Establishing Series Moment

"This is from the first episode of the show. It's like the producers wanted to say, 'This is what you're in for. Strap in, motherfuckers.'"
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Some series have a really straightforward premise which they execute immediately. Others play it close to the chest until the very end of the first episode. Either way most shows need to establish their tone and/or premise in their first episode to both make the viewer feel comfortable and filter out the people who wouldn't like the show.

Most of these moments are based on HSQ or just showing us what either the premise or the execution would be. It's normally done in a straightforward way, with no anticipation or foreshadowing, to both overwhelm and surprise the audience and make them addicted to the show. Note that promotional materials can spoil these moments.

May involve beginning the story In Medias Res before cutting back to a slow-burning set-up once the viewers know the kind of thing they're in for later on.

Can overlap with First Episode Spoiler, but an Establishing Series Moment doesn't have to be a spoiler. Contrast with Halfway Plot Switch. Compare Establishing Character Moment where the purpose is to show us a character's personality in one single moment, and with Growing the Beard where the quality of the show is established.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece the anime starts with a slightly serious take on the whole pirate theme, with a pirate ship attacking a normal ship. However, the first second Luffy appears by breaking a barrel in which he was in, screaming "WHAT A GREAT NAAAAAAAAAAAAP!" and punching some dude in the process, you know which direction this series will go.
  • The first thirty seconds of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann contain an entire galactic cluster exploding, a lot of pseudo-sciency dialogue about Maelstrom cannons and the fabric of space-time and one of the series' defining catchphrases being delivered before inspiring music plays during a huge pan out over a badass space cruiser.
    Future/Alternate Simon: Gurren Lagann, spin on! Just who the hell do you think I am?
    • Then, in case you forgot the largely unrelated openingnote , the story beings again looking like an introspective look at the consequences and culture of a civilization that has been underground so long that they don't even believe in the surface anymore - before Kamina rams two herds of pig moles together and attempts to use their upward momentum to propel himself up towards the surface. It only gets better from there.
  • Gurren Lagann's Spiritual Successor, Kill la Kill, has an equally huge start. A teacher is in the middle of a rather boring lecture on the rise of Hitler when an enormous foot breaks down the door, which explodes. Gamagoori enters, a student drops a tear-gas bomb, Gamagoori jumps out a window to intercept him and whips both him and his clothes to shreds. After said student is hung on display as a warning to future would-be thieves, we get Satsuki's Establishing Character Moment. All within the first four minutes of the show.
  • Cromartie High School: First episode, first minute: HE ATE MY PENCIL!!
  • Darker Than Black demonstrates what it really is only by the end of the second episode, when the visible part of its plot is twisted to the hell and back.
  • Angel Beats! starts with a boy waking up within the grounds of a huge, empty high-school at dusk, meeting a beautiful, silent little girl, and getting stabbed right through the chest by a sword she appears to pull out of thin air. He is soon rescued by another girl, with guns.
  • School Rumble starts with Tenma talking about how love is the greatest thing in the world, surrounded by falling cherry blossoms. Then an Art Shift happens and we see Harima, wearing sunglasses, on a motorbike, and accompanied by rock music, talking about the same thing... immediately after beating the snot out of a bunch of other delinquents.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica initially seems like a relatively grim but still typical magical girl show. Then comes episode three, where the series resident Cool Big Sis gets her head bitten off and her corpse eaten messily, which sets the tone nicely for what's still to come.
  • Episode 2 of Bokurano. The kids beat the robot and save the day. Then one of them falls off the robot and dies. Or, more accurately, dies and then falls off the robot...
  • Seto no Hanayome began with the improbable incident of a Magical Girlfriend proposing marriage to an Unlucky Everydude. Then Masa-san and his Yakuza crew enter the picture. The craziness snowballs from there.
  • Ranma ½. A girl and a panda fighting in the rain.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion starts like any other Super Robot series up until the moment Gendo emotionally blackmails Shinji into piloting EVA-01 by wheeling out the gravely injured Rei.
    • Followed by Shinji attempting to battle the Angel, failing miserably (even at just making the EVA walk), which causes Unit 01 to take matters into its own hands.
  • Wandering Son starts off as a rather typical looking Seinen manga about a boy in elementary school. He has a nice family, his sister's a little mean, he makes some friends with girls... then we learn that he liked it when they forced him to dress like a girl.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni looks like it could pass as a harem series if you ignore the intro of both the anime and manga. However as the first episode goes on we learn of some mysterious deaths and some of the characters start acting secretive about it. So it's a mystery related harem? But than while the decoy protagonist is hanging around waiting for his friend, she comes out with a cleaver (though it made sense in context). That sets the mood for the series, which gets progressively more grim before bouncing between the two.
    • There was also the conversation between the protagonist and a reporter about the town's dark past.
  • Akazukin Chacha fudging up a spell shows she's an inept wizard as well as the show's reliance on Hurricane of Puns as it's main source of humor.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero- doesn't even wait until the third episode to show that Anyone Can Die and the effect of the Artifact of Doom. The squad in the promotional posters, including the Ensemble Darkhorse Badass Biker girl? Dead at the end of the first episode, killed by one of the main characters turned evil.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear: There are Badass Magical Girl Warrior fighting swarms of Eldritch Abominations with the power of songs. Their valiant struggle will eventually cost them their lives. This is shown in the early part of the first episode with Kanade's death, and before that, with Miku visiting Hibiki's grave
  • Black Butler does this within the first episode: It seems like a gothic, standard period-piece/Slice of Life anime, with typical Scenery Porn and Cloud Cuckoo Landers, until it gets to the last eight-and-a-half minutes, when Sebastian (possibly under the direction of the board game Ciel was reciting) reveals just how cruel and deadly he can be - by driving the poor bastard Corrupt Corporate Executive to insanity, breaking his leg to the point of immobility, and then roasting him alive inside a cramped, iron-cast oven.
  • Berserk introduces us to Guts by showing him kill a succubus by shoving his Arm Cannon down her throat and blowing her skull out the back of her head (the first of many frightening things the reader will see). He then walks into a tavern where some men have turned an elf into their plaything, before viciously slaughtering them all with a repeating crossbow and his BFS.
  • Deadman Wonderland starts with Ganta and his friends discussing an upcoming class trip to the amusement park/prison "Deadman Wonderland." Right before a mysterious figure in red bursts in through the window and slaughters the entire class except for him.
  • Mai-HiME first shows that it often deconstructs Magical Girl tropes near the end of the first episode, when Natsuki and Mikoto's fight on the ship causes it to start sinking, and Mai and Mikoto are only saved from drowning by an early appearance of Mai's Child, which crashes into Fuuka Academy and leaves a fiery crater.
  • The very first second of Elfen Lied features a dismembered, twitching arm lying on the floor of a secret military base. This is not Elfen Lied's establishing moment. The second minute we're introduced to Kisaragi, a sweet Dojikko with low self-esteem who's given a helping hand by her co-workers in taking her first small steps towards becoming a slightly more assertive individual. This is not Elfen Lied's establishing moment. The third minute we get to see a naked mutant girl very graphically telekinetically cut security guards to pieces and/or blow their minds into a fine Pink Mist. This. Is. NOT. Elfen Lied's establishing moment. At the end of the 4th minute/beginning of 5th minute, Kisaragi just happens to stumble into the path of the naked mutant girl and promptly has her head ripped off and her body used as a meat shield for the bullets that are heading right for the mutant girl. THIS is Elfen Lied's establishing moment.
  • Attack on Titan's first chapter/episode contains a scene where a soldier informs a mother that her son is dead. When asked if the son did anything of value when putting his life on the line, the soldier breaks down in tears and tells her that the mission was a complete failure and that he died for nothing. That might be a good description for a chunk of the story, or more importantly, what everyone expected before Eren comes into the picture.
    • More directly, in the first episode, before the opening credits roll, we're shown the Colossal Titan towering over Wall Maria, we hear Misaka's speech about humanity living in terror and humiliation, and then we immediately get a look at the 3D Maneuver Gear in action, with the camera showing us how it works without anyone needing to explain it.
  • It may have been at the end of the first volume, but Pokémon Special still managed to establish itself as a Darker and Edgier iteration of the series when it infamously sliced an Arbok in HALF. And it survived.
  • In episode 1 of Monster Rancher, Genki has just met Mocchi when the latter is threatened by the Black Dino Squad. What's Genki do when their leader threatens to make the young monster a slave? Kick the Black Dino in the face.
  • The first two episodes of After War Gundam X establishes Garrod as a badass, if rash, child hero, and how Crazy Awesome this Gundam series will be. Perfectly emphasized in this image
  • The first chapter of Codename: Sailor V establishes itself as a Magical Girl Warrior series by having Minako fight a monster (then only the third series ever, and the one to spawn Sailor Moon and the whole genre), its Darker and Edgier nature on Magical Girl shows of the time by having said monster being the guy she was crushing on, and its being still relatively fun when Artemis (a cat) walks into Minako's bathroom as she's taking a shower and she kicks him out calling him a pervert (only later she starts wondering since when cats can talk).
  • The first two scenes of Fate/Zero can easily sum up the themes behind the show. The first scene is Kiritsugu seeing his wife and her newborn child, with his first words being that he'll be the one to kill his wife and she shows that she's completely cool with it so long as it helps Kiritsugu fulfill his ambition of making the world a better place. Next scene is the deuteragonist, who arrives at a Master's house with his father to talk about their roles as overseers of the Grail War and how their job is to make sure the war's as balanced as possible... only for his father and the Master to go and tell him plans regarding how they will support said Master in winning the war. These two scenes help establish the central theme of the show: There's no honor to be had in this war, not with well-intended pragmatists who bend the rules running the game.

  • Transmetropolitan starts with Spider Jerusalem getting a call to get back to work. On the way, he destroys a bar with a Rocket Launcher because the guy pissed him off once, establishing the fact that Spider is hilariously vindictive. Then later, we see him report from a police-engineered riot and get a beatdown for it, to show that power doesn't frighten him and absolutely nothing will shake his ethics as a reporter.
  • In chapter one of All Fall Down, a news vendor comforts a small boy by telling him "Nothin' bad ever lasts in the comics. Death, doom, disaster? There's nothin' they can't fix." Moments later, a superhero plummets out of the sky, destroying the news stand and dying instantly.
  • Bone opens with a few pages of amusing bickering by a standard Comic Trio of cartoonish anthopomorphic bones. Cue an attack by a horde of locusts, which splits the three of them up and strands them in an unfamiliar place.
  • The title page of the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man is of Spidey sticking to a wall, with angry people pointing at him and yelling "Freak! Public Menace!", establishing that this is a comic about a Hero with Bad Publicity.

  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami establishes its highly illogical and unpredictable plot by having Light's father, who is initially shown to be in America with the rest of his family, suddenly turn out to be disguised as Watari, and even more suddenly turn out to actually be on L's side at the end of the next chapter.
  • In the Sesame Street fanfic "Lessons Learned on Sesame Street", the nature of the fic becomes apparent very early on when Maria starts masturbating upon waking up. As one Dramatic Reading found here put it:
    "We're getting right into it! Wow!"
  • The sequel to Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, New Champion Evangelion most effectively showcases its status as a Fix Fic in the equivalent scene to Shinji's first battle. Ronan achieves 10,000% synchronization and curb stomps the Angel with minimal damage, all while pointing out Shinji could never do what he did.
  • Marie D. Suesse And The Mystery New Pirate Age!, in its introductory scene, has a paragraph lampshading the typical descriptions of Mary Sue characters while describing Marie.
  • At the end of the prologue for Mass Effect Human Revolution, Shepard is found murdered. This is not your usual Mass Effect crossover, and Anyone Can Die.
  • Episode 55 of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. The heroes have saved the Planet Egg of Zeko and are celebrating a big parade with the natives. When the natives ceremonially open up the sails on their parade ships, dozens of mutilated bodies wrapped in the rigging suddenly fall to the ground as a taunt from Tsali. Along with being unholy Mood Whiplash, it establishes the tone of the rest of the series.
  • The first installment of The Prayer Warriors has the protagonist talking with his girlfriend about their plans to rid the world of everyone who doesn't share their religious views, highlighting their mission. They then almost effortlessly defeat and kill Grover Underwood, showing how easily and brutally they deal with their enemies.
  • The Pokeumans Fan Verse has had several of these from its many stories:
    • Blinding Desires begins with the protagonist being experimented on by Pokextinctionists, opening right when they blinded her.
    • Well-Grounded Confidence: Moe flips out and batters a guy after being accused once too often of being a spy and a freak, highlighting the personal struggle and the level of dealing with his past and other people that the protagonist will have to go through to earn his happy ending.
    • Ares: The arrival of Bruno, a Fourth Wall Observer who dresses like a real-life member Team Rocket Admin, to get the ball rolling on the series' trademark weirdness. It gets stranger from there.
    • Monster ends the very first chapter with the Peter waking up from the experimental procedure to discover the base in ruins and everyone dead.
    • Iron Ghosts: The reporter who started to get a lead on the existence of the Iron Ghosts is murdered by two assassins from the Ghosts at the end of the prologue. This is a Villain Protagonist story, and it is not nice.
    • Just Another Story: The entire first chapter that shows that this story runs on Crazy Awesome.
    • Back And Forth: The first time Para loses control to Lyz and literally tears a troop of bad guys to pieces. A grave warning that this story is going to have a lot more serious overtones than the author's previous works.
    • Sadly, most of the badly-written stories have a badly-written first chapter that sets the tone for the rest of it pretty well.
  • The first chapter of Romance and the Fate of Equestria brings the Mane Six together in a sleepover party. It sets up the premise of Twilight beginning her studies on The Power of Love, and displays the character dynamics, humor, and sexy but not smutty atmosphere which would permeate the rest of the story. In particular, Applejack's outburst of "Twilight, where do you keep the liquor?" is considered the definitive moment of establishing the story's tone.
  • Young Justice Titans, while technically a Continuation Fic and season 4 of Young Justice quickly establishes what this season is going to be like in the prologue. Why? Because in the very first chapter it features a superhero being murdered ON SCREEN by a Church Of Evil, and it was a member of the team as well. This establishes the Darker and Edgier (well, relatively speaking) tone this season is going to feature in its Story Arc. So much so, that the next chapter is almost something of a Mood Whiplash when it cuts to the titans fighting killer robots.
  • The first story of the Facing The Future Series sets the premise of the following stories when Sam gets ghost powers.

  • Run, Lola, Run starts off as a standard crime thriller. Lola hears from her boyfriend that he's a dead man if he doesn't get 100 thousand marks for some mobsters in the next 20 minutes. Lola hangs up and runs out of her apartment to help him. Then, one-third into the movie, Lola gets shot and killed. Suddenly, we're back in Lola's apartment, and Lola hangs up the phone and runs out the door again.
  • Shoot 'em Up begins with a close up of Mr Smith. He just stares out into space, then takes a bite of a carrot. This sets up the silly, cartoony sense of humour. Later, at the beginning of the very first fight, Smith shoots a tanker of gasoline, causing it to spill everywhere, runs at it... and uses it to slide along the ground, shooting everyone. This sets up the balls to the wall awesome action we'll be seeing.
  • The introduction of the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Prior to that, the film could pass as your standard '80s teen comedy. Of course, it still is a teen comedy, but not exclusively.
    • Is focus on science is shown by the intro featuring a Rube Goldberg-style can opener, the clocks all set at the wrong time, and the case of stolen plutonium under Doc Brown's bed.
  • The first few minutes of Kung Pow! Enter the Fist looks like a serious kung fu flick. That is until Master Pain opens his mouth.
  • A Knight's Tale begins with a crowd of joust fans singing along to "We Will Rock You" by Queen.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian starts with a dignified portrayal of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount, but it devolves into comedy as soon as the people in the back of the crowd (who have to struggle to hear him) start trying to interpret his message.
  • The slow motion shadow boxing intro of Raging Bull shows the beauty inherent even in a brutal sport like boxing. Its also a metaphor for the beauty in the tragedy of Jake's life.
  • Shrek starts with him reading a fairy tale book about a prince who rescues a princess who fall in love and live happily ever after. He then tears a page and uses it as toilet paper.
  • Judging The Room by the first few minutes, you might think it's just a below-average romantic drama about a boring yuppie couple. But the arrival of Denny—an unintentionally creepy Heartwarming Orphan whose relevance to the plot is never explained—cements the movie as the bizarre, plotless melodrama that its fans know and love. As soon as Denny sneaks into Tommy and Lisa's room to join in on their sexy pillow fight, you just know that you're in for something, uh..."memorable".
  • Guardians of the Galaxy has a good one. After the first few minutes showing the origin story of a young Peter Quill, the scene changes to adult Peter walking across a storm blasted alien landscape. He enters a cave, pulls out a walkman and starts dancing to Redbone's Come And Get Your Love in what can only be described as an 70's music video. This firmly establishes the movie as a lighthearted Breather Episode compared to the rest of the MCU
  • Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Stinger at the end of Iron Man is the moment when fans everywhere learned that a movie Shared Universe was being planned.
    Nick Fury: Nick Fury, director of SHIELD. I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative."
  • Enemy at the Gates cements that War Is Hell when we see Russian soldiers gunned by their own officers for retreating without orders.
  • You know something's weird with This Is Spinal Tap when you see the limo driver misspell their name as Spinal Pap.
  • You know Jesus Christ Superstar is a different kind of bible story when the first song you hear goes "What's the buzz? What is the happening?"
  • Brazil begins with a man getting executed because of a typo. This shows it's a Crapsack World that isn't malevolent but incompetent.

  • The first chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire is told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old excited to be going to his first beheading.
  • If the first time Harry opened his mouth didn't do it, blowing up the toad demon and breaking into the Varsity did it for The Dresden Files.
  • The first chapter of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime is numbered 2, and features the autistic protagonist describing the dead dog in the title in his usual fashion, describing things he observes in great, and often unnecessary detail ("I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds on the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork in a dog after it had died for some other reason.")
  • Artemis Fowl begins with the twelve-year-old protagonist conning a decrepit, half-mad fairy out of her Book, which is basically the fairy Bible.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins with the main character being attacked by bees, then remarking that the drugs he took are taking effect.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How I Met Your Mother's moment is either the first ten seconds, which establishes that the show is a story Future!Ted is telling his children, or the last ten seconds, which reveals that Ted and Robin's relationship is destined to fall apart, instead of being another Ross/Rachel mess.
  • The Wire starts with Officer McNulty talking with a witness and investigating a murder. The subject of the conversation (not about what happened, but about who the victim was) establishes that the series has a rather different outlook than your usual Police Procedural, and the tone of the conversation demonstrates where the show stands on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
  • NCIS: They steal Air Force One in the pilot.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer defines itself as a subversion of horror early on when we are shown two kids (a girl in a Catholic school uniform, and a biker boy) and are led to expect the girl to be the Monster of the Week's first victim. Then she turns into a vampire and kills the boy. Note that at the time, this was one of the first instances of this trick.
