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Make Room for the New Plot

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Sometimes, earlier plot elements must be quickly rushed aside in order to make room for newer ones, necessitating fast resolutions. What this usually entails is that the main thrust of the plot thus far must be resolved within a few scenes so we can hurry up and get to the new main event.

This trope can be frustrating if, until this resolution, the first plot had been portrayed as being a very difficult situation to deal with, only to be quickly solved now that the plot demands it. There are several ways around this — the main one is to turn the old problem into a sort of Worf Effect for the narrative as a whole. It establishes that, as bad as the old situation was, the new one is substantially worse, and requires our full attention without distractions. If the original part of the plot's conflict was largely diplomatic, for example, it's quite understandable that everyone is willing to put it aside to deal with the newer threat.

A relatively organic way of enacting a Halfway Plot Switch and averting an Aborted Arc. Compare Always a Bigger Fish, Rising Conflict and Wrap It Up.

Note that this trope, nearly by definition, involves spoilers since the new plot can only really show up in the middle of the story.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • This is what happens when Cell enters the scene a third into the Android Arc, where his very presence hijacks the threat of the Androids and completely overshadows their storyline and threat. This was done because Toriyama's editor complained that the Androids were bratty teenagers, and they aren't treated as world-threatening bad guys after this point and their storyline is soon forgotten about.
    • Occurs twice at the start of the Buu Arc. At first this arc focused around Gohan in high school and his alter-ego as Great Saiyaman, as well as befriending fellow student Videl. Akira Toriyama didn't feel Gohan was suited as the main character however, so he quickly introduces the return of the Tenkaichi Budokai, with Goku spending a day among the living to compete. This tournament is then hijacked by Babidi and his minions to return to a classic Villain Arc formula. The tournament however does do a decent job at setting up one important element for the story that replaced it: Vegeta was hoping to fight Goku in the tournament and gets increasingly frustrated as the Buu threat burns up more and more time of Goku's day on Earth, which contributes to his willing Faceā€“Heel Turn by way of Babidi's "majin" spell.
  • Happens near the end of Death Note, when Mello is casually defeated by Light to hasten the way to the story's grand conclusion, though Mello had been, up until that point, a very serious problem that Light had been unable to solve. Subverted when we find out that this is only how it seemed to Light. He made the fatal error of not bothering to guess what Mello was trying to achieve by kidnapping Takada. Mello had figured out from what Halle told him that Near was going to switch the Death Note with a fake. Mello anticipiated that Light would figure this out too, so he kidnapped Takada to make her a liability that would have to be killed by taking out the real notebook. By having the real notebook taken out, he gave the SPK the chance to switch it with a fake and was responsible for the defeat of Kira.

    Audio Play 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who had their first Story Arc with the Eighth Doctor end with him and his companion, Charley, getting trapped in another universe where time as they knew it didn't exist. This was the beginning of the so-called Divergent Universe arc. It was evident that Big Finish had big plans for this story arc and the possibilities in exploring another, weirder universe. But something would throw a kink in their plans. The Divergent Universe arc was kicked off in late 2003, and around the same time, it was announced that the Doctor Who TV show would finally return in 2005 after being absent from the small screen for 16 years, thereby bringing the so-called "Wilderness Years" to a close. Realizing that having what was their "main version" of the Doctor milling about in an entirely different universe without any recognisable history or landmarks would probably cause Continuity Lockout for new potential listeners, Big Finish decided to quickly cut the Divergent Universe arc short, ending it with the story "The Next Life" in December 2004, ending the arc after eight stories and barely over a year of it being the "official" status quo.

    Comic Book 
  • Happened with Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) in 2006, when the headwriters Ken Penders and Karl Bollers left due to Creative Differences, and Ian Flynn stepped up as the new headwriter. Flynn would spend most of his first year tying up most of the lingering plots left behind by Penders and Bollers (Tails being The Chosen One; the identity of "Anonymous"), writing out some contentious characters and plot elements (the Mystics Walkers, the Source of All, Tommy Turtle), and retooling many of the comic's elements to bring it more in line with the game series' mythos (reducing the comic's hundreds of Chaos Emeralds into the seven found in the games; turning "The Zone of Silence" into "The Special Zone").
  • Happened with Swamp Thing after Alan Moore took over as writer. Liz and Dennis, who'd been the major supporting characters in Pasko's run from the beginning, are abruptly Put on a Bus after their escape from death, and so is the ongoing plotline about their relationship, or lack thereof. All this is so the series can focus primarily on the upcoming deconstruction and reconstruction of the Swamp Thing, and secondarily on the Cables' deteriorating marriage.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Happens in The Rise of Darth Vulcan with much of the pre-existing plot of MLP being derailed and pushed aside to focus on the arriving Villain Protagonist. This includes Lord Tirek, who is killed off in the span of a chapter without even meeting the heroes.

  • The first book of War of the Spider Queen deals mostly with a slave uprising, but it quickly turns to finding out what is happening with Lolth.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the first episode of Firefly, most of the conflict of the middle part of the story is about the lawman who the crew has captured, and what they're going to do with him. While some of the crew is off the ship, the lawman escapes and takes River hostage. When Mal comes back, he takes one look at the situation and shoots the lawman in the head. It's not that the consequences for just shooting the lawman have gotten any less severe; just that Reavers are about to attack the ship and "not being killed by Reavers" is a far more pressing immediate problem than anything the Alliance might do to them for knocking off the lawman.
  • This happened in the Stargate Universe episode "Sabotage". The major plot point of the past two episodes had been several main characters who had been stranded. In the first 10 minutes of "Sabotage", they easily return to the ship, and it's not mentioned again, so that they can deal with the new plot, the sabotage.
  • Happened several times in Andromeda, often due to casting changes. At the end of the first season the Magog world-ship was set up as the major driving threat, but while not completely abandoned this was pushed into the background. Likewise, Tyr's storyline that his son was the reborn leader of the Nietzscheans was also put aside after the actor left the series. Finally, in season five all previous storylines were virtually abandoned until the final episodes.
  • In the first season of Fringe the character of Sanford Harris, an old enemy of Olivia, is set up as a major burr in the side of the division, only to have him killed off by a minor character towards the end of the season.
  • At the end of season one of The IT Crowd, after a company party Moss sleeps with Jen, and Roy sleeps with the woman Moss was seeing. The writer solved this simply - it is never mentioned again.
  • Season two of Seaquest DSV ended with the ship destroyed and the few survivors stranded on an alien world. At the start of season three, they wake up back on Earth with no idea how they got there.
  • Seasons 1-4 of Earth: Final Conflict are all about discovering and foiling the Taelon plans on Earth. The fourth season is all about trying to save the last Taelons from their Core Energy shortage. Then comes season 5 that completely brushes off all the previous seasons, removes the protagonist of seasons 2-4, and replaces the Taelons with a new threat - the Atavus. The attempt to save the last Taelons and Jaridians ended up killing both. Needless to say, the Darker and Edgier season didn't meet with many of the fans' approval.
  • In the midseason climax of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season, Coulson manages to kill one of HYDRA's leaders, Daniel Whitehall. The next episode after that has him capitalizing on the resulting instability within HYDRA's leadership to wipe out an entire regional council, taking HYDRA off the board for a little while and allowing the plot to establish Inhuman and rival S.H.I.E.L.D. factions instead... before all four factions crash into each other in a Gambit Pileup.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The second season begins with the villains plotting as usual, until an earthquake rocks the palace, the footage switches to US-original footage and former Big Bad Rita gets Put on a Bus to Hell. It all changes with one Wham Line from Goldar.
    Goldar: This can only mean that Lord Zedd, the true emperor, has returned.
    • Season 3 similarly begins with Rita's brother Rito arriving and helping to destroy the Thunderzords (taking the original Power Coins with them). The Rangers subsequently journey to gain new powers, and defeat Rito, though he sticks around (much to Zedd's irritation).
    • The end of season 3 changed things so much, it even received a temporary title change — to Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, as the Alien Rangers of Aquitar have to sub in while the Rangers have been turned into children and sent through time to retrieve the components of the Zeo Crystal. They leave as the Rangers come back, now restored to their proper ages, but Rito and Goldar steal the Zeo Crystal and set off implosive charges beneath the Command Center; the Rangers are teleported out just in time as the building blows up!
    • This cliffhanger is addressed at the beginning of the next season, Power Rangers Zeo, which sees the Rangers recover swiftly — using the Zeo Crystal to replace their old powers and gain new suits, weapons and Zords (the Command Center is rebuilt as the new Power Chamber), while Rita and Zedd get Put on a Bus thanks to the new threat of the season, the Machine Empire, forcing them to flee for their lives (though they return later in the season).
    • This happened again with Power Rangers Turbo, which dropped pretty much every plot thread from Zeo as a Soft Reboot of sorts, beginning with Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie; this was in response to diminished ratings during Zeo and various production issues that cropped up. In turn, the season underwent a retool after Tommy and the other veteran Rangers left, again in response to poor ratings and reaction. However, most of the plot threads that began in the second half definitely carried over into Power Rangers in Space.
  • Supernatural:
    • The cliffhanger at the end of Season 3 showed Dean being ripped to shreds by hellhounds and then his soul being tortured in Hell. Thanks to the 2007 writers strike, the writers did not have the time to resolve this situation the way they had planned. So in the Season 4 premiere opens with a mysteriously alive Dean crawling out of his grave. Fans had been speculating all summer how he would escape, with most people assuming it would take a long time to resolve. Nope. Instead, the mystery becomes how it happened rather than any rescue plot.
    • In Season 6, Eve, the mother of all monsters, is set up as the Big Bad of the season. But she's quickly dispatches mid-season in favor of other threats.
  • Doctor Who's 2013 Christmas Special, "The Time of the Doctor", would also be the regeneration special for the Eleventh Doctor. It is very obvious from the episode, that the then-showrunner and main writer Steven Moffat wanted the incoming Twelfth Doctor to start from as clean a slate as possible, so the episode quickly wraps up some of the Eleventh Doctor's running plotlines. Most notably, the backstory behind the Cracks and the Silence are somewhat hastily explained in a few lines of dialogue.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of The Simpsons has Homer trying to deal with a badger invading the back yard, but he discovers he can't contact animal control because the town's area codes have been bisected. In this case the original plot was simply ignored — Homer casually dismissed the badger when it reappears, stating that they now have bigger problems. That is, until the end of the episode when an army of badgers appears to attack the town in the middle of their reconciliation.
    • "Homer at the Bat" has Homer leading the power plant's softball team on a winning streak, attributing his success to a special homemade bat. The Halfway Plot Switch occurs when Burns makes a large bet on the team and decides to ensure its success by hiring a number of professional baseball players as nominal employees of the plant. One of them, Roger Clemens, breaks Homer's bat with a pitch during the very first team practice.

  • A Planet for the President by Alistair Beaton has the A-plot, a B-plot of a character trying to uncover the conspiracy involved in the A-plot, and a comically odd C-plot (and a few other things). There's a very clear moment where the deadline for the A-plot looms, and so all the others are quickly cleared up to make way for the denouement.

Alternative Title(s): Got A Bigger Problem Now