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Diabolus ex Machina

Diabolus ex Machina (Demon from the Machine) is the Evil Counterpart of Deus ex Machina: the introduction of an unexpected new event, character, ability, or object designed to ensure that things suddenly get much worse for the protagonists, much better for the villains, or both.

Observers of this trope should note three things:
  1. Diabolus ex Machina is often brought in simply because if the villain were to lose, the story would be over. Like the Deus Ex Machina, it only applies if it comes out of left field.
  2. Like the Deus Ex Machina, a Diabolus Ex Machina does not necessarily occur at the end. Though it often overlaps with Ending Tropes, it should not be confused for one.
  3. The Diabolus Ex Machina, while a very common Pet Peeve Trope when used for a Downer Ending, can be pulled off - See the entire "Rule of X" series of tropes.

If a movie ends with a Death By Sigh Of Relief of the last surviving character, it may be this. Compare Diabolus Ex Nihilo, Ass Pull, and Cruel Twist Ending, as well as Life Will Kill You. Often the cause of a Sudden Downer Ending. Likely to be employed by writers who believe that True Art Is Angsty.

Please note that the examples below will contain lots of ending-spoilers, as many tend to be on the tail-end of stories. But we'll try to keep you from getting too spoiled.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Darker Than Black. What was that? You thought Havock was going to get a happy end? ...Don't be a fool.
  • MS IGLOO Episode 5 The very young recruit, Erwin, has survived the sortie, and talked his opponent into being taken prisoner rather than dying needlessly when a blast of laser fire from a distant Salamis kills them both.
    • Something happens like this in the Gundam Side-Story Space, to the End of a Flash, where the pilot of the Gundam Unit 5 survives the battle of A Baoa Qu and is returning to the ship... only to be shot in the back by a barely alive Gelgoog.
    • Again in the Gundam Evolve story involving the Dendrobrium Orchis, where the pilot is shot by a dying Zaku when he back was turned just as they were cutting to the credits
  • Angel Sanctuary seems to fall into this trope. Especially when Setsuna finally reunites with his loved sister, a wacko angel girl shoots her and enrages Setsuna, causing The End of the World as We Know It. (The manga goes well past this point but there's Still plenty of Deus Angst Machina.)
  • Code Geass. Given the number of times Lelouch has horrible events happen right in his moment of triumph, one might expect that he leaves an open place setting at his dinner table just for Diabolus.
    • Sure, Mao showed us that a Geass grows stronger with repeated use and a careless user runs the risk of losing control of it. Of course, Zero's Geass just had to backfire at the "everything will get better now" moment, and in the most inconveniently nasty way ever, to boot. (Lelouch saying the worst possible thing at the worst possible time, to the worst possible person, made it even worse.)What makes the "kill all Japanese" incident SO much worse is that Lelouch clearly was about to confess all his wrongdoings to Euphemia and leave his villainous ways behind. Only to slip up and stumble right into the Moral Event Horizon without even wanting to. After this you just know there will be no happy ending for Lulu.
    • Season 2 surpasses it when Lelouch commanding Suzaku to "live" in season 1 caused Suzaku to nuke Tokyo when it activated, heavily implying the death of Nunnally. It's like an Up to Eleven version of Season 1. In both seasons, pretty much every time the Order of Black Knights seems to be winning a battle, you can set your watch to some new Britannian super-Knightmare Frame showing up and sending everything to hell.
  • Weiß Kreuz Gluhen never promises better than a Bittersweet Ending, but the final scene of the series is pure Diabolus Ex Machina; having cut ties with everyone he ever knew and left Japan, Aya goes walking down a sidewalk in New York and Diabolus, in the form of a scruffy little boy, runs up and stabs him in the gut. He ends up collapsed against a mailbox, having a flashback of his former teammates, while the pedestrians walking past pay no attention to the guy apparently bleeding to death all over the sidewalk.
  • Played for laughs in the ending of every episode of Rock Lee's Springtime of Youth.
  • The final sequence of Kite.
  • End of Evangelion, or even Evangelion in general loves this. In EoE Asuka finally snaps out of her depression coma and gets a Crowning Moment Of Awesome when she kills nine Mass Produced Evas in three minutes. She barely finishes, but it's looking up. The Seele army has been driven out, Rei, Shinji and Asuka are alive, Ritsuko's plan to detonate the entire complex failed, Shinji isn't in his psychopathic mother and Instrumentality has been averted. Then 0, who simply regenerated the wounds Asuka inflicted on them, and skewered to death by even more fake Lances; Shinji gets in Unit 01 and Rei fuses with Lilith, becomes a giant white god and turns all of humanity into orange juice on Shinji's orders.
    • While in normal Eva, everything is going fine, if not a tad angsty. Shinji's social skills are improving, Asuka's teamwork is going well and Rei is beginning to show some humanity. A few episodes later and Asuka's been Mind Raped, Shinji is catatonic and Rei is dead, replaced by a clone.
  • Rebuild 3.0 takes this Up to Eleven; also an interesting example in that the Machina occurs entirely during the first half of it. 2.0, the previous film, ends with an epic final battle where Shinji manages to kill Zeruel and rescue Rei during a Crowning Moment Of Awesome; 3.0 begins with Shinji in turmoil resulting from the fully realized consequences of those actions. Shinji learns that trying to save Rei accidentally triggered Third Impact - the end of the world. 3.0 begins at the end of a 14 year Time Skip, where Shinji learns that his actions have devastated the planet and killed most of the population; secondly, the crew of Wille claim that Rei actually died and was replaced by a clone.
  • A similar scene occurs in L/R. The bad guys are defeated and one of the partners of the title agency has fallen in love and is all set to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, while walking down the street near his office, one of the villains of the series pops into view and shoots him dead. Instantly. He doesn't even get a poignant flashback.
  • A non-death example: In Ojamajo Doremi Naisho, Hazuki has taken an unlikely lead in the final leg of a relay to decide a swim meet only to suddenly get a cramp on the way back, allowing the other room to easily win the race.
  • A few arcs of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni have this tendency, although they always have long threads of justification for it. Particular arcs that come to mind are Onikakushi-hen, in which after finally getting rid of two girls who had been trying to murder him the entire arc, the main character dies by "randomly" clawing his throat out; Watanagashi-hen, in which, after the main character manages to escape two different attempts on his life (one involving a freaking Torture Cellar), finally dies from a heart attack after seeing the girl who tried to kill him and was previously declared dead come back from the dead to kill him by nailing his hands to the bed; and Tsumihoroboshi-hen, in which after preventing one of the girls from blowing up the school and bringing her back from her paranoia, the entire town dies when poisonous gases roll through town.
    • Higurashi Kai does even better than that. In Minagoroshi-hen, Rika has spent more than a hundred years of constantly repeating the same month, knowing that she's going to die a horrendous, bloody death at the end. However, there is one world that Keiichi manages to change in the slightest way. A tiny little change leads to a string of minor miracles, with many a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Then, right before the club can finally save Rika, the Big Bad reveals herself and shoots them all in the face. Then she ritualistically disembowels Rika and goes on to initiate the aforementioned poison gas attack on the village. Although that chapter title (It translates to Everyone-killing chapter) is a bit of a tip-off...
    • Palm goes to Higurashi Rei. Rika finally manages to end the endless loops of death. She's so happy that she gets all careless and runs into a truck, dying in the process and ending up in a perfect world where everybody is happy and there is no Watanagashi tragedy, but in which she has no good friends (Satoko is a bitch and Hanyuu just isn't there in that world) and the village will be destroyed due to the dam project. She finally gets back to the old world by killing her own mother.
  • Occurs in the Buu Saga of Dragon Ball Z, when Mr. Satan/Hercule, of all people, manages to stop Buu by befriending him. Just when things are about to calm down, two gun-toting assholes show up and shoot both Mr. Satan/Hercule and the puppy Buu adopted, pissing him off and forming the Evil Buu, which starts the next part of the arc up.
    • The anime changed this a bit so it wasn't completely out of left field: Mr. Satan did stop them before when they shot the puppy, but one of the goons came back for vengeance. The timing of the whole thing does feel a little contrived though.
    • During the Saiyan Saga during Goku's fight with Vegeta. Pretty quickly Goku finds that the only chance he has of winning is to use Kaioken attack at levels where it physically hurts him. After their famous Beam-O-War, Goku finds the only way he'll win using the spirit bomb, despite Vegeta losing said struggle. Vegeta reveals a previously unmentioned way to turn into a Oozaru and promptly crushes Goku within an inch of his life.
    • Goku's fight with Captain Ginyu in the Frieza saga. Goku's just increased his strength to previously undreamed of levels by training in an atmosphere 100x Earth's gravity, and with his new strength is easily able to decimate the Ginyu Force, up until his fight with the Captain, who suddenly reveals his body switch power to steal Goku's body for himself. The events that occur because of this leave Goku heavily crippled when he does get his body back and out of action for a while.
    • In the Frieza saga, Piccolo is fighting Frieza in what is presumed to be his true form, losing, then powers up to full strength. Whether or not this would have made a difference because Frieza reveals he has two more transformations, transforms into the first one and demolishes Piccolo. In the anime, Piccolo manages to take the upper hand, then Frieza transforms.
  • The ending of GaoGaiGar Final is all lined up for the happy ending we were all expecting from the generally upbeat tone of the series, then kills off literally everyone except Mamoru, Kaido, and the background characters still on earth in the last five minutes of the last episode for absolutely no reason at all.
    • There was originally a sequel in development that got canned that would've linked the GGG verse with Betterman more. Part of the development involved Genesic GaoGaiGar erupting out of the Sun.
  • The Wham Episode in Mai-Otome throws one of these in toward the end. At the end of the previous episode, Arika, Nina and Erstin are ready to take on their quests to become great Otomes as a team, even in the wake of Schwarz's hostile takeover of Windbloom. However, there's still air time left to kill, so along comes John Smith to spoil the party by revealing Erstin as one of their moles, and forcing her to fight against her new friends. At around the same time, Sergey comes by to congratulate Nina on a stellar year, he drops a custom-made handkerchief given to him by Arika, which sends Nina into a jealous rage, sparking a fight that ends with her killing Erstin. As later episodes show, it doesn't get much better for Nina from there, either.
  • It'd be a shame to leave out Ga-Rei Zero-. Most of the major events that occur only happen in order to screw up everyone's lives even more than they were before. It always gets worse, save for a little spot of hope that Kagura ends up dealing relatively well with her duty fighting against monsters in the epilogue.
  • Occurs in the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth, to complete the Hope Spot for Hikaru and Eagle —having defeated Nova and saved Lantis, the Knights and Eagle return to Cephiro only for Debonair to show up out of nowhere to kill the Autozam commander. Especially jarring since Debonair had never actually attacked anyone directly until this moment.
  • Used quite well to make a point in Black Jack when Dr. Kiriko first appears. A woman with a terminal, inoperable condition has requested that Kiriko euthanize her. As this runs directly counter to Black Jack's principles, he begins meeting with the woman in an attempt to figure out a cure. He and Kiriko meet with each other, and Black Jack delivers a speech about how wrong Kiriko is to do what he does. After the operation goes through, with Kiriko present, Black Jack asks after the patient. She and her entire family were killed when a car slammed into their ambulance after the surgery. All of Black Jack's work - and all of his sermonizing to Kiriko - means nothing.
    • This isn't just restricted to Black Jack, either- many of Osamu Tezuka's works feature such occasions. The 1980 Astro Boy anime, for instance, has many bit characters who exist only to die so that Astro can question why humans made robots this way.
  • Mai-HiME actually had a Diabolus with a name: Miroku, the sentient (and malevolent) spirit inhabiting Mikoto's sword for most the series. Given that Miroku controlled Mikoto's berserker activations, as well as her CHILD's actions, and then finally was the sentience behind the seal on Kagutsuchi's power, there were quite a few horrific things that happened directly because of it, including the death of at least three CHILDs (Fumi, Midori, and Shiho's). However, the ending actually has the Hime collectively nuking the Hime Star and thus Miroku, causing the first ever destruction of Diabolus by the direct actions of the protagonists.
  • Faust from Shaman King has the unfortunate distinction of getting one in his origin story. He works for years to save his wife from a terminal disease and finally succeeds. Then a few months later, a burglar shoots her.
  • At the end of Cowboy Bebop, Spike finally finds his lost love Julia, only for her to be shot dead by a random mook when the Red Dragon makes their move on them both, setting off Spike's final Storming the Castle moment and the final showdown with Vicious.
  • Subverted in Fist of the North Star. When Kenshiro gains the upper hand on Shin during their final battle, Shin attempts to discourage him by stabbing Ken's fiancee Yuria in the chest. Later Ken finds out that the Yuria stabbed by Shin was actually a mannequin and that the real Yuria was no longer with him.
  • Kurokami ends in this way, in the last minutes of last episode everyone discovers that final sacrifice is required, even if nobody dies.
  • Tsukihime. "And then Arcuied blew Roa into tiny pieces. Her and Shiki have a long, happy life in store as Shiki shows her all of the things she never thought to experience, and their mutual love is sure to last fore- SLICE."
  • In the FRLG arc of Pokémon Special, yay! The good guys defeat the bad guys, stop an airship from crashing into Vermillion, free Deoxys to let it go where ever it wants, have a happy reunion of sorts... then WHAM! They get Taken for Granite. They were freed in DPE.
  • Several in Rave Master. Gale, after failing to talk down King, asks to government to arrest him, but they shoot down his family instead. King and Gale manage to end the cycle of war between the Raregroove and Symphonia family with a Heroic Sacrifice, only for King's Axe Crazy son to turn up and start the cycle back up. In order to defeat Endless Elie not only has to fake her death and leave her time period but must also kill her love interest, Haru. Etc.
  • At the end of the Super Robot anime Space Warrior Baldios, the hero Marin and his allies can only watch as the Big Bad, Zeo Gattler, unleashes his "Final Weapon" which triggers a cataclysmic series of gigantic tsunamis that ravage the surface of the earth. The last shot of the series is a freeze-frame of a tsunami wave, with the word "End" appearing next to it. Thankfully, there was a movie afterwards that improved the situation a bit, but things still didn't get completely better.
  • Bleach
    • Aizen reveals he's been hiding the Hougyoku inside his own body and has fused with it. This unleashes a series of transformations that make him more and more powerful until even the heavy-weights of the story are incapable of fighting him.
    • Yamamoto unleashes bankai to defeat and kill Yhwach, but ends up making things worse. Royd possessed the ability to mimic others and sacrificed himself to draw out Yamamoto's power and act as decoy while Yhwach visited Aizen. As Royd dies, Yhwach appears, steals Yamamoto's bankai and kills him. The stunned Gotei 13 is then utterly trashed by Yhwach's army.
  • Death Note: At the end of the Yotsuba Arc, Higuchi's been captured, Aizawa and Ide are back, Light has no memory of ever being Kira, and everyone's content with a job well done. Then Soichiro takes the Note, sees Rem, panics and the Note is taken to the helicopter where L and Light are sitting. Light regains his memories — Just as Planned — and promptly has everyone who knows anything about the case (bar himself, Misa and the police contingent of the Task Force) slaughtered within weeks, and the series continues.
  • Tobi from Naruto tends to do this, Konan has him one the run with her Billions of explosive tags and has exploited Kamui, only for the seemingly one-eyed Tobi to use Izanagi with his left eye that was pointlessly covered.
    • Somehow in chapter 636 there's a DOUBLE Diabolus ex Machina when Madara tries to force Tobi to activate Rinne Tensei in order to revive him so he can become the Ten Tails' Jinchuuriki, only for Tobi to somehow override the override and become the jinchuuriki himself. Later reversed when Obito, seeing the error of his ways, tries to revive a number of deceased characters, but is hijacked by Zetsu and forced to revive Madara.
    • And before Chapter 636 there was Madara somehow knowing the Edo Tensei and being able to use it to stop from being unsummoned after Itachi used a genjutsu to force Kabuto to negate the summoning. This renders Madara an infinitely regenerating zombie with limitless chakra and three of the most over-powered abilities in the series.
  • In ''Pokémon:
    • During the Indigo League, Team Rocket picks a very bad time to interfere making Ash work with an exhausted team (and a stubborn Charizard).
    • Ash in the Johto League faces a Blaziken from a region he hasn't even heard of.
    • In Unova, Cameron has a much stronger team than one would give him credit for including a Hydreigon and his Riolu evolves midfight.
    • The Sinnoh League goes so well for Ash that only three of his League matches are shown, the rest touched on in a montage. Just as he narrowly wins against Paul in a 6-on-6 full battle, in comes Tobias, aka the Darkrai Trainer, who proceeds to curbstomp Ash thoroughly in minutes. And when Ash took out the Darkrai, he just pulled out a Latios and swept the remaining half of Ash's team. He literally serves no purpose except to screw Ash out of a League win he practically had in the bag.
    • In the opening two-parter of Pokémon: Best Wishes, Zekrom appears purely in order to shock Pikachu and screw up his ability to use Electric attacks (catching both him and Ash off-guard and causing him to lose to a newbie), provide a 'climactic' cliff-hanger which is resolved within the first minute of the next episode, and then disappear.
  • In Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, right after defeating the Big Bad Corset via a seeming Deus ex Machina from a giant heavenly being that is either God or P&S's mother, Stocking makes an off-handed comment, wondering if Heavenly weapons can kill angels. She then proceeds to slice Panty into 666 pieces, reveal that she was a demon spy the entire time, and walks off with Corset (who just resurrected himself from Brief's penis) to another city to try and open another gate to hell, leaving Garterbelt, Brief, and Chuck to gather Panty's pieces while chasing after her.
  • A minor example of Ai Kora: Hachibei's plan of making Tsubame wear boots filled with clay so he can make a mold of her feet and ankles fails when she lets a friendly rival male driver she just met in that chapter wear her boots, just because she thought they were comfortable. Because when your first meet someone, naturally you exchange footwear, of course!
  • Shin Mazinger has a pretty brutal one at the end. Kouji confronts and defeats Dr. Hell in one last climatic battle and it seems that Mazinger-Z stands triumphant. However, it turns out to be been planned by Baron Ashura, who sacrifices his/herself to allow the Mycene Empire to arrive on Earth. Cue Cliff Hanger Ending.
  • Fairy Tail ends the Nirvana arc by arresting the reformed Hoteye and Jellal, and heavily implying that the latter will be executed (he does get a death sentence later too), then proceeds to top that by revealing that everybody the Token Mini-Moe grew up knowing, with the exception of one man who was Dead All Along were just illusions created to keep her company and she'll never see them again. Never one to out do itself, Fairy Tail then ends the S-Class arc with a dragon coming out of nowhere and leaving the entire core cast presumed dead, and even when they're recovered seven years later the world has changed tremendously in their absence.
  • One of the more controversial examples of this is in Eureka Seven Ao. A Human/Coralian hybrid couldn't survive in a high density trapar environment as it triggers the body cells of human and coralian to repel each other, leading to Renton and Eureka losing their firstborn daughter, effectively motivating both to antagonise the Scub Coral, a being they both once helped to protect. It sets up a chain of events that led to the events happening in the TV sequel.
  • Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3 has the heroines break out of their various prisons and curbstomp all of their Movie-original foes... only for the Bigger Bad himself to show up, One-Hit KO the girls and destroy their Transformation Trinkets. forcing them to use the movie's MacGuffin to beat the monster, but sacrifice their powers and fairy partners in the process. They got better, because the series was still running
  • Holyland: Yuu has beaten King and had his final showdown with Masaki, where he admits Yuu's the better fighter. Then, on the way back from his final fight in the series, Yuu is stabbed with a knife by a nobody and left to die alone in an alleyway. The final Time Skip chapter plays with whether or not he's really dead, as nobody has seen him in the interim and they Never Found the Body, until Yuu finally shows up alive in the last two pages.

    Comic Books 
  • It's also a favorite of The Walking Dead. Was it really necessary for Rick to lose his hand, his wife, and his newborn daughter?
  • A pretty stupid one from W.I.T.C.H.. Early in the series, the team's defeated Nerissa and, as an added bonus, made sure Will's deadbeat dad doesn't try to swindle money from her or her mom. As Will and her mother go to celebrate being safe from the latter, Will's dormouse races out of the house and gets ran over by a car. It's kind of hard to not presume Will's next quote, "Why does this keep happening?" wasn't a massive Lampshade Hanging to all of her problems at the time.
  • Remember at the end of Watchmen when the good guys have Ozymandias cornered?
    Ozymandias: Do it? Dan, I'm not a Republic Serial villain. Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.
  • Messiah Complex. The X-Men have finally defeated all of their enemies and Scott has given the mutant baby to Cable to take into the future. Everything seems great. Until Bishop, who's been trying to kill the baby to prevent his horrible future, shoots at the baby and Cable. And Cable is already disappearing from that point in time, leaving the shot to go through and hit Professor X in the head. It really sucks to be a mutant. Granted he got better since this is a comic book and Professor X missing at the end was a hint.
  • Uncanny X-Force reveals that the Age of Apocalypse reality had been positively slammed with this, and off-panel no less, since we last saw it. The eponymous dictator was dead and everyone seemed to be starting to rebuild their lives... and then the Celestials showed up, judging that Earth must be destroyed. Wolverine cuts a deal with the Celestials: he will function as their agent on Earth if they spare the planet. The Celestials accept and transform Wolverine with their technology. Now, who was the last guy they did this to? Oh, right, Apocalypse himself. Needless to say, it doesn't end well: pogroms against baseline humans are initiated, Rogue and Magneto's preteen son is eaten by a villain, and by the end of the arc that reveals all this, only two of the reality's X-Men are left alive.
  • The much-maligned One More Day storyline Spider-Man on the run from both the law and criminals with his identity exposed and Aunt May on the verge of death from a bullet meant for Spidey. Then Mephisto, a literal devil (the Marvel Universe has several devils) shows up and offers to fix it, but his condition is that to do it, he'll rewrite history so that Spidey and his wife, Mary Jane, will never have gotten married, but on some unconscious level they'll always know they were supposed to. Mary Jane accepts. Technically it's also a Deus ex Machina, because it does solve their immediate problems, but it's made clear that it's the worst possible decision the couple could have made (or else Mephisto wouldn't have made the offer).
  • In the issue of Sonic the Hedgehog before the crossover with Mega Man, Sonic and his friends have found and retrieved Mecha Sally and Silver has finally understood the whole "Freedom Fighter traitor" deal was about... then Eggman hits everyone with the Genesis Wave and we're left at a cliffhanger which is aborted the moment the crossover ends.
    • The arc before the crossover was a series of these for Ixis Naugus: his bid for the throne happened on the exact same day that both Eggman and the Battle Bird Armada attacked for unrelated reasons. And even though some of his later schemes had failed and the fear and paranoia that allowed him to make his bid had died down, Naugus got another chance by possessing his apprentice. Of course, the crossover took care of all that.

    Fan Fic 
  • The cheesy yet fairly popular Half-Life fanfic series, Half-Life: Full Life Consequences, uses this as a Sequel Hook: The first installment ends with "the next boss" coming out of nowhere and stepping on Gordon Freeman, setting up for a sequel that centers around John Freeman hunting down the next boss. Adding to the bizarreness, our heroes had just defeated the "Final Boss", which by all rights should preclude any more bosses showing up.
    • And the second installment, after the defeat of the evil boss, ends with the dead Gordon Freeman becoming a zombie goast.
    • This is followed up with a glorious Deus ex Machina in the third chapter, when even further into the future, John Freeman descends from the heavens to assist his son in defeating the Combines and sending them back to science and outer space.
  • Star Trek: Voyager Virtual Season 8 uses one of these after the crew is almost home, getting them lost again in order to fix a few plot holes as well as to set up a more satisfying climactic battle in Virtual Season 9.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Dark Fic series Immortality Syndrome has several of these, but the biggest comes in Immortality Relapse at the climax, when Boomer Face Heel Turns and survives impalement long enough to trigger the death of the world.
  • There's a Crossover fanfiction for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Chris-Chan. One of the chapters introduces a device actually called the "Diabolus ex-Machina", which serves its purpose of throwing the direction of the conflict in favor of the villains. If that isn't enough Lampshade Hanging, the chapter it's introduced is called "Diabolus ex Machina? Never Heard Of It!"
  • In the Daria fanfic Triumph Of The Retart, Daria and her new boyfriend, Author Avatar David MacAllister, are finally settling down after surviving David's run for Student Government President, during which he was the target of beatings and an assassination attempt. Just as it seems that they've earned their happy ending, David is killed by a suicide bomber.
  • Episode 75 of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. Two fleets - a Demon fleet and a Metarex fleet led by the Blue Typhoon - are facing off. Maledict and the heroes are about to have their final climactic showdown. And then Dark Tails suddenly appears, steals all the Chaos Emeralds, and uses them to fully manifest himself in the physical universe, beginning the real final battle.

    Film 
  • Pandora's Box ends with Lulu, The Vamp who's been manipulating men throughout the movie, turning to prostitution—and meeting Jack the Ripper.
  • Carlitos Way. The producers and bigwigs actually allow the main character Charlie Brigante to die as he's about to escape to paradise. In the commentary, the filmmakers joke about whether or not to shoot the "Bullet Proof Vest Scene" before even showing the current cut to their higher-ups for approval.
  • City of Angels. Less than a day after a fallen angel has given up his immortality to be with the mortal woman he's fallen in love with, she's inexplicably run over by a truck driven by the Diabolus Ex Machina. One might suspect his fellow angels of having summoned it in order to teach him a lesson...
  • The movie-version of Stephen King's The Mist takes this all the way into Deus Angst Machina territory.
  • Even James Bond is not safe from this demonic influence — in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he drops by to ensure that Bond's marriage becomes a SHORT one.
    • Director Peter Hunt said that originally the film was to end with the wedding and then the next would start with the assassination and follow from there. However since Lazenby gave up doing the sequels, it wound up in OHMSS. The following movie, Diamonds Are Forever, opens with Bond searching for Blofeld, presumably to avenge the ruined marriage. At the beginning of For Your Eyes Only, Bond is visiting his wife's grave, complete with "We have all the time in the world." MI6 pick him up by helicopter, except it's remote controlled by... a bald man with a cat, who tortures Bond the way he tortured Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever.
  • The ending of Easy Rider was already on its way to being interpreted as a Downer Ending, with Fonda telling Hopper that, despite their financial success, they failed at their goals from a moral and spiritual standpoint. But even that was too ambiguous, so the movie sent a couple of truckers with a shotgun to shoot them both dead for barely any good reason other than opportunity. Closure!
  • The Sean Penn-helmed The Pledge had a particularly brutal example of this, and it also proves that you can make a Downer Ending out of the death of the antagonist. The child-murderer being pursued by Jack Nicholson's character dies in a fiery car wreck, drawing his full share of karma down on his head but ensuring that Jack never fulfills his titular pledge to find him, meaning that all he's risked in the movie, including winning the trust of the mother of the killer's next planned victim, is for nothing (other than the fact that the killer never makes his next hit). We last see Jack's character sitting in front of the rural gas station he owns, rapidly fading into self-hatred and senility.
  • One particular death (Book's) in Serenity is a downer, especially since we never do get to learn what the hell his deal was (at least until the comic book), but another Wash's death falls right into this. He successfully manages to land Serenity from what is essentially a dead fall, and once he does and pauses to celebrate, his chest is pierced by a random Reaver harpoon. Joss Whedon mentions that he wanted to break the appearance of Plot Armor on the rest of the characters for the finale, and that the cockpit is pretty much the only place the Reavers could effectively shoot. In fact, the next shot missed Mal and Zoe by a few inches. So many fans will never forgive Joss for this.
  • The brilliant French film Z does this with the ending titles. The bad guys have been caught and are all going to jail, the heroes have won out, freedom is on the march again in Greece, and then we get a news broadcaster discussing how the bad guys all got off light, some of the good guys went to jail for nothing, and, instead of the credits, ending titles listing all the things the military junta banned afterwards in Greece: "long hair on males; mini-skirts; Sophocles; Tolstoy; Euripedes; smashing glasses after drinking toasts; labor strikes; Aristophanes; Ionesco; Sartre; Albee; Pinter; freedom of the press; sociology; Beckett; Dostoyevsky; modern music; popular music; the new mathematics; and the letter "Z", which in ancient Greek means "He is alive!" The book is based on Real Life, and this more or less how things actually ended for Greece after WWII.
  • Diabolus' fickle finger can also be detected in the end of Forrest Gump; simple Forrest has finally achieved all he ever wanted in winning the heart of his troubled childhood sweetheart Jenny, who herself has finally fallen in love with a good man who loves her completely and unconditionally and can give her a good life... so Diabolus gives her a terminal illness.. She's perfectly fine at the end of the book, however, though this is remedied in the sequel 'Gump and Co.'
    • Jenny's terminal illness is the reason why she wrote him the letter that brought him to her apartment in the first place. On that very day she told him about being HIV positive and told him that he was little Forrest's father, and asked him to marry her, presumably so that when she died their son would be able to grow up with him.
  • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the airborne viral agent Caesar used to make the apes smart is lethal to humans, and is spreading across the world.
  • The Canadian Cube horror film series:
    • The ending of the first Cube: The female lead, one of two sympathetic characters in the whole movie, evades every trap, figures out how to escape, is right on the threshold of getting out... and is killed by the villain, who is Not Quite Dead. She dies, the villain dies, and only the mentally deficient guy escapes. To make this worse, the probability of the villain to be able to get to her is about 20,000 to 1.
    • Cube 2: Hypercube. After surviving many perils, the heroine, who turns up to be a special agent, manages to escape the Hypercube and return to the normal world... where her superior has her summarily shot in the back of the head for no apparent reason. The worst is that she obviously knows what's coming, but merely closes her eyes instead of trying anything.
  • The ending of Pitch Black. The out-of-nowhere alien grabs the female lead just as she's about to escape. This is played as somewhat karmic, since she killed some people to save herself and the ship. To atone, she refuses to leave without saving someone, which ultimately gets her killed.
  • The Saw series of movies is chock full of Diaboli Ex Machina, some coming within seconds of the protagonist thinking he's found a way out of the nightmare.
    • The third movie is particularly sadistic, but actually gives an explanation for it. The traps in the 3rd movie weren't actually designed by Jigsaw. They were designed by his ridiculously Ax-Crazy apprentice, Amanda, whose philosophy differed from Jiggy's in that she thought the people were irredeemable and explicitly deserved an unpleasant death. She catches a bullet to the neck.
    • The ending of Saw VI also counts: William, the health insurance exec protagonist has been put through utter hell and has apparently learned his lesson about the true implications of deciding who lives and who dies based on greed and advances to the final game...and finds himself face to face with the wife and son of a man who died because William cancelled his coverage. And it's their game, not his. Cue the son flipping a switch which injects William with gallons of acid.
  • The Final Destination movies are built around Diabolus hunting down people who escaped his clutches the first time around and dispatching them in a variety of unpleasant and unlikely ways.
  • North Dallas 40: Long before the demons stuffed Carney and Anderson's kicks (which see below), it had Dallas bungling the snap on the point-after after we hear the commentator talk of the kicker being called "Mr. Automatic" for having successfully converted several consecutive previous attempts, thus preventing Nick Nolte's last-gasp TD from tying the game. New Orleans Saints fans might find that last bit familiar... As might Tony Romo (who co-incidentally ALSO played for the real Dallas on his fateful play).
  • Epic Movie parodies this in one of its few actually funny jokes by having a waterwheel run over the orphans just before the start of the closing credits, and having "Borat" making an observation. Unfortunately, it ruins it by him turning around and slapping his almost bare butt.
  • Averted by Clerks, which originally ended with a robber killing Dante, but after the distributor complained that this was pointlessly violent and tragic, the scene was removed.
  • The allied bombing raid at the end of Das Boot. Sure, it was hardly an Ass Pull, what with World War II going on, but it's still just mean as hell.
  • Night of the Living Dead, in which the only survivor of the zombie attack is shot on sight by the rescue party.
  • Echoed in the end of Dead Men Walking, where the sole survivor makes it out of the zombie-filled prison, only to be shot dead by one of the snipers sent to keep the zombies from escaping.
  • The film Whoops Apocalypse! follows a desperate attempt to stop a nuclear war, which would have succeeded were it not for a hypnotist routine being disturbed - a navy officer is programmed to believe there is a large fire in progress when the hypnotist snaps his fingers (desperately yelling 'FIRE!'). Owing to an unfortunate intervention, this is never undone. When the officer receives the good news that the missiles don't have to be fired, he is so relieved that he doesn't respond to the questions being asked - leading to somebody snapping their fingers to get his attention.
  • The Wages of Fear has the only surviving driver from the deadly nitroglycerine convoy plunging to his death on his way home for no readily apparent reason.
  • Cloverfield. The three surviving protagonists get on an evac helicopter headed out of New York before a massive bombing run to obliterate the beastie, but Clovie takes down the copter, eats Hud, and forces the last two to take shelter under a bridge, awaiting annihilation in the impending bombing run.
  • Adam Sandler delivers this on himself in the middle of Eight Crazy Nights, by explaining his hate for the holidays with a flashback where a younger version of himself sparks a Miracle Rally for his basketball team. They win the game, but younger Sandler finds out that his parents were absent because they were too busy being dead. The game was played during Hanukkah, hence his holiday hate.
  • In the Korean melodrama Failan, the male protagonist decides to honor his wife's memory (who he wed for purely financial reasons, and had neglected until her death) by turning his back on his gangster wannabe lifestyle, even turning down a request from a fellow gangster to take the fall for a murder and serve his subsequent prison sentence. He ends up being garroted by that same gangster in an unexpected act of reprisal, while he sees his deceased wife (through the videos he was watching before the attack) as the life slowly drains from him (symbolized by the picture in the video gradually losing its color).
  • Pay It Forward, both infamously and egregiously. That came out of nowhere. AND served NO point. Except to ruin any good feelings you had.
  • Halloween: Resurrection changes the end of Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later by indicating that Laurie Strode did not, in fact, decapitate Michael Myers, but rather a paramedic with whom Michael switched clothes with. All so the franchise can continue.
  • Parodied in Wayne's World. Just as everything is going smoothly, a series of increasingly unlikely disasters occur, culminating in an electrical fire that destroys Wayne's house and kills Garth while the slimeball villain gets the girl. Fortunately, Wayne and Garth turn out to have other ideas...
  • In The Blue Lagoon, a movie based primarily around emotional and physical self-discovery, Diabolus is personified in the form of a three-year-old boy. Richard is exploring one of the islands in the archipelago while Emmeline is watching over their son. Emmeline nods off to sleep in their rowboat and while doing so, their son Paddy throws one of the oars overboard. Richard swims out from the island and retrieves the oar, but is spotted by a shark. Emmeline throws the other oar at the shark to distract it and Richard is forced to abandon the other one to escape, and their boat is swept out to sea. To make matters worse, Paddy has gotten his hands on a bunch of dead-and-berries, swallowing a handful before his parents stop him. With a dying baby and no hope of rescue, Richard and Emmeline eat the remaining berries...barely hours before a ship with Richard's father (Emmeline's uncle), who had been searching for them for several years, happens upon their boat.
  • In Screamers, the captain survives the Late to the Tragedy, survives the Twist Ending, and makes it to the Emergency Evacuation Pod in time to make it off the planet alive, only to take a cyborg teddy bear along with him for the ride home.
  • Walk Hard's Dewey Cox dies 3 minutes after his last performance.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail ends with our heroes assembling an army to fight the dastardly French and reclaim the Grail once and for all. Just as the army begins its assault, modern-day police vans hove into view and arrest everybody, including the cameraman, thus ending the film.
  • The Phantasm sequels all end with the heroes defeating the Tall Man, only for him to come back and devastate them. In the fourth film, he kills Mike, one of the franchise's two leads... a death followed by a flashback to Mike as a kid, with no idea what's coming.
  • The Suspect builds up one of the main characters - a small-town sheriff - to be NOT the stereotypical racist asshole seen in other towns...only to have him turn out to actually be racist AND criminally evil, just to excuse a final plot twist - betraying and killing an innocent man
  • Dumb and Dumber plays this for laughs, since Jim Carrey himself came up with the idea to prove that Harry and Lloyd are dumb enough to waste such a golden opportunity. The girl the duo went halfway across the country to return a briefcase to turns out to be married, and in the final scene, when they encounter a bus full of swimsuit models looking for a pair of assistants to travel with them and oil them up for photo sessions, they (being idiots) direct them to the nearest town.
    Lloyd: "Do you realize what you've done!" [runs off and flags down the bus] "You'll have to excuse my friend. He's a little slow. The town is back that way."
  • Twenty Twelve: Tamara and Gordon: After all the sexual tension, the hinted pairings and each of their respective Crowning Moments of Awesome, Gordon is pulled into the Arc's gears, and Tamara is drowned when water floods into a room she's trapped in, even though the room next door (the one with the main characters! Imagine that!) has an air pocket, and yet everyone else lives. Gordon gets forgotten quickly (did anyone actually ask about him?), though Tamara kinda saves the girl and her dog, but other than that, they are both just killed and forgotten about.
    • Just to make it worse, Tamara's death doesn't make any sense. The reason she gets trapped is that water is pouring into the ship through the stern hatch, and several bulkhead doors slide shut to contain the flooding. Given that there is only one way for water to get into the ship and the watertight bulkheads are working properly, there is no reason for her compartment to keep filling up.
    • To say nothing of Sasha successfully landing their plane, only for the ice to collapse from underneath the front of it.
  • At the end of the pre-Bond Daniel Craig vehicle Layer Cake, the protagonist has killed his treacherous boss, gotten the Serbian head-chopping war criminal off his back, made a pretty penny double-crossing the wealthy crime-lord-turned-tycoon, established his friends as London's new crime lords, gotten the girl, and plans to retire to a life of leisure. Then he walks out of the club and is immediately shot dead by a minor character with no previously shown propensity for violence.
  • Subverted in Cabin Fever, in that the one guy who apparently survives is the Jerk Ass, and just as you're thinking, "You mean the asshole lived?" he gets cut in half by machine gun fire.
  • Remember Me had Robert Pattinson, playing the angsty Tyler, finally bonding with his father. While Tyler is waiting in his father's office, it seems everything will be fine... until he gets killed in the September 11 attacks in said office.
  • If you think a bit more about Knowing, the survivors from the plane crash and later subway accident weren't so lucky after all. For those who haven't seen the movie, the sun incinerates Earth and all life on it a few days later. Bonus points for the whole world learning about its upcoming inevitable demise with several hours to spare...
  • Toward the end of the Eddie Murphy - Martin Lawrence movie Life, the two find out that the warden's hunting friend is the same corrupt, racist sheriff who had them sentenced to life in prison, and the warden basically declares that he screwed them over and "gave the state of Mississippi 50 years of free labor" which the warden overheard and literally shot him out of disgust. The warden then tells them that he'll sign the papers to release them the next day. That night he died on the toilet before he could sign the papers the next day.
  • At the end of the 50s B-Movie, The Mole People, Love Interest Adad inexplicably runs back towards the cave entrance during an earth tremor and ends up getting crushed by a collapsing pillar. It turns out this massive Idiot Ball moment was the result of Executive Meddling: Studio execs forced them to kill off Adad because they thought Adad and Dr. Patrick (played by John Agar) would constitute a "mixed marriage" and wanted to avoid encouraging "miscegenation." The woman on the movie poster is Adad, by the way.
  • Vertigo. Just as it seems Earn Your Happy Ending ensued, a nun enters, scaring Judy who falls to her death.
  • Haywire has a particularly bizarre one where, in a movie that otherwise strives for realism, the heroine manages to outmanoeuvre her opponents in a car chase only for the car to crash anyway because a freaking deer jumped into it.
  • In the last minute of The Cube, the man finds out that his escape was an illusion and he's still in the cube.
  • Scream (1996): Tatum manages to really hold her own against the killer when her time seems to have come. She manages to knock him on his ass twice, and puts up the best fight so far. One might think she could escape to warn Sidn- wait why is she crawling through the cat flap?
  • Flight: In order to make sure that Denzel Washington's character is forced to pay for his crime (even if he might have managed to detox all on his own), the door to the next hotel room over just so happens to be unlocked (actually, locked open), and the balcony open so that the wind can make the door 'knock' until Denzel notices and decides to check it out and thus find a pile of liquor.
  • Evil Dead has Diabolus coming around - and sloppily so - in the remake. You really thought both David and Mia would end up surviving the ordeal, do you? Well, then get a Senseless Stupid Sacrifice from David which actually makes things WORSE.
  • Impostor revolves around a man trying to prove that he's not an alien-created replicant of himself with a bomb in his chest. At the climax of the movie, the man and his wife find the alien crash site where he was allegedly killed, and discovers his wife's body inside the spaceship, proving that his wife was the replicant instead. Then suddenly, in the last few minutes, the authorities that were chasing him through the whole movie discover the man's body as well, proving that he was also a replicant, and the man promptly explodes and kills everyone in the area.
  • In Dawn of the Dead (2004) at the end of the movie less than half of the characters make it to the docks and escape in a boat. In the credits, they reach an island and are swarmed upon by a horde of zombies with their fates left unknown.
  • The Devil Inside had a particularly infamous example. The three remaining protagonists, one of whom is possessed by a demon, have escaped the hospital the demon was tearing up in their van. Suddenly, the demon jumps into the body of the driver and forces him to swerve into the path of an oncoming truck, killing all three. The end.
  • Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been a persistent figure throughout the film and successfully executes a plan to get back at Oscorp for screwing him over. However shortly before the climax he injects himself with the venom of the spider that bit Peter and it has bad effects, to say the least. He straps himself to an experimental Powered Armor then hunts out Spider-Man. After putting two and two together he realizes that Spider-Man is Peter Parker and understands that an earlier slight he suffered at the hands of Spider-Man meant that he was being slighted by Peter, someone he thought was a friend. He snatches Gwen, flies up to the top of a clock tower, and the rest more or less writes itself. Really, aside from setting up future story arcs, his sudden appearance is solely so Peter can wind up grieving the death of Gwen and rebuilding his Heroic Resolve thereafter because he had otherwise served a greatly different purpose for most of the movie.

