Plot Immunity

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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A special type of spoiler. Since this is a spoiler-fueled trope, consider this your warning; no spoiler text appears below.

Certain characters aren't going to die or move away. They can't, because if they do, the story is over. However, some writers still try to squeeze drama out of this by either:

  1. Killing them off and then bringing them back, or
  2. Writing a Cliff Hanger where it seems they might be dead or teasing the departure of a love interest.

If it's very well written, it can work. If not, it turns into something of a Wall Banger for Genre Savvy fans. It's a cheap attempt to build tension for a season finale, two-part episode or a sequel. Bonus points if the character whose death they're teasing is the titular character of the show or film franchise.

Not applicable on (most) shows or films where Anyone Can Die, the exception being one of the show's central characters, like Jack Bauer on 24. Not applicable if the show is broadcasting its series finale. Not applicable in a medium where Death Is Cheap (like comic books). Not applicable if the work is a biography of a person who famously died in some significant manner (Malcom X, The Pride Of The Yankees). Not applicable when it's done for Character Development of to collect a Plot Coupon.

Plot Immunity applies only when the fan watching or reading the story knows that a character's teased death or departure is done for cheap drama and isn't going to stick. Please list only examples of characters with whom a writer has tried to tease removal, don't just rattle off characters you think their respective stories wouldn't survive losing.

Compare Like You Would Really Do It, I Knew It! and Status Quo Is God. Contrast Put on a Bus and Killed Off for Real.

Entries are sometimes "incomplete" because this trope is about people who couldn't be killed/removed.

Please refrain form adding spoiler text, there is a very clear warning at the top of the page. Spoiler text would make the whole entry unreadable.

Examples of Plot Immunity include:
  • Burn Notice: One season finale ended with main character Michael Westen apparently blown up by a bomb and his fate left hanging in the balance.
    • Another season's penultimate episode had Fiona planning to return to Ireland.
  • Castle: The first half of a two-part episode in the second season ended with Beckett's apartment blown up, leaving her fate hanging in the balance. The trailers for the next week's episode even went so far as to not show her! However, it's apparent 60 seconds into the episode that she's alive.
  • In an example where it was well written enough to get a pass, The Dark Knight had a plot where Commissioner Gordon was allegedly killed by The Joker. He's alive at the end, though.
  • The finale for 24's fifth season ended up with Jack Bauer taken by the Chinese, which would have been great if the next season focused on getting him back, or his escape or something. Instead, the sixth season starts with him being escorted off a boat in cuffs and shackles.
    • The season seven finale has Jack poisoned and dying from some kind of experimental biological weapon and dependent on another experimental procedure to save his life.
  • Koinzell from Ubel Blatt got directly hit by a magical laser beam, fell of a cliff into an ice-cold river, which swept him to a water fall which he fell down and got pierced by rocks and branches. Five chapters later, he's back up again.
  • Subverted in the 2009 Star Trek movie when Spock beams Kirk off the Enterprise. Yes, Kirk wasn't going to stay off for long, but the purpose of this was for him to meet Spock Prime and Scotty, not to make the audience think he was somehow going to rot there.
  • For two seasons running now, Chuck has teased that Sarah would be leaving with another spy on a mission somewhere, in both cases fans didn't buy it for a second.
    • Also at the start of the second season, one of the key sub plots is Casey's order to kill Chuck when the new intersect comes online. It's sure handy that the damn thing blew up. It'd be awkward having to fill out the rest of the season of a show called Chuck without, ya know, Chuck.
  • The fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with Buffy dying. The show ran for two more seasons.
    • Subverted, at the time The WB had canceled the show and UPN hadn't picked it up.
  • The third (I think, please someone correct me if I'm wrong) season of CSI: Miami had a season-long tagline; something along the lines of "Horatio Caine is a dead man" and every commercial for the show that season ended with a graphic of his iconic sunglasses with what looked like a bullet hole in the left lens. When the season finale came there was an attempt on his life, but it didn't even come close. Horatio Caine wasn't going out that way... YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH
  • Season Six of Houses second episode starts with Dr. Gregory House's resignation from the hospital.
  • Subverted hard with the 80's sitcom The Hogan Family. The show was originally a vehicle for former Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda star Valerie Harper titled Valerie. However after a dispute with the show's producers the titular character was Killed Off for Real and the show was retitled (several times) with the father's sister moving in and becoming a surrogate mother.
  • Supernatural. Dean and Sam won't die, and they won't stop hunting.
    • "Won't die" is overstating things a bit. They never stay dead, anyway.