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Five Second Foreshadowing
"If he's not with you, and he's not with us... who's he with?"
Will Turner, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

The audience is informed of some fact X, which is both shocking and important. There's a bomb in the briefcase, or Fran is The Mole, or whatever. This is often communicated via a character who has just realized X, and says it out loud (thus informing the audience); perhaps he realizes X while explaining the situation to someone else. Another alternative is to use a fact-revealing Flashback. In any case, the audience very suddenly realizes X. Less than five seconds later, before anyone has a chance for a meaningful reaction (such as disarming the bomb), X becomes incredibly relevant. The bomb goes off, or Fran shoots Alice, or whatever.

The purpose of this trope is to allow something shocking to happen without confusing the audience. If Alice flips a lightswitch and suddenly her whole house explodes, the audience might be left wondering what happened. If the writers want to avoid that feeling, they employ this trope. Thus, Bob figures it out beforehand and says something like "Carol put a bomb in Alice's house!", or perhaps we're shown a Flashback of Carol planting the bomb. In either case, the audience is informed and confusion is avoided. Of course, if we're informed about the bomb several minutes before the event, it won't be as shocking, and in Bob's case it leaves the writers with the trouble of explaining how Bob knew about the bomb, but didn't manage to do anything about it before it went off. Thus, we're informed of the truth, and the truth becomes relevant soon afterwards.

Technically, this trope should only apply when the audience (not just a character) learns something new. If the audience already knows what's up and it's only the characters who suddenly realize something, that's a different trope. Also, if the bomb goes off and the audience is only told after the fact that Bob had it all figured out five seconds previously, that doesn't count either.

It's perfectly fine if there are hints about X scattered around the story, just so long as the audience is not intended to really get it until a critical moment, just before X causes something drastic.

Frequently, the only thing a character has time for in this situation is to go "Oh Crap," sometimes as a revelation. Can be related to sudden awful weather, and often involves things getting worse.

Spoilers ahead.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Attack on Titan: In the pilot, the three main characters are wondering if titans will ever break through the walls to the city again. Armin says, "Just because it hasn't happened in 100 years, doesn't mean it won't happen today," and in mere seconds the air calms, all background noises cease, a flash of lightning sends a shockwave over the city, and standing outside the wall is a titan taller than they've ever seen. It kicks through the wall.

Comic Books
  • During the Swamp Thing story-arc "Earth to Earth", Swamp Thing attacks Gotham City, whose police are holding his wife on "crimes against nature". When one character mentions that, as a city, there's not a lot of plant matter for Swamp Thing to manipulate, Batman mentions the Gotham Botanical Gardens, which include all kinds of plants. As Batman lists off a few examples, a low *THOOM* *THOOM* *THOOM* sound is heard in the background. Just as Batman finishes his list of examples with the word "Redwoods...", we see a 200-foot tall Swamp Thing made of intertwined redwood trunks approaching the city's center.

Fan Fic

Film
  • Death Proof: When Pam realizes that Stuntman Mike isn't actually going to give her a ride home, there's a super close up of her eyes. One second before Stuntman Mike hits the gas and speeds off... With Pam locked in the passenger side.
  • The Godfather: Michael realizes something's fishy about the car, and quickly tries to warn his Sicilian wife about it, but shortly thereafter she starts the car and it explodes.
    • The Godfather Part II: Michael realizes that the drapes are open a second before his room is hit with a hail of gunfire from outside, giving him just enough time to dive for cover.
  • Ninja Assassin: Raizo has been captured and taken to the secret ninja temple, but secretly he has a GPS tracking device in his gut, alerting the good guys to the temple's location. The ninjas discover the device, and right after that the temple is attacked.
  • Paycheck: The bad guy stands in front of the machine that shows the future, but only sees his own back, as he is futilely trying to get away from the exploding machine. Soon afterwards he realizes that this means the machine will explode, and futilely tries to get away from it.
  • Return of the Jedi: "But how could they be jamming us if they don't know th- ...that we're coming." In this case, they get enough warning to avoid immediate destruction by colliding with the Death Star's shield, but shortly after, we see evidence aplenty that the Imperials did indeed know the Rebels were coming.
  • Star Trek: Generations: When Dr. Soran checks on his sun-killer missile after Picard messes with it, the viewscreen says that the missile's locking clamps are still engaged. Soran gets an Oh Crap look on his face as he and the audience realize that something bad is going to happen when the missile tries to launch. Then the missile explodes, killing him.
  • Star Trek: Nemesis: The Enterprise is being stalked by a cloaked ship, so it's hoping to rendezvous with the fleet for protection. On the way, they enter an area of space where long-range communications don't work. Data and Picard realize that this would be a perfect place for the stalker ship to attack them. After that thought, they get attacked.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk notes that in the event of an attack, protocol dictates that all available senior Starfleet officers should gather for a special briefing in this very room. Cue attack.
  • The Dark Knight: While looking at a rectangular object in a prisoner's gut, which suddenly rings; "Is that a... phone?" Yes, it is. Attached to a bomb.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End provides the page quote. A random Mook in a steam house had been identified as not belonging in the steam house, and threatened under the assumption he was allies with Turner and Barbossa. Not two seconds after Will's line, Cutler Beckett's men break in and start firing.
  • Richie Rich, the movie: Richard uses his smell detector to sneak a few of his gifts on their plane...then it sniffs out "trinitrotoluene." He brings that gift to the cockpit, where his wife figures out it's TNT...he opens the package. "My God, Regina, it's a bomb!" He does manage to get it out of the plane in that one second, so the resulting Kaboom! plants them in the ocean instead of killing them.
  • Tangled: A tiny unicorn figurine appears just before the ruffians show up to rescue Eugene.
  • The Incredibles had Kari calling Mrs. Incredible about how the replacement sitter had shown up to take care of little Jack-Jack. "I didn't order a replacement sitter!"
  • Home Alone 2: "Now why would anybody soak a rope in kerosene?" (Though if one was paying attention to the Hard Work Montage of Kevin's preparations, one might have spotted this one before....)
  • Young Frankenstein: "Well now look here, if it wasn't you and if it wasn't you..."
  • Serenity:
    The Operative: [to Mal] You are fooling yourself, Captain. Nothing here is what it seems. You are not the plucky hero, the Alliance is not an evil empire, and this is not the grand arena.
    Inara Serra: And that's not incense.
    [He turns to look: the incense stick burns away - rather like a fuse - and FLASHES in an explosion of light and sound]
  • The NeverEnding Story: Atreyu sees a number of murals that show various events that have already happened to him. He then sees a mural showing a growling wolf in some rubble, which he definitely hasn't encountered. He then hears some growling, spins around and sees the wolf.
  • The Green Mile: The botched execution scene. People who are executed by electric chair are supposed to have a wet sponge placed on their head so they are killed quickly. Paul and the other men notice that the sponge is dry, but by then it's too late to stop it.
  • In the first Friday the 13th Mrs. Voorhees is introduced a handful of seconds before being revealed to be the killer.

Literature
  • In one of the Robotech novels, "End of the Circle," the planet Haydon IV turns into a Giant robot. On its hands are two massive tuning-fork like prongs. The Sentinal Alliance decides to attack the planet-bot and seems to be doing well, but the planet isn't taking much damage due to pin-point barrier systems and anti-air batteries. It seems normal, except for power buildup in the prongs. Suddenly, Exedore realizes that the two technologies (transformation and pin-point barriers) were both used in the original SDF-1, and that the tuning forks are near-exact copies of the ship's Wave Motion Gun. He starts to call out a warning, but the guns fire, nearly destroying the fleet flagship utterly.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry sees and hears Bellatrix Lestrange laughing at Molly Weasley, the same exact laugh that his godfather Sirius Black used just prior to Bellatrix cursing him under his outstretched arm and sending him careening into the Veil. At that point, after Bellatrix had been torturing Molly for Fred's death, that laugh kinda makes it a Foregone Conclusion what will eventually happen.
  • Ax's death in Animorphs happens like this. He and his ship are exploring a seemingly abandoned ship, when someone notices white hairs on the ground. Then says wait, not white but transparent. He then yells for his ship to raise shields just as the supposedly abandoned ship opens fire (the colorless hairs would be from polar bears, which meant the Yeerks were still nearby).

Live-Action TV
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Death Wish," A member of the Q continuum wishes to die ("Quinn," for ease's sake). After screwing up and vanishing every male on Voyager, and pressed by Captain Janeway, he begins to speak to himself, "Humans... humans... Who would have more recent experience with humans?" Cue Q himself. note 
  • Veronica Mars tended to reveal its season-long villains in this manner.
  • In one Burn Notice episode, Michael is told that another character was killed by a bomb attached to his front door, one second before he opens the door to his own house (which is also rigged to explode). This gives him just enough time to jump away from the explosion.
  • In Torchwood: Miracle Day the FBI discover who The Mole is (Genre Savvy viewers might know this beforehand) a few seconds before a bomb goes off in the office.
  • In the Leverage premiere, Nate, Hardison, Eliot, and Parker realize that their employer tricked them into meeting in an abandoned warehouse without paying them... roughly twelve seconds before the building explodes.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Angel when Cordelia gets a vision of impending danger mere seconds before a group of demons show up. She groans: "that was helpful!" before the fight commences.
  • One episode of Castle (Tick, Tick, Tick) involves hunting down a killer obsessed with Nikki Heat (and Beckett, because he thinks they're literally the same person). They catch him with time to spare and Beckett goes home. Castle continues looking over evidence because something bothers him and realizes the man they though was responsible was just being set up and rushes to warn her. A few seconds later, her apartment explodes. (In this case, the warning was enough time for her to take measures to protect herself from the blast.)

Video Games
  • The flashback approach is taken with The Reveal in the first Knights of the Old Republic. Right before Darth Malak drops the Revan bomb, the game replays every single bit of foreshadowing that had happened earlier in the game.
  • Halo: Reach, after the city mission, Kat declares that the Covenant are beginning glassing procedures. Another Spartan asks, "How close?" Cue massive explosion from the surface bombardment.
  • In the trailer (around 1:50) for the Warhammer 40,000 game Dawn of War 2, a Space Marine strikes down an Eldar with his chainsword, proclaiming "This planet is ours, witch!" "No," she gasps, pointing towards the heavens, "This planet... is theirs." Enter the Tyranid horde, as the Space Marine turns to meet a massive 'Nid bug right behind him.
  • In the 2010 ReBoot of Medal of Honor, this happens to Sergeant Peterson's Ranger team as they are about to kick in the door to clear a house, only to hear a mobile phone ring inside. Bonus points as the player knows what this sound means, having seen the same trick in the game's prologue mission, but the characters have no clue what is about to happen.
    Tech Sergeant Ybarra: ...a mobile phone? *BOOM*
  • Similar to the Knights of the Old Republic example above, BioShock uses this for The Reveal: Andrew Ryan reveals that the phrase "would you kindly" acts as a command phrase for the player, forcing him to obey. The player immediately sees a flashback montage of several scenes in which Atlas had used the phrase, which if the player noticed at all simply sounded like a Verbal Tic.
  • At the end of Batman: Arkham City, Talia fatally stabs the Joker. Batman then muses on a number of odd events and various bits of Mook Chatter that have happened over the course of the game, and realizes there were two Jokers. Talia is then shot in the back by the real one seconds later, and the one she stabbed is revealed to be the still alive Clayface. If the players were paying very close attention, they have guessed this as well.

Web Original
  • Potter Puppet Pals: "Hey, everyone! I found the source of the ticking; it's a pipe bomb!" "Yay!" BOOM
  • Having started recording before determining who gets what starter in Mario Party TV Group Nuzlocke of FireRed/LeafGreen, Steeler comments that the Random Number God will probably determine that Holms ends up with Squirtle when he's the only one not interested in running him. Sure enough...
  • A particularly hilarious example occurs in the 4-player Battletoads race between ProtonJon, Super Jeenius, PCULL 44444, and NintendoCapriSun, when Patrick is having trouble with a shark in Terra Tubes:
    Patrick: I was doing, I was doing alright and then the shark started killing me and then I dodged him and he's chasing me and it's making me sad, but I'm going through this thing quickly now... and he's gonna make me die on these spikes down here— SHIT! *Achievement Unlocked! Called It: Narrated your own death*

Western Animation
Final Exam FinaleNarrative DevicesFling a Light into the Future

alternative title(s): One Second Later
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