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Spoiled by the Format
Mark Reads Twilight

It's a universal but occasionally unfortunate fact that any medium has some physical realization; often, facts about that physicality can allow you to figure out things about a work earlier than the creators intend.

For example, when reading a book, you can tell exactly how much of it there is remaining. If you're near the end, you might realize that the end must come in a certain specific way as any other way would take too long to resolve. (Ending on a cliffhanger is one way to avoid this.) If you're not, you might know that the apparent resolution can't possibly last as there's too much book left.

Books also spoil through their page format, because a heavy reader tends to be able to read quickly enough that if they are concerned about, say, a character as they read down the left page their eyes can sometimes dart over to the right page to see what is being mentioned there. Some readers try to beat this phenomenon by placing a thick sheet of paper over the right page as they read a book for the first time, and are nearing the end of the book. E-readers could avert this, though some of them (such as the Kindle and Nook) have the chapters and page numbers listed as a normal book would.

A similar phenomenon can happen for TV broadcasts due to their generally fixed length. For example, in a Dramatic Hour Long episode, any solution to a problem that comes after 20 minutes will generally fail, while any solution that takes 35 minutes will generally succeed. Even if your time sense is poor, you can often figure out whether the currently proposed solution is the correct one by counting commercial breaks. Similarly, mystery shows have a tendency to introduce the villain somewhere around the 15 minute mark: soon enough that they feel like an integral part of the episode, but late enough that they're not the first person you associate with the setup. Contractual Immortality and related tropes are another example of this in TV series: there is a clear delineation between "regular characters" and everyone else, which often spoils the suspense of whether any given character will die, get married, be promoted, etc.

Streaming video from the web removes the fixed-length problem, but virtually every video streaming service displays how far into the video you are as a matter of convenience. The bar disappears with inactivity, but it takes just a move of the mouse (accidental or on purpose) to make it appear again. Some videos may have a blank screen for the last part to obfuscate the video's length, but there's not much of a way to make a video go longer than it appears.

A short-term variant of this can occur when watching TV shows and movies with Closed Captioning or subtitles, since they usually display a sentence before it's finished being said. This means that if a character's words are cut off in the middle of a sentence, you know that they're going to be interrupted by something a few seconds before it happens. In some cases, when it's obvious enough what the character is going to say next, it's possible to avoid this in subtitles by showing the whole sentence anyway, then making it quickly disappear when the character is interrupted. Some captioning includes the name of the person doing the speaking, which is especially frustrating if that person's actual identity is an important future plot point and hasn't actually been revealed yet.

Another variant of this is when the phrase "Part 1" is in the title — you know that it must end on a cliffhanger of some kind.

This can be a good thing depending on the work and the viewer's preference. Some works may even take advantage of this trope, using the viewer's awareness to either avoid explaining the obvious or even to play with their expectations.

Disc One Final Dungeon and Interface Spoiler are much the same issue applied to video games.

Contrast Your Princess Is in Another Castle.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • FLCL, being only six episodes long, evokes this feeling. They even Lampshade it with something along the lines of:
    Haruko: What are you doing here? This is the climax! You need to be where the action is!"
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Pokémon where, after several incredibly dumb attempts to steal Pokémon, the Team Rocket trio actually tries something that might work. James wonders why they didn't start out with this plan, and Jessie replies that they needed to fill an episode.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura you can almost always tell when Sakura is going to miss the catch, simply because her attempt is actually animated instead of stock footage.
  • At the end of the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie, Shinji does something that triggers 3rd Impact. However, you know that 3rd Impact will be aborted because there are two more movies to go.
    • Subverted in 3.0., which reveals that yes, Third Impact still happened, and most of humanity was wiped out as a result.
  • Anime tends to come in rough multiples of 12- or 13-episode chunks. If you don't know going in that Death Note has an irregular number of episodes, this could be an issue.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Lucky Star, wherein Kagami and her family are watching an unnamed suspenseful reality game show involving a million yen up for grabs and Tsukasa can't stand the suspense so she glances at the clock; with only a few minutes left in the hour-long program, and Japanese Game Shows almost always avoid cliff-hangers, she knows the person got a question wrong. Kagami, predictably, notices this and berates her for it.
  • Manga volumes in general tend to spoil themselves. When the chapters are published in magazines monthly, the tension can build, and people can wonder if their favorite characters will survive, or if the plot will be resolved. When a certain number of collected volumes have been published, even in arc-based works, it can be obvious that a Driving Question hasn't yet been resolved, or a main cast member hasn't died yet.
  • In Bakuman。, over the course of the 20-volume run, the main characters get a manga launched about a quarter of the way through, and seem ready to get an anime a little over halfway through- the latter is what Mashiro hopes to get in order to fulfill his promise to Azuki, the girl he loves. It's not hard to figure out that neither case pans out for the protagonists if you know how long the series is, although it is somewhat surprising to see what happens.

    Comic Books 
  • Gloriously subverted in an issue of Zot!!. Teen girl Terry has spent an entire issue angsting about whether she's a lesbian, and whether she should ask out the school's only "out" lesbian, Pam, or even continue to talk to Pam, afraid that she'll be ostracized if she does. At the very end of the issue, Terry's walking down a hallway, Pam says hi...and Terry keeps walking past, not even looking up at Pam. The next page is the first page of the "Letters" section, marking it as the end of the issue except that page is then followed by the actual last page of the issue, in which Terry runs back to Pam, flustered and sheepish, and just says "Hi". Even when it was collected in book form, the formatting was kept the same, thanks to a postscript essay on the issue which served the same purpose.

    Fan Works 
  • Fan Works as a whole tend to avert this trope, since there is really no limit to the media used (It can be as short or as long as the writer wants) and said authors are free to do just about anything they want with the characters.
  • An odd temporary example happened in the Katawa Shoujo based Rika Story, which sets out to imagine what a Rika route would be like, complete with Multiple Endings. The author wrote the bad endings first, so anyone who read it when they were the only options available would be able to figure out which choices were the wrong ones.
  • Turnabout Storm: Up in the final 10 minutes of Part 4/4, the supposed conclusion, and a huge and important witness still needs to be brought in? Something tells us this isn't the real final part... Word of God confirmed that this had to be done deliberately to prevent the conclusion from being too long, even for this series' standards (Part 5/4 still ended up being over 2 1/2 hours long).
  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, Ronan is apparently killed for the first time in Chapter 12 out of 69. In gubgub's dramatic reading, she temporarily rejoiced, but then noticed that the many chapters she had left to go indicated his survival unless he had a son.

  • Gone Baby Gone wraps up the plot neatly in less than an hour. You'll certainly be going "Wait, already?" when it happens. Yes, of course there's a twist.
  • The fact that the plot of Angels and Demons seemingly wraps up with half an hour remaining is a hint that twists are still coming.
  • Unstoppable averts this, as shortly before the end, the train is coming back under control and it looks like everything's going to turn out fine. The brakes on the locomotive slowing the train down blow, and an Indy Ploy is required to get the runaway stopped before it escapes again.
  • Famously averted in Psycho which led to Hitchcock requiring that audiences could only enter at the start of the film whereas up to that point it was the norm for people to come in while it was playing. Otherwise they wouldn't understand why the leading lady isn't in the film since she's murdered within the first half hour.
  • In 1408, this is averted by having the room make Mike think he has escaped, very near the actual ending.
  • According to the trailer, Savages goes out of its way to avert this. The leading lady narrates, but early on, she says "just because I'm telling this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it." Unlike in the book the movie's based on, it turns out she is.
  • The movie Fallen notably averts this. Denzel Washington (who plays the lead protagonist) narrates the movie, starting with "Let me tell you about the time I almost died". It turns out it's actually the demon Azazel narrating, speaking through Denzel as he's possessed him, and "almost dies" at the end when Denzel commits suicide, but manages to escape into another body.
  • Notably inverted in the film adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, where the the fact that Chief Bromden is faking being a deaf-mute is used for a genuinely unexpected Reveal. In the novel, it's pretty obvious from the outset that the Chief is fully aware of his surroundings, since he's the narrator of the book.

    Game Show 
  • Most U.S. poker-based shows that use the "no limit" rule (a player can go "all in" and bet all his chips at any time) qualify. If there are two players left and a player goes "all in", the game will continue if and only if the player with less money wins the hand. So if there's only one minute left, the player with more money will win.
  • The Japanese edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? always have the current player's round ending by the end of the edition, something lampshaded by the aforementioned Lucky Star example.
    • On many exported editions of the show, as well as other contests inspired by it, if the first contestant is sent home early and a second contestant is called onstage, it's a safe bet he will drop early as well, since often there isn't enough time for him to play all the way to the ending.
  • Cash Cab has a format in which players answer questions while taking a cab ride to their destination. If they get three strikes, they get kicked out of the cab. If it's getting very close to the end of the episode and they're nowhere near their destination, it's a pretty obvious sign they're going to lose and get kicked out.
  • On The Amazing Race, it's a pretty sure sign that it's a "To be continued..." leg if it's just a few minutes until the end of the episode and still no teams whatsoever have checked into the Pit Stop.
  • On the UK version of Deal or No Deal, it's always pretty obvious how the game will unfold depending on the board situation and the time left remaining of the show. Are they deliberating at only the 3rd offer with around 10 - 15 minutes to go? Then they will accept the offer. Is there over 25 minutes remaining and they are at the 4th offer? Then they will be going all the way to the end. Have they declined a huge or significant offer at the 5th offer with only a few minutes or so remaining? Then the game will crash and the contestant goes away with a low amount and the whole thing will be wrapped up quickly.
  • There's a Taiwanese version of The Million Pound Drop which, unlike the original, does not have rollover contestants, is not aired live, and is edited down to one hour. So if it's 3 minutes to the hour and it's not the final question of the game, you know the team's going to crash out on the next question.

  • Lampshaded in Northanger Abbey:
    The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.
    • Perhaps sadly, this is often averted in modern editions of Northanger Abbey. It is often published in a single volume together with Persuasion. But - because it was the earlier work - Northanger Abbey is printed first. So when the tell-tale compression quote appears, you still have half the volume you are holding to go.
  • The Tortoise and Achilles discuss this problem in one of the dialogues in Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. They decide that books where this is a problem should have a variable amount of padding at the end. Of course, if the padding consists of blank pages, or pages with some simple typographical pattern on them, anyone who casually flips ahead will know when the book is about to end, so you need the padding to actually look like a continuation of the book, but to be thematically different enough that a sufficiently assiduous reader can determine where the book actually ends. They also discuss other means of indicating the location of the "real" end, such as a hidden message or a rash of typographical errors; and sure enough, those are also used by the dialogue itself. Just when they've figured this out, two police officers show up to arrest the Tortoise for theft, and the dialogue ends. Of course, this is an ironic example because it occurs in a dialogue within a book. You can't tell from the weight of the book how much of the dialogue there is to go!
  • Lampshaded twice in Bored of the Rings. Bromosel knows that he's going to die on page 88.
    • First:
      Bromosel looked up to the top of the page and winced. "At least another chapter to go," he groaned.
    • And:
      "We cannot stay here," said Arrowroot.
      "No," agreed Bromosel, looking across the gray surface of the page to the thick half of the book still in the reader's right hand. "We have a long way to go."
  • Averted in books like The Lord of the Rings that have long appendices, as well as those that give a preview of the next book in the series.
  • Averted in Hopscotch, which includes its own abridged version. If read from the first chapter to the last of the main story, in order, chapters 1 through 56 end with about half of the pages still unread. The remainder of the book consists of 99 expendable chapters, short appendices which can be read in between the chapters of the main story according to an alternate order; the first four chapters one reads of this extended version are those numbered 73 - 1 - 2 - 116.
  • Deconstructed in David Lodge's Changing Places. The last chapter finishes with one of the characters talking about how he believes film is a superior medium to books because you can't tell when the story is about to end just by noticing how many pages are left. He laments the fact that the only way for a writer to avoid this would be to simply refuse to resolve the story at all. At that moment, the book abruptly ends, with its main conflict left unresolved. This is followed by several blank pages. Only after the blank pages does the book inform you that this is actually the first part of a trilogy. Thus it's a double subversion: The reader assumes there will be a resolution, both because of the low remaining page count, and because he doesn't know there are two sequels. Just to drive the whole movie point home, the last chapter is done in script format (the rest of the book is prose). The novel ends with the "film" burning up in the projector before the story can be resolved.
  • House of Leaves is post-modern enough to avert this several times. There is a story within a story within a story, wildly erratic formatting (including some pages with just a word or two), footnotes that run for pages (not always left-to-right), several appendices, several appendices that are supposed to be there but are instead single-page notes about missing appendices, a short story tacked on the end, and a lengthy index. Come on, guess how many pages you have left.
  • "You can't die in the middle of the fifth act" (from Peer Gynt — see below) is quoted by a Genre Savvy character in Jostein Gaarder's magnificently metafictional novel Sophie's World.
  • Any Agatha Christie book, especially her Hercule Poirot ones. If you're 20 pages or so from the end and you have a pretty good idea who the culprit is, you are wrong.
  • Averted in The Dresden Files book Changes. It certainly seems like everything's going to be okay, and Harry and Murphy will finally hook up, and then in literally the last two paragraphs, Harry is shot and killed.
    • However, Since it was well known that the series wasn't over, most readers knew that Harry wouldn't stay dead.
    • A few books into the series (in the e-versions at least), there's a preview of Jim Butcher's other series Codex Alera tacked onto the end. Which results in the book ending before you expect it to. Until of course you get used to its presence. But then the first time the preview isn't included, the book doesn't end when you think it should!
  • In The Princess Bride, when the sharks are circling around Buttercup, the narrator points out that "since the book's called The Princess Bride and since we're barely into it, obviously, the author's not about to make shark kibble out of his leading lady," though he was glad that his father told him that she doesn't get eaten at that point since he was a kid back then and not Genre Savvy enough to rule out the possibility.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Mary Granpre's artwork for the beginning of each chapter of the American books was sometimes very spoiling. Some American readers tried hard not to look at the illustrations as they read for the first time.
    • In at least the UK editions, the death of Sirius Black is on a right-hand page, screamed out by Harry in capital letters, so when you turn the page it's all too likely you'll see it before you should.
  • Lampshaded in the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel The Infinity Doctors, in which the Doctor, captured by the villain on p229, happens to mention that if the hero's captured on p229 of a 280-page novel, he's clearly going to get out of it pretty quickly.
  • Not a problem, one presumes, for one of the alien races mentioned in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, whose books always consist of a set number of pages, with the story terminating, quite probably mid-sentence, at that point, even if the actual plot of the story was finished many, many pages earlier.
    • Averted also by the first 'Hitchikers' novel, which finishes half way through Zaphod Beebelbrox's announcement that they're going to go and lunch, leaving the plot unresolved. (This was due to Douglas Adams being way past his deadline so his publishers just told him to finish the page he was on and they'd publish what they had).
  • Besides Bella's not-suicide cliff diving in New Moon (as evidenced below), there's also her birthing of Renesmee in Breaking Dawn. All of the tension as to whether or not she'll live falls rather flat when one considers that it happens at the end of part two, there's a buttload of pages left for part three, and that section is told from her point of view.
  • Battle Royale tried to avert this. The author tried to make the readers believe Shinji Mimura and not Shuya Nanahara was the male lead. As such, his death in the middle of the book would come as a big surprise. This however failed due to the design of the cover that already hints who is the lead.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events is a 13 book long series. The Baudelaires' fortune, which their evil uncle is always trying to steal, will be legally theirs once Violet turns 18. It takes 11 books for her to reach her 15th birthday.
  • Ender’s Game: If you're paying attention to how many pages are left at the end of the book, you might guess the Command School "simulation" has to be the real thing, because there isn't enough time left in the book to do it all over again.
    • Averted in the digital (iTunes) version. They placed a preview for another book at the end, so you finished the story while still believing there were many more pages to go.
  • Averted in Redshirts; the book ends with three codas, so you hit the end of the main story with a significant percentage of the book remaining.
  • Harry Hole apparently pulls a Thanatos Gambit in Jo Nesbř's novel Phantom. The release of the sequel Police (branded "A Harry Hole Novel") two years later should make his survival a foregone conclusion, making this also a Late-Arrival Spoiler.
  • Invisible Monsters deliberately counters this, even moreso in the "Remix" version. Not only do all versions follow an Anachronic Order (as both start at the conclusion and work backwards), but the "Remix" even removed the knowledge of remaining length; as each chapter ends similarly to a Choose Your Own Adventure book (i.e. "Now turn to page X"), the knowledge of how and when the book ends comes as a total surprise.
  • Some of the BIONICLE movie novelizations feature movie stills around the middle, a couple of which spoil some scenes or characters from the endings.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt does this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. Beatrice and Seth, the two protagonists, have what can only be described as a really hot date. Surely they will sort things out now, after eight months of misunderstandings? Surely now Beatrice won't have to marry Rosenschiöld (who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt), to whom she was forced to get engaged? But wait! Don't we still have almost half the book left to go? Oh damn...

    Live Action TV 
  • Law & Order is built on a very consistent pattern: The first half is detective work, the second half is the prosecution, and the episode ends with the verdict. Some episodes avert this by having the criminal caught and convicted within the first 15 minutes. The audience knows that a stunning twist or a second crime is about to occur because the show violated its format.
    • And if they didn't, the commercials tell them, especially in later seasons where they inevitably concluded with: "You won't believe the twist in the last five minutes!"
  • Episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spinoffs tend to follow a general pattern - the bulk of the episode is spent following the clues of the case of the week, with the solution to said case coming within the last five minutes and the resolution of the B plot case (if there is a B plot) coming just before or after. As such, anyone designated as a prime suspect before fifty minutesnote  into the show is virtually guaranteed to be innocent. The format is often played with, however:
    • The season 7 episode "Toe Tags" presents a series of short cases, punctuated by the corpses of the victims discussing their cases with each other.
    • "The Unusual Suspect" in Season 6 deals with a brother and sister who have confessed to the same murder; the team must decide who is lying. Neither - and they both get away with it.
    • "Turn, Turn, Turn" in which Taylor Swift guest starred as victim Haley Jones. The episode opens fairly normally, with Nick Stokes arriving at a crime scene to find Haley dead. From there, however, the episode travels backward in time to a number of previous cases at the same location, all of which have some bearing on the current one.
    • "Ending Happy" turned this into a Running Gag: each time the characters thought they had nailed the suspect, they'd get a call from the morgue doctor explaining that whatever that suspect did wasn't the actual cause of death. See the episode's entry under Rasputinian Death for further details.
    • "Chaos Theory", had a similar storyline: As the episode progressed, every possible suspect was eliminated by the CSI's own investigations. Somewhere around the 43 minute mark, someone finally proposes that maybe the "murder victim" was "victim" only of a horrible series of coincidental accidents that led to her death. This turns out to be true, but her parents can't accept that their daughter died from nothing but a series of random events. It's implied as the episode ends that they'll never give up trying to find a culprit.
    • "Check In and Check Out" seems like an ordinary episode: we have a nice couple who help the homeless found murdered in a motel room (stabbed over 100 times each), and the motel room is apparently also the crime scene of two earlier brutal murders. We get an early suspect too soon to be the culprit. Then a homeless man is accused...and turns out to be the actual murderer, seemingly subverting this. There's still half the episode to go, and another murder turns up at the motel room, prompting a closer inspection of the room itself and revealing an air freshener that sprays LSD onto anyone unfortunate enough to set it off and sending them crazy. This almost causes Hodges to kill Henry and is what happened the last four times, and ends up with the owner of the motel arrested for all those murders.
  • Battlestar Galactica
    • Fifty minutes (out of a usual 60) into season 2 finale, everything seems back to normal, even if our heroes had to rig an election to do it. Then the fraud is exposed, and the episode runs an extra 30 minutes to end on a cliffhanger for the next season to resolve, being the series' first extended episode... although this is played exactly straight if you looked at a TV schedule beforehand and knew the episode ran long.
    • The humans find the planet that they knew was Earth mid-way through the last season and it turns out to be devastated by a (relatively) recent nuclear incident. Later, after the next half season of episodes, the audience finds that the planet where the ship finally ends up (with a broken jump-drive [hence, no further faster-than-light travels]) is our Earth, which is the name the arriving people give the planet. It is later revealed that all the events happened 150,000 years ago, ending with the first Human-Cylon hybrid child being identified as mitochondrial Eve.
  • The real-time format of 24 means that most of the major action scenes don't take place until three-quarters of the way through any given hour (with very few exceptions). Also, any time an episode's final split-screen is shown with three or four minutes remaining before the beginning of the next hour (especially in later seasons), it's a sign that there's one more scene afterwards (usually as a cliffhanger). Somewhat surprisingly, this is fairly often lampshaded by characters saying something like, "I'll be there to meet the shipment at the docks in 20 minutes." If the viewer checks her watch, and it's 9:35, she can be pretty certain something important/exciting/surprising will be happening at said docks.
  • Pretty much any of the early episodes of Star Trek: Voyager where they would stumble across gateways, wormholes, or advanced alien technology which gave them the possibility of getting home early. If it happened in episode #2 of series #1 you didn't need to wait for the 60 minutes to be up to know they were going to get the Negative Space Wedgie in the end. Solved in later seasons by throwing in partial successes at times (that is, you're spoiled by the format that they won't get all the way home, but it's harder to tell if they won't be able to jump a few years worth of light-years at least).
  • House usually hits upon the right diagnosis when there's about ten minutes of episode left. If the Patient of the Week seems cured before that, it's generally safe to assume that their condition is about to take a serious nosedive.
    • There was actually one episode where there were actually numerous patients, and he had cured one less than half-way through the episode.
    • There was also one where House diagnosed a patient within five minutes, and the rest of the episode is centered around their philosophical debates and their ways (or lack thereof) of dealing with their trauma.
  • NCIS usually starts each segment with a brief snippet showing the last few seconds of the segment in mute monochrome. At least twice, they've put stingers in after the snippet shown in the last segment of an episode.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • The episode "Foothold". Carter runs away from the base, convinced that it's been taken over by aliens. O'Neill and Daniel track her down in Washington and tell her that she's been exposed to a paranoia-inducing chemical. You might believe them and think the whole episode is a Mind Screw... except that it's only halfway over, so they can't possibly be telling the truth.
    • Subverted in another episode. We're at the 55-minute mark, bad guys are pounding on the door, the team is frantically working on the Applied Phlebotinum they need to escape — in other words, just a normal day in the life of SG-1 — and then the bad guys break through the door, the team is captured in seconds, a Big Bad is revealed, and they spend the next episode trying to escape from a far worse situation.
    • Subverted by the Season 7 finale, "Lost City". Stargate season finales have a tendency to end on a cliffhanger, so at the forty-minute mark when an SG-1 episode usually ends, it wasn't very surprising that there was a large amount of dramatic tension and plot points that would soon be carried over in the Season 8 opening.
  • Criminal Minds
    • Most episodes are definitely played straight, but not so much with catching the criminal; it's usually obvious who the killer is by two-thirds of the way through. This trope applies to catching the killer before he kills the next victim. Will the cute blonde die before the team gets there? Nah— only seven minutes left in the episode. She's safe.
    • There is an aversion in the third season opener "Doubt". They arrest someone about fifteen minutes in, and what follows is an infuriating sequence of questioning whether or not he is the killer. At the end of the episode, it's very likely that the man is the real killer, but it's still uncertain. The point of the episode ends up being the self-doubt the case creates in one of the characters.
    • There's a definite inversion in the season five opener "Nameless, Faceless": the UnSub of the Week is discovered and then caught in the first 25 minutes, but the audience really doesn't care, because they're all waiting to find out if Hotch survived what looked like a point-blank shot to the head. During the investigation, Prentiss goes to look for Hotch, and finds his blood-spattered apartment, with him missing. Then Prentiss, Reid, and Garcia work the "regular" case in conjunction with searching for Hotch, and it's only when the case is finished that Reid tells the rest of the team that "something's happened to Hotch". The rest of the episode is devoted to resolving the cliffhanger from the season four finale "To Hell..."/"...And Back".
  • Subverted in Farscape, as Crichton finally makes it back to Earth in the middle of a season, rather than in the series finale as might have been expected. Fortunately, by the time this happens the premise of the show had expanded enough that there were still plenty of stories to tell.
  • One of the first episodes of Stargate Atlantis featured the gang stuck in a ship that was stuck halfway in a Stargate. They attempted to rachet up the tension by reminding the viewers that the gate would automtically close after 38 minutes, severing the ship in half and killing them all. However, given that they were only a couple episodes into the first season, and there were no Red Shirts on the ship, it was pretty obvious they were all going to make it out alive.
  • Actively played with on How I Met Your Mother, which knows the audience is smart enough to think that the actual reveal of the mother would be a big deal, so Future!Ted, the narrator, will often casually spoil plot points with his way of explaining things, such as occasionally forgetting the name of whatever girlfriend Present!Ted has in the episode.
    • Though played more straight with the fan theory that Ted has to meet the mother in season 8 in order for Future!Ted's children to be the right ages. This is further hinted with the episode "Trilogy Time" which shows that Ted with his infant daughter in 2015. In another season 8 episode, Ted mentions that he met the mother exactly 45 days after the episode takes place. Season 9 is set to take place in 2013, directly after season 8 with no time skip.
    • In an example that has nothing to do with the mother or the narrative, the end of "Knight Vision" had Daphne admitting that she sent Lily a text message about Marshall taking his new job as a judge, something Marshall doesn't want Lily to find out yet. The episode closes with Marshall's phone ringing at that moment. Whatever suspense that was there is ruined when you read the official synopsis for the next episode, "No Questions Asked", which is about Marshall trying to remove the text message with help from his friends, so in the end, that phone call at the end of "Knight Vision" has nothing to do with the text message.
  • A constant in Dexter, as many season finale episodes revolve around whether or not the titular character will be discovered, killed, and/or caught.
  • An Orbitz ad airing on Logo before the Ru Paul's Drag Race Season 3 finale effectively spoiled the results: Alexis Mateo was seen as a dark horse as she received more criticism than Manila Luzon and Raja combined, and all three had the same number of wins - the Orbitz commercial featured eliminated queens Shangela and Carmen Carrera alongside finalist Manila Luzon. After the finale's filming, the results were more traditionally spoiled by online leaks.
  • One episode of Psych had Shawn wrap up a case with a culprit and a motive that made total sense and wraps up any loose ends, however astute viewers would've noticed that there were still two commericial breaks before the ending, so that means the person that Shawn accused and had arrested is obviously not the killer.
  • Classic Doctor Who episodes would almost always wrap up in the last few minutes, but could last for several half-hour segments. Any clever plan to foil the villain early would naturally fail, and if things looked bleak and hopeless at the very end, you could expect a deus ex machina wrapup. In addition, the Doctor's deaths would usually (but not always) end up at season finales.
  • In Power Rangers and its original source, Super Sentai, whenever a major villain is killed or Put on a Bus early in the show's run, expect a new villain to take over or for the old villain to return respectively.
    • A good example in Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters: Messiah is an established Big Bad, yet after 30 out of 50 episodes in, he was killed. Turns out his dragon, Enter, is the new Big Bad.
    • You know that new robo/megazord you got that has clips that aren't being used? Those are for a future combination with something that's not been announced yet. A good example would be the clips on the front of Kyoryuzin, which are used for combining with Plezuon and Bragigas.
  • Played With at the end Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 4: The heroes make up and defeat the season's Big Bad in the episode before the season finale, while the season finale is a Bizarro Episode that seems like filler, but actually hints at some events that occur later on in the series.
  • True crime shows like 48 Hours may feature the accused suspect being interviewed throughout the episode while in prison garb, revealing that they were found guilty.
  • Often averted by the somewhat ruthless nature of American TV. Sudden cancellation can mean that what everyone, including the show's writers, assumed would be a season-spanning, slow-burning plot arc has to be wrapped up in a cobbled together 'they all lived happily ever after' episode. Babylon 5 springs to mind as one example, though there are many more.
  • Occasionally used as a joke in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Sometimes a movie would seem to wrap everything up in the first couple of minutes (typically a Cold Open), and the riffers would say something along the lines of "Well, it was horrible, but at least it was short" and try to leave the theater, only to realize they've got plenty of movie to go.
  • Following in the steps of many other police dramas the detectives in Broadchurch arrest the prime suspect early in the final episode leaving plenty of time for further complications. The trope is then averted - he is guilty and the investigation is over. The rest of the episode deals with the effect of the murder and investigation on the town

  • Hidden tracks. On a CD, you can clearly tell if a song finishes many minutes before the actual track is finished that there will be a hidden track. On a vinyl record you can easily see more grooves, and on a tape you will see there is still some of the tape left to go. Obviously, it doesn't work at all on digital as you can clearly see the "song" is 20+ minutes long, leading to iTunes either indexing the hidden tracks separately, or keeping them as they are but making them album only due to the track length.
    • One aversion is digital music provider Bandcamp: content providers are able to make hidden tracks a complete surprise; you'll only notice them once you've opened the compressed file you've just downloaded. Minecraft composer C418 included a six-minute song "What now?" as a hidden track for his album Life changing moments seem minor in pictures, for example, but you won't see it listed on the site.
      • There is one problem with Bandcamp, however: the header next to the album art reads "Immediate download of [x]-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire." This means that if the track listing doesn't have the same number of songs as is listed up there, you know there's going to be [x] number of bonus tracks.
  • Album credits can sometimes give away certain aspects of an album in advance of the person listening to it. For example, the musicians credited can give away that a song contains a string section or a trumpet solo before the person hears it, while the lyric sheet can give away that certain tracks are instrumentals.
  • Listening to a song on a media player that features a waveform visualisation (such as SoundCloud's audio player) can lead to this: if there's a sudden drop in amplitude about one minute in, you know in advance that there'll be a Subdued Section there, while conversely a sudden spike in amplitude means the song's going to get really, really loud all of a sudden. Owing to the Record of Loudness War, an increasingly large number of songs will have a fairly uniform amplitude for the duration of the song, averting this trope (but not exactly to desirable effect).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Frazz intends to avert this for his first novel.
    "When you can see how many pages are left, it gets in the way of suspense. For my first novel, I'm going to put a hundred or so pages of incomprehensible gobbledygook at the end."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Whenever a major title match is announced as the main event on one of the weekly shows, check the time. If there's only 5 minutes left on the show, it's almost guaranteed that the match will likely end in a disqualification or the defending champion winning through some sort of tomfoolery. Or, if it's a regular main event ad there's still plenty of time left after the winner celebrates his victory, expect someone to come out and cut a promo or attack them.
    • Also shows up when the current champion is on the cards for a title defence on a PPV or an international tour, although unexpected title changes and card shuffles have happened in the past in spite of previously announced matches, often due to unforeseen injury, contract disputes or, in modern times, breaches of the wellness program. Even with pro wrestling's love of the Shocking Swerve, though, you'll rarely see this happen as an intentional fake-out rather than real life writing the plot.

  • In an article written years ago by sportswriter Phil Mushnick in TV Guide, he complained about the same-day, time-delay broadcasts of the Olympics (and other sports) spoiling the endings. The specific instance mentioned was a tennis match, and although the announcers were asking, "Will X make a comeback?" there were only five minutes left in the broadcast, so of course there wouldn't be a comeback, because there wasn't enough time. If there had been a comeback, they would have edited it so there would be time.
  • Match of the Day likes to show its best games first. "Best" being decided by a combination of team popularity, match importance and result; but especially team popularity. If first match up is Stoke v Wigan expect a UFO to land in the centre circle at some point. Likewise if Manchester United don't feature in the first few games then their match must be the kind of 0-0 draw that makes you yearn for the excitement of watching paint dry. (Several managers have lampshaded the likelihood that their very dull match will end up being on last.)
  • Mixed Martial Arts
    • In broadcasts from the UFC, preliminary fights from earlier in the day are inserted into the broadcast to fill time when the main card fights end quickly. Prelim fights aired early in the card will almost always be a quick finish used to kill a few minutes. If there's only a few minutes left in the PPV timeslot and a prelim fight is aired after the main event, expect it to be quick as well.
    • Compilations of past bouts, such as UFC Unleashed, are always edited to an hour, so if there's only a minute or two left in the timeslot, expect the current fight to end in a finish.

  • In Act 5 of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Peer has been shipwrecked and he and the only other survivor, a mysterious stranger, are clinging for dear life to a piece of wreckage. As Peer calculates his chances for survival and bemoans his fate, the apparently Genre Savvy stranger assures him he has nothing to worry about since he's the hero and "You can't die in the middle of the fifth act." Before Peer can ask what this cryptic remark means, the stranger loses (or perhaps releases) his grip on the wreckage and slips beneath the waves.
  • Lampshaded multiple times in Urinetown, particularly:
    Little Sally: (wistfully) She loves him, doesn't she, Officer Lockstock?
    Officer Lockstock: Of course she does, Little Sally. He's the hero of the show—she has to love him!

     TV Tropes 
  • It's considered an Idiot Ball by some to go reading a tropes page for a work before seeing/reading/etc the work, and expecting not to be spoiled.
    • On another level, even the spoiler tags can still spoil, because for example:
      • When you come to a heavily spoiler-tagged section that deals with a specific character, you're going to know something is going to happen when the character turns up - even if you're not sure what.
      • If the gender is constantly hidden by spoilers, especially if the male-to-female ratio isn't equal (or worse yet, there's only one character of a particular gender), it can be pretty easy to guess who the spoiler tags are trying to hide. Not to mention it's also very easy to tell the difference between he and she.
      • Relatedly, if a character is referred to as one gender in the story, but an entry about them spoilers their gender, that spoils the reveal of one or two tropes.
      • If a character has a very long or very short name compared to the rest of the cast, spoilering the name can end up being pointless. If the entry is about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you use spoiler tags to hide the fact that Q appears in an episode, a reader who knows the series will easily guess who you're talking about.
      • Even if the spoiler tags aren't scrolled over, any link hidden within them is still evident. This can spoil it for any reader who accidently leaves the cursor over the spoiler tag such as in cases where It Was All A Dream.
      • Spoilers also involving people that die. Especially in a case of Aerith and Bob where most names can reach several syllables.
      • For more, see Self-Fulfilling Spoiler.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, if you get a Triple Tech stone early on, you might notice that most of them can be equipped by any of three characters - none of them Crono. Since you have to have Crono in your party of three, this is a pretty clear hint that something is going to happen to him.
  • Subverted by Portal, along with Interface Spoiler. The New Game level selection menu clearly shows a list of the testchambers, but there's an escape sequence at the end that's part of the last chapter.
  • Blue Dragon kills off Nene. Except not really - this is on the end of Disc 1. You know there's more coming.
    • Dragon Quest VII did this long before Blue Dragon did. You pretty much restore the entire world and defeat Orgodemir. Seems like you could have ended the game right there...except that you're obviously not done. There's another disc left.
      • And Dragon Quest VIII does it too. You chase the apparent Big Bad, Dhoulmagus, down to a dungeon that's long, difficult and really has the feel of The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Then you fight and kill Dhoulmagus in a long, difficult battle in which he goes One-Winged Angel on you like any good Final Boss would. And with the vastly increased storage capacity of the DVD format, DQ8 doesn't have multiple discs to clue you in that that you're not done yet. But check the in-game map. Only about half of it's been explored by the time you reach the Dark Ruins.
  • As mentioned in Disc One Final Dungeon, a lot of the time you know you haven't really defeated the Big Bad and saved the world because you have three more discs to go through.
  • Subverted by La-Mulana. While you can look around the game's files and hear the soundtrack and see the graphics for all the levels and bosses... The graphics for that cutscene are all mixed up.
  • See any Youtube fighting game video. If the video isn't even halfway done when the second round starts, expect whoever won the first round to lose the second round, setting up a third round with everything at stake. If the video is more than halfway done when the second round starts, well, it's a safe bet that the second round is going to be the final round.
    • You also can notice this when watching the Grand Finals of any fighting game tournament video. If the video is close to ending, then the person in winners bracket won the event. If the Grand Finals starts with still a lot of minutes left in the video, then it's likely that the person in the losers bracket won the first set and reset the Grand Finals bracket for a shot at the championship.
    • The same applies for any Pokémon battle: If the opponent is down to his or her last Pokémon, you can tell the uploader will win if there isn't much time left, but if there's ample time, the opponent will cause a comeback (though the opponent won't necessarily win).
  • Persona 3 does all kinds of things with this trope. Ostensibly, the game takes place over one year in game time, beginning in early April and ending at the end of next March.
    • Played Straight: You defeat all of the main arcana shadows in early November. There's still 5 months left to go...Hmmm...
    • Subverted: The final battle to stop the End of the World as We Know It takes place on January 31st. You don't do anything for the next two months, as you skip right to graduation for the Golden Ending.
  • Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4 seems to wrap everything up...until you realize there's a fifth chapter. It involves getting killed and wandering around the afterlife which includes several rehashed elements disguised as portals. Naturally, you have to enter the real world, return to your body and face the Big Bad again at the end.
  • In the Professor Layton series, the game isn't close to ending if most of the mysteries are still unsolved, and if any of them have not been introduced yet. This is especially true with the Disc One Final Dungeon in Unwound Future. Additionally, the closer the numbers of the main story and optional puzzles are to the hidden puzzles, the closer you are to the end.
    • Unwound Future later subverts this though: some of the mysteries are solved during the ending cutscene. (so technically the game is already over)
    • Not to mention some of the mysteries will be solved twice.
  • Batman: Arkham City has the character profiles. The number of side quests verses the number slots means you still have to meet a few people.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising has one based on the estimated time most players say it takes to finish. The game takes incredible pains to trick players into thinking the 30-minute Disc One Final Dungeon is the end, but it's not even 2/5 of the way into the game!
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Princess Ashe is said to have committed suicide at the start of the game, following her family's loss of power. However, she's listed as a party member in the instruction booklet.
  • Final Fantasy VI does this, after Kefka succeeds in bringing about Armageddon after only 20 hours through a 40 plus hour game. The heroic party is split apart across the world map and the final dungeon is open to export for the final ending. Of course, you can take on the dungeon as three characters as soon as you get the airship, but the likelihood of success is slim-to-none without heavy grinding. Therefore, it's much better to spend the extra 20 plus hours reuniting with your party members and leveling up before challenging the final dungeon, which completes the standard 40 plus hours found in most role playing games.
    • A more obvious example is the map that comes with the game. It has the World of Ruin on the back.
  • Tales of Symphonia has you going to the Tower of Salvation to complete the regeneration of the world and resolve the plot after about 10 hours or so. When was the last time a popular JRPG had 4 dungeons, almost no sidequests, and no visible Big Bad? Also, the Gamecube version had a 2nd disc and a character you hadn't even met yet on the cover.
    • Though the game has you constantly return to the tower, even on the second disc, providing more opportunities for more effective psyche-outs.
  • Plot points of user-made adventures in Spore: Galactic Adventures can often be spoiled by the creatures and props created for the adventure, which always directly proceed the it in the author's Sporepedia page and impossible to hide.
  • In Super Mario World hacks, you can pretty much figure out how close you are to the end and various other things from the game format. For instance, it's technically impossible to have more than 6 submaps and a 'main' map. So if the world map design/graphics have changed 7 times, you know you're getting close to the end. You can also tell this by the number of switch palaces you've come across, only four different ones as possible without massive reprogramming so you can use them to measure your progress. And in a level, you can tell how close you are to the end just by the number of Dragon Coins you've encountered (with only five per level, if you pass four or five, you know you're probably nearing the end) Also, in Brutal Mario much the same applies, there's always five Dragon Coins placed directly before any boss, so if you ever encounter five in a row, you know you're near the end of the level.
  • Ōkami is kind of funny in that you might initially think Orochi is the game's primary antagonist and thus expect some sudden turn of events that prolongs the conflict. But nope, things just nicely wrap up and the characters throw a party before moving on to find other stuff to do. Granted, it does turn out he has ties to what ends up being the big picture storyline, but that's mostly a discovery in retrospect.
  • The second case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials And Tribulations has you proving your client innocent and seemingly wrapping the case up in one investigation day and one trial day, which never happens. (It's usually either a single trial day in the tutorial cases or two of each for every other case.) Naturally, things quickly go downhill again.

    Web Comics 
  • The Gödel, Escher, Bach scenario is referenced in this Irregular Webcomic! strip's annotation, and indeed it does the same thing itself.
  • Subverted by a Penny and Aggie storyline, in which a chapter numbered "N of 15" suddenly has a quintuple-length Wham Episode on the 11th update, marked "page 11-15".
  • This comic of Full Frontal Nerdity references the trope.
  • Schlock Mercenary plays with this in the arc where the protagonists split up into four groups, the story focuses on each group in turn and keeps a running tally of how much time is left until they all come back together. The two groups that left the shipyard all get into situation that get progressively worse as time passes. When the situation of the fourth group turns into a mess, the narrator says the ending isn't for another 300 hours, and say he hopes you didn't try to time the climax to that particular clock.

  • IMDb: When looking up a TV series on the site, you'll see each actor listed on the main page of the series with the number of episodes they appear in. Woe to you if you've just gotten interested in a series and see that one of the main characters appears in far less episodes than the rest of the cast - it sometimes can lead to the realization that someone is going to be Killed Off for Real or Put on a Bus.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded in one video by Stuart Ashen, on the subject of the fastest game-overs in video game history:
    "(On Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards) 1.6 seconds! We've managed to beat the current champion Grange Hill. Can we do better? Of course we can, there's still a fair bit of video time remaining!"
    • Made more funny in that his first video on the quickest game overs ended with about the same amount of the time as when Leisure Suit Larry beat Grange Hill's record, so time is padded out with footage of the drug dealer Have a Nice Death scene without any reference to the time remaining in the video.
    "Oh, Gonch. Gonch! You're never going to get an acting job in Eastenders now."
  • Television Without Pity will occasionally snark about the episodes they are recapping in this fashion. For example, in House, when House makes his first misdiagnosis, the recapper might say something to the effect of: "Since this is just the 15-minute mark, we know that whatever treatment he's prescribed will just make things worse."
  • Subverted by slowbeef in his Let's Play of Metroid Prime, who inserted six minutes of blank filler at the end of a boss fight video to keep viewers from guessing what happens based on how much time there's left in the video.
  • Mentioned in Mark Reads New Moon chapter 16. In the previous chapter, Bella had attempted suicide, leading Mark to hold a GIF party in celebration. There are 24 chapters in the book, however, so Mark is in no way surprised when she's saved.
    • A similar point was made during a sporking, when it was commented that Bella might as well say "Goodbye, I love you, because of course I'm not going to survive this even though there are 200 pages left in the book and it's told in first person."
  • Rooster Teeth's Achievement Horse series. Take a quick look at the video time, and you can tell from the start how close a game it's going to be.
    • Same with their Minecraft Let's Plays and their new Versus series. Especially the latter, as they tend to cut away from the game footage to show the AH crew's reactions to who wins.
  • Chuck from SF Debris in the recap of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Duet notes that the villain has been caught and the ending monologue has been said "huh? Much quicker than usual." Which does seem to be a reference to The Simpsons episode below.
  • Many genre information sites do this. Read every day when you're the sort who prefers to wait until movies and TV shows come out on DVD to watch them and you're sure to get spoiled by the arbitrary point when the site's writers assume most people have seen a work, even though it hasn't been released on video yet.
  • Part 9 of the Game Grumps playthrough of Megaman 7 is repeatedly called the "season finale" by Jon and Ego, despite the episode not sporting the "FINALE" label used in all other episodes where they beat a game. Viewers who watched the series after the fact might also be wondering why the series appears to continue for nine more episodes.
  • Many computer game casters who use replays will cover up the part of the display showing the time left in the game, to avoid this problem.
  • Analyzing Phish is a podcast in which Harris Wittels attempts to get Scott Aukerman to like the band Phish, with the understanding that if Scott ever decides to like Phish, the podcast will end immediately. Occasionally, just before Harris plays the next Phish song, Scott will tell the audience that if the current episode is about to end, it's because whatever song that is about to play has convinced him to like Phish. This never happens.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded on The Simpsons; "Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?"
    Homer: "Everything's wrapped up nicely. Ooh, much quicker than usual, too!"
  • Full-season version. In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the final-battle invasion on the Day of Black Sun was scheduled to be episodes ten and eleven out of twenty (later discovered to be twenty-one). Were they going to win and spend the next ten partying? On top of that, attentive viewers also would've caught Azula finding out about the invasion in season 2. There was pretty much no way it would've worked.
  • Jumanji, several times. If the kids return to the real world (especially with Alan), especially if they solve the clue early, and there's more than a minute or two left, expect things to go to hell very quickly.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Magical Mystery Cure". You know that there's going to be more coming when it looks like the problem's solved and everything's going to be all fine and dandy...with a third of the episode left.
    • In Inspiration Manifestation, Rarity has made her creative contribution to the Foal and Filly Fair, nothing bad has happened, and she's about to return the book to Spike...and at this point, we're only eight minutes into the episode. She decides to hold onto the book for just a little while longer...

Spared by the AdaptationSpoilered RottenSpoiled By The Manual
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