    Literature 
  • The Hapless Child by Edward Gorey is this trope turned Up to Eleven over and over and over again. Bonus points for an ending which seems to be headed towards Deus ex Machina but goes with Diabolus Ex Machina instead.
  • Animorphs killed a major character in the finale. Fair enough - their lease on survival was well overdue. But then, not content with successfully leaving realistic loose ends arising from what came before, Applegate brought in a completely unheralded Hindu Borg Collective to really ruin her readers' day in the last handful of chapters.
  • Proof that the Diabolus has been around for a long, long time exists in the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, the bard, who walked into Tartarus to bring back his wife, Eurydice, who had died on their wedding-day. After giving a performance that made the Furies weep, Hades gave his permission for Orpheus to bring her out with him — so long as he walked all the way out without turning around and looking back. The catch? Nobody told him he had to wait before both were outside... For a second, he sees her shade, before she is pulled back to the underworld, crying his name...
    • Some versions of the myth omit the Diabolus and have him lose his nerve for some other reason; thinking that he heard her cry out, for instance, or just plain ol' lack of willpower.
    • In others, Eurydice was happy in Hades because she'd had it up here with Orpheus and his penchant for boring her to tears with his songs and poems. Just as they're almost out of Hades, she asks to hear one of his songs, knowing that Orpheus can't resist this appeal to his vanity.
  • Tom Holt has a good working relationship with the Diabolus. This is particularly exemplified in Little People, where he introduces an entirely new metaphysical rule just to ensure the Downer Ending.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is another of the Diabolus' old-school performances. After Gilgamesh has gone through unbelievable trials to procure a flower that grants eternal life, it's eaten by a snake on his way home. Proof that even the Diabolus Ex Machina cannot resist the classic appeal of being Scaled Up...
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum" uses both this and Deus ex Machina.
  • Perdido Street Station by China Miéville's summons the Diabolus Ex Machina with an unholy ritual of Dungeon Punk Thaumaturgy. The fact that two completely separate incidents, with no relation between them, ensures that all the main characters will spend the rest of their days being utterly miserable makes this one of the nastiest examples of the demon's works. Deus Angst Machina was invited to the party, and danced all night long...
    • Mieville's other books, Iron Council and King Rat, do this to a lesser extent. The first involves one of the main characters doing something incomprehensibly stupid that denies the revolution against the tyrannical government of New Crobuzon much-needed reinforcements (though it's implied they wouldn't have won anyway). The second has the reader being informed casually that the children who were the original victims of the Big Bad of the story were condemned eternally to hell alongside him (and the main character essentially doesn't care). Iron Council even has the chutzpah to tack on an epilogue that tries to make it not seem like the complete and utter betrayal that it is. The author has said a happy ending would be a betrayal to reality and the everyday suffering of the oppressed. He believes life is a continous stream of Diabolus Ex Machina.
  • In Midnight Tides, the fifth book in Malazan Book of the Fallen, the Emperor of the Tiste Edur is effectively immortal as each time he dies he is resurrected and healed. The Royal Champion of Lether counters this by cutting every single muscle and sinew used for movement in the Emperor's body; the Champion then dies from poisoning. Moments later, a demon befriended by the Emperor's brother walks in and, unaware of the Emperor's condition, kills the Emperor, believing it to be a mercy and thinking it a favour to the brother, thus undoing the Champion's sacrifice.
  • The last 3 chapters of Northern Lights, apparently for the purpose of introducing the rest of the trilogy. Shouldn't the author have been concerned with connecting it to previous events as much as upcoming events? Omitted from The Film of the Book.
  • House of Leaves has the moment that Will Navidson, Tom, and Billy Reston finally come upon poor Jed and wounded Wax in the middle of the labyrinth after two weeks, and after Holloway shot Wax. Jed is so happy. Then Holloway reappears and blows Jed's head off.
  • Ian Irvine goes all out in his Well of Echoes trilogy (which became a quadrilogy almost, it seems, so Diabolus could strike). The world is saved! All is harmonious! At which point one of the Big Bad whose son explicitly identified him as dead earlier turns up. To top it all off, the heroes then destroy all the world's magic, hoping to overload his personal magic source, but that backfires, leaving him the only one with any real magic in the entire world and the rest of civilization pawns to his whims. All so the author could go on and write a dictatorial dystopian trilogy as a follow up. Go figure.
    • The author loves his cliffhangers, with only one of his fantasy books actually having a proper, satisfactory ending. The others have such glorious situations as one character inadvertently summoning an interdimensional invasion force to her world, the magical field failing at a pivotal battle, rendering the vital magically powered walking tanks useless in the face of a horde of giant winged and clawed mutant monster things, and all the protagonists being captured by a Big Bad and sentenced to be flayed alive. No happy endings here, folks.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts, Lijah Cuu is effectively a manifestation of Diabolus. At the end of The Guns of Tanith, he kills off "Try Again" Bragg. In Sabbat Martyr, although the fighting is effectively over and the nine chosen assassins have been slain, he is subverted by Chaos psykers into killing Saint Sabbat. Although he does not succeed and dies in the process, he still succeeds in killing Colm Corbec before he gets killed too.
    • Poor Sehra Muril, the red-haired girl with a "deliciously dirty laugh". She was going to be first FEMALE VERGHAST SCOUT if it hadn't been for Cuu!
  • The very first line of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" is "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself change in his bed into a monstrous vermin." That vermin being a human-sized beetlish insect.
  • Hans Christian Andersen, "The Flying Trunk": Things are going well for the beggar guy with the titular trunk with his romance with a princess, until the trunk gets destroyed by shrapnel from celebratory fireworks. Seriously. For a Hans story, that's pretty rough. Guess that's why it's not as well known as his other tales...
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. The protagonist and his best friend's son are getting along well and all set to move to America when the main guy tells boy he might have to go back to the orphanage for a short time, and the little boy tries to commit suicide and stops talking.
  • The Princetta: The main characters return from their adventures and are all set to live Happily Ever After, Malva and Orpheus get together... and then Orpheus is murdered at the last minute.
  • A rare good use: All Quiet on the Western Front. The narrator is hit by a stray bullet on a day so quiet the official report was a Title Drop. It works because we've already established that Fate is a bitch towards soldiers. (The movie adds some Diabolus by making it the final day of the war.)
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. All fictional universes are real alternate universes in their reality. One of the characters points out that a hero (a writer) is not permitted to resurrect the Big Bad of his favorite fictional universe because of this trope. The character asks if the hero can just retire as head of the training school but apparently the risk is that the story will evolve to need a serious villain, who will come into existence if written.
  • The end of the Redwall series book Martin the Warrior does this to a degree that the flashback story it's based on ends on a tearjerker. Everything seems great, Martin gets his father's sword back and kills his enemy Badrang the Tyrant...but right after it's revealed that the mouse Rose, Martin's friend and possible love interest for the entire book, was killed during their fight against Badrang. Martin then leaves his friends and promises never to mention his interactions with them again so they won't be put into danger.Of course then it fast forwards to the present day in Redwall where everything is okay and they discuss how Martin founded Redwall and was a great hero. But it still puts a damper on the entire ending and is one of the few Redwall books to do this.
  • The Reynard Cycle: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard foils a conspiracy to kill the Queen by drugging her with a sleeping potion that causes her to appear as though she were dead. When the conspirators attempt their coup, he's waiting for them. Problem is . . . He inadvertently poisoned her, she's actually dead, and this information is revealed in a room full of witnesses who now need to be silenced. Some of whom are children.
  • In Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy, Aeriel and Irrylath have finally become an official couple after two years of Will They or Won't They?. So of course it turns out that her body was actually destroyed and reformed into an immortal substance earlier that book, meaning that theirs is now a Mayfly-December Romance. This is Info Dumped by the Obi Wan, who is now a ''voice inside Aeriel's head" who demands that she leave Irrylath and go Riding into the Sunset. Because I Want My Beloved to Be Happy (and wants the world to last longer than “a handful of generations more”), she agrees, and tells Irrylath to go marry the Romantic False Lead. Nobody's too happy about this except the child bard who gets to turn the whole story into a pretty song (and the Romantic False Lead, who is specifically described to be observing the two’s farewell "with barely guarded joy" even though the hero shuts her down pretty quickly).
  • Final Destination: Dead Man's Hand. After the set up disaster the survivors are being transported by a cop, who dies in a freak traffic light accident (the group manages survive the car going out of control though). At the very end of the book the Final Girl, who thinks she's beat Death and won, gets a call from her doctor, who says she has very advanced HIV, contracted from being splattered in the cop's blood at the beginning of the book.
  • Ellen Hopkins's book Burned throws a completely random car crash to cause an inconvenient miscarriage and kill the protagonist's Love Interest. The author seems contractually required to provide a Downer Ending or Bittersweet Ending because True Art Is Angsty, but all her other protagonists got themselves in trouble with their own actions and not a snowstorm. Note to author: It doesn't count as foreshadowing if you don't foreshadow until five pages before the event!
  • The Ramayana: AFTER Rama rescues his wife Sita, wins the epic battle against the demons, and gets crowned king, he puts her through not one but two trials by fire. Because his subjects believe she might have cheated on him while she was being held hostage. She asks to be - and is - swallowed up by the earth after trial by fire #2. This last part is usually omitted in retellings for good reason.
  • The Dresden Files book Changes has a very nasty one at the end - after barely managing to win the climactic battle, Harry gets shot and killed. However, it is then subverted in the next book, Ghost Story. Harry arranged for himself to be killed and had his memory of arranging the assassination erased. He did this for extremely good reasons, and the suicide's motivations and consequences are examined in great detail.
  • Seekers, by Erin Hunter. A young polar bear, Kallik, is orphaned and alone. After much wandering and hardship she gets caught by humans, who plan to re-release her alongside Nanuk, a mother who'd lost her cubs, in the hopes that she would adopt Kallik. After some consideration, both bears decide that this is an acceptable arrangement. Nanuk immediately dies in a helicopter crash
  • In Lord Sunday, the final installment of 'Keys to the Kingdom'', Arthur finally collects the 7 Keys. Up until this point, the series has been fairly predictable, although things have been getting kind of real in the background, what with the deposed Trustees being mysteriously murdered & some people dying from plagues. However, it's here where everything truly goes downhill for Arthur. All he wants to do is end the fighting, but the Will has other plans. It uses him to bring in a tide of Nothing to destroy the Universe, because it turns out it's 1/2 of the Architect of said Universe, & wants to die, but it can't until its creation is destroyed. The main characters are frozen by the power of the Keys, unable to do anything to save themselves for the few moments they have until destruction. Fortunately, it gets better. It turns out that they were frozen because the Atlas was recording the Universe for Arthur to recreate it. The catch? Arthur's mother had died just moments before. A series that had been very light-hearted up until this point takes a sudden turn: Arthur went on that entire quest with the only result being the death of his adopted mother. The closing dialogue of the main story? "Wow, Arthur! You won!" "Yeah...I guess we won." Freaking. Ouch.
  • At the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban it seems as though Harry will be able to leave his abusive foster family to live with his godfather, while an unconvicted criminal will go to jail. Then Remus Lupin turns into a werewolf (it just having happened to be the night of the full moon, and him having forgotten to take the potion which would keep him safe), and in the confusion the criminal escapes meaning the innocent man convicted in his place needs to go on the run rather than take in Harry. Although it later turns out that to live with the man in question would have compromised Harry's security from potential attackers. Trelawney did predict it a chapter before it happened, but the reader can always hope, no?
  • At the very end of "Nuclear Holocaust Never Again", the second book in the "Never Again" series by R. J. Rummel, things are looking pretty good. The heroes have managed to Set Right What Once Went Wrong and have confronted the parents of the at-this-point still an infant villain, who have willingly let the heroes adopt him so that he doesn't grow up to become a nuclear-war-causing dictator. Then, John, Joy, and the child are blown up by a religious extremist's bomb. At least the world is safe, until the sequel anyway.
  • Shows up in Shiver in the form of a white-tailed deer, of all things. The deer appears in the middle of the road at exactly the wrong time, causing the crash that wrecks Grace's car. Both occupants survive, but with no way to keep Sam warm until help comes, he turns wolf for good. The characters are forced to try an incredibly dangerous plan to bring him back.
  • Green-Sky Trilogy: Yay! The children have been found, the last of the old-guard Ol-Zhaan has rendered himself harmless through excessive narcotic use, the Erdling radicals have been jailed, the two races are finally figuring out reconciliation and want to make it work. All we need to do is make this mostly symbolic gesture of destroying the last weapon...oops. Fortunately, Snyder wrote and charted a Canon sequel to her books in video game form.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo lampshades and ends up subverting the trope. Initially Dantes blames God and fate for all the terrible things that occurred to him, but with the help of a fellow inmate, is able to reason out how certain people wanted him to suffer, not God. Thus, it becomes a core part of his philosophy that once he breaks out, he can't count on Diabolus to hand out random punishment. It has to be up to him.
  • The ending of Malevil tastes a little of this, because of a Distant Finale. Some 575 pages are spent on a six-eight month period and the final 20 pages are a 3-year epilogue. More tragedy strikes in the final pages then the whole novel before because it covers a much larger span of time, bringing the story to a Bittersweet Ending.
  • At the end of My Sister's Keeper, Anna finally gets medically emancipated from her parents... and is then killed in a car accident, yet her kidneys—the organ she had been asked to donate earlier in the book, leading to the aforementioned emancipation quest—are perfectly intact to give to her sister, rendering her actions pointless.
  • Bridge to Terabithia: all goes well for Jess, he finally warms up to using his imagination... and then Leslie dies randomly, which drives home the point that cruel reality trumps imagination...
    • The inspiration for Katherine Paterson writing Bridge to Terabithia was her son's best friend likewise being struck by lightning.
  • The end of Part 1 of The Sex Gates. Lee and Rita are going to have a baby, Rita is finally opening a facility that should make the lives of technologically-deprived poor people much better... and then one of those same poor people fatally stabs her when he's supposed to be shaking his hand. They're forced to push Rita through one of the titular gates, which saves her life at the expense of turning her into a man and destroying her unborn child in the process - and Lee loses his balance and falls through as well, turning into a woman.
  • The Jungle is made of this, at least until Jurgis discovers Socialism. Even then, the original ending had one of these come out of absolutely nowhere in literally the last sentence of the book to render the entire novel completely pointless. This ending was ultimately cut.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is made of this. No one, good or bad, ever seems to enjoy a permanent victory.
    • The worst example is most definitely the Red Wedding. After much struggle and loss, Robb and Catelyn are going to retake the North from the Ironmen, and Arya is heading to meet them and finally reunite with at least part of her family. Then Robb and Cat are brutally murdered by their allies, meaning Arya now has nowhere to go, the North's cause is lost, and the Lannisters have basically won the war.
    • After months and months of trying desperately to connect again with family after going through sheer hell, it looks like Ayra is about to meet up with Robb and their mother as she nears the Twins with the Hound. Nope: that doesn't happen thanks to her turning up just in time to get a front row seat to the massacre that occurs outside the Wedding. Then, It Gets Worse... and, damn that all-too-brief Hope Spot.
    • Sansa gets to avoid marrying Joffrey when he gets engaged to Margaery, instead! It all looks set for her to head to Highgarden and get away from her gilded prison. Just for her to wind up being forced to marry Tyrion by Tywin on what amounts to a moment's notice to keep her claim to Winterfell in Lannister hands and force her to stay in Kings Landing. And, then It Gets Worse. Yet again, the offered Hope Spot makes the resulting disappointment that much worse.
    • Then Joffrey, Tywin, Pycelle and Kevan die and Cersei's incompetence gets her overthrown by the Faith Militant. But they overlooked the fact that Qyburn is still loyal to her. And on and on this cycle goes...
    • Jon's final chapter in ADWD is also this. Last we knew, Stannis was gearing up to fight to Bolton's. Jon then receives a letter from the Bastard of Bolton, claiming that Stannis is dead, his army crushed, and he's coming north to kill Jon unless he hands over his bride 'Arya' (actually Jeyne Poole) along with others. Jon panics, declares he will march south with the Wildlings to attack Winterfell. Then Bowen Marsh and his conspirators kill Jon 'for the Watch'. The only upside to this is plenty of readers think that the letter isn't true, and that Jon isn't permanently dead. But if they are.. sheesh.
    • Balon Greyjoy's actions make things infinitely worse for the Stark faction (and his own son Theom), which does make sense as he's doing a lot of them simply because they'll make things worse for the Starks since he wants revenge against an already-dead Stark and so is gunning for the whole family, and then when there's a point in the story when he might actually need to do something himself instead of directing his family, but he dies by falling off a bridge. So he was entirely pointless for anything other than making things worse for the Starks and Theon.
  • Orson Scott Card calls these "dirigible endings"; he once wrote an essay on writing in which he mentioned having taught a writing class where one student had written a story about a cult whose leader had convinced all its members to give away all their possessions and climb to the top of a mountain. The writer then couldn't figure out how to end the story, so she had a dirigible fall on them, crushing them all. Marion Dane Bauer told a similar story in her book on writing; she'd say to her writing students "If you end your story by having your main character get hit by a truck, you have just flunked."
  • So the New Republic has made peace with the Imperial Remnant, the Jedi's image has recovered somewhat from Darth Sidious's propaganda and from Luke Skywalker's mishandling of Caridagate. Black Sun is too busy licking its wounds to be any threat. Sure, there are still some interplanetary troubles, just like there were in the Old Republic, but nothing the Jedi can't—What the kriff? There's been an implacable extragalactic invasion force massing at the edge of the galaxy since about the time Sidious became Chancellor?
  • In the novelization trilogy of Mobile Suit Gundam, Char Aznable is able to convince Amuro Ray to join him and help end the One Year War. Even more, he warns them of the Solar Ray weapon Gihren Zabi has aimed at A Baoa Qu and Amuro races off to warn the crew of the Pegasus IInote  and the other Federation soldiers of these developments. Cue one of Char's wingmen getting too trigger happy with his Rick Dom and shooting the G-3 Gundam in the back, blowing it up and killing Amuro.
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx: Admiral Patterson is down to one carrier and three destroyers, facing two damaged Covenant destroyers. One is taken out, leaving a single Covenant ship utterly defenseless. And then a Covenant fleet 32 ships strong comes out of slipspace between the lone destroyer and the four UNSC ships, and promptly annihilates the human vessels.
    • Made all the more wrenching by the fact that Admiral Patterson had already managed to defeat a numerically superior Covenant fleet, something that was virtually impossible in the series thus far.
  • Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce does this near the ending. After fighting Emperor Weishu's vast armies and actually beating one back from the capital, though with the knowledge that they can't do it forever, everyone suddenly wakes up as Weishu's captive because he's had sleeper agents in the city for decades. The presence of imperial agents wasn't foreshadowed in any way and the previous threat was always the military force. This is the setup for a subsequent Deus ex Machina—literally, the gods of Gyongxe come out and ensure that Weishu won't even think of coming back.
  • In the last Wheel of Time, despite setbacks, the good guys are actually winning - and then Demandred shows up with a massive Sharan army, which by the way has more channelers than the White Tower, Black Tower, Aiel, Sea Folk, and Seanchan combined.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt does this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. Beatrice and Seth, the two protagonists, have what can only be described as a really hot date. Surely they will sort things out now, after eight months of misunderstandings? Surely now Beatrice won't have to marry Rosenschiöld (who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt), to whom she was forced to get engaged? But alas, not only does she have a tyrannical uncle. She also has a sadistic sociopath for a cousin, who now makes sure that she's separated from Seth. Cue a whole year of more misery for Beatrice...

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Poor little Cassie from "Help", rescued effortlessly from both an evil cult and arrow booby-trap, only to die from shock due to a heart condition (which was mentioned) as the arrow trap (which one of the villains sets up and discusses) activates. Buffy catches it without even blinking but it is too much for Cassie.
    • Tara was lethally shot through a window and died almost instantaneously while in the middle of the room on the second floor. The gunman was outside on the ground shooting a pistol randomly into the air and yet on pure luck managed a hit so precise that a Marine sniper perched on the opposite rooftop with a rifle would have been hard-pressed to match it. Seriously, this one's a Trope Codifier.
    • In one of the Buffy comics, Halfrek the vengeance demon has cursed somebody that every descendent of his will die on their 30th birthday, and to ensure this happens she sends a variety of demons and monsters after one particular descendent. Spike wants to stop her mainly out of spite and figures that if he can keep the guy alive until midnight, he's off the hook. Then, after Halfrek has given up, at one minute past midnight, the guy falls out of a window for no reason, and dies anyway...
    • Tara's sanity gets sucked out, but despite being attended to by Dawn for some time, waits until Glory punches a hole in her wall to start babbling about how Dawn's the glowing green energy girl.
    • Xander is told a lot of nasty things about his marriage with Anya by an old man who claimed to be Xander himself from the future. He then finds out that "old Xander" is an impostor demon, and that everything it said was a lie. He actually participates in fighting the demon and the Scoobies manage to kill it. Then Xander decides to leave Anya at the altar, anyway.
    • Actually (doubly, once because evil swaps with good and once because the returning-home-spell doesn't change her fate in the other dimension) inverted in "Doppelgangland" when Evil Vampire Willow from the Wishverse comes to the Buffyverse, gets the I-want-to-go-home going and after saying goodbye the viewer is reminded that she gets back to the exact time she came from, only to die a second time.
    • The crown jewel of this trope may be Angel losing his soul and becoming evil again. In one fell swoop the Official Couple is broken up and a new Big Bad with intimate knowledge of all the heroes is introduced, all because Angel will lose his soul if he ever has a moment of true happiness . . . something that was never mentioned until after it already happened.
  • Many of the murders in Cold Case are played this way, since due to the flashbacks we actually get to know the victims and the people in their lives:
    • "November 22nd:" A pool hustler faces and defeats the opponent he's always wanted to challenge, then resolves to give up the life to take care of his long-lost daughter. His Gold Digger girlfriend shoots him on the way home after he refuses to take her with, too.
    • "The Crossing:" A young woman meets the man of her dreams on a cruise and becomes engaged to him. When she tells her best friend the good news, the friend, in denial about her own failed marriage, shoves the victim to her death.
    • "Shuffle, Ball Change:" A teenage boy who wants to become a professional dancer finally earns the respect of his father, who had previously thought him a sissy. His older brother beats him to death that same night because he thought he was becoming The Unfavorite.
    • "Triple Threat:" A teenage singing prodigy who wants to move from opera to pop finally earns the respect of HER father. Before he can tell her how proud he is, she's poisoned by her Yandere voice coach.
    • "The Letter:" An interracial couple vow to run away together, the times (the Depression era) be damned. Drunken Klansmen randomly burst in and gang-rape the woman, forcing the man to Mercy Kill her.
    • "Almost Paradise:" A popular but lonely high school girl nearing graduation makes peace with everyone she's pissed off over the years, and admits to herself that although she was loved in high school she's terrified of what comes after. She's run over by an ephebophilic teacher she refused to sleep with while going home.
    • "The Perfect Day:" A woman vows to leave her abusive Dirty Cop husband for a new man and take her twin daughters with her. The husband somehow finds her and forces her to watch him throw one of the daughters from a bridge.
  • Jordan (as Diabolus) reveals all the secrets and issues among the main-cast to each other at the Season 1 finale of Scrubs, even though she has quite few to do with the specific persons (Ex Machina).
  • Heroes: Charlie is killed by Sylar for her power. Hiro decides to go back in time to save her, but overshoots yesterday and winds up six months in the past. He develops a strong relationship with her, and she becomes his first love interest. Just before leaving with Hiro for Japan, she reveals she has a blood clot in her brain that'll kill her right around the time Sylar kills her anyway. This rips Hiro's heart into pieces and makes his power go wonky, accidentally putting him in Japan, far away from her, so she stays at the diner and is killed by Sylar anyway.
    • And let's not forget the fourth season. Hiro goes back in time to the diner where Charlie worked and convinces Sylar to use his powers to remove the clot in her brain. Almost immediately afterwards, at the end of the episode she was healed in, she gets kidnapped by the Big Bad and deposited in 1944, thereby robbing Hiro of any potential relationship with her.
    • Happened a second time with poor Hiro, albeit this time less touching and more stupid. He goes back sixteen years, and meets his dying mother. She gives him the catalyst, and he vows to keep it safe from Arthur, who wants to use the catalyst to fuel his army of supersoldiers. Somehow, for no explained reason, Arthur knows that Hiro has the catalyst and teleports exactly to where Hiro and Claire are. He steals the catalyst, sends Claire to the present, and almost kills Hiro.
    • Sylar has benefited from this trope so many times it's not even funny. He technically "died" in Company custody halfway through the first season, but got a mysterious off-screen resurrection. Eden's Compelling Voice and Mohinder's power-disabling serum both worked against Sylar at first, but conveniently and inexplicably failed right when they were about to kill him. In the finale of the first season Niki uses her Super Strength to wail on Sylar with a parking meter, Hiro runs a friggin' katana through his body, and he still survives.
  • The Diabolus has occasionally been employed by The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, as indicated above — they have a healthy partnership.
    • A particularly impressive example of their partnership is the famous Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last", where an unfortunate, timid man has locked himself in a bank-vault to get the peace to read his many books — and because of that, survives a nuclear holocaust, leaving him the last man alive in the world. Then he realizes that this gives him plenty of time to read his beloved books, and thus unwittingly invokes the Diabolus Ex Machina, who promptly breaks his glasses.
  • In the season two finale ("Twilight") of NCIS, the team manages to foil a devious terrorist plot. As they are celebrating their success, Diabolus strikes in the form of a high powered sniper rifle fired by the Big Bad that drills a hole in Kate's head. To add insult to injury, Kate had just taken a bullet for Gibbs and was spared serious injury thanks to her Bulletproof Vest.
    Kate: I was sure I was going to die before— (Boom, Headshot)
  • Blake's 7 is loaded with Diaboli ex Machina. For example, people who say they hate Servalan, and have no reason to like her, keep betraying the protagonists to her, even though she has never rewarded a traitor and kills them each time. In "Rumors of Death," she's been deposed in a revolution, and she's in a dungeon cell, awaiting execution. Avon picks this time to care about anything other than himself, for the first time in the series, avenging his old girlfriend's death. So he frees Servalan in return for information. He makes that a priority over everything else, including winning and safety (usually his highest priority).
    • Servalan is some form of walking Diabolus Ex Machina generator - most grievous example is what was meant to be the finale, her trapped on a ship on the edge of the galaxy that was about to explode, orbiting a planet that was also soon going to explode. Come next season, it is confusingly revealed that somehow the fact that the ship was being eaten apart by a ravenous space virus made the teleport TEN THOUSAND TIMES STRONGER than ever before, and even though she had no idea how to operate it by pure luck managed to land herself NOT in empty space for a start (because the teleport had no safety mechanism to prevent that), and then of all the thousands of possible planets not only a habitable one, not only a populated one, but one governed by her own people... COME ON!!!
  • Just think: if it weren't for the miniseries, this is how Farscape would've ended: They're finally safe from the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers, the wormhole to Earth has been closed forever — but it's okay! Because John is going to marry Aeryn! And then a completely unforeshadowed alien descends from the sky and blasts them into little pebbly bits. And vice versa, since the cliffhanger was pretty much why there was such a demand for a miniseries to begin with.
  • In The West Wing episode "18th and Potomac", the death of Mrs. Landingham, President Bartlet's personal secretary, has Diabolus' fingerprints all over it; after a gentle little running subplot about Mrs. Landingham picking up her first new car, Diabolus arranges for a drunk driver to run a red light and kill her offscreen at the end of the episode with no foreshadowing whatsoever. This also contributes to a bit of Deus Angst Machina, as what with Bartlet's M.S scandal and various other crises and such, it wasn't as if Bartlet didn't already have enough reasons to be a bit angsty at the time. This example, however, can partially be forgiven in that it leads to Bartlet's excellent rant against God in the next episode, in which he even lampshades the trope (see the page quote), and his equally awesome Redemption in the Rain sequence.
    • Another example — a lesser one because it's a newly introduced, comparatively minor character, but still a punch in the gut — is in the next season finale, "Posse Comitatus," when C.J.'s stalker is apprehended and she just begins a relationship with the special agent who'd been assigned to protect her... and he leaves her sight for a minute to pick up a candy bar and a flower from a convenience store, finds himself in the middle of an armed robbery and is shot and killed.
    • It kind of depends on whether you view Senator Vinick as a good guy or not (being that he's a Republican presidential campaign in a show about a Democratic presidential administration), but the nuclear power plant disaster that occurs completely out of nowhere in the middle of season seven and which utterly derails his presidential campaign and ultimately costs him the election occurs largely as a halfway convincing way to level the playing field after a full half-season of Vinick being the clear frontrunner by a huge margin and Matt Santos, his opponent, lagging way behind in the polls.
  • Good Times, James Evans, Mississippi. For a comedy titled "Good Times", Diabolus sure was busy [[Yank the Dog's Chain depriving the Evanses from having any. All because of the executives had to intervene. The show was originally created to combat stereotypes about African-American families. The Evans started as a solidly middle class, two parent household. Unfortunately, the suits felt this wasn't realistic, so James died, and the Evans ended up becoming a poor and struggling single-mother led family.
  • Doctor Who season finales tend to be based on unfortunate circumstances plunging the state of the world from bad to worse.
    • There's a "classic" Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker-era Padding technique, at a time of four-part serials being the standard, of 1) ending the second episode with the exciting Cliffhanger of the Doctor getting captured, 2) having the Doctor spend most of the third episode cleverly escaping, then 3) using a Diabolus ex Machina to end the third episode with the exciting Cliffhanger of the Doctor getting captured again by the enemies he escaped from.
    • The ending to the 2010 episode "Cold Blood". They've stopped the bad guys, got the humans and the Silurians at least on the right track to start living together in a thousand years, and are all set to escape when a crack in the space-time continuum appears, leading to not only the death of Rory, but his erasure from existence. Luckily, he's revived in time for the season finale.
    • The last of the 2009 specials, "The End of Time", involves a prophecy that the Doctor is soon to die. It concludes with the Doctor vanquishing the Time Lords and sending Gallifrey back into the Time War, seemingly defying the prophecy. Then Wilfred Mott gets stuck in a box. Which is about to be flooded with radiation. And the door is locked. And it won't open unless somebody goes in the other side of the box. And there's no override. And the sonic screwdriver won't work. You can almost hear the writers straining to make this into a situation that requires the Doctor to sacrifice himself.
    • The single surviving Angel that shows up at the end of "The Angels Take Manhattan" to suddenly time-warp Rory back to old New York. The Doctor tells Amy that if she goes back in time with him, he will never be able to see her again as the Angel activity has so screwed up the time stream that he can't fly the TARDIS there. She chooses to go with Rory. Why can't the Doctor write her a letter (he reads children's books by her in later episodes), or park his TARDIS in New Jersey and take a car? Why was the Angel suddenly there in the first place? Because Amy and Rory had to be written out somehow.
  • Prison Break did this in the episode "Selfless" - Scylla had been stolen, everyone was free to go, the release papers had been handed over, and then it turns out that the cop was playing them all along and they're in an even worse situation than they had been before.
  • Supernatural
    • The Season One finale: John's been possessed and shot, Dean's been tortured, but everyone is alive and Sam is driving them to the hospital, and it looks like everything will be fine. Until a huge truck slams into the Impala, totaling the car, and the episode ends with all three men bloody and unconscious. As they supposedly recover in Season 2, Dean nearly dies and John dies and gives up the Colt to save him, allowing the next 4 seasons worth of plot to happen, as one of them needed to die and get put in Hell, and the loss of the Colt triggers Sam's, then Dean's, first deaths later on in the season.
    • "Mystery Spot" has this trope happen, as Dean's comical deaths, but it is invoked for the sake of a lesson, then reversed.
  • By way of Crack Defeat, an example where the demon is revealed after the fact: One of The Torkelsons has made it to the final of a contest whose winner will get to be a foreign exchange student in Paris. After her final interview she comes out and announces that she lost. No biggie, so? Well, she recounts her interview and ends with saying that she got the highest score. Why did she lose then? Because the exchange student deal is a homestay (we already knew this), and the French family involved would like a boy (but not this). Well, ISTR that would have made the final interviews meaningless, because there was only one boy amongst the three finalists.
  • The Law & Order franchise loves using this trope to turn a slam-dunk case into an hour-long question of "Will they get away with it". Several egregious examples:
    • "Marathon" (Law & Order s10e6): Briscoe and Green catch a young Latino thug fresh from mugging and shooting a white housewife. Lenny hears the guy admit it. His word against the perp's. They find physical evidence linking him to the shooting. It gets tossed one piece at a time. When they finally corner him in the end, he Karma Houdinis his way out by dropping the dime on a notorious serial rapist, cutting himself a sweet deal in the process. (McCoy gets him to admit what he said to Lenny: "I gave that white bitch what she deserved")
    • "Suicide Box" (s13e16): A young black male shoots a cop outside of a diner, out of anger that his brother's murder had been swept under the rug. They had him dead to rights... then the mitigating factors rolled in: His brother's death had been ruled a suicide, the man who shot him never denied it (by the cops never looked at him). His and his mother's protests were brushed aside by the cops. And, oh yeah, his brother's body? Gone. The funeral home buried a casket full of trash (an ongoing fraud scheme, it turned out).
    • "Screwed" (SVU s8e22)''': The episode features the trial of Tutuola's stepson, Darius (crimes committed in the earlier episode, Venom (s7e18)). Except that ALL the evidence except his confession had been thrown out due to questions about Fin's credibility, also Darius (well played by rapper Ludacris) was only going to trial to hurt and embarrass his mother, Fin's ex (who denied him for most of his life). When Fin's ex got on the stand, Darius (acting as his own council) forced her into dropping her own pain-filled bombshell: Darius was a child of rape... by her father. Acquitted of the murders, in the end, Darius can't even take joy in beating the rap and rubbing Fin and his mother's nose in it.
    • "Hell" (SVU s10e14) This episode has the SVU team tracking down a member of an African terrorist organization who tried to murder a young girl. With the help of Elijah, who turns out to have been forced to be a Child Soldier in the same organization, and harbors massive guilt over what he was forced to do, they track down the culprit and arrest him. Everything looks like it'll end well...until the Smug Snake immigration officer reveals that Elijah didn't escape the terrorist organization until after he turned 18, which means he can be legally held responsible for the crimes he was forced to commit. It doesn't end well.
    • "Damaged" (s8e22) Three unrepentant teenage boys are on trial for raping a mentally retarded classmate. After a hard fought trial, the jury returns guilty. Everyone's happy. Not so fast. The judge sets aside the verdict, issues a directed verdict of not guilty saying the prosecution didn't prove its case, and piles on saying the retarded girl knew what she was doing and had "the time of her life." Add in a subplot in which Det. Briscoe finds out his daughter has been murdered for testifying against a drug lord, and this episode winds up wrist-slashingly hurtful.
    • "Cold" (SVU s9e19): It looks like the Dirty Cop is about to get convicted, but then, out of nowhere, two bombshells are dropped one after another. The key witness against him? Its revealed that she's an illegal immigrant, rendering her testimony moot. And the autopsy reports that were the key evidence? They couldn't prove the cop raped one of the victims, Novak knew it, and lied about.
    • "Redemption" (SVU s3e6): The real culprit behind the serial rapes has been caught and all that remains to get the innocent man originally convicted for the crimes out of jail is to get the perp to confess. Everything seems to be smooth sailing... until Elliot goes to the bathroom. When he returns, he finds that in that tiny window of time the Cowboy Cop guest star (who'd been pursuing the rapist for years and who was also in the interrogation room) has pushed the perp out the window in a Vigilante Execution. Because they can't get a statement from the real perp now, the innocent man stays in jail (it should be noted that the justice system doesn't actually work like this).
    • "Zoonotic" (CI): The creepy doctor who had been infecting ex-girlfriends with diseases if they refused to engage in sex games with him and his friend, a sleazeball veterinarian who murdered a cop who may have been on to them, are behind bars without a trial. Everything is going swimmingly. And then at the literal last minute, it's revealed that the doctor got 5 grams of anthrax from South America, and he only had 3 grams in his apartment.
      • This leads into the next episode, "A Person of Interest." (The episodes originally aired as a two-part season finale.)
  • In the second season of Highlander, Duncan Macleod successfully rescued his mortal girlfriend Tessa from a kidnapper ... only for her to be shot dead by a random mugger less than three minutes after the escape.
  • Although this is generally what's always happening to Edmund Blackadder, one of the few times this happened with everyone is the end of the second series when Edmund appeared to have escaped capture and greatly impressed the Queen, but then, after the credits, the Master of Disguise turns out to have survived getting stabbed with a sword and a throwing knife, came back, killed everyone, and assumed the Queen's identity with a near-perfect disguise.
  • 24 season finales used to be made of this trope:
    • Day One: The Drazens are all dead, Senator Palmer is safe, as is Jack Bauer's daughter Kim, and the real mole inside CTU has been caught...but then Jack goes into the CTU server room and finds that Nina, the aforementioned mole, killed Jack's wife, Teri, before she fled and was caught.
    • Day Two: The nuclear disaster has long since been averted, the terrorists' mastermind, while not dead or captured, has been sufficiently scared out of the US, and everything appears to be safe once again... until now-President Palmer makes a public appearance and shakes hands with a random "civilian" who turns out to be a terrorist; with the handshake, she'd infected the President with some sort of biological agent. The episode—and season—ends with Palmer collapsing to the ground, the ending clock replaced with a heartbeat sound effect.
    • Day Five: the conspiracy has been exposed, President Logan is arrested and everything seems fine and dandy, until the Chinese pop up out of nowhere and haul Jack off, meaning he has to spend the next twenty months enduring torture at their hands.
    • For that matter, this always notably pops up in roughly around the end of the third quarter of every season save the first.
      • Season two has Jack's Middle Eastern agent ally on their way to deliver a chip that will prevent the U.S. Government from unwittingly starting World War III, only for him to be attacked by a bunch of racist rednecks that kill him and steal the chip.
      • Season three has Michelle Desller getting abducted by the henchman of the Big Bad right when it looks like he's finally about to be caught.
      • Season four has Jack about to launch an operation to, again, capture the Big Bad, but President Logan orders him to stand down at the last second since it was carried out through illegal means, thus blowing the best chance anyone's had to put an end to the whole mess.
      • Season five: Jack finally gets the recording that proves President Logan conspired with terrorists, and then the Bad Boss in charge of CTU pulls a Face-Heel Turn to work with Logan so he can get a better job and destroys the recording.
      • Season six has Jack finally kill the terrorist he's been chasing after all season... and then he's contacted by the Chinese who are holding his previously thought-dead girlfriend hostage.
      • Season seven has major antagonist Jonas Hodges caught and the bioweapon his company was developing is destroyed... except for one canister. And its stolen by Tony Almeida who reveals himself as The Mole by killing FBI Director Larry Moss.
      • Season eight has a twofold one: Jack failing to rescue Omar Hassan in time before his execution after learning that the entire televised thing was already prerecorded, and then immediately after Renee Walker getting killed so the true masterminds behind the conspiracy don't risk getting recognized.
  • Dawson's Creek: in the grand finale, Jen suddenly has, and dies from, a heart condition. It was well done, though.
  • This was used in one of the season finales for Alias. The Big Bad of the season is temporarily defeated, Sydney and Vaughn finally get to drive off into the sunset together... only for Vaughn to tell Sydney "I'm not who you think I am," and a semi to come out of absolutely nowhere, slamming into their car and ending the season.
  • The Season 5 Finale for House: Just when you think House has removed that annoying hallucination of Cutthroat Bitch, kicked the Vicodin, and gotten it on with his long time flirt interest Cuddy, it all turns out to be the biggest screw-over in the history of anything. It was ALL a hallucination! He's NUTS! It NEVER HAPPENED! Cutthroat Bitch was standing there the entire time in his mind, and so was the deceased Kutner. The season ends with House being led into a mental hospital.
  • An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation involves a drunk-driving car accident and the death of the only survivor while in the hospital. The killer turns out to be the mother of the (underage) daughter killed in the accident, and thought that the other (legal) girl deserved to die as well. So she suffocated the bed-ridden, just-out-of-an-accident, just-coming-out-of-the-coma girl with a plastic bag from the gift shop. Right before the credits?... find out that, because they switched IDs if they got pulled over for driving, got misidentified at the crash site, was so cut, bruised, and bloodied that no one made the connection, the mother suffocated her own daughter, out of spite.
    • Still another involves the death of the daughter of a powerful drug lord. It ultimately turns out it wasn't actually murder, and her death resulted from a proverbial "series of unfortunate events" involving several people, none of whom were trying to kill her at all. Unfortunately, this explanation does not satisfy the drug lord, and he has every last one of them (including his own sister, the girl's guardian) murdered in the closing montage, and there's not a thing the team can do about it.
    • Another one has a man returning from a war seeing his wife and newborn and even holding said newborn only to be gunned down by some random intoxicated guy.
  • One of the last few episodes of Monk, Monk spends the episode trying to get on the good side of the kid of the only cop against his reinstatement. Then he gets cornered by a bear, saves the kid, solves the crime, and the guy changes his mind. Unfortunately, the two officers who supported him changed their minds after nothing more than going back over his case records. The writers Yanking The Shaggy Dog's Chain resulted in a mildly delusional Heroic BSOD.
  • The final episode of Series 3 of Primeval where humanity has been saved from evil Helen by a hungry raptor. However the Pliocene anomaly closes, trapping Danny 3 million years in the past.
  • Col. Henry Blake was already written out of Mash. He'd gotten his discharge and left for home. But that wasn't enough, so at the end of his farewell episode, Radar gets the message that his plane was shot down. "There were no survivors."
  • ''Bones has the episode "The Bones on the Blue Line".
    • The Season 8 finale "The Secret in the Siege" has an extremely dickish one. Pilant orders Booth to break off the much-anticipated engagement with Brennan and never tell her why or he'll kill five random people. As an extra slap in the fandom's face, the producers later laugh during an interview about how the fans probably want to kill them for pulling the stunt.
  • Some people actually have been screwed over by unexpected twists in Reality TV shows, this may qualify.
    • Shi-Ann in Survivor: Thailand tried to network with the other tribes when time came for the merge, only for instead, they're told they're living on the same beach... so when Shi-Ann's tribe loses, she's low man on the totem pole, so bye-bye Shi-Ann.
    • Savage in Survivor: Pearl Islands, who was pretty much screwed beacuse Lillian was brought back into the game and flipped at the merge, causing him to be voted out.
    • Michelle in Survivor: Fiji. Ten players in the game, and they're divided into two teams of five. Unfortuantely, Michelle's stuck with indifferent players and people on an alliance; not wanting to vote out their own alliance member, they gang up on Michelle, who was playing perfectly well...
    • In the 11th season of the American Big Brother, Jessie was screwed with a sudden twist. The Coup de Tat, which would be awarded to the fan favourite, was given to Jeff. Jeff wisely uses this and puts up Jessie and Natalie. Jessie is voted out, partly by the perceptive Kevin who knew Jessie was in control of the game at that point and that it'd advance him further if he got Jessie out. Jessie was actually quite humble about it. He was actually complimenting Jeff on his brilliant use of the twist, and saying that, had Jeff made the final two, he would gladly cast a vote for him.
    • In the 9th season of Big Brother, when James was voted out, a twist was played to bring either James or Alex (Evicted several weeks prior) back into the house. He was voted back in, and immediately went on a rampage to find out who did not vote him back into the house, and he targeted Matt, who was sent to the Jury House.
    • Happens in The Amazing Race occasionally as well. In the fifth season finale, what the audience doesn't find out is that Colin and Christie would've caught up to the leading team, and possibly finished first, but their taxi got a flat tire. In several other seasons (seven and seventeen in particular), despite traveling around the world, it's a language barrier in a large American city (thanks to taxi drivers who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds) that ends up hurting teams the most.
      • Then, there's Eric and Lisa from season 15, who are eliminated at the starting line. How? The teams were made to find one of eleven Japanese license plates and show them to the host. There were twelve racers.
  • The Sci Fi Channel adaptation of the short story "The Cold Equations" ends on this. The basic premise of the story is that a young girl has stowed away on a spaceship carrying urgently needed medical supplies to a distant colony - and, because of her added mass, there isn't enough fuel to land the ship without crashing (and killing everyone on board), so, according to regulations, the pilot is supposed to throw the girl out the airlock so the cargo can arrive safely. It's established fairly early on that the cargo weighs about the same as the girl, and that jettisoning either the cargo or the girl would save the ship. Near the end, the two of them discover that the cargo wasn't what they thought it was, and jettison it, so they're safe now. That's when Diabolus shows up. To the surprise of the pilot and audience, the ship still has too much mass, because they waited too long and are now closer to the planet. So Someone Has to Die anyway.
  • The Series One finale of Sherlock has Moriarty walk out fairly close to the end. Sherlock removes John's explosive-laden outer layers, jokes are cracked and all seems to be right with the world. Then Moriarty comes back, and the series ends with Sherlock and John being aimed at by multiple snipers while Sherlock aims his own gun at the explosives, which are now at Moriarty's feet.
  • While not the end of the series (although it could have served as such if the writers strike had not been resolved), season 4.1 finale "Revelations" of the Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) is a major Wham Episode that also pulls this trope. Hard. (And things get worse before they get better.)
  • The sixth-season Degrassi The Next Generation episode "Rock This Town" involves many of the main characters attending a birthday party for their friend Liberty. It soon gets out of control when a group of kids from another school show up, but it turns out to be fairly harmless, and everyone has a number of embarrassing moments...until the very end, where Diabolus strikes its head by having one of the main cast (J.T.) stabbed out of the blue by a guest character who never appeared in any episode before or after the one in question.
  • In The Walking Dead, Rick and Glenn spread walker blood all over some raincoats and wear them to blend in with them. Just when you think they're safe, an absolutely random rainstorm shows up, stays just long enough to dull the smell from the blood by washing it away, and it stops raining after the zombies have noticed they're not undead.
  • Several episodes of I Shouldn't Be Alive can come off as this. The people who the stories are about almost seem to have been cursed by some malevolent deity based on their awful luck. One episode had a man who had been stranded in a raft for weeks and had to drift from Africa to the Caribbean. He had just reached Caribbean waters, took good supplies, figured everything out and seemed pretty much set to make it all the way to one of the islands safely, when he went to spear a fish with his harpoon, his harpoon snapped in half, the fish did a barrel roll, punctured his raft, and swam away, leaving him to just barely patch his raft up.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: The overall finale has Xena execute an ambitiously dangerous plan involving her being killed, so she could go off and fight the spirit Big Bad in the spirit world. She sets Gabrielle the task of bringing her back afterwards using her ashes, and magic spring water. It's not until Xena's actually won, and Gabs (and by extension the audience) is all ready for that happy ending, that Xena drops the bombshell, that this time she has to stay dead, or her Heroic Sacrifice won't mean anything. The twist is not hinted at before it happens, is a disproportionate response, and is largely unnecessary since she mostly seems to have a massive Guilt Complex about the original precipitating incident, which was pretty much an accident. Since Xena claims she knew beforehand, she comes across as something of a Jerkass for not pre-warning Gabs about it.
    • Remedied in the "director's cut" version of the episode, which provides foreshadowing (though still a little too close to the end) and shows us that Xena didn't really know beforehand that she would have to stay dead.
  • In the second season of Robin Hood every single thing that can go wrong, ''does'' go wrong in order to kill off Marian. Marian acts wildly Out of Character. Robin and the other outlaws are inexplicably missing at a crucial moment. No one bothers to give Marian a weapon to defend herself with. Every single one of Guy's Berserk Buttons are pressed. The Idiot Ball is thrown about with such abandon that it leaves Plot Holes in the scenery. The contrived sequence of events unfold with the sole purpose of forcing Guy and Marian into the "right" frame of mind that leads to her murder. (And it still doesn't make any sense).
  • This is the driving force behind the plot, and the source of much of the humor, in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Duet," Aamin Maritza pretends to be Gul Darhe'el so that a war crimes trial can be put on and Cardassia can admit to the atrocities it committed. Kira decides to be the one to try to end the cycle of violence between Bajorans and Cardassians by letting him go and telling everyone that he's actually Maritza, so an innocent man won't be executed for crimes he did not commit. Everything seems to be wrapping up, as Maritza realizes that he can work with the Bajorans to try to atone for the past in a different way. However, a Bajoran drunk who we hadn't seen since the beginning of the episode comes up behind him and stabs him in the back, killing him, not because he was Darhe'el, but simply because he was a Cardassian.
  • The Chaser's War On Everything did a parody promo for Australian Story about a woman whose bad luck never seems to run out. eg. she's diagnosed with cancer shortly after the death of her third husband. The parody latched onto the fact that although Australian Story is a documentary series about real people, some of the episodes are so depressing that the events they depict seem contrived.
  • Downton Abbey is crawling with this trope in the third series, largely because so much successful Character Development has happened that there's not as much interpersonal drama in the house to play off, and there's no overarching Big Bad in the show, so the plot is rife with freak accidents and devastating twists with no forewarning. The third Christmas special really takes the cake, though, when Matthew is violently killed in a car crash right after Mary gives birth to his firstborn. All because the actor didn't want to come back for another season.
  • In the last episode of series three of Whitechapel, a killer makes two attempts on the life of therapist Morgan Lamb. She manages to outwit and then outrun him, and takes sanctuary at the police station where she strikes up a rapport with Chandler. Finally, the killer dies after throwing himself off a building, dying in his mother's arms with the words: "I'm sorry...sorry I didn't kill Morgan." All's well that ends well — except that the police take the killer's mother to the police station, she spots Morgan in her safe room, distracts the police and promptly stabs Morgan to death with a shard of glass from a coffee table.
  • In the second to last episode of Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. the team is able to win back Akibaranger's timeslot from Ultra Ace, an Series/Ultraman expy, only for them to find out that not only are they dealing with the alien invasion that came with Ultra Ace, but that Saburo Hatte, the writer of the series, accidentally triggered the "Iron Clad Suicide Run" flag, meaning the Akibarangers will stop the invasion, but will die in the process! Then, we find out in the final episode that, yes, they did die as they are taken up to Sentai Heaven by the first Yellow 4, Time Fire and Abare Killer.
  • Skins: Fire just couldn't leave Naomi and Emily's happy ending alone.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers ends with the team retrieving the Zeo Crystal fragments, using it to reverse the damage done by Master Vile. Then Goldar and Rito show up, steal the Zeo Crystal and allow their bomb to go off, forcing the Rangers to watch helplessly as the Command Center explodes. Until next season.
    • Power Rangers Turbo really hits this hard as Divatox leads an invasion on the Power Chamber after the Rangers' last fight deprives them of their weapons. The base is destroyed, the powers lost, they find out Zordon's kidnapped and, when they decide to chase after them, powers or not, Justin decides to stay behind. No powers, four Rangers and against a possible army of foes...
  • Downplayed example in, of all places, Breaking Bad. The sequence of events is pretty unlikely and mainly serves to promote the moral of "actions have consequences" above all else (seriously-woman dies from drug overdose, woman's father is sent so far into a Heroic BSOD that he screws up his job, said job is airplane controller, the results of said screw up happen directly over dealer of said drugs' house so he can see it), but ultimately, it does nothing that Walter wasn't doing already to himself.
  • The second season of Californication introduces a Gatsby-esque character by the name of Lew Ashby who spends his current life pining for the one that got away. He even throws parties in the hope that she'll show up. In the season finale, Hank finally gets her to come to a party and talks a nervous Lew into greeting her only for Ashby to decide to blow some heroine, thinking it was cocaine, and subsequently die from an overdose
  • The Following has become notorious for abusing this, often in tandem with the heroes' fondness of the Idiot Ball, which is probably why it's slowly dying of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. One such instance featured Joe Carroll seemingly burning to death in a boathouse, only for later flashbacks to reveal that he'd rigged it to be able to escape exactly that scenario, then had one of his few remaining followers pick him up a couple miles down the road, in a location that would've been in sight of the FBI but for their sheer idiocy, and went into hiding for a year. Oh, and the body they found in the wreckage? Another of Carroll's followers was revealed to have switched out a bunch of database records prior to being gunned down for treachery, with the body that matched the fake records also being planted in the boathouse.
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot shows the old Doctors, through much hardship and running down corridors, getting into the special in the form of three Dalek suits... but in the ending, Moffat's editor points out that the special is the same without the Dalek scene and overrunning by ten minutes, and so Moffat leans over and deletes the superfluous scene with the three Daleks.
  • One Tree Hill: In the final season, Brooke was the only one of the main group of characters (Haley and Nathan, Clay and Quinn, Brooke and Julian) who wasn't really having any issues, after about seven seasons of the show beating the hell out of her. Apparently she wasn't allowed one season where none of the problems were hers, however, as just when things were starting to go well for her, her Arch-Enemy Xavier Daniels (who literally did beat the hell out of her) is released from prison and starts following her around, leaving her completely terrified that he would attack her again and unable to do anything about it because no one who could do anything would believe her. (He did.)

    Music 
  • Depeche Mode's song "Blasphemous Rumors" is about a girl who tried to commit suicide at age sixteen. She fails, and learns to love life again. Then she dies in an accident.
  • Countless country songs take advantage of this, often to a narmy extent. In fact, it's a common joke in the American south that if you play country music backwards, the singer's wife will return to him, bearing his dog and his truck intact.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Funky Winkerbean, Wally (nephewnote  of the title character) had just returned from a trip return trip to Iraq, with his new bride and newly adopted orphaned waif in tow. The future looked bright for the young Winkerbeans... until Wally got a letter from the Army telling him that he was technically A.W.O.L., because his discharge was issued one day too early. As a result, Wally was ordered back to active duty to serve a full year's tour of duty. The readership was pretty sure that discharges don't work like that (even the ones incorrectly filed) and could've fought the order if he wanted (and almost certainly won). But he fought the war instead. As an extra kick in the metaphorical nads, Becky finds out she's pregnant just in time for Wally to get shipped off. An extra EXTRA kick was administered when the second Time Skip came about and Wally was nowhere to be found. Turns out that for the entire second Time Skip, Wally was held captive by insurgents.
    • Ironically, the author's complete ignorance on military discharges was such that he overlooked an entirely legal way to suddenly recall Wally to service. All initial enlistment contracts are for eight years of service obligation, not four. The typical arrangement is only four years of active duty and then four more years of 'Individual Ready Reserve' status, the practical upshot being that short of medical disability, Bad Conduct Discharge, etc., you can be yanked back in entirely at their discretion up until eight years have passed since your initial enlistment. The recruiter is required to make durn sure you understand this before you sign.
  • If you're going into the funny pages, Charlie Brown learned that the demon of heartbreaking sports losses can attack after the end of the game, when he had a rare win stripped from him over a "gambling scandal" (Rerun betting Snoopy a nickel that they would win). Can they do that? No, seriously, can they?
  • * GULP!* It's Derrick and "Onion"!

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Let's face it; any time someone particularly favored by (or disliked by) a heel GM or VP is involved in a match (or worse, said GM or VP is in the match) you can pretty much guarantee this will happen, either in the form of changing the rules mid-match or outright overturning results for nothing more than spite.
  • The real life circumstances surrounding Owen Hart's death.
  • Eddie Guerrero had a huge drug problem early in his career but got over it through religion. After being a Heel most of his career and having just made a Heel-Face Turn, having gained Batista's trust after his refusal to cheat as he normally does costs him the match and on his way to fight a match where he was scheduled to win the championship title was found dead in his hotel room days before his pay-per-view. Dead from the effects of the drugs he hadn't been using for years. Don't do drugs, even if you quit they will catch up with you.
  • Michael Cole winning at WrestleMania XXVII.
  • Bad Influence, their entire existence. TNA had Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian in a blood feud that suddenly dissipated without any resolution so the two could ruin the life of AJ Styles. Tropes Are Not Bad, as Bad Influence were very popular (well, sort of). Everyone wanted to see AJ beat them up more than they wanted to see AJ spend time with Dixie Carter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • To some BattleTech fans, Diabolus is behind the Jihad storyline. Let's see, the Clan invasion is finally called off, the Star League tentatively reestablished, and while there are still loose ends left over (like the threat of the Wolf Khan to come invading anyway once the original truce is up, or the aftermath of a nasty civil war) things finally seem to be ready to calm down a bit...but hey, we can't have that, right? This game isn't called PeaceTech! So the Star League declares itself a sham and disbands again for no good reason just in time to cause the suddenly uber-powerful pseudo-religious lunatics known as the Word of Blake to go Ax-Crazy and start pulling cyborg super soldiers, nuclear weapons, and other stuff out of their nether regions in an all-out war against everybody...
  • The ending to the {Tabletop Game/{Deadlands}}: Hell on Earth setting involved the PCs getting a chance to kill the Big Bads of the game. After going through a bunch of Rail Roaded scenes, they're presented with the opportunity to win and a ship to do so (but they have to sacrifice one of their own to the demonically-powered engine to do so). Then you get to a distant planet... and the ship crashes and the Big Bads are re-released. At least the Game Master should have been implying that this was the best possible result from the start; the can that had the Big Bads in it was always shaky at best. Guess who gets to hunt them down and finish the job now?
  • The entire universe of Warhammer 40,000 was probably made by Diabolus.

    Theatre 
  • In the Richard Strauss opera Elektra, the title character, in the midst of rejoicing over the deaths of her mother and her consort, suddenly drops dead at the end for no reason except to bring down the curtain on a crushing downer note.
  • William Shakespeare is a notorious offender. For example, in King Lear Cordelia's death comes pretty much out of the blue, transforming the play into a tragedy in its final act.
    • King Lear, like many of Shakespeare's other plays, was based on earlier stories that his audience would have been familiar with. Lear and Cordelia don't die in those stories. Shakespeare killed them off because he wanted to surprise the audience. This ending was subject to a lot of Fanon Dis Continuity in later centuries, and many performances ended with Cordelia marrying Edgar instead ... even though she already got married earlier in the play.
    • Romeo and Juliet is one Diabolus Ex Machina after another. This is even lampshaded; the line in the opening speech about them being "star-crossed lovers" is a reference to the practice of trying to predict the future using astrology, implying that Fate really is out to get them.

    Video Games 
  • A lot of the moral choices in the second Army Of Two game end this way. You either choose the "bad" option, or you choose the "good" option...except that the guy you gave up some advantage to save turns out to be corrupt AND selling weapons to terrorists. Or a guy you choose to save instead of killing in exchange for money is later killed in a plane crash accident.
  • The updated ending to Portal - The first independently mobile entity apart from Chell turns up just to drag her back right after you thought she was free.
  • In any game where a chopper is called in to rescue your party halfway through the game, it will probably get shot down or otherwise destroyed, as in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 4, or Call Of Duty 4.
    • Left 4 Dead had the infamous Chopper pilot dying at the end of the first campaign. It was nixed when many people found the ending too depressing and cheated out of their feeling of accomplishment. Ironically it was the fan backlash that caused Valve to create a filler campaign between No Mercy and Death Toll, reinstating what was taken out. They use this again in the sequel, to link all of the campaigns together. This meant that some sort of Diabolus Ex Machina would show up in the beginning of each campaign, serving as the Machina of the last campaign (this included a chopper pilot dying as well).
    • In Serious Sam 3, after seeing at least two choppers get shot down, (one of which he was ON at the time), Sam decides he's not going to get on any more choppers.
    • The Conduit actually jokes about it, where Ford's way off an oil rig is supposedly a Leviathan. The Leviathan destroys a helicopter flying over the base:
    Ford: ...And you're SURE there's no other way out of here?
    Prometheus: Well, there was a helicopter...
  • The path towards the fourth ending in Drakengard is shaping up to be a Bittersweet Ending, which, given the only other "good" ending is also bittersweet, doesn't seem too bad. After all, after finding out that the Creepy Child Big Bad is irredeemably evil even after the protests of her twin brother, the heroes have finally succeeded in killing her once and for all. Now the world is saved. Except, wait, something's falling out of the sky... Justified in that said Creepy Child was essentially the avatar or representative of said things falling out of the sky. We probably should mention that said things are pissed off as hell after she dies and with no seal holding them back, it's The End of the World as We Know It.note  The real kicker is the fifth ending. The heroes cross over into another dimension to kill the mother of all the aforementioned elderitch abominations. She and the heroes are transported to modern day Tokyo and, after a climatic boss battle, get shot down by missiles from an aircraft. And as Nier reveals, this leads to the extinction of the human race.
  • Apocalypse: Bruce Willis/Trey Kincaid has defeated the four horsemen, (i.e. the Dragons), and is about to take down the Big Bad Reverend. Unfortunately, he gets a Demonic Possession ex machina. Downer Ending. Or maybe intended to be a Cliff Hanger leading to a Vapor Ware sequel?
  • Raiden's ending in the original Mortal Kombat. Evil vanquished: check. BBEG dead: check. Hey fellas; let's break the world ourselves!
    • And Reptile's ending in Mortal Kombat 4. Go through the entire game, win the tournament, and then your Bad Boss pops your head like a grape for asking for a reward. WTF? This always happens to him. The one time that he has a happy ending is in Armageddon.
    • Mortal Kombat 9 takes it even further. After destroying Quan Chi's Soulnado, thus saving the souls of Earthrealm, Nightwolf regroups with Raiden's chosen right as Raiden and Liu Kang go to have a chat with the Elder Gods. At that moment, the Cyber Lin Kuei attack. Then, a Brainwashed and Crazy Sindel shows up. This is where it all goes to hell. Remember that scene three chapters back in Stryker's chapter when Raiden torpedoed Motaro through a bridge to prevent him from killing Johnny Cage? Motaro's death caused Shao Kahn to take off his kiddie gloves and get serious. He uses Shang Tsung's soul(s) to empower Sindel, giving her a massive boost in strength. Sindel, in the span of less than a minute, goes to town on the heroes. Out of Nightwolf, Kitana, Jade, Cyber Sub-Zero, Smoke, Jax, Sonya, Cage, Kabal, and Stryker (Kung Lao had been killed by Kahn a few chapters prior), only Nightwolf, Kitana, Sonya, and Cage immediately survive; Kitana dies in Liu Kang's arms from her injuries and Nightwolf has to sacrifice himself to take down Sindel, right as Raiden and Liu Kang return from their meeting empty-handed. Afterward, the game switches over to Raiden for the final chapter, having him deal with the tragic repercussions of this event, including him accidentally killing the now-disillusioned Liu Kang, with Liu cursing at him in his dying breaths as he's lost his faith in the Thunder God, his former friend and mentor. And The Stinger reveals that Shinnok, Fallen Elder God and Big Bad of 4, is posed to strike a now vulnerable Earthrealm/Outworld, the implications being that he got a tip-off from his Armageddon self just like Raiden did and has been manipulating everything from behind the scenes, Quan Chi being his enforcer and eyes and ears in Shao Kahn's army. And for good measure, the rescue helicopter was also used to keep Sonya and Jax in the plot. Then Jax gets his arms ripped off instead of just upgraded, Sub-Zero gets roboticized because it had to happen to someone, Scorpion is tricked out of his redemption.
  • Half-Life 2 Episode 2: After Gordon has whipped the Striders, a Combine Advisor shows up, immobilizes Gordon, Alyx and Alyx's father Eli, rapes Eli's brain to death by jamming a nozzle up his spine to suck the brains out, but is then stopped by Dog before he can do the same thing to Alyx or Gordon, leaving the game, instead of a happy ending, on a Kick the Dog moment.
    • Heck, look at Half-Life, if you decide not to side with the ostensibly evil G-Man, you're immediately dumped into the middle of a bunch of angry monsters with no hope of victory.
  • F.E.A.R. ends with the protagonist being extracted aboard a helicopter with a couple of NPC teammates. The helicopter suddenly lurches and Alma is seen climbing aboard an instant before the game cuts to the credits. Which are worth sitting through for yet another whammy.
  • Halfway through Call Of Duty 4, after you've completed the primary objective in Shock and Awe, there's a Diabolic Nuke Ex Machina, when you get a call that the bad guys have set up a nuke in Asaad's palace, then one of your fellow chopper pilots gets shot down. You land to rescue her, and do so, but it's already too late, and the nuke knocks the escaping helicopters out of the sky and kills all of the American main characters. You have a minute of Controllable Helplessness before the protagonist, too, expires from radiation poisoning. As a result, the shaggy dog has not just been shot, but totally annihilated.
    • And during the final mission, after stopping the nuke launch, an invincible Hind gunship appears and lays waste to your squad. Then the Big Bad starts executing the survivors, but before he can get to you, in a semi-Deus ex Machina, the Russian Loyalists arrive and destroy the Hind, distracting the Big Bad and allowing your CO to pass you a pistol. It's not clear if either of you survive, though. The sequel reveals that both of you did, but the Big Bad was then portrayed as a martyr gunned down by evil British, American, and Russian Loyalist forces and things just get worse.
    • None of these compare to the one at the end of "Loose Ends" in Modern Warfare 2. After fighting of hordes of Ultranationalists, you and Ghost rush to rendezvous point. You get clipped by a mortar, but Ghost drags you the rest of way and The Cavalry kills the enemy forces. Then your commanding officer takes the info you collected, shoots both of you, and throws your bodies in a ditch. The last thing you see is him tossing a lit cigar at your kerosene soaked bodies.
    • The fake-surrendering Japanese soldiers who kill Roebuck/Polonsky at the end of "Breaking Point" in World At War could qualify, too, seeing as the mission had been a success up to that point, and Roebuck even said in the opening narration that they would all go home at the end. Even worse, you have to choose which one to save. In about a split instant.
  • Not quite the ending, but the climax of World 1 in Final Fantasy V is rather like this. Against all odds, you finally managed to get to the last elemental crystal in time, unlike all the other ones that ended up breaking. The bad guy's possessed puppet gets beaten back, there's a lovely reunion with one of the characters and his granddaughter, where he gets his memory of her back, and a reunion of two of the characters and their long-lost father... and then Barts realizes that throughout the long reunion, they'd forgotten to turn off the Crystal-draining machinery and the crystal shatters. Of course if the Big Bad stayed imprisoned by its power there'd be no other 2/3s of the game.
  • Ultros of Final Fantasy VI is a Diabolus Ex Machina personified. Four times in the World of Balance, he comes out of nowhere to cause trouble for the heroes, including trying to drop a weight on Celes's head at the opera.
    • Kefka's rending of the world is another huge example, a huge example of a famous very well received Diabolus Ex Machina.
  • Disc 2 of Final Fantasy VII is a Diabolus Ex Machina strewn throughout an entire disc. Aside from Aeris dying at the end of disc 1, the party chases Sephiroth to the Northern Crater, where they prepare to battle him once and for all, until Sephiroth decides to break poor Cloud's mind and force him to learn that he's a failed experiment. This ends in Cloud handing over the Black Materia, and all hell breaking loose. So now, not only is Meteor looming, about to kill the world in one week, but the Planet has released its failsafe, a group of massive biomechanical creatures called the WEAPONs that are capable of wreaking serious destruction. So these monsters are on the rampage, the apocalypse is coming in a week, and the crew is slated for public execution. And the next time we see Cloud? Alive, but totally catatonic. Wow...
  • Time Shift. You've killed the Big Bad, retrieved the only remaining temporal jump drive in your particular dimension, taken down a planet-wide fascist government, and even saved the girl. Then you cause a paradox.
  • Parodied in I Wanna Be the Guy. At the end of it, you defeat The Guy, take his gun, and return home triumphantly as the credits roll. You also walk under a tree with one of the game's deadly apples giant cherries on it, which falls. If you're not expecting it and don't move, it lands on you, killing you and giving you the standard Game Over screen even though it's after the credits. Fortunately the game still counts you as having beaten it.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has one of the most appalling Diabolus Ex Machina endings ever. Quite literally, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
    • Remedied in the Expansion Pack that follows with you waking up afterward, albeit on the opposite side of Faerun, and you spend much of the game trying to figure out how the hell you got there. Also you wake up with an entirely new Diabolus in the form of the Spirit Eater curse.
    • The rocks falling is lampshaded later in Mask of the Betrayer by Ammon Jerro, in a rather hypocritical bit of humor.
      Player Character: I remember being disappointed that the fortress's structure wasn't more architecturally sound.
      Ammon Jerro: Yes. That powerful and evil beings insist on causing destruction even as the die is an unfortunate habit.
  • Fallout 3 is especially guilty of this, capping a brilliant game with a totally illogical ending that forces the player to sacrifice his/her own life by entering a radiation-flooded room to save the world... even though your radiation-proof mutant friend is standing right beside you. That character will actually say something like, "This is your journey and I can't take it for you" or something similar. Jesus, Fawkes, just walk in and press the button so I don't have to die!
    • Due to gamer outcry at this being one of the dumbest endings in gaming history, one of the expansion packs, specifically Broken Steel, changes this ending, allowing you to send in say, a highly resistant super mutant, a ghoul who is actually healed by radiation, or a goddamn ROBOT! And if you go in yourself you don't die. You can still send in the girl though, if you want to be a dick. The game will still chastise you for being a coward, despite the fact that you found a way to accomplish your goal and get everyone out alive.
  • At the end of Marathon 2, the defeated Pfhor use their sun-shattering Trih Xeem on L'howon's sun, releasing the omnicidal Eldritch Abomination known as the W'rkncacnter.
  • The Baldur's Gate series has a variety of endings, depending on your action in-game. One of them involves the Protagonist giving up their divine soul and turning their back on Godhood in order to be with their newly-found True Love - who, in her aftermath/autobiography is brutally murdered by her vengeful kin, leaving the Protagonist to raise their child alone, embittered, and hell-bent on committing genocide as return. This even applies if the Protagonist was, for the previous 100 hours of gameplay, a Lawful Good Priest of Peace and Healing...
  • The ending to Infocom's text adventure Infidel has always been somewhat controversial with fans because it's a good example of this trope being used to Shoot the Shaggy Dog. The protagonist (despite being selfish, greedy, and foolish) makes it to the pyramid's burial chamber to claim the riches ... only for the walls to collapse and trap him there to die. And this, after solving a bunch of very difficult puzzles (including a few 'learn by dying' puzzles).
  • As retconned in the intro to Turok 3, the destruction of Primagen in Turok 2 caused a explosion that destroyed the entire universe, which is what Joshua was trying to prevent in the first place, making that game somewhat of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog. Fortunately, the universe is recreated, and Joshua somehow survives and has offspring, only to be killed at the beginning of the third game.
  • Near the end of Fable II Lucien tells you he killed your family. There's no reason for him to do this, other than to set up the neutral choice for the ending
    • Private Jammy is a soldier stationed at Fort Mourningwood in Fable III, named such for his good luck (he's been wounded a whopping total of 724 times). However, once the Hollowmen arrive, he invariably meets his demise no matter what the player does. His ghost then comes back to continue serving as the Hero's loader in the mortar mini-game. What a trooper.
  • Freespace 2 does this with a flourish: at the end of an arduous, complicated and desperate campaign to destroy the Shivan dreadnought Sathanas which threatens the (known) galaxy, you learn that the Shivans have about a bazillion more such ships.
  • Jak X. Non-fatal example, but after you've won the game, Rayn is suddenly revealed to have been manipulating you all along, wasn't poisoned, and oh yeah, she's now the biggest crimelord in the world. Well done, Jak.
  • This almost hit Lamia Loveless as part of a plot just to see Kyosuke Nanbu getting Emo, but she got better eventually. Either her recovery was part of Banpresto's plan all along, or as a reaction of fans outraging at the Diabolus Ex Machina that they set on her just because her default story is done and they want to put some dark and edgy feel on OG.
  • You just wiped all the gangs out of Paragon City and finished Crackdown. Now it's a police state run by your employer, which is pretty much another gang..
  • In Saints Row, under gang leader Julius, you destroy the three rival gangs in Stillwater and "unify" the city under the Third Street Saints. Then, with the help of the undercover cop in the Saints, Julius is captured by the police. They use him to blackmail the Saints into helping an anti-gang mayor get elected. Afterwards, when you confront said mayor to negotiate Julius's release, the two of you are blown up in an assassination attempt.
    • In the sequel, it's revealed that Julius set all of it up to dissolve the Saints and gang violence altogether: without his or the player's leadership, he knew the gang would fall apart and things would become more peaceful. Obviously, it didn't work, if only because the man didn't understand the concept of a power vacuum.
    • It's also revealed in the sequel that Dex, an ambitious ex-Saint, orchestrated a similar gambit during the finale, aiming to kill the player to destroy the gang (again), but for less noble reasons.
  • In the Diablo series,
    • the first game ends with you killing Diablo and ramming his soulstone into your own head so you can contain him with your mind. It did not work so well. In fact, Diablo possessed the hero and used his power to strengthen himself so he could escape the dungeon and revive the other Prime Evils.
    • The second game ends with you killing the last of the three Prime Evils, Baal, just after he corrupted the Worldstone, the thing that keeps the demons out of the world. Archangel Tyrael goes for the lesser of two evils and destroys the corrupted Worldstone; the one you've fought so hard over to protect.
    • Diablo III, Blizzard has revealed that the destruction of the Worldstone also blew up the entire mountain, destroyed the barbarian capital and turned the continent into a nuclear wasteland. By the way, the Worldstone not only kept the demons out but also the angels because some of them view humanity as a taint on creation and are quite eager to destroy it. Instead of just the Prime Evils raising an army, a full scale demonic AND angelic invasion involvingevery character from either side with a name is about to occur.
  • The World Ends with You: After surviving the Reaper's Game, Neku and Shiki discover that Only Shiki can come back to life. Neku is fine with this, until the Conductor hits him with the whammy that in order to play the next game, the entry fee he has to pay is Shiki herself. It's later revealed that the guy responsible for reviving people was absent. In fact, the whole game was invalid because of that; only the GM knew the Composer was gone and would have been shafted if anybody, including his subordinates, knew. Thus, it was just a cheat to keep the two in limbo and prevent from being found out.
  • In Street Fighter Alpha 2, Charlie, who always dies in his endings due to Foregone Conclusion, manages to corner Bison, only to be shot on the back by his intended back-up chopper.
  • Oichi in Sengoku Basara 2 Heroes dies this way in her own story. On the other hand, The Anime of the Game Sengoku Basara... well, puts this on many many characters. Oichi included.
  • Quick summary of diabolus in Ever17: Hurray! Everyone else already escaped and we've loads of time to get out plus a submarine! They get out safely, chatting while they go up and the sub's battery dies. What the hell? You'd think it would've been recharging automatically before they called for it. So in order to fix the buoyancy problem, Takeshi distracts Tsugumi with a question about the Archimedes Principle and enters the airlock then jettisons himself out to his apparent death and Tsugumi's eternal loneliness. What. The. Hell. But it gets better.
  • In the ending of Star Wars: Republic Commando, your squad has taken out a massive separatist gunship and are ready for evac. Then, out of nowhere (and off-screen), Sev reports he's under attack and you lose contact with him. Despite the protests of you and your squad, your commander refuses to let you rescue him, and you all get on your evac shuttle, leaving him to die. A lot of players hated Yoda for that.
  • Ameena's subplot in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time ends on a big one. Ameena, Ill Girl and blatant Expy of another flower girl, is finally reunited with her long-lost childhood friend. Then he dies (he was injured in battle a few scenes prior to this) and she succumbs to her illness seconds later. It's even more of a nightmare for the protagonist, since the girl was also virtually identical to his own best friend. Then Fayt's dad dies, then Earth is destroyed...
  • World of Warcraft, the Pit of Saron: when Scourgelord Tyrannus is defeated, the freed slaves run onto his overlook en masse, celebrating. Suddenly, Sindragosa appears and blows nearly everyone to smithereens, the players themselves saved by Sylvanas/Jaina's teleport.
  • Aquaria pulls this in The Stinger: the woman in black- who hasn't done anything of significance since the Noob Cave- reveals herself to have been manipulating Naija in a Batman Gambit to destroy the Big Bad. She then wipes the Naija's memory and spirits her away from her new family, leaving her right back where she started- lonely, isolated, and amnesiac. This was supposed to be a Sequel Hook, which would have been annoying but okay in the end. But now comes word that the dev team has splintered and moved on to other projects- including one hyped as a Spiritual Successor. Nice Job Ruining A Perfectly Good Ending, Bit Blot.
    • The creator has admitted in this message board thread that there were never any fixed plans for a sequel, and that he wanted to avoid a happy ending, possibly making this an intentional example after all.
  • In Killzone 2, the ISA has busted their asses to get to and defeat Visari, only to find out that the Helghast have a huge reserve fleet coming.
  • In The Stinger of Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow, Logan and Xing return to their hideout only to find Mujari dead and Teresa wounded by Trinidad, who then shoots Logan in a moment of Cutscene Incompetence, although he gets off a Last Breath Bullet. Xing starts CPR on Logan, and the story is left on a cliffhanger (which will never be resolved).
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the Nerevarine destroys the Heart of Lorkhan, freeing Vvardenfell from the Blight and Dagoth Ur. In Skyrim, it is revealed that since Vvardenfell's resident living god also relied on the Heart, the Ministry of Truth fell, destroyed Vivec City, and triggered the eruption of Red Mountain, resulting in the province of Morrowind no longer existing.
  • Dragon Age II: the Hawke family farm is gone, one of your new allies is dying of darkspawn taint, and just when you think it's safe to stop for a breather, an ogre comes out of nowhere to brutally smash one of your siblings into the dirt, reducing your party to you, your other sibling, and Aveline against the ogre and its hurlock buddies.
  • Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid that continues after the original ended. It accomplishes this by having Samus shot down by Space Pirates while leaving Zebes, destroying her ship and suit. This is followed up by an inversion in the form of an ancient Chozo temple giving Samus an older yet far more advanced Power Suit (the one she's pictured with in most incarnations). It even is capable of recognizing the incompatible Upgrades she received earlier in the game.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Episode 5 combines this with Morton's Fork. Kenny will sacrifice himself to save someone else regardless on whether or not you saved Ben or let him die in episode 4. If Ben lived, then the balcony the group jumps off to get into the rooftops will collapse when he tries to jump it, causing Kenny to go down and sacrifice himself to ensure Ben gets a Mercy Kill out of guilt. If Ben died, then Kenny will live past the balcony, but will instead knock Lee's radio down an opening in one of the roofs later, one that just happens to be filled with walkers. Christa will go down and get it, but can't get back up. Kenny will then jump down and hoist her up, before running off and leaving his fate ambiguous.
    • Omid's death at the start of Season 2 Episode 1. If it wasn't for a random bandit showing up at just the right time, a series of seemingly inconsequential if slightly silly choices by Clementine (one - leaving her gun on the sink while she went to find her water bottle - which the player could have actually avoided if it weren't for it being preventable by the game), and the bathroom door closing just before Omid could successfully disarm the bandit, then it wouldn't have lead to the rest of the events of the first episode.
  • Quite a few Bad Ends for Ookami Kakushi fall under this. To be fair, not all of them are like this; some can be obtained by simply making the wrong decision (such as choosing to believe one girl over the other). As for others, however, there are arcs where you don't immediately see the result of a combination of choices you made until much later, which tend to result in this trope.
    • Probably the best example of this is one Bad End where Hiroshi attempts to commit suicide after becoming a Kamibito and losing his friends only to be saved by Nemuru, who convinces him to keep living. Sounds like a happy, potentially heartwarming way to end a chapter, right? Cut to one month later, where Hiroshi comes across his old mufflers that have his old, strong honey-like scent attached, which causes him to go insane and attack his sister, which then leads to his implied execution.
  • In Zenonia 4, Regret spends most of the game trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong with Time Travel. Every time he changes the past, something else happens to ensure that the world is still doomed. Regret eventually decides to face the threat head on rather than running back to the past in a futile attempt to avoid it.
  • Mass Effect 3's ending. The Catalyst gives Shepard a choice between a few different ways to hit the reset button on galactic civilization and end the violent Reaper cycle. However, no matter how the Crucible is used, the dissemination of it's energy either shuts down or outright destroys the mass relay system and the Normandy is stranded on a random planet. This leads to a MASSIVE Inferred Holocaust for the galaxy. In addition to that, 2/3 of the endings feature the Citadel, one of the series most important locations and the home of several major characters, being blown up.
    • Less so in the Extended Cut, where those events were retconned. Provided your EMS is high enough, the mass relays are just damaged (and are easily repaired), the Normandy doesn't get stranded, and the Citadel doesn't explode. The Extended Cut also shows that the planets did not in fact suffer a holocaust, once again as long as your Effective Military Strength is high enough. There is no Downer Ending except for the worst ending- which, coincidentally, uses exact same cinematics as the original ending.
    • Just prior to the final battle, Shepard learns about the missing piece to the catalyst -the Citadel. However almost immediately Shepard is contacted about how the Reapers have not only taken it, they have already moved it to Earth, no small feat considering its a planet-size space station with its own dedicated armada.
    • There's also a certain Diabolish flavor to the point that each of the three choices will kill Shepard, each for a completely different reason.
  • Dalton in the Chrono Trigger /Cross continuity. He is quite clearly used as a comedic (and a not really super-powerful) villain in Chrono Trigger, but he manages to exact his vengeance against the heroes as suggested in Chrono Cross backstory and in exclusives Chrono Trigger DS version dialogues.
  • Clock Tower: Poor Jennifer. Between Scissorman, Mary and seeing Lotte die (no matter what the player does), she may get a lovely Hope Spot in the form of either Laura or Ann running to greet her at the climax— except said Hope Spot is promptly pushed straight off the ledge, into the Clock Tower's gears.
  • Dead Space 3 pulls this in the Awakened expansion pack. The destruction of the Weird Moon of Tau Volantis sends a signal to awaken the other Brethren Moons, which have discovered Earth and are feasting on the planet by the time Isaac and Carver return.
  • The penultimate Season 3 episode of Sam & Max: Freelance Police has Max transformed into a giant attacking hell-beast due to his new psychic powers mixing with an Elder God. Sam, Papierwaite, Dr. Norrington, and a pregnant Sybil are inside him. If they don't fix things, Max will explode and take out most of eastern United States. To stop that, the government is ready to kill Max. Things are actually looking up in the finale when the Big Bad take a Heel-Face Turn and lets the gang get out before fixing Max himself. Turns out that they all took too long: Max is hit by the weapon just as his normal mind is restored. His psychic brain has already caught fire, signally that he'll explode. He manages to teleport into space to avoid killing everyone, but Sam is left defeated and broken-hearted. Sure, a Max from an alternate universe shows up to hang out... But that's because he just had the same thing happen to his Sam. So, things worked out, but both the leads went through some major crap before pulling a Replacement Goldfish on each other.
  • Whenever the glider in If My Heart Had Wings is completed, something will go wrong no matter what, unless it's the end of a route.

    Webcomics 
  • The Order of the Stick pulls two of these at various points to save the (un)life of its Big Bad, Xykon - first when Miko Miyazaki unwittingly pulls the rug out from a paladin who's about to smite Xykon and his lieutenant, and second when Xykon's Soul Jar narrowly misses utter and permanent annihilation by falling just short of a portal to another dimension - after the bird that was supposed to drop it in from point-blank range stopped shy for what was then no apparent reason.
  • Din and Jin from Las Lindas seem to be this trope personified. Their latest "prank" rivals the Euphinator Incident in terms of everything going to hell in the worst way possible just when things were going good for the cast.
  • Meta-referenced in this Sinfest-strip, courtesy of a semi-sentient, diabolical book.
  • In Homestuck, the Scratch and the resulting arrival of Jack Noir in their universe just in time to stop them from winning SGRUB was this from the perspective of the Trolls.
    • When the Condesce uses her psychic abilities to control Jade in her omnipotent god tier form, right as she arrives to help the Alpha kids play their Sburb session.
  • In Bittersweet Candy Bowl, Confrontation just gets worse and worse, with every choice the characters make just making things more dangerous for them.
  • Maria's death in Anders Loves Maria. Occurs in the second-to-last strip, wtih next to no foreshadowing, and Anders spends two splash panels just staring off into space before a Time Skip to his life as a single father.
  • In Sinfest, to remove the happy endings.
  • Season 5 of Survivor: Fan Characters was full of these, given that the season was tagged "The Cursed Islands". Such "curses" involved having someone divvy up the tribes, but then get sent to Exile Island and have no control over which tribe they're sent to at the end of Day 3; a tribe being absorbed into the other tribes; someone having the choice to send themselves to Exile Island until the merge, but have absolutely no contact with their tribe mates until then; a random mutiny - one of the challenges was full of these; mainly, contestants would vote as to how many tribal councils they would be willing to go to with such debilitations as not being able to vote, having an extra vote against them, and not being applicable to win immunity. Miranda won the first, Brock won the second and subsequently led to his elimination, and Marius won the last although he managed to win because of this curse.
  • In Our Little Adventure, the clone's escape is called this.
  • Happens several times in Slightly Damned. Every things start getting good for the Protagonists, something happens to mess it up. Made even worse, since many of them double as Hope Spot moments. The lists include:
    • The end of the "Escape from Hell" arc, where just before Sakido manages to get them out of Hell and into Medius, which she had always wanted to see (at the cost of going berserk, which would have killed her anyway, albeit probably allowing her to at least get a glimpse of her dream), she's promptly shot dead by a Holy Arrow shot by an Angel that for some reason was in Hell.
    • In Weyville, just as Buwaro was about to express his feelings to Kieri...an Angel (with severe PTSD that's given him an intense hate for demons and anything remotely associated to them) suddenly shows up out of nowhere.
    • In St.Curtis, everyone seemed to be having a good time, with the St. Curtis Arc seemingly shaping up into a breather arc, then the army of Hell decides to break the Truce Zone that St. Curtis was shaping up to be.

    Web Original 
  • The finale of Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Mad Scientist Dr. Horrible held at gunpoint with his own death ray? The gun explodes and he survives. The Made of Iron superheroic jerk Captain Hammer who fired it? Injured and humiliated, but survives. Naive heroine, Penny, on the far side of the room, who has just realized Dr. Horrible and Billy Buddy are one and the same and in love with her? Sorry, Penny. You get Jossed with Penny-seeking shrapnel.
  • In Sims Big Brother 5, the main twist of the season was that there was a liar in the house. By "liar", I mean someone playing under a false identity. The Liar was revealed to be Logan, but not to the houseguests. One week, there was a double elimination week and Michael Goldsmith said they had to evict the Liar, or else they would lose a portion of the grand prize. (Which the Liar would receive) Knowing he was in trouble from the other alliance, Logan persuaded the majority and the floaters that the liar was Darby. Thus, the house cast their votes for Darby and Logan, and since Darby received more, she was evicted.
    • Diablous ex Machina struck once before. In Sims Big Brother 2, there was a week in which 6 people were taken into the Solitary chamber, making themselves immune from the vote during Public Voting Week (in which everyone was up on the block, sans the 6 in the chamber). However, the person who lost all of the challenges was more or less screwed. They couldn't use any of the luxuries, couldn't compete for Head of household, were automatically nominated for three weeks in a row, had to eat an instant meal diet, and if any of those rules were broken, they'd be expelled. Dora unfortunately lost....meaning she had many of the worst weeks of her life in the house. Is it any wonder that after becoming the Unlucky Houseguest, she asked everyone to nominate her and vote her out?
  • Parodied in The Nostalgia Critic's review of Moulin Rouge!: he spent practically the entire review complaining about the movie before the The Nostalgia Chick and Brentalfloss convinced him it was fine as a guilty pleasure. But this being a review of Moulin Rouge!, it needed to end tragically, so he randomly shot Brental Floss and mourned his loss. This was mocking one of their complaints about the movie, namely that Satine's consumption—and her decision to break up with Christian instead of telling him about it—seem like this trope.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • "Swelter Skelter": Nutty trips and his head cracks right open, at which point his brain fries in the heat like an eggshell, and Lifty getting trapped in a frozen explosion, which Shifty then impales himself on.
    • The end of "Wingin' It", when after surviving a plane crash and a shark attack, Godzilla shows up out of nowhere and eats Flaky.
    • "Idol Curiosity": Just when Sniffles thinks he's evaded all the Cursed Idol's traps, the earthquake he evaded earlier in the episode somehow takes a cab and destroys his house. He manages to evade it again... and then he breaks in half for no reason, though this could be explained as an effect of Sniffles being cursed.
    • "Spare Me": Sniffles spins around, which somehow causes his head to go flying off his body.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park... constantly.
  • Even the kid-friendly world of Alvin and the Chipmunks is not safe from the Diabolus Ex Machina. In one episode, involving a new cat dubbed "Cookie Chomper the 3rd", a Death by Newbery Medal comes out of nowhere in the last two minutes of the show.
  • This trope is played for laughs in Stone Trek: Every episode ends on a happy note... until the Starship Magnetize explodes for no apparent reason.
    • The early episodes of Sealab 2021 also always ended with the Sealab exploding. The most notable example of this trope is the episode that's just an episode of the original Sealab 2020 series, and so it's fairly normal and has a happy ending. Then the Sealab explodes thanks to bad directions.
  • It didn't involve any dying, but... Codename: Kids Next Door, "Operation Elections": Nigel Uno has just led his school to fend off an attack against a rival middle school, and is making a speech as he's assuming his rightful position as 4th grade president position that was robbed from him by the Delightful Children, who had instigated the attack by the middle school. And then the guy who earlier told him that he had won the election now tells him that he still lost the election to some random guy. Diabolus pours salt into Uno's wounds by suggesting that his fellow operatives also voted for the other guy.
  • In other election news, a lizard-suit wearing Homer Simpson seems well positioned to win a mayor recall election to replace Quimby, since no one else seems to be good enough. The suit turns out to be his downfall when it shrinks in the wash, and suddenly no one likes him, and since no one gets enough of the vote, Quimby stays in office.
    • In another Simpsons episode, "Brother From Another Series", Sideshow Bob appears reformed and gets work release when his brother Cecil offers him a job for a dam project. Bart is convinced that Bob is up to no good, but in the end it turns out Bob really has reformed and Cecil was trying to embezzle millions from the dam project. Bob actually helps stop Cecil and saves Bart and Lisa's lives, but when the police arrive to arrest Cecil, Police Chief Wiggum insists on arresting Bob as well for no good reason.
    Bob: (In the backseat of the police car with Cecil) But I saved the children's lives! I'm a hero!
    Cecil: Tell them they'll live to regret this.
    Bob: You'll live to regret this! ...Oh, thanks a lot. Now I look crazy.
  • Hey Arnold!!: The Devil sure loves stalking Eugene Horowitz...
    • Used in-universe in one episode (that was actually Eugene-focused) where the drama teacher, having been dumped by his girlfriend, changes the ending of the school musical so the protagonist is randomly hit by a bus, the villain steals his Love Interest, and then sings a gloating song about being a Karma Houdini. The kids spend the rest of the episode trying to get it changed back.
  • The show Cyberchase LOVED using these to keep the magical cure-all MacGuffin out of the protagonists hands. Hell, that's how they lost it in the first place.
  • The Boondocks episode "Ballin" has Riley coming close to finally winning a game when the mentally challenged replacement center for his main competition turns out to be a child-prodigy at basketball. Of course, he ''really'' deserved that, since he got that far by sending the previous center off crying when told her her mom did cocaine, was cheating on her dad at the country club, and her parents were waiting until after her birthday to tell her they were getting divorced.
  • Total Drama Island: Poor Bunny. He's first eaten by a snake, then Geoff tries to catch the snake in order to get Bunny back, when an eagle swoops in and captures said snake. Geoff gets another chance when the eagle lands at the edge of the dock, when a shark jumps out and snatches up not only the eagle with the snake with Bunny inside, but a sizable portion of the dock as well. All this, in a parody of reality TV. Damn.
  • It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown: Final play of game, and we're looking at either Charlie slotting in the game-winning field goal from short-range, or Lucy humiliating herself in front of the crowd for pulling that trick (you know the one). Even Charlie pulling a John Carney wouldn't have been as bad as Lucy pulling the trick anyway and not getting any of the blame for the loss, not even from poor old Chuck.
  • Pretty much the entire purpose of the Kanker Sisters in Ed, Edd n Eddy. They tend to show up anytime something's actually going right for the titular characters for a change (ex. "Over Your Ed", "Look Into My Eds").
  • Happens on a regular basis in Invader Zim, usually with Dib.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender does this three times in the Book 2 finale. First, it's quite clear that Zuko's gonna do a Heel-Face Turn and join Team Avatar, but he instead does the reverse, betraying his uncle Iroh and teaming up with Azula. As if that wasn't bad enough, then, while Aang appears to have mastered the Avatar State, Azula shoots him with lightning, killing him, and as a result, successfully taking the Earth Kingdom capitol of Ba Sing Se. He comes back, at least.
  • ReBoot. The final episode of the series has Megabyte captured and our heros celebrating. But then it turns out the captured Megabyte was an alias (aka a decoy) and that Megabyte had infiltrated the Principal Office and then took over. Cue Cliffhanger.
  • This trope is a recurring theme in G.I. Joe: Renegades, where Failure Is the Only Option. Every time the Joes find something that will clear their names, it's a safe bet it will either get burned, blown up, smashed, stolen, or stabbed. That is until the season one finale where the Joes returned to the Pentagon with all the evidence they needed to clear their names after destroying Cobra Mansion and defeating Cobra Commander, who survived and is ticked off by the way. The series is now on hiatus until the second live action movie is finished but it's doubtful the Joes will suddenly become wanted criminals again when it resumes.
  • During the Christmas Episode of Metalocalypse, Doctor Rockzo, The Rock and Roll Clown (he does cocaine) sells all of Toki's Secret Santa gifts, for some cocaine. When Toki finds out, he prepares to give the clown a sound thrashing. Unfortunately, before he can reach him, Murderface's drunk Grandma crashes her scooter into a cross, trapping Toki under it. Rockzo escapes punishment, and even gets a handjob from Skwisgar's mom.
  • Dexter's Laboratory has a brutal one in the original Series Finale "Last But Not Beast", combining it with a massive case of Status Quo Is God. Dexter and his family have finally learned how to work together and were able to stop the monster Dexter accidentally unleashed from Japan. However, he accidentally mentions his lab, which causes Mom and Dad to remember it, toonote . What does Dexter do? Pull out a mind eraser gun, erasing the memories of the lab and everything after it! However, Monkey, who had aided the family earlier, loses his mask, making Dexter realize his pet monkey was the hero. So, Monkey goes and takes the gun and erases HIS memory, allowing Mandark, who was taken out early on, to claim victory and leaving Dexter to bemoan that he wished he destroyed the monster. And DeeDee says nothing about it.


Conflict BallRule of DramaDisaster Dominoes
Deus ex MachinaPlot TwistNot Too Dead to Save the Day
Deus Exit MachinaWriter Cop OutDisney Death
Cruel Twist EndingSliding Scale of EndingsEsoteric Happy Ending
Deus Est MachinaTrope Names from Other LanguagesDiabolus Ex Nihilo
Devil in Plain SightInfernal TropesDragged Off to Hell
Deus ex MachinaEnding TropesDistant Finale
Deus ex MachinaBad Writing IndexEnding Fatigue
Deus ex MachinaPlot DeviceEverything Sensor
Deus Angst MachinaSadness TropesDirty Business
Villain SueSliding Scale of Villain EffectivenessAs Long as There Is Evil
Deus Sex MachinaInd Ex MachinaDiabolus Ex Nihilo
The Dark TimesCosmic Horror StoryDiabolus Ex Nihilo
Depending on the WriterOlder Than DirtDishing Out Dirt
Defeating the UndefeatableProfessional WrestlingDivergent Character Evolution
Cruel Twist EndingDude, Not Funny!The Bully
Critical Research FailureAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Disney Death

alternative title(s): Inexplicably Went Wrong; Contrived Downer Ending
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