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Establishing Series Moment

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Some series have a really straightforward premise which they execute immediately. Others play it close to the chest until the very end of the first episode. Either way, most shows need to establish their tone and/or premise in their first episode, both to make the viewer feel comfortable and to filter out the people who wouldn't like the show.


Most of these moments are based on giving the audience a shock or just showing us what either the premise or the execution would be. It's normally done in a straightforward way, with no anticipation or foreshadowing, to both overwhelm and surprise the audience and make them addicted to the show. Note that promotional materials can spoil these moments.

May involve beginning the story In Medias Res before cutting back to a slow-burning set-up once viewers know the kind of thing they're in for later on.

The R-Rated Opening is a specific subtrope of this, used to establish early on that the work isn't suitable for sensitive audiences. Can overlap with First-Episode Twist, but an Establishing Series Moment doesn't have to be a twist. Contrast with Halfway Plot Switch. Compare Establishing Character Moment, where the purpose is to show us a character's personality in one single moment, and with Growing the Beard, where the quality of the show is established.



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    Anime and Manga 

  • Accel World starts with a scene of Haruyuki hiding in the bathroom during lunch and playing an online squash game, showing that it's about a group of emotionally damaged individuals and the virtual world in which they do battle.
  • The first two episodes of After War Gundam X establishes Garrod as a badass, if rash, child hero, and how awesome this Gundam series will be.
  • Akazukin Chacha fudging up a spell shows she's an inept wizard as well as the show's reliance on Hurricane of Puns as it's main source of humor.
  • Angel Beats! starts with a boy waking up within the grounds of a huge, empty high-school at dusk, meeting a beautiful, silent little girl, and getting stabbed right through the chest by a sword she appears to pull out of thin air. He is soon rescued by another girl, with guns.
  • Assassination Classroom starts with a classroom of students pulling out guns and opening fire on their teacher, a giant octopus monster with a smiley face, who's dodging the bullets at Mach 20 speeds while taking roll call, establishing the outlandish premise of the series nicely.
  • Attack on Titan's first chapter/episode contains a scene where a soldier informs a mother that her son is dead. He opens a bundle to reveal a severed arm, apparently the only piece of his corpse they were able to recover. When asked if the son did anything of value when putting his life on the line, the soldier breaks down in tears and tells her that the mission was a complete failure and that he died for nothing. This is not a story in which the heroes are guaranteed to win, and when they do win, it usually comes at great cost, including the lives of significant characters.
  • Baccano! sets up the tone of the series very early on the first time we see Firo Prochainezo, which also counts as an Establishing Character Moment for him. Firo gives some money to an old homeless man, who immediately pulls a knife and tries to rob him. Firo catches the knife without even looking, but gets his fingers sliced off in the process. Then the fingers reattach, and Firo knocks the dumbstruck man out with one punch.
  • Berserk introduces us to Guts by showing him having graphic sex with a succubus and then, when she turns into a horrible Eldritch Abomination under him, killing her by shoving his Arm Cannon down her throat and blowing her skull out the back of her head (the first of many frightening things the reader will see). He then walks into a tavern where some men have turned an elf into their plaything, before viciously slaughtering them all with a repeating crossbow and his BFS. (Slightly subverted as later revelations make the scene of Guts having sex with the demoness so badly out of character for him that it becomes Early Installment Weirdness.)
  • Black Lagoon establishes its vicious crime-noir tone early by having Rock get punched in the face and robbed of a data disc for his corporation, with the lady among his attackers, Revy, expressing her desire to "kneecap this pussy" to make him talk. The over-the-top gunplay that also characterizes the series is first shown in the shootout at the Yellow Flag with the mercs hired to murder Rock, and is the first indicator of how badass and psycho Revy truly is.
  • Bloom Into You begins with Yuu monologuing about how she's familiar with how love is expressed in shoujo manga and love songs. In the first actual scene, it's revealed that Yuu's still mulling over a confession she got from a classmate, whom she loves but doesn't feel anything special towards, showing that not everyone gets to have their feelings reciprocated and helping establish a significant part of Yuu's character arc.
  • Black Butler does this within the first episode: It seems like a gothic, standard period-piece/Slice of Life anime, with typical Scenery Porn and Cloud Cuckoo Landers, until it gets to the last eight-and-a-half minutes, when Sebastian (possibly under the direction of the board game Ciel was reciting) reveals just how cruel and deadly he can be - by driving the poor bastard Corrupt Corporate Executive to insanity, breaking his leg to the point of immobility, and then roasting him alive inside a cramped, iron-cast oven.
  • Bokurano. The kids use Zearth to beat the enemy robot and save the day, unaware that, in the anime, the battle caused thousands of deaths and extensive collateral damage. Then Waku, the apparent main protagonist(as well as the first narrator in the manga), takes a fatal plunge off the robot. The kids don't learn until later that Waku had died before he fell because Zearth took his life force, but this drives home that Anyone Can Die.
  • A Certain Magical Index begins with Touma running away from a gang of delinquents. He loses them, only for a girl to appear and reveal that she knocked out the delinquents herself—he was actually trying to save them from her. The girl attacks him with giant bolts of electricity, which he negates using his right hand.
  • The first chapter of Codename: Sailor V establishes itself as a Magical Girl Warrior series by having Minako fight a monster (then only the third series ever, and the one to spawn Sailor Moon and the whole genre), its Darker and Edgier nature on Magical Girl shows of the time by having said monster being the guy she was crushing on, and its being still relatively fun when Artemis (a cat) walks into Minako's bathroom as she's taking a shower and she kicks him out calling him a pervert (only later does she start wondering why this cat can talk).
  • Cromartie High School: First episode, first minute: HE ATE MY PENCIL!!
  • Darker Than Black demonstrates what it really is only by the end of the second episode, when the visible part of its plot is twisted to the hell and back.
  • Deadman Wonderland starts with Ganta and his friends discussing an upcoming class trip to the amusement park/prison "Deadman Wonderland." Right before a mysterious figure in red bursts in through the window and slaughters the entire class except for him.
  • Death Note: In the first episode, Light Yagami gets his hands on a notebook thanks to which he can kill anyone, anywhere, without any evidence whatsoever pointing to him. Surely, he's going to be impossible to catch? Then comes the second episode, in which the detective known as L in a single brilliant stratagem manages to pinpoint the killer's home country, the region in which he lives, and the limitations to his powers. Evidently, this series is going to feature a lot of brilliant mental work.
  • Dragon Ball Z separates itself from its light-hearted predecessor by having Piccolo - the villain from the previous series - kill the protagonist Son Goku, while at the same time far more dangerous enemies from another world were preparing to invade Earth.
  • The first episode of Elfen Lied's anime adaptation goes back and forth in tone; amidst the brutal aftermath of a naked psychic woman escaping a high-tech facility seemingly in place to restrain her, we meet a Cute Clumsy Girl named Kisaragi, who aside from various handwritten notes around the scene establishing that she's a Plucky Comic Relief character and well liked by her peers, is given a fair bit of Character Development in the space of a minute or so, with promises of more to come. Roughly three minutes after she is introduced, she stumbles into the middle of a tense standoff between outmatched security personnel and the aforementioned psychic girl who has so far gruesomely murdered every other person she has encountered, and proves no different.
    • Heck, the very first shot of the first episode is of a freshly-severed arm, complete with pool of blood. If that doesn't tell you what kind of series you're in for, nothing will.
  • Fate/stay night: The Heaven's Feel manga opens with a magus monologuing about his ambitions of power and glory while he oversees a ritual Powered by a Forsaken Child- specifically, a blank-eyed girl who meekly endures her suffering. It seems like your typical Big Bad introduction scene- gloating, Virgin Sacrifice imagery, ominous foreshadowing of the magus' evil goals, blahblahblah- until the girl, Sakura Matou, is commanded to leave the room...and the camera follows her. And then readers realize that this poor girl is the protagonist, and that Heaven's Feel is not gonna be a happy story.
  • The first two scenes of Fate/Zero can easily sum up the themes behind the show. The first scene is Kiritsugu seeing his wife and her newborn child, with his first words being that he'll be the one to kill his wife and she shows that she's completely cool with it so long as it helps Kiritsugu fulfill his ambition of making the world a better place. Next scene is the deuteragonist, who arrives at a Master's house with his father to talk about their roles as overseers of the Grail War and how their job is to make sure the war's as balanced as possible... only for his father and the Master to then tell him plans regarding how they will support said Master in winning the war. These two scenes help establish the central theme of the show: There's no honor to be had in this war, not with well-intended pragmatists who bend the rules running the game.
  • Food Wars! had two: the very first Cooking Duel between Soma and his father, which established the core premise of the series; the second is the Orgasmically Delicious reaction of the Land shark to Soma's dish which established that this is a Food Porn in an almost literal sense of the word.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero- doesn't even wait until the third episode to show that Anyone Can Die and the effect of the Artifact of Doom. The squad in the promotional posters, including the Ensemble Dark Horse Badass Biker girl? Dead at the end of the first episode, killed by one of the main characters turned evil.
  • The first chapter of Girls' Last Tour begins with Chito and Yuuri trying to make their way out of an underground area, with Chito chiding Yuuri for being curious about the hole, as well as misinterpreting the meaning behind the phrase, "I wish a hole would swallow me up." After that argument concludes, they decide to get to the surface as soon as possible, so they won't run out of food, even though there's no guarantee they'll find food or people on the surface. All this sets up the lighthearted banter that defines most of the main characters' interactions, as well as the bleak post-apocalyptic nature of the setting.
  • Girls und Panzer begins with an Action Prologue of schoolgirls fighting in a tank battle (which gets shown in full a few episodes later), proving that the show is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. And if the audacious premise still hasn't hit you yet, there's the Reveal Shot at the end of the first episode, which shows that the school and the entire surrounding town is on top of an airship carrier.
  • Goblin Slayer. The first entry establishes this series is not pulling its punches when it shows a party of novice adventurers who don't really know what they're doing going into a cave to deal with a goblin infestation. Within the span of a few minutes, the mage gets stabbed in the gut with a dagger coated in debilitating poison (and later has to be Mercy Killed by the protagonist despite their efforts to save her), the warrior graphically gets torn limb from limb by a horde after his long sword gets caught on the cave ceiling and knocked out of his hand, and the female brawler is smacked into several walls by a huge goblin, beaten to a pulp, and then pinned down and gang-raped by the rest. Only when poor Priestess, the only member of the party who knows that rushing in without thinking is a bad idea, is cornered by more goblins who want to do the same things to her does our protagonist arrive and show us how goblin slaying is properly done.
  • Grand Blue: At first, Grand Blue appears to set up the generic story of a college freshman falling in love with a girl he just met before first year begins. When he opens the door to his new residence, he finds a bunch of nude, muscular men with grotesque faces cackling and playing Drinking Games and ropes him into their insanity without choice, thus revealing said mangas true nature a a pure comedy.
  • Gunslinger Girl starts with Henrietta, a normal looking middle school aged girl, and an older man named Jose on a mission. When a man threatens Jose, Henrietta gets angry (though her face doesn't show it) and beats the guy with her violin case. She then grabs her gun from the case and single handedly shoots down every man in the room without flinching. It also counts as a Establishing Character Moment as it shows off how Henrietta looks (and normally acts, to a degree) like a normal girl however is very dangerous (especially when her handler Jose is concerned).
  • Higurashi: When They Cry looks like it could pass as a harem series if you ignore the intro of both the anime and manga. However as the first episode goes on we learn of some mysterious deaths, the protagonist learns about the towns dark past, and some of the characters start acting secretive about it. So it's a mystery related harem? But than while the decoy protagonist is hanging around waiting for his friend, she comes out with a cleaver (though it made sense in context). That sets the mood for the series, which gets progressively more grim before bouncing between the two.
  • The first minute or so of the Initial D anime does an excellent job of establishing what to expect out of the series. It starts with a series of establishing shots of a mountain pass in the middle of the night. The very first sound you hear is tires squealing in the distance. A background song begins with the standard guitar with drum accompaniment. Then the AE86 makes its appearance in all its Conspicuous CG glory, with the speedometer reading almost 130 kph (about 80 mph), and the background music abruptly becomes Eurobeat. From there, the 86 goes through several tight, high-speed drifts. Then we switch to the perspective of another driver coming in the other direction, who upon seeing the 86 comments on how the driver of the 86 hasn't changed a bit.
  • Gurren Lagann's Spiritual Successor, Kill la Kill, has an equally huge start. A teacher is in the middle of a rather boring lecture on the rise of Hitler when an enormous foot breaks down the door, which explodes. Gamagoori enters, a student drops a tear-gas bomb that somehow blows the door off the classroom, Gamagoori jumps out a window to intercept him and whips both him and his clothes to shreds. After said student is hung on display as a warning to future would-be thieves, we get Satsuki's Establishing Character Moment. All within the first four minutes of the show.
  • Mai-HiME first shows that it often deconstructs Magical Girl tropes near the end of the first episode, when Natsuki and Mikoto's fight on the ship causes it to start sinking, and Mai and Mikoto are only saved from drowning by an early appearance of Mai's Child, which crashes into Fuuka Academy and leaves a fiery crater.
  • In episode 1 of Monster Rancher, Genki has just met Mocchi when the latter is threatened by the Black Dino Squad. What's Genki do when their leader threatens to make the young monster a slave? Kick the Black Dino in the face. This establishes that unlike some other Mons series, the protagonist is an active participant in battles and fights alongside and against the monsters, as well as how far the heroes will go to protect others.
  • My Bride is a Mermaid began with the improbable incident of a Magical Girlfriend proposing marriage to an Unlucky Everydude. Then Masa-san and his Yakuza crew enter the picture. The craziness snowballs from there.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion starts like any other Super Robot series up until the moment Gendo emotionally blackmails Shinji into piloting EVA-01 by wheeling out the gravely injured Rei. This is immediately followed by Shinji attempting to battle the Angel, failing miserably (even at just making the EVA walk), which causes Unit 01 to go berserk, taking matters into its own hands. This is the very first indicator of just what kind of Genre Deconstruction we are in for.
  • The very first page of Oddman 11 is Setsu walking in on Sister Itami pissing on his brother's face.
  • One Piece
    • The anime starts with a slightly serious take on the whole pirate theme, with a pirate ship attacking a normal ship. However, the first second Luffy appears — by breaking a barrel in which he was sleeping, screaming, "WHAT A GREAT NAAAAAAAAAAAAP!", and punching some dude in the process — you know which direction this series will go.
    • The manga instead begins with Luffy's origin story (adapted into Episode 4 of the anime). Luffy, an aspiring pirate, befriends Red-Haired Shanks and his crew of pirates while they're staying in his town. Some mountain bandits pick on the pirates, who refuse to do anything about it until Luffy foolishly antagonizes the bandits, at which point Shanks and his crew mop the floor with the pirates to save Luffy. Shanks ends up losing his arm while saving Luffy from a Sea King (whom he terrifies into retreating with a Death Glare), but doesn't mind as long as Luffy is safe. As Shanks and his crew leave the island, Luffy reiterates his promise to become a pirate, whereupon Shanks loans Luffy his straw hat and asks him to return it once he's become a great pirate. This chapter establishes some of the most important themes of the series- dreams, adventure and friendship.
  • One-Punch Man opens up with a devastating monster who destroys an entire city and took out a couple of super heroes. Cue our hero going forth to confront the monster. He proceeds to kill the monster in the middle of his Motive Rant... then laments on how it took just one punch to finish the conflict... again.
  • Pokémon: Ash calling out a herd of feral Spearow baring down on him in the middle of a thunderstorm, all to protect an ornery Pikachu that doesn't want to listen to him. Ash wins.
  • Pretty Cure
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica initially seems like a relatively grim but still typical magical girl show. Then comes episode three, where the series resident Cool Big Sis gets her head bitten off and her corpse eaten messily, which sets the tone nicely for what's still to come.
  • Ranma ½. A girl and a panda fighting in the rain.
  • One of the very first scenes of Sakura Gari is a house in uproar because the matriarch is found to have committed suicide. She's found in a bloody bath tub completely naked, nipples in full view, and two young children happen to see it. This pretty much sets the tone for the entire manga.
  • School Rumble starts with Tenma talking about how love is the greatest thing in the world, surrounded by falling cherry blossoms. Then an Art Shift happens and we see Harima, wearing sunglasses, on a motorbike, and accompanied by rock music, talking about the same thing... immediately after beating the snot out of a bunch of other delinquents.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear: There are badass Magical Girl Warrior fighting swarms of Eldritch Abominations with the power of songs. Their valiant struggle will eventually cost them their lives. This is shown in the early part of the first episode with Kanade's death, and before that, with Miku visiting Hibiki's grave.
  • Shirobako begins with the five members of a high school anime club- three third-years, a second-year and a first-year- vowing to make an anime together. It cuts to several years later, with Aoi Miyamori, the main character and a former club member, working as a low-ranking production assistant at a struggling animation company alongside her friend, Ema Yasuhara, who works as an animator, and the other three aren't nearly as fortunatenote . The series is about people who are passionate about anime, but doesn't shy away from showing how much hard work the anime industry involves.
  • Shuukan Shounen Hachi introduces the readers (along with Hachi and Saru) to Onigahima academy by showing multiple students with uncanny designs (including a guy with a goatee and a fedora, a girl with a bat backpack and another girl with a panda mask) and shortly after senior students looking down at them from the top of a tower with heavy shadowing and ominous expressions. All of that establishes the mix of goofiness and over-the-top drama that will be the series' bread and butter.
  • The first thirty seconds of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann contain an entire galactic cluster exploding, a lot of pseudo-sciencey dialogue about Maelstrom cannons and the fabric of space-time, and one of the series' defining catchphrases being delivered, before inspiring music plays during a huge pan out over a badass space cruiser.
    Future/Alternate Simon: Gurren Lagann, spin on! Just who the hell do you think I am?
  • Wandering Son starts off as a rather typical looking Seinen manga about a boy in elementary school. He has a nice family, his sister's a little mean, he makes some friends with girls... then we learn that he liked it when they forced him to dress like a girl.
  • Happy Sugar Life-By the time you look at the first page of the series you will know that this is not a bright and colorful manga but a violent psychological one.

    Asian Animation 

  • In chapter one of All Fall Down, a news vendor comforts a small boy by telling him "Nothin' bad ever lasts in the comics. Death, doom, disaster? There's nothin' they can't fix." Moments later, a superhero plummets out of the sky, destroying the news stand and dying instantly.
  • The title page of the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man is of Spidey sticking to a wall, with angry people pointing at him and yelling "Freak! Public Menace!", establishing that this is a comic about a Hero with Bad Publicity.
  • Bone opens with a few pages of amusing bickering by a standard Comic Trio of cartoonish anthopomorphic bones. Cue an attack by a horde of locusts, which splits the three of them up and strands them in an unfamiliar place.
  • The first pages of Maus might seem to be an unusual opening for a narrative about the Holocaust, but they actually speak volumes about Art Spiegelman's unconventional—but deeply personal—approach to the subject matter. Though the book is about Spiegelman's father Vladek, an Auschitz survivor, it opens with a flashback to Spiegelman's own childhood, where he runs crying to his father after his friends abandon him while rollerskating. Instead of comforting his son, Vladek callously responds, "Friends? Your friends? If you lock them together in a room without food for a week, then you could see what it is, 'friends'..." This notably foreshadows the book's focus on the children of Holocaust survivors and their efforts to overcome the generation gap separating them from their parents.
  • The first issue of Saga has two: First, a narrator gives us a poetically worded monologue "This is how ideas become real" as an alien couple prepares to give birth to their child, followed by the mother saying "Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting!" Barely a few minutes after, the couple is attacked by a group of soldiers from both parents' respective sides, each of them wanting to kill the couple and their child for being a half-breed, and a gruesomely violent battle ensues. Later, it shows robots with human bodies and TV's for screens having anal sex, and one of them has PTSD. Both of these moments serve to illustrate the combination of eloquent beauty and crude, often very vulgar brutality that will go on to define the entire story.
  • As Grant Morrison argues in Supergods, the very first image of Superman in the cover art of Action Comics #1 actually speaks volumes about many central themes of the Superman mythos. Notice that it depicts a mysterious Herculean strongman note  striking a dramatic pose while hoisting a car over his head—telling us that it's a mythic tale of superhuman feats, but also a story for the modern age. And in a time before color photography, the eye-catching primary colors in Superman's suit would have given him a decidedly futuristic vibe, subtly telling the audience that he was an evolved being with the power to lead humanity into the future.
  • Transmetropolitan starts with Spider Jerusalem getting a call to get back to work in the City. He rants about how horrible the City is, blows up his favorite local bar on the ride out so that no one will enjoy it without him, ditches his car in gridlock, makes a commando raid on his editor's office, and strikes a deal to write blistering rebukes of the corrupt government. All of this establishes the series as the adventures of a violent, misanthropic gonzo journalist in a metropolitan dystopia.
  • The very first thing we see in Watchmen is an extreme close-up on the Comedian's smiley-face button lying in a massive pool of blood, which a man carrying a sign reading "The End Is Nigh" walks through, all set to Rorschach's iconic, menacingly nihilistic opening narration. And thus the audience understands instantly that this is not your typical superhero comic.

  • A Brighter Dark: When Corrin kills Rinkah and Kaze in chapter 2, unlike the original, where she Took a Third Option. Solidifying that Anyone Can Die, Corrin is not an All-Loving Hero, and that mistakes on the part of the characters would be punished severely.
  • Christian Humber Reloaded is initially the story of a wolf named Vash who's strong enough to kill anyone who crosses him, but when Vash somehow turns into a "Super Sayin(sic)" and wipes out a group of raiders that destroyed the village where he was living, you get the first clue that this is a story about an overpowered hero who gets powerups right and left.
  • The first story of the Facing the Future Series sets the premise of the following stories when Sam gets ghost powers.
  • The Game of the Gods starts with a typical Mary Sue using a "magic spell" to enter Middle-Earth through her television. Her parents come home to find her lifeless body with her head inside the broken television, establishing the story as a Parody Fic of Mary Sues.
  • "Dobby relished his groinsaw's roar as he withdrew the flesh-choked blade from the astronaut's ruined skull." With this opening line, thus begins the immortal fanfiction masterpiece known only as Thirty Hs, and it just gets even more insane from there.
  • How I Became Yours establishes itself when Zuko, having learned about his and Katara's miscarried son Kuzon and Mai's role in keeping Katara's letters from him, beats Mai up, dismisses her arguments out of hand, divorces her and sets out to find Katara. The fact that Zuko is supposed to be in the right goes a long way in showing HIBY's kind of morality.
  • The second paragraph of In This World and the Next talks about the implied (and soon, confirmed) rape of Hermione Granger by "Ronald Fucking Weasley," then the third has a fairly hasty and acrimonious off-screen breakup of Harry and Ginny. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it does go to show how far the author's willing to go to set up Harry and Hermione, including time travel.
  • In the Sesame Street fanfic "Lessons Learned on Sesame Street", the nature of the fic becomes apparent very early on when Maria starts masturbating upon waking up. As one Dramatic Reading found here put it:
    "We're getting right into it! Wow!"
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami establishes its highly illogical and unpredictable plot by having Light's father, who is initially shown to be in Americanote  with the rest of his family, suddenly turn out to be disguised as Watari, and even more suddenly turn out to actually be on L's side at the end of the next chapter.
  • Marie D. Suesse and the Mystery New Pirate Age!, in its introductory scene, has a paragraph lampshading the typical descriptions of Mary Sue characters while describing Marie.
  • At the end of the prologue for Mass Effect Human Revolution, Shepard is found murdered. This is not your usual Mass Effect crossover, and Anyone Can Die.
  • The horribly misspelled Author's Note leads into Ebony describing herself to the reader, and we know the true nature of My Immortal from the very start.
  • Naruto Veangance Revelaitons showcases what kind of a fic it is with a brief parenthetical note in the first chapter after describing the main character's hair as being like that of Justin Bieber (i dont liek him tho FUCK HIM HE SUCKS ALL MODERN MUSIC FUCKING SUCKS")
  • The sequel to Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, New Champion Evangelion most effectively showcases its status as a Fix Fic in the equivalent scene to Shinji's first battle. Ronan achieves 10,000% synchronization and curb stomps the Angel with minimal damage, all while pointing out Shinji could never do what he did.
  • Overlady sets the general tone of the story with its very first sentence.
    This dark and malevolent tale of wickedness begins, as such things do, on a dark and stormy night. Well, no. That's a lie. It was a dark and stormy mid-afternoon. But it was still pretty sinister!
  • Pokemon Opal And Garnet's first moment revolves around a prologue showcasing the invention of the Devolver, before us being introduced to our protagonist, Kaylie Rodgers... whose father has been dead for 10 years. This is not your regular Pokemon fanfiction, and it clearly shows, diving (albeit in a K+ rated way) into such concepts as death (from cancer, no less!), bullying and prejudice, child abuse, smoking and doing drugs and why it's bad for you, and the controversies of politics, particularly going against the latest presidential administration and bathroom laws regarding the LGBT community.
  • The Pokéumans Fan Verse has had several of these from its many stories:
    • Blinding Desires begins with the protagonist being experimented on by Pokextinctionists, opening right when they blinded her.
    • Well-Grounded Confidence: Moe flips out and batters a guy after being accused once too often of being a spy and a freak, highlighting the personal struggle and the level of dealing with his past and other people that the protagonist will have to go through to earn his happy ending.
    • Ares: The arrival of Bruno, a Fourth-Wall Observer who dresses like a real-life member Team Rocket Admin, to get the ball rolling on the series' trademark weirdness. It gets stranger from there.
    • Monster ends the very first chapter with the Peter waking up from the experimental procedure to discover the base in ruins and everyone dead.
    • Iron Ghosts: The reporter who started to get a lead on the existence of the Iron Ghosts is murdered by two assassins from the Ghosts at the end of the prologue. This is a Villain Protagonist story, and it is not nice.
    • Just Another Story: The entire first chapter that shows that this story runs on awesome.
    • Back And Forth: The first time Para loses control to Lyz and literally tears a troop of bad guys to pieces. A grave warning that this story is going to have a lot more serious overtones than the author's previous works.
    • Sadly, most of the badly-written stories have a badly-written first chapter that sets the tone for the rest of it pretty well.
  • The first installment of The Prayer Warriors has the protagonist talking with his girlfriend about their plans to rid the world of everyone who doesn't share their religious views, highlighting their mission. They then almost effortlessly defeat and kill Grover Underwood, showing how easily and brutally they deal with their enemies.
  • The first chapter of Romance and the Fate of Equestria brings the Mane Six together in a sleepover party. It sets up the premise of Twilight beginning her studies on The Power of Love, and displays the character dynamics, humor, and sexy but not smutty atmosphere which would permeate the rest of the story. In particular, Applejack's outburst of "Twilight, where do you keep the liquor?" is considered the definitive moment of establishing the story's tone.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series begins with Katara outlining the purpose of her diary- to keep tabs on Zuko after his Heel–Face Turn so that if he betrays the Gaang again, she won't be surprised. She starts off by listing her observations about Zuko, and despite insisting on referring to him as "Subject" and denying that she'll never be interested in him, notes that Zuko looks hot without his shirt on, and that he "never smiles." This goes to show that the entire series is colored by Katara's perceptions, and her growing (but not yet realized) feelings for Zuko.
  • Suikakasen's first episode begins with a lighthearted and comical scene similar in tone to the source manga depicting a fistfight between Yuugi and Suika as their way of playing rock paper scissors... and then it cuts to a flashback of child Kasen starving to death (she gets better) because her mother abandoned her in the woods with all of the sadness and angst that comes with such a scene being played up as much as possible. One hell of a Cerebus Rollercoaster coming up!
  • The Sun Soul firmly establishes itself as Darker and Edgier from the get-go with Ash coming across several growlithe corpses and nearly dying to a wild pokemon attack in the first chapter. But exactly how dark the story will be isn't shown until the second chapter when a red Gyarados wipes out Pallet Town and all its inhabitants except Ash, Misty, and Oak.
  • Young Justice Titans, while technically a Continuation Fic and season 4 of Young Justice quickly establishes what this season is going to be like in the prologue. Why? Because in the very first chapter it features a superhero being murdered ON SCREEN by a Church Of Evil, and it was a member of the team as well. This establishes the Darker and Edgier (well, relatively speaking) tone this season is going to feature in its Story Arc. So much so, that the next chapter is almost something of a Mood Whiplash when it cuts to the titans fighting killer robots.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The introduction of the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Prior to that, the film could pass as your standard '80s teen comedy. Of course, it still is a teen comedy, but not exclusively.
    • Is focus on science is shown by the intro featuring a Rube Goldberg-style can opener, the clocks all set at the wrong time, and the case of stolen plutonium under Doc Brown's bed.
  • "WHAT ARE YOU?!" "I'm Batman".
  • Batman Begins establishes in the final scene that Batman's very prescence will redefine Gotham's underbelly, with the first sign of this being a homicidal maniac who likes to mark his crime scenes with Joker cards.
  • Brazil begins with a man getting abducted and tortured to death because of a typo. This shows that it's a Crapsack World that isn't malevolent but incompetent.
  • For the DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel opens with the birth of Ka-El, which his mother managed with no obstetric aid of any kind. Then we see his father struggle to reason with both Krypton's council and Zod's rogue militia before finally taking matters into his own hands in the most heart-pounding manner imaginable. Within these first few minutes, audiences were alerted to the fact that this Superman story would be far more intense than its predecessor.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was established with Bruce Wayne arriving in Metropolis right when the Kryptonians invaded and witnessing the death toll first-hand. This establishes that while his beef with Superman was misguided, it's at least understandable.
    • Wonder Woman (2017) has the Amazons fighting the German invaders. The Amazons had millennia of training and no fear of death, but still suffered heavy losses due to the Germans' firearms, which could fell any one of them with a single shot, establishing that this film will not romanticise war and making the titular characters' decision to fight appear all the more noble.
    • SHAZAM! (2019) had it with Billy Batson's first two words in the whole movie being "Holey Moley!", showing that this DC film would aim for a lighter, more whimsical tone regardless of how silly it may seem.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has almost five long minutes of increasingly wacky, metatextual and ridiculous Credits Gags before the actual movie has even started. (It even starts with the wrong movie.)
  • Enemy at the Gates cements that War Is Hell when we see Russian soldiers gunned by their own officers for retreating without orders.
  • A Knight's Tale begins with a crowd of joust fans singing along to "We Will Rock You" by Queen.
  • The first shot of Kung Fury firmly establishes that it's a movie that runs on a ridiculously exaggerated version of the same nonsensical Rule of Cool that made movies from the '80s so endearing and you're willingly going to suspend your disbelief, no matter what happens or how ridiculous the movie gets, from this point onwards.
  • The first few minutes of Kung Pow! Enter the Fist looks like a serious kung fu flick. That is until Master Pain opens his mouth.
  • Up until X-Men, most movies in the superhero genre, while not without their moments of darkness, took place in some kind of fantastical universe like Metropolis or Gotham City that was clearly separate from the real world. The very first scene of X-Men shows a young Magneto in a concentration camp, being separated from his family. By chillingly grounding its setup in one of the most nightmarish real-world events in human history, X-Men set itself apart from the pack in terms of realism, and this was the moment that made the critics sit up and take notes about whether superhero movies could actually have something to say.
    • Logan opens with the title character sleeping in his car, looking very old and very tired, and the very first word out of his mouth is an exhausted "Fuck." Woken up by a group of thugs trying to strip the hubcabs off his car while he's still sleeping in it, Logan takes a rather severe beating before snapping and slicing them all to pieces. Gruesomely.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Stinger at the end of Iron Man is the moment when fans everywhere learned that a movie Shared Universe was being planned.
      Nick Fury: Nick Fury, director of SHIELD. I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy has a good one. After the first few minutes showing the origin story of a young Peter Quill, the scene changes to adult Peter walking across a storm-blasted alien landscape. He enters a cave, pulls out a Walkman and starts dancing to Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love" in what can only be described as a 70's music video. This firmly establishes the movie as a lighthearted Breather Episode compared to the rest of the MCU.
    • The opening to Thor: Ragnarok establishes right away the Denser and Wackier tone compared to the previous Thor films. Thor is brought before Surtur while hanging in chains, and Surtur soon exposits his plan to bring about Ragnarok and destroy Asgard. But the gravity of the situation is undercut as the swinging chains keep turning Thor away from him, he confuses Surtur's crown for a giant eyebrow, and his dramatic declaration of escape is followed by a few awkward seconds of him having to wait for Mjolnir to come to him.
    • Avengers: Infinity War lets us know right off the bat that Thanos is not fucking around by having him blow up the Asgardian refugee ship, give the Hulk a brutal beating, and kill off Heimdall and Loki before the ten-minute mark. Also counts as one for Thanos himself.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian starts with a dignified portrayal of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount, but it devolves into comedy as soon as the people in the back of the crowd (who have to struggle to hear him) start trying to interpret his message.
  • In Pan's Labyrinth, when Captain Vidal brutally beats a young man with a bottle then coldly murders him and the guy's father is the point where the audience realized the film wasn't a family friendly Narnia clone as advertised.
  • Goodfellas: A guy getting beaten to death with the immortal narration "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."
  • The slow motion shadow boxing intro of Raging Bull shows the beauty inherent even in a brutal sport like boxing. Its also a metaphor for the beauty in the tragedy of Jake's life.
  • Judging The Room by the first few minutes, you might think it's just a badly acted romantic drama about a boring yuppie couple. But the arrival of Denny — an unintentionally creepy Heartwarming Orphan whose relevance to the plot is never explained — cements the movie as the bizarre, plotless melodrama that its fans know and love. As soon as Denny sneaks into Tommy and Lisa's room to join in on their sexy pillow fight, you just know that you're in for something, uh... "memorable".
    • Though for some fans, the Establishing Moment comes even earlier than that, when we get our first glimpse of the protagonist Johnny — an ostensibly charming banker with hair like Fabio and a face like a zombie — as he walks through the door and greets the love of his life with a completely monotone "Hi, babe" in an unidentifiable European accent.
  • Run Lola Run starts off as a standard crime thriller. Lola hears from her boyfriend that he's a dead man if he doesn't get 100 thousand marks for some mobsters in the next 20 minutes. Lola hangs up and runs out of her apartment to help him. Then, one-third into the movie, Lola gets shot and killed. Suddenly, we're back in Lola's apartment, and Lola hangs up the phone and runs out the door again.
  • Shoot 'em Up begins with a close up of Mr Smith. He just stares out into space, then takes a bite of a carrot. This sets up the silly, cartoony sense of humour. Later, at the beginning of the very first fight, Smith shoots a tanker of gasoline, causing it to spill everywhere, runs at it... and uses it to slide along the ground, shooting everyone. This sets up the balls to the wall awesome action we'll be seeing.
  • Star Wars:
    • The first scene of A New Hope does this for the Star Wars saga, though in ways that are difficult for modern audiences to appreciate. First, it introduces the plot via an Opening Scroll as an homage to the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930's. Then, just seconds later, we get that famous tracking shot of the underside of an Imperial Star Destroyer, showing off every lovingly crafted inch of the thing—and showing that, unlike Flash Gordon, this was a big-budget Epic Film in a painstakingly detailed fictional world. Moviegoers in 1977 had never seen a science-fiction film with production values that high, but that tracking shot gave them a taste of the spectacle that awaited them.
    • The Force Awakens gets a good one as well. First, as a homage to the above one from A New Hope, we see the ominous shadow of a Star Destroyer blotting out a planet from view, before cutting down to the planet's surface where we see a beautifully-crafted Practical Effects BB-8. The battle that follows also gives us two good examples of this, where 1) Kylo Ren brutally kills Max von Sydow's character, and 2) a stormtrooper gets shot by a hero and actually bleeds, before putting a Bloody Handprint on a comrade's helmet and then dying in his arms. Both of these instances serve to highlight the Darker and Edgier nature of the sequel trilogy thus far.
    • The Last Jedi begins with the Resistance achieving a severely Pyrrhic Victory, escaping from the base on D'Qar and blowing up the First Order Dreadnaught but at the cost of their entire bomber fleet, during which we witness the tragic Heroic Sacrifice of a likable character. When it cuts back to Luke Skywalker with Rey on Ahch'To, the first thing he does is take Anakin's lightsaber from her and throw it over his shoulder without even looking back. Both these scenes demonstrate quite handily that this is a Star Wars film that will not be playing it too safe.
    • Rogue One has the main character's mother killed by the Empire and her father taken prisoner before the credits roll, demonstrating immediately that this is a film where no one is safe. Did we mention already that the new Star Wars films are darker than their predecessors?
      • Even before any characters appear on screen, the movie makes its identity clear. It opens with the familiar "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...", but rather than a smash cut to the Star Wars logo, accompanied by the series' legendary opening theme and its bombastic opening horns, it simply delves right into the opening scenes. If you wanted proof that this was not a part of the main saga, but a "Star Wars Story", this was it.
    • In contrast, Solo lets us know what a fast-paced, entertaining Breather Episode it's going to be when Han steals a speeder and hyperspace fuel from his vicious crimelord boss and escapes in a breathless speeder chase, his hot girlfriend in tow, within the first ten minutes of the movie.
  • You know something's weird with This Is Spın̈al Tap when you see the limo driver misspell their name as Spinal Pap.
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu establishes itself as a Darker and Edgier take on the series within the opening moments of the movie; kicking off with Harry Goodman getting into a car accident from investigating Mewtwo at PCL Labs and his son Tim going to Ryme City to find the truth about what happened. The movie's tone is then firmly established once Tim meets the talking Pikachu in Harry's apartment.
  • Halloween (2018) begins when a true crime podcaster is trying to interview a prisoner who has been institutionalized for 40 years in a facility and shows him a very familiarizing mask before the opening credits which means one thing .... Michael Myers is back

  • After a Distant Prologue scene in American Splendor,Harvey Pekar narrates to remind the viewers that this is not a fantasy/escapism movie this is realism when he said "you got the wrong movie"

  • Animorphs starts with the standard "five special kids are given powers by an alien" scene. Then the alien gets gruesomely Eaten Alive right in front of them. Then the Body Horror of morphing. Then the realization that they can trust no one, the failed mission, and the permanent transformation of one member into a hawk, and it becomes clear that this book is actually going to be an incredibly dark deconstruction of its genre.
  • Artemis Fowl begins with the twelve-year-old protagonist conning a decrepit, half-mad fairy out of her Book, which is basically the fairy Bible.
  • The first page of Christopher Buckley's political satire Boomsday starts with a fictional news report describing the crisis caused rising social security taxes that will form the backbone of its plot (resulting in angry teenagers vandalizing a retirement home), before offhandedly mentioning, as if it's barely newsworthy, that the Vice-President has "shot another lawyer".
  • The first chapter of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime is numbered 2, and features the autistic protagonist describing the dead dog in the title in his usual fashion, describing things he observes in great, and often unnecessary detail ("I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds on the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork in a dog after it had died for some other reason.")
  • The Dresden Files: It's either the first time Harry opened his mouth, or blowing up the toad demon and breaking into the Varsity.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins with the main character being attacked by bees, then remarking that the drugs he took are taking effect.
  • The Salvation War begins with Satan declaring his dominion of Earth, and a human commander promptly telling him to piss off.
  • The first chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire is told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old excited to be going to his first beheading.
  • In the first part of Worm, we follow a teenage girl who's gained superpowers and is for the first time going out to pursue her childhood dream of being a superhero...and she almost gets killed in her first fight and every other super she meets mistakes her for a villain because she has a villainous-looking power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: The series began after the opening credits when a radio personality interviews two people who claims they saw aliens with one female caller who claims to saw one was abducted many times and said they want her eggs to start their own alien race and the other who said he saw four aliens in a car which is a rambler cue to Dick and his unit in a rambler after they landed on earth.
  • In the pilot of 24, the same slutty ditzy chick who banged a photographer on a cross-country flight suddenly puts on a pressure suit with a parachute, sets a bomb, and blows a hole into the plane before jumping out. Seconds later the bomb destroys the plane completely. That scene sums up the thriller, Anyone Can Die, Plot Twist nature of the show that will be 24.
  • The 100: The end of the first episode. The group of teenagers has escaped the hard life of the Ark and is goofing off and enjoying the beauties of Earth... until a spear suddenly goes soaring through the air and pins Jasper to a tree.
  • The first episode of Andi Mack initially seems that it's another generic Disney Channel Kid Com. That is, until the reveal that Andi's big sister Beck is actually her mother, establishing that the series is going go into more mature topics than usually found on Disney Channel.
  • Early on in the pilot of The Black Donnellys, the oldest Donnelly, Jimmy, is about to get in a bar fight. His younger brother Tommy tries to calm him down, but Jimmy just leaps over the bar and bashes a guy with a glass. Immediately Tommy jumps in to help Jimmy out, and their other two brothers disengage from what they were doing — hitting on girls and playing pool — to help their older brothers out. It's a minute-long scene that establishes that this show is about how family comes first and to hell with anything else.
  • Black Mirror comes across as a fairly standard, if very cynical, techno-thriller anthology series once the Princess of the United Kingdom is kidnapped, until we get word from the kidnapper - who, as part of his demands, insists that the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig on live TV. It only gets more shockingly unexpected and narratively ruthless from there.
  • Breaking Bad has Walter White lecturing his students on the nature of chemistry, how it is about growth, decay and transformation. An utterly perfect beginning metaphor for the series and especially Walter White.
    • Or, alternatively, the first scene of the first episode has a mostly-naked Walter careening through the desert in a beat-up RV, which he eventually crashes, just before attempting to commit suicide. If there's a more perfect metaphor for Walter's entire character arc, we don't know what it might be.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer defines itself as a subversion of horror early on when we are shown two kids (a girl in a Catholic school uniform, and a biker boy) and are led to expect the girl to be the Monster of the Week's first victim. Then she turns into a vampire and kills the boy. Note that at the time, this was one of the first instances of this trick.
    • Angel's moment was when he fails to chat up a girl who may be in trouble showing his "brooding, mysterious protector" schtick isn't gonna work. New show, new strategy.
  • Daredevil (2015) has its first fight scene, which is far more brutal than we're used to from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving people a taste of just what they're in for with this one. For anyone who still didn't get it, the Cold-Blooded Torture scene and exhausting one-take fight scene in the next episode hammered it home. The first season as a whole essentially served as one to Marvel's Netflix line-up, emphasizing that these were much more adult in nature than their movies or network shows.
  • Dexter starts with the title character kidnapping a choir master, who's also a child rapist and murderer, and showing him the dead bodies of his victims shortly before killing him. It shows the internal monster in Dexter that loves to kill, while also showing a human side that refuses to kill children and only lets him kill worse murderers, setting the base for the Character Development that is the main point of the show.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The very first opening title sequence counts as one. No-one had ever seen anything like it before; no-one had ever heard anything like it before. As soon as it starts, you know you're about to fall out of the real world and into Wonderland.
    • The first fifteen-odd minutes of "An Unearthly Child" could have been a fairly straight-forward drama about a couple of teachers trying to help a troubled, slightly unusual student who apparently lives under the thumb of her sinister, hostile grandfather. Then those teachers, trying to find that student in a darkened junkyard over the objections of her grandfather, suddenly stumble into a police box — only to discover that it's bigger on the inside than the outside and can travel through time...
    • The first story of Season 6, "The Dominators", begins with a little Plot Parallel that does some Foreshadowing for the eventual direction of the season. Instead of the Doctor, we follow an anarchic adventurer and traveller named Cully (a Rebellious Spirit at odds with his repressive but highly advanced Crystal Spires and Togas society — something that hadn't been revealed about the Doctor at this point) is piloting his craft to a holiday destination that he hopes will yield things to explore and terrifying scientific thrills. His gaggle of adorable, bantering teen companions test the radiation levels, tease him about his bad driving, step out onto the beach to find out where they are and are suddenly shot dead. Season 6 concludes with a Bolivian Army Ending.
    • The revival had Rose stumbling upon the Autons and then brought in the Doctor to rescue Rose while defining the show in one word: "Run!" And then he blows up the store Rose works at to get rid of the Autons.
  • The Event pilot was building its mysteries (Where's Leila? Who attacked the Buchanan family? etc., etc.) but there was no reason to believe that this wasn't a realistic show about a conspiracy. Cue the disappearing plane...
  • The first five minutes of Firefly are an Establishing Character Moment for Mal. The next five minutes serve as an Establishing Series Moment, showing the humour, excitement, and focus on character interaction the series has.
    • The climax of "The Train Job" (which was the first one aired) featured Mal and his crew being ambushed by mob enforcers for refusing to complete a job. They win, have the thugs tied up and offer them a truce. The chief mook spits on their terms and promises that they'll fight again. So Mal simply kicks the guy into a jet intake and moves on to the next guy. At that moment, audiences knew we were dealing with a different kind of show.
  • Game of Thrones: The opening and closing scenes of the first episode are both examples. In the prologue, the three characters we're initially following are brutally attacked, showcasing the Anyone Can Die nature of the show. The closing scene has Bran, the precocious child of the protagonist, witnessing the Queen having an incestual affair and promptly getting thrown out of a tower for it, reinforcing the show's darker aspects and the fact that no one is safe.
    • Also Waymar Royce's death shows the differing tone of the adaptation: in the books, its a Dying Moment of Awesome of a hitherto dislikeable character, in the series, its a Jump Scare.
  • Of the Shocking Moments variety, the pilot of Heroes, particularly the scene wherein Claire is seen being videotaped throwing herself off a crane and hitting the ground with a splat. She gets up and promptly pops all her broken bones back into place. She then looks directly into the camera and says evenly, "My name is Claire Bennett, and that was attempt number 6." In fact the scene was so iconic, that when her friend who was videotaping gets Mindwiped, it's used as a callback. It's also repeated in the last scene of the series.
  • How I Met Your Mother's moment is either the first ten seconds, which establishes that the show is a story Ted is telling his children in the future, or the last ten seconds, which reveals that Ted and Robin's relationship is destined to fall apart, instead of being another Ross/Rachel mess.
  • Life On Mars has a pretty obvious one in the first episode. It starts as as a normal police procedural, until one of the officers is captured by the supposed killer. When her DCI boyfriend is mourning her in the middle of the road, he gets out of the car, is run over, and well... wakes up in 1973, not knowing if he's mad, in a coma, or back in time.
    • Ashes to Ashes (2008) starts off with Alex Drake going to work, getting shot in the face and waking up in 1981. She's also aware that she's in a coma (in the future/present) and getting stalked by the clown from Bowie's music video Ashes To Ashes from his album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).
  • Lost started with the main characters stranded on a deserted island, and seemed to be about the survival of these people. Then we hear a mechanical roar at night. And later a fucking polar bear shows up. Perfectly summed up by Charlie's iconic line:
    Charlie: Guys... where are we?
  • Malcolm in the Middle starts off with Malcolm explaining his family situation to the camera and finishes by saying "You want to know the best thing about childhood? At some point, it stops." perfectly encapsulating the cynical tone of the show.
  • The opening scenes of the pilot episode of Miami Vice feature the lead characters "in their native environment" so to speak. In New York, Tubbs heads into a nightclub with the intent to assassinate a Colombian guy, but is nearly killed in the process. After the credits roll, we see Crockett his partner making small talk about home life before they head off to a meet a drug dealer. All this happens before the two guys meet and before even the audience knows that both men are in fact police detectives. The good guys being bad guys to catch the bad guys nature of the show, along with it's use of Music Video techniques is firmly established. Also counts as Establishing Character Moment.
    • And then Crockett's partner is unceremoniously blown up by a car bomb planted by drug dealers, showcasing that 1) Anyone Can Die and the Pyrrhic Victory will be common things and 2) drug dealers will be unrelentingly evil people, making "The War With Drugs" more than a buzzword for the heroes.
  • Midsomer Murders: The first episode ends with 7 bodies (only 4 of which are murders, though), starting the series' trend of Never One Murder.
  • NCIS: They steal Air Force One in the pilot.
  • Nikita begins with Alex getting arrested. Nikita has a dream where she's at a pool party. It is a CW show, after all.
  • Once Upon a Time begins with the iconic image of Prince Charming waking Snow White from her coma with True Love's Kiss, then cuts to their royal wedding... which is promptly crashed by the Evil Queen, who threatens to doom the whole kingdom and gets a sword pointed at her by Snow White, then has that same one thrown at her by the prince for her trouble. Goodbye traditional fairy-tales, hello Darker and Edgier ones.
  • Power Rangers RPM starts off with a prologue of a robotic apocalypse, followed by someone who is wandering the lands. He soon gets hold up by what appears to be a mugger. The mugger seems to be in control... Then the wanderer interrupts him with a Little "No". Cue the mugger losing all composure and leading into a comedic moment, showing that RPM mixes the dark story of a Robot Apocalypse with the comedy of a show with heavy Lampshade Hanging.
  • The first episode of The Shield ends with Vic Mackey using the cover of a botched drug raid to murder one of his own men, established earlier in the episode as a plant from Internal Affairs, establishing Vic solidly as a Villain Protagonist.
  • The various Star Treks pretty much lay it all out in the "Space, the final frontier" opening monologue.
  • Torchwood appears to be a normal British police drama, until Captain Jack appears and starts using alien technology to interview dead people. A few minutes later, Torchwood member Owen is seen using an alien date rape drug to seduce a woman and her boyfriend against their will, very definitely setting the show apart from Doctor Who.
  • True Blood: The very first scene of the very first episode of this series uses this trope. A goth gas station attendant tricks some tourists into thinking he's a vampire. After they leave a red-neck vampire tells him that if the goth ever impersonates a vampire again he'll kill him.
  • Up All Night had the scene where Reagan says a bleeped swear word while watching a birthing video.
  • The Walking Dead: The main character, Rick, putting a bullet between the eyes of an undead child. Nobody at all is safe, and the world has turned brutal, savage, and lifeless.
  • The climax of the pilot episode of The West Wing, where the episode's plot is abruptly resolved by President Josiah Bartlet promptly (and awesomely) putting some snide Christian fundamentalists in their place, tells you all that you need to know about the spirit of political idealism that made the show famous. The fact that it's also Bartlet's first on-screen appearance makes it even sweeter.
    Bartlet: You’ll denounce these people, Al. You’ll do it publicly. And until you do, you can all get your fat asses out of my White House. C.J.? Show these people out.
  • The Wire starts with Officer McNulty talking with a witness and investigating a murder. The subject of the conversation (not about what happened, but about who the victim was) establishes that the series has a rather different outlook than your usual Police Procedural, and the tone of the conversation demonstrates where the show stands on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess using some serious Wire Fu on the bad guys showed just how awesome her show was gonna be compared to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
  • Super Sentai had some examples:
  • Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger: The series starts off in a casino where shady people gamble until the Lupinrangers reveal themselves, then the Patrangers appear who are trying to arrest the so called ‘phantom thieves’, they will also transform in the later part of the episode.
  • Kamen Rider has a lot of these:
    • Kamen Rider: The series and the franchise began when an ordinary biker was injured and captured by his mysterious captors and was then converted into a cyborg before he escapes and begins to fight against his captors setting up the iconic series.
    • Kamen Rider Amazon: Begins in the Amazon jungle where the Inca chief in his last breath proceeds a mystical operation of a feral man and tells him to go to Japan, The rest of the opening credits has the feral man escaping from the monstrous enemy and then swam to Japan where he transforms into Kamen Rider Amazon and violently attacks the Monster of the Week giving the viewers an expression that this series is more violent then the other Showa Rider series.
    • Kamen Rider BLACK: The series starts off like a horror film where Kotaro Minami is trying to escape from a group of hooded like figures until he is caught but then strangely transforms into Kamen Rider Black and fights them back setting off the series.
    • Kamen Rider Kuuga: The revival of the franchise began with the original Kuuga fighting against the group of Grongi before he seals himself then later in the episode Yusuke transforms into Kuuga after a belt merge with him, Even the title of the first episode says ‘Revival’
    • Kamen Rider Wizard: The series begins with the protagonist Haruto senses danger and went out in action as kamen rider wizard
  • Ultra Series has some examples:
    • Ultraman: The series starts off when a member of a space police investigate an unusual event until he was injured in a conflict but is then revived by ultraman and merge with him.
    • Ultraman Mebius: The series that is set in the original continuity is like the usual ultraman series that focus on ultraman mebius but after his first battle a member of the space force complained to him in anger that he saved no one.This sets off the premise of the series about a ultraman who like the rest of us is not perfect but flawed
  • The X-Files- Most episodes will have some people who witness or are attacked by a monster of the week reflecting the mystery tone of the series
    • Its spiritual successor Fringe does the same thing in the first season.

  • The very first line of the pilot of Welcome to Night Vale establishes the show's bizarre mix of the comedic and the disturbing: "A friendly desert community, where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."
  • Nothing sets the tone for The Adventure Zone: Balance as much as in episode 1, when Griffin reads the name "Sildar Hallwinter", the brothers riff that it's too over-the-top fantasy for the campaign, and rename the character Barry Bluejeans.
    • Similarly, in the same episode when Justin tells everyone his character's name.
  • Interstitial Actual Play begins with the players discussing how the game is both about the relationships between people and creating Weird Crossovers, though they clarify that they're sticking to things owned by Disney and Square Enix. Then they mention that Encino Man is a valid character. But the true establishing moment is when Wheels announces their player character as Criss Angel.
    Jo: How is it so much better and worse than I could've possibly imagined?!

  • The first several pages of Ruby Quest have the adorable bunny girl protagonist waking up in a box and exploring the clean and empty building she's in...and then she opens a closet door and a flayed body falls out.

  • You know Jesus Christ Superstar is a different kind of Bible story when the first song you hear starts with "What's the buzz? Tell me what's a-happening!"

    Video Games 
  • Alice: Madness Returns: The intro includes several surreal and disturbing images (such as Alice's head inside Hatter's head inside the Queen's head, and a centaur rolling a baby carriage with a doll in it, which then lights on fire) with the voiceover of Dr. Bumby giving therapy to Alice. Then the scene goes to the rabbit and her on a boat, drinking tea. The rabbit's head starts to bleed and then completely bursts into black goo. The boat sinks, and hands reach out from the water and pull her underwater while ripping her face off.
  • In the opening sequence for Always Sometimes Monsters, a woman runs after a man pleading with him to stop, that she's changed her mind! Blowing off her protests, he replies that she'd already made her decision when she paid him, and there's no going back now. Dealing with the fallout of one's choices is a major theme in the game.
  • The trailer for the first Assassin's Creed I - which is also the opening cutscene - shows a hooded Altaïr looking out at an execution taking place from on top of a bell tower, disappearing when the bell passes between him and the camera, reappearing in the crowd below, and making his way through the crowd. Gently at first, but after the guards begin to suspect him, he yanks one guard off the platform with a crossbow and shoots the other before launching himself onto his target with the trademark Assassin leaping kill with his Hidden Blade. More guards come and Altaïr legs it, leaping across rooftops over their heads until they have him cornered in front of a building, or so they think. The doors behind Altaïr open as he smiles to himself before disappearing in the crowd of white-robed scholars. This scene shows pretty much everything you need to know about the series (with the exception of the crossbow, which was cut from the game, but appears in Brotherhood) in less than two minutes, including Parkour, planning a kill, dispatching guards, social stealth, and moving through crowds, all of which feature prominently in the series.
    • The sequel's trailer/opening movie likewise shows off all the new features of the game. Two men, accompanied by a group of guards, go to a party in Venice during the Renaissance, while two courtesans are paid for something in a back alley. Later, at the party, the courtesans approach the two men and manage to lure one of them into the crowd, away from his guards. By the time he realizes how vulnerable he is, Ezio, the one who paid the courtesans, shows up from the crowd and slits his throat. The other man sics his guards at Ezio and runs, while Ezio easily dispatches the guards, with their own weapons, and pursues across the rooftops of Venice. The man manages to meet up with new guards and orders them to ambush them from behind an archway while the man himself tries to bait Ezio into it. Ezio sees through the ambush and then instead shoots the man down with the Hidden Gun. All this tells you everything you need to know about the game's new features: hiring people to help get to your target, using the public crowds to hide yourself, counterattacking with your opponent's weapons, and incorporating new weaponry into your assassinations, while still following the formula set by the first game.
  • How do you know Bangai-O Spirits is going to be Nintendo Hard? When you're all done with the tutorial stages (it's very plausible for the average player to die in it, by the way!), the characters outright explain how to open up the cheat menu.
  • Bayonetta establishes its general over-the-top tone in the prologue, when the praying nun leaping up towards descending angels suddenly starts beating the hell out of them. Then her outfit gets slashed in questionable places, so she tears it all off and makes a suit out of her hair. While unloading several rounds of bullets in more angels, provided by a guy who takes a coffin lid to the head and doesn't even flinch.
    • And the epic tone is established even earlier than that in its OPENING SCENE, which has Bayonetta and Jeanne battling angels on top of a falling clocktower, throwing you right into the action at the get-go as the narration talks about the Umbra Witches and the Lumen Sages, their role as guardians of the Eyes of the World, and their civil war. And the music that's playing as you're doing all this? "One of a Kind." Strap in, ladies and gentlemen, because you are in for a goddamn ride.
  • BioShock starts with a plane crash, leads directly into a view of a beautiful underwater city, and THAT'S immediately followed by a man being gutted in front of your eyes by some kind of super human insane woman.
  • Every game in the Borderlands series begins with a skag being carelessly hit by a car, accompanied by the game's Real Song Theme Tune and an introduction to the playable characters. It shows off the brutal, over the top nature of Pandora, but also the relatively lighthearted tone the games are known for.
    • Played With in the title screen for Tales from the Borderlands, which shows Rhys and Vaughn arriving on Pandora and driving to a nearby town before accidentally hitting a skag. Unlike in the other games, Rhys immediately stops the car and panics briefly with Vaughn about having killed something; showing that, although Tales is indeed a Borderlands game, it is a Point-and-Click instead of the usual FPS and so is far more focused on characters and dialogue than on combat.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 begins with Yuri mind controlling someone over the phone, as an omen of how crazy this game has become.
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn began with someone watching TV about the tiberium infestation before settling on a soap opera, as a sign of the game's cheesiness.
  • The first chest you find in the intro/tutorial of Darkest Dungeon is guaranteed to be booby-trapped, an omen to the fact that it is a vicious and brutal game.
  • Copy Kitty's Hard Mode campaign begins with Boki dismissively wondering just how hard Hard Mode can be. Cue a nigh-unwinnable stage jam-packed with tons of tough enemies while the entire floor's covered in lava. Savant then realizes that he accidentally cranked the difficulty up too high.
  • Dark Souls: After the epic intro cinematic of gods clashing against dragons and the Age of Fire beginning the fade, you set off through the Undead Asylum, only for a gigantic hammer-wielding demon to drop down in front of you. Bloated, twisted, corrupted and very hostile, the Asylum Demon will kill you in seconds if you don't flee. Then after recovering your equipment and receiving your Estus Flask, you go back for a rematch, and this time you actually have to topple the towering abomination if you want to see the rest of the game. Prepare to Die.
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness sets its tone with this line at the end of the first chapter:
    Laharl: Who gives a damn about you? Your new name is "Mid-boss".
  • The Doom Game Mod Deus Vult II starts off as a very good map set... and then tosses the map "Minas Morgul" at you, a giant fortress with several hordes of hundreds of monsters, hinting that it's all Marathon Levels and The War Sequences from now on.
  • The very first thing that happens in DOOM (2016) is the player-as-Doomguy waking up chained to a stone slab, naked, in a base filled with demons, ripping out his chains and crushing a zombie's head to paste with his bare hands. This within the first 15 seconds of the game. The moment Mission Control starts trying to give you an expository lecture, Doomguy takes the computer and casually smashes it. No Info Dumps in this game: from this point onwards, it's hyper-intense, hyperviolent Genre Throwback action all the way down.
  • No matter which origin you pick in Dragon Age: Origins, it always shows the game's dark fantasy setting, from a noblemen taking all the women for his own pleasure to mages at the mercy of Templars who have no qualms about killing or giving the magical equivalent of a lobotomy to any who could become a threat.
  • In EarthBound Beginnings, before you leave your bedroom where the game starts, a lamp comes to life and attacks you.
  • Façade begins with your character arriving outside the apartment door of the married couple you're visiting and overhearing a heated argument, cluing you in to how they are only pretending to have a happy marriage. When Trip, the husband, opens the door to greet you, he'll respond according to what you say next, and even slam the door in your face if he's sufficiently offended, giving you an idea of how difficult your task is.
  • As soon as you've finished naming your characters, Final Fantasy II throws you into a battle you're guaranteed to lose in 2 rounds, establishing the overall masochistic difficulty and willingness to kill off characters.
  • Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 have an interesting example in that both games' moments say a great deal about them individually and in comparison to each other. The first game begins with the monster known as Sin attacking the dream version of the futuristic city of Zanarkand, resulting in Tidus being thrown into a world where his hometown's a distant memory, and people will do anything for a temporary reprieve from Sin. The latter game begins with a pop concert held by someone impersonating Yuna, showcasing the game's Lighter and Softer nature. The contrast between those openings was not lost on some players, especially those who didn't think X-2 measured up to X.
  • Fire Emblem Fates does this immediately after its Big First Choice, setting the tone of both routes. Choose the more forgiving Birthright? Corrin starts surrounded by half-a-dozen Hoshidan allies with one axe fighter to worry about as Ryoma tears Xander apart to end the mission swiftly. Choose the traditional-style difficulty of Conquest? It's six-on-five, you're at a disadvantage thanks to being spread out and at least one character being dead weight, your only backup for the next mission can get prematurely perma-killed, you have to defeat four of the five enemies, and Ryoma and Xanders's duel is still one-sided against you.
    • Story-wise, both routes get one in the first mission after the split. In Birthright, you fight off an Nohrian attack on Fort Jinya (which, for all intents and purposes, is a hospital), and one of the attackers turns out to be your character's Childhood Friend, Silas, showing that even if Nohr is the aggressor in this war, you'll still have to fight many sympathetic characters after siding with Hoshido. In Conquest, your character nearly gets sentenced to death after returning home, and is offered a chance for redemption by suppressing the Ice Tribe revolt- in this case, you get a taste of how difficult it can be for the Nohrian siblings to do the right thing while under King Garon's thumb.
  • Half-Life. Okay so, granted, you have a half hour of prologue. It says it's a first-person shooter, but it's calm, serene and more like a physics game. Then your suit proudly announces that your suit, a suit for a theoritical physicist, has built in munitions monitoring systems. Ten minutes later, half the people in the facility is horribly killed and some of them are zombies.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy:
    • In the first screen, whichever path you take, the game kills you lightning quick once. When you think you've figured out the pattern of the obstacle, be it spike wall or Delicious Fruit, and even pass one or two of them, the game suddenly reverses its behavior on the next one, killing you, and you can just imagine it laughing at you for thinking you had it figured out. This is the iconic moment of the game; the fruit falling up and killing you.
    • I Wanna Be The Guy Gaiden steps its game up by trying to kill you on the world map before you even begin the first proper stage.
  • Kaizo Mario World starts by dropping a Thwomp on you before you even get to the map screen to select the first level.
  • The Trails Series is an odd one because the trope name moment where things truly happen only does that during the final hours of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky First Chapter. However, the game does establish that the overall series is not just going to be some simple adventure whatsoever. At first your main characters seem like ordinary people with an ordinary cast until the final hours of the game. This trend also continues with Zero no Kiseki and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.
  • The opening video of the first Left 4 Dead contains every single bit of gameplay you needed to know when the game was released (updates added a few tweaks here and there). Things ranging from 'when you fall, you can keep on shooting with your pistol' to 'don't shine a light in a witch's eyes' to 'you can shut a door on zombies to hold them off a while'.
  • At the beginning of the original The Legend of Zelda, you're given a choice of three directions to go, and a cave to walk in on the very first screen. Enjoy exploring this really huge world, guys!
  • Similarly, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild starts off with Link being tasked with finding treasures from four shrines on the Great Plateau, in exchange for the paraglider he needs to get down to the world below. Each of them is reached by learning about some aspect of gameplay, from surviving harsh weather conditions to boosting your own stamina with food, and each of them rewards a rune that you'll need to solve puzzles later on. The entire experience shows that Breath of the Wild is less linear and more focused on exploration than some previous games, and this is even before the wider world opens up.
  • Mass Effect 2 starts with The Illusive Man discussing with a lieutenant Shepard's importance, and how humanity only has a chance at survival as long as s/he is kept alive. The next scene is an introduction of the Normandy and her crew, similar to the first game's, which is suddenly interrupted by the Collector Cruiser appearing and tearing the Normandy apart in a stunningly one-sided battle that ends in Shepard's death, announcing the series's turn into much Darker and Edgier territory that would continue further in the third game.
  • You fight your very first boss in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance roughly ten minutes into the first mission. Said boss? A Metal Gear with sword-arms, a beam-cannon for head and so many rockets you will use them as platforms to get to it, but what really cements this fight as an establishing moment is how you can and will cut it to ribbons while RULES OF NATURE plays in the background. If that didn't convince you this would be an absolutely spectacular game, nothing will.
    • It also serves as a contrast to the main Metal Gear Solid series. In a standard MGS game, a Metal Gear would be the final boss. In Revengeance? Merely the opening act.
  • Before the gameplay begins in Metal Wolf Chaos, a cutscene shows Metal Wolf, piloted by President Michael Wilson, jumping out of the Oval Office in a fiery explosion, shouting in glorious, cheesy Engrish "OKAY, LET'S PARRRTY!"
  • The first screen in Metroid serves as this. Up until then, it was habit of gamers to go right on the first screen because of such games as Super Mario Bros. Suddenly, you reach an unpassable structure and are forced to go left, which made many a gamer realize that this was going to be a game of much exploration.
  • The introduction to No More Heroes begins with the fourth wall-breaking "I know a lot of gamers out there don't have much patience," before Travis talks about his status as an Otaku entered into a deathmatch. This gives some idea of who Travis is supposed to represent and how seriously the game takes itself.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
    • Persona 3 opens with the protagonist travelling through a crowded city late at night, listening to music on his way to his new school's dorm. Interspersed with this are scenes of a girl holding a pistol to her own head, nearly pulling the trigger before tossing it awaynote . After the protagonist arrives at the train station, the power cuts out, the sky and moon turning a sickly green, blood appears on many surfaces, and everyone else transforms into coffins. He simply shrugs and carries on. At the dorm, he runs into the same girl, now with the gun holstered. She's stopped from drawing it by another girl, then the power comes back and the night returns to normal.
    • Persona 4 has one that isn't initially obvious. The introductory cinematic begins by showing an Idol Singer doing a commercial, then cuts to a story about an affair between a politician and a news announcer. Within a few minutes of meeting his uncle and cousin, the protagonist meets and has a brief conversation with the gas station attendant (and, in the Updated Re-release, can also speak with a strange girl and happen upon two siblings arguing). On the protagonist's first day, he runs afoul of the Sadist Teacher in charge of his homeroom, meets and gets to know three of his classmates, sees a guy who's stalking one of the girls he just met and witnesses a Vomiting Cop run from a crime scene. It turns out that all of these characters are very significant to the narrative, going to show that even seemingly minor details and characters can be very important in this game.
    • In contrast to previous games, which tended to have the protagonist be downright ordinary until sucked into the plot, Persona 5 begins with a brief but extremely flashy ability showcase... followed by the protagonist being cornered and arrested by a team of at least fifty cops in full riot gear, subject to nauseating Police Brutality, forced to sign a confession that runs all the way up to manslaughter, and then sat down to be interrogated by a public prosecutor. Flash back to the beginning of the game... where the protagonist has already got a criminal record for assaulting a crooked politician to prevent a rape, and is spending his year's probation living over a cafe owned by someone he barely knows and going to a school where nobody wants anything to do with him.
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within establishes itself as Darker and Edgier than The Sands of Time by the Prince yelling "You bitch!" after getting slashed in the face by Shahdee.
  • Resident Evil: The first enemy you encounter is busy eating one of your fallen STARS comrades. Then, in one of the most iconic scenes in video game history, it slowly turns around and sets its sights on you.
  • Shin Megami Tensei I starts out normal, with the hero's mother waking him up and chatting with him. Half an hour later, the hero returns home and discovers that she was eaten by a demon in his absence, establishing a series-long trend of tragedies out of the hero's control and the deaths of those close to them.
  • The opening trailer that plays when you start up Skullgirls includes several shots from the game's various cutscenes. In choosing these shots the developers did not feel the need to stray away from some of the things that earned the game its T for Teen rating, including Ricardo cutting Ms. Fortune's head off and the creation of Painwheel.
  • The modern three-dimensional Sonic the Hedgehog games are known for being more story-heavy than 2D ones, with many cutscenes including at the beginning of the game before the player can even move around in the Hub Level to get to the first level. How does the Wii version of Sonic Colors let you know that things are going to be different? After picking "New Game" and deciding whether to have the navigator on or off, Tropical Resort: Act 1 immediately begins.
  • Starcraft starts off fine except for these weird bug things. Man, Mar Sara has some dangerous fauna. Next thing you know, the ground's alive, buildings are infested, the government is evil, the zerg are killing everything, the protoss glass the planet, and there's not a laugh to be had. This isn't like a silly Command and Conquer rip-off.
  • The first level of the first Super Mario Bros. game gives you a good demonstration of the mechanics. In the first set of blocks, you can find a mushroom that makes you grow large, enabling you to break the blocks made out of bricks, Just as you start to think that the brick blocks are useless, one gives you multiple coins and another gives you an invincibility-granting star. The first level also has a shortcut in one of the pipes that gives you some coins for virtually no effort along the way. All this shows that the Mario franchise involves exploration in surprisingly interactive environments.
  • At the start of Super Mario World, Mario begins at Yoshi's house, and has the choice of going to one of two levels, which can be done in any order. The right path takes the player to a series of levels that leads to the first castle and to the rest of the game, but the left path will take the player to the Yellow Switch Palace, which will open up blocks in other levels. This shows that the game rewards exploration, and that the right thing to do isn't always the obvious thing.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master quickly establishes that it's not a casual Tetris game with the level counter: players will almost immediately notice that their level goes up not every 10 lines as per Tetris tradition, but with every piece dropped and every line cleared.
  • Most players of Undertale would think they have to whittle down the health of the first boss if they want to spare her, only to wind up killing her by accident, prompting a reset. After the retry in which the boss is spared, Flowey pops up to guilt-trip the player, mocking them that they killed her, had to reset the game to bring her back, and for thinking that killing her before didn't matter. Welcome to a Deconstructor Fleet for RPGs where almost the whole cast has Medium Awareness.
    • The sequel, Deltarune, gets another moment before proper gameplay even begins. The game opens with a mysterious voice telling you to create a character, giving you various options for different appearance customizations, as well as various personality traits such as favorite color and favorite blood type. Players familiar with the first game will likely agonize over the choices, wondering how they will end up impacting the gameplay. Finally you get to the end, and the game praises the vessel you have created...before immediately throwing it out because there's already a preset Player Character and you don't get a say in who they are. This moment represents how Deltarune is in many ways a Spiritual Antithesis to Undertale, with the choices you make having little to no impact on the story as a whole.
      Will now be discarded.
      No one can choose who they are in this world.
  • War Craft III begins with a human and an orc from two opposing armies viciously slugging it out, until a shooting star crashes spectacularly into the ground nearby. Setting aside their conflict, the two enemies approach the crater with a mixture of caution and curiosity... then the meteor reveals itself to be a giant vaguely-humanoid rock creature wreathed in green flame, which promptly kills them both. No, this isn't going to be a straightforward war with just two sides like the previous games.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • The first animation clip in the first ASDF Movie has a man "take" a nose from a toddler when a police officer suddenly kicks in the door, yells "Watch out! He's got a nose!" and guns the man down. The animations that follow are all just as absurd and many of them are just as violent, too.
  • Camp Camp has an overly cheery camp counselor gushing about how two new campers will be joining the summer camp that day, before asking a young boy named Max standing next to him why he's outside. Said boy proceeds to not-so-subtly proclaim his newest escape attempt, casually dropping the word "fucking" in the process. When admonished for swearing, Max tells him to eat a dick and, by proxy, tells the audience that this isn't a cute kids' cartoon about summer camp.
  • The very first line of The Frollo Show is, "Beata Maria, you know I will mindfuck the viewer." He ain't kidding.
  • Happy Tree Friends starts off looking like a Tastes Like Diabetes kids' show. Then Toothy bloodily splatters against a tree. Things go downhill from there.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device opens up with a Custodian announcing that a text-to-speech device has been successfully implemented into the Golden Throne, allowing the God-Emperor of Mankind to speak for the first time in 10,000 years. The first things he says? About fucking time. I have so many things to complain about. As the Emperor learns just how far his once mighty Imperium of Man has fallen and how much of the mess the galaxy has become, he sets forth trying to "unfuck" things. It sets the stage for many colorful critiques on the multiple retcons and odd choices Warhammer40000. Hilarity Ensues
  • A little red-hooded girl serenely walks through empty forest, accompanied by beautiful music, until a horde of shadow monsters surround her. Then she whips out a a sniper-scythe and slaughters them all. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to RWBY, a series about badass girls based on fairy tales swinging around ridiculously cool weapons with style.
  • Zero Punctuation: Yahtzee's review of The Darkness demo has him speaking rapidly and cynically while using still images that at best teleport between poses and explaining his insistence on not parroting popular opinions and how he'll only buy the game if it was cheaper and came with a better game and some cake and Belgium, readily establishing Yahtzee as a Motor Mouth Caustic Critic with high expectations for games.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater takes a while to really find its feet, with the first few comics being fairly bland and generic jokes. This strip contains the first use of distressingly logical stupidity that the strip would become known for.
  • The first story arc of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja involves Doc fighting to save a child who has turned into a giant lumberjack. It only gets crazier from there...
  • The very first strip of Ansem Retort had Axel torching an orphanage. It went downhill from there.
  • The first thing that happens in Hooves of Death is a cute, sparkly, elegant unicorn using her colorful magic powers to pick up and fasten on a bandolier of grenades. After she leaves the tent and walks through a fairly modern-looking military encampment, exchanging a few words with both her fellow unicorns and some humans, she passes through the massive energy shield protecting the camp and tosses the grenade into a charging mob of zombies. Yes, this comic's premise can in fact be summed up in three words: "unicorns versus zombies."
  • Beatriz Overseer: We begin with some lighthearted banter between two vaguely medieval, adorable mice as they escort the title character in her coach... and then within the first three pages they are brutally mowed down by a hail of crossbow bolts as they are ambushed. Then, Beatriz proceeds to brutally destroy her attackers in a rather unnecessarily horrible way. Yeah, it's that kind of comic.
  • Homestuck:
    • The comic starts out slow, with the reader slugging through walls of texts and a few flashes with nothing eventful really happening. Then, a meteor starts falling towards the protagonist's house. It only gets crazier from that point.
    • A much earlier contender, though much lighter in spirit, comes after the command "John: Quickly retrieve arms from drawer." Within the first few pages, the comic itself is actively Gaslighting the readers. Welcome to Homestuck, leave your sanity at the door.
    • And shortly after that, you get the line, "You CAPTCHALOGUE them in your SYLLADEX. You have no idea what that actually means though." This is the first of many, many times you will encounter ridiculous portmanteaus used to describe events, actions, and items in the comic, usually with little explanation at first.
  • This strip of Kevin & Kell is the first indicator that animals in that world act out their natural roles as predator and prey, as well as proof of how taboo the eponymous couple's marriage is.
  • Princess Pi begins with the eponymous character dueling Godzilla. Soon, the Statue of Liberty shows up and vanquishes the monster, and the series' weirdness truly begins.
  • Remus features a suicide attack on the White House on the first page. Things deteriorate considerably from there.
  • The first joke of Something*Positive involves the lead protagonist sending his ex-girlfriend a coat hanger as a baby shower gift.
  • Although its terrible artwork and abuse of the English language is obvious from the very first panel, Tails Gets Trolled comes across like just another godawful Sonic fan-comic right up until the point where, eight pages into the first chapter, Shadow responds to two trolls verbally harassing him and Tails by whipping out a knife and brutally stabbing them both to death. After that, it's off to the races.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: A mysterious armored man appears from nowhere, holding an artifact of mass power before Allison, chased by a group of skeleton-beast-riding, dimension-breaking angels, who proceed to kill him and kidnap Allison's boyfriend. The man then proceeds to shove said artifact into Allison's head through sheer willpower, despite being decapitated, and it only gets more metal from there on in.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Archer subverts the entire 60s spy genre within the very first scene. Archer is seemingly imprisoned in a Russian cell, near-naked and with a guard threatening to torture him. Archer just snarks at the "guard's" accent, at which point we find out it was all a simulation, which Archer's mother is creepily invested in.
  • Batman Beyond opens with Batman fighting some generic mook kidnappers... until he starts suffering from a heart attack and is reduced to pulling the mooks' dropped gun to save himself and the kidnapped girl. After emergency services show up, Bruce removes the mask to show he's significantly older than previous appearances in the DCAU and utterly horrified that he's reduced himself to some punk with a gun. The scene then cuts to him hanging up the cape and vowing "Never again". To drive the point home it immediately cuts to the theme song and we hear a techno-beat accompanying a scene flying across the water towards the art deco skyline of Gotham... which is then dwarfed by massive futuristic towers behind the old waterfront. The message is clear: this ain't your father's Batman, and it ain't your father's Gotham either.
  • Big Mouth has the kids all watching a sex-ed video and snarking through it out of boredom, then all of a sudden Maurice the Hormone Monster suddenly appears and goads Andrew into masturbating. From this moment onwards, the line between reality and abstraction begins to blur.
  • By counter-example: in the very first scene of BoJack Horseman, BoJack defends Horsin' Around as "a show about good, likable people who love each other, where, you know, no matter what happens, at the end of 30 minutes, everything's gonna turn out okay." This show is the exact opposite, about miserable, often unsympathetic people who bicker constantly and face real consequences for their actions.
  • You know what kind of show Brickleberry is when the first thing it shows the viewer a forest glen full of various Woodland Creatures... having sex. All in the exact same time and place. While the local park ranger proudly shows this to a troop of astonished boy scouts as if this were a typical "splendor of nature" scene.
  • Most Christmas Specials begin with a sweeping opening to really get the viewers into the Christmas spirit. One of them, however, opens rather humbly with a chorus of children singing "Christmastime is Here", a song all about the joyousness of the season, in a sad, wistful manner. Soon after, our main character laments to his friend about his inability to enjoy what should be the most wonderful time of year. So begins A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Freakazoid!:
    • When Cave Guy is described as 'powerful and dangerous, but also highly intelligent':
      Cave Guy: [in snooty posh accent] I subscribe to The New Yorker.
    • When the title character fights his first on-screen enemy, he jumps on his head and starts cat-wailing. He then calls all the hostage teenagers to 'get down low', and the fight ends when he drops a basketball hoop on the villain. This guy's prowess puts Deadpool to shame.
  • The Gargoyles opening kicks off with an accurate rendition of Storming the Castle, a slow, dramatic reveal of the stone gargoyles, and Goliath's epic and spine-chilling "You are trespassing". But it isn't until the leader slashes him and actual blood flows down from the wound that we knew this show wasn't going to pull its punches for the younger crowd.
  • Generator Rex has its opening scene in which Rex, Providence, and the media react to a hideous Kaiju-sized EVO attacking a city as a disaster, but nothing they haven't seen before. There's also the Wham Shot after Rex cures the EVO, revealing it was originally just a normal man.
  • Gravity Falls has the climax of the pilot episode. Mabel, desperate for a summer romance, is dating a really strange guy calling himself Norman she met in the cemetery. Dipper has found a mysterious journal and realizes Norman's a zombie bent on eating her and tries to warn her, but she doesn't take him seriously (and hopes the guy really turns out to be a vampire instead). The guy brings her to a secluded wood to reveal his ultimate secret... and then takes off his trenchcoat to show he's five gnomes stacked on top of each other. Perfectly establishes that the show is not only going to be weird, but deliver that weirdness in twists and turns you don't expect.
    • The first scene of the episode as well.
      Dipper: Ah, summer break; a time for leisure, recreation, and taking 'er easy... unless you're me. [Mabel and Dipper crash through the town's "Welcome to" sign, driving fast in a golf cart away from a giant monster]
  • Green Eggs and Ham: The narrator stating — "This is Dr. Seuss, I didn’t expect a n... WHY WOULD YOU CUT THE LINE?" in the first episode which reveals how off-kilter this series will be.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy sets its tone in the first episode when Grim tries without success to frighten Billy and Mandy.
    Grim: Look! Aren't you two scared?! Boo! Blah! [no reaction from either Billy or Mandy] Oh come on! I'm a walking skeleton! Isn't that scary?!
  • F is for Family: The first episode begins with Frank Murphy driving home through a typical, idyllic 70's neighborhood of cars, pastel homes and beautiful front lawns, sitting down at the table with an attentive and caring family, and beginning to tell a story about work- only to fly into a rage from a single phone-call during dinner, establishing his anger problems and setting the profane tone for the rest of the series. Teenage son Kevin reacts with disgust while obviously being high, his wife Sue attempts to calm him down but fails and tries to deal with the fallout, middle son Bill shirks away in fear and youngest daughter Maureen ignores him. The last words before the title sequence are Frank yelling at Bill's friend (who came by to ask if Bill could play) "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!".
  • Kaeloo: The first episode, "Let's Play Prison-Ball", gives one near the end when Mr. Cat pulls out a bazooka and starts shooting spiked prison-balls at Quack Quack.
  • King of the Hill opens up with Hank and the guys just having a long conversation about his truck without anything "zany" happening, showing that while it's animated, it aims for a realistic, slice-of-life angle instead of fantastic plots. The show is prone to slapstick some times, but those moments are the exception rather than the rule.
  • Men in Black: The pre-title scene of the first episode, concerns Agents J and K, having been called to chase down an undocumented shapeshifting alien, dealing with an odd-looking cat stuck in a tree. While K warns J that he doesn't know what he's dealing with — yeah, he parrots, "Nothing is as it seems" — J reaches for the cat and gets grabbed by the tree.
  • The My Little Pony pilot has around 3 minutes of tooth-rotting, stomach churning cuteness with the pastel Manchild ponies... then demonic dragons come in and scoop several ponies while a storm suddenly appears. This sets the Everything Trying to Kill You tone of G1, which often revolved around the ponies saving Dream Valley from some sort of evil while also being goofy and cute on the side.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic of the show does this in the theme song, beginning with the franchise's familiar lighthearted theme song before switching to a more energetic rock version. The pilot episode itself also establishes Twilight as antisocial and irritable, flying in defiance of what one would presume from a My Little Pony protagonist.
  • The Phineas and Ferb intro ends with Candace telling their mom that her brothers are making a title sequence, cluing you into the show's tendency for meta and self-aware humor.
  • Rick and Morty gives us two. The pilot episode sets up the title characters and their dynamic in the cold open, with a drunken Rick outlining a plan to set off a Depopulation Bomb to wipe out most of humanity so that Morty and his crush can re-populate the Earth. Then when Morty is horrified at the idea, he plays it off as a Secret Test of Character and passes out with the bomb's timer still ticking down. Another episode's cold open, despite coming much later in the same season, is said by fans to neatly summarize the whole show without any plot spoilers in about 60 seconds.
  • Robot Chicken starts off with a message from George W. Bush - "Tacos rule" - to underscore the utter insanity of the humor in the show.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police uses this, by showing various insane or weird scenarios on the pretense of a faux "Previously On…" montage, as if the intro didn't convince the viewers that this is going to be one weird show.
  • For the 2017 return of Samurai Jack, the first episode opens with Jack fighting an army of killer robots as he always does, but he later narrates that 50 years have passed without any sort of progress in his quest or any aging on his part, and he's pretty much lost all hope of ever getting home. There's also the fact that he's riding a motorcycle and using guns. Jack was once a poster child for the Good Old Ways, but now he's abandoned his sword, his gi, his sandals, his hat, his Samurai Ponytail...
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated opens with the gang having finished solving another mystery and celebrating... before it's revealed that doing so landed them in a dark jail cell behind bars. Combine that with a scene involving a mysterious locket that has absolutely nothing to do with the episode's mystery, but has some of the supporting characters on edge, and you quickly realize that this isn't just going to be your usual Monster of the Week Scooby-Doo show.
  • Forty seconds into the pilot of The Shivering Truth, we get (in order) a lunch lady cutting a blind girl's welt into slices to use for lunch meat (and giving the camera a horrifying smile) and another segment where a man suffers Gaslighting by his roommate to convince him there's not a condom stuffed into his ear, before the roommate removes his scalp, pulls out a hot dog larger than his entire body, and cuts it open, causing hundreds of ants to pour out. It's that kind of show.
  • The first thing that happens in South Park is Kyle kicking his baby brother like a football. And it all goes downhill from there.
  • ThunderCats (2011), pulls a neat bait-and-switch, in "Omens Part One" lovingly displaying an Epic Tracking Shot of Thundera over Jaga's Opening Monologue speaking of the place as The Good Kingdom and a Shining City… after a brief Establishing Shot, the camera tilts downward to reveal extensive slums, and a group of Catfolk muggers beating a hapless Dog. This was the exact moment that showed any fans expecting a simple remake that no, this was not the Thundera of your childhood.
  • Tigtone: "The Begun of Tigtone" opens on a seemingly mellow scene of Tigtone at an inn beginning his journal entry, until he gives a sudden shout of "HU-AH!" and stabs the journal with a strike of lightning. As he launches into narrating his adventure, we get the completely out-of-nowhere and funny scene of him epically charging down a corridor and bursting out of the monsters stomach. This immediately introduces the weird art style, ridiculous dialogue, and hilarious parody of fantasy, as well as showing us Tigtone's Large Ham, Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality.
  • Transformers: Prime starts off with a conversation between Cliffjumper and Arcee, then a fight with Decepticons where Cliffjumper fights them alone, doing well, then he's captured, and unceremoniously murdered by Starscream, to kickstart the Darker and Edgier tone the series is going for.
  • Uncle Grandpa's very title sequence is a pretty good indication that you're about to see some weird stuff happen.
  • Young Justice opens with four of the world's most dangerous ice-themed villains (Mr. Freeze, Icicle Jr., Killer Frost, and Captain Cold) attacking major cities in a coordinated strike, and as they're being taken down, the focus is placed more on the sidekicks than the heroes themselves. The message is clear: this series is giving the sidekicks a place to shine, the writers are doing their homework when it comes to DC, and anybody can show up moving forwards.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Series Establishing Moment


Phineas and Ferb - First scene

The first scene of the first Phineas and Ferb episode, "Rollercoaster", which introduces Phineas Flynn and his stepbrother Ferb Fletcher, who are determined to make every day of their summer vacation fun.

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Main / EstablishingSeriesMoment