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Yank the Dog's Chain

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Chakotay: We finally make a connection with home and then it's ripped away from us; We manage to make another enemy who's going to try and hunt us down and destroy us; and on top of that—
Janeway: It's all right. You can say it. On top of all that, I got a Dear John letter.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Hunters"
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Hooray! The Butt-Monkey has finally had something go right for once in their unhappy life! And with twenty minutes to spare, we're sure to see their new joyful existence play out for the rest of the episode... right?

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

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

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

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

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


Examples:

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

    Anime and Manga 
  • Happens to Laios's party in Delicious in Dungeon regarding rescuing Falin. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears but Team Touden have finally got Falin back from the Red Dragon, yaaaay! Oh wait, she's been spirited away by the Lunatic Magician and is now trying to kill them. Also, she Came Back Wrong and Shuro intends to get all of them imprisoned (at best) for their unwitting part in it. Also, the Lunatic Magician, a far more dangerous enemy than the Red Dragon, is out for their blood. Ouch.
  • Happens in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, with poor, poor Jonathan Joestar. Since his youth, he'd had to deal with his evil adopted brother Dio Brando beating and humiliating him, kissing his girl, killing his dog, trying to poison his father and steal his inheritance. And then things take a turn for the worse when Dio murders his father as a Human Sacrifice to become a vampire, and goes on a killing spree and now Jonathan must stop him. So eventually, it seems like he's finally defeated Dio, he's married Erina, they're on their honeymoon... and then Dio comes back as a severed head and mortally wounds him, setting the ship on fire and forcing Jonathan to sacrifice himself to stop Dio once and for all. He never even lived to see his and Erina's child be born.
    • And it becomes a double whammy as of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, when it's revealed that Dio didn't actually die, but rather stole Jonathan's body to become even more powerful, meaning that Jonathan's death only stopped Dio temporarily and later unleashed a greater evil onto the world.
  • Trigun: This happens to Vash the Stampede all the bloody time. The cause of this can easily be traced back to the Big Bad constantly holding onto the chain. Hard.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • Shinji... poor, poor Shinji. The universe seems to have it out for this poor kid, such that anytime that things begin to look up for him or he tries to do something heroic or badass, 0something will inevitably happen to smack him right back down and send him into another Heroic BSoD or worse. Specific example: That kind, charming young boy without any debilitating emotional trauma who actually cares for you? He's actually an Angel, and you have to kill him. Sorry. As well as mid-series, where he begins to get some confidence, it seems that he has some chance to reconcile with his dad, and he feels in general a bit more like the hero of a more optimistic giant robot series — needless to say, it doesn't last.
    • Asuka wakes up from a Convenient Coma in the movie and goes into combat within 5 minutes of getting out. She wipes out a whole army, so they send in these 9 Harpies. She only has 3 and a half minutes of battery power and a progressive knife against a nearly impossible to break AT Field, They have no pilots (so they can't be incapacitated as easily) and a copy of the best weapon in the series. Asuka wins before she runs out of time. But the result is really awful. She gets speared through the eye, her guts ripped open, and eaten alive while the poor girl is desperately trying to fight back. Then, it looks like it's going to get better as she is still alive despite having endured all of this. She reaches for the berserker mode button to reactivate the Eva and go back to kicking ass... but then they slice off her arm and impale her repeatedly until she dies. And poor Shinji just has to come across the results, and it is anything but pretty.
  • Code Geass did this close to the end of the first season: Euphemia manages to talk Lelouch out of his plan to start a revolt by making it look like she killed him, and for a few seconds it looks like there's going to be peace... only for Lelouch to lose control of his Geass at the worst possible moment and accidentally order Euphemia to start massacring Japanese people. Which she does. Oops.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia
  • Light Yagami of Death Note. Several different times, each involving some Death Note Gambit Roulette. Though frankly, his chain can't get yanked hard enough.
  • Deadman Wonderland: In volume 6, during a Breather Chapter, the Deadmen are finally allowed to go outside into the fresh air after being kept underground for most of the series, everyone is partying. Ganta has a moment where Shiro asks him if he's having fun, he mulls on the friends he's made in DW, mentally comparing them to his massacred classmates, and for the first time appears to be at peace. in the very next chapter he nearly kills the other Deadmen when he unintentionally activates his Ganbare Ganta Gun trying to save a forgery, and is loathed by those same friends and even beaten
  • Gantz, so Kurono has been freed from the Gantz Room, grown into a heroic, admirable person, and his girlfriend, the woman he loves, has been brought back to life. Sounds nice right? Except Gantz took both their memories so they no longer remember one another, Kurono is back to how he was pre-Gantz, a cowardly Jerkass, and vampires have sent a kill team after him, and while his memories leak back and he manages to hold his own for at least a little while, they succeed in murdering him, but not before showing him his younger brother's severed head first.
  • Monster. If it ever looks like things will be clearing up for any bleak-lifed supporting character in this series, you know something horribly wrong is about to happen to them, usually at the hands of Johan.
    • The worst is probably Richard Braun. If you didn't hate Johan by that point, you probably did right after that.
    • Even poor Roberto, Johan's worshipper and probably the character we least sympathize with, is snubbed at the end of the series on his deathbed when Johan denies him the right to see the Scenery for a Doomsday that he's so looked forward to.
  • In Ode to Kirihito, Kirihito and Reira finally appear to be on way to Japan having escaped numerous gut-wrenching hardships along the way. There's even another Japanese guy on the plane, who promptly decides that the bandages Kirihito wears are to hide the fact that he's an Israeli spy, and he calls Arab fundamentalists to sell Kirihito off. Except he isn't. The Arabs decide to kill everyone there for wasting their time, and they're only "saved" because another extremist group starts attacking the first one. "Saved", as in, now they get to wander around a desert in the middle of nowhere meeting, among other things, a baby that's starving to death.
  • In Chapter 16 of Uzumaki, rescue ships arrive to rescue the protagonists. Guess what happens next.
  • In the Flash Back episode 24 of xxxHOLiC, then twelve-year-old Watanuki makes a friend who can also see spirits. Of course, we know that in the pilot he was friendless and ghost-besieged for most of his teen years, so his happiness becomes heartbreaking since we know it can't end well. The friend is ultimately lost to paranormal circumstances in something of a Heroic Sacrifice. It's ultimately a Happy Ending because it finishes with his birthday being attended by his four new friends in the cherry grove he met his young friend.
    • Unfortunately, this appears to be a constantly recurring pattern in poor Watanuki's life. After he's finally learned the value of self-preservation because there are people who care about him, Watanuki has a series of world-shaking revelations that prove he's probably not supposed to exist. And THEN, when it seems like he's coming to terms with who he is, and life at the shop is returning to normal with having to deal with customers and such, his world shatters to pieces when he learns that Yuuko, the very person who caused his life to change for the better, is dying and there's nothing he can do about it.
  • Bleach loves doing this, especially to poor Orihime. Want to fight? Cue dramatic determination followed by the destruction of your attack abilities! Want to get some training? Not a chance, without your attack powers, you're useless! You've trained anyways, so now you want to help fight? Sorry, but if you don't surrender and defect to the enemy, your friends will all die horrible deaths! But look, Ichigo's beaten Grimmjow and now all of you can go back... NOT! Guess what? You were kidnapped solely to lure your friends and allies into coming to rescue you so that your home would be left unprotected! And look who's there with his laser-blasting finger pressed against your chest while he scoffs over your speech about your heart! Oh, hey, seems like you've been rescued again... or the two lurking behind you could be readying for an attack. But look, Ishida joins the fray, and you two are going up to help Ichigo, who you just so happen to be in love with. Well, what do you know? Ulquiorra was waiting for you to show up so that he could blast a hole in his chest! And Ishida? He lost a hand. Wait, Ichigo's back... as a nearly mindless Hollow with the only goal being to protect you. Plus he just stabbed Ishida because he interfered in mutilating Ulquiorra's corpse, which made him view him as an obstacle in protecting you.
    • And we mustn't forget that poor Ishida is as much of a Butt-Monkey as Orihime is. Hey, you're a Quincy, which is cool, right? Nope! Because Shinigami killed off most of your clan, including your grandpa! Oh man, you have to fight that scientist dude, so you pull your ultimate technique which makes you lose all your powers! But don't worry, daddy is here to help, except that he has to shoot you nineteen millimeters from your heart. One of your closest friends is kidnapped? Follow the hero blindly into a place you have absolutely no knowledge about! GASP! Another Mad Scientist has shown up, and you're about to die! Look out, some weirdo creature is attacking Orihime! You try to save her, except your arm gets cut off! So yeah, poor Ishida doesn't have it that easy either.
    • Poor Chad also receives this during the Hueco Mundo Arc, as he managed to win a fight against a named opponent by effectively showcasing his new powers. Chad has enough resolve to feel that he will be successful in Hueco Mundo... until Nnoitra showed up. That scene is another strong example that Chad is a Main Event jobber namely on how he can handle nameless Mooks and secondary named opponents but anytime he comes up against a remotely prominent opponent, well... let's just say he was on the floor for quite a while after that scene. In fact the GameFAQs Adult Swim Anime board once summed up the scene like this.
    Chad: Now that I have won this fight I shall no longer be a jobber!
    Nnoitra: LOL, no.
    • Momo Hinamori. Oh, so you want to forever serve the man you practically are in love with? How nice... except oh no, he's suddenly dead and you've just found his corpse maimed and pinned to a wall! And after you try to attack the captain you're utterly convinced that did it, you get arrested! But wait, they found a letter from Aizen, revealing the killer's true identity... too bad that happens to be your childhood best friend, Toshiro Hitsugaya! So wracked with grief, you break out of your cell and try to kill him, only to be knocked out soon after; when you do wake up, you follow him around, go to a part of the Soul Society inaccessible to even captain-level shinigami where you find the person you originally tried to kill, but what's this? He says there's someone who wants to meet you! And standing right behind you is your captain, perfectly alive. You immediately hug him and start to cry, because you're so happy he's alive and well and— wait a minute, did he just stab you? Hahahah, guess what, you've just been betrayed and the man you idolized was all just a lie. Have fun being stuck in a coma for the next 40 or so chapters and remaining in extremely heavy denial when you wake up! When all of that's done, you remain out of the picture for a while until chapter 334, where, hooray, you've made a spectacular comeback saving Matsumoto, hopefully over the trauma of the whole Aizen ordeal! Erm, not quite: you still refer to him as "Captain Aizen," but hey, you're gonna kick some ass and show every actions speak louder than words, right? Well, not really... despite fending off three Fraccion, you get owned by some freaky chimaera thing and guess what, no redeeming moment for you! But lucky you, it gets even better! Cue about 60 chapters later and you make a return... except, once again, you've been stabbed again, by — get ready for this — your best friend, Hitsugaya. Have fun getting over that one! Oh, and did we mention you're one of the most hated characters in the Western fandom, for all of that happening to you? Yeah, it's really fun to be you, isn't it?
  • In Ranma ½, the Jusenkyo-cursed individuals frequently have cures dangled in front of them (especially frequently in some of the anime's filler episodes). For example, one episode has Ryoga and Shampoo using a special "waterproof soap" that turns out to work only temporarily. And then there are the countless times it seems like someone could get a trip to the springs, but then it turns out to be fake, or in one case Ryôga gets it and doesn't know how to get there. The most downright cruel example, though, occurs at the end of the series, when Soun Tendo has secured the last remaining cask of water from "Spring of Drowned Man" as a wedding gift for Ranma. Well, we say "secured", we mean "stole the gift that the Jusenkyo Guide sent as a thank you to Ranma for saving his daughter, with the intention of blackmailing Ranma and possibly Akane into going along with the wedding". Happosai, mistaking it for booze, drinks it before any of the several people after it can actually use it.
    • The anime has one of these that almost might approach the end of the manga in cruelty. The Jusenkyo Guide comes to Japan because this is a special day, a day in which a certain body of water can be connected to Jusenkyo's base water, allowing it to be turned into an extension of whichever spring is desired. The lucky body of water is none other than the Tendo's koi pond, which means that every cursed person in Nerima can get cured — even Shampoo, as once the ritual is complete the Guide can freely change the pond from Spring of Drowned Guy to Spring of Drowned Girl or whatever is desired. The episode leads up to the climax of the ceremony, everyone is literally a few seconds away from being cured... and what happens? Ryoga trips and breaks the rope, canceling the spell before anyone can get cured — and what's more this ritual can't be repeated for another thousand years. And then the Jusenkyo Guide wanders back home before anyone can think of tagging along, or asking him to send them back some Nanniichuan.
  • Tsunade, from Naruto, almost always loses when she makes a bet, but when she wins, she takes it as a sign that something bad is going to happen. She gets on a winning streak while gambling shortly before she sees Orochimaru again, wins the lottery around the time Gaara is kidnapped, and after Jiraiya suggests that she bet all she has that he won't make it back, on the assumption that she wouldn't win, he gets killed by Pain.
  • Pokémon.
    • Raise your hand if you were rooting for James to beat Ash in the Hoenn Pokeringer competition. Poor guy got it yanked by a totally unforeseeable 11th-Hour Superpower, too.
    • In a dance party for Performers, Serena naturally wants Ash to be her escort, but has to settle with Clemont since Serena's Shrinking Violet Eevee is close to Clemont's Bunnelby. Things only get worse for Serena when Miette also shows up for the party, and asks Ash to be her escort (a ploy to get Serena jealous). During the event itself it becomes a rotation dance halfway through, so Performers switch dance partners. After several partner switches, Serena realizes Ash is up next for her, but just before they can actually dance together, the music is cut off, signalling the end of the dance number. Poor Serena's reactions are a sight to behold...
  • Joey/Jou from Yu-Gi-Oh! makes a sudden comeback against Yami Malik in their Dark Duel in the Battle City Finals when he pulls out Gilford the Lightning and has him on the ropes. Yami Malik manages to hold out once again, but apparently has nothing else up his sleeve, with nothing left on the field or his hand, so our hero is in the clear, finally about to be the hero for once and save the damsel, Mai, from her fate, right? Things seem to be looking that way, as the following turn, Yami Malik draws Monster Reborn, with nothing powerful on its own in his grave to stand up to Gilford, including Ra at this point, since that would require a tribute summon to get any ATK points. So he's basically reviving a giant flaming chicken with no attack points, except that it turns out that it has an 11th-Hour Superpower that destroys Gilford and, in this very situation, shocks the controller of said monster into death, and... Oh, Crap!. Sure enough, things go as predicted, except that as the smoke clears, our hero is Not Quite Dead, and is good to make another move, with Yami Malik's Ra leaving the field. All he needs is a monster with enough attack to finish Yami Malik off, and he draws Gearfried, summons it, and is just about to declare an attack until... he collapses and as such is disqualified.
  • For another Yu-Gi-Oh! example (this one from season zero), Jonouchi enters a game show to win a million yen so he can pay off his father's debts. In traditional Yu-Gi-Oh! style, the host of the game show is a Cheating Bastard, and rigs the game so Jonouchi can't possibly win. Yugi helps out by Mind Raping the host, allowing Jonouchi to win the money. Of course, the check ends up being no good anyways- because Yugi's mind spell also resulted in the show being cancelled and losing all its budget..
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a particularly Mood Whiplashy example: right after the Time Skip, we learn that Simon proposed to Nia, and we see her accept via phone. Right after we see this, her Anti-Spiral nature takes over and forces her into a Face–Heel Turn. Ouch.
    • Then the Anti-Spirals attack, threatening to eliminate the human race, and none other than Rossiu, Simon's Number Two in the new government goes all Well-Intentioned Extremist and uses Simon as a scapegoat since ultimately Simon defeating Lordgenome is what caused the Anti-Spiral attacks), having him thrown in jail to be executed.
    • The Anti-Spirals refer to this trope as "Ultimate Despair," and their goal is to do this to all Spiral Races. It doesn't quite work.
    • What comes across as the ultimate example of Yanking the Dog's Chain is Nia dying the exact second she and Simon were married, especially since it's a series already rife with people dying left and right. And not only that, Simon, the man who broke reality just to save her, stands there and calmly accepts her death as saying the dead should stay dead. What.
    • To be fair, this last trope is another aversion. Nia's dying was, by this point, ensured to everyone, since she was an Anti-Spiral sleeper agent from birth, and her existence was connected to the villains. The marriage is Simon carrying his promise and making her happy at her final hour. After all said and done (mostly after literally "all done"), they were both content.
  • Almost the simplest one of the anime examples, Hayate the Combat Butler's title character, meets up with the girl that he's (apparently) loved for the last ten years. You save her from the honored spirit inhabiting her body. She tells you she loves you too. Things are going to be happy now. No. She leaves you as you tell her you have to return to your master and you're left with the impression that you won't see her again.
    • Then again, she only told him to do it because he was torn between the two choices presented, and she knew that he'll come to blame himself for whatever happens after that since it would have been his choice. That's why she made that choice for him, in a rather sad example of I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
  • Kaiji plays this brutally with Sahara's death. After making his way across the bridge of death, he finally prepares to open the door to cash in on the price money... Only to be blown off the building by the air compression blast from the window towards a certain death. The anime itself is ripe with these moments, but this one moment has to be the worst.
  • Upon managing to gather up all the spell fragments, Those Who Hunt Elves will ALWAYS blow it at the absolute final moment, usually due to Junpei and Celia's bickering.
  • Cowboy Bebop has an infamous one that is just brutal. With a few teasing hints of her past, Faye suddenly remembers who she is, and where she came from. She apologizes to Spike before she goes, showing she's starting to revert to a more softer side. She's coming home, mirroring herself when she was a little girl and a teenager. She then opens the gates in her flashbacks, but in reality the entire mansion was burnt down to the foundation. So Faye draws lines in the sand of where her furniture was and looks up at the sky and reflects.
  • In Corsair, Canale eventually feels like he has a place in Preveza and thinks that Ayace might actually love him and that they can be happy together, and he manages to confront some of his issues from his past. However soon as Ayace suspects he is going back to Sesaam, he becomes enraged and rapes Canale, making him feel utterly betrayed.
  • Billy Bat gives us Lee Harvey Oswald who, because of his I Just Want to Be Special nature, gets yanked around by both the Bat and a Government Conspiracy to the point where he doesn't have any idea what the right thing to do is. By the end of his arc, it looks like he's done the right thing by trying to live a humble life and allowing Kevin Yamagata to give his life saving President Kennedy. But wait! Kevin isn't dead, and it turns out the Bat never wanted him to save Kennedy in the first place. JFK is shot, as history demands, the police are rushing into the building, and Oswald is with a girl who saw members of the previously mentioned conspiracy setting up for the assassination. In a Bittersweet Ending, the only way to save the girl from being eliminated is to let the police find him and take the fall for the assassination while she makes her escape.
  • The second half of Tiger & Bunny starts with things finally looking up for Kotetsu: he's going up in the rankings, his partner actually likes and respects him now, his boss isn't treating him like he's completely expendable, the Sternbild population no longer considers him a joke, and he seems to have acquired an unexpected but very welcome boost in his NEXT abilities. Then comes the fifteenth episode, where Ben meets up with him and regretfully informs Kotetsu that the "power boost" he experienced in the previous episode is a phenomenon that occurs in a very small number of NEXT — just before they start losing their powers.
  • In GE - Good Ending, it happens to Utsumi, the main protagonist, more often than he really deserves. Poor guy just can't get a break.
  • In Bakuman。, this happens to the heroes on a few occasions concerning their goal of getting an anime. They manage to tie with their rival Eiji's manga at the height of their first manga's popularity, but Mashiro is hospitalized for overworking, and their manga is ultimately canceled. Their third manga manages to meet the editor in chief's standards, but parental concerns prevent it from getting an anime.
  • In Saint Beast, whether the protagonists will ever succeed is up for debate, but up to this point every time they get a Hope Spot things just keep getting worse.
  • In High School DXD, the protagonist Issei, who wants a harem but doesn't know that he already has one near him, wants to confess to Rias but can't because of trauma of rejection (he did get killed by his ex-girlfriend fallen angel after all, not to mention found him boring). He finally does get to confess to Rias and what happens after that? One volume later, he gets killed by poison, specifically made for dragons. It doesn't stick, however.
  • Erza/Jellal get one at the end of the Nirvana arc in Fairy Tail by means of Diabolus ex Machina. After managing to regain his senses after eight years being Brainwashed and Crazy Jellal manages to convince Erza, who is relieved to have him back to normal, that he's good again, and even gains the acceptance of her friends. While he's trying to figure out what to do with himself afterword and Erza is attempting to confess her feeling to him he gets arrested for the things he was forced to do while brainwashed, and also sentenced to life imprisonment. He got broken out later by the very person who made him Brainwashed and Crazy in the first place after she did a Heel–Face Turn, but still...
    • An especially tragic example happens during the Tartaros arc. Natsu, after searching for his dragon parent Igneel for over 14 years (seven of which were spent in suspended animation during the Time Skip, but still), finally sees him again. Except it turns out that Igneel has spent that time sealed inside of Natsu and he needs to deal with Acnologia first. And then he dies fighting the Dragon King, only with enough time to telepathically tell Natsu why he left and how much he loved him. And Natsu gets a front-row seat of watching his father get blasted to oblivion. Somebody give this guy a hug...
  • Since the main story arc of Detective Conan is Shinichi trying to get himself back to his normal age and the series has yet to end, pretty much any attempt to cure himself will be met with failure. On top of that, every time he temporarily changes back, he never gets a chance to tell Ran what he wants to say to her. The first time it happens it's entirely unexpected and thus he thought it would be permanent, only to start to change back into Conan right after solving the case he was working on. The next time is even worse, because the prototype cure he's given does keep him in his teenage body even after he collapses in pain (the previous sign that he was changing back). Thus, it really did look like he was cured for good... only to de-age again, two days later.
  • This tends to happen whenever something good happens to Yuuko in Nichijou. In one instance, she successfully scores an 80 on a test, a rare feat for her. She's so happy about it she's bragging it about it constantly, much to her friend Mio's annoyance. Before the day is done, however, we learn that the class average was 92 points.
  • Heartcatch Pretty Cure has a particularly cruel one. 3/4ths of the way through, Yuri is called to the Great Heart Tree, where she's confronted by the spirit of her fallen fairy partner Cologne. During this time, Tsubomi, Erika and Itsuki is forced to battle the Quirky Mini Boss Squad and the Dark Precure and Yuri, no longer wanting to stand behind in the sidelines, begs to have her powers restored. After returning to action as Cure Moonlight and mopping the floor with everyone, she returns to the tree and it seems that this action just may also return her partner to her. Instead, he floats back up to heaven, his last words to her being "You really are a crybaby."
  • Highschool of the Dead heaped so much misfortune onto Asami, that it broke her - from being used a scapegoat by the mall survivors that'd been left in her care, to being gently turned down by Hirano after she'd fallen in love with him. Still, she maintained hope that her CO, whom she respected and admired, would be back with help for them. Nope. When Asami saw her CO had been killed she became despondent and thought she had no one left to care about her. And just when it seemed her lot in life was about to change, her duty as an officer compelled her to save the so-and-so who had put them all at risk, by letting "them" in to save himself. Which cost her her own chance at escape, and her only chance at happiness. The cruelest part being, the guy she was in love with had no choice but to Kill the Cutie to keep "them" from getting to her.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA: After losing his sister and reaching his lowest emotional point, Shirou finds an ally in the form of his potential love interest Sakura. She's killed in the next chapter after trying to protect him from Shinji.
  • One Piece: After breaking in and out of Impel Down and storming Marineford, Luffy manages to free his brother Ace from execution, and it seems that they can escape from the marines. But then Akainu calls Whitebeard a coward for not going after the One Piece and becoming Pirate King, enraging Ace to go back and silence the admiral. And when Akainu attempts to kill Luffy, Ace jumps in to take a magma fist to the chest.
  • The manga Uwagaki does this to the heroine Chiaki at one point. Chiaki had been forcibly split into two people, one of whom has no memory of her boyfriend and is spending time with her admirer instead. If, after a few months, this copy has romantic feelings for said admirer greater than her own for her boyfriend, then the two will be fused and she too will forget the boyfriend completely. Immediately after this happens, her boyfriend dumps her for a woman he's long crushed on. After a lot of pain and seeing the copy become happy, she thinks to ask the professor responsible if he can do the same thing to her ex. He tells her that it can be done if he's given time to study him, but then when her hopes are finally up he tells her that this would also require him to erase her copy who'd just started to fall in love herself.

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

    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 on 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.
  • 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.

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

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

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

    Literature 
  • Happens to Tobias in Animorphs. His distant cousin has flown in from Africa and wants to take care of him. He can finally have a real family, stop eating roadkill and have a proper relationship with Rachel. He can have a normal life! This is awesome! No, it's not. That cousin is Visser Three. In morph. He's trying to kill him.
  • Happens hard to Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. His wife dies unexpectedly, taking their unborn baby with her, leaving him alone and broken, unable even to work. Eventually, he discovers that returning to their summer home in western Maine holds the key to turning his life around, one way or another. Immediately, he meets the young, beautiful Mattie Devore and her daughter, Kyra. Thanks to them, he finally finds purpose in his life. He starts writing again. Mattie even reciprocates his unspoken feelings for her. Romance and redemption are all but certain. Then, Mattie is murdered right in front of him, the ghosts in his house come to life and try to kill Kyra, Mike gives up on writing forever, and the book ends with him still alone and engaged in a bitter battle to obtain custody of Kyra.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark manages to make several daring escapes from different captors, but is always kidnapped by someone new shortly thereafter. And she is finally brought back to her family... just in time for the Red Wedding.
    • Her sister Sansa, after being held captive and abused for a year, is finally going to be taken away by some friendly people to marry a great guy... Then her captors find out and force her to marry one of them instead, a terribly ugly dwarf. He's actually a decent person, but Sansa hates his whole family because of what happened to her father. And now it's apparently in the process of happening again. Stupid Stockholm Syndrome Genre Blindness.
    • Ramsay Snow is ever so fond of invoking this trope with his human playthings (when he's not literally yanking them around on a chain like a dog, that is). It's a way of teaching them helplessness and inducing Stockholm Syndrome. He lets them think a servant or fellow prisoner has taken pity on them and decided to help them escape... then he hunts them down with a pack of dogs, kills the confidante, and removes a couple of minor body parts as punishment. After one or two of these, they start panicking at the very idea of trying to escape.
  • Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life. The entire book consists of nothing but this and is the most relentlessly depressing book ever. Even at the end of the book, where something finally goes right, not seconds later he and his love interest both drown at sea.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Pettigrew's been outed as guilty and is being turned in! They're going to prove Sirius' innocence! And then Harry can leave the horrible, abusive Dursleys and live with his godfather! Everything's going to be fantastic, everything's going fine, and, say, is that the full moon?... and didn't they just learn Lupin was a werewolf?... aw, shit.
  • The title character in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre finally gets to the altar with her employer/true love Rochester when it is revealed that Rochester is already married to a mad woman he's got locked in the attic, and the wedding is canceled.
  • In Charlotte Bronte's claustrophobic Villette, the perpetually unhappy heroine Lucy has fallen in love with and become engaged to fellow-teacher M. Paul, only it is revealed ambiguously in the last few pages that Paul probably died in a shipwreck before they could be married.
    • Charlotte considered this a happy ending — for M. Paul that is. Which you may be inclined to agree if you've read the book: life with a passive-aggressive depressive like Lucy Snow is a fate no man should suffer.
  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Hemingway is such an example.
  • Discworld's Rincewind has had this happen to him enough times that now he expects it. It has now gotten to the point that if anything good happens to him he will more or less panic until the other shoe drops.
    • Wonderfully lampshaded in "Run Rincewind Run!"
    • In continuing to play with it, Sam Vimes believes he doesn't deserve his good fortune and lives in fear of this trope happening to him.
  • The Dresden Files arguably has several of these (Harry will always be behind on the rent, even if his secret half-brother comes from a rich family; the masquerade will always go on; Murphy and he will never be a couple, even if they kiss), but there's one really blatant example in the fourth book. Harry's One True Love Susan has been (almost) turned into a vampire, and throughout the book he is deeply depressed and completely obsessed with looking for a cure for vampirism, never mind the fact that all reputable sources tell him it's impossible. While investigating something unrelated, one of the nigh-godlike Faerie Queenes herself gives Harry a Deus ex Machina that can supposedly undo any enchantment at all. It's intended for use in the main plot, but Harry hopes to solve his current assignment by some more simpler means and save the Deus ex Machina for Susan. It gets taken from him after five minutes.
    • 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.
  • Happens repeatedly to the protagonist of Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy: each time he risks it all to learn of a new kind of magic, a rival swoops in and gloms all the profits, leaving him with nothing but a clue to the next style of magic-use.
  • The whole point of a story by Jerome K. Jerome "In Remembrance of John Ingerfield and of Anne, his Wife".
  • Everything will be going well by the end of an Aubrey-Maturin book only for everything to be mediocre at best by the start of the next.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Kalak is introduced as the last Leondian and mid-book he discovers that 300 of his fellows, including his sister, survived their kingdom's fall. Shortly afterward They're all killed and he's the last again.
  • The evening before Helen realizes her husband is having an affair in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, she hears two of his friends complaining how "that woman" is civilizing and moralizing him — and she gets an unexpectedly affectionate welcome when she surprises him outside. Then she learns that he thought she was someone else, and "that woman" is the Other Woman.
  • In the Book of Jonah, God grows a plant to provide his prophet shade. Then during that night he kills the plant and summons a hot wind to daze Jonah with heat. It turns out to be a Secret Test of Character; Jonah weeps that the plant is dead, but is fine with letting the Ninevites all be killed, which God finds terrible of him.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt does this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. Beatrice and Seth, the two protagonists, have what can only be described as a really hot date. Surely they will sort things out now, after eight months of misunderstandings? Surely now Beatrice won't have to marry Rosenschiöld (who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt), to whom she was forced to get engaged? But alas, not only does she have a tyrannical uncle, 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.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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