Kudzu Plot

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/kudzu1_2605.png
The Trope Namer invades another land of plot with its loose ends.
Coyote: How is that for an enigmatic answer?
Ysengrin: Very enigmatic. It barely answers anything at all.
Antimony: In fact, it raises more questions than before.

A Kudzu Plot occurs when a story leaves so many dangling Plot Threads that it's extremely difficult to follow and needlessly complicated. A story arc may be resolved, but it will usually create more unanswered questions in the process. This can also happen multiple times within the same story.

It's a common result of very heavily planned and lengthy myth arcs; if a writer can't adequately resolve everything he's set up, it will become too difficult for him to resolve everything to the audience's satisfaction. Also, because of the First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics, there's only a limited amount of energy in any given plot to go around to all the little plot threads, so the more plot threads there are, the less attention will be devoted to any of them.

However, Tropes Are Not Bad; even though a story may be confusing or intricate, a Kudzu Plot can be well executed and rewarding in the hands of a skillful author. An author may do this deliberately to confuse the audience or add an air of chaos or mystery to the story (i.e. the characters don't understand everything, so why should the reader?). A good way to keep such plots in line is with an overarching Driving Question.

See also The Chris Carter Effect, where fans lose patience with a plot like this and give up on a story before the author has a chance to end it.

The Trope Namer is a plant, one of Japan's top exports to the Deep South. It was initially imported as a way to improve the soil, but it quickly gained a reputation for growing all over the place, being very hard to rein in, and choking out other plants. It's also not to be confused with the Newspaper Comic of the same name.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion invokes its infamous Mind Screw in this fashion. For the first half of the show, the plot seems straightforward. Then "Adam" is introduced, and from there it keeps getting worse. Good luck if you know what the hell anyone's talking about by the last episodes.
  • Darker Than Black does this for both of its seasons, then leaves most of it completely unexplained. Which is probably for the best, making it into its own form of riddle.
  • Naoki Urasawa is known for works like this, like 20th Century Boys and Billy Bat. Although lighter on the confusion aspect of this trope, he likes to introduce dozens of twisted and complicated plot threads and challenges himself to wrap everything up in a satisfactory manner. So far so good.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes is so complex that it basically requires multiple viewings to be able to get everything.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou introduces a number of different elements without any intention of addressing their nature, including a literal anti-Chekhov's Gun. However, it's sufficiently well executed that it adds to the nature of the story.
  • Code Geass ran into this problem due to the last-minute changes and rushed production of its second season. Fans were frustrated by all the things left unexplained, including the nature of Suzaku's superhuman abilities, C.C.'s life before the show started, and Kallen's backstory (and her dead brother who might not be dead after all).
  • The Big O: Although the series explains quite a few things in the last few episodes, none of the fundamental reasons behind these other reasons are ever given. This wasn't meant to happen; the series was forced to end its Myth Arc earlier than planned.
  • Robotech suffered from this in the end. Most things were left unanswered, like the location of the SDF-3 and what the heck "Shadows" were. Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles resolved most of them but left many more plot threads hanging because it was an attempted launch of a new series in the franchise that's now basically in Development Hell.
  • RahXephon suffers a wee bit from this. The nature of the Mulians, the secret conspiracy, the nature of the world, why the main character is The Chosen One and exactly what the chosen one does aren't particularly well-explained. The Movie helps tidy up a few things, but it is an Alternate Continuity. Fanon resolves the rest, as seen here (major spoiler warning).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has a tendency to introduce plot points that slip into Red Herring twists: the Abandoned Dorm in season 1, the war between the Light of Destruction and the Duel Monsters in season 2, Yubel being stuck in Judai's head in season 3, and the entire ending of season 4 all give hints of being explored and resolved at a later date, but none of them actually are. Season 4's problem could be attributed to the main character's voice actor suddenly leaving, which left a rushed production and half a season.
  • Negima! gained several levels of complexity once the Magic World arc started, the massive Back Story started to come into play, and minor characters kept picking up additional subplots. It's generally kept under control until the series' finale, where most of the subplots are either left hanging or explained away in a single panel, several important questions about the main Myth Arc are never addressed, and the protagonist's main motivation is resolved entirely off-panel.
  • This is the primary complaint directed towards Karas. It doesn't help that a minor (but important) character speaks in un-translated Japanese subtitles.
  • Wandering Son introduced various plots in the span of a few chapters, and few of them get explained for a while, if ever. The mangaka juggles various parallel plot points, giving each only a few panels of attention before moving to the next, leading you to reread chapters just to keep a handle on what is going on. It works somewhat better in the manga than in the anime, but only just.
  • Aoi Hana, by the same author as Wandering Son, is a jumble of romantic entanglements, intrigues, and problems with family and friends. Several plot points have been either ignored or cut off abruptly. The author is also not above setting up important story arcs just to halt them and concentrate on a seemingly irrelevant subplot.
  • Baccano! and Durarara!! both fall into this, though they tie up most of their loose ends. This is in part because their storytelling makes a mockery of chronology and in part because they are both adaptations of ongoing light novels (though the extra episodes clear up some lingering questions). They're still positive examples of this trope.
  • Naruto has shown more and more evidence of falling into this category as the series progressed. However, the 4th Ninja War seems to be wrapping up all unresolved plot threads.
  • A common criticism Ookami Kakushi faces is that while the main mystery of the series is solved, several others — such as Kaori's mysterious illness and her eventual role as a White Wolf Kanon — are left to the imagination of those who did not read the Visual Novel.
  • Bleach: has a couple of examples of this, though with the final story arc many of the major loose ends are being tied up at a surprising pace.
    • Orihime has a couple of unresolved references, including the implication that she can do something to destroy the Hougyouku and that Aizen did something to her that essentially made her his emotional prisoner.
    • The mysterious research Szayel was engaged in that both Aizen and Mayuri seemed to find so fascinating (which included two mysterious bodies that have finally been identified as former Privaron Espada, Dordoni and Cirucci after nearly 290 chapters).
    • Why Kaoru's dislike of Ichigo culminated in a scene full of darkness and shadow where he was spying on Ichigo and Ikumi's conversation through his bedroom door. It was dropped after that in favour of the main plot and hasn't been revisited since.
  • One Piece is a positive example, as it is a ridiculously Long Runner at over 700 chapters with Loads and Loads of Characters — and thus a ton of plot threads that will take a long time to come together. It's also one of the most popular mangas of all time, so fans are much more patient with it. It helps that as long as you don't miss any chapters, it's surprisingly easy to keep track of everything that's going on if you read it from the beginning.

    Audio Play 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Every Big Finish plotline spawns sequels, prequels and spinoff series. These in turn may get their own spinoff series. Standalone arcs have prose sequels, Perspective Flip special releases (which aren't available from Big Finish at all), and links to other Doctor Who media. The Doctor will merrily take a vacation in Doctor Who Magazine comics locations, meet up with Iris Wildthyme, and reference future events from the new TV series — which only serve as fuel for new plotlines. Every trilogy has at least four parts, and villains or companions from the early 2000s have a tendency to return a decade later for an entirely new story. In short, every little piece of Big Finish is connected and constantly growing.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman is a notable aversion, what with all the Loads and Loads of Characters in turn being a Chekhov's Army, and how what seem to be one shot stories at first feed back into later plotlines.
  • X-Men: Chris Claremont is famous in the comics community for the truly epic number of dangling plot threads he amassed as a writer. He basically planned out many of the stories thinking he would be in charge forever, and he took his sweet time getting to a resolution. The end result is that fans got impatient and stopped reading the comics altogether. They even came up with a formula, dubbed the "Claremont coefficient", for a plotline's complexity: divide the number plot points introduced in an episode by the number of plot points resolved, and if the result is over 1 in most episodes, you have a Kudzu Plot.
    • Uncanny X-Men was infamous for how far in advance Claremont planned things out, with some plot threads set up that he planned to get back to over a decade later. Notorious dropped plots include: Wolverine devolving into a noseless dog creature, Cannonball being revealed as an immortal "High-Lord", and Shatterstar being a comatose boy in a mental institution (and in a relationship with Rictor). The nadir of this trend was probably the Onslaught Saga, in which he dropped dozens of hints about the villain's identity before anyone — including the other writers — had decided who he actually was.
    • Sovereign Seven was not an X-Men comic, but it was perhaps Claremont's worst offender. It was nothing but an interconnected web of mysteries which was canceled after three years without a single plot point resolved. It was eventually resolved by showing that the whole thing was fanfiction written by citizens of The DCU.
    • Claremont himself poked fun at this in X-Men: The End, an Alternate Continuity miniseries where he attempted to resolve every dangling plot thread in the entire X-Men meta-saga in a single stroke. As one might expect, the story grows exponentially more incomprehensible in every issue, culminating in a duel between Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova for control of the Phoenix Force.
  • The Clone Saga started as just another Spider-Man plot, but when it became the only decent seller for Marvel comics in the mid-1990s, Marvel decided to keep it going, sanity be damned. Editors and writers kept coming and going, each one with his own idea on how the plot should twist, including constant flip-flopping over which character was the real Spidey and which was the clone. It took about two years to kind of finish off the saga.
  • G.I. Joe: Larry Hama pulled off almost as much complexity as Claremont's X-Men with his run on the comic series for Marvel.
  • Teen Titans through most of the 90s suffered from this, with so many characters and plot threads being thrown in and focused on that it grew increasingly hard to keep track of them all.
  • The last few story arcs of Strangers in Paradise suffer from this, as Terry Moore originally planned a completely different ending but decided to change it after 9/11.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog had a ton of dangling plot threads that wouldn't be resolved for the longest time. Writer Ken Penders is often Mis-blamed for all this, but part of the blame also goes to Karl Bollers, who replaced Penders as head writer briefly and started a ton of story arcs that he would never get around to finishing. After Penders and Bollers left Archie Comics, new writer Ian Flynn spent almost a year just writing comics that tied up all the loose ends.
  • Countdown to Final Crisis was basically killed by this. Four Lines, All Waiting was taken Up to Eleven, resulting in a story so bizarre and convoluted that even the characters themselves would get frustrated trying to explain their situations to each other. It was so bad that when Final Crisis itself came around, the writers agreed to Let Us Never Speak of This Again, shunted off Countdown to Canon Discontinuity, and left a ton of Aborted Arcs hanging in almost every regular DC title.
  • The early 1980s series DC Challenge was a miniseries in which every issue was done by a different writer and artist, none of whom could use any characters they usually worked on. Each issue was supposed to end with a cliffhanger or puzzle for the next team to solve. It reached Gordian Knot status by about the third issue and quickly became a confusing mess; it's uncertain if this was by design.

    Fan Works 
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami throws in so many bizarre plot twists that it's impossible to figure things out. But given the kind of story it is, that's not a bad thing.
  • My Immortal's plot goes all over the place, from Ebony's sex life, to Voldemort tasking Ebony with killing Vampire Potter, to battling Voldemort, to battling ephebophiles Snap and Lupin, to more sex, to time travel, and back to sex.
  • Stories in the Nyxverse have a tendency to start off simply, then undergo Cerebus Syndrome and become increasingly more complicated. This is especially true in the case of Nyx's Family, which was originally meant to be a oneshot but ended up over thirty chapters long, with a plot that bore no resemblance to what it started as.
  • The Chase: Given the author's name, this shouldn't be surprising. You have characters introduced left and right, some stay, some don't, and others that you thought were gone weren't really gone at all and others that you thought would never go end up changing forever. There is foreshadowing everywhere, especially when you're not looking for it. A good rule of thumb is that if you think you understand something, then you're likely mistaken.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos quickly becomes this trope as the Gambit Pileup becomes larger, the characters become more fleshed out, and the story begins to focus on the very complicated politics and conspiracies behind the Metarex War. Episode 74 basically revolves around explaining and revealing what is going on; it's the longest chapter by quite a large margin and even it doesn't fully explain everything. This trope is also part of the reason for the author's frequent Schedule Slip for the rewrite — he is trying to organize everything together. There's a rewrite that ditches and retcons quite a bit of expository material from the original, specifically to keep a clear central story arc and to avoid The Chris Carter Effect.
  • Royal Heights has a multitude of dilemmas and hidden secrets that deal with the school and the city it exists in. Even the antagonist is trying to figure out a broader mystery about the Universe and if it does have some form of caretaker that's normally addressed as the Mother. The main cast tends to be annoyed by this, as they try to solve one problem only to have it linked to something else completely different.

    Films — Animated 
  • Played for Laughs in Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters during the second half of the movie, particularly during the last ten minutes, as a pile-up of revelations concerning the characters' origins occurs to the point where the only one left remotely excited about anything in the end is Meatwad. To clarify, it's revealed (or claimed) that:
    • Dr. Weird invented the Insaneoflex to build up someone's muscles, so he could steal them and use them to fight Frylock.
    • Frylock created Dr. Weird, despite thinking vice versa.
    • Dr. Weird created the rest of the Aqua Teens.
    • Frylock is implied to be a lesbian trapped in a man's body, trapped in the body of a talking box of fries/VCR. (Although this is subtly hinted at throughout the series, making this twist a Rewatch Bonus).
    • The mooninites created Frylock, or rather claim to.
    • Everyone was the offspring of a talking slice of Watermelon living with Neil Peart called Walter Melon.
    • The mother of the Aqua Teens was a talking burrito that shows up out of nowhere. This is the twist where almost everyone stops caring.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done intentionally with The Big Lebowski. The film's directors, the Coen Brothers, stated that they wanted "a hopelessly complicated plot that's ultimately unimportant." Several characters are introduced out of nowhere, have nothing to do with the overall narrative, and disappear just as quickly as they showed up. Even some characters that are crucial to the story, like Jackie Treehorn and Bunnie Lebowski, only show up for a handful of scenes. Even though protagonist The Dude figures out everything in the end, it still means nothing, as the Big Bad gets away scot-free, and the one character who dies in the movie does so for reasons completely unrelated to the plot.
  • When the first Saw movie ended, only a few plot threads stuck around, but nothing worth hurting over. However, once Lionsgate bought the rights to the Saw series, Executive Meddling hit hard, and forced the writers to make an endless string of subplots and character histories to interconnect with the overall storyline, mainly to create one Sequel Hook after another (to make sense of the ensuing chaos, no matter how increasingly illogical it got). Saw II pulled this off very well and III was somewhat cohesive too, but after that, the writers got crazy. Saw IV was almost Lost-like with its Mind Screw chronology and how it complements Saw III, and Saw V was an Whole Episode Flashback that went back as far as scenes from Saw II to explain how one character was involved. At least Saw VI neatly wrapped up most of the previous subplots from IV and V, and the seventh/final film wrapped up almost everything in its conclusion.
  • The Room is extremely guilty of this, throwing in several subplots and never resolving them, including Lisa's mother offhandedly mentioning that she has breast cancer, a character's drug-related debt culminating in a violent confrontation, and the male characters playing football in tuxedos. These events are never mentioned again, but they also don't impact the plot in any way either.

    Literature 
  • The Dark Tower suffers badly from this. In telling Roland's history, a good four hundred something pages is dedicated to a love interest of Roland's and how it helped start what is undoubtedly the most catastrophic war in the history of everything, yet only one chapter is devoted to its final battle, one sentence describes how it ended, and one sentence describes how Roland survives. Roland's parents only make one or two appearances, John Farson never shows up, and the fates of Alain and Cuthbert are practically Hand Waved. In the main plot, Continuity Drift is blatant, anticlimaxes are everywhere, and there are so many flimsy explanations and Plot Holes. Much of this can be attributed to Stephen King changing up the plot of the last three books following his near-fatal car accident, and an original plan to write ten books rather than seven. He claimed in an interview that he might write another book taking place in between books 4 and 5 to resolve the loose ends.
  • The Hyperion Cantos turns into this at the end of the first book. It starts off strange when the nature of the Time Tombs is explored in greater detail. It gets a bit weirder when it introduces the Technocore, the way it functions, and its ambitions. It goes right off the deep end when every single plot element from the entire book is linked together in a matter of ten pages. Have fun with the next one.
  • The Wheel of Time, with the side effect of grinding the later books to a halt as the same (admittedly huge) amount of book is split across a massively increased number of plot threads. Author Robert Jordan outright admitted to not wanting to resolve all the plot threads, thinking that it was more realistic for things not to be so self-contained. He did plan to resolve many of them in the twelfth and final book, but then he died. The author who replaced him needed three books to do the job.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has a fairly large Kudzu Plot in the later books (the Ancient Conspiracy that was abruptly introduced after Book 5 remains fairly inscrutable), although the Lemony Narrator explicitly tells us that some mysteries can never be solved. The End made good on this, so to speak, by pointedly not answering almost everything.
  • Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series: The first five volumes tell a reasonably self-contained story that ties off tolerably well. The second five introduce enough new characters to double the size of the cast, retcon numerous elements of the first series, doesn't end so much as run out of steam. They are then followed up by some short stories that mostly serve to complicate things further. Apparently Zelazny planned to write another five volumes, but died before he had a chance to tie everything up.
  • The New Jedi Order books had a ton of dangling plot threads, including a space station that could destroy stars, Han's cousin who's out of prison, Luke denying the very existence of The Dark Side, and Han and Leia's son Jacen becoming a God-Mode Sue who's adopting a "broader" view of the force. Legacy of the Force tries to resolve all this, and it mostly does, but it also lead to an entirely new series Fate of the Jedi, which introduced a bunch of new plot threads which will now likely never be resolved after the Disney takeover, which essentially mooted most of the Expanded Universe.
  • The Maximum Ride series suffers heavily from this, especially in the later books. Pretty close to everything in the entire series is still unresolved, and each book creates more mysteries at a furious pace. It would be a lot easier to list what actually has been resolved, or at least handwaved.
  • Several Warrior Cats books work this way. The second series makes you wonder who was working with Hawkfrost, and what exactly was going on with Brook and Stormfur coming back to the Clans, and the state of Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw's relationship, as well as a few minor things. The third series was worst about this: they still don't know why they have the prophecy, it wasn't clear where Sol went, we don't know what exactly Tigerstar was up to, and we've just learned that Hollyleaf isn't the Third after all. We didn't even know if Leafpool had stayed with the Clan because the authors forgot to mention her again for the several chapters after she leaves her den. The fourth series wraps things up a bit better, but still left a couple things open because the authors thought it would break the mood to say "so-and-so chose this cat as her mate" after the battle of battles.
  • The first Dexter novel never really explains how Dexter had "visions" that told him about the murders. The murderer turns out to be his brother, and their shared experience in the shipping container could explain why he was compelled to look there (albeit in a loose and sloppy way), but how on earth did he know to randomly go outside in the middle of the night, just in time for the murderer to throw a head at him?
  • Harry Stephen Keeler's "webwork plots" are built on this, consisting of different threads(characters or objects) engaging in complex interaction with several other strands until a reveal clarifies it all. Like the pure plotiness of The Man With The Magic Eardrums.
  • The Neverending Story has some loose threads deliberately in it ("But this is another story and shall be told another time.") And at the end of the book the snakes won't let Bastian return to the real world because of the many unfinished plots he left behind. Bastian protests that every story necessarily has SOME loose ends, even if very minor, and could be expanded upon indefinitely, so he would never be done with it. Atreju volunteers to take care of it.
  • Thomas Pynchon is infamous for this. It contributes to the Mind Screw of his books, but at the same time, is part of the reason they're so lauded. Case in point: Gravity's Rainbow, where the first part (of four, and the second longest, and did we mention this is a Doorstopper?) is dedicated merely to introducing all the characters and their own stories; the plot doesn't really kick off until part two.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lost had a huge number of bizarre twists and turns; some of them were designed to explain things, but as the show became more and more fantastic, these became fewer and crazier. By the finale, there were — to quote College Humor — some teeny-tiny loose ends yet to be tied up.
  • Doctor Who, being a Long Runner with a number of different showrunners with a penchant for this sort of thing, has long been victim to this:
    • There are some plot threads still left dangling from the old series, including the "Doctor is Merlin" thread, the war between the Time Lords and the Great Vampires, what really happened in the 51st century, and the Doctor's birth name. It took six seasons just to reveal the name of the Doctor's race.
    • The Cartmel Masterplan was an Aborted Arc attempting to explain many old plot points, but it just left further questions unresolved (which were eventually explained in the Expanded Universe).
    • Showrunner Russell T Davies tied up many of the loose ends he left, but there's still a lot unexplained from his tenure, including the exact means by which Rose came back from a parallel dimension, and pretty much anything to do with her in "Turn Left".
    • Steven Moffat's era quickly gained a reputation for this sort of thing. For instance, Series 5 left all sorts of dangling plot threads, like who the Silence is, who took control of the TARDIS in "The Pandorica Opens", who River Song is, and why the TARDIS blowing up would destroy the Universe (which even the Doctor admits he's not sure about). He resolved almost all of these in Series 6, only to raise even more questions. This pattern has continued throughout his tenure, with each series bringing in more outlandish situations, some of which will likely never be answered (such as how if "Missy" is really the Master, how did he survive his confrontation with Rassilon in "The End of Time" and regenerate? Chalk that one up to Joker Immunity). Sometimes he'll take the opportunity to resolve something that's been dangling for several series out of the blue (like in the Christmas Episode after Series 9, where he explained the circumstances of River's last night with the Doctor on Darillium, which had been hanging since Series 4).
    • The spinoff series Torchwood is not much better. It's raised a ton of strange, unanswered plot threads and characters (like the possibly immortal tarot card reading girl to whom Jack owes a favour, Bilis Manger, Cell 114, and this guy "Storm" the former leader of Torchwood 3 mentioned before he killed himself). The Timey-Wimey Ball adds more complications to the mix regarding Captain Jack's past (or maybe his future), which has all of its own unanswered questions.
    • Mark Gatiss pokes fun at Doctor Who's tendency to do this in the comedy sketch "The Pitch of Fear", where he imagines someone trying to pitch the show to a BBC executive in the 60s — having already planned out everything that happens from that point on, totally unaware of how absurd it sounds when you realize much of it was Writing by the Seat of Your Pants in Real Life. Just the description of all the different Doctors is ridiculous.
    Mr Borusa: How long do you envisage the show running?
    Sydney Newman: Um. Er... (Beat) Twenty-six years.
  • American Gothic has a number of dangling plot threads, most of which can be attributed to it being Screwed by the Network and Cut Short; the show never got to address whether Buck will ever be stopped, or whether Caleb will turn evil, or whose side Selena is really on. But there were some real head-scratchers, such as whether Sutpen in "Damned If You Don't" is really a ghost Buck summoned, whether Buck drove his girlfriend to suicide, or whether Selena would ever reconcile with her father — and what happened to him in the first place. That last one is particularly distressing, as the episode in question was never aired, so very few people even know it exists.
  • Coronet Blue was a 60s show about a guy with no memory except for the titular Arc Words. The show only ran for a single season, and they never got to resolve anything.
  • The short-lived series John Doe headed into this territory as well. Cut Short after the first season, this show left off its Kudzu Plots before it had a chance to even try to explain them.
  • Soap suffered from this; it had a whole complex plot set up after just the first episode. Creator Susan Harris had written the show as a five-season story arc before it began. When ABC opted to cancel the show after four seasons, however, it ended on an episode full of cliffhangers, with several main characters facing seemingly imminent death and several plot threads left hanging. The show's spin-off, Benson, did at least somewhat clarify Jessica's fate.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • An overarching question that's never resolved is how long the characters can keep the Stargate program a secret, even after hundreds of service members have spent years off-world.
    • The first season episode "The Torment of Tantalus" is the series' biggest unfired Chekhov's Gun. It introduced a book written by the Four Races in an easily decodable universal language that purports to explain the meaning of life. It's briefly mentioned in the second season, but never again.
    • Other dangling threads: What ever happened to that hastily-put-together human kid "Charlie" from the Re'tu episode? Were the Tollan really wiped out by Tanith's forces, as improbable as that may sound? Did General Landry and his daughter Dr. Lam ever put their differences aside? Is freaking Athena still free on Earth and running a company? Whatever happened to Daniel's grandfather? Are there actually fish in Jack's pond? Did Jack ever get a dog? And what exactly is a Furling anyway?
  • The people behind the new Battlestar Galactica were always fairly open that 75% of the show was being made up as they went along, leading to a fair amount of Kudzu by the end. The writers made a valiant attempt to wrap everything up, but plenty of mysteries were just dealt with by using a blatant Info Dump and a Hand Wave saying it was God's will.
  • The X-Files ended never having cleared up half of what was going on.
  • The 4400 did this. Probably intentionally, as with an ensemble cast you never know which plot hooks you'll have the opportunity to follow up next. It did get pretty annoying, though, when the biggest teaser at the end of season 2 didn't show up until halfway through season 3.
  • Supernatural unfortunately ended up with a Kudzu Plot, likely a result of minimal planning and continuity changes over time. Unanswered questions include whether or not Sam really was corrupted when brought back to life as Azazel said and why all of Mary's friends and acquaintances were killed off, which wasn't justified by her eventual backstory.
  • Merlin (2008) is headed this way, though only time will tell if the writers can resolve everything they've raised thus far.
    • This is especially true of the complex but still murky Back Story of Camelot's first generation, namely what the heck went down between Uther, Igraine, Nimueh, and Gaius when Arthur was conceived. Apparently Uther approached Nimueh (brought to the court by Gaius) to cast a spell to help his wife Igraine conceive, resulting in her death, Nimueh's banishment, and Uther's crusade against magical creatures. Every character who lived through those events tells a slightly different version of what really happened, but whether this is a variation of The Rashomon, or whether there's something more that the writers haven't told us yet, remains to be seen.
    • There are also plenty of unanswered questions about the Druids (especially Mordred) and how much they know about Merlin (who they call "Emrys") and what they expect from his destiny.
  • Babylon 5 was tightly plotted from the beginning and manages to maintain a tight story throughout. Unfortunately, numerous plot threads from early in the series had to be quietly dropped when the plot had to be modified to account for cast changes. Among the casualties: The data recording Kosh made of Talia Winter's fears, Captain Sheridan's knowledge of secret societies & black projects and Catherine Sakai's growing involvement with shady mega-corp exploitation of dead worlds - although the last one was resolved in one of the tie-in novels.
  • The ill-fated TV adaptation of Animorphs was forced to condense an entire season's worth of plots into a 90-minute three-part episode. The result, while superior to anything else the second season produced, is deeply confusing and disjointed, and the episode (and series) ends with many of these plots still unresolved.
  • Season 2 of Revenge quickly devolved into an incomprehensible mess involving a Nebulous Evil Organization whose ultimate goals were never clear, nor exactly how much or little they were involved in the various plot points going on. Notably, this actually led to the show's creator being fired, and season 3 starts with a mass burning of the whole thing, abruptly revealing that the entire group had been arrested between seasons.

    New Media 
  • The Whateley Universe, since the storyline (about a hundred short stories and novels to date) has only really covered the first term of school. Although they did eventually explain what really happened to Cavalier and Skybolt.
  • Unforgotten Realms: Will Sir Schmoopy and Eluamous Nailo be able to defeat the dangerous, non-optical illusion ogre? Will Sir Schmoopy ever get his human body back? Will the show ever stick to a plot instead of introducing a lot of random storyline elements and never explaining them? This starts as early as episode five and snowballs from there.
  • The Salvation War has at least half a dozen subplots going on at any one time, so that some story threads just peter out after seeming like they would be much more important. Particularly obvious is the resistance movement in Hell of dead ancient Romans; the author admitted soon afterward that he'd planned far more for them but didn't have any room for it. A big part of the problem was that The Salvation War contained contributions from a number of authors and integrating these contributions presented a major editing problem. A major weeding exercise was in progress when the project shut down.
  • What It's Like to Be a God has about half the cast dying in the second prologue and a hell of a lot of confusion and Mind Screw tactics.
  • Marble Hornets is pretty much built on this trope. Actual answers are few and far between anyway, but any time one is actually given, it's guaranteed to be accompanied by a half-dozen new questions.

     Video Games 
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: The creator actually stated that an unnecessarily complicated story is exactly what he was going for.
  • The Metal Gear games are very well known for this. In the end though, they manage to tie everything up pretty well after numerous retcons and mind screwdrivers, but even then one or two holes are left open.
    • The original Metal Gear Solid had a tight script while subtly leaving a door open for sequels. The following title, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, exploded with triple-crosses, Xanatos Gambits, fevered conspiracy theories, and individual cliffhangers for every character still left alive. The long-awaited Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (released three years later) flashed back to the 1960s to expose the origins of this conspiracy, but wound up being (mostly) self-contained, leaving Metal Gear Solid 4 with the dubious honor of explaining all these plot entanglements and twists with over 9 hours of cutscenes.
  • The Legend of Zelda obviously had its plot made up as the series went along. First, it was the original, a sequel, and a prequel. Then it was a prequel to the prequel and sequel to the prequel. Then came a sequel in an alternate timeline to the prequel and another sequel to the prequel and a side-series and kind of tied in to the original prequel and a pair of games sort of sitting around with nothing to do with the others. Fans will debate endlessly exactly what order the Non-Linear Sequels are supposed to go in. Most fan-constructed timelines will resemble family trees more than linear timelines.
  • Legacy of Kain: A vampire lord is trying to save the world by restoring the destiny of himself and his son to their rightful paths. It's pretty simple until you add in all the false gods, time travel, multiple paradoxes, fate/destiny vs. free will, Amnesiac Dissonance, resurrections, all the characters having secret motivations and trying to manipulate everyone else while simultaneously being manipulated themselves, and on and on and on. Basically it's the king of Gambit Pileup.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series has slowly become infamous for this. The original Kingdom Hearts had a very clear plot: monsters are coming from the darkness of people's hearts, and the current wielder of a giant key that cuts hearts has to fight them, while he looks for his friends whom he lost. Then came Organization XIII, a new enemy that raises some questions. These are answered in KHII — by raising many more questions. It all kept snowballing from there. There's a whole web series on YouTube designed just to explain the games' plot. The writer has admitted to basically Writing by the Seat of Your Pants.
    • No Export for You makes it even more annoying. Several plotlines in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep were introduced in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+. Xemnas and the Chamber of Repose, the Lingering Sentiment's origin, etc.
    • The prequel game Birth by Sleep was an extended Mind Screwdriver that explained the origins of the Big Bad and Castle Oblivion and added backstory about a few characters. Then 3D came along and added Xehanort time-traveling to set up his own rise to villainy, and Nobodies manifesting hearts through friendship, and other such plot elements in addition to cranking the Mind Screw Up to Eleven. At this point, there are so many connections in the plots of the games that 3D needed a Memento feature to prevent Continuity Lockout.
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy had shades of this, with some vague terms and references that didn't add up, but the Kudzu Plot really got going with the prequel, Dissidia 012, which was filled with retcons, twists, clones, alternate universes, and new questions left unresolved and hanging all other the place.
  • Marathon. You have implications that the precursors were at Tau Ceti. Then there are hints that the main character is a Jjaro. Hints that he is a battleroid, Beowulf/Roland/everybody else, and the protagonist of Pathways into Darkness, all at the same time! This is before the third game turned into a Cosmic Horror Story that abused the multiverse and Timey-Wimey Ball to no end.
  • Oni wound up with a Kudzu plot when Bungie rushed its release to prevent it from falling into Development Hell before their merger with Microsoft. The main plot is wrapped up by the end, but there is so much story and information that was left on the cutting room floor...
  • Chrono Cross is so confusing it's best described as Masato Kato taking a plucky, fourth-generation console game about saving the world from space termites and turning it into Immanuel Kant set to music and psychedelics.
  • Final Fantasy VII — or more precisely, "The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII". The first game was a pretty simple Saving the World storyline; any Mind Screw elements were resolved by the end of the game. The sequels and prequels, on the other hand, made everything way more complicated than it had to be. Characters got Flanderized as some games got new viewpoint characters or allowed outside characterization to creep in. There's also now at least six different versions of what happened at Nibelheim, making this the video game equivalent of Rashomon; Square Enix basically gave up and said that this was officially the case.
  • This is one of the most defining aspects Dark Souls's story. There are so many aspects of the lore, characters, character motivations that are left up in the air, including what effect the end of your journey has on the world.
  • Street Fighter, at times, leaned heavily this way; particularly the Alpha series, which always looped back to M. Bison and some nefarious plot he cooked up. Street Fighter III opted to start fresh, but it was also the least popular entry (though it would later be regarded much more favorably).
  • Max Payne and its first sequel gave us Address Unknown, a TV show from the 90s that was canceled after six episodes, but developed a cult following. There's more than a little Twin Peaks about it.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog character Shadow has picked up a ton of unresolved subplots over the games in which he's appeared. He got his own game, Shadow the Hedgehog, to try and resolve them, but it did so by just setting the proverbial machete to the kudzu. In particular, fans didn't like the game's Darker and Edgier tone, which seemed to be there just in an attempt to resolve everything on its own.
  • The Five Nights at Freddy's series is infamous for never revealing any answers without raising many other questions in the process. It doesn't help that throughout the entire series (especially the first two games), the player is directly told almost nothing about the plot, and the only hints of any sort of deeper story are only revealed through well-hidden Story Breadcrumbs. The games' very limited level contact with non-hostile characters and the Anachronic Order employed by the series have left many, many questions about who certain characters are or may be connected to each other completely unanswered.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive started out as a series of simple, nonsensical plots (fighting a goo monster, a male character being stuck as a girl) with something more serious brewing in the background. 2,000+ strips later, we have alternate dimensions, vampires, a race of supernatural immortals, secret government agencies, magic-eating space whales, the proliferation of magic, prophetic dreams, and even superheroes. While some plot threads have been resolved (or ignored to the point where they might as well not have existed), new ones pop up and existing ones get more complicated.
  • The final arcs of It's Walky! are almost unfollowable. There were government conspiracies and evil aliens, and other, eviller aliens that battled the first aliens, and a mystery character that was one or more of: an alien, a robot from the dawn of time, the protagonist, or a tertiary character from three years ago. There was at least one invasion of the Earth, characters were dying and other characters were trying to bring them back to life, and something about Illuminati from another universe, clones, hybrids, and ow my brains. All this from a comic that started out as college-based gag strip. Perhaps it was best that the story ended then, before it took a team of Talmudic scholars just to follow the updates. Then the author made a spinoff: Joyce and Walky, featuring many of the same characters in a domestic comedy strip with no reference to any of the weird plotlines from before. The rest of the characters wound up in Shortpacked!, which is another comedy with no reference to the weirdness.
  • At this point, it would take a chainsaw to prune the plot of El Goonish Shive into something sensible. And even when some of the threads are about to be tied up, Dan Shive takes another swig of The Chris Carter Effect and makes it worse. He's been known to lampshade it, which suggests he does it deliberately, but in some cases, he admits to poor planning (such as with "Lord Tedd", an alternate-dimension evil Tedd who had only a few, non-impactful appearances before disappearing again — Shive admitted he introduced him too early).
  • Sluggy Freelance has been known to bring up weird plots and abruptly drop them, at least some of which (such as the "outside time" arc) were Day in the Limelight plots that fans weren't particularly keen on. This kudzu plot eventually became a problem in-universe, in that the Web of Fate is so tangled that the Spider maintaining it is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Ironically enough, the author has been know to criticize how Chris Carter had clearly been making up the plot of The X-Files as he went along. Here are just some of the things waiting to be resolved:
    • The origin and nature of a reincarnating knife-throwing acrobatic assassin with wild red hair who alternates between normal and insane with every incarnation
    • The origin and intentions of a talking sword fueled by the blood of the innocent
    • The intentions and plans of at least one vampire clans
    • The actions of at least two separate cults of demons bent on causing the end of the world, and the fate of the original world-ending demon that those cults worship
    • The intentions and fate of the obligatory shadowy corporate conspiracy
    • The fate of a character who was seemingly Put on a Bus but is continually referenced
    • The plans of the inhabitants of the dimension of pain, who have recently acquired a new leader who goes by the name Psykosis
    • The origins and intentions of a certain switchblade wielding, superstrong mini-lop rabbit with a bad attitude
    • The fate of the inhabitants of a dimension stuck out of time.
  • David Gonterman loves this trope to pieces. Almost all of his stories will set up plot points just to abruptly cut them off, refer to past events that never happened on screen, and otherwise just pad the story without giving satisfactory explanations or conclusions. This becomes a problem when these extraneous plot elements start conflicting with each other (for example, he might set up a Masquerade in the first couple chapters of a story, then just throw it away in order to start having plots about other members of the so-called "masquerade"). It's rather impressive that within the span of 240 strips over about two years, the original FoxFire probably has more dangling plot threads than Sluggy Freelance has in its eleven year daily tenure.
  • Captain SNES: The Game Masta started in 2001. This strip is from 2003. The sprawl has increased since then. Uniquely, there are actual in-story reasons for the sprawling plot; the entire story is a flashback being narrated by the protagonist to a mysterious captor who demands answers from him, so to spite him, the protagonist is being as obtuse, misleading, and meandering in telling the story as he possibly can.
  • MegaTokyo: Ever since one of the creators left, the comic (and its update schedule) has slowed down and sprawled sideways. This carried on for so long that people were honestly shocked when the latest chapter suddenly revisited the zombie invasion and began to drop enormous clues as to the true nature and powers of Epileptic Tree-bait Miho.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Every answer we get just seems to raise more questions. However, Tom Siddell assures the fans that he doesn't introduce any mysteries without already knowing their resolution; barring a premature ending, everything will be explained.
  • Andrew Hussie has been known to write by the seat of his pants:
    • Problem Sleuth has impenetrable Solve the Soup Cans puzzles, alternate dimensions, various bizarre game mechanics introduced at random, Time Travel, a Geodesic Cast, and a Chekhov's Armory that would probably be better described as a warehouse, all contributing to its year-long sprawling plot. However, the series was meant to be more of an Affectionate Parody of Kudzu in adventure games and JRPGs, and the author actually manages to wrap up the plot in a satisfying way when it finally all comes to an end.
    • Homestuck is known for its ridiculous number of plot threads, some of them suggested by the readers. Incredibly enough, Hussie (despite his usually terrible memory) can keep track of many of these plot points, so maybe he has a handle on it after all. As he puts it:
      Homestuck is both a story and a puzzle, by design and by definition. If asked to define it, “a story that’s also a puzzle” is as close to true as any answer I’d give.
  • Wapsi Square is a Long Runner that started as a Slice of Life comic with a big cast, developed a supernatural plot with new cast members, and then introduced the Timey-Wimey Ball. As such, minor plotlines and characters are known to be shuffled off, only to appear years later.
  • Scary Go Round, surprisingly for a comic without many vast mysterious conspiracies, left plot threads hanging all over the place. In one case, a villain's comeback was left hanging for so long that she was physically almost unrecognizable when she finally reappeared, because the comic's art style had changed so much in the meantime.
  • Sonichu suffers from this horribly. A lot of the Kudzu Plot problems lay in creator Christian Weston Chandler, who keeps shifting plots around to suit his needs (from wooing video game companies to wooing potential love interests to just getting rid of detractors). Each shift would leave more questions than answers, leading to Issue 10, where he'd plow through those loose ends with a machete, leaving the reader feeling very empty. Even then, many plot points are just never brought up again. In particular, Metal Sonichu being stuck on the moon yet still alive really seemed to be setting up something later on down the line, but the whole thing is just never mentioned again.
  • Concession was ended because of this. The plot just went completely out of hand and nothing made sense anymore.
  • Adventurers! doesn't have one, but it's lampshaded with the Plot Computer.
  • 1/0 thrived on this. Rather impressively, most of it did eventually get resolved.

    Web Original 
  • Shadow of Israphel was Cut Short, but in the meantime it definitely went this way. We have a character who's supposed to be dead (and has two graves) but is haunting Old_Peculiar for even longer than he's supposed to have been dead. We have sand as the greatest threat to the world, except it's really a prison for an evil robot army. And we have no explanation for N-Comm Systems (supposedly from the future, the Turtle God, the Sentinels, the Templar Kings, and how Shiplord_Hubert wound up in the Desert.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers Animated delved into this in its third season. Presumably, the planned fourth season would have tied up at least some of the loose ends, but the show got canceled before that could happen, meaning the third season finishes out with many plot points unresolved. Designs for the fourth season have been released, though, in the ''Allspark Almanac'' and at conventions, which answer some (but not all) of the remaining questions.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! rarely has an arc that doesn't branch off into at least two more by the time it finishes. Probably the most important example involves Loki's invasion of Asgard early in season one; its resolution results in a veritable army of criminals being released, each with their own story, which provides the impetus for Thor to join the Avengers.

Alternative Title(s): Claremont Coefficient

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KudzuPlot