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Breather Episode

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"Just a heads up guys, tomorrow's ep is a totally continuity-free one-off. Just a little break before things go OFF THE RAILS in the next one."
Alex Hirsch in a tweet promoting the Gravity Falls episode "Roadside Attraction"
Literature Writing is not born out of a powerful compulsion to torture imaginary people.

Really! Or at least hypothetically it isn't. Okay, it isn't, in a few rare cases.

One purpose of a Story Arc is to provide the necessary time to really ramp up the peril the protagonists are in. Crunch up the Love Interest, alienate the friends, heap a bunch of victories on the Big Bad, let all the phlebotinum leak out of the superpower, maybe throw in a scorching case of herpes and a drug dependency... you know, just do everything you can to grind a protagonist into a sticky paste.

While this is fun and all, it can occasionally get to be a little overbearing for the audience. The trick is to throw in a breather episode before they become too terrified to tune in, something a little Lighter and Softer in tone.

The Breather Episode is used after a particularly grueling and emotional story arc or episode, or as a break partway through a sequence of intense episodes, and serves to lighten the mood, to contrast with the "dark" mood of the previous episode. These might feature several musical numbers and comic relief appearances by minor characters. They may be presented in a fun-house manner, with plenty of bright and cheery colors. Children's shows play with this trope by being more lighthearted than usual.

It is tricky to get this just right as, improperly done, it makes the characters appear unsympathetic or in denial about the overarching plot.

This is not to be confused with Filler, though many breather episodes would qualify.

In anime, this will often be the beach or vacation episode.

In Video Games, this trope may occur as well, but there's also a variant of the trope applied to the game's difficulty rather than the game's content: Breather Level.

See also Mood Whiplash. Contrast Wham Episode. Occasionally, this will be a Bizarro Episode, and may involve a Wacky Wayside Tribe. A key component of The Hero's Journey. If a breather episode later turns out to have major significance for the rest of the series, then it's an Innocuously Important Episode. Compare Slice of Life.

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    Comic Books 
  • For the first fifty issues or so, the Adventure Time comic book followed a pattern of a four-issue story arc followed by a one-shot story, one often coupled with Formula-Breaking Episode.
    • In Issue 5, Finn and Jake explore the lands found on the gap in the Earth filled in during the last story arc and run into a kid who looks like Finn and calls himself "Adventure Tim".
    • Issue 10 has Ice King accidentally giving the reader control over Finn and Jake, resulting in "Choose Your Own Adventure Time".
    • Issue 15 involves Finn and Jake being cursed by Magic Man into speaking in Rebus Bubbles.
    • Issue 20 features "Adventure Me", a story shown from the first-person perspective of a friend of Finn and Jake hanging out with them, whose identity is not revealed until the very end of the story (for the record, It's Princess Bubblegum.).
    • Issue 25 is a Milestone Celebration of the comic's second anniversary, and revolves around the story of a magic amulet made by Princess Bubblegum... one that gets stolen by Ricardio the Heart Guy in another poorly thought-out attempt at impressing PB. It also delves into some of the history between Bubblegum and Marceline.
    • Issue 30 is presented as an issue of Marceline's "zine" featuring comics by various other Adventure Time characters, including a strange little story about a bear by BMO, a recipe from Peppermint Butler, a Slice of Life "hourly comic" by Marceline herself, a home science experiment by Princess Bubblegum, a self-indulgent story by Lumpy Space Princess, a sad-yet-funny comic by the Ice King, a manhwa by Lady Rainicorn, a creepy one-pager by the Earl of Lemongrab, and a superhero pastiche by Finn and Jake.
    • In Issue 35, Lumpy Space Princess investigates the theft of her star at a Princess Conference, and interrogates her friends "Rashomon"-Style.
    • In Issue 40, Finn and Jake's mission to protect a zeppelin full of Fancy Egg People from an owlbear attack is interrupted by Magic Man offering a wish to the reader. It's actually a prank/magic trick; whatever wish the reader picks, Magic Man manipulates things so they end up picking the "volcano of crows in Finn's bed" wish.
    • In Issue 45, Finn and Jake have to rescue some of their friends from a Trap Wizard's "hall of mirrors". In a mind-bending twist on Breaking the Fourth Wall, half the story is printed upside-down (the reader is supposed to turn the comic upside-down and go back for a few pages to reach the end), and Finn and Jake can see the future half of the story and interact with their past and future selves through a portal in the ceiling of the cave they're trapped in.
    • Issue 50 features a story where a cursed book (part of a trap laid by the Lich) pulls Finn into his memories and his past lives (including Shoko and Davey Johnson).
  • Gotham Knights #32, which comes straight after the Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive arc (a Batman crossover arc in which Bruce Wayne is accused of a murder and goes on the run for months) is a really nice breather issue. Only, of course, being about Batman, it's called 24/7 and it involves him getting up at 8 in the morning, spending his day in meetings convincing big business to be a little nicer, remembering the name of his paperboy, visiting the elderly, and then suiting up and fighting crime (and checking in on the rest of the Batfamily) until 5 am the next morning. It counts as a breather episode because there are no supervillains! (It's actually a really lovely issue. Bruce is practically mellow.)
  • Invoked in Catwoman. The Relentless storyline was a particularly brutal arc with Black Mask—one of the darker Bat-villains—as the main antagonist. Cold-Blooded Torture, forced cannibalism, that sorta thing. After all was said and done, Selena thought her friend Holly could use a break and took her on a road trip to the various DC locales. The resulting story arc is intentionally lighthearted so that the readers could have a break as well.
  • Squirrel Girl comics are a breather series for the Marvel Universe as a whole, which usually has a much more serious tone. The character herself is Fun Personified, and her comics are considerably lighter than anything else in the Marvel Universe, sometimes doubling as an Affectionate Parody of a more wacky, innocent time in the comics industry. This, and the way she effortlessly defeats major threats like Thanos and Doctor Doom has contributed to her popularity.
    • Deadpool comics too, though to a lesser extent somewhat, since the humor is a lot darker and Cerebus Syndrome does kick in from time to time. That said, the series is still mostly comedic and cartoony, with no fourth wall whatsoever, and it's breather series status is especially noticeable during tie-in issues to events. Deadpool itself gets its own breather with the Marvel Now run's issue 20, Wakandian Vacation which follows the Darker and Edgier The Good, The Bad, and It's Pretty Bleak. It's so bad that on the first page, Deadpool says he needs a vacation and asks if they could throw another "archive" issue on the board. Wakandian Vacation by contrast is Denser and Wackier even by Deadpool standards, involving a What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs? Bizarro Episode featuring Deadpool trying to find cosmic puzzle pieces.
  • The fourth issue of Justice League Elite has the entire team temporarily shut down after their mission to stop a violent attempt at regime change in Changsha results in the death of the country's dictator. Sonja goes to visit her sister, Booker goes out drinking, Kasumi reports to her mentor, etc.
  • Many comic books do this between long arcs. JSA, for instance, usually has an issue between arcs that follows the individual characters as they recover, and also allows for roster changes.
    • Another Spidey example: In Spectacular Spider-Man, there was an arc called The Child Within with Harry Osborn's Green Goblin and Vermin. It was a six-part storyline with a seventh issue epilogue. It was emotionally brutal, heartwrenching, and helped set up Harry's death a year later. The issue following the epilogue, however, featured TWO Fabulous Frog-Men teaming up with Spidey to take on the White Rabbit and the Walrus, two villains bent on revenge against one of the Frog-men and his sidekick Spider-Man for defeats and humiliation suffered before.
    • The first issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#252) after Secret Wars (1984) is Spidey's first appearance in his own comic in the black alien costume that would later become Venom, but the issue itself is a very calm and low-key look at Spidey settling back down in his apartment, dealing with everything he missed when he was on Battleworld, and testing out the suit, with the closest thing to "action" being him scaring away a mugger while on patrol and realizing his new suit is much more intimidating. At the end of the story, he takes two teenagers webslinging to show them the beauty of New York and what it means to him, in a rather sweet illustration of his role as, well, their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
  • Only in Red Hood and the Outlaws can the superhero equivalent of the hospital scene of Hardboiled be considered the "Breather Episode", but Issue #8 fits the description.
  • Runaways had at least two of these. The first comes just before the introduction of the "New Pride" in volume 2; Molly falls asleep after a battle, gets kidnapped, and has a short, bizarre misadventure where she fights to liberate a far-less competent team of runaways from an evil kidnapper before finally finding her way back to the Hostel. It's pretty stupid, but that's actually the point - when it's mentioned in later issues, everyone assumes she's making the whole thing up to get out of being punished for wandering off. Another issue, meant to fill in the gap after Terry Moore's departure from the series in volume 3, is split into two stories. The first has Molly visiting the Xavier School and making life a living hell for Wolverine, who is hilariously forced to be her tour guide, before the two of them are kidnapped by one of Molly's parents' old enemies. The second has the older Runaways playing truth-or-dare and inadvertently corrupting the hell out of poor Klara Prast.
  • Thunderworld #1. The previous four Multiversity comics had shown possessions, blood sacrifice, suicide, and assassinations, all of them with dark endings. In this one the good guys win, essentially with no fatalities. The one discordant note is the Serial Killer Sivana from another universe, but he doesn't get a chance to do anything, along with his Darker and Edgier nature being used as a punchline.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, "God War" is an arc filled with Cast of Snowflakes aliens, disjunction, weird trajectories, Timey-Wimey Ball, and several bad guys all wanting a non-descript MacGuffin that doesn't exist yet with a rushed ending. It's followed by the fairly straightforward "Devils" which involves Diablo kidnapping the Four's loved ones, and them going into the past and beating him up.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man
      • After a particularly draining arc in Ultimate Spider-Man, where Gwen Stacy was killed, the next two issues were an executive-mandated ''FreakyFriday''-esque romp, as the still-teenage Spider-Man changed bodies with Wolverine because of Jean Grey, who picked Peter as "the person Logan would least like to be."
      • Issue #13 is a single-issue story between two long arcs, and contains no superhero action.
  • X-Men:
    • From issues 149 through 152 of Uncanny X-Men, we saw a pivotal confrontation between the X-Men and their Arch-Enemy Magneto, followed by a stand-off against the Hellfire Club. Issue 153 provides the breather in "Kitty's Fairy Tale" as Kitty invents a bedtime story for Illyana, casting herself as a heroic pirate and the rest of the X-Men as other characters. By the end of the issue, the entire team is gathered around Illyana's room, listening to Kitty's story, and enjoying it immensely.
    • After the events of the Inferno (1988) crossover, in which the X-teams fought off a demonic invasion, there were two lighthearted issues respectively devoted to the women and men of the team each having a night out. The first saw the ladies spending time at a mall in LA and dealing with some inept mutant-busters, also introducing Jubilee in the process. The second dealt with the men stopping a would-be alien invasion, in a parody of the DC mini-series Invasion!. Another reason for these breather issues is that immeidately afterwards, the series began its most tumultuous period, losing members left and right before ultimately disbanding, at which point the series focused on indivual members and allies before the team reformed during The X-Tinction Agenda, one of its darkest storylines.
    • #308 is a Thanksgiving Episode that comes after numerous tragedies for the team including the creation of Stryfe's Legacy Virus, the death of Illyana Rasputin, and the "Fatal Attractions (Marvel Comics)" arc where Colossus defected from the team, Wolverine had his adamantium ripped out and left the team to recuperate, and Professor Xavier was forced to psychically lobotomize Magneto. The issue gives them a much-needed break and allows them to have a peaceful holiday, and the issue ends with Scott and Jean becoming engaged.
    • Issue 91 of Excalibur had Kitty and Pete Wisdom inviting the rest of the team for a get-together at a nearby pub, following a series of bad breaks for the team, such as the discovery of anti-mutant ammunition co-developed by Captain Britain's father being used on mutants in Genosha, Moira finding out she's been infected with the Legacy Virus, and Dr. Rory Campbell losing a leg. Even the narration acknowledges this at one point.
    • New X-Men. After a dramatic story arc in which Jean discovers Scott's infidelity and a traitor at the mansion tries to kill Emma, Scott goes out for a nice "boy's night out" with Logan and Fantomex, which involves them battling some cyborgs and breaking into Weapon Plus' space station. Then as soon as they get back from space, the "Planet X" arc snaps us back, as Magneto comes back from the dead to destroy half of Manhattan, and he and Jean are both killed in a dramatic battle.
    • From the second volume of New X-Men, focusing on the students, you have the "Children of X-Men" two-parter, which comes after twenty issues of post-M-Day death and dismemberment. Featuring Rockslide trolling his classmates via explosions, Elixir's unnecessarily creepy naval-gazing being interrupted by the offer of making out, and Pixie dosing Wolverine with hallucinogens. Colossus even points out that if this is what they're considering a good day, "when no-one's soul is shattered", they're doing a bad job. It's also just before the Messiah CompleX crossover which ends the series, where even worse things happen to several of them.
  • Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing had several of these, most notably "Rite of Spring", which is pretty much entirely about hallucinogenic plant-on-human sex. Yes, that's what qualifies as a breather for the series. At least no one's getting tortured, killed, or raped.
  • Neil Gaiman would often insert one or more one-shot stories between (or sometimes even within) the lengthier, heavier arcs of The Sandman (1989), usually with the titular character in a tertiary or even nonexistent role. Note, however, that not all one-shot issues qualify as this. Ones like "Men of Good Fortune", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", or "The Parliament of Rooks" fit the bill well, but yarns like "Calliope", "Facade", or "Thermidor" can be every bit as violent and depressing as the longer arcs.
  • There's one that happens towards the end of the World War I serial "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill". It involves Golden Eyes, an ambulance driver, spending a week away from the front lines at an Orphanage of Love - which she bankrolls using money she got from selling jewelry she acquired during a bout of Go-Go Enslavement she suffered in the previous arc.
  • Monstress: The two-issue miniseries Talk-Stories is set between Issues #30 and #31 of the main series, and takes place right after a bloody siege of the city Ravenna. Maika and Kippa have a conversation and share their happiest memories, long before they ended up in the slave camp where they first met. Of course, this being Monstress, it highlights just how horrible their lives have gotten.
  • DC One Million has the Hitman tie-in. Reportedly, Grant Morrison gave all the tie-in writers intricate plot details to adhere to, but Garth Ennis was simply allowed to do an off-beat one off. Notably, Ennis took the opportunity to mock Gunfire, one of the many new characters introduced in the Bloodlines crossover from years prior (which notably had Hitman himself as one of said new characters).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW):
    • Issue #31 comes in between the action-packed climax of the Metal Virus saga in Issue #30 and the final epilogue of the saga in Issue #32. While Eggman shows up at the end of the issue for one final attempt to crush the heroes, and other plot threads are laid down, it's mostly about tying up loose ends and giving the heroes a chance to finally take a moment for themselves after the Zombot apocalypse.
    • The entire "Trial By Fire" arc (Issues #45-47) is this, coming between the major action and drama of the "Zeti Hunt" and "Battle For the Empire" arcs and focusing just on some of the girls going on a camping trip.

  • Animorphs:
    • Book 20 came right before two of the darkest books so far and right after The Departure, a Wham Episode. However, the book itself is pretty light and primarily funny rather than dramatic.
    • #24, The Suspicion also qualifies as it's largely comedic novel involving the Helmacrons and directly follows a major Wham Novel in which Tobias discovers the depressing secrets of his past.
    • Book 32 stands out for being relatively light, compared to the thee books before it (many of which were on the borderline of Wham Novels), and other than introducing the Anti-Morphhing Ray, it didn't introduce much to the continuity.
    • #44 The Unexpected qualifies. It comes right before the 9-book arc that ended the series and right after a dark novel featuring the return of the insane Torture Technician Taylor, it has nothing in the way of character or plot development, and the events (Cassie getting stranded in the Australian outback) are not mentioned again.
    • Book 51 is a pretty good example. The two episodes right before it and the three right after it were some of the darkest books in the series, filled with emotional trauma and huge changes to the status quo. Book 51, on the other hand, is basically one big chase scene and has a lot of comedic setpieces. Although it does change the status quo some when the Yeerk invasion is made known to the public, it doesn't end up mattering too much.
  • A Certain Magical Index: New Testament Volume 11. It comes immediately after the Magic God Othinus arc, which took place on a global scale. The volume is limited to Academy City, and revolves around a purely personal conflict.
  • Chapters 22-23 of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which come between the Inventing Room and Nut Room setpieces, are this in the sense that the characters are just briskly walking down corridors and discussing various other inventions of Mr. Wonka's rather than getting imperiled by Laser-Guided Karma or riding in seemingly-out-of-control modes of transportation. Chapter 23 is primarily devoted him showing off Square Candies That Look Round, which turns out to involve a silly Pun.
  • The Dresden Files: Skin Game is noticeably lighter than the previous few books. Harry engages in heist story antics, reconciles with his friends, meets a god he actually likes, the bad guy's plan is thoroughly spoiled, and Harry gets a delightfully WAFF filled reunion with his daughter. It's still a dark book by normal standards, but by Dresden Files standards it's pretty laid back.
  • Eden Green, a novel in which the main character's best friend is infected with an alien needle parasite and their city is overrun by horrifying monsters, takes a break for a few pages so the title character can 'set her affairs in order' (translation: clean her apartment).
  • Two-booked Orbital Conspiracy arc of Feliks, Net & Nika is rather light, but it happens after two Mind Screw books and before creepy horror story.
  • Harry Potter has two:
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could be viewed as this, being a comparatively laid-back story (apart from the Dementors) which does not have anything directly to do with Voldemort and immediately precedes his return in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It also comes after Chamber of Secrets, which is an Actionized Sequel involving students being attacked by a monster, leading to a year-long reign of terror which threatens to close the school. In comparison, Sirius Black coming after Harry in particular is rather low stakes.
    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even more so; the bulk of the book is made up of exposition of Voldemort's backstory, romance plots, and Quidditch, with precious little happening in the wizarding war until the very end. It also falls right in between the two longest and darkest novels in the series.
  • InCryptid has a lot of short stories, so naturally this comes up:
    • "Married in Green" and to a lesser extent "Sweet Poison Wine" are generally low-stakes stories set between the major events of "Stingers and Strangers" and "The First Fall".
    • "By Any Other Name" and "To Build a Better..." take place between the action-packed trilogy of "What You Pay For", "What You Build", and "The Hand of the Forest", and the Wham Episode of "Halfway Through the Wood".
  • Very similarly, in Stephen King's It, right between one epic battle with the monster and the beginning of the events leading up to the last, is the mini-chapter (he numbers sections within titled chapters) which consists entirely of "Nothing much happened for the next two weeks."
  • In John Dies at the End, immediately after Dave reveals that the reason he was sent to a special school was that he was implicitly gangraped in highschool and retaliated by cutting out the eyes of the ringleader, there's an entire chapter narrated by the Cloudcuckoolander sidekick and Unreliable Narrator John, which involves backflips, kung-fu fighting, and horse-theft.
    • Also, after one story arc, there is a chapter that consists entirely of "Nothing happened for the next few months".
  • Liv in the Future: Chapter 11 is a short chapter about Liv attending her first Z-ball game. The chapter preceding it has a one-two punch of Liv's reaction to what Cleanup Crew does to beings that pass through portals and a meeting between Mr. Prez and someone named Helios about a portal-related project.
  • In "The Maltese Falcon" there is a chapter that didn't make it into the movie. While Sam Spade and Bridget O'Shaughnessy are sitting around waiting for something to happen between several murders and several other murders and Spade sending Bridget to the gallows he tells her the totally irrelevant story of a previous case, a missing man named Flitcraft who went out to lunch one day and vanished. Spade found that he had a near miss with a falling girder and simply walked away because "someone had pulled the lid off life and showed him the works". He later got back into the same business as before, married a woman like his abandoned wife and was pretty much back where he started, although he didn't see it that way.
  • Matilda: The chapter "Miss Honey's Cottage", which also contains Scenery Porn as the rural walk from the school to the cottage is lovingly described, Miss Honey educates Matilda on recognising types of trees, and quotes a poem by Dylan Thomas that she thinks of every time she walks towards her front door.
  • Q & A, from the Star Trek Novelverse. And considering the plot hinges on the destruction of every universe in existence EVER, that's really saying something about the other novels, no? But it's a novel involving Star Trek's resident omnipotent troll, Q, so that helps.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades volume 4, though it covers some serious material, is mostly a lighthearted romp through the relationships between the characters, particularly the deepening romance between Oliver and Nanao. It's sandwiched between the very dramatic volumes 3 and 5: the former has the Sword Roses delving into the labyrinth to rescue Pete after he's kidnapped by Ophelia Salvadori, who has been "consumed by the spell" and ultimately dies along with her childhood friend Carlos Whitrow, and the latter largely revolves around Oliver and his extended family plotting and then executing the assassination of Professor Forghieri, which eleven of them don't come back from.
  • The Ribbajack is an anthology made up of six short stories, one of which, "Miggy Mags and the Malabar Sailor", about the adventures of a girl and her pet mongoose, has a more lighthearted tone than the other five, playing out like a standard adventure story instead of a cautionary tale. To wit: an Eldritch Abomination turns on the Enfant Terrible that summoned it, a school is haunted by a smiling dead girl with a red rose, a fisherman sustains permanent brain damage from an encounter with a kelpie, a school bully gets turned to stone by Medusa, and another Enfant Terrible transforms into a werewolf.
  • Book VI in The Thebaid glosses over the Theban war that every book before and after it focuses on in favor of detailing a bunch of races, wrestling matches, and other games. No one dies and there's some fun racing and low-stakes fighting, all thanks to the god of war procrastinating.

  • "Walk of Life", by Dire Straits. "After all the violence and double talk, here's just a song in all the trouble and the strife." Of course, it comes right off the heels of the grandiose, flashy "Money for Nothing".
  • "A Warm Place" from The Downward Spiral, a calm instrumental sandwiched between the short, violent 'Big Man With A Gun' and the death-wish clatter of 'Eraser'.
  • The Vienna Teng album Warm Strangers sandwiches "Passage", a haunting high-octane tearjerker with a bit of eerie thrown in for good measure, in between "Anna Rose", a lullaby, and The Atheist Christmas Carol, a calm, soothing song (which, despite what the title suggests, is not an Author Tract).
  • "Pinball Wizard" by The Who became a famous hit mainly because it's a Breather Episode on Tommy.
  • Portishead's "Deep Water", a simple ukelele song between the percussion-heavy "We Carry On" and "Machine Gun".
  • David Bowie's darker albums usually have one or two uptempo/hopeful numbers breaking up the gloom.
    • "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock and Roll with Me" on Diamond Dogs (the other songs bespeak the album rising from the ashes of an aborted Nineteen Eighty-Four stage musical).
    • "Boys Keep Swinging" on Lodger.
    • "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" and "Everyone Says 'Hi'" on Heathen.
    • "Dancing Out in Space" on The Next Day.
  • Done by Megadeth on a few occasions, most notably with "Poison Was The Cure" and "Dawn Patrol" on Rust In Peace.
  • Iced Earth have employed this trope on multiple occasions, making sure that their dark speed metal is mixed with a few more chilled out moments. The first album had Curse The Sky and Solitude, Night Of the Stormrider had Before The Vision and Reaching The End, and Burnt Offerings had The Pierced Spirit. The Dark Saga has I Died For You, which was a power ballad and one that would prove influential on later stuff. Something Wicked This Way Comes has a lot of softer songs to balance out the heavy ones, although they have heavy choruses, the most notable ones being Melancholy and Watching Over Me, both of which got them new fans. Watching Over Me is a notable example as it is sandwiched between two of the heaviest songs the band did, Disciples Of The Lie and Stand Alone. Though the band haven't done it as often since then, there are numerous examples of this later on, for instance When The Eagle Cries from The Glorious Burden, and A Gift Or A Curse from The Crucible Of Man.
  • Jamiroquai's Travelling Without Moving contains a double Breather Episode with "Didjerama" and "Didjital Vibrations". They are largely instrumental lounge tunes with didgeridoo in them.
  • Funeral for a Friend intentionally invoked this trope with Your Revolution Is A Joke, an acoustic, string led, simplistic ballad which appears after a lot of progressive, melodic screamo on Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation.
  • One of the distinctive traits of the third Slipknot LP "Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses", in comparison to their other records, is that it contains acoustic numbers to break up the pace of all the experimental metal on occasions.
  • Billy Joel wrote and recorded 1982's The Nylon Curtain, in the aftermath of a terrible motorcycle accident and a painful divorce, with ambitions of creating a precisely detailed, studio sonic masterpiece and a big sociopolitical statement about the state of the world at the time. He was physically and emotionally drained at the end of recording and touring the album. An Innocent Man, informed by Joel's newfound freedom as a bachelor dating supermodels and enjoying his life in an upscale New York apartment, was deliberately recorded as a lighthearted pop album influenced by Billy's teenage influences.
  • The opera Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass reaches a climax with a chaotic sequence set aboard a spaceship. But its closing sequence is a quiet section in which a character philosophizes about love. Qualifies as a "breather episode" when you consider the opera is more then four hours long (without an intermission).
  • Radiohead's Kid A has the ambient track "Treefingers", which serves as a moment of recollection after the emotional toil that's just happened on the album. It is sandwiched between the tearjerker ballad that is "How to Disappear Completely" and the high-energy hard rocker that is "Optimistic".
    • Speaking of Radiohead, another example is the song "No Surprises" on OK Computer. It comes between "Climbing Up the Walls", probably the most terrifying song on the album, and "Lucky", a grandiose power ballad. Meanwhile, "No Surprises" is a gentle, fairly quiet melody based around a glockenspiel. The lyrics certainly aren't cheerful, but the mood isn't as dark as much of the rest of the album.
  • After a massive breakdown in Cult of Luna's "Ghost Trail", one can't help but think the instrumental "The Lure", comprised of a clean guitar and some piano, exists to help recover on their album Eternal Kingdom.
  • Early King Crimson albums feature this trope, wherein their heavier and more intense songs tend to sandwich a quieter, more gentle number - examples include "I Talk To The Wind" from In The Court Of The Crimson King, "Cadence And Cascade" from In The Wake Of Poseidon, and, to a certain degree, "Book Of Saturdays" from Larks' Tongues In Aspic. The song "Lady Of The Dancing Water" from Lizard also exemplifies the trope, possibly more directly, as it comes at the end of an otherwise very dense and challenging first side, rather than in the "sandwich" pattern of their first two albums. Their use of dynamic extremes was, for its time, quite innovative, and done deliberately, both to give the listener a break, as the trope suggests, as well as to heighten the impact of the heavier numbers.
  • In Edward Elgar's Op. 36 "Enigma" Variations on an Original Theme, the slow variation IX (Nimrod), which contains the most intense melodic and harmonic development of the theme, is followed by Intermezzo (Dorabella), a lightly scored and melodically understated Allegretto that does not use the theme at all.
  • Daft Punk's "Make Love" off of "Human After All" is a quiet piano-driven interlude, in direct contrast to the songs it is stuck between, namely "Steam Machine" and "The Brainwasher".
  • In Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy EP, you hear "Come To Daddy" as the opener, a hardcore, drill n' bass song where Richard D. James screams that he wants your soul. Then, suddenly, you hear "Flim", a soothing instrumental, and then a calmer (if still a tad odd) mix of Come To Daddy. It goes back to the percussion-filled hardcore in "Bucephalus Bouncing Ball", of course.
  • ABBA: Their final studio album note , The Visitors, is noticeably darker in tone than their previous albums. However, the second track on the album is the relatively light-hearted "Head Over Heels", which is placed between the Cold War themed title track and "When All is Said and Done", the latter being one of the break-up songs ABBA became famous for after the two marriages within the group ended in divorce.
  • Lovebites plays heavy metal — but it's not unknown for Miyako to perform a piano sonata at some point during their concerts.
  • Miracle Musical: After the harrowing "White Ball" and the ominous lyrics and off-key piano of "Murders", "Space Station Number 7" has an uplifting instrumental and sounds more relaxing. It's much needed before "The Mind Electric".

  • Dark Dice, after a horrifying and heavy adventure in the first season, did a special for Pride Month 2020 where tiefling rogue Iaus Innskeep attended a speed-dating event.
  • Wolf 359. After a five episode arc at the end of season one/start of season two that involved many dramatic twists, a major character reveal, a character dying and coming back to life, a quick succession of life-and-death situations, and enough paranoia fuel to run a paranoia 747... "Bach to the Future" basically consists of three characters sitting around and talking, trying to find a way to pass the time on a boring night. And that's pretty much all that happens in that episode. The characters joke around, play some games, and grow a bit closer, but plot-wise there's almost nothing to speak off. Following a particularly relentless high-octane story arc, it comes across as a major gear shift.
  • The History of Rome: Mike Duncan would at times take breaks from the (often insanely confusing) narrative history of Rome to explore the daily lives of ordinary Romans or some aspect of Roman life. An early one, focusing on Roman wedding customs, was precipitated by his own marriage, but others simply came up because both writing about and listening to what consul or emperor did what when and who was backstabbing who in the Senate and who exactly are the Numidians again? can get kind of exhausting without a break.
  • Similarly on his follow up Revolutions Podcast, Duncan would often include "supplementals" that deal with one person or topic in detail and don't follow the otherwise relatively straight chronological approach. Duncan does this both to give his listeners a break form the sometimes extremely gory details of e.g. the French Revolutions and to make pauses shorter - apparently producing a supplemental is easier and faster than producing a regular episode.
  • The Adventure Zone:
    • The Adventure Zone: Balance has Lunar Interludes between arcs which serve this purpose, with the exception of the last. The Stolen Century also has a Beach Episode to break up the heaviness of the arc.
    • The Adventure Zone: Amnesty does something similar, taking an episode between hunts to level up the characters and deal with personal drama.
  • Sequinox has episode 13 in the Gemini arc. The arc has plenty of Mood Whiplash between funny and highly dramatic and tense moments, but this is the first episode where they're able to take a moment to rest, talk to someone about everything that's been happening to them, and even gather some information on Gemini and how her dimension-hopping powers work. Oddly enough, this is also while they're in a Bad Future dimension.
  • The Magnus Archives has episode 100, "I Guess You Had To Be There". Jon is out of the office (on account of being kidnapped by Nikola), so the other archival staff have to take live statements... except the statement-givers are all hilariously godawful storytellers. They include a woman who "saw a ghost" and refuses to elaborate, a man who saw a spider in his house and is convinced it was supernatural, a crackpot conspiracy theorist, and a man who won't stop talking about his dog (and whose statement includes the line "So I got out of the Spiral and went to dinner"). Word of God confirms that all of these statements are real, and they serve as a break from the grim tone of the rest of the season.
  • The Penumbra Podcast:
    • The "Rita Minute" episodes, shorts depicting what Rita gets up to when Juno's not around, usually come after dark and depressing story arcs and serve as this.
    • "Juno Steel and the Mega-Ultrabots of Cyberjustice", the first full-length story arc narrated by Rita. The previous episode's extremely dark from start to finish and ends with the Carte Blanche crash-landing and several characters being presumed dead... and then it's revealed that everyone's okay, and the following arc consists of Juno, Rita, and Nureyev piloting robots and pulling off a hijinks-filled, mecha anime-themed heist. It's a much-needed break from the tension of the past few story arcs. Until the last two minutes of the episode, of course.
  • Sick Sad World:
    • "Haunted Mansion" was released shortly after "The Dangers Of Being Disabled", which was about disabled people being murdered. The hosts explicitly say this is to allow for something a little more light-hearted, though the episode does discuss slavery and the some of the horrible stuff that comes with that.
    • “2 Cruel 4 School” covers mass shootings, one of which resulted in the murder of 6-year-olds. The next episode was about the much lighter topic of horror movies and books.
  • Black Jack Justice: "The Albatross" is one is the series most serious episodes, touching on pre-Civil Rights Movement racism in a way no other episode does and forcing Papa Wolf Lieutenant Sabien to decide What You Are in the Dark when holding the life of a man who killed a pregnant black teenager in his hands. It is buffeted on both sides by much more light-hearted episodes. Before it is the Lower-Deck Episode "Cops and Robbers", in which Freddie the Finger distracts a bumbling Sergeant Nelson, and followed by "Man's Best Friend", whose Private Eye Monologue is primarily delivered by Team Pet King the dog.

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  • Once per season, Dr. Crafty has a month dedicated to Crafty's commission work. These Commission Months typically follow up episodes with significant plot developments before subsequent episodes continue exploring the deeper plots. During these times, there is no unifying monthly theme; the exact contents of each months' episodes are entirely up to whoever's commission is shown onscreen. Consequentially, the spin-off segments are given free reign to do what they want. The Top Ten Tub is the sole exception to the rule; it always covers a general list of original characters during these months.

  • Webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del intersperses the story arcs with random stand-alone strips. For this trope in particular, Chef Brian.
  • El Goonish Shive has a breather arc of sorts; after the intense Damien arc, the next story arc involved throwing Grace her first birthday party. However, as that arc took nearly a year to resolve and was stuffed to the gills with filler, it may have been too much of a breather from the main plot; in fact, you may have to think for a good five minutes to recall that there was a larger plot beyond people being turned into things.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has a few. Funny chapters are often thrown in between more serious ones.
    • In particular, the story of Snuffle the rabbit-turned-human student and their fairy friend—the light, fluffy chapters featuring them ("Tall Tales", "Totem", and "A Big Day!") all immediately precede major dramatic events ("The Torn Sea", "The Tree", and "Jeanne"/"The Other Shore", respectively).
  • After an especially epic conclusion to a story arc, Homestuck went off on a tangent with the Midnight Crew intermission. Also a breather episode for the author, who needed to fix up his server before he could continue to the next arc. (Of course, this being Homestuck, the Cerebus Retcon wasn't long in coming.)
  • After two tiring battles with the big bad in Jix, the comic switches tracks and has a story about Lauren trying to get the alien androids living in her apartment to do chores. And after Jix's recent fight with the big bad's daughter, Lauren and Jix took a relaxing roadtrip to hunt down the remains of the big bad's daughter's ship before they reached Area 51.
  • In Lore Olympus, after a highly emotional arc where Minthe is worried about her and Hades' relationship and Hades confesses his love for Persephone in a letter he never intends to send, we get the much more comedic Episode 48 about Hades sending the Furies to kidnap the photographer that snapped him and Persephone.
  • "Massively Parallel" in particular has three of the five sections (Credomar Command, High Olympus Command and Mallcop Command) devoted to largely safe and light-hearted activities for the various groups of Toughs, which provides a nice break from Barsoom Command which involves Schlock's team getting tangled in a government conspiracy to flush Lunnesby out of the Luna computer systems, and provides a soft start for the insanely action-filled final section of the book, "Command and Conquer," where the team must rescue Tagon's father and KevynPrime from an angry mob boss.
  • The entire book "Longshoreman of the Apocalypse", while occasionally violent, has little relevance to the galaxy on the whole and rarely seems exceptionally dangerous, a nice break from the past four books that alternated between government conspiracies, threats to the galaxy and character bloodbaths.
  • Done frequently in Sluggy Freelance. One of the most notable examples is the "Oceans Unmoving" arc, which was fairly serious and even depressing by Sluggy Freelance standards. It's broken into two halves, however. After the first half, Pete spent an arc showing everyone not involved in the "Oceans Unmoving" story going about their daily lives, trying to earn money and arguing over videogames. Then he did another arc that was an extended parody of 28 Days Later. Then another arc parodying the Harry Potter franchise, before finally resuming the "Oceans Unmoving" story. Then there's the "Aylee" chapter (also one of Sluggy's more serious outings) which took a break in the middle of the climax so Torg could tell a silly story about Riff sawing people in half with dimensional portals.
    • Most recently, an incredibly heavy moment with Riff discovering that Zoe is alive, but that her burns from the encounter with Oasis are so severe that she's been trapped in life-support ever since. Riff ends up resolved to find her and save her from the pain. This is followed by marooned villains Crushestro and Monicruel being rescued by Crushie's ex-wife Chestro.
  • Voodoo Walrus recently broke the tension of a storyline that was going from bad to worse for the main characters by cutting to reoccurring femme fatale Mac, quite literally, getting off on the pair's misery.
  • In The Order of the Stick, there is a breather of varying length at the beginning of each book after the first one.
    • Book 2: The adventure town.
    • Book 3: New Year's Eve in Azure City.
    • Book 4: Roy in Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
    • Book 5: Sandsedge.
    • Book 6: This book begins pretty bleak, but there is a short breather a bit later when they arrive at Gnometown.
  • Spinnerette: "The Colonel Glass Saga", where Spinny was up against a sadistic North Korean operative with the power to control glass, is by far the darkest story arc in the entire series. And thanks to numerous delays, the story lasted over a year. After its conclusion, the series had a couple brief, lighthearted adventures where Spinny fought a boy with dream powers who loved manga, and a pair of werequokkas.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: We get these on occasion. A notable example is episode 34, which happens after Scarlet and Chase team up to take out sinners and Satan has Brook tell him everything he knows about them and has Scarlet and Chase talking and being friends.
    • Another notable example is episode 50, which happens after the major revelation of Scarlet's real name, Ante Nora, being revealed. It involves Scarlet and Chase playing Fate Craft together.