Follow TV Tropes


Non-Indicative First Episode

Go To

A first episode of a show that is flashier than the rest of the series is an accepted practice, since it's supposed to wow you and pull you into the story. Even if much action doesn't occur, the timing and budget of the episode is noticeably good. These differences are accepted and even encouraged. Might also be a Pilot which differs significantly from the series due to Executive Meddling or whatnot.

However, if the first episode sets a fanciful creative premise but the later bits of the story clearly show a shove back to the reliance on tired subplots (or even a Genre Shift), the audience can feel unfairly fooled or betrayed. This is often indicated in the Second Episode Morning.

Should hopefully not be coupled with a following Off-Model episode. Contrast with Innocuously Important Episode. See also Early-Installment Weirdness, where the oddities (in light of what follows) extend past the pilot, as well as Dropped After the Pilot.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In a very minor example, the first episode of A Certain Scientific Railgun has some subtle differences that don't match the tone of the rest of the series. Mikoto is a lot more bold, blatantly breaks laws in front of her law enforcer friend for no particular reason, and when faced with a criminal about to run her down with a car, casually stands in the way and fires her railgun directly at the car, causing it to spin several times before landing in a crater, vertically. In the rest of the show, fights are handled much more realistically, with Mikoto flinching at an expected punch, a later fight involving a falling vehicle ending more how you'd expect, and her refusing to use her railgun against a power armor suit for fear of injuring the person inside. This becomes more than Early-Installment Weirdness when the first episode of the second season does it again, in a plot nearly parallel to the first. In this episode, multiple criminals are trying to get away and they're doing so in a helicopter, which she still fires her railgun at despite the wide range of explosive variables that entails. The rotor just barely misses her head as it flies off and she still doesn't flinch, while the rest of the helicopter luckily crashes into an empty body of water while her teleporter friend saves the criminals who were conveniently not injured by any of the explosions. While the rest of the series has comparable action, those two episodes stand out for ignoring the consequences in favor of Rule of Cool.
  • Beastars initially focusses on Els, portraying Legoshi as her stalker and the obvious suspect in the murder of Els' boyfriend Tem. Halfway through episode 1, this turns out to be a misunderstanding: Legoshi was Tem's friend, and before his death Tem entrusted Legoshi with a love letter to deliver to Els. He'd been waiting for an opportunity to approach her privately so as not to make a fuss. (Admittedly not the best way to go about it, but then he is a teenager.) Legoshi then becomes the main character for the remainder of the series, with Els and Tem's death fading into the background. It's actually a very good Establishing Series Moment, getting the viewer to buy into the prejudice that carnivores face in the setting before pulling the rug out from under them.
  • The first episode of Berserk (1997) is chronologically set after the events of the rest of the series, in which Guts has already become the one-eyed, one-armed wandering mercenary he is known to be. The rest of the series covers how he got to be that way. This is a Compressed Adaptation of the original manga, wherein the first two arcs deal with Guts hunting Apostles and eventually introducing Griffith/Femto, before jumping back in time to the "Golden Age Arc" for a dozen volumes to show How We Got Here.
  • The first chapter of Billy Bat makes it appear the series will be a film noir parody with a cast of animals. Halfway through chapter two, it's revealed that this is a comic within a comic, and its creator is the real main character.
  • Coyote Ragtime Show is an indicative example: The first episode: Female detective and a local ditzy blond cop are on the trail of a notorious criminal who's hiding out in a prison. The rest of the series is from the criminal's point of view.
  • Discussed and lampshaded in Cross Ange, where during the next-episode preview of Episode 1, the characters remark about how the series is supposed to be a Shōjo mecha anime, but didn't seem like it, with one asking where the mecha were. In reality, only the first half of the episode (the game of lacrosse-on-hoverbikes) is really non-indicative; the rest is a Downer Beginning that sets things up for the rest of the show.
  • The first few episodes of Chrono Crusade make the show out to be a fairly breezy comedy with pretty nuns and a friendly devil. Then it gets darker and darker until 3 of the 4 main characters die, and the Big Bad survives the final battle because he has an As Long as There Is Evil escape clause.
  • The first episode of Cube×Cursed×Curious made it look like a cute, lighthearted Slice of Life show with a supernatural twist. Halfway through Episode 2, that perception goes to hell.
  • Dog Days (made by the same company as Nanoha) has a Non-Indicative First Half-Episode. It looks like the protagonist is being pulled into a standard fantasy plot where he has to help one kingdom in a war against another, but then we see an announcer commentating on the war as if it were a sports game...
  • The first two episodes of Earth Maiden Arjuna make it look like a Magical Girl series, even though it's really more like a serious version of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • From Eroica with Love at first appears to be a typical shoujo manga, about a Power Trio with Psychic Powers, one of whom is accused of being the Gentleman Thief Eroica. But it's really an action packed James Bond Spoof, with the two leads being Eroica and "Iron Klaus".
    • That's because it was originally going to be about the Power Trio, until the author decided Eroica was much more interesting and changed the focus.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood doesn't visit this story until its third episode, after the backstory has been delved into somewhat. Instead, it begins with a filler story which is basically pure action, involving an evil ice-using alchemist, which makes it seem like a straight-on action shounen, which is also not entirely true. And then, about thirty some odd episodes later, you learn that the evil ice-using alchemist was actually more of an Anti-Villain, and that that filler was actually an extreme case of foreshadowing.
  • Futakoi Alternative opens with a fast-paced, manic and comedic first episode. The rest of the series is comprised of more gentle Slice of Life episodes.
  • Ga-Rei -Zero- begins by introducing an elite unit of spiritual monster slayers in a flash-forward. The first episode ends with the entire unit being wiped out by a swordswoman. Then, in the second episode, we get to see the actual main cast fighting the aforementioned swordswoman. Then we rewind and the story begins for real starring the previously mentioned villain.
  • The first installment of Gamers! (2015) sees protagonist Keita getting invited to join the newly-formed gaming club by its president, Karen. The show looks as though it's going to be a standard Slice of Life series about after-school activities... only for Keita to turn the club down because it's too hardcore for his liking. From there, the story takes a hard right into a Love Dodecahedron-fueled romantic dramedy that just happens to be about gamers. (This is, however, hinted at earlier in the episode, with Tasuku and Aguri being shown together along with captions indicating that they'll be important later.)
  • Genesis Climber MOSPEADA has a space battle opening that introduces an entire series cast aboard a Transforming Mecha carrying warship on its way to a battle. The ship is destroyed, and the lone survivor must pick his way through Scavenger World, meeting the rest of the real cast one by one — working through a Debut Queue.
  • The first episode (actually, the first and second episodes, fused into one one-hour special) of Gintama deserves special mention — if only because it's a filler episode. There's a reason why fans will tell you to "Skip to 3!" and it's not because of hopscotch, people.
  • Goblin Slayer's first episode sets up a typical Heroic Fantasy story, then proceeds to take it out back and shoot it, with the Decoy Protagonist adventuring party being ambushed by the goblin den they're trying to clear out and variously mauled, killed, and raped, not necessarily in that order; the Priestess is then rescued by the title character. The rest of the series, while taking its subject matter seriously, is not nearly as brutal, and showcases friendship and good teamwork, with the Goblin Slayer becoming a Defrosting Ice King able to care about more than just slaying goblins.
  • The DVD box art combined with the first episode of the anime Gungrave makes you think this will be a Grimdark show about an old lone gunman fighting evil, right? Guess what, the majority of the series from that point on is a giant flashback that shows how two small-time thieves rise up through a mafia-like organization to the point where it reaches the time of the first episode.
  • In broadcast order, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya starts with "The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina"; a painfully low-budget, badly-acted, and terribly directed and edited student film that combines Stylistic Suck with as many clichéd anime genres it can think of (Magical Girl shows, High School comedy, Shōjo romance, etc). However, it's actually foreshadowing several key plot points in the real story (which starts with the next episode), with the brief lapses in the Masquerade serving as plot hooks.
    • In chronological order, which is how most viewers will be viewing the series at this point, similarly hides the show's quirky sci-fi, Genre-Busting nature by painting it was your typical high school club anime.
  • Heroic Age's first episode is about a lone teenager stranded on a planet, raised by computers, and contacted by other humans. It quickly turns into a space battle anime.
  • Episode 0 of the How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend anime has the cast fully assembled, and is heavy on the fanservice and harem antics. The first episode proper dials the fanservice way back, and shows how the main character gathers everyone.
  • Kaiju No. 8 centers around Kafka Hibino, a member of a clean-up crew whose job is to dispose of the corpses of defeated kaiju. The series initially looks like it will concentrate on the crew's disposal activities... until the first chapter ends with Kafka turning into a kaiju, whereupon the series shifts gears into a shounen action comedy about Kafka and his friend becoming kaiju-hunters while trying to hide his kaiju-shifting ability and uncover what happened to him.
  • Lucky Star admittedly does this with their first episode, misleading many viewers curious about its Surreal Theme Tune on whether or not this is actually a series about food.
  • The very first episode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is chock full of magical girl cliches. The deconstructions start immediately in the second episode.
  • Murder Princess is an example where the first episode is darker than the rest of the series.
  • The first episode of Najica Blitz Tactics features plenty of lesbian behavior, implying there might be more in future, especially between the two protagonists. Unfortunately, there wasn't.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion starts out just like any other Super Robot series before turning out to be a Genre Deconstruction. The series' creator, Hideaki Anno, should reportedly have complained about how it was out of tune with the rest. Apparently he was trying to set up an atmosphere of total despair for the rest of the series with the episode and felt he failed in this aspect.
  • The first chapter of Noragami was a stand-alone story featuring a different female lead and some other supernatural elements that were never seen again. The anime adaptation therefore skipped the first chapter entirely save for one scene and started with Chapter 2.
  • The first episode of Now and Then, Here and There makes the show look like a kid's story about the typical energetic shonen protagonist who has adventures in another world. In the next episode he's captured and tortured nearly to death...and then it goes From Bad to Worse.
  • Osomatsu-san's first episode, "Osomatsu-kun Returns!", differs from the rest of the show in that it's extremely reference-heavy, focuses very little on the brothers themselves, and only gets to the point of the episode (to try and introduce the Matsunos and cast to a 2010s audience) in the final few minutes. The series' true beginning is considered to be "The Melancholy of Osomatsu", the start of Episode 2, which also introduces the Matsuno sextuplets' new personalities.
  • Outlaw Star's beginning episodes where Gene discovers Melfina and gets mixed up with the notorious space pirate "Ice Hot" Hilda is filled with almost non-stop action. After the prologue arc ends, the Anime becomes a more laid back comedy adventure with the occasional action happening every now and again.
  • The first episode of Peacemaker Kurogane makes it look like a dark, bloody, action-packed samurai anime, with a Hot-Blooded protagonist Deconstruction, especially with the Mood Whiplash at the end of the first episode. The second one onwards, it's actually more of a Slice of Life Dramedy, that covers the lives of the Shinsengumi, with some occasional swordplay. (Though this is more true for the anime, since it Overtook the Manga, it had to add in Filler. The manga is a lot more like the first, and the last couple of episodes.)
  • Pop Team Epic occasionally begins a run with the first chapter of a completely different manga as a Bait-and-Switch:
    • Hoshiiro Girldrop's first chapter plays out nothing like the rest of the series... if only because the "rest of the series" turned out to be Pop Team Epic Season 2. It's a fairly normal Idol Genre series with romcom elements, right up until the main heroine tears her own face off to reveal Popuko underneath. The joke was already known by the time the anime came out, so it graduated to becoming its recurring On the Next segment.
    • For Season 6, the manga My Childhood Friends are Making Good Vibes Without Me was used as the intro. It starred a Third Wheel as he hung out with his two friends who were starting to become a couple, up until they watch a movie together, and the patrons aside from them are revealed to be Popuko and Pipimi clones.
  • The first two-and-a-half episodes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica make the series look like a Magical Girl series with Slice of Life. That's half-correct, and the scene with the witch's barrier right at the end of episode 1 makes it clear this is not your usual happy fun time show...
  • Rumbling Hearts begins as a sweet, almost saccharine story of young lovers coming together despite awkwardness and misgivings, promising to overcome their initial mistakes. And then in the last five minutes of episode two, it goes wrong.
  • If you only read the first chapter of Saikano you will think the manga is over. When you begin the second chapter you will think it's an Anthology of happy little feel good Shojo oneshots instead of the most horrible and depressing War Drama ever. In the End the Heroine has to watch her boyfriend starve to death. And it's all her fault. You want to read the first chapter again and pretend the whole rest of the series was just a bad dream.
  • The '90s English dub of Sailor Moon did this by pulling stuff from toward the end of the first season into the first episode and creating a monologue telling the story of the downfall of the Moon Kingdom and the Princess and the Sailors being sent to the future on earth. Because the original Japanese version doesn't have this and doesn't start getting grander in scope until toward the end of the first half, the dub goes back to being a normal action-adventure series until it becomes important to the plot.
  • School-Live! begins with a light-hearted story about a young girl who founded a school club which got permission to live at school from a particularly beloved teacher. As the episode comes to a close, it turns out that the girls are really living at the school because a Zombie Apocalypse has broke out, and the light-hearted school life presented throughout the episode is just the main character's delusions.
  • The first episode of the Shadow Star is very lighthearted and relaxed. The rest of the series... not so much.
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry opened like a sweet, idealistic school show with Humongous Mecha, then took an abrupt left turn when half the cast died.
  • Technically, Tears to Tiara's first episode has no indictive of the actual plot. It's a classic hero story until the supposed Big Bad becomes the Villain Protagonist in the second episode, and then further from there.
  • Telepathy Shoujo Ran hints at becoming a rather dark affair in its first episode. The opposite is the case, especially since Midori's Heel–Face Turn occurs very early in the series.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann seems like this until it's revealed that the guy who appears in the start is Simon. Even then, though, the scene as it appears in the opening never happens in the show.
  • The first episode of The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk is an out and out parody of fantasy video game and anime cliches. Turns out it was All Just a Dream after the hero got knocked out in the first fight.
  • The first few pages of Tnemrot make it look like it's about the main character surviving in an apocalyptic wasteland 20 Minutes into the Future. Then he's captured and we see it's Pokemon with real people.
  • Toward the Terra's opening few episodes would not lead one to expect an epic Space Opera, even with the opening.

    Fan Works 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had a very "Look what we can do now, bitches," feel to it in terms of special effects. By contrast, the visual effects and plots on the next three episodes wouldn't have looked out of place on the original series (indeed, the very next episode was a rehash of another, rather better, episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.)
  • The opening of the premiere episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine begins with a flashback to one of the biggest battles in franchise lore (indeed, the most detailed canon depiction yet) and then promptly goes... to a broken-down space station the Federation recently inherited. It then looks like that the series is going to be about the Federation dealing with cooperation with the relatively primitive Bajorans, who were just liberated from occupation by another alien race. But then near the end of the episode, all of a sudden this wormhole starts to open up right next door....
  • Star Trek: Voyager begins with scrolling text about the state of the Maquis, a group of rebels fighting the Federation. The USS Voyager gets ready to track down a particular group of these bandits from a place called "The Badlands" and retrieve a Federation officer working undercover. Then both the Voyager and the bandits get suddenly transported to the literal other end of the galaxy.
  • The opening episode of Blake's 7 has Blake contacted by a resistance group on Earth asking him to join them...then they all get killed. Blake gets framed for assaulting children and sentenced to deportation but an idealistic lawyer finds evidence that he's innocent...then gets killed. Only two other regulars appear, late on and as relatively innocuous fellow prisoners, and the villains are very matter-of-fact, destroying Blake simply because it's their job, unlike flamboyant Big Bad Servalan who appears half a season later. Blake doesn't have the Liberator and there's no sign of Ensemble Dark Horse Avon, who appears in every other episode. It's possibly the most non-indicative first episode ever.
  • The Invisible Man series had a pilot with a very distinctive style of cinematography and a variety of settings and camera angles thrown in that give it a visual style that is very distinct (and probably very expensive) from the rest of its episodes. It was also a lot more comedy oriented than the rest of the series, including stuff like a scene with Darien and Hobbes getting into a gunfight with a couple of Canadian terrorists with the latter dual wielding assault rifles and screaming "SCREW THE EXPOS!".
  • In the Upstairs Downstairs pilot, a lot of things go just as they go in the show - but Alfred is a creepy, biblically-speaking maid-harassing implied perv. In the actual show he didn't speak any too funnily, and he was made silghtly awkward, non-Bible quoting, secretly Gayngsting nice guy who unfortunately was doomed when he let his deviation out from the closet.
  • The pilot episode of Alphas featured a lot of Realistic Diction and overlapping dialogue. This was presumably considered too hard on the viewers, so in the later episodes only Dr. Rosen kept (toned-down) realistic diction, as a character quirk.
  • The pilot of Flashpoint features a tactical-heavy case in which Parker is unable to even begin negotiations due to a language barrier (the subject only speaks Croatian and the interpreter is stuck in traffic), a suggestion to try and communicate through his son fails to manifest because the son is too agitated, and Ed has to take a sniper shot to save the hostage. Flashpoint as a show was all about negotiation and trying to resolve things without the use of force when possible, with a tactical solution (especially a lethal one) being seen as an option of last resort only; in fact, the following episode features the team getting frustrated with newcomer Sam Braddock because of his repeated suggestions that they resolve a hostage situation with force rather than giving Parker a chance to negotiate.
  • Because it had to actually bring together the ragtag group of thieves, the pilot of Leverage is missing several of the hallmarks of later episodes. The crew initially get together for a fairly simple heist in exchange for money, rather than for their later-standard Robin Hood motives. The more philanthropic reasoning behind their jobs doesn't factor in until the second episode. Unlike many examples, there's a valid in-story reason for this: they made so much on their first job note  they didn't need to pull off scams for monetary reasons later.
  • Phoenix. The first episode "Top Quality Crims" involves the Major Crime Squad hunting a gang of bank robbers. This makes it look like the series will follow a Villain of the Week format like other cop shows. However at the end of the episode a carbomb explodes at a police social event, and trying to find out who did it is the subject of the rest of the season.
  • British Edutainment series Police, Camera, Action!s pilot episode (called POLICE STOP!' on the Title Sequence, but later renamed to the more familiar title due to the other series existing, causing confusion is slower-paced than the rest of the series, has exposition of the police chase after the end of the clip. However, it does set the tone for it to be a very Speech-Centric Work. This episode was subject to Pacing Problems trying to fit it all into the 25-minute runtime, and has a Slow-Paced Beginning.
    • Sometimes this was skipped as the first episode, and the December 1994 episode POLICE CAMERA ACTION! (no episode title, just the show title) is used instead due to the show's style flowing more freely and a better esthetic throughout, along with its trademark use of Kuleshov Effect and Walk and Talk during presenter links which it became known for. That episode was 30-minutes long (24 minutes 38 seconds without Act Break)
  • The Equalizer. Some networks aired the second episode "China Rain" first instead of the pilot episode "The Equalizer", because it concentrates on a single case and has an action-packed climax, making it a better audience hook.
  • More of a case of First Season rather than First Episode on The Listener. Everything the first season set up, including main characters, secondary characters, character development/relationships and the entire subplot of the series, is dropped completely in favor of a basic Crime Procedural. To make matters worse, the first season ended in several cliffhangers that were never even remotely addressed by the time the series finale came around.

    Web Original 
  • While not a show, the first blog post of Just Another Fool is entirely different from the rest of the blog; it's a meandering ramble about Logan's watch, which is not related to the rest of the story, in the slightest. Until it becomes a Chekhov's Gun...
  • Bad Days kicks off with a short featuring several Marvel Comics superheroes' and villains' bad days. Later episodes each focus on only one hero, or sometimes a team of heroes.
  • From the trailer and pilot episode of Demo Reel, you would expect hammy comedy and Stylistic Suck to be the norm, right? Then the show takes a sharp turn into Cerebus Syndrome and tackles subjects like institutionalized sexism and racism in Hollywood, chronic depression and maternal suicide.

    Western Animation 
  • The two part pilot for The Dreamstone is somewhat more actionized than the rest of the show. The heroes and the mystical background of the Dreamstone are given more serious Character Development and even a death occurs (a couple more are teased to emphasize the danger of the mission). Afterwards, the show quickly devolves to a Road Runner vs. Coyote cartoon, the focus more on the Urpney's slapstick or the cutesy goings-on of the Noops. In addition, Rufus, who was the main protagonist of the pilot, is demoted in favor of making the Urpneys Villain Protagonists.
  • Enforced for Bob's Burgers: the creators knew that Fox would never pick up the kind of intelligent, progressive Slice of Life show they were pitching, and deliberately made the pilot more juvenile and Family Guy-esque so that Fox would pick it up. Once they did, and it was too late for Fox to back out, they promptly set about making the show they really wanted to make.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had its first two episodes present the show as a Magical Girl series, but with ponies. Although episodes can have adventure elements, especially when it comes to season premieres and finales, the show is far more of a Slice of Life affair. Except when it's not.
  • Rainbow Brite did something similar to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, with its two episodes being far more adventurous and darker than the rest of the series: In these episodes, Rainbow Land was a frozen wasteland filled with monsters, and the protagonist had to deal with a a more threatening villain, opposed to the Harmless Villain couple from the rest of the series, which is more light-hearted.
  • The first two episodes of 12 oz. Mouse were much random and frenetic than the rest of the series, being also entirely comedic, giving the impression it was another absurd gag cartoon in the same vein of stuff like Aqua Teen Hunger Force. However, from the third episode onwards, while still keeping the comedy, the show begins to introduce thriller and mystery elements, starting to develop its plot and keeping a sense of continuity between each episode, disregard of its overall weirdness.
  • In-universe example: On The Simpsons there was a cop show featuring a handsome, hyper-competent character named Homer Simpson. By the second episode, however, he was turned into a fat, bumbling doofus.
  • Fans of Steven Universe like to joke about how the show's first canon episode is about Steven's love of ice cream, ending with him eating too much and getting a stomachache. The show proper deals with some surprisingly heavy topics.
  • The American Dad! pilot has several Family Guy-esque cutaways, which were mostly dropped afterward.