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Drama Panes

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Fiction is full of symbolism, and windows are rife with symbolic potential. They can represent the past, the future, or the present. They can also serve as a point of reflection, both literal and figurative.

There are many ways to play a Drama Pane. One character, anticipating a crisis, will stare out of a window contemplatively, often their own reflection staring back at them over the background. Or, if in the middle of a conversation, they could rise from their seat and stare out the window after being given an Armor-Piercing Question, then wax philosophic or deliver an Exposition Dump. In a more action-oriented film, a character standing by a large window while attempting to deliver exposition can expect to be shot from outside the window, because He Knows Too Much.

A character may also look out of a window to watch impending storms, again both in the figurative and the literal sense. In fact, someone doing this might say "A Storm Is Coming".

Large windows typically work best for these situations, but any window, or devices that function as windows, will do. Despite the name, literal glass panes are not a requirement. Merely the presentation of the device as a type of window. We may either see the character from behind, staring out the window with them, or we might stare into the window from the outside, seeing their face and the concern on it.

May overlap with Contemplative Boss. Compare with Window Watcher, for a character who is constantly spying out of the window, or Conveniently Seated (often near a window).

Merely noticing people or things out of a window doesn't qualify for this trope. Typically played for dramatic effect, it is also the sort of moment that can be played comically, such as in a parody.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Durarara!!: Namie flees to Izaya for protection after Mikado sicks the Dollars on her. While mocking her for her arrogance, Izaya takes out the object he made her hand over — Celty's head. He monologues about how he theorizes Celty is really a Valkyrie that could save him from the Cessation of Existence, and holds the head against him while he stares out the window, plotting the events to set up the Yellow Scarves arc.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya and its spin-off, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, use the window of the SOS Brigade (or Literature Club, depending on the universe you're in) for dramatic moments.
    • In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon is staring out the window at the Closed Space he and Haruhi are in when an apparition of Koizumi appears to deliver some important information about how this could be the End of the World as We Know It.
    • During the Christmas Party for the Literary Club in the "Nagato-chan" version, Asakura opens the window to admire the snow, only to realize a moment too late that she's just become a Moment Killer (especially bad for her, because she's a Shipper on Deck).
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Sherlock stares out the window of 221B Baker Street to see John and Mary leaving a carriage, clearly suspicious of Mary and expecting a problem, and his face reflected back.
  • My Love Story!!: In episode 4, Suna and Rinko are staring up at the third-floor window of a restaurant they'd been at, which had caught fire. Takeo is still in the restaurant, and the flames are getting worse. Cue a Super Window Jump from Takeo, who lands safely, and embraces Rinko, even though he's literally on fire. Thankfully, Takeo is Made of Iron, so he's unharmed.
  • Space Battleship Yamato and the reimagining, Space Battleship Yamato 2199:
    • In both versions, Kodai and Okita stare out of the window together as they leave the solar system, vowing to return and save the Earth.
    • Both versions also have a scene at the end where Captain Okita stares from his bed out of the window at the ruins of the once blue Earth as they return from Iscandar. In both versions, he passes, never again setting foot on the planet. However, this is especially poignant in the 2199 version, as Okita's soul and memories of an unmarred Earth are what end up powering the Cosmo Reverse system.

  • Urban isolation and transience were big themes in Edward Hopper's art, and people staring outside windows were a recurring subject.
    • In Morning Sun a woman in side profile lets the sun shine across her body as she looks out at a window.
    • In Eleven AM a seemingly nude woman gazes contemplatively out a window.
    • In Cape Cod Morning a woman greets the day by staring out of her large bay windows.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • Lex Luthor has done this many times. A recurring motif across all Superman adaptations is Luthor looking down at Metropolis from his tower like a god looking down at puny mortals, only for it to be spoiled by the sight of Superman floating just a few inches higher looking down on him. A lot of the time he's implied to be trying to catch a glimpse of Superman. He's a little obsessed that way.
    • In Last Daughter of Krypton, corrupt businessman Simon Tycho spends a long time gazing down at Earth from his satellite base while his underlings attempt to capture and subdue Supergirl.
    • On the cosmic end of the scale, Darkseid frequently does this in his throne room, gazing out at his dystopian kingdom. Case in point, this one-page story from The Superman Adventures:
      Desaad: What do you think about when you see everything you have accomplished on Apokolips, great Darkseid? What monumental thoughts pass through your head?
      Darkseid: It's not enough.

    Fan Works 
  • Daily Equestria Life with Monster Girl: From "Outcast" multiple chapters in, a person confined to a house has only the window to look out of and when she speaks to someone, her observations are basically the only thing she talks about, and her conversation partner is very concerned about what she says since it seems she's gone more insane with only the window for company.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: The chapter, "Fairy Audience", more than 200 chapters in, starts with the view out a window, as the third paragraph begins so:
    Two pinpricks of red light shone behind a tall window of one of the buildings burrowed half into the mountainside. Ami's breath condensed on the cold glass in front of her as she watched the crawling creatures scraping wide trails through the snow.
  • Story Shuffle series:
    • Story Shuffle: From "Matters of Interest", just a glance, but still important. It's a reference to Luna's control over the night and how she wasn't active for a millennium.
      "Good evening, Luna."
      Luna looked out the window. As with her, the stars were coming out. She smiled a little. "Yes, it is. I am proud to have had a hoof in making it so once more."
    • Story Shuffle 2: Double Masters: "How Not to Luau'': Twilight looks out the window at an erupting volcano.
  • Quizzical, Adventures in Cake Sitting: Quizzical looks out at the weather at the end of the first chapter:
    Quiz watched the heavy snow flakes flying almost horizontally past the window. This was clearly not the work of the Weather Patrol. To Quiz it looked neither natural nor good. Admittedly, Quiz was a natural born pessimist. The sight filled her with a sense of dread.
    "I hope the [First Snow] Festival is the most we have to worry about, Miss Pinkie."

    Films — Animation 
  • AKIRA: The Colonel and Doctor Onishi are staring out the windows of the elevator they're in, looking over Neo-Tokyo. The Colonel laments the rampant hedonistic attitude of the civilian populace. Onishi wonders why he bothers, then, to protect them. The Colonel replies that it is his duty, as a soldier, and that Onishi wouldn't understand.
  • Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown has the moment when the kids are taking the train from London to Dover to catch a hovercraft bound for France. Charlie Brown stares out the train window at the passing English countryside while the song "I Want To Remember This" plays over the scene, the lyrics talking about how Charlie Brown understands that this is an important moment in his life that he wants to carry forever.
  • The Last Unicorn: Haggard approaches Amalthea as she stands at the window of his castle. She shouts, "Don't!" He says, surprisingly reassuringly, "I will not touch you." then asks "What are you looking at?" She replies, "The sea." Haggard nods and says softly, "Ah yes. The sea is always good."
  • Wizards shows the Evil Sorceror Blackwolf gazing out the window of his palace as his armies march north to attack the wood elves. Out of this same window, his film projector fills the sky with images from a Nazi war film, which fills his shambling minions with heart, and his opponents with dread.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Returns: While pitching a new power plant to Gotham City's Mayor, Max Shreck walks to his boardroom window and looks out over the city lights while claiming in the future they'll be blinking on and off from power grid failure.
  • Galaxy Quest: The scene where Jason and his fellow actors are taking a lift to see the Thermians' recreation of the NSEA Protector, as the Leitmotif plays when the ship comes into view.
  • Lethal Weapon. Roger is confronting Huntsacker about the death of his daughter, and how it ties back into a phone call Huntsacker made to Roger earlier. Roger correctly guesses that Amanda Huntsacker was killed to silence her father. Huntsacker goes to stand by the window, talking about how he had gotten involved with a drug-smuggling ring. He's shot through the window by Mr. Joshua before he can tell them anything pertinent.
  • The Matrix: As Morpheus is being drugged for interrogation behind him, Agent Smith looks out of his impressive floor-to-ceiling office window while waxing philosophic about the nature of the Matrix.
    Smith: Have you ever stood and stared at it, marveled at its beauty, its genius? Billions of people just living out their lives, oblivious.
  • The Sentinel opens with Alison Parker being shown an apartment building by a realtor. The top floor has a large window, where a lone man is staring out at the cityscape. "That's just Father Halloran," the realtor says. "He's part of some reclusive order, kind of a hermit." As it turns out, Father Halloran guards the entrance to Hell, making sure no one alive ventures in, nor any of the damned wander out. By the end of the film, Alison Parker has assumed this duty, staring resolutely out the window, unmoving. Counts as Bookends in this case.
  • Star Trek: First Contact:
    • Early in the film, after briefing the command crew of the orders from Starfleet to keep the Enterprise on the Neutral Zone, Picard is in his quarters, looking out the window, listening to loud opera.note  We see Riker's reflection enter the scene just as the music hits a crescendo.
    • Later in the film, Lily is holding Picard at phaser-point, saying she wants to get out of there. Picard taps a panel, opening a slot in the wall, showing the Earth, revealing for the first time to her that she's currently in space. Lily, stunned, realizes there's no glass. Picard touches the surface, revealing the force field keeping the air in.
  • Star Wars:
    • The concluding scene of Revenge of the Sith has Emperor Palpatine and newly-built Darth Vader gaze out the command windows of an Imperial cruiser at the skeletal construction of the first Death Star. The Jedi Knights have been eradicated, the Empire has a massive fleet, and the Separatists are in shambles: the Evil Overlord and his right-hand man can afford to gloat.
    • Return of the Jedi: Luke Skywalker stands at the window of Palpatine's throne room, watching the Battle of Endor unfold. Palpatine is deliberately trying to goad Luke to anger, in order to push him to the Dark Side of the Force. But Luke keeps returning his attention out of the window. Shortly after Palpatine reveals with a practical demonstration that the new Death Star is armed and operational, Luke finally gives in, turning from the window and summoning his lightsaber from Palpatine's side, only to find the Emperor defended by Darth Vader.

  • Fear And Trembling by Amelie Northomb: a young Belgian woman working in a high-rise office in Tokyo often "throws herself into the void", staring out of the window at the bustling city far below. A Running Gag is that every time she does this, a senior member of staff accosts her for an unrelated misdeed.
  • Matilda: Miss Honey is described as staring out of the window while she tells Matilda the sad story of her childhood.
  • In The Naked Sun, Baley comes to a window and, despite Daneel's protests rips off its curtains before staring at the night outside, to show his defiance of the characteristic Earthman agoraphobia. He also gets his "Eureka!" Moment then.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: In "Gliding Over All," Walt stands and stares out his patio window, occasionally checking his watch over a two-minute period. Within that period, ten men are murdered across three different prisons by Neo-Nazis acting on Walt's order.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Beast Below", Amy and the Doctor stare out of the windows of Starship U.K. while reflecting on the outcome of the episode, looking out over the city-ship with a binary star system ahead of them. The Doctor points out to Amy that her choice could have killed everyone on Starship U.K. She points out that if he'd gone through with his plans, he would have killed an innocent Star Whale, and the very last one, so far as they know. Amy draws a comparison between the Star Whale and the Doctor, "Very old and very kind, and the very last of his kind."
  • Parodied in a Harry and Paul skit where George Smiley from the television and movie adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy get into an argument over who's the real one.
    Alec Guinness: I’m the real George Smiley because I'm cleaning my glasses.
    Gary Oldman: I'm the real George Smiley because I'm looking out the window at a double decker bus.
  • Red Dwarf: In general, any time, you see a character stare out of the observation dome (a transparent dome-like area used for stargazing), it's usually for dramatic purposes:
    • Its first appearance is in "Better Than Life", where Rimmer uses the opportunity to gaze out of it after learning that his father is dead. Lister tries to console Rimmer over it and the opportunity is used to reveal how abusive Rimmer's father was.
    • Its other appearance is in "Thanks for the Memory", where Rimmer, trying to cope with the fact that apparent memories of a long-gone girlfriend were actually implanted memories of Lister, gazes out of the observation dome again. Lister tries to help Rimmer by reminding him of the character-building experience of heartbreak, but Rimmer has none of it and wants his memories erased of the fact.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Captain Picard would often stare out of the windows in the Ready Room when making decisions or reflecting on the outcomes of those decisions. Alternatively, the windows of Ten Forward could also serve this purpose, too.
    • "The Child" has Guinan and Wesley engage in a conversation about duty vs. desire while gazing out of the window in Ten Forward. The ship goes into warp just as Guinan makes her point, treating the audience to a beautiful view of the heavens at FTL speeds.

  • Meat Loaf has scenes in the music videos for both "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" and "It's All Coming Back to Me" that briefly show him posing dramatically by huge curtained windows with lightning flashing in the background.

    Video Games 
  • Prayer of the Faithless: Vanessa starts the game looking out of her room, at, what she calls "the end of the world".

    Web Videos