We Hardly Knew Ye

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"At the beginning of the second season, Warner Brothers suggested that I introduce a hot shot pilot to the show and my first thought was, 'I'll kill him by the end of the season.'"

Some characters have it rough, be they Chew Toy, Butt Monkey, or Creator's Pet. However, some characters never have "it" at all, they're Killed Off for Real, Put on a Bus, or otherwise kicked out almost as soon as they join. Too little time for the audience to get attached to them (assuming, of course, there's something worthwhile there to attach to). In rare instances, these characters are tragically brought Back for the Dead or have someone drop a bridge on them. Sometimes writers will reassign their arc to an existing character or to a totally new character.

Possibly named after the particularly tragic Irish anti-war song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, which devotes itself to describing the horrific wounds received by a soldier returned from war while alluding to the carefree, even cruel life that he led prior. (Its tune is better known as The Ants Go Marching Two By Two or When Johnny Comes Marching Home.)

Compare Sacrificial Lamb. If the character was a hardly-seen Recurring Extra who finally gets A Day in the Limelight only to be killed off, that's A Death in the Limelight. Might result in the cast itself forgetting their fallen friend.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of We Hardly Knew Ye include:

Anime and Manga

  • Most of the SSS members in Angel Beats! suffer from this, partly because of the sheer number of characters, but more likely, the decision to go from 26 to 13 episodes.
  • Sven in Voltron, sort of. He was revived in the dub.
  • Leomon in Digimon Tamers. Introduced in ep 21, dies in ep 34 in a way that was fairly disturbing, seeing as it was the first Killed Off for Real of a main character in Digimon, ever.
  • Matt from Death Note got maybe 12 panels in the manga before he gets killed. All we know is that he likes video games and is good friends with Mello.
    • Ukita gets more panels, but less development.
  • Kolulu from Zatch Bell gets defeated pretty fast, although she is still one of the most important characters since she was Zatch's inspiration and the one that made him want to win.
  • Gai Daigouji from Martian Successor Nadesico dies both needlessly and anticlimactically in the third episode, sending a clear message to the viewer that it was not a Super Robot show, but a Real Robot show.
    • Thank goodness for Super Robot Wars.
    • Not to mention this one female pilot that replaces the main character in one episode. She gets all of two scenes and five sentences of dialogue; the last one being spoken mere moments before she bites it.
  • All of the recruitable characters in the anime adaptation of Valkyria Chronicles. Contrast to the game where the characters have character, and you'll pull your tank and all available troops just to make sure no one dies.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mami Tomoe dies two and a half episodes in, although she does recur in alternate timelines.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, this happened to Quartum, Quintum and (maybe) Sextum Averrunci. Although they may be Not Quite Dead.
  • In the Birdy the Mighty anime, Tute, Birdy's police partner, dies by the third episode of the first season.
  • In Tegami Bachi Lily Confort is introduced, given a small backstory, suggested as another love interest for the main character... and then has her Heart eaten by a Gaichuu over the course of four chapters.
  • This is the fate of Acta in |Black Rock Shooter: Innocent Soul, who dies the same chapter she's introduced.
  • Chojiro Sasakibe from Bleach, despite being the vice-captain of Division 1, is usually relegated to a background character that does nearly nothing major. And then at the very beginning of Vandenreich invasion, he's actually Killed Off for Real. The Soul Society member may have known him for so much to respect him and mourn for him at his burial, but the audience... not so much.
  • Heine Westenfluss in Gundam Seed Destiny. The Typical Gundam SEED Destiny notices that his voice actor was probably very expensive.

Comic Books

  • Ferro Lad from the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the cartoon, he shows up at the start of the Sun Eater arc and then pulls a Heroic Sacrifice at its end; he was around for only slightly more time in the original comics.
  • John the Skrull in Captain Britain and MI: 13. Dies by the end of the first arc.
  • The original Thunderbird, John Proudstar, died just a few issues after he was introduced in the X-Men comic books.
  • Serpentina, one of the characters introduced in the first issue of X-Men 2099, was killed off in the third issue. She later came back as a zombie, though.
  • This seems to happen to new X-teams a lot; the original lineup of the young mutant team Generation X included a character named Blink, a nervous girl with teleportation powers and pink skin. She was killed less than a month after her first appearance.
    • Blink defied this trope, though, by proving extremely popular with fans despite her small number of appearances. So Marvel decided to bring her back...without resurrecting her. Instead, they made the Age of Apocalypse version of Blink the leader of a new team called the Exiles, which were then given their own series.


  • Ogilvy, Henderson, and Stent in The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. All three of them die together early in the book, have no real bearing on the plot, and are almost never mentioned again.
  • Gregorovitch the wandmaker, Bathilda Bagshot the historian, and Grindelwald the prisoner in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Granted, Bathilda was already dead by the time we met her, whereas Grindelwald and Gregorovitch are killed by Voldemort, as seen through Harry's consciousness.)
  • The narrator of the prologue chapter in every book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is doomed to die. Out of five books, only one of those narrators has actually survived beyond the prologue. And he sure as hell doesn't make it to the end of the book.
    • The same applies to the epilogue narrators in the two books which has epilogues. It is of course worth mentioning that none of these characters are narrator anywhere else in the books, and that all but two ( Varamyr and Kevan Lannister) are pretty insignificant characters that we mostly don't meet before they show up and narrate.
  • Redtail from Warrior Cats, who had a scene in the prologue of the first book and was killed offscreen a few chapters later.

Live-Action TV

  • The source of the page quote; even with a spot in the opening credits Warren Keffer was not slated to live past the second season of Babylon 5. Created because of Executive Meddling after the end of the first season, Straczynski never found much appeal in the idea of a Starfury ace pilot character and killed him off at the end of the second season. Reportedly, when JMS finally did get rid of the character the executives had forgotten that they had ever asked for him in the first place and did not care that their orders had been circumvented.
    • Two other examples from the Pilot movie of Babylon 5: Commmander Takashima, where this trope was played straight (she was replaced by Ivanova from the first season on and never heard from again) and Lyta Alexander, where the trope was subverted by replacing her with Talia Winters and then later re-replacing Talia with Lyta in the second season.[1]
  • William Boone on Earth: Final Conflict. He was actually supposed to be brought back; his absence (along with that of the plot) was one of the reasons many fans believe the show Jumped the Shark after the first season. He came back in the final season for a couple of episodes, only to be Back for the Dead after they Dropped a Bridge on Him.
  • Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Even though she was Killed Off for Real in a pointless way, the actress returned as her Half Romulan daughter.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation also had Ensign Sonya Gomez, who appeared in two consecutive episodes in the second season, featured so prominently that viewers could only assume she would be a recurring character, then never seen or mentioned again.
      • Similar high-profile guest stars that only appeared once or twice include Selar, Jellico, Shelby, and Robin Lefler...who would all feature prominently in the Star Trek: New Frontier novel series...and Jellico would eventually become fleet admiral in the Expanded Universe.
  • Doyle on Angel died of a heroic sacrifice midway through the first season.
    • Joss Whedon enjoys this trope. Whedon wanted to have a character be placed in the credits of the Buffy pilot, only die in that very episode. Budget constraints prevented him from doing so. This character would be Jesse, Willow and Xander's best friend since grade school. He was introduced in the first episode, in the next episode he is turned into a vampire and Xander is forced to kill him, all the while we never really got to know him or his past. And he is never mentioned again.
  • Kim Delaney's character from CSI: Miami.
  • Charles Kawalsky in Stargate SG-1. After being a main character in the movie that inspired the series, he was taken over by Puppeteer Parasite and died in the second episode.
    • Another example is Jonas Quinn. He was created out of whole cloth as a replacement for Daniel Jackson after Michael Shanks decided to leave, and stayed as a member of SG-1 throughout the sixth season. Then, after Shanks changed his mind, he was written out, came back in one episode of the seventh season, and after that, was never seen again.
  • Almost all of the Tail Section Survivors from Lost fall into this category - in particular, Libby had an often-hinted-at character that stood almost entirely unexplored when she was killed, seventeen episodes after her introduction. (her backstory continued to go unexplored until an episode late in the final season). Also, the infamous Nikki and Paulo.
    • In a repeat of the Tailies, out of the freighter crew only 2 characters (1 main and 1 recurring) remain alive just a season after their intro (keep in mind that both seasons were quite short compared to the first three.
  • Adam Mitchell, probably the shortest-serving Doctor Who companion ever. And don't ask what happened to him.
    • Another example is the Ninth Doctor, who was in only one season.
    • Depending on whether you view his Expanded Universe adventures as canon or not (or whether you've even encountered them), the Eighth Doctor can also be this, having only had one television adventure.
  • In the two-part Las Vegas episode "Three Weddings and a Funeral," the writers poke fun at the inscrutability of Montecito owner A.J. Cooper by doing a couple of small reveals (and several implied off-screen reveals) about his past. He is then apparently killed off-screen in a plane crash, but shows up in the final minutes of the second part, crashing his own funeral.
  • Quite a few of Sylar's victims on Heroes, whose fascinating powers are quickly swallowed up *cough* into his repertoire. Notable among these was Hiro's friend and love interest, Charlie, who appeared in only two episodes, yet still has a large fanbase carrying a torch for the good ship Charlie/Hiro (actual new characters notwithstanding.)
    • Don't forget Nathan's supersoldier Scott in Season 3, who had the shortest run of anyone on the show; He is introduced in the third season as the top Marine in the Pinehearst super soldier program. The episode climax is devoted to his injection with the ability-inducing formula, which grants him the power of super strength, and the episode ends with him grinning and saying "I feel good" in response to questions about how he feels. In the very next episode, he promptly gets a bridge dropped on him when minor villain Knox snaps his neck from behind.
  • A non-lethal example is on reality shows that feature all of the contestants in the opening credits, and then promptly kick off one contestant/team in the first episode.
  • In Veronica Mars, Ms. Dent disappeared without explanation eight episodes into the first season due to budget constraints (and the fact that her character didn't really have much to do). Her exit is explained as maternity leave in a throwaway line a few episodes later.
  • Renee Rienne is one of three characters introduced at the start of the fifth season of Alias, as a badass international terrorist and #8 on the CIA's most-wanted list. By the 13th episode Sydney is offering her a spot within the CIA. Naturally, she ends up with her throat cut by an even more badass international terrorist by the end of the episode
  • Dr. Amber Volakis, otherwise known as "Cutthroat Bitch," from House, is an example. First appeared in Season 4, Episode 2, died in Season 4, Episode 16 (the finale of that season). But a hallucination of her is vital to the plot of the following season's finale.
  • Chuck Cunningham from Happy Days, who strangely disappeared and was never seen again.
  • Are You Being Served had Mr. Goldberg, an old Army acquaintance of Captain Peacock, join the staff after the retirement of Mr. Granger and Mr. Tebbs. He only lasted one season before disappearing without explanation. He had two successors, Mr. Grossman and Mr. Kline, who only lasted three episodes each before they, two, vanished from the show.
  • Petersen from Red Dwarf who we never see again after the Series 2 episode Statis Leak. The novels imply that his return in Series 8 would have made for some hilarious moments, if only the actor had been available.
  • Dermot from Men Behaving Badly was only there in the first series out of six. He was replaced by Tony, who most fans agree is a much better character, but still...
  • In True Blood, Sookie's fairy godmother Claudine was hyped up to be a very mysterious, interesting character at the end of the third season, and also she appeared to be very important to the plot, especially in the season 4's first episode, where she lead Sookie into the fairy-realm and was revealed to be of ambiguous morality, participating in a human-harvesting plot and all.. And then, the next time she appears in season 4, it takes Eric about ten seconds to drain her dry and see her disintegrate into glittery dust. It gets even weirder when you realize that in the books the series is based on, she was a very central character and she didn't die till much later!
    • Partly justified as her brother Claude is supposedly going to fullfill her role in future seasons of the show.
  • The Vampire Diaries had several, including:
    • Lexi, who was adorable, sweet, wise and... promptly staked. The only upside to this was that at least she never fell victim to the dreaded Forgotten Fallen Friend disease.
    • Mason Lockwood, who was killed off quite quickly after his introduction with just a five or six-episode stretch as the Always a Bigger Fish. All we really learned was that he was very protective of his family, he was sleeping with Katherine, and he had a bitchy werewolf friend who came back to haunt us. The writers like this one, because we also have: Jules, who was pretty much just a slightly sympathetic jerk who tortured caroline, taught Tyler how to be a werewolf, was used by Klaus, and, oh, died. All after about four episodes.
    • Logan Fell. Not that we really wanted to get to know him....
    • Vicki Donovan, who is looking to be back for a while now that Jeremy and Matt are back from the dead, but it doesn't last.
    • Pearl, who seemed pretty cool, but ended up dead because of John. (Who, while showing up quite often, was also a bit of this trope.)
    • Andi, Damon's S3 two-ep girlfriend and Forgotten Fallen Friend after an episode or two.
    • Zach too, who is apparently Stefan and Damon's nephew.
  • Freya from Merlin who was introduced as a Love Interest to Merlin simply so that the writers could kill her off at the end of the episode, thereby making her a spirit that could retrieve Excalibur from the bottom of the lake.
  • Glas, the Oracular Urchin from Roar was Killed Off for Real midway through the first and only season (probably done in an attempt to avoid problems with the child actor growing up too fast).
  • Carter, a wildly popular One-Shot Character from Robin Hood was brought back in the season finale, seemingly just so they could Drop A Bridge On Him.
  • Matt from "Glee" was an example of this. He was the twelth member of New Directions, said only two lines, had no solo in any song, and was gone at the beginning of Season 2

Video Games

  • In Eternal Sonata, you only get Claves in your party for one short section of the game before she leaves, only to be mortally wounded soon afterwards. What's notable is that she then spends a good ten minutes lamenting her fate before she dies alone.
  • Ash Crimson in The King of Fighters.
  • In Metroid: Other M, Samus meets up with Adam, Anthony, and four other federation soldiers on the Bottle Ship. Of the four soldiers, three are dead within the first third of the game, the body of one of which is never found, and the other dies later on. None are characterized very much. K.G (he who was never found) in particular gets just two lines.
  • In Blaze Union, minor villains Norn and David both die in the first chapter—Norn at the beginning of the fourth fight, and David exactly one battle later. David had been hyped as an important character (though he still is, as far as providing a reason for another character's Roaring Rampage of Revenge goes). It's an apt tone-setter, really.
  • Mhairi of Dragon Age Awakening is introduced during the first area, given some hints of a personality, and even has an opportunity for you to gain or lose approval, before failing the Joining and dying.
    • Orsino is introduced in the end of the second act of Dragon Age II, has a few scenes in the third act before going One-Winged Angel and getting killed by Hawke in the finale.

Web Comics

  • Golden Jane in Everyday Heroes. Hardly surprising, since the story arc is about how her teammate gave up a life of crime.
  • Abraham from El Goonish Shive. Okay, he's not technically dead, but he had very little screen time during his arc, then voluntarily turned himself into stone after his arrest.
  • Homestuck: The Black Queen in both iterations of the kid's session. In the Beta session, Jack killed her and took her Ring of Power after getting sick of being forced into clown outfits. In the Alpha session, she's killed offscreen by Betty Crocker.
    • There's also both Kings who barely get any screentime in all sessions before they're quickly offed.
    • Also, Tavrisprite, who existed for three panels before killing itself out of self-hatred.

Web Original

  • Any number of fodder/fringe characters in Survival of the Fittest. In the abduction scene (the prologue of each game) teachers are almost invariably killed off, usually after being introduced only at the beginning of the scene. This also holds true for characters that die very early on. Britanny Ashworth of V2, as well as Tyson Neills and Anthony Burbank of V3 were all killed off in their first scene. (in the case of the latter pair, first post)

Western Animation

  • Morph in the 1992 X-Men animated series. (Revived later in the series as a villain, but you can't blame this trope for people not staying dead. Especially members of the X-Men.)
    • In the comics, John Proudstar was introduced as a member of the All-New All-Different X-Men...and promptly killed off in the next storyline. And he stayed that way.
  • Princess Yue of Avatar: The Last Airbender turned out to be the someone who dies tonight after only being around for three episodes.
    • Oddly though, we see her several more times as the moon spirit.
  • Tigerhawk, from Transformers: Beast Wars was introduced in one episode, was alive in the next, died in the one after that. It should be noted though that he died in the Series Finale.

Galvatron: "SILENCE! There's much to do. We will attack other planets, we will suck them dry, we will rebuild a planet a hundred times more powerful than Cybertron! And I will RULE THE GALAXY!!"
Zarak, oh so calmly: "Who shall rule?"
Galvatron: "MEE! It is MY DESTINYYYYY!!"
Zarak, still oh so calmly: "We shall see, Galvatron. We shall see..."

    • There's also the Autobot Punch, the spy, who becomes the Decepticon Counterpunch. Sixshot has six modes. Mindwipe is a giant bat who can Mind Control anyone, and talks all spookily about the powers of darkness. The rest came and went too fast to really leave a mark, seeing how this three-parter introduced more characters than the entirety of season three.
    • Transformers Prime gives us Cliffjumper, who died in the pilot episode ten minutes in, came back as a zombie in the 2nd episode and then died again just as fast.
    • From Transformers Animated is Blurr He had a cameo in "Velocity", was formally introduced in the last episode of Season 2 and suffered a horrifying on-screen death in the first episode of Season 3.
  • Buckley from King of the Hill. We hardly knew anything about him before he was killed off, he appeared in at most about 10 episodes, he was kind of lazy and spoke in a monotonic voice, he loved to crack sex jokes, rarely showed any emotion beyond sarcasm, and we never knew his last name or met his family.
  • Total Drama Island: Ezekiel appears in the equivalent of four episodes of season one, barely spoke and was voted off first. In season two he appears more frequently, but only in the Aftermath episodes, and he talks even less. He comes back for season three, but is voted off first again - he appears in a few later episodes, but is no longer fully human for some reason, and ceases talking entirely. He was a very flat character; his main traits were being stubborn, having almost no social skills, and accidentally offending everyone. And to make him qualify for this trope even further, events in the finale episode of World Tour quite strongly suggest that he has now been killed.
  • Several characters in Animals of Farthing Wood were only around for 1 season or a few episodes before they were killed off. A few such examples are the Pheasants, Dreamer, Bounder, the baby field mice, and the Newts.
  • The second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, dies via flashback in the Batman the Brave And The Bold episode "Fall of the Blue Beetle!" His Heroic Sacrifice was awesome, but it's sad that he had to die in his first animated appearance...
  • In the pilot episode of The Cleveland Show we are introduced to the family dog Meadowlark Lemon, in the next episode he is accidentally run over and killed by Cleveland.
  • Ellie in Up. Thanks for the adventure.
    • Tropes Are Not Bad: she was only alive for about ten minutes of the movie, but those ten minutes were brilliantly crafted to make sure that you would care when she died and understand Carl's motivation through the rest of the film.
  • Speedy from The Venture Brothers. Poor little guy, he was this close to getting his wings.
    • Let me tell you a story about a little henchman named Speedy...
  1. In both these cases, though, the replacements were necessary because the original performers had gotten other work and declined to return.