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Smash to Black

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Before a commercial, television shows have traditionally done a Fade to Black. Recently, though, television dramas skip the fading and cut the picture to a completely black screen. Typically, a Smash to Black will immediately follow a shocking moment such as a Wham Line, a Commercial Break Cliffhanger, or a Cold Opening, but can also follow a One-Liner or a moment of Deadpan Snark. Expect this to be called "Older Than The DVD" thirty years down the road.


Named for the Smash Cut, of which this is a subtrope. May be accompanied by a Scare Chord.


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  • One of these occurs after a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment in REDLINE where a family drawn in a completely different art style is seen watching TV for no reason. Cue smash cut to black for added audience disorientation.
  • s-CRY-ed has one that's phenomenally brutal in its simplicity. Kimishima has been severely injured amidst his Moment of Awesome. So Kazuma carries him back home. Somewhere along the way, Kimishima stops talking, but Kazuma doesn't realize what this means. When they get home, Kaname realizes what's happened, and starts to cry. But Kazuma...
    "Hey, now you hold on or you're gonna fall! Kimishima are you listenin'? Hey! Kimishima? Heh heh, say something. Kimishima I am not in the mood to fool around. This isn't funny. Hey, Kaname, what's wrong?...Hey, wait. Kimishima?"
    (screen cuts to black)
    "Come on, wake up. Kimishima..."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie Avatar ends the same way.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson is fond of ending movies this way—Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood. The one in Magnolia is perfectly timed to the big guitar lick in Aimee Mann song "Save Me".
  • The first officially-released teaser for Godzilla (2014) has two, one right after the first glimpse of Godzilla, another right before the second glimpse.
  • The ending to Inception.
  • The Rundown ends similarly.
  • No Country for Old Men is a strange example in that the smash to black comes after a long scene of dialogue in which Ed Tom Bell describes two unsettling dreams to his wife over breakfast. In a movie full of disturbing violence and suspense, the smash to black makes the final scene all the more ominous.
  • Inverted in the case of the ending of Total Recall (1990) which does a Smash To White.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: As the New Avengers present themselves at the end, the music swells, Captain America steps up to them and says "Avengers... A--" Smash to credits. Seeing as the movie was directed by Joss Whedon (see the entry under Live-Action TV below), this isn't surprising.
  • Resolution, a film about stories, the resolution thereof, and the Eldritch Abomination guiding the story, has the characters asking the narrator for a second chance. There's a roar and a cut to black and the film ends.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Joss Whedon apparently loves this trope, using it with all his shows:
    • Angel,
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
    • Dollhouse
    • Firefly,
      • Joss mentions in the commentary for Firefly that in order to avoid the automatic cuing of the commercial, they changed the color of the blackout, so Smash to Black became Smash to Almost Black But Really Just Very Dark Brown.
  • Criminal Minds ended the fourth season like this (and on a major cliffhanger).
  • Everybody Hates Chris ended its series this way as well, mainly as a Shout-Out to The Sopranos.
  • Lost does this with just about every major or minor plot twist. In other words, a lot.
  • Season 5 of Mad Men ends this way, just after a woman propositions Don Draper. It's probably a tribute/Shout-Out to The Sopranos (on which Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was a writer and producer).
  • Malcolm in the Middle did this in nearly every episode, complete with a door-slamming sound effect.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had one episode ("Michael Ellis", 1974) in which the actors were discussing how to end the show.
    "Well, how about a sudden ending?" CUT
  • Skins smashes to black so often that the one time they did the fade out (Katie's S4 episode) it stood out (and some people suspected the fade out to be a lengthening device to cover up time lost from cut scenes).
  • Infamously, The Sopranos ended the series this way, with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" cutting off mid-word. The meaning of this has been debated at length, the usual interpretation being that Tony was killed in a hit.
  • Supernatural does this frequently, as observed on Television Without Pity:
    "End scene." (monster boots Dean in the face. Smash Cut to commercials.)
  • Pops up now and then on Fringe, notably when the porcupine monster rampages through a TSA holding area in the teaser of "Nothing as It Seems".
  • The Late Late Show did this with Craig Ferguson's Grand Finale, referencing Newhart, The Drew Carey Show, St. Elsewhere, and getting cut off like The Sopranos, music and all.
    • The new James Corden version used this on a "Celebrity Noses" sketch (one where Corden can't get to Celebrity Noses because things keep going wrong) cut to black because the director told them they were out of time.
  • This was actually common on many drama and action adventure series produced by Universal Studios in the 70s and 80s.
  • Used hilariously to conclude the penultimate Season 2 episode of Galavant
    Jester: (singing) Or will we leave all our viewers with pain and anger,
    Just like we left them last year?
    Could we just stop once again, on a huge cliffhanger—
    (Smash to Black.)
  • Along with the Smash From Black, this is how the CBC and its French counterpart SRC presented its interlude title cards (the only text to be shown in the picture) in the 70s and 80s.

