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Offscreen Inertia
aka: Tethercat Principle

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"So Haken and Erwin are in the zeppelin cabin, and then Monty and co. are hanging off the mooring rope as the zeppelin takes off for Berlin. Are they going to hang there all the way across the Atlantic??"

Other things being equal, any given character is probably doing what he was last seen doing. Especially if you hope he isn't.

Offscreen Inertia is that, if there are no strong indications otherwise, viewers can never really be sure that a character ever stops doing the last thing they were seen doing. Ignorable, except when what the character was doing was memorable, noteworthy, or disturbing.

This is conservation of Momentum applied to narrative, and the forces that cause a change must appear onscreen.

Often the reason children find Nightmare Fuel in "innocent" things, and if combined with Fridge Logic, can have the same result in adults. Also a prime source of What Happened to the Mouse?, which can be acknowledged with a Brick Joke, and may result in Something We Forgot.

This can also be used by more skilled writers as a way to drive home the message of the story. For example, one of the reasons The Catcher in the Rye works so well is that Holden is always just on the cusp of adulthood whilst clinging onto his childhood. Why The Pigman (and other similar books) works well is that John & Lorraine are always just trying to deal with Mr. Pignati's death, and so on.

Also, in traditional romances and vaguely erotic thrillers that don't want to earn an "R" rating, the story will end before the hero and heroine copulate (or might end afterward, but either way the copulation is skipped), with the result that more prudish viewers have the option of believing the lovers remained chaste forever. The classic ending has the couple kissing in the most erotic yet tasteful way possible - and often ends right after their lips meet, sometimes as part of a "YEAH!" Shot ...which, if the convention were accepted literally, would cause one to surmise that the lovers choked to death on each others' tongues.

If deliberately invoked as a Fate Worse than Death, it's And I Must Scream. See also Tailor-Made Prison, Rule of Perception.

May be a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger or Bolivian Army Ending (or, more optimistically, And the Adventure Continues). See also Black Screen of Death. The "YEAH!" Shot is a much more optimistic variant. See also No Endor Holocaust and There Are No Global Consequences, where the creators are relying on this to keep the audience from thinking about the potentially unsettling offscreen consequences of the heroes' actions. Compare Take Your Time, a trope specific to video games where something that seems like it could or should change on its own doesn't until you, the player, come back to it. Contrast Offscreen Teleportation. Might overlap with Weapon Running Time for peak tension.


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  • When do those older couples in the separate bathtubs in the Cialis commercials ever get out? An instance so frustrating, they created another commercial to resolve it! Fortunately not as Squick-inducing as it might have been.
  • A memorable commercial for Krazy Glue in the late 1970s showed a construction worker whose hat is stuck to a steel beam and whose legs are dangling wildly, glued to the beam by one single drop of the adhesive. Since the commercial was a 30 second commercial it didn't have time to resolve whether the worker was ever rescued from the beam.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass:
    • In one scene, a very upset Lelouch abuses his power to command some street punks to dance, do push ups, and so on for his amusement. The Fridge Horror comes when you realize that they are bound to perform that action until they die, and he can't stop them.
    • That girl that was geassed to mark a wall at Ashford Academy every day, even though half the academy gets destroyed. Supplemental material revealed that she was evacuated during the Black Rebellion. Every night (accounting for timezones) she begins sleepwalking in the direction of the school...
  • October 2009 and March 2010 were very long months for fans of Fullmetal Alchemist, thanks to this— respectively, Riza was bleeding out from a Slashed Throat and everyone not at the center of Father's circle was dead for an entire month. Curse you, Arakawa!
  • In Nabari no Ou, Raikou and Gau were left lying on the ground with a sword through the gut and slashes across the face respectively for 8 chapters before they were shown again. This was EIGHT MONTHS.
  • Naruto:
    • The battle against Pain, where they'd spend an entire chapter or two on the fight itself while the whole time, Hinata is lying a short distance away, bleeding to death.
    • A humorous invocation of this trope occurs when Might Guy summons Ningame, who we had not seen Guy summon since their introduction nearly a real-life decade and about four in-series years earlier. Ningame's reaction implies he hadn't even been summoned off-screen that whole time either!
  • Due to its untimely cancellation, the last scene of X/1999 manga was Fuuma leaning over Kamui with a sword to his chest, asking Kamui what his wish was. THEY ARE STILL STUCK LIKE THIS.
  • Episode 15 of Tiger & Bunny uses this trope purposefully, going for the heartstrings: it ends with Keith waiting patiently to meet the girl he fell for earlier in the episode, not realizing that she was the robot he destroyed the night before. Episode 16 does something similar, ending with Kotetsu lying in a dumpster, injured and despairing after his failing superpowers brought about his defeat by the serial killer he was trying to apprehend.
  • Acknowledged and Played for Laughs in Case Closed, where every once in a while Conan is shown to have forgotten that he left Kogoro sleeping somewhere.
  • During the Yu-Gi-Oh! arc where the protagonists were taken to a virtual world, Yami Marik is left on board the blimp, able to do what he likes. The only thing that's stopping him from getting into the room the protagonists are locked in is the door, which he can't open. It's implied that he spends the entire arc just wandering around the blimp, occasionally trying to get open the door and kill the heroes.
  • Sort of used in-character in Hetalia: Axis Powers; England is completely stunned to realise America grew up in the several years he was away. Subverted when you realize America did age freakishly fast for a nation, since Italy was apparently a toddler for about nine hundred years.
  • Played with in Kinnikuman: the author suffered an illness that left him unable to work on the series for several months. He'd left the characters in mid-match, standing in odd poses. When he came back... Kinnikuman complains about having to hold that pose for several months, and looks to Robin Mask, who's fallen asleep in the ring.
  • Referenced in Hayate the Combat Butler when Hayate wonders if maybe Izumi is still on Mount Takao after having been forgotten there by Yukiji since she hasn't been seen since.
  • Taken to excruciating levels with Hunter × Hunter due to its severe and frequent Schedule Slip. For all we know, the Zodiacs are still preparing to go to the Dark Continent.
  • Happens in Bleach due to several battles taking place at once. For example, in the Thousand Year Blood arc, Rangiku is seen discarded with a slashed throat, but presumably alive. Then the only person who knew about her injury passed out.
  • In the manga version of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sayaka's Meaningful Funeral from the anime version is cut, which leaves the audience to assume that her body is still in the apartment where it was taken after she died by turning into a Witch and never found.
  • In the OVA episode of Steins;Gate, Okabe and Kurisu are last seen stranded in the American desert, with two dead cellphones and a car with no gas. While it's nice that they reaffirm their love in the new timeline, one might be left wondering how long they will have to wait to be rescued.
  • An edit in international dubs of Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unown was caused because of Values Dissonance and a desire to avert this trope. In the Japanese version, the scene where Molly Hale's Disappeared Dad Spencer is released from the Unown world plays during the end credits. The English dubbers were aware that most Western theater audiences start to file out once the credits startnote , so this scene was moved to before the credits so that no one would think he was stuck there forever.
  • Dragon Pink: Unfortunately happened as a result of an unresolved cliffhanger in this ITOYOKO 90's hentai manga. The final volume ends on the titular heroine Pink being impaled by a sword while the rest of her party watches on in horror. That volume was published in 1994.
  • Samurai Flamenco revealed that Goto's girlfriend is actually missing and Goto had been texting himself since her disappearance. Because the case remained unsolved and no follow-up was made about her situation, it's never confirmed if she's dead or not.
  • Considering that Mass Effect: Paragon Lost was released after Mass Effect 3, the whereabout of Milque and Treeya, James Vega's surviving teammates, remained unknown when the Reapers invaded the entire galaxy, devastating several homeworlds, and James never made contact or mentioned about them when he joined the Normandy crew. It's possible that the two are either helping with the war effort or unfortunate casualties of the war.
  • Macross: The fate of the Megaroad-01 (where Ichijo Hikaru, Misa Hayase and Lynn Minmay were in) remained unknown and was never addressed in the next Macross shows (though Macross Delta gave some ambiguous hints) as most people in-universe knew that they have lost contact with them. Minmay’s last message revealed that they were at the center of the galaxy which has a black hole and they’re going towards it with a possibility that they’ll never come back ever. Anyone who is well-versed with astronomy and astrophysics knew that there's a supermassive black hole at the galactic center and travelling to a black hole is a very trippy experience, according to this research.
  • Used intentionally in One Piece's "Chapter 0" special. It shows major event after major event taking place over the course of years, with the occasional panel of Brook, alone on his ship drifting aimlessly, finding ways to relieve his boredom. It conveys to the reader that as the years and decades went on, Brook had spent his time exactly where he was, completely unaware of how the world had moved around him.
  • Since Toei's Yu-Gi-Oh! (first anime series) never made it to Duelist Kingdom, if you don't count the 30-minute movie Seto Kaiba has been in a coma since 1998.
  • Though the Series Finale of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans addressed the fates of the surviving characters, there's only one character whose fate remains unknown: Almiria Bauduin. The last time the viewers saw her was Episode 49 where she faithfully awaits for McGillis, who dies near the end of the episode. It's uncertain if she knows his death or that her brother Gaelio is the one who killed him. Then in the last episode, she's the only character who never shows up in the entire episode including the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. Word of God mentioned that she was supposed to be in the epilogue but they can't bring about her emotional state which led to rumors that she went insane after learning about McGillis's fate and Gaelio's role in it.
  • Due to the death of Daisuke Sato, the main survivors of High School Of The Dead are trapped in limbo after finding Rei's mother and heading out to find her father.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: The twin princes of Torumekia who opt to stay in the Garden, playing the old world's music and reading the compiled literary classics, are never mentioned again once Nausicaä leaves.
  • Outlaw Star: One episode features Aisha entering a fighting tournament. Because Ctarl-Ctarl aren't allowed in the tournament, she poses as a professional wrestler named Firecat, locking the real Firecat in a locker and stealing her uniform. At the end of the episode the entire building is set on fire, and the main characters are shown to have escaped. But what happened to the real Firecat, last shown still being stuck in the locker?
  • In-universe example in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun. Seo tells Sakura a story about a boy she knew in her childhood, but ends the story after he had fallen into the back of a truck. Sakura's concerned and asks what happened to him afterwards, but she never answers. A fanbook later revealed the truck went to a strawberry farm and he made it home safely, even bringing a few berries back for Seo as a souvenir.

  • Medici Chapels:
    • By virtue of being sculptures, all four "Allegories" are trapped on the verge of an action. "Day" is forever preparing to seize the day while "Dusk" will always be tiredly contemplating sleep. We don't know how "Dawn" will react to the sunrays other than blinking owlishly at them. It's uncertain whether "Night" will wake up from her nightmare or find a peaceful rest.
    • In the same vein, the sculpted portraits of the Medici brothers. It's unknown what has Lorezon thinking so hard or what Giliuano has captured Giuliano's attention enough to make him turn his head.
  • Sistine Chapel: This is what makes the The Creation of Adam work so well —God is always just about to give Adam the Touch of Life.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in Cerebus the Aardvark. The titular character does spend issue after issue after issue sitting on a stool outside in a drunken stupor while the world moves on without him.
  • Preacher:
    • Jesse at one point uses The Word to compel a bad guy, Hoover, to count the grains of sand on a beach... and only offhandedly adds that he can stop once he's reached three million. He's later shown counting carefully... a wave strikes, messing up the grains... and the guy, anguished, starts over. Ultimately averted, as Hoover actually finishes counting and shows up later, half-crazed and pissed off. He later confronts Jesse about it; Jesse compels him to forget the sand-counting and have a nice rest, as an apology.
    • In another badly thought out uses of the Word:
      Soldiers begin to run away from him.
      Soldier: F-F-Forever?
  • This is what happened to the last Tintin book, since Hergé died before finishing it. For all we know, Tintin is held captive by the bad guys without a way out.
  • Runaways was abruptly cancelled in the middle of the "Home Schooling" arc, with the team now essentially homeless and Chase fighting for his life in the ICU after getting hit by a car while chasing an apparently-resurrected Gert. They later turned up in arcs of Dark Wolverine and Avengers Academy, so we know they're still alive and together, but there's never really been much explanation for where or how they were living in the intervening years.
  • The Dark Phoenix Saga: During the final battle, a Skrull and a Kree got into a fight, and the focus quickly shifts away from them. The original ending said they died off-panel, but the finalized story completely ignored them. Years later, Fantastic Four Annual #18 revisited those characters, showing that they continued fighting long after the X-Men's battle with the Imperial Guard was over.
  • Invader Zim (Oni): Indirectly acknowledged in an exchange between Zim and GIR in Issue 10.
    GIR: Remember that commercial for the puddin' where the kid eats the puddin' and he turns into puddin' and he flies around the room? That was scary.
    Zim: Silence! I remember that commercial and it was upsetting so speak no more of it! They never show the kid turn back so you're all, "Is he trapped as pudding forever?" Awful.
  • In Superman comics:
    • At the end of Who Took the Super out of Superman?, the main villain Xviar has been dumped in an interplanetary prison. Superman boasts that Xviar expected to be released by their superiors, but since his mission has failed they won't bother freeing him. Since Xviar was never seen again, fans assume he indeed never left his cell.
    • Bizarrogirl reveals Superwoman has been confined in a S.T.A.R. Labs containment cell while Dr. Light filters the alien DNA, which had become grafted into her cells during her battle with Supergirl in Who is Superwoman?, out of her body. Later storyline Day of the Dollmaker shows Lucy is still shackled to her cell, and Dr. Light is still stripping alien DNA out of Lucy. Superwoman lampshades it's taking a lot of time.
    • At the end of The Black Ring, Lex Luthor has been stranded in space, with no easy way to return to Earth. Since his fate wasn't revealed and the next continuity reboot struck shortly afterwards, nobody knows whether Lex managed to make it back to Earth or not.
    • The Great Phantom Peril: At the end of the story, Jackson Porter goes voluntarily into the Phantom Zone and is never heard of again; so it is not known whether he got out or remained in there for years and died when Mr. Mxyzptlk destroyed the Zone in DC Comics Presents #97.
    • At the end of Superman vs. Shazam!, Karmang becomes stuck in a Limbo-style pocket dimension. Was Karmang able to escape from Limbo? Or did he remain trapped there until his existence was erased by the Crisis on Infinite Earths and the subsequent universal reset? Nobody knows.
    • Way of the World: After knocking Dolok out, Supergirl rips his time-travelling device from his armor suit and flies off, apparently leaving him stranded in space. Since that alternate future was not revisited again, it is entirely possible that he remained floating in the void of space.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: After defeating the titular villain, Supergirl punishes her with a one-way trip to the unnamed, faraway alien world. Given that Maelstrom was never seen again, Darkseid decreed she would be banished from Apokolips forever if she failed, and he died in Final Crisis shortly after, it is easy to believe that Maelstrom was never retrieved and remained marooned in a remote planet.
  • Two-Gun Kid: In issue #59, the (original) Two-Gun Kid is accosted by two gunmen who ambush him in an attempt to prove themselves. Shot in the shoulder, the Kid only manages to gun one of them down, though stares down the other long enough for help to arrive. He subsequently passes out from blood loss, and that was the last anyone ever heard of Clay Harder, A.K.A. Two-Gun Kid. The next issue, when the book was relaunched, showed the origin of a new Two-Gun Kid, who admitted he didn't know for sure whatever became of the original. The ending blurb had promised Clay'd be well enough to ride again in the next issue, but for all we know, he died that day in the scalding sands of the desert, his reputation having caught up to him at last.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: The strip "Tethercat", one of Gary Larson's most controversial cartoons, depicted two dogs playing tetherball with a rather stunned-looking cat. In his compilation/book The Prehistory Of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit, Larson mentioned his theory on why (in contrast to the Amusing Injuries of cartoons) some people really hated this one panel — the two dogs never, ever stop playing tethercat. You see the cartoon, they're playing; you turn back to this one a few pages later, they're still playing; set the book down and come back tomorrow, they're still playing...given the lack of information, there's no way you can say that the cat is going to escape any time soon, and the drawing doesn't make it look likely either. Larson suspected that if he'd included a caption about the cat escaping and coming back with a bazooka, he wouldn't have angered so many people.
  • In Curtis, the main character once was jealous of Andrew, a boy who was spending a lot of time with Chutney. So he snuck a bottle of perfume into Andrew's shopping bag at a department store, causing Andrew to be arrested for shoplifting. When Curtis found out that Andrew was Chutney's cousin, he said that he was going to get Andrew cleared...but the plotline was dropped before readers ever saw him do so. This may have been because Curtis would have had a hard time getting Andrew released without getting himself into considerably more serious trouble (framing somebody else and getting them arrested is a lot more malicious than shoplifting). Since Andrew has not appeared in the comic since then, for all the readers know, he might still be in jail.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", the ferry-man puts his oar in the evil king's hand, dooming him to row travellers across a river until someone takes the oar from him. The final lines hint that he might still be ferrying travellers.
    The greedy King set out in all haste, and when he came to the river he beckoned to the ferry-man to put him across. The ferry-man came and bade him get in, and when they got to the other shore he put the oar in his hand and sprang out. But from this time forth the King had to ferry, as a punishment for his sins. Perhaps he is ferrying still? If he is, it is because no one has taken the oar from him.
  • "The Soldier And Death" ends with the narrator telling: "And so the soldier, after waiting a long time, went slowly back to earth. Death would not take him. There was no place for him in Paradise and no place for him in Hell. For all I know he may be living yet."

    Fan Works 
  • Deserving: Severus takes up knitting, but is never shown actually completing anything even though the story spans several years. This led one reviewer to suggest that he was making the Fourth Doctor's scarf.
  • Total Drama Comeback Series became a Dead Fic just as Ezekiel gets turned into "Feral Zeke". The story provides a way to fix this situation, and the next few chapters would probably have taken it, but now the story is left unresolved...just like in the show, turning a Fix Fic for that character into a case of Uncertain Doom.

    Films — Animated 
  • When the title character of WALL•E is about to go into space, he orders his pet cockroach to sit and wait for him. It does. At the end of the movie, days later, he lands and it's still in the same spot.
  • In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Abis Mal (technically Jafar's master) is thrown out the palace window. He's quickly forgotten about as the heroes fight Jafar, almost die, successfully kill him and happily plan for the future. It's only after the credits that we fade back to the tree with Abis Mal pitifully hanging by his pants from a tree.
    Abis Mal: Does this mean I don't get my third wish?
  • Daffy Duck's Quackbusters ends with Daffy, having returned to being a salesman after losing J.P. Cubish's fortune, his business and his apartment building, finally making an honest buck after everything — only to have it taken away from him by Cubish's ghost, with the implication that he will be doing this to Daffy forever.
  • Monsters University: Early on the film, there's a slug monster eager to start his first day of class at Monsters University but he's comically slow. By the time he finally arrives at a classroom, it's a post-credits scene and he's told by a janitor he missed a whole year.
  • Moana: At the end of the scene with Tamatoa the giant crab, he gets flipped on his back. The Stinger shows him still there, asking for someone to turn him back over.
  • The Triplets of Belleville: A pedalo is borrowed from a rental hut towards the climax of the film. At the very end of the film, much later on and with almost zero chance of the pedalo being returned, the hut owner is still standing expectantly at the water's edge, looking out and checking his watch.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The final shot of Inception has produced a lot of Wild Mass Guessing. Did the top wobble before the cut? Maybe it fell over while the credits were rolling... or maybe it didn't. This becomes Fridge Brilliance when you remember how Cobb performed the inception on Mal.
  • In Predator, Billy apparently never turns around while standing on that log. Unless you've seen the movie uncut, in which case you know exactly what happened to him; it ain't pretty, so maybe an unresolved situation is actually preferable in this situation.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: This may have been the reasoning behind the original Bolivian Army Ending, and perhaps some of the subsequent imitations as well. If you don't actually see the heroes get killed in the ensuing battle then there's the possibility, however slim, that they're still fighting, and managed to win. It helps that there is some historical evidence that Butch survived the shootout (though none for Sundance).
  • In the 2009 Friday the 13th (2009) remake, Jason shoots an arrow at a guy piloting a speedboat. The guy falls dead on top of the controls, the speedboat hits a topless waterskier in the head and is never seen again. Horror fans have joked that a better ending for the movie (or closing credits stinger) would be to show the speedboat reach Manhattan or run over Jason as soon as he surfaced from the lake.
  • The British original version of The Descent makes use of this - it ends with the main character waking up from her hope spot dream and then just sitting there, not moving, staring at a hallucination of her daughter, who died at the beginning of the film. Then, as the camera pulls out, we hear the screeches of the resident cave monsters, and Sarah's still just sitting there, apparently not hearing them at all - the implication is that she stayed like that until the crawlers found her.
  • In D-War, the hero is left in the scarred wastelands of a forgotten realm, completely alone, with no obvious way of getting back to present-day Los Angeles.
  • The Italian Job (1969): Are still they hanging over the cliff in that bus? Plans for an unfilmed sequel state that it would have started with them easing their way out of the bus, only to have the gold stolen from them and chase after it, but again, unfilmed sequel.
  • An example of this happening in the middle of a story is in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones could be seen as clinging to the outside rail of a Nazi submarine, underwater the entire time, for a distance far enough to display a map. Not helped any by the next scene where he steals a uniform. Presumably it went along the surface when there wasn't any danger and/or Indiana hid inside at some point. U-boats stayed on the surface unless there was a reason to dive, either attacking a convoy or being attacked themselves. However, they did put men in the conning tower to watch, and there isn't exactly a lot of hiding space on a U-boat's decknote .
    • Also narrowly averted, as the final "I know what I've got here" scene was added after a viewing of the initial cut, as the crew realized it wouldn't be satisfying for Marion to last be seen on the island when the Ark is opened.
  • Parodied in Robin Hood: Men in Tights where Robin swims all the way from the Holy Land with a similar map line.
  • Played for Laughs in The Movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Near the climax, Buffy stabs the Big Bad's second-in-command through the heart. The vampire goon clutches at the stake in his chest, spewing a That Makes Me Feel Angry retort while trying to pull the stake out... and then, once he realizes that thing's in there for good, collapses in great pain and begins writhing on the ground, hilariously whining and groaning for a ludicrously long period of time, until Buffy just turns away from him in disgust. Later, after the film's final credits have rolled, we return to the scene and find the goon still writhing about and crying out in pain! For all we know, the poor guy might still be alive.
  • Also Played for Laughs at the very end of Airplane!, with Ted Stryker's passenger still waiting for him in the taxicab parked by the curb, apparently forever. ("I'll give him another twenty minutes, but then that's it.")
  • Parodied in the original Austin Powers movie: Dr. Evil and his minions stand around laughing maniacally....and then laugh some more....and then stop....and then start laughing again, because the scene apparently hasn't ended yet!
  • Saw
    • Defied by Eric in Saw III. After Saw II ends with him chained to a pipe in the Bathroom by Amanda and presumably left to die exactly as Adam did in the first film, the opening awesomely plays against expectations, with Eric grabbing a broken toilet lid and breaking his foot with it in order to escape.
    • Played straight with Hoffman when he's captured by Lawrence in Saw 3D. He's trapped inside the Bathroom (next to Adam's corpse, no less), but with all possible methods of escape removed. The film ends with him being left to stay there until he dies, though his fate remains ambiguous due to production-related issues.
  • Invoked in Rush Hour 3, when Carter hears that he's going to be seeing Soo Yung again. He thinks she's still the cute little girl she was in Rush Hour, and suggests that he and Lee get her a teddy bear as a present. When he sees that she's now a teenager, he switches to proposing they get her a training bra.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, Long John Silver lures First Mate Arrow off the ship in the middle of the night, by warning him about "leaky lifeboats" that need to be tested in the open ocean. Sometime after the following night — long after he had been given up for dead — Arrow's lifeboat happens to reach the shore of Treasure Island, and he's still talking to himself about how the boat does indeed seem safe.
  • Played with in the conclusion to Animal House, which wraps up with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue in which each of the major characters gets "freeze-framed" in some sort of iconic pose. The freezes are meant to leave us with lasting impressions of the characters, but then the subtitles assure us that other things happen to them in the future. At least one is bittersweet: Boon and Katy will eventually get divorced, even though we see them frozen in the act of embracing on the street in an apparently happily-ever-after scenario (and the romantic music doesn't help). A mockumentary made many years later for the film's DVD rerelease reveals that Boon and Katy then got back together, then divorced again, etc.
  • Joked about in the Veronica Mars movie regarding Madison Sinclair (the Alpha Bitch from the TV series) being at the Neptune High reunion:
    Veronica: Tell the truth, you've been sitting in that chair since graduation, haven't you?
  • This effect is used as a plot point in A Beautiful Mind: John Nash finally realizes that he's suffering from hallucinations when he notices that his equally imaginary roommate's daughter has always looked the same despite having seen her over a period of several years.
  • The Lord of the Rings plays this for laughs. In the extended version of The Two Towers (but not the theatrical version), the last thing we see Merry and Pippin doing before the film ends is lighting one up, and they're still smoking away several in-movie days later at the beginning of the next film.
  • Played for Laughs in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, where after an Only Mostly Dead reveal from Master Tang, the last the audience sees of him is him lying on the ground in the field where he was attacked...until after the credits, where it's revealed that he's still lying in that field, calling out for someone to come get him already, and complaining that an eagle is eating his leg.
    Master Tang: *after a Fade Out* Hey, just because the screen fades to black doesn't mean he stopped! He's still eating me! I promise!
  • In the original Game of Death: Whether the guardians ever leave their own floor, let alone the pagoda, is completely up to the viewer's interpretation (there's no indication that they do).
  • Near the end of Love Actually, after discovering about the affair, Harry and Karen remained together albeit with a strained relationship. The Red Nose Day 2017 sequel never revisited their story because of the death of Harry's actor, Alan Rickman, in 2016 and Emma Thompson, who played Karen, declined to be in the sequel because she couldn't do the story without him. So in the end, it's unknown whether their characters still remained together.
  • In Coming to America, Prince Akeem leaves his bride-to-be hopping on one leg and barking like a dog after finding out that she has been trained to be so utterly obedient to him that she has no personality. This led to some joking speculation that she just kept doing it perpetually. The sequel, thirty years later, reveals that she did.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith sets this up retroactively. After the death of Padme, R2-D2 and C-3PO are put in the employ of senator Bail Organa aboard the Tantive IV. Nineteen years later, in Star Wars: A New Hope, they're exactly where they were left.

  • In Dragon Bones, this is mentioned when Oreg tells Ward that he must literally do what he is told to do. Ward asks what would happen if he ordered Oreg to sit on the floor and do nothing. Oreg replies sadly that he would have to do exactly that, as he is no ordinary slave, but compelled by magic to do whatever he is ordered to do, no matter how pointless. Averted in that Ward is not that cruel, and Oreg does several interesting things offscreen. Played straight, however, after Ward kills him, and, a year later, it turns out that what he killed wasn't Oreg's real body, which had been in a magic-induced sleep. Oreg behaves as if no time had passed, and is as shy and submissive towards Ward as he was before, even though he's free now.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • Played with in regards to the people on the balloon, and both the characters and the audience are unsure if they ever get down for a while.
    • Done multiple times in The End, with both those on the raft—although they're implied to survive—and the very end: we don't know what became of the Baudelaires after they left the island.
  • The Lady, or the Tiger by Frank R. Stockton. In the sequel, people in a village who have heard of the event request that a visitor who was there tell them which the hero chose; he makes it clear that a choice was, in fact, made. The whole thing sets the stage for another one, though. When pressed, the visitor presents a similar tale of a seemingly-impossible choice to the crowd, then says when they solve that one, he'll tell them what the Hero of the first story chose... and the story ends while they're considering it.
  • In Fantastic Mr. Fox the animals are hiding out underground while the farmers guard their main escape route, and find it's actually quite comfortable. They decide to stay. "The farmers sat around the hole, watching. As far as I know, they are still sitting there."
  • Discworld:
    • This is an actual trait of golems. Tell them to do something but not to stop, and you might come back to find they have planted a row of beans a mile long. This behavior is a form of rebellion. The golems aren't stupid, but if you treat them like they are they'll do this kind of thing just to spite you. Igors are the same way.
    • In RPGs this is the case for the Luggage. If you stopped to take a look when passing a cliff edge, the Luggage wouldn't, unless you told it to. Rule of Funny dictates that it would proceed to fall off, taking all your gold, unequipped weapons and changes of underwear with it. Of course, it's usually not that easy to make the Luggage go away for good...
    • Seems to be the final fate of Astfgl, ruler of Hell, in Eric. He's Kicked Upstairs in a coup by the other demons, who are frustrated with his attempts to run Hell like a modern corporation, with boredom as its chief form of torture. The demons give him a "promotion" that ends with him alone in an office with absolutely nothing to do, and a callbox that doesn't reach anyone. He actually seems quite satisfied with this arrangement.
  • Averted in The Dresden Files. We don't need to assume that the Winter Knight was being tortured ever since the last time we saw him, we know because characters said what he was doing and/or got to see him several times after his treason and, yup, he was still being tortured until Harry killed him... sometime between six and eight years later. Don't betray Faerie Queens, folks. They think crucifixion is for amateurs.
  • Edgar Allan Poe:
    • The Raven ends with the raven still sitting in the place it perched, still tormenting the hapless narrator. The final stanza lampshades it. Given that the rest of the poem is past tense and the final verse is present, any time you come back to it — yup, they're still at it.
      And that raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
      On that pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
      And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
      And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
      And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
      Shall be lifted - nevermore!
    • In The Cask of Amontillado, the reader is forced to assume Fortunato will remain in Montressor's family catacombs until his own death. The narrator specifies that Fortunato has remained undisturbed for fifty years.
  • Agatha Christie's short story collection The Mysterious Mr. Quin ends with the two protagonists, Quin and Satterthwaite, parting ways after an argument. Christie then took a break from the characters for forty years before writing one more Quin and Satterthwaite story, "The Harlequin Tea Set", specifically to establish that that wasn't the end of their friendship, and making a point of ending it with Quin assuring Satterthwaite they will meet again.
  • Invoked in John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." The urn in question depicts scenes from a festival, and Keats happily reflects that the revelers depicted on the urn will always be merry because - since they are frozen in time - their celebration will never end. (It's even happy for the ox about to be sacrificed to the gods, since it will never actually be killed.)
  • In The Wheel of Time, Mat Cauthon ends one book in a cliffhanger, having been caught under some falling rubble. He does not appear at all in the next book, leading fans to joke that he was trapped under the rubble and slowly starving to death the entire time. (In actuality, he extricated himself and was recovering from his injuries off-screen.)
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden's assumption that this is the case with an old classmate he's catching up with emphasizes his unhealthy fixation on the past, which is a running theme throughout the novel. Holden keeps asking if he's dating the same girl, doing the same things, etc., and seems surprised to learn that the classmate has actually changed in the years since they'd last seen each other.
  • Cadderly from The Cleric Quintet Forgotten Realms novels has a recurring dream in which he sees himself as an old man, working to build an elaborate cathedral, while his dearest friends watch. Turns out it was a prophetic vision of the near future, in which he's Cast from Lifespan to build the place in his deity's honor, forfeiting his hope of living out a life with his Love Interest. The fact that she and his other friends were still young in his dream had escaped his notice, as he'd unconsciously fallen prey to this trope's assumptions.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, Nawat, a crow who can turn into a man, still has the mind of a crow and so he spends the first book constantly pestering the heroine Aly for sex. Then in book two, he comes back to her supposedly having evolved to where he now identifies as a human, and has grown sophisticated enough to be worthy of her love. Trouble is, we never see any of that development, as he spends most of the book offpage.
  • Because of George R. R. Martin's infamous Schedule Slip, there's a huge gap between the publications of the A Storm of Swords (1999), A Feast for Crows (2005) and A Dance with Dragons (2011). And considering the 4th and 5th books were separately geographically (the 4th centralized on Braavos and majority of Westeros while the 5th focused on Essos, the North, the Wall and beyond), readers are curious about the characters' statuses. So by the time we read A Dance With Dragons, Tyrion Lannister had been traveling from King's Landing to Essos in a box for 12 years real-time. And with Martin still writing The Winds of Winter, many readers are impatiently waiting for those characters who don't have preview chapters such as Jon Snow, who is last seen being stabbed to death by his Night's Watch brothers and Daenarys Targaryen, who is lost in the Dothraki sea with Drogon and surrounded by a rival Dothraki clan.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Subverted for both readers and in-universe for the main characters. The hobbits assume that the Shire continues without them untouched, just as it was when they left (and even tacitly derive strength from that knowledge to persevere through their own suffering), only for them to return to find it has been corrupted by Saruman and must be cleansed of his evil.
  • Arabian Nights: In the Framing Device, the Sultan and his brother are betrayed by their wives at the same time, and decide together to marry a new woman every day and execute her every night. They rule two separate kingdoms. We follow Sharyhar, who at some point marries Scheherazade and is stopped in his mad quest, until 1,000 nights later his soul is healed. But only then does he travel to visit his brother and tell him of how his heart has been healed — reminding us that his brother hasn't stopped killing innocent women.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Twin Peaks: The original run of the series ended up with multiple Cliff Hangers, leaving numerous character in mid-peril. We're left with the idea of them frozen in place until the show was Un-Cancelled 26 years later.
    • Leo is stuck in an isolated cabin, forced to hold up a Death Trap full of spider by a string, with his teeth.
    • Andrew, Audrey, and Pete are perpetually in the dust cloud of an explosion.
    • The last vision in the last episode we have of agent Cooper is him laughing maniacally in front of a mirror. One can assume that he remains forever possessed by BOB, who now roams again freely. A Deleted Scene from Fire Walk With Me shows what happens next: BOB lies down on the floor to fake an accident.
  • The Sopranos:
    • The Ending of the series. Complete with soundtrack.
    • Uncle Junior gets his hand stuck in the drain of the kitchen sink. Near the end of the episode we discover that Uncle Junior never got his hand unstuck, and has been standing in the kitchen for an entire day.
  • One blogger has told the story of being driven to tears as a kid by the Sesame Street episode where Big Bird paints a 'Wet Paint' sign to warn of the paint on a bench, then a 'Wet Paint' sign to warn of the wet paint on the sign, then another for the new sign, and so on past the end of the episode. Poor Big Bird kept going on forever, she thought. Her mother lied that she was friends with the characters and they told her that Grover would tell Bird to stop painting, and he'd be doing something different the next day. (Also in the post is speculation that someone might stop Bird and give him a crayon.)
  • Joss Whedon said this was explicitly his intent with the ending of Angel, and he was a little confused when people generally thought of it as a Downer Ending in which the characters fail at their "impossible" task and all die. And then he continued the series in comics.
  • Someone pointed out that this may be one of the reasons Viacom's old "V of Doom" Vanity Plate is so scary: Unlike nearly all zooming logos, the V never stops advancing toward the viewer; the screen just fades out on it still moving...
  • In "The Blind Banker" episode of Sherlock, John invokes this trope on Sherlock. However, while John believes Sherlock hasn't moved in the intervening time, a flashback reveals that Sherlock has in fact fought and defeated a mysterious sword-wielding intruder while John was out.
  • Suggested in The League of Gentlemen, in one episode where Chloe and Radcliffe are seen locking their parents in the basement. They are never seen again so it is entirely possible that they are still there.
  • Done by one particularly hilarious edit in Survivor Thailand. A few people complain about Helen never shutting up about various recipes, after which we see her doing just that...and then cut to nighttime where she's standing in about the same spot and talking about more recipes, giving the distinct impression that she's been standing there doing this for hours.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Crusades" ends with a freeze frame (in an era where cliffhangers leading straight into the next story were the norm). At the beginning of "The Space Museum", the following serial, Ian actually notices that they've been frozen in time, since when they unfreeze they've all changed their outfits. This turns out to be a Just One Second Out of Sync glitch. The blog Shabogan Graffiti explains:
      This 'jump' occurs at the junction of two stories, one ending and the other starting. At the start of the new TVN, the characters are still, so to speak, stuck at the end of the last TVN. They're frozen, despite the fact that a new TVN has begun without them. This is, of course, just a literalization of what always happens: the characters freeze for a week. But this time we actually see the freezing at the end of one story, continuing into the start of the next.
    • The First Doctor companion Dodo still creates sore feelings for some fans, as her last scene has her hypnotised into sleeping by the Doctor, supposedly to break WOTAN's brainwashing. As her goodbye to the Doctor is delivered second-hand, many fans naturally suspected that Dodo might never wake up, or that WOTAN's brainwashing had left her more damaged than the writers had probably wanted her to be. One branch if the Expanded Universe went along with this idea.
    • Long-running Second, Third and Fourth Doctor companion Benton's final appearance is lying on the floor unconscious after being bashed unconscious by androids trying to replace him with a robot duplicate in "The Android Invasion". Maybe he's still there.
    • Some complaints about "The Deadly Assassin" concerned the episode cliffhanger that freezes on a shot of the Doctor drowning - Mary Whitehouse claimed it was too scary for children who felt that the Doctor was underwater suffering for the whole week. The furore over this got the producer fired and the replacement ordered to go in a Lighter and Softer direction.
    • On the DVD Commentary for the two-parter "Forest of the Dead", Steven Moffat gives this as the reason he decided to start somewhere other than where "Silence in the Library" left off: If there's no passage of time and/or change of setting between the episodes (as with "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" from series one), it might be fine if you watch them in immediate succession, but when they first air a week apart, you can't help thinking the characters have been standing there all week themselves.
    • "The Power Of Three" lampshades and deconstructs this trope when the Doctor finally learns just what Rory and Amy do when they're not with him:
      Rory Williams: Right. I'm off to work
      The Doctor: What? You've got a job?
      Rory: Of course I've got a... What do you think we do when we're not with you?
      The Doctor: I imagine mostly kissing.
  • Lie to Me: Torres' boyfriend Dupree is in hospital after a bombing... and is never mentioned again. Tad ominous.
  • In Power Rangers, specifically, in one of the early episodes of Power Rangers Turbo, we're told that Ernie-the owner/manager/proprietor of the Angel Grove Youth Center, Gym, and Juice Bar (commonly called the Youth Center or Ernie's)-was recalled by his foreign service unit and 'something about building a bridge in the Amazon'. Now Ernie's actor had left the show in a bit of Real Life Writes the Plot because of health issues caused by a mix of his weight and smoking habit. At the same time, while the character was Put on a Bus because of Richard Genelle's leaving, that was where the character's plotline was left off and we're never told what happens to him after. Even in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, that character arc is never ended even though Trini's is and she was in a similar limbo due to her actress also passing away (Thuy Trang passed away in 2001 while Richard Genelle died in 2008).
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
  • Joe Carey was a Mauve Shirt character on Star Trek: Voyager. In a first season episode "State of Flux" he's suspected of treason and confined to his quarters for the duration of the investigation. It must have been a very long investigation because we didn't see him (except for the occasional flashback scene) until he was brought Back for the Dead in Season 7. Fans then joked that he'd been confined to quarters the entire time (turns out the writers thought they'd killed him off — potentially in Season 3 when he dies in an alternate timeline — and only belatedly realized they hadn't).
  • The Scrubs character Doug. In season 8 he accidentally doesn't get invited to the Janitor's wedding, and the Janitor calls to apologize. Doug works in the morgue, so he has one of his assistants close him up in a morgue-drawer where he can sulk in peace. He seems to do stuff like this regularly, as he has mentioned taking a nap in the drawers before. However, this is his final appearance this season, and next season shifts mostly to a new cast of characters, so this is the last we ever see of Doug. Is he still in there?
  • It's something of an in-joke among fans of The Amazing Race that final-three teams who fall too far behind and have to be remotely notified of the finish (The Guidos in season 1, David and Jeff in season 4) are still stuck wherever they are last seen.
  • Invoked in the Supernatural episode "The End". Castiel calls Dean to tell him about some new task that needs doing and Dean tells him to wait for a few hours so he can get some sleep. Castiel hangs up and just stands where he was on the side of the road, unmoving. Cut. He shows up at the end of the episode Just in Time to save Dean's life. When Dean points this out, he says he was simply showing up on time, as arranged.
  • Played with on an episode of The Colbert Report. Musical guest Rush starts playing "Tom Sawyer" at the end of the show while Colbert prepares to go to sleep. Next night, as the show starts, Rush is still playing "Tom Sawyer"...
  • People on forums about 24 tend to makes jokes of this sort about the plethora of characters that have disappeared without really being Put on a Bus and are never to be seen or mentioned again. In particular people joke about whether or not the season 4 character Behrooz is still riding around with terrorists that had kidnapped him the last time he appeared in the middle of the season. On the same note, hopefully Wayne told someone to free the bank manager's wife he and Jack tied up back in season 5.
  • According to the Gilligan's Island Reunion Show Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History, this was the impetus for the first reunion movie Rescue from Gillgan's Island. From 1966 to 1978 proto-Tropers discussed the castaways being stranded on the island for all that time.
    • Lampshaded in Galaxy Quest.
      Mathazar: Those poor people...
  • Played with in Police Squad!: the last scene will seem to stop on a still image as the ending credits start, but it soon becomes apparent that the characters are actually frozen in place. Sometimes another character will walk into the scene, realise what is happening and try to adopt his own 'frozen' position to fit in with the others.
  • In Castle, Beckett has been shot in the heart and dying for an entire summer break, and now her and Castle are in coitus for another.
  • In Dexter, Lexi, Rita's babysitter from the season 2 finale was last seen frantic and blaming herself for falling asleep and losing the kids (Lila drugged her). She's never seen again, so common consensus is that she probably never stopped blaming herself.
  • On The Vampire Diaries, new vampires can sometimes be 'sired' to their maker which means that they will follow any order or suggestion that the sire makes to them. Damian had this happen to a female vampire he created in the 1940s. He thought that he found a way to break the sire bond and left her behind in New Orleans. In the present he finds out that he was tricked and the sire bond was still intact. He is horrified because before he left he told her to wait on a particular street corner and count all the bricks in New Orleans. He returns to New Orleans and the vampire is in fact waiting on that street corner. The trope is subverted when she reveals that the compulsion faded after a short while and she was able to leave the corner and do other things beside waiting for him. However, she still visits the corner regularly and counts bricks as hobby.
  • On Family Ties Uncle Ned becomes an alcoholic because he ratted out his former company over some shady business deals. The episode ends with him calling a rehab clinic and saying that he needs help. This is the show's second season (of seven) and the character never reappears since he's played by Tom Hanks who moved onto bigger things. Since the character is never even mentioned again, the audience is left to wonder if he ever got over his problems, or is laying drunk in an alleyway somewhere.
  • Cat from Sam & Cat is sent to prison in the episode that eventually became the final one due to the show being cancelled.
  • On Models Inc. there was a subplot for one of the models when she was kidnapped, sent to a Latin American country to work in Hooker's hell. Then the series was menaced to being Cut Short because Cancellation, but they managed to film a last episode that would Wrap It Up. It could have been a proper Series Finale, but they never followed the model's subplot, so she is still trapped in Hooker's hell for all we know...
  • Applied brilliantly in a promo for Season 9 of How I Met Your Mother that relentlessly mocks how long Ted has been taking to tell his kids how he met their mother.
  • On Breaking Bad, Huell is last seen sitting in a hotel/safehouse, waiting for Hank and Gomez to come back. Given their request to wait was just a trick to keep him out of the way (they weren't there on official DEA business and got information from him on false pretenses), they probably weren't coming back even if they hadn't died shortly thereafter, leading to more than a few jokes that Huell is still waiting there even after the show Time Skipped months into the future before ending. The actor who portrayed Huell stated in an interview that he believes Huell, being the loyal-yet-somewhat-dim fella that he is, is still there. Almost a real-life decade later, one of the last episodes of Better Call Saul mentions what happened to him. Since the charges he were held under were indeed fraudulent, he remained a free man and he moved back to New Orleans.
  • On Game of Thrones, Gendry was last seen at the end of Season 3 rowing away from Dragonstone back to King's Landing by himself. His actor later humorously invoked this on Twitter, saying that he was "Still rowin'..." after Season 4 came to end with no Gendry in sight. Keep in mind that he was given navigational advice "Keep the rocks (coast) on your left!" - Dragonstone is an island...note  He made another joke about it when he failed to show up again in Season 5. When Gendry finally shows up again in Season 7, Davos references the joke in-universe.
    "Wasn't sure I'd find you here. Thought you might still be rowing."
  • On Pretty Little Liars, the last we see of the main characters' mothers before a pair of Time Skips, they're locked in the DiLaurentis basement. On a special addressing what happened during the time skip, the actresses joked about how long they were trapped and how they eventually got out.
  • In the last episode of Seinfeld Newman starts laughing hysterically when he finds out the that four leads are being sent to prison. However since he was eating potato chips at the time, he starts choking. This is the last time we ever see him.note 
  • NTSF:SD:SUV::: One of the villains of the week is an Evil Cripple who is knocked out of his wheelchair by Trent when he swoops in to save the day. The Stinger shows that he's still laying in the same spot wondering if anyone is either gonna arrest him or get him to a hospital.
  • Played for Laughs in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Cry Wilderness as Jonah and the Bots leave the theater and the host segment has Kinga and Max meeting Pearl, Bobo and Brain Guy. When that portion ends and goes back to Jonah, they wonder how long they were in the hallway before they have to go back in.
  • Spoofed in A Series of Unfortunate Events, where Season 2 opens with the Baudelaires still sitting on the bench from the end of Season 1. Klaus says it feels like they've been sitting there for months, and even notes their baby sister Sunny has aged into a toddler.
  • This trope forced a rewrite in the end of Jessica Jones (2015), which was going to have Jessica leaving NYC for a while, with the intent of her coming back at the start of the next season. When the writer realized it would be the last season, and thus viewers would be left with the impression that Jessica had just left forever, they hastily changed the ending to where she decided not to leave at the last second.
  • Criminal Minds: The episode that introduces Emily Prentiss starts with her arrival at Hotch's office with her transfer papers to join the team. He blows her off and the team travels to St. Louis to deal with the unsubs of the week. When they return to Quantico several days later, Prentiss is sitting in Hotch's office.
  • Fuller House: The first episode plays with this, opening with the family gathering in the kitchen and dining area as though nothing is different from 20 years ago. Danny chatting with baby Tommy in the kitchen, Jesse coming down from the attic bedroom and making an Elvis reference, Joey coming up from the basement in Scooby-Doo pajamas. Through dialogue, it's established that this was a reunion of sorts before the family splits up and the house sold, and they had gone their separate ways years prior.

  • Fade-outs, widely used in the record industry. They make for a kind of "and they played happily ever after" effect.
  • Anybody paying attention to the lyrics of the Everly Brothers' song "Wake Up Little Susie" might have a Fridge Horror reaction upon realizing that by song's end, Susie still has not woken up, and no indication is given that she will.
    • Explored by their former bandleader Warren Zevon in his song "Excitable Boy", wherein it is revealed exactly what happened to Little Susie.
    • The song "Get Up Lucy" by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant has a similar effect on the listener. Why won't Lucy get up?
    • And Eminem's "My Fault" ends on a fadeout as Slim begs a girl who just drank bleach to Please Wake Up, while sobbing.
  • This is likely part of what makes sad songs so sad: we never find out if the issue in the song was ever resolved or got better.
  • There's a possible Black Comedy example of playing with this trope at the conclusion of the novelty song "The Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini." The girl is ashamed to be seen in her bikini (why did she wear it, then?), and the narrator informs us that "She [is] afraid to come out of the water, and the poor little girl's turning blue." Several disturbing questions present themselves: Is the girl actually hiding under the water? Is she "turning blue" because she's slowly suffocating from lack of oxygen? Even if it's "only" hypothermia, she's in a pretty nasty predicament. If so, why aren't any of the other people on the beach trying to save her? More to the point, why are they recounting this story as if it's funny? And when the narrator cheerfully announces: "Yes, there isn't any more!" at the song's end, is that meant to be a Deadly Euphemism?
  • So far as anybody knows, Major Tom is still sitting in his tin can, far above the Moon...
    • After learning his days were numbered due to cancer, Bowie had the decency to finally resolve this with his farewell album Blackstar: the video of the title song show's that Tom has long since died, but in a Bittersweet Ending his body becomes the centerpiece of a benevolent religious movement among the aliens who find it.
  • If you've never seen the video for "Into the Great Wide Open", Eddie's career is this trope.
  • Subverted by "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." It seems like the coda is going to go on forever and fade out, but instead it gets cut off abruptly mid-phrase.
  • Also subverted in Blue Öyster Cult's "Flaming Telepaths" (1974) which appears to be wrapping up with excessive repetitions of "And the joke's on you!" while the guitars get louder and louder, seemingly either building toward some kind of climax or just getting infinitely more dramatic. But then, after a final "And the joke-", the song just comes to a screeching halt - which is Fridge Brilliance, because that was the joke.
  • "The Lady and the Tiger" by They Might Be Giants is about the Stockton story (see above under Literature) from the point of view of the title characters, who are eternally waiting behind the doors for someone to make a decision. Like the story, it has No Ending.
    The hall remains, it still contains
    A pair of doors, a choice
    Behind one door, a muffled roar
    Behind the other, a voice
  • This music video for Junior Jack's "My Feeling", where a man sells three women electric muscle-toning devices connected to a remote control that makes them dance. At the end he turns it off and walks away. His victims are still bouncing on the spot as the video fades out.
  • Seems to be deliberately invoked in Madness' song "Time for Tea" in which a child playing hide-and-seek hides in a freezer and is still there at the end of the song, by which time the game has been abandoned because it's time for tea. Whether he is found in time is Left Hanging, but the implication appears to be no.

    Myths & Religion 
  • A horror story called Dead Letter Office does this. It's about two girls who find an old letter from a criminal detailing how he hid 'it' in a small room behind the fireplace in an abandoned house. They assume that 'it' is money from a bank heist, and go to the old house to steal it. They sneak into the room, only to find that the criminal actually left one of his victims in the room to die. They try to get out, and the door closes on them and locks from the outside. It would be bad enough if the corpse didn't start laughing. You're left with the impression that the two girls are locked in the room with the laughing, rotten corpse until they die of dehydration. Although, maybe the story was meant to give the impression that they are killed by the zombie.
  • Stories about ghosts nearly always depict them endlessly re-enacting their deaths and/or playing out the same actions they'd pursued in life.
  • The myth of the Wandering Jew. While preaching, Jesus told His audience that some of them would live to see the Kingdom of God, which was a Jewish concept about the restoration of Israel and the renewal of the covenant that Jesus redefined. Later, people started interpreting the saying as referring to Jesus' second coming and, since (most people agree) the second coming hasn't happened yet, someone from that audience was supposed to still be alive and wandering the earth. The Wandering Jew is a specific example of this from The Bible: according to the story, one man who taunted Jesus during the crucifixion was cursed to walk the Earth until the second coming. Since that hasn't happened yet, presumably he must still be out there.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • ROH The Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool ended with Jimmy Jacobs and BJ Whitmer brawling in the locker room. ROH The Fifth Year Festival: Finale, the next day, opened with BJ Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs brawling in the locker room, Whitmer knocking a camera away. Fans got the impression they were fighting the entire period between the two shows. A match and two promos in, Davey Richards and Roderick Strong had to cut their promo short to avoid being caught between Jacobs and Whitmer, suggesting this same fight was still ongoing. After the conclusion of another match, Whitmer and Jacobs came brawling through the crowd, which started a falls count anywhere match which lasted over twelve minutes.

  • The Goon Show: "The White Box of Great Bardfield" ends with Seagoon trying to escape from the chains that were put on him at the start of the episode. The following week's episode, "Confessions of a Secret Senna-Pod Drinker" opens with Seagoon still trying to free himself, with the same lack of success.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One supplement on running Dungeons & Dragons games discussed the pros and cons of various methods of planning encounters, and mentioned this as a problem with "set piece" encounters: if the adventure notes say that the ogre in room 6b is lying in bed asleep, it conveys the impression that this is all the ogre ever does; he's never prowling the dungeon corridors, out deer-hunting on the surface, or sitting around picking his nose.
  • This is what makes the final fate of Mishra from Magic: The Gathering so unsettling. In the Invasion Cycle his brother Urza comes across him four thousand years after his assumed death; it turns out that Mishra has been tortured in Phyrexia all that time. Urza gets the chance to set him free but doesn't and resumes his course. Phyrexia is later largely but not completely destroyed; Mishra is never seen or heard from again.
  • In some of Warhammer 40,000's oldest background fluff, it's mentioned that after the Horus Heresy, the Adeptus Cutsdoes put on black cloaks of mourning and forwent the use of their armor to instead go about in nothing but their helmets, leather pants, and combat boots. For years of real time, there was nothing indicating that the Custodes had put their armor back on, hence If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device using that old fluff to justify its "Fabulous Custodes." Almost as if in response to that, Games Workshop put out new material like The Beast Arises and an updated Custodes model range and ruleset to emphasize that no, the Custodes are no longer running around half-naked.

  • In Les Misérables, responsible for giving the impression that Javert does nothing but stalk Valjean after he breaks parole, or that Valjean does nothing but hide from Javert; originally their continued meetings are coincidence, but Valjean is branded with his prisoner number(s) and Javert hasn't forgotten the strongest man he'd ever met. Not helped by the scene in Paris where Javert asks (rhetorically) "Could he be the man I've hunted? / Could it be he's Jean Valjean?"

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • One reason The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is considered so sad as well as scary was because the final three-day cycle erases any quests you can't take care of without resetting time, and the game doesn't show the results of any quests you didn't finish in the post-finale sequence. Failing to complete the Romani Ranch quest, for example, leaves you wondering if a traumatized friend ever recovered, and Shiro, the unnoticeable soldier who gives you the Stone Mask, may stay trapped in Ikana Canyon (original game) or the Pirates' Fortress (remake) forever whether you complete the task or not. The ending does show cutscenes for sidequests that you finished at some point in the game, whether you did them on your final cycle or not. This might imply that everything you did merges together, but it also contains the ending; does the Link of MM ever get home and complete his quest? This is why some players try to help everyone out on their last cycle before they face the final boss, just in case.note 
    • A similar instance is shared with the end of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, where the credits roll while Link is still stranded in the middle of the ocean with no food or fresh water. Does he just keep drifting on a wooden plank? Does he ever get rescued? (Astute players would take note of the seagulls flying overhead and conclude that Link isn't far from shore.)
  • In SaGa Frontier, for Blue's quest, there is no ending. After you do enough damage to the final boss, you get a The End, and that's it. It is supposed to represent that you don't actually defeat the final boss, but merely fight him eternally to protect the rest of the world from him. According to a book on the game, what really happened was that Blue used Time Magic to freeze the Boss (and himself) for all eternity. However, he's rescued by the other characters.
  • Invoked by Larsen's Vendetta in Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side. He pulls out a knife and stabs his opponent repeatedly. By the time the game fades out, he's still stabbing...
  • In the second chapter of Dragon Age II, when Hawke goes to talk to Isabela at the bar in the Hanged Man for the first time, (s)he notes sarcastically that "it's like you haven't moved in three years."
  • Half-Life:
    • The end of Half-Life: Opposing Force: after a brief congratulatory speech from G-man, Shephard is left on board an Osprey flying through star-filled void... forever.
    • Half-Life 2, the Ravenholm level. Father Grigori helps you through the level, and then sends you into the mines. He explains that he must stay behind, to look after his flock, which has grown restless. By which he means, he must continue shotgunning his headcrab-controlled congregation. As you enter the door to the mines, he's there in the cemetery, firing his shotgun and laughing. Even if you go back, he's still there, firing his shotgun, and laughing, firing his shotgun, laughing... there's a good chance he'll also be either surrounded by fire or ON fire at this time.
    • The ending to Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and the number one reason why fans want Half-Life 3 so badly. Thanks to Valve Time, Alyx has been sobbing over her father's corpse since 2007. Amusingly enough, however, the last thing Half-Life: Alyx does is undo the whole event, entirely nullifying those years in favor of putting her in G-Man's cold storage.
  • In the ending of Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, we're treated to the entire cast, in their respective homes, waiting for Maxim and Selan to come home safely, never believing that they're actually dead even though the player sees them die. As far as we know, they never stop waiting. At least until the game was remade fifteen years later. The hidden New Game Plus ending ends with the most relieving line ever: "Jeros, we're home!"
  • Portal 2:
    • The hilarious ending of this trailer featuring the "Pneumatic Diversity Vent", which ends with the poor turrets still stuck in a seemingly infinite loop.
    • The first game ends with Chell passing out in a half-destroyed part of the facility; Portal 2 starts with Chell waking up in a half-destroyed part of the facility. At the end, she's tossed into an empty field in the middle of nowhere, with no plan for finding her way to anywhere else.
  • At the end of the Warcraft III Expansion Pack The Frozen Throne, Arthas is seen sitting on top of the titular throne at the peak of Icecrown in Northrend. The next time he is seen is years later (both in release date and narrative time) in the opening cinematic to the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, still sitting on that throne, with a layer of ice caked over him to show just how long he has sat motionless. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you remember that the Lich King is capable of controlling the Scourge via telepathy; he hasn't had a need to move until then. One of the Spin-Off books says this is because Arthas was trapped in a seven-year Battle in the Center of the Mind between Arthas and Ner'Zhul while the merging of their souls finished.
  • Any of the many classic games which feature Bottomless Pits as obstacles. Especially if you are on your last life when you fall in one. Gotta assume your character keeps falling until you next boot up the game.
    • Averted in Super Mario Maker: On occasion, you'll hear Mario discover something within the bottomless pit, such as a bunch of other Marios stuck there (who aren't particularly down about it), or a door Mario can walk through after which he drives away in a car.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Played with in Mass Effect: The dialogue you have with one of the party members, Liara, varies greatly depending on how long it takes you to get around to rescuing and recruiting her, due to her evidently spending the whole time stuck floating in mid-air due to tripping a Prothean security system.
    • Meanwhile, don't recruit either Garrus or Wrex, and they will stand around waiting for Shepard to change their mind (until access to the Citadel is blocked off). Dialogue in 3 has Tali jokingly claim Garrus actually was just standing there at C-Sec the whole time.
    • Tragically averted in Mass Effect 2 when your crew is captured by the Collectors. Players might assume that, since it's a primary plot quest, they'll just sit around forever waiting to be rescued. Nope. Wait too long, and most of them get turned into goo to build a new Reaper.
    • Among the myriad other issues fans had with the ending of Mass Effect 3, the fate of the Normandy and her crew, combined with Inferred Holocaust, is this. When Normandy crash-lands on the planet, it cuts out before we get any indication that the crew has any hope of rescue. Thankfully the Updated Re-release of the Extended Cut fixed this, and while it was impossible to satisfy everyone it did calm some of the complaints.
    • A more direct example from Mass Effect 3: you can overhear several conversations between Non Player Characters in the Citadel. Most of them are broken up into parts, with each progressive part only triggering after you've left and returned to the area. Most of them don't make much sense if you try to imagine them broken up over the course of several weeks.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man 10: So hey, does Roll ever get better? We do see that Wily left behind a roomful of antidotes for the Roboenza virus at the end, but even then her recovery is only implied.
    • Mega Man Legends: With the series Left Hanging after Legends 2 and Capcom cancelling the long-awaited third installment before a prototype version could even be released to the public, Mega Man has been stranded on Elysium while Tron and Roll argue incessantly over the rockets they're designing to rescue him since 2000. The hashtag for the fan effort to revive the series was "#GetHimOffTheMoon" and this is lampshaded in-game by Data:
      Sorry, Mega Man, but it looks like you might be stuck up there for a little while more!
    • Mega Man Zero plays with this. At the end of the first game, Zero ends up cut off from the Resistance with multiple Pantheons closing in, to which he starts cutting them down before the credits roll. Then cut to the start of Zero 2, it turns out he really has been continually fighting off Pantheons on his own for an entire year.
  • Champions Online. That burning building has been burning for, what, four years now?
  • Each of the Mario & Luigi games show the villains doing horrible, extensive damage to the landscape and usually anything that lives there, from the destruction of Woohoo Hooniversity and the transformation of everyone on campus into monsters in Superstar Saga to Fawful reshaping entire ecosystems into his likeness in Bowser's Inside Story. None of this is ever shown remedied by the end of the game nor are they revisited in later games, with the exception of the destruction of Toad Town in the past, and that's only because of a Foregone Conclusion in other games showing Toad Town fully intact in the present.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood trains a monkey to hold a lever for him. A couple of games later in Escape from Monkey Island Guybrush meets Jojo Jr., the descendant of that monkey, who sourly informs Guybrush that his father Jojo Sr. starved to death because he never let go.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy IV, every main character gets a scene in the ending showing what they're doing now that the adventure is over. Kain parts from the others and seeks spiritual purification and atonement on a mountain top. The sequel set 17 years later establishes that he stayed up there the entire 17 years making no progress before anything noteworthy happened. This caused some frustration with the audience.
    • Gilgamesh in Final Fantasy V is banished to the Void between universes. Becomes a Brick Joke when he shows up in the world of Final Fantasy VIII with no clue how he got there...
    • This affects certain optional party members recruited in strange locations:
      • Gogo in Final Fantasy VI is first encountered in the middle of the belly of a landworm (and seems to have been there for some time). How long has he been there? How long will he be there if you don't recruit him?
      • Mog in VI is encountered, after The End of the World as We Know It, staring at the wall (actually at a little charm on the wall, if you examine where he's staring). Many assume that's all he's been doing since the world ended.
      • If you never recruit him, it's possible to leave Sabin in VI holding up a house beam. Forever.
      • If you never rescue Vincent Valentine in VII from the locked basement, it's assumed that he'll simply stay there forever. Presumably, all he was doing in the thirty years up to his release was sleeping in some perpetual nightmare state.
    • Final Fantasy VII:
      • Tseng is last seen unconscious in the entrance hall of the Temple of the Ancients, a building that is later destroyed by Cait Sith. Most players assumed he was dead, and were really surprised to find out (from the game's sequels) that this was never intentional and he was supposed to still be alive at the end of the game.
      • The game has a bit of fun with this in the part where the player gets the option to take the Shinra soldiers on board the submarine hostage. If you do this, scenes much later in the game that take place in the submarine interior will have the soldiers still standing around with their hands up, apparently not having moved.
      • Very well averted in Advent Children for the most part, which showed the party members all having moved forward two years with attendant changes in lifestyle, appearance, family situation and personality. A lot of fans felt somewhat cheated by the fact that, for instance, Cloud apparently adopted a young boy at some point between the original game and the sequel, or that Cid and Shera were now married and had a new ship.
  • The ending of the Scrin campaign in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars revealed that Scrin are preparing themselves for the invasion of Earth. This storyline was supposed to be resolved in the first-shooter game, Tiberium, which was canceled by Executive Meddling. By the time of Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, there was no mention of the Scrin invasion (if it ever happened as planned) and Kane and GDI helped out in clearing out all the Tiberium in the entire planet and regulated them into the Tiberium Control Network. So what happened to the Scrin? Are they still planning for the invasion of Earth? And what are they going to do once they learned that Earth is Tiberium-free? With the franchise dead, we may never know the answer.
  • In The Sims and The Sims 2, inactive households gets stuck in a time vacuum — they'll never age, meet new friends, get promotions, etc. Even if your active Sim encounters them in public locations, they'll go back to whatever they were last seen doing at home when you play them again.
  • Averted in Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5. These games take place over a year. As the year goes by, the Non Player Characters will move around and change their dialogue from time to time — their lives are going on in the background, unobserved by you. In Persona 3, your party members can also become briefly unavailable for a Tartarus expedition for reasons such as studying for upcoming exams, showing that the rest of S.E.E.S. have lives outside of the plot.
  • A bug in Overwatch had this in the most literal sense. The banners in the attacker's spawn on Volskaya Industries could be destroyed, much like everything else in the room. However, shooting the banner, quickly turning around, and then turning back to the banner (even after upwards of 5-10 seconds) caused the banner to continue falling from wherever it was when you turned away from it.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear, Gray Fox is supposedly rescued by Snake before the first boss, but he's left in the prison cell and isn't seen later, even in the ending after Outer Heaven blows up. Broad Strokes in Metal Gear Solid which establish that Fox was Snake's mentor and "showed him the ropes" makes this even more absurd.
    • In a similar situation, many fans mock the fact that the ending of Snake's Revenge just has Jennifer standing in the corner of the room striking a pose instead of attempting to escape the exploding Fortress Fanatic.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:
      • The game generally establishes the convention that when you SAVE and turn the console off, Snake is sleeping. When you next load the save, he will have healed damage somewhat depending on how long you wait, but also food in his inventory may have rotted if it's not captured alive or preserved.
      • The boss fight with The End incorporates a lot of this. SAVE, turn off and reload during the battle, and The End will have crept up on Snake while he was waiting, frozen, in limbo, resulting in an instant loss. But if you wait more than a week, you'll find The End died of old age while waiting for you to get back.
      • One part late in the game requires you to stuff Ivan Raikov in a locker in Groznyj Grad's weapon storage wing, where (fitting his Butt-Monkey status) he was presumably supposed to remain forever — the Brady Games strategy guide even notes that Raikov was "left to die." Groznyj Grad is later blown up by Snake using TNT, and many players assumed he was dead (as killing him doesn't cause a Time Paradox like with many other prominent NPCs). Volgin only chooses to punish Snake for "hurting" Ivan, and doesn't seem particularly interested in finding out Ivan's whereabouts, as it was intended for his survival to be dependent on the feelings of the player. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops establishes that Raikov survived, though not how he got out of the locker. (Perhaps Volgin sent out a search party for him at some point.)
  • The menu screen of the fifth Heroes of Might and Magic game combines this and Going Through the Motions — it shows a single human Inquisitor locked in mortal combat with an Inferno Archdevil, animated with the same video engine as the rest of the game. In actual gameplay, Archdevils are vastly more powerful and can easily kill whole squads of Inquisitors with a single swing of its mace, but no matter how long you leave the menu screen open, the two will still be deftly dodging and parrying each other's blows with no end of the battle in sight.
  • My Child Lebensborn's pace consists of string of consecutive days separated by Time Skips. As the gameplay is intended to make sense over consecutive days, a Time Skip will leave the player with exactly the same amont of money on hand, the same food in the house, no progress whatsoever on crafting projects and the child wearing the same outfit, which will be in the same state in terms of dirt and damage. At best, an already dirty outfit will become a little dirtier.
  • Not for Broadcast uses this as a game mechanic. On Day 296, if you don't cut to the ad break at the end of the third segment you'll end up seeing Jeremy commit suicide, either by self-inflicted gunshot or Suicide by Cop. If you start the ads early enough, however, the studio camera feeds cut out before anything important gets shown, and you learn during the next broadcast day that Jeremy was arrested rather than killed.
  • Paper Mario 64: After being defeated by the player, chapter 2 boss Tutankoopa exits pursued by a chain chomp. When he shows up again in the end credits, he's still being chased by the chain chomp.
  • Haven: Call of the King infamously ends with the titular main character left chained to a rock on a deserted planet by the Big Bad. The game was supposed to be the first installment in a trilogy. It didn't sell. He's still chained to that rock to this very day. Also he's immortal.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, a character named Sakura has the Dark and Troubled Past of being continually raped by both worms and her adoptive brother in an attempt to make her a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds by her adoptive father. You only find this out during her route and it is only during this route do you actually get to do something about it. The closest thing the other routes let you do to help her is affecting Shinji in some way, as the other two routes deal with his outcome, be it death or redemption. Because of this, we can assume this trope is in effect for her and that she will continue being tortured. The (first) anime adaptation averts this by writing her into an original plot.
  • Katawa Shoujo makes it clear in a few scenes that this trope is not in effect, and that for whatever route you pick the other characters continue on with their events as normal without your input, which means depressing things for some of them. Lilly for example is in the process of moving away to another country forever and it's only in her route that she decides to stay(though oddly enough, she actually briefly appears in a scene leading up to the bad ending of Shizune's route, which takes place some time after she should have left).

  • In the Bob and George subcomic Oddball Fancomics, the main character and Descended Creator, Rick O'Shay, is lost in the multiverse, his only recourse being to use a dimensional transporter and pray that he'll luck back into his original universe at pure random in time to save everyone. The very last strip shows him doing this, and failing repeatedly, so the fans are left with the idea that he's still engaged in this sisyphean task. A Milestone Celebration for the main comic put a lighter spin on it, as Rick, who is The Alcoholic, admits in an interview that the reason the story hasn't continued is because he found a dimension of pure beer and doesn't want to leave.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff:
    • Also invoked with Geromy. He is introduced once as a Token Minority and promptly forgotten, but he appears in the background of some later strips and he hasn't budged an inch.
  • Homestuck:
    • During the Hivebent arc fans would often comment on how Jade had been left falling for an awfully long time. The strip when she lands is appropriately titled "Land already." Which is also a Running Gag.
    • The end of Act 6 Act 1 - Jane spent an entire month stuck in a mailbox explosion.
  • This Head Trip strip.
  • Averted in 1/0, where part of the ending revelations are that the characters have lives beyond the panels they are shown in. Yah, it's that kind of comic.
  • In Minion Comics, the main villain Von Gernsbach is seen ranting endlessly in the background in various panels.
  • Specifically invoked in the final strip of A Softer World, for melancholy effect:
    "The sun is shining
    and the birds are singing
    and because today is the very last day
    they will sing forever."
  • In The Order of the Stick, a prisoner rescued by the order starts a Rambling Old Man Monologue, still going at the end of the strip with Haley and Elan are sick of listening to him. The next time we see them, four strips later, the old man's still going, and everyone's sick of listening to him.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Kratos and King Leonidas get into a battle of Gay Chicken. Thing is, they're both Spartans, and they play for keeps. Sure enough, neither character is seen again except with each other. They're still staring angrily at one another while the game of chicken has long since graduated past kissing and well into bickering like a married couple over things like what kind of tea lights to buy. The author eventually admits that she has to retire the gag just so she can get back to using Kratos in regular comics again.
  • Learning with Manga! FGO: Averted with the Children Federation Elections, which are livestreamed in-universe by Anne and Mary. Many of the fights happen while the plot is focused on the main cast, and what little is seen is merely stated to be as cool as the audience expected it to be. In one strip, it's revealed some of the fights take place on days before the strip gets released, which Anne then brags are only available to her premium subscribers.

    Web Original 
  • It seems one of the classic LOLCats will always be sad about no one coming to his party. Inverted however by the eternal kiss. You may awww now.
  • Presumably the first person to discover the fact that the badgers go out of sync after several loops was trying to test this.
  • The turtle is always trying...
  • Strong Bad Email:
    • Played with in "caper." As Strong Bad sings his song, his brothers come in and clap along for rhythm. He tells them to keep it rolling as he runs off to find The Cheat; in one of the Easter Eggs, they're still at it. Strong Sad asks, "Should we stop?" Strong Mad nixes him: "KEEP IT ROLLING!"
    • Quite a few of emails end with Strong Bad either just sitting there, or performing some repetitive activity that loops endlessly. Sometimes clicking the screen or waiting long enough will cause him to make some comment (or reveal an Easter Egg), but otherwise this will just go on forever.
    • An interesting case occurs in "extra plug", where after the power goes out (caused by Strong Bad's new boots being plugged in), he gets Strong Mad, Strong Sad, the Cheat, and Homestar to help him finish his email (with no power). The ending shot has everyone in various positions and Strong Bad tells them to stand still as "[it's] gonna be a long week!"
    • In "anything", Homestar pours a bottle of Mountain Dew on Strong Bad's keyboard to demonstrate how to make a computer wet. If you stay after the short ends, the bottle never runs out, something Homestar lampshades after a few seconds.
    • There are quite a few occasions in the show's parent series where Easter eggs reveal Homestar to be left behind after the events of a cartoon. One memorable example was when he phoned Marzipan claiming to be drowning in quicksand, and the Easter Egg shows him sitting in a kiddie pool filled with sand during the night still waiting to be rescued. There was also "The Movies", where he continued to ramble on during the movie after Strong Bad got so fed up with everyone's disruptions pulled out his bazooka and reduced the theatre to a smoldering crater with Homestar's seat being the only thing left remotely intact.
  • Used as a Running Gag in Slowbeef's Let's Play of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption; early in the game Samus and Ridley have a battle while falling down a kilometers-deep pit on Norion, but while Samus is rescued by Rundas mid-fall after defeating Ridley, Ridley himself is shown to continue falling. Throughout the rest of the game, Slowbeef and his friends occasionally joke that while Samus is out adventuring, Ridley is still falling down the pit. When he shows up again near the end of the game as Omega Ridley in the Leviathan Seed of the Pirate Homeworld, one of them says, in a Ridley voice, "I just finished falling!"
  • One of the Blurbs from the Happy Tree Friends episode "Just Desert" plays with this: When Lumpy jumps into the water of a pool and he doesn't show up even when the sun sets and night comes, a Blurb says: "Wait, was Lumpy underwater all the time?!?". When he shows up the next morning it adds: "Lumpy must have slipped out during that fade-to-black!".
  • Because of the lack of updates on HetaOni, as far as anyone knows, the Nations are all still trapped in the mansion and in danger of dying.
  • This Slinky on a treadmill: the video fades out with the Slinky still bravely marching on, forever.
  • Two Best Friends Play: Their second X-Box Live Indie Game episode ends with them playing T.E.C. 3001 and encouraging their viewers to buy it. The following episode, released a week later, opens with them still playing T.E.C. 3001.
  • The Sifl And Olly Show: In the teaser to announce that the show was being revived online, Sifl surprises Olly by speaking. Apparently, Sifl hasn't moved or spoken at all in the ten years since the last episode of the TV series.
  • Friendship is Witchcraft: In the first episode, there's a running gag about a pony who keeps watering the flowers, in spite of Twilight's admonitions and the impending doom of Ponyville. In episode 8, a side article in the Spinning Paper reveals that months have passed and that pony is still watering the flowers.
  • On a lighter note, this trope is the reason why This Very Wiki has the policy of Examples Are Not Recent. When adding an example, most people don't realize that their example will probably stand unchanged for months or even years, and thus has the potential to become very outdated if it says that some development in a work of fiction (or Real Life) is "recent".
  • Partway through the Team Fortress 2 online short "Expiration Date", we're told that the tumors the teams were worried about only develop in bread, meaning the mercs themselves are fine... provided no one teleports any bread. Then we find out exactly what the Soldier has been doing for what he believed were his last days on Earth.
    Soldier: I have done nothing but teleport bread for three days.
  • What makes "Keyboard Kid" by Derrick Comedy so uncomfortable is that Jeffrey's blatant cry for help through his music (including a full audio clip of his stepfather berating his mother) is treated as All Part of the Show by the audience - so presumably his stepdad beat him after the show.
  • Apple Texts: It's extremely common for antagonists who abandon partners, siblings or coworkers to assume that the victim will just put their entire life on hold and keep doing the same thing until the antagonist decides to waltz back into their lives. They are genuinely surprised to find that their ex has remarried and had kids (thus wrecking their plan to get back together again) or that the "useless unemployed bum" sibling have found a successful job. One guy walked out on his wife and son, 'graciously' allowing them to keep his house (without bothering to sign over the property); when he returned eleven years later, he expected them to still be living there so he could just kick them out and have a well-tended house for himself and his lover. In actuality, she had moved out less than a month after he left and the house had just gone derelict (not helped by the occasional squatters moving in), and she could not care a bit about his ranting about the place. He also wanted to get back together with his family since "the boy needs a father", failing to realize that his son was now a 24-year old adult.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 2 finale, Toph traps her kidnappers in a metal box with her new Metalbending skills, out in the middle of nowhere. We never see them get out, and since Toph is the only person in the series to develop Metalbending, we're left wondering if they ever got out. Made worse by the fact that one of the characters actually says "I'm going to be stuck in here forever with you, aren't I?"
  • In the season 1 finale of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra the last thing we see of Iroh is him literally hanging off the statue of Aang by a piece of cloth. Seeing as how he shows up in the show again, somehow he managed to get down without falling to his death, it's just never shown.
  • Closed Mondays includes an in-universe version. One of the living paintings the drunk looks at is a picture of a woman scrubbing a floor, who laments being stuck that way.
    Woman: Here I am on my knees, doomed to wear this sorrowful face and forced to scrub this cold stone floor forever and forever and forever...
  • Any cartoons that end with a character being chased into the sunset/horizon by an angry animal.
    • Many Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry and The Pink Panther episodes deliberately invoke this, showing the villain (or unfortunate hero)'s situation carrying on into the night before fading or irising out.
    • The MGM-Tex Avery 'toon "Ventriloquist Cat" ends with the titular cat on a telephone pole, sliding repeatedly between his canine nemesis at the top and a whole pack of dogs at the bottom, until night falls and the cartoon ends.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Averted in "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", when Marge notes that the cat in a tree that is the subject of her motivational poster ("Hang In There, Baby!") "must be long dead" because, even if it didn't fall, the poster was made decades ago.
    • At the beginning of "Whacking Day", Principal Skinner punishes Bart and the bullies by luring them into the bomb shelter (by promising mountain bikes) then locking them in. Bart escapes, but not the others. At the end of the episode, several days later, Principal Skinner invites Bart back into the school... and suddenly realizes those bullies are still locked in the bomb shelter.
      Skinner: Now we give 'em the bikes, no one sues! (laughs nervously)
      Willy: (false laughter) What if they're dead, sir?
      Skinner: Then we ride these bikes to Mexico! And freedom, Willie! Freedom!
      Willy: Freedom! Ha! (quietly) I'll turn ye in at the first tollbooth.
    • In "The Springfield Connection", Homer discovers his friend Herman is running a counterfeit jeans ring in the former's garage while on "breaks" from their regular poker game with Lenny, Carl, Barney, and Moe. When the episode ends with Herman arrested, we see Barney, Carl, Lenny, and Moe still waiting for them to return:
      Lenny: I don't think they're coming back.
      Moe: All right, that does it! I'm looking at his cards!
      (fade to black for the closing credits)
      Moe: Aw, crap. I fold.
    • Mentioned by baseball player Ozzie Smith, who appeared in "Homer at the Bat". During the episode, Smith visits the "Springfield Mystery Spot" which turns out to be some kind of interdimensional portal. Smith said in an interview years later he'd like to do another guest appearance so he can get out, as for all we know he's still hurtling through time and space, snapping pictures of weird stuff floating by.
    • Parodied in "Homer Goes to Prep School" when Homer walks out of the bar and the other men there have a brief discussion about how whenever Homer leaves they go into stasis... and then they all sit immobile in silence for about 3 seconds before it cuts to Homer.
    Alright, Homer is gone, let's all go back to being perfectly still until he's back.
    • "Lisa the Tree Hugger" ends with a giant log sliding down a hill and plowing through Springfield's business district. Lisa later points out to her crush for this episode that no one ever stopped the log; we then see it sliding clear across the country while a parody of "This Land is Your Land" plays, culminating to it going into the sea.
  • Pointed out in King of the Hill; in "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men", Cotton shows up to see Hank and the others standing in the alley and drinking beer, as they often are, and notes that they were doing the exact same thing when he last visited two months ago.
  • Invoked pretty amusingly in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when there's a commercial break right after Lucy's rant about being kissed by Snoopy. When the show comes back, she's still running and screaming. If you don't watch it on YouTube or a DVD, you'll wind up with the feeling that she was running around screaming the whole time you were gone, and Charlie Brown's irritated expression becomes that much funnier.
  • In the pilot episode of The Venture Brothers, the Monarch drops a fake meteor filled with henchmen on the Venture compound, hoping the Ventures would investigate and end up overpowered. However, the meteor lands with the door facing the ground while the gang is leaving, leaving the henchmen trapped inside. In "Twenty Years to Midnight" there was originally going to be a scene where the Ventures finally find the meteor and the now dead henchmen inside, but it ended up on the cutting room floor. The cut scene later made it into an episode of the fifth season.
  • Adventure Time:
    • One episode ends with Finn and Jake being buried under a mountain of baby spiders that are literally gushing out of their mother's backside. This had been going on for a full minute or two as the episode wrapped up, with no loss in momentum. While the show doesn't quite have Negative Continuity, ending gags like this tend to be left unexplained, leaving us to wonder just how long they were trapped there, and whether the mother ever stopped giving birth.
    • Another memorable example is that of "Evicted!", which ends with Finn and Jake being mind controlled by a giant worm. Raising further questions is that this ending did receive a direct followup... three seasons later.
  • Early in the Christmas Episode of Regular Show, Benson asks Thomas to run an errand during the park's party, but he can't because his head somehow got stuck on a stair railing. At the end of the episode they come back after the party had already ended and Thomas is still there, and asleep, with his head stuck in the railing.
  • Inverted in the fan-favorite Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark". Fry tells his beloved dog Seymour to "wait right here" for him to come back before getting trapped in a cryogenic tube for a thousand years. Fry assumes that Seymour had a full life, found a new owner, learned new tricks, etc. Instead, we see that Seymour's Undying Loyalty made him continue to wait for Fry until he died of old age.
  • The Disney short Lambert the Sheepish Lion ends with the villain, a wolf, falling down a cliff. Sounds like a standard Disney Villain Death, until the parting shot shows the wolf clinging to a branch. The final bit of narration hangs a Lampshade on it.
    Narrator: Ah, incidentally, don't worry about that hungry wolf. He has a place to cling. He won't starve, because that bush has berries... every spring.
    • The Three Caballeros contains a short where a narrator tells the story of how, when he was a young boy, he found a winged donkey that he enters in a race with its wings hidden, so he can cheat. After winning, he's about to accept the prize money when the donkey reveals its secret and flies off with the boy still tied to him. The narrator concludes with “Neither he nor I were ever seen again in our lives”, and since the voice telling the story as an adult, he's presumably still flying.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Mindful Education," Steven and Connie fall off the Gems' training platform high in the air, with Pearl and Garnet looking on in horror. They're able to save themselves, and then the episode ends right there, without our getting to see Pearl and Garnet learn they survived and seeming to leave them gazing helplessly over the edge for a whole week.
  • Played for laughs in All Hail King Julien; Uncle King Julien is dropped into a bottomless pit at the end of an episode, and when he is needed a season later, the gang return to the bottomless pit to find him, having apparently been hanging onto the wall the entire time since.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "The Bully", there's a joke where a bunch of people beat up an old man, mistaking him for SpongeBob's attacker. Later, Flats is said to be in a coma for five hours. They make the same joke with the same people and the old man. Why would they have stayed in the same place for five hours?
    • In "Frankendoodle", a guy is on a boat and his pencil falls into the ocean where SpongeBob and Patrick find it. The rest of the episode takes place over an entire night. It ends with SpongeBob and Patrick flinging the pencil back to the surface where the guy is still there on the boat. Odd he would have stayed there for an entire night.
  • Parodied in the Jimmy Neutron episode "The Tomorrow Boys"; when Jimmy discovers that he's married to his rival Cindy in the Bad Future, he unleashes a Big "NO!" as the episode cuts to commercial. When the show comes back, Jimmy is still screaming.
    Carl: Wow, you just screamed for four minutes, Jim.
    Sheen: I'm both impressed and disturbed!
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Don't Move!", Garfield, who is sneaking into a fish shop, marks a spot on the ground and instructs Odie not to move, no matter what. Initially, Odie does as he's told until a Diabolical Dogcatcher swipes him. After a long series of adventures involving a pelican, a burning building, firefighters, and a shopping cart, he's eventually, by chance, dumped very close to, but not on, where Garfield marked the spot. Garfield comes back out and chides him with "You moved!" — which is technically true, although he did obey the spirit of the request.
  • In-universe, this is seemingly the basis for South Park's infamous Chewbacca Defense. This legal defense consists of musing on how odd it is that Chewbacca lives on the forest moon of Endor amongst the Ewoks, and that "if Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit." In addition to being patently ludicrous as a legal strategy, it's also quite incorrect as there's no reason to believe Chewbacca ever has lived among the Ewoks — unless Offscreen Inertia has convinced you that the ending of Return of the Jedi, in which the entire main cast including Chewbacca are celebrating their victory in the Ewok village, means that (the "defense" preceding the sequel trilogy by many years) they're still there to this day.

Alternative Title(s): Theory Of Narrative Inertia, Character Status Inertia, Tethercat Principle