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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 an Olympus Mon. 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 "Trix are for Kids" (and 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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  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Toy Story 2: During the "When She Loved Me" sequence, Emily, now grown up, finds Jessie again after years of having forgotten about her, giving Jessie a little bit of happiness with Emily once more, but it's brought to a crushing halt when Emily thoughtlessly gives Jessie away.
  • In Turning Red, When Ming invades the 4*Town concert Mei attends, she busts Mei's opportunity to touch Robaire's hand.
  • The Willoughbys: After rescuing their parents from freezing to death on top of the Unclimbable Alp, the Willoughby children confessed their plans to get rid of them and started telling them to come home. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby walked towards Tim, Jane, and the Barnaby twins, thinking they saw the errors of their ways. That is until Mr. Willoughby pushed his children out of the way and took his wife to the blimp. When the couple got inside, Mr. Willoughby accidently popped the blimp and left their children stranded.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • Of all the things lampshaded in Last Action Hero, this is the only one the film takes seriously.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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. Thor Loveand Thunder shows that Sif is alive.
      • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Uncut Gems: Several times. Howard Ratner's entire life is a constant back-and-forth of getting a bit of luck and then immediately losing it.
    • He puts a long-shot bet on the Celtics which actually hits... and then later Arno meets up and reveals that he found out Howard was gambling with his money and cancelled the bet before the game, rendering Howard's victory pointless while also getting him in serious trouble.
    • Howard's prized opal was supposed to be worth $1M, but when it is actually appraised, it is placed in the low six-digit figures - still enough to pay off Howard's debts, but not the massive payday he was hoping for. Kevin Garnett, who believes that the opal is magic and improves his game and is willing to pay handsomely for it, is lured into a scheme where Howard gets his father-in-law to place Whammy Bids at auction to artificially inflate the price. The plan works for a bit, but then Howard's greed drives the price up to a point Garnett doesn't want to pay, and poor Gooey ends up paying an absurd amount of money for an opal he didn't want to begin with and he storms out of the auction house in a thunderous mood with Howard.
    • After this, it turns out Garnett still wants the opal and he comes to Howard's office with an offer for $160k, which is just enough money to pay off the debt he now owes Gooey and the one he owes the very irate mobsters who are currently in his shop asking for him. Instead of finally paying the mobsters off for good, he comes up with a crazy plan to lock the mobsters in the shop and get Julia to place another big bet on the Celtics, which incredibly works, leaving Howard with a cool $1.2M payout. The victory is short-lived because while Howard is obviously ecstatic and Arno is visibly relieved and even quite happy for him, Phil is thoroughly fed up of Howard's shit by now and opts for getting the money back by just looting the entire shop. The moment Howard lets him out, he storms over and shoots Howard in the face without hesitation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eerie Cuties: Zigzagged with Ace. He's a nice guy, but if anything can go wrong, he's usually the victim. 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, which caused Brooke to break up with him. But the Wolf Harts one-shot epilogue story reveals that they eventually got back together during their college years, as Friends with Benefits.
  • Joe vs. Elan School: Joe has escaped Elan during an outing with his parents, and made his way to New York. From there, he starts coming up with mental plans to lay low and eventually make his way back home. Except, against all odds — within two days of his running away from his parents and Peter — he's located and sent back.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vampire Girl: Levana spends much of her entire life as a vampire and was absolutely miserable because of it. After she manages to become a human, she is thoroughly happy with her newfound mortality, but it isn't too long after that when the Vampiress learns of his, has Levana captured, and then bites her and turns her back into a vampire to prepare her for a sacrifice.
  • 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.

    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 
  • Dark Simpsons:
    • After Bart escapes from Homer's abuse in the minisode "Return of the King", he calls for a big brother to be his Parental Substitute, only to learn that his new big brother is no one but Leon Kompowsky himself.
    • In the minisode "Bart Licks a Pickle", Bart creates a "sad" drawing after he licks Homer's pickle and gets raped by everybody in Springfield except his family. After Marge and Homer discover it, Bart is sent to New Bedlam Hospital to get some rest, only to get raped by Leon Kompowsky, who's living in the same room as Bart.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Tristan's tragic destiny

Astral's boyfriend, Tristan-- with whom she's finally able to have a proper conversation -- turns out to be a fairy like her, and deeply loved her in what seems like a happy ending... but then he's revealed to be a lost prince (presumably) destined to bring harm to Astral's homeland, and forced to leave Astral behind.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / SuddenDownerEnding

Media sources: