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Sudden Downer Ending

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Cartman: And they all lived happily ever after... except for Kyle, who died of AIDS two weeks later.
Kyle: God damn it, Cartman!

A Sudden Downer Ending is a Grand Finale in which an otherwise completely upbeat, accessible series ends on an unimaginably bleak note. Can also apply to self-contained movies, books, video games, etc. with such endings.

Often done because True Art Is Angsty and because Mood Whiplash is an effective way of manipulating your audience, or as a way of adding depth to the main characters at the last moment.

The 3-way baby of Mood Whiplash, Cerebus Syndrome, and Downer Ending. See also Diabolus ex Machina, The End of the World as We Know It, The Bad Guy Wins, Gainax Ending, Cruel Twist Ending, Shoot the Shaggy Dog, and "Everybody Dies" Ending. Opposite of a Surprisingly Happy Ending. Can be a result of Creator Breakdown or used as a means to Torch the Franchise and Run. Can result in an Audience-Alienating Ending, cries of Ruined FOREVER and even Narm if handled poorly. Could have induced audience apathy...but then, you've probably already finished watching it, haven't you? If it's subverted for comedy, see Shock-and-Switch Ending. Contrast Tear Dryer.

Earn Your Bad Ending is a gameplay equivalent which can lead to this trope; indeed, in many games with Multiple Endings, it's a safe bet that at least one of the endings is going to be this if the tone of the rest of the game is upbeat.

If a work was dark or serious to begin with, it does not qualify for this trope and is simply a Downer Ending.

WARNING: This is a Spoilered Rotten trope, that means that EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE on this list is a spoiler by default and will be unmarked. This is your last warning. Only proceed if you really believe you can handle this list.


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  • This 2015 Super Bowl commercial by Nationwide Insurance. Most of the commercial is the typical run-of-the-mill life insurance ad, with a young kid speaking about his future aspirations... and then the rug is pulled underneath the viewers when the commercial reveals the kid died in an accident (presumably from a bathtub drowning).
  • Played for laughs in a UFO Kamen Yakisoban ad, where Sauce and Claudia fight off the Demon King, escape safely, and get vaporized by a fireball in the last second of the commercial.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • While Vízipók-Csodapók has its happy and sad moments, its overall tone is rather upbeat. Then comes the series finale where the diadem spider drifts away in the autumn wind, with the implication that he will never see the the water spider again.

    Fan Works 

  • Depeche Mode has "Blasphemous Rumours". It's about a sixteen-year-old girl who attempts suicide, survives and is so thankful that her faith in God is renewed...but less than two years later, she is involved in a car accident, ends up on life support and dies.
  • Kero Kero Bonito's "Pocket Crocodile" is a cute, quirky number about taking loving care of a pocket-sized crocodile. Then the final verse suddenly ends lamenting that his lifespan isn't very long and that he'll be gone someday, abruptly turning the song about a fable of dealing with losing a pet.
  • "Detroit Rock City" by KISS: A song about a young man driving to a KISS concert and generally enjoying the hell out of life. Right up until he's killed in a head-on collision with a semi. Worse, it's Based on a True Story.

    Music Videos 
  • Lilian Garcia's video for "You Drive Me Loca" seems like it's just Lilian having fun with her boyfriend on the beach. Then the end of the video reveals that Lilian is actually in a mental hospital and the boyfriend is actually her doctor.
  • Panic! at the Disco's music video for "Look Ma, I Made It" has Brendon Urie and his puppet self go through all the pains of stardom. After he gets to his lowest point, he starts building himself back up and rehabilitating himself. By the end, he's so back on track that the real Brendon is able to proudly perform for an adoring audience...up until he bows and his muppet self takes his place on the stage. We then see his producer holding Muppet Brendon up, basking in the applause before unceremoniously pulling him off and throwing him in a pile of discarded muppets.
  • They Might Be Giants's "Hopeless Bleak Despair" pulls a double reversal with this. The title naturally suggests a sad song, but the song is actually an upbeat and about how the singer's despair has gone away...until the ending, which reveals it went away because he died and went to hell, while his despair went to heaven.
  • TWICE: The "knock knock" music video has a very happy and fun tone, so the implication that they all freeze to death after getting locked out of the house at the end and become the ghosts scaring the kids at the end of the "TT" video is very dark.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the final episode of Dinosaurs, the main character, Earl Sinclair, accidentally triggers an ice age by over-industrializing the world. He then has to explain why they're all going to die to his youngest child. Cut to the outside of the house, where snow is piling over the entire house. In the final shot, recurring newscaster Howard Handupme solemnly states that the snow is getting harsher, the days are getting darker, and there's no end in sight. He issues a formal "Good night". He thinks about the statement for a moment, then reconsiders, looks straight into the camera with weary, uncertain eyes, and solidly states, "Goodbye."

