Tonight Someone Dies

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Note that one name is marked in yellow...
"The black wind howls... One amongst you will shortly perish."

Sometimes, the writers will kill off a fairly major character. Given that this is a relatively rare event, the network will try to play it up in the advertisements for the show. These shows are ratings stunts broadcast during Sweeps week or as the season closer for a show.

This trope differs from Anyone Can Die since in that trope, death is relatively unannounced, to reemphasize the shock, whereas in Tonight Someone Dies, the event is milked for all it is worth.

Tonight Someone Dies tends to occur in more mass market shows, such as ER.

Recently, it has become more common to remind viewers that Anyone Can Die, and even regular characters are not exempt from death in a Ratings ploy. In ages past, Contractual Immortality was more dominant. The Tonight Someone Dies promotion would typically consist of a high-speed montage of the series regulars as an ominous voice announced that "Tonight, one of these people will die." Invariably, the doomed character would turn out to be a minor character, one who has never appeared before or is a recent addition, whose presence in the montage was probably overlooked. The actual killing off of a major character might be seen as a subversion of the older format.

See also Contractual Immortality, Killed Off for Real, Disney Death, Conspicuously Light Patch, Chekhov's Gun, Not-So-Small Role, Sorting Algorithm of Mortality, Bus Crash. Compare the less vague/buzzworthy Oh, and X Dies.

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

Examples of Tonight Someone Dies include:


  • Famously subverted early in Martian Successor Nadesico: After parodying this trope in the Show Within a Show Gekiganger III, one episode strongly foreshadows the death of Jun Aoi, series Butt Monkey, who tries to make up for a Face Heel Turn by a Heroic Sacrifice. Although he manages to avoid Redemption Equals Death, the incredibly popular character Gai Daigouji, Otaku and Anime-style The Obi-Wan to the protagonist, is suddenly and anticlimactically Killed Off for Real by an escaping Admiral who had been held prisoner. Gai didn't die trying to stop the escape - he never even knew what was happening.
    • In fact, his death is intentionally written to be as random and meaningless as possible, which just compounds the tragedy since Gai always wanted to go out in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Many anime will do this during a preview for the next episode, designed to make the viewers watch it. Naruto breathes it.
    • Bleach loves this trope as well. It actually has episodes titled "Ichigo dies!" "Chad dies!" "Hiyori dies?" "Soifon dies?" Subverted, sort of, since nobody important ever dies.
    • One semi-infamous example was in Dragonball Z, where the next episode preview ominously questions the outcome of Vegeta's current fight. Then the title of the next episode is shown: "The End of Vegeta." Guess what happened.
      • There's an even better example in an episode of the Japanese version where the title card at the end of the preview says something like, "Vegeta, pride of the Saiyans, dies." Doesn't get much more explicit than that.
    • The thirty-second episode of Fushigi Yuugi is "To Die for the Star of Suzaku". The episode after that is named "Nuriko, Eternal Farewell".
  • At one point, a rumor came up that the author of One Piece said that one of the Straw Hats would die. It actually turned out he was referring to the Going Merry, which actually did meet its end a few arcs after the rumor began. You would think that the 'death' of a ship wouldn't be a very emotional event, would you? You would be WRONG.
    • On the other hand, a later arc has an episode with "Ace Dies!" right in the title. You'll never guess what Ace does in that episode.
  • The title for episode 45 of Sailor Moon includes "The Sailor Soldiers die!" in it (and I'd bet they spoil the hell out of it in the preview the episode before). Which, of course, is exactly what happens (they get better).
    • They do it again at least once more in the S season, mentioning Uranus and Neptune's deaths in the episode title it
  • MiXiM wrings the hell out of this trope after the fortune teller Crete predicts that one of the main cast will die: Several of them just barely avoid death in the fights leading up the Climax Battle against Dodo the Clown, who proceeds to destroy the protagonist's living finger puppet Tongari and very nearly kills off another one of the main characters. However Tongari is revived, Dodo is defeated with seemingly no casualties to speak of, and when the dust finally settles... Another villain comes right out of nowhere and kills Jyuuzo, the big guy of the Five-Man Band.
  • An episode of the Japanese Transformers series The Headmasters was titled "Ultra Magnus Dies!" Take a guess what happens.
  • The Digimon franchise has a pretty bad case of putting this in their often excited episode titles. In Digimon Tamers, there is an episode entitled "The Kind-hearted Hero! Leomon Dies!" Guess what happens in that episode. Similarly, in Digimon Xros Wars, "Stand Up, Kiriha! The Last Cry of Deckerdramon" and "Beelzebumon Fades Into the Light!!", and in Digimon Adventure, "Goodbye, Numemon".

Comic Books


Next issue: Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!! The story they didn't think we had nerve enough to tell! Thor croaks!!! (It's the beginning of the notorious "Frog Thor" storyline.)

  • Parodied, along with other comic book death tropes, to Hell and back (almost literally) in the Marvel GLA (Great Lakes Avengers) limited series. The series promised not one, but two characters would die each issue. However, one would be Mr. Immortal, who literally has Contractual Immortality as his power. As there were only four other members of the GLA, and issue one did kill member Dinah Soar off for real, the GLA would be more or less nonexistent by the end of the series. However, the team goes recruiting, and the next deaths would include Grasshopper, who was a member of the team for 5.8 seconds (in a parody of Marvel's penchant to give a complex background to a character only to kill him off to show Anyone Can Die), and Monkey Joe, new member Squirrel Girl's pet squirrel - whom she had spent the issue trying to convince the GLA to accept as a genuine member (just when they did, guess what happened). The final issue saw original member Doorman die, but he was Back from the Dead before the end of the issue.
    • The followup one-shots might as well have "Tonight, The New Guy In The Grasshopper Suit Dies!" on the covers.
    • In Avengers: The Initiative #19, it is revealed that the newest person to don the Grasshopper suit is a Skrull. He is subsequently killed by the aptly named Skrull Kill Krew
  • Runaways did this twice: first for Gert's death, and then in the last arc before going on hiatus ( Old Lace). The second time amped it up with "One will will live again."
  • Parodied on the cover of the Doom Patrol Doom Force special, where the "WHICH ONE OF THESE HEROES WILL DIE?!" cover blurb is inside a huge arrow pointing at Shasta the Living Mountain.
  • In the 100th Twisted Toyfare Theatre strip, the cover page boldly proclaims that "TONIGHT, ONE OF THESE CHARACTERS WILL DIE!", prompting Mego Spidey to say "Hope it's me." Ironically, Spider-Man was the only character on the cover who didn't die.
  • In Teen Titans (vol. 3) #74, a casket was pictured on the cover, which read, "Another Titan dies!" Although it was a poor call on DC's part to highlight how many Titans have been killed over the past few years, Eddie Bloomberg (who was depowered anyways) did bite the dust.
  • X-Force/X-Statix was a genuine Everyone Will Die Anyone Can Die canon, but they played this trope moderately straight in the run-up to Edie's death. The story features various highly contrived scenarios that spoof this trope, but the drama is completely genuine and the death is real and permanent. The three main members of the team each have an identical premonition that one of them is going to die. Throughout the arc, events continue to make it look like one character or another will be the one to be killed...until it climaxes with the three of them stuck in a doomed spaceship, with only room in the escape pod for two. They play dice to decide who has to stay behind. The story uses the simple title "Someone Dies."
  • A mid-90's Green Lantern issue once featured three important characters on its cover, with the headline "WHO WILL DIE?" The person killed was...a minor character who wasn't on the cover, showed up out of nowhere, and basically was brought back from obscurity just so she could be killed off.
    • The editor lampshaded this in the letter column, admitting that the cover had been a bit of a bait-and-switch (but also pointing out that technically, they didn't say anyone on the cover would die...)
  • The third issue of X-Men 2099 prominently featured this hook on the cover. However, a Genre Savvy reader could fairly easily guess that it was going to be Serpentina. Most members of the team were more developed than her, and her character was a perfect candidate for being Stuffed in A Fridge.
  • Inverted in the old Batgirl series, which had one cover promise that nobody would die in that issue. Someone dies.
    • The point of the issue was that Batgirl had personal reasons for seeing to it that nobody died on that night (It was the anniversary of the day she killed a man as a little girl). The man who was executed technically died the next day.
  • The X-Men crossover Second Coming promised the death of a major character. However, a combination of foreshadowing and some very obviously shifting Character Focus in the early chapters telegraphed well in advance that the person to die would be Nightcrawler.
  • The "This Issue: Batman Dies!!!" (three exclamation points mandatory) "cross-under" of February 2001 takes this trope and runs with it. All of the February 2001 issues of DC's Bat-Books featured the stamp, and all featured Batman dying... kinda.
    • In Robin 85, The Joker, bored out of his mind during his imprisonment at the Slab, has a hilarious heart-to-heart with his therapist concerning how he views Robin. During said interview, the Joker acknowledges that there have been multiple Robins, and theorizes that there may have very well been multiple Batmen throughout his career as well, meaning that at certain points, he might have actually killed Batman once... or twice... or thrice. Cue an entire page of little doodles showing Joker killing Batman with various deathtraps, all of which take place strictly in his head.
    • In Detective Comics #753, Two-Face creates a comic book as part of a new therapy program. Said comic book features Harvey Dent ("Copernicus Dent") as a Marty Stu action hero, pit against Two-Face ("Janus") the diabolical criminal mastermind. Janus has an entire army of Batmen as his henchmen, which Copernicus slaughters by the dozens throughout the course of the comic.
  • The cover of New Avengers v2 #6 came decked out with a large caption declaring that one of the featured people would die. The characters on the cover? Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, Wolverine... as well as Mockingbird and Brother Voodoo. Since Mockingbird had only recently been resurrected, Brother Voodoo's fate was sealed.
  • In late 2010, a Fantastic Four storyline (called "Three") began, which Marvel promised would feature the death of a team member.
    • In January 2011 the storyline ended with the death of The Human Torch.
    • They followed this up by promising that, due to the popularity of this event, they would start killing a main character every quarter, adding "This is not a joke". The sheer amount of Death Is Cheap this is expected to result in led to the move being widely mocked.
      • That was later reported to be a joke.
  • An early Challengers Of The Unknown actually did kill off one of the Challengers this way--CPR brought him back within a few panels.
  • Used on the splash page of Locke and Key: Keys To the Kingdom #4. "Keep your hankies handy, true believers... because in this issue... SOMEONE DIES" And at the end of the issue, an action figure is brutally slaughtered. Of course, in this case, the action figure might actually be a character, it's not clear yet.
  • Avengers: The Initiative #10 featured the Initiative's most significant cadets on the cover—and also promised one of them would die on the inside. It was one of the Scarlet Spiders.
  • Spoofed in X-Factor #229. The cover features the statement, "In this issue, one of these characters will DIE!" All of the characters on the cover are copies of Multiple Man... whose Me's a Crowd power means he's in the top five most killed characters in comics.


  • The Japanese trailers leading up to Godzilla vs. Destoroyah ran with the catchprhase "Godzilla dies". While it would seem that a Monster of the Week based off the Oxygen Destroyer that killed Godzilla before would finally slay the King of Monsters (this was, at the time, Godzilla's third incarnation), it wasn't actually the case. Godzilla was actually killed when his nuclear body began to melt down, and Destoroyah apparently had nothing directly to do with it. While Godzilla does die, the baby Godzilla that had been maturing since Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II would eventually absorb the dying Godzilla's radiation, both saving the Earth from a catastrophic explosion and, more importantly, mutating the Godzilla Junior into a full-grown replacement to his predecessor.
    • Even if that had not happened, that movie ended the Heisei continuity and later Godzilla films were set in mostly separate continuities, so they wouldn't be affected by Godzilla being dead in this one.
  • For Simpsons The Movie, it was claimed that someone would die, and never be back in the series. After a few fake alerts, in the end the huge glass dome collapses, shattering glass everywhere. Chief Wiggum comments on the fortunate fact that nobody got hurt. Cue camera zooming out and the audience seeing Dr. Nick lying underneath a HUGE chunk of glass.
    • He did however reappear in the series.


  • Books four, five, and six of the Harry Potter series were hyped in this manner. The first death was a minor character (though still shocking due to the younger demographic the books appeal to), but the other two have been genuine reminders that Anyone Can Die.
    • Look at the list! Rowling could be convictced of mass murder.
    • Book seven even more so... not only did the author make several comments suggesting the deaths of certain main character(s), newspaper articles concerning the book made it seem like the whole point of the book was finding out who dies. Of course, the book is titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It can be revealed, without spoiling anything, but it is an absolute bloodbath. Like, 23 characters die.
    • A subversion happened in-story with Professor Trelawney. In her first appearance, she predicted that one of the people in the room would leave, never to return, around Easter. Everyone interprets that to be a death omen. Around Easter, Hermione gets sick of the constant death predictions and drops the course.
  • It began with six. It will end with five. The Framing Device of one of the supplementary books is the Ellimist speaking to an unnamed character as/after they die. It was Rachel, by the way.
  • In the second book of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series (The Great Hunt), Verin reads a prophecy that states "Five will ride forth, and four return." The prophecy comes true later when the heroes do indeed ride into a dangerous city near the end of the book and come back short one member. In-universe, what would happen might have been legimately suspenseful to Verin, but given that three of the five riders were ta'veren and the other two were Mauve Shirts, the reader didn't have too much to worry about.
  • The back cover blurb of Avalon: Web of Magic's sixth book, Trial by Fire, advertised that someone died. It was Big Badass Wolf Stormbringer, later revealed as a Disney Death.
  • Two example from Warrior Cats:
    • The prologue of Twilight opens with an unidentified cat being told by StarClan that they will die soon. We never realise who it is until they finally die at the end.
    • The blurb of Sunrise ends with the phrase "and one more warrior may be lost forever...", which likely refers to Hollyleaf's death. Although this may be a subversion, since it is likely that Hollyleaf actually survived, in which case it could refer to her literally being lost, or losing her sanity and status as a warrior.
  • The first book of The Belgariad sequel series The Malloreon, has a prophecy dictating one of the party of heroes will not survive their quest. Just before the final battle, every single one of the party comes up to say goodbye to Belgarion (who, being the acknowledged hero, is the only member who isn't even theoretically in danger), since they all think they're going to be the one to die. It turns out to be Toth, Cyradis's guide, who is somewhat forgettable. This becomes Fridge Brilliance when you realize that every other character in the story has had a role in the adventure, something that the characters have explicitly realized and discussed - meaning Toth came along specifically to be killed at this point.
  • In the first book of The Underland Chronicles, an ancient prophecy states that 12 will set out on a quest "and eight will be left when we count up the dead." Sure enough, by the end of the book, Tick, Gox, Treflex, and Henry have all met their maker.

