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Back for the Dead

A sort of middle-ground between being Put on a Bus and Dropped a Bridge on Him. A regular character leaves the show, usually for Creative Differences, then later comes back for the sole purpose of dying.

Contrast with Bus Crash, in which the actor does not return, and we are told of their off-screen death some seasons later, complete with a failure of their body to appear, at least in an intact state.

A number of reasons may exist for this: perhaps the actor has agreed to return, but insists on being killed to give their character closure. Or perhaps the writers have just grown a pair and decided to do something nasty to the character that they'd previously been afraid to do something irrevocable to. Or it could just be a way to kill someone off for real with the impact of killing a major character without the plot inconveniences this usually causes. Occasionally it's because they need a character they previously Killed Off for Real briefly, so they pull a Not Quite Dead or Back from the Dead followed by another death. And sometimes it just seems like they do it for no discernible reason other than to change how a character leaves the show.

Compare Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.

This list of examples has been alphabetized. Please add your example in the proper place. Thanks!

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In D.Gray-Man, General Cross is brought back — only to end up dead or missing forever.
  • Averted in Digimon Savers. Daimon Suguru is your typical shounen Disappeared Dad, whose fate is left uncertain for most of the series. However, it's revealed that Suguru's body is possessed by Yggdrasil, and his consciousness inhabits the group's mentor, BanchouLeomon. In the end, it seems Suguru is destroyed body and soul, but after being defeated in his true form, Yggdrasil resurrects Suguru and returns him to his family.
  • Played straight, however, with Leomon when he returns in the latter half of Digimon Adventure and Chuumon (already devoid of his partner Sukamon) and Piximon at the start of the Dark Masters subplot.
  • Frieza was apparently killed by Goku at the end of the infamous Namek fight in Dragon Ball Z. He returned to get his revenge a few episodes later. Then Trunks came in and proceeded to slice him up into little bits...
    • The King Piccolo arc does this for several of the characters that appeared way back in the first Tournament arc, most notably Giran who is actually murdered on panel/screen by Tambourine. Unlike most uses of this trope though, they all get revived thanks to the show's MacGuffin.
  • Happens to Nappa in Dragon Ball GT. He's brought back to life, only to encounter Vegeta who is waiting for him. Vegeta kills Nappa again.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure third part "Stardust Crusaders", Abdul is seemingly killed off by the Hol Horse/J.Geil Combo. He was so popular that Araki eventually brought him back... only to swiftly die again at the hands of Vanilla Ice. This happens as well in the older Ovas, except that he gets killed by Dio himself.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro's thought-to-dead fiancee Yuria is revealed to be the Last General of Nanto, which was followed by a rather extensive retcon of her previous death scene which explained how she survived and why Shin lied to Ken about her death. However, we later find out that Yuria is suffering from a terminal illness and even though Kenshiro is reunited with her, we later find out in the next story arc that Yuria has passed away in the years afterward.
  • After running out of regeneration power, Gluttony from Fullmetal Alchemist is absorbed into Father during Volume 14. In Volume 21, he returns... only to be killed off by Pride by the end of the Volume.
    • Bido is the only of Greed's chimera allies to survive Bradley's attack on their base. He's not seen again until much later when he runs into the new Greed, who killed him, causing him to regain the previous Greed's memories.
    • Yoki in the 2003 anime version, who shows back up after his first appearance just long enough to be skewered through the head by Lust and spark a riot.
  • Gauron in Full Metal Panic!! The Second Raid. Kinda a weird example, since Gauron had been "assumed dead" at least 3-or-4 times in the past (and twice in the first season) before the second season. Every time he and Main Character Sōsuke cross paths, something happens that should have killed him (for example, the first time Sōsuke shot him in the head), only for him to reappear later with some excuse as to how he survived (He had a metal plate in his skull from an earlier wound). However, Sōsuke kills him for good in the second season.
  • Yurin L'Ciel in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE appeared a little early on. She then comes back for a while, and quickly gets killed off.
  • Ryoufu in the Ikki Tousen anime. She dies in the first series, is revived, gets Laser-Guided Amnesia, ends up Brainwashed and Crazy, and dies again.
  • In Super Dimension Century Orguss Sley, the protagonist Kei's rival in love, is presumably lost in battle about mid way through the series, with it left unknown whether he survived or died. Some time later, Sley reunites with the crew and, within that same episode, performs a Heroic Sacrifice to allow the heroes to get away from the enemy.
  • In Transformers Headmasters, Ultra Magnus appears in the first few episodes, then drops off the radar as the action moves away from Earth. When he reappears, it's only to be killed by Sixshot in the appropriately titled episode "Ultra Magnus Dies!!".
  • Neji Hyuga in Naruto. After being one of the most important genin before the time skip, he is rarely seen afterwards and has practically no effect on the plot after his fight during the Sasuke Rescue Arc. He doesn't get any real screen time until the current arc, where he gets killed off over the course of two chapters.
  • In Hunterx Hunter, Pokkle and Ponzu from the first Hunter Exam, who didn't appear for over 150 chapters, and them finally show up only to be brutally murdered by Chimera Ants in the beginning of their arc. Ironically, Pokkle was one of the seven people who were awarded the hunter license in his year, but that didn't prevent him from dieing before doing anything else relevant in the story.

    Audio Play 
  • In We're Alive Angel was last seen stranded on the roof of the collapsing Tower and was presumed dead at the end of Season 2. In season 3 he is revealed to be in the hands of the Mallers and in horrible shape. After some attempts at interrogation by Scratch, she promptly shoots him in the head.
  • Occurs in Welcome to Night Vale. Intern Maureen is believed dead at the end of "Orange Grove", but later shows up anyway in "The Retirement of Pamella Winchell", where she is swept away by a gust of wind.
    Cecil: To the family and friends of Intern Maureen... [Exasperated] ...Et cetera.

    Comics 
  • Another Batman murder mystery storyline example was James Robinson's "Face to Face" storyline, in which various supervillains who had fallen into obscurity were brought back to be murdered by a new serial killer (the Tally Man under Great White's orders). The victims, some of whom had appeared more recently than others, were The Ventriloquist I, Magpie, KGBeast and Orca.
  • In late 2010, DC came out with a Batman Beyond comic mini-series (canon to the DCAU and Darker and Edgier). A villain escapes from Cadmus, supposedly Hush. He kills some former Batman villains (Bruce-era) in the style of other villains. At one point, we cut to Armory, one of Terry's villains, who only was a villain once. This is the first time since "Armory" we've seen him. Him, his wife, and his high-school age step-son (who is a friend of Terry and Max) are promptly killed by Hush.
  • One early example would be Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman; she had been written out after Batman was revamped in 1964. She briefly came out of retirement to guest star in several several issues in the late '70s (over a decade later!) only to be killed off for dramatic effect by the League of Assassins after several appearances.
  • In 2010 Marvel released The Death of Dracula. This was Dracula's first appearance after he died in Captain Britain. And yes, being killed in the Marvel Universe is equivalent to being Put on a Bus.
  • One of Spider-Man's villains, the original Hobgoblin was absent from the main Spidey titles for more than a decade. The writers eventually bowed to fan demand and brought him back... just in time for him to be killed and his murderer to take his stuff and become the new Hobgoblin. Later subverted when it was revealed that it was Hobgoblin's brother who died, not the real deal.
  • During Judd Winick's run on The Outsiders, the old Shazam foe Sabbac (who hadn't been seen in years) showed up just long enough for a Russian gangster to kill him and steal his powers.
  • During the infamous Iron Man storyline The Crossing, D-list former Avengers Yellowjacket and Gilgamesh returned to the team just so that they could be killed off. This then started a subplot about Hawkeye being framed for their murders.
  • Towards the end of the Underbase Saga in Marvel's Transformers comic, a whole bunch of characters who haven't been seen in years of real time come back in order to be killed by Starscream.
  • This is ridiculously common during big Crisis Crossover events in superhero comics. Almost every single one features a scene where some forgotten character who hasn't shown up in a comic since forever gets killed just to establish how dangerous the villains are. The other heroes will of course react as if the deceased was a major player who had been around all along. The most infamous example probably comes from Marvel's Civil War crossover. Early advertising for the storyline implied that many beloved heroes would die. In reality, only one established hero died: Bill Foster - alias Black Goliath, a character who hadn't done anything of note since the 1970's. C-List Fodder is a Sub-Trope dedicated to the Crisis Crossover variation. Further examples of this type go there.
  • Jeph Loeb also seems fond of this trope, as he's dug through various characters to use as murderer fodder in his murder mystery storylines. The Long Halloween and its follow-up Dark Victory were originally made to show what happened to the mobster characters from The Long Halloween. The Long Halloween brings all of the mobsters shown or mentioned as well as two characters from Two-Face's origin story to be killed off by the Holiday killer and/or Two-Face himself (although to be fair some of them, like Falcone himself, get actual storylines before dying). Dark Victory gives the same treatment to pretty much every cop character that had been named in Year One as well as a modern counterpart of Chief O'Hara. His later storyline Hush is lighter in comparison murder-wise, although long absent Batman ally Harold (the deaf-mute who acts as a mechanic for the Bat-Mobile) was brought back to serve as one of Hush's victims.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Clear Rivers from the original Final Destination was intended to survive to the third installment, but due to legal issues she appeared in the second movie and was killed off.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Sephiroth, the Big Bad of the original game doesn't "physically" appear in the movie until the end, where he then delivers an ass-whipping to Cloud before being destroyed... and by destroyed, we mean slashed a grand total of 12 times with a more powerful version of the sword shown on the picture for BFS. Sephiroth does imply, however, that he cannot truly die, and can continue to return.
  • The opening of For Your Eyes Only features Bond visiting his wife's grave and then being captured by a bald man in a wheelchair who has a white cat. Bond eventually gains control of the helicopter, picks up the wheelchair man and throws him down an industrial smokestack.
  • Of the five characters who came back for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Duke dies. Part of the reason for the delay (advertised for a 2012 release, came out summer 2013) was that test audiences weren't happy that there wasn't much development of the relationship between Duke & Roadblock before Duke's death early in the film.
  • Dobby in the Harry Potter films. As a result of his role in the fourth, fifth, and sixth books being cut, he appears in the second film and then doesn't show up again until Deathly Hallows Part 1 so that he can die on schedule.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Lt. Gillette, who unlike Lt. Groves did not appear in either of the first two sequels (despite having had a somewhat bigger role than Groves in Curse of the Black Pearl) and had been assumed dead by many of the fans, returned only to be killed off rather unceremoniously in the final battle.
  • Planet of the Apes: Charlton Heston agreed to be in the sequel only on the condition that his character dies at the beginning. He actually dies at the end.
  • Captain Kirk's appearance in Star Trek: Generations actually named another trope, but it's an example of this one too. You can almost hear the plotlines straining as he is dragged from retirement and maneuvered awkwardly towards a heroic on-screen death. Ironically, the first "death" was only shown in the beginning of that film. If they hadn't "killed" him to begin with, he wouldn't have been anywhere near to be killed again later.
  • Transformers
    • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Scorponok, who disappeared early in the first film after being badly damaged, pulls a Dynamic Entry in the climactic desert battle and guts Jetfire, only to have Jetfire throw him to the ground and pound him into scrap with one blow.
    • The third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Barricade make a return appearance after disappearing inexplicably during the end of the first (although with tie-in comics explaining what happened to him). He appears rounding up the Autobots as prisoners, before executing Wheeljack/Que, and then angrily berating a few Decepticon troops after Bumblebee seizes an opportunity for freedom and kills Soundwave. His eyes are then shot out by human snipers before his legs are destroyed with boomsticks and is then finished off whilst crippled.
  • Pegasus and Yugi's Grandpa in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tenth Anniversary Movie. Good thing that this is a story about time travel.
  • Arnim Zola in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After setting off the bad-guy plot and leading to the current crisis, and earning a whole scene of appearance, he calls in a missile attack on the location of his mainframe in the hope of killing Steve and Natasha.

    Literature 
  • William Smithback, Jr., suffers this in the Agent Pendergast series of novels. He is a recurring character in the books, and after the events of Book of the Dead he does not appear at all in the next novel, The Wheel of Darkness. He then returns in the novel after that, Cemetery Dance, only to be killed in its very first chapter.
    • Additionally, it's subverted for Margo Green. She was actually the main character in the very first two books, The Relic and Reliquary, and did not appear again until the sixth novel, Dance of Death, which had her attacked and apparently killed by Diogenes Pendergast barely halfway through the novel. The very end of the book reveals that Pendergast saved her life.
  • This is ludicrously common in Doctor Who spinoff novels, where the Doctor's previous companions meet horrible and utterly gratuitous ends. The most egregious example is in the Virgin novel Eternity Weeps, where a random scientist with no plot importance is given a nametag that reads Liz Shaw just in time to be killed off by the Monster of the Week.
    • One Doctor Who audio drama reveals that Adric, of all people, survived and created a... mental universe full of math scorpions which is even weirder than it sounds, and then dies for real at the end of the story to give the Doctor his missing TARDIS back.
  • In the non-canon Blake's 7 continuation novel "Afterlife," Tarrant is mauled to death by a snow leopard a few pages after he appears, giving him just time enough to have no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, Agun Soric is taken by the Black Ships as an untrained psyker. Four books later, in Only in Death, he returns as a sanctioned psyker. The man who turned him over to the inquisition in the first place is so horrified by what has happened to him in the intervening years that he administers a Mercy Kill.
    • This trope basically drives the plot of Traitor General, with the eponymous traitor being eventually revealed a mind-locked General Sturm, whom Gaunt had arrested (back in Necropolis, 5 books ago) for desertion, cowardice in the face of the enemy, and attempted murder. The Ghosts have to try and execute/assassinate Sturm before he gets his memory back and starts spilling his secrets to the Archenemy.
  • L.A. Confidential opens with a surviving character from one of the previous books facing a Bolivian Army Ending, drawn through to its logical conclusion. Notable for giving Crowning Moment Of Awesome to both the character and the Big Bad.
  • Hollyleaf in Warrior Cats. After, being presumed dead for four books, she returns to ThunderClan in The Forgotten Warrior, only to be killed by Hawkfrost in the next book, The Last Hope.

    Live Action TV 
  • The writing staff of Amar En Tiempos Revueltos seems to have as a personal goal doing this to whoever has ever been Put on a Bus.
  • After a rather unpopular character arc which had eventually seen her Put on a Bus via a coma the previous season, Cordelia returned to Angel for a one-episode guest appearance seen by some fans as an Author's Saving Throw. The character's return to previous form and upbeat exit was undercut by a coda at the end of the episode which reveals that she has been dead all along. This did serve to give her a good send-off, and allow her to work as a mentor one last time.
  • Inverted on Babylon 5: Lyta Alexander, who, along with Dr. Kyle and Lt. Commander Takashima, had departed the station in the fallout of the attempted assassination of Ambassador Kosh, came back abruptly in the second season as a member of the Mars Resistance, warning the crew that one of them was a Manchurian Agent. The agent turns out to be Talia Winters, Lyta's Suspiciously Similar Substitute, and the Trigger Phrase that reveals her original personality also destroys the cover personality, effectively killing off Talia. Not long after that, Lyta joined the main cast for the rest of the show.
  • Blake's 7
    • Blake returned in the last episode and was killed off there by Avon, because Blake was too stupid to explain his real motives, leading Avon to think Blake was a traitor. Definitely a Fanon Discontinuity moment for diehard fans. Blake's death was apparently a condition for Gareth Thomas (Blake) to appear in the episode, his death included blood to make sure that he was really dead. Seeing as it ended up being the final episode, it didn't really matter anyway, especially as just about everyone else ended up dead by the end of the episode anyway.
    • The deaths of the other characters was left deliberately ambiguous so that they could return if the series was extended.
  • Boy Meets World had a Yank the Dog's Chain example of this. Shawn's father reappears for the first time in about a year and a half and promises that he will stay around this time. He promptly dies from a heart attack.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Joyce Summers.
      Kristine Sutherland: I was not around much in the fourth season, which was my choice, and when I let them know that Joss Whedon said, "Please, you must be around for the fifth season because I need to kill you".
    • The canon Season 8 comics do this with Ethan Rayne. After last being seen in season 4, he appears in the first arc of Season 8 only to be shot through the head after two issues.
  • Chuck
  • On Community this is played with. Chevy Chase (Pierce) left the show due to serious Creative Differences with the showrunner Dan Harmon. As a result, his character was revealed in season 5 to have died. His last appearance on the show is as a hologram discussing the new building named after him.
  • Aiden was fired from CSI: NY for tampering with evidence; she returned some time later as a charred corpse and in Necro Cam flashbacks.
  • In the thirteenth season of Degrassi Adam comes back after being missing for an entire block of episodes only to die seven episodes later in surgery after getting into a car accident caused by texting and driving. The official reasoning being that the actress' contract was up.
  • Dexter has Frank Lundy, a lead character of season 2 who was Put on a Bus at the end of said season. He returns in season 4 to hunt down Trinity, only for him to be shot to death by Trinity's estranged daughter.
  • Doctor Who has two examples in the new series: Harriet Jones, and Lucy Saxon, who dies in what's basically her only scene in "The End of Time". The old series nearly had a example of this, as the Brigadier-a regular during the '60s and '70s who was last seen as a guest star in 1983-was almost killed off in 1989's Battlefield.
    • "The End of Time" also did this to both Rassilon and the Master (and the Master's previous death at the end of a three-episode arc could count as well).
    • The made-for-TV movie did this to the Seventh Doctor, who appeared for the sole purpose of regenerating into the Eighth Doctor.
    • Similarly, the mini-episode "The Night of the Doctor" features the return of the Eighth Doctor. He suffers fatal injuries in a spaceship crash trying to save a woman who refused his help. The ones who pull him from the wreckage bring him back long enough to be able to choose his next regeneration and enable him to end the Time War, which gives us the "War Doctor."
  • Earth: Final Conflict has William Boone, the protagonist for the first season, being killed off in the season finale by the Big Bad Zo'or (to spite his rival/parent Da'an). Zo'or himself is killed at the end of the fourth season by overdosing on energy. Most of the way through season 5, the show's Dragon Ronald Sandoval revives Boone (revealing he was Only Mostly Dead) in order to bait the new protagonist Renee Palmer and also revives Zo'or (same justification) in order to kill Boone and Renee. Zo'or is promptly turned into an Atavus and gets defeated by Boone, frozen by Sandoval just in case. Boone disappears, shows up in one more episode, and is mentioned by Ra'jel to have been killed off-screen (yes, the protagonist of the first season doesn't even get the honor of a screen death). Zo'or himself is brought back from the freezer only to be killed for good by Renee. Surprisingly averted with Liam Kincaid, the protagonist for seasons 2-4, who mysteriously disappears at the end of the fourth season. He reappears in the Grand Finale and makes it through to the end.
  • Earth 2 - Commander O'Neill "died" in the pilot, then literally comes back from his grave only to be murdered by the end of episode 2.
  • EastEnders
    • While this is open to dispute, the return of Dennis "Dirty Den" Watts could be considered a very drawn out example of this. When actor Leslie Grantham wanted to move on, Dirty Den was hit by gunfire on screen, but deliberately not shown to be dead. Den subsequently returned 14 years later, and died again, this time for real, 18 months after that. Leslie Grantham states in his autobiography that this was how it had been planned when he agreed to return: that the character would be killed off permanently after no more than 18 months.
    • Ethel Skinner - after a 3 year absence from the show, she reappeared in Albert Square as part of a storyline on euthanasia.
  • In Farscape, Jool leaves the regular cast four episodes into the fourth season. She reappears (with a rather different Jungle Princess characterisation) in the Wrap It Up miniseries "The Peacekeeper Wars", and is fairly rapidly killed along with a whole lot of other people to give the Scarrans an extreme Kick the Dog moment.
  • In Foyle's War, Milner's estranged wife reappears after an absence of several seasons, and has just enough time for a blazing row with Milner before being found dead in an alley.
  • Game of Thrones: Ser Dontos avoids execution in season 2 thanks to Sansa, then returns in season 4 and is soon killed by Baelish's mooks after he delivers Sansa to him. He had appeared in the season's previous two episodes, but had very little screen time overall.
    • Several characters from the Harrenhall scenes in Season 2 show up in Season 4 to be dispatched by Arya and The Hound (Polliver in the season premier, Rorge and Biter in Episode 7).
  • Grimm: Angelina got away after being shot by Nick in her first appearance and was killed when she reappeared exactly a season's worth of episodes later.
  • All of the surviving Cortexifan kids from Fringe were brought back and killed in one episode.
  • Heroes
    • Adam Monroe, former immortal, was buried alive at the end of season two, but he was let out briefly in the following season apparently for the sole purpose of being Killed Off for Real in a rather egregious manner. Maybe they were saving him for this. (His death basically created the new Big Bad.)
    • A variation happened earlier in season two for DL. The second season starts by skipping months ahead, and we're told that DL is dead, presumably from his gunshot wound in the season one finale. But no, he appears in a flashback only to get killed by some random guy who was hot for his wife. The entire exercise seems completely pointless.
    • Done with Emile Danko at the beginning of Season 4. As the Big Bad of Season 3, he survived that season only to be brought back for two episodes for a somewhat contrived reason during Season 4 only to be killed off immediately by the new villains.
  • Charlie DiSalvo from Highlander falls into this. Charlie gets sort of Put on a Bus: he falls in love with a revolutionary and leaves everything to fight for her cause. He returns for one episode, where he describes how they were set up by an immortal arms dealer who intentionally sold them defective weapons and killed his girl. Charlie comes hunting for revenge, but as he doesn't know about immortals and his opponent is one, he winds up dying.
  • Chloe Richards returned to Home and Away in 2005 in the lead up to the show's 4000th episode after leaving in 1999. Meanwhile, promos for the 4000th episode promised that a beloved character would die as a result of events happening in that episode. Who died as a result of that episode's car accident? It was Chloe of course.
  • For the first several seasons of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall's father is a minor character who rarely appears. Come the Season 6 premiere, not only do we start seeing him more often, but his role in Marshall's life is bigger — apparently the two of them are very close and Marshall tells him everything. His death at midseason is still a surprise, but only because this show rarely kills characters off. If you start watching Season 6 knowing someone will die, it's easy to guess who.
  • LOST: arguably, Michael's return in episode 4x07 and death in episode 4x13. Later on, a named background character wound up reappearing only to be killed off by a flaming arrow. This may also be the case with Daniel Faraday.
  • A strange example from Merlin involving Lancelot. In the two-part opener of series 4, he heroically sacrifices himself by stepping into the veil between the worlds and thus closing the rift that is causing deadly spirits to roam the earth. Later in the same series, Morgana brings him back from the spirit world in order destroy Arthur and Guinevere's impending marriage. Once he's achieved this, she orders him to kill himself. So essentially he dies, is brought back as a well-preserved zombie, and is then killed off again.
  • Adrian Monk's neighbor Kevin Dorfman disappeared for a while and then returned near the end of the seventh season, where he wound up being the murder victim of the episode.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles does this when Dom is Not Quite Saved Enough.
  • Keith from One Tree Hill leaves after his disastrous wedding. He comes back more well adjusted and marries Karen only to be killed by his brother Dan. At least she has Someone to Remember Him By.
  • Jarod's brother, Kyle, in The Pretender. He appeared to die in an explosion, only to reappear a few episodes later to save Jarod, only to die in the end.
  • Fans of Pretty Little Liars were thrilled when Maya was brought back to the show in the second season after being Put on a Bus halfway through the first, only to be disappointed when her corpse is found in the season finale.
  • Scrubs
    • Parodied during one of J.D.'s daydreams: Turk and Carla have a son, but due to a mix-up they misplace him and end up with a pumpkin instead. They decide to raise the pumpkin as their child, and we're treated to a lengthy growing-up montage. Then, on the day the pumpkin is graduating from college, the son reappears. "Mom? Dad?" "Son?" He starts to run towards them for an embrace... and is hit by a bus. Cue Big "NO!".
    • Played straight however with Ben Sullivan and Jill Tracy.
  • The seventh season of Skins brought back Naomi for little plot-related reason other than to have her die of cancer.
  • Smallville in general loves this trope with its guest characters. If a one-shot character returns in a future season they pretty much had a death sentence written.
    • Alicia is slightly different from the usual version because she was a one-shot character. In season 3 she was obsessed with Clark, but she was presented as having had a breakdown and being somewhat sympathetic, and some viewers liked her as a love interest for Clark. She was brought back in the next season just to be killed off, permanently ending the possibility of being a love interest.
    • Whitney also qualifies: We see him die on-screen before the shapeshifter shows up.
    • If Alicia counts, so do several other characters, including but not restrained to the above mentioned shapeshifter.
  • Lieutenant Ford from Stargate Atlantis was almost killed by Wraith and managed to leave hopped up on the Wraith enzyme (a nasty drug) in the season 1 finale. In the season 2 midseason two-parter Ford comes back, and ends up on a Wraith vessel as it explodes.
  • Similarly, in Stargate SG-1, Martouf was a frequently recurring character in season 3, representing the Tok'ra in dealings with the SGC (along with Jacob/Selmak). In season 4, there is a new representative and Martouf is not seen until the episode of his death. Martouf did come Back for the Dead later on, this time having the symbiote die instead of the host.
  • In Stargate Universe, everyone who was left behind on Eden suddenly showed up with bodies that had been "improved" by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. It turns out that the improvements were only temporary. One by one, each person reverted back to the state they were in when the aliens found them, i.e., dead. Seemingly the whole plot was so the main characters could have another shuttle (after they destroyed the last one).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation gave Tasha Yar a pretty crummy death in Season 1's "Skin of Evil". The character returned in the alternate timeline episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" to die in a Heroic Sacrifice, which would reset the timeline to the one in which she was dead anyways. She actually survived the intended Heroic Sacrifice and had a Half-Human Hybrid daughter Sela with a Romulan before being executed for trying to escape. Sela surfaced as a villain and looked just like Mom, other than being half-Romulan.
  • The character of Carey from Star Trek: Voyager is a weird example of Back for the Dead. After appearing in most of the first season, he stopped appearing except in time travel episodes, leading fans to believe he had died off-screen. After 6 seasons of being used as a "Hey look! We're back in the first season. See? There's Carey!" marker, he showed up alive four episodes before the end of the series and got killed off (as a Red Shirt). The writers intended to have a guy the fans know die for the shock value. But the problem was that his lack of appearances outside of time travel episodes made people already think he was dead, so the shock was more "wow, he's still alive?" then "GASP! They killed Carey!" The writer of that episode wanted to kill someone off, and was given the choice of Vorik or Carey. He thought Carey would have more impact, since fans would relate to a human more than a Vulcan. Bad choice. He was obviously unaware of how much fans liked Vorik, and of how fans already thought Carey was dead. Furthermore, rumour has it that Carey's odd treatment was because the writers were for a long time confusing him with Lt. Hogan, who had indeed been killed off in Season 2.
  • Supernatural
    • An odd example with Jo and Ellen Harvelle, two characters from season 2, who were let go at the end of the season for budgetary reasons and did not appear in seasons 3 or 4. They were brought back in season 5, and survived their return episode, only for both of them to be killed off in their next appearance.
    • Another example is Anna from season 4, a character who was central to a two part episode. Like the above, she survives the return episode and then is killed off her next episode in season 5.
    • Played straight with Lenore, played by Amber Benson. She was a vampire from early on in the second season who avoided drinking blood from humans and ultimately wound up getting saved by the brothers. She then returns four and a half seasons later where all the recent demon activity has caused her thirst to become uncontrollable, so she asks Sam and Dean put her out of her misery. While they waffle about the morality of this, Cas does as she asked.
    • After an increase in importance in the season 7 finale, Meg is captured by Crowley and disappears for most of season 8, until she is rescued in episode 17 and killed off in the same episode.
    • The episode "Clip Show" does this for a couple characters from early in the show's run. A few are the victim of the Bus Crash variety, while Sarah from the first season episode "Provenance" comes back to become one of Crowley's victims.
  • David Palmer in 24 was dropped as a regular character at the end of season 3 and made only a brief appearance in season 4. He returned in the premiere of season 5, only to be assassinated after less than a minute of screen time. Dennis Haysbert was not happy about it.
  • Daniel Dickinson in Warehouse 13 was initially part of the primary cast. After the first season ended, he disappeared until the ninth episode of the second—in which he was murdered before the opening credits rolled.
  • The X-Files.
    • A famous example is Max Fenig, a fan favorite from an episode of the first season. After being abducted at the episode's conclusion, he reappeared in the teaser at the beginning of a fourth season episode… as a dead body in the wreckage of an airplane. The rest of the two-parter dealt with reconstructing how this came to pass and dealing with its implications.
    • There's also the Cigarette Smoking Man, who was killed off at the end of the seventh season. Two years later he was revealed to still be alive in the series finale, and then proceeded to get blown up by a missile.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney has Misty Fey: She's an incredibly important character in the backstory, then finally appears in the last case of Trials and Tribulations, only to be murdered fifteen minutes later. It's not even revealed that it was her until much later.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops: Dimitri Petrenko returns from World at War and is revealed to have survived the final mission... until he dies during Kravchenko's Nova 6 test in a horribly brutal fashion.
    • In Modern Warfare 3, Sgt. Kamarov (the Russian Loyalist who rescued Soap and Price during the final level of the original Modern Warfare) returns, and dies a couple missions later when Makarov's men kidnap him and use him as bait to keep Captain Price in one place so a bomb can kill them both. Price catches on when Kamarov tells him he's sorry, and manages to get out of the blast zone before Kamarov is killed. Earlier, Wallcroft and Griffin (the two main supporting characters who assisted you in "Crew Expendable" from the original MW) reappear as they respond to a terrorist bomb threat in London, and in the process of chasing the train carrying the bomb, Griffin is killed when his truck crashes.
  • In the Castlevania series, Dracula always seems to reappear just for a member of the Belmont Clan to "kill" him again.
  • Robo from Chrono Trigger, or at least his program (as he is a robot), show up for approximately two minutes in Chrono Cross just to be immediately deleted. He didn't even get to keep the name we knew him by. One has to wonder if it was done in order to make you actually have a beef against FATE, who apart from that was only doing what it was programmed to.
  • Ortega, the hero's father in Dragon Quest III is missing and presumed dead for the bulk of the game. In the very last dungeon, you encounter him fighting one of the penultimate bosses and watch him get killed.
    • He can be wished back to life after beating the Bonus Boss, though.
  • Johnny Klebitz, protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, shows up in Grand Theft Auto V to argue with new protagonist Trevor over his ex-girlfriend Ashley Butler (also a returnee). Trevor promptly kicks him to death. In the mission that immediately follows, Trevor can also personally kill off Ashley if the player desires so. If you do spare her, well, the radio will state later in the game that she dies at a crack party anyways.
  • In Illusion of Gaia, Kara's pet pig, Hamlet, gets separated from her early on in the game, namely when Kara decides to leave her castle, but later manages to join up with the party. However, very soon after, the party is captured by cannibals, and are only saved when Hamlet sacrifices himself to be food for the cannibals instead of the party.
  • In The Legend of Zelda, every time Ganon somehow manages to break the seal on his can or to come Back from the Dead, he apparently only does so he can receive one additional stab-wound from Link and go right back to where he came from (Which is, most times, apparently death).
  • The Xbox 360 role playing game Lost Odyssey features this early in the game. Throughout the first segment of the game, the amnesiac protagonist Kaim has flashes of a little girl throwing herself/falling off a cliff. Eventually, Kaim reunites with this child, his daughter Lirum, only for her to almost immediately die of a long illness.
  • Mass Effect 3 subverts this. The Virmire survivor (Ashley/Kaidan) is Demoted to Extra in the second game, but in 3 they return and fight alongside Shepard in the first mission after the tutorial... only to immediately have their skull nearly crushed by a cyborg sent by the Illusive Man. However, they're still alive. It can be played straight regarding them later on midway through the game, or averted depending on what actions Shepard has taken as well as how strong Shepard's Reputation/Paragon and Renegade meter is. Also subverted with Grunt and Kasumi, assuming you won their loyalty in 2 - both of them are apparently killed onscreen and only survive if they're loyal. Played straight with Legion and Thane, however - the only real way for them to not die in 3 is for them to have died in 2, and while you get a few conversations with them beforehand, most of their presence is setting up for their death scenes. Mordin is also guaranteed to die outside of a very specific set of decisions, and Conrad Verner, assuming he's still alive at this point, will take a bullet for you unless an apparently unrelated sidequest was completed way back in 1. This isn't even counting people who get taken out offscreen.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Big Boss, who was thought to be dead, is revealed to be alive and then promptly dies after providing a truly epic 45 minute Infodump.
    • Happens again in Ground Zeroes, to Paz Ortega, who was MIA after the events of Peace Walker and looks like she's been rescued during the ending of Ground Zeroes, only to realize that she had a bomb inside of her for the purpose of blowing up Big Boss. And when he gets that bomb out of her, she reveals there's another one inside of her, and with no time to operate and remove the second one, she's forced to pull a Heroic Suicide.
  • In the original Ninja Gaiden the protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, is fighting to fulfill a quest left behind by his father, Ken, who in the game's prologue fought and lost in a ninja duel. After defeating the fifth boss, Ryu learns that his father is alive, and eventually discovers Ken Hayabusa as a mind-controlled slave of the villain the Jaquio. As soon as he is freed Ken is killed by the Jaquio and dies in Ryu's arms.
  • Resident Evil: Brad Vickers, brought back in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis seemingly solely to have a bridge dropped on him. Although this was a Continuity Nod to him being a hidden zombie enemy in Resident Evil 2. Perhaps this was an opportunity for him to die as himself...
  • Star Trek Online does it to Tasha Yar (see Star Trek: The Next Generation above) again in episode "Klingon War", mission "Temporal Ambassador". The Enterprise-C crew, including Yar, ended up getting captured by the Tholians and dragged into another Alternate Timeline along with the Player Character, and they have to fight their way free so they can go do their Heroic Sacrifice.

    Web Original 
  • Daniel of Everyman HYBRID has easily the least relevance to the actual plot despite being part of the "parody" that seemed to draw Slender Man's attention. His final major appearance consists of him getting strangled by HABIT in Evan's body.
  • In The Gamers Alliance, Marya and Mori'sul return only to die relatively quickly in the Godslayer era. The former ends up setting the stage for a power-hungry prince's return to the political stage of Maar Sul before committing suicide out of guilt, the latter is crushed by a collapsing temple while saving the heroes from certain death.
  • Happens to the original Paper in the 200th Strong Bad Email from Homestar Runner. The Paper actually died in Email 173, and later replaced by the New Paper. When New Paper produced a rival's Homestar's E-Mail address, The Paper cut him off making things right. He then gets burned by an errant spark from the computer of said Rival which Strong Bad is refreshing. With heavily-caffeinated soda.
  • Marble Hornets entry 51 combines this with Anachronic Order, jumping back years in the series timeline to reveal the fate of a minor character from the first season. It ain't pretty.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, Achyls was a minor character in V1, working as one of the technicians for the terrorists. However, he vanished inexplicably afterwards with no explanation. He returned for V4, and seemed set to have a bigger role from before, then was abruptly killed not long after his redebut.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad! has a whole episode of this.
  • In the DCAU, Professor Milo was a minor recurring villain on Batman: The Animated Series. He shows up again 13 years later in an episode of Justice League Unlimited only for Doomsday to kill him offscreen.
  • Calculon from Futurama killed himself in an acting competition in order to try to make a death scene more dramatic. Sixteen episodes later, he's revived for a while only to die again by the end of the episode.
  • The Simpsons Bleeding Gums Murphy returned in "Round Springfield", although he was never a regular character, as pointed out by Troy McClure in The 138th Episode Spectacular.
  • South Park sort of played an example, then had another played straight:
    • Isaac Hayes, Chef's voice actor and a Scientologist, quit the show forever after the episode where Stan becomes the leader of Scientology. For quite a while, the show kept going without him, but after the fans started doubting, Chef was revived using footage and voice tracks from earlier episodes in the season 10 premiere, then died horribly. He was brought back as Darth Chef a few minutes later. He hasn't appeared in any episodes after that.
    • In a season 14 episode, Pip, who didn't have any speaking line at all since season 6, came back, only for him to deliver a Sedgwick Speech and be killed by Mecha-Streisand moments later. Although, according to southparkstudios.com, he may not be entirely gone.
    • Veronica Crabtree, the long-absent school bus driver, turns up in "Cartman's Incredible Gift" as the victim of a serial killer. Lampshaded by the cops:
      Lou: I know she hadn't been in any recent episodes, but damnit, she deserved better than this!
  • Speed Racer: The Next Generation: In "The Beginning", Speed Jr. and his friends find and restore the long-disappeared Mach 5, but it ends up truly totaled after a vicious race.
  • Total Drama Island: Eva returns in the episode "No Pain, No Gain", only to be eliminated near the end of said episode.

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