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The Drama Bomb is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. In the world of fiction, among the marching armies of tropes and conquering generals, it is a weapon of power scarcely imagined.
When a story has been coasting along quite well and nothing really strange is happening, beware. This is exactly the kind of environment writers can't stand. After all, a story without conflict is dull, and no-one likes a dull story, right? So, just when you think everything has settled, they pull out the best weapon they can bring to bear on your sensibilities. Their blitzkrieg attack will leave you stunned, shocked, yet wanting for more.
That is the raison d'être of the Drama Bomb. If successful, the event portrayed creates instant and justified character development and ties the audience even closer to their fate. The more it is used, however, the less powerful it becomes. After all, if an orphan gets slaughtered in every episode of your TV serial, people aren't going to look up from what they're doing if it happens again. The Drama Bomb is defined by its power, and if it loses this, it becomes a regular trope. As such, its usage is mostly reserved to comedy or other lighthearted media.
Warning: High chance of spoilers.
- A weird (possibly accidental) one came later in the manga of Ranma 1/2: the series is generally full of Ineffectual Death Threats, and even in the more serious bits we never see anyone die. Even childhood abuse was largely played as a form of Comedic Sociopathy. Not so with Ryu Kumon's backstory: his father used a Dangerous Forbidden Technique Genma taught him that made his house fall on top of him with his last words to find the other technique, leaving the kid orphanned and homeless at the age of six. Goddamn was that depressing.
- Kirby of the Stars provides examples of both the use and overuse of the Drama Bomb. A fairly early episode has Kirby get a robo-puppy that becomes something of a little brother to him. The episode ends with the puppy sacrificing itself to save Kirby. The overuse comes when they do this two additional times. By the third self-sacrifice, you can't help thinking "Oh, not again."
- A massive Drama Bomb hits Toradora! halfway through the series (starting with Yuusaku's breakdown and ending with Taiga realizing she loves Ryuuji). It's never quite the same again.
- Kekkaishi: after Gen dies in combat, the other characters hold a funeral for him. It's more of a Drama Nuke since Gen's closest acquaintances remember him, Masamori gives Gen's grieving sister unanswered letters, and Yoshimori goes through a temporary Heroic BSOD over Gen's passing. However, for a few subsequent episodes, the aftermath left by said Drama Nuke is noticeable, but some funny moments pop up time after time.
- The 20th Episode of Fresh Pretty Cure is all about this. The tone was already bleak, it being about how the strain of being Pretty Cure and the dance lessons took a toll on Love, Miki and Inori physically (and to an extent psychologically) but it all reaches its peak when they collapse after the battle with the Nakisakebe and on the way to the dance lessons with Miyuki. Bonus Points if you like Eas. She has only 2 uses of the Pyramid Card, which will eventually kill her if she runs out and refuses Wester's and Souler's offer to take her place...
- Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, episode 12. It's been its own vulgar, widgety self for the first half, then everything goes to hell. Literally.
- Mawaru Penguindrum gets hit with one halfway through the series (Episode 12): Himari dies, seemingly permanently. The Takakura parents are revealed to have been responsible for the 1995 terrorist attacks. And the penguin hat stops working. Things go downhill from there.
- In the Super Smash Bros fanfiction Smash Generation, it seemed as if everything was going smoothly for the heroes, and then Toon Link gets almost eaten by Molgera, and nearly dies.
- Total Drama Comeback's ninth episode serves as one, though Fore Shadowed beforehand: Harold suffers a massive allergy attack due to the eating contest being sabotaged, and the alliance that had controlled most of the eliminations up to this point is revealed to the rest of the campers.
- Chapter 15 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. And let's leave it at that.
- The martial arts movie House Of Flying Daggers does pretty well with its drama and plot for the most part...but just try to keep up with the last quarter of the movie. The two government agents find the rebels, and it is revealed that one of the agents is actually working for the rebels and in love with the lady protagonist, also an agent of the Flying Daggers. But it turns out the leader of the Flying Daggers is NOT the leader of the Flying Daggers, our lady isn't blind, and is in love with the agent still pro-government and...
- In Dead Poets Society, everything looks like it's worked itself out, at least to some extent. Then Neil shoots himself.
- The inspirational film Courageous, One of the dads was caught stealing drugs! And that was after the pretty awesome moment where one of the dads gets a promotion for passing a Secret Test of Character.
- The illness of Red's daughter in Roadside Picnic, forcing him to become even more of a bastard.
- In the Skulduggery Pleasant novel Dark Days. The magical world has been saved, the villian stopped and the Gaelic Football goes on. Then Bang: the second Desolation Engine goes off and the Sanctuary is destroyed. By a seemingly one-shot side character, no less.
- Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan had risen about as far in the US Administration as he could in Debt of Honor: part of the sell for making him Vice President was that once his term was done, he'd never be able to work for the US Government again. And then a lunatic crashed a 747 into Congress. Meet President Ryan.
- In Jane Eyre, first we were surprised by Rochester proposing marriage to Jane - though we did sort of see it coming. But when Rochester's insane but very alive first wife turns up in the attic, Jane is so shaken by the incident that the only thing she can do is leave.
- Literal in The Stand, in the form of the bomb Harold and Nadine set off inside the house where the Free Zone committe is meeting, killing several people including a main character and injuring several more. King specifically said he used this tactic because it was getting too dull.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer the bomb was dropped more than once, most potently when her mom died. However, this show suffered the flaw of overuse, to the point where season 6 seemed to consist of nothing but Drama Bombs (and a Musical Episode).
- Back in 1996, General Hospital had a very memorable drama bomb Montage called Clink!Boom which juxtaposes a mobster's ex-girlfriend toasting her new husband while his current pregnant girlfriend turned the key in the ignition of their car and it exploded. Ever since, the show has been trying to top itself with mob violence, even going so far as to make the month of February Sweeps a 16 hour hostage crisis told in the same style as 24. Nowadays, GH fans are used to seeing at least a dozen mob shootouts and one or two legacy characters dying violent deaths a year.
- One of Scrubs's biggest Drama Bombs were the episodes "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Idol". Interestingly, the Drama Bombs rarely affect the whole cast; for example, while in "My Lunch" Dr. Cox and JD are both profoundly affected by the deaths, Carla, Turk, and Elliot are busy sorting out The Todd's sexuality, apparently oblivious to the other goings on.
- Officer deaths in The Bill
- Michael's killing of Ana-Lucia and Libby was a much-needed Drama Bomb in a stagnant part of Lost season 2.
- Happened a few times in M* A* S* H. The best example is in the Season 3 finale. For the most part, the episode is a celebration for Henry's discharge. The bomb comes in the last thirty seconds, when Radar comes into the OR with the news Henry had died in a plane crash. Retirony, much?
- The first two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise were full of Archer and the gang staring at pretty comets, bitching about Vulcans, and saying 'Gee Whiz' a lot. And then came....The Xindi....
- LA Law made it onto a list of great TV moments purely through one of these. Snarky Rosalind had been tormenting the rest of the cast all season--then she took a wrong step and fell down an elevator shaft.
- Oh geez. The NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Missing" was a drama nuke.
- The bus crash in the opening episode of the second season of Veronica Mars.
- Doctor Who season openers are usually pretty laid back, fun-romps which exist to introduce new characters (if there are any). This was blow out of the water with the opening episode to Season 6, "The Impossible Astronaut" has the Doctor begin to regenerate, and then die. The finale showed it was only supposed to look like that, but the Doctor's companions didn't know this until the same time as the audience.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del with Lilah's miscarriage. A massive Drama Bomb for a previously light-hearted comic.
- Dave Willis loves this trope. To death. Especially jarring considering that he keeps his comedic characters still somewhat-comedic (though never the same) as he drops bomb after bomb after bomb on them. He seems to at least be aware of it if his Lampshade Hanging in the Story Arc about "Pulling the Drama Tag" in Shortpacked! is any indication.
- Many drama bombs occur at the end of issue 9 in the webcomic YU+ME: dream, the biggest of which was that everything up until that point was a dream. Thankfully that is not the end of the series or there would have been some very pissed off fans.
- Mob Ties: the first bomb begins at the end of Issue 2, but the author starts a heavy bombardment starting at Issue 7. Once Issue 14 rolls around, though, the HSQ raises Up to Eleven.
- Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, Act three. Everything has pretty well ironed out at the end--Captain Hammer is defeated, the Doctor is brushing himself off, and all in all things could've gone much worse... And then the camera pans to Penny with a piece of shrapnel in her chest.
Note: As video games base themselves entirely around some kind of conflict (even if it's a very abstract conflict, such as in puzzlers like Tetris, whose conflict is between the continual descent of blocks and the player keeping the blocks from piling up by arranging them in rows as they fall), and since video games have been adapting more complex narratives since their outset, attempting to list all video games that employ the Drama Bomb would take up a vast amount of space (even if the specific Drama Bombs themselves weren't listed, would require endless amounts of patience, research, and reference, and would be no fun.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had a few well-spaced ones, but of particular note was the cluster Drama Bomb towards the end of Season 2, where an episode ends with Sokka blithely mentioning how smoothly things have been going, followed by Toph getting captured by Xin Fu and Master Wu, Long Feng being revealed to still control the Dai Li, and instead of Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors coming to the aid of Ba Sing Se, it's actually Azula and friends in disguise.
- To recap: The Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se, a city that the Fire Nation had been trying to breach for the better part of a hundred years, fell in two days. The EK army was immobilized after its generals were captured, and the Earth King was forced to retreat. Not only that, but Zuko ended up betraying his uncle, the only man who had ever been a real father to him, in order to get his birth father's approval. And Aang got killed by Azula. All in the space of about forty minutes. It remains the single greatest Wham! Episode of the series.
- South Park has taken a few occasions to break from it irreverence and do this. Most important was the end of Season 5's 'Kenny Dies' episode as the Killed Off for Real plot is played disturbingly straight with Kyle and particularly Stan acting very much like kids. The kids spend much of season 6 making references to wanting Kenny back.
- Season 15 spent the first half being typically silly until the episode "You're Getting Old" as Stan goes through a fall out with friends and major changes in his life and unlike previous episodes with a breakup, it doesn't get better by the end.
- Galaxy Rangers has a few serious jaw-droppers; "Psychocrypt" and "Scarecrow." Both ran on tanks full of The Bad Guy Wins on both (The Rangers' "victory" is merely getting out with their skins and souls intact), and the Character Development quotient was through the goddamn roof. The two episodes are considered jewels in the series crown. Two more jewels are the Supertrooper duology. Massive Character Development for Gooseman, including one of the most gut-wrenching I Want My Beloved to Be Happy scenes ever done.
- Adventure Time's Lumpy Space Princess name-drops the trope, complete with Valley Girl gestures and inflection, during Marcelline's confrontation with her father: "Oh my glob, you guys -- drama bomb!"
- Jake actually said "Drama Bomb" while Finn, Jake and Ice King watched a secret tape of the Ice King's dramatic past.
- The 2nd Season Finale could count as a example for the show itself.
- In another episode, "What Was Missing", the aforementioned Marceline sings a song to Princess Bubblegum about how she resents that she's malicious towards her for a reason she can't remember. (The two have barely interacted in the show up to that point.) The song practically comes out of nowhere, and Princess Bubblegum is reasonably surprised.
- Danny Phantom's Drama Bomb was jawdropping, not least for its awesomeness, abruptness, as well as its sudden venture into dark humour. Oh yes, and the brutal murders, so many brutal murders.