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Dénouement Episode

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So your work has reached the conclusion of its Story Arc — maybe even its entire Myth Arc. The main characters have faced off the Big Bad, saved the world, and have achieved their Happily Ever After. The End, good work everyone. Off to the next project!

Except there are still a few rather minor loose ends. Oh well, if they're really that important, and we've got another season in the works, we can take care of those then. Now onwards to the wrap party... wait, what do you mean that was just the penultimate episode? We still have one more left to write? Huh. Good thing we didn't tackle those last few plot threads, then.

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A Denouement Episode is when the final episode or entry in a work isn't the actual conclusion of a story arc; that was handled in the episode just before this one. Rather, it is a denouement; an epilogue that follows the excitement of the main story's end with a tale that is much calmer in terms of action (but incredibly emotional to compensate), and covers any lingering questions and plot points that may still need to be answered. If this is in the context of a Season Finale instead of a Grand Finale, then this may also be where you get your Sequel Hook for the next season.

In terms of Season Fluidity, this trope obviously does not apply to episodic works that don't have any sort of story arcs to speak of. A work at least needs something akin to a Myth Arc to have its final installment qualify as this trope, as something is only a denouement if it's wrapping up loose ends after a major plot event. And you can't wrap up loose ends if there was no central plot-line from which loose ends could arise from.

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See also Dénouement. Related to "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. If the episode takes place far in the future instead of the usual timeframe, it is a Distant Finale.

Ending trope, spoilers.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is standard procedure for the Lyrical Nanoha series. The big battle ends during the penultimate episode of the season while the last episode deals with the aftermath of the incident, showing what the various characters are doing now and where they plan to go in the future.
  • The penultimate episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's first season was a big cliffhanger—but then the next episode involves all the characters, post-Time Skip, wrapping up all the loose ends via several conversations.
  • Both seasons of CLANNAD resolve their respective halves of the overall narrative by the penultimate episode, with the de facto last episode(s) being either recap, flashback or W.A.F.F. episodes.
  • Dragon Ball Z finishes off the final villain with time to spare; the last few episodes are light filler followed by a Time Skip and a very brief Tournament Arc to wrap things up.
  • The last Fruits Basket book is all resolving people into marriage, college, and other ways to settle their lives forever.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's final episode comes post Big Bad fight, and features emotional resolutions for most of the characters.
  • Jewelpet Twinkle: The villain is defeated in the penultimate episode. The last one is about seeing the results of the Tournament Arc, the magic academy students saying their goodbyes and where they will go from there.
  • Kara no Kyoukai is a weird case. Shiki kills the Big Bad in episode five (out of seven), and the remaining two contain the denouement for the unresolved mysteries of the series, such as the circumstances of Shiki's coma-inducing car accident and the true identity of the serial killer in the series-spanning investigation arc. That said, the final episode alone is almost as long and contains almost as much plot material as the fifth.
  • Monster's final episode follows Tenma's ultimate confrontation with Johan, showing how the lives of everyone involved went after then. It also ends with the implication that Johan recovered and escaped.
  • A staple in the Pokémon anime, as every series has between one and four such episodes after the Leaguenote  wherein (most of) the party members' outstanding plot threads are cleaned upnote  and Ash returns to Pallet Town to get ready for the next adventure andnote  drop off his Pokemonnote  to make room for the new squad. Even the Best Wishes saga, which had a long Filler arc after the Team Plasma arc, qualifies as Iris and Cilan part company with Ash in the second-to-last episode. The final episode takes Ash back home, has him drop off his Unovan Pokemon and Charizard, and sets up the Kalos saga.
  • Shimoneta
    • In the manga, the main conflict between SOX and Gathered Fabric gets resolved at the end of Chapter 12, with Ichinose's defeat. Chapter 13 is a side story which has Ayame take her friends on a trip to the countryside to visit her adopted mother, Nadeshiko, at their family's ousen resort.
    • The anime adaptation's main story ends with episode 11, which correlates with the manga's 12th chapter. But instead of visiting her mother afterwards, the next episode involves SOX and Anna being lured to a spa in the mountains by a new minor villain called, "Black Base".
  • The final episode of Simoun, "Their Portrait", is set years after the main bulk of the series and resolves many of the on-going character arcs, such as Alti and Kaimu's semi-incestuous love-hate relationship.
  • Tenchi Universe: The Big Bad is defeated in episode 25, and episode 26 is essentially an extended "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, as all of the characters have gone back to their old lives.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho wraps it all up post Demon World Tournament with an episode wherein everyone but Yusuke is hangin' around, reminiscing...and then Yusuke shows up and he and Keiko kiss, d'aaaaaw!
  • Transformers Cybertron finishes the the main action in "End" (black hole stopped) and "Unfinished" (Galvatron defeated.) Then there's one more episode, "Beginning," that shows what's next for everyone.
  • The Devil Is a Part-Timer!: After Sariel's defeat, we get one more episode, which follows many minor plot threads.

    Comic Books 
  • The penultimate volume of The Sandman sees Dream / Morpheus confront his (many, many) failings and half-conscious Death Seeker tendencies. It turns out that much of the story so far has been him playing chess against himself and setting things up so this incarnation will have no choice but to die and give rise to a Redeeming Replacement. The final volume consists of Morpheus's gigantic funeral, the new incarnation settling in, and send-offs to the recurring cast.
  • After the climax of his Fantastic Four / FF run, the following issues of Jonathan Hickman's run until its end focus on tying some loose ends and a few less relevant stories.

    Fan Works 
  • The final Ruby and Nora story aptly titled Ruby and Nora comes after the final battle against Salem and Void and is a short epilogue which shows what became of most surviving characters.
  • Season 1 of The New Adventures of Invader Zim wraps up its Story Arc with a three-part climax, in which the fight for control of Project Domination ends with its destruction and Norlock's death. This is then followed by an epilogue, in which Dib's team recovers from the fight and prepares for whatever comes next, Gaz gets some Laser-Guided Karma for her actions in the climax, Tenn is assigned to stay on Earth with Tak, and Zim prepares his next plan by taking on the persona of a masked revolutionary.
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    Film 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series finale of Sliders: after having defeated the Big Bad of the final season, Dr Oberon Geiger, the Sliders come to a world where they are given the means of liberating universes from the Kromaggs, the Big Bads of the previous season.
  • The fourth season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Adam is dead, and the episode is about Willow, Xander, Giles and Buffy sleeping. And dreaming. And the spirit of the First Slayer trying to murder them in their dreams.
  • The fourth season finale of Angel. The Big Bad was defeated in the previous episode, and in this episode Angel Investigations must decide if they join Wolfram & Hart. But there's still Connor...
  • Coincidentally enough, another fourth season finale. Of Charmed this time. All of the incarnations of the Big Bad were permanently and definitely killed, and in this episode the Angel of Destiny gives the Charmed Ones a chance to give up their powers and their destiny as witches.
  • The sixth season finale of That '70s Show. Eric and Donna's wedding (the main story of the season) was called off in the previous episode, and this episode is mostly about Kitty finding out Bud isn't Hyde's father.
  • The second season finale of How I Met Your Mother only reminds us of the season's Story Arc because the main characters are celebrating Lily and Marshall's wedding (who are married since... right, the penultimate episode) , but it's mostly about Ted and Robin's breakup.
    • In addition, while it did have its fair share of big moments, the Season 4 finale came directly after the climactic reunion between Ted and his ex-wife Stella, which is even more important in hindsight as it ends up shaping pretty much the rest of the series.
  • The fourth season finale of Babylon 5, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars". The Vorlons, Shadows, and other First Ones have buggered off beyond the rim of known space and left the younger races to their own devices, Earth and its various colonies have been liberated from Clark's regime, Sheridan's found himself at the helm of the new Interstellar Alliance. Sounds like everything's already wrapped up, right? Well, it is, and the whole episode can be described as a series of Flash Forwards.
    • Which is more Real Life Writes the Plot as the series was on shaky ground and JMS scrambled to write something that would both satisfy the fans if it wasn't renewed and provide a plot for another season if it it was.
      • Actually, the true ending of season 4 was the season 5 ender "Sleeping In Light". As the show was uncancelled at the last minute at the end of S4, JMS had to write a filler episode.
      • "Sleeping in Light" is also a Denouement Episode for the entire series—no plot conflicts, just the characters taking some time to say goodbye to each other and Babylon 5.
  • A staple of Takara's tokusatsu series. Madan Senki Ryukendo, Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Rescue Fire all indulge in it.
  • Slightly cheating, but "Moebius", the two-part finale of Season 8 of Stargate SG-1 fits the bill. The previous three episodes had resolved essentially all of the series' story arcs up to that point. "Moebius" was a pretty standalone pair of episodes, though it was very good.
    • It was actually a much bigger part of the spin-off's Stargate Atlantis story arc than SG-1's.
    • Even "Threads" was a bit of a denouement episode, dedicated mostly toward resolving the remaining story threads. "Reckoning" was more of the big Grand Finale that ended the central conflict of the series. So really, there were three episodes after the climax.
  • The final episode of Kamen Rider Double jumps ahead a year after the Grand Finale, showing the audience how the characters are doing and Shoutarou continuing to protect Futo City as a detective and Kamen Rider without Philip, who had disintegrated. It ends when Wakana pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to bring Philip back, reuniting the Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim ends its plot in its penultimate episode. The final episode takes place some time later and has the remaining characters confront a mysterious new villain who turns out to be from the Non-Serial Movie.
  • The climax of One Tree Hill's fourth season takes place in the second and third-to-last episodes, with Lucas confronting Dan at gunpoint, Karen delivering and almost losing her baby, Dan being arrested for Keith's murder, most of the cast graduating from high school, and Haley giving birth. The final episode of the season mostly takes place at a graduation party and cleans up loose relationship threads.
  • The second-to-last episode of season 2 of The Vampire Diaries deals with the ritual to break the curse on Klaus. The last episode is about Damon nearly dying from a werewolf bite he sustained the night before.
  • The fourth season finale of Mad Men.
    • To some degree, the first season finale as well. The penultimate episode, "Nixon Vs Kennedy" resolved the main story arc of Don's secret life, so the finale mostly dealt with the loose ends.
  • The fifth season finale of The Office (US). In the second half of the season, Michael quits and creates the Michael Scott Paper Company, which is then bought out by Dunder Mifflin. The following episode has Michael deal with the aftermath of the buyout, and in the one after that, Michael uses the MSPC office for other purposes. The final episode however is about Michael and Holly, and sets at least two season 6 storylines in motion, with no reference to MSPC or Jim and Pam's upcoming wedding (which also was an important story arc during that season).
    • The last few episodes of Season 7 felt like this, since Michael Scott had already left. These last few episodes were mostly about finding a replacement.
  • The night before Johnny Carson's tenure on The Tonight Show ended, also the last taped before a public audience, there was a huge bash with Robin Williams and Bette Midler. The final show on May 22, 1992 was hosted privately with specially invited friends and family as Carson hosted a Clip Show highlighting guest stars and other memorable moments. It also included a behind-the-scenes look at the making of an episode.
  • The third season finale of Community managed to be both this and as Series Fauxnale. The Big Bad had been thwarted the episode prior, and the finale itself was about the group (but mostly Jeff and Abed) coming to terms with changing and moving on.
  • Game of Thrones has a variation of this trope since nearly every season has the penultimate episode being the one where most of the major events happen and the final episode deals with the aftermath of said events. In order we have:
    • Baelor: After the events of the previous episodes Lord Eddard Stark bends his knee to King Joffery and (falsely) says that he tried to take the throne for himself. It looks as if he will be allowed to live but be forced to take the black... before Joffery decides to cut his head off instead.
    • Blackwater: Tyrion manages to hold off Stannis' fleet long enough for Tywin to return to King's Landing and arrive with reinforcements from House Tyrell. Also Tyrion sports a new scar that runs down the length of his face after a failed assassination attempt from a member of the Kingsguard.
    • The Rains of Castamere: Robb Stark and his Bannermen have arrived at the Twins for the wedding of Edmure Tully. It appears that Rob will not have enough Bannermen to take Casterly Rock away from Tywin... and then his wife is stabbed to death in the (pregnant) stomach, he gets shot with arrows, and finally both he and Catelyn get killed by the treacherous House Bolton and Frey with whom they were allied.
    • Averted in the fourth and fifth seasons. The final three episodes of Season 4 are full of huge, impactful moments across the board, including an episode-long battle at the Wall, and the ball doesn't stop rolling until the last few minutes after Tyrion murders his father and lover. Season 5, likewise, keeps the shocks and climaxes coming until the very final scene, with many of the stories ending on cliffhangers.
  • The final two episodes of Breaking Bad, arguably. The third-to-last, "Ozymandias", is an absolute Drama Bomb where the consequences of Walt's actions catch up with him and he burns pretty much all his bridges, and has also been called one of the greatest episodes of television ever made. The following two, while hardly drama-free, are more of an epilogue.
  • Several Frasier finales ended up like this:
    • While the last few episodes of Season 4 focused on Niles and Maris' marital problems, the season finale focused on Frasier's own dating life.
    • The last few episodes of Season 5 were partly about Roz's pregnancy, while the season finale was about Frasier getting everyone fired.
    • And while Donny's proposal was arguably the climax of Season 6, the actual season finale mostly tied up all of the loose ends.
  • The Series Fauxnale of Arrested Development, titled Development Arrested, was arguably a denoument since the main plotline of the series, George Sr getting out of prison was resolved in the previous episode.
  • The main story arc of Season 5 of 30 Rock was about finding Tracy Jordan and bringing him back to TGS before the 100th Episode. However, the 100th Episode was two episodes before the season finale. These last two episodes were a mostly standalone, self-contained arc that didn't really have much to do with the rest of the season.
  • The West Wing wraps up its final major conflict in "Election Day, Part Two", in which Democratic candidate Matthew Santos is elected as President Bartlet's successor. The remaining five episodes are more subdued in tone and deal with the transition to the new administration, as well as the lingering aftershocks from Leo McGarry's sudden death on the night of the election.

    Music 
  • Made in Heaven, the fifteenth and final studio album by Queen, acts as this. While the album was recorded shortly after 1991's Innuendo, it wasn't released until four years after its predecessor, long after lead singer Freddie Mercury's death of pneumonia exacerbated by AIDS. As Innuendo was a rumination on Mercury's rapidly-approaching demise and culminated in the bombastic finale "The Show Must Go On", Made in Heaven is put together to act as a considerably quieter epilogue.
  • The 2017 David Bowie EP No Plan fills a similar role to Made in Heaven, being composed of the final three studio tracks Bowie had recorded before his passing just two days after his Grand Finale album , also an examination of the artist's mortality. The gap between releases was considerably shorter though, with No Plan coming out just a year after its predecessor.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations functions as this for the series in that it wraps up Ezio's and Altair's stories while setting up the next numbered title in a new time period. Ezio has finished all his personal battles and we get to see parts of Altair's life after the end of the first game.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky The 3rd serves as this for the Sky trilogy, mainly focusing on giving the characters closure on all their personal arcs, while also being an arc for Kevin Graham, the one party member who wasn't fully explored in the previous games.

    Webcomics 
  • In Dresden Codak, the final part of the Hob arc sees Kimiko adjusting to her new Artificial Limbs and running into the guy with the FM-2030 book again.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl did this a lot at the end of its volumes. The Acapulco Arc ended with a flashback, and Volume 2 ended with a Halloween special. While the second-to-last chapter of Volume 3, December, was a huge Drama Bomb, the last chapter had more of a focus on the side character, Abbey.
  • The second-to-last chapter of Year 2 of Housepets! dealt with Peanut and Grape's Will-They/Won't They relationship. The last chapter was about some of the side characters.
  • The second book of Gunnerkrigg Court ended with a flashback.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: The penultimate episode of Season 11 has the Reds and Blues being stuck in the middle of the war on Chorus, with roughly half of the main characters being potentially killed off. The season finale focuses on setting up the next season's story arc with the remaining survivors joining the New Republic Army.
    • Season 12 does the exact same thing, with the final battle being in the penultimate episode, and the finale resolving plot points and setting up the major conflict for Season 13.
    • Similarly, the final battle in Season 10 takes place during the second-to-last episode. The season finale resolves the more personal conflict of Epsilon & Carolina Vs The Director.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League season four - and very nearly the entire DC Animated Universe - ended with one of these. After defeating Lex Luthor and Brainiac and saving the Flash, the League looks like it's going to disband, only for Green Arrow to convince them to stay in the fight, and there that episode ends. The next episode picks up sixty-five years later, towards Terry McGinnis' prime as Batman, and ties together many threads that were left unexplained in his series and many that were still somewhat unresolved in JL, and finally closed the series off with a Bookend, hearkening all the way back to the first Batman: The Animated Series episode, "On Leather Wings." And then they got one more season.
  • Steven Universe:
    • "Full Disclosure" opens in the aftermath of "Jail Break". It deals with things slowly starting to get back to normal after the traumatic events of the previous episode, and Steven's difficulty coping with his fears of how the more dangerous aspects of his life might affect his family and friends.
    • "Log Date 7 15 2" is a flashback episode focusing on Peridot learning more about the Earth when the previous episode had her renouncing Homeworld after she failed to convince Yellow Diamond to spare the Earth.
    • The main conflict of Steven Universe: Future is resolved in the penultimate episode, where Steven's trauma turns him into a monster and his loved ones bring him back. The very last episode, of Future and the series overall, is set a few months later, showing Steven saying his farewells as he moves out of Beach City.
  • Teen Titans actually did this for its series finale. The previous episode had wrapped up that season's Big Bad with the Titans forming a giant, Heroes Unlimited team to take the Brotherhood of Evil, who recruited villains to try and capture every hero. The final episode, "Things Change", has hints of this. The Titans return from Paris only to be confronted with, well, the city changing. New unfamiliar villains, the fact that many of their favorite local stores have been replaced with office buildings and a Bittersweet Ending focusing on Beast Boy trying to connect with a girl who may or may not be Terra having come back to life.
  • Code Lyoko: After XANA is defeated, we get one last episode about shutting down the supercomputer, and how do they approach it? With stock footage. You could say the series poetically comes full circle, given how much stock footage was used in season 1, but that probably wasn't the intention.
  • Castlevania (2017): The Final Battle between the heroes and Dracula occurs in the penultimate episode of Season 2. The actual Season Finale deals with the aftermath, as Trevor and Sypha go their separate ways from Alucard and off to have new adventures, while elsewhere Carmilla and Issac are individually plotting to fill the void left by Dracula's death, setting up the next season.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes has this for the series finale. The previous double-length episode wrapped K.O.'s development in regards to his Superpowered Evil Side. The series finale starts out with KO suddenly going through various new memories and life seemingly passing by. Turns out it's an allegory for growing up and how life passes you by with the end of childhood. KO finds peace and he and his associates live life to the fullest, with the last minute showing KO now in his thirties running the bodega and being Level 100.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has its final episode, "The Last Problem". The episode is a Distant Finale taking place "many moons later" after Twilight Sparkle ascended to the throne to become the ruler of Equestria. When her personal student Luster Dawn questions how important friendship really is if all of her teacher's close bonds seem to have disappeared in the years since, Twilight explains via a series of flashbacks that this is far from the case.
  • Bojack Horseman does this pretty much every season, with the penultimate episode being the devastating climax and the finale dealing with the fallout.
    • Season 1 ends three months after Bojack gets high while trying to rewrite Diane's memoir. It focuses around Bojack and Diane figuring out what to do now that the memoir is published.
    • Season 2 similarly ends with Bojack returning and readjusting to his life in California after he spent two months destroying his relationship with Charlotte and her family in the previous episode.
    • The Season 3 finale deals with the fallout of Sarah Lynn's death.
    • While Season 4 ends on a more traditional finale, it does come after the devastating Time's Arrow where we learn all about Beatrice's past.
    • Season 5 ends with Bojack going to rehab after he loses control and chokes Dina in the penultimate episode.
    • The first half of Season 6 resolves all of its major plotlines in the second-to-last episode, with all of its characters having some sort of happy resolution. The season finale focuses on all of the women that Bojack harmed, with none of the main cast even appearing.


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