Follow TV Tropes


Yank The Dogs Chain / Live-Action TV

Go To

The yanking of proverbial dogs' chains in live-action TV.

  • 24. It's impossible for Jack to be happy. Any time it seems like he's going to get some sort of satisfaction, he gets screwed over. Here's a checklist of the biggest ones:
    • Day 1: Jack has finally killed the mastermind who was threatening his family. He's captured the traitor at CTU that was aiding him, and has reunited with daughter Kim. Now he's found out where his wife was tied up in and it turns out that said traitor also shot her before trying to escape.
    • Day 5: With help from the First Lady, Jack is able to expose the corrupt President's actions, he's gotten back together with his girlfriend Audrey, and after seemingly burning bridges with him it seems like Kim has changed her mind and wants to mend things. Except the message from Kim was actually a trap by the Chinese government who want revenge on him for his actions indirectly leading to the death of their Consul, and they successfully take him prisoner.
    • Advertisement:
    • Day 8: A three-way punch, one episode after another! First, it seems like he's going to successfully save President Hassan mere seconds before he's executed live on television. The television feed was actually a recording and his throat was slit minutes ago. But on the bright side, at least Jack and former FBI agent Renee Walker finally got together but then she was struck dead by a sniper's bullet after recognizing one of the killers involved. At the very least, he's discovered the identity of the real mastermind so he can go after that evil sonuvabitch and give him some much needed karma, right? Only said mastermind happens to the head of the Russian government and President Taylor needs him to sign a peace treaty, so she decides to let him go free in turn for him signing it and Jack gets detained. After all that, it winds up being a bit too much for him, and he SNAPS.
    • Advertisement:
    • Day 9 has come in and officially beat all three combined. It's teased that Jack and Audrey could get back together and Jack has been pardoned for the events of the previous season. Is he finally going to get a happy ending after all this time? Of course not! Audrey winds up getting killed by the main villain and Jack is ultimately forced to turn himself into the Russian authorities, with him facing life imprisonment or possibly execution. The end.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The final scene of the season 2 finale, "S.O.S." Fitz has mostly recovered from his brain damage, he and Simmons have finally reconciled after a season of estrangement, and they're even planning a Relationship Upgrade. Mere seconds later, the Kree artifact Simmons had been researching escapes from its containment box, swallows her, and drags her off to who knows where.
    • Advertisement:
    • The first half of season three revolves around getting Simmons home. It turns out HYDRA wants to open a portal to retrieve an ancient Inhuman who they consider their god. Coulson manages to skydive through the portal, send Simmons back, and kill Grant Ward once and for all . . . which only lets the ancient Inhuman take over his body. The Inhuman returns and takes over HYDRA.
  • This is a Running Gag on Al Fondo Hay Sitio. To give one example, as Nelly is about to brag to Francesca that she won the lottery, she dies of a heart attack. The winning ticket flies away, too.
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008), just as Alex believes she has found out the true nature of her world, the carpet is pulled out from under her feet. It escalates with every series finale (excepting the last).note 
  • Battlestar Galactica is full of those. In the mid-series finale of season 4 they finally make a truce with some Cylons and make it to Earth 3 minutes before the end - and in those 3 minutes it is revealed that Earth is a nuclear wasteland.
    • Afterward, Dualla's chain has been yanked enough and she shoots herself.
    • At the end of season 2, the fleet finds a (barely) habitable planet and, under the leadership of President Gaius Baltar, settle on the newly-named New Caprica. Skip forward a year and, although there are some hiccups, things appear to be running fairly smoothly - more importantly, there haven't been any Cylon attacks in that past year. Then...yep, here come the Cylons. Since the fleet has been reduced to patrolling in orbit, they can't fight off the Cylon ships and Baltar is forced to surrender.
  • The end of Blackadder Goes Forth. The Guns fall silent just seconds before they are due to go over the top to certain death and they think the war is over, that they lived through it, The Great War, 1914 to 1917... oh damn.
    • 'Course, really, this only counts for poor Baldrick, George and Darling. Blackadder knew damn well the whole while, as would anyone else with a little knowledge of trench life during the Great War. Honestly, it's part of the power of the moment that the audience already know there's a chain being yanked.
      Blackadder: I'm afraid not. The guns have stopped because we are about to attack. Not even our generals are mad enough to shell their own men. They feel it's more sporting to let the Germans do it.
      • Even so, he was trying his best to get out. It just didn't work. The real punch is for Darling, who was at his desk at Command, safely away from the lines until Melchett decided he wouldn't want to miss the "fun".
    • This is Played for Laughs in Blackadder The Third, where he and Baldrick resort to highway robbery.
      Baldrick: Which I suppose is highwayman's talk for you get the cash, I get the snotty hanky.
      Blackadder: No, no. No, we did this robbery together, so you get half the cash. (hands him a money-bag)
      Baldrick: Oh, thank you Mr B.
      Blackadder: This robbery, on the other hand, I'm doing alone. (holds his pistol to Baldrick's head) Hand it over, your money or your life!
  • Poor old Richie in Bottom. Just about to finally "Doooooo IT" with a beautiful woman... and he collapses from a medical condition. And then Eddie and said woman "get bored" waiting for the ambulance to turn up: "Don't worry Richie, she was crap anyway."
  • Chuck. Every time the poor boy meets someone, it somehow gets yanked away. It can't help having his 'ex' around all the time.
  • At least one victim in Criminal Minds. The unsub tells her over an intercom that if she can find her way out of the vast complex he's dropped her in by sunset, she gets to live. She gets literally within sight of the open door to freedom, but the sun is setting and the door slams in her face before she can get out. Of course, the team save her anyway, but still.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the original concept of the series, the Doctor had literally no control over the TARDIS, so Ian and Barbara were stuck with him with no hope of getting home. This led to an especially cruel twist in the story "Planet of Giants", in which they land on Earth in the right period, but due to a technical fault with the TARDIS they're only an inch tall and have no way of getting back to the right size without taking off again and getting lost.
    • A particularly egregious example: Near the end of "Doomsday", fan-favourite Rose is trapped in a parallel universe. The Doctor manages to project a hologram of himself so they can say their goodbyes, and Rose breaks down while confessing her love. In response, the Doctor manages to say her name... and then the connection is lost, leaving them separated forever.
      • But not forever! After a series full of near-misses, Rose finds her way back and she and the Doctor face each other on opposite ends of a street. The music swells, they run for each other in slow-motion with joyful expressions... until a Dalek appears and shoots the Doctor, utterly ruining the reunion.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": The Doctor promises the group that he'll get them out alive. One by one, he fails all but two of them. And one of the survivors is the unrepentant jerkass.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", things are going great for Rory. He's been un-erased from existence, Amy's finally remembered him, and he's about to turn into an Auton, but hey, he's fighting it off pretty well. Then out comes the gun in his hand, and he shoots Amy, fighting free of the Auton influence just in time to hold her as she dies. Whoops.
    • In "The Doctor's Wife", the Doctor receives a Time Lord distress signal, leading him to hope that there may be other Time Lords out there. Even more heartbreakingly, he admits to Amy that he wants to be forgiven for his destruction of Gallifrey. It turns out that the distress signal is actually a trap for the Doctor and the TARDIS. He is still the last of the Time Lords.
    • In "A Good Man Goes to War", the Ponds and the Doctor believe that they have saved both Amy and her daughter Melody. In fact, Melody is a Ganger and the real Melody is far away in the clutches of Madame Kovarian.
    • Oswin Oswald gets this in "Asylum of the Daleks". She thinks that she is about to be rescued and adventure with the Doctor. She is actually a Dalek herself, her environment being a delusion which she had created to escape from the truth.
    • Poor Rory gets it again in "The Angels Take Manhattan"; he appears to have escaped becoming a food source for the Angels by creating a paradox, then instead of immediately getting into the TARDIS (he's been told he and Amy will have to run for the rest of their lives, but it's OK because they've got the Doctor and he has the TARDIS) he stops and notices his name on a nearby grav– GONE. Oops.
    • Justified in "Hell Bent" due to the long-suffering Doctor temporarily turning into an Anti-Villain in hopes of achieving a Tragic Dream. He is coming off of being Driven to Madness by a Trauma Conga Line. He decides to become The Unfettered, tosses out his usual moral code, and embarks upon a Batman Gambit to save Clara from her fixed-point death by pulling her out of time at the last moment and escaping Gallifrey with her. It goes off with only a few speed bumps; as he flees, he's brainstorming wonderful new adventures. Too bad there's about 20 minutes of the episode to go. That's when Clara realizes her heartbeat hasn't restarted, and her chronolock tattoo hasn't faded. The Doctor Didn't Think This Through — and his Sanity Slippage worsens as he tries to think of some way to keep going without destroying the universe. This is the point where he crosses the Despair Event Horizon, and the final stretch of the episode makes it clear that he must sacrifice his personal happiness for the greater good if he wants to continue being on the side of light and love. (The good news is that his next story, "The Husbands of River Song", is a Throw the Dog a Bone Breather Episode.)
  • Ronnie. From. EastEnders. Every single time it looks like she's going to have a happy ending, the producers cruelly snatch it away from her practically going "Neener neener!", be it a potential reconciliation with Danielle, the daughter who was kept from her, being ruined by Danielle getting run over and killed instantly or her being caught out when she goes to mad lengths to get a child again. It looks as if recently she's finally having an honest-to-god child again and all's well... but in true Soap Opera fashion (as revealed in television magazine spoilers), said baby stops breathing and may have suffered crib death barely a day after being born, pushing Ronnie way past her limit. That's if she hadn't already been punted over it before now.
  • This is the foundation for first season finale of Eureka. After the initiation of a risky experiment, the movie suddenly cuts to a world where the sheriff and Allison are happily married (which any other episode would tell you that it is no more than Shiptease and love triangle material), his daughter is graduating, Henry, the man who the town constantly relies on, is in charge of GD, the Jerkass Nathan Stark left town, Beverly no longer works for the Consortium..., and most importantly, Henry's love interest, Kim, is alive and well. During the episode the sudden appearance of objects that should not exist in that way gives evidence to something a viewer would already know, that this was not meant to be. Turns out that Henry had gone back in time to save Kim after the experiment had gone horribly wrong. In order to prevent the paradox from ruining time, the Sheriff had to stop Henry from saving the life of the woman he loved as well as give up a future in which he and everybody he knew was happy. Talk about a Downer Ending. Thanks to this fact, this episode was the equivalent to a Heroic BSoD for most of the characters involved... and caused the mess of agendas and conspiracies that is Season 2.
