Follow TV Tropes


Status Quo Is God

Go To

"Looks like everything's back the way it was! Which is the only way it should ever be..."

Within a work, particularly long-running series and franchises, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it's generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.

This usually happens in a series with no overarching conflict or plot, although it is also the final stage of Exponential Plot Delay, the phenomenon in which the plot of a serial story has totally ground to a halt. In either case, each installment of the series will open under virtually identical circumstances to the installment that came before.

Why create a static situation? The creators want the audience to be familiar with the characters and situation, without having to bother with such things as "what happened last episode".

This trope is especially true for cartoons, where networks want to be free to broadcast reruns in any convenient order or lack thereof. It's also very common in sitcoms and comics, and as a result, there is a lot of Aesop Amnesia created. Although characters have learned their lessons or attempted to improve their predicaments, nothing ever really changes.

While this trope can be used to help avoid Continuity Lockout, it also can be very difficult to juggle an unchanging status quo without gradually turning off your audience; characters and situations which never change tend to get stale after a while, and audiences can get a bit tired of seeing the Reset Button being pushed every time it looks like something might happen to change things.

Status Quo Is God can easily collide with Happily Ever After. Sometimes, a story simply can't have an ending that is both happy and maintains the status quo—thus, these two powerful tropes are in conflict with each other. When this conflict occurs, it's likely that the status quo will be maintained, and the ending will be less happy than it might have been if not for Status Quo Is God. For example, if a main character gains a significant other at the beginning of the episode, it is almost certain that they will break up by the end, for one reason or another. And if the entire series is specifically about the Unresolved Sexual Tension between two characters, or a Love Triangle of some sort, expect any potential romantic resolution to be squashed or reversed by the end of the episode so the leads can go back to pining for each other. (On the other hand, if the entire series is due to end and the creators feel confident that they'll never do a sequel, they may decide to break this trope with a Grand Finale that permanently fixes everything; the Last-Minute Hookup being a frequent example.)

Status Quo Is God is usually the justification for a Yo Yo Plot Point or an Ageless Birthday Episode. It has nothing to do with the divinity of a certain rock band, however.

Negative Continuity is what happens when this trope is exaggerated—not only does nothing ever change, it doesn't even require an explanation In-Universe, the world just resets at the end of every episode. See also, Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome, in which characters get a glimpse of an alternative universe where things have, in fact, changed.

Related to Just Eat Gilligan and Un-Confession. Unlikely Spare may also be used to this effect. For the opposite, in which a work changes dramatically over the course of its run, see Nothing Is the Same Anymore.



  • Aesop Amnesia: No one learns from their mistakes or remembers any lessons.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: A character has a birthday, but their age doesn't change.
  • Anti-School Uniforms Plot: Sudden School Uniforms is made the rule for one episode before being abolished.
  • Broken-System Dogmatist: A system is broken and corrupt beyond redemption, but this person wants to keep it in place regardless.
  • Cardboard Prison: Related to Joker Immunity described below; when not even a long prison sentence will last for a criminal.
  • Cartwright Curse: Relationships that might change a character's romantic status quo don't last.
  • Comic-Book Time: Time stands still in-universe, despite the long progression of time in the real world. Gets extra confusing when real years and events are mentioned.
  • Contractual Immortality: When the actor's contract is still in effect so their character's presumed death gets refused.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: No matter what they do or how hard they try, the character will never get the girl/boy.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: When a married couple will not be separated forever.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: No matter how many times the heroes thwart villains and save the world, bystanders will act like it's the heroes' first time, and civilians won't display any admiration for them or give them any special treatment.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If the success of the character implies a drastic alteration of the status quo of the series and/or the character itself.
  • The Good Guys Always Win: The near-universal rule that the bad guys must always lose. note 
  • Ignored Epiphany: Whenever a character intentionally maintains their status quo.
  • It's Always Spring: Perpetual sunshine and blue skies, because anything else would be inconvenient.
  • Joker Immunity: When villains have the privilege of immunity from death as well.
  • Keeping the Handicap: A disabled character decides against "fixing" the disability because it makes them what they are.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: When the viewer can easily predict that someone won't die due to their importance to the story.
  • Negative Continuity: Taken to its logical extreme, drastic changes happen but are quickly reverted by next time, without any explanation. Common in surrealistic works.
  • No Ontological Inertia: For some reason, destroying the source of something (like magic) will instantly negate any changes it made.
  • Plot Armor: Main characters (usually main protagonists, but also main antagonists) are deemed too important to die.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Fantastic technology is only used as a plot device, and barely affects the lives of the unnamed masses.
  • Reset Button: The status quo is reinforced by reverting any changes with a handwave.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The same as above but not only actively tragic but rendering any-and-all accomplishments meaningless.
  • Snap Back: Something happens to the character or the story, but it is somehow undone by the next episode without any explanation.
  • Static Character: Anyone who doesn't go through character development.
  • Status Quo Game Show: Sometimes winning a game show might affect the character's status quo, And That's Terrible.
  • Staying Alive: A character never stays dead.
  • Strictly Formula: When a series rarely (if ever) deviates from a standard plot formula.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Because the heroes refuse to permanently eliminate them.
  • Too Good for Exploiters: We're not scrapping the old system for a new one because we're too happy exploiting the old system to our benefit!
  • True Love Is Boring: If the status quo of the character forces them to remain single or without a couple.
  • Unprocessed Resignation: A character quits their job, but manages to get it back by the end of the episode due to the boss refusing to process the necessary paperwork.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Competitors will always end with their same results if Continuing is Painful for the losers. note 
  • Vegetarian for a Day: The diet of a character changes due to an event however they'll always go back by the next episode.
  • Villainous Plan Inertia: You've defeated the villain, and expect No Ontological Inertia to take care of his plan/missiles/evil empire... But wait! Everything's still proceeding... um... according to plan! Looks like the heroes are still on the clock for a little bit longer....
  • We Want Our Idiot Back!: An idiotic character becomes smarter, but goes back to their old intelligence level because other character want them to remain that way.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: A mean character becomes nicer but goes back to normal because the other characters wanted it.
  • World-Healing Wave: A magical force that restores damage on a global or universal scale.

