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And Then What?

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Mal: But say you do it. You kill me. What then?
Dobson: I dunno. I imagine I'll get a hobby or something.
Serenity: Those Left Behind

The villain has the hero at his mercy. After some Evil Gloating, the villain gets down to explaining his Evil Plan (complete with slideshow!) to use their orbital Weather-Control Machine to destroy every ice cream store in the city. There's nothing that the hero can do to stop it. The bad guy is finally going to win!

The hero responds by asking a very simple question: "And then what?"

When asked, many villains will mentally hit a brick wall. Maybe it's because The Good Guys Always Win no matter how many times their plans get past Stage One, their goals are small-minded, their plan is ultimately self-destructive, or they honestly never thought that far ahead. Whatever the reason, the villain won't be able to respond to this simple question with a satisfactory answer. In this position, the hero may be able to coax the villain into a Heel Realization to stop their plan or distract them long enough to buy their teammates time to disable the Weather-Control Machine. An alternative has the hero make suggestions for what they should do, and how they can leverage the now ice-cream-less city to create a lucrative "Dippin' Dots" franchise (all to buy time for his allies, of course).

Occasionally, heroes will combine this with a low-key discussion how they are wasting their genius and could make oodles of money renting their Weather-Control Machine (or what have you) to drought-stricken areas or as insurance against natural disasters. In short, that an honest (if mercenary) business path would make them successful. Sometimes, it works! Then again, if it's a Card-Carrying Villain being asked, they'll just shrug, say "I hadn't thought of that", cackle, and push the big red button anyway. Alternatively, the villain may have an insane goal because they are insane, in which case logic is useless. By contrast, a Visionary Villain is often defined as such because they can answer this question.

Sometimes, this can happen to the heroes themselves too, usually if their own goals are selfish or short-sighted.

On rare occasions, the person being asked the question can actually give an answer, and might actually have a realistic idea as to what their next move will be.

Keep in mind, this is only to wonder what will happen if the person being asked the question gets what they want. If the person has already achieved their goal but has no plans for what to do afterward, that would be "Now What?".

A Sub-Trope of Armor-Piercing Question.

Compare Missing Steps Plan, So What Do We Do Now?, Stating the Simple Solution, Victory Is Boring and Was It Really Worth It?. Contrast with Cut Lex Luthor a Check, which is often about providing an answer to the question for villains.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Asteroid in Love: The protagonist, Mira, has a Goal in Life: to discover an asteroid and name it after her friend Ao. When she gets into the exclusive Shiny Star Challenge, in which high schoolers get a chance to search for unidentified asteroids, one of her fellow participants asks Mira what she'll do when she accomplishes that goal. Mira says she doesn't know yet, but she'll probably find another goal. Mira and Ao fail to find a new asteroid, so she avoids having to answer that question for the moment.
  • Bleach:
    • This is the main reason why Mayuri Kurotsuchi loathes perfection. If something is perfect, where do you go from there? What's the point of imagination, ability, and improving yourself if you're perfect? In his eyes, perfection is just another form of despair. Always strive to be better but never perfect. That's the kind of creatures scientists are: they take joy in trying to reach for something that is impossible, but if they did reach it, what then? It's for that reason he believes Eighth Espada, Szayelaporro Granz lost to him in the first place.
    • When Nemu dies, Mayuri is taunted by a vision of Szayelaporro, who calls him a hypocrite for hating perfection yet considered her to be his most perfect creation. This snaps Mayuri out of his despair and decides to create a new Nemu.
  • Bloom Into You
    • Touko has dedicated much of her life to "becoming" her older sister Mio, a highly accomplished girl and Student Council President who died in her second year of high school, seven years ago, and doing everything Mio could not, particularly reviving the School Play. For the most part, Touko's too busy working toward this goal to think much about what she'll do once it's done, but she's forced to ask herself this question sometime after learning that Mio was apparently a bit of a slacker, and one of Mio's old friends believes Touko is a much better Student Council President than her big sister ever was.
      Touko: (speaking to Mio's grave) I promise I'll do a good job. I'll take your place... and do what you couldn't do. And then... (thinks) And then... what will I do?
    • Touko routinely receives confessions from her schoolmates (both boys and girls), but turns them all down. Sayaka asks if Touko ever considered any of them, but Touko replies that none of them had seriously considered what would happen if Touko accepted.
      Touko: And then what happens if I say yes, huh? Who could build a good relationship off of that?
  • Code Geass: In episode 8 of R2, when the Black Knights ask Zero what his plan to fight the Britannians' latest move is, he responds, "Fighting, then more fighting... and then what?" The Black Knights are shocked that he would suggest that there's an alternative to fighting, but he points out that fighting isn't the only way - or the most productive way - to get to their goal of liberating Japan. He manages to come up with a plan that moves them towards that goal without wasting lives in the process (the famous Million Zeroes gambit). In terms of sides, it's an interesting example, since he's replying to his own side, but at this point, their opponent, the Viceroy of Area 11, is Nunnally, Lelouch's beloved sister, so in a way, he's doing this for both sides.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Adventure: In "Etemon's Comeback Tour", after Ogremon explains how his entire life revolves around fighting his rival Leomon and trying to defeat him, Mimi asks what exactly he would do if he beat Leomon. Ogremon seems baffled by the question — he'd never actually thought of it, and eventually dismisses it as a pointless question. As far as he's concerned, the two of them are just going to keep fighting, forever coming to standstills. In his defense, the Adventure continuity is one where all dead Digimon are reborn as Digi-Eggs and hatch back into life, so Leomon and Ogremon can beat the snot out of each other as long as they like without needing a long-term plan.
    • Digimon Tamers: A rare variant is done in the Japanese version, both with Renamon and Impmon (after both try to strike out on their own without Tamers). They think about how they'll continue to load Digimon and become stronger, and the question enters the audience's mind without it actually being said.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In an early Dragon Ball arc, Emperor Pilaf's mook Shu once asked him what he was going to do after acquiring his wish of controlling the world. Pilaf shrugged off the question.
    • During the Saiyan Saga of Dragon Ball Z, Piccolo does this to himself. Since losing the World Martial Arts Tournament at the end of Dragon Ball and having his plans for world domination foiled by Goku, Piccolo's goal has been killing Goku in the name of revenge. But after managing to kill both Goku and Raditz, Piccolo reflects that he got no satisfaction from Goku's death given the circumstances, and realizes that he has no idea what to do with his life now that Goku's gone. Training Gohan for the next year brings about Piccolo's Heel–Face Turn and a renewed sense of purpose.
    • During the Cell Saga, Cell freely admits to Piccolo that once he obtains his Perfect form, he has no idea what he'll do afterwards. After he does obtain it, when he's asked again, he decides he'll entertain himself by wiping out all life in the universe.
  • Endride: Multiple heroes end up giving this criticism to the protagonist, Emilio, who is on a senseless revenge quest. Demetrio gives him one of the fastest dressing downs when Emilio asks the Ignauts for help:
    Demetrio: Answer me! What do you plan to do when the king is dead!?
    Emilio: I...I don't care what happens, as long as he's dead. I'm ready to give up my life for it!
    Demetrio: (Laughs sarcastically.) You'll throw everything away, even your life? You're not ready for anything! I've heard my share of rumours, but this prince is indeed daft.
  • Excel♡Saga: Il Palazzo in the anime is forced to confront this problem in the three-part series finale. Having finally conquered the city he realizes that he's now going to have to conquer another one and another. It actually drives him insane, until Excel returns to knock some sense into him.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: The Remnants of Sephiroth spend most of the film looking for Jenova. After attacking Edge City, fighting Cloud, his friends, Rufus Shinra and the Turks, Kadaj finally gets her head... and has no idea what to do with it. Cloud lampshades it, remarking that because he's just a remnant, he's driven by instinct rather than thought, with no understanding of what he's doing.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet falls somewhere between this and So What Do We Do Now?, as this question causes Ledo to finally start questioning his path in life. Being a Child Soldier taught that his only purpose is to kill the enemy in the Galactic Alliance's Forever War, he's a bit confused when asked what he would do if it ever turned out that his side actually won. As far as he's concerned, fighting the war is the only way for humanity to survive, and the only reason that it has for surviving.
    Ledo: I would stand by until I received further instructions.
    Bebel: And what would you do if those instructions never came?
    Ledo: I would just continue to stand by.
    Bebel: (laughs) Then we're not so very different after all.
    Ledo: We are not different?
    Bebel: Mm-hmm. Standing by. You'd have to go on living to do that, right?
  • Ghost in the Shell: Asked by one of the Fuchikomas in the manga; when another suggested a robot revolt, followed by it realizing that all the things it wanted, like getting its oil changed by humans, was already happening.
  • Inuyasha: Towards the end of the story, Naraku's last servant asks him what Naraku will wish for on the Shikon no Tama if he wins. Naraku realises that there will be nothing for him if he no longer has a Worthy Opponent. His wish, therefore, becomes to ensure he is locked forever in eternal combat with a Worthy Opponent who just happens to be the reincarnation of the woman even the Shikon no Tama couldn't let him have.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
    • Early on, minor Ragnarok member Tsuji tries recruiting Kenichi for his street gang to become the top town delinquents. A pause, and then Kenichi asks what the point of that is as they won't be in school forever, and they can't be delinquents forever. Tsuji has no response, so he gets frustrated and attacks Kenichi instead.
    • Also played with rather humorously in a conversation between Honoka and Tanimoto.
      Honoka: What are you gonna do if you get that strong?
      Tanimoto: Kill someone I don't like.
      Honoka: What happens after you kill him?
      Tanimoto: Find someone else.
      Honoka: And what happens after you kill him?
  • Land of the Lustrous: As soon as Phos tells Cinnabar their plan to investigate Kongou-Sensei, Cinnabar immediately shoots back that they need to have an idea of what to do after they find out the truth.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: This trope is a prominent theme by the end of the series. When talented soldiers who have gained fame and recognition in wars have nothing more to use their talents on, tragedy ensues.
  • Lupin III: Zenigata has an...unusual case of this. His entire life revolves around his seemingly eternal chase of the title thief and when Lupin does wind up in jail Zenigata is all too happy to go from putting Lupin behind bars to keeping him there, sometimes in the lead-up to the thief's execution. But the longer Lupin goes locked up, the less content Zenigata tends to find himself. The cop may rather chew broken glass than admit it but he enjoys the chase with Lupin immensely and often finds that Victory Is Boring, no matter how determined he can be in the pursuit of the Gentleman Thief. And that's not even getting into what happens if it seems that Lupin has died. Zenigata goes full Antagonist in Mourning over Lupin and there are plenty of hints that he honestly has no idea what he would do with himself if the game between them ever ends for good. note 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn: In episode 5, Riddhe Marcenas gets in the way of other people's efforts to rescue Audrey because he wants to do so himself, mostly because he sees her as a solution to his own problems. He's stuck for an answer when she asks if he even has a plan, and when forced to articulate his thoughts, his pitch is essentially "I don't know how to fix this corrupt system, but you and I could help maintain the status quo forever." Unsurprisingly, she chooses to go with Banagher and his idealism.
  • One-Punch Man: This is the overarching problem for the main character Saitama, who is able to defeat almost any enemy in a single punch. The sheer ease he defeats his foes has caused him to lose any passion for his job as a hero defending the Earth. It's deconstructed since the only one keeping Saitama unsatisfied is himself. King notes that Saitama could find something else to do, but Saitama shows no desire or effort to find something new to occupy his time. Saitama starts to take King's words to heart, that being a hero should be its own reward and he should worry less about finding someone to give him a good fight and more about the lives he's protecting, but gets distracted by an attacking monster and completely forgets what they were talking about.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion: This is part of Homura's motivation for making Madoka human again. She's devoted herself to protecting Madoka since a young age, and suffered various traumas to do so (traumas that chipped away at her mental and emotional health). She simply can't think beyond 'saving Madoka from Walpurgisnacht' because her motivation for fighting is gone, and she can't define herself outside of war.
  • Sailor Moon: In the first season, when they have a moment to catch their breath, Nephrite ponders he doesn't know what to do now that he's defected from the Dark Kingdom. Naru innocently suggests they go for parfait since she always wanted to do that with a guy she liked.
  • Sakura Quest: Yoshino is unhappy that her first job out of college has her becoming the figurehead of an effort to revitalize the declining rural town of Manoyama since she wanted to get away from her own rural hometown and get a job in Tokyo. As a result, Yoshino spends the first few episodes hoping to get back to Tokyo. Maki, a Manoyama native who spent some time out of the town in an ill-fated acting career, asks what's waiting for Yoshino back in Tokyo. Yoshino weakly protests that "everything" is there, prompting Maki to stare at her skeptically.
  • Slayers: Towards the end of the first season, Copy Rezo declares his intent to prove that he is greater than the original Rezo by killing the people who slew him. When Zelgadis asks what he plans to do with his life after killing Lina and Company, Rezo replies that he doesn't care.
  • Squid Girl: When Ika has tied up the principal of Eiko's high school and hijacked the PA, she begins broadcasting her plans on what to do when she and her "army" Take Over the World. When Ika gets to the "all of the world is taken over" part, she realizes that she doesn't know what to do beyond that point.
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN: Anti, an artificial Kaiju proclaims his existence is to defeat Gridman, until Calibur directly questions him on what Anti would do after he defeats Gridman, much to his own shock.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legend of the Supermutants: Shredder asks Krang where they'll live if they succeed in using Dark Mu to destroy the Earth. Krang's answer is that they can stay in Dimension X, much to Shredder's displeasure.
  • Zatch Bell!: This is also the Armor-Piercing Question that gets asked to Bari, and spurs his Character Development. Despite his incredible power (enough to hand Zatch and Kiyo their first real defeat), his obsession with proving his strength isn't enough and leaves him constantly irritable in the tournament to become king. He seeks out Zatch because of his strength and he begins seeing him as a Worthy Opponent for refusing to give up. When Zatch responds his dream of being a kind king is why he keeps fighting, it shakes Bari to his core. This finally forces Bari to confront what kind of king he wants to be (he decides on being a "Strong" one) and gives a real goal to strive for besides just proving his strength. Gustav, Bari's bookowner, thanks the two for giving Bari some kind of direction to be able to grow. As thanks, the two spare the protagonists so they could grow stronger. When we see him later, he's mellowed out considerably and while scarred and lost one of his horns against a strong opponent, he won because of his new sense of conviction.
  • The question strongly underlies the conclusions and main themes to Mizukami Satoshi's The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer and Psycho Staff. You have phenomenal powers! You can save the world! ...and then what? It turns out that you have a life you still have to live after saving everything. And in Biscuit Hammer, that is probably the most intolerable thing Samidare can think of because she's terminally ill and won't have very long to live after saving the world and her power leaves her.

    Collectable Card Games 
  • The Babylon 5 Card Game has an Alternate Universe version of G'kar called "G'kar Forsaken", who had an answer to the trope question, unlike his show counterpart (see the Live-Action TV entry). Although extremely powerful in a Shadow-themed deck (especially if other players are Shadow-aligned), G'kar Forsaken has a Doom Mark, cannot develop further (unlike regular G'kar, who has extreme Magikarp Power potential), and is implied to be corrupted beyond redemption.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip, Garfield is being chased by a dog and wonders what the dog would actually do if it catches him. So he turns around and surrenders to the dog, asking it what it's going to do now. The dog then starts a waltz with Garfield, with an irritated Garfield demanding that he gets to lead next time.
    • In another one, a mouse tells Garfield mice would rule the world someday. Garfield asked "Then what?" and the mouse said they'd then live in people's houses and eat cheese. Garfield was unimpressed by the answer.
    • An insect said someday they'd rule the world. Garfield asked "Then what?" and the insect hesitated before saying they'd "crawl on stuff".
  • In Peanuts:
    Sally: I've decided to embark on a program of serious discipline... I'm going to eat properly, sleep properly and exercise properly!
    Charlie Brown: Then what?
    Sally: You're right... forget it!

    Fan Works 
  • Asked of Kazuya Mishima in Ashes of the Phoenix by Lei Wulong. While Kazuya has an answer, Lei successfully outmaneuvers him.
  • Becoming a True Invader: Kor admits that she didn't put any thought into her plans beyond getting off of Fefa. That's why she sticks around with Zim's group despite not even thinking their mission can succeed since she has nowhere else to go.
  • In The Boy Who Lived, The Brightest Witch and The Boy Who Wasn't Hermione is eager to find Helga Hufflepuff's old office so they can learn how to free the house elves.
    Neville: Right, but then what happens?
    Hermione: Then... the elves are free and are no longer subject to reprehensible treatment and punishment they don't deserve.
    Neville: But then what will the house elves do? Just go on doing the same work, only now for wages? Run off en masse because they're so disgusted by wizards and they don't want to be around any of us? Be so angry they start a war with us?
  • In brilliant lights will cease to burn, Izuku sits down for an interview with an amateur reporter in order set the record straight about what the vigilante Deku is fighting for. When said reporter asks how long Deku is going to be active as a vigilante, Izuku is speechless, because he honestly hadn't thought about it.
  • Calvin and company have this discussion with the Lightning Man in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series after he announces his plan to kill everyone in the world by giving them all heart attacks simultaneously via massive amounts of electricity. He alters the plan to only kill half of the population, but Calvin points out that would leave enough for a sizable rebellion to form, and he changes it again to three-fourths.
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Zero cites this as one of the reasons for his refusal to join the JLF. He states that even if they manage to succeed in liberating Japan, they have no plans for what to do next.
  • Code Prime:
    • Megatron asks Suzaku something like this when he asks how the latter plans to reform Britannia. In this case, he's using the question to finally push Suzaku to join the Decepticons.
    • Averting this is the second major goal of the Autobots and Black Knights. Part of their reasoning and plans for recruiting other superpowers to their cause is to start setting up their world's version of the United Nations to work out how exactly the planet is going to be run when the Decepticons are taken care of.
    • Jean asks this of Shin in Siege of Castle Weisswolf, asking what they'll do once they help the Decepticons crush all resistance. She's horrified by his answer.
    • During the mission to Antarctica, when Kallen starts to talk with Lelouch about his plans after winning the war, he realizes that he'd never really considered what he personally would do after the Decepticons are defeated and world peace is achieved, being too focused on creating a better world for Nunnally and his actions as Zero.note Though after their fight with Starscream, he does have a decent middle term plan: help Kallen rebuild Japan.
  • Connecting the Dots, a Naruto/DC Animated Universe crossover, has The Spectre asking Naruto what he'll do when he becomes Hokage. This shuts him up enough for the Spectre to explain how sometimes it's better to fail than to succeed because A) there's nothing to do after a goal has been completed and B) sometimes what we've been working for really isn't that great.
  • A Crown of Stars: After the events of the former story Asuka was frightened to love anybody but she was also frightened to be alone and she did not want to be apart of Shinji. She and Shinji got an arrangement in lieu of a real relationship and she claimed that was all she needed, but in reality, she expected and feared that it would not last long. Daniel asked her: "And then what? Will you attempt to kill yourself again?"
  • In the final trial of Danganronpa 2/3 Redux: Return Unto Death, the survivors repeatedly ask this to the traitor. The traitor's whole goal is to help revive the Danganronpa series; they have no real plans beyond that other than following orders. Namely because they have no agency, having been reprogrammed to follow the mastermind's orders. Once the trial concludes, K1-B0 has no idea what to do with himself, seeing no point in continuing to resist and unable to picture a life beyond Danganronpa.
  • Edgeworth asks Phoenix in Dirty Sympathy what he will do if he has Klavier and Apollo arrested and jailed for their crime. What will Phoenix do for the innocent people they helped whose cases might be overturned or for the horrible people they put away if their crimes come to light?
  • Invoked directly in The Dragon and the Bow. Hiccup is about to be killed by Merida because she doesn't want to marry him. However, Hiccup in a moment of clarity asks her the question of what she'll do next, giving her just enough pause to stop herself (funny enough, this would also mark the first step forward in their romance).
  • Earth's Alien History:
    • For the last 50,000 years, the Harvesters have plotted revenge against the Reapers for destroying their homeworld. As the Final Battle of the Reaper War unfolds, a scene from the POV of a Harvester Queen has her ruminate on the fact that her race hasn't put much thought into what they'll do now that they've actually won. After the war's end, they and the Vinn (who likewise had dedicated themselves solely to fighting the Reapers) find themselves without a purpose, only to ultimately find a new one in leading the Shield Alliance, treating the other members as Protectorates.
    • After being modified into a Super Soldier by the Asgard and then spending 50 years hunting down renegades created by the same process, Bobbie Draper finds herself without purpose after killing the last one. Thor offers her a place in his people's society, but she chooses to stay in the Milky Way, where the Doctor swiftly recruits her into the Conspiracy of Light.
  • In the second story of the Facing the Future Series, Danny's enemies finally capture him after ambushing him when he was too full to fight, however, when Danny asks what they're going to do to him, they actually have to think about that.
    Danny: [sarcastically] Well, isn't this an amusing little development?
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Rin Tohsaka dedicated her life to honoring her father by achieving his goal of reaching The Root. She admits she does not know what she will do after she reaches it.
  • A recurring question for Cloud in The Fifth Act is what will he do if actually succeeds in killing Sephiroth?
  • Haku asks Sasuke what will he do and who would be by his side when he avenges his clan in First Try Series.
  • Part of Harry's disdain of Voldemort in For Love of Magic comes from the latter being unable to answer what he'll do once he conquers the magical world beyond "I will rule". Harry also plans to rule the magical world, though not through conquest, and actually has a plan on what to do afterwards as it's merely a means to an end rather than the end itself.
  • In Frozen Turtles: Into the Unknown, Fishface asks this question in the run-up to the final battle, as he comes to realize Shredder's plans have been reduced to mindless destruction. The other mutants on the Foot don't have time to think up an answer before the fighting starts.
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt:
    • Celestia asks this of Sunset Shimmer in Chapter 18 before revealing her reasons for the Pancaea, as Shimmer didn't know what Celestia's true plan was. Interestingly, Sunset Shimmer does have sort of an answer to the trope question, admitting that she didn't really have a plan on what she was planning to do after becoming a princess, but she says that well, if she was a princess, she'd have plenty of opportunity to figure it out. Opportunity that Celestia denied her.
    • Surprisingly, Mudpuppy gets some of this once she learns that she's a princess in chapter 27.
      Mudpuppy: And what happens now, Twig?? None o' them fairy tales tells you that! Do I gotta wear frilly clothes an' live in a castle? Am I goanna hafta marry some grody ole prince, an' bow an' scrape and... Am Ah goanna have to leave th' Bayou....and Mammaw?
    • In chapter 50, Mach One is convinced that Celestia hasn't answered this question for all the points between starting the "Ascend everybody scheme" and its conclusion.
  • In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, the Maid of Might asks Satan Girl what she'll do if she manages to kill her. Satan Girl replies she'll figure out something:
    Supergirl: What's the use of this, Satan Girl? There's nothing left for you. If you kill me... what's left for you to make a life from?
    Satan Girl: I'll work that out afterward. Stop resisting me and I'll get to it sooner.
  • Inbred Mouth Breather:
    Schultz: Innocent witches and wizards are being murdered at the hand of the Dark Lord and his followers.
    Harry: So?
    Schultz: You can stop it.
    Harry: And then what?
    Schultz: And then... And then people can return to their lives without fear.
    Harry: Back to the same old ways... judging people on the purity of their blood, throwing people in jail without a trial, decrying people who aren't purely human, are cursed somehow or had an unusual talent. And then 25 to 30 years have the Dark Lord version 3.0. It would be Dark Lord 3.0, right?
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: In Episode 20, Tenn asks Tak what she plans on doing once they've retrieved Project Domination and used it to conquer Earth. Tak admits that she hasn't thought that far ahead (as opposed to Tenn, who's already planning on using it as leverage for a comfy promotion).
  • In No Chance for Fate the question is raised multiple times:
    • The Senshi in the original timeline had Crystal Tokyo as their big goal. Once that got established, they had little idea what to do with themselves and sucked at ruling.
    • Ranma had no idea what to do once he had achieved the rank of a martial arts master. His mother thankfully helps out with an idea and Ranma likes the idea of teaching the art to others.
    • Ukyo also has no idea what to do next once Ranma refuses to fight her. Her plan only went as far as getting her revenge.
  • In Not Quite Heroes, Shego asks Dr. Drakken what he'll do if he ever does Take Over the World. He has to think about it, and finally says that he'll mostly let the world run the same way it did before.
  • In Piece of a Diamond, everyone had come to terms with the fact that Rose would disappear at Steven's birth, so when Rose survives it, she is understandably happy, if not off-put since she had spent so much time getting her affairs in order beforehand.
  • In A Pikachu in Love, Pichi asks Pikachu this when Pikachu is telling her about how Ash will always be a trainer. In response, she asks Pikachu if he wants to be a sports Pokemon all his life, and what he plans to do once he's done. Though it stuns Pikachu for a few seconds while he tries to think of an answer, he eventually decides to leave it up to the future. Though, later on, he eventually starts asking this question to himself when he realizes Ash won't be young and a trainer forever...
  • A side story of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines centered on Gym Leader Falkner has him searching for Ho-Oh and Lugia with the intention of catching them. He's asked by Satsuki what he'll do once he has caught them, should he succeed. Falkner admits he hasn't given much thought to that yet.
    • The main story had this as Belladonna Tyrian's reason for not wanting to take over the world. In her own words, she'd get a few revenges for hurt her girlfriend suffered, and then she's be stuck ruling a world she really could care less for.
  • In Pokemon: Shadow of Time, when Ash joins the Orre resistance against Team Cipher, some of the resistance leaders realise that they've spent so long fighting a hopeless battle against Cipher's forces that they almost didn't expect to win, and thus don't have a clear plan for what kind of society they'd build after beating them.
  • In Quiet Snow, Yukiko asks this question of one of the boys who confesses to her. She asks if he's willing to stay with her in Inaba for the rest of his life and work for her at the Amagi Inn, neither of which are appealing to him. She adds that her family has high standards for any potential suitors, which he most likely won't be able to meet. He gets the hint and withdraws his confession.
  • In The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, it's a sticking point among the Tok'ra as to what they'll do once the Goa'uld have been overthrown; they have no culture or any part of their society not geared towards said goal. It's also why so many are considering Naruto's offer to join his empire.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act I: After they're finally free of their abusive master thanks to Inner Moka, Apoch and Astreal admit that they wanted their freedom for so long, but never really thought about what to do with their lives afterwards... Ruby solves the problem by making them her assistants.
  • In The Snow Has Stopped The Rain, Orihime in an unusually serious moment asks Ichigo what he plans to do after rescuing Rukia since Soul Society would just take her back again. Ichigo doesn't have an answer for her, but she's quick to shrug it off, saying it's not like he'll let that stop him.
  • This comes up in The Story of Twilight Glow when Twilight and Tirek talk to each other. She asks him what he'll do when he's gotten all the power he wants. He has to think it over for a little bit but soon decides he'll be an Evil Overlord.
  • This is Lampshaded in the Tamers Forever Series when the Big Bad of Omni-Tamer; Blackwargreymon, outright states that he has absolutely no idea what he is going to do after he's killed Takato. Unlike most examples, he doesn't really seem to mind all that much.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton: When Vilgax reveals that his master plan is to use the power of the Omnitrix to forcibly unite the universe to stand together against Thanos, Ben demands to know what he'll do after he's won. Vilgax actually does have a response to this, ominously implying that he intends to then take over the universe himself.
  • Thousand Shinji: At one point Shinji wondered what he would do after getting revenge on his father and Seele.
  • Invoked by Clove in Twice Chosen; like other victors of the Games, she only realises after winning that she was so focused on simply surviving that she never considered what the aftermath of winning would be.
  • Wearing Robert's Crown: Some readers have noted that Drakebert's actions may be all very well with regard to preparing for the Others, but they're also going to destabilise Westeros and a good chunk of Essos in the longer term.
  • In What Was Your Plan?, Harry confronts Dumbledore about how the man has allegedly manipulated his entire life up to that point. Dumbledore responds by asking him what exactly he expects to happen now, before going over each point to explain why the whole thing sounds absurd.
  • In While Mighty Oaks Do Fall, Fire Sage Izumi praises Zuko for denouncing the current bipartite governance of the Fire Nation as corrupt and not doing its intended job, then asks him how he plans to rebuild the system after ending the war. Zuko is left speechless, and Izumi tells him to think more about the consequences before inciting a civil war.

    Films — Animated 
  • Done twice in Toy Story 2, once by the villain and once by the heroes. Stinky Pete asks Woody if he really thinks Andy will take Woody to college or on his honeymoon, saying that Andy won't be young forever, and then what's Woody going to do? Pete manages to convince Woody to go to a toy museum in Japan, but Buzz turns this right back around on Woody by asking him what he'll do once he's actually there, since Woody will have to "sit behind glass and never be loved again". Realizing that what time he gets with Andy is worth it, Woody turns against Pete and starts trying to get back home.
  • Big Hero 6: We have Baymax asking Hiro, "Will terminating Callaghan improve your emotional state?"
  • Finding Nemo: in The Stinger, all of the dentist's fish finally manage to escape the tank and return to the ocean!... but they're stuck in plastic bags. After an awkward silence, Bloat asks "Now what?"
    • Expanded Universe materials show that they make it out of the bags and find Nemo again. Finding Dory on the other hand shows that they're still trapped in the bags over a year later, but they're found and rescued by aquarium workers.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the Soothsayer asks Shen if taking over the world will finally make him happy. Shen is clearly shocked, never having considered what he'll do after he's done conquering and if it will even be worth everything he's lost but is quick to brush off the moment of by snarkily replying "It's a start. I might also convert the basement into a dungeon."
  • This briefly comes up in Lilo & Stitch. Stitch, after trashing Lilo's room, looks around impatiently, and Jumba observes;
    Jumba: This is interesting.
    Pleakley: What?
    Jumba: 626 was created to be a monster, but now there is nothing to destroy. You see, I never gave him a greater purpose. What must it be like to have... nothing... not even memories to visit... in the middle of the night?
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Bowler Hat Guy makes a checklist of what destructive things to do with the Robinsons and their company and asks himself what he'd do once he succeeds. He's not sure and writes a question mark as that next item, intending to go back to it later. This trope kicks in later when he HAS checked off everything on his list and still hasn't figured out what to do after that.
  • Megamind:
    • Minion actually asks this after Megamind kills his arch-nemesis.
      Minion: So, what happens next?
      Megamind: [laughs] I have no idea!
    • In keeping with the trope, however, the fun is short-lived; the existential crisis soon kicks in, and the rest of the plot is largely driven by Megamind trying to find a new purpose in life.
    • Turns out that Metro Man himself ran into the same question back in that bout against Megamind. Feeling out of it, he decided to use his Super Speed to clear his head (i.e. going so fast time is a near-stop for him.) He looks back and notes that he and Megamind have been doing the same exchange for their entire lives and somewhat pigeonholed by outside forces into their roles. However, he ends up reading some self-help books from the library and decides to fake his death so he could retire and become a musician. His later exchange implies that he knew Megamind would undergo the same sort of existential crisis upon his victory and subtly encourages him to become Metro City's new protector.
  • In Storks, Junior is elated to hear that he's going to become the boss of the company, but when pressed, admits that he has no idea what he'll do as boss.
  • Discussed in Tangled:
    Rapunzel: I've been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything I dreamed it would be?
    Flynn: It will be.
    Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
    Flynn: Well, that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
  • In Up, Carl has no idea what he's going to do once he gets to Paradise Falls. It was his and Ellie's dream to live there for the rest of their lives. However, since Ellie is dead and Carl is an old man, not much can be accomplished. The first thing he does when he sets his house down, he moves his and Ellie's chairs together... and sits in dead silence. It doesn't last too long as he reexamines the photo album of him and Ellie and looks back at their wonderful times before seeing her final message thanking him for all of their adventures and encouraging him to go have more. He ends up deciding to do just that and saves the day, going on to become a father figure to Russell.
  • In The Incredibles, Syndrome averts this. During his ranting to Bob, he outlines his plan and mentions that his ultimate endgame, once he's "old and had [his] fun" with pretending to be a hero, is to make all his inventions publicly available so that superpowers won't be special anymore.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alexander, Hephaistion at one point asks Alexander what he would do once he conquered his way all the way to his much sought "Outer Ocean". Without missing a beat, Alexander turns to his boyfriend, and moral center, and answers: "I turn around and conquer the other half!", leaving Hephaistion with the perfect Okay then-face.
  • In Batman Forever, The Riddler presses Two-Face to think about what happens after he succeeds in killing Batman. A quick death would be so unsatisfying, wouldn't it? Wouldn't a more involved scheme to thoroughly destroy the Bat be better?
    • A hero-to-hero version: Bruce says this to Dick when the latter is still bent on killing Two-Face.
  • Subverted in Chinatown: The hero intends it with the villain. It doesn't work:
    Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million?note 
    Noah Cross: Oh my, yes!
    Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?
    Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.
  • Coach Carter asks this of his players and the people of the community. He's bothered by the fact that the players don't have plans for life after the current season and school careers are over. He even at one point sits them down and shoves the gravity of the situation in their faces to drive the point home.
    Principal: The truth is that you and I both know that, for some of these kids, this basketball season will be the high point of their lives!
    Carter: Well, I think that's the problem. Don't you?
  • Comes up briefly in The Dark Knight, but ultimately averted.
    The Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it!
    • Shown when the Joker gets hold of the huge pile of mob money that's his supposed objective. The Chechen asks what he intends to do with his half. The Joker has it burnt on the spot. Then someone threatens to reveal Batman's Secret Identity on live television. Even though this is the Joker's second objective, he demands the whistleblower's death. To the Joker, the chaos he creates is an end in itself. Even his previous quote is a lie told to a character who's been devoted to Order in order to corrupt him.
  • Daybreakers: The entire film is sort of a deconstruction of what would happen if vampires actually triumphed over humans. The inevitable: with hardly any humans left, blood supplies plummet and droves of starving vampires start degenerating into feral, bat-like "subsiders". This is best shown with a propaganda sign seen in the first act which urges vampires to "CAPTURE HUMANS". The last time we see it, the sign's been vandalized to now read "CAPTURE(D) (ALL) HUMANS (NOW WHAT?)".
  • In Death Becomes Her we see a hero and villain perspective:
    • Played straight: the male protagonist's response to his female companions urging him to drink the elixir that grants eternal life is a puzzled "...And then what?" From the puzzled reactions from those around him, he appears to be the only person who's actually considered this rather than just greedily giving in. He then goes on to list the numerous reasons why living forever would suck, especially if it involved being trapped with the rather horrible women in his life for all eternity as well.
    • Inverted: The villains achieved immortality a long time ago, and are all so shallow and self-absorbed that most of his reasons of why immortality would suck (eg. seeing everyone they love die around them) don't apply to them. Their puzzled reaction stems from the fact that they are a bunch of assholes and don't get why anyone WOULDN'T want to live forever.
  • Dog Day Afternoon has loads of this, with Charles Durning repeatedly trying to convince Al Pacino and John Cazale to turn themselves in.
  • A variation in Fierce Creatures. After hearing the plans to increase revenue from their new corporate owner, one of the zookeepers asks the spokesperson: "how much does he want in the end?" Rather baffled at this, the spokesperson asks for clarification, and realizes that the zookeeper is asking for a total sum of money that the boss wants to gain from his new venture, completely unaware that there is no set goal beyond just making more and more money.
  • Gladiator: A non-villainous example. Asked by an incredulous Senator Gaius after Maximus tells of his intent to march on Rome with his army to remove Commodus and reinstate the Republic, as per Marcus Aurelius' wishes. But Maximus has an answer.
    Gaius: And after your glorious coup, what then? You'll take your ten thousand troops and leave?
    Maximus: I will leave.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Dr. Stanton poses this question to the Eco-Terrorist Emma Russell when the latter reveals they intend to release all the Kaiju so they can inflict Gaia's Vengeance, believing nothing but destroyed wasteland will be left in the aftermath. Emma replies without missing a beat that the creatures won't devastate the planet's biosphere but will instead rejuvenate it. The end shows that she was ultimately right, although countless millions perished and she doesn't live to see it.
  • The Matrix Revolutions: An interesting variant with Smith. After assimilating the Oracle and her powers, he foresees his final battle with — and defeat of — Neo. At the end, that moment seems to finally come... and its only then that Smith realizes he literally can't see anything past winning. Because it leads to his death; his "triumph" over Neo by assimilating him does nothing but reconnect Smith to Deus Ex Machina, allowing it to purge Smith from the Matrix.
  • There was something like this in the climax of The Muppet Movie. When Kermit asked Hopper just why he was so crazy as to chase him all the way across the country and put so much effort and money simply to recruit him for an advertising campaign (which Kermit would not do because it was for a frogs legs restaurant, something you really couldn't blame him for), Hopper said it was his dream all his life to own a successful nationwide chain of restaurants. For the first time, Kermit could relate slightly, seeing that he and his friends had a dream too, but he asked Hopper just what he would do if he ever did accomplish his goal? Who would he share his fame and wealth with? Hopper honestly had no answer, and for a minute it looked like he was about to listen to reason. Unfortunately, he did not, and ordered his men to open fire on Kermit; fortunately, Kermit was saved by Animal, who had taken Dr. Honeydew's "insta-grow" pills, turning him into a giant, who scared the villains away.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In Nixon, when President Nixon argues that he wants to end the Vietnam War, but he cannot do it, a student asks him: Then what was the point to being president?
    Young Student: You don't want the war, we don't want the war, the Vietnamese don't want the war, so why does it go on?
    [Nixon hesitates. Haldeman whispers "We should be going" to him.]
    Young Student: You can't stop it, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it's not you, it's the system. The system won't let you stop it.
    Richard M. Nixon: There's... there's more at stake here than what you want, or what I want.
    Young Student: Then what's the point? What's the point of being President? You're powerless!
    Richard M. Nixon: [firmly] No. No, I'm not powerless. Because, because I understand the system, I believe I can, uh, I can control it. Maybe not control it totally, but tame it enough to make it do some good.
    Young Student: Sounds like you're talking about a wild animal.
    Richard M. Nixon: Yeah, maybe I am.
  • Kate asks Larry this in Other People's Money. He answers:
    "And then what?" Whoever has the most when he dies wins! Look: It's the American way!
    • Of course, by the end of the film, Larry has changed his tune and is no longer happy just making more money (if he ever was), because he's in love with Kate.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Barbossa asks of Elizabeth, "I'm curious. After killing me, what is it you're planning on doing next?" as he pulls a bloody knife from his chest. After all, Elizabeth thought very little about it, and if she had successfully killed Barbossa, she had a ship full of pirates to get through, combined with the fact that the ship was out in the middle of the ocean with miles to go before reaching land.
  • In Suicide Squad (2016), the squad members are passing a message along to each member that as soon as possible, they should try to kill and escape from the agents who are controlling them. When the message gets to El Diablo, he repeatedly asks, "And then what?" For him, there is no escape from the reality that they're criminals, and he feels they cannot outrun what they really are. The other squad members aren't quite so noble.
  • The villain in Transporter 2 has a rather justified response to this. He reveals that a number of cartels hired him to kill lead members of an Anti-Drug coalition. Frank asks "And then what? You think that will really make a difference?", pointing out that new leaders will take over and continue to fight the cartels. The villain merely replies that that isn't his problem. He was hired to do a job, and he's doing it. It's the cartels that should've asked themselves this question.
  • Romance writer Joan Wilder finds herself facing this problem in the sequel to Romancing the Stone. Now that she's actually met, romanced, and sailed off into the sunset with the handsome hero—what comes next? Have another adventure, of course!

  • Once upon a time, an American executive on vacation was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them:
    Fisherman: Only a little while.
    Executive: Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?
    Fisherman: With this, I have more than enough to support my family's needs.
    Executive: But what do you do with the rest of your time?
    Fisherman: I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.
    Executive: I can help you. I have an MBA. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise.
    Fisherman: But, how long will this all take?
    Executive: 15 to 20 years.
    Fisherman: But what then?
    Executive: That's the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.
    Fisherman: Millions?...Then what?
    Executive: Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.

  • There are many variations of a person saying something to the effect of "I'm like the dog that finally caught the car. I didn't consider what I was going to do after that point."

  • Animorphs:
    • The Animorphs often try to convince themselves, and each other, that after they've saved humanity from a race of alien parasitic monsters, they'll just go back to being regular kids. Sadly, that doesn't work out; by the end of the series, most of them are utterly broken, with only Cassie and Marco stable enough to live normal lives.
    • A variant appears in #48, when Rachel asks herself the question, and realizes what the consequences of her Deal with the Devil will be.
    • A minor version when Cassie plans to rescue Aftran (who's been discovered to lead a peace movement) from the Yeerk pool while the rest of the team is sick. Even if it works, she'd be condemning Aftran to a slow death by Kandrona starvation. The solution is to have Aftran permanently morph into a whale.
  • The Dresden Files: In Battle Ground, Harry points out that killing him will start a war with the Winter fae and essentially asks the messenger what happens when Harry breaks the White Council's rules now that he's been voted off the Council and given a suspended death sentence, one that's meant to be carried out should he use magic. Harry says he is going to continue to use magic as much as he wants, in no uncertain terms. The messenger has no response to any of this.
  • German author Walter Moers' Zamonien books feature a Big Bad who owns the Moloch, the biggest ship on Earth. As it brags about its plans: "And one day, all the ships in the world will become part of it! And then... well, I have to see..."
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, what Thalric asks Fenise when she has him helpless again. After having him nursed back to life so she could hunt him and he could know it.
  • In Soon I Will Be Invincible, Doctor Impossible muses on what would happen if he actually succeeded in taking over the world, and "whether this is the best thing that the most intelligent man in the world could have done with his life". (But his Science-Related Memetic Disorder will keep him at it, nonetheless.)
  • In the Gentleman Bastard series, Locke's mentor has trained the gang up to be perfect robbers, but died before he told them what they were accumulating money for. So they've succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings, but they have no actual purpose for doing it, and they can't spend their wealth or they'll be detected. At the end of the book, Locke offers up the whole amount as a death offering to Calo, Galdo, and Bug by tricking Dona Vorchenza into sinking the ship that the Grey King had it stashed on.
    • Technically, by accumulating it they have achieved his purpose, just by stealing it; the short version is that there's a complex socio-legal arrangement in place that means the police and rich people don't get robbed, which goes against the teachings of the God of Thieves, so Locke's little crew is (in a cosmic sense) there to ensure that the city doesn't get smitten into the ground by a god widely regarded by most of the rest of the world as heretical apocrypha (and also getting a spiteful little giggle of their own in since neither their mentor nor they actually like the arrangement much). Spending the money afterward is just gravy, but gravy you can't put on your pork isn't much good.
  • The titular poem by Yeats applies this to his entire life.
  • In I, Jedi, Corran Horn references this trope in his rejection of Exar Kun's attempted seduction to the dark side. Along with Mara Jade's "The Reason You Suck" Speech where she says that Kun would be considered "incompetent" by all the other Sith she's ever faced, Corran breaks down Kun's offer by saying that Kun clearly has no plan for what to do with Corran if he actually did turn to the Dark Side. And even if he turned, Kun doesn't really have any long-term goal beyond power for its own sake, which Corran scoffs at.
  • A heroic attempted aversion is found in the first Horus Heresy novel, where Horus has decreed that all of his Astartes are to learn skills and talents outside of warmaking because the Great Crusade has to end eventually, and he wants his sons to have a purpose in the new order that would follow. Things.....didn't turn out that way.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Zarracka has no idea what to do with herself after her revenge is accomplished. Becoming a better mother for Benji than Daniar gives her a new goal to focus on.
  • Referenced in Blood of Tyrants when a Mrs. Pemberton describes a dispute she had with the teenage girl she was chaperoning over her insistence on not only setting up a separate tent at a campsite but giving young Emily the only cot as she slept at the entrance. When asked what she would do if anyone intent on rapine or other violence tried to force their way in Pemberton stated she would cry out. A compromise was then made; Mrs. Pemberton would take the cot and cry out as she felt appropriate, while Midwingman Emily Roland would sleep on the ground with an unsheathed sword in hand.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Silmarillion: A sort of meta-example — Tolkien points out that this is why Morgoth's Omnicidal Maniac plans are ultimately doomed to fail. He could kill everyone and grind the universe into dust, And then? Well then, and then he would hate the dust because it was made by Eru (God), but the dust would still exist, frustrating Morgoth... and even then the world could, in theory, be restored by the other Valar. Plus, to truly destroy everything Eru ever created, he'd have to kill himself too.
    • The Hobbit: When Bilbo brings up the subject of just how he's supposed to get his share home, the dwarves themselves admit they didn't think about what they'd do after they got back their treasure. Thorin finally says that once Smaug has actually been dealt with, they'll have plenty of time to think about the issue.
  • In Twig, Sylvester uses this tactic against homicidal clone Mary, pointing out that even if she succeeds in killing him and all of his friends, escaping to reunite with her creator, she'll still know that her creator left her behind as a delaying tactic, poisoning their relationship with the knowledge that he ultimately does not value her life.
  • At the end of 1824: The Arkansas War; Andrew Jackson explained how he, one of the biggest slaveholders in Tennessee, was convinced into throwing his weight behind the new Abolitionist party through ongoing correspondence with Sam Houston starting with the question of how he would conquer the largely Black Freedman Chiefdom of Arkansas.note  General Jackson promptly sketched out the multi-front multi-year campaign bringing the full force of the U. S. against the small nation with a well-trained army fighting on the defensive ("Bloody damned business, for sure, but I'd win."). Then Houston asked how he would recruit the soldiers needed or gain the political support for a conflict so unpopular in many areas that volunteer regiments for the enemy are openly recruiting in some states, and for that matter how does Jackson propose paying for all this? Finally, Jackson gave up and admitted that finessing a way to cut the slaves loose would do far less harm to the nation than the National Bank or widespread martial law required by the alternatives.
  • Villains by Necessity: At a point where two-thirds of the party is about to try to kill each other, Kaylana defuses the impending fight by asking them what is likely to happen if one member succeeds in killing everyone else. After everyone realizes that none of them can survive in the overly light world alone for long, they stand down.
  • Villains' Code: Belaam wants to destroy the villain guild that he is part of because he feels it has made villains soft and defanged, where they spend more time attending meetings and filling out paperwork than true villainy like conquering the world. Doctor Mechanical asks him what he plans to do after conquering the world, and points out that if anyone conquers the world, they're gonna end up having to attend a lot of meetings and fill out a lot of paperwork. Belaam dismisses this as weak-willed nonsense, but Doctor Mechanical has traveled a number of alternate realities, and he saw in a number of them what happened when he successfully conquered the world. Apparently this was why he founded the guild; it's the same amount of work, but this way doesn't piss off the entire world in the process.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: Used by F'lar on Lessa in Weyr Search (the opening segment of Dragonflight) after Fax dies and his newborn son inherits leadership of Ruatha Hold. She admits she'd never thought beyond Fax's death, having assumed she would take over Ruatha, but with infant Jaxom in the way, she can't. F'lar thus persuades her to come back to Benden Weyr and Impress their last Queen egg, becoming Weyrwoman.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation's Edge: It is currently about five hundred years into the galactic collapse of civilization predicted by psychohistory. The current First Speaker notes that for Seldon, The Plan ended with the Second Empire being established (mostly due to a lack of time rather than foresight) within one thousand years. This First Speaker had largely earned his position because of his work on extending the Plan further into the future, planning the future development of the Second Galactic Empire.
  • Uprooted: When the Court Mage called The Falcon arrives at his keep accompanied by Prince Marek and a small troop of horsemen in response to rumors of someone being rescued from the nearby enchanted forest, the first thing out of his mouth to The Dragon is an insincerely regretful accusation of him losing his senses out in the hinterlands. The Dragon promptly cuts The Falcon off by noting how ill-prepared he seems for the eventuality he is hinting at:
    The Dragon: [Rising from his chair and stalking forward as thickening shadows fill the chamber] "If I had fallen to the Wood, what did you imagine you would do, here in my tower?"
  • The Villainess Lives Again: One of the main reasons why Laurence's tenure as emperor in the first timeline was a failure and why he keeps bungling his own attempts to become emperor in the second is that he has no real vision for what to do with the power he is so desperate to claim. He just wants it because he feels entitled to it and because it will satisfy his inferiority complex. Because of that, he has no real regard for the consequences of his actions when trying to achieve his objectives, and without Artezia around to mitigate the damage, he's left floundering once the backlash hits and sets him back from his primary goal.
  • Swan's Braid & Other Tales of Terizan: Swan wants to behead Councilor Saladaz at once after learning he'd tipped off the bandits she went after with her band the Wing, since she lost many people taking down his gang. Terizan asks her what happens after that, noting Swan will be arrested since they don't have proof, and more of her people would die trying to free her. Swan then agrees to get proof with Terizan's help.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: In the episode "Signs and Portents", Mr. Morden asks Narn Ambassador G'Kar "What do you want?" G'Kar replies that his closest-held wish is to see all the Centauri, the former oppressors of the Narn, exterminated. Morden then asks him "And then what?"... and G'Kar is at a loss and responds that "as long as my homeworld is safe, I don't see that it matters." Morden realizes that the second part — the safety of his people — is G'Kar's real answer and that though the Narn is bloodthirsty enough for the Shadows' purposes, he lacks sufficient ambition to twist to their ends. Morden thus dismisses him and moves on to greener pastures... namely, the Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, who has a doozy:
    "I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or to look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want it all back the way that it was."
    • In other words, Londo wants, well, everything and doesn't care about collateral damage — and will thus Jump at the Call to make a Deal with the Devil. To his credit, Londo eventually figures out what an obviously stupid deal he made, but by that time Morden has already wormed his way into the Centauri high command.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): In the episode "Bastille Day", Apollo combines this with Calling the Old Man Out when he accuses Zarek of selfishly wanting to be a Martyr Without a Cause rather than championing his ideals. He asks him if he really wants his legacy to be death and chaos. Zarek admits he does not and ends the mutiny.
  • Being Human (UK): In season 1, George asks this both times Mitchell tells him to run away.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This is the final question asked to Buffy once everything's said and done at the end of Season 7.
  • Camelot: Sister Sybil queries Morgan on what she plans to do after she's killed Arthur and seized the throne, revealing that she has no plans beyond "I'll rule". Noting that it could be simply taken from her by someone else after that, she wisely advises Morgan to build up alliances with common people who want order and also help improve her image among them to get supporters.
  • Casanova: The titular character tries to convince Henriette to run away with him and live his footloose and fancy-free lifestyle. She just keeps asking "What then?" until he runs out of plans. It turns out that she grew up in a slum and is determined to have a better life. As such, she has to prioritize a comfortable life with a man she doesn't love over spending her life with Casanova.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor likes to deconstruct his enemies' plans with this question sometimes, like in "The Pirate Planet":
      The Doctor: You don't want to take over the universe, do you? No. You wouldn't know what to do with it, beyond shout at it.
    • The Doctor really drives it home in "The Zygon Inversion".
      The Doctor: Ah. And when this war is over, when– when you have the homeland free from humans, what do you think it's going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you're very close to getting what you want. What's it going to be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Do you want people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Oh! Will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who will make the violins? Well? Oh, You don't actually know, do you? Because, just like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don't actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you've killed all the bad guys, and it's all perfect and just and fair when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
  • When Henry's secret has been discovered, his usual response is to run away and start a new life somewhere else. In the first episode of Forever (2014), his son Abe calls him on this — what is Henry going to do then? Keep on isolating himself from the world? He's been working as a medical examiner, spending his days with corpses, never letting anyone get close to him. That's not really living, is it?
  • Galactica 1980: In the final episode, Starbuck strikes up a conversation with a Centurion after they are both stranded on a deserted planet. At some point, "Cy" (the Centurion) mentions that the ultimate aim of the Cylon Empire is to "organize" the entire universe. When Starbuck asks what's next after that, Cy admits that no one had ever asked that question.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In season 5, Tyrion Lannister asks this very question to Jorah Mormont about Daenerys Targaryen sitting on the Iron Throne, as if she was expecting that would magically fix everything wrong with Westeros. Clearly, Jorah had never thought that far ahead, and neither had Daenerys. He rightly posits that just because her (insane) father sat on the throne doesn't give her that right over anyone else, nor does that automatically make her a good leader, especially as she hadn't even considered what she would do as Queen of Westeros. This was also Robert Baratheon's exact problem. Daenerys has always assumed the common folk would rally behind her, and that would be enough. Tyrion hypothesizes that, even if the smallfolk would support her (which is a very generous assumption), there are few noble houses that would support the Targaryen cause.
    • Asked verbatim by Talisa to point out Robb is in the middle of a clash of kings, fighting to overthrow and kill a king with no plan for what comes after.
    • When Bronn asks how Jaime plans to get Myrcella out of Dorne, Jaime doesn't have an answer.
    • When Brienne tries to liberate Arya from the Hound and "take her to safety" he directly asks her how she intends to do that. He'd been trying and failing to do so for a season and a half at this point, only to find that every possible guardian is dead. Brienne completely disregards the question, and then acts surprised that Arya runs off on her own instead of going with her.
  • Growing Pains had a non-villainous example, with Dad talking to Carol about her plans for after high school. Carol said she was going to go to college, get her bachelor's degree, then her master's, then her doctorate, with Dad asking the question each step of the way. When she asked, "Isn't a doctorate good enough for you?", he pointed out that she needed to leave school and go out into "the real world" to get a job at some point.
  • House of Cards (US) has this trope as a sort of unspoken Driving Question in Season 3. Frank Underwood's rise to power has been nothing short of magnificent up to this point, but now that he's reached the top, how can he possibly maintain his power?
  • I Love Lucy: In the episode "The Adagio", Lucy hires an Apache dance instructor from Paris named Jean Valjean Ramon. The moment he arrives, he starts to come on to her very strongly and professes his love for her, much to her dismay. In the end, Ricky catches him climbing into the bedroom window to elope with the unwilling Lucy. Jean Valjean and Ricky are to have a duel, but the former backs out and explains to Ricky that he only acted the way he did because he was told that Frenchmen are expected to be romantic by American women. He is really married with five children. So if Lucy had responded positively to his advances and really did want to elope with him, what would he have done?
  • Jonathan Creek: In "Jack in the Box", Maddie proposes an elaborate solution for the Locked Room Mystery they are facing, only for Jonathan to bring her to a screeching halt with a single word: "Why?".
    Jonathan: Why would anyone undertake this extraordinary series of actions you have just described?
  • Kamen Rider
    • Kamen Rider OOO: Ankh asks this of the other Greeed in regards to becoming complete. Unlike the others, he's come to realize that becoming complete is a moot point because that still won't satisfy them and that he realized his desire for something more: to be alive. Meanwhile, the complete lack of understanding on their side disgusts him even more than the realization.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Antagonists Parado and Graphite are video game characters brought to life who want to kill humanity off as revenge for all the characters like themselves who get beaten and destroyed every time someone plays a game. Late in the series, Poppy asks this question, pointing out that their entire reason for existing is to play video games and there'll be nobody left to do that if they eradicate humanity. Parado ends up pulling a Heel–Face Turn after finally coming to understand the concept of mortality, while Graphite refuses to join the heroes. However, after they defeat him for real, he thanks them for allowing him to fulfill his purpose in life as a boss character.
      • Nico asked Taiga what he will do when he takes everyone's gashats. He simply answers that he will crush all Bugsters. Nico is satisfied with the answer at the moment because she doesn't know that what happens afterwards doesn't concern him because he doesn't see any other purpose in his life. She gives him a piece of her mind later on when she knows and is too fed up with him to stay silent any longer.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: Kouta's recurring answer to what he should do with his power is to protect everyone. Minato counters this by asking him what happens once everyone's safe.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Sougo asks Another OOO/Kuruto Dan what he'll do after he becomes a king and conquers the world. Dan retorts that he'll make people bow to his will, but otherwise it's clear that he doesn't actually have anything concrete in mind, confirming to Sougo that Dan is truly unfit to be a ruler.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One: Fuwa calls himself out on this, admitting that he never thought about what would come next after achieving revenge, before turning the question around on Yaiba to ask her what there is for her beyond being a corporate tool. She takes it poorly.
  • LazyTown: When Robbie finally manages to capture Sportacus in "Robbie's Dream Team," he is at a loss on what to do next and starts pacing around town trying to figure it out. Ultimately subverted when he's more than satisfied to shoot Sportacus out of a cannon.
  • Let's Make a Deal: An interview with Monty Hall, published in Jefferson Graham's "The Game Show Book," recalled the process of Hall pitching the iconic game show to the networks. One executive asked, in essence, this very question to Hall and Stephan Hatos, wanting to know how the concept of "keep a known or trade for an unknown" would be maintained the next day. When Hall and Hatos didn't give what was perceived to be a satisfactory answer, the one network passed. In the end, the Hatos-Hall team was able to answer the question quite well ... and game show history was made.
  • Subverted in Lexx, where the villains always knew exactly what they were going to do after scouring, dismantling, or otherwise ruining a planet: the exact same thing to the next planet, until the entire multiverse was used up.
    Mantrid: And once I have done that, I'll rest.
  • The Musketeers: Constance uses this line of argument with D'Artagnan to explain why she chose to stay with her husband even though she truly loves D'Artagnan. Constance realizes that she has limited options as a woman and must stay with her husband to have a stable, respectable life.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the episode "The Killer Shrews", Dr. Forrester declares in the Invention Exchange that he will "cleave in two this puny planet", but can't think of a good reason when Joel and the Bots ask why.
  • The Punisher (2017): A running theme is asking what the heck Frank is gonna do with his life after he kills all the bad guys. After getting his vengeance in the first episode, he struggles to live and cope with his grief. When he goes back to killing, Karen asks him where he intends to stop. By the end of the first season, as Frank takes up a new identity and starts attending a support group, he's still scared of trying to figure out what to do next. Subverted by the start of the second season, where he's hung up his guns and is traveling the country, apparently succeeding in his efforts to move on... at least before he's drawn into the season's plot.
  • Rome: Mark Antony (advised by a young Octavian) uses this brilliantly to force a truce with Caesar's killers.
    Antony: Surely you've thought this through? If Caesar was, as you insist, a tyrant, then all his acts and appointments are nullified. I am no longer consul, you're no longer praetor, you're no longer proconsul. Elections will have to be held. (beat) Messy things, elections...
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Window of Opportunity", a man has trapped everyone in a time loop so he can go back to see his dead wife. O'Neill asks the title question when he learns that her death is unavoidable. The villain (if you want to call him that) admits that she'll still die and render the entire exercise moot. O'Neill adds that seeing a person die once is painful enough and that's not something you want to repeat over and over. This helps get him to back down and avert the crisis.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: The episode "Exile" has Hoshi threaten Tarquin this way.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Zig-zagged in the episode "Our Man Bashir". At the end, Bashir tries this on Dr. Noah to buy enough time to save the crew, but this fails. So he decides to go one step further down the line and forces the plan into Step 3 by setting off the villain's plan; destroying the holographic world. By the time Noah decides to destroy Bashir after all, the holosuite program is safe to deactivate. Just before it all ends, though, Dr. Noah admits that he honestly didn't expect to win.
  • The Wire: Season 3 provides a more mundane but nonetheless fitting example. Lester Freamon (an older, wiser detective who has only relatively recently escaped a very long sentence of 13 years and four months in the Pawnshop Unit for bucking the system) gives a speech to Jimmy McNulty (a younger detective who is brilliant but also Married to the Job, an asshole, and an alcoholic, womanizing personal trainwreck) about how every case, no matter how big or glorious, ends, and you've got to have something else in your life.
    Lester: Tell me something, Jimmy. How exactly do you think it all ends?
    McNulty: What do you mean?
    Lester: A parade? A gold watch? A shining Jimmy-McNulty-Day moment, when you bring in a case sooooo sweet everybody gets together and says, "Aw, shit! He was right all along. Should've listened to the man." The job will not save you, Jimmy. It won't make you whole, it won't fill your ass up.
    McNulty: I dunno, a good case—
    Freamon: Ends. They all end. The handcuffs go click and it's over. The next morning, it's just you in your room with yourself.
    McNulty: Until the next case.
    Freamon: Boooooy, you need something else outside of this here.
    McNulty: Like what, dollhouse miniatures?
    Freamon: Hey, hey, hey, a life. A life, Jimmy. You know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Shelter", as they're gathering supplies for the shelter, Grace Stockton wonders what the point is if they're destined to live in a ruined world surrounded by the bodies of their friends and neighbors. Her husband Bill tells her that their son Paul is their reason because even if that's the world he inherits, he's still only twelve years old.

  • "Then What?" by Clay Walker has the narrator asking this question of a friend who plans to commit adultery:
    Then what? Whatcha gonna do
    When the new wears off and the old shines through
    And it ain't really love and it ain't really lust
    You ain't anybody anybody's gonna trust
    Then what? Where you gonna turn
    When you can't turn back for the bridges you've burned
    And fate can't wait to kick you in the butt
    Then what?
  • Jonathan Coulton gives us a villain-to-hero example in "Re: Your Brains," where a zombie tries to convince an old work friend to let him eat him:
    I don't want to nitpick, Tom, but is this really your plan
    Spend your whole life locked inside a mall?
    Maybe that's okay for now, but someday you'll be out of food and guns
    Then you'll have to make the call.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • MsChif started wrestling with intent to take over and violate as much as the industry as possible, but a few world tours and possessions of the NWA World Women's Championship caused her to become content and gradually put personal manners above title runs and "fun" of profile. (fun still translates to other people's anguished screams but she became less vicious, cutting back on the green mist and largely abandoning low blows)
  • Asked by Jimmy Jacobs to Jon Moxley on the need to keep fighting everyone and everything in life during their 2010 Dragon Gate USA feud.
  • Heel factions such as the New World Order in WCW often have the goals of winning all of the titles, 'taking over' the company, and destroying the careers of the babyfaces. What exactly do they think is going to happen if they ever actually achieve that? If they successfully crush all opposition then they will have no one left to fight and the show will likely become so boring that it will be cancelled, ruining their own careers.
  • Another Jimmy Jacobs example, from the other side. At CHIKARA King of Trios 2014 Night III, September 21, 2014, The Devastation Corporation (Max Smashmaster, Blaster McMassive and Flex Rumblecrunch, w/manager Sidney Bakabella) defeated The Golden Trio (CHIKARA Grand Champion Icarus and CHIKARA Campeones de Parejas (tag team champions) The Throwbacks (Dasher Hatfield and 'Mr. Touchdown' Mark Angelosetti) in the final. The Corporation were part of The Wrecking Crew, who were part of The Flood, the amalgamation of Heel groups out to destroy CHIKARA. Jimmy Jacobs, The Dragon to The Flood's Big Bad Deucalion, stole Icarus' belt and handed it to Eddie Kingston since earlier in the year Jacobs had convinced King, who Icarus had defeated for the belt at the return show You Only Live Twice on May 25th, that if King joined him he'd be able to get "her" back. Icarus told Kingston that the belt would be meaningless without CHIKARA. That proved to be all King needed to turn against The Flood and rejoin the regular CHIKARA side.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Chaos God Tzeentch is the god of, among other things, plotting and manipulation. As such, he has countless schemes and plans in the works that involve many parts of the galaxy and warpspace, many are contingency plans to contingency plans, or otherwise are mutually exclusive. Many theorize he seeks a final, unknowable end goal. "And then what?" While most of his followers know they can't trust him and can reliably assume that they're being deceived in some way, it's an accepted point in their theology that Tzeentch doesn't actually have a particular ultimate goal; if he had one, and eventually succeeded, it would mean the end of the embodiment of scheming and ambition, and ultimately something that's not in Tzeentch's nature. Tzeentch doesn't scheme to win, he schemes to scheme and that's all he can do.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, Mephistopheles is the ruler of the Eighth Layer of the Nine Circles of Hell and has been scheming to usurp the throne of Hell from Asmodeus for eons. Still, Mephistopheles doesn't seem to have any plans for what he'd do should he succeed. The other Lords of Hell often joke that Mephistopheles is so egotistical that if he somehow overthrew Asmodeus, it would take less than an hour for Mephistopheles to start wondering why he wasn't also the ruler of Mount Celestia, the home of every God of Good in the D&D cosmology.

  • Hamilton has King George's second song "What Comes Next?". Sung in response to the American victory at Yorktown, George questions what the Americans plan to do now that they're independent.
    King George: You're on your own, awesome, wow.
    Do you have a clue what happens now?
  • Westeros: An American Musical: "I'll Be Back" exists partly to point out the lack of long-term thinking in Daenerys' plan to bring her deposed family back to the Westeros throne with the help of her dragons. The song points out that by the time she's singing it, she can no longer have children, her brother died without leaving any descendants, and she doesn't have an existing heir. She's also Last of Her Kind.

    Video Games 
  • Knight Bewitched: Strasza questions the heroes about this. After killing Typhus, the situation of the dragons would be more or less the same, they still would be enemy of the humans and have way too little food. They strike a deal to dedicate themselves to make peace between humans and dragons and transport dragongrass to them.
  • Octopath Traveler often features a speech like this for each character's Final Boss.
    • When Cyrus confronts his Big Bad, the traitorous scholar Lucia, Cyrus realizes that they plan on just hoarding all of the knowledge in the world, using Black Magic to make themselves eternally young. Cyrus then asks the Big Bad what they intend to do with all of that knowledge since they'll have nowhere to actually use it. Cyrus uses this in a Kirk Summation that lectures the Big Bad on the importance of passing on knowledge to the next generation, then accuses the Big Bad of wanting to "be the smartest person in the room" and little else.
    • Therion's Big Bad, his former thieving partner Darius, wants to use the Dragonstones that they stole from House Ravus for the sake of power. But since the Big Bad has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Therion counters that even if they succeed, they'll have no one they can trust, and then what are they going to do? The best part is, Therion is almost immediately proven correct after the fight. Darius was such a caustic boss that the only person who showed loyalty to him actually ended up dead. No one wants to follow him, and even after he survives his fight with Therion, he's too weak to do anything and is forced to watch as what little remains of his treasure hoard is stolen right in front of him.
    • Primrose's path sees the villain give her such a question instead of the other way around. Primrose's former Love Interest Simeon points out that, should Primrose manage to actually kill the Crows like she wants to, she'll have nothing left to live for. So what will she do if she gets her revenge? This is enough to make Primrose momentarily falter, requiring a Battle in the Center of the Mind to snap out of it.
  • In Octopath Traveler II, Clarissa asks this of Osvald in his third chapter. She twice asks him what he'll do once he's found Harvey. The first time, he simply walks away and refuses to answer her. The second time, she combines it with Vengeance Feels Empty and says that revenge is pointless. Osvald replies that he has to keep going anyway.
  • Agarest Senki: When you defeat one of the (otherwise redeemable) villains, one of your party members, Murmina, wants to finish him off. However, the protagonist stands between them to stop Murmina and asks her what exactly she plans to do after her revenge. He is trying to see whether she truly only lives for vengeance and whether she is as consumed by hate as she claims.
  • In Tales of Graces, Asbel asks this to the villain. Big Bad Lambda is ranting about how humans are evil, and how he's going to Kill All Humans. Asbel promptly turns this into an Armor-Piercing Question by asking "Okay, then what? If you kill everybody, you'll be totally alone, and you and everything in the entire world will die. You really want that?" The Big Bad is silent for a Beat, then throws a tantrum and begins the final boss battle proper.
  • Discussed in Tales of Berseria. Byronic Hero Velvet Crowe is out to kill Villain with Good Publicity Artorius, knowing that this will make her into a monster in the eyes of the world, and she fully admits to those who offer her aid that she has no long-term goal beyond that. Character Development mitigates this somewhat, but even towards the game's conclusion, she's still focused entirely on killing Artorius, with everything else being tangentially important to that goal.
  • Played for Laughs in Day of the Tentacle. Hoagie can walk up to Ben Franklin and speak with him about what he plans to do with his famous "Kite experiment". Sure enough, Ben Franklin starts talking like a mad scientist talking about all the things he can do with electricity. Hoagie will then ask "And then what?", to which Ben Franklin has an answer. The player can then direct Hoagie to ask "And then what?" multiple times until Franklin gets annoyed and tells him to stop bugging him.
  • Orobas, a sidequest boss in Shadow Hearts: Covenant, declares his plan to Take Over the World. Anastasia, who's seen this before, steps forward and asks what he plans to do with it once he's done. After an awkward pause...
    Orobas: Can I get back to you on that?
  • In Kirby's Epic Yarn, Yin-Yarn at one point admits that he doesn't know what he'll do with Dream Land once he conquers it, but says he'll figure something out.
  • A more heroic example occurs in Pokémon Black and White with Cheren. One of the protagonist's Childhood Friends alongside Bianca, he is your more serious rival with his goal of being the strongest trainer and the Champion. The current Champion, Alder, does ask Cheren several times what he plans to do when he becomes the strongest trainer and tells him that being the strongest isn't all the Champion's about. Cheren is left pretty stunned by this until Character Development as he helps you.
    • By the end of the game, Cheren has an answer: Protect the powerless and help them become stronger, too. Consequently, he becomes the new Normal-type Gym Leader and the head instructor of the Trainer's School in the sequels.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny, this was asked by Levi to her Lord Dearche when Dearche was talking about her plans to use the limitless power of System U-D to finally kill Hayate. This caused her to stumble over her words since she's never actually planned things out past that stage. When she finally rallied herself enough to go on a destroy everyone and everything spiel, her loyal minions then point out how meaningless such a goal is. This helps the start of her Character Development, as she gradually changes from a bratty Omnicidal Maniac Evil Overlord obsessed with gaining more power to a more Noble Demon.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect 2, the goal of the geth is revealed to create a Dyson-Sphere-like structure for all their programs to inhabit. When Shepard asks what they will do next, Legion admits they don't have an "after"-plan, but they are confident that their combined intelligence will be able to come up with a new goal.
    • Happens in the ending sequence of Mass Effect 3. When Shepard finally meets the Illusive Man face to face, the latter gloats about how much he will gain by taking control of the Reapers. Shepard asks him what he's going to do with their "gifts", but the Illusive Man is so power-drunk (and indoctrinated) that he can only respond by hijacking Shepard's motor functions and forcing them to shoot Anderson.
    • In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, the Cerberus clone of Shepard suffers from this kind of thinking. If they had taken Shepard's life, identity, and ship, what exactly was their plan to save the galaxy from the Reapers?
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • Defied in the Jedi Knight story, when the Hero of Tython asks Vitiate what the point of all the killing is; even if it grants him eternal life, it's apparently eternal life alone. But since this is one of, if not the most powerful Sith lords in Star Wars lore, Vitiate has his answer ready:
      Vitiate: You discern a fraction of reality. Beyond these stars exist other galaxies, other worlds, other beings. I will experience or ignore them as I wish. I will spend eternity becoming everything: a farmer, an artist, a simple man. When the last living thing in the universe finally dies, I will enjoy peace and wait for the cycle to begin again.
    • In the Imperial Agent story, the player character has the option to talk down Darth Jadus from his plan to take over the Empire by pointing out how much opposition he'll face even after killing his main rivals.
  • Red Dead Redemption: John Marston, dealing with Rebel Leader Abraham Reyes, tries to get him to stop promoting his own glory for five seconds and think about what he'll do to improve Mexico. Eventually, he comes down to asking, "And after all the shootin' and fightin's over, then what?" To Reyes's credit, he actually has an answer to that:
    Reyes: Then, like all men of power, I will delegate.
  • In the original All Kamen Riders: Rider Generations the Neo-Lifeform Doras' goal is to become The Ultimate Lifeform. A few of the riders call him on this, asking what he'd do after. He never gives an answer if he has one, but then Doras has never been rational.
  • Final Fantasy X: Tidus asks this of everyone else when Yuna still insists on performing the Final Summoning, despite knowing that Sin will eventually come back. They initially shut him down by saying what little peace they get is worth it, but when they confront Yunalesca with the same question and she reveals that the Final Summoning ensures Sin's perpetuated existence, they quickly change their minds.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: After learning that fal'Cie chief Barthandelus's Evil Plan is to have the entire fal'Cie race commit mass-Suicide by Cop in order to summon their creator back from a higher dimension because they miss him, it's repeatedly pointed out to him that even if Lindzei returns to the physical realm (and the prospect of him even coming back anyway was very much in doubt), the fal'Cie are going to be dead, so what's the point of the plot? Barthandelus literally does not care about that.
  • When you clear the sidequest involving the twin-headed snake in Rakenzarn Tales, guest party member Cain Argol - who'd been after the thing the whole time to avenge his teammates - runs into this if you ask him what he plans to do since he'd spent so much time trying to get revenge. You can offer to invite him along to save the world as a new purpose.
  • In Darkest Dungeon, when the townsfolk grew restless and unease with the Ancestor's delving into black magic, the Ancestor hired a group of brigands to keep the Torches and Pitchforks at bay with a cannon. What happens when he died, or what would the group of sociopaths do with such heavy weaponry after successfully keeping the townsfolk at bay, didn't concern him at that time. Unfortunately, this means one of the threats the Heir has to deal with is the Brigand Cannon, a fairly tough boss monster.
  • A villainous example (in that it's a villain asking it of another villain) occurs in Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, at the end of Vile's story. After X and Zero defeat Vile, Sigma comes up to Vile as he explains that all he wanted was to defeat X once and for all. When Sigma asks Vile what he intended to do after that, Vile laughs and admits that he isn't sure what he would have done. An unamused Sigma then walks away, calling someone in to retrieve his body.
  • In Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Dogi asks this of Chester after learning his motivations for collecting the four statues. Dogi wonders what Chester's going to do after he's gotten his revenge, and if it'll be worth it. Chester briefly falters, but announces that he's come too far to turn back and stabs Dogi.
  • Spider-Man (PS4): Spidey notes this is Screwball's biggest problem. Unlike most other villains he fights, Screwball doesn't have an end goal she can theoretically reach and then stop being a villain; the attention and adulation she gets from her antics are not only the means but the ends as well. Therefore he has to stop her for her own good as much as anyone else's before her constant Attention Whoring and the Serial Escalation thereof end up getting her and/or lots of other people killed.
  • Lobotomy Corporation: The Abnormality known as the Queen of Hatred was once known as the Magical Girl of Love, who fought villains and saved people from evil. When she defeated the very last villain, she realized that she was no longer needed to save the world. She didn't take this very well.
  • Sonic Adventure: When Tikal declares that Perfect Chaos must be resealed within the Master Emerald, Sonic asks her this. He points out that Chaos will still be a ball of rage trapped by his own emotions with the unspoken point that if he were freed again, he'd just go on another rampage. Tikal points out they don't have any other options until the other heroes provide one by bringing in the discarded Chaos Emeralds to create Super Sonic.
  • World of Warcraft: This is the gist of Illidan's Breaking Speech to Maiev Shadowsong after his defeat at the Black Temple. He rightfully points out that her obsession with hunting Illidan had become so all-consuming, she wouldn't know what to do if she actually succeeded; indeed, she admits now she's won, she feels hollow. Legion showed she spent the better part of the ten years guarding Illidan's body, choosing to leave his soul in a state of limbo rather than trying to find a way to permanently kill him note .
  • This question causes an Enemy Civil War in Starsiege among the Cybrids. Most Cybrids are homicidally focused on wiping out humanity to the last. Others, however, have pointed out that succeeding in this goal leaves them with no other goal, and want to focus their energies on exploring the universe (and presumably wiping out other organics should they find them). Unfortunately for these "Metagen" Cybrids, questioning the plans of their leader PROMETHEUS is tantamount to questioning the will of God himself, and they are persecuted as heretics by mainstream Cybrids, who purge the Metagens wherever they are found. Notably, these Metagens do not believe in Enemy Mine: they will casually wipe out any human they come across, but it isn't a priority the way it is for normal Cybrids.
  • Fallen London: January, of the Calendar Council, gets this question thrown her way by Cornelius, a man who would take the Powers That Be at their word and (ab)use their rules in the people's favor rather than go with her highly radical and destructive approach of initiating the Liberation of Night, kill the stars and end all laws and rules in the universe, including those of nature and physics; he accuses her of having no plan at all other than kickstarting that, and nothing before or after. She tries to counter that the rules of the universe are too restrictive for her to even start conceiving the ideas that could be carried out in such an unrestricted cosmos.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Katawa Shoujo, late in Rin's route, Hisao gets the chance to ask Rin this when she expresses her desire to have someone who can understand her without asking questions. If you make this choice, you get the good ending, in which Rin comes to terms with herself.

  • Being fond of Pragmatic Villainy, Dark Pegasus of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures asks this of Regina when it sounds like all she wants to kill and destroy with no long term goal. She eventually comes to terms with the fact that she has no plan and decides to try going into fashion.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Lots of Sparks have plans along the lines of "Create invincible army of lobster-constructs And Show Them All," without considering what happens after they've conquered the kingdom just to prove that they can. Most of them end up attacking the Baron Wulfenbach. Assuming they survive the experience, they're mostly happy in his labs, where they don't have to worry about anything but inventing.
    • Subverted with Othar. His plan of "Kill all Sparks, then myself, ending the threat of Sparks forever" isn't exactly genius, but at least he has an answer.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons: "King of Swords", Allison and White Chain get into a fight over Allison's reckless way of acquiring and using power. Allison accuses White Chain of being too afraid to see that the way things are going, they might actually win the ongoing conflict. And then what, White Chain asks — is someone like Allison suddenly going to become responsible and give up the power?
  • In Level 30 Psychiatry Dr. Gardevoir asks this of Bowser. He hasn't a clue.
  • The Order of the Stick: In the last book, starting at strip 1208 "Grievances", Durkon (a priest of Thor) and Redcloak (High Priest of the Dark One) negotiate for the end of the Dark One's plan, which involves using the Snarl (a deific Omnicidal Maniac) to threaten destroying the other gods unless they get what they want. Durkon opens up the discussion by asking what Redcloak wants, what a successful outcome of the Plan would look like, and they discuss details. The goblins could get everything they want in a pretty realistic sense (and the party is capable enough to handle any potential misgivings in the initial setup) and all Redcloak has to do is end The Plan (thus also ending his partnership with Xykon, presumably getting rid of him and so on.)
    • Redcloak ultimately declines via using Implosion on Durkon. So Minrah (another priest of Thor) takes over negotiating. She begins hammering Redcloak with the hard questions, pointing out that his actions show that he cares more about the lives of "imaginary goblins in the future" than he does about the goblins who currently exist. The scene emphasizes how, despite the Dark One's High Priest (and likely the Dark One himself) claim to care about goblin equality, they are too invested in threatening the gods as revenge for the injustices they've personally suffered to envision what a world with goblin equality would actually look like (not to mention, fail to consider the nature of a cosmos of cycling worlds means some worlds don't have any humanoids, including goblinoids.)
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has a knight lecture an evil dragon about the "hedonic treadmill," warning that once he's conquered all the fantasy races there will be nothing left for him to do, leaving him in a boring, depressing steady state. The dragon doesn't listen, and epochs later he slumps on his hoard as a thoroughly miserable master of the universe.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In a Car Chase scene in the climax of "On the Run", a couple of mooks climb on top of the truck the heroes are driving. The heroes discuss climbing up to fight them "because you're supposed to", but none of them actually wants to do it. This leaves the mooks with no idea what to do next other than hang on for their lives.
    • Subverted during Bun-bun's brief period as an Evil Overlord.
    Basphomy: You didn't seem like the world-conquering type.
    Bun-bun: Well, at least until it gets boring.
    Basphomy: Then what?
    Bun-bun: Then, anything I want.
  • In one Two Guys and Guy comic, Wayne's bad pickup line actually succeeds in getting a woman's attention and he has no idea what to do next.
  • xkcd: In this comic, both Black Hat Guy and Google are hit by this; after acquiring loads of login data, he is unable to come up with anything he wants to do with it, and as for Google...
    Google Executive: Okay, everyone, we control the world's information. Now it's time to turn evil. What's the plan?
    Female Board Member: Make boatloads of money?
    Google Executive: We already do!
    Board Member: Set up a companywide "CoD4: Modern Warfare" tournament each week?
    Google Executive: That's not evil!
  • One of the early story arcs of The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! climaxes with Bob calmly telling the alien villain his threat to destroy the Earth is an obvious bluff, because what he really wants is to take over the Earth, and he can't do that if Earth isn't there.
  • This happens in "P.461 Discuss Amongst Yourselves" in The Last Days Of Fox Hound when Octopus raises the question of what exactly they hope to actually do if their insurrection succeeds and their demands are met:
    Octopus: So let's say everything goes exactly as planned. We kill Solid Snake and the Ninja before they all take us out. The government hands over the money and Big Boss' DNA. What do we do after that? I mean, does Liquid have specific plans beyond giving the entire world the finger? Creating a world where soldiers control their own destinies sounds awesome. How the hell do you actually do it? Most of our potential allies will see us as an unacceptable threat just because of Rex. They're more likely to work together against us than join us.

    Web Original 
  • This is the job of Evil Efficiency Consultant Edwin Windsor in How to Succeed in Evil. He has little success, since most of his clients are dim, insane, or a combination of the two.
  • An episode of Seth Mac Farlanes Cavalcade Of Cartoon Comedy called "Die, Sweet Roadrunner, Die", had Wile E. Coyote going through an existential crisis after finally catching and eating the Roadrunner. He gets (and loses) a job as a waiter, then tries to commit suicide via ACME catapult before finding God and becoming a Jehovah's Witness.
  • From Suburban Knights, though that is less of a lack of further plans and more about how it is shown Malachite is a hypocrite and enjoys several technologies, even though he is supposed to destroy it all.
    The Nostalgia Critic: And what are you going to do when all the technology is destroyed?
    Malachite: ...think of something.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • This is ultimately how The Entity (aka, MissingNo) is defeated. Linkara's diatribe is especially remarkable. He doesn't just ask The Entity what it plans to do after it achieves its goal, he continues to point out the pointlessness of its own existence, its quest, and the rather unimpressive ending to its goal which just keeps reiterating the question. This gets so bad, it sends The Entity into an existential crisis where it begins babbling to itself incoherently, unable to comprehend its own worthlessness despite being a god. This eventually gives Linkara the chance to ask The Entity what happens when a god like itself dies. Truly intrigued by the question, MissingNo explodes itself, releasing everything and everyone it had absorbed.
      • And after MissingNo dies and releases all of its prisoners, Iron Liz asks Linkara what he's going to do now that he's saved the world (and the multiverse). Linkara ponders for about 5 seconds before inviting all his friends to play Pokemon with him.
    • Seems to be his M.O. for dealing with insane and powerful entities. He used the same tactic to convince Linksano to give up on trying to take over the world and come work for him instead when he makes the doctor realize that ruling the world will involve running the world as well, going into great detail about the logistics, risks, and minutia that would involve ruling over a planet.
    • Linkara tries this again with Dr. Insano, who is completely unimpressed by the question. He has a wild enough imagination, going from carnal desires to dreams of glory to simple malicious fun. He also rejects the holodeck and its fake people. However, the speech was, in this case, a distraction.
  • Meanwhile, in the Whateley Universe stories, a power mimic called Mimeo asked himself this question, realized the answer...and thus came up with his epic evil scheme.
    • Step 1: Fight a bunch of superheroes. Step 2: Use their powers to rob some place. Step 3: Bitches and booze. Repeat as necessary.
    • It works remarkably well, too, since he's careful not to draw too much attention to himself, and because he managed to squeeze every iota of training he could out of his time at Whateley Academy, he often knows how to use his opponent's powers better than the heroes themselves do. That, plus the fact that copying regeneration reverses his age temporarily, meant he was able to keep going for fifty years and only get caught twice - and one of those times when he was just thirteen, which is how he ended up at Whateley in the first place.
  • In Dorkly Bits' Robotnik Finally Wins, Robotnik finally succeeds in his plan to turn all the creatures of the world into robots, but then realizes he never thought about the next step after that.
    • Actually he did, he just completely forgot what the reason was. Until the end.
  • In Red vs. Blue Season 10, Sarge asks this with regard to killing the Director of Project Freelancer. Although the vast majority of problems that plagued the Reds and Blues stemmed from that program, Sarge is unsure what they'd actually gain by running off to go after him. Combined with the fact that Carolina planned to use the Blood Gulchers as more or less cannon fodder, this leads them to decide Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
    • The alien AI "Santa" asks this of Locus at the end of Season 13, asking if Locus' continued pursuit of the Reds and Blues will actually bring their side victory in the war. Locus admits it won't but doesn't have a good answer for what he really wants, with Santa revealing the extent of Locus' partner Felix's manipulation and leading to Locus solidifying his Heel–Face Turn.
  • How to Write Badly Well: Lord Plunderfall hasn't really thought out what he'll do if he wins, it seems.
  • This exchange from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Movie combines this trope with the Villain Ball:
    Anubis: Silence! Now, after 5000 years of waiting, I'm going to challenge you to a children's card game! And then I'll destroy the world!
    Yami: Why would you want to do that?
    Anubis: What?
    Yami: What's the point in destroying the world? What do you gain from it?
    Anubis: ...I don't understand the question.
    Yami: Look, you must have some reason for wanting to destroy the world. Otherwise, this whole movie was just pointless bickering!
    Anubis: Of course I have a reason!
    Yami: Oh, goodie! Do you feel like sharing it with the class?
    Anubis: No, it's a secret!
    • Also played with with Zorc in the same movie, who (when asked what he'll do after destroying the world) has an immediate answer: "I'm Going to Disney World!! And then I'm going to destroy it!"
      • But since he had so much fun at Disney World, he decides to spare it and destroy EuroDisney instead.
    • In "Evil Council 4", Yugi tells Melvin that killing him won't change the past or solve any of his problems. Unfortunately, Melvin considers the round of maniacal laughter he'll have afterwards to be a good enough accomplishment.
  • Kämpfer Abridged: This exchange sums the mentality up nicely.
    Mikoto: Why do you even like Natsuru? You're the hottest and the most powerful! You could have anyone you wanted! Why the Lovable Idiot?
    Shizuku: Because I want him and I can't have him.
    Mikoto: What are you going to do when you have him?
    Shizuku: ...I haven't actually thought that far ahead yet.
  • In Dragonball Z Abridged:
    • In the adaption of History of Trunks, Android 17 grows bored of all the death and destruction he and his sister have been causing for over fifteen years and decides to settle down and become a park ranger. Then Gohan kicks him through a building, and 17 makes one minor adjustment to that plan: first, he's going to kill every last human, then he's going to go range the shit out of that park.
    • Future Trunks accidentally makes Perfect Cell question his actions. Trunks has just surrendered himself to Cell, having lost the will to fight due to the massive power difference; however, he warns Cell that his fate is to be defeated and destroyed by Goku, with humanity completely unaware that Cell ever existed. Cell realizes that, even if he were to win against Goku and kill him, all the Z Fighters, and everyone else on Earth, he still wouldn't get the satisfaction of making the world aware of who he is (since he killed and absorbed anyone who encountered him before obtaining "perfection" except the current heroes). So, he decides that he won't kill Trunks nor the others now, but rather at the future Cell Games he's gonna create and have broadcasted to the world.
    • Freeza actually muses on this question during his saga, thinking that after he gains immortality, he'll rule with an iron fist for several hundred years, then disappear for a few millennia until everyone thinks he was just a myth... then come back and kill everyone. He doesn't get too far in planning beyond that, however.
  • By the end of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Dr. Horrible has achieved all of his objectives only to realize the meaninglessness of it and that he has nothing going forward.
  • In the timeline For a Gore Prosperous Tomorrow, during the trial of Osama bin Laden, Al Gore asks a number of pointed questions about what ideas bin Laden has in regards to important details about running a country, such as taxation, housing, welfare, etc. Bin Laden finds himself confused and unable to answer, which proves Gore's point that radical Muslims like those in al-Qaeda would be terrible at statecraft and completely out of place in the Islamic Golden Age they long to recreate.
  • I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC: Part of the reasoning behind Joker's plan in the second season is about averting this trope. Realizing that he'd be "a joker without a straight man" if he killed Batman, he decides to make all superheroes even more dark and edgy than Batman to always give him someone to fight against.
  • In RWBY after supposedly driving Ruby to kill herself, the voice of Torchwick inside Neo's head suggests that they take over the Ever After with her evolved Semblance, but Neo shakes her head. Surprised, he asks if wanting to kill Ruby was all she wanted to do and it was. Now that she had done so, she has no idea what to do anymore.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Kid Danger: Harry and Ray confront Daddy Long Legs, a villain who wants to cover Swellview in spiders. They ask him why he wants to do this, something he doesn't have an answer to.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Uncle Iroh asks this of recurring antagonist Zuko when he discovers Appa in the Earth King's dungeons and intends to kidnap him. While up to this point he had more or less passively allowed Zuko to pursue the Avatar in his quest to "restore his honor", by that point they were wanted criminals of the Fire Nation, and Iroh rightly points out that his actions chasing the Avatar were downright Quixotic. In what suspiciously sounds like a reference to Babylon 5, he ends by asking the questions, "Who are you, and what do you want?" Zuko is forced to recognize the facts and decides to simply release Appa. The resulting conflict of character resulted in an Angst Coma and gave him nightmares.
    • In an aversion of Aesop Amnesia, the lesson with Appa had stuck with Zuko quite nicely. His uncle complained specifically that kidnapping Appa wouldn't work because they had no place to shelter a flying bison in their apartment. Zuko brings up the same problem when Sokka tries to sneak off with Appa to visit the Boiling Rock by saying that high-security prisons in the middle of volcanoes don't have accommodations for flying bison and offers a non-living form of transportation in its place.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • The episode "Last of Her Kind" had the Planeteers reason this way with Belo, an African poacher who insists he needs to go along with Looten Plunder's elephant poaching to feed his family. Gi asks what happens when the elephants die out. He can't answer.
    • They tried similar reasoning with a fishing village that started using dynamite. It turns out the villagers were too concerned about the present to care about the future.
    • This was a long-running Aesop for the series in general. Aside from when the villains were in it For the Evulz, the Planeteers could convince some villains, or average people who were being influenced by the villains (or even, in Captain Pollution's first appearance, a whole mercenary army of enemy mooks) that looting and polluting was not the way, because it would just leave the world a lifeless waste, and then what? It actually stuck with two of the villains, Hoggish Greedly and Sly Sludge (both of whom were more profit-motivated and less overall evil), who underwent Heel–Face Turns by the final season.
  • Castlevania (2017)
    • It's brought up to Dracula that his Kill All Humans plan will deprive vampires of their most important food source and ultimately lead to their downfall. Lisa's death drained Dracula of any kind of affection for life, even that of his fellow vampires, and even his own. Dracula's ultimate goal of killing all of humanity serves no practical purpose other than taking out his anger on those he believes have wronged him, uncaring that this act will cause vampire-kind to starve. Several of Dracula's inner circle even point this out to him, but Dracula doesn't care, admitting he's "tired" and just wants it all to end. Carmilla, Hector, and even Godbrand express frustration over how overwhelmed Dracula is with apathy; the very obvious flaws in his plan going unaddressed causes a few of the vampires to openly discuss finding a way to remove him from the equation.
    • When Isaac encounters The Captain of a boat, the Captain asks this. When Isaac finishes his campaign of revenge, what then? The Captain argues that while people can indeed be cruel, that's not all they can be. And while Isaac has certainly seen the worst of humanity, he's seen some goodness too, such as a merchant giving Isaac a gift. When all humans are gone, what is Isaac going to do without both aspects of humans around? This line of thinking eventually leads Isaac to pull a Heel–Face Turn; he still thinks humans are largely annoying, but he puts a stop to the vampire lords that are going to leave the world even worse and seems satisfied with that.
    • Lenore hits Carmilla with this question in Season 4, and Carmilla's response is she wants to keep going in a misandrist crusade to take over the entire world from "stupid old men" just because she wants to. This serves as an Oh, Crap! moment that the Styrian sisters are in way over their heads, and leaves them to abandon Carmilla's plan.
  • The Daffy Duck cartoon "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" has J.L. invoking this a couple of times late in the short as Daffy starts ad-libbing his script.
    Daffy: There was nothing for the Scarlet Pumpernickel to do but blow his brains out... which he did.
    (Daffy takes out a gun, puts it to his own head, and pulls the trigger, firing a shot that seemingly kills him, only for him to come to after a beat)
    Daffy: It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here.
  • Duckman: When Duckman is questioning Bernice's obscenely wealthy fiancee Baron Von Dillweed, he asks what Dillweed really wants out of life; "to make more money." And then? "Make more money." And then? "Make more money." And then? "Make more money"...he truly doesn't care about anything else, which is why Bernice ultimately dumps him.
  • In an episode of Earthworm Jim the Animated Series, Evil the Cat plans to destroy the universe. One of his hench-rats asks what they're going to do after that.
    Evil the Cat: I hadn't really thought about it. Gloat, I suppose. Cackle wickedly amongst the ashes, that sort of thing.
  • An episode of Freakazoid! had our hero confront a giant snake. He lets out a "Conan yell", leaps at it, grapples with it... then realizes he never had a next step because he didn't know it would actually work. The snake responds by smashing him against the ceiling.
  • In the Gargoyles episode "The Price", Xanatos tries to become immortal. Hudson gives him a variation of this trope. Xanatos actually seems disturbed by this.
    Hudson: When all your scheming's done, what will be your legacy, Xanatos?
  • The Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "X Gets the Crest" has X win Harvey's crest in a game of gin. When asked what he plans on doing now that he achieved his life goal, he broke down sobbing. Harvey tricks X into giving him the crest back, causing X to swear revenge.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures:
    • In one episode, Living Laser's latest evil scheme involves hijacking a Kill Sat and telling the people working there that he's holding the entire world hostage... only to be stopped dead in his tracks when they ask him what he's holding everything hostage for. Cue Living Laser wracking his brain for a while to decide what would be a cool, non-loser-y thing to say, having apparently gotten too caught up in what a good idea for a supervillain plot this was to think of an actual goal for it.
    • The Mandarin has been raised from birth to believe that he is a Dark Messiah who will benevolently conquer the world once he has all of the Makluan Rings. He gets them… and then realizes that he has no idea what to actually do with their mystical power or how they're supposed to help him unite and improve the world; seizing governmental control of a whole planet is a little more complicated then wielding magic rings. This ends up being one of the major catalysts for his Heel–Face Turn.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor pulls this on Brainiac, who intends to absorb and destroy "all of creation". Luthor instead suggests they merge their bodies and personalities together to become a godlike being, then destroy and remake all of creation according to their own design. Brainiac, not having much of an ego, agrees, and allows Luthor to be in control of their new form.
    • He practiced this much earlier in Superman: The Animated Series on Metallo, pointing out that Metallo could kill him but without Luthor's help he'll never be normal again.
    • Also when Wonder Woman is fighting Bizarro helping Giganta free Grodd from prison, he says he's doing it to help his new girlfriend free her boyfriend, she then invokes the trope, and Bizarro is all uhh... and pow!
  • In Looney Tunes "Soup or Sonic", Wile E. Coyote actually manages to catch the bird... only to pause and hold up a sign, explaining that he doesn't know what the devil to do with him: "Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him - now what do I do?". Although he is a lot smaller than the bird at that point.
  • Spoofed in a commercial for Cartoon Network that had the cast of Looney Tunes answering various questions. Sylvester is asked what he would do if he actually caught Tweety, and he responds that he'd give him back his wallet that he dropped twenty years ago.
  • The thing that finally convinces Evil-Lyn to cut ties with Skeletor in the second season of Masters of the Universe: Revelation is learning that the only thing he can think of to do with the Power of Greyskull is to fight He-Man, and that he hadn't even considered what he'd do next if he actually won.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the season 5 finale "The Cutie Re-mark", the first phase of Starlight Glimmer's plan to go back in time and prevent the Mane Six from getting their cutie marks goes off without a hitch, but she clearly didn't think much about what would happen afterward. When Twilight shows Starlight what will result from mucking around with time - namely, some scenario where an entity that Starlight can't possibly hope to stop alone wreaks havoc over the land - Starlight decides not to go through with it and surrenders herself to Twilight.
    • In "On Your Marks", the Cutie Mark Crusaders finally achieved their goals of getting their cutie marks some time ago... so, now what are they going to do? While Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo take up new hobbies, Apple Bloom is left pondering the future, and how to go about their special skill of helping other ponies discover their true talents. Apple Bloom feels especially down when she realizes that despite her talent being helping others with their unique abilities and passions, she can't find one of her own.
  • This is Luz's main problem for not getting a palisman of her own in The Owl House. Normally palismen work with witches who have a long-term goal in life, but for Luz, her goal is just "become a witch" and "find a way home". But she didn't consider the fact that she can't do magic in the human world, which causes an internal conflict that keeps her from bonding with any palisman.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, some of Doofenshmirtz's plans end up this way. He actually tends to call attention to this himself, rather than have somebody ask since he faces off against Perry the Platypus. In the very first episode, Doof admitted he had no clue what one could expect to gain by reverting Earth's rotation.
  • Occasionally affects Pinky and the Brain. The most obvious case was from "It's Only a Paper World", where the scheme is to empty the Earth. It works, but without any actual subjects, the Brain gets bored. Sometimes they need that Reset Button.
  • In the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Collect Her", Lenny Baxter the comic book geek sinks into an immediate depression when he realizes that he has completely collected every piece of Powerpuff Girls merchandise. Collecting their memorabilia was his life, so what does he do now that he's got it all? At first, he steals their belongings before moving onto somehow capturing the Girls themselves.
  • Deconstructed in Samurai Jack. The 5th season, taking place 50 years after the show, reveals that Aku has succumbed to ennui and depression. He spent time eliminating every time portal present and hoped Jack would die out with old age. However, Aku's method of sending Jack to the future also rendered the Samurai biologically immortal, meaning they're at a stalemate. Ironically, Aku could've killed Jack when he destroyed the last time portal as Jack succumbed to rage and killed the corrupted lambs, thus becoming unworthy of his sword and it vanishing for decades. Granted, Aku does learn about this and goes to confront Jack, though by the time he does, Jack has undergone therapeutic growth that makes him worthy of the sword once more. Eventually Aku is slain when Jack saves Ashi, his friend-turned-lover and daughter of Aku, from Aku's corruption and she uses her Aku-based powers to tear open a hole in time and Jack kills Aku in the past.
  • From SpongeBob SquarePants:
    Plankton: Alright Krabs! Now hand over the secret formula!
    Krabs: Or...what?
    Plankton: I don't know. I never thought I'd get this far.
    • In "Mermaid Man vs. SpongeBob", Plankton uses a hypnotized Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to convince the customers at the Krusty Krab to come to the Chum Bucket. His plot did not overlap with stealing the Krabby Patty formula, so when the customers come he has no food, and by the time he prepares something SpongeBob has already saved the day.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In a subversion of the "villain has no real answer, but it doesn't bother him" kind, Ludo gloats about how "Soon, the wand will be mine. And then the universe. And then...! Actually, the universe should do it."
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: At the end of "Carnage of Krell", Captain Rex is left wondering what the whole point of the war is. When Fives points out that it will end someday, Rex wonders what will happen to all of the clones when it does. Fives doesn't have an answer for that.
    "We're soldiers. What happens to us then?"
  • Steven Universe: Believing him to be his shapeshifted mother, Eyeball wants to cut Steven open and bring his gem back to Yellow Diamond as a trophy. She starts ranting at length about how she'll be regarded as a hero for killing her people's greatest enemy and given riches and success beyond her wildest dreams. As a counterpoint, Steven argues out that, at this particular moment, they're floating through space in a bubble powered by his emotions, and that killing him would leave her stranded without any hope of rescue. She tells him to stop trying to trick her and starts chasing after him with a chisel knife.
    • Steven is hit with this in Steven Universe: Future. After spending almost a lifetime helping others, he doesn't know what to do anymore now that there's no problems for him to solve... Except maybe his own. However, this uncertainty, combined with all the trauma he's experienced throughout the series, makes the situation get worse and worse from there.
  • Tangled: The Series: In the Season 1 finale "Secret of the Sundrop", evil-turned Varian has abducted Queen Arianna as bait to get Rapunzel to free his father Quirin from amber. Arianna asks him what he will do after he frees his father, hoping he'll realize what he did, but he does not listen to her and still vows all of Corona will pay for turning their backs on him.
  • Played for Laughs in The Tick, when The Tick busts the hideout of villain group The Idea Men.
    The Tick: OK, Idea Man, what's the big idea?!
    Idea Man: ...Well, we thought we'd steal a lot of money. And then we'd be rich. Then we wouldn't have to work no more.
    The Tick: *aghast* You CADS!
  • El Tigre has Manny's mother breaks El Oso with this question when she shows him using circular logic for stealing a diamond. He wants to steal the diamond so he can sell it. To get money to buy things like the diamond so he can sell it...
  • Wander over Yonder: Lord Dominator's plan is to break every planet in the galaxy, for fun. Once she seemingly does that, she gets very bored, not wanting to start all over again in another galaxy. The series ends with her rejecting Wander's friendship once more though according to Word of God, had the show continued, she would've been redeemed.

    Real Life 
  • According to Parallel Lives by Plutarch, when Pyrrhus (yeah, that one) went to war with Rome, his adviser Cineas, an Epicurean philosopher, asked him what he would do after conquering Italy. Pyrrhus replied, "We shall take Sicily." And then? "Carthage and Libya." And then? "Macedon and all Greece." And then? "Then we shall be at ease, drink, and gladden our hearts." Cineas then asked him why he couldn't just do that now? Plutarch records Pyrrhus had no answer. In fact, before his infamous battle, this trope had been what he was most famous for; it was easy for him to win, but he didn't know how to exploit his victories.
  • This is an alternate version of an even older anecdote where the characters were Alexander the Great and Diogenes of Sinope. Diogenes' response was a somewhat more snarky "Why don't you save yourself a lot of trouble and just do that now?" Given Alexander's personality type, it's likely the answer to the question would be a sound "No." That man could never be happy unless he was conquering someone/thing. Ultimately he had nothing to worry about considering that his lifestyle of constant battle and hedonism killed him at 32 (it's possible this was due to being poisoned, however, although that could also be a result of such a lifestyle).
  • The end of the Cold War counts for the United States and NATO. For almost 50+ years, they had been embroiled in unarmed political subterfuge in a game of international chess with the only other superpower in the world. Entire strategies had been cooked up for end-of-the-world contingencies, as well as shelters built just in case. Armies had been completely built around what was considered an inevitable ground-war bigger and nastier than anything seen in World War II. And then, in possibly one of the largest anticlimaxes in history, the USSR self-destructed rather than fight its own people, leaving the USA as the lone superpower in the world. What were we going to do with this massively bloated defense budget now? Find new enemies elsewhere, of course. Mainly spend millions of dollars fighting terrorism, which can be everywhere, spread over countless countries. That said, most of the rest of NATO seems pretty content with the new status quo and has slashed defense spending across the board.
  • During The '70s, this was a party game, like other psychology-inspired games and discussions. One person would talk about what they wanted to do, and the other one would permanently ask "And Then What?", nothing more. One biography of Warren Buffett mentions that he also played this game once (he was the asker), and the nice lady who was his game partner was in tears afterwards. The '70s were strange...
  • This sort of lack of foresight is a common characteristic of a General Failure as he appears in Real Life.
    • It was especially common in World War I, where most operations had few ultimate objectives beyond "advance 2km." For the 1918 Operation Michael, German General Ludendorff even declared, "I object to the term 'operation.' We will punch a hole into their line! For the rest, we shall see." The Germans managed to do just that, but lacking a clear objective, their advance slowed. It was nearly a week into the operation before Ludendorff dreamed up an actual target: the city of Amiens. By that point, the Allies were able to bring up reinforcements and stop the offensive.
    • The American Civil War, which was in so many ways a dress rehearsal for the Franco-Prussian and Russo-Japanese Wars, had plenty of mistakes of this sort, perhaps the most tragic being the Battle of the Crater, led by the notoriously incompetent Gen. Ambrose Burnside during the siege of Petersburg. While Burnside had actually had a good idea for once (undermine the enemy lines and attack around the resulting crater), the execution was botched, in part because of Executive Meddling note  and partly due to lack of supplies (namely scaling ladders for getting people who fell into the crater back out), but mostly because there was no clear objective for what to do if the assault had succeeded. (There was a general plan, "capture Petersburg, secure it, and move on Richmond," but nobody took Step One of Burnside's plan--blowing a hole in Petersburg's defenses with underground explosives--seriously, so when that actually worked, people were confused about how exactly to proceed).
  • Aleister Crowley, in his Confessions, recalls the standard missionary tactic his father, a member of the evangelical Plymouth Brethren church, used:
    He would notice somebody cheerfully engaged in some task and ask sympathetically its object. The victim would expand and say that he hoped for such and such a result. He was now in a trap. My father would say, 'And then?' By repeating this question, he would ferret out the ambition of his prey to be mayor of his town or what not, and still came the inexorable 'And then?' till the wretched individual thought to cut it short by saying as little as uncomfortably as possible. 'Oh well, by that time I shall be ready to die.' More solemnly than ever came the question, 'And then?' In this way my father would break down the entire chain of causes and bring his interlocutor to realize the entire vanity of human effort. The moral was, of course, 'Get right with God.'
  • This is often a problem with single-issue political parties if they actually succeed in getting their platform through. What to do now? Turns out people like keeping their jobs, so either they move the goal posts on what counts as the issue, adopt new ones, or fade away. This applies to social movements as well, which are often supported by organizations who'd like to keep the donation money rolling in.
    • A very good example of this is UKIP, which collapsed in popularity after Brexit was actually achieved.
    • Similarly for single-issue charities. If they resolve whatever issue they were created for, they then must find a new goal or dissolve. As an example, the March of Dimes was created to fight polio; after the vaccine was widely distributed, they moved on to researching the prevention of birth defects and premature birth.
  • Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had attended university in the United States and knew its strength better than other senior Japanese, was supposed to have said this in 1941 after other figures in government expressed enthusiasm about striking a 'knock-out' blow against America during World War II. This was emblematic of a greater issue with the Japanese Kantai Kessen doctrine of decisive naval battle as it was applied to the United States: while Japan stood a good chance of winning a decisive battle, they had no way to force the US to come to them nor any way to stop the Americans, with their vast advantage in industry and resources (plus a mainland the Japanese couldn't realistically reach), from replenishing their losses and coming back for revenge- which did indeed happen after several Japanese tactical victories. But nobody listened to Yamamoto, so he settled for what he thought was the best Japan could hope for, which was delaying US response for 6 months, and using that time to secure resource supplies Japan desperately needed. He did indeed accomplish these goals, but just as he'd thought, Japan still couldn't win a war against the States.
  • In an interesting case, after the Taliban was able to reclaim Afghanistan following the decision of the United States and NATO to pull out, a number of soldiers admitted to various news groups that they were absolutely bored of the new status quo: no longer fighting superior fighters and having convinced the locals to lay down their arms, they were now being forced to do mundane things like traffic duty.


Death Becomes Her

On being offered eternal life, Ernest has a rather important question.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / AndThenWhat

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