Fan-Disliked Explanation

Yorick: As far as answers go, it was vaguely unsatisfying.
Beth: Is there any explanation that would have been satisfactory?
Yorick: Um, aliens? I would have also accepted witchcraft or anything involving nanobots.

People love a good mystery, and will watch or read a story to the very end just to find out its answer. Sometimes though, for whatever reason, they don't like the answer. The fans then decide it would have been better to just leave the Plot Threads hanging, which would have given them mulch for their Epileptic Trees.

When a show has a premise that hinges on one or more big unanswered questions, fans feel there is an obligation that these questions be answered. Failure to do so leads to The Chris Carter Effect, which can turn off fans in frustration. Likewise, not answering enough questions in a Kudzu Plot alienates fans. The hard place to the above rock is that when a show, book, or movie answers a question and the answer isn't quite as epic, clever, or mind shattering as imagined. Maybe fan expectations are just too high, or the answer is honestly unsatisfying.

It should be noted that one factor in whether fans expect a mystery to be resolved or not is how prominent and important it was made originally. Lost made such a huge deal about the mystery of "the numbers" that expectations for the solution were raised to an incredible pitch. In the case of Sherlock Holmes' backstory, though, it is made abundantly clear that it's irrelevant and that no clarification is to be expected.

When the authors deliberately choose not to solve the mystery, possibly to avoid this trope, that's Riddle for the Ages.

It's just like how everybody wants their Ship to go through, but when it does, the result is Shipping Bed Death.

Whether a show is better served by answering all, some, or none of the questions it raises varies by viewer. It's worth noting that this trope doesn't just focus on answers that are unsatisfying, but situations where an unanswered question actually helped the narrative. As you can expect, this is therefore YMMV.

Compare Canon Fodder and The Unreveal. If the explanation is disliked because it just raises further questions, then it's Voodoo Shark.

Beware of unmarked spoilers.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Dangan Ronpa 3: For a lot of fans, The Reveal that Junko Enoshima's primary weapon was Mitarai's brainwashing animation techniques, instead of their own Magnificent Bastard and Dark Messiah qualities resulted in a huge Badass Decay for the franchise's villain, whose charisma and capacity to bind people to their will was always believed to be their most impressive quality. It was also unpopular among those who wanted to see why the lovable Super Danganronpa 2 cast would fall into despair, finding the above explanation to be a lazy cop-out that forgoes characterization in favor of a one-size-fits-all plot point that is far less interesting.
  • Paranoia Agent: The explanation of the true nature of Shonen Bat and Maromi, as tidily explained as manifestations of guilt may be considered anti-climatic However, the show avoids this trope mostly by leaving many aspects vague or outright unexplained or inconclusive.
  • The first episode of Pokémon Black and White implied that less than a year has passed since Ash started his journey. This was met with immense dislike, as many found it utterly ridiculous that roughly 13 years worth of content happened in such a short timeframe.
  • The Halo Legends shorts quickly created a Broken Base due to their Broad Strokes regard to the Halo canon, with later explanations only providing partial comfort. One such lose-lose situation was at the end of the The Package, where John fights an Elite Major in a sword fight referred to in the subtitles as "Thel". However, Halo: The Cole Protocol indicated that Thel 'Vadamee, the Arbiter from the original trilogy, had not fought a Spartan until he had already been promoted to Zealot. Some fans, however, still liked the irony of 'Vadamee nearly killing John only to be his ally later in the series. But that was nullified with the updated release of Halo: The Fall of Reach, which clarified that it was a different Elite fighting John named Thel 'Lodamee. Now the canon was fixed again, but the irony was lost because John lost to a random mook.
  • MÄR has this in regards to how certain plotlines were concluded in the manga, particularly the reason for Snow's existence. The anime took a different approach and offered an entirely new explanation to fit within their revised ending. This change, as well as the anime's ending in general is typically preferred by the fans, who considered the manga's ending rushed, anti-climactic and unsatisfying.
  • Black Butler had a major uproar from the fanbase when Word of God revealed that Grell is in fact a transwoman instead of always being a guy, angering Yaoi fans that like to ship her with Sebastian.
  • Digimon Adventure 02:
    • Fans were not happy with the explanation given for why the old Digimon could no longer reach Ultimate for multiple reasons, especially since it was just a blatant example of the show nerfing the older kids to allow the newer kids to stay relevant. Especially since it only theoretically works if you ignore the Digimon Wonderswan Series.
    • Gennai's commentary on Gatomon's tail ring at the end of the series is an equally blatant excuse for completely forgetting and failing to incorporate it back into the series after she lost it in the first episode.
    • To a lesser extent, the Dark Seeds part of Ken's backstory. A number of fans feel that his story would have been better had Ken simply snapped under a combination of being The Unfavorite in his family, the trauma over his older brother's death and the overall stressful life he was living.
    • The Distant Finale revealed the futures of the main cast. Nearly all of them fell into this, due to them coming out of nowhere, and seeming to contradict the character arcs in some cases.

  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Good luck finding anyone who enjoyed the explanation of Tails's parents: not about who they are, but the fact that they were abducted by aliens. The aliens also de-roboticized almost everyone on Mobius: nobody really liked that either.
    • A lot of fans hated the name Ken Penders intended to give Sonic (Ogilvie), due to it being incredibly silly and not sounding like an actual name at all (this may have been intentional, though). Ian Flynn agreed, and apart from explaining that Sonic had his name legally changed, never revealed his first name during his run.
  • This is the reason we don't know The Joker's origin in Batman. Some people take Alan Moore's story as the truth but at the end the Joker himself says that his memories of his origin change from day to day.
  • The same is true of The Phantom Stranger. He had four mutually exclusive origins, all of which were published in the same issue of Secret Origins and given equal weight. One of them was written by Alan Moore. Meanwhile, in the New 52, The Phantom Stranger now has a definitive origin. (He's Judas Iscariot.)
  • Invoked by Yorick at least once in Y: The Last Man, regarding the sudden death of every man in the world besides himself and his pet monkey. There is an answer that's explained to the characters, but it's the "vaguely unsatisfying" one of the page quote (unsatisfying to both the readers and the characters) and the writers give it no more weight than any of the other explanations. Of the three reasons set up in the first issue (Yorick's ring, Dr. Mann's baby and 355 with the Amulet of Helene), none of them really lasts the course. Says series writer Brian K. Vaughan on the subject:
    I feel that there is a definitive explanation, but I like that people don't necessarily know what it is. In interviews we always said that we would tell people exactly what caused the plague. The thing was, we never said when we were going to tell. We weren't going to tell you when we were telling you, I should say. We might have told you in issue #3. There might have been something in the background that only a couple people caught. It might have been Dr. Mann's father's very detailed, scientific explanation. It might have been Alter's off-the-wall conspiracy theory. The real answer is somewhere in those 60 issues, but I prefer to let the reader decide which one they like rather than pushing it on them.
  • 52, despite its ability to follow through its separate storylines being credited as one of the reasons for its success, left a few plot threads dangling, particularly with regards to Booster Gold and Skeets due to an Aborted Arc. The original storyline for Booster and Skeets involved them fixing the timeline of the universe, which had become broken in the recent Infinite Crisis. To set up this story Skeets had frequent memory errors, where events as they occurred were different (sometimes drastically so) than as they had been recorded in the future. However, after these issues had been written the writers decided that this plot was too generic, and had been done too often before by other time traveling heroes, so they decided to go in a different direction and have an actual malevolent entity responsible for everything, including Skeets' out-of-character actions. Eventually, the series revealed that Skeets had been infested and was being controlled by Mr. Mind, who planned to eat reality. However, though this covered why Skeets himself was evil and why several of Booster later actions were disasters, it never addressed why Skeets' earlier memory errors occurred in the first place, since they were before Mr. Mind escaped from his cocoon.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search: Many dislike the plot-twist that Zuko isn't Ozai's son, mainly because many fans feel it completely renders pointless a lot of Zuko's character development from the animated series and undermines its original aesop: "You are not your bloodline, your family does not define who you have to be." As it turns out, this twist isn't true, but the actual explanation- namely that Ursa lied about it to see if Ozai was reading her correspondence- makes her come across as incredibly petty, shortsighted, and stupid, because it led to Ozai abusing Zuko, so a lot of people aren't any happier about it. In addition, the reveal of why Ursa disappeared has become its own Fan Disliked Explanation. She intentionally wiped her memories of her time with Ozai and her children because she couldn't endure the trauma she had suffered, essentially abandoning them to suffer at Ozai's hands. As most fans thought of Ursa as a Mama Bear who would do anything for her children, this has not gone down well at all.
  • In Batman Beyond:
    • The reason why Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were estranged from one another was left unexplained. The comic book continuation of the series revealed that Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) after breaking up with Bruce renewed her relationship with Dick. Then she found out that she was pregnant with Bruce's child. This caused a fight between the two men before Barbara miscarried while fighting muggers. Although the offscreen relationship between Bruce and Barbara was already controversial, many fans felt that this plot would be more at home in a soap.
    • The associated comic also explained the reason why Bruce and Diana never got together: she got together with Justice Lord Batman after another adventure concerning the Lords' universe, and stayed there with him until peace was restored during the Beyond timeframe. This one is disliked because it doesn't mesh well with Diana's character: she was Strangled by the Red String with a Replacement Goldfish (since Bruce thought inter-team dating was a bad idea), and she also abandons her world a la Supergirl/Brainiac 5, except with even less reason (she had her home and family to return to, was Ambassador to Man's World, etc.) Furthermore, like Star Wars below, it was an explanation nobody needed or wanted - Bruce's obsession with the cowl is inevitably going to lead to him driving away all his loved ones and friends in the DCAU, we didn't need the additional angst to go with it.
  • Since the My Little Pony: FIENDship is Magic tackled the backstories of the major-league villains from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, this was inevitable:
    • Good luck finding anyone who views the banishment of the Sirens to the present in Issue #3, thus invalidating their Really 700 Years Old aspect fanon held them to, as necessary or desirable.
    • Issue #5 explained that the holes in the changeling's legs are leftover battle wounds from battling Princess Celestia a thousand years ago. While fans were fine with the idea of Chrysalis herself being that old, most found it odd and off-putting that the entire changeling species was just that one swarm that never aged, healed, or increased in number.
  • Wolverine: Arc Welding villain Romulus was behind most of the events in Wolverine's life including the Weapon X program. Fans prefer the mystery not be revealed in such a simplistic way, or prefer the other dangling plot threads.

  • Many viewers have complained about the resolution of the various character quirks and apparent non sequiturs in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs.
  • Part of the point of Cloverfield is that it doesn't explain anything about the monster's origins. The associated Alternate Reality Game and manga do, slightly, but not necessarily for the better.
  • Star Wars:
    • A lot of fans felt that the inclusion of midichlorians as a "cause" of the Force was an unsatisfying answer to a question no one asked. El Goonish Shive explains it in-depth here.
    • Word of God's explanation that the "Balance of the Force" was not in fact the Balance Between Good and Evil but rather the destruction of evil also got a frosty reception in some circles. Given that the Force is Space Taoism, this shouldn't actually have been a surprise to anyone... if they knew anything about Taoism.
      • Part of the problem was that the Dark Side had been firmly established as a cosmic force in its own right and so seductive that Force users have to actively resist falling on a constant basis. How killing off one particular group of Dark Side users out of many constitutes "destroying evil" is never explained.
    • The prequel trilogy tells the story of the Clone Wars, destruction of the Jedi, the creation of the Empire and the creation of Darth Vader, all of which had been alluded to but never fully explained. Dissatisfaction with how some or all of those stories turned out accounts for a good portion of the prequel hate.
  • This is one of the biggest reasons why the director's/final cut of Blade Runner is generally considered superior to the theatrical cut. The narration present in the latter removes all the ambiguity that makes the film a classic in the first place.
  • One of the biggest complaints about Highlander II: The Quickening was that it established a mythology that the immortals are aliens from a planet known as Zeist, which only serves to raise more questions. The re-edits establish them as wizards from Earth's distant past. Either way, the film is no longer considered canon with the rest of the series.
  • Some people feel this way about the scene of Roy Neary inside the mothership from the special edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One of these people is Steven Spielberg himself, who had never wanted to do that scene in the first place, but could only get the money to create a special edition if he included something which a marketing campaign could be hung on. Years later, Spielberg created a director's edition, which removed that scene, but kept the other special edition scenes.
  • In a rare example of the fan-disliked explanation happening early in a franchise, George A. Romero's Living Dead Series explains where the zombies are coming from early in the first film. However, the explanation of a "Radioactive Space Probe" didn't quite catch on, and later zombie media generally refuses to concretely explain the origins of the living dead. The universally reviled Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (a re-release of the movie—which is in the Public Domain—with added scenes by a filmmaker not connected to George Romero) instead implies the zombie plague is demonic in origin.
  • Alien:
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of Attack on Titan, it is revealed that the setting is a post-apocalyptic future and the Titans were a failed government experiment. Needless to say, fans of the anime thought the twist was stupid not only because it was a cliched explanation for how the Titans came to be, but the manga had yet to reveal the origin of the Titans at that time, and it was seen as an example of the movie being In-Name-Only.
  • Terminator
    • The novelization of the second film, as well as Cameron's development notes, indicate that the T-1000 bypassed the "nothing dead can time travel" rule by being placed in a "flesh sac" that allowed it to fool the time machine. This explanation was disliked for opening a number of plot holes in the premise, and simply sounding silly. All subsequent entries into the series simply went with the explanation fans had assumed all along: that Mimetic Polyalloy is very good at mimicking flesh.
    • There have been numerous explanations for why Arnold Schwarzenegger's model of Terminator exists and is so popular. A deleted scene in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines indicated that it was modeled on a US Army soldier named William Candy, but not only is the scene it's revealed outrageously over-the-top, the fact that the US government was planning on creating flesh-covered Terminators makes no sense and undoes the premise that they were Skynet's creation to begin with.
    • The third film introduced the idea that mechanical Terminators are fueled by nuclear power cells, which have the ability to cause an atomic explosion if ruptured or overloaded. This was met with derision because it raised questions about why the I Cannot Self-Terminate rule exists; if a Terminator's target is trapped or incapacitated (such as Sarah at the end of the first film), that'd be a quick way to get rid of them. It was Hand Waved in that film by that Terminator being a T-850 (a slightly more advanced model), but Terminator Salvation and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles made it standard for every mechanical model.
    • Terminator Salvation introduced the idea that John Connor had to work his way up the ladder in the Resistance, as well as deal with a number of Arbitrary Skeptics in the chain of command. Many fans felt that this demystified Kyle Reese's explanation in the first film (whereas humans had no idea how to fight back until Connor showed up); there was no question that Kyle was an Unreliable Expositor, but his version of events carried the right mix of horror and faint hope.

  • Isobelle Carmody's The Gathering is a young adult horror with a brilliantly foreboding sense of tension, paranoia and discord running throughout the entire story, with the imagery of things in the shadows and the gruesome image of the abattoir and the sense that something very evil has poisoned the whole city and everyone in it by literally poisoning the earth and that only these kids can repair the damage. We know that something big and terrible is going to happen, and we've got everything, including the dark, dismal skies. So the ending including the explanation of what happened to the last group of people who tried, and where the entire school shows up in the abattoir in warpaint and we see the big bad being... rather less than imposing was a bit of a let down.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos might well be unknown if not for the championing and hard work of August Derleth... but Derleth's own additions to the Mythos are widely disliked. His quasi-Fan Fiction imposes an orderly conceptual symmetry on it, and deals in humanly recognizable categories of morality — both of which are foreign to Lovecraft's conception, and tend to "domesticate" HPL's cosmic horrors into far duller and more traditional boogeymen.
  • Though Stephen King's The Dark Tower books always suffered from a pretty bad case of Broken Base, the very end of the series—where we finally get a detailed look at the interior of the eponymous tower—was disliked by quite a few fans, who felt that it killed the mystery and enigma behind the Tower, which could otherwise be read as a universal stand-in for almost any unattainable desire. The narrator even warns the reader that he will probably find the epilogue unsatisfying, as it explains what Roland finds there. To elaborate: After seven books of searching for the Tower, Roland finds out that every level of it is filled with relics from various stages of his own life, and that the top floor houses a time warp that erases his memories and sends him back to the beginning of his quest--but with evidence that one of his greatest failures has been undone. Though some fans liked it, others accused it of being an unsatisfying and unnecessary Mandatory Twist Ending.
  • This is the usual reason people hated the last book in The Pendragon Adventure. The whole existence of Solara seemed to come from nowhere and some important answers (such as who Saint Dane made his promise to) were never answered.
  • Joan Lindsay's novel Picnic at Hanging Rock made its readers produce thousands of guesses about what is behind the girls' disappearances - from the whole thing being the work of a rapist/kidnapper to the headmistress molesting girls and driving them to suicide to the rock itself trapping them inside. After the author's death, the eighteenth chapter with the explanation was finally released. As it turned out, the girls turned into lizards and got sucked into a time warp. The fans felt that it was anticlimactic and nonsensical. Even Peter Weir, the director of The Film of the Book, to whom the author showed the ending chapter, advised her not to publish it and didn't include it in the movie.
  • Hannibal Rising explains that Hannibal's cannibalistic habits are the result of realizing the soup he'd been served by a set of soldiers contained the remains of his little sister, among other details that spoil the mystery of where Hannibal came from and how he became what he is. Harris claims that he never wanted to write a prequel, but was told by his publishers that, if he didn't, they'd find someone else to write it for him.

     Live Action TV 
  • The Battlestar Galactica finale reveals exactly what year it is and what's up with the "head people". Since it all amounts to a literal Deus ex Machina, did we really need to know? (On the other hand, it did however leave the nature of Kara Thrace up to viewer interpretation.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Robert Holmes was responsible for some of these back in the Classic days:
      • The implied explanation for why the Second Doctor and Jamie look visibly older in "The Three Doctors", "The Five Doctors" and "The Two Doctors", resulting in the events Fan Nicknamed "Season 6B", is still fairly controversial. The theory states that the reason the Doctor can't control the TARDIS is because the Time Lords had been piloting it for him without his knowledge, and after his capture at the end of "The War Games", when the Time Lords appear to alter his appearance and exile him to Earth, he was actually used as a Boxed Crook agent by the Time Lords for centuries until the sentence was carried out, during which he persuaded the Time Lords to let him have his beloved companion Jamie back. The BBC has pretty much absorbed this into canon on account of 'making sense' and there are several books set during these events, but many fans dislike it for diminishing the beautiful conclusion to the Second Doctor's story, being improbable based on what we actually see in "The War Games" and being rather unnecessarily cruel, forcing the Second Doctor to go through the pain of losing his companions again.
      • The Time Lords were introduced as a Crystal Spires and Togas civilisation of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who were 'cosmic Buddhists', believing in non-intervention except for occasional, inscrutable actions made from a point of omniscience and taken for the greater good (such as their use of both the Third and Fourth Doctors as Boxed Crooks). Robert Holmes felt this was boring Black and White Morality that didn't fit his own worldview, and, Watsonianly, didn't jive with a few throwaway lines made by the Fourth Doctor (like complaining the Time Lords didn't want to sully their "lily-white hands"), and Retconned them irreparably into a Deadly Decadent Court made up of ritual-obsessed old bureaucrats of average intelligence wearing silly hats and backstabbing each other while the poor starve. The fandom at the time was quite outraged, although the benefit of hindsight has made the decision (and the story) much more appreciated. Notably, neither Russell T. Davies nor Mark Gatiss liked this conception of the Time Lords and what we see of them during RTD's tenure is a great deal more godly, although not particularly sympathetic.
    • "Pyramids of Mars" revolves around Sutekh requiring the Doctor to use the TARDIS due to the controls being bonded to him, even though other characters had used the TARDIS in other stories (prominently, Susan and Jo). Holmes suggested to fans that the Doctor may have been lying, but since Sutekh was previously shown to be able to completely read the Doctor's mind, this doesn't seem very plausible.
    • Many fans find the New series' explanation of the Master's turning towards evil (a pattern of pounding drums playing in his head all his life) to be unsatisfactory for many reasons - none of the previous Masters ever suggested it, and any explanation could only ever be disappointing after thirty-six years of speculation. However, the fact that the explanation was an Actor Allusion to John Simm's Caligula (obsessed with the sound of pounding hooves in his head) and employed a lot of Timey-Wimey Ball strongly suggests the explanation was intended to be limited to Simm's incarnation only - the succeeding Gomez incarnation hasn't mentioned drumming at all so far. The Simm Master in his appearance in "World Enough And Time/The Doctor Falls", after resolving his issue with the Time Lords, completely abandons the drumming as an element of his character and is written (by Moffat) more as an arrogant Delgado-Master-type character (apart from the drumming Leitmotif still appearing along with him).
    • The new series made several references to the "Shadow Proclamation", which was apparently some sort of law which nearly every alien species obeyed. Fans speculated on the origins and nature of the Proclamation. Near the end of Tennant's run as the Doctor, it was revealed that the Shadow Proclamation is "a posh term for Space Police". So apparently the Proclamation is not a law but an organization, or if it is a law then there is apparently an organization of the same name which enforces the law. This is a bit like being arrested by "The Constitution" or something.note  It didn't go over very well with fans, and the Shadow Proclamation has barely been mentioned since the Reveal. Russell T. Davies stated the original idea for the Proclamation's appearance in "The Stolen Earth" was to include a large Star Wars prequel-style senate consisting of every single major known race in the galaxy, but going over the budget forced them to scale it down to what was essentially nothing more than a secretarial lobby.
    • In "The End of Time", the Tenth Doctor gives a speech about what regeneration is, in which he explains it as being a death, where 'some other man' saunters off. Many fans objected to this, pointing at situations where other incarnations had considered it a rebirth, a healing or a second chance, and thought the speech was a preemptive attempt to guilt-trip fans into considering his yet-to-debut successor a Replacement Scrappy. Later Eleventh Doctor episodes write this off as 'ego problems' and the Twelfth Doctor calls regeneration "Man Flu" in "Hell Bent".
    • Davies also claimed that averting this trope was the reason the Last Great Time War was never shown onscreen, as they felt that no matter how spectacular they made it the war would always seem anticlimactic to at least some fans. Successor showrunner Steven Moffat, however, thought he could do it justice and had the Time War appearing and playing a major role in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor"; many fans disagreed.
    • Many fans objected to River's revelation that the characteristic TARDIS dematerialisation sound was the result of the Doctor leaving the handbrake on. Not only does this make the Doctor look like an idiot (although the idea he doesn't really know how to fly the TARDIS has been established for decades), but it fails to explain why other TARDISes make the same sound. Word of God is that River was probably just winding him up.
    • In "The Armageddon Factor" we meet a Time Lord named Drax who knew the Doctor before he got his doctorate, and calls him Theta Sigma (or Thete for short). There's nothing in the story suggesting this is a nickname, but the fandom quickly decided it was and this became Ascended Fanon nine years and three Doctors later in "The Happiness Patrol" (and also in a Sixth Doctor Choose Your Own Adventure book). Because we're not supposed to know what the Doctor's name is, and it definitely isn't a couple of Greek letters.
    • "Heaven Sent", in which the Doctor can only get temporary escape from the Veil by confessing truths he never has before, has him admitting that contrary to his usual claims, he didn't leave Gallifrey in the first place because he was bored. Rather, he was scared of...something. No subsequent story has revealed what that was of yet. Thing is, after 50+ years fans came to accept that despite many teases, especially in the new series, the Doctor's backstory, real name, etc. will never be revealed in full because it would never live up to what they've seen him go through on his adventures. Thus, they were perfectly happy with him leaving Gallifrey "just because".
  • Firefly: "The Shepherd's Tale" comic was dedicated to exploring the Mysterious Past of Shepherd Book, whose backstory was hinted at somewhat less-than-subtly but never revealed on the show itself. Now, it was pretty well-known that he'd been quite senior in the Alliance military or policenote , but the twist? He'd started out as a spy for the Browncoats, making him Good All Along... and Jossing the fanon that had him being a disillusioned former patriot. The fandom were, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit disappointed.
  • Life on Mars and sequel series Ashes to Ashes had an ending planned from the start (avoiding the mistakes Lost made) but also left many parts of the mystery unresolved (or at least very understated) so that they could be solved by the fans. Notably, the co-creators have different interpretations.
  • Lampshaded in Sherlock, where the writers knew some people would be disappointed by how Sherlock faked his death. Not only did they put in the following lines, but Anderson immediately points out a few flaws and questions if anything Sherlock just told him was the actual truth.
    Anderson: Not the way I'd have done it.
    Sherlock: Oh, really?
    Anderson: Nah, I'm not saying it's not clever, but...
    Sherlock: *flatly* What?
    Anderson: Bit... disappointed.
    Sherlock: *sighs* Everyone's a critic.
  • Later seasons of The X-Files had huge problems because of piling Myth Arc elements that were left unexplained or not addressed sufficiently, but one particular case was closed, and it was very anti-climactic. The fate of Samantha Mulder, Agent Fox Mulder's abducted little sister, was probably the biggest Red Herring of the series. Her abduction triggered Mulder's belief in the paranormal and motivated his career at the FBI and started the pattern of Guilt Complex. Mulder was tormented by her clones and doubles and statements that she's still alive. It was finally revealed that she had been abducted by the conspiracy who had collaborated with the aliens, horrible tests had been performed on her and then she had lived with the Cancer Man's family. So far so good — fans always suspected something like this. However, when she was 14, she was "saved" by fairies or angels that made her body disappear, meaning that her corpse will never be found, but Mulder did see her ghost.
  • True Blood: The final season revealed why Lettie Mae was so abusive towards Tara: when Tara was young, her father abandoned them, causing Lettie Mae to descent into alcoholism and take out her frustrations on her daughter. Considering her treatment of Tara over the course of the show, most fans found it hard to believe something like that could actually happen to someone. Not to mention that such an important event in Tara and Lettie Mae's relationship should have been mentioned in the previous seasons. If anything, it comes off as a lazy attempt by the writers to conclude as many character arcs as possible before the series finale.
  • Pretty Little Liars: After six seasons of mystery and false suspects, A is finally revealed to be Cece Drake, also known as Charles DiLaurentis, Alison's brother who had a sex change operation. This was a huge source of controversy, and some viewers said there were too many unanswered questions while others pointed out the Unfortunate Implications of the show's only transgender character being the primary antagonist.
  • The Mentalist: The series' long-elusive Arch-Enemy, often outsmarting the already superhumanly intelligent hero, eventually turns out to be just a rural sheriff with friends in high places.
  • Dexter: The final arc heavily hints that Dexter's homicidal tendencies might have been sustained, or even heightened, rather than treated, by the Code he's been taught - it turns out that a certain psychiatrist was obsessed with the concept, after failing to treat her own, truly homicidal, son. Even so, in the finale Dexter decides he is a monster after all, and goes into exile.

     Multiple Media 
    • The fact that Bohrok are actually dead Av-Matoran, as it retroactively made the earlier story unsettling (Matoran fighting against creatures born out of their deceased relatives, often with battle machines built out of Bohrok parts) and was just creepy. The revelation also comes out of nowhere.
    • The reason why Orde is male and the rest of his kind are female: his creators were sexist. Also controversial because allegedly Orde's gender was set in stone by a mere typo.
    • Most fans seemed to have accepted Mata Nui's nature well enough, but his backstory and its timeline are more cases of a Broken Base, as from a logical and logistic standpoint, they make no sense, and also retroactively demystify most of the fantasy-aspects of the story in favor of very soft sci-fi.

     Video Games 
  • Ever since Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep came out and revealed Xehanort's backstory, it was heavily implied he'd preplanned at least some of Ansem's and Xemnas's actions. But when Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance came out and revealed he'd been using a complicated Time Travel spell to zip back and forth between his selves and micromanage an overarching Assimilation Plot behind the scenes all along, more than a few fans felt like it turned all their progress into one big Shoot the Shaggy Dog story just for the sake of getting quick hype for Kingdom Hearts III in the laziest way possible.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The official timeline of the series. One of the biggest fanon debates in video game history was explained in an official art book titled Hyrule Historia, confirming that the series had not two, but THREE parallel timelines (all of them originated in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time). There are fans who consider this to be a Writer Cop Out instead of providing a much stronger explanation (despite Nintendo frequently claiming the timeline was documented since long before its reveal). Indeed, there's a significant group of fans who are opposed to any attempt to give the series a timeline.
    • Many fans disliked Skyward Sword's explanation as to where Ganondorf came from - that he's an incarnation of hatred created by Demise in his dying moments to curse Link and Zelda for defeating him- as they feel it robs Ganondorf of agency and/or diminishes him as the Big Bad of the series in favor of a new villain who will probably never be seen again.
  • This was one of the main criticisms of Condemned 2: Bloodshot; which pulled a Doing In the Wizard to explain a lot of the events of Condemned: Criminal Origins. In Criminal Origins Ethan Thomas goes through an army of insane homeless people while pursuing a serial killer, and there are hints that something supernatural is what's making all the homeless people crazy. Bloodshot reveals that there is nothing supernatural going on, instead an Ancient Conspiracy had put devices that look like smoke detectors around the city that made a supersonic noise which drove everyone crazy. Not only did this come off as silly and underwhelming, it still did not explain everything, like the monster that was following Ethan in the first game.
  • Touhou actually runs on this: the game developer, ZUN, decided to leave most canon details vague and background/personalities open to detail, since he found that the openness to interpretation of the games is what attracted such a large fanbase. There are expanded universe materials - which usually include subversions of popular fan interpretations - which often cause flamewars to break out over the canoncity, or are disregarded or changed by fans.
  • Likewise, one of the many reasons Star Control 3 is considered Fanon Discontinuity by many is because it answered all the major cosmic mysteries brought up in Star Control 2, in an infodump that takes four YouTube videos to cover. And most of the answers are the very definition of Fridge Logic.
  • Ultima IX revealed that the Guardian was actually an Enemy Without created from the Player Character's evil which was cast aside when the latter became the Avatar in IV. This was considered rather underwhelming (after several games and almost 10 years of build-up), as well as somewhat inconsistent with the previously established story (VII and especially Underworld II implied he was a full blown Multiversal Conqueror).
  • One of the main complaints of Tales of Vesperia was how some of the plot threads were either given haphazard resolutions or dropped entirely. Most however, such as Yuri's vigilante actions, were given decent resolutions.
  • Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight set out to resolve the many questions surrounding Kane, but it's agreed by most of the fanbase that it simply created more questions.
  • For some fans Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a huge case of this. Hideo Kojima actually wanted to leave MGS2 open-ended, but mass outrage and death threats from the fanbase forced him to develop 4.
  • Pokémon:
  • The ending of Mass Effect 3 caused uproar among fans, who started not just a petition, but raised $80,000 in only a few days for charity to get Bioware to change it. Much of this was caused by a lack of explanation of the events of the ending, but many disliked the explanation for the existence of the Reapers. Which is that they are synthetics created to destroy organics... so that they cannot create synthetics that will destroy organics. The Reapers don't consider what they do to organics to be "destroying organic life," but since it involves liquefying them and building a new Reaper out of the resulting goo, most organics consider it a meaningless distinction. The fact that an early draft of the script containing What Could Have Been potentially a much more interesting explanation leaked months before the game's release didn't help. The Extended Cut DLC went some way to appeasing the fandom, by showing in more detail the consequences of whatever decision Shepard makes, as well as including new scenes to each ending so that they were no longer identical as before. It, along with the later Leviathan DLC, also revealed that the AI that created the Reapers was acting out a Zeroth Law Rebellion caused by flawed instructions from its creators.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: After the fourth game's release, Scott had text on his website that heavily implied all four games were All Just a Dream (as opposed to only the fourth, which had already been established as an extended Nightmare Sequence). Naturally the fans weren't too keen on this possibility.
  • The explanation for the second generation characters in Fire Emblem Fates left a bitter taste in a lot of fans' mouths. Fates's child units have little to no bearing on the game's main plot, were born during the events of the game (with little more than a quick mention when the player unlocks their first one), and were left in alternate dimensions to be raised by vassals. Players picked up on the Fridge Horror and other squicky implications note , leading to the mechanic being much less warmly received than it was in the previous game, where the mechanic was explained by Time Travel elements that were already a part of the main story.
  • There are many fans of Final Fantasy who love both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy VII, but reject the Canon Welding that states a character from Final Fantasy X-2 ends up travelling into space and becoming the inventor of VII's Mako technology. Some reject it because both games have some of the most unique, detailed and complete worldbuilding in the series, so going with this theory involves attempting to reconcile different magic rules, afterlife mythologies, historical details, and so on. Some don't like it because it involves a reasonably sympathetic character being responsible for nearly killing a living planet. Some don't like X-2 and think Fan Wanking it to VII is mild Canon Defilement. Some just reject it for being a silly bit of attempted fanservice that no-one actually wanted.
  • A Warcraft example is the existence of Gorana Halforcen from the original RTS games. In those games, she is described as half human, which worked at the time. About a decade worth of retcons later, suddenly her being half human and as old as she was made no sense. The solution? Make her half draenei instead who had her body manipulated to appear half human. This was met with varying degrees of acceptance to annoyance, particularly because it was part of a story dealing with a very controversial character.
  • There are many fans who enjoyed Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and yet refuse to acknowledge Penelope's Face–Heel Turn, because many considered it to be poorly written and out-of left field.
  • A lot of Sonic the Hedgehog fans weren't particularly happy that after two games of hints that Shadow might be an android, the end of Shadow the Hedgehog has Eggman state that he lied about Shadow being an android and he actually had a robot rescue him after the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Not only is this a cop-out (Shadow doesn't react at all), it's never given a real explanation and it only happens seven minutes into the final boss fight, so players may beat the boss faster than that and never even hear this reveal.
  • [PROTOTYPE 2] had Alex Mercer turn evil and release another plague in New York after he risked his life to save it after the events of the first game. What led to this sudden shift in motivation and personality is left vague in the game itself, but it's explained in the tie-in comic The Anchor that after finding out the original Alex Mercer started the plague to begin just to spite his pursuers and the one we play is just a Blacklight Virus clone that assumed his memories, he lost faith in mankind and went on a soul searching trip around the world hoping to find something to believe in, but he ended up only finding more reasons to hate humans. What cemented his belief that they must be destroyed was an incident when he was backstabbed by a family he was trying to help, but were revealed to be selfish criminals. The fans were displeased that the original game's Anti-Hero turned into the new Big Bad and this explanation did not help matters.
  • Wing Commander III revealed that Hobbes, the heroic Kilrathi, was actually a Manchurian Agent working for The Empire. Needless to say, a lot of fans felt that this twist was stupid, and ruined the whole point of the character.

    Web Comic 
    Web Original 
  • The Review Must Go On, the final episode of Demo Reel, revealed that the entire series was a purgatory experience The Nostalgia Critic had after he merged with the Plot Hole in To Boldly Flee. Needless to say, more than a few people felt that this was just a way to end the show and bring back the Critic, and made it all pointless in the end. Word of God is that this was deliberate, and in-universe (where Doug Walker the writer is a character on his own fictional plane of existence) this is exactly what happened on-screen.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra, the explanation that Amon's ability to take away bending was actually Bloodbending, for various reasons (Game-breaker, makes no sense, less interesting than his fake explanation, etc.).
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! hints in episode #35 that the Secretary of Defense, Dell Rusk,spoiler  has an Evil Plan. It also reveals that the Winter Soldier The Falcon, Red Hulk, and Dr. Leonard Samson assisted him. Fans theorized that they would assist the plan as Unwitting Pawns, who only want to serve America. When episode #46 delivered a throwaway line revealing that Red Skull just turned them Brainwashed and Crazy, those same fans exclaimed that their real reason for helping sounded cheaper than their theory.
  • The creator of Ed, Edd n Eddy stated this trope is why he ultimately decided against revealing what Edd was hiding under his hat.
  • You'll be hard-pressed to find a fan of The Transformers who thinks that Season 3's revelation of Unicron — the planet-eating-planet/Giant robot and Satanic Archetype of the Transformers mythos — being created by this silly-looking alien monkey thing named Primacron was a good idea. Hasbro seems to agree, as all later depictions of Unicron ignore Primacron in favour of the Primus/Unicron myth used in the Marvel comic.
  • This trope is the reason why Transformers Animated didn't reveal the origins of the AllSpark; the creators stated that they didn't want to run the risk of making the artifact less interesting, too bizarre to suspend disbelief, getting in the way of the story they wanted to tell, or some combination.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • According to Word of God, the "ghosts" are actually creatures from another dimension who take on the appearances and personalities of dead people. This explanation has been universally disliked by fans for being nonsensical and just generally messing up the whole plot of the show. The show itself ignores this explanation often enough, as seen with Desiree, Ember, the Ghost Dog, and others. Even The Wiki ignores this explanation.
    • The official backstory for the aforementioned Ember is that she was an outcast who a popular boy asked out as a joke. He never turned up for the date and she stayed up so late that she didn't wake up when her house caught on fire. Fans dislike it for not being remotely accurate to her Villain Song "Remember", which sounds more like Ember dated (or had a one-night stand with) a boy who began ignoring her and this caused Ember to want revenge or fall into a depression. "Remember" even has the lyrics "(...) two weeks you didn't call" which makes it clear there was an extensive period between the boy ditching her and Ember's death.
  • The Lion Guard gives us the first explanation into Scar's backstory since the semi-canon books The Lion King: Six New Adventures. In TLG Scar was the previous leader of The Lion Guard whose powers got to his head. After murdering the other members, his powers were taken away by the Great Kings of the Past. Many fans absolutely loathe this explanation to his Start of Darkness, as the concept of "The Roar of the Elders" is heavily fantastical compared to the movies and said explanation implies that Mufasa never punished his brother for murder.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • It is very heavily implied that Applejack's parents are both deceased, and fans almost universally liked and accepted the idea that Applejack's hat was a Tragic Keepsake from one of them to the point that it fell into Word of Dante territory. When Hot Minute torpedoed that headcanon by declaring she won it bobbing for apples at a fair, fans were quick to fanwank a compromise. When that was further jossed by showing she has a closet full of them, the bronies proved they were that dedicated to the Tragic Keepsake idea and still insisted that one of the hats was special or simply chose to ignore the closet scene altogether. When she threw her damaged hat away without any of the angst that would support the fanon, fans threw the hat a quick funeral, and still embraced the Tragic Keepsake fanon, some less seriously than others.
    • Nightmare Moon's origin was left mysterious for several seasons and thus most fans were under the impression Luna intentionally became Nightmare Moon. The IDW comics gave a backstory that Luna was transformed by outside sources. However, many fans refused to consider it canon until it appeared in the cartoon itself. Eventually, we did see Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon and it's heavily implied she didn't transform willfully. Many fans dislike this explanation because they felt it took away a lot of what made Nightmare Moon, and subsequently Luna's backstory, interesting. The same episode also reveals Nightmare Moon was defeated before doing anything worse than briefly KO Celestia, which was disappointing for such an anticipated event and made Luna's guilt over it come off as silly and overblown to the point of Fridge Logic unless one takes later comics as canon.
    • Tanks For The Memories implying that less than a year has passed in the series since May The Best Pet Win. Many fans found it utterly ridiculous that three seasons worth of episodes all happened to take place within such a short time frame.
  • For Gravity Falls, the creator Jossed that the Pines family are practicing Judaists. He states that Grunkle Stan was raised as such but became an atheist, and the twins are being raised nonreligious but are prone to celebrating Jewish holidays, (similar to himself and his own twin sister). The fans continue to reject this idea and unlike other examples of this trope, The creator also declared after his previous tweet that this is simply his headcanon and will respect his fans alternative theories/views of Pines Jewish identity.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:

Alternative Title(s): Leave The Plot Threads Hanging, Should Have Left The Plot Mysterious, Should Have Left Them Guessing