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Yank the Dog's Chain

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Chakotay: We finally make a connection with home and then it's ripped away from us; We manage to make another enemy who's going to try and hunt us down and destroy us; and on top of that—
Janeway: It's all right. You can say it. On top of all that, I got a Dear John letter.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Hunters"

Hooray! The Butt-Monkey has finally had something go right for once in their unhappy life! And with twenty minutes to spare, we're sure to see their new joyful existence play out for the rest of the episode... right?

That, right there, is the feeling and painful acknowledgment by the viewer that Failure Is the Only Option. Why? Because The Woobie is not going to get to keep her money and move out of Perpetual Poverty. Because the Bond Girl is not going to stay Happily Married to James Bond and will be dead before the movie's over. The home that The Drifter has been accepted into will promptly become a Doomed Hometown, forcing him back on the road again. A character Trapped in Another World will find that his apparent chance to get back home has fatal flaws or comes at the cost of friends or innocents. Ash Ketchum, despite making it to the Top 4 of the Season Finale's Tournament Arc, will lose to an unintroduced rival who owns Olympus Mons. Charlie Brown will get the football yanked out from under him by Lucy once again just as he's about to kick it. Gilligan (or someone else) will bungle the latest attempt by the crew of the Minnow to get rescued and get off the island. The Trix Rabbit won't get to enjoy his bowl of cereal because Kids Are Cruel. The Brain will see Pinky's bumbling (or his own arrogance) ruin everything just when world domination seems within his grasp (yes, this trope applies to villains and Anti Villains too). And deep down, we know it and expect it.


While the permutations are endless, the result is the same: writers Yank the Dog's Chain, keeping the bone just out of reach, which can make even the simplest of goals seem like Tragic Dreams.

Clever writers can cause viewers quite a bit of tension and suspense this way, since we know the good turn can't last and that something will inevitably come to take it away. Hacks will merely cause viewers to bash in a new window and abandon a series in frustration.

A side effect of Status Quo Is God. Frequently seen when How We Got Here and In Medias Res are used. Not to be confused with Foregone Conclusion. Compare Like You Would Really Do It for the "positive" version, and Shoot the Shaggy Dog for the "negative" version. Viewers can avoid this if they read the Snicket Warning Label. Can be considered a sister trope to Your Princess Is in Another Castle! and Will They or Won't They?. See also Hope Spot, Diabolus ex Machina, and Too Happy to Live which work on similar principles.


Despite how obvious they can be, there are spoilers below, so BEWARE SPOILERS.


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  • All the Trix Rabbit wants is some Trix. The kids will never let him have any, because "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!"
    • This Got Milk? commercial is probably the most extreme instance.
    • There's also the one where the Rabbit dresses up like a kid and pays for a box of Trix, and the kids knock off his hat and steal the Trix.
    • And the one where he wins a figure-skating competition for a box, and the kids steal both the Trix and the trophy.
    • Not even the help of Bugs Bunny is enough to get him a bowl.
    • There was also one where kids could vote on whether or not the Rabbit could have some Trix. He wins the election and the kids still wouldn't let him have any.
    • Okay, he did get to have one bowl, but no seconds!
    • All this said, there were at least two instances where the Trix Rabbit did get to have some - both of which happened when the company let kids vote on it, and the answer was a resounding "yes".
    • Keep in mind that this angle originally made more sense, as the Rabbit started out trying to steal the cereal from the kids, but eventually that angle was dropped, leading to him simply being tormented for no reason.
  • The TV commercial for the sequel to BattleTanx had the Captain Ersatz of the Snuggles bear from the commercial for the first game get rebuilt after the injuries he suffered, only to be struck by another tank.
  • One commercial for Fruity Pebbles has Fred take Barney to court for the latter's repeated attempts to steal the former's cereal. Barney says he loves Fruity Pebbles almost as much as he loves Fred. Fred is so moved by this he willingly gives him the cereal...only for the judge to jump down, grab the bowl, and run off shouting "Case Dismissed!" as Fred and Barney cry in each other's arms.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Happens to Laios's party in Delicious in Dungeon regarding rescuing Falin. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears but Team Touden have finally got Falin back from the Red Dragon, yaaaay! Oh wait, she's been spirited away by the Lunatic Magician and is now trying to kill them. Also she Came Back Wrong and Shuro intends to get all of them imprisoned (at best) for their unwitting part in it. Also, also the Lunatic Magician, a far more dangerous enemy than the Red Dragon, is out for their blood. Ouch.
  • Happens in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, with poor, poor Jonathan Joestar. Since his youth, he'd had to deal with his evil adopted brother Dio Brando beating and humiliating him, kissing his girl, killing his dog, trying to poison his father and steal his inheritance. And then things take a turn for the worse when Dio murders his father as a Human Sacrifice to become a vampire, and goes on a killing spree and now Jonathan must stop him. So eventually, it seems like he's finally defeated Dio, he's married Erina, they're on their honeymoon... and then Dio comes back as a severed head and mortally wounds him, setting the ship on fire and forcing Jonathan to sacrifice himself to stop Dio once and for all. He never even lived to see his and Erina's child be born.
    • And it becomes a double whammy as of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, when it's revealed that Dio didn't actually die, but rather stole Jonathan's body to become even more powerful, meaning that Jonathan's death was not only a Senseless Sacrifice but also proved to unleash a greater evil onto the world.
  • Trigun: This happens to Vash the Stampede all the bloody time. The cause of this can easily be traced back to the Big Bad constantly holding onto the chain. Hard.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • Shinji... poor, poor Shinji. The universe seems to have it out for this poor kid, such that anytime that things begin to look up for him or he tries to do something heroic or badass, something will inevitably happen to smack him right back down and send him into another Heroic BSoD or worse. Specific example: That kind, charming young boy without any debilitating emotional trauma who actually cares for you? He's actually an Angel, and you have to kill him. Sorry. As well as mid-series, where he begins to get some confidence, it seems that he has some chance to reconcile with his dad, and he feels in general a bit more like the hero of a more optimistic giant robot series — needless to say, it doesn't last.
    • Asuka wakes up from a Convenient Coma in the movie and goes into combat within 5 minutes of getting out. She wipes out a whole army, so they send in these 9 Harpies. She only has 3 and a half minutes of battery power and a progressive knife against a nearly impossible to break AT Field, They have no pilots (so they can't be incapacitated as easily) and a copy of the best weapon in the series. Asuka wins before she runs out of time. But the result is really awful. She gets speared through the eye, her guts ripped open, and eaten alive while the poor girl is desperately trying to fight back. Then, it looks like it's going to get better as she is still alive despite having endured all of this. She reaches for the berserker mode button to reactivate the Eva and go back to kicking ass... but then they slice off her arm and impale her repeatedly until she dies. And poor Shinji just has to come across the results, and it is anything but pretty.
  • Code Geass did this close to the end of the first season: Euphemia manages to talk Lelouch out of his plan to start a revolt by making it look like she killed him, and for a few seconds it looks like there's going to be peace... only for Lelouch to lose control of his Geass at the worst possible moment and accidentally order Euphemia to start massacring Japanese people. Which she does. Oops.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia
  • Light Yagami of Death Note. Several different times, each involving some Death Note Gambit Roulette. Though frankly, his chain can't get yanked hard enough.
  • Gantz, so Kurono is freed from the Gantz Room, grown into a heroic, admirable person, and his girlfriend, the woman he loves, has been brought back to life. Sounds nice right? Except Gantz took both their memories so they no longer remember one another, Kurono is back to how he was pre-Gantz, a cowardly Jerk Ass, and vampires have sent a kill team after him, and while his memories leak back and he manages to hold his own for at least a little while they succeed in murdering him, but not before showing him his younger brother's severed head first.
  • Monster. If it ever looks like things will be clearing up for any bleak-lifed supporting character in this series, you know something horribly wrong is about to happen to them, usually at the hands of Johan.
    • The worst is probably Richard Braun. If you didn't hate Johan by that point, you probably did right after that.
    • Even poor Roberto, Johan's worshipper and probably the character we least sympathize with, is snubbed at the end of the series on his deathbed when Johan denies him the right to see the Scenery for a Doomsday that he's so looked forward to.
  • In Ode to Kirihito, Kirihito and Reira finally appear to be on way to Japan having escaped numerous gut-wrenching hardships along the way. There's even another Japanese guy on the plane, who promptly decides that the bandages Kirihito wears are to hide the fact that he's an Israeli spy, and he calls Arab fundamentalists to sell Kirihito off. Except he isn't. The Arabs decide to kill everyone there for wasting their time, and they're only "saved" because another extremist group starts attacking the first one. "Saved", as in, now they get to wander around a desert in the middle of nowhere meeting, among other things, a baby that's starving to death.
  • In Chapter 16 of Uzumaki, rescue ships arrive to rescue the protagonists. Guess what happens next.
  • In the Flash Back episode 24 of xxxHOLiC, then twelve year old Watanuki makes a friend who can also see spirits. Of course, we know that in the pilot he was friendless and ghost besieged for most of his teen years, so his happiness becomes heartbreaking since we know it can't end well. The friend is ultimately lost to paranormal circumstances in something of a Heroic Sacrifice. It's ultimately a Happy Ending because it finishes with his birthday being attended by his four new friends in the cherry grove he met his young friend.
    • Unfortunately this appears to be a constantly recurring pattern in poor Watanuki's life. After he's finally learned the value of self-preservation because there are people who care about him, Watanuki has a series of world-shaking revelations that prove he's probably not supposed to exist. And THEN, when it seems like he's coming to terms with who he is, and life at the shop is returning to normal with having to deal with customers and such, his world shatters to pieces when he learns that Yuuko, the very person who caused his life to change for the better, is dying and there's nothing he can do about it.
  • Bleach loves doing this, especially to poor Orihime. Want to fight? Cue dramatic determination followed by the destruction of your attack abilities! Want to get some training? Not a chance, without your attack powers you're useless! You've trained anyways, so now you want to help fight? Sorry, but if you don't surrender and defect to the enemy, your friends will all die horrible deaths! But look, Ichigo's beaten Grimmjow and now all of you can go back... NOT! Guess what? You were kidnapped solely to lure your friends and allies into coming to rescue you so that your home would be left unprotected! And look who's there with his laser-blasting finger pressed against your chest while he scoffs over your speech about your heart! Oh, hey, seems like you've been rescued again... or the two lurking behind you could be readying for an attack. But look, Ishida joins the fray, and you two are going up to help Ichigo, who you just so happen to be in love with. Well, what do you know? Ulquiorra was waiting for you to show up so that he could blast a hole in his chest! And Ishida? He lost a hand. Wait, Ichigo's back... as a nearly mindless Hollow with the only goal being to protect you. Plus he just stabbed Ishida because he interfered in mutilating Ulquoirra's corpse, which made him view him as an obstacle in protecting you.
    • And we mustn't forget that poor Ishida is as much of a Butt-Monkey as Orihime is. Hey, you're a Quincy, which is cool, right? Nope! Because Shinigami killed off most of your clan, including your grandpa! Oh man, you have to fight that scientist dude, so you pull your ultimate technique which makes you lose all your powers! But don't worry, daddy is here to help, except that he has to shoot you nineteen millimeters from your heart. One of your closest friends is kidnapped? Follow the hero blindly into a place you have absolutely no knowledge about! GASP! Another Mad Scientist has shown up, and you're about to die! Look out, some weirdo creature is attacking Orihime! You try to save her, except your arm gets cut off! So yeah, poor Ishida doesn't have it that easy either.
    • Poor Chad also receives this during the Hueco Mundo Arc, as he managed to win a fight against a named opponent by effectively showcasing his new powers. Chad has enough resolve to feel that he will be successful in Hueco Mundo... until Nnoitra showed up. That scene is another strong example that Chad is a Main Event jobber namely on how he can handle nameless Mooks and secondary named opponents but anytime he comes up against a remotely prominent opponent, well... let's just say he was on the floor for quite a while after that scene. In fact the GameFAQs Adult Swim Anime board once summed up the scene like this.
    Chad: Now that I have won this fight I shall no longer be a jobber!
    Nnoitra: LOL, no.
    • Momo Hinamori. Oh, so you want to forever serve the man you practically are in love with? How nice... except oh no, he's suddenly dead and you've just found his corpse maimed and pinned to a wall! And after you try to attack the captain you're utterly convinced that did it, you get arrested! But wait, they found a letter from Aizen, revealing the killer's true identity... too bad that happens to be your childhood best friend, Toshiro Hitsugaya! So wracked with grief, you break out of your cell and try to kill him, only to be knocked out soon after; when you do wake up, you follow him around, go to a part of the Soul Society inaccessible to even captain-level shinigami where you find the person you originally tried to kill, but what's this? He says there's someone who wants to meet you! And standing right behind you is your captain, perfectly alive. You immediately hug him and start to cry, because you're so happy he's alive and well and— wait a minute, did he just stab you? Hahahah, guess what, you've just been betrayed and the man you idolized was all just a lie. Have fun being stuck in a coma for the next 40 or so chapters and remaining in extremely heavy denial when you wake up! When all of that's done, you remain out of the picture for a while until chapter 334, where, hooray, you've made a spectacular comeback saving Matsumoto, hopefully over the trauma of the whole Aizen ordeal! Erm, not quite: you still refer to him as "Captain Aizen," but hey, you're gonna kick some ass and show every actions speak louder than words, right? Well, not really... despite fending off three Fraccion, you get owned by some freaky chimaera thing and guess what, no redeeming moment for you! But lucky you, it gets even better! Cue about 60 chapters later and you make a return... except, once again, you've been stabbed again, by — get ready for this — your best friend, Hitsugaya. Have fun getting over that one! Oh, and did we mention you're one of the most hated characters in the Western fandom, for all of that happening to you? Yeah, it's really fun to be you, isn't it?
  • In Ranma ½, the Jusenkyo-cursed individuals frequently have cures dangled in front of them (especially frequently in some of the anime's filler episodes). For example, one episode has Ryoga and Shampoo using a special "waterproof soap" that turns out to work only temporarily. And then there are the countless times it seems like someone could get a trip to the springs, but then it turns out to be fake, or in one case Ryôga gets it and doesn't know how to get there. The most downright cruel example, though, occurs at the end of the series, when Soun Tendo has secured the last remaining cask of water from "Spring of Drowned Man" as a wedding gift for Ranma. Well, we say "secured", we mean "stole the gift that the Jusenkyo Guide sent as a thank you to Ranma for saving his daughter, with the intention of blackmailing Ranma and possibly Akane into going along with the wedding". Happosai, mistaking it for booze, drinks it before any of the several people after it can actually use it.
    • The anime has one of these that almost might approach the end of the manga in cruelty. The Jusenkyo Guide comes to Japan because this is a special day, a day in which a certain body of water can be connected to Jusenkyo's base water, allowing it to be turned into an extension of whichever spring is desired. The lucky body of water is none other than the Tendo's koi pond, which means that every cursed person in Nerima can get cured — even Shampoo, as once the ritual is complete the Guide can freely change the pond from Spring of Drowned Guy to Spring of Drowned Girl or whatever is desired. The episode leads up to the climax of the ceremony, everyone is literally a few seconds away from being cured... and what happens? Ryoga trips and breaks the rope, canceling the spell before anyone can get cured — and what's more this ritual can't be repeated for another thousand years. And then the Jusenkyo Guide wanders back home before anyone can think of tagging along, or asking him to send them back some Nanniichuan.
  • Tsunade, from Naruto, almost always loses when she makes a bet, but when she wins, she takes it as a sign that something bad is going to happen. She gets on a winning streak while gambling shortly before she sees Orochimaru again, wins the lottery around the time Gaara is kidnapped, and after Jiraiya suggests that she bet all she has that he won't make it back, on the assumption that she wouldn't win, he gets killed by Pain.
  • Pokémon.
    • Raise your hand if you were rooting for James to beat Ash in the Hoenn Pokeringer competition. Poor guy got it yanked by a totally unforeseeable 11th-Hour Superpower, too.
    • In a dance party for Performers, Serena naturally wants Ash to be her escort, but has to settle with Clemont since Serena's Shrinking Violet Eevee is close to Clemont's Bunnelby. Things only get worse for Serena when Miette also shows up for the party, and asks Ash to be her escort (a ploy to get Serena jealous). During the event itself it becomes a rotation dance halfway through, so Performers switch dance partners. After several partner switches, Serena realizes Ash is up next for her, but just before they can actually dance together, the music is cut off, signalling the end of the dance number. Poor Serena's reactions are a sight to behold...
    • As mentioned in the topic discussion, Ash is doomed to get wasted in the regional Pokemon League competition, but as the series went on, the contrivances only grew more severe. Tobias in Sinnoh was when the status quo's enforcement became suspect, and Cameron in Unova was the nadir of that region, but it was his loss to Alain in Kalos that drove the fandom to riot.
  • Joey/Jou from Yu-Gi-Oh! makes a sudden comeback against Yami Malik in their Dark Duel in the Battle City Finals when he pulls out Gilford the Lightning and has him on the ropes. Yami Malik manages to hold out once again, but apparently has nothing else up his sleeve, with nothing left on the field or his hand, so our hero is in the clear, finally about to be the hero for once and save the damsel, Mai, from her fate, right? Things seem to be looking that way, as the following turn, Yami Malik draws Monster Reborn, with nothing powerful on its own in his grave to stand up to Gilford, including Ra at this point, since that would require a tribute summon to get any ATK points. So he's basically reviving a giant flaming chicken with no attack points, except that it turns out that it has an 11th-Hour Superpower that destroys Gilford and, in this very situation, shocks the controller of said monster into death, and... Oh, Crap!. Sure enough, things go as predicted, except that as the smoke clears, our hero is Not Quite Dead, and is good to make another move, with Yami Malik's Ra leaving the field. All he needs is a monster with enough attack to finish Yami Malik off, and he draws Gearfried, summons it, and is just about to declare an attack until... he collapses and as such is disqualified.
  • For another Yu-Gi-Oh! example (this one from season zero), Jonouchi enters a game show to win a million yen so he can pay off his father's debts. In traditional Yu-Gi-Oh! style, the host of the game show is a Cheating Bastard, and rigs the game so Jonouchi can't possibly win. Yugi helps out by Mind Raping the host, allowing Jonouchi to win the money. Of course, the check ends up being no good anyways- because Yugi's mind spell also resulted in the show being cancelled and losing all its budget..
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a particularly Mood Whiplashy example: right after the Time Skip, we learn that Simon proposed to Nia, and we see her accept via phone. Right after we see this, her Anti-Spiral nature takes over and forces her into a Face–Heel Turn. Ouch.
    • Then the Anti-Spirals attack, threatening to eliminate the human race, and none other than Rossiu, Simon's Number Two in the new government goes all Well-Intentioned Extremist and uses Simon as a scapegoat since ultimately Simon defeating Lordgenome is what caused the Anti-Spiral attacks), having him thrown in jail to be executed.
    • The Anti-Spirals refer to this trope as "Ultimate Despair," and their goal is to do this to all Spiral Races. It doesn't quite work.
    • What comes across as the ultimate example of Yanking the Dog's Chain is Nia dying the exact second she and Simon were married, especially since it's a series already rife with people dying left and right. And not only that, Simon, the man who broke reality just to save her, stands there and calmly accepts her death as saying the dead should stay dead. What.
    • To be fair, this last trope is another aversion. Nia's dying was, by this point, ensured to everyone, since she was an Anti-Spiral sleeper agent from birth, and her existence was connected to the villains. The marriage is Simon carrying his promise and making her happy at her final hour. After all said and done (mostly after literally "all done"), they were both content.
  • Almost the simplest one of the anime examples, Hayate the Combat Butler's title character, meets up with the girl that he's (apparently) loved for the last ten years. You save her from the honored spirit inhabiting her body. She tells you she loves you too. Things are going to be happy now. No. She leaves you as you tell her you have to return to your master and you're left with the impression that you won't see her again.
    • Then again, she only told him to do it because he was torn between the two choices presented, and she knew that he'll come to blame himself for whatever happens after that since it would have been his choice. That's why she made that choice for him, in a rather sad example of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
  • Kaiji plays this brutally with Sahara's death. After making his way across the bridge of death, he finally prepares to open the door to cash in on the price money... Only to be blown off the building by the air compression blast from the window towards a certain death. The anime itself is ripe with these moments, but this one moment has to be the worst.
  • Upon managing to gather up all the spell fragments, Those Who Hunt Elves will ALWAYS blow it at the absolute final moment, usually due to Junpei and Celia's bickering.
  • Cowboy Bebop has an infamous one that is just brutal. With a few teasing hints of her past, Faye suddenly remembers who she is, and where she came from. She apologizes to Spike before she goes, showing she's starting to revert to a more softer side. She's coming home, mirroring herself when she was a little girl and a teenager. She then opens the gates in her flashbacks, but in reality the entire mansion was burnt down to the foundation. So Faye draws lines in the sand of where her furniture was and looks up at the sky and reflects.
  • In Corsair, Canale eventually feels like he has a place in Preveza and thinks that Ayace might actually love him and that they can be happy together, and he manages to confront some of his issues from his past. However soon as Ayace suspects he is going back to Sesaam, he becomes enraged and rapes Canale, making him feel utterly betrayed.
  • Billy Bat gives us Lee Harvey Oswald who, because of his I Just Want to Be Special nature, gets yanked around by both the Bat and a Government Conspiracy to the point where he doesn't have any idea what the right thing to do is. By the end of his arc, it looks like he's done the right thing by trying to live a humble life and allowing Kevin Yamagata to give his life saving President Kennedy. But wait! Kevin isn't dead, and it turns out the Bat never wanted him to save Kennedy in the first place. JFK is shot, as history demands, the police are rushing into the building, and Oswald is with a girl who saw members of the previously mentioned conspiracy setting up for the assassination. In a Bittersweet Ending, the only way to save the girl from being eliminated is to let the police find him and take the fall for the assassination while she makes her escape.
  • The second half of Tiger & Bunny starts with things finally looking up for Kotetsu: he's going up in the rankings, his partner actually likes and respects him now, his boss isn't treating him like he's completely expendable, the Sternbild population no longer considers him a joke, and he seems to have acquired an unexpected but very welcome boost in his NEXT abilities. Then comes the fifteenth episode, where Ben meets up with him and regretfully informs Kotetsu that the "power boost" he experienced in the previous episode is a phenomenon that occurs in a very small number of NEXT — just before they start losing their powers.
  • In GE - Good Ending, it happens to Utsumi, the main protagonist, more often than he really deserves. Poor guy just can't get a break.
  • In Bakuman。, this happens to the heroes on a few occasions concerning their goal of getting an anime. They manage to tie with their rival Eiji's manga at the height of their first manga's popularity, but Mashiro is hospitalized for overworking, and their manga is ultimately canceled. Their third manga manages to meet the editor in chief's standards, but parental concerns prevent it from getting an anime.
  • In Saint Beast, whether the protagonists will ever succeed is up for debate, but up to this point every time they get a Hope Spot things just keep getting worse.
  • In High School DXD, the protagonist Issei, who wants a harem but doesn't know that he already has one near him, wants to confess to Rias but can't because of trauma of rejection (he did get killed by his ex-girlfriend fallen angel after all, not to mention found him boring). He finally does get to confess to Rias and what happens after that? One volume later, he gets killed by poison, specifically made for dragons. It doesn't stick, however.
  • Erza/Jellal get one at the end of the Nirvana arc in Fairy Tail by means of Diabolus ex Machina. After managing to regain his senses after eight years being Brainwashed and Crazy Jellal manages to convince Erza, who is relieved to have him back to normal, that he's good again, and even gains the acceptance of her friends. While he's trying to figure out what to do with himself afterword and Erza is attempting to confess her feeling to him he gets arrested for the things he was forced to do while brainwashed, and also sentenced to life imprisonment. He got broken out later by the very person who made him Brainwashed and Crazy in the first place after she did a Heel–Face Turn, but still...
    • An especially tragic example happens during the Tartaros arc. Natsu, after searching for his dragon parent Igneel for over 14 years (seven of which were spent in suspended animation during the Time Skip, but still), finally sees him again. Except it turns out that Igneel has spent that time sealed inside of Natsu and he needs to deal with Acnologia first. And then he dies fighting the Dragon King, only with enough time to telepathically tell Natsu why he left and how much he loved him. And Natsu gets a front-row seat of watching his father get blasted to oblivion. Somebody give this guy a hug...
  • Since the main story arc of Detective Conan is Shinichi trying to get himself back to his normal age and the series has yet to end, pretty much any attempt to cure himself will be met with failure. On top of that, every time he temporarily changes back, he never gets a chance to tell Ran what he wants to say to her. The first time it happens it's entirely unexpected and thus he thought it would be permanent, only to start to change back into Conan right after solving the case he was working on. The next time is even worse, because the prototype cure he's given does keep him in his teenage body even after he collapses in pain (the previous sign that he was changing back). Thus, it really did look like he was cured for good... only to de-age again, two days later.
  • This tends to happen whenever something good happens to Yuuko in Nichijou. In one instance, she successfully scores an 80 on a test, a rare feat for her. She's so happy about it she's bragging it about it constantly, much to her friend Mio's annoyance. Before the day is done, however, we learn that the class average was 92 points.
  • Heartcatch Pretty Cure has a particularly cruel one. 3/4ths of the way through, Yuri is called to the Great Heart Tree, where she's confronted by the spirit of her fallen fairy partner Cologne. During this time, Tsubomi, Erika and Itsuki is forced to battle the Quirky Mini Boss Squad and the Dark Precure and Yuri, no longer wanting to stand behind in the sidelines, begs to have her powers restored. After returning to action as Cure Moonlight and mopping the floor with everyone, she returns to the tree and it seems that this action just may also return her partner to her. Instead, he floats back up to heaven, his last words to her being "You really are a crybaby."
  • Highschool of the Dead heaped so much misfortune onto Asami, that it broke her - from being used a scapegoat by the mall survivors that'd been left in her care, to being gently turned down by Hirano after she'd fallen in love with him. Still, she maintained hope that her CO, whom she respected and admired, would be back with help for them. Nope. When Asami saw her CO had been killed she became despondent and thought she had no one left to care about her. And just when it seemed her lot in life was about to change, her duty as an officer compelled her to save the so-and-so who had put them all at risk, by letting "them" in to save himself. Which cost her her own chance at escape, and her only chance at happiness. The cruelest part being, the guy she was in love with had no choice but to Kill the Cutie to keep "them" from getting to her.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA: After losing his sister and reaching his lowest emotional point, Shirou finds an ally in the form of his potential love interest Sakura. She's killed in the next chapter after trying to protect him from Shinji.
  • One Piece: After breaking in and out of Impel Down and storming Marineford, Luffy manages to free his brother Ace from execution, and it seems that they can escape from the marines. But then Akainu calls Whitebeard a coward for not going after the One Piece and becoming Pirate King, enraging Ace to go back and silence the admiral. And when Akainu attempts to kill Luffy, Ace jumps in to take a magma fist to the chest.
  • The manga Uwagaki does this to the heroine Chiaki at one point. Chiaki had been forcibly split into two people, one of whom has no memory of her boyfriend and is spending time with her admirer instead. If, after a few months, this copy has romantic feelings for said admirer greater than her own for her boyfriend, then the two will be fused and she too will forget the boyfriend completely. Immediately after this happens, her boyfriend dumps her for a woman he's long crushed on. After a lot of pain and seeing the copy become happy, she thinks to ask the professor responsible if he can do the same thing to her ex. He tells her that it can be done if he's given time to study him, but then when her hopes are finally up he tells her that this would also require him to erase her copy who'd just started to fall in love herself.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: As a whole, mutants are always going to have it rough in the Marvel Universe. After all, there wouldn't be a need for the X-Men if society ever did accept them would there? But a couple of examples stand out.
    • Mutants finally got their own country and safe haven in the form of Genosha. Sixteen Million mutants strong, the mutant race was ready to head into the future under the leadership of Magneto, one of their greatest champions. Then Xavier's evil twin sister sets a couple of Omega Sentinels on the island. Less than a few dozen survive.
    • Mutants then began to recover from this disaster (though their population was cut in half.) Humans were finally starting to sympathize with mutantkind and even Magneto (who was presumed dead at the time) was being seen as a force of positive social change. Then Xorn, while disguised as Magneto no less, destroys New York while high on sentient bacteria and murders Jean Grey. (Confused? It's okay most were).
    • This prompts Cyclops to actively try to cultivate the image of mutants superheroes in order to repair the damage. It seems to be going well. Then the Scarlet Witch says three little words...
    • With just under two hundred mutants left, the rest are almost all depowered or dead, the remaining mutants are rendered more vulnerable than ever. This sets in motion a chain of events that places the X-Men and by default all of mutant kind, in the direct cross hairs of the U.S. Government and The Avengers. Fortunately it also attracts the Phoenix Force and revitalizes mutant kind, even though Cyclops ends up demonized by mutants and humans alike and a fugitive from justice.
    • Then just as mutantkind is about to get back on track and Cyclops looks like he's about to redeem himself as a leader of mutant kind, the Terrigan Cloud appears. While it gives birth to Inhumans, it poisons and sterilizes mutants. Cyclops attacks Blackbolt in retaliation and is (apparently) killed, but also does something so horrible that humans are right back to "Kill all mutants" mode. It gets so bad that the X-Men relocate to Limbo. That's right. Life for a mutant sucks so bad on Earth that the X-Men would rather move their entire species to HELL.
  • Black Adam's entire storyline in 52 is one long, tragic, and incredibly cruel example of chain yanking.
  • In The Killing Joke, Batman pleads with The Joker to reconsider the death course the two of them are on, making a genuine offer of help... and there's a panel, about a panel and a half, where it looks almost like the Joker will accept. The Joker even turns the concept into a joke that has even Batman laughing.
  • Batman reguarly runs on this, in all media - at least from the villains' point of view. Batman just will not die.
    • In the 1960s TV series, the villains always manage to capture Batman and Robin about halfway through The Caper, but never manage to finish them off with their Death Traps. The Mad Hatter seemed to have finally triumphed in "The Contaminated Cowl" by using deadly radiation to fry the Dynamic Duo into skeletons - but then it turned out the heroes had escaped after all, and had deliberately left behind the skeletons as a ruse.
    • "Almost Got 'Im" was the animated episode in which the Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc are bonding over their mutual frustration on this very issue. No matter how smart they've tried to be, Batman always finds a way out of their murder plots: he has an unexpected ace up his sleeve, he manages to create a distraction, he pulls an idea right out of his ass, or another hero intervenes to save him. Since "Almost Got 'Im" is told mostly in flashbacks, we know Batman managed to make it out alive each time, but our Willing Suspension of Disbelief still kicks in as each story-within-a-story unfolds.
  • In the short-lived Marvel Adventures: Iron Man series, Tony finds out at long last that his father, who drove Stark Industries into the ground and abandoned him and his mother, had been cheated by a business associate and left in shame, but really had loved him. He hires a PI, Jessica Drew, to track his father down. And she finds him, and everything checks out, even memories... Then it turns out to be a plot by the Chameleon. Later he does find his dad and realizes that he's just as irritating as ever.
  • Spider-Man has a big support cast, and people keep getting killed. Sometimes the writers decide to bring them back. This never works. Possibly the biggest example is when his parents turned out to be alive again; they'd been killed when he was a baby. They turned out to be robots. Supporting cast coming back from the dead has only "stuck" twice: when the Aunt May who died turned out to have been an actress, and when Mary Jane, who had been killed in a plane accident because having a wife restricted Spidey, was not dead after all. (Cross your fingers for history repeating itself soon, folks.) And then One More Day happened, because Joe Quesada didn't like the changes that had been made to Spidey since the Silver Age and PARTICULARLY not his marriage to Mary Jane, resulting in probably the most infamous Cosmic Retcon of recent years. God damn it.
  • Sometimes, the pirates in Asterix think they can actually take down the ship they see. Or Can They? Nope! They are on board. It can be Phoenician, Egyptian, or Roman, but it's all the same.
    • That's when they're lucky. If they're unlucky something will make the thing worse. Luckily for them, what happened in Asterix in Corsica (they took a job to take three people in Corsica with the idea of robbing the passengers, only to realize in open sea that they were transporting a Corsican clan chief and them. As they were sleeping they manage to sneak out of the ship, and reboard it when the Corse and them have disembarked in Corsica... At which point the ship is blown up by the fumes of a piece of Corsican cheese!) hasn't been topped... Yet.
    • In Asterix in Britain, the pirates manage to avoid having their ship sunk by the Gauls, only to accidentally run it aground.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog gets his chain yanked HARD: Just after he gets back together with Princess Sally, not only does the Evil wizard Ixis Naugus return completely sane (thanks to the Chaos Emerald) with Geoffry who was his loyal servant the whole time, but he ends up turning most of the council and the people of the city against one of his friends due to her being Brainwashed and Crazy a few issues ago. Then Eggman comes back with his brand new battleship of doom; The Death Egg Mk 2. Then during the attack on said Death Egg Sally get KILLED right before Eggman sets off a Cosmic Retcon. Then after Sonic fixes it a la his Super Form and prevented her from being killed, she ends being robotized to save the rest of the world. Then after that Sonic gets flung from the Death Egg and is forced to leave Sally behind in order to save the city from one of Eggman's robot. Then after THAT, Ixis Naugus wins over the city by destroying the robot and (unintentionally) healing Bunny's robot part's and becomes KING! THEN AFTER THAT, the Battle Birds and the Babylon Rouges attack the city and blast a giant HOLE in the city in order to activate an ancient artifact. THEN AFTER THAT, when Max and his family try to leave the city Eggman attacks again, his Metal Sonic self-destructs and puts Antione in a coma!
  • Journey into Mystery sets up the possibility of real change and redemption for Loki, only for him to screw himself over in the end. They managed to change some things, in Loki: Agent of Asgard they're even worthy of Mjölnir... for about 10 minutes. Which is yet another dog chain yanking moment.
  • After years of the abuse she watched the Facility put her daughter, X-23, through in their quest to duplicate the Weapon X project, Dr. Sarah Kinney finally decided to take the girl and run, issuing her instructions to destroy additional embryos created by the project and to kill the project leader, Zander Rice. Just when it looks like Laura will be able to escape with her mother to live in peace, it turns out Rice had Sarah contaminated with the trigger scent as a final "fuck you" from beyond the grave. One Unstoppable Rage later Laura is a Self-Made Orphan, killing the only person who loved her.
    • It happens again not long after. After escaping the Facility, Laura turns up at the home of her aunt Debbie and cousin Megan. Debbie knew something about Laura, (it's implied that she knows Laura is Sarah's daughter, but believes she was the product of a bad relationship her sister was in and that both were trying to escape it) and welcomes her into their home as part of the family. Laura quickly connects with Megan and strikes up a strong friendship with her, and it seems as if she will finally escape into a quiet and peaceful life with people who love her. Too bad it turns out Debbie's boyfriend was planted by the Facility and calls in Kimura. The three manage to escape her after a trigger scent scare, (Megan had the presence of mind to drag her mother into the shower to wash it off after being exposed) but Laura is forced to send them into hiding and cut off all contact with them to protect them.
    • She eventually finds her way to Logan, who offers to bring her to Xavier's school to give her a fresh start and help her cope with all the hell she's been through. And then she's attacked and arrested by Captain America. Daredevil even lampshades this by telling Cap that he may have just stolen Laura's last chance at a normal life. The poor girl just can't catch a break!
    • And yet again. Just as she's starting to find a measure of peace after Walking the Earth to find herself during her solo series and then joining Avengers Academy, she gets shanghaied by Arcade to fight other teen heroes to the death for his amusement. And no sooner is she rescued, but she turns up wandering Miami in an amnesiac state after being taken and tortured by the Purifiers. Who, by the way, happen to have a copy of the video Arcade released which quite prominently puts just what the trigger scent does to her on display.
  • Happens to Hawkeye four times regarding his wife Mockingbird.
    • After a bitter separation and impending divorce, Clint and Bobbi finally reunite and get back together. Not long afterward, she's killed in a battle and dies in his arms.
    • Clint goes to rescue Bobbi's soul from the Marvel version of Hell, only to discover that he was tricked into rescuing Hellcat instead.
    • Then he ends up in Wanda's reality and they're in a relationship again. Then the world goes to hell, the Bobbi in House of M leaves, Clint finds out that he's actually dead in the real world, then when everything goes back to normal, Clint is restored to life with all the memories of House of M.
    • Then came Secret Invasion, when a Skrull ship crashed and revealed a group of the heroes. Most were discovered to be Skrulls, but Clint tested the Mockingbird they found with a question and decided she was the real Bobbi. Then it turned out she was actually a Skrull who honestly believed that she was the real Bobbi, which led to Clint shooting and killing her. The real Bobbi finally returned at the end of the event. Only that turned out to be bad when, in the course of a team-up, Clint realizes the Bobbi who he reunited with was the Skrull and the real Bobbi still considers them divorced.
  • Iznogoud occasionally wins... very briefly. As the animated series put it: "Iznogoud, the rat vizir, he never wins, that much is clear..."
  • Every time things seem to be going well for the Runaways, something always happens to ruin it, whether it's Gert's death, Iron Man's attack on the Hostel, angry people from Karolin and Xavin's pasts, or Old Lace's death and Klara's freak-out. At one point, they finally managed to make a deal to get the Avengers to leave them (mostly) alone... and then Nico and Chase got kidnapped by Arcade...
  • Adventure Time: The Ice King in Lich Land. The moment he steps in, he's reunited with his finance, Betty. The following events are akin to a Fix Fic where all of Ice King's misery and Loss of Identity are melted away as he exchanges kisses and sweet nothings with Betty. Too bad that none of it is real.
    Ice King: You're just as real as I— (Fake!Betty shatters into a million pieces) --as I remember.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts protagonist Charlie Brown is constantly the victim of this, from Lucy pulling the football away to captaining a baseball team that never seems to win.
    • In one strip, Charlie Brown is trying to fly a kite with Lucy coaching him the whole way. Much to their surprise, he actually gets it into the air, and Lucy is cheering about how it's finally flying... and then it spontaneously combusts.
      Lucy: That's the first time I've ever seen a kite explode!
  • An alarm clock induced Garfield into dreaming he was locked inside a pasta factory. Then, as Garfield was seconds away from the greatest feast in history, the alarm clock went off.
  • Funky Winkerbean: Lisa Moore's breast cancer has returned, but it looks like they caught it in time and she should be right as rain in a few months. Except the doctors mixed up her medical charts: her cancer wasn't in remission and by the time they caught the mistake, it was already too late to do anything but delay the inevitable.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Tamers Forever Series, every time it looks like Takato and Rika are becoming closer, something happens to drive them apart. The ultimate one comes when they finally do get together then Takato has to leave her behind forever. Good thing Takato's an Iron Woobie.
  • In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix finally avoids being paid with an I.O.U. when Celestia herself rewards him with a huge haul of money for his work on the case. Cue his excitement turning into distress when he finds out the money is in bits, the Equestrian currency, which would be completely worthless on Earth.
  • In What Lies Beyond the Walls, the Long Patrol finally gets a chance to relax and eat delicious food for a full three chapters when they come across Tearmann. And then vermin storm the community, which leads to more death, more fighting, and Urthquake becoming even further unhinged than he was to begin with.
  • In Mother Of Invention, when Applejack builds a raft to escape the island - without first unraveling its mysteries - the attempt doesn't fare well.
  • In Weasley Girl, AU fanfic, Harry Potter (thanks to an ill-timed joke by George Weasley) spends a few chapters thinking that the "stone" that's hidden at Hogwarts and that Voldemort is after is the Resurrection Stone. Which Harry dreams of using to call his parents back to life. Needless to say, he is disappointed.
  • The Evening Sonata sprinkles hints about Sunset Shimmer and Sonata Dusk getting together. Sunset gives an Anguished Declaration of Love...! But is rejected, as she threatened Sonata's sister, Aria Blaze. Sunset breaks down.
  • A New World: After an epic battle with the immensely powerful Yuuka Kazami (who she barely manages to kill), one of the many Lunarian warriors sent to purge Gensokyo yells how she's the most powerful warrior of her race, and sits down to catch her breath. As she does, she feels a bit lightheaded... and turns to see Medicine Melancholy, who's been filling her lungs with paralyzing toxins for a while. As she chokes on the venom, Medicine realizes she's not feeling particularly merciful, and snaps the Lunarian's neck.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Despite an attempt to learn the Magi of Stars’ true identity while in the world of Canterlot High, the group only gets a small hint in the form of Pinkie Pie remembering seeing a girl with a dog and a similar mark once, but that’s literally all she knows.
  • In Advice and Trust, Kaworu eventually manages to have Rei return his affections, only for her to die in a Heroic Sacrifice less than an hour after she asks him out on a date. And then she loses all memory of him when she's brought back.
  • Escape From the Moon:
    • In the sequel The Mare From the Moon, in chapter 29, Spliced has been put on trial and effectively gotten what she wanted, with the judges having reduced her sentence to freedom once she cures all the diseases and viruses she's made, requiring her only to undergo mandatory psychological evaluation and therapy afterward. Then agents of the higher intergalactic tribunal show up and inform everyone that their bosses have already made up their own minds, re-arrest her and take her back to her old cell on the moon.
    • The story ends with Spliced, having finally served out her full sentence, asking the council members to fulfill their promise and make her mortal again so she can die permanently… only to learn that they don’t know how.

    Films — Animation 
  • Scrat at the end of Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, when he goes to Acorn's heaven but is revived just as he approaches a giant acorn.
  • Pocahontas. Happens way too many times to Percy. Quite frequently when he is literally thrown bones.
  • Played for laughs in the climactic battle of Shrek 2, where the Fairy Godmother's magic gives Pinocchio about ten seconds to Become a Real Boy, before a misfire turns him back into a puppet. Sorry, Pinocchio.
  • In Mulan, Mulan saves the remainder of the Chinese army from the Huns, burying the entire Hun force in an avalanche, and manages to save herself, Khan, Mushu, Cri-ki, and Shang from falling to their deaths. It's the most she's accomplished after so many screw-ups, and Shang pledges his trust to her. Then, it's revealed that she was slashed with a sword. When she's treated for the injury, she's revealed as a woman. While Shang decides to spare her life, he still is hurt and leaves her on the mountain in disgrace.
  • Beauty and the Beast: A pretty depressing one happens for Beast. He and Belle have been growing closer and she clearly has been much more warm towards him than when they first met. After the famous ballroom scene, he nervously asks her if she's happy with him, apparently readying up to see if she will declare her love for him. Then, she finds out that her father is sick and possibly dying. The Beast chooses to let her go save her father, even though he believes she'll leave him for good and condemn him to never having the curse broken. He then suffers this trope again in the film's climax, when Gaston is attacking him and he lost the will to live. He suddenly sees Belle riding in to find him, and regains his strength upon realizing that she returned to him. He overpowers Gaston and orders him out instead of killing him, and then he and Belle are happily reunited... only for Gaston to literally stab the Beast in the back. It says a lot about the Beast's general attitude towards life that after all that, he considers dying like that to be a good ending because at least he saw Belle again.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Carrie: For once, everything is going great for Carrie at the prom. And then they dump pig's blood on her. Oops. Cue her psychic rampage.
  • James Bond
  • John McClane's marriage is patched up at the end of each Die Hard movie and broken up by the next one. In the fourth he's divorced, and it's his relationship with his daughter that needs patching up.
  • National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets uses a similar pattern, although it remains to be seen if it'll continue in the next film.
  • Of all the things lampshaded in Last Action Hero, this is the only one the film takes seriously.
  • In the Spider-Man Trilogy, Peter Parker is the poster child for Perpetual Poverty and never seems to be able to catch a break in his personal life or relationship with Mary-Jane.
  • Wilde: Oscar has it pretty rough in the last 20 minutes or so, what with being imprisoned for 2 years of hard labor just for being gay (because homosexuality was actually illegal in England back then). Then his wife Constance comes to see him and, guess what? Not only does she not want a divorce even after he's cheated on her with men (and lots of them), but she'll let him see his kids again! A happy ending for when he gets out of prison! Right? No. His sentence ends and he learns that Constance is dead, which not only takes away her, but any hope Oscar has of seeing his two boys again.
  • In The Last Man on Earth, Robert finds a dog and is overjoyed at the sight of another living creature. He practically fawns over it, tends its wounds, comforts it when it's frightened, and tells it about the happy times they'll share together. Immediately afterwards he learns it's infected and is forced to drive a stake through it. He breaks.
  • 12 Monkeys: You're not crazy! You figured it out! You're a hero! You... oh dear. Ohhh dear.
  • Psycho Beach Party: The murderer has been caught, Chicklet's Split Personality has been cured, romantic stories are all tied off happily, all of that is now behind them as the all live hap-oh god. It was all a dream as Chicklet is in a mental hospital getting realistically horrifying shock therapy... Happy?
  • Happens in The Pursuit of Happyness, when Chris Garner has sold all his scanners and is having a moderately fine life, then the government seizes the money from his bank account for unpaid income taxes, leaving him broke and homeless.
  • In The Mad Magician, despite being pushed close to the edge of madness by his corrupt contractor Ross Ormond, Don Gallico is perfectly willing to let the legal system handle their dispute over the rights to his illusions. Then his wife dumps him for Ormond...
  • For whatever reason, the mirror in Oculus loves to toy with its victims a lot rather than outright killing them. Perhaps it is an Emotion Eater?
  • Luke, Leia, and Han in The Force Awakens, big time. You'd think that after Return of the Jedi, all of their troubles would come to an end? Hell no. Thirty years later, Luke has become a hermit after an apprentice of his turned to the dark side and killed the next generation of Jedi that Luke was training. Said apprentice was Ben Solo, the son of Han and Leia, whose Face–Heel Turn drove the two apart, with Han and Chewie returning to smuggling, while the knowledge that Leia is Darth Vader's daughter effectively destroys her political career. The First Order, a political and military faction partly made up of former Empire operatives and led by Supreme Leader Snoke, is waging war against the Republic and destroys its capital, Hosnian Prime. Finally and most heartbreakingly, Han tries to turn his son back to the light side, and it almost seems as if Ben decides to do so... until he stabs Han in the chest with his lightsaber and kills him. And the cherry on top is that Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is inspired by his grandfather, but not for being Anakin Skywalker, but rather for being Darth Vader. Considering all the Jedi and the Rebellion went through starting from Revenge of the Sith until Return of the Jedi, it seems as if fate is purposely trying to cause hell. Just imagine how the force ghosts of Anakin, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Yoda must be feeling, watching all of this.
  • The World of Kanako: The narrator is bullied constantly and when he meets Kanako he finally seems to overcome his sucky life. It turns out that Kanako just manipulates and corrupts him, and he gets killed after a series of even more suffering.
  • Alien³, just, Alien³. Poor Ripley
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Infinity War:
      • Asgard was destroyed in order to kill a mad goddess, but the Asgardians have escaped extinction and are heading to Earth in hope for a better future. Then Thanos attacks their ship, and their already dwindling population is decreased by half. Worse, according to Word of God Lady Sif and the In-Universe actor who played Loki were among those killed by Thanos's culling, meaning that half of those left perished with the Snap.
      • After all his inner struggles Loki finds some measure of peace and acceptance, only to witness half of those he chose to protect slaughtered and his brother tortured. Then Thanos brutally kills him.
      • After losing her parents and her brother and being overridden by guilt over the events of Captain America: Civil War, Wanda finds some happiness in her relationship with Vision, only for Vision to get badly wounded and to ask her to destroy the Mind Stone, killing him in the process. She spends the majority of the movie trying to find another way, but after an intense battle in Wakanda, as Thanos approaches the couple, Wanda finally decides to destroy the Stone, killing Vision in a particularly painful manner. While she succeeds, Thanos reverses time to restore Vision and his Mind Stone only to rip it off of Vision and kill him again. Wanda is helpless to stop him, and dies herself after the Badass Fingersnap a few moments later.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: The A-plot is Scott Lang teaming up with Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne to rescue Janet van Dyne, Hank's wife and Hope's mother, from the Quantum Realm where she has been trapped for decades. And they succeed! ...Only for Thanos's Snap to occur a short time later whilst the family has Scott recovering particles in the Quantum Realm, resulting in the family being disintegrated by the Infinity Gauntlet and Scott stranded in the Quantum Realm.

  • Happens to Tobias in Animorphs. His distant cousin has flown in from Africa and wants to take care of him. He can finally have a real family, stop eating roadkill and have a proper relationship with Rachel. He can have a normal life! This is awesome! No, it's not. That cousin is Visser Three. In morph. He's trying to kill him.
  • Happens hard to Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. His wife dies unexpectedly, taking their unborn baby with her, leaving him alone and broken, unable even to work. Eventually, he discovers that returning to their summer home in western Maine holds the key to turning his life around, one way or another. Immediately, he meets the young, beautiful Mattie Devore and her daughter, Kyra. Thanks to them, he finally finds purpose in his life. He starts writing again. Mattie even reciprocates his unspoken feelings for her. Romance and redemption are all but certain. Then, Mattie is murdered right in front of him, the ghosts in his house come to life and try to kill Kyra, Mike gives up on writing forever, and the book ends with him still alone and engaged in a bitter battle to obtain custody of Kyra.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark manages to make several daring escapes from different captors, but is always kidnapped by someone new shortly thereafter. And she is finally brought back to her family... just in time for the Red Wedding.
    • Her sister Sansa, after being held captive and abused for a year, is finally going to be taken away by some friendly people to marry a great guy... Then her captors find out and force her to marry one of them instead, a terribly ugly dwarf. He's actually a decent person, but Sansa hates his whole family because of what happened to her father. And now it's apparently in the process of happening again. Stupid Stockholm Syndrome Genre Blindness.
    • Ramsay Snow is ever so fond of invoking this trope with his human playthings (when he's not literally yanking them around on a chain like a dog, that is). It's a way of teaching them helplessness and inducing Stockholm Syndrome. He lets them think a servant or fellow prisoner has taken pity on them and decided to help them escape... then he hunts them down with a pack of dogs, kills the confidante, and removes a couple of minor body parts as punishment. After one or two of these, they start panicking at the very idea of trying to escape.
  • Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life. The entire book consists of nothing but this and is the most relentlessly depressing book ever. Even at the end of the book, where something finally goes right, not seconds later he and his love interest both drown at sea.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Pettigrew's been outed as guilty and is being turned in! They're going to prove Sirius' innocence! And then Harry can leave the horrible, abusive Dursleys and live with his godfather! Everything's going to be fantastic, everything's going fine, and, say, is that the full moon?... and didn't they just learn Lupin was a werewolf?... aw, shit.
  • The title character in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre finally gets to the altar with her employer/true love Rochester when it is revealed that Rochester is already married to a mad woman he's got locked in the attic, and the wedding is canceled.
  • In Charlotte Bronte's claustrophobic Villette, the perpetually unhappy heroine Lucy has fallen in love with and become engaged to fellow-teacher M. Paul, only it is revealed ambiguously in the last few pages that Paul probably died in a shipwreck before they could be married.
    • Charlotte considered this a happy ending — for M. Paul that is. Which you may be inclined to agree if you've read the book: life with a passive-aggressive depressive like Lucy Snow is a fate no man should suffer.
  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Hemingway is such an example.
  • Discworld's Rincewind has had this happen to him enough times that now he expects it. It has now gotten to the point that if anything good happens to him he will more or less panic until the other shoe drops.
    • Wonderfully lampshaded in "Run Rincewind Run!"
    • In continuing to play with it, Sam Vimes believes he doesn't deserve his good fortune and lives in fear of this trope happening to him.
  • The Dresden Files arguably has several of these (Harry will always be behind on the rent, even if his secret half-brother comes from a rich family; the masquerade will always go on; Murphy and he will never be a couple, even if they kiss), but there's one really blatant example in the fourth book. Harry's One True Love Susan has been (almost) turned into a vampire, and throughout the book he is deeply depressed and completely obsessed with looking for a cure for vampirism, never mind the fact that all reputable sources tell him it's impossible. While investigating something unrelated, one of the nigh-godlike Faerie Queenes herself gives Harry a Deus ex Machina that can supposedly undo any enchantment at all. It's intended for use in the main plot, but Harry hopes to solve his current assignment by some more simpler means and save the Deus ex Machina for Susan. It gets taken from him after five minutes.
    • Another vicious example came in Turn Coat for not just Harry. Since the events of Death Masks, Harry hasn't had a girlfriend or any romantic involvement for nearly five years. Then, at the end of Small Favor, he starts dating Luccio in her younger body. They're both happy together, especially Luccio, because she's spent nearly a century without experiencing romantic interest or a sex drive. Darned wizardly extended lives. Then in Turn Coat it turns out Luccio was being mind-controlled into being attracted to Harry by the traitor in the Council. ....well, shit.
      • In Changes, after spending the entire book having one bad thing happen after another, it finally looks like Harry and Murphy might get together. Then 20 minutes before Murphy is supposed to show, Harry gets shot dead.
      • Interestingly, though, the trope is downplayed in that it is fairly clearly indicated that this whole, huge chain of disasters was derived in large part from various bad choices made by Harry, Susan, etc, it could have been prevented...and better choices in the future could produce better results. The Archangel Uriel seems to be trying very hard, as much as he can with the rules that bind him, to teach Harry to grasp this.
    • The short story "Day Off". Pretty much the entirety of it. Harry finally gets a day off, and is promptly challenged to a magical duel at 1 AM on that day. It goes downhill from there. The whole thing is Played for Laughs.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer crosses this with Character Development and Hope Spot to truly heartbreaking effect. After years of miserable loneliness, the universe seems to give John a break-he falls unexpectedly for the local Good Bad Girl and she gives him a rare taste of ease and connection. She becomes a casualty of the Serial Killer he brought to town, and he spends the next book trying to escape the pull of a sanity-shattering Despair Event Horizon as a result.
  • Mack Bolan, The Executioner, eventually had things going pretty well for him. He's working for the government, so the cops aren't after him all the time, he's got a whole group of soldiers sharing his new mission, and he's got a girl he dearly loves. Then the KGB shoots up his headquarters and blows her to hell.
  • The discovery of a later will at the end of Bleak House leads us to believe that Richard and Ada will live Happily Ever After. Unfortunately, it turns out that the entire inheritance has gone into paying for the long-running court case. Although Richard is at last free of his obsession with winning the case, it is only so that he can die as himself. Overworked and ill, he is killed by the shock of losing the estate.
  • This trope becomes common with the Baudelaires in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. There are times in the series where it appears Violet, Klaus and Sunny are going to catch a break, but then Lemony Snicket crushes all your hopes.
  • The whole point of the short story La torture par l'esperance (The Torture of Hope) by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam is that yanking the dog's chain is the most sadistic form of torture.
  • Pretty much the B-plot of every Travis McGee novel, with the exception of the books where it's the A-plot.
  • Happens repeatedly to the protagonist of Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy: each time he risks it all to learn of a new kind of magic, a rival swoops in and gloms all the profits, leaving him with nothing but a clue to the next style of magic-use.
  • The whole point of a story by Jerome K. Jerome "In Remembrance of John Ingerfield and of Anne, his Wife".
  • Everything will be going well by the end of an Aubrey-Maturin book only for everything to be mediocre at best by the start of the next.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Kalak is introduced as the last Leondian and mid-book he discovers that 300 of his fellows, including his sister, survived their kingdom's fall. Shortly afterward They're all killed and he's the last again.
  • The evening before Helen realizes her husband is having an affair in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, she hears two of his friends complaining how "that woman" is civilizing and moralizing him — and she gets an unexpectedly affectionate welcome when she surprises him outside. Then she learns that he thought she was someone else, and "that woman" is the Other Woman.
  • In the Book of Jonah, God grows a plant to provide his prophet shade. Then during that night he kills the plant and summons a hot wind to daze Jonah with heat. It turns out to be a Secret Test of Character; Jonah weeps that the plant is dead, but is fine with letting the Ninevites all be killed, which God finds terrible of him.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt does this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. Beatrice and Seth, the two protagonists, have what can only be described as a really hot date. Surely they will sort things out now, after eight months of misunderstandings? Surely now Beatrice won't have to marry Rosenschiöld (who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt), to whom she was forced to get engaged? But alas, not only does she have a tyrannical uncle. She also has a sadistic sociopath for a cousin, who now makes sure that she's separated from Seth. Cue a whole year of more misery for Beatrice...
  • In Space Marine Battles, things seem to be going well for the slave rebellion as they manage to win a bit and gain some long-lost freedom. But alas, they have the misfortune of living in a Crapsack World and the Iron Warriors are quick to crush the insurrection.
  • A Murder Is Announced: Charlotte Blacklock suffers from a goitre, which her overbearing father refuses to let her have surgically repaired. When he passes away, it looks like things will finally get better: her sister Letitia takes her to Switzerland to have the procedure, and Letitia's former employer has left a large fortune in trust for her to share with Charlotte, just as soon as his frail and sickly wife dies (and the sisters are quite willing to wait as long as it takes for nature to take its course there). Life is sweet, right? Wrong. Letitia unexpectedly dies while Belle Goedler is still alive, so Charlotte will get nothing. You can hardly blame her for deciding Charlotte should be the one who's died, and she'll live the rest of her life as Letitia.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24. It's impossible for Jack to be happy. Any time it seems like he's going to get some sort of satisfaction, he gets screwed over. Here's a checklist of the biggest ones:
    • Day 1: Jack has finally killed the mastermind who was threatening his family. He's captured the traitor at CTU that was aiding him, and has reunited with daughter Kim. Now he's found out where his wife was tied up in and it turns out that said traitor also shot her before trying to escape.
    • Day 5: With help from the First Lady, Jack is able to expose the corrupt President's actions, he's gotten back together with his girlfriend Audrey, and after seemingly burning bridges with him it seems like Kim has changed her mind and wants to mend things. Except the message from Kim was actually a trap by the Chinese government who want revenge on him for his actions indirectly leading to the death of their Consul, and they successfully take him prisoner.
    • Day 8: A three-way punch, one episode after another! First, it seems like he's going to successfully save President Hassan mere seconds before he's executed live on television. The television feed was actually a recording and his throat was slit minutes ago. But on the bright side, at least Jack and former FBI agent Renee Walker finally got together but then she was struck dead by a sniper's bullet after recognizing one of the killers involved. At the very least, he's discovered the identity of the real mastermind so he can go after that evil sonuvabitch and give him some much needed karma, right? Only said mastermind happens to the head of the Russian government and President Taylor needs him to sign a peace treaty, so she decides to let him go free in turn for him signing it and Jack gets detained. After all that, it winds up being a bit too much for him, and he SNAPS.
    • Day 9 has come in and officially beat all three combined. It's teased that Jack and Audrey could get back together and Jack has been pardoned for the events of the previous season. Is he finally going to get a happy ending after all this time? Of course not! Audrey winds up getting killed by the main villain and Jack is ultimately forced to turn himself into the Russian authorities, with him facing life imprisonment or possibly execution. The end.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The final scene of the season 2 finale, "S.O.S." Fitz has mostly recovered from his brain damage, he and Simmons have finally reconciled after a season of estrangement, and they're even planning a Relationship Upgrade. Mere seconds later, the Kree artifact Simmons had been researching escapes from it's containment box, swallows her, and drags her off to who knows where.
    • The first half of season three revolves around getting Simmons home. It turns out HYDRA wants to open a portal to retrieve an ancient Inhuman who they consider their god. Coulson manages to skydive through the portal, send Simmons back, and kill Grant Ward once and for all . . . which only lets the ancient Inhuman take over his body. The Inhuman returns and takes over HYDRA.
  • This is a Running Gag on Al Fondo Hay Sitio. To give one example, as Nelly is about to brag to Francesca that she won the lottery, she dies of a heart attack. The winning ticket flies away, too.
  • In Ashes to Ashes, just as Alex believes she has found out the true nature of her world, the carpet is pulled out from under her feet. It escalates with every series finale (excepting the last).note 
  • Battlestar Galactica is full of those. In the mid-series finale of season 4 they finally make a truce with some Cylons and make it to Earth 3 minutes before the end - and in those 3 minutes it is revealed that Earth is a nuclear wasteland.
    • Afterward, Dualla's chain has been yanked enough and she shoots herself.
    • At the end of season 2, the fleet finds a (barely) habitable planet and, under the leadership of President Gaius Baltar, settle on the newly-named New Caprica. Skip forward a year and, although there are some hiccups, things appear to be running fairly smoothly - more importantly, there haven't been any Cylon attacks in that past year. Then...yep, here come the Cylons. Since the fleet has been reduced to patrolling in orbit, they can't fight off the Cylon ships and Baltar is forced to surrender.
  • The end of Blackadder Goes Forth. The Guns fall silent just seconds before they are due to go over the top to certain death and they think the war is over, that they lived through it, The Great War, 1914 to 1917... oh damn.
    • 'Course, really, this only counts for poor Baldrick, George and Darling. Blackadder knew damn well the whole while, as would anyone else with a little knowledge of trench life during the Great War. Honestly, it's part of the power of the moment that the audience already know there's a chain being yanked.
      Blackadder: I'm afraid not. The guns have stopped because we are about to attack. Not even our generals are mad enough to shell their own men. They feel it's more sporting to let the Germans do it.
      • Even so, he was trying his best to get out. It just didn't work. The real punch is for Darling, who was at his desk at Command, safely away from the lines until Melchett decided he wouldn't want to miss the "fun".
    • This is Played for Laughs in Blackadder The Third, where he and Baldrick resort to highway robbery.
    Baldrick: Which I suppose is highwayman's talk for you get the cash, I get the snotty hanky.
    Blackadder: No, no. No, we did this robbery together, so you get half the cash. (hands him a money-bag)
    Baldrick: Oh, thank you Mr B.
    Blackadder: This robbery, on the other hand, I'm doing alone. (holds his pistol to Baldrick's head) Hand it over, your money or your life!
  • Poor old Richie in Bottom. Just about to finally "Doooooo IT" with a beautiful woman... and he collapses from a medical condition. And then Eddie and said woman "get bored" waiting for the ambulance to turn up: "Don't worry Richie, she was crap anyway."
  • Chuck. Every time the poor boy meets someone, it somehow gets yanked away. It can't help having his 'ex' around all the time.
  • At least one victim in Criminal Minds. The unsub tells her over an intercom that if she can find her way out of the vast complex he's dropped her in by sunset, she gets to live. She gets literally within sight of the open door to freedom, but the sun is setting and the door slams in her face before she can get out. Of course, the team save her anyway, but still.
  • In the original concept of Doctor Who, the Doctor had literally no control over the TARDIS, so Ian and Barbara were stuck with him with no hope of getting home. This led to an especially cruel twist in the story "Planet of Giants", in which they land on Earth in the right period, but due to a technical fault with the TARDIS they're only an inch tall and have no way of getting back to the right size without taking off again and getting lost.
    • A particularly egregious example: Near the end of "Doomsday", fan-favourite Rose is trapped in a parallel universe. The Doctor manages to project a hologram of himself so they can say their goodbyes, and Rose breaks down while confessing her love. In response, The Doctor manages to say her name...and then the connection is lost, leaving them separated forever.
    • But not forever! After a series full of near-misses, Rose finds her way back and she and The Doctor face each other on opposite ends of a street. The music swells, they run for each other in slow-motion with joyful expressions...until a Dalek appears and shoots The Doctor, utterly ruining the reunion.
    • In the Eleventh Doctor episode "The Pandorica Opens", things are going great for Rory. He's been un-erased from existence, Amy's finally remembered him, and he's about to turn into an Auton, but hey, he's fighting it off pretty well. Then out comes the gun in his hand, and he shoots Amy, fighting free of the Auton influence just in time to hold her as she dies. Whoops.
    • In "The Doctor's Wife", the Doctor receives a Time Lord distress signal, leading him to hope that there may be other Time Lords out there. Even more heartbreakingly, he admits to Amy that he wants to be forgiven for his destruction of Gallifrey. It turns out that the distress signal is actually a trap for the Doctor and the TARDIS. He is still the last of the Time Lords.
    • In "A Good Man Goes to War", the Ponds and the Doctor believe that they have saved both Amy and her daughter Melody. In fact, Melody is a Ganger and the real Melody is far away in the clutches of Madame Kovarian.
    • Oswin Oswald gets this in "Asylum of the Daleks." She thinks that she is about to be rescued and adventure with the Doctor. She is actually a Dalek herself, her environment being a delusion which she had created to escape from the truth.
    • Poor Rory gets it again in "The Angels Take Manhattan"; he appears to have escaped becoming a food source for the Angels by creating a paradox, then instead of immediately getting into the TARDIS (he's been told he and Amy will have to run for the rest of their lives, but it's OK because they've got the Doctor and he has the TARDIS) he stops and notices his name on a nearby grav— GONE. Oops.
    • Justified in the Series 9 finale "Hell Bent" due to the long-suffering Doctor temporarily turning into an Anti-Villain in hopes of achieving a Tragic Dream. He is coming off of being Driven to Madness by a Trauma Conga Line. He decides to become The Unfettered, tosses out his usual moral code, and embarks upon a Batman Gambit to save Clara from her fixed-point death by pulling her out of time at the last moment and escaping Gallifrey with her. It goes off with only a few speed bumps; as he flees, he's brainstorming wonderful new adventures. Too bad there's about 20 minutes of the episode to go. That's when Clara realizes her heartbeat hasn't restarted, and her chronolock tattoo hasn't faded. The Doctor Didn't Think This Through — and his Sanity Slippage worsens as he tries to think of some way to keep going without destroying the universe. This is the point where he crosses the Despair Event Horizon, and the final stretch of the episode makes it clear that he must sacrifice his personal happiness for the greater good if he wants to continue being on the side of light and love. (The good news is that his next story, "The Husbands of River Song", is a Throw the Dog a Bone Breather Episode.)
  • Ronnie. From. EastEnders. Every single time it looks like she's going to have a happy ending, the producers cruelly snatch it away from her practically going "Neener neener!", be it a potential reconciliation with Danielle, the daughter who was kept from her, being ruined by Danielle getting run over and killed instantly or her being caught out when she goes to mad lengths to get a child again. It looks as if recently she's finally having an honest-to-god child again and all's well... but in true Soap Opera fashion (as revealed in television magazine spoilers), said baby stops breathing and may have suffered crib death barely a day after being born, pushing Ronnie way past her limit. That's if she hadn't already been punted over it before now.
  • This is the foundation for first season finale of Eureka. After the initiation of a risky experiment, the movie suddenly cuts to a world where the sheriff and Allison are happily married (which any other episode would tell you that it is no more than Shiptease and love triangle material), his daughter is graduating, Henry, the man who the town constantly relies on, is in charge of GD, the Jerkass Nathan Stark left town, Beverly no longer works for the Consortium..., and most importantly, Henry's love interest, Kim, is alive and well. During the episode the sudden appearance of objects that should not exist in that way gives evidence to something a viewer would already know, that this was not meant to be. Turns out that Henry had gone back in time to save Kim after the experiment had gone horribly wrong. In order to prevent the paradox from ruining time, the Sheriff had to stop Henry from saving the life of the woman he loved as well as give up a future in which he and everybody he knew was happy. Talk about a Downer Ending. Thanks to this fact, this episode was the equivalent to a Heroic BSoD for most of the characters involved... and caused the mess of agendas and conspiracies that is Season 2.
    • A variation occurs in season 4 when Carter, Allison, Jo, Henry and Fargo are sent back the 1940s. It makes them realize what's important and so Carter and Allison finally kiss and decide to give dating a try and Jo decides to accept boyfriend Zane's marriage proposal. However, no sooner are they back then they realize the timeline has been altered. Before Carter and Allison can go on a date, they find Carter never broke up with his old girlfriend. And poor Jo discovers that not only have she and Zane never dated but as far as he's concerned, they hate each other.
    • Even Fargo gets a bit of that. After three seasons as the Butt-Monkey of the town, he's overjoyed to discover that in the altered timeline, he's the head of Global Dynamics. Fargo assumes he'll now be treated with respect and admiration from everyone...only to discover that in this reality, he's an arrogant egomaniac and near-tyrant of a boss whom everyone hates.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: To put it concise, when something does end well with the title character, another random problem precipitates and puts him on the short end of the stick once again. This happens in the end of every goddamn episode too!
  • Farscape:
    • Like most Trapped in Another World shows, the series has a couple of episodes where John is made to think he's returned home only to find it's a fake. This is made less predictable, however, by the fact that one of them turns out, after the apparent Reset Button, to have set up what will be the major story arc of the entire show, and the second has John being smart from the start. It's also subverted when, towards the end of the show, he genuinely gets back to Earth... and discovers that he's changed too much to want to stay.
    • The season 3 finale of has the good guys scoring a major victory after a Heroic Sacrifice by a couple of important secondary characters. And then you see there's ten minutes left, and imagining what's going to happen with Crichton and Aeryn's relationship is painful...
    • Let alone the Season 4 finale where a ship comes from nowhere to blast the main couple after they agree to get married. (This also yanked the chain for the viewers, as the show's cancellation had already been announced.)
  • Often happens on Fawlty Towers, but particularly cruel was the episode "Communication Problems", where it seems that Basil has finally managed to come out on top... only for it all to come cruelly crashing down around him in the last minute.
  • Rachel in Friends works for Joanna in a fashion company. Joanna doesn't treat Rachel too badly, but she always gives her a ton of crap and never really considers her for a promotion. Joanna does eventually warm up to Rachel and considers her to be a good assistant. In her final appearance, Joanna heavily implies that she is going to promote Rachel, but she gets into a car accident and dies.
  • In La Femme Nikita, the titular character's dream is to be freed from life as an assassin and to continue a normal, happy existence. She often comes across opportunities to escape, but all her attempts fall just out of reach of success.
  • The Flash (2014): Barry spends the entire Season One trying to prove his father's innocence to get him released from Iron Heights, after over a decade of being there for a crime he didn't commit. He finally succeeds on the Season Two premiere, but Henry decides to take a leave so Barry can be the hero Central City needs. He does come back to help him when things begin to get hard, but in the second to last episode, Zoom takes him back to their old home so that Barry can see with his own eyes how his father dies in front of him.
  • Several episodes of The Fugitive have Dr. Kimble seemingly on the verge of catching the One-Armed Man and being exonerated, but it always turns out to be a trap or something that otherwise falls apart... until the Grand Finale, of course.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", Theon is teased with the offer of a threesome with two prostitutes, only for his tormentor to cut off the most prized part of his body. Indeed, this is one of Ramsay's favorite torture techniques and he proves it an excellent form of Mind Rape, whether it be something as simple as showing a dehydrated person water before pouring it out in front of them, or as complex as playing a False Friend helping them escape, only to lead them right back to even worse torture.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" for Arya. She is within walking distance of Robb and Catelyn, and her only reward is arriving at the building they are in just in time to witness to the Red Wedding (the massacre of the entire Northern army, her mother and brother among them) and see Grey Wind get killed. Discussed earlier when the Hound talks about her habit of checking every five minutes that the castle and army are still there, and her growing fear that something will happen to stop her reuniting with them.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" is also one for Edmure Tully. Soon after his Throw the Dog a Bone, he spends his wedding night in the dungeons while his family, bannermen, and allies are all slaughtered.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" is one for Bran and Rickon as well. They miss a chance to hook up with Jon Snow. And now they're also splitting up.
    • Brienne so far has failed to trade Jaime for Sansa. And when she finds Arya, Arya leaves her for Braavos.
    • Sansa Stark:
      • In Season 3, the Tyrells betroth Sansa to Loras, who despite Incompatible Orientation, would definitely be much kinder to her than the Lannisters. She'd eventually become the Lady of Highgarden (noted as one of the nicest places in Westeros) as well, which is a pretty sweet deal — until Tywin finds out and squashes her hopes and dreams flat by marrying her to Tyrion. When she shows signs of finally opening up to her husband, Robb and Catelyn are slaughtered at the Red Wedding along with her hopes of eventually being rescued from King's Landing by her family. She, not unreasonably, assumes Tyrion was in on it.
      • In Season 4, Sansa is finally free from King's Landing but because she's wrongfully accused for killing Joffrey, she carries a large bounty on her head. Then she finds out that she's essentially under the thumb of Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn. The former is a Manipulative Bastard who caused Joffrey's assassination and her aunt Lysa is a willing dupe and insane to boot.
      • This happens to Sansa again in Season 5. Despite all of the misfortune and psychological abuse she suffered, the one thing Sansa had managed to avoid (despite encountering a string of wannabe perpetrators) up to that point was getting raped. She runs out of her luck during her wedding night with Ramsay.
    • At the end of Season 4, Bronn is set up for a very nice retirement in Stokeworth castle. Second episode of Season 5, Cersei reneges on their deal to force him to join Jaime's mission.
    • When Tyrion gives him a book as a wedding present, Joffrey has an outright shocking moment where he thanks Tyrion and speaks about a time for 'wisdom' after war. Just when you're thinking that Joffrey might actually have started to mature and become self-aware, he uses his new sword to slice the book in half.
  • Gilmore Girls does this multiple times a season. Every time Lorelai and her parents start to reach some sort of detente or understanding, something derails it and makes them hate each other again.
  • This is essentially the premise for pretty much every episode of Gilligan's Island. Generic Plot #1 of the show was the castaways find a way to get off the island, but Gilligan screws it up. The only possible reason they didn't just kill Gilligan, is that Generic Plot #2 was having Gilligan save them from a Monster of the Week.
  • Good Times lived on this. The Grand Finale averted it, as one good thing after another finally happened that wasn't undone by the status quo. For once, the title of the show was completely accurate.
  • In the fifth season of Heroes, Hiro finally manages to save Charlie from both Sylar and her blood clot. Of course, Samuel the evil carny comes along and has his own teleporting time master trap Charlie "somewhere in time", and then kills him so he can't tell Hiro where/when she is. Cue one of the most heart-wrenching scenes ever to befall our favorite Wide-Eyed Idealist.
  • Seeing as how nobody is allowed to be happy on House, this tends to happen a lot.
    • But especially cruel was the very beginning of Season 3. For about the first half of the first episode, House is reasonably happy with no leg pain, cane or vicodin. This obviously cannot last so the ketamine treatment starts failing, Cuddy and Wilson don't believe him when he says his leg is hurting again and let him believe that he couldn't save a patient in a Jerkassy attempt to teach him some humility and by the end of the second episode, he's back to his normal, limpy, miserable self.
    • In Season 5, he switches to a new drug and throws away his cane because he's completely free of pain. Wilson and Cuddy (as usual) oppose this because the drug has serious side effects. (House ignores them, again as usual.) But at the end of the episode he decides to stop taking it because his diagnostic skills aren't as good when he's high on methadone.
    • A painful example in Season 7 occurs when House refuses to accept Wilson is going to die in six months. When he finally accepts it and begins plans to make the most of the remaining time... he's sent to jail for six months.
  • iCarly: Freddie wins a competition for a giant locker. He proceeds to do a victory dance of sorts. Then insults Sam. Then they reveal Sam won the competition as well.
  • In The Invaders, a general told David Vincent that his safe contained enough information to blow the invasion plot. It had vanished, of course.
  • Savvy fans of Joss Whedon's shows knew, both from seasons of examples and flat statements in interviews that he didn't care to write happy relationships, or ones that worked out well. By Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, many die-hard fans refused to rise to the bait of Xander/Anya's wedding because it was obviously not going to end well. (That the majority of the audience was, by definition, die-hard by that point made it more so.)
    • Yet another episode (without the romantic entanglement) is "The Zeppo" in which the story focuses on Xander, while what would usually be the "main" plot is seen only briefly. Though Xander does something useful and heroic — in the face of his characterization up to that point — by the end of the show he decides not to tell them, and happily offers to get them snacks.
    • In season 5, there's this one episode where things appear to be looking up for Spike after a year and a half of being mercilessly beaten, humiliated and undergoing pitiful amounts of Badass Decay; his former paramour Drusilla wants him back, and offers him a way to overcome his Restraining Bolt so he can go back to being a badass again. After spending the first two acts dancing with a very alluring Drusilla and enjoying rebuilding his reputation as a heartless asshole, he blows it for himself and ends up losing Drusilla AGAIN, gets dumped by Harmony, beaten into submission by all three of his lovers or former lovers, and is banned from entering Buffy's house. Also, his obsession with Buffy is revealed to the rest of the group, who spend the rest of the season teasing and insulting him for it. So much for his great comeback...
    • In season 6, Tara leaves Willow after the latter's abuse of dark magic, which broke the collective hearts of the fans who loved the couple. While Tara remained a presence within the Scooby Gang during their break-up, it wasn't until "Entropy" that the two were reunited in love. The following episode, "Seeing Red", saw the two in bed for most of the episode, apparently with a Happy Ending to the episode...then Warren shows up with a gun, attempting to kill Buffy. One of the bullets from Warren's gun hits a window, striking Tara through the heart, with her blood splatting over Willow's shirt, killing Tara almost instantly. This would lead to Willow's path of destruction for the remainder of the show, culminating in her nearly destroying the world. To say fans were pissed and disappointed at Tara's death would be a massive understatement, and even more heartbreaking because the couple were just so close to a Happy Ending.
    • On Angel, there were years of Wesley pining for Fred. He saw her choose another man over him, banish him like the rest of the cast after his devastating Connor arc, and more recently struggle with possible feelings for yet another man. They FINALLY get together. For one episode. He then must watch her die, in his arms, pleading for her life. Then the thing that killed her takes over her body and spends the rest of the season looking like Fred. *sigh*
      • Only to act like her in situations to manipulate others. She does it well enough that as Wesley's dying, he asks her to lie to him with that illusion.
      • Even when she's blue, Illyria still looks remarkably like Fred and Wesley doesn't really try to hide how much that hurts him.
    • Earlier on Angel, Joss Yanked The Dog's Chain in the season two finale. Everyone survived, they rescued Fred, abolished slavery in Pylea, and made it back to Earth. Everything's happy... until they arrive back at the office, where Willow is waiting to give them the news that Buffy is dead. In the blink of an eye, a Happily Ever After ending became a Bittersweet Ending.
      • Angel loved these. There were teases that Angel would become human again (or close enough) throughout the series, starting in the very third episode with the Gem of Amara, and done quite cruelly in "I Will Remember You", the eighth (made all the worse by Angel rekindling his love with Buffy, only to have to give it up once again when he gives up his humanity). Of course, the ultimate one of these ends up being the Shanshu prophecy.
      • Things are finally looking up for Human!Darla—and then Drusilla comes back.
      • Season 3, full stop.
      • For people in the Angel/Cordelia camp, this was brutal. At the end of Season 3 the two decide to confess their feelings for each other, only for Cordelia to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and Angel to get dropped in the ocean by his own son. She comes back in Season 4 only to be possessed, shack up with his son, and then go into a coma. She returns again in Season 5, and just when it looks like the two of them will be together, she's Dead All Along.
    • In Dollhouse, Topher and Bennett get together with an adorable kissing scene. In the midst of all that horrible badness, at least these two somewhat insane geniuses get to find some love and happiness togethwait what's Whiskey doing with that gun oh god damn it Joss you evil sonovabitch.
      • Averted with Anthony and Priyanote . They do end up together.
    • Firefly has this for the whole crew, but River seems to get it the worst at times. You know you're dealing with this trope when the medical treatments that grant your addled mind some sense of stability and lucidity just drive you into further depression because you're smart enough to know that it's just going to get worse later on. Meantime, the best crew example is exemplified by saying they had to use every last credit they made off the Ariel heist to pay off Niska for a ransom to get back Mal and Wash...and Niska declares it's only enough for one to dig the knife in deeper.
  • On Land of the Lost, the Marshalls come close to returning to their own world several times, but never quite make it. Well, except for Rick at the start of Season 2.
  • The Last Man on Earth is one long comedic string of these moments for protagonist Phil Miller.
  • On Lost, Locke finally found purpose in the end of season 4, after spending the entire series in a constant battle with faith. Shortly after, He started traveling through time, which he could only stop by leaving the island, and dying. But when he does die, we don't feel much because the episode showing it happen has already revealed that the character comes back to life. What made it really cruel was that he never came back to life at all, and instead was just an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Married... with Children
    • In one episode Al thinks he's going to finally break the "Bundy Curse" when he runs an incredible winning streak with a poker night with a bunch of convicts Jefferson scared up for the occasion. The second he has hope that his good luck throughout the show is genuine (and not the prelude to a crashing fall) Officer Dan shows up and informs him that all of his newly-won cars were stolen, and he winds up even deeper in debt when Kelly's botched motorcycle stunt for a Verminator appearance wrecks Bud's fraternity house, and he gets struck by lightning by the single cloud in the sky on an otherwise perfectly clear night... which just happens to be over the Bundys' house. Through most of the episode, Al lampshades this- stating that the "Bundy Curse" insures that every bit of good luck will bring a greater amount of bad luck the moment that he admits that he had said streak of good luck. (The curse also means that he has to be a shoe salesman.) (And has foot odor.)
    • The two absolute worst ones that come to mind, are when Kelly goes through a Training from Hell montage to train her memory to remember things for her appearance on a sports trivia show, but for each thing she remembers one thing spills out. You just know SOMETHING will happen to make her lose a fact. When she asks how the final round works, it removes the factoid for "What man once scored four touchdowns in a single game at Polk High" (Al's crowning achievement in life).
  • M*A*S*H had several of these.
    • The first season has an episode where everyone comes to believe that there's been a ceasefire and the war is over. During their "farewell" party they learn the sad news: the war isn't over, and the wounded are arriving.
    • Another early episode has Trapper thinking he'll get to go home due to a stomach ulcer, and even getting a farewell party, before being told by HQ that he'll have to stay in Korea and be operated on there.
      • Trapper gets put through the wringer again in "Kim", deciding to adopt a seemingly-orphaned Korean boy with his wife back in the States, then having to rescue the kid after he wanders into a minefield...then having to watch as the kid's mother turns up and whisks him away.
    • The third-season finale has Henry Blake getting discharged and finally getting to go home. What happened next was a trope-naming moment.
    • In "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye races to an airport to try and say goodbye to Trapper, who was discharged while Hawkeye was away on leave and couldn't stay any longer. Naturally, despite his best efforts, Hawkeye misses him by minutes.
    • In a more humorous example, Klinger comes tantalizingly close to actually getting a Section 8 discharge in "None Like It Hot". He dons a fur coat and other warm-weather gear in the middle of a blistering Heat Wave, and Col. Potter is so impressed with his determination that he promises to approve a Section 8 if he can keep it up for 24 hours. When Klinger finally breaks down and gives up toward the end of the episode, a sincerely disappointed Potter notes that he only had an hour left to go.
    • In the show's final episode, B.J. receives discharge papers, though they are quickly rescinded. Col. Potter is informed of this, but doesn't say anything - hoping B.J. will be stateside before anyone finds out. Unfortunately, he only makes it as far as Guam before he's yanked back to the 4077th. (However, he does ultimately get to go home - along with everybody else - when the war ends shortly thereafter.)
      B.J.: I'm sitting there in this crummy officers club, and this guy comes up to me, and says, "You Hunnicutt the doctor?" Now, I didn't like the sound of that, so I said, "No, not me, pal, I'm Hunnicutt the chaplain." He says, "Well, chaplain, you'd better start praying for a miracle, because you're going back to Korea to do surgery."
  • Merlin. Oh my God, Merlin. He's reunited with his childhood friend who knows about and accepts his magical powers? He dies. He falls in love with a pretty Druid girl? She dies. At long last, he meets his father? He dies. Arthur begins to think that maybe, just maybe, Uther's wrong and magic isn't inherently evil? Merlin has to lie through his teeth and convince him otherwise in order to stop him from murdering his own father. Pretty much every time something significantly nice happens to Merlin, he gets the rug yanked out from under him.
  • Many episodes of Monk have the title character finally get something good in his tortured existence, only to have it snatched away by the end.
    • Particularly heartbreaking is "Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk", in which Monk's condition is getting better, but he ends up watching a woman who had been impersonating his late wife get shot dead, traumatizing him out of all his progress.
    • An example on another aspect of the show is the people for his reinstatement changing their minds just as the one against finally caves in Mr. Monk Goes Camping.
    • In one episode, he finally gets reinstated with the police department after taking advantage of an affirmative action loophole. In the end, he voluntarily leaves after realizing he's still not well enough to be a cop again.
  • In one Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Mike baits Pearl into playing a game of Three-Card Monty with the movie experiment at stake: if she wins she can send the guys two movies that week, but if he wins he gets to pick the movie. Mike wins, and chooses "the greatest drama ever written: Hamlet; Pearl keeps to her word, she chooses a German made-for-TV version of Hamlet that's almost lethally boring.
    • Earlier, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank wagered Joel and the Bots on the invention exchange: If they win, they get to watch Local Hero; if they lose, it's Monster a-Go Go. Of course, since Frank is the judge...
  • Nowhere Man:
    • In one episode, Tom Veil recuperates on a woman's farm and they fall in love. On the verge of abandoning his search to regain his old life, he gets another lead. He hesitates, then takes the lead. She leaves; he goes back on the road.
    • A Christmas episode, had Veil reunited with his family, learning that it was all a mistake and the authorities had been looking for him to testify against the people in the photo at the centre of his drama. It was all an elaborate plot, of course.
    • Happens for the last time in the third to last episode. Tom wakes up in a hospital and is told that everything he experienced was a dream and that he had been in a coma. He doesn't buy it this time and is immediately suspicious of everything especially his wife.
    • The series even lampshaded it with Veil meeting a man (Dean Stockwell) who has been on the run from the same conspiracy for 30 years. He tells Veil that no matter what "It's one step forward, three steps back" and that every time Veil thinks he's going to get close to winning, "they yank it back from you."
  • Once Upon a Time: After years of having endless misery inflicted on her by Regina and her mother Cora, including the murder of both her parents, her mother figure maid, being robbed of her rightful throne as well as the chance to raise her daughter, Snow White finally finds a window in which she can fight back against them by turning their own magic against them when she has none of her own to defend herself with, by cursing Cora's heart with a magical candle left behind from her childhood, and then tricking Regina into putting it back into her mother's body, killing her and preventing her from becoming the dark one and murdering the rest of her family. The next episode reveals that the powers-that-be branded her with a black spot on her heart for that act of defense.
    • Regina has a terrible past composing of an abusive mother, dead fiancée, unhappy Arranged Marriage, and Training from Hell. After being defeated in Season One, she spends the next three seasons slowly having a Heel–Face Turn, opening up to other people, and even entering a relationship with Robin Hood. Despite all her claims that "villains don't get happy endings", it looks like she'll be getting one...and then at the end of Season Three Robin's wife comes Back from the Dead.
    • Regina's chain gets yanked even harder in Season 4, when Marian says she'll stand aside so Regina and Robin can be together, right before Robin is forced to leave Storybrooke and thus Regina probably forever. And if that's not enough, later she and Emma learn that "Marian" was actually her sister Zelena/The Wicked Witch of the West the whole time and attempt to warn Robin, only to learn that Zelena is now pregnant with Robin's child. Robin is eventually murdered by Hades, worse the process destroys Robin's soul ensuring Regina will never see him again. She briefly tries to hook up with the Robin of an alternate timeline, but that fails because the two Robin's are too fundamentally different. By this point, she seems to realize she will never have a happy ending.
  • Happens all the time in Oz. The worst case is Beecher, of course. But every character has its moments. It's very painful.
    • Richie Hanlon gets killed just a few days after his death sentence is overturned. He had been coerced into confessing to a murder he didn't commit, and got iced by a friend of the victim, who wasn't aware that the confession was false.
  • This is the basis for many episodes of Peep Show — Mark Corrigan never catches a break. There are long-term chain-yankings like promising relationships that never quite happen (the one that eventually does quickly turns into an embarrassing, resentful nightmare for both parties) and episode-length ones, like when Mark's chance at his dream job is ruined by his best friend sweeping in what he thinks is a Big Damn Heroes moment to deliver a long speech about how he has a "wanking disease" (It Makes Sense in Context) to the prospective employer. Still, that's what happens when the Buttmonkey is the protagonist.
  • In the third season finale of Person of Interest, the trailer promises that Tonight, Someone Dies and shows Fusco captured by HR and about to be shot. Meanwhile, Reese bonds with Detective Carter, telling her she's the reason he didn't commit suicide, leaning in for a kiss and Relationship Upgrade. Fusco manages to escape his captors, Carter takes down HR, and she and Reese walk down the sidewalk together late at night after getting him out of jail. Looks like you can Never Trust a Trailer after all, right? Right...if all that didn't scream to you that Carter is about to get a good look at the inside of a 'fridge, courtesy the last remaining member of HR, so Reese can go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, then you clearly haven't spent enough time on this site.
  • Power Rangers RPM. As Dr K finally begins to warm up to the rangers, she makes a point at the start of one episode, of calling each ranger by name instead of codename as well as expressing the qualities she likes about them... except for Ziggy. Poor Ziggy spends the rest of his screen time of that episode trying to get her to admit that he's not a bad guy and can be useful to the team (as he proves at one point). Finally at the end, as she's giving everyone their debriefing, she walks up to him, smiling warmly at him, clearly about to finally acknowledge his contributions... and the alarm rings signaling another attack.
  • Any episode of The Prisoner (1967) where Number Six gets out (or appears to get out) of the Village (e.g. "Chimes of Big Ben" and "Many Happy Returns").
  • Rimmer, The Chew Toy of the Red Dwarf universe, is simply not allowed to be happy. On the rare occasions he's thrown a bone it usually gets stuck in his throat.
    • A particularly cruel example: in the episode "Timeslides", a bit of minor fiddling with time restores Rimmer to life. In his joy he starts running around, touching things, eating things — and slams both fists on two random crates, which then explode.
    • He gets wises up to this in 'Back to Earth' where when speaking to the writer of the show, he demands he be written a girl who he can fall in love with, marry and after the big night, NOT find out that she's his long lost sister.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: The utterly miserable second half of "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith". In the thirty-three years since she left the Doctor, she never found anyone, until now. Even the first half of the story is bittersweet, as it feels too good to be true if her track record is any indication of what's to come; you can tell they're star-crossed. This doesn't make the ending any less tragic.
  • Scorpion: Does this at least three times in each episode. For example, in the first part of the Season 2 finale They have to figure out a way to contain a potential nuclear outbreak. They send in a drone to gather data, and end up setting a timer (like usual) until they fix it. Then Sylvester and Paige get trapped inside, and once Sylvester get out Walter gets stuck in with Paige, etc.
    • And then in the second part, Toby is about to propose to Happy, only to get himself kidnapped. After he gets rescued, he proposes to her... only for her to tell him that she's already married. Granted, Collins did hint at it, but he was vague.
    • An example to the audience would be Walter and Paige. Everyone could tell, that they would get together, but every time the show would yank it away. Subverted in the Season 2 finale in which Walter realizes he loves her, and runs off after her.
  • On the show Sisters, second-oldest sister Teddy is FINALLY happy after years of turmoil that has included a struggle with alcoholism, miscarriage, her daughter's rape, her divorce, etc. Now, she's married to the love of her life, who's had similar problems of his own—alcoholism, divorce, death of his son—and they're preparing to buy a house. But as they head out to the closing, he's killed via Car Bomb (planted by a drug lord he was preparing to testify against (he was a cop)).
  • Sliders did a lot of chain-yanking of the heroes' attempts to find their original world, as the characters would arrive on a new world, decide it's home, and then split up, only to discover there's something different (and usually horrible) about it after all. One episode in particular yanked the audience's chain, as the heroes decide it's not their world because the gate at one character's house fails to squeak as expected. Just after they slide on to continue the search, it's revealed to viewers that somebody oiled the hinges, implying they really were home, but failed to recognize the fact.
  • Smallville
    • One episode had Clark finally tell Lana his secret and propose to her at the same time. That was the teaser! She accepts the proposal, Jonathan Kent wins the state senate seat, beating Lex Luthor and everything seems perfect up til the 30 minute mark when Lana is killed in a car accident caused by Lex trying to get Clark's secret out of her. Clark gets Jor-El to rewind time, ignoring his warning that the universe would find someone else to die if he saves Lana. Clark doesn't tell Lana his secret, but Jonathan still wins the senate seat only to die from a heart attack.
    • Season eight did this to Chloe all the time.
      • Finally rescued from the Hellhole Prison after locked in there for three months...Clark dies in her arms (he gets better, obviously).
      • Meeting this friendly, handsome paramedic...turns out to be the human form of Doomsday.
      • Getting married to Jimmy...only for Doomsday to crash the wedding, kidnap her to be possessed by Brainiac and maul Jimmy half to death. Oh, and she came this close to dying about three times.
      • Clark reveals his secret to the world and she is happy for him...then Doomsday killed her. Good thing the Reset Button was handy.
      • Jimmy is finally getting better and she is convinced it is going to be happily ever after...Jimmy divorces her and spirals into drug abuse at the end of the same episode.
      • Davis is split from Doomsday, Jimmy makes up with her...then Davis goes crazy jealous and kills Jimmy. Lois vanishes and Clark abandons her.
  • In Season 1 of Spartacus, Batiatus finally keeps his promise to find the title character's wife only to deliver her moments from death.
  • As a Trapped in Another World show, Star Trek: Voyager did this several times, with a potential way to return to the Alpha Quadrant failing at the last minute or turning out to be morally unacceptable.
    • The episode "Bliss" has the ship finding what looks like the perfect wormhole back to Earth. They start getting messages from Starfleet to report on how good it all looks to head for it. More messages come through with Janeway finding out her boyfriend (who had gotten engaged to another woman with her gone) is single again, Chakotay getting a pardon, Neelix made an ambassador and many in the crew offered dream jobs. It turns out the "wormhole" is really a massive alien creature using psychic manipulation to trick ships into entering it. A non-affected Seven of Nine and the Doctor manage to save the ship but the crew has to deal with all those messages from Earth part of the illusion.
    • A notable example had the ship finding a wormhole that was about the size of a basketball and traveled a fair distance back in time as well. While they didn't find a way to use it to get back home, they did manage to find a way to use it to send a message back home. Unfortunately, the Romulan scientist that had offered to deliver messages from Voyager at the appropriate time died before Voyager even got lost.
    • Beginning with season five, Voyager DID come across numerous opportunities that promised to shave a few years off their trip, and most of them actually succeed. In season five, They were pretty much able to cut their trip in half, and then they got another 3 year shave off in season 6, as well as being able to establish permanent, two-way contact with home.
  • Often happens in Supernatural too but everyone knew all too well that as soon as Dean decided he didn't want to go to Hell in "Dream a Little Dream of Me", his fate as Hell's eventual bitch was sealed.
    • Shooting Lucifer in "Abandon All Hope". For a few moments it looks like it worked and Ellen and Jo's sacrifice was worth it... And then he gets up. The expressions on Sam and Dean's faces because they thought they'd managed to win.
    • It has been generally accepted by the Supernatural fandom that if an episode looks to be giving them something they want, or something good happens to a character, or the preview shows a fun, humorous episode, they should be worried.
  • On Top Gear, after Jeremy Clarkson and James May had spent two seasons mocking the forthcoming Dacia Sandero, they finally see one in Romania. May seems somewhat smitten, so Clarkson buys one for him. Half an hour later, a lorry backs into it where May had left it parked, caving in one side.
  • Torchwood LOVES this trope.
    • After a season and a half of pining and one weird memory-changer-induced role reversal, Owen finally agrees to a date with Tosh. At the end of the episode, he dies.
    • And of course, once Jack and Ianto are really getting adorable, and we get to see some of Ianto's personal life... he dies, too.
    • A few episodes into Miracle Day Dr. Juarez decides to officially join up with Team Torchwood. It even looks like Rex might start to take their relationship a little more seriously... so at the end of the episode she gets shot. Twice. And burned alive. IN FRONT OF REX.
  • The Walking Dead gives a cruel and tragic example of this. After operating under the mindset that her sister is dead for the second half of Season 4 and for most of the episodes in the first half of Season 5, Maggie Greene is informed that the group has a lead on her sister to her shock and happiness in the mid-season finale of Season 5 "Coda," only to arrive at the hospital where she was held hostage, to see Daryl carrying her sister's dead body which causes her to hit the ground and begin mourning as a result.
    • Season Seven is a very long barrage of these happening to Rick's group, courtesy of Negan and his constant torture (both physical and psychological) in order to literally make them his bitches (and the man has the gall to constantly blame them for the misfortune he forces unto them, too!). By the mid-season finale, pretty much every episode ad showed Rick with a Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • The X-Files. Cripes, where do you even start with Agent Mulder?
    • He finds his sister — the reason he hopped on the X-files train in the first place — only to discover she's one of many adult clones.
    • He finds what he thinks is the REAL Samantha only to have his arch enemy scare her away from him.
    • And there's the entirety of Gethsemane, which officially thrusts him into woobie status. What he thinks is a real alien and thus absolute proof of extraterrestrial life — a.k.a., his entire life quest — gets stolen while a guy with insider knowledge explains how UFOs and the like have all been huge government hoaxes.
    • Oh yeah... that same deceitful government gave Scully cancer because of his quest for the truth.
  • The Twilight Zone
    • "Time Enough At Last": Just when it looks like Henry Bemis is going to get a happy ending with more books than he could ever read and absolutely nothing to stop him from reading, his glasses get broken, which means he won't be able to read any of them.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Throughout Tommy Dreamer's ECW run, he could never seem to beat Raven, or rather, Dreamer did seem capable of beating Raven at times but if he should come close to it, something would occur to turn the balance of power back to Raven, every single time...until Raven left to go back to WCW anyway. Then Dreamer finally got to beat him... only to be jumped by Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Bill Alfonso and Jerry Lawler.
  • February of 2002, Alexis Laree celebrated the opening of Ring of Honor, happy to finally be in range of a promotion where she could simply wrestle the best in the world without fear of most of the other on the job mishaps. Then she found Allison Danger of the Christopher Street Connection was madly in lust with her and didn't care that Laree did not feel the same way. Business as usual.
  • March of 2002, Carly has finally triumphed over his nemeses, La Artilleria Pesada, winning WWC's tag team titles from them with his brother, Eddie. A day later Thunder and Lightning have the belts back.
  • This trope can is the summary of Kofi Kingston's WWE career when it comes to the main event, starting with him not even being allowed to compete in the 2009 Elimination Chamber due to Edge attacking him before it took place.
  • After CM Punk finally rid the WWE of fan favorite wrestler Jeff Hardy in 2009, Jeff Hardy showed up one last time to celebrate with the actually it was CM Punk wearing Jeff Hardy's clothing and makeup.
  • In 2010, Allissa Flash beat Joey Spector for the River City Wrestling Title only for the decision to be reversed by Commissioner Jeromy Sage on the grounds the match had gone thirty seconds longer than the time limit.
  • In 2011, Daniel Bryan cashed his "money in the bank" briefcase in on Mark Henry only for Theodore Long to over rule the title change because Henry was in no condition to compete. This being despite the fact previous champions had won money in the bank from competitors in no shape to compete and Bryan would in fact later lose the WWE Championship this way.
  • In 2011 Rey Mysterio Jr. won the WWE Championship after winning a grueling tournament to win the belt, only for John Cena to come out fresh and take it from him. (As if Cena weren't hated enough already...)
  • In 2012, Mercedes Martinez beat Alexa Thatcher's record as the shortest ever WSU Champion when she regained the belt from Jessicka Havok only for Havok to invoke her rematch clause and give Martinez a demon drop on the same night. This also counts for Brittney Savage, who would have gone on to beat Jessicka Havok if Havok's Midwest Militia partner, Sassy Stephie, had not run out.
  • Ta'Darius Thomas sought out The House Of Truth when he decided to pursue a career in professional wrestling but soon discovered Truth Martini was evil and decided to distance himself from his company. 2013, eight years of toil in the sport and nearing stardom in ROH's top prospect tournament, only to be screwed in the final round by Truth Martini.
  • Kyle O'Reilly's eight month hunt of Adam Cole ends at Final Battle with him not only beating his hated rival but also, after seven years, finally capturing his first singles title belt in ROH, the World tile! Then before ROH he even has a chance to arrive at the first ROH show of 2017, New Japan Pro-Wrestling grants Adam Cole a rematch at Wrestle Kingdom 11, and Cole wins. O'Reilly doesn't even bother returning to ROH.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 takes this to an artform, with tremendously horrible things lurking behind every victory and any attempt to correct any aspect of the Crapsack World doomed to failure. The Imperium has caught onto this; one of its many Thoughts For The Day being "Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment". It helps when the literal god of Hope is also the god of Manipulation.
  • Paranoia reminds Friend Gamemaster to let the players score some temporary victories along the way to their inevitable hosing.
  • Ravenloft: The Dark Powers deliberately go out of their way to inflict this on those who have done unpleasant enough things to qualify as Darklords. As Lord Soth demonstrates, the way to get them to cut it out is simply to stop caring and/or undergo a Heel Realization and realize they reaped what they sowed. However, the kind of people who become darklords don't tend to be the kind of people who will ever learn their lesson. If they were they wouldn't have ended up as darklords in the first place. Even Soth's change was more of a justification for getting rid of him and never speaking of him again, because it was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. The new writers didn't have the rights to the character, so it Yank the Dog's Chain for the fans. "Yay, new Ravenloft books! Boo, Soth got Put on a Bus."
  • Kelemvor in Forgotten Realms began as a mercenary who wanted to be a hero but literally couldn't act altruistically without tripping a family curse and turning into a werepanther, which complicated his growing relationship with his teammate Midnight. Then he was killed by ex-teammate Cyric... and then he ascended to become god of the dead in place of the despotic and now-divine Cyric, promising justice to the inhabitants of his realm. He also resumed his romance with Midnight, who'd become the new Mystra. Set up to be a hero after all, and on an epic scale, right?... And then it was revealed that a god of death who tried to do the right thing was disrupting the Balance Between Good and Evil, and his switch to "neutrality" meant condemning another friend from his human life, handing over the Seraph of Death to Mask, breaking it off with Mystra (while Cyric literally drank their tears), and stuffing people back into the Wall of the Faithless.

  • In A Streetcar Named Desire, Mitch is Blanche's last chance for a normal life. Just when their relationship is going steady, Stanley intervenes, leading to Mitch denouncing Blanche.
  • The ending of Williams's The Glass Menagerie is set-up deliberately melodramatically: the gentleman who visits the socially inept Laura turns out to be her secret crush. He dotes on her, dances with her, and his accidental breaking the horn of Laura's glass unicorn can be construed symbolically: he shatters Laura's self-imagined stigma, so that she can re-join the world, just like a hornless unicorn can mingle with other horses. But when one expects this little encounter to develop into something more substantial, it turns out the bloke is engaged.
  • Normally, it's not the villain that is the most sympathetic character, but thanks to Values Dissonance, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is very depressing. Shylock believes that he will finally get his revenge thanks to the law, which he puts so much faith in, and it seems as if the doctor Balthasar (really Portia in disguise) is actually on his side, and that he will actually get to have his revenge for Antonio being so cruel to him. However, Portia was only pretending to be on his side, and then said that he could have flesh without blood. This is clearly ridiculous, for you can't have flesh without blood, but the kangaroo court accepts it. Then, Shylock's faith in the law really gets crushed when Portia brings out the Alien Edict against him. Then Shylock loses almost everything, including his religion. Then Portia asks him cruelly if he is content.

    Video Games 
  • Catherine: Vincent has spent the last week in agony over not only having to deal with the fact that his girlfriend, Katherine, is hinting at wanting to make things more serious between them, but also the fact that he ends up cheating on her with another girl and the problem that Katherine might also be pregnant. He's at the end of his wits, but has finally decided to make up his mind. He's intent to set everything straight, be honest with both girls and choose to stay with one. Then the 8th Day arrives and Katherine arrives for a talk when Catherine is suddenly in Vincent's apartment, too! The two get into a heated argument, with Catherine trying to kill Katherine, but ultimately ending up stabbed herself. But thank goodness that was only a dream! Unfortunately, Katherine arrives to talk with Vincent, who is still flustered from the dream and Katherine drops a huge bombshell. She knew that Vincent's been cheating and is breaking up with him. Despite Vincent's work over the last week and finally deciding what he wanted, things fall apart all around him. Fortunately, he still has a chance to earn his happy ending.
  • In one of the endings of Disgaea 3, Almaz loses everything when Mao's father declares him the overlord.
  • Eggman in Sonic the Hedgehog. Sure, he's an evil bastard, but he's tried so many times to establish his Eggman Empire, coming quite close more than a few times, when suddenly and quickly all his hard work is washed away. You start to feel sorry for the guy...
    • There was that time in Triple Trouble, in which Eggman finally gets all the Chaos Emeralds, only to have a machine blow and send the gems to the far corners of the Earth.
    • Then in Sonic Adventure 2, Eggie gets all the Chaos Emeralds inserted into the Eclipse Cannon, causing him to think he's invincible and can do whatever he pleases. No. His granddaddy's secret planet-destroying program is initiated when he inserts the last emerald.
    • Happens twice in Sonic Unleashed. Not only does Eggman beat Super Sonic and rid his Green Rocks of their invincibility-granting powers, but he manages to collect energy from Dark Gaia and finally builds his long-awaited Eggmanland. Unfortunately, his latest pet disobeys him (once again) and he ends up stranded in the desert with nothing but a back-sassing robot who maliciously reminds him of his constant failures.
    • Also Sonic Riders. His plan manages to work, he gets the good guys to hand over a treasure (which he's expecting to be better than an angel wing that could rule the world) and it turns out to be a very soft carpet. He then faints and the good guys say what it really is (which still isn't as good as what he was expecting.).
    • In Sonic Colors, Eggman's plan and execution are reasonably professional and almost free of buffoonery. Sonic and Tails show up to keep an eye on him even then he is poised to activate his latest and greatest evil device. It promptly explodes because his dim-witted minions forgot to clear robotic debris from the first boss that lodged into part of it after Sonic defeated it. And this is after Eggman gives us one of the best boss fights in the series...
    • In Sonic Forces, Eggy finally gets rid of Sonic and conquers the world! Not only that, he learned from his past mistakes and prepared in case the Resistance put up more of a fight than he expected. The only reason his plans failed was because of Infinite's carelessness. He decided Sonic was Not Worth Killing, meaning the Resistance kept their most powerful member. He let the Avatar go after killing their teammates, leading them to join the Resistance and team up with Sonic. And most importantly, he dropped a Phantom Ruby Prototype during his fight with Silver, which was then found by the Avatar and used to cancel the Colony Drop.
  • Persona 3 Hey, Shinjiro! It looks like things are looking up for you in Persona 3 Portable! Not only are you a Social Link character for a cute girl, but if she maxes out your link, you survive Taking the Bullet! Sure, you fall into a coma for the rest of the game, but you wake up for the ending... just in time for said girl to die either right before you get there or in your arms. But hey, you're still probably gonna die from those drugs you were taking, so at least you get to meet up in the afterlife, right? Ehh, sorry! She's become the Great Seal for Eternity, so meeting up with her in the afterlife is... unlikely.
  • Fatal Frame:
    • Oh, Kei. Near the end of III, he reassures Rei that "there might still be some hope", as he thinks he's found out a way to potentially end the Tattoo Curse for good. And then Reika kills him or sends him into a deep slumber. Either way, he's out of commission for the rest of the game.
    • IV spend a good while getting the player attached to Choushiro Kirishima and thinking he'll help Ruka stop Sakuya. While he does help Ruka, it turns out that he died 8 years prior to the events of the game.
  • In Portal 2, GLaDOS pulls several of these as a way to demonstrate just exactly how angry she is with Chell.
    • In a Call-Back to the first game, GLaDOS presents you with a Weighted Companion Cube in one of her test chambers. The instant you pick it up, she fizzles it. Then drops another, which she also fizzles after you start to solve the puzzle with it. Finally she lets you complete the test, only to mention offhandedly that the Emancipation Grill is malfunctioning and not to take anything with you. Sure enough, if you try to leave with the Companion Cube, she fizzles it yet again. Bad, bad GLaDOS.
    • At one point she offhandedly mentions having seen a deer outside. She offers, if you complete the next test, to let you ride an elevator all the way up... to the employee break room, where she'll tell you about the time she saw a deer again.
    • After continuously teasing you about being adopted (yet another Call-Back), GLaDOS promises a surprise in which you're going to "meet two people you haven't seen in a long, long time." Of course, it's a lie. Then later in that same test chamber, she promises to put them on the phone, but instead puts on a fake "prerecorded message" in which they claim not to love you. Yes, GLaDOS, we get the point. You don't like Chell. Thank you for being so discreet about it.
    • The last one is more noticeable for being subverted Hypocritical Heartwarming. Later in the game, she contradicts Wheatley when he tries to pull the same "adopted fatty" insults on Chell, creating an "awwwwwww" moment, but promptly yanks the rug out when she whispers to you, "For the record, you ARE adopted, And That's Terrible."
  • Clock Tower: The First Fear has the A Ending: you make it to the top of the clock tower, defeat the killer. Then, Ann or Laura (but never Lotte) will run out to Jennifer. Then Mary appears and throws Ann/Laura off the ledge after her son. Poor Jennifer. She'll also get it pretty bad in the D Ending: after running around terrified for hours, Jennifer finally finds Ms. Mary, and it told it'll all be fine. Then Mary stabs her. Girl can't catch a break.
  • Halo: Reach involves Noble Team moving from battle to battle to repel the Covenant and save the planet Reach, humanity's most important extra-solar colony and the last bastion of might between the Covenant and Earth. They score victory after victory, sometimes at great cost, and sometimes it seems like they will even win this thing. They cannot, and for every little victory they achieve the Covenant hits back twice as hard. Even Super Soldiers can only do so much...
  • Antichamber starts you off in a room with a door marked "exit" behind glass. You will actually get to the door several times during the game, but the first few times you are simply chided about being halfway there and things.
  • In Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf, Ralph the Wolf (the main protagonist), after who knows how long time of unsuccessfully trying to steal sheep from Sam the Sheepdog, suddenly gets sucked into a game show all about stealing sheep from Sam. He finally started being successful in this task, stole Sam's entire flock, became pretty much a television star, and after a long and tiring adventure that included even a space trip, he finally got himself his own sheep. Just when you think he finally won, it all turns out to be just a dream. The expression he has when he goes back to unsuccessfully trying to steal sheep from Sam says it all.
  • Jackie Ma from Sleeping Dogs is buried alive in one mission but is rescued and appears to have gone through the worst the game can throw at him. He has some serious reconsideration about his choice to be a gangster and it looks like he's going to go clean by the end of the game. The following mission sees him cut open like a fish, hung up in a back alley, and used as bait to bring Wei to "Big Smile" Lee.
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The whole human race has been destroyed, except for five people have been kept alive and tortured by AM, a psychotic, all-powerful computer for 109 years. Any offers for suicide, food, shutting him down, etc. will be torn away by AM if attempted, since AM does not want to lose his toys. It becomes a plot point later on. Ted was offered a chance to go to the surface world. If he succeeds, he will discover the Earth has been rendered an unlivable wasteland.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Counter-Demon Force, Tokyo's resident Kaiju Defense Force, suffer indignity after indignity with intermittent Hope Spots that are just as quickly taken away. First the Angels enter Earth from the Expanse, unleashing demons upon the physical realm. Fortunately, they get the National Defense Divinities, indigenous deities to help defend the country. The Angels promptly escalate to unleash nuclear warfare. They release the seals on the biggest Divinity, Masakado, to provide a massive shield for Tokyo. They succeed, but lose their most promising summoner and are buried under Masakado's body. They reach to the sleeping Masakado and drill their way out, and thanks to Year Outside, Hour Inside they get out after the radiation has died out. They begin fixing things and preparing a new land... only to face the returning Angels. After being forced back into Tokyo, the organization quickly fell apart, losing the ritual items for the Divinities to rising Yakuza warlord Mr. Tayama and reduced to two members slumming out in Shinjuku.
  • Mortal Kombat: Oh Scorpion. fate hasn't been good for you, hasn't it? From being told by the killer that someone killed your clan and family, being killed by said someone, unable to kill the killer after finding out you had been lied to, been killed - again, being given a chance to save your family and clan by the Elder Gods, only to be lied to again and so much more. At least Mortal Kombat X will be your saving grace, as you and your clan become guardians of earth
  • Every time Crowe Broust finally manages to pay off his current debt in the Super Robot Wars Z series, expect him to be saddled with another equally ludicrous amount of debt almost immediately. Always.
  • Deconstructed in Undertale. Knowing that one's work can get undone by a higher power without warning easily leads to apathy. After all, what's the point?
    No Mercy Sans: You can't understand how this feels. Knowing that one day, without any warning, it's all going to be reset. ...To be blunt... it makes it kinda hard to give it my all.
  • White Face of Imscared loves messing with the player. Whenever the player thinks the game has ended, the game opens up, or a new text files downloads to your computer...
  • In Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, one can always slip up and lose one's progress, Even if you're almost near the end.
  • In Hitman: Absolution, you can kill a random security guard seconds after he gets a call from his doctor informing him he doesn't have cancer. Since the guard is not a target, you would only do so if you feel like kicking the dog.
    • One of the targets in Hitman 2 is a race car driver whom you have to eliminate during her big race. You can help her win the race if you wish, and doing so will open up an opportunity to kill her during the award ceremony.
  • Thanks to the somewhat random nature of the AI Director in Left 4 Dead, it can certainly feel like your chain is getting yanked. You could have one or two dead players while the remaining survivors have next to no healing items thanks to the hordes and special infected (as well as the lack of coordination from your fellow players or just plain bad luck). The AI Director may take mercy by spawning pills or first aid kits in a side room, only for you to get ambushed by a special infected. If the AI Director is feeling very dickish, it can spawn a Witch or Tank right by the safe room, even after all the hell you went through just to get there.
  • In Fire Emblem Gaiden and its remake, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Alm and Celica finally reunite after seven years, and they're both excited and relieved to see each other again. Echoes even has Celica breaking into Tears of Joy and glomping Alm when she sees him. Then they get into a huge argument that causes them to split up again.

    Visual Novels 
  • Tends to happen in the Ace Attorney series, usually in the final trials.
    • In Case 1-4, Phoenix manages to prove Edgeworth innocent of murder... only for Edgeworth to confess to the murder of his father.
    • In Case 2-4, the police are working tirelessly to rescue Maya from Shelly de Killer. Mia manages to give Gumshoe some landmarks to look for, and they find the hide-out. De Killer has already escaped, taking Maya with him.
    • In Case 3-5, Maya ultimately escapes being murdered by the ghost of her insane cousin, only to learn that her mother was killed in the process.
    • In the fourth game, the flashback case to Phoenix's disbarment could count. He has to fly through the trial by the seat of his pants because he had no time to prepare, but he fortunately discovers a convenient piece of evidence that could just help get the trial postponed a day, so he could have time to investigate. The evidence was forged, and he loses his attorney's badge over it.
    • In the fifth game, it looks like all hope is lost for Solomon Starbuck being found innocent, until Detective Fulbright finds a previously-overlooked piece of evidence. Phoenix eagerly builds his case on this evidence, insisting that a fingerprint analysis be done because a third party who he'd been arguing was the real killer might have left their prints on it. The good news? He's right, the evidence does prove a third person was there. The bad news? The prints belong to Athena Cykes, your sidekick.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • Rika arrives in a Hinamizawa where all her friends have vague memories of past universes, and where Rika confides in them about how she's going to be killed. Due to the episode number that there was no way they could make this stretch the entire series. This didn't make it any less depressing when, after beating up several of the Yamainu and charging to take over a car, Keiichi gets shot in what would be the first of all their deaths.
    • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei takes this to a new level of dickery: Rika has successfully gotten to the bottom of the Hinamizawa Disaster, and stopped the Big Bad. As the fateful summer finally passes she has just enjoyed a peaceful day at the pool with her friends... And then she's run over by a truck. She awakens back in Hinamizawa. The "Groundhog Day" Loop is still in effect... And this time around, all the rules of the game have changed. For one, Keiichi isn't around anymore. But she gets better. It was either a dream, a flashback/hallucination to another Rika in another world, or she died and was brought back to the previous world (the one she died in).
  • In New Danganronpa V3, just as it seems as though Tenko and Himiko are slowly rebuilding their friendship into something healthier than before, Tenko tragically dies in a death trap originally intended for Himiko. Needless to say, Himiko does not take this well.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Any time it looks like Coach Z might be catching a break, something needs to get in his way.
    Coach Z: Hey, thanks for the advice, Homestar! I'd love to come to your house for Decemberween!
    Homestar: What? No, no-ho-ho! No, no, no. No, Coach Z, no. No. No, you can't.
  • SHED.MOV opens with Apple Bloom finally getting her cutie mark... and is stomped on by Discord five seconds later. Though in SWAG.MOV, which features Rainbow Dash going back in time, Apple Bloom gets away before Discord can step on her.
  • Happy Tree Friends does this a lot. Perhaps the most notable example: At the end of a multi-part episode about Flippy getting some much-needed therapy, a light bulb suddenly breaks, and he doesn't turn Ax-Crazy like he usually does when startled. It looks as though the therapy helped, and he walks happily out into the street, where he promptly is hit by a truck. And thanks to Negative Continuity, he reappears in later episodes as schizophrenic as ever.
  • In the backstory of RWBY, Salem is reunited with her dead lover when the God of Darkness takes pity on her, only for him to be vaporized twice when both of the Gods come to blows. Then she's cursed with immortality so that they could never be reunited in the afterlife.

    Web Comics 
  • Drowtales had a side story where Syphile met someone who respected her and tried to help her cope with and improve her life (albeit by drugging everyone), but you know it's going to end badly because nothing ever works for her. Ever. Though the story was unfinished it was indicated that the guy died at some point, possibly by her hand. And then later she throws her lot in with the Sharen and has the opportunity to start her life over with a significant amount of money, but Chrys'tel suggests that Syphile prove herself and assassinate her adopted mother Quain'tana instead. In the end the assassination attempt fails and Syphile dies.
    • This also happens to Ariel in the main story, where right after she gets acknowledged as Quain'tana's heir, which had been her only wish in life, her best friend Faen is forced to run away after she accidentally kills a teacher when her empathic powers go out of control. Any joy Ariel had over her new position is immediately quashed and she falls into a deep depression.
  • Subverted in PvP when couch loafer Robbie wins the lottery - and never loses the money. He even hires people to make sure he doesn't go broke.
  • Eerie Cuties: Ace is a nice guy, but if something can go wrong, he's usually the one it happens too. His only run of good fortune, was when he managed to hook up with Brooke. Which didn't last, due to Ace being manipulated by Melissa, and Tia's interference. Brooke finally had enough and broke up with him.
  • 8-Bit Theater. After years and years of nothing but being screwed by the universe itself over and over again, Black Mage finally gets what he always wanted: He becomes an unstoppable mage of mass destruction, slaughtering almost everybody he knows (including the girl he has a crush on) in merely seconds... Only to have Sarda come pop in and bring everybody back to life.
    • Done far, far earlier when he briefly became the overlord of hell, with all the power and cowering minions the title provides, only to be shoved back into his former body before he could destroy it.
  • At the end of the Kamikaze Kate arc in Misfile, Rumisiel has successfully exorcised a very scary ghost and saved (at least) one soul from damnation and proven himself a badass. Ash is ecstatic, this means he can get back to heaven and fix things. Except... heaven is full of Jerkassess (and Rumi is such a screw up) that just one deed like that isn't even going to close to evening the score, so nothing changes.
    • Later, Rumi gets the news that Heaven is willing to give him a hearing about letting him back into heaven. The catch? The next available hearing is in 73 years. Ash doesn't take it well.
  • Angus McLeod's World War I: Simple Version depicts 1917 as one of these for Germany.
    Germany: Oh brothers, with Russia off my back, I have a chance of winning this war!
    Newspaper Headline: United States Declares War On Germany.
  • Patchy got hit with this hard in one of the arcs of Life of Maid. After Patchy decides to get a new handheld, a Nintendo 3DS, she comes short of the money needed to buy it and decides to go to Remilia for money. But instead of simply giving her the money like in a previous arc, she puts Patchy to work around the mansion. After working her ass off, she finally gets her hands on it — but just two strips later, she leaves the 3DS unattended to use the little girl's room, only to have it get eaten by Yuyuko, who mistakes the chicken in the "Cooking Papa" game she was playing for the real deal.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: In Chapter 14, Reynir, the cast Little Stowaway and novice mage, manages to come up with a rune able to keep dangerous ghosts away from the tank once painted on the back despite not having slept the previous night. Just as everyone is having dinner and looking forward to finally having a little sleep, the leader of the ghosts sends Reynir and Lalli a telepathic message telling them that the rune won't protect them forever and the he intends to kill everyone around them. And that's after the very battle that caused everyone to have an all-nighter put quite the psychological toll on Lalli.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic gets plenty of yanking, but the cruelest might have to be near the start of Simon Sez. When he complains to Lupa that he always gives in to people wanting to do a review with him, she says she won't push it and leaves. He's overjoyed that someone finally listened to him and he now has a new lease on life, but it turns out that she was just trolling him.
  • In a slightly less sympathetic use of the trope, The Nostalgia Chick puts on some mood music when Todd in the Shadows finally agrees to sleep with her out of boredom. The "mood music" turns out to be "Reproduction" from Grease 2, and he runs off, much to her anger.
  • Mario Party TV:
    • In Grand Canal, where the Flutter Orbs come fast and furious, Steeler gets his hands on one... only to find out he can't use it while Toadette's Triple Shroom is still in effect. And it doesn't expire until after the last turn of the game.
    • In 3's Creepy Cavern, after a series of unfortunate events, Steeler gets a big break via Chance Time... but while he's celebrating, he accidently hits the TV, ending the game.
    • This also ended up happening in 1's Luigi's Engine Room near the end of a minigame during the last five turns. Steeler panics when the obstacle he is running from gets closer and hits the TV, ending the game.
    • During the 8-Player match on Bowser's Enchanted Inferno, after a star gets bought, it moves right in front of Team Mollusk... only for the team who just bought the star to land on a Happening Space that changes its location.
  • Meduka Meguca: This happens to Kyoko a lot, in respect to her (much awaited from her perspective) introduction. The most notable case is when they get to her real introduction scene in episode 4... only for the network to go down with technical difficulties.
  • In Rooster Teeth's Rage Quit videos, Michael Jones frequently points out an unfairly hard game's tendency to do this. For example, in the Mortal Kombat 9 video:
    Michael: "Let's see if 'M. Bison's me. For those of you who aren't familiar, the 'M. Bison' is when you win the first round, and do fairly well on the second round and it looks like you're going to win the game. Then the computer goes "NOPE!", gonna take that right the fuck away from you!"
  • Vaguely Recalling JoJo: When it seems that Boingo can take revenge on Oingo's defeat and make him proud, Broly, Steely Dan and his sous chef gang up on them.

    Western Animation 
  • Steve in American Dad! always gets this when it comes to trying to pursue relationships. The most brutal example is a Halloween episode, "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls", where he takes out his friend's sister for a trick or treating and both are forced to go on the run when he goes over the time limit to bring her home and Toshi tries to hunt them down and kill Steve (Yes he's that overprotective). Through the chase it seems the two are developing feelings for one another. But at the end, when they finally convince Toshi to back off. His sister's proclaims she has a boyfriend, a nine year old boyfriend.
  • Near the end of season 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Obstructive Bureaucrat who ran the Earth Kingdom's secret police has been arrested, the real leader has promised them support against the Fire Nation, Sokka's finally seeing his dad after two years, and his girlfriend's in town, Toph's mom wants to reconcile with her, Aang is going to train to master the Avatar state... But there's still two episodes left. And as soon as Sokka says "Everything's gonna be perfect, now and forever," you know something's gonna happen. Sure enough, before this episode is even out: the secret police are still loyal to the man they "arrested", Toph was tricked and captured by bounty hunters hired to drag her home and it's not Sokka's girlfriend that's in town, it's The Dragon in disguise, and the king, not knowing better, welcomes her with open arms. And in those next two episodes, things get worse.
  • In The Beatles cartoon "Money," John, Paul and George yank Ringo's chain by sewing their concert take in his pocket and then have him get chased by a mysterious stranger throughout Coney Island and losing the money. After the stranger is unmasked as George, John confesses that he sewed stage money in Ringo's pocket and kept the concert money. But it's John's chain who winds up getting yanked—he kept the stage money.
  • This always happens to Brandy in Brandy & Mr. Whiskers when she is about to make it home.
  • Done very cruelly in the final episode of Camp Lazlo, when Lumpus has finally gotten praise and respect, when a Diabolus ex Machina undoes it all, and to rub salt into the wound, it turns out he was a fake who locked up the real scoutmaster and gets dragged off to an asylum.
  • This is pretty much standard for the nerdy Butt-Monkey Tucker from Danny Phantom. He usually ends up getting the short end of the stick either through his numerous failures to pick up girls or constantly getting the most emotional/physical abuse due to his comic relief character setting. The best shown is "King Tuck" where he runs for school president in order to get some respect from others, including his friends. After Danny and Sam get An Aesop that they should listen to Tucker once in a while, they promptly, in seconds, ignore it and walk off when Tucker rambles about his interests. Worse, for no reason other then to play up his Butt-Monkey status, the writer gets two popular girls to chase after him with intent to do some bodily harm.
  • This happens to Dan in Dan Vs. frequently. For a few examples, Dan destroys an animal shelter in order to get some sleep, only to have a firing range built in it's place, his favorite show gets pre-emptied by baseball, and later basketball, and just when he thought he won the trip to an adult astronaut sleepaway camp after cheating on an obstacle course in a reality show, it turns out to be another reality show where he's trapped with coyotes.
  • The kids in Dungeons & Dragons spend every episode on the trail of some new possible way back to their own world. Not one of these leads ever works out, either because the route simply wouldn't work or because the kids are obliged to give up the chance in order to help others.
    • Averted (sorta) in the Missing Episode. The kids are outright told by the Dungeon Master that they've done what he brought them here to do and that they can go home now if they want, but we don't see whether or not they do.
  • Epically subverted in the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Fistfuls of Ed". After Edd being falsely accused of being a bully and subsequently ostracized by the entire school, and then beaten to a pulp by Jimmy. Things are looking up for Edd near the end, but then we smash suddenly in to a typical episode ending where the Kanker Sisters pop out of the woodwork to set in with their usual "treatment" of the already pathetically tired and beaten-down Double Dee. Eddy, who has as usual been the main source of conflict in the episode, watches in disgust before giving the Kanker Sisters the most singularly awesome chew-out they ever get in the series. As they slink away in terror, he breaks up the lingering awkwardness by giving everyone hotdogs. Double Dee even Lampshades this trope.
    Edd: I'm touched! That you would interrupt a cliché plot ending for my sake!
    • Eddy is always a victim of this when it comes to his scams, even though he does deserve it sometimes.
  • Happens repeatedly on The Fairly OddParents! to almost everyone. One instance is when Timmy had finally undone all of Norm's tricks, Trixie, who had been brainwashed to fall in love with several Timmy Turners, has finally showed up, deciding to give "the biggest, wettest kiss" to Timmy... only to have it wear off then.
  • Meg in Family Guy was made to exploit the trope 100%. Any form of happiness Meg finds will be quickly taken away from her. Examples:
    • The B-plot in the episode "Road to Rupert" has Peter and Meg bonding after Meg becomes Peter's chauffeur when Peter's license gets suspended. Peter, of course, goes back to his abusive ways after he gets his license back. Played so straight that Peter tells Meg that he's going back to tormenting her to keep up appearances in front of the family. Meg is actually okay with this after Peter splashes a glass of juice at her, as if this is the closest thing to love that she can ever expect out of these people.
    • In the episode "Peter's Daughter", Peter vows to treat Meg better if she wakes up from a coma, which she's in because he made her go into the kitchen to save his beer when the house flooded. Meg gets a sweet, affectionate, (over-)protective father, as well as a boyfriend, because she starts dating a med student who was there when she woke up. Then Peter accidentally ruins her relationship ... then she finds out she's pregnant ... But then Michael (her boyfriend) proposes to her, saying he loves her and wants to be there for her. Ignoring the fact that her dad was there with a rifle. So Meg's going to get married... except on the day of the wedding, she realizes she isn't pregnant, and isn't sure she can go through with it. Her mother tells her to do what she thinks is right, ("Thanks, Mom. I love you." "I, uh, you too.") and Meg tells Michael the truth when she gets to the altar, prompting him to run out of the church.
    • Meg gets her chain yanked again in ''Friends Without Benefits" where a boy she likes agrees to hang out with her, only to reveal afterwards that not only he is gay, but he is also in love with Meg's brother, Chris. Meg did not take this well.
    • In "Seahorse Seashell Party", she manages to chew out her family, but at the end she learned she should be the family's "lightning rod" (if she's not abused, they will try to kill each other).
  • Fry on Futurama, all the time.
    • In "A Fishful of Dollars", he gains several billion dollars from compound interest, and loses all his wealth to Mom.
    • In "Parasites Lost" He becomes super-intelligent, witty and charming due to intestinal worms, capable of playing a difficult to master instrument amazingly well, enough to seduce Leela. He throws it all away because he doesn't feel he's earned it.
    • In "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid", He saves the Earth from the Brain-Spawn, but no-one else remembers or cares (save Nibbler).
    • In "Time Keeps on Slippin'", when time starts skipping he manages to impress Leela enough for her to marry him. She attacks him at the altar, then quickly divorces him. Also when he finally discovers the thing he did to make Leela fall in love with him, it's immediately destroyed.
    • In the first series finale, "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", he manages to make a deal with the Robot Devil, and becomes a holophoner virtuoso... only to give it all up to save Leela, making his fame instantly evaporate. By the time of the first movie, Leela's ignoring him again.
  • Happens to Mina at the end of the Grojband episode "A Knight to Remember" as Trina chases her down after she becomes Trina's slave after they both regain their respective personalities.
  • The Invader Zim episode "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" has Dib finally achieve everything he wanted, including respect and acclaim, after being Touched by Vorlons, only for it all to be a fantasy created by Zim's Lotus-Eater Machine. To get back at him for throwing a muffin in his face, no less...
  • Same in Jumanji. Averted in the finale: Allen got his clue, solved it and got home legitimately with the kids.
    • The final episode played it straight at the same time. Allen's challenge was to remove the thorn from the paw of a lion he met the second he was first transported into the game.. Allen stunned, figures he could have left the game the second he came in all those years ago if he hadn't ran away.
  • KaBlam!
    • This often happens to Henry. In the episode "Won't Stick to Most Dental Work!", he gets tired of being the Butt-Monkey and quits the show. After the first sketch, he opens his own restaurant, and then quits after seeing how heartbroken June was.
    • Also in "You May Already Be A KaBlammer!", he's upset over the fact that no one finds him funny, so June tells him that she'll be his sidekick as long as he's hers.
    • And since he's famous for falling in love, only to be rejected, he gets his happy ending in episode 29, which was the so-called "last episode" (they ended up making a lot more, and some didn't get to air due to the cancellation), when a girl gives him a kiss: June.
  • Kaeloo
    • Happens to Stumpy the squirrel almost any time something good is going to happen in his life.
    • Happens to Mr. Cat in Episode 57. Kaeloo sets up a lottery where the winner gets cool prizes, and Mr. Cat and Quack Quack participate. Each time, Quack Quack wins. Mr. Cat believes that Kaeloo is playing favorites and even gives a Call-Back to another episode where she cheated. Kaeloo walks offscreen and slides a giant box containing a "surprise" for Mr. Cat towards him. He makes a short speech saying how he's finally gotten lucky for once in his life... and Kaeloo, angry at having been accused of cheating, jumps out of the box and beats him up.
    • In the episode "Let's Play Air Pockets", Kaeloo forces Stumpy to take a plane trip on a plane where she is an air hostess, despite the fact that he's afraid of heights. Stumpy tries to calm down, and finally realizes that he can calm down by playing video games. As soon as he calms down, Kaeloo confiscates his console since electronic gadgets aren't allowed on the plane.
    • In Episode 4, the main four go to a library. Stumpy spends the whole episode searching for comic books, and finally finds some of his favorite superhero, Mr. Coolskin. He decides to show it to his friends. To his disappointment, none of them have ever heard of the Mr. Coolskin series. Then, Bad Kaeloo, on a Book Burning rampage, grabs the comic books and sets them all on fire.
    • One episode has the main four find a Portal Door leading to a Bizarro Universe. Kaeloo, Stumpy and Quack Quack want to go to the other dimension to check it out. Mr. Cat stays home. Just as he becomes happy to have finally gotten some time alone, the Bizarro Universe!main four, who are even more annoying than the normal main four, come to the regular universe and start bothering Mr. Cat.
  • The main characters in 80s music cartoon Kidd Video. Particularly noteworthy example: As a reward for saving one of its citizens, a small village gives Whiz one free wish from the local Wish Genie. However, when about to make the wish, Whiz learns that the others are endangered, and he quickly wishes them to be "safe at home". The Genie, being a Rules Lawyer-ing Literal Genie, grants only the first half of the wish, reasoning that "being 'safe' and being 'at home' are two separate wishes."
  • Kim Possible's Ron Stoppable never seemed to come out on top in the first three seasons. At the most extreme levels of yankage he somehow managed to get all of his 99 million dollars he got from Bueno Nacho stolen by keeping it all in his pants, leaving him with nothing (though most can't figure out what happened with the continued royalties after that payment). Drakken also has his leash yanked a few times more than comfortable.
  • While the Looney Tunes TV short based on the reality series I Shouldn't Be Alive is mainly based on footage of the original Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner shorts, there is one notable scene of original animation at the end: Wile E. Coyote finally manages catch the Road Runner (simply by pouring birdseed and leaping onto him while he was eating), but he turns out to be so weak from not eating he couldn't even choke the Road Runner.
  • Phineas and Ferb
    • Dr. Doofenshmirtz finally finds a nice evil girlfriend. They hit it off, Falling-in-Love Montage and all — and then in the last five seconds of the episode, the love-destroying satellite he built earlier crashes and zaps her, causing her to storm away with a declaration of "I feel NOTHING!"
    • Then there's Candace. Once per Episode she'll have solid proof of her brothers' schemes (which actually shares fun and joy to the neighborhood more than it harms), only to find that it's vanished or destroyed when she shows her mother. Other times, any special moment with Jeremy will be interrupted by something (possibly just by Candace herself), and any attempt to impress him will backfire in a humiliating fashion.
      • Then again, Jeremy seems to be as mellow and kind to Candace when she's disheveled with branches in her hair as any other time. Candace fears being humiliated in front of him, but he's so much of a legitimately Nice Guy that it may be impossible. You could say Jeremy is the personification of Throw the Dog a Bone for Candace.
    • Happens at the end of "My Fair Goalie" to Football X-7 creator Professor Ross Efrop, who was forced into hiding when it was discovered his name was a palindrome, as the British at the time were very anti-palindrome. He is about to come back out when he's still shunned for his name being a palindrome.
    • Anytime when it looks like Isabella is going to a romantic moment with just Phineas, something happens to ruin that moment. Notable examples include "Summer Belongs to You" and "Canderemy".
      • She gets a combo yanked chain and thrown bone at the end of The Movie. When Major Monogram says that if the boys want Perry to stay with them, everyone must have their memories erased, Isabella takes the opportunity to plant a giant glomp kiss on Phineas before telling MM to start the memory eraser.
      • The "Act Your Age" special finally pulls the biggest one ever on her. Phineas actually starts falling for her in High School... right after she eventually gave up on him. They both finally manage to clear the air right before she leaves for college, but at least they made it
  • The Sad Cat cartoons directed by Ralph Bakshi are all about this trope. Every time it looks like Sad Cat is going to get a happy ending, he ends up in a worse situation than before. Luckily, when Bashki left Terrytoons, Sad Cat started getting happy endings.
  • Samurai Jack has made viewers come to expect him to fail when attempting either of his two stated goals: going back in time, and destroying Aku. In a strange combination, either he fails to go back in time because Honor Before Reason dictates that he never leaves those in danger to harm to go back in time, or Aku tricks him into a Macguffin Delivery Service. Aku himself is practically unkillable as well, despite Jack beating him to a paste several times.
    • There are basically only three different episodes of Samurai Jack: "Aku sends a new mercenary to stop Jack", "Jack frees innocents from the grip of Aku" and "Jack almost finds a portal but loses it to Aku who was disguised in an obvious costume." Once you've seen those, you've seen the whole series and you can walk away to stop getting your chain yanked. That said, the "filler" episodes like the one he goes "down the rabbit hole" and "learns to jump good" are a lot of fun, perhaps because in those he's not constrained to fail tragically.
      • Subverted in one episode, in which Jack appears to, yet again, suffer defeat when attempting to access an appropriate time portal, only for the episode to end showing an older Jack on the other side of the portal, and the implicit assertion by the portal's guardian that he will, eventually, pass through.
      • During their Training from Hell montage in Season 5, one of the Daughters of Aku (Ashi) sneaks away to marvel at the outside world. Her mother catches her and begins talking about how the beauty of the world was given to them by Aku and how that is what they are trying to defend... before she grabs Ashi by the throat, berates her for her lack of focus, and tosses her to a Giant Mook for "discipline".
    • The worst, though, comes from "XCVIII"; Jack and a trio of adorable sheep climb a mountain to find a working time portal. Jack gleefully jumps into the portal, only for Aku to drag him back out and destroy it, just before revealing that it was the last time portal left. To add insult to injury, Jack ends up killing the sheep in his rage after they are mutated by Aku, and loses his sword down the pit where the time portal used to be.
  • There have been a few times where Bill Dauterive from King of the Hill has started a relationship or found acceptance with an outside group, but every single time it happens, something comes up to ruin it for him.
    • The last relationship he gets involved in turns into a case of him yanking his own chain, since he begins dating Reverend Stroup and both seem infatuated with each other, but he rejects her after she steps down as pastor of Arlen Methodist just to be with him, since he preferred the Forbidden Fruit aspect of their affair. It's almost like the writers did this just so we wouldn't feel sorry for Bill anymore when he gripes about his loneliness, since from that point forward it's clear he brought it on himself by being a selfish asshole.
  • The Simpsons
    • Frank Grimes in "Homer's Enemy". Mr. Burns sees a documentary about how Grimes went through a hard life and had recently earned a diploma in nuclear physics. Impressed, he tells Mr. Smithers to find him so he can make him his executive vice president. By the time Smithers returns with Grimes, however, Burns had seen a heroic dog on TV and now wants to make him executive vice president.
      Smithers: In the meantime, here's Frank Grimes.
      (Burns does not recognize Grimes)
      Smithers: The, the self-made man?
      Burns: What? Oh, yes, that fellow. Mmmm, put him somewhere out of the way, and find that dog!
      Smithers: Yes sir.
    • Gil, the unlucky businessman of Springfield, in "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II". The Simpsons let him stay in their house for one night, but he brought all his stuff in and made it into an extended stay. He got on the entire family's nerves, but Marge found herself unable to kick him out because she could not say "no" to him. After an entire year, Gil finally moved to Scottsdale because he got a job as a real estate agent. Marge still had to say "no" to him, so the family went to Scottsdale to talk to him. There, they discovered Gil was actually successful at this job, as everyone acclaimed him. But when Marge finally confronted Gil and shouted at him because of his being so annoying, Gil's co-workers thought was a miserable man, so he was fired.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, it really looks like Peter is the only superhero around, though naturally he's outnumbered by supervillains. One can hope that the supervillains are all local. So when J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son and all-around decent guy gets superpowers and is willing to help, wouldn't it seem like the Big Apple finally gets another hero? No, because With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Looks like the best Spidey can hope for are supervillains who aren't quite evil and won't stay local, like Black Cat, Sandman, and Molten Man.
  • Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants. Sure he's an egomaniac and a jerk, but people kinda feel sorry for him after a while.
    • In "Bubble Stand" he briefly learns how to play the clarinet well after using SpongeBob's technique to blow a giant bubble... until his house gets sucked inside said giant bubble, and it loudly pops, apparently destroying his clarinet skills.
      • It's implied that his skills at the clarinet are tied to his sense of self worth. When he's feeling good about himself, he plays better. When he's aggravated or depressed, his skill plummets, which just makes it all the sadder seeing how down he is all the time.
    • In "Squilliam Returns" he briefly impresses Squilliam when SpongeBob disguises the Krusty Krab as a fancy restaurant... until SpongeBob goes crazy due to Squidward's earlier Exact Words on forgetting everything that isn't about fine dining, including his name, and destroys everything.
    • The biggest moment goes to Plankton in the episode "Plankton's Regular": the episode starts with a man that regularly eats in the Chum Bucket and refuses to even eat a single Krabby Patty. Because of Mr. Krabs being jealous of him, he and SpongeBob try everything to steal said customer from Plankton, to the point of trying to steal Plankton's recipe for chum. However, at the end of the episode, it's revealed that said customer was paid by Karen to eat in the Chum Bucket so Plankton would stop complaining about his lack of success, but he couldn't eat more chum anymore, regardless of the money (they already pumped his stomach many times). Plankton is left in tears while Krabs laugh at his misery. Note that, even having only one customer, Plankton immediately stopped trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula.
    • SpongeBob himself is often the victim of this trope as well, usually in episodes focused on trying to get his boating license. It seems that he finally is going to get it...but something random will always happen to prevent SpongeBob to pass the exam.
    • Plankton fits quite well here, but he kinda deserves it.
    • In the beginning of "Frankendoodle", a live-action artist at sea accidentally drops his only pencil into the ocean, and goes into a depression because now he can't draw. At the end, he gets his pencil back, begins to draw... and breaks the tip on the canvas, not having a pencil sharpener. The episode ends with his anguished screams.
  • After being tortured, mutilated, and reduced to a Brain in a Jar throughout the first three seasons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Baxter Stockman finally regains a whole, human body in the episode "Insane in the Membrane". Unfortunately, it's not long before Stockman's new body begins breaking down, and the doctor begins losing limbs. Worse still, he begins losing the one thing he'd managed to keep throughout his tribulations: his mind. It gets worse for him in "Good Genes, Part 1." Bishop effectively brings him Back from the Dead in a pseudo-body to continue their work. Stockman laments this development because he thought that he had finally found peace following his previous appearance.
  • The Xiaolin Showdown episode "Omitown" had Omi thinking he found his long-lost parents, only to learn at the end that they were fakes created by the show's Big Bad.
  • DuckTales (2017) has one of the most heartbreaking examples ever. After Magica De Spell is freed, Scrooge makes a deal with Lena, she helps him get his family back and she has a part in it. However Magica was listening and proceeds to trap Lena in her shadow. Later on, Lena is forced to sacrifice herself.
  • A rare comedic example exists in Season 2 of Voltron: Legendary Defender. Pidge and Lance find a store in the Space Mall selling Earth goods, and Pidge gets excited about seeing a video game she likes. She and Lance spend the episode scrounging up enough money to get the game, and once they take it back to the Castle of Lions... it turns out they can't even play it, since it's incompatible with Altean technology. Pidge gets a Twitchy Eye and lets out a Big "NO!" at the realization. Subverted later on, as she does get it to work a couple seasons later.