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Yank the Dog's Chain

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Poor Lululu never catches a break.

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 Genre Savvy 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 and must be turned down. 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 Trix 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, cruelly undoing the good turn that they've done the character and keeping the bone they've just thrown them just out of reach, which can make even the simplest 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 (where a character finds a glimmer of hope that proves to be short-lived), Diabolus ex Machina (where things go wrong for a character from the get-go) and Too Happy to Live (where a character or characters start out happy before everything goes to hell), 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 Cocoa Pebbles commercial has Fred take Barney to court for the latter's repeated attempts to steal the former's cereal. Barney says he loves Cocoa 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.

    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 Black Bolt 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 regularly 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 Watson, 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) 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 (Gillen) 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 Karolina 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.
  • Superboy-Prime: Double Subversion. At the end of Adventure Comics #5, where Superboy-Prime admits that he hates what he has become and just wants a happy ending. Laurie Lemmon enters the basement and comforts him, telling him that they are sorry for what they did to him and are going to leave him alone—"they" being previously mentioned as being the writers at DC Comics. As they embrace, a Black Lantern ring is shown on Laurie's hand that detects the hope within Prime's heart, implying she is really a Black Lantern and is manipulating him into feeling hope before she kills him. However, when Superboy-Prime is accidentally transported back to New Earth, a flashback shows him reconnecting with Laurie Lemmon and his parents, implying she is the real Laurie Lemmon and they are happy together. Sadly for Prime, he is separated from his loved ones again. He blames the Teen Titans and battles them. When he loses, they imprison him within the Source Wall.
  • Brightest Day sees Boston Brand brought back to life by the Life Entity, with instructions to learn to appreciate it. And he does, coming to enjoy both his life and those of others, and even falling in love with Hawk and Dove. Then he completes his real mission, raising Swamp Thing, and gets killed again. And the Life Entity refuses to resurrect him again, because he's completed what it needed him to do.

    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!
    • In one storyline, Linus is expressing his excitement over an upcoming total eclipse, telling everyone about it and warning them to not look directly at it when it occurs. Finally, the big day comes, and there's a torrential downpour.
    • In one notable storyline, Charlie Brown's baseball team actually wins a ballgame for once...only for the PTA to take away their victory due to a scandal involving Rerun and Snoopy betting a nickel on the game.
  • 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 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.
  • Lelouch of the Wings of Rebellion: When Euphemia temporarily lifts the ban on Japanese people visiting the local shrine so they can celebrate the Tanabata festival, she admits that Cornelia will probably reinstate the ban and end the festivities as soon as she gets wind of it. Sure enough, that's exactly what she does.
  • Sleeper Hit AU: Despite his Quirklessness, Izuku's exhaustive hard work pays off when he passes U.A.'s Entrance Exam and gets admitted to the top hero school in Japan. His new teacher Aizawa then promptly expels him on the very first day, fudging the results of his assessment test and falsely claiming that he performed the worst. He then casually outs him as Quirkless in front of the whole class, sneering about how he refuses to give him any 'special treatment'. To make matters worse, all of this happens in front of his childhood friend-turned bully, Bakugou — and the girl he saved from the zero-pointer? Calls him 'Deku', leaving him convinced that she knows its insulting connotations and making him much more cynical about the type of students U.A. is looking for.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • Cars: Radiator Springs is rejuvenated by Lightning and everyone is happy, and it looks like the icing on the cake is the customers that seem to be approaching. Except they aren't customers. They're the press, who've been alerted to Lightning's presence by Doc, and Lightning is promptly whisked away for the final race.
  • Daffy Duck's Quackbusters: After Daffy's greed and selfishness gets the entire fortune he inherited from J.P. Cubish repossessed from beyond the grave, Daffy loses his business and his apartment building in one fell swoop and has to return to being a salesman. He finally, finally earns an honest dollar through one of the toys that he sells to someone — only for Cubish to take that dollar away, with the implication that he'll be doing this to Daffy forever.
    Daffy: CUBISH!!!
  • Scrat at the end of Ice Age: The Meltdown, when he goes to Acorn's heaven but is revived just as he approaches a giant acorn.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Once Brazilian movie Carandiru reaches the massacre on the title penitentiary, one cop enters a cell and says "Think I'll let you live" to the prisoner inside... and returns one minute later saying "Changed my mind" before shooting him dead.
  • 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.
  • Played for Laughs in the Angels with Filthy Souls movies from Home Alone. In the first movie, Johnny goes "I'm gonna give you until the count of ten to get your ugly, no-good keister off my property before I pump your guts full of lead! One...two...ten!" In the second, he gives a count of three for his girlfriend to leave, and then goes "One...two... *fires* ...three!"
  • 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, where after finishing pretty well in the first movie, the protagonists are down on their luck (a failed marriage, an aprehended Ferrari, an accusation that Ben Gates' ancestor betrayed Abe Lincoln).
  • 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.
  • 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 (and the follow-ups only make things even worse).
  • 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.
  • 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. WandaVision keeps up the trend with Wanda briefly enjoying domestic bliss with Vision and twin sons before being forced to give them up when she realizes the cost of her fantasy on the innocent people of Westview.
    • 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.
  • In Lust for Gold, Walz has has Julia and Pete trapped on the ledge outside the mine and is slowly starving them to death. They are suffering from dehydration and Julia begs him for water. Walz taunts them by taking several long drinks from his canteen, before seeming to take pity on them and throwing them the canteen. However, as Pete and Julia are fighting over the canteen, Walz picks up his rifle and shoots a hole in the canteen, knocking it from their hands. A second shot knocks the canteen ober the edge of the cliff.
  • Wonder Woman (2017):
    • Diana for all her life has believed that the Amazons would just have to kill Ares and men would be free from his influence. She finds out the hard way that men don't need a god's influence to go to war.
    • She saves a village caught in the crossfire between the British and Germans; Charlie starts to sing again, as a result. Dr. Poison gasses the village as a demonstration.
  • At the end of The Godfather Part III, Michael has finally gotten out of the mob, his son has just made a triumphant debut as an opera singer, and now he can spend the rest of his life as a banker, secure in the knowledge that the Corleone name will be remembered for his son's music and his daughter's charity foundation rather than the criminal empire started by his father. Then an assassin sent by Michael's final batch of enemies from his mafia days tries to kill him and shoots his daughter by mistake.
  • At the start of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus has spent several years locked in an insane asylum for treatment over the psychotic break caused by his hatred of Clouseau. The therapy has been working, and he is within hours of being formally assessed as sane and being released. Then Clouseau decides to show up to testify on Dreyfus' behalf in front of the sanity commission. A mere five minutes in Clouseau's company causes Dreyfus to suffer a complete relapse and end up crazier than ever.

  • 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 Brontë'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; things will always get in the way of his relationship with Murphy), 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.
    • Happens again in Changes. Harry, having long since given up on finding a way to cure Susan, is taken aback when the Leanansidhe hits her with a spell that temporarily pacifies her Vampiric nature. Since the spell as-used was designed to render her unconscious briefly, it's no good in it's current form, but Harry thinks with enough time and effort he might could tweak it into a permanent solution, and for the first time in years he has hope that Susan may one day get to live a normal life again. Although the events of the plot demand his immediate attention, he resolves to look into it further once things calm down. He never gets the chance, because Susan dies during the book's climax.
    • 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.
  • It happens repeatedly to the protagonist of Master of the Five Magics: 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, but 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, which gets worse when an Ork WAAAGH! attacks the planet in full force (at least the leading rebel gets his revenge on the Iron Warrior that tormented him the most).
  • 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.

  • Heather Dale: "Changeling Child" tells about a childless woman who goes to the faeries to ask for a baby. After a long night's bargaining, she comes home with one, to great joy from her and her husband — only for them to find that their "son" will never grow beyond babyhood. Even in death, the mother still tends the changeling.

  • Wooden Overcoats runs on Failure Is the Only Option, with the workers at Funn Funerals never being allowed to triumph over their business rival, Eric, or achieve any lasting success of any kind. Most of the time, Rudyard brings it partially if not entirely on himself, all his zany schemes doomed to blow up in his face. The third season premiere gives him a particularly cruel Hope Spot, when the wealthiest, most influential woman in town wants to hire Funn Funerals... except she only does it to annoy Eric. When it doesn't work, she drops Rudyard and Funn Funerals like they're going out of style, forcing Rudyard to go home and tell his sister and assistant that they lost the client, and are back to having no business at all. What makes this so painful is that, for once, Rudyard actually didn't do anything wrong, but lost anyway, this time due to circumstances beyond his control.

  • The Magnus Archives has a doozy. In MAG 160, Jon has saved Martin from the Lonely, they've escaped to Daisy's safehouse in Scotland, and they seem to be genuinely happy for the first time in years...and then Jonah Magnus forces Jon to read a statement that brings all the Fears into the world, effectively causing the apocalypse.

    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 accurately summarizes 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. This was a big part of his 2019 push.
  • 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 in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Mark Henry, only for Theodore Long to overrule 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 wasn'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 title! Then before he even has a chance to arrive at the first ROH show of 2017, New Japan Pro-Wrestling grants Cole a rematch with O'Reilly at Wrestle Kingdom 11, and Cole defeats him and wins the title back. 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 Dogs 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.
  • In Jasper In Deadland, Jasper has to find his friend Agnes before his loses all his memories due to drinking water from the River Lethe. When they finally reunite, it seems like he's made it in time, until...
    Agnes: You came back for me! I knew you felt the same for me as I do for you, I knew you loved me!
    Jasper: I'm sorry, I don't love you.
    Agnes: What? — Jasper don't move the glass is cracking!
    Jasper: Jasper? Who's Jasper?
  • 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.

    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 3-2, resident Warm-Up Boss Winston Payne is about to finally win a trial on-screen, fair and square. Literally seconds before a guilty verdict is handed down, the defendant is needed for the case Phoenix is dealing with, putting the trial on hold.
    • 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.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: When the killer of the third case is caught and executed, Celeste is set up to be burned at the stake. But because it's the kind of dramatic death Celeste would have wanted, Monokuma has her run over by a fire truck instead, since car accidents are a much more mundane death.
    • Also involving the victim of the third case; Kiyotaka had completely shut down after witnessing Mondo, his first and Only Friend, be brutally executed for killing Chihiro in a fit of rage, as he blames himself for both of their deaths. He then discovers Alter Ego, an A.I. created by Chihiro, which tells him that he should live on for both Mondo and Chihiro's sakes. Just when it seems that Taka is going to get better, Celeste and Hifumi kill him.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, 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.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Rosa Ushiromiya gets the worst in the course of almost every game, she is among the first victims of games 1, 4, 5, and 6 and does not better in games 2 (where she is the last to die being devoured, along with her nine-years old daughter, Maria, by a whole army of humanoid goats dressed as butlers and then personally tortured by Beatrice in the Tea Party) and 3 (where her older sister Eva becomes a witch and subjects both Maria and her to a cycle of Resurrection/Death Loop) either.

    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.
    • There's also Penny, who gets brutally disassembled in Season 3. Season 7 reveals she's been rebuilt, making for a heartwarming reunion with Ruby and co. But in the next season, a software virus is put onto her. RWBY use the Staff of Creation to turn her human, ridding her of the virus. But the joy of that is short-lived, as she is soon mortally wounded by Cinder and forced to sacrifice herself to prevent the Maiden powers from falling into her hands.
  • 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.

    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.
    • Reynir gets a milder form of this later in the story. The reason he got himself stowed away in the first place during Adventure I was that he was trying to reach Bornholm island by hiding a food crate he assumed to be headed for his destination. In Adventure II, he follows the rest of the crew on a trip to Finland, which has a stopover in Bornholm. Or rather, an off-island trade and travel hub. Going on the island itself requires a two-week quarantine.

    Web Original 
  • Springhole
    • In "How To Write Dark Stories, Settings And Characters", Syera advises not to abuse this trope by repeatedly establishing a lighthearted moment in the story, only to crush it 5 minutes later, as the audience will get bored of it.
    • In "How To Evoke Audience Reaction & Keep Things Interesting Without Being Cheap Or Manipulative", Syera derides this as manipulative as well as depressing, particularly if a marginalized character is on the receiving end of it and finally dies, as it can imply that marginalized people don't deserve happy endings.

    Web Videos 
  • 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 accidentally 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 [Shao Kahn] "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.
  • Echo Rose: After being bullied, fired, and plagued the paranormal, Echo receives what looks to be a present from a fan... which is really an animal skull, and a note demanding she stop her investigation. She doesn't take it too well, having to end the video immediately due to how horrible she was feeling.
  • Dream:
    • "Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters GRAND FINALE": After getting chased by three hunters with iron armor and swords (the luckiest they've been, according to Dream,) having to fall off a mountain to buy himself some time, and having to go underwater and make himself a hole in which he almost drowned himself in, he finds a cave with some diamonds... only for Dream to have to make an iron pickaxe to actually get the diamonds. By the time the furnaces are done smelting the iron and having made himself the pickaxe, the hunters are right on his tail, and they notice the diamonds. They successfully prevent Dream from getting half the diamonds, and he's upset about this.
    • An even more extreme example occurs in "Minecraft Speedrunner vs 3 Hunters FINALE", where Dream has gone through a huge ordeal, exhausting his supplies and at incredibly low health when he finally takes out all 3 hunters in the End. He yells out in triumph, thinking that all he has to do is take out the less threatening Ender Dragon... only for Bad to sneak up behind him and hit him once and kill him.


Video Example(s):


Snow Day

When Bart moans that everybody's got a snow day except his school, Marge rebuffs this, saying adults don't get the day off...only for Homer to come in saying he doesn't have to go to work because of the snow.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / InstantlyProvenWrong

Media sources: