Created By: mzytryckApril 20, 2012
Nuked

Inappropriately Ignominious Death

A character (usually major) who one would expect to have a fairly badass death, instead gets an ignominious one

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The narrative equivalent of an Anticlimax Boss; this character is built up as a major character who deserves a fairly impressive death, in accordance with the Theory Of Narrative Causality. If they're evil, they might be the Big Bad or The Dragon, and if good they might simply be extremely Badass, or suitably crucial enough to the plot that their death would be a big deal.

Consequently, any viewers/readers with the merest ounce of Genre Savvyness would expect their death to come at the hands of their Archenemy, or after a major battle (either physically or intellectually) that gives this character a chance to show us exactly why they're such an important character. Instead, they get this. Maybe they're simply killed by the "wrong" character. Maybe their death is more of an accident than the result of their enemies' efforts. Maybe their death is particularly embarassing (and not in the satisfying Humiliation Conga sort of way that happens to many a Big Bad at the hands of The Hero). In any case, the manner of this character's death will leave the viewer/reader with a genuine feeling of Didnt See That Coming, even if it was expected that the character would die at some point.

If handled poorly, this might be somewhat unsatisfying, making the character's supposed intelligence/badassery come across as an Informed Ability, or seem like a major case of the Idiot Ball, or an overly contrived out of character moment that gets the individual killed for plot purposes. However, if handled well, it can emphasise that this particular world does not follow the Theory Of Narrative Causality (keeping even the most Genre Savvy viewers on their toes) or it can be appropriate in an entirely different way. In such a case, the death is likely to have an element of simple bad luck; a Fatal Flaw that can normally be controlled may become apparent at a particularly bad time, the character may let their guard down for perfectly understandable reasons, or a subplot may suddenly crash into the main plot in such a way that it's fatal for this main character.

WARNING! As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked.

Examples:
  • A Song Of Ice And Fire: Tywin Lannister is The Patriarch of an extremely dangerous family, one of the strongest candidates for Big Bad, a hardened battle commander, a shrewd and experienced Manipulative Bastard and wisely feared by many as The Chessmaster of the series. Consequently, one would expect his death to be the result of some sort of climactic showdown with Robb Stark (until his own death) or possibly Daenarys, who both lost parents to his family's ambition. Instead, he gets shot in the groin by Tyrion, the despised Unfavorite, while taking a dump, and with the same Unfavorite's former whore in his bed. Even though his abuse of Tyrion and his various instances of hypocrisy make his death extremely appropriate in many ways, the expected path of an epic story like this one would not have him suffer this.
    • Subversion: Robert Baratheon considers himself to be the victim of this, having gotten drunk and ripped open by a pig he was trying to hunt, he is well aware of what a ridiculous end for a formerly badass warrior king this has been. The subversion is that, unbeknownst to him it was an assassination designed to look like an accident.
  • YMMV heavily on this one, but Voldemort's death in Harry Potter might count as this, and might be the reason they changed it for the film. In the book, Harry and Voldemort's final duel is a Single Stroke Battle, that has nothing whatsoever to do with magical skill. This is totally appropriate in some ways; it has been stated many times that Harry is not even close to a match for Voldemort in a fair fight, it means that Voldemort's downfall is (again) caused by his own hand and it shows that, even from beyond the grave, Dumbledore is till Voldemort's most dangerous foe. However, it means that The Hero does not have a chance to be particularly Badass in a straight fight with the Big Bad (his great courage in facing him in the first place notwithstanding), and the fight itself consists more of a conversation which shows how great Dumbledore was, rather than how great Harry is. The film featured a proper duel between them, with Harry surviving it and putting up quite a good fight, despite the fact that Harry is merely a reasonably talented wizard, whereas Voldemort is supposedly the most powerful wizard in history.
  • Light Yagami in Death Note, especially in the manga. Though his downfall is appropriately caused by him being outgambitted by a team of enemies who collectively outwit him, is actually The Fool who shoots him, and Ryuk who kills him, pretty much on a whim, because he was no longer going to be any fun. Also, in the manga, he went out crying and begging, which is appropriate for showing that he's just an arrogant schoolboy rather than a god, but is still unexpected for someone who is considered by many to be the poster boy for Magnificent Bastards in anime and manga.
  • Averted, lampshaded and then played straight in Gangs Of New York; Bill the Butcher, who is a badass of the highest calibre, narrowly avoids getting assassinated by "a nobody", and Bill himself says "what an ignominious end that would have been", and the audience is likely to agree that it would not have seemed "right" for someone like him to die in that fashion, especially since The Hero has his own designs on Bill's life. Later, the climactic duel between Bill and his archenemy is abruptly cut short by the film's subplot suddenly hijacking the story, and he ends up getting mortally wounded by cannon shrapnel fired by some nameless, faceless soldier who wasn't even aiming at him specifically.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • April 20, 2012
    mzytryck
    Spy Kids 3 has a Big Lipped Alligator moment where this stereotypically heroic character, appears, looks like a badass, gives a Rousing Speech, and promptly gets himself killed.
  • April 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Compare Dropped A Bridge On Him.

    In the Angel Grand Finale "Not Fade Away" Lindsay, who considers himself Angel's Archenemy (even if they're on the same side at the moment) is shot & killed by Lorne. Lindsay's Last Words: "YOU kill me? A flunky?! I'm not just... Angel kills me! You don't - Angel..."
  • April 20, 2012
    Vidor
    Film

  • April 20, 2012
    Generality
    Regarding Harry Potter, it was pointed out in the books that death, which Voldemort sees to be inherently ignominious, is his greatest fear and the thing that has driven most of his ambitions since childhood. The finale is a scenario in which Harry, by a combination of luck, nerve, and forethought (albeit mostly Dumbledore's), has managed to put Voldy in a position of near helplessness, though of course he refuses to admit this. In the end, trapped by his own oversights, overcome by a young man with no spectacular magical talents, and reduced ultimately to just another body, casualty of battle, an ignominious death is entirely appropriate for Voldemort.
  • April 20, 2012
    HawkofBattle
    Tasha Yar suffered this in Star Trek:The Next Generation. It was even explicitely said to have been an empty death in a later episode.
  • April 20, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    How is this different from Dropped A Bridge On Him?
  • April 20, 2012
    mzytryck
    @Tuckerscreator Good question. It's difficult to put my finger on it, but I do feel that there is a difference between most of the Dropped A Bridge On Him examples and what I have in mind here. Maybe it's that Dropped A Bridge On Him is normally an example of things not going according to plan for the writers (actors unexpectedly leaving etc.) or simple Bad Writing, whereas I think this trope is deliberate, planned and is usually trying to make a point of some kind. Maybe I should alter the trope description and get rid of the "maybe they get killed by accident etc." bit and specifically contrast this with Dropped A Bridge On Him?
  • April 20, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Maybe, but a difference like that is too vague and hard to place, as well as guess since we don't always know what's going on behind the scenes. In fact, Dropped A Bridge On Him is often deliberate and is already used here many times with deliberate examples, such as Kat's death in Halo Reach. I also worry that this page could easily degenerate into "this guy was so awesome, why did they have to kill them so lamely" complaints.
  • April 20, 2012
    mzytryck
    @Tuckerscreator I see what you're saying, but I think the worry about the page degenerating is more of an issue for it after it's been put up, since we can't know how other tropers might react to it. As for the guesswork involved, there seem to be some tropes that do all right even with this uncertainty, so I don't think that automatically kills it.

    With regards to the massive overlap with Dropped A Bridge On Him, which I agree is a problem, would this maybe qualify it as a subtrope? Anyway, I think I'll leave this page a while to see what other thoughts/examples get added, but I'll be ready to hit the discard button if the general consensus turns out to be that everything this trope might cover is already under Dropped A Bridge On Him. Thanks for your input.
  • April 20, 2012
    Ryuuma
    I thought that Dropped A Bridge On Him is when someone dies suddenly and in a very "unsatisfying way". Anyway,,

    Music

    • In the Emerald Sword Saga, we have two examples, both with heroes and a villainous example: Prince Arwald, one of the strongest heroes of Algalord is tortured to death by demons and thrown in a pit of acid. The Warrior of Ice, The Hero of the saga is tortured as well and eventually fed to marsh snakes. Last but not least the Big Bad and Evil Overlord Akron, rather than being vanquished in a great battle or whatelse is pinned to a platform with his own blade and lowered in a marsh, where water snakes eat him alive.
  • April 25, 2012
    mzytryck
  • April 25, 2012
    Bisected8
    Might be the result of a Spanner In The Works or Unknown Character ruining the villain's plans.
  • April 28, 2012
    aurora369
    Bubba Castorsky from The Elusive Avengers. He's Crazy Awesome, and yet he dies when a nameless dying White Guard officer shoots him with a Last Breath Bullet (when everybody thinks everything is over).
  • April 28, 2012
    aurora369
    Bubba Castorsky in The Elusive Avengers is Crazy Awesome, yet he dies from a Last Breath Bullet of a nameless, fairly mookish White Guard officer when everybody thinks they are safe.
  • April 28, 2012
    Dacilriel
    In The Last Airbender Admiral Zhao was killed quickly and much too easily by unnamed extras. He did however get an appropriate demise in the original series.
  • April 28, 2012
    Koveras
    Compare/contrast Death Is Dramatic.
  • April 28, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Tropes Are Flexible, so I really don't think we need this when we already have Dropped A Bridge On Him. That can be invoked, just like any trope, and not always be just bad writing.

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