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Merry Christmas in Gotham

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So you're checking your DVR for all those recorded reruns of this show; maybe there's a somewhat more humorous episode where the villains play poker, but you'd say this show's pretty dark, right? So what do they do when Christmas rolls around with all that holiday cheer? The Producers, heck, maybe even the people who typically write the show don't want you to air yet another dark episode with a Downer Ending, or even a Bittersweet Ending, it's Christmas! And thus this trope happens.


Merry Christmas in Gotham is when the tone of a Darker and Edgier series becomes Lighter and Softer, usually due to Executive Meddling resulting in a holiday episode. This can cause serious Mood Whiplash. The result is usually a strange Aesop-y episode in a series featuring at least some Gray morality of some sort. Whether or not this Mood Whiplash throws the episode into Narm territory is your call.

Note: This trope does not apply only to Christmas episodes, but to holiday episodes of all sorts. It does not include episodes that have nothing to do with holidays — that's just plain-jane Lighter and Softer taking effect.

Compare Mood Whiplash and Lighter and Softer. Also compare Holiday Ceasefire. Contrast An Ass-Kicking Christmas. The opposite of Twisted Christmas.

Ending Trope: Spoilers Unmarked.



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  • To commemorate a century from the beginning of the First World War and the Christmas Truce of December 1914 (see "Real Life" section), British supermarket chain Sainsbury's 2014 Christmas advert was a short film focusing on two groups of British and German soldiers celebrating the brief moments of Christmas respite in the harsh, snowed-in trenches of the western front. There was also an accompanying featurette on the period context of the events and the making of the advert.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Big O's Christmas special starts out grim as usual. We have a blind girl whose caretaker brother is a garbageman by day, and musician by night. They are starving, barely able to afford food at all. Then a mad scientist leaves a biological weapon in the boy's tip jar and it turns out the "weapon" is a massive self-growing Christmas tree made to teach people to love nature and each other. While the tree grows, everyone hears the boy's music, Roger and Dorothy exchange presents and have an impromptu dance party, and it snows. D'awww.

    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher: Frank is about to snipe a druglord, when suddenly there's a little girl pulling on his coat telling him she's lost her dad. Frank stares at her and puts the gun away. When they find her dad, he starts to thank him before recognizing his chest emblem and starting to panic. Frank tells him to calm down, that he should really teach his daughter not to talk to strangers, and then leaves.
  • An issue of The Incredible Hulk dealt with Rhino and Hulk teaming up to be Mall Santa and Helper.
    Daughter: This is my best Christmas ever!
    "Santa": Mine too, Ginny. Or at least — the best in a long, long time.
  • Though it is the Trope Namer, Batman-centered Christmas stories have a mixed record when it comes to this:
    • The hilarious Superman/Batman Elseworld crossover Yes Tyrone, There Is a Santa Claus [1].
    • Batman: Black and White, "A Slaying Song Tonight": A hitman plans to get near his target by taking the place of a Mall Santa hired to put in an appearance for the target's daughter. Batman figures it out in the nick of time and stops the hitman just before he reaches the house — then puts the costume on and does the Santa appearance himself.
    • Paul Dini's "Slayride" (Detective Comics #826) averts this entirely; it's Gotham, it's Christmas Eve, and the Joker's loose. And he's got Robin for a hostage. Murder and mayhem ensue.
    • Batman #219, "The Silent Night of the Batman," written by Mike Friedrich and illustrated by Neal Adams, is, however, a leading candidate to be Trope Codifier.
    • In the DC Comics Holiday Special 2008, the Gotham P.D. appear in the story "A Day Without Sirens". The principle behind the Day Without Sirens is that over Christmas, nobody in Gotham is going to do anything that requires the police's attention. No-one on the force believes this is going to happen, and the story is Commissioner Gordon getting more on edge, and then checking the phones are working, and finally acknowledging that sometimes miracles do happen. And then it turns out Oracle had all the emergency calls redirected to her system, and has had Supergirl running all over town cleaning things up.
  • Hitman #22: The Santa Contract. Tommy and Nat hunt down a radioactive killer loose in Gotham on Christmas eve. He's wearing a Santa suit and the whole issue is narrated In the Style of... 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
    Children were hanging up seasonal wreaths, and Batman was kicking out seasonal teeth...
  • Marvel Team-Up #1, where Spider-Man and the Human Torch discover the Sandman (up to this point a one-dimensional Card-Carrying Villain) makes a point of visiting his ill mother every Christmas Eve. Spidey is so touched he even gives Sandman the present originally meant for Gwen Stacy! Awww.

  • The World War I incident listed below in 'Real Life' inspired the film Joyeux Noël.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the middle of the Doctor Who serial The Daleks' Master Plan, the Doctor and companions interrupt their saving the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire from the Daleks for a Christmas Episode (the only missing Doctor Who episode confirmed by The BBC to have no spare copies hidden in private collectors' hands or a foreign TV station).
    • All three of the Twelfth Doctor's season finales were were bittersweet at best and inevitably ended miserably for the Doctor himself, so all four of his post-season Christmas episodes (he got an extra one due to a longer-than-usual break between Series 9 and 10) threw him bones. While the first, "Last Christmas", has straight-up horror content and bittersweet stretches it also teams him up with Santa Claus and has a joyous ending for the Doctor and Clara. The others are substantially more lighthearted even with melancholy and tense moments — "The Husbands of River Song" is a Romantic Comedy while "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" affectionately spoofs comic book superheroes. And when showrunner Steven Moffat learned that there wouldn't be any more Christmas episodes if the show skipped a year (because incoming runner Chris Chibnall didn't want to introduce Thirteen in a Christmas show), he extended Twelve's grim Grand Finale storyline "World Enough and Time"/"The Doctor Falls" into the Lighter and Softer "Twice Upon a Time" to end his Myth Arc on a note of hope instead of sorrow, with a story in which (technically, since it involves regeneration) Everybody Lives and there's No Antagonist.
  • Scrubs doubly subverts this one: The episode "My Own Personal Jesus" has Turk, initially so optimistic about Christmas that he comes into work with Rudolph antlers on, being ground down and losing his faith as seasonal alcohol-related injuries and attempted suicides clog up the hospital. Just when it seems like Turk is ready to give up surgery, though, a star leads him to a missing girl who ran away from the hospital, and he helps her give birth beneath a Christmas tree, and the episode ends on a prolonged Golden Moment played straighter than usual and with an unusually strong religious message for the show.
  • Millennium (1996) did this in two of its three seasons. The first near-Christmas episode has only one holiday-related scene and is primarily about Parental Incest, so that's the exception. Season 2 had a gentle, impressionistic episode where Frank Black reconciled with his elderly father. The final Christmas episode, in Season 3, featured a reformed gangster who's been brought Back from the Dead.

  • Tsukiuta Stage Act 7: Cyber-Dive Connection is this, despite being An Ass-Kicking Christmas in sexy Cyber Goth costumes. The main characters, 12 world-hopping boy band members based on the months of the year, are asked to enter a digital world to save Santa - it's heavy on video game references, light on plot, and more of a playground for the series to experiment with combining technology and live theatre, and it's also the first Tsukista in over two years to not revolve around a character death.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Origins averts this trope. It's Christmas Eve night. Batman has a 50 million bounty placed on his head. Eight deadly assassins, crooked cops and most of the escapees from Blackgate prison all want to collect. Dozens of dead innocents, Batman's first meeting with the Joker and millions in property damage later, it's a pretty miserable Christmas for Gotham City.
    • The Arkham incarnation of Calendar Man, who is much more dangerous than most (if not all) of his other incarnations, ensures that any Christmas in Gotham probably won't be that much lighter OR softer than the rest of the year. note 
      Calendar Man: Ebenezer Scrooge was a saint compared to old Judge Harkness. Remember him, Batman? Gotham's Hanging Judge, they called him. Even though the state had ruled me insane, Harkness swore he'd send me to the gallows. So you see, it was all a simple act of self-preservation. I could hardly be held responsible for strangling that street corner Santa Claus for his suit. I needed the disguise to sneak into the judge's Christmas Eve party. Harkness thought it was all in fun until "St. Nick'' caught him around the neck with a string of Christmas lights. The cops found him later, hanging from the elaborate light display of his own roof. Judgie almost looked like a cartoon himself alongside the comical reindeer, elves, and snowmen. I call that murder my "Christmas Special".

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series has the episode "A Bullet for Bullock", where Batman is asked for help by, of all people, Harvey Bullock, and the Aesop is that you should always be helping people, even if they don't like you.
    • The New Batman Adventures had an actual Christmas episode... with Harley and Ivy kidnapping and mind controlling Bruce Wayne, the Joker trying to set off a bomb at New Years, and Clayface turning into multiple pickpockets to steal from holiday shoppers, leading to the line "shoot the Santa!" So instead of going Lighter and Softer they went Denser and Wackier.
    • BTAS also had an actual Christmas special, in which the Joker escapes from Arkham and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleason, and Harvey Bullock as bait to lure Batman in and force him to open a booby-trapped "present"... that hits him in the face with a pie.
  • Danny Phantom features an all-round Christmas Spectacular as Danny teams up with his enemies to fight someone who is trying to spoil the event. Unusually for a children's show, Danny loathes Christmas, but with good reason.
  • In an episode of ReBoot, Big Bad Megabyte goes to great lengths to infiltrate Enzo's birthday party, with no more heinous goal than to play electric guitar, put on a rocking show (including a duet with Bob), and leave.
  • Kim Possible: Ron tries to take on Drakken by himself so Kim can have a nice Christmas with her family. Ron and Drakken bond over an old TV show, whose theme they sing together. The story ends with a truce for holiday celebration. Now, Kim Possible isn't exactly dark and edgy to begin with, but this episode is considerably Lighter and Softer than usual.
  • Perhaps fittingly, Batman: The Brave and the Bold inverted this; the show is usually much Lighter and Softer than most Batman series, so the Christmas episode instead suddenly veers into dark territory with the murder of Batman's parents occurring on Christmas Day because he threw a tantrum over not getting a toy he wanted—Thomas and Martha only took him to the movies in an attempt to cheer him up, and he was still a brat about it right up until their deaths.
  • The Flash's subplot in the Justice League Christmas Episode "Comfort and Joy" turns into this when the toy he was bringing to an orphanage gets wrecked in a battle with the Ultra-Humanite. The villain knocks Flash out... and then fixes the toy (modified to tell the story of The Nutcracker instead of its usual rude noises and hip-hop), helps the Flash deliver it, and allows himself to be taken to jail.
  • South Park takes this to its logical extreme with "Christmastime in Hell" from the episode "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics." (Song proper beings about 1:05.)
    For one day we all stop burning, and the flames are not so thick
    All the screaming and the torture stops as we wait for old St. Nick!
    So string up the lights and light up the tree,
    We're damned for all eternity!
    But for just one day, all is well
    It's Christmastime in Hell!
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) isn’t a particularly serious show to begin with, but the infamous Christmas special emphasizes the sillier elements, with prominent focus on Kid-Appeal Characters like Orko, Skeletor being redeemed by The Power of Friendship, cutesy scenes like kids adopting an adorable Robot Dog, and little of the show’s usual action and Parental Bonus.

    Real Life 
  • During World War I, a Christmas truce broke out, though only on the western front. A Christmas tree was erected in the middle of the battlefield and the Entente and Central Powers forces gathered together to sing Christmas carols. There was music, dancing, hot drinks, and a few friendly games of soccer shared. For one day there were no soldiers, just young men celebrating Christmas. However, the soldiers were under orders to shoot enemy soldiers who tried starting this, and not everyone disobeyed. Even in places where this did happen, some people took the opportunity of taking a closer look at enemy trenches then they usually could.