An episode that can stand alone on its own with a self-contained story that does not need prior viewing of any other episode to understand. It's usually an episode that breaks from the current arc to focus on a one-shot subplot or character; for example, if the arc is about stopping The End of the World as We Know It, a Stand Alone Episode can be about dealing with a Sealed Evil in a Can that's released at the beginning of the episode and resealed by the end of the episode, never to be mentioned again.
A Stand Alone Episode can also be a Beach Episode, Breather Episode, or A Day in the Limelight, but not always; the only prerequisite of one is not to follow a script that goes on for more than one episode. When such an episode happens to be a Season Finale, it is a Dénouement Episode.
Many shows can be considered a long run of Stand Alone Episodes. Comedy series usually consist entirely of Stand-Alones because each episode usually focuses on a different gag or zany schemes. Likewise, Adventure Towns series generally consist of Stand Alone Episodes.
In arc-heavy series, a good Stand Alone Episode can be the hook a die-hard fan of the show can use to pull others in, due to its self-contained nature. Likewise, even fans of the arcs will often cite a Stand-Alone as their favorite episode; an arc episode is difficult to separate and appreciate outside of the arc which contains it, but a Stand Alone Episode can be fully appreciated of itself.
Sometimes, though, writers will want to revisit the plot of a Stand Alone Episode and create a later episode that expands on the earlier story; this is a Sequel Episode.
By their very nature, the pilot episode for a show is usually a Stand Alone Episode.
- Digimon will often lead up to the climax of an arc, then have one episode of pure Filler before the dramatic stuff begins.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex actually labeled its stand-alone episodes (as opposed to arc-based "complex" episodes) as such on the title card. SAC: 2nd Gig did the same, but labeled its stand-alone episodes as "dividual" as opposed to the other two types ("individual"note and "dual").
- Parts 4 and 5 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are considered to be stand-alone, as they have little-to-nothing to do with the main story (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 6).
- A lot of earlier episodes of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf have plots that stand on their own, with no earlier plot points being required to understand them. Later seasons avert this much more often with episodes that form a season-wide connected narrative.
- The Bolt Chronicles: Every entry in the series qualifies as a standalone story, as they can be read singly without the context of other episodes, or together as a cohesive entity.
- James Bond:
- Pretty much all of the films from Dr. No to Die Another Day can be watched as standalone adventures. There are occasional Continuity Nods such as George Lazenby's Bond getting objects from past films out of a drawer in On Her Majesty's Secret Service or the grave of Tracy in For Your Eyes Only, but that doesn't impact the self-containedness of each film. This is actually considered as one of the reasons the series never fell out of fashion, with pretty much each film being its own standalone escapist adventure.
- For the Daniel Craig Bond era, only Casino Royale and Skyfall qualify as standalones. The three other films put more emphasis on continuity, unlike the pre-Craig films. Quantum of Solace picks up right where Casino Royale left off, Spectre explores plot threads left from Skyfall and connects Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to its story, and No Time to Die explores plot threads left from Spectre.
- Doctor Who:
- "Mission to the Unknown" is a unique episode, being the only Doctor-lite episode in Classic Who, but the reason is that it was a Backdoor Pilot for a Dalek-focused Spin-Off. It did get a sequel, but it was a Sequel in Another Medium, being an audio from Big Finish called Dalek Empire, which is an Alternate Continuity to the classic series, although it takes some of the show's original canon liberally.
- Episode 7 of "The Daleks' Master Plan", titled "The Feast of Steven", has nothing to do with the rest of the 12 part serial, and the Daleks don't show up at all. Instead, the TARDIS crew ends up in 1960s London before finding themselves on a movie set in the 1920s. This was done because episode 7 of this story aired on Christmas Day. The producers didn't think many people would be watching the television on Christmas, so they made this episode a standalone to prevent people from being completely lost when they tuned in for episode 8. When "The Daleks' Master Plan" was sold to overseas broadcasters, it was offered as an 11-episode story, episode 7 having been removed due to being inconsequential to the plot.
- "Love & Monsters" is a Lower-Deck Episode focusing on a one-shot character narrating his experiences involving the Doctor and aliens. The most notable thing about it is that it contains the first appearance of "Saxon", Series 3's Arc Word.
- "Blink" is also a Lower-Deck Episode unconnected to the season's Myth Arc, but it is famous for introducing the Weeping Angels.
- In Series 5, "Vincent and the Doctor" is the only episode without any appearance from the cracks in time. There are, however, oblique references to the Story Arc involving them, mainly about Amy's fiancé Rory having been eaten by a crack in the previous episode. ("Why are you being so nice to me?"; "I'm not the marrying kind.")
- Series 9 does not have a definite arc, but "Sleep No More" stands out as the only single-story episode in a season of multi-parts.
- Eureka has a couple Christmas episodes outside the regular storyline.
- JAG: Other than the Pilot Movie, Each of us Angels in the 8th season focused on a group of Navy nurses before and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, and is the only episode where the entire cast appears and where none of them play their usual characters.
- Lost 's sixth season has the universally acclaimed "Ab Aeterno", which focuses solely on Richard Alpert. Because 90% of the episode takes place 170 years before the present day and focuses little on the main characters, it has been praised as a good "gateway episode" to introduce someone to Losts format and mysteries without actually starting them from scratch and the closest thing Lost has to a TV movie (the episode is extended by six minutes).
- Millennium (1996): "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me". Four demons disguised as humans have a chat in a diner to share strategy. Frank Black briefly shows up in each demon's story, but the episode has no actual connection with the show's Myth Arc.
- Red Dwarf: "Psirens" was specifically written as a "reintroduction" episode for the series, through Lister's amnesia sequence.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity" could be viewed as this. The plot? O'Neill and Teal'c get stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop and Hilarity Ensues.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Visitor" is often ranked as one of its best episodes, even though most of it takes place in an alternate future timeline, and the main character is a guest star (Tony Todd) playing the now-elderly Jake Sisko.
- The West Wing:
- "Isaac and Ishmael" Explicitly stated to be outside the regular series continuity.
- "The Long Goodbye": Though there are phone calls to Toby re: the current arc one or two times, the episode is otherwise entirely about CJ dealing with her Alzheimer's-stricken father. It's also one of the few episodes of the first four seasons not to be written by Aaron Sorkin. This all makes it very much polarizing.
- When Hope Calls, a Spin-Off of When Calls the Heart can be watched independently of its parent series; it follows Lillian and Grace, introduced in the Christmas Episode When Calls the Heart:The Greatest Christmas Blessing. The show's entire Story Arc about an orphanage has no ties to its parent show and there are no references to the parent franchise, making this a standalone work too.
- The X-Files alternated Myth Arc episodes and standalone ones. The mythology episodes became more prominent in season 2 but standalones outnumber them. They later did origins episode about the background of FBI's X-Files division or how Mulder met the Lone Gunmen.
- Kagerou Project: All of the series' songs come together to form one cohesive story (that being said, the details are still slightly fuzzy), but several of the series' songs could stand alone as their own story without any exterior context:
- Headphone Actor: The story of a girl running for her life as the Apocalypse starts, only to find the whole city is a science experiment.
- Toumei Answer: The story of a boy who becomes a Hikikomori after his Only Friend Ayano commits suicide.
- Kagerou Days: The story of a boy and a girl caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, where the girl keeps dying. Messily.
- The songs in the Confession Executive Committee series likewise form a larger narrative that ties the stories of multiple characters together, but some of the songs don't really connect to the main plot.
- "Detained Teacher" largely serves as this, since the PV series doesn't go in-depth about the relationship between Haruki, Saku, and Chiaki as the rest of the franchise does, and wraps up their drama relatively neatly in one go.
- The entire Midori/Sena arc (Friday's Good Morning, Sunday's Secret) can be divorced from the rest of the videos without much problem, given that their problems don't intersect with the rest of 3-2 or 1-1's problems.
- "I Want to Become Cute" is purely a song about Sena's thoughts and feelings concerning her desire to be pretty and seen, and only tangentially references the other characters.
- Likewise, "Little Lion" can easily be seen as another one of LIP×LIP's in-universe music videos, as the story is mostly a Magic Realism tale about a cat with the idols playing second fiddle.
- "Mister Darling" is primarily about the Narumis' parents, and even out of context can be taken as a song about a girl wants to keep the spark in her relationship as she gets older.
- William Forsythe's ballet In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is an unusual case. It's part of a full-evening avant garde work, Impressing the Czar, which consists of multiple scenes in wildly different dance idioms. In the Middle premiered before Impressing the Czar and is almost always performed independently of it.
- Dark Souls 2, while having some item and lore call backs to the first game, is largely self contained plot-wise, with it not being necessary to play Dark Souls 1 to understand whats going on. Dark Souls 3 however
- Find the Cure! is set in the Darwin's Soldiers universe, but has no connection to any pre-existing events, characters, or locations.
- Gamer 2, the other video game set in Darwin's Soldiers, is also completely unrelated to the rest of the canon except the short story that inspired it.
- Mass Effect 2: The loyalty missions have little to do with the main plot of the game, instead focusing on the squadmate characters. Some of them do play into the larger plot and events of the third game though.
- Touhou: Double Dealing Character is a bit of an in between episode coming right after the Religious War arc and followed by ULiL and LoLK which tie into the Lunar arc with DDC having no connection to either of them.
- Teen Titans and its Breather Episodes, often at the end of a dramatic arc.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, episodes starring Starlight Glimmer are all this in Seasons 8 and 9, typically focusing on her relationship with Trixie or her job at the School of Friendship and having no impact on or connection to the season's overarching story arc. When she does appear in other episodes, she does little at most.