Put on a Bus to Hell

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So an actor's walked out of the show, leaving you and the other writers in a bit of a sticky spot. You don't want to kill their character off, but you're still feeling pretty malicious, and just having them Put on a Bus isn't nasty enough. The solution is to Put Them on a Bus to Hell - write them out in a way so mean-spirited that it's clear to all and sundry that you're doing it out of spite.

The most common form is for them to suffer rapid Character Derailment, often over the course of a single episode. Maybe they're too busy holding onto the Idiot Ball to prevent a beloved character getting hurt, or perhaps they even did something irredeemably awful themselves. Whatever the circumstances, by the end of the episode, they have no choice but to leave town forever to preserve what tattered shreds of dignity they have left and save their friends from the worthless wreck of a human they've become.

This trope is for specifically non-fatal examples. If a character dies under these circumstances, then he has been McLeaned.

Compare Dropped a Bridge on Him. Contrast Bus Crash.

Examples of Put on a Bus to Hell include:

Anime and Manga

  • Miya from Mai-Otome disappeared completely from the show following her implication in Arika's Attempted Rape situation halfway through the series, while also confessing to other Arika-related incidents (in one of the situations, she was completely innocent) before being led out of Garderobe by school administrators. None of the other characters see or hear anything from her again.

Comic Books

  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew seemed safe as long as they were in Comic Book Limbo. Unfortunately, when they were brought back in the mid 2000s, their Animal Superheroes world had to become darker to reflect the Darker and Edgier mainstream DC Universe. As a result, Little Cheese was murdered, and then came the Captain Carrot And the Final Ark mini-series. Their world had become uninhabitable, so Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, and the other anthropormorphic animal superheroes arranged for an ark to take them to the Justa Lotta Animals' world, Earth C-Minus. However, because of a mishap, not only did they end up in the 'main' DC universe Earth, but they were also turned into non-anthropomorphic animals who could not communicate with Superman and the Justice League. The mini-series ends with them stuck this way, and the DC heroes not knowing why this ship appeared filled with animals.
    • The whole ending seemed to be DC's Take That at those requesting the return of the Zoo Crew, and their way of telling them that funny animal superheroes are Deader Than Disco and have no place in the new, more cynical DC Universe.
      • Actually, Word of God (if DC is to be believed) was that the Zoo Crew's fate was supposed to spur fans into demanding their return. What.
        • Fortunately, there's good news: The Monitor Nix Uotan broke down that bus to Hell by reverting the Zoo Crew into their original forms in time for the final battle of Final Crisis.
  • When Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) was written out of X-Men, apparently the writer Joss Whedon didn't want to kill her, since Death Is Cheap and someone would end up bringing her back anyway. So they made a giant space bullet get fired at earth, with the only way to save everyone (because Reed Richards Is Useless apparently) is to have Kitty phase inside the bullet so she can phase it through the planet, saving everyone but leaving her trapped inside, hurtling through space forever...
    • ... Or not, since The Bus Came Back and a recently-revived Magneto used his magnetism to slow the bullet down, bring it to earth, and split it open so she could go back home. She had to hang around incorporeal for a while but she seems to be back.
    • This wasn't even the first time Kitty Pryde had been shelved from the books in such a manner. During the Morlock Massacre storyline, she had been stuck in a phased state and eventually sent to a science facility until Reed Richards and Dr. Doom could find a way to reverse her trapped state. It wasn't until months after the Fantastic Four/X-Men miniseries that Kitty was finally restored to a state fit enough to return to the outside world, and be a founding member of the original Excalibur (Comic Book) team.
  • Mary Jane Watson once left for a short period of time as to avoid her and Peter getting married. They did so with her returning the engagement ring he gave her and claiming that marriage just isn't her thing, doing so in a rather unsympathetic way. The anti-marriage fans still haven't forgiven her.
  • The original Nick Fury, who had led the Howling Commandos during World War II and been a founder of SHIELD, was written out of the Marvel books in a way deliberately designed so that it would be a long time before we see him again, if we ever do. In 2014's event series Original Sin, it's revealed that during the 50's, Fury took a secret position as 'Man on the Wall', killing several extraterrestrial threats that Earth and its superhuman community never even knew about. He has been assassinating aliens and monsters in secret, and causing devastation and wars in other galaxies all in the name of protecting the Earth. When Uatu the Watcher's armory was broken into by villains and one of his eyes stolen, Fury investigated only for the Watcher to refuse to cooperate. Realizing that the only way to stop these criminals was to have one of the eyes, Fury killed the Watcher and took the remaining eye. Now aging rapidly because he no longer had the Infinity Formula that had preserved him in the decades since World War II, he roped a few heroes into the investigation because he needed a successor for his 'Man on the Wall' position (Bucky, the Winter Soldier, takes this position at the end). Fury and one of the villains (Midas), fought and supposedly both died in an explosion. But at the end, it's revealed that Fury has been punished by the Watchers by being turned into a silent observer in chains, chained to the moon and being forced to watch but never interfere. His narration makes it clear that this is a punishment and a form of torture (as someone who made it his business to interfere and get involved and take action, being unable to do anything but watch is practically Hell for him), and this was the last we saw of the original Nick Fury for a number of years, until he resurfaced in later 'event' comics such as 2022's Reckoning War. His previous role with SHIELD is taken by his son Nick Fury Jr. (who, like the Ultimate version and the MCU version, resembles Samuel L. Jackson).


