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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.

This is an Ending Trope, so expect UNMARKED spoilers.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    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.
  • Storm on the Horizon takes the already Bittersweet Ending of Life Is Strange and presents it as a pure downer. When Max went back in time to let Chloe die and save Arcadia Bay, Chloe promised Max that, even though she may be dead, Max would still have the memories of the amazing week they spent together. Chloe was right, and Max came to regard those memories as a curse, spending the rest of her life knowing that that moment of happiness was cruelly yanked away by Chloe's fate. The agony caused her to start meddling with time again to find a way to save both Chloe and Arcadia Bay, with the only solution turning out to be her killing herself before she ever met Chloe. The act renders Max an immortal, ageless 18-year-old who can never meet Chloe again lest she cause an apocalyptic disaster, which is why Max highly suspects that meeting Chloe's daughter Elisabet Sobeck caused the Faro Plague.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed example in Danganronpa: The Immersive Learning Program, where the ending of the first part involved the simulation the students were trapped in collapsing, with a Hope Spot involving Shuichi reaching out to save Kaede. However, the sequel Academy of Discontent goes into Shuichi's point-of-view of that ending, and reveals that Kaede and Shuichi, plus another student, didn't make it out alive.
  • A Tarnished Alliance is set a few weeks after the events of Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. Thomas and Ryan are now friends, the Harwick branchline has opened, Sailor John has been defeated, and Sir Topham Hatt has forgiven Thomas...only to show that Gordon shows zero remorse for the accident with the express coaches early in the film, and rejects both Thomas's apology and the alliance they once had.

    Films — 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 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 video game 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.

  • 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 five 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 has a double subversion: 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.
  • The final episode of Battle for Dream Island, has Leafy and Firey fly off into the sunset. When the second season begins, Leafy is running away from the other contestants. The fourth season explains that the two crashed and then Leafy ran away.

  • 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 symptoms can recur. These two SCPs will never be the same.
  • The SuperMarioLogan episode, "Jeffy's Parents!" ends with Jeffy promising Mario he'll be good if Mario adopts him so he doesn't have to live with Nancy, his biological mother who is an unattractive alcoholic prostitute who purposely abandoned him on Mario's doorstep, and Mario officially adopting him. Come Jeffy's next appearance, "Inside Jeffy!", Jeffy's back to his usual selfish, temperamental, misbehaved self who continues to makes Mario's life miserable.