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Unexpectedly Dark Episode

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You have a work that's generally a comedy, or at least played less than seriously. Suddenly, the Black Comedy is more black than comic, the Heroic Comedic Sociopath or seemingly Harmless Villain's actions are played dead seriously, half the cast is dead, and it turns out that the Plucky Comic Relief has a horrific backstory.

This episode will likely have a Downer Ending, or at least a bittersweet one. Black Comedy may also become this if more emphasis is placed on the Black than on the Comedy, or if themes previously played for laughs are treated seriously.

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This isn't necessarily a sign of Cerebus Syndrome, since the comedic tone may return after the Unexpectedly Dark Episode, but it may not. These may also be Very Special Episodes if they also tackle a serious Real Life issue in the process. It is, however, likely to be a Wham Episode. It may lead to Cerebus Syndrome if there are multiple episodes like this, or a Sudden Downer Ending if it happens at the end. All that's required is that a usually comic or upbeat series suddenly includes a very serious episode.

Contrast Breather Episode, where a serious show has a comparatively light episode. Compare Mood Whiplash and Wham Episode (where the shift isn't necessarily to Darker and Edgier, but often is), and How Unscientific!, in which a show generally grounded in reality suddenly has a supernatural-based episode. The two tropes may go together in a Halloween Episode.

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For an unexpectedly dark villain, see Vile Villain, Saccharine Show. For the non-canon versions, see Dark Fic and Dark Parody.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • It's difficult to believe nowadays as it's become possibly the most iconic episode of the series, but Cowboy Bebop's fifth episode, "Ballad of Fallen Angels" was a shocker in the show's original run. The episodes to this point were heavy on the comedy and while there was violence throughout, this is the first episode to almost entirely drop the comedic elements and delve into Spike's Dark and Troubled Past, shifting from bounty hunting hijinx to a Heroic Bloodshed story and establishing Vicious as a Knight of Cerebus. Later dark episodes don't share this same distinction, as the "pattern" of darker episodes had been established by this first one.
  • While Digimon Adventure 02 can get pretty dark, the episode "His Master's Voice" is an outright Cosmic Horror Story, with Kari being threatened by Deep Ones and Dragomon, an outright Cthulhu Expy. The events of this episode are never mentioned again, aside from occasional references to the Dark Ocean.

  • While Dragon Ball is no stranger to serious plots, especially during the Z era, the arc that actually fits this the most is Dragon Ball Super's "Goku Black" arc. Centering around the Future Trunks timeline, we learn that a new villain appeared years after Future Trunks defeated the Androids, Cell, and later Babidi and Dabura. This new villain is incredibly strong, has been systematically committing genocide against the human race, and also looks exactly like Goku. It turns out that this Goku Black is actually an insane Supreme Kai in-training from Universe 10 named Zamasu, who used the Super Dragon Balls to steal Goku's body, then used a time ring to travel to Future Trunk's timeline. Black then teamed up with his own alternate future self, who chose to use the Super Dragon Balls to wish for true immortality, and the two of them wiped out all life in the other 11 universes before turning to Universe 7. In between fights in the future timeline, we get to witness Beerus erase the present version of Zamasu from existence, down to his very soul, simply by saying "hakai" ("destroy"). Back in the future, Black's power continues to grow and outstrip the heroes, even in their god-ki powered forms. Black and Future Zamasu then choose to undergo Potara Fusion, creating Fused Zamasu, an entity that even the likes of Super Saiyan Blue Vegito cannot defeat. Fused Zamasu is only defeated by Future Trunks turning a Spirit Bomb into a sword and vertically bisecting him- only for the story to reveal a Sudden Downer Ending in which Zamasu's immortal spirit fuses with the universe itself, kills everyone but the heroes just to torture them a little longer, and then Future Zeno erases that entire future timeline from existence. Meaning that every character from that timeline that the audience may have grown attached to (Future Gohan, Future Bulma, etc.) is well and truly gone as even their souls were erased. Future Trunks and Future Mai are the only survivors, and they're given an Esoteric Happy Ending when Whis transports them to a version of their future where Black never existed... but alternate versions of themselves do, so they have nowhere to really go. Also, said timeline is entirely disconnected from the main one, so they'll never cross-over again.
    To say that fans were divided over the arc, and especially its ending, would be an understatement.
  • El Cazador de la Bruja consists mostly of light-hearted wacky adventures, but "Maple Leaf" is an extremely moody Origins Episode for Ellis, revealing her childhood as a living genetic experiment and her apparent murder of her handler-slash-father figure when she lost control of her powers.
  • Every episode of Excel Saga has a particular gimmick or theme, usually Played for Laughs. One of the later episodes is the only exception to this, as its gimmick is removing all of the comedy.
  • I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying is, for the most part, Happily Married Slice of Life hi-jinx. Episode 11 is a Flashback Nightmare to before Kaoru met Hajime. Although it still ends on an incredibly sweet note.
  • The Aliea Academy arc in Inazuma Eleven is already Darker and Edgier as it is, but the anime episode "The Captain's Trial" somehow managed to push it into this; even reaching Psychological Horror territory despite the already grimdark tone of the arc. The episode starts with Kazemaru crossing the Despair Event Horizon and leaving Raimon, then Fubuki's Sanity Slippage gets ramped up, then Kurimatsu follows in Kazemaru's footsteps. This might be the only time in the franchise's history when someone actually got depressed, let alone because of something unrelated to soccer.
  • Episodes 8 and 12 of Monster Rancher are Whole Episode Flashbacks that detail, respectively, how Holly's village was destroyed by Naga's forces and how the entire Monster Rancher world was nearly destroyed, first by a series of natural disasters, and then by the Big Bad Moo when the people of Pangea warred with one another. The series goes back to normal for a while after that, until episode 40 shows a monster manufacturing plant from the ancient times, with Kid-Appeal Character Mocchi wondering if he was born in a test tube like other monsters seen there.
  • One Piece:
    • Most flashback sequences that explore a character's background tend to be this, as they can feature rampant death, which is rare in the present storyline. At least two of those have involved plotting the genocide of entire countries. Children aren't spared.
    • The sixth movie, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island. In contrast to the rest of the movies or the series in general, this one contains some really dark and disturbing imagery that would fit better in an actual horror movie.
  • Osomatsu-san is a slice of life comedy about six quirky brothers and the weird people around them. Despite that, some episodes have some Tear Jerker skits, where the comedy is toned down a great deal:
    • Episode 5's "ESP Kitty", in which Lazy Bum Ichimatsu is forced to face his insecurities and social issues. It reveals that Ichimatsu is actually lonely, but afraid of making friends, something a lot of socially awkward people can relate with.
    • Episode 9's "Jyuushimatsu Falls in Love". It's really jarring when the Perpetual Smiler Cloudcuckoolander Jyuushimatsu breaks down crying due to heartbreak. It gets darker when it's implied the girl he's in love with is a suicidal porn star. Unlike "ESP Kitty", which at least ends with a gag, this skit ends on a completely serious note.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has an episode from the viewpoint of a civilian family, an overworked Salaryman who gets chewed out by his boss. It doesn't help that they're drawn much more realistically than the pseudo-The Powerpuff Girls style of the show.
  • Pokémon
    • Pokemon Advanced crosses this with Bizarro Episode in the episode "Time Warp Heals All Wounds!", that features May and Meowth travelling back in time in order to stop a man before he takes the train where he will die before his wife can tell him that she is pregnant.
    • While the Sun and Moon series is seen as the most light-hearted the anime has been in a while, it also has "One Journey Ends, Another Begins...", which can be considered one of the bleakest episodes in the series, as it features the presumed death of an old Stoutland who was Litten's primary caregiver.
    • This also applies to the episode "Inside Tapu-Fini's Mist". The main plot focuses on Mallow coming to terms with the death of her mother prior to the events of the story, and Hapu also coming to terms with the death of her grandfather Sofu, the previous Island Kahuna. The previously-mentioned Stoutland also makes an appearance as an apparition; and the episode is very light on humor as the themes of grief and forgiveness are very realistically Played for Drama.
  • Sailor Moon is mostly a lighthearted Magical Girl series, but it has several episodes which are darker than the norm.
    • "Naru's Tears: Nephrite Dies For Love", which contains Nephrite's death.
    • The two-part finale of season 1, consisting of "Death of the Sailor Guardians: The Tragic Final Battle" and "Usagi's Eternal Wish: A Brand New Life", where Makoto, Ami, Minako and Rei are all killed one by one, then Mamoru, and finally Usagi after disintegrating Metallia/Beryl with the power of the Silver Crystal. Luckily, they get better, but it was still a sudden horrible two episodes for a mostly lighthearted show up to that point.
    • "Invitation to Terror: Usagi's Night Flight", where Sailor Aluminum Siren dies. Unlike Sailor Iron Mouse's death earlier in the season, this was not Played for Laughs.
  • Smile Pretty Cure! is considered to be Lighter and Softer compared to most of the Pretty Cure seasons, settling on throwing in nonsensical stories that doesn't have any real bearing on the overall plot. Most of the time.
    • Episode 19 addresses Yayoi's Disappeared Dad without a hint of humor attached to it, and even making Yayoi go through a Heroic BSoD. Notably, this is one of the episodes Saban opted not to dub for the Glitter Force release.
    • Episode 42 has one of the villains Majorina attempt to kill Nao's younger siblings after being threatened by Joker over her failures. Unlike Episode 19, this is an episode Saban actually dubbed, while keeping all of the horrific elements relatively untouched.
    • Basically any episode where Joker decides that Authority Equals Asskicking qualifies, as his actions can range from trapping the heroes into a pocket dimension where they become emotionless puppets, to making Evil Counterparts that plays up the Cures' positive and negative aspects to sadistic levels.
  • Yo-Kai Watch: Jibanyan's backstory episode is one of the few predominantly dramatic episodes in the mainly comedic series. It reveals that he was a pet kitten who died committing a Heroic Sacrifice for his teenage owner, who was meant to die that day instead of him.

    Comic Books 
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    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin and Hobbes find an injured baby raccoon in the woods, who eventually dies.
  • Garfield has the infamous Halloween Story Arc of 1989, which involved Garfield suddenly waking up in a future where he hasn't existed, Jon and Odie are gone, and eventually going mad from the loneliness, upon which the ordeal winds up being All Just a Dream. The sudden shift of a family-friendly comic like Garfield into borderline psychological horror (and the abrupt shift back) is very notable among comic strip enthusiasts and Garfield detractors.

