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The Chris Carter Effect
aka: Chris Carter Effect

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"ABC announced this week that it has renewed Lost for a fourth season. Said the show's writers, "Oh, crap.""
Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segment

If the fans conclude that the writing team will never resolve its plots, then they will probably stop following the work.

It's said that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the viewing public, but sometimes a show comes along that promises stories so complex and subtle that they'll make War and Peace look like "Frog and Toad Are Friends". If it's done right, then this is catnip to a certain sector of the viewing public, who will often give such a show a surprisingly long time to set up its plot arcs before getting antsy for a resolution. The catch for the creator is that, the longer an arc runs and the more complicated it gets, the more awesome its payoff must be for it to feel satisfying to the fans. It's much easier for a writer to keep kicking the can — piling mysteries on top of mysteries — rather than finish storylines. This trope was invoked in the British TV serial The Singing Detective, in which mystery novelist Philip Marlowe asserts that fiction, like life, should be "all clues and no solutions."


That said, most audiences are savvy enough to recognize a framing device when they see one. Plots resting on a single Driving Question (Where is the Sunflower Samurai? Who is Mrs. Mosby?) are allowed some leeway; otherwise, the production team would be out of work and the story would end. The Chris Carter Effect happens when a work is wholly focused on twists or not building up to a satisfactory resolution, or the plot gets so bloated that there no longer can be a satisfactory resolution (see Ending Aversion). Another contributing effect could be the unsatisfactory resolution of long-running side-plots. At this point, even the most ardent fans will start to feel jerked around, or perhaps even channel flip to something else.

Sometimes, the lack of a resolution is not the writers' fault: the network might have pulled the plug early or compromised the original vision by having it focus on more merchandisable elements or to keep adding to or expanding on the author's intended story.


See also Kudzu Plot and Commitment Anxiety. Specifically, the combination of a Kudzu Plot with Webcomic Time can have a similar effect on the audience, even when a finale is in the works, if the piece stretches out long enough that the fans lose track of the original premise of the series. Arc Fatigue is this trope on a smaller scale, in which just a single story arc goes on for too long without any resolution rather than the entire series. Can be connected to Franchise Original Sin in that the Myth Arc is successful at first before devolving over time into less-successful territory.

If fans doubt that such a show will even survive to finish its story and don't bother tuning in, that's The Firefly Effect. Compare Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, which does not focus on how the audience reacts to it.


Named for Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files,note  which some believe to be the godfather of this trope.

It has nothing to do with the former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver, Cris Carter. Note the missing "H" in his name. It also has nothing to do with Beatles DJ and former Dramarama member Chris Carter.

Contrast Fan-Disliked Explanation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series seems to have no real set goals for the characters in mind despite having heavy references to Pokémon mastery and the like. None of the characters have truly achieved any of their goals as of yet. Thus, many fans have given up on ever seeing any of the characters' stories really wrapped up at any point in the foreseeable future... of course, seeing as the target demographic is eight to twelve years old, it also doesn't seem to matter all that much, as some fans give up on it (and are replaced by younger fans) before this trope becomes much of an issue.
    • Both the Contest Champion and the Pokémon League champion are characters only introduced for those events, leaving all the rivals hanging as well as the protagonists. Sinnoh and Kalos are the only major exceptions; the contest champion in Sinnoh is Zoey, who had been a significant rival and supporting cast member since the region began. Likewise, the Pokémon League Champion in Kalos is Alain, who was a major character in the Mega Evolution mini-series. Alola also became an exception when the Pokémon League champion was Ash himself.
    • This has almost become an enforced trope in regards to Ash and his Pokémon. After Hoenn he almost never even mentions any Pokémon from prior regions besides Pikachu, meaning if any of those Pokémon or even most trainers from those regions had outstanding plots, they will never be resolved.
    • Any MacGuffin that Ash obtains that compels him to travel to a particular region, if it's not in a movie, will become a case of What Happened to the Mouse? as Ash and his companions get caught up in something else, and they'll eventually leave it with someone never to be seen again (such as the GS Ball) or it's completely wiped from existence or anyone's memory (Misty's bicycle). With the GS Ball, however, there was Word of God on it: The GS Ball originally was supposed to contain Celebi, but that plotline was reappropriated into one of the movies, so the producer decided to quietly remove the GS Ball from the story in hopes everyone would forget about it. And as for Misty's bike, right before Misty leaves the company of Ash and Brock in Johto, we finally get closure regarding it when the Nurse Joy from the Pokémon Center Ash went to in the second episode of the Kanto saga (where Misty cornered him and chewed him out for Pikachu frying her bike and it was actually pivotal to the episode as a Chekhov's Gun) reveals she restored it to mint condition in the time Misty has been gone (because Misty abandoned it there in the Pokémon Center knowing it was no use to her anymore).
  • Dragon Ball: Although the manga's creator, Akira Toriyama, has stated several times that he was just making stuff up as he wrote each chapter, he actually managed quite brilliantly to solve most of them as time went on instead of leaving them hanging. Heck, even the fact that Goku had a tail was explained, and Oolong even suggested the theory that Goku was a space alien a long time before Toriyama decided to make it so, giving the story unintentional foreshadowing.
  • Berserk ran into this when it came to Guts and his party's goal to reach Elfheim, where the possibility of Casca's insanity being cured lay. With Miura's scheduling slipping, it was inevitably going to take a long time, but fans worried that others would lose interest. It took almost eight years for Guts to finally get off the damn boat and reach Elfheim. But then the subplot sped up and Casca was successfully cured. Only for Miura to leave her further reaction as a Cliffhanger and focusing on Griffith again, with his usual hiatus going on. (And then he died in May 2021, leaving the series' fate up in the air.)
  • There is, of course, the long-running Case Closed, which hasn't progressed its "plot" by much in 16 real-life years...
    • ... until the Bourbon arc goes out of its slow start and then the series features at least a bit of plot advancement in every single case. It is still debatable whether the plot is really advancing or not, but the reveals of the true identities of the newcomers, the gambit to make the Black Organization believe Sherry is finally dead for real, and Bourbon getting directly interested in Conan for his crime-solving ability and connections to the FBI, can certainly be called plot advancements.
    • As of 2018 and the series returning from a long hiatus caused by Aoyama having health issues, it's rare for a story arc to not advance the plot. Maybe it's been realized that if the series ends because the mangaka died, it would be hard to keep selling the volumes?
  • Bleach: A big complaint within the fandom was that Tite Kubo seemed to have so many hanging plot threads that he didn't seem to be paying any attention to. The final arc began the process of tying up all dangling plot threads, character issues, and backstories, even covering events the fandom had been convinced Tite Kubo had forgotten all about and addressing issues that the fandom had completely missed the original significance of. Unfortunately, due to the declining health of the author and Shonen Jump insisting on a quick end, the manga was Cut Short and it is likely that the unanswered questions the author didn't get to will never be resolved.
  • The Lost Village lost fans due to the slow start and the fact that the mystery didn't really seem to go anywhere. Things get better after episode 7, but due to that slow start, some fans still think that the ending was rushed.
  • Episode 4 of Humanity Has Declined was theoretically a satire/parody of modern manga business practices, but mostly ended up addressing this. When the characters find themselves needing to make a popular manga, the local mangaka explains that the way to make a bestselling manga is not to craft a consistent plot but to keep stringing viewers along with constant cliffhangers, since they won't realize the plot holes until the end. However, once the audience catches on, the popularity of their manga drops like a stone.
    The greatest entertainer is the greatest swindler!
  • X/1999 remains on hold since 2003 with 18 volumes out of a planned 21 with a few chapters which is supposed to be for the 19th volume. Nanase Ohkawa, the lead writer of CLAMP, mentioned that they're still looking for a magazine willing to publish the remaining chapters. However, a decade had already passed and CLAMP put two more works (Gate 7 and Legal Drug) on hold to work on Tsubasa World Chronicle, xxxHolic: Rei and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. Fans of X/1999 are not pleased with this and doubt that the manga will ever continue at this point. It doesn't help that several plot points have been left hanging for a decade such as Kamui's "true" wish and most importantly, who wins between the Dragons of Heaven and the Dragons of Earth.
  • ×××HOLiC started off very well developing the cast until it got too closely intertwined with Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- which complicate things such as Watanuki's and Yuko's backstories. And then, Yuko "dies" and Watanuki inherits the shop with a new purpose which is to wait for her. It doesn't help that the manga ended without a resolution. Later, CLAMP continued the manga with xxxHolic: Rei which brought the return of Yuko as the shop owner with the possibility that Watanuki's stuck in a dream. However, readers find that the new manga brought nothing new to the story or that CLAMP is dragging the direction too long.
  • Trinity Blood became this after Sunao Yoshida unexpectedly died in 2004. The novels were completed by his friend and like the anime, it only stops at Ester's coronation as Queen of Albion while Abel and Ion traveled around the world to stop Cain. The manga is said to end at that part as well. So even if one would continue the series with the notes left by Yoshida, the resolution between Abel and the humans vs. Cain and the Rosenkreuz Orden remained unsolved because the last notes stopped at the final battle between the two brothers without the result.
  • Hunter × Hunter suffers from extreme Schedule Slip, and hasn't come close to resolving many plots as a result, such as the Phantom Troupe and the Dark Continent arc. The series began to inch forward in stunted segments due to constant Hiatus, making little gains until 2016 finally saw the ball rolling with several bang-up chapters before another long drought. In 2017, despite another hiatus, the story finally gets down to business, because this is the first time in a long time that Yoshihiro Togashi has taken a hiatus and promised to come back at a set return date and has found a nervous rhythm that is giving the story momentum.
  • Diabolik Lovers went two seasons with no resolved sexual tension and no new progressions in the plot, unless one counts the plethora of new, entirely unforeshadowed characters that show up in the second finale and have absolutely no relation to the preexisting characters. Who will the new Adam be? You can be sure the viewers don't know.
  • Nana was going on at a steady pace, until Ai Yazawa's leave due to disease, which put the series in hiatus. That was in 2009. She recovered the following year, but seven years later, she's yet to pick up the story and resolve details such as, who is really the father of Hachi's daughter, whether she will stay with Takumi or break up with himnote , whether someone will find Nana O. in Europe or she will get in touch with her friends first, and so on.
  • Digimon Adventure tri. is this in regards to its overall plot points. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but the burning questions are answered slowly across six movies. The first one being released in 2015 and its finale being released around 2018. Not only that, but the overall answer, especially early on, is either "we don't know" or never brought up. Perhaps the most egregious plot point of this is the fate of the 02 kids, as no one tends to question what happened to them, even when one of them shows up, only for it to be revealed to be a disguise for their old mentor turned evil. As of Movie 5, we still don't know what happened to the kids. The final movie revealed that they'd figured out King Drasil's plan and tried to stop him, but were defeated and captured; they get rescued in the end, but spend four months in the hospital recovering from being in stasis.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man:
    • Many of the plot elements related to the Spider-Totem introduced by J. Michael Straczynski during his run on Spider-Man from 2001 to 2007 gave readers a lot of doubletalk and mystical mumbo-jumbo, but very little in the way of concrete resolution, like exactly why Peter had to "evolve", why one cosmic entity wanted to bring him back from the dead while another thought he should stay deceased, the mysterious entities that resurrected Mysterio and Miss Arrow and what they wanted with Peter, etc. None of this was ever really explained.
      • A degree of resolution was achieved in the Spider-Verse storyline, which explained the origins of the Inheritors and had Spider-Man and his allies defeat them.
    • The Clone Saga. Originally, the story was supposed to wrap up after a few months, after an already complicated narrative. However, due to the efforts of Marvel executives, the story was extended for another year, with plot twists being reversed constantly, and supposedly dead characters appearing, reappearing and then dying anticlimactically. The story finally limped to its conclusion with another plot twist that had almost nothing to do with most of the events that preceded it (Norman Osborn was back). It should be noted that, when the saga started, it was Marvel's highest-selling group of books. The act of stretching it to the limit for so long caused sales to slump, and fans turned away in droves.
    • Most of the plots in the book during "Spider-Man's" Brand New Day storyline essentially went nowhere. Mysteries such as who was Jackpot, what Mr. Negative was going to do with Peter's blood, what happened to erase Peter's memories, why Harry was alive, and more were given an anti-climactic resolution, dragged out for several years, or worse, both. The explanation for Harry Osborn's return was that the goblin serum revived him, which made no sense since it was the thing that killed him in the first place. Jackpot was a character that the readers never met before and was killed off during the same story. Mysteries such as the secret to how Peter's identity was made a secret again were resolved in a manner that most of the audience figured out already, leading many to question why it was kept a secret for three years. After a while, it became clear that the writers had no real major arc planned for the character and his mythos, and were just making it up as they went along.
  • Strangers in Paradise featured a series of flash-forwards that never actually resolved or were explained. Writer Terry Moore went so far as to include not one but TWO fake-out reboots (one in which the comic's story turned out to be a book a new character was writing and another in which it turned out to all be a dream) which were then immediately discarded the very next issue. Eventually the last third of the series sort-of righted itself and all of the immediate conflicts were tied up by the end, but much of the first half of the run remains unexplained.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) had a problem with this during the Penders/Bollers era. Everyone and their mother had some super-extraordinary destiny that they must fulfill (Knuckles and the mysterious dream his dad Locke had, Tails and the Great Harmony, Sally and whatever the Source wanted with her, etc.), but everyone seemed to forget that this was Sonic's comic and whenever he showed up, he was incredibly inefficient at being a hero — half of the time, he was grounded for one reason or another. It got to the point where the two head writers were at each other's throats and were forced off the title, Ian Flynn being forced to take over.
  • The entirety of Scott Lobdell's run on Teen Titans had this problem. He'd introduce plot threads, most of which would go nowhere. Those that actually went somewhere led into more questions, which led into more questions. The linchpin of his entire run was the villain Harvest, a guy from the future who knew how to plan ahead for everything, and was doing what was best for humanity and was this Dark Messiah figure and... turned out to be a generic villain whose plans made no sense. Skitter was called away in the middle of a crossover... and returns over a year later without that plot thread amounting to anything. Basically everything that wasn't a self-contained arc was being made up as it went along.
  • Brian K. Vaughan's creator-owned long runners Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina both suffered these, especially Y, which had a lot of the questions brought up during the run unanswered. Vaughan later admitted he believes that since this is how real life works (not all questions are answered) that he chooses to write this way. He also doesn't believe in happy endings.

  • The Saw series is a rare example of a film franchise running into this, which started once it was taken out of the hands of its creators from the fourth film onward. As new twists were thrown into the overarching story, it became less about a madman who forces people into Life or Limb Decisions in order to prove a moral point and more about the increasingly convoluted machinations of the people fighting over that man's Villainous Legacy. Eventually, many fans had given up on following the plot and were just there for the over-the-top gore effects. Once diminishing box-office returns started setting in with the later films, the writers finally started to make an effort in tying off the many loose threads, but the ultimate resolution proved fairly divisive.
  • The DC Extended Universe suffered from Warner Bros. pushing towards the Shared Universe a little faster than anticipated, resulting in cramming in subplots and sequel hooks but ending up abandoning these later on in response to audience reaction. Most notably, Zack Snyder, who directed the first two movies in the franchise, added numerous scenes in his second movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (the Knightmare sequence, the Darkseid nods, Flash's warnings) that would pay off in his later films. However, these plot threads became aborted arcs in Justice League as Snyder left mid-production over a family tragedy and studio interference. Individuals involved with other film series like Gal Gadot have implied some elements of the earlier films would be altered or ignored going forward (like the idea Diana turned away from humanity for a full 100 years), and the franchise found success by downplaying the Myth Arc of the Shared Universe and emphasizing crowd-pleasing standalone movies like Aquaman.
    • After the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League and actually seeing how the various plotlines were intended to develop, the conversation turned towards a lack of proper higher-up management that understood what the story teams were trying to do and they were instead very reactionary, changing and dropping these plotlines before it could pay off.
  • The sequel trilogy for Star Wars made under Disney gradually made it clear there was not a solid plan regarding how the movies were supposed to progress forward. J. J. Abrams is credited with developing the new characters and new situation of the setting in The Force Awakens, and deliberately left the ending open for other writers and directors to answer lingering questions. The excitement of new Star Wars movies made it well received at the time, explicitly with fans hoping that further movies would be less derivative going forward. When The Last Jedi directed by Rian Johnson came out, it became a Contested Sequel because apparent plot threads were either dropped or given blunt, uninteresting answers (Rey has no special lineage, Luke just gave up and is waiting to die in exile, Snoke had no special training in store for Kylo and is killed before the third act). Afterwards, Abrams admitted they had no clear answer to those things when writing the first film, and Abrams returned to make The Rise of Skywalker that seemed to retcon about half the things from The Last Jedi as an Author's Saving Throw while also including other unforeshadowed reveals (the Emperor is Back from the Dead). This only reinforced the perception that despite having three guaranteed films they didn't do any long-term planning.
    • Behind-the-scenes issues exaggerated some of the problems. Colin Trevorrow was initially tapped to direct the third film but for whatever reason, he was let go just before The Last Jedi was released and Abrams was brought on to wrap things up. A few weeks after the release of The Rise of Skywalker a leaked script for Trevorrow's movie along with concept art, all confirmed to be true, emerged that would have followed through on the story points rather than pull everything back. An underlying issue with the Sequels ended up being that they were given release dates two years apart and all three films were in some stage of production at the same time. This meant that rather than doing one movie at a time and gauging the direction to go after one was finished, you had people working on the direct sequel of a movie that hadn't even been made yet, which only resulted in scrambled attempts to make a movie that follows through on what audiences actually liked.

  • Robert Jordan's Doorstopper series The Wheel of Time spent 11 books (each greater than 500 pages) spinning out a Kudzu Plot, and Jordan himself seemed adamantly opposed to resolving any plot threads before the 12th and final book. Despite this, he stated that he would conclude the series with book 12 "whether it's 15,000 pages, Tor has to invent a new binding system, or it comes with its own library cart," since it was very unlikely that he could write a coherent thirteenth book. This turned out to be true, but for other reasons than he expected: he Died During Production. Brandon Sanderson, the writer tapped to finish the series in Jordan's stead, eventually decided that resolving every arc properly would take no less than three books. It did. Three, huge, massive books.note 
    • As the series took 25 years to finish, many fans dropped off after reading the most recent book and waiting years for the next to come out. Due to said Kudzu Plot, new books would be unintelligible after years away without rereading most of the series, and so this effect took hold.
  • Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler deliberately exploited this. The theme at the end of A Series of Unfortunate Events is that not every mystery could easily be solved, not every question could easily be answered, and there are many mysteries in the world that simply will never get solved. Handler claims this was his intent from book one. Thus the final book "The End" is anything but, though it does answer the series' most important question: that Beatrice was the Baudelaires' mother.
  • Remnants by K. A. Applegate. It spends the first ten or so books setting up a bunch of mysteries (why do some of the humans have superpowers now? What is the Ancient Enemy, and how is it connected to Billy and/or the Troika? What happened to the missing five humans?), but promptly switches to basically a new plot for the last few books, with none of the questions answered. Granted, the plotline at the end was pretty good and somewhat more coherent until the Gainax Ending... but it's like the first ten books were wasted with a destination of nowhere.
  • Everworld, by the same author as Remnants, is just as bad. Each successive book begins an entirely new plot and never goes back to answer any of the questions raised along with the plot. The series doesn't even have a concluding novel; the twelfth ends with the two primary antagonists (Ka Anor and the Sennites) still alive and well after Senna herself gets killed off suddenly and does nothing to explain the myriad questions raised over the course of the series, such as the identity of the watcher in the void.
  • Animorphs does it too. While the main plot is technically resolved, it's still got Ending Aversion. Plus, the Ellimist/Crayak stuff is still on-going, some of the info in Megamorphs is never brought up again, some of the pre-finale stuff comes out of the blue. Oh, and the ending introduces a new arc. Plus, there's that group of 'friendly' Yeerks, Ax's desire to avenge his brother...
  • The Neverending Story intentionally invokes this trope by starting many more story arcs than it intends to finish. One by one, they are dropped off with "that is another story, and shall be told, another time". This is also the last line at the end of the book itself. Of course, given the name...
    • Also used as a plot device as Bastian is told by the Water of Life that AURYN will not permit him to leave Fantastica until he's finished all the stories that he started. Atreyu and Falcor agree to do this in his stead.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire expanding to at least seven books and suffering from Schedule Slip has convinced some fans that Martin has no idea where he's going with the series.
    • Part of this comes from the fourth and fifth being Contested Sequels for their expanded scope, slower pace, and greater emphasis on character development and world-building than action and plot, though this is somewhat intentional both as a Breather Episode and because they were designed to fill in an abandoned five-year Time Skip. The other main reason is that the whole series is a vicious Deconstructor Fleet, which makes for a very exciting read but also means that no fan has ever had more than a vague idea of what the final book will be like or what the overall Myth Arc even is, making it easier to for fans to get accusatory because they're bloody sick of waiting.
    • Martin himself is aware of this concern and has consistently made clear that he does know the Broad Strokes of the story's events and ending, it's just getting there in a coherent and compelling fashion that's proving more complicated than he ever imagined and he has no plans to continue expanding, even half-jokingly declaring he needs to start killing off more characters to simplify things in The Winds of Winter.
  • Maximum Ride suffers heavily from this, though it doesn't really become apparent until Saving The World and Other Extreme Sports. As what was intended as the final book of a trilogy, you'd expect it to finally start resolving plot arcs, but instead it just keeps throwing in wackier and wackier twists while deliberately avoiding answering any questions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The X-Files has the Trope Namer, Chris Carter, creator of the show, who is infamous for this:
    • For the first half of the 1990s, the fans were convinced that Carter had plotted an elaborate and minutely thought-out web of deceit and lies for his FBI agents to unravel. Forests of Epileptic Trees sprouted around every new tantalizing hint revealed. No reference was too obscure for devoted X-Philes, who cheerfully threw themselves into history, folklore, myth, science, or any other branch of human knowledge that seemed like it might shed some light on the story. By mid-decade, though, the Myth Arc story had churned along for years without really answering any of the questions raised. In fact, even when the show would answer something it would raise at least two new questions in the same turn, and even the old answers were very prone to getting subjected to Retcons. Eventually, the overarching story had effectively mutated into a dense Kudzu Plot, and fans began to suspect that there was no intricately plotted story — Carter had just been making it all up as he went along. (Carter himself eventually confirmed this suspicion.) Fans were irritated by the resolutions to side plots that were long-running, such as the fate of Mulder's sister — turns out she was spirited away by the fairies! This eventually went on into the finale which made promises of resolving the Myth Arc which not only fails to do so but also in the last ten minutes presents a teaser for an alien invasion set to occur in 2012 (which to this day looks like it may never be resolved at all).
    • When the series was given an unexpected revival in 2016, it didn't take this trope long to hit it again. Pretty much true to form, the first episode begins with a massive Retcon that makes a hash of a lot of the previous mythology, aliens not having much interaction with humanity at all, and most of their supposed crimes being the work of humans using stolen alien technology — despite the numerous aliens that had been on the show before. Most of the season was filler, and the season finale ends on yet another Cliffhanger, despite another season not being greenlit at that point and the principal actors not signed on for more. Fans who were hoping to finally get some closure after years of waiting were left sorely disappointed; at best, they might finally get a resolution in another few years, at worst, the show gets cancelled again and they're right back to where they started.
    • Two years later, the revival would get a second season, only for it to start with the extremely controversial twist that Scully was essentially raped by the Cigarette-Smoking Man to produce William, and end with the Cigarette-Smoking Man yet again being killed for presumably the last time, and yet again the X-Files are shut down as a Cliffhanger. Once again, fans were less than satisfied, though general reception for the season was more positive than the first.
  • Also by Chris Carter, Millennium is a good example of this. The show got increasingly bizarre and difficult to follow as it went on, and the end of the third (and final) season provided no closure at all. Each season had a different showrunner(s), each with a very different idea of what the show should be (Are Frank Black's flashes simply a visualization of his deductive skills or psychic visions? What is the Millennium group's agenda?) and no one from above willing to set boundaries. After the cancellation, the whole thing was put into the laps of The X-Files team. This resulted in a Fully Absorbed Finale for Millennium within The X-Files that also failed to resolve anything.
  • This trope is a suspected contributor to the failure of X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen.
  • Carter's attempted Amazon series The After was ultimately called off because of this trope. Amazon wanted a "show bible" before the first season was made, Carter preferred to make it up as he went along. It was an especially tough sell since Carter wanted the show to last for 99 episodesnote  at a whopping $40 million per 9 episode season.
  • Lost. At any given time, exactly half of its fanbase believed that the show's creators were making the next Twin Peaks and had no idea what endgame they desired, while the other half argued that the threads were finally coming together, and a satisfactory revelation was all but guaranteed. In the end, it's a matter of opinion on how it all turned out. The most diplomatic way to phrase it would be to say that there were two groups of fans: those who thought it was about the characters, and those who thought it was about the plot and mythology. The former seem to have generally been pleased by the ending, while the latter were generally very upset and firm believers that this trope was in effect. Generally, science fiction can have an open ending as long as the fates of the most interesting characters are resolved. Unfortunately, on Lost, a large chunk thought the island was the most interesting character.
  • In general, the works of J. J. Abrams often have this problem. Cracked put it best: "A creative visionary and genius... for approximately two seasons, after which point he cracks, panics and starts rambling on about magic instead of writing a coherent plotline." To a certain degree, even Felicity fell prey to this, as did Alias.
  • Luckily, Fringe largely averted this trope with the "Parallel Universe"-arc, that was the series' main plot thread since the end of season 1, being given a very emotional bittersweet ending towards the end of Season 4, which also answered the mystery of the Observers, they're the human race from the future. Season 5 introduced a new storyline in the form of the Observer occupation of present-day Earth which moved at a pretty fast pace, answering questions as it drops more (but less than it answered) and ultimately ended in a conclusive manner while throwing in one last mindscrew for fans to twist their brains over.
    • Walter Bishop did quote Clarke's Third Law word for word in response to a particularly bizarre case. There aren't really any limits set for Fringe to break, though.
    • Word of God is that they did have an ending and a way to get there, plotted over several seasons. However, said ending could be adjusted and deployed on short notice in case they didn't get as many seasons as they planned for; this is obvious given the sheer pacing of Season 5's storyline.
  • The Fugitive is the rare series where The Chris Carter Effect comes heavily into play, but is then definitively averted. For its first two seasons, The Fugitive was a top-rated show, with millions tuned in to see if the falsely-convicted Richard Kimble could clear his name. But by season 3, Kimble was no closer to resolving his situation than he had ever been, and storylines were becoming increasingly repetitive: Kimble would drift into a new town (again), get captured (again), and somehow escape (yet again). It was clear the series was unwilling or unable to progress, and viewer fatigue set in. Ratings plummeted, and The Fugitive fell out of the top 30 in season 3, and fell even further in season 4. So with the show unlikely to be renewed, and star David Janssen wanting to move on, the writers hastily concocted a two-part finale that actually wrapped up the main story... and were rewarded with the most-watched episode of TV ever up to that point. Proof positive that viewers want to see plotlines resolved — even if producers would prefer to keep spinning out a story (and a profitable series) ad infinitum.
  • Demonstrated failure of Twin Peaks. But really, what did they expect from David Lynch? Writer and committed Lynch fan David Foster Wallace opined in an essay that Season 2 was some of the best television he'd ever watched, in that it was some of the worst television he'd ever watched. If you watch it all in a row, it's pretty clear that it's one long nervous breakdown on the part of Lynch as he never intended the mystery of Laura Palmer's murder to be solved, with the series intended to be more of an exploration of the characters. Executive Meddling forced him to solve the mystery mid-Season 2, which left him with literally no idea where to go from there, and hence he opted to work on other projects.
    • As a result, Lynch was hardly involved with the rest of Season 2 — he didn't write or direct any of the next 14 episodes and returned only to direct the finale. There's a consensus among Twin Peaks fans that the episodes directed by Lynch are the best of the series.
    • Basically, it seems to be an inversion of this trope: a show's downfall caused by the resolution of a plot thread that was never intended to be solved. Twin Peaks had a Kudzu Plot driven by a Driving Question that was mistaken by ABC executives to be this, and the forced closing of plotlines led to Seasonal Rot and cancellation.
    • The series did eventually get a concluding season 25 years later with a set number of episodes.
  • Pretty Little Liars used this to sustain itself. Every time someone looked like they might be the stalker of the girls — known only as A — they inevitably turned out not to be and old characters were brought back to deepen the web. By the fifth season, fans were growing tired that A was still running rings around the main characters, and progression was made in the sixth season.
  • Perhaps the ultimate example is The Prisoner (1967), which posed lots of ongoing questions — Who runs the Village? Why did Number Six resign? Who is Number One? — but ended with an utterly incomprehensible Grand Finale that answered none of them.
    • The series did a sequel via the "Shattered Visage" graphic novel that did at least attempt to bring closure to Number Six. It's apparently more or less official, as the famously cranky Patrick McGoohan "didn't hate" the plot.
  • Strictly speaking, The Pretender never resolved any of its over-arching plots. The show creators joked that a detailed master plan for the narrative was hidden "inside the pickle jar" and buried in their backyard, but in actuality, the writing sessions were becoming increasingly devoted to impromptu games of poker among the staff. This may explain why, though the exact circumstances and reason for series protagonist Jarod's abduction as a child remained unclear, nearly every character in the show was revealed to have uncertain parentage or a long-lost relative. Following the unintentional finale, two successive Made For TV Movies, both of which ended with Cliff Hangers, introduced more questions than answers.
  • This was pretty much what got The 4400 canceled. The long-awaited elaboration of the fabled 'Future People' was half-answered very late in the show, but then about twice as many new questions cropped up. The cancellation then abruptly cut off any hope of the rest of it being resolved. Damn shame, really.
  • The first season of Heroes was hailed as great, tightly-plotted, and well-written storytelling, with a clear goal in mind. Its second and third seasons, though, were prime examples of the Chris Carter Effect in action — the writing team flailing around, directionless, at war with its own continuity — and it only started to re-establish its arc as of Volume 4. Unfortunately, the writers had envisioned each "volume" to be about a different set of heroes with a different set of problems to solve, but fans just wanted more cheerleader beheadings.
    • The fans actually wanted a resolution, but it's said that the writers got too focused on giving in to the demands of whatever the message board consensus was this week and lost track of, y'know, the plot. And it got them Cancelled.
    • In their defense in regards to season two, they had planned a long, elaborate 2-volume (i.e. season-long) arc in which all the seemingly-loose plot threads would have come together. In the original ending of volume two, Peter wouldn't have caught the virus vial, and it would have been let loose in Odessa, causing the pandemic seen in Out of Time. Volume Three would have been about the pandemic. Claire's blood's healing properties were going to be used to heal virus victims, and resident Scrappy Maya would have used her powers to absorb the virus and sacrifice herself to save the world. Unfortunately, the writer's strike cut the season in half, and instead of waiting an undetermined amount of time to resolve plots new viewers wouldn't be up to date on, they chose to wrap up the season and abandon all planned story arcs. This explains why the plot seems muddled and full of red herrings; they quite literally aborted entire character arcs, causing most of the established developments in season 2 to become redundant.
  • Burn Notice based itself on there being some sort of big Government Conspiracy that was behind Michael getting fired from the CIA. Each season does manage to shake up the Myth Arc, it goes from everything being a complete mystery to him having a love/hate relationship with the organization that burned and eventually gathering evidence to bring to the CIA that they actually exist and work with them to start dismantling it. The issue fans have with the status quo is built on four parts:
    • The show's deliberately set and filmed in Miami (trying to avoid California Doubling) and thus Michael can't do too much globetrotting,
    • Each episode is consistently split in half between an episodic story and a Myth Arc story that makes for a rather detached A and B story,
    • The episodic story often becomes more about the accent Michael has to use,
    • ... And even the myth arc story is organized as Michael following a trail of bread crumbs that leads him to the big twist of the season.
    • Still, Seasons 5-6 managed to really change up the We Help the Helpless monotone of the episodic story and managed to merge both the myth arc and episodic plots as working together.
  • The rebooted Battlestar Galactica was accused of this on several occasions — the effect can be traced back as far as Season 3 when the decision to largely abandon the show's carefully crafted Myth Arc in favor of a series of standalone episodes almost resulted in its cancellation (and eventual pushback from the producers to get the plot back on track). Still, the showrunners were open about the fact that they were mostly making things up as they went along. A series of open questions and mysteries were raised over the length of the show, and ended with handwaving and the revelation that God was responsible for many of the mysteries, and they may have been being literal in this. As a result of the series bible's publication after the show finished airing, fans now know that none of the plot points introduced in Season 3, such as the Final Five and Starbuck's death/resurrection, were things the producers were aware of at all during the first two seasons — they'd exhausted their stockpile of potential plotlines.
    • The "Final Five Cylons" debacle, which dominated the show since Season 3 began. Realizing that the gradual reveal of the promised "Twelve Cylon models" was boring, the writers broke their own established rules by making major recurring characters Cylons who logically couldn't be. One of them was married and had fathered a child; the cardinal rule about Cylons until then was that they're sterile. They handwaved it off by ham-fistedly retconning that his wife had an affair (after they dropped a bridge on her). To make it worse, they had already revealed that one of the Cylons was "Model Number Eight", and 8 + 5 = 13, not 12. They had to invent a backstory that there used to be a Number Seven model, but he got killed. The BSG writers didn't just apply Magic A Is Magic A to their work in the end; they fell back onto "divine intervention" to explain plot twists which, if you analyzed them objectively, didn't add up.
      • While the original series was sometimes viewed negatively by fans of the new show, most of the best-loved plot elements were reimagined versions of original series episodes and plotlines. The show started meandering and falling apart precisely when the writers ran out of material and had to begin coming up with a metaplot of their own. Earlier ideas included "find Kobol, lost homeworld of humanity" or "what if another Battlestar survived?" (Pegasus), but by Season 3 they had run out of ideas.
    • The "Death of Starbuck" ruse: in the first two seasons, the writers often boasted that they respected the intelligence of their audience and didn't walk them through plot points. At the end of Season 3, with ratings dropping and the writers running out of ideas, they pretended to kill off Starbuck. Even in real life, the writers and cast were ordered to act like Katee Sackhoff left the show (Sackhoff was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and they did not know how long she would be gone for). The episode she was killed in bizarrely and obviously set up new plot points for her. She wasn't randomly shot or captured; she randomly flew into a storm due to a newly revealed religious plotline. It was confusing even then. Starbuck's "dramatic surprise return" was therefore predictable; writers who once said that they respected the audience's intelligence were now stooping to comic book deaths, though they insisted that this was a stroke of genius. All of this was supposedly related to Starbuck's "destiny", but they never fully explained (even in the finale) why Starbuck had to die and literally be resurrected by the Gods to lead the Fleet to Earth.
    • Made worse by the fact that the intro crawl text assures viewers that the Cylons "have a plan" which explains their seemingly bizarre and illogical actions. Ron Moore openly admitted after the finale, word for word, that David Eick had called him up on the phone and said "it will be a great way to hook viewers in Season 1 if we put 'the Cylons have a Plan' into the opening credits." Ron was hesitant at first, and actually said back into the phone "but there is no frakking Cylon Plan!" They had never sketched out the motivations, goals, or even full backstory and social structure of the Cylons. Word of God... there never was a "Cylon Plan", and they were lying the entire time. Eventually, the whole thing is hand-waved when a character says "plans change". After the show was canned, a TV movie called "The Plan" finally revealed the plan. It was a desperate attempt to retcon an explanation, which gave the simple answer "the Cylon Plan was Kill All Humans but it didn't work".
    • There was also "the secret of the opera house", something that was being hinted at being something of great significance since season 1. In the finale, it takes up about 5 minutes to resolve, has little to do with any opera house at all, and is utterly pointless. It involves a 2-minute kidnapping of a character who was just rescued from a much longer and bigger kidnapping, and a cease-fire between the Cylons and Humans that lasts all of two minutes before shit hits the fan, and the kidnapper is simply shot. So the whole plot ends with a kidnappee being rescued and the Cylons shooting at Galactica. Which is exactly the situation before this all-important resolution of the opera house plotline. You could have fallen asleep during the resolution and you wouldn't have missed a thing.
      • The "opera house reveal" is actually one of the points that Ron D. Moore explicitly admitted he attempted to retcon an explanation for as he was writing the series finale. As he said, he knew they'd been hyping up these religious visions of the Kobol opera house since Season 1, so while writing the finale, decided the answer was that it was meant to represent the CIC during the final standoff (because it has tiered levels in it, vaguely like an opera house?) — it was simply an Ass Pull, but he was genuinely proud he thought of "an explanation", unashamed to admit that he made it up retroactively.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise
    • The pilot left the audience wondering who the shadowy individual directing new bad guy race the Suliban was. At the end of the series, they're still wondering, and apparently no one behind the scenes gave it much thought either. Instead of answering the questions the Temporal Cold War threw up or explaining characters' motivations, the show instead introduced more and more factions, their motives and goals just as nebulous as the ones that were already there. When a new showrunner took over for the beginning of Season 4, he introduced yet another new faction who were apparently the worst of the lot, blew them up and announced that the war was over and indeed had never happened (even though several events that were a direct result of the war clearly still had). Uh-huh?
    • Even after the show's cancellation, the identity of "Future Guy" remained muddled. Rick Berman claimed that they had never established his identity, while Manny Coto and Brannon Braga said he was probably a Romulan, only for Braga to later go back on that, claiming he had always intended him to be Archer, which still leaves unresolved why Archer would be doing all these horrible things. Meanwhile, the EU novels took his character in a different direction than any of those stated possibilities, making him Jamran Harnoth, the leader of a eugenics movement who was also using time travel to ensure his own existence (being of Suliban, Tadaran, and Romulan descent).
  • Carnivàle on HBO created this in one scene. Early in the show, one of the characters has a vision of Ben and Sofie kissing as a nuclear warhead detonates in the background. Since the show took some pains to ground itself in the real timeline, this would put the vision in 1945. But the show was set in 1935, and the pace of the plot meant that some fans immediately concluded that it'd never pay off. They were right. Knauf had planned a five-year time skip between Seasons 2 and 3, which would have brought the show to 1940, with further seasons to bridge the rest of the gap between then and the Trinity test, but then the show got canned.
  • War of the Worlds (1988) was based on the idea of humans discovering that the aliens from the original 1953 invasion had survived and were now resistant to radiation. Season 1, while obviously lacking in special effects, built up a number of story arcs that were intended to be long-term: the humans working to discover the identities of the aliens and out them to the world, allies which made guest appearances (and then promised to come back in the future), an alien "invasion force" that was set to arrive in just a couple of years, etc. With Season 2 (and an entirely new production team), all the carefully constructed work that went into Season 1 was tossed out the window. Half the characters were killed (including the villains of Season 1), several angles were simply forgotten about and the theme of the show even changed. When fans tuned out (which caused the series to end its run prematurely), several arcs from Season 1 were left unresolved and there were more questions than answers.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate Universe seemed to have this problem. Rather than simply go the episodic or mini-arc route, the producers introduced a half-dozen secret soap opera storylines at once, storylines that sometimes overshadowed the genuinely dramatic plotlines on the show. While this may not have been the only reason the series was cut short, it certainly didn't help.
    • The series' predecessor, Stargate Atlantis eventually began to head in this direction, although Atlantis was still far more episodic than Universe ever was, which may be part of the reason Atlantis ran for 5 seasons to Universe's 1.5.
    • SG1 and SGA had arcs too, it's just that Universe was about the soap opera storylines, and the "run-down spaceship we can't actually steer" setting was just the reason why they were all crammed into the same place. Even the planets they visited to collect supplies were always uninhabited — going through the Stargate doesn't mean "Soap opera over, enter the new Goa'uld/Ori/Wraith!" but instead "the same argument from before is continued in the desert." The sci-fi plots anyone who was watching because it was Stargate wanted to see were never intended to take center stage and the clearer that became, the fewer people watched.
    • The Stargate franchise's biggest offender was The Ancients. Introduced in season 1 as 1 of 4 unnamed old and intelligent races, they gradually grew in scope, with each new addition making their backstory a bit more convoluted. Atlantis's addition that they had left the Milky Way after the plague, leaving it to repopulate itself, didn't break things too badly. But when Season 9note  retconned their origin right out of the Milky Way entirely and turned them into a splinter faction that had fled here from a distant galaxy to pursue science instead of religion 10s of millions of years prior, well, things just got nuts. Then came Universe...
  • Breaking Bad's third season was admitted to have been written purely episode to episode by show creator Vince Gilligan. While the honesty was appreciated, the pacing of the episodes in the season was painfully turbulent from week to week, and there was certainly a lot of purposeless building of characters who just ended up as Red Herrings. The series in general ran on Writing by the Seat of Your Pants (with the exception of season 2, which was planned out in advance and still manages to end with a contrived, pointless Cliffhanger Copout).
  • Game of Thrones: A common complaint levied by critics and casual fans around season 5 is that the series does not seem to have a clear vision on when and where it is going, with a bazillion of hanging plot threads waiting to be resolved. In fact, the situation in the books that it adapts is far worse: there are a lot more seemingly pointless or unnecessary subplots that, as of, 2021, have not been resolved because the author is taking an extended break with the series since 2011, with no new entry to advance the main story aside from a handful of preview chapters of the upcoming sixth book, The Winds of Winter. By season 5, when the show was about to overtake the books, the showrunners realized that they could not wait for George R. R. Martin to whip up new content forever, and had to come up with new ideas on the go to resolve the hanging plot threads. Thus explaining the much faster pace, higher death toll (even by its previous standards), and various inconsistencies in the last three seasons, because the showrunners were working under a tight deadline and number of episodes that HBO gave them, rather than just adapting existing material. By the final season, all of the plot threads have more or less been resolved, but this, unfortunately, ended up pissing off a lot of fans who were not happy with the fresh-from-the-oven explanation they got (but that's something to be discussed in another trope).
  • Sons of Anarchy has an infamous amount of this and it has gotten worse as the seasons have gone on. It is common for them to stretch a single question across an entire series. A running joke amongst fans is that Jax always says he will get to the bottom of something, but doesn't. Season 6 is particularly directionless both due to FX letting every episode be 90 minutes or longer leading to a surplus of pointless subplots in every episode and the planned season-long Big Bad having to be offed four episodes in due to the actor's schedule. Thanks to this there is no main driving conflict for much of the season but instead several plotlines piled on top of one another with none really taking primacy.
  • The Event was like a drinking game of both characters informing each other of things we already know and ineffectively teasing us. "You know what happened last time!" Um, we don't, so how about you tell us?
    • As mentioned in a few other places, The Event was so bad about building itself up that some felt it hit tropes like this one before it ever premiered. Seriously, for months, viewers were subjected to the upcoming "event", often several times per commercial break. By the time it aired, many were so annoyed with the campaign they either lost interest, thinking it couldn't possibly live up to the hype it created for itself, or just didn't watch out of spite for taking up so much of their time.
    • Ironically, the show's creator had planned the story arcs to unfold over five seasons and promised in his tweets after the first episode that the show would resolve most of its mysteries within an episode or two of introducing them—which it generally did. Due to declining ratings during the fall, NBC forced him to speed up his timetable after the hiatus so that plot developments he had planned for the second season instead took place during the second half of the first, with predictable results.
  • The Killing eventually answered the central question of "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" at the end of Season 2. Problem is, throughout Season 1, fans started to feel that the show kept throwing out Red Herring after Red Herring... and when the season finale finished with nary a hint as to who might actually be responsible, professional critics actually flipped their shit, with at least one saying they had absolutely no reason to want to keep watching.
    • Thankfully, they averted this in Season 3, and the killer was revealed (as promised) in the same season.
  • Semi-enforced on How I Met Your Mother: although the creators intricately plot out certain subplots during each season in advance, they were never guaranteed more than one season at a time, so they were forced to keep their options open enough to be capable of making shit up for how Ted met his kids' mother in case they got cancelled. When they were guaranteed two more seasons near the end of Season 6, the show visibly hiked up the foreshadowing (mainly in the form of flashforwards and/or Future!Ted casually Jossing possibilities or stating facts about the future) of a far denser and more detailed plot in the later episodes of Season 6 and the earlier ones of Season 7. Still, Season 9 is the end.
    • This was actually referenced as a common criticism of the series finale. The show ends with the entire nine-season story being a thinly veiled excuse for Ted to justify to his kids that he's going to get back together with "Aunt Robin" after the mother/Tracy's death. The footage used for this reveal was actually shot during season two, as the kids look much younger than they are in the rest of the clips from said finale. The reveal was criticized by people for being a last-minute plot thread in a series that had seen all manner of extraneous storylines, Ted going through numerous relationships and eventually coming to the realization that he would never have Robin (and seeing her literally floating away in his mind after they both realized that love just wasn't enough) and a decade's worth of characterization in the interim. Fans complained that the only way the ending made sense is if you disregarded the last eight seasons of development, and the poor reception may have been a factor in why the Spin-Off How I Met Your Father got stuck in Development Hell (due to viewers shying away from another long-term Myth Arc that never pays off).
  • Supernatural headed this way during Seasons 6-7. Since the showrunner changed at the end of Season 5, fans in general have become increasingly less happy with the course the show is taking, feeling that the new showrunner had abolished most of the important plot threads and as of Season 7 secondary characters that were popular with the fandom and a large part of the show's success in previous seasons, and is now relying purely on a series of one-shot guest stars to maintain viewers. In addition to the showrunner's apparent insistence on writing out well-loved characters in favour of poorly received suspiciously similar substitutes, this approach has not worked as intended.
    • General consensus seems to that since Sara Gamble's departure and Jeremy Carver's debut, the show — while still not as good as the earliest seasons — has managed to get back on course, having completely abandoned the boring Leviathan mythology, and returning to the Angel and Demon mythology.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the original incarnation of the series, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy's tenure was marked by the Lungbarrow Plot (aka the Cartmel Masterplan), a multi-season story arc designed to reset the continuity of the series and re-establish the mystery of the title character. This really was written in advance, and the payoff for the audience really was there... until Executive Meddling led to the show being cancelled early. The seeds which began to be sown in Season 25 continued to grow in the subsequent New Adventures novels (leading to a wonderful climax in, appropriately, Lungbarrow)... but never addressed in the 2005 revival thus far.
    • Series 7B had to contend with the aftermath of old companions leaving, the Doctor possibly leaving his travels, the Doctor possibly being on his very last incarnation, meaning a way had to be found for their life to be extended to allow a new incarnation to replace Matt Smith, and the retconning of the Last Great Time War. The resultant "Impossible Girl" arc was criticized for robbing new companion Clara of some much-needed character development in favor of tying up some plot threads and was followed by establishing a new yet old incarnation of the Doctor to be responsible for the Last Great Time War ending in the 50th anniversary special. Finally, the Christmas special had to wrap up everything else in the Eleventh Doctor era (namely the Silence arc) rather abruptly. Much of this resulted in calls for showrunner Steven Moffat to leave.note 
    • Moffat however remained for Series 8-10, the Twelfth Doctor era, which didn't have as bad a case of this trope going — Series 8 and 9 actually spent a lot of time patching up leftover plot threads from 7B, such as the identity of the woman in the shop who brought the Doctor and Clara together (and from there how and why she did so) and Clara's personality. Series 9 went on to use its Season Finale to get the Doctor back to Gallifrey at last and its Christmas Episode to reveal the circumstances of the Doctor and River's final night/proper wedded life, partially because Moffat went into the season intending it as his last. But come Series 10 he never did resolve the new plot threads that the Series 9 finale left dangling regarding Gallifrey and the Doctor's relationship to it in favor of giving this Doctor's Myth Arc, his complex relationship with Arch-Enemy Missy, a proper conclusion.
  • Lampshaded in the expanded universe of Castle, believe it or not. On the Richard Castle website, Castle wrote an article about what he called a Ponzi Plot. He explained that if you don't eventually resolve it, you lose your viewers.
    • This was posted a week before the Season 4 finale, where Castle and Beckett finally resolve their four-year will they/won't they arc by doing it.
    • Left still unresolved at that point was the mystery of the Case of Beckett's Mom, which many fans had also claimed was an example of this trope. Some fans speculate that Andrew Marlowe posted the article not to explain why Castle and Beckett finally hooked up but instead to reassure fans that the Beckett case really does have a solution, that it won't drag on forever, and the viewers really will like it. Sure enough, while this case still hasn't actually been closed, the mystery was solved in the Season 5 premiere.
    • It helps that Castle is primarily episodic, and so has never depended on its meta-plot to keep viewers interested. The show-runners were never worried that the fans would lose interest, and sure enough, reactions have been very positive.
    • And now with the end of season 6, the storyline about Beckett's mother's murder has also been resolved.
  • Happened with Smallville. The show kept dicking around with viewers wanting to see Clark's development into Superman by focusing more on his on-again-off-again relationship with Lana most of the time, and then by the time she was finally gone from the series in Season 8 they still managed to get renewed two more times and drag things. It didn't help that they also seemed to be finding increasingly complicated ways of making Clark do "Superman" things without actually coming out and making him Superman. The series finale wasn't exactly that satisfactory to certain sections of the fanbase either.
    • Of course, since Smallville is a prequel to the Superman mythos, they actually knew exactly where all the key plotlines were going — it's just, since it took ten whole seasons to get there, they ended up coming up with any number of sub-plots to fill up the space; in that regard, it's actually an inversion. From Season 4 onwards — likely, longer than they expected the show to last — they changed tack and began bringing in supporting characters and villains that Clark would normally only have met after he left Smallville, such as Brainiac and Lois Lane (Lex Luthor, in some versions, really did live in Smallville and was friends with Clark, so he made sense). By the end of the show he's met most of his major allies and villains and started the Justice League, all before he even puts on the cape!
  • Once Upon a Time also suffered this as it went on, as several plots and characters got discarded and forgotten about in favor of new ones with each passing season.
  • Nearly every plot thread in Primeval is left unresolved, be it the fate of Claudia Brown, the motivations of the villain in Series 2, the origin of the future city in Series 3, the significance of Patrick Quinn, etc. No matter how significant something is played up in one series, you can be sure it'll be forgotten about in the next one. Rather than try to resolve any of them, the latest series ended by introducing a completely out-of-the-blue twist merely for the sake of a cliffhanger, and given it's unlikely to be renewed for another series, it's unlikely even that will ever be expanded on.
  • The Mentalist. The Red John Myth Arc has become far more elaborate and convoluted than originally intended. While it appears that Bruno Heller always knew who Red John was going to be (or picked his possible choices early on, at least), the character went from a particularly devious Serial Killer who knew how to cover his tracks, to a Serial Killer who knew a few other killers, to a Serial Killer with a shadow army of fanatically devoted, loyal-unto-death brainwashed followers. In season 6 they took his catchphrase ("Tiger, Tiger") and decided to turn what looked like a cult into a sophisticated criminal organization that nobody had heard of, and made Red John a possible member, to a possible senior member, and finally into the apparent mastermind of the whole thing. Oh, and he's repeatedly performing "psychic" feats that make Jane look like an amateur, that are never explained. Beyond a certain point, he's basically a supervillain and you have to start wondering why he ever resorted to anything as trivial as serial murder in the first place. The Reveal that he is Sheriff McCallister only raised further issues, as many clues that were dropped about Red John turn out to be irrelevant (his height, for instance — the actor in question is taller than Red John was stated to be). Practically all of the clues that pointed to him were only dropped in the sixth season, the one he was revealed in; most ones from previous seasons were never mentioned again.
  • 24:
    • This was an unfortunate side-effect of the 24-hour format. The producers often had to write storylines in advance, and would often resort to filler or sidestories to kill time until the next important revelation. Likewise, the villains almost always changed midway through the season, which often threw out the carefully-set-up goals and motivations for the enemies and often resulted in The Man Behind the Man being revealed and fans getting tired of it, even if it made no sense in the long run.
    • Done by necessity in Season 1. The production team had no idea if they would be renewed for the back half of the season, so they closed off the storyline by having Jack rescue his wife and daughter in the thirteenth episode and all plots being tied up. When Kiefer Sutherland won a Best Actor Golden Globe and the show was suddenly renewed thanks to the hype, the producers suddenly had to throw in a number of ridiculous plotlines (including a heretofore-unrevealed second assassin showing up who is having a relationship with one of his target's staff members, Jack butting heads with a sniper who hates him for something he did in the past, the Stunt Casting of Dennis Hopper, Teri's Easy Amnesia, Kim getting kidnapped again and the Ass Pull that Nina was the mole in CTU).
    • The eventual resolution of the three-season arc that began with the assassinations in Season 5, made of equal parts Gambit Pileup and Ass Pull. It is revealed that the businessman Alan Wilson- a character introduced near the end of season 7 and defeated within a handful of episodes- is the ultimate enemy overseeing a chain that passes down from himself, controlling a cabal that includes Jonas Hodges (who was working with Benjamin Juma to overthrow the White House), controlling another group led by Jack's brother Graem (being controlled by his father, who is working with the Chinese government), who is advising President Evil Charles Logan (which was itself caused by one of the writers asking midway through the fifth season, "Hey, what if the President was evil?) and finally to the group of assassins that murdered David Palmer and Michelle Dessler. The failure of season 6 (and the stalling plot arc that was created by this mess) is what forced the show to undergo a Retool and move to the other side of the country in order to get things moving and resolve it. Even then, most fans weren't happy with the outcome — Wilson becomes a Karma Houdini who basically gets away scot-free with his crimes. While the show generally implied that someone was the ultimate Diabolical Mastermind behind these various villains and events, the character of Wilson was a complete Ass Pull as he was an entirely new bad guy who had an at-best tenuous connection to a handful of characters, before being very quickly captured and the whole arc being declared wrapped up afterwards. He never appears again on the show.
  • A major factor in Revolution only lasting two seasons. Season one piled on the secrets and macguffins (Who killed the power, how did they do it and why? What are the pendants? Why can they restore power just like that) while answering very few questions. Season two simply ignored many of S1's questions while adding all-new questions (Sentient nanomachines?) and not answering those questions either.
  • Under the Dome is one of the most extreme examples since the turn of the millennium. While the first season was reasonably coherent in its storytelling, the next two quickly turned into an utterly incomprehensible mess of dangling plot threads, introduced new Ass Pull twists in every other episode, almost never resolved anything, and even in the rare case some question was answered, the solution was usually far-fetched to the extreme while creating a whole bunch of new mysteries that never went anywhere. It's little wonder the series rapidly lost market shares and was cancelled after three seasons, although — credit where it's due — the final episodes did their damnedest to resolve the story in a satisfying way. Viewers are split on how well it managed to do that, but points for trying anyway.
  • Arrowverse has this in spades, particularly Arrow and The Flash (2014). What didn't help matters is the first seasons of both shows were focused on a very specific arc at the centre of the characters' motivation, the Undertaking conspiracy with Arrow, and who killed Nora Allen in Flash. Once those were resolved, the writers didn't really have any plans going forward, so they've largely just made shit up as they go along.
    • In Arrow's case, this started in the third season, first by killing off Sara Lance, the Canary, in order to create a subplot where they have to solve her murder and inspire her sister to follow in her footsteps, thus abandoning Sara's own arc (though this itself had already been abandoned when after half a season of You Are Better Than You Think You Are! moments, she rejoins the League of Assassins and her 'happy ending' is going back to the cult that made her hate herself). Alongside this, Oliver's life is imploded by the League of Assassins...except they didn't really know why the League of Assassins wanted to mess with him, going from 'it's his fault Sara died', 'he's protecting Malcolm', and 'they want Ollie to be Ra's heir'. In the end, they also reveal that the League of Assassins will wipe out the city, in order to erase Oliver's history, which completely flies against their beef with Malcolm since the whole entire reason they had for wanting him dead was he tried to destroy the City, and this was 'against their code'.
      • Season 4 was no better in this regard, and it's made worse since it deals with several building myth arcs concerning Hive, Damien Darhk, and Andy Diggle. Adding to matters, the viewer finds out one member of Team Arrow is going to die, but the identity of who is a mystery to the viewer, and also the writers because they later admitted they didn't have anyone actually planned. Several other subplots are set up and never resolved, while the grave plot is resolved by killing off Laurel Lance, with the writers citing the fact her story was 'done', despite her character having literally just been set up with a power boost, a potential new status quo of working for the mayor's office to infiltrate Darhk's operation, the fact she'd begun to realise she was still in love with Oliver, and being the team's most personal connection to Nyssa Al Ghul, meaning so much set up for her character goes nowhere. A lot of viewers gave up on the show after this point, and it continued to bleed viewership as time went on.
      • The Black Canary mantle ends up being something of a character-specific example of this. Initially the role of the Black Canary is Sara Lance, who as noted above was set up as someone who hated herself and wanted to escape an assassin cult. After most of a season of her learning to love herself and that she's more than just a killer, she's sent off back to the assassin cult. When she returns, she's killed off so her sister Laurel can take over. Laurel spends a season building up to becoming the Black Canary and improving, is set up with several building sub-plots, then killed off. Her death leaves a void and they decide to try and fill it with a new Black Canary, and introduce a metahuman police officer to fill that void, though then she later gets depowered in order to make way for an alternate universe Laurel who until that point had been a remorseless killer who now suddenly doesn't like being a killer. Ultimately the mantle is just a series of characters whose plots are cut off so they can be replaced, leading to a long, convoluted legacy.
    • The Flash started this with Zoom. Zoom's exact motivation is never consistent between episodes, with him initially seemingly wanting to kill Barry simply to have no challenger to the Fastest Man Alive title, then revealing he actually wanted to make Barry faster so he could drain his speed. This turns out to be because Zoom destroyed his body with a speed-enhancing drug that he's dying from, and needs Barry's speed to fix himself, but when he gets that speed he then decides that his actual plan was to take over their earth 'like he did Earth 2' (despite what we see showing he was just a gang leader who terrorised one city, that was still in good enough condition that its police force were actively fighting back). Only then it turns out he was actually planning to destroy the multiverse and leave Earth 1 to torment, which he was somehow now smart enough to do. The repeated changes to his motivation and powers led to plots coming and going out of nowhere, while also having other subplots, like the introduction of Wally West and Jesse Quick, being dragged out so their characters' hero origin get delayed.
      • Savitar in the next season was even worse, as exactly who and what Savitar is gets dragged on for the entire season without explaining what it is Savitar even wants. Meanwhile Wally and Jesse get their powers, but the show does what it can to avoid letting them rise as heroes in order to keep Barry relevant, introduces a new Rogues who are never developed or made real use of, and has Caitlin develop ice powers and make her begin to become Killer Frost, but it never explained why her developing powers is exactly a bad thing, with her changing her mind between being murderously desperate to remove her powers to being murderously desperate to remain empowered, with a split personality later developing in a poor attempt to explain that. This continues into future seasons with the exact origin of Killer Frost getting rebooted multiple times, while subsequent big-bads continue the trend of having mysterious plans that are never revealed, only to be suddenly changed out of nowhere when they do.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Most commonly occurs when the writers are writing by the seat of their pants, known in wrestling jargon as "hotshot" booking. This is when a show is literally written as it is being performed, either because the writers aren't prepared, a wrestler is suddenly unable to work a match during a live show requiring an abrupt change in his angle, or because the bookers are trying to be daring and edgy. Hotshot booking rarely produces anything but failure, however.
    • The Kevin Nash-booked Summer of Suck in 1999 WCW featured the "Who drove the Hummer?" angle which was never resolved. Crossed with They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot, since, once Sid Vicious returned at WCW The Great American Bash 99, all they needed to say was that Randy Savage had hired Sid to drive the Hummer to crash into Nash's limo to injure him to make it easier for Savage to defeat Nash for the WCW World Heavyweight Title.
    • At WWE, an attempt to avert the concept in some circumstances was put in writing as part of the company's "Wellness Program", which states that any "Superstar" fired for doping offenses must job his or her title/finish an angle in the ring immediately and without pay.
    • Injured wrestlers can usually finish the match they're in (unless the injury is really bad), but they won't be back next week, and if they were in the middle of a storyline you've got a week (if you're lucky) to rewrite it.
      • In WWE in 2009, Edge and Chris Jericho had formed a tag team, won the Unified Tag Team Championships, and were just starting off an arrogant heel run with the belts...and then Edge tore his Achilles tendon, putting him on the shelf for the rest of the year. WWE Creative, backed into a pretty unpleasant corner, had Jericho cut a promo on Edge for having the gall to get injured during their title run; he then hyped up his new mystery partner (who was much better than Edge)...who he'd be debuting at the next PPV. This bought them enough time to actually get a new story together.
      • In the end, it actually worked out great, as Jericho's partner was The Big Show, and the team (known as "JeriShow") went on to dominate the tag team division for a good part of the year.

    Video Games 
  • Many have accused Tetsuya Nomura of doing this with the Kingdom Hearts series. Each new game ties up the previous one's loose ends but opens up twice as many new ones... The reason for this is because the first game in the series was deliberately designed with plot holes to fill because Nomura was unsure if a sequel would be worth making, and also because he wanted fans to make up their own theories about how things happened (which he succeeded at). Nomura then confirmed that he always will add plot holes, twist endings and other bizarre, mysterious elements into a game, and then make up answers to them while working on the next game. Rinse and repeat. The longer this cycle has gone on, the more vocally tired much of the fanbase has become of it, especially after the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III, much hyped as the Grand Finale of the "Seeker of Darkness Chronicle", still felt inconclusive to some in regards to many plot threads already hanging all while opening up brand new ones.
  • The Legacy of Kain series seems to be suffering from a fatal case of Chris Carter. Eidos never really knew what to do with it after Crystal Dynamics stole it from Silicon Knights (and told SK to throw their carefully-plotted story ideas for a sequel in the trash). Crystal Dynamics' next decision with the franchise, having multiple titles in development at the same time with different teams working on them, did little to gel any sort of solid story. The meat of the stories after the first game seemed to follow immortal, nigh-indestructible evolving vampires traveling through time and fighting extra-dimensional demons. The series' timeline spans thousands of years, and each additional game either flagrantly retcons and/or reset buttons the previous installations, including at least one cliffhanger ending that not only drew cries of the game being released incomplete but wasn't actually resolved in the next game. It still could turn out to be one of the greatest series ever, provided they manage to put a bow on it. However, so far news from the developer seems to suggest that another sequel is unlikely.
    • One example: all the events of Blood Omen 2 (released 4th) happen between the events of Blood Omen and Soul Reaver (released 1st and second) in a timeline created in Defiance (released 5th) and destroyed in Soul Reaver 2 (released 3rd).
  • The Halo series is working on averting this after having fallen into this trope for a time. In its first decade, many elements of the universe were introduced and then never brought up again, such as what the MacGuffin Forerunner Crystal from Halo: First Strike was supposed to be, how many Spartans had survived to the present, what happened to the Spirit of Fire after Halo Wars, etc. After the series was turned over from Bungie to 343 Industries, the new studio began a massive effort to finally give answers to all the loose threads, sometimes by the dozens within the same work.
  • Any new partner characters, second-string villains, or "B" plots in the Resident Evil series are typically met with derision because, so far, only one out of nearly a dozen of these characters has ever reappeared in any other games. As a rule, many fans tend not to get too invested in these characters when they know they'll just end up Put on a Bus anyway.
  • Assassin's Creed was accused of this, as early as the Ezio trilogy. Cracked even made fun of the series for falling into this trope, alleging that its status as Ubisoft's Cash Cow Franchise ensures that there will never be a proper end to the story.
    • Many fans were expecting Desmond to get his own game set in the modern era, as the first few games clearly point towards the character being trained in the Assassin arts and getting better at fighting Abstergo agents. This took a hard right turn in the fifth main game, Assassin's Creed III, in which Desmond haphazardly sacrifices himself in a last-minute twist to save the world. As of 2016, there have been four main games since then (not to mention numerous tie-in games), and this aspect of the plot hasn't been addressed at all, instead being focused on periphery characters who are sneaking around ostensibly finding out little tidbits of information about Abstergo. It got to the point that Assassin's Creed: Unity had no scenes at all in the present day, instead being a simulation run entirely through a console by two Assassins who act as Mission Control. This may have been the reason why Ubisoft opted to slow down the production schedule of the series in 2016 and take a longer time to complete each installment.
    • ... and then there's Juno, the mysterious entity who Desmond sacrificed himself for in III. At the end of the game, she promised to help save the world, but as of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, all she's done is float around computer systems and give cryptic information to various parties. It doesn't help matters that the Kudzu Plot is so complicated and stretched out across so many games that it requires reading a wiki page to understand it, and the goal of the entity can be boiled down to stealing a human body so she can inhabit it.
    • The resolution of Lucy's character. In the first few games, Lucy was the Mission Control/sidekick who initially busted Desmond out of Abstergo and helped him fight against them. The first three games had a relatively consistent character arc for her, but when voice actress Kristen Bell left the franchise during production of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the writers had Desmond randomly stab her at the urging of Juno. The writers then promised that there would be answers to this plot twist, but it wasn't fully answered until the "Lost Archive" DLC for Assassin's Creed: Revelations two years later — it turns out she was a triple agent, who decided to break Desmond out despite actively working for the Templars and doing villainous things. In order to learn this, you had to get and play through the DLC (which used a platforming system different than the main series). If you didn't bother with the DLC, then you wouldn't learn why until ACIII and even then you'd just have people referring to her as a traitor.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • Owing to the Jigsaw Puzzle Kudzu Plot spread out across the series, many plot threads are often Left Hanging with no explanation or are difficult to work out and piece together, all while new threads are brought up with each game. Thus some question just how much is planned out, and how much is Scott Cawthon retconning things and/or making it up as he goes along.
    • While the first three games formed a mostly coherent story, the fourth (and at-the-time final) game confused many fans since despite seemingly depicting the once-mentioned Bite of 87, there's strong evidence suggesting it takes place years before then (not least being that the culprit was a character whose restaurant had been closed for years by 1987). There's also the fact that a box which, quoth Scott, contained "all the pieces put together," ended up being left unopened as opposed to being unlocked with a later update as initially planned.
    • Sister Location only confused things more by raising more questions and answering none, what with it taking some elements from The Silver Eyes (which is separate from the story of the games), putting into question just what really happened during 4, and the Custom Night's plot twists, amongst which is the implication that Springtrap is retconned from being the Greater-Scope Villain, to his son instead, significantly affecting Five Nights at Freddy's 3's story.
      • Though some Word of God would later clarify the spoiler above. Specifically, that Springtrap is the Greater-Scope Villain, and not his son, as previously believed.
    • Finally resolved with the sixth game, which actually answered most of the above questions and resolves the plot by having all the souls trapped inside the animatronics be released, and their souls pass onto the next world.
  • Overwatch has a fairly interesting plot about the titular organization Putting the Band Back Together while the nefarious Talon gathers its forces and stokes tensions while the world limps toward a second Robot War. As an exclusively multiplayer title, this story is told through external sources released sporadically online. Very sporadically. The kind of sporadic that means the rate of actual progress is better measured by years rather than by weeks or months. Nowhere is this more evident than with the issue of seeing Overwatch itself reformed, the core premise upon which the lore has built itself. A story cinematic released in March of 2016 established that a "recall" order had been issued to all former operatives to call them back into service and rebuild the organization. The issue of the recall then sat dormant and unmentioned for seventeen months until another story cinematic released in August of 2017 confirmed one new agent to respond. And during the interim, developments consisted mostly of the villains effortlessly pursuing their agenda and undoing the heroes' few victories while the latter either failed to stop them or accomplished little of consequence at all. So, not only does the lore progress at a glacial rate but the progress it does make is often trivial or demoralizing. Even fans who were enthusiastic about following the story from day one have grown increasingly fatigued and skeptical of Blizzard's ability or intent to follow through with their promises, especially since the tone of the lore has gradually become more melancholy with very little worth cheering for.
    • To top it off, the often long periods between new releases compound the issue with a meta effect: when new information comes out, it will often clash with long-standing and cherished fan theories that have developed in the meantimeJust an example , inevitably resulting in a backlash that drives some fans to either stop theorycrafting or stick to their guns and ignore what contradicts them. Either way, morale in the lore-minded sections of the community is often volatile.
    • It wasn't until 2020, four years after launch, that a sequel that would have more focus on the plot was announced (later pushed to 2021, then 2022). By that time, however, interest in the lore and story had started to die down, and the fanbase was less enthusiastic.

    Web Animation 

  • After some 1,200 comics, the 8-Bit Theater foursome could probably have figured out a clever way to defeat Chaos and win the day as they did with all their other extremely powerful foes, but the story instead had them depowered and sent off somewhere to muck about, formulating some kind of plan to go back up against the Big Bad.
  • There was some fear that this would happen to the venerable Goats as the Infinite Typewriters Mega-Arc continued to add weirdness. John Rosenburg has assured us that it's all mapped out to 2012... despite the announcement of the strip ending afterwards. Granted it was pointed out that, if Goats was a person it would be time for its Bar Mitzvah.
  • According to the author, this is why Concession is ending.
  • For El Goonish Shive, Schedule Slip trouble + Dan Shive's love for Chekhov's Gun + his own tendency to occasionally forget stuff he did/didn't do = we should probably give up on getting answers to all of the questions. He has been trying to get things sorted out by establishing things alluded to and having situations progress, as well as having several Fourth-Wall Mail Slot bits between stories and a renewed effort to keep the strip updating 6 times a week (his 2012 average is probably 3.5 a week, which is pretty good, all things considered), so we'll have to see how he does.
    • Particularly bad with some plot lines. For example, the last time Grace's brothers were seen was over 10 years ago.
  • Wapsi Square has been headed quickly in this direction since Cerebus Syndrome kicked in, and especially since the Calendar arc was (semi-)resolved. Creator Paul Taylor claims that it's all part of an extended story that he plotted at the comic's start, but many think he's simply making it up as he goes. The fact that all of the subplots and storylines involving the various personal relationships were unceremoniously dropped shortly after the start of the Golem Girls arc, with no attempt at a resolution, would seem to support this opinion. A few believe that the increasingly bizarre supernatural recent events may indicate something of a Creator Breakdown.
  • Homestuck, ever since about the end of Act 2, very early on in the comic's story, and continuing all the way to the very end. Around the time of Act 5, a common fandom joke was that the story will focus long enough to resolve one plot thread... and then make you realize that it introduced three others to do it.
  • Megatokyo suffers from this, and the schedule slips don't help matters any.
  • Played with in Negamaki. The plot points are introduced and wildly discarded, except it's acknowledged and played for laughs by the characters. Characters have, more than once, decided to "wait out" a current turn of events or attempt to ignore a twist with the knowledge it will just go away when the author gets bored.
    • A Word of God post in the comments section declared that each page's plot is basically made up as it's being assembled.
  • Polymer City Chronicles started as a silly gaming comic, eventually slipped to longer storylines involving space aliens (Blue Skinned Space Babes, The Greys, Body Snatchers, crystal life forms, Intelligent Gerbil refugees of interstellar war and so on), Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, and other things reminiscent of Fred Perry's Gold Digger. The author kept switching to new stories leaving previous plots hanging. He stopped updating the comic when finishing only the ongoing plots would've taken him 70 years (taking his usual Schedule Slip into the account).

    Web Original 
  • Many of the plot elements from Season 1 of lonelygirl15 seem to have been completely forgotten. Cassie, anyone?
  • KateModern is much more successful in this regard, but still left a few threads hanging at the end.
  • The Whateley Universe was supposed to run more-or-less in real time, and staying ahead of the actual date... but the series started in 2004 and has barely gotten into Winter Term of the first year of school, with some stories still stuck back in the Fall. Some fans are wondering if the authors will live long enough to finish the main story arc. It's been joked that the stories will wrap up any century now.
    • And it has now hemorrhaged just about all of the original authors, except for Bek. With Diane Castle, the main person who moved things forward for three years, gone, it teetered on the edge of becoming Dead Fic, until several new writers infused it with fresh blood (and a few earlier writers started talk of returning).
  • Marble Hornets is a found-footage format series whose driving force was the events behind the titular student film. However, even after the initial fourteen entries that establish the initial mystery, things don't let up from there and Jay's own investigations end up adding mystery after mystery. Parts of the larger Myth Arc included the Masked Men, Jay's enigmatic stalker totheark, the whereabouts of the mysterious girl Jessica whom Jay meets in season two, and of course the Operator itself. By the end of the series, many of these are left unexplained or open to interpretation. Much like Lost, how effective this was depends on whether you prefer the show being left open to interpretation or having these answers explained.
    • In an interesting case for this trope, the creators of the series were honest with themselves in that they had no initial idea for a long-term plan for the series, and most of the mysteries created in season one were done so more out of Rule of Scary rather than any necessity to the plot or Myth Arc (considering the show was made on a whim and they planned on wrapping it up at the end of the first season, it makes sense). However, once production on season two started, they decided they would up the ante and actually make sense of those non-nonsensical ideas they initially made.

    Western Animation 
  • Defied with Gravity Falls: Alex Hirsch explicitly stated in interviews that, despite it being on the way to becoming the network's Cash Cow Franchise, he ended it after two seasons in order to avoid this trope.
  • Archer: Season 7 ends with Archer being mortally wounded and left comatose. The following three seasons are elaborate dream sequences within the coma where Archer imagines himself and the other main characters in different settings. Series creator Adam Reed has even gone on record saying he's not sure he wants Archer to ever wake up. This has caused quite a bit of frustration among fans, many of whom see the dream sequences as pointless filler, or feel that Reed is no longer invested in the actual story and world of Archer and is merely using the show to push other ideas with the established characters.
    • As of the finale of season 10 Archer woke up, ending the three season-long line of dream sequences.
    • Notably, season 11 — the first season since 7 to fully take place in the real world — received praise from both fans and critics as a return to form and resulted in a 32% increase in viewership compared to season 10. Which also saved the show from cancellation, as season 11 was originally planned to be the last.

Alternative Title(s): Chris Carter Effect, Resolve Your Plots Dammit, Winging The Story, Lost In The Story Arc


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