Follow TV Tropes

Following

Innocuously Important Episode

Go To

An episode that seems to have no importance to the main Story Arc. After a major revelation later, the episode turned out to be much greater with significance in retrospect.

May use a Chekhov's Gun and related tools, but what really makes this trope is that telegraphing is avoided or downplayed; there is no Rewatch Bonus to be found, as the creator has made minimal-to-no moves to suggest to the viewer that what they just witnessed will have any major plot ramifications. With that in mind, this trope can sometimes be the result of Arc Welding, where a story arc is created retroactively from concepts present in prior, isolated episodes.

Advertisement:

Some examples of Jumping the Shark and Franchise Original Sin demonstrate the negative aspect of this trope (minus creators' intention) in which an episode or gimmick that at first appears silly but harmless turns out to be an indicator of future problems with the work.

Compare Wham Episode, where the importance of the events to the overarching story is immediately made clear.

The examples, naturally, contain Major Spoilers.


Advertisement:

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • The 9th issue of Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, sandwiched between "Superman Versus Brainiac, Fuck Yeah" and "Superman Versus Captain Comet (While Batman Chuckles At His Secret Identity Problems)" was an interlude involving parallel universes, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who creates a machine of incredible power allowing a monster to enter his world, and a black version of Superman who is the president of his America. The monster, Superdoom, comes to fight the main universe Superman in issues 17 and 18. It also turns out that the machine's creation is the result of events in The Multiversity.
  • The 1991 DC Crossover Armageddon 2001 had a bunch of tie-ins that occurred in that summer's annuals. Most of the annuals had standalone stories that had no effect on their main books, but the Superman annual for that year ended up foreshadowing key events in the Super-books, such as Superman deciding to finally take down Intergang once and for all which happened later that year, and Superman leading the rest of the DC heroes against against Brainiac's invasion of Earth in the "Panic in the Sky" storyarc which happened a year later.
  • Justice League of America #166-168 from the 1970s features the League swapping bodies with the Secret Society of Super-Villains. No real significance at the time, but the 2000s mini-series Identity Crisis revealed that this incident led the League to start wiping villains' memories (including Doctor Light, whose personality change significantly altered the character), and brought about severe distrust issues among the members of the League which culminated in the group's downfall.
  • Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory series consists of seven miniseries that all initially seem to be telling different stories, but ultimately overlap. Also, the Leviathan, a monster made up of hundreds of feral kids that appears in one issue of the Klarion mini-series, later turns up in Batman Incorporated as a sinister organization.
  • The Spider-Man arc "I Killed Tomorrow" is a fast-paced, fun beat-the-clock arc rife with humour and energy. The two-issue arc deals with Grady Scraps' invention of a Time Door that allows for travel to and from the future, and neatly wraps itself up at the end. It plays like a "breather arc" in the period between the intensity of Spider-Island and the epic sprawl of Ends Of The Earth. Flash forward to the Superior Spider-Man arc "Necessary Evil", and it turns out this Time Door is the passage through which Miguel O'Hara, Spider-Man 2099, comes to the present day and is subsequently stranded here.
  • In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem goes looking at the Reservations! Warren Ellis gets to write social science fiction! Too bad Spider gets exposed to the substance that leads to his debilitating brain condition...

    Fan Fiction 
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim:
    • Episode 5 seems like just another case of "Dib tries to find an edge on Zim and suffers Epic Fail" like so many in canon. However, his actions cause the senior Swollen Eyeball agents to decide in the following episode to assign Steve and Viera to help him, thus significantly changing the status quo.
    • Episode 8 is just filler about Viera and Gaz coming to blows (ultimately literally) due to clashing personalities. But Gaz maintains a serious grudge over this, to the point that come Episode 19 she uses a phone number Norlock left her (also in Episode 8) to tell him and Zim where to find Project Domination just for a shot at payback.
  • Self-Discipline from Young Justice: Darkness Falls. The A plot is about the team investigating The Penguin. However, their investigation shows that Intergang is essentially destroyed due to Apokolips cutting off their supplies, and meanwhile on War World, Desaad makes one request to Vandal Savage: None of the metahumans are to be harmed. Both these things would hold great significance down the line for villains and heroes alike.

    Films - Live Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • While Ant-Man and the Wasp is for the most part a self-contained palate cleanser after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, this movie has been stated as "the most connected" to Infinity War's sequel. The implication is that the Quantum Realm and all the exhausting explanations of it might factor into that movie's story.
      • This is emphasized in the mid credits scene, which shows the entire Pym family turning to ash due to Thanos' finger snap and Scott becoming stranded in the Quantum Realm.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron may seem like a Villain of the Week episode at first, but the events of the film have serious repercussions for the MCU, to the point of having a ripple effect. The casualties resulting from the fight in Sokovia leads to the Sokovia Accords being established and the Avengers splitting up in Captain America: Civil War, and the main antagonist of that film lost his family in the battle at the end of Ultron and wants revenge. By the time Infinity War starts, the heroes are still divided, which Word of God says is why Thanos won. Even in more self-contained films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp, and television shows like Agents Of Shield, the Accords have an impact.
    • The Guardians of the Galaxy films initially seem like bizarro episodes far-removed from most of the things going on in the rest of the MCU, but a lot of what happens in them ties in directly to the overall Myth Arc, especially the discovery of the Power stone, and Thanos' relation to two of the main characters, Gamora and Nebula. It all becomes crucial by the time Infinity War rolls around.
      • The first film also acts as the first real introduction to the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which up until then hadn't been explored much outside of the occasional glimpse of things happening beyond earth, and would become more important to the overall plot as the franchise progressed.
Advertisement:

    Literature 
  • Bridge of Birds: Every seeming Wacky Wayside Tribe turns out to be this by the end.
  • In the Dirk Gently series, Dirk's "holistic" philosophy isn't wrong in the context of the books — even the aside jokes are relevant later on.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Book three, Grave Peril, has serious implications reaching all the way out until Changes. (And likely beyond, as books continue to be released. Word of God says that all the guests at that little party will be seen again.)
    • Going back to the first book, Storm Front, the ritual used by Victor Sells is the same one the Red Court wants to aim at Harry in Changes, the twelfth book.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets set up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince seven years in advance. It set up the concepts of Horcruxes through Riddle's diary, it introduced the four Hogwarts founders and established Voldemort's connection to the Slytherin bloodline, the basilisk fang from the Chamber would later be used to destroy two of the Horcruxes, and the idea that Voldemort inadvertently passed some of his abilities to Harry would prove to be major foreshadowing for the revelation that Harry was an accidental Horcrux. It introduced Ron's sister Ginny (who would become Harry's primary love interest by Half-Blood Prince), and the concept of "blood purity" and Pureblood supremacy would become major lynchpins of the mythos by the end. And in one scene, Nearly Headless Nick convinces Peeves to destroy a cabinet to distract Filch for Harry; the broken cabinet becomes a major plot point in Half-Blood Prince. Not bad for a work that at first glance looks like a book-long Wacky Wayside Tribe.
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone seems to be a relatively light introduction to the Wizarding World that ends with all of its loose plot threads tied up. Upon rereading it, though, one realizes how important it really is to establishing the core themes at the heart of the series. The Big Bad fails to kill Harry because of the Magical protection granted by his mother's sacrifice, Nicholas Flamel chooses to die from old age to prevent anyone else from using the Philosopher's Stone for evil, and Voldemort's plan turns out to revolve around getting his hands on the substance that can make him immortal. The theme of death—Voldemort's fear of it, and the heroes' willingness to face it—plays a major role. In later books, it becomes clear that it's also the Central Theme of the series as a whole, and we gradually find out that all of Voldemort's actions are driven by his quest to cheat Death and become immortal. Dumbledore's speech at the end ("To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure,") is a poignant moment, but it takes several more books before we realize how important it really is.
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone also has several chapters that seem to be completely irrelevant to the main story. If a chapter is not important to something that happens later in the book, it foreshadows something that happens in one of the later books.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sets up a few of them, mostly in the first book. A person is mentioned in the prologue and then dismissed with "but this is not her story"; the same prologue is used in the fourth book, only now it is her story (as well as Arthur's). Then there's Arthur's first encounter with Vogons, in which he says that he wished he had a daughter so he could forbid her to marry one. Four books later, he does have a daughter, and she's quite rebellious—though she and the sympathetic Vogon character introduced in the sixth book never actually meet. Finally, there's that bit about the bowl of petunias thinking "Oh no, not again", and the book says that if we knew why it was thinking that, we might know a lot more about the universe than we do now. We find out the answer in the third book. Notably, Douglas Adams was making it up as he went along, and would deliberately leave threads like these dangling with no idea of what, if anything, he was going to do with them. So when he did tie up a loose end, it was as much a surprise to him as to the rest of us. Another example is the implication from Arthur's encounter with Agrajag in Life, The Universe and Everything that Arthur cannot die until he's been to Stavromula Beta, which doesn't even seem to occur to Adams until two books later, when he has to construct a kind of Shaggy Dog Story (and an incredibly lame pun) to wrap up a loose end he hadn't even acknowledged previously.
  • The "Riddles in the Dark" chapter of The Hobbit is revealed to have been surprisingly significant when the reader starts with The Lord of the Rings, partly because Tolkien had to change it to fit the new book's continuity.
  • The prologue to A Game of Thrones is like this to the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series. The prologue to A Feast for Crows serves the same function within that book, setting up plot that doesn't truly get put into motion until the last chapter, some 900 pages later.
  • The Warrior Cats novel Dark River is one of these. At first it seems to be an interesting romp based on forbidden love, but looking back on it with Omen of the Stars completed and Dawn of the Clans coming soon it's one of the most important books in the series. It introduces the Ancients (the shared root of the Tribe and the Clans), Rock (who is revealed in The Last Hope as the cat who gave StarClan the prophecies), Dark Forest cats entering the real world, and the Tunnels (a massive Chekhov's Location).

    Professional Wrestling 

    Traditional Games 
  • The Magic: The Gathering expansion Mirrodin had a villain named Memnarch, a golem driven mad by a weird, glistening oil. Memnarch was defeated, but the oil remained. It turned out to be Phyrexian oil, heralding the corruption of the plane of Mirrodin into New Phyrexia seven years later.
  • The New World of Darkness core rulebook began with a story about mechanical angels serving the enigmatic God-Machine. While popular, this didn't seem important until ten years later, with the release of the second edition, the God-Machine Chronicle, and Demon: The Descent, both of which involve the God-Machine heavily.

    Webcomics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court seems to be using this heavily, as several chapters, characters and plot points that seemed to have nothing to do with the overall Myth Arc at the time (particularly Aly's transformation in "A Week for Kat") have taken on greater importance later, especially after the events of Chapter 20. Even the second chapter, which looks like filler, contained set-up for what is now confirmed to be an Aborted Arc.
  • Homestuck's intermission at first seems to be a completely unrelated, silly tangent that has no bearing whatsoever on the plot. Of course, everything in Homestuck is plot-relevant, and said intermission turned out to have a big impact on the trolls' session, especially after the EOA5 flash when Spades Slick kills Snowman and destroys their universe. In fact, the Intermission includes the first mention of the comic's eventual Big Bad. For some, as much as the first three acts could be considered this, appearing to be nothing more than a bunch of pointless gags, but in actuality setting up a lot for later on such as the bunny John receives as a birthday present, which ends up becoming incredibly powerful, reaching the hands of a villain, and in doing so causes at least half of the terrible things that happen during the kids' and trolls' sessions.
  • El Goonish Shive: A griffon showed up as a two-panel joke in a comic from 2013, where it's an Offscreen Moment of Awesome alongside a bunch of in-story Flashbacks. Two years later, it turns out that the griffon actually was pretty noteworthy.


Top