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Unexpectedly Dark Episode / Western Animation

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  • Adventure Time has several episodes like this.
    • "I Remember You", "Simon and Marcy", and "Evergreen". The first two deal with the backstory of Ice King, generally a comic relief villain, and reveal him to be a Tragic Villain with a sympathetic backstory. He used to be Betty's fiance Simon, before wearing the Ice Crown drove him insane to the point where he doesn't remember who he was. The third follows the history of Ice King's crown and has a Downer Ending.
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    • In "Bad Timing" Lumpy Space Princess falls in love with a guy, accidentally kills him, and then has her mind wiped of the whole thing by PB.
    • "Princess Monster Wife" has the Ice King creating a Frankenstein-esque bride for himself made of body parts of other (living) princesses, but the bride becomes depressed after realizing she is a monster made from other people's parts and commits suicide by a disassembling herself and giving the parts back to the rightful owners.
  • American Dad!:
    • "Hot Water". In it, Stan buys a living hot tub who alienated Stan from his family, then kills Lewis, Marguerite, Francine and Stan in that order and while the episode was eased with some humor, The Bad Guy Wins this time and the living hot tub is actually a Karma Houdini. If the series had not been renewed after this episode, this would have been the end of the series.
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    • Roger-centric episodes are darker than usual (to the point of being downright creepy), but one that deserves special mention is "Love, American Dad Style", where you could say Roger finally crosses the Moral Event Horizon (if he hasn't already) by developing an extreme obsession with Hayley, and reacting badly when she rejects him. He shoots her, ties her to a mattress in an ice factory, and tries to rip off her skin and wear it over himself to be "closer" to her. Jeff shows up in the nick of time, but things still end badly, since Roger decides to wear Jeff's skin instead, leaving him in a tub full of ice.
    • The episode "Son Of Stan" also deserves a mention, especially in the climax of the episode, where Stevearino (Steve's evil clone) reveals his True Colors: He has dedicated himself to kill cats For the Evulz, later he tries to kill his own brother and his father. Unlike Roger, he's played seriously.
  • Arthur is mostly a kids' show focusing on a group of Funny Animal third-graders, and, to a lesser extent, some preschoolers, animals, babies, adults and occasionally teens. It is mainly comical with a few Aesops thrown in, but a few episodes got a bit dark:
    • "April 9th" focuses on the school that Arthur and his main group of friends attend (Lakewood Elementary)'s teacher's office burning down, which quite understandably spooks the kids. One scary subplot involved the fact that Arthur's dad, a caterer, was in the fire at one point, which scared Arthur and made him worry he was going to get hurt or die during work in the future. What made it especially dark was that it aired right around the time of the September 11 attacks in New York City, making it a Very Special Episode.
    • "The Great MacGrady" has Mrs MacGrady (the friendly lunch lady) getting, of all diseases, cancer note . She does recover by the end of the episode, but it's still creepy.
    • "Shelter From the Storm" is a Big Storm Episode which focuses on several plots regarding said big storm. Muffy's house is damaged so she must stay with another girl whose house is one step away from being ruined and will take a while to rebuild, The Brain has developed a phobia of the wind and must see a psychologist, Ladonna is afraid that her dad (who's helping clean up) won't be back in time for her ninth birthday, and the ice cream shop is damaged.
    • In "The Chips Are Down", Arthur's little sister D.W. and his friend Binky both eat green potato chips and fear they're going to die from their "poison". That might seem funny on paper, but it seems somber when they get poetic about life being a gift. It does end on a light note, however, with D.W. and Binky friends and no longer worried about poison.
    • "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh" has Arthur telling jokes about Sue Ellen's sweater making her look like a sheepdog. At first, she finds them funny, then she grows bored of them, then they start to annoy and eventually offend her, but Arthur continues to make the jokes and accuses (even in his apology letter) her of "overreacting". This leads to all of Arthur's friends, even Buster (his best friend), being mad at him in the passive-aggressive, not-talking-to-him kind of way, and it even leads to Sue Ellen trying to swap schools.
    • In "To Eat or Not to Eat", a candy bar is released that makes people lethargic and dizzy and is addictive.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a light and humorous interpretation of the Dark Knight. In "Chill of the Night", however, Batman goes after his parents' killer, and the tone is much more serious than usual.
  • Bobby's World has "The Music", which like the "I Remember Melville" example below has Bobby dealing with the death of the crossing guard, Abe. "The Music" also has a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Brave Starr, "The Price": You think you're in for another preachy Drugs Are Bad episode, but then the ending hits you like a nuclear blast of feels. The episode deals with a kid who is turned onto a topical controlled substance called Spin. The perps are caught but the tag is tainted: The boy is found in his treehouse, dead of a Spin overdose. The episode ends with the boy's mother in agonized hysteria, with the final "pro-social message" scene showing Bravestarr laying a wreath at the boy's grave.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers featured several episodes which were darker than the rest of the series as well as children's animation in general. Linka's cousin dies of a drug overdose in "Mind Pollution", a drive by shooting of a family is shown in "Utopia", "Formula For Hate" covers the topic of AIDS, a teacher and a friend of Gi gets shot in a gang shoot out in "Teers in the Hood" (and the episode also shows realistic images of victims of gang violence, including a dead child), Wheeler's friend is killed in "Talkin' Trash", and throughout the series, the deadly effects of pollution are shown.
  • Daria:
    • Several episodes focused on Tom and his relationship with Jane and Daria have a darker tone.
    • The final episode, entitled "Boxing Daria". It is probably the most serious and dark episode of the entire series and has a significant Tear Jerker. The creators had this to say about it:
      "Daria's journey was wrapped up in... [this] episode. Daria realizes that her isolation isn't just about being different - she likes being isolated. It may be painful for her, but she's better off trying to interact with the others. She's pretty realistic. She's smart and articulate yet unsure of how the world will accept her."
  • Darkwing Duck may have been Darker and Edgier by the standards of The Disney Afternoon, but it's a Disney show; even with the characters averting Never Say "Die" it's still lighthearted by most shows' standards. Then we get "Time and Punishment", an episode in which Gosalyn visits a Bad Future caused by Darkwing reinventing himself as a Knight Templar called Dark Warrior Duck after she disappeared. While Dark Warrior had a fairly humorous ideal (based largely on Disproportionate Retribution for crimes like jaywalking) the episode he was in, for the most part, took itself seriously.
  • DuckTales (1987) was mostly a light-hearted kids show, but it had a few dark episodes:
    • One of the Beagles turned the Nephews into gold statues in the Grand Finale. That is, they were basically murdered.
    • "The Curse of Castle McDuck" is pretty dark too. Not only is it atmospheric thanks to the old castle setting for most of the episode with a vicious hound, but it's far more personal for Scrooge, as it's part of "my heritage" to retake Castle McDuck.
    • The alien robots in the episode "Money to Burn" not only stole Scrooge's money bin, so they could melt down the coins to make new robots. But they also were really close to melting Scrooge and Launchpad into grease. Not to mention the Fridge Horror that these robots had probably killed off the alien race, who had once created them in the first place...
    • The mites in "The Attack of the Metal Mites" were played very seriously, despite the fact that they were tiny insects. After all, they were designed to eat metal! So they caused plenty of damage all over the city, and they even devoured Fenton's otherwise indestructable Gizmoduck suit.
  • The Movie of Ed, Edd n Eddy reveals that Eddy's brother, who Eddy spoke highly of throughout the series, is a bully who was and is physically abusive to Eddy. This physical abuse is treated dead seriously as opposed to the series' usual Slapstick, with the Eds, the cul-de-sac kids, and even the other antagonists horrified.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • "Action Packed" is an example of this. Even the physics of the animation get Darker and Edgier when Timmy wishes to be in an action movie.
    • The Movie titled Abra Catastrophe. Crocker is much more evil than in other episodes, even crossing the Moral Event Horizon when he kidnaps and tortures Wanda for use as a power source. In fact, the consequences are so threatening, Timmy has no choice but to face Crocker head-on during the climax.
    • Any episode featuring a villain who is really evil, such as Miss Doombringer (a crazy woman who is definitely worse than Mr. Crocker) from "No Substitute For Crazy" and The Destructinator from the episode "Wishology".
    • In the Wham Episode "Hassle In The Castle", we're introduced to Maryanne who, despite being a one shot character, is probably one of the most evil characters ever to appear in a children's cartoon. She killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife For the Evulz and caused World War One, which led to Adolf Hitler rising to power, World War II, the deaths of millions, and the creation of nuclear weaponry. None of this gets elaborated on, of course, but Wanda mentioning in passing that Maryanne's wish was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand gives way to lots of Fridge Horror.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
    • The Grand Finale titled "Destination Imagination". It was even rated TV-PG.
    • The first episode "House of Bloo" could count as well. There are much more serious and Tear Jerker moments dealing with possibly losing a friendship. The next episodes became Lighter and Softer when that conflict was resolved.
    • "Good Wilt Hunting", while not without comedy, got very heavy in revealing Wilt's Dark and Troubled Past.
  • The Franklin episode "Franklin and the Fire" is about fire safety. A hardware store is burned down and fire is played very seriously. Franklin's friends talk about how their houses could burn down and all their stuff burning up.
