"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. That is not this trope. 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). This is where no one is exempt from being killed, including 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 Anyone Can Die, the work must include multiple deaths, 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 while character needs to be Killed Off for Real 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." Contrast with Tonight Someone Dies, Sorting Algorithm of Mortality and Contractual Immortality. Compare Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics. 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. The world death rate seems to be holding steady at 100%. Red Shirt is (usually) when the deaths are reserved for nameless extras. This trope tries to upgrade them to Mauve Shirt first.
— Nicholas Meyer, Director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.