  • Maurice from Stationery Voyagers trapping Clandish "Preamble" Consto in the Haragad Cavity until near-crack-of-doom may have seemed like a dick move, and the reason for him doing it is elaborately Handwaved with quasi-theological rationalizations. But the author's real reason (other than filling in a plothole in Final Hope) is to subvert Consto's Joker Immunity. Once trapped in the cavity, Consto is only able to make about two or three cameo appearances ever. One is when Maurice kidnaps another Yehtzig, just so he can get Consto to kill that Yehtzig. Otherwise, Consto can only manifest as visions.

Live-Action TV

  • Oz was written out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by a Story Arc which ends with him acting amazingly stupid, breaking Willow's heart, and committing murder (of a villain, but this is a show where Thou Shalt Not Kill, usually). He does get a kinder encore episode later, though.
    • Such is the coolness of Oz, however, that it's still kinda hard to hate him. It doesn't make you feel much better about the ending, but still...
    • Riley was similarly written out, with his alienation from the group turning to mind-melting stupidity that nearly gets him killed, and quitting when Buffy can't forgive him. Again, he gets an encore episode where he's portrayed more nicely, if blandly.
    • Interestingly, Lorne from the spinoff Angel has something akin to this happen, in a case of Tropes Are Not Bad. His growing discomfort with the gang's Enemy Mine situation, and feeling out of place as the resident comic relief guy in an increasingly dark series, is cemented in the finale. He helps out with Angel's plan to take out the worst bad guys ever—shooting resident Amoral Attorney/Arch Enemy Lindsey in the back after they fight off a bunch of demon Mooks, but makes it quite clear that he's finished with their vigilante shtick, and that this is the last thing—and personal Moral Event Horizon—he's going to do with them.
      • And then he basically becomes the force that binds the universe together.
    • He also gets an encore that flips the script, this time literally in hell. In the Angel comic series, he gets to be an almost angelic leader of a refuge district of the LA hellscape.
  • In Degrassi Junior High, Nicole Stoffman (who played Stephanie) left the show in the third season to further her career elsewhere. In the next episode, Stephanie's brother says that their mom has sent her to a private school with a strict dress code, "including knee socks." Stephanie was a fashionista who spent the entire show trying to be glamorous and pretty, so she could escape her Control Freak mother's iron fist. If she doesn't rejoin the cast, it sure sucks to be Stephanie.
    • In Degrassi the Next Generation: Dan Woods, who had been commuting between LA and Toronto, wanted to leave the show because his productions for Speed Channel were taking off; Principal Raditch spoke to Rick three times in the two days before the shooting, entirely clueless as to how deeply troubled Rick was, and was Reassigned to Antarctica not long after.
  • Similarly, in Zoey 101, Alexa Nikolas quit the show because of a feud between her and Jamie Lynn Spears. Alexa's character, Nicole, was an intensely boy-crazy, insecure kid who hated unfamiliar situations—and Zoey says in the third season premiere that Nicole has been shipped to an all-girls boarding school. In a previous episode, Nicole had broken down sobbing when she thought she'd have to transfer to another school. Ouch. The writers know how to punch.
  • Wade from Sliders. Sabrina Lloyd supposedly didn't return for season four due to behind-the-scenes drama, and her character's fate sure seems to confirm this: how does "taken by the villains to spend the rest of her life being used for breeding purposes" sound? The way she was brought back was not much friendlier, basically kept in a jar with her brain exposed to be used to control the same villains' new advanced dimension-hopping machine. She destroys the base in a Heroic Sacrifice, but appears to Rembrandt once more afterward, so there's hope for her survival... if you can call being trapped in the ruined Kromagg base in a mutilated, And I Must Scream condition "hopeful."
    • Hey she evolved into some sort of Spirit of the Slide. Beats breeding sow or pickle in the jar any day. Plus she still looks over Remy so that's a plus.
    • Given that most fans feel the series had Jumped the Shark well before any of this, it's usually all treated as Discontinuity.
  • Dan Fitzgerald from Neighbours debatably. While he didn't turn downright evil, his Character Derailment became very obvious towards the end of his Ramsay Street run. He was originally portrayed as the stereotypical 'good guy', being the principal of Erinsborough High as well as a valued mentor figure for the teens; he was even said to be the "good brother", in stark contrast to his younger sibling Lucas. In one of his last episodes, however, he was shown verbally abusing his mother-in-law—who was currently carrying his CHILD (as a surrogate mother)--who became so distressed by this that she actually tripped and ended up losing the baby. Then he walked away.
  • This seems to happen a lot on soap operas. One of Home and Away's more blatant examples was Alex Poulos, who was ostracised by most of the town for the heinous crime of dumping his current girlfriend for his ex and left town in shame. In case viewers didn't get the message, he came back a few years later, revealed the girl in question had left him, used his unknowing sister as a drugs courier, put his nephew's life in danger by leaving drugs lying around and left town in even more shame.
  • The departure of Todd Grimshaw in Coronation Street was probably meant to be a Tear Jerker, but since it involved him verbally abusing and assaulting both his brother and the ex-girlfriend he cheated on for sleeping together, then jumping on a bus declaring no-one would ever love her like he did, it was hard not to think the writers were trying to make sure no-one would miss him. (He did come back to be best man at the couple's wedding, to show there were no hard feelings, but then he came back again as a snob who was ashamed of his working class roots.)

Newspaper Comics

  • The character Smiley from the comic strip Baldo. She was originally Baldo's tomboyish next door neighbor, and later became his girlfriend. Word of God was that the relationship wasn't interesting to write, so the characters broke up but decided to stay friends. A couple of months later, Smiley had some offscreen Character Derailment within the span of three days, culminating in an Evil Makeover to become, essentially, the Alpha Bitch. Despite a claim from the author that she might return, Smiley hasn't been seen or mentioned in the comic since 2006.

Professional Wrestling

  • The most infamous instance of this in Professional Wrestling would be 1997's Montreal Screwjob. Wrestler Bret Hart had a disagreement with WWF owner Vince McMahon as to whether Hart should have to lose his final match before departing WWF for WCW. Wrestlers switching promotions are usually expected to "job" in their final match with their old promotion, so as to "give back" to the promotion before leaving. Moreover, Hart was the WWF champion at the time. Previous WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blayze had left for WCW still holding the belt, and on her first appearance on WCW, dropped the title belt in a garbage can on live TV. Vince McMahon had no desire to see a repeat of that with the WWF championship belt, and it was thus of utmost importance for Hart to lose the championship before leaving for WCW. Hart, however, was unwilling to lose in his native Canada, and did not want to give the belt to Michaels, whom he disliked. Hart and McMahon agreed on a disqualification ending for the match with Hart surrendering the title on the next night's RAW, but that's not what happened. When Michaels put Hart in a submission hold from which Hart was scripted to escape, McMahon ordered the bell rung and the match awarded to Hart's opponent Shawn Michaels as though Hart had surrendered, in order to make sure Hart lost the match and his WWF Championship before leaving. The effects of the Montreal Screwjob are still being felt over 10 years later, and it also led to a Real Life Writes the Plot situation, as McMahon's Kayfabe character went from nice-guy announcer to scheming politician.
    • One should note that Bret was perfectly willing to drop the belt to anyone (including Michaels) as long as it was not at the PPV in Canada, as he felt that doing so would destroy his character, not to mention that his dislike for Michaels was (likely) very justified in Michaels' (likely) actions during the time, which (likely) included drug abuse and unchecked power-tripping egomania, and that Bret was (likely) not going to repeat Blayze's actions. A combination of timing errors (like Bret being unable to get ahold of Eric Bischoff due to him being out on a hunting trip to clarify certain things that might have allowed him to work out a better solution) and the failings of all men involved (though many people will squarely point the finger at Michaels and McMahon rather then Bret, though he has his part of the blame to shoulder as well) did the rest.
    • Not to mention the fact that, if Vince McMahon was really worried that Hart would throw the belt in a trashcan at WCW, he could have simply asked Hart to sign a contract stating that he would not do so as a condition of winning the final match.
      • It should also be noted that according to Eric Bischoff's 2006 autobiography (produced by WWE, no less), WCW was so restricted by Turner Broadcasting's legal team (due to a pending trademark lawsuit brought by the then-WWF over Kevin Nash & Scott Hall's debuts) that there would have never been a reprise of the "belt in trash can" incident, or any inclusion of a WWF/E trademark (such as a title belt) on a WCW program, even if Bret had been willing to do it. Ultimately, the entire "screwjob" incident did little more than serve as a catalyst for the change in Vince McMahon's on-air character, and may have done as much as WCW's booking incompetence to ruin Bret's wrestling career.
    • To this day, it's still debated whether the "Montreal Screwjob" was a work, a shoot, or a Worked Shoot. Michaels has since admitted that he was in on the job, and whenever he appears in Canada, he receives "YOU SCREWED BRET!" chants from the Canadian fans. Referee Earl Hebner and Vince also receive said chants. Then-writer Vince Russo claimed in his autobiography that he was responsible for the screwjob, but then again, this is Vince Russo we're talking about.
    • Well, both Vince and Bret testified under oath that the screwjob was a shoot.
    • As of 2010ish, Bret is back involved with the WWE. After a storyline where he and Shawn made peace, Vince played the villain and tried to torment both of them. Needless to say, it ended with Vince in the sharpshooter. Bret's still around, sort of, making a few cameos every once in a while.
  • While The Screwjob may be the most famous incident, probably the most defining incident was the removal of Muhammad Hassan from WWE TV. After a mistimed angle (a kayfabe beating on The Undertaker that resembled a terrorist attack, which happened to air on the same day as an ACTUAL terrorist attack) led to the decision that the IWC darling Hassan character was too controversial to keep around. So he got slammed through the stage by The Undertaker, and was never seen again.
  • The Spirit Squad are probably an example of this as well, as their grand exit from WWE under those characters involved being shipped off to Louisville (home of WWE developmental territory OVW) in a giant crate by D-Generation X. Three of the members have not (as of this edit) been seen on WWE TV since, the fourth (Kenny Doane Dykstra) returned pretty much solely to job up until his release in late 2008, and the fifth and sole remaining member returned to portray Dolph Ziggler, the guy who really, really likes shaking peoples' hands and repeating his own name (and now be a total Jerkass Heel).
    • Ziggler actually went on to be rather successful.
  • The Undertaker gets this to explain his absences for time off or a serious legit injury; he is sometimes literally sent to Hell, too. One instance actually had a lot of fun with this—Undertaker faced Yokozuna in a Casket match; all the heels on the roster ganged up on him to lock him in the casket; smoke began to billow and 'Taker's voice was heard over the loudspeaker, vowing that he would return. He (actually Marty Jannetty in an Undertaker costume) then proceeded to "ascend to the Heavens".
    • Ten years later, when 'Taker was going to change from the more realistic "American Badass" leather-wearing, short-haired biker back to the original gimmick of being literally undead, his brother Kane buried the American Badass alive, only for him to come back as the Deadman.
      • From a very recent episode of Smackdown! after The Undertaker got a legit injury in a match with Rey Mysterio

Theodore Long: "[...] Over the memorial day weekend The Undertaker was found by his brother Kane in a vegetative state!"

  • WWE Divas Candice Michelle and Mickie James after their last matches were thrown out of the ring by their opponent. Apparently there was a kayfabe black hole at ringside to explain why they haven't been seen since.
  • Paul Bearer, manager of the Undertaker, was last seen on television being buried alive in concrete. The next week it was announced that he was only "gravely injured", probably to blunt the fact that WWE had pretty much shown a Kayfabe murder on live television. Of course seven years later he was back.

Video Games

  • The ending to Portal 2. Given that Wheatley has become the villain, he needed a punishment when he was finally defeated. However, killing him off was too much, but a simple slap and detach from the mainframe was too little, hence the final version of the ending, where he is blasted off into space.

Web Comics

  • Literal, in the case of Erin Winters from Scary Go Round. Not only is she sucked into hell, her very memory is Ret-Gone from everyone who knows her, so no rescue attempts will be made. Brr.
  • Penny and Aggie: Cyndi is committed to a psychiatric hospital at the end of the "Missing Person" arc; her very last appearance shows her parents driving into the hospital's front entrance as she asks where they're taking her.

Western Animation

  • Parodied on The Simpsons with one-shot characters like Lurleen Lumpkin and Mindy Simmons (both of whom attempted to entice Homer into an affair). The former made several cameos where she appeared to be down on her luck before getting a follow-up episode, while the latter apparently "hit the bottle pretty hard" and lost her job.
    • Another example would be Homer's half-brother Herb, who is left financially ruined thanks to Homer's antics and leaves on a bus, spitefully making it clear that he has no intention to acknowledge Homer as his brother any longer by the end of the episode. Apparently the executives were left uncomfortable, so they ensured another episode was made in which The Bus Came Back, allowing Homer to help Herb regain his fortune and the two half-brothers to reconcile.
      • Of course, one could consider this a Double Subversion since he got his fortune back with an invention that lets you talk to babies...that hasn't been heard of again, so it might have actually failed. He hasn't been seen since, though he got a brief mention when Homer calls him his "rarely-seen half-brother Herb" and it turns out the family have a portrait of him in the house.
    • And Poochie who was so bad he "died on the way back to his home planet"
  • South Park. Chef. Super Adventure Club. For those who don't watch the show, Isaac Hayes, Chef's voice actor, left the show after a stroke, and a statement was issued (not by him or anyone in any legal position to speak for him) that it was in response to the show's treatment of religion, immediately after an episode mocking Scientology (Hayes was a Scientologist). In response, his character was given a final episode using audio pulled from previous episodes. It was written so as to be the ultimate in Character Derailment, turning him into a (brainwashed) pedophile. He is then given a Rasputinian Death... and his corpse is turned into child-molesting cyborg, in a scene that was obviously intended to resemble Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader. Indeed, it could almost be mistaken for a parody of the trope, it's so thorough.
    • Which is ironic, given that in the very same episode, Kyle gives a speech at Chef's funeral, which is clearly a message to the fandom saying "Don't blame Isaac Hayes for this, blame Scientology". The entire episode is in fact a parody of the whole kerfluffle.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series had Mary Jane sucked into a limbo between universes. She later came back, until it was revealed that this was a clone, and the series was Screwed by the Network before the real Mary Jane was seen again. Though at least the final episode makes it clear that Peter is about to go on a mission to save her.
  • Kim, from The Venture Brothers. She was a very insignificant character who became an Ensemble Darkhorse randomly after showing off a cool outfit and vaguely interesting personality in the episode "Victor. Echo. November." The writers never particularly cared for her and didn't bring her back - so they wrote her out with a quick line in the fourth season finale, where her friend Triana says that Kim moved to Florida, fell in with preppies, got addicted to drugs, then became a born-again Christian. In other words, they deliberately killed anything cool about her and skewed her as far in the other direction as possible.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, John Jameson, a likeable and heroic character, ends up getting powers that make him a Flying Brick, and expresses interest in becoming a superhero ally of Spidey. Unfortunately, those powers cause him to become increasingly aggressive and irrational, which is helped along by Venom attacking him while pretending to be Spider-Man. Spider-Man end up having to rather brutally de-power John in order to stop him. When last seen in the show, John is in an asylum and is a broken wreck suffering from power withdrawal and shown to be every bit as crazy as Electro, the most mentally unstable character in the series.