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Happy Ending Override

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"You can't have happy endings in sitcoms, not really, because if everyone's happy, the show would be over, and above all else, the show... has to keep going."

The Big Bad has been brought to a crushing end at the hands of The Hero, his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits and his trademark BFS. The Negative Space Wedgie that was threatening all of creation has been un-wedgied, the Sealed Evil in a Can has been safely disposed of, all the plot threads that were left hanging have been wrapped up nice and neat and everybody lives Happily Ever After.


And then the sequel happens.

It's inevitable: you can't have a story without conflict and chaos, and therefore you can't have a sequel set in a world that we last saw happy and peaceful without dropping a new horrible menace in the thick of things and letting him/her/it run amok. This, however, is taking things far beyond simple Status Quo Is God. We leave an idyllic paradise and come back to a Crapsack World: the Golden Age has rusted over, chivalry has been stabbed in the back, the peaceful kingdom has transformed into an evil empire (or invaded by it, or both) and everything that our protagonists fought so hard to save has been pillaged and murdered by time and writers. The shaggy dog was shot while we weren't looking. The world is not only substantially worse off than it was when we last saw it, but much of the time it's even worse off than it was when the story first began.


This is the part where our heroes (assuming they're not dead, incapacitated or turned evil) fall to their knees and deliver their best Zero impression: "What were we fighting for?" The Guardian newspaper pointed out how depressingly common this trope has been through the 2010's, and gave such sequels the moniker of "bleakquel."

Full-Circle Revolution and the Cartwright Curse are typical means to this effect. For inversions, see Belated Happy Ending. Contrast Was It Really Worth It?, where the characters are made to feel the cost (usually personal) of their victory before the story ends, but the good which results is usually lasting. Compare Doomed by Canon, where the "sequel" story undoing the happy ending was written first. When this happens repeatedly over the course of a work or series, this may become a Yo Yo Plot Point.


If this is done especially badly, many fans may well declare the sequel to have never happened.

Not to be confused with Your Princess Is in Another Castle!, where not only is the ending unhappy, but it isn't actually an ending at all. Or Tastes Like Diabetes, which is more like Happy Ending Overload.

This is an Ending Trope, so expect spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Battle Angel Alita: The Motorball arc ended on one of the happiest tones of the series, promptly undone at the start of the next arc.
  • Naruto had a definite ending in which the eponymous hero, after living many years as a lonely outcast, gained acceptance and recognition from his village, achieved his lifelong dream, managed to bring peace to the ninja world, redeemed his best friend, found love and fathered two children. The sequel manga, Boruto: Naruto Next Generation kicks off by showing the Village of Konoha destroyed and a now more grown-up Naruto's son, Boruto Uzumaki, fighting a powerful enemy who is implied to have killed his father.
  • While Dragon Ball Super doesn't do this as a whole to Dragon Ball Z, as it's a midquel that takes place before the last three episodes of that series, it does do this to Future Trunks' story. The last time he was seen in the original series, thanks to training in the Z Warriors' timeline he'd managed to become strong enough to take down the Artificial Humans of his world (as well as Imperfect Cell), as well as rebuild all the damage they caused. In Super, new villain Goku Black (a.k.a. Zamasu) decimates his world even more so than the Artificial Humans did, murders his mother right in front of his eyes, and forces Future Trunks to flee back to the main timeline. Even worse, after Zamasu's defeat, he attempts to become reality itself, prompting Goku to have no other choice but to summon the timeline's Omni-King, who completely destroys the timeline to take Zamasu out for good (though the heroes manage to escape), rendering the struggles of its inhabitants between both apocalypses null and void.
    • By extension, this also happened to the Future Trunks from Cell's timeline. After saving Goku's life and helping them deactivate the androids, he traveled back to his time to do the same. With the world saved, he decided to make one last trip to the past to celebrate with his friends. However, Cell got to him first.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Part of the reason the titular hero became The Atoner was that he could no longer ignore the fact that he was killing people regardless of how good the motives were. Being indirectly responsible for the death of the woman he loved was the metaphorical last straw. Each major fight afterward, Kenshin speechifies about what he was fighting for, and it takes a Heroic BSoD for him to realize that he can only fight for his own personal peace of mind. The Seisouhen OVA goes on to erase all of that Character Development and have Kenshin still so wracked by guilt that he abandons his family to go Walking the Earth again; it's not until the very end that he returns, only to die in Kaoru's arms, and she dies moments later because he's infected her too. Yahiko has taken up Kenshin's mantle, and his son Kenji eventually comes around to the same point of view, but there's a reason most fans and Nobuhiro Watsuki himself, who didn't write it, deny Seisouhen's existence.
  • Eureka Seven AO shows that Eureka and Renton's child is abandoned in another dimension. It's later revealed that Corralian/Human babies can't survive in their home dimension because of high levels of Trapar.
  • In Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals, though Exdeath is defeated, Mid dies shortly after. Due to taking place centuries later, the heroes have all died by now. And there is a new Big Bad, Deathgyunos.
  • Gall Force Earth Chapter ends with the heroes stopping GORN, the world saved and mankind, while in for a long time to rebuild, has a bright future ahead. Gall Force New Era revealed GORN survived in data form, managed to infect the network of All of Mankind's territory, and proceeded kill off the human race, save for six women who managed to get lead to safety and launched into space.
  • Girls und Panzer: the Ooarai High School is shutting down, but it will remain open if its tankery team manages to win the national tournament. After many trials and hardships, the tournament is won. Girls Und Panzer Der Film opens with an announcement that the school's closing down anyway, as apparently the administration's promise to keep the school open was hollow. Anzu manages to negotiate a promise to have the school remain open if the tankery team wins a match against a University-level team... and this time she gets the agreement in writing so they can't back out of it.
  • Gundam:
    • Defied in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam The Steel Seven. Kincade (aka Seabook) retired from war after the original manga, and he and Cecily settled down in peace. When another threat to Earth is revealed, Tobia initially considers going to him to get his help as a pilot... but decides against it seeing how happy Seabook is, and Tobia can't bring himself to interrupt that.
    • ∀ Gundam ends up being this. Because the Black History consists of all previous Gundam series up to that point, almost every single Gundam work is doomed to end in conflict and destruction of the world over the course of millennia. For one Gundam work to exist, the previous must have ended in failure for the protagonists. Ironically, one could argue that Turn A (and the works made between this and Reconquista in G) itself succumbs to this as it must end in setting up the Reguild Century.
    • Season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans slowly falls into this for the protagonists. Season 1 ended with a positive tone where no one in Tekkadan and their allies, the Turbines (except Biscuit) were killed off. Initially, Season 1 was supposed to have darker storylines such as higher casualties and the public distrusting Tekkadan but the director wanted a lighter and happier tone. As a result, Season 2 picks up these remaining storylines where Tekkadan started losing their friends and were vilified in public by Gjallarhorn's black propaganda. In the end, Tekkadan lost their leader and their Gundam pilots including Mikazuki and Rustal successfully reforms Gjallarhorn without receiving any punishment for his atrocities.
  • Perhaps better called a Bittersweet Ending Override, but the Code Geass recap movies are capped off with Lelouch of the Re;surrection, a follow up to the events after the Zero Requiem. In the movie, the world remains at peace for one year; however, several nations such as the Zilkstan Kingdom still suffer the aftereffects of the Zero Requiem. This eventually leads to the Zilkstan Kingdom kidnapping Nunually and Suzaku at the beginning of the movie.
  • A very... odd example in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. Kyubey has turned Homura into a witch and trapped the others in her labyrinth, so that he can try to undo Madoka's wish. He fails, only for someone else to undo Madoka's wish: HOMURA, who absorbs/suppresses Madoka's goddess powers and becomes Lucifer, erases the other girls' memories, and proceeds to remake reality in her own image. To be fair, the ending she puts in place has all five girls (and newcomer Nagisa) alive, with only her and Kyubey really getting the short end of the stick: Homura because she feels unworthy of Madoka's friendship after betraying her, and Kyubey due to being stuffed with all of the curses he had laid on Magical Girls throughout history. So she overrode a happy ending to put a seemingly happier ending in place; it's very contentious among fans, as some see the new ending as happier, others less so.
    • The root of the divergence seems to be whether you believe whether being alive but mortal and trapped in an illusionary labyrinth is better than being in magical girl heaven with full agency and immortality, but technically "dead."
    • The Concept Movie's promise of a sequel to the film's events promise another one of these is in store.
  • Queen's Blade sees this happen in the Rebellion series, where the victorious Leina hands the mantle of Queen to her sister, Claudette, who goes on to make many reforms as Leina happily retires. The key sticking point is that the Swamp Witch is still free at the end of the first series, and she continues to expand her poisoned domain, starts cursing all of the old heroines to put them out of commission or limit their fighting ability, and corrupts Claudette into a Well-Intentioned Extremist Knight Templar who rules with an iron fist, making the "Rebellion" necessary.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: At the end of the second movie, Shinji succeeds in rescuing Rei from an Angel that had devoured her, inadvertently starting Third Impact in the process, not that he's concerned. The Stinger, however, has Kaworu stop Third Impact, and by the time the third movie begins, nearly all of humanity is shown to have perished when Shinji nearly started Third Impact, and everyone Shinji knew and loved (except Kaworu) is either dead or flat-out hate him, some (like Asuka and Misato) rather irrationally. The Rei that he meets in this movie, to make things worse, is a clone: the Rei he thought he rescued is gone.
  • WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? has a very bittersweet ending that takes place after a ten year time skip, with it being implied that everyone lived happily ever after during those ten years. Then the sequel, which takes place five years into the time skip, came out and revealed just how horrible things really were. Two days after the main conflict was seemingly resolved, Regul Aire was once again attacked by the 17 Beasts. Although the Warehouse inevitably managed to survive this, it’s not clear if all of its members could say the same.
  • The ending to Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair shows the surviving cast of the first game deleting Alter Ego Junko Enoshima and reverting the surviving Remnants of Despair back to their old selves. The worst they think will happen is filing a bunch of paperwork, right? Wrong. Danganronpa 3 begins one day later, when Makoto Naegi gets court-martialed by the leaders of the Future Foundation for harboring war criminals. Then Monokuma returns and forces everyone into another Deadly Game, revealing a traitor amongst them will be doing the killing.
  • Both the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and anime ended with a conclusively happy ending, but six months later in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, trouble is afoot again. Seto Kaiba refuses to let go of the Pharaoh and causes most of the movie's plot by his obsessive desire to duel him again, while he, Yugi, and his friends are menaced by Aigami, who's determined to kill Kaiba and Yugi if needed to stop the Puzzle from being completed. Of course, this movie has to lead into Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, so we all know going in things can't get that bad.
  • The first season of Zombie Land Saga ends on a high note, with Franchouchou having a successful show at Arpino and setting forth on the path to become wildly successful idols. Then the first episode of Zombie Land Saga Revenge starts with the girls recovering from a slump after their last show only attracted 500 fans to a venue that seated 30,000, which send Kotaro into an alcohol-fueled Heroic BSoD and forced the girls to get part-time jobs.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels quickly establish that saving the world involves more than just beating the Fire Lord, with a lot of messes and problems to deal with in the aftermath of a large-scale global war. This includes everything from how to deal with the various colonies, handling any groups within the Fire Nation that are still loyal to the previous Fire Lord, and preventing new wars from breaking out. Not even the character's personal relationships are safe, with Mai and Zuko breaking up almost immediately, despite their heartwarming reunion in the show's finale.
    • The Legend of Korra graphic novels continue this trend, though it's somewhat downplayed by show's finale making it clear that Korra and Asami going on a date in the Spirit World is simply a short vacation before devoting themselves to rebuilding Republic City. When they return, they immediately have to deal with a refugee crisis and a new Big Bad swiftly going from a Badass Normal gangster to Humanoid Abomination that can command spirits like Unalaq all over again.
  • Batman: Year One saw Jim Gordon's son and him trying to working things out with Barbara after his affair with Sarah Essen. Later stories saw that Gordon's marriage with Barbara fall apart, his second marriage end when the Joker did a Coup de Grâce on Sarah in the penultimate issue of Batman: No Man's Land, and Jim Jr. become a sociopath.
  • Christopher Priest's Black Panther run ended with Kasper Cole becoming the new White Tiger and choosing to stay with Gwen so they could raise their baby together. When Kasper appeared in World of Wakanda years later, it was revealed that Gwen had dumped him and taken the baby with her. Worse still, work commitments and financial difficulties had killed his career as White Tiger before it ever really took off.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths ended with a Bittersweet Ending for Golden Age Superman, Lois Lane, Earth-3's Alex Luthor and Superboy Prime, who after their Earths are destroyed go to an interdimensional heaven where they could spend the rest of his days. Come Infinite Crisis, it turns out Lois is dying, sending Kal-L over the Despair Event Horizon, and Alex and Superboy have gone mad from watching the last twenty years of DC history, and made a Face–Heel Turn.
  • At the end of The Dark Crystal, the Crystal was restored, the Skeksis were defeated, harmony returned to the world of Thra, and Kira and Jen lived Happily Ever After, right? Not according to Power of the Dark Crystal! A hundred trine later, Thra is a wasteland, Kira and Jen are figurehead leaders to a religion that keeps this knowledge from them, and also oppresses the Podlings and other Gelflings, and then a visitor from beneath the planet's surface, seeking help, causes the Crystal to shatter, bringing back the Skeksis.
  • The final issue of Warren Ellis' run on Doom 2099 saw Doom about to realize his goal of creating a utopia by releasing thought-controlled Nanomachines that would give people whatever they wanted for free. The first three words in the next issue are "it didn't work".
  • The Fly: Outbreak: While The Fly II ended on a relatively upbeat tone with Martin restoring his human body and inflicting a karmic punishment upon the Corrupt Corporate Executive who has controlled him all his life, the comicbook sequel throws a wrench into this with the reveal that Martin's genes are still not stable and more people get infected and turned into Fly-hybrids because of him.
  • Fray overrides the ending of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which saw the mass empowerment of Slayers across the world; by Mel's time, it's back to one per generation.
  • The Grendel "War Child" arc ended with Jupiter Assante becoming Khan and seemingly likely to rule relatively justly, even if authoritarianly and in a world with a Might Makes Right attitude. The next work in the sequence, the prose novel Past Prime, reveals that Jupiter was murdered by his own wife on his wedding night and that his empire has collapsed into a feudal quasi-anarchy plagued by self-servingly violent Grendel clans and wandering psychos.
  • The original Hack/Slash series ended with protagonist Cassie Hack moving on with her life, putting an end to her Serial-Killer Killer activities and getting together with her Love Interest Georgia to build a new life as a "normal" person. Comes the sequel Son of Samhain, she ends up breaking up with Georgia because "normal" life just wasn't interesting enough for her, and gets back to hunting monsters.
  • Star Trek: Untold Voyages: In "Past Imperfect", the Enterprise learns that the vaccine that Dr. McCoy created for the virus that was killing the Onlies in "Miri" mutated into a new, more virulent strain. Miri was among the many Onlies to die as a result. Enraged and distraught by her death, Jahn seeks revenge on McCoy and kidnaps his daughter Joanna. He brings her back to his planet so that she will die from the virus and McCoy will learn what it is like to lose someone. However, McCoy is able to develop a new and more effective vaccine that permanently eliminates the virus.
  • The Toxin mini-series ended with Patrick Mulligan finally coming to terms with being a symbiote-wearing superhero, coming back to his wife after leaving her behind to protect her for the entire series and telling her the truth about him. Then the writers had Patrick killed offscreen by Blackheart so they could give his symbiote to Eddie Brock and make a new opponent for Flash Thompson as Agent Venom.
  • In the waning days of the New 52 Aquaman series, writer Dan Abnett was brought in to write the final four issues, which ends on an optimistic note, with Aquaman seemingly finally managing to balance his responsibilities as a superhero and king, establishing formal diplomatic relations with the surface world, and with him and Mera as the undisputed and beloved King and Queen of Atlantis. Then he was allowed to continue the series in DC Rebirth (intended to be Lighter and Softer), where the very first story arc ends with the embassy destroyed by Black Manta, Arthur more feared by surface authorities than ever and with dissident groups resurgent in Atlantis.
  • The original Marvel Comics run of The Transformers ended on a happy note where Cybertron was restored by the power of the Matrix and the Last Autobot, the Autobots were finally able to live peacefully now that their eons-long war with the Decepticons had ended and the surviving Decepticons were forced into exile. IDW Publishing's Regeneration One, a continuation of the Marvel Comics continuity which disregards the stories exclusive to the UK version of the Marvel comic as well as the Generation 2 comics, started with Cybertron's fate endangered again by the destruction of the Last Autobot, Megatron laying waste to Earth after being accidentally revived by humans and the Autobots' human ally Spike Witwicky now hating the Autobots for their failure to prevent Megatron from ruining the Earth and killing his family.
  • The first half of IDW's 2005 Transformers comic continuity ended with a Distant Finale issue where the war against the Decepticons has long since ended and the Autobots rule a peace filled Cybertron. When the comic spun off into two new books set during the post war, the previous ending was completely ignored as the Autobots became hated and Cybertron was destroyed by Unicron. The original finale was retconned into being just a vision had by Ironhide and Alpha Trion about their ideal future and both characters would end up dying near the series' end.
  • Age of Apocalypse. Inverted then played straight. The original event ended with most of the characters dead or about to be destroyed by a nuclear strike against the US, having sacrificed their own reality in the hope of restoring the main Marvel universe. Then a sequel came out in which people pick up the rubble and try to rebuild the world and their lives. Later in 2012, Uncanny X-Force had an arc in which they went to visit that same world and it was more horrifying than ever, with Apocalypse being replaced by something far worse and most of the dimension's X-Men being killed.
  • At the end of Watchmen, Adrian "Ozymandias" Veidt successfully saves the world from the brink of World War III via an elaborate alien invasion hoax, and the protagonists agree that no one must never know the truth. But Rorschach is a pre-emptive Spanner in the Works, as he had already sent evidence of Veidt's plan to a newspaper he trusts, and it was only a matter of time before the truth became public knowledge. Sure enough, by the time Doomsday Clock begins, Veidt had been exposed, and everything is back to square one.
  • Even Archie Comics becomes guilty with this. The hypothetical Archie Marries Betty/Veronica storylines give a Happily Ever After (and Babies Ever After to the focal couple) to all the characters in both timelines. Life with Archie: The Married Life expands their first few years as newlywed couples and turns the stories into full-blown soap opera (complete with Drama Bombs) before finally ending with The Hero Dies.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths acted as an override to the happy marriages of both versions of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor who starred in Wonder Woman (vol 1), with their Earth-Two daughter who survived the worlds being erased/merged into "New Earth" going mad from her memories of her parents who have been erased from history and existence. This override was enforced in Wonder Woman (vol 2) by the fact the Steve Trevor of "New Earth" is much older than Diana, never has a romance with her and gets married to the new version of Etta Candy instead thereby ensuring their happy ending will not carry over into the new universe made up of the ones in which they had long standing happy romantic relationships.

    Fan Works 
  • Ask The New Hope's Peak does this for Danganronpa 3, showing plenty of Ascended Fridge Horror about the world after an apocalypse.
  • The Teen Titans fanfic Beware the Grey Ghost does this to the Batman: The Animated Series episode of the same name. At the conclusion of the episode, the actor who played the titular Grey Ghost found his acting career revitalized thanks to helping Batman thwart the Mad Bomber recreating an episode of his show. In the opening chapter, however, Robin tells the rest of the Titans that said Mad Bomber escaped during a mass breakout of Arkham, then planted a bomb in the actor's car, killing him.
  • The end of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality had Harry obliviating Voldemort of all his memories, hoping to raise him again in love and warmth one day. Yet in its fan sequel Significant Digits, Voldemort got all his memories back.
  • old light still slants through overrides the light-hearted and comical tone of Reborn's ending, which left off with Tsuna having to endure the shenanigans of Reborn's tutoring once more with all of his new friends. After becoming the boss of the Vongola, he attempts to return the organization to its vigilante roots, only for the rise of Quirks to throw the world into chaos as the Vongola desperately tried to maintain order. The Vongola ultimately lose and it's heavily implied that Tsuna had seen the deaths of all of his loved ones, family members, and Guardians, including the death of his younger brother, who was only 19 at the time. With nothing left to live for, Tsuna becomes a Death Seeker and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, indiscriminately slaughtering everyone he held responsible before finally dying himself and reincarnating as Izuku Midoriya. Filled with guilt and regret, Tsuna now acts as a Spirit Advisor to Izuku, coaching him on how to use his Dying Will Flames to become a Hero and prevent Izuku from going down the same path he did.
  • Avenger Goddess has a brief example of this when Natasha tells Tony how she and Diana once helped a neighbour realise that she had cancer in time to get treatment; a year after they moved away Natasha checked on that neighbour and found that she was run over by a bus, which she's never been able to bring herself to tell Diana about.
  • The Queens Admiral does this for Beauty and the Beast, as whatever peace and happiness the characters managed to achieve were undercut by the French Revolution, during which Adam (the Beast) lost his kingdom, his son, and almost all of his servants aside from Chip. The former prince Adam had since become a senile old man who eventually dies of heart attack when he got involved in the conflict that the main characters were involved in.
  • "Flaihhsam s'Spahkh" has a throwaway mention that Ael t'Rllaillieu from the Rihannsu novels was assassinated at some point after becoming Empress of the Romulan Star Empire in the last book, which probably explains why her friendship with Kirk and the Enterprise crew hadn't led to a long-term thaw in relations with the Federation by Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • In the Ruby and Nora story Attacks, the titular duo save the town of Muzukasi from robotic Grimm attacks after finding out that Harold White was behind them. In the very next story, Bloodsucker, Muzukasi was destroyed by the Aswang with Penwood the only survivor.
  • In the second story of Raven Child's The Smurfette Village series, the Smurfettes escape the volcanic destruction of their village with the help of the Smurfs and end up moving in with them in the Smurf Village, setting itself up for a Happily Ever After ending. By the time the third story's How We Got Here sequence starts, however, only ten of the Smurfs and Smurfettes survive the destruction of the Smurf Village due to a Synthetic Plague being unleashed upon all but those ten Smurfs who escaped.
  • The 6th installment of the Tales of the Undiscovered Swords ends with Sasanoyuki on kiwame seemingly able to move on from his past. However, in the 8th fic which features him after the kiwame training, it's revealed that his self-hatred problem has gotten worse from being exposed to the past events again. He gets better in the end though.

    Film — Animated 
  • At the end of The Incredibles, it looks like the Parr family can finally come out of hiding after saving the city from Syndrome's Omidroid, and can now fight crime in public as a superhero family, but in the sequel, which picks up right where the previous film left off, it's revealed that superheroes are still illegal and one of the main goals of the film is to try and get the law changed. Even Violet getting a date with her crush, Tony, gets undone when Dicker erases his memory after he accidentally discovers her secret identity, making him to forget all about her.
  • A partial example in Toy Story 4. The Bittersweet Ending of Toy Story 3 saw the teenage Andy passing on his toys to little Bonnie, who seemed like she would play with them and love them as much as Andy had. In the sequel, this is true for most of the toys, but Bonnie has lost interest in Woody and ignores him. In the end, he accepts that she doesn't need him anymore and starts a new life as an ownerless toy with Bo Peep.
  • Wreck-It Ralph ends with Vanellope finally earning her place in Sugar Rush and becoming a popular player, while Ralph cherishes having a new friend who makes his job as a villain more bearable. The sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, takes place six years later - Vanellope is now tired of Sugar Rush and finds it boring, accidentally gets it unplugged, and eventually abandons it for another game, while Ralph is forced to learn to give up his own happiness to allow for hers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later: Jim, Selena, and Hannah all survive the zombie apocalypse and move to a safe area while the Infected from Britain starve to death and it becomes safe again. They are eventually spotted by a plane and rescued. Then, 28 Weeks Later causes another infection outbreak due to an Idiot Plot, this time reaching mainland Europe with no natural barriers to stop the zombies from overrunning Eurasia. Meanwhile, a comic series starring one of the survivors from the first movie reveals that Jim has been sentenced to death for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the soldiers who were trying to repopulate the earth by using his friends.
  • Alien franchise:
    • Ripley had destroyed the monster and escaped in a pod in Alien, but in Aliens she discovered that her ship wandered without a destination and she stayed in hypersleep for several decades. Doesn't seem such a downer until Ripley learns that she outlived her own daughter while she was in stasis.
    • The transition from Aliens to Alien³, in which Hicks, Bishop, and Newt, the three that Ripley fought tooth and nail to save in the previous movie, are killed off-screen before the opening credits. Bishop technically survives, but he's damaged beyond repair and permanently turned off by Ripley. James Cameron was horrified that the survivors from his film died horribly instead of being able to start a family (with the exception of Ripley), and the author hired to write novelizations for the series went so far as to call this twist "obscene". Notably, the Dark Horse comic series ignores the twist, keeping Newt and Hicks alive. Only for things to get worse.
    • Alien: Resurrection completely negates Ripley's Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Alien 3 by putting alien DNA into the hands of another Corrupt Corporation.
    • While Prometheus certainly didn't end happily, by any means, it did end hopefully with the lone survivors—Elizabeth and David—headed towards the Engineers' homeworld for answers. In Alien: Covenant, it turns out David took a flying leap off the slippery slope, murdered Elizabeth, and horrifically mutilated her remains to help create the ultimate lifeform: the Xenomorphs. Shaw is long dead and David is now the Big Bad of the series.
  • This happened (albeit with more subtlety than usual) in the course of Tim Burton's two Batman films. True, the 1989 original didn't exactly end with the cast singing "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile"... but things wrapped up about as well as they possibly could in such a dark franchise: Gotham City was saved and Batman got his revenge. But Batman Returns shows us early on that Batman may have won as a hero but Bruce Wayne has lost as a man, as he is still unhappy, his revenge didn't satisfy him, his relationship with someone who understood him didn't work out, and if anything, the experience had left him even more brutal and bloodthirsty And then he's framed for the murder of an innocent, causing everyone to hate him again (and we never do see Batman being officially exonerated, despite the actual killer being punished by Batman himself). Batman Forever (with which Burton was only peripherally involved) managed to un-undo everything, having Batman finally overcome his anger at seeing his parents murdered and being respected by the people of Gotham once again. Almost everyone agreed that the follow-up to that, Batman & Robin, was a little too happy. Additionally, the first three films’ respective love interests are absent by the following sequels.
  • The Blues Brothers ended with Elwood and Jake barely managing to save the orphanage before being arrested. At the beginning of Blues Brothers 2000, Elwood discovers that the orphanage has been demolished and Jake died offscreen before the movie begins, in a case of The Character Died with Him.
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Borat ends the first film happily remarried and (poorly) shares what he has learned in America to improve the lives of the people of Kazakhstan. By the opening of this film, Kazakhstan is a laughingstock to the rest of the world, Borat's family hates him, and he's doing a life sentence in The Gulag.
  • Child's Play. The first three movies play the trope straight, as both the first and second movies end with protagonist Andy successfully killing Chucky and moving on, only for the Killer Doll to come back from the dead by the next opus, where it's always revealed Andy's life only got worse in the mid-time. Andy is Put on a Bus for the next two movies, but brought back in the sixth one, where the trope gets spectacularly subverted: Andy's situation finally got better (he reunited with his mother and lives a normal life), and when Chucky does find him again, Andy welcomes him with a shotgun. Ultimately played straight again in the following movie, Cult of Chucky: Andy is miserable and obsessed with Chucky at the onset, and by the end of the movie, Chucky has a human form and his latest murders will probably be attributed to Andy.
  • Final Destination: It's a splatter film series where every movie ends with a Downer Ending in which Death gruesomely murders the protagonists, usually after a fake-out happy ending. The two leads of Final Destination 2 are the only ones to get an unambiguous happy ending, as being killed and then revived in time seems to get them off of Death's list. And yet deleted scenes from the third movie show newspaper clippings revealing that they died in a freak accident sometime in between movies.
  • Flying Guillotine ends with the hero, Ma, killing the last of the elite Guillotine assasination squad and escaping with his wife and baby, where he can live a quiet, happy life in the countryside. In the sequel, a new league of assassins catches up with Ma, and in their attempt to kill him they end up killing Ma's wife and son.
  • Ghostbusters (1984) ends with the titular team defeating an ancient Sumerian deity, sending it back where it came from, and being hailed as heroes by a grateful city. Ghostbusters II opens up five years later with their reputation inexplicably in shambles, the partnership dissolved, a court order preventing them from offering their services, and some of them even being so desperate that they have taken to performing at birthday parties. Peter and Dana broke up too. Fortunately, the happy ending of that movie seems to stick, as the video game (which is considered canon) shows them still active a few years later, and the current mayoral administration having very Ghostbuster-friendly policies.
  • At the end of Ginger Snaps, while Brigitte did have to kill her sister Ginger, she managed to stop her own werewolf infection by using monkshood to cure herself. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed reveals that the cure was only temporary, and Brigitte must keep injecting monkshood to stave off her transformation — and her body has built up a tolerance to it, necessitating ever greater doses in a manner that calls to mind drug addiction, complete with her spending the first half of the film in a rehab clinic. There's no such happy ending for her this time, the film ending with her transformation complete and Ghost keeping her as a "pet" to eat her enemies.
  • Godzilla (2014) ends with Godzilla returning to the sea after defeating the MUTOS, and Kong: Skull Island ends with Kong still the king of his home, both triumphant notes. The opening moments of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) then reveal that the Titans are being awakened at a dramatic rate, forcing Godzilla back into the conflict and setting the stage for a fight with Kong, as Skull Island is caught in the crossfire. The Monarch Corporation is also facing major scrutiny and public backlash for their role in the previous films. Then Godzilla vs. Kong overrides things further by the opening moments showing the public having largely turned against Godzilla, and Kong having grown so much that Skull Island can no longer sustain him. Most of the natives he protected have also died off, and a Corrupt Corporative Executive is trying to harvest resources by using one of Ghidorah's heads.
  • Halloween: Like A Nightmare on Elm Street below, any time it looks as though Michael Myers has been killed, the next installment brings him back. The most obvious example is after Michael is decapitated at the end of Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection instead reveals that he's still alive because the one who was decapitated was another person he dressed up as himself.
  • Herbie Goes Bananas, the fourth installment in the The Love Bug series, reveals that Herbie’s girlfriend Giselle from the previous movie Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo did not survive an accident in a race both characters were in which took place between the two movies. Perhaps out of guilt, Herbie’s friend and driver Jim Douglas ‘gives’ Herbie to his nephew - and also a race car driver - Pete Stancheck.
  • The Inbetweeners Movie begins with Carli dumping Simon - overriding the Relationship Upgrade that had been hinted at at the end of the TV series. The movie ends on a rare positive for all four of the boys as they are in relationships - only for The Inbetweeners 2 to begin with them firmly back in their Crapsack World, all single except for Simon, and alas for him, Lucy has become the girlfriend from Hell. It's even implied that Will never managed to lose his virginity to Alison, although whether this is a joke or a statement of fact is open to interpretation.
  • Well, more like a Bittersweet Ending Override for Independence Day, given the death toll and the destruction, despite the defeat of the alien armada. But humanity survives and gets tons of alien tech to study. Twenty years later, Independence Day: Resurgence comes and reveals that an even larger alien fleet is on the way, and humanity's advances and efforts to integrate alien tech with Earth tech may not be enough to stop them. Also, Will Smith's character was killed in-between the films, while testing a hybrid fighter jet.
  • The classic Soviet film The Irony of Fate ends with the two protagonists seemingly ending up together, with both of them ditching their Romantic False Leads. Skip to the sequel 30 years later (both in Real Life and in the film), and it turns out that the male protagonist simply went back to his fiancee, forcing the female protagonist to go back to the guy she dumped, who still haven't forgiven her for leaving him, even after 30 years of marriage. The previous film's leads haven't spoken or seen one another in three decades and have told different accounts of the story to their children. The sequel rehashes the first film's story, but in a modern setting, and the now-elderly former leads end up together, just like their children.
  • The Karate Kid: Daniel-san wins the tournament and gets the girl. Come the sequel, she's wrecked his car and dumped him for a college guy.
  • The ending of the original Kick Boxer has the hero avenge his brother's death by beating the bully Tong Po and the film ends on a happy note. The beginning of Kick Boxer 2 has Tong Po murder the hero in cold blood, setting up the revenge story for the next younger brother. This wasn't the original script, but they changed it because the first film's star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, refused to return for the sequel.
  • Played with in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In Kingsman: The Secret Service, while Eggsy's mentor Harry dies, the film ends with Eggsy, Roxie, and Merlin saving the day from Valentine's plan. Even his dog lives! Golden Circle opens with a missile strike that kills Roxie, Eggsy's dog, and most of the Kingsman organization. However, we do find out later that Harry didn't actually die in the last movie.
  • Kick-Ass ends with Dave having a loving girlfriend and Mindy starting a bright future going to school. During Kick-Ass 2, Katie dumps Dave and reveals that she had been cheating on him, and Mindy is an outcast at school and is unable to settle down and have a normal childhood.
  • Men in Black: Agent K passes the torch to Agent J and moves on to a well-earned retirement with the wife he hasn't seen in decades, J forms a new partnership with L, and everybody wins! Then Men in Black II comes along and decides to completely rehash the original, so L breaks up with J and gets a transfer to the morgue, leading J to a series of unsuitable partners, before being forced to reactivate K, which is only made slightly better because K's miserable and can't remember that it's because he used to be a galactic sheriff for all of Earth, and has become so uncertain and wistful about the things he can't remember that the woman he longed for his whole life and finally got to marry left him. Yay?
  • Mortal Kombat: Annihilation not only completely invalidates our heroes' victory at the end of the first movie by having Shao Kahn invade Earth anyway despite the tournament being won (a result of Shinnok, the true Big Bad, manipulating things from behind the scenes), it also robs Raiden of his godly powers and brutally murders Johnny Cage in the first three minutes of the film.
  • In Muppets Most Wanted, all those millions of Muppet fans that appeared at the end of The Muppets to lend their support to the gang in their time of need?
    Rowlf: Actually, those were extras.
    Fozzie: I saw a few tapping their toes.
    Scooter: Yeah, those were paid dancers.
    Fozzie: ...Oh.
  • Neighbors: The first film ends with Teddy, realizing he needs to grow up and be an adult, getting a day job at Abercrombie & Fitch while taking night classes to boost his GPA. He also makes up with Mac when he runs into him outside the store. But then the sequel reveals that, thanks to the big party at the end of the first film, Teddy has a criminal record. So even though he's gotten his grades up and graduated, he's still stuck at his minimum wage A&F job while his college friends have gone on to bigger success because no one else will hire him. His resulting bitterness at his situation has caused him to develop some resentment towards Mac.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: As a Villain-Based Franchise, it's a given that Freddy will return to menace the heroes again in a new entry, which makes the protagonist's efforts in previous entries largely worthless. However, the meanest example is without a doubt the Series Fauxnale Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which is set after a ten-year Time Skip after Alice's last encounter with him. By now, Freddy has slaughtered every living child in Springwood and turned it into a Ghost Town populated only by a few residents who have been driven to insanity by their grief, while planning to use the last surviving teenager to spread his influence to the rest of the world.
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The first movie ended with Paul a hero and getting married to his Love Interest, Amy. The sequel opens with the reveal that Amy filed for a divorce less than a week later for unexplained reasons, and to make matters worse, a short time after that his mother gets hit by a milk truck one morning while getting the paper. At least Paul finds someone else (who's also a security guard) and Maya gets to go to her dream college at the end.
  • The film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ends in the best possible and most uplifting scenario with the villains dead, Will and Elizabeth getting officially together and Norrington generously giving Jack a head start all of which is done with the approval of the Governor, who is the highest authority figure in Port Royal leaving nothing in doubt about the whole matter. Until Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest that is, where a higher authority figure named Cutler Beckett (Lord actually) does appear, who shares a history with both Governor Swann and Jack and proceeds to use this seemingly innocuous development to his advantage by taking over and sentencing all those involved to death by hanging for aiding a branded pirate - this also means that Will is forced to miss his own wedding. And all this in order to blackmail Turner into fetching him Jack's magic compass. Oh and and old debt of Jack's comes back to haunt him. This leads to a far less happy ending and a lot of things that need to be fixed by the next film. In fact the second film manages to offer an alternate happy ending overriding case that doesn't lead to anywhere, since it shows Jack coming close to facing yet another mutiny from the same crew that seemingly accepted him as captain at the end of the previous film. Even Norrington is reduced to a drunken shadow of his former self.
  • Rambo IV ended on an optimistic note, with Rambo moving past his bitterness and cynicism to rejoin his family and society as a whole. In Rambo: Last Blood, while he did find peace and happiness, it was only temporary as his new life is completely destroyed by the Cartel and he's resigned himself to Walking the Earth as an outcast once more.
  • The Rocky movies love their Overrides.
    • Rocky ends with the title hero going the distance against the champion Apollo Creed, which is all he really wanted. They agree there won't be a rematch, and Rocky quits the boxing biz. Rocky II sees Balboa's endorsements and money from the fight run dry. Creed, his pride now wounded by skeptical fans, demands a rematch. Rocky, desperate to feed his family, has no choice but to take it.
    • After beating Ivan Drago at the end of Rocky IV, Rocky returns to the states in Rocky V, only to learn that he has lost all of his money and that he also has serious brain damage which could lead to his death if he ever fights again.
    • Creed: Last time we saw Rocky, he had finally made peace with both losing Adrian and not being able to box anymore, having one last fight that he manages to go the distance for which earns him both the respect of the crowd and his opponent, and he's also got his son, Paulie, and Marie as part of his life. By the time this film rolls around, Paulie has died, his son has moved to Vancouver, Marie's been Put on a Bus, and he's dying of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
  • Shanghai Noon ended with the heroes each getting the girl, becoming rich and both getting respected jobs as sheriffs. By the second film, the girls were gone, the money had been lost in a poor investment and while Roy had already left his job and become a waiter, Chon had to leave it in order to follow the plot of the next film.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country ends on a high (if bittersweet) note, with our heroes, including Captain Kirk, heading towards retirement after saving the Federation and the galaxy yet again. Then Star Trek: Generations happens, and Kirk first gets chucked out of the Enterprise-B's hull into the Nexus, and then proceeds to be the trope namer for Dropped a Bridge on Him when he comes out to stop the Mad Scientist Soran from blowing up a sun in order to get into the Nexus.
    • Similarly, Star Trek: Nemesis ends on the hope that the Romulan Empire and the Federation will be able to put the past behind them and band together for the common good, even after the time they spent fighting. It never happens because Romulus of this universe was canonically destroyed by a supernova in the Continuity Reboot Star Trek (2009), giving Nero the impetus to screw around with the Alternate Continuity of the Abrams films.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope ends on a triumphant note with the Rebels destroying the Death Star and receiving medals for it. Come The Empire Strikes Back and we learn that the celebrations were short-lived as the Empire's counterattack was swift and drove them out from their base, starting the darkest episode of the original trilogy.
    • Happens also in the Star Wars: Ewok Adventures of all movies. Caravan of Courage had a teenage boy and his younger sister team up with some teddy bears to rescue their parents from a giant. Within the first few minutes of Battle for Endor all the humans except the little girl are killed by Space Pirates, who go on to slaughter or enslave all but one of the Ewoks.
    • The Force Awakens:
      • The Empire has fallen, dealt a final blow shortly after Return of the Jedi, but sympathizers have worked behind the scenes to create a replacement for thirty years. The New Republic leadership doesn't take them seriously, so Princess Leia forms La Résistance with surreptitious support from old political allies to fight them as best they can. Until the New Republic is at best utterly devastated and at worst annihilated during the events of the film.
      • Luke's attempt at resurrecting the Jedi Order ended in total disaster when his nephew turned to the Dark Side and killed most of the other apprentices. After several decades he is still the last Jedi, and has retreated into unknown space.
      • Han and Leia's ending. Not only do they lose their son to the Dark Side, devastating their relationship and sending them back to what is comfortable: Leia leading the resistance against the Empire-influenced First Order and Han back to smuggling, but it is overridden further when their son completes his fall by killing Han.
    • The Last Jedi continues this, having the First Order reigning the Galaxy with their losses at Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens barely slowing them down, the remaining Resistance members being picked off, Leia's call for help ignored out of fear, Finn and Rose's unsanctioned mission making things worse, and Luke Skywalker himself dying to help the last remnants of the Resistance escape.
      • In fact, the sequel trilogy has become this for the Skywalker Saga - Han Solo is murdered by his own son; Leia has lost nearly all of her loved ones by the end of The Last Jedi; Ben Solo has fallen to the Dark Side and, unlike Anakin Skywalker, is declared a lost cause by his last surviving family; and, finally, Luke is reduced to the antithesis of his old self after failing to complete his promise to Master Yoda to form a new Jedi Order, and then dies of exhaustion after his last heroic act to save his sister. The galaxy moves on, with the Skywalkers and their loved ones ultimately ended up being just another group of its casualties instead of the heroes of their time.
    • The Rise of Skywalker continues the trend: Both Leia and her son die, but Kylo effectively ended up retreading Anakin's own redemption arc by sacrificing himself to save a loved one - and for that matter, Emperor Palpatine never truly died to begin with (and has been controlling the galaxy via a Puppet King in the interim), meaning Anakin's own Dying Moment of Awesome was rendered meaningless beyond saving Luke's life at that time (and as stated above, Luke had his own personal happy ending overriden). In fact, not only did Palpatine not lose in the original trilogy, rendering the whole Rebellion and all its struggles moot, he actually became explicitly far more powerful: by the Sequel Trilogy he controls both his former Imperial domain (via the First Order) and a huge never before mentioned Sith Fleet that's explicitly far larger than the Imperial Navy at its height. Oh, and every single ship in that fleet has a planet-destroying laser, so he basically has ten thousand Death Stars, rendering the conflicts of the previous films (to destroy a mere two Death Stars) totally meaningless. The day is saved, but Han, Leia, Luke and Kylo are all dead, much of the Outer and Mid-Rim has been razed, the Jedi are still extinct, and the unified galactic government is in cinders.
  • A cross-media example: Superman Returns ends with Superman accepting that he has a biological son with Lois Lane, and swearing he will be there for him, successfully rekindling his relationship with all of the supporting cast after being away for five (In-Universe) years, and saving the day from another scheme made by Lex Luthor. The Arrowverse Crisis Crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) reveals to the audience that at some point in between Returns and 2019 The Joker got pissed off that the Daily Planet wasn't talking enough about him in their stories and massacred everybody in the building in revenge for this slight, with Supes himself confirming the deaths of Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane. While Supes remains The Cape after this and still helps people (instead of exiling himself like he did in Kingdom Come, which this character arc homages), it's made very obvious that he's still hurting.
  • In Ted, the film ends with John and Lori getting married and Ted becoming store manager. By the beginning of the sequel, it's confirmed that John and Lori have been divorced for six months, Ted is a cashier again and loses his job due to his lack of legal rights.
  • Happens to James Cameron again in the Terminator series.
  • At the end of the first Transformers film, Megatron is killed; gets resurrected in the next one. Part of Sam's character arc in the second film is his refusal to tell Mikaela he loves her, but he finally does at the end. She dumps him between films. Transformers: Dark of the Moon has the Autobots emerge triumphant as seemingly all the Decepticons (including Megatron, Starscream and the long-absent Barricade) are killed. Transformers: Age of Extinction begins four years later, during which time humanity has turned on the Autobots and are now hunting them down to kill them. And their remains are used to create new Transformers controlled by humans. Including Megatron, who, as it turns out, is still alive.
  • TRON: Yay! Master Control was destroyed, Dillinger was busted, the Programs are free again, and Flynn's not only got his job back, he's the guy in charge! He wraps his arms around Lora and Alan and off they go into the sunset... TRON: Legacy opens, and Encom's back to being run by crooks, with Alan as the Only Sane Man in the room. Lora's nowhere to be seen (Expanded Universe material says she was Put on a Bus, which is actually nicer than her fate in the other sequel; the actress is trying to fix this). Meanwhile, Flynn's trapped by his own creation, has been fighting a Hopeless War for the equivalent of centuries, and has had to watch the genocide of a species. And just to frost the cake? The title character made an attempt at Heroic Sacrifice that turned into a Fate Worse than Death. Suddenly, the first film doesn't seem like such cheery Disney fare. Worse, TRON: Legacy veers incredibly close to a full-blown Downer Ending since over 2/3 of the characters are dead and most of the other 1/3 have dim survival odds at best. The only bright spot at the end of Legacy is that Sam and Quorra manage to escape alive.
    • The video game sequel TRON 2.0 is Lighter and Softer, but not by much; the comic establishes that Flynn apparently went nuts and vanished, Lora was killed by an accident in the laser lab with the part of her remaining in the system compiled into Ma3a, Alan has been exiled to a lab in the basement instead of a token position in the boardroom, Encom is on such shaky ground that a shady fly-by-night like F-Con can swoop in and buy them out, and Tron's fate is explicitly stated to be "unknown."
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: The cautious optimism that Professor X carried at the end of X-Men: First Class turned out to be short-lived. After just one semester, conscription for the Vietnam War forces Charles Xavier to close his school, which serves as the last straw that broke the camel's back. Losing his sense of purpose exacerbates the traumas he has experienced during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he soon becomes a drug-addled recluse.
    • Logan itself overrides the ending Wolverine fought for in Days of Future Past, as it adapts elements of Old Man Logan, including mutants dying out, Logan as a tired old man, and seven of the X-Men being killed by an unknowing member of their own ranks (in the film's case, Professor Xavier during a telepathic seizure) leading to the dissolution of the team, the cure against the mutants succeed, and Logan and Charles die by the end of the movie.
  • Zoolander ended with Mugatu in jail, Derek and Matilda getting married and having a son, and the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good finally being opened. The sequel reveals that Mugatu orchestrated the collapse of the center while imprisoned, which scarred Hansel's face and killed Matilda. Derek subsequently lost custody of his son, and retreated from the public eye to live as a recluse.

  • Scorpia Rising, which was intended to be the final Alex Rider book at the time it was written, ends with Alex finally escaping MI6 and starting a new life in America with the Pleasure family. A few years down the line, however, author Anthony Horowitz decided to revive the series, and Never Say Die opens with Alex miserable and unable to accustomise to his new life, still traumatised by the events of the previous book.
  • Enna Burning, the second of the Books of Bayern, does this to the happy ending of The Goose Girl. Just two years later the kingdom is plunged into war, the king is killed in battle, and Isi (the princess) has trouble controlling her wind-communication powers, resulting in the wind's nonstop "voice" nearly driving her insane. And this is just backdrop for the trauma that protagonist Enna goes through over the course of the book. Fortunately, they all eventually reach a new, hard-earned happy ending.
  • The Camp Half-Blood Series:
    • The first sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus scales Percy and Annabeth's happy ending back as Percy is magically teleported by Hera to the San Francisco Bay Area sometime after the Second Titanomachy. Since they don't know where he goes to, Annabeth and Sally are left to grieve in the cold, while Percy spends more than six months cut off from his friends and family.
    • The second sequel series, The Trials of Apollo completely destroys Jason and Piper's happy ending from the previous series because of several factors. First, Jason and Piper broke up, albeit amicably. Second, Piper is moving to Oklahoma because of her father's financial troubles, making reconciliation with Jason difficult since she isn't going to meet him as often. Third, Jason dies, leaving any kind of reconciliation impossible.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, the heroes leave Narnia restored and happy in the first book, and come back in the second to a later Narnia where everything's even worse than it was before; the winter may be gone, but many Talking Animals have ceased to talk and much of the magic has begun to go away under the reign of the Telmarines. That's because time in Narnia flows as quickly relative to time on Earth as it needs to, and Aslan calls the children from England only at a point when Narnia needs them, and when it would be most beneficial to their personal development.
  • Happens in the second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, though at least it is made fairly clear in the first one the Big Bad cannot be technically killed. Even so it was a kick in the gut, though not a surprise given the nature of the series.
  • In Starchild trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson the humanity controlled by a totalitarian Plan of Man which is ruled by a supercomputer called the Machine. It's implied however that this is the only way to survive for an enormous population whose expansion is restricted by limitations of ion engines. At the end of the first book the protagonist invents "reactionless drives" and the Machine declares that harsh control is no longer required. However in the second book this decision of the Machine is completely forgotten... May be justified because the events of the first book showed that high-ranking officials of the Plan can influence on the decisions of the Machine and may not be interested in the change.
  • At the end of The Great Brain, Tom appears to have reformed from his ways swindling all the kids in the neighborhood, although his brother, John secretly complained about things being too dull. The sequel, More Adventures of the Great Brain, however, it's revealed that he was only behaving to try and get a bicycle for Christmas, and once the holidays are over, he reverts back to his old ways.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ends with Harry feeling well after defeating evil, and being hopeful his powers will lead to fear and less bullying at home. The next book opens by showing his guardians are still as unpleasant to him as ever, if not more. Harry Potter is actually one of the most justifiable examples of this. Not only is the Dark Lord not destroyed and therefore the war not over, but also new problems arise, which are often impossible to foresee. Take the above mentioned example about the Dursleys: they learn that he is not allowed to perform magic outside of school thanks to Dobby and by the next book he has to rely on his godfather's reputation to keep them in check.
    • The final book shows, after a Time Skip, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco sending their kids to Hogwarts on a hopeful note. The follow-up play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reveals that Albus Potter's time at Hogwarts is hardly pleasant. He's an Inept Mage, who can't fly on a broom and has only one friend, Scorpius Malfoy. Even that friendship is threatened by Harry, who distrusts Scorpius.
  • While it was more of a Bittersweet Ending due to many characters, including some of Bilbo's allies, dying in the Battle of Five Armies, The Hobbit ends with Bilbo having taken a level in badass, with a newfound love of adventure and a magic ring as a keepsake of his long and eventful journey with Gandalf and the Dwarves. Then it's revealed early on in The Lord of the Rings that Bilbo's magic ring is really an Artifact of Doom forged by Sauron himself, and that it's corrupting Bilbo in a manner not unlike its corruption of its previous owner: Gollum. This, and the revelation that Bilbo is only the latest in a string of victims seduced by its power, and that it's unnaturally stretched out his lifespan since The Hobbit, casts the events of the previous book in a new and darker light.
  • The book Holes ends with the juvenile detention facility Camp Green Lake being closed, and turned into a Girl Scout camp. In the companion book Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake, the detention has been reopened, because several state officials read Holes and thought "What a great idea!" Even the original staff gets put back in charge, despite being under investigation, and one even arrested.
  • The Hunger Games: The first book ends with Katniss and Peeta winning the Hunger Games and returning to District 12 as heroes. Both are traumatized from their experiences, but at least they can rebuild themselves. The second book, Catching Fire, reveals that Katniss is reeling from her past experiences as the life of a Victor turns out to be no better than a Tribute. Then she and Peeta get reaped again, just as they are beginning to move on. By the end of the book, Katniss is rescued by rebels who secretly sabotage the Games, but finds out that Peeta has been captured by the Capitol, who responds to the sabotage by bombing District 12 to shreds, killing off more than 90% of the population, including many of Katniss' friends and all of Peeta's family.
  • At the end of Labyrinth of Reflections, the protagonist develops Neo-like powers both inside the Deep and in the real world (able to tap into the Deep without a modem) and meets his Love Interest at the train station, who turns out to look exactly like her in-Deep avatar. The second novel reveals that most of that was a result of Deep psychosis, although other characters confirm that his powers in the Deep weren't a figment of his imagination. His wife's appearance also matches her avatar, but he never actually met her at the train station, and their marriage is now on the rocks. Furthermore, he lost his powers sometime between the novels and doesn't know how.
  • The Moon Maid by Edgar Rice Burroughs ends with the astronauts repairing their ship and returning triumphantly to Earth, taking with them the moon princess their leader, Julian, has fallen in love with and leaving behind the saboteur who stranded them on the Moon to begin with. In the sequel, the saboteur returns to Earth at the head of a lunarian invasion fleet, takes over the world and kills Julian — all in the first chapter, after which the story skips ahead a century to show life under the invader's yoke. (Burroughs had actually written the atypically grim tale of Earth under alien overlords first, but couldn't find a buyer for it, so wrote The Moon Maid as a more usual Burroughs adventure tale to create demand for the sequel.) If you take into account all the Canon Welding Burroughs did in later years, the lunarian invasion also counts as a happy ending override for the characters of the Tarzan and Pellucidar series, along with several other lesser-known works, or at least for their descendants.
  • One of the earliest example: The Odyssey ends with Odysseus happily reunited with his wife Penelope and their son Telemachus after a long and perilous journey. In The Telegony, the lost sequel and last installment of the The Trojan Cycle, Odysseus is forced to leave for the killing of Penelope's suitors, forgets about Penelope and marries the Queen of Thesprotia Callidice. After the later dies during a battle, Odysseus returns to Ithaca only to be killed by Telegonus the son he had with Circe (absent in the Odyssey) contradicting Tiresias' prophecy that he would die a gentle death in sleek old age.
  • In Oscar Wilde's short story, "The Star-Child", the titular Wonder Child finally passed his Secret Test of Character, regains his beauty and discovers his roots as an heir to the kingdom. All would have been well if the story ended with him reigning as a good and merciful king. Instead, the very last line of the text mentions that the new king would die young, and would be replaced by a despot.
  • The Paw Thing by Paul Jennings ends with Singenpoo the cat chasing over a hundred mice out of her owner's chicken shop. The owner is so grateful he vows to stop treating her so badly. In the sequel Singenpoo Strikes Again, we find out that this change stuck for about a week or two and the owner is just as cruel as he was before, to the point of denying that Singenpoo had anything to do with saving his business.
  • The novel version of The Princess Bride overrides its own happy ending. As the heroes ride off on the white horses, Inigo's wound re-opens, they can hear the prince's hounds getting closer, and the resurrection pill begins to wear off. That part was left out of the "just the good parts" abridgement, and by Peter Falk in the movie.
  • The original version of Stephen King's The Stand, published in 1978, had a Bittersweet Ending. Flagg's plans to destroy the Boulder Free Zone have been thwarted, Flagg himself has seemingly been eliminated in the annihilation of Las Vegas, and the remaining residents of the Free Zone are left to reconstruct the world and society as best they can....all at a great cost. Then in 1990 came the "Complete and Uncut Edition," which added a brief coda: Flagg's body may have been destroyed, but his essence survived, and he reappears to a tribe of natives to "teach them to be civilized." And Here We Go Again!.
  • In the old pre-Disney-takeover Star Wars expanded universe, following the defeat of the Emperor, over the course of several decades we get repeated Imperial counterattacks, Palpatine returning and converting Luke to the Dark Side, a race of freaky humanoids invading and ravaging the Galaxy (and killing Chewbacca), and most of Han and Leia's children dying or going to the Dark Side. This all comes to a head with the Legacy comics, which have (a somewhat more Federation-like) Empire back on top 130 years after the films. Even the Sith are still a lurking threat.
    • On a smaller scale, the Del Rey novels can be considered this for the previous books published by Bantam. The Bantam novels ended with peace actually being made between the Republic and Empire, and the sane Admiral Pellaeon taking control of the latter after a long succession of evil kooks. When Del Rey got the rights, however, they promptly revealed the Yuuzhan Vong, an Outside-Context Problem arguably even worse than the Empire, and had a number of Bantam-era characters (and some movie characters) reduced to cannon fodder or turned evil. Timothy Zahn, the best-regarded Bantam writer, has criticized Del Rey for doing this.
  • Troubling A Star by Madeleine L'Engle brings back the fictional country of Vespugia from A Swiftly Tilting Planet and reveals that the events of the latter book only delayed the country's dictatorial government from coming to power by about 10 or 15 years, rather than averting it entirely.
  • The first Sword of Truth book has the Seeker fight to defeat the evil tyrant Darken Rahl. When he finally succeeds, a new crisis even worse than Rahl's tyranny takes place in the second book. Eventually, Richard discovers that The Empire he fought against in the first book is nothing compared to the Imperial Order, a massive empire that has somehow remained unknown to everyone within the New World, despite it being right next door.
  • Though the first book of the Never Again series has only a Bittersweet Ending, it still qualifies for this trope, because it ends with the heroes succeeding in democratizing the world, albeit at the cost of their lives. The Distant Finale clearly implies that they succeeded. However, all of that is ignored in the second book, in which it is revealed that somehow one dictatorship still survived John and Joy's changes to history, and was able to start a nuclear war, Take Over the World, and cause more deaths than all the wars, democides, and dictatorships of the Real-Life twentieth century combined. And all this just to set up a Continuity Reboot.
  • In Warrior Cats, the first arc ends on a pure happy ending. The sequel has humans tear down the forest which the story is set in and reveals that the villain is still hanging around from beyond the grave.
  • The Witcher: The Last Wish's section "A Question of Price" ends on a high note, with Queen Calanthe of Cintra marrying Eist Tuiseach, king of Skellige, and her daughter Princess Pavetta marrying her true love Duny, while already pregnant with Duny's child. In the several-year interval between The Last Wish and Blood of Elves, Pavetta and Duny are lost at sea, and Cintra is brutally conquered by the invading Nilfgaardians and Calanthe and Eist Tuiseach are killed. However, Pavetta and Duny's daughter Cirella survives and escapes, and is eventually picked up by Geralt.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel literally called Happy Endings, the Doctor's companion Benny gets married to Jason Kane. Eight books later, the publishers learn their Doctor Who licence is not going to be renewed, and quickly split Benny and Jason up so that Benny can star in solo stories.
  • Ready Player One ends with Wade becoming filthy rich, achieving worldwide fame, absolute power in the OASIS, and the girl of his dreams. Then comes Ready Player Two, and the girl dumps him in a matter of weeks, growing to hate him over the years due to philosophical differences (although Wade speculated that she was already looking for an excuse to end the relationship due to the reality of real-world relationships once the initial passion wore off. Wade's realization about the real world being important takes a backslide and he goes back to being an OASIS addict. His immaturity turns his fame into infamy. And he goes back to obsessing over another puzzle.
  • In Walter Moers’s Zamonia books, there is an In-Universe series of Prince Coldblood adventure novels. It’s mentioned that in every novel, the prince rescues a beautiful princess from a monster, but the same monster kidnaps her all over again at the start of the next instalment, leading to Prince Coldblood setting off to save her again – ad nauseam.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 4 of Baywatch, Cort was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that was slowly causing him to go blind. The Season 5 episode "Baja Run" ended with Cort realizing the inevitability of his condition and seemingly coming to terms with it. This was completely abandoned for his final episode, "Deep Trouble," which revealed that Cort had become a drunken, homeless wreck, and that the knowledge of what was going to happen to him had given him severe depression.
  • Code Lyoko ended with XANA defeated and the Lyoko-Warriors shutting down the Supercomputer before moving on with their life. The very first episode of the live-action sequel Code Lyoko: Evolution reveals XANA survived by turning the Lyoko-Warriors into his Soul Jars, forcing them to reactivate Lyoko and get back to fighting him.
  • Mixed together with Sequel Reboot with the season five premiere of Community: the fourth season ended optimistically with Jeff and Pierce graduating in the Fall semester, Shirley's business getting off the ground, Annie picking a major in criminology, and Chang deciding to stay friends with the group as "Kevin". Fast-forward to the next Fall, where Jeff's newly found scruples lead his career as an attorney to ruins, Shirley's family left her because she lost their savings on her failed business, Annie has gotten as job as a sales rep for the same prescription drugs that lead to her breakdown, none of the rest of the group are having any more success, and Chang is on work release for arson. The group decides they still need to learn more, but Greendale is the only place they can go to, while Jeff takes a job as a teacher to get by while he tries to get it in some form of working order.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Between Series 6 and Series 7 of Doctor Who, Amy and Rory go from Happily Married with Amy completely in awe of Rory's strength and nobility, to divorced and antagonistic. The reason given is that Amy was made infertile as a result of her abuse in the finale of Series 6 and she knew Rory wanted kids so she "gave him up." By the end of the season 7 premiere, they're back together since Rory (predictably) wants Amy more than biological kids.
    • In The Keeper of Traken, the Doctor foils the Master's plan to gain a new body for himself in a way that could have destroyed the titular planet, although the Master gets away with a stolen Trakenite body. In the next story, Logopolis, the Master's plan accidentally unleashes an entropy field that destroys a large number of planets. One of the planets destroyed is Traken.
    • At the climax of the 2013 anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, all thirteen then-known Doctors combine their forces to save Gallifrey and its inhabitants from destruction at the hands of the Daleks — the culmination of a lifetime's work. Come 2020 and Spyfall, the planet is wrecked and its inhabitants murdered by the Master.
  • Frasier:
    • Cheers had ended with Frasier and Lilith reuniting, their marriage rocky but apparently recovering. By the beginning of Frasier, the marriage had turned sour again (with Frasier's only explanation being that it was "excruciating"), eventually resulting in their separating and Frasier moving to Seattle.
    • Played for Laughs regarding Rebecca Howe in the episode "The One Where Sam Shows Up." Sam describes how everyone at Cheers has been getting along since Frasier moved to Seattle. Rebecca, who was last seen happily married to a plumber at the end of Cheers, had been divorced when her husband struck rich.
    Sam: She's back at the bar.
    Frasier: Working at Cheers again?
    Sam: No... Just back at the bar.
  • The end of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has Zeus, Hera, and Hercules in the middle of patching up their differences, as Hercules and Iolaus continue to have adventures. Come the Twilight of the Gods arc of Xena: Warrior Princess, which comes after the end of its parent show, Zeus kills Hera, and Hercules in turn is forced to kill Zeus, destroying any reconciliation the three may have had.
  • Between the first and second season of Heroes, Matt Parkman's forgiveness of his wife and the happy reunion of Niki with DL were both undone. So was Sylar's death, but this had been heavily implied to begin with.
  • In The Dark:
    • A variation. While the first season finale still had Murphy being threatened by Nia, Dean was arrested after Murphy got a confession for his murdering Tyson. The second season has Dean using Loophole Abuse to avoid being arrested and gets his murder covered up by the police while Murphy and her friends are forced to work for Nia or face death.
    • It also happens to Darnell who's freed from jail for Tyson's murder only to find Jules dead in a faked suicide.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • The ending of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Manhattan Vigil" has about as happy an ending as you can get in a case where there was a murder: the perp is caught and makes a full confession, the primary Victim of the Week is rescued unharmed and returned to his parents (the murder was in an older case that was part of the same serial pattern), and said parents (who are divorced) seem to be on the road to reconciliation, or at least a more amicable relationship. Three seasons later, the follow-up episode "Depravity Standard" has the perp recanting his confession and claiming it was coerced, the perp's trial ends with a hung jury, and just to top the whole thing off, the victim's mother indicates that she and her ex are back at each other's throats. Although this episode also ends on a hopeful note, with Barba potentially getting what he needs to get a conviction in the retrial.
  • The season 1 finale of The Mandalorian shows that Moff Gideon has possession of the Darksaber. This seems to imply that after Sabine handed the Darksaber and leadership of the Mandalorian rebels to Bo-Katan, the rebels were defeated by the Empire, who then proceeded to purge the Mandalorians.
  • Played with in the season 3 finale of M*A*S*H. The episode starts with Radar coming into the OR with news that Henry is going home. Everyone is thrilled; parties, gifts, the whole 9 yards. Henry's last day in camp is sad because of all the goodbye's, but it's still happy since he is GOING HOME. But later, back in the OR, Radar comes in with a new report: Henry's plane was shot down...there were no survivors.
  • Season 6 of Once Upon a Time ended with the characters finally earning their happy endings, especially the reformed villains. Season 7 is a soft reboot set in another town with Dark Curse versions of characters from a different fairy tale universe ... except Henry, Regina, Killian and Rumplestiltskin have got caught up in it too. And it looks like Rumple's taken yet another spin through the Heel–Face Revolving Door.
    • Turns out to be averted in the case of Killian Jones- the one in Hyperion Heights is not the one from previous seasons, but his doppelganger from the alternate Enchanted Forest created by Regina's wish. The 'real' Hook, as far as we know, is still living happily with Emma
  • Star Trek: In the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror", Kirk convinces the Spock of an alternate universe (in which the Federation is The Empire) to work for peace. In Deep Space Nine, that world is revisited, and it turns out that Spock took Kirk's advice, and succeeded... leading to the destruction of the Empire by its enemies. Humans, and presumably Vulcans, are now slaves. Word of God is that the episode was specifically intended to mock Kirk by changing Kirk's triumph in "Mirror, Mirror" into a bitter failure, thereby vilifying Kirk as the man singularly responsible for ruining the lives of all humanity in another universe. Later episodes in the mirror universe de-emphasized (or ignored altogether) this motive, making it more of a standard rebellion-against-alien-oppressors situation. And the Expanded Universe Star Trek: Mirror Universe novels subverted it, revealing Mirror!Spock was playing a really long game which finally succeeded over a century later, so Kirk's advice did work after all.
  • Zordon's sacrifice in the finale of Power Rangers in Space goes from destroying all evil in the universe to merely Dark Specter and his forces (Rita, Lord Zedd, the Machine Empire, Divatox, and Astronema). Otherwise Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (and all subsequent series) couldn't happen.
  • Star Trek: Picard does this with Star Trek: Nemesis. Nemesis had Data perish in a Heroic Sacrifice, but the ending provided a glimmer of hope by implying that Data may have transferred his memories to his "brother" B4. Picard then reveals that while Data had tried to do this, the process ultimately failed because B4's brain wasn't advanced enough to copy Data's mind. As far as anyone knows, Data truly is dead, a fact that weighs very heavily on Picard. As it turns out, Data has been "alive" after all, as is his active mind is contained inside a simulation in the laboratory of Dr. Soong's son.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Kes leaves Voyager as she Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence. Which inexplicably doesn't mean she stops aging, as we see when she returns nearly three years later. On top of that, she's bitter and delusional, thinking her friends abandoned her when she chose to leave. In the end, she decides to return to her home planet, a broken-down old woman.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which is an Alternate Timeline to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, similarly revealed that Sarah's hopes that Terminator 2: Judgment Day had averted Skynet were false. The overall tone of the series, however, was more positive than the third film, with the revelation that there is a second Machine faction opposing Skynet who might ally with humanity and the overall implication that it might be possible to somehow alter the future to avert war between humans and A.I.s without preventing the creation of the latter.
  • 24:
    • The series did this for Tony Almeida. During the third season, Tony was forced into some tough choices that saw him lose everything: he was stripped of his job, his wife Michelle left him, and wound up briefly being jailed. Season four went about giving him personal redemption, helping Jack Bauer stop a terrorist threat that ultimately saw a nuclear missile nearly hit L.A., and by the time it was over he'd managed to get his life back in order and get back together with Michelle. So what does season 5 proceed to do? Within the first 15 minutes of the premiere she's killed by a car bomb as part of the antagonists of that Day's plot, leading him to lose it for the rest of the series and eventually sink so low that in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge her death winds up working with terrorists. Yeah. Definitely made the fourth season's happy ending a moot point there.
    • The show revealed more than once that Jack had been living happily in the time between seasons and then ripped that apart. Between seasons 3 and 4 he's been working for the Department of Defense and dating his boss's daughter Audrey, but at the end he's forced to fake his death because of a bungled invasion of the Chinese Embassy. Redemption disrupts his quiet life as an aid worker in the African nation of Sangala. Season 8 reveals that he fully recovered from his near death at the end of the previous season, has reconciled with Kim and plans to move from New York to LA to be close to her and her daughter and husband, but he ends up a fugitive wanted by both the American and Russian Governments.
  • In Witches of East End, the Season 2 finale is bittersweet, due to one of the characters sacrificing themselves for someone they love, but otherwise the protagonists defeat almost all obstacles and come out on top. Then, the last 5 minutes of the last episode set out the complications for Season 3, which never happened - thus defeating or negating almost everything the protagonists have just achieved.

  • In ''a-ha's music video to "The Sun Always Shines on TV," the video starts with the character from their "Take On Me" video turning back into a drawing and disappearing while the girl watches helplessly.
  • Greg Champion's "I Made a Hundred in the Backyard at Mum's" ends on a triumphant note with the narrator making a hundred. The P.O.V. Sequel, "I Hit that Wicket" by Ian Macnamara immediately reveals that he was bowled out by his brother, who seemingly got all the glory for breaking his streak.
  • The music video for Panic! at the Disco's "This is Gospel" has Brandon Urie's character—who might be dead, given that people are trying to stuff him in a coffin—escape and disappear into a white light, which many interpret as Heaven. The sequel video, "Emperor's New Clothes," reveals that it is Heaven...but then a trapdoor to Hell opens and he turns into a demon. Then again, he seems okay with it, and we later get "Say Amen" as a Prequel implying that he was Evil All Along...

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The happy ending of Opus, in which Opus finally finds happiness in the pages of Goodnight Moon is overriden by the reboot comic revealing that the entire comic and the previous comic Outland were All Just a Dream.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The 2014 Survivor Series event saw The Authority forced to disband after losing the main event- only for Seth Rollins to reinstate the faction literally two weeks later, allowing them to cause even more misery for another two years. Their final disbanding was more of an Anti-Climax.

  • The second series of Undone actually uses the promise of this as a Sequel Hook, telling us that despite the apparent happy ending to S2, within a year one character in the episode would be dead and Undone would be destroyed. Series 3 follows through with it.

  • Beaumarchais’s Figaro trilogy (most famous for its first two parts being put to music by Mozart and Rossini) does it in both the second and the third instalments.
    • The Barber of Seville ends with Count Almaviva marrying his beloved Rosina and everyone rejoicing. Flash forward several years, and Count Almaviva is an arrogant, oppressive husband who is madly jealous of his wife but sleeps with servant girls himself, and his new target is Susanna, the bride of his loyal valet Figaro. But by the end of The Marriage of Figaro the Count has been taught a lesson, his and Rosina’s marriage is saved, and now everyone gets a happy ending, right?
    • Well, flash forward twenty more years to The Guilty Mother: the Count and Rosina's only son (as in, the only child they really had together) has been killed in a duel, Cherubino, the adorable Kid-anova, has likewise been killed, in battle, but not before having a one-night stand with the Countess and getting her pregnant, and now his son Leon is being passed off as the Count's, but the Count has serious doubts about the paternity and is disdainful of Leon. And the Count himself has also forgotten what he learned in the previous play and has in the meanwhile fathered an illegitimate daughter and now passes her off as his ward.
  • In Henry V, The Hero "gets the girl" at the end—a princess, no less!—the play ends with a wedding and a peace treaty, the long war seems to be over, the two kingdoms of England and France will be united into one realm—"That English may as French, French Englishmen, Receive each other". Then the Chorus reminds us of what happened next:
    This star of England: Fortune made his sword;
    By which the world's best garden be achieved,
    And of it left his son imperial lord.
    Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown'd King
    Of France and England, did this king succeed;
    Whose state so many had the managing,
    That they lost France and made his England bleed:
    Which oft our stage hath shown; and, for their sake,
    In your fair minds let this acceptance take.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations might have ended on a bittersweet note (what with Maya's long lost mother dying and Godot going to jail for it, all because of Morgan and Dahlia's actions), but it ultimately wraps up the original trilogy quite nicely, with all main characters being given a proper closure... that is until Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney came, revealing that Phoenix had been disbarred shortly after the events of Trials and Tribulations (also having a rather strong case of Same Character, but Different). To make matters worse, the only other returning character from the original trilogy is Ema Skye, which was originally not in Phoenix's arc until the DS remake and the English localization (there's also the Judge, if you want to count THAT), while the whereabouts every other main character remained unknown until Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice.
  • Kajiri Kamui Kagura is this to the ending of the Marie route of Dies Irae. Several thousand years after in the ending Marie aka Tasogare took the Throne and became the fifth Heaven, watching over reality with Ren aka Yato until she and the other Gods were killed by Hajun usurping the Throne. Hajun starts to destroy all of reality until Yato, the only one to survive due to having the series strongest defense power and Hajun almost not noticing him barely managed to stop the complete manifestation of Hajuns Law with his time stop. This continues for eight thousand years until the arrival of the Eastern Expedition, who start their journey to oppose Yato and Hajun.
  • Danganronpa 3 ended with Ryota Mitarai's plan to brainwash what's left of the world stopped thanks to the Future Foundation and the former Remnants of Despair, and Makoto Naegi founds a new Hope's Peak Academy as the world starts to rebuild. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony initially seems to have no relation to that timeline, leaving its happy ending intact while its own universe deals with the extinction of humanity by a disease-carrying meteor shower. However, it then proceeds to subvert and then double subvert it: it's initially "revealed" that the extinction of humanity occurred during the time of Naegi's rebuilt Hope's Peak Academy, wiping away his and his friends' efforts for good...only for it to be established that both the universe of the earlier games and the universe of V3 are in-universe fictional stories, and that they originally were going to be separate universes before the mastermind had to quickly retcon them to be related. In the end, whether you believe the ending to be overriden depends on your own personal interpretation of whether Tsumugi Shirogane's hasty modifications to the in-universe Hope's Peak canon count as canon to the Hope's Peak media released in real life.
  • Winged Cloud's Sakura Beach ends with Seiji realizing how Ayumi and Momoko feel about him and he shares a kiss with both of them, implying he begins a relationship with them both. Sakura Beach 2, however, reverts Seiji back to his old self with him as dense as ever, with him even saying he never kissed them before.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: In-universe. As Jinn tells the story of "The Girl in the Tower", she notes that the part where Ozma rescues Salem, they fall in love, and they vow to travel the world together is only the beginning of what really happened and that it would have been a happy ending if it weren't for what happened next.
  • The Madness Combat series seemed to end on a happy note at the end of Madness Combat 10: Abrogation with the Auditor being seemingly destroyed until seven years later when Madness Combat 11: Expurgation was released and Hank and Sanford have to fight a revived Tricky. Things seem to be going well up until the end when Hank and Sanford seemingly die and the Auditor comes Back from the Dead, now with apparently no one to oppose him.
  • Red vs. Blue inverted this with a Downer Ending Override: season 16 seemed to end in a way that The Bad Guy Wins, as the Reds and Blues managed to create the Time Crash that would allow him to take over the universe... and then the season 17 opener reveals the villain could not free himself to fulfill those plans, as a timely strike by a magic hammer trapped him in a forcefield-like prison.

    Web Comics 
  • This happens in the It's Walky! paid subscription strips, as heavily lampshaded by Willis in The Rant to the rerun strips:
    Yeah, that’s right! You thought Sal and Jason were happy at the end of It's Walky! Yeah, well, but then you paid me to draw more story, and so whoops they broke up! That’ll show you to help me pay my bills!!!!!

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall. After Linkara defeats his evil robot counterpart (actually Pollo from another universe), it's revealed that Mechakara wasn't the only one who escaped into Linkara's universe. And the other person who did? Lord Vyce, an all-powerful Multiversal Conqueror who makes Mechakara look weak by comparison. But at least Linkara is able to defeat Vyce. Except he learns that the reason Vyce was out conquering universes was to protect them from The Entity, an Eldritch Abomination bent on consuming universes and make everyone in them disappear forever. Lewis stated in an interview that he wanted to keep invoking this trope with bigger and bigger threats, but couldn't come up with anything stronger than a god, so he switched to character-driven story arcs instead.
  • Homestuck ended with the main characters able to create a new, utopia world with the troll and human races revived, living with carapaces and consorts as well. Most of the villains are definitely dead, and it seems like the Big Bad's fate is sealed. The Homestuck Epilogues expands on this, and reveals that it's not the closed and happy ending it seems: The Prologue and both timelines imply that Alternate Calliope's black hole wiped out almost all of Paradox Space, apart from Earth C in the "Candy" timeline. One timeline deconstructs the idea of the characters growing old and starting families, most notably by having Jane turn in to a fascist dictator, forcing Jake in to a relationship with her, and starting a war. The other timeline has John, the protagonist, getting killed from Lord English's poison while Dirk takes up the mantle as the next major antagonist.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2519 does this to two sapient machine SCPs, SCP-2412 and SCP-629. When the composition is played for them, they become inefficient and broken. 629 becomes outright murderous and even though the page states the effects only last for as long as the song is played, it also states the symptons can recur. These two SCPs will never be the same.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars ended with the Maximals successfully capturing Megatron and taking him back to Cybertron, with him tied to the roof of their spaceship. However, in Beast Machines, it's revealed that Megatron has been able to successfully take over Cybertron, in large part because he was left outside the spaceship. note 
    • On a lesser note, another happy ending is undone as well, albeit of a villain. Beast Wars ends with Waspinator remaining on Earth, being worshipped by a tribe of primitive humans. Beast Machines undoes this with Waspinator being kicked out by the tribe almost immediately after the end of the first series. He ends up back on Cybertron and ends up a villain again, a Vehicon general named Thrust. The latter series ends with Thrust/Waspinator shrunken down and given the body of a wasp (albeit a very strange-looking wasp), being able to do nothing but complain about his worsened situation.
  • Combined with Chronic Villainy when it comes to the Vreedle Brothers in the Ben 10 franchise. At the end of their final appearance in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, they had reformed and become students at the Plumber Academy. Come Ben 10: Omniverse, we learn that since then, they blew up the Plumber Academy and went back to being thugs.
  • Bojack Horseman manages to do this halfway through it's 6th and final season. Bojack, sober for almost a year and being on good terms with everyone from his social circle (for once), has just started to rebuild himself as a well-liked acting professor, and has finally begun to forgive himself and triumph over his depression. Then an Intrepid Reporter digs up details about some of his most serious misdeeds from the past several seasons, his public image is destroyed in a disasterous second interview (he aced the first), most of his close friends cut ties with him (including his half-sister Hollyhock), and he relapses into alcoholism.
  • Duck Dodgers was originally intended to run for two seasons and two seasons only, the finale having Earth sign a peace treaty with Mars and the Martian Queen Tyr'ahnee preparing to get married to Commander X-2 after learning that he loved her. When the show was renewed for a third season because of good ratings, the premiere had Tyr'ahnee leave X-2 because she decided she still had feelings for Duck Dodgers and she also revoked Mars' truce with Earth when Dodgers continued refusing to reciprocate her feelings towards him.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
    • At the end of the episode "Fairy Fairy Quite Contrary", Timmy wins the magical duel and gets to keep his fairies while Remy Buxaplenty loses his fairy and memory. But Timmy feels sorry for Remy and wishes that Remy and his parents were stranded on an island so they can spend more time together. When Remy returns in the episode "Remy Rides Again", he reveals that he remembers everything from the previous episode and while trapped on the island, his parents struck oil and became richer and more neglectful of their son.
    • At the end of TV Movie Channel Chasers, Timmy learns that he will have to one day grow up and part ways with Cosmo and Wanda, but that he can still cherish the time he has with them. We're treated to a Distant Finale that shows an adult Timmy and his two children Tommy and Tammy, who are shown to have Cosmo and Wanda as fairy godparents. In 2011's A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!, however, it turns out that this Character Development for Timmy was thrown out the window in favor of having him live his life exactly the same way he did as a kid, including still having Cosmo and Wanda, even though he should've parted ways with them upon becoming an adult. In a more meta sense of the trope, the events of the live-action movies also overrode the ending to Channel Chasers, retconning the ending out of existence in favor of this future. Even then, though, the canonicity of the live-action films is frequently questioned.
  • In the lead-up to Toonami's The Intruder II event, a comic was released that depicted The Intruder being fended off by TOM 4. Week 5 of the event proper has the Intruder gloating about killing TOM 4.
  • Downplayed in The Legend of Korra regarding the original Team Avatar. They defeated the Fire Nation, are revered as heroes well into the new age, and went on to have very eventful lives. However, their kids still have issues from having parents with such huge legacies and responsibilities. Tenzin's siblings feel he got the bulk of Aang's attention due to being an airbender, and Lin has more than a few choice words for Toph when they finally meet again. In this case, it's not so much "the characters didn't get to live happy lives" as much as " the characters went on to live realistic lives with ups and downs", coming off the heels of The Last Airbender's Happily Ever After finale.
  • The ending of Osmosis Jones has Frank turn his life around and adopt a healthier lifestyle, and we see him spending time outdoors with his daughter. In Ozzy & Drix, on the other hand, Frank is once again an obese slob, suggesting that either he has relapsed back into unhealthy habits, or Ozzy and Drix is an Alternate Continuity, and if the latter, then Frank will be killed by Thrax.
  • ReBoot's third season ended with a pretty happy ending (including restoring dead people back to life). Then came season four with "Daemon Rising" and "My Two Bobs" which ended on a giant cliffhanger which left Megabyte in control of the principal office, and this was never resolved.
  • The Simpsons
    • Played for Laughs with Homer's half-brother Herb Powell, an auto manufacturer who was ruined and reduced to abject poverty in one of the earliest seasons after he allowed Homer to design the new car for that year...but made his fortune back by inventing a "baby translator" to help mothers understand their babies. Many years later, the Simpsons pay him another call...and get a message on his answering machine announcing that he's broke again.
    • "Marge vs. the Monorail" ended with the runaway monorail successfully stopped before anything serious can happen. Years later, "The Old Blue Mayor She Ain't What She Used To Be" opens with the abandoned monorail reactivating and causing devastation in Springfield.
    • "Kamp Krusty" has Bart and Lisa going to the titular summer camp, only to suffer from horrific treatment and living conditions, until all the campers start a rebellion. Krusty saves the campers (despite their suffering coming from his own negligence), and when he takes them to Tijuana, all is forgiven and forgotten... until the Season 28 episode "Kamp Krustier". In this episode, the kids are finally returned, but they are scarred and shaken, as if the trip to Tijuana never happened.
  • Had there been a fourth season of Transformers Animated, their version of Megatron would have escaped from prison (he is arrested at the end of the show's final episode), possibly with help from Team Chaar, and been reformatted into a Triple Changer.
  • Steven Universe's fifth season has Steven and company convince the Diamonds that he's his own identity separate from Pink Diamond and gets them to rework their regime, saving the galaxy and improving the lives of countless gems. And while we do see some lingering problems in The Movie dealt with, it doesn't totally infringe on the happier ending established. The same can't be said for epilogue series Steven Universe: Future, however. With everything now fine, Steven has trouble adjusting to a life where he isn't constantly needed to solve problems, which leaves him open to dwell on how messed-up his life has actually been. As a result, the latter half of the miniseries follows him undergoing a mental breakdown as the mental repercussions of the events of the series finally catch up to him, and his slow descent into copying Pink's self-destructive habits nearly costing him his family, his new life, and even causes him to corrupt.
  • Tangled ends with Rapunzel finally being free from Gothel's confinement, reunited with her actual parents and is now engaged with Eugene. Tangled: The Series however opens with her wedding being postponed due to Rapunzel not feeling ready and, as a result of having her hair grown back, her father confining her within the kingdom walls, resulting in her falling into the same position as she once did back in the Tower as well as causing their relationship to be strained in the process.


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