    Fan Works 
  • While the CATverse is in general a Black Comedy, several stories are much darker than average. The issues of bullying and child abuse, a key part of the Scarecrow's backstory, are treated very seriously when they come up in Paean of the Bells and Noel respectively. Small World is also very low on the comedy and contains a graphic murder, Adult Fear, flashbacks to abuse, psychological torture of a child, and culminates in a horrific Kick the Dog moment from Crane and a Downer Ending that is not Played for Laughs one bit.
  • "The History of Trunks" in Dragon Ball Z Abridged is one of the darker episodes, with the Androids' sociopathic behavior and the deaths of the majority of the cast in Trunks' timeline played relatively seriously, especially Gohan.
  • Junior Officers:
    • The Kelp Forest arc. While this fic is generally a fun, comedic romp, this arc makes things much more serious. First, there's the event that sets the darkness in motion: Shellington's mental breakdown. It's played completely seriously; no jokes, no snark. Things go very, very quiet as Barnacles and Deborah are shocked; the former in particular, as it was partially his fault. The next two episodes are rather bittersweet, until we come to the end of "Even the Best Fall Down Sometimes", in which Barnacles has a major Misdirected Outburst at Deborah, which the latter claims to be reminiscent of her abusive father. The fourth chapter in this arc also reveals that Seacliff, the previous captain before Barnacles, was abusive towards the staff.
    • "River Riding Adventure", while nowhere near as dark as the Kelp Forest arc, still has Barnacles breaking his leg. Unlike some other stories, it stays broken in subsequent chapters.
    • "Home, Sour Home", which shows us Deborah's abusive father in the flesh. By the end of the chapter, Barnacles has to smash his hoof with his cane just to keep him away from her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a fanfic called Pound and Pumpkin Cake's Adventures (and Misadventures) in Potty Training. It is mainly a light-hearted comedy about the twins going through potty training, but there are two chapters that are a little darker:
    • "The 'Joy' of Flushing" starts out comically, with the twins flushing a games console down the toilet, but when Mrs. Cake punishes them for it, it's actual spanking as opposed to the usual punishment for the story of timeouts. The spanking is also played completely seriously, with the twins begging her not to do it and still hurting afterwards, and to top it all off, the chapter has a Downer Ending— the twins are in pain, the parents have to deal with an angry customer, and said customer thinks the Cake parents are bad parents while her son has no game console.
    • "Foalhood's End" has hardly any humour, and it focuses on the rather poignant theme of fear of growing older. It also has a Downer Beginning, with the twins still in pain from their aforementioned spanking and the parents still dealing with an angry customer.
  • While Tommy Pickles: The Terrible Twos is normally just a lighthearted Continuation of Rugrats, it does venture into Dark Fic territory in two storylines: in "Tommy's Fear", Tommy becomes extremely afraid of water and gets amnesia due to a water-related accident, and in "Visiting Uncle Ben and Aunt Elaine", Aunt Elaine suffers a placental eruption and survives but her unborn baby doesn't.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon has a few films that are darker than their normal fare:
    • You've got The Black Cauldron. While not as dark and violent as it could have been (uncut, the film probably would have gotten an R rating), it was still dark and violent enough to carry the canon's first PG rating.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, despite having a G rating, is incredibly dark. While it's still Lighter and Softer than its source material, the whole story is driven by the villain's sexual obsession with the main female protagonist, Esmerelda, and a number of darker themes — including lust, racism, genocide, and religious fanaticism — are shown. For that matter, Frollo tries to drown baby Quasimodo solely because of his deformities, right after killing his mother early in the film.
  • The Incredibles is this towards Pixar. With gun violence, Electric Torture, suicide attempts (though not by a main character), large-scale destruction, bad guys who killed countless supers and Would Hurt a Child, and "good guys" who run from the police and lie to their own families, all in the same film, The Incredibles may very well be the darkest Pixar movie yet. Brad Bird's history of working on The Simpsons really comes through here.
    Brad: Really, really little kids should not see this movie. They should wait till they get older. We're getting some reactions from people who were disappointed that their four-year-old was a little freaked out by it. Well, I don't want to compromise the intensity in order to please a four-year-old.
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride for the direct-to video sequels. For one, Zira, the movie's main villain, sings a Villain Song about killing Simba and the Pridelanders in order to have Kovu be ruler of the Pridelands. And another, she was originally going to commit suicide until Disney decided against it. Other aspects of Simba's Pride would be considered dark such as Kiara and Kovu being in danger of being eaten by crocodiles, the savannah fire that Kiara nearly perishes in, the nightmare Simba has and even the ambush in which Simba barely escapes with his life and Nuka is killed.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure for Winnie-the-Pooh. The typical wacky hijinks of the characters in the Hundred Acre Wood where the biggest danger to be found was bad weather and annoying pests gives way to a perilous journey from their homes to the "great unknown" in search of a missing Christopher Robin. Pooh and the others face their respective signature character flaws head on and at several points are very nearly overcome by them. To say nothing of them all thinking that Pooh has been killed at one point. It even ends on a fairly bittersweet note. It's not really considered a bad movie because of it, but the complex plot and actual peril for the cuddly Pooh and friends still took many by surprise.

    Literature 
  • The Berenstain Bears:
    • In "Lose a Friend", Goldie the fish dies.
    • "Too Much Internet" has An Aesop about cybersafety— and one person on the Internet was a bomber and was planning to bomb Squire Grizzly.
  • Howard B Wigglebottom: Most of the books are generally lighthearted, even though pretty much all of them have An Aesop: then, there's the one about grief and loss. Any grief and loss story is going to be heavy, but in this story, it's Kiki's puppy who dies. Not her grandparent. Not her cousin. Not even her elderly dog. Her puppy. Not to mention the online video based on the book: those online videos come with songs, and most of the songs are rousing ditties, whereas this one is just a somber "to listen is to love and to love is to listen...".
  • Milly, Molly:
    • One of the books that never got adapted into the cartoon series, "Jimmy's Seeds". Jimmy, a classmate of Milly's and Molly's who is very benevolent and a good student, doesn't show up for school for ages and then Miss Blythe reveals that he died. Even the majority of the darker Milly, Molly books and TV episodes don't go as dark as the Death of a Child.
    • There's also "Milly, Molly and I Love You", which involves saying, "I love you" to everyone after a goldfish dies. Not as dark as "Jimmy's Seeds" but still a bit heavy.
    • "Aunt Maude" (which involves Maude breaking her leg and several others, including the girls, ending up in hospital), and "Grandpa's Oak Tree" (which has two deaths and one threat of a special tree being cut down) feature in both the TV series and the book series.
    • "Oink" is similar to the TV episode "Wags" in that they both involve an animal getting animal-napped by a "bad stranger" (in this case, a pig, who thankfully also comes back).
  • Mr. Men:
    • Little Miss Lucky's story has the title character almost get killed at a few points in the story, culminating with her getting chased by a sentient tree with intention to kill her. The author even asks the reader why her story is called Little Miss Lucky. It all turns out to be a dream, but it's still rather disturbing.
    • In Little Miss Trouble's story, the title character tricks Mr. Uppity and Mr. Clever into attacking Mr. Small and the beatings aren't Played for Laughs, instead Mr. Small ends up with two visible black eyes.
  • Mog: Subverted for "Goodbye, Mog" which supposedly deals with Mog's death, but then another book, "Mog's Christmas Calamity", was written, in which Mog was alive.
  • Roys Bedoys:
    • In "Stay Inside, Roys Bedoys", Roys is bored because he has to stay inside due to Covid-19. He goes outside anyway, and ends up thinking he has the virus because he sneezed.
    • Downplayed for "Distance Learning Has Rules, Roys Bedoys", where the characters are social distancing, but it's still played for laughs.
  • Vita Nuova: After a series of rather domestic poems about the beauty of a kind woman, the Fever Dream Episode suddenly employs apocalyptic and spiritual imagery to describe how Dante wished to die after facing his love's mortality.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: The final story, the one about the enchanted place, involves the creatures in the forest anticipating Christopher Robin going away, ostensibly to boarding school, which implies that he will never see his friends again until he's an adult.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the final episode of ALF, the title alien is captured and taken away by the Alien Task Force. Before this, the series was a lighthearted comedy. There was a TV movie to finish the story (which was still much darker than the main series), but viewers who didn't see it were left with the impression that Alf was going to be tortured and killed.
  • All in the Family always mixes comedy with drama and social commentary, but there are some episodes that are more dramatic and intense than usual.
    • "Archie Is Branded" begins with Archie discovering a swastika painted on his door. The swastika was intended for a Jewish school board member whose controversial opinions have made him the target of neo-Nazis. This leads to a visit from Paul Benjamin, a Jewish vigilante who tries to interest Archie in his plan for violent retaliation against the Nazis, which peacenik Mike strongly opposes. However, the episode is best remembered for its Sudden Downer Ending when the Bunkers hear an explosion:
      Archie: (shaken) Holy gee! That's Paul. They blew him up in his car!
    • In "Gloria the Victim", Gloria calls the police after being sexually harassed by a construction worker. A cop warns her that if the case goes to trial, the defense attorney will use the "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization against her. This results in Archie and Mike convincing her not to press charges, but she's shaken by the experience.
    • Then there's "Edith's 50th Birthday", on which she is attacked by a serial rapist, narrowly escapes by shoving a burning birthday cake in his face, and has a Heroic BSoD as a result.
  • While Baywatch Nights (before it was revamped into a rip-off of The X-Files) was a more action and thrills-oriented spin-off of Baywatch, it was still a relatively lighthearted show, with the exception of the episode "The Curator." The villain of the story, Garth Youngblood, is a grimly realistic Stalker with a Crush who is eventually revealed to be a severely mentally-ill Serial Killer whose abandoned ranger station hideout turns out to contain various "exhibits" showcasing the festering corpses of his victims, including his Abusive Father. He dies from being impaled by a piece of rebar (with there being several lingering shots of his skewered body) and the episode ends with it being made clear that Caroline is still deeply traumatized by being stalked, terrorized, and held captive by Garth.
  • The British cozy crime series Bergerac had a very disturbing horror episode called "The Dig", in which gruesome events started occurring on an archaeological investigation of Norse graves, and it was implied right up to the end that they were due not to a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax but to real evil supernatural forces.
  • The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth ends with Edmund, Baldrick, George, and Darling being sent over the trench, which was made clear over the series to be a death sentence that Edmund desperately wants to avoid. They are strongly implied to have been killed.
  • Community has "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics". The episode has a decidedly darker tone than your usual episode and shortly after it begins, someone sticks a quarter in Garrett's butt crack. The rest of the episode focuses on finding the "Ass Crack Bandit" in a way similar to hunting a Serial Killer. Subverted in that despite the dark atmosphere, the hunt for the perpetrator is still relatively silly compared to an actual serial killer search. Double Subverted when their final pursuit of the Ass Crack Bandit is interrupted by Shirley telling Jeff and Annie that Pierce has died.
  • The final episode of Dinosaurs, a comedy series, ends with all of the main characters being killed in an ice age, and the main character (who was responsible) explaining why they're going to die to his youngest child.
  • Doctor Who, a sci-fi series, had its share of dark episodes and dark moments. But even by those accounts, the end of Series 9 was dark; "Face The Raven" ends with the companion apparently getting Killed Off for Real, "Heaven Sent" is essentially a 60-minute examination of grief while the Doctor is tortured for billions of years at least, while "Hell Bent" demonstrates the consequences of the previous two episodes and the effect they have on the Doctor.
    • Series 8's penultimate episode, "Dark Water", deserves mention too. It examines grief, death and featured the implication that the dead were conscious. The last part was thankfully shown to be a hoax but it did cause complaints from some parents (and you can't blame them).
    • In "classic" Doctor Who, "The Ark in Space" and "Genesis of the Daleks" were both unusually dark stories, incorporating themes of Body Horror, Blue-and-Orange Morality, Dark Messiah symbolism and fascism.
  • Drake & Josh: While the episode still has its comedy, "Josh Is Done" is played surprisingly straight with how Josh cut ties with Drake and Drake's life starts to fall apart without Josh helping him out. Drake's Break the Haughty moment at the end of the episode where he apologizes to Josh for his behavior remains one of the biggest Tearjerkers in the entire show.
  • Gilligan's Island: Many of the episodes didn't include any kind of threat at all (except perhaps the threat of never getting off the island). Then came "The Hunter", with big-game hunter Jonathan Kinkaid arriving on the island and taking advantage of the castaways' predicament to stalk Gilligan all over the island in an attempt to get over his boredom by Hunting the Most Dangerous Game.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had multiple examples of this, such as Will and Carlton getting mugged and Will's deadbeat dad abandoning him again after coming back into his life.
  • Friends has "The One Where Ross and Rachel Take A Break" and "The One With The Morning After", where Ross and Rachel temporarily split, Ross sleeps with another woman, and Rachel finds out, leading to a nasty fight and break-up that is played far more seriously than their usual on-again-off-again romance, with very few moments of comedy to break up the tension. The series creators even admitted they would never do an episode that dark again.
  • A couple of Glee episodes do this, like "On My Way", which opens with attempted suicide and closes with a violent car crash, and "Shooting Star", with the second half being practically silent as the school faces a shooting. What's even especially jarring about them is the fact that they were set up to be more like Breather Episodes between story-heavy episodes: "On My Way" to have a singing competition and then the Official Couple's wedding to wrap up the first half of the season, "Shooting Star" to be the return from season break focusing on The Ditz' wild song themes.
  • Happy Days:
    • "A Star is Bored" reveals that Fonzie was suicidal at one point in his childhood.
    • "Fonzie's Baptism" focuses on Fonzie nearly dying. He becomes uber-safety-conscious, but then people find this persona boring, so he overcompensates by being very reckless but still insecure and worried about his own mortality.
  • Kirby Buckets rarely takes itself too seriously, but some episodes are quite dark. Examples include "Balloonacy" (where Eli is brainwashed and turned into a Monster Clown), "Kirby to the Max" (in which Kirby is sent to a detention program run by a shady businessman who forces students to participate in an illegal fight club), "Oh Bros, Where Are Thou" (Eli and Fish are nearly killed by a trash compactor), "Tunnel Babies" (the episode where Dawn is knocked into a coma and can only be woken up by insulting her), and much of Season 3 (a Parallel Universe-themed season in which Kirby and Dawn's parents go missing, Eli is mutated into a plant, Dawn is nearly fed to a Giant Spider, a prankster sucks life energy out of students to stay young, the gang is banished to a barren wasteland and an Evil Overlord version of Principal Mitchell takes over Kirby’s world).
  • Lab Rats itself can count as an unexpectedly dark show in the Disney Channel live-action line-up. But even within the show it has some of the darkest specials ever featured on a Kid Com with genuinely threatening antagonists and heroes barely making it out alive.
  • Laverne & Shirley:
    • In "Why Did the Fireman?", Laverne dates the titular fireman but he dies in a fire. Laverne is in denial and stays up all night, and even when she's no longer tired or in denial, she's sad. The episode ends with her sad, and this is a slapstick comedy generally.
    • Downplayed for "The Slow Child". While it isn't sad per se, there are slightly heavier themes than the majority of the show, like ableism and letting kids grow up. There also aren't that many jokes, despite this series being largely a comedy.
  • The Mighty Med episode “Storm’s End” has a main character (Skylar) dying. Of course, she is brought back to life only a few minutes later.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: One episode involves Mr. Rogers finding a dead fish in his tank and burying it while monologuing about a dog he had as a child dying. The episode opens with Mr. Rogers advising children to watch with an adult in order to discuss the episode's themes.
    • Another episode had Mr. Rogers talking about death and violence in the wake of the murder of John Lennon and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
  • The Noddy Shop is usually a lighthearted children's show, but the final episode, "Closing Up Shop", is perhaps the show's saddest episode yet, as it features the shop being closed for good, the toys being sold off and a man trying to turn the now-closed store into a cigarette shop.
  • One Tree Hill: Any episode with Xavier as he's easily the most evil person on the show, he's a disturbingly realistic portrayal of a stalker who initially pretends to be Peyton's brother, when her real brother shows up he attempts to kill her, he then later tries coming after Brooke and her adopted daughter Sam.
  • The two-parter "The Perils of Punky" in Punky Brewster, in which the gang goes on vacation at a lake and Punky tells her friends a ghost story about an evil spirit haunting the lake. Which includes all her friends being killed and their image used to taunt Punky, à la The Thing (1982). In a children's show.
  • Doctor Who's Lighter and Softer spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures has examples as well. There are episodes dealing with losing a child ("The Lost Boy", "Day of the Clown", "The Gift"), homelessness ("The Curse of Clyde Langer") and the possibility of contracting a terminal illness ("Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith").
  • Sesame Street: While mostly a light show, it had a few dark episodes, mostly dealing with "issues":
    • One episode, which has become famous, is the one where Mr. Hooper, the owner of the deli/convenience store, dies. The main plot focuses on Big Bird learning about the death, and at one point, the usually level-headed Maria cries.
    • Another death-related episode is the one where Elmo's uncle Jack dies. The main plot focuses on Elmo's parents Louie and Mae, Jack's widow (Aunt Jill) and Jack and Jill's daughter Jessie, who's about Elmo's age. One thing that sticks out is that all the songs are about grief.
    • One episode has Maria having to go to hospital due to a vaguely defined, extreme stomach pain. Granted, it's only for the night (and a bit of the morning) and it's not as dark as some other dark Sesame Street episodes, but one thing that makes it darker than a normal Sick Episode is the whole hospital aspect, plus the fact that Maria's symptoms came out of nowhere, during a game of charades.
    • One episode focuses on a hurricane destroying Big Bird's nest. Big Bird is a child and the nest is his home. What really drives it home is the fact that Big Bird keeps repeating this line.
      Big Bird: "My nest, my home."
    • Downplayed for "Elmo Saves Christmas". It's a happy story in general, but it does show the dystopian future that would happen if it was Christmas every day: the carolers would have lost their voices, everyone would be bored of Christmas, the economy would suffer, and Big Bird would cry from missing Snuffy.
  • "Break It Up" from Shake it Up is much more serious than the rest of the series. It starts out as a fairly lighthearted episode about Rocky and Cece going on a vacation during summer break but get surprisingly dark when Rocky breaks her leg due to a dare gone wrong. As Rocky lies unconscious in the hospital bed, Rocky struggles with guilt and even prays to God that Rocky can continue her dream of dancing. Fortunately, there is a happy ending but the episode is still a far cry from the typical "buddy comedy" dynamic.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Duet", it's revealed that a former military file clerk at an occupation labor camp felt so guilty about doing nothing to stop the atrocities and war crimes carried out there, that he underwent extensive surgery to impersonate the deceased general who ran it and try to get himself tried for the man's crimes and even executed if need be, all to sooth his conscious and force his own people to publicly acknowledge the horrible truth of what had been done there. Just when this is all revealed and it looks like he'll get more appropriate help for his trauma and guilt, he's murdered by a drunken hoodlum who didn't know anything about him, just hated him for being of the race that had oppressed their planet for decades.
    • In "Life Support", Kira's boyfriend becomes severely injured and the only way to cure him is to either put him in stasis (possibly indefinitely) or give him this very risky drug. He opts for the drug because he has to aid in negotiations of an important peace treaty. As feared by the doctor, the drug causes his condition to worsen. Another hail mary temporary solution is devised, using cybernetics to help replace his damaged brain tissue, but without rest the damage keeps building up and it gets so extensive that they'd need to replace his brain tissue entirely with cybernetics. The doctor and Kira have a difficult conversation where he points out that a computer with the man's memories, simulating his personality as it keeps his body alive is NOT the same as the man himself and Kira agrees its time to let him die. The episode ends with her giving a sad speech, telling him all the things she wants to be sure he knows about how much she loves him and why before he goes.
    • "The Visitor" features Sisko getting stuck in an Year Outside, Hour Inside dimension and only briefly popping back out at ever-increasing intervals over the decades. The main focus of the episode is on his son Jake, who's unable to get past his grief over his father's fate. Over the years, he builds a career, makes friends, and even gets married, but slowly throws it all away in desperate attempts to save his father. By the end, he's a withered old man living alone, and in order to push the Reset Button he has to commit suicide in front of Sisko, the latter brought to tears seeing the son whose life he missed out on being part of sacrifice himself for the sake of both his father and the boy he used to be, the one who still needs his dad far more than he realized.
    • The aptly-named episode "Hard Time" has Chief O'Brien falsely convicted and implanted with memories/simulation of twenty years in prison. When he comes back, he is aggressive and destructive (in one instance violent) and hallucinates his old cellmate but doesn't want to see The Shrink. Near the climax, he tries to commit suicide. Only then does he confess the full truth of his imprisonment, that just before it ended he had snapped and killed the only friend he had in a fight over some hidden food (that it turns out the guy was planning to share with him). He's convinced this proves he's a dangerous monster, and that his family will be safer with him dead. Even the ending is a Bittersweet Ending as it claims that he will recover, but it will take a month.
    • In "Ties of Blood and Water", a Cardassian friend of Kira's who's almost a father-figure slowly dies of a disease, as Kira reflects on her actual father's slow painful death and how she wasn't brave enough to stay with him and watch him suffer, breaking down in tears as she admits she wasn't there when he died asking for her. She finds some closure by being there for the father-figure despite her fears and anger, and the episode ends with her burying him next to her own father, praying over their graves alone.
    • Downplayed for "Emissary", which has a dark subplot, namely the one about Sisko accepting his wife's death.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "The Bonding" focuses on a boy's mother dying in an accident and the boy blaming Worf, who led the away mission the mother was on.
    • In "The Child", Deanna Troi's "son" sacrifices himself to save the ship, leaving Troi crying.
    • In "The Loss", Troi loses her powers and angsts over it, complaining of feeling "empty" and not being useful.
    • In "The Offspring", Data makes another android, whom he calls his "daughter", but she breaks beyond repair.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • "Year of Hell" focuses on the ship being severely beaten up so that most of its technology doesn't work over the course of the year. Time travel caused that year to never have happened, but it was still a dark episode.
    • In "Mortal Coil", Neelix dies but is brought Back from the Dead. However, he didn't go to the afterlife or see any of his departed family (all of whom died many years ago). His angst and crisis of faith through the episode reveal that, behind his normally chipper demeanor, he's been walking around with a lot of grief and pain.
    • "Real Life" focuses on the Doctor getting a holographic family but B'Elanna reprogramming them because she thinks they're too "nice". However, her reprogramming results in the Doctor's "daughter" dying.
    • In "Imperfection", Seven of Nine has a malfunction that they have great difficulty saving. They eventually do save Seven, but the episode still has a serious feel.
    • "Extreme Risk" focuses on B'Elanna doing self-harm because of the Maquis (a group she used to be a part of) being terminated.
    • In "Lineage", B'Elanna is pregnant and wants to alter the fetus's DNA to remove as much of the Klingon traits as possible, because she struggled as a mixed-race child and blames her (and her mother's) Klingon tempers for driving her dad away when she was young. She ends up violating the Doctor by altering his programming so he'll perform the procedure despite his initial ethical objections.
  • Ted Lasso: While the show was never as cheerful and optimistic as it's claimed to be, "Man City", the eighth episode of Season Two, is this. It starts with Dr. Sharon being hit by a car on her way to work, and she later confesses to Ted that she's afraid she'll be too afraid to ride her bike again, and that she'll lose her "happy place". Roy gets called in to his niece's school and finds that she's been swearing at her classmates, and grows worried that he's become a negative influence in her life. Richmond suffers a thoroughly devastating loss at Manchester City, leaving the whole team shaken, and Jamie's father berating him in front of everyone in the locker room after. Jamie punches his father, then breaks down crying in Roy's arms while Coach Beard throws the man out. The stress of the confrontation and the loss leads to Ted confessing to Sharon that his father killed himself when Ted was 16, while Beard breaks away from the team and storms off into the night alone.
  • The final episode of That Mitchell and Webb Look featured a sketch about Sherlock Holmes losing his mind due to dementia.
  • Though Tweenies is normally very upbeat and lighthearted, "Why Do People Do Bad Things?" takes on a more serious tone. It begins with the Tweenies asking the titular question upon learning that someone had kicked Doodles in the park. Later on in the episode, Bella tells the others about racist neighbours, prompting them to sing a song with a heavy anti-racist message (sung in a more solemn tone than usual songs).
    Look at me, look at me
    When you see my colour, what do you see?
    Look at me, look at me
    When you see my colour, do you really see me?
  • While "The Worst Couple" of Victorious does have its share of jokes, its focus on how unhealthy Beck and Jade's relationship is isn't something one would expect from a Kid Com, especially since their fighting had often been Played for Laughs. The episode ends with the two breaking up in a scene that's meant to be seen as sad. Compare this to the previous episode where Beck and Jade broke up, which ended with the two getting back together.
  • Will & Grace had "Grace's Secret" which at first seems like a normal episode until Grace gets into a heated argument with her father Martin over his late best friend Harry and reveals that when she used to work at his factory, he sexually assaulted her, something she's never told anyone before (except her mom) not even Will, which results in Martin feeling guilty for not being able to protect Grace.
  • While The X-Files was already a pretty dark show, "Home" was so disturbing and shocking that it was the only episode in the series to get a TV-MA rating due to its heavy themes of incest and it wound up being banned from airing on FOX again.

    Music 
  • During Madness's peak period of success, their only single not to reach the Top Ten was "Cardiac Arrest", a musically bouncy but very grim song about a stressed-out commuter dying of a heart attack on a bus.
  • Songdrops mainly has lighthearted songs, usually comedic, but:
    • "Now You're Gone" is a slow song about a man trying not to cry after his friend is inexplicably "gone".
    • "You are Not Alone" has lyrics like "If you're feeling hopeless, like your heart's turning to stone, deep inside I know this, you are not alone".
    • Downplayed for "Keep Your Hands Away from Your Face", which is just a standard Disease-Prevention Aesop song, but it was written in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Eminem's The Slim Shady LP is mostly goofy Black Comedy, but "If I Had..." is a serious song about poverty in which the only crazy fantasies are Slim agonising about how he'd get revenge on the world if he had money. "Rock Bottom" is also a serious Justified Criminal Gangsta Rap song - Eminem had tried to write a triumphant shock comedy song but, since he wrote it during a suicide attempt, ended up just letting it be depressing.

    Video Games 
  • The classic Mega Man games were pretty lighthearted in general, but there are exceptions, such as Mega Man 10 (in which a virus causes robots to go out of control, and only Dr. Wily is capable of developing a cure), and Super Adventure Rockman (in which technology as a whole in endangered by an ancient alien supercomputer, and explicit scenes of death and destruction are featured).
  • In Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and its global-exclusive Gaiden Game Elite Beat Agents, there's always one mission involving somebody's tragedy in every installments. Failing these stages will lead you to heartbreaking downer endings and vice versa.
    • In Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, the titular cheerleaders have to help the ghost of the deceased boyfriend meet his living girlfriend before he decides to stay in Heaven.
    • In Elite Beat Agents, the titular agents have to help Lucy and her mother decorate and prepare the Christmas celebration so her father, who has died from the car accident, is able to reunite with them one last time and bring a teddy bear as a gift for Lucy.
    • In Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! 2, the cheerleaders have to help the iceskater keep on training and performing the ice skating perfectly despite her big sister dying in an accident.
  • The Sesame Street licensed games are a lot like the main show: mostly light-hearted, but with a few heavy games, mostly focusing on real-world issues:
    • "Comfy Cosy Nest" is about imagining a nest as a coping mechanism.
    • In "Picnic Play Date", the characters are wearing masks because of Covid-19.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The Sonic Adventure series goes beyond Sonic games prior to it in intensity as the games adopt a more cinematic feel. The first ends with the large-scale destruction of a modern city by a creature reacting to atrocities committed by an ancient civilization led by a tyrannical, abusive father. The second surpasses that by dealing with use of "weapons of mass destruction" (and yes, they are actually called that in the game) to threaten whole countries, a military conspiracy involving the deaths of numerous innocents in a space colony, and threats to the survival of the world from anguished people with a vendetta against it. A case can be made for this game's 'Final Story' being the grimmest part of any game in the Sonic series. Gerald Robotnik's diary detailing his reaction to the loss of his granddaughter Maria is pure horror, containing such lovely lines as "I lost everything, I had nothing more to live for, I WENT INSANE!" (this part is helped by the fact that Gerald's voice actor was actually really good).
    • Shadow the Hedgehog takes place during an alien invasion with Sonic's rival Shadow suffering from amnesia and caught in the middle of a four way conflict between Sonic, Eggman, the military, and the aliens. The game expands upon the space colony incident from Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow can choose to be Good, Evil, or Neutral with branching endings and a Karma Meter based on the missions you choose to complete. Although it really isn't that much darker than Adventure 2, it became a memetic symbol ("OW THE EDGE") of this trope thanks the dubious decision to turn the game into a Third-Person Shooter hybrid and Shadow uttering mild swear words like "damn" and "hell" when he gets hit.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) attempts to toss Sonic into a hyper-realistic world, where he protects a princess who is the container of Iblis, one half of Solaris, a time god from Eggman. Along the way, he, Shadow, and Silver deal with a conspiracy where it is revealed in the final storyline Sonic dies to upset Elise to release Iblis ancient monster from her body, allowing that and the other villain, Mephiles, to merge to form Solaris, slaughtering the space-time continuum in the process. And then Elise kisses Sonic, reviving him with the power of the Chaos Emeralds, and restoring the space-time continuum from the damage dealt by Solaris, in the process.

    Web Animation 
  • Barbie Vlog is a normally light-hearted fictional vlog starring Barbie characters. Most episodes feature funny things or fashion things. Then you have ones like "Feeling blue? You're not alone", where Barbie mentions waking up feeling sad and she has a family-friendly discussion on how to deal with sadness, that at times seems like depression.
  • Civil Protection can best be described as a Buddy Cop Show set in the Half-Life universe. "The Tunnel" starts off like a typical episode, but soon devolves into a genuinely creepy tale of a mysterious tunnel with elements of Lovecraftian horror.
  • Jaiden Animations is a normally-humorous series of web animations about the life of a woman named Jaiden. One of them, however, namely the video entitled "Why I Don't Have a Face Reveal", tells a long story about how in the past, Jaiden has suffered problems such as low self-esteem and not wanting food (which was implied, and later revealed, to be anorexia) that led to her being all lethargic. It also makes her video about being awkward Harsher in Hindsight.
  • TheOdd1sOut: Downplayed for "Our Hamsters", which is mainly comedic tales about hamsters James has owned in the past, but it does talk a lot about how the hamsters are now dead.
  • RWBY:
    • For those not paying attention to certain parts in the early volumes, episode 9 of volume 3 (titled PVP) easily becomes this. From that point until the end of the volume, things become increasingly dark; it's the official start of the show's Cerebus Syndrome. To be more specific, this is the episode in which Emerald uses her Mind Rape powers to force Pyrrha to accidentally kill Penny... in the middle of a tournament that's being broadcast worldwide. Cinder then hijacks the broadcast, blames the incident on the setting's leaders, and tells people not to trust them. Which in turn causes panic, drawing the creatures of Grimm towards the cities, and especially Beacon, forcing evacuations and fighting. Things get even worse when Adam Taurus shows up with the extremist arm of the White Fang, helping Cinder, and Neopolitan frees Roman Torchwick from Atlas custody. Literally everything that could go wrong for the heroes, did. And then it still manages to get worse.
    • Volume 6 episode 3, "The Lost Fable" managed to be dark even by the new standards of the show. Fitting, since it serves as the backstory for the show's Big Bad, Salem. We get to see such joys as: her demonstrating her Complete Immortality by trying to kill herself (thankfully only in shadow form for now); the God of Darkness wiping out all of humanity; Salem (having already bathed in the Pools of Grimm) murdering her husband in cold blood, after their duel destroyed their castle home and seemingly killed their four young daughters; and the reveal that there is no known way for the heroes to actually defeat Salem. Little wonder most of the heroes want to give up for a while after this.
    • Volume 7 episode 11, "Gravity" does it again. General Ironwood fights and defeats Arthur Watts, while a song about how he sees himself as the ultimate hero who is always right plays. The fight ends with Ironwood destroying his own arm and declaring that he will sacrifice anything to win. Ironwood returns to his office and finds a glass chess piece left by Cinder, and begins to turn on team RWBY. Salem then appears using a Grimm as a projector, and taunts all of the heroes about how she will personally arrive in Atlas shortly to destroy them. She also directly references Ruby's mother, Summer Rose, with all that implies. Once Salem disappears, Ironwood fully gives into his paranoia and Jumps Off The Slippery Slope, declaring martial law in Atlas and stating his intention to abandon Mantle and the rest of Remnant to die, all while ordering the arrest of all the hero characters. He also sends Winter to claim Freya's Maiden powers early. The episode closes with Team JNR desperately searching for Oscar and the Relic of Knowledge; earlier, it was implied that Cinder was sending Neopolitan after them.
    • The Volume 8 finale, "The Final Word", may be the darkest episode yet. Over the course of the episode, three different named characters are shown to die: Vine sacrifices himself to save his team from Ironwood's bomb; Cinder traps Watts in a building in Atlas that's on fire; and Penny, for the second time in the series, when she asks Jaune to Mercy Kill her and prevent Cinder from taking the Winter Maiden's powers. All of team RWBY fall into the void between worlds and disappear, along with Jaune. The surviving citizens of Mantle and Atlas are trapped in the desert of Vacuo, in the middle of a sandstorm, with no shelter, and surrounded by a horde of Grimm with only a handful of Hunstmen to fight. The city of Atlas fell from the sky and the crater then flooded, so anyone left inside is dead, including Ironwood. Qrow, Robyn, and the surviving Ace Ops watch the devastation from their airship, with no way of knowing if the plan to save everyone worked, nor how badly things went sideways. Even moreso than Volume 3, The Bad Guy Wins.
      Cinder: And that's checkmate.

    Web Comics 
  • The anthology Paradox Space has "Damara," which ignores one-off gags and Continuity Nods in favor of a story about sexual assault and a child's death.
  • The Petri Dish: Usually, everything is portrayed comically, even things like lawsuits and the Covid-19 coronavirus, however, one strip is about Bob having Seasonal Affected Disorder and it's played almost completely seriously.

    Web Original 
  • Asexuality Archive is normally just educational and slightly jokey, with the occasional anecdote from the author's life, but one of said anecdotes is about how he has an eating disorder called A.R.F.I.D., which basically means having an aversion to a lot of foods. While it's not as bad for him as, say, anorexia, eating disorders are quite a heavy subject for a site like that.
  • Candle Cove was always a... strange show with lot of dark elements and unusual events. But even fans of the show don't know what to make of that episode where everyone is randomly crying and screaming.

    Web Videos 
  • Cream Heroes started Kittisaurus Villains, a light hearted, failed heist comedy where Lulu, Dodo and DD attempt to steal snacks as the other cats watch and snark. Then you get 'The End of Kittisaurus Villains', in which reality itself starts to break down and Coco realizes there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Fortunately, TT opens up a portal to another world so the cats can escape. Unfortunately, Chuchu doesn't make it in time, leaving the series on a Cliffhanger.
  • Kid Time Storytime usually maintains a lighthearted tone even when reading dark books. However, there have been a few videos where things have gotten serious:
    • The video for the reading of I Will Always Love You, a book about death, features no appearances of the toys/puppets at all.
    • Downplayed for the "Washa Washa Washa" song and the readings for A Little Spot of Anxiety and Germs Make Me Sick, which do maintain the usual light mood, but they also allude to Covid-19.
    • The video for The Jester Has Lost His Jingle ends with Eileen/Storyteller doing a speech on how the author died of cancer, but was still hopeful until the end of his life.
    • In the video about A Little Spot of Courage, Doug is sad and nervous, but this time it's not just his sensitive, Lovable Coward persona. This time, it's because he read on the news about protesters doing "bad things" because "a man did something bad to another man", which is implied to be related to George Floyd.
  • New Father Chronicles is usually a comedic series about a man named La Guardia Cross having joke interviews with his two young daughters Amalah and Nayely. The video "My Wife is Not Here", though, explains that the reason La Guardia's wife, Leah, isn't present is because she's away getting therapy for severe depression that she's had for years and he's not sure whether it will be lifelong or not. Notably, there are no jokes in the video at all, as he expressly says at the beginning of it.
  • PhantomStrider: Conversed in the video "Top 10 Darkest Kids Show Episodes".
  • Philosophy Tube's videos generally cover even dark topics with an air of humor and relative optimism, even stuff like climate change or Brexit... and then there's "Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth", an episode almost completely devoid of jokes that, as the title suggests, discusses suicide and mental health... and later in the video, specifically Abi's. It's incredibly emotional and dark, but that doesn't stop it from being counted by many as the most impactful and well-made Philosophy Tube video.
  • Most episodes of Stampy's Lovely World take place in a Sugar Bowl and are fun and light-hearted... other than when HitTheTarget attacks, which leads to far more action-packed and intense episodes which can involve anything from kidnapping to mind control to animal abuse to outright torture. And then, even among the HTT attack episodes, Episode 541, "I Lost" is one of the darkest, as it is the only episode where the attack ends with a Downer Ending. Despite the events of the next episode, many fans reported getting chills from watching the episode.

 
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Josh Is Done

A stunned Drake discovers this is not going to be the typical funny episode of his kids' comedy show.

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