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The Day of Reckoning

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"It's been a long journey and no one is coming out without scars. But it all comes down to this moment. We win or lose it all in the next few minutes. Make me proud. Make yourselves proud."
Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 2

There are tons of dark prophecies of doomsdays and master plans that take a long time to put into action. The Day of Reckoning is the day that all the prophecies speak of... the day that the Evil Overlord wins, goodness and mercy are overthrown, and a new Dark Age arises on Earth...

At least, until the hero shows up, defeats the villain, saves the day, and returns everything to normal (usually with one or two characters sacrificing themselves to do it). This trope is about the final confrontation between the heroes and the coming evil. The long-awaited and foretold apocalypse. When the heroes finally get out from under the Darkest Hour and put a stop to the villain's plan for world domination.

A specific type of story Climax. See also Darkest Hour and Final Battle.

And nope, this trope has nothing to do with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning despite its title.

As an Ending Trope, expect massive unmarked spoilers ahead.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern: The Blackest Night, when the enemies of the Green Lantern corps will mass against them and destroy them. Blackest Night centers all around a version of it, which ends up getting thwarted.

  • Star Wars: The day Emperor Palpatine takes over the Republic, beginning with the murder of all the Jedi, at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Nero describes his attacks on Vulcan and Earth as the Federation's "Day of Reckoning".
  • Gozer's arrival on Earth in Ghostbusters (1984) would almost certainly have been this. Judgment Day is even referred to by name and place in the Bible.

  • The Battle of the Five Armies at the end of The Hobbit.
  • The Battle of the Black Gate near the end of The Lord of the Rings, used to divert Sauron's attention so that Frodo can do his job.
  • The Battle of Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • The poem Dream of the Rood briefly speaks glowingly of the Second Coming of Christ.
  • The Dark Forest invasion in Warrior Cats, which is spoken of in several prophecies, and had been built up for most of the series.
  • The battle in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr is a Double Subversion. The stage is clearly set, we are told, for a dramatic, winner-take-all battle between Imperial Crusade forces and the hosts of Chaos at the fortress-world of Morlond, and the eponymous long-dead Imperial Saint has returned to spur the Imperials on to final victory. But instead of going to Morlond, Sabbat takes a detour to an obscure, worthless planet on the Crusade's second front called Herodor, and neither Gaunt nor anyone else can explain why. A massive Chaos army, led by Magister Enok Innokenti, attacks Herodor, and only then does Sabbat explain her plan: she deliberately lured Innokenti to Herodor, using herself as bait, to prevent him from attacking the Crusade's vulnerable flank, and the prophesied victory is an Imperial counter-attack that slays Innokenti and throws his army into rout.
  • There are two of them in The Sight foretold in that book's prophecy - first, the summoning of The Searchers in the middle of the humans' battle, and then the activation of the Vision, which if Morgra achieves will allow her to enslave all of the animals. Morgra succeeds in using the searchers to decimate the free wolves, but Larka hijacks the vision during the climax, stopping her from achieving the final part of her plan.
  • RWBY: Fairy Tales of Remnant: In "The Two Brothers", the two gods get so tired of each other that they decide to go their separate ways. However, they gave so much essence to the creation of Remnant and its lifeforms that they don't have the power to leave without taking it all back. That would mean destroying everything. The God of Darkness wants to do this, but the God of Light isn't so eager. They compromise by coming up with a test. If humanity can prove itself worthy, they will remain and let humanity live. If humanity isn't worthy, they will destroy the planet, take back their essence and go their separate ways.

    Live Action TV 
  • Dollhouse is notable in that its day of reckoning goes ahead despite (or possibly because of) the heroes intervention. Other than that, it plays this trope to a T.
  • When Angel and his team finally attack the Circle of the Black Thorn and try to avert THE apocalypse.
  • The new Doctor Who series had a Day of Reckoning at the end of every season. Of particular note are the episodes "The Sound of Drums"/"The Last of the Time Lords", "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End", and "The End of Time".
  • Any of the Apocalypses from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "The Reckoning," an ancient Bajoran tablet brings on a foretold final battle between the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths, which will bring Bajor either a thousand years of peace or suffering (or something about eating fruit), taking place on the station between two mortal vessels, Kira and Jake. The actual Reckoning, which the Prophets appear to be winning, is sabotaged by Kai Winn for morally murky reasons.
  • In Supernatural, we have the episodes "All Hell Breaks Loose" where the brothers finally take out Azazel, the demon that killed their parents... but are too late to stop him unleashing his demonic army into the world; No Rest For The Wicked where the brothers attempt to take out the demon's new leader, Lilith, before she can claim Dean's soul and drag him to hell... and they fail, with Dean suffering a particularly nasty death; Lucifer Rising, where the brothers attempt to stop Lilith from freeing Lucifer... and it ends badly, with Sam accidentally freeing Lucifer himself. Then there's the big one, Swan Song, where the brothers have to re-imprison Lucifer before he can fight Micheal, ending the world... they succeed! (Although Sam is sealed in Hell along with a very pissed-off Lucifer and Michael)...
  • In Day Break (2006) it is the "Groundhog Day" Loop when most episodes are set plus the day after. The master plan would culminate in massacring the Grand Jury investigating corruption in the city hall. The conspiracy involves over a hundred of city officials and bureaucrats plus numerous police officers, skinheads and Latin gangsters. It's up to Hopper to corral the other good guys and stop them.
    Detweiler: A reckoning has come today, Sergeant. Our slates are being wiped clean. [...] I'm afraid you have a decision to make.

  • In Last Gladiator, the "Warlock" table is a magical battle on Judgment Day.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Judgment Day, as described in the Book of Revelation. This makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
    • While the judgment before the great white throne is literally a day of reckoning (since "reckoning" in this sense is synonymous with "judgment"), the battle of Armageddon corresponds more closely to the trope meaning. The good guys have already won by the time Judgment Day comes around.
  • Ragnarok, the prophesied final battle between the gods and Jotun in Norse Mythology.
  • The joke religion the Church of the SubGenius tells of the day when the spaceships from Planet X are to take those who have accepted J.R. "Bob" Dobbs into their minds from Earth before it is destroyed (called "The Rupture" in their literature) to their final financial reward. This was to have occurred on July 5, 1998, but the parchment on which it was documented was read wrong. It should have been July 5, 19998.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu campaigns
    • Shadows of Yog-Sothoth - The rise of R'lyeh and release of Cthulhu. 'Nuff said.
    • Masks of Nyarlathotep - The opening of a Gate that will allow Cthulhu Mythos entities to enter our world.
    • The Fungi From Yuggoth. Dholes will be summoned worldwide, the Sphinx will be changed into an avatar of Nyarlathotep and terrorists will overthrow national governments, allowing the Mythos to take over the world.

    Video Games 
  • The Day of Lavos from Chrono Trigger.
  • In Persona 5, the day you enter The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, the Qliphoth World, is called the Day of Reckoning.
    • Royal supersedes the previous final dungeon with a new final dungeon, and the day which you fight the True Final Boss in that dungeon is called the Day of Fates. The day is significant because it is the day that Mementos and the real world permanently fuse, allowing the Anti-Villain Big Bad to achieve his goals, and also the date of said Big Bad's former fiancée's birthday, whose memory loss basically kickstarted his ambitions to end all suffering.
  • In Devil Survivor 2 the Septentriones are prophesied to descend on Earth, one at a time, for a week, while literally deleting the whole world, after which Polaris will grant the wish of the survivors in the method to reconstruct the world. Alternatively, you may either decide to defeat Polaris yourself or assist Alcor to ascend the heavenly throne.
  • In God of War III Kratos at last brings fourth the destruction of Mount Olympus, and the gods upon it, as all was foretold.
  • In Shadow the Hedgehog the first thing villain Black Doom says upon the arrival of himself and his forces is the promise of such a day:
    Black Doom: Shadow... As you can see, the day of reckoning will soon be here. Find the seven Chaos Emeralds and bring them to me as promised.
  • The Final Day from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
  • The Warcraft series had this with the invasion of the Burning Legion, though they've tried and failed three times already. Rumor has it, though, that they're at it again.
    • In World of Warcraft, the climaxes of both Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm in the Icecrown Citadel and Dragon Soul raids respectively. It isn't so much that the villains are planning anything specific at that particular time, but with so many of the allied forces on the line, they'll be home free if the heroes fail.
  • The Mass Effect series has one of these at the end of each game: in the first game, it is the defense of the Citadel and in the second, quite predictably, the Suicide Mission (see the opening quote). The entire third game is more or less an extended one of these, and the assault on Reaper-held Earth serves as an internal example within that.
  • In Stellaris, empires pursuing the psionic path may be contacted by entities from the Shroud that may offer hefty bonuses in exchange for some cost, like the "Composer of Strands" boosting your empire's population growth and life expectancy in exchange for some of your pops developing weird mutations of species traits. The first four's deals are generally considered by players to be Worth It; the last is known only as "The End of the Cycle" which offers a massive gift..."if only we bring forth the end." Hovering your cursor over the button, which normally spells out the effects both good and bad of what each decision does, only returns four words: "DO NOT DO THIS." If you do, you get a dialogue box warning you that "There will be a reckoning", but you do get massive bonuses to pretty much every aspect of your empire for fifty years and can often go kick ass on everyone else in the galaxy. Once those fifty years are up, Eldritch Abomination spawns in the middle of your empire and destroys it entirely. Every ship and every megastructure blows up, every planet is scoured of life and rendered uninhabitable, and every leader is killed except for one scientist who saw it coming and fled to a sanctuary world on the edge of the galaxy with everyone he could convince to go and a handful of resources. Meanwhile a gigantic Shroud entity made from all the souls of your dead citizens forms into a fleet with ONE MILLION naval power and begins marching through the galaxy to purge the galaxy of life, and it deliberately saves your pitiful colony for last. And even if someone manages to destroy it, you now have a -1000 diplomatic malus (on par with being a genocidal maniac) for dooming everything and everyone for your own ambition and everyone will be gunning to finish you off. Oh, and if no habitable planet to become your colony exists then the game just instantly slaps you with a Game Over.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Trigon's invasion of Earth in Teen Titans.
  • Sozin's Comet triggers this in Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Also the Day Of Black Sun, in a sense — it was supposed to be the allies' day to strike at the Fire Nation, but Azula discovered their plan beforehand and they were resoundingly crushed (except in Omashu).
    • The Legend of Korra has Vaatu's return, which although occurring every ten thousand years, is treated as such.
  • In Transformers: The Movie, the coming of Unicron.
  • The two-parter Second Season finale of X-Men: Evolution is actually titled "Day of Reckoning." It involves the iconic X-Men figure of a Sentinel being let loose in the city and attacking all mutants and them having to defend themselves, leading to their existence being revealed on national television.
    • The two-parter series finale "Ascension" probably also counts, as the titular heroes fight against and defeat their ultimate enemy Apocalypse, who had been prepping up for the last two seasons to turn all of humanity into mutants.

"I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse."
Riley Finn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer