Filler

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Sakura: "So, did we even do anything this episode?"
Kakashi: "Sakura, welcome to the wonderful world... of filler."

Everyone: "Nooooo!"

Filler episodes are entries in a generally continuous serial that are unrelated to the main plot, don't significantly alter the relations between the characters, and generally serve only to take up space. This could be considered Padding applied to a whole franchise.

They are extremely common in Anime, where nearly every show has 26 or more episodes per season. The producers have to use filler just to meet contractual demands. Filler is usually something entirely original for the anime, but not always; many manga employ filler just as ruthlessly. Sometimes entire filler Arcs are created, most often because the series Overtook the Manga. Almost any long-running manga-based anime action series will tend to have gargantuan amounts of filler, because the Japanese networks, unlike western ones, pretty much don't do reruns or season breaks at all. This especially gets compounded when they go beyond the 26 episode mark. Many series get over 40 episodes a season, when they would have a hard time making even half of them related to the main plot.

In most cases, the defining aspect of filler is the total lack of series momentum. Filler can be safely ignored without any loss of important information. However, there is also a style of filler called the "single upgrade filler". Basically, it uses a filler episode to introduce a new power, machine, costume, minor character, etc. without having to work it into the greater narrative. In these cases, the episode can be ignored outside of "something got an upgrade".

The term "filler" is also used by fandom to refer to anything not in the source material. This stems from the practice mentioned above of adaptations that are threatening to catch up to the source material using original story arcs, episodes, and general content to pad things out. That is not this trope, but such cases are often related to it.

The Wacky Wayside Tribe is a common form of Filler in quest narratives. When the show splits to follow two or more characters, and one of them is engaged in Filler-type activities while the others are doing important things, it's Trapped by Mountain Lions. A Lower Deck Episode can end up as Filler if badly done. When the Filler is just flat-out bizarre, it's a Non Sequitur Episode. If you need Filler badly enough, clips of previous episodes can be hacked together into a Recap Episode.

Compare Fake Longevity, the video game equivalent. For filler in Web Comics, see Filler Strips. For filler in Music albums, see Album Filler.

Compare Breather Episode. When the news media is forced to resort to this, it's Silly Season. Or Sweeps. You decide.


Examples of Filler include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Dragon Ball had a significant amount of filler. The relaunched series, Dragon Ball Kai, eliminates much of the filler in the second series. Throughout the first two series events end up being contradicted by canon events in several places, such as:
    • An early one where Master Roshi explains the Dragon Balls to Lunch, giving a completely bogus origin story in the process, though this may be more due to Roshi believing a myth and not knowing the truth.
    • Another where they go visit Android 8's creator an in attempt to have the self-destruct mechanism within him removed, only for it to be revealed in Z that the previously unseen Dr. Gero was the one who built Android 8.
    • It also had an entire arc of this, featuring Garlic Jr. (A villain from the first anime film). Opinions are, of course, mixed about it but it didn't contradict the main storyline. (Its afore-mentioned predecessor film was the one which contradicted the canon events). Then there was the Other World Tournament, where Goku fought deceased warriors from throughout the galaxy's history after Cell blew up Goku.
    • Whether a scene was Filler or not also plays into arguments about characters' power levels within the fan community, as often, the anime filler features fights that didn't exist in the original manga and tend to throw out previously established power ranking, leading to many of them completely disregarding those scenes for the sake of the debate.
  • Naruto's filler famously went for over a year (80 weeks to be precise) after it Overtook the Manga, and by the end it was being described by fans as a form of torture. The producers of sequel Shippuuden seem to be taking careful steps not to have that many at once again: even though the manga is three or four entire arcs ahead of the anime, they've cautiously gone back to filler after the second arc, and again after the third one, which precedes two arcs with no opportunities for filler.
    • Also notable about the Shippuuden fillers is that they go against canon. Rather than a long series of Monster of the Week episodes evenly mixed with random variations of Defeat Means Friendship, the Ninja Guardians arc actually details a full-on storyline with an interesting backstory.
      • The 3-Tailed Beasts arc seemed be focusing on giving one last chance for screentime to many of the characters. Out of the recurring characters featured in the arc, 3 would later be dead, 2 would undergo a major shift in personality, 1 would suffer a significant loss in power, and 1 would, hell, just read.
      • And another recent filler was actually about another tailed beast host, Utakata. Other than Naruto, Gaara, and later on, Killer Bee, the other tailed beast hosts were either a) Captured and killed off-screen by Akatsuki and not named (or even mentioned) in the manga or b) were named, shown briefly, and then killed before we even had a chance to know them. (Roshi and Yugito) They were named, but only really in splash pages and most people who don't read Naruto wikis wouldn't even know what the other tailed beasts are anyways. Until 2010, Utakata was pretty much in category a. (Han and Fü were the only ones who were never mentioned in the anime beyond an implication)
      • Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, because the series recently fell back into doing Monster of the Week styled filler. What's jarring is that the filler are all flashbacks to Part 1 making them even more reminiscent of the 80 week long filler.
      • Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as long (21 episodes). As of the time of this writing, the plot's moving again.
    • In Shippuden things started to happen. In its desperate attempt to avoid making more filler, many episodes- especially the first couple of arcs, where it was every episode- were adaptations of a single manga chapter, whereas in Part 1, 2 or 3 might be compressed into one of not a lot happened. Since this hasn't changed, since there were still chapters where not a lot happened, this led to episodes where characters literally did nothing, including an incredulous one where Naruto, Yamato and Sakura stood around for 20 minutes talking about how they needed to get moving and catch up to Orochimaru. The fillers, at least, had much better, more normal pacing, though Shippuden also had a drop in animation quality which didn't help. Perhaps one of the greatest evils of filler, then, is not the filler itself, but when the main storyline takes a drop in quality as a result of it, in this case to avoid it. What makes Shippuden's case fairly egregious is that it's about two years behind the manga, which to many people makes the filler inexplicable. Especially since the later arcs were very well received by the fandom.
    • Recently, the worst-case scenario kind of filler has been slapped down- an episode of PURE FLASHBACKS focused on Sasuke's descent into madness.
  • Bleach seems to avoid the "quality of fillers" complaint; the general complaint on the Bount filler arc has usually been "the filler exists". When asked to elaborate, a fan will usually say "it's not that the filler arc was bad, it's just that the original story is better." It was considered Bleach's worst filler arc until the Invading Army arc (explained below).
    • The Captain Amagai arc, meanwhile, started pretty randomly in the middle of an established story arc, where after defeating Grimmjow, Ichigo wound up back in Karakura Town. "Orihime was kidnapped by Aizen's group, but let's take a break and look at something else." It addresses issues that will eventually need to be looked at (i.e. the lack of captains for squads three, five, and nine) but it's just so random.
      • Lampshaded in the episode preview:

Ichigo: Hey, what's going on here? What happened to Hueco Mundo and the Arrancar?

      • They even acknowledged the worthlessness of the Amagai arc in The Stinger of its final episode. Ichigo trots back to Hueco Mundo like nothing happened (and nothing did), and Orihime shows him the point in the manga where they left off when he arrives.
      • The amusing part was how before and after the latest filler arc started, all characters but Ichigo treated it like they were all actors for a show. Ichigo was quite confused...
    • The quality of the show has managed to remain so consistent that some anime-only viewers mistake actual manga events as filler and vice versa. The Turn Back The Pendulum arc was believed by many to be a filler arc due to its random placement in the story, yet it perfectly matched the sequence of story arcs in the manga.
    • The newest set of stand-alone filler material (episodes 213, 214, 228 and 287) are all imported from the manga, but it seems that the writers have given up on trying to do anything remotely dramatic, often crashing into the realm of self-parody, so as one could imagine, these episodes are quite popular amongst the fandom.
    • The Zanpakuto Unknown Tales arc proved that not only can filler have a good plot, but animation and choreography on par with much of the original manga material. The mini-arc that followed right behind it admittedly wasn't as intense or exciting as the previous one, and more on the level as episodes 213/214, but it was downright hilarious, and provided surprising depth and/or development for several Zanpakuto spirits. For many of the fandom, nit-picks are the only form of complaint both these arcs garnered, but as with anything in this series, debates and mixed reactions over these filler arcs remain.
    • With the anime finally done with the canon story of the Winter Battle, it was speculated that the series would come to an end or be on hiatus a la Gintama, since the manga barely into its new arc. And there was no way they can possibly drag the series enough till there was enough new material, right? WRONG! the writers dove headfirst with their own new filler arc, the only difference from the previous ones is that they don't have to worry about stopping the main plot to do it.
    • That said, Bleach's final Filler arc, known as the Invading Army Arc, is considered by fans to be worse than the Bount Arc. Most of this is due to massive inconsistency, numerous plot holes, a villain (Kageroza Inaba) even more overpowered than Aizen, and Nozomi Kujo embodying several aspects of a Mary Sue. She's taken over the course of the arcs' story, breaks many rules in the Bleach Universe, proves to completely outmatch the Gotei 13 (including Yamamoto, who gets trashed twice this arc) and by now, she's been labeled as the most hated filler character in Bleach history (even more than the Bount sensing Mod Souls, and the princess) even beating out Aizen as a Creator's Pet.
      • It's worth noting, however, that the animation quality of this filler arc is in many ways superior even to many of the better canon episodes. And the entertainment value of some of the crack match-ups makes up for the somewhat boorish writing.
      • The arc was well liked when it was just mirror matches.
      • It's possible that the anime was cancelled after the Lost Agent Arc, due to how badly received this arc was.
  • To show where Filler can go dangerously wrong, Rurouni Kenshin was actually cancelled due to the extremely low quality of its Filler Arc, and given a movie with a Gecko Ending.
    • Elaborating, Filler after the Kyoto Arc started nice, but went downhill. The first arc (Shougo's), while having eventual holdings of Idiot Balls and a disappointing amount of fighting, still had interesting characters, an unexplored element of Japan's history, and the animation was still as nice as ever. Then came the Daigoro Arc, which had too much padding, but still one or two interesting moments. After that, the Black Knights arc; an interesting idea (European knights in Japan), but badly explored, as the story took too long to ever go anywhere and the battles were very, very static. And for the final blow there came the Feng Shui Arc, which had a ridiculously hard-to-follow plot, bland new characters, random unexplained events and practically zero action. Naturally, the show was cancelled after it.
  • Ditto Kinnikuman and Kinnikuman Nisei, whose filler arcs got them canceled. Both of them got revived later, but Nisei got canned again and The Resolution Will Not Be Televised.
  • Going against the grain, Nadia and The Secret of Blue Water, despite being only 39 episodes, wound up having a filler arc added in the middle of production. These were the dreaded "island/Africa episodes" (episodes 23-34) in which the entire quality of the production, from the animation to the storyline, sank like a stone. They were commissioned only because the ratings were very high and imposed on the production team against their will. Hideaki Anno actually had nothing to do with their production because he was so taxed with just fulfilling his original duties and in later interviews expressed that of the episodes, he would only keep parts of two of them at most because they were so unimportant to the story.
  • Any "Chii and [insert name here] Talk" episode in Chobits. They were considered so pointless and unnecessary to the plot that they were completely excised from the first North American DVD release, and only released as a bonus disc after fans complained.
  • Ditto Gintama. However, the very first episode of the anime was completely filler.
  • The Pokémon anime only starts a new game-based arc on the day the games in question are released, in Japan at least. This has led lots of filler episodes. The Johto arc is considered terrible due to the many bad filler episodes and poor pacing since it had no filler to fall back on before the next region. The Hoenn arc however was considered an improvement, as May's quest was given same the importance as Ash's and thus there were able to get two storylines worth of episodes and need less filler. The Battle Frontier arc was a mixed bag, due to uneven placement of the filler episodes.
    • Early on, many filler episodes were simply the result of a carnival being in the town juuuust as Ash and co. arrived. Other times, it was due to them getting lost because no-one could read the map properly, or ending up in a town that wasn't present in the games.
    • According to math, Johto was comprised of 50% filler. Surprisingly, the Sinnoh arc was only 18% filler. The Unova arc also contains less filler.
    • A recurring variant of filler episode in recent years is to just mash up a bunch of clips from major battles into one thirty-minute long video, add music, and call it a day. The dub, thankfully, skims over these.
  • Slayers does have at least three or four per season, and they are usually the funniest parts.
  • The third season of the Ikki Tousen anime, Great Guardians, has no basis in the original manga and has little bearing on the overall plot. The slightly slower pace and bigger emphasis on character interaction still make it a fairly enjoyable watch though.
  • A large part of Rockman.EXE Stream was like this.
    • Megaman Starforce was even worse. It had a great plot for the first half, a lot of promise. Then the creators forgot there was a plot for almost the entire second half of the series. So we got a bunch of random episodes about the FMs goofing around on earth until the last few episodes when the creators finally remembered that there was a plot. The series was hastily ended with a lot of loose threads and a bunch of stuff that made no sense unless you had played the Starforce video game, and even then the plots between the two mediums were so different by that point that is was more of a fill in the blanks and hope you're right thing.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth anime in the first season has a lot of filler episodes. This, however, proves to be very important when it comes to Character Development. It also borrows several elements used in the manga too.
    • And then on the second season there's everything involving Nova.
  • Altough not as much as Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh!! has a LOT of filler (about 80 episodes out of 224). Specific arcs are Noah's, Doma/Waking the Dragons and the KC Grand Prix, plus a few stand-alone filler episodes. The debate on which of those are good and which are crap can reach Flame War proportions. That's the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom for ya.
    • The Noah arc's status as filler was lampshaded rather hilariously in the dub by Kaiba:

Kaiba: "Alright, that little detour was a complete waste of my time and effort, so let's move on and pretend all that nonsense never happened. It's time to continue the Battle City Finals."

    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's has more of a universally agreed-upon list of filler, especially in the second season; The Crashtown arc, for instance, is to 5D's as the Noah saga was to the original. (Except for those who wanted to see the fate of a former-Dark Signer: Kiryu)
    • Team Taiyou is also considered this since no cards are released from their decks. Even moreso when they are not involved in WC 2011 game.
    • Season 2 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had 52 episodes. A good quarter or more consisted of Duelist of the Week episodes with no relevance to the overarcing plot, instead relying on Excuse Subplots (the Genex Tournament, Crowler and Bonaparte trying to groom a student into a celebrity duelist) to set up duels. A six episode mini-arc revolved around the students going on a field trip to Domino City, but aside from meeting Sartorius's sister and some backstory on him, it too was mostly filler, and could probably have been trimmed down into four or even three episodes.
  • Soul Eater had a few hilarious fillers involving the character Excalibur, who's pretty much a filler-character, although he does come in on the last arc.
  • Just like the Soul Eater example above, and unlike most other filler episodes trying to be funny, Fairy Tail's filler episodes actually are funny. Especially episodes 19 and 50. It helps that much of the filler is based on ideas that manga creator Hiro Mashima had but was never able to use.
  • Sailor Moon has a fan guide called "Sailor Moon Essential Episodes" that roughly pinpoints 53 episodes as completely irrelevant filler, with an additional 51 being single plot point/power upgrade curiosities (along with five vital episodes of the Doom Tree arc still considered filler). The show only had 200 episodes total.
    • Worse yet, while most of the filler episodes at least justify their existence by featuring villain activity (often providing some characterization for the villains in the process), there's a couple of stories that aren't related to the villains at all (first season episode featuring a psychic girl, second season episode with dinosaurs, etc.)
  • Dennou Coil is mainly the story of Isako and her connection to the weird phenomena in the virtual world. This makes the episodes in which she doesn't even appear feel rather pointless.
    • The filler episodes do feature Yasako, the other main character, and her friends exploring the nature of illegals, however, which gives them a point. It could be said that Yasako is the protagonist through whose eyes the action is seen, making her understanding of the milieu more important than Isako's arc.
    • And then there's the beard episode...
  • While the first anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist had some filler, the Remake is (so far at least), an aversion: characters and events introduced in the original's filler episodes (like the introduction of Barry The Chopper and the Elrics removing a corrupt official of a mining town from power) are only quickly referenced, letting the main Story Arc progress in every episode.
    • In fact some are fearing it might be headed into the opposite direction, though this may simply apply to the episodes covering stories already adapted into the first anime.
    • The first anime also averted filler for the most part (with the exception of two episodes at the beginning) due to the writers going in a completely different direction with the plot.
  • Compared to most shows of its length (ten years and counting!) One Piece has had relatively few filler arcs, due in part to how jam-packed with details Eiichiro Oda's stories tend to be (making it easy for writers to do Adaptation Expansion.) The filler arcs which are present are a mixed bag; fans generally hate the Warship Island arc, but many consider the G8 arc to be good enough to stand with the best of the canonical material. The recent Ice Hunter arc got high marks as well, perhaps because it was outlined by Oda himself.
  • The second half of the To Aru Kagaku no Railgun anime is filler, containing material not covered by the original manga (or the original original novels), focusing largely on minor, uninteresting characters and had little to no action (As in, the exact opposite of the rest of the series, or the parent series To Aru Majutsu no Index). Even though the stories were outlined by the original author, you could tell it was made solely because it would sell regardless of quality. Considering Railgun is the More Popular Spinoff... it did.
  • Fist of the North Star had more episodic villains than there were in the manga. This is particularly in the first season, due to overtaking the series to a huge extent, and wanting to put the first major fight (Kenshiro vs. Shin) at the end of the season. This involved inventing new henchmen for Shin every week and turning some independent enemies into his lackeys. The third season also overtook the manga, but stretched out the Souther fight and put five recap episodes at the very end of the season.
  • The Suzumiya Haruhi 'Endless Eight' arc is filler taken Up to Eleven: the beginning and end have slight differences to begin and resolve the story, and the other six are almost the exact same things happening over and over again albeit completely re-animated and re-voiced.
  • Code Geass had two Clip Show episodes that the staff openly referred to as Filler; they weren't even included in the DVD release. However, many fans consider any episode that doesn't directly correlate to the war between the Black Knights and Britannia to be Filler, resulting in a lot of hate for the Breather Episodes that focus on Ashford Academy. The writers possibly fired back in the final School Festival episode, where Milly remarks (paraphrased) "There's nothing wrong with the little filler moments in life" - and in the English dub, she outright uses the word "filler".
  • Kimagure Orange Road is one of the few series to have fillers that the fan considered to be awesome.
  • Being only 49-episode long, the fillers in Macross 7 are incredibly hard to deal with since you can't totally avoid any episode without missing out some important events. In the first half of the show, you can count around 10 battles with nearly identical situation, the villains repeatedly announce their objectives (more Spiritia!) but ultimately retreat while accomplishing nothing, boring Stock Footage and the same songs being performed over and over. But mixed among those sequences are bits and bits of important information, making the show an obvious result from Executive Meddling to make the show longer than it should be.
  • Sora no Otoshimono is a rare example of a manga with filler. There's no other way to call interrupting the main arc for some random perverted wacky hijinks of Tomoki (And maybe one or two pages with plot at the end). The worst part? It's a monthly manga. Thankfully the plot's great... when the author gets to it.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Enishi contains a tremendous amount of filler compared to the first series; which is unusual, since it's actually shorter. Annoyingly, no single episode can be just skipped over, since the creators almost invariably throw in a scene or two of story or character development just to keep it from being entirely irrelevant. To the point that removing all the filler from episodes 2 through 9 would leave about one and a half episodes of relevant material.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion didn't have very many of these (due to its being only 26 episodes long), but the most notable was Episode 7, "A Human Work". It contains no Angels, has no real bearing on the story, has little to no character development (other than Shinji's anger over Misato's slobbiness, leading to Shinji's being assured by Toji and Kensuke that knowing how slobby she is compared to her beautiful real-world persona makes them "a family"), and pretty much serves only to fill in the space between the battle with Ramiel and Asuka's introduction to the story. Though it is worth noting that despite the episodes afformentioned lack of content it does add a bit of world building and drops some large hints at NERV's more seedy involvements in the overall events of the series.
  • Digimon was normally surprisingly good at averting this, unusual for a Merchandise-Driven anime of such length per series, but Digimon Frontier had a little bit of a problem with it. Then came Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time, where almost literally the entire series is filler: in twenty-five episodes, there have been only the vaguest hints of greater things going on but have been largely ignored in favour of pointless filler. The practical upshot was to leave them with just three episodes to introduce, carry out and conclude an actual plot. After the excellent high that was its immediate predecessor, especially in regard to its lack of filler, no-one was amused.
    • Being the previous contender for the most episodic installment, 02 was surprisingly good at averting this—but episodes 12 and 15, which featured romps through a Digital western and Little Edo town respectively, did nothing to advance the plot or characterization.
  • The anime version of Yu Yu Hakusho has episode 3, where Yusuke, as a ghost, helps Kuwabara in his dealings with a nasty teacher threatening one of his friends. Aside from a dub-added line, none of the events in this episode are alluded to again, and the next episode's Recap doesn't mention it at all—a viewer could skip from episode 2 to episode 4 without feeling like anything's missing. It firmly establishes Kuwabara as a likable character, but it's notable in a Shonen adaptation that otherwise has no filler episodes at all.
  • Gurren Lagann is essentially devoid of filter- save for one questionable episode- Episode 16: Entire Polysynthesis. It's the equivalent of a clip show detailing the last 15 episodes to help make the transition of a 7-year Time Skip. However, it has virtually no new material, accompanied by live-action scenes of a writer's hands drawing title cards and commentary statements. The eyecatches themselves are made from those of the past episodes put back-to-back, 4x4, and in chronological order, with the anime title filling the last empty square. Oddly enough, its presence makes the show end on 27 episodes, cluing the viewer in that like a normal seasonal anime, 26 full episodes were produced- but this one was tossed in for good measure.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • X-Men comics has had several:
    • Uncanny X-Men #228: a filler issue designed to wrap up loose ends from Dazzler's ongoing book via flashback tale, made worse by the fact that the issue beforehand was the last part of the "Fall of the Mutants" storyline, which set up a new status quo for the X-Men.
    • Uncanny X-Men #512: Matt Fraction does a one-off time travel/steampunk storyline which has the illusion of being important in the grand scheme of things via revealing why the Celestial in San Francisco was guarding, but never comes to anything and makes the issue just Fraction indulging in his own writing fetishes.
    • Subverted with Roy Thomas's run in the 1960s, especially during the Factor Three storyline. Thomas uses the lengthy storyline to flesh out details (such as the X-Men struggling with reaching the bad guys lair without Xavier's resources) most writers would have glossed over.
  • Subverted with the The Avengers tie-in issues for Secret Invasion, as the tie-ins essentially serve the purpose of filling in a TON of plot holes from the whole Skrull invasion storyline.
  • The first three issues of Peter David's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series were forced crossover issues, leading to David joking that fans should just avoid those issues issues as filler and even had the first official TPB for his run called "False Start", as a joke about how issue #4 was the real first issue of the series.
  • The infamous Titans Hunt storyline in New Titans was infamous for this. There are two filler issues tossed into the storyline (#80 and #81) which exist mainly to shill the newly introduced Team Titans and to serve as a "War of the Gods" crossover issue. The later is ironic: at the time, the Titans were largely off-limits for big storylines (the book was only sold at comic shops at the time), though in this case the plotline kind of had to be addressed as Donna Troy played a major role in War of the Gods and her involvement had to be addressed.
  • Filler issues in comic books often exist because of plans changing at the last minute. Teen Titans had a crossover with Outsiders with another crossover planned soon after. DC decided to just make the second crossover a separate miniseries, resulting in a two-issue filler arc in each book.
  • Alternatively, there is the cynical notion that fans consider Crisis Crossover issues to be filler and can ultimately be skipped, while comic companies see the crossover issues as important and the stories that exist between crossovers as the real "filler". This in turn has led to some Crisis Crossovers putting out mini-series for the big name characters so that the main books don't get interrupted, though this has the negative effect (especially when the mini-serieses don't impact the Crisis Crossover in any meaningful way) of the mini-series being treated as filler and ignored.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has Filler Bunny, a cute little bunny rabbit who was created and tortured by cruel scientists for the purpose of filling pages when Vasquez can't come up with enough material.
  • Book 5 and 6 of Les Légendaires count as this: not only does it have few, if anything, to do with what was the main plot at this point, but most of the events of those Books are retconned in-story thanks to Jadina's time reset. The main villain of those book, Captain Ceyderom, is the least important of all the major villains and the only one to not appear again after this arc. On the other hand, Prince Halan, who is also introduced in this book, appears again later, and theme such as Jadina's Arranged Marriage are further explored later.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley started off as a novella. When asked to write a novel length version of the story, the additional material is mostly a completely unrelated sub-plot.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Many TV series will have a subplot, and often these will have little or nothing to do with the main story. However, these can serve several purposes beyond padding the episode – most notably, it can be used to contrast the tone of the main plot (usually, this will be light comedy), it can advance a recurring storyline, or it can test new actors and/or characters to audiences.
    • Additionally, establishing shots – used to give context to the next scene or act – can sometimes be used as padding, especially if they come into play for more than a few seconds or if several are used in succession.
  • Lampooned in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: Dean Learner states that so many slow-motion sequences were used because the episodes often ran several minutes short and they had to be bulked out somehow.
  • Standard operating fare in certain live action SF and fantasy series like Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because the series or season arc would be designed to unfold slowly over the course of many episodes. This is true even of long-running series like Stargate SG-1, in which each season has its own Story Arc, and most episodes at least address the main arc at some point—and even then some of the episodes that have very little effect on the arc have proven to be popular with fans due to being humorous Breather Episodes, such as the Groundhog Day Loop episode "Window of Opportunity", or the self-parodying episodes "Wormhole X-Treme!" or "200" (all from Stargate SG-1), or the Halloween episodes of Buffy.
  • Related example: Super Sentai and Power Rangers mostly follow the "half arc, half filler" formula, but each Sentai series has to run for a whole year's 48-52 episodes, whereas Power Rangers are usually much shorter. Some fans feel that the short seasons are sometimes an improvement, since 32-episode PR season is much more story intense and less filler-ridden than a 50-episode Sentai.
    • Not anymore. Now that Power Rangers has made the Channel Hop to Nickelodeon, news has come down that the new season is going to be 40 episodes.
    • Early seasons of Power Rangers were crammed full of filler, but this is mostly due to them being strictly Monster of the Week shows with little or no actual story arc. Only about 14 of the first season's 60 episodes actually advance the plot.
  • Less justifiable in the original series of Doctor Who, however. Serials running for five to seven episodes or more usually have so much padding, contrivances and irrelevant storylines they can get hard to watch. This was reduced in later series (starting with the Fourth Doctor), with a more manageable four episodes per serial and rarer six-part episodes. Even in the Sixth Doctor season 22, where the runtime was temporarily switched to 45 minutes instead of the usual 25, the serials go over the two parts only once.
    • In particular, the First Doctor serial The Dalek's Master Plan, a massive 12-parter (plus a prologue episode broadcast weeks earlier and notable for not featuring any of the main cast), had a Christmas Episode intentionally meant as filler.
  • A few seasons into The X-Files, the show settled into a mixture of "mythology" episodes and "Monster of the Week" episodes. If you were watching for the myth arc, the Monster of the Week episodes were filler.
  • The Prisoner was originally intended to be a seven episode miniseries. The network wanted more, and so ten standalone episodes were created and intermixed with the main Story Arc. Less noticeable than in other series with a high filler percentage, as most of the filler episodes are still good.
  • Unless it's 60 Minutes (the sacred cow of the entire genre), American newsmagazines seem to only exist these days in order to fill spots in the ANSI Standard Broadcast TV Schedule where other programming has failed. Often filled out to two hours and consisting entirely of Missing White Woman Syndrome - heavy True Crime stories solved years ago with running time-lengthening twists even the most dimwitted viewer can see as insulting their intelligence. Rock Center is trying to avert this, but notice that it's not replacing any of Dateline NBC's airtime.
  • Swedish children's sci-fi comedy show Vintergatan, both 5A and 5B, had children getting to call the characters and help them with personal things. These conversations could get very, very, very annoying. Even more frustrating in the sequel, which only had ten episodes instead of around forty-fifty—conversations on the ship between one certain alien and one certain human, mostly showing off their Odd Couple-sort of relationship, and serving absolutely no purpose, aside from minor Character Development—which was forced by the plot later on anyway.
  • Used as a quick gag in the Musical Episode of Buffy, where the cast sings "Walk Through The Fire," and Willow's only line in the song is "I think this line's mostly filler."
  • It usually happens in Fringe, where there's always a Monster of the Week focus and mostly all of the episodes advance very little on the plot. There was one episode in the second season, for example, that showed Charlie Francis alive. Keep in mind, the character had already died in the show, but apart from that, it felt like a normal episode. Apparently, it had been filmed for the first season but they waited until then to air it.
  • One particularly obvious example of this on Saturday Night Live was the 1985-86 season's Christmas episode hosted by Teri Garr. The centerpiece of the episode was meant to be a 'made-for-TV movie' spoof called "The Big Tree," which was split across a commercial break due to its length. However, the entire second half of the sketch was cut (most likely after 10 PM dress rehearsal) after the audience failed to respond, so the live episode has painful patches of filler. Segments such as Teri's monologue and Don Novello's 'Mr X.' commentary on Weekend Update are clearly padded out to be much, much longer than they should've been; and a sketch about a tropical island further drags out the episode by using a number of overlong stock-footage clips.
  • Sons of Anarchy Season 2 has the first couple of episodes seem to set the stage for the rest of the series...until it becomes apparent that the resolution to this begins about three episodes from the end. The remaining episodes generally expand on subplots and have many, many instances of Just Shoot Him.
  • It was pretty common in the first two seasons of Farscape to alternate between arc-oriented stories and monster-of-the-week filler episodes. The plot was fairly ill-defined and the characters needed fleshing out anyway, so it was quite bearable. Still, these episodes were safe to ignore until the third season or so, when old filler characters started to play crucial roles in the main stories. New material that seemed like filler was also harder to dismiss. Especially when what had seemed like a textbook filler-psychopath-of-the-week twinned the main character, changing the course of that season and throwing a monkey-wrench the size of a Command Carrier into John and Aeryn's relationship.
  • The "Mirror Universe" episodes of the various Star Trek television series fell into this. Placing the action in an alternate universe allowed the writers to create new stories without affecting the main "timeline" in any shape or form, could result in alternate (or darker) versions of already-established characters (which was a great acting opportunity for the main cast because they got to try a different spin on their role), had massive battle sequences with real consequences and casualties...and were always forgotten about as soon as the episode was over. This was later averted with the 2009 Star Trek reboot, which is intended to be a long-term relaunch of the franchise in an alternate universe.
  • Improv-heavy Outnumbered's solution to an episode coming up short seems to be having little Karen act out a Reality Show with plushies, and cutting that into the episode as necessary.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Side Missions are pretty much the definition of Fillers in Video Games. They have nothing to do with the main storyline, and are pretty much there just as a break from the main game play with the added bonus of gaining extra experience points.
    • They generally have nothing to do with the main storyline. Sometimes they have a lot to do with the main storyline... just not with advancing it.
  • Final Fantasy XII has about 30 hours worth of story and 200 hours of sidequests that consist of plotless monster hunting.
    • That's not counting the miles and miles of plains you have to walk through to get from A to B. The walk from Nalbina to Archades takes the cake though—nearly 5 hours of walking and no plot bar two exposition scenes clocking in at 10 minutes.
    • Made more egregious the fact that three easy ways to cross the distance in no time flat are unavailable to you: buying a ticket on an airship, using Balthier's airship, and having someone who has been to Arcadia before (e.g. Balthier) use a teleport stone. Just pointless. Pretty, but pointless.
