Kids media is not always all light of happiness. Sometimes kids series have incredibly depressing endings or incredibly dark, bittersweet finales. Sometimes normally happy series will end in major tragedy for the final episodes too.
On that note, let’s take a look at some of the most dark and depressing finales that cartoons have to offer. If you can think of any cartoons that ended on a less-than-happy note, be sure to chime in in the comments!
The Green Lantern Animated Series was a fairly good show that got canceled after one season because the Green Lantern movie bombed. As a result, it ended on a very depressing note. The whole series had been building a romance between Razer, a red lantern guy with the always-required Dead Wife backstory and a robot named Aya.
After Aya apparently died and then suddenly came back, Razer was traumatized and pushed her away, telling her she was a machine and they could never be together. So she could focus on the mission at hand rather than despair over him, Aya shut off her emotions. This was, unsurprisingly, a bad idea- Aya saved the day, but she also merged with the villain of the series, the Anti-Monitor and decided it was her logical imperative to kill all who are driven by foolish emotion.
Aya eventually snapped back to herself after nearly killing Razer, but at that point she’d already put the world in danger, so she sacrificed herself to save it. Razer was left with his number of dead love interests increased to two. Fun times for everyone! Razer, however, seemed to think Aya was still alive and went to search the universe and find her, leaving the possibility of a kinder fate for Aya.
Unfortunately, it will always just be a possibility, since the show isn’t getting a second season. So as it stands now, the series wrapped up with its sole female crew member dead, hopes of a romance dashed to pieces and her heartbroken almost-lover deciding to wander the universe in what might be a vain journey. But he got a nifty Blue Lantern ring out of the deal, so there’s that.
The original Teen Titans cartoon ended on a very melancholy note that basically seemed to communicate to kids watching that "relationships don’t always have a happy ending and life sucks sometimes, so move on and get over it".
The second season of the show had a girl named Terra join the teenage heroes and start a romance with Beast Boy. But she betrayed them all to the big villain of the series, Slade, revealing she’d been working for him for quite some time. Terra eventually regretted her betrayal and sacrificed herself to stop Slade and save the city, turning to stone in the process. The other Titans vowed to try and cure her.
In the last episode of the series, Beast Boy comes back to the city after being away, only to see a girl who looks just like Terra. He checks to find her statue-self is gone and concludes this girl indeed his former love. But no matter how hard he tries, Terra claims not to remember him and avoids him. Beast Boy is desperate to believe this is really Terra and she didn’t really forget him. He meets up with Slade again, and is told that Terra probably doesn’t want to remember him. Beast Boy completely flips out and blames Slade, beating on him only to discover he’s just fighting a robot duplicate Slade sent for the purpose of…I dunno, rubbing it in that his girlfriend doesn’t want anything to do with him.
When he tries to talk to maybe-Terra one final time, she basically tells him the Terra he knew was a lie and he’s going to have to forget her because “things change.” He watches numbly as she leaves and then forces himself to go help his team with the fight they’re currently in.
The whole thing left a lot of unanswered questions (how did Terra come back, why did Slade send a robot and so on…) which basically hammered it into viewers head “Life sucks and things are usually unresolved and sad. So go deal with that, children.”
Show aimed at four-year-olds don’t typically end with a lesson about how the cold embrace of death is inevitable, but David the Gnome is an exception. The happy, wholesome 90’s show ended with an episode where the main character, David, and his wife hit the official death age for gnomes, which is four-hundred. They ascend a hill to die and turn into trees, while their best friend, a fox named Swift, watches their demise.
Swift is left grieving his loved ones, though he does meet a hot lady fox so, uh, I guess the lesson is when all your friends die you can always just hook up with the first person you meet after the funeral to take the edge off?