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Third-Person Flashback

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Morty: Hey, how come I was able to see those other people's memories? I... I wouldn't have been around for that.
Rick: Yeah, sometimes I gotta do a little editing, Morty. It helps the mind blowers play a little bit better upon revisiting.

Sometimes as a person recalls an event, we get to see what happened then... but wait, why is this person's memory showing the person who remembered it? For example, if Bob remembered a date with Alice, and we see in his memories: Alice at table, waiting... then Bob appears late and in such a messy state! If it's Bob's memory, we should be seeing it though his eyes...or at least, we certainly shouldn't see anything from before the point when he showed up.

Usually an acceptable break from reality as it's usually hard to convey events through someone's viewpoint, and sometimes because the stage cannot be recreated with the remembering character's viewpoint if it was filmed much earlier.

Another reason this could be an acceptable break from reality is for some nice visual cues or adding a Rewatch Bonus into the Third-Person Flashback. A Third-Person Flashback could be perfect for placing a Chekhov's Gun of some kind, a Brick Joke, Funny Background Event, or a bit of Foreshadowing. For example, Bob had lost something and he remembers where it was, but it was right behind him - this would be lost in a first person flashback but by showing it third-person, the viewer can observe where the item Bob was looking for is, allowing for some comedy or drama.

Anything transmitted through an Exposition Beam is likely to be this. A sign of an Unreliable Narrator.

As this is very common, only list examples that are subversions or aversions, or otherwise unusual.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Super: In the "Granolah the Survivor Arc", Monaito's flashback includes Bardock meeting Granolah and his mother Muezli, an event which was not witnessed by the Namekian elder.
  • School Rumble: In an episode, Yakumo has a flashback/dream to when she was a little kid that is from the first person perspective. Up to and including when the camera shakes up and down to indicate her nodding her head.
  • Maria no Danzai: Kiritaka's diary entries as read and remembered by Maria are essentially this. Often combined with Death by Flashback, since Kiritaka describes the specific horrors inflicted upon him by a character that Maria now targets.
  • One Piece: It happens in every long flashback, but in several cases, the third person scenes are really only there to enlighten the viewer with the whole picture of the past events, because the main character in the flashback often doesn't understand the whole situation, and so it would be confusing and not very good Exposition to only tell the story through his/her eyes. In most cases, it's not that noteworthy because one character is simply flashing back without any other character knowing it. However, in a few cases, like Nojiko's and Jimbei's, the trope is played straight: here, the flashback is actually one character telling his/her recollection of times past, and the flashback is a Show, Don't Tell method preferable in manga instead of filling page after page with long speech bubbles. Still, the flashback should logically be told from Nojiko's and Jimbei's points of view, but there are still some scenes (especially in Jimbei's flashback) that they don't take part in and shouldn't realistically know about.

    Comic Books 
  • Invader Zim (Oni): In issue #39, the Memory Visualizer device that Inquisitous "the Observer" uses on Dib, Zim, Gaz and GIR works on this principle, projecting the memories of the person it's being used on via screen, which shows them from an outside perspective rather than through the eyes of the person the memories belong to. Dib questions why this is, but Inquisitous hushes him.
  • Man With The Screaming Brain: William had memories of himself being murdered, not surprising since half of brain was from someone witnessing his own murder.
  • Superman:
    • The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor: In Lex Luthor's flashback scene, Supergirl is seen checking several files to discover the identity of Lena's parents', an event which Lex did not witness personally.
    • Death & the Family: As Supergirl tells the story of the Silver Banshee, a montage shows scenes of Banshee's past which Kara never witnessed.
    • The Phantom Zone: During the initial flashback sequence, Charlie Kweskill sees the memories of the criminals sent into the Phantom Zone. Justified, since they were telepathically projecting them into his mind.
    • The Plague of the Antibiotic Man: As he chases Nam-Ek over the ocean, Superman has a flashback showing the events which led the Kryptonian scientist to become an immortal monster five hundred years ago... no one of which were witnessed by Superman.
    • The Leper from Krypton: After being infected with an alien virus, Superman remembers what happened the last time that plague hit Krypton, several centuries before he was born.
    • In The Death of Luthor, Jerro recounts via flashback the story of the battle between the Atlantean hero Garr Rindaz and a sea monster, which took place long before Jerro was born.
    • In Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends, Brainiac 5 narrates his infamous ancestor's final defeat, which happened ten centuries ago, via a flashback.
    • The Life Story of Superman: As telling his life's story, Superman's flashbacks include Jor-El's failed meetings with Krypton Science Council, Argo City's being hurled into space when Krypton exploded, and Supergirl facing a common criminal. Neither of those events were witnessed by Superman himself.
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": When Comet tells his origin, his flashback includes his enemy Maldor's reaction to his transformation, and Maldor devising a new scheme against Comet.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2002 remake of Carrie restores the book's Scrapbook Story structure, but also uses this to build to a new twist ending. Sue is giving testimony to the police investigating the case, and the flashbacks are mostly from Carrie's perspective. Because Sue revived Carrie with CPR and is now hiding her from the police. Her knowing more information is justified when Carrie's psychic powers gives Sue access to her thoughts and memories.
  • Pulp Fiction's flashback to when Butch is given his father's watch, with Christopher Walken telling him the story, starts in first-person but then goes third.
  • Fear Street's second film is told entirely in flashback by C Berman to Josh and Deena. This is used to disguise the twist that she is actually an older Ziggy and not Cindy, showing events that neither sister would possibly know about. This does admittedly make it unclear just how much of what is shown she is actually telling, and some fans like to joke that she told the entire story in the third person.
  • In Flash Gordon, as Doctor Klytus and General Kala are draining Hans Zarkov's mind, historical events are seen in third person (things Zarkov watched on television, for example), but his personal memories (like when he was fired from the university, or meeting and marrying his wife) are all shot from first person.

  • This is one function of a Pensieve Flashback in Harry Potter. The most obvious example is in book five, when Harry sneaks a look at one of Snape's school memories and spends more time following his teenaged father than Snape himself. He does worry that if they get too far apart he won't be able to keep following James, but it never happens.
    Interview question: So there are things in there that you haven't noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?
    Rowling: Yes, and that's the magic of the Pensieve, that's what brings it alive. (...) Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn't it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn't notice at the time. It's somewhere in your head, which I'm sure it is, in all of our brains. I'm sure if you could access it, things that you don't know you remember are all in there somewhere.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Unintentionally hilarious in The Star Wars Holiday Special, when Chewbacca's memories are all film clips from A New Hope. Noted by Rifftrax:
    Kevin: Uh, so why are all of Chewbacca's memories from the perspective of someone observing Chewbacca?
    Mike: Why do none of his memories involve his family in any way?
  • The Rifftrax gang also mocked this back in Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    Crow: He's flashing back to other people's memories!
  • Farscape: As Bialar Crais is forced to recall events on the memory probing chair operated by Scorpius, the screen shows Crais snapping his executive officer's neck when she found out that he was committing barratry.
  • In the Babylon 5 Pilot show, this is notable averted when Kosh got poisoned and a telepath saw the events as seen from Kosh's eyes.
  • Played for Laughs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the Unreliable Narrator episode.
  • An episode in Touched by an Angel used this in the episode where a student was accused of plagiarizing. The flashback started with what the person remembered, and it was then extended to include something the person didn't see (his own submission being modified by a person he helped). That caused a negative reaction from the person, who wasn't present during the extended portion.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Lampshaded in an episode when, while Barney and Robin are discussing something within a closed room, Robin says how hard it is to measure any men since she and Ted broke up. Future Ted then says "I wasn't there but this is how I imagine it happened."
    • During his quest for a perfect week (7 women in 7 nights), Barney is largely narrating by being interviewed by Jim Nantz. During this he does exactly the same thing, assuming that each of his friends were in love with him in various ways.
  • Cold Case, a series which uses flashbacks heavily, usually plays this straight in terms of showing it from a third-person perspective, but generally sticks to only showing the parts of the scene that the character could have witnessed. More than that, it's frequently significant that they do it that way, because the thing that the witness missed ends up being an important twist later.

    Video Games 
  • Braindances in Cyberpunk 2077 are recordings of a person's memories that anyone with the right cyberware can view for themselves. While normally limited by the host's own perspective, a viewer is free to move around in a limited area and get a closer look at certain things that may have only been perceived subconsciously, such as the other end of a phone call someone else had in the same room.
  • Averted in all flashbacks in Silent Hill: Homecoming as flashbacks are in first person.
  • Justified in Chrono Trigger. During the trial, all the flashbacks of what you did are in third-person, because they were actually coming from somebody else's descriptions.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: As Geralt follows in Ciri's footsteps, he has witnesses recount when they last saw her, which the player experiences as gameplay in control of Ciri during the events.

    Web Comics 
  • The Mansion of E: All flashbacks are shown with all characters blackened out with, sometimes with vague background. At one point, the author stated that it is possible that person doing flashback may have misremembered or imagines what have happened. Example.
  • Wasted Away: Radon's memories are third-person, and represented as video tapes in his mind.
  • Sluggy Freelance: When Torg flashes back to a secret mission he sent Zoë on, most of the action is naturally from Zoë's point of view. Even if we assume she briefed him on the details afterward, though, there's still a short scene occurring after Zoë had left the building, which the author, noting that it's "unknowable to Torg", helpfully dubs a "flashbatical meanwhile".

    Web Original 
  • Cracked mocked The Eternal Mind usage of this trope.
    "We're not entirely sure why all the happy memories in The Eternal Mind are from someone else's perspective, though."

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded on Invader Zim. When Zim is captured by Sizz-Lor, we get a flashback to when Zim used to work for him and then escaped; it ends with Sizz-Lor seeing that Zim is missing and vowing to bring him back. When the flashback ends, Sizz-Lor wonders how Zim could remember the part that happened after he left. Zim has no answer.
  • The first episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, "Super Special Sonic Search and Smash Squad" is a How We Got Here Origins Episode in which Sonic regales Scatch and Grounder about how they first met. The flashback includes events Sonic wasn't around to see, such as Dr. Robotnik actually creating Scratch and Grounder and Coconuts vowing to capture Sonic first.
  • The Rick and Morty episode "Morty's Mind Blowers" has a series of short vignettes, depicted as being Morty's memories, that have been physically stored and erased. One memory cuts to another set of people, that Morty hadn't even met at that point. Morty questions this, and Rick explains that he cut some things together to make it flow better.

    Real Life