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->"Stop it, stop it, turn them off! I can't control it! I can't be all of them, not all at once!"
-->-- '''Clayface''', ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''

Shapeshifters are showoffs. Even the insidious infiltrators like to use their abilities to inspire awe and fear. It's no surprise then that dying is no exception. When a shapeshifter bites the dust they have a veritable swan song of shape shifting as they slide through every single shape they've stolen throughout the episode or movie. Much like the life flashing before your eyes thing, may be considered a realistic [[DefenceMechanismSuperpower survival reflex]].

It'll also happen if their powers are short circuited, they're critically injured or KO'd. After their swan song they'll settle into their [[ShapeshifterDefaultForm original form and body]], often [[TheReveal to the surprise]] of everyone else, especially if said form isn't human. Someone will usually go "ThisWasHisTrueForm", and look suitably mournful if it was a friend they lost to TheVirus. If the purpose of the swan song is to inform the ''audience'' who the shapeshifter posed as (and that they were, in fact, a shapeshifter) this becomes a case of ViewersAreMorons.

In shows aimed towards kids or ones where especially GenreSavvy, expect the shapeshifter to possibly survive, thus rendering this trope a bit confusing as the viewer wonders why there's the equivalent of death convulsions going on for a character who will later turn out to be fine.

A special case of SuperPowerMeltdown. May happen to a ClippedWingAngel. See also ShapeshifterMashup. NoImmortalInertia is similar but for immortals.

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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime/Manga]]
* In the ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' anime, one-shot villain Copycat Ken's breakdown resembles this.
* In ''{{Kinnikuman}}'', this is how the Choujin King 100 Ton is defeated. 100 Ton uses cue cards in order to take different shapes, but when Kinnikuman throws ''all'' of the cards into the ring, 100 Ton starts to reflexively transform into every form at once, making his body unstable enough for his opponent, Terryman, to strike a crucial, finishing blow.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The comic book series ''Comicbook/{{Runaways}}'' does this with the Skrull Xavin a couple of times when we're getting to know him/her, although it's a case of short-circuiting (probably the Skrull equivalent of going into shock or throwing up from pain or whatnot), not actual death.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay'', when the T-1000 fell into the molten iron.
* ''Film/XMen'':
** In ''Film/XMen1'', when Mystique was stabbed, even though she survived.
*** Even worse in ''Film/X2XMenUnited'', when [[spoiler:Cerebro-2 almost kills her (and every other mutant on earth)]]. She survives again, of course.
** ''Film/XMenFirstClass'': [[spoiler:Invoked when Darwin's body goes through one state after another to adapt to Shaw's energy cherry-bomb about to go off inside him. His body ultimately gives out. [[NeverFoundTheBody Or did it...?]] The comic book version of Darwin survived having his entire body destroyed, and eventually generated a new one.]]
* Randall, TheDragon from ''WesternAnimation/MonstersInc.'', goes through several camouflage forms when Boo strangles him (but no, he doesn't die, because it's a Pixar film).
** This also happens to Mater in ''[[WesternAnimation/{{Cars}} Cars 2]]'' when he accidentally smashes the light used to disguise himself while infiltrating the Lemon meeting.
* An interesting non-magical example occurs in ''Film/TropicThunder'' with the dedicated method actor Kirk Lazarus briefly playing previous roles before reverting to his original identity.
* The Dummy Dopant from ''KamenRider x Kamen Rider W & Decade: Movie Wars 2010'' goes through these before entering its true form. [[spoiler:These include a priest, ''another'' Dopant, a pop idol singer, Shotaro's deceased mentor, and said mentor's alter-ego, Kamen Rider Skull.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Literature/{{Discworld}} example, the monster in ''Discworld/MovingPictures'' has just been a giant woman carrying a screaming ape to the top of the tallest building in the city ([[Film/KingKong what's wrong with this picture?]]). When it falls, it changes into several different things ''on the way down'', trying to find a form that can survive the fall. Unfortunately, as the narration notes, the only thing that could make that kind of fall is a corpse.
* Ols from Emily Rodda's ''Literature/DeltoraQuest'' series do this as they die.
* Creator/StephenKing's ''[[MonsterClown It]]'' culminates in [[spoiler:a psychic battle between Bill and Pennywise based on an ancient ritual of dominance.]] The monster cycles wildly through all his horrifying faces in a futile attempt to escape.
* DeanKoontz' ''Shadowfires'' features this--at the end, the regenerating, mutating villain shifts through a variety of forms as his metabolism burns out. His accelerated metabolism consumes him, leaving a pile of goo. (Koontz likes to do this to regenerating characters.)
* A story in ''TheMartianChronicles", by RayBradbury, may be the TropeMaker, if not the UrExample: The title character of "The Martian" appears to whoever sees him as a lost loved one. When he's surrounded by a crowd of people, who all need to see somebody different, the results are not pleasant.
* In ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'', Sauron is caught in a headlock by the hound Huan, and flips through several forms in an attempt to escape. He fails, and only escapes by shedding his body.
* The defensive version occurs in ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear: Ghost of the Jedi'', as a villainous Shi'ido is too injured to shapeshift properly. [[spoiler: He's not actually dead.]]
--> In a desperate attempt to save himself, the Shi'ido was shapeshifting into every form he could think of. But nothing could save him. With a wordless cry, Gog [[DisneyVillainDeath fell away from the ladder]] and Tash watched his gray form shrink into the void.
* Averted in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire'' with the Polyjuice Potion. If you die as someone else, you'll stay as their body.
* An especially horrifying example in {{HPLovecraft}}'s ''The Shunned House''. As the monster (a sort-of vampire that feeds off its victims' life energy rather than blood) dies, it displays the faces of its victims, ending with the narrator's beloved uncle, who had tried to help him destroy it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''TheTwilightZone'' episode "The Four Of Us Are Dying," a man who can alter his face to look like someone else's goes through a convulsive process of his face taking on the shape of each one he impersonated as he lies dying from a gunshot.
* A few variants in ''Series/{{Heroes}}'':
** When a real shapeshifter shows up, [[spoiler:it still doesn't happen, handily enough for Sylar, whose form he'd taken before dying.]]
** In a season finale, [[spoiler:Peter uses his own copied shapeshifting power to overload Sylar's, causing him to shift through all the forms he had taken. This distracts Sylar long enough for Peter to jam an elephant tranquilizer syringe into his throat.]] Also a CrowningMomentOfAwesome.
* At the end of ''{{Roswell}}'s'' first season, the protagonists used alien technology to heal a shape-shifting associate, who promptly exhibited this trope.
* Inverted in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer:'' the First Evil's (re-)introduction as as a BigBad ''starts'' with a shapeshifting rundown of past archvillains. In the finale, [[spoiler:the First slinks away unseen when its plan starts to go bad, and is never heard from again.]]
* In the ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'' episode ''The Undead'', the evil shapeshifting witch comes to the sattelite to threaten Mike and the bots. Unfortunately, she seems to be suffering from some severe indigestion, resulting in this trope. She gets stuck in the form of a bottle of bleach.
* In ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' Odo kills another shape shifter, who reverts back to his gelatinous being before dying.
** Averted In-universe. In the episode "Shadowplay" a girl tells Odo, a shape-shifter himself, a fairy tale she learned where some villagers met a shape-shifter, who was happy to show off. Each time, he was asked to change shape, he would gladly do so. They finally asked if he could change into a loaf of bread, which he did and the villagers ate him.
* Averted in ''Series/{{Supernatural}}''. If you kill a doppelganger, they will stay in their last form. This becomes a plot point several times.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Mythology and Folklore]]
* Similarly, the [[Literature/ChildBallads Scottish ballad]] ''Literature/TamLin'', where Janet, pregnant with Tam Lin's child, must drag him from the procession of fairies taking him to his doom, and hold on to him as he shapeshifts, until he turned into a burning coal, at which point he could be dropped into a well to return him to human. [[ItMakesSenseInContext It makes more sense in poetry]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* A recurring villain in a series of published {{Eberron}} adventures has something akin to this happening to him near the end of the last module; ''Grasp of the Emerald Claw''. [[spoiler:Garrow, a changeling cleric who has been dogging the party to retrieve the Macguffin starts to lose control to said Macguffin (which is now sentient), causing him to shift through the various guises he's used to fool the party: a vampire, a half-elf airship captain, a dumpy-looking woman and a few others that he would've used before ever learning of the party. This happens at the start of his last meeting with the party (at least in published material).]]
* In the {{Ravenloft}} setting, the doppelganger darklord Sodo is cursed to be in a permanent state of this trope.
* Polymorphine, a drug in the [[{{Warhammer40000}} Warhammer 40,000]] universe, induces this by default. The Callidus assassins train themselves over a lifetime to use it for proper shapeshifting.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In the original ''VideoGame/MortalKombat'', defeating the final boss Shang Tsung -- who has the ability to [[DittoFighter become any other character and use his or her moves]] -- results in his effectively shedding all the characters' forms before he dies. It's less a song than a curtain call though, as each character separates from his body (with name announced) and combusts. This also happens to Shao Kahn in ''[=MK3=]'' and its updates, except Kahn isn't a shapeshifter like Tsung.
** He plays it straight in the opening to Shaolin Monks though. Every time Liu Kang hits him near the end of the fight, he transforms into another character, looking disoriented the whole time, as though it's a survival reflex as described on the top of the page.
* Happens to a shapeshifting hench in the ''VideoGame/TexMurphy'' game ''Under A Killing Moon'', except the guy starts out in his own form and ends up as a gooey blob.
* In ''VideoGame/MetroidFusion'', the [[EvilTwin SA-X]] starts to do this... but doesn't quite finish, becoming a OneWingedAngel instead.
** In ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime 3'', Gandrayda shifts through the forms of various other bosses as well as copying Samus herself as you fight her, and her ShapeshifterSwanSong rapidly cycles through the various other boss forms before lingering on Samus's own form as it is (Suit upgrades and all) for a good long moment. This leads to a particularly striking moment with the real Samus, by this point badly corrupted by glowy blue Phazon energy, standing victorious over the image of her own uncorrupted self in the midst of her death throes. Samus is pretty much affected by this nightmarish death, she looks away and does nothing to stop [[spoiler:Dark Samus from absorbing Gandrayda]]
* When the shapeshifting boss [[LivingShadow Shadow]] is defeated in ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaHarmonyOfDissonance'', it shifts rapidly through its three forms before burning away.
* Defeating Wilfre in ''VideoGame/DrawnToLife: The Next Chapter'' will cause this to happen to him.
* A more mundane version in ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies'': [[spoiler:[[BigBad the phantom]], during his VillainousBreakdown, starts tearing off every single mask he has in an effort to find what his true face is, as he had spent so long impersonating others that he [[ShapeshifterIdentityCrisis forgot his own identity]]. Just as he finally makes it to the last one, he's shot by a sniper, and collapses out of sight before anyone can see what he looks like]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The introductory episode for Clayface in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'', "Feat of Clay", had [[FanNickname Bats]] trick him into entering a room filled with [=TVs=] showing all the roles he'd played over the years (he'd been an actor). He started convulsing and turning into them at random (see the quote above); as he smashed the [=TVs=], he was electrocuted. However, at the end [[spoiler:it turns out the whole thing was an act, or at least the dying part, and Clayface survived, making this a subversion]].
* Happened to Chameleon in the ''SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries''. In this case, it was his belt malfunctioning after Spider-Man attacked him, as he needed the technology to shapeshift.
* Happened in ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'' to a shapeshifter who used his powers to juggle several different women in simultaneous relationships. Being confronted by all of them at once leads to him rapidly changing his appearance to appeal to each one (and to them beating the crap out of him so bad he starts to mix up aspects of the different forms before giving up and showing his true form).
* Happens to Bowser in ''WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfSuperMarioBros3'', after Iggy and Lemmy/Hip and Hop build him an amulet that endows real-world mushrooms, flowers, etc. with the powers of those from the game. He goes a little crazy, mixing and matching Powerups (a fiery orange Bowser in a Kuribo shoe...and raccoon tail), and when he's defeated, the amulet malfunctions, causing him to blink through several different forms (raccoon, frog suit, orange (fire powerups on the NES made you a lot more orange!)) and odd mixings before finally rocketing him into a manhole.
* ''WesternAnimation/XMenEvolution'': Sort of happens to Rogue near the end of "Self-Possessed" during her superpower meltdown, but she does survive.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck'', the villain, who was a Chameleon, went through one of these when she was exposed to warm temperatures and her metabolism speed up, resulting in her turning into an [[FurryConfusion ''actually'' chameleon]]
* Minor superhero Chameleon of ''WesternAnimation/TheTick'' suffers a mild form of this when he accidentally tries to conceal himself on some plaid curtains.
* Happens to ''WesternAnimation/StaticShock'' villain Omnifarious when he uses the gas that gave various people superpowers (including Virgil) to try to destroy his father's company HQ. The dose turned out to be too heavy and caused him to mutate like mad and turn into stone.
* The ''Terminator 2'' example above was spoofed in a Halloween Special of TheSimpsons, where Groundskeeper Willie as [[Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet Freddy Krueger]] turned into many things at once, after having been trapped in quicksand and desperately trying to get out.
* Minor example: In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Reboot}}'' episode ''Painted Windows'', Bob uses ''Paint'' of all things to remove Hexadecimal's mask. He then gets a HannibalLecture from all of Hexadecimal's faces as she starts to overload.
* In ''MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'''s [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E26TwilightskingdomPart2 Season 4 finale]], Tirek goes through this as he is depowered by the Mane Six's [[SuperMode Rainbow Power]] [[WaveMotionGun super laser]].
[[/folder]]

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