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Flashback B-Plot

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The story of a character in the present day is interspersed with flashbacks telling a linear story of past events of the same character's life, as a form of Backstory. The flashbacks may be prompted by various related objects or situations in the present. This can be done with multiple characters as well, with each flashback focusing on their experience in the same time period, or with each flashback being connected by a similar theme.

Two flashbacks to the same subject matter throughout an episode can be considered the downplayed version of this trope. Unlike frame stories, this trope does not involve anyone narrating the story In-Universe. Compare San Dimas Time, where due to Time Travel, two plotlines in two different times occur "simultaneously". Subtrope to Anachronic Order, Meanwhile, in the Future…, Two Lines, No Waiting, and often Flashback Echo. Can be considered a variation of How We Got Here. Transitions may involve Age Cut. Inverted when the B-plot is Flash Forwards instead of flashbacks. See also Simultaneous Arcs and Whole Episode Flashback.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • After the third issue of Katmandu onwards, the plot switches between stories told by Leahtrah to either Thorin or their children about her ancestor Liska, and how the latter became a warrior.
  • Watchmen: All six characters get an issue devoted to their backstory, interspersed with events in the present.

    Fan Works 
  • The Petriculture Cycle: In Pandelirium, the main plot of Discord's reformation in the present is mixed with flashbacks of the events leading up to his defeat in the past, in reverse order.
  • In the My Hero Academia fanfics Hero Class Civil Warfare and Locked In Digital, the main plot (the eponymous exam in the former, and Izuku trying to live a normal life in the latter) is interspersed with past events (the 7 day prep of the villain team and Izuku going through his nearly year long deadly simulation run) within the same chapters.
  • Spanning Time explores the world of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky through the eyes of Grovyle. The tale cuts between flashbacks detailing his history and the 'here and now' smack in the middle of Explorers' plot, fleshing out the details and providing an interesting take on Grovyle's past.
  • Vow of Nudity: Haara has already escaped her bondage at the time the series starts, but many stories contain extended flashbacks to her time as a slave, often with their own storyline which is both standalone and related to her present adventure.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Finding Dory, at the same time that Dory, Marlin, and Nemo are traveling in search of Dory's parents, the audience learns through flashbacks about Dory's old life with her parents at the Marine Life Institute, how she ended up accidentally getting herself separated from them, and how she spent her life wandering in the ocean before finally meeting up with Marlin for the very first time during the original Finding Nemo movie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 3 Idiots focuses on the eponymous three idiots in the past and the future (separated by a five-year gap), but it's really more about the characters' lives as college students in the past, with occasional cuts to the future. Case in point, all of the film's musical numbers happen in the past.
  • Arrival (and the story it's based on, "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang) alternates between Louise's memories of her daughter and the present day story of translating the alien language, though the flashbacks aren't specifically chronologically ordered.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Tim Burton's film tells the regular story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while interspersing flashbacks of Willy Wonka's childhood.
  • In Deadpool (2016), the present-day battle on the highway against Francis's goons is interspersed with flashbacks telling the title character's origin story, which explains why Deadpool is trying to hunt down Francis in the present.
  • The Duel of the Brothers: More often than not, Ho-tian and Jiao-hao will have flashbacks to their pasts when they are kids, promising to look out for each other, before the scene cuts back to the present where they were adults. Notably the last scene of the two brothers together: Ho-tian holding on Jia-hao's corpse and telling him not to die, while intersect with a Match Cut depicting a flashback of Ho-tian (as a child) holding a feverish, seriously ill Jia-hao (ditto) telling his younger brother to wake up.
  • The Godfather, Part II tells the story of Michael Corleone as the new Don of the family. During the film we also get flashbacks to the first years of Vito Corleone, his father, in New York to show the difference on how they balanced their power and their families.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: After Rocket is left in critical condition in the film's opening, the A-plot of the first two acts is the Guardians trying to save his life while the B-plot is Rocket's Adventures in Comaland while he relives his past.
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is about Sophie's attempt to prepare the grand reopening of her late mother Donna's hotel when everything seems to be going wrong. Her stuggles remind Donna's friends Rosie and Tanya about the struggles Donna had when she first got to the island, so the story about Sophie is interspersed with flashbacks following younger Donna after she graduated with her friends, when she traveled around Europe, and when she met Sophie's three fathers.
  • The main story of Memento sees Leonard interacting with people around town, while the secondary story consists of shorter black and white scenes of him in his room mostly talking about his memory condition, either on the phone with someone or to himself in Second-Person Narration. The two stories converge at the end, making the movie one story told from both beginning and end.
  • In Memorial Day, WWII veteran Bud Vogel's war experiences are told through a series of flashbacks while he explains his them to his grandson Kyle, while the film also flashes forward to an adult Kyle developing his own war experiences similar to Bud's.
  • Sunstroke: The film plays out in two narrative tracks. In the first one the protagonist, a nameless lieutenant, is stuck in a prisoner-of-war pen in 1920, because he fought on the losing side in the Russian Civil War. This is intercut with a series of flashbacks to a much happier time for the lieutenant, back in 1907 when he took a luxury cruise down the Volga River and made love with a beautiful woman.

  • Alan Garner:
    • In Boneland, Colin and the Watcher are playing out the same issues of loss and trauma, in much the same geological place but separated by up to half a million years in time. Both are struggling to work out what is happening to them according to their conditioning and cultural preconceptions. Garner even hints that Recursion is happening and they are somehow directly linked.
  • The Alastair Reynolds story that "Beyond the Aquila Rift" is based on has the main plot focusing on Greta familiarizing Thom with the new station, while the B-plot (which is actually more of a Flash Forward) sees him and Greta trying to awaken Suzy from her surge tank.
  • Half the chapters in BIONICLE Legends 10: Swamp of Secrets are Tahu finally unlocking the lost memories (the only member of his team to manage it) of his early life and place of origin. He also realizes the consequence for his team completing their mission is going back into stasis for what might be eternity, which forces him to come up with an alternate solution.
  • "Brother Rifle" by Daryl Gregory alternates between ex-marine Rashad in rehabilitation for his brain injury and his moments in combat leading up to that injury.
  • Bone From a Dry Sea by Peter Dickinson is partly set four million years ago in a culture based on the aquatic ape hypothesis and partly following the archaeologist who's digging up its remains.
  • In Dark Places, the "present" story tells Libby's chronological attempts to figure out who murdered her family, while the "past" section chronologically retells the last day of Libby's mother's life from her perspective and that of her apparent killer, her son Ben.
  • The Expanse short story "The Vital Abyss" is told in first person by Paolo Cortazar, who alternates between narrating his time spent in prison and narrating the key events in his life leading up to being captured on the Thoth Station.
  • The Fifth Season: The story of The Protagonist is told in three different lines—mirroring her three names—and one of them is told in Second-Person Narration.
  • Gentleman Bastard series: Books one and three alternate chapters with flashbacks that cover the years prior to the first book, with the Bastards' upbringing relating in some way to the present story. Red Seas uses them to explain How We Got Here instead.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince alternates between Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts and Voldemort's origins through Pensieve Flashbacks, though this could be considered more of a Frame Story depending on how you look at it.
  • The two plotlines in Nemesis by Isaac Asimov are separated in time as well as in space, and they alternate chapter by chapter and converge at the end, as the plotline that starts at an earlier date catches up to the one that takes place later. The differences in chronology are not immediately obvious at the beginning of the book.
  • The second half of "Second Person, Present Tense" by Daryl Gregory alternates between the present day and the main character's foggy memories of before her overdose on the "Zen" drug.
  • Alongside the main plot within the Fire Nation, The Shadow of Kyoshi features three chapters that take place during the events of the previous book, with the first two focusing on Kyoshi's friend Yun and his confrontation with the monstrous spirit Father Glowworm in the spirit world, and the third dealing with Yun following his return to the physical world.
  • "Sonnie's Union" (sequel to the original "Sonnie's Edge" story) by Peter F. Hamilton alternates between Sonnie on her own in the present-day and the story of how "beastie-baiting" was shut down and what happened after that.
  • The Sparrow is split between the present day, where Emilio Sandoz is being interviewed about just what went wrong in his First Contact mission, and the time of the mission itself.
  • Each book in The Stormlight Archive features a plot thread told in flashback, focusing on a different character. The Way of Kings (2010) focuses on Kaladin, Words of Radiance on Shallan, Oathbringer on Dalinar, and Rhythm of War on Eshonai and Venli.
  • The Sword-Edged Blonde: As Eddie makes his way to a small village in the mountains, the book alternates between Eddie's journey in the present and his recollections of his first journey, years ago.
  • Use of Weapons is told through chapters alternating between those going in normal chronological order and those in reverse order that reveal Cheradenine Zakalwe's past, which merge in the finale.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Astra Militarum novel Baneblade alternates between "present-day" chapters and flashback ones, the latter also going backwards in time.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • SkyClan's Destiny has the current-day story of SkyClan interspersed with chapters from Stick's point of view, back before he left the city, some time earlier than the main events of the book.
    • Graystripe's Vow is split between "then" sections following Graystripe's acting leadership between the first two arcs when Firestar was on his quest, and "now" sections set during the time of The Broken Code where Graystripe goes on his own journey.
  • Whateley Universe: "Be-Wildered" starts with Wilder the day after he mutated, and then jumps back and forth between his time at Whateley Academy (the in-series present) and post-mutation, but not at Whateley.
  • WIEDERGEBURT: Legend of the Reincarnated Warrior: Multiple chapters per book open with flashbacks to the Bad Future that main character Eryk Vieger came from, which author Brandon Varnell started doing because it gave him an excuse to write sex scenes for Eryk before he formally got together with his Battle Harem in the Peggy Sue timeline (which takes until about volume 6).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • The first five seasons of Arrow alternate between the present day and the five years that Oliver Queen spent on the island of Lian Yu (but also Hong Kong and Russia, unknown to everyone else) that turned him into the vigilante we see at the start of the series.
      • The episode "Odyssey" put most of its emphasis on events on the island.
      • The episode "The Undertaking" didn't use the island at all but did focus on events surrounding the sinking of the Queen's Gambit and Moira's involvement with Tempest.
      • "The Promise", like "Odyssey" focuses more on the island than on the present.
      • Inverted in Seasons 7 and 8, which alternates between the present and Flash Forwards to the future, which follow the children of the members of Team Arrow.
    • The Flash (2014):
      • "Things You Can't Outrun" includes three flashbacks to the night of the particle accelerator explosion, each time entering the story from a different character's perspective.
      • "Tricksters" shows what really happened with the Reverse-Flash and Harrison Wells after the former killed Barry's mother.
      • "The Trap" is somewhat of a Sequel Episode to "Things You Can't Outrun", in that it uses a similar format to show the time when Barry was in a coma (which was right after the accelerator explosion). A deleted scene would have added another flashback to the episode, from Caitlin's point of view.
      • "Therefore I Am" shows us us Clifford DeVoe's origins on the night of the accelerator explosion and the aftermath.
      • "O Come All Ye Thankful" gives us Cicada's origin story in a similar manner, showing us his relationship with his niece and how he received powers from a satellite from the Enlightenment, which also injured his niece.
    • The Constantine episode "Quid Pro Quo" has the A plot in which Constantine tries to save Chas's daughter, and the B plot which is a flashback to when Constantine accidentally made Chas semi-immortal.
  • The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: Two storylines are shown in each episode, the first in the early 1920s, when Gabriel and Rosa marry and have their children, and the second in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when those children are teens.
  • Boardwalk Empire: The final season's main plot takes place in 1931, while the B-story is set in the 1880s and 1890s and follows Nucky Thompson's rise to power.
  • Criminal Minds: The series' present-day stories about detectives solving crimes are intertwined with flashbacks detailing the crime itself and the people involved.
  • CSI: NY: The show's 10th anniversary tribute to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, "Indelible", is interspersed with flashbacks of most of the main characters' whereabouts on that fateful day and their reactions to the tragedy as each one's memory, in turn, is triggered by something in the present-day action. The two whose actions aren't actually shown share a conversation about it instead. A few examples:
    • Mac cuts himself shaving in the present day and recalls having done so exactly 10 years before. Later, he boards a bus and remembers riding one to work that morning with his wife Claire, who perished in the attacks.
    • Sid, the coroner, flashes back to helping with the victims as he writes the current date (9/11/11) on a toe tag.
    • Standing on the sidewalk, Jo sees dark smoke from a diesel truck and remembers seeing smoke at the Pentagon from the window of her then-office in D.C.
  • In Forever Knight every episode has flashbacks to something in the Vampire Detective's past that's related—directly or thematically—to the case he's investigating.
  • The Firefly episode "Out of Gas" begins with Mal collapsing to the floor of the dark and deserted Serenity. As he struggles to treat his injuries and repair the ship, flashbacks alternate between the immediate lead-up to this event and the backstory of how Mal first purchased the Serenity and assembled his trusty crew.
  • Forever has this in pretty much every episode, since Henry has been around for over two hundred years and every current situation reminds him of something in his past. A few flashbacks are only long enough to provide insight into characters rather than fully-fledged B-plots. One flashback from Adam's point of view shows the horrific treatment he received from Dr. Josef Mengele but doesn't actually have a plot, only relevance to the current-day situation.
  • In the first two seasons of The Good Place, the A-story would show what was happening to the characters in the afterlife, while the B-story would use flashbacks to show what the characters were like while they were still alive.
  • The Haunting of Hill House (2018): Each episode in the first season follows the Crain siblings in the present time, but the B-plot of almost all episodes are flashbacks of their time as children in the eponymous haunted house, and are slowly telling the events that led to their mother's mysterious death.
  • Highlander: The Series made a habit of this. Almost every episode featured flashbacks to earlier times in Duncan's life. In most cases the flashbacks were to his previous encounters with the villain-of-the-week, but in a few episodes, such as "The Samurai" and "They Also Serve", Duncan was remembering events that had nothing to do with the villain.
  • One season 1 episode of House of Anubis focuses on the students seeking treasure and having their usual drama, but involves a subplot about Victor and Sarah remembering moments from their childhood, told through flashbacks, in order to give more context about their complex relationship and Victor's quest for eternal life.
  • Lost: Most episodes have flashbacks as the B-story, focusing on a single character's life before they ended up on the island, usually thematically connected to the A-story. In later seasons, the flashbacks are sometimes replaced with flashforwards, showing future events, and flash-sideways, which depict the characters in an alternate reality.
    • The episode "The Constant" plays with this. Desmond's mind is constantly being pulled forwards and backwards through time, making the version of him present in the flashbacks the same man who's already experienced things in the A-plot.
  • Monk: The episode "Mr. Monk And Little Monk" has an A-plot where Monk is hired by a childhood friend to investigate a murder, triggering flashbacks to Monk's childhood where he had to help the same friend who's been framed for stealing bake sale money.
  • Once Upon a Time: Usually the A-story of each episode focuses on life in the town of Storybrooke, while the B-story takes place in flashback showing life before the curse in Fairy Tale land. The flashbacks and the A-story focus on the same character, showing what their lives were like before and after the curse. As the series goes on we see flashbacks to characters lives in the Land Without Magic, or to earlier events within the cursed Storybrooke.
  • The series finale of Parks and Recreation has a main plot where the characters, many of whom are going to leave Pawnee, take one last job to fix a broken swing set. As each character takes a role in this job, they get a lengthy flash-forward sequence showing what their lives will be in the future.
  • In the mini-series The Prisoner (2009), the protagonist resigns from his job working for an intelligence organisation in New York, and shortly afterward finds himself trapped in a mysterious and isolated Village. As the A-plot follows his investigation of the Village, occasional scenes show his actions back in New York immediately following his resignation, apparently leading up to showing how he ended up in the Village at the beginning of the series. It turns out that, due to the supernatural nature of the Village, the protagonist is simultaneously in the Village and still in New York, and the scenes in New York aren't flashbacks, but are happening at the same time as the other events of the series.
  • The first two seasons of Quantico jump back and forth between Alex's time at the eponymous academy (or, in the second season, her time at The Farm), and the present.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Necessary Evil" has Odo investigating someone trying to murder Quark, while including flashbacks to ten years earlier during the Cardassian Occupation involving Odo's investigation of the murder of a Bajoran collaborator.
  • Yellowjackets is split between following when the cast were in a plane crash as teenagers and had to survive in the wilderness by themselves, and their current lives 25 years later.

  • Darwin Young is about a teenager whose friend asks him to help investigate the unsolved murder of her uncle, 30 years earlier. What happened at the time of the murder — and even earlier — is shown in a narrative of flashbacks that collides with the main story when Darwin ends up trapped in secrets just as his father was.

    Video Games 
  • Katamari Damacy: We ♥ Katamari has the main plot of the Prince and his cousins rolling Katamaris for their fans on Earth, but all of the cutscenes involve flashbacks to the King's troubled childhood.
  • Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment flashes back to Specter Knight's past between stages, revealing who he was before becoming Specter Knight and why he joined the Order of No Quarter.

    Visual Novels 
  • Gyakuten Kenji 2: Case 3 has two flashbacks to when the originating incident happened, with the rest taking place in the present and revolving around finally solving the incident.


    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "Zuko Alone", the A-story of Zuko wandering around the Earth Kingdom and being offered hospitality by a peasant family mirrors the story (told in flashbacks) of Zuko's childhood and how Ozai became Firelord.
    • The Legend of Korra: "Out of the Past" has an imprisoned Korra flashing back to her past life of Aang's memories which show her the trial of Yakone the bloodbender, while in the present the other characters search for Korra and Lin's captured soldiers.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: The series alternates between the present day and the original series era five years ago, with the flashbacks connecting to present-day villains and plot points.
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • "The Telescope" has BoJack visiting his ex-best friend and creator of Horsin' Around Herb Kazzaz, who is dying of cancer. A good chunk of the episode also shows flashbacks of Herb and BoJack in the 80's and 90's to explain what ruined their friendship: when Herb successfully sold Horsin' Around, when Herb was outed as gay and subsequently fired, and BoJack not sticking up for him.
    • "The Old Sugarman Place" follows two stories taking place at the eponymous Michigan home. The A-plot has BoJack, having impulsively fled Los Angeles, spend a year fixing up the abandoned house with help from his new neighbor. The B-plot flashes back to the 1940s, when BoJack's mother Beatrice spent summers there with her family, and the trauma that her family endured when she was still a child.note 
    • "The Amelia Earhart Story" has Princess Carolyn go back to her hometown of South Carolina, bonding with a pregnant teenager so Princess Carolyn can adopt her baby. As she looks around her hometown, we see her backstory unfold, depicting her dependent relationship with her mother and how she underwent a traumatic Teen Pregnancy and her first miscarriage.
    • "Mr. Peanutbutter's Boos" has four stories going on simultaneously, each following one of Mr. Peanutbutter's Halloween parties from four different years (1993, 2004, 2009, and the present 2018), with him dating a different girl in each year.
  • A couple of Futurama episodes focus on a story taking place in the 30th century while also following a story from Fry's life in the 20th century.
    • "The Luck of the Fryrish" has Fry track down his lucky seven-leaf clover from when he was a child, while also flashing back to his life growing up with his brother Yancy, who Fry suspects stole his clover and his identity after Fry went missing.
    • "Jurassic Bark" has Fry discover a fossil of his dog Seymour, while also showing the story of how Fry met Seymour.
    • "Cold Warriors" has an A-plot following an outbreak of the formerly-eradicated common cold in New New York, and a B-plot flashing back to Fry entering a science fair planning to send an infected guinea pig to space to preserve the common cold. The plots come together when they need a sample of the cold for a vaccine, and they retrieve a sample created by... the kid Fry lost to.
    • "The Tip of the Zoidberg" is A Day in the Limelight for Zoidberg. It shows flashbacks of how he met Farnsworth on a yeti hunt working for mom, intercut with scenes of the present day where Zoidberg tries to fulfill a Mercy Kill Arrangement with Farnsworth, believing he's succumbing to the hypermalaria he seemingly caught on that day.
  • Pepper Ann: The final episode, "The Finale", takes place in the future, with the B-plot taking place 15 years prior in the in-series present.
  • Over the course of Transformers: Animated, each Autobot on the Spacebridge crew gets one or two episodes focused on their past and how they came to be on the team.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Occupy Bears", the cave is in danger of being destroyed to make room for a cell phone tower. While the bears try to find a way to save their home in the present, flashbacks to their original search for a home are prompted by various objects in their home in the present.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door finale, Operation INTERVIEWS has the adult team revealing to the audience and Father what happened on their final mission with Numbuh 1.
  • During the DuckTales (2017) episode “From the Confidential Casefiles of Agent 22,” Scrooge and Webby attempt to save Ms. Beakley from Black Heron. At the same time, Scrooge tells Webby about how he met Ms. Beakley, which was when they were partnered up on a mission to stop Black Heron.
  • Tuca & Bertie: "Sleepovers" juxtaposes the present story, where Tuca leaves Bertie home alone to hang out with her new girlfriend Kara, with a story taking place five years ago when Bertie met Speckle and Tuca was right by her side. This contrasts how Speckle was very accepting of Tuca as being part of his girlfriend's life, while Kara is possessive and wants Tuca to spend time with her instead of Bertie.