Kudzu Plot

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The Trope Namer invades another plot of land with its loose ends.

Coyote: How is that for an enigmatic answer?
Ysengrin: Very enigmatic. It barely answers anything at all.

Antimony: In fact, it raises more questions than before.

The plot for this arc has been resolved, but it's generated other dangling plot points for the story to segue to. Lots of them, enough to provide writing fodder for several arcs, at least. The story marches on, but the next arc works out the same, creating more unexplained plot points than it resolved, and again increases the quantity of unaddressed story threads running in the background. This continues, probably forever. If never resolved, this may be a sign of bad writing.

Obviously, the only requirement for accumulation of plot threads is that they are introduced faster than resolved, thus specific characteristics, reasons and results may vary greatly.

A Kudzu Plot is a common result of very heavily pre-planned and lengthy myth arcs. It is also often a sign of poor planning by the writer, or more pressing issues (say, crossovers or Filler episodes). If it grows too massive and intricate, the First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics makes it very difficult to resolve everything before the audience gives up in frustration.

One can get away with a Kudzu Plot in plot matters in the right sort of story, such as a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot, or a story where the characters don't ever get "the big picture", or if you intend to deliberately confuse the audience. This requires care, though. Otherwise, the audience might object when you introduce a gun, a knife, and a chainsaw, all in the first five chapters, then make the rest of the story about knitting competitions. Dropping character points without follow-up (or following up on them poorly) is a leading cause of Expansion Pack Past, wherein the character becomes less than the sum of the parts. Sometimes, Kudzu Plots can be done well simply if the writer handles it properly, or keeps the number of important plot lines down to a minimum. Often, multiple things happening at once may be considered the greatest asset of the work. For one, it's a good way to introduce at least an illusion of the world being vast and not all spinning around the protagonists and this one plot. Due to the First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics, this works best if the setting us supposed to be massive; for the character component, while side plots consume text volume, they add opportunities for characterization.

  • A Shared Universe by its very nature requires enough of space for multiple authors to work in parallel without having to coordinate every single step like co-authors of a single work would.
    • If spin-offs or RPG are expected, they will obviously need spare plot hooks.
  • In Long Runners, a reserve of auxiliary plot lines provides leeway in pacing for Writer's Blocks and improvements - it allows luxury of cherry picking the lines meshing better with the current plot, and in case Filler is needed, there's something more meaningful than a Generic Padding Plot. Conversely, the author(s) don't have to waste any particular plot due to constrains - they may take time to find a better resolution for it, then put the result when and where it will fit better.

See Driving Question, which is used repeatedly in cases like these. Also, The Chris Carter Effect, where the fans no longer trust in the writers' ability to resolve unsettled plot threads.

Named after one of Japan's top exports to the Deep South (besides Mitsubishi plants) -- kudzu plant spreads all over the place, is very hard to rein in, and while initially seen as beneficial to the soil, it will often choke out otherwise healthy life. Not to be confused with the Newspaper Comic of the same name.

Examples of Kudzu Plot include:


Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion invokes its infamous Mind Screw in this fashion. For the first half of the show, the plot seems straightforward. Then "Adam" is introduced, and from there it keeps getting worse. Good luck if you know what the hell anyone's talking about by the last episodes.
    • Even Spike Spencer lampshades the Gainax Ending with this trope in mind.
      • Unlike some other Kudzu Plots, it's actually literally impossible to understand what's going on in the series with the information given in the actual anime series, movie included. The necessary pieces to understand the whole plot is only given in third party material, offically endorsed by Gainax.
  • Darker than Black does this for both of its seasons, then leaves most of it completely unexplained. Which is probably for the best, actually.
  • 20th Century Boys, though lighter on the confusion part than most entries.
    • Naoki Urasawa in general is rather a master of doing this trope right. He'll introduce dozens of often twisty and complicated plot threads throughout his manga and somehow always manages to wrap everything up in a more or less satisfactory manner by the end. It remains to be seen if his latest masterpiece, Billy Bat, certainly his most ambitious work to date in this regard, will be able to keep up this momentum or if Urasawa will finally descend, Icarus-like into the depths of a Claremont-esque morass of incomprehensibility and dangling plot threads.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes. No matter how much attention you pay, you will miss at least one minor detail.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou features a literal anti-Chekhov's Gun and introduces a number of different elements without any intention of addressing their nature. It's also an extremely powerful example of how a work of fiction can not only remain at a very high quality precisely because of it - as long as you know what you're doing.
  • Code Geass, much to the frustration of the fans. Three prominent examples include the nature of Suzaku's superhuman abilities (cut because it would complicate things after initial plans for the second season changed), practically anything of substance regarding the bulk of C.C.'s life before the show (considered inconsequential to the plot beyond revealing how she originally became immortal), and any additional information about Kallen's past or family besides her having a dead brother.
    • Or even if her brother is dead; in the audio commentary for Episode 4, the head writer teases that he might be alive, much to the surprise and confusion of Ami Koshimizu.
      • The second season would have originally answered that, along with introducing Kallen's father and possibly Jeremiah's sister. Oh well, What Could Have Been, I suppose...
  • The Big O: although the series explains quite a few things in the last few episodes, none of the fundamental reasons behind these other reasons are ever given. Such is the trouble of having the last part of a series cut out and the Myth Arc killed.
  • Robotech suffered from this in the end. Most things were left unanswered, like where is SDF3 and what are shadows. Thankfully, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles resolved most of them.
    • Except that Shadow Chronicles ended on a cliffhanger, like the original series, with the fate of an extremely important character hanging in the balance instead of unknown, another alien faction with very ominous intentions ready to raise some hell, and humanity and their allies really screwed at the moment. It doesn't help that this was supposed to be the beginning of a new chapter for the franchise and nothing much has happened since. And that's before taking into account the legal problems the show is having, which makes any kind of future resolution or closure to the story either very unlikely or hard without extreme Willing Suspension of Disbelief. This probably ties into The Christ Carter Effect territory as well.
    • There is a planned sequel, Shadow Rising; but it is postponed indefinitely due as of 2009 due to the Warner Bros Robotech live-action project.
  • RahXephon suffers a wee bit from this. The nature of the Mulians, the secret conspiracy, the nature of the world, why the main character is The Chosen One and exactly what the chosen one does isn't particularly well-explained.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX feels like this, thanks to its tendency to introduce plot points that slip into Red Herring twists: the Abandoned Dorm in season 1, the war between the Light of Destruction and the Duel Monsters in season 2, Yubel being stuck in Jaden's head in season 3, and the entire ending of season 4 all give hints of being explored and resolved at a later date, but none of them actually do.
  • Negima gained several levels of complexity once the Magic World arc started, and the massive Backstory started to come into play, in addition to various subplots involving the minor characters. It's generally kept under control though... until the series' finale, where most of the subplots are either left hanging or explained away in a single panel, several important questions about the main Myth Arc are never addressed, and the protagonist's main motivation gets a resolution... off-panel.
  • This is the primary complaint directed towards Karas. It doesn't help that a minor (but important) character speaks in un-translated Japanese subtitles.
  • Billy Bat. Full stop. The story literally spans centuries in just its first couple dozen chapters, and only gets more complicated from there.
  • Wandering Son introduced various plots in the span of a few chapters, and few of them get explained for a while if ever. The mangaka juggles various parallel plot points, giving each only a few panels of attention before moving to the next, leading you to reread chapters just to keep a handle on what is going on. It works somewhat better in the manga than in the anime, but only just.
  • Aoi Hana, by the same author as Wandering Son, is also getting there. The story is becoming a jumble of romantic entanglements, intrigues and problems with family and friends, and several plot points have already been either ignored or cut off abruptly. The author is also not above setting up important story arcs, just to halt them and concentrate on a seemingly irrelevant subplot.
  • Baccano! and Durarara!! both fall into this, though they tie up most of their loose ends. This is in part because their storytelling makes a mockery of chronology and in part because they are both adaptations of ongoing light novels (though the extra episodes clear up some lingering questions). Long story short, these are good examples of this trope.
  • Naruto has shown more and more evidence of falling into this category as the series progressed. However, the 4th Ninja War seems to be wrapping up all unresolved plot threads.
  • Bleach is prone to this. After the end of the Arrancar Arc, we're left with as many questions as answers. Is Grimmjow still alive? What exactly is the Soul King? Will Aizen ever return? What is the significance of the bodies in Szayel's laboratory? And so on. Numerous smaller plot threads from early on in the series have yet to be revisited as well.
  • A common criticism Ookamikakushi faces is that while the main mystery of the series is solved, several others—such as Kaori's mysterious illness or her eventual role as a White Wolf Kanon—are left to the imagination of those who did not read the VN.

Comic Books

  • The Sandman, what with all the Loads and Loads of Characters in turn being a Chekhov's Army, and how what seems to be one shot stories at first constantly turn into plotlines
  • X-Men: Chris Claremont is famous in the comics community for the truly epic number of dangling plot threads amassed as the writer. Summed up hilariously in X-Men: The End, an Alternate Continuity miniseries written by (of all people) Claremont himself that attempted, in one stroke, to resolve every dangling plot thread ever introduced in the entire X-Men meta-saga (many of which Claremont had created). As one might expect, the story grows exponentially more incomprehensible with every issue, culminating with a duel between Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova for control of the Phoenix Force. Incidentally, you calculate a plot's "Claremont coefficient" by dividing the number of plot points introduced by the number of ones followed up on. If the result is over 1 in most or all episodes, you have a Kudzu Plot.
    • Although Claremont is deservedly notorious for this, the X-Men line's Kudzu Plot actually became far worse after he left. Notorious dropped plots include Wolverine devolving into a noseless dog creature, Cannonball being revealed as a immortal "High-Lord", and Shatterstar being a comatose boy in mental institution the whole time (as well as his and Rictor's relationship, which was finally confirmed ten years later.) The nadir of this trend was probably the Onslaught Saga, in which dozens of hints were dropped about the villain's identity before anyone had bothered figuring out who he actually was.
  • Sovereign Seven: also by Chris Claremont was ultimately the worst offender of all. It was nothing but an interconnected web of mysteries, and was canceled after three years with not one single plot point resolved. Plus, it turned out to be the Seven were simply fanfiction written by citizens of The DCU. So it all never really happened.
  • G.I. Joe: Larry Hama pulled off almost as much complexity as Claremont's X-Men with his run on the comic series for Marvel.
  • The last few story arcs of Strangers in Paradise suffer from this, as Moore originally planned a completely different ending but decided to change it after 9/11.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: A writer named Ken Penders was attributed with starting multiple story arcs and never ever finishing them for whatever reason. This is actually a case of Misblamed, as most of those arcs were created by Karl Bollers when he temporarily replaced Penders as head writer. The arcs would typically go on for years with little or no development; the few that would eventually get wrapped up would finish out with the bare minimum of information, leaving an extremely large number of dangling plot threads. When Penders and Bollers left Archie Comics (Penders after 19 years of employment there), the new writer, Ian Flynn, spent almost his entire first year writing comics that tied up all the loose ends.
  • Countdown to Final Crisis, dear Lord. Even if you ignore the fact that most of it was shunted in Canon Discontinuity and slapped with a Let Us Never Speak of This Again moratorium on future references by the editors when Final Crisis rolled around, leading to loads of Aborted Arcs stemming from the massive amount of tie-in material in almost every regular DC title; there's also the fact that it hiked Four Lines, All Waiting Up to Eleven, and as a result was so schizophrenic, bizarre, convoluted, and bewildering, that the characters themselves became frustrated when trying to explain their situations to each other.
  • Gold Digger has developed a truly mindboggling one over the years. Fred Perry is infamous for following whatever new plotbunny pops into his head at the moment (resulting in preview covers on the Antarctic Press website becoming inaccurate because he suddenly went off in an entirely different direction with no notice). Combined with an ever increasing cast list, the series backstory is a mystifying jumble that is at least as difficult to explain to a newcomer as the average mainstream superhero comic's.

Fan Works


Film

  • Yes. Even movies can have this in special cases. For the Saw series, when the original movie ended, only a few plot threads stuck around, but nothing worth hurting over. However, once Lionsgate bought the rights to the series, Executive Meddling hit hard and forced the writers to make an endless string of subplots and character histories to interconnect with the overall storyline, mainly to create one Sequel Hook after another (to make sense of the ensuing chaos, no matter how increasingly illogical it got). Saw 2 pulled this off very well and 3 was somewhat cohesive too, but after that, the writers got crazy. Saw 4 was almost Lost-like with its Mind Screw chronology and how it complements Saw 3, and Saw 5 was an Whole-Episode Flashback that went back as far as scenes from Saw 2 to explain how one character was involved. At least Saw 6 neatly wrapped up most of the previous subplots from 4 and 5, but only time will tell if the next film ends the remaining string of plots with grace.
  • The Room is extremely guilty of this. There are several subplots thrown in, but none of them are ever resolved.


Literature

  • The Dark Tower suffers badly from this. In telling Roland's history, a good four hundred something pages is dedicated to a love interest of Roland's and how it helped start what is undoubtedly the most catastrophic war in the history of everything, yet only one chapter is devoted to its final battle, one sentence describes how it ended, and one sentence describes how Roland survives. Roland's parents only make one or two appearances, John Farson never shows up, and the fates of Alain and Cuthbert are practically Hand Waved. In the main plot, Continuity Drift is blatant, anticlimaxes are everywhere, and there are so many flimsy explanations and Plot Holes.
    • Stephen King stated in a recent interview that he would be writing another Dark Tower novel, which would take place between books 4 (Wizard and Glass) and 5 (Wolves of the Calla). It is reasonable to assume he will be expounding on the aforementioned plot holes and dangling storylines.
    • To be fair, WAY back when the Dark Tower was first released, King said that he intended to write a decalogy. Somewhere along the line he lost three books; which left a lot of early plot hanging.
    • The comic book adaptation starts as an adaptation of the main flashback of Wizard and Glass, then continues to cover Roland's life up through and beyond the Battle of Jericho Hill.
  • The Hyperion Cantos turns into this at the end of the first book. It starts off strange when the nature of the Time Tombs are explored in greater detail. It gets a bit weird when it introduces the Technocore, the way it functions, and its ambitions. It goes right off the deep end when every single plot element from the entire book is linked together in a matter of ten pages. Have fun with the next one.
  • The Wheel of Time, with the side effect of grinding the later books to a halt as the same (admittedly huge) amount of book is split across a massively increased number of plot threads. The 12th and final book was supposed to tie off many of the loose ends, but then the author died.
    • The author Brandon Sanderson wrote the last book... and he had to spend three books doing it. This didn't tie up every loose end.
    • It is worth noting that Robert Jordan actually didn't want to resolve all of the plotlines by the end of the story, as that would make it feel too much like a self-contained world that ends with the last book, whereas he wanted it to feel like the story never really ends, only the books do. He was quite clear that he wanted some plotlines left dangling at the end, not as hooks for sequels, but for realism purposes.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has a fairly large Kudzu Plot in the later books (the Ancient Conspiracy that was abruptly introduced after Book 5 remains fairly inscrutable), although the Lemony Narrator explicitly tells us that some mysteries can never be solved. The End made good on this, so to speak, by pointedly not answering almost everything.
  • Roger Zelazny's Amber series. This could be a side effect him dying before he had a chance to tie everything up, though.
  • The New Jedi Order had Han and Leia's son Jacen as a God Mode Sue, Centerpoint Station (a space station in the Corellian system) able to destroy stars, and Han's cousin Thrackan out of prison. Oh, did I mention Luke no longer believes in The Dark Side because a Jedi from the old Order told him it didn't exist? Jacen doesn't either, and he's adopting a "broader" view of the Force. (All of this is resolved in Legacy of the Force, along with a few attempts to fake Chekhov's Gun. Jacen's a Sith, Luke realizes The Dark Side is real, and Han joins up with the Fetts to take down his cousin.)
  • The Maximum Ride series suffers heavily from this, especially in the later books. Pretty close to everything in the entire series is still unresolved, and each book creates more mysteries at a furious pace. It would be a lot easier to list what actually has been resolved, or at least handwaved.
  • Several Warrior Cats books work this way. The second series makes you wonder who was working with Hawkfrost, and what exactly was going on with Brook and Stormfur coming back to the Clans, and the state of Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw's relationship, as well as a few minor things. The third series was worst about this: they still don't know why they have the prophecy, it wasn't clear where Sol went, we don't know what exactly Tigerstar was up to, and we've just learned that Hollyleaf isn't the Third after all. We didn't even know if Leafpool had stayed with the Clan because the authors forgot to mention her again for the several chapters after she leaves her den. The fourth series wraps things up a bit better, but still left a couple things open because the authors thought it would break the mood to say "so-and-so chose this cat as her mate" after the battle of battles.
  • The first Dexter novel never really explains how Dexter had "visions" that told him about the murders. The murderer turns out to be his brother, and their shared experience in the shipping container could explain why he was compelled to look there (albeit in a loose and sloppy way), but how on earth did he know to randomly go outside in the middle of the night, just in time for the murderer to throw a head at him?
  • Harry Stephen Keeler's "webwork plots" are built on this, consisting of different threads(characters or objects) engaging in complex interaction with several other strands until a reveal clarifies it all. Like the pure plotiness of The Man With The Magic Eardrums.
  • The Neverending Story has some loose threads deliberately in it ("But this is another story and shall be told another time."). And at the end of the book the snakes won't let Bastian return to the real world because of the many unfinished plots he left behind. Atreju voluteers to take care of it.
  • Tad Williams had started so many plot threads in the first two books of his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy that he ran into trouble tying that all up in the third book. He persisted anyway, and the third book ended up the length of the first two put together. The book was published as a single hardcover, but in paperback the book came out in two huge tomes because paperback binding techniques simply weren't enough to put all those pages in one volume.

Live-Action TV

  • Lost. There were twists that could possibly be thrown in to explain everything, but as the show got more and more fantastic these possibilities became fewer and crazier. By the finale, there were—to quote College Humor—some teeny-tiny loose ends yet to be tied up.
  • Torchwood has a massive Kudzu Plot at present. It constantly raises new questions about Captain Jack's origins and past (or should that be future... Time Travel is confusing stuff, especially in the Timey-Wimey Ball that is the Whoniverse...) not to mention all the minor unfollowed plot threads brought up throughout the show. What the flip is Jack's birth name anyway? What the hell were those things that took Jack's brother Gray? What is the mysterious "Storm" that the former leader of Torchwood 3 was talking about after he murdered the staff and killed himself? Is it something that already happened or something that's going to happen? Who is that creepy, seemingly immortal tarot card reading girl and when is she going to call in the favor Jack owes her? What the hell was Billis Manger? When will Cell 114 strike?
    • Of course, this is really a carryover trait from Doctor Who. There it took until season six to even learn the name of the Doctor's race. Some of the dangling plot threads that are still left from the old series include the "Doctor is Merlin" thread, the war of the Great Vampires and the Time Lords, and what, exactly, happens in the 51st century. What the flip is the Doctor's birth name anyway?
    • Not to mention the seemingly abandoned Cartmel Masterplan (though it, like various other plot threads and references, has been followed up in the Expanded Universe).
  • Similarly, the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who seems to be turning into this.
    • Series 5 leaves several major unanswered questions. What is the Silence? Who or what was the mysterious force that took control of the TARDIS in The Pandorica Opens, and how did they do it (and where did that creepy voice come from)? And why would blowing up the TARDIS cause the destruction of the universe (which even the Doctor says is a good question)? Not to mention all the questions surrounding River Song...
    • Series 6 answers the first of the above questions, but leaves the others hanging and raises several more: If blowing up the TARDIS was the Silence's plan, did they actually intend to destroy the universe? If so, why? Why must the Question never be answered? Et cetera... At least most of the major questions about River were answered.
  • Since it was both Screwed by the Network and Cut Short, most dangling plot threads in American Gothic are of the 'and the cycle goes on' variety, where we never know in the end whether Buck will ever be stopped, whether Caleb will go evil, whose side Selena is really on, and so forth. But there a few genuine moments where an element was introduced, then never revisited again, leaving for some major head-scratchings. Examples: Was Sutpen of "Damned If You Don't" really a ghost/spiritual summoning of Buck's, or not? Did Buck drive his girlfriend to suicide, or not? Whatever happened to the fellow Merlyn was romancing when she came back to life? Will Dr. Matt ever get free of the sanitarium? Whatever happened to Selena's father, and will he and she ever reconcile? (This last one is particularly distressing since, thanks to the episode in question never being aired, very few people even know it exists.)
  • Back to the 60s: Coronet Blue. To wit: guy found with no memory except for the titular Arc Words, which never ended up resolving to anything since the show only ran a single season.
  • The short-lived series John Doe headed into this territory as well.
    • Cut Short after the first season, this show left off its Kudzu Plots before it even had much chance to even try to explain them...
  • Soap suffered from this, notably though it had a whole complex plot after the first episode. After four seasons and lots of plot the creators had a chance to make two more seasons to wrap up the millions of plots but decided two seasons wouldn't be nearly enough time to conclude everything and put the series to an end.
    • This did leave several members on the verge of possibly dying and so one of these characters, Jessica, made a guest appearance in the spin-off show Benson to explain what happened a little.
  • Stargate SG-1 suffers from this as well. What ever happened to that hastily-put-together human kid "Charlie" from the Re'tu episode? Everyone's just assuming that the Tollan were wiped out by Tanith's forces (despite it being highly improbable that a single Goa'uld mothership, no matter how advanced, would be able to prevent everyone on a spacefaring planet from escaping), but they never went back and conclusively proved it. Did Colonel Landry and his daughter Dr. Lam ever put their differences aside? Is freaking Athena still free on Earth and running a company? Whatever happened to Daniel's grandfather? Are there actually fish in Jack's pond? Did Jack ever get a dog? And what exactly is a Furling anyway?
  • The people behind the new Battlestar Galactica were always fairly open that 75% of the show was being made up as they went along, leading to a fair amount of Kudzu by the end. The writers made a valiant attempt to wrap everything up, but plenty of mysteries were just dealt with by using a blatant Info Dump and a Hand Wave saying it was God's will.
  • Heroes, anyone? People and whole worldlines are MIA.
  • The X-Files ended never having cleared up half of what was going on.
  • The 4400 does this. Probably intentional, as with an ensemble cast you never know which plot hooks you'll have the opportunity to follow up next. Did get pretty annoying, though, when the biggest teaser at the end of season 2 didn't show up till halfway through season 3.
  • Supernatural unfortunately ended up with Kudzu Plot, likely a result of minimal planning and continuity changes over time. Unanswered questions include whether or not Sam really was corrupted when brought back to life as Azazel said, the origin of Ruby's knife, and why all of Mary's friends and acquaintances were killed off, which wasn't justified by her eventual backstory.
    • Should be noted that some of this (well, Ruby's knife specifically) is intentional; the writers and producers want to leave some mysteries even after the show ends.
  • Merlin is headed this way, though only time will tell if the writers can resolve everything they've raised thus far. This is especially true of the complex but still murky Backstory of Camelot's first generation, namely what the heck went down between Uther, Igraine, Nimueh, and Gaius when Arthur was conceived. Apparently Uther approached Nimueh (brought to the court by Gaius) to cast a spell to help his wife Igraine conceive, resulting in her death, Nimueh's banishment, and Uther's crusade against magical creatures. Every character who lived through those events tells a slightly different version of what really happened, but whether this is a variation of The Rashomon, or whether there's something more that the writers haven't told us yet, remains to be seen.
    • There are also plenty of unanswered questions about the Druids (especially Mordred) and how much they know about Merlin (who they call "Emrys") and what they expect from his destiny.
  • Babylon 5 was tightly plotted from the beginning and manages to maintain a tight story throughout. Unfortunately, numerous plot threads from early in the series had to be quietly dropped when the plot had to be modified to account for cast changes. Among the casualties: The data recording Kosh made of Talia Winter's fears, Captain Sheridan's knowledge of secret societies & black projects and Catherine Sakai's growing involvement with shady mega-corp exploitation of dead worlds - although the last one was resolved in one of the tie-in novels.

Toys

  • While not too complex, all the plot threads in the Bionicle serials are definitely difficult to keep track of. During the course of the '08, '09 and '10 stories, they "advanced" as the following:
    • War raged. The forces of good allied themselves with the evil Barraki (except for a rogue member) and Dark Hunters, but they had their own agendas: the Barraki re-formed their armies to take over the universe, while the leader of the Hunters discovered some strange viruses and formed a plan to, yes, take over the universe too, but not before killing his only friend, making his big reveal as a double agent completely pointless.
    • Meanwhile, the leader of the good guys, Toa Helryx, trapped inside the head of the main villain (who himself was the universe at the time), decided to kill everyone, but suddenly a mass of random characters appeared (one of whom was dead-but-not-really and also wanted to take over the universe), but they got launched into space, then teleported to a place where they met their potential creator, a Great Being.
    • Toa Lewa, after a series of body-swapping, got lost in the jungle, where a tribe of natives captured him.[1] Toa Kopaka wanted to find Lewa, but after discovering that the Toa Mahri had been enslaved by a godly mutant, found himself in a completely unrelated detective story with Toa Pohatu, and then, space travel.
    • Another group of heroes has also been dispatched to locate the Great Beings, but fell victim to a tribe of jungle-dwellers.
    • Unrelated to all these events, Sahmad set out to find the one who killed his tribe, stumbled upon an age-old, dream-sucking shining ball of tentacles, after which his story finally got connected to the plot about the enslaving mutant. So far, Sahmad's is the only story to have been wrapped up.
    • There is also Marendar, an artificial assassin, designed to kill all good guys, whom we haven't heard of for months, thanks to all the other plots.
    • And this, people, is how the story was when Lego definitely stopped to post updates. Yes, all the above lines are how Bionicle ended.


Video Games

  • The Metal Gear games are very well known for this. In the end though, they manage to tie everything up pretty well after numerous retcons and mind screwdrivers, but even then one or two holes are left open.
    • As far as we know, the story is still not completed, with Rising pending on release (how the hell did Raiden get into that cyborg ninja suit and how did he rescue Sunny anyway?)
      • The Kudzu plant is actually referenced in Metal Gear Solid 3 amusingly enough. It is noted how invasive the plant is and that it quickly kills other plants nearby because of how fast it grows. The various plots going on in the series grow so fast that it invades and entangles other plot points, Metal Gear Solid 4 had the dubious honor of explaining all these plot entanglements and twists with over 9 hours of cutscenes. Your Mileage WILL Vary as to whether this was necessary or if it was needless blabbering of a overly complex story.
  • The Legend of Zelda obviously had its plot made up as the series went along. First, it was the original, a sequel, and a prequel. Then it was a prequel to the prequel and sequel to the prequel. Then came a sequel in an alternate timeline to the prequel and another sequel to the prequel and a side-series and kind of tied in to the original prequel and a pair of games sort of sitting around with nothing to do with the others. Fans will debate endlessly exactly what order the Non-Linear Sequels are supposed to go in. Most fan-constructed timelines will resemble family trees more than linear timelines.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series has slowly become infamous for this. For new people, the original Kingdom Hearts had a very clear plot: monsters that come from the darkness of people's hearts who are battled by the current wielder of a giant key that cuts hearts, as he looks for his friends whom he lost. A bit weird, but clear. Then, Organization XIII came in, a new enemy that raises some questions. These are answered in KH II... by raising more questions. Many more. It all kept snowballing from there.
    • No Export for You makes it even more annoying. Several plotlines in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep were introduced in KH2 Final Mix +. Xemnas and the chamber of repose, the lingering sentiment's origin, etc.
    • A lot of this has to due with Nomura's philosopy of adding plot twists, no matter what the rhyme or reason, in order to keep things "surprising". When asked what the most important thing to him is when making a story, he replied with this:

Nomura: Making it “surprising.” While I’m writing out the plot, if things seem that you can predict the outcome on your own, then I think of a different, unexpected development.

    • A lot of it has to do with the fact that all the entries in the franchise are very intertwined while they are spread across 5 different consoles. That makes following the plot without any holes extremely difficult for people who can't (or won't) afford so many gaming devices. As a matter of fact, the complains about the plot not making sense are not nearly as common among those who have managed to play all of the games.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy had shades of this, with some vague terms and references that didn't add up, but the Kudzu Plot really got going with the sequel, Dissidia 012, which was filled with retcons, twists, clones, alternate universes, and new questions left unresolved and hanging all other the place.
  • Marathon. You have implications that the precursors were at Tau Ceti. Then there are hints that the main character is a Jjaro. Hints that he is a battleroid, Beowulf/Roland/everybody else, and the protagonist of Pathways into Darkness.... all at the same time! Oh, then Durandal likes to speak about philosophy. This is before the third game turned into a Cosmic Horror Story that abused the multiverse and Timey-Wimey Ball to no end. By the time WMG attempts to mesh the timeline in with the Haloverse come along, it almost sounds normal. Almost.
  • Chrono Cross... The best summation is probably 'Wait, what? Didn't he just...?'
  • Rule of Rose There is even a website dedicated to attempting to decode its plot.
  • Final Fantasy VII (or more precisely, "The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII".) The first game started out pretty simple in storytelling (saving the world from long-haired pretty boy with mommy issues, Sephiroth, and making friends along the way while decoding your own past in a typical monster-infested fantasy world) and while it got very complicated toward the end, all the pieces of the puzzle WERE there to put together. Then the sequels came out: Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus, along with prequels: a cell-phone game starring the Turks and the Retcon-filled Crisis Core for the PSP, and then the whole FFVII went to hell in a handbasket from there. Add to that completely different characterization of Cloud, and the Turks, who had been retooled into bumbling comic relief characters, and recharacterizing Aerith as a Purity Sue, and you have some of the myriad reasons why the Compilation is known in some circles as "The Complication of Final Fantasy VII."
    • One of the biggest problems is there are now at least 6 different versions of what happened at Nibelheim. Granted there was about 3 in the original version as it is, but now it's become the videogame version of Rashomon.
      • One of the executives at work in Square Enix has now decreed that each version is seen from the perspective of a different character. So now it is OFFICIALLY the video game version of Rashomon. God damn it Square Enix...
  • This is one of the most defining aspects Dark Souls's story. There are so many aspects of the lore, characters, character motivations that are left up in the air including what effect the end of your journey has on the world.

Web Original

  • The Whateley Universe, since the storyline (about a hundred short stories and novels to date) has only really covered the first term of school. Although they did eventually explain what really happened to Cavalier and Skybolt.
  • Will Sir Schmoopy and Eluamous Nailo be able to defeat the dangerous, non-optical illusion ogre? Will Sir Schmoopy ever get his human body back? Will Unforgotten Realms ever stick to a plot instead of introducing a lot of random storyline elements and never explaining them?
    • This is as early as episode five and snowballs from there.
  • The Salvation War has at least half a dozen subplots going on at any one time, so that some story threads just peter out after seeming like they would be much more important. Particularly obvious is the resistance movement in Hell of dead ancient Romans; the author admitted soon afterward that he'd planned far more for them but didn't have any room for it. A big part of the problem was that the Salvation War contain contributions from a number of authors and integrating these contributions presented a major editing problem. A major weeding exercise was in progress when the project shut down.
  • What It's Like to Be a God has about half the cast dying in the second prologue and a hell of a lot of confusion and Mind Screw tactics.
  • Marble Hornets is pretty much built on this trope. Actual answers are few and far between anyway, but any time one is actually given, it's guaranteed to be accompanied by a half-dozen new questions.
    • Marble Hornets's "heir" (as some call it) Everyman HYBRID has been accused of this, plus the fact its spread over many websites (more then Marble Hornets). This has led to a Broken Base among the fandom.


Web Comics

  • The final arcs of Its Walky seem almost unfollowable. There were government conspiracies and evil aliens, and other, eviller aliens that battled the first aliens, and a mystery character that was one or more of an alien, a robot from the dawn of time, the protagonist or a tertiary character from three years ago. There was at least one invasion of the Earth, and characters dying and other characters trying to bring them back to life, and ooooh, something about Illuminati from another universe and clones and hybrids and ow my brains. All this from a comic that started out as college-based gag strip. Perhaps it was best that the story ended then, before it took a team of Talmudic scholars just to follow the updates.
    • Don't forget the talking car and the zombie hordes, which weren't so much Kudzu Plot as they were practically random elements that cropped up at the last minute. Fortunately they canceled each other out.
    • To make it even worse, as soon as the strip ended, David Willis started doing Joyce and Walky, featuring a number of characters from the earlier strip, except all of the weird alien invasion plot threads were utterly stopped and it became a cute little domestic comedy strip about a young married couple. A formerly superpowered, alien-fighting couple. Which was never mentioned again.
    • This was followed by Shortpacked, in which many of the rest of the characters started working at a toy store, with only occasional nods to the past.
  • At this point, it would take a chainsaw to prune the plot of El Goonish Shive into something sensible. And even when some of the threads are about to be tied up, Dan Shive takes another swig of The Chris Carter Effect and makes it worse.
  • Sluggy Freelance. For those who want a little context but don't wish to engage in an Archive Trawl, Here are some of the things waiting to be resolved: the origin and nature of a re-incarnating knife-throwing acrobatic assassin with wild red hair who alternates between normal and insane with every incarnation, the origin and intentions of a talking sword fueled by innocent blood, the last names of all of the characters save one, the intentions and plans of at least one and possibly more vampire clans, the actions of at least two separate cults of demons bent on causing the end of the world, the fate of the original world-ending demon that those cults worship, the intentions and fate of the obligatory shadowy corporate conspiracy, the fate of a character who was seemingly Put on a Bus but who is continually referenced, the plans of the inhabitants of the dimension of pain who have recently acquired a new leader who goes by the name Psykosis, the origins and intentions of a certain switchblade wielding, superstrong mini-lop rabbit with a bad attitude, and the fate of the inhabitants of a dimension stuck out of time. This is by no means a complete list.
    • Don't forget how many of these plot points were abruptly dropped. Most glaring was the outside time arc, which just gets dropped at a relatively major event with maybe 5% of its story left to be told. A large number of fans of the comic hated the arc because, except for Bun-Bun (who got his exit some time before the end), there were absolutely none of the standard cast members in the arc. The reactions on the forums were overflowing with vitriol and they wanted Pete to get on with other unresolved plotlines, so he made attempts to cut it short before just dropping it altogether.
    • Want to know the real irony? Abrams has interviewed that he hated how Chris Carter had clearly been making up the plot of The X-Files as he went along.
  • David Gonterman loves this trope to pieces. Almost all of his stories will set up plot points just to abruptly cut them off, refer to past events that never happened on screen, and otherwise just pad the story without giving satisfactory explanations or conclusions. This becomes a problem when these extraneous plot elements start conflicting with each other (for example, he might set up a Masquerade in the first couple chapters of a story, then just throw it away in order to start having plots about other members of the so-called "masquerade"). It's rather impressive that within the span of 240 strips over about two years, the original FoxFire probably has more dangling plot threads than Sluggy Freelance has in its eleven year daily tenor.
  • Captain SNES started in 2001. This strip is from 2003. The sprawl has increased since then. Uniquely, there are actual in-story reasons for the sprawling plot; the entire story is a flashback being narrated by the protagonist to a mysterious captor who wants to know, and, in order to spite said captor, the protagonist is being as obtuse, misleading, and meandering in the telling as he possibly can.
  • Megatokyo. Ever since one of the creators left, the comic (and its update schedule) has slowed down and sprawled sideways. This carried on for so long that people were honestly shocked when the latest chapter suddenly revisited the zombie invasion and began to drop enormous clues as to the true nature and powers of Epileptic Tree-bait Miho.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Every answer we get just seems to raise more questions. However, Tom Siddell assures the fans that he doesn't introduce any mysteries without already knowing their resolution; barring a premature ending, everything will be explained.
    • This has been heavily lampshaded in The Rant—see the page quote. Or for example a strip featuring a never previously named character inexplicably walking through a glowing triangular portal to a "lesson" with the "old man" had the comment "Mystery solved." Less than a day after that page went up, someone on the official forum guessed, based on a detail from that page, that said girl was the Valkyrie Brynhildr. Word of Tom immediately confirmed that this was correct. So the mystery really was solved.

Reader Comment: That explains a lot, why are you explaining things? Every time you do that the number of questions I have doubles.

  • Problem Sleuth is this trope taken Up to Eleven. Impenetrable Solve the Soup Cans puzzles, alternate dimensions, various bizarre game mechanics introduced at random, Time Travel, a Geodesic Cast, and a Chekhov's Armory that'd probably be better described as a warehouse, all contribute to its year-long sprawling plot. However, the series was meant to be more of an Affectionate Parody of Kudzu in adventure games and JRPGs, and the author, Andrew Hussie, actually manages to wrap up the plot in a satisfying way when it finally all comes to an end.
    • Homestuck as well, although in the case of both of these comics, the ridiculous number of plot threads is due to the author (and the readers) making it up as they go along.
      • The amazing thing about this is that the author, in a blog interview, explained that he has a terrible memory for many things, but every facet and detail of Homestuck is vivid and clear in his mind. Reportedly, he wrote the 4/15 recap purely from memory.
      • Homestuck's nature as this is probably best described in this quote from Andrew Hussie's tumblr:

"The thing is, Homestuck is both a story and a puzzle, by design and by definition. If asked to define it, “a story that’s also a puzzle” is as close to true as any answer I’d give."

  • Scary Go Round, surprising for a comic without many vast mysterious conspiracies, left plot threads hanging all over the place. In one case, a villain's comeback was left hanging for so long- must have been years- that she was physically almost unrecognizable when she finally reappeared, because the comics art style had changed so much in the meantime.
  • Sonichu suffers from this horribly. A lot of the Kudzu Plot problems lay in creator Christian Weston Chandler, mostly due to the fact that he keeps shifting plots around to suit his needs (from attempting to woo video game companies to attempting to woo potential love interests to just getting rid of detractors.) Each shift would leave more questions than answers, leading to Issue 10, where he'd plow through those loose ends with a machete, leaving the reader feeling very empty.
  • Immelmann has officially stated he's ending Concession because of this. The plot just got completely out of hand and very little of it made much sense anymore.
  • Adventurers!! doesn't have one, but it's lampshaded with the Plot Computer.


Western Animation

  • Transformers Animated delved into this in its third season. Presumably, the planned fourth season would have tied up somewhere between most and all of the loose ends, but the show got canceled before that could happen, meaning the third season finishes out with many plot points unresolved, including but not limited to: Since Word of God states that Blurr actually survived being compacted by Shockwave, what would have happened to him? What happened to the Predacons after they woke up on the island and found themselves surrounded by Maximal-esque animals, and what were Waspinator's "plans"? What ultimately happened to Ultra Magnus? Whatever happened to the Constructicons besides Scrapper? What exactly happened to the Earthbound Autobots after they returned victorious to Cybertron? How did the protoform Sari was made from get to Earth? Designs from the fourth season have been released in part via the Allspark Almanac and via conventions that partially answer at least some of these: Blackarachnia would have been making an army of Predacons like Waspinator, Ultra Magnus would have died, the Constructicons all survived the explosion on Dinobot island, regrouped, and Dirt Boss has them working on building Devastator, and while Sari and Bulkhead would have stayed on Cybertron, the rest of the main cast would have traveled back to Earth to hunt for Energon with Jazz and Ironhide joining them.
  1. By this time in the main story, the villain has already been killed and the universe destroyed, so there go all the villain plots...