breaks into Alex's house and comes in direct contact with Slenderman. This was a huge shock, considering the lack of frame splitting prior to his appearance. This was followed by Entry #47, which is entirely shot in daylight hours and involved nothing but talking.
- After the nasty emotional rollercoaster of the Olympics plot (which involved the deaths/resurrection of half the founding Titans, Troia having to make her children Dead for Real) and Ra's Al Ghul's Plague (involving a global plague so virulent it killed millions of people, had heroes dropping like flies, and almost killed Superman), JLA Watchtower / DC Nation followed it up with a rather silly "Annual Chili Cookoff" plotline set at Warrior's bar.
- This Very Wiki's True Art page consists mainly of huge Mind Screw, after a little Mind Screw, the page immediately cuts back and offers an explanation of what True Art can be before resuming the Mind Screw.
- Atop the Fourth Wall has fairly serious story arcs, with the bulk of the plot generally taking place after the funny review. After major events, Linkara tends to have a few episodes with no story (or very little), which are just the funny review, with maybe a bit of foreshadowing or a more dramatic post-credits scene.
- One week in February, The Nostalgia Critic reviewed Patch Adams and showed it for the disrespectful, glurgey, disgustingly uncomfortable mess it was. The very next week, he did an episode on Ponyo, having fun with the adorable charm of the movie.
- Enforced by the "Top 11 Most Fuck Yeah Movie Themes", as the character feels like he needs something happy and uplifting to distract him from the rising self-loathing that will spill over four episodes later.
- Part four of the Darker and Edgier To Boldly Flee, while still foreshadowing depressing stuff, was more like the "everyone's shooting and being slapsticky" feel the audience was used to from the site. Of course it ended on a downer with Snob getting kidnapped by the baddies, and only got darker from there.
- Warning Readers Advisory has had a couple—one to fill a slot on the schedule that was delayed due to some technical difficulties, and one as a regular breather after a handful of plot-heavy episodes that came before.
- Noob started having breather episodes after Cerebus Syndrome settled in. Season 3, in which the very faction to which the protagonists belong is in danger of outright disappearing after its almost keystone top player gets banned, has an episode focusing on a video game tester trying out the game. Season 4, in which the main guild's members leaving one after the other, has the introduction of a new member that has an original way to blow off steam from his job as professional player.
- The Sharkasm Crew puts in a lot of effort is to hype up the Paranormal Activitiy series of tournaments and make them the very best they can be. Thus, side tourneys such as TGIC were made.
- Avatar The Last Airbender had the light-hearted character vignette episode "Tales of Ba Sing Se" right after a very dark and dramatic episode that changed the perception of the "haven" of Ba Sing Se. Then after the dark depressing "Lake Laogai" episode is "The Earth King" where the Gaang finally overthrows the Dai Li, subverted in that it couldn't last. Similarly, "Nightmares & Daydreams" was (for the most part) a breather between the quite scary and grim "The Puppetmaster" and the "Day of Black Sun" two-parter.
- The second half of the third season does this again with "The Ember Island Players", a humorous, fandom-related recap of the entire series right before the 4-part series finale.
- This was a bit of a subversion though because the play ended up having a Downer Ending.
- Of course it was a Downer Ending. It was directed by someone from the Fire Nation. For him and everyone else (excect the Gaang), it was Happily Ever After.
- The Ember Island Players actually gets a slight lampshade hung on its Breather Episode status by Sokka at the beginning of the episode.
- The first four seasons of Teen Titans each have an off-the-wall comedy just before the season finale, all of which are varying degrees of dark.
- On a larger level, Season Three was almost a breather arc, seeing as it was a fairly lighthearted storyline about Cyborg's escalating enmity with Large Ham Diabolical Mastermind Brother Blood, sandwiched between the (dark) Terra arc and the (really dark) Raven arc.
- The fact that they had to make Brother Blood a large ham to give viewers a breather just shows off how nasty Slade and Trigon are.
- "Mad Mod" is a breather before "The Apprentice (Parts 1 & 2)", "Fracture" is a breather between "Betrayal" and "Aftershock (Parts 1 & 2". "Mother Mae-Eye" is a breather right before "The End (Parts 1-3)"
- Danny Phantom is a blend of comedy and drama, but after the heavy handed "Reign Storm" dealt with a number of story arcs, Character Development, and continuity, the next episode was the lighthearted (possibly THE most lighthearted of the series) "Identity Crisis" which is played for laughs from start to finish. There is also "The Ultimate Enemy" which was just fearsome (and a fan favorite). After that episode aired, viewers got the lighthearted, cutesy, and hilarious Christmas Episode.
- The long and uncharacteristically dark "Transwarped" season premiere in Transformers Animated was immediately followed by the lighthearted antics of the Constructicons and a wacky one-shot character in "Three's a Crowd". Then "Where Is Thy Sting" took us right back to dark again.
- At the end of its second season, Justice League broke up the tense Joker episode "Wild Cards" and the Grand Finale "Starcrossed" with "Comfort And Joy," a completely hartwarming story that show how each of the League members spends Christmas.
- The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: Mainly averted with the exception of the paired episodes "Crimes R Us" and "Life's Ruff." In the first, the Koopas bust a criminal out of jail who teaches them how to commit crimes. They eventually throw the Mushroom Kingdom at their mercy until the criminal, having been double-crossed, enlists the Mario Bros. help to stop them. The second is a light-hearted affair in which Luigi and Ice Land's King get turned into dogs.
- The late Season Two episode of Gargoyles, "Vengeance", which has the major plot of Wolf teaming up with his long-dead ancestor Hakon and hunting Goliath, had the minor plot of a schlub named Vinnie who'd lost a lot of jobs as a security guard thanks to gargoyles and seeking them for revenge. He had a BFG built and finally shot Goliath in the face. With a cream pie. And said that they were even now. This and the episode involving the three youngest males competing over Angela were in between much more serious episodes.
- The relatively light-hearted "Showtime" was sandwiched between the scary-loaded "Scarecrow" and "Psychocrypt" on Galaxy Rangers.
- Cute and happy Nicktoon ChalkZone is usually made up of cute and happy episodes. Then came "Double Trouble", which was uh...to be blunt, not sugary AT ALL. It makes you forget that you're actually watching Chalkzone. After that episode, we get even more happy fun cuteness.
- Sonic Sat AM had two of them both consisted of two shorts rather than a full episode, the show had a very dark theme most episodes were about the characters saving or attempting to save others from Dr. Robotnik or uncovering clues from the past while trying to avoid being caught by Robotnik. The first of these irregular episodes involves Antoine being kicked out of the Freedom Fighters and joining a gang of biker hyenas. The second short involved Sonic telling ghost stories to Tails and Antoine and they believe the ghost exists. The second two-in-one episode involves Sonic's house being destroyed during a snowstorm and moving in with Antoine, which drives him nuts, and the second segment was a more AoStH-style episode where one of Rotor's robots falls in love with Antoine and keeps stalking him. As you can tell, Antoine is the most prominently featured character in these episodes.
- Episode 10 of Sym-Bionic Titan is a teen romantic comedy set between a Tear Jerker episode and a particualrly violent and intense one.
- ReBoot's episode Game Over is a subversion. It appears to give the main characters a break from Megabyte's invasion and Enzo can play the games without having to worry about getting ambushed when they end. Then he loses an eye and the game.
- Regular Show has "My Mom", the first episode in which nothing particularly wild or crazy happens — it's mostly just Muscle Man teasing Mordecai and Rigby, who are annoyed by his antics. Keep in mind this is a series whose first episode included a magical keyboard that transported everyone to the Moon where they fought an Eldritch Abomination.
- A better example is "See You There". It involves a birthday party with just a few hijinks by the end.
- On Generator Rex, "Badlands" was a lighthearted episode pitting the eponymous character against a hammy Card-Carrying Villain, set between an episode revealing a previously-unknown chunk of Rex's backstory and the serious Season Finale.
- The second season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic started with Discord emotionally breaking the mane cast and coming dangerously close to conquering Equestria before finally being beaten. This is followed by the surprisingly frightening "Lesson Zero" before we finally get a let up from the fearsome with "Luna Eclipsed" (which was, surprisingly, the Halloween Episode of all things), but still dealt with the relatively serious matter of Princess Luna struggling to earn her subjects' respect back after her stint as Nightmare Moon. It isn't until "Sisterhooves Social" that we finally get a completely mundane episode centering around Rarity's dealing with her little sister Sweetie Belle, followed by another episode centering on Applebloom.
- "Not Without My Anus" was supposed to be a breather episode sandwiched within the South Park two-parter "Carman's Mom is a Dirty Slut". However, the fact that it came as an April Fools' Day prank after a season-ending Cliffhanger made this anything but a breather to a great many infuriated fans. The next episode to air on April 1st, Season 13's "Eat, Pray, Queef", not only lampshaded this, but was anything but a breather.
- The episode "Kenny Dies" is a very serious, sad story about Kenny dying for good. The next episode, the season finale, is all about Butters.
- Though the one about Butters is arguably a definite aversion, since it involves Mr. Stotch having a homosexual affair, and Mrs. Stotch going completely insane with grief over it and trying to kill herself and Butters.
- South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was a more blacker comedy with a hint of drama than the show was at the time. The next episode to air after the release was "Sexual Harassment Panda".
- The Futurama Season 7 finale "Reincarnation" is a playful cool-down after the much more dramatic "Overclockwise" that preceded it.
- The Family Guy episodes "Seahorse Seashell Party" and "Screams Of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", the former a Wham Episode where Meg finally calls out her family for their horrible treatment of her and the latter a Darker and Edgier Very Special Episode about Domestic Abuse. The next episode was a fun Brian & Stewie plot.
- The Powerpuff Girls had a version with a Breather Segment. The Tear Jerker of "Twisted Sister" was followed by "Cover Up", an episode about Buttercup trying to overcome the reliance of a Security Blanket.
- Similarly, the scary and sad "Speed Demon" being followed by the light-hearted yet anvilicious "Mojo Jonesin'".
- Also with "Knock It Off" being folowed by "Keen on Keane".
- The Secret Saturdays: "Curse of the Stolen Tiger" is a lighthearted episode about Zak's powers interacting with a cryptid's ability and causing him bad luck. It falls between the action-heavy and emotionally charged "Once More the Nightmare Factory" and the dramatic revelations of "The Kur Guardian".
- Dora the Explorer: "Boots's Special Day" is mostly about enjoying him; he and Dora do things for the fun of it, and the audience isn't asked for much help.
- Total Drama Island had "Brunch of Disgustingness", a gross foods challenge smack dab in the middle of the season (episode #14 of 26, or 27 if one counts the ensuing special). With no elimination and a one-off rejiggering of the teams, this episode is essentially the season's halftime show.
- The first season had "Haute Camp-ture", which showed where all the voted-off campers go after they're were voted off.
- Metalocalypse in Season 4 had "Dethvanity", a stand-alone episode about the band's image problems, between a series of increasingly arc-heavy episodes.
- Adventure Time: "Box Prince", a relativately normal episode without any of the usual weird stuff from the rest of the series, with a plot involving Cute Kittens.
- In Team Umizoomi, "Robo-Tools", "The Sunshine Fairy", and "Little Panda Joe" are the breather episodes of Season 4, which introduced the TroubleMakers into that season and had more use of any antagonist.
- "The Sunshine Fairy" is a Double Subversion. The episode had a antagonist, but this antagonist was a gnome name Grog.