Created By: myblackcat on August 14, 2010 Last Edited By: MegaSolipsist on November 21, 2017

Death Flag

Once triggered, it's only a matter of time before someone dies.

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Needs More Examples, Needs More Potential Conditions For Death

Previously named Instant Death Condition.

In most fiction works, there's a few situations that are widely accepted to be deadly, as long as there's a certain set of conditions that are met. In pure modus ponens fashion, if condition A happens and condition B happens, then condition Death is sure to occur, triggering an Event Flag. For example, say that there is a Mook in a warfare setting. This Mook fights the heroes in tight formation with other fellow Mooks, and wields a flamethrower. This flamethrower is fueled by a large gas canister strapped to his back. Guess what happens.

In many works, condition A is an emotional moment that foreshadows a character death in a subtle way, while condition B is the character walking into a dangerous situation. In some cases, a character death might be teased often before over and over by many omens and near-death experiences. Often, the death becomes inevitable to the emotional arc of a story well before the character walks into the final deadly situation.

Of course, there are many more possibilities, including, but not limited to:

In audiovisual works such as film, expect a dramatic camera shot of the character getting close to the primary cause of its death, to make sure the audience gets the "This dude is so dead" message. In case the character realises about his impending demise, take for granted that his astonishment will be clearly displayed.

Forming part of the main cast is a usual exemption of this trope, unless, of course, Anyone Can Die. (Or the character needs to be portrayed as having an stupid death.)

Think of it as an Event Flag that triggers a visit from the Reaper. Compare Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, which establishes death conditions based on the character itself, rather than the context. Contrast Instant-Win Condition, when the conditions trigger victory rather than death.

  • The aforementioned flamethrower condition occurs in Black Lagoon; Claude Weaver is a professional killer who specializes in flamethrowers, and is the only hitman who ends up dead in the Carnival of Killers episode.
  • Pretty much everyone who scuba swims in Jaws is asking for it.
  • In Mass Effect 2, there's a sequence where a Krogan clan leader has Shepard's squad surrounded by his men. As he brags about how the research they found is going to render them the most powerful clan on the galaxy, the camera slowly shifts towards the place where he is standing, which turns out to be a walkway on top of a fuel tube with a large "Danger - Explosives" sticker symbol on it. Most players would guess what the renegade prompt does without having triggered it.
  • In Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Mami confesses to Madoka how afraid she is in being a Puella Magi and how it made her feel so alone. Madoka then comforts Mami, saying she would stay by her side. Feeling relieved and empowered that she finally has someone she can trust after being alone for so long, she heads off to fight the witch. Sadly, due to Madoka setting of Mami's death flag, she dies soon after by having her head chewed off.
  • In the film version of The World According to Garp there is a subtle foreshadowing of Walt's death that becomes more obvious as the story progresses. The audience begins to associate him with death before long he dies. Walt is continually obsessed with and afraid of death. In the film version, there is a shot where it cuts from Walt sleeping to the Death costume. This scene makes it emotionally apparent that Walt will die. If that slips past the notice of the audience, his grandmother telling him he'll be old someday is a huge, red Death Flag.

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