  • Angel's moment was when he fails to chat up a girl who may be in trouble showing his "brooding, mysterious protector" schtick isn't gonna work. New show, new strategy.
  • The Event pilot was building its mysteries (Where's Leila? Who attacked the Buchanan family? etc, etc) but there was no reason to believe that this wasn't a realistic show about a conspiracy. Cue the disappearing plane...
  • LOST started with the main characters stranded on a deserted island, and seemed to be about the survival of these people. Then we hear a mechanical roar at night. And later a fucking polar bear shows up.
  • Life On Mars has a pretty obvious one in the first episode. It starts as as a normal police procedural, until one of the officers is captured by the supposed killer. When her DCI boyfriend is mourning her in the middle of the road, he gets out of the car, is run over, and well... wakes up in 1973, not knowing if he's mad, in a coma, or back in time.
    • The spin-off Ashes to Ashes starts of very similarly. Alex Drake goes to work, gets shot in the face and wakes up in 1981. She's also aware that she's in a coma (in the future/present) and getting stalked by the clown from Bowie's music video Ashes To Ashes from his album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).
  • The Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood appears to be a normal British police drama, until Captain Jack appears and starts using Alien technology to interview dead people. A few minutes later, Torchwood member Owen is seen using an alien date rape drug to seduce a woman and her boyfriend against their will, very definitely setting the show apart from Doctor Who.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The first fifteen-odd minutes of the first episode of the original series could have been a fairly straight-forward drama about a couple of teachers trying to help a troubled, slightly unusual student who apparently lives under the thumb of her sinister, hostile grandfather. Then those teachers, trying to find that student in a darkened junkyard over the objections of her grandfather, suddenly stumble into a police box — only to discover that it's bigger on the inside than the outside and can travel through time...
    • The first story of Season 6, "The Dominators", begins with a little Plot Parallel that does some Foreshadowing for the eventual direction of the season. Instead of the Doctor, we follow an anarchic adventurer and traveller named Cully (a Rebellious Spirit at odds with his repressive but highly advanced Crystal Spires and Togas society - something that hadn't been revealed about the Doctor at this point) is piloting his craft to a holiday destination that he hopes will yield things to explore and terrifying scientific thrills. His gaggle of adorable, bantering teen companions test the radiation levels, tease him about his bad driving, step out onto the beach to find out where they are and are suddenly shot dead. Season 6 concludes with a Bolivian Army Ending.
    • The revival had Rose stumbling upon the Autons and then brought in the Doctor to rescue Rose while defining the show in one word: "Run!" And then made the place explode to get rid of the Autons.
  • True Blood: The very first scene of the very first episode of this series uses this trope. A goth gas station attendant tricks some tourists into thinking he's a vampire. After they leave a red-neck vampire tells him that if the goth ever impersonates a vampire again he'll kill him.
  • Dexter starts with the title character kidnapping a choir master, who's also a child rapist and murderer, and showing him the dead bodies of the victims shortly before killing him. It shows the internal monster in Dexter that loves to kill, while also showing a human side that refuses to kill children, setting the base for the Character Development that is the main point of the show.
  • Early on in the pilot of The Black Donnellys, the oldest Donnelly, Jimmy, is about to get in a bar fight. His younger brother Tommy tries to calm him down, but Jimmy just leaps over the bar and bashes a guy with a glass. Immediately Tommy jumps in to help Jimmy out, and their other two brothers disengage from what they were doing — hitting on girls and playing pool — to help their older brothers out. It's a minute-long scene that establishes that this show is about how family comes first and to hell with anything else.
  • The various Star Treks pretty much lay it all out in the "Space, the final frontier" opening monologue.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a quick succession of these:
      • The very first scene of the series is a flashback sequence where we see a previous space battle from Next Generation from the perspective of the new protagonist...whose wife is killed by falling debris. It's a new, Darker and Edgier show: Anyone Can Die.
      • The obligatory "Meeting the Crew" sequence...which takes place in a dilapidated space station, with a dysfunctional crew who would rather be anywhere else (including one major crew member who openly hates the Federation). It's a new show: Teeth-Clenched Teamwork is the norm, and working in space isn't always glamorous.
      • An emotionally tense meeting between the previous protagonist and the new one...which is made a bit awkward by the fact that the former technically murdered the latter's wife. It's a new show: everything has long-lasting consequences, and the battle between good and evil is anything but simple. One exchange between the two characters says it all:
    • Star Trek: Enterprise opened with a Klingon crashing landing on Earth in a rural farm with the farmer coming out with something that looks like a cross between a laser rifle and a lever action shotgun, establishing the prequel nature and Twenty Minutes In The Future setting compared to the other series.
    • Star Trek: Voyager gave us three: The two ships being flung into the Delta Quadrant some 70 years at maximum warp from Earth, and the destruction of the Array that brought them there (and could send them back).
  • Of the Holy Shit Quotient variety, the pilot of Heroes, particularly the scene wherein Claire is seen being videotaped throwing herself off a crane and hitting the ground with a splat. She gets up and promptly pops all her broken bones back into place. She then looks directly into the camera and says evenly, "My name is Claire Bennett, and that was attempt number 6." In fact the scene was so iconic, that when her friend who was videotaping gets Mindwiped, it's used as a callback. It's also repeated in the last scene of the series.
  • In the pilot of 24, the same slutty ditzy chick who banged a photographer on a cross-country flight suddenly puts on a pressure suit with a parachute, sets a bomb, and blows a hole into the plane before jumping out. Seconds later the bomb destroys the plane completely. That scene sums up the thriller, Anyone Can Die, Plot Twist nature of the show that will be 24.
  • The opening scenes of the pilot episode of Miami Vice feature the lead characters "in their native environment" so to speak. In New York, Tubbs heads into a nightclub with the intent to assassinate a Colombian guy, but is nearly killed in the process. After the credits roll, we see Crockett his partner making small talk about home life before they head off to a meet a drug dealer. All this happens before the two guys meet and before even the audience knows that both men are in fact police detectives. The good guys being bad guys to catch the bad guys nature of the show, along with it's use of Music Video techniques is firmly established. Also counts as Establishing Character Moment.
    • And then Crockett's partner is unceremoniously blown up by a car bomb planted by drug dealers, showcasing that 1) Anyone Can Die and the Pyrrhic Victory will be common things and 2) drug dealers will be unrelentingly evil people, making "The War With Drugs" more than a buzzword for the heroes.
  • The first five minutes of Firefly are an Establishing Character Moment for Mal. The next five minutes serve as an Establishing Series Moment, showing the humour, excitement, and focus on character interaction the series has.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess using some serious Wire Fu on the bad guys showed just how Crazy Awesome her show was gonna be compared to Hercules The Legendary Journeys.
  • Power Rangers RPM starts off with a prologue of a robotic apocalypse, followed by someone who is wandering the lands. He soon gets hold up by what appears to be a mugger. The mugger seems to be in control... Then the wanderer interrupts him with a Little "No". Cue the mugger losing all composure and leading into a comedic moment, showing that RPM mixes the dark story of a Robot Apocalypse with the comedy of a show with heavy Lampshade Hanging.
  • Up All Night had the scene where Reagan says a bleeped swear word while watching a birthing video.
  • The climax of the pilot episode of The West Wing, where the episode's plot is abruptly resolved by President Josiah Bartlet promptly (and awesomely) putting some snide Christian fundamentalists in their place, tells you all that you need to know about the spirit of political idealism that made the show famous. The fact that it's also Bartlet's first on-screen appearance makes it even sweeter.
    Bartlet: You’ll denounce these people, Al. You’ll do it publicly. And until you do, you can all get your fat asses out of my White House. C.J.? Show these people out.
  • The first episode of The Shield ends with Vic Mackey using the cover of a botched drug raid to murder one of his own men, established earlier in the episode as a plant from Internal Affairs, establishing Vic solidly as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Nikita begins with Alex getting arrested . Nikita has a dream where she's at a pool party. It is a CW show, after all.
  • Once Upon a Time begins with the iconic image of Prince Charming waking Snow White from her coma with True Love's Kiss, then cuts to their royal wedding...which is promptly crashed by The Evil Queen, who threatens to doom the whole kingdom and gets a sword pointed at her by Snow White, then has that same one thrown at her by the prince for her trouble. Goodbye traditional fairy-tales, hello Darker and Edgier ones.
  • Breaking Bad has Walter White lecturing his students on the nature of chemistry, how it is about growth, decay and transformation. An utterly perfect beginning metaphor for the series and especially Walter White.
  • Friends has one of the most iconic examples in history, opening with the four of the six characters (the other two appear minutes later) lounging about in a coffee house, alternatively teasing and comforting each other about their romantic relationships. Neither the gang's dynamic or their location change during the next ten years.

    Video Games 
  • In the first screen of I Wanna Be the Guy, whichever path you take, the game kills you lightning quick once. When you think you've figured out the pattern of the obstacle, be it spike wall or Delicious Fruit, and even pass one or two of them, the game suddenly reverses its behavior on the next one, killing you, and you can just imagine it laughing at you for thinking you had it figured out. This is the iconic moment of the game; the fruit falling up and killing you.
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness sets its tone with this line at the end of the first chapter:
    Laharl: Who gives a damn about you? Your new name is "Mid-boss."
  • The opening video of the first Left 4 Dead contains every single bit of gameplay you needed to know when the game was released (updates added a few tweaks here and there). Things ranging from 'when you fall, you can keep on shooting with your pistol' to 'don't shine a light in a witch's eyes' to 'you can shut a door on zombies to hold them off a while'.
  • Before the gameplay begins in Metal Wolf Chaos, a cutscene shows Metal Wolf, piloted by President Michael Wilson, jumping out of the Oval Office in a fiery explosion, shouting in glorious, cheesy Engrish "OKAY, LET'S PARRRTY!"
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within establishes itself as Darker and Edgier than The Sands of Time by the Prince yelling "You bitch!" after getting slashed in the face by Shahdee.
  • The introduction to No More Heroes begins with the fourth wall-breaking "I know a lot of gamers out there don't have much patience," before Travis talks about his status as an Otaku entered into a deathmatch. This gives some idea of who Travis is supposed to represent and how seriously the game takes itself.
  • No matter which origin you pick in Dragon Age: Origins, it always shows the game's dark fantasy setting, from a noblemen taking all the women for his own pleasure to mages at the mercy of Templars who have no qualms about killing or giving the magical equivalent of a lobotomy to any who could become a threat.
  • The trailer for the first Assassin's Creed I - which is also the opening cutscene - shows a hooded Altaïr looking out at an execution taking place from on top of a bell tower, disappearing when the bell passes between him and the camera, reappearing in the crowd below, and making his way through the crowd. Gently at first, but after the guards begin to suspect him, he yanks one guard off the platform with a crossbow and shoots the other before launching himself onto his target with the trademark Assassin leaping kill with his Hidden Blade. More guards come and Altaïr legs it, leaping across rooftops over their heads until they have him cornered in front of a building, or so they think. The doors behind Altaïr open as he smiles to himself before disappearing in the crowd of white-robed scholars. This scene shows pretty much everything you need to know about the series (with the exception of the crossbow, which was cut from the game, but appears in Brotherhood) in less than two minutes, including Parkour, planning a kill, dispatching guards, social stealth, and moving through crowds, all of which feature prominently in the series.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn began with someone watching TV about the tiberium infestation before settling on a soap opera, as a sign of the game's cheesiness.
  • The first screen in Metroid serves as this. Up until then, it was habit of gamers to go right on the first screen because of such games as Super Mario Bros.. Suddenly, you reach an unpassable structure and are forced to go left, which made many a gamer realize that this was going to be a game of much exploration.
  • The same can be said of the original The Legend of Zelda. You're given a choice of three directions to go, and a cave to walk in on the very first screen. Enjoy exploring this really huge world, guys!
  • The Doom Game Mod Deus Vult II starts off as a very good map set... and then tosses the map "Minas Morgul" at you, a giant fortress with several hordes of hundreds of monsters, hinting that it's all Marathon Levels and The War Sequences from now on.
  • Starcraft starts off fine except for these weird bug things. Man, Mar Sara has some dangerous fauna. Next thing you know, the ground's alive, buildings are infested, the government is evil, the zerg are killing everything, the protoss glass the planet, and there's not a laugh to be had. This isn't like a silly Command and Conquer rip-off.
  • Half-Life. Okay so, granted, you have a half hour of prologue. It says it's a first-person shooter, but it's calm, serene and more like a physics game. Then your suit proudly announces that your suit, a suit for a theoritical physicist, has built in munitions monitoring systems. Ten minutes later, half the people in the facility is horribly killed and some of them are zombies.
  • BioShock 1 starts with a plane crash, leads directly into a view of a beautiful underwater city, and THAT'S immediately followed by a man being gutted in front of your eyes by some kind of super human insane woman.
  • Mass Effect 2 starts with The Illusive man discussing with a lieutenant Shepard's importance, and how humanity only has a chance at survival as long as s/he is kept alive. The next scene is an introduction of the Normandy and her crew, similar to the first game's, which is suddenly interrupted by the Collector Cruiser appearing and tearing the Normandy apart in a stunningly one-sided battle that ends in Shepard's death, announcing the series's turn into much Darker and Edgier territory that would continue further in the third game.
  • War Craft III begins with a human and an orc army slugging it out only to be both wiped out by a comet. Thank goodness it was All Just a Dream... for now.
  • Alice: Madness Returns: The intro includes several surreal and disturbing images (such as Alice's head inside Hatter's head inside the Queen's head, and a centaur rolling a baby carriage with a doll in it, which then lights on fire) with the voiceover of Dr. Bumby giving therapy to Alice. Then the scene goes to the rabbit and her on a boat, drinking tea. The rabbit's head starts to bleed and then completely bursts into black goo. The boat sinks, and hands reach out from the water and pull her underwater while ripping her face off.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 begins with Yuri mind controlling someone over the phone, as an omen of how crazy this game has become.
  • In the opening sequence for Always Sometimes Monsters, a woman runs after a man pleading with him to stop, that she's changed her mind! Blowing off her protests, he replies that she'd already made her decision when she paid him, and there's no going back now. Dealing with the fallout of one's choices is a major theme in the game.
  • Kaizo Mario World starts by dropping a Thwomp on you before you even take control of the game.
  • The opening trailer that plays when you start up Skullgirls includes several shots from the game's various cutscenes. In choosing these shots the developers did not feel the need to stray away from some of the things that earned the game its T for Teen rating, including Ricardo cutting Ms. Fortune's head off and the creation of Painwheel.
  • The first chest you find in the intro/tutorial of Darkest Dungeon is guaranteed to be booby-trapped, an omen to the fact that it is a vicious and brutal game.

    Visual Novels 
  • don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story: the first scene involves John Rook introducing himself to his class, while his students discuss him online.
  • Katawa Shoujo does this on several levels. The very first scene in the game has the protagonist, within the span of literally less than a minute, meeting with his high school crush on a beautiful snowy morning, getting confessed, and suffering a nearly lethal heart attack, which ends up taking him out for four months and resulting in basically his entire life falling apart.
    • The game proper than begins with Hisao entering his new school, a special school for disabled kids, being astounded by how utterly normal and inviting it it looks... than opening the door to his classroom and finding it full of crippled freaks... which turn out, seconds later, to be completely normal, mostly friendly teenagers.
    • His very first serious conversation in the new school (and the game) is between him and the student(s) showing him around, one of which happens to be deaf - but nevertheless charming, helpful and cordial. When he's asked whether there's anything he doesn't understand, one option is to immediately ask her about her deafness, which suddenly turns the discussion far more awkward. This sets up the main theme of the game: that people with disabilities are people first and foremost.
  • The Ace Attorney series begins with Phoenix getting a case to defend one of his old friends. Upon his introduction, the friend, Larry Butz, has a comically melodramatic reaction to his girlfriend's death and proceeds to not do a very good job of testifying about his actions when called to the stand. This gives you some idea of what kind of people you'll be dealing with in the series.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police uses this, by showing various insane or weird scenarios, as if the intro didn't convince the viewers "This show is nuts".
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy sets its tone in the first episode when Grim tries without success to frighten Billy and Mandy.
    Grim: Look! Aren't you two scared?! Boo! Blah! (no reaction from either Billy or Mandy) Oh come on! I'm a walking skeleton! Isn't that scary?!
  • Transformers Prime starts off with a conversation between Cliffjumper and Arcee, then a fight with Decepticons where Cliffjumper fights them alone, doing well, then he's captured, and unceremoniously murdered by Starscream, to kickstart the Darker and Edgier tone the series is going for.
  • The My Little Pony pilot has around 3 minutes of tooth-rotting, stomach churning cuteness with the pastel Man Child ponies... then demonic dragons come in and scoop several ponies while a storm suddenly appears. This sets the Everything Trying to Kill You tone of G1, which often revolved around the ponies saving Dream Valley from some sort of evil while also being goofy and cute on the side.
    • The latest incarnation of the show does this in the theme song, both via NASM-esque plot exposition, and a more direct reference to its immediate predecessor in the opening theme (Twilight's descent in the balloon mirror's G3 Pinkie Pie's)... then a rainbow dashes right through the clouds, while the song changes to a rocking version.
  • ThunderCats (2011), pulls a neat bait-and-switch, in "Omens Part One" lovingly displaying an Epic Tracking Shot of Thundera over The Obi-Wan Jaga's Opening Monologue speaking of the place as The Kingdom and a Shining City...after a brief Establishing Shot, the camera tilts downward to reveal extensive slums, and a group of Catfolk muggers beating a hapless Dog. This was the exact moment that showed any fans expecting a simple remake that no, this was not the Thundera of your childhood.
  • The Gargoyles opening kicks off with an accurate rendition of Storming the Castle, a slow, dramatic reveal of the stone gargoyles, and Goliath's epic and spine-chilling "You are trespassing". But it isn't until the leader slashes him and actual blood flows down from the wound that we knew this show wasn't going to pull its punches for the younger crowd.
  • The Phineas and Ferb intro ends with Candace telling their mom that her brothers are making a title sequence, showing how meta the show really is.
  • When Freakazoid! fights his first on-screen enemy, he jumps on his head and starts cat-wailing. He then calls all the hostage teenagers to 'get down low', and the fight ends when he drops a basketball hoop on the villain. This guy's Crazy Awesome prowess puts Deadpool to shame.
    • Earlier from the same episode, when Cave Guy is described as 'powerful and dangerous, but also highly intelligent':
    Cave Guy: (In snooty posh accent) I subscribe to the New Yorker.
  • The first thing that happens in South Park is someone kicking a baby. And it all goes downhill from there.

Alternative Title(s):

Series Establishing Moment