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Dénouement
Pictured: the Dénouement in her element, unraveling plot threads.

Denouement (pronounced day-noo-mahn) is French for "unknotting", and denotes the point in the story when mysteries are unraveled, fates are determined and explanations made. It is not synonymous with climax: This is the aftermath of the action, not the peak. It is usually the scene after the climax — although it can happen in such close proximity to the events of the climax that it may appear to be part of it. An equivalent English expression would be "tying up loose ends".

It is fairly ubiquitous, though not all stories have dénouements. How final and extensive it is depends on the scale of the plot — and whether there may be a sequel. For a Happy Ending or even Bittersweet Ending, this is generally where the happiness is shown. As a consequence, many usual rules -- directed at keeping conflict and suspense going — are suspended here. The Law of Inverse Fertility, for instance, does not apply; if The Hero and the Love Interest married at the climax, a dénouement may show them happily anticipating the birth of, or cooing over, their first child.

In the Downer Ending, or even the Bittersweet Ending, the tragedy may taper off. The Hero died at the climax; the Dénouement shows his Meaningful Funeral, or his friends raising a glass To Absent Friends. The Star-Crossed Lovers had to part; the Dénouement shows them going on with their lives, however sadly.

In television writing, this is usually The Tag, sometimes a Dénouement Episode. A Sequel Hook may feature. If the Dénouement is very long, it's Ending Fatigue. If it's missing, there's No Ending.

Not to be confused with Détournement.

Ending Trope. Spoilers follow.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • After the end of Fruits Basket, we see a scene with Tohru's granddaughter talking to her mother, and her grandparents walking together, holding hands.
  • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! (which has a Bittersweet Ending) has a particularly poignant dénouement, implying that Futaba succeed her big sister as a Pretty Cure.
  • Similarly, in Kiki's Delivery Service, the ending theme shows such images as Jiji and Lily having kittens, Tombo flying an airplane, and a little girl dressed up as Kiki, wrapping up their arcs, and showing the entire city's acceptance of Kiki.
  • At the end of My Neighbor Totoro, we see scenes from the future, such as Mother's return home, rolling alongside the credits.
  • Popotan ends with the sisters arriving in a new time period, inhabited by an older Mai (Konami's daughter). This after they've decided to continue travelling in the episode's climax.
  • For such a hot-blooded series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a mellow, melancholy dénouement.

     Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, a Flash Forward at a funeral reveals the fates of several main characters:
    • Paradigm saves lives as a paramedic.
    • Portia fights side-by-side with the Ghoul.
    • Pronto seeks counselling and rehabilitation in prison.
    • Plymouth forgives Pronto and visits him frequently in prison.
    • Grace happily marries the woman of her dreams.
    • Phylum writes a bestselling autobiography.
    • IQ Squared ends up in prison, but with his father's respect.

     Fan Works 
  • The last real chapter of With Strings Attached (there are two postscripts) has the four talking with Shag and Varx about being sent back to Earth—but without their magic, which has John and Paul overjoyed but George disappointed and Ringo heartbroken. They also learn a little bit about the Fans (which turns out to be lies, though they never find that out) and decide not to tie up their last loose end by rescuing Lyndess.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, the last chapter is entirely dénouement, with the climax coming at the end of the preceding chapter as Heather reveals her gesture of remembrance.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter, the dénouement actually happened before the climax. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry meets with Albus Dumbledore in an ethereal place, and Dumbledore explains most of the mysteries that are still left unanswered. Although the fates are still undetermined at this point.
    • Some fans, however, criticized the final book because of its rather meager and somewhat rushed post-climax dénouement before the Distant Finale.
  • In the twelfth A Series of Unfortunate Events book there is a hotel aptly named this. The Dénouement is run by triplets (also named Dénouement), and it answers a ton of the questions in the series, but still leaves a treasure trove left unsaid.
    • This is a Discussed Trope in book 12, as Snicket explains the difference between the dénouement and ending of a story, in traditonal Snicket style.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King probably had a higher percentage of dénouement than any other story ever written. After the the climax is over, and the characters journey to their homes, saying goodbyes on the way, a new conflict is introduced. A new conflict. After The Climax.
  • In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice the final chapter recounts how the two marriages occurred, and the happy life of the couples thereafter.
    • In Persuasion Anne Eliot and Captain Wentwrorth actually marry, and Captain Wentworth acts on behalf of her friend Mrs. Smith.
    • In Northanger Abbey, General Tilney relents, and Catherine and Henry marry.
    • In Mansfield Park, Edward and Fanny marry and after a few years move to a better living.
  • In Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, after the heroine marries the king, and the heart-broken lover leaves, it recounts how every year, the new queen would send him a messenger, telling him of her.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Red Fury, after the battle has dealt with the Bloodfiends, and the other Chapters have decided to tithe to the Blood Angels so that chapter will survive — they learn that Fabius Bile has stolen some "sacred vitae". Rafen is charged with recovering it in the last scene.
    • In Black Tide, Noxx comes to see Rafen and talk, before they part to bring back the escaped Space Marines to their chapters.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Warlord of Mars, Thuvia's hopeless crush on John Carter is showing every sign of being cured by meeting his son Carthoris. (Things go wrong after so that she and he get their own book, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.)
  • The Philip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler frequently end with a dénouement, which occur during the villain's confrontation and/or in a closing scene (where Marlowe explains anything missed).

    Videogames 
  • Metal Gear Solid always does this. 1 has it right before the final fight, 2 and 3 have it place with the ending and 4 has it after the credits.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has an entire level set after the Final Battle, where you can talk to your Companions and significant Origin characters to learn about their future plans, while the cheering crowd outside waits to see their savior. If the Warden dies, there is a Meaningful Funeral for him/her instead. Additionally, there is a slide show epilogue detailing the fates of your Companions and some NPCs. And there is the Witch Hunt DLC, which wraps up Morrigan's storyline, which was Left Hanging in the original game. Yeah, DA likes this trope.
  • On a similar note, the abruptness of the end and thus lack of Denouement in the final Mass Effect game... well, the fan outcry isn't pretty. It was so bad that Bioware went back and patched in a more detailed version. Not exactly done to satisfaction for some, but at least it finally explained a few things.
    • The Citadel DLC provided closure, albeit before the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Despite not technically being a denouement, the DLC felt like one, providing closure with crewmembers (and the love interest), with Shepard reverently sighing at the end, "It's been quite a ride."
  • The slideshow/text epilogue, with voiced narration, was used for all Fallout games and Arcanum.
  • In the When They Cry series, it usually happens in the 7th out of 8 episodes. Except for all of the lies and new questions that get added in during that time.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • At the end of Cars, scenes from Radiator Springs' future are run, along with the credits.

Coup de GrâceTrope Names from the FrenchDetournement
ConsistencyOmnipresent TropesDistinctive Appearances
DeconstructionLit. Class TropesDeus ex Machina
Deadly Distant FinaleEnding TropesDénouement Episode
Decon-Recon SwitchMeta-ConceptsDefictionalization
Deliberately MonochromeImageSource/PhotographyDepth Deception

alternative title(s): The Denouement
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