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"There are no Happy Endings because nothing ever ends."
Schmendrick the Magician, The Last Unicorn.

So the series ended with the Masquerade being lifted, or the couple getting together in the last five seconds of the show or otherwise the characters one single goal they ever wanted has been fulfilled. The ramifications of this are staggering, after all, how on Earth can the writers depict the consequences?

Solution: They don't. Everyone either lives Happily Ever After or has a Downer Ending; but it's not the writer's problem anymore.

Woe to any writer who suddenly has to answer Now What? because of a show being Un Cancelled.

May overlap with Lonely At the Top. Not to be confused with the What Now? Ending.

Examples of Now What? include:


Anime & Manga

  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura and Syaoran are left with a rather large obstacle in their relationship. Syaoran is from a magical family from Hong Kong, and Sakura lives in Japan and quite content with her idea of a normal life, magical pets notwithstanding. CLAMP isn't the slightest bit interested in explaining how they manage this.
    • The manga averts the trope. In the Distant Finale, it's revealed that after several years of maintaining their relationship long-distance, Syaoran completes the paperwork to move to Japan on a permanent basis, making it more of a happily ever after ending.
  • Another CLAMP example, Chobits ended with all of the servitor robots, or "persocoms" developing sentience. How humanity responds to this isn't dealt with. This didn't happen in the manga though.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico. The end of the series simply dropped multiple plot threads all over the genre board, from sci-fi to political to romantic, and ended with the main couple suddenly coming to terms with their undying love for each other in the last ten minutes. Ruri even lists the abandoned threads and then assure the viewer, "but we're not going to deal with them right now." The hanging ends, unfortunately, were ideal material for the Darker and Edgier Movie, which it abandoned for more Ruri.
  • Ranma ½ ended with Ranma and Akane running to school together. It is implied that Ranma and Akane will eventually get together. How they're supposed to do that, though, is something Rumiko Takahashi wasn't interested in showing (probably because, when asked, she explicitly stated that Ranma and Akane were the only true couple in the series...)

Comic Books

  • Watchmen arguably ends this way: although The Reveal (actually a series of revelations) resolved a whole lot of plot points, Dr. Manhattan, who's in a position to know this kind of thing, claims that nothing ever really ends. The Denouement apparently bears out his claim: the world is now just barely politically stabilized under a fragile peace accord that may or may not last, the costumed vigilantes Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk are still at large and plying their trade under new identities for how much longer no one can be sure, and a certain journal that a very minor character may or may not be about to discover may or may not ultimately blow the lid off the huge secret these costumed vigilantes are keeping from the rest of the world. It's deliberately left up to the reader to speculate what's going to happen next.

Film

  • While the first Hellboy movie ended normally, the second finished with the entirety of the non-normal BPRD quitting and Liz revealing she was actually pregnant with twins. No clue how a half-demon, a pyrokinetic, and an icthyosapien are going to lead "normal lives" or what Krauss is going to be doing. Apparently del Toro had intentions for a sequel to the sequel, however, so he may just be leaving it open.
  • The Matrix more or less ended with the implication that Neo was about to blow the whole secret wide open, until the sequels threw it all away in favor of more Bullet Time kung-fu fights.
  • At the end of the movie The Graduate, after Benjamin rescues Elaine from her wedding and they flee on a bus, the camera holds on them for an uncomfortably long time, emphasizing the "now what?" nature of the ending.
    • A play and a (separate) movie attempt to tell what happened right after the end and a generation later, respectively.
  • By midway through the 2008 Iron Man movie, Tony Stark has a portable clean energy source which could completely revolutionize global society, plus an AI which could pass the Turing Test if it cared to try. The scene after the end credits strongly implied that the next movie will feature him and Samuel L. Jackson beating people up.
    • This might be more a case of Reed Richards Is Useless. The idea that either the A.I. or the portable clean energy source might have greater applications than to power a suit used for beating up bad guys never seems to occur to anyone at any point in the film.
      • Tony wants to put more research into the larger arc reactors which could be used as power plants, but the miniturized reactor is so easily appliable to weapons technology that it Tony won't risk selling it. The sequel shows that this is completely justified. Also, the Iron Man movies do indeed avert Reed Richards Is Useless. Technology is general in the Marvel Movie Universe is quite a bit more advanced thanks to the nigh superhuman genius of Tony and his father and, to give credit where credit is due, Vanko.
  • The ending of THX 1138. The title character manages to escape the underground city, and the ending has him standing in the middle of what appears to be an empty wasteland.
  • Melody (1971) ends with Daniel Latimer and Melody Perkins escaping from the adults' raid on their wedding and cranking themselves down the railroad track on a trolley. However, this "man" and his "wife" are only ten years old! No government is going to recognize their marriage legally. They barely even know anything about kissing, let alone sex. So what kind of honeymoon are they going to have? Good question.

Live Action TV

  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale played this one perfectly straight. In the last scene, Xander lays it all out for Buffy: the Hellmouth is closed forever and Buffy isn't special any more, doesn't have any destiny... so now what? The last shot of the series is Buffy starting to grin as she realizes that for maybe the first time since she picked up a stake, the answer to that is totally up to her.
    • And of course, the question was answered in the Season Eight comics.
  • The West Wing's "What's next?"

Literature

  • The War of the Worlds: Hoorah, we've defeated the Martian invasion! That's the last we'll see of them! Well, until they invent disinfectant, anyway.

Video Games

  • KOTOR II was supposed to end with the main cast flying away from Malachor V in the Ebon Hawk. Atton would then ask the Exile "So...where're we going now?"
  • At the end of Portal 2, Chell, and her Weighted Companion Cube, are finally released from the facility by GLaDOS. The only problem? It's "several hundred years" in the future, there's no sign of humanity, and the Combine might still be around. The fact that she's a Heroic Mime won't help much, either.
  • Yuriko's campaign in Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 - Uprising ends with Yuriko killing Izumi in self-defense, then flying out of the facility, landing on a hilltop, and wondering what to do next.
  • In Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, it's strongly hinted that Klonoa has divine blood and that his forced wanderings are serving some greater purpose. The game ends just as he's being drawn out of Lunatea. Namco never released another Klonoa game.
  • Ultima IV is entirely made of this trope. See, in all previous Ultima games, you defeated supreme evil...and now there are no more bad guys to fight aside from random monsters in dungeons. What's your goal? To become a Messiah!
  • Batman: Arkham City ends on this note. Batman simply leaves the city carrying The Joker's poisoned corpse out with him, leaving a crowd of prisoners, citizens, and GCPD members alike to wonder exactly what happened in the city during the past twelve hours.

Western Animation

  • Gargoyles ended this way (if one accepts the Nelvana season).
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