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Power Outage Plot

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Murphy: Something is wrong with the zappy stuff.
Rowan: It's not zapping.

Most power cuts in fiction are very (sometimes unrealistically) short, for the sake of a gag. Well, This Is Not That Trope. This is for when an entire story (usually a short story or a TV episode) that focuses on a power outage.

The main source of the plot could be about trying to get the electricity working again, trying to get by without the electricity, or overcoming fear of the dark (see Face Your Fears).

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Many stories with Power Outage Plots also have morals: the moral might be about learning to entertain yourself with things that aren't electrical (often specifically reading or playing outdoors), or it might be about how to make the most out of a bad situation.

On a, well, darker note, if the blackout takes place at night, it's a good way to add a sense of unease because of the dark, and if the story takes place on a Space Station or spaceship that requires life support, it can definitely be played for drama.

Can overlap with Big Storm Episode, Heat Wavenote , Cold Snap, or Rain, Rain, Go Away if the power cuts out because of the weather. See also Big Blackout, with which this might overlap. Sometimes leads to characters being Locked in a Room, which is a good excuse for a Bottle Episode. Can be the result of a character who Forgot to Pay the Bill. Compare Blackout Basement for when you have to navigate through the dark in a video game but it usually only lasts for one level or achievement.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In one chapter of Sgt. Frog, there's a government-mandated brown-out during a massive heat wave. Natsumi and Fuyuki struggle with the heat until they get some tips on keeping cool from Koyuki and Dororo.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Archie Comics story, a power outage has the Andrews playing board games by candlelight. By the time the power comes back on, they're having so much fun they decide to keep playing instead of going back to their electronics.
  • Mega Man: The Curse of Ra Moon arc focuses on the alien supercomputer Ra Moon unleashing a planet-wide EMP that shuts down everything save for the robots it built or rebuilt, causing a global blackout.
  • New Avengers opens with Electro causing a blackout in New York City, which knocks out power to the Raft, the prison for supervillains, leading to a massive jailbreak. The new Avengers team is formed from heroes who happened to be there to respond to the crisis.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot had a week-long arc where Paige was forced to study for a huge biology quiz during a power outage caused by a massive storm. Though she wasn't happy about it, she did manage to study with the help of birthday candles, Jason's glow-in-the-dark monster models, and the occasional flash of lightning, which she proudly reported to her teacher the next day...only for him to reveal that his power was knocked out too, and since he prepares tests on his computer, well...
    Student: [off-panel] Paige, don't! That book is school property!
  • An arc of Garfield that ran from July 9 - 14, 1984 deals with a power outage in Jon and Garfield's house. The two talk and sit around in the dark with only their eyes visible. When the power comes back on, Jon jinxes it, and it immediately turns back off. However, this storyline is abandoned in the next strip.
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    Literature 
  • At one point in Kea's Flight, the power goes out on the rems' side of the Flying Dustbin for an entire day. By the time the problem is fixed, temperatures have plunged to well below freezing, and some of the rems have died of hypothermia. The BGs say it's to help the rems get used to the weather changes on a planet, but the protagonists know it's because the Flying Dustbin is falling apart, and has been for years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bones: “The Blackout in the Blizzard'' has the lab team improvising with things like a potato electricity generator and and improvised dye to solve a murder and find the culprit who is likely carrying a dangerous virus. Worse, Booth and Brennan are trapped in the elevator at Booth’s apartment during the whole thing.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The season seven finale "Lights Out" has the officers dealing with a blackout. Jake and Charles go apprehend the person who crashed into the power station, then stop to help other citizens on the way. Holt and Terry get trapped in the elevator and Amy starts going into labor.
  • Criminal Minds two-parter "Our Darkest Hour" and "Longest Night" focused on a Serial Killer nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness" (while the BAU themselves don't use nicknames, they couldn't stop the media this time) for his method of invading homes and killing the occupants during rolling blackouts in Los Angeles. True to the title, it really was one of the darkest situations on the show (at least that far) and Billy Flynn is one of the most memorable and frightening antagonists on a show that's pretty much made of them.
  • CSI had an episode called “CSI: Unplugged” where half of Las Vegas lost power and forced the team to use old school crime solving techniques.
  • The Firefly episode "Out of Gas" sees Mal struggling to get Serenity up and running again after an explosion wipes out most of the ship's air supply and breaks a minor part of the engine - it's described as a "nothing part" by one character - without which the engine won't turn, meaning no power beyond what's left in the batteries.
  • Friends: In "The One with the Blackout", The city's power goes out. While Chandler is stuck in an ATM vestibule with a model named Jill, his friends all try to hang out and have some intimate discussions about sex and relationships. They also try lighting the apartment with candles, which works until the last candle goes out. Suddenly, when the lights come back on, Rachel and recurring character Paolo are found kissing. Jill and Chandler, meanwhile, end up bonding and playing a game, but she leaves when the lights come back.
  • Good Luck Charlie: In "Let's Potty", Charlie clogs up the toilet when she flushes her bath toys down it. When Bob attempts to fix the clog himself, he hits a water pipe that sprays the fusebox, causing a blackout. Not only does this interfere with Charlie's potty-training (as Charlie will only sit on her potty if she watches The Gurgles), but it also interferes with an online video chat Ivy has with Raymond, her first online crush. Furthermore, to complete their video game, PJ and Gabe run a cable from Mrs. Dabney's fuse box to power their room, eventually giving her house an electrical outage as well.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Darkness", the cops have to solve a kidnapping case during a city-wide blackout.
  • NCIS: The episode "Power Down" deals with a massive power outage that affects the DC Metropolitan area, and the team has to solve a case related to it, without access to their computers or electronic equipment.
  • In the Pilot Episode for Night Gallery, directed by Steven Spielberg, Joan Crawford plays a rich old blind woman who has an eye transplant operation, even though she knows her new eyes will only work for 12 hours. Unfortunately, there is a power outage that lasts the entire time she has to see.
  • The episode 'Blackout' in Portlandia has the city suffer a huge power outage due to the mayor not paying the energy bills. The citizens proceed to react as though it is an apocalypse and attempt to 'survive' the blackout. All is resolved when Fred and Carrie team up with the mayor and manually turn the power back on.
  • Red Dwarf: in "White Hole", an attempt to restore Holly's genius at the expense of her runtime results in her having three minutes to live. She shuts herself down to save runtime, taking most of the ship's functions with her, including life support, doors, and lighting. The Dwarfers are forced to figure out how to survive without electricity, which is a huge problem on a spaceship the size of a city: just traveling through the ship requires them to use Kryten as a battering ram, and a trip for supplies takes weeks with no lifts. At least until the titular celestial phenomenon appears, causing more problems but also allowing them to undo the damage to Holly. Also contains An Aesop about the dangers of being too dependant on technology when Lister laments the fact that he never bothered to learn how to do anything for himself because he always assumed machines would be there to do it for him.
  • Downplayed in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Haunting of Deck Twelve", where the life support and the Artificial Gravity on Voyager (a spaceship) are still working, but things such as the lights and other sci-fi devices have stopped working. Neelix entertains the kids by telling them a ghost story.
  • In the Taxi Brooklyn episode "The Longest Night", half of Brooklyn, including the 125th Precinct gets caught in a blackout, and the cops have to deal with a shooting within the precinct and a siege outside.
  • The Dutch sitcom Vrienden Voor Het Leven had an episode with this premise. The power outage ruined the two protagonists attempts to have a romantic evening.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bear in the Big Blue House had an episode called "Afraid Not" in which a thunderstorm causes a blackout to occur in the titular house. The characters learn all about facing their fears from this scenario.
  • The Noddy Shop episode "Thunder and Lightning" has a thunderstorm knock out power, frightening Truman, the youngest child in the titular shop at the time. The characters resort to using items like flashlights and candles to make their way through, then tell each other stories. The toys also sing a song called "The Sun Is Just Around The Corner" to comfort the kids.
  • Sesame Street had an Ernie and Bert segment in the 1970s where Ernie notices that it's darker than usual when they are in bed at night, and how all the lights on Sesame Street are out, and Bert explains that it's a blackout and what it is. But then Ernie torments Bert (as usual) with suggesting things they can do during the blackout, such as watch TV or listen to their radio or record player, not knowing they all require electricity to operate.
  • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: In "There is Nothing to Fear in Here", a thunderstorm causes the lights to go out in The Cat's Playhouse. This is bad news for Terrence McBird, who has a Fear of Thunder. The Cat in the Hat and the Little Cats help him overcome his fear by inventing in-the-dark games.

    Theatre 
  • Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer tells the story of a couple who have to sneak stolen furniture out of their apartment under the nose of the man they stole it from under the cover of a blackout. The farce plot then becomes increasingly complicated as additional characters appear. The play plays with the trope by reversing light and darkness — that is to say, it begins with the theatre in total darkness but with dialogue making it clear that the characters can see perfectly, then the blackout happens and the rest of the action takes place with the stage lights on but the characters bumbling around unable to see.

    Video Games 
  • Almost every map on all the editions of Call of Duty: Zombies centers on fighting your way to the power switch so that you can activate the perks around the map that help you survive.
  • Lights Out, a Licensed Game of The Loud House which adapts the episode "Left In The Dark", is about the power cutting out in the Loud house and you play as Lincoln trying to get to the fuse box and fix it before his TV show ends.
  • Dummied Out content for The Sims 2 reveals that during development Maxis considered adding a power outage during heavy storms that would require keeping up Sims' moods without any electricity-using objects for 7 hours. The reward for getting high enough moods would be a windmill that would prevent future power outages.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur has done two episodes with a blackout as the central plot point.
    • "The Blizzard" from Season 4 is about the various citizens of Elwood City struggling to pull through in a power outage caused by a big snowstorm.
    • "The Blackout" from Season 12 does a similar setup, but this time the catalyst for the blackout is a summer heatwave. Arthur and D.W. have trouble dealing with the power outage, but the Molinas don't have any problems since they're one step ahead (they store their drinks in a garbage can underground to keep them cold, for example).
  • Beavis and Butt-Head had the titular duo watching television when the power goes out. They head out to fix the problem (without realizing that the power's gone out) and end up in the middle of a near-riot. Mr. Van Driesen tries to get them to help out by directing traffic, but their stupidity only leads to a multiple-car pile-up.
  • The episode "Dog Power" in CatDog revolves around Cat using Dog's hyperactive speed on the treadmill as a power source and exploiting this by selling it back to the patrons of Nearburg.
  • An episode of Curious George is about a hotel switching to solar power after many people using their AC due to the hot weather causes several blackouts in a row.
  • Doug: In "Doug On His Own", Doug's parents are serving as chaperones at his older sister Judy's dance, so Doug gets to spend a evening at home by himself, which he enjoys until the power goes out and he has to find the fusebox by himself.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Boom Boom Out Goes the Ed" (one of the few episodes that take place at night), a power outage hits the Cul-De-Sac and Ed thinks it's the work of mole mutants which most of the kids believe. Eddy naturally takes advantage of this to make a quick buck while Kevin, Rolf, Johnny (with Plank) and Double-D venture into the sewers to find a way to switch the power back on.
  • The Fairly OddParents
    • "Power Mad!": Timmy wishes for an intense video game that one can't wish themselves out of. Timmy finds out that Chester and A.J. have gone into the game, and if either the game is turned off while they're inside it or they lose their three lives, they'll disappear forever. What's worse is that the game uses up so much electricity that anything that Vicky plugs in will cause a blackout and turn the game off. While Timmy goes into the game to rescue Chester and A.J., Cosmo and Wanda do their best to keep Vicky from using up any more power. They first take over the downstairs television with their own television shows, then when Cosmo runs out of ideas for those, he powers the game with a treadmill that he runs on like a hamster.
    • Lights Out: Timmy's scary stories keep Poof up awake at night, so he wishes for no light to get him to calm down and go to sleep. Though apparently prolonged lack of light causes fairy godparents to turn into monsters over time and Timmy finds himself on the run in utter darkness while trying to get the power back on. Not only dealing with them but Crocker and Tootie as well.
  • Downplayed in all three Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball specials, in which the Framing Device has the Griffin house get hit by a power outage and Peter decides to retell the original Star Wars trilogy. When the power failure happens in the third special, they waste little time on banter and go straight to the Return of the Jedi retelling (which in itself is indicative of just how sick the show's crew was of having to do these because the first one was such a hit).
  • Handy Manny had an episode where the whole neighborhood experienced a blackout and it was winter, so Manny has to keep Carrie's pet chicks warm.
  • In the House of Mouse episode "Unplugged Club", Pete attempts to sabotage the titular club by cutting the power so Mickey will be unable to put on a show and pay the club's bills. When Pete removes the battery that powers the club and it runs dead, Minnie improvises by using Zeus' lightning rod as their new power source. Pete later sabotages that plan by tricking Zeus into thinking the titans stole his chariot and taking his lightning rod with him, but Minnie comes to the rescue again by charging the battery (by having her and her friends run at it to scare it awake).
  • The Loud House:
    • In "Left in the Dark", Lincoln tries to distract his sisters from the TV, but when he finally succeeds, the power cuts out, so he and his sisters have to brave the dark basement and get the power working again.
    • In "A Dark and Story Night", a fallen tree causes a neighborhood-wide blackout, and Mr. and Mrs. Loud advise their children not to use their phones until the power is restored. To pass the time, Lincoln and his sisters all take turns telling a story about a space cowboy who is trying to recover the missing pieces of a crystal that will power his spaceship.
  • In an episode of Massey Ferguson, a generator named Gen proves that she's useful by powering the house when the power cuts out.
  • Muppet Babies: In "The Muppets Broadcasting Company", a sudden thunderstorm knocks out the power and Gonzo thinks it's an alien invasion. When the babies complain that they can't do anything without electricity, Nanny recommends they listen to some classic radio shows she saved on tape cassettes.
  • Rugrats:
    • The episode "Let There be Light" focuses on the babies' nightlights going off due to a blackout caused by Stu's Anti-Gravity Playpen. The babies then decide to go to the fridge, since they think that's where light comes from.
    • "The Last Babysitter" has Susie's older sister, Alisa, babysitting the younger kids while Randy and Stu are out, and the group ends up getting spooked by a "monster" (actually a prank by Buster and his friend). At one point, things seem to go From Bad to Worse when the power suddenly goes out.
      Susie: Oh no! The light's gone!
      Alisa: A blackout?! Oh, why does everything always have to happen to me?
    • In the third act of "A Rugrats Kwanzaa", a thunderstorm causes the power at the Carmichaels' house to go out. It is at this time that Susie's Great Aunt T shares the stories of her from the scrapbook she gave Susie as a Kwanzaa present.
    • This sets off the plot of Rugrats: A Live Adventure. When one of Stu's inventions goes haywire and causes power to go out in the Pickles household, Tommy uses his People-ator to make a flashlight a living object, only for Angelica to steal it.
  • The episode "Political Power" in Steven Universe involves Pearl trying to shut down Peridot's robonoids with a homemade EMP device which only succeeds in causing a blackout in Beach City. Steven spends the rest of the episode helping Mayor Dewey desperately attempt to avert a riot.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Caged Tiger" has Robin, Beast Boy and Cyborg stuck in an elevator due to a power surge.
  • Totally Spies! had an episode where they were stuck in an elevator because of a power outage. It was a Clip Show episode.

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