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"This is the most unhappy 'happy ending' I have ever seen!"
Kairi, from the sporking of Naga Eyes

A director/author/etc. writes what he thinks is a Happy Ending. Surely, nobody could think of a more wonderful, uplifting way to conclude this story!

...But apparently, they could. The ending makes the audience cringe, shutting their eyes tightly and reminding themselves it's only fiction. The critics hammer the hell out of it. It gets several mentions under Nightmare Fuel. What happened? Well, it turns out the vast majority of the people don't have the same opinions about a happy ending as the work's creator. Fridge Logic, Fridge Horror, Glurge, Unfortunate Implications, and Inferred Holocaust are all common causes of this. Values Dissonance may be another source; changing values may make a formerly happy ending seem bittersweet or worse today.

At the same time, there can certainly be disagreements about what particular endings properly classify as such, or at least to what specific extent they do, but the constant is that some of the viewers don't buy the perceived happiness of the finale.

See Growing Up Sucks if the writer doesn't clarify things well.

As an Ending Trope there will be unmarked spoilers!

Examples of Esoteric Happy Ending include:

Anime and Manga

  • The anime of Elfen Lied ends rather positively, because it adds a new ending before the manga crosses the Despair Event Horizon. If you know the background information that is revealed later in the manga, the anime ending isn't happy at all.
  • Subverted in Birdy the Mighty. At the end of season 1, the Roppongi area of Tokyo gets completely trashed by a combination of the ryunka and the sanctum sanctorum Killsat used to attack it.. However, season 2 is mostly about how these events affected people, including the survivors.
  • Blue Gender. A few humans have survived Gaia's Vengeance, and they can all live in harmony with mother nature, free at last of technology! Then the Fridge Logic sets in - the only survivors will be physically strong people. If you're a person who is crippled, blind, deaf, has a curable terminal disease, etc. then you're hosed. Mother Nature hates you and you have no right to live.
    • And those well-meaning humans who were trying to save the planet by living in a space station (to ease the strain placed on Earth) and eliminating the hostile creatures that had infested Earth? Screw them.
  • Code Geass ends with an uplifting ending showing all the surviving characters smiling, despite the bittersweet nature of the preceding events and Lelouch's death, which is enough to make certain viewers consider the whole thing a tragedy. The ending also leaves open what will happen to the world during the subsequent reconstruction phase. It is possible for viewers to speculate about how all the resulting death and destruction would have affected the social and economic structures of Japan, which may paint a rather pessimistic picture of this fictional world's future when all is said and done.
  • Space Runaway Ideon has this with Be Invoked. Yep, the universe is destroyed, but the spirits of the dead are preparing to celebrate its rebirth again as the Messiah takes the souls to a new planet. It took Super Robot Wars of all things to create a proper Downer Ending as Keisar Ephes corrupts the Messiah, allowing him to take control of the universe properly this time around.
  • Many people were dissatisfied with the ending of the Hot Gimmick manga. While it was obvious that Hatsumi was going to end up with Ryoki, some readers held on to the hope that there would at least be enough Character Development to give Hatsumi a backbone or make Ryoki less of a Jerkass, but the general consensus is that there was little if any sign of any of that ever coming to pass. It didn't help that Azusa's Character Development was pretty much negated at the end thanks to Aesop Amnesia and that Shinogu, arguably the most preferable match for Hatsumi, suffered from a blatant case of Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends. In fact, about the only thing most readers liked about the ending were the Subaru/Akane bits.
  • As another work that features reality warping and a "face reality" Aesop, Princess Tutu encounters the same issues as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Sure, everyone's free of Drosselmeyer's control, and Mytho's tragedy will no longer repeat, but Duck and Fakir are no longer the same species, and romance is now impossible between them. Then again, Fakir still has Drosselmeyer's power, so this may not be a permanent problem if you reject the story's Aesop as stupid (which many, many fanfic writers have done.)
  • The anime of Kare Kano. Hinting that the official couple will break up sooner or later, and that it's OK, is a "happy ending" for Hideki Anno, no seriously!
  • After School Nightmare. The entire series was taking place in the minds of the unborn babies in a maternity ward. The babies are all born safely, but they grow up knowing nothing about anything that occurred in the series. A scene at the very end shows Mashiro and Sou running into each other and having no idea who the other is, pointlessly teasing readers about possibilities that will never be.
  • Bokurano. The Earth survives the ordeal in one piece and humanity is relatively safe, which when compared to what happened in Narutaru is a positive cause for celebration. Of course, all the main characters died (and most of them were mentally broken little monsters anyhow), thousands of Japanese died, some 33 thousand other universes and Earths were destroyed, and the game goes on with a new set of victims players as if nothing has happened... Yay?
    • Notably, one example of the backlash was the anime's director. The Gecko Ending went on to brighten things slightly: While most of the above still happens, one of the main characters survives and the last pilot breaks the game and makes sure it cannot be repeated elsewhere.
  • Macross Frontier (and major ending spoilers abound) mostly ends on a happy note. The Big Bad is defeated, Everyone Lives (barring a bazillion Red Shirts), and they definitely Earned Their Happy Ending, so what makes it so esoteric? Though the action and overall plot all concluded neatly, the romance, the greater part of the series, ended on a Cliff Hanger to avoid upsetting the fans of either girl, which just upset both Shipper factions. Some though preferred it this way. Nevertheless, the debates wage on.
    • Returns with the movies (Yay, more massive spoilers) with the ending being pretty much a Tear Jerker. It leaves off with Alto apparently dead and Sheryl in a coma right after Alto confessed to Sheryl. The fandom's going theory was that this was how they ended up, and that Sheryl's earrings, which being made of fold quartz ignores the normal laws of time and space, kept their hearts together, for at the end one was worn by Sheryl and one was worn by Alto, making it a very Bittersweet Ending a la Together in Death. Among other theories. An interview with Kawamori later had him wondering how anyone got this idea and Jossed it by declaring that Alto survived and Sheryl woke up.
  • The end of The End Of Evangelion implied that everyone subject to the horrific screaming global omnicide could really live again. If they wanted to. Even though the Earth is totally wrecked at this point. Who could be reluctant to leap at that generous opportunity?
    • Not quite. The only area in the world that's shown to be wrecked for certain was Tokyo-3. Sure, the world itself doesn't look pleasant after all that's happened, but it's still habitable nonetheless.
  • Now and Then Here and There. Even setting aside the whole Good Girls Avoid Abortion thing, the script seems to entirely forget that Sara's parents are now never going to see her again and she's very likely going to be killed by the Earth's still supernova-ing sun. Shu's optimism seems just a little misplaced.
  • The ending of Angel Beats is about as esoteric as they come. Everyone except Otonashi eventually moves on and leaves the afterlife, which seems like a vaguely happy Bittersweet Ending, if you ignore the whole "if we leave we'll probably be reincarnated as water fleas" thing, which was...assumed, logically but without proof, early on and never debunked. Even worse, in the last scene Kanade and Otonashi finally confess their love for each other, which makes Kanade disappear, causing Otonashi to understandably flip out. But that extreme Downer Ending is maybe undone by The Stinger, in which they appear to find each other again in some future life...but many people think this last scene is a dream. In short: plot resolved with ambiguous Fridge Horror, last scene is happy but may not be real, so...who knows?
    • There was the short ova Another Epilogue that definitely showed that Otonashi stayed and became the Student Council President, and that he's waiting to be reunited with Kanade. This is obviously setting up a new season, so we can only wait to find out how it will turn out.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island: Though Doan and the orphans were able to live peacefully after Amuro threw his Zaku II to the sea, the former would have a chance to fight in a Mobile Suit again, as a Zaku High Mobility Surface Type (piloted by Yun Sanho (A member of Doan's former team)) was still underneath the hidden base. Despite the destruction in the cockpit caused by the Gundam, Doan may potentially find and repair it for his use once more. But then again, There will be potential future threats that'll invade the island...


  • Happens very often with Jack Chick tracts. There are too many examples to list specific ones, but they tend to fall into a few distinct categories.
    1. The main character converts to Christianity, dies an untimely (and usually also cruel or painful) death and goes to heaven. For example, in "The Little Princess," while Heidi gets herself and her family saved before dying, one has to wonder what it's like for her parents and brother to lose her.
    2. The main characters, following the death of someone close to them, convert to Christianity. The unsaved loved ones are promptly forgotten about, and the saved people will never see them again. This is especially jarring in "Happy Halloween," in which the boy killed in the traffic accident is forgotten about.
    3. The main characters convert to Christianity after suffering terrible traumas with no indication of any long-term problems, and with those responsible being Easily Forgiven or becoming outright Karma Houdinis. For example, in "Lisa", the girl may have gotten saved and may no longer be suffering abuse, but she also has herpes now and no shortage of trauma associated with this.
    4. Truly despicable people do terrible things all their lives, convert after one minute of Easy Evangelism, and go to Heaven, facing no consequences for their actions ever, while people who did nothing wrong except not instantly choose to devote their lives to God, needing more than simply having John 3:16 read to them once in order to believe, have freak accidents kill them the next day and go to Hell.
    5. The ultimate fate of Earth. God will triumph over the Devil, but not before ages of suffering for the people of Earth followed by the majority of humankind being sent to Hell.
  • JLA: Act of God has the story attempting to tell us that a new generation of heroes is about, the problems with this are that there were likely millions of innocents killed due to people losing their powers, few Superheroes getting over their problems, and Kyle Rayner, ultimately, ends up killed due to psychotic obsession. This isn't getting into the fact that many tech-based supervillains keep their powers and abilities, and one new, superpowered being doesn't make the world better.
  • Joe Quesada has stated that when looking back at One More Day, he sees Aunt May saved through the Parkers' Heroic Sacrifice of their marriage. Most fans see the Official Couple being forced apart and the villain getting what he wants.

Fan Fiction

  • This is common in the darker side of fanfiction. A good example of this can be found here. For those who don't want to read that, here's the cliff notes version: Guy picks up a plushie that is alive. Turns out the plushie is a Yandere. It asks him nicely if he wants to turn into a plushie too. He refuses; it violently and painfully kills him and then rebirths him as a plushie. Now they'll be together forever - and it's treated as a good thing.
    • Funnily enough, this is exactly what happens in an episode of Growing Up Creepie. It turns out that not everyone agrees with Creepie that "everyone gets turned into giant mutant moths" (or, more generally, bugs) is a happy ending.
  • Basically, any piece of smut written by a Nightmare Fetishist.
  • Presumably readers were supposed to be happy that the first and second stories in Hogwarts Exposed end with Harry and Hermione's lavish wedding and the birth of their first child, respectively. Most sane readers are instead either horrified or scratching their heads over why most of the cast hasn't been arrested for sexual harassment.
  • The Rose Potter series is an interesting example. Because the author slavishly copies as much of the Harry Potter canon as he can, each story ends on a happy note if and when the canon books do. Because the author tries to make things Darker and Edgier however, it just opens up a whole mess of Fridge Logic, plot holes, and generally makes the Ministry's arguments that Rose is psychotic look rational. One fine example would be Rose discovering the "Golden Patronus", which essentially lets her destroy the hundreds of Dementors in the third story. This is treated as a beautiful thing, with the "released souls" thanking her as they return to their bodies. Thing is, Dementors were used to carry out the wizarding equivalent of the death sentence, which means that Rose also released the souls of a number of dangerous criminals.
  • Frequently discussed in the Fanficrants community on Live Journal. Apparently some far too many fic writers do not understand how sexual consent and/or absence thereof works, and balk when informed that what they've written is effectively rape fic and really should be labeled as such.
  • One particular Pirates of the Caribbean fanfiction had a Mary Sue protagonist determined to save the seas and bring back freedom to the pirates. She accomplishes this by killing Calypso. Who, in the movie, was one of the few mystical beings remaining in the sea, especially after the Kraken was destroyed by Beckett, and one of the few things left keeping the world from "getting smaller". Oops... Of course, everyone treats her as a hero for this.
  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, Ronan defeats the arguably more evil Council and their minions, but most of the world has been destroyed and Ronan leaves Ekaj and Atni to repopulate it it people like him (considering he has nothing against spousal abuse, rape or killing people for disagreeing with him, among other things, this is highly disturbing) before going off to have sex with Sakura for all eternity. Then Benji writes an alternate ending in which the cast is returned to normal and kills Ronan; they reunite for the first time in a long time, and while Sakura bears scars from what Ronan did to her, Naruto and Kakashi promise to help her work through it.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Conversion Bureau. The premise: Things aren't going well for humanity or Earth, so the ponies offer to let some of the humans into Equestria. Awesome, right? But then the Fantastic Racism kicks in: anybody going in has to first be transformed irreversibly into a pony. This might not be so terrible if it wasn't repeatedly and explicitly stated that someone who's transformed into a pony has their personality fundamentally altered. In other words, faced with a troubled species, the pony solution is, well... While it's a Dead Fic and thus never properly ended, the author implies this is meant to be a Just Before the End scenario. Given that the author has her own damn E.D. page, was this really too much of a shock?
  • The Voltron: Legendary Defender fic Across the Multiverse. Akira/Keith finally hooked up with his beloved Takashi Shirogane after every lifetime denied them the chance to be together, yay! Oh wait, Akira and Takashi being Star-Crossed Lovers was a punishment from the Space Goddess for Akira's selfish attempt to abandon his friends to join Takashi in death. And he spent every other reality chasing Takashi's reincarnations just as selfishly, willing himself to death when he didn't get his way, and finally snatching VLD!Shiro away from Curtis, whose own feelings and heartbreak were mocked roundly by the others. Then Shiro teamed up with Honerva's ghost to beat the Space Goddess, while Keith never learned his lesson and was basically rewarded for his selfish behavior. Good job, Keith.


  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes ends with the apes being escaping to a forest and a tearful goodbye between Caesar and his foster-father and his love interest. Then humanity dies during the end credits.
  • A Troll in Central Park. Stanley ends up burying all of New York in a jungle, a scene eerily similar to the original ending of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Knowing. Almost everybody is killed as the entire planet is incinerated, but some 30-odd kids survived and went to a wonderful Garden of Eden-esque place! And they're gonna repopulate the human race! A Million Is a Statistic indeed.
    • Since the aliens only saved a handful of prepubescent children and refused to rescue even one of the most highly-educated adults on the planet, their concern is clearly preserving human DNA, not human culture or civilization. Why? Are they breeding slaves? Cattle?
  • Time Bandits. The boy's house is a smoking ruin and his parents are dead... but his parents were neglectful bastards to start with, and Agamemnon is now a firefighter, implying that he has a good future ahead of him. According to director Terry Gilliam (on the Criterion DVD commentary), parents in the test audiences were upset with this ending, but their children liked it!
  • This may or may not be the point of Let the Right One In. There are two outcomes of the ending; one is that Oskar takes on the role of The Renfield for Eli and procures blood for her for the rest of his life, the other (endorsed by Word of God) is that she turns him into a vampire.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man: While Scott may have come to terms with the fact of what's happening to him as he shrinks to nothing (he states in the voiceover that "To God there is no zero"), this is, at best, bittersweet. He faces almost certain death; plus, his wife and his brother are convinced that he died a horrible death; basically being torn apart and eaten by THE CAREY'S OWN CAT!
  • Pans Labyrinth. Even if the viewer consider that all was real, that Ofelia was reborn in a magical world is still pretty darn sad to watch.
  • The indie drama Sleepwalking tries to make its ending seem like a happy and uplifting one: The mother finally returns realizing that she does love her daughter and her brother has realized how he is not enjoying life and decides to take charge, ending with the optimistic line "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Well OK except for the fact that the mother is still unemployed, now homeless along with her daughter, and is probably going to get charged with abandonment and not be allowed to keep custody of her daughter who'll be forced back to her hated foster care and probably won't end up well. Meanwhile her brother will have to spend the rest of his life as a fugitive for the murder of his father. Not all that uplifting after all.
  • Seven Pounds which tries to make Tim's obsessive self-flagellation and ultimate suicide a morally uplifting Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection ends with the Bak'u welcoming the Son'a , who are banished Bak'u, into their society and allowing them to keep their planet and its fountain-of-youth powers. Except that it was pointed out that it will take ten years for the planet's rejuvenating effects to really affect the Son'a, and many will not make it that long. Plus, the Bak'u will maintain a monopoly on rejuvenating powers which would certainly benefit billions across the galaxy.
  • Rocky V. Rocky kicks Tommy's ass in a street fight, but he's still broke, and Tommy is still the champion. No wonder Stallone declared it Canon Dis Continuity.
  • Source Code: Colter finally creates an Alternate Universe where the train disaster is averted and he gets to live Happily Ever After with his new girlfriend... in the body of her old boyfriend Sean, who is now essentially dead since his consciousness has been overwritten. Colter will now have to adjust to living a life that is not his, with a family and career which are utterly unknown to him. And there's one alternate reality where Sean's friend remembers his last actions as irrationally attacking a random guy because he looks Middle Eastern, before falling onto a railroad track.
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: Your loved ones and your familiar world has died out, but you can go under the ocean and relive an illusion of a single, long lost day, made artifically based on you memory. And that's your happiest day? Seriously?
  • The 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still ends with Klaatu agreeing to spare the Earth and humanity, but only after he generates an EMP so powerful that it stops all technology on Earth. Given how technologically-dependent our whole society has become, it's more than likely that mankind will plunge into a dark age with millions, perhaps even billions of deaths. But at least Jacob finally called Helen "Mom", right?
  • According to Word of God, the idea for Brazil came from the director wondering whether or not an ending where the main character goes insane could be happy. YMWV on whether or not he pulled it off, (even he isn't entirely sure) but it doesn't stop it from being a good movie.
  • Word of God describes Oldboy as having a happy ending that's sad or a sad ending that's happy. Either way, the implication is that the protagonist continues to carry on an incestful relationship with his own unwitting daughter, and that he may or may not know himself.
  • "Death Proof" ends with the second group of girls getting vigilante justice on Stuntman straight up murdering him on the road, in broad daylight, with possible witnesses to the act and a body to dispose of. Hope life imprisonment was worth killing the guy instead of just letting the cops haul him off, ladies!
  • Rampage, the 2018 movie based on the videogame, has such an ending, due to several points:
    • Half of Chicago has been destroyed by the giant animals.
    • Davis got shot, which means that, should the wound suddenly take pop culture's position on "vital organs", then Davis dies and there's no one around to keep George in check.
    • Related to point 1, even if Davis survives, he broke several laws and thus will be spending a long time in jail, which in turn goes to the second point of a destructive monster being left without his Morality Chain.
    • George was impaled in the chest, so HIS wound could suddenly turn fatal.
    • There is no cure, so George is stuck at giant size.
    • There were several more wolves in Ralph's forest, several more crocodiles in Croc's swamp, and George lived in a wildlife preservation/zoo. it would be unreasonable to assume that only these three animals were affected by Energyne's chemicals.
    • Larry (the giant rat) is still unaccounted for.
    • If Energyne was truly brought down, it means several people now lost their jobs. If it wasn't, they still have the chance to try their plan again.
    • The buyers of the chemicals are still out there, and if they truly believe giant animals can help them in the battlefield, they would deem a rousing sucess. Meaning they are likely to procure the chemicals (either legally if Energyne is still around, or through the black market if it isn't).
  • Avengers: Endgame ends with Thanos defeated and all of the Snap's victims (and only the Snap's victims, half the Asgardians, Gamora, and Vision are all dead) coming back to life. Good right? Well not really. Given the five year Time Skip, what the Avengers have actually done is create a massive refugee crisis. Some YouTube videos explain it.
    • Endgame also saw the destruction of the Infinity Stones. As the Ancient One said, the Stones are powerful weapons against the forces of darkness. If Dormammu ever thought about coming back...


  • In Robin McKinley's take on Robin Hood, The Outlaws of Sherwood, she uses a variation on the Howard Pyle ending, "King Richard the Lionheart returns from the Crusade and rewards Robin with his stolen lands". Except her Robin Hood is a commoner, and McKinley is Robin McKinley. Ol' Cœur de Lion "rewards" the Merry Men by conscripting them all into the Crusade. Even the seriously injured one. The Merry Men take it surprisingly well, but they may just be putting on a brave face rather than defy their sovereign.
    • Could possibly overlap with Deliberate Values Dissonance - going to the Crusades was seen as a moral and right thing to do because it absolved a soldier of his sins. Considering they stole from the regent king and the clergy, no matter how moral they thought it was, the Merry Men would probably appreciate some heavenly insurance.
  • Harlan Ellison claims that the ending of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is intended to be happy. Sure, the narrator ends by saying the title line in utter despair, after mercy-killing every other remaining human in the world but he's so unreliable he hasn't realized that his actions represent the final triumph of the human spirit. The game makes it into more a Bittersweet Ending, with the humans finally taking down AM and settling into the duty of being a watchdog for the AIs as they await the reawakening of the humans on the moon.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" (not the Disney version). The little mermaid is turned into "daughter of air" with a prospective to eventually enter Heaven, very probably was a result of revision by Andersen. Initially the mermaid just dissolved into foam in the end. Even the happier version has the Fridge Horror of knowing that the dissolving into foam fate is eventually going to befall the Little Mermaid's sisters and family. But as long as SHE is saved, everything is all right... right?
  • Robert Silverberg's stories fall into this occasionally because his personal philosophy is so different from how most people (or at least most modern Western readers) view life and humanity. A particularly jarring example is The Face Upon The Waters--the main character spends most of the story trying to maintain his cultural identity after the destruction of Earth and the scattering of its people, but ultimately concludes that people should adapt to whatever culture they live amongst... and joins up with The Corruption/Instrumentality, which has a stated goal of assimilating everyone it can and killing everyone it can't.
  • 19-year-old Marianne's marriage to the 38-year-old Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility is treated as a happy ending, but the fact that she's half his age carries some Values Dissonance in modern readers.
    • More to the point: She loves him eventually (according to the book) because she can't do anything half-heartedly. Now that just sounds sad. More like pity.
  • The ending of CS Lewis's final Narnia book, The Last Battle, qualified as this for many young readers. Narnia ends, and absolutely everyone dies. Some minor characters are tormented and destroyed by a horrific many-armed demon-god, while others are judged unworthy and vanish forever into Aslan's shadow. But the important people don't care about that because they all go to the real Narnia (a stand-in for heaven) as the Christian Subtext becomes text. It can be uplifting or inspire nightmares, depending on which scenes stick with you.
  • Roald Dahl's The Witches. The protagonist learns that he's stuck as a mouse and that mice don't live very long, but he's happy because he'll probably die near the same time as his elderly grandmother and doesn't care about living if he's not with her.
    • The two also ponder Bruno's fate. One states that his mouse-hating mother probably drowned him in a bucket. They don't really seem very disturbed by this possibility.
    • The movie, however, has an unabashed happy ending where the last witch, who had undergone a Heel Face Turn, undoes the mouse spell on the protagonist and is implied to do the same to Bruno. While many were appreciative of this happier ending, Roald Dahl was infamously not.
  • At the end of Atlas Shrugged, Galt's Gulch is the only non-Crapsack place left in the whole world. Which is great, because all of the looters and moochers are gone and the good people can rebuild the world, right? Then you remember the millions of innocent children who were left to starve... (Then again, by the book's morality, this is the looters' and moochers' fault rather than anything to blame on the protagonists . . .)
    • Very much a case of Values Dissonance. Rand makes very clear her belief that leaving the weak to die rather is the moral choice. Moreover, she spends several pages earlier in the book arguing that everyone other than her heroes were either the causes of society's collapse or complicit because they did nothing to stop it (including children, apparently).
    • Misinterpreted. Rand makes it clear that the death and destruction was part of the looters' world, caused by looters taking the bulk of what the productive created for themselves and giving the "unfortunate" a small pittance to keep them dependent on the system. Consider the strike the equivalent of drug rehab - especially as it occurred as part of a long downward spiral towards pre-industrial civilization that most of the looters were praising. Most of civilization adapted in a similar manner to Starnesville - ramshackle yet self-sufficient communities lit by tallow candles. If they want anything better, they simply have to trade with the strikers for it - because they're never going to empower looters ever again.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Shu, Wei and Wu are united into one at last and peace throughout the entire country of China can finally begin. Unfortunately the victors are a splinter group of Wei who usurped the throne, conquered Wu and Shu who at the time were being ruled by Liu Shan (a truly incompetent ruler who defiles everything Shu originally stood for) and Sun Hao (a tyrant almost as bad as Dong Zhuo). The kicker? When these two surrendered they were given lucrative positions and the readers were told they lived out their remaining lives in luxury. To be fair though this novel closely follows the real life events in history and not a lot could be changed.
  • Back when The Iron Giant was a book instead of a movie, it ended with an encounter with a dragon-like alien that sang in a hypnotic manner. It sang loud enough that the entire world heard it, and everyone in the world spent the rest of their lives alternately taking care of necessities and listening to the song. It's specified that all war was completely eliminated, and the implication would be that art and culture vanished too. If the wording is to be taken literally, people didn't even converse with each other. Now, does this sound Utopian, or does this sound like a nightmare?
  • The final book of the Twilight series gave Jacob, who had been suffering for unrequited love for Bella, his own happy romantic ending by having him imprint on Bella's newly born daughter Nessie. Oh, don't worry; Nessie grows really fast, so she'll be 17 years old in 7 years and ready to start a relationship with her "Uncle Jacob" then!
  • Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov ends with the protagonist arrested by his nation's totalitarian government, and his young son horrifically killed by a crowd of mental patients--on film!--due to a clerical error. But then Nabokov reaches through the layers of reality and gives his main character the gift of insanity to make him forget all his pain. So...yay?
    • It's even worse. The novel ends with Adam Krug, as a result of his insanity, rushing the dictator and being shot to death. Nabokov, however, refuses to write this conclusion (after implying its inevitability) and instead describes his room and decides to go mothing. It's a strange case of being incapable of giving Krug a happy ending (even the insanity so benevolently bestowed upon him results directly in his being killed), and so at least giving him the consolation prize of not writing it at all, and therefore not allowing it to happen. It's about as esoteric as a 'happy ending' can get.
  • Left Behind gets this a lot for its ending where not only are all non-Christians sent to Fire and Brimstone Hell, but the paradise where all the protagonists end up is depicted as a faintly creepy commune where you can no longer eat meat or form relationships with anyone you want, and nobody experiences any strong emotions other than love of God. The writers treat this as a utopia.
  • Nearly all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books have one of these.
    • Save the Green-Sky Trilogy, and only because she realized she made a big goof, and authorized a sequel in the form of a video game, possibly the first video game to be acknowledged as Canon for something written in another medium.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Celephais," which ends with the main character finally returning to the wondrous dream-city that he created in his youth where he is appointed the chief god of all of the regions of Dream; and all he had to do was fall of a cliff and let the tides cast his corpse upon the rocks.
    • Lovecraft lampshades this later in "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" when that story's protagonist meets this exact character who's since come to regret his decision but obviously can never go back.
  • Mindswap by Robert Sheckley. The protagonist is in the corrupted world but believes he has succeeded in his mission and has returned home.
  • Hush, Hush has a great happy ending, if you ignore the fact that part of Nora's house was burned down, there's a Clingy Jealous Girl of a fallen angel after her, and that she is blissfully dating the guy who spent the book stalking her, sexually harassing her, and outright attempting to murder her.
  • At the end of The Goddess Test, we learn that Kate's beloved mother is actually the goddess Demeter, so she and her mother can be together for eternity. Sounds great, huh? Except if you think back to the prologue, where we hear Demeter outright telling Hades that she's going to have her second daughter to take the goddess test and be his wife, even though eleven girls have already died in the attempt and Hades says he wants to just give up rather than see anyone else die for him. There's also the fact that the last girl who was manipulated into an arranged marriage with Hades later begged for death.
    • Not to mention that throughout the story there is a lot of emphasis on the fact that being there is Kate's choice. However the reason she made the deal with Henry in the first place was to save Ava and then the reason she kept the deal was so that he could keep her mother alive and she could spend time with her before she died. Except you find out that both Ava and Diana are Goddesses and were never in any real danger. So that means that while it was technically Kate's choice, her entire choice was based on a lie.
    • Plus the ending reveals that Diana put her daughter through four years of emotional turmoil by making her think that her mother was on the verge of death for years and forcing Kate to take care of her for no reason other than to set her up for the test.
  • The "Susannah in New York" epilogue of the Dark Tower series has Susannah going into an alternate reality version of New York where Eddie and Jake are still alive and in fact are brothers. She appears in Central Park at Christmas time, alternate-Eddie greets her with a cup of hot chocolate, and it's clearly supposed to be her happy ending... Except many readers feel that Susannah abandoned the quest and is now trapped in a world that isn't her own with a couple of Replacement Goldfish who aren't really the people she loved.
  • The end of The Dark Is Rising Sequence is unsatisfying in several ways. The forces of the Dark have been beaten back; all the main characters are OK and have forged a close bond; Bran has grown up normal, decided to stay with his foster-father, and has realised he's attracted to Jane. But not only do five of the Six have to forget that magic exists and never see their beloved Merriman again, the lovely magic of the Light is going to withdraw from the world altogether. And poor John Rowland is going to believe that his wife has suddenly died (which is presented as better than knowing she was an agent of the Dark). Will gets to remember everything because he's an Old One, but he'll have nobody to talk to about it for most of the time.
  • Chris Adrian's The Childrens Hospital ends with every single adult left on Earth dying, as the global flooding secedes and the children leave the eponymous hospital to inherit their new Earth. The final image is the main character screaming as her newborn child is taken away and she dissolves into ash. But, uh, at least the kids got their paradise?
  • Whatever Evelyn Waugh may say about God's love and the power for redemption in Brideshead Revisited, the facts remain as such: Sebastian's a hopeless alcoholic, Julia and Charles, having gone through with their respective divorces, decide never to see each other again, and the entire world is going to be inherited by the likes of Mottram and Hooper.
  • The Soldier Son. After almost three books of stressing how bad it is for Nevare's soul to be split, he is finally reunited with Soldier's Boy and absorbed by an ancestor tree, together with his beloved Lisana. Is the end? No, he is split again. Admittedly, that half gets back together with Amzil, marries her and inherits the Nevare estate, but wasn't it bad to have one's personality split? Other issues concern the discovery of gold that draw the Gernians away from the Speck lands: how long before they'll return? And finally, Nevare completely destroys the source of the Plainspeople's magic in the process, basically sealing their fate. This is given almost no attention.
  • The Inheritance Cycle. What with Arya staying behind to become Queen, maybe forever, and Eragon leaving to raise the dragons, again, maybe forever, plus the huge mess Eragon leave the other characters in, what with the issue of magic and rebuilding the Empire, many a fan was left either sad or pissed off, depending on what you hoped would happen.

Live Action TV

  • Dollhouse has a Bittersweet Ending at best, but some people are divided on the "Happy Ending" for Echo and Paul, in which Paul dies, but Alpha makes an imprint of Paul's personality for Echo to upload into herself. Fridge Logic questions whether it would be so great to share a body with your true love, if Paul would be more significant than the other hundred or so personalities inside Echo, and some just didn't like the pairing, which started out as Paul Loving a Shadow and The Dulcinea Effect and became serious offscreen during a three-month Time Skip.
  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined's finale is both very religious and very Ludd Was Right, pissing off most of the sci-fi fans who'd watched it (if only because without modern technology, most of the survivors would have greatly shortened life expectancies and greatly reduced quality of life.)
  • Kamen Rider Decade does this in a couple of arcs due to forgetting What Happened to the Mouse?. Yaaay, the Grongi are defeated, and all the millions of people who have been turned into Grongi have ceased to exist when the main villain was destroyed! Aweso- wait, what? Using the secret weapon that's the last hope of the few surviving humans on the world where monsters and dark Riders rule, the Riders defeat a few enforcers before leaving forever, taking said device with them! New toy, yay-- wait, what?
  • Seinfeld is an example for an esoteric nonplussing ending. Larry David likely only intended to write an episode that is absurdist Up to Eleven, and a setting to have a large number of characters Back for the Finale, and when talking about the finale, had never hinted at any intentions. However, the four main characters being sent to prison resulted in fans being unhappy, or stipulating that the show was intended to be about jerkasses.
  • Degrassi the Next Generation: Spinner and Emma's Accidental Marriage (and deciding to STAY MARRIED). Especially frustrating, since the characters hardly even interacted before that.
  • The finale of Xena: Warrior Princess. The writers were actually booed at the final screening.
  • The finale of Lost could certainly be seen this way. Everybody from the Island remains friends in the afterlife, except for the ones you don't see for some reason. Okay, fine. But why does Sayid have to be with Shannon and lose Nadia? Why can't Locke stay with Helen? Christian Shepherd seems to have dictatorial powers over the lives of people he didn't even really know.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Love and Monsters." One of the characters becomes a face on a paving slab (long story) and she cannot move, eat or feel. She also will never age. This is presented as a good fate for the character.
    • "Hell Bent" for Clara. Sure she gets immortality and her own TARDIS, but the nature of the paradox means that she will one day have to return to trap street and die. Add to that, she can never return to Earth to let her family and friends know what happened to her, nor can she ever reunite with the Doctor.


  • The last movement of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 ends in a forced triumphant cry of the high strings and the brass, suggesting one such trope.
    • Not only that, but as conductor Michael Tilson Thomas notes, he slips in a few zingers into the final "rejoicing" flourishes. When the music reaches major chords played by the brass, Shostakovich signals a conventional ending — but, we find out a moment later that, instead of keeping put in that resting chord, Shostakovich keeps pushing the brass section higher and higher into minor registers, before lurching heavily into a tacked on ending.


  • Glengarry Glen Ross ends with Levene arrested for stealing the best leads from the office, but Roma is out six thousand dollars after Williamson lies about Lingk's cashed check (admittedly, Lingk was a total sucker, but it was still a fair deal), and it's likely everyone in the office is going to end up bankrupt due to slowing sales. While the play was all about the cutthroat world of business, most of the men in the office come across as fairly decent (if down on their luck) salesmen, even Levene, who the play frequently points out has a daughter he's trying to support.
  • The end of Grease, where Sandy remakes herself as less of a Sandra Dee innocent in order to win the attraction of Danny, has both its defenders and detractors. Depending on how well each individual show portrays it, either an uptight girl learns to loosen up a little in order to get the guy she's attracted to, who himself has been attempting to do the same, or else a perfectly fine woman changes herself for the worse in order to be conform with people who have acted like jerks for the past two acts.
  • The opera Turandot. Essentially, deposed Prince Charming hooks up with the evil queen (well, evil princess), immediately after she tortures his loyal slave girl to death. Yes, this is supposed to trigger the Defrosting of the Ice Queen, but seriously, they get a happily-ever-after wedding literally hours after she tortured the best person in the whole opera to death - and nice job sending their life - and the hope of your people - into ruins, O Mighty Prince Calaf!
    • In real stage time, it takes place minutes after.
  • Samuel Beckett--The theater director Charles Marowitz has written in praise of Beckett's "no-bullshit optimism."
  • Shakespeare's got several of these. They're sometimes classed as "the problem plays," because it's hard to figure out what to do with them.
    • The ending of The Taming of the Shrew can be interpreted in many ways, which fall into three basic categories: A. Based on the values of the time, it's a happy ending in which an unpleasant shrew gets what's coming to her and learns a valuable lesson. B. Interpreted subversively, Katarina either learns to manipulate her husband or they come to an understanding. C. Taken literally, it's a comedy that becomes a tragedy, in which a strong-willed woman has her spirit broken by the kind of physical and psychological abuse favored by domestic abusers, interrogation experts, and members of any political party you don't like, and everyone thinks that's a good thing.
      • It's even worse if you consider the epilogue, which often is not included. You see, there's a framing device in the play where a drunk is taken off of the street, dressed up like royalty, and shown the production of the play, all for the amusement of a nobleman. The epilogue shows that the drunk passes out, is put back in his own clothes, and left on the streets again. When he wakes up, he decides that it was all a dream and decides to use the tale of Kate and Petruchio as a lesson on how to deal with his own shrewish wife. Yeah...
      • Also, the concurrent definition of "comedy" was "a play ending with a wedding," so it's not necessarily funny.
    • The Merchant of Venice. Okay, this one might just be Values Dissonance, since a Jew being forcibly converted to Christianity was considered a good thing at the time. All the same...the play is very dark for a Shakespearean comedy, prejudice seems to be a theme running through the whole story, and Shylock does get that "if you prick us, do we not bleed" speech. And, frankly, while Shylock's a terrible person, all the Christian characters in the play are greedy, unlikeable bastards. Are we really supposed to be glad they won?
      • Antonio's okay except that he's apparently abused Shylock in the street for being a usurer and a Jew for years. Bassanio is a Gold Digger and the drama is set up by his taking advantage of the fact that Antonio will always give him whatever he asks for, even if it means asking for a loan off that Jew he so despises. Although interestingly, the dialogue leans toward Shylock asking the security of a useless 'pound of flesh' should Antonio default, to prove he doesn't actually want people he does business with to ruin themselves, rather than toward his hoping to get a chance to kill Antonio. Then his daughter steals everything she can lay hands on and elopes with a friend of Antonio's, and he flips out.
    • All's Well That Ends Well ends with the sweet, lovely and clever Helena having succeeded in forcing the young nobleman Bertram — a snobby, childish Jerkass who hated her guts for no good reason — to marry her. And this is clearly not just Values Dissonance, because other characters point out that Bertram is clearly not good enough for her. But the play seems like a comedy, so...yay?
    • Measure for Measure has the just, lawful Duke put back in power, the wicked chancellor Angelo punished and made to marry his forgotten sweetheart, and the virtuous Isabella gets to marry the Duke. Great! Except... the Duke is kind of an amoral fellow who sits back and watches his own city fall apart, any woman getting married to Angelo should not consider that a happy ending, and Isabella is a nun-in-training who Does Not Like Men, loathes the thought of sex, and she and the Duke have practically no interaction before he says they'll get married.
    • The ending does make it ambiguous as to whether or not Isabella actually accepts the proposal, mind.

Video Games

  • Steambot Chronicles can end in one of two different ways: either the villain and his right hand are killed and his plan to obliterate society thwarted, or the player can descend into cackling supervillainy and carry out the villain's plan himself. The former is infinitely more depressing than the latter.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (first one), if you play the Light Side way, has a happy enough ending: Malak is dead, the Star Forge is destroyed, and the Republic is saved. This is only if you discount the fact that the helpful, generous character is really Darth Revan. Which means the past he/she remembers never happened, and he/she is responsible for the deaths of countless people. Add on that in Knights of the Old Republic II we learn Revan has gone off by him/herself to face down the True Sith, and as far as everyone knows, never comes back. Happy indeed. It was eventually retconned into Darth Revan actually intending to destroy the True Sith the entire time, which means there was a Plan going on. It just turned out there was a Spanner in the Works named Malak who screwed every thing up... Then fixed it by giving Revan a way to do what he was intending WITHOUT being evil.
    • Well, the ending is happy enough. That his/her past self was the ultimate cause of most of the troubles doesn't mean joy cannot be found in having fixed most of them. It's a classical redemption story, only with the redeemed person not remembering his/her evil past self completely.
  • Crusader of Centy: In a game which not only breaks its aesop, but jumps on the pieces a lot of time has been spent setting up that monsters aren't evil, and just want peace, except when you have to fight them, which you spend the entire game doing (as I said, really broken aesop), with scenes with them begging you to find way for humans and monsters to live in peace... You go back to before humans existed and send all the monsters off to their own world, because Humans Are Bastards, and will never, ever accept them. This is meant as a happy ending, evidently.
  • Like a lot of works that feature both reality warping and a "face reality" Aesop, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance ends with the characters returning to the real world and facing all the problems they'd previously tried to escape from. This makes a certain degree of sense in the Japanese version, but the English translation puts less emphasis on how many people are suffering in Mewt's world, and more emphasis on the idea that perhaps said world is just as real as their own, making the whole thing somewhat pointless. What's more, Doned is still crippled.
  • Sonic Adventure: Sonic and friends sit in the middle of Station Square, congratulating themselves on beating Chaos and stopping Eggman's evil plan...but the city has been completely destroyed, and there may be thousands, if not millions of people dead. And Eggman gets away!
    • If by "get away" you mean "gets his Egg Carrier 2 blown up by Perfect Chaos" then yes, he got away.
    • Hang on, Eggman's evil plan was to destroy Station Square using Chaos. Which happened. The only thing Sonic accomplished was getting Eggman to change his mind about founding his evil empire upon its ruins, because...wait, why didn't he?
    • When you think about it, this is particularly hard on Tails, whose character storyline ends with him saving Station Square from Eggman's "if I can't have it, no-one will!" revenge plan to nuke the place. Then again, it might be easier to rebuild from a flood than a nuke...
    • Sonic Forces has one of the darkest endings in the entire franchise: The Death Egg was destroyed, YAY! Wait... the last time we saw it, wasn't it built around Little Planet? Oh, and weren't there a bunch of other prisoners on board? and soon enough, debris is gonna fall from that thing. And with how long it's been up there, there's gotta be bad effects on the gravity Eggman is... dead? but his empire still controls 0.01 percent of the planet, and you can never make that tiny piece of it free from his rule. Knuckles's vanity lead to the deaths of hundreds in failed military operations when he should have been with the Master Emerald. And what was Silver doing there? What'll become of the timestream? And I'm pretty sure there's permanent effects on Tails's psyche from the way he reacted to Chaos 0...
  • The good ending of Eversion plays this for laughs--the princess turns into a monster, but the hero becomes a monster as well, and the two live happily ever after.
  • God of War III: After basically killing anyone and everyone who has ever even vaguely pissed him off until there is nothing left of the world but a charred, storm-swept wasteland, Kratos discovers that he has accidentally become the physical repository of the concept of hope, released from Pandora's Box. Instead of giving it to the ghost of Athena to rebuild mankind on her terms, he commits suicide to release it to all of mankind... The currently busy with drowning, being riddled with plagues and locust swarms, tormented by the dead returning from the graves and having no afterlife, having to escape fire falling from the sky, ravaged by constant lightning strikes and uncontrollable storms and living in a world without sunlight, order or gods of mankind. But hey, at least they have hope.
    • According to IGN, the whole thing is supposed to play out as a Twisted "Comedic" Tragedy, where the main character makes all the wrong decisions; fighting the gods, killing the gods, feeding innocent people (more than one in this game) to death traps, and leaving the power vacuum without a successor. It's heavily implied that this is not any kind of happy or downer ending; Kratos WON... and that's a bad thing.
  • Ace Combat 6 has a handful of initially-unrelated plotlines, chief among them a fighter pilot upset over having to retreat and abandon his family, and a refugee (who believes her fighter pilot husband was killed in the failed defense of the city) searching for her missing daughter. When allied forces finally liberate the city, are we treated to a heartwarming scene of the fighter pilot husband reunited with his refugee wife and newly-found missing daughter? Nope. The refugee's husband is actually dead, and so is the fighter pilot's family (they were killed during the initial invasion, so have been dead the entire time he was fighting to liberate them). The pilot briefly becomes a Death Seeker, but ends up a Wheelchair Woobie instead after his probably-unnecessary Heroic Sacrifice doesn't work out how he wanted. But wait, it's okay! The pilot meets the refugees after the war and they become each other's Replacement Goldfish. Hooray, happy ending!
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team had a very odd ending in that the player character gets a choice between going home to the family they grew up with and staying as a Pokemon. There is no option window for this, only the player character telling the other Pokemon that "I know there are people back there that love me, and that I love", and yet the player character stays a Pokemon for the rest of their life. So even though the player character knows that they're leaving behind loved ones, they're still going to stay as a Pokemon, even after dying (they get better, obviously), going through unimaginable amounts of Nightmare Fuel, and basically having the worst life ever. And the 'choice' they get isn't even a real choice.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a beautiful, uplifting ending...unless you play Majora's Mask and prefer to take a darker interpretation of the Word of God stating that OoT-Link eventually becomes Twilight Princess's Hero Shade. Things might not have gone so hot for Link after the ending...
    • There's also the knowledge that even though Link went back in time and created a new timeline where Hyrule wasn't burned and conquered by Ganondorf, the original timeline is still going on, one where the people are finally free, but a lot of them are dead, the castle is completely destroyed in a lake of lava, and the Hero of Time has vanished and thus can't help them anymore, leading to the flooding of Hyrule when Ganondorf resurfaces.
      • Even then, the new timeline still has to face the ravages of Ganon at least two more times.
    • The worst might be from Links Awakening, where our hero basically causes a Dream Apocalypse and wakes up stranded in the middle of the ocean.
    • Skyward Sword ends with Link and Zelda settling down at the temple where the Triforce is stored, storing away his sword and the ability to travel to any area other than the temple grounds, saying farewell permanently not only to those who sacrificed their lives for their cause, but also the entire population of Skyloft (including her father) and even their soul mate birds, essentially giving up every single aspect of their lives in favor of being together. Also, Demise's spirit lives on and he will attack many more times, but at least that's a story for prior games.
  • The Hero has beaten the Big Bad in Fragile Dreams and is set to journey with the heroine to find other survivors in the empty world. What makes this an example is the ending dialogue features a voiceover of the aged hero, with many implications he's at the end of his life, his female companion has died and he's back to square one of being alone again. The game ends following his monologue; needless to say, players weren't exactly pleased with this outcome and the hero's statement.
  • In Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors the upbeat "love conquers all" vibe becomes Fridge Horror when you realise Word of God has outright stated that Junpei not only will never, ever find Akane again, but he'll also never give up and her, and literally spends the rest of his life futilely trying to be with her again.
  • The True End of Kara no Shoujo seems to have been shooting for the bittersweet feeling that most True Ends have, but fridge logic kind of shoots it down. First of all, about half the cast is dead. Second, Reiji's sort of girlfriend Toko is among them. Third, he's still alone. All he has that he didn't have before is closure over his dead fiancee.
  • In the 1st Degree has several endings, and the best ending is to convict Tobin of first-degree murder and grand theft. It sure sounds like a happy ending. Well, until you start wondering what will happen to Ruby, Simon and Yvonne as a result of all this. The art gallery is shut down, Simon is back to his old job, Yvonne's career and reputation are probably sunk, and Ruby now has no boyfriend and it is uncertain what she is going to do now. Then again, the game is a simulation of a murder trial and it was likely trying to show that you can get the defendent punished to the full extent of the law, but the people involved in it will still be left to pick up the pieces.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has four possible endings, all of which have the Courier standing victorious atop the ashes of his enemies. However, the Lonesome Road DLC explicitly states that the vicious Tunnelers that live in the Divide and emerge from the ground without warning are expanding their territory to the Mojave at large. Meaning that all those farming communities are about to get a nasty surprise.
    • That said, allowing Ulysses to live wins a resourceful and badass ally who decides to stay in the Divide to keep the Tunnelers from spreading. Though if he died, well...
      • Averted, actually. You kill the Tunneller Queen on the way through the Divide, and Ulysess heavily hints that you just signed the species' death warrant.
  • At the end of In Famous 2, the player discovers that the Ray Field Energy that Conduits use/generate is deadly to ordinary humans, and that the Big Bad, a godlike entity called the Beast which has devastated several major cities and killed millions, has been using the psychic energy of the people it killed to activate all of the Conduits, who are the only ones who will be able to survive the Ray Field Plague engulfing the Earth. In the "good" ending, the main character uses a device which dissipates the Ray Field Energy and kills the Beast - by killing every last person on the planet with the Conduit gene in one single moment of mass murder. Afterwards, almost everyone either forgets about the Conduits or demonizes them as monsters who got what they deserved, while the rulers of the oppressive, corrupt dystopia which they had lived in before manages to quell the murmurs of rebellion that had been set off by the events of the first two games and reinstate the status quo. In short, the "good" ending - which is presumably intended to illustrate how "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" - consists of helping ensure that the world stays under the heel of morally bankrupt monsters by slaughtering everyone who could even potentially develop the power to change things.
    • Not that the "evil" ending is much better: humanity is sentenced to a slow, lingering death as the Ray Field Plague continues across the world, and the Conduits are forced to watch all their non-Conduit friends and relatives die, either from the Beast or from the disease. Once the massacres are over and done with, the Conduits are left as the last few surviving human beings on the planet, saddled with the job of rebuilding the world from scratch. For good measure, the Beast himself can't live with himself after all the murders he's had to commit, and transfers his powers onto Cole McGrath, forcing him to become the Beast. Either ending, you're a mass murderer- it's just that in the good ending, you're a dead mass murderer.
  • At the end of Portal 2, Chell is finally set free by an emotionally exhausted G La DOS and dropped off in the middle of a wheat field, the Companion Cube from the first game by her side. Good for her!... Except the Portal games take place in the same universe as Half Life, meaning that Chell is likely now living in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by tyrannical aliens from another dimension, overrun by monsters and zombies, with no weapons or knowledge of how to handle herself in a Combine-run society. Given, there is some timeline confusion between Portal and Half Life, but the fact that the Borealis is missing from its loading dock in Portal 2 pretty much confirms the Combine Invasion has already happened in Portal's timeline.
    • Hey, now, we may not have seen much of him for a little while, but have a little faith in Gordon Freeman. Seriously, the wheat field she's in looks too even and cultivated to be wrecked by the Combine or anything from Xen, and at the end of the Art Therapy DLC you can hear a man's voice yelling outside--humanity's made it. It's a Bittersweet Ending, but a hopeful one.
  • Final Fantasy VIII ends on an upbeat note, with Squall having made substantial progress in overcoming his emotional issues, Ultimecia defeated, and Time Compression thus prevented. Unfortunately, the Stable Time Loop means that Ultimecia's rise in the future, and her subsequent reign of terror up until her death at the hands of the protagonists, are inevitable.
  • Mass Effect 3 falls under this. Sure, the so-called Golden Ending extra after-credits scene shows us that whatever ending we had, it meant the survival of organic life...ten thousand years into the future. However, in the right-then-and-now Shepard is dead in three out four cases with nothing left to bury whatsoever and bleeding out buried under rubble in the fourth and the entire mass relay network is GONE, meaning that the army that Shepard amassed is now stranded in the Sol System with no practical way of ever returning to their homes, thus import-economy-oriented worlds like Noveria or the recently re-colonized Rannoch will most probably starve to death. And that's before you consider the No Endor Holocaust nature of mass relays exploding shown in Mass Effect 2 or the not-mentioned-anywhere fate of the entire population of the Citadel.
    • There's also the fate of the Normandy crew. After the Crucible releases its energy, the Normandy is seen flying through a mass relay, getting knocked out of FTL by the space magic, and crash landing on an unidentified garden world. Joker and co. leave the Normandy, and look optimistically at the view. Sounds hopeful, in a Gilligan's Island-y way? Consider this: Garrus and Tali can't eat the same things as humans; they're dextro-amino acid based, so human food is toxic to them. Joker has a medical condition that requires a great deal of attention; even assuming Dr. Chakwas survives, she's got thirty years on him. Liara can potentially live to be over a thousand years old; the human life expectancy, in a best-case scenario, is around 150. And this is all assuming they can find edible food on the planet, and that there's no predators or diseases that are going to wipe them out, and that the Normandy's drive core doesn't leak eezo and poison everyone.
  • Depends a little bit on your interpertation of the epilogue in Tales of the Abyss. If you think/support Luke coming home, and Tears' tears being from joy, then you win. If you support Asch coming home, and Tears' tears being from the realization that she'll never again see the man she loved, this fits it pretty well.
  • In Max Payne 2 The Fall of Max Payne, Max lays in the destroyed Inner Circle manor and mentions a dream about his dead wife, who is dead but "that was alright". But the closest thing he had to a living spouse/girlfriend/what have you is dead, anyone who can explain anything is dead including the extremely powerful Alfred Woden, who had connections to senators. His death, and the death of Detective Winterson are going to be in all likelyhood put squarely on Max's shoulders. So not only is he going to be a scapegoat for the death of these powerful people, but also justly prosecuted for the death of a detective with a blind son, who is now an orphan. An Ex-Cop is going to be sent to jail, and we all know how well they go over there. This was probably intentional given the narrative, but it's something of a miracle that a sequel was produced at all that did not involve Max getting shanked to death in the first thirty minutes.
  • In The Dinonauts Adventures in Outer Space, the Dinonauts think that they have finally found a place of their own, but guess who peeks out of the Ark, IT'S THE MAMMALS!

Web Original


 Guy in Green Chair: "Happy end"? What the hell is "happy end"?

  • A lot of Transformation Comics, such as these featured on Transfur, have a questionably happy ending where the protagonist relishes their new status; depending on what you think about being turned into a bizarre beast-man or some other alien being for the rest of your life, this might be jarring... especially if the ending is so hastily and artificially written that it comes off as if the recipient of the transformation has simultaneously been brainwashed into a mindless Stepford Smiler. Example.
    • Though the ending of that is clearly supposed to be the brainwashed version, with comedic-horror elements that some people got that bit of a chill down their spine from though it's supposed to be funny, there are actually several stories where being turned into Petting Zoo People comes with a Lotus Eater Machine effect. Highly common are Transformation Sequences where the person is panicking and screaming at the beginning, but each stage of the human-to-nonhuman conversation also shows the character in a different stage of a "WTF is happening to me?!"-to-"Being a Catgirl rocks!" conversion. (Yes, even - or especially - if you started out male.) Is it that you forever lose your mind along with your form, or the fact that you don't really know you won't like being a winged centaur until you try it? ...yes, it's definitely one of those, isn't it?
    • There's a similar tendency in hypnofetish stuff - art, fiction, whatever - in which Happiness in Slavery is incredibly common. Sometimes they're a submissive soul and it's a dream come true, which is only moderately creepy; it's when they're not submissive until they're brainwashed into it that things get really unnerving.
  • The ending of Starship features Bug accepting his bug form and getting his true love February, Tootsie and Mega-Girl getting married and everyone saving the bug world from the G.L.E.E. Happy right? Well, what happens when the G.L.E.E. comes back and investigates? Where do the Rangers go from here, are they stuck on the planet? Mega-Girl is still a robot. So what happens when Tootsie ages and dies while she stays the same? And Bug is still a bug so he and February have, at most, probably a week together.

Western Animation


 Homer: Well, we didn't get any money, but Mr. Burns got what he wanted... Marge, I'm confused. Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?

Marge: It's an ending. That's enough.

    • "Love is a Many Strangled Thing". We are genuinely expected to consider it a good thing that Homer and Bart destroyed an innocent man's life.
  • Home Movies - in-show example in "Kafka: The Musical" "Hello Franz Kafka! My name is God! I think you are going to like it here!"
  • The ending for the Adventure Time episode "Tree Trunks" ends with the eponymous character of the episode, an elderly, grandmotherly elephant, finally eating the crystal apple she traveled alongside Finn and Jake, who kept putting their lives on the line to prevent any of the many monsters in the Evil Forest from harming her. As soon as Finn asks her how it tastes, she suddenly explodes. However, after a few seconds of Finn and Jake staring blankly, it soon cuts to Tree Trunks merrily dancing along inside the crystal. Later Subverted in "Crystals Have Power" when we learn what really happened to her. Eventually averted when she comes back as herself, and eventually finds love with and marries Mr. Pig.
  • The infamous Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon "There's Good Boos Tonight" has Casper befriending a cute little fox, only for the fox to be killed by hunters... but it's okay, the fox comes back as a ghost so they can be together forever. To some this makes it suck because it effectively renders the pathos over the fox's death meaningless. To others this makes it suck because he's still dead (in the way "The Little Match Girl" is far from a happy ending.)
  • The ending of "Weirdmageddon: Escape from Reality" for Gravity Falls has Dipper successfully getting Mabel out of the bubble that supposedly, is hard to escape from unless they do so with their own will with Dipper reuniting with a sincere sibling hug. But the problem is, the reason that Dipper even managed to convince her to escape is the fact that he abandons his chance of becoming Ford's apprentice, meaning that Dipper sacrificed his happiness for Mabel again which ended up nullifying any (or if she even did so) Character Development that she received, particularly when you realized that Mabel doesn't even know why the whole Weirdmageddon happened in the first place.
  • The finale of Beast Machines. Cybertron and all its inhabitants are made techno-organic. Ok but, beyond some nebulous "balance", what was wrong with Cybertron remaining a mechanical world? It survived as one for billions of years. And wouldn't the Cybertronian race raise at least a few voices about having their bodies altered on a cellular level without their consent?