Sequel Reset

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(Mike Myers sits on his bed, waiting to be shagged by Liz Hurley, baby, yeah.)
Myers: Well, it appears as though my character has been fully explored, and there's just no new direction I can go in for this movie, baby!
Hurley: Wait! I'm actually a robot.
(She explodes.)

Myers: Yeah baby! I can go back to the same character I was in the first movie now! I wonder if I could get away with using the same script...

So, your original work was a success. The writer has finished things off with just about all the awesomeness that the story universe can muster. Everything is wrapped up. The universe is saved, the forces of evil are either destroyed or in full retreat, The Hero got the girl, the rightful heir got his throne, et cetera. All in one awesome finale. Well, what better way to capitalize on it than making a Sequel, right?

Trouble is, you didn't really have a sequel in mind when you wrote the original story; it's quite self-contained. In fact, everything's been tied up with a nice little ribbon: The story is conclusively over. The heroes look up to the author, er, the sky, and ask So What Do We Do Now?? And the author has no answer.

Say hello to the Sequel Reset. The opposite of the Sequel Hook, this is when something (a scene, a line of dialogue, etc) occurs at the beginning of the sequel in order to establish that, as it turns out, the story isn't quite as over as we thought. It's used in order to justify the existence of the sequel and compensate for the lack of a Sequel Hook in the first one; inevitably, between the first movie and the second, something has happened to shake up the status quo that was restored at the end of the first movie in order to provide the sequel with the same (or similar, at least) character motivations / dynamics and plot requirements. The Hero and the Love Interest have broken up. Looks like the Big Bad isn't quite as dead as we thought. Maybe our hero's discovered that Victory Is Boring. Or just when the Hero thought his mundane life was back to normal, the good guys come stampeding out of his past and back into his life; it turns out the world wasn't put to rights after all and they need his help again...

When it's done well, it can open up a story that we'd thought was finished for a rewarding second visit. After all, life goes on even for fictional characters, and just because everything looked tied up with a neat little bow at the end of the first installment doesn't mean that the situation might not have changed a little later down the track. Furthermore, it can provide an interesting examination on why the ending of the first movie wasn't quite as open-and-shut as we thought by showing us what would happen if the seemingly incompatible lovers did get together, or what would happen if no one believed the crazy story those people who claimed to save the world told.

However, just as the Sequel Hook can come across as being cheesy, clichéd and hokey, the Sequel Reset can sometimes be quite contrived. It's sometimes apparent that the producers aren't going to do anything new, nor enrich the world of the first movie by showing us what happened later down the track; instead, they may just be trying to cash in on something that worked the first time around by offering us more of the same or, perhaps, completely overturning the clear—and satisfying—ending of the first piece. It's often an unfortunate sign that Sequelitis is just around the corner, by forcing open an ending that was clearly and satisfyingly shut for no other reason than to provide an excuse for a sequel. If it's particularly grating, then it may fall into Fanon Discontinuity.

One way to write yourself into a corner is to leave nothing left for your heroes to do other than fill in a CV and get a job. (Assuming they aren't already the rulers of somewhere.) If you find yourself in the position where you can't plausibly draw up a new villain without the fans screaming Diabolus Ex Machina, you might need to draw up a new universe. Which isn't easy.

Ways to get out of this vary.

Symptoms often include Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. In video games, this is often accompanied by a Bag of Spilling.

Examples of Sequel Reset include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Speed Racer has been remade for television three times, twice by American studios, but only one of them was a sequel reboot. Speed Racer: The Next Generation follows the adventures of Speed's sons, taking place 40 years after the events in the original show. Coincidentally, this premiered during the franchise's 40th anniversary, and around the time the feature film was released.
  • At the end of the first season of Shakugan no Shana, Shana finally confesses that she's in love with Yuuji. However, in the interests of maintaining the Will They or Won't They? Tsundere UST, the second season reveals that he didn't hear her, and she can't get up the nerve to tell him again.
  • The first Afro Samurai series/movie ended with Afro killing Justice, avenging his father, claiming the Number 1 Headband, and finally making peace with the decisions he made in life. The movie ends in a somewhat distant future where Afro is having a rematch with his former friend Kuma who has the Number 2 Headband, ending with the concept that the cycle of revenge will continue. Then comes Afro Samurai: Resurrection, where Kuma returns, looking less like a robot no less, with his previous unexplained Sister Sio, looking for revenge, Afro has gone back to regretting his actions in the past.
    • Viciously lampshaded by Ninja Ninja, who himself is part of the reset:

"This pissed you off so much that you gon' hit the road again, to find the Number Two Headband again, just so you can kill the Number One, again."

  • The anime version of Sailor Moon technically counts, as it was originally intended to only have one season which sports a Reset Button Ending in the form of the Sailor Senshi getting killed and then resurrected without their memories—even crossing into the Book Ends trope with a scene borrowed from the first episode. Then, within the first two episodes of the second season, the Sailor Team gets their memories back to fight Filler Villains. Ironically, in the manga, the second story arc kicks in without any traces of this trope within the same chapter where the first one ends.
  • Bleach does this after Ichigo defeats Aizen with the "final Getsuga Tensho," which strips him of his powers. Ichigo stays a Muggle for awhile before he begins to pursue alternative power sources, such as Fullbring. This allows the series to return to the more mysterious Urban Fantasy feel of the early chapters, and gives Ichigo's allies a chance to catch up.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Used in Ghostbusters II: As it turns out, no one believed that the heroes did save the world at the end of the first movie (apparently people believe the events of the first movie were simply an elaborate publicity stunt), meaning that the city authorities screwed them over and sued them for all the property damage, destroying their reputations and forcing them out of business. Furthermore, Venkman and Dana broke up, and Dana married another guy and had a kid with him. Then, it all starts happening again...
  • Also used in Men in Black II; the end of the first movie ends with Agent K happily retired, his memory erased and given a chance to start things over with the love of his life. This is all abruptly taken away from him in the sequel, however, for little other reason than to allow K to return and carry on the character dynamic he'd had in the previous movie with Agent J. Furthermore, the dynamic between J and Dr. Laurel Weaver (Agent L) that was set up at the end of the first movie was also abruptly Hand Waved away to allow for this.
    • Although that was partially on account of no-one who's worked with Linda Fiorentino ever wanting to work with Linda Fiorentino again.
  • Austin Powers ends with the titular hero having undergone Character Development, allowing him to mature and adjust his free-spirited Swinging Sixties ways to the more conservative but still liberated nineties, and setting him up in married life with his partner, Vanessa. So the beginning of the second movie reveals that Vanessa was actually a robot and blows her up, and as soon as she's gone, Austin instantly reverts to his immature old ways.
    • This is of course a parody of James Bond movies and the Bond Girls. The Bond movies usually don't even hint at what happened to previous Bond girls. Austin Powers used the most ridiculous explanation possible, and didn't offer one at all for the third movie.
      • There were plans to shoot a cameo with Heather Graham, but she was unable to film it.
  • The Karate Kid II, after a brief recap of the first film's ending, moves forward to inform us that the Love Interest has (off camera) broken up with the hero and his mother has moved away, leaving him to go to Japan with his mentor and confront a new set of karate bullies. In The Karate Kid III this is done again when the previous movie's love interest elected to stay in Japan.
  • The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie ends with Will and Elizabeth happily in love and Captain Jack Sparrow free and aboard his ship at last, not to mention extremely wealthy thanks to all the plunder the Black Pearl had accumulated in ten years of marauding (even without the cursed Aztec gold, there was quite a hoard in the pirates' cave). So of course the sequel has Will and Elizabeth torn apart (on their wedding day, no less), the treasure sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and Jack in danger of losing his ship and life again.
  • Major League II had the characters back for a new season, and sucking again, trying to overcome new problems. Basically, the second movie was the leads having the success of the first movie go to their heads.
    • Also, the first movie ends with the team winning the division title and reaching the playoffs. The sequel reveals that they were swept in the playoffs and are trying to get back there, which they do. The second movie ends with them winning the League Championship Series and earning a berth in the World Series. Odds are pretty good that the original plan for the third movie was to reveal that they lost the World Series so they could then try to accomplish that.
  • The end of the original Highlander makes it pretty clear that Connor McLeod is the last immortal at the end and has won the prize, but then they made sequels, and a TV show, and a spinoff. "There can be only one," until there's more money to be made.
  • In The Matrix, Neo must kung fu fight his enemies in the virtual world of the Matrix until he learns to control the simulation and transcend physical combat. In the sequel, his apparent apotheosis is downgraded to a new level in badass, as he must fight a more powerful group of enemies with his kung fu.
  • RoboCop 2. At the end of the first film, Murphy is speaking in his regular human voice and has come to terms with the fact that despite the physical changes, he's the same man he always was. In the sequel, he talks like a robot and is still conflicted about his status as a being (to the point that he tells his wife that the face of the unit is just a copy of Murphy's original face).
  • Home Alone 2 simply gave Kevin Aesop Amnesia, ticking off his family yet again and getting left alone in a completely different way.
  • At the end of the original Rocky, Rocky goes the full fifteen rounds with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed and before the final bell an exhausted Creed tells Rocky "Ain't going to be no rematch!" In the beginning of Rocky II Apollo changes his mind.
    • In an extreme case of reset, all the wealth made by Rocky as a world famous heavyweight champion in the sequels is lost in Rocky V by a crooked accountant and Rocky is left as poor as he was in the first movie.
  • At the end of Dirty Harry, after killing the Scorpio Killer, San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan throws his badge away, disgusted with the system that allowed Scorpio to go free. In the sequel Magnum Force, Harry is still on the SFPD.
  • Aliens begins with Ellen Ripley being rescued from hypersleep by a deep space rescue crew, and ends with Ripley, Hicks, Bishop and Newt all escaping LV-426 (and Ripley getting a new surrogate daughter and finally destroying the xenomorph infestation at the source). Alien 3 begins with Ripley being rescued from her escape pod by a group of prisoners, and revealing that for all the pyrotechnics of the previous film, the alien menace is still alive and well, and the other characters who had survived are now dead.
  • All the Die Hard sequels start with John McClane back to being a down-on-his-luck cop on the outs with his family. Possibly justified by his being something of a headstrong Cowboy Cop with a drinking problem; the acclaim he gets for his heroics is balanced by repeatedly getting in trouble. In Live Free Or Die Hard he specifically cites his Chronic Hero Syndrome as the reason for his divorce.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has to contend with this any time an author's looking to write High Space Opera. In The Thrawn Trilogy (the foundation of the modern Expanded Universe), there's a Lampshade Hanging: Leia muses, looking at Endor, that if the war really ended there, that means the "mop-up action" has been going on for a good five years now—and they might call themselves the New Republic, and they've retaken the capital planet, but they're hardly the galaxy-spanning bastion of civilization the original one was. That trilogy is one of the better sets of books.
    • With Star Wars, at least, it makes sense that there'd be a lot of the Empire still left to fight. Just look at Robot Chicken.
  • At the end of the first Thursday Next book, Thursday is happily married, Jack Schitt is trapped in a book, Acheron Hades is dead, and the literary police, formerly charged with the dull job of tracking down stolen and counterfeit books, face an interesting future policing where Fiction meets the real world. In the next book, Thursday's husband is erased from existence, the literary police are still doing drudge work, there's easier ways to get between Reality and Fiction and characters do it all the time, and there's more in the Schitt and Hades families to contend with. The second through fourth books are a trilogy dealing with all this.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The 1996 run of Only Fools and Horses Christmas Episodes finishes with Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert having achieved their dreams of wealth and success and walking into the sunset. Then, they made a later series, which takes this all away and reduces them to the same barely-scraping-by life they were leading before, except Rodney would now become a father, and Albert's will saved the Trotters from getting evicted.
  • The movie Stargate ends with Daniel living happily on Abydos, O'Neil rediscovers his sense of purpose and retires, and the Big Bad is defeated. Stargate SG-1 begins with Daniel's Happily Ever After kicked over by the new Big Bad, which introduces a slew of Big Bads, which causes O'Neill (with two Ls) to come back from retirement, which in turn causes the Stargate Program to be reopened.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge starts stating that Guybrush broke up with Elaine since the last game, and that he became famous after slaying LeChuck, but eventually people started forgetting and doubting about it, so he went to set out on a new adventure to regain its former glory. Later it's revealed that LeChuck revived, but as a Zombie.
    • It's heavily implied that Guybrush won't shut up about his victory over LeChuck (He even wrote a Trilogy of books about it) and everyone is just really sick of hearing him tell the same story(with incredible embellishments, no doubt) over and over again. It's not a far cry from there to thinking he made the entire thing up.
  • Super Metroid ends with the last Metroid specimen dying and the planet Zebes destroyed. As a result, the Metroid Prime trilogy is actually set before Super Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. However, Metroid Fusion had Samus revisit the Metroid homeworld and bringing the X species of parasites into a space lab orbiting the planet, as well as discovering that the Galactic Federation had been genetically breeding new Metroids (something which also apears in Metroid: Other M, which is also set after Super).
  • The game Final Fantasy VII ends with the Planet more or less being saved (though in a very ambiguous manner), Sephiroth being defeated, Cloud's demons sorted out, and the love triangle being solved thanks to a Death of the Hypotenuse. The movie sequel, Advent Children, brings Sephiroth back, resets Cloud to an Angstier state than ever before, has the Planet be threatened by a mysterious disease, and somehow manages to keep the love triangle going even beyond the dead with plenty of undead cameos from Aerith. The remake, Advent Children Complete explains at least one of these wild resets. God knows that if they make another sequel, you can be sure these issues will all pop up again... somehow.
  • Nearly every installment in the Leisure Suit Larry series ends with Larry hooking up with the "final girl", and then immediately breaking up with them at the start of the next game so Larry can go do his thing for the rest of the game. In fact, Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail! begins just minutes after the conclusion of the previous game, Shape Up Or Slip Out!, when the final girl of the last game has had her fun with Larry, takes his money and leaves him chained to a burning bed.
  • Saints Row ends with the Saints having driven out all the other gangs, and the corrupt politician Richard Hughes killed by a pricey Deus Ex Machina before he can gentrify the Row for his own benefit and at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised already living there. Come Saints Row 2, Ultor went ahead with Hughes' plan, the Saints have collapsed, and three even worse gangs have filled the power vacuum.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Shrek literally ended with Happily Ever After, but the sequels have been putting that off ever since. The second film reveals there was in fact an actual Prince Charming that was supposed to break the curse on Fiona, and that her royal parents are still around; the action picks up after the lovers' honeymoon as they're forced to meet her parents, causing another go-round of problems regarding Shrek's self-esteem. The amusing new characters as well as ones who got expanded roles (i.e. Gingy the gingerbread man) helped mitigate this for audiences, but reaction to the third film (where Shrek now has to get out of being king if he ever hopes to live out his life in the swamp, and the loose end of 2 involving Prince Charming's fate is brought up) suggests the formula is wearing thin, so the fourth film finally concludes Shrek's story.
  • Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5 initially looked like it was a continuation of Hot Wheels: Acceleracers, but it turns out the Vert Wheeler portrayed in this series is completely separate from the original character, leaving one story still unresolved while this one has just pulled a Sequel Hook.