The entropy of a fictional system whose writer is not in emotional equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at the writer's emotional equilibrium.
There's no other way to say it: writers like killing and destroying. Nothing makes them happier than having people die or Stuff Blowing Up. (In their writing, not in their real-world behavior. We're sure about this. Mostly.) It's the quickest way to get drama, too.
Unfortunately, writers cannot destroy all their fictional creations without ruining the story. Some of those creations have Contractual Immortality. Even when they don't, killing characters off or nuking cities can change the flow of a story in rather unfortunate ways. And destroying everything means there's no more story, and thus no more paychecks for the writer.
As a result, when there is anything expendable, writers will expend it. If the writer can bring people back to life by pushing the Reset Button, then people will die as long as the button is there. If a city has been evacuated, that city will go down in flames. Atomic flames, preferably. If it hasn't been evacuated, the writers can blow it up anyway if no named characters are there. It's not like readers will be upset, right? After all, A Million Is a Statistic. And a character in a Prequel that wasnt in the original work? Dont get too attached to them.
The less often the writers get to do this, the more pyrotechnics they pack in. When everything is expendable (like in a show with Negative Continuity), the writers will increase their system's entropy at a leisurely pace. One death an episode or so will do. If almost everything has Contractual Immortality, then killable characters and inflammable places are rare treats, and the writers will spring on them like the proverbial hungry wolves on a sheep.
At times, some writers seem to be working out their stress by destroying fictional people and places. The carnage is always greatest at the moment the writer gets better, since they will increase the entropy until their self-therapy finally works. Needless to say, Creator Breakdown and Darker and Edgier almost inevitably leads to higher entropy.
This is the reason for the following tropes:
- Anyone Can Die
- Climactic Battle Resurrection
- C-List Fodder
- Cloning Blues
- Conservation of Ninjutsu
- Conveniently Empty Building
- Expendable Alternate Universe
- Expendable Clone
- Good Thing You Can Heal
- It's Going Down
- Kill 'Em All
- Opening a Can of Clones
- Redshirt Army
- Reset Button
- Stuffed into the Fridge
- Tonight, Someone Dies
- Throw-Away Country
The Trope Name is a reference to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that everything in nature increasingly trends towards disorder (or entropy, to be more accurate.) A similar naming convention was used for the First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is actually famous for its Creator Breakdown and subsequent Kill 'Em All ending. It's a great example of this trope even before the ending, with more and more damage being done to Tokyo 3 and the cast each passing episode. This could also be tied to Hideaki Anno's building depression.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica references the actual Second Law of Thermodynamics in relation to its own Anyone Can Die and From Bad to Worse plot.
- Dark Age comics seemed to go through a period when blowing up or wrecking cities, or killing off characters, was the flavor of the decade. Especially DC with its Coast City debacle, Gotham City's "No Man's Land", and three-quarters of Metropolis being wrecked. And Montevideo (wonder how the real city took the news?). The capital of Nebraska gets nuked by an alien thingy, with the aftereffects blowing over half of Smallville. They seemed to be reverting to this again around Infinite Crisis with several throw-away countries being violently depopulated and Bludhaven drowning in toxic chemicals/going boom.
- Random worldwide massacres. Mageddon comes along, thousands croak in the effects of his defeat. Cyborg comes back to life and eats the moon, the world shakes and shimmies and buildings collapse. Infinite Crisis had hurricanes chowing down all over the world, entire cities flooding and nearly every volcano ever blowing its top.
- Gotham City in the comics. Every time The Joker slips loose from Arkham Asylum or the Scarecrow gets his crazy on or heck, there's just a party, something shows up and turns hundreds of people into crispy, fried corpses. And the police officers...does anyone train them? They go down when looked at hard.
- During the mostly-Superman event Our Worlds at War, the city of Topeka, Kansas was completely destroyed. Unlike Marvel and their New York setting, DC apparently didn't care whether the "Topeka" depicted in the book actually resembled the real-life Topeka.
- The Marvel Universe has also had its bloodbaths, with Manhattan being badly damaged by Onslaught (and later, mostly leveled by Magneto), Carnage and his troops turning the streets into killing fields, and the island of Genosha and its sixteen million mutants being killed.
- For this and many other disasters, the regular Marvel Universe has 'Damage Control', a company that can apparently rebuild entire cities just by ... um ... being awesome. Or something. Don't look too closely.
- Ultimate Marvel has had millions killed by the various alien invasions (especially the worldwide mass suicides during the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy), Magneto's Brotherhood attacks, Proteus' Reality Warper rampage, and the Liberators' brief conquest of the United States.
- Let's not forget the World War Hulk arc, where The Hulk caused a ludicrous amount of damage to New York City. Admittedly, it was (somewhat) justified. Well, kinda. OK, not really. He does ask for New York to be evacuated, and this is while he's almost as mad as he can get, due to his pregnant wife having been just killed. Regular people even sympathize and cheer him on while he brutalizes and humiliates the heroes he blames for this (Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Black Bolt, and Mister Fantastic), then spares them claiming he wants justice not vengeance.
- It gets bad whenever Marvel has the heavier cosmic characters go at it. In one story simply waking the ruling Celestial destroyed two galaxies. Even planet eater Galactus was having trouble holding it in.
- Infinity Gauntlet was an example of the reset button. Iron Man loses his head, Spider-Man's head is crushed, Thor is turned to stone, half the universe suddenly dies, etc.
- Early in Secret Wars (1984), the Beyonder destroys everything in a galaxy except for one star.
- Judge Dredd also followed this trend; from the early comics, where a Judge would risk his life to save a single child, to later when it was acceptable behavior to gun down one innocent if it meant hitting the two perps next to them, to some storylines where wholesale carnage was status quo. Graveyard Shift was about the riots and carnage in Mega-City that cost thousands of lives, and was assumed to happen nightly.
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse: Alice and company are safely escaping in the helicopter. 99.44% of the rest of the city is zombies anyway. So Umbrella Corp nukes it.
- The Return of the Living Dead The army has no idea how to get rid of the zombies. They bomb the whole town. This proves to be ill-advised.
- Subverted in Outbreak. The viewers were given plenty of information about the residents of the town about to be bombed. So naturally the day is saved.
- In Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, The Men in Black deal with the Alien infestation by blowing up the entire town, leaving only the heroes who were smart enough to ignore the government advice to stay in the position and wait for evacuation.
- In relation to the comics above, The Dark Knight is an exception. In the comics, it's a rare, rare person who escapes the attentions of The Joker alive, much less un-maimed. In the movie, many do so, even cops who are usually the first to go. The Dark Knight and Batman Begins seem to be working very hard to present Batman and his world in a 'realistic' setting. In a superheroic setting where the main characters are far more powerful and capable than normal humans, The Joker can go omnicidal easily enough. But when you present Joker as a 'realistic' psycho, he's more limited.
- Anything not critical (anymore) to the plot in Armageddon blows up. The spacecraft visits MIR for refueling? It blows up right after they're done. There are 2 spacecrafts? One crashes. The drill of the crashed spacecraft survives? The one from the other spacecraft blows up.
- Rogue One heartily subscribes to the mentality that "anything that can be expended, will be expended". As such, most unnamed characters, whether they're rebels or stormtroopers, are killed in droves, often by violent explosives or waves of gunfire. And further than that, nearly everything new to this movie is destroyed; Jedha city, the Scarif base, the entire Rogue One crew, Orson Krennic, the Erso family, Saw Gererra, and all of Green Squadron, are all gone while the characters from A New Hope and on are safe because they have to be.
- Word of God states that this is the reason half the cast gets blown up in The Stand.
- E M Dutch does this in Another Day Another Nightmare. Every time she reached a plot hole, or suffered from writers' block, she killed someone off. In increasingly imaginative ways, including a flock of exploding pink parakeets. We really wish we were kidding. Apparently, the (as yet unpublished) sequel(s) contains more of the same, to the extent that the author has stated she can't write another in the series because everyone with unresolved plot has already been killed off...
- Douglas Adams was having a really horrible year when he wrote Mostly Harmless, so he not only makes Arthur Dent lose his love interest Fenchurch early in the book, but by the end of the book he actually blows up the whole world again (it having been blown up once already in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), with all the main characters on it.
- One of the earliest scenes in the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, had the main characters accidentally burn down the city of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett later talked about how this would be impossible to do subsequently, what with all the main characters, side-characters and even just general culture that sprang up in the forty-odd books since.
- This is the reason George Orwell's (a.k.a. Eric Arthur Blair) famous dystopian novel 1984 has such a downer ending. Mr. Orwell was dying from tuberculosis at the time he wrote the book.
- The intro sequence of Seven Days (where the entire plot -is- the Reset Button) uses a shot of missiles striking the White House. That was in the pilot episode, and things only get more dangerous from there.
- 24 without a doubt. The writers seem to create characters, buildings, and whole cities for the express purpose of killing or destroying them later.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer liked to end seasons this way once a particular set became expendable: See Sunnydale High, the Initiative, to a lesser extent The Magic Box, and in the series finale the entire city of Sunnydale.
- Story-wise, the entire city was designed so expendable humans could be safely eaten.
- Doctor Who: Granted, the point of "Turn Left" is to show how hopeless Earth would be in a timeline without the Doctor, but come on. The characters from Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures have plenty of Plot Armour on their own shows, but as soon as they're thrown into an alternate timeline, the writers can't help but kill off those entire casts.
- It becomes clear that there are so many people with abilities in Heroes so that the writers have lots of cool people to kill off in shocking ways. They take it one step further with their alternate futures where something is always about to be blown up, a virus will kill everyone, or some other cataclysm will take place, but thanks to the Reset Button, it never comes to pass. This of course allows for more alternate timelines to be created and averted.
- Beginning as a strange but mostly plausible story about what happens to retired secret agents, The Prisoner (1967) gets more bizarre over time until the last episode leaves viewers utterly dumbfounded.
- Every Alternate Universe episode of Stargate SG-1, most prominently in "There But For The Grace Of God," in which all main characters bar Daniel Jackson are killed and the Earth is taken over by Apophis and 2010 in which all main characters are killed and 90% of Earth's population has been sterilized by an alien race that plans to make them slaves.
- Martin Gero, one of the writers on Stargate Atlantis has said in commentaries that he killed someone in every episode he wrote in season one since he was alone in a new city and girlfriend-less. Following with the trope, when he wrote season two episodes he was happy and in love so the carnage was scaled back.
- Let's not forget that every member of SG1 was also killed at one point (and later brought back to life). Special mention goes to Daniel who was killed off the most.
- In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, anything that touches Master Shake and then a surface (wall, ceiling, or floor) will explode. With no effect on anything around it. Fans often speculate that this is Shake's superpower. Fortunately (for Meat Wad at least), neither Shake nor anybody else seem to really notice this effect.