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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, and after some Evil Gloating 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.

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

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When asked, many villains will mentally hit a brick wall. Whether 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, the villain won't be able to answer what should be an easy question to answer. In this position, the hero may be able to coax them 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.

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

Also sometimes known as the Monday Morning Question.

A Sub-Trope of Armor-Piercing Question.

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


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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • In 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.
  • In Digimon Adventure, Mimi asks what exactly Ogremon 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.
    • Then again, this is one of the Digimon continuities where all dead Digimon are reborn as Digi-Eggs and hatch into the same characters, so Leomon and Ogremon can beat the snot out of each other as long as they like without needing a long-term plan.
    • A rare variant is done in the Japanese version of Digimon Tamers, 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.
  • 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, after killing 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. Training Gohan for the next year brings about his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Il Palazzo in the Excel Saga 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
      Tanimoto: FIND ANOTHER GUY, FOREVER!
  • A prominent theme in Legend of Galactic Heroes 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.
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • In 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.
  • In 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.
    • Another problem is his own laziness. King notes out that Saitama could find something else to do, but Saitama's own laziness and such keeps him from really venturing into non-strength related things. (Saitama is King's Secret Keeper and the two bond over video games, but while King is a professional, Saitama is notably not good given he has no sense of strategy, as seen when he and King were playing a Pokemon Expy and doesn't make much effort to understand the type advantages and only just level grinding.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, it's this question that causes Ledo to finally start questioning his path in life. Being a pure soldier taught that his only purpose is to kill the enemy, from a society fighting a Forever War, he's a bit confused when asked what he would do if it ever turned out that his side actually won. His initial response is "I would stand by and await further orders", but it's clear that the question starts the wheels turning in his head.
  • Asked by one of the Fuchikomas in the Ghost in the Shell 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.
  • In 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.
  • In episode 5 of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, 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.

    Collectable Card Game 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 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 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.
  • Thousand Shinji: At one point Shinji wondered what he would do after getting revenge on his father and Seele.
  • 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.
  • Asked of Kazuya Mishima in Ashes of the Phoenix by Lei Wulong. While Kazuya has an answer, Lei successfully outmaneuvers him.
  • Connecting The Dots, a Naruto/DCAU 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.
  • In the Kim Possible fanfic 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 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?
  • Calvin and company have this discussion with the Lightning Man in Calvin and 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.
  • Edgeworth asks Phoenix in Dirty Sympathy what will he 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.
  • Haku asks Sasuke what will he do and who would be by his side when he avenges his clan in First Try Series.
  • 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.
  • A recurring question for Cloud in The Fifth Act is what will he do if actually succeeds in killing Sephiroth?
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • A sidestory 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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 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 hasn't thought about it.

    Film — 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 "watch kids from behind glass and never be loved again". Realizing that what time he gets with Andy is worth it, Woody turns against the villains 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.
  • 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.
  • In Storks, Junior 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.
    • Until he rexamines the photo album of him and Ellie. He 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 saving the day and becomes 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 publically available so that super powers won't be special any more.

    Film — 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 Avengers: Infinity War, Dr. Strange asks Thanos what he aims to do after he's collected all six Infinity Stones and killed half the population of the universe to bring 'balance'. Thanos says his work will be done and he will be able to finally rest. Sure enough, once he's accomplished his goal, Thanos retires to a distant planet, and sits down to watch the sun set with a content expression.
  • 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?
    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.
    Principle: This game is the biggest day of these boys' lives!
    Carter: I think that's the problem.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 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.
  • From Monty Python and the Holy Grail, after the French Knights pull in the Trojan rabbit:
    Arthur: What happens now?
    Bedevere: Well, now, Lancelot, Galahad and I wait until nightfall and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French soldiers by surprise. Not only by surprise but totally unarmed.
    Arthur: Who leaps out??
    Bedevere: Lancelot... uh, Galahad... and I... [running out of steam] leap out of the rabbit...
  • 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.
  • In Nixon, when President Nixon argues that he wants to end the Vietnam War, but he cannot do it, a student ask 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, 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 out 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.

    Folklore 
  • 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.
    • In some versions of the story, saying that last sentence prompts the executive to have an epiphany and immediately quit his job.

    Literature 
  • A variant appears in Animorphs #48, when Rachel asks herself the question, and realizes what the consequences of her Deal with the Devil will be.
  • Dr Mabuse wants to destroy the world and then rule the ashes. His Meaningful Name is derived from the French "m'abuse" - "I abuse myself".
  • 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 smited 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, now is it...
  • The titular poem by Yeats applies this to his entire life.
  • In I, Jedi, Corran Horn references this trope in his epic rejection of Exar Kun's attempted seduction to the dark side.
  • 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.
  • A sort of meta-example applies to the The Silmarillion. 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 Arkansasnote . 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 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.
  • In the final episode of Galactica 1980, 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.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica (2003) 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.
  • In season 1 of Being Human (UK), George asks this both times Mitchell tells him to run away.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the final question asked to Buffy once everything's said and done at the end of Season 7.
  • In 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?
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Ankh of Kamen Rider OOO 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 something more: to be alive.
    • The complete lack of understanding on their side disgust him even more than the realization.
  • In 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 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. What happens afterwards doesn't concern him as he doesn't see any other purpose in his life. Nico gives him a piece of her mind regarding this later on.
  • 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.
  • Constance uses this line of argument with D'Artagnan in The Musketeers 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.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 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.
  • Rome. Marc 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.
  • The episode "Exile" of Star Trek: Enterprise has Hoshi threaten Tarquin this way.
  • A zig-zagging trope from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Bond Parody episode. 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.
  • Season 3 of The Wire 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.
  • A running theme in The Punisher (2017) 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 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.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • "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?

    Newspaper Comics 
  • 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 some day. Garfield asked "Then what?" and the mouse said they'd then live in people's house 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!

    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 Aces and Eights in TNA 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.

    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, the ruler of the Eighth Layer of Hell, has been scheming to usurp the throne of Hell from Asmodeus for eons. Still, he doesn't seem to have any plans for what he'd do should he succeed. (The other Lords often say that he's such an egotist, that it would take less than an hour for him to start wondering why he wasn't also the ruler of Mount Celestia.)

    Video Games 
  • 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 'em All. 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. Cheren is obsessed with being strong and becoming the Champion and whatnot. 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 just replies "Er, er, I dunno, get stronger still?" or words to that effect. This is a part of Cheren's character development later in the game.
    • By the end of the game, Cheren has an answer: Protect the powerless, and help them become stronger, too. Consequently, he becomes a Gym Leader and the head instructor of a 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?
  • Defied in Star Wars: The Old Republic The Old Republic, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Towards the final half of season 1 in The Walking Dead, Kenny gets the idea of finding a boat for his fellow survivors so that they can escape to the ocean and get away from the zombies. Several survivors ask Kenny what exactly he plans to do once he gets to the ocean and Kenny only responds with some variation of "I'll think of something". As time goes on, Kenny still insists that his group finds a boat, but he slowly starts to question his goal.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 Level 30 Psychiatry Dr. Gardevoir asks this of Bowser. He hasn't a clue.
  • 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.
  • In this xkcd, 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!

    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.
    • 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!.
  • 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 decide to spare it and destroy EuroDisney instead.
  • 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's 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.
  • By the end of Dr Horribles Singalong Blog Dr. Horrible has achieved all of his objectives only to realize the meaninglessness of it and that he has nothing going forward.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 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 had the planeteers reason this way with an elephant hunting tribe that their excessive hunting would eventually kill all the elephants, and render them even poorer.
    • They tried a 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 Turn by the final season.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "To Where and Back Again", 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 to not 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.
  • 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 to 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.
  • Deconstructed in Samurai Jack. After destroying every time portal on Earth, Aku says he was quite proud of destroying all of them and assumed Jack would then eventually die of natural causes. But 50 years later, Jack is not only still alive, but immortal, and Aku thinks he's got an opponent with nothing left to lose.
  • 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 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 knife.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • According to Plutarch, when Pyrrhus (yeah, the one the victory is named after) went to war with Rome, his adviser, Cineas, asked him what he would do after that. Pyrrhus said he would conquer another territory. Cineas asked "and then"... In short, the final answer of the king was "I'll live a good life and have fun". He had no answer to Cineas' reply, which was "But we can do that now." Cineas was an Epicurean, whose philosophy emphasized enjoying such simple pleasures (in moderation) and avoiding strife or violence.
  • This is an alternate version of an 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 (the maximum range at which field-artillery can use their fire to 'shelter' your troops to), take X terrain feature'. The two times either side made operational breakthroughs (the Russian Southern Front's 1916 'Brusilov' offensive operation, Germany's 1918 'Michael' offensive operation), no exploitation resulted. Neither of the sides had had the logistical capacity (or at least, the logistical organisation) nor the numbers to continue the advance. In Brusilov the whole point was to (together with the Russian northern front offensive and the Franco-British 'Somme' offensive) tie down German troops and distract them from Verdun, so the goal (conduct successful attack, get enemy to reinforce the sector) was fairly simple, though the actions beyond the initial breakthroughs were an open-ended question. Despite better preparation Michael on the other hand was guilty of the crime of having no specific goals whatsoever beyond making the breakthrough itself, and the starving and exhausted German soldiers (whose logistics assets were too beleaguered to feed them and numbers were too few to allow proper rotation and rest of troops) were simply left free to plunder the (mostly evacuated) French and Belgian villages behind the lines while the Entente forces regrouped. By the time Marshal Ludendorff finally settled on Amiens as the main objective, not only was the city partially in German hands, but the soldiers were so far forward that they weren't getting enough food or ammunition and were being pushed back out.
    • 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 succeed in getting their platform through, they're usually left with little-to-nothing to stand for. So, either they adopt new issues, or they collapse altogether. The worst case scenario is falling into a never-ending cycle of Moving the Goalposts on what counts as an issue, until they alienate even the most devoted of followers, and/or inadvertently create a counter-movement.


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