The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out."
1. A finale to a movie, a TV series or an episode of that TV series, a video game, or some other form of media that ends things in a way that varies from sad to tragic. These tend to be rare, as there is overwhelming pressure to tie loose ends up in a "happy" way. Sometimes done as a way to assure that the show, once canceled, cannot be revived later (similar to the Grand Finale), but sometimes leaves the show on a cliffhanger.
2. A similarly low-key or unhappy ending to an episode of a normally "happy" series. Also rare, due to the same reasons as above. Sometimes used in an attempt to get Emmy nominations, or to at least surprise the viewer. When the series finale of an otherwise "happy" series is one of these, it's a Sudden Downer Ending.
Downer endings have effectively been used to drive home an episode's Aesop. For some issues, it's the only effective way to deliver the message.
Sometimes, a downer ending can conclude the character arcs in a very satisfying way, despite (or because of) being dark, if the characters are Villain Protagonists and people feel that they got what was coming to them. This no absolute rule however and there are cases where the audience can have enough sympathy and pity for the characters in question especially if they sympathetic qualities and poignant moments that can lead more into an Alas, Poor Villain perspective. Other times, it can be overused to the point it feels like a Mandatory Twist Ending. If it comes out of nowhere or is the result of an Ass Pull, then it may be the result of the writers summoning Diabolus ex Machina. If enough people consider it fundamentally unjust, it may acquire the Fanon Discontinuity and Snicket Warning Labels.
If the ending mixes elements of happiness and Downer Ending, then it's a Bittersweet Ending. If the whole adventure leading up to it turned out to be meaningless, then it's Shoot the Shaggy Dog. The Cliffhanger is often a Downer Ending, but one implicitly not final; tune in next time to see how they retrieve this one.
See also Gainax Ending, Last Breath Bullet, Crapsack World, Yank the Dog's Chain, and It's a Wonderful Failure. Occasionally, part of a Tragedy or an Utsuge. Sometimes a Foregone Conclusion, either because of a historical setting or if the work is a Prequel. The hero may or may not die. Some video games feature this as a Non-Standard Game Over. Realization of an Inferred Holocaust may turn even the most Tastes Like Diabetes "happy ending" into one. Downer Endings easily lead to Tear Jerkers or Nightmare Fuel. Compare Downer Beginning.
Note: This is a Spoilered Rotten trope, that means that EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE on this list is a spoiler by default and most of them will be unmarked. This is your last warning, only proceed if you really believe you can handle this list.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Comic Strips
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- As of the last painting of Marriage A-la-Mode, the Earl has been killed in a duel, Silvertongue has been hanged for his murder, and the Countess has committed suicide. The title cannot pass to their now orphaned daughter, and the circumstances of her parents' deaths also mean she cannot inherit what remains of their money; she has, however, inherited her father's case of syphilis (the braces on her legs also indicate a case of rickets), so she'll be lucky if she lives long enough to have children of her own (who will also have syphilis).