In Medias Res

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
An approximation. You should see the Pulp Fiction timeline.

"That is the heart of it. Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself."

Harlan Ellison, "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman

"Into the middle of things" — taken from the poet Horace, In Medias Res refers to the poetic technique of beginning a narrative poem at a late point in the story, after much action has already taken place. Homer makes use of this in The Iliad, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.

When used in TV, it's generally a preamble to a flashback, which falls under How We Got Here — where the action starts at the middle or end of the story and quickly flashes back to the real beginning.

In medias res is a quick and easy way to have an action sequence at the beginning of an episode; for this and related tricks, see Action Prologue. Both in medias res and Action Prologue are also quite common in Video Games for the same reason, and to allow the player to get into the actual gameplay fairly quickly without them having to sit through long expository cut-scenes.

Frequently, the first act of an in medias res opening will end with a situation that looks like it will lead to the death of a major character. It usually doesn't.

See Lost in Medias Res for what happens when this is done badly.

Often inspires someone later on to remark: "This is where we came in!"

Examples of In Medias Res include:

Anime and Manga

  • In an episode of Ouran High School Host Club, The Chessmaster Kyoya wakes up sitting on a bench at a "commoner" shopping mall, all alone, with no money, and no clue how he landed there. Half an episode is then spent on figuring that out.
  • Naruto Shippuuden starts the entire series off In Medias Res, the first 5 minutes of the first episode don't come until about 40 episodes later.
  • Getter Robo Armageddon begins with Ryoma Nagare in prison for murder He was framed as part of an Xanatos Roulette, two main characters already dead, various different types of Getter Robos already designed, built and mass produced; a mad scientist threatening the world with his ultimate creation, and an entire lengthy war against an alien menace that had been presumably won Not.
    • Which is only fitting since the OVA is a sequel to a Japan only Radio Drama. But there are still some plot points that get explained in flashbacks.
  • Ga-Rei Zero: OK, so supernatural monsters are rampaging through Tokyo. They're immune to bullets. So, this uber-cool elite team of anti-supernatural soldiers jump into the action and finish the monsters. And that's the end of episode 1. It's not. Right at the end of the first episode, they all got killed by a katana-wielding schoolgirl. Who is one of the two real protagonists of this series.... What the heck is going on here?
  • Liar Game follows this trope from Nao's perspective
  • Pokémon showed a "special preview episode" in the very first American run of the series; however, the series itself has a standard Welcome Episode. This would not be the only time 4Kids would air a mid-story episode as a preview: Magical DoReMi was previewed with the 4th episode (where Doremi [Dorie], Hazuki [Reanne] and Aiko [Mirabelle] become witch apprentices [witchlings]), and Winx Club was previewed with a episode from late in the first season, before then airing the proper premiere at the start of the regular run.
    • Pokémon did it for a while in the beginning of Diamond and Pearl, as well.
  • Record of Lodoss War does this with the first episode, and introduces the characters and plot in the second episode. With the exception of the narrated opening sequence on the War of the Gods, the plot of the episode takes place between episodes 5 and 6.
    • This really wasn't intentional. They produced the action-packed fifth episode first to convince backers to finance more, then produced the rest of the story, as the chronologically-first episode wasn't as exciting. For some reason DVD releases have kept the episodes in production order, even though all it does is confuse people.
  • The anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist begins in the middle of the brothers' search for the Philosopher's Stone, with the actual introduction happening in the third episode and several more episodes of flashback until it catches up to where they were at the end of the first two episodes.
    • The manga and second anime also start in the middle of their journey, but they do not employ as many flashbacks as the first anime did. The manga will occasionally have extra omake chapters that describe short events that happened during their journey before the start of the series.
  • The American dub premiere of Sailor Moon was another special preview episode, which was actually the first episode of the R series. It featured all five Senshi (unlike the real first episode) but could still serve as somewhat of an introduction.
  • The US dub of the Viewtiful Joe anime began airing with episode 5, which introduced Junior. The actual first episodes were aired as a special later on.
  • The Gintama anime starts with a crazy misadventure that doesn't introduce the characters though show how crazy the show is. The next ep starts the show proper from the beginning.
  • Berserk (moreso in the manga than with the former the anime adaptation) starts after Guts already started his quest to hunt down his nemesis Griffith. It isn't until the end of the first story arc than the manga flashes back to the beginning shows everything that led to Guts' hatred for Griffith.
  • Tokyo Majin starts off the first episode with the team fighting off a horde of zombies. The next few show them first meeting up and getting the powers with which to slay the demons for the rest of the series.
  • The Wandering Son anime adaptation begins four volumes in, almost five since it begins at the very end of volume 4.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has the decency to give a blunt heads-up as to the amount of Mind Screw in store through the series, by opening on a full dose of improper anger management and furniture destruction.
  • The first live action Death Note film begins in this fashion.
  • An interesting Double Subversion (or played straight, depending on how you look at it) in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Episode 10 explains the alternate timelines, but every timeline has technically the same start, due to being parallels of each other. However, the Start of Darkness for the anime actually is explained in Episode 10, which explains Homura's intentions that were not explained in the first two episodes. In other words, the anime starts at the how many times is it now parallel timeline, but we learn of the beginning in episode 10.
  • Victory Gundam started out this way: the first few scenes were of an exciting MS battle, then the anime takes several episodes to show how the characters got there. (Supposedly, this was due to Executive Meddling: Tomino wanted to introduce the eponymous Gundam several episodes into the show, but the execs wanted it to show up in the first episode.)

Comic Books

  • It's common for comics to have a variant called the Batman Cold Open. The difference is that the Batman Cold Open is generally some unrelated crime that we never really get any explanation on, whereas In Medias Res revolves around getting to where we are.
    • Then there are the issues that open with Batman fighting the Demon's Head. Which are In Medias Ra's.
  • The first issue of Nightwing started with the title hero drowning in a different city from Gotham, having suffered a haircut (at the time, he'd had the Dread Mullet). The rest of the comic set up the reason he was there and gave him a reason to stick around in the new city.
  • After the One Year Jump in DC, everything started in medias res. The next year was spent catching the reader up with the weekly comic 52.
  • In All Fall Down, the story begins with superheroes already falling out of the sky.

Fan Works


  • Forrest Gump is an interesting example. The film starts, not in the middle of action per se, but in the middle of the story chronologically. The main character proceeds to tell his life story, narrating a series of flashbacks, until his story catches up with the present.
  • The Usual Suspects opens with Keaton on the deck of the ship about to blow it up. He's stopped. Soon, the police drag in Verbal to tell them How They Got There.
  • Star Wars, anyone? OK, opening crawl notwithstanding, we open in the middle of a galactic civil war with a space battle happening literally right over our heads... and this is the fourth episode. And it took twenty-eight years just to catch up with the backstory.
    • Of course, the first movie was never written to be the "fourth episode" that it turned out to be. When Lucas was writing "The Empire Strikes Back" it was planned to be "Episode II". It was during the writing of Empire that Lucas envisioned the backstory that later became episodes I, II, and III, and decided to call Empire episode V. The original Star Wars film was then re-named "Episode IV: A New Hope" for a 1981 re-release of the film.
    • Revenge of the Sith opens with an even bigger bang, in the form of the Battle of Coruscant. Including everything... and the kitchen sink.
      • In fact, many elements of this introduction must have been incomprehensible for those not having watched Star Wars: Clone Wars beforehand.
      • There was literally a kitchen sink, too. If you listen to the commentary, it's pointed out exactly which explosion features a kitchen sink (for no apparent reason other than to say they did it, apparently).
        • The kitchen sink "first appeared" in MAD Magazine's parody of Return of the Jedi back in 1983.
  • Maverick starts with Bret about to get hanged, then flashes back until you reach the same point about halfway through the film.
  • Reservoir Dogs starts off at the tail end of a botched heist and then jumps back and forth between before and after the job, while never actually showing the events of the job.
  • Mr. Tarantino does this a lot. Pulp Fiction opens with the middle and ending of the main storyline and finishes with the begining of it, pausing in the middle to fit in a different but connected storyline that actually takes place the following day.
  • And then Kill Bill Volume One opens with The Bride killing victim number two before jumping back to explain how she got to that point, the film ends with the killing of victim number one.
  • Underworld begins with a bunch of seemingly random people shooting each other up on the subway. A well-known movie critic actually criticized the use of this trope in his review of the film, remarking that since we don't know who these people are or what their motives are, the action is disconnected and meaningless. Critics suffer from this issue so often it should be its own trope
  • Iron Man started off with Tony Stark riding in a Humvee with soldiers, established his amiable playboy charm, and then had the caravan attacked by the Ten Rings people. Flash back 36 hours, and we learn more about him and how he got there. It's not a point in the middle of the film, though.
  • Memento could be said to start over In Medias Res every three minutes. The main character can't form new memories, and so the entire story takes place backwards so that the audience has the same kind of experience that the main character does.
    • Christopher Nolan's films seem to specialize in this. Batman Begins start the story proper with Bruce Wayne in prison in Bhutan, before flashbacking to explain how he got there. The Prestige begins with a shot of a pile of top hats scattered in some woods followed by Michael Caine performing a magic trick to a little girl, both of which only pop up in the last third of the film. Inception begins with Cobb washing up on a beach before being dragged to meet an aged Saito. The film spends most of its running time recounting how Cobb ended up there.
  • Angels Revenge: The film was recut with the first half of the raid on the processing plant as an Action Prologue, then showing most of the first few acts as a flashback before returning to the rest of the raid. Naturally this was commented upon when the flm appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000:

Mike: "Now that... was a long flashback."

  • Megamind starts with the titular Genre Savvy villain falling from a fatal height, then flashes back. Way back.
  • National Treasure began with the characters digging up a sunken ship in Alaska without any explanation of how they got there.
    • Well, we hear about the Templar Treasure before that, and the Jump Cut lets us know one of the men digging up the ship is Ben, so we might assume it has something to do with the treasure. But you're right- there isn't any clear connection until we see that "Charlotte" is the name of the ship.
  • Fight Club opens with a gun in the narrator's mouth, then details all the events leading up to this point. The narrator then slightly changes the dialogue to lampshade the trope.
  • Mystery Team begins with the eponymous trio in the middle of a seemingly important investigation.
  • Just Married starring Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher starts with the two main characters getting back from their nightmare of a honeymoon, and pushing each other around and spitting gum in one another's hair.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger starts off with explorers finding the HYDRA bomber that Captain America crash-landed in the Arctic, as well as his shield and (presumably) his frozen body. The film then begins proper after that, acting as a feature-length example of the trope.
  • Gandhi begins with Mohandas Gandhi's assassination and his funeral, then cuts to him being thrown off a train in South Africa.
  • The Butterfly Effect begins with the main character frantically scribbling a cryptic sentence in his journal whilst wearing clothing from a mental hospital. The rest of the movie is spent catching up.


  • The Iliad famously begins in medias res towards the end of the ninth year of Troy's ten-year siege. Of course, back when Homer was reciting this on street corners everybody KNEW How They Got There, which was a very long story in itself (or, rather, set of stories).
    • Richard Armour in his The Classics Reclassified describes "medias res" as "-- beginning in the middle of things thus leaving the reader confused to the very end."
    • The Odyssey begins in the same way after roughly a ten year Time Skip with Athena urging Telemachus to go search for his missing father Odysseus.
    • The Homeric use of this made it into a standard convention of epic poetry, and the much later (and Roman) Aeneid begins in much the same way, with Aeneas' fleet threatened by a divine storm while en route to Italy. Aeneas fills in the beginning of the story later on using a Framing Device.
  • Kurt Vonnegut was very fond of beginning in medias res. Starting with Slaughterhouse-5, which literally jumps around in time, his preferred method of storytelling involved telling a bit from here, a bit from there, until the picture is complete. Hocus Pocus is particularly notable for beginning a million years after the main action.
    • Galapagos did the same thing.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • All of Kin Platt's Steve Forrester novels began with the reluctant teen/preteen "detective" explaining the events leading up to him spending the night in jail, being involved in a satanic ritual, or behind the wheel of his Uncle's Hudson Hornet enroute to killing a man.
  • All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka has an interesting example of it. The book starts off in the middle of a battlefield where some of the would-be supporting cast are killed off. At the end of the first chapter, the main character dies. He then wakes up in his bed, believing it to all be a dream, but many of the events throughout the dream happening before the battle start happening in real life (such as his platoon receiving punishment for taking alcohol from storage) while other events are slightly different (a woman soldier who he met in the dream on the battlefield before he died takes part in the punishment in real life, while she simply watched in the dream). In reality, the main character is stuck in a time loop due to accidental exposure to alien technology.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird starts with the sentence: "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." That happens at the end of the book. The idea seems to be that it comes up in a conversation the adult Scout is having, and the book is her explaining the events that lead up to it.
  • Starship Troopers The book, not the movie. Whole first chapter is an action movie sequence. Then it goes back to how we got here.
    • Halo: The Fall of Reach (the first Halo novel) does the same thing.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude opens thus: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
  • Catch-22.
  • Each book of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga opens with a preface that is actually describing a scene that happens near the climax of the story.
  • The Red Mars Trilogy opens the night of the assassination of John Boone, the first man on Mars, then jumps back about twenty-seven years.
  • A favoured trope of Isaac Asimov, who was instructed by a fellow author "to start every story as late as possible".
  • Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons starts in the middle of the story. Chapters labelled with the words 'one, two' etc. go forward in time toward the climax of the book. Chapters labelled in roman numerals go backward in time towards the start of the book. The book ended with two climaxes - one that was the start of the story, and explained everything you didn't understand about the main character. The other ended the story properly.
  • The first chapter of the Dragaera novel Dragon starts out with with Vlad participating as a soldier in a battle between two armies. The second chapter goes back to the start of what got an assassin like him involved in something most assassins would want to avoid like the plague. The third chapter takes off where the first chapter ended, the fourth chapter takes off where the second chapter ended, and so forth. And the next-to-last chapter ends right where the first chapter starts.
    • Vlad lampshades this in the narration, apologizing for starting his story in the middle, while explaining that that's pretty much where it starts.
    • Jhereg does the same, with three timelines; one at the end of the story, one in the middle, and one starting with Vlad's childhood. The earliest timeline catches up to the middle timeline only at the very end of the book, shortly after the middle timeline catches up to the most recent.
  • "The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault...
    • Grave Peril is particularly faithful to this trope, starting a few days after Dresden's battle with a sorcerer and his summoned demon, but not describing this encounter until he re-lives it in a nightmare several chapters into the book.
  • Stephen King's Blaze starts off in the present and flashes back throughout the novel to explain how the characters got there.
  • Roland Deschain from The Dark Tower started his journey many years before the beginning of the first book, and when taking into account how many years that actually was, some would say the series itself only chronicles the end of the quest.


  • This is a very common trope for biographies—specifically the author will start with a taste of some part of the subject's life that everyone's familiar with, then jump back to the mundanities of his/her heritage and upbringing. For example, Michael Korda's Eisenhower biography Ike: An American Hero starts out right before D-Day, chronicling the tension and uncertainty behind the scenes on the night before and quoting Ike as saying to a confidante (Kay Summersby), "I hope to God I know what I'm doing" before starting chapter two with a jump back to his childhood in Kansas.
  • Don't Panic, Neil Gaiman's biography of Douglas Adams starts out with the inception of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then jumps back to Adams' birth.

Live-Action TV

  • Charmed does this once, where it starts with the sisters running away from the Cleaners, get their memories of yesterday erased and Wyatt wiped from existence, but they cast a spell tuning back the day and find out why the Cleaners are after Wyatt: he conjures a DRAGON out of a TV show, after magically switching channels to the dragon movie.
  • The pilot episode of Firefly, "Serenity", twice—first beginning in the middle of the Battle of Serenity Valley, and then flashing forward to the middle of a heist. See also the episode "Trash".
    • Firefly was intended to start with a Welcome Episode, but the network thought it was too complicated to use as an introduction, so the screenwriters hastily concocted a One We Prepared Earlier (in this case a misnomer), "The Train Job", to run as the actual broadcast premiere.
    • The most notable case is probably "Out of Gas". It starts with a deserted Serenity, except for a badly hurt Mal, without telling us how things went this way. Then it jumps back to the day Mal showed Serenity to Zoe for the first time, then shows us how the trouble started, and then keeps jumping back and forth between the "pre-crisis" and the "post-crisis" scenes, mixed with scenes showing us the day Mal bought Serenity and how every single member of the crew happened to join. It's a masterclass in how to use this literary device without losing focus or characterisation, as well as a compelling piece of drama in it's own right.
  • Tends also to be used on Alias.
  • The "death lead-in" version was done particularly badly in one episode of CSI: Miami, where it was patently obvious Calleigh hadn't actually been shot.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Human Nature", first by opening the episode in the middle of an alien attack, then cutting into the middle of the Doctor's life as a human before revealing how he got there, by way of explaining the alien attack.
    • Cleverly lampshaded in "Love & Monsters", where Elton, who narrates the story, begins the episode with his encounter with the doctor and a hostile alien creature. He then admits that what we just saw wasn't the start of the story. "I just put that bit at the beginning 'cause it's a brilliant opening."
      • Later, once he gets to the point in the story where the beginning action takes place he says, "don't get too excited, that's the point where you came in", and the sequence gets a bit fast-forwarded.
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace" begins with all of the people at Versailles running and screaming, and Reinette shouting for the Doctor through the fireplace. After the opening credits, the story is begun again, from the Doctor landing on the spaceship.
    • "Silence in the Library" begins with Charlotte explaining the Library to her father and Dr. Moon, when all of a sudden the Doctor and Donna run through the door, sealing it shut. The Doctor then says, "Oh, hello! Sorry to burst in on you like this. OK if we stop here for a bit?" The girl is shown as upset, and the opening credits then start, after which the story starts back from where Donna and the Doctor first land in the Library.
    • And then we have series 6, which starts off with an older version of the Doctor being killed, except not really, which doesn't happen in his timeline until the series finale.
  • Many episodes of Farscape start this way, and the pilot episode even invokes it on the main character, who is just as confused as the rest of us when he's suddenly thrown into a huge battle between spaceships and then is pulled into one of them with a bunch of weird aliens shouting all around him until finally one of them knocks him out.
  • The individual segments of NCIS begin with a black and white freeze-frame, and then go through the segment as usual, leading up to the events that culminate in the same image, which then switches to black and white again.
    • There was also a very effective "death lead-in" version of this done in season 5, opening with Tony performing CPR on Gibbs and a young woman.
  • Lost usually falls more into How We Got Here, but one use of In Medias Res was "Greatest Hits." It begins with Karl frantically running and getting into a canoe for reasons we don't yet understand, then cuts to the Losties, being led across the island by Jack for a dynamite demonstration. This allows an episode which is mostly a lead-up to the action of the finale to begin with a chase and an explosion.
  • Stargate SG-1 and its spinoffs loved this trope, so much so that it was a relief when an episode wasn't told in this manner.
  • Supernatural, Season 1, "Skin". It begins with the cops breaking into a house where someone has a girl tied to a chair and is about to kill her. When the cops confront the killer, it's a smirking Dean Winchester. The episode then shows How We Got Here. It also does an In Medias Res with the "Nightshifter" episode in Season 2... and How We Got Here reveals it's for almost the same exact reason.
  • Battlestar Galactica likes this trope, but a notable example is in the Season 2 episode "Scar." It starts off with a dogfight involving Starbuck, Kat, and the titular Cylon Raider. The episode then details the days leading up to this dogfight, highlighting the deaths of several Nuggets, Starbuck's downward spiral and Kat's rapidly rising Badass quotient, and the growing conflict between them. This is intercut with further scenes of the dogfight, building the tension each time as we go back to the main story, with the battle finally resolved in the end. Kat kills Scar, leading to Starbuck acknowledging her rival and delivering a moving tribute to the fallen pilots.
  • Caprica seems to be going the same direction, with the episode "End of Line" beginning with Zoe driving a car while chased by police cars and helicopters.
  • Nearly every episode of Flashpoint begins this way (the moment being the titular the flashpoint). However, the beginning intro often misleads the audience when the situation is much more complicated and different than they had originally expected.
  • Seinfeld
  • Mad About You
  • Without a Trace
  • The first episode of Hogan's Heroes features the group already in place at Stalag 13 with everything already in place. We're introduced to the operation only through Hogan giving a new prisoner who is actually a German spy a tour, and there's never a flashback episode showing how they set up their organization in the first place.
    • Slightly notable is the fact that some of the elements in the pilot (most notably one of the characters, a few sections of the tunnels, and the use of black-and-white rather than color) differ from the rest of the show.
  • This is a hallmark of 24.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Both pilots.
    • One of the most effective teasers this troper ever saw was a short sequence in a Star Trek: Enterprise episode; T'Pol is screaming and thrashing in sickbay. After the intro, we see the events that led to this.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. It used this trope so often the trope could easily be called "Voyager-Style Teaser."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had one episode starting off with the ship exploding.
    • And another starts out in an alien hospital—the doctors are puzzling over Riker's odd physiology. It later turns out that Riker was conducting surface reconnaissance on a planet that had just become warp-capable, as the Federation was about to make first contact with them. He'd been injured in an accident and was brought unconscious to a hospital.
  • The Shield did this, with the actual introduction episode "Day One", showing the events of the first day at the then newly-opened Police Station, not appearing until the second season. It also contains the Start of Darkness for some of the main characters.
  • Babylon 5 begins in this fashion as the original pilot was aired as a backdoor pilot well over a year before the series actually began. When released on DVD the pilot episode was also released separately from the first season. Some attempt at a Welcome Episode is still made, but events from the pilot are still referred to by characters and are assumed to be known. Further many relevant events leading to the current state of the universe that would be known to any person actually residing in it are withheld until later in the series.
    • This was done on purpose since the creator didn't want to tell the story of a world, but only a 5 year slice of a much bigger story.
  • Radio Free Roscoe doesn't explain just how exactly they got a radio station until the end of season 1.
  • Several Smallville episodes feature a Cold Open where people act strangely followed by an explanation of How We Got Here to provide context.
  • Power Rangers Samurai premiered with episode 3. As of this writing, we don't know when the real first two episodes will air.
  • Breaking Bad for the first season and some of the second.
  • The Frasier episode "Daphne Does Dinner", opening in the middle of what appeared to be the climax of a tongue-in-cheek "typical" episode, featuring as many Frasier-specific tropes as was possible to cram into a minute — furious guests storming out of a disastrous dinner party of Frasier and Niles's that had obviously gone ridiculously awry, blown up in their faces a few seconds before the episode began, and apparently involved lots of lying, mishaps, and mix-ups (Frasier pretending to have Tourette's Syndrome, goats in the kitchen, something about flaming kababs, and Martin having to pretend he was an Italian count). The chain of events that led to this incident were never explained, and the actual episode dealt with the backlash from the hypothetical "episode" glimpsed in the opening, with Daphne banning Frasier and Niles from helping her with her own dinner party.
  • The Discovery Channel series Storm Chasers has started a couple of seasons thus far in this manner:
    • In season 4 (documenting the 2010 tornado chase season), the first few minutes of the season's first episode shows the immediate aftermath of the tornado that destroyed Yazoo City, Mississippi, on April 24, 2010. The rest of the episode moves back to cover events from a few days prior to that storm.
    • In season 5 (documenting the 2011 tornado chase season), the entire first episode of that season covers the devastating tornado outbreak that tore through Mississippi and Alabama, on April 27, 2011. The next two episodes cover events from a week prior to that disaster, with the rest of the season following afterward.
  • Castle is in love with this trope and does it frequently. How well it does it tends to vary from episode to episode.
  • The Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Gets Trapped" starts out with Dennis, Dee and Frank trapped inside a family home, in the midst of a plan to steal an expensive vase.


  • Rarer in music but can be found in some concept-based albums (although this isn't a general rule).
  • Los Campesinos!'s album Romance is Boring opens with a song called "In Medias Res"
    • The first line '...But let's talk about you for a minute' suggests that the song itself begins in medias res.
  • The Decemberists's album 'The Crane Wife' opens with 'Crane Wife 3', later on in the album comes 'Crane Wife 1 &2 ' which gives the listener the beginning of the story.
  • The first three parts of the Rush saga "Fear", which was split across four albums, were released in reverse order (i.e. Part 3 first).
  • The Joel Plaskett Emergency's concept album 'Ashtray Rock' begins with a track entitled "Introduction," which is (a form of) the opening lines of the last track, "Soundtrack For The Night."


  • In the Doctor Who audio drama No More Lies, the first episode starts with the Doctor and Lucie on the heels of a time traveling criminal named Zimmerman. They throw you right into the action making you wonder if you missed an episode. The actual story however deals with his attempt to escape leaving him trapped for years and eventually settling down and starting a family before the Doctor and his companion catch up with him to bring him to justice.


  • The Musical adaptation of Little Women.
  • Wicked, although it starts father towards the end of the story than most. We open the day after Dorothy Gale has just melted the Wicked Witch of the West, with the all of Oz celebrating her downfall. Glinda The Good Witch of the North appears to tell them how horrible and evil she was- and then someone "didn't you know her once?" Thus begins the story of how the Wicked Witch- Elphaba- was born green, abused and neglected throughout her childhood, and eventually befriended G(a)linda. Turns out that Glinda was only pretending to hate her to secure good PR, so she could dispose of Oz's corrupt government as the (supposedly) dead Elphaba wanted.

Video Games

  • Max Payne opens with Max on the rooftop of a building, having landed a successful sniper shot. The entire rest of the game reveals How He Got There via Flash Back.
    • Max Payne 2 The Fall of Max Payne begins with an injured Max and Mona laying on the floor of a mansion with police outside. The rest of the game shows How They Got There in Flash Back... which, in turn, starts with a bloodied Max attempting to escape from a hospital. The two Parts that follow reveal How He Got There via Flash Back.
    • Max Payne 3 begins with Max standing over a man who has an arm missing and most of his body badly nurned. It is implied that Max did this as he laments what he has become. The rest of the game explain why he did this and who this person is.
  • Final Fantasy often embraces this trope:
    • Final Fantasy II starts off in the middle of a civil war between an empire and a resistance force.
    • In Final Fantasy IV, the player joins a captain who is returning from a slaughter, about which he and his men feel deep regret.
    • Final Fantasy VI opens with two soldiers and an amnesiac attacking a town. You're provided some exposition, but the background of this scene is unclear. It's made all the more baffling because you control the bad guys.
    • Final Fantasy VII starts with Cloud and AVALANCHE leaping off a train, beating up guards, and infiltrating a power plant to blow it up. You get some tidbits of information in the elevator, but you don't know what's going on or why until the mission is over.
    • Final Fantasy X begins this way, with the heroes gathered around a fire near the end of Yuna's pilgrimage. The first words are "Listen to my story," and playing the game then proceeds to tell us How We Got Here.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 begins in the middle of a mission to recover Yuna's stolen Songstress dressphere. We never actually see her joining the Gullwings.
    • Final Fantasy XIII has this in spades. The game drops you right into the middle of its world, starting off with a large-scale action scene. It fills in exactly what is happening later.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2 follows suit by starting Noel's side of the story in the middle and filling the beginning in at the beginning of the game. DLC expansions also serve as the beginning to the stories well underway parallel to the main story's progression.
  • Dragon Quest VIII starts after the hero has already agreed to help the cursed king and princess, and even after he's already recruited his first companion, and with very little exposition as to how things got this way. It's not until you recruit your next companion that she asks about the situation, and you're treated to Yangus and Trode's interpretation of How They Got There.
  • Halo begins with the warship Pillar of Autumn emerging from faster than light travel after fleeing from the most recent defeat in a war against aliens that humanity has been losing for decades. Of course, this isn't really covered in the games.
  • Killer7 begins with the Smith syndicate storming Kun Lao's headquarters, and only after poking around the building does it become clear what it is you're there for, where the enemies are coming from and who the hell you even are.
  • Need for Speed: Underground starts putting you right behind the wheel of a bonus car equipped with nitrous. It was All Just A Daydream.
    • Similarly, Need for Speed: Most Wanted also gives you A Taste of Power, where the car is sabotaged and you lose the race, then it has you play through several events leading up to it.
  • Warriors Orochi starts in medias res, with Orochi having already devastated the various factions and forced them into the positions from which they will begin their counter-attack. How We Got Here is only briefly glossed over; it isn't explored in depth until the sequel.
  • Gears of War opens with Marcus Fenix busting out of prison, with no explanation given as to what's happening or who or what the strange Orc people shooting at you are. The game actually does have an intro movie that briefly explains the whole COG vs Locust war, but it oddly DOESN'T play when you start a new game, only if you idle on the main menu for a couple minutes.
    • Well the first game did have a rather elaborate marketing campaign explaining the history of the Pendulum Wars and what happened on E-Day.
      • Which raises an interesting point: nowhere in the entire first game's campaign does anyone ever use the phrase "Emergence day", apart from some unexplained text stating that the game takes place '14 years after E-day'. This troper didn't even realize that the game didn't take place on Earth until he stumbled onto the intro movie after playing through the whole campaign.
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld does this - the player makes their way through a burning Croft Manor until Lara is shot at by Zip. We then go back to one week earlier, and then play through a few levels until we are made to play through the intro sequence again, only this time we are shown why Zip was firing at Lara...
  • Syphon Filter 3 opens with the continuation from the cliffhanger of 2, skip to Logan being questioned in a hearing, and cut to a flashback of Logan (allegedly) murdering a "world leader" with a sniper rifle. Your first mission is spent on how and in what context Logan was shooting, and the entire game is a buildup to the climactic questioning scene, which is about 2 levels from the end.
  • Chrono Cross: After naming the main character, you're thrust into a sequence where he, Kid, and a random potential party member are going after Lynx. Eventually some strange events occur, and.. Serge wakes up in his bed at home. Naturally he was Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • Vagrant Story opens with VKP agent Ashley Riot infiltrating Duke Bardorba's manor, during an event that the narration dubs "The Graylands Incident," in which Ashley supposedly murdered the Duke. Want to know why Ashley is there, who sent him, and what is at stake? Watch the Attract Mode. Want to know whether he really murdered a bedridden, old nobleman with a kidnapped son? Finish the game.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time does this, overlapped with a Framing Device, although instead of being during an action sequence, it's instead very near the end of the plot, as he's telling his story to Farah. When you select "Save and Quit," the Prince even says, "Very well. I'll continue my story from here later."
    • It must be noted that the storyline-as-narration leads to some funny Fridge Logic when you realize, based on the Prince's lines when you have to continue, his story to Farah must have included lines like, "And then I was killed by the sand monster! ...No, wait a second..."
      • The Prince himself lampshades this. When you die for real he says "No, wait. That's not how it happened. Let me start again."
      • Lampshaded again when he concedes that he might actually be mad after all. And he was killed by the sand monster anyway (temporarily), so it makes sense that he's a little... confused.
  • The intro movie to "The Punisher" ends with Frank Castle being arrested, and subsequent pre-level cinematics show him being interrogated by two cops; most of the game's levels take place prior to this questioning.
  • Sly Cooper 3 begins with a level where Sly infiltrates the island fortress of one Dr. M. He communicates with various allies via videophone, though their faces are blacked out. When you reach a certain point in the level, Sly has to fight a giant boss, which knocks his staff away and captures him, slowly crushing him to death. He takes this time to recall How We Got Here, and the subsequent chapters deal with him recruiting the allies who'll help with the final level's grand heist.
  • The first chapter of Tales of Monkey Island begins with a confrontation between Guybrush and LeChuck after a Noodle Incident of an adventure.
    • Heck, The Curse of Monkey Island starts in a fair bit of time after its predecessor's Mind Screw ending; what happened in between is never revealed, but hinted at by having it happen again in the game's last two chapters.
      • Monkey Island 2 Le Chucks Revenge starts with Guybrush hanging on a rope over a huge chasm. The better part of the game is spent on him recounting the events that led to this predicament. After he finishes the rope almost immediately snaps.
  • Played straight in the second installment of "Uncharted". This trope is played straight, if not, with better precision than Homer's Odyssey.
  • Far Cry Instincts: Evolution opens with a rail gun sequence atop a fleeing Humvee. As the Humvee is surrounded, main character Jack muses " the hell did I get here?" The game then cuts to Jack at a tropical bar, where the storyline kicks off.
  • Call of Duty: Big Red One begins in September or October 1944 as the player, a sergeant in command of The Squad, helps attack a small town during the tutorial. After being wounded in the end, the story flashes back to November 1942 when the player character was a lowly private. After playing the mission which ends with your squad leader being wounded and you taking over, the game essentially skips the events of the tutorial and continues from October or November 1944 until crossing the Sigfried Line in 1945 at the end of the game.
  • In Dark Cloud 2, immediately after starting a new game you're thrown into the middle of an invasion of King Raybrandt's castle by Emperor Griffon's forces, the latest coup in a long-running war between the future world and the timeline-erasing Big Bad. You only have a very brief explanation of how the controls work before you, as Princess Monica Raybrandt, have to fend off the attackers with sword and magic. It's only after the final fate of the combatants is decided that the narrative calms down and introduces you to the main protagonist, Max, in the present time.
  • Knights of the Old Republic begins with a Sith attack on the Endor Spire, the ship you're serving aboard. You'll only get a reasonable grasp of what's going on after you escape the ship and talk with the other survivor, Carth. Almost certainly a homage to the original Star Wars.
  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is like this, but rather than start in the middle, it starts minutes from the ending. This leads to a How We Got Here
  • The very first cutscene of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood shows a part near the end of the game with Ezio confronting Cesare in person, then the first playable bit rewinds years to Ezio escaping from the Vault and Vatican immediately after 2.
  • Brothers in Arms: Hill 30 begins with the player and his squad about to get overrun. The player character is knocked off his feet by a scripted shell and loses conciousness. The screen then goes black and it takes you back eight days to D-Day where the narrative begins.
  • The first God of War begins with Kratos standing on a cliff, stating "The Gods of Olympus have abandoned me... now, there is no hope..." before he simply falls off. Athena spouts some babble while the camera shows him falling down the mountain, and when he finally hits the ocean... the screen blacks out and the game flashes back a couple weeks to when Kratos was sailing the Aegean Sea. Cue an utterly epic adventure.
    • Also, as the adventure moves forward, Kratos' backstory is revealed in media res. So the first God of War starts at the end, goes to the middle, and visits the beginning multiple times through the story.
  • While the Sonic Adventure 2 dark side story is told in chronological order, the hero side story begins In Medias Res. This is probably because if it didn't, Knuckles would have had the first stage over Sonic.
  • The intro to Command & Conquer: Red Alert explains why things are different, but not really how things are different (enigmatic comments about time telling the consequences, cut to unexplained CGI war scenes with one side using hammers and sickles as symbols). When the actual campaigns start, it is clear the war has been going on for some time.
  • Zeno Clash begins with Ghat running from his hometown after killing Father-Mother. As he flees his angered brothers and sisters, he explains to Deadra the first half of the plot through flashbacks.
  • Chaos Rings II begins with Darwin facing off against the Final Boss, the Destroyer/Neron. He proceeds to get one hit killed in a Curb Stomp Battle. Cue the flashback, beginning with time first being frozen by Bachs.
  • Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs begins with you, as a veteran Rangner, and The Lancer in high speed aerial pursuit of several Pincher goons, in stark contrast to the prior two games which had you as a beginner. Minor backstory tidbits are displayed as flashbacks when they become relevant throughout the game.

Web Comics

Elan: Awww, man! I hate it when a scene begins "in medias res"! I never know what's going on until like two strips later!

  • Played with in Dinosaur Comics "Literary Technique Comics: In Medias Res", where T-Rex explains the trope, but we only see the very end of the explanation.
  • Of the currently existent Anges Quill stories, all but one use this, starting in the middle of the action late in one case, before wrapping it up and segueing to the one that will be the primary focus of the story. And the overall story also starts in medias res, with Agnes already fairly well-established in her new career—the most important points of how she got there were covered in the Cast page, and further expanded on in supplemental materials included in the book collection.
  • In Erfworld, we join the story only after the Plaid have lost 10 out of their 11 cites, and there is a slight subversion the very first panel of the very first page shows Erfworld being created. You really can't start a story much earlier then that.
  • In Tales of the Questor, after a brief diversion from the main story, the reader sees Quentyn in a predicament with no explanation as to what's going on. The author writes "Um, hold on, maybe I should start at the beginning...", and the next strip begins a few days before.
  • Most strips of Bob the Angry Flower are like this.
  • AH Dot Com the Series first season begins with the characters assembled on the ship, the CF.netters their blood enemies and no explanation for how all of this came to be. This was explained in a series of flashback episodes later on, beginning with the end of season 1 when the Planet Eater that caused the rift between Dr. What and Ward returns.
  • Used in this Schlock Mercenary plot arc.

Kevin: As long as it's not in medias Res. That would be really annoying.

  • Played for laughs in Beaver and Steve.
  • This xkcd strip is entirely In Medias Res.
  • Girly Part 4 starts in Media Res, with the protagonists trapped in an alien-looking landscape.
  • Although Next Town Over starts off with a brief flashback and features snippets of flashbacks every so often later on, readers only get a concrete plot In Medias Res with Vane Black hunting down John Henry Hunter for reasons only vaguely hinted at.
  • The opening scene of 'Cwynhild's Loom involves the title character being stabbed in the chest while asleep on a train.
  • Dreamwalk Journal begins some time after our heroines have dreamwalked to the planet Cyeatea and are already saying farewell to one of their native guides. There is no Flash Back in the comic itself; the backstory is only given in the behind-the-scenes text journal entries... which at the time of writing are not on line.

Web Original

  • Wormtooth Nation opens with Sam in the middle of a mission of some sort, but he's just been nixed and has no more idea of what's going on than the audience does.

Western Animation

  • Code Lyoko: Many episodes begin in the middle of the action on Lyoko. This strongly implies that not all of XANA's attacks are shown, several happening off-screen. There is even one How We Got Here in "Bragging Rights". The show itself starts without a Pilot or Premiere episode; there was no explanation of how Team Lyoko discovered the Supercomputer, programmed their virtual avatar appearances and abilities, or came to meet Aelita, until a two-part prequel in Season 3.
  • Many an ep of Kids Next Door.
  • For its first five seasons, the traditional episode of the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series began like this, showing events from later in the episode alongside a narration explaining the character's thoughts on the situation.
  • King of the Hill
  • Many cartoons like Danny Phantom and The Wild Thornberrys (which use the title sequence to explain the premise of the show). Thornberrys did have a sort of belated Welcome Episode with "Gift of Gab", explaining how Eliza got said gift. As did Danny Phantom with the episode "Memory Blank".
  • The E/I cartoon Cro had an interesting hybrid for its premiere: the Framing Device, a mammoth talking about the good old days before he was frozen, was of the One We Prepared Earlier type, while the main story started with the Welcome Episode type with Cro meeting up with the mammoths for the first time.
  • Teen Titans began this way, a surprising rarity for a superhero series. We didn't see a "proper" origin until the fifth season.
  • Batman: The Animated Series began similarly. Interestingly, the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics also had the character introduced fully-fledged without backstory. Notably, Batman's origin (i.e., his parents getting killed) wasn't given any direct screen time until the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything", though episodes of the Animated Series (e.g. "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne") and Mask of the Phantasm regularly hinted at it.
  • Challenge of the Superfriends
  • The Simpsons
    • Though the original pilot did feature an opening scene of the family eating breakfast where we get a feel for all their personalities. This was toned down when the episode was turned into the first season finale.
      • Also, the series is technically spun off the Tracey Ullman Show where it was an animated skit anyway, though I think that still had this trope in effect.
        • The very first Ullman short definitely qualifies, as it involves Homer and Marge putting the kids to sleep—we see very little of the kids' personalities, except that they seem to have trouble sleeping for various reasons.
          • How do you have anything but this in a sitcom?
  • Birdman, and even more subtly, The Galaxy Trio.
  • Samurai Jack had a "proper" origin episode, but there was a special preview episode on Kid's WB before it debuted on Cartoon Network; it would later air as the fourth episode.
  • The Replacements
  • The Powerpuff Girls, although the short that creator Craig McCracken initially submitted to Cartoon Network was an origin story that wasn't used due to an inappropriate title ("The Whoop-Ass Girls") and was pretty much the same as the opening. While the opening sequence does introduce the characters quickly, a real origin story doesn't occur until The Movie.
    • This also happens with the episode "Him Diddle Riddle", as the Girls are already in the middle of solving Him's series of trials.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series started out just assuming that everyone knew who Spider-Man was and his backstory. Later we did get a couple things about his past fleshed out, but it wasn't until the third season that we actually saw the entire story of how he got his powers and decided to become a hero.
    • The 1967 cartoon began similarly. The second season premiere, on the other hand, specifically kicked off with "The Origin of Spider-Man".
    • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends went a full season without origins for the titular trio, either individually or as a group; their personal origins were the focus of the three-episode second season, and "The Origin of the Spider-Friends" appeared midway through season three.
    • The Spectacular Spider-Man saved its origin episode for the second-to-last episode of the first season.
  • Kim Possible
  • Ruby Gloom
    • Especially noteworthy: Most of the story is told in flashback, and it involves three characters thinking that Ruby is moving out of the house and two others thinking that she's dying. One heck of a first episode for any show!
  • The "US Acres" shorts in Garfield and Friends begun with all the main players already in their place. While a few episodes showed Orson's life on his old home farm, there's no episode explaining how he came to live in his new home. Likewise, Booker and Sheldon got their origin story made into an episode, but no episode explaining how Orson and friends met Bo and Lanolin was produced.
  • The first two episodes of Swat Kats cut straight to the action. It isn't until the introduction of Dark Kat in episode 3 that we learn about the history of the two vigilantes through flashback.
  • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers counts as this—the Five Episode Pilot, "To the Rescue", is episodes #28-32 in production order.
  • Yo Yogi! had its origin episode aired as #12.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender used this to kick off "The Runaway".
  • Transformers Generation 1 opens with Wheeljack and Bumblebee collecting the last few energy sources on their planet, fighting Starscream, and then the Autobots' and Decepticons' voyage to Earth. It took many episodes until some of the backstory was explained.
  • Phineas and Ferb Across The Second Dimension begins with Phineas, Ferb and Doctor Doofenzmirtz (characters who normally never meet) in chains and about to be killed, while Phineas remarks that he's "having trouble putting a positive spin on this". Then they cut back to earlier that day, explaining how the boys and Doof happened to meet, and the Wacky Hijinks, emotional upheaval and bad-ass fight sequences that ensued. Once they finally catch up to the start, Phineas just fast forwards through his dialog while Ferb notices a sense of deja vu.
    • Also kicks off the episode "Remains of the Platypus"; you'll definitely want to work out how we got to Karl-The-Squirrel-Man and the dancing Royal guards.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes begins by skipping over the origin stories of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man, and The Wasp, as well as the story of how Hawkeye became a crimefighter. Word of God says the writers assumed viewers would already know Iron Man's and the Hulk's origins from their respective movies, and detailing how Ant-Man and Wasp got their powers so early on in the series would leave the two of them with less time to impress viewers who never read their comics.
    • Captain America (comics)'s introductory episode begins after he became an American icon. However, it does open with a newsreel recounting his origin story, for the convenience of viewers who did not know it.
    • This trope is averted for Black Panther and Ms. Marvel, whose origin stories occur during the first season instead of before it.
  • Hulk vs. Wolverine begins with Wolverine waking up after getting punched by the Hulk. The short then shows a lengthy flashback of Wolverine getting sent on a mission by Department H to hunt the Hulk, encountering Bruce Banner while searching, and causing Banner to Hulk Out.

Real Life

  • Almost anytime you meet someone, you will be entering their life long after their story has begun.
  • When your mother gave birth to you, she had gone through probably two or more decades of her life already.
  • Your own life story - try remembering your first couple of years! Chances are, you only know early information about yourself because you learned about it after the fact.[1] Your memories begin in medias res.
  1. Some biologists believe that it is neurologically impossible to remember anything from one's first six months of life, or when one was in the womb.