    • A variation occurs in season 4 when Carter, Allison, Jo, Henry and Fargo are sent back the 1940s. It makes them realize what's important and so Carter and Allison finally kiss and decide to give dating a try and Jo decides to accept boyfriend Zane's marriage proposal. However, no sooner are they back then they realize the timeline has been altered. Before Carter and Allison can go on a date, they find Carter never broke up with his old girlfriend. And poor Jo discovers that not only have she and Zane never dated but as far as he's concerned, they hate each other.
    • Even Fargo gets a bit of that. After three seasons as the Butt-Monkey of the town, he's overjoyed to discover that in the altered timeline, he's the head of Global Dynamics. Fargo assumes he'll now be treated with respect and admiration from everyone...only to discover that in this reality, he's an arrogant egomaniac and near-tyrant of a boss whom everyone hates.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: To put it concise, when something does end well with the title character, another random problem precipitates and puts him on the short end of the stick once again. This happens in the end of every goddamn episode too!
  • Farscape:
    • Like most Trapped in Another World shows, the series has a couple of episodes where John is made to think he's returned home only to find it's a fake. This is made less predictable, however, by the fact that one of them turns out, after the apparent Reset Button, to have set up what will be the major story arc of the entire show, and the second has John being smart from the start. It's also subverted when, towards the end of the show, he genuinely gets back to Earth... and discovers that he's changed too much to want to stay.
    • The season 3 finale of has the good guys scoring a major victory after a Heroic Sacrifice by a couple of important secondary characters. And then you see there's ten minutes left, and imagining what's going to happen with Crichton and Aeryn's relationship is painful...
    • Let alone the Season 4 finale where a ship comes from nowhere to blast the main couple after they agree to get married. (This also yanked the chain for the viewers, as the show's cancellation had already been announced.)
  • Often happens on Fawlty Towers, but particularly cruel was the episode "Communication Problems", where it seems that Basil has finally managed to come out on top... only for it all to come cruelly crashing down around him in the last minute.
  • In La Femme Nikita, the titular character's dream is to be freed from life as an assassin and to continue a normal, happy existence. She often comes across opportunities to escape, but all her attempts fall just out of reach of success.
  • The Flash (2014): Barry spends the entire Season One trying to prove his father's innocence to get him released from Iron Heights, after over a decade of being there for a crime he didn't commit. He finally succeeds on the Season Two premiere, but Henry decides to take a leave so Barry can be the hero Central City needs. He does come back to help him when things begin to get hard, but in the second to last episode, Zoom takes him back to their old home so that Barry can see with his own eyes how his father dies in front of him.
  • Rachel in Friends works for Joanna in a fashion company. Joanna doesn't treat Rachel too badly, but she always gives her a ton of crap and never really considers her for a promotion. Joanna does eventually warm up to Rachel and considers her to be a good assistant. In her final appearance, Joanna heavily implies that she is going to promote Rachel, but she gets into a car accident and dies.
  • Several episodes of The Fugitive have Dr. Kimble seemingly on the verge of catching the One-Armed Man and being exonerated, but it always turns out to be a trap or something that otherwise falls apart... until the Grand Finale, of course.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", Theon is teased with the offer of a threesome with two prostitutes, only for his tormentor to cut off the most prized part of his body. Indeed, this is one of Ramsay's favorite torture techniques and he proves it an excellent form of Mind Rape, whether it be something as simple as showing a dehydrated person water before pouring it out in front of them, or as complex as playing a False Friend helping them escape, only to lead them right back to even worse torture.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" for Arya. She is within walking distance of Robb and Catelyn, and her only reward is arriving at the building they are in just in time to witness to the Red Wedding (the massacre of the entire Northern army, her mother and brother among them) and see Grey Wind get killed. Discussed earlier when the Hound talks about her habit of checking every five minutes that the castle and army are still there, and her growing fear that something will happen to stop her reuniting with them.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" is also one for Edmure Tully. Soon after his Throw the Dog a Bone, he spends his wedding night in the dungeons while his family, bannermen, and allies are all slaughtered.
    • "The Rains of Castamere" is one for Bran and Rickon as well. They miss a chance to hook up with Jon Snow. And now they're also splitting up.
    • Brienne so far has failed to trade Jaime for Sansa. And when she finds Arya, Arya leaves her for Braavos.
    • Sansa Stark:
      • In Season 3, the Tyrells betroth Sansa to Loras, who despite Incompatible Orientation, would definitely be much kinder to her than the Lannisters. She'd eventually become the Lady of Highgarden (noted as one of the nicest places in Westeros) as well, which is a pretty sweet deal — until Tywin finds out and squashes her hopes and dreams flat by marrying her to Tyrion. When she shows signs of finally opening up to her husband, Robb and Catelyn are slaughtered at the Red Wedding along with her hopes of eventually being rescued from King's Landing by her family. She, not unreasonably, assumes Tyrion was in on it.
      • In Season 4, Sansa is finally free from King's Landing but because she's wrongfully accused for killing Joffrey, she carries a large bounty on her head. Then she finds out that she's essentially under the thumb of Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn. The former is a Manipulative Bastard who caused Joffrey's assassination and her aunt Lysa is a willing dupe and insane to boot.
      • This happens to Sansa again in Season 5. Despite all of the misfortune and psychological abuse she suffered, the one thing Sansa had managed to avoid (despite encountering a string of wannabe perpetrators) up to that point was getting raped. She runs out of her luck during her wedding night with Ramsay.
    • At the end of Season 4, Bronn is set up for a very nice retirement in Stokeworth castle. Second episode of Season 5, Cersei reneges on their deal to force him to join Jaime's mission.
    • When Tyrion gives him a book as a wedding present, Joffrey has an outright shocking moment where he thanks Tyrion and speaks about a time for 'wisdom' after war. Just when you're thinking that Joffrey might actually have started to mature and become self-aware, he uses his new sword to slice the book in half.
  • This is essentially the premise for pretty much every episode of Gilligan's Island. Generic Plot #1 of the show was the castaways find a way to get off the island, but Gilligan screws it up. The only possible reason they didn't just kill Gilligan, is that Generic Plot #2 was having Gilligan save them from a Monster of the Week.
  • Gilmore Girls does this multiple times a season. Every time Lorelai and her parents start to reach some sort of detente or understanding, something derails it and makes them hate each other again.
  • Good Times lived on this. The Grand Finale averted it, as one good thing after another finally happened that wasn't undone by the status quo. For once, the title of the show was completely accurate.
  • In the fifth season of Heroes, Hiro finally manages to save Charlie from both Sylar and her blood clot. Of course, Samuel the evil carny comes along and has his own teleporting time master trap Charlie "somewhere in time", and then kills him so he can't tell Hiro where/when she is. Cue one of the most heart-wrenching scenes ever to befall our favorite Wide-Eyed Idealist.
  • Seeing as how nobody is allowed to be happy on House, this tends to happen a lot.
    • But especially cruel was the very beginning of Season 3. For about the first half of the first episode, House is reasonably happy with no leg pain, cane or vicodin. This obviously cannot last so the ketamine treatment starts failing, Cuddy and Wilson don't believe him when he says his leg is hurting again and let him believe that he couldn't save a patient in a Jerkassy attempt to teach him some humility and by the end of the second episode, he's back to his normal, limpy, miserable self.
    • In Season 5, he switches to a new drug and throws away his cane because he's completely free of pain. Wilson and Cuddy (as usual) oppose this because the drug has serious side effects. (House ignores them, again as usual.) But at the end of the episode the diagnosis reveals that it was really the dye used in their very first test that caused the young patient's problems; a test the patients' parents had insisted on and which House, expecting it to be pointless, only agreed to run because he was willing to humor them while in a good mood from lack of pain. The lesson he takes away is that he must be in pain to make sure he stays a jerk to make sure he's at the top of his game.
    • The final two episodes of the same season are also a real Mind Screw of an example. House's addiction has gotten worse than ever, to the point where he's having dangerous hallucinations and almost accidentally kills a friend as a result. In a moment of desperation and utter vulnerability he reaches out for help from Cuddy. She helps him detox and they end up sharing The Big Damn Kiss (that viewers had been waiting years for). The next episode picks up the morning after, but at work Cuddy is acting distant and ignoring him like they are in a fight. After his usual childish bids for attention fail, he directly confronts her, but she has no idea what he's talking about. That's when his hallucinations return, worse than ever, and reveal that the entire detox sequence and hook-up was all in his head too. The season ends, not with a much anticipated Relationship Upgrade for him and Cuddy, but with House being checked into a psych-ward.
    • A painful example in Season 7 occurs when House refuses to accept Wilson is going to die in six months. When he finally accepts it and begins plans to make the most of the remaining time... he's sent to jail for six months.
  • iCarly: Freddie wins a competition for a giant locker. He proceeds to do a victory dance of sorts. Then insults Sam. Then they reveal Sam won the competition as well.
  • In The Invaders, a general told David Vincent that his safe contained enough information to blow the invasion plot. It had vanished, of course.
  • On Land of the Lost, the Marshalls come close to returning to their own world several times, but never quite make it. Well, except for Rick at the start of Season 2.
  • On Lost, Locke finally found purpose in the end of season 4, after spending the entire series in a constant battle with faith. Shortly after, He started traveling through time, which he could only stop by leaving the island, and dying. But when he does die, we don't feel much because the episode showing it happen has already revealed that the character comes back to life. What made it really cruel was that he never came back to life at all, and instead was just an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Married... with Children
    • In one episode Al thinks he's going to finally break the "Bundy Curse" when he runs an incredible winning streak with a poker night with a bunch of convicts Jefferson scared up for the occasion. The second he has hope that his good luck throughout the show is genuine (and not the prelude to a crashing fall) Officer Dan shows up and informs him that all of his newly-won cars were stolen, and he winds up even deeper in debt when Kelly's botched motorcycle stunt for a Verminator appearance wrecks Bud's fraternity house, and he gets struck by lightning by the single cloud in the sky on an otherwise perfectly clear night... which just happens to be over the Bundys' house. Through most of the episode, Al lampshades this- stating that the "Bundy Curse" insures that every bit of good luck will bring a greater amount of bad luck the moment that he admits that he had said streak of good luck. (The curse also means that he has to be a shoe salesman.) (And has foot odor.)
    • The two absolute worst ones that come to mind, are when Kelly goes through a Training from Hell montage to train her memory to remember things for her appearance on a sports trivia show, but for each thing she remembers one thing spills out. You just know SOMETHING will happen to make her lose a fact. When she asks how the final round works, it removes the factoid for "What man once scored four touchdowns in a single game at Polk High" (Al's crowning achievement in life).
  • M*A*S*H had several of these.
    • The first season has an episode where everyone comes to believe that there's been a ceasefire and the war is over. During their "farewell" party they learn the sad news: the war isn't over, and the wounded are arriving.
    • Another early episode has Trapper thinking he'll get to go home due to a stomach ulcer, and even getting a farewell party, before being told by HQ that he'll have to stay in Korea and be operated on there.
      • Trapper gets put through the wringer again in "Kim", deciding to adopt a seemingly-orphaned Korean boy with his wife back in the States, then having to rescue the kid after he wanders into a minefield...then having to watch as the kid's mother turns up and whisks him away.
    • The third-season finale has Henry Blake getting discharged and finally getting to go home. What happened next was a trope-naming moment.
    • In "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye races to an airport to try and say goodbye to Trapper, who was discharged while Hawkeye was away on leave and couldn't stay any longer. Naturally, despite his best efforts, Hawkeye misses him by minutes.
    • In a more humorous example, Klinger comes tantalizingly close to actually getting a Section 8 discharge in "None Like It Hot". He dons a fur coat and other warm-weather gear in the middle of a blistering Heat Wave, and Col. Potter is so impressed with his determination that he promises to approve a Section 8 if he can keep it up for 24 hours. When Klinger finally breaks down and gives up toward the end of the episode, a sincerely disappointed Potter notes that he only had an hour left to go.
    • In the show's final episode, B.J. receives discharge papers, though they are quickly rescinded. Col. Potter is informed of this, but doesn't say anything - hoping B.J. will be stateside before anyone finds out. Unfortunately, he only makes it as far as Guam before he's yanked back to the 4077th. (However, he does ultimately get to go home - along with everybody else - when the war ends shortly thereafter.)
      B.J.: I'm sitting there in this crummy officers club, and this guy comes up to me, and says, "You Hunnicutt the doctor?" Now, I didn't like the sound of that, so I said, "No, not me, pal, I'm Hunnicutt the chaplain." He says, "Well, chaplain, you'd better start praying for a miracle, because you're going back to Korea to do surgery."
  • Merlin. Oh my God, Merlin. He's reunited with his childhood friend who knows about and accepts his magical powers? He dies. He falls in love with a pretty Druid girl? She dies. At long last, he meets his father? He dies. Arthur begins to think that maybe, just maybe, Uther's wrong and magic isn't inherently evil? Merlin has to lie through his teeth and convince him otherwise in order to stop him from murdering his own father. Pretty much every time something significantly nice happens to Merlin, he gets the rug yanked out from under him.
  • Many episodes of Monk have the title character finally get something good in his tortured existence, only to have it snatched away by the end.
    • Particularly heartbreaking is "Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk", in which Monk's condition is getting better, but he ends up watching a woman who had been impersonating his late wife get shot dead, traumatizing him out of all his progress.
    • An example on another aspect of the show is the people for his reinstatement changing their minds just as the one against finally caves in Mr. Monk Goes Camping.
    • In one episode, he finally gets reinstated with the police department after taking advantage of an affirmative action loophole. In the end, he voluntarily leaves after realizing he's still not well enough to be a cop again.
  • In one Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Mike baits Pearl into playing a game of Three-Card Monty with the movie experiment at stake: if she wins she can send the guys two movies that week, but if he wins he gets to pick the movie. Mike wins, and chooses "the greatest drama ever written: Hamlet; Pearl keeps to her word, she chooses a German made-for-TV version of Hamlet that's almost lethally boring.
    • Earlier, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank wagered Joel and the Bots on the invention exchange: If they win, they get to watch Local Hero; if they lose, it's Monster a-Go Go. Of course, since Frank is the judge...
  • Nowhere Man:
    • In one episode, Tom Veil recuperates on a woman's farm and they fall in love. On the verge of abandoning his search to regain his old life, he gets another lead. He hesitates, then takes the lead. She leaves; he goes back on the road.
    • A Christmas episode, had Veil reunited with his family, learning that it was all a mistake and the authorities had been looking for him to testify against the people in the photo at the centre of his drama. It was all an elaborate plot, of course.
    • Happens for the last time in the third to last episode. Tom wakes up in a hospital and is told that everything he experienced was a dream and that he had been in a coma. He doesn't buy it this time and is immediately suspicious of everything especially his wife.
    • The series even lampshaded it with Veil meeting a man (Dean Stockwell) who has been on the run from the same conspiracy for 30 years. He tells Veil that no matter what "It's one step forward, three steps back" and that every time Veil thinks he's going to get close to winning, "they yank it back from you."
  • Once Upon a Time: After years of having endless misery inflicted on her by Regina and her mother Cora, including the murder of both her parents, her mother figure maid, being robbed of her rightful throne as well as the chance to raise her daughter, Snow White finally finds a window in which she can fight back against them by turning their own magic against them when she has none of her own to defend herself with, by cursing Cora's heart with a magical candle left behind from her childhood, and then tricking Regina into putting it back into her mother's body, killing her and preventing her from becoming the dark one and murdering the rest of her family. The next episode reveals that the powers-that-be branded her with a black spot on her heart for that act of defense.
    • Regina has a terrible past composing of an abusive mother, dead fiancée, unhappy Arranged Marriage, and Training from Hell. After being defeated in Season One, she spends the next three seasons slowly having a Heel–Face Turn, opening up to other people, and even entering a relationship with Robin Hood. Despite all her claims that "villains don't get happy endings", it looks like she'll be getting one...and then at the end of Season Three Robin's wife comes Back from the Dead.
    • Regina's chain gets yanked even harder in Season 4, when Marian says she'll stand aside so Regina and Robin can be together, right before Robin is forced to leave Storybrooke and thus Regina probably forever. And if that's not enough, later she and Emma learn that "Marian" was actually her sister Zelena/The Wicked Witch of the West the whole time and attempt to warn Robin, only to learn that Zelena is now pregnant with Robin's child. Robin is eventually murdered by Hades, worse the process destroys Robin's soul ensuring Regina will never see him again. She briefly tries to hook up with the Robin of an alternate timeline, but that fails because the two Robin's are too fundamentally different. By this point, she seems to realize she will never have a happy ending.
  • Happens all the time in Oz. The worst case is Beecher, of course. But every character has its moments. It's very painful.
    • Richie Hanlon gets killed just a few days after his death sentence is overturned. He had been coerced into confessing to a murder he didn't commit, and got iced by a friend of the victim, who wasn't aware that the confession was false.
  • This is the basis for many episodes of Peep Show — Mark Corrigan never catches a break. There are long-term chain-yankings like promising relationships that never quite happen (the one that eventually does quickly turns into an embarrassing, resentful nightmare for both parties) and episode-length ones, like when Mark's chance at his dream job is ruined by his best friend sweeping in what he thinks is a Big Damn Heroes moment to deliver a long speech about how he has a "wanking disease" (It Makes Sense in Context) to the prospective employer. Still, that's what happens when the Buttmonkey is the protagonist.
  • In the third season finale of Person of Interest, the trailer promises that Tonight, Someone Dies and shows Fusco captured by HR and about to be shot. Meanwhile, Reese bonds with Detective Carter, telling her she's the reason he didn't commit suicide, leaning in for a kiss and Relationship Upgrade. Fusco manages to escape his captors, Carter takes down HR, and she and Reese walk down the sidewalk together late at night after getting him out of jail. Looks like you can Never Trust a Trailer after all, right? Right...if all that didn't scream to you that Carter is about to get a good look at the inside of a 'fridge, courtesy the last remaining member of HR, so Reese can go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, then you clearly haven't spent enough time on this site.
  • Power Rangers RPM. As Dr K finally begins to warm up to the rangers, she makes a point at the start of one episode, of calling each ranger by name instead of codename as well as expressing the qualities she likes about them... except for Ziggy. Poor Ziggy spends the rest of his screen time of that episode trying to get her to admit that he's not a bad guy and can be useful to the team (as he proves at one point). Finally at the end, as she's giving everyone their debriefing, she walks up to him, smiling warmly at him, clearly about to finally acknowledge his contributions... and the alarm rings signaling another attack.
  • Any episode of The Prisoner (1967) where Number Six gets out (or appears to get out) of the Village (e.g. "Chimes of Big Ben" and "Many Happy Returns").
  • Rimmer, The Chew Toy of the Red Dwarf universe, is simply not allowed to be happy. On the rare occasions he's thrown a bone it usually gets stuck in his throat.
    • A particularly cruel example: in the episode "Timeslides", a bit of minor fiddling with time restores Rimmer to life. In his joy he starts running around, touching things, eating things — and slams both fists on two random crates, which then explode.
    • He gets wises up to this in 'Back to Earth' where when speaking to the writer of the show, he demands he be written a girl who he can fall in love with, marry and after the big night, NOT find out that she's his long lost sister.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: The utterly miserable second half of "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith". In the thirty-three years since she left the Doctor, she never found anyone, until now. Even the first half of the story is bittersweet, as it feels too good to be true if her track record is any indication of what's to come; you can tell they're star-crossed. This doesn't make the ending any less tragic.
  • Scorpion: Does this at least three times in each episode. For example, in the first part of the Season 2 finale They have to figure out a way to contain a potential nuclear outbreak. They send in a drone to gather data, and end up setting a timer (like usual) until they fix it. Then Sylvester and Paige get trapped inside, and once Sylvester get out Walter gets stuck in with Paige, etc.
    • And then in the second part, Toby is about to propose to Happy, only to get himself kidnapped. After he gets rescued, he proposes to her... only for her to tell him that she's already married. Granted, Collins did hint at it, but he was vague.
    • An example to the audience would be Walter and Paige. Everyone could tell, that they would get together, but every time the show would yank it away. Subverted in the Season 2 finale in which Walter realizes he loves her, and runs off after her.
  • On the show Sisters, second-oldest sister Teddy is FINALLY happy after years of turmoil that has included a struggle with alcoholism, miscarriage, her daughter's rape, her divorce, etc. Now, she's married to the love of her life, who's had similar problems of his own—alcoholism, divorce, death of his son—and they're preparing to buy a house. But as they head out to the closing, he's killed via Car Bomb (planted by a drug lord he was preparing to testify against (he was a cop)).
  • Sliders did a lot of chain-yanking of the heroes' attempts to find their original world, as the characters would arrive on a new world, decide it's home, and then split up, only to discover there's something different (and usually horrible) about it after all. One episode in particular yanked the audience's chain, as the heroes decide it's not their world because the gate at one character's house fails to squeak as expected. Just after they slide on to continue the search, it's revealed to viewers that somebody oiled the hinges, implying they really were home, but failed to recognize the fact.
  • Smallville
    • One episode had Clark finally tell Lana his secret and propose to her at the same time. That was the teaser! She accepts the proposal, Jonathan Kent wins the state senate seat, beating Lex Luthor and everything seems perfect up til the 30 minute mark when Lana is killed in a car accident caused by Lex trying to get Clark's secret out of her. Clark gets Jor-El to rewind time, ignoring his warning that the universe would find someone else to die if he saves Lana. Clark doesn't tell Lana his secret, but Jonathan still wins the senate seat only to die from a heart attack.
    • Season eight did this to Chloe all the time.
      • Finally rescued from the Hellhole Prison after locked in there for three months...Clark dies in her arms (he gets better, obviously).
      • Meeting this friendly, handsome paramedic...turns out to be the human form of Doomsday.
      • Getting married to Jimmy...only for Doomsday to crash the wedding, kidnap her to be possessed by Brainiac and maul Jimmy half to death. Oh, and she came this close to dying about three times.
      • Clark reveals his secret to the world and she is happy for him...then Doomsday killed her. Good thing the Reset Button was handy.
      • Jimmy is finally getting better and she is convinced it is going to be happily ever after...Jimmy divorces her and spirals into drug abuse at the end of the same episode.
      • Davis is split from Doomsday, Jimmy makes up with her...then Davis goes crazy jealous and kills Jimmy. Lois vanishes and Clark abandons her.
  • In Season 1 of Spartacus, Batiatus finally keeps his promise to find the title character's wife only to deliver her moments from death.
  • As a Trapped in Another World show, Star Trek: Voyager did this several times, with a potential way to return to the Alpha Quadrant failing at the last minute or turning out to be morally unacceptable.
    • The episode "Bliss" has the ship finding what looks like the perfect wormhole back to Earth. They start getting messages from Starfleet to report on how good it all looks to head for it. More messages come through with Janeway finding out her boyfriend (who had gotten engaged to another woman with her gone) is single again, Chakotay getting a pardon, Neelix made an ambassador and many in the crew offered dream jobs. It turns out the "wormhole" is really a massive alien creature using psychic manipulation to trick ships into entering it. A non-affected Seven of Nine and the Doctor manage to save the ship but the crew has to deal with all those messages from Earth part of the illusion.
    • A notable example had the ship finding a wormhole that was about the size of a basketball and traveled a fair distance back in time as well. While they didn't find a way to use it to get back home, they did manage to find a way to use it to send a message back home. Unfortunately, the Romulan scientist that had offered to deliver messages from Voyager at the appropriate time died before Voyager even got lost.
    • Mid-season four, "Message in a Bottle" has the crew discover a complex alien satellite network powerful enough for them to send a message to a Starfleet ship back home, and the following episode, "Hunters", has them use that network to exchange letters with their families for the first time in over three years, informing everyone back home that they aren't dead... only to learn that the Maquis have been wiped out, various loved ones have moved on, and Earth is at war with the Dominion.
      • And then the episode ends with the satellites being destroyed and a new enemy hunting the ship, with various people having not received their aforementioned messages.
    • Beginning with season five, Voyager DID come across numerous opportunities that promised to shave a few years off their trip, and most of them actually succeed. By the end of the fifth season, they'd basically managed to cut their trip in half, and then they got another 3 year shave off in season 6, as well as being able to establish permanent, two-way contact with home.
  • Often happens in Supernatural too but everyone knew all too well that as soon as Dean decided he didn't want to go to Hell in "Dream a Little Dream of Me", his fate as Hell's eventual bitch was sealed.
    • Shooting Lucifer in "Abandon All Hope". For a few moments it looks like it worked and Ellen and Jo's sacrifice was worth it... And then he gets up. The expressions on Sam and Dean's faces because they thought they'd managed to win.
    • It has been generally accepted by the Supernatural fandom that if an episode looks to be giving them something they want, or something good happens to a character, or the preview shows a fun, humorous episode, they should be worried.
  • On Top Gear, after Jeremy Clarkson and James May had spent two seasons mocking the forthcoming Dacia Sandero, they finally see one in Romania. May seems somewhat smitten, so Clarkson buys one for him. Half an hour later, a lorry backs into it where May had left it parked, caving in one side.
  • Torchwood LOVES this trope.
    • After a season and a half of pining and one weird memory-changer-induced role reversal, Owen finally agrees to a date with Tosh. At the end of the episode, he dies.
    • And of course, once Jack and Ianto are really getting adorable, and we get to see some of Ianto's personal life... he dies, too.
    • A few episodes into Miracle Day Dr. Juarez decides to officially join up with Team Torchwood. It even looks like Rex might start to take their relationship a little more seriously... so at the end of the episode she gets shot. Twice. And burned alive. IN FRONT OF REX.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959), "Time Enough At Last": Just when it looks like Henry Bemis is going to get a happy ending with more books than he could ever read and absolutely nothing to stop him from reading, his glasses get broken, which means he won't be able to read any of them.
  • The Walking Dead gives a cruel and tragic example of this. After operating under the mindset that her sister is dead for the second half of Season 4 and for most of the episodes in the first half of Season 5, Maggie Greene is informed that the group has a lead on her sister to her shock and happiness in the mid-season finale of Season 5 "Coda," only to arrive at the hospital where she was held hostage, to see Daryl carrying her sister's dead body which causes her to hit the ground and begin mourning as a result.
    • Season Seven is a very long barrage of these happening to Rick's group, courtesy of Negan and his constant torture (both physical and psychological) in order to literally make them his bitches (and the man has the gall to constantly blame them for the misfortune he forces unto them, too!). By the mid-season finale, pretty much every episode ad showed Rick with a Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • Savvy fans of Joss Whedon's shows knew, both from seasons of examples and flat statements in interviews that he didn't care to write happy relationships, or ones that worked out well. By Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, many die-hard fans refused to rise to the bait of Xander/Anya's wedding because it was obviously not going to end well. (That the majority of the audience was, by definition, die-hard by that point made it more so.)
    • Yet another episode (without the romantic entanglement) is "The Zeppo" in which the story focuses on Xander, while what would usually be the "main" plot is seen only briefly. Though Xander does something useful and heroic — in the face of his characterization up to that point — by the end of the show he decides not to tell them, and happily offers to get them snacks.
    • In season 5, there's this one episode where things appear to be looking up for Spike after a year and a half of being mercilessly beaten, humiliated and undergoing pitiful amounts of Badass Decay; his former paramour Drusilla wants him back, and offers him a way to overcome his Restraining Bolt so he can go back to being a badass again. After spending the first two acts dancing with a very alluring Drusilla and enjoying rebuilding his reputation as a heartless asshole, he blows it for himself and ends up losing Drusilla AGAIN, gets dumped by Harmony, beaten into submission by all three of his lovers or former lovers, and is banned from entering Buffy's house. Also, his obsession with Buffy is revealed to the rest of the group, who spend the rest of the season teasing and insulting him for it. So much for his great comeback...
    • In season 6, Tara leaves Willow after the latter's abuse of dark magic, which broke the collective hearts of the fans who loved the couple. While Tara remained a presence within the Scooby Gang during their break-up, it wasn't until "Entropy" that the two were reunited in love. The following episode, "Seeing Red", saw the two in bed for most of the episode, apparently with a Happy Ending to the episode...then Warren shows up with a gun, attempting to kill Buffy. One of the bullets from Warren's gun hits a window, striking Tara through the heart, with her blood splatting over Willow's shirt, killing Tara almost instantly. This would lead to Willow's path of destruction for the remainder of the show, culminating in her nearly destroying the world. To say fans were pissed and disappointed at Tara's death would be a massive understatement, and even more heartbreaking because the couple were just so close to a Happy Ending.
    • On Angel, there were years of Wesley pining for Fred. He saw her choose another man over him, banish him like the rest of the cast after his devastating Connor arc, and more recently struggle with possible feelings for yet another man. They FINALLY get together. For one episode. He then must watch her die, in his arms, pleading for her life. Then the thing that killed her takes over her body and spends the rest of the season looking like Fred. *sigh*
      • Only to act like her in situations to manipulate others. She does it well enough that as Wesley's dying, he asks her to lie to him with that illusion.
      • Even when she's blue, Illyria still looks remarkably like Fred and Wesley doesn't really try to hide how much that hurts him.
    • Earlier on Angel, Joss Yanked The Dog's Chain in the season two finale. Everyone survived, they rescued Fred, abolished slavery in Pylea, and made it back to Earth. Everything's happy... until they arrive back at the office, where Willow is waiting to give them the news that Buffy is dead. In the blink of an eye, a Happily Ever After ending became a Bittersweet Ending.
      • Angel loved these. There were teases that Angel would become human again (or close enough) throughout the series, starting in the very third episode with the Gem of Amara, and done quite cruelly in "I Will Remember You", the eighth (made all the worse by Angel rekindling his love with Buffy, only to have to give it up once again when he gives up his humanity). Of course, the ultimate one of these ends up being the Shanshu prophecy.
      • Things are finally looking up for Human!Darla—and then Drusilla comes back.
      • Season 3, full stop.
      • For people in the Angel/Cordelia camp, this was brutal. At the end of Season 3 the two decide to confess their feelings for each other, only for Cordelia to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and Angel to get dropped in the ocean by his own son. She comes back in Season 4 only to be possessed, shack up with his son, and then go into a coma. She returns again in Season 5, and just when it looks like the two of them will be together, she's Dead All Along.
    • In Dollhouse, Topher and Bennett get together with an adorable kissing scene. In the midst of all that horrible badness, at least these two somewhat insane geniuses get to find some love and happiness togethwait what's Whiskey doing with that gun oh god damn it Joss you evil sonovabitch.
      • Averted with Anthony and Priyanote . They do end up together.
    • Firefly has this for the whole crew, but River seems to get it the worst at times. You know you're dealing with this trope when the medical treatments that grant your addled mind some sense of stability and lucidity just drive you into further depression because you're smart enough to know that it's just going to get worse later on. Meantime, the best crew example is exemplified by saying they had to use every last credit they made off the Ariel heist to pay off Niska for a ransom to get back Mal and Wash...and Niska declares it's only enough for one to dig the knife in deeper.
  • The X-Files. Cripes, where do you even start with Agent Mulder?
    • He finds his sister — the reason he hopped on the X-files train in the first place — only to discover she's one of many adult clones.
    • He finds what he thinks is the REAL Samantha only to have his arch enemy scare her away from him.
    • And there's the entirety of Gethsemane, which officially thrusts him into woobie status. What he thinks is a real alien and thus absolute proof of extraterrestrial life — a.k.a., his entire life quest — gets stolen while a guy with insider knowledge explains how UFOs and the like have all been huge government hoaxes.
    • Oh yeah... that same deceitful government gave Scully cancer because of his quest for the truth.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: