Within a work, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it's generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.
This usually happens in a series with no overarching conflict or plot, although it is also the final stage of Exponential Plot Delay, the phenomenon in which the plot of a serial story has totally ground to a halt. In either case, each installment of the series will open under virtually identical circumstances to the installment that came before.
Why create a static situation? The creators want the audience to be familiar with the characters and situation, without having to bother with such things as "what happened last episode". For example, they may use a title sequence that tells us everything we need to know, or, if the series has a serial plot, flashbacks, since Viewers Are Goldfish. Much like Failure Is the Only Option, any changes at all are resolved with a Snap Back or Reset Button. And God forbid anyone change the status quo of the surrounding world.
This trope is especially true for cartoons, where networks want to be free to broadcast reruns in any convenient order or lack thereof. It's also very common in sitcoms, and as a result, there are plenty of Broken Aesops created by the fact that, although characters have learned their lessons or attempted to improve their predicaments, nothing ever really changes.
It can be very difficult to juggle an unchanging status quo without gradually turning off your audience; characters and situations which never change tend to get stale after a while, and audiences can get a bit tired of seeing the Reset Button being pushed every time it looks like something might happen to change things.
Status Quo Is God can easily collide with Happily Ever After. Sometimes, a story simply can't have an ending that is both happy and maintains the status quo—thus, these two powerful tropes are in conflict with each other. When this conflict occurs, it's likely that the status quo will be maintained, and the ending will be less happy than it might have been if not for Status Quo Is God.
Negative Continuity is what happens when the writers become too aware of the ramifications of this: they change anything and everything every episode, knowing that absolutely none of it will ever stick.
Related to Just Eat Gilligan and Un-Confession. May be used to avoid Continuity Lockout. For the opposite, see Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Contrast Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome. Is often a reason for a Yo Yo Plot Point or an Ageless Birthday Episode. Has nothing to do with the divinity of a certain rock band.
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Anime & Manga
Pretty much any Filler will have it to where everything is back to normal in the end, since this is non-canon and the plot can't have any significant changes to the actual canon work it is filling.
Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Movie plays with this trope, the characters mention how many powerful cards they have that they will never use again, and how they will never mention the events that happened in the film again.
Bleach: Memories of Nobody does this but there is an explanation.
Love Hina manages to reset practically every character or relationship development, even finally getting into Tokyo University or Naru shouting she loves Keitaro at the top of her lungs when he is only a few feet away seems to have no effect whatsoever.
Naru and Keitaro's relationship is developed gradually and gracefully in the first half of the series, going from hostility to them generally liking each other even though they refuse to admit it. The status quo effect first comes when their relationship has gotten to the point where it is all or nothing. Every time they seem to finally become a couple, the circumstances are reset. Every time they seem to think that they will never be a couple, the circumstances are reset, too.
Though not entirely bound to the trope, Ranma ½'s only means of advancing its story appear to have been introducing new characters, or having an existing character learn a new combat technique. Two of the story's main features, the relationships of the characters and the curses that some of them carried, remained set in stone despite the characters' many attempts to alter them one way or another. In fact, when the story got to the point where it had nowhere to go but to change, the series ended.
Urusei Yatsura went through thirty-eigh volumes of Ataru chasing after other women and refusing admitting outloud what he loved Lum. Finally, when the story left him no option other than acknowledging his feelings, Reset Button was pressed. The only meaningful change in the status-quo was Shinobu breaking up with Ataru, and that change happened in the beginning and it was forced on Takahashi by her editors. This was lampshaded in a story arc where several characters have the chance to make a future tailored to her needs. Shinobu is unsure of what asking, and thus she decides nothing changes. Shortly after she got to see that future and she realized it was a dumb idea.
The third movie is also guilty; the enchanted "sit!" beads are broken partway into the movie, but since the film isn't part of series canon, the beads have to be replaced, this is handled in a post-credits scene in which Kagome puts them back on for... no real reason.
Face it: Ash's Pikachu is never going to be a Raichu. This is explained in a few episodes, most notably when the Vermilion Gym match has it face its evolved form. In-universe, it's a matter of pride. In real life, it's because they'd have to redesign the series' iconic mascot. Taken to a particular extreme in the Mistralton Tower episode, in which Ash performs a Diving Save to prevent a Thunder Stone from accidentally hitting Pikachu.
Ash's Bulbasaur — while not quite as popular as its teammate — has this same dilemma when it shows signs of evolution (unlike Pikachu, Bulbasaur evolves by level). Once again, it's explained as a matter of pride. It's likely really because Ivysaur and Venusaur, while more powerful, aren't as cute. Bulbasaur has a Crowning Moment of Awesome as a result when it uses Solar Beam for the first time.
Ash will always hit the Reset Button whenever he finds out about a new region, ditching the Big Three of the last in favor of the next. Also Pikachu will continue defeating legends then losing to rookies.
Speaking of Team Rocket, EVERY. SINGLE. TEAM ROCKET. SPLITTING UP. EPISODE. One has to wonder how many times the writers will recycle a plot about Team Rocket splitting up only to get back together by the end of the episode.
Ash will never win a League arc based on the main series's regions. Painfully enforced in the Sinnoh League, where Ash was bested by Tobias and his Darkrai and Latios. The fact that Ash put a better dent in his team than the person Tobias faced next implied that Ash would have won the whole tournament if it weren't for the poorly-established man.
The Get Backers do not make a profit. Ever. On the off chance their task is performed to one hundred percent perfection and their client is on the up-and-up, they'll spend it almost instantly. Or will be billed for the collateral damage they racked up on their mission, or have their fees taken by the outside contractors they hired to assist them, or Paul will just take their payment as part of the payment for their monstrously huge tab...
Ditto the crew of the Bebop as far as their financial fortunes went, at any rate. Although some people would say that if gambling was involved then their Perpetual Poverty was probably inevitable.
Lupin III, because the franchise operates with Negative Continuity. There's also the example of the movie Lupin III Island Of Assassins, which ends with Lupin and Fujiko both trapped in a blimp that they can't leave without activating a lethal poison, and with the one known antidote explicitly shown to have failed. Needless to say, it never comes up again.
Anime filler naturally can't affect the overall plot too much. Two interesting examples from Naruto:
Sasuke is in the hospital at the end of the "Search for Tsunade" arc but is revived in time for the Land of Tea filler arc. Since the next arc begins with Sasuke in the hospital, he gets injured again in the filler.
In the Fuma Clan filler arc, Naruto and Sakura fight Kabuto... but since he's too major a villain to kill off, it turns out to be someone else in disguise.
The same filler arc features Orochimaru. Also as a disguised filler villain. Speaking with villain-disguised-as-Kabuto. Amongst themselves. In character as Orochimaru and Kabuto! Though presumably the idea was that Orochimaru left these disguised villains behind in his base as decoys, the way it was presented manages to combine all the worst aspects of Never Trust a Trailer within the context of the episode itself.
This also applies to any filler arc that has at least some potential to get Naruto close to finding Orochimaru and/or Sasuke (Mizuki, Bikochuu, Land of Sea, Three Tails). In the Treasure Hunt arc, Tsunade threatens to send Naruto, Hinata and Kiba back to the academy if they fail — they obviously don't.
The Three-Tails filler arc focuses on the struggle between Konoha and Orochimaru over the Three Tailed Beast. If you read the manga, you know that Akatsuki manages to capture it, making the outcome no longer a surprise.
The "perpetually broke" version of this trope was played with in One Piece. Despite being pirates, the Straw Hats don't usually have much money around. In one anime filler arc, they finally have gotten their hands on a pile of gold, but they end up in tightly secured Marine base. Just when they make it back to their ship and are on their way to freedom, they realize that all their gold was confiscated by the Marines. Just when you think they'll sigh and suck it up, they turn around and break into the base to get it back. However, the status quo at the time was that they had already had a bunch of treasure they just haven't sold yet, so it's kind of a wash. A couple of islands later, they have it converted to cash and, soon enough, two of their three hundred million Berries is stolen and spent before they can get it back. But at the end of it all, the money went into materials used to build them a kick ass new ship.
In Movie 4, in which they enter a contest with the same amount of berries as the worth of the aforementioned pile of treasure, they win the contest, but are forced to leave before they collect their winnings.
In Movie 7, the crew agrees to return an old woman to an island in exchange for information regarding the island's secret treasure. Despite the local maniacal mechanical genius in charge constantly trying to take them out, they manage to reveal the fact that the entire island is a giant turtle which lays eggs with solid gold shells. The Straw Hats set sail at the end of the movie with a large piece of a shell in tow as thanks for saving everyone... only for it to sink moments later.
In Excel♥Saga, the group ACROSS will never completely take over Fukuoka City, but they can at least make progress. In the anime though, every mission ACROSS attempts will end in failure and they will be no closer to controlling F City then when they started at the beginning of the episode.
Sgt. Frog is particularly devoted to this trope. Let's face it, Keroro will continue building Gunpla and ticking Natsumi off, Tamama will continue eating candy and obsessing over Keroro, Giroro will continue to be infatuated with Natsumi and shine his guns, Kururu will continue being a jerk and eating curry, and Dororo will continue to sit in a corner and cry. NOTHING SHALL CHANGE.
Lampshaded in one episode where Momoka visualises herself still watching Fuyuki quietly from a corner. In the future. Where both are well into their eighties. Apparently the Japanese are known to age well, but still...
Harima will always be in love with Tenma. And - warning significant spoilers : nothing ever changes. No relationships are resolved, no character development ever really occurs, and all the Ship Tease? Comes to nothing. Absolutely nothing. Placed in spoilers for those who are still watching the series.
Seems like you never read School Rumble Z, or even the last episode of School Rumble (the "season 3" OVA). Harima ends up with Eri. Tenma ends up with the brain damaged Karasuma. Mikoto ends up with Childhood friend Hanai, Imadori actually outright proposes to Karen (with ring) after driving her almost to the point of ditching him, Yakumo doesn't end up with anyone but, I believe, lives with Sarah, so all of the Apopheniacs out there will just "know" how they turn out.
In Gintama, no matter how many jobs the protagonists take on, they will never make any profit. And the rent never gets paid. Ever.
Subverted with Gintoki's sword. It is revealed in one episode that in case one gets broken, he just orders another from a galactic shopping channel and has it customized so it looks exactly the same as the previous one.
Gintoki manages to pay the rent few times by helping Otose with her problems (i.e. preventing Katherine from running off with Otose's money at the beginning, saving Otose's life). And in one chapter, Gintoki pays the rent in cash (even though he is forced to do so by Tama).
This is in fact a very important plot point in Tenshi Ni Narumon where the heroine who throughout the whole series was aspiring to become an angel for her loved one, upon gaining her much-awaited wings decides she doesn't really want to be an angel anymore. This applies to the majority of characters. The message is that you don't have to change when your loved ones love you the way you are and that change may sometimes lead to losing all that you held precious to your heart.
Unintentionally created by the season 2 finale of The Big O. As the two mechs duke it out a third, goddess, shows up and at first starts deleting everything until Roger convinces her to give the world a chance. It is implied that this has happened before and because there is no season three it could happen again.
In the Tenchi Muyo! manga series, despite it running for 22 volumes, Tenchi STILL never chooses a girl. Oh, and if the house blows up, it'll be good as new next story. One story lampshaded this a bit.
Admittedly, though, the manga does subvert a lot of how the OVA worked - the gang goes out to more places, the characters are a lot more outgoing, Mihoshi has a driver's licence, Sasami goes to school, among others.
Lampshaded in an episode of Daily Lives of High School Boys. The kids are discussing what they plan to do after graduating, and Hidenori breaks the fourth wall in order to explain that it's irrelevant since they'll always be in their sophomore year of high school.
And by the end of the series, he's correct. Despite several episodes showing the kids taking summer breaks and things such as that, they're still inexplicably in their sophomore year at the end of the finale.
In Detective Conan, Ran will start to suspect Conan is actually Shinichi, only for him to throw off her suspicions. Also, Shinichi is no closer to finding out more about the shady organization that turned him into a child and turning back to normal again than he was almost two decades ago in real time when the manga first came out.
Commonly averted with K-On!, which sets up the sorts of "lesson of the week" situations that you'd normally fully expect a cast in a work like this to forget about by the next episode (i.e. don't be so clingy, be more thoughtful towards your friends, study hard, etc.) but actually has them work as permanent character development.
Marvel/DC Comics live by this trope. They've really put themselves into a Catch-22 situation, they can change things around and kill off characters and whatnot, but killing popular characters will cause an uproar among fans; if they pursue their current strategy of keeping things the way they are, then people get to come on this wiki and put them here in this trope for not changing anything.
Despite all the crazy technology the heroes and villains invent and use, it will never significantly change or improve the world. There's even a trope for it.
Old Batman foe The Riddler reformed in 2006 and became a private detective. Not only is he good at it and indulges his obsession a bit, but it changed him morally for the better. Of course, a few years later, a severe head injury sent him right back to his villainous ways.
Another Batman foe: Poor Harvey Dent is a victim of this. No matter how many times his face and sanity are restored, soon he is driven back to his (half)disfigured face and insanity, even in some out-of-mainstream-continuity stories, like Batman: Black and White. In an Alternate Future from Frank Miller's limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, only his face is restored, not his sanity. From Bad to Worse: His good side vanished, leaving him all "normal" outside and all monstrous inside.
One of the most obvious and dramatic examples is Guy Gardner, who lost his power ring after it was destroyed by Parallax. Guy went on to get a full rework, including new powers, a new look, a new supporting cast and a new job. This lasted for several years—about a year and a half of which was actually in his own ongoing monthly—until Geoff Johns wrote Green Lantern Rebirth, which snapped him back to his '80s status quo without any real explanation. While he may be back to being a Green Lantern, his character is not what it was in the 80s and 90s as he's changed over time. Gardner isn't the dumb obnoxious jerk he used to be, though his attitude is somewhat similar. Instead he's simply a jerk with an attitude on the surface, showing far more depth of character and loyalty beneath, particularly with Kyle Rayner. And that awful bowl haircut is gone too.
Charles Xavier was introduced as an invalid who uses a wheelchair. Several times during the comic's run, Xavier has regained the use of his legs. It's only a matter of time until something reverses this situation, either undoing whatever allowed his legs to heal or sustaining a new injury.
Marvel seems to think the concept of the X-Men doesn't work if mutants aren't feared and hated by everybody, so any progress they make is inevitably undone. Grant Morrison's run had mutants gaining some acceptance among the younger generations and developing their own culture. Then House of M comes along and the mutant race is reduced to around 200 survivors. And then comes Avengers Vs X-Men, where thanks to the actions of Cyclops and the Phoenix Five, mutants are probably more feared than ever.
The cyclical nature of comics was lampshaded in an issue of New Avengers, where Wonder Man points out that the entire Civil War crossover was utterly pointless since everything (more or less) went back to normal within just a few short years.
Kingdom Comelampshades this. Wonder Woman's entire purpose was to come to America and bring an end to warfare across the globe. The problem of course is, thanks to this and Reed Richards Is Useless, she'll never be allowed to make any real progress in this mission. Thus, we cut to a few decades later and find that she's been exiled by her fellow Amazons precisely because she hadn't made any headway in solving this problem.
A good example would be costumes. Most heroes and villains have gone through numerous costume changes, but usually return to their original, iconic outfit, if for no other reason than branding. This obviously doesn't extend to film and TV adaptations, since most superhero costumes are altered for live-action due to practical reasons.
Poor Benjamin Grimm will always be The Thing. Reed Richards' various attempts to find a cure to his condition will never work, or if so always be reversed. This is lampshaded in Marvel 1602 where Reed Richards, theorizing that stories are laws of the universe, states that a cure for Benjamin wouldn't last long since he's much more interesting the way he is.
Not only can Doctor Doomnever be killed for real, but he'll never lose control over Latveria for too long, since him being King and Dictator is a very important part of the character's concept. Is there such a thing as Joker Diplomatic Immunity? Also, his face will never get better, though this seems to be a conscious decision on his part so that he'll always have a permanent reminder of Reed's "crimes" against him.
Speaking of Spider-Man... As of the Spider Island arc, his current girlfriend dumped him, the psychic block preventing people from learning his secret identity is gone, and he and MJ have decided to rekindle their relationship. It also gave Spider-Girl back her powers, which she had lost a few years ago, and Eddie Brock is no longer Anti-Venom.
Spider-Man has also gained new abilities at several times over the years (such as poisonous stingers from his forearms and organic webbing like inthe movies). He always loses these quickly enough and reverts to his original Stan Lee / Steve Ditko powerset.
Batman/Spider-Man villains thrive on this policy. The Joker especially, who has a trope named after him. He can kill and destroy as many lives as he wants, and all Bats does is punch him a few times and send him back to an easily escapable prison/asylum. He'll always be there to menace the Bat, and the ramifications of this continual (and destructive) cycle never seem to dawn on the Caped Crusader's mind.
Similar to Ben Grimm's situation further above, poor Bruce Banner will always be the Hulk. He will never find a permanent cure, and because of that, he and Betty Ross will most likely always be Star-Crossed Lovers.
Villains are generally hard-hit with this trope in comics if they ever try a Heel-Face Turn. No matter how much Character Development they're given, somewhere along the line someone will decide that they were "more interesting" as a villain and send them right back to knocking over banks or trying to murder the heroes again, with little to no explanation as to why they've gone back to their old ways.
This was why there was a sense that Loki would eventually go back to his usual self when reverted to childhood with about half his memories, practically worshipping The Mighty Thor. Much of the impact of the arc was not from wondering if the change would stick, but on the possible effects once things reverted to Status Quo. The writer of Thor (renamed Journey into Mystery) indicated that Loki turning evil again WAS NOT a foregone conclusion. Thor destroyed the Ragnarok cycle which contained the writings that decreed the destinies of the Asgardians, enabling all of them to Screw Destiny, Loki included. Since then, Loki has returned to his old ways. The writer says he chose to end the story with Loki's return to evil because he knew that if he didn't, someone else would come along and do it anyway. And at least if Loki fell from grace under his pen, he could do it in a suitably emotional manner. "So-and-so IS NOT a foregone conclusion" has been said numerous times (see Joe Quesada talking about the Spider-Man identity reveal, saying "it won't just be undone by magic a year later." So take any promise of permanence with a gigantic grain of salt.
Sometimes, the more psychotic villains of comics will be an inch away from winning, when they realize that defeating their long-time nemesis feels too weird or empty. They willingly give up and surrender, eliminating any trauma that they may be inflicting on the hero, and destroying any chance of power or control through victory.
An almost appalling example of this is shown with the Barbara Gordon incarnation of Batgirl. In the well-acclaimed graphic novel The Killing Joke, she was shot in the spine by The Joker, rendering her permanently paralyzed. Barbara then took on the persona of Oracle, working behind the scenes to aid the Bat-Family with her hacking skills and computer expertise. But after the 2011 reboot New 52, Barbara was back on her legs as Batgirl.
The Archie ComicsLove Showdown storyline promised that Archie would chose either Betty or Veronica once and for all. The four part story ends with him choosing Third Option Love Interest, but was followed up with a special that reset the situation back to normal.
In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, the Eggman that Sonic's been fighting is from another universe. When Sonic told Zonic the Zone Cop about this in #197, he didn't care, because "Sonic Prime has to fight a Robotnik."
Les Légendaires is probably the only case where this trope is played straight and averted at the same time: the heroes' main goal is to break the curse that turned everyone on their world into children, for the length of the story, they are not allowed to succeed, or there would no longer be any main plot. On the other hand, the characters and their universe do go through changes. Except for Book 5 and 6, none of the change are ever removed. The most notable time this trope is defied is the Anathos Cycle, which involves the main characters are savagely scarred and crippled, their leader becomes a villain then dying, their Arch-Enemy losing his Joker Immunity to be finally Killed Off for Real, the protagonists getting new powers and looks, and, finally, getting their reputation reestablished. All those change are permanent, and there were no Reset Button.
Lampshaded in one Nodwick strip in Dragon, in which Nodwick has been bouncing back and forth in time trying to save the universe from the Unnamable, and has taken several levels in badass as a result, becoming a mutliclassed wizard-cleric-fighter. The strip ends with Artax reassuring Yeagar that once the Unnamable's been dealt with they can wipe his brain, because having him be better than them at everything is just embarrassing.
Stick to the Foaluma is this trope Played for Drama in a terrifying fashion. Silver Spoon begins to realize how her and Diamond's lives seem to revolve around torturing the CMC and tries to change it...only for the computer controlling the show to literally press the Reset Button and Ret Gones it completely.
Films - Animated
This is at the heart of Wreck-It Ralph. By the end of the movie, Ralph accepts this, but everything he's gone through by that point helps him understand the importance of his particular status and even earns him the respect he duly reserved. After all, plainly put, a video game like his literally can't function without him. Having finally gained a real true friend after it all helps too.
Before The Dark Knight Saga you could expect all Batman movies to have the main villain dead, with Gotham saved. And Bruce Wayne would always get a new girlfriend, only to end up single again for the next movie. The notable exception is Batman & Robin; both villains are alive at the end although both are incarcerated and one has reformed.
For the first sequel, it was another Godzilla, just according to keikaku and predicted by Dr. Yamane in the first Godzilla film. For the rest of the Showa series, he was never permanently defeated, but merely came back throughout one loose but traceable continuity. Other times (like the Return of Godzilla and most of the Millennium films) it was an alternate continuity, sometimes even altering the in-universe events of the films they included. This case could be more Strictly Formula than Status Quo Is God.
Comic book writers like to subvert this. In Planetary the Four kill off the Kaiju in their crusade against weird, and in Marvel Civil War it was explained that the arrival of Japanese Superheroes allowed Japan to put an end to its Kaiju attacks. Moral of the Story: the way to kill off a status quo is with another status quo.
Indiana Jones: see James Bond. He finds lost treasures, and they're never heard from again. The Lost Ark? After its display of power, The Government packs it away and nothing bad happens despite the biblical prophecy that anyone who kept the Ark from the rightful Israelites would suffer God's wrath. The Shankara Stones? It's just a rock without the others (and, uh, no one ever will go down to that river). The Holy Grail? Trapped behind a cursed barrier. The Crystal Skull? Reunites with its body, and flies off to space... and another dimension.
James Bond never changed his name or call number, even after 40 years of the original (Dr. No-Die Another Day) continuity, countless adventures, and five different actors. Never received any permanent scars or disabilities from battle wounds. Never married (for long), fathered children, caught a disease, or even gets a morning-after call from the Bond Girls he slept with in previous movies. Any new techno-toys Q gave him would vanish before the next movie.
This only really started with the Roger Moore films. The Connery films (and Lazenby's sole outing) had a loose story arc revolving around Bond taking on Blofeld and SPECTRE.
One fanon explanation is that "007" is "James Bond" ... that is, whether the current agent with designation 007 looks like Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan, his identity documents still say "James Bond." It's not a good explanation ("Hey, somebody named "James Bond" just booked a suite in our hotel." "Great, shoot him when he checks in."), but it's an explanation.
An in-story example: In The Matrix trilogy, it's revealed that the humans and machines have gone through several cycles of rebellion and war, always returning to the status quo in between.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan features this; in the original episode "Space Seed," the evil Khan learns his lesson, and goes away with a happy ending; meanwhile in the first Star Trek movie, many developments are made to characters and technology. However in this sequel, Khan is back to his evil old self, and likewise most other things are back the way they were before.
This goes double for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; in Star Trek II, Spock died, and Kirk's son was introduced, along with his terraforming "Genesis Device;" however at the end of the movie, all of these are undone by the plot: Spock is brought back to life, Kirk's son is killed, and the Genesis Device is no more.
Star Trek III also introduced "trans-warp drive," and destroys the Enterprise. In Star Trek IV... well, you get the picture.
X-Men: The Last Stand seemed like this. During the movie, several characters died (including Professor X!) and many more were "cured" of their powers. Two scenes at the end hint that 1. Xavier downloaded his mind into a catatonic body and 2. Magneto and the others are recovering their powers, meaning the only changes that stick are Scott and Phoenix's deaths. And since Phoenix came back once...
Pleasantly and surprisingly averted in The Wolverine. Taking quite a bit of adamantium from Wolverine's claws right before a major installment coming up takes some balls from the creators. However the movie also plays this straight. Magneto is confirmed to have regained his powers, while Professor X is back. And in the wheelchair. Presumably, this will all be explained in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Slasher Movie franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street live on this trope. No matter how obviously super-duper-dead Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger are at the end of one film, they'll be back for the next one with no actual impairment to their abilities.
The entire point of The Wheel of Time series is that this trope is almost literal truth. The Creator made the Wheel of Time and, by design, it makes time cyclical and all major events will eventually happen again and again in some fashion, without end. The Big Bad seeks to destroy the Wheel of Time, which would upset the status quo. The good guys seek to prevent this, so maintenance of the status quo is the Good Guy Prime Directive.
The fact that the Wheel of Time can only be destroyed by destroying the universe might also have something to do with it.
The Red Dwarf novel Backwards, written by Rob Grant (who co-wrote the original six seasons of the television show). In this book, the "best end" Grant could come up with was having everything revert to as it is in the TV series, in spite of two of the cast dying and the other two being reverted in age by 10 years.
The novels of P. G. Wodehouse, which typically begin with a disruption of the status quo — an engagement broken off, a cook threatening to resign, Bertie growing a moustache — and end with its restoration. Jeeves is the archetypal status quo-restorer.
Live Action TV
In House, on three separate occasions House regains the use of his leg without pain and no longer has to walk with a cane, but due to various circumstances he never stays that way. Twice he rejected a method of eliminating the pain, believing that his own personal misery was a necessary ingredient for doing the job well.
Similarly, House has a vicodin addiction for most of the series, and while he does remain clean of vicodin for more than a season, he eventually does start taking it again.
Saved by the Bell was the king of this, with new girlfriends constantly introduced for Zack and disappearing after their one episode. There was the case of the homeless girl who, along with her father was about to move into Zack's house, as well as Slater's previously unseen sister. While Lisa didn't disappear after the episode where she and Zack started dating, the relationship was dropped after one episode. The only non-main cast girlfriend to stick around was Stacy during the "Malibu Sands" mini-season, and she was never mentioned after the Malibu Sands recap episode at the beginning of the senior year season. Earlier, Violet disappeared without explanation after a several episode run that left Screech without his girlfriend and pining for Lisa again.
iCarly: Every plot that involves a conflict between Carly and Sam, or a certain incident threatens the loss of one of the ¡Three Amigos! ends up being resolved on the same episode.
They finally had an ongoing plot-arc during the iSeddie Season 5, but after the pairing broke up, they have mentioned it exactly once and never again.
Austin & Ally: The Zalien episode set up a sort of Odd Friendship for Dez and Trish... which promptly crashes at the end of the episode.
It's averted with the 'Starr Records' plot-line in the final two episodes of Season 1. You'd expect something to go disastrously wrong so that Austin can remain an independent singer trying to reach for the stars but nothing does. He signs a record deal. He has a record made. They release the CD and have a launch party, and remark at the end of Albums & Auditions that with Austin moving up in the music world that things will be changing.
Played straight with Ally's plot in Albums & Auditions. The Power of Friendship makes her decide to stay in Miami instead of leaving to go to New York for music school.
JAG & NCIS: Both has a strong emphasis on character development, continuity, and story arcs, so this trope really just applies to some aspects of the shows. Any attempt to dissolve the teams is crushed mercilessly or repaired by the season premiere and any new Love Interest is evil.
Often Played for Laughs on Arrested Development, whenever the narrator says "next time on Arrested Development." What he says will happen never happens in the next show, but is most often a brief explanation how everything ends up exactly the way it was before in time for the next episode. For example, when Micheal set fire to the Banana stand, he is shown rebuilding it during the "next time." When he was arrested after a misunderstanding involving the forced abduction of a Hispanic housekeeper, he is shown being set free because she could not identify him in a police lineup.
Power Rangers both follows and averts this trope. Most of the time, the monster is defeated, and things go back to normal (with any damage being repaired by next episode). But there's times when they get new Zords, a new ranger, or a new Big Bad, who tends to stick around until the end of the season.
According to producer Ron Moore, the new Battlestar Galactica makes a conscious effort to avert this trope, the idea being to introduce irrevocable change on a regular basis so the show doesn't stagnate and become the same episode over and over again. Some viewers naturally experience possible side-effects.
The original Battlestar Galactica played this trope straight for the most part, with the exception of having Baltar captured halfway through its run and frequently being visited in the Prison Barge whenever the heroes needed him for information. And adding a few new regular and recurring characters such as Sheba. The status quo of the Fleet leaving the colonies in search of Earth (and never really finding it) remained unchanged up until the final episode.
Gilligan's Island: Obviously this series was built entirely around this trope — i.e. it's all about how they want to get off the island; but that would end the series, so it can't possibly happen.
Years after the series ended, there was a special where they did get off the island. There was a sequel to the special, as well, where they returned to the island and converted it into a tourist destination.
In the television movie Rescue From Gilligan's Island, Gilligan finds a valuable piece of an exploded satellite, a tsunami washes everyone off the island, they return home, there's secret agent shenanigans, and at the end they all go on another boat trip, get caught in a hurricane... and wind up right back on the island.
Gilmore Girls suffered from this to an extreme, it was bad enough that essentially nothing ever happened in a general sense but the arcs relating to various boyfriends especially were forgone conclusions. No matter what it was never going to work out.
Glee. Dear God in Heaven, Glee. No matter how emphatically Rachel walks out of the club, Finn makes out with...someone new, or Kurt is compassionate to his bully Karofsky, by the end of the episode it will all be back. Even Kurt changing schools only lasted a few episodes.
The glee club is persistently considered to be unpopular despite repeated incidents of them being the focus of rapturous responses from the student body at some of their performances. Santana even thought she could win enough votes to become prom queen by getting Kurt to come back to McKinley after he went to Dalton. Even though both before and after his return much was made of how much homophobic hostility towards him there was from the student body, and the question of why, if the students hate the glee club, they should care about improving their chances at Nationals.
Psych. Shawn and Jules and their relationship. They've never really displayed any overt affection towards each other, but Shawn has turned down some relationships with characters that would obviously change the dynamic of the show because of some unspoken thing that they'll get together eventually.
This season Shawn has a girlfriend and Jules is starting to be open with her feelings for Shawn as well so this may change soon.
The finale minutes of the last episode before the mid season 5 break had Shawn and Jules finally kissing, just as Jules was beginning to seriously date Declan (Shawn 2.0)
Burn Notice. Whatever happens and whatever Mike does, he's going to stay in Miami. The change is in how Mike deals with it, and by the middle of season three, he's reconciled himself to giving up figuring out who burned him.
Lampshaded when Mike returns at the beginning of Season Four, only to find Sam and Fi are already embroiled in a case-of-the-week as if he had not disappeared into a secret prison for several weeks. He protests this, and Fiona reveals they'd taken a client out of respect to him and his memory.
British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf tends to subscribe to this most of the time. It doesn't matter if one of the crew is turned from robot to human, or if reality itself is collapsing, status quo will almost always return. Exceptions are made for the start of the 6th, 7th and 8th seasons, where a new Status Quo will be applied for the rest of that season, no matter how little sense it makes. This even includes bringing back a former character, who had left to go hop around the multiverse at random. However, because it's a scifi-sitcom, this series has a decent excuse.
They do kind of make a lame attempt to explain the changes (they're in Starbug now because Lister forgot what planet he parked Red Dwarf behind?), but the start of Season 7 is particular egregious considering the way 6 ended.
Seven Days has essentially no character development. Frank and Olga never get their relationship past the flirting phase. Donovan never gets to backstep (or do much of anything else). Ramsey still hates Frank's guts all throughout the series even though Frank stuck out his neck to protect him on multiple occasions.
It's partly, though not entirely, justified by the show's Time Travel premise: that virtually all the onscreen character development gets reset-buttoned at the end of every single episode must make the situation infuriating for Frank, since he's the only one who can remember any of it.
As irritating as this trope can be in light-hearted series, it's even moreso in serious drama. Spooks has managed to hit both this trope and Anyone Can Die, the latter for destroying half of south-east England, murdering the Royal Family, killing the parliament and leaving one of their main cast on death's door, before revealing the whole thing was a training exercise.
To be fair, it was explained to be such at the start of the episode.
An accusation sometimes leveled at Star Trek: Voyager. Stranded 70 years from home, with corridors and shuttles being blown to crap every week, and the ship is in mint condition by next episode. Few characters were promoted, despite many displaying competence that is wildly out of proportion to their rank. Doubtless this was due to TNG's mammoth success in syndication, where viewers could jump into the show at dinnertime and not miss anything.
SFDebris: What would it have hurt to make changes to Seven - to have her grow even a little - half a dozen episodes before the end of the series, after you've been teasing it for years? Then again, this is a show about getting home that cut to the credits before they reached it. So for all we know, Voyager got hit by an asteroid before it reached Earth, and Janeway was the only survivor.
Perhaps the most outrageous example comes from the episode "Deadlock." The ep kicks off with the surprise deaths of Harry Kim and Ensign Wildman's newborn baby daughter Naomi. This major story development is quickly averted via the convenient splitting of Voyager and its crew into two identical ones. Said duplication sticks around just long enough to fill out the episode's runtime, after which it is destroyed, and all the duplicates die...except for the doubles of Harry and Naomi. Janeway had ordered this Harry to take the baby over to the other Voyager. In other words, she wanted them to replace the dead ones just before she self-destructs her ship to save it from the bad guys. Everyone on the ship treats him as if he were the original and no one ever mentions it again.
It helps that the duplicate was created that same day; its not like their memories or histories were different. "Duplicate" isn't exactly the right term: the ship was split into two parallel versions occupying the same space; neither was more "real" than the other.
Another episode dealt with the "Year of Hell," which was foreseen by Kes, yet no one remembers to steer away from the race that started it. The year gets progressively worse, killing most of Voyager's crew, most of the survivors leaving on shuttles, and Voyager itself quickly losing power. Janeway initiates a Reset Button by ramming the enemy ship with Voyager. Since the Doomsday Weapon was based on altering time, it's destruction reset the entire year, and Janeway making the decision to go around. (Her words just before ramming: "I wouldn't mind forgetting that this entire year ever happened.")
Deep Space Nine eventually decided this as well. In the episode "Hard Time", O'Brien is convicted of a crime and sentenced to live twenty years in prison... and is then given the memories of a twenty year stint in a maximum security prison that included every bad event you can imagine happening in such a place. The rest of the episode deals with the fact that, even though he physically was never in prison, he still has PTSD and his behavior patterns are now those of a ruthless prisoner and how he has trouble relating to his wife and friends anymore, and so on. This traumatic, life-changing event, or it supposedly long-term effects, are never mentioned again once the episode is over with no explanation as to why it suddenly goes away other than "a different writer is penning the next episode."
"Tuvix" is a prime example. Reviewer Tim Lynch said that the reason Janeway decided to destroy Tuvix and restore Neelix and Tuvok despite the ship being better off without them and most of the crew loving him is that Ethan Phillips and Tim Russ had contracts.
Two especially blatant instances of shoving things back into status quo in the original series can be found in the episodes "Operation - Annihilate!" and "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky". In the former, Spock is afflicted by an alien parasite, and it is discovered that extremely bright light can kill it without harming the host. Well, except for rendering Spock permanently blind. Mere minutes from the end Spock suddenly turns up on the bridge with his eyesight restored, and it is handwaved by explaining that Vulcans have a secondary inner eyelid which protected him from permanent blindness. Said physical feature was never mentioned before, and never brought up again until late in Enterprise. In the beginning of "For the World is Hollow...", we learn that McCoy has a rare incurable disease which will kill him within a year. Wouldn't you know it, the new civilization the Enterprise encounters in the episode has advanced medical knowledge which just happens to include a cure for that very disease.
Although the plots implicitly offer up an unlimited number of hilarious, deliciously complex, irony-steeped Aesops, the characters never, ever learn anything from them and in every episode they are as shallow and petty as they were in the previous one. In fact, in nine years of adventures, the only change they ever went through was that by the Finale they ran out of new things to talk about and started repeating what they had been talking about in the Pilot.
The show even had a season long arc playing with and lampshading this trope. Season 7 began with George and Jerry coming to a mutal realization that they both need to grow up and stop acting so immature and petty, and the two of them make a pact to turn themselves around. This leads George to propose to his old Girlfriend Susan, meanwhile, Kramer talks Jerry out of his half of the pact, and George spends the rest of the season trying to regain Status Quo by getting out of the engagement to Susan.
Lampshaded by That '70s Show. Kelso complains at length that he's gone for the entire summer and nothing's changed. The minute he leaves, Jackie and Hyde are all over each other.
If Status Quo Is God, Babylon 5 regularly commits deicide. Drastic, lasting changes often occur from episode to episode. Even in one relatively standalone episode from Season 2, a race is killed off. This is the series that gave us the trope name for Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Several of the actors commented that it was a great show to work on because they never knew what would be happening next and it was a given that their characters would change significantly over the course of the show's events.
When's the last time an episode of Monk changed something in the continuity? Even the "Trudy bomb" is losing its impact because the last several episodes that involved her case in some way didn't change anything or reveal anything. Monk has been mired in its' own status quo for quite a long time, and the season finales haven't really changed anything.
Merlin. It wasn't so apparent in series one, because nothing terribly earth-shattering happened, but then the last episode made it look like things were finally going to get shaken up a little, only to reverse it all at the start of series two - Merlin is forced to go back on his vow not to speak to the dragon again; Morgana finds out for certain about her magic, freaks out, and runs away, but at the end of the episode she's back and things are more or less exactly as they were; Gwen and Arthur start to fall in love, only to agree that it wouldn't work out; Merlin gets a girlfriend and vows to run away with her, but by the end of the episode she's dead, and the chances are he'll be over it by next week, And then worst of all, Arthur finds out the truth about his birth and tries to kill his father, only to be persuaded it was all a lie and go back to his 'all magic is evil' attitude. However, it looks like this may possibly change soon - at some point this series, the dragon is going to be released.
Thankfully, well and truly shattered by The Fires of Idirsholas - the Dragon has been released, and will shortly wreak havoc on Camelot. Morgana has left with Morgause after Merlin ''tries to poison her''.
Season four has seen the writers avert this trope entirely, killing off Lancelot and Uther within the first couple of episodes. However the introduction of Agravaine lessened this somewhat, as it meant that Merlin and Gaius still had to deal with a traitor only they knew was evil, Morgana was still able to manipulate Camelot from behind the scenes, and Arthur still had a mentor figure constantly encouraging him to make bad decisions.
Season five also has the writers averting this trope, as they kill Eylan off in the middle of the season.
However, when Gwen became evil and a servant of Morgana, she was inevitably cured.
The status quo of no-one knowing about Merlin's powers was kept right up until the end: Morgana didn't find out until the end of the antepenultimate episode and Arthur and Gwen didn't find out until the last episode, during which Merlin and Gwen never meet anyway.
The Mighty Boosh has Howard Moon. An unwritten rule seems to be that anything that could possibly maybe lead to him being happy will be killed off or revealed to be some horrible prank.
Roseanne arguably played this relatively straight for eight seasons, then in the last season decided to avert it entirely, with the Conners winning the lottery, not losing it by the end of the episode. They remained rich until the end of the season when it was revealed that Roseanne had been making up the entire thing to try and cope with Dan's death. Many believe all of this to be the point where the show jumped the shark, showing that tropes are not bad.
Eureka averted it in a bold move; despite some sacrifices (Poor Jo Lupo) when the 4th season saw them travel through time and permanently alter their present, introducing Grant from the year 1947 and making reassigning Lupo and Fargo to superior roles.
The Big Bang Theory. While it does have some story and character arcs, there are a surprising amount of Filler episodes in which something will upset the balance of the main characters lives only to be completely ignored forever after. A couple of examples are the girl who moved in upstairs and became something of a rival to Girl Next Door Penny (but she disappears in the next episode and is never heard from again) and the trip the four guys take to the arctic (they are instantly back at the beginning of the next episode with very little lasting change).
Even lampshaded by Sheldon. After Amy kisses him while drunk,, he suggests they treat their relationship like a malfunctioning computer and restore it to the last point they both agree that it worked (which, given that this is Sheldon we're talking about, is quite a mature thing to suggest).
In the fourth season finale, it is shown that Penny slept with Raj. Cut to the next season, after one episode, everything is back to normal again.
Turns out they didn't actually have sex after all.
Lampshaded on an episode of Cheers, when an old man came into the bar and commented on how he hadn't been there in 20 years, and noted how many things had changed— including, he said, "the wallpaper behind Norm."
In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Blitzgiving," we are introduced to Ted and Marshall's college buddy "The Blitz," who possesses a curse that makes awesome things happen... right after he leaves a room. Over the course of the episode, the curse is passed to Ted, then Barney, but it returns to The Blitz during the end credits.
While many aspects do change in the show, there are at least two things that remain the same. The first is it will not take long before a Brought Down to Normal Clark regains his powers. The second is that the people who are destined to know he has powers will be the only ones to keep that information. When Clark wanted Jor-El to restore Chloe's memories without her knowing his secret, Chloe remembered two episodes later. The characters who aren't supposed to know will have Easy Amnesia.
In a short-term example, Clark spent an awful lot of time keeping Lex and Tess alive because they were on the opening titles, while letting Villains of the Week who were a lot less dangerous than them die.
The goal of the leads in Person of Interest is to resolve bad situations. At the same time, they know going into it they will ultimately fail and die having only made minor changes in the world.
Community seems to be averting this trope. In the run up to the end of season 3, they've killed off a minor character, given Chang military control over the school, replaced the dean with a look-a-like to do Chang's bidding, and expelled the main characters!
Ultimately played straight since, as of the season finale; everyone has been reinstated, Chang has been fired, the Dean is back, and Star-Burns is revealed to have faked his death.
Lampshaded on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; one season ended with Will moving back to Philadelphia. The next season started with NBC studio execs showing up to kidnap him and drag him back to Bel Air, and the whole thing was never mentioned again.
At the beginning of the fourth season of Modern Family, the Dunphys' eldest daughter, Haley, leaves to go to college, a move which she'd realistically spent a lot of her time worrying about the previous season. Four episodes later, however, she gets arrested trying to flee a party and is ... expelled from school, allowing her to live at home again.
In MythQuest, the kids have to be extremely careful to not change the myths that they go into, as changing the story in the myth world changes it in the real world as well, and after a short amount of time, within memory as well. This tends to have ripple effects, one of which is to make escaping the myth world easier for Gorgos.
Supernatural: Anything that could potentially separate Sam and Dean, be it a bad argument, demon trickery, a trip to Purgatory, or death, will be quickly resolved because Sam and Dean just can't be apart. If it cannot be fixed quickly in-universe, they will use a Time Skip. The show is currently on it's ninth season and the longest they've ever been separated is two episodes ("Free To Be You And Me" and "The End" in season 5).
Or, averted in that this has been entirely intentional on their part and the effort they put into staying together has changed many major setting and plot elements and the dynamics of their relationship in some very persistent ways despite their openly stated determination not to change. If you try to watch the series out of order their relationship will seem quite arbitrary to the point of being outright schizophrenic.
Another case, the season 8 finale ended with Castiel losing his angelic powers. The season 9 premiere introduced Ezekiel, another angel who allies with the heroes. Nine episodes later, he's revealed to be a bad guy. In the same episode, Cas gets his powers back. As much as Word of God complains about the Story Breaker Power of the angels, they sure don't want to not have one around to help clean up after Sam and Dean.
24 is a show that generally does change its status quo up, there does seem to be one universal rule to that always has to be kept. Jack Bauer can never be happy, probably because True Art Is Angsty or something like that. Any time he is in even a remotely good mood or has something to keep him moving on, it will be violently taken away from him.
For the majority of the series it seems that the one other constant was Jack working with the CTU no matter what. This hit especially hard in both the fourth and sixth seasons, both which tried to have Jack go in different places but soon saw him working with it again all too quickly. After that, the series made sure to avoid this: Season 7 averted things by not having the CTU appear at all, while Season 8 subverted things by having him once again work with them (albeit their New York City branch this time around) and then had him split off just a little halfway through, becoming a borderline terrorist in order to get the bad guys on his own. The upcoming Live Another Day mini-series, which many fans are calling "Season 9" is averting this as well, as things will be taking place entirely in London.
Wizards of Waverly Place is very good at avoiding this, given its strong sense of continuity. The only instance where this trope was invoked was with the dragon dog.
Family Matters, in addition to being the poster child for Aesop Amnesia, often had Urkel do some pretty extreme damage to the Winslows' house. From shooting through their roof with a jet pack to destroying their entire garage. By the next scene(!), everything would be completely repaired and said damage would never be mentioned again.
No matter what happened, or what kind of creature the sisters got turned into (be them vampires, warlocks, valkyries or even demons), by the end of the episode the transformation was undone.
Subverted in "Crime and Witch-demeanors" where Phoebe is stripped of her powers, not regaining her premonition until the next season.
In the Season 6 premiere of Castle, Beckett accepts a job in Washington, DC. It takes but four episodes for her to be back as an NYC police detective, and that's only because budget cuts prevented her from returning to duty immediately upon being fired from her DC job in the 3rd episode.
Frasier has flipped between playing the trope straight and inverting it. For example, the end of Season Five has the radio personalities getting fired. Frasier, however, is never able to find a permanent girlfriend so he can remain a bachelor. Ditto Martin, until the end of the series when it doesn't matter anymore.
Invoked in an Over the Hedge story arc in which Verne is made over by RJ in an attempt to humiliate him, but ends up making him popular with the ladies (or as RJ puts it, turned him into Hugh Heffner). This somehow upsets nature, and the Nature Police arrest him, but he gives Hammy an energy drink, enabling him to go back and stop the makeover from happening, but it not only has the present day have two Hammys, but also has them, Verne, and RJ speak backwards (represented by backwards text).
The new edition of Warhammer 40,000 states that mankind has entered the Time of Ending, with the long-awaited fall of the Imperium imminent. Fans weren't fooled, since the in-universe calendar was actually rewound by about 4 decades in order to make the "Time of Ending" take place before year 41000. As always, The End of the World as We Know It is still very, very unlikely.
On the other hand, the series has seen the introduction of new races, and changes to old ones — the Tyranids, for example, are a vastly different force from the Genestealer infiltrators that first attacked the Imperium.
Warhammer Fantasy does this too, to the point where it gets kind of silly. The final battle of the Storm of Chaos ends when an enemy why had gone almost entirely unmentioned (and in game terms had been marginalized for months) shows up, attacks another villain from behind and leaves. And the other villain leaves. And then a third villain leaves, despite being guaranteed an easy victory. Why? Because otherwise the game world would need to change.
The rules of both systems managed to avert this to some extent. 8th edition fantasy shook up the way the rules had worked for years in a huge way and 5th edition 40k altered things to a big extent too.
White Wolf is not fond of this trope. In the Old World of Darkness, any apocalypse foretold in a gameline would come to pass when that game went out of print, ending with the Time of Fire when the oWoD ended. The New World of Darkness is designed as a more static universe.
Scion has the Overworld War take noticeable steps between the three main books.
Exalted is even more blunt about shooting this trope in the face. In the second book they ever published, they made it abundantly clear that the metaplot would not be moving forward canonically from the Day 0 of Realm Year 768, as the characters are intended to deform and reshape the setting around them in their image. More detail has been given about the setting as it stands—mostly to provide new and interesting ways for Creation to go to Hell in one way or another, or for players to fight against it—but nothing has definitively gone forward and progressed information on the inside of the core book. Actually, in Exalted, Status Quo may well be God. On the other hand, starting characters can start off with a power suite to murder the gods.
3e does project what could happen in the years following Day 0, showing how Creation changes over time, but again the characters are fully expected to crash in and shake things up.
In the CD&D Hollow World game-setting, the Immortals (CD&D's deity-Expys) slapped an extremely powerful spell on the place to ensure that cultures preserved within it wouldn't change.
BattleTech seems to avert this with the different eras (Star League, Clan Invasion, Jihad, etc...), but plays one constant straight: Don't expect anything that threatens to seriously shift the overall deadlock to last for very long. In fact, it's usually the point where everybody goes back to shooting each other that begins and/or ends each Era.
Likewise, other factions may come and go, but the five Great Houses that were introduced first (Davion, Kurita, Liao, Marik and Steiner) are clearly here to stay and remain in charge of their respective Successor States roughly until the heat death of the universe. The Free Worlds League may currently (as of this writing) look like it's falling apart, but it's really just a matter of time before it pulls itself back together with once again some scion or other of the extended Marik family at the helm.
EverQuest II, for example, has occasional events that change the political landscape of the world, usually coinciding with expansions. Gameplay doesn't change much unless you're in one of the new starter cities, but the status quo is sometimes allowed to change.
Also, EVE Online. Player organizations can and do control large areas of the game, and ownership changes all the time depending on how the latest war is going.
Kingdom of Loathing lampshades this by revealing that nothing (almost) the player can do has an effect on the place. The exception is found in some site-wide events, in which you have a choice on which side to choose. The more you work for that side, the better the outcome for you.
Since The Lord of the Rings Online is based on, well, The Lord of the Rings, it's fairly obvious that changing the main storyline is verboten. The game manages, though, to suggest that the player is responsible for several background events mentioned in the books, and the main Fellowship characters appear in several locations in-game to request your help. For example, Aragorn appears in Bree and in Rivendell among other locations, and even where he's not actually present, the NPCs you run into will refer to him as if he is either expected at any moment (and you need to do something to make his arrival possible) or has just passed through (and left a message for you to gather 15 Orc Macguffins to break some curse or whatever). Whether the Fellowship "is about to arrive" or "has just left" in any given area depends on exactly where you are in the quest chain.
In Plane Shift, since the game hasn't reached version 1 yet, time is officially frozen and all changes to the world are accomplished via Retcon. The only exception is the brief "Crystal Eclipse" storyline that bridged versions 0.3 and 0.4, which introduced two new gods and left a definite mark on the game's history.
City of Heroes flirts with this from time to time. While some villain groups have seen sufficient progress (especially the Fifth Column's eventual destruction and reformation into the Council), many fans have wondered just * how* many times, say, Countess Crey has to get arrested for murdering the original Countess Crey and taking her place for it to stick. The game never offers a reason why she's said to be in jail at the end of the story arc, but gamewise, her company and her persona are still just as effectively evil as ever.
Tabula Rasa was a bit of an exception - for example, there were bases which were constantly changing ownership as each of the opposing sides stormed to take it back. This did have some effects on gameplay, though they weren't so huge (when the base wasn't yours you couldn't use it's teleporter or shops and you also lost access to the mission givers there, so sometimes you had to mount an attack on enemy position just to get a quest if you were unlucky). TR never grown as much as Richard Garriot intended, so we might have seen more examples of this if they didn't discontinue it. And also, to an extent, the original Ultima Online allowed players to build their own houses and in some cases whole cities (on some shards). One such shard was meant as a fairly realistic world, so it had complicated population replenishment, even migration and such and just as the official real economy (just like EVE Online above).
RuneScape averts this, as several quests feature prominent nonplayer characters dying and leaving new characters to take their place. Additionally, one quest requires the player to steal several public statues for a garden, after the quest these now empty statue plinths remain permanently unoccupied.
World of Warcraft jumped up and down averting this trope (at least partially) in the Cataclysm expansion which completely remade the original zones (though not those of the other expansions) as well as heavy use of phasing technology to allow players' actions to cause changes to the world, if only for themselves.
The RPG Betrayal at Krondor is all about the effort of a certain dark elf to bring peace to his race and put an end to hostile relations between humans and dark elves that have been going on forever. The game is based on The Riftwar Cycle and its plot was canonised in a novelisation. Two hundred years later in the series, nothing much has changed about the dark elves.
Similarly Status Quo is enforced by a God in the Zelda series as established by The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Every time Link and Zelda reincarnate, Ganon, or another evil with Demise's'blin army, will reincarnate to threaten them at least once. Which is a weird sort of anticipatory revenge since the evil force always manifests as someone at least a generation older than they are.
Sonic Adventure had some character development for Tails (who decides to do things on his own now instead of relying on Sonic all of the time) and Amy (who says that she's "going to make that Sonic respect me!" instead of just following him around everywhere like a crazed fangirl) that was conveniently absent come Sonic Adventure 2.
In Sonic Adventure 2 (and the Bioware handheld RPG Sonic Chronicles) Tails comes across much more as a hero in his own right, even leading the freedom fighters in Sonic's absence. He returned to sidekick in Sonic Heroes (where, strangely, Amy seems to have retained some degree of her new action girl persona even though she still chases after Sonic).
Almost every Sonic the Hedgehog game is this (except for various sub-series and directly tied sequels).
99% of Castlevania games have Dracula as the final boss. 98.9% of them have this, WITH the second last boss as Death as well.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has both (as you fight Dracula and Death at the same time; you can have two characters, so why shouldn't they as well?), which is at best a minor subversion.
Touhou: Major events happen an average of once a year in Gensoukyou, but nothing major has changed, beyond the introduction of some new factions... there's been a lot of minor changes, and the world currently looks fairly different than it did at the start. But the basic status quo of a broke miko defending the lone human village in a land of youkai hasn't changed, and is unlikely to.
No matter how many times Phoenix Wright manages to find the right killer, get the information out of someone, beat an "unbeatable" lawyer, or just generally be proven right, by the next game/case he's still a flat-broke Butt Monkey of a lawyer who nobody takes seriously except for Maya, Pearl, and (sometimes) Gumshoe. Well, except in Apollo Justice where he's a Bad Ass, crazily prepared, Guile HeroChessmaster.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy has a rare in-universe case of this. The heroes and villains have been waging war in the name of their gods for a while now, but every time one side comes within reach of winning, Shinryu resets everything back the way it used to be, starting the war over again. This is because Shinryu made a deal with Cid, aka the Narrator, that he would keep the war going forever in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in order to temper Chaos into the ultimate force of destruction. In this case, God is in fact, keeping the status quo!
Tekken - Averted. As of the sixth game, the storyline spans three decades and it shows. Technology evolves, characters age, return or not, and some are outright Killed Off for Real.
The Warcraft universe averts. With every game and addon the political and geographical landscape gets severely altered, with new factions arising as fast as others get obliterated and cities and worlds are taken off the map.
Crysis features C.E.L.L, a group of Obviously EvilPrivate Military Contractors responsible for gunning down the innocent New York plague victims they were supposed to be protecting. By the end of the second game they have been thoroughly crushed by the player character, the aliens, and the US Marine forces, with both their field commander and their CEO dead and their remaining shareholders on trail for war crimes. Their main base of operations has had its Self-Destruct Mechanism pushed, and all their remaining hardware has been commandeered by the Marines. So they're out of the picture for good, right? Nope. They're fully operational 20 years later in Crysis 3, having suffered no penalty from the government and with more than enough resources to attempt a Take Over the World plot.
In I Miss the Sunrise, many of your crewmates' final personal scenes are built up to seem like they will be making major changes to themselves or the world, but these plans are always prevented or shut down for various reasons. Some characters' subplots do get proper resolutions in the ending, though.
No matter what Dr. Eggman uses to conquer the world with (or if the powerful artifact/monster backfires), Sonic will always defeat the mad scientist and save the world while sporting a cocky attitude, only for Dr. Eggman to try again next week.
Redmond and Blumont's endless bickering over gravel in Team Fortress 2 ensured that there would be endless reasons for the RED and BLU teams to fight each other. At least until their long-lost brother, Grey, killed them both and sent an army of killer robots after the mercenaries, forcing them to team up.
The main reason for Penelope's rather poorly-done Face-Heel Turn in Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time was to return the Cooper Gang to it's three-man dynamic. The equally useless Dmitri fared a bit better: he got to be mission control in the present day.
Averted in Schlock Mercenary, where their fortunes have shifted up and down, having gone through multiple ships, and have lost and gained secondary characters on many occasions.
Sexy Losers had a rule, declared early on by its creator in his annotations: "Everyone is locked into their sexual perversion of choice." This meant, unfortunately, that his characters had little wiggle room — the storyline quickly "The Seduction of Madame X" cuts off; by the 17th time he's recycling jokes. Eventually, the series came to an abrupt halt, which may have been the writer realizing he was out of things he could do with the characters without breaking his rule.
Ménage à 3 is the typical example of this trope. Gary is a geeky virgin who never even had a girlfriend. Some girls have the hots for him, but thanks to bad timing, sexual trauma or personal interference from his friends that are more than willing to sabotage it, rest assured that it will never happen, EVER. And since the de-virginisation of Gary is the main point of the series, as long as the authors have plot ideas, it won’t happen. When it finally does, this will probably conclude the series.
Completely averted, and possibly subverted, in the Whateley Universe. While it is played with using Jade, by later in the series, Don Sebastaino of the Alphas is in the hospital, Tansy is running the Alphas, and Jade now has breasts and gender reconstructive surgery that works!
Rugrats played this trope several times. In the episode "Angelica's Birthday", Angelica supposedly turns 4. However, in the later "Pickles Vs. Pickles" episode, it's said by her parents (Drew and Charlotte) that she's still 3. Similarly, in the episode "The Baby Vanishes," Drew finally admits that Angelica's a spoiled brat and begins taking measures to do something about it. However, in the following(!) episode "When Wishes Come True," Angelica's back to being her daddy's pride and joy.
The above notwithstanding, the first crop of Nicktoons were among the first American cartoons to avert this. Doug gets to graduate, Chuckie is potty-trained and stays potty-trained, Filbert and Dr. Hutchinson go steady, get married and have children and Ren and Stimpy dispenses with a Status Quo altogether.
6teen: Jonesy gets a new job at the start of every episode and loses it at the end.
The Transformers series was like this for the first two seasons. Then The Movie came out in 1986. Once season three starts we have an all new cast, with the original characters making cameos, and the Quintessons are introduced. About the only thing that snaps back is Optimus Prime coming back to life and returning to his job as leader of the Autobots at the end of the third season. Bumblebee becomes a more prominent character during the season finale when Prime comes back, but it's as Goldbug, an upgraded form he needed after taking heavy damage fighting a berserk Superion.
Transformers Prime has been criticized for this, killing off characters such as Breakdown and Dreadwing, putting Airachnid into stasis, returning rogue Starscream back to his previous position, eliminating the "third faction", MECH entirely, putting most MacGuffins into storage without being used, and undoing such game changers as the Star Saber and New Kaon/Darkmount, a fact acknowledged by the writers.
Code Lyoko does this with the Reset Button. Until the fact that XANA becomes more powerful with each Return to the Past was revealed, every episode ended with everybody on the verge of death when the time warp wiped the problems away.
Unfortunately, the story also starts falling into a larger sort of status quo as it develops, one so immutable that it allowed fans to start predicting the outcome of the show's cliffhangers in advance. No matter how many times characters like Sissi and Jim prove their usefulness, they'll never be exempt from the Masquerade. There will never be more Lyoko warriors than the four main cast members (the one who seems to join ends up becoming evil), and Franz Hopper will never be devirtualized. This trope's prevalence as the show went on was only made all the more frustrating by the official website offering fan polls on things like "which supporting character should become a Lyoko warrior".
A harsh one of this was the original Grand Finale of the series, "Last But Not Beast". Dexter and his family had fully united to destroy the beast that Dexter accidentally awoke from its slumber and everyone was happy. However, Dad remembers about Dexter's titular lab and Dexter's quick to remove that information from both Mom and Dad, even making them forget the fact that they saved the world together! When Monkey's mask is torn off and Dexter discovers his identity, Monkey uses the gun to remove everything from that point from his mind, allowing Mandark to declare that he had destroyed the monster, leaving a despondent Dexter to bemoan that he should have destroyed it.
The Dragon Hunters, like the Get Backers, never do lasting profits, despite all of Gwizdo's schemes toward this end. Sometimes they do get to fly home with the reward money, but by the start of next episode they invariably be broke.
DuckTales — and, in fact, any other appearance of Scrooge McDuck — is oddly obsessive about this trope, even to the extent of Scrooge very rarely managing to walk home with the treasure he's seeking. Do they really think that an extra million or so dollars would have any effect on the lifestyle of a man with five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and ten cents? Whatever he might say to the contrary, Scrooge isn't treasure hunting for money, but for the sense of adventure he can't find behind the desk.
The comics that DuckTales is based on are even worse, and that extends to comics that don't feature Scrooge at all. This is understandable, since there are probably hundreds of artists in many different countries making the comics, and most of them ignore the other artists. Depending on the Writer, the stories may instead have Negative Continuity.
With the McDuck books, there is continuity, but it's done by author instead of having one for the entire series. Most writers will callback to previous stories they created but will ignore the ones made by others so as not to mess with anyone's long-term story plans. The exception is Don Rosa, who considers all Carl Barks stories canon to his own universe and has written several sequels to Barks tales.
In "He’s Too Sexy for His Fat", Peter gets plastic surgery, resulting in a fit, handsome guy. This being Family Guy, the episode ended with him falling into a vat of lard and becoming fat again. Even worse was the episode where Lois gains a lot of weight after Peter's vasectomy. In the end she has quickie liposuction and surgery and ends up looking exactly as though she had never gained the weight at all.
But things change on occasion: Peter lost his job at the toy factory permanently (at the end of the episode, they point out how odd it is that the status quo has not been restored). Cleveland and Loretta separated and stayed that way. Bonnie finally had her kid, with whom she had been pregnant with for over six seasons. Also, characters are Killed Off for Real; any returns are from their ghosts.
Later seasons have subverted this, with Brian's lasting relationship with Jillian (Okay, they broke up in the end, but they were together for about a season's worth of episodes.)
This trope is occasionally lampshaded. Peter once told Bonnie "You've been pregnant for five or six years, either have the baby or don't." Also, Lois got fired from FOX News. Why? Who gives a damn, the episode is over and everything is back the way it always is (her words, more or less).
Lois: I'm glad everything's back to normal. I guess I just wasn't cut out to be a news reporter.
Peter: Yeah, how did you lose your job anyway, Lois?
Lois: Ah, I don't know, Peter. Do you really care? Does anyone really care?
Peter: I guess you're right. The story's over, everything's back to normal 'til next week, so who gives a damn? Anyone got anything funny left to say? Stewie? Brian? Meg? Chris? No? Alright then. (to the camera) See you next week, folks!
There was also the time Peter was declared legally retarded. Lois, who he burned earlier, comes back with no damage done, though she will smell like fries for weeks. Also in the episode where Peter's father-in-law goes bankrupt. His wife, who has married Ted Turner, divorces him for no good reason.
References are made to some recurring themes. For example, when the Griffins are on the run and they end up in Texas. Peter mentions that he is "legally retarded".
How many times has Joe regained the use of his legs only to lose them again at the end of the episode?
Played extremely straight in "Seahorse Seashell Party" that has a bit of a Broken Base. After season upon season of abuse, Meg FINALLY stands up to her family and points out just what horrible people they are. She calls out Lois for being a drug-addicted whore who's done nothing but take out her own frustration on Meg and how once she's 18, she never wants to see her again. She calls Peter out for being a fat disgusting waste who doesn't care about anyone but himself. She lays into them so hard that the entire family turns against each other. Later on, Meg is talking to Brian and she realizes that the family can't function without Meg there to be the emotional and physical punching bag so they don't end up killing each other. In the end, the status quo is maintained, and Meg is still theButt Monkey.
Similarly, in "Baby Not On Board," Lois snaps and yells at Peter for constantly getting distracted from what she asks him to do and tells him just how stupid he can be. Peter retorts with passive aggressiveness about how he is flawed and that's just who he is. Lois just takes it at face value, apologizes, and Peter is back to his usual antics.
The trope gets lampshaded by Brain in part 1 of "Stewie Kills Lois". After Stewie complains about Lois leaving him for a cruise and how he would do bad things to her, Brain points out that Stewie will just bitch, cry for his mommy, hug her when she comes home, have apple juice, poop, and then fall asleep. Stewie realizes Brian is right and tries to fight against the status quo, but it is maintained in the end anyway.
Lampshaded again in another episode where Peter brings home a cutout of Kathy Ireland and starts his usual shenanigans by thinking the cutout is a real woman. Lois just shrugs her shoulder and says "I'm gonna let this one run its course", knowing that the antics will eventually stop.
Sister series American Dad! lampshades this trope several times, mostly hinging on Stan never learning his lesson. Among such lampshades include Stan saying that lying is "basically my whole bit," and explicitly saying that he's never learned his lesson all the other times it's blown up in his face.
Additionally, in "American Stepdad", when Stan and Roger share an unusually close moment:
Though some things do change, Stan's become gradually less conservative as the series as gone on (to the point he not only accepted his gay neighbors, he tried to get Terry's homophobic dad to accept him), Steve's also gradually becoming less of a nerd, and finally got a first kiss after constant Yank the Dog's Chain.
Bob's Burgers does this with Tina, since like Meg, she's the show's Butt Monkey and a large source of humor stems from her loneliness. One episode ends with Tina finally meeting a boy who shows some romantic interest in her, so naturally, he's neither seen nor mentioned again by the time the next episode begins.
The trope is lampshaded, deconstructed, and parodied in the episode "When Aliens Attack". When the main cast is forced to reshoot the finale of Single Female Lawyer to prevent an alien invasion, Leela (as the titular character) decides to propose marriage. Fry is angry, as he states that you don't do that on television because people only watch TV because of this very trope. Right on cue, this angers the aliens, who proceed with their invasion until Fry improvises an ending that would result in her character remaining single, placating the aliens. (The fact that real-life shows often destroy the status quo during the finale is ignored). The aliens are satisfied with this ending, and leave peacefully. With everything back to normal, Fry has a short monologue (serving as a Spoof Aesop) about how things should always go back to normal at the end of an episode. The Camera then cuts to a devastated New New York, most of it having been destroyed during the episode. The status quo is restored by the next episode, so it's a Double Subversion.
Bender's Big Score may have parodied it during its opening roll call, when we see Amy with much longer hair. Bender accidentally burns it off an instant later, leaving her with her hairstyle from the series.
The trope is subverted in "The Beast with a Billion Backs". Kif breaks up with Amy after she cheats on him, and they stay separated until the end of "Into The Wild Green Yonder".
Subverted again (and crossed with Crowning Moment of Heartwarming) in "Into The Wild Green Yonder". After ignoring Fry's love for her, Leela realises that she feels the same way, and they share their first romantic kiss.
Then played straight (to the point of parody) in the opening episode of season six, going to great (and circuitous!) lengths to restore the status quo. Seems Fry and Leela are still together though.
Season 15 did this. After the Drama Bomb episode, "You're Getting Old", it looked like there was going to be some sort of change in terms of the boys' relationships. Kyle and Stan have a falling out, Kyle and Cartman are shown being together of their own volition and getting along. The episode ends with Randy and Sharon separating and moving from the Marsh family home. When the next episode, "Ass Burgers", features a Snap Back, this is invoked heavily. Just as Stan is about to embrace the changes, the status quo comes back with Randy & Sharon getting back together, Kyle & Cartman bickering once again, and Stan going back to the life he once had, though he now secretly drinks to keep off his cynical levels. Sharon even says that sometimes it's best to stick with what you know.
Episode "Tsst" has Cartman's mom go to extreme lengths to get him to behave. When she finally succeeds, Cartman's mom is ecstatic that Cartman is a well behaved boy, but once she finds out that the person who helped her left her because he has other clients to tend to, she completely undoes all the changes by spoiling Cartman so that she won't feel like she is alone.
The first time, in the episode "Mecha Streisand", a reporter appears, saying that the town had managed to rebuild itself "just weeks after the devastating attack of mutant genetic creatures, zombies, and Thanksgiving turkeys". Then Mecha Streisand shows up and begins to wreck the town, prompting a "not again" comment from the reporter.
The second time, in "201", after the main events of the plot is resolved, the mayor announces, "Alright, people, let's start rebuilding our town! ...for the 39th time."
In "You're Getting Old":
Sharon: "It’s like the same shit just happens over and over, then in a week it just all resets until it happens again. Every week it’s kind of the same story in a different way, but it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous."
A straight example happens when it is discovered that the City Wok owner is the psychotic, murderous Caucasian Dr. Janus. Since he's the only Asian restaurant owner left in town after the Japanese sushi chef whom he harassed killed himself after this reveal, the police lets him go away.
Averted for the most part. Eliza's brother becomes a Mutate for instance and remains that way, a process that takes place over several episodes; later episodes deal with Talon's impromptu clan and responsibilities. Broadway shoots Eliza by accident and develops a series-long hatred for firearms. The eventual reveal of the Gargoyles to the world at large springs the Quarrymen into the forefront. And so on.
You can count Xanatos' evolution from simple adversary to husband/father/friend, Angela and Goliath's relationship as daughter and father, Matt Bluestone's raise from conspiracy-nut friend-kept-in-the-dark to Properly Paranoid Illuminati member and trusted insider, the evolution of several of the villains with their backstory, Demona alone...
However, the trope is invoked a bit with the universe's rules of time travel and the Phoenix Gate: to wit, everything that has happened will happen, and if characters are placed in a position to change the backstory, they will not succeed.
Goof Troop featured an episode where Goofy was elected mayor of the city, but curiously that never came up again.
Moral Orel presents a possible subversion. It took ten episodes (out of the third season's 13) before we saw anything of the aftermath of the major events of the second season's finale, "Nature", where Cheerful Child Orel calls out his father. However, the reason for this is because all those episodes take place before and/or during "Nature".
In one episode, the girls travel so fast that they are warped to the future, where for 30 years evil has reigned. Out of complete stress and confusion, they try to escape from it all by traveling so fast they warp back to the present time, thus achieving Status Quo. This, like the Superman example above, was more or less why the Powerpuff Girls never take a vacation - as they're now too paranoid to leave the city for even a few days, lest the entire city fall to evil.
Oh yeah, whenever the city is in ruins, its back to normal the next episode. Few things remain destroyed, an example being a bridge in a nearby city.
This pretty much happens anytime there's a major change to the main cast. Did Bart become more intelligent or active in his school work for a time? He'll be back to the lazy Book Dumb boy causing mischief for giggles. Did Lisa suddenly gain popularity? She'll be back to being unpopular by the end of the episode.
Played with in some of the few episodes which avert this trope; many of them feature endings that make it seem like the status quo will once again be restored, only to change it up on the viewer at the last second. The classic example is "A Milhouse Divided"; the episode ends with Kirk singing a romantic song for Luann in a last-ditch attempt to win her back. It looks like we're in for a heartwarming reunion, until Kirk asks her to come back to him and she replies "Oh God no!" They DID eventually get back together, but that was ten seasons later.
When Lisa became a vegetarian, she stayed a vegetarian. (Only because Paul McCartney wouldn't do the show otherwise) She also remained a Buddhist after converting in "She of Little Faith".
Sometimes the status quo changes gradually — for example, Lenny and Carl have replaced Barney as Homer's best friend. However, they just hang out with him for kicks. This is made evident in the same episode where Barney decides to be sober.
Speaking of Barney, he stopped drinking in the eleventh season episode "Days of Wine and D'oheses" and remained a sober, clean-cut compulsive coffee drinker after the end of the episode and for several seasons. Like the Luanne and Kirk example, he reverted to his original state in season fourteen's "I'm Spelling As Fast as I Can". Later on he would have fewer roles, aside from being passed out on the ground.
Other lampshades pop up with the page quote, another from principal Skinner ("Well I guess we all learned something important today... there's no thing like the status quo!") and a season 22 episode, that ends with Marge (after once again failing to get a social life outside of the house) reading a book called "The Joy of the Status Quo".
The situation used to replace Snowball 2 with an identical-but-different cat is also applied to Fat Tony in another episode. Fat Tony dies from a heart attack while Homer is working as an undercover agent infiltrating his organization. Afterwards, we're introduced to "Fit Tony"; Fat Tony's identical-sounding cousin and a fitness buff. He decides to step in for his deceased cousin but while working as the mob don, he begins to fall out of shape and resemble Fat Tony. Eventually, he ends up being referred to as "Fat Tony", thus restoring the status quo despite the fact Fat Tony himself was Killed Off for Real.
There was even an episode where Lisa got to write an episode for a TV show. After making big sweeping changes that didn't go over too well, Homer tells her that the number one rule of television is that everything must go back to normal at the end of the episode.
Danny Phantom uses it some of the time, with the more notable instances being the end of "Reality Trip", where Danny mindwipes everyone except the people who knew prior to the start of the episode. For that matter, he bounced back unusually quickly from the extremely-intense encounter with his futureself.
Hank Hill is never going to be a manager. The one time he did become a manager he managed to blow it... in 10 freaking seconds (and it wasn't even near the end of the episode).
Also Bill is never going to have a lasting relationship, it always goes wrong or he messes up.
Strangely, what with the above examples, there was a bit of continuity. In one episode Peggy and Dale end up blowing Hank's shed up (long story), 8 episodes later in Death Picks Cotton Hank's busy rebuilding it. When he finally does finish it in the end of the episode Dale destroys it again which was Cotton's dying wish.
Any episode that shows Bobby doing something or having an interest in something which Hank freaks out, worrying what Bobby is doing is not manly enough in his eyes. By the episode's end, Bobby either stops having interest in whatever caught his attention or Hank begrudgingly accepts what Bobby wants, then the show repeats the scenario again in a future episode.
It works with several changes that some episodes introduced that should have been permanent (or at least long-lasting) but were never addressed again: Bobby develops a dog allergy in one episode that, by the end of the episode, he manages to get under control with pills which are never brought up again. Hank's ass deficiency, requiring implants lest he suffer back problems, disappeared. When the doctor told Dale he had to give up using inorganic pesticides or risk poisoning himself, that stuck only for an episode. When Ladybird became moody and aggressive due to deafness in her old age, that disappeared after an episode as well. For a series that generally sticks to realism, these points stand out more than other appearances of this trope in that series.
The show also Zig Zags often. There are often a few episodes in which a new character is introduced, or some big change happens in someone's life such as Bill or Bobby getting in a romance, yet a lot of the time they seem to vanish the next episode with little to no justification. Despite this, there were plenty of aversions in which a continuity was established. (Joseph entering puberty, Bobby and Connie's relationship ending, Nancy ending her affair with John Redcorn, Luanne meeting Lucky).
This trope is turned Up to Eleven in every episode. No matter what nigh-impossible project the boys create, it will always disappear within a matter of seconds as a result of Perry and Doofenshmirtz. Like every other trope that the show revolves around, it's been lampshaded. Some of the characters now believe there's a mysterious sentient force protecting them (which is technically true.)
The status quo gets shaken up something fierce in The Movie, with the cast learning about Perry being a secret agent. They end up voluntarily pushing the Reset Button at the end, and no one but the OWCA remembers the events of the film. To be fair, Major Monogram let them choose whether or not to keep the new status quo, but since that meant Perry would have to leave them, they decided it wasn't worth it.
In "Happy Birthday, Isabella", this trope is actually averted, by having Stacy find out about Perry's secret identity and not lose her memory of the knowledge.
Ed, Edd n Eddy usually has the Eds failing at the end of every episode either with their scams, pranks, or bouts with the Kanker sisters, and has the kids of the neighborhood celebrating their endless demise.
Edd both fourth walls and lampshades it at the end of the movie with his line about how it's only taken them the entire run of the series, four specials, and said movie to finally be accepted.
X-Men: Evolution: In episode 2x22, "Joyride", Lance Alvers (Avalanche) joins up with the X-Men in the hopes of winning the affections of Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat), who he's been hitting on the entire series. Cyclops blames him for a few infractions the other New Mutants actually committed, and said New Mutants confess, causing Cyclops to finally accept him, Shadowcat to show him the love he's wanted the whole series, and the rest of the X-Men to respect him. He then decides that he's quitting due to his annoyance with being Reformed but Rejected and returning to the Brotherhood, saying they're easier to live with, even though he had EVERYTHING HE WANTED.
There's an aversion at the end of Season 2 where the existence of mutants is revealed to the world, changing the way the characters are perceived forever.
A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner! uses and subverts this in a few ways. He uses this as a loophole to keep his fairies, act like a child and refuse to grow up (not even leaving the 4th grade, or his parents home) but when he does finally Timmy is given an exemption clause that lets him keep Cosmo, Wanda and Poof as his fairies even as an adult.
Teen Titans: Oh God, every single episode that was not a part of the story arc (Like Robin becoming Slade's apprentice, the whole Terra storyline, Cyborg with Brother Blood, Raven with the prophecy of ending the world, and all of Season 5, which focused on the Brotherhood of Evil and a lot of characters we have never heard of before unless we read the original comics). Even with Terra, after the Titans were convinced to let her become a member of the Titans, she only made a split-second appearance in the next episode. The episode after that had to do with her though but of course the events of that episode restore status quo of the team. Most episodes of Teen Titans will always end where it began, but there are a few exceptions.
Both invoked and averted in The Clangers. In many episodes a creature or object arrives on the Clanger's planet, causes havoc and then either leaves or is sent back into space. When the Iron Chicken first appears, it seems as if she's also following this pattern. However, she makes appearances in later episodes and she also gives Tiny Clanger an egg which has effects in following episodesnote It hatches to reveal some musical notes, most of which are eaten by the Soup Dragon. However, the remaining two notes are planted and grow into Music Trees. Tiny Clanger later uses notes from the Music Trees to power her flying boat, which puts an end to Major Clanger's unsuccessful attempts at building a flying machine.
The Looney Tunes Show plays this for a quick laugh. Bugs and Daffy go to the mall and Bugs points out Daffy's "Mall Pants" but since he is technically supposed to be naked the mall pants are sucked off by the escalator before the opening credits run.
This is lampshaded by two boys who watch a Road Runner cartoon:
Boy 1: Sometimes I feel sorry for the Coyote. Sometimes I wish he'd catch him. Boy 2: If he caught him, there wouldn't be any more Road Runner. You wouldn't want that, would you? Boy 1: No. Boy 2: I thought you wouldn't.
The Legend of Zelda cartoon takes this to its logical extreme. Ganon and all his minions are magically tied to a giant jar type device. Every time they're defeated, they're just sent back to it for some undetermined (but obviously very short) period of time. It doesn't help that neither Ganon nor the heroes are competent enough to simply end the whole thing (in fact, Ganon's minions came the closest after they rebelled).
Link did destroy the jar once, but it was back for the next episode.
In Adventure Time this is why Billy, one of the greatest heroes of all times, wound up quitting heroism. He realized that despite all of his efforts, evil will never stop coming back. Finn and Jake are able to convince him out of it by making him realize that good will never stop coming back either.
In the "Jake The Dad" episode where Jake faces fatherhood with the born of his pups with Lady Rainicorn; Jake decided to stay in Lady's house leaving Finn and Beemo. Later in the episodes the pups get a Plot-Relevant Age-Up due to being Rainicorns and are now old enough to live on their own. Jake then returns to the tree house.
This is demonstrated in Boast Busters, Sonic Rainboom and The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well, the Aesop's of which are that bragging and showing off only leads to trouble, however a different character learns the lesson each time.
The season 3 finale does seem to soundly change the status quo by turning Twilight Sparkle into an alicorn and making her a princess to boot, however. Season 4 will have to tell how well it sticks.
Jackie Chan Adventures. The series begins with the dragon wizard Shendu trapped in a large stone icon attempting to recover eight talismans that contain his original power; the first season ends with Jade destroying Shendu's statue, jump-starting a series of antagonists crawling out of the woodworks to try to fill his now-vacant villainous shoes, trying to find a kind of balance between good and evil. The series ends many seasons later with Shendu, having survived beyond all of his upstarts, finally reclaiming his true body ... only to be sealed away in his statue form and his powers put back into talismans again.
In Time Squad, the entire reason for the Time Squad's existence is to preserve the Status Quo, not only for the show itself but also for the rest of history.
Arthur had an episode ("Pick a Car, Any Car") in which the family car stops working and his parents start looking for a new one. Arthur is upset because he doesn't want things to change, and it seems like that's going to be the lesson for the episode. But in the end Buster gets the bright idea of calling Car Talk, and they discover that the problem was that Kate had just jammed her rattle into the tailpipe. Not only does nothing change, nothing is learned, except maybe to call Car Talk if you're having problems your mechanic can't fix.
Musa's hairstyle for the first two seasons of Winx Club was always a pair of short upwards-pointing pigtails. She even wore her hair like this when she slept and while wearing a stocking cap (which conformed to the shape of her hair), and any flashbacks to her childhood showed her with her hair in this same style. It was eventually changed to have her first lengthen her hair, then start changing the style every time she changed outfits, to the point where she has never been seen with the pulled-up pigtails look after Secret of the Lost Kingdom.
Mirta in general. Despite saving everyone's lives and transferring to Alfea at the end of the first season, she went back to being more of a background character that only got to talk and hang out with the main cast when they needed her for something (typically to guide them through Cloud Tower). As of Season 5, she is the only student from the Winx's three years of school that still attends Alfea, and she still wears the exact same outfit she wore in Season 1.
In the Turtles Forever movie, Karai's implied Heel-Face Turn at the end of season five after a season-long Enemy Mine situation is ignored. It's justified in that during the movie, the Utrom Shredder, her adoptive father and the one living being she dedicated her entire life to, returned. And even then, when her father went too far, she pulled another Heel-Face Turn.
European politics from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to the start of the Pax Britannia in 1815 revolved around the "Balance of Power", meaning any state that grew too powerful or ambitious (and in the process disturbed the existing balance of power) usually found itself at war with a coalition led by the next-greatest power. This is why no one has ever conquered all of Europe. You could even count the two world wars as Balance of Power politics, with the two greatest powers (Britain and Germany) on opposing sides.
Especially WWI, where the Balance of Power politics is actually quite obvious.
Which eliminated both as world powers and the USA and USSR rose up to become the next balance. What happened after the USSR fell depends on your political views.
This has been mollified to an extent with the launch of the European Union.
In the early 1950's, North Korea, previously under Soviet influence, invaded pro-Western South Korea over the 38th Parallel, igniting U.N. fears of communist aggression, leading to western intervention in a proxy war. North Koreans raged all the way to the Southeastern port city of Pusan before encountering heavy resistance from U.N. troops, who cut off their supplies and fought them all the way North to the Chinese border. The U.N. forces were on the brink of driving out the communists; unfortunately, Maoist China intervened, pushing the clash back to a stalemate ending roughly near the 38th parallel. The war effectively ended where it began, thus beginning the totalitarian-communist"Democratic People's Republic" of North Korea, which is currently in its third generation of hereditary rule. It has withstood the Soviet Union's collapse, and shows not the slightest sign of change in leadership or attitudes any time soon. The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex, which arose primarily during the Korean War, has also not diminished in size since Dwight Eisenhower's famous unheeded warning.
The United States penny. It has been years since the penny has any worth, but the mining interests and a general opposition to change has kept it in circulation.
Similarly, the United States' one dollar bill. Most other countries have replaced their currency units of that size with coins to save costsnote dollar coins cost more to make initially, but can be in circulation for decades, while paper bills rarely last two years. The US has introduced dollar coins repeatedly, but with neither a population willing to embrace the change, nor a Mint willing to force the change by reducing the printing of dollar bills, the coins remain rare.
In fact, United States currency designs in general have a lot of stasis compared to those of other countries.
A growing number of automated payment machines (e.g., ticket kiosks and vending machines) accept $5 now. The catch? They give you $1 coins in change. It's probably the best way to get them.
Borders in the post-colonial world, regardless of how sensible or not it may be, have remained status quo even when they shouldn't.
Reminding everyone of Y2K, or any other end of the world hysteria, which beforehand people are on the edge of their seats expecting big change, stocking up on food and... nothing. Status Quo Maintained. See you in 2038.
One part of the problem is the almost unanimous agreement that there will be an end to the world as we know it, but the details are effectively impossible to pin down apart from drastic extrapolation. At the same time, constant improvements in communication systems and growing network coverage make bad (or just poorly reported) news more and more accessible, providing human pattern recognition instincts with more and more dots to connect.
The problem is there are always two groups for a Y2K situation the ones warned X will be a problem unless Y is implemented. So the solution Y is implemented the crisis is averted and group 2 are the people that are thinking, "Why did I freak out and stockpile a bunch of stuff" Group 2 never seems to realize the reason the problem didn't happen is because group one fixed it.
Only people that expect a doomsday prediction and just wait for it will go back to their usual routine once it comes and goes and nothing happens. However, people who buy into the hype and do stuff like move, quit their jobs or education, or give up all their money and material goods, will return with having nothing left so things are not back to normal.
The Zimbardo prison experiment has shown, unfortunately, prisoners have a tendency to turn on one another in order to prevent prison riots, essentially doing the guards' job for them, which carries a disturbing conclusion to those who choose to read into these things. Yet the Zimbardo experiment has been criticized by other psychologists.
Jewish inmates in Holocaust internment camps noted that within about 3 years, other inmates began imitating the guards in speech and dress. Eesh.
If anything, the United Nations promotes this when dealing with conflicts assuming it cannot be solved via Balkanize Me. Since 1950, the number of conflicts ending in returning to status quo ante bellum is increasing.
Egypt remained virtually the same in most all ways for 3000 years straight, only crumbling from power when the religion was changed by the current pharaoh. This results in a literal version of this trope: remove the god, remove the status quo.
In his book, "Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to Do About It", Richard S. Tedlow gives examples and reasons why major corporations begin as innovators and then become victims of their own success. The main reason is they deny that change is required and continue with established procedures.
Lottery winners tend to spend all their money and go bankrupt in a few years, and can often be found working at their old jobs again. On occasion, they buy a big house in a fancy neighbourhood, hate it, and move back. Several TV shows have lampooned this.
In general people tend to fall into this in life. Complacency, a sense of normality, and fear of change leads many people to fall into predictable patterns in life. A generation may have it's own problems, but they are mostly the same lives that would be lived in the same situation. This means it is likely the saddest case of Truth in Television to exist.
Behavioral Psychologists use this to explain why most "life changing decisions/events" tend to only really majorly effect the months that follow and will be lost/phased out with time until Quo returns. On the bright side, it must be mentioned that just because an individual gradually returns to the Quo after a "major life changing event" doesn't necessarily mean he/she hasn't grown or become an all-around better person through it.
It also appears in some studies concerning various cultures. Some theories made by those from inside and outside of the community are that this is what keeps some cultures "behind" others. Shunning those who "Leave their culture" in order to find a better life only to be ostracized by their family and former friends.
In Native American circles it is termed "Crabs in a Bucket" with the idea that a bucket of crabs only needs moderately high walls and no covering because as one crab tries to climb out that others either pull them back in to keep them from leaving or to piggyback their way out resulting in all of them staying stuck.
In chemistry, Le Chatlier's Principle says that, when placed under stress (i.e. change), systems at equilibrium will shift in an attempt to counteract that stress.
In functional programming languages, most values are immutable, that is, they are set only once and never change. According to functional programming proponents, this technique helps to prevent bugs, which is, indeed, good. The adoption of functional languages themselves is, on the other hand, a strong aversion, since they are far from mainstream.
Inertia. Once something big has either stopped or set on a fast course, it takes a lot of energy to stop.
Actually, there is no promise to that, we can only hope...
An irrational preference for the status quo is an observed cognitive bias. See here for an interesting discussion of the matter and how to combat it when reflecting on new technology.
Note, though, that not every decision not to change is automatically this trope. There is some actual merit to the notion of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" because not all change is necessarily for the better and it's not always easy to judge whether things will really improve without having the benefit of hindsight just yet. This is more about when any change at all is unwelcome and people will make active efforts to avoid or, if it should happen, undo it.
Also, keep in mind that even beneficial societal changes tend to be highly disruptive, or the events leading to them do. A good case in point would be the Civil Rights Movement in the US, which plays this both brutally straight and averts this. It only came about not despite the organized opposition to it, but because of the organized opposition. The decade leading to that passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was full of domestic unrest and tacitly sanctioned violence and terrorism by local and state governments. These actions eventually blew up in their faces when even those who would have supported the status quo grew disgusted with the increasingly violent actions taken to try and prevent it.
In the world of biology, homeostasis is this. The internal environments of an organism must maintain "status quo" in order to live, and does so through feedback loops and complex biochemical systems. Temperature and pH are two things that must remain at "status quo" in the human body, for example.