The Drama Bomb is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. In the world of fiction, among the marching armies of tropes and conquering generals
, it is a weapon of power scarcely imagined.
When a story has been coasting along quite well and nothing really strange is happening, beware. This is exactly the kind of environment writers can't stand. After all, a story without conflict is dull, and no-one likes a dull story
, right? So, just when you think everything has settled, they pull out the best weapon they can bring to bear on your sensibilities. Their blitzkrieg attack will leave you stunned, shocked, yet wanting for more.
That is the raison d'ętre of the Drama Bomb. If successful, the event portrayed creates instant and justified character development and ties the audience even closer to their fate. The more it is used, however, the less powerful it becomes. After all, if an orphan gets slaughtered in every episode of your TV serial, people aren't going to look up from what they're doing if it happens again. The Drama Bomb is defined by its power, and if it loses this, it becomes a regular trope. As such, its usage is mostly reserved to comedy or other lighthearted media.
Similar to Very Special Episode
, except the consequences carry and a lesson needn't be learned. Can be the first sign of Cerebus Syndrome
, but not always.
A secondary meaning of the term references a subject literally guaranteed
to start a Flame War
or one with a very high potential of doing so (e.g. "what do you think about abortion?") : on this Wiki such is referred to as Internet Backdraft
Also see: Wham Episode
, Killed Off for Real
, and Drama Bomb Finale
Warning: High chance of spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- A weird (possibly accidental) one came later in the manga of Ranma ˝: the series is generally full of Ineffectual Death Threats, and even in the more serious bits we never see anyone die. Even childhood abuse was largely played as a form of Comedic Sociopathy. Not so with Ryu Kumon's backstory: his father used a Dangerous Forbidden Technique Genma taught him that made his house fall on top of him, with his last words to find the other technique, leaving the kid orphaned and homeless at the age of six. Goddamn was that depressing.
- Kirby of the Stars provides examples of both the use and overuse of the Drama Bomb. A fairly early episode has Kirby get a robo-puppy that becomes something of a little brother to him. The episode ends with the puppy sacrificing itself to save Kirby. The overuse comes when they do this two additional times. By the third self-sacrifice, you can't help thinking "Oh, not again."
- A massive Drama Bomb hits Toradora! halfway through the series (starting with Yuusaku's breakdown and ending with Taiga realizing she loves Ryuuji). It's never quite the same again.
- Kekkaishi: after Gen dies in combat, the other characters hold a funeral for him. It's more of a Drama Nuke since Gen's closest acquaintances remember him, Masamori gives Gen's grieving sister unanswered letters, and Yoshimori goes through a temporary Heroic BSOD over Gen's passing. However, for a few subsequent episodes, the aftermath left by said Drama Nuke is noticeable, but some funny moments pop up time after time.
- The 20th Episode of Fresh Pretty Cure! is all about this. The tone was already bleak, it being about how the strain of being Pretty Cure and the dance lessons took a toll on Love, Miki and Inori physically (and to an extent psychologically) but it all reaches its peak when they collapse after the battle with the Nakisakebe and on the way to the dance lessons with Miyuki. Bonus Points if you like Eas. She has only 2 uses of the Pyramid Card, which will eventually kill her if she runs out and refuses Wester's and Souler's offer to take her place...
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, episode 12. It's been its own vulgar, widgety self for the first half, then everything goes to hell. Literally.
- Mawaru-Penguindrum gets hit with one halfway through the series (Episode 12): Himari dies, seemingly permanently. The Takakura parents are revealed to have been responsible for the 1995 terrorist attacks. And the penguin hat stops working. Things go downhill from there.
- Code Geass is full of cluster bombs, that for added effect, accompany Hope Spots in a couple cases, most notably Lelouch accidentally geassing Euphemia, and Shirley having her memories restored.
- Episode 7 of the anime adaptation of Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! starts off as your normal Beach Episode, but turns into this like WOAH. Namely, in explained why Rikka behaves that way, in the very Tear Jerker manner.
- The Whitebeard War saga is one big one in One Piece. First off, the Straw Hat Pirates are separated thanks to Bartholomew Kuma, then Luffy joins the Marineford war to save Ace from being executed. Just when it looks like he succeeds and all will be well Admiral Akainu successfully kills Ace, sending Luffy into shock. Then, the Blackbeard Pirates arrive with new recruits and murder Whitebeard, but not before Whitebeard announces that the One Piece is real, thus causing piracy to skyrocket. Then, when Luffy recovers, he begins to question his abilities for the first time and believes he is too weak to become the Pirate King. Upon regaining his spirit, instead of reuniting with his crew and setting off for the New World, he sends word that they'll meet up in two years to give them time to prepare. And that's how the first half of the manga ends!
- This happens after the first two episodes of Attack on Titan. Military training aside, things are relatively calm after the Time Skip following the Titan's attack on Shiganshina, and the next two episodes are spent introducing the characters, establishing just how desperate their situation is, and giving further development to the overall setting. Near the end of the fourth episode, Eren and his teammates have graduated and are anxiously discussing their new positions over stolen food. And then the Colossal Titan shows up.
- In the Super Smash Bros. fanfiction Smash Generation, it seemed as if everything was going smoothly for the heroes, and then Toon Link gets almost eaten by Molgera, and nearly dies.
- Total Drama:
- In Total Drama Comeback, Harold suffers a massive allergic reaction when the eating contest is sabotaged, which exposes the alliance that had controlled most of the eliminations up to that point.
- In Total Drama Action Do Over, it comes to light that Heather had locked away Vanessa and assumed her identity to continue on the show, becoming the season's new Big Bad.
- Chapter 15 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. And let's leave it at that.
- Chapter 39 of Fallout: Equestria. The heroes have just eliminated two major threats at once, survived (if just barely), and are regrouping with smiles on their faces. Things are looking up, right? A page later, one of them has been decapitated.
- Chapter 10 of The Legend Of Spyro No Rest For The Wicked is a pretty big one. First off, Spyro's new friend Caden is killed alongside hundreds of other dragons in the battle against the humans. Then Spyro manages to drive the humans away by accidentally unleashing his Superpowered Evil Side, only for it to nearly completely take over him even when Cynder tries to get through to him. Then, the biggest shocker comes during the aftermath when Galiron blames the humans' attack on Cynder for what she did to them, to which Spyro defends her, only for Galiron to reveal that among Cynder's victims during her time when she was evil were Spyro's biological parents, shocking Spyro to the point that he actually smacks Cynder when she tries to explain she didn't know and runs off.
- Chapter 34 of A Different Lesson has one of these as well. Despite the death of Mantis and the discovery of what happened to Chang and his family, things mostly seem to be getting better or heading toward resolution, with Vachir dead, Monkey freed of Demonic Possession, Tai Lung having acquitted himself well in battle to the point it seems he'll be finally forgiven and accepted back in the Valley, and he and Tigress drawing closer and closer until she finally admits she loves him. There's still the Wu Sisters and the Big Bad to deal with, but the former have been blunted by the Room Full of Crazy, Jia's feelings for Tai Lung, and the knowledge they have of Po's parentage, while the latter has been severely weakened by the events at Chorh-Gom. Surely things can be tidied up and dealt with relatively painlessly now, right? Wrong! Zhuang gets killed and Tai Lung framed for it; Chao corrupts the Pool of Sacred Tears so as to possess all the townsfolk; Ping is kidnapped and taken to Wu Dan to force Po to sit out the coming battles; and Tai Lung himself gets arrested to be put on trial and forced into a Sadistic Choice designed to let Chao win no matter what happens.
- The martial arts movie House Of Flying Daggers does pretty well with its drama and plot for the most part...but just try to keep up with the last quarter of the movie. The two government agents find the rebels, and it is revealed that one of the agents is actually working for the rebels and in love with the lady protagonist, also an agent of the Flying Daggers. But it turns out the leader of the Flying Daggers is NOT the leader of the Flying Daggers, our lady isn't blind, and is in love with the agent still pro-government and...
- In Dead Poets Society, everything looks like it's worked itself out, at least to some extent. Then Neil shoots himself.
- The inspirational film Courageous, One of the dads was caught stealing drugs! And that was after the pretty awesome moment where one of the dads gets a promotion for passing a Secret Test of Character.
- The illness of Red's daughter in Roadside Picnic, forcing him to become even more of a bastard.
- A Storm of Swords, the third installment in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: its second half is just one big drama bomb. To enumerate *inhales* Balon Greyjoy dies. The Red Wedding wipes out Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark. Davos frees Edric Storm and informs Stannis of what's happening on the Wall. Joffrey gets poisoned by Olenna Tyrell and Littlefinger. Tyrion is blamed for this murder. Sansa is taken along with Littlefinger to the Vale. Meanwhile, the wildlings attack Castle Black, leading to Ygritte being killed. The wildlings from Beyond the Wall then lay siege to the Wall, leading to a large-scale battle. In the midst of this, Jon Snow is accused of being a traitor and is sent to parley with Mance Rayder, only to be interrupted by Stannis winning the battle for them. Meanwhile, Oberyn Martell volunteers to be Tyrion's champion to avoid the kangaroo court of Cersei Lannister, in exchange for the identity of Elia Martell's murderer. Tyrion claims that it is Gregor Clegane, who also happens to be Cersei's champion. They battle only for Oberyn to be killed, which further sparks the animosity between the Lannisters and Martells. Arya finally gets her revenge on Polliver, but it leads to The Hound's death. She finally gets passage to Braavos though. Meanwhile, Sam rigs the election at the Wall, making Jon Snow the new Lord Commander. Littlefinger weds Lysa Arryn, steals a kiss from Sansa, who gets accused of being the one who initiated the kiss in the first place by Lysa. She is threatened to be pushed out the Moon Door, only for Littlefinger to intervene. Lysa admits that SHE POISONED JON ARRYN UNDER LITTLEFINGER'S ORDERS, THUS INADVERTENTLY CAUSING THE WAR. Littlefinger then pushes her out of the window. Finally, Merrett Frey goes to a rendezvous point to ransom one of his relatives, only to find that he is being hanged. Who is sentencing him to death?? The reincarnated corpse of CATELYN FUCKING STARK!*exhales*
- In the Skulduggery Pleasant novel Dark Days. The magical world has been saved, the villian stopped and the Gaelic Football goes on. Then Bang: the second Desolation Engine goes off and the Sanctuary is destroyed. By a seemingly one-shot side character, no less.
- Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan had risen about as far in the US Administration as he could in Debt of Honor: part of the sell for making him Vice President was that once his term was done, he'd never be able to work for the US Government again. And then a lunatic crashed a 747 into Congress. Meet President Ryan.
- In Jane Eyre, first we were surprised by Rochester proposing marriage to Jane - though we did sort of see it coming. But when Rochester's insane but very alive first wife turns up in the attic, Jane is so shaken by the incident that the only thing she can do is leave.
- Literal in The Stand, in the form of the bomb Harold and Nadine set off inside the house where the Free Zone committee is meeting, killing several people including a main character and injuring several more. King specifically said he used this tactic because it was getting too dull.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer the bomb was dropped more than once, most potently when her mom died. Season 6 seemed to consist of nothing but Drama Bombs (and a Musical Episode).
- Back in 1996, General Hospital had a very memorable drama bomb montage called Clink!Boom which juxtaposes a mobster's ex-girlfriend toasting her new husband while his current pregnant girlfriend turned the key in the ignition of their car and it exploded. Ever since, the show has been trying to top itself with mob violence, even going so far as to make the month of February Sweeps a 16 hour hostage crisis told in the same style as 24. Nowadays, GH fans are used to seeing at least a dozen mob shootouts and one or two legacy characters dying violent deaths a year.
- One of Scrubs's biggest Drama Bombs were the episodes "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Idol". Interestingly, the Drama Bombs rarely affect the whole cast; for example, while in "My Lunch" Dr. Cox and JD are both profoundly affected by the deaths, Carla, Turk, and Elliot are busy sorting out The Todd's sexuality, apparently oblivious to the other goings on.
- Officer deaths in The Bill
- Michael's killing of Ana-Lucia and Libby in LOST season 2.
- Happened a few times in M* A* S* H. The best example is in the Season 3 finale. For the most part, the episode is a celebration for Henry's discharge. The bomb comes in the last thirty seconds, when Radar comes into the OR with the news Henry had died in a plane crash. Retirony, much?
- The first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise were full of Archer and the gang staring at pretty comets, bitching about Vulcans, and saying 'Gee Whiz' a lot. And then came....The Xindi....
- L.A. Law made it onto a list of great TV moments purely through one of these. Snarky Rosalind had been tormenting the rest of the cast all season—then she took a wrong step and fell down an elevator shaft.
- Oh geez. The NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Missing" was a drama nuke.
- The bus crash in the opening episode of the second season of Veronica Mars.
- Doctor Who season openers are usually pretty laid back, fun-romps which exist to introduce new characters (if there are any). This was blow out of the water with the opening episode to Season 6, "The Impossible Astronaut" has the Doctor begin to regenerate, and then die. The finale showed it was only supposed to look like that, but the Doctor's companions didn't know this until the same time as the audience.
- JAG: The death of Loren Singer in season 8. Enter NCIS.
- Breaking Bad: The third-to last episode, "Ozymandias". Dear. Lord. It sees the consequence of just about every one of Walt's actions and sins in the entire series. It sees his drug empire completely collapse, his brother-in-law murdered by neo-nazi hitmen he had hired to kill someone else, Jesse taken hostage and tortured (after Walt tells him he saw and let his girlfriend die) by the neo-nazis and Made a Slave for them, Walt's family completely destroyed and their lives ruined. Walt runs away, kidnapping his baby daughter, until he finally comes to the realization that he was the one responsible for the family's destruction. Before returning Holly he makes a phone call to his wife, while the police are with her, acting as an abusive husband to absolve her from their crimes, and finally using Saul's eraser man to start a new identity. Feel happy?
- Doc Martin: When Joan is Killed Off for Real at the start of season 5.
- World of Warcraft's Wrath Gate.
- Heavy Rain. You start the game in a nice, stable place, with such action-packed events as brushing your teeth in your clean, organized bathroom, pouring yourself orange juice in a bright kitchen beneath a sunlit window, and musing over photographs of your beautiful, complete family, all of whom are alive and living with you in apparent harmony. In order for saying things get worse to be a spoiler, the player would have to expect something contraindicated by what previous experience with video games, stories in general, and the game's specific marketing materials (including the box art and the title) would tell him or her.
- Final Fantasy VI has a particularly large one mixed liberally with the game's biggest Hope Spot, when the Empire appears to be crying "uncle" after the Espers are unleashed on them. They lied, the Emperor attempts to ascend to godhood, Kefka gets caught in the effect instead, and destroys the world as a result.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del with Lilah's miscarriage. A massive Drama Bomb for a previously light-hearted comic.
- Dave Willis loves this trope. To death. Especially jarring considering that he keeps his comedic characters still somewhat-comedic (though never the same) as he drops bomb after bomb after bomb on them. He seems to at least be aware of it if his Lampshade Hanging in the Story Arc about "Pulling the Drama Tag" in Shortpacked! is any indication.
- Many drama bombs occur at the end of issue 9 in the webcomic YU+ME: dream , the biggest of which was that everything up until that point was a dream. Thankfully that is not the end of the series or there would have been some very pissed off fans.
- Mob Ties: the first bomb begins at the end of Issue 2, but the author starts a heavy bombardment starting at Issue 7. Once Issue 14 rolls around, though, the HSQ raises Up to Eleven.
- Spinnerette gives us a yuritastic one when it is revealed that Spinny likes Mecha Maid back—and then the chapter ends, leaving the readers hanging for weeks. In fact, it was even invoked in the author commentary.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Act three. Everything has pretty well ironed out at the end—Captain Hammer is defeated, the Doctor is brushing himself off, and all in all things could've gone much worse... And then the camera pans to Penny with a piece of shrapnel in her chest.
- In DSBT InsaniT, one is dropped in 'The Camping Webisode' when Killer Monster tells Koden what happened to him after Koden lost him.
- The very end of the second episode of Dreamscape.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had a few well-spaced ones, but of particular note was the cluster Drama Bomb towards the end of Season 2, where an episode ends with Sokka blithely mentioning how smoothly things have been going, followed by Toph getting captured by Xin Fu and Master Wu, Long Feng being revealed to still control the Dai Li, and instead of Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors coming to the aid of Ba Sing Se, it's actually Azula and friends in disguise.
- To recap: The Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se, a city that the Fire Nation had been trying to breach for the better part of a hundred years, fell in two days. The EK army was immobilized after its generals were captured, and the Earth King was forced to retreat. Not only that, but Zuko ended up betraying his uncle, the only man who had ever been a real father to him, in order to get his birth father's approval. And Aang got killed by Azula. All in the space of about forty minutes. It remains the single greatest Wham Episode of the series.
- South Park:
- The show has taken a few occasions to break from its irreverence and do this. Most important was the end of Season 5's 'Kenny Dies' episode as the Killed Off for Real plot is played disturbingly straight with Kyle and particularly Stan acting very much like kids. The kids spend much of season 6 making references to wanting Kenny back.
- Season 15 spent the first half being typically silly until the episode "You're Getting Old" as Stan goes through a fall out with friends and major changes in his life and unlike previous episodes with a breakup, it doesn't get better by the end.
- Other episodes include "Fun with Veal", "The Death Camp of Tolerance", "Toilet Paper", "Red Man's Greed", "Raisins", "Preschool", and "The Return of Chef".
- And in the case of Stan and Kyle's friendship, "Follow That Egg" was the first of several episodes to have these dropped on it in contrast to earlier, sillier episodes such as "Prehistoric Ice Man".
- Cartman himself has quite a big one in "1%".
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers has a few serious jaw-droppers; "Psychocrypt" and "Scarecrow." Both ran on tanks full of Nightmare Fuel, The Bad Guy Wins on both (The Rangers' "victory" is merely getting out with their skins and souls intact), and the Character Development quotient was through the goddamn roof. The two episodes are considered jewels in the series crown. Two more jewels are the Supertrooper duology. Massive Character Development for Gooseman, including one of the most gut-wrenching I Want My Beloved to Be Happy scenes ever done.
- Adventure Time's Lumpy Space Princess name-drops the trope, complete with Valley Girl gestures and inflection, during Marcelline's confrontation with her father: "Oh my glob, you guys — drama bomb!"
- Jake actually said "Drama Bomb" while Finn, Jake and Ice King watched a secret tape of the Ice King's dramatic past.
- The 2nd Season Finale could count as a example for the show itself.
- In another episode, "What Was Missing", the aforementioned Marceline sings a song to Princess Bubblegum about how she resents that she's malicious towards her for a reason she can't remember. (The two have barely interacted in the show up to that point.) The song practically comes out of nowhere, and Princess Bubblegum is reasonably surprised.
- Burning Low contains huge drama bombs, least of which is Finn admitting having loved PB and becoming very, very angry at her for (he thinks) leading him on just when he's getting over her and getting a proper relationship with flame princess.
- Speaking of Flame Princess, "Frost and Fire" drops a bomb when she dumps Finn for manipulating her and Ice King into doing battle.
- Danny Phantom's "The Ultimate Enemy" was jawdropping, not least for its awesomeness, abruptness, as well as its sudden venture into dark humour. Oh yes, and the brutal murders, so many brutal murders.
- Believe it or not, Family Guy in "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", a Darker and Edgier Very Special Episode where Domestic Abuse is Played for Drama.
- They did it again in "Life of Brian", where Brian was temporarily killed off.