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Serial Escalation

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Wait 'til you see the centuple one. Fun fact: 

"Kara, when I started living this life it was just me and I was going up against human threats. That I can handle. Then it was the metahumans and I can handle that. And now I learned that there are multiple Earths and I was brainwashed aboard an alien spacecraft."

Some series push themselves up and over the top, surpassing the bar they just set themselves a few episodes ago. Then they do it again. And again. And again.

This isn't meant to be confused with the buildup to season finales or a plot climax, but rather a consistent escalation in events that always exceeds what a viewer would expect. When this is done well, a new Moment of Awesome is, at any given moment, just around the corner. When done poorly, what would constitute as a Moment of Awesome can feel ordinary, or even absurd.

Not to be confused with Up to Eleven, where a series, group, or artist make a point of topping whatever was the latest, greatest thing (including if it was their own thing). To make a Serial Escalation is to create an enormous stack of such occurrences, generating a series of events that top the prior consecutively.


For events that are impossible, go to Beyond the Impossible.

Related to Sequel Escalation.

Compare Troperiffic, Exaggerated Trope, Logical Extreme, Lensman Arms Race, Sorting Algorithm of Evil, Power Creep, Mid-Season Upgrade, and Next Tier Power-Up.

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    Comic Strips 
  • Played with in one strip from Piranha Club, where Bud Grace (the author/artist, who regularly appeared in the comics for behind-the-scenes tomfoolery) was told by a frustrated editor that his comics were getting weirder and weirder — which was around the time the martian Zerblatt had become a recurring character and had fathered dozens of froglike kids with a supermodel. In a later interview, Grace admitted that his comics were getting increasingly more and more bizarre, likening it to eating a lot of spicy food — after a while it doesn't seem as spicy anymore, and then you want something spicier.
  • Dilbert: Topper. Every story you tell, he did it better, even if it seems logically impossible.

  • Destroy the Godmodder:
    • The game started out as a silly Minecraft-themed forum game with little story beyond a Random Events Plot. Then, in DTG2, the series slowly evolved into the large-scale conflict with intricate plotlines, illustrations, and proper roleplaying that it is known for today.
    • In-universe, the Godmodder perpetuated this. In the first game, he was attacking a small Minecraft server. At the start of the second, he traps every Minecraft player on a server. Now, an inter-universal team of bigger villains overshadows him, and they may not even be the biggest bad of the game.
  • GET THAT PIZZA!: Played with. While tropers can steal the pizza in any way at any time, meaning less impressive ways can still be used as the thread goes on, it's only natural that the tropers would come up with more complex ways as the thread goes on. Lampshaded by Awe, after Bluethorn accidentally causes a Class X-4 apocalypse.
    "Awe921 looks back at the first page and reminisces about the days when the worst thing that happened to him was merely a bullet."

  • During the Transformers toy line's original run in the 1980s, Hasbro tried to top a number of their own gimmicks. For example, in 1985, Hasbro introduced the Triple Changers — toys that had three transformation modes (one robot mode, and two vehicle modes) instead of the usual two. In 1987, they introduced Sixshot — a toy that had SIX transformation modes!

  • AMD has been consistently doing this to itself and it’s rival Intel ever since it found it’s champion in the Zen architecture. On Zen’s maiden year, AMD created not only the ThreadRipper, a 16-core CPU for workstations, but also the Epyc 7601, a 32-core CPU for servers (scalable to up to 64 cores by using two CPUs). The next year they one-up themselves in the Workstation market with the 32-core ThreadRipper 2990WX CPU for workstations and the 64-core Epyc 7H12 for servers (this time scalable to 128 cores using two CPUs). For the third year, they actually upped the ante for desktop PCs by introducing the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X and the 64-core ThreadRipper 3990WX workstations, while still holding back on their server CPUs. And oh, they’re increasing their core counts while trying to keep the pricing consistent, which is still way lower than Intel’s offerings. Once can only imagine what server CPUs they are currently still keeping under wraps. Intel is rightfully quaking in their pants.

Alternative Title(s): Spectacle Creep


Video Example(s):


DBAM - Do We Have A Problem

Toothpick's gang attempts to harass Loc Dog and Tray with a pistol and a wrongly-loaded RPG-7, only for Loc Dog to introduce them to a armory's worth of guns on his waist and A FREAKING NUKE in their truck.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThreatBackfire

Media sources:

Main / ThreatBackfire