The point in a series where the story takes a sudden dramatic turn. Things will never be quite the same again.
When advertisements tease you with words such as "The most shocking episode of the season!", they're probably referring to this (unless they're not). This is the episode meant to radically alter the status quo, and in doing so send a major shock through the viewership.
Note that it's not a Wham Episode if it turns out that the shocking events were All Just a Dream, or if the changes are reversed with a Snap Back or Reset Button, or if the series has Negative Continuity. To count as a Wham Episode, the events must actually happen and become canon. When a series is already successful, and the writers decide to do this, it's very risky. The writers are making a bold move and risking losing a lot of their fans. The writers have balls. You might even say they have canon balls.
Also, just because an event is dramatic or has a reveal, that doesn't make it a Wham Episode. The episode must shake up the status quo and/or drop a major bombshell.
Almost always takes place at a Season Finale, and at times can even be a Grand Finale if it includes a high enough shock factor (which isn't always the case). Alternatively, it might come before the Season Finale, which then resolves the plot twist.
Compare Genre Turning Point and Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Contrast with Breather Episode. Related to Drama Bomb. Complete opposite of Status Quo Is God. If this is the first episode and/or the prologue, it's a Downer Beginning. If the WHAM aspect is concentrated in a single line, it's a Wham Line. See also Ascended Fridge Horror, wherein some aspects of the series leave some viewers with reason to expect a tone shift, before they see it applied by the writers. Often the first warning that the viewer is dealing with a Deconstruction. Frequently caused by or contains a Gut Punch.
Here be unmarked spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
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- Live-Action TV
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- Web Animation
- Web Original
- Western Animation