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"Well, this is where you came in..."
Joe Gillis, viewing his own dead body, Sunset Boulevard

A type of In Medias Res/Whole Episode Flashback, where the story opens at a point at the middle or near the end of the story, and the bulk of the story is spent showing how the character got to this point.

See also Back to Front, Death by Flashback, Foregone Conclusion, Starts with Their Funeral, Framing Device and This Is My Story. Goes very well with Private Eye Monologue. Can often be used as a highly effective Driving Question. Can often overlap with Once More, with Clarity! if and when the introductory scene in question reappears. A specific variant is How Dad Met Mom.



    open/close all folders 

  • Pizza Pops commercials begin by showing everything and everyone in it splattered with the filling. Then the commercial cuts back to just before someone is about to smash the pop.
  • There's one amazingly funny NASCAR themed commercial for Diet Mountain Dew out there. It starts with the #88 racecar being driven through a street. The driver does an amazing skid and comes to a stop in his driveway. The driver gets out:
    Kid: Whoa, dad! Where'd you get that?
    Father: Oh you won't believe what just happened!
    (Cuts to him pulling a Diet Mountain Dew bottle off an empty shelf. He turns and finds Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in full fire suit, looking at him in disbelief)
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Don't tell me you got the last Diet Dew.
    Father: Yeah.
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I love the taste of Diet Dew. Whaddaya want for it?
    Father: Uhhh... (glances at Earnhardt's car outside in the parking lot)
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Deal.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Chapter 1 of Choujin Sensen narrates Tomobiki Rinji's POV on how he got thrusted into the world of the [Superhuman Game].
  • The first episode of Yu Yu Hakusho starts shortly after Yusuke's death, and has him retracing his steps to see how he got himself into this.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: the first episode is a movie that the characters chronologically would have made around episode 11. There are also several mini examples of this trope throughout the series due to the anachronistic airing order; characters often reference events that the viewers haven't yet seen.
    I, as if drunk on a cocktail mixed with anxiety and uncertainty, call upon my memory in a haze.
    "How did things turn out like this?"
    Flashback mode, start...
  • Berserk opens with the Black Swordsman Arc (volumes 1-3), introducing main character Guts as a vicious Nominal Hero on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the five evil deities called the God Hand, as well as their monstrous servants, the Apostles. At this point Guts is missing his right eye and left hand, and carries the cursed Brand of Sacrifice on his neck, which every night summons evil spirits to devour him. At the end of the Black Swordsman Arc we learn that the God Hand includes Guts' Arch-Nemesis Griffith, who used to be Guts' friend. Then the Golden Age Arc (volumes 3 to 14) goes back in time and shows us the epic tragedy of how the brotherhood they forged on the battlefield was torn apart by Griffith's betrayal, with Griffith ascending to demonhood and Guts becoming He Who Fights Monsters. The anime Berserk (1997) follows the same progression by showing the Black Swordsman Arc in episode 1, and spending the rest of its 25 episodes on the Golden Age Arc.
  • The Big O, episode 7, opens with Angel and Roger trapped in an old office building on the bottom of the ocean. In flashbacks, Roger shows how this came to pass.
  • The Rurouni Kenshin manga has a variation. The Big Bad of the arc Enishi, has destroyed two buildings from people who have met Kenshin (one only once). He then meets Kenshin and challenges him to a duel, after Kenshin is forced to accept the challenge does Kenshin return and tell his friends why his brother-in-law wants revenge.
  • Code Geass almost did this, according to Word of God; the show's creators briefly considered beginning the series by showing Lelouch and Suzaku pointing guns at each other, as per Episode 25 as the first scene, then going back several months to show how the two friends have gotten into such a situation.
  • Occultic;Nine's first episode starts with the discovery of hundreds of corpses found dead in a lake, with the story going back one week showing the events leading up to it.
  • The anime version of Higurashi: When They Cry does this with several of its' arcs, particularly Onikakushi-hen and Watanagashi-hen, which kick things off with the murder of one or more major characters and then hit the 'rewind' button back to the chronological start of the arc.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann opens on the bridge of a vast space battleship as we see its mature and scarred commander, who holds in his hand a small conical key, launch an attack to open the final battle of an intergalactic war. Cut to teenage Simon, digging underground, discovering the key for the first time. Subverted in that the war never happens, although we do get some idea of how it might have.
  • Outlaw Star starts even before the OP with Gene taking off in the Outlaw Star and locks grapplers with another ship. After said OP, the show begins that will lead up to this.
  • The entire series of Tenchi Universe does this. The first episode opens with Tenchi delivering an internal monologue as he walks to school alone, lamenting the good old days when he used to hang out with those crazy girls from space... the show then spends nearly its entire run flashing back to how Tenchi met and went on adventures with said girls, until the last five minutes of the very last episode, when we return to Tenchi walking to school alone.
    • This is slightly screwed up in the dub. Tenchi's speech at the start of the series is the same one he gives at the very end, so we know we've come back to where we started. Two different translators handled those episodes, though, and each one translated the speech differently, so Tenchi ends up saying different things in each episode, even they're each supposed to portray the same moment in time.
  • Many modern episodes of Pokémon do this (especially in the original Japanese version) with the pre-credits teaser abruptly opening on a battle or other dramatic scene with no explanation as to how the characters got there. After the credits, we flash back to the start of the story.
    • This also lets the producers sneak in plenty of recycled footage, since the teaser sequence gets replayed once they arrive at that point in the story.
  • The second act of the Naruto anime surprisingly starts with this. With Naruto and Sakura catching up to Sasuke for the first time since he defected from Konoha before starting the series proper and working it ways to that point. Likely as a tease to the fans.
  • Shigurui: Death Frenzy starts at the very end and then goes to the beginning to show how it got there, but unfortunately it never makes it back to the end again.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has an in-universe version: The current Big Bad sends the heroes a week forward in time, to when she's already won. Then various side characters explain to the heroes exactly how she won. So they go back in time to take advantage of the new information.
    • The current arc of the manga counts, as it goes into the Back Story and explains the events that directly led up to the beginning of the manga. Such as why Negi is being raised by his cousin in Wales, or how Asuna ended up at Mahora.
    • Natsumi says the trope almost word-by-word in her debut chapter, which opens with Kotarou holding her hostage.
  • The first episode of Shin Mazinger is titled "Finale" and depicts the seemingly climactic final battle between Dr. Hell and the protagonists. Episode 2 goes back to the beginning, and explains the build up from there.
  • The second episode of the manga Strawberry Marshmallow starts with Chika sitting in a wastebasket. Then we go back half an hour and find out what led up to this situation.
  • The Fist of the North Star prequel movie Legend of Kenshiro begins with Kenshiro and Yuria going on their journey together after the defeat of Raoh. After having their wedding ceremony, Yuria asks Kenshiro to tell her of his quest to become the savior. The actual movie is set during the "lost year" after Kenshiro was first defeated by Shin, but before he met Bat and Lin.
  • Chaos;Head opens with a destroyed city and the protagonist laying in a puddle. He wakes but - but was it all really just a dream?
  • The first episode of Baccano! starts at the end of its primary story (the 1931/Grand Punk Station arc) while the two Meta Guys look over the records of the massacre and start arguing over when the story is supposed to start.
  • The sixth episode of Wandaba Style starts off this way, with the girls staring in disbelief at future versions of themselves, then complaining to Ichirin about it, then blaming each other for them ending up in the predicament they're in. Ichirin takes advantage of this to flashback to shortly before the episode began, showing how the girls took advantage of a man-powered warp engine to get some exercise and ended up in the future by accident. The rest of the episode continues normally from there on.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero- spends its first episode killing off the supposed protagonists. Then Yomi, the villain, becomes the main character.
  • The first episode of the Saikano anime opens with a haggard young man wearing broken glasses staggering through a deserted town, a service so that you don't mistakenly waste any hope on him later.
  • The first part of episode one of Infinite Stratos shows an Action Prologue where Ichika and his team are fighting off against an unknown I.S. machine. The rest of the series then depict events leading up to that scene.
  • Played with in Episode 11 of Dagashi Kashi. It opens with a shoeless Hotaru running towards To and begging for his help. The story then flashes forward, and only flashes back to explain the opening scene about two-thirds of the way through the episode.
  • The first episode of Slam Dunk shows the Shohoku team playing an important match, probably the nationals, before the opening song. The rest of the series is spent showing how they got there.
  • Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl opens with two girls alone in a classroom, sharing a kiss and a third girl catching them in act, looking rather shocked. The rest of the episode is spent showing how a guy became one of those girls, not reaching the opening scene until midway through the shows run.
  • The first episode of Funimation's Dragon Ball GT dub, "A Grand Problem", performed this function so that they could skip the first 16 episodes of the show.
  • The manga Future Diary opened with Yuno kissing Yuki, stating he won't stab her. Played with in the anime version, as it was shown (thanks to the manga) to be in chronological order from the point of view of Yuno.
  • Samurai High School: Chapter 16 of the manga started with the twins being followed by members of the newspaper club and then it went back to when and how it began. Chapter 23 also invokes the trope.
  • Re:Zero does this in a fashion. The opening scene of the anime is Subaru going about his normal life, intercut with first-person shots of him and Emilia bleeding to death. This then happens at the end of the two-part opening episode, triggering Subaru's Return by Death for the first time and setting up the main plot.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The eighth chapter of the manga starts with Sho and Judai dueling against each other. It's revealed to the readers Sho will be expelled from Duel Academia if he loses and Judai will lose his cards if he loses. Then it's revealed how it happened.
  • Psycho-Pass opens with a scene from episode 16, showing us one of the main characters fighting a masked person, after which he met antagonist face to face.
  • The Downer Beginning in episode 1 of Kotoura-san starts with Haruka walking alone to school, or, to be precise, people were avoiding her like plague. She has Dull Eyes of Unhappiness, then a Flash Back her entire life up to that point is gradually played out and how she got those eyes.
  • Hellstar Remina begins with a deranged mob about to crucify a teenaged girl under an Alien Sky, and then goes back to explain why the Alien Sky looms above, and why the mob blames the girl for it.
  • Bleach: The "Everything but the Rain" arc starts with a glimpse of a pivotal scene from the middle of the story (Masaki introducing herself to Isshin as a Quincy) and then rewinds several hours to show what lead up to it.
  • The first episode of Divergence Eve is the ending; the rest tell the story leading up to that point.
  • The beginning of episode 1 in Seiken Tsukai No World Break shows Moroha and his classmates fighting against a giant dragon. The story then starts six months prior to this fight.
  • Sand Chronicles begins with a young girl bugging a 26-year-old Ann, who's about to move overseas with her fiance, and they find the latter's hourglass. Ann then thinks back to how she got that hourglass and its significance to her, kicking off the story.
  • Chapter 6 of Daily Life with Monster Girl starts with a provocatively dressed Miia, Papi, and Centorea fighting over Kimihito. Each saying that they'll be the one he marries. It than goes back to the day before to explain how this started.
  • Episode 71 of Dragon Ball Super starts with Goku dead. The rest of the episode explains how Goku gets into such position.
  • Chapter 21 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid starts with all the dragons sprawled on the ground with Kobayashi wondering how they got here. Long story short, Dodgeball Is Hell.
  • Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai starts on the 4th of October, with Nagisa Yamada telling the audience that she's searching for something in the mountains. Then the story goes back to the 2nd of September. It's not until very late that the readers learn that Nagisa and her brother Tomohiko are looking for... the corpse of Nagisa's best friend, Mokuzu Umino.
  • The first scene of Natsu e no Tobira has Marion desperately rushing to stop Jacques and Lind's Duel to the Death, then switches to tell what led to such things.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets begins with Fuutarou and one of the Nakano sisters marrying. It then goes back to just before their first meeting in high school and the story is about how they get together, with the complication that the sisters are identical quintuplets so the reader isn't sure which one's the bride.
  • The sixth volume of Witch Hunter opens on Tasha somewhere (most probably in England), fighting a guy whose face we've only seen once and whose name is yet unknown (Lancelot), and apparently in a tight spot, what with his right arm having been ripped off and Halloween being nowhere in sight. That's the first few pages; the chapter then goes on to show Tasha being sent away in a mission. Two volumes later, he's still only on his way to the place where this all is supposedly going to happen...
  • The first episode of Laid-Back Camp began with Nadeshiko and her friends roasting marshmallows over a campfire. It turns out this was a part of their Christmas camping trip, seen in episodes eleven and twelve.

    Comic Books 
  • Happened in X-Factor when Rictor, Guido, and Shatterstar appear in the middle of a fight with Cortex, who was surprised because he thought they were many miles away. When Cortex points this out, Guido replies 'That's very good question. And here's how we got here." and cue the end of the issue. The issue after that shows how they did it.
  • The first issue of Mega Man opened with Mega Man storming Dr. Wily's Fortress and beginning to fight the Yellow Demon. It then goes into a flashback that lasts until the end of issue 3.
  • An issue of Miracleman starts with paid assassin Evelyn Cream out in the jungle, wondering how he got there. The issue then flashes back, and it's slowly revealed that he's remembering all this after being decapitated by Dr. Gargunza's monster dog.
  • Much of The Smurfs comic book story "Smurf Vs. Smurf" is basically Papa Smurf recalling the language war between his little Smurfs that reached the point where he sought after Gargamel's aid.
  • Asterix and the Laurel Wreath opens with Asterix and Obelix in Rome, and Asterix complaining to Obelix about the mess they've gotten into. The story then briefly flashes back to explain what's going on.
  • Done in the weirdest way possible (by courtesy of a Lemony Narrator) in an episode of Wizards of Mickey. The story begins with our heroes falling down in a pit, which is a different situation than the one the chapter before ended with. Then...
    Narrator: Whoops! Smart enough readers should have noticed that this haves nothing to do with how the last episode finished! Let's go back in time and maybe you'll finally get what's going on.
    • And when the flashback is over:
  • Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker's first issue starts with Alan in the grasp of a Night Terror and Jonas in full Poet mode, with Alan begging for Jonas to wake up. We then jump to the week before and go from there.
  • Convergence: Suicide Squad #1 begins with Amanda Waller, who is badly wounded, with the Kingdom Come Green Lantern (Alan Scott) remorsefully overlooking her until someone, later revealed to be Captain Boomerang, emerges from the shadows, and shoots Waller.
  • Laff-A-Lympics: The story "The Day the Rottens Won" starts with the Rottens having already won and other characters showing their displeasure with the fact and then the readers get to see the games being played. Then it's revealed how they cheated and the Scoobies are declared the real winners.
  • Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward begins with Jack Stanton, a professional hit man, contemplating suicide. The rest of the story details the plot that leads to it.
  • Iznogoud: The story "Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom" starts with Iznogoud being a "strange satellite in orbit". Then the readers get to see how it happened.
  • Batman '66: Issue #24 starts with Batman and Robin buried in the sand and surrounded by scorpions. The scene changes to two days before.
    • Batman: White Knight: The first few pages show Jack Napier visit Batman's cell in Arkham Asylum and ask for his help. The next page starts detailing the events one year earlier.
  • Robin #31 starts with Robin and Wildcat jumping off a bridge onto cars diving by below them on a freeway and then as Tim's narration boxes make it clear he's questioning the intelligence of jumping into traffic and what he could have done differently to avoid doing so it jumps to earlier in the day at a car show from which the thieves they're currently chasing stole a car.
  • In the three-part The Supergirl Saga in the Superman comic book titles in 1988, Pocket Universe Lex Luthor spends much of the second part telling Superman how his world got to the broken state it was in at the present time: that he had accidentally let loose the Phantom Zone criminals who terrorized and devastated the Earth, turning most of it into a lifeless husk with only Lex Luthor and those in his resistance force living in his Smallville citadel as its only survivors.
  • The Silencer starts with the protagonist threatening someone with a gun in a diner, and the first arc tells how things got to that point.
  • Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack begins with the inexplicable change of Jack being the leader of a futuristic biker gang. The rest of the miniseries shows Jack changing to different lives while remembering traces of his original life as a samurai determined to vanquish Aku and eventually explains how all of this happened.
  • The three-issue miniseries Sunfire and Big Hero 6 starts with Sunfire's funeral and Hiro in deep mourning. The story then goes back three weeks earlier, exploring what happened up until then.
  • The first Clem Hetherington book opens with Clem and Digory in a race against the Croconoids. Clem and Digory are about to crash into a very large creature before flashing back to the museum.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: The prologue happens two months after the first chapter. Much of the opening act is spent chronicling the time before and after that period. This ends in Chapter 5, where the story has caught back up and moves forward.
  • The 22nd chapter of the Harry Potter fanfic I Saw My Lady Weep begins with Ginny Weasley on the edge of death, being rushed into a muggle emergency room and receiving life-saving care. The 23rd chapter tells the story of how she ended up in an emergency room. (She was hit by a delivery truck while walking through London on her own for the first time.)
  • Loved and Lost begins with Princess Celestia and Luna exiled and in different parts outside of Equestria (Celestia in a desert and Luna on top of a mountain), respectively raising the sun and lowering the moon. The story proper explains what led to their predicament.
  • Trunk's New Look begins with the titular character wondering how the hell he ended up in his mother's Playboy Bunny outfit. It's a valid concern.
  • Chapter 14 of The Immortal Game starts with Titan conversing with Celestia while simultaneously torturing Twilight. The rest of the chapter explains how he came to be torturing Twilight.
  • Hard Being Pure: The very first scene shows Noa throwing up her stomach in a bathroom stall. The following scenes jump two days back to explain how this came to be.
  • The Princess of Themyscira: The story opens with Soarin' waking up on Themyscira and being confronted by Diana, with the next couple of chapters being spent showing her backstory and how he ended up there.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The story opens with Vulcan imprisoned in Canterlot and being interrogated by Celestia. The next 18 chapters are composed of him narrating to the Princesses how he arrived in Equestria and rose to be Public Enemy Number One.
  • MLP Next Generation: Know Fear! opens with Starburst already as the Fear Lantern and fighting griffon soldiers in Stalliongrad. The next couple of chapters show how this came to pass.
  • The Flashback chapters of The Twilight Child explain how the main character ended up the way she has, and why she was behaving the way she was in the first chapter, in-between a few acts of Break the Cutie.
  • Peace Forged in Fire starts In Medias Res at the beginning of peace talks between the Romulan Republic and Romulan Star Empire, then cuts to five days earlier to introduce the cast and more fully explain how they got to that point.
  • Guardian begins with Lulu volunteering to be the Final Aeon late in Final Fantasy. Then it goes back to her childhood to detail her first two pilgrimages and friendship with Yuna. The in-game scene at Zanarkand is revisited at the beginning of each chapter.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic Eye of the Beholder opens by describing a kiss between Ladybug/Marinette and Pavo Real/Alya in their superhero forms, about six months after they begun fighting Akumas together, and revealing that a couple of months later Alya will be kissing Chat Noir/Adrien. "But perhaps some context is in order."
  • Hop To It opens with Jack being targeted by an akuma butterfly, transforming into Rabbit, and trying and failing to purify it. She then tries to use Lucky Strike, only to somehow cast Dogstruction instead and tear up the street while trying to escape. After she asks herself "How did everything come to this?", the story cuts back a few hours.
  • Chapter 81 of FREAKIN GENSOKYO focuses on how Matt, Rumia and Shikome arrived in the Palace of the Earth Spirits at the end of Chapter 80. A teleporter and an angry Buddhist are involved.
  • One of the first pages in Rocket Member leads into this after showing Meowth cuddling awkwardly with Pikachu at night.
  • Mergers starts with Brock getting Steelix DNA and being caught in a Master Ball, then flashes back to show how it all happened.
  • The Loud Awakening starts with a prologue that shows Lincoln and some of his sisters, now gifted with superpowers and transformed into non-human forms, acting as a superhero team. The story then rewinds back to 1,5 years ago and shows how they came to be this way.
  • Son of the Sannin: Chapter 32 begins with a scene of Sasuke and Naruto fighting against each other, as the prelude to the final arc of Part I. The story then skips to two days before to explain how things came to that and eventually revealing that things are not what it seems at first glance.
  • Arc Of The Revolution opens with the Jaune-led White Fang inside Beacon Tower, having successfully defeated Ozpin and conquered Vale. The next chapter rewinds to the beginning of Jaune's journey to becoming the Supreme Commander of the Revolution.
  • Super Villain Prevention 101 begins with Harley Quinn being held hostage by the Joker, before cutting to how she got there.
  • Through the Eyes of Anon-a-Miss starts with Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo in the principal's office, after the three of them confessed to being the true Anon-a-Miss cyberbullying culprits the previous night. Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna then request the full story of why they started Anon-a-Miss before they decide how to punish them. The intermission chapters cut back to the present day, where we see Celestia and Luna's reactions to the horrible actions they've performed for their scheme.
  • Issue 0 of Sonic the Continuation starts with Sonic fighting Metal Sonic, then flashes back to how it all started.

    Films — Animation 
  • The movie Hoodwinked! starts at the Little Red Riding Hood climax — Red's confrontation with the Wolf impersonating Granny inside the cottage, Granny comes out of the closet, bound and gagged, and then a lumberjack bursts through the window. The police come by to investigate and interview all four characters, who then each tell their story about how they came to end up here, and each story is shown as individual flashbacks.
  • Megamind starts with a slow-motion shot of the title character falling from a skyscraper, allegedly to his death. Pretty much the whole movie is devoted to showing how he got there.
  • The Emperor's New Groove begins with a sad llama sitting all alone in the middle of a rainstorm. The voiceover informs us this llama once was a powerful emperor. The first half of the movie focuses on how he got there.
  • Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension opens with the title characters, Perry, Candace, and Doofenshmirtz being led by the alternate Doofenshmirtz to the Goozim.
  • Ratatouille opens with Remy crashing through a glass window with a book over his head. The first part of the film is spent explaining how he got into that predicament.
  • Every time a new version of Spider Man is introduced in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, we are given a run down of their origins and how they came to Miles’ universe. Noir, Peni, and Spider-Ham all share one because they are introduced at the same time.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 13 Minutes: The film opens with Elser's failed assassination attempt on Hitler, his capture, and shows how his life led to that moment afterward.
  • 2:37 begins with one of the teachers discovering that someone committed suicide in a school lavatory at 2:37 p.m. The movie then flashes back to that morning and shows the events leading up to the suicide.
  • The Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe opens with the main character standing on a beach making a plea for the audience 'to listen to his story.' The entirety of the movie shows how he got there over the course of about three years or so.
  • All About Eve begins at an award ceremony where Eve is about to be honoured. Then we flash back to the previous year and Eve's rise to fame. We end up back at the ceremony with Eve's acceptance speech.
  • The Alligator People starts with nurse Marvin being put under hypnosis, and recounting her past forgotten identity as Mrs. Webber searching for her disappeared husband.
  • American Beauty opens with Kevin Spacey's character revealing that he is dead. The rest of the movie covers the year preceding that event.
  • Andhadhun begins with a farmer trying to shoot a hare roaming around his cabbage field. Towards the end, we find out that this led to Simi crashing her car and dying when she tried to run over Akash.
  • MST3K film Angel's Revenge begins with a bevy of beauties attacking some sort of shack in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly the frame freezes and we're treated to "I'll bet you're wondering what a nice girl like me is doing on the roof of this building..." which then leads us into the first half of the film being a flashback leading up to this event.
    • Likewise, I Accuse My Parents begins with our protagonist on trial for manslaughter, with his defense being a retelling of pretty much his entire life story up until that point.
    Tom Servo: That was a short movie.
  • April Showers begins with Sean learning who committed the school shooting, and then flashes back to show the events leading up to that point.
  • Bandits is a caper comedy that opens with news coverage showing the bank-robber protagonists having a Mexican Standoff with each other in the middle of what appears to be a robbery gone wrong, then flashes back to the jailbreak which brought them together in the first place.
  • Better Luck Tomorrow begins with two of the main characters lying around in someone's back yard. A cell phone rings, but it's not theirs — the ringing is coming from underground. So they dig it up. "You never forget the sight of a dead body." The rest of the film is just one long flashback, and the opening scene is replayed near the end.
  • A Bad Moms Christmas begins with Amy (Mila Kunis) feeling that she may have ruined Christmas for her kids surrounded by a toppled-over Christmas tree and her house in total disarray and then flashes back to less than a week earlier.
    • The Big Mouth uses the trope in a way that's obviously gratuitous and employs a swordfish.
  • Cole's dream in 12 Monkeys of seeing a man gunned down is actually a childhood memory of seeing his future self die.
  • Big Trouble in Little China opens with Egg Shen's lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly caused the giant, green fireball over Chinatown. The film proceeds to explain the fireball... but the issue of why Egg Shen's lawyer was questioning him in the first place is never answered. This scene was included after principle shooting had wrapped due to Executive Meddling.
  • Bird Box: The film opens with Malorie and her two kids making their way to a rowboat, blindfolded and setting off down the river. The film then jumps back five years to set up what is happening and jumps back and forth between their journey and the events that lead up to it.
  • Blow starts with a scene that is repeated near the end, however, it is only the second time we get to see the end of the scene, and how quickly events of the scene become tragic.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody opens with Freddie Mercury preparing to take the stage at Live Aid in 1985 before flashing back to 1970.
  • The Bothersome Man opens in a subway, where a couple kisses without any emotion whatsoever, and then a man jumps in front of a train. Some took the rest of the film as what happens once he's dead, but it becomes obvious that it's this trope when it comes back to the same scene. He's clearly in some kind of hell, because it seems he can't die, and just gets hopelessly bloodied, bruised and generally knocked about by the train, without dying.
  • Carlito's Way starts with Carlito being taken away to the hospital.
  • Cas and Dylan begins with Dylan driving while nursing her injured hand in an ice-filled cooler. Distracted by what's in the cooler, she loses control of the car and drives into a ditch, which propels the contents of the cooler - Cas' dead dog - into her lap. Cue hysterical screaming, followed by a rewind to two days prior.
  • Casino begins with Ace's car blowing up with him inside.
  • Citizen Kane opens with the titular Kane Dying Alone, with his life up until then being told in a series of flashbacks (with the Framing Device of a reporter trying to find out the meaning of his final word, 'Rosebud').
  • Cloverfield features a very subtle version. Early in the movie the video we are watching is said to have been recorded over another video. As the camera films the giant monster's rampage through the city and the character's attempts to survive, the camera keeps playing clips of the old video that was recorded over which is a vacation video of the characters going to Coney Island. In the movie's end we cut one last time to the old video after the monster is bombed by the army. In this last clip you can just barely notice that far off in the background, a very large object falls into the ocean from the sky....
  • Cruel and Unusual: The film gradually shows what led up to Edgar being in the afterlife, reliving his memories every time he enters a certain room.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has an elderly woman called Daisy dying in hospital and she gets her daughter to read from the diary of the main character and the movie constantly switches between Benjamin's life story and the daughter's reaction. When the diary is finished being read Daisy fills in the last part herself.
  • The movie adaptation of Daredevil begins this way, with a mortally wounded Daredevil explaining in narration how he got to be in that position. Once his origin is told and the story catches up to that point, however, Daredevil inexplicably shrugs off his injuries (he literally gets up and walks it off).
  • Dave Made a Maze: The first scene of the film is an excerpt of Harry's interview with Dave for his documentary, which doesn't happen until the last twenty minutes of the movie.
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire: The film begins with a man walking through deserted London into a newspaper office. His typewriter doesn't work, so he phones up the only other person in the building, and asks her to take down his story. The rest of the film shows us how London ended up like that, ending with the man in his office finishing his story, and waiting to see if the world will be saved.
  • Happens often in Deadpool (2016). The film opens with a revolving shot of Deadpool hijacking a car in the middle of a bridge. The film proceeds to show how he got there, from riding a taxi to stopping in the bridge. As he wipes the floor with various goons, we flashback to much earlier in his life from before he got his cancer. When Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead appear, he flashes back to when he got his cancer. And after falling into a truck, it then flashbacks to how he got his superpowers. Once we get back to the taxi, the film fast forwards back to the truck scene. Deadpool lampshades this:
    Deadpool: Oh wait, you've already seen this.
    • Deadpool 2 continues this trend with the first scene be Deadpool blowing himself up. The next few scenes explain how he came to do something so drastic.
  • Beautifully subverted in The Debt: near the beginning of the movie, a character (in 1997) reads a passage from a non-fiction book about an espionage mission she undertook in 1965. As she reads, we see the scene — the climax of the mission — unfold as a Flashback. The events leading up to the climax take up most of the rest of the film, and the scene from the book eventually repeats itself. Except that this time, when the Nazi prisoner knocks the heroine's head against the radiator, she's knocked out cold, and the bad guy gets away. Turns out that the three spies sent to capture him couldn't bear to report their failure and instead told the world that they'd killed him, knowing he'd go into hiding and no one but them would know he was alive.
  • Deewaar begins with Ravi dedicating a prize he got for his services to the police force to his mother Sumitra, and then flashes back to show everything that happened up to that point.
  • Deliver Us From Eva begins with the protagonist's funeral.
  • D.O.A. opens with a scene towards the end of the story and then has the hero tell how he got there.
  • Donnie Darko: There is a homage to "Mad World" in the second-to-last scene, in which we see many characters as they were before the plot took off. Or...where they are now, depending on how one interprets the whole time-travel thing.
  • Double Indemnity, through the device of the protagonist's confession.
  • The movie adaptation of Bernard Pomerance's play, The Elephant Man, added a scene that is not in the original play after the end of all the play's events, so that Treves, as narrator, could use this trope. Arguably, this was to help explain the story to American audiences unfamiliar with the history, as in the play, there was no helpful narration either.
  • Fight Club starts with Tyler Durden holding a gun in the Narrator's mouth. The film plays with and Lampshades it: Tyler first asks the Narrator if he has anything to say, and he says he doesn't. When the film catches up with itself (after the narrator states that "this is where we came in"), he asks the question again, and the Narrator replies he still can't think of anything, and Tyler quips, "Flashback humor."
  • The Final opens up with a girl walking into a BBQ restaurant, her face horribly disfigured and hidden under her hair and a hoodie, with her fellow patrons all staring at her. She used to be the Alpha Bitch.
  • For Love of the Game has aging baseball pitcher Billy Chapel pitching the final game of his career, with most of the movie taken up by his reminiscences of the ups and downs of his career and the effects it's had on his relationship. Between the flashbacks, Chapel is pitching a perfect game and not even realizing it until his flashbacks reach where he is now.
  • Forrest Gump features Forrest talking about his life up until that point to people he's waiting at the bus stop with.
  • Goodfellas begins with Henry, Tommy and Jimmy disposing of a dead body, the flashes back to Henry's childhood and follows him until we reach this point again at around the middle of the film.
  • The Greatest Showman begins with P. T. Barnum presenting his circus to an appreciative crowd in a rousing musical number. The music and the audience gradually fade as Barnum sings "It's everything you ever want/It's everything you ever need...." to where it seems he's talking to himself rather than the audience. Thus starts a flashback to Barnum as a boy admiring a frock coat and top hat in the tailor shop his father works at. When "The Greatest Show" is reprised, it's right where the flashback started. Barnum hands his partner his top hat and tells him to take over as ringmaster, saying that he's going to watch his girls grow up.
  • The Hangover has a double-dose of this. It starts with the main characters in the middle of the Nevada desert saying they're not going to make it to the wedding before flashing back two days. Then there's a variation when the crazy night happens, and in the aftermath leaves the characters asking how they got there.
  • This is one possible interpretation of Head. It opens with The Monkees interrupting the dedication of a bridge then Micky Dolenz throwing himself off it. The movie itself has no coherent plot, and events are tied together through transitions and occasional recurring elements. Nonetheless, there is a slight sense of progression, culminating in the band running away from many of the film's characters and interrupting the dedication in the process, then all of them jumping off a bridge to escape, bringing us back to the beginning.
  • The documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse opens with director Francis Ford Coppola presenting Apocalypse Now at Cannes. After that, we get the story of the movie's infamous Troubled Production.
  • The Hole opens up with the protagonist Liz stumbling towards her school after spending 10 days locked in an old war bunker. The circumstances are then told in a series of flashbacks to a police psychologist. Halfway through the film we discover Liz made up the first half of the story and another person tells the truth about the circumstances and Liz remembers the real story.
  • Im Juli opens with a scene chronologically towards the end of the movie. Therein the hero tells the story of how he ended up in that remote place.
  • Inception opens with Cobb washing up on a shore and being taken to an elderly man. Said man sees his items, says it reminds him of someone he met long ago. Then the main plot begins. In the film's ending, it turns out Cobb is there to rescue the man from the dream he's been trapped for long enough for him to age.
  • I Wanted Wings starts with Jeff getting a court martial hearing. The story of how he got there is told in one big flashback.
  • House of Sand and Fog opens and ends with the same scene of Jennifer Connelly's character staring blankly at her house.
  • The Jerk starts by showing Navin Johnson homeless. He then narrates his journey from rags to riches to rags.
  • Just Married opens with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy bickering over their bad honeymoon, before showing Kutcher reminiscing how he and Murphy got married and how bad their honeymoon was.
  • Kill Your Darlings opens with a shirtless Lucien Carr disposing of a body in a river, covered in blood.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets opens with the protagonist in prison, about to be executed. He decides to spend his last hours on earth writing his memoirs... cue flashback.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starts with Harry telling the viewers how he and Harmony ended up in the same party, which is effectively the first act of the film.
  • Ladder 49 is about a firefighter who is trapped in a very large burning building after saving someone's life and is unsuccessful in escaping, with flashbacks involving his career, marriage, and family making up the bulk of the movie.
  • Lantana opens on a shot of a dead body entangled in the weeds under a lantana plant, before jumping back to a few days before her death.
  • The Kubrick version of Lolita begins with Humbert Humbert going to see Quilty, asking him about a certain 'Lolita' and shooting him to death behind a portrait. The movie ends with Humbert walking into Quilty's house and a written epilogue over a frozen frame of the painting explains that Humbert died in prison while waiting for his trial.
  • Love Story starts right off with "What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?" and thus gives you plenty of time to find some tissues.
  • Midnight Mary begins with a woman ignoring her murder trial by reading Cosmopolitan. While the jury's out trying to reach a verdict, she finds herself telling a kindly clerk her life's story.
  • Mission: Impossible III's prologue scene opens with Ethan and his wife Julia bound to a chair, with Ethan told that a charge has been planted in his head and being interrogated about where the Rabbit's Foot is by Davian. Davian counts to ten and shoots Julia in the head. However, it later turns out that the woman shot was not Julia, but Davian's head of security.
  • The Matrix Reloaded opens with Trinity falling from an upper window of an office building with an Agent in pursuit. She gets shot, then Neo wakes up — it was All Just a Dream. Then at the end, we realize Neo's dream was prophetic.
  • The opening scene of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl takes place after the story, showing Greg's struggle to write down what happened. We return to the scene at the end when he finally finishes his essay and sends it off.
  • The first scene of Melancholia is the titular planet destroying Earth, then it flashes back to the past.
  • It could be said that the movie Memento is based on this device. The movie starts at the end then goes through each previous scene in backwards order, establishing... well he got there.
  • Michael Clayton opens with a sequence then rewinds to four days earlier and then revisits the opening with more information and greater context that gives it a new meaning.
  • Monsters opens with a convoy of soldiers retrieving a young couple, then getting attacked by a giant alien which kills or wounds the woman. The rest of the movie depicts how the couple got to that point, but ends before actually reaching it.
  • Moulin Rouge! opens with Christian typing up his story and then it goes back to show what events led to him writing the story to begin with.
  • My Way: The movie opens with the 1948 London Marathon and a "Kim Jun-shik" running past many marathon runners. The movie then flashes back all the way to 1928 explaining how he got there.
  • Megiddo: Omega Code 2 starts off with the battle of Armageddon and fills the rest of its running time showing how the Antichrist and his brother, who became the President of the United States, got to where they are now in the battle.
  • No Man of Her Own is told this way with a beginning narration in a whispered voice by Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Nymphomaniac opens with a Downer Beginning, then the female lead tells the male lead how she ended up all bruised in an alley.
  • One Cut Of The Dead plays out the entire first act in one shot, then cuts to several months earlier to show the lead-up to how we got to that moment. The final act shows the first act again from a different perspective.
  • Pan's Labyrinth; however, it's only obvious that this is what they did when the movie comes back to the shot near the end.
  • Pain and Gain starts with the cops going after Daniel, and then flashing back to 6 months earlier.
  • Paulie features a sentient parrot locked up in an animal testing lab telling his life story to a janitor of how he got here during his trek of trying to locate Marie, his owner in his earliest memories and living through multiple owners.
  • The movie (and, by extension, the album) Pink Floyd: The Wall starts in Pink's trashed hotel room, with Pink having already completed the metaphorical wall — from there the movie goes into flashbacks, with many of the subsequent songs/scenes describing the different "bricks" of his life which helped build it. (Although, confusingly, there is also a brief flash-forward to Fascist Pink at the concert/rally for the song "In the Flesh?" right near the beginning.)
  • Polite People shows how Lárus ended up driving around the countryside, sleeping in his car and breaking into the supermarket for food.
  • Premium Rush opens with the protagonist in mid-air after a catastrophic crash. The first part of the film shows how he got to that point, the second part shows what happens next.
  • Pulp Fiction begins and ends with the same scene in the diner, but from the perspective of different characters.
  • Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster begins with Shaggy, Scooby, Daphne, and Fred chasing the witch through the house and unmasking her, expressing astonishment at her unseen identity. The rest of the film explains how the gang got to that point.
  • The Scribbler opens with police psychologist Silk (Eliza Dushku) arriving at a high-rise halfway house where a series of suspicious jumper-suicides have occurred. After surveying the crime scene, she begins interrogating Suki (one of the surviving patients) with partner Moss (Michael Imperioli). Suki's testimony, shown in flashback, then tells the story.
  • Shimotsuma Motogari opens with the main character speeding around some truly epic scenery porn on a motorscooter while wearing a frilly Victorian style dress. She is hit by a truck carrying cabbages and slow-motion falls through the air, quietly thinking about all the people, clothing brands and embroidery she'll miss now that she's dead. The screen then says THE END before she realizes that 'that's a bit too short, so let's rewind a little'. We then get the series of events that led up to this moment, followed by the conclusion of the movie.
  • Sid And Nancy opens with Nancy's body being taken out of the hotel where they were living, followed by Sid in handcuffs being led away by police. At police HQ, the detective asks Sid what happened, and the film jumps back a few years to the beginning of their relationship.
  • Sunset Boulevard starts with the main character explaining why he's floating face down in a pool.
  • The film Swordfish, which probably did it so they could show off the coolest scene in the movie twice: once as the opening scene, and again about 2/3 through.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog opens with Sonic being chased by Robotnik. Mid-chase, Sonic himself pauses the moment to explain how said event is happening.
    Sonic: So, I know what you're thinking. Why is that incredibly handsome hedgehog being chased by a madman with a mustache from the Civil War? Going to be honest, it feels like i've been running my whole life. Is this too much? Am I going too fast? It's kinda what I do. you know what? Let's back it up.
  • Thor: opens with Thor getting hit by a truck in the middle of the desert. The next half-hour or so is spent on how he got there, and why being hit with a truck would be bad for him.
  • Transcendence, opens with the ending scene, making it clear the Apocalypse How went down already.
  • Unknown (2006) involves five men waking up in a warehouse with no memory of how they got there and soon learning that at least two of them have been kidnapped and at least two of them are the kidnappers...
  • Vanilla Sky is shown by being told from David, the main character, to Curtis, a psychiatrist from prison.
  • Vanishing Point opens with Kowalski heading at high speed towards a huge police roadblock, complete with bulldozers. Flash back to two days previous to discover how he got there.
  • The biopic Veronica Guerin begins with the titular character being gunned down as she's driving home from traffic court. The film then flashes back to two years earlier, when she began her work investigating the drug trade in Ireland.
  • Watchmen: The Cold Open is a montage of how different the world is (particularly America), and how the lineup of the titular Watchmen have changed throughout the years to the "present day" of the film.
  • TV movie Wedding Belles had a kickass one wherein a bride and three bridesmaids dig up a grave, round up three other guys they have some sort of beef with, and shoot them [including the corpse] down by the docks. Somewhat disappointingly, it turns out to be a wish fulfillment dream.
  • Who Am I opens towards the end of the story where the protagonist enters a hotel room to find dead people inside. The rest of the movie tells the story of how he got to that point.
  • The Woman in Red: The film starts with Teddy in Charlotte's husband's robe out on the window ledge after he came home two days early.
  • Written on the Wind begins with Kyle entering his family home in a drunken rage. A gunshot is heard, and a man stumbles out and falls to the ground. Then the movie jumps back a little over a year to Mitch and Lucy's first encounter.
  • The Yes Men begins with the two men in a bathroom, rushing to get one of their number into a ridiculous-looking golden bodysuit and arguing about time zones. As it turns out, this is just before they carry out their first major hoax, but they've got plenty more to go through before the film is over.

  • This is a popular technique for historical non-fiction works, especially popular non-fiction written in novelistic style.
    • Kurt Eichenwald's book about Enron, Conspiracy of Fools starts with a board meeting not long before Enron's collapse in which crooked CFO Andrew Fastow was fired, then vaults back in time to tell the history of the company from the beginning.
    • Pope Brock's book Charlatan, a biography of notorious quack doctor John W. Brinkley, starts with Brinkley's demonstration for the Kansas State Medical Board in 1930 and the board's subsequent revocation of his license, then jumps back to tell Brinkley's life story starting with his birth in 1885.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Homer's The Odyssey did this.
  • Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, of the Discworld series, starts off not just at the ending, but at a possible ending.
  • Lampshade Hanging and Subversion: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians begins with the title character/narrator about to be sacrificed by the equally Evil Librarians on an altar of encyclopedias. Naturally, we immediately go off to a low-key domestic scene. The narrator explains that he has done this to screw with the reader, to prove he's not a nice person. Ultimately this scene never actually occurs, which the narrator cites as further proof that he's a bad person Two books later, we find out that this scene will only occur in the fifth (and last) book of the series.
    • And when it finally happens in the fifth (and last) book of the series, the narrator's father is killed, and the book abruptly ends, as does the series. Until Bastille promises to continue the story.
  • Used in the Chuck Palahniuk novels Survivor, Lullaby, and most notably, Fight Club.. Survivor opens with the protagonist in an empty plane he's hijacked that's running out of gas somewhere above the Australian outback. The rest of the book is a flashback being recited into the flight recorder. Lullaby starts with the protagonist and someone named Sarge on a hunt for witches, and every so often the story of How We Got Here is interrupted for an update on the latest stop in their hunt. Fight Club more or less begins at the end, before coming back to the opening for the second chapter.
  • The novel George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt opens with a very cool sequence featuring George commanding the space shuttle during a launch, which then turns out to be a dream from which he is awakened in an unfamiliar bed. The first half of the book covers how he got there.
  • Wicked has an unusual version: the "end" is an event the audience presumably knows already, due to the ubiquity of The Wizard of Oz, but goes on to tell the events leading up to it in a completely different manner, focusing on side characters from the original story (which also makes it something of a Lower-Deck Episode).
  • K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy The whole series is an extended journey to appreciate how we got to the mysterious start of the story.
  • Infinite Jest, although one could certainly be forgiven for not realizing it.
  • Finnegans Wake ends with an incomplete sentence that is resolved by the first sentence (opened with a lowercase letter) in the book. Since the book is heavily based on Vico's Historic Cycles, it's How We Got Here to the extreme.
  • Eastern Standard Tribe opens with Art on the roof of a pysch hospital and is split between the present and past storylines.
  • They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starts with Robert, the protagonist being sentenced for the murder of his friend, Gloria (which he did on her request). This happens at the very end of the book.
  • Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is begins with the narrator being slowly digested by a carnivorous plant. 400 pages later you find out why.
  • 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher starts out after a girl named Hannah's suicide. The protagonist Clay receives 13 tapes made by her explaining why she killed herself.
  • Alyson Noël's Saving Zoë takes place one year after Zoë is brutally murdered. It follows her sister Echo reading Zoë's diary and finding out about her life before she was murdered.
  • Robopocalypse starts immediately after the destruction of the final A.I. bastion then flashes back to the creation of that A.I. and the start of the robot war.
  • Dr. Seuss' The Lorax starts and ends at the place where the Onceler's Thneed factory once stood, with the Onceler telling the young boy listening how it all happened.
  • The Catcher in the Rye starts off with Holden hospitalised and telling a psychologist the events that led up to it.
  • Roger Zelazny is fond of this trope:
    • Doorways in the Sand: Every single chapter, except the first and the last, works this way.
    • Lord of Light after the In Medias Res first chapter, a little more than half the book is dedicated to explaining how Sam came to be at war with the Gods.
  • P. G. Wodehouse uses a six-line version of this in his short story Right Ho, Jeeves before the Narrator pulls back and laments the difficulty of deciding when best to start a story.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird opens with Scout and her brother Jem discussing how far back you'd have to go to explain how he'd broken his arm. The entire rest of the novel is thus dedicated to describing the various events leading up to it, and Jem's broken arm only happens right near the end.
  • In The Bible, the entirety of the Book of Genesis is this. Tradition holds that it was written and narrated by Moses.
  • In the Southern Sisters Mysteries, Murder Shoots the Bull opens with Mary Alice and Patricia Anne in jail because Mary Alice hit a bank president over the head with an umbrella. Patricia Anne observes that to explain how they got into this predicament, she'd have to back up a few weeks, and proceeds to tell the reader about her latest wacky adventure.
  • Animorphs: The Andalite Chronicles begins at Elfangor's death scene in the first main series book, then jumps to the 1970s to explain Elfangor's backstory and how he was indirectly responsible for the invasion of Earth and the creation of the Animorphs' nemesis Visser Three.
  • The Stranger Beside Me starts with Ted Bundy arriving in Florida after escaping prison.
  • Run starts with Agnes and Bo running away from home. While Bo's chapters show the two continuing their journey, Agnes' show the start of their friendship and what led to them leaving in the first place.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy": The story opens with Edith Fellowes visiting Timmie for the last time, because she plans to save his life. Then it goes back three years to when she was first offered a job by Stasis Incorporated.
  • Three Wishes starts with a scene of three women having dinner, described by a number of other restaurant guests (who we are also warned might have gotten the details wrong). One of the three is pregnant, and another one at one point gets furious and screams at the other two that they have ruined her life. Then we skip back to over a year earlier, and most of the rest of the novel is spent teasing out (with a number of Red Herrings along the way) which of the three protagonists we get to know will turn out to be which woman, and what the argument is going to be about.
  • Absolutely Truly begins with Truly hanging upside-down in a church steeple staring at said steeple's bell before flashing back to when she and her family were packing to move to Pumpkin Falls.
  • Project Tau begins with Tau and Kata's escape, and the next chapter takes place two years earlier, retelling the events that led up to the prologue.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: "Lockdown" opens with a scene showing Diana, a very ill Maia, Nina Jarvis (who has been shot) and several other women who have barricaded themselves in the NTAC gymnasium. Someone is pounding at the gym doors, desperately trying to get in. Diana raises her gun in order to defend herself and everyone else. The doors open and it turns out to be Tom. He and Diana then point their guns at each other. The storyline then flashes back ten hours and it is revealed that a 4400 named T.J. Kim released a Hate Plague which caused all of the men to become insanely angry.
  • Accused: The form of every episode's plot. Often what the case is about isn't even revealed until late in.
  • Agents Of Shield has done this multiple times, including the second half of the third season, which opens with sequence labeled as taking place in three months time, which turns out to be the climax of the season finale.
  • Alias frequently begins with this device, starting with showing Sydney Bristow in peril, then moving "XX Hours Earlier" to narrate how she got there. The series pilot does this effectively, as does the "reboot" post-Super Bowl episode.
  • Altered Carbon has several flashbacks hinting at the protagonist's Dark and Troubled Past, so it's not strange when "Man With My Face" opens with a brief shot of Kovacs hooded and manacled, before cutting to Kovacs racing a wounded Detective Ortega to the hospital. However Kovacs later gets captured, whereupon it's revealed that everything we saw was a How We Got Here.
  • Angel's penultimate episode, "Power Play", begins with Angel killing Drogyn in the teaser; after the credits, the episode begins with the subtitle "19 hours earlier." Also seen in "The Shroud of Rahmon".
  • The B-plot of Arrow explains how Oliver got the skills to become a vigilante.
  • The season four finale of Babylon 5 featured scenes from far in the series' future, one of which showed a clip of Garibaldi being held hostage and apparently being shot. Almost the entire first half of season five was devoted to showing what happened to cause that scene.
  • Band of Brothers: Episode 5 is a strange example. The show begins with a flash forward to the assault on the SS company. The actual assault takes place in the middle of the episode, and later there is a flashback to it.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • About a third of the second season episodes begin with a main character either about to do something evil, or in major peril, and then say "A bit before".
    • "Act of Contrition" opens with Starbuck trapped in a viper.
    • "Resurrection Ship part 1" opens with Apollo adrift in space.
    • "Black Market" had one shoved in, thanks to Ron Moore thinking the episode didn't work at all, and needed to start with something to grab the audience's attention.
    • The final episode has some flashbacks of many of the main characters prior to the Apocalypse How that starts the series.
  • The Bones episode "Aliens in a Spaceship" opens with Bones and Hodgins trapped in a buried car, and then backs up to show how they got there.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • The series opens on a man driving an RV recklessly through badlands dressed only in a gas mask and underpants. He glances behind him: a flash of what looks like two dead bodies sliding around on the floor. Beside him is an unconscious man, also in a gasmask. The episode then cuts to three weeks ago to show how we got there.
    • Several other episodes begin with a bizarre scene shot in close-up so you can just get the barest idea of what's going on. Then the last scene shows you the whole thing. And of course, the king of them all is the burned, one-eyed teddy bear in the pool, which takes the entire second season to explain.
  • The first season finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine opens with Jake drunk off his ass, buying an entire bar a round of drinks and celebrating being fired from the NYPD. We then jump back a week to see Jake being asked to drop a drug-dealing case about a local politician. Eventually, it turns out that Holt and the FBI deliberately 'fired' Jake so he could go on an undercover mission to infiltrate the drug dealers.
  • Castle:
    • A Deadly Affair opens with Castle and Becket apparently aiming guns at each other, and then skips back to three days earlier.
    • "Set-Up" begins with Castle being half-led, half-dragged by two guys in hazmat suits who refuse to answer his questions about "how serious it is". He's left with a silent, stricken-looking Beckett, and then the episode goes back thirty-six hours.
    • "Always" starts with Beckett hanging off the roof of a building by her fingertips before going back three days.
  • China Beach's "Holly's Choice" tells the story in reverse beginning with Holly flying away in a helicopter and weeping. Throughout the story, the caption "Earlier..." appears between scenes as it's discovered that Holly chose to abort the child she was carrying after a dalliance with a soldier who was killed; the episode ends with their lying down to have sex.
  • Used very creatively the Charmed (1998) episode "Forget Me... Not". Instead of simply reversing back to the beginning, the sisters' memories were erased and they used a spell to relive the same day to discover what happened and how they lost baby Wyatt.
  • Both Chuck and My Own Worst Enemy use this trope regularly, which seems to be a spy-story staple.
  • Every episode of Cold Case is like this, with the teaser showing the moment of the episode's murder and the events immediately preceding it, then gradually showing what happened to lead up to said murder, all in flashbacks.
  • Season 4 of Covert Affairs opens with Annie clearly about to go on a suicide mission. Shots are fired. Cut to "10 weeks earlier". It takes 10 episodes into the season to catch up. (She planned the whole thing, faking her death so her target wouldn't see her coming.)
  • Criminal Minds:
    • The episode "Minimal Loss" starts with a news coverage of an explosion and then rewinds three days to find out how it happened.
    • "100" began with the aftermath of a scene and then the rest of the episode is the team justifying their actions to Section Chief Erin Strauss.
    • Similar to "100", the season seven premiere "It Takes A Village" has the team once again justifying their actions except this time it was to the US Senate Committee.
  • CSI: The first part of the sixth season finale begins with a hostage crisis developing; the rest of the episode shows events leading up to it.
  • CSI: Miami managed to encapsulate an example of this trope into The Teaser of an episode, showing a suspect's recent experiences in flashbacks as he's running to escape the series leads.
  • CSI: NY's eighth season premier cold opens with a prescription drug capsule falling slo-mo into a blood pool. The camera very slowly pans out to show us three men lying on the floor of a pharmacy. The third victim is Det. Mac Taylor. Cut to opening credits, after which we are taken 12 hours back in time, brought back to the opening and carried forward, all the while interspersed/tied together with what's going on in Mac's subconscious mind.
  • It's the series format of Damages. The first season's first scene shows us a delirious Ellen running around NYC bloody and scared, and her boyfriend is found dead in the bathtub. The whole season jumps between past and present, telling us How We Got Here. For the second season, we see Ellen apparently shooting someone with a gun twice. While on the third, we see that same girl's boss getting hit by a car.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Season 2 episode 8, "Guilty as Sin," ends with Frank Castle throwing his trial so he can meet with Wilson Fisk, who sent him a message, with the last shot being Frank encountering Fisk lifting weights. The next episode, "Seven Minutes in Heaven", jumps back in time to Fisk's arrival at prison. We are shown how Fisk is passing his time as he plots the demise of a rival kingpin within the prison and (as later revealed in season 3) waits for his long-term manipulation of Ray Nadeem to pay off, buys the loyalty of a few inmates, and arranges for his messasge to passed on to Frank. This nine minute prologue ends with the last shot of the previous episode, and establishes that Fisk seeks to use Frank to get rid of Dutton.
    • "No Good Deed" plays with it: we open with Fisk showering in his penthouse at the Presidential Hotel, under FBI guard, and then jumps back in time about 20 minutes to show Fisk being escorted into the penthouse by Ray Nadeem and Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter following the Albanians' attack on the FBI motorcade transporting Fisk to the hotel and Dex killing the attackers. When it catches up to the present, Fisk is snapped out of his musings by Arinori (one of the bribed agents on his payroll) barging in with a towel and telling him to get dressed so his lawyers can speak to him.
  • Dear White People: The first episode opens with the Blackface party and then shows how it came to this point.
  • The aptly named Dharma & Greg episode "How This Happened" begins with a swarm of police wrestling Larry into a cop car and Dharma saying "How did this HAPPEN?"
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace" begins with Versailles under attack and Reinette calling for the Doctor through the titular fireplace, and then the title sequence. We don't learn the full context until the climax.
    • "Love & Monsters" lampshades the trope: Elton begins his tale by recounting an encounter with the Doctor that he put at the beginning because it's a "great opening", in which he encounters the TARDIS by some warehouses in Woolwich. He wanders into the building, is cornered by a Hoix, and then watches as the Doctor and Rose subdue the creature. When the story reaches that point again, Elton fast-forwards through it, reminding the viewer not to get too excited as that's where they came in.
    • "Under the Lake" ends with the Doctor deciding to go 150 years back in time to view the events that led to the situation he's found himself in, leading to the next episode, "Before the Flood".
  • Dollhouse:
    • The episode "A Spy In The House Of Love" started by showing someone about to be wiped, and a gunshot. It then went back 18 hours.
    • The episode "Belonging" starts with a blurry shot of a bloody Topher saying, "I was just trying to help her...I was just trying to help her..." It then goes back and tells the stories of how Priya came to the Dollhouse and how Topher ended up covered in blood and repeating that mantra.
    • The season one finale "Epitaph One" is set ten years ahead in a Bad Future where wiping has become weaponized and commonplace, all of civilization has ended, half the world has been programmed into being mindless killing machines, and oh, Topher's gone completely and heartbreakingly insane because it's all his fault. Season two slowly sets the stage up for this to become a reality, with the series finale fully filling in the picture "Epitah One" sketched out.
  • Escape at Dannemora: The series opens with a scene in which Tilly is being interviewed by the state inspector general. Most of the series is a flashback leading up to this point. At the end of the final episode, we see the first part of this scene again from a different camera angle.
  • Several episodes of ER started out with an end-point prologue while the bulk of the episode explained how things got to this point.
  • The final episode of Fargo begins with the camera panning over a mountainous area (previously unseen in the series), followed by a wrecked snowmobile and a frozen lake with a hole in the ice. This foreshadows the fate of a main character.
  • The infamous Farscape episode "Scratch 'n' Sniff" follows a variation of this trope in which it's revealed that the bulk of the episode is a recounting of events by John Crichton to a disbelieving Pilot, and is presented in such a way that the actual accuracy of the account is left ambiguous.
  • Firefly:
    • "Trash" opens with Captain Mal sitting naked on a rock in the middle of a desert, then we go back to see how it happened.
      Mal: Yep... yep, that went well.
    • "Out of Gas" opens with a nearly deserted Serenity, followed by a double How We Got Here. The episode cuts between current events, one set of flashbacks showing how the crew got in this mess and another set showing how the crew first came together.
  • This happens about Once an Episode in the cop show Flashpoint. They started to limit their use of it in Season 3, but in Season 4 they were back to using it almost every time just as they had been.
  • The pilot episode of the 2000 version of The Fugitive begins with Kimble escaping from the wrecked prison van. As he runs through the woods, pursued by Gerard, flashbacks reveal his ideal life (Happily Married to a beautiful wife), his wife's murder, his wrongful arrest and conviction, and the very crash of the prison van.
  • General Hospital:
    • The show broke with the conventional soap opera conventions of storytelling during its February sweeps 2007 hostage crisis storyline by showing the end result first (an explosion caused by a bomb) in the pre-opening credits teaser and then going back to where things had left off during the previous episode to show the events that set it in motion after the opening credits. In fact, the explosion depicted at the beginning of the episode did not happen for another 15 episodes after the first in which it was depicted. Each of those episodes opened with the explosion, albeit from a differing perspective.
    • They then tried to create the same tension two years later with the much-maligned "Toxic Balls" storyline. This one took 10 episodes for the "flashback" to get to the beginning of that storyline. Each of those episodes opened with Patrick being interrogated by Agent Rayner, followed by Agent Winifred Leeds giving a report on people still in the hospital.
  • This is the main framing device on The Good Guys. An episode will begin with Dan and Jack in some very dangerous situation and then we jump back to how the case began and how the heroes got into that predicament. Throughout the episode you will get shorter flashbacks that explain why certain weird things happened and what some of the characters' reasons and motivations are. eg one flashback shows how a pimp decided to become a pimp because of something his father said twenty years before.
  • The second season of Hannibal opens with Jack walking into Hannibal's apartment and wordlessly drawing his gun, having somehow discovered the truth. After Hannibal disarms Jack and they spend two minutes beating the hell out of each other, we jump back twelve the two of them having dinner together.
  • Horatio Hornblower: The second installment of this miniseries has two parts "Mutiny" and "Retribution". "Mutiny" starts with Commodore Sir Edward Pellew visiting Lieutenant Hornblower in prison, telling him and the audience that he's going to be tried for his life. The whole episode is told in one long Flash Back, though not entirely from Hornblower's point of view specifically. The episode ends in prison when Pellew and Hornblower finish their conversation. The next part, "Retribution", resumes the story where it was left, but this time it's more like In Medias Res with telling scenes of badly injured Lieutenants Bush and Kennedy who are treated in the prison infirmary. The lieutenants face a trial and they continue to give a full account of what happened during the rest of their mission. It's being constantly interrupted with court testimonies and the judges' private discussion happening in the present. "Retribution" thus mixes In Medias Res with Anachronic Order.
  • Due to its general flashbackyness, How I Met Your Mother does this a lot. In the first 2½ seasons there have been five How We Got Here episodes. And it's also the premise of the entire show. It's right there in its title. However, when the first eight seasons of so were over, the audience knew next to nothing about said mother.
  • How to Get Away with Murder: uses this constantly, flashing forwards to the aftermath of a brutal murder, then back to show how it eventually happened, with the events syncing up in the middle of the first season. Season two appears to be doing the same thing.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, "Execution" begins with Stabler and Huang interrogating the prisoner. The Teaser ends as the prisoner attacks Huang. The bulk of the episode shows how and why they came to be interviewing the prisoner.
    • Another episode, based on the Natalee Holloway case, pairs this with In Medias Res. It starts at the typical midpoint of the episode, with the suspects in question having been arrested and arraigned on murder charges. Although there are never any flashbacks, the dialogue serves to fill in the investigation that usually happens in the first half of the episode.
  • Several episodes of Leverage begin with a snippet from a climactic moment from later in the episode and then jump back in time to show all of the events leading up to that moment. This most often takes the form of showing Nate in some kind of dangerous or apparently hopeless situation.
    • Season one's "The Second David Job" opens with Nate held at gunpoint by the mark and asking if he's going to kill him
    • Season three's "The San Lorenzo Job" begins with Nate being dragged before a corrupt European dictator and the season's Big Bad and admitting that "we didn't have a chance in hell."
    • "The First David Job" opens with Nate pulling a gun on the mark and apparently in the midst of a breakdown, which turns out to happen very early on as part of the con. In the opening of "The Grave Danger Job," it's Hardison who's in trouble and the scene happens about halfway through the episode, after which point the rest of the episode follows the team's efforts to rescue him.
    • The series finale is an interesting example. It appears to be a straight version mixed with most of the cast dying. However it actually turns out to be The Rashomon in which Nate was lying so that they could manipulate Interpol into allowing them access to hidden files.
  • The pilot episode of Limitless begins with Brian already fleeing his friend's murder scene while being chased by FBI agents, and follows his pursuit into the subway. It stops just before the train (almost) hits him.
  • Lost:
    • The episode "The Brig" differs from the usual flashback structure by having the episode begin with Locke speaking to an unseen prisoner in the brig, then showing the events leading to that moment instead of pre-crash, off-island flashbacks. Another episode in which flashbacks are used this way is "Exposé".
    • "Catch-22" opens with one of Desmond's prophetic visions (in this case, Charlie getting shot in the throat with an arrow), and most of the episode leads up to this.
    • The episode "316" is a more traditional example, with a cold opening followed by a single episode-long flashback (as opposed to several flashback intercut with the main plot as traditionally used) revealing the events leading up to it. That makes one of the only three episodes of the show not to feature a secondary storyline.
    • There are arguably elements of How We Got Here to the series as a whole, what with its non-linear time structure. Aside from the general format of showing why the characters boarded the doomed plane, other episodes have revealed the origin stories of other characters who found their way to the island. "Live Together, Die Alone" introduces Desmond's backstory and the sailing race that led to his marooning on the island. "The Man Behind the Curtain" shows how Ben Linus, leader of the Others, came to the island as a child with the DHARMA Initiative. "Some Like it Hoth" and "The Variable" reveal why Miles and Daniel, respectively, boarded the freighter bound for the island. Finally, "Ab Aeterno" reveals the powerful backstory of Richard Alpert, the immortal advisor of the Others and his arrival to the island on the Black Rock slave ship.
    • "The Other 48 Days" shows us how the tailies got where they are and "Not in Portland" and "One of Us" as a set show how Juliet came to be on the island.
  • Many of the original Maverick episodes start with a teaser of a dramatic moment that will occur ~30 minutes in.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • "Anything You Can Do..." opens with Murdoch, his father and a Mountie in an abandoned building being shot at by several people (the exact number is the subject of some debate among the characters). Then the action shifts to some days earlier when Murdoch is called to a suspicious death on his home turf and meets the Mountie, Sgt. Jasper Linney. From there, the story goes back and forth between events in Toronto and the situation in that abandoned town, which proves to be in Linney's jurisdiction.
    • "The Murdoch Trap" opens with Murdoch lying unconscious on the floor of what proves to be a cage. After he comes to, he finds a hanging mannequin that looks like Julia with a recording of her voice playing and is greeted by his captor James Gillies. The story goes back to events a week earlier and then alternates between that backstory and Murdoch's present predicament.
  • At least one episode of MythBusters shows the group as they're about to launch into the final, full-scale experiment, then has one of them say they can't start at the end. Most of the rest of the episode then shows how they got to that stage, with the payoff at the very end.
  • NCIS:
    • The episode "Cloak" uses How We Got Here to fit the usual progression of the agents starting the episode at a crime scene, investigating. The action reaches a cliffhanger and freezes. Flashbacks then explain how it all came to be before wrapping back around to where the opening left two of Our Heroes in danger.
    • The Cold Open for the episode "Requiem" had Tony DiNozzo in a suit, running full-tilt through a warehouse, taking out two gunmen without missing a beat and diving over a pier to rescue Gibbs and a civilian after the car they were in was forced off the pier. The rest of the episode reveals who the civilian was and how Gibbs got involved.
  • The episode "Revenge" for Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide starts with Cookie being chased by Evelyn, a mystery girl being pelted with volleyballs, and Ned hanging upside-down. The rest of the episode shows how that all happened.
  • The pilot forThe New Normal shows how the household came together.
  • Once and Again's season one finale "A Door, About To Open" begins with Lily and Rick's families finally about to meet, and then flashes back to the day before.
  • One Hundred Deeds For Eddie Mcdowd pilot episode has Eddie, after being taken to a dog pound, retracing his steps off how he became a dog.
  • The Other Two: An episode opens with Brooke and Carey in Times Square discussing Chase's VMA performance and how their lives are now ruined, before flashing back to the events that lead up to the scene.
  • The Poirot adaptation of Sad Cypress begins with Elinor Carlisle standing in the dock about to hear the verdict of her murder trial, bitterly reflecting in voice-over on how quickly her life completely fell apart. We then go back to a point just before her life completely fell apart to see exactly what happened.
  • Power Rangers RPM did this several times. The series starts with the city of Corinth being sealed off against attack, and Scott, Summer, and Flynn zooming in at the last minute. The series skips to a year later, when they're already established as Rangers, and introduces Dr K, Dillon, and Ziggy. Each of them (except for Dillon, but he has amnesia) has an episode titled after them, which shows a normal episode interspaced with flashbacks showing what kind of people they are, and how they got into Corinth, leading directly into the first episode again.
  • The Pretender did this in the second and third episodes involving Argyle. Both episodes start with Jarod and Argyle in some predicament, then go back and show how they wound up there.
  • Pretty Little Liars uses this trope quite frequently, at least once per most seasons:
    • "The Lady Killer" opens with Hanna distraught in the aftermath of a crime scene (Caleb was shot during Nate's attack on Emily - unlike Nate, he survives).
    • "Unbridled" begins with Spencer in a forest at night in a wedding dress, pulled up short after a sharp sound which is the veil caught in a bear trap (she and the other Liars are modelling wedding dresses at an event and Spencer took off to follow someone. That someone may have put human bones in her girdle...).
    • "Taking This One To The Grave" begins at another crime scene, this one on Thanksgiving Day, with all the Liars except Spencer present. Spencer was arrested the previous day for murdering Bethany Young; Mona told the others she could prove Alison was A... and was then brutally murdered. In her own home.
    • "Over My Dead Body" begins with the girls, wearing party dresses and covered in dirt (later a common motif in many of their promo photos) sitting in an interrogation room as the police discuss the fact that they're murderers. It skips to 48 hours beforehand. Each girl was forced by A to do something to ruin their own lives because A was holding their therapist hostage. When the girls complete their tasks A gives them coordinates to where they have allegedly buried her alive, only for them to start digging and realize that they have just been framed to look like they are burying a murder weapon in the woods.
    • "Tick, Tock, Bitches" begins with Aria, Emily, and Spencer tearfully burying someone, crying that if they didn't, they would be committed for murder and that this is what Hanna would want. The episode skips back four days, to reveal that the person they are burying is Dr. Rollins. Hanna hit him with her car, and she is sitting in a state of shock while the other girls dig.
  • Psych did this with the episode with Uncle Jack where most of the episode is Shawn, Henry, and Gus explaining how they were led on a treasure hunt by Jack Spencer. Most of the telling takes place in the interrogation room after the three of them are arrested.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "Thanks for the Memory", the characters wake up four days after the opening scene with no memories of these days, a half-finished jigsaw completed and two of the characters with broken legs.
    • Several times in "Backwards", on the planet where time runs in reverse. For example, Lister lands on the planet with a black eye and bruised ribs, and doesn't know why until the bar-room brawl (or tidy) breaks out (during which his injuries get healed).
    • "Back In The Red" opens with Lister in prison with a living Rimmer, and apart from that and one other scene, the entire three-part storyline is dedicated to how they got there.
  • The first episode of ReGenesis begins with David rushing to the lab in a panic when he's hit by a car. The rest of the episode flashes back to a seemingly unrelated story, and the season continues from there. It isn't until the second-to-last episode of the season that the story catches up to the first scene, by which point we've found out the events of the first episode and the flashforward aren't so unrelated after all.
  • Used as the opening to each successive season of Revenge, the reveal typically taking place mid-season.
    • The first starts with a man, presumably Daniel, being shot on the beach the night of Emily and his engagement party.
    • The second starts with a salvage team discovering the sunken remains of the boat "The Amanda" along with a dead body.
    • The third starts with Emily in a wedding dress being shot by an unknown assailant and falling off a yacht.
    • Done for the episodes "Duress" and "Sabotage".
  • Ringer's 19th episode starts out with the apparent death of the main character and then captions "Two days earlier..."
  • Scorpion:
    • The episode "True Colors" starts with the team in evening wear (except Sylvester) standing next to a burning sports car while a government agent berates them, then shows how they got to that point.
    • The third season episode "It's Not The Fall That Kills You" opens with Walter falling through the air, plummeting to almost-certain death, then cuts to six hours earlier to show how he wound up there.
  • The Seinfeld "backwards" episode showed the scenes of the story in reverse order, à la Memento, with on-screen notations "three hours earlier", "20 minutes earlier", etc. Lampshaded with:
    Jerry: Bless you.
    0.4 seconds earlier
    Jerry's date: Achoo!
  • The pilot episode of Servant of the People starts with a history teacher learning he has been elected to be president of the country. While the episode itself follows him around on his first day, it is peppered with flashbacks that explain how such a situation came to be.
  • In Smallville, Crisis, Lana is apparently fatally shot at the beginning of the episode. Kryptonite enabled a time travelling phone call. The whole thing becomes a time loop of sorts as the Kents and Chloe try to change the future, with little success. Except Clark could, due him having Awesomeness Is a Force. It is actually shown in Hereafter, an episode in the previous season, that Clark is able to Screw Destiny.
  • Done several times in Stargate SG-1, most notably in "Meridian", which begins with Daniel returning to the SGC with a lethal dose of radiation, and one of the two subplots in this episode is spent on the mystery behind it.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Menagerie". However, this example is more a case of incorporating an older piece of footage into an episode. It does not begin in the "middle of the story" and then flash back.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The show plays with the trope with the Season 5 episode "Cause and Effect". The very first thing we see of the episode is the Enterprise collide with a suddenly-appearing starship and blowing up. After the title screen, we see the Enterprise intact and learn this is seemingly the trope...until the ship explodes again shortly afterward. It's only then that you realize the episode is not really How We Got Here but a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • The Season 6 episode "Suspicions" plays the trope straight. Guinan visits Dr. Crusher in her quarters for an elbow problem, but Crusher reveals she's about to be drummed out of her position. Most of the episode goes into the story behind it, then when it finally catches up we see Crusher find a way to solve the episode's problem (which would've led to her disgrace).
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Whispers" opens with O'Brien alone in a runabout, making a log entry about being on the run from "them". He goes on to explain how he first became aware of "them" and how that eventually led to him fleeing the station.
    • Similarly, "In The Pale Moonlight" begins with Sisko making a log entry describing the events of the preceeding few days, which is then cut back to periodically as said events are depicted.
  • Star Trek: Voyager's "Thirty Days" begins with Tom Paris being demoted to Ensign and sentenced to the title length in the brig for disobeying direct orders; he narrates the events that led to his temporary disgracenote  in the form of a log to his father.
  • The first episode of Stumptown (2019) opens with two guys driving Dex's car, with Dex in the trunk, while "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond plays on the stereo, then jumps back two days to show how they got there.
  • Supernatural, on occasion. We get one of the brothers doing something ridiculously out of character, and then 'Two Days Earlier' with a reasonably logical explanation for that (normally 'it was a shapeshifter, not Dean/Sam at all').
  • Thunderbirds: "Move And You're Dead" starts with Alan and Grandma stranded on a bridge, with a bomb that will explode if they move. While Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are on their way to save them, Alan tells Jeff about how they ended up there.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • The episode "To Serve Man" begins with the doomed protagonist telling the viewer how he came to be trapped on an alien ship and forced to eat.
    • The episode "The Howling Man" starts with elderly David Ellington explaining that his "is a fantastic story". Fade to forty years earlier and a young Ellington arriving at a monastery run by a very interesting group of religious men...
    • "The Bewitchin' Pool" opens with Gil and Gloria Sharewood telling their children Sport and Jeb that they plan to divorce, which is a scene from towards the end of the episode. This was because the production was short of usable footage.
  • The The Thundermans episode "A Hero is Born" starts with Max trying to save Dr Colosso with his telekinesis, but fails. The voice over, in Dr Colosso's voice, then transitions the episode to when it all began. The scene that started the episode comes at the very end.
  • Kids sitcom Unfabulous uses this very often. Typically the show begins with the central character in trouble, in plaster, or covered in food, water, or other liquids. She then explains (in voiceover) that to understand how she got into this mess, we'll have to go back a few days.
  • Several episodes of Unnatural History begins with the characters facing imminent danger at an unknown location, then goes back showing how they got into the situation.
  • An episode of V (2009) begins with the Fifth Column heroes shooting down a V transport that was carrying humans, then flashes back to "14 hours before" and the events that led to that tragedy.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • The pilot begins this way on the DVD version, with Veronica being confronted by Weevil's biker gang before rolling back 20 hours. On the original UPN version, it begins at her school, 20 hours before the confrontation with Weevil.
    • The episode "The Girl Next Door" (with a pre-Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain in the title role) tells its tale in flashback in both versions. Played with: it's made pretty clear that said 'girl next door' is the dead body Veronica wonders if she could have saved if things had gone differently... but the corpse was never actually shown. The girl is fine, it was her would-be killer who died.
  • Walking with Dinosaurs:
    • The fourth episode begins by showing the dead body of the episode's protagonist, a male Ornithocheirus. The rest of the episode focus on this very last flight and, with it, the circumstances that lead to his death.
  • The West Wing played with this trope several times. Many episodes include flashbacks, which answer major questions relating to character motivation and history, but only a few use this trope to present the main plot's end at the start of the episode or to start the series of events bringing the viewer to the end.
    • The first season finale plays the trope straight, leading to Once More, with Clarity! in the final moments.
    • Noel is another straight example: the episode begins on December 24th with Josh being asked how he injured his hand but the story presented occurs over the previous weeks.
    • When Hoynes resigns, we see an assistant carrying a letter into the Oval Office, the President talking to her, and everybody being very solemn about it, culminating in Bartlet opening the letter and the audience seeing that it is Hoynes's letter of resignation, effective 6AM that day. We then jump to 24 hours earlier after the opening credits, to see what led up to a very Wham-type of development.
    • The final season opens three years in the future with several characters meeting at the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library, with the new president shown as He Who Must Not Be Seen. The rest of the season shows how they got there and who won the Presidential election.
  • Wings:
    • The opening and ending of "Joe Blows" are similar to Sunset Boulevard.
    • "As Fate Would Have It" begins with the plane about to crash. The bulk of the episode explains the circumstances that put the characters in that situation.
  • The first episode of Wolf Hall begins with Thomas Cromwell helping Cardinal Wolsey prepare for his exile to the north. It then jumps back to several years beforehand when Cromwell first enters his service, not long before Henry VIII demands Wolsey get his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. When the episode catches up, Cromwell goes to Henry's court in an ultimately vain effort to get Wolsey recalled from his disgrace.
  • Wonderfalls: The episode Crime Dog starts with Jaye in jail being questioned by the police, then moves backwards to explain "how exactly that woman wound up in the trunk of (her) car." Notably, they often cut back to Jaye and her family as they are explaining the story to clarify things... and also just for comedic value.
  • The X-Files:
    • Episode "Monday" opens with Skinner arriving at a bank that Mulder and Scully are inside, shortly before the bank blows up. All this happens in the teaser. After the credits and commercial break, we're in the hallway outside Mulder's apartment a few hours before the explosion as his day begins badly (we revisit this spot several times).
    • "Bad Blood" starts with a man pursuing a teenager and killing him with a stake. The man is revealed to be Mulder. After the teaser, Mulder and Scully meet at the office. We see two slightly different accounts of how that happened.
    • "Travellers" does a more over-arching How We Got Here, showing how Mulder found the X-Files in the first place and how he began investigating paranormal cases.
    • "Redrum" is an interesting version; the man accused of killing his wife is moving back in time one day each day, eventually getting to the day of his wife's murder to stop the real killer.
    • Two-parter Myth Arc "Colony" and "End Game" started with Mulder in a very serious medical condition. It's resolved at the very end.
  • You, Me and the Apocalypse starts with the main characters in a bunker underneath Slough, Berkshire moments before an 8 mile wide comet strikes Earth, and flashes back to explain how they all got there.

  • Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall begins with the song "In The Flesh?", sung from the perspective of the main character Pink: "If you want to find out what's behind these cold eyes / You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise." From there the album goes into a long flashback of Pink's entire life, beginning with the sound of a baby crying leading into the next song "The Thin Ice". The narrative of the album finally returns to where it began with the sort-of Dark Reprise "In The Flesh".
  • The Who's Rock Opera, Quadrophenia, opens with the main character stranded on a rock off the coast of Brighton, in the pouring rain, with no means of egress, and goes on to explain how he ended up there.
    • The movie opens with Jimmy walking away from a cliff after sending a scooter off of said cliff at the end of the film.
  • The Vocaloid trilogy Shinseiki ~New Millenium~,Risoukyou ~Utopia~,and A Faint Wish. The first video is chronologically the last, and the second two are basically flashbacks telling us how the story led up to the first video.
  • The Slick Rick song "Sittin" In My Car" begins unsurprisingly with Rick sitting in his car. Rick then proceeds to tell the tale of debauchery and intrigue that explains why he is waiting in his Jeep outside a club for a particular girl.
  • Watsky's video for "Stupidass" starts with Watsky dirty and naked, then rewinds until the audience sees what happened.
  • The video for Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" begins with Jimmy Somerville leaving town by train, then flashes back to the homophobic bullying incident that forced him to leave home, before returning to him and his bandmates on the train.
  • Moby's video for "Run On" (from the album Play) is this.

  • On The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the "Beyond Belief" episode "Love Love Me Doom" parodied this. It opens with Frank and Sadie yelling at each other and wanting a divorce and then the narrative goes back to before the fight. However, when time catches up, they only act the fight because it was heard at the beginning, though they still love each other.

  • On The Gungan Council, "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" slips into three different flashbacks to explain how and why Bianca and Darth Apparatus were separated for over two decades.

  • Many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals begin at the end and are told in flashback: Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard (of course, the source material for this one did, as well). Love Never Dies opened this way as well in the original London staging (and the cast album), but by the time the Australian production was filmed, the prologue was dropped.
  • The musical Wicked follows the same format as the novel, with the added twist that it turns out Elphaba faked her own death.
  • The musical Merrily We Roll Along does this to the point where it's told in entirely reverse order.
  • The off-Broadway run of Vanities: The Musical followed this format, with a prologue in the mid-80's/early 90's, which the story returns to in the Distant Finale.
  • Anne of the Thousand Days begins with Anne awaiting execution while Henry steels himself to sign her death warrant.
  • Grey Gardens begins in 1973 with Big and Little Edie playing a record of "The Girl Who Has Everything", which segues into the 1941 flashback for the first act. At the end of the 1973 second act, the story returns to the opening scene.
  • Fiorello! begins with a short prologue in which Fiorello, as mayor of New York City, reminisces about the very beginning of his political career.
  • Waterfall begins in 1945 just after World War II, when Noppon's wife Pree discovers the painting made by his late love interest Katherine, before flashing back to the 1930's for the main story, then returns to the opening scene at the finale.
  • In City of Angels, Stone begins his Private Eye Monologue after being wheeled into a hospital with a gunshot wound in his shoulder. It's left ambiguous whether or not Stone survives ("No great loss if he don't," an orderly remarks). The rest of the Show Within a Show unfolds in flashback, culminating in the three gunshots heard at the start of this scene.
  • The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, supposedly an accident-prone amateur production, gives a meta twist on the structure. The curtain comes up to reveal the cast on stage still rehearsing the final scene of the play, with the protagonists anxiously awaiting an ambiguously-described fate. They break off and head backstage, then the show-within-the-show begins at the first scene, shows everything leading up to the scene glimpsed at the beginning, and finally proceeds to the end of the story.
  • In Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the first act proceeds linearly, while the second act has this structure; it opens with Utterson arriving at Jekyll's house for the final showdown, then recounts his investigation in a series of flashbacks, before continuing on to the showdown itself.

    Video Games 
  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee begins with Abe tied up and looking miserable, a voice over delivered by Abe explains the situation he's in and proceeds to explain how he got there which makes up the entire game.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero opens with Lloyd and the team entering the base where the organization responsible for most of the crimes they resolved is located and prepare to put an end to it, with the story shifting back to the start of Lloyd's arrival in Crossbell and following the events leading up. However, it is revealed in the sequel that the introduction was the lead-in to a Bad Future where the team was killed by the Big Bad, causing Kea to have a Traumatic Superpower Awakening to move time back to the beginning. In the process, making alterations that would allow Estelle and Joshua, along with Renne to rescue them at the right moment.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is presented as a narration of the primary protagonist Zoe Castillo, who lies in coma and recalls the events that left her in this condition.
  • Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric starts with Sonic being blasted by Lyric's forces, falling down a pit and being covered by rocks as his friends watch. The game then flashes back some time before then to show how that situation came about.
  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows starts with New York shown to be completely overrun with monstrous symbiotes creatures, while Spider Man desperately searches for Mary Jane. But before he can reconcile with her, he is absorbed by a humanoid figure, with the story shifting back four days explaining the events leading up to it.
  • Max Payne:
    • The first game opens this way, with Max completing a shot with a sniper rifle in the opening cinematic, and then flashing back to the Back Story, eventually starting the gameplay somewhere in the middle.
    • The second game, The Fall of Max Payne, opens the same way, with an injured Max laying with Mona on the floor of a mansion with police moving in, and then flashing back to how they ended up there. Which, in turn, opens with a wounded Max trying to escape from a hospital, and then flashes back to how he ended up there for all of Part I and Part II.
    • The third game opens with a Match Cut from Max's new apartment to the airport hangar from the final mission. Before we find out who the mutilated guy on the ground is, the game flashes back to the beginning of the story.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge opens with Guybrush dangling from a rope over a deep, dark pit, while hanging onto a treasure chest. Love interest Elaine Marley slides down on another rope and asks how Guybrush got himself into this mess. Has the advantage that at the one point in the game where's it's theoretically possible for Guybrush to die, the game returns to this scene for Elaine to point out the incongruity and you get to go back for another go.
  • Final Fantasy X opens with the first part of a sombre campfire cutscene outside Zanarkand. Tidus narrates: "Listen to my story. This may be our last chance." You really get to this campfire about 2/3 of the way through the game.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 plays with this by explaining the beginning. A small sidequest explains what the real Yuna was doing while Rikku and Paine were gate-crashing the concert from the opening scene.
  • Final Fantasy XV opens with Noctis and his friends about to do battle with a mysterious pyrokinetic entity before taking you back to the very beginning of the game. This shows up later as the penultimate boss battle.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens as The Prince relates his story to Farah, and takes place almost entirely in the flashback thus framed. Each time you die, The Prince says something like, "That didn't happen," or "Wait, let me go over that part again." The same words the Prince first uttered at The Sands of Time are also the last words he says at the end of The Two Thrones, making the entire Sands of Time Trilogy a how-we-got-here story.
  • Fahrenheit is narrated past tense by the main character. When you get a game over, though, he says things like "And that's the end of my story. I never cleared my name and I never found out why I killed that man".
  • Final Fantasy Tactics begins with Ovelia's kidnapping, and then goes into flashback for Chapter One to show how the characters got to where they are "now". Furthermore, the Framing Device of the game itself is that it's presenting the "true story" of the Lion War generations after the fact.
  • God of War:
    • God of War begins with the protagonist attempting to commit suicide, with the rest of the game leading up to why.
    • God of War III begins with Kratos declaring "my vengeance... ends now." It's not until the end of the game we see who he's saying it to.
  • Heavenly Sword begins with Nariko facing down King Bohan's entire army with the title sword, which tries to kill her at the end of the scene before it flashes back to how she got to this point.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves follows the series tradition of a setup/prologue level, though in this case, it's the huge caper that will make Sly's career and recover his family fortune. At the end of the prologue, Sly is caught by the Big Bad's ultimate monster; the opening cutscene and the first six main levels are his life flashing before his eyes, as he assembles his ultimate team of thieving experts for the vault job. The final level opens on the same scene, as Sly's strength starts to fail him, but the gameplay picks up with a different playable character riding to the rescue.
  • In Romancing SaGa 2, the bard is retelling the tale of your empire in the pub of said imperial city. The Emperor you chose at the beginning of the game is in the same room, speaks to the bard at the end of the game and reminisces of all the allies and classes the player has met and recruited based on what events were cleared.
  • Sacrifice: The entire story is a flashback, told by Eldred after he rescues Mithras from the ruined world shown in the intro. Notable in that the game has a branching storyline, but the outcome is set: No matter which god you serve, the world's going to end up a wreck. Similar to Prince of Persia above, the narrator comments "Now where was I... ah yes." when loading or "Of course, that's not what really happened." when restarting. He's also at one point interrupted by Mithras demanding that he explain something else about the Big Bad.
  • Sam & Max:
    • Done to great comedic effect in Sam & Max: Night of the Raving Dead. Sam and Max are in a deathtrap with spikes closing in on them. Max states "I can't even remember how we got here!" and Sam calmly narrates the story that the player is about to see. When the player eventually reaches the deathtrap, Sam says just as calmly "Oh, drat. I was so busy telling the story, I forgot to come up with an escape plan!" at which point the trap closes, killing them both. Fortunately, they come back as zombies and are thus able to thwart the schemes of Big Bad Jurgen.
    • Played with in Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone, when Max uses the future-vision goggles to see how he and Sam are going to defeat General Skunkape. Skunkape then subverts it by using the goggles to discover their plan and promptly throw a spanner in the works.
    • Sam & Max 302: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak uses this as a game mechanic. You find the skeletons of your ancestors in the basement of your building together with some movie reels that contain the story of what happened to them. You can play the reels out of order to get hints on what happened further along in the story and then you go back to an earlier reel to play out the story as it happened. The final reel is one big How We Got Here since you have to explain how you solved all the other reels in order to progress.
  • The popular freeware RPG Maker game A Blurred Line starts with three agents of sort trying to stop a terrorist from destroying an extremely important facility. After the intro, the player goes back to one year earlier, and takes control over the terrorist.
  • The Punisher: Basically the entire game up until the final level is this. All the levels are a series of flashbacks told by Frank to Detective Martin Soap and Lieutenant Molly Von Richtofen in an interrogation room in Ryker's Island Prison.
  • Pitfall: The Lost Expedition opens up with you fighting against the demon jaguar, the semifinal boss, 500 years in the past, only to wind up pinned and about to get your head bitten off, while Pitfall Harry says "They say that when a giant demon jaguar is about to terminate your existence, your life flashes before your eyes..." The movie then pauses before flashing back to twenty-four hours previous, in present-day 1935, and the game up until you reach the demon jaguar is buildup to that point.
  • Devil May Cry 3 begins with Lady narrating over the fight between Dante and Vergil, which really happens in Mission 7 of the game and is only the first of three major clashes the brothers have.
  • The opening scene of Eternal Sonata is that of Polka standing on the edge of a cliff, facing away from it. She convinces herself that "this" is something she has to do... and lets herself fall off, uttering a couple more lines over the course of her fall. After you beat Frederic, the final boss (in game terms), if the appearance of the environment hasn't tipped you off, the next part will. Against Allegretto's protests, she says... most of the lines from the first scene again (but compare the last thing she says in that scene where she's falling to what she says in the analogous scene here). Then we proceed beyond the scene and see what's probably been happening afterward.
  • [PROTOTYPE] opens with Alex Mercer rampaging through Manhattan, with no explanation why. After killing a military commander in Times Square, we cut to a scene on a rooftop where Mercer and a shadowy behind the scenes person are having a discussion about how things led up to the present (New York being a total hellscape). We then flashback to the start of the outbreak and move forward.
  • Saints Row IV opens to a person in full-body armor sitting upon a throne. That scene is from the ending, after the Boss kills Zinyak and takes over his empire.
  • The first level of The Conduit consists of a tutorial set in a subway system. The second level starts with a flashback five days earlier, and the story doesn't return to the subway until late in the game.
  • The opening of Spec Ops: The Line features a helicopter chase that ends with the player's helo getting hit and a cut to black. You replay it at the end of Chapter 12, where it's lampshaded by Walker.
    Walker: We did this already!
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty begins with Solid Snake as the narrator reminiscing of the events of the Tanker chapter.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots shows Snake at a graveyard (the same one from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater) in its main menu, about to kill himself. The scene is partially explained part of the way through the game, but is not fully shown until the epilogue, where Snake cannot bring himself to commit suicide, and Big Boss, having previously been thought to be dead, shows up to explain the events of the game, and to tie up any remaining loose ends in the series.
  • Twisted in the game Second Sight, where you play as John Vattic, waking up in the hospital with the sudden power of telepathy. Periodically throughout the game, you suffer flashbacks to an adventure you had in Russia, where you were acting as a paranormal specialist (with a strong disbelief in psychic powers). The twist is that flashbacks are usually triggered by discovering something that triggers your memory, but (really quite minor spoiler) after what happens in the flashback doesn't match the information you received, (i.e. some one you knew supposedly dying in Russia), the information changes to reflect your memory (same example- the person's records listing them as alive, now). And then, of course, (major spoiler:) he later discovers that his list of psychic powers actually includes precognition, and that all the events from waking up in the hospital on are actually a possible future that he is foretelling will happen if he doesn't change it, and his supposed flashbacks are the actual events as they unfold.
  • Battlefield 3, of the Battlefield series, does this with the campaign. You start out with handcuffs on one of your arms, the player running from the police, and then jumping onto a subway train. And then you immediately start fighting masked soldiers on said train, where people seem to recognize you, and you run into the Big Bad. The final mission has you repeating that segment, in a Once More, with Clarity! fashion.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves begins with Nathan Drake, bleeding out from his stomach, barely holding on to a train car that's hanging precariously over the edge of a cliff in a snowy mountain range, and the game uses the opportunity to teach you how to climb stuff. The game then flashes back and forth between that point and four months prior when everything started, and eventually sticks you back four months ago and goes from there. You get back to the hanging train car about halfway through the game. And then you have to climb it again, with Nate complaining about all the spoilery stuff you wouldn't have known about at first, such as Chloe refusing to be rescued from Lazarevic and how his "hero" efforts aren't appreciated and how he is just sick of climbing shit...
    • Also, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End begins with Nathan and Sam facing the stormy waters while chased by the enemies on boat. The gameplay starts out controlling Nathan steering the boat and shooting at the enemy until crashing on shore. Unlike Uncharted 2, you don't have to do the same thing again once you get to this point of the game which skips to getting marooned with Nate and Sam getting separated.
  • Endless Ocean Blue World opens with whales absolutely everywhere, the player in a boat with a bunch of strangers, an entrance to a mysterious ruin... and then the flashback kicks in and you're asked what you look like and given your job interview.
  • Elemental Gearbolt, as evidenced by its introductory cutscene.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day starts off with Conker sitting on the throne, king. The rest of the game is the day before leading up to that point.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, that opening trailer is the final battle of the individual character stories with some scenes added, and the rest of the game is showing how things led to that battle.
  • In Dragon Age II, the legend of Hawke is told by Varric, a dwarven companion of his/hers to the Chantry Seeker Cassandra. Varric for his part plays a bit of the Unreliable Narrator, exaggerating certain parts of the story whenever he feels like it while Cassandra tries to find the true story.
  • In the remake of Wild ARMs 1, the first two minutes is about a group of people with a giant structure and a reunion of sorts. The rest of the game then tells how events happened. Thankfully, they don't spoil Zed being a party member, although it does spoil Rudy's left hand.
  • The campaign of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars starts off with a Forced Tutorial of two soldiers in a mission with no explanation of why they were there in the first place except a few dialogue. After which the actual campaign starts in the beginning. Four-fifth through the game, the tutorial mission got to be replayed again as an actual mission near the end of the story.
  • Halo 3: ODST is practically built around this trope. You begin the game several hours after the battle has been lost, having been knocked unconscious during the opening cutscene. Much of the game is spent searching for clues as to what happened that day, whereupon you play flashback levels from the perspective of one of your team-mates.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops uses this as its framing device, with Mason in the midst of an interrogation for 95% of the game and the actual missions being him recounting his experiences to the other men in the room.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has a level where you start out in the middle of an ambush. The mission then flashes back 20 minutes to show you how you ended up in that ambush. Sadly, it feels like they really shouldn't have bothered with the flashback.
  • Discworld Noir opens with an Impending Doom P.O.V. shot of something chasing Lewton down and eviscirating him, before his Private Eye Monologue begins "I've had some bad days since I started work as a private investigator. But I've never woken up dead before. It all started the week before..."
  • The events of Bastion start at the beginning of the story and continue on normally, but eventually it's revealed that Rucks' ongoing narrative is being told to Zia while The Kid storms the final dungeon of the game. When the player finally reaches that point, Rucks runs out of story to tell, and instead starts talking about their present situation and speculating what's going on on The Kid's end.
  • Slender: The Arrival: Throughout the game, the player (aka Lauren) finds letters from CR to Kate talking about both characters' growing conditions. Towards the end, it's revealed that Kate was turned into one of Slender's proxy and CR committed suicide by setting himself on fire.
  • Always Sometimes Monsters opens with a Mexican Standoff in an alleyway, as a Mysterious Stranger recounts a story about whichever protagonist you selected. This story contains its own Flashbacks to events that shaped the protagonist's past.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening you start the game in one of the last chapters of the story before jumping to the prologue. Although, unlike the other examples on this page, this was a premonition of events by one of the main characters and presumably a future memory about how things went wrong in the Bad Future.
  • Fire Emblem Echoes, the remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, also does this twice:
    • In the beginning, there's a cutscene that shows how Alm kills Celica with his sword. Then the game goes back in time to tell why he did it.
    • The cutscene where Celica dreams of Alm fighting with the Emperor is also this.
  • Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure opens with a cutscene immediately before the final boss fight. The rest of the game is a flashback.
  • In Freedom Planet, Milla's Story Mode has her being captured after clearing the first stage, then Neera captures her and takes her to the cell with Lilac and Carol, after a message "28 hours ago...", and another cutscene, the second stage starts.
  • Far Cry 3 has flashbacks that the player can optionally view by taking drugs after every time they rescue one of the protagonist's friends. Each flashback shows a little bit of what the group was up to at a bar in Bangkok, which was supposed to be their last stop on their vacation, before the DJ that Jason befriended told them about a little-known island where they could do anything they wanted...
  • In Persona 3, the FES epilogue The Answer begins with an unexplained but fierce battle between Akihiko and Aigis, while Metis and Ken are seen fighting in the background. Much of the subsequent game is Aigis recounting the events that led up to what she obliquely calls "the incident".
  • Persona 5 begins in the middle of a heist which ends with the Protagonist, a Phantom Thief, being captured by the police, because one of his allies sold him out. The police then drug him and rough him up before public prosecutor Sae Niijima comes in and begins interrogating the Protagonist. The calendar then moves back 6 months as the Protagonist recounts how he and his friends got their powers and became the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, occasionally cutting back to the interrogation months later before eventually catching up. Getting a Nonstandard Game Over by failing to complete story dungeons on time is explained as the Protagonist's mind being too addled by the drugs to give a proper retelling, but when Sae steps out to let the Protagonist recover, he's assassinated.
  • The Last Airbender has this happen after the first chapter. Zuko narrates about what happened to him and Aang that led to his ship getting blown up.
  • Fabulous: Angela's High School Reunion: After the end of Level 10, we build up to how and why Angela ended up in prison.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War begins with a brief recap of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that can be effectively summarized as "Talion, dead wife, dead son, Celebrimbor, new Ring".
  • The Longest Five Minutes starts out with your party staring face-to-face with the Demon King, but The Hero suddenly comes down with a case of Easy Amnesia at the worst possible time. The majority of the game is told through flashbacks consisting of mini-quests that cover the length of The Hero's Journey while his teammates try desperately to get him to remember everything he's fighting for.
  • Chapter 1 of Rakenzarn Frontier Story is Makoto narrating his life thus far, how he ended up in the dungeon he started the Prologue in and how he escaped from the boss at the end.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: At the beginning, we see Ezio fighting Cesare Borgia at Vanna, but since Desmond lacks the synchronization necessary to stay there, he gets booted out. It takes until the rest of the game until we see how they got there. Turns out to also be a case of Once More, with Clarity!.

    Visual Novels 
  • Practically an Omnipresent Trope in this medium, as every work desperately tries to avoid having to start with waking up in an Ordinary High-School Student's bedroom on a schoolday morning, where the stories usually start, so they put something in front of it.
  • CLANNAD starts with the first part of the final Illusionary World sequence, which isn't fully played until the end of the game.
  • Kira-Kira, over and over again. You're dropped in the middle of a scene, and the next five minutes are spent explaining what happened before then.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: The first arc begins with a long monologue and a black screen, with someone apologizing... as a wet and sickening THWACK noise sounds repeatedly in the background. This is Keiichi apologizing to Rena and Mion after bludgeoning them to death. This is likely where the anime adaptation (see above) got the idea of opening some arcs (including this one) with a clip from the end, or a suitably dramatic point.
  • Umineko: When They Cry, episode 5. Ushiromiya Natsuhi, you are the culprit! Way to start an episode of an extremely long murder mystery story. In the end, it turns out that Erika was wrong after all. In fact, Natsuhi becomes one of the two characters confirmed to not be the culprit. EP 6 follows suit starting with BATTLER and Erika's Wedding, with BATTLER in a logic error
  • Fate/stay night plays with this. It starts with a scene from the the third day, before starting on the first, but from the perspective of one of the heroines. The rest of the prologue plays out from her perspective until an event shortly after the first scene, with one of the characters from that scene holding her up at swordpoint. After the opening movie and starting the game proper from the menu, it goes back to the first day, this time from the Protagonist's perspective.
  • ef - a fairy tale of the two. starts with the ending, and jumps to two different points in the middle, before starting at the beginning.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, the prologue of the fourth case starts with Phoenix on a hospital bed looking over a report about a case handled by Mia. After learning what transpired during that trial, Phoenix mentions on how an incident occurred that made him remember another important incident from his past. The first act of the fifth case shows why he ended up on that hospital bed.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies begins on December 17 with a trial for a courtroom bombing that happened the previous day. After Case 1 is over, Athena spends half the game flashing back to the events of the previous months (April in Case 2 and October in Case 3). After the narrative finally arrives to December 16, the day of the bombing, two days are glossed over as this timespan is already covered in Case 1. Then the second half of Case 4 is told, followed by the final Case 5. It's important to note that a good deal of Dramatic Irony comes when the end of the first case reveals how a certain character apparently turns their back on the rest of the gang — the player is left wondering what led to this decision, and finds the answer through the aforementioned flashbacks.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, the second and third cases are flashbacks occuring before the first case, and the fourth case is a flashback seven years back from the third case. It's less confusing in context.
  • During Emi's route in Katawa Shoujo, a week after Hisao angers Emi enough for her to throw him out of her house, he is approached by Misha, who asks him what's wrong. If he tells her, she tells him to go apologize to her. He does so, then discusses this trope in an attempt to save the relationship he and Emi have. It works.
Emi: Determination? What do you know about determination?
Hisao: I know that there's a girl so determined to take care of a total stranger that she'd steal his food at a festival. I know that there's a girl so determined to help me with my own problems that she'd draw up a complete dietary and exercise plan, and that she'd not only draw up the plans but she'd follow them with me even when she couldn't run. Determined enough to keep me at arms length that she'd put herself through emotional pain if she thought it was the right thing to do. Although, there's one thing this determined girl didn't quite plan for, which was that I might feel the same kind of determination to keep her from being hurt. I fell in love with you and I refuse to let that be thrown away because you're afraid of losing me.

    Web Animation 
  • The very first episode of The Accuser started with the protagonist, Dan Mason, in a hospital bed, motionless, hearing the doctors mentioning that his wife was dead. Then we get flashbacks of his career as a criminal defense attorney and how it led to his hospital bed.
  • Mario Brothers starts with Mario running from something while lamenting his failures, and flashes back to show what occurred.
  • Sam & Mickey's "Road Rage" begins with Skipper, Barbie, and Chelsea stuck in traffic, before backtracking to show how they got stuck there, and why Barbie has a black eye.

  • The first page of The Fuzzy Five apparently starts In Medias Res, but after one frame, Spirit invites Otto to Flashback to how it all got started.
  • Chapter 2 of Godslave starts with Edith waking up the morning after chapter 1's events, then skips to the previous evening to deliver the exposition.
  • The "Catnip" chapter of El Goonish Shive starts In Medias Res and most of it is a flashback which is revealed at the end to have been shown to Sarah as a video.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Chapter 7, "Of New and Old", begins with Antimony standing on a bridge, thinking to herself, "Something is wrong. I shouldn't be here." By the time we see how she got there, we agree with her.
    • "Catalyst" opens with her and Smitty fleeing Gillitie woods hell-for-leather, and Parley and Eglamore both go Oh, Crap! when they see what's behind them... but we don't until Kat asks why they're back so early, and Annie tells the story.
  • Chapter 4 of Legio Arcana opens with Tim chasing and shooting arrows at a bleeding Nolan before the comic picks up 79 minutes earlier.
  • The first chapter of Sire begins in a juvenile mental hospital and spends the rest of the chapter having the main character describe how she ended up there.
  • The entirety of The Space Between thus far is framed like this, told in flashback by the main character, three years later.
  • Chapter one of Sunstone starts with Lisa taking off her wedding ring, revealing its inscription "Forever Mine", she threads the ring onto her necklace, cracks her knuckles, and starts writing about how it all transpired.
  • The first story of What the Fu starts with this, but doesn't really offer much of an explanation.
  • Chapter's 5 through 20 of The Zombie Hunters. Chapter 1 through 4 establish the team's dynamic is falling to pieces under Jenny's sub-par leadership. Chapters 5 through 20 shows how everything went so wrong as to land them in the predicament they found themselves in in Chapter 1, with the story finally returning to the present in Chapter 21.
  • Subverted in this xkcd strip. It starts with a Record Needle Scratch over a chaotic scene, but rather than say something like "You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation", it says "You're probably wondering what that sound was. Well, long ago, music was recorded on vinyl discs..."

    Web Originals 
  • The Ningyo begins with Christopher Marlowe entering a dark catacomb underneath a small shack, and about to be bitten by a rattlesnake when the flashback begins to show how it got started.

    Web Videos 
  • The entirety of Season 2 to Marble Hornets. The first few entries show Jay waking up in a hotel room with no memory of the last seven months. After finding a large number of tapes in his room safe, he witnesses the events that lead up to his amnesia.
  • Splinter Cell: Extinction: the prologue starts "47 minutes from now". Hence we know that the Corbin mission is a bust in advance.
  • The first episode of The Veronica Exclusive starts with Veronica entering her room with a split lip, bruises, and a trenchcoat that isn't hers, apparently traumatized. Then she sits down at her webcam, and explains that the only way she can properly explain what happened is to show the audience her old video diaries. The rest of the series is made up of said videos, showing us how Veronica got to that point.
  • "Mumkey Jones Stops a School Shooting" uses this trope as a running joke. EVERYONE wants to tell you how they got into this crazy situation, complete with backwards time jumps.

    Western Animation 
  • The 7D has done this with "Buckets" (which begins with the dwarves running out of a dark house in terror) and "Doing The 7D Dance" (which starts with Hildy and Grim about to send the 7D, Queen Delightful, Lord Starchbottom, Sir Yipsalot and Squire Peckington off into space on a rocket).
  • Alienators: Evolution Continues has "To Carthage Then I Came", which begins with Lucy carrying an unconcious Wayne through the deserts of Tunisia, and then she narrates a flashback on what happened to them, Ira, Harry, and Gassie earlier that day, before returning to the climax.
  • The American Dad! episode where Steve was found dead in his pool. It's a look-alike.
  • Season 7 of Archer opens with a Wham Shot that seemingly shows Archer's corpse floating in a pool, in a tribute to Sunset Boulevard. It then flashes back to six months beforehand. Despite a number of ways shown throughout the season in which it could have been a fake out, it turns out to be the real Archer. Season 8 reveals that he survived, but it placed him in a coma.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Runaway" starts with Katara turning Toph in to the authorities. Then we go back and learn how this came to make any sense at all.
  • The Batman episode "Batgirl Begins: Part 1" begins with Batgirl being attacked by Batman and Poison Ivy, and the rest of the episode, as while as the next one, detail how she got there.
  • The New Batman Adventures also did this with the unbelievably awesome episode "Over The Edge". The episode opens with Commissioner Gordon and a police squad chasing Batman and Robin through the Batcave, shooting at them with machine guns, grenades, and a couple of rocket launchers. Once they reach safety, Batman brings Nightwing up to speed on how Scarecrow killed Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in front of her father, driving him to revenge on Batman. It turns out that it was All Just a Dream , which poor Barbara is having due to a dosage of Scarecrow's fear-inducing chemicals.
  • Camp Lakebottom: In almost every episode. "Escape From Camp Lakebottom" is a notable exception.
  • Parodied in Class of 3000. The kids are in a cage suspended over a pit of lava. When one of them asks how they got into the situation, another responds that it was the same way they get into every situation.
    Little D: I've got a great idea!
    end flashback
  • The Code Lyoko episode "Bragging Rights" starts with Yumi and Ulrich attacked by robot-spiders in the Amazonian lab, and Ulrich comments: "To think it was supposed to be a piece of cake..." Then it flashes back to the few hours before.
  • The Daft Planet episode "Requiem for a Game" begins with Ched and Hudson running down a street. Hudson runs in front of a car that blocks Ched's exit, which causes him to get tackled to the ground by their pursuer.
  • Almost every episode of Detentionaire starts with a scene from the climax of the episode (which ends in a cliffhanger, of course) before rewinding to explain how the characters got into the mess.
  • Dog City: Discussed in the episode, "Of Mutts and Mayors", which starts off with Ace and Rosie on the run. Ace has no idea how they wound up in this predicament, which prompts Eliot to explain that they would be starting off near the end, where things are really bad, and then they'd show everyone how they got there.
  • The first episode of the Spin-Off The Emperor's New School had a Shout-Out to this by starting with the emperor as a bunny and then explaining how it happened.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode, "Once upon an Ed", the Eds have to tell Johnny why they're stuck in his drywall. Unfortunately, all of the Eds are rather Unreliable Narrators.
  • The Family Guy episode "Crimes and Meg's Demeanor" parodies this by attempting to do this trope right as the story is about to end.
  • Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes: The episode "The Cure" starts with Reed, Susan, Johnny and She-Hulk fighting alongside while a Brought Down to Normal Ben Grimm watches it from home. Then it goes back to when Reed is about to try another way to turn the Thing back into Ben Grimm.
  • Final Space begins with Gary drifting alone in space with having only ten minutes of oxygen left to live with HUE as his only companion. It then goes back showing the events leading to Gary's predicament.
  • The Flintstones:
    • The episode "The Tycoon" begins with Fred getting yelled at by Wilma and the Rubbles at home. A narrator flashes back to when J.L. Gotrocks, a dead-ringer for Fred, escaped his monotonous tycoon job and convinced Fred to be his replacement. While out, he encounters the three and acts like a huge jerk toward them; after the two doppelgängers switch back, Fred comes home to a bitter reception and doesn't understand why. Poor Fred.
    • The episode "The Golf Champion" opens with Fred winning the Loyal Order of Dinosaurs' gold championship, only for Barney to rush the field and try to wrestle the trophy out of his hands. A reporter on the scene asks a spectator what prompted the fight, and the ensuing flashback tells of when Barney got elected to be club's president and vowed to make sure all its members pay their back dues; Fred hadn't paid his, and Barney wants to withhold the trophy until he does.
  • Futurama's Star Trek-themed episode, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", parodying the TOS episode listed above.
    • Also happens twice with the first episode of the 2010 season.
  • Gargoyles did this in "Revelations". The first scene is of Goliath being tortured by Mace Malone, as Matt Bluestone (who, in previous episodes, didn't even know the Gargoyles definitely existed) watches. We then get the explanation of how this happened from Bluestone.
  • The premiere episode of Gravity Falls, "Tourist Trapped", starts out like this, with Dipper explaining to the audience why he and his sister are trying to outpace a giant in a golf cart.
  • Parodied in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, in the episode "Billy and Mandy Begins". Irwin's question about how they got to be dangling over a giant serpent monster is misinterpreted as a question of how Grim ended up with Billy and Mandy. Two distorted accounts and an accurate synopsis of the pilot take up nearly the entire episode, and by the time it's clarified that the question was how they got in that specific situation, everyone's eaten alive before it can be answered.
  • Brendon Small of Home Movies tried to do this with one of his films, but did it badly.
  • Jem: The pilot starts with an already famous Jem being well-received by her fans and then it flashbacks to the graveyard scene with Jem's father being buried.
  • The Loud House: "Friendzy" starts with the Loud Siblings fighting each other, and the police showing up to break up the fight. Lincoln then proceeds to tell the audience how things got out of hand so much.
  • Megas XLR did this rather breezily, when they fought a giant cheese monster. Coop put aerosol spray cheese into the reactor on a dare.
  • One episode of Phineas and Ferb started with a half-naked Doofenshmirtz, Perry the Platypus serving as his butler, Carl in a cage dressed like a squirrel, Linda showing up to return Perry's fedora hat to Carl, and a band showing up. Rather than simply flashing back to the beginning, the episode kept flashing back to key moments of the story and then returned to present time.
  • The Mickey MouseWorks short "Topsy Turvy Town" (which was one of the MouseWorks shorts repackaged as part of the House of Mouse episode "Daisy's Debut") begins with Mickey and Minnie in a cell while a cloaked figure informs them that it is time for their punishment. The short then reveals how Mickey and Minnie got into this situation.
  • Rick and Morty: Discussed. The Lighthouse Chief reads his hackneyed screenplay to Morty, which begins with a dramatic moment and then flashes back to one week earlier. Morty groans. After hearing the whole screenplay, Morty suggests that the Chief just start the screenplay when the story starts.
  • The first episode of Ruby Gloom starts with Ruby running through the house, seemingly avoiding her friends as they try to get her attention. Then, it takes us back (with a narrator reading as the words are typed on the screen) to "EARLIER THAT DOY" (the last word being a miswritten "day").
  • The Simpsons has done this a few times, with one of the better examples being "The Telltale Head", which begins with Bart and Homer, carrying the head of Jebediah Springfield, being chased by a lynch mob, with pretty much the rest of the episode consisting of Bart telling the mob the tale of the events that led up to him decapitating a statue of Jebediah Springfield (and the subsequent encounter with the mob).
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man
    • The episode "Catalysts" opens in the middle of a battle between Spider-Man and Green Goblin in a crowded ballroom, while the rest of the episode details how they got to that point.
    • Also in the episode "Subtext", though this goes back and forth between flashbacks and actual events.
  • Spliced had "Octocataclysm", which was an explanation of why Smarty Smarts was chasing Octocat with a laser and furiously meowing.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode Missing Identity has Spongebob tell the story of how he found his missing identity.
  • The Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Cheer Up, Star" opens with Marco and Star being assaulted by a small army of Ludo's minions, and eventually flashes back to how Marco got them into this mess.
  • The first episode of Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, "Confessions of a Teenage Superhero", introduces the Flex Fighters during a battle with Multi-Farious, then shows how they got their powers by backtracking to the day Jake and Nathan met Ricardo.
  • Stroker and Hoop parodies this in an episode. The first shot is Stroker lying on the sidewalk, bleeding out. He proceeds to tell an episode-long story of how he got there (involving ninja) and when the entire thing concludes, it turns out that he ended up on the sidewalk by slipping on his son's skateboard.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: The episode "The Late Mr. Kent" starts with Clark's funeral and then it goes back to the beginning of the events that led Detective Bowman to want him dead.
  • One episode of Sushi Pack uses this trope to set up a Rashomon, with two characters remembering the events of the day differently as they try to figure out how they ended up on an asteroid hurtling toward Earth.
  • Tangled: The Series:
    • The episode "Not in the Mood" begins with King Frederic ordering Rapunzel to be locked up. Cue the "24 Hours Earlier..." card.
    • The episode "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf" begins with Rapunzel being chased by a werewolf. Cue the "34 Hours Earlier..." card.
  • The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles often used this device as The Teaser.
  • The Underdog episode "Underdog Vs. Overcat" has this format.
  • The Weekenders, "The Most Awful Weekend", opens on Sunday with the gang sitting on a bench with lots of stains and things, and the story explains how they got them over the weekend.

  • A variant of this trope can be Invoked to test if you are dreaming or not: stop and mentally retrace your steps. Can you remember how you got to where you are now? Most dreams have nothing resembling a backstory or coherent plot, so if you really are dreaming you will almost certainly be unable to.

*record scratch* *freeze frame* "Yep. That's me. I bet you're wondering how I got myself into this situation..."


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