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troacctid
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05:01:35 PM Feb 24th 2011
This page is full of examples that are completely made-up and never happened. I just cut all these entries that never mentioned anything about a warning at all. People, the trope is about the story warning you not to continue. If it doesn't happen, it's not an example. You don't get to give your own warnings and say the trope now magically appears in the work. That's like shouting your name out when the credits are rolling and saying it means you were in the film. No Just No.

If any of these are real examples, add them onto the page and actually mention how the trope is used this time.

Here's my cuts up to Literature. Note that the Film section has now disappeared completely.

Anime & Manga
  • Episode 26 of Wolf's Rain is a perfectly good end to the show and even comes with epilogue scenes behind the end credits. If you keep watching, things go downhill quickly.
  • Episode 15 of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann functions as a perfectly serviceable happy ending for the series, with only one notable loose end namely, Lordgenome's ominous prophecy that the moon would become "hell's messenger" once the human population reached 1,000,000. Episode 27 is the series' real ending, and is a great deal more bittersweet, but it comes after quite possibly the most epic throwdown in animation history. Which in turn comes after a long, depressing sequence involving a borderline Face-Heel Turn and circumstances conspiring in a (useless) attempt to crush the spirit out of the protagonist. The question you must ask yourself is this: is watching two giant robots the size of galaxies duking it out for the fate of the universe worth watching the protagonist's adorable fiancee turned into a brainwashed messenger of Scary Dogmatic Aliens and the protagonist himself thrown in prison by his former friend for the collateral damage he caused to the city? If so, you're only cheating yourself by not watching the whole series.
    • And even then, several people will just stop watching a couple of minutes before the ending of the last episode.
  • Death Note has similar closure at its halfway point. Whether or not the second half is as good as the first is up for debate.
    • Of course, whether the middle is a happy ending or not is up for grabs too, seeing as every criminal and suspected criminal, including people who were framed or only suspected, is about to be executed by Kira, followed by him planning to be set up as a god for the rest of his life.
  • Petite Princess Yucie inverts this. The 25th episode ends with Yucie's memory of the other four girls erased so that she can make the wish in order to save Prince Arc and prevent the power of the tiara from destroying the Human World, despite the fact that this will kill the other four, and "end of the series" non-standard credits playing over Yucie, unconscious, departing the remains of the sixth world and the four girls making a small carving on a wall of the five of them before sacrificing themselves. The last episode is instead her attempts to remember precisely what it is she's forgotten, culminating in the miraculous restoration of the other four girls. Why yes, it is made by Gainax.
  • The Ringing Bell Of Chirin. Oh, boy is this Anime movie/special full of this trope. You want a Bittersweet Ending? Stop watching the movie after Chirin (a sheep) decides to stay with the Wolf King (A wolf who KILLED Chirin's own mother) whom Chirin considers as a father figure (Ironic, considering that Chirin only wanted the wolf to train him how to fight just so he could kill the Wolf King himself).
    • If you want the Downer Ending, well be prepared for Chirin and the Wolf King go back to the VERY field where Chirin once lived and where his mother had been murdered. Chirin cannot bring himself to kill a sheep, and realizes that it was to protect his fellow sheep was why he went to find the Wolf King in the first place. Both Chirin and the Wolf King fight one another, and Chirin kills the Wolf King by impaling him. The Wolf King tells Chirin that he's proud of him for becoming so strong and that he always knew that he'd die fighting someone stronger. Unfortunately for Chirin, the other sheep think he's a monster. Realizing that he has become a monster and that the Wolf King (the only one who accepted him for who he is) has died, Chirin heads to the mountains where it's HEAVILY implied that he died alone in a blizzard. Wasn't that a fun movie about a cute little lamb, kids?
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni at the end of the first season (Tsumihoroboshi-hen, the Atonement Chapter) has one of the most heartwarming moments imaginable in a world where the main Nakama keep going insane and killing each other. Everybody Lives! Oh my god! ...Come on, you didn't actually buy that, did you? Remember what series you're talking about. In case The Stinger to that episode didn't drive the point home, the arc concludes in the second season premiere, where it's wrapped up with what basically sums up to "And then everyone died the next day when poison gas enveloped the entire village. Rena, the sole survivor, predicted this would happen, but her friends convinced her it was nonsense. She never recovers from the psychological trauma." !
  • Scryed has a perfectly happy ending by episode 25. Episode 26 has everyone fighting again.
  • The anime adaptation of Tokko has everything resolved by 20 minutes into the last episode. Unfortunately, the episode is 22 minutes long.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, makes much more sense if you stop watching it at the end of episode 24. Sure it is far from a happy ending, but at least it's comprehensible.
    • What's more, watching the Gainax Ending of the last two episodes of the series is, even if less than comprehensible, infinitely more optimistic (and that's saying something) and less depressing than the End of Evangelion.
      • I emphatically disagree. The movie has Shinji being told that as long as there's life, there's a possibility to find love and happiness. It also gives all the characters (aside from poor Kaji of course) a chance to come back more well-adjusted than they had been beforehand. In other words, HUMANITY LEARNS WHAT ITS MISTAKES WERE AND IS GIVEN ANOTHER CHANCE. You'd have to have fallen off the cynical end to think that's a bad ending. Bittersweet? Sure. Bad? Nope.
  • School Rumble chapter 84 ended with the phrase "The End (A Lie)"
  • GaoGaiGar has one of these. One would think it's the final episode, where Guy's love interest becomes a new super-Zonder, scraps GaoGaiGar, and threatens to destroy the world, but that's resolved on an unmistakably happy note. No, the REAL instance is the entire OVA — while skipping it means you miss something that takes the series and turns it up to eleven, it ends on a heartbreakingly bittersweet note, with the entire robot cast hammered into scrap and may be dead, and all of the Gutsy Galaxy Guard trapped in an alternate universe which is about to close and cease to exist. After a Hot-Blooded series which took great pains to avoid this kind of thing, the Tear Jerker Bittersweet Ending is harsh.
  • In the actual Berserk anime, this might apply for episode 18, right up to the point where Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk, or else, while still a Bittersweet Ending (as Griffith is crippled and disfigured from torture), episode 22 until all hell starts breaking loose for the three final episodes.
  • Absolute Boyfriend could easily have ended after chapter 32, the second to last chapter. Though Night getting magically repaired by having sex is really a Deus ex Machina, the final chapter is just a Diabolus ex Machina.
  • The Boys Love manga Boys Love (now there's an inventive title) ends with the protagonist and the Troubled, but Cute Love Interest finally hooking up after much angst and heatbreak, and it seems like a Happy Ending is about to ensue, but in the last 20 pages The Rival becomes consumed with jealousy and stabs the love interest, who dies in the protagonist's arms, converting the book into an excruciating Tearjerker.
  • The storyline of episode 09 of Figure17 appears to end on an extremely positive note, with Tsubasa becoming friends (and possibly more) with Shou during their "date", relieving much of the anxiety she was feeling at that point in the series. However, the episode keeps going for long enough to depict Tsubasa arriving at school the next day and learning that Shou died suddenly from his chronic illness during the night.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 6: Stone Ocean...Only 1 member of the entire cast lives...for a pleasant, alternate ending, tell yourself, when you get to the Stairway To Heaven/Made In Heaven chapter, Pucci's glowing because he will harmlessly explode and everyone lives Happily Ever After.
  • Episode 22 of Romeo X Juliet ends on a perfectly plausible but bittersweet high note. Big Bad Lord Montague is dead, the civil war tearing Neo Verona apart is over, Juliet has taken her rightful place on the throne, the ruling Capulet dynasty has been restored, and most important of all she's now free to live Happily Ever After with Romeo. Then GONZO remembered at the last minute it was adapting Romeo and freakin' Juliet, so episodes 23 and 24 are dedicated to tearing down and pissing on Romeo and Juliet's well-earned happy ending.
  • Some fans like to consider that the movie of Cowboy Bebop (Placed between episodes 22 and 23) was the real ending of the series.
  • The last OVA for Hunter × Hunter ends in Gon and Killua teleporting in front of a tree, with a shadow fishing out in the lake. The shadow starts to turn as the episode ends, and Gon's stunned reaction makes it look like he just might have found his father. Those who read the manga however will know that said shadow is Kite, Ging's protege
  • Inverted in Kannazuki no Miko. Chikane's Xanatos Gambit paid off, the world is saved and her girlfriend Himeko gets to live in a peaceful world... at the cost of her Ret Gone'd. Even Himeko is unable to remember her, despite having promised so. The end, the credits roll over. AND THEN, we see Himeko reunited with Chikane in a bustling city. Of course, since they endlessly reincarnates, we're not sure whether the reunion happens in this timeline or not.

Comic Books
  • an issue of "Zot!" had an inversion of this. The issue dealt with Terry, a minor character, struggling with her homosexuality, unable to admit it to anyone, least of all the girl that she likes. The issue ends with her sadly walking past said girl, ignoring her as she says hi. The next page is the letters page...the next page after THAT is Terry turning around and mustering up enough courage to go and talk to her crush. Unfortunately many fans didn't realize this happened, and thought the story had a Downer Ending

Film
  • In Brazil, Sam's escape from Information Retrieval is revealed to be All Just a Dream. He is actually still in the torture chamber in a state of catatonia. In an infamous bit of Executive Meddling, Universal subverted this trope by releasing a cut (referred to in the Criterion edition as the "Love Conquers All" version) that leaves out The Reveal so as to make the ending an unambiguously happy one.
    • The interesting thing is, Gilliam the director considers it very much an open question as to whether the true ending is a Bad Ending or a Happy Ending. Given what the movie has been like, you can make a case that it's still a Happy Ending, and who is to say you're not right?
  • The ending of Bridge to Terabithia (the book and its film adaptation) is unexpected. It likely shocked many parents who didn't read the novel and were expecting to take their kids to a joyful film.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) originally ended on a ambiguous bittersweet note. Test audiences complained and so an extra segment was filmed and tacked onto the credits, showing what happens when the cast's escape-boat reaches its island destination.
  • The film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla ends on a bittersweet note: Godzilla is defeated, but still alive. The hero Kiryu is damaged, but still functional. Japan is safe for now. But, if you wish to at least keep the Bitter Sweet Ending, I suggest you don't watch the sequel, Tokyo SOS.
  • A variation of this can be seen if you watch either the original Japanese dub or the American-English dub of Gojira aka Godzilla: King of the Monsters.''. Whereas the American-English dub of the film has a Bitter Sweet Ending consisting of Godzilla dying at the end and Japan being saved from his wrath. (Albeit, with the tragic sacrifice of Dr. Serizawa.), the original Japanese dub has a Downer Ending in which not only do Godzilla and Serizawa die at the end, but it's HEAVILY implied that Godzilla wasn't the only member of his species. In other words, Serizawa's sacrifice was all in vain.
    • Then Godzilla became a superhero, saved the world a dozen times and made friends with a robot, several dinosaurs and a bug, and everyone lived happily ever after.
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is an inversion; to many viewers, the Bittersweet Ending feels tacked on after the apparent Downer Ending.
    • Depends. The second ending is waaaay more depressing, and stopping at the first (David talking to the Blue Fairy statue) seems enough.
  • The movie The Golden Compass leaves out the final chapters of the book, and moves the rest of the events at Svalbard to earlier in the movie, so the movie ends on a more upbeat tone. And since the movie didn't do too well, a sequel looks unlikely...
  • One could probably stop viewing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid after Butch and Sundance leave for Bolivia in the first place, and thus not have to deal with the Bolivian Army Ending.
  • If you've seen the made-for-TV movie Star Wars spinoff The Ewok Adventure, and want to believe the protagonists and their parents (who they rescued from the monster) live happily ever after, then DO NOT see the sequel The Battle for Endor, in which one of the first movie's protagonists and both of the parents get killed off within the first ten minutes, leaving the youngest all alone until she meets Wilford Brimley's character. The first movie, on the other hand, ends with the family still stranded on Endor, but alive and well.
  • Inversion: Requiem for a Dream faced heavy criticism from Moral Guardians who thought the movie's message was "Drugs are good!" They clearly, CLEARLY didn't watch past the end of the first act.
  • When the lead girl is happy in a house in the nature, STOP WATCHING Dario Argento's Opera. Trust me.
  • If you stop watching Back to the Future Part II after Marty burns Gray's Sports Almanac, it's a self-contained film, albeit with the hanging thread of old Marty being fired in 2015. Keep watching and you'll be left with a Cliff Hanger setting up Part III. (The same could be said of the original, except its ending wasn't intended to set up a sequel.)
  • The ending of the original The Italian Job. (not to be confused with the later version). To be fair, it was designed to set up a sequel, but the sequel never came.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service. We have all the time in the world...
  • If you want to believe that Newt, Hicks, Bishop, and Ripley all safely make it home to Earth and live happily ever after, just watch Aliens, and don't watch Alien 3. In fact, don't watch it anyway.
  • Finishing The Lost World: Jurassic Park when Malcolm & Co. are leaving in a helicopter solves most of the plot. Continuing to watch, the dinos are sent to mainland, and silliness ensues (T-Rex in a Godzilla-like rampage!).
    • How is that a bad thing?
  • The Dark Knight has two endings. One is where The Joker almost kills Batman on a highway and Officer Gordon comes in to rescue him, thereby capturing The Joker and all would be well in Gotham. Then comes the whole Harvey Dent thing.
    • Of course if it had ended there the Joker's role in the story would have been reduced to that of just a colorful thug and the characterization would have lost something.
    • Or the movie could have ended with the Joker being captured (for real this time) after the whole ferry boat thing and left Two-Face as a Sequel Hook. Then you get to miss the death of Harvey Dent and an extraneous Title Drop.
  • For those that prefer a happy ending in their thriller/horror films, stop watching The Ring right after the resolution scenes of the little girl's remains being appropriately removed from her imprisoning well/deathtrap (before Rachel returns home to find Aiden waking from nightmares). There is a decently long black-screen moment between scenes (during which many theater audiences started to leave before realizing that the movie had not ended) in which to make a perfect escape from the movie still believing it to be nothing more than an incredibly creepy mystery story that has been well resolved (as opposed to an even more creepy horror thriller that proclaims that sometimes evil cannot be redeemed and in fact, in its own subtle way, sometimes wins).
  • The movie The Green Card needs to be ended about five minutes before the end credits start to roll in order to avert the Downer Ending. American Bronte and her French husband, George, finally realize they might have a real marriage when, after spending days living together in order to fool Immigration officials that their Citizenship Marriage was actually genuine, they find they really do love each other. Bronte waits for George in the Afrika CafĂ©. They spot each other through the window and fall into each other's arms. Happy Ending achieved. Until Bronte spots the Immigration agents waiting to take George to the airport for immediate deportation back to France because they've realized the original marriage wasn't legitimate.
  • In the film Road to Perdition, be sure to quickly turn off the TV when the Sullivans move to the new house and all is well - leaving the film on will thus lead to Sullivan Sr. being killed by a re-appearing Maguire, and Sullivan Jr. moving to the farm where they stayed prior, resulting in a Semi-Downer Ending.
  • Train Man does this. After Train Man successfully woos Hermes, we cut to Train Man, pre-makeover, waking up on the subway - it was all a dream. But, if you stick around after the credits, you see a more uplifting end.
  • There will come a point in Atonement, both film and book, where the narrative suddenly switches to the present. Just walk away. You don't want to know what happens, just walk away.
  • Stop watching Drag Me to Hell after Christine buries her envelope in Ganush's grave, gets a promotion, and is about to be proposed to.
  • If you're watching a campy low-budget Italian horror flick and "Screenplay by (or 'Directed by') Claudio Fragasso" comes up in the opening credits, be prepared for an abrupt and ill-fitting Downer Ending.
  • Pay It Forward - stop watching it when the mom and the teacher start to kiss, after the interview. You had a pretty good movie, with lots of corn. What happens after that is not just stupid, but unnecessary.
  • As a short story, The Mist ended on a Bolivian Army Ending. The movie goes through that ending, has a couple minutes more of resolution, then turns into a Shoot the Shaggy Dog (which incidentally would have been a happy ending if the main characters had decided to keep fighting rather than end their struggle.)
  • Remember Me - stop the movie as soon as Tyler looks outside the office window. unless you figured out what date the scene takes place on.
  • You can stop watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) when Makoto is walking up the hill from the railroad crossing after getting Kousuke and Kaho together. Keep watching when she gets a call from Chiaki, and you'll get to a slightly confusing Bittersweet Ending.
  • Moulin Rouge! - In something that should come as a surprise to no one who paid attention to the very first spoken line of the movie, Satine, the love of the narrator Christian's life dies of tuberculosis just after their grand ending song is finished, "Come What May". If you stop the movie just as the curtains close, you'll be left feeling elated and a renewed belief in the Power of Love. Keep it going a second later, and all of it comes crashing down into a Downer Ending.
  • Books by Nicholas Sparks tend to be this way, and their movie adaptations follow accordingly. If you're watching The Notebook and reach the part where Allie goes back to Noah after breaking up with her fiancé, you have your happy ending. You can already guess who the old man and the old woman are, so there's no need for you to continue watching. Just walk out of the theatre. Really.
  • If you're watching [[Superman]] II: The Richard Donner Cut, skip to the end credits after Superman leaves Lois on the roof and you get an infinitely more coherent ending. Still something of a downer, though.
  • Inverted in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. If you want a Downer Ending that feels dramatically satisfying and in keeping with what's been set up over the previous two hours (i.e. Gordon Gekko is a Magnificent Bastard who you CANNOT trust), stop the film about five minutes before the end credits. If you'd rather a shiny-happy ending where all the characters' issues get suddenly resolved for no adequately explained reason  *, then by all means, watch through to the end.

Interactive Fiction
  • Infidel is somewhat infamous as being one of only two works of Interactive Fiction by Infocom to have a Downer Ending. However, as some have pointed out, one can get all 400 points by unlocking the sarcophagus. They don't have to open the sarcophagus (thus triggering the Diabolus ex Machina that traps them in the Burial Chamber to die) to finish with the maximum points. Instead, they can just collect the minor treasures at this point, leave the pyramid, and type QUIT.
    • Of course, as has been pointed out, Fridge Logic makes it pretty obvious that trapped in the middle of the desert with no crew and no supplies with which to make it back to civilization (and with your old crew actively hating you and wanting you to die and therefore unlikely to get anyone to send a rescue party anytime soon) you're pretty much done for anyway. Part of the point here is that your character is too obsessed/blind/stupid to understand this and that the fact that he's still looking for the treasure rather than a means to escape the dig site is symptomatic of the screwed-up attitude that got him in this mess in the first place.
    • Hey, the message from the crew clearly states "We have left you what you need to get back, though we hope you do not." They leave you a heap of jerky, the entire river Nile of water and a navigation box. Only your greed stands in your way.

Literature
  • In Charles Saunders's short story Shiminege's Mask, it's possible to stop reading after the heroine rescues the sacrificial maiden by way of a Batman Gambit and moves on. However, in the last few paragraphs, the maiden - not realizing that everyone else in her tribe is a lemming (she herself is a lamb) - decides to tell them what really happened. And attempt civil disobedience. And destroy a sacred relic...which gets her immediately branded a dangerous heretic and executed.
  • You can pretty much stop reading Star Wars Expanded Universe novels chronology-wise after Vision of the Future and feel satisfied. It ends with Luke and Mara falling in love and planning to get married, Han and Leia thwarting one of The Empire's final dastardly schemes, and Admiral Pellaeon negotiating a truce between the Republic and The Empire. the next book, Vector Prime ends with Scary Dogmatic Aliens dropping a moon on Chewie. And then It Got Worse...
  • Life of Pi is an interesting example. The framing device of the story is that a boy who survived a shipwreck is telling the story of what happened. The story can begin and end completely separately of the framing device, but if you read the second half of the framing device, you get a different and far more disturbing possible version of events. Readers are openly invited to choose which one they prefer.
    • Since it's double framed, though, it's really a guy telling a story about someone he met who told him two stories.
  • Inverted in the penultimate James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice. Near the end, it would be very easy to stop with a Bittersweet Ending: Blofeld dead, the last vestiges of his empire destroyed, Tracy avenged, and Bond plummeting to an uncertain doom, followed by his MI6 "Killed In Action" report. Reading on reveals Bond's survival followed by a cliffhanger ending, leading into a final book (rather less impressive, for a variety of reasons) with a happier conclusion.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front's two-paragraph last chapter lets many people create their own accidental Snicket Warning Label. Depending on your edition of the book, this last page can be easy to miss, on its own page after the story seems to have ended. If you think you have read the whole book, do you remember how the protagonist dies at the end?
  • The Dark Elf Trilogy has its first book (Homeland) end with Drizzt escaping the clutches of his Big Screwed-Up Family and heading toward the surface world. Sounds pretty pleasant until you learn in the second book (Exile) that he is still in the underground world of the Underdark, forced to rely on instinct to survive and slowly losing his humanity (well, the dark elf version of humanity); and did I forget to mention that his family is chasing after him so that they can sacrifice him to the evil goddess?
  • Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell To Arms" is tense but generally cheerful up to the last three chapters, then...everything goes to hell.
  • His Dark Materials: The Protagonists save the world, the tyrant of Heaven is defeated, and everyone's happy. All's left now is for the two just-realised-they're-in-love heroes to work out how they can live in all the wonderful universes they've found... then an angel comes around and announces that they have to return to their respective universes, or else, and can never see each other again.
  • Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance: About 50-100 pages before the end of this (very long) book, when everything is looking up for the four protagonists, just stop. You can pretend it keeps on going well for them if you don't read the rest.
  • Koji Sazuki's Ring: Stop when you reach part four, which starts after Asakawa pulls Sadako's remains out of the well and passes his deadline - granted, you'll miss out on the sequels, but everything seems wrapped up and you can pretend everything returns to normal in exchange for an open, downer ending.
  • The Bible. Skip the Book of Revelations if you don't want to see the Trope Namer of Storyboarding the Apocalypse.

troacctid
05:12:15 PM Feb 24th 2011
Continued. Music and Theater and Videogames have also disappeared.

Live Action TV
  • In The L Word , skip and/or ignore the first episode of the six season and watch untill the third episode in the season in which Shane and Jenny finally hook up. Ignore the whole ridiculous whodunit murder plot. Just because Jenny is crazy as hell doesn't mean she deserves to die.
  • Battlestar Galactica "Revelations", oh gods, where to begin? After the rebel cylons and the humans come to an uneasy alliance and don't blow each other out of the sky with nukes, they make their way to Earth together. The end of their quest to find Earth That Was just sits there gleaming, the cast celebrates, everyone is happy... and once they land it turns out to have been an irradiated nuclear wasteland with no survivors or life at all. It helps to consider the creators' words:
    David Eike: "I love the moment where they announce they've found Earth because of how uplifting it is in such a real way; and it makes me see characters that I've come to know all these years celebrating in the sort of throes of happiness in a way that they've never had a reason to be. And I love it most of all because we dash their hopes completely, and make them understand that all the things that they've hoped for will not, as it turns out, come to pass."
    Ron Moore: "We were feeling just a little too good, and it's Battlestar Galactica after all."
    • Similarly, there's a bit in the series finale where it unexpectedly looks like everything is about to work out. Some viewers would have liked this ending fine; instead, Tyrol kills Tory to avenge his wife, and we get a very different ending. Both endings are satisfying in their way, but there's almost no overlap.
  • Dark Angel's first season ends on one of these. The scene were everyone (even the newly-reformed ex-Big Bad Lydecker) is together in the bar happily celebrating their victory over the evil Manticore Mega Corp. and planning out their post-victory lives is actually all just a hallucination playing out in Max's head as she lies in the snow dying a slow death from a gunshot wound. Insult is added to injury when most of the people seen in the bar scene are promptly killed or Put on a Bus and the show's second season turned out to be of dubious quality and was promptly cancelled. You could easily stop watching the show writ large at the instant before the dream sequence ends and call it a "happy" ending.
  • If for some reason you've managed to make it the final season of Roseanne, stop just before the ending credits of the second-last episode, and you get a heartwarming Happy Ending instead of a heartwrenching Downer Ending.
    • Actually a better place to stop would be at then end of season 8, instead of anywhere in the final season.
      • Two wrongs make a right here: either stop watching before the last season or watch every episode. If you watch any of the last season, you have to watch the finale, which is the only way to explain the absurdity of what you just saw.
  • Some viewers can consider Blake's 7 to have concluded in the third season with a Bittersweet Ending where the heroes' ship is destroyed as the Big Bad is killed off. If they avoid the fourth season, or at least the final episode of the fourth season, they won't have to deal with the Downer Ending in which Avon kills Blake mistakingly believing he betrayed his own cause, and then almost everyone else is shot by Federation troops with only Avon left standing as the show ends with a Bolivian Army Ending.
  • A number of Xena fans recommend you consider 'When Fates Collide' the last episode if you don't want to see the Redemption Equals Death downer that occurs in 'Friend in Need', the final episode. Similiarly, if you're fond of the supporting cast of characters and/or the Xenaverse Greek gods, a good place to stop would be the end of 'Fallen Angel', the first episode of the fifth season, which ends with Xena and Gabrielle returned to the land of the living and amongst their friends.
    • You can watch all of Xena and be happy with it if you then read Dynamite's Dark Xena.
  • The season one finale of LOST has a wonderful moment where rescue has come for the Rafties in the form of a slightly ominous tug boat and what did they say about the boy?
    • All the Lost season finales could have a warning label for "Mind Screwing Plot Twist incoming!"
      • Hell, most episodes of Lost could have that.
  • Though mitigated by The Peacekeeper Wars mini-series that tied up many loose ends, the original series finale of Too Good to Last posterchild, Farscape, needs one of these. Appropriately named "Bad Timing", it was meant to be an end-of-season cliffhanger. As the final scene opens, Moya floats peacefully on a calm sea, recovering from a battle in which the Big Bad was thwarted and Earth saved. John and Aeryn are together on a nearby rowboat. She reveals she is pregnant with his child and then he proposes marriage. She tearfully agrees, and he slips his dead mother's ring on her finger. They embrace. And then an alien ship swoops out of the sky and bears down on them. They briefly try to row back to the ship, but when it becomes clear they aren't going to make it, they declare their love for each other and embrace. The ship fires on them, and they collapse into a heap of tiny chunks. Aboard Moya, D'Argo screams a Big "NO!", then collapses in grief. Just before the end credits, the camera pans back to the boat, revealing a gleaming ring amidst the shattered remains of John and Aeryn.
  • Don't like the idea of Trip dying? Stop watching Star Trek: Enterprise after "Terra Prime", then skip straight to Archer's speech at the Charter Signing, ignoring the rest of "These are the Voyages...". Not necessarily a happier ending, per se, but definitely a more satisfying one.
  • The penultimate episode of Dollhouse. "Well, I guess we saved the world." Cut to Ten years later, the doll-pocalypse has happened anyway.
  • When watching Torchwood, just stop at the end of season 2 and be happy with the Downer Ending. Season 3/Children of Earth ratcheted up the Downer Ending to pure Diabolus ex Machina and fired up a giant High Octane Nightmare Fuel-powered Trauma Conga Line the likes of which have never been seen.
  • If you watch only the first 2-3 seasons of Supernatural (point of stopping will vary), you'll get a Bitter Sweet Ending: Jo and Ellen live on fighting monsters, John's death is useful for his sons, and Dean and Sam will go on their quest, albeit with some brotherly ranting from time to time, but nothing too serious. And Sam will continue to be just a normal human killing demons with conventional means.
    • A sadistic variation of this trope will occur at the end of series 5 finale: if you stop watching minutes before the end of the last episode, you'll be left with Dean being horrifyingly maimed, Bobby and Cass dead, and Sam fighting for eternity against the Devil, or being tortured by him (or worse, the possibility of Lucifer escaping). Fortunately, a Hand Wave makes most of the characters better. Jo and her mom are still dead (and implied to be in hell).

Music
  • The third to last song on Aimee Mann's Lost in Space album is where the story picks up. Naturally, it doesn't last and the last two songs are the most heartbreaking on the album.
  • If you stop Dream Theater's Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory album or live version after the musical fade out of "Finally Free" (the last track), you get a nice wrap to the story of murder and reincarnation where Nicholas is now at peace with the reincarnated memories of Victoria, and how they've made him a better person. Keep the track playing, and Nicholas gets in his car, drives home, puts on a record, and lays down for a nap when The Hypnotherapist, the reincarnation of Sen. Edward Baynes, bursts in and kills him in this incarnation as well.
    HYPNOTHERAPIST: "Open your eyes, Nicholas!"
  • If you're happy with Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's characters falling in love in the movie Once, don't listen to The Swell Season's second album Strict Joy, which came out a few years afterward. It's a not-so-fictional account of the REAL Glen and Marketa falling back out of love. If you take into consideration that they basically play themselves onscreen, it's hard not to think of the album as a very depressing epilogue.
  • Stop listening to The Father of Death just before the final note of The Fall, and it looks like the good guys have won.

Theater
  • There are stories of audiences leaving in the interval before the final act of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, thinking that they've just seen the happy ending. Sticking around reveals the story to be... rather more complicated.
    • There was at least one local run where the play was performed in full during the evening shows, but the one afternoon performance was only the first act. This was billed as the "family show."
  • The Fantasticks has a textbook Happy Ending at the end of the first act. Then things start to go wrong...
  • Verdi's Ernani should end with Act 3, where the King pardons the titular outlaw and allows him to marry the girl. In act IV, however, the unforgiving old Silva appers on their wedding night, reminding Ernani on their earlier pact that if he blows his horn, Ernani kills himself. After a fiery terzetto, he does so. And Elvira just randomly dies. Silva is triumphant.

Video Games
  • Red Dead Redemption. You should get that nagging feeling when your wife and son start giving you missions after supposedly everything is over.
  • "Wow, what a wonderful experience playing through Chrono Trigger was! With such a great cast of well-developed, likable characters, I simply must play the sequel and the Updated Re-release" to find out what happens to them all!" Bad idea, Sparky.
  • Inverted by Halo 3. If you want the "Yes, they will continue to do something." ending, you need to beat it on Legendary and wait through the credits. If you want the "Chief is cryofrozen and Cortana is alone for who knows how long." ending, beat it on Easy, Normal, or Heroic and wait through the credits. If you want the "John is dead." ending, don't wait through the credits.
    • Played straight with Halo: Reach. Don't wish to see Noble Six die? Stop before the credits end.
  • You can have a perfectly Bittersweet Ending if you stop playing the 2008 Prince of Persia game after the final boss fight. Continuing afterward leads to a Downer Ending.
    • To elaborate a bit, it's surprising * how* perfectly the Bittersweet Ending is constructed - when you up Elika's body and slowly walk outside while carrying it, the credits start rolling. When you put Elika's body back down outside the temple, the credits stop. The official strategy guide for the game even states outright that this is a good place to stop if you don't want a bad ending. The player still controls the Prince, but there's nothing left to do aside from destroying the tree of life and freeing Ahriman - which the player must do themselves, without any coaching from the game. Doing so leads to the downer ending where The Prince frees Ahriman and revives Elika, who responds to this by asking "Why?"
    • If they don't make a sequel, the DLC Epilogue is almost MORE depressing, wherein the Prince makes a fairly airtight and perfectly in-character argument for why he did what he did...and Elika leaves him anyway.
    • The strategy guide actually has a warning saying to turn off the game if you like happy endings.
  • Don't watch the credits in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. You have been warned.
  • Ico subverts this with the initial, pre credits, ending be a downer, but the true ending much happier (at least if you're not too paranoid).
    • Similarly with Shadow of the Colossus, Ico's Spiritual Successor.
    • Shadow twists this trope into knots with a mournful opening, two downer endings first, when Wander is killed, then as he's killed again after being possessed by Dormin, which may or may not actually be a happy ending for Dormin but still a downer for Wander since he is dead without knowing if he has saved Mono, followed by yet another, possibly happy, possibly bittersweet ending, depending on your viewpoint. Whew.
    • And if you are aware that Shadow is actually a prequel to ICO, you know that things don't turn out too well in times to come.
  • Oddly enough, some fans of the first two Monkey Island games prefer to end Monkey Island 2 at the bittersweet All Just a Dream ending, where Guybrush is a child and none of his adventures were real instead of continuing through the credits to the point where Elaine suspects that Guybrush is under a spell, indicating that the "child" world is the fake one, and Guybrush is indeed the Mighty Pirate™ he thinks he is.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic and the Black Knight, You get a ending, complete with credits, once you defeat the Big Bad. However, the game all but declares you're not done yet, with, when you start the new story mission, a new cutscene begins where Merlina is revealed to be using you to doom Camelot to eternity!
  • The first Saints Row does this. After you defeat the other gangs, Julius tells you that the city is on its way to recovery. A montage flies by of all the characters affected by your actions, and the credits roll. You can STOP PLAYING HERE if you're satisfied with your ending, but after the credits new missions open up where Julius has been captured by Police Chief Monroe, and wants you to do odd tasks to release him alive. The -actual- final mission takes place on a yacht, with Alderman Hughes. The yacht ends up exploding, leaving Hughes and the player presumed dead.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Zack and Cloud escape Hojo's sick experimentation in Nibelheim, travel across the land in one piece, are at a hill atop Midgar, and hey, Cloud seems to be coming around, Maybe Zack will get to see Aerith again. STOP PLAYING. NOW. Otherwise, Zack dies.
  • You there nearing the end of Persona 3, are you pretty sure you don't want to stop playing just after the last battle and leave it at that?
    • Or rather, do not play The Answer at all?
  • You want a happy ending to Half-Life 2: Episode Two? Stop playing once the superportal is closed.
  • Dwarf Fortress's motto is "Losing is fun". This extends to the Let's Plays of it. Syrupleaf in particular, if you stop reading after Sirocco's run, it's a perfectly fine and heartwarming story that ties up all loose ends. The fortress wins out against all odds. The "fun" goes into overdrive afterwards...
  • Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow: Don't wait until after the credits. Although the pre-credits ending is already a downer somewhat.
  • Don't get attached to Roxas in Kingdom Hearts II.
    • Would this be an inversion since Roxas' segment is at the beginning of the game?
  • The third Phoenix Wright game was intended to conclude the series and ends on a fairly happy note. However, what with Phoenix losing his badge before Apollo Justice, clearly his life needed one of these.
  • In Drakengard, every harder to achieve ending is more violent and depressing than the one before it. Fortunately, only the first ending is canon.
  • The stories in Odin Sphere end fairly happily for the characters' involved. If you like things that way, don't pick up that sixth book!
    • A slight example also happens for Mercedes. She's defeated Odin, avenged her mother's death, and recovered the Ring of Titrel. Of course, the player already knows that any moment now, Gwendolyn is going to storm in, kick Mercedes' ass, and take the ring back.
  • In Nanashi no Game 2, the secret ending is... Well...
  • If you stop playing Sam & Max just before the end of episode 304, all the villains are defeated, all the major plot threads tied up (Stinky and Sal aren't, but they were just a side thread, and remain so even later), and the Toys of Power are destroyed, meaning they certainly won't be responsible for Max's death or fall into the wrong hands. Oh, wait, there's still one more episode... and it gets worse.
  • While Yume Nikki is not in any sense a cheery game, there are a couple of heartwarming moments (if you turn your head sideways and squint a bit), and it can be tempting to just quit playing and imagine Madotsuki exploring her dream world and playing around with her Effects forever and ever, the end. Alternatively, you could trigger the actual ending...

Webcomics
  • Taken to its logical extreme here.
  • The The Order of the Stick prequel book "Start of Darkness" has a happy ending - the Well-Intentioned Extremist known only as Redcloak reconnects with his younger brother Right-Eye and his family, realising that he can better help his people by building a peaceful future for them, serving as the village priest in their humble village. If you continue reading, sadly Xykon then turns up and informs his former minions that he'll kill them all unless they work for him; within a few years most of Right-Eye's family will be dead in any case, and Redcloak will kill Right-Eye himself to stop him killing Xykon for vengeance. Which was exactly what Xykon had planned; with the crushed Redcloak now prepared to do whatever Xykon commands. But of course, since it's a prequel and Redcloak is The Dragon in the webcomic, this is A Foregone Conclusion.

troacctid
05:14:44 PM Feb 24th 2011
And one last one. This isn't as Egregious as most of them, but it still uses the trope wrong, since nobody is ever warned about the unhappy bits. Additionally, it's full of Natter.

  • One episode of The Simpsons has Homer get enthralled in a Harry Potter expy book he's reading to Lisa. He can't resist reading ahead and discovers that "Lord Greystache" dies. So to spare Lisa, he makes up a new and utterly ridiculous yet happy ending wholecloth. Lisa suspects he's made it up, but rationalizes that she likes his ending better.
    • Also done in the episode with the Joan of Arc story. When Lisa asks if Joan really dies, Marge grabs the book, makes up an ending about her being rescued by Sir Lancelot, and then eats the last page of the book (remarking that it was easier than eating the cassette of Bambi).
      • Joan of Arc and Lancelot then went on to live happily ever after in a spaceship.
    • A recent episode features the Simpson family motto, "Quit while you're ahead." Marge mentions that she and Homer walked out of the film Carrie right after she was crowned prom queen.
      • Followed by the trope being played with to the extreme, with the ending going back and forth from good, to bad, to better, to worse, to great.
      • Note that Marge's sampler of the family motto only reads "Quit while you're ahea".

legato
11:33:50 AM Jul 10th 2011
Just stick them in YMMV as this just basically falls under editing for the sake of editing
Jugulum
12:48:33 PM Apr 12th 2012
I deleted a couple Film entries that were just "This movie would've been less tragic if it had ended sooner". I also clarified this point in the trope description. I deleted:

  • Repo Men is arguably a much better film if you end it on the beach.
  • Atonement could have ended right before Briony's interview as an old woman and it would've been a little less tragic.
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