Some tropes, such as the Unreliable Narrator
, ensure that the audience is never quite as well informed of the truth as the characters are (or, at least, one particular character). Dramatic Irony, or Suspense as it is also known, turns that on its head, letting the audience see the whole picture when The Protagonist
, or even the entire cast, is kept largely in the dark. You, the viewer, are actually ahead of the characters who are not Genre Savvy
Fat lot of good it does us though. When dramatic irony crops up, it's usually not to let us feel smugly superior. It's to toy with our fragile little emotions. If we're lucky, the emotion being manipulated will be amusement. If we're not, dramatic irony will be present to make us cringe or bite our fingernails down to the knuckles.
To really fit the definition though, one of the characters must make a statement, or perform an action, to fully illustrate that they are unaware of the situation. To the character, what they're saying or doing is perfectly sensible based on the knowledge they have. To the audience though, the statement or action is ludicrous or dangerously uninformed.
There are three main uses of Dramatic Irony (quite apart from the unintentional result of making things more spoilerproof):
- To create tension: Hank has left a Time Bomb under a restaurant table that will go off late that evening. The audience saw him leave it there, but none of the characters have noticed. Bob and Joe are dining at that table that very evening. If they finish early they will live, but if they take a dessert it could be their last one ever. This ramps up the suspense because the audience must wait to find out if Bob and Joe will die in the explosion or not.
- To make the audience cringe on the character's behalf: Alice did really well in the audition for the school play, clearly outclassing her Alpha Bitch rival. But unknown to her, the Alpha Bitch's mother is in charge of casting. Alice runs up to her nemesis to gloat... Meanwhile, the viewers are cringing uncomfortably, because they know that the Alpha Bitch is about to laugh in Alice's face and get the part that Alice deserved.
- For comedy: Popular in farces, especially those involving twins where no-one can remember who's who or in comedies where someone's cross-dressing. For example, Bob's girlfriend has just dumped him. He complains about the fickleness of women to his new best friend Adrian, remarking that they, as men, are much more sensible, and that he can rely more on Adrian than he can any woman. Bob is unaware that Adrian is really Alice in disguise. The audience, on the other hand, know Adrian's real identity, and so Bob's comment seems ironic.
This trope is a staple of theatre, thanks largely in part to the mechanics of that particular medium. Characters move on and off stage, but the audience stays in place. They're the only ones who stick around long enough to hear the "whole story." In the theatre, however, there's usually one other party who knows what's going on, especially if it's a Tragedy
- and that is the villain
Classic theatre usually favours tense or comedic use of dramatic irony. Modern media is more likely to employ the "cringe factor" variation, which walks the line between tragedy and comedy.
A character's Hidden Depths
are often a source of Dramatic Irony. A favorite trick of time-travel or historical works; see It Will Never Catch On
. Foregone Conclusion
or Doomed by Canon
may crank it Up to Eleven
. May end with an Internal Reveal
. The opposite is Tomato Surprise
, when the characters
know something that the audience
A type of Irony
Compare Dramatically Missing the Point
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Anime and Manga
- Sora of Kaleido Star tends to bumble into situations, setting her up for the cringe-inducing variation. Having just been accepted into the Kaleido Stage, she runs up to her new colleagues, energetic, happy and ready to introduce herself. The viewers, however, have just seen that the other troupe members are suspicious of Sora for the very untypical way she came into the picture and mistakenly think that she actually cheated her way into the circus. The audience isn't surprised when they shun Sora and lumber her with all the cleaning duties as "punishment" — but Sora is.
- Pet Shop of Horrors loves this trope. Chief among various uses of dramatic irony are Leon's many assertions that the supernatural-thing-of-the-chapter can't be real, because magic doesn't exist...right before he stops by for tea at Count D's pet shop, where the supernatural-thing-of-the-chapter is probably in one of the rooms in the back.
- In Fruits Basket, after Momiji's mother voluntarily submited to Laser-Guided Amnesia because she could not take her son's curse, she sees him out late and expresses concern that his mother will worry about him. His sister, who was never told of her older brother, sees him and asks him if he will pretend to be her big brother.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena runs on this, especially rewatching the series. It's terribly heartbreaking at times. Also the shows of "sibling love" between Akio and Anthy to Nanami. It's hilarious as well as very, very disturbing.
- In Deadman Wonderland, Ganta's relationship of Shiro is more of a combination of creating tension and making the audience cringe on his behalf. The situation being that the Red Man killed all of Ganta's friends and framed him making him have to go to prison, making Ganta want to kill the Red Man for revenge. In prison, Ganta becomes really lonely, and comes to rely on and bond with Shiro. The one time he doubts her, he is proven very wrong, and makes a promise to himself that he'll believe in her from now on. Only thing is, Shiro turns out to be the Red Man. The audience can only imagine what his reaction will be when he finds out...
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chisame tells Negi about how she doesn't believe a word of the "urban legends" around the school. Naturally, all of them are completely true, and Negi was directly involved in most of them (she does, however, note that he's a bad liar). There's an additional layer of irony in that Chisame herself eventually ends up dealing directly with just about everything she mentions.
- Episode 17 of Neon Genesis Evangelion ("Fourth Children") is a textbook example of dramatic irony. At Shinji's expense, of course. Everybody except Shinji knows that Touji is the fourth child, and the plot of the episode is centered on the fact that everybody conceals that fact from Shinji until it's too late.
- And then you have the scene where Shinji and Asuka kiss. Asuka liked Shinji and she wanted to kiss him, but she played it like a game to waste time in case of he was going to rejecting her (saying she was bored, pinching his nose...). And since Shinji stood still, gasping for air instead of kissing her back or hugging her, she thought he had rejected her and ran off. The sad thing is Shinji DID like Asuka, but because she was playing it like a game, he did not think she liked him back and he did not dare to do anything. So instead of getting them closer their kiss made Shinji feeling worse about himself and contributed to Asuka's breakdown (that scene played during her Mind Rape).
- And in Rebuild of Evangelion, those who have seen the original series - and who see that Asuka has been chosen to be the pilot of the new Eva - have to watch in horror as the poor pilot is made to go through sudden and unexpected Character Development just before sitting down in front of the controls to make the incident more dramatic.
- Another major source of it is that those who have seen EoE now knows that Gendo does care about his son and honestly loved his wife, which Shinji still has no clue about. That makes certain scenes a whole lot more painful. The movie itself shows him having a flashback of his wife and ordering his driver to do an u-turn mere metres from where he might have picked Shinji up as he is informed about the whole EVA 03 business, but Shinji himself sees neither and, after some unfortunate circumstances, declares that he hates his father and that he needs "needs to lose someone important as well so he knows how it feels.". Ouch.
- Played up for all its worth on Code Geass, which came to its head in episode 16 (the one before all The Masquerade started to unravel). That episode featured a conversation between Princesses Cornelia and Euphemia about how much Prince Clovis cared about his dead little sister and brother and how capturing Zero would avenge the deaths of all three of their siblings Clovis, Lelouch, and Nunnally. Not only are the latter two still alive, but Lelouch IS Zero - and worst of all, Euphemia's reactions in previous episodes show that not only is the audience aware of the irony, but she's catching on to it, too. It also saw Kallen saying she has no interest whatsoever in him, though she is infatuated with Zero, who is arguably more the real Lelouch than Lelouch is. But the highest amount of irony had to do with the interaction between Lelouch and Suzaku which saw the two of them teaming up to defeat Mao and save Nunnally, they said they trusted each other completely and agreed to help protect each other completely unaware of the others Secret Identity.
- The "audience is in on the joke" type is present in one scene of the Gunslinger Girl anime and manga. Franca, a bombmaker working for the terrorist group Padania, accidentally bumps into Henrietta, one of the titular cyborg assassins assigned to eliminate her group. Neither is aware of what the other is, and after the encounter Franca is briefly reflects on how glad she is that one of her allies' plans to bomb that area was thwarted, because "protecting children like her is what Padania is all about."
- In Gundam 00, the character Allejuah has an evil split personality which was implanted in him as a child. One episode has a flashback of him as a child, showing his first meeting with his childhood sweetheart who comments on her efforts to communicate with him even though she was essentially being kept catatonic previous to that. He makes a comment on how it must have worked, as he heard her voice in his head. The audience realizes that wasn't actually her voice, but rather the beginnings of the split personality.
- Fullmetal Alchemist fulfills this trope from very early on — as in Scar's first appearance early. Another big one is Ed and Winry talking about Lt. Colonel Hughes right after his death.
- Played for brutal tragedy in RahXephon when Ayato gives a Declaration of Protection to Asahina as he goes off to defeat a Dolem. What he doesn't know is that the Dolem is in sync with Asahina so everything he does to the Dolem hurts Asahina in the same fashion. And it twists the knife even further he does this while she's trying to confess her feelings to him. Worse yet, everything she writes shows up in every electronic screen in the area. Ayato fails to notice this until he delivered a killing blow, and turned to see her final message on a building and realized what he had just done.
- Used in Claymore, when Raki finds himself rooming with Isley and Priscilla. He hasn't heard the names, but the readers have.
- In Naruto
- A rare examples of this being applied to the bad guys: Kakashi managed to track down Sasori and Deidara using a piece of cloth Kankuro managed to yank from Sasori. When they hear Kakashi's team is approaching, Sasori immediately says this must have been Deidara's fault.
- And then done to Naruto and Sasuke when, in a flashback, their mothers talk, figure out that Naruto (who wasn't born yet) and Sasuke will be in the same grade, and they hope that the boys will be friends.
- A new one from the recent chapters. Naruto told Sasuke that instead of one of them killing each other, they would both die. After Madara gets revived, he extracts the nine-tails from Naruto, which means he's going to die, and then fatally stabs Sasuke in the chest. Guess Naruto was right after all.
- Done for suspense in One Piece when the readers are made aware of Ace's capture and planned execution while Luffy blindly dodges newspapers with that information on it.
- In a later arc, Donquixote Doflamingo brags that he's trapped Luffy in his coliseum with no escape, and that the Straw Hats will never find his black market harbor, unaware that Luffy's already ditched the coliseum to attack Doflamingo's castle, and that Usopp and Robin are already in said harbor and planning to take down his most important minion. The real irony is that earlier Doflamingo claimed Luffy's earlier successes were due to his opponents underestimating him.
- S-CRY-ed has an interesting variation, in that the irony's never really brought up until it's rectified; there's really nothing to tell the audience that Kanami doesn't know Kazuma's an alter user, but the pieces definitely fall into place once it's revealed. Also sets the stage for a bigger one that reverses the roles: the fact her dreams are so lucid and accurate are the first clues that she is an alter user—the dreams are the manifestation of her power.
- In Fist of the North Star, Juza, one of the guardians of the Last General of Nanto, dies while fighting Raoh after refusing to divulge the General's identity. However, it's Juza's very sacrifice that causes Raoh to realize the General's true identity.
- In Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, Usagi writes many letters to Mamoru—who she believes is studying in America—and sometimes the letters even provide narration for the episode. However, the audience has known that Mamoru was dead from the moment it happened.
- To make things even worse, Rei's last words to Usagi are that she "still has Mamoru".
- Gundam 0080 milks this trope for every drop it's worth. The series has a cute romance brewing between Christina and Bernie, neither of whom knows that they're enemy soldiers or that Chris is test-piloting the Gundam that Bernie's team has been ordered to destroy at all costs. Turns absolutely gut-wrenching in the final episode, where each of them asks their mutual friend Alfred to say "goodbye" to the other for them; at this point Al is in on the secret, having witnessed Bernie destroy the Gundam (badly injuring Chris in the process) at the cost of his own life.
- There's a nice example in ∀ Gundam where one of the excavation teams digging through one of the silos discovers a rack of torpedo-shaped objects with the radioactive trefoil symbol on it. The audience obviously realizes they're nuclear bombs, but the characters have no idea what the symbol means. Cue lots of squirming as the characters repeatedly drop and otherwise shock the bombs.
- In Fairy Tail, Natsu spends a good portion of the Nirvana arc chasing down a resurrected Jellal to keep him from meeting Erza, not knowing that Jellal has lost his memories and, in fact, bumps into Erza. Even after Erza talks him into having a Heel Realization, Natsu still thinks he is another enemy on the lose. This trope then becomes doubly subverted: Jellal regains his memories of Natsu shortly before running into him again, and the readers are led to believe he has reverted to his evil ways, only for it to turn out otherwise when he gives Natsu a Power-Up that helps him defeat Zero.
- A minor example occurs when Raven Tail's master Ivan smugly watches Gajeel enter the Grand Magic Games as a member of the Fairy Tail guild. Here's where the irony lies: Ivan believes that Gajeel is spying on Fairy Tail for him, when the readers (and at least Makarov) know by this point that Ivan has it totally backwards. In fact, by the time Gajeel first meets Ivan, he already considers himself to be a member of Fairy Tail through and through.
- A more extreme example takes place during the same arc when Erza bumps into her childhood friend Millianna during the games. Their happy reunion is spoiled when Millianna brings up her burning hatred for Jellal and desire to see him dead for killing their friend Simon, and assumes Erza feels the same way, not knowing that Erza has already rekindled her friendship with Jellal and, in fact, expressed her mutual feelings for him. The tension rises once Millianna finds out that Erza and the rest of Fairy Tail have been secretly harboring Jellal during the games.
- In the second arc of Sword Art Online, Lyfa is helping Kirito reach The World Tree. She's slowly falling in love with him (as tends to happen), unaware that he's on a quest to rescue his wife. On the other hand, they are both unaware that Lyfa is actually his cousin, due to the anonymized nature of virtual reality. So she really never had a shot with him. The whole thing is presented as a tragedy, and is often described as "a train wreck in slow motion."
- In Detective Conan, Ran believes Shinichi has gone missing and doesn't know that he's actually been turned into the little boy who now lives with her. To be fair, she does come close to discovering this on more than one occasion, but this always leads to Shinichi finding some way to throw her off.
- Baccano! has a scene where Ladd decides to kill Czeslaw simply because they believed Ladd could not possibly kill them even right before he pulled the trigger. The audience is aware that this viewpoint is not unjustified.
- In A Certain Magical Index New Testament Vol. 7, Touma takes on Rensa. Since Rensa has never heard of him, she dismisses him as a spoiled punk who is trying to play at being a hero. She angrily says he knows nothing of suffering and loss, unlike her, a woman who lost everything and was turned into a cyborg, and that he has no idea about Academy City's dark side. Little does she know that at this point in time, Touma has saved the world several times, experienced the hidden dark sides of Academy City and the Magic Sides, and lost his right arm four times.
- In Death Note, the Anti-Kira Taskforce sees L as a stubborn Inspector Javert who is unreasonably convinced the Chief of Police's son Light is the killer, despite all evidence to the contrary. Of course, as the audience, we know he's right.
- A more specific (and brutal) example when Light's biggest obstacle L dies; Light can scream and panic and Freak Out to his heart's content, but the audience is well aware who is responsible... though perhaps not entirely sure how genuine it is.
- When Light's father is killed, this happens again; having made the Shinigami Eye deal, the Chief looks at Light and dies declaring his relief that Light isn't the killer after all... but the audience knows it only appears that way at the time, and that, in actuality, Light has been the murderer all along.
- In Mazinkaiser Baron Ashura disguises him/herself as Proffesor Yumi in an attempt to blow up the Photon Power Laboratory, but ends up at the Professor's surprise party instead. Kouji, Sayaka and Boss give him an asymmetric suitnote , a bouquet of foxgloves (meaning 'two-faced') and a dartboard with Ashura's face on it. Baron Ashura starts to suspect that they're doing it on purpose.
- Triumph was also involved in a positively brutal incident of dramatic irony in the mainstream DCU. After his life falls apart, Triumph considers consummating a Deal with the Devil to get the years of his life he lost back. Instead of signing a contract or anything like that, all Triumph has to do is light a specific candle the devil had given him. Despite the fact that Triumph had been kind of a dick lately (or, you know, always), Ray and Gypsy show up in the nick of time to tell him how important he is to them, not knowing about the candle. Triumph, touched, decides not to sell his soul and flies off, leaving Ray and Gypsy to admire the statue of fallen teammate Mystek Triumph had made during his deliberation. Then Ray finds the candle, and they notice that it fits perfectly into Mystek's arms. Of course, Ray decides to light it as a tribute to Mystek.
- The Atlantis Chronicles get a lots of mileage out of the fact that the text-boxes are directly from the Atlantis Chronicles, but the events on-panel are what actually happened. This is generally played for laughs, but it turns horrific at the end of one volume, where the chronicler notes that the princess was reportedly frigid on her wedding night, and chalks it up to nerves (it being her first time and all). The reader, however, knows that she had been raped the previous night.
- As the Big Bad of Astérix is Julius Caesar, this is indulged in frequently with the comic's portrayal of Brutus. Since the comedy in Asterix is mostly very light-hearted and stabbing your best friend to death doesn't fit that, it's played for Refuge in Audacity, with Brutus being never shown without a dagger, which he constantly fiddles with and occasionally injures himself with. Caesar will frequently go on to explain just how much he values Brutus as his most trusted friend and confidante (although he's shown with significantly high intelligence and judgement other than with Brutus). Brutus is so much all about this that he's almost a Living Prop for much of the comics, before suddenly and gloriously emerging in Asterix and Son to succeed in destroying the Undefeatable Little Village.
Film - Animated
Film - Live Action
- Alfred Hitchcock uses some element of dramatic irony, or suspense, in virtually all his films. The audience knows, or sees, something that the people on the screen are unaware of.
- If you learn that there's a dead body in the cupboard of the living room where Alfred Hitchcocks entire film Rope takes place, or who put it there, then you can skip just the first 30 seconds of the film, no more. You still need to hang around in order to find out what happens next and how it is played out.
- Back to the Future used this brilliantly for comedic effect. Marty and George concoct a plan wherein Marty will intentionally start harassing Lorraine, so that George will have his opportunity to come in and act as if he's intimidating Marty into leaving her alone, thus wowing Lorraine with his awesomeness. Unforeseen hitch though; Biff Tannen actually kidnaps Marty and proceeds to very seriously harass Lorraine. However, rather than torpedoing the whole plan, this actually leads to George demonstrating REAL awesomeness.
- The real ironic part is that, come the time, Marty is incapable of doing this to Lorraine (she's his mother after all). But she has no problem pressing Marty for attention and flirting with him rather aggressively.
- "Biff Tannen, I wouldn't marry you even if - even if you had a million dollars!" Which, in the alternate timeline, he had. Several times over. And she did.
- Back To The Future is big on this. Consider the 1955 dining room scene:
Lorraine's mother: Why do you look so familiar to me? Do I know your mother?
Marty: [looking in Lorraine's direction] Yeah, I think maybe you do.
Lorraine's father: He's an idiot. Comes from upbringing. His parents are probably idiots too. Lorraine, if you ever have a kid that acts that way I'll disown you.
- The entire trilogy is MADE of this. It's a Time Travel story so we're constantly laughing at what the characters think will happen, when we already know how events unfold.
1955 Doc Brown (Marty is trying to convince him that he's from the future):
Then tell me, future boy. Who's President of the United States in 1985? Marty: Ronald Reagan
! Brown: Ronald Reagan
???! The actor??! HA! Who's Vice-President, Jerry Lewis
- Also consider the scene where Goldie Wilson, the black busboy in 1955 declares he will make something of himself, and Marty, coming from the present, er, future, declares that indeed he will make something of himself. Specifically in about 30 years he'll be the mayor. What's hilarious, is that initially, even the future mayor himself is stunned to hear it.
- These Star Trek examples:
- In In Bruges, Ray's boss, Harry, orders Ray's death because he killed a child, albeit accidentally. At the end (and this is a major spoiler!) Harry believes he's killed a child, and shows himself to be a man of principle by committing suicide. In fact, he's killed a midget, but he's dead before Ray can inform him of this.
- The first Spider-Man movie has a scene near the end where Harry Osborn tells his best friend, Peter Parker, about how much he wants to kill Spider-Man to avenge the murder of his father, Norman Osborn. Does this one need any more explanation?
- Of Deep Blue Sea, it is often joked that the super Sharks know what this is, because one of them kills Samuel L. Jackson in mid speech about what they're going to do to get through it.
- Virtually the entire first Halloween film, and much of the later ones, is simply "Hey! The killer is in the background! And the characters can't see him! Oh Crap!"
- The Halloween example pops up later in Scream (1996) when Randy is watching the infamous scene with Laurie on the TV and he says "turn around, Jamie, he's right behind you". Yes of course the killer is behind him as well. Bonus points in that the actor's name is also Jamie.
- Happens repeatedly for tension in No Country for Old Men. Much of the movie is just simply watching what will happen to the characters as they walk into a situation, oblivious to what the audience already knows. And then it subverts the trope by getting those characters out with a hidden ace the audience didn't see.
- The whole prequel-trilogy of Star Wars. You know that everyone with the exception of Obi-Wan is (probably) going to be killed anyway (by their own clone forces!) and that Anakin is going to go evil. This makes around 80% of the film a near Tear Jerker.
Obi-Wan: (after Anakin takes them through a perilous chase) Why do I get the feeling that you'll be the death of me?
- The Phantom Menace portrays Palpatine becoming Supreme Chancellor and Anakin beginning his Jedi training as a happy ending. And it appears to be one within the context of just that film. But if you've seen the original trilogy, you know that these events lead directly to The Empire.
- A more traditional example of this in Phantom Menace is Qui-Gon telling Padme things like "The Queen trusts my judgement, young handmaiden. You should too." However, he (probably) knew that she was really the Queen, so he was likely just messing with her.
- Revenge of the Sith has the following gem:
Palpatine: Get help, you're no match for him. He's a Sith Lord.
Obi-Wan: Chancellor Palpatine, Sith Lords are our speciality.
- In The Room, Johnny sets aside his problems with his fiancee Lisa to lend a sympathetic ear to his best friend Mark as he complains about a girl he's seeing, unaware that Mark is talking about Lisa.
- In The Chase, many of the television stations covering the chase speculate that Hammond planned to kidnap Natalie Voss because she's the daughter of the richest man in California. It was actually a completely spur-of-the-moment kidnapping after Hammond was spooked by two police officers walking into the same gas station, causing him to take the only other customer in the store hostage (who just happened to be the daughter of the richest man in California).
- In the World War I film Joyeux Noël, the revelation that German Lieutenant Horstmayer is Jewish definitely counts as a "cringe".
- In a World...: When Fred Melamed tells Ken Marino, who has been bragging about his sexual exploits, to "give her another one for me," neither character is aware that he's talking about his daughter. Yuck.
- Perhaps an unintentional one but in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, by the time the movie premiered, almost everyone knew that the Winter Soldier is Bucky. The tension and drama surrounding his identity comes from Steve not knowing.
- Hank McCoy's attempt at a cure on himself appears to work and then fails horribly in X-Men: First Class. When he later uses a variation to rob Erik/Magneto of his powers in X-Men: The Last Stand, it seems to work. And then, rather subtly, it also fails.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past:
'70s Magneto is the most unsympathetic portrayal yet, while the future Magneto is the first time he's shown as an outright hero. Near the end, Magneto in 1973 attempts to assassinate the president on live television in order to start a race war, and Magneto in 2023, dying from injuries obtained in a Last Stand, regrets that he wasted so many years fighting with Xavier and reconciles with him.
Continuing off the above, Trask sees mutants as a common enemy which can unite all the human race and end the Cold War. In the Bad Future, Trask's inventions have become the common enemy that united all the mutants.
- Valkyrie: During Colonel Stauffenberg's visit to Adolf Hitler's Berghof residence in Bavaria, Hitler praises Stauffenberg for his sacrifices as a soldier and wishes that more of his men were like him. If only there were! At this time, Stauffenberg is planning an assassination of Hitler and a coup d'etat against his regime for its excesses.
- In A Face in the Crowd, after Lonesome Rhodes concludes a TV broadcast with some insulting remarks made under the impression that his microphone had been switched off, he heads for the elevator, whose operator, obligingly holding the car for him, says: "The Lonesome Rhodes Express! Going down!" The following Montage demonstrates that Lonesome's popularity is indeed dropping as fast as his elevator.
Live Action Television
- 24 loves this. A good example is the first season when Senator Palmer's aides and CTU both tell him that they believe Jack Bauer is a threat to him and his family and he's convinced Bauer holds him responsible for the deaths of his men in a mission some years ago; when in fact, Jack Bauer and his family are going through holy hell because Bauer is trying to keep him safe.
- To add to the irony, it turns out Bauer wasn't even aware of Palmer's involvement in said mission.
- Also in Season 1, Jack takes aside Jamie and Nina as "They're the only ones he can trust." They're both Moles and (at the time) the only ones who were.
- Supernatural loves this. For example, it's tough to sympathize with Whiny/Season 1 Sam when he calls Dean the perfect Golden Boy of the family when we see the last few episodes of Season One and see that John showed more outward concern for Sam than he ever did for Dean.
- Home is pretty much this as well. Missouri takes any chance she can to verbally beat Dean down while Sam is sniggering like a bratty little brother yet the tearful phone call beforehand (want to answer your phone once in a while, John?) shows just how much this whole thing is upsetting him. Poor lamb.
- Used for tragic effect in In The Beginning. It's heartbreaking seeing a teenage John Winchester who "still believes in happy endings" when you know how he ends up.
- Made worse in The Song Remains the Same, with the past version of John Winchester ranting to Sam about what a terrible person Sam's father must have been. Sam ends up trying to defend him and make peace with him (for fights they haven't had yet) at the same time, all without letting on that John is his dad.
- Also in In The Beginning, Mary telling Dean that the worst thing she can imagine is her kids being raised to be hunters. The look on his face is heartbreaking, and he immediately tries to warn her about her death so she can have her wish. It doesn't work.
- Also, Sam's blood habit in season 4, which is shown onscreen and discussed with a couple other characters before Dean find out. When he does find out, he's not happy.
- Used and lampshaded in Park Bench, episode 14.
- Another example of dramatic irony done for dramatic tension. In Star Trek: Enterprise the Xindi are on a genocidal mission to wipe out humanity, due to them being told that in a few hundred years, humans will completely kill off all the Xindi. Thing is, it's a lie; the Xindi and the humans are actually going to join forces in the next few centuries and defeat their common foe, known as the Sphere Builders.
- While Superman has the legendary Superman/Lois Lane/Clark Kent love triangle in pretty much every incarnation, there is a very specific bit of Dramatic Irony in Lois And Clark, the 1990s Superman TV series. Basically, Clark confesses to Lois that he's in love with her, but she turns him down. Later that episode, Lois confesses to Superman that she's in love with him, actually telling him that "I would love you if you didn't have superpowers and were just a regular guy."
- A better example of dramatic irony is from Smallville, where Clark, talking about his future plans, says something along the lines of 'I don't know what I want to do; I just don't want to put on a suit and fly around a lot'. Which is cool, because the audience knows full well what's going to happen.
- Smallville used Dramatic Irony several times an episode. Clark and Lex frequently proclaimed that their friendship would be lifelong. Clark and Lois disliked each other for a long time after meeting, but it wasn't really Tsundere, because there wasn't any "dere" involved, it was just intended as irony. Neither Clark nor Lois liked journalism at first. Clark kept on having issues with trust and secret-keeping and suspicion with several of his friends, while he was keeping a bigger secret than any of them.
- There's also the Smallville episode where Clark spends like five minutes ranting about how dangerous Luthors are and how they can't be trusted and how basically they're doomed to be evil no matter what, just because of their blood. He says all of this to Tess, who had only recently found out that she's Lionel Luthor's daughter and who was already having trouble handling it. (When at the end of the episode Clark realizes what he's done, he apologizes for making assumptions, realizing that 1) Lionel's influence is what makes Luthors so dangerous 2) Tess is already beating herself up for something that isn't her fault, and doesn't need his help making it worse.)
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Hammered", Jerk Ass assistant district attorney Sonya Paxton works a case involving a man suffering from alcoholism who, in an alcohol-induced psychosis, beats a woman he met at a bar to death. Throughout the case, Paxton argues that alcoholism is not a disease and that the defendant couldn't use alcoholism to justify the crime. One major screw-up that nearly costs her the case later, it turns out Paxton is quite the Hard-Drinking Party Girl herself: the following day, Paxton arrives to court late, having been in a fender-bender, and drunk enough to register .082 on a breathalyzer, thus losing the case due to a mistrial and destroying her career in the process.
- During the Minbari civil war arc of Babylon 5, Delenn is chastising the Warrior Caste for one of their own committing an attack on a high level Warrior Caste representative, while complimenting her own Caste. This is before a bunch of guys from her caste who not too long ago had poisoned the entire ship, and only Lennier acting quickly prevented it from killing them all.
- A better example from Babylon 5: G'Kar, the Narn Ambassador, has just received a message from the leader of his people's enemy, the Centauri Emperor, which is to the effect that the Emperor wants to publically apologise and make reparations for his people's actions. G'Kar runs into his frequent opponent, Londo, the Centauri Ambassador, and buys him a drink, toasting Londo's health and that of the Emperor. Unbeknownst to G'Kar, Londo has just ordered an attack on a Narn colony, plunging their two races into war.
- This is doubly ironic in that Londo had no idea what the Emperor's plan was, and would probably not have ordered the attack had he known.
- Back in season 3, there's a comedic example in the episode "Sic Transit Vir". Ivanova's having nightmares about reporting to work in the nude. She talks about this with Sheridan while not getting specific about it. He suggests it's just her subconscious mind adjusting to the changing situation on the station. And then…
Sheridan: Hey, it could be worse. You could be having dreams where you're showing up to work naked.
- In Kamen Rider Kiva, Keisuke Nago hates Kiva and wishes to destroy him, while believing that the innocent and kind-hearted Wataru Kurenai is the best kind of person. No points for guessing Kiva's true identity.
- Then they go and subvert the irony halfway through: when Nago learns that Wataru is Kiva, rather than feeling angry and betrayed as one might expect, he's instead reassured by the fact that Kiva is in good hands, and offers to mentor Wataru.
- The franchise used this exact same plot twist eight years before with Kamen Rider Agito, in which Ryo Ashihara is friends with Shoichi Tsugami but hates Agito for killing the woman he loved. When Ryo learns Agito's identity, he realizes that he must have been wrong, because Shoichi is a good guy who would never kill an innocent woman in cold blood. (Not coincidentally, both shows were written by the same person.)
- In the Firefly episode "Out of Gas", we flashback to when Mal hired Wash. Zoe's first impression? "I don't like him." The irony? They eventually marry. (Though some men might not call that irony...)
- In the "Body Language" episode of Imagination Movers, a foreign guest appears at the warehouse and repeatedly asks for "Nee Nohtz." The character is clearly looking for Knit Knots, a regular character on the program, but the Imagination Movers can't understand and resort to body language to solve the problem.
- In Eastenders, when Ronnie Mitchell found out that her young employee Danielle Jones was single, broke and pregnant, she persuaded her to get an abortion. Ronnie had been haunted for twenty years by grief over giving her own daughter up for adpotion - in order to assuage Danielle's guilt, Ronnie tells her that she wished she'd aborted her own child all those years ago. Naturally, Danielle was the daughter that Ronnie had given up.
- The irony is further layered by the fact that after the abortion Ronnie acts very coldly towards Danielle. She only does this because she feels guilty about betraying the memory of her daughter (who she thinks is dead) by pretending that she'd wanted an abortion - so she ends up pushing away and really hurting Danielle, who is her daughter.
- A comedic example appears in a flashback episode of Angel set in 1942. 1942-Spike declares "I'm not going to be experimented on by the government!" and 1942-Angel replies "And I'm not going to get trapped at the bottom of the ocean!". Both of which make perfect sense in context (they're on a submarine), but are hilarious, because the viewer knows that about sixty years later, Spike will be experimented on by the US government and Angel will spend several months trapped underwater.
- The opening sequence of the first episode of Coupling is a rare subversion of such an elemental trope: we think we know more than the characters, but in fact we're being misled. Steve is heading to a meeting with his girlfriend and says he's planning to break up with her, and that she's probably expecting it. Susan is preparing for a meeting with her boyfriend, and says she has no idea what he wants (her friend guesses he's going to propose). We think Susan and Steve are meeting with each other, but they ain't.
- In a classic comedic case; when Morgan Grimes learns that there is a secret CIA base under their Buy More store AND that bad guys are preparing to blow it up, he gamely tries to convince Chuck Bartowski that they have to stop them. Chuck, who is the actual spy, who knows all of this beforehand, futilely tries to convince Morgan that they are in over their heads.
- The season 3 finale of LOST and all of season 4: while Jack is doing his damnedest to get all the survivors rescued, and sorta succeeds by the end of season 4, the flash forwards that ran concurrently are showing how only a handful of characters got rescued and their lives turned to crap afterwards.
- Even more ironic (both in a dramatic and a tragic sense) since the first flashfoward ends with Jack telling Kate that they never should have left the island.
- Hank Schrader of Breaking Bad is a DEA agent on the trail of the crystal-meth producer "Heisenberg." The audience knows that "Heisenberg" is in fact Hank's brother-in-law, Walter White. Things get pretty weird when Hank starts talking about his work when visiting Walt's house, or (for that matter) when he takes Walt's son, Walter Jr., on a Scare 'Em Straight trip to a rat-trap motel that serves as a meth den...where Walter Sr.'s product is most likely being consumed.
- A late episode of Season 2 has Walter White run into Don Margolis. Both men vent their frustrations about their children, Don about his daughter Jane, and Walter about his "nephew" (actually his partner, Jesse Pinkman). Unbeknownst to both men, they're discussing the same situation: Jesse and Jane's relationship and mutual heroin addiction. The ultimate irony is that Don's advice to Walter drives him to sneak into Jesse's home and inadvertently cause Jane's death.
- Dexter LOVES this trope: not an episode can go by without someone making some sort of comment about murders, Harry's relationship with his kids, the justice system, how nice and docile Dexter is or some other sort of remark with an unintentional double meaning. It can get a little heavy-handed, but it's so often lampshaded by Dexter's hilarious facial expression and deadpan voiceovers and so well-acted overall that it's forgiven.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer uses dramatic irony quite frequently. Usually the audience knows about the Monster of the Week and its activities long before the characters. Often this is resolved quickly. Other times . . . not so much.
- One of the most stomach-churning, heartbreaking examples occurs in episode 2.17, "Passion." Having finally resolved some lingering issues, Giles comes home to a beautiful romantic set-up, complete with roses and champagne and opera playing. Little does he know that the whole thing was set up by now-soulless Angel to display the corpse of Jenny Calendar, Giles' love interest, thus managing to turn what should have been a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming into a mess of a squicky Tear Jerker.
- Under Your Spell is a beautiful love song. The only problem? As the audience knows, Tara literally is under Willow's spell, so the whole song becomes rather uncomfortable. When Tara realises this, she sings the Dark Reprise.
- In an episode of In Treatment Laura tells Paul about her one-night-stand with Alex, describing his behaviour as like a military operation, "like a pilot". Paul of course notices the irony but can't discuss what he knows about Alex.
- Played for comedy in a flashback episode of The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon and Leonard are hammering out their roommate agreement.
"Roommates agree that Friday nights shall be reserved for watching Joss Whedon's brilliant new series Firefly
Leonard: Does that really need to be in the agreement?
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Conundrum", there's some real-time dramatic irony: We know Kieran MacDuff is out of place on the Enterprise, but thanks to Laser-Guided Amnesia, the crew does not.
- From BBC's series Merlin, you could make a drinking game every time Arthur insults Merlin and calls him stupid, cowardly, and how little he understands being trapped by duty and destiny.
- Being that Doctor Who revolves around time travel, it's not surprising this pops up once in a while.
- In "The Deadly Assassin", the Time Lord authorities make deductions from the Doctor's history that lead them to believe him far more knowledgable than he actually is.
- In many episodes, in fact, characters assume that the Doctor is in cahoots with some faction of wherever he landed. The reactions are predictable and all too often tragic.
- All of the drama and tension from the episode "Dalek" comes from the audience knowing exactly what Henry von Statten has locked up in his alien collection, but the Doctor having no idea, making his at-first earnest attempt to help the alien his first (and quite riveting) encounter with the Daleks in the new series. Part of it also then comes from Rose and the other humans being totally unaware of the Doctor's past history with the Daleks and being shocked by the anger and violence in his voice.
- Due to her timeline being back-to-front compared to the Doctor's, half of River Song's lines are this. Spoilers ahead:
- She often references the fact that she will eventually meet the Doctor before he knows who she is. And that day will kill her.
- Also pertaining to her death, in "Last Night" she mentions that she's excited to go to the Singing Towers of Darillium. The Singing Towers are where her final meeting with the Eleventh Doctor occurred, right before her death.
- Also a lot from the Doctor himself in Series 6, mostly about his death in the season premiere. Played with since not only the audience, but the other characters the Doctor in the first case, Rory and Amy in the second, notice the irony and react accordingly.
- Also many more on rewatch once you know River is Melody. Timey-wimey plots are perfect for this.
- In the 2012 Christmas Special, the audience knows immediately that Clara Oswald looks exactly like Oswin Oswald. Since the Doctor has never seen Oswin as a human, he takes a bit longer to put it together.
- Shows up a few times in Downton Abbey, perhaps most heart-breakingly with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic following the end of the war. When members of the household start dropping like flies, we know, as they don't, that some of them will not be getting up again.
- In NBC's Hannibal practically runs on this during the first two seasons; there's a reason it's the page quote. If you know anything about any of the movies or books, it will be that Dr. Lecter is a cannibal and serial killer; thus, the fact that it's a prequel means a ton of tension lies in the audience knowing Lecter's secrets while his friends and colleagues are clueless.
- Additionally, a lot of more subtle fan nods can be found, further invoking this. For example, Will Graham realizes Hannibal's secret in Red Dragon, and finds himself tangling with the truth as a result; thus, when they first meet in the series:
Lecter: God forbid we become friendly.
Will: I don't find you that interesting.
Lecter: You will.
- The Americans has a lot of this since we get to see what both the FBI and Directorate S are up to. For instance, in "The Colonel" Philip and Elizabeth have two missions. The first one is to meet with an Airforce colonel who wants to sell them information on the "Star Wars" program, but who may have been compromised by the FBI. The other mission is to retrieve the tapes from the bug in Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger's home office that they had planted in an earlier episode. The irony here is that while Philip and Elizabeth are arguing and making plans about what to do if the meeting with the colonel goes bad and who should take the risk of meeting with him, it's the bug in Weinberger's office that has really been compromised after the housekeeper Philip and Elizabeth blackmailed into planting the bug has a crisis of conscience. So whoever goes on the "safe" mission to retrieve the tapes is walking into a trap.
- The Cannonball Chemistry episode of MythBusters makes use of this, since (as the Build Team mentions at the beginning), it was during the filming of that episode that a mishap at the Alameda County Bomb Disposal Range sent a cannonball through a person's house. Later, we see the setup for the cannon tests, and listen to The Narrator carefully describe all the safety measures the MythBusters are using to keep things from going wrong... while everyone watching knows that won't be enough.
- In Once Upon a Time it has already been established that Rumplestiltskin is a Dirty Coward, who crippled himself to avoid service in the Ogre Wars. When we get to the episode where this happens, Rumplestiltskin is initially excited to be drafted. He admits that he is afraid, but says everyone has been treating him with contempt because his father was a Dirty Coward and assumes that he must be as well, and so this is his chance to prove them wrong. Oops.
- The episode does reveal the real reason he crippled himself. A seer told him his actions on the battlefield would leave his child fatherless, so he crippled himself to avoid fighting, which lead to the events that left his son fatherless. He was not amused.
- Then there's this gem:
Dr. Frankenstein: The name Frankenstein shall become synonymous with life!
- Little House on the Prairie has a particularly chilling example in the Season 7 episode "Come Let Us Reason Together." Perceval and his father, both Jews in the 1880s, are arguing about Perceval's choice to change his name from Cohen to Dalton when travelling west on the frontier. They discuss the history of Jewish persecution.
'''Isaac: Understand, my son, we Jews must survive. Since the beginning of time, other men have tried to destroy us."
'Perceval: Papa, people are educated now. That kind of craziness won't happen again. It's almost the 20th Century!
'Isaac: You are so sure?
'Perceval: I'm sure.
Now, try not to think about Nazi Germany.
- The Winds of War is steeped in this for obvious reason. However there is one particular jarring example when Natalie is trying to remember the old name of the Polish town they're in, the name it had when it was ruled by the Austrians. Her uncle tells here: Auschwitz.
- Arrested Development is another show using this trope. Perhaps their best example is the incestuous crush George Michael and Maeby have for each other. They are the only ones aware of it. In the second episode, George Michael tries to get over his crush by requesting more hours at the banana stand from his father Michael. His father mistakes this for ambition and promotes him to manager. Then, he notices the other family members laying about lazily and tries to teach them a lesson by having Maeby work with George Michael.
Michael: Stay on top of her! You are going to ride her! Hard!
- It should go without saying that William Shakespeare was rather fond of dramatic irony:
- In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo kills himself on the assumption that Juliet's already dead. Wrong. Thanks to a series of unlikely disasters, Romeo has been left uninformed of Juliet's plan to escape marriage to Paris. Just to be really cruel to the audience, he makes a long speech before drinking the poison, long enough for the audience of the day to frantically (but silently) urge Juliet to wake up from her drug-induced sleep and prevent the tragedy. To modern audiences, Romeo and Juliet is a serious case of It Was His Sled — and to be fair, Shakespeare makes it pretty clear from the beginning that this story isn't going to end well — but this scene is probably the biggest punch in the gut in a story rife with dramatic irony.
- Duncan's praise of Macbeth when he comes to stay at his castle seems just a little bit misplaced to the audience, who have recently heard Macbeth and his lady scheming to murder him. And for those who are aware of how the show will turn out, Duncan's words on the prior Thane of Cawdor, "He was a man in which I had built an infinite trust" makes one all the more aware that Duncan has really poor judgment of character.
- Likewise, Othello's statements of trust and belief in Iago couldn't be more incorrect.
- On a lighter note, Twelfth Night is perfect for the comedic use of dramatic irony, featuring both twins and cross-dressing. And As You Like It is particularly noteworthy for its Recursive Crossdressing, which is dramatically ironic on multiple levels.
- There's the scene in Hamlet where the prince considers killing the King while he's kneeling in prayer, only to decide not to, on the theory that killing him after he'd just prayed would send him to heaven rather than hell. Claudius however had just given a soliloquy about not being able to pray, so the audience knows Hamlet missed his best chance for revenge.
- Even older examples than the William Shakespeare ones above can be found in Greek plays, since most of these plays were based on stories that were already common knowledge to the audience. For example, in Oedipus Rex, Oedipus vows to track down Laius' killer... but the audience knows perfectly well that he is the killer, even though Oedipus himself does not.
- Arcadia is a heartwrenching example of this, even though the play is pretty comedic. Due to it's narrative structure, the audience sees the events that happen in the 1800s that the modern-day researchers get wrong, and are also told by the modern-day characters what will ultimately happen to the characters in the 1800s. In the last scene of the play, the audience is already aware that Thomasina will burn to death the night before her seventeenth birthday and that her tutor Septimus will go insane and die a hermit, writing "reams of cabbalistic proofs that the world is coming to an end." Thomasina invites Septimus, who is in love with her, to come upstairs with her, but he declines, not wanting to ruin her reputation (he has just spent the play ruining lots of reputations and getting out of trouble on charm alone). Then, just to twist the knife a little bit deeper, Stoppard has Septimus hand Thomasina her essay on thermodynamics, light Thomasina's candle and tell her to be careful with the flame. Not a dry eye in the house.
- Rather tragically used in the musical version of Sunset Boulevard's I Want Songs and the characters' uplifting wishes, since we already know that Norma will fail to get back her career, and Joe will die.
- In the musical Jekyll & Hyde, the powerful and uplifting number "This is the Moment" is made very ironic because we know that Dr. Jekyll is preparing to test out the serum that will transform him into the murderous Edward Hyde.
- Wicked is just full of dramatic irony, since, even if the audience didn't already know the story of The Wizard of Oz and what happens to the green witch, the very first number of the musical fills us in. In particular, One Short Day is so full of hope and happiness in sharp contrast to everything after it.
- Also, both Elphaba and the Wizard mention a "celebration throughout Oz that's all to do with" her. We, as the audience, have already seen this celebration: Munchkinland is celebrating her death.
- Fiyero's incredulous, "Did you hear that? Water will melt her? People are so emptyheaded they'll believe anything." Subverted however, as it turns out water doesn't kill her, because it is in fact nonsense. She just faked her death.
Elphaba: I'd be so happy I could melt!
- The musical version of Reefer Madness has a hilariously dark foreshadowing version of this in the song "Romeo and Juliet" with the two main characters singing: "We are just like Romeo and Juliet/We're happy, young and bubbling with love!/I can't wait to read the ending!/I can't either! But I'm sure it turns out real swell!"
- Cyrano de Bergerac: The play is full of this:
- Act I and II: the Burgher praises the play La Clorise, by Balthazar Baro, and mentions various names of members of the French Academy, saying: all names that will live! Given the knowledge he has (those guys were big in their time), is perfectly sensible, but to the modern audience, these names were long forgotten and mean nothing.
- At Act II Scene IV, the poets comment about how the last night, only one men singlehandedly put a whole band of one hundred men to the rout, leaving his swords and hats by all Paris, and make assumptions about his character. Only the Audience knows that the hero was Cyrano, who is busy writing a love letter to Roxane, absentmindedly murmuring of his feelings.
Second Poet Twas a strange sight!—pikes and cudgels strewed thick upon the ground.
Cyrano (writing): ... Thine eyes ...
Third Poet: And they were picking up hats all the way to the Quai d'Orfevres!
First Poet Sapristi! but he must have been a ferocious. . .
Cyrano (same play): ... Thy lips ...
- In Damn Yankees, when Meg and her friends succeed in clearing Joe's name, Welch gloats that he knew Joe was a loyal player all along: "Why, I says, 'That boy would go to hell for his team.'" Just then the clock starts chiming twelve, and Joe realizes he's lost his last chance to escape his Deal with the Devil (who, by the way, is right next to him).
- Ace Attorney:
- The fourth game was able to pull this off surprisingly (and painfully) well: When the MASON system is used in the final case to see the case that lost Phoenix his badge, it's obvious at one point the one piece you need to present, but the player knows the evidence is forged and will lose Phoenix his title and job. However, submitting anything else will fail, and you can't Mercy Kill yourself, either. You end up having to submit the forged piece, or just shut off your game. The result is cringing and painful to see play out.
- There's also multiple instances of the player actually seeing a cutscene of the guilty party incriminating himself, but obviously the characters don't know until the end of the case.
- The fourth case of the third game takes place chronologically before any other case in the series, even before the same game's first case, which was also a flashback chapter. Since Dahlia Hawthorne appears in case 3-1, we already know that she won't be outed as the murderer, no matter how much we want it. A young Edgeworth is the prosecutor, and his perfect record as of 1-2 means that he's not going to lose the case. And finally, we know that Mia was traumatized by this case, so something bad is going to happen. As it happens, all three circumstances are fulfilled by the exact same action. The defendant, Terry Fawles, afraid that he'd betrayed his dear Dahlia, drinks the contents of the bottle necklace, unwittingly poisoning himself to death right on the stand. With no defendant, the case is incomplete and declared a permanent mistrial. Dalia walks because of this, Edgeworth doesn't lose the case (though, it's not a win either), and this tragic, horrific end to her first case causes Mia to stop taking cases for about six months.)
- 3-4 gets bonus points for drama. In 3-4, Mia is being helped by one of her coworkers, Diego Armando. If you were paying attention during 3-1, though, you know that that's the name of Mia's boyfriend Dahlia poisoned six months before 3-1 because he was looking into her and by the end of the case you find out exactly why he was doing that. You can also see that the bottle necklace Dahlia uses to poison Armando and gives to Phoenix to hide it is the one Terry Fawles drinks from to kill himself. 3-4 is just one great big Player Punch...
- In Investigations, the fourth case is a flashback to when Edgeworth was younger, and still apprenticed to Manfred von Karma. It's a bit unsettling to watch Edgeworth being so obedient to Von Karma, if you've played the first game and therefore know that Manfred von Karma killed Edgeworth's father. And it manages to be before 3-4, mentioned above, which was Edgeworth's court debut, so the audience also knows that the case Edgeworth is preparing for at the start of it is never going to go to court.
- One scene with Miles Edgeworth and Manfred von Karma in Investigations even doubles as Dramatic Irony and Foreshadowing. Edgeworth says that no man is above the law. Von Karma disagrees, saying there are people like that. To the player who knows von Karma killed Edgeworth's father, the implication is that von Karma is referring to himself. However, the very next case in Investigations deals with a criminal who hides behind his diplomatic immunity, making him "above the law".
- Case 3 of Investigations 2 takes this up even further, you get to play as Gregory Edgeworth during his last case, going up against Manfred von Karma. By now, most players will know just how this ends... It's made all the worst by the fact Gregory realizes von Karma is a monster the moment he meets him, she just doesn't realize how much... Similar to the 4th game's example above, the final deduction you have to make in the past segment is one the player knows will have horrible consequences, but the game won't continue until you present it. In case it wasn't obvious by now, it's "von Karma forged the autopsy report." And since von Karma still has his perfect record by the time of 1-4, you know Gregory won't be able to get the defendant cleared, and that the real killer will get away with it. Fortunately, Miles manages to resolve everything when the case is re-opened in the present day.
- World of Warcraft plays with this trope in the cinematic introduction to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which features a retrospective voiceover by Arthas Menethil's father encouraging his young son to use his powers for good. The irony is that the voiceover plays over Arthas as the Lich King, commanding the vast undead armies of Northrend after betraying his people and killing his father.
- This scene turns out to be doubly ironic when it's revealed that the soul of Terenas Menethil is trapped within Frostmourne along with every other soul consumed by the dread blade, and actually speaks to Arthas, chiding him for his poor decisions. To squeeze out the very final drop of irony, the concluding cinematic of the Icecrown Citadel dungeon features Terenas telling his dying son that it's now, finally, over, making this also an example of Book Ends.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Near the end of Terra's story, he makes Riku his successor, and promises to show the worlds outside Destiny Islands to him someday. Ten years later, he makes good on his promise in the worst, most tragic way possible. Long story short, his heart got hijacked by Master Xehanort and ended up becoming Riku's Evil Mentor from the first game; Ansem, Seeker of Darkness.
- This is showcased heavily in the Metal Gear games. Two series-spanning ones that cover the origin of Solid Snake and Metal Gear respectively are seen in Metal Gear Solid 3:
- The one about Solid Snake's origins have the young Big Boss talk to his medical support member, Para-Medic who happens to specialize in the field of genetics, about the nature of human cloning and genetic engineering. She tells Big Boss that when the science behind genetics advance enough they will be able to isolate what genes are desirable, take those genes and not only enhance already living people but be able to clone a human being with those particular traits, and his genes will be in high demand one day. Big Boss denounces human cloning as immoral, saying that, "You can't mass-produce human beings.", and that he is sure the government would never do something like that to him. Big Boss is proved wrong, very wrong, when the Patriots later not only clone him but genetically alter soldiers with his DNA.
- The young Big Boss first learns of the origins of Metal Gear from a drunken Russian scientist who had lost out funding dollars for his project in place of the Shagohad, a similar but not as advanced mobile nuclear platform since it relies on rocket boosters and not its own movement speed to achieve what it does. This man Granin explains to Big Boss that artillery is too heavy to be mobile and infantry is mobile but not as heavily armored as artillery, so you need to find a way to combine the two, Metal Gear is that missing link because its mobility comes from giving it legs. Metal Gear has the firepower of artillery and the mobility of infantry allowing it to traverse any terrain and destroy the enemy with devastating fire power, not to mention its nuclear payload that can be fired from anywhere in the world. So why was a nuclear platform like the Shagohad chosen over Metal Gear? Metal Gear was simply so far ahead of its time that Granin's employer Volgin didn't have the technology needed to build Metal Gear and so it had to be abandoned, but Granin predicts very accurately that one day Russia will come to fear Metal Gear despite denying its funding now. Sigint, Big Boss's technology expert, denounces Metal Gear viewing it as an absurd idea that only a crackpot scientist would think of, citing that legs would reduce a tank's traction and make it a walking bulls eye since it would move too slow to avoid enemy fire. Ironically Metal Gear's technology is advanced enough that its legs make it very fast, far faster than any tank, and along with its nuclear payload every country on Earth gets into an arms race over who can make the best Metal Gear. Granin's prediction of his machine becoming desired and feared comes true. The icing on top of the irony cake is that Sigint ends up making a Metal Gear regardless of his earlier dismissal of the machine.
- In Catherine, the characters only remember the nightmares while in them, and only see the other participants as sheep with the odd identifier. Outside, they only remember they had a bad dream and finding other people strangely familiar.
- The entirety of Driver: San Francisco after the opening is nothing more than a bizarre coma-induced dream. The game makes no attempt to keep that secret from the player, but the protagonist is none the wiser until the very end of the game.
- It's established in the first few moments of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon that King Boo is the reason the Dark Moon shattered, but Luigi and E Gadd don't find out until much, much later.
- In Soul Reaver: Defiance, the player knows all along that Raziel and Kain are being manipulated by Mobius while the playable characters themselves (especially Raziel) keep coming to completely wrong conclusions.
- In Dissidia 012, Kain and the Warrior of Light learn some of the truth behind the cycles of war. Though at that point they still don't know Cosmos only summoned all of them to die fighting Chaos in order to make him stronger. When Cosmos tries to confess the truth. The Warrior interrupts her, telling her that her task of keeping the world safe with her power is more important than the safety of her warriors.
- Resident Evil 0 has Dr. James Marcus, who you find out killed people years before the events of the game after experimenting on them and threw their bodies into the Sewage Plant. Then when his pupils Albert Wesker and William Birkin kill him, they throw his body into the same Plant.
- Skyrim has a mission you accept from a boy who escaped from an orphanage. He hires you to kill the headmistress who is exceptionally cruel to the orphans. After you do so, the orphans cheer that the headmistress has been killed. After you visit the boy who escaped and collect your payment, a soldier tells you about the murder (that you performed) and comments "The children must be devastated."
- Girl Genius loves this. This page is a truly shining example. No, Klaus, noooo!
- In Homestuck, Rose's house will soon be hit by meteors, and is relying on Dave to install his copy of Sburb and save her life. You then get to control Dave, but this is Dave earlier in the day, who thinks that Sburb is just some useless game, causing him to lose his copy nonchalantly.
- There's also the narration while Kanaya reads a walkthrough she found in the Furthest Ring. She grew up idolising the writer and has no doubt that due to her leadership, they succeeded with flying colors. It was written by Rose, in the session coming directly after the troll's, which they wound up screwing up so badly it broke that troll's game as well.
- Played to Tear Jerker effect when Rose and John meet in person for the first time. John asks Rose to help him find their parents. She can't answer him, but leads him to them. On the way, he jokes about talking to her like she's a dog and being told by Karkat he has to marry her. She is leading him to their parents' corpses.
- Another painful example from that same flash occurs when Rose meets what's left of the Wayward Vagabond's army; as we already know at this point, the Wayward Vagabond lost his entire army except these particular survivors and decided to exile himself because he felt like a failure. When we meet the survivors of his army, however, they reveal that they idolize and admire WV (a couple of them even have crushes on him) and wait for him to return to lead them to victory. And then, to add insult to injury, Jack shows up and slaughters them all.
- John becomes victim to this again when he expects to meet Vriska after the Scratch. At that moment, she's dead.
- And now we have a cringe-inducingly awkward (in-universe) example with Jane and Jake. We know she has a big crush on him. He asks her if she does, and she panics and denies it. She tries to correct herself, but Jake says he appreciates her honesty. He then tells her that he probably would have agreed to go out with her if she'd asked, but that the whole thing was just a big daydream and that he's actually really relieved to have just one friend who has no potential romantic interest in him. He then asks if she can spare a friendly ear while he confides in some stuff and Jane, semi-hysterically, accepts. He then goes on to talk about how he's pretty sure Dirk has a crush on him and that he's actually not 100% opposed to the idea of going out with him, and asks whether or not she thinks that's weird. All throughout Jane is trying her very, very best to be the friend that he requests, but to the audience it's incredibly obvious that she could not possibly be feeling more uncomfortable.
- In one intermission flash, it's possible to control Damara beyond the first area as an Easter Egg. If you talk to Rose or Dave, they will remark that she seems harmless and sweet. She is, in fact, an Ax-Crazy Wild Card who serves Lord English.
- Wapsi Square She's probably laughing her ass off — Ocular Gushers.
- It had been used even earlier here with Luci talking to Jacqui about Shelly using the analogy of a tattoo, not knowing that Shelly had recently acquired a tattoo covering the entire front of her torso.
- In the Cocoon Academy arc of Brawl in the Family, Professor Dragmire tells his students that with his help, every one of them will become a hero. A reverse shot then shows that his class consists of Dedede, Bowser, Jessie, Wario, and K. Rool.
- In Misfile, Cassiel and James attempt Operation Jealousy in the hopes of breaking up and reclaiming their exes, Ash and Rumisel. Neither of them knows that Ash is a boy who was Gender Bender'd by a Cosmic Retcon, he finds the idea of "her" former relationship with James creepy and disgustingnote , and that Rumisel (who's in on the whole thing) is just pretending to be Ash's boyfriend specifically to keep guys from chasing "her".
- In Sinfest, the green succubus is unaware that she's the Replacement Scrappy in Baby Blue's eyes. She gets surprised by Baby Blue's Not a Morning Person nastiness and how she's naturally thinking bad thoughts.
- Sire: Dramatic Irony is a tangible force in the universe called "The Binding" and if the characters do not live by the rules and morals of their sire/dam's story then they will be given a tragic ending.
- Darths & Droids has an In-Universe example. The roleplayers know that, in the RPG they're playing, planet Naboo has been destroyed and Jar Jar Binks is now dead. The characters they're roleplaying don't know this yet. Jim (who, in previous games, had a lot of trouble separating in-character and out-of-character knowledge) announces, in-character as Han Solo: "I am sure that we will have many fun adventures on the surface of the planet Naboo with our friend Jar Jar, who will surely greet us there upon arrival."
- In Freefall, Blunt regards it as essential that an upgrade go out essentially lobomotizing every robot on the planet, because it must be needed for human safety; when Florence stops it, he laments the catastrophe and explains that nothing will happen, everything will go on. The other robots tell him to check the meaning of the word "catastrophe."
- In The Order of the Stick, Belkar hears someone in robes and assumes it's V. He predicts the order's reaction, and Roy's having to admit that he's a valuable team member — while the audience sees one of their foes coming down the way.
- In Faux Pas, while Cindy is thinking how thoughtful the cat is, the cat is thinking that Cindy aware of its deception.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot calls Sarah to arrange a suitable place to talk about breaking up with her. Sarah, having been thinking about meeting to talk about the same thing, recognizes the intention behind it based on the wording and the places suggested but jumps to the wrong conclusion as to the reason for doing so and so arrives at the agreed upon place with preconceived ideas.
- In the fourth episode of the TV Tropes original webseries Echo Chamber, Tom assumes he is the dumbass who has a point, when it is obvious to the audience that it is Zack who has a point, although they are both dumbasses.
- In Friendship is Witchcraft Sweetie Belle, who is very obviously a robot, accuses Rarity of being one because of her heartlessness and her taking acting lessons.
- A big part of the fun with watching The Nostalgia Critic's self-hate for not having any power, is knowing he does. The contributors might love humiliating him, but they've followed him willingly in every single anniversary. He just can't make that connection. His Once an Episode catchphrase is telling us about who he is and what he does. Seems simple enough, but factor in that he's a mess of insecurity regarding practically everything, and that catchphrase becomes self-reassurance.
- The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Most of the viewers are familiar with the story of Jane Eyre, so they knew that the man who nearly ran Jane over in his car was in fact her employer. Naturally, they happily cringed at her when Jane tried to calm herself down, saying: "It's not like I'm ever gonna see him again anyway." Oh, Jane! You don't even...
- The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has several examples, including Lizzie's declaration that she feels sorry for whichever hapless girl ends up dating "that douche" Darcy and her somewhat later statement that she'll be reduced to drastic measures if Lydia turns out to be connected in some way to someone related to Darcy.