    Video Games 
  • The Beatles: Rock Band does this with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," befitting how the song itself ends.
  • BioShock Infinite ends in a similar way to the Mass Effect example below. The actions in the final scene coincide with the soundtrack, cutting to black with the final piano note. And by actions, I mean every version of Elizabeth (one of the two main characters) in the multiverse disappearing from existence before the camera, smashing into black with the last one—the one you've grown to know throughout the game. Did I mention Elizabeth just drowned her father at his own request? Bio Shock is just that kind of franchise.
  • Done in The Stanley Parable as well, sometimes out of nowhere, usually to indicate something bad has happened, and always to great effect.
  • Used prominently in Telltale Games' more recent projects.
    • The Wolf Among Us ends Episode 1 with the reveal of Snow White's severed head on the front step of the Woodlands, Episode 2 with Crane smashing the magic mirror, Episode 3 with a severely injured Bigby lying bleeding in an alleyway, Episode 4 with whatever action the player took upon meeting The Crooked Man (especially effective if the player chose to smoke as the smash occurs when Bigby ignites his lighter, and most shockingly, Episode 5 with Bigby's reaction to the game's single largest Wham Line that leaves a major part of the story (is Faith really dead, and if so, when did she actually die? Is Nerissa who she says she is, or is she actually Faith in disguise?) up for discussion. The smash only occurs if the player chooses to go after Nerissa, and punctuates Bigby's last memory of Faith. "I'll see you around...Wolf."
    • Season 1 of The Walking Dead ends Episode 1 on a weird gradual example as all the lights in the Travelier Motel go out one by one, and a moment after the last one shuts off, the smash occurs. Episode 2 ends with a smash to punctuate Jolene's video tape of Clementine in the motel, and the line, "You'll be safe, I promise." Episode 4 ends with Lee being stunned completely speechless by The Stranger on the walkie talkie as the game ignores whatever option the player chose by smashing to black, and Episode 5 ends with the Sequel Hook of Clementine alone in a field spotting two figures off in the distance.
  • An option in Limbo can be switched on if you don't like the gory deaths that can occure. It smashs to black the instant the boy is about to be killed, but leaves the sound of his demise in.
  • Mass Effect 3 ends like this, with the Smash to Black coinciding with the final note in the ending music. However if the EMS is high enough and the player chose to destroy the reapers, there is a quick scene after in which Shepard wakes up in the rubble.
  • The Star Wars video game Republic Commando ends with this, with the door of the gunship that the protagonist squad is in slamming shut after Boss says "Delta Squad! Lock and load!"
  • In Shin Megami Tensei I, if all human characters in the party die, the screen makes a sudden cut to black accompanied by a screeching sound, which lasts several seconds before fading in to a scene of you crossing into the afterlife.
    • Shin Megami Tensei II does the same, only without any sound effects to go with your final moments of life.
  • In Alien: Isolation, whenever the Xenomorph catches you, the screen smashes to black the moment before the creature deals the finishing blow.

    Web Animation 
  • "No Evil" has this in "Black Bart" as part of Wrip's perspective when Charles/Black Bart takes Xochipilli's ear covers, absorbing the Black Tezcatlipoca. He promptly uses the new power on everyone nearby, Wrip included, causing a Smash To Black. We're then given a shot of her waking up, surrounded by the rest of the cast.

    Web Comics 
  • Played for Laughs in Bob and George, when the Author tries to stop Proto Man from unmasking his impostor the titular Bob until the next strip to preserve dramatic tension. When Proto Man dares the Author to try, the last panel is completely blacked out.

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  • The "Sex Survey Results" episode of Lasagna Cat uses a Smash to Orange in its ending.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time does this at the end of each episode.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball ends nearly every episode with a hard cut to the credits. The one time they used an Iris Out, it was just a Fake-Out Fade-Out.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses this in many act breaks.
  • The Simpsons was perhaps the first show to do this consistently. Most act breaks avoided fadeouts, in part because they usually end acts on a gag and it is thought a fadeout would detract from its impact.
    • To combat the automatic commercial problem noted above, most Simpsons episodes have a fadeout artificially added when they air in syndication. This can be problematic since often there is plot or a joke happening up to the very last second of an act, so the fadeout often begins while the action is still occurring.
  • Most of the episodes of seasons 1-6 of Spongebob Squarepants ended like this, yet allowing the background music to end properly even after the end. Starting from somewhere around season 6, smashes to black are only seen on the DVD or iTunes versions of the episodes (note that the background music is ending within the episode, not after the smash to black), while on and international versions of Nickelodeon, there are no smashes.
    • "The Krabby Patty secret formula i—"
  • Steven Universe uses this instead of its usual star shaped Iris Out for more serious episode endings.
  • Family Guy did this in "Lois Kills Stewie". Serves as bit of a Take That! to the infamous ending of The Sopranos mentioned above.
  • Happens Once an Episode on Kaeloo, usually about one minute from the end of the episode.
  • Although not a true smash to black, as there is still audio, the video smashes to black during one of the biggest Wham Lines in season 3 of Bojack Horseman
    Bojack: Sarah Lynn? (beat) Sarah Lynn? (Smash To Black)...Sarah Lynn?

    Real Life 


Example of: