Anyone Can Die

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He missed a few.
"These are the books where people begin to die. These are the books where we realise that all bets are off and no one is safe. And on that cheerful note, enjoy the trip."
Dan Abnett foreword in The Saint

Most of the time when you finally grasp who the main characters of the story are, you can expect that these characters will survive through the end of the story. That is not this trope.

When the writers want to impress you with their ruthlessness, they may trumpet that Tonight Someone Dies, then kill off a random second-stringer that nobody much cares about. They might even kill of a major character because his actor was leaving anyway, or because they needed a good cliffhanger to convince people to watch the next season. That is also not this trope (although it's pretending to be).

This is where no one is exempt from being killed, including the main characters (maybe even the hero). The Sacrificial Lamb is often used to establish the writer's Anyone Can Die cred early on. However, if the Lamb's death is a one-off with no follow-up, it's just Killed Off for Real. To really be Anyone Can Die, the work must include multiple deaths, happening at different points in the story. Bonus points if the death is unnecessary and devoid of Heroic Sacrifice.

This trope is very helpful in keeping Genre Savvy fans from being Spoiled by the Format. In a kid's show, of course Alice and Bob are going to survive the raging rapids. In an Anyone Can Die work however, the danger actually becomes dangerous.

War shows like Mobile Suit Gundam benefit from having a larger cast since there are so many people to kill off. The frequent deaths within a wide cast make the storyline unpredictable, forcing you to wonder who'll be left standing once the dust settles.

Still, even if all characters are allegedly up for the possibility of a dance with the reaper, the general laws of storytelling (and, more importantly, how actors are contracted) tells us that you can expect the chances of main-character death to increase as you approach the climax of an arc, the final episodes of a season, the final chapters of a book, or the final installment of a series, even if the work averts Death Is Dramatic. A creator needs to be quite committed to the concept to kill off an important character in a completely plot-irrelevant way.

Note that while the character needs to be Killed Off for Real for the trope to have the desired effect, the writers will try to cheat and bring back the guy later (see Not Quite Dead, Disney Death, and Battle Royale With Cheese). As such Superhero Comic Books as a medium have gained a reputation of "Anyone Can Die... until someone wants to use the character in a later story."

Contrast with Tonight Someone Dies, Sorting Algorithm of Mortality and Contractual Immortality. Compare Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics.

See also Kill'Em All, when everyone will die. Opposite of Nobody Can Die and Plot Armor, where not even situations that should kill people manage to. See also Dwindling Party, where the deaths are evenly spaced rather than near the end. Easier to do in works with Loads and Loads of Characters.

This is Truth in Television, at least on a long enough timeline.

Red Shirt is (usually) when the deaths are reserved for nameless extras. This trope tries to upgrade them to Mauve Shirt first.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Anyone Can Die include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Attack on Titan has a reputation for this. In the first episode we know of 2 people with names that have died.
  • According to the Meteor Gin information book, Yoshihiro Takahashi had thought about killing "all the important characters" in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, but was not allowed to do so. Despite this, quite a few of the series's main characters have kicked the bucket one way or another during it or its two sequels.
  • Angel Beats!! may look like a series where nobody can die because they are...ya know, already dead, but it later revealed that the purpose of the place is to make the souls who had a troubled life come to terms with their lives and move on to next time, which more or less erases their existence in that plane completely and dying. So it's not that Anyone Can Die. Everyone WILL die.
  • Kaori Yuki in Angel Sanctuary kills of a lot of the cast. It does not matter if you are human, angel, demon or whatsoever. Though, being main-casty gives you a bit of a protection. (Of course, depending on what your definition of main cast happens to be.)
  • In Battle Angel Alita, aside from the titular character (and even then...), there are absolutely no guarantees that anyone won't be offed later on in the series, AND you will generally have no clue as to when or who it'll be until it actually happens.
  • During Blood Plus, several beloved major characters are Killed Off for Real, one of them in a particularly horrible manner.
    • Blood C is even worse in the 6th episode: two major characters (as well as a truckload of random bystanders) are killed brutally, and in the 8th and 9th episode Saya's class (except for the Class Representative) are all killed viciously.
    • However, those major characters turned out to be faking and in the last episode EVERYBODY except Saya, Yuka and the Big Bad.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood actually subverts this. While the death of Maes Hughes established this trope, a majority of the minor and major characters were safe from death after his funeral. It wasn't until the last handful of episodes where the characters were really in danger.
  • Bokurano, made clear when it kills off the Decoy Protagonist in episode one, and then outright writing it in stone that not only can anyone die, but just about everyone will die.
  • Book of Bantorra does this religiously. Nearly every new character introduced will be shot, stabbed, blown up, eaten, or lit on fire by the end of the arc. The creators, just to stick it to the audience, have no problem killing off main characters, either. One of the most memorable deaths being Volken, who's murdered after finding out everything he fought for was a lie.
  • Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, a series well known for having minimal Plot Armor.
  • Chrono Crusade did this to almost the entire main cast.
  • Code Geass mostly plays this straight during its first season. Examples include: Clovis, the first notable antagonist whose early exit surprised many fans. Mao, Psychopathic Manchild and Geass user who somehow survived his initial stint as arc villain only to finally die an episode later. Euphemia, the Rebellious Princess who became increasingly important to the plot as time went on. But the second series tends to subvert the trope more often than not, something that displeased many viewers. Nevertheless, Shirley (the Naive Everygirl love interest with her own long-running subplot dating back to the first season), Rolo (the Tyke Bomb manipulated into becoming Lelouch's newest subordinate at the beginning of R2), Charles Zi Brittania (Lelouch's father, the Big Bad and main target of his revenge) and, ultimately,even the protagonist himself, were Killed Off for Real.
  • Darker than Black uses this trope heavily during the last episodes. The last couple of arcs see recurring antagonists November 11 and Wei, November's boss, The Handler Huang, most of Evening Primrose, and Magnificent Bastard/Chessmaster/Deliberately Cute Child Amber killed off, and Mao gets reverted to a normal cat. (Though Mao got better in the sequel and at least one EPR member, Amigiri, is shown to have made it out alive.) And so many people tend to die in the course of an arc that focuses on them that it's often both a surprise and a relief when someone makes it out okay.
  • Death Note lives up to its name. No character's survival is guaranteed. The body count of minor and major characters alike grows so high as the series progresses that there's suspense not in wondering who will die, but who won't.
  • Mr. Satan/Hercule is the only character (not even protagonist) never to die in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Anybody else who survived all the way till the end eventually got killed by Buu blowing up the planet. In Dragon Ball GT, Pan is the only character never to get killed. Of course, thanks to the titular Dragon Balls, the afterlife of this series has a revolving door.
  • Hunter X Hunter plays with this trope quite a bit throughout its run. Early on, several characters make appearances merely to be killed off only seconds later, although any character who is portrayed in a sympathetic matter is safe for the most part. Then the Chimera Ant arc rolls around, and key characters who've been around since the beginning of the series start dropping like flies. Suddenly nobody is safe, and the deaths go from being fairly mild to being brutal displays of violence and gore.
  • Elfen Lied tends to kill off its minor characters, and is good at convincing the audience that it will kill all the main ones eventually. And invisible razor arms mean they won't see it coming.
    • To whit: A minor female character who is very quickly established to be a Plucky Comic Relief Dojikko and thus a potential Ensemble Darkhorse in an otherwise serious show is killed off before the end of the first half of the first episode. This show does not fuck around.
  • In Fafner in the Azure, the only character you can really be convinced has Plot Armor is Kazuki, the protagonist. Well over half the main characters die or are assimilated over the course of the series, either in HeroicSacrifices or just completely at random. By the end, when the four remaining pilots are told that any deaths disrupts the entire plan, it comes as a surprise that none of them do. It's taken to an extreme in the Right of Left OVA, where EVERYONE on the split island dies almost as soon as they found out that there was a way for them to escape.
  • A lot of heroes, civilians, and bad guys die in Fist of the North Star. Any civilian Ken meets is likely to be killed in some horrid fashion.
  • No one is safe in Air Gear. Though they do come back sometimes.
  • For a romantic comedy, Fushigi Yuugi has a shocking number of deaths: All of the Seiryuu Seven save Amiboshi, all of the Suzaku Seven save Tasuki and Chichiri, Tamahome's father and siblings, and the Emperor of Kutou.
  • Gall Force All the OVAs and movies start with 12 or so main characters that get whittled down one by one until only a handful, if even that, are left. Only the the New Era OVA averts this with almost everyone surviving, and that's because its story never got finished.
  • Gantz. See Death Note above, except change "who won't die" with "who won't be utterly ripped to pieces, smashed to bits, squashed like a bug, eaten, blown apart, stabbed, disintegrated, melted, etc." And those are the nice ways to die.
    • Gantz is an interesting example in the sense that people can actually be resurrected (or even cloned), so when this is first revealed it seems like a case of Death Is Cheap, but it doesn't take long for you to figure out that not only is not that easy, but the process to resurrect someone requires the person to survive through sadistic games (in which the people they're trying to resurrect died at).
      • Gantz has been especially good in killing-off characters no matter how important or popular they might be. This goes to the point that the one protagonist to survive gets killed-off for good. However, some believe the series has gone downhill since it stopped doing this.
  • Ga-Rei Zero kills off every single introduced character at the end of the first episode and the newly introduced character with the most focus at the end of the second one.
    • Given that in Ga-Rei manga bodycount of "in the know" just for first Yomi incident was stated over 70 and there is no new chief with her secretary, no case-fu user and only one of twins in the manga - many. Also manga continues the anyone can die tradition... or starts it, because it was first.
  • Gunslinger Girl. Casualities include Angelica and Beatrice. By the last chapter both the main character and her handler is dead, with three others in the maybe dead category.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni combines this trope with a Groundhog Day Loop, allowing it to kill off its main cast repeatedly.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, being eight arcs long, has this in spades. It gets worse because they are the heroes, and not even main characters are immune. In arc order it has...
    • Part 1: Zeppeli, Dire, Jonathan.
    • Part 2: Caesar, Straights (he counts even though he went evil), Stroheim (twice).
    • Part 3: Kakyoin, Abdul, Iggy.
      • In particular Abdul dies twice. The first is earlier in the series when succumbing to an enemy attack, later retconned to make it seem like he had been mortally injured and recovering off-stage, later joining the others when it was called for.
    • Part 4: Aya, Shigekyo, Keicho (again, even though he was evil, he counts).
    • Part 5: Abbacchio, Narancia, Buccirati, Polnareff (he gets better...almost).
    • Part 6: Jolyne, Jotaro, Hermes, Weather Report, FF, Annasui - basically every hero but one.
  • Kurokami. The anime that brutally kills a elementary school girl, a mother, and a best friend in the first episode. This continues to the point where you are uncertain whether the main character will survive all 26 episodes. Have fun!
  • Black Butler (a.k.a. Kuroshitsuji) has been up to these antics a lot, especially in the recent arc of the manga and in season two. In the manga, an entire circus is killed in variety of ways. And then the Murder Mystery arc happens, where random guests at the Phantomhive manor are killed with no visible pattern. And not just the guests, even Sebastian, one of the main characters dies! Of course, that ends up being fake, but that was a given. Hell, though, they even pulled a Harry Potter move and killed off the owl!
    • And that was just the manga. In season one, a bunch of characters died. And then most of them either came back in the second season, having not really been dead at all, or had a twin brother. Kuroshitsuji is actually probably less of an "Anyone Can Die", and more of an "Anyone Can Die, But Are They Really Dead?"
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes plays this trope nearly to the extreme. Not even the main characters are safe. They even use this to pull a fast one on the viewers: During a particularly brutal battle that has already seen the deaths of two Admirals, the narrator suddenly mentions a report of the death of a major character, just as it shows his ship getting hit. There is just enough time to get the initial reactions of his friends before said character sends a message that he's okay.
  • Lost Universe series ends very unexpectedly. All except comic relief characters die in the last minute. Considering that entire series were slapstick comedy like slayers, this is quite shocking to end them in so tragic way. Considering that now there are no more people capable to fight remaining evil lost ships, that probably means Evil won after all.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam and, perhaps to a greater extent, some of its sequels or spinoffs use this with regularity. There's a reason Yoshiyuki Tomino got his nickname "Kill'Em All," you know.
  • Monster. Got a favorite character you like? Have they, at any point, so much as made eye contact with Johan? Big mistake.
  • Narutaru. With emphasis on anyone: and for good reason. Shiina herself was a casualty before she got better.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion towards about the last third of the series, while the movie shifts into Kill'Em All territory.
  • Now and Then, Here and There definitely falls under this trope.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has one of the original magical girls die two and a half episodes in. Brutally. And for this Deconstruction of a Magical Girl series, It Gets Worse from there.
    • To put it in perspective, there is only one Magical Girl who hasn't died at any point in the show, and for good reason. She's the one responsible for creating all the timelines, after all!
  • This trope is made to occur in the first two cycles of Robotech: given the series’ status as a cut-and-paste translation, characters from one cycle couldn’t appear in others, which necessitated regular deck-clearing exercises to explain the disappearances. For example, by the time its first cycle, The Macross Saga, had ended, fully half of its cast had died, including several characters that had in fact survived the series it had been based on. What’s more, part of the backstory for the series’ third and final cycle (The New Generation) involves the revelation that the Army of the Southern Cross—which included the great majority of the characters from the series’ second cycle (The Robotech Masters)—had been decimated by the Invid army that had taken over the Earth. While the statement is intentionally vague, and supplementary materials have established that several of the its characters did survive, current canon has only confirmed the survival of two of the cycle’s characters. Only the New Generation characters, by virtue of being last, manage to keep a survival rate higher than 50%.
  • Shiki, although it sort of figures in a show that is about a zombie-like invasion on a small village. While the manga is still on-going, the anime ended with nearly everyone from the main cast dead.
  • Soukou no Strain starts off as any Shojo series would, except in space with mecha. However, by the time it reveals its true Seinen colours after episode one, all but two characters are dead; important members of the new cast die every fourth episode after that.
  • Starship Operators kills off a main character almost every episode; even the main character's reciprocated love interest isn't safe.
  • Kamina dies early on in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, along with most of the rest of the cast in the second half.
  • Toward the Terra spans decades and light-years with its plot, and the entire way is littered with bodies. Only two major characters make it out alive.
  • Blue Gender has a similarly poor track record. Aside from a few extras introduced the episode before the end, only two named characters make it through the series alive.
    • It was made clear fairly early on this would be the case. The first episode introduces 8 named characters. By the end of the second episode, four of them are dead, three within less than a minute of each other.
  • True to its predecessor, Umineko no Naku Koro ni also embodies this. The first half a dozen deaths each arc are particularly brutal.
  • In Vinland Saga, only Thorfinn is left in the story out of all the characters from the opening chapters. It's safe to say that any character that doesn't have a historical basis, and even some that do, will meet a grisly end.
  • Weiss Kreuz makes its position clear with the opening scene of its first episode, in which a boyfriend and girlfriend spend several minutes making affectionate farewells - and then a van comes flying off an overpass onto the boyfriend. Although the four original main characters never suffer more than Disney Deaths, any other character is fair game, whether it's a one-shot potential love interest, a supporting character who's been around for the whole series, or both of the new lead characters introduced for the Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo Weiss Kreuz: Gluhen.
  • In Wolf's Rain, everyone dies in the last few episodes.
    • Wolf's Rain basically sets the stage for this in the first episode when a kid whom is implied to a major character gets killed off at the end of the episode. After that, you get the sense that anybody could fair game despite most of the real cast deaths only occur towards the end of the series.
  • X 1999 While the movie just kills 'em all, the anime and manga both have this. Half the cast is lost via anime, and while the manga is unfinished...well, it is a show about the Apocalypse. When we say anyone in this fandom, we mean ANYONE.
  • Sailor Moon does this over and over again with pretty much every one of the senshi, as well as Tuxedo Kamen and the guardian cats.
  • In the anime for Another, practically one person dies per episode after the first two exposition/introductory episodes, usually in a pretty brutal or gory fashion due to a curse in a certain classroom...
  • Kamui Den: A large majority of named characters introduced in the first series don't live to see the end of it.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Powers does this really well. Not only does powers get killed left and right, on panel and off, regardless of how established the characters are - that's sort of the premise - but it goes for civilians as well. And the Pope. And the main characters. Once Kutter gets his head ripped off you really start worrying for the leading pair.
  • This is a large part of the premise of DC Comics' aptly named Suicide Squad, about a black ops group composed of expendable Boxed Crooks and B-list heroes sent on frequently lethal missions.
  • Pretty much standard operating procedure for any comic book summer Crisis Crossover, it's very well-known that as soon as it's Crisis Season, nobody's safe.
  • Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Force/X-Statix took a pretty lethal approach to its cast, killing off the entire titular team in the first issue and continuing to bump off regulars with regularity. It's stated that the team's membership has a very high turnover rate, and that before the series began the entire roster had been killed and replaced several times. The series partially serves to explore the idea that if superheroes were real, most of them wouldn't live very long.
    • It's not strictly germane that one of the longer-running characters had, as a super-power, the fact that she was already dead. She still died in the last issue and her follow-up miniseries didn't even really bring her or any of the others back.
    • This is inverted in one storyline, in which one of the three leads is predicted to die, but they don't know which one. Each deals with their potentially impending death in their own way, and it's a slow, quiet tale for a series in which characters often get blown up with no advance warning. The issue in which we find out who the doomed character is bears the simple title, "Someone Dies."
  • Erik Larson's The Savage Dragon has killed off MOST of its cast more than once.
  • A comedic example: Marvel's Great Lakes Avengers. Er, X-Men. Er, Champions. OK, Initiative. Their big day in the sun, the 4-issue miniseries GLA Misassembled, featured as the gimmick that one member would die each issue. This doesn't count Mr Immortal, of course.
    • It should be noted, though, that only one member of the original team died and stayed dead during the miniseries, so it was a bit intentionally misleading. And the second issue cheated by introducing a new character who is killed within seconds of joining the team.
  • The '80s series Strikeforce: Morituri, about an alien invasion being defended against by Super Soldiers whose powers would inevitably kill them—and did. Characters were constantly dying and being replaced by new recruits.
    • Characters frequently died long before the projected one year lifespan granted by the Morituri Process. For example: Viking died within four issues, perhaps less than four months of time.
  • This happens often in Judge Dredd. Even the best villains are usually dead by the end of the story they're introduced in. Judge Giant, Dredd's frequent sidekick and one of the most easy-going and humorous characters, was instantly killed after a terrorist casually shot him In the Back during the "Block Mania" storyline. Meanwhile, violent death practically counts as natural causes for the Chief Judges.
  • Commonplace in The Walking Dead, where usually at least one main character dies per graphic novel. The latest, Made To Suffer, seriously ups the ante by killing off a total of nine characters (only one of whom is a villain)...over half the cast at that point. The only consolation is that most of them died of head wounds, ensuring they don't have to become zombies...and when that's the bright side, you know you've got a Crapsack World. Oh, and also, their sanctuary is destroyed, kicking them back out into the zombie-infested outside world. Sucks to be them.
  • Marvel Comics' Exiles, a book about a group of six characters from alternate universes who are pulled into MORE alternate universes to save them from being "broken" and thus eventually return home, is known for being quite lacking in Comic Book Death, especially for a series with all these alternate universes running around.
    • Although it doesn't have a lot of deaths Exiles does have a number of key ones. The most notable is likely Sunfire. Sunfire (this version being a japanese lesbian instead of formal guy in the main verse) is killed by team leader Mimic when he neglects to tell the team that he was infected with the Brood (chest burster aliens), Sunfire was killed off despite the fact that she was one of the more popular characters.
    • An even sadder version would probably be Thunderbird; a version of John Proudstar who underwent Apocalypse's Four Horsemen Treatment (he became War). Thunderbird becomes permanently brain damaged (until its reversed when the comic starts to suck) and becomes a vegetable after punching through Galactus's armor and setting off a device that causes a full powered Galactus to run away from Earth. To understand how insanely badass this was, in the main Marvel Universe it usually takes divine intervention to stop Galactus, and usually he's half starved with barely a tenth of his full power. The version Thunderbird takes out was scary enough to cause a planet full of skrull to run away
    • Or how's about the real kicker, Mimic? One of the few remaining original Exiles members and lover to other mainstay Blink, Mimic was possessed by the serial killer Proteus and killed just as it looked like his team members had figured out a way to save him. It was with a whimper that he died, literally, rather than the expected bang, which just made the death even crueler.
  • In Marvel's Transformers Generation 1 comic, any character whose toy was no longer available would almost certainly be killed off to make room for the new merch. While Death Is Cheap in Transformers, Meddling Executives prevented most of these characters from coming Back from the Dead unless they had a new toy out. The writers also introduced a large number of important characters without toys for the sole reason of killing them off.
    • This got even more extreme in Transformers Generation 2, in which the writers got more freedom, and suddenly even characters who did have toys on the shelves weren't safe.
    • The IDW Comics mini-series Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers is built around an Anyone Can Die attitude - the Wreckers being an elite Autobot suicide squad, whose previous incarnations tended to suffer heavy losses. Authors James Roberts and Nick Roche promised that the mini would live up to the tradition - and made good on that promise. As of issue 4, four of the initial eleven Autobots are dead (along with three major Decepticons), with the promise of at least one more death coming.
  • The gritty crime series One Hundred Bullets establishes from early on that any character can die at any point.
  • Watchmen has a high death rate for major and minor characters. Not only do The Comedian and Rorschach die, but many secondary characters die as a result of Ozymandias' fake alien attack on New York, showing that no characters are safe.
  • Geoff John's Blackest Night didn'y pull ANY punches. The final death toll: Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Garth, Ghenna Hewitt, Holly Granger, the second Dr. Polaris (offscreen) and apparently Kyle Rayner. With Nekron on the prowl, it is sure to increase exponentially. Though by the end of the series, Hawkman and Kyle had been resurrected. Hawkgirl was brought back as well, but as one of her past selves.
  • In Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor was killed off, after being a major character for about 30 years, as part of a complete revamp of the character in the early seventies.
  • This was used extremely sparingly in Elf Quest, starting with One-Eye's complicated and drawn-out death, followed by Kureel in the second long arc. Later examples in the backstory include Crescent (which gets referred to very often), Rillfisher (already alluded to in the main arcs as a trope example), and Thiro (whose death triggered an important moment in the relationship between Leetah and Rayek). Then the Shards war happened, and death suddenly became a whole lot cheaper.
  • Par for the course in Nikolai Dante, so much so that fans objected to the lack of deaths in the "Prisoner of the Tzar" and "An Army of Thieves and Whores" arcs.
  • The "heroes be damned" arc more than made up for those two arcs though...
  • DC and Marvel kill characters all the time. The measure of a good death is how notable the character is and how long it sticks. To that end, the series most faithful to this trope was Crisis on Infinite Earths. It destroys an infinite number of earths, some with important characters, but its most notable for killing Supergirl (which stuck for 18 years) and Flash (Barry Allen stayed dead for 23 years.) After this, you have one earth and most of its old continuity was thrown out (for about 20 years.)
  • The number of shocking, unexpected deaths in its huge cast was a big part of Negation's appeal.
  • Narrowly averted in Gold Digger when Cheetah - one of the most beloved core characters - was very nearly written out of the series by way of killing her off... but was spared on the outcome of a coin toss. Yikes.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is VERY heavy on character death. Plenty of minor, supporting and even major characters snuff it - sometimes all within a single volume - and that's not counting the times someone happens to receive a Fate Worse Than Death. Gods themselves are established as capable of dying, and it's stated that they WILL die when they have no followers left. Even the Endless themselves can be killed, as explained with the original Despair in Endless Nights, and Morpheus (Dream) himself dies at the end of Volume 9, 'The Kindly Ones' - his powers and essence restored within Daniel Hall, the new Dream, as the major plot of Volume 10.
  • Vertigo's The Losers series.
  • Kirkman's Invincible keeps you guessing about who'll die and who'll return from fatal injury, whether one's talking about villains, heroes, or innocent bystanders. The tone is set early on, when the Invincible world's equivalent of the Justice League is introduced as fleshed-out characters, and then brutally killed off by Omni-Man. Their replacement really, REALLY suffers throughout the series as well, especially against the Lizard League, and against the invasion of evil parallel-universe Invincibles. The series also tends to keep you guessing, since the government has insane medical technology, and a lot of characters have ways to circumvent death. The Sorting Algorithm of Deadness is hard to apply, as a result.
  • The X-Men story arc known as Age of Apocalypse was especially brutal - starting with Xavier's accidental death before the X-men are founded (prompting a new future, where Magneto founds the team and Apocalypse starts his takeover much sooner), it becomes one of the darkest Alternate Universes ever. Heroes are villains, villains are heroes, and it becomes a veritable bloodbath by the time all is said and done. Of course, said reality ceased to exist once the X-men successfully Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but that doesn't make it any less shocking to have seen all those people - mutant and human alike - dropping dead like mayflies ...
    • And now it's been reestablished and is even grimmer than back in the 90's. Uncanny X-force (Wolverine's death squad) presented us with Age of Apocalypse Wolverine as the new Apocalypse, armed with a bunch of reinterpreted A-listers as his backing band.
  • It's not uncommon for Sin City stories to end up with dead protagonists despite the narration. Considering the series is in Anachronic Order, readers can always expect to see the characters again even if they are Killed Off for Real. For instance, Marv died in the very first story of the series and yet he has had many appearances since.
  • In Ultimate Marvel, there was their mega-crossover Ultimatum, which basically exists to brutally kill massive numbers of characters for the shock value. The Ultimate X-Men were hit the hardest, with only five members surviving. How much of it is Comic Book Death remains to be seen.
  • For All Fall Down, it's a central theme of the book.
  • Marvel's answer to Green Lantern: Quasar has died so often that when the mini-series "Annihilation" was announced in 2006. The first question asked by a fan of the creative team was basically "Does Quasar have any chance of surviving this series??"
  • As note at the top of the page, Marvel and DC run on anyone can die (flagship characters like Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman die all over the place), but the catch is the catch is Death Is Cheap to extreames.
  • While arugably not as bad as Ultimate can be-the main character's yet to be Killed Off for Real-the main 616 Spider-Man comics can be still be pretty bad about this. Uncle Ben may have been an example of Death by Origin Story and Gwen bit the dust to give Peter even more to angst about, Kraven The Hunter, The Green Goblin, Jean De Wolfe, Captain Stacy, Mary Jane, Aunt May, Madame Webb, Mattie Franklin, Nick from the Bugle, The Hobbgoblin, Ned Leeds, Ben Reily, Harry Osborn etc. didn't know what hit them. Granted a lot of those guys failed to stay dead, but they managed a lot longer than most. (The exceptions to the long death thing being MJ-whom even the writers thought killing off was a mistake and only did it because they were forced to and Aunt May because they needed a cop out at the end of The Clone Saga regarding the fate of baby May Day and the "May's still alive" line being about Anut May instead was the best they could come up with. Mattie, Madame Webb, and the Hobgoblin haven't been dead long enough for us to see if it'll stick).
  • Ironically, the Firefly comic that makes up the page image is a subversion. During the particular comic above, River is reading the mind of a passenger who the crew is escorting, and discovers the man is a government agent hunting her in particular, and plans to kill the entire crew and capture her. While the rest of the crew are fighting off attacking Reavers, River deals with the real threat, subverting his intentions.


Fan Work[edit | hide]

  • The Sun Soul, a Pokémon fic, fits this trope in every way possible. The author spares no pains in developing a character, making the audience identify with them, then ripping the character away in a brutal, often jarring, manner.
  • It is confirmed by Word of God that anyone in Poke Wars can die.

Cornova: Keep in mind that any of the characters in this fic can die. Even if they're main characters. I think I already proved that with Sabrina.

  • The Fanfic Pedestal. Human or Pokemon, Original or Canon Character. Anyone could be next.
  • The discontinued flash series Final Fighting Fantasy has so far featured thirty-nine Final Fantasy heroes. Eight of them are still alive. Enough said.
  • The Command & Conquer fan-novelization Tiberium Wars makes it a point to often, suddenly, and repeatedly kill off well-developed characters. Some characters get less than a scene to their names before they get slaughtered, and you've really got no idea if a character is going to survive until they bite it.
  • Crossover series Both Syllables has so far killed off three fairly major characters. Two of these were solely because the author is irritated by the amount of Disney Deaths in the source material.
  • In Enemy of My Enemy, a fair number of major good-guy characters die throughout the story, to provide and maintain Emotional Torque. Of course, there are a choice few Disney Deaths; one guy has two.
  • In Future Tense, it starts with three characters dying within the first few paragraphs and only goes downhill from there.
  • The Ace Attorney fic Law Plus Chaos has many characters killed off, most of them in VERY brutal ways, such as one person being cooked into pies.
  • A fair number of the characters encountered by the narrator in Travels Through Azeroth and Outland end up getting killed.
  • Pretty much anyone, including the protagonists from Hetalia, can die in the Brutal Series. Justified in that it is a crossover with The Hunger Games.
  • Downfall takes a sharp turn from the original source, where deaths are unheard of; or at least, don't stick. Though several characters start out alive and kicking, when in canon they were dead and buried long before the series started, the second major engagement in Unohana's war sees Rukia dead.
  • Dangerverse. Similar to the original series, though by the end of book 4 it nearly rivals the whole series. Quirrell, Lockhart, Siss, Andromeda, Cedric, Marcus, Umbridge, Frank Longbottom, Penelope Clearwater, a little girl not even in Hogwarts yet, Hagrid, and the last book isn't done yet.
  • Soul Chess thrives on this. The biggest examples include Aizen, yes, that Aizen, and Head Captain Yamamoto.
  • ATLAR firmly established itself as possessing Anyone Can Die from the beginning, with the passing of Sai's friend Xin Fu, Sakodi's friend Enri, and numerous Kyoshi warriors, among others, in the first book alone. By the end, Ain, Hakoda, Teo, Azul and Aizo are dead, and Zotu is Faking the Dead.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, main characters drop like flies, providing real tension in the third film as Nicky flees from the CIA assassin following her. Compare with the novel series.
  • As the name suggests, The Departed is filled with death, and has a startling abundance of X's to go along with that theme.
    • Not sure if this applies here, since not only can everybody die, outside of Marky Mark, Vera Farmiga and Alec Baldwin, everybody does die.
  • Inglourious Basterds: Hitler doesn't even survive this film. About half the cast is killed in a tavern shootout. The ones who survive that are blown to bits in the climactic theater explosion (or various shootouts and stranglings taking place moments before). Only three of a twenty-member ensemble cast make it to the end, and one is a fairly minor character who has maybe ten lines tops.
  • The films of Guy Ritchie.
  • In Psycho, the death of Marion Crane was nearly as shocking and unexpected as the Twist Ending. Naturally, these aren't secrets anymore.
  • The most shaggy-dog extreme of this trope is the film Death Proof, the whole first half of which is spent following characters who don't survive into the second half, just to establish this trope for the film. It then makes up for it by giving us one of the best car chases ever put on film.
  • Cube, in typical thriller fashion.
    • Cube 2: Hypercube
      • Cube Zero
  • Movie critic Joe Bob Briggs has long made this trope his fundamental statement about what makes a good horror movie: "Anyone can die at any time."
  • In City of Angels Meg Ryan's character, one of the two leads in the film, dies at the end.
  • Cloverfield.
  • In Last of the Mohicans (1992), all the main characters die except the romantic leads and the eponymous character.
  • Saving Private Ryan. The first major scene in the movie establishes the tone pretty well, if the fact that's a war movie didn't tip you off first.
    • Except that most of those who die in the opening barrage are unknown to us. The later battle at the radar site, and over the village account for characters we've come to know.
  • No Country for Old Men: no character was safe - even Anton Chigurh. And the movie lets you know it.
  • Serenity. Sudden deaths instilled this trope in the second act of the movie and it runs to the end.
  • Star Trek (2009): The planet Vulcan, including Spock's mother, Amanda Grayson, who may be a more appropriate example for this page.
  • Scream. Any character regardless of the actor in the role can (and does) die in the first ten minutes.
  • The Great Escape fills this trope. Only three of the characters escaped and everybody else involved bar a few get killed. Essentially, this was Truth in Television since the movie was Based on a True Story.
  • Go For Broke! has a huge speaking-character death count by the end of the film, which unfortunately reflects the real casualty rate of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion: 9,486 Purple Hearts divided by 3,000 troops. Sadly, this is mainly due to them being treated as cannon fodder.
  • Deep Blue Sea. Literally moments after establishing himself as the leader of the group with an amazing speech, Samuel L. Jackson's character gets sharked to pieces.
    • And despite the usual male and female love interest making it to the end, Susan McCallister cuts her arm and jumps into the water to distract the shark. You can't help thinking she's going to be alright, right before she's chomped, torn in two and swallowed. R.I.P. Sacrificial Lion.
  • Alien 3. Everyone apart from Ripley dies right in the beginning, after fighting through all of Aliens and surviving. Ripley dies at the end.
    • Including Clemens, the only sympathetic and interesting character in the film, other than Ripley.
    • Too bad the fourth film had to go and spoil it all by bringing her Back from the Dead by cloning her.
    • The original film was also a case of this - you have the well known leading actor Tom Skerritt, and the little known actress Sigourney Weaver. Who would you have put money on to survive past the halfway point?
      • It was quite brilliant, and unfortunately, unrecreatable. The characters died in more or less reverse order of how famous the actors playing them were. Famous in 1979, that is. John Hurt was hugely famous and popular in the US and Britain. Even Veronica Cartwright, whose career went back to playing Violet Rutherford on Leave It to Beaver, and had intersected with Audrey Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock, was familiar to audiences. Sigourney Weaver was entirely unknown, and the only entirely unknown actor in the cast, with just four minor credits. The deaths of the characters felt like a downward spiral, and Ripley's demise seemed inevitable. The tension of the last ten minutes (with the ship's computer voice counting them off) was almost unbearable. Ripley's survival was shocking, and until the end credits rolled, the audience still expected the alien to pop up somewhere.
  • Any horror movie (well, the ones that involve people dying right and left anyway...)
  • Any suspense thriller (again, any one that involves murder, etc), including, but by no means limited to the ones the Lifetime channel airs.
  • In Ju-On, and its remake series The Grudge, anyone can be killed by Kayako at any moment. Even her beloved crush from her college days is no exception.
    • The only characters not killed by Kayako (in the Ju-on series, at least) is her crush's wife and unborn son; they were killed by Kayako's deranged husband.
  • 9. Just... damn.
    • Just to put it into context, out of the fifteen or so named characters, only four (the number, not the character) survive.
      • This movie, by the way, was put in the "Kids and Family" category. If the children aren't traumatized by the doll/spider/snake (Seamstress), they'll be depressed by all the cute dying ragdolls.
  • The Final Destination movies. NO BODY EVER LIVES. Clear Rivers survives the first one but is killed in a gas explosion near the end of the second one. Kimberly Corman and Thomas Burke survive the second one and were slated to make cameos at the end of the third one, dying in the subway crash that kills the surviving characters of the third movie. Due to prior arrangements with their actors though, the filmmakers settled for a brief glimpse of a news article that says they fell into a wood chipper.
  • From Dusk till Dawn showcased this in the second half. Its sequels followed suit.
  • The Cowboys. First, one of the plucky youngsters goes, then at the end of the second act, John freakin' Wayne dies.
  • Blade: Trinity starts with Whistler's death, who has been around for both previous films. Then again, he was thought to have committed suicide at the end of the first film.
  • Feast dines heartily on this trope. In the opening scene, a badass protagonist bursts into the restaurant, proclaims himself the hero, is designated as such by the movie itself, and is then viciously dispatched. For the rest of the film you're never quite sure who'll survive and who won't because even the kid is swallowed whole.
  • Rachel in The Dark Knight. Seriously, Christopher Nolan needs to cut Joss Whedon a check for that one.
  • By the end of Children of Men everyone is dead except Kee and her baby.
  • Of the large cast of characters in Demon Knight by the end of the movie Jeryline is the only survivor.
  • Saw. Seven movies in total, and the only recurring character to survive to the end of it all is Lawrence Gordon.
  • In the real life Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington's officer corps and aides were devastated by the battle, with a large number of them either being killed or wounded. This carries over to the movie Waterloo. Also, all those Mauve Shirts who humanize the encounter and both armies? Don't hold out too much hope for them either.
  • Rocco and Il Duche from The Boondock Saints and The Boondock Saints II, as well as some secondary characters.
  • Australian movie Boy Town has all the main characters die in a plane crash towards the end.
  • Contagion: Everyone besides Mitch Emhoff, the only person with real immunity, who gets truly infected dies.
  • Sunshine: Once Kaneda died, we all knew this was coming.
  • About halfway through Drive starts playing this trope pretty hard until the end when all but two named characters are dead.
  • The Perfect Storm: Nobody survives that fateful boating trip.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey Has this in an alphabetical form of 26 children meeting an each different fate...
  • Proven rather quickly in Limit (not the Frank Schätzing book), where almost all of the cast die in a bus crash within the first two chapters.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire plays this trope to the point of the many main character deaths having become an internet meme - contrasting JK Rowling's quote, that "It's hard killing off so many characters" with a picture of George R. R. Martin, responding "You're adorable." The main hero of the books doesn't even survive the first book. Parts of his family, their pets, their friends and extended family as well as beloved main characters from different story arcs bite it within the first book. Valar morghulis.
  • Wearing the Cape begins with a terrorist attack that leaves bodies all over, the Sentinels are shown to have lost several members before the story begins, the murder of a street-level hero is casually alluded to, and finally, in the attack on Whittier Base no less than three Sentinels die—including two main characters.
  • In the Chung Kuo series by David Wingrove, leaders on both sides of the revolution have a tendency to die
  • In Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space trilogy, the main character of Revelation Space is killed off in the second book, and pretty much everyone else introduced in the series prior to the last book dies. Only two of the characters survives the trilogy.
  • In the Red Mars Trilogy, the series ends with only two or three of the characters still alive. The main protagonist of Red Mars was killed off, The Lancer was killed off, and then everyone slowly started to die of old age. By the time of the later stories in the The Martians story collection, all the characters are dead.
  • Mercedes Lackey, author of several series of novels, most notably, the Heralds of Valdemar series, makes use of this trope. It is lampshaded several times throughout the series, with characters noting that it's rare for the titular heralds to die of old age, as they most often die in service to king(or queen) and country.
  • On the subject of fantasy, Glen Cook's gritty The Black Company has an appropriately gritty number of main characters drop off like flies from the titular mercenary group, occasionally brought back to life via deus ex machina so Cook can kill them in an even nastier way. It gets so that by the end of the series so far the company has been near-annihilated TWICE, and not a single character remains from the first book.
    • This is partially the point, seeing as a major message in the novels is that men may die but the Company lives on.
  • Harry Turtledove's war-themed novels stress this element quite heavily. Many characters, including long-lived favorites, die, sometimes in completely random incidents. He seems to have a quota of "At least one death per book."
  • So do the characters in Derek Robinson's WWI and WWII novels.
    • Rather than "Anyone CAN Die" it's more like "Everyone Probably WILL Die," particularly in the WWI books.
  • Apparently, a body count of six-billion-plus in book one wasn't enough for Remnants - characters continue to die in every book following. By the series' end, less than ten Mayflower passengers were still alive.
  • Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts series of novels, set in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle 40,000 universe, are filled with plenty of fallen heroes. While the first few novels in the series don't feature many important character deaths beyond a few named soldiers and minor officers, by the later books the major Ghosts are being killed left and right as fast as new characters are introduced. Abnett proudly refers to himself as an "equal fatalities employer."
    • Similarly, by the end of Abnett's Eisenhorn series for WH40k, the eponymous character is the only one that survives all the way from the start. The rest are all dead or severely incapacitated.
    • The Warhammer Fantasy Battles novel Inheritance ends up with every single character seen in person in the first half of the book dead or, in the case of minor side-characters, probably dead. Although two of them are still undead, as opposed to dead-dead. Both of them having started out alive.
  • Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame novels abide by this, including a major character dying within the first fifty pages of the first book, the all-time fan favorite secondary character dying in the third, and the central character dying horribly in the fourth book. Justified, though, the world may seem like a simple D&D pastiche, but every decision made has real consequences, people choose wrong on a regular basis, and no one is sanctified.
  • Probably an average of three cats, usually major characters, are guaranteed to die in any one volume of Erin Hunter's Warriors series.
    • They've so far killed two protagonists. (If you count Feathertail's few chapters of narration as being a protagonist.)
    • However, this stops completely in Series 3, when except for one or two deaths of minor characters before the first book began, NO ONE DIES. Not even in Book 4, where despite containing the biggest battle since the First Series, NO ONE dies. They had two near-deaths. Then Book 5 came...
      • Counting the deaths seen in Jayfeather's visions, the third series only killed off 6 characters (one of them an unnamed elder) and a whole bunch of Tribe Cats, which is pretty minor considering the first two series each have body counts in the twenties. And of course, Hollyleaf might not actually be dead...
    • Counting unnamed characters, kits, deaths that are only mentioned and not seen, deaths by famine and sickness, and the four cats that were left behind to die in Dawn, the actual average number of deaths in the first two series is around 4.75 per book. (Until the Power of Three series, which brings the number down. But then of course, no one knows how many Tribe cats were killed in Outcast.)
    • And then there's Bluestar's Prophecy, a prequel with a large cast of characters, most of which are never seen in the first book. Guess what happens to them (although, a fair number of them did get killed off in between chapters).
    • So far, the fourth series seems to be working on some form of subversion of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: If you are a minor character who has been alive since the first series, you will be arbitrarily killed off without warning.
  • Watership Down is known for its atmosphere of pervasive dread, but the author turns out to be much too kind-hearted to pull the plug on his favorite characters, and settles for simple maiming instead. (I guess being rabbits, Kill'Em All would be the default outcome, nothing to write home about.) See animated film version, however.
    • He had planned to kill off Bigwig at the end though, and only spared him at the behest of his young daughters. The mentality was definitely there.
  • The norm in the Left Behind series, where cast members are constantly dying and replaced. And to rub salt in the many wounds, most of them die completely random and pointless deaths. By the climax of the series, not one of the original cast introduced in book one is still alive. But they all got better in the end.
  • His Dark Materials, starting with the utter lack of Infant Immortality, displays this trope more and more in each book, to the point where characters start dropping like flies in the third book the second they have finished furthering whatever minor plot points they had to serve.
  • David Weber's Honor Harrington series doesn't kill off memorable characters very often, but it is always a possibility. This can extend to characters who were present for several books of the long, ongoing series, such as Alistair McKeon, and to a lesser extent Jamie Candless. Rumor has it that Weber very seriously considered killing off the titular protagonist at one point a few years ago, but later decided against it.
    • The Author's Note in the beginning of Storm from the Shadows explicitly states that Weber planned to kill Honor off at the end of At All Costs and restart the series with her children as the main characters. Fortunately, the series plot has advanced faster than planned, and now they won't be old enough during the upcoming action.
    • Weber's said the only character that's really safe is Honor's steward MacGuinness because his wife is fond of the character.
    • From one interview, when asked about the subject:

"Military fiction in which only bad people—-the ones the readers want to die—-die and the heroes don't suffer agonizing personal losses isn't military fiction: it's military pornography. Someone who write [sic] military fiction has a responsibility to show the human cost, particular [sic] because so few of his readers may have any personal experience with that cost.

  • David Drake's military fiction (particularly his Hammer's Slammers) makes David Weber's Honor Harrington look like a piker. Only a handful of characters have relative immunity to this trope, though one apparently gets the axe, only for us to later strongly suspect it was faked.
  • Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly. Just prior to the climax of the book, Gant, the main character's love interest that has been part of the team for three books is suddenly and gruesomely killed off. Not to mention that 90% of the cast in each and every one of his books dies.
    • He also does this when Wizard is killed quite suddenly in Five Greatest Warriors.
    • Just don't get attached to a character in his books. Ever.
  • Brandon Sanderson of Mistborn has no qualms about killing plenty of unnamed commoners and noblemen, the occasional minor character, and at least one main character per book.
  • The Zone World War III action novels by James Rouch.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe, more and more lately.
    • In the X Wing Series, we lose a number of Rogues and other characters in the Stackpole books, but since he never got us to make an emotional investment there's not much impact. When Aaron Allston writes the Wraiths, each character is individual and interesting, and their deaths are more shocking and saddening. Jesmin Ackbar, Falynn Sandskimmer, Eurssk "Grinder" Tri'ag, Ton Phanan, Castin Donn.
      • We do have some apparent deaths in Stackpole's mains, but they rapidly get better, usually by the end of the book (I'm looking at you, Lieutenant Horn).
      • Chewbacca's death in Vector Prime is the epitome of this trope in the Star Wars EU.
    • Characters first introduced in The Thrawn Trilogy are dying left and right recently. Zahn mentions that he's told that this is more realistic, and he admits that it is, but this is Star Wars, and he prefers entertaining to realistic. He's a bit higher on the "idealistic" side of the scale.

"While some authors (and readers) like the tension of wondering who will live and who will die, I prefer the tension of seeing how the heroes are going to think or work their ways out of each difficult or impossible situation they find themselves in."

    • Anakin Solo
  • In The Acts of Caine, many central characters have died. Several have died and come back. One character got killed, came back as a semi-god, got killed again, and then became a true God.
  • In the Harry Potter books: Cedric Diggory's death in Goblet of Fire managed to blindside the entire readership and served notice that no one was safe for the rest of the series. A message that the readers were further reminded of with Sirius's death in Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's death at the end of Half-Blood Prince, and which was tragically driven home by Fred's death, among many others, in the final book.
    • Hedwig, Mad-Eye Moody, Colin Creevey, Tonks, Remus Lupin, Fred Weasley, Snape and Dobby in book seven. (And that doesn't count the bad guys.) The film version adds even more, because apparently it wasn't a big enough bloodbath already.
    • Arguably, even Harry dies at one point.
      • It was Dobby that really epitomises this trope, especially given that even Mugglenet gave 100:1 odds on the death.
  • The Deepgate Codex books. Well, it does take place in a World Half Empty.
  • The Tomorrow Series. As if it wasn't bad enough that two of the main protagonists are comatose or dead by the third book, The Night Is For Hunting sees a raid on the group of children they've been keeping an eye out for; all but five of the children are killed, and one of those remaining dies of exposure not long afterwards.
    • It's not so much the number of deaths but the nature of each one. Corrie is shot in the back in Book 1, falls into a coma in Book 2, and dies at some unknown time between then and Book 6. Chris dies in a car accident offscreen. Robin goes out heroically, but her death may or may not have been pointless and demoralises the rest of them. And then there's the aforementioned children's deaths ...
  • Don't get too attached to characters in Ian Irvine's Three Worlds cycle. Mauve Shirts on the verge of getting character upgrades? Fan favourite cameos? Plot-important characters? Main characters? It's one of the most brutal examples of Earn Your Happy Ending ever seen.
  • Michael Moorcock, indulges in this in at least a couple of the Eternal Champion series though in the Jerry Cornelius books death isn't (usually) all that permanent. Oh, and anyone close to Elric for a significant period of time is pretty much doomed.
  • Perry Rhodan had up to 23 immortality devices preventing aging and disease, but people could still be killed. Between issues 1399 and 1504(out of over 2500), the number of immortals went from 17 to 10. In the aftermath of that, 6 new devices were given to new holders. The 10 old immortals still live (some had near death experiences, one was repeatedly killed and revived), while of the 6 new ones 2 aliens laid them down due to not needing anymore, 3 humans were killed before their normal life expectancy was up, and one female alien was almost tortured to death by an insane space pirate, remaining sane only due to sheer willpower. Even ascended beings are not safe.
  • Unusually for children's books written in the 1960s, Lloyd Alexander had quite a few major, popular characters die in the final volumes of his Prydain and Westmark series (but the protagonist and the leading female character were safe).
  • If you are a Bishonen in a Dennis Cooper novel, you will most likely be kidnapped, raped, tortured, and/or murdered, and you will enjoy it. Especially if your name is George Miles.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novels, survival is not guaranteed even if you've been part of the cast since book one, as Haulvarn proves.
  • Chronicles of Narnia. Every main character dies in the seventh book, except for Susan. And the fact that she doesn't die is bad, because she won't get into Narnia again.
  • In Connie Willis's Passage the protagonist dies in the middle of the story.
  • Subverted in The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf, the second-most important character in the story, bites it halfway through the first volume, which is a huge caesura in the plot. Next, Boromir, another member of the Fellowship, dies in the first chapter of the second volume. Then, however, Gandalf comes back halfway through the second volume, and in the end the Fellowship and the other major characters on the good side—though they may experience various life-threatening situations, and side characters drop right and left—come out of a cataclysmic world war pretty unscathed; only old guys like Theóden and Denethor die. Interestingly, Tolkien at one time considered having Pippin and/or Sam die, as well as letting the Witch-King kill Eowyn, but he never had the heart to make it real.
  • The characters in Tolkien's lesser-known novel The Children of Hurin fare far worse than those in The Lord of the Rings. By the end of the tale, Turin (The Hero) is dead, in addition to his sister Nienor, mother Morwen, best friend Beleg, comrade Gwindor, rival Brandir, kinda-sorta love interest Finduilas, and a boatload of other minor characters.
  • In The Silmarillion most of the main characters get killed at various stages during the war against Morgoth. Feanor, the greatest Noldo (Deep-Elf) who ever lived dies in the *first* battle against the Orcs (after accidentaly killing one of his own sons in a fire, according to a very late story published in "The Peoples of Middle-earth"). Of his half-brothers and nephews, who are the main protagonists of the Exile, the only one to survive is Galadriel, the future ruler of the Galadhrim. Only one out of the seven Sons of Feanor might have been able to stay alive by the end of the First Age (his fate is actually unknown).
  • Several major characters are Killed Off for Real in Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry series.
    • Actually, GGK has a thing about leaving nobody alive. Someone major, often several someones, are killed off in almost every one of his books. Of especial note is Tigana, in which there simply IS no happy ending.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen sees a lot of characters killed off. Unfortunately, the use of Loads and Loads of Characters and Four Lines, All Waiting means that some characters are out of sight for four or five books and get no character developement. When they show up again and get killed, the reader doesn't really care.
  • A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book takes its characters through WWI. All of the younger male characters enlist, and several of them die; the ones who survive do not return in the best of physical or mental health (and, to make matters worse, there are ominous rumblings of WWII ahead).
  • Lonesome Dove has this trope in spades. Diabolus Ex Machina is working against everyone, and in the end, the body count is high. Even the main character is dead at the end of this story. All that is left is a few of the named ranch-hands, the Mexican cook, Woodrow Call, and Call's son Newt.
    • And Newt dies in the first chapter of the sequel, The Streets of Laredo.
  • In The Last Black Cat, by Eugene Trivizas, only four of the many (named) cats are alive at the end of the book. And there are no 'nice' deaths in this book.
  • This trope appears in David Clement-Davies's Fire Bringer and The Sight.
  • The Redwall series has it lose several Muave Shirts and at least one minor character in every book. When asked about this, Jacques responded with "that's life". That everyone else has Plot Armor so thick you could hang pictures on it is apparently a minor point.
  • Dale Brown is not afraid to have characters who have lasted multiple books, like Brad Elliott, Wendy and Paul McLanahan, face the reaper.
  • In Robert McCammon's Swan Song, practically everyone dies, and since he starts out with Loads and Loads of Characters, that's a lot of death. The book is about nuclear holocaust, though, so it makes sense.
  • How many people die over the main plot of an R.L. Stine book generally depends on the series—usually, none for main Goosebumps, one for main Fear Street or Fear Street Seniors, and anywhere from a couple to a massacre for any other side series. However, it's almost impossible to predict which books will kill a random (and potentially likeable) character at the end, which will Kill'Em All, and which will leave everyone unscathed.
  • In Simon Green's Deathstalker series, after 1.2 million words, Owen is cut down in a simple street fight—and when he's dead they even steal his boots He does get better in the sequel series, but a lot of other and protagonists don't.
  • In Seven Men of Gascony by R. F. Delderfield, everyone died except the soldier Gabriel and the camp-follower Nicholette whom he marries and retires into civilian life.
  • Posleen War Series: Few of the characters from the first book with any development at all survive to the current book of the series, and sometimes they die or are believed to be dead several times.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy plays this one hard, particularly in the final installment. Amidst the deaths of several supporting characters, Katniss has to witness firsthand the death of her younger sister Prim, whom she was trying to protect by entering the Games in the first place.
  • Also present in Suzanne Collins' other series, The Underlander Chronicles.
  • The Dresden Files goes in and out with this trope. Most characters seem to be safe but occasionally a major character will be taken out to cement the noir nature of the series once more. Carmichael, a character who in most other stories would survive the entire series, gets shredded by a super-werewolf in book two. Morgan, Harry's Anti-Villain nemesis for a good portion of the series, gets killed off in a nasty way by a real villain.
    • As a real swerve Changes kills off Harry Dresden himself and he spends Ghost Story trying to solve his own murder.
  • Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan. Almost everyone dies, even Darren Shan himself, although he does reverse time and start over at the end.
  • The Prince Roger series has several characters that are upgraded to Mauve Shirt in the first book and promptly killed at the beginning of the second.
  • Unda Vosari kills off at least two characters before the final chapter.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Pretty much everyone dies, usually in horrible ways. The narrator is pretty vague about the fate of the orphans and their lost friends, pretty much only hinting that Sunny and Violet survive in obscure areas, the end and in The Beatrice Letters.
  • FEED, by Mira Grant, is brutal with this. From beloved family members to main characters, nobody is safe. Which is as it should be in a world post zombie apocalypse, really.
  • In Pretty Little Liars, most of the people suspected to be A (all of which were main characters) end up dying and maybe 2 of the people who actually were A. By the end of the last book in the series, the dead include Ali (maybe), Toby and Jenna Cavanaugh, Mona Vanderwaal, Ian, and Courtney.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, as the series nears the end of the historical timeline of the wars in The Hundred Days, some very major characters are killed off in essentially random and undramatic fashion: Diana and Mrs. Williams perish when Diana drives her coach too fast around a sharp corner, and Barret Bonden is killed by a long-range random shot from an Algerian galley.
  • The work of Stephen King. Not even children are safe.
  • In The First Law trilogy, Joe Abercrombie makes it fairly clear early on anyone can die. In fact, by the end of the series the (initially) most identifiable main character winds up leaping off a cliff, whilst his band of followers have been slowly picked off across the trilogy.
  • The rare romantic novel to embrace this trope, One Day kills off one of its protagonists about 2/3rds of the way through the book, completely changing the entire story.
    • Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage, which also revisits the two main characters at intervals throughout their lives, also does this - as well as the protagonists getting a divorce about halfway through the book. However, the marriage has changed the course of the surviving partner's life, so the rest of the book deals with that.
  • Shannara loves this. Even if you survive your original series you will die in the sequel.
  • In Then by Morris Gleitzman, the sequel to Once, Zelda, one of the main protagonists of the series, is killed by the Nazis near the end of the book.
    • She sort of reappears in Now but it's actually the granddaughter of Felix, the other main protagonist.
  • Be careful about who you get attached to in Someone Elses War. Then again, it's a story about Child Soldiers, so this makes it a sad case of Truth in Television.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Lost is notable for its death rate. Of the 14 original main characters, 9 are dead by the end of the show, leaving only 5 still living, and of the 35 characters ever given main cast billing, 21 end the show dead, leaving just 14 alive.
    • Furthermore, of the 72 survivors of the plane crash, only a measly 12 are known to be alive at the end. So much for "survivors!".
    • Lampshaded/foreshadowed in an episode when Daniel Faraday says exactly "Any one of us can die." At the end of the episode, he dies.
    • Word of God is that Jack was supposed to be killed by the Smoke Monster in the pilot episode to show that even the most important characters were not safe. Executive Meddling prevented this, however, as ABC believed viewers were more likely to feel betrayed. They ended up killing the pilot of the plane in his place.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand offed a number of major characters over the course of the first season, which ended in an outright bloodbath.
    • Spartacus vengeance was even worse, the finale killed off no less than six major characters
  • Deadwood kills Wild Bill Hickok early in the first season, establishing that anyone can die. Although his death is a matter of historical fact, he still fulfills the purpose of this trope.
    • And they make good on this promise when Ellsworth is killed.
  • Harper's Island kills off at least 1 character every episode, with the phrase 'One by One' as it's tagline. Out of the 25 presented characters, only 4 live through the series.
  • 24 established its Anyone Can Die cred early in the first season by killing off Spawn's Kim Bauer's innocent friend Janet York early in the first season, then in a big way by killing off Teri Bauer in the first season finale. By the end of season six, only Jack and Tony are still alive out of the Season 1 agents.
    • The show's early seasons arguably influenced many shows' use of the trope: see Lost or Prison Break, for example.
  • Jenny Calendar, Tara Maclay, and Joyce Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • In fact, Joss Whedon had hoped to start the series on this note by including Xander's doomed friend Jesse in the opening credits of the pilot. When financial considerations prevented that, he ensured that Amber Benson joined the opening credits for the episode that Tara died.
    • Not to mention Buffy herself twice, Spike, and Angel, though since they got better, the validity can be argued.
      • Spike's death and Buffy's second death were originally meant to be permanent. Buffy was brought back only when the show was renewed, and Spike returned to life on the next season of Angel.
    • Anya didn't fare as well, though this was the series finale.
    • Whedon even suggested, on two separate occasions, to kill off Xander - once in the Season Five finale (which was intended to conclude the series originally), and later at the hands of Caleb near the end of Season Seven in the episode "Dirty Girls" (which was reduced to him losing his eye) - the latter plan was really only abandoned when they realised there wouldn't be sufficient mourning time for the character in the final four episodes. In retrospect, it may not have been the best change, as it made for some rather painful Fridge Logic - not to mention a major Conflict Ball - when Buffy is kicked out of her own home by the Scoobies.
      • Also, it was originally intended for Dawn to sacrifice her life - and disappear forever - in the last moments of 'The Gift' before they decided that Buffy dying for her sister would be a more meaningful way to go.
  • Angel. The show that killed one of three main characters in the ninth episode and then three of five main characters in the fifth season: Fred, Cordelia, and Wesley - one in the last episode. Not to mention said last episode ended with four main characters, one of whom (Charles Gunn) was quickly bleeding to death, charging into battle against a huge army of darkness, with the very strong impression that no one would survive. And that's not even getting into After The Fall...
    • Let's just put it this way: the life expectancy of a character in any show created by Joss Whedon is rather lower than the average...
      • To be fair, all of these characters on Buffy and Angel died at specific moments: Jenny dies after rekindling her romance with Giles, Joyce dies after beating her brain cancer (only for it to come back), Tara after getting back together with Willow, Doyle once Cordelia agreed to go out with him, Fred once she got together with Wesley, and the last time Cordelia is seen controlling her own body she's on the way to tell Angel she loves him. So these Joss Whedon deaths aren't a case of Anyone Can Die as much as Anyone Happy Can Die.
  • Skins, they kill one of the main characters every 2 seasons. Usually, it happens at the end of the second season of each generation, like with Chris or Freddie. Season 6 killed one of the main characters the second episode. This is not counting other characters (parents, friends, enemies, strangers) that died or might have died. Kind of a high mortality rate for a series that only involves regular, healthy, teenagers, with no real violence, no super powers, no mystical creatures, etc...
  • The X-Files was notorious for their Anyone Can Die attitude, given how important characters such as "X" and Mulder's father died in otherwise relatively unimportant episodes. Krycek and the Cigarette Smoking Man were also killed frequently, but it didn't take until they were eventually Killed Off for Real.
    • Not to mention Mulder himself, as well as the Lone Gunmen.
    • According to Chris Carter, killing off Deep Throat in the first season was meant to establish that everyone, except Mulder and Scully, is expendable. As mentioned above, eventually even Mulder was considered expendable.
  • Oz is notorious for leveraging this psychological trope and it was a big part of the premise of Tour of Duty.
    • Oz is so committed to use of this trope that its official website includes an interactive death map showing all the characters, which ones were still alive at the last show, and where the rest of them died. Borders on Kill'Em All.
  • An early example is Blakes Seven, which killed off approximately one major character per season, including the title character (Though he later turned out to be Not Quite Dead after all).
  • Babylon 5 tended to do this too—one watched each episode wondering who was going to "get it" this year, although in this case it was all part of the Myth Arc and less of a shock effect. One character was created and introduced specifically for the purpose of being later killed off in order to let the main characters know about the existence of the Big Bad.
    • Word of God, at least according to the DVD commentaries, is that Keffer (assuming that's who was meant in the previous entry) was added at the insistence of Warner Bros, and was killed off at the first opportunity because J. Michael Straczynski doesn't like that kind of character. The actor playing the part wasn't even told his character was dead until later.
    • And the first season episode "Believers" hammered it home: an alien child will die without surgery, but according to his parents' religious beliefs, cutting his chest cavity will cause his soul to disappear and leave him a soulless abomination. Dr. Franklin goes against their wishes and performs the operation. The parents then kill the 'soulless' child.
    • Babylon 5 seriously pushed the envelope in this way, by removing the commander of the station by the end of the first season and replacing him. He wasn't dead, and he was described as being alive on Minbar, but he wasn't active in the show very much. When he does show up for a big two-part episode later in the series, he does die in the technical sense of the term. That is to say, he's not alive after that, because he travels 1000 years into the past. From the moment he goes back in time he's just as dead in the show's continuity as anyone else who dies.
    • Not only do they kill off main characters, they do it with style. Bester, in one episode, implies not only that Talia Winters is dead, but that she was actually dissected for research, though it's just as likely he was trying to get a rise out of the others. Furthermore, Marcus Cole dies without telling Ivanova how he feels about her, really only dying because he doesn't know how to operate an alien healing machine properly. Then, of course, there's G'Kar and Londo killing each other in a flash-forward.
    • The character of Carolyn Sykes/Catherine Sakai/Anna Sheridan survives numerous rewrites, re-assignments of role, and even posession by the Machine, to be exploded by John Sheridan. With two nuclear weapons. And Mr. Morden, a few yards further from ground zero, survives.
  • Helen on Spooks (killed off after 2 episodes). Furthermore, Spooks established that if you're going to invoke this trope, it's best to do it as nastily as you can, as this death was caused by getting her arm dunked into a deep-fryer, and then her face being pushed in, before she got shot, all on screen. This gave the show a lot of credibility in the trope despite, in fact, it being the only instance of it occurring for quite some time.
    • While not everybody dies, characters are far from entirely safe in the show. Major characters have been killed off with no warning, including all three main characters over the course of a single series. As of the end of season 6, only two season 1 characters remain employed at Thames House.
    • The short-lived Spin-Off, Spooks: Code 9, naturally had to play with this, killing off the team leader at the end of the first episode. Of course, this being Spooks, everybody was pretty much expecting it.
    • Series 7 went for the double, with Connie James being arrested for treason, and then getting blown up while saving London from a nuclear bomb.
  • The father of the family in Six Feet Under was killed in the first scene of the first episode, though his "ghost" appears throughout the series conversing with the characters, manifesting their subconscious thoughts. Multiple main characters die throughout the course of the series, which itself deals constantly with death, using it as a magnifying glass for life. The most shocking example is the death of Nate Fisher, the lead character, a few episodes before the end of the series. He dies of a brain hemorrhage, and is given a private burial by the Fisher family. The series finale includes depictions of the deaths of every other main character.
  • Earth: Final Conflict was infamous for taking this to ridiculous extremes. Only one character (a villain) is featured in all five seasons and most characters die or otherwise in some way get practically removed from the main cast within one and a half season of introduction.
    • In fact, one episode was completely devoted to an episode-long demise of a minor character which only featured in four episodes. Though the character was instrumental for the plot as she was one of the three parents of a character which lasted three whole seasons.
    • Given that the series by Season 5 became itself In Name Only, this could be an example of Tropes Are Not Good.
  • Primeval is sometimes turning to Anyone Will Die, as at least one major character died each series, with Nick Cutter himself dying MID-SERIES in Series 3.
    • As of the end of Season 3 there are only three main characters left from S1. They must be nervously checking their contract for S4...
    • Series three is especially bad. In that one series alone, Nick is shot by Helen, causing Jenny to leave (even though she somes back for an episode in series 4), Cristine Johnson is killed by a future predator, Helen falls off a cliff, and Connor, Abby and Danny all get stuck in different time periods with almost no chance of surviving or ever getting back home. Even though the last three get back, that leaves only Lester back at the ARC from the very beginning.
      • Then in series 4 we find out that Sarah died.
  • Beginning with its second season, Prison Break kicked its extreme Anyone Can Die atmosphere into overdrive, bordering on Kill'Em All with its penchant for killing off main characters with the zeal of a slasher film. There's at least a 2:1 ratio for make up kills and subverted deaths, and in one hell of an example of Your Princess Is in Another Castle, the series finale delivers in a big way with the most shocking death of all.
  • On The Unit, they had a Tonight Someone Dies episode right out of nowhere. And no cop-out either. A real main character dies. And it's not even sweeps week.
  • On The Wire, at least one major character dies in every season: Wallace in Season 1, D'Angelo Barksdale and Frank Sobotka in Season 2, Stringer Bell in Season 3, Bodie in Season 4, Proposition Joe and Omar Little in Season 5.
    • The last was a particularly powerful example of the trope, as Omar was built up as a larger-than-life, unstoppable force of nature throughout the series, only to be shot in the back of the head while buying a pack of cigarettes by a nobody kid...
    • Not to mention a host of secondary characters that can and will be killed off in droves.
  • The very very very long running drama ER has featured deaths of multiple main characters. However, as the cast is forever large and rearrangable, with plots being recycled all over, this is perhaps not so difficult as for a show with a smaller established cast.
  • Torchwood has a Dead Star Walking in its first episode. But that's just the start. Out of the show's five main characters, three of them are dead as of the end of Miracle Day. That's without getting into Jack's immortality. Even by Anyone Can Die standards, a sixty percent mortality rate among the protagonists is staggering.
    • In fact, Owen dies not once, but twice. Anyone can die... even if they're already dead.
    • In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Esther Drummond and Oswald Danes died at the end. Dr. Juarez was incinerated just as she seemed to be becoming part of the Torchwood team.
  • Anyone Can Die pretty much became the hook of The Sopranos. No one was safe, be it the lowest goon or Tony himself. Due to the fact that they were never informed well in advance, many of the actors explicitly expressed suspense and fear for their careers should the writers suddenly choose the sword to fall on their head. (Though in the case of Livia, it was the actress that died first.)
  • The original concept behind Heroes was that, not only could anyone die, but by the end of the first season it was expected that a majority of the cast would die with the survivors Put on a Bus to make way for a new season 2 cast (the actors were told as much when they originally signed on). This changed due to the popularity of the original cast with fans, and many of the characters who appeared to die in the Season 1 finale would turn out to be Not Quite Dead. Nonetheless, they did manage to kill off two of the main characters, as well as most of the recurring supporting cast.
    • The deaths of Isaac, Alejandro, Peter (temporarily) and Kaito were certainly unexpected.
      • Newer characters get killed off while the older characters get Joker Immunity. We're looking at you, Sylar.
  • Each series of Blackadder was set in a different era. The final episodes of each era were ones in which indeed, Anyone Can Die.
  • Band of Brothers is pretty much a documentary with actors instead of "plain old television," but it's a case where reality beats the holy snot out of this one. Granted, it's war, and in war anyone can (and does) die, but it's still rather jarring to spend hours getting to know characters only to have them disintegrated by a direct hit from an artillery shell, have a leg blown entirely off while trying to help a squad mate, or finally find the Luger they've spent the entire series hoping to find, only to have it go off shortly after finally getting it and having the bullet hit the femoral artery and have the man bleed to death while being held by his buddies.
  • Veronica Mars kills off Sheriff Lamb and Dean O'Dell quite unceremoniously.
  • V, the original series, killed characters without warning, especially characters from the miniseries, to the point in which no character was safe. (Of course, one actor was brought back as his own twin...)
    • The new V doesn't have much in the way of this, until the second season finale, wherein they really make up for lost time. Three major characters you'd expect to have immunity (they seemed integral to arcs that weren't quite over, so not expendable yet even if their character types don't always make it to the Grand Finale) die sudden an unexpected deaths.
  • Supernatural: Victims of the week are slaughtered with reckless abandon, almost no supporting character introduced survives for even a single season, and NO ONE is immune, though if you're important enough, you may come Back from the Dead. You may even die and come back a lot. Unless you're female.
    • Of all the characters that have appeared in the series, most have not lasted more than a season or two. Many of the more major characters come back briefly in some form or another, but aside from Sam and Dean, they all return to the land of the dead at some point. The writers also seem to not fear killing main characters for good as was shown in the episode, Death's Door when Bobby died.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles. First off, minor characters, like Andy Goode, Charley Dixon's wife, Doctor Sherman, or Allison Young. Then, Riley is killed. Then, Jesse. Then, Charley himself. Then, Derek frakkin' Reese!.
  • Grey's Anatomy. Both Izzie and George die in the season 5 finale. Who knows whether they'll return in season 6 due to contractual immortality.
    • Unless certain people changed their minds on the issue, Izzie recovers but George stays dead.
    • Not to mention Denny Duquette (who may or may not be a hallucination/angel)!
    • As of the Season 8 finale, Lexie Grey, in a plane crash
  • The new Battlestar Galactica was notorious for this. Although some characters could come back if they were Cylons, most other characters had permanent deaths and it happened frequently. Even a Red Shirt death tended to matter, since background characters were recurring.
  • Probably the ultimate example of this trope comes in Caprica, the prequel series to the new Battlestar Galactica. Galactica, of course, starred Admiral Bill Adama, son of Joseph Adama, so when Caprica introduced us to Joseph Adama and his young son William, certain assumptions of Contractual Immortality were made. Then the penultimate episode killed off William. Joseph names his next son after the dead one.
  • NCIS. Especially if you happen to be female. Title credits offer no protection.
    • Michael Weatherly joked that NCIS stood for "No Castmember Is Safe"
  • The 2009 Revival of Melrose Place killed off Sydney Andrews mere minutes into its pilot episode.
  • The BBC's Robin Hood killed off MAID MARIAN. She was followed by Allan-a-Dale, Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriffs of Nottingham (both of them) and finally Robin Hood himself.
  • Sons of Anarchy. Not even being in the credits will protect you. Ask Half Sack.
  • Played very, very cruelly in season 4 of Dexter. Poor Rita.
    • And Lundy.
  • Chuck's third season seems to want to establish this early on: at the very beginning of the season the show breaks one of it's unwritten rules by having an enemy agent kill a recurring Buy More employee, Emmit.
    • You can also add Bryce Larkin (who died at the third season's end) and possibly Stephen Bartowski (who got killed in the season three finale). On the villains' side, Smug Snake CIA representative Decker bit the bullet half-way through the fifth season.
  • The Vampire Diaries certainly seems to love this trope, seeing as how they've already killed off thirteen characters. And that's just the first season.
  • The original 70s version of Survivors burned through quite a cast-roster in just three seasons' worth of episodes.
  • The 1998 series Merlin has numerous deaths, both of heroic and villainous characters.
  • Double Subverted in seventh season of Stargate SG-1. The show convinces us that it's not going to kill off O'Neill. They don't. They kill off Dr. Frasier instead.
  • According to Word of God, Stargate Atlantis was purposely designed to be this way. Colonel Sumner is a Dead Star Walking in the first episode and they make a point of killing important recurring characters throughout the series (Grodin and Heightmeyer come to mind.) They finally ramped it up at the end of season 3 by killing Dr. Beckett. They then went even further by killing Dr. Weir a few episodes later, but she was Not Quite Dead. Technically neither was Beckett.
  • Rescue Me. In the first five season finales someone of importance has gone to meet their Maker in the permanent way.
  • In the Haven episode "As You Were", it's not the character introduced that episode who dies, but the secondary character Eleanor.
  • St. Elsewhere has made it clear that anyone can die. Two of the most known examples on the show are Santa Claus in a Christmas Episode, and Mimsie, the kitten mascot of MTM Enterprises in the end credits of the Series Finale.
  • Dead Set. Every single character is either dead or undead by the end of the series.
  • The Walking Dead
  • On Damages this is combined with Anybody Can Go To Jail thanks to Revolving Door Casting as the result of most of its supporting cast being made up of film actors. The first season alone has two Sacraficial Lions and by the end of the third season only two of the show's original cast members aren't dead or in prison. This is to say nothing of the high mortality rate of recurring characters. With the exception of Patty's son and ex husband it would seem that as soon as you sign a deal to guest star on the show chances are you'll be looking for work again once shooting is over.
  • True Blood certainly exibits this trope, especially with the fourth season.
  • Boardwalk Empire. At least one significant character dies in each of the final three episodes of the second season: first Angela Darmody, then The Commodore, and finally (and most shockingly) Jimmy Darmody. (A somewhat less important character, Boss Neary, also dies in the season finale.)
  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Capt. Danny Ross is murdered in the season premiere while working undercover with the feds against an arms dealer.
  • In The Straits, Harry Montebello starts off more-or-less as the main character. Then he dies. By that time, a fair few secondary characters have already been brutally killed off.
  • The Game of Thrones Season 2 Trailer pretty much invokes this in-universe with Arya saying "Anyone can be killed".
    • The series follows the books it's based on very closely, and books tend to follow this trope more often than live-action series. This is shown prominently at the end of the first season, when the main character, the one given top billing (as well as being probably the most famous actor cast in the series,) got his head lopped off. Network Executives were apparently hesitant about killing off the main character of the series one season in, and understandably so. Then they saw the ratings. They were cool with it after that.


Other[edit | hide]

  • Bionicle has begun to show traits of this trope. Ever since the web-serial chapters arrived (though mostly from 2008), former main and side characters have been dying left and right. Now that the happenings of the Matoran Universe have to be restricted to a web-serial, since non of the characters are part of the main line of toys, everyone who survived the story's first 8 years can begin to worry. Don't think of Heroic Sacrifice, rather blowing up or being pulled beneath the ground for just the heck of it. Or simply eaten. Exceptions are, of course, some of the main heroes and the invulnerable Big Bad. And if a side-story happens to take place in an Alternate Universe, absolutely no one is safe, save for those who don't belong there and will eventually return to their own world... Although, that isn't guaranteed either.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Whilst reality-based rather than in a storyline, sadly Professional Wrestlers seem to have very short life spans. Prior to drug testing (which was implemented after one such death), wrestling has had a number of high-profile deaths that seem to come out of nowhere, most notably Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. Certainly fans are now conditioned to expect any wrestler to die at any time.
  • You also never know when an accident may happen, such as the one that claimed the life of Owen Hart.
  • And of course accidents can occur outside the ring, as what had happened to Randy Savage.

Theatre[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Turgor all the Brothers and Sisters you meet can be killed. And that's all the NPC's you ever meet.
  • The Resident Evil series is notable for having a slew of characters and killing most of them off; depending on the game, you may be given a choice as to whether or not you want to save the character. The GameCube remake (the very original isn't canon) allows a minimum of one surviving character (the player), or a maximum of three.
    • An exception is Resident Evil 4, where only one main protagonist is killed.
    • If a character is playable in a game, they're all but guaranteed to survive in the following games. The only time a playable character dies is if the player character chooses to not save them in the GameCube remake of the original (ie Chris not saving Jill, or vise versa).
    • The series also sometimes revives formerly dead characters, namely Ada Wong and Albert Wesker, who later are shown to gave miraculously survived.
  • Army Men: Sarge's War Every single allied character that had existed in the previous games dies in a bomb attack, even the arch villain of the series.
  • Halo series has this. Pretty much anybody you meet in the game has a high probability of dying. The Expanded Universe novels have this as well, any character that's not in the games is fair game, especially the Spartans other than Master Chief.
    • By the end of the third game the Master Chief, Cortana, Admiral Hood, the Arbiter, and Ship Master survive. Every other character of the main series dies.
      • Halo: Reach takes this and runs with it. Due to Doomed by Canon, expect anyone you care about to die. The list of survivors is shorter than the named deaths. Only Jun, Halsey, Buck, Captain Keyes and, of course, Chief and Cortana survive.
  • Not too many people survive in the Chzo Mythos. Not even Trilby or his clones.
  • In the third installment of Silent Hill, the protagonist of the first game, Harry Mason, is found dead with his heart gouged out in his own home.
    • Not to mention Lisa's transformation in the first game, one of the more tragic parts of an already depressing storyline.
  • Final Fantasy II. 4 (out of 7) of the temporary party characters die. In this case, it is fully dead - the four casualties appear in a version of 'heaven' in the GBA remake.
  • The prequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Duodecim, focuses on a handful of new characters. There's a good reason for this: the original heroes drop like flies, and the main story's ending kills off the new ones as well. The old one's are better in time for the original game. The new characters, not so much.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: In the very last battle, the Big Bad explodes in another dimension, thus seemingly killing the main character, the entire playable party, and the main character's sister who you were trying to save all game. Though the ending implies that (maybe) the hero and his sister survived. This is combined with a generally high casualty rate amongst NPC characters, and a game mechanic where any player character beyond the hero can die permanently. By the end of the game, you could probably count the number of survivors amongst named characters on just one hand.
    • It's not clear whether the player party survived or not, but ruling out everyone but Ramza and Alma with absolute certainty is quite conceited - they may have lived but parted ways after the final battle. On that note, the reason only Ramza gains frequent conversations throughout the game is because the gameplay mechanic - sort of similar to Fire Emblem - means that deaths on the battlefield will stick if the characters aren't quickly revived. The only exceptions to this rule are the Guest Star Party Member(s), and once any of them join your party they lose this immunity (and with it, their storyline roles). With this in mind, the trope is actually reinforced quite strongly in Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • Ace Attorney has Mia Fey, the main character's mentor, get murdered in the SECOND case of the first game. You just met her, and being the newbie that you are, have come to idolize her...only to find her bludgeoned to death in her own office. She does come back in spirit though.
    • There's also the fact that every single case in every single game revolves around a murder, though of course you very rarely meet the victim.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare went a step further than most games do, and actually not only killed a major named character, but also killed one of the player characters in a nuclear explosion. The most chilling part is that you can actually play this character in his final moments as he staggers around on one broken leg through a nuclear wasteland, before finally collapsing and dying from his massive radiation exposure.
    • Not only that, but the end of the last level features the entire SAS squad (apart from Soap and Price) getting killed by Russian Ultranationalists.
    • While not quite as crazy about it as Modern Warfare 2 was, this trope was still in effect for Call of Duty Black Ops, which had Mason's whole SOG team dead by the end, though the really surprising deaths were those of Dmitri "Heart of the Red Army" Petrenko and Reznov.
    • Modern Warfare 3 is just as bad (if not worse) than the first game in the series. Out of every single major or main character in the game, the only ones who live are Captain Price and Nikolai. Every other major or playable character dies. Except for Frost and Sgt. Burns, both of whom disappear and are never mentioned again.
  • Jagged Alliance follows this to the extreme. Although your mercenaries are tougher than many faceless Mooks, a well placed shot in the face with a high caliber sniper rifle, a burst of armor piercing ammunition from a machine gun, or a single mortar strike is more than enough to spell death to any of them. Unless you are a cheating bastard and clad your mercenaries with EOD armor designed to ward off friggin' C4 explosions. Did I mentioned that when they die, they really die and cannot come back?
    • Luckily, there is no central protagonist in the game, so you can keep sending reinforcements as long as you have the funds and the mercenaries don't hate being recruited by you.
  • Ghost Trick: Nearly every major character dies at least once (and of course the protagonist was Dead to Begin With), it's just that Sissel keeps bringing them back.
  • Drakengard features this to some degree. When all endings are taken into account (even the straight-played Kill'Em All one), only the kid always lives. Well, technically.
    • NieR, a Gaiden Game to Drakengard doesn't fare much better. Regardless of what ending path you take, a good majority of the cast is killed off, and in Endings C and D, you get to choose whether Nier or Kainé, two of the only remaining heroes gets to die. It also doesn't help that, no matter what, your actions have pretty much doomed everyone, meaning even the survivors are still completely screwed.
  • Metal Gear. The trend started with Metal Gear 2 where only two characters survived the mission, and by Metal Gear Solid 4 all but seven characters who appeared in more than one game are dead, with one only having a few months to live.
  • Fire Emblem. Between the random number generator, the lethality of critical hits, and every death being a Final Death, every game in the series was made with this trope in mind. Even perfect strategy doesn't guarantee everyone lives. (The player can avert this, but it becomes notoriously difficult. Of course, a main character dying is a simple Game Over.)
    • Except for a handful of plot-essential characters who, at worst, will get wounded and never take to the battlefield again. Like Mist in FE 9 and 10.
    • Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu deserves a special mention. In the fifth chapter, the player is treated to a scene near the beginning where Cuan and Ethlin, brother-in-law and sister of the main character, return from a short visit home only to be massacred by an army of Dragon Knights with essentially no chance of survival. At the very end of the chapter, the entire party is killed off in a trap, save for a few whose survival you only hear about much later through word of mouth. The game picks up in Chapter 6 with the children of the original team a little less than twenty years later
    • Shin Monshou no Nazo is the first to break this rule, by having a Casual Mode, where allies that were "killed" in a battle come back at the beginning of the next chapter : everyone can still die, but at least it's not a Final Death. Except if it is Marth or My Unit, in which case it is still a Game Over. And you can choose this mode even in the Lunatic difficulty level.
    • Admittedly, this trope doesn't always apply; there are several party members in the series that can "die" in that you lose them as a UNIT forever, but won't be removed from the main story. Instead, they're considered merely too crippled to enter battles, and will still participate in dialogue normally.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles all your soldiers can die, aside from the main characters who would only withdraw from battle, However the trope is played straight with Isara's death, who is a main character.
  • In Chrono Trigger, after battling the Queen of Zeal, she still manages to summon Lavos, who is able to knock out the entire party in one or two hits. (Unless you're on a New Game+, where he is beatable, but that's not the point here.) Main character Crono manages to stand up, however, and readies his katana... only to be vaporized by Lavos' death beam. You can get him back through a side quest involving the titular device, but it is actually not necessary to complete the game.
  • Killzone 2 has the death of some of the series' named characters, including main hero of the first game, Templar.
  • Sonic is killed by Mephiles, while looking at something shiny, in |Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. The princess that Sonic was protecting, dies when he screws up and is too slow to save her (ironic). BUT! Thanks to those magical chaos emeralds, they can just go back in time and try again...
    • They come back. Mephiles, Iblis, and the Duke however, do not.
  • Dead Space. If the character is introduced and he or she isn't Isaac Clarke, they will not survive through the end of the game. Isaac is, in fact, the only survivor of the games, though Ellie survives and rescues him in the second game as well.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Highlighted early in the game, with the [9]th Man's death brutal death by Zero's explosives. It's revealed later on that the only people that had bombs inside them were Hongou, Nijisaki, Kubota and Musashidou.
  • Shadow of the Colossus is a good example of this. You basically play out the main character's death at the end of the game, one level after losing your horse over a very high cliff (though, (s)he got better). This overlaps as a twist ending.
    • It's easy to argue that the only real characters in the game are Wander, Agro, Mono, Dormin and the colossi. Mono is dead at the start, you kill all the colossi, Agro falls off a cliff and Wander/Dormin is killed, so you can say that everyone dies. (Although some do get better.)
  • The majority of characters in Devil Survivor can and will die if the player doesn't find a way to Screw Destiny.
  • The original Saints Row dabbled in this by having Lyn, a main character of the Westside Rollers arc, murdered by said gang's Man Behind the Man. The sequel, however, breaks out this trope in full force. Aisha, a major character from the first game's Vice Kings arc, is decapitated in the Ronin arc, supporting character Carlos is brutally mutilated in the Brotherhood arc. (which forces the Boss to Mercy Kill him) Oh, and a bonus mission reveals that Julius, the original leader of the Saints and Boss' mentor, had betrayed him by planting the boat bomb in the first game's ending. He is subsequently killed by Boss.
  • The Diablo series. In Diablo II the town of Tristram from the previous game is revisited but it has been destroyed and the townspeople slain, what's more the original heroes of the first game have been corrupted and have to be killed, with the Warrior being possessed by Diablo himself. Even the narrator of Diablo II (Marius) is killed in the end. When Diablo III was announced it was hinted that some of the heroes of Diablo II have been driven insane by their ordeal and so it could be possible to have to kill some of them too.
  • A better example might be Cid from Final Fantasy VI in the World of Ruin. After seeing the world blown apart by lasers of doom from the sky, with people dying left and right, your party is scattered to the winds. You wind up on a small island, taking care of your sickly father figure who cared for you while you were in a coma for all that time. Celes, your character, needs to catch fish to help nurse him back to health before leaving to find her allies, if they're alive at all. But if you happen to not feed him the right types of fish old man Cid doesn't make it. Celes buries him sorrowfully and then embarks off into the sea ot find out if her party members still live which, after this sad opening, they just might not have. Especially poor, poor Shadow.
    • It should be mentioned that Celes tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff if Cid dies, but survives and then sees a bird with what appears to be Locke's bandanna tied around it giving her the strength to carry on before finding a letter from Cid telling her about the raft. Many people kill off Cid on purpose because this version is much more moving.
  • X-COM: It doesn't matter how well equipped your soldiers are - they will die. Even the fanciest suits of power armor provide only a modest amount of protection against enemy fire. While powerful weapons make killing the bad guys easier, if the soldier using a particular weapon happens to get mind controlled or goes berserk he/she could just as easily wipe out a huge portion of your squad. The final mission can very easily veer into everyone dies territory, as you land on Mars to assault the enemy base and have to fight the very finest the aliens have to offer without being able to resupply your troops.
    • The second game turns this Up to Eleven. With more multi-phase missions and a hell of a lot of Demonic Spiders, your soldiers tend to have a survival rate measured in minutes. And at the end of the game, when they defeat the Big Bad and stop the alien city of T'leth, it almost immediately explodes, so they die saving the world.
  • Mother 3, the very first chapter there is a fire in the Sunshine Forest north of Tazmilly caused by the Pigmask Army. After the fire is dealt with, Flint recieves a letter from his wife Hinawa telling him that she, along with Lucas and Claus would be heading home through the forest (that had been set ablaze with fire). After looking through the forest, finding Lucas and Claus, but not Hinawa, a villager comes and tells Flint of her fate. She had been killed by a Mecha-Drago, a normally kind type of creature that had been experimented on by the Pigmask Army by having one of it's fangs pierce her heart. All this happens in the first chapter, before the game even starts.
    • Claus, Flint and Hinawa's son, and Lucas' brother was killed trying to avenge his mother's death by the same creature who killed her. The Pigmasks found him, ressurected him, and turned him into Porky's slave robot "The Masked Man". It's not revealed he is Claus until the final chapter, where Lucas fights him one-on-one. Claus regains him memories during the fight. With his last bit of humanity, he fires a bolt of lightning towards Lucas, but he's wearing a Franklin Badge, which reflects lightning, sending his own attack back at him. He later dies in his brother's arms, saying he'll be going to where Hinawa is.
  • The second Digital Devil Saga is particularly cruel. You eventually lose all your own party members. The most shocking, however is mute protagonist Serph himself, who's the first member of the team to get killed off.
    • Not that dying stops the Embryon. The team reunites in the afterlife to make one last attempt at saving the world by taking on GOD.
  • In the first Wing Commander game, you could lose any one of your wingmen. Solemn funeral scene ensued. Next installments featured more comprehensive plot, so all WC1 deaths were cancelled, and NPC pilots learned to use their ejection buttons. Since then, all deaths were plot-driven (but included some major charaters).
  • In American McGee's Alice, that's more like Anyone Can and Will Die. They got better, though.
  • Dragon Age works this way, as several party members will attempt to kill the protagonist if s/he sinks low enough in their approval ratings...and, therefore, have to be killed themselves. Moreover, if players aren't careful, their party may kill Zevran during their initial encounter (before, that is, the player gets the option to kill him intentionally).
  • Dragon Age 2 loves this one. one of your siblings is destined to become the Sacrificial Lamb in the opening mission. Then later on in the game, if you bring your other Sibling to the Deep Roads expedition he/she will die if you didn't bring Anders with you aswell. Then in Act 2 your mother becomes the Sacrificial Lion' by getting kidnapped and killed by a Mage serial killer. Finally at the end of the game you may have to fight and kill any companion you can't convince of your course of action. And don't even get us started on the potential body count of characters appearing in companion quests.
  • Mass Effect 2 goes this route towards the end of the game, with a mission so dangerous it's considered a One-Way Trip. Indeed, almost any combination of characters can live or die during the game's finale, decided by a number of factors including the loyalty of your squadmates and how capable they are of completing the tasks you assign them. It's possible for both everyone to live and everyone to die, including Shepard, in what is clearly the Bad Ending, with numerous possible outcomes in-between.
    • This trope was also present in the first Mass Effect game, where you must choose between leaving either Ashley Williams or Kaidan Alenko to die on Virmire. It is also possible for Urdnot Wrex to die shortly before the same mission. Plenty of NPCs, villainous or not, can be killed off through your actions too.
    • Which means that, taking both games into account, everyone except for two notable exceptions (namely Joker and Liara) has the potential to end up dead. Yes, that includes Shepard. Although if Shepard dies in Mass Effect 2, it's impossible to import that save into Mass Effect 3.
    • Mass Effect 3, naturally, follows suit. Bioware warned players that one of the game's main themes was "victory through sacrifice", and they weren't kidding. There is no way for you to get everyone through this in one piece, however much good you manage to do. The Normandy now has a memorial wall listing every dead character who ever served on the ship, from bit characters to Sacrificial Lamb Jenkins to...anyone else.
  • After the ending of "Neverwinter Nights 2" entire party is trapped in the collapsing caves where the final fight takes place. Main protagonist Gets Better in the sequel while death of most companions is confirmed.
  • This is one of Mitsumete Knight's greatest strengths. This game takes place in a Grey and Gray Morality Crapsack World, so death is very present, and several characters, main datable heroines included and especially, can die depending of the player's choices and the game's scenario.
  • In the the Wii flight game Innocent Aces all of your wingmen (there are like 9 of them) will die at some point of the game either by your hand or because of a cutscene.
  • The Deus Ex series. The player can kill any character they can get to, provided they also have access to their weapons at the time, no matter how plot important they are. It's actually kind of fun to kill everybody you can and see how the plot adapts.
    • Invisible War even Lampshades this a bit, by way of an Easter Egg that brings the character to a special room populated by any character that hasn't been killed.
  • In the Fallout games, with the exception of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, anyone can be killed. Even in 3, however, only children and plot-essential characters are invulnerable. Everybody else is mortal, and can be killed by just about anything, including totally random events that may or may not be scripted (such as some NPC tendencies to fall to their deaths). In New Vegas only children and two robot characters are immortal, everyone else can be killed and the plot will simply adapt.
  • Plot-relevant character in Infinite Space, no matter how small his/her role is, has good chance to be killed by the plot. Bonus point if the character is a likable person all along. A few of them can be avoided depending on the choices you made, but still.
  • In the Baldur's Gate games, dead characters can usually be raised from the dead (except the hero), but some particularly devastating attacks can kill a party member off permanently.
  • Metroid does this at points, with the obvious exception of Samus herself.Ridley dies in nearly every game but always finds a way to come back.
    • In Metroid: Other M, out of the seven who enter the Bottle Ship at the beginning, only Samus and Anthony make it out.
  • Many characters can and often do die in the story mode of BlazBlue. Thanks to the Groundhog Day Loop, no one stays dead except v-13.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind fits this trope down to a T. From half way through character-creation you can literally kill anyone at any time, provided they aren't dead already. In fact, the lack of restrictions on killing people can easily result in breaking the games' main quest. The game does have the courtesy to notify you if this occurs, however.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. While not as strict as its predecessor (plot-relevant characters like Martin Septim, Lucien Lachance, most of the counts and countesses and even Mankar Camoran (until the last fight, of course) are unkillable and they simply fall down with the message "X is unconscious" when their life bar reach zero), everybody else in the game can be killed, which results in some of the most interesting quests in the game being lost as the quest giver character can die anytime (for instance, Shum Gro-Yarug, Count Skingrad's orc butler, can fall down the bridge in Castle Skingrad to a most certain death, thus losing the chance of purchasing Rosethorn Hall, the best house available in the game, from him, which is, to say the least, frustrating).
  • Practically anybody in the Fatal Frame series is subjected to this trope. Even some of the protagonists have a habit of dying in this series.
  • There are rather few characters in Kara no Shoujo who make it to the endings reliably. For example, Mizuhara, Tojiko and Orihime always die and Toko dies in every route except one in which she lives on as a torso.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 had fun with this trope. By the end of the game, a large portion of the main cast had been killed off. If a sequel is made, it'll be an achievement to fill up the character select screen.
    • Considering it's Mortal Kombat death tends not to stick....
  • The Touhou fangame Concealed The Conclusion has The Reveal in Stage 3, regardless of your path, that Reimu is dead. Would be a case of The Hero Dies, except you don't actually play as her anywhere in the game. It's actually an aversion; Gensokyo and everything that happens in it is All Just a Dream that Reimu wakes up from scot-free in the Golden Ending.
  • By the end of The Reconstruction, Vasra, Skint, Aryn, Cort, Adi, Metzino and literally millions of unnamed NPCs all bite it.
  • Lux-Pain is a dark visual novel game where the main character outright states that if his mission fails, many people will die. While it's very easy to save the main cast, it's just as easy to lose them. Only eight people are killed canonically and half of them are villains. Mako, Takano, Naoto and Kyosuke are examples of the good guys. Also, if you mess up during a certain portion of the game, the people that die in the normal ending are higher. The most prominent example is Hibiki who is killed by Honoka (and she too is killed by getting gunned down) when you fail to remove the Silent from Honoka that prevents her from going crazy. Oh yeah, and when Hibiki dies, Shinji dies too (or at least never wakes up form his coma), and Mika and Nami go missing. In fact, out of all of your friends that are safe at this portion of the game are Akira, Rui, Yayoi and Ryo but the latter is to be questioned because after Hibiki is killed, you can't talk to him after
  • "Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem" is widely renowned for being cruel to the player. In addition to its infamous Sanity Meter, nearly all of the eleven playable characters die.
  • In the original Star Fox for SNES, Peppy, Falco, and Slippy will die for real if they are shot down, in contrast to the later games where they just retreat back to Great Fox.
  • Any RPG with multi-generation system will force you to lose some or all your current party characters parmenently due to death from old age or due to the Take Up My Sword trope: Agarest Senki, Phantasy Star III, Romancing SaGa 2, and one of Fire Emblem examples above.
  • Corpse Party: ANYONE can die in this game well, except the spirits that already died. The characters also die VERY horrible and painful deaths. Some of them include, having your eye torn out by a ghost, buried alive, and being rammed into a wall, only for your body to be reduced to a pile of red squishy stuff.
  • Dark Souls: Most NPCs you meet are undead, meaning they are cursed to return to life, losing their humanity every time until they become mindless hollows. By the end of the game most NPCs will eventually go hollow, forcing you to kill them unless specific circumstances are met.
  • Say hello and goodbye to Eric der Vogelweid. He gets eaten by an Ogretail just after introducing himself.
  • In Alpha Protocol, the only two major characters who can't be killed by the end of the game are the protagonist and Steven Heck.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Schlock Mercenary has its fair share of this, frequently killing off supporting cast members. Although anything short of a headshot can be healed thanks to Applied Phlebetonium, and major characters were brought back through Time Travel.
    • Being the demolitions tech for the Toughs is pretty much a one-way ticket out of the strip...
    • To wit: The strip has killed, since the beginning, six major characters just among the Toughs, including two who could easily be billed as main characters, and so many supporting Toughs it's hard to count. And these are just the ones who HAVEN'T come back.
      • To be fair, however, that's spread out over twelve years. You can certainly start reading any given arc and assume that no Toughs will have died by the end of it (not even any redshirts).
  • The pre-It's Walky Roomies featured the (then) shocking death of Ruth. Her death marked a Cerebus Syndrome moment in the strip's history (The strip started the transition to It's Walky in the immediate aftermath) and served to show that the gang's wacky hijinks were no longer consequence-free. It also set the "No warning" tone for many of the deaths to come (Dina's in particular).
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic has main characters die quite often, and with little drama. It helps that there are quite a few main characters in each arc. Only one of them, Glon, has ever been brought back.
  • Although set in a world with functional resurrection magic, The Order of the Stick has featured a number of shocking deaths, particularly Lord Shojo, Miko Miyazaki, Therkla and Roy Greenhilt, himself, who is the main protagonist of the comic. Only the last of those has been reversed, and doing so was the goal of an arc.
    • It uses the interesting loophole in all D&D resurrection spells: the dead person's spirit has to be willing to return. Two of those listed examples would, for various reasons, rather stay dead than face their lives again.
      • And the other one wasn't exactly well-liked.
  • Despite being a fancomic and using characters from TV Shows, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi doesn't skimp on this. Deedee is shown killed during a flashback, taking a laser blast for Dexter. Mandark, in his attempt to kill Dexter, lets himself be blown up during his base self detonation. Blossom is temporally drowned while being held captive but brought back to life. During the side story, Atomic Betty's crew (Sparky and X-5) are killed after stumbling upon one of the big bad's bases. Betty nearly killed herself if not for Amazo finding her.
  • Wrongside: Beginning has not been hesitant to kill characters off. And has even parodied it in a joke strip.
  • Goblins. Many characters die as soon as you start getting attached to them.
  • Hitmen for Destiny killed off a character who was explained to be extremely important quite early on. Recently another major character was unexpectedly killed off. Both of these characters were very popular among the fanbase. It looks like nobody is safe at this point.
  • Juathuur has lot of death in it, and no way shown to resurrect people. The trope is established with Bivv's death and comes into full force with the Battle of Erab Adur.
  • Sluggy Freelance. Monica's death was especially shocking for its sheer randomness, stabbed in the back by Oasis as she arrived; Zoë's death, and the weeks spent convincing the audience it was real, was a shock, but at least that was in an action scene. At one point in the strip's early days, the entire Cast Herd of Zoë's college friends were killed off in a horror film parody, and later, the sequel killed off one of the main characters' housemates during a victim montage.
  • Breakfast of the Gods: Let's just say the first death occurs on page 3 of the first book.
  • Homestuck as of January 2011. All deaths prior to this were throwaways; Dave's doomed timeline duplicates, dreamselves, real selves that are just replaced by dream selves (like Sollux, but he had two so it didn't matter), John, Vriska, and Aradia's ascensions to God Tier, random mooks and carapaces, and probably more. Then Eridan flipped and killed Kanaya and Feferi. Vriska killed Tavros. Gamzee killed Equius and Nepeta. Kanaya Came Back Strong as a Rainbow Drinker and sawed Eridan in half. As per more recent developments, Vriska is dead, either having received a Just death or one from the result of Spades Slick bashing up Doc Scratch's clock. Gamzee is probably now mortally wounded. Dave and Rose's realselves are dead and replaced by their dreamselves, and one or both of them is/are going on a suicide mission to deliver the bomb to the Green Sun. God knows what Lord English or The Scratch will do but it will definitely have repurcussions. Hussie sure loves us!
    • As the End of Act 5 flash and the intermission after it, all of the Exiles are dead except for Peregrine Medicant (and possibly Wayward Vagabond, who would still be mortally wounded.) Liv Tyler was possibly destroyed in the creation of the Green Sun, the last two remaining agents of Jack Noir are dead (one of them by Jack's own hand,) all of the Midnight Crew and remaining Felt members died when Spades Slick shot Snowman and ended the universe, Jade died (a second time,) only to fuse with her sprite to achieve God Tier, Sollux is heavily implied to be sacrificing himself to fly the trolls' meteor to the Green Sun to get them out of the universe before the Scratch resets them, and Doc Scratch sacrifices himself to summon Lord English.
    • And now as for the end of Act 6 Act 1, Jake's dreamself is dead, and...something has happened to Jane.[3] Hussie himself Lampshaded the webcomic's veering into Kill'Em All territory:

Reader: So, uh...what about all those other kids?
Robohussie: Huh? Who? Oh, yeah. Those people. Aren't they all dead?
Reader: No, not quite.
Robohussie: Oh god, you're right! There are still a few characters I haven't killed yet. I almost forgot about them.

    • In the end of Act 6 Intermission 2, Hussie ended up being killed himself. Presumably, by the end of Homestuck, every single character will be dead.
  • Game Destroyers has killed off or otherwise incapacitated a number of main characters to date, namely Bojangles, Ace, Cedris, and the Nintendo Otaku. Only a small handful of main characters will likely never be considered when it's time to kill someone off.
  • Counting Not just anyone but everyone in the town of Thirston. Including a bird in a bird bath.
  • Something*Positive. The author, Randy Milholland, has made it quite clear that nobody - beloved or despised - is immune from the Grim Reaper. The responses when he invokes this trope tend to vary; in one case, someone told Randy to his face that the death of a certain character didn't actually happen. And if you tell him he can't, for whatever reason, kill off a character, Randy will kill said character anyway out of spite, even if they weren't supposed to die.
  • Seen in Dead of Summer, being that it's a Zombie Apocalypse story.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In The Gamers Alliance, a number of heroes and villains, including very prominent ones, have been killed off for real, some more dramatically than others.
  • A number of main characters in Lonelygirl15 have been killed off unexpectedly, including lonelygirl15 herself.
  • Kate Modern has unexpectedly killed off a few major recurring characters, often midseries, quite casually, and with bodies shown so that we know they aren't just hiding. It also once killed off a central character offscreen, with no fanfare, as a major plot point.
  • Although the situation was averted, one of the main characters came very close of dying in the imageboard adventure Ruby Quest. Weaver says he was prepared to kill him off had the players made any harsh decisions. It is likely that such situations might arise once again in the future.
  • Survival of the Fittest exemplifies this trope, being based off of Battle Royale. Of course, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty aspect of it, it's much more of a Kill'Em All. This is doubly true in that the vast majority of deaths (or at least, when they are to occur) are determined randomly.
  • Tech Infantry killed off main characters, supporting cast, and Big Bads with abandon. Then came the Y3K Arc, which killed off pretty much every major legend in the TI Universe, before killing off pretty much everyone in the Galaxy.
  • As of the penultimate episode of There Will Be Brawl, there are more dead characters than the number of fighters in the original Super Smash Brothers game.
  • Fate Nuovo Guerra, a RPG forum based on Fate Stay Night. This trope applies to every Master or Servant, whether it be the most evil Jerkass or the Cheerful Child.
  • In Fine Structure, this becomes very clearly the case after a mid-series Wham! Episode.
  • In Chewbot's Let's Play of The Oregon Trail Plague and Treachery On The Oregon Trail, due to the nature of the game anyone could die at any moment. To the point where the readers made a betting pool over who they thought would die next.
  • We're Alive has killed several minor characters including Bill, Tommy, and Samantha in season 1 and Kalani along with every Red Shirt Tower resident at the end of season 2. Saul, Victor, Lizzie, Burt, and Angel are all missing and some or all of them may be dead.
  • The creator of Dark Dream Chronicle refers to herself as a character killer. This is accurate.
  • Everyone dies in Happy Tree Friends. Repeatedly.
  • Normally, this trope is pretty much averted in the Whateley Universe. But it's front and center in the "Loose Cannons" storyline. Of the original twelve teenagers, five are already dead. And the story is only on its second chapter.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Played with in A Bugs Life in form of the junior ants. First, they make a painting of the good warrior bugs and bad grasshoppers battling, and they painted one of the good guys dead because their teacher said it would be more realistic that way. Then, they perform a play of the battle, in which apparently, EVERYONE dies.
    • They started to show death in the Cars series films, from the gruesome end of Rod "Torque" Redline to the offscreen death of Doc Hudson.
  • Transformers: The Movie (1986) was famous principally for introducing this phenomenon to millions of Saturday-morning TV fans, when Optimus Prime dies, along with Megatron, Starscream, almost all the Autobots and an entire planet of Red Shirts in the first ten minutes, followed by the pointless on-screen maiming of several more robots including the last survivor of aforementioned planet for good measure, just to impress upon young'uns that Fiction Is Not Fair.
  • The animated series Exo Squad also used this trope, inspired by Macross and Robotech, quite daring for the time.
  • Transformers: Beast Wars probably had one of the highest Saturday-morning cartoon mortality rates out there. In the first episode of the second season, Terrorsaur and Scorponok fall in lava and die with relatively little fanfare. Near the end of the season, Dinobot sacrifices himself with quite a bit more fanfare to save a tribe of proto-humans. Tigertron and Airazor die, come back, and then almost immediately die again, this time for good. Inferno and Quickstrike get toasted by their own boss. Depth Charge and Rampage go up in an immense explosion. Tarantulus gets hoisted by his own petard. And this is only counting for-real deaths.
    • It's easier just to say that 22 characters were introduced (Including a fusion of two previous characters and a clone of another previous character) and that only 8 of them survive to the end of the series ( Optimus, Rattrap, Rhinox, Cheetor, Waspinator, Megatron, Blackarachnia and Silverbolt).
    • When we add Beast Machines, we must trim Optimus, Rhinox, and Megatron from that list. The death count of its new arrivals is harder to calculate; it depends on whether or not reverting a character created by the extensive reprogramming of an old one to factory settings counts as death. The new character definitely permanently ceases to be, but you may not consider that to be "dead." If we do, the death toll of Beast Machines new arrivals just tops 50%.
  • Transformers Animated was also pretty brutal. In the first season finale Megatron kills Starscream with the Allspark key, although he gets better a few episodes later. In the third season it got worse.
    • Blurr is crushed into a cube by Shockwave in Transwarped, Master Yoketron is left to die in Prowl's arms by Lockdown, Prowl sacrifices his life to stop the Lugnut Supremes from blowing up, and Starscream dies after the Allspark fragment keeping him alive is sucked out of his head. Since this was the final episode of the show, he probably didn't get better.
    • There's also the sorta-deaths. Ultra Magnus is beaten nearly to death by Shockwave and we never do see him wake up from his coma (Word of God: Had they gotten a season four, Magnus would have bought it and Sentinel would have taken his place, and the dangerous acts he commits in his hubris would have only escalated.) and the Constructicons are blown up, with only Scrapper seen to survive. There's also the business with the gathering of the Allspark fragments. Since many of them had brought other Transformers to life and removing Starscream's fragment killed him, he may not have been the only casualty.
  • The makers of Transformers Prime have said that "when we kill a character, we kill a character," and a few surprising deaths have happened. However, no main characters yet as of the season one finale.
  • This is major gimmick of the Total Drama series. Well, technically, not die, but be elliminated, and can return to the show (and will - in the end of the season, to try to come into the next). Still, the number of active characters is rapidly decreasing and no one is safe, even the most popular and beloved by writers characters.
  • In a rarity for a children's programme, The Animals of Farthing Wood had a fairly high mortality rate, with a lot of the major characters being killed off as the series went on. By the end of the show only a few of the original animals still survived.
  • Frisky Dingo is one of the few Adult Swim original cartoons in which death is permanent, which it makes liberal use of by killing off both major and minor characters left and right during the second season.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars doesn't touch any of the characters from the films, but they are not afraid of introducing an original character and then kill them in the same episode. Jedi and well as clone troopers. Sometimes any original, named character surviving past an episode is a surprise. Sometimes.
  • The entire message of Watership Down being "Small Furry Animals Will Eventually Die Anyway, so get used to it," so it includes all variants of on-screen cute rabbit death in order to drive home the message. It was felt that too many rabbits actually survived the book (Show, Don't Tell!) due to author's reluctance to pull the trigger. So additional doomed characters are introduced and a particularly sympathetic Woobie who played a big part in the novel is highlighted in order to be gruesomely Stuffed Into the Fridge near the climax.
  • Vuk the Little Fox: The beginning of this children's cartoon seems to imply that it will be something cuddly and cute. Besides maintaining a level of cuteness, over a dozen characters (including those with names, personalities and spoken lines) die, either killed by other animals or by human hunters. There is no Carnivore Confusion, as the main hero kills and eats prey on-screen without any trouble.
  • The Venture Brothers, after pointing on at great length in the Lepidopterists episode how 21 and 24's Genre Savvy made them indestructible, went on to brutally kill 24 in the season 3 final episode. His burning severed head lands right in 21's hands, making sure everyone knows he's Killed Off for Real.
    • And let's not forget the titular brothers themselves, who were killed at the end of Season 1. For awhile, this seemed to be final, until they got better when the second season finally started, two years later.
  • Since The Simpsons' Halloween episodes aren't part of the show's canon, the writers frequently end up killing off lots and lots of characters (not even the Simpsons themselves are safe.)


Real Life (which obviously is this trope)[edit | hide]

Specific examples can go here.

  • The world death rate seems to be holding steady at 100%.
  • CelebreCaust '09 has claimed an unusually high number of big names (in no particular order), with the deaths of Michael Jackson (acute propofol intoxication; ruled involuntary manslaughter), Natasha Richardson (brain injury), David Carradine (accidental strangulation), Billy Mays (heart attack), John Hughes (heart attack) and Brittany Murphy (likely a drug overdose combined with an eating disorder) coming out of nowhere. Plus, two very young sports stars killed in car accidents—the baseball pitcher, Nick Adenhart, was killed the same night he started a game.
    • Also, Kim Peek (heart attack), the Real Life inspiration for Rain Man; Farrah Fawcett (colon cancer); Patrick Swayze (pancreatic cancer); Ed McMahon; Bea Arthur; Ricardo Montalban; and James 'The Rev' Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold.
  • Vocalist and bassist Peter Steele, former addict, atheist and iconoclast. Finally came clean, switched to a healthier lifestyle, found himself some faith and started recording a new album. Boom, dies from a heart attack on April 14, 2010.
  • FBI counter-terrorism expert John P. O'Neill, who investigated the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, was called back to investigate Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda's plan for another attack on American soil. Just 19 days before 9/11, O'Neill stated that Al-Qaeda would, "Try to finish the job." O'Neill was killed in his office in the World Trade Center in the September 11th attacks.
  • William Henry Harrison became the first president of the united states to die in office, just one month after taking the oath, in 1841. Nobody had given much thought to what to do if the president dies; so John Tyler, his vice-president, just up-and-declared himself president. For the rest of his presidency, his opponents would bitterly call him "his accidency".
  • Auto racing, especially in its early history, is synonymous with this trope. Doesn't matter your skill level (otherwise Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt would still be around), or your safety equipment, you can die if just one thing goes horribly wrong. Then again, this isn't too surprising, considering the speeds some series reach (Formula One and Le Mans get up over 200 MPH, for example).
    • How bad was it in the early days? As Jackie Stewart put it, in the sixties and seventies, if you raced for five years, you had a two in three chance of dying, because, back then, safety was basically nonexistent
    • In indy crashes driver deaths were common until safety became a priority. However, even with all the safety modern technology could provide, Dan Wheldon was killed in October 2011, when his head slammed into the catch fence, causing non-survivable injuries.
    • Special mention also has to go to Motorcycle racing, as it's impossible to have as much safety as one would get in a racing car (as there is nothing around the rider except the firesuit, helmet, and any padding under the suit) the chance that a crash will cause serious injury or death is much higher than it is in, say, an Indy car.
  • Horse-back riding also follows this trope, due to the nature of the horse as a prey animal with a mind of its own. You could be the best rider in the world, you could have ridden for 20 years. But make one mistake or have one freak occurence nearby that scares your horse (even a horse known to be 'bombproof' can freak out if, for example, an animal runs between its legs), and you could be seriously injured or killed.
  • Operation Entebbe an Israeli counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission which resulted in the death of dozens of enemy soldiers and the rescue of nearly ever hostage. Only one friendly soldier was killed and it was from a lucky sniper shot, outside the building being assaulted. It just so happens that the commando killed was Yonatan Netanyahu, the most decorated soldier on the team, and the commander.
    • If the name sounds familiar, there's a reason; Yoni Netanyahu's younger brother, Binyamin, is currently the Prime Minister of Israel.
  1. see above re: The Team Normal. Protip: Do not torture someone to death whose girlfriend is a Psycho Lesbian Action Girl with a laser katana.
  2. Yes, the Big Bad is actually called Badrang.
  3. She was actually teleported away from the explosion by God Cat, but her dreamself was killed.