Despite its reputation as a comedy/horror show, Courage the Cowardly Dog
has several very sad episodes.
- "The Magic Tree of Nowhere", where the titular tree is killed by a jealous Eustace. As a result of the above, Courage gives the second longest of his signature screams in this episode not out of fear, but of grief, and towards the sky.
- Eustace actually cutting down the tree in a way. It questions Eustace on if destroying it will really make Eustace happy. He actually pauses for a moment looking uncertain before declaring yes. A truly miraculous thing destroyed by one man's petty jealousy.
- "Remembrance of Courage Past", which shows how Courage met Muriel. Especially with the revelation that his parents were put on a rocket and shot into space by a sadistic vet, with Courage outside the rocket trying to stop it. He escapes the vet by going down a trash chute and you see him land in a dumpster, and he waves to the rocket flying away. Courage has every right to be screwed up and terrified after that.
- The fact that this is during the final episode doesn't make it better..
- Especially Courage's mom's line when being hauled off by the evil vet, "Please, don't take me away from my baby," It's ironic, but it really humanizes his parents.
- "The Curse of Shirley", where a hallucinating Eustace takes pity on a young version of himself.
- Eustace, by all means the biggest Jerkass ever portrayed on any Cartoon Network show. Consider that Eustace is seeing this through a mirror that was meant to show one's true self. Sure, it was broken beforehand, but it may have been showing that Eustace is, deep down inside, a sad man who lashes out at everyone due to a painful childhood.
- The fact that Courage is so striken by the memory of this event that he no reaction to Eustace using his witch doctor mask
- As Eustace is walking down the street with the raincloud, he sees people in need of help but he turns them away, making the rain cloud worse. But one older-looking gentlemen, Floyd, who is being dragged by an octopus monster, is desperately pleading Eustace to give a love letter to his fiancee, telling him he won't be able to get to the wedding and that he loves her as he's finally taken and killed by the Creature. What does Eustace do? Toss the letter on the ground, causing it to be swept into the sewer thanks to the rain.
- This is particularly Harsher in Hindsight when said older-looking gentleman becomes a Villain of the Week in "Curtain of Cruelty".
- Something that makes it even more hard to watch is the fact that the man is voiced by none other than John R. Dilworth himself. Hearing the normally wacky and cheerful Dilly crying in absolute terror and despair is both depressing and scary.
- But the one that is considered a Tear Jerker by most viewers is "Last of the Starmakers", where Courage has to save the babies of a mother space squid from the military.
- This one is a BIG one for people who think cephalopods are some of the cutest animals on Earth.
- The episode opens with the Starmaker's mate sacrificing himself to save her and their babies. Even worse, her mate is able to wave goodbye while crying as she flees with their unborn children. After being found by Muriel and Courage, Muriel asks if there are others like the Starmaker. All she can do is look towards the sky with a pained expression, and Muriel and Courage immediately get the message. Even sadder, after Courage manages to save her children, she uses the last of her life to become a garden, joining her mate.
- "There's no such thing as perfect. You're beautiful just the way you are."— From the episode "Perfect". Especially so considering it's the Series Finale.
- "The Hunchback of Nowhere". A lonely and deformed hunchback goes from door to door just seeking shelter only to be called ugly or a freak by everyone, including Eustace, and having them slam the door in his face. He and Courage build a friendship that's both heartwarming and tearjerking as Courage shows the poor soul kindness for once in his life. And the climax only adds to this: as Courage and the Hunchback put on a show for Muriel, Eustace tries to ruin it. The Hunchback's response? He puts on a Eustace mask and forces him to see himself for who he is, which is only more heartrending when you realize that it's not just Eustace: it's for all the people who have said he's just a freak.
- While "The Queen Of the Black Puddle" is mostly a typical Courage episode (it's about a puddle of black water that is actually a passage to another Dimension/World, where there resides a ghastly woman), it also says a lot about Courage's loyalty to Muriel. The woman in question charms Eustace and takes him to her world, and unsurprisingly, Courage doesn't give a damn, and he has all the right not to (ok he is very disturbed but he just doesn't feel the urge to overcome that fear). But he then sees how Muriel is devastated by having her husband taken from her, sobbing her heart out, and Courage realizes he'd rather put up with Eustace's crap for the rest of his life than to see his benevolent owner suffer. The episode makes it very clear that every time Courage's love for Muriel speaks louder than his dislike of Eustace, and every time he saves Eustace—- who doesn't deserve it—- he is really trying to help Muriel. Undying Loyalty, indeed.
- Muriel's weeping over her lost husband is itself quite touching - even though on a day-to-day basis neither of the couple show too much interest or caring for each other, they really seem to share a deep bond of commitment.
- Almost all of "The Tower of Dr. Zalost," due in no small part to the haunting soundtrack. Although Dr. Zalost is one of the more cold and ruthless villains on the show, it's hard not to feel bad for a man who is so miserable and lonely that all he can do is lash out at the rest of the world. But if that doesn't evoke any sympathy, the crying baby rat usually does the trick.
- Due to the episode's undertones on dealing with depression, it can also be assumed that the rat represents people who aren't sad, per se. Just unable to feel anything because something caused them to wall themselves off from their emotions. The fact that the rat's first reaction to being hit with an antidepressant cannonball is to cry suggests he may have been bottling something up pretty bad.
- There's also a quote from Eustace that basically sums up why he hates Courage so much: "She likes you best, feed her."
- "Courage Vs. Mecha Courage". The moment Courage sees as Muriel sits in her rocking chair while the robot sits on her lap instead of himself, causing Courage to cry is just heartbreaking. And it just gets worse from there, as Courage takes the beating of his life to defeat the mechanical enemy...
- The episode "The Great Fusilli" and its Downer Ending. Sure, the episode's grim ending is played for laughs, as per usual, but when you really think about it, it's actually pretty sad: In it, Courage fails to stop Muriel and Eustace from being turned into puppets. But as the show has a Negative Continuity, everything will return to normal. Of course, that hasn't stopped it from provoking tons of dark fan theories. What makes it worse, was the creator thought the show would be cancelled, which meant this was going to be the series finale. Thankfully, the show got renewed for a second season.
- Observe the relationship between Eustace and his mother, both of them cruel, cold people. Eustace is the way he is due to his mother, and, if one episode in particular is anything to go by, his mother was made this way by a loved one too. Two of the biggest assholes in the show are the result of a cycle of abuse.
- "The Mask", which tackles the very mature subject of Domestic Abuse. A talking rabbit named Bunny ended up with an abusive, controlling, gangster, asshole, rotweiller dog named Mad Dog and is not allowed to be with her best friend Kitty anymore. (It's also heavily implied that she and Kitty are romantically involved.) This leads Kitty to believe that all dogs are evil. Now take that last sentence and replace "dogs" with "men". The ending is a Heartwarming Moment when Mad Dog gets his just desserts and Bunny and Kitty are reunited.
- Also from the episode: Kitty, despite realizing not all dogs are bad, doesn't really get the chance to apologize to Courage for brutally beating him up (aside from a short thank you).
- From "Ball of Revenge": "Courage, Courage, Courage! That stupid dog gets all the good stuff around here! I hate that dumb dog!" Those words hit Courage pretty hard, and Eustace doesn't get any better from there. The Mysterious Mr. Enter sums it up best in his review of the episode:
"Eustace has never particularly liked Courage, but that was a little too blunt. To outright say that he hates Courage? Jesus.."
- Robot Randy has the titular villain conquering the farm to prove he's not a failure to his fellow robots. At night in the barn he's seen whittling wooden reindeer and actually sounding happy, only to curl up on the ground when thinking what the other robots would think of him and throwing the reindeer he just made with such care out the window. Someone being forced to throw away something that gives them such joy because of the cruel mockery of the world around them. There's also the scene in the episode where Randy grabs Eustace and Muriel and tries to crush them with his own metallic hand, and Courage begs him not to harm them, and begins to cry while doing so.
- The Stitch Sisters (and their enchanted quilt) slowly breaking Muriel in "The Quilt Club." All she's trying to do is impress them so she can join the club, but in reality, the Sisters are making her another energy source for the quilt's Fountain of Youth properties. Even worse, as the ending shows, they've done this to other people throughout the centuries.
First Sister: How badly do you want to belong?
Muriel: (frazzled and desperate) Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!
Second Sister: More than you belong with Eustace?
- "Angry Nasty People" is an especially cringe-worthy episode, especially if you've been the victim of verbal abuse. By the time Courage comes up with an idea involving a quicksand pit, Muriel is so broken that when it looks like Courage is going to throw her in, she offers absolutely no resistance.
Muriel: Go on, Courage. This is just what I deserve.
- This comic◊ depicting Eustace crying over Courage's inevitable death. It's also Harsher in Hindsight considering Eustace's actions in "Ball of Revenge".
- The 2016 passing of Eustace Bagge's second voice actor, Arthur Anderson.
- The AU comic Asleep◊ is this and Nightmare Fuel, as said comic concerns a terminally ill and widowed (Eustace died of his injuries due to a car accident) Muriel in her final weeks of life, while she worries about what will happen Courage after she dies, leading her to contemplate and come close to killing him because, as far as she knows, he'd be "better off with her". She backs out of killing him but wakes him up, leaving him to find her at the toilet.
): And that's what saddens me the most...
- Many comics depicting the destruction of their family is sad. Eustace and Muriel are old and Courage is a dog. No matter which one of them passes first the other two are going to be devastated.
- Here's a non-comic example wherein Muriel goes first. Especially hard-hitting is when Courage finds Eustace breaking down into sobs in his sleep over the death of his wife. It has a beautiful ending though.
- A Fridge Tearjerk comes from the "Courage (Heart of Love)" Cartoon Groovie that depicts the Bagges to be rather well to do, just before the song starts Eustace actually requests for the singer to do so, rather than order and without the trademark snarl in his voice. It shows just how much being the universe's whipping boy damaged, Eustace. Eustance is the short actually has a proper posture that makes his baldness look fashionable rather than funny.