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Downer Ending

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"The rest is silence."

"Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
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."
— "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer

  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.
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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 is not an 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.

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Kill 'Em All, Shoot the Shaggy Dog and The Bad Guy Wins are particularly cruel variations of this. A Prequel may require one, or both; the Happy Ending was Doomed by Canon. It can be resulted into this if the protagonist is doomed since beginning and dies at the end, except when they get a cure or miracle for this.

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. Contrast Happy Ending.

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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.


Examples


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Bad Ending

The Slayer of Demons kills the Maiden in Black, continuing what Old King Allant started and embraces their new role as a soul-devouring demon under the Old One.

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