  • The play Chicken! by Mark Wheeller, also known as Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?, is a play familiar to a lot of former British schoolchildren. It follows two cousins, Tammy and Chris. The play is mostly comical, featuring audience participation and silly jokes, and deals with issues like bullying and peer pressure. We are led to believe that Chris, an irresponsible teenager, will be killed by refusing to wear his helmet while on his bike, but in a sudden and shocking twist, Tammy, in a momentary lapse of judgment, decides to play a game of chicken with cars, and she is killed by being run over. In some performances, Tammy is carrying a balloon, and her being killed results in the balloon popping very loudly. Once again, this is a play performed for children as young as eight.
  • Urinetown: In the near future, a water shortage has made private bathrooms illegal, with citizens reduced to poverty attempting to pay outrageous fees to use public ones. A revolution rises up and defeats the Corrupt Corporate Executive in charge, removing his hold on the town, and allowing free access to toilets for everybody. Unfortunately, as the Lemony Narrator explains in the last moments of the show, this caused the water to dry up and everyone to die of dehydration, the heroes of the revolution implied to have been executed.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Secret True End of Lily's Night Off. Both this story and the prior one, Lily's Day Off, had focused on comedy to the point that even their bad ends, often featuring the brutalization and/or death of the cast, are darkly humorous. But the final ending, as seen here, is an entirely serious and dramatic reveal that everything beforehand has been failed attempts to reunite with a beloved, which is costing the protagonist his life...and then it's followed by a Mood Whiplash, Breaking the Fourth Wall epilogue.
  • Malus Code is mostly a light-hearted romp not unlike Tokyo School Life (made by the same people), but at the end of each route things become very messed up. Also, after finishing the game once, the title screen changes to a more horror-inducing one. You can see the endings for yourself.

    Web Animation 
  • The original Jerry short. The final Jerry short was also quite dark compared to the others, until the ending.
  • Episode 12 of Llamas with Hats ends on a very downbeat note. After Paul left Carl in episode 6, Carl struggled to adapt to life without him and he became even more unhinged than ever. Episode 12 takes place after Carl has destroyed all of civilization and Carl tries to get back together with Paul, only to find out that Paul died a long time ago. With his only friend gone and nothing left to do, Carl throws himself off a bridge and drowns. Unlike the rest of the series, none of this is played for laughs.
  • The quirky and random Mass Defect video ends on a really somber note with Shepard being killed.
  • Meta Runner: Season 2's finale, "Fatal Error", initially makes it seem like things are ending on a happy note: TASCorp's shady activities have been exposed, Tari finally has some answers to who she really is, and after talking Masa out of shooting Lucks, MD-5 are about to leave Lucks to the authorities...and then Masa's arm gets hijacked, forcing him to kill Lucks anyways, and he and Belle stay behind and presumably get arrested while the rest of MD-5 are forced to go on the run.
  • The flash series My Little Pony: Thinking With Portals, is a lighthearted comedy crossover between MLP and Portal, and features each of the Mane Cast (and the Princesses) having lighthearted hijinks with portal guns. The final episode, which will involve Twilight getting her revenge for being the Butt-Monkey for the entire series, is stated to be much more serious than the rest of the series, the author admitting some of it may end up veering into Grimdark territory. However, the author has personally leaked that in the end, Everybody Lives.
  • In the last episode of Nyan~ Neko Sugar Girls, Raku dies of a broken heart after she confesses her love for Hitoshi, only to find out that he has entered a romantic relationship with his kidnapper.
  • The 100th episode of Weebl & Bob actually ends with the death of Donkey, Chris the Ninja Pirate's wife. Inverted in the following episode, which revolves around Weebl, Bob, and Chris attending Donkey's funeral. Cue Mr. Teeth.
    Mr. Teeth: It's time to put the donkey into the asshole!
  • The animated short Pig Me seemingly concludes with the pig having finally found a home in the form of the pet shop owner... only for the real last scene to be her serving his head on a plate.

  • Concerned, the Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman, is mostly a gag strip that ends with...oh, guess. Of course, it's still funny while doing so.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del had a mini-arc in which the female lead Lihah becomes pregnant only to have a miscarriage. Yes, this is the same comic in which the main character built a wacky human-hating robot out of an Xbox and was once crowned the King of Gaming after an evil company tried to exploit the fictional gamer holiday of "Winter-een-mas". Naturally, the internet made its own humor out of the situation, making the miscarriage strip (entitled "Loss") one of the comic's most famous, and arguably an inversion of this trope to new readers.
  • Doobl: What appears to be a normal family-friendly webcomic for a fair number of strips, then has the protagonist go crazy and slaughter the cast before killing himself. Meanwhile, in the news posts, the author's mother dies. He spends the remaining posts increasingly lashing out against the world. It ends with a newspaper clipping covering the author's suicide. It turned out to be a hoax.
  • The 'Flower Knight' sidestory in Drowtales. A Knight quested and struggled for years to find the world's most beautiful flower for his queen. He finds it, brings it to his queen and the two live Happily Ever After alongside Babies Ever After. Then the flowers reveal themselves to be parasitic in nature and drain the life out of every single person in the Knight's city. His wife, his children, his servants, the commonfolk...Everyone, leaving him the sole survivor in a city of bodies. He sets out of the city to kill the creature that gave him the flower and ruined his life. That is when the story ends. No resolution and to make it worse the flowers are still around.
  • The Last Days of FOXHOUND has everyone Doomed by Canon. As such, the last chapter is just a montage of their bodies. It's emphasized by how sudden it is — cutting straight from the "preparing for battle" montage to the death montage. At least the ghosts of the dead characters show up to joke about their ineptitude, providing a relieving comical note.
    Liquid Snake: That sucked.
    Big Boss: You suck.
  • It's All Been Done ended with the main character and his wacky group of talking toys about to have an adventure when he realizes the entire thing was an attempt to avoid dealing with his wife's death.

    Web Original 
  • Doctor Horrible's Sing-along Blog seems like a silly musical about super heroes and villains, even if it does have a Villain Protagonist. Then you hit the point where the "evil scheme" starts to unfurl, and things start happening. Dr. Horrible gains his goal of joining the League, but in the process Penny is killed. He tries to hide it, but it is obvious Dr. Horrible is is left completely broken.
  • Demo Reel was never very happy to begin with, but The Review Must Go On ended with the apparent Ret-Gone of all of the characters except Donnie, who regressed and reawakened back into The Nostalgia Critic, who seems to be even more unhappy and suicidal these days than he was before To Boldly Flee.
  • Discussed and parodied in the '80s All Over December 1983 episode. Noting that the comedy-drama Reuben, Reuben has a shockingly dark ending (he doesn't spoil it, but the despondent main character decides not to commit suicide after all only for a dog to accidentally see his death through instead) — Drew McWeeny compares its effect to what would have happened had the merry title character of Arthur (1981) suddenly killed himself, complete with playing the sound effect of a gunshot...and then the chorus of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)".
  • Season 1 of The Penumbra Podcast ends like this, although it's more of a Sudden Bittersweet Ending. After a season's worth of Will They or Won't They?, Juno and Peter finally get together; they make plans to leave Mars for good and travel the galaxy together. Until Juno chickens out at the last second because of his fear of commitment and, the day before they're supposed to take off, leaves Peter in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.
  • Subverted in Professor Juice's Toy Story 2 review. After Rosie gives a butchered overview of the game's plot, her Woody and Buzz toys turn out to be alive all along and leave her for making a mockery of the story. Rosie is heartbroken by their departure...that is, until she realizes she can just buy replacements on eBay.
  • Tales From The Table started off very comedic and ends in a depressing way, as the Game Master is fed up with his players and kills them all, invoking The Bad Guy Wins and leading them to quit in disgust.
  • The finale of GuavaMovement's Let's Play of X-COM Apocalypse. Humanity won. They defeated the aliens. Then, in the final chapter, Soup Bot, an android who has been protagonist Otto Zander's closest friend and ally throughout the story, reveals that he was manipulating and using Zander from the beginning as part of his plan to commit genocide on humanity in retribution for their mistreatment of Androids. Soup Bot also reveals that he was responsible for several of the story's major events (the attack on the Evening Star, the attack on the Senate that X-Com was framed for, etc). The story ends with Otto, alone and dejected in his base, unable to do anything but watch as Soup Bot's army takes over the world. Oh, and The Stinger has a member of the Cult of Sirius forming an alliance with the Alien Hive Mind to destroy both the Androids and humanity.
  • Jade Star's Let's Play of UFO: Aftermath, a direct continuation of the above, ends in a similar way. The remnants of humanity find a way to repel the encroaching alien Biomass and launch a successful mission against the alien command center on the moon. But the final chapter consists of Commander Vault's reports over subsequent months about how the Biomass is growing resistant to the humans' repulsors, then it starts pushing back and retaking lost ground no matter what they do to it. This is a case of Doomed by Canon, however, since UFO: Aftershock assumes that humanity agreed to the truce offered by the aliens late in Aftermath, so Jade Star had to find a way to link the good ending of Aftermath to the sub-optimal start of Aftershock to LP the next game.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cerebus Ending


Stressed Eric Ending

"Au Pair" and the series itself ends with Maria finally getting her act together and giving up her alcoholism, only for her and the rest of the Feeble's to be presumably killed by one of the failed auditionees for her job by a tank.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CruelTwistEnding

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