Sometimes, earlier plot elements must be quickly rushed aside in order to make room for newer ones, necessitating fast resolutions. What this usually entails is that the main thrust of the plot thus far must be resolved within a few scenes so we can hurry up and get to the new main event.
This trope can be frustrating if, until this resolution, the first plot had been portrayed as being a very difficult situation to deal with, only to be quickly solved now that the plot demands it. There are several ways around this—the main one is to turn the old problem into a sort of Worf Effect
for the narrative as a whole. It establishes that, as bad as the old situation was, the new one is substantially worse, and requires our full attention without distractions. If the original part of the plot's conflict was largely diplomatic, for example, it's quite understandable that everyone is willing to put it aside
to deal with the newer threat.
A relatively organic way of enacting a Halfway Plot Switch
. Compare Always a Bigger Fish
and Rising Conflict
Note that this trope, nearly by definition, involves spoilers since the new plot can only really show up in the middle of the story.
Anime & Manga
- This is how the Cell Arc starts in Dragon Ball Z. Frieza and King Cold have just gotten to Earth, ready to take revenge. Everyone is seriously alarmed by this until Future Trunks shows up and beats the crud out of both of them single-handedly. He explains that in the future he's from, there are enemies way stronger than him and the Z Warriors need to start preparing for it now if they want to stand a chance.
- Happens near the end of Death Note, when Mello is casually defeated by Light to hasten the way to the story's grand conclusion, though Mello had been, up until that point, a very serious problem that Light had been unable to solve. Subverted when we find out that this is only how it seemed to Light. He made the fatal error of not bothering to guess what Mello was trying to achieve by kidnapping Takada. Mello had figured out from what Halle told him that Near was going to switch the Death Note with a fake. Mello anticipiated that Light would figure this out too, so he kidnapped Takada to make her a liability that would have to be killed by taking out the real notebook. By having the real notebook taken out, he gave the SPK the chance to switch it with a fake and was responsible for the defeat of Kira.
- The first book of War of the Spider Queen deals mostly with a slave uprising, but it quickly turns to finding out what is happening with Lolth.
- In the first episode of Firefly, most of the conflict of the middle part of the story is about the lawman who the crew has captured, and what they're going to do with him. While some of the crew is off the ship, the lawman escapes and takes River hostage. When Mal comes back, he takes one look at the situation and shoots the lawman in the head. It's not that the consequences for just shooting the lawman have gotten any less severe; just that Reavers are about to attack the ship and "not being killed by Reavers" is a far more pressing immediate problem than anything the Alliance might do to them for knocking off the lawman.
- This happened in the Stargate Universe episode "Sabotage". The major plot point of the past two episodes had been several main characters who had been stranded. In the first 10 minutes of "Sabotage", they easily return to the ship, and it's not mentioned again, so that they can deal with the new plot, the sabotage.
- Happened several times in Andromeda, often due to casting changes. At the end of the first season the Magog world-ship was set up as the major driving threat, but while not completely abandoned this was pushed into the background. Likewise, Tyr's storyline that his son was the reborn leader of the Nietzscheans was also put aside after the actor left the series. Finally, in season five all previous storylines were virtually abandoned until the final episodes.
- In the first season of Fringe the character of Sanford Harris, an old enemy of Olivia, is set up as a major burr in the side of the division, only to have him killed off by a minor character towards the end of the season.
- At the end of season one of The IT Crowd, after a company party Moss sleeps with Jen, and Roy sleeps with the woman Moss was seeing. The writer solved this simply - it is never mentioned again.
- Season two of Seaquest DSV ended with the ship destroyed and the few survivors stranded on an alien world. At the start of season three, they wake up back on Earth with no idea how they got there.
- Seasons 1-4 of Earth: Final Conflict are all about discovering and foiling the Taelon plans on Earth. The fourth season is all about trying to save the last Taelons from their Core Energy shortage. Then comes season 5 that completely brushes off all the previous seasons, removes the protagonist of seasons 2-4, and replaces the Taelons with a new threat - the Atavus. The attempt to save the last Taelons and Jaridians ended up killing both. Needless to say, the Darker and Edgier season didn't meet with many of the fans' approval.
- One episode of The Simpsons has Homer trying to deal with a badger invading the back yard, but he discovers he can't contact animal control because the town's area codes have been bisected. In this case the original plot was simply ignored — Homer casually dismissed the badger when it reappears, stating that they now have bigger problems.
- A Planet for the President by Alistair Beaton has the A-plot, a B-plot of a character trying to uncover the conspiracy involved in the A-plot, and a comically odd C-plot (and a few other things). There's a very clear moment where the deadline for the A-plot looms, and so all the others are quickly cleared up to make way for the denouement.