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What Is Going On?

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"What happened up there dumb-bots!? Why is my precious rocket ship drifting off into deep space!? Why am I reaching you at the coordinates of the abandoned space station!? WHY!? WHY!? WHYYYYY!?"

When a character enters an episode midway through the story, typically, the first thing they say is, "What is going on?" or "Would someone mind telling me what's going on?" or some other variation on this phrase.

Then the other characters typically give a quick summary of the story so far, or there is a quick cut away to another scene for a bit or simply quick Fade Out back to the characters that implies they had just finished giving a detailed briefing of the situation. If it's the audience who is also wondering what's going on, be prepared for an Info Dump.

The polar opposite is Let Me Get This Straight....



Live-Action TV

  • Given the incredibly serial nature of 24, this trope pops up a lot, mostly after Jack or CTU has uncovered a new threat, the President asks to be "brought up to speed".
    • This happens so often, in fact, that certain characters (Tim Woods, amongst others) were seemingly created for the sole purpose of filling the audience - and the President - in on the details of what just happened.
  • The Defenders (2017): Given that Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are newcomers to this war against the Hand that Matt Murdock and Danny Rand have already been engaged in at some capacity in the past, they often are left having to ask these sorts of questions.
  • Legion:
    • In "Chapter 26", because Charles Xavier isn't aware that Time Eaters are gradually consuming history (which creates pockets of lost time), he doesn't understand how he, David and Switch end up in the guest bedroom when he has no memory of them leaving the dining room.
      Charles: How did we get here? But we were just in the dining room.
    • Soon after, Charles is inside David's mind, and he hears pounding from behind the various closed doors. He has no idea that his son suffers from dissociative identity disorder, so Charles is naturally confused by the noise.
      Charles: What, what is happening? What are you not telling me?
  • Done so often by Mr. Belding on Saved by the Bell that "Hey hey hey, what is going on here?" became his Catchphrase (and is worth two sips in the Drinking Game).
  • General Hammond from Stargate SG-1 often will enter a strange scene with "What is going on here?!" (sometimes with "the hell" thrown in), or occasionally "What the hell are you/do you think you're doing?!"
    Jack O'Neill: [whilst hitting golf balls through the Stargate] ...In the middle of my backswing?!
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22) after Sam is resurrected, Sam asks, "Dean... what happened to me?" This leads Dean and Sam to exchange information about what happened in the previous episode, although Dean let's Sam believe he was merely badly wounded and Bobby patched him up.

Video Games

  • RosenkreuzStilette has Lilli state this after Iris mercilessly slaughters her own father follwing his defeat by Spiritia.


Western Animation

  • Doc McStuffins has the song "What's Going On?". It normally appears in stories in which "Time for Your Checkup" was not performed. Beginning in the show's second season. It is usually sung if a character notices another character acting different in a negative way, like if the character on the receiving end is acting excessively scared when they were previously very brave (e.g. Like in "Think Pink", Chilly was afraid to show Doc himself pink or in "Gooooooal!", Sir Kirby was afraid to tell Doc about his hurt arm), acting less competent, seeming sad, seeming tongue-tied, acting like they want to hide (and that is not normal), (e.g. Like in "Top Lamb", after Lambie played with the new kitchen set and injured herself, she hid it from Doc.), acting like they want to tell a lie (e.g. like in "Chilly and the Dude" and "Nurse's Office" Chilly tries to lie on Doc), or not wanting to do something they ordinarily really like (e.g. Doc not wanting to fix a toy or Lambie not wanting to cuddle or Moo-Moo not wanting to do ballet).
    • The song itself, usually performed by Doc, consists of a greeting (Hey), a general inquiry of what is happening (what's going on), an inquiry of what bad thing might be happening (Tell me/us what's wrong/Tell me/us what's bothering you), a reassurance (You're gonna be fine/we/I know there's something we/I can do), An instruction to reveal anything hidden (Got something on your mind don't you keep it inside) and a note on the possibility of them not knowing what is wrong (It might not be clear and that's why I'm/we're here).
  • Parodied in the first season finale of Drawn Together, where Xandir would shout this catch-phrase out whenever the narrator introduced an Ass Pull to the contest, which seemed to happen once every five minutes.
    • Because said bit is viewed from outside the house to hide the exact emotion of the one yelling the phrase, it might have been a spoof of promos (which were, at the time, being played on the network constantly) for Spike TV's The Joe Schmo Show, a fake reality show that one contestant is led to believe is real. The show is also alluded to later in the same episode. The phrase itself was, in fact, something of a Catchphrase for The Joe Schmo Show, as a shocked Matt Kennedy Gould (the "Joe Schmo" of the show) used it in the finale episode upon learning that the entire show was scripted and the people around him were actors.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • In "Mommy Fearest", as Professor Utonium walks into the house to find the girls and Sedusa battling each other in the living room.
      Professor: Oh, girls, I'm back from the sto—OOOORE?! (drops his groceries) What's going on here?!
    • In "Buttercrush", Buttercup rescues her sisters (who were imprisoned in crushed cars) from falling into a lava pit and proceeds to massacre The Gangreen Gang for duping her, including Ace. After Ace is taken down, Blossom responds to Buttercup with this.
      Blossom: Buttercup, what's been going on?
      Buttercup: (stays silent for a few seconds, then finally says "I'm sorry" and hugs the cubes restraining her sisters)
      Narrator: Aw, we forgive you, Buttercup.
  • Young Justice has Superboy expressing this to the Forever People after learning more and more about the New Gods, but not enough to get a clear picture.
    Superboy: Look, I've been remarkably patient. Y'know, for me. What is going on?


Video Example(s):



After the Kill Sat attacks on Severnaya, Tanner has this exchange.

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Main / WhatIsGoingOn

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