The ending of a work can make or break its reception. One of the reasons audiences consume works is the fundamental expectation that the ending will provide a satisfactory or fitting (a very Bittersweet or Downer Ending can still be well received) payoff for their viewing, following, and emotional investment in the work.
This is the extreme sort of such a break.
An Audience-Alienating Ending is an ending in an otherwise-beloved work that receives widespread backlash or divisiveness, whether it means being unappealing to existing fans or alienating those who haven't yet experienced the work, possibly to the point that even non-fans know about it. Maybe because it's the only or most vocal thing that's talked about it afterward, or maybe the backlash was so extreme it got media attention. The result is potential audiences avoiding the work regardless of its other merits because they don't want to get invested in a work with such a disappointing or contentious payoff, preexisting fans becoming so soured by the ending that they distance themselves from it when discussing or viewing the work after it ended, or a combination of both.
It's distinct from but often accompanies Fanon Discontinuity as many stop or avoid caring about the work rather than caring enough to "fix" it by pretending the disliked ending didn't happen. Fan Disillusionment to the point the fandom shrinks or vanishes from mainstream is a common indication of this, as is a lack of interest in any of the creator's subsequent works in fear that their endings will be just as disappointing, and the presence of many Fix Fics that provide an alternate ending.
Generally, the more interconnected the work is, and the more it depends on the ending to tie all the loose ends up, the more it is subject to ending backlash should things go wrong. If a series has multiple self-contained parts with good stopping points around, the majority of the work could be still enjoyed without having to invest time on the botched ending. However, if the entire storyline, while gripping, is still just a big buildup to a series finale, and there are no parts without cliffhangers, then a bad ending can easily make the audience feel that they have wasted their time.
The following are likely to contribute to an Audience-Alienating Ending:
- All Just a Dream: The events of the work never actually happened In-Universe and therefore they don't actually mean anything, leaving a dissatisfying cheap shot ending.
- Angst Aversion: The ending is seen as too dark or depressing.
- Anti-Climax: The ending is underwhelming for what was seemingly built up.
- Ambiguous Ending: The ending left more questions than answers.
- Ass Pull: The ending involves excess Deus ex Machina or contradicts what's established.
- Cruel Twist Ending: The twist ending is too mean-spirited.
- Cut Short: The work is cancelled before getting an ending. Especially if it ends on a Cliffhanger.
- Esoteric Happy Ending: The ending was supposed to be optimistic but audiences think it failed to be.
- "Everybody Dies" Ending: The ending kills off most or all of the major characters, making the story feel pointless.
- Fan-Disliked Explanation: The ending gives unpopular explanations to the work's Driving Questions or setting.
- Gainax Ending: The ending is an incomprehensible Mind Screw.
- It Was His Sled: The audience-alienating ending becomes common knowledge, and in some cases, the only thing most people know about the work.
- Left Hanging: The ending fails to wrap up or address the plotline(s).
- No Ending: The work just abruptly stops, no closure or resolution.
- Seasonal Rot / Sequelitis: The ending is seen as not worth the decline in quality it takes to get there.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story / Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The ending renders the characters' efforts and conflicts pointless.
- Sudden Downer Ending: The ending is too unexpectedly depressing compared to what came before.
- Writer Cop Out: The ending is seen as refusing to give the bold payoff promised.
Compare Audience-Alienating Premise, Hype Aversion and The Firefly Effect for when audiences are dissuaded from a work before its actual contents/quality can put them off. Also compare Eight Deadly Words, Too Bleak, Stopped Caring, Opening a Can of Clones, The Chris Carter Effect, Kudzu Plot, and Jumped the Shark for when audiences lose interest in the work before the ending can put them off.
See also Disappointing Last Level for when it's disliked for gameplay reasons as opposed to narrative and Awesomeness Withdrawal for the depression caused by the enjoyable work being over. Contrast Ending Fatigue and Arc Fatigue for when audience start wanting the work to end.
This is an Ending Trope, so beware of unmarked spoilers.
- In 36 Questions, while the ending makes it clear that Jase finally forgave Judith for all the lies she told, it does not make it clear as to whether or not they got back together in the end.
- The Ballad of Halo Jones was planned as a nine-issue comic, but was cancelled after just three due to a dispute between Alan Moore and his publisher, so we never got to see Halo's full journey. Reportedly, Moore had the other books planned out and told Neil Gaiman how it all ends.
- Retail left some people unsatisfied with the ending, with only vague ideas of what all the leads will do once the store closes, and the final strip showing the Grumbel's sign being taken down so a Dollar Admiral can move into its space. This resulted in some fans making up their own endings for characters. (Some do enjoy the non-ending though, as that's what would happen in real life when a store goes out of business: it just closes, is replaced by something else if it's lucky, and one may never know what happens to its former employees.)
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
- Due to all the legal problems between Archie and Sega, the comic was forced to do a soft reboot by dumping the old universe in favor of a new one. This meant anything up to Issue #247 was wiped clean, and any storylines that were going on were left unresolved, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of longtime fans who would never see the official resolution of plot elements like Mecha Sally, Antoine's coma, what Bunnie went to her uncle for, etc. A number of characters were also booted out of the series thanks to Ken Penders winning a lawsuit for ownership of his created characters, many of whom were vital for storylines in the comic.
- The post-reboot timeline was likewise meant with division. On one hand, the Shattered World arc (based on Sonic Unleashed) managed to complete its storyline, and at least gives the comic an open ending to go out on. However, this meant the lingering plotlines of this universe were left hanging as well. Adding on to that, the official ending of the comic is a Sonic CD adaptation, as they were retelling classic plotlines for Sonic's 25th anniversary. This disappointed many longtime fans of the comic, who felt their dedication to the series was wasted since it never had an official, definitive end.
- Sonic: Mega Drive: A three-part anniversary book detailing classic Sonic in an original adventure. Made it to two issues, but again, the legal problems that lead to the comic's cancellation ended the story on a cliffhanger, despite promises to finish it. Fans were not pleased, since this story, while a prequel to the Archie comics, has no mention of the Freedom Fighters and could easily be detached from the Archieverse. Alas, since it is an Archie property, any chance for a continuation went up in smoke once the axe came down on the main series.
- Most people who hate the Princess Sally mini-series almost usually cite the ending as the main reason. Sally is seemingly replaced by a robotic clone of herself with the help of Geoffrey St. John, a double agent working for Robotnik... only for it to turn out that Geoffrey was actually a triple agent for the Freedom Fighters, the robot was the Sally we saw for most of the story's events and was swapped back with the real one without Robotnik noticing, with Sally herself saying that Robotnik would have succeeded if not for Geoffrey. For many people, this twist undermined the main premise of a spin-off centered around Princess Sally, only for her to turn out to be less important to the plot then a completely new character. The fact that this lead to a Love Triangle subplot between Sonic, Geoffrey and Sally did little to help, especially since later stories would establish that Geoffrey was in his twenties, while Sally was still a teenager.
- The last Tintin book, Tintin and Alph-Art, was left incomplete by Herge's death in 1983. The book was published 3 years later (or at least, incomplete notes and rough drawings). The book ends with Tintin about to be executed in liquid polyester.
- The climax of Grant Morrison's New X-Men run features the revelation that the newest member of the X-Men was actually a disguised Magneto all along—a twist that was widely criticized for being poorly foreshadowed and raising numerous questions. The final story arc is also infamous for claiming that the world will end if Cyclops and Emma Frost don't shack up with each other after Jean Grey's death, and for implying that humanity's prejudice toward mutants is actually the result of a three-billion-year-old sentient microorganism. The very last page features Cyclops and Emma making out on top of Jean's grave shortly after her death, thanks to Jean going back in time and psychically forcing them to fall in love. Despite the previous arcs being met with varying degrees of critical acclaim, this ending is widely disliked.
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ends with all the Dragons being sent away to hide in the titular Hidden World for their safety living away from humanity, with the strong implication humanity will eventually forget their existence. Many took issue with this plot point for contradicting the themes of coexistence in prior films and the fact that by the end of the film, Dragon-kind is safer than it has ever been, with several societies having become dependent on Dragons to function. While the film presents Hiccup's decision as difficult but necessary, many instead saw it as foolish and selfish.
- Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is this for the DC Animated Movie Universe. When Darkseid uses Cyborg as an Unwitting Pawn to catch the heroes off guard when they plan to attack him, the entire Animated Universe ends with a Pyrrhic Victory as most of the heroes are dead, insane or crippled and the Earth left near-inhospitable, on the verge of Krypton-style destruction- and worst of all, Darkseid is still alive, just forced into an unending fight with Trigon. This leads to Constantine ordering Flash to go back in time and prevent the tragedy from happening, which will change the entire timeline. Many fans feel that this makes the entire DCAMU not worth watching or getting invested in. The closest thing to any follow up is the short Constantine: The House of Mystery, which is about John Constantine being punished for his role in changing the universe.
- Those who dislike Toy Story 4 almost always cite the film's ending as the reason why. The film ends with Woody choosing to become a lost toy like Bo Peep helping other toys find owners, leaving behind his Found Family in the process. Many people saw this ending as contradicting Woody's Character Development and the themes of in prior films about the importance of a toy always being there for its owner, only for Woody to leave the moment he's no longer the favorite toy in the household.
- Anna and the Apocalypse: Plenty of fans adore the first two acts of the zombie musical but take it pretty hard when the third act starts going into Dwindling Party territory.
- The Devil Inside has a very poor excuse of an ending that gives no conclusion whatsoever (what seems like the end of act two, with the characters suffering a car crash, instead leads to a title card directing viewers to a website - which, to add insult to injury, stopped working months after the movie came out), which caused some people to encourage others not to waste their time.
- Towards the end of The Dirty Dozen, our protagonists trap some German soldiers and civilians in a cellar, and then burn them to death. This has made some people reluctant to watch the rest of the film, which is generally good fun.
- Don't Look Up is divisive because it does the Climate Change Allegory in a satirical way that ended up mostly mean-spirited, and nowhere it is clearer than the ending where everyone on Earth dies due to human greed, which many critics thought made the film completely pointless to watch, and also drove away potential viewers who found out about the ending.
- Glass (2019) is this for the "Eastrail 177 Trilogy", with the divisive ending revolving around a twist that had no foreshadowing beforehand resulting in the anti-climactic death of all three major characters. Among those three, special mention is always given to David Dunn, who dies by being drowned in a puddle.
- The Netflix film How It Ends ends so abruptly, one might wonder if it was an intentional meta joke. There's also no explanation of how it's ending. Reviewers weren't thrilled.
- Love, So Divine: Some viewers dislike the ending due to it being an Esoteric Happy Ending where the male protagonist finally gives up on becoming a priest and gets together with his love interest, which some Christian and Catholic audiences took as implying that you can't be religious and in love at the same time.
- The climax of Man of Steel attracted criticism from moviegoers for the casual destruction put on display throughout the climactic battle. The final battle has Superman and Zod square off in Metropolis, causing billions of dollars of property damage and numerous civilian casualties,note with Superman making no attempts to mitigate the damages or take the fight elsewhere. The fact Superman was forced to end the battle with lethal means in order to save a family of bystanders made things look even worse. Besides the usual cries of They Changed It, Now It Sucks! (Superman is famous for his refusal to kill in the comics), Zod allowed far more humans to enter his line of fire throughout the fight, so to have Superman resort to lethal methods to save three people after letting countless get killed by Zod directly or indirectly caused many to question why Superman hadnít ended the battle sooner to save more lives. While later installments of the DC Extended Universe would stride to address these criticisms, fans remain divided on how effective those films were at doing this.
- Animorphs: While it's bad enough that the (still living) main characters are just as, if not more, broken and traumatized despite defeating the Yeerks, the knife twist comes when they decide to initiate what is most likely a suicide attack against an extremely powerful enemy that had only been vaguely alluded to in the previous books and just sort of shows up out of nowhere.
- Breaking Dawn, the final book in the Twilight series, is widely considered to be the series' worst installment, in large part because of how it concludes the story. The last three novels had been building up to the Cullen family battling the oppressive Volturi to survive. However, their final confrontation amounts to Aro, the Volturi leader, realizing Bella's daughter Renesme does not threaten his rule, which prompts him to spare her and her family. In turn, the Cullens allow the Volturi to continue their rule over vampire society, despite previous installments showing their brutality and oppression of vampires and humans. Although the film adaptation attempts to address these complaints, it may have made the problem worse. While the film initially appears to provide the much-desired clash between the Cullens and the Volturi, it turns out to be a vision Alice shared with Aro to show what would happen should they fight. The film then proceeds to end in the same manner as the novel.
- Many fans of The Chronicles of Narnia prefer to ignore The Last Battle, which infamously ended with a The End of the World as We Know It-style "Everybody Dies" Ending in an otherwise rather lighthearted series of books. The only thing that saves it from crossing into Downer Ending territory is the protagonists making it into Heaven. Mix that with the implications regarding Susan's fate (the only main character that survives to the end) and you have a book some fans would rather skip.
- Most fans of Stephen King's The Dark Tower have (at best) mixed feelings about the ending of the series, which has left many new readers wary of tackling it. On one hand: The Reveal about the true nature of the titular Dark Tower is widely considered to be a cleverly subversive Twist Ending that fits the themes of the story perfectly.Explanation On the other hand: Roland's much-hyped Final Battle with the Crimson King (which amounts to hiding behind cover while a crazed old man throws grenades at him until he's killed by a blatant Deus ex Machina) is widely considered to be a massive letdown after seven books' worth of buildup. To say nothing of Randall Flagg being unceremoniously killed by Roland's half-demon son Mordred near the beginning of the last book, Mordred himself abruptly dying in the span of less than a page, and the story spiraling into self-aware postmodern weirdness in its final stretch—most infamously with Stephen King writing himself into the last two books as a major character.
- David Eddings:
- The Dreamers series. It's generally described as a pretty average series, not as good as the Belgariad/Malloreon or the Elenium/Tamuli, but a decent read overall... except the ending. There are some fans who love the whole series, but they are vastly outnumbered. Why? Well, the ending has the most powerful gods decide to finally take down the enemy by going back in time and rendering said enemy infertile. Not only is there no reason why they couldn't have done this before, but this has the effect of writing the whole series out of existence, setting everyone back to where they were at the beginning of the series (with some changes- for example, a minor character is brought back to life, though one of the main characters has to stay dead) and making it so that nothing in the previous books ever happened. Upon finishing the books and realizing that the first three books were entirely meaningless, most of the fans flipped their shit.
- In the standalone novel The Redemption of Alathas, the eponymous character and his goddess girlfriend go back in time and defeat the Big Bad in the past by waiting until he attacks their cabin and kicking him out of reality. Fans were especially upset when Eddings used such a weak ending a second time.
- Volume 21 of The Devil is a Part-Timer! quickly became despised by a good chunk of the fandom for splitting up Maou/Emi, the fan-favorite couple that had been built up throughout the series, in favor of Maou abandoning Emi and their adopted daughter in favor of Chiho and reducing Emi to a single mother, a development that displeased most fans of Emilia's character and some fans of the winning pairing Maou/Chiho because the way it happens is cruel and/or out of character. And while the end pairing is the most criticized part, complaints were also directed at Maou becoming a human instead of a demon lord, the Final Battle being anticlimactic, and a general feeling that the novel was rushed. So infamous is the ending that a good chunk of fans on fan sites and forums, upon hearing of what the ending contained, made posts declaring they would stop reading the light novels, or even abandon the unfinished anime and manga adaptations of the series for fear that they would end the same way; fans still following the adaptations admit to only doing so hoping that they will have a different ending. Said ending has also received unfavorable comparisons to Domestic Girlfriend's equally notorious finale and scared fans off the author's next series, as the announcement received angry comments from fans who refuse to follow any of his subsequent works.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had one in Mostly Harmless, which gets bonus points for having a resulting severe Downer Ending (with the villains victorious and all but one of the main characters dead), as Adams was in such a bad mood when he wrote what turned out to be the last completed installment. Another author however has since stepped up to continue the series, although his contribution (And Another Thing...) has divided the fanbase somewhat.
- Many of November 9's negative and mixed reviews cite the handling of the plot twist and ending as the biggest issue, with these readers finding it rushed, contrived and saccharine considering what came before, not to mention having some unpleasant implications. The novel is a fairly ordinary romantic drama until the moment Fallon learns Ben set the fire that nearly killed her and has been keeping this from her for years. Fallon doesn't see or speak to Ben for a whole year, but is persuaded to forgive him and start a relationship with him when he sends her his manuscript explaining why he did it (which doesn't come remotely close to excusing him) and being guilt-tripped into it by her mother. Fallon even apologises to Ben for rejecting him and it's treated as a romantic happily ever after. Lots of readers were baffled or outright disgusted that this is all it took for Fallon to forgive Ben's numerous transgressions against her and that the story ultimately rewards Ben's terrible actions.
- The Pendragon Adventure: Book eight raised some serious Timey-Wimey Ball questions and was considered inferior to most material preceding it, and books nine and ten are widely considered to be rot because they fail to adequately explain several plot threads, flat-out ignore others, throw in Villain Decay for the series' Big Bad, and hit the Reset Button to pair up the author's preferred couple (and drop a bridge on an Ensemble Dark Horse).
- The final book in the Pine Hollow book series ends with the eponymous stable burning down and the deaths of five horses. What's more, the subsequent ending of the book is rather abrupt, not even offering the typical level of resolution for a Downer Ending.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events is particularly frustrating, because although the series repeatedly goes out of its way to warn you there won't be a happy resolution, what it doesn't tell you until the last book is just how little will be resolved at all. The TV series rectifies this and, while we don't see what becomes of the heroes, we're told they're fine, living happily, and raised Kit Snicket's daughter, who finds Lemony to tell him this.
- The final chapter of Stuart Little ends with The Hero continuing his journey into the world to find his First Love and optimistically hoping he's heading in the right direction. This only applies to the original book and not the movies, which gave a more concrete ending.
- One of the reasons the T.I.M.E. Stories series of narrative games fell out of favour is the disappointing ending to the White cycle in Madame: The story just kind of stops. You reach a point where you need to solve a puzzle involving cubes. To get all of them, you need to buy all the previous expansions and play them perfectly. Your reward for going through all that is... an advertisement for the next cycle of expansions. Fans were not happy, and players who had yet to try out the series found themselves with little incentive to give it a shot.
- BIONICLE: Due to being Cut Short the main storyline of the heroes finally defeating Makuata had a rushed conclusion focusing on just a fraction of core characters across the franchise's nearly 10 year run, who's toyline was seen as subpar for the series last, ending on an And the Adventure Continues note. While this diminished the otherwise decently received Grand Finale, what truly soured the ending to the fandom was the massive amount of characters and side plots/material that had become their bread and butter being dropped or hanging unresolved. Author Greg Farshtey tired to fix this by writing followup stories on his free time, but once professional obligations forced him to abandon them it made things worse by creating more unresolved storyline than they wrapped up.
- What's the only thing most people know about Air? The depressing ending where Misuzu dies slowly and painfully. Needless to say, watching such an innocent character like Misuzu die was a bit too much to swallow for some, and this ending always was the main reason for criticism of this visual novel and anime, even among its most loyal fans.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony somehow managed to top Danganronpa 3 in controversy with Chapter 6 and the final trial. Aside from the mastermind being fairly controversial compared to Junko Enoshima from the original game, it's revealed that the entire situation is all the 53rd season of a reality TV show, and the sixteen students were all normal people with fake personalities implanted in them. That in itself is bad enough, but then it criticizes and lampoons the fanbase for enjoying the series and its fictional characters and wanting more killing games. It doesn't help that in Japanese, the meaning behind "V3" (the number 53) is read as "gomi" or "trash". It had become so controversial, it was one of the many arguments used during debates where fans accused Kodaka of trying to Torch the Franchise and Run after it was revealed that he would leave the Danganronpa team after this game.
- Worth noting is that V3 ends with Shuichi invoking this trope in-universe as well by rallying the surviving students to sacrifice themselves, creating an ending that's so anticlimactic and unsatisfying that the audience abandons Danganronpa in disgust, ending the killing games for good.
- Malus Code ends up having this regardless of which character route you do, as each route ends on a nightmarish note (ex: Yuri is revealed to be a zombie of sorts that her sister has been keeping alive and who apparently devours the main character in the end). The fact that a mostly lighthearted story ends in such a messed up way can be quite jarring for readers.
- The final episode of Umineko: When They Cry alienated a lot of readers with an ending that came across as little more than an attack on the reader that went out of its way to either subvert itself or the characters in questionable ways to try and wrangle out a contradictory message while at the same time not giving any answers to the stories mysteries and lambasting the reader for wanting some. While the series still maintains a small hardcore fanbase, it is a far cry from what it once enjoyed before this ending due to how many were put off by it. This is especially true in the series native Japan where trust between the creator and reader is a big thing and the ending broke that trust, resulting in the creators following works struggling to really get off the ground. While the manga adaptation of the same story is generally seen as a big improvement over the original, by then the damage was done.
- Zero Escape's third and final game didn't follow up on that much from the previous game, and it ignored many promises made by Word of God.
- Homestuck had the one-two punch of Seasonal Rot in the form of the Base-Breaking Act 6 and a borderline Gainax Ending where only the bare-bones conflicts are properly resolved, with a number of side characters seemingly vanishing. A number of things, including the fate of the Big Bad, are left to speculation. That the heroes' victory is mainly brought on by introducing a new form of time travel that "retcons" away the old timeline doesn't help. Neither does the fact that the comic is regarded to invert this trope as well, with the Slow-Paced Beginning being seen as the biggest entry barrier for new readers.
- Three years after the conclusion, The Homestuck Epilogues were released, which helped mend a few issues people had with the later parts of the comic. The concepts of the retcon and "canon" are elaborated upon and deconstructed, a few loose ends are tied up, characters are given more conclusive arcs, and the final battle from canon gets a proper conclusion. However, the Epilogues ended up breaking the fanbase even further. Common criticisms/points of contention include the way everyone acts and whether or not it's Out of Character, the Mind Screw nature even by Homestuck standards, characters such as the Sprites being inexplicably absent,note and ending on a cliffhanger despite the title implying otherwise.
- Confinement was abruptly discontinued years after the wait for its eighth episode. The series then torpedoed its reputation overnight when a clip of the unfinished Episode 8 was leaked, with roughly three of its four minutes consisting of Connor roaming around the Site naked and accidentally getting in to increasingly bizarre and sexual situations with multiple also-naked SCP staff members. Most fans were displeased that the long wait and the Patreon support money seemed to have all been for thinly-veiled Author Appeal and have spoken out about this being the note that the series ended on.
- The final episode of Demo Reel, "The Review Must Go On", reveals the entire show is a purgatory created by The Plot Hole from To Boldly Flee and Donnie was nothing more than a bunch of Fake Memories given to The Nostalgia Critic. The special ends with all the characters from Demo Reel erased from existence and Critic Back from the Dead ready to revive his show. This ending was lambasted by both fans and detractors of Demo Reel for the twist coming out of nowhere, undoing both Critic's Character Development and happy ending, along with making it so everything fans latched onto about Demo Reel either ceased to exist or never existed, to begin with. Considering how unhappy Doug Walker was about having to end Demo Reel and bring back The Nostalgia Critic to boost viewership on Channel Awesome, this may have been an Invoked Trope on his end.
- The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo is one of the more notoriously audacious cases of this happening with an animated series, being canceled one episode before the intended finale. Fans had to wait thirty real-time years before it finally arrived in the form of direct-to-video film, and even that raises as many questions as it answers, which some fans found fascinating and others lazy.
- While it was received well by critics, the ending of Adventure Time received mixed reception from fans. Some fans praise the ending for being a satisfying conclusion for the series and officialy confirming Princess Bubblegum and Marceline's relationship as canon, but others hate it and consider it incomplete for not having a battle between PB's army and the Candy Kingdom Haters (which was teased at the end of the penultimate episode), GOLB not having any character and just being a Generic Doomsday Villain who does nothing, the absence of the Lich, Finn being reduced to a secondary character and a Distressed Dude alongside Simon and Betty during the final battle, the Downer Ending to Simon and Betty's relationship, many plot points being left unresolved, the lack of closure in Finn's relationship with Huntress Wizard (it doesn't help that most other characters have some sort of romantic moment during the episode), and the lack of any scenes with Finn in the ending montage other than the last scene, with other characters such as PB and Marcy getting more focus. Adventure Time: Distant Lands, the sequel miniseries, satisfied some of these complaints.
- The final episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Inquisition", ends on a Sudden Downer Ending wherein the Void starts to consume Elmore (something that had been heavily foreshadowed prior), with the heavy implication that the town and everyone in it is going to be erased from existence. Much of the show's fanbase was not impressed that the show ended with the show's world possibly being destroyed, and all of its beloved inhabitants along with it, especially since further Gumball material since the main show ended has so far ignored its cliffhanger ending entirely. Unusually for this trope, the show's creator Ben Bocquelet agreed with the fanbase, claiming that the show was meant to end on a different note than the highly uncertain one that the show ultimately used. Fans are more hopeful that this will be remedied with the official announcement that The Movie is in development.
- When the final episode of Animaniacs (2020) first dropped in February 2023, many people saw the "Everybody Dies" Ending where the Warners lament that their contract hasn't been renewed while a Flaming Meteor is about to kill all of mankind as an incredibly cruel form of Torch the Franchise and Run that greatly took away from the show's sense of satirical escapism. Even after Word of God confirmed that the Warners survived the meteor, most of the discussion surrounding the show after it wrapped up consisted of nothing but discussing how much of a mean-spirited Downer Ending it has.
- Final Space: With the series confirmed cancelled, a vocal portion of fans warn newcomers not to waste their time, as season 3 ends on an unresolved cliffhanger with Invictus breaking out of Final Space. However this may change with the announcement of the Final Space: The Final Chapter graphic novel.
- King Arthur & the Knights of Justice ended abruptly after two seasons, with only four of the twelve MacGuffins recovered, and the original King Arthur and his knights still trapped in the Cave of Glass.
- Silver Surfer: The Animated Series was cancelled early because of Marvel's bankruptcy in the 1990s. So the show concludes on a major Cliffhanger where Thanos the Mad Titan ends all of existence.
- Metalocalypse infamously ends on a cliffhanger at the end of "The Doomstar Requiem" after a fallout between Brendon Small and Mike Lazzo, leaving the series unfinished for years. Fans begged Adult Swim to bring back the series for years, but with no results. Years later, Small decided to appease fans by ending the story via a Fully Absorbed Finale with Galaktikon's second album, although without mentioning anything Dethklok related to avoid copyright issues. Eight years after the series was cancelled, Adult Swim finally listened to their fans by announcing a Metalocalypse movie that not only takes place after the events of "The Doomstar Requiem", but also ends the series for good.
- ReBoot narrowly avoided an Audience-Alienating Ending with its third season, which wraps up the major plot threads and gives a satisfying conclusion to the story, only to get Un-Canceled. The creators proceeded to go into season four with the expectation they would have at least five... and, in a major case of bad luck, proceeded to get canceled a second time. As a result, the last episode ends on a massive Cliffhanger where the Big Bad takes control of the heroes' headquarters and all hope seems lost. There are quite a lot of fans who suggest to newcomers that they simply stop watching at the season three finale, or after the Daemona Rising arc, because of this.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man ended after only two seasons with a real Downer Ending of a cliffhanger in which Harry emotionally blackmails Gwen into staying with him, preventing her and Peter from getting together, Peter's budding relationship with Black Cat is all but destroyed after he unknowingly ruins her plan to break her father out of prison, the Connors are fired and made to relocate to Florida, and Norman Osborn (aka the Green Goblin) is revealed to have survived his battle with Spider-Man and is thus free to continue his schemes under a new alias. Rather than poor ratings, this cancellation resulted from the show being Screwed by the Lawyers: due to Disney's purchase of Marvel, Sony was only able to keep either the film rights or the television rights to Spider-Man — they chose to keep the film rights, cutting the showrunner's plans for five seasons short.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: While Season 3 is more divisive on whether or not it's a serious step down in terms of storytelling and characterization, Season 4 is widely agreed to be the lowest point of the series. Though there are fans who still enjoy aspects of it, such as the comedy, complaints were made towards everything else: from the main story arc regularly being sidelined in favor of excessive romantic drama, to characters being either underutilized, flanderized, or performing spontaneous Face Heel Turns, to the introduction of subplots that are either rushed or straight-up forgotten, to an Arc Villain deemed less intimidating than previous antagonists. The series finale only made things worse by ending with Star committing an Inferred Holocaust which none of the characters seem to acknowledge or care much about, letting the villain (the reason why Star did what she did in the first place) go scot-free, and the forced merging of two vastly different worlds, and the show treating this all as a happy ending. These final episodes tarnished the series reputation to the point most discussions surrounding the series in the years afterward concerned its Seasonal Rot and divisive finale, and little else.
- SpacePOP ends season 1 on a cliffhanger with nothing resolved, and due to a lack of viewer interest, season 2 was never made.
- Teen Titans: The final episode of the show, "Things Change", has Beast Boy find what appears to be an amnesiac Terra Back from the Dead, only to have an attack by the Monster of the Week prevent Beast Boy from gaining any kind of explanation as to how she's back. The series also ends without revealing if Terra's amnesia was genuine, or if Beast Boy even encountered the real Terra. Needless to say, not many were happy with the lack of closure, and Word of God explaining the episode was written with the knowledge there wouldn't be a sixth season, instead wanting an Ambiguous Ending, did little to quell fan complaints. As a result, it's common for fans to treat the preceding episode "Titans Together" as the actual finale, and pretend that "Things Change" doesn't exist.
- Both halves of Total Drama's fifth and final season (before it was revived in 2023) have this reception for different reasons:
- Few, if any, fans approve of the last episode of All-Stars (the last season to feature the Island or Revenge casts), as it leaves many loose plot threads hanging and abandons several beloved characters unredeemed in the show or fandom. The fact that Fresh TV then abandoned the main series for several years in favor of Total DramaRama only adds to fans' dislike of it.
- The ending of Pahkitew Island is disliked for the same reason as All-Stars; several plot threads introduced in the season (such as Amy and Samey's dysfunctional relationship and Dave's ultimate fate) are left hanging without resolution, only exemplified due to it being the absolute last episode of the main series. The finale is also considered disappointing due to not bringing back any of the previously eliminated contestants beyond Dave and Jasmine, introducing a plot twist (Sky had a boyfriend before coming on Total Drama, and while she planned to break up with him, this sends her on-and-off love interest, Dave, off the deep end) that makes Sky and Dave look much less likable, and the endings not varying to any significant degree beyond a few seconds at the very end.
- Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, the Grand Finale to the Tales of Arcadia series, ends with Jim Lake, Jr. pushing the Reset Button following Toby Domzalski's death and rewinding time to the beginning of Trollhunters (the first show in the franchise) to save everyone from suffering, while changing the timeline to make Toby the Trollhunter instead of him. Fans were outraged at how everything they had watched over the past few years was now rendered completely pointless.
- TRON: Uprising: We see in TRON: Legacy that Beck's rebellion does absolutely nothing to even slow Clu down, and The Big Good of the series is twisted into The Dragon. Add a side of Bolivian Army Ending for good measure.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender's final season and its last episode is disliked by a majority of the fanbase. Complaints include the fates of certain characters, such as the deaths of Allura and Lotor (the former being a major woobie and the latter being a very deep and compelling villain who many thought would have more to do and his death occurred off-screen), Honerva being a Karma Houdini who gets away with almost destroying the multiverse, and Lance's and Shiro's epilogues (with the former becoming an Altean for some reason and Shiro marrying his comm spec who he barely interacts with on-screen as a hamfisted attempt at a Salvaged Story regarding the way they handled the character of Adam). Not even a later Word of God confirmation that Allura is not truly dead could stem the controversy, as the same source of that confirmation also involved the executive producers acting openly dismissive towards the outraged fanbase. One of the creators, Joaquin Dos Santos, would apologize on Twitter for how they handled the character's death, but this acknowledgment of the backlash took place over two years after the show ended.