How We Got Here

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"Well, this is where you came in..."
Joe Gillis, viewing his own dead body, Sunset Boulevard

A type of In Medias Res/Whole-Episode Flashback, where the story opens at a point at (or near) the end of the story, and the bulk of the story is spent showing how the character got to this point.

See also Back to Front, Foregone Conclusion, Starts with Their Funeral, and This Is My Story. Goes very well with Private Eye Monologue. Can often be used as a highly effective Driving Question.

Examples of How We Got Here include:


  • Pizza Pops commercials begin by showing everything and everyone in it splattered with the filling. Then the commercial cuts back to just before someone is about to smash the pop.
  • There's one amazingly funny NASCAR themed commercial for Diet Mountain Dew out there. It starts with the #88 racecar being driven through a street. The driver does an amazing skid and comes to a stop in his driveway. The driver gets out:

Kid: Whoa, dad! Where'd you get that?
Father: Oh you won't believe what just happened!
[Cuts to him pulling a Diet Mountain Dew bottle off an empty shelf. He turns and finds Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in full fire suit, looking at him in disbelief]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Don't tell me you got the last Diet Dew.
Father: Yeah.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I love the taste of Diet Dew. Whaddaya want for it?
Father: Uhhh... [glances at Earnhardt's car outside in the parking lot]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Deal.


Anime and Manga

  • The first episode of Yu Yu Hakusho starts shortly after Yusuke's death, and has him retracing his steps to see how he got himself into this.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi: the first episode is a movie that the characters chronologically would have made around episode 11. There are also several mini examples of this trope throughout the series due to the anachronistic airing order; characters often reference events that the viewers haven't yet seen.
  • The Berserk series starts off with Volumes 1 and 2, with Guts firmly in Black Swordsman mode. Volumes 3 through 14 of the manga, the Golden Age arc covered by the anime after the first episode, explain how Guts got to where he was in the first two.
  • The Big O, episode 7, opens with Angel and Roger trapped in an old office building on the bottom of the ocean. In flashbacks, Roger shows how this came to pass.
  • The Rurouni Kenshin manga has a variation. The Big Bad of the arc Enishi, has destroyed two buildings from people who have met Kenshin (one only once). He then meets Kenshin and challenges him to a duel, after Kenshin is forced to accept the challenge does Kenshin return and tell his friends why his brother-in-law wants revenge.
  • Code Geass almost did this, according to Word of God; the show's creators briefly considered beginning the series by showing Lelouch and Suzaku pointing guns at each other, as per Episode 25 as the first scene, then going back several months to show how two friends could have gotten into such a situation.
  • The anime version of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni does this with several of its' arcs, particularly Onikakushi-hen and Watanagashi-hen, which kick things off with the murder of one or more major characters and then hit the 'rewind' button back to the chronological start of the arc.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann opens on the bridge of a vast space battleship as we see its mature and scarred commander, who holds in his hand a small conical key, launch an attack to open the final battle of an intergalactic war. Cut to teenage Simon, digging underground, discovering the key for the first time... Subverted in that the war never happens, although we do get some idea of how it might have.
  • Outlaw Star starts even before the OP with Gene taking off in the Outlaw Star and locks grapplers with another ship. After said OP, the show begins that will lead up to this.
  • The ENTIRE SERIES of Tenchi Universe does this. The first episode opens with Tenchi delivering an internal monologue as he walks to school alone, lamenting the good old days when he used to hang out with those crazy girls from space... the show then spends nearly its entire run flashing back to how Tenchi met and went on adventures with said girls, until the last five minutes of the very last episode, when we return to Tenchi walking to school alone.
    • This is slightly screwed up in the dub. Tenchi's speech at the start of the series is the same one he gives at the very end, so we know we've come back to where we started. Two different translators handled those episodes, though, and each one translated the speech differently, so Tenchi ends up saying different things in each episode, even they're each supposed to portray the same moment in time.
  • Many modern episodes of Pokémon do this (especially in the original Japanese version) with the pre-credits teaser abruptly opening on a battle or other dramatic scene with no explanation as to how the characters got there. After the credits, we flash back to the start of the story.
    • This also lets the producers sneak in plenty of recycled footage, since the teaser sequence gets replayed once they arrive at that point in the story.
  • The second act of the Naruto anime surprisingly starts with this. With Naruto and Sakura catching up to Saskue for the first time since he defected from Konoha before starting the series proper and working it ways to that point. Likely as a tease to the fans.
  • Shigurui: Death Frenzy starts at the very end and then goes to the beginning to show how it got there, but unfortunately it never makes it back to the end again.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has an in-universe version: The current Big Bad sends the heroes a week forward in time, to when she's already won. Then various side characters explain to the heroes exactly how she won. So they go back in time to take advantage of the new information.
    • The current arc of the manga counts, as it goes into the Backstory and explains the events that directly led up to the beginning of the manga. Such as why Negi is being raised by his cousin in Wales, or how Asuna ended up at Mahora.
    • Natsumi says the trope almost word-by-word in her debut chapter, which opens with Kotarou holding her hostage.
  • The first episode of Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-hen is titled "Finale" and depicts the seemingly climactic final battle between Dr. Hell and the protagonists. Episode 2 goes back to the beginning, and explains the build up from there.
  • The second episode of the manga Ichigo Mashimaro starts with Chika sitting in a wastebasket. Then we go back half an hour and find out what led up to this situation.
  • "September 21st, 1945. That was the day I died."
  • The Fist of the North Star Prequel movie Legend of Kenshiro begins with Kenshiro and Yuria going on their journey together after the defeat of Raoh. After having their wedding ceremony, Yuria asks Kenshiro to tell her of his quest to become the savior. The actual movie is set during the "lost year" after Kenshiro was first defeated by Shin, but before he met Bat and Lin.
  • Chaos;Head opens with a destroyed city and the protagonist laying in a puddle. He wakes but - but was it all really just a dream?
  • The first episode of Baccano! starts at the end of its primary story (the 1931/Grand Punk Station arc) while the two Meta Guys look over the records of the massacre and start arguing over when the story is supposed to start.
  • The sixth episode of Wandaba Style starts off this way, with the girls staring in disbelief at future versions of themselves, then complaining to Ichirin about it, then blaming each other for them ending up in the predicament they're in. Ichirin takes advantage of this to flashback to shortly before the episode began, showing how the girls took advantage of a man-powered warp engine to get some exercise and ended up in the future by accident. The rest of the episode continues normally from there on.
  • The sixth volume of the manwha Witch Hunter opens on Tasha somewhere (most probably in England), fighting a guy whose face we've only seen once and whose name is yet unknown (Lancelot), and apparently in a tight spot, what with his right arm having been ripped off and Halloween being nowhere in sight. That's the first few pages ; the chapter then goes on to show Tasha being sent away in a mission. Two volumes later, he's still only on his way to the place where this all is supposedly going to happen...
  • Ga-Rei Zero spends its first episode killing off the supposed protagonists. Then Yomi, the villain, becomes the main character.
  • The first episode of the Saikano anime opens with a haggard young man wearing broken glasses staggering through a deserted town, a service so that you don't mistakenly waste any hope on him later.
  • The first part of episode one of Infinite Stratos shows an Action Prologue where Ichika and his team are fighting off against an unknown I.S. machine. The rest of the series then depict events leading up to that scene.
  • The first episode of Slam Dunk shows the Shohoku team playing an important match, probably the nationals, before the opening song. The rest of the series is spent showing how they got there.
  • Kashimashi opens with two girls alone in a classroom, sharing a kiss and a third girl catching them in act, looking rather shocked. The rest of the episode is spent showing how a guy became one of those girls, not reaching the opening scene until midway through the shows run.
  • The first episode of FUNimation's Dragon Ball GT dub, "A Grand Problem", performed this function so that they could skip the first 16 episodes of the show.
  • The manga Mirai Nikki opened with Yuno kissing Yuki, stating he won't stab her. Played with in the anime version, as it was shown (thanks to the manga) to be in chronological order from the point of view of Yuno
  • Samurai High School: Chapter 16 of the manga started with the twins being followed by members of the newspaper club and then it went back to when and how it began. Chapter 23 also invokes the trope.
  • Girls und Panzer starts with a tank battle, that's shown up to the point where a shell is headed for the protagonist's tank. It then cuts to a flashback, and we don't return to the events of the opening scene until episode 4.

Comic Books

  • Happened in X-Factor when Rictor, Guido, and Shatterstar appear in the middle of a fight with Cortex, who was surprised because he thought they were many miles away. When Cortex points this out, Guido replies 'That's very good question. And here's how we got here." and cue the end of the issue. The issue after that shows how they did it.
  • The first issue of Mega Man opened with Mega Man storming Dr. Wily's Fortress and beginning to fight the Yellow Demon. It then goes into a flashback that lasts until the end of issue 3.
  • An issue of Miracleman starts with paid assassin Evelyn Cream out in the jungle, wondering how he got there. The issue then flashes back, and it's slowly revealed that he's remembering all this after being decapitated by Dr. Gargunza's monster dog.


  • Just Married opens with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy bickering over their bad honeymoon, before showing Kutcher reminiscing how he and Murphy got married and how bad their honeymoon was.
  • Fight Club starts with Tyler Durden holding a gun in the Narrator's mouth. The film plays with and Lampshades it: Tyler first asks the Narrator if he has anything to say, and he says he doesn't. When the film catches up with itself, he asks the question again, and the Narrator replies he still can't think of anything, and Tyler quips, "Flashback humor."
  • The film Swordfish, which probably did it so they could show off the coolest scene in the movie twice: once as the opening scene, and again about 2/3 through.
    • The Big Mouth uses the trope in a way that's obviously gratuitous and employs a swordfish.
  • The movie adaptation of Daredevil begins this way, with a mortally wounded Daredevil explaining in narration how he got to be in that position. Once his origin is told and the story catches up to that point, however, Daredevil inexplicably shrugs off his injuries (he literally gets up and walks it off).
  • It could be said that the movie Memento is based on this device. The movie starts at the end then goes through each previous scene in backwards order, establishing... well he got there.
  • The Matrix Reloaded opens with Trinity falling from an upper window of an office building with an Agent in pursuit. She gets shot, then Neo wakes up -- it was All Just a Dream. Then at the end, we realize Neo's dream was prophetic.
  • The movie Hoodwinked starts at the climax of "Little Red Riding Hood" and shows how the characters came to be where they were via (individual) flashbacks.
  • The movie (and, by extension, the album) Pink Floyd: The Wall starts in Pink's trashed hotel room, with Pink having already completed the metaphorical wall—from there the movie goes into flashbacks, with many of the subsequent songs/scenes describing the different "bricks" of his life which helped build it. (Although, confusingly, there is also a brief flash-forward to Fascist Pink at the concert/rally for the song "In the Flesh?" right near the beginning.)
  • Forrest Gump features Forrest talking about his life up until that point to people he's waiting at the bus stop with.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has an elderly woman called Daisy dying in hospital and she gets her daughter to read from the diary of the main character and the movie constantly switches between Benjamin's life story and the daughter's reaction. When the diary is finished being read Daisy fills in the last part herself.
  • The Hole opens up with the protagonist Liz stumbling towards her school after spending 10 days locked in an old war bunker. The circumstances are then told in a series of flashbacks to a police psychologist. Halfway through the film we discover Liz made up the first half of the story and another person tells the truth about the circumstances and Liz remembers the real story.
  • The Yes Men begins with the two men in a bathroom, rushing to get one of their number into a ridiculous-looking golden bodysuit and arguing about time zones. As it turns out, this is just before they carry out their first major hoax, but they've got plenty more to go through before the film is over.
  • Pan's Labyrinth; however, it's only obvious that this is what they did when the movie comes back to the shot near the end.
  • The movie adaptation of Bernard Pomerance's play, The Elephant Man, added a scene that is not in the original play after the end of all the play's events, so that Treves, as narrator, could use this trope. Arguably, this was to help explain the story to American audiences unfamiliar with the history, as in the play, there was no helpful narration either.
  • TV movie Wedding Belles had a kickass one wherein a bride and three bridesmaids dig up a grave, round up three other guys they have some sort of beef with, and shoot them [including the corpse] down by the docks. Somewhat disappointingly, it turns out to be a wish fulfillment dream.
  • The Prestige.
  • Michael Clayton.
  • Vanilla Sky is shown by being told from David, the main character, to Curtis, a psychiatrist from prison.
  • Big Trouble in Little China opens with Egg Shen's lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly caused the giant, green fireball over Chinatown. The film proceeds to explain the fireball... but the issue of why Egg Shen's lawyer was questioning him in the first place is never answered. This scene was included after principle shooting had wrapped due to Executive Meddling.
  • Better Luck Tomorrow begins with two of the main characters lying around in someone's back yard. A cell phone rings, but it's not theirs—the ringing is coming from underground. So they dig it up. "You never forget the sight of a dead body." The rest of the film is just one long flashback, and the opening scene is replayed near the end.
  • The Jerk starts by showing Navin Johnson homeless. He then narrates his journey from rags to riches to rags.
  • Deliver Us From Eva begins with the protagonist's funeral.
  • Carlitos Way starts with Carlito being taken away to the hospital.
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Hangover has a double-dose of this. It starts with the main characters in the middle of the Nevada desert saying they're not going to make it to the wedding before flashing back two days. Then there's a variation when the crazy night happens, and in the aftermath leaves the characters asking how they got there.
  • Double Indemnity, through the device of the protagonist's confession.
  • The Kubrick version of Lolita begins with Humbert Humbert going to see Quilty, asking him about a certain 'Lolita' and shooting him to death behind a portrait. The movie ends with Humbert walking into Quilty's house and a written epilogue over a frozen frame of the painting explains that Humbert died in prison while waiting for his trial.
  • Shimotsuma Motogari opens with the main character speeding around some truly epic scenery porn on a motorscooter while wearing a frilly Victorian style dress. She is hit by a truck carrying cabbages and slow-motion falls through the air, quietly thinking about all the people, clothing brands and embroidery she'll miss now that she's dead. The screen then says THE END before she realizes that 'that's a bit too short, so let's rewind a little'. We then get the series of events that led up to this moment, followed by the conclusion of the movie.
  • Moulin Rouge opens with Christian typing up his story and then it goes back to show what events led to him writing the story to begin with.
  • The Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe opens with the main character standing on a beach making a plea for the audience 'to listen to his story.' The entirety of the movie shows how he got there over the course of about three years or so.
  • Vanishing Point opens with Kowalski heading at high speed towards a huge police roadblock, complete with bulldozers. Flash back to two days previous to discover how he got there.
  • For Love of the Game has aging baseball pitcher Billy Chapel pitching the final game of his career, with most of the movie taken up by his reminiscences of the ups and downs of his career and the effects it's had on his relationship. Between the flashbacks, Chapel is pitching a perfect game and not even realizing it until his flashbacks reach where he is now.
  • |Mission Impossible III
  • The Bothersome Man opens in a subway, where a couple kisses without any emotion whatsoever, and then a man jumps in front of a train. Some took the rest of the film as what happens once he's dead, but it becomes obvious that it's this trope when it comes back to the same scene. He's clearly in some kind of hell, because it seems he can't die, and just gets hopelessly bloodied, bruised and generally knocked about by the train, without dying.
  • Love Story starts right off with "What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?" and thus gives you plenty of time to find some tissues.
  • The Final opens up with a girl walking into a BBQ restaurant, her face horribly disfigured and hidden under her hair and a hoodie, with her fellow patrons all staring at her. She used to be the Alpha Bitch.
  • Oldboy.
  • Pulp Fiction begins and ends with the same scene in the diner, but from the perspective of different characters.
  • Inside Man.
  • Blow starts with a scene that is repeated near the end, however, it is only the second time we get to see the end of the scene, and how quickly events of the scene become tragic.
  • Inception opens with Cobb washing up on a shore and being taken to an elderly man. Said man sees his items, says it reminds him of someone he met long ago. Then the main plot begins. In the film's ending, it turns out Cobb is there to rescue the man from the dream he's been trapped for long enough for him to age.
  • House O Sand And Fog opens and ends with the same scene of Jennifer Connelly's character staring blankly at her house.
  • The Lavender Hill Mob and Kind Hearts and Coronets.
  • Island of Death.
  • Megiddo: Omega Code 2 starts off with the battle of Armageddon and fills the rest of its running time showing how the Antichrist and his brother, who became the President of the United States, got to where they are now in the battle.
  • American Beauty opens with Kevin Spacey's character revealing that he is dead. The rest of the movie covers the year preceding that event.
  • Beautifully subverted in The Debt: near the beginning of the movie, a character (in 1997) reads a passage from a non-fiction book about an espionage mission she undertook in 1965. As she reads, we see the scene—the climax of the mission—unfold as a Flash Back. The events leading up to the climax take up most of the rest of the film, and the scene from the book eventually repeats itself. Except that this time, when the Nazi prisoner knocks the heroine's head against the radiator, she's knocked out cold, and the bad guy gets away. Turns out that the three spies sent to capture him couldn't bear to report their failure and instead told the world that they'd killed him, knowing he'd go into hiding and no one but them would know he was alive.
  • The 2006 movie The Illusionist
  • Cloverfield features a very subtle version. Early in the movie the video we are watching is said to have been recorded over another video. As the camera films the giant monster's rampage through the city and the character's attempts to survive, the camera keeps playing clips of the old video that was recorded over which is a vacation video of the characters going to Coney Island. In the movie's end we cut one last time to the old video after the monster is bombed by the army. In this last clip you can just barely notice that far off in the background, a very large object falls into the ocean from the sky....


  • Older Than Feudalism: Homer's The Odyssey did this.
  • Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, of the Discworld series, starts off not just at the ending, but at a possible ending.
  • Lampshade Hanging and Subversion: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians begins with the title character/narrator about to be sacrificed by the equally Evil Librarians on an altar of encyclopedias. Naturally, we immediately go off to a low-key domestic scene. The narrator explains that he has done this to screw with the reader, to prove he's not a nice person. Ultimately this scene never actually occurs, which the narrator cites as further proof that he's a bad person Two books later, we find out that this scene will only occur in the fifth (and last) book of the series.
    • And the series is on hiatus . . . right before the fifth book. Fudge . . .
  • Used in the Chuck Palahniuk novels Survivor, Lullaby, and most notably, Fight Club.. Survivor opens with the protagonist in an empty plane he's hijacked that's running out of gas somewhere above the Australian outback. The rest of the book is a flashback being recited into the flight recorder. Lullaby starts with the protagonist and someone named Sarge on a hunt for witches, and every so often the story of How We Got Here is interrupted for an update on the latest stop in their hunt. Fight Club more or less begins at the end, before coming back to the opening for the second chapter.
    • Most, if not all, of Palahniuk's books utilize How We Got Here, the author himself being a self-stated fan of the trope.
  • The novel George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt opens with a very cool sequence featuring George commanding the space shuttle during a launch, which then turns out to be a dream from which he is awakened in an unfamiliar bed. The first half of the book covers how he got there.
  • Wicked has an unusual version: the "end" is an event the audience presumably knows already, due to the ubiquity of The Wizard of Oz, but goes on to tell the events leading up to it in a completely different manner, focusing on side characters from the original story (which also makes it something of a Lower Deck Episode).
  • K.J Parker's Scavenger Trilogy The whole series is an extended journey to appreciate how we got to the mysterious start of the story.
  • Infinite Jest, although one could certainly be forgiven for not realizing it.
  • Finnegans Wake ends with an incomplete sentence that is resolved by the first sentence (opened with a lowercase letter) in the book. Since the book is heavily based on Vico's Historic Cycles, it's How We Got Here to the extreme.
  • Eastern Standard Tribe opens with Art on the roof of a pysch hospital and is split between the present and past storylines.
  • They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starts with Robert, the protagonist being sentenced for the murder of his friend, Gloria (which he did on her request). This happens at the very end of the book.
  • Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is begins with the narrator being slowly digested by a carnivorous plant. 400 pages later you find out why.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher starts out after a girl named Hannah's suicide. The protagonist Clay receives 13 tapes made by her explaining why she killed herself.
  • Alyson Noel's Saving Zoe takes place one year after Zoe is brutally murdered. It follows her sister Echo reading Zoe's diary and finding out about her life before she was murdered.
  • Robopocalypse starts immediately after the destruction of the final A.I. bastion then flashes back to the creation of that A.I. and the start of the robot war.
  • Dr. Seuss' The Lorax starts and ends at the place where the Onceler's Thneed factory once stood, with the Onceler telling the young boy listening how it all happened.
  • Catcher in The Rye starts off with Holden hospitalised and telling a psychologist the events that led up to it.

Live-Action TV

  • Firefly, "Trash", opens with Captain Mal sitting naked on a rock in the middle of a desert, then we go back to see how it happened.
    • Also, "Out of Gas" opens with a nearly deserted Serenity, followed by a double How We Got Here. The episode cuts between current events, one set of flashbacks showing how the crew got in this mess and another set showing how the crew first came together.
  • The Dollhouse episode "A Spy In The House Of Love" started by showing someone about to be wiped, and a gunshot. It then went back 18 hours.
    • The episode "Belonging" starts with a blurry shot of a bloody Topher saying, "I was just trying to help her...I was just trying to help her..." It then goes back and tells the stories of how Priya came to the Dollhouse and how Topher ended up covered in blood and repeating that mantra.
  • Alias frequently begins with this device, starting with showing Sydney Bristow in peril, then moving "XX Hours Earlier" to narrate how she got there. The series pilot does this effectively, as does the "reboot" post-Super Bowl episode.
  • Wings: The opening and ending of "Joe Blows" are similiar to Sunset Boulevard.
    • "As Fate Would Have It" begins with the plane about to crash. The bulk of the episode explains the circumstances that put the characters in that situation.
  • Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, "Execution" begins with Stabler and Huang interrogating the prisoner. The Teaser ends as the prisoner attacks Huang. The bulk of the episode shows how and why they came to be interviewing the prisoner.
  • The 4400, episode "Lockdown". The teaser ends with lead characters Tom and Diana holding guns on each other. The episode explains how we got to this strange situation.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Menagerie".
    • However, this example is more a case of incorporating an older piece of footage into an episode. It does not begin in the "middle of the story" and then flashback.
  • Angel's penultimate episode, "Power Play", begins with Angel killing Drogyn in the teaser; after the credits, the episode begins with the subtitle "19 hours earlier." Also seen in "The Shroud of Rahmon".
  • CSI example: the first part of the sixth season finale begins with a hostage crisis developing; the rest of the episode shows events leading up to it.
    • CSI: Miami managed to encapsulate an example of this trope into The Teaser of an episode, showing a suspect's recent experiences in flashbacks as he's running to escape the series leads.
  • Most episodes of Grounded for Life use this trope.
  • Several episodes of the second season of Supernatural used this device.
  • The X-Files episode "Monday" used this, opening with Skinner arriving at a bank that Mulder and Scully are inside, shortly before the bank blows up. All this happens in the teaser. After the credits and commercial break, we're in the hallway outside Mulder's apartment a few hours before the explosion as his day begins badly (we revisit this spot several times).
    • "Bad Blood" does something similar.
    • "Travellers" does a more over-arching How We Got Here, showing how Mulder found the X-Files in the first place.
    • "Redrum" is an interesting version; the man accused of killing his wife is moving back in time one day each day, eventually getting to the day of his wife's murder to stop the real killer.
  • Every episode of Cold Case is like this, with the teaser showing the moment of the episode's murder and the events immediately preceding it, then gradually showing what happened to lead up to said murder, all in flashbacks.
  • The West Wing did this a couple of times, notably the second season premiere.
    • The final season opens three years in the future with several characters meeting at the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library, with the new president shown as He Who Must Not Be Seen. The rest of the season shows how they got there and who won the Presidential election.
  • Red Dwarf used this in "Thanks for the Memory", where the characters wake up four days after the opening scene with no memories of these days, a half-finished jigsaw completed and two of the characters with broken legs.
    • And several times in "Backwards", on the planet where time runs in reverse. For example, Lister lands on the planet with a black eye and bruised ribs, and doesn't know why until the barroom brawl tidy breaks out (during which his injuries get healed).
    • And Back In The Red. It opens with Lister in prison with a living Rimmer, and apart from that and one other scene, the entire three-part storyline is dedicated to how they got there.
  • The Lost episode "The Brig" differs from the usual flashback structure by having the episode begin with Locke speaking to an unseen prisoner in the brig, then showing the events leading to that moment instead of pre-crash, off-island flashbacks.
    • Another episode in which flashbacks are used this way is "Exposé".
    • "Catch-22" opens with one of Desmond's prophetic visions (in this case, Charlie getting shot in the throat with an arrow), and most of the episode leads up to this.
    • The episode "316" is a more traditional example, with a cold opening followed by a single episode-long flashback (as opposed to several flashback intercut with the main plot as traditionally used) revealing the events leading up to it. That makes one of the only three episodes of the show not to feature a secondary storyline.
    • There are arguably elements of How We Got Here to the series as a whole, what with its non-linear time structure. Aside from the general format of showing why the characters boarded the doomed plane, other episodes have revealed the origin stories of other characters who found their way to the island. "Live Together, Die Alone" introduces Desmond's backstory and the sailing race that led to his marooning on the island. "The Man Behind the Curtain" shows how Ben Linus, leader of the Others, came to the island as a child with the DHARMA Initiative. "Some Like it Hoth" and "The Variable" reveal why Miles and Daniel, respectively, boarded the freighter bound for the island. Finally, "Ab Aeterno" reveals the powerful backstory of Richard Alpert, the immortal advisor of the Others and his arrival to the island on the Black Rock slave ship.
    • Don't forget that "The Other 48 Days" shows us how the tailies got where they are and "Not in Portland" and "One of Us" as a set show how Juliet came to be on the island.
  • General Hospital broke with the conventional soap opera conventions of storytelling during its February Sweeps 2007 hostage crisis storyline by showing the end result first (an explosion caused by a bomb) in the pre-opening credits teaser and then going back to where things had left off during the previous episode to show the events that set it in motion after the opening credits. In fact, the explosion depicted at the beginning of the episode did not happen for another 15 episodes after the first in which it was depicted. Each of those episodes opened with the explosion, albeit from a differing perspective.
    • They then tried to create the same tension two years later with the much-maligned "Toxic Balls" storyline. This one took 10 episodes for the "flashback" to get to the beginning of that storyline.
  • The season four finale of Babylon 5 featured scenes from far in the series' future, one of which showed a clip of Garibaldi being held hostage and apparently being shot. Almost the entire first half of season five was devoted to showing what happened to cause that scene.
  • Done several times in Stargate SG-1, most notably in "Meridian", which begins with Daniel returning to the SGC with a lethal dose of radiation, and one of the two subplots in this episode is spent on the mystery behind it.
  • Due to its general flashbackyness, How I Met Your Mother does this a lot. In the first 2½ seasons there have been five How We Got Here episodes.
    • In all fairness, isn't the entire show this? It's right there in it's title.
  • The first episode of Regenesis begins with David rushing to the lab in a panic when he's hit by a car. The rest of the episode flashes back to a seemingly unrelated story, and the season continues from there. It isn't until the second-to-last episode of the season that the story catches up to the first scene, by which point we've found out the events of the first episode and the flashforward aren't so unrelated after all.
  • Both Chuck and My Own Worst Enemy use this trope regularly, which seems to be a spy-story staple.
  • The Seinfeld "backwards" episode showed the scenes of the story in reverse order, à la Memento, with on-screen notations "three hours earlier", "20 minutes earlier", etc. Lampshaded with:

Jerry: Bless you.
0.4 seconds earlier
Jerry's date: Achoo!

  • The Bones episode "Aliens in a Spaceship" opens with Bones and Hodgins trapped in a buried car, and then backs up to show how they got there.
  • It's the series format of Damages. The first season's first scene shows us a delirious girl running around NYC bloody and scared, and her boyfriend is found dead in the bathtub. The whole season jumps between past and present, telling us How We Got Here. For the second season, we see the same girl apparently shooting someone with a gun twice. While on the third, we see that same girl's boss getting hit by a car.
  • Wonderfalls: The episode Crime Dog starts with Jaye in jail being questioned by the police, then moves backwards to explain "how exactly that woman wound up in the trunk of (her) car." Notably, they often cut back to Jaye and her family as they are explaining the story to clarify things... and also just for comedic value.
  • The aptly named Dharma and Greg episode "How This Happened" begins with a swarm of police wrestling Larry into a cop car and Dharma saying "How did this HAPPEN?"
  • Band of Brothers. Episodes 1, 9, and 10 do this (and possibly others).
    • Episode 5 is a strange example. The show begins with a flash forward to the assault on the SS company. The actual assault takes place in the middle of the episode, and later there is a flashback to it.
  • This happens Once an Episode in the cop show Flashpoint.
  • Charmed did this once before, when baby Wyatt conjured a dragon from a television program.
  • Kids sitcom Unfabulous uses this very often. Typically the show begins with the central character in trouble, in plaster, or covered in food, water, or other liquids. She then explains (in voiceover) that to understand how she got into this mess, we'll have to go back a few days.
  • Supernatural, on occasion. We get one of the brothers doing something ridiculously out of character, and then 'Two Days Earlier' with a reasonably logical explanation for that (normally 'it was a shapeshifter, not Dean/Sam at all').
  • Veronica Mars's pilot begins this way on the DVD version, with Veronica being confronted by Weevil's biker gang before rolling back 20 hours. On the original UPN version, it begins at her school, 20 hours before the confrontation with Weevil.
  • Many of the original Maverick episodes start with a teaser of a dramatic moment that will occur ~30 minutes in.
    • As does the Maverick movie, which opens with Maverick being left for dead by some crooks whose relationship to him is soon revealed.
  • The new version of Battlestar Galactica does this at least twice: Once in Act of Contrition, which opens with Starbuck trapped in a viper, and again in Resurrection Ship part 1, with Apollo adrift in space. In fact about a third of the second season episodes begin with a main character either about to do something evil, or in major peril, and then say "A bit before".
    • "Black Market" had one shoved in, thanks to Ron Moore thinking the episode didn't work at all, and needed to start with something to grab the audience's attention.
  • The final episode of the first season of Leverage, "The Second David Job", begins with a moment from the climax of the episode, then spends the episode showing How We Got Here.
    • The previous episode, "The First David Job", is a better example of In Medias Res than this trope.
  • Power Rangers RPM did this several times. The series starts with the city of Corinth being sealed off against attack, and Scott, Summer, and Flynn zooming in at the last minute. The series skips to a year later, when they're already established as Rangers, and introduces Dr K, Dillon, and Ziggy. Each of them (except for Dillon, but he has amnesia) has an episode titled after them, which shows a normal episode interspaced with flashbacks showing what kind of people they are, and how they got into Corinth, leading directly into the first episode again.
  • Breaking Bad opens on a man driving an RV recklessly through badlands dressed only in a gasmask and underpants. He glances behind him: a flash of what looks like two dead bodies sliding around on the floor. Beside him is an unconscious man, also in a gasmask. Three weeks ago ... now how are we going to get from this quiet suburban scene to there?
    • Several other episodes feature bizarre scenes shot in close-up so you can just get the barest idea of what's going on. Then the last scene shows you the whole thing. And of course, the king of them all is the burned, one-eyed teddy bear in the pool which takes the entire second season to explain.
  • The infamous Farscape episode "Scratch 'n' Sniff" follows a variation of this trope in which it's revealed that the bulk of the episode is a recounting of events by John Crichton to a disbelieving Pilot, and is presented in such a way that the actual accuracy of the account is left ambiguous.
  • The NCIS episode "Cloak" uses this to fit the usual progression of the agents starting the episode at a crime scene, investigating. The action reaches a cliffhanger and freezes. Flashbacks then explain how it all came to be before wrapping back around to where the opening left two of Our Heroes in danger.
    • The Cold Open for the episode "Requiem" had Tony DiNozzo in a suit, running full-tilt through a warehouse, taking out two gunmen without missing a beat and diving over a pier to rescue Gibbs and a civilian after the car they were in was forced off the pier. The rest of the episode reveals who the civilian was and how Gibbs got involved.
  • The Castle episode A Deadly Affair opens with Castle and Becket apparently aiming guns at each other, and then skips back to three days earlier.
    • "Set-Up" begins with Castle being half-led, half-dragged by two guys in hazmat suits who refuse to answer his questions about "how serious it is". He's left with a silent, stricken-looking Beckett, and then the episode goes back thirty-six hours.
  • This is the main framing device on The Good Guys. An episode will begin with Dan and Jack in some very dangerous situation and then we jump back to how the case began and how the heroes got into that predicament. Throughout the episode you will get shorter flashbacks that explain why certain weird things happened and what some of the characters' reasons and motivations are. eg one flashback shows how a pimp decided to become a pimp because of something his father said twenty years before.
  • One Hundred Deeds for Eddie Mcdowd pilot episode has Eddie, after being taken to a dog pound, retracing his steps off how did he become a dog.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • The episode "Minimal Loss" starts with a news coverage of an explosion and then rewinds three days to find out how it happened.
    • "100" began with the aftermath of a scene and then the rest of the episode is the team justifying their actions to Section Chief Erin Strauss.
    • Similar to "100", the season seven premire "It Takes A Village" has the team once again justifying their actions except this time it was to the US Senate Committee.


  • Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall begins with the song "In The Flesh?", sung from the perspective of the main character Pink: "If you want to find out what's behind these cold eyes / You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise." From there the album goes into a long flashback of Pink's entire life, beginning with the sound of a baby crying leading into the next song "The Thin Ice". The narrative of the album finally returns to where it began with the sort-of Dark Reprise "In The Flesh".
  • The Vocaloid trilogy Shinseiki New Millenium,Risoukyou Utopia,and A Faint Wish. The first video is chronologically the last, and the second two are basically flashbacks telling us how the story led up to the first video.
  • The Slick Rick song "Sittin" In My Car" begins unsurprisingly with Rick sitting in his car. Rick then proceeds to tell the tale of debauchery and intrigue that explains why he is waiting in his Jeep outside a club for a particular girl.


  • Many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals begin at the end and are told in flashback: Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard (of course, the source material for this one did, as well).
  • Another musical example; the Rock Opera Quadrophenia, by the Who, opens with the main character stranded on a rock off the coast of Brighton, in the pouring rain, with no means of egress, and goes on to explain how he ended up there.
  • The musical Wicked follows the same format as the novel, with the added twist that it turns out Elphaba faked her own death.
  • The off-Broadway run of Vanities: The Musical followed this format, with a prologue in the mid-80's/early 90's, which the story returns to in the Distant Finale.

Video Games

  • Abe's Oddysee begins with Abe tied up and looking miserable, a voice over delivered by Abe explains the situation he's in and proceeds to explain how he got there which makes up the entire game.
  • The video game Max Payne opens this way, with Max completing a shot with a sniper rifle in the opening cinematic, and then flashing back to the Backstory, eventually starting the gameplay somewhere in the middle.
    • Its sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, opens the same way, with an injured Max laying with Mona on the floor of a mansion with police moving in, and then flashing back to how they ended up there. Which, in turn, opens with a wounded Max trying to escape from a hospital, and then flashes back to how he ended up there for all of Part I and Part II.
    • The Movie has Max telling of how did he end up in the freezing ocean.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: LeChuck's Revenge opens with Guybrush dangling from a rope over a deep, dark pit, while hanging onto a treasure chest. Love interest Elaine Marley slides down on another rope and asks how Guybrush got himself into this mess. Has the advantage that at the one point in the game where's it's theoretically possible for Guybrush to die, the game returns to this scene for Elaine to point out the incongruity and you get to go back for another go.
  • Final Fantasy X opens with the first part of a sombre campfire cutscene outside Zanarkand. Tidus narrates: "Listen to my story. This may be our last chance." You really get to this campfire about 2/3 of the way through the game.
    • The sequel Final Fantasy X-2 plays with this by explaining the beginning. A small sidequest explains what the real Yuna was doing while Rikku and Paine were gate-crashing the concert from the opening scene.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens as The Prince relates his story to Farah, and takes place almost entirely in the flashback thus framed. Each time you die, The Prince says something like, "That didn't happen," or "Wait, let me go over that part again."
    • The same words the Prince first uttered at The Sands of Time are also the last words he says at the end of The Two Thrones, making the entire Sands of Time Trilogy a How We Got Here story.
  • Similar to Prince of Persia, the game Fahrenheit (2005 video game), known outside the States as Fahrenheit, is narrated past tense by the main character. When you die, though, he says things like "And that was the end of my story. I never cleared my name and I never found out why I killed that man".
  • Final Fantasy Tactics begins with Ovelia's kidnapping, and then goes into flashback for Chapter One to show how the characters got to where they are "now". Furthermore, the Framing Device of the game itself is that it's presenting the "true story" of the Lion War generations after the fact.
  • God of War begins with the protagonist attempting to commit suicide, with the rest of the game leading up to why.
    • Heavenly Sword begins with Nariko facing down King Bohan's entire army with the title sword, which tries to kill her at the end of the scene before it flashes back to how she got to this point.
  • Sly 3, the third Sly Cooper game, follows the series tradition of a setup/prologue level, though in this case, it's the huge caper that will make Sly's career and recover his family fortune. At the end of the prologue, Sly is caught by the Big Bad's ultimate monster; the opening Cutscene and the first six main levels are his life flashing before his eyes, as he assembles his ultimate team of thieving experts for the vault job. The final level opens on the same scene, as Sly's strength starts to fail him, but the gameplay picks up with a different playable character riding to the rescue.
  • Sacrifice: The entire story is a flashback, told by Eldred after he rescues Mithras from the ruined world shown in the intro. Notable in that the game has a branching storyline, but the outcome is set: No matter which god you serve, the world's going to end up a wreck. Similar to Prince of Persia above, the narrator comments "Now where was I... ah yes." when loading or "Of course, that's not what really happened." when restarting. He's also at one point interrupted by Mithras demanding that he explain something else about the Big Bad.
  • In Romancing SaGa 2, the bard is retelling the tale of your empire in the pub of said imperial city. The Emperor you chose at the beginning of the game is in the same room, speaks to the bard at the end of the game and reminisces of all the allies and classes the player has met and recruited based on what events were cleared.
  • Dreamfall is presented as a narration of the primary protagonist Zoe Castillo, who lies in coma and recalls the events that left her in this condition.
  • Done to great comedic effect in Sam & Max: Night of the Raving Dead. Sam and Max are in a deathtrap with spikes closing in on them. Max states "I can't even remember how we got here!" and Sam calmly narrates the story that the player is about to see. When the player eventually reaches the deathtrap, Sam says just as calmly "Oh, drat. I was so busy telling the story, I forgot to come up with an escape plan!" at which point the trap closes, killing them both. Fortunately, they come back as zombies and are thus able to thwart the schemes of Big Bad Jurgen.
    • It's also played with in Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone, when Max uses the future-vision goggles to see how he and Sam are going to defeat General Skunkape. Skunkape then subverts it by using the goggles to discover their plan and promptly throw a spanner in the works.
    • Sam & Max 302: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak uses this as a game mechanic. You find the skeletons of your ancestors in the basement of your building together with some movie reels that contain the story of what happened to them. You can play the reels out of order to get hints on what happened further along in the story and then you go back to an earlier reel to play out the story as it happened. The final reel is one big How We Got Here since you have to explain how you solved all the other reels in order to progress.
  • AceAttorneyInvestigations—the second and third cases are flashbacks occuring before the first case-- and the fourth case is a flashback seven years back from the third case. It's less confusing in context.
  • Made very well in the popular RPG Maker game A blurred line. It all starts with three agents of sort trying to stop a terrorist from destroying an extremely important facility. After the intro, the player takes control over the terrorist, set one year earlier.
  • Pitfall: The Lost Expedition opens up with you fighting against the demon jaguar, the semifinal boss, only to wind up pinned and about to get your head bitten off, which is when the movie pauses. Harry then says "They say that when a giant demon jaguar is about to terminate your existence, your life flashes before your eyes..." The game then flashes back to twenty-four hours previous, and the game up until you reach the demon jaguar is buildup to that point.
  • Devil May Cry 3 begins with Lady narrating over the fight between Dante and Vergil, which really happens in Mission 7 of the game.
  • The opening scene of Eternal Sonata is that of Polka standing on the edge of a cliff, facing away from it. She convinces herself that "this" is something she has to do... and lets herself fall off, uttering a couple more lines over the course of her fall. After you beat Frederic, the final boss (in game terms), if the appearance of the environment hasn't tipped you off, the next part will. Against Allegretto's protests, she says... most of the lines from the first scene again (but compare the last thing she says in that scene where she's falling to what she says in the analogous scene here). Then we proceed beyond the scene and see what's probably been happening afterward.
  • Prototype opens with Alex Mercer rampaging through Manhattan, with no explanation why. After killing a military commander in Times Square, we cut to a scene on a rooftop where Mercer and a shadowy behind the scenes person are having a discussion about how things led up to the present (New York being a total hellscape). We then flashback to the start of the outbreak and move forward.
  • The first level of The Conduit consists of a tutorial set in a subway system. The second level starts with a flashback five days earlier, and the story doesn't return to the subway until late in the game.
    • with about 2-3 times more enemies than there were the first time around, which doesn't make sense.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 begins with Solid Snake as the narrator reminiscing of the events of the Tanker chapter.
  • Possibly (subverted? inverted?) twisted in the game Second Sight, you play as John Vattic, waking up in the hospital with the sudden power of telepathy. Periodically throughout the game, you suffer flashbacks to an adventure you had in Russia, where you were acting as a paranormal specialist (with a strong disbelief in psychic powers). The twist is that flashbacks are usually triggered by discovering something that triggers your memory, but (really quite minor spoiler) after what happens in the flashback doesn't match the information you received, (i.e. some one you knew supposedly dying in Russia), the information changes to reflect your memory (same example- the person's records listing them as alive, now). And then, of course, (major spoiler:) he later discovers that his list of psychic powers actually includes precognition, and that all the events from waking up in the hospital on are actually a possible future that he is foretelling will happen if he doesn't change it, and his supposed flashbacks are the actual events as they unfold.
  • Battlefield 3, of the Battlefield series, does this with the campaign. You start out with handcuffs on one of your arms, the player running from the police, and then jumping onto a subway train. And then you immediately start fighting masked soldiers on said train, where people seem to recognize you, and you run into the Big Bad. The final mission has you repeating that segment, in a Once More, with Clarity fashion.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves begins with Nathan Drake, bleeding out from his stomach, barely holding on to a train car that's hanging precariously over the edge of a cliff in a snowy mountain range, and the game uses the opportunity to teach you how to climb stuff. The game then flashes back and forth between that point and four months prior when everything started, and eventually sticks you back four months ago and goes from there. You get back to the hanging train car about halfway through the game. And then you have to climb it again, with Nate complaining about all the spoilery stuff you wouldn't have known about at first, such as Chloe refusing to be rescued from Lazarevic and how his "hero" efforts aren't appreciated and how he is just sick of climbing shit...
  • Endless Ocean 2 opens with whales absolutely everywhere, the player in a boat with a bunch of strangers, an entrance to a mysterious ruin... and then the flashback kicks in and you're asked what you look like and given your job interview.
  • The PSX Rail Shooter Elemental Gearbolt, as evidenced by its introductory cutscene.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day starts off with Conker sitting on the throne, king. The rest of the game is the day before leading up to that point.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, that opening trailer is the final battle of the individual character stories with some scenes added, and the rest of the game is showing how things led to that battle.
  • In Dragon Age II, the legend of Hawke is told by Varric, a dwarven companion of his/hers to the Chantry Seeker Cassandra. Varric for his part plays a bit of the Unreliable Narrator, exaggerating certain parts of the story whenever he feels like it while Cassandra tries to find the true story.
  • In the remake of Wild ARMs 1, the first two minutes is about a group of people with a giant structure and a reunion of sorts. The rest of the game then tells how events happened. Thankfully, they don't spoil Zed being a party member.
  • The campaign of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars starts off with a Forced Tutorial of two soldiers in a mission with no explanation of why they were there in the first place except a few dialogue. After which the actual campaign starts in the beginning. Four-fifth through the game, the tutorial mission got to be replayed again as an actual mission near the end of the story.
  • Halo 3: ODST is practically built around this trope. You begin the game several hours after the battle has been lost, having been knocked unconscious during the opening cutscene. Much of the game is spent searching for clues as to what happened that day, whereupon you play flashback levels from the perspective of one of your team-mates.
  • Call of Duty Black Ops uses this as its framing device, with Mason in the midst of an interrogation for 95% of the game and the actual missions being him recounting his experiences to the other men in the room.

Visual Novels

  • Prectically an Omnipresent Trope in this medium, as every work desperately tries to avoid having to start with waking up in an Ordinary High School Student's bedroom on a schoolday morning, where the stories usually start, so they put something in front of it.
  • Clannad starts with the first part of the final Illusionary World sequence, which isn't fully played until the end of the game.
  • Kira Kira, over and over again. You're dropped in the middle of a scene, and the next five minutes are spent explaining what happened before then.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni, episode 5. Ushiromiya Natsuhi, you are the culprit! Way to start an episode of an extremely long murder mystery story. In the end, it turns out that Erika was wrong after all. In fact, Natsuhi becomes one of the two characters confirmed to not be the culprit. EP 6 follows suit starting with BATTLER and Erika's Wedding, with BATTLER in a logic error
  • Fate/stay night starts with a scene from the the third day, before starting on the first.
  • Chaos;Head starts with one of the endings.
  • Ef: A Fairy Tale Of The Two starts with the ending, and jumps to two different points in the middle, before starting at the beginning.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • On The Gungan Council, "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" slips into three different flashbacks to explain how and why Bianca and Darth Apparatus were separated for over two decades.
  • The entirety of Season 2 to Marble Hornets. The first few entries show Jay waking up in a hotel room with no memory of the last seven months. After finding a large number of tapes in his room safe, he witnesses the events that lead up to his amnesia.
  • The very first episode of Accuser started with the protagonist, Dan Mason, in a hospital bed, motionless, hearing the doctors mentioning that his wife was dead. Then we get flashbacks of his career as a criminal defense attorney and how it led to his hospital bed.
  • Arby 'n' the Chief's fifth season.
  • Splinter Cell Extinction: the prologue starts "47 minutes from now". Hence we know Corbin mission is a bust in advance.

Western Animation

  • Megas XLR Did this rather breezily,when they fought a giant cheese monster. Coop put aerosol spray cheese into the reactor on a dare.
  • The Weekenders, "The Most Awful Weekend", opens on Sunday with the gang sitting on a bench with lots of stains and things, and the story explains how they got them over the weekend.
  • Futurama's Star Trek-themed episode, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", parodying the TOS episode listed above.
    • Also happens twice with the first episode of the 2010 season.
  • The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles often used this device as The Teaser.
  • Stroker and Hoop parodies this in an episode. The first shot is Stroker lying on the sidewalk, bleeding out. He proceeds to tell an episode-long story of how he got there (involving ninja) and when the entire thing concludes, it turns out that he ended up on the sidewalk by slipping on his son's skateboard.
  • The Code Lyoko episode "Bragging Rights" starts with Yumi and Ulrich attacked by robot-spiders in the Amazonian lab, and Ulrich comments: "To think it was supposed to be a piece of cake...". Then it flashes back to the few hours before.
  • Parodied in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Irwin's question about how they got to be dangling over a giant serpent monster is misinterpreted as a question of how Grim ended up with Billy and Mandy. Two distorted accounts and an accurate synopsis of the pilot take up nearly the entire episode, and by the time it's clarified that the question was how they got in that specific situation, everyone's eaten alive before it can be answered.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Runaway" starts with Katara turning Toph in to the authorities. Then we go back and learn how this came to make any sense at all.
  • The Batman episode "Batgirl Begins: Part 1" begins with Batgirl being attacked by Batman and Poison Ivy, and the rest of the episode, as while as the next one, detail how she got there.
  • The New Batman Adventures also did this with the unbelievably awesome episode "Over The Edge". The episode opens with Commissioner Gordon and a police squad chasing Batman and Robin through the Batcave, shooting at them with machine guns, grenades, and a couple of rocket launchers. Once they reach safety, Batman brings Nightwing up to speed on how Scarecrow killed Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in front of her father, driving him to revenge on Batman. It turns out that it was All Just a Dream , which poor Barbara is having due to a dosage of Scarecrow's fear-inducing chemicals.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Catalysts" opens in the middle of a battle between Spider-Man and Green Goblin in a crowded ballroom, while the rest of the episode details how they got to that point.
    • Also in the episode "Subtext", though this goes back and forth between flashbacks and actual events.
  • Parodied in Class of 3000. The kids are in a cage suspended over a pit of lava. When one of them asks how they got into the situation, another responds that it was the same way they get into every situation.

Little D: I've got a great idea!
end flashback

  • One episode of Sushi Pack uses this trope to set up a Rashomon, with two characters remembering the events of the day differently as they try to figure out how they ended up on an asteroid hurtling toward Earth.
  • The Emperors New Groove' begins with a sad llama sitting all alone in the middle of a rainstorm. The voiceover informs us this llama once was a powerful emperor. The first half of the movies focuses on how he got there.
  • The first episode of Ruby Gloom starts with Ruby running through the house, seemingly avoiding her friends as they try to get her attention. Then, it takes us back (with a narrator reading as the words are typed on the screen) to "EARLIER THAT DOY" (the last word being a miswritten "day").
  • The American Dad episode where Steve was found dead in his pool. It's a look-alike
  • Brendon Small of Home Movies tried to do this with one of his films, but did it badly.
  • Gargoyles did this in "Revelations". The first scene is of Goliath being tortured by Mace Malone, as Matt Bluestone (who, in previous episodes, didn't even know the Gargoyles definitely existed) watches. We then get the explanation of how this happened from Bluestone.
  • Megamind begins with the Villain Protagonist about to fall to his death and the entire movie is a flashback of how did he end up in this situation.
  • Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension opens with the title characters, Perry, Candice, and Doofenshmirtz being led by the alternate Doofenshmirtz to the Goozim.