  • Tales of Symphonia had the infamous and distracting hunt for the Ymir Fruit in Ymir Forest, a fruit that was said to be able to cure every disease. The fruit was needed to heal an elf woman which was never seen in game, and which had no impact on the plot. The player had to solve the puzzle regardless, since the sick woman's child blocked the way to the protagonist's destination. Just so you understand why is this is irritating, the puzzle is really dumb, hard, frustrating and technically unnecessary, as the characters could circumvent having to do it if they used their brains. Strangely, the protagonists ignored the fact that they were on a quest to cure a disease of one of their party members at that time and could just use the fruit to heal her.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 4 is pretty much a Filler Game. It's a little hard to detail exactly why as nothing much happens, but we can say it's a Tournament Arc Game that you have to finish three times if you want to collect everything, and a paper-thin plot that is resolved within the span of 30 minutes.
    • 5 too, to a certain extent.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was basically Metal Gear Solid with Big Boss instead of Snake or Raiden. It's not considered a bad game since the story and the characters are all quite entertaining, but it is considered a disappointment, since all it contributes to the overall arc of the series is to retcon a few character's backstories for (nonsexual) Fan Service, and shows where Big Boss thought up the name "Outer Heaven." On the other hand, its important to the overall saga as it also acts as an early-bird clue that its Zero, not the CIA Director from Metal Gear Solid 3, who founded the Patriots, something that's later confirmed in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
    • Metal Gear Solid Mobile is this as well - a completely pointless mission that does show the development of Solid Snake and Otacon's friendship, but also chooses to have Snake's memories of the mission erased at the end. So much for that, then!
  • With the development of the Guild Wars world, particularly in the Factions and Nightfall campaign, almost the entire Prophecies campaign can be seen as this (particularly as, as is finally revealed in Nightfall, the major events the player witnesses and takes parts in in Prophecies were part of an elaborate plan by Abaddon, the former - and deposed - god of death, to worm his way back into the mortal realm from the Realm of Torment.
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia is actually large made of filler. However the filler is often highly entertaining and some see it as the point of the story to begin with.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has Ellicor II. Being here pretty much eats up about half of the game and it has almost NO relevance to the plot, so much so that the filler is it's own plot and they have to actually bring the plot to the planet, I.E. aliens invading during a filler plot important war because the protagonist is taking too long to leave and continue the plot. Most plot points actually go unsolved.
  • Kingdom Hearts. Almost every Disney world ever in every game, but slightly subverted in the second, when the Big Bad's Dragons or the Butt Monkey villain show up to summon the Monster of the Week, or in some the cases of the Dragons, become Those Bosses.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Kevin and Kell suffered from this when it was syndicated in Atlanta's newspapers; Since then, it's gone from a funny-but-plot-heavy comic to a primarily Gag-A-Day comic with the occasional story lasting more than one day.
  • Misfile has started to have a bit of this. The thirteenth book is full of weak stories that ultimately go nowhere and just feel like filler from the beginning. The Halloween party is the worst, since it's been built up for a couple of books, and then ended with an identity crisis. It was pretty much filler since it was first mentioned.
  • Homestuck had an 'Intermission Arc' which focused on the Alternate Universe Evil Counterparts to Problem Sleuth's team: the Midnight Crew. It's a subversion: The Midnight Crew is actually agents from another game played by another race, and are actually are larger part of the plot then originally hinted at.
    • Hussie's self-insert segments can be seen as this, as they come out of nowhere and have no real influence on the plot. He at one point addresses these concerns, and admit that his reach of influence into the story will only amount to one yard.
      • Exactly one yard. After John and Jade escape the Scratch by literally Breaking the Fourth Wall, Hussie posits that they will travel exactly one yard before entering the session they created. Oh, and it takes them three years.
    • Played straight at times; sometimes the story pace slows to a crawl and nothing in particular happens of import for a couple weeks at a time. One arc lasted almost 2 months before the pace picked back up.
  • Eight Bit Theater had at least one filler arc, with a couple more which could possibly be considered filler: Unarguably, nothing comes of an arc in which the Warriors of Light take over the town of Gaia. The frozen wasteland arc introduced the doomsday cultists, who did reappear, but did little to further the overall plot, and the Onrac arc was little more than a Shaggy Dog Story for the city in question, though it did set the Warriors of Light on the route to their next destination.
  • Parodied to the point of deconstruction in 4 Swords Misadventures. When Red and Green Link were fighting over Zelda (It Makes Sense in Context), it flashes back to a conversation between Red and Green in Naruto-style, with Purple and Blue, Mystery Theatre 3000-style, critiquing the use of filler time and taking away from the action.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The majority of Nostalgia Critic episodes are over twenty minutes with some sketch comedy, character stuff and done with a fair amount of energy (even when the Critic's depressed). But there are a few that Doug has admitted to rushing because he gave in to fan demands and just wanted to get out the way.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender had a few episodes per season, which includes both "The Runaway" (one of the more popular episodes of the series) and "The Great Divide" (generally the least liked episode of the series). Lampshaded in a recap parody towards the end of season three:

Aang: Look, it's the Great Divide! The biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom!
Sokka: Ehh... Let's keep flying.

    • A better lampshading is the actual introduction to the recap episode:

Sokka: Come on, a day at the theater! This is the kind of wacky time-wasting nonsense I've been missing.

    • Specifically, "The Great Divide" and "The Painted Lady" stand out as the only two episodes of the show that can be removed completely without disrupting the show's flow in the slightest. "The Runaway" at least has important character development for Katara and Toph, as well as continuing the Combustion Man subplot.
    • And "The Fortuneteller" was just one long Ship Tease and nothing else.
    • "Tales from Ba Sing Se", though a filler episode, gives Iroh a real Tear Jerker back story, as well as showing exactly why Appa hasn't met up with the rest of the Gaang...
    • The Clear My Name episode "Avatar Day" infringed on the Sequel Hook "The Swamp" set up for "The Blind Bandit". It foreshadowed the return of Suki and the B Plot had Zuko seperate, but the former wasn't necessary, and the latter could've been stuffed into the previous episode.
  • Most of Season 4 and parts of Season 3 of Code Lyoko. Ironically, Season 1 was a Monster of the Week kind of show, but it started out that way, and thus, the idea of filler wasn't a consideration until after such time as the series grew a beard, so to speak, and shifted to a Story Arc format for Season 2 and the Prequel episodes. So, it's debatable if the so-called filler was really just a return to form.
    • Also, due to Season 1's Monster of the Week format, you could actually watch most of the episodes in any order, with the exception of the season finale, as the last episode of that season starts off from where the previous one left off, making it a two-parter.
  • Total Drama Island has a pretty blatant example in the form of "Camp Castaways", in which the Final Four end up trapped on a "deserted island" (actually Chris's secret production camp). Although the foursome seem to bond a bit over the course of the episode, this is completely disregarded at the end when they all agree to pretend it never happened.
  • DuckTales: "The Duck Who Would Be King", the second episode of the "Time is Money"-five parter, can easily be left out without disturbing the course of the story. At the end of the first episode, the protagonists attempt to return to the present after traveling to prehistoric times. At the start of the second episode they accidently arrive in another ancient time period and have an adventure unrelated to the main plot of the story arc. They leave this time period again at the end of the episode. At the start of the third episode, they finally arrive back in the present. None of the events from the second episode are ever mentioned again in the rest of the story arc, and episodes one and three perfectly connect to each other even without episode two in between.
  • Scooby Doo: In the 1970 episode "Jeepers, It's The Creeper," Scooby is disguised as a chicken in a chicken coop as he and Shaggy and trying to escape the Creeper. Scooby accidentally hatches an egg, and the subsequent baby chick tags along with our heroes, thinking Scooby is its mother. Its only tie-in with the episode is at the end, when Scooby passes another nest and several eggs hatch, the chicks thinking Scooby is their mother.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In newspapering, fillers are sometimes used to, appropriately, fill space. These might take one of several forms:
    • Famous quotes, fun facts or quick stories that are generally humorous in nature.
    • Filler advertisements. Often, these will be "house ads," or advertisements created by an editor or advertising department selling the newspaper. Other times, stock ads – often, these are public service ads from the Ad Council – may be used.
    • Clip art or graphics that might apply to the season or an upcoming holiday, but otherwise serve little purpose. While these were more common in the era before computer pagination of pages (which allow page designers to adjust the leading or length of a story to fit a specific space), sometimes after everything has been adjusted and there is still enough white space remaining, the editor will turn to using filler. The result is a cleanly-designed page that the reader can rarely notice the difference
  • In radio, in the era where virtually every radio station had network news at the top of the hour – and was available only by live feed – many stations used instrumental songs to fill time remaining between the end of the last song and when the network news began. Stations often had a library of a few dozen generic-sounding records, each sounding somewhat like the genre they played, which were used to fill out the remaining hour, often if there wasn't a current song or recurrent that was short enough to fit the remaining time without cutting it off early. The jockey sometimes read announcements or previewed the next hour, but if he chose not to talk, the song would allow the jockey to avoid broadcasting "dead air" (silence).
    • WPFM, an album-rock station in Panama City FL, broke for ABC news at the top of an hour in a 1977 broadcast. Afterwards, there was dead air for some three minutes before soft violin music started playing. Immediately, the DJ at the station finally returned to local and quipped "You learn something new everyday. Today it's 'don't go to the bathroom during ABC news'."