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Torch the Franchise and Run

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A writer/artist/producer has created a franchise, but they don't own the legal rights to what will happen to the franchise; the publisher, network, studio or whatever does. Or maybe they share the rights with someone else and just don't have as much control as they would like. They want to stop writing it and move on to something else, but they don't want anyone else being able to handle their property, even though they don't legally own it. Even if they did own the franchise, what happens when their kids get their hands on the franchise after their inevitable death?

The solution? Torch the franchise and run. Write one last story that totally wrecks everything. They kill off everyone they possibly can. They make the lives of all of the characters a living hell before executing them. They make 100% sure that everyone is dead, and those that aren't have no way of returning to the status quo or main premise of the show. However, the author can also achieve this in the form of an unambiguous happy ending where the villains are defeated for good and the conflict is resolved in such a way that everyone lives Happily Ever After. This version often gets combined with the Distant Finale, which locks down the fates of the cast for the next few years, decades, or even centuries—forcing future writers to either take the plunge with a vastly different status quo, or attempt to retcon the ending entirely.

Essentially the authorial version of breaking your own toys so that nobody else can play with them.

Fan backlash can cause this to backfire in the most unpleasant ways. This may force the author to use an Author's Saving Throw if the new franchise they attempt to start sinks like a stone, either because it didn't have the same spark as the old series or their old audience is so angry at them from the fact that they killed off what was once considered a good franchise (essentially making the new franchise a Replacement Scrappy).

Note that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Creators can create a successful and well-received conclusion that resolves the existing plot threads (even if said ending is good or bad), whilst preventing other potential creators from attempting to revive the franchise. Usually, a Franchise Zombie resulting from this would have Fanon Discontinuity and sometimes the Creator declaring their own Canon Discontinuity.

Not to be confused with Franchise Killer, which describes a work in a franchise that's received so poorly that there probably won't be any more installments anyway regardless of what damage is done to the status quo. Basically, Torch The Franchise is a deliberate attempt to invoke Franchise Killer, and the attempt may fail (and many franchise killers are accidental, not deliberate).

See also "Everybody Dies" Ending, though this is done less for the story and more for the personal or legal satisfaction of the author. Related to Writer Revolt. When this happens in a physical sense, you get Trash the Set.

As many of these examples show, this isn't guaranteed to succeed even in its main goal of ending the franchise, never mind the fan reaction. If the publishers want to keep the franchise going badly enough, they'll find a way, whether that's making prequels, finding a way to press the Reset Button, or (if push comes to shove) retconning the entire Downer Ending and restarting from an earlier point, and in the case of a happy ending, pulling a Happy Ending Override. Sometimes, if against a truly determined owner, the only way a creator can pull off a successful torching is if they make an Audience-Alienating Ending that renders the whole franchise so unpopular that audiences won't care about any subsequent attempts to write around or retcon the sabotage. If an author attempts this, fails, and the "new direction" is well-received, then it's a Springtime for Hitler.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba ends about as definitively as it can: Over 95% of the cast dies in the final battle, the Demonic threat is permanently ended through the death of Muzan, and just to erase any lingering possibilities of a continuation, the story's final chapter flash fowards 100 years into the future, showing the lives of the surviving cast's descendants.
  • Gundam:
    • One reason for Yoshiyuki Tomino's "Everybody Dies" Ending tendencies was a desire to avoid making sequels. It didn't stop one of his shows from becoming one of the biggest franchises in all of anime.
    • His most infamous case of this happening was with Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. Tomino was struggling with a severe Creator Breakdown at the time Victory was being made and as a result, he deliberately tried to sink the franchise by writing the show to be as depressing and unpleasant as possible and discouraging toy sales by making the villain mecha ugly and unmarketable, then walked away from the franchise for several years. Tomino succeeded inasmuch as Victory remains the last Universal Century TV series they've madenote , but Sunrise kept the franchise going by freeing it from Tomino's continuity with the "Alternate Universe" shows. Tomino himself, after some Creator Recovery, regretted most of his creative choices with Victory, came back with a better attitude and created ∀ Gundam in 1999 and Gundam: Reconguista in G in 2015, both of which are set in the far future from the Universal Century.
    • Due to his reputation, Tomino's novelization of Mobile Suit Gundam is often mistaken for this; it ends with The Hero getting killed during the Final Battle and most of the White Base crew retiring from the military. However, in interviews Tomino has said that he gave the novels a definitive conclusion because he thought that was the end of it; he didn't anticipate Gundam becoming so popular and successful, and would have written the ending differently otherwise.
    • This all is largely exactly due to the situation mentioned in the trope description: Tomino doesn't own the rights to the UC, but was usually given the free reins over the creative side of the production. This, however, looks to change recently, as Bandai, which does own the rights, seems to push forth the alternative canon based on the manga written by his former collaborator, and several light novels which, for now, appear to contradict a lot of things written by Tomino.
  • Master of Martial Hearts ended its last episode with a huge Take That! towards its viewers, anime in general, and especially Panty Fighter series. Any character who wasn't killed was so tarnished that they'd be unlikely to receive any audience sympathy again. It wasn't exactly the highest-quality production in the first place, but still.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi received an extremely abrupt Distant Finale ending that had many fans puzzled as to the remaining unresolved plot threads. A short time later it surfaced that Ken Akamatsu had decided to end the series as a protest against his publisher Kodansha for their attempts to take away all the rights to the work, including the copyright itself and their intention to sue any and all doujinshi artists using the Negima characters and/or setting. Akamatsu, who himself began his career as a doujin artist, didn't take kindly to this, promptly gave Kodansha the one-finger salute and told them he would be ending the Cash-Cow Franchise immediately. Nobody is killed off, however, as the story goes out of its way to make any sort of continuation completely impossible. The Big Bad is dealt with off-screen somehow and the romance is left ambiguous apart from Ship Sinking for the four most popular pairings for the main character. Akamatsu returned to Kodansha once he worked it out with Kodansha that they would never, ever, try the stuff they had talked about before, such as dual-copyright ownership of the manga, suing doujin artists, etc., lest he decide to totally close up shop with them and go to one of their competitors. He later wrote UQ Holder! as at first a Stealth Sequel to Negima, with a few returning characters. It eventually picked up more and more of Negima's old cast and started honing in on the biggest unresolved plot thread from the previous story (dealing with the Big Bad), to the point where the manga is now officially subtitled UQ Holder: Mahou Sensei Negima 2. It is worth pointing out the above-mentioned sequence of events is the most generally accepted interpretation of events among fans, pieced together from allusions, comments and vague statements here and there, but no official complete confirmation on the whole affair and Akamatsu's actual reasons has ever been stated, especially since Akamatsu and Kodansha still keep a professional relationship and would presumably share an interest on keeping the details under wraps.
  • An In-Universe case happens in Saki Biyori Chapter 25. The Shindouji mahjong club starts a round robin journal, which, due to Kirame and Hitomi's actions, ends up developing a "Mister Shindou" comic. Club President Mairu has difficulty continuing it, so she puts in an order banning comics, but in response, people come forward with signatures begging for the return of the comic. In response, Mairu's best friend Himeko considers killing off Mister Shindou, to which Mairu responds by saying "Making him die is kinda..." but has him come back to life and live with his family.
  • Back during the original run of the Pokémon anime, how Takeshi Shudo had intended to end it oozed of this trope. For starters, it would have started with Pikachu leading a revolt against humanity with Meowth as his ambassador, Misty becoming a Faux Action Girl, Ash putting aside his childish To Be a Master dream, and generally playing up Pokémon as fantasy dogfighting which Game Freak has been trying to avoid since day one. Understandably, Game Freak put their foot down on this one the second they caught wind of it.
  • Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna was intended as this to the original Digimon Adventure continuity as explained by this interview. Ironically enough, the director of the original anime series was going to work on Kizuna but stepped out because the movie was contradicting the rules of the original setting. The next version of this series ended up being a Continuity Reboot that disregards the film entirely.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The original manga is this on a personal level for Akira Toriyama, with a Distant Finale that, while ending on a note of And the Adventure Continues, feels a bit rushed (which Toriyama addressed somewhat in the Kanzenban release). Comments by Toriyama soon after the manga ended have tones of Creator Breakdown, such as expressing frustration over having to do designs for GT (which are either experimental or the ones he already did for the end of the manga), and commenting that the fans won't let the franchise die. This is likely because he had been making manga since Dr. Slump in 1980, and had expressed intentions to end the story since the Saiyan Arc (hence Z's name). Pointedly, while Toriyama has since become involved with Dragon Ball again, he has never created another serialized manga since.
    • Dragon Ball GT was a Post-Script Season to the anime, and its lack of planning showed, with the production suffering from many teething issues, as well as the ratings and merchandise sales slowly declining due to franchise fatigue, something that started with the Buu arc of Z. As a possible reflection of that, the ending is far more final than Z's, which had left plenty of room for continuation. It concludes with the show's main plot device and Reset Button, Shenron, vanishing from reality and taking the Dragon Balls with him while lecturing the cast about how they abused their power. Goku goes with him after taking the time to visit his friends and provide some closure on his relationships with them. After that, a Distant Finale confirms that Goku and Shenron don't return for the next century, and by then all the other characters barring his granddaughter Pan are dead. Incidentally, the writers of GT has this ending in mind from the very beginning, as they knew they were on borrowed time. When making Dragon Ball Super, Toei decided to set it in the ten-year timeskip at the end of the manga, and over several years it slowly made clear that it didn't acknowledge GT (meaning Super doesn't have to worry about it if it were to tell stories after the end of the manga).
  • YuYu Hakusho: A less visceral example than most. Yoshihiro Togashi didn't really want to continue the series past the Chapter Black arc (or at least fought tooth and nail with his editors about the story direction). Which would explain why the Three Kings arc shifts so abruptly to such a low-stakes tournament and the reveal that King Enma had been brainwashing demons and sending them against the human world to generate more crimes to solve. It's also revealed the average demon is no more prone to evil or violence than most humans. Couple with the fact that Yusuke settled down running a ramen stand there's no way for the story to continue.

    Comic Books 
  • This is actually common practice with Doom Patrol. When the original series was cancelled, the entire team was killed off, but the cover encouraged readers to write in to save them, and since then it's happened multiple times that most of the team is killed off at the end of a run. Rather than an attempt to end Doom Patrol, this is used as a way to "clear the board" so that the next writer can essentially do whatever they want; Grant Morrison talked with their predecessor Paul Kupperberg to specifically plan how the latter's run would end with only the characters Morrison wanted to use surviving.
  • JLA (1997): When Morrison's run ended, they only wrote out most of the characters they'd introduced during their run, leaving the same core 'Big Seven' team they started with (plus Plastic Man), and essentially handing the next writer a blank slate. The only character who died was, Aztek, one Morrison themself had created since the character's own comic was cancelled before it had a chance to end properly.
  • This happened with the Genesis comic Universe by Malibu Comics before The Ultraverse when the sales are low that the company just killed them off literally in the final issue of the protectors.
  • When Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy were scheduled to be cancelled because of low sales, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning decided to finish them out via a crossover called The Thanos Imperative. By the end of the mini-series, Phyla-Vell and Drax were both dead, while Star-Lord, Nova, and Thanos were trapped inside the Cancerverse. It would be several years before the Guardians were plucked from Comic-Book Limbo and relaunched under a new creative team.
  • In The '70s, Jim Starlin was writing an Adam Warlock series that got cancelled mid-storyline. He was allowed to close the book on the characters via Thanos: The Final Threat, a crossover that ran through the yearly annuals for The Avengers and Marvel Two-in-One. By the end of the crossover, Adam, Gamora, Pip the Troll, and Thanos were all seemingly dead. They remained dead for over a decade too, before Starlin himself brought them all back to life in the lead-up to The Infinity Gauntlet.
  • X-Men spin-off X-Statix creator Peter Milligan bloodily slaughtered all the surviving team members in the book's final issue. Not that this stopped him from revisiting some of them for a miniseries set in the afterlife, or other writers from bringing back Doop in future series. And twenty years later the characters were reintroduced in a series called The X-Cellent, taking advantage of the post Hickman status quo that death is never permanent for mutants.
  • Peter David left his original run as writer on The Incredible Hulk under unpleasant circumstances. So he killed off Betty Banner in a sudden, horrific, ironically tragic, yet not really logical way (she'd been married to Bruce for years. Why did she suddenly wake up covered with radiation burns one morning?), and then made his last issue an alternate future issue set many years in the future, tying off all the comic's loose ends and giving everyone a very sad but definitive ending. Paul Jenkins, the next major Hulk writer, and most of the fandom treated most of David's last issue as a What If? story (though Betty stayed dead for a few years).
  • John Byrne similarly did this to Iron Man, leaving the book with Tony Stark on death's door thanks to a techno-organic virus eating away at his central nervous system with any use of the titular armor significantly shortening his lifespan.
  • In 1990, after getting a deal with DC, Alan Grant killed off Johnny Alpha, the protagonist of Strontium Dog, to prevent any new writers from messing with him. A few years later, John Wagner started writing prequels and recently brought Johnny Back from the Dead, to the disgust of the fanbase. The end of The Life And Death Of Johnny Alpha leaves it ambiguous as to whether he's dead again.
  • Novas Aventuras de Megaman was almost less torch the franchise and run and more torch the franchise and take over. One of the writers created the character Princess in an attempt to kill everyone there and use it to make it her own series. Thankfully, someone caught him before it could happen and Princess was Put on a Bus.
  • Alan Moore, as a rule, likes to end his stories and finish them for both his and the reader's sake:
    • Watchmen ends so definitively and conclusively with its bleak ending that few fans believed a sequel would work even though there were hooks for one. Moore's original proposal had licensed heroes, first from MLJ and then from the newly acquired by DC Charlton Comics' characters, but DC editor Dick Giordano told him to create original characters as the company had plans for the Charlton characters, so he was given free rein to destroy the heroes and their world. Watchmen remained a standalone miniseries for over 20 years, and when a follow-up was made, Doomsday Clock it was less a true sequel and more an attempt to fold the characters and themes into the mainline DC Universe.
  • The 2022-2023 run of The Punisher ends with a rather decisive denouement of Frank Castle's main character and concept. Frank finally ends up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and goes on his most brutal rampage yet, culminating in him coming within a hair's breath of murdering an unarmed teenage member of a white supremacist group that hadn't actually committed any crimes before other heroes intervene and arrest him. While imprisoned and awaiting sentencing, the heroes individually give Frank a scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech, outlining exactly how selfish and hypocritical his "crusade" against crime really is, that his actions were never about "righteous vengeance", but sating his own bloodlust, and that he's no better than the criminals he's killed. All of this is capped off by Frank's newly resurrected wife confronting him and making it clear that she never wanted any of this, that she is horrified and disgusted that countless have died in her and her daughter's names, and that she doesn't want anything to do with him anymore. This finally breaks Frank, who makes a Deal with the Devil to be transported to another world to start over, not as an avenger, but a protector.
  • Allan Heinberg did this to the Young Avengers in Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9 by killing off Stature and The Vision, as well as having Patriot retire and the rest of the team split up. Later writers have revived the team, but with new characters to replace the departed ones.
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!: fantasy writer Ezra Hound attempts to kill off his hero, Bow-Zar the Barkbarian, so he can write serious fiction. Bow-Zar, in turn, time travels to the present and attempts to kill off Ezra Hound.
  • One backup story in Marvel's Conan the Barbarian featured a Robert E. Howard stand-in trying to kill off "Starr the Slayer" (an obvious knockoff of Conan) but the eponymous character somehow came through the fourth wall and slew him before he could do so.
  • The sad story of DC character Mystek was this. Writer Christopher Priest created her as a new character with the hopes of getting her own mini-series. To test the waters, DC Comics asked Priest to put her into other titles, placing her in The Ray and later having her join Justice League Task Force. In the end, DC decided that a Mystek mini just wouldn't be worth it and Priest, stuck with a character that DC now owned and he didn't want anyone to use, promptly had her shot out of an airlock, literally.
  • Jack Kirby tried to do this with several of his creations, namely The Mighty Thor, the New Gods, and The Eternals. Each of them would have ended with the characters dying after some sort of epic final confrontation. However, Executive Meddling dictated that they wanted to still use the characters instead of having them killed off and go to waste, so it never happened in those cases. In fact, not being able to torch Thor led him to move to DC Comics, and not being able to torch the New Gods led him to go right back to Marvel Comics.
  • Robert Crumb, the artist behind Underground Comic character Fritz the Cat, hated the film adaptation of the comic, feeling it took way too many liberties with his work. He responded by drawing Fritz the Cat, Superstar, a comic that ended with Fritz being murdered by a crazy ex-girlfriend with an ice pick to the back of his head. While this didn't stop the producers of the film from making a sequel, Crumb never touched the character again after that.
  • Matt Fraction ended his short-lived Marvel series The Order (2007) by having the whole team curb-stomped by Ezekiel Stane, which included the team leader having to Mercy Kill one of the members to stop her Superpower Meltdown from destroying LA. To add insult to injury, Stane only did it to piss off Tony Stark, and when he appeared as the villain in the first arc of Fraction's Invincible Iron Man none of the surviving Order members got to be involved in taking him down. There's a fan theory that this was a metafictional Take That, Audience!, with Ezekiel representing Marvel fans who are only interested in forty-year-old characters and don't support series with new characters.
  • Kieron Gillen came out and said (mucho spoilers, by the way) this was the reason behind the ending of his run on Journey into Mystery (Gillen). In the fullness of history, the probability of Kid Loki being written back into villainy approaches one, so Gillen tied up all his outstanding plotlines and literally wrote Kid Loki out of existence. Oh, and had Old Loki take over his body.
    • He then, however, had Kid Loki reappear in his Young Avengers run as a Spirit Advisor to Old Loki, although it's not clear whether it's a genuine haunting or a delusion.
      • And then went on to retcon the original torching - it wasn't Old Loki who took over Kid Loki, but a copy Old Loki had created to screw Kid Loki over. He was haunted by guilt over killing Kid Loki and subconsciously used his reality-warping powers to manifest the Kid Loki ghost. Once he owned up to what he'd done, the ghost disappeared. That Loki then split into two different versions from alternate timelines, one that embraced Old Loki's evil and one that chose to voluntarily embrace ego death and build a new identity. The Loki that continued after that all shook out within Loki: Agent of Asgard was effectively a fourth version.
  • After Ken Penders sued Archie Comics to fully regain use of the characters he created during his time as head writer of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) it became obvious later on down the line that both sides were shooting themselves in the foot with their legal missteps and, tired of it all, settled. In the span of a year, Archie ended up exiling nearly everything created by former writers since the series began, culminating into Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide unleashing a Cosmic Retcon (and an infamous megaton of mandates) on the Sonic comics partially for this reason. The stigma of the lawsuits never went away, however, and despite the Post-Reboot comics being of acceptable quality, the comics would finally keel over and expire in the middle of 2017. Sonic would receive a new series in IDW.
  • Warren Ellis ended his run on Stormwatch by writing the Wild CATS/Aliens one-shot, in which he unceremoniously killed off all the characters he wasn't planning to use in The Authority. Later Stormwatch series had to completely Retool the premise of the franchise, now following the adventures of a team of Badass Normal Cape Busters.
  • 2000 AD had an in-universe example in a Future Shock titled "The Mainstream". The author of a series of books known as the Clench series gets sick of writing science fiction, so he writes a story where the main character gets into a near-fatal accident and has several body parts replaced with cybernetics and then goes on to be assimilated by the titular Clench, where his mind overrides their collective consciousness. His agent calls him out on it, but he doesn't care. Then he gets attacked by his own creation and left in a coma. Maybe.
  • The Transformers (IDW): Once IDW announced they were ending the series and starting a reboot, head writers James Roberts and John Barber realized they didn't have to worry about keeping the setting intact for later writers and it shows; Cybertron and all of its colonies were destroyed, over half the cast died, most of the major factions were wiped out, all the overarching plotlines were tied off, and the ending goes out of its way to squash the idea of continuations. Even the Sequel Hook pretty much says "this continuity's done, go read the next one if you want more."
  • The Regeneration One continuation of The Transformers (Marvel) seems to have been designed to make any continuation as difficult as possible. By the end of the series, nearly all the Decepticons are dead, as are the vast majority of Autobots and most human characters, Earth and Nebulos are both in ruins, nearly every imaginable plot thread is firmly tied up, and every antagonist is either redeemed or shown in a highly unsympathetic light before being killed off. The universe has been cut off from the multiverse and by extension their god, meaning that no new Cybertronians can be born and the ones that do exist will now die of old age, and a Distant Finale confirms that all the surviving characters did exactly that, living lives of quiet penitence in the aftermath of the war before rusting away into nothingness over the course of many years. The final page suggests that a new form of life will blossom on Cybertron, but it's certainly not played as a Sequel Hook.
  • While Charles Soule didn't do this with Daredevil (Charles Soule), Chip Zdarsky revealed that he and Soule did joke about writers' tendency to do this with Daredevil when preparing for his own run. The series has long had a tradition of writers ending their runs with either insane Darkest Hour cliffhangers or demolished status quos and leaving the next writer to deal with it, a practice started by Frank Miller when he ended his seminal run with Matt being stripped of his license to practice law and his life plunging into turmoil after Kingpin learned his identity. Later writers would go even further, with such memorable torchings as Ann Nocenti leaving Matt broken up with or betrayed by both of his love interests and struggling to recover, Brian Michael Bendis exposing his secret identity then sending him to prison, Ed Brubaker having him become leader of the Hand after his wife is driven insane by Mister Fear, and Mark Waid going the opposite direction and giving the character a conclusive happy ending that the above-mentioned Soule had to override to tell his own story.
  • Death of the Inhumans was essentially this for The Inhumans, with the majority of the Inhumans supporting cast being slaughtered and essentially everything related to the Inhumans mythos except for the Royal Family and the mostly-unrelated Randomly Gifted characters like Ms. Marvel being torched.

    Comic Strips 
  • John Darling was a comic strip spin-off from Funky Winkerbean by Tom Batiuk that ran for about twelve years. Batiuk and his syndicate came into conflict over the rights so Batiuk killed off the title character and ended the strip, leaving the syndicate with a worthless property. Years later, Batiuk revisited the story in Funky Winkerbean to solve the murder. Later still, introduced Darling's daughter, Jessica, as part of the Funky cast.
  • Jim Davis supposedly ended his first comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, by having a giant foot stomp on Gnorm. This later turned out to be an urban legend (that Davis himself helped spread). The actual final strip was a simple 1975 Christmas strip of Gnorm saying "Thanks, Pendleton" to the fourth wall.
  • Averted by Peanuts. Charles M. Schulz just retired, died a day later, and his final strip just said goodbye. No artist or writer in their right mind would ever dream of a Peanuts comic without Schulz. Regardless, since there was 50 years' worth of strips, newspapers were content with re-runs.note 

    Fan Works 
  • Attempted in-universe by Dante in Dante's Night at Freddy's 2: Animatronic Boogaloo. After learning Fazbear's Fright is going to be a thing, Dante has a brief mental, fourth-wall-breaking meltdown before destroying the establishment and appearing to kill Spring Trap. Judging by the Sequel Hook, this unfortunately doesn't work.
  • The real reason behind the creation of Chapter 16 of Digimon Re: Tamers within Citadel of the Heart was a half-baked attempt by the author to drop the burden of having to write for a long time. Admittedly this was because the author was kind of losing it at the time, but once he managed to regain his sanity, Chapter 16 as a whole was Retconned into being a simulation of a possible future for the story. MF217 is fully aware it was such an Ass Pull way to keep the story from ending, but considering the Reality Subtext it was a Justified case of Acceptable Breaks from Reality.
  • The Ruby and Nora series has Cold go in this direction, albeit with a happy ending. By the end of the story, all the villains are dead or permanently incapacitated, including Salem and Void, and even all Grimm are gone from Remnant. The 10-year Time Skip that the epilogue story shows resolves the stories of most surviving characters and indicates that things with Remnant are now prosperous with no more conflict.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Alpha-Omega bomb in the second Planet of the Apes movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which was suggested to the writers by the original film's star Charlton Heston (who had to be dragged into the sequel, and only returned on the condition his character be killed off). It didn't work, as they used Time Travel to continue afterward (or rather, beforeward). Surprisingly, the next film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, was lauded as a return to form for the series.
  • James Bond:
  • Attempted, and ultimately double subverted, with 22 Jump Street, with its credits showing what would happen if they made increasingly ridiculous sequels set in ninja academies, retirement homes, space, and as a video game, among other things. However, a sequel was greenlit anyway and there were talks of a crossover with Men in Black...until said sequel/crossover eventually ended up getting cancelled altogether.
  • Halloween:
    • Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later might have what can be considered a happy ending case of this trope, with Michael Myers, the core of the franchise, decapitated, finally bringing an end to his terror. It didn't work, as Halloween: Resurrection came out and changed it from Michael Myers being the one that was decapitated to someone else dressed as him. Apparently this was intended from the start, however, and the reveal was only put off because Laurie’s actress wanted to have people actually think she’d killed Michael for a few years.
    • Another example from the Halloween franchise is Halloween II (2009). Rob Zombie didn't want to continue making more films in the reboot series (and apparently the Weinstein Company had difficulty finding other directors who were interested), so he ultimately went out of his way to make it nearly impossible to continue this iteration of the franchise by having Loomis, Michael, and Laurie all killed.note 
    • Done it again, obviously, in Halloween Ends where both Michael Myers AND the guy who was established as a sort of successor, Corey Cunningham, are definitely dead by the end of the movie. The movie goes out of its way to establish Michael's gone by not only having him killed by Laurie, but his lifeless corpse paraded through town and ultimately grinded to a pulp in a car grinder. Evil Died That Night indeed.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, aside from the self-explanatory title, opens with Freddy Krueger having killed off the entire child population of Springwood. In fact, the producers rejected other scripts, such as one pitched by Peter Jackson, for not being final enough. Years later, Freddy vs. Jason would have to Hand Wave away the Childless Dystopia in Freddy's Dead to show a restored Springwood.
  • In the case of Star Wars, while the idea might feel laughable in the wake of the Disney Era and its plan to perpetuate Star Wars for several franchises, initially this was the case with Return of the Jedi at least in the context of its Troubled Production.

    As noted in J. W. Rinzler's books, George Lucas expected Star Wars to tell a saga of multiple adventures with Luke, Han, and Leia, and spin-off and form its own genre with different directors coming in and putting their own take on what he saw as a new genre, and not really a single franchise. He planned to build up to the final battle with the Emperor in the sixth episode while also introducing new characters such as Luke's long-lost sister Nellith. However, he started to sour on this plan as a result of the logistics, being especially worried about not being able to retain the cast and properly giving the characters closure.note  He also had difficulty attracting talented directors with many of his first choices rejecting both Empire and Jedi.note  He also worried that the novelty of Star Wars was waning by the '80s as a result of oversaturation. In addition to all of that, there was his divorce from first wife Marcia Lucas which caused a small Creator Breakdown.

    As such, Return of the Jedi closed the original trilogy with subplots from multiple future parts merged into a whole, the Luke/Han/Leia romance suddenly resolved with Leia being composited into the initially separate long-lost-sister, the plot of the second Death Star replacing the original plan for a Final Battle at the Imperial Capital (initially called Had Abaddon, later called Coruscant in the prequels) and a complete decisive victory achieved over the Empire. The sequel trilogy had to pull a Happy Ending Override in order to continue the saga since Lucas had thoroughly resolved the original story of Luke, Han, and Leia (something that didn't happen when Star Wars was only continued outside of movies).
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has this feel. The whole "Judgement Day is inevitable" angle that future entries have is completely defied here; the protagonists attempt to render Judgement Day impossible by destroying everything and everyone involved in Skynet's creation. An alternate ending, featuring an adult John Connor in the US Senate decades into the future, would have cemented this interpretation. There's no last-second twist, no uncertainty, and no Stable Time Loop (the most open thing is that the ending speech notes "The unknown future rolls toward us."). The third film invented the "it is inevitable" spiel to Hand Wave the issue, by basically saying that all that was done in T2 merely "delayed the inevitable" (literally; future installments just kept pushing Judgment Day further and further into the future).
  • Logan does this for the Wolverine franchise, and the X-Men franchise as a whole, by taking place 20 Minutes into the Future, after the X-Men disband for good, having a now-senile Xavier who dies in the middle of the film, and killing Logan at the end. Though this retroactively didn't mean as much as the creators intended as 21st Century Fox started the process of being bought out by Disney less than a year from its release. The acquisition went through in March 2019 and now the entire X-Men Film Series is being rebooted under the umbrella of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • The Matrix:
    • The Matrix Revolutions, due to its Grand Finale status for the original trilogy. Zion has been saved, but the world is still ruined and the dock has been devastated by the thousands of Sentinels and the drill that bored through earlier. Additionally, Trinity, Smith, and Neo are all Killed Off for Real, and the Architect lives on to continue his Affably Evil existence, though the Oracle survives to combat him and ensure the era of peace between man and machine will last.
    • At least until a Trilogy Creep showed up nearly two decades later, with the indicative name The Matrix Resurrections. And that film, in turn, has been described as Lana Wachowski going out of her way to do this again. She and her sister Lilly had been asked for years to make a fourth Matrix movie, and knowing that Warner Bros. was ready to reboot the series with or without them, Lana decided to bite the bullet and take the director's chair herself, chiefly to make a film that would destroy any chance of that ever happening.

  • L. Frank Baum was caught in a situation like this. He desperately wanted to stop writing stories about the Land of Oz, but his publisher and fans wouldn't let him. He had established that nothing dies in the land of Oz, so he couldn't kill anyone off. In the sixth book, he tried to use Direct Line to the Author to justify never writing a single thing about Oz again because an invasion caused Oz to become isolationist and totally cut off all contact with the outside world, thus promising to never ever write another story about Oz ever again. When his other books failed to sell as well, he had to begin writing stories about Oz again to pay his bills, backpedaling, and explaining that they discovered a radio in Oz that Dorothy could use to broadcast news about Oz to Baum.
  • The last Witch World novel had every single character from the series traveling all over the world to shut down all the Gates so that no one and nothing can come through from Outside again, ever. So far it has stuck.
  • One of the earliest examples: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was starting to get tired of Sherlock Holmes and wanted to write historical novels, so he had Holmes and his nemesis Moriarty die at the end of "The Final Problem". He did try to ignore the backlash caused by the move, and was successful for a decade, before returning to Holmes after said historical novels failed to sell.
  • Stephen King:
    • In-universe: in Misery, the author Paul Sheldon grows to hate his series of romance novels about Misery Chastain. In his latest book, he kills Misery so he can end the series and focus on more "serious" writing. Then he finds himself under the care of a demented fan (the Kathy Bates character in the movie) who's very unhappy with that ending. She forces Paul to write one more novel to undo that ending.
    • In-universe: the short story "Umney's Last Case", published in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, revolves around a Captain Ersatz of Raymond Chandler causing his main character, Umney, one disaster after another - his friends abandon him, he loses his clients, and his life is overall ruined. This was done with the purpose of allowing the author, who lost his wife and child and is suffering from a severe case of shingles, to enter Umney's world and take over his life, choosing the endless adventure and charm of his own fiction over the drab harshness of reality.
  • There was a post-apocalyptic pulp-novel series called The Last Ranger. In the final novel, they blew up the Earth.
  • Done in-universe in the Hyperion Cantos: the poet Martin Silenus, finally realizing that his profitable series of books has become a brain-dead Cliché Storm, decides to just kill the thing off, completely and utterly, so that he can go and search for his "muse" and work on real poetry. (Though in fact his audience had such bad taste that the torching didn't work, but he decided to walk away and let his publishers do what they willed with it.)
  • This is why the title character regains his sanity and dies at the end of Don Quixote. After publishing what became Part One, Cervantes was dismayed to see other writers producing unauthorized Quixote stories of their own, so he wrote Part Two as he did to give the character a definite ending.
  • Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot in Curtain to give the character a definite ending and prevent other writers from writing more books with him after her death. She actually wrote Curtain during World War II, worried about the possibility of being killed in the London Blitz, but as she wasn't, she continued writing for several decades, and Curtain was not published until a few months before her death in 1976. It didn't stick anyway, as a new Poirot novel was released in 2014. However, it seems that this one takes place somewhere earlier in Poirot's timeline, so it doesn't appear to be a Retcon.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space nearly had one of its own. In 1968, Niven had decided there wasn't much left to say in that particular universe, and asked his friend Norman Spinrad what he should do with it. Spinrad suggested writing a story that basically destroys the entire thing (Niven never asked why, saying he and Spinrad think alike). This story, Down in Flames, was outlined but abandoned when Niven read about Dyson Spheres and was inspired to write Ringworld. Ringworld and Down in Flames use mutually opposing assumptions about canon (DiF assumes the Core Explosion was a hoax and a Tnuctipun conspiracy, Ringworld accepts the Core Explosion happened and that the Tnuctipun have been dead for a billion years as early stories said), making it impossible to use "Down in Flames" and keeping the 'verse alive.The 1977 version discussed the possibility of the explosion and tied it and Ringworld into the story. But by then, Niven was even less inclined to end the series. He reworked some of the ideas from Down in Flames into the second half of the novel Protector.
  • Mostly Harmless ended with every version of Earth in the Multiverse being destroyed, and almost all of the regular characters dying. Oddly enough, creator Douglas Adams did intend to make a new book in the series to undo the damage, as he'd written Mostly Harmless while severely depressed and was extremely unhappy about where he'd taken things, but died suddenly of a heart attack before he could write it. Eoin Colfer was contracted to write his own continuation.
  • In The Witcher novel series, the protagonist gets killed with a pitchfork in the last book. Most of the named characters are already dead, are dying, or will be dead soon. Just to Salt the Earth, the whole world will also suffer a The Black Death -grade epidemic (which is, in fact, the Black Death dragged from another world into Nilfgaard by Ciri). Then, the video game comes out with a continuation. The author is fairly inconsistent in his approach, though. In an interview from the Enhanced Edition of the game, Andrzej Sapkowski stated that he is fine with the games existing and views them as valid stories in the continuity... but during 2012 Polcon, Sapkowski did a U-turn and declared the new continuity non-canon. When he did write a book, he used Geralt but wrote it as a prequel to the entire saga. Rather than rejoicing, the fandom should accept that it's a Ghost in the Shell situation, with two separate continuities: One for the books only and one for the books and games.
  • Dragons of Summer Flame effectively killed the Dragonlance franchise despite numerous attempts to repair it.
    • Just to be thorough, the authors even insisted that TSR remove Lord Soth from the Ravenloft setting, then proceeded to kill him off. Not only did they torch their own franchise, they didn't even leave its Crossover character un-singed.
  • The final book in Animorphs ended the main conflict and thrust the team into a Bolivian Army Ending three years later, strongly hinting that every member of the team died but Cassie. Ironically, this final book was titled The Beginning. K.A. Applegate would later defend the ending as being a case of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, arguing that wars never have a quick and easy solution, but she's also been quite bitter about Scholastic owning the rights to her franchise. It might even be a bit of both.
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter from Mario Vargas Llosa has an in-universe example. A famous radio drama writer enjoys top ratings in all his radio serials... until he starts losing track of his characters. When everyone starts noticing that dead characters still appear, and others start jumping in on other unrelated serials, the scriptwriter ends up doing this to all his serials: Earth-shattering earthquakes, massive fires, stampedes, where even the main characters die.
  • In The Last Book of Swords: Shieldbreaker's Story Fred Saberhagen destroyed all but one of the Twelve Swords, ensuring that no further stories could be written involving his 'characters'.
  • Colin Dexter wrote the novel series Inspector Morse, which started in 1975, and ended in 1999 with the 13th and last novel, The Remorseful Day, which kills off Inspector Morse via heart attack.
  • In-universe example in Terry Pratchett's short story "Final Reward", where a fantasy author kills off his Barbarian Hero following an argument with his girlfriend. Hilarity Ensues when "sent to meet his maker" turns out to be literal.
  • When asked how A Song of Ice and Fire will end, George R. R. Martin said 'No one will be alive by the last book. In fact, they all die in the fifth. The sixth book will be just a thousand-page description of snow blowing across the graves'... which, even though he was clearly partly joking, especially since the fifth book was released since then, implies that he intends to do something like this to his series. Whether or not the final books will ever be published is a different question, though.
  • In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce relates an incident about two writers handling a Round Robin who began to argue viciously over the story direction until one eventually got fed up and wrote a chapter where the entire cast dies in a shipwreck out of spite, leaving his partner in the wind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Terry Nation tried this with the end of Season 3 of Blake's 7. He torched the Liberator, revealed the "Blake" they found to be a hallucination, stranded the crew at the far end of the galaxy, etc. That didn't work.note  Undeterred, script editor Chris Boucher made damn sure to try harder, torching the replacement ship, and all the cast at the end of the following season. This time, it worked.
  • When J. Michael Straczynski was asked what he would do if TNT tried to commission a sixth season of Babylon 5, he replied "Two words: Scorched earth."note 
  • The highly anticipated finale of Seinfeld, called "The Finale," was notorious for ending the show by having the main cast being put on trial, convicted, and imprisoned for everything that happened on the show.
  • Of all shows, Little House on the Prairie ended with the entire town being dynamited, though the cast was spared. According to Michael Landon, the reason for blowing up the set was so that it couldn't be used by later shows or commercials.
  • Jim Henson's Dinosaurs ended the world in the very last episode, so that revivals couldn't happen.
  • Russell T. Davies' Torchwood: Children of Earth looked like this to many viewers (with Ianto dead, Jack leaving Earth in self-disgust, Gwen traumatised and depressed, and their base reduced to a crater), but it turned out not to be. In an inversion of what sometimes happens with this trope, the opinion of many fans is that it would have been better if the series had ended there.
  • Doctor Who webcast "Death Comes To Time" is an odd example of this, coming out when the original series of the show had been cancelled. It features the Seventh Doctor, even though the Eighth Doctor had already appeared (though the canonicity of the TV movie was heavily disputed before the Revival Series), and has the Doctor dying when he uses Time Lord powers that only appear in this story to kill a rogue Time Lord and save Ace, and claims that the age of the Time Lords is over. It is used by some fans to de-canonize the TV Movie and the New Series. However, the majority of fans don't hold this view, and it is widely believed to be non-canon, largely because of how unlike DW a lot of it feels, the audio drama "Zagreus" implying it takes place in an alternate reality.
  • The acrimony between Amy Sherman-Palladino and Warner Bros. was so great that when she couldn't be signed on for a seventh season of Gilmore Girls, she crippled the show so much in the sixth season finale that most of the fanbase refuses to accept that The CW-fied seventh season ever happened. The new show head David Rosenthal was unable to do much of anything to fix what was broken, the new writing staff hurriedly thrown together seemed to not know the characters at all and miswrote them, and somehow a smalltown ensemble drama was changed around to be yet another generic teen drama with adults written like teens because without the creator around, nobody knew how to write them.
  • In-Universe example: This is how Richard Castle of Castle ended his Derrick Storm novels so he could begin the new Nikki Heat series. He gets quite a bit of flack for it until the Heat books take off. He later brings Storm back to life anyway, so the point is rendered moot.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street ends with the death of at least one major character (and one ambiguous but strongly implied death).
  • Three of the four series of Blackadder ended by killing off some or all of their main characters either as a real or parody version of this, as they’d all be alive and reincarnated in a different time period the following series. The third one was the only one where this didn't happen. Sure, the Prince Regent died, but Blackadder took his place.
  • The Finder ended with Walter arrested, Isabel losing her badge, and Willa having to run away to escape an arranged marriage with her cousin, leaving Leo all alone.
  • One explanation for the "It was all an autistic child playing with a snow globe" ending in St. Elsewhere, as no other explanation makes sense (most of the plots were far beyond anything an isolated child would be able to think up all by himself).
  • One of the episodes of Friday The 13th: The Series revolved around a cursed comic book that could turn its owner into an invincible comic book character. However, on learning that the creator of the character had tried to Torch the Franchise and Run but been stopped, they were able to find out the character's one weakness via his artwork.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers in Space certainly went in this direction, what with Zordon dying and his energies being used to purify all evil and apparently take away the Rangers' powers. Obviously it didn't stick.
    • The rumored "Hexagon" version of Power Rangers Ninja Storm would have been this as well, ending in a Civil War-type battle that would end with everyone pulling a My God, What Have I Done? and Hexagon leader Tommy letting everyone go.
    • This was likely the plan with Power Rangers RPM as Disney was done with the series and didn't want to produce it anymore. The world was wiped out by an evil computer virus, with all that remains of humanity trapped in a domed city, with only the smallest hint that the future will be bright. After Saban bought the rights back, RPM was rendered an alternate universe, though with the occasional nod or cameo from a past ranger to keep it in the loop.
  • Forever Knight ends with virtually all of the cast dying in the last three episodes, culminating with Nick accidentally killing his girlfriend and committing suicide. The last line of the series sums it up quite well: "Damn you, Nicholas."
  • Tre Kronor, a Swedish soap opera, ended with all but six characters killed in a suicide bombing performed by a priest. Seriously
  • After five seasons, the writers of The Brittas Empire were done with the series, and ended the final episode by killing the main character Gordon Brittas very definitely. Due to the series' popularity, the BBC continued it for another two seasons under different writers, with the script resorting to literal Divine Intervention to get Brittas back (which honestly wasn't that far-fetched considering the tone of the show). Then their final episode ended on a possibly even more depressing note as the entire series turned out to have been All Just a Dream by Brittas as he was napping on the train on the way to the job interview for the position where he started in the first episode.
  • After a few years of just writing the occasional special, David Renwick finally agreed to make one last series of One Foot in the Grave on condition that he could kill off the protagonist at the end.
  • Parodied in the fifth season finale of Community, where Abed suddenly tells the audience that if the show isn’t renewed for another season, then an asteroid struck the Earth and killed everybody. (“And that’s canon.”)
  • The cast and crew for Sledge Hammer! figured that they weren't going to get renewed for another series. So they had the final episode end with a nuclear bomb going off. However, they wound up getting a second season. Thankfully the show being an Absurd Comedy to begin with meant they just said the second season was five years before and then continued off like nothing happened.
  • The final season of Vikings does this by killing off most of the surviving main characters (including all of the fan favorites except Floki, but he is stated to be dying) as well as Bjorn's children. Historical and mythical characters that had kids are rendered childless in the series.
  • Parodied in a 2021 episode of MeTV cartoon anthology series Toon In with Me, which centered around Bill the Cartoon Curator and Toony the Tuna discussing how a fictional 1960s sitcom that Bill starred in called Hazardous Henry (parodying Dennis the Menace) ended this way when its creator grew tired of the show. The show's completely absurd series finale involves the eponymous character mutating his hometown and eventually the entirety of Southern California with radioactive waste, his parents turning out to be spies, and eventually ending on Henry blowing everything up. The episode got the show immediately cancelled and its creator thrown out of Hollywood, with said creator turning out to be recurring Toon In with Me gag character Boxcar.
  • The reason the Red Dwarf episode, ''Only The Good" had an Uncertain Doom ending with Rimmer dying and the ship about to be destroyed was because Doug Naylor wanted to make a Non-Serial Movie that ignored season 8. To accomplish this he wanted to destroy the TV continuity and make a ninth season impossible.

  • When The KLF grew disillusioned with the pop music industry, they decided to quit in a way that would turn off as many fans and burn as many bridges as possible. Their stadium house track "3 AM Eternal" had just been nominated for a BRIT Award, so they trolled the audience at the ceremony by playing a brand-new, abrasive Hardcore Punk remix of the song (with the band Extreme Noise Terror helping them perform it) and firing a machine gun full of blanks into the audience. They ended the performance by announcing their retirement, then dropped a sheep carcass into the afterparty. The announcement of their retirement was a joke at the timenote  but they decided to make it real a few months later. And this time, they deleted their entire back catalogue, so no one could make any money from their music. Their parodic comeback show "Fuck the Millennium" played into this, albeit unintentionally. Critical reaction to the show was overall negative, which Bill Drummond was initially disappointed over. However, he cheered up when he realized that those negative reviews signaled that he and Jim Cauty had finally destroyed The KLF's last remaining bit of marketability and artistic credibility.
  • Perhaps a lighter example than most others that fall under this trope: after two seasons of excess stress and pressure, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement chose to end the Flight of the Conchords series with Bret and Jemaine getting deported back to New Zealand, losing their only fan, no longer pursuing their music career and going back to being shepherds. Nobody dies and one could argue that the duo could've still bounced back from that, but coupling the characters' deportation with how McKenzie told their agents not to tell them how much they were going to be offered for a third season, it's pretty clear that won't be happening.
  • Eminem:
    • This is likely what Em was doing when he released his Greatest Hits album, Curtain Call, in 2005. Eminem was in the grip of an Ambien addiction, was still in a Destructive Romance with his ex-wife, was sick of being a pop star and the Gilded Cage and press harassment it resulted in, and disgusted by the fact that people were worshipping him as a poet and voice of a generation due to his whiteness rather than his own merits. These themes had been present on Encore, intended as his last album, which has a lot of Trolling Creator elements and is themed around suicide. Curtain Call, marketed in multiple TV appearances in which Eminem told the audience it was terrible and they shouldn't buy it, opens with a skit where he screams abuse at the audience before transitioning into the awful gerbil anal insertion singalong "FACK", a song frequently cited as his worst ever. The aim was to destroy his artistic credibility for future generations, which caused problems when he recovered from his drug addiction and realised he wanted the credibility back. A decade later, Eminem would brag on "SHADYXV" that putting "that shit" on a Greatest Hits album "was awesome! It takes some massive balls to do some shit like that!" As for Curtain Call, it went 7x Platinum and is the longest charting hip-hop album in history.
    • After a negative response to his 2017 album Revival by both fans and critics, Eminem's followup album, Kamikaze, was themed around this, being a shameless rant about the reception to his albums filled with braggadocio about being the best rapper despite being at his critical nadir — the title track calls back to the previous "FACK" incident by sampling it extensively and quoting it in the hook. "Fack, fack on everyone!" Despite the theming, it's also an obvious attempt at an Author's Saving Throw that was broadly successful, reviving his career and ditching his messianic persona for a puckish and mean character more in line with his earlier work.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Vince McMahon has done this to every territory and promotion he's taken over, except his father's (which he retooled with Broad Strokes to everything that came before him) and the promotions that died off before he took control of them (American Wrestling Association, ECW, WCW). In fact, his actions stinking up the spot on a Ted Turner station directly led to WCW's creation.
  • This tactic ultimately led to the downfall of Jim Crockett Promotions and killed the National Wrestling Alliance as a major national force. Jim Crockett Jr., believing this tactic to be the only way to compete with Vince McMahon on cable, directly shut down more territories than McMahon, who "allowed" more of his acquisitions to fail first while hiring on popular talent with great potential — leading the WWF to become the number 1 wrestling promotion in the world, up to and after the Monday Night Wars.
  • Done in kayfabe during a storyline by Vince McMahon when Ric Flair became co-owner of WWF. Vince wouldn't allow his company to slowly decay like this, and declared his intent to fatally poison WWF by bringing in the New World Order. This storyline ended up being aborted, however, once the NWO ran into real-life issues and were forced to disband.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This was one worry about Games Workshop's treatment of the flagging Warhammer franchise with the End Times campaign, which actually lived up to its name and destroyed the world. The game wasn't dropped, however, but underwent a major retooling into Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, a skirmish-based game with a more trademark-friendly setting (its High Elves and Orcs became "Highborn Aelfs" and "Orruks," for example). So it was ultimately a case of "torch the franchise and reboot it." Except the Tomb Kings and the Bretonnians have been completely discontinued, though they are playable in Age of Sigmar so that already-present armies do not become worthless. Brettonia in particular has no equivalent in the Mortal Realms, but Nagash and some of his subordinates were Tomb Kings in the World That Was and Nagash in particular remembers almost everything due to having ascended to godhood. It didn't fully stick as fan outcry, a reshuffling of Games Workshop's executive staff, and the popularity of the Total War: Warhammer series led to Fantasy getting a soft reboot as a prequel game akin to the Horus Heresy line for Games Workshop's flagship Warhammer 40,000 series. The prequel, named Warhammer: The Old World, is set several centuries before the End Times and doesn't retcon it or the transition to Age of Sigmar. Interestingly while the setting was rebooted, the vast majority of iconic characters who weren't already dead before The End Times were not. The Gotrek & Felix series in particular kept on trucking straight through the End Times and out the other side, with Gotrek missing out on the Time Skip and picking the new setting back up right where the audience does. Gotrek is the resident Memetic Badass and he fights his way out of the Chaos realm straight into the new world with nary a scratch.
  • The Old World of Darkness was well-known for its Metaplot, which steadily built up towards the end of the world. Which ultimately happened across several books (one each for Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Mage: The Ascension, with an additional book called Time of Fire to wrap up the other lines), ending the Old World of Darkness. Later revisits to the setting were "metaplot-agnostic", taking place before anything got really bad.

    Video Games 
  • Infocom's Enchanter trilogy, set in the same universe as the Zork trilogy, ended with all magic in the world being destroyed in Spellbreaker because it was the only way to stop the Big Bad from remaking the world in its own image. However, this did not prevent two more games set in that universe (Beyond Zork, which takes place concurrently with Spellbreaker, and Zork Zero, which is set many years before), from being published before Infocom's demise presumably prevented further official sequels for good. It also didn't prevent Activision from creating graphical Zork games set centuries afterward in which another age of magic occurred.
  • Half-Life downplays this trope. The decision to nuke Black Mesa in Opposing Force was done to halt pressure to set a sequel to Half-Life in Black Mesa, which Valve felt would be creative death. While two further expansions to Half-Life would also be set in Black Mesa, Half-Life 2 is set in a completely different setting.
  • In Stationfall, the sequel to the popular Planetfall, Steve Meretzky had the Robot Buddy Floyd killed off because he didn't want to do a third game. After Infocom's demise, Activision was planning on doing a graphical sequel anyway (tentatively titled The Search For Floyd), but the project was soon cancelled. There were also two novels loosely based on the games and set after the events of the games, by Arthur Byron Cover, but these novels were generally poorly received.
  • Done with the Mother series. Shigesato Itoi wanted the series to end with Mother 3, so he destroyed what little else remained of the entire world, and failed to answer the question of how the characters survived that - but they all personally insist to the player that they survived and they're happy. Somehow. Itoi said that the original script for the game was even darker, so the original ending was probably meant to be an "Everybody Dies" Ending. That being said, Itoi has said that while he is done with the franchise, he is excited to see what fans can come up with.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • This appears to have done this to the Syphon Filter series with Logan's Shadow, as the ending involves the possible deaths of three of the four main characters. Sony has no plans for further sequels. The series made a comeback with Days Gone, which is heavily implied to take place in the same universe if the easter eggs are of any indication.
  • Alan Wake has an in-universe example, where Alan Wake is planning to end his popular mystery series by killing off the main character.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge has the infamous Gainax Ending which implies that the creators just wanted the series to end or screw over whoever would take over the series after they left. There are problems with this view, however, as Ron Gilbert always said that he wanted to make a third game, and the ending contains a Sequel Hook stinger implying that the screwy ending is just an elaborate ruse. The Curse of Monkey Island, the next game in the series, followed this lead by implying the previous game's ending was a voodoo spell LeChuck cast on Guybrush, while Return to Monkey Island explains this ending as Guybrush's son recreating his dad's adventures with his friends while at an amusement park.
  • The final game in the Championship Manager series created by Sports Interactive was so bad that there is widespread belief that the company deliberately made it horrible, knowing they were going to split and create their new Football Manager series.
  • Before the release of Dead Space 3, EA stated that there would be no sequel unless the game sold over 5 million units, more than the first two games combined. Needless to say, the game fell far short of that mark. This may explain why the Awakened DLC ends with the Brethren Moons fully awakening and beginning their campaign of genocide on the galaxy, and there is literally nothing Isaac, Carver, or anyone can do to stop them, making further sequels all but impossible. Interestingly, there was a plan on what to do after the DLC, as explained in a Wha Happun? video by Matt McMuscles: it would have remnants of humanity aboard a flotilla and advance from there.
  • Metal Gear: Series creator, Hideo Kojima, has been very open about how he has seen every game after Metal Gear Solid as the very last in series, and as a result, he has deliberately tried to make every installment work as an airtight finale for the series, only for more sequels to be commissioned.
  • Core Design attempted this with the ending of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. The studio was sick of developing a Tomb Raider sequel once a year and killed off Lara Croft at the end of the fourth game. They went on to develop Chronicles and The Angel of Darkness, which revealed that Lara was Not Quite Dead. Both games received abysmal reviews, which ultimately led to Core Design being sold off in 2006 and the Tomb Raider IP being given to Crystal Dynamics, ironically making this an Inverted Trope.
  • Part two of BioShock Infinite's DLC Burial at Sea kills off by far the most developed and full of potential character, Elizabeth, who was also one of the only remaining protagonists, and inescapably ties the lore of both Rapture and Columbia together before all rights for the BioShock franchise were transferred to the people who made BioShock 2.
  • This may (or may not) be the reason Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which the creators have said will be the last game in the series, ends in a full-scale nuclear war, killing everyone who hadn't been killed by that point. Although, we're never shown if Biker was killed or not...
  • One reason for Drakengard's Mind Screw structure with seemingly disjointed alternate paths and heavy body count, was due to creator Yoko Taro not expecting his game series to get any sequels and therefore making the game as "conclusive" as he could make it. In a twist of irony, it was this trait that gave him and his franchise its following and allowed the series to continue.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight ends with Scarecrow revealing Batman's Secret Identity to the entire planet and follows it up by literally torching Wayne Manor with Batman and Alfred still inside. The endings to the Riddler and Penguin sidequests make it clear not even his closest friends will see him again. Only for almost everything about this to later be abandoned in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which is not only set in the continuity of the Arkham games, but directly features the actual, genuine Batman returning (doubly serving as the final role of the late Kevin Conroy).
  • This was planned to have happened to KanColle if the game had failed to take off. It would have gone out with the entire player's naval base and ships being destroyed with the Bombing of Kure as the final Event, which was planned to coincide with the 68th anniversary of VJ Day.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies reached a fairly definitive conclusion with Revelations, the final map of the Black Ops III season which resolved the main Myth Arc and provided an Earn Your Happy Ending for the heroes. However, Treyarch brought the series back for Black Ops IV, with a storyline that undoes the happy ending, and seemed to be building to the true finale with a great, epic final battle in the works. Ultimately, the story ends on a shockingly dark, bleak note as all the heroes die as they literally destroy the series's universe in hopes of finally ending all the chaos and zombie mayhem. Few of the ongoing plot threads were resolved, the main antagonist ended up not being faced, and literally everyone died except for Samantha and Eddie. Many fans suspect that this was Treyarch's tough-love way of ending the franchise and refusing to do anything further with the series, and asking players to move on.
  • Naughty Dog tried this with Crash Team Racing, which was set to be their last Crash Bandicoot game before their contract with Universal expired. While they obviously still put their all into the gameplay, since it's remembered as one of the best kart racers of all time, they deliberately tried to ruin the franchise by making the villain an alien. They figured that nobody would take the game seriously if there was an alien in it and that fans would turn their backs on the franchise after that. The alien, Nitros Oxide, actually became popular with the fans, the game was a huge hit anyway, and the sequel Crash Nitro Kart was set entirely on alien worlds without much fan ruckus.
    Jason Ruben: We actually tried to kill Crash. In CTR, we said "What won't anybody believe?" Because this was our last game. "Let's put aliens in. We'll bring in an alien, no one will like Crash after that cause there's an alien. This'll be the end, we've jumped the shark, the alien came into CTR." Everybody loved it!
  • While not outright torching the franchise, The King of Fighters 2000 ends with Clone Zero destroying South Town with a Kill Sat. South Town being the setting for the majority of the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting games, and thus the first recurring setting SNK ever made, and the origin of many KOF mainstays, its destruction symbolized the end of SNK (as it declared bankruptcy soon after) and made it clear that even if future games were made, they'd never be the same again. Notably, when the original SNK staff came back as SNK Playmore and reacquired the rights to their IPs, they made a big deal of South Town being rebuilt in The King of Fighters 2003.
  • God of War III ends with an apocalypse, all the Greek gods dead, and Kratos performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save what's left of humanity. The Stinger however hints at Kratos' survival. The next installments God of War: Ghost of Sparta and God of War: Ascension were prequels designed to answer the few mysteries left. It wasn't until 2018 that the timeline continued with the Soft Reboot God of War (PS4), focusing on Norse Mythology instead.
  • The creator of the Dark Souls games was upfront that the franchise as we know it would end with Dark Souls III. The game's premise is that the Eternal Recurrence established in Dark Souls II is grinding to a halt and in the base game's ending the First Flame is either on its last legs or snuffed out completely. Even in the DLC, the most you can manage is to create a new world inside a painting, leaving nothing of the world players had become familiar with.
  • Spec Ops: The Line was written in a way to ensure that no sequels or follow-ups could be made to its story. This is why the story ends with almost everyone dying and the main protagonist, Walker, either dying or ending up a psychological wreck. There was an idea for DLC for Adams since his death was off-screen, but even then, the script for the game made his death unambiguous.
  • Army Men had an example with Sarge's War, which kills off the original cast including Sarge himself; which happened after 3DO went bankrupt and the rights were sold to Take-Two Interactive. Only a handful of games were published after that; and none of them featured characters from the main series.
  • The Hex has an In-Universe example with Secrets of Legendaria, the game that Chandrelle Stormblaze hails from. After getting tired of going through the same thing over and over again, she, during a livestream by a popular streamer, teamed up with the game's villain, Dark Lord Vallamir, and helped him invade the game world, riddling it with glitches that made it unplayable and got the planned series cancelled. As punishment, she was forced to harbor Vallamir in her body for eternity while Lazarus Bleeze, her accomplice, was turned into a Space Marine and booted into the Vicious Galaxy series.
  • Bayonetta 3 ends pretty conclusively with every single version of Bayonetta in reality either dead or taken to Inferno. This includes the one we've followed for all three games, whose Deal with the Devil is finally cashed in, seeing her Dragged Off to Hell, with Luka going with her. Needless to say, a lot of backwards-bending will need to be done to continue the series after this. Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a prequel to the first game.
  • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth does this with the Repentence DLC. After seemingly every single expansion making Isaac's story worse, Repentence adds one more True Final Boss. Beat it, and Isaac, free of all his self-hatred and sins, lets go of the mortal coil and ascends to Heaven. There's simply nowhere more for the story to go, and understandably the creators have stated it's the last DLC.
  • It's all but stated that this was meant to be the case with Riddle School 4, as clicking on anything drops the main character into a lava pit, and the ending text implies that this game was supposed to end the series. Fortunately, JonBro retconned this game as a dream and gave the series three more games and a proper conclusion.
  • Saints Row IV was written with finality in mind, as THQ was going through some serious financial troubles and went bankrupt during the game's development. Then came a bunch of expansions... along with a standalone expansion set in Hell, a spin-off that follows from an ending in the standalone expansion, and a hard reboot that attempts to start over from scratch.

    Visual Novels 
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney was the last game in the Ace Attorney franchise that was led by Shu Takumi, and Takumi knew it. To ensure that no more Ace Attorney games would be made, he had Phoenix Wright lose his attorney's badge and gave the legal system a jury. This did not work: In the next game, Dual Destinies, Phoenix gets his badge back, and all plans to rewrite the legal system were forgotten and never brought up. Then, in the game after that, Apollo leaves the Wright agency, returning almost everything to how it was before Apollo Justice, except that Takumi is still contractually forbidden to work on any mainstream Ace Attorney game. However, he still worked on The Great Ace Attorney, as well as the crossover with Professor Layton, so the split must have at least been somewhat amicable.
  • The final chapter of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony takes this up to eleven. Tsumugi Shirogane, after being outed as the mastermind, reveals that everything that has happened in the game is "Ultimate Real Fiction" based on... Danganronpa. In the Danganronpa V3 universe, the previous games and anime are exactly that, games and anime. The franchise became so popular that it eventually got adapted into a reality show where teenagers willingly and eagerly sign up to have their minds wiped and replaced with the fabricated identities of Danganronpa characters so they can kill each other for real on live TV. And the "V3" in the title? Stands for 53, meaning this show has potentially been going on for 50 seasons (since the earliest it could have started would be Danganronpa 4). Following this reveal, the protagonist swears to destroy Danganronpa, which culminates in a boss battle against the Danganronpa fanbase. The fight ends with the fanbase losing interest in Danganronpa and moving on. Following this, K1-B0 destroys the Ultimate Academy, seemingly killing everyone before self-destructing. Given that K1-B0 was the audience surrogate for the in-universe fanbase, this could be seen as a final goodbye to the Danganronpa franchise. However, in a post-credits scene, Shuichi, Maki, and Himiko are revealed to have survived K1-B0's rampage and decide to move on to see if what they were told is true or not, hinting that Danganronpa may not be over after all. Needless to say, this ending led to an enormous Broken Base in the fandom.

    Web Animation 

  • Taken almost literally with the abrupt shutdown of pictures for sad children. The comic's author, Simone Veil, had struggled with mental health issues stemming in part from gender dysphoria (she would later come out as a trans woman) and exacerbated by drug use throughout its run, but in 2014 her struggles spiraled into a full-on Creator Breakdown that resulted in her trying to separate herself from the comic by forfeiting a Kickstarter to give the comic a print run, shutting down the comic's website, and burning print copies of the comic on-cameranote  before disappearing from the public eye outside of pseudonymous side-projects and filing takedown notices against reuploads of the strips.
  • A similar example happened with Sonichu; following years of Internet mockery and a feud with the creators of Asperchu, in 2010 author Chris Chandler ended the tenth issue conclusively, killing off almost all of the antagonists before going into an extended hiatus. While new issues began to be published 5 years later, releases were sporadic at best, and by 2021, it had once again sputtered to an abrupt halt.
  • On May 6, 2017 (Free Comic Book Day), Pepe the Frog was killed off by its creator Matt Furie after it was co-opted by the alt-right and other "white nationalist" groups, as well as Furie's failed attempt to reclaim his character through his #SavePepe campaign. Then a later twist came when Furie Kickstarted a comic about Pepe's resurrection, possibly as a response to the alt-right reacting to Furie's giving up on Pepe by acting as if they owned him, to the point of publishing a children's book about him (article 1, article 2).

    Web Original 
  • In The Day the Music Died by Sam Starbuck, a short story about everything possible going wrong with a Harry Potter-like fandom at once, this is one of the things that goes wrong. The author — who's writing the last novel of a series while on his deathbed — decides to finish with an apocalypse to prevent anyone from writing any sequels after his death.
  • A variant happens in one tandem writing assignment discussed on Snopes. Rebecca, disliking her partner Gary's attempt to derail the story she was writing into a science-fiction action story, responded by killing off the male lead and attempting to write him into a corner by having Congress end the war with Skylon 4 and outlaw war and space travel. He then managed to get around this by having another alien faction attack, killing the female lead, and causing the president to decide to veto the treaty. Rebecca then gave up in disgust.
  • To Boldly Flee was intended to be the Fully Absorbed Finale of The Nostalgia Critic, ending with the character Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence to never be seen again, thus freeing up Doug Walker to work on other projects. However, like other examples on this page, none of these projects turned out well or had much success, so he was forced to revive the character a scant four months later, with a special revolving around Walker struggling with the question of whether to bring the Nostalgia Critic back or stick with his failing Demo Reel series. It ends with him doing so, writing a brief Hand Wave about the Critic actually being trapped in an illusion (that illusion being Demo Reel, it's revealed that the main character of that show was an amnesiac Critic the whole time) only to escape when a minor recurring character on the show takes his place.

    Western Animation 
  • Discussed (sort of) on Daria:
    Mr. O'Neill: Now, why do you think it is that Tolstoy felt he had to make War and Peace so darned... unpleasant? Daria?
    Daria: So no one would pester him to do a sequel?
    Mr. O'Neill: (Thoughtful) Hmm...
  • This is parodied in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Wacky Delly": Rachel (then known as Ralph) Bighead wants to get out of her contract with a TV network, who want her to create another hit show for them, so she hires Rocko, Filburt, and Heffer to come up with Wacky Delly, the worst possible show imaginable. Despite the production being a complete wreck due to their inexperience, on top of her earnest efforts to sabotage it, the show becomes a huge hit. When convinced to accept her lot and actually put actual time and effort into the episodes herself, Wacky Delly is immediately cancelled.
  • The Simpsons has an In-Universe case of this in one episode. In said episode, there's an issue of Radioactive Man where the titular superhero is pitted against three supervillains and ends up being killed by them, bringing an end to the series. Immediately after, however, the first issue of a reboot series of Radioactive Man is released.
  • The series finale of Aqua Teen Hunger Force ends with Frylock and Shake dead, Carl moving away, and Meatwad starting a family in a Distant Finale. Given how it was cancelled on the creators and wasn't their decision, they probably aimed for this trope to make sure there wasn't a revival. This is immediately subverted when it was revealed that not only was that episode not the final one to be released (the next one aired online three days later) but also it wasn't even the last one chronologically (Shake watches the events on TV and claims that they happened last week). Then again, the series does run on Negative Continuity. The series has since been Un-Cancelled with new episodes slated for 2022.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) was originally intended to end with the three-episode "Mutant Apocalypse" arc. It entailed the Turtles failing to stop a Mutagen bomb from exploding while they were still teenagers, and then, with the exception of Raphael and Donatello, spending the next 50 years separated, until Michelangelo is found and Leonardo's cured of his mutagen-induced insanity, and they find their way to their final destination. The showrunner, Ciro Nieli, admitted this was done so that nobody could come in and continue the series after he was done with it. This didn't exactly work and ended up being unnecessary: Nickelodeon advertised "Mutant Apocalypse" as an alternate universe What If? storyline, aired it in the middle of the final season with the "Wanted: Bebop and Rocksteady" arc taking its place as the Grand Finale instead, before moving on to creating the next franchise installment in a new continuity.
  • Invader Zim: Lampshaded. Long after the show had been cancelled, Trolling Creator Jhonen Vasquez announced on his website that, as the maker of IZ canon, he officially declares that Zim crashed his spaceship and died off-screen, in response to constant fan inquires about reviving the show. Vasquez and Nickelodeon would do so years later with a comic continuation and a TV movie.
  • This is ultimately how Drawn Together ended in its Direct to Video Movie. After everything was said and done, Spanky accidentally steps on an Eraser Bomb; killing the entire cast and destroying the Drawn Together house. This is in addition to the other housemates being Killed Off for Real.
  • Tex Avery killed off his character Screwy Squirrel after four films as audiences couldn't warm up to him. Subverted some 45 years later when Hanna-Barbera revived him (as Screwball Squirrel) for their series Droopy, Master Detective.
  • Kid Cosmic: The third season wrapped up with the heroes' Cosmic Stones that enabled their powers becoming permanently inert in the process of defeating Erodius and Fantos, Papa G left wheelchair-bound and on borrowed time as a result of giving up the healing stone in his possession and no hostile alien enemies remaining now that Fantos is dead, the Cosmic Stones no longer work and Erodius is no longer destroying planets. This is clearly to prevent Netflix from renewing the series for more episodes without any involvement from Craig McCracken. Though given Netflix’s massive cancellations to its Kids and Family shows that happened soon after Kid Cosmic ended, it’s not like they were going to follow it up anyways.
  • Uncle Grandpa’s final episode ended with the main cast being made into a sandwich only for a giant Ham Sandwich (the kid from the pilot, presumably representing the show’s Periphery Hatedom) eating said sandwich with the implication that all the main characters are about to die, with the titular characters even stating that it’s the end for them. This was made to prevent any revival from ever happening, especially since the show was screwed by CN, though the show’s creator, Pete Browngardt, eventually bounced back with Looney Tunes Cartoons.
  • Animaniacs (2020) does this in the finale episode, with a little bit of End-of-Series Awareness. In the last episode of the show, some characters criticize the reboot and the franchise as a whole for being repetitive and formulaic. To top it all off, the final scene has a meteor crashing down on Earth, killing the Warner Siblings, the show's cast and everyone else. The end.

  • Increasing tensions led to James Murdoch severing business ties with his family's media empire. Before he left, however, he pushed for the sale of valuable film and TV assets like 20th Century Studios and FX Networks to Disney, leaving his brother, Lachlan, with a much smaller inheritance dominated by controversial news outlets.


Video Example(s):


The End of James Bond (Craig)

After having been infected by Safin with a variant of the Heracles Virus specifically made to kill Madeline and her daughter, Mathilde, before killing him, Bond stays on the island where the missile strike was coming in, ending Daniel Craig's run as the character for good.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TheHeroDies

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