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Mandatory Twist Ending

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"What a tweest!"

Some series and/or creator repertoires have Twist Endings so frequently it practically becomes mandatory for it to happen Once an Episode or book. Why does this happen? Though (almost) everyone likes a Happy Ending—with the smiling and the kissing and the vanquishing and the riding off into the sunset—people also tend to get bored of too many happy endings in a row. So, authors will try to surprise audiences using a Downer Ending; it's the Darker and Edgier way to end a movie or (if you're really ballsy) an episode or season in an ongoing series. This can do a lot in terms of adding a sense of urgency to a cliffhanger and fresh air to a series, especially if the series sticks to its guns and the badness is permanent (see Killed Off for Real).

The danger of using a Twist Ending too often is that, like most good things (er, bad things?), there can be too much of it. For whatever reasons, whether it's to be Darker and Edgier, pandering to dead baby humor, or an insistence on using a Cruel Twist Ending or Diabolus ex Machina every episode, the series always ends with a Downer Ending and a Twist Ending of some sort, most likely involving a Broken Aesop or two. Naturally, this tends to have such a high mortality rate that this can only happen in an episodic series with a high low-paid actor turnout. The only permanent and safe "character" is the preachy Narrator, ready to deliver his opening and ending Fauxlosophic Narration.

As one might expect, it also has the side effect (for good or ill) of making audiences become Genre Savvy and expect there to be a Twist Ending at the end. At its worst, the audience decides they shouldn't bother even caring or watching, if everything that gets established is just going to be thrown aside anyway. This trope isn't a negative one, though. Authors can make this an element of their style. It's overuse or misuse that causes problems, as the page quote shows. Clever authors can use the existence of this expectation to use a Meta Twist, the absence of the expected twist, with one way of pulling this off being the Shock-and-Switch Ending.

In works where this is exceedingly common, one can at best get an "The End... Or Is It?" ending that, though not altogether happy, is ambiguous enough that the viewer can delude himself into thinking so (and write copious Fan Fiction about it).

May happen after the Snicket Warning Label. Contrast Wham Episode.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry uses copious amounts of this trope. This is largely facilitated through some odd combination of Alternate Universes and/or Groundhog Day-ing the plot (it hasn't been quite explained thus far) so that dark twists can occur repeatedly throughout the series and often to the same characters. Some episodes have twist endings that change the twist endings of other episodes based entirely on whose perspective it's from.
  • The second season of Code Geass makes twist endings and cliffhangers mandatory every episode.
  • The clients in Nightmare Inspector hardly ever have their chapters end without some sort of horrid twist.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt:
    • The season finale has an absolutely merciless one of these, which might be Gainax parodying itself. People expect their endings to be completely out of left field, so they took those expectations and ran with them. At the end, the Big Bad is defeated, all is well, the crew returns home, and then suddenly out of nowhere Stocking kills Panty, chops her corpse into 666 pieces, and announces she was a demon all along, even though this makes no sense. Garterbelt then explodes for no reason. The villain then comes back to life (also for no reason) and announces that the surviving characters will now have to gather all 666 pieces of Panty to bring her back. Then Garterbelt un-explodes (again for no reason) and announces that this will be the premise of season two. Also, season two may not actually exist. Well played, Gainax.
    • Geekboy: Homecoming then reveals Season 2 did happen, entirely offscreen, then adds a few twists of its own at the end: Panty's memory gets reset, she's back to her old maneater ways, and she and Brief now travel with an amnesiac that Came from the Sky after Panty blew a hole through Corset. Said boy also happens to be from an alternate universe that's not even owned by Gainax.

    Comic Books 
  • EC Comics did this all the time, even in stories that didn't start by promising a "shocking final twist" or similar. The most contrived might be "Sugar 'n Spice 'n..." (Shock SuspenStories #6), whose ending reveals not only that the nasty old woman is really a witch, but Margie and Johnny are really just English names for Hansel and Gretel. One might recall that the witch in the original story comes to an unfortunate end, but you can forget that part because "this is an E.C. magazine!" EC influenced horror comics so much that authors routinely did a double-twist since everybody was expecting a twist anyway.

    Fan Works 
  • Author Peter Chimaera's fanfics, which have a tendency to end on a dark note.
    • The most famous tale, Repercussions of Evil, featured a dark ending where after the radio tells protagonist John Stalvern he is the demons, John becomes a zombie for no particular reason. Or maybe he was one all along. We're not quite sure.
    • Batman: Nemesis Fight has one in which Robin leaves Batman forever.
    • DIGIMON SAVEZ THE WROLD!!1111: But he found that on the way home there was no road. It was too late like the scientist said. He had already destroyed the road and the people were trapped on the island that they were trapped in. There was nothing he could do. So he went home and cried.
    • The sequel: When good Digimon came back he wanted find his girlfriend but she leaved. It was too late. "Sarah! You moved to England too soon and I didn't say bye!" But she was gonr. Note that this character has nothing to do with the rest of the story. That one gets even better in the machinima, where the reason Sarah gives for leaving Digimon is because she realized she was dating a Digimon in the first place.
    • And best of all, Quarter-Life's epic twist: "Hooray I succeeded at winning the mission" "Not so fast, Mr. Gordon" What happens next? You decide!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Planet of the Apes (2001). Since they couldn't use the original's Earth All Along, they threw in a pointless Mind Screw that made no sense whatsoever. In the DVD commentary, Tim Burton says the ending was a Sequel Hook for a sequel that was never made. After Leo leaves for Earth, Thade retrieves Leo's original capsule, follows Leo through the time warp, arrives on Earth several centuries before Leo, and proceeds to turn Earth into a second Planet of the Apes. Interestingly, the ending to the remake is actually much closer to the original book than the first movie.
  • Director M. Night Shyamalan became so well-known for his films' twist endings that when his Lady in the Water didn't have one, people were terribly confused.
  • Bruce Campbell lampshades and mercilessly makes fun of this in My Name is Bruce. As the monster comes back for its surprise scare at the end, the film cuts to the screening of the movie. Bruce gets up and starts complaining about how horror movies always end like this, even when they don't make sense. He implores the directors to give the audience a little more credit and give the characters a happy ending for once. The "new" ending is then played, where Bruce, his love interest and her son are dressed as WASPs and talking formally about how wonderful their lives are and how happy they are, all in front of a green screen display of a beautiful mountain lake. Bruce then realizes how stupid this is, and calls the monster back to kill them all.
  • The Saw films. A twist at the end of each one is more or less expected, ever since the first film.
  • Perfect Stranger: The least likely suspect to have been the killer is the killer of course. Duh.
  • Inception, dealing with layered dreams, has to end with a shot that implies at least one more layer. (Though Christopher Nolan says as far as he's concerned, that actually was reality in the last scene.)
  • Parodied in Mystery Team. The case is solved, Duncan is going off to college and everything seems well.... Until a man comes running out of the woods, castrated, unaware of his name and carrying a picture of himself in a lab having sex with a panda.
  • Parodied in Detention of the Dead where zombie!Janet pops up at the last moment, but is immediately put down by soldiers.

  • Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick somehow managed to load most of his novels with bizarre plot twists, though he remarked in an interview once that (like Shyamalan later) he found fans expecting twist endings. He did this to the point where it was a genuine surprise when a Philip K. Dick story didn't have a Twist Ending or a Gainax Ending.
  • Goosebumps author R. L. Stine did this to the point where the twist endings became played out after a while. Stine once said in an interview that he'd always write the ending first and then go back and think of twists later.
    • The most infamous one is My Hairiest Adventure, which ends with the revelation that most of the kids were actually dogs, who were transformed into humans by some company so that their employees could have children.
    • Welcome To Camp Nightmare, which takes place on an alien planet, mentioned in the last sentence.
    • Vampire Breath, in which Cara and Freddy find a bottle of "Werewolf Sweat".
    • My Best Friend is Invisible, in which every character except Brent is a multi-headed creature with more than two eyes and suction cups on their head.
    • The Beast from the East also doubles as a Cruel Twist Ending, as the existence of the twins convinces the Beasts they'd been "playing" with that they're Level Three players, and thus ineligible to play in a Level One game - only for a Level Three Beast to tag them on the very last page.
  • O. Henry put so many of these in his stories that the phrase "O. Henry ending" was once a common part of the language.
  • Happens at the end of almost every chapter in the first few Dragonlance trilogies by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
  • Agatha Christie did this so much that the lack of a surprise twist was, in and of itself, a surprise twist.
  • Several of the stories in World War Z have a fairly hokey twist.
  • Every Harry Potter book but Order of the Phoenix ends with a twist (meaning that the ending of Order of the Phoenix answers all the questions raised, while in all the others, an unsuspected traitor or — not an exclusive OR! — a good guy mistaken for a villain is revealed).

    Live-Action TV 
  • A staple of The Twilight Zone (1959) and The Outer Limits (1963). It can get so bad it's an exception when there's an ambiguously good or open ending. The Outer Limits (1995) revival of the 1990's was much worse about this than either of the originals.
  • The more realistic-styled show Alfred Hitchcock Presents also tends to feature a mandatory twist. Considering there's usually no sci-fi element, it's less out of the blue and can be pretty easily guessed. And then there are the twists that were forced on Hitchcock. For episodes in which the bad guy wins, Hitchcock was forced by the Network to add a little story at the end, describing how the bad guy eventually met their fate. Parodied in the 80s remake about an alien invasion, when Hitchcock appears at the end in a cell, because the aliens were angry that he broadcast their plan to conquer Earth on his TV show.
  • Tales from the Crypt was fond of these, albeit the dark humor and irony tended to keep the pretentiousness in check and viewers coming back for more.
  • Many, many Quantum Leap episodes have the following template: Sam leaps into a situation involving some possibly supernatural occurrence like ghosts, aliens, or the Bermuda Triangle. Al completely buys into the possibility, while Sam refuses to believe it and does everything he can to prove Al wrong. In the end, it appears Sam was right, but just before he leaps out there's some hint that maybe Al was right after all. This was also reversed in several episodes: The UFO episode had Sam enthusiastically embracing the possibility of alien contact, while Al was dubious at best.
  • CSI almost always has a twist ending in every episode, sometimes more than one depending on the amount of sub-plots. Usually it's pretty easy to see it coming and sometimes one can even predict who really is the killer, because it's almost never the first person we think it is. And if it was we were led to believe that it wasn't and then it turned out it actually was. Which is pretty impressive.
  • Lost, though not so much a mandatory twist ending as a mandatory twist at some point during the episode (especially in the first few seasons with back-story reveals, the most significant of these probably being the one from "Walkabout"). However, the season finales are of special note — it was so well known that there will be a twist at the end of each season that the producers gave the twist scene a special name — The Bagel: Walt gets taken, The Challah:the first off-island scene indicates Penny is searching for them (and may have found the island), The Rattlesnake In The Mailbox: The flashback is actually a flashforward, with Jack and Kate off the island, The Frozen Donkey Wheel: Locke is revealed to be dead off of the island, and The Fork In The Outlet (named in a contest by fans): Jacob is stabbed by Ben. Whew. The fourth one's name is even a red herring — judging from the name, you'd expect it would refer to the scene where Ben turns a literal frozen donkey wheel to move the island.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The last full act will typically end with the main crime, the crime it led to, the crime that led to, and the detectives' personal issues resolved more or less happily, and then The Stinger either suddenly undoes all progress or holds a last-minute reveal that paints the ending in a more ambiguous light.
  • Law & Order only really got to this level at the end of Elizabeth Rohm's tenure (seasons 14 and 15), where, in an attempt to define Serena Southerlyn as something other than "Really Pretty", would often have Serena Pull the Thread that pointed to a suspect other than the one they'd spend 40 minutes trying to convict.
  • The Event was probably too dependent on this. The most ridiculous example probably being the third episode's "twist" which revealed that the previous episode's twist was a fake-out.
  • There was a show called Eye Drops on Tech TV that showcased independent short films. For whatever reason, the vast majority of them had twist endings.
  • Supernatural: Word of God has admitted that Dean and Castiel being dragged into Purgatory at the end of season 7 was initially only conceived so that the season finale could end on a cliffhanger, and that when it came time to actually write season 8, they weren't sure what to do with it. As a result that arc got very little screentime and was never tied into the main plot of season 8. Despite this, the escape from Purgatory still became one of the season's most popular stories.

  • Anthrax's "N.F.B. (Dallabnikufesin)", played like a sappy love song, is a slightly over-the-top boy-meets-girl, girl-cheats-on-boy, boy-forgives girl plot. The last line: "She got hit by a truck", followed by copious crying.
  • Common in music videos that include a storyline, as their extremely short duration can make a visual Twist Ending the only plot development there's time for. The revelation at the end of The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up", that the beer-swilling, dirty-fighting, lecherous brute is a woman, is a classic example.
  • Bread's "The Diary" has a twist ending. The singer finds his girlfriend's diary under a tree and is amazed to read so many wonderful things about himself that his girlfriend is apparently too shy to show him in person. "Wouldn't you know it, she wouldn't show it." He finally reads that the person she is making all these complimentary remarks about is another guy and not him. The song refrains once more. Wouldn't you know it, she wouldn't show it.
  • The album version of the Garth Brooks song "The Thunder Rolls" ends with "another love growing cold" when a wife smells another woman's perfume on her husband. In the concert version he sings an additional verse, in which her husband "grows cold" because she murders him for cheating.

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