Not quite a sub-trope but often overlaps with it:

  • Bait the Dog: Sometimes, when a bad character showing their likeable side would modify the status quo, the writers would make that disappear, but this is not always the reason they do so.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sometimes, when a character's unchanging status quo makes them unlucky, however, this is not the only reason for a character to be unlucky.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: If the reason it's convenient is because the baby would change the status quo, but not an example if it's convenient to the characters.
  • Death Is Cheap: When mortality can easily be reversed. This is not always because of this rule, however, and may be played for other reasons.
  • Disney Death: Fake deaths are used in place of real deaths. Not always a sub-trope because this is only one of many reasons for a fake death.
  • Fission Mailed: When losing a game sometimes modifies the status quo, it would subvert it into the game being continued, though it's not always the case.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: A character suddenly comes into wealth and it is quickly lost, spent, or stolen, especially if the character is established as always hard-up for money.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: A Butt-Monkey is exposed to extreme physical abuse, yet it never dies or gets hurt at all. Very common in Slapstick comedies.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When the story suggests that a jerkass might have a nicer side but then doesn’t. Sometimes this is because of the status quo, but other times it's played purely for comedy or to cement a character as a jerkass.
  • May It Never Happen Again: If the reason the effort is made not to repeat the story is because repeating the story would change the status quo. On the other hand, this is sometimes an inversion of Status Quo is God, since other times, people try to change the status quo by ensuring the conflict doesn't repeat.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: A story's buildup has no payoff. The lack of payoff is sometimes done because of the status quo, but other times for drama or comedy.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: A new character joins the main cast but is then promptly written out. However, this is often due to the negative reception of the character.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: A comedic sub-trope of Death Is Cheap and Negative Continuity. Sometimes done to maintain the status quo but other times it's played purely for Black Comedy.
  • Unsuccessful Pet Adoption: Someone adopts a pet, but it runs away or has to go. Maintaining the status quo is one of the reasons to play this trope, but not the only one.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: If the hero were the one with a plan to change the world, a happy ending would involve the status quo changing. So instead, the villain is the one who wants to change the world, and the hero stops him to make sure nothing has to change.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Sometimes, the reason for an unlucky character's luck disappearing is because having it stick around would shake up the status quo, but not always.

Examples that have their own pages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Lamput episode "Fracture", the docs, who normally chase after Lamput, outright help him for once when he gets a fracture and can't shapeshift properly. Any compassion the docs have for him is gone by the end of the episode and they go back to chasing him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes plays with this: on a broad scale, Calvin's life remains the same; he's always 6-years-old, regardless of how many Christmases we see him celebrate. If Hobbes gets lost or stolen or they have a falling out, they'll be reunited by the end of the story arc. If Calvin gets in particularly bad trouble with his parents, it'll all be smoothed over and reset to the base level of tension between them. However, specific recurring story arcs evolve and refer back to each other: when Calvin puts on his Stupendous Man costume, he or Hobbes will mention what happened the last time he wore it. Eventually he causes enough trouble with it that his mom takes it away and we never see it again. Likewise, his relationship with Rosalyn gets more complex (and generally more antagonistic) with each babysitting incident, but in her last arc, the two have fun together and part amicably. These gradual changes are only possible in a strip that has a finite, if large, lifespan, so it makes sense that Watterson ended the strip after 10 years, and probably had that ending in mind when he brought these arcs to their resolution.
    • The strips that most call attention to this trope are ones in which Calvin pointedly fails to learn, whether a moral lesson or academics. In one arc, he gets tutored in math by his dad and seems to be making progress, to the point that he bets Susie money that he'll get the higher grade on a test, but it becomes immediately obvious that he's forgotten everything.
  • Possibly the most brutal example of this trope in action was in Curtis. Curtis' mom got pregnant with a third child, only to have a miscarriage due to gang violence. After a few days of mourning, no family member ever mentioned it again.
    • Word of God said in an interview that this was planned from the start. He never intended to introduce the third child in the strip.
  • Dennis the Menace (US) celebrated his fifth birthday every year.
  • FoxTrot slipped into this — at first it actually did have a bit of continuity (Jason's teacher retiring, Andy's hairstyle changing, Andy's job being established as a columnist, the Summer Camp arc, Peter and Denise getting together) but it quickly fell into this, as with every story arc the status quo would be reset. This made the time when Phoebe and Eugene visited seem somewhat odd.
    • Discussed in this strip. Peter is excited for Grand Theft Auto VI, which he'll be old enough to play when it comes out next year. Jason points out that the same thing happened when the last game came out a decade prior (when Peter was, of course, still 16). They ultimately agree not to think too hard about it.
  • Garfield slipped into this some time after Odie was introduced and Lyman got hit with Chuck Cunningham Syndrome as all the major characters and plots were set up. However, after twenty-five years, Jon and Liz got together, promoting Liz to a main character and creating a new status quo.
  • Madam & Eve plays this rigidly straight; aside from the early introduction of Mother Anderson and Thandi Sisulu to the comic, there have been no major permanent changes since the strip first started in 1993. Even the introduction of Gwen's son Eric was quietly ignored afterward (twice!).
  • Invoked in an Over the Hedge story arc in which Verne is made over by RJ in an attempt to humiliate him, but ends up making him popular with the ladies (or as RJ puts it, turned him into Hugh Heffner). This somehow upsets nature, and the Nature Police arrest him, but he gives Hammy an energy drink, enabling him to go back and stop the makeover from happening, but it not only has the present day have two Hammys, but also has them, Verne, and RJ speak backwards (represented by backwards text).
  • Peanuts:
    • Charlie Brown never succeeded in kicking that football. Schulz refused to break the status quo even when requests were made after he announced his retirement.
    • It looked like Charlie Brown would never truly win a baseball game for the same reason. (One time, he did win, and it seemed such a big event that Walter Cronkite himself congratulated Charlie Brown on the CBS Evening News; unfortunately, Charlie Brown had to forfeit the game because Rerun had gambled on it, so Cronkite regrettably rescinded what he said.) However, Schulz broke the status quo in 1993, by having him win two games fairly (against the same team, no less, a team run by a spacy girl who believed she was Roy Hobbs granddaughter.) And even this was subverted as she eventually says she let him win.

    Fan Works 
  • "0-8-4 at the Museum" features a version of this when Coulson's team discover the secret of the Golden Tablet of Pharaoh Ahkmenrah when it reanimates a set of Chitauri armor on display. While SHIELD policy would require Coulson to take such a powerful artefact into his own custody, Roosevelt points out to Coulson that the Tablet is safer where it is due to the risk of how its power might interact with other such artefacts SHIELD may have in their custody.
  • At the conclusion of Doctor Who and the Rambaldi Enigma, the Third Doctor acquires the Master’s TARDIS to take Sydney Bristow back to her time, but explicitly states that he will return to 1496 to reacquire his own ship because he doesn’t like the atmosphere of the Master’s TARDIS, even if his old ship is still virtually immobilised by the Time Lords so that he would have to return to his exile in the 1970s.
  • Interestingly played with in The Infinite Loops. Since the whole plot is an episodic collection of time loops that various universes are forced into while the Admins repair the Multiverse, a lot of things are constantly reset to "normal" and there is no end in sight for the repairs. But the characters that are aware of the time loops grow and develop....
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail plays an Aversion for drama: After Chloe runs away and boards the Train, Goh becomes determined to track her down and bring her back home safely... while clinging to the idea that once he does, everything can go back to precisely the way it was before. He refuses to acknowledge that the argument they got into before she left was the result of years' worth of resentment boiling over, clinging to the delusion that she'll be fine with things reverting back to normal. When Chloe finally spells out for him that she has no intention of giving up everything she's gained during her adventures, he doesn't take it well.

Calvin and Hobbes

Danny Phantom

Family Guy

  • Subverted in The Spellbook quite often: Meg and Matt got married, and had a kid, Meg, Matt and Lois didn't lose their powers after the chapter they gained them was over and Brian and Jillian got two children.
  • Subverted in Family Guy Fanon: Quagmire has a permanent wife Kimi (until they divorce in Season 19), Peter returns to his old job as a fisherman, Chris and Meg find true girlfriend and boyfriends in Anna and Anthony Fargus and Meg's biological father Stan Thompson doesn't disappear after his big three-parter and becomes a main character on the cast.

Marvel Universe

Mega Man

Miraculous Ladybug

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

  • Stick to the Foaluma is this trope Played for Drama in a terrifying fashion. Silver Spoon begins to realize how her and Diamond's lives seem to revolve around torturing the CMC and tries to change it...only for the computer controlling the show to literally press the Reset Button and Ret-Gone it completely.


  • That Look: Every time Naruto appears to be a Dumbass No More, he does something mind-numbingly stupid (such as not understanding the point of attacking a reservoir that supplies seventy percent of Suna's water, despite knowing Suna is in a desert). Furthermore, characters will comment on his growth only to insist he's still just a dumb kid a few chapters later. Combined with this is the fact his relationship with Anko never either moves forward or actually ends.


  • In-Universe example in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. In their first encounter, MissingNo basically suggests to Ash this was the case in the old timeline, saying he and his friends lived in near eternal joy and happiness, yet no matter how hard they tried, their dreams were always above them as if through an impenetrable glass ceiling. Apparently it's because Cyrus decided to screw with Ash as a test of his power, for no reason other than he could, while he built up enough strength to remake the universe, leading to the events of the story.
    • The story also deconstructs the idea of breaking Ash and the others from this trope. While Ash is frustrated by not being able to win a league, MissingNo points out that the Status Quo prevents things from getting too dark, and now that things have changed, all of them paid an Equivalent Exchange for the chance to fulfill their dreams, even though none of them chose to. In short, breaking the Status Quo means they have to face issues none of them ever had to deal with, none of which are pretty. Ash is stronger and more powerful, but his Dad is the most vile being in the universe. Misty has achieved a stronger connection to Water Pokémon, at the cost of being under a horribly abusive family for so long. Iris is able to connect with Dragon Types, but her adoptive family has been kidnapped by Hunter J, and her birth family abandoned her to die. Brock has a loving girlfriend, but his parents both died in this timeline. And Anabelle has a connection to Ash she never got in the original reality, but she's been rendered mute as a result of a car crash that killed her parents, and isn't a Frontier Brain in this story.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Spongebob Square Pants

  • Deconstructed in Some Things Never Change. The status quo is maintained from the series, but it's shown that everyone is much worse off than before. Bikini Bottom's denizens have become increasingly meaner, ruder, and more selfish, causing the town to stagnate. SpongeBob himself still acts like a Manchild despite being old, which is more off-putting to everyone than appealing, being the result of a coping mechanism to deal with the deaths of his family members, his heroes, and his beloved Gary. Sandy's more adventurous hobbies have worn her down quite a bit, and she can't handle them nearly as well in her older age. Plankton's drive to steal the Krabby Patty Secret Formula ends with his death in a failed synthetic body, which became All for Nothing when it turns out that Mr. Krabs made up the whole formula as part of a marketing ploy. Krabs himself is revealed to be a Really 700 Years Old scoundrel who kept using the Fountain of Youth to make himself younger, but it dries up and leaves him ripe for the Flying Dutchman's taking. still Patrick. And Squidward himself has been stuck in an endless feud with Squilliam for so long, it's left him miserable, depressed, and flat out feeling like a failure. Only when he stops pursuing this pointless rivalry does he begin to finally move forward, as do the rest of the cast.


  • Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Movie plays with this trope, the characters mention how many powerful cards they have that they will never use again, and how they will never mention the events that happened in the film again.

    Films — Animation 
  • Explored in Spider Man Across The Spiderverse, where it's established as a theoretical law of physics that the status quo will be kept up in each universe for each Spider-person. Spider-society, as such, frowns upon anybody trying to intervene with these "canon events" regardless of how bad they are or if they can be averted in the first place under the assumption that the universe will unravel as a result. The main conflict begins when Miles is targeted by the society for being in violation of one of those "canon events".
  • In The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, Plankton goes back to his villainous ways at the end, with him basically admitting that stealing the Krabby Patty formula is just what he's supposed to do. Alas, this does require him to toss out some awesome Character Development that had Plankton pull off a Big Damn Heroes moment, finally obtain the formula, and then willingly hand it back to Mr. Krabs, but as the whole franchise runs on Negative Continuity, it was pretty much inevitable that setting everything back to normal would mean returning him to his usual role.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: In the end, Top Cat and his pals are back to being penniless and Officer Dibble comes out of retirement.
  • This is at the heart of Wreck-It Ralph. By the end of the movie, Ralph accepts this, but everything he's gone through by that point helps him understand the importance of his particular status and even earns him the respect he truly deserved. After all, plainly put, a video game like his literally can't function without him. Having finally gained a real true friend after it all helps too.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used frequently in any Slasher Movie series, as the villain always comes back, one way or another. Friday the 13th is probably the worst offender, with Jason Voorhees being the most prolific despite having two movies whose title said he would be dead for good. In a more realistic horror movie series like Saw or Scream, even if the villain does stay dead, it will continue with him being a Legacy Character.
  • The premise for Batman: The Movie and Batman TV series is that that incarnation of Batman only is useful to fight supervillains (and nothing more). He cannot change anything more in his world. Robin's idea to better the world by making a "Freaky Friday" Flip with the bickering United World Organization security council is quickly rejected by Batman. Then when this happens... the security council is still bickering between themselves, but each one of them is bickering in a different idiom. Batman realizes this and he and Robin going out inconspicuously through the window.
  • Before The Dark Knight Trilogy, you could expect all Batman movies to have the main villain dead, with Gotham saved. And Bruce Wayne would always get a new girlfriend, only to end up single again for the next movie. The notable exception is Batman & Robin; both villains are alive at the end although both are incarcerated and one has reformed.
  • In Doctor in Distress (1963), Sir Lancelot becomes a lot nicer once he falls in love with Iris. This doesn't last however, and by the end of the film he's back to his old grumpy self.
  • Count Dracula always comes back.
  • Godzilla will always come back to either: A) fight other (possibly Eviler than Thou) monsters; B) destroy a major city (usually Tokyo), or C) both. No matter how many times the JSDF tries to stop him.
    • For the first sequel, it was another Godzilla, just according to keikaku and predicted by Dr. Yamane in the first Godzilla film. For the rest of the Showa series, he was never permanently defeated, but merely came back throughout one loose but traceable continuity. Other times (like the Return of Godzilla and most of the Millennium films) it was an alternate continuity, sometimes even altering the in-universe events of the films they included. This case could be more Strictly Formula than Status Quo Is God.
    • Comic book writers like to subvert this. In Planetary the Four kill off the Kaiju in their crusade against weird, and in Marvel Civil War it was explained that the arrival of Japanese Superheroes allowed Japan to put an end to its Kaiju attacks. Moral of the Story: the way to kill off a status quo is with another status quo.
  • High School Musical has a song all about this called "Stick to the Status Quo". As described by The Agony Booth. This results in Sharpay becoming more empty-headed and bitchy by the second movie and again in the third one.
  • Even though Blakey was demoted down to a conductor and Jack was taken off Stan's route at the end of Mutiny on the Buses, the two are back to their old positions in Holiday on the Buses.
  • Indiana Jones: see James Bond. He finds lost treasures, and they're never heard from again. The Lost Ark? After its display of power, The Government packs it away and nothing bad happens despite the biblical prophecy that anyone who kept the Ark from the rightful Israelites would suffer God's wrath. The Shankara Stones? It's just a rock without the others (and, uh, no one ever will go down to that river). The Holy Grail? Trapped behind a cursed barrier. The Crystal Skull? Reunites with its body, and flies off to space... and another dimension.
  • It's a Wonderful Life is an in-universe case: while George has the opportunity to leave town for college and "see the world", the fact that Potter will take over his father's business and shut it down if he doesn't stay forces him to stay and run the building-and-loan himself. While it is later revealed that he made the wiser choice by staying instead of leaving, his only apparent motivation to make this choice in the first place was a desire to keep the town the same.
  • James Bond never changed his name or call number, even after 40 years of the original (Dr. No-Die Another Day) continuity, countless adventures, and five different actors. Never received any permanent scars or disabilities from battle wounds. Never married (for long), fathered children, caught a disease, or even gets a morning-after call from the Bond Girls he slept with in previous movies. Any new techno-toys Q gave him would vanish before the next movie.
    • This only really started with the Roger Moore films. The Connery films (and Lazenby's sole outing) had a loose story arc revolving around Bond taking on Blofeld and SPECTRE.
    • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service Bond falls in love with Tracy Draco, eventually deciding to marry her and possibly leave the secret service. However, in the finale of the film, Tracy is murdered by Blofeld right after their wedding, and everything is undone.
    • One fanon explanation is that "007" is "James Bond" ... that is, James Bond is a codename, so whether the current agent with designation 007 looks like Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan, his identity documents still say "James Bond." This was actually given a shout-out in Secret Avengers, with Hawkeye wondering if the new Nick Fury (the African-American son of the original Nick Fury, introduced to coincide with the popularity of the Race Lift Fury gets in adaptations nowadays) is the same deal, and they 'just pretend its the same guy with no fuss'. The two then actually debate this idea concerning Bond, but both seem to accept it as their own Headcanon.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe, like the original Marvel comics, occasionally dabbles in this with a few characters.
  • An in-story example: In The Matrix trilogy, it's revealed that the humans and machines have gone through several cycles of rebellion and war, always returning to the status quo in between.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan features this; in the original episode "Space Seed," the evil Khan learns his lesson, and goes away with a happy ending; meanwhile in the first Star Trek movie, many developments are made to characters and technology. However in this sequel, thanks to a neighboring planet's explosion killing his wife, Khan is back to his evil old self for revenge, and likewise most other things are back the way they were before.
    • This goes double for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; in Star Trek II, Spock died, and Kirk's son was introduced, along with his terraforming "Genesis Device;" however at the end of the movie, all of these are undone by the plot: Spock is brought back to life, Kirk's son is killed by Klingons, and the unstable Genesis Device is no more thanks to the planet's destruction.
    • Star Trek III also introduced "trans-warp drive," and destroys the Enterprise. In Star Trek IV... well, you get the picture.
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
      • Lampshaded by Dr. McCoy when he asks Kirk if it's such a good idea to have Spock back working as a science officer once again after his death and resurrection. Kirk responds that "it'll come back to" Spock over the course of time.
      • At the end of the film Kirk is demoted to Captain, and given command of the Enterprise-A, which looks identical to its predecessor, self-destroyed in the previous movie. The crew is together again, bound for new adventures on board a new-old Enterprise.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: The Last Stand seemed like this. During the movie, several characters died (including Professor X!) and many more were "cured" of their powers. Two scenes at the end hint that 1. Xavier downloaded his mind into a catatonic body and 2. Magneto and the others are recovering their powers, meaning the only changes that stick are Scott and Phoenix's deaths. And since Phoenix came back once...
    • Pleasantly and surprisingly averted in The Wolverine. Taking quite a bit of adamantium from Wolverine's claws right before a major installment coming up takes some balls from the creators. However the movie also plays this straight. Magneto is confirmed to have regained his powers, while Professor X is back. And in the wheelchair. The next movie hits a Reset Button for the entire continuity..

  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, O'Brien says In-Universe that the Party will never be brought down and the book ends with Winston Smith, the protagonist, being brainwashed into loving Big Brother like everyone else. Interestingly enough, there is an appendix at the end of the book, which seems to imply that the Party did eventually fall.
  • Anna & Elsa, the books canonically set after Frozen (2013), are meant to expand the world, but everytime something happens that may seem life changing, it doesn't happen. Anna doesn't regain the memories of Elsa's powers before the accident, there is no queen with fire magic, Elsa doesn't enter a romantic relationship and Kristoff doesn't lose his job.
  • Justified in Carpe Jugulum, where a vampire manages to make his family immune to most Classical Movie Vampire weaknesses. In the end, it's explained that it's actually better for vampires to get staked by an angry mob once in a while, as trying to get around their many weaknesses leads to their victims looking for a more permanent solution (such as taking the ashes, sealing them in a bottle, and sending it over the Rim).
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • No matter what happens by the end of a book (ex. Greg meets a pretty girl neighbor wanting to be friends with him and Rowley), it's always negated by the events of the next book (ex. she doesn't have any romantic interest in him at all and he immediately forgets about her).
    • In Dog Days, the Heffleys get a pet dog named Sweetie. He annoys them too much, so, they end up giving him away to Grandma.
    • In the last act of No Brainer, the middle school is closed due to bad test scores and lack of funding and the students are sent to other schools (splitting up Greg and Rowley). Rowley ends up in a prestigious academy with lots of luxury stuff like massage tables, while Greg is sent to a school in the rival town of Slacksville but becomes the smartest and most popular student in school (it’s not a high bar to beat) and starts dating Sophie, the daughter of the local millionaire. Within a few pages, [[spoiler:the old middle school gets a new stream of funding and reopens, getting all of the students sent back there (something few of them appreciate), and causing Sophie to dump Greg due to the difficulties of long-distance relationships.
  • How I Survived Middle School: Aside from a few exceptions, such as Jenny becoming class president and British transfer student Sam joining the main group, plot developments rarely change or stick outside of individual books and Jenny and her ex-best friend Addie never actually reconcile.
  • The Red Dwarf novel Backwards, written by Rob Grant (who co-wrote the original six seasons of the television show). In this book, the "best end" Grant could come up with was having everything revert to as it is in the TV series, in spite of two of the cast dying and the other two being reverted in age by 10 years.
  • In Space Marine Battles novel Death of Integrity, the plot centers on retrieving a data core containing all pre-Heresy weapon designs, the reintroduction of which would spell death to all mankind's enemies. Given how it's Warhammer 40,000, infamous for upholding its status quo, you can guess how well that goes.
  • The Star Wars Legends trilogy "Black Fleet Crisis" seemed to toy with the idea of replacing the New Republic's (formerly the Rebel Alliance) iconic X-wings with a new starfighter: the E-wing. It didn't last, as all subsequent books mostly went back to X-wings whenever there was a space battle to be had. They were upgraded X-wing models to be sure, but the important thing is that they were still the same familiar ship we saw in the movies.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The President is planning to rebuild the dams that were destroyed during the flood.
  • Completely averted, and possibly subverted, in the Whateley Universe. While it is played with using Jade, by later in the series, Don Sebastaino of the Alphas is in the hospital, Tansy is running the Alphas, and Jade now has breasts and gender reconstructive surgery that works!
  • The entire point of The Wheel of Time series is that this trope is almost literal truth. The Creator made the Wheel of Time and, by design, it makes time cyclical and all major events will eventually happen again and again in some fashion, without end. The Big Bad seeks to destroy the Wheel of Time, which would upset the status quo. The good guys seek to prevent this, so maintenance of the status quo is the Good Guy Prime Directive.
    • It should be noted that destroying the Wheel of Time will upset the status quo in the sense that it will destroy the universe. The good guys are primarily worried about the status quo because they would like to continue existing.
  • The novels of P. G. Wodehouse, which typically begin with a disruption of the status quo — an engagement broken off, a cook threatening to resign, Bertie growing a moustache — and end with its restoration. Jeeves is the archetypal status quo-restorer.
  • Utterly and thoroughly averted in Worm. Over the course of the narrative, the main character goes from being a scared, bullied teenager, to a superpowered warlord running half the city, to a superhero, just like she always wanted to be, to ... well, just read the story.
    • Partially played straight on the macro-scale, in that the status quo is actively encouraged by most major parahuman organisations in the interests of keeping society at least moderately stable. As long as most heroes and villains can agree to stick to the vague, unwritten rules of cape life (no targeting families or civilian IDs, no raping or killing other capes, etc.) then society manages to remain largely functional without collapsing into anarchy.
    • Heavily deconstructed in that everybody, heroes and villains alike, will make a show of following the rules until they think they can get away with it. By the end of the story there isn't a single group or organisation that hasn't broken the rules at some point, and then it is revealed that society has been slowly collapsing for years and the comic book status quo was deliberately implemented as a stop-gap measure to keep society from collapsing for as long as possible. To be fair, it did work for a number of years.


  • Plumbing the Death Star: One of the reasons Duscher can get away with picking Soapland Christmas (now merged into Twisted Christmas) in "Exploiting Television Tropes for Financial and Personal Gain" is by pointing out because the writers will want to get back to a comfortable status quo by the next season, so they'll just write him out of whatever trouble he finds during his holiday horrors.

  • Mentioned and subverted in an episode of Hamish and Dougal, in which Mrs. Naughtie tries to get her old job back after handing in her resignation.
    Mrs. Naughtie: Oh, Mr. Hamish, Mr. Dougal! Can't I go back to being your housekeeper again?
    Hamish: Ah, yes...and it'd be just like old times.
    Dougal: Yes... ...but the position has already been filled. Goodbye!

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech seems to avert this with the different eras (Star League, Clan Invasion, Jihad, etc...), but plays one constant straight: Don't expect anything that threatens to seriously shift the overall deadlock to last for very long. In fact, it's usually the point where everybody goes back to shooting each other that begins and/or ends each Era.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Ravenloft's mysterious Dark Powers explicitly apply Laser-Guided Amnesia and Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity to the populations and even darklords of the various domains in order to preserve the general theme of each domain. Hence, for example, Vlad Drakov will never incorporate firearms into his Medieval-style army, even though surrounding domains have them, firmly believing that magic and guns are "coward's weapons." Likewise, many supposedly-human darklords are centuries old, and the residents of their domains don't seem to notice.
    • In the CD&D Hollow World setting, the quasi-divine Immortals slapped an extremely powerful spell on the place to ensure that cultures preserved within it wouldn't change.
    • Taken almost literally in Planescape. Among the many strange things about Sigil is the fact that no gods can enter it or have any power there. The only thing similar to a god within the city is the Lady of Pain, who is both completely silent and very hands off with her rule. Her only active involvement in the city is to annihilate anyone who tries to cause any real change to it.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse makes a solid effort at aversion, rare among board games. The expansions flow in chronological order, and new promo cards show character growth for heroes like Ra and Fanatic, Haka being the last surviving human, and a Villainous Breakdown for Baron Blade. Teasers for upcoming sets hint at greater changes to come, including the death of Legacy. This last is subverted, per Sentinels Tactics — because both Legacy and Young Legacy were fighting Iron Legacy, neither of them was killed by Baron Blade. Young Legacy instead takes up the name Beacon, presumably to avoid confusing names.
  • The new edition of Warhammer 40,000 states that mankind has entered the Time of Ending, with the long-awaited fall of the Imperium imminent. Fans weren't fooled, since the in-universe calendar was actually rewound by about 4 decades in order to make the "Time of Ending" take place before year 41000. As always, The End of the World as We Know It is still very, very unlikely.
    • The whole point of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 was that the world is always almost about to end. Of course this is also part of the reason that most of the factions operation on such incredibly large scale. Literally billions of Orks or Humans can die without it so much as touching the overall populations or status quo, as long as all the named character (inevitably) survive.
    • On the other hand, the series has seen the introduction of new races, as well as major changes and the complete removal of old ones. The Tyranids, for example, are a vastly different force from the Genestealer infiltrators that first attacked the Imperium, the Tau didn't exist for several editions and some of the more direct fantasy ports like Squats have disappeared.
    • The rules of both systems avert this to some extent. New editions generally involve some major shakeups to the rules, although obviously a good deal transfers over as well.
    • In a shocking (and not necessarily popular) aversion Warhammer actually DID have the end of the world in an event called Warhammer: The End Times. The Bad Guy Wins, although the series was promptly given a soft-reboot into Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.
    • Quite recently averted with the brand new 7th Edition codexes, and the Gathering Storm plotline which inflicts lasting consequences for multiple factions. Abaddon has finally conquered and destroyed Cadia, leaving the Cadian regiments as The Remnant, the Eldar have managed to partially summon Ynnead and a new movement is opening up the possibility of the reunification of the Craftworld and Dark Eldar, and Primarch Roboute Guilliman has returned.
  • White Wolf is not fond of this trope.
    • In the Old World of Darkness, any apocalypse foretold in a gameline would come to pass when that game went out of print, ending with the Time of Fire when the oWoD ended. The New World of Darkness is designed as a more static universe, and there are several forces that keep it that way:
      • In Demon: The Descent the God Machine spends it's existence maintaining the status quo.
      • In Mage: The Awakening the Exarchs also work to keep the status quo, to keep from anyone threatening their reign.
    • While Scion 1E has the Overworld War take noticeable steps between the three main books, 2E plays it straight—the current cold war might go hot in an individual game, but In-Universe it always stays as just a Cold War.
    • Exalted is even more blunt about shooting this trope in the face. In the second book they ever published, they made it abundantly clear that the metaplot would not be moving forward canonically from the Day 0 of Realm Year 768, as the characters are intended to deform and reshape the setting around them in their image. More detail has been given about the setting as it stands—mostly to provide new and interesting ways for Creation to go to Hell in one way or another, or for players to fight against it—but nothing has definitively gone forward and progressed information on the inside of the core book. Actually, in Exalted, Status Quo may well be God. On the other hand, starting characters can start off with a power suite to murder the gods.
      • 3e does project what could happen in the years following Day 0, showing how Creation changes over time, but again the characters are fully expected to crash in and shake things up.

  • Everyone Is Home : Some comics somewhat revert to a status quo when wrapped up, with a possible allusion to another comic every now and then. However, there were two instances where the status quo is changed.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Bob's roof will always, somehow, get repaired after having been destroyed earlier in the story. Lampshaded by the fact that it is unapologetically a Running Gag.
  • Insecticomics goes out of its way to show that it won't do this, particularly in the areas of Thrust's change to female and the disbanding of the Brigade.
  • Ménage à 3 looked like an example of this trope, with (among other things) Gary the geeky virgin, who never even had a girlfriend, being repeatedly sexually frustrated. But then, Gary got laid (despite the increasingly clear evidence that his problem wasn't being in this comic, it was being Gary), various other characters lost their supposed "Karma Houdini" statuses or underwent character development, and the story sailed on regardless. It wasn't so much that the trope was subverted as that the writers turned out to be playing a long game.
  • Lampshaded and averted in PvP when Robbie wins the lottery.
    Cole: Trust me, Robbie is going to walk through that door and inform us that everything has returned to the status quo.
    * beat*
    Cole: Any minute now...
  • Averted in Schlock Mercenary, where the company's fortunes have shifted up and down, their having gone through multiple ships, and having lost and gained secondary characters on many occasions. On the other hand, they remain essentially the same mid-sized mercenary company, despite their intermittent involvement in galactic politics and engineering megaprojects on the same scale.
  • Sexy Losers had a rule, declared early on by its creator in his annotations: "Everyone is locked into their sexual perversion of choice." This meant, unfortunately, that his characters had little wiggle room — the storyline quickly "The Seduction of Madame X" cuts off; by the 17th time he's recycling jokes. Eventually, the series came to an abrupt halt, which may have been the writer realizing he was out of things he could do with the characters without breaking his rule.
  • The cast of Sore Thumbs was missing Cecania's special ability to sell games when she went off to Romania, so Harmony got a ridiculous boob job. Once they brought Cecania back, Harmony had them removed.
  • Treading Ground: In 2003, strip #6 establishes the main plot: Rose has the hots for Nate, but the 21-year-old guy doesn't want to have sex with the 16 year-old-girl until she's of legal age. After eight years (about one year in Comic-Book Time), in which both characters have plenty of sex (just not with each other), they finally realise they are victims of SoCalization; 16 is legal age in their state. So in 2011, strip #251 concludes the series with them holding hands... And still not having had sex together yet.


    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):


Mauler Twins

The scarred Mauler clones a twin, only thanks to his obvious deformities, the clone knows he is one and laments that fate. The scarred Mauler, enjoying being the original, lords it over him until the new Mauler gets tired of the treatment and fatally poisons him, as this is exactly why they're not supposed to know.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / CloneAngst

Media sources: