Created By: denigmatic on October 10, 2011 Last Edited By: denigmatic on October 12, 2011

Ran His Course

When there\'s nothing left that a character can do.

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This trope is named for when a character reaches a point where there is nothing left the series can do with them.

This could be for a couple of reasons. Maybe their plot lines and personal issues have all been resolved but they continue to hang around. Perhaps they’ve become a Flat Character from a lack of development.

Either way, what was once an interesting and compelling character becomes dull. Every nuance has been probed until there is nothing left to explore. The writers, having boxed themselves into a corner, find themselves with no choice but to have the character Put on the Bus or killed off.

This trope comes in three types:

Compare this trope to Static Character, where they have not yet run their course. See also Character Fatigue, where the person who Has Run His Course has not yet been Put on the Bus.

Examples

Live Action TV

- Detective Stabler of Law & Order: SVU is a Type A. He started off as a complex and compelling character. Twelve years of examining every facet of his anger issues later, there was nothing about him that has not been said before in multiple episodes, and Stabler was put on a bus.

- Cameron of House, M.D. Over three seasons her personality developed and her personal and romantic issues were resolved. By the third season finale her character had received closure. However, the writers kept Cameron for another two years as a cast member, where they struggled to write content for her, before finally sending her away.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • October 10, 2011
    denigmatic
    This is my first attempt at contributing to this site, so any suggestions would be very helpful. Feel free to let me know any changes I might need to make, or additions under examples, etc.
  • October 10, 2011
    PaulA
    ^ First suggestion: Find a name for the trope that will mean something even to people who don't watch SVU.
  • October 10, 2011
    TairaMai
    How about these?
    • Ran His Course
    • No More Character Development
  • October 10, 2011
    Heatherly
  • October 10, 2011
    surgoshan
    But it seems that there are two halves to this suggested trope. One is a YMMV supertrope to Flanderization, Flat Character, Character Development (maybe others) and some sort of character arc, and maybe Character related Arc Fatigue.

    The other is a subtrope of Put On The Bus, where a character is put on the bus because nothing more can be done with him rather than because of a contract dispute or something like that. This would be less YMMV (not entirely not YMMV), because there could be evidence based on Word Of God and such.

    I think there would need to be a definite split and different names. Character Fatigue for the former and Ran His Course for the latter. The two examples given by the sponsor are each one example of each trope.
  • October 10, 2011
    TairaMai
    Hate to get into the lumper vs. splitter wars, but I'd put'em together as:

  • October 11, 2011
    denigmatic
    Thanks for the suggestions so far! I've already changed the name to Ran His Course and will give the definition to this trope a firm rewrite when I get home from work this afternoon. I'm leaning toward Taira Mai's definitions since they are close to what I was thinking, but I do see suroshan's point as well and like the idea of Character Fatigue being either a subtrope of this or a related one.
  • October 11, 2011
    denigmatic
    Okay, I've done a major revamp of the trope definition and tried to combine Taira Mai and surgoshan's suggestions. How does it look thus far?
  • October 12, 2011
    TairaMai
    Looking good
  • October 12, 2011
    TairaMai
    • Babylon5 had Ace Pilot Warren Keffer, due to the studio wanting someone young and handsome, JMS was saddled with a character that didn't fit and that he didn't want. JMS used his death to jump start the arc as soon as he could.
  • October 12, 2011
    GreenMachine
    Maybe it should be noted that type B can be subverted with midquels and prequels. Like in the following suggestion:
    • Metroid series: Samus Aran? After the events of Metroid Fusion, there is literally nothing left for her to do without creating an Artifact Title. She's eliminated the Metroids, and the Space Pirates have been defeated. It's quite clear that they don't know quite what to do with the series beyond that, as subsequent games take place before the events of Fusion.
    • Every character from Garfield? No, that's more like beating a dead horse...too subjective...
    • Boston Rob from Survivor and The Amazing Race. Seriously, CBS, stop bringing him back and give others a chance...he's no longer fresh and exciting.
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