Created By: Kellor on October 2, 2012 Last Edited By: paycheckgurl on May 29, 2014

Predecessors Died Horribly

The first thing a character learns on his new job is how everyone else who\'s done it has died, or worse.

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Trope
Do we have this? A character starts off in a new, dangerous job and asks about the last people who worked there. It turns out they died on the job, and it's implied that the new character probably will, too. Usually found in pilot episodes, and sometimes played for laughs.


Examples

Literature
  • Sailor Nothing: Every previous Sailor Salvation killed herself.
  • On Harry Potter we heard the class of deffence agains the dark arts has never had the same teacher for more than one year, and many students joking that class is cursed, this carries over the series itself, as all the teachers we see suffer various calamities:
    • 1st year, Quirinus Quirrell, died trying to kill harry
    • 2nd year, Gilderoy Lockhart lost his memory
    • 3rd year, Remus Lupin was a werewolf, also died a few years later on the series
    • 4th year, Alastor Moody was an impostor, the real moody was kept as a prisioner for almost a year, and the impostor received a Dementor Kiss killed later on the series
    • 5th year, Dolores Umbridge raped by centaurs, also imprisioned on Azkabanafter the events of the series
    • 6th year Severus Snape: Death by Avada Kedavra
    • 7th year, Amycus Carrow, as a death eater he probably ended up on Azkaban after the events of the book

Live-Action TV
  • On the pilot of Babylon 5, someone asks about the station's name. It turns out that the first three Babylon stations were destroyed, and the fourth disappeared.
  • On the pilot of Warehouse13, Pete finds a photo of other Warehouse agents and asks where they all are. Artie responds that three of them are dead, one is in an insane asylum, and one disappeared- but he'll find him someday. It becomes a running joke on the show that everyone who works in the Warehouse winds up evil, crazy, or dead, or all three.

Video Games
  • At the beginning of the video game The Force Unleashed, Juno Eclipse asks Starkiller how many pilots he's been through before she took on the job. She finds his answer of seven less than reassuring.

Western Animation
  • Futurama:
    • in the pilot Farnsworth is about to give Fry, Bender, and Leela the career chips from his previous crew. Bender asks what happened to the old crew. Farnsworth dodges the question, but pulls the chips out of an envelope marked "Contents of Space Wasp's Stomach".
    • In another episode Fry accidentally becomes emperor and learns that the average reign of the emperors on that planet is two weeks (due to assassination).
Community Feedback Replies: 61
  • October 2, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I'm pretty sure that Planet Express crews having a high attrition rate is a Running Gag. In one episode Farnworth's "most alive" old crewman was shown to be in a hoverchair, in another they came across the wreckage of the previous ship and the black box included a recording of the previous captain claiming they weren't going to end up like "the last crew", and finally it was discovered that the original crew got eaten by a Space Whale on their first mission (except for Zoidberg).
  • October 2, 2012
    krispykitten
    Spinal Tap? Where each drummer died a horrific death?
  • October 2, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Northern Exposure: Maggie boyfriends all tended to die during their relationship-isn't a "job" tho.
  • October 2, 2012
    KTera
    Sailor Nothing: Every previous Sailor Salvation killed herself.
  • October 2, 2012
    Surenity
    • At the beginning of the video game The Force Unleashed, Juno Eclipse asks Starkiller how many pilots he's been through before she took on the job. She finds his answer of seven less than reassuring.
  • October 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Also on Futurama, Fry accidentally becomes emperor and learns that the average reign of the emperors on that planet is two weeks (due to assassination).

    • After getting the job of Postmaster General in Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig learns hat his predecessors all died painfully, but it wasn't murder; "The police was all over it by the fourth one!". When asked why he would accept such a job, he replied, "It was a job for life." But, apparently, not for long.
  • October 3, 2012
    ShadowHog
    Pretty sure the Ghostbusters video game has this; the team refuse to even learn your name, remembering what'd happened to all the other people who'd been the fifth to join the team, and refuse to get so attached. Instead, they just call you "Rookie".
  • October 3, 2012
    owlwarrorforaslan5
    In the film version of The City of Ember (I never read the book), the boy who gets the job working on the pipes is told by his boss to put his name on his helmet so if something bad happens to him, they'll know who it is. His boss then tells him that the last guy to wear that helmet drowned.
  • October 3, 2012
    acrobox
    Naruto every previous squad led by Kakashi failed his bell test and was sent back to the academy to repeat a grade.
  • October 3, 2012
    tardigrade
    In Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula", Harker is assigned Renfield's job in Transylvania after the latter is driven insane.
  • October 3, 2012
    ATC
    In A Song Of Ice And Fire, Ned Stark learns that Jon Arryn, his predecessor as Hand of The King (second in command to the king, and acting king when the actual King is sick or away), was poisoned for discovering some terrible secret about the Queen's family.

    Tyrion Lannister points out that not only did Jon Arryn die, the last five Hands before Arryn all died horrible deaths, mostly by being burned alive.
  • October 3, 2012
    Damr1990
    • On Harry Potter we heard the class of deffence agains the dark arts has never had the same teacher for more than one year, and many students joking that class is cursed, this carries over the series itself, as all the teachers we see suffer various calamities:
      • 1st year, Quirinus Quirrell, died trying to kill harry
      • 2nd year, Gilderoy Lockhart lost his memory
      • 3rd year, Remus Lupin was a werewolf, also died a few years later on the series
      • 4th year, Alastor Moody was an impostor, the real moody was kept as a prisioner for almost a year, and the impostor received a Dementor Kiss killed later on the series
      • 5th year, Dolores Umbridge raped by centaurs, also imprisioned on Azkabanafter the events of the series
      • 6th year Severus Snape: Death by Avada Kedavra
      • 7th year, Amycus Carrow, as a death eater he probably ended up on Azkaban after the events of the book
  • October 9, 2012
    m8e
    Played for laughs in The Simspons episode See Homer Run. The previous safety salamander fell asleep in the suit and suffocated.
  • October 9, 2012
    Dacilriel
    ^^ That's not what happened to the 6th year teacher. Snape was killed being bitten by Nagini. Also, as regards Umbridge, she was kidnapped by centaurs, but it was never revealed what they did to her. Rape seems anatomically improbable.
  • October 9, 2012
    swmrgrl12
    Big one: Torchwood. Gwen explicitly gets told that there have been lots of Torchwood members before her, they just had a tendency to die very young
  • October 10, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    In the The Spook's Apprentice novel series, some former apprentices became Spooks or simply washed out- but some got killed, including the one immediately preceding Tom.

  • October 10, 2012
    Bisected8
    Also; In the 6th Harry Potter book, Dumbledore also implies that Voldemort put a curse (or did something) on the position when he didn't get it. He apparently tried to circumvent it by only hiring Moody for a year.
  • October 10, 2012
    jsgrandom
    In Hot Fuzz, Nicholas Angel is told by the chief constable that he has everything that his predecessor had except a great big bushy beard. Later, after escaping the NWA, he comes across a skeleton with a great big bushy beard.
  • May 20, 2014
    Dalillama
    • In Going Postal Moist learns slowly through many dark hints that the last several people to try running the post office had ended their tenures in disturbing ways ("His head was all over the wall!"). Of course, his other career option involves being hanged, so he sticks with it.
  • May 20, 2014
    DAN004
  • May 20, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In Amazing Fantasy, Carmilla Black gets forced to work for SHIELD and sent off on a mission. After she leaves, her handlers note that all the previous people they'd sent on the mission had been killed, and wonder if maybe she should have known that.
  • May 21, 2014
    KyuKyu
    Video Games
    • In Rogue Legacy, each time you die on your dungeon crawling adventure, rather than waking up in an inn as that same character, you start as their offspring. The game also records each death, so by the end, there is a massive list of all your brutally murdered predecessors.
  • May 21, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
  • May 21, 2014
    Synchronicity
    Needs a better name. The second-person pronoun evokes No New Stock Phrases. I know that wasn't the intention, but that might get this kicked back to YKTTW.

    The Predecessors Died Horribly could work.
  • May 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ this can be confused with "someone's great grandpa died horribly".
  • May 26, 2014
    eroock
    Can lead to a Mood Whiplash moment.

    Film:
    • In Galaxy Quest, after having a good time on the ship the new crew is eventually shown footage of how the previous captain was tortured by the Big Bad. They immediately request leaving.
  • May 26, 2014
    lakingsif
    Can we have the Empire pilots in Star Wars, Darth Vader known to only need new ones once he's killed off the last one for being incompetent?
  • May 26, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ I think that's more like You Are In Command Now.
  • May 26, 2014
    Jake.Jakers
    Video Games: Zombi U is full of this: The first thing you learn is the previous survivor suffered a fate worse than death because he didn't take the prepper pad.

    Then there's the mission in Buckingham Palace, where the Prepper said he lost a lot of good men in there.

    If you die at any point, someone will remind you of the last poor guy who tried to do what you're doing.
  • May 26, 2014
    DAN004
    So who wanna grab this?
  • May 27, 2014
    AP
    • Immortal Iron Fist had been operating as a superhero for years before he found out that most of the other guys who have had the Iron Fist power have died horribly.
  • May 27, 2014
    BrokenEye
    • When Moist arrives at Ankh-Morpork Post Office in Going Postal, Stanley clumsily lets slip how many of the previous postmasters died horribly under mysterious circumstances, and is repeatedly shushed by Mr. Groat. Moist becomes convinced that Groat is covering up the fact that they were murdered for failing to live up to the grand fauxstalgic ideals of the old Post Office, and that he's next. The truth is a bit.... stranger.
      Stanley: ...his head was all over the wall!
  • May 27, 2014
    Arivne
    Deleted the "Your" from the name so it wouldn't cause the trope to be automatically sent to the Cut List when launched due to violating No New Stock Phrases.
  • May 27, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Still needs a better one though.
  • May 27, 2014
    lakingsif
  • May 27, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ sounds better.
  • May 27, 2014
    nielas
    • In Redshirts, upon arriving on the Intrepid the new ensigns are quickly told of the many ways people on the ship have died.
    "Within five minutes of getting to my new post I heard three different stories of crew buying the farm on an away mission. Death by falling rock. Death by toxic atmosphere. Death by pulse gun vaporization."
    "Death by shuttle door malfunction."
    "Death by ice shark."
    Maia Duvall, Jimmy Hanson, and Andy Dahl comparing notes
  • May 27, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    Since it involves death, virtually everything is going to be a spoiler in some way, so to avoid it being Swiss Cheesed with White Space, lets call this Spoilered Rotten and run spoiler-tags off.
  • May 27, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^ good idea.
  • May 27, 2014
    NihonjinronGakusei
    • In Mass Effect 1, asari scientist Rana Thanoptis was hired by [[Saren Big Bad]] to do experiments on Reaper indoctrination so that he can learn how it works. Her first test subject? The previous scientist, whom she replaced. When you meet her, she tells you that she's been Trapped In Villainy ever since she made the mistake of taking the job and now only wants to escape so that the same thing doesn't happen to her. If you allow her to live, then in the third game, you find out it was too late.
  • May 27, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The Tom And Jerry cartoon "The Flying Sorceress" from 1956 has Tom Cat answer a newspaper ad for a companion cat, and find himself being interviewed by a classic witch. The witch is about to give Tom a ride on her broom when she tells Tom to look out a window at seven graves in the yard with an eighth freshly dug. "You'll be number eight if you don't hang on," the witch advises, then she and Tom leave the house by rocketing out the chimney!
  • May 27, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Every Slayer in history (before Faith) died fighting vampires or other demons. In the series finale every Potential on Earth becomes a Slayer without Faith dying, subverting the pattern.
  • May 27, 2014
    Snicka
    An addition to the Harry Potter example: the real Alastor Moody also dies a few years later, killed by a Death Eater's curse.
  • May 28, 2014
    lakingsif
    Give Harry Potter it's own section.
  • May 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I don't even think the OP even responds.
  • May 28, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^ I think it's Up For Grabs now, take it if you like?
  • May 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ perhaps. This thing ain't exactly my thing, but if nobody wanna step up, I will.

    I'll just wait for a few more days.
  • May 28, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^ that was gunna be my plan, too.
  • May 28, 2014
    DAN004
    Wait, we have High Turnover Rate.
  • May 28, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    ^ Would this be a subtrope then? Focusing on examples where the job will literally be the death of you instead of just bring so hard that everyone quits (but could keep their life?)
  • May 28, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Also examples:

    • It's a Running Gag in Great Lakes Avengers that anyone who takes up the Grasshopper mantle will die. Part of the gag is that each Grasshopper last an even shorter amount of time on panel than their predecessor until the point we meet one that's killed in three panels before we even find find out what the poor guy's name was.
  • May 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ Then this is merely The Same But More Specific.
  • May 29, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^ No, I see a difference. High Turnover Rate is when one position goes through a lot of workers very quickly because they quit, died, whatever, but with this the people could all have been doing the job for a very long time before it ended up killing them, like spies. Typically with spies.
  • May 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ "very quickly" doesn't make it distinct. They're the same: "a lot of ppl were doomed with that position".
  • May 29, 2014
    Snicka
    There are two mistakes in the Harry Potter examples. Dacilriel pointed them out before me, so I'll just copy his/her comment here:

    That's not what happened to the 6th year teacher. Snape was killed being bitten by Nagini. Also, as regards Umbridge, she was kidnapped by centaurs, but it was never revealed what they did to her. Rape seems anatomically improbable.
  • May 29, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^^ think about it: an example of High Turnover Rate could be a guy who comes to be a cashier and asks what happened to all the cashiers before him and then gets told that none of them stayed for more than a few days because they couldn't tolerate the job and/or realised it was a terrible job. That wouldn't come under this, now, would it? Nope.
  • May 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Of course not. Because this is The Same But More Specific: those previous cashiers died somehow. And that is still High Turnover Rate.
  • May 29, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Mmmmm, by the same token, High Turnover Rate has some shoehorned examples where assassination was the expected cause of death, even if the deaths were separated by years instead of weeks.

    I'm not certain there is a narrative distinction between the concepts.
  • May 29, 2014
    DAN004
    So I guess military jobs are excluded?
  • May 29, 2014
    Bisected8
    Futurama;

    • In the episode "The Sting", the crew attempt the mission which got their predecessors' chips in a space wasp's stomach (recovering honey from a Space Bee Hive). When they find the previous Captain's Apocalyptic Log, it reveals that he was goaded into it in the same way as Leela. Planet Express crews being expendable is a Running Gag.
  • May 29, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ How many times has that example been offered now?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=npvjt2wvgulwves213ucxjm0