Live Action TV

  • A memorable example was in the second season of Beverly Hills, 90210 when we were told an original character would be killed off, and of course it turned out to be David Silver's friend Scott Scanlon.
  • The second season finale of NCIS featured a plethora of tropes associated with Tonight Someone Dies, almost to the point of subversion. Ads for the show featured the requisite montage of major characters and promised one would not survive the finale. Throughout the episode, characters narrowly survived snakes, bombs, and gunfire, and kept talking and dreaming about each other's deaths. In the final minutes, Kate took a bullet but was revealed to be wearing a bulletproof vest (Disney Death) only to be shot between the eyes in the final seconds (Killed Off for Real). As this was precipitated by Sasha Alexander's decision to leave the show, it seemed to be an instance of Dropped a Bridge on Him (although she appeared for most of the third season premiere as a ghost/hallucination).
    • And they did it again in Season 5. This time the character that died was Jenny Shepard, at the end of the first half of the two-part finale. Shepard, however, died in a blaze of glory, taking down all of the bad guys with her. All the grizzled Badass, Mike Franks(whom Shepard had asked for help), wound up doing was finish off two of the badguys who were bleeding out.
      • And to add injury to insult, Mike Franks himself became the Someone Who Died near the end of Season 8.
  • Double Subversion in Arrested Development. Before the opening credits, a narrator announces that "one of these characters will die," while every main character flashes on screen, as well as an old lady who is unique to the episode. However, about halfway through the episode, Ron Howard simply tells the audience that she is the one who's going to die.

Narrator: [after an old woman makes a racist comment] OK, we'll just tell you right now - she's the one who dies.

  • In an advertising variant of Beam Me Up, Scotty, Lost has become timelessly associated with this trope despite only using it twice—in season 1 when Boone died, and in season 2 when Shannon died. In fact, Lost has a better reputation for suddenly killing off beloved main characters with no advertising fanfare whatsoever.
    • Played painfully straight with "Homecoming", an earlier episode in Season 1, which was hyped with the "Someone will die" tagline, only for them to kill off minor character Scott of "Scott and Steve" fame, who had little involvement in the plot and barely any lines in the few episodes he appeared in. The "someone" could have also referred to Ethan, who was killed at the end of the episode, but the trailer seemed to specifically indicate that one of the main characters (i.e. the good guys) would bite it.
    • This silly advertising technique became notorious in Australia after it was used for every single episode of Lost in Seven network advertising, usually in the form of "Tonight it will finally be revealed what's in the Box/Bushes/Hatch/Plane/Water/e.t.c" but also in the more true to trope "Someone will DIE"
  • In one episode of All Saints, a few close-ups of stern faces were all that were needed to completely fool the audience into believing that "One of these women will leave the show... FOREVER" meant that one of the two feuding female characters would die, only for one of them to leave the show quietly, and furthermore, temporarily.
  • One episode of The 4400 advertised itself in this manner, and the death in the end turned out to be a character who was not only minor, but also evil, and had a completely different personality to that he had had in the previous series, for no explained reason.
    • It's explained later in the fourth season he was, between the previous season and the one where he died, possessed by a person from the future. This is actually a major plot point in season 4.
    • There is another episode where the trailer advertises the main characters being trapped together and two would not make it out alive. In this episode, Shawn Ferrell and Meghan Doyle both died, but because it was a dream (sort of), they were both fine at the end.
  • Used to promote an episode of Dawson's Creek in which minor character Abby died.
  • ER pulled this with Robert Romano. However, since he was the Dr. Jerk, nobody inside the hospital noticed until the cops told them.
  • While not exactly outright said, it might a well have been advertised with how blatant it was: British soap Emmerdale killed off the character Tom King after just about everyone mentioned wanting him dead ("You do realise that at this precise moment, Dad's worth more to us dead than he is alive." "If you had died instead of Mum, we'd be a lot happier."). He even mentions it himself ("If I were to go now, I'd die a happy man.").
  • Heroes did this very cleverly. After being told that someone would die, we saw Claire's mom collapse to the ground. After the commercial, we're now in the hospital with the possibility of brain cancer. Had this character died, it would have been quite dramatically valid. Then she got discharged, just in time for Isaac to accidentally shoot Simone dead.
    • The first season played this card with the question: Who will explode? Peter, Ted or Sylar. Several characters in the finale were shot (Matt Parkman, DL), stabbed (Sylar) or seemed to blow up in the Big Sky Explosion (Peter, Nathan), but EVERYONE re-appeared alive in the second season.
      • No DL didn't. He did recover from the gunshot but but was killed in between seasons after being killed in a rather flimsy manner.
    • Not to mention Season/Volume 2, with the much-hyped painted death prophecy for Bennet. He does indeed get shot through the eye. Maya also takes a bullet and dies. However, they're both revived with Magic Blood almost immediately, or by next episode, respectively.
  • Subverted so many times with Breakout Kings that it became annoying. When the commercials for Season 2 began to air, this was the only thing they talked about. But the creators threw a curve ball and actually did kill off one of the main characters, proving to everyone that they do have the balls to have someone Killed Off for Real.
  • The supermarket episode of season 3 of Desperate Housewives.
  • Leading up to the two-part finale of Season 6 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, it was heavily advertised that someone would be shot, and thus implied that a main character would die. In the end, the victim was Jim Brass, an oft-recurring but non-central character. And he survived.
    • Again in the 2010 spring finale: Nick gets shot by Dr. Jekyll, but not only does he survive but is also the one to kill the bad doctor. All seems well until "The Dick and Jane Killer" shanks Langston -- and cut to credits.
  • Voyager hyped it in a commercial for the episode featuring Harry Kim's Disney Death, though in a somewhat broken manner, seeing as they showed the death scene itself in the commercial.
  • Possibly justified in the Supernatural episode No Rest For The Wicked. It's the finale and Dean's year was up; how else do you expect them to advertise it?
    • This trope was also used in Australia to advertise the episode Mystery Spot, although to be fair saying that 'tonight someone dies' was a bit of an understatement really, in its own way. Plus, the whole thing ended up being subverted.
      • Tonight Someone Dies... REPEATEDLY.
  • This trope was used by Grey's Anatomy, when, following the second part of a three part arc, the audience was told that someone would die. Considering the title character was lying on a hospital bed not breathing at this point, this was a fairly serious claim. Naturally, however, the minor recurring character died.
  • Doctor Who set up the finale for series 2 with a trailer showing Rose saying "This is the story of the day I died", and making much of the fact that actress Billie Piper would not be returning. Of course, she only died metaphorically, being sent to a parallel universe and thus separated from the Doctor.
    • It's explicitly mentioned in the episode that she was declared legally dead after disappearing during the Battle of Canary Wharf, so as far as the government's considered the claim was true.
    • In Series 4, they pulled exactly the same "Someone will die - if by "die" you mean "not actually die"" ending. And it didn't work this time either...
    • And in the specials after, much was made of "[The Doctor's] song is ending" ... by which they meant he regenerated again. Despite the Tenth Doctor's angst about regenerating, some might consider a phoenix-like resurrection with a new face and slightly different quirks better than completely ceasing to exist.
      • In the Doctor's own words: "Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away... and I'm dead."
    • And again in the buildup for Series 6 - coupled with a promise from Steven Moffat that "we're not lying, we're not cheating. One of those four people is going to die."
      • However, since it was The Doctor himself, if it isn't provoking a lot of Like You Would Really Do It then why not? Although it did still have an air of "cop-out".
      • Well in the end, they did lie/cheat: The Doctor didn't die at all. A doppelgänger Mobile Suit Human was destroyed instead.
  • The season one finale of the CW series Reaper was heavily promoted as, "Someone Will Die". However, it seems that this death is the main character's (Sam's) dad, buried alive and presumed dead by the characters. In the last few minutes Sam's mom seems to have dug the still-alive man out of the ground. In a later episode, it was relieved that the commercials were technically correct. Sam's dad is no longer alive. Apparently Exact Words matter when making a Deal with the Devil.
  • The Australian Network 10 announced on every add in the 3 weeks before the finale of The OC's season 3, " Marissa is going to DIE." Yes, everyone knew Mischa Barton was leaving the show, but this advertising strategy completely undid the finale's setting up of Marissa going to live with her dad, a plausible explanation for the departing actor which would have made the death something of a shock.
    • The US promotions of the same episode also said, almost verbatim, Tonight Someone Dies. The faces flashed as possibilities were all long-time regulars, so the promotion did its job quite well.
  • After playing it straight through many previous deaths of major and minor characters, the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street subverted the trope in 2008 when one episode ended with several of the characters seemingly falling victim to a shootout in the Cliff Hanger. The "On the Next..." promo immediately following the episode announced that there would be three casualties. Naturally many fans assumed that there would be three deaths, until the actual definition of casualties was pointed out. Sure enough nobody died.
  • Blue Heelers had a run with Gary Sweet playing a gangster. One promo hyped how there would be three shots fired in the next episode (actually five, four of them being used to execute two crooks), with the final shot being the most shocking. The final shot? A hit on Sweet's character.
  • Stargate Atlantis had a major Wham! Episode in which a popular main character dies unexpectedly at the end of a comedic filler episode. This would have been a huge shock, except the promos for the episode played up the Tonight Someone Dies angle (which spoiled the fact that someone was going to die), gave away which character was going to die, and even showed the first few moments of their death. To top it off, while the character did manage to stay dead for a couple seasons, he eventually came back as a clone.
    • A similar plot twist occured in the Stargate SG-1 2-parter "Heroes", with a major character who had been with the show since the very beginning being Killed Off for Real in the middle of what starts out as a comedic filler episode. Although on that occurrence the promos were nice enough not to spoil the fact that a major character was going to die, although they did hint the episode would be much darker than the initial premise would suggest.
    • SG-1 had another problem Tonight Someone Dies episode when Daniel ascended - the ads were hyping that "One of them will die", but a) it didn't take and b) any surprise was ruined by the TV guide reporting that "Daniel is exposed to radiation".
  • Episode 7 of season one of Ashes to Ashes had this. The Clown announces towards the beginning of the episode that "Something dreadful is going to happen. I'm going to take someone." This comes into play when Shaz is stabbed and is technically dead, before Alex revives her.
    • This becomes rather ridiculous in hindsight after seeing the end of the series when it is revealed everyone including Alex had been Dead All Along and existing in police purgatory. The only way the Clown makes sense now is as an alternate form taken by DCI Keats, both characters having tried to "take the soul" of one of the dead characters - Keats having succeeded..
  • Used in a promo during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer second season. The clips made it abundantly clear it would be Jenny Calendar.
  • Stated in the promo for the Warehouse 13 episode "Buried". (It was Artie. He got better.)
    • Used again for the penultimate episode of Season 2. Recurring character Walda makes a Heroic Sacrifice. Doesn't get better.
  • Bones recently featured the murder of a minor regular ( at the hands of the sniper the team is currently hunting). The build-up made a point of intercutting the killer with all regulars to make them look threatened. However, the actual victim is foreshadowed by the episode title. which is an allusion to the episode in which Zach left the show.
  • Castle pulls this for its third-season finale. The promo specifically has Castle saying "Someone is gonna die." The producers promised that it wouldn't be a background character. True to the formula, the line is actually only tangential, but the promise was kept: Captain Montgomery died while getting the bad guy. And then...

Video Games

  • The video game Metal Gear Solid 4 was hyped in a similar way. Trailers for the game hinted at the possibility of Snake, the main character, committing suicide and the game is being called "Snake's Final Mission". Snake did, die... it just wasn't Solid Snake. MGS 3 star Naked Snake (better known as Big Boss) is killed (after convincing Solid Snake not to kill himself).
    • Hideo Kojima actually said before the game's release that Snake wouldn't die, because everyone was worried it was going to happen just for the sake of killing off a main character, and he didn't see any other (ie - good) reason to kill Snake on-screen. There probably aren't many who would argue that Snake's send-off as a man nearly dead of old age, after being talked down from suicide by and reconciling with his 'father,' is a much more powerful scene than a direct death would've been.
  • In Chrono Trigger, upon arriving in the Magic Kingdom of Zeal, a boy named Janus (who grows up to be Magus) tells the party that one among them will soon die. He turns out to be right, and the game even flashes back to the conversation when it happens. It's Crono, though it probably should've been obvious, since it's "one among you"
    • On the other hand, the fact that it was the main character, the one character who you always played as up until this point in the game, made the death quite a shock when it happened.
  • Mass Effect played this up heavily in the prerelease trailers. They weren't kidding, either.
  • Mass Effect 2 has this as an important selling point. Subverted, though, as Shepard is resurrected and it's possible to save your whole team and crew in the "Suicide Mission", provided you make the right choices.
  • The tagline of The Passing DLC for Left 4 Dead 2 is that "No One Survives Forever". In it, the 4 L4D2 survivors run into 3 of the original L4D survivors, the other survivor died in a Heroic Sacrifice to save the others. A comic tie-in and a future DLC will show just who died, and how.
    • Bill dies.
    • Before this DLC released, a poster of the Passing got released. It had the Left 4 Dead survivors silhouettes in the background. If you refreshed/clicked on the picture, one of the Left 4 Dead characters' silhouettes would be missing, implying that they'd be the one to go. However, if you kept track of Left 4 Dead news, you'd know that Zoey and Francis were confirmed to live, as Ellis gets a crush on Zoey, and Nick has banter with Francis.
  • The makers of Okamiden strongly hinted in an interview that an important character dies. They weren't kidding.
  • City of Heroes played with it during the last year or so of its original run, as part of the promotion for free to play transition as seen in this promotional teaser. Initially Alexis Cole-Duncan, the daughter of Statesman and the mother of Ms. Liberty died. She made her first appearance in the story arc where she gets killed. Time will tell if there are more casualties.
    • There were. Statesman himself died in the final mission of the same arc.

Tabletop Games


  • Fully skewered in the Girly, though not through advertising. A fortune-teller tells three cops that one of them will die today, which of course means that the one just introduced two frames earlier, whose name is Officer Getskilled, will die, right? Wrong! It turns out she's talking about a fly that was on one of the cops' shoulder at the time she made her proclamation.
  • Institutionalized (somewhat) in Schlock Mercenary when, once a year for the month of October, the creator runs a story arc with a generally higher chance of offing a character or two. These are usually minor characters, and the two times a main character has been killed involved bringing them back later, though not without a large effort to make sure they come back, or a reasonable justification. Given all the foreshadowing that's sprinkled throughout the strip's early days, which only becomes evident upon re-reading, it's safe to say that no "resurrection" has been a Retcon, but deliberately planned. By the way, if you're the romantic interest of a minor-character female member of that mercenary company, you're in trouble.
    • As far as it applies to Elf Foxworthy (and she's really the only one it applies to), that curse seems to have been broken by Kevyn Andreyasn. He was killed. Repeatedly. He got better - way better, thanks to nano robots in his blood. They've been a couple without any fatal interruptions since then.
  • In a story arc begun by this strip of Irregular Webcomic, the author (a character in the comic) announces the impending death of a major character by the end of 2007 (some 5 months after the announcement). Soon, nearly every theme is set up with characters facing deadly circumstances. In the end, the author himself is shocked by who it turns out to be.
  • Near the beginning of Dominic Deegan's "War In Hell" arc, Dominic has a "vision" called the "Fated Fatal" which only lets him know that someone he knows will die; basically this trope in Applied Phlebotinum form.
  • Cypress of Last Res0rt invokes it when telling Veled that she expects two of the players to die in the second episode—of course, it's at least a LITTLE justified given that she's running the Deadly Game Show Within a Show, so knowing who's likely to survive the challenges provided is just good business sense.
  • Lampshaded in Sev Trek, where one instalment of the "Pus In Boots" story was preceded by the text "In this chapter, someone will die! Will it be Gaudy, Barf, Piker, Beta, or Ensign Unimportant?" No prizes for guessing which one it was.
  • Parodied in this Nedroid comic. For those of you wondering, the sharkman, bird, and beartato are all regular characters, and the man has never appeared before.
  • Satirized in this Dinosaur Comic, in which Spider-Man! Will! Die!
  • Towards the end of the last complete arc of Elf Only Inn, the author frequently announced in every single comic that everybody will die at the end of the episode. When the arc reaches it's climax and the predictions were already getting old and very unlikely, LoD pulls a bomb out of nowhere and nukes the entire battlefield. This being an MMORPG however...

Web Animation

  • "On the next Red vs. Blue...someone..." (camera on Grif) "...will..." (zoom-in on Grif) "...die." (close-up on Grif)

Sarge: I sure hope it's Grif.

    • It was Church by the way.
  • Game Dogs is currently making use of this trope as a promotional stunt.

Web Original

  • Done twice by Lonelygirl15, in the advertising for both "Bloodlines" and "Prom: It's To Die For".
  • There is actually an episode of "Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager" named "Somebody Dies". The character is actually a fairly important role in the show, though he does return in later episodes as a demented ghost.
  • Vocational Death Cruise is an online comic competition that announces the number that will die beforehand. It's not who'd you expect.

Western Animation

  • South Park made fun of this trope in the mock Cliff Hanger at the end of the episode "Professor Chaos". The episode was spent focusing on Cartman, Stan, and Kyle's search for a new fourth friend and Butters becoming Professor Chaos and trying to destroy the world. The announcer recaps these plot threads as the episode reaches the end, then out of nowhere goes through all the motions of a someone-will-die cliffhanger (complete with six possible victims—Chef, Mr. Garrison, Jimbo, Officer Barbrady, Ms. Choksondik, and the Mayor) and then immediately tells us the resolutions of the loose ends, including who died (Ms. Choksondik, though Chef does die in a later season), and after the corpse played a small (but important) part in the very next episode, the story ends there.
  • The season 1 finale episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender were the subject of much hype, since the trailers promised that "a sacrifice would be made". As it turned out, the short-lived Princess Yue was the victim. However, a surprise twist came in the form of another death, namely that of recurring villain, Admiral Zhao.
  • The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did a kid friendly version of this for the season three finale: "You'll never see one of these characters again!". In the end, the character written out was Shredder, who was captured and sentenced to exile on an ice asteroid. And then Turtles Forever happened.
  • Chaotic had possibly the most annoying one ever. During one of the episode's preview, the narrator claims "And one of these characters... will be no more," accompanied by pictures of all the main characters. However, if one looked fast, you could see that, in addition to all the real characters, there was a picture of Maxxor, a card owned by the main character that would most likely be fairly easy to replace. Sure enough, he lost the Maxxor card in that episode, and all the main characters got out unscathed.
  • The Comedy Central series Drawn Together had an episode that was advertised with lines such as "someone will die" and images of the main characters. In the end it turned out to be a pizza delivery boy who had never been in a previous episode and whose death was relatively uneventful, a clear parody of this plot device.
    • Not to mention the episode in which a heartbroken Xandir (after his coming-out) tries to commit suicide, repeatedly, because as an video game action character he has to whittle away his Extra Lives (all 49 of them, and he gets more all the time) before he can kill himself for real. After spending the entire night killing himself and resurrecting, and killing himself, and... the others talk him out of it just when he is down to the last life.
    • And of course, this trope is meaningless to Drawn Together anyway, since major characters often get killed and are brought back in the next episode without explanation.
  • The Simpsons played it for real when they ran ads claiming a character would be killed off, only for it to be the less-than-central wife of Ned Flanders; there were several false alarms before the actual death (i.e. there's a crash at the racetrack, and a wheel goes flying and slams into Lenny Leonard, causing the spectators to gasp ... and Lenny gets up and says "I'm okay!" to the spectators' disappointment.)
  • Clone High parodied the trope with a blatant speech by the narrator during a slideshow of the main characters looking shocked: "Tonight, one of the clones you've grown to love will be horribly killed! (A picture of Ponce de Leon - who had never been seen in the series, and didn't actually have a name up until that point - flashes) This isn't some cheap ass stunt where we lamely introduce a new character (Ponce flashes again) just to kill him off! (Ponce, again). A clone dies tonight! (Ponce smiles at the camera) "
    • Made funnier by Ponce's constant Tempting Fate during the actual episode, as well as the string of extremely forced statements to the effect that the newly introduced Ponce was in fact a long-standing and widely liked presence at Clone High. The point is made most blatantly when Ponce pulls a stunt causing an actually familiar face to comment:

Julius Caesar: Oh, Ponce, you're a regular character.

      • And it was a horrific death at that.
  • Sort of done in the fourth season of Winx Club, you see, in episode 23 the Winx receive the final gift of destiny from the Eternal fairies, which can be used to bring one person back to life. The Eternal fairies also tell them of a prophesy that apparently more than one person would die. The preview for the next episode also made it pretty clear that something bad was going to happen. In episode 24 the evil shapeshifter Duman turned into a monster and attacked the specialists, and Nabu was forced to kill him in self-defense. Later Nabu dies after using up all of his magical energy to close a dark abyss that the evil wizards had created in order to seal the Earth fairies away. Oh, and the last gift of destiny? Ogron, the leader of the evil wizards stole it and wasted it on a wilted flower.
  • Advertised constantly in a season premier for Family Guy. To no one's surprise, the one to die is Stephanie, an annoying new character Quagmire brought with him, designed specifically to annoy everyone. However, the body count continued with James Woods, Muriel Goldman, Derek (Jillian's husband), Priscilla (another new character), and finally, Diane Simmons, who was the killer. And suprisingly enough, it stuck, come the next episode, they're all still dead.
  • On the hundredth episode of American Dad, the opening informs us that one hundred characters will die in this episode, and a counter appears at the bottom. It keeps popping up when someone is in mortal danger, but then disappears when nothing happens. Halfway through the episode, it goes up to one when Stan kills a dog, and then a bus full of minor recurring characters goes off a cliff and brings it up to 97. Three more minor characters die over the course of the episode to bring it to 100.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long had the promo for the episode Homecoming claim that "At least one of these characters will more". Which is a little ironic, seeing as the writers planned on killing off recurring ally Sun Park, but the channel executives told them that her death would be "too dark", only to advertise the death of The Huntsman and the rest of the Huntsclan.
  • King of the Hill ended its second season with a cliffhanger when the Mega-Lo-Mart exploded. Leading up to the third season premiere was a promotional campaign, stating that one of the following characters would die: Hank, Luanne, Buckley, or guest star Chuck Mangione. It was Buckley.