  • Futurama is usually a comedy, albeit with a few Black Comedy jokes. However, one episode, "Jurassic Bark", is very serious. Fry finds a fossilized dog that used to be his dog before he accidentally froze himself and ended up in the future. They try to bring him back to life, but fail. (There is a minor sad moment with Bender worrying he's not Fry's best friend anymore but that pales in comparison to the ending). The ending is the real kicker: It's revealed that Fry's dog never forgot about him and spent years waiting for Fry until his implied death.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy gives us "Who Killed Who?" The episode starts off with Mandy going into a supposed haunted house to get Billy and Irwin's game dice back. The house was said by Grim to be haunted by the ghost of a woman named Mrs. Doolan who he claims murdered kids who entered her property. When Mandy meets the owner, things seem to be fine and Doolan mentions that she knew Grim and claimed he was upset for all the times she had beaten him in the past; after hearing that Mandy was excluded from Billy's game for being a girl she helps Mandy scare him as payback. The episode looks like it's going to end until Mandy turns around to see the house that was tidy a second ago is now aged and ruined — revealing that Grim really was telling the truth about the house being haunted. Doolan is implied to have lived on past her natural life due to beating Grim on multiple occasions. However, this is undone when Mandy defeats her in a fencing match and slices a medallion off her neck, the same medallion that appears in a painting of her after beating Grim.
    Mandy: "Wow, Mrs. Doolan beat Grim. She BEAT Death."
  • The majority of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) is campy and hard to take seriously even in its more serious moments. "The Problem With Power" revolves around Skeletor tricking He-Man into thinking he killed an innocent man during a fight, causing Adam to give up his power until he learned what happened. Originally the episode would've been even darker, with He-Man actually killing an innocent bystander by accident.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • The show is usually a fairly light-hearted Slice of Life cartoon with the occasional moments of Getting Crap Past the Radar, but one episode called "On The Lam" was pretty dark as well as hilarious. It involves Harold, Sid, and Stinky believing to blowing up an old police station with a rocket and they bound and gagged Arnold so that he wouldn't tell anybody.
    • The infamous "Cheese Festival" episodes. They usually start in a lovey dovey valentine style, with Arnold going to the cheese festival with his love interest, and Helga doing whatever she can to ruin the date. No matter how hilarious the episode is, they always have the same, depressing, dark ending: Arnold doesn't get the girl while Helga is left completely alone at the festival without a lover or even a friend, making a very miserable face just before all the lights go out.
    • There are also the episodes addressing Arnold's parents ("Parents' Day" and "The Journal"). "Parents' Day" is just straight up sad for the most part, given the subject matter. "The Journal" does have its fair share of comedic moments, but the Foregone Conclusion that Miles and Stella will eventually go missing and be unable to properly raise their son makes the whole thing kind of sad. The two parter does end on an optimistic note given that Arnold finds a map detailing where his parents actually went. This was supposed to be a hook for the second series movie, which unfortunately never got made...until 2017, that is.
    • "Helga on the Couch" has Helga being sent to a therapist. The episode delves into Helga's character and deconstructs it. It also showcases Helga's harsh home life, such as her parents ignoring her so much that she had to walk to pre-school by herself in the rain.
  • Jem usually focuses on friendship and romance melodrama, however it has several dark episodes:
    • "The Princess and the Singer" is about Kimber meeting a princess who is her Identical Stranger. The two get switched, which is especially bad since there's an assassination attempt against the princess. The episode is one of the few times Raymond helps the main characters.
    • "Father's Day" deals both with Kimber's sorrow over her father's recent death and Pizzazz's troubled relationship with her own father. It's one of the few episodes to end on a Bittersweet Ending.
    • "The Fan" revolves around The Misfits accidentally gaslighting Jem while trying to find out her real name. Jem almost has a mental breakdown because she doesn't understand what's going on.
    • The drug Very Special Episode "Alone Again" has the oneshot protagonist being a teenage girl who was recently orphaned. She ends up befriending a boy at her high school that gets her hooked on drugs. This spirals into an addiction and at one point she almost jumps out a window trying to fly.
    • "Starlight" revolves around Jerrica's pain over her mother's death a decade prior. In it, it's revealed that Jacqui Benton died in a plane crash. Jerrica has Parting Words Regrets because she was angry at her mother that day.
    • In "A Change of Heart", Minx almost drowns and decides to turn over a new leaf. Her bandmates disagree and kick her out over her new, nicer personality. Minx is left so distraught that she tries to jump off a roof. Rio stops her, which leads to Minx becoming indebted to him for the entire episode. Eventually Minx gets fed up of everyone's ingratitude and goes back to her old ways.
    • "Riot's Hope" reveals The Stingers, and especially Riot's, Freudian Excuses. Riot has an abusive father who disowned him for becoming a musician because he believes that only "women and sissies" are into music. The stress of her family's bad relationship later causes Riot's mom to be hospitalized. In the same episode, one of the musical numbers reveals that The Stingers are so selfish and cruel because they spent their early days together being homeless street musicians.
  • The Grand Finale of Kim Possible could probably qualify. Not only are all the main locations of the series destroyed, but the Take Over the World scheme is more destructive than any other, and on top of that, the hero comes closest to dying. It also contains the only real time when the villains of the episode are Killed Off for Real. Granted, they were more dangerous than the other villains that the series showed and they weren't humans, but still.
  • King of the Hill has the episode "Pigmalion". Luanne gets a job at a millionaire's house and moves in with him, at first things are fine but after a while he starts to get very obsessive and creepy, he dyes her hair and won't let her wear anything but identical dresses, it turns out to be an insane plot about his vision of "the perfect family" which consists of her and a man dressed in a Swiss outfit and himself as their pet pig, this scares Luanne and he chases her into a pork processing plant where he ends up being killed by the processing machine.
  • Dark undertones had already been creeping in to The Lion Guard since "The Rise of Scar", in which the demonic spirit of Scar becomes the show's Big Bad. But it was nothing too serious until "The Scorpion's Sting", where Scar sends a scorpion to lethally poison Simba, and then sets a trap for the Lion Guard when they come for the cure that includes siccing all of his Outlander forces on them within a volcano, with a climax where it continuously looks like the Lion Guard and/or Simba are doomed. It's only at the last minute that they escape and cure Simba, and even then they now know that a war is brewing.
  • Milly, Molly was mostly happy, but when it got dark, it really got dark.
    • In "Grandpa's Oak Tree", it starts like a fun episode about the title girls being on a trip with their elderly friends, but then the Grandpa dies, there's drama as a special tree might have to be cut down, and eventually Granny dies.
    • In "Goodbye, Alf", Alf and his grandmother might have to move away. They don't, but before that, one of the horses, Pepper, gets very ill and needs treatment.
    • In "Wags", Wags the dog (no, not that one), is stolen by a couple who don't even feed him properly. Thankfully, Wags comes back, but still.
    • "Aunt Maude" deals with Aunt Maude breaking her leg and a lot of the town ending up in hospital. Thankfully, things clear up.
  • The Milo episode "Prickly the Porcupine" dealt with the porcupine's death.
  • Though My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is usually lighthearted, the season premieres and finales can get into dark stuff:
    • The second season starts with the new villain brutally twisting the minds of most of the main cast and consuming the world in chaos.
    • In the third season's premiere, the villain is outright killed. Said villain is a blackhearted unicorn king who enslaved his subjects seemingly just for the evulz.
    • The fourth season finale features a Big Bad who drains the energy from ponies' very souls, threatens to destroy and conquer Equestria, and engages Twilight Sparkle in a physical battle that is shockingly violent and intense for this franchise.
    • The fifth season opener is even darker, verging into What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? territory. Instead of a powerful ancient evil, the Arc Villain is a perfectly normal unicorn who runs a False Utopia where Individuality Is Illegal, and any pony who stumbles upon the village is brainwashed through More Than Mind Control into never leaving. The town's Villain Song is, according to Word of God, inspired by WWII era propaganda, and every pony in the town sports incredibly disturbing fake smiles. What's more, the villain captures the Mane 6 and locks them in a room full of speakers that chant her philosophy non-stop, refusing to let them out until they accept her way, and they can slowly feel themselves losing their identities, essentially a disturbingly realistic take on a cult or dictatorship.
    • Then there was the dream episode. Already starting out as surprisingly action-packed with high stakes for a mid-season episode, more like what you'd see in a season premiere, the kicker comes when we find out what the dream demon really is. Luna created it to torture herself for her crimes as Nightmare Moon. In other words, the Tantibus is nothing less than a form of self-harm. Next to that, the fact that creating an Eldritch Abomination that could end the world is well within the princesses' capabilities almost went unnoticed by fans.
    • And then comes the season 5 finale, which includes (among other things) a G-rated depiction of an actual pony war and a Bad Future apocalyptic version of Equestria that is nothing but a lifeless ash-swept wasteland.
    • The Mean Six, which has Queen Chrysalis making evil duplicates of Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. What's dark about them is they intervene with the real Mane Six in various situations, and they mistake the clones for their actual friends behaving horribly out of nowhere and almost destroys their friendship. Things go from bad to worse when the evil doubles die.
  • The fourth episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, "Find Her, Keep Her", while not particularly dark, has a Bittersweet Ending and is far more emotionally complex than any other episode of the show, or any animated show at the time, for that matter. It revolves around Rabbit saving a young bluebird named Kessie during a snowstorm, his growing bond with her as the seasons pass, and his growing anxiety at her needing to fly south when winter returns.
    • "Cleanliness Is Next To Impossible" has Crud. He may be a cartoony blob of slime but in a series where every villain is a Harmless Villain (if it even has a villain), this guy stands out.
    • "Sorry, Wrong Slusher", which spoofs slasher movies of all things and, even though there ultimately is no real threat, contains some legitimate Nightmare Fuel.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted!" has Candace succeeding at busting her brothers, and they get sent to a military school where they are broken down and stripped of their identities and creativity. Such scenes included being forced to watch propaganda films Clockwork Orange-style, working on a chain gang and faux-waterboarding. It Was All A Dream in the end, but still.
  • The pre-school claymation series Pingu includes a shameful Banned Episode that terrified many toddlers: "Pingu Runs Away". In this episode, Pingu misbehaves, runs way from home in the dark of night and comes across some scary ice sculptures (a skull, a dinosaur and a devil). The episode does have a happy ending, and is designed to teach young children about the dangers of running away, but it can easily make toddlers cry and/or give them nightmares. Even the scene of Pingu being punished at the beginning of the episode is pretty dark; Pingu actually gets spanked by his mother, with him crying in pain. This may be the darkest episode of a pre-school television series ever made.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The episode "Knock it Off" had them sell the formula Dick Hardly, a villain who, despite having no superpowers, was thought by most fans to be the worst villain they ever fought, even worse than Him. He was an unscrupulous and cruel man who used the stuff to started cranking out "EXTREME" Powerpuff Girls. He used more Chemical X and less of the other ingredients resulting in malformed girls, whom he abused or callously destroyed, and for no reason other than greed. Later when he wouldn't give up the Chemical X he drinks it and turned into a monster and nearly sucked the life out of the girls leaving them sickly green and covered in spots. The professor and their clones were just barely able to save them. It was little wonder that Dick was the only originally-human villain on the show who was Killed Off for Real.
    • The "Speed Demon" episode where the girls travel to a grim future where Ms. Bellum has turned into a Mayor-hat obsessed wretch because the Mayor had been killed, the teacher is so traumatized that she keeps repeating a Madness Mantra about the girls leaving, and the professor is a shallow shell of his former self, not even going into the list of people who blame them, having suffered possibly even worse things. And it's all caused by Him who has reduced the town to an apocalyptic wasteland and becoming a literal Satan himself.
  • Ready Jet Go! is a wacky Edutainment Show, but the episode "My Fair Jet" is famous for being this. Jet wants to go to the Deep Space Array's Open House, but Sean and Sydney won't let him out of fear that he will expose his alien identity. They force Jet to undergo training to behave like a human kid. The first half of the episode seems light-hearted as normal, but then we get the revelation that there's a reason that the Open House needs to go well: if it doesn't, then all funding will be cut from the DSA. It starts raining, and the weather balloon flies away. Sean grabs onto it, and he gets carried with it, and is on the brink of death by almost slipping off. Jet saves Sean from death, and then sings about how he is Bortronian, exposing his alien identity to the whole neighborhood (not that Sean and Sydney cared, they were just glad that Sean was ok). Of course, Weirdness Censor and some minor Status Quo Is God prevent the townspeople from remembering or even caring that Jet is an alien, but still, this is pretty dark for a PBS episode.
  • Recess, despite being a light-hearted show about group of kids and their adventures at school, had a few dark and serious episodes:
    • "Prickly Is Leaving". We were introduced to Dr. Slicer, the most evil villain in the series, who employed cruel and unusual tactics to control the school and, unlike Finster or Prickly, only cared about power without regard for the students' welfare. His behavior even disgusted Miss Finster, and TJ (who was never afraid to stand up to adults before or since) was completely scared of him. He was ousted in the end, but consider this: Third Street wasn't the first school he was principal of, and likely would not be the last.
    • "The Biggest Trouble Ever" is a Wham Episode for the series. It involves the gang accidentally breaking the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III and become the town's most hated people. Ms. Finster punishes them by making them work menial jobs. But the real reason why the episode is so dark is what happens later: Mayor Fitzhugh, the mayor of Third Street, decides to send the Recess Gang to six separate schools, even though they were remorseful and even Prickly and Ms. Finster objected. Throughout the episode, Fitzhugh looked very gleefully sadistic about the whole thing, and only relented when Third's own grandson, demanding that they be pardoned, threatened to expose Fitzhugh's own (deliberate) past misbehavior regarding the statue.
    • The Halloween special is really quite creepy, especially for a show aimed at kids. It's presented in an anthology format (similar to the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons): One story features a recurring character becoming a werewolf and attacking various citizens, the second (in a homage to Stephen King's Christine), has the kids' bicycles coming to life during a storm, causing fear and chaos (this even ends with a sinister cliffhanger, as the bus the school escapes on is revealed to be similarly alive), and the final story features the gang being pursued by zombies, very creepy ones at that.
  • Regular Show is generally a bit more adult and risqué in its humor and situations than other Cartoon Network shows, but In one Christmas special Quillgan gets his hands on a present he created and wishes for the destruction of Christmas forever, which then causes bombs to be placed on anything Christmas-ish, including snow. Thankfully we never see how powerful the bombs were but it's very likely they could do serious damage and had he succeeded it would've been the largest terror attack in history. This would've likely caused no one to want to celebrate a holiday that goes hand in hand for a global scale bombing.
  • Rugrats had the episode "Mother's Day", which revealed that Chuckie's mother Melinda died of an undefined illness or injury and he almost forgot she existed but his dad still misses her. What drives it home is that, aside from a few moments, this episode lacks humour.
    • "I Remember Melville", another episode centered around death, has the eponymous potato bug dying.
  • While Samurai Jack was never such a lighthearted show, the episode "Jack and the Haunted House" is without doubt the most unsettling episode of the series. Much in contrast to the rest of the episodes, this one contains some really dark and frightening imagery, and the main villain is a sadistic, humorless demon with a disturbingly detailed design, almost resembling a certain creature. Of course, this sounds a hell of a lot like a Lovecraftian horror story.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated was already pretty dark for a Scooby-Doo series (barring some of the films), but "The Devouring" takes special mention since it's mostly a comedic filler episode involving a demon that eats anything with gluten in it and ends a morbidly obese Shaggy and Scooby beating the bad guy in a sumo wrestling match. All this goes on while Mr. E and Professor Pericles struggle for control against each other, until the very end of the episode reveals Pericles has injected Mr. E with mutated cobra venom and can kill him with a single press of a button.
  • The Simpsons has several:
    • "Homer's Enemy" is a story focusing on Frank Grimes (a "realistic" character, by Word of God) being forced into the Played for Laughs Crapsack World of Springfield and getting so fed up with Homer's Idiot Houdini luck that he becomes the titular "enemy" of Homer... and then when Homer's luck saves him from being humiliated by a plan of Grimes, he undergoes a Villainous Breakdown which ends with him accidentally committing suicide-by-high-voltage. The Black Comedy Burst was so strong that some people believe marked the moment when the show became the same brand of insensitively offensive Kafka Comedy as other shows like Family Guy.
    • "The Boys of the Bummer" gets a special mention. The entire population of Springfield abused, mocked, humiliated and attacked Bart simply over a lousy baseball game. And they did not stop abusing Bart, even when he was Driven to Suicide (they even egged him on when he tried to kill himself). If Marge hadn't intervened, who knows what might have happened, considering that not even falling into a coma stopped them from continuing to mock Bart.
    • Any episode with a character who has no funny quirks and is played seriously. Examples include the French winemakers from "The Crepes Of Wrath" (who nearly killed Bart by giving him antfreeze-laced wine not to mention that their general treatment of him was pretty poor), the Babysitter Bandit from "Some Enchanted Evening" (who tied up the kids and tried to rob the house) and Bart's kindergarten teacher from "Lisa's Sax" (whose treatment of Bart made him what he is today).
    • Some episodes with Mr. Burns are darker and more dramatic than any other episodes (except the ones mentioned here). Examples include "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in The Curse of the Flying Hellfish" (where he crossed Moral Event Horizon by trying to drown Bart), "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" (where he blocked all the sunlight from Springfield, and screwed over several other characters, all of which is played seriously enough to make his shooting look justifiable), "Mother Simpson" (where he was involved with biological warfare and he is responsible for making Homer's mother, Mona Simpson, to run from the law, even though she saved him), and "The Great Phatsby" (where he is betrayed by a superstar hip-hop artist who idolizes him, and schemes to get revenge on him). Mr Burns' actions also set future episodes in motion...
    • The earlier Sideshow Bob episodes were also quite dark and dramatic. This eventually went away after his gradual Villain Decay (although he's still trying to kill Bart, and now has escalated to a full-blown vendetta against the entire family).
    • "Hurricane Neddy" is about the Flanderses' house being destroyed by a hurricane and Ned going crazy. It also implies that Ned's Verbal Tic is because he's angry but won't admit it.
    • "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly" is about Maude Flanders's death and it only has one or two jokes.
    • "Homer's Odyssey" has Homer attempt to commit suicide because he feels that he's failed his family and it's not Played for Laughs. Thankfully, he doesn't do it and instead decides to become a safety advocate but it's still rather shocking.
  • Sofia the First is a generally lighthearted and optimistic show, but the movies after the pilot take a much darker turn of events.
    • "The Floating Palace" has Cedric kidnapping Oona, Sofia's mermaid friend, and a child, in order to get her special comb. If Sofia doesn't get her back, the family ship will be sunk. While the pilot movie emphasized more of his comedic and bumbling traits, he's much more serious and determined, to the point of trying to willingly hurt Sofia rather than indirectly persuade or blackmail her.
    • Things really get dark in "The Curse Of Princess Ivy". It involves the titular antagonist wanting to get rid of Sofia's amulet so she can stay in Enchancia to rule it forever. She has special butterflies that can erase people's memories to varying degrees, leaves Sofia and Amber, two children, in a chasm to die, and her Villain Song implies that she wanted to murder her sister.
    • "Elena And The Secret Of Avalor" really cranks it up a notch, thanks to its antagonist Shuriki, the Greater-Scope Villain for the series and the primary antagonist of Elena of Avalor. Let's review what she's done, shall we? Right off the bat, we see that she murdered Elena's parents, trapped her in the amulet for 41 years, and ruled Avalor with an iron fist. She also imprisoned the family in her dungeon when she was exposed. The ending shows that we haven't seen the last of her.
    • In "The Mystic Isles", we're introduced to Prisma, a seemingly kind Crystal master who helps Sofia and Amber on their journey, only to be revealed to not be who she claims to be. Her plan is to be seen as the greatest Crystal master ever over her sister, which involves destroying the Ever Realm, which is what civilization needs to survive. While Ivy and Shuriki's plans were bad, they at least only affected one place. Prisma wants to spread herself everywhere regardless of who gets hurt, meaning everyone from all the worlds.
    • The series finale, "Forever Royal", really qualifies for this. Vor is by far the deadliest villain for the series. She possessed Prisma so she can regain physical form, tries to murder Sofia, uses mind control and a robot army to force people to do what she wants, takes sadistic glee in emotionally torturing Sofia, and even pulls her into her amulet to make sure she suffers the same fate Elena did.
  • Spongebob Squarepants, despite being a mostly comical cartoon series, has a few episodes that manage to be rather dark:
    • A Pal For Gary: In this episode, Spongebob adopts a new pet which transforms into a monster that attacks Gary, and Spongebob does nothing about it.
    • Demolition Doofus: Mrs. Puff enlists Spongebob to be in a demolition derby in order to kill him as revenge for severe injuries she sustained from a recent failure, but his bad driving ironically makes him a racing superstar and she's furious when he does not get hurt.
    • One Coarse Meal: Mr. Krabs finds out that Plankton is afraid of whales. Sensing this opportunity, Krabs uses the knowledge of Plankton's phobia to drive him to suicide by willing wanting to be run over by a bus. Mr. Krabs ends up getting away with it in the end.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: In "Yesteryear", Spock goes back in time to save his younger self and succeeds, but younger Spock's pet has to be put down.
  • "Storm the Castle", the first season finale of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, is significantly darker than the previous episodes - comic relief villain Ludo is (temporarily) killed by his more competent and dangerous Starscream Toffee, it ends with Toffee getting what he wants, and Star's wand is only saved thanks to a unicorn's Heroic Sacrifice. Even then, a piece is stuck in the monsters' realm, and is now glowing green. From Season 2 and onward, dark episodes are no longer unexpected.
    • "Saint Olga's Reform School" was the only previous episode to change the usual tone of the series to a darker, scarier one, with Star and Marco finally going to the dreaded St. Olga's, which turns out to be home to a brainwashing program being run by a creepy, psychotic headmistress who wants to remove all individuality from the princesses attending to school so that they can be made into ideal princesses, with Marco (crossdressing as a princess) being made to endure a Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing first hand.
  • In Steven Universe, the episode "On the Run" involves Steven and Amethyst running away for a day. Things look fairly goofy, until Amethyst decides to show Steven her "home", which turns out to be a barren canyon filled with holes where Gems were made called the Kindergarten. Pearl arrives and is horrified that Amethyst showed Steven "such a horrible place" and insists that he "isn't ready" to know the truth. This pushes Amethyst's Berserk Button and she starts attacking Pearl, revealing to the audience (and Steven) her deep self-hatred for being made in the same Gem invasion that would have destroyed the Earth and all the life in it. The episode also for the first time shines light on the brutal process of creating Gems and Gem colonization.
    Steven: Pearl? Was Amethyst really made here?
    Pearl: (accusingly) How much did you tell him?
    Amethyst: What? You mean about the bad thing? How this bad place is where bad Gems came to grow more bad Gems? Is that what you're talking about?
    Steven: They grew other Gems here?!
    Pearl: Amethyst, he's not ready!
    Amethyst: Oh, but don't worry, Steven. Everything's just fine now.
    Pearl: Amethyst!
    Amethyst: It all worked out. We won!
    Pearl: Stop!
    Amethyst: And we shut this place down so the Earth would be safe from parasites like ME!
  • "The Fear", an episode of The Super Powers Team, deals with similar themes as the Scarecrow forces Batman to reenact the murder of his parents.
  • Even though Thomas the Tank Engine has had a lot of dark episodes over the years, one episode that really takes the cake is Stepney Gets Lost. In this episode, Stepney ends up getting lost and is unable to flee from Arry and Bert (who are portrayed here as two psychopaths with a desire to see a steam train melted down) when they push him up to a claw that would've dropped him into a smelting pot. Thankfully, the Fat Controller saves him at the last minute, but there's still a reason why the episode is the page image for the Thomas the Tank Engine Nightmare Fuel page.
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • The short "Heavenly Puss" is a lot darker than most Tom and Jerry cartoons. Tom is killed trying to catch Jerry, and is told that if he wants to get into Cat Heaven, he has one hour to make amends with Jerry... otherwise, he'll be condemned to eternal torment by a demonic bulldog. Tom just misses the deadline, and is literally dropped into Hell, where demon Spike dunks him in a cauldron of boiling water. Fortunately for Tom it was All Just a Dream, but it was still a harrowing experience for him, and for young children watching, too.
    • The short "Blue Cat Blues" is just as dark. Both Tom and Jerry are driven to suicide in this episode after their hearts are broken, and though it is never shown, it is implied, as they sit on the train tracks as the sound of an oncoming train is heard just before the episode ends.
  • While it does have its occasional dramatic moments, Tangled: The Series is still pretty lighthearted. Then came "Queen for a Day", in which Rapunzel is forced to make some tough decisions in order to save her kingdom from a blizzard, the King and Queen nearly die, and Varian — who, up until now, has been portrayed as a sweet, Adorkable alchemist — suffers a major case of Break the Cutie and ends the episode by making a Face–Heel Turn.
    • Then came “The Quest For Varian”, where the black rock spires start appearing everywhere, and end up destroying the tower where Rapunzel was raised. To be worse, it is followed by “The Alchemist Returns”, in which Varian betrays Rapunzel and steals the magical flower, only to discover it lost all its magic and it all exists in Rapunzel now, so he’ll be coming back for her, which happens in the by-now expectedly dark season finale.
  • "The Golden Lagoon", an episode of the normally lighthearted The Transformers, ends on a bleak note, with the title lagoon destroyed in a battle between the Autobots and Decepticons over its resources.
    • "Dweller In The Depths" was essentially a zombie movie, featuring some characters being turned into "energy vampires" by the title creature, and slowly chasing the others around to turn them as well.
    • The trope-naming Hate Plague from "Return Of Optimus Prime" was not quite as dark as "Dweller", but was close, and much further-reaching.
  • We Bare Bears:
    • "Burrito" plays like a normal comedic episode where Grizz clings to a huge burrito instead of eating it. When Panda and Ice Bear try to keep it away from Grizz and accidentally destroy it, Grizz ponders why he got so attached to it. The Sudden Downer Ending reveals that Grizz was trapped on top of a tall tree as a cub and was rescued by a fireman. The fireman had a safety band around his arm for Grizz to hold on to, which is what the warm burrito reminded him of when he hugged it.
    • "Primal", the episode right after, has the three bears trapped in the wilderness after Grizz tries to help them live out their natural ways instead of living at home with technology. Panda and Ice Bear end up reverting to their primal bear natures and actually attack Grizz, their own brother, because they aren't anthropomorphic anymore.
    • "Hurricane Hal" is an episode about each of the bears doing separate activities with different characters during said hurricane. Towards the end, Ice Bear and Chloe are almost killed by a subway train after they try to escape the hurricane by going underground, and only survive because of a coincidental chain of events unknowingly caused by the other bears that lead to the city's power going out, making the train stop before it hits them.
    • There's also "Googs", which has the bears on tour of the company after winning a competition, starting with a presentation on virtual reality headsets. After, Panda gets mad at Grizz and Ice Bear for touching various items when they were told not to, and the two eventually cause so much trouble that they're asked to leave. Then the company's owner shows up and tells Panda of her plan to send people into space - starting with him. When he disagrees, she forces him into it, and it turns out Grizz and Ice Bear are also there. When trying to control the ship to go back to Earth, they accidentally turn it in the direction of the sun. They go to the escape pod, but there's only room for two of them, so Panda stays behind and goes into the sun. Then they are asked to take off their virtual reality headsets. It turns out it was all just a shared simulation that the company's owner subjected them to for "research purposes." Instead of laughing it off and being relieved, the Bears found it very traumatic and become so angry about it that they decide not to continue with the tour.

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