Follow TV Tropes

Archived Discussion Main / ShootTheShaggyDog

Go To

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Remvoed a couple examples in the videogame section, namely Final Fantasy VII and Heart of the Alien. FFVII's ending unambigiuosly portrays a world that has been saved and the showing of Midgar as a lush, verdant land after 500 years is merely to show that the planet has recovered. The supposition that humanity has been wiped out is a bunch of nonsense cooked up by cynical twats looking for a downer ending where there is none. Heart of the Alien CERTAINLY doesn't qualify as Lester's death may have prevented him from going home, but it was a heroic sacrifice in order to save his noble alien friend's life and tribe. Such and ending has nothing to do with shaggy dog stories.

Removed from the Night of the Living Dead example:

  • Of course, the fact that the zombie hunters were rednecks and the sole survivor was a black man might have something to do with it...

THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. This is insulting; there was no indication of the zombie hunters being racists. Reckless and stupid, arguably, but they did not kill him for his race - they killed him because they assumed he was a zombie. So cut.

GSJ: George A. Romero is fond of social commentary, however, and it's doubtful that at the time the film was made that the protagonist was cast as a black man for no reason. I'm not saying that cutting what you cut was a bad idea (as it basically just seems really snide and condescending for no reason at all, and doesn't exactly add anything), but I think that the idea has some merit to it, or at least is interesting to think about. But, I guess that it's all up to the viewer's interpretation.

Matthew The Raven: Look at some post-lynching photos of good old boys displaying their victims. That imagery is deliberately mimicked by the end of Night of the Living Dead. I'll put it back tomorrow.


Robert Bingham: Expanded on the Killer example below, because the end of that movie was a total wipeout for both of the heroes involved, despite being a Hong Kong cinema classic (but then again, Cantonese movies tend to contrive things to arrive at a tragic ending like our Hollywood movies tend to do for happy endings). The only good thing to come out of it all was that the main bad guy got his in the end, but man-oh-man, when John Woo piles on the tragedy, he piles it on.

Lale: The Notre Dame and 1984 examples are just Downer Endings.

Mister Six: No they're not. The point is that everything they do is without meaning and that nothing is changed. That's excactly what happens at the end of those stories.

Blork: Removed the following example -

  • The first Halo game sees you accomplish practically nothing: Fleeing from a very badly lost battle with their enemies in hot pursuit, some humans stumble on an ancient alien artifact that could turn the tide of the war. During the massive battles on the artifact, the Sealed Evil in a Can left by the Neglectful Precursors is accidentally released, resulting in the death of nearly everyone on both sides and forcing you to blow up the artifact. You then fly back to Sol all alone with absolutely nothing to show for it aside from whatever your cybernetic Ninja Butterfly learned from her time in the artifact's computer.

Successfully destroying a large enemy fleet and surviving to fight another day isn't quite the kind of utterly pointless ending embodied by this trope. Also the description seems to misunderstand the purpose of the Halo - it wasn't a weapon that could turn the tide of the war but rather a device of last resort that would sterilise a significant portion of the galaxy, including Earth. The last third of the game has the player actively trying to destroy it (again successfully). The ending left things open, but no more than would be expected for the first chapter of a planned trilogy and it would be a bit of a stretch to even count it as a downer ending.

  • Taken as the ending to a single game and not as the first part of a trilogy or book series it is a pretty grim ending. After all is said and done you are left stranded in deep space with no ride home and only the enemy knows that anything even happened, you seem to forget that everyone who survived till the second game had that retconed in.
grendelkhan: Moved Pride of Baghdad to Kill 'Em All; the story fits there better.

Caswin: Removing X-Men: The Last Stand. Because... it doesn't fit. At all. What?

  • X-Men: The Last Stand. The cure isn't permanent, and Xavier isn't dead.

Metaphysician Removing the entire Song of Ice and Fire entry. Doesn't come close to fitting either of the requirements for this trope ( random event; that renders everything before pointless ). Both the death of Ned Stark and the Red Wedding resulted from character and situational traits in an entirely sensical manner; and both have continuing consequences for the rest of the story. These are Downer Endings, not Shoot the Shaggy Dog.

Falcon Pain: I believe that you have misinterpreted the trope. Randomness is not necessary; that's what we call Diabolus ex Machina. Having an effect on later events also does not exclude the trope. The main quality needed to fit this trope is that the ending undermines most or all of the events that occurred before it. I don't know anything about A Song Of Ice And Fire, but fitting the characterizations and having consequences has very little to do with this trope. You need more evidence than that, and I'll leave it to the series experts to debate whether or not this deserves to be removed or not.

Metaphysician: Put another way, if the death of Ned Stark counts as Shoot the Shaggy Dog, so should pretty much every story where a main character dies.

Skald359: Shouldn't this tie in with a Crapsack World?

Uknown troper: Nuked the Warhammer 40000 discussion. Storing it here:

  • This troper would like to point out that there is a slim chance that Humanity isn't completely boned. They just have to wait for the God Emperor to finally wake up and smite all their enemies with a wave of his hand. However, the chances of this happening are just a little under those of the universe spontaneously ending.
    • Given that factions of the Eldar are developing a plan to annihilate both the material universe and the warp should Chaos ultimately look like winning, a spontaneous ending of the universe is the least of their worries.
    • This troper disagrees that the Orks are even as evil as the Imperium or the Eldar. Yes they love fighting and wars and so on, but they aren't motivated by hatred, sadism or a Kill 'Em All philosophy. A total Orkish victory - one massive, good natured pub brawl for eternity, seems a heck of a lot better than just about any other 'win'.
    • Yeah, about that:
      "I'm Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka an' I speak wiv da word of da gods. We iz gonna stomp da 'ooniverse flat an' kill anyfing that fights back. We iz gonna do this coz' we're Orks an' we was made to fight an' win."
    • Still a heck of a lot better than the Necrons, Tyranids and Chaos. And even the Imperium - which is itself xenocidal remember, is better only if you view a nightmarish intergalactic theocratic dictatorship as being better. At least the Orks seem to be enjoying themselves.

In fact, I justify removing the whole setting, because I don't think it's a story. It's just a Darker and Edgier setting that, unlike the old world of darkness, will not end while GW can wring more moneys out of it. I'm sure quite a lot of stories from the setting may have counted (if anybody had made novels of them), but the setting at a whole... No, not without a miserable wrap-up.

  • 1213 by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (better known for the John Defoe series) ends with a staggeringly bleak twist. The protagonist wakes up with no memory on board a research spaceship, escapes from his cell and the ship's scientists (who've been subjecting him to painful experiments and testing his response to various plagues and mutagens, with your character labouring all the while under the impression that they're doing it as part of some nefarious plot to create Super Soldiers). After shooting the place up and escaping the ship, you land on the surface of earth only to discover that all life on earth has been wiped out by a plague. In fact, the very same plague the scientists were working on. Turns out they weren't power-crazed sadists, they were in fact desperately trying to research a cure before their supplies ran out, they all starved to death, and the last of the human race winked out of existence. And you've just doomed their research to failure. Of course, you get your just desserts; as their lone success and immune to the plague, you get to spend the rest of your days wandering the dead earth.
    • The secret alternate ending takes some of the punch out of this, however... the effects of the plague are changed to having transformed the world into a chocolate filled candy land, and 1213 is the first of a genetically created diabetes-free super-race. I Am Not Making This Up
    • Actually, having just finished the game myself, this troper would like to point out that the above description is rife with errors. The purpose of the space station was to grow clones for paying customers so they would have organ donors ready in case they needed a transplant: a lucrative but illegal business. The annihilation of life on Earth due to an unknown pathogen ten days after the space station went online was coincidence: afterwards, the clones were repurposed as the "GFG Project", the Germ-Free Generation who would scout Earth for survivors. (This alone kills the premise that this is a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending, as this implies that there were indeed survivors.) Unfortunately, the GFGs were susceptible to a plague called "Yellow Death" which transformed them all into mutant-like zombies save for 1213, who a vaccine was successfully tested on. This might be better suited for a different twist ending-type trope, however, as the apparently deranged "Bespectacled Man" Westbury turns out to quite possibly be the only sane man left on the station save for the protagonist.

Nezumi: Cutting this out. It's too chatty, the initial post is, as mentioned in the last, rife with factual errors — to the point that I doubt the first troper actually played the game; I haven't even completed it and I think I can spot a few that the last poster missed already — and an accurate recounting of the game's plot and events doesn't fall under this trope at all.

Furiousfish: I wrote the OP from memory some months after playing the game, so I was expecting to have missed a couple of things, but I'm surprised to find I was that far off. Did Not Do The Research, I guess. My apologies. I'm sure there are a few terminals in the game that say something about experiments to create superhuman agents for the Secret Service or something like that though, aren't there, or is my memory fabricating enormous lies whole-cloth? Besides, one way or another the ending reveals to you that 99% of life on earth has died, which is more or less an example of the trope, no?

Nezumi: Really late reply. As I remember it from the game... there's one terminal that refers to that... and it comes so late in the game that it's already fairly obvious by then that that's not what's going on.

Anime Higurashi: Removed, because the "repeated reboot" is the whole gimmick of the series. Is it really a "trope" when it's part of the fundamental nature of the show? Uknown Troper: Yes, absolutely. Otherwise, Humongous Mecha would be mighty low on examples, to mention one. So, what, there should be a trope for "Big Eyes And Speed Lines", and it should have a list of every anime ever?

Deeep breath. The government is a brutal totalitarian regime and the hero was a young soldier-boy who lost his innocence, then his life, when ordered to take part in a genocidal slaughter of civilians. The 'villains' are those civilians, resurrected, promptly genocided again by the army, the few survivors making off with the hero's mother in a hasty escape. They're understandably vengeful, especially once they start getting their memories back, but only after Casshern has killed them all but one. And this not-really-Big Bad turns out to be the man whose wife and baby were gunned down by the hero during the massacre. He's finally hunted down by the military and makes a final stand in which thousands are slaughtered when he lets off a nuclear bomb, which the hero fails to stop. The Big Bad is then anticlimactically killed by the government Beta Baddie's suicide attack, dying in the arms of the sobbing hero. It's only when Casshern, his father and his love interest are the only ones left that Daddy reveals himself to be the real Big Bad, who orchestrated the entire genocide to harvest the minority race's rare cells for his research so he could save his dying wife, who's now dead. When the hero refuses to let him use his Frankenstein techniques to resurrect her, Scientist Dad shoots the hero's girlfriend to force his hand and gets killed for his trouble. She falls on the corpse of the former Big Bad and is revived by his blood, but only so she can tear off the hero's armour, making both of them explode into soul energy, as well as everyone on the planet.

Ophicius: Too damn long. No one's going to read all that, and it isn't needed.

The Primary Universe is fraught with great peril. War, plague, famine and natural disaster are common. Death comes to us all.
The Fourth Dimension of Time is a stable construct, though it is not impenetrable.
Incidents when the fabric of the fourth dimension becomes corrupted are incredibly rare.
If a Tangent Universe occurs, it will be highly unstable, sustaining itself for no longer than several weeks. Eventually it will collapse upon itself, forming a black hole within the Primary Universe capable of destroying all existence.
When a Tangent Universe occurs, those living nearest to the Vortex will find themselves at the epicenter of a dangerous new world.
Artifacts provide the first sign that a Tangent Universe has occurred.
If an Artifact occurs, the Living will retrieve it with great interest and curiosity. Artifacts are formed from metal, such as an Arrowhead from an ancient Mayan civilization, or a Metal Sword from Medieval Europe.
The Living Receiver is chosen to guide the Artifact into position for its journey back to the Primary Universe.
No one knows how or why a Receiver will be chosen.
The Living Receiver is often blessed with a Fourth Dimensional Powers. These include increased strength, telekinesis, mind control, and the ability to conjure fire and water.
The Living Receiver is often tormented by terrifying dreams, visions and auditory hallucinations during his time within the Tangent Universe.
Those surrounding the Living Receiver, known as the Manipulated, will fear him and try to destroy him.
The Manipulated Dead are more powerful than the Living Receiver. If a person dies within the Tangent Dimension, they are able to contact the Living Receiver through the Fourth Dimensional Construct.
The Fourth Dimensional Construct is made of Water.
—excerpts from the in-movie book "Foreward", by Roberta Ann Sparrow (the insane old woman in the movie)

vifetoile: To quote the esteemed troper above: "Too damn long." And what does it have to do with the idea of Shooting the Shaggy Dog?

Austin: Opening image seems gratuitous to me.
Drow Lord: Took out part of the Wheel Of Time example. Aram's part doesn't count, since it was actually part of a prophecy (it was either Egwene or Min who noted that Aram was extremely dangerous to Perrin), and it was foreshadowed well in advance that Aram was getting disturbing close to Masema. On the other hand, Rolan's death was a serious disappointment...
Wellington: Reinstated the four interactive fiction examples, which I spent more than a little time trimming down from an earlier draft. No reason was given for their cut; perhaps the editor thinks that IF just isn't notable enough? Given that the Trinity example might have been the first case of a true Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending in a commercial game, I'd think it'd be worth a mention. —- Wascally Wabbit: Cut the Hunchback of Notre Dame example. The plot is all about the day-to-day lives of the main characters and the importance of the cathedral. The fact that they all die is a Downer Endning but it does not render the rest of the polt insignificant.
Caswin: Now that I've seen it for myself, cutting the Wolf's Rain entry. The story certainly didn't turn out to be pointless. It was an extremely dark, depressing and morbid 3.9 episodes, but in the end, in one capacity or another, they saved the world from altogether ending. It was a case of Earn Your Happy Ending, albeit with only minimal emphasis on (and possibly not enough explanation for) the "happy ending" part of the equation, but it was not a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
  • Wolf's Rain fits this to a tee. All that travel and struggle, and the world ends and everybody dies. Sure, maybe they were reincarnated, but that short bit was not well explained and did not offset the sheer death and hopelessness that came before.

Caswin: ...and, while I'm at it, Knowing. Mind, I actually didn't like it either. But there was a shaky, convoluted but very present point to it all. At least a few of these other entries (like the Shaft revival) sound more like regular "pointless" stories where the the protagonist lives to see another day.

h_v: Cut the following example;

  • Knights Of The Old Republic II features the protagonist thrwarting a galaxy-spanning Sith plot which exists solely to mess with her head - if the Exile didn't exist, the Big Bad wouldn't be doing anything important. Over the course of this scheme, she causes the deaths of the few remaining Jedi masters and the destruction of two planets (to be fair, one was uninhabited)... and is then rewarded for it all by being told "It doesn't really matter what you did, and the real threat to the galaxy is something else which you probably don't stand a chance against. Have a nice day."

There are a few problems with the example. The Exile legitimately wins; the Sith are beaten (they were used to mess with her head, but they didn't solely exist to do so), the plot to end The Force fails, and she gains greater understanding of the Mandalorian wars. The last part is a Sequel Hook, nothing more. Honestly, if this is a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story, then so is Planescape: Torment.

Masami Phoenix: Removed Pans Labyrinth from the list. The fey world is unarguably real, as she uses magical artifacts in the real world multiple times, most notably the chalk that let's her walk through walls.

Rebochan: Neither Illusion Of Gaia nor Terranigma qualify for this. Both games are not Shaggy Dog stories, so they can't have turned into this either.

Tongpu: removed Drag Me To Hell natter for being 6 times longer than the gorram entry. Besides, the old lady was obviously an evil cunt indulging in Disproportionate Retribution, because apparently all gypsies in horror are vengeful black magic using psychopaths.

  • Not entirely true. She didn't really deserve it to start with, but during the course of the movie she murders a poor innocent kitten to try to save her own sorry ass. Thereby deserving a far worse fate than whatever horrible agonies await her already.
    • Sacrificing a kitten was pretty harsh, but it was done purely out of understandable desperation (she was going to be DRAGGED TO HELL for eternity for crying out loud!). Sorry, but as far as "crimes deserving of an eternity of torment" go, slaying a cat out of an innate sense of survival ranks way, way on the bottom, somewhere between "nothing" and "nada" (actually, if you ask me, an eternity of torment in hell is a pretty harsh sentence for even some of the worst of people on this earth, let alone for a flawed and somewhat selfish but perfectly innocent and relateable character like Christine Brown).
    • The cat wasn't the reason she got dragged to hell; she could have given that old woman another extension, but didn't for her own selfish reasons. This lead to the old woman shamfully living with her granddaughter and eventually dying (basically) from shame, all because of the girl's desicion. Thus, she deserved her fate.

Joseph Leito: Removed this: *** That is the worst thing I have ever heard. from under the Hitchhiker example. In short, no one cares.

castaghast: Removed this: —>Wrong. The main character ended up lobotomised after being caught helping people in the Cube escape, and was then dumped inside, with it heavily implied he becomes the idiot savant from the first movie.

From under this:

Not to mention Cube Zero, a prequel to Cube shown from the point of view of the maze operators, in which it is revealed that the savant was in all likelihood killed by the operators moments after the first film's ambiguous ending.

Reason: person who wrote the above removed entry didn't quite understand what was going on. In Cube Zero, it was revealed that the savant from the first film was a maze operator. During this film, it was shown that people who escaped the maze were killed after being asked a series of ridiculous and irrelevant questions. At the end of Cube Zero, it is shown how the operator becomes the savant. The end of Cube Zero is the beginning of Cube, and we can assume that he will face the same fate as the others who escaped, only he isn't even capable of answering any questions intelligently (that is, if you don't put it all into Dis Continuity like I did).

Haven: Took this out, because A: most of the characters wind up with happy endings (even if Yorick and 355 aren't among them) and B: they accomplished their mission, i.e., saved humanity.

  • Y The Last Man: After four years of loyal searching save for one understandable misstep, Yorick finally reunites with Beth, only to discover that Beth had been planning to dump him before she and Yorick got disconnected. Yorick then realizes his feelings for 355 and confesses just in time to see her get sniped by Alter, whose motivation for stalking Yorick the entire series had been her desire to be killed by a man so for some added incentive, she brings up the fact she also murdered his mom a few months ago. Yorick hadn't even heard she was dead. The Distant Finale 60 years later ends with a possibly suicidal Yorick escaping imprisonment and vanishing into the day after telling one of his clones what amounts to nothing much more than 'Life sucks, but you'll learn to deal with it.' Finally, though it really isn't the worst thing that happened, we never definitively find out what even caused the Gendercide in the first place.

Removed this:

  • Twelve Monkeys closes with the death of the the hero, as well as 90% of the human race. What's particularly striking is that Gilliam somehow found a way to make these funny. However, the film isn't totally a downer, since one of the scientists in the future appears at the very end sitting next to the mass murderer on the airplane, announcing that she works in "insurance." Taken another way, however, it could also imply that she sent the main character back in time as "Insurance" for their rule over man in the future, and that she was not acting in the best interest of mankind by sending him back.

Because it's actually a bittersweet ending. There was never any suggestion that humanity might avoid getting nearly wiped out. It already happened. The bitter part of the ending is the main character dying, but he succeeds in his mission to locate the pure sample, thus providing hope for the human race. The talk about the scientists in the future being overlords who are only interested in furthering their authority is an alternate character interpretation. It also doesn't make sense. The scientists have power because humanity is relying on them to cure the virus. Once they cure the virus, they'll lose their power. If they only cared about maintaining their power, they wouldn't be sending people back in time in a genuine effort to cure the virus. They'd just spin their wheels indefinitely.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: