"Once you decide that you're going to have the death of Spock, then how does that affect the other people? Why is it there? I got a lot of stick from a lot of people from the very beginning about the idea of killing Spock. Somebody said, 'You can't kill him'. And I said, 'Sure you can; the only question is whether you do it well'."
Most of the time when you finally grasp who the main characters of the story are, you can expect that these characters will survive
through the end of the story (or at least until the last episode). Well, This Is Not That Trope
This is very common in Darker and Edgier
works. When the writers want to impress you with their ruthlessness, they may trumpet that Tonight Someone Dies
, then kill off a random second-stringer that nobody much cares about. They might even kill off a major character because his actor was leaving anyway, or because they needed a good cliffhanger to convince people to watch the next season. That is also not
this trope (although it's pretending to be).
Anyone Can Die is where no one
is exempt from being killed, including pets, children, the elderly, even the main characters (maybe even the hero
)! The Sacrificial Lamb
is often used to establish the writer's willingness to kill off important characters early on. To really be the Anyone Can Die trope, the work must include multiple deaths of named characters, happening at different points in the story. Bonus points if the death is unnecessary and devoid of Heroic Sacrifice
This trope is very helpful in keeping Genre Savvy
fans from being Spoiled by the Format
. In a kid's show, of course Alice and Bob
are going to survive the raging rapids. In a work of this type however, the danger actually becomes dangerous.
War shows like Mobile Suit Gundam
benefit from having a larger cast since there are so many people to kill off. The frequent deaths within a wide cast make the storyline unpredictable, forcing you to wonder who'll be left standing once the dust settles.
Still, even if all characters are allegedly up for the possibility of a dance with the reaper
, the general laws of storytelling (and, more importantly, how actors are contracted) tells us that you can expect the chances of main-character death to increase as you approach the climax of an arc, the final episodes of a season, the final chapters of a book, or the final instalment of a series, even if the work averts Death Is Dramatic
. A creator needs to be quite committed to the concept to kill off an important character in a completely plot-irrelevant way.
Note that the character needs to be Killed Off for Real
or Character Death
for the trope to have the desired effect; it does not work if the writers cheat and bring back the guy later
(see Not Quite Dead
, Disney Death
, and Climactic Battle Resurrection
). As such Super Hero
Comic Books as a medium have gained a reputation of "Anyone Can Die... until someone wants to use the character in a later story."
A good way to check if this trope applies is to see if who survives is an important plot point, rather than only how they survive.
Contrast with Tonight Someone Dies
, Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
and Contractual Immortality
. Compare Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics
. Compare Characters Dropping Like Flies
, which is just about lots of people dying, and can overlap with this trope.
See also Kill 'em All
, when everyone will
die. Opposite of Nobody Can Die
and Plot Armor
, where not even situations that should
kill people manage to. See also Dwindling Party
, where the deaths are evenly spaced rather than near the end. Easier to do in works with Loads and Loads of Characters
This is Truth in Television
because immortality does not exist. According to The Onion
, world death rate
has been holding steady at 100% every single year for the last five billion years.
is (usually) when the deaths are reserved for nameless extras. This trope tries to upgrade them to Mauve Shirt
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.