Back for the Finale
"Ha ha ha! Final episode stunt casting!"
—Phil Ken Sebben, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
When a character who has left the series returns for the Grand Finale, or the final film in the series.
A subtrope of The Bus Came Back.
Not to be confused with The Bus Came Back, where a character previously Put on a Bus returns at any point in the story, or Last-Episode New Character. When everybody comes back, it's a Continuity Cavalcade. Can overlap with Chekhov's Gunman, if the returning character previously had a very minor role in the plot but ends up playing a large part in the climax of the story, or Battle Royale With Cheese.
Anime and Manga
- Great Mazinger: Nearly all Mazinger Z characters were Put on a Bus in the end of the last episode of the series. However, three of them -The Hero Kouji Kabuto, Action Girl Sayaka Yumi and The Professor Yumi- returned during the final arc of the sequel to help to take down the Mykene Empire.
- In Pokémon, many of Ash's pre-Sinnoh Pokémon show up for the Sinnoh League, including his newly-evolved Quilava.
- Earlier, Ash calling upon his original Pokémon team (apart from Pikachu, Butterfree and Pidgeot) for the Battle Frontier finale.
- During the final chapters of Dragon Ball, virtually every single character who ever appeared in the entire series is shown giving Goku their energy for the final Spirit Bomb. Except Launch, because Akira Toriyama had forgotten she existed.
- Gurren Lagann plays with it - Kamina comes Back from the Dead late into the series to give some encouraging words to Simon, but he doesn't stick around after he leaves the Multi-Dimensional Labyrinth. However, in The Movie, he's reincarnated in the form of the team's ultimate mecha, the Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- Fran's dream in the final chapter of Franken Fran has basically every single character(even the whale girl and the Flying Spaghetti Monster) attending a party.
- The final episode of the Mega Man Star Force anime has all the characters at one of the main characters' concerts. While looking around with his See-Thru Specs, Geo sees all of the FMians from the first season of the show in the background, watching along with their former hosts. This would make much more sense if they weren't all dead, already.
- Even more mind-boggling is that one of the characters, a GHOST (who may or may not have been reanimated by one of the FM-ians cross-fusing with his corpse, only to plummet to the bottom of the sea), appears. This is so weird because the only appearance the character actually makes prior to this is actually that same FM-ian in disguise. In short, the character literally comes out of nowhere.
- Yugi (from the original Yu-Gi-Oh!) shows up to play Jaden for the last duel of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
- Toward the end of Cowboy Bebop, Faye sees one of the hosts of the recurring Show Within a Show Big Shot (which had announced its cancellation in an earlier episode) in an airport.
- Kaiba shows up at the last page of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, after he had not appeared since the end of the Battle City arc.
- The human cast of Transformers Armada appeared in the last episode of Transformers Cybertron...
- Slayers Next ends with, among other things, the wedding of Martina and Zangulus. Vrumugun, one of a set of sorcerer copies who aided Zangulus in battle in the original series, can be seen in the audience. Without a gem on his forehead, suggesting that he may be the original.
- The final episode of Princess Tutu features several cameos from some of the one-shot character—mostly as hapless victims for the Raven.
- The final issue of Teen Titans vol. 3 (fittingly enough, issue #100) has a large number of former Titans showing up for the Grand Finale battle against Superboy-Prime. A number of characters who'd been written out of the book such as Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, Aquagirl, Bombshell and Damian Wayne were among those who showed up for the battle.
- George (Jeffrey Weisman) and Lorraine McFly (Lea Thompson), and Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), all return for one of the final scenes of Back to The Future Part III, although Thompson and Wilson had played their characters' ancestors in 1885 for most of the film.
- Lampshaded in Flags of our Fathers, one of the generals complains about how everyone in the army wants to get to Tokyo for the "big finish".
- Spy Kids3: Game Over brought virtually all the characters who appeared in the last two movies.
- Dr. Gordon comes back for Saw 3D. He hasn't been seen since the original Saw, six movies ago.
- Wesley reappears in Star Trek: Nemesis.
- Albeit only briefly, and only in the widescreen version. He was originally supposed to have a short scene with Picard and Dr. Crusher explaining how he's going to serve on a new ship (the Titan), but it was cut very early in the editing process. Wil Wheaton has the full explanation on his blog.
- Near the end of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, many of Harry's allies gather at Hogwart just before the final battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
- The whole book itself would qualify: it's easier to list the characters that don't come back to make an appearance in this book. Even if they're dead.
Live Action TV
- The Series Finale of Charmed had recurring characters Victor Bennet, Grams, Future Wyatt, and Patty return along with old leads Leo and Future Chris. Shannen Doherty did not return though, because of a variety reasons but most notably 1) Because she was too expensive and 2) She said no.
- The Practice ended with Eugene Young being on trial for being an Amoral Attorney, and Bobby Donnel returning to defend him.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show finale had appearances from Rhoda and Phyllis, both of whom had long since departed for their respective spinoff shows.
- Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) returned for the Grand Finale of Cheers.
- Although not a series regular, Major Sidney Freedman (Alan Arbus) returned for the M*A*S*H finale and was a major (sorry) character in it.
- Jimmy Doherty (Eddie Cibrian), Kim Zambrano (Kim Raver) and "Doc" Parker (Michael Beach) returned for Third Watch's finale, although only Doc had lines.
- Eric left That '70s Show after the end of the seventh season, and Kelso left four episodes into the eighth. Both return for the final episode (Or rather, final scene in Eric's case). Counts in-universe too, as the series finale was New Year's Eve 1979.
- The new series of Doctor Who's series 4 finale brings back Harriet Jones, Sarah Jane Smith (and her son and living computer), Captain Jack (and his Torchwood co-stars), Martha Jones, Rose, Jackie, Mickey, Davros and Dalek Caan.
- And in the 2009 Christmas specials that finished the Davies/Tennant era, they brought back the Master and the Time Lords, including Rassilon. The Doctor also takes the time to visit all of his regular companions from that incarnation before regenerating, and the bar he finds Jack at contains most of the aliens introduced in the new series.
- In the series five finale, "The Pandorica Opens" / "The Big Bang", everyone from Liz Ten to Winston and Bracewell to Vincent to River Song is back for the finale.
- The series six finale brings back characters from earlier in the season (Dorium), the previous season (Winston Churchill and the Silurian Malokeh), and a one-episode star from back in 2005 (Charles Dickens).
- Chase, who got Put on a Bus, for the finale of Zoey 101.
- The series ending movie of Homicide: Life on the Street included every single regular the series had, including those who had been killed off.
- Carol Seaver on Growing Pains; the actress who played her suffered from anorexia, and while she was being treated her character was Put on a Bus to London to explain her absence. But she was allowed to come back for the series finale.
- The last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation saw the return of recurring villain/ally Q, Lt. Tasha Yar and Miles O'Brien, who was by then a regular on Deep Space Nine and had not appeared since season six.
- Star Trek: Voyager's finale featured a cameo by Neelix, as well as a couple of other recurring characters including Admiral Paris, and Lt. Barclay, as well as the Borg Queen, played by Alice Krige herself.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had everyone who was ever a recurring character on the show back, most out of makeup in the Sisko / Vic duet scene. The only glaring absence was Terry Farrell, who didn't even appear in archive footage.
- Steve, DJ's boyfriend in Full House.
- Several characters from the first seasons returned for the Grand Finale of the Peruvian TV series Asi Es La Vida, to rescue the current protagonists that had been kidnapped by the Big Bad.
- Head of the Class: precocious pre-teen Janice, who was already several years ahead in school, had left high school early to attend college, returned for Graduation.
- A number of old characters made appearances in the last few episodes of ER, including, most notably, Drs Carter, Corday, Weaver, and (via flashback) Greene.
- Dr. Ross (George Clooney) and Nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) also made an appearance together in an episode the last season.
- Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) from The X-Files left the show at the end of season 7, returned for the second half of season 8, and for the last season only appeared in the finale.
- In The West Wing, one of the final episodes was Leo McGarry's funeral, which was attended by a number of characters that hadn't been seen for a long time.
- Sam Seaborn also returned to the series for the last few episodes. There was some talk of Aaron Sorkin coming back to write the final episode, but the idea fell through.
- Ally McBeal.
- Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) returned for the finale of Babylon 5.
- Scrubs, via a JD-fantasy.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has Angel appear in the last two episodes.
- And Faith in the last five.
- The season 2 finale "Becoming" brought back pretty much every major character from the first two seasons who wasn't dead... And a couple who were.
- I've heard that Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy, for those of you under a rock) offered to return for Angel 's series finale, but Joss Whedon turned her down because he wanted the finale to be about Angel and the gang, not about any guest star. However, the finale did bring back Connor and Lindsey.
- In the Series Finale of ER many of the characters who had left the show over the years came back to show their support for a new medical facility for the underprivileged funded by Carter.
- The sixth season of Lost had the flash-sideways timeline, which allowed for dead or disappeared characters to return. The actual series finale brought back Shannon, Boone, Juliet, Daniel, Charlotte, Libby, Charlie, Christian, Rose, Bernard, Penny, Dr. Chang, Eloise Hawking and (BIG SPOILER HERE) John Locke. (The rest of the final season also saw the return of Arzt, Frogurt, Alex, Danielle, Roger Linus, Keamy and Omar, Ana Lucia, Anthony Cooper, Helen, Nadia, Michael, George Minkowski, Mikhail, Marshal Mars and Ethan)
- Walt shows up in the epilogue.
- Mr. Eko was also supposed to appear in the final episode, but contract talks with the actor broke down.
- Bones brought back Zack for the season 4 finale.
- Murphy Brown brought back Phil for the series finale despite the fact that he had died: his death was retconned as having been faked by the CIA due to Phil knowing too much about Whitewater.
- While Phil is the most surprising example, the finale also brought back Miles and Eldon, both of whom had been absent for some time.
- The Happy Days finale had Richie and Lori Beth turning up for Joanie and Chachi's wedding.
- The final episode of Seinfeld had many minor characters on the show coming back to testify against them. Larry David, who was the Show Runner until season 7 and wrote many episodes also came back to write the finale.
- It's pretty clear that Stargate Atlantis brought back everyone they could get from SG-1 and Atlantis for the series finale (one can only assume that Richard Dean Anderson was unavailable)
- The Show Within a Show in the final episode of Sliders had The Professor show up and save everyone.
- The third season finale of Merlin brought back Lancelot, Elyan, Leon and Gwain as future knights of the Round Table. Also returning wasExcalibur and Freya, the Lady of the Lake. Among the villains Cenred and Morgause made their appearances.
- Merlin's mother Hunith return in the first part of the two-part fourth season finale, after a three year hiatus.
- Smallville's final season has so far featured the returns of Johnathan Kent, Brainiac, Lionel Luthor, Chloe Sullivan, and Martha Kent. Press releases have confirmed that Lex Luthor and Zod will also be returning.
- Aaron Ashmore also reappears as Henry James Olsen's little brother...the real Jimmy Olsen.
- Roswell's penultimate episode saw the return of Tess, who bore Max's child in season two. She doesn't stay for the last episode, and is only there to quickly close the main arc in season three.
- Prison Break's broadcast finale does this to the point of Continuity Cavalcade - and to the point where it makes the absence of the few major characters who DON'T return really, really noticeable. Sucre, C-Note, Kellerman, Sofia and Felicia all make an appearance, with Kellerman's being the most notable since he had been dead for two seasons and provided the Deus Ex Machina.
- The Wire pulls this off spectacularly over the course of its final season with every living major character and many minor ones making cameos across the season. Surprisingly, all of them feel natural and don't interfere a bit with shows realism as most of the characters return for about 1 or 2 seasons and most of the previously departed characters had not been said to have ever left Baltimore making it all rather plausible.
- The final episode of Spooks has a brief appearance by Tom Quinn, one of the few major characters to get Put on a Bus instead of Killed Off for Real when leaving the show.
- The final episode of Hustle features the return of Stacie. Also of Danny, but we don't find that out til the end.
- The season 4 finale of Leverage brings characters from as far back as season one. Nate's father Jimmy Ford plays a very prominent role in it. His ex-wife Maggie is gathered to help with the con along with, Hardison's Evil Counterpart Chaos, Eliot's Not-as-Evil Counterpart Quinn and Parker's adoptive father Archie. The villain is Victor Dubenich, the series very first Villain of the Week.
- The Sheriff of Nottingham and Marian came back for the final episode of Robin Hood, the former after a Not Quite Dead situation, and the latter for a Together in Death scene with Robin.
- Ugly Betty starts this early, with Gio and Christina coming back in the third to last episode, Henry in the penultimate ep, and Connor for the finale.
- Hilda returned for Sabrina's wedding in the finale of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which to be fair is certainly a good reason to return... except that it drew attention to all the people who weren't making a cameo (like Valerie).
- In a subversion, Sharona Fleming from Monk is supposed to 'fly in' during the last episode of the sixth season. Then the problem resolves itself, and she never shows up.
- Medavoy came back for a minute in the last NYPD Blue after retiring an episode or two before.
- A strange, extended version of this trope was used in the series finale of Newhart. For the series finale, they actually brought back Bob Newhart's wife from The Bob Newhart Show. This was used to reveal that the entire series was All Just a Dream.
- And in a TV special about that show, in which Bob is shown dealing with this dream, at the very end he meets a trio of elevator repairmen who introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Daryl ..."
- Desperate Housewives brought back Kathryn Mayfaire (Dana Delaney, who had her own series at the time) for the finale, along with many characters who were killed on Wysteria Lane over the seasons.
- House brought back Cameron, Stacy, Masters, Dominika, and Chase (who admittedly hadn't been gone for very long). Kutner and Amber also reappeared as hallucinations.
- Many characters from previous Quest for Glory games return for the finale Quest for Glory V these include, but are not limited to:
- Bruno, Erasmus, Fenris, Elsa and Toro from Quest for Glory I.
- Nadar, Budar, Senor Ferrari, Ugarte and Julannar from Quest for Glory II.
- Rhakeesh and Salim from Quest for Glory III. Rhakeesh's son, who was first mentioned there, makes his first appearance in Quest for Glory V.
- Katrina and Erana from Quest for Glory IV. Both are seen, but only one can be brought Back from the Dead.
- Also, certain items lost in earlier games return, such as the Katta's Pin you get at the beginning of Quest for Glory II and Soul Forge, the Paladin's Sword from the 2nd and third game. If you found a replacement for Soul Forge in the 4th game, Rhakeesh will keep it.
- Almost everyone who hasn't died in one of the previous games, and even several who have, return for the Grand Finale of the Metal Gear series: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
- This aspect of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots deserves a specific mention: Big Boss is back. The credits begin to roll on a decidedly somber note and then they pause on "Richard Doyle - Big Boss". The player is given about three seconds to think, "Wait, I don't recall seeing him in -" and then bam, he's standing in the graveyard with Snake. He comes back for the finale of the finale and turns Snake's specific downer ending into more of a bittersweet one .
- There is only one notable surviving character from the previous MGS games who never shows up: Nastasha Romanenko.
- Telltale's Sam and Max Freelance Police:
- "Bright Side of the Moon", the finale of season 1, features returning characters from every earlier episode.
- "What's New Beelzebub", the finale of season 2, features the return of just about everybody from the last two seasons.
- From the sound of things, "The City that Dares Not Sleep", the season 3 finale, features the season's only appearance of Sybil, Abe, Mr. Featherly, Satan, and the only seasonal appearance of Jurgen outside of the Astral Projection in The Tomb of Sammun-Mak.
- Rusty Galloway, one of Cole's partners from way earlier in game, shows up briefly in the final case.
- Liara and Kaidan/Ashley return to Shepard's party in Mass Effect 3, after spending the previous game sitting it out. You also run into a bunch of extras from ME 1 (Conrad Verner, Engineer Adams) who didn't appear in the second game.
- Happens at the end of every Phoenix Wright game. The first game has Larry, the second Lotta, the third Edgeworth, and the fourth Kristoph. That's not even counting the credits montage that's each character talking to Phoenix/Apollo in turn.
- The Phoenix Wright examples go further, with Will Powers appearing at the end of JFA and Larry appearing in T&T (Adrian, but not at the end).
- Additionally, Wendy Oldbag from Phoenix Wright games 1 & 2 appears in a brief Post Credits Sequence at the end of T&T.
- Further, Mike Meekins, from case 1-5, appears in the flashback case in the 4th game, and in Ace Attorney Investigations, along with the aforementioned Wendy Oldbag.
- All the ghosts of the dead characters in Final Fantasy II appear briefly at the end in the castle.
- Not to mention the bonus "Dawn of Souls" mode in the GBA and PSP rereleases, where you control all the dead people on a quest through the afterlife to defeat the game's Big Bad one last time.
- The World Ends With You has Joshua coming back after having been dead.
- Of course, he's God, so it's okay.
- The Reconstruction has this, though it's done in a rather depressing manner. Yacatec appears in the final dungeon as a slave, and helps you get through said dungeon after you free him.
- The final episodes of Teen Titans brought back virtually every villain and honorary world Titan for a gigantic brawl.
- Everyone except Dr. Light...he apparently forgot his invitation and went and robbed a bank instead.
- Of course, those Tropers who read the source material know that Light was probably doing..."something" else.
- "Things Change", the very last episode, features a girl who may-or-may-not-be Terra. Beast Boy tries to jog her memory of her life as a Titan, but she insists that she just wants to be a normal kid and, eventually, that "things were never the way you remember". Oh, and Slade makes his one and only season 5 appearance via one of his Doombots.
- Everyone except Dr. Light...he apparently forgot his invitation and went and robbed a bank instead.
- This happened in the last season of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. After Stephen Colbert (who voiced Phil Ken Sebben and Reducto) left Harvey Birdman after The Colbert Report started growing in popularity, Sebben was hit by a bus in one of the first episodes of the final season...only to spend most of the final episode driving said bus backwards to Sebben & Sebben.
- Reducto was hit by a bus an episode after Phil. He...didn't make it.
- The finale of every season of Total Drama Island features every single eliminated contestant that season. Seasons 2 and 3 included all the panelists, who were contestants in the first season.
- Season 4, "Revenge of the Island," only brought back the contestants from that season, although there were "classic contestants" showing up periodically through the season.
- Martian Manhunter's return in the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. And Darkseid (although he showed up at the end of the second-to-last). Come to think of it, basically every major character who wasn't either dead (Brainiac), not yet born (Batman Beyond), in the future (Supergirl) or Exiled From Continuity (Bat-Embargo characters) who ever appeared in the DCAU could qualify for this, even though most of them were limited to cameos.
- The series finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender brings back some of the older characters with the introduction of the White Lotus Society.
- In King of the Hill during Luann's wedding ceremony, characters that only appeared in or two episodes throughout all the seasons showed up to attend. This would make a good example of the trope, except for Fox then gave them another season, and then cancelled them halfway through it, so they never got a chance to play this trope right.
- The final episode of the 2003 TMNT series had pretty much all of the Turtles' friends show up for Casey and April's wedding. They came in mighty handy when Cyber-Shredder decided to crash the party.
- Rita and Runt of Animaniacs, who had disappeared after the show's second season, reappeared in the series' last new segment, "The Scoring Session" (albeit with Rita being silent), and in the movie Wakkos Wish.
- The final episode of Xiaolin Showdown ends with the Xiaolin Dragons being surrounded by every single villain they faced in the entire show.
- The Recess episode, "Lawson and His Crew", which was intended to be the series finale (along with Recess: School's Out) until the show was Uncancelled due to the sucess of the movie, featured almost every character who appeared in the series, even those who only appeared once.
- Several Jackie Chan Adventures characters invoked the trope in the finale: Shendu, Valmont (The Cameo), Finn, Ratso, Chow, Hak Foo and that's just counting the villains. Fortunately none of them was working for Drago in the episode.
- All the villains appear at the end of the finale of Kim Possible, including Monkey Fist, who was turned to stone in a previous episode, and is STILL stone in the finale.
- The 1970s animated Flash Gordon ends its first season with most of the allies Flash has made in all the previous episodes gathering together for a big final battle with Ming the Merciless.
- Numerous characters from various Duckman episodes briefly turn up in the finale as guests at the wedding.
- Pikachu was right there from the start, while the other two were released in the original series and never mentioned again
- who was also in the second game