Wham Line

"I think it can be pretty interesting how a single line in a story, even one that's seven words, can dramatically alter the perception of everything that just happened."
Andrew Hussie, via his former Formspring

Whereas a Wham Episode is an episode that radically alters the Story Arc, a Wham Line is a line of dialogue that radically alters a scene.

A scene is headed in one direction, then the line is uttered. Afterwards, the scene is going somewhere very, very different. For it to be effective the audience must not see it coming — not just not knowing the exact information, but not expecting any kind of surprising, or even significant, line there at all. If there was background music playing beforehand, expect it to abruptly come to a stop after the line is said.

This is strictly an audience trope. For a milder in-universe version, see Dropping the Bombshell. Often overlaps with Armor-Piercing Question or Armor-Piercing Response, where the line causes a character to seriously rethink their position. In a joke or comic story, a Punch Line functions very similarly.

When something seen by the viewer or reader of visual media radically alters a scene, it's a Wham Shot.

Tends to come in the form of a reveal. Can fit into a Wham Episode. By the very nature of the trope, SPOILERS AHEAD. If we marked them all, the subpages would be 60% white space. Please don't use spoiler markup when adding examples.

Note: This is not just a line that happens during a Wham Episode. The line itself has to radically change the plot in itself. If the line is the result of events or conversations that are clearly shown on screen, or it's a Foregone Conclusion, then it is not a Wham Line. The line itself has to be completely unexpected.


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    Standup Comedy 
  • From Ellen Degeneres' "The Beginning", telling the audience an (admittedly fictional) story about how she met God. The crowd's reaction to this line says it all.
    Ellen: A couple of minutes later, God walks into the room, carrying a tray... I would say she was about 46, 47 years old... beautiful, beautiful black woman...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Ascension. Through the revised convention book for the Void Engineers, there's been continuous mention of a new enemy of the convention; known only as Threat Null, it's one of the main reasons why the Void Engineers have gone from starry-eyed space explorers to combat-hardened space marines. However, for reasons unknown, the existence of Threat Null have been kept secret from all the other conventions of the Technocratic Union. And then, halfway through the book, we find out why.
    Threat Null doesn't call itself by that name. Threat Null calls itself the Technocratic Union.
  • Demon: The Fallen. The book Time of Judgement describes various versions of The End of the World as We Know It for the various games in the Old World of Darkness that are not the main three games (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension). The book's prologue and epilogue are both told from the point of view of Lucifer Morningstar, the instigator of the events of The Fall. In the epilogue he talks about someone suggesting that God reacted to Lucifer's rebellion not out of wrath, but out of compassion: an intervention instead of a punishment... and then Lucifer drops the following bomb, upsetting everything we thought to know about the rebellion, Lucifer himself and even God:
    Lucifer: In the end, I killed John. Just like I killed Woodrow. Was God wrong? I never told John - and certainly never Malakh — that I asked the angels to rebel because the Most High ordered me to do it. What would they make of that?

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney series has several:
    • From the first game, in the middle of a funny conversation between Maya and a parrot, owned by a crazy old man, we get this bombshell:
      Maya: Polly! Polly! Have we forgotten something?
      Polly: *Squawk* "Don't forget DL-6!" *squawk* Explanation 
    • From the fifth case, "Rise From The Ashes". An in universe example as it caused such an uproar that the trial had to be suspended for a day.
      Lana: Drastic crimes require drastic measures...That's just the way it is. We did what we had to...in order for him to get the verdict he deserved. Even if it involved "forging" evidence.
    • A minor example in the second case, which serves as the first indication we get that Phoenix and Edgeworth knew each other before that trial.
      Phoenix: Edgeworth... you've changed.
    • From Justice for All, the final quote of case 3 is whammy because Edgeworth was supposed to be dead:
      Gumshoe: (On the phone) I'll be waiting for you! Goodbye, Mr. Edgeworth.
    • Also from Justice for All: "...how do you do, Mister Lawyer? I'm Matt Engarde." Explanation 
    • From Trials & Tribulations:
      Sister Bikini: So I guess you already know that Iris is Morgan Fey's daughter.
      Phoenix: IRIS IS WHAT?!?!?! Explanation 
    • In the last case of Apollo Justice:
      Brushel: "Thalassa Has Another Child Besides Trucy", end quote.
    • From Ace Attorney Investigations, we have a wham laugh, when Shih-Nah laughs in the exact same highly-distinctive manner as Calisto Yew, sparking instant recognition from Edgeworth, Franziska and Kay.
    • Dual Destinies:
      • Case 4 ends with a major one, because a piece of evidence that proves your client is innocent incriminates someone else dear to you:
        Simon Blackquill: "Upon thorough analysis, the fingerprints were found to belong to Athena Cykes". So says the report.
      • Bobby Fulbright is a righteous detective who helps you throughout the game. Cue Case 5, where Edgeworth makes The Reveal:
        Edgeworth: The man you see there before you... Bobby Fulbright............ is already long dead.
      • When this line is repeated once you know that whoever used the escape ladder is a double murderer and international spy.
        Aura Blackquill: So I lowered my emergency ladder like the detective leading the investigation told me to.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice:
      • Revisualizations normally end with a big, dramatic line, but Case 3's is one of the few that completely turn everything you've assumed about the case on its head:
        Revisualization Conclusion: Tahrust's death was a suicide.
      • At the very end of the game, Apollo must decide whether to return to the Wright Anything Agency with his colleagues, or stay in Khura'in to clean up the legal system. Thought "Like You Would Really Do It"? Apollo does stay, much to the characters' surprise. And yours, probably.
  • Steins;Gate:
    • A minor example from episode 3 counts as something named the Jellyman report doesn't sound particularly serious, but causes Okabe to have a minor Heroic B.S.O.D.:
      "Human is dead: Mismatch"
    • Episode 12:
      Moeka: Shiina Mayuri is not needed. [fires gun at Mayuri]
    • Episode 14:
      Suzuha: I am the time traveler John Titor.
    • Episode 20:
      Yuugo: [To Moeka] You sold us out, M4.
    • Episode 22:
      Suzuha: You must stop World War III. [EPISODE ENDS]
  • Fleuret Blanc: During a sequence where you can investigate the whereabouts of former FOIL members, the members' statuses appear at the top of the screen as you discover them. When you investigate Etzer, the status update reads "Etzer: Deceased", so you know that something major has happened even before you read the details. This also confirms some of the protagonists' worst suspicions about the villains, immediately heightening the tension of the story.
  • The Final line of Block 5, the Pale Bride's story from Analogue: A Hate Story:
    He started to argue, but then he stopped. I think he was patronising me, as if I can't read simple Korean script! He just asked, in the smuggest voice, "Then what should I call you, child?"
    I screamed. I'd already told him a thousand times before.
    "Hyun-ae! My name is Hyun-ae!"
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • In Emi's route
      Hisao's Narration: Emi's there, yes. But she's in a wheelchair.
    • In Hanako's route, this exchange between Hisao and Lilly not only takes the scene into a completely different direction (especially in that it forces Hisao to re-evaluate how he sees Hanako), but takes it into a completely direction than the equivalent scene in Lilly's route.
      Lilly: There is another person, though, that has been a subject of worry for me as of late.
      Hisao: Oh?
      Lilly: That person is you, Hisao.
    • In Lilly's route.
      Akira: When our folks told me that when we were at their place, though, they also gave Lilly a summons to rejoin them in Inverness.
    • In Shizune's route:
      Misha:: Comfort me, Hicchan, just for today.
    • In Shizune's route:
      Misha:: I know you like her, Hicchan. I mean that I like Shicchan in the same way. I want her to be my girlfriend.
    • In the beta version of Shizune's route, the "comfort" sequence does not occur. According to the data the line was meant to be included during the love confession scene itself, however in the leaked beta it is either unfinished or partially removed and thus wasn't implemented. The love confession itself is still a thing but happens much earlier (in Act 3) and is a huge Wham Line after Hisao confronts Misha about her unusually sad behavior lately.
      Misha: Hicchan, I wish you and me could change places.
      Hisao: What do you mean?
      Misha: Shicchan... really loves you. You might be the first person she has ever loved in that way too. Do you notice the way she looks at you, Hicchan?
      Misha: I wish she could look at me like that.
      Hisao: What are you saying?
      Misha: I love her.
      Misha: I'm in love with Shicchan. I love her.
    • From later in Act 3 of Shizune's beta arc:
      Misha: [internal monologue] To my right, I hear a loud noise, like a car horn. It's a bad noise. When you hear something like that... it's not something you're supposed to hear. It means something is wrong
      Misha: I wonder where that car is going? Is it going to hit me?
      Misha: I turn in the direction of it.
      Misha: This must be fate, right? After all, I have lived so long, and I never know what to do next. It can all be over if I just... don't move.
  • In VA-11 HALL-A:
    Jill: So, how's Lenore doing?
    Gaby: She's dead.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the game is a rare case of a visual novel narrating in the third person instead of the first person. Except at the final chapter of the true ending where Junpei is trying to figure out things he knew but logically couldn't and shouldn't know...
    The answer to that is easy.
    He knew because I knew.

Alternative Title(s): Kapow Statement