Tensions have been increasing for many years, and open conflict could break out at any time. Now it seems that time has come. Angry mobs pour out onto the streets. Internal security forces gather. Armies and fleets mobilize for war. It looks like this can only end badly. But what's this? The leaders of the opposing sides are calling for passive resistance? Moments ago, it looked like only a long and bloody war could possibly end the long-simmering conflict, but change comes relatively peacefully instead. Sometimes violence does occur, but instead of thousands of bodies in the streets only a few hundred are seriously injured. A Subversion of the Final Battle, sometimes using a Deus ex Machina, and can be used as a Happy Ending. It can also be a Bittersweet Ending, as The Hero, The Obi-Wan, a highly sympathetic Anti-Villain, etc. may be among the relatively few casualties or may sacrifice their home, fortune, dreams, etc., for peace. What happens after can vary:
- It's peaceful now, but a standoff is taking place, and violence is expected. It never comes. The conflict just... ends. At worst a few were trampled in the confusion.
- A bloody war is already underway, but a relatively bloodless internal coup, unexpected surrender, etc. resolves the conflict suddenly without too many more deaths.
- Violence occurs, and while it left bodies in the streets an lengthy conflict is averted. A war that might have lasted several years, killed several percent of the population, and plunged the country into debt and bitterness for generations to come is resolved in a single campaign that kills only a (tiny) fraction of that number.
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A standoff takes place, but violence is averted
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: Tails's father Amadeus starts advocating the end of the monarchy, and after tensions rise he ends up facing Elias one-on-one. Before they really get into it, however, Sally steps in and tells them to knock it off. By the time Sonic and Tails show up, the two have come to an agreement.
- In V for Vendetta (the movie): The government troops are understandably uneasy about firing on the populace and an order saying they must fire never comes.
- The V for Vendetta case is probably based on the Czechoslovakia one (see Real Life, below). Both had similar amounts of people (about 100,000) advancing on a heavily-defended central government building. In both cases the defenders were police, who avoided shooting because a) they were greatly outnumbered and b) they were police, not soldiers.
- The live-action scene closing the 2011 documentary/activist film Zeitgeist: Moving Forward depicts such a scenario.
- In The Bible, some of Jesus's followers expect a bloody revolution; instead Jesus surrenders peacefully. The whole thing is, of course, all part of God's plan....
- Breaking Dawn has the Volturi leaving peacefully without any fighting whatsoever.
- Night Watch. No more cake? However, a few dozen or so people are killed, including several policemen and at least one main character.
- Eva Luna's country manages to mostly pull this off, though there's still the guerrilla led by Commander Rogelio aka Eva's First Love Huberto to deal with.
Live Action TV
- On Babylon 5, the dockworkers threaten to go on strike, the senior staff has been kicked out of their own quarters due to a legal technicality, and the nightwatch is running amuck. A reallocation of funds solves the legal issues, and life returns to normal... for a few episodes.
- In the Doctor Who episode, The Happiness Patrol, the Doctor brings down an entire Fascist regime overnight.
- In Tropico, this is one possible way for your Presidente to rise to power. Intellectuals and the United States love it, but the people will be rather miffed if it doesn't lead to democracy. In Tropic 4, it also pisses off China.
- The end of the Cold War and the Eastern Bloc, in comparison to the nuclear cataclysm many had expected the cold war to end in, was relatively bloodless. (Keyword being "relative")
- The Trope Namer comes from the former state of Czechoslovakia, where the transition from one communist state in 1989 to two non-communist ones in 1993 was accomplished bloodlessly.
- It looked like things were going to turn out this way twenty odd years before, during the Prague Spring. Then the Soviet tanks rolled in.
- Similarly, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany.
- Unfortunately, Subverted in Romania and later Yugoslavia.
- But played straight in Estonia, and nearly so in the other Baltic Countries. The Baltics are interesting, in that they are quite possibly the only countries in history to win their independence by literally holding hands and singing.
- South Africa's elimination of the Apartheid system.
- The "People Power Revolution" in the Philippines.
- Subverted in China in Tiananmen Square: students had hoped to stage a Velvet Revolution, but the army didn't back down.
- Chile's transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 80s/early 90s. Pinochet ended up recognizing the results of the referendum on his rule (he lost) and about a year later, a new president (Patricio Aylwin) was elected.
- It's still discussed, however, whether Pinochet actually recognized the results as the "best" way out, or only did it because the dictatorship had lost almost all support in the world and wouldn't survive if he refused to back down.
- In the Arab Spring, Tunisia's revolution played like this. Admittedly, there were several hundred dead bodies, but the anticlimactic departure of Ben Ali just hours after his official declaration that he had no intention of leaving means it counts.
- It's also fair to say that this is how the revolutionaries in all the other countries wanted things to play out, but:
- In Libya, the leadership turned against itself, allowing the protest movement to turn into all-out Civil War;
- In Bahrain, the government went all Tiananmen on the protesters, bringing out the Army plus Saudi and Emirati troops to crush the uprising; and...
- In Syria, the government found that the Tiananmen option wouldn't work (the opposition is too spread-out), so they cracked down more generally. This caused defections all the way up to the level of Prime Minister and caused an all-out Civil War.
- In several other countries, the demands weren't that great to start with, with the exception of Egypt and Yemen (for which see Case 3).
- It's also fair to say that this is how the revolutionaries in all the other countries wanted things to play out, but:
- So far, the Occupy Wall Street movement is hoping to be this, supposedly following the examples of the Arab Spring.
- Likewise the Ron Paul 2012 presidential campaign styled itself as this, hence the phrase "Ron Paul R3volution", though their methods of protest were less based on the examples of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement (through there are some similarities) but more on the Tea Party protests.
- The "Constitutional standoff" in Norway during the breakthrough of parliamentarism in the early 1880s. Not a single shot was fired, but the leftists (who had the public on their side) were under surveillance, and the king and government plotted on countermeasures in case things got out of hand. Sensible people on all sides talked the parts from going militant (but the government secured the army rifles in case they might be used by the other fraction).
A bloody war is suddenly resolved without further casualty
Anime & Manga
- In Robotech, after years of bloody conflict, the Invid Regis, and the remaining invid, just... leave. But according to Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, they leave with the earth's entire supply of protoculture, and their own means to produce more, which is why they had come to earth in the first place, so it's not like they leave emptyhanded.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch arranges things so that Britannia ends up letting the Black Knights go.
- Tintin and the Picaros ends with a peaceful coup (on Tintin's repeated insistance) after a longer period of guerrilla warfare.
- The ending of The Matrix Revolutions, in which the war against the machines ends in something of a draw. The machines agree that anyone who wishes to leave the Matrix is free to do so. Of course, according to Morpheus's speech in the first film, most adults aren't likely to leave the comfortable virtual prison for the grim underground reality. The specifics of how precisely this truce would be implemented are not explored.
- The crisis that sparks the events of Crimson Tide ends when Radchenko's forces in the Russian Far East surrender to loyalist Russian forces. Total casualties number less than a hundred, much lower than what could have potentially been.
- In Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon. The Chinese government starts a war with Russia over gold and oil reserves in Siberia, and conceals information about when it starts going badly. A bunch of students find out what's really going on from the internet, and eventually bring down the government.
- In Red Storm Rising, a relatively bloodless coup by the Soviet army over the civilian government that had started the non-nuclear World War III ends the war.
- Bloodily subverted in Shatterpoint: Mace Windu hopes to end the Summertime War swiftly by capturing the Geptun, the militia leader. When he finally catches up to Geptun, he surrenders without a fight, but a rogue agent on Mace's side has already begun sacking the city.
- Not just any rogue agent but his own clanmate.
Live Action TV
- On Babylon 5, the Earth - Minbari War ends when the Minbari, who had been winning very handily, inexplicably surrendered. The real explanation is that the Minbari discovered that Minbari and Human souls are one and the same, and realized in horror that they were slaughtering their distant kinsmen.
- Also, the Shadow War is ended when Sheridan's "Now get the hell out of our galaxy!" speech convinces the Shadows and Vorlons that neither of them can truly win: the younger races might be destroyed, but they can no longer be manipulated.
- Rule of Three: In the climactic battle of the Earth Alliance Civil War, a massive fleet of Omega-class destroyers are arrayed defending the Sol system under Clark-loyalist General Lefcourt. Sheridan's rebel fleet is much smaller, but is backed by a larger force from the League of Nonaligned Worlds. Neither leader really wants things to end in a bloodbath, but they won't back down either. Fortunately, Sheridan is able to arrange for several Shadow-augmented telepaths seen in a previous episode to be smuggled aboard Lefcourt's key warships, drawing them out of position and crippling their engines. With the loyalist fleet thus occupied, the rebels jump directly to Earth. Clark, knowing the jig is up, kills himself before the loyalists can get back into the fight.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine kind of ends this way, after 2+ years of war with the Dominion, when the Dominion surrenders abruptly following Odo's intercession and offer to cure the Founders. "Kind of" because the Dominion forces on the capital in the Alpha quadrant had already destroyed several major cities and killed millions of civilians in retaliation for the people rising up against them. Relative to the Founder's plan to eradicate everyone on the planet, this still probably counts.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang defeats
Fire LordPhoenix King Ozai, Zuko and Katara take down PrincessFire Lord Azula, and the Fire Nation's war of conquest ends.
- Of course Zuko was immediately installed as Firelord afterwards, and he had become opposed to the war.
- Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn (Wii) has a long and bloody battle stopped short by almost everyone being turned into stone.
- The surrender of Japan in World War II, when an invasion of the home islands seemed inevitable, must have seemed this way to many who would have been involved. In reality, it only occurred after (atomic) bombings and invasions of territory controlled by the Japanese by US and Soviet forces, each of which killed many thousands. Still, Emperor Hirohito and his staff had to defy their own army to declare the war actually over.
- The fall of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the 50's.
- The Portuguese Carnation Revolution planned by the Armed Forces that brought an end to 60 years of dictatorship and the Colonial War was almost bloodless. The Carnation became the symbol of the revolution due to the soldiers marching the streets with those flowers on the tip of their guns. Only four people were killed by the state police before surrendering. Also, the start of the revolution was signaled by playing Portugal's Eurovision entry.
Violence occurs, but a long bloody war is averted
Anime and Manga
- One Piece: This is how the Alabasta arc ends for said kingdom. There are probably thousand of casualties, but there were about two and a half million people fighting. Kohza was trying to keep things from getting too bad the entire time, and the king was trying to avoid fighting at all.
- In Heat Guy J, Daisuke's brother Shun takes over the city of Judoh and places it under martial law. The various Mafia factions, as well as an underground group from the Absurdly Spacious Sewer fight his forces in the streets (actually, just one, Kabuki Road, the entertainment district). Meanwhile, Antonia helps Daisuke infiltrate the government building, and he fights Shun with both words and martial arts. Yes, things got violent, but not as violent as anyone In-Universe expected, and the events appear to cover only a day or two.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fanfic The First Tile ends with one of these. Prime Minister Odan was aiming to resolve things bloodlessly by coming out of hiding and making a speech supporting sweeping reform of the Trill government, but it quickly escalates when The Azure Guard decides to try and assassinate her and Dr. Crusher in full public view. There are still plenty of deaths and casualties, but the revolt is thankfully brief, with the monarch's son and an old general deciding enough is enough and ordering a stand-down.
- In the Farsala Trilogy, this is one of the Hrum army's policies. After conquering a nation in a lengthy war that all but destroyed both armies, the Hrum made a law that they can only have one year to conquer another country by force. When the year is up, victory is granted to the defending country.
- Small Gods almost breaks into war thanks to Omnia's rather nasty actions, but a kind prophet and a god who has learned compassion manage to force a peaceful resolution.
- The rebellion in Mount & Blade can become this if you have done enough deeds for all the lords of that faction to like you, so you only have to conquer the last city belonging to the king, who will never surrender to you.
- The end of the Cold War, as stated above.
- In Romania, the leadership ordered the army and secret police to put down the revolution. The army commanders refused to fire on unarmed civilians. However, the Romanian Revolution did leave a lot of dead bodies, maybe not so many as might have been but still a goodly amount.
- The EDSA Revolution of 1986 in the Philippines was also a case of this. President Marcos ordered to crush troops loyal to former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then General Fidel Ramos as they both questioned the results of the 1986 snap elections. Marcos also had troops ready to train at the protesters in EDSA Avenue. Bloodshed is mostly averted, apart from a seizure by pro-Enrile rebels of a pro-government TV station which left a TV cameraman having a heart attack and died, and Marcos quietly left the Philippines.
- The October Revolution went down with very little bloodshed, later propaganda films added a lot more resistance to make the Revolution seem more effective.
- That tends to happen when one of the sides deserts. Even in the propaganda it was barely a skirmish.
- In the Arab Spring, Egypt's revolution played out like this, and Yemen seems to be going this way (or at least as close to this way as possible in a country where there were already not one but two unrelated insurgencies before anything started).
- Israel has been on the verge of a civil war during the Altanela incident, and several times since then, most notably during the Oslo Treaties’ signing and the Disengagement.
- The Iranian Revolution played out like this. Unfortunately, the revolutionary government turned out to be little better than the monarchy before it.
- The Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 gained its name precisely because of how bloodless it was. A few soldiers did die in minor skirmishes, but an all-out civil war was avoided, at least for a little while, then the Hanover-Stuart Wars broke out anyway.
- The Norwegian "Cat war" in August 1814 was the only real bloodshed during the transition from Danish totalitarian rule to a budding democracy under Swedish rule. The whole thing was so civilized we hardly called it a revolution at all. But the war in August cost some hundred lives both on the Swedish and Norwegian side. For a more detailed account on this, see Norwegian Constituent Assembly.
- Slovenian War of Independence, also known as Ten-Day War, especially compared to years of brutal warfare that ensued later in the rest of Yugoslavia.