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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.

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.

For an unexpectedly dark villain, see Vile Villain, Saccharine Show. For the non-canon versions, see Dark Fic and Dark Parody. For when only one scene is dark but the rest of it is still comedic, see Comedic Work, Serious Scene.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You:
    • Volume 4's extra chapter features Mei's backstory and why she's so loyal to Hahari, which inclues Mei being thrown out by abusive parents and collapsing in the snow outside the Hanazono household. When Mei wonders why Hahari even cares, Hahari encourages her to live and later took her in. Humor is still present as, before going into the tale, Mei warns everyone that it was cut from the main story because it clashed too heavily with the manga's normal tone, but it's okay to tell all in the extra chapter, and Hahari breaks the somber mood by revealing she did everything she did because of how cute Mei was. Mei is, predictably, overjoyed by the praise.
    • Chapters 134-135, in which Rentarou and Shizuka must confront Shizuka's mother, is easily the soberest story in this Gag Series thus far, more than even Hahari's introduction in Vol. 3 (which was still peppered with zany jokes throughout). Most of the harem make only background cameos in the first part and are completely gone in the second, the conflict in Shizuka's family is played deadly straight, and the few jokes are very gentle and low-key.
    • Chapter 164 goes from a Festival Episode to a horror story, as Matsuri falls foul of a Jerkass God who takes advantage of her wish that the members of the harem who've come to the festival with her could enjoy the festival forever, and overwrites their personalities so they only enjoy being at the festival and nothing else, complete with unchanging smiles. He really shouldn't have left Matsuri out though, because when she starts crying, Rentarou is immediately by her side, resisting the mind control so he can take down whoever's made his girlfriend cry, and proceeds to terrify the god into submission.
  • 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 Cthulhumanoid. 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 to put an end to Zamasu. 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.
  • 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.
  • Galaxy Angel is a Gag Series where deaths of the main cast are regularly Played for Laughs, punctuated now and then with a more serious episode. The most notable departures:
    • "Final Dish Rebecca," a two-parter featuring the hunt for an escaped terrorist who murdered countless civilians and turns out to be an Anthropomorphic Personification of the survivors' grief and anger and the government's refusal to take responsibility for its mistakes. Entirely played for drama.
    • "Steel Jambalaya," where Forte and Volcott have to hunt down a killer robot just like one that slaughtered most of their team years ago. This one verges on outright horror and gives Forte what appears to be PTSD.
  • 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: The Series:
    • Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire crosses this with Bizarro Episode in the episode "Time Warp Heals All Wounds!", that features May and Meowth traveling 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 Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon 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 Rank Scales with 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 play up the Cures' positive and negative aspects to sadistic levels.
  • There is a two-part special episode of the Tama & Friends anime Do You Know my Tama? in which a rumor is spreading across the third district regarding a little girl and her dog Shiro, who tragically ended up being two of the 129,000-226,000 casualties of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that took place during the climactic final months of World War II and caused horrific devastation. Tama's owner Takeshi has nightmares about her in the Christmas Carol-type first part. The girl's ghost even holds Tama hostage and threatens to kill him. In the episode's second part, Pochi is possessed by a haunted collar, which belonged to Shiro before he and his owner were killed by an atomic bomb. Shiro is revealed to be a really terrifying-looking Inugami or Dog Demon (taking the form of a decaying zombie) once the collar is taken off of Pochi by Takeshi - essentially exhausting the former and causing him not to be able to see it. Thankfully, his ghost owner changes him back to the kind of loving dog he was when he was alive and apologizes for all the trouble they caused. For a slice-of-life anime series focused on cute pets, this is an episode you'd never expect to air.
  • 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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS is a much Denser and Wackier series than the previous seasons, all of which tended to get quite serious with varying tones. However...
    • The first episode when Yuo Goha duels in the second season is filled with Nightmare Fuel, from Yuo's creepy puppets and entertainment-themed deck, to his open delight in the pain of his opponent, and the terrifying reintroduction of Fusion Summoning, with his Metallion Asurastar violently ripping Yuga's Hyper Engine Vast Vulcan apart. Later episodes established that Yuo wasn't as smart or intimidating as he thought he was.
    • Later, there was the conclusion to the mini-arc where Swirly had been manipulated by a card, revealed to be series staple Monster Reborn. The above-mentioned Yuo duels him in an attempt to shake off the madness the card has driven him into, only for Swirly to reveal this restored his memories as Yuga Goha, the previously unknown sixth Goha Sibling who turns out to be even more savage than Yuo. His debut consist of him ripping open Swirly's costume from the inside and emerging as black sludge that solidifies into a surprisingly demonic figure in nightmarish imagery that was very uncommon for SEVENS.

    Asian Animation 
  • The Simple Samosa episode "Samosa Mama" is a Courtroom Episode where Samosa is legitimately suspected of a kidnapping and put on trial for it, with his friends having to help in proving his innocence. That's already pretty dark for a mostly goofy series like Simple Samosa, but throw in Samosa being (wrongfully) almost given the death penalty for the crime while Cham Cham, Samosa's rival who sent him to court, hates him too much to have any negative reaction to it and it becomes quite possibly the series' darkest episode.

    Comic Books 
  • Aquaman:
    • His Golden and Silver Age stories were breezy fun, with the exception of a story in Adventure Comics #192 where Aquaman creates a preserve for rare fish and is horrified when crooks start murdering the fish for their own gain. It has a happy ending as the fifth fish only pretended to be killed, but four fish were killed for real and we see Aquaman's increasing sorrow and anger at the situation.
    • The storyline now called "Death of a Prince" began innocuously as Aqualad went missing on a quest for his family, Aquaman went to find him and found Black Manta had kidnapped him, Topo the octopus, and his toddler son Arthur Jr., which wasn't unusual for the time period or preceding stories. Then Manta revealed he'd encased the baby in air to suffocate and would force them to fight to the death to save him, and even after a solution was found, Arthur Jr. died.
  • Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four: The Adventures line is a Denser and Wackier universe aimed at younger kids, and given the Fantastic Four are pretty Dense and Wacky themselves, most of the stories are fun and carefree. Except in Issue #17, in which the The Thing has A Day in the Limelight where he starts dating a girl who loves him despite his monstrous appearance, but has to contend with the Absorbing Man who is intent on chipping off a piece of the Thing's skin for unknown reasons. By the end, it is revealed the aforementioned girl was in on it, having gotten close to Ben and hired Absorbing Man in an attempt to extract a piece of his unbreakable skin for study. She mocks the very idea anyone could ever fall in love with The Thing and calls him a monster. Ben's response is to rip a part of his skin himself and hand it to her, walking away sadly. And that's where the story ends.
  • Spider-Man: One strip focuses on a boy's babysitter trying to molest him, then Spider-Man talks about a boy who got molested by an older boy named Skip, which gets even darker when he reveals that he was the victim in the story.
  • Young Justice, a generally humorous miniseries, ends on a sudden and bleak note as Donna Troy and Omen die horribly and Young Justice dissolves, along with the Teen Titans.

    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.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Laughter and Sadness at the White Sea is an anthology of fluffy fairytale adaptations complete with Talking Animals. Then the last short in the anthology is a heartwrenching, gritty realistic tale about two brothers who are shipwrecked on a remote island and die of starvation, only leaving a note on a wooden tablet about what happened to them.

    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, 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.
  • 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.

