So, your original work was a success. The writer has finished things off with just about all the awesomeness that the story universe can muster. Everything is wrapped up. The universe is saved, the forces of evil are either destroyed or in full retreat, The Hero got the girl, the rightful heir got his throne, et cetera. All in one awesome finale. Well, what better way to capitalize on it than making a sequel, right?
Trouble is, you didn't really have a sequel in mind when you wrote the original story; it's quite self-contained. In fact, everything's been tied up with a nice little ribbon: The story is conclusively over. The heroes look up to the author, er, the sky, and ask So What Do We Do Now? And the author has no answer.
Say hello to the Sequel Reset. The opposite of the Sequel Hook, this is when something (a scene, a line of dialogue, etc) occurs at the beginning of the sequel in order to establish that, as it turns out, the story isn't quite as over as we thought. It's used in order to justify the existence of the sequel and compensate for the lack of a Sequel Hook in the first one; inevitably, between the first movie and the second, something has happened to shake up the status quo that was restored at the end of the first movie in order to provide the sequel with the same (or similar, at least) character motivations / dynamics and plot requirements. The Hero and the Love Interest have broken up. Looks like the Big Bad isn't quite as dead as we thought. Maybe our hero's discovered that Victory Is Boring. Or just when the Hero thought his mundane life was back to normal, the good guys come stampeding out of his past and back into his life; it turns out the world wasn't put to rights after all and they need his help again...
When it's done well, it can open up a story that we'd thought was finished for a rewarding second visit. After all, life goes on even for fictional characters, and just because everything looked tied up with a neat little bow at the end of the first installment doesn't mean that the situation might not have changed a little later down the track. Furthermore, it can provide an interesting examination on why the ending of the first movie wasn't quite as open-and-shut as we thought by showing us what would happen if the seemingly incompatible lovers did get together, or what would happen if no one believed the crazy story those people who claimed to save the world told.
However, just as the Sequel Hook can come across as being cheesy, clichéd and hokey, the Sequel Reset can sometimes be quite contrived. It's sometimes apparent that the producers aren't going to do anything new, nor enrich the world of the first movie by showing us what happened later down the track; instead, they may just be trying to cash in on something that worked the first time around by offering us more of the same or, perhaps, completely overturning the clear — and satisfying — ending of the first piece. It's often an unfortunate sign that Sequelitis is just around the corner, by forcing open an ending that was clearly and satisfyingly shut for no other reason than to provide an excuse for a sequel. If it's particularly grating, then it may fall into Fanon Discontinuity.
One way to write yourself into a corner is to leave nothing left for your heroes to do other than fill in a CV and get a job. (Assuming they aren't already the rulers of somewhere.) If you find yourself in the position where you can't plausibly draw up a new villain without the fans screaming Diabolus ex Machina, you might need to draw up a new universe. Which isn't easy.
Ways to get out of this vary.
- Time Skip: Move the story 20 Minutes into the Future. Your heroes, their descendants, or some other talented individual will have found something menacing to confront by that time.
- Knight Errant / Expansion Pack World: The heroes have saved one country, but there's a dozen others on the map to save. Get on your bikes/horses and go save some other people.
- Get a new villain: Places to recruit new villains vary. You may need a new Mordor (or a broken Mordor to rebuild). And there's always How to Cheat Death if you want to go Serial Escalation.
- Happy Ending Override: Despite the heroes' best efforts, things go very badly for reasons not under their control and their previous efforts are pretty much all for nothing.
See also Same Plot Sequel.
- Speed Racer has been remade for television three times, twice by American studios, but only one of them was a reboot. Speed Racer: The Next Generation follows the adventures of Speed's sons, taking place 40 years after the events in the original show. Coincidentally, this premiered during the franchise's 40th anniversary, and around the time the feature film was released.
- At the end of the first season of Shakugan no Shana, Shana finally confesses that she's in love with Yuuji. However, in the interests of maintaining the Will They or Won't They? Tsundere UST, the second season reveals that he didn't hear her, and she can't get up the nerve to tell him again.
- The first Afro Samurai series/movie ended with Afro killing Justice, avenging his father, claiming the Number 1 Headband, and finally making peace with the decisions he made in life. The movie ends in a somewhat distant future where Afro is having a rematch with his former friend Kuma who has the Number 2 Headband, ending with the concept that the cycle of revenge will continue. Then comes Afro Samurai: Resurrection, where Kuma returns, looking less like a robot no less, with his previous unexplained Sister Sio, looking for revenge, Afro has gone back to regretting his actions in the past. Viciously lampshaded by Ninja Ninja, who himself is part of the reset:
"This pissed you off so much that you gon' hit the road again, to find the Number Two Headband again, just so you can kill the Number One, again."
- The anime version of Sailor Moon technically counts, as it was originally intended to only have one season which sports a Reset Button Ending in the form of the Sailor Senshi getting killed and then resurrected without their memories — even crossing into the Book-Ends trope with a scene borrowed from the first episode. Then, within the first two episodes of the second season, the Sailor Team gets their memories back to fight Filler Villains. Ironically, in the manga, the second story arc kicks in without any traces of this trope within the same chapter where the first one ends.
- Bleach does this after Ichigo defeats Aizen with the "final Getsuga Tensho," which strips him of his powers. Ichigo stays a Muggle for awhile before he begins to pursue alternative power sources, such as Fullbring. This allows the series to return to the more mysterious Urban Fantasy feel of the early chapters, and gives Ichigo's allies a chance to catch up. And then that earns a reset as the shinigami once again enter the picture. His human friends don't advance any further in their powers and Ichigo regains his shimigami powers, setting the series back to status quo.
- In Magic: The Gathering's Gothic Horror Innistrad setting, humans are besieged by zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and the like. In the final set of the block, Avacyn Restored, Archangel Avacyn has been released from the Helvault, the curse on the werewolves has ended, and humanity is saved. Then comes Shadows Over Innistrad, where the werewolves are back, humans are hunted rather than protected by the angels, and, oh, would you look at that, the Eldrazi have arrived.
- Used in Ghostbusters II: As it turns out, no one believed that the heroes did save the world at the end of the first movie (apparently people believe the events of the first movie were Some Nutty Publicity Stunt), meaning that the city authorities screwed them over and sued them for all the property damage, destroying their reputations and forcing them out of business. Furthermore, Venkman and Dana broke up, and Dana married another guy and had a kid with him. Then, it all starts happening again...
- Also used in Men in Black II; the end of the first movie ends with Agent K happily retired, his memory erased and given a chance to start things over with the love of his life. This is all abruptly taken away from him in the sequel, however, for little other reason than to allow K to return and carry on the character dynamic he'd had in the previous movie with Agent J. Furthermore, the dynamic between J and Dr. Laurel Weaver (Agent L) that was set up at the end of the first movie was also abruptly Hand Waved away, due to Linda Fiorentino not returning.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery ends with the titular hero having undergone Character Development, allowing him to mature and adjust his free-spirited Swinging Sixties ways to the more conservative but still liberated nineties, and setting him up in married life with his partner, Vanessa. So the beginning of the second movie reveals that Vanessa was actually a robot and blows her up, and as soon as she's gone, Austin instantly reverts to his immature old ways. This is of course a parody of James Bond movies and the Bond Girls. The Bond movies usually don't even hint at what happened to previous Bond girls. Austin Powers used the most ridiculous explanation possible, and didn't offer one at all for the third movie.
- The Karate Kid Part II, after a brief recap of the first film's ending, moves forward to inform us that the Love Interest has (off camera) broken up with the hero and his mother has moved away, leaving him to go to Japan with his mentor and confront a new set of karate bullies.
- In The Karate Kid Part III this is done again when the previous movie's love interest elected to stay in Japan.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ends with Will and Elizabeth happily in love and Captain Jack Sparrow free and aboard his ship at last, and extremely wealthy thanks to all the plunder the Black Pearl had accumulated in ten years of marauding (even without the cursed Aztec gold, there was quite a hoard in the pirates' cave). So of course Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest has Will and Elizabeth torn apart (on their wedding day, no less), the treasure sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and Jack in danger of losing his ship and life again.
- Major League II had the characters back for a new season, and sucking again, trying to overcome new problems. Basically, the second movie was the leads having the success of the first movie go to their heads. Also, the first movie ends with the team winning the division title and reaching the playoffs. The sequel reveals that they were swept in the playoffs and are trying to get back there, which they do. The second movie ends with them winning the League Championship Series and earning a berth in the World Series. Odds are pretty good that the original plan for the third movie was to reveal that they lost the World Series so they could then try to accomplish that.
- The end of the original Highlander makes it pretty clear that Connor McCleod is the last immortal at the end and has won the prize, but then they made sequels, and a TV show, and a spinoff. "There can be only one," until there's more money to be made. The third movie especially felt like a by-the-numbers remake more than a sequel. With a Diabolus ex Machina villain. Apparently the game can reset if it realizes it forgot somebody; that's basically the whole plot of the movie.
- In The Matrix, Neo must kung fu fight his enemies in the virtual world of the Matrix until he learns to control the simulation and transcend physical combat. In the sequel, his apparent apotheosis is downgraded to a new level in badass, as he must fight a more powerful group of enemies with his kung fu.
- RoboCop 2. At the end of the first film, Murphy is speaking in his regular human voice and has come to terms with the fact that despite the physical changes, he's the same man he always was. In the sequel, he talks like a robot and is still conflicted about his status as a being (to the point that he tells his wife that the face of the unit is just a copy of Murphy's original face).
- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York simply gave Kevin Aesop Amnesia, ticking off his family yet again and getting left alone in a completely different way.
- At the end of the original Rocky, Rocky goes the full fifteen rounds with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed and before the final bell an exhausted Creed tells Rocky "Ain't going to be no rematch!" In the beginning of Rocky II Apollo changes his mind.
- In an extreme case of reset, all the wealth made by Rocky as a world famous heavyweight champion in the sequels is lost in Rocky V by a crooked accountant and Rocky is left as poor as he was in the first movie.
- That one begins with the aftermath of the Drago fight, where Rocky is worried about his health for the first time ever and it's very strongly hinted that there will be severe consequences if he keeps fighting. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky (now pushing 60, incidentally) goes the distance against a much faster and more agile opponent who's in the prime of his career and suffers no ill effects whatsoever.
- At the end of Dirty Harry, after killing the Scorpio Killer, San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan throws his badge away, disgusted with the system that allowed Scorpio to go free. In the sequel Magnum Force, Harry is still on the SFPD, though on loan to stakeout.
- Aliens begins with Ellen Ripley being rescued from hypersleep by a deep space rescue crew, and ends with Ripley, Hicks, Bishop and Newt all escaping LV-426 (and Ripley getting a new surrogate daughter and finally destroying the xenomorph infestation at the source). Alien³ begins with Ripley being rescued from her escape pod by a group of prisoners, and revealing that for all the pyrotechnics of the previous film, the alien menace is still alive and well, and the other characters who had survived are now dead.
- Starting with the third, the Die Hard sequels start with John McClane back to being a down-on-his-luck cop on the outs with his family (in the second, he's in a relatively good mood... until disaster finds him again). Possibly justified by his being something of a headstrong Cowboy Cop with a drinking problem; the acclaim he gets for his heroics is balanced by repeatedly getting in trouble. In Live Free or Die Hard he specifically cites his Chronic Hero Syndrome as the reason for his divorce.
- Sequel Reset strikes back with a vengeance in The Force Awakens, where all progress made in the Original Trilogy is either immediately reset or done so by the end of the film. After the Galactic Empire was seemingly defeated in Return of the Jedi, it returns reincarnated as the First Order and is little worse off, still capable of fielding enormous warships and even more ridiculously sized super weapons. Likewise, the Jedi have again been wiped out by a rogue pupil, and the Republic overthrown, leaving a scrappy band of Rebels to fight the evil empire, headed by a mysterious evil wizard and his masked apprentice, bringing everything back to as it was at the beginning of the original trilogy of Star Wars films.
- All the original Terminator movies. The first movie uses a Stable Time Loop. Instead of just showing the future that was destined to happen, they wanted to capitalize on the formula formed by the first, which was impossible with how they used Time Travel in the first movie. What did they do? They changed the rules of the universe (not being able to agree on the rules of time travel between installments would become a franchise staple).
- In the first movie, not only did the film start off by explicitly stating that the confrontation between Reese and the T-800 would mark the final battle between humanity and the machines, but midway through the film Reese remarks that resistance had all but won and sending the T-800 in the past was a last ditch effort, yet somehow they're still able to send another cyborg into the past for the sequel. And then of course Judgement Day was prevented in the second film so there's absolutely no way for any future movi— no wait, T3 comes along and reveals that John Connor's actions only delayed the machine war rather than outright averted it (if only to guarantee the Stable Time Loop keeps on).
- At the end of Silent Hill, protagonist Rose is trapped in a foggy alternate dimension with her adopted daughter Sharon, who has re-merged with her dark half to become a reincarnation of the creepy little girl Alessa. In Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, Sharon is back in the real world with her father - thanks to Rose's between-movies, completely unexplained discovery of half of a magical seal - and she apparently never re-merged at all, because her other half is still back in Silent Hill. Additionally, the town's resident evil cult still exists somehow, and in great numbers, despite having been bloodily wiped out in the climax of the previous film.
- Justified in Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, which is a faux-sequel compiled from the massive amounts of Deleted Scenes (including an entire dropped sub-plot) left on the cutting room floor.
- At the end of The Hangover all of three protagonists learn a bit about themselves during the whole ordeal and seem to come out of it better people and well off then they were before. The Hangover Part II however back pedals on said character development so they can go on another misadventure after they get wasted only now in Bangkok.
- At the end of Step Up Revolution, Sean and Emily got together and the Mob got a gig dancing in Nike commercials. At the very beginning of Step Up: All In, we find out that Emily dumped Sean and that the members of the Mob are now struggling to make ends meet since their commercial career didn't work out.
- The Adventures of Pinocchio: Collodi did a draft in which Pinocchio's transformation into a real boy is undone and the only thing that stuck from the ending is that Geppetto recovered and resumed his job as a woodworker. It's non-canon, of course.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has to contend with this any time an author's looking to write High Space Opera.
- In The Thrawn Trilogy (the foundation of the modern Expanded Universe), there's a Lampshade Hanging: Leia muses, looking at Endor, that if the war really ended there, that means the "mop-up action" has been going on for a good five years now—and they might call themselves the New Republic, and they've retaken the capital planet, but they're hardly the galaxy-spanning bastion of civilization the original one was. That trilogy is one of the better sets of books.
- With Star Wars, at least, it makes sense that there'd be a lot of the Empire still left to fight. Just look at Robot Chicken.
- Dark Empire. Okay, it's one thing to claim that maybe winning Endor didn't cause the entire Galactic Empire to spontaneously combust, but when Emperor Palpatine is Back from the Dead with no fewer than four superweapons that are on par with or better than the Death Star, you might as well wonder what the point of the original trilogy was. (And Boba Fett's back, too, why not?)
- At the end of the first Thursday Next book, Thursday is happily married, Jack Schitt is trapped in a book, Acheron Hades is dead, and the literary police, formerly charged with the dull job of tracking down stolen and counterfeit books, face an interesting future policing where Fiction meets the real world. In the next book, Thursday's husband is erased from existence, the literary police are still doing drudge work, there's easier ways to get between Reality and Fiction and characters do it all the time, and there's more in the Schitt and Hades families to contend with. The second through fourth books are a trilogy dealing with all this.
- The 1996 run of Only Fools and Horses Christmas Episodes finishes with Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert having achieved their dreams of wealth and success and walking into the sunset. Then, they made a later series, which takes this all away and reduces them to the same barely-scraping-by life they were leading before, except Rodney would now become a father, and Albert's will saved the Trotters from getting evicted.
- The movie Stargate ends with Daniel living happily on Abydos, O'Neil rediscovers his sense of purpose and retires, and the Big Bad is defeated. Stargate SG-1 begins with Daniel's Happily Ever After kicked over by the new Big Bad, which introduces a slew of Big Bads, which causes O'Neill (with two Ls) to come back from retirement, which in turn causes the Stargate Program to be reopened.
- Spoofed in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, an Official Parody of Super Sentai, after it had ended its first season with the characters Noticing the Fourth Wall and trying to stave off Executive Meddling and cancellation. Unsuccessfully. When it came back for a second go-round, the creators got around the ending by making their next subject of parody the shameless Retcon; using extremely cheap "flashback" footage to claim that the first season's big plot twist never happened and the original story was able to get on without interference by a Conflict Killer. And then it was played with, as the second season's big plot twist was that the Retcon was a lie and the first season happened exactly as shown; the changes and even very existence of the second season was due to the villain manipulating the Executive Meddling to her benefit.
- When Glee first started up, the show received rave reviews leading up to its mid-season hiatus. The first episode after the break untied nearly every plot thread that the first had tied up within its runtime.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- In the last of the original six episodes, Zaphod, Marvin and Trillian were all eaten by a Haggunenon transformed into the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, while Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who took the only working escape capsule, were left stranded on prehistoric Earth. The Christmas Episode that continued the series brought back Zaphod and Marvin, with the Ass Pull rationale being that the Haggunenon that ate them "like seconds later made the mistake of re-evolving into a really neat escape capsule." (Trillian also survived, but was Put on a Bus for the remainder of the series.)
- The Tertiary Phase, being adapted from a book which opens with Arthur and Ford still on prehistoric Earth, but also having to follow the Secondary Phase, which had already moved them off it, decided that Zaphod had never actually left the artificial universe from Fit the Seventh, and therefore the Arthur and Ford he picked up in Fit the Eighth weren't the real ones.
- Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge starts stating that Guybrush broke up with Elaine since the last game, and that he became famous after slaying LeChuck, but eventually people started forgetting and doubting about it, so he went to set out on a new adventure to regain its former glory. Later it's revealed that LeChuck revived, but as a Zombie.
- Super Metroid ends with the last Metroid specimen dying and the planet Zebes destroyed. As a result, the Metroid Prime Trilogy is actually set before Super Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. However, Metroid Fusion has Samus revisit the Metroid homeworld and bringing the X species of parasites into a space lab orbiting the planet, as well as discovering that the Galactic Federation had been genetically breeding new Metroids (something which also apears in Metroid: Other M, which is also set after Super).
- The game Final Fantasy VII ends with the Planet more or less being saved (though in a very ambiguous manner), Sephiroth being defeated, Cloud's demons sorted out, and the love triangle being solved thanks to a Death of the Hypotenuse. The movie sequel, Advent Children, brings Sephiroth back, resets Cloud to an Angstier state than ever before, has the Planet be threatened by a mysterious disease, and somehow manages to keep the love triangle going even beyond the dead with plenty of undead cameos from Aerith. The remake, Advent Children Complete explains at least one of these wild resets. God knows that if they make another sequel, you can be sure these issues will all pop up again... somehow.
- Final Fantasy X ends with a Bittersweet Ending: Corrupt Church Yevon sees its tenants completely discredited, Sin is gone for good, but Tidus is gone forever, and as sad as Yuna is about the latter, she's willing to accept that and move on with her life...except in Final Fantasy X-2, new factions have arrived in the power vacuum left behind by the fall of Yevon, there's a lurking threat even worse than Sin, and Yuna isn't as over Tidus as she makes it out to be.
- Final Fantasy XIII ends with both Cocoon and Pulse being more or less saved and the heroes all surviving to face the promising new future they had made. While the main cast were turned to crystal during the ending, all but two were returned to normal before the credits rolled. This neatly tied up to plot arc for the remaining two characters, since their original purpose was to destroy Coccoon, but instead they redeemed themselves and saved it instead. By the time Square decided to make Final Fantasy XIII-2, they chose to invoke a time-paradox that caused Lightning to either remain trapped within the crystal or otherwise sucked into the unseen world of Valhalla meaning that the first game no longer officially ends the way it originally did. The original ending is remembered only by Lightning's sister, Serah. In addition, while Final Fantasy XIII-2 definitely ends on a real cliffhanger unlike the first installment, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII the game picks up several hundred years after XIII-2 where Lightning wakes up from her sleep to save the world and probably her sister, Serah.
- Nearly every installment in the Leisure Suit Larry series ends with Larry hooking up with the "final girl", and then immediately breaking up with them at the start of the next game so Larry can go do his thing for the rest of the game. In fact, Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail! begins just minutes after the conclusion of the previous game, Shape Up Or Slip Out!, when the final girl of the last game has had her fun with Larry, takes his money and leaves him chained to a burning bed.
- Saints Row ends with the Saints having driven out all the other gangs, and the corrupt politician Richard Hughes killed by a pricey Deus ex Machina before he can gentrify the Row for his own benefit and at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised already living there. Come Saints Row 2, Ultor went ahead with Hughes' plan, the Saints have collapsed, and three even worse gangs have filled the power vacuum.
- The canon ending of Infamous 2 had Cole using the RFI to cure the plague wiping out humanity at the expense of the lives of all Conduits, including himself, and being posthumously hailed as a hero for it.. Previews for Infamous Second Son indicate that not only were the Conduits not wiped out but enough remained for the government to form an entire army dedicated to hunting them down and Cole is vilified once again.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty had Snake being framed as an ecoterrorist by the Patriots via the destruction of an oil tanker, with the entire world believing Snake to be dead in the aftermath. When Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots comes around, quite a few of Snake's old friends and allies (Col. Campbell, Naomi, Mei Ling, Meryl, etc.) are well aware that Snake is still alive and that he didn't do it. Sons of Liberty pulled this itself by writing Meryl out of the story and having Snake team up with Otacon to continue to destroy Metal Gears, thus overriding his apparent settling down after the events of the first game. It also had Liquid Snake return by possessing Ocelot through his right arm. Interestingly enough, this was apparently an Invoked Trope on Kojima's part.
- This is a summary of the plot in Yoshi's New Island. Turns out the Delivery Stork brought Mario and Luigi to the wrong house, so it hurries off to the real one. Before getting promptly attacked by Kamek out of absolutely nowhere all over again.
- The Legend of Zelda series generally does this by setting the games so far apart from each other that it's just in time for Ganon to break free from his seal or someone to revive him. Other times, they name certain games as Prequels to allow for Ganon to come back without undoing the ending of games. For direct sequels featuring the same Link as a previous game such as Phantom Hourglass, Majora's Mask, or even as far back as Zelda II, this is averted, as they either take place in different lands where the plot doesn't affect the main setting of Hyrule, or they simply just follow the previous story directly.
- Dark Forces Saga: In Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, Kyle Katarn starts out as a Badass Normal who 'learns the ways of the Force to become a Jedi like his father'. Come Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Kyle has cut himself off from the Force, regressing to Badass Normal status and having to re-learn how to use the Force.
- Shrek ended with Happily Ever After, but the sequels seemed devoted to putting it off. Shrek 2 revealed there was an actual Prince Charming that was supposed to break the curse on Fiona, and that her royal parents were still around; after the lovers' honeymoon they're forced to meet her parents, causing another go-round of problems regarding Shrek's self-esteem. In Shrek the Third, Shrek had to get out of being king to return to the swamp. Shrek Forever After resorted to It's a Wonderful Plot.
- Pinocchio in Outer Space features a prologue which explains that Pinocchio misbehaved so much that the Blue Fairy turned him back into a puppet. Over the course of the film, he proceeds to experience familiar situations IN SPACE.