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Pictured: the Dénouement in her element, unraveling plot threads.

Dénouement (pronounced day-noo-mon) is French for "unknotting", and denotes the point in the story when mysteries are unraveled, fates are determined and explanations made. It is not synonymous with climax: This is the aftermath of the action, not the peak. It is usually the scene after the climax — although it can happen in such close proximity to the events of the climax that it may appear to be part of it. An equivalent English expression would be "tying up loose ends".

It is fairly ubiquitous, though not all stories have dénouements. How final and extensive it is depends on the scale of the plot — and whether there may be a sequel. For a Happy Ending or even Bittersweet Ending, this is generally where the happiness is shown. As a consequence, many usual rules -- directed at keeping conflict and suspense going — are suspended here. The Law of Inverse Fertility, for instance, does not apply; if The Hero and the Love Interest married at the climax, a dénouement may show them happily anticipating the birth of, or cooing over, their first child.

In the Downer Ending, or even the Bittersweet Ending, the tragedy may taper off. The Hero died at the climax; the Dénouement shows his Meaningful Funeral, or his friends raising a glass To Absent Friends. The Star-Crossed Lovers had to part; the Dénouement shows them going on with their lives, however sadly.

In television writing, this is usually The Tag, sometimes a Dénouement Episode. A Sequel Hook may feature. In music, this is Album Closure. If the Dénouement is very long, it's Ending Fatigue. If it's missing, there's No Ending. Naturally, this goes hand-in-hand with "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement.

Has practically nothing to do with Détournement.

Ending Trope. Spoilers follow.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A 3 chapter mini series for Food Wars! called 'Le dessert' is published in Jump giga to tie up loose ends.
  • After the end of Fruits Basket, we see a scene with Tohru's granddaughter talking to her mother, and her grandparents walking together, holding hands.
  • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! (which has a Bittersweet Ending) has a particularly poignant dénouement, implying that Futaba succeed her big sister as a Pretty Cure.
  • Similarly, in Kiki's Delivery Service, the ending theme shows such images as Jiji and Lily having kittens, Tombo flying an airplane, and a little girl dressed up as Kiki, wrapping up their arcs, and showing the entire city's acceptance of Kiki.
  • At the end of My Neighbor Totoro, we see scenes from the future, such as Mother's return home, rolling alongside the credits.
  • Popotan ends with the sisters arriving in a new time period, inhabited by an older Mai (Konami's daughter). This after they've decided to continue travelling in the episode's climax.
  • For such a hot-blooded series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a mellow, melancholy dénouement.
  • The final chapter of Naruto, and especially its movie adaptation, Naruto the Last (which includes one last battle before the story shifts to the Distant Finale), serve as this.
  • Gintama: Enforced by Sorachi post- "Silver Soul" arc, as he deliberately tells the readers that he aims to resolve all remaining loose threads before the manga finally ends with his "Cleanup Project 2018".

    Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, a Flash Forward at a funeral reveals the fates of several main characters:
    • Paradigm saves lives as a paramedic.
    • Portia fights side-by-side with the Ghoul.
    • Pronto seeks counselling and rehabilitation in prison.
    • Plymouth forgives Pronto and visits him frequently in prison.
    • Grace happily marries the woman of her dreams.
    • Phylum writes a bestselling autobiography.
    • IQ Squared ends up in prison, but with his father's respect.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide: In Part 12, readers are reminded that Eggman has tried the Genesis Wave before when he refuses to give up and causes unknown damage to Sonic's home universe as a result.
  • Superman:
    • Who is Superwoman?: In the final issue, after the climatic battle between Supergirl and Superwoman, Kara explains how she figured Superwoman's real identity out. Then, the epilogue reveals how and why Lucy Lane came to work for Sam Lane and eventually became Superwoman.
    • Escape from the Phantom Zone: In the final scene, Supergirl and Batgirl talk over their adventure and discuss about the Tychotech device which started the whole mess being stolen technology. Batgirl promises to help Supergirl if she needs her again, and then both heroines fly/swing away.

    Fan Works 
  • The last real chapter of With Strings Attached (there are two postscripts) has the four talking with Shag and Varx about being sent back to Earth—but without their magic, which has John and Paul overjoyed but George disappointed and Ringo heartbroken. They also learn a little bit about the Fans (which turns out to be lies, though they never find that out) and decide not to tie up their last loose end by rescuing Lyndess.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, the last chapter is entirely dénouement. The climax comes at the end of the preceding chapter when Heather reveals her gesture of remembrance.

    Films — Animated 
  • Pixar does this occasionally:
    • At the end of Cars, scenes from Radiator Springs' future are run, along with the credits.
    • The last few minutes of Ratatouille (after Ego's re-review of Gusteau's restaurant) reveal what happened after Skinner and the health inspector were let go. They have Gusteau's shut down due to a rat infestation, and Ego loses his job due to giving a positive review to a "dirty" restaurant; Ego ends up investing in a new, successful restaurant run by Linguini and Colette, and we find out who Remy was narrating his story to.
    • WALL•E uses a series of animated scenes to document what happened to the characters after returning to a revitalized Earth.
    • Up ends at a ceremony where Russell receives his final wilderness explorer badge: the bottle cap that Ellie gave to Carl when they were kids.
    • The last fifteen minutes of Toy Story 3, after the toys escape from the dump and return to Andy, and convince him to give them to Bonnie before he leaves for college rather than putting them in storage in his attic. Scenes over the end credits show what happened to the other toys at Sunnyside.
    • Turning Red ends with showing the reconstruction of the SkyDome, and how the relationships between Mei, her mother and Mei's friends have changed.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Harry Potter, the dénouement actually happened before the climax. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry meets with Albus Dumbledore in an ethereal place, and Dumbledore explains most of the mysteries that are still left unanswered. Although the fates are still undetermined at this point.
    • Some fans, however, criticized the final book because of its rather meager and somewhat rushed post-climax dénouement before the Distant Finale.
  • In the twelfth A Series of Unfortunate Events book there is a hotel aptly named this. The Dénouement is run by triplets (also named Dénouement), and it answers a ton of the questions in the series, but still leaves a treasure trove left unsaid.
    • This is a Discussed Trope in book 12, as Snicket explains the difference between the dénouement and ending of a story, in traditional Snicket style.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King probably had a higher percentage of dénouement than any other story ever written. After the the climax is over, and the characters journey to their homes, saying goodbyes on the way, a new conflict is introduced. A new conflict. After The Climax.
  • In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice the final chapter recounts how the two marriages occurred, and the happy life of the couples thereafter.
    • In Persuasion Anne Eliot and Captain Wentworth actually marry, and Captain Wentworth acts on behalf of her friend Mrs. Smith.
    • In Northanger Abbey, General Tilney relents, and Catherine and Henry marry.
    • In Mansfield Park, Edward and Fanny marry and after a few years move to a better living.
  • In Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, after the heroine marries the king, and the heart-broken lover leaves, it recounts how every year, the new queen would send him a messenger, telling him of her.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Red Fury, after the battle has dealt with the Bloodfiends, and the other Chapters have decided to tithe to the Blood Angels so that chapter will survive — they learn that Fabius Bile has stolen some "sacred vitae". Rafen is charged with recovering it in the last scene.
    • In Black Tide, Noxx comes to see Rafen and talk, before they part to bring back the escaped Space Marines to their chapters.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Warlord of Mars, Thuvia's hopeless crush on John Carter is showing every sign of being cured by meeting his son Carthoris. (Things go wrong after so that she and he get their own book, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.)
  • The Philip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler frequently end with a dénouement, which occur during the villain's confrontation and/or in a closing scene (where Marlowe explains anything missed).
  • Isaac Asimov's "Profession": After George passes the Secret Test by trying to convince the Novian official to essentially start a "Home for the Feeble-minded" off Earth, he returns to his room and talks about the events since his escape. The test is explained to him (and the audience), and the story ends on a Brick Joke.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In-universe example from The Dark Eye. Theatre plays in Maraskan have the tradition to pick up every suggestion by the audience. After the usually messy climax, a narrator has the task to explain all the strange twists of destiny and the ways, they show An Aesop. This can take up to a third of the whole play.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest is one of the earliest games to feature a playable denouement, and it's actually very peaceful. After striking down the Dragonlord, the player manually guides The Hero back across the world map. There are no more Random Encounters. Hope Sprouts Eternal as the poisonous swamps have been replaced with fields of beautiful flowers. The continent of Alefgard is saved, and now all that's left is for our brave protagonist to head back to Tantegel and deliver the good news.
  • EarthBound (1994) has a very similar take on the concept of a playable denouement, more likely than not inspired by Dragon Quest's. The player guides Ness and Paula back across Eagleland, all the way home. Teleport is still usable, so you can visit just about any location in the game to see how the people you've met along your journey are getting on; almost every single one has something new to say now that the world is saved. Whether you drop Paula off at her home or take her back with Ness to his is up to you, and the semifinal scenes actually change a bit depending on what you do. All is well... until The Stinger, that is.
  • Following the example set by EarthBound, Undertale's Golden Ending also allows the player a victory lap to check in with all the Underground's inhabitants one last time. Not only do they all have new things to say, period, but a number of them actually have multiple possible lines of dialogue depending on what the player did or did not do during the story. Speaking to certain characters offers additional plot and character details, and there's even a cryptic Something-quel Hook or two to find, if you're lucky. Interestingly, unlike EarthBound and Dragon Quest, Undertale plops you right at the end of its game world, meaning revisiting any areas at all is entirely voluntary on the player's part.
  • After defeating the Final Boss of Persona 5, the story features Joker pulling a non-lethal Heroic Sacrifice by turning himself into the police to make sure that The Conspiracy that almost made Masayoshi Shido into the Prime Minister of Japan goes down. After spending a few months in jail, he's released thanks to the efforts of his fellow Phantom Thieves and his confidants. After that, the player gets a short Playable Epilogue where Joker can talk to his confidants and say goodbye before calling it quits and seeing the game's ending.
  • Metal Gear, particularly the Solid games, always does this. 1 has it right before the final fight, 2 and 3 have it place with the ending and 4 has it after the credits.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has an entire level set after the Final Battle, where you can talk to your companions and significant Origin characters to learn about their future plans, while the cheering crowd outside waits to see their savior. If the Warden dies, there is a Meaningful Funeral for him/her instead. Additionally, there is a slide show epilogue detailing the fates of your companions and some NPCs. And there is the Witch Hunt DLC, which wraps up Morrigan's storyline, which was Left Hanging in the original game.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition also has an entire DLC set two years after Corypheus is defeated, and itself has a smaller denouement with Solas, followed by a montage similar to Origins. Yeah, DA likes this trope.
  • On a similar note, the abruptness of the end and thus lack of Denouement in the final Mass Effect game... well, the fan outcry isn't pretty. It was so bad that BioWare went back and patched in a more detailed version. Not exactly done to satisfaction for some, but at least it finally explained a few things.
    • The Citadel DLC provided closure, albeit before the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Despite not technically being a denouement, the DLC felt like one, providing closure with crew members (and the love interest), with Shepard's love interest or Joker reverently sighing at the end, "It's been quite a ride", with Shepard responding, "The best."
  • The slideshow/text epilogue, with voiced narration, was used for all Fallout games and Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura.
  • In the When They Cry series, it usually happens in the 7th out of 8 episodes. Except for all of the lies and new questions that get added in during that time.
  • In an interesting inversion to this, as it is a cosmic horror story, BloodBorne actually continues to raise further questions as the story progresses, making everything consistently less obvious and more difficult to understand. While some details gets explained, the story makes a remarkable turn at a point when Rom is defeated and from here any semblance of sense the story had becomes so shrouded in mystery and bizarre happenings that genuinely understanding what is going on requires you to sit down and really consider all of the elements at hand and come to, at best, a conclusion based on your findings rather than an outright explanation. To make matters worse, by the time the Blood Moon hangs in the sky, everyone else has basically gone mad, leaving you the only sane person and you with the most answers out of any of the NPC's through the game... and you still have no idea what is happening in the grand scheme of things. As most lovecraftian literature, this is definitely par for the course to reveal answers to questions but make them vague or disturbing and end up leaving even more questions as a result. Once the ending hits, none of them really explain what is going on, each leaving you with significant questions, and the best possible ending is by far the most unresolved one, showing that you have become an infant eldritch god, and ends before the player is allowed to make sense of it.
  • In Legend of Legaia, Rim Elm serves as one last level of this trope. The player gets to have Vahn talk to various NPC's around the village to learn the fate of the world now that the mist is gone and all Seru will be dying out within a year causing some areas to revert as far back as the Stone Age.
  • At the very end of Mega Man Legends, Mega Man is encouraged to go to town in order to say goodbye to almost every single NPC that he has interacted with over the course of the game.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Denouement, Resolution


W.I.T.C.H. Season 2 (spoilers)

Will explains what happened after the bad guys were taken down. There's also a sequel hook for the season 3 that ultimately didn't happen due to producer and network disinterest.

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