  • Alfie has "Alfie and the Birthday Surprise", in which the neighbour's cat Smokey dies of old age, and they give him a new one, Boots, to cheer him up on his birthday.
  • 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.
  • Noddy: The 1951 book Here Comes Noddy Again involves the titular character getting lost in The Dark Woods and getting carjacked by a group of Gollywogs (Goblins in later editions) and has all his clothes stolen in the process. He ends up discovering Big Ears' house where he allows Noddy to stay at his home until he and Mr Plod catches The Gollywogs/Goblins and retrieves Noddy's clothes and hat. Compared to the other Noddy books, this book has gained some controversy in the United Kingdom causing animated adaptations to tone down the violent elements of the story.
  • 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.
  • La 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.
  • Diff'rent Strokes had plenty of these:
    • The most (in)famous example, "The Bicycle Man", has Arnold and Dudley nearly falling prey to a pedophilic bicycle shop owner who lures them in with snacks and cartoons before getting them to pose for shirtless pictures. Had Arnold not told Mr. Drummond and Dudley's father about the nature of the events, it would have gone much farther than it had before the police stepped in.
    • Similarly, Arnold and Kimberly are trapped in the apartment of a man who tries to rape her in "The Hitchhikers". After wasting all their money on snacks and video games and being too embarrassed to call home for money for a taxi, the stranger picks them up, distracts Arnold with a tape, and tries to have his way with Kimberly. The former is able to escape, but is unable to locate her until being put underneath hypnosis, which saved his sister just in time.
    • "Sam's Missing" had Sam abducted by a man at the grocery store who is looking for a "replacement" for his own son who recently died in a car accident. While if it were just left there, the man (and his distraught wife) would have been somewhat sympathetic, however when a frightened Sam requests to go home, he starts threatening his family and soon him if he doesn't begin "behaving" like his son. Adding onto this, when the frantic Drummond family makes a public appeal for his safe return, a man answers the ad and lies about his knowledge of events solely in an effort to collect the reward money. Thankfully, Sam is able to call home with help from the older son of the other family and he's rescued after a week.
    • In "The Lie", Willis lies about knowing CPR to run a school-related carnival. When Arnold accidentally shocks himself on a microphone cord, Willis is horrified and embarrassed over being unable to help his brother, and even worse, once Arnold is revived and learns his deception, he momentarily disowns him as his brother, which then causes Willis to briefly run away in shame.
    • "A New Friend" has Arnold and Sam meeting a street performer and are impressed by her talent. However, when Mr. Drummond learns about this, he is wary and requests his sons not to see her anymore. When the boys approach her again to let her know, she unexpectedly has an epileptic seizure right in front of them, and all the boys can do is go for help.
  • 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, some stories are downright dark.
    • In the Season 7 finale, "Inferno", the Doctor gets trapped in an alternate universe where Britain is a People's Republic of Tyranny, he shows up too late to save that world from an apocalyptic, hubris-induced disaster and instead can only try to get back to his own world to prevent the same thing from happening there, everyone in the alternate universe grows increasingly nihilistic as they realize just how doomed they are, and the Doctor is so heavily traumatized by the experience that it forms the basis of his worst fear: worlds consumed by fire.
    • "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.
    • "The Caves of Androzani" stands out for its unusually nihilistic approach. The Doctor's mere presence in the story makes an already bad mess of political skullduggery and industrial corruption irreparably worse, resulting in nearly everyone involved brutally dying (even the Doctor is forced to regenerate at the end), and the government of Androzani Major gets thrown completely out of whack by the whole affair. Analysts often speculate that the story was a Writer Revolt from Robert Holmes in response to script editor Eric Saward's push to make Doctor Who Darker and Edgier.
    • 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).
    • "Face The Raven" ends with the companion apparently getting Killed Off for Real (the first time that ever happened to a regular companion since "Earthshock" in 1982), "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.
  • 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 Tear Jerkers in the entire show.
  • Forever: "Skinny Dipper" puts Henry through more hell than all the previous episodes put together, including getting kidnapped, drowning in the back of a sinking taxi, getting arrested (and razzed by everyone at work for it), getting flashbacks of the drowning while examining the taxi when it's found in the Hudson river, his watch being found at a crime scene, getting sent to mandatory therapy (with flashbacks to time in a horrific early 19th century asylum), getting framed for murder, being found with the weapon bearing the victim's blood, having to figure out how to explain himself to his boss and colleagues, and culminating in a Downer Ending where The Bad Guy Wins, as Henry is tricked into killing a mortal for the first time in his 235 years, and learns that it was all masterminded by someone he'd liked and started to trust.
  • 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.
  • Good Times plays with this. While it was more of a comedy with dramatic overyones, it still had some stand out moments:
    • "The Big Move" starts with the potential of the Evans gaining a happy ending upon moving to Alabama due to James' new job...only for the rest of the family to receive the news at their going-away party that he was killed in a car accident down there. While the children mourn his death, Florida is seemingly lively and even joking at the repass...until all the guests leave, and she shatters a punch bowl in grief and breaks down crying.
    • "The Evans Get Involved" is a four-part series of episodes where the family and Willona come to the rescue of a young girl named Penny (Janet Jackson) who is being abused by her mother. It eventually ends with Willona formally adopting her.
    • "Florida's Favorite Passenger" has Florida growing concerned with a student on the bus who she suspects has a hearing disorder, only for her to be routinely dismissed by his in-denial mother, who even accuses her of trying to take him away from her. It isn't until the poor boy almost walks into an open elevator shaft that she believes her, is grateful for her attention to him and gets help for her son.
  • 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.
  • Inside No. 9 is a Black Comedy, so it goes pretty dark pretty often, but the darkest episode by a country mile is The Riddle of The Sphinx. It features (among others things) Surprise Incest, forced cannibalism at gunpoint, and all three characters being dead by the end, two by suicide. What's the episode focused around and advertised as being about? Crossword puzzles!
  • 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. However, things take a turn for the better, as Noah realizes his mistake in closing the shop and brings the toys back, with Robbie MacRhino promising to bring the store more visitors by promoting it on his show.
  • 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.
  • Quantum Leap frequently dipped its feet into difficult subjects, but the episodes "Raped"note , "Lee Harvey Oswald"note , and "Deliver Us From Evil"note  stood out as quite a bit darker than the show's typical fare.
  • 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").
  • The Office revels in Cringe Comedy, but the Season 4 episode "Dinner Party" is especially uncomfortable to watch. Michael and Jan host a dinner party, during which we get a glimpse of their disfunctional home life. There are hints here and there that Jan is a domestic abuser, both physically and emotionally. The couple's happy facade gradually cracks from the stress of trying to keep up appearances until Michael finally stands up to Jan and she retaliates by breaking his television.
  • Power Rangers is normally played at least somewhat towards the inherent cheesiness and insanity. But every so often they dip into some dark territory:
    • "Dark Specter's Revenge, Part I", from Power Rangers in Space: Taking place after it's revealed that Karone was actually Astronema, her switching to the side of good, and Dark Specter taking his rage out on Earth by hurtling an asteroid towards it, the episode deals with the very real possibility of Earth being destroyed, and it does not shy away from the tension and realism of the event. Dread mounts and builds as not only do Bulk, Skull, and Prof. Phenomenous panic, but so do the citizens of Earth after being notified, and the Power Rangers are unable to destroy the asteroid, nor divert its path away from the Earth (Even Karone falling back to the side of evil in the process), even with THREE of their Megazords...
    • "The Rescue Mission" from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, as the episode feels more akin to survival horror in the vein of Alien, with no Sentai footage to be found. The Grand Finale, "Journey's End", also dips into this, particularly given that Trakeena (now merged with Deviot) goes off the deep end and uses her Stingwingers as suicide bombers (which succeeds in destroying the Stratoforce and Centaurus Megazords), attempts to fire on the fleeing civilians in their escape shuttles (which Villamax can't abide by and attempts to stop Trakeena; she destroys him, but it gives the Rangers enough time to stop Trakeena from firing on the shuttles), and then, following her going One-Winged Angel, hijacks the abandoned City Dome and attempts to steer it into the planet below in hopes of wiping out the Rangers and their allies (the Galaxy Megazord pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment and guides the dome into a valley, preventing any loss of life).
    • Power Rangers RPM could easily be an entire series of this, given how the series setup is the Rangers are the last line of defense for a domed city that is the last refuge of humanity after a killer computer virus went rampant and caused the Apocalypse. The mood is generally lightened a bit (mostly by Ziggy or else lots of Lampshade Hanging on the usual PR traditions — random explosions, monsters growing, etc.), but in some cases it gets really dark, especially when we learn Doctor K's backstory she created the Venjix Virus to escape a shadowy government think tank that had held her prisoner, but the guards of said facility prevented her from keeping Venjix contained to their systems; she then created the Ranger powers to atone for her mistakes.
  • Saved by the Bell doesn't shy away from this:
    • "Jessie's Song", for all of its narm, has Jessie developing a drug habit to keep awake and study for school tests. Moreso, the original plan was to have her hooked on amphetamines, but the network said no, citing it as being too dark.
    • "The Break Up" and "The Aftermath" has Kelly cheating on and leaving Zack for her new boss. Aside from some very out-of-character moments for both of them (the sweetheart former dumping her boyfriend out-of-the-blue for a college man and the happy-go-lucky latter actually becoming angry), the former episode is one of the few rare one of the series that had a Downer Ending.
    • "Running Zack" is loaded with this, from Zack giving a racially offensive presentation about his familial culture, to his American Indian friend who he met in the episode dying before it's ending, to the revelation that Jessie's ancestors owned slaves, which on a more light-hearted note, had her begin to make several awkward and hilarious reparations towards Lisa, who quickly grows annoyed by these odd and unnecessary efforts.
    • "Drinking and Driving" had Zack drive himself and his friends home while drunk, which ultimately culminates in Slater being unable to participate in a football game due to injury, Lisa having to give up her homecoming queen title, and Zack getting his car and phone taken away and grounded by his strongly disappointed father. Like "The Break Up", it also has one of the only Downer Endings of the show.
  • 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.
    • One short focuses on Elmo wondering why his classmate was afraid of a falling book, and Louie suspects that the classmate perhaps witnessed violence and has PTSD.
    • Another short has a girl reveal that sometimes she does an exercise involving a tree impression, to cope with unspecified "bad things" that happen in her neighbourhood.
    • One episode involves Rosita's father coming home from the military, having lost the use of his legs.
    • Several shorts involved the COVID pandemic. Among them are characters missing their friends due to social distancing, a guy named Mr. M dying of COVID, a boy named Buddy dealing with his father being infected, and characters finally being allowed to have a picnic only to have to wear masks.
  • "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.
  • Sliders: The episode "Invasion" stands out as a particularly dark Crapsack World in a TV series full of them. This episode introduces The Dreaded series antagonists, the Kromaggs, a dangerous race of humanoids with advanced slider technology, psychic powers, and a taste for human eyeballs . The episode succeeds at portraying the Kromaggs as a dire threat to humanity, and life as their slaves would be a Fate Worse than Death.
  • 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.
    • "In The Pale Moonlight" is considered by many to be the darkest episode of the entire franchise. After months of reading casualty lists from the Dominion War, Sisko works with Garak to engineer a plan to get the Romulans to join the war on their side. Said plan involves faking a recording of an invasion plan, hiring a criminal to make it, bribing Quark to stay quiet when said criminal gets drunk and attacks one of his employees, and lying to and making demands of his friends without being able to explain why. And it turns out to have been All for Nothing, since the Romulan senator sees through their ruse. Thus, Garak goes with his backup plan of blowing up the senator's shuttle and framing it on the Dominion, which successfully gets the Romulans to enter the war. By the end, despite how guilty he is, Sisko admits that he can live with what he's done as long as it keeps the Alpha Quadrant safe, and erases his personal log on the matter.
  • 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" note  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.
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 goes through a Cerebus Rollercoaster, but this trope comes into play with "Under the Cloak of War", which deals with M'Benga and the PTSD associated with being involved with the Federation-Klingon War, especially with a Klingon on board involved with the war. What makes this even more Unexpected is that this episode occurred between a crossover episode and a musical episode.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • How Did We Get Here?: While the podcast has touched on dark subject matter in the past, "The Scintillating Romantics of Hollywood Conspiracies" has a much darker focus than most, touching on topics such as pedophilia, bestiality, and sexual abuse. While there are jokes in the episode, the discussion is less humorous and more serious. Jacob and Zak lampshade how bleak the episode is at the end.

    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).
    • Mega Man 7 is a Downplayed Example. Though no humans are shown dying, the 4 initial Robot Masters are shown destroying the city in their attempts to rescue Dr. Wily from prison (alongside a giant Steamroller robot who, in the intro cutscene shoots fire at the player's direction), Dr. Light's lab is destroyed midgame by another robot that Mega Man thought was their ally (though the player likely figured otherwise), and the game ends with Mega Man contemplating murdering Dr. Wily. Again, still a lighthearted adventure though strange environments to stop a Mad Scientist, but it's a far cry from the likes of Mega Man 6.
  • Nintendo Wars games are mostly light-hearted and colorful war games, which makes "Toy Box", one of the missions in Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, stand out all the more. There, Olaf's hometown is destroyed by the Black Hole army, he reacts appropriately and the mission ends with him giving a heartfelt monologue about locations from his childhood he barely recognizes. All of this is played entirely seriously.
  • 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 a former ice skater get back into the ring and win nationals, in honor of her older sister who also died in a car 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.
    • Sonic Frontiers puts Sonic on a series of abandoned islands, traps his friends in cyberspace, and hits him with a corruption that's slowly killing him. The game's mood and tone is noticeably darker and heavier than previous games, with melancholic piano music, understated cutscenes, the usually wacky Dr Eggman relegated to an introspective role, and more intense and threatening combat. The backstory stands out as the adorable Koco are shown to be aliens who were forced off their own planet after losing an endless war with an Eldritch Abomination that follows them to Sonic's world in its attempts to genocide them. It's one of the very few Sonic titles to show characters die on-screen.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky contains some dark content, but not much more than the average anime-style JRPG, and is for the most part the lightest arc in the Trails Series. The final game in the trilogy, The Third, features some unusually horrifying themes and imagery, most notably Kevin's backstory, which involves his mother going insane and trying to commit murder-suicide with him when he was a child, accidentally killing his Parental Substitute in an incredibly gruesome way, and punishing himself for it by becoming a terrifying Church Militant assassin whose missions included having to Mercy Kill a child. Then the whole game turns out to be a Psychological Torment Zone he created to punish himself, and he ends up dragged into a replica of hell. And as dark as all that is, it's nothing compared to Star Door 15. The Doors are optional character vignettes that are mostly humorous or heartwarming affairs. Star Door 15 details Renne's backstory as a child Sex Slave, from her perspective, and doesn't gloss-over or downplay anything. It's so dark later Japanese re-releases censored it.

    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.
  • Camp Camp is generally a wacky Animated Shock Comedy, with even its darker moments being played for Black Comedy more often than not. Which is why the episode "The Forest" hits so painfully; the episode's inciting incident is David slipping and falling into a canoe, hitting his head, and regaining consciousness hours later and miles downriver from the camp. What follows is an entire episode of the normally obnoxiously cheerful David attempting to make his way back to camp on his own while enduring every horrible event nature can throw at him, including having to sleep in the rain, falling down a mountain, and multiple wild animal attacks. All of which is played completely seriously, without so much as a single joke between the Cold Open and the episode's last minute — and even then, the final shot implies that David still has lingering trauma from his experiences.
  • 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.
  • JaidenAnimations 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.
  • The Meet the Team shorts are generally light-hearted and play up their violence for comedy. Not so with Meet the Pyro; the Pyro is shown as an Implacable Man who terrifies both the enemy and their own team and happily murders the BLU team while they're running away in fear. And the Through the Eyes of Madness-induced Mood Whiplash just makes the real-world segments even more jarring and upsetting.
  • 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: The show initially portrayed teenagers settling into an elite Academy that trains people to fight the world's monsters, while the darker elements built up in the background. Volume 3, Chapter 6 blindsided the fandom when the darker elements suddenly took centre stage by having one of the heroes framed during the tournament arc; on live, global television, she is arrested after appearing to brutally assault her defeated opponent. Afterwards, the creators released a letter to the fandom stating that the show was intended to become darker from the beginning, and adults should now start vetting each episode before letting younger viewers watch them because it would only keep getting darker.

    Web Comics 
  • The Onion: A variant that's more unexpectedly serious than anything. While many of Stan Kelly's political comics touch on heavy issues, they're invariably handled intentionally poorly and not meant to be taken seriously — being full of over-the-top strawmen, unnecessary labels, and so on. However, the comic for September 12th, 2011 forgoes most of the usual jokes in favor of a straightforward question about the 9/11 attacks, with even Stan's Author Avatar (the only Running Gag left) seeming uncharacteristically earnest:
    10 years later, America wonders...
    Uncle Sam: I-is it okay to laugh again?
    Stan: Or is it too soon to ask?
  • 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 
  • Kittisaurus 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.
  • "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.
  • 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, though it is immediately followed by a Rescue Arc which mitigates the effects of the attack.


Video Example(s):


Josh Is Done

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

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnexpectedlyDarkEpisode

Media sources: