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Torch the Franchise and Run

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A writer 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. And 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.


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 they refuse to follow them.

Not to be confused with Franchise Killer, which describes a work in a franchise that's received so poorly there probably won't be any more installments anyway regardless of what damage is done to the status quo.

See also Kill 'em All, 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. 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 
  • Gundam:
    • One reason for Yoshiyuki Tomino's Kill 'em All 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 result he wrote the show to deliberately be as depressing and unpleasant as possible in a bid to try to kill off Gundam for good. Didn't stop them from making more. In a way he almost succeeded, as it was over twenty years before anyone wrote story continuations explicitly set in the Universal Century beyond Victory Gundam (Crossbone Gundam: Dust (2016) takes place a few years later, while Gundam: Reconguista in G (2015) takes place an unspecified number of centuries later).
    • 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 reigns over the creative side of the production. This, however, looks to change recenty, 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.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! 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 a interest on keeping the details under wraps.
  • Harenchi Gakuen, the first series written by Go Nagai, ended this way because of the Moral Guardians coming down hard on the magazine that published it. It may explain why Nagai has done his own publishing for most of his career, as well as why many of his works have a Downer Ending.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Grant Morrison ended his run on the comic book Doom Patrol by pretty much torching the place down. The leader turned out to be evil, some characters died, others were permanently exiled to another dimension. The writer who took over only had one or two characters to work with.
    • This is not without precedent, however: the first version of the Doom Patrol ended with all the main characters dying. The version that came before Morrison's version ended with some of the cast dying and one of them in a coma. Interestingly, Morrison's version (which was one of the most popular) ended with only two characters dead and the rest walking away into the sunset.
    • Interestingly, when his run on the much-higher-profile Justice League of America ended, he only wrote out the characters he'd introduced during his run, leaving the same core 'Big Seven' team he started with, and essentially handing the next writer a blank slate. And the only character who died was one Morrison himself had created, since the character's own comic was cancelled before it had a chance to end properly.
    • All signs are pointing to this being what he's going to do once he's done with his run on Batman Incorporated, what with Damian Wayne's death and possibly the end of Batman Inc. itself. At the same time, the last few pages of the series repeatedly and forcefully remind readers that members of the al Ghul family never stay dead.
  • 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 a crossover that ran between through the yearly annuals for titles like The Avengers and Marvel Two-In-One, and by the end, Adam, Gamora, Pip the Troll and Thanos were all seemingly Killed Off for Real. They remained dead for over 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.
  • 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 Mega Man 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 and Deconstruction of the superhero genre 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.
    • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is a non-canon closing story to the Silver Age Superman that resolves and ties up every loose end, romantic or otherwise, kills off much of the supporting cast and villains, and had Superman permanently give up his powers by the end to live a normal life with Lois.
  • 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.
  • Played-Subver-... Something in 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 moving to DC Comics, and not being able to torch the New Gods led him to going right back to Marvel Comics. Given this history, it's not surprising that Kirby would go on to become the founding father of the creator-owned comic movement.
  • Robert Crumb hated the Fritz the Cat movie. So much in fact, that he killed off the character so they couldn't make a sequel. It didn't work.
  • Matt Fraction ended his short-lived Marvel series The Order 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. 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.
  • After Ken Penders sued Archie Comics to fully regain use of the characters he created during his time as head writer of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog 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. Penders more-or-less got what he wanted, and wound up taking the comics down with him, then running off to use them in his own "visual novels" that are of...infamously shoddy quality. While the Sonic comics would continue (sort of) in the Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) books, Penders is nowadays seen as one of the most hated people ever affiliated with the Sonic franchise.note 
  • Warren Ellis ended his run on Stormwatch by writing the Wild CATS/Aliens miniseries, 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.
  • Once IDW announced they were ending their long-running Transformers comic 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.”

    Fan Fiction 

  • 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).
  • After losing a lawsuit with some of the people Ian Fleming collaborated with on a (then) failed James Bond screenplay called Thunderball the executive producers killed off SPECTRE's leader Blofeld note  in the Action Prologue of For Your Eyes Only, in a deliberately and insultingly throwaway manner, just to stick it to Kevin McClory (who prevented Blofeld from being the villain of The Spy Who Loved Me, and later revisited the story he still held the rights to in Never Say Never Again).
  • Attempted 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 are talks of a crossover with Men in Black.
  • 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.
  • Another example from the Halloween franchise is Halloween II (2009). Rob Zombie went out of his way to make it nearly impossible to continue this iteration of the franchise: having both Loomis and Michael killed, and Laurie either committed to an asylum or dead, depending on the cut.
  • 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 spinoff 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 with 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.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has this feel. The whole "Judgement Day is inevitable" angle that future entries have is completely defied here; the protagonists explicitly render Judgement Day impossible by destroying everything and everyone involved in Skynet's creation. There's no last second twist, no uncertainty, and no Stable Time Loop. The timeline is changed and the movie ends on a conclusive note that leaves no real room for sequels. The third film invented the "it is inevitable" spiel to Hand Wave the issue.
  • Logan does this for the Wolverine franchise by 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 franchise is being rebooted under the umbrella of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 the Literary Agent Hypothesis 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 did for a decade, before returning to Holmes after those historical novels failed to sell.
  • In-fiction example: In Stephen King's 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.
  • 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.
    • And it hadn't stuck 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.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.
  • 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.
  • The protagonist of The Witcher novel series gets killed with a pitchfork in the last book. Most of named characters are already dead, are dying or will be dead soon. And 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.
    • And 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.
  • Some suspect R.A. Salvatore is trying to do this with the Drizzt novels because A) he doesn't want a lesser author writing his best-known character and B) he may be running out of ideas.
    • There are numerous rumors that he attempted to leave the series in 1997, which led to the commissioning of a new Drizzt novel called Shores of Dusk from another author. Salvatore came back to the series and the (apparently completed) Shores of Dusk never saw the light of day.
  • Before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there was speculation as to who JK Rowling was going to kill off. Some predicted that she would kill off the main characters simply to stop other people taking them and continuing the story on their own. She didn't, though. Not all of them, anyway. Rowling occasionally implied she would, though Harry's death ends up coming with a loophole that lets him come back.
  • 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 Reality Ensues, 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, insuring 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Television series La Femme Nikita, final season - retcon of key points from previous seasons, Everybody Dies, etc.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess — Final season and a half — most of the supporting cast including most of the Greek gods killed off in anticlimactic ways or changed beyond recognition, Xena and Gabrielle being forced to sleep for 25 years, and eventually a Redemption Equals Death final episode.
  • 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 7th Doctor, even though the 8th Doctor had already appeared (though how canonical the TV Movie was was disputed), 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 end of Six Feet Under doesn't preclude a revival so much as make it entirely redundant.
  • 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 mis-wrote 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.
  • The A S-P strategy seems to be repeating with Janet Tamaro, who departed Rizzoli & Isles after the fourth season and left the season five writers with a ton to clean up, including a pregnancy scare for Jane, broken relationships and an out-of-left-field Love Triangle between Maura and the Rizzoli brothers.
    • Actually, Janet Tamaro is staying on as a creative consultant (much like how Lauren Faust served a similar role on My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic). As such, some of the dangling plot threads are either being developed (Jane's pregnancy) or put on ice (Maura and Frankie deciding to stay friends).
  • 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 and the series continued on (and still continues on in the hands of Hasbro)
  • 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 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 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 bus 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.”)

  • 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. They ended the performance by announcing their retirement, effective immediately, with no prior warning whatsoever. Shortly afterward, 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.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • John Darling was a comic strip spin-off from Funky Winkerbean by Tom Batiuk that ran about 12 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 FW to solve the murder. Later still, introduced Darling's daughter, Jessica, as part of the FW cast.
  • Jim Davis ended his first comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, when he got bored with it by having Gnorm stomped by a giant foot.
  • 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 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Vince Jr has done this to every territory and promotion he's taken over with the exceptions of his father's, which he merely 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 is what lead to the creation of WCW.
  • This tactic, which he believed to be the only way to compete with Vince Jr on cable, ultimately lead to the downfall of Jim Crockett Promotions and the end of the National Wrestling Alliance as a major national force. Crockett actually shutdown more territories directly than Vince Jr, who was "smarter" in "letting" more of his acquisitions fail first.
  • Done in kayfabe 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 New World Order.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Done with the MOTHER series. 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 Kill 'em All.
  • Ed Boon wanted Mortal Kombat: Armageddon to do this to so that he could easily reboot the series with a new cast by bringing upon the apocalyptic Battle of Armageddon, a legendary conflict that promises The End of the World as We Know It, hence why it is a canonical Dream Match Game. When this plan fell through, he took a different approach: Mortal Kombat 9 reveals that Armageddon has ruined the world only for a dying Raiden to invoke a different kind of reboot.
  • 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.
  • 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. The Curse of Monkey Island, the next game in the series, fixed the second problem by implying the previous game's ending was a voodoo spell LeChuck cast on Guybrush.
  • 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.
  • Dead Space 3: Awakened 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.
  • 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.
    • He first attempted this approach with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This is why we got the infamous ending. While it might have been Kojima explicitly trolling the fanbase, he had already stated that it would be his final entry in the Metal Gear series.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has series protagonist Solid Snake turned into an old man as a result of the cloning process used to create him and is given less than a year to live by the end of the game, leaving little room for Snake to appear in future sequels. The only Metal Gear games since then had been prequels (Peace Walker, Ground Zeroes, and The Phantom Pain) and a spinoff (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) set after Metal Gear Solid 4 that doesn't even reveal Snake's fate. In the first draft of Metal Gear Solid 4, the whole "torch and run" was a lot more blatant: the game was originally going to end with Snake and Otacon getting arrested and executed for terrorism. A Writer Revolt forced Kojima to abandon this idea. The actual ending is still pretty conclusive and final, though, albeit [[far more satisfying, with the Patriots being defeated, Meryl & Johnny getting married, Rose and Raiden reconciling, Otacon adopting Sunny, the FOXDIE virus infecting Snake's body being cured, and Snake reconciling with Big Boss in the latter's final moments, after which he resolves to spend these last few months he has left with Otacon and Sunny before he dies of his accelerated old age.
    • The Phantom Pain does this more subtly by ending at the beginning of the original Metal Gear, thereby ending the prequel saga. With Kojima falling out with Konami, it certainly feels like Kojima tried this. This hasn't stopped Konami from trying to put out more games (such as a Metal Gear Solid 3 pachinko game, no joke, and Metal Gear Survive), but given the backlash Konami's received over their treatment of Kojima, the fans might finish the torching for Kojima.
  • Core Design attempted this with the ending of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. The studio was sick of developing Tomb Raider sequels 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 are 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 the creator not expecting his game series to get any sequels and therefore made 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 Idenity to the entire planet and follows it up by literally torching Wayne Maynor with Batman and Alfred still inside. The endings to the Riddler and Penguin sidequest make it clear not even his closest friends will see him again.
  • This was planned to have happened to Kantai Collection 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.
  • 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, and the game was a huge hit anyway.
    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!

    Visual Novels 
  • The final chapter of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony takes this up to eleven. After Tsumugi Shirogane is revealed to be the mastermind, said character also reveals that everything that has happened in the game is "Ultimate Real Fiction" based on a popular game and anime franchise called Danganronpa. In the Danganronpa V3 universe, the previous games and animes are popular works of fiction that were eventually adapted into a reality show where people are brainwashed into becoming Danganronpa characters and put into killing games resembling the original stories. Following this reveal, the protagonist swears to destroy Danganronpa, which culminates in a boss battle against the Danganronpa fanbase. The fight ends with the Danganronpa 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 has lead to a Broken Base in the fandom.

  • The final chapter of RPG World was basically an extended prose "fuck you" to the readers for their not enjoying the random-events humor over the much more interesting Character Development moments. Subverted, however, in that 9 years later, Ian Jones-Quartey letting a fan do the ending, provided the original run stays on Keenspot.
  • This “Gutters” strip implies Boom! Kids is doing this after losing the licence to the DuckTales comics to Marvel Comics.
    • For context, here is the DuckTales Issue 3 as covered by a blog and here is the same comic as covered by Cartoon Brew.
  • 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. Subverted 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.
  • Llamas with Hats: By the end of the series, every single living being on earth is dead and the main character, who was the sole survivor decides to commit suicide after finding the corpse of his best friend. In one blog entry, Jason Steele comments about how the series could have "gone forever" like Garfield or The Annoying Orange, but instead of that he preferred to end it.
  • The last time Jon Graham tried to end Arby 'n' the Chief, Machinima (the company whose channel hosted the series) produced the spin-off In L.A.. It wasn't well-received so the next time Jon gave the series a Grand Finale, he had Arbiter and Chief on the verge of breaking apart and committing suicide by blowing themselves and his apartment up. At the very least, this ending coincided with Jon splitting from Machinima and continuing/concluding the series on his own terms.

    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 Deli": Ralph Bighead wants to get out of his contract with a TV network, who want him to create another hit show for them, so he hired Rocko, Filburt, and Heffer to come up with Wacky Deli, the worst possible show imaginable. Despite his earnest efforts to sabotage it, the show becomes a huge hit. When Ralph decides to actually put his time and effort into the episodes, Wacky Deli 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.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) (in production order) was originally intended to end with the 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 storyline rather than the canonical ending, declaring Wanted: Bebop and Rocksteady as the official series finale. Not that this really mattered, as the show was followed by a series in a completely new continuity anyway.
  • Invader Zim: Long after the show had been canceled, Trolling Creator Jhonen Vasquez announced on his website that, as the maker of IZ canon, he officially declared that Zim crashed his spaceship and died off-screen, so any fan hopes of a revival were now destroyed. Of course, being a Trolling Creator also means that Vasquez is not to be trusted, as he is now involved in both a comic continuation and an upcoming TV movie.


Example of: