Smash to Black

Before a commercial, television shows have traditionally done a Fade to Black. Recently, though, television dramas skip the fading and cut the picture to a completely black screen. Typically, a Smash to Black will immediately follow a shocking moment such as a Cliff Hanger, a Commercial Break Cliffhanger, or a Cold Opening, but can also follow a One-Liner or a moment of Deadpan Snark. Expect this to be called "Older Than The DVD" thirty years down the road.

Named for the Smash Cut, of which this is a subtrope.




Live-Action TV
  • Joss Whedon apparently loves this trope, using it with all his shows:
    • Angel,
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
    • Dollhouse
    • Firefly,
      • Joss mentions in the commentary for Firefly that in order to avoid the automatic cuing of the commercial, they changed the color of the blackout, so Smash to Black became Smash to Almost Black But Really Just Very Dark Brown.
  • Criminal Minds ended the fourth season like this (and on a major cliffhanger).
  • Everybody Hates Chris ended its series this way as well, mainly as a Shout-Out to The Sopranos.
  • Lost does this with just about every major or minor plot twist. In other words, a lot.
  • Season 5 of Mad Men ends this way, just after a woman propositions Don Draper. It's probably a tribute/Shout-Out to The Sopranos (on which Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was a writer and producer).
  • Malcolm in the Middle did this in nearly every episode, complete with a door-slamming sound effect.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had one episode ("Michael Ellis", 1974) in which the actors were discussing how to end the show.
    "Well, how about a sudden ending?" CUT
  • Skins smashes to black so often that the one time they did the fade out (Katie's S4 episode) it stood out (and some people suspected the fade out to be a lengthening device to cover up time lost from cut scenes).
  • Infamously, The Sopranos ended the series this way, with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" cutting off mid-word.
  • Supernatural does this frequently, as observed on Television Without Pity:
    "End scene." (monster boots Dean in the face. Smash Cut to commercials.)
  • Pops up now and then on Fringe, notably when the porcupine monster rampages through a TSA holding area in the teaser of "Nothing as It Seems".
  • The Late Late Show did this with Craig Ferguson's final episode, referencing Newhart, The Drew Carey Show, St. Elsewhere, and getting cut off like The Sopranos, music and all.

Video Games
  • The Beatles: Rock Band does this with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," befitting how the song itself ends.
  • BioShock Infinite ends in a similar way to the Mass Effect example above. The actions in the final scene coincide with the soundtrack, cutting to black with the final piano note. And by actions, I mean every version of Elizabeth (one of the two main characters) in the multiverse disappearing from existence before the camera, smashing into black with the last one—the one you've grown to know throughout the game. Did I mention Elizabeth just drowned her father at his own request? Bio Shock is just that kind of franchise.
  • Done in The Stanley Parable as well, sometimes out of nowhere, usually to indicate something bad has happened, and always to great effect.
  • Used prominently in Telltale Games' more recent projects.
    • The Wolf Among Us ends Episode 1 with the reveal of Snow White's severed head on the front step of the Woodlands, Episode 2 with Crane smashing the magic mirror, Episode 3 with a severely injured Bigby lying bleeding in an alleyway, Episode 4 with whatever action the player took upon meeting The Crooked Man (especially effective if the player chose to smoke as the smash occurs when Bigby ignites his lighter, and most shockingly, Episode 5 with Bigby's reaction to the game's single largest Wham Line that leaves a major part of the story (is Faith really dead, and if so, when did she actually die? Is Nerissa who she says she is, or is she actually Faith in disguise?) up for discussion. The smash only occurs if the player chooses to go after Nerissa, and punctuates Bigby's last memory of Faith. "I'll see you around...Wolf."
    • Season 1 of The Walking Dead ends Episode 1 on a weird gradual example as all the lights in the Travelier Motel go out one by one, and a moment after the last one shuts off, the smash occurs. Episode 2 ends with a smash to punctuate Jolene's video tape of Clementine in the motel, and the line, "You'll be safe, I promise." Episode 4 ends with Lee being stunned completely speechless by The Stranger on the walkie talkie as the game ignores whatever option the player chose by smashing to black, and Episode 5 ends with the Sequel Hook of Clementine alone in a field spotting two figures off in the distance.
  • An option in Limbo can be switched on if you don't like the gory deaths that can occure. It smashs to black the instant the boy is about to be killed, but leaves the sound of his demise in.
  • Mass Effect 3 ends like this, with the Smash to Black coinciding with the final note in the ending music. However if the EMS is high enough and the player chose to destroy the reapers, there is a quick scene after in which Shepard wakes up in the rubble.
  • The Star Wars video game Republic Commando ends with this, with the door of the gunship that the protagonist squad is in slamming shut after Boss says "Delta Squad! Lock and load!"
  • In Shin Megami Tensei I, if all human characters in the party die, the screen makes a sudden cut to black accompanied by a screeching sound, which lasts several seconds before fading in to a scene of you crossing into the afterlife.
    • Shin Megami Tensei II does the same, only without any sound effects to go with your final moments of life.

Western Animation
  • Adventure Time does this at the end of each episode.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses this in many act breaks.
  • The Simpsons was perhaps the first show to do this consistently. Most act breaks avoided fadeouts, in part because they usually end acts on a gag and it is thought a fadeout would detract from its impact.
    • To combat the automatic commercial problem noted above, most Simpsons episodes have a fadeout artificially added when they air in syndication. This can be problematic since often there is plot or a joke happening up to the very last second of an act, so the fadeout often begins while the action is still occurring.
  • Spongebob Squarepants shorts end in this manner on a regular basis.
    • "The Krabby Patty secret formula ió"

Real Life