Poochie: I have to go now. My planet needs me.
(Note: Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.)
When Bob is Put on a Bus
, that means he's being written out of the show in such a way that he could logically return. Audiences have come to expect that the bus will come back
someday with Bob on it, even if it's only for the last arc
. So one of the cruelest subversions of that expectation is for the writers to show us the bus bringing Bob back again and then wreck it just as it comes into view. That is, they mention Bob only to show us that he's not
coming back. A bridge fell on him
while he was off-screen. Or, as M*A*S*H
once employed to great effect, we learn of Bob's death within minutes of receiving the news that he went away. This is doubly shocking in situations where the main plot is a dangerous place and getting on the "bus" means escape and safety.
This is manipulative on many levels. It allows an angry writer to kill a character from beyond the grave, as it were, and after the "real" reason for the actor's departure has faded from public memory — thus avoiding appearing as mean-spirited as being McLeaned
. It allows the writer to do a Tonight Someone Dies
without sacrificing a current cast member. It allows him to get the requisite ratings
boost from bringing back departed characters without actually bringing them back, and it triggers a much more convincing It's Personal
episode as our heroes avenge one of their own.
Contrast Character Outlives Actor
, where it's the actor
who dies, but the character is kept alive off-screen; The Character Died with Him
, where the character dies because the actor has; and Back for the Dead
, in which the character returns just long enough to be killed off. In Distracted from Death
, a character will die off screen, but only because the action was focused on another character who needs a few minutes to notice what's happened.
Sometimes, when a character is put on the bus and the actor later dies, the character is stated to have died (typically the same way the actor did) out of respect for the actor. However, since there's obviously no planning for this, existing scripts must be (minimally) tweaked to work it in, so it tends to be less of a heartfelt tribute and more of a bizarre "I got bread, I got eggs, Don got hit by a train, and I got milk
." "That sucks. Anyway
, about that Zany Scheme
on Friday..." scenario, after which Don is never mentioned again. Don't
expect to find these moments listed under Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
- Mamoru Chiba in Sailor Moon was last seen in the seventh episode of the Sailor Stars season boarding a plane to the United States. His fate was uncertain all the way until the Grand Finale, when it was revealed in a flashback that Galaxia had killed him after intercepting the plane he was on during that very episode. By that point, though, most of the main characters were already dead, and Mamoru got his Reset Button treatment along with the others.
- In the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist it's stated that Tim Marcoh was killed by Gluttony relatively late in the series. His death is heavily implied the last time we see him, however, as Gluttony asks for permission to eat him just before the cutaway.
- YuYu Hakusho
- Yusuke forcefully enlists the help of Murota, a Muggle who gained a Territory power as a side effect of Sensui's actions. He disappears after the fight with Dr. Kamiya, and no one gives this a second thought... until the gang comes up against Gourmet, and he starts using Murota's unique ability. Gourmet's Territory is completely within his stomach, and he gets to steal the powers of anyone he eats.
- Subverted with Gourmet himself. Gourmet eats Elder Toguro very early in the arc, and then doesn't appear again until Sensui kidnaps Kuwabara. When Kurama decapitates Gourmet for eating Murota (and because he's still pissed that Sensui forced him to kill a little kid), you find out that the nigh-immortal Toguro has actually taken over Gourmet and, for all intents and purposes, already killed him.
- A rare example of this happening onscreen was Franco and Flanca in Gunslinger Girl (though you don't find this out until much later, when Cristiano breaks the news).
- Bleach: Most of Yammy's final fight with Byakuya and Kenpachi took place off-screen. Including his death. When Byakuya and Kenpachi are asked how the fight went, Byakuya refuses to answer and Kenpachi brushes it off as boring.
- Maria and Mamoru in From the New World. Mamoru believed that he was going be killed by their Social Darwinist elders, so Maria accompanied him to leave the village. After they had a child, they were killed by Yakomaru. A double-subversion of sorts: Yakomaru told Saki he would fake their deaths to make the adults stop hunting them, but it eventually comes out that the skeletons the adults recovered were examined to the genetic level and undoubtedly genuine, so he must have killed them.
- Yukari in Murasakiiro No Qualia. About 6 months after leaving Hatou's school for JAUNT, she's Killed Off Screen.
- Jude Heartfilia from Fairy Tail is introduced as Lucy's Jerkass father early in the series, but is put on a bus when she cuts all ties to him. Later, he comes back in an attempt to make up to her, and he sort of manages. Cue putting him on a bus again. Much later (seven years in-universe and more than 100 chapters), Lucy herself realizes that he wasn't that bad and she wants him to pay him a visit. She finds out from his workplace that he just died...
- The actress who played Marla McGivers, Khan's lover from "Space Seed", was not able to appear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan due to multiple sclerosis destroying the use of her legs, so she was killed offscreen by the Ceti Eels to explain her absence. This makes Khan's desires for revenge more believable. Rather than simply wanting revenge on Kirk for "You defeated me," it becomes "You killed my wife."
- And rather more infamously, Picard's brother and his family are burned to death offscreen at the beginning of Star Trek: Generations, just so Picard can be properly tempted by the Nexus. Goodbye to that optimistic episode ending about his nephew hoping to join Starfleet!
- Sean Connery didn't want to reprise his role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so he was written out as having died. However, the character in question would have been very old anyway, and the touching moment to show this piece of information seems to indicate there wasn't any bad blood there. It kept nicely with the theme of passing generations as well, and with their needing to write out Indy's other older-boss figure, Marcus Brody, who had been Henry Jones Sr.'s friend.
- Dawn Wiener, the protagonist of Todd Solodz's Welcome To The Dollhouse, is reported to have died (under bizarre, tragic circumstances) in the opening moments of the semi-sequel Palindromes.
- According to Word of God, most of the Howling Commandos from Captain America: The First Avenger have died of natural causes by the time The Avengers takes place (although this is hardly unexpected, due to the huge time gap).
- Vin Diesel's character xXx is supposed to have died between the original film and the sequel. There's even a deleted scene where he gets essentially McLeaned. Vin Diesel likes to tell everyone that He's Just Hiding.
- One of the major fan complaints about the Star Trek reboot was the implication that the time-travel shenanigans in that film had done this to the entire original timeline (with Spock Prime being the only survivor). The Star Trek Relaunch series of novels shows that the Prime continuity still "exists" as a separate timeline. Because time travel is funny like that.
- Ace Ventura Jr. establishes that the titular character is the son of Melissa and Ace...and that Ace Sr. vanished in the Bermuda Triangle while trying to save a flock of Canadian geese.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past:
- Mystique discovers partway through the film that Angel Salvadore, Azazel, Emma Frost, and Banshee (Sean Cassidy) all died (and their bodies were used in experiments by Trask) during the Time Skip between X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past.
- The tie-in website reveals that Angel (Warren Worthington) and Beast from X-Men: The Last Stand were killed between X-Men: The Last Stand and the Bad Future of this film's opening.
- When the younger Beast asks, Wolverine admits that Beast died at some point in the Bad Future.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: Hector; the Quagmire triplets; Captain Widdershins; Fernald; Fiona, in some interpretations: the human race. Maybe.
- Mort and Ysabelle, after a turn as main characters in Discworld novel Mort, are given barely one scene in Soul Music, where they're not seen, and their carriage falls off a cliff. Intentional, as it proves to be a major part of Death's Character Development: the realisation at just how fragile and short human lives are, and how randomly and easily they are taken.
- In the Sherlock Holmes canon, Watson's first wife (Mary Morstan) is revealed to have died during the Great Hiatus, but no greater explanation is made, nor is it shown in a story itself.
- In the Diane Duane novel Spock's World, the plot reveals that Stonn died in between the novel and the last encounter with Spock, due to a risk the spoiled character took to recapture a mate's attention.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Survivor's Quest introduced Chak Fel, one of Soontir Fel's sons and a pilot/officer who left at the end of the novel to head back to the Empire of the Hand, which was basically all of The Empire's strengths and almost none of its flaws. Later books not only somehow managed to confuse the Empire of the Hand with the Chiss Ascendancy (they are adjacent to each other, the Empire was formed by a prominent Chiss, and it really wants to open up friendly channels with its parent, but they're not the same), but later claimed that the Empire just sort of fell apart - and oh, by the way, Chak Fel died in a war that's over now.
- The franchise did this to a whole species at one point. The Crystal Star introduces the Firrerreos, a race of near-humans that were all but destroyed by one of their own, a Dark Jedi serving Vader. The survivors disappear into hyperspace after Leia revives them from cryogenic hibernation and are mentioned by The Essential Guide to Alien Species to have been granted asylum on the planet Belderone. Happy ending, right? Not so fast: the New Jedi Order book Remnant mentions offhand that Belderone was invaded by the Yuuzhan Vong and that the Firrerreos are now functionally extinct.
- In Island of the Blue Dolphins, the protagonist's entire people seem to be Put on a Bus when they emigrate from their island and accidentally leave her behind, but later it's revealed that the ship they were on sank during a storm and nobody survived. This was retconned for the eventual sequel.
- An in-universe example when a character in After disappears and is assumed by the other students to have been suspended, but later an announcement is made about her tragic death.
- Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables. She's put in jail after the Gorbeau robbery, never seen again, and mentioned much later she died. Bear in mind she was a big, healthy, middle-aged woman.
- Igor Karkaroff in Harry Potter goes into hiding at the end of the fourth book and is mentioned to have been killed a few chapters into the sixth book. Although Voldemort's words at the end of the fourth book made what he intended for Karkaroff obvious.
- As befitting the setting, many characters disappear in The Hunger Games trilogy only to be noted as dead later. Large examples include Cinna, Darius, Madge, the red-headed Avox, and the District 8 runaways.
- In the Cal Leandros book Doubletake, readers find out via flashback from Grimm that he killed Georgia awhile back. However, she did some Mind Manipulation on him to make sure he never told Cal what he did, and it seems somewhat implied that maybe things didn't end as Grimm thinks they did.
- In The Lord of the Rings, readers learn that Balin, Óin, and Ori from The Hobbit were among those killed in a failed attempt to reclaim Moria.
- In GONE, and its four sequels (with a fifth and final sequel on April 2013), fans were excited when Mary Terrafino was revealed to be coming back in FEAR after a whole book of absence. She's present in one scene. Dead.
- Michael Darling, the youngest child of the Darling siblings in the Peter Pan stories, was killed off in the 2004 authorized sequel to the original story called Peter Pan in Scarlet. It is revealed that he died in World War I.
- In the Jurassic Park franchise, Gennaro and Muldoon, the two characters who survive in the novel but die in the film, are mentioned as having died from medical causes in the sequel novel, The Lost World, neatly bringing the novels and films somewhat more in line.
- In Worm, Grue was apparently Put on a Bus, and quite a few people wondered why he hadn't done anything useful for a while. Then Tattletale mentions he died back on the oil rig. Ouch.
- Implied to have happened to Drumon, a senior Techmarine from the Ciaphas Cain series. He's mentioned in The Greater Good to have volunteered to stay behind on the space hulk Spawn of Damnation as it reentered the Warp, and given that Hyperspace Is a Scary Place it's unsurprising that he is nowhere to be seen when his Astartes chapter the Reclaimers reappears in that book.
- In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, one of the Eighth Doctor's main expanded universe continuities involved this trope. Former companion Sam Jones is revealed, in the very last of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, (which is to say, the 73rd, or, continuity-wise, the 75th), to have died in her twenties. Fitz is terribly upset, but the Doctor, having Trauma-Induced Amnesia, doesn't remember and therefore shows no response whatsoever, not even to his best friend's distress. Fitz gets absolutely furious (and he's usually rather slow to anger).
- In the Season 3 finale, Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) leaves the 4077th because his tour of duty is up; he has enough points for an honorable discharge and can go home. At the episode's end, Radar O'Reilly comes in to inform the cast that Henry was killed when his plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. To keep the rest of the episode sad about Col. Blake leaving, but happy about him going home, the only cast member told about this before the episode started shooting was Alan Alda; everyone else (McLean Stevenson himself apparently wasn't even told) instead believed that Henry was merely going home. The final, sad scene was filmed last, and the actors were only told of Henry's fate just before then (the notion that they weren't told at all prior to filming the scene is an Urban Legend). It's said that the traditional wrap party was canceled because of the gloomy mood after the scene was shot. Apparently, while there was some resentment from the production crew over Stevenson's leaving the show, the official reason for the shocking twist was to hammer home the capriciousness of war. Showrunner Larry Gelbart explicitly said in an interview soon after that he didn't want Blake going back to Bloomington because "a lot of guys didn't get back to Bloomington."
- Stevenson got a small measure of revenge that Saturday night, as on The Carol Burnett Show (he had already been booked as a guest) the opening bumper had Stevenson dressed as Henry Blake on a raft waving his arms and shouting, "I'm OK! I'm OK!" Some fan fiction writers picked up on the raft sketch and worked out explanations for why Henry hadn't contacted the 4077th after being rescued.
- Jock Ewing was written to have died in a helicopter crash to start the fifth season of Dallas because actor Jim Davis had died before production of the season began.
- Archie Bunker's Place: When Jean Stapleton left her long-running role of Edith Bunker (which she originated on All in the Family), she was written out as having died (of a stroke) off-screen. The resulting story was the 1980 season opener, where Archie — in deep shock after Edith's sudden passing — refuses to come to terms with the death until his bottled-up grief is triggered by spotting her slippers on the bedroom floor.
- Homicide: Life on the Street:
- The show did it to Daniel Baldwin's character, Beau Felton. He left with several other cast members, allegedly on administrative leave after some bad behavior at a police convention, but turned up as the Victim of the Week a few seasons later. A shotgun blast to the head even obviated the need to have Baldwin play his own corpse.
- Likewise, Jon Polito's character, Steve Crosetti, took a holiday for the first three episodes of season three then drowned himself.
- In the Big Finish The Tomorrow People line, viewers are told that Kenny, one of the early Tomorrow People, has been killed by an assassin.
- Doctor Who:
- This was the situation of the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann for many years. He was never seen again after the 1996 TV movie (aside from the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, which continued unabated, even using Paul McGann in the audio dramas). The Eighth Doctor's regeneration had been intended to be shown in the official comic series, but Executive Meddling resulted in it being changed when the decision was made that the Ninth Doctor's comic strip adventures should be strictly tied into the TV continuity. The Eighth Doctor's regeneration was finally shown in the pre-50th anniversary webcast teaser "The Night of the Doctor", in which he regenerated into someone quite different to whom the fans had assumed that he did for years...
- "The Empty Child" demonstrates that the Eighth Doctor isn't the only character to have died in the planetary Bus Crash that was the Time War.
Dr. Constantine: Before this war began I was a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither, but I'm still a doctor.
The Doctor: I know the feeling.
- When Steven Moffat was asked if he would bring the popular Time Lady character Romana back now that the Time Lords had been resurrected, he announced he assumed she was dead anyway.
- The Brigadier dies this way, due to The Character Died with Him.
- Jenna in Blake's 7. Launched out of the spaceship in an escape pod at the end of the second series and never reappeared, although reported to be still alive - then reported to have died in the series's final episode (though there is a possibility the report was part of a test).
- Stargate SG-1:
- After Jonas Quinn departs he comes back for one season 7 episode, then doesn't appear again. In season 10 his home planet is mentioned as falling to the Ori, and "their allies" on the planet could not be contacted, implying that they were killed. Though not stated on the show, one of the producers stated in an interview that Jonas was part of an underground movement set on resisting the Ori.
- Another example from SG-1 is the Tollan Omoc, who appears for exactly one episode in Enigma, the first episode in which the Tollans are introduced. He is then stated to be an influential member of the Tollan government, until Between Two Fires, which opens with his (off-screen) death and funeral. And then the entire Tollan race is exterminated. (The writers ignoring, for the entire rest of the franchise, the fact that there were almost certain to be at least a few off-world Tollans.)
- Stargate Atlantis:
- Ford becomes addicted to Wraith enzyme at the end of season one and goes AWOL. He returns in season two, helping the team off a Wraith Hive ship that's about to explode, but stays behind to buy them time. Sheppard however, remains confident that he survived (given that his enemies always seem to consistently do so). Ford never appeared in the show again save for an Imagine Spot, but is never confirmed as killed either.
- One episode of Atlantis had the team save a human civilization whose homeworld was about to be devastated by a supervolcano eruption, and relocate them to another planet. A later episode reveals that they had all been killed by Michael to provide DNA for one of his Super Soldier projects.
- In the final episode of Atlantis it is revealed that General Hammond, who got promoted out of the show after series 7 of SG-1 and from then on had occasional guest appearances, died of a heart attack (just like Don S. Davies). They promptly rename a spaceship in construction after him. The operational spaceship appears in Stargate Universe.
- In Good Times, patriarch James Evans was Put on a Bus to Mississippi, "looking for work". (Actor John Amos was actually written out, temporarily, due to a contract dispute). Killed off (and shark jumped) by "Dear John" letter (James had a car crash).
- In Grey's Anatomy, George gets hit and killed by the bus that he was going to take to leave the hospital and go join the Army. His character wasn't coming back anyway as the actor ended his contract, hence the in-universe result of him wanting to join the Army, but this is still a pretty harsh way to go. Though, in this case it was also a Heroic Sacrifice, as he pushed away the person about to get hit.
- In Smallville, Whitney is put on a literal bus in a season finale when he joins the armed forces, and he dies in an overseas war a little bit later. In fact he dies a bit sooner than the audience thinks he does. Eric Johnson returns as Whitney for this episode, and it shows the real Whitney being blown up overseas in the teaser. So it's Back for the Dead and Not Himself.
- The final episode of Green Wing opens at the funeral of Angela, who had left to pursue an acting career. It is said that she was killed by a moose.
- Babylon 5:
- Talia Winters, played by Andrea Thompson, is kind of a complicated one. Herself a replacement character for an actress who was fired after the pilot, Thompson became very dissatisfied with her lack of screen time, despite a slowly building subplot of Talia developing powerful telekinetic abilities that would clearly have paid off soon. She was written off by having an evil "sleeper personality" become activated and effectively kill the real Talia, which was originally planned for another character that had been replaced after the pilot, but NOT the one Talia replaced. This still left the opportunity for Thompson to return as an antagonist, like Denise Crosby in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the next season, it was strongly suggested (though by a character known for his dishonesty and enjoyment of jerking others' chains) that she had been killed and dissected off screen. And after all that, her replacement character was actually the same character Talia herself had replaced, and who then required a Vorlon upgrade to match Talia's implied new power level. Whew!
- The actress who played Na'Toth left between Seasons 1 and 2 due to problems with the prosthetic make-up, so a new actress was brought in. The new actress only appeared in two episodes of Season 2 due to her desire to reinterpret the character instead of sticking with what had already been established. JMS got so annoyed with her he just had her vanish halfway through Season 2, and later revealed she'd gone back to the Narn home world to join the war against the Centauri and been killed in the Centauri assault later in Season 2. However, the original actress was willing to come back for a one-off guest appearance in Season 5, so JMS retconned it that Na'Toth had survived.
- Possibly the highest-profile one from the show: Lennier vanishes towards the end of Season 5 having left Sheridan to die in an accident. Riven by guilt, he vows not to return until he has redeemed himself. His character is later referred to as dead. No explanation has ever been given for his death, and it may constitute the biggest remaining unanswered question from the series.
- General William Hague was introduced in the second season as a Chekhov's Gunman who was intended to become an important ally to the protagonists later on during the Earth Civil War arc. However, when the pivotal episodes rolled around, the actor had been booked to Deep Space Nine instead. The character was promptly Bus Crashed. JMS freely admitted he did this out of spite.
- In a first-season episode, Londo falls in love with a beautiful slave named Adira. After gaining her freedom, she leaves to further herself, with a promise to return to him someday. Several seasons later, she does return ... but only her cloth-draped corpse makes it onto the station. She was poisoned off screen as part of a Batman Gambit to shock Londo into joining back up with the Shadows. It works.
- Home and Away
- The show had Beth leaving Summer Bay to visit some other members of her family. In the episode in which she was supposed to come back, she ends up getting involved in a crash with a lorry and ends up dead.
- And, one season later, Dan died on a rock-climbing trip in America.
- Vinnie Patterson was an interesting example. In early 2002 he was sent to prison. At the end of the year he was killed, off screen, in a fire. In 2004 he was resurrected and in the Witness Protection Program, but was only seen in a bear costume at his son's birthday party. In early 2010, he was killed off again.
- On Hollyoaks, Kurt Benson was Put on a Bus to get his head together, but some time later it was revealed he'd been killed by, of all things, a jet-ski.
- Law & Order
- A fairly literal example happens in one episode. ADA Claire Kincaid was in a car crash with Lennie Briscoe in the Season 6 finale - this was originally intended to write out actress Jill Hennessey, who would be revealed to be paralyzed in the Season 7 premiere and then Put on a Bus. But when Hennessey declined to return for one more episode, Claire was instead killed off.
- Lennie Briscoe also got this treatment after Jerry Orbach died. Briscoe was originally written out as retiring. Then he was seen working as an investigator for the DA's office on "Trial By Jury". After he died, all references to him in "Trial By Jury" were removed, and after that series was cancelled references to his death were peppered into scripts for Criminal Intent and the Mothership. Somewhat subverted in that these mentions only arose from his former colleagues during personal crises.
- John Ritter played JD's father in Scrubs. When Ritter died, his character had a fatal heart attack. Various other forms of death tropes happened to a number of Ritter's other characters for the same reason.
- Sesame Street: When the actor who played Mr. Hooper died in 1983, so did his character. Usually in children's programming, this would be addressed by simply erasing the character from existence, getting another actor for the role, or even stating that he had moved out. Not here; the show broke the trend, and actually tackled Hooper's death head-on in a segment to teach children about death. It can be viewed here.
- In Power Rangers Turbo, Zordon and Alpha 5 leave for Zordon's home planet of Eltar in the third episode or so. The season concludes with Eltar falling to an enemy attack. The next season opens with Zordon a captive- and Alpha never to be seen or heard from again.
- A rather aggravating example from Primeval with Sarah Paige. At the end of season 3 she says she's come up with an idea to rescue Conor, Abby and Danny from the past but she's conspicuous by her absence at the start of season 4. Becker then mentions "when Sarah was killed" and apart from Abby asking where she is, she's never mentioned again.
- Handled very well with Blanche Hunt in Coronation Street whose actress died. The writers put her on a bus to Portugal for a holiday temporarily while they worked through their current storylines. Once they were ready to handle it properly, Blanche's daughter Deirdre got a phonecall that Blanche had died in Portugal. She was given a full funeral and wake in The Rovers.
- In an overlap with Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome, the character of Young Mr. Grace, who had already been Put on a Bus in Are You Being Served?, has died before the beginning of the first episode of the sequel series Are You Being Served Again (also known as Grace and Favour), and the episode involves the cast taking charge of his country manor and attending the reading of his will.
- Xena: Warrior Princess was fairly good about giving characters who'd been important on-screen deaths — up until the mid-fifth season. Amarice, who had been Xena and Gabrielle's companion for a good run of episodes earlier that season and a few in the previous, was unceremoniously killed off screen during the teaser for the episode "Lifeblood." It's said that she died during an attack that viewers didn't see onscreen (by then the actress, Jennifer Sky, was starring in Cleopatra 2525, but Amarice's character arc ended with her being happily left with a tribe of Amazons, so mentioning her again just to say she was dead seemed, well, kind of mean and pointless).
- Rachel Gurney worried about getting typecast as upper-class matriarchs in period dramas; so at the beginning of the second season of Edwardian domestic drama Upstairs Downstairs, Lady Marjorie goes to visit some family in America... on the Titanic.
- The Shield:
- Assistant Police Chief Ben Gilroy appears in a number of Season 1 episodes, but is is smuggled into Mexico by Vic Mackey after he commits a number of crimes. In season 4, he shows up... dead, from cirrhosis of the liver.
- The same thing happens to Tigra (the woman Lem was involved with after he rescued her brother in Season 1). In Season 5, Kavanaugh mentions her name when he runs down the list of criminal informants who died over the course of the series (and which many fans missed because the statement isn't immediately clear until he clarifies it).
- In JAG, Lt. Loren Singer was transferred from the Judge Advocate General's office (And There Was Much Rejoicing)...and a few months later Naval Criminal Investigation Services arrested Commander Rabb for her murder. So they lost a hated character, and gained a much-loved spin-off.
- NCIS: That much loved spinoff]] also pulled this trick with Special Agent Laura Macy who was originally was the leader of the Los Angeles Team in the pilot of NCIS: Los Angeles, but did not appear in the actual show. She was later found dead.
- Literal bus crash with The Young Ones — normally they'd be back next episode, but this was the series' final show.
- On St. Elsewhere, Bobby Caldwell contracted AIDS, moved to a care facility in California, and left the show. In a much later episode, the staff hears that he had succumbed to the disease.
- Another strange one: Kahlan's sister Denee from Legend of the Seeker was the focus of an episode after Kahlan learned that she was still alive, having apparently been killed in the pilot episode. The episode in question involves the main characters going to great lengths to save her and her newborn baby, only for their deaths to be off-handedly mentioned towards the end of season one.
- Subverted (what isn't?) by Shameless. Debbie Gallagher left to join the army at the end of series 6, and later sent a letter saying she was in Afghanistan. In the first episode of series 8 an army officer tells Frank that Debbie was killed in action, but it turns out to be a malicious prank by his ex wife.
- Crossing Jordan - A show that had only its original core group as the regulars with added characters who were in and out, Crossing Jordan was not afraid of writing a character off, doing this at least once if not twice. One died in a plane crash and the other died semi-on-screen from really bad food poisoning.
- Being Human:
- The werewolf who turned George, Tully, appears in one episode in the first series, and is then not heard from again until an important piece of graffiti by him in the finale of the second series, in which one of the characters mentions him as dead.
- Similarly, Daisy Hannigan-Spiteri, a vampire who appears repeatedly in the second series, is left behind when the group moves to Wales, and a vampire-hunter later refers to her as one of his kills.
- Two and a Half Men: The case of Charlie Sheen, who played Charlie Harper, deserves special mention. In 2011, Sheen's behavior, both on and off the set, and likely drug-related, was causing massive production delays, and show producer Chuck Lorre was losing more and more patience with Sheen. The last straw came when Sheen appeared to become completely unhinged and started bad-mouthing Lorre in the tabloid press. In the show, Charlie Harper was revealed to have died when he was hit by a Metro train after moving to Paris with his new wife Rose... who pushed him in front of said train, after he attempted to escape after being caught cheating on her. Sheen has since calmed down, but by then the damage was done.
- In the final series of My Family, Susan's mother Grace is revealed to have suddenly died offscreen - supposedly from falling into crocodile-infested waters after her cord snapped during a bungee jump.
- Aiden Burn on CSI NY, Sort of. It was half this and half Stuffed In The Fridge, since she did die offscreen, and then her charred corpse was found by her former colleagues in a burned out car. Bonus points for the TV Guide description of "Aiden returns to help the team catch a serial rapist." Except, you know... as charcoal.
- Falling Skies has the character of Uncle Scott killed between seasons 1 and 2. Viewers aren't even shown his grave, it's only mentioned in passing that he died.
- A notable example from the Troubled Production and sci-fi series Earth: Final Conflict; the main character of the series was replaced after the first season and Put on a Bus. He came back for one episode of the final season, where he resolves all his plot threads, defeats his Archenemy, and rides off into the sunset. In the Series Finale it's mentioned in passing that he was killed (then again, the series had essentially decided to Kill 'em All at that point).
- In the final Murdoc episode of MacGyver, MacGyver's Arch-Enemy Murdoc mentions that his sister was killed in a skiing accident, which is partially what prompts his return to a life of supervillainy. This makes the previous Murdoc episode, in which he and MacGyver went to an enormous amount of trouble to save her, something of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
- In Season 5 premiere of Community, Pierce is stated to have left the school after being banned for sexual harassment. Later in the episode "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics", the remaining members of the group find out that Pierce has passed away.
- In Season 4 of The Walking Dead the main characters get separated and escape from the prison in their own ways whilst all of the extraneous hangers-on get away in a literal bus. Eventually some of the main characters catch up with the bus and find that all of the people on board are now dead or undead, removing them from the plot with minimal effort on the part of the writers.
- Gasoline Alley, unlike many other long-running comic strips, had its characters get older as time went on, mostly averting Comic Book Time. And while Walt Wallet and Phyllis lived to be over a hundred before Phyllis finally passed away, it was considered not credible for their friends from the early days to have the same sort of longevity. So Walt's friends Doc, Avery, and Bill were phased out of the strip, and it was later said that Doc and Avery had died off-screen.
- Older Than Steam Shakespeare examples:
- Falstaff, a supporting character in the two Henry IV plays, does not appear in the sequel Henry V, and his friends are first seen discussing his illness and death. (One theory has it that writing Falstaff out was because the actor, William Kempe, had left the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Killing him was because Kempe joined a rival troupe, Worcester's Men.)
- In Romeo and Juliet, Lady Montague. She has a fairly important role in the first scene of the play, then disappears and is never mentioned again until the last scene when Montague mentions that she died. (In an early text, this is Benvolio's fate as well.)
- In Othello, Desdemona's father, Brabantio, is seen only in the first act, and not mentioned again until Act 5, where someone comments on his recent passing.
- The first scene of Pericles, Prince of Tyre is all about Pericles escaping from an evil king and princess, and Pericles goes on the run to escape their assassin. Much later, at the end of Act 2, two minor characters have a conversation that basically amounts to "Hey, what happened to the evil king and princess from scene 1?" "Oh, didn't you hear? They got hit by a meteor and died."
- One of the reasons that Chrono Cross received a lot of ire from the fans was that it did exactly this to several of the main cast members from Chrono Trigger — none of whom we'd seen get on the bus.
- The problem being that this is actually Fanon. Canonically, something happened to Lucca, but we don't know if she actually died, and we have no idea what happened to Crono and Marle when Guardia fell. People saw ghost-like children resembling the three — but younger even than they were in Chrono Trigger — toward the end of the game and jumped to conclusions.
- Very reasonable conclusions, given the way the game presents what little info it does about the previous game's protagonists. Worse for Western fans, as the interim game Radical Dreamers never made it to U.S. shores, so a vast amount of stuff simply happened offscreen between the two main games, including the main trio's Bus Crash.
- In Fable: The Lost Chapters, the hero can either marry Lady Grey (The Mayor of Bowerstone), or reveal to the world that she killed her sister for the seat of power. Assuming the player chooses the latter, Lady Grey will become enraged with you and leave. You never see her again.
- But then, in Fable 2, you discover that Lady Grey was accused of being a witch, hunted down, killed, and cut into pieces. Bus Crash, indeed.
- In Dawn of War II, a short conversation between characters reveals that Indrick "Spess Mahreens" Boreale, an extremely unpopular character from the first game's Soulstorm expansion, had died shortly thereafter and was considered a failure by everyone.
- Specifically, it was revealed that the Space Marines canonically lost the Kauravan campaign and that Boreale fell with them.
- In Super Robot Wars Compact, Chan Agi mentions Gihren Zabi and Kishiria Zabi were assassinated off-screen in the intermission after scenario 10 "Cruel Fairy Tale". However, since these two characters died in their original series, hitting them with this trope isn't as big as it is with other notable examples within the franchise.
- In a similar vein, the Second Super Robot Wars Z: Hakai-hen allowed something players had been asking for since the dawn of the series: Musashi Tomoe piloting the Shin Getter-3, no strings attached. Since Hakai-hen follows the plot of Getter Robo Armageddon, however, and the bridge from Hakai-hen to Saisei-hen takes the Time Skip from episodes three to four into account, poor Musashi is confirmed to have died off-screen, yet again.
- Filio Presty in the Second Super Robot Wars Original Generation. The prologue states he succumbed to sickness and has died before the game begins: the slightest hint about him ever being ill was loosely implied in the previous games (The Inspector reveals he was on medication, confirming the status). Considering this is the man who reprograms the Dygenguard to save Sanger Zonvolt in a span of three minutes, this was a waste of life.
- Filio's case may have been a necessity, as his accidental death in the back-story of Super Robot Wars Alpha 2 was the catalyst for Ibis Douglas and her Heroic BSOD in that game, to which she doesn't get hit with it the Second Original Generation.
- In Assassin's Creed II, Lorenzo de' Medici is not seen again after Ezio goes to Venice. If you know your Renaissance history, you'll know that he died in 1492, a year not depicted onscreen.
- Revan AND Exile according to trailers and promo material for the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. This isn't very surprising, considering that Star Wars: The Old Republic is set about three hundred years after the other two games.
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has a stage based on the famous Days Of Future Past storyline, Complete with a large "Apprehended/Slain" poster with the X-Men replaced by characters from Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes. Only Mega Man is still alive and free...presumably because, as a robot, the Sentinels aren't designed to track him.
- For the Soul Series, Sophitia has, according to official sources, passed away sacrificing herself to save her daughter, Pyrrha. Maxi gets two shots for this trope in Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur III, but he's still alive as of Soul Calibur V. Finally, given the nature of his ending in Soul Edge, Li Long could be considered this trope.
- Though Li Long turns up alive in Soul Calibur III.
- Most of the cast during the sixth official game is just gone or retired. Kilik was thought to have died due to his status as an "ill-fated character", but it turns out that he's alive.
- Daggoth suffers this fate in between StarCraft and StarCraft II, the only explanation from Chris Metzen being that he and the other Cerebrates can't survive without the Overmind.
- Alis(a) in the Phantasy Star series. Phantasy Star Gaiden revealed that she was alive and headed for Algol as a set-up for what was then the plot of Phantasy Star IV. Later, they decided to go with a different premise, and to "resolve" this plot point, they simply imply she died off-screen at some point between Gaiden and IV with no real explanation of how or why.
- Also happens to Khalid and Dynaheir in the Baldur's Gate game series, between games 1 and 2 (apparently killed in the fight which also resulted in the protagonist's capture: it being assumed as canon that the protagonist was travelling with Imoen, Khalid + Jaheira, and Minsc + Dynaheir, even if he completed the first game with a different party.) Khalid's fate is learned early on - his body was used for experiments and is found in the opening dungeon. Apart from being confirmed dead, nothing is seen of Dynaheir again, presumably she was left where she fell. Both of the deceased characters' bereaved partners have to deal with the fallout in their own way.
- Ash's girlfriend Jenny died, quite fittingly, in a bus crash between the events of Evil Dead: Hail to the King and its sequel Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick. Now he is drinking his sorrows away.
- Star Trek Online: Thomas Riker, the transporter clone of Commander William Riker from TNG: "Second Chances" who was last heard of when he surrendered to the Cardassians in DS9: "Defiant" and then was completely forgotten about. In episode "Cardassian Struggle", mission "Badlands", you meet his son Joshua Riker and learn Tom's fate. With the Cardassians having been basically destroyed by the Dominion War, the prison camp where Tom was held was abandoned by the government, and the prisoners turned it into a settlement under Tom's leadership. Tom died of heart failure after rescuing his wife when she fell into a ravine.
- Poor Patricia in KateModern - vanished from the series in season 2, only to be killed off in the episode immediately before Grand Finale. Worse yet, her death is only mentioned in a barely-legible, blink-and-you'll miss it shot of a headline in a newspaper that Sophie is reading. None of the characters appear to notice it, and nobody draws attention to it.
- Aydin from Darwin's Soldiers is reported by a newspaper to have committed suicide in a Cornova, TX convenience store. The heroes find out about it from a local newspaper.
- Survival of the Fittest v4 has an example with the escape group gathered by STAR. According to a broadcast by the terrorists, they all died in the attempt. However, subverted! They turn out to be alive and well, currently in a hospital somewhere in Canada.
- This was also believed to be the case in v3 when a large number of characters, including v1 winner Adam Dodd, suddenly disappeared and were declared dead. After a while, it was revealed that they got their collars off and were plotting an escape.
- In Redvs Blue the last time we see Sister is at the start of season 6. Later in season 7 when Lopez shows up, he claims to have killed her before leaving Blood Gulch. Grif doesn't believe it, but Lopez gives no indication that he is lying.
- In Family Guy, Season 7's "Stew-roids" has Joe inform Peter that his son Kevin Swanson, who mainly appeared in the first 3 seasons, has died in the war in Iraq. Seth MacFarlane commented that they did it because they thought he was a boring character and they didn't want to use him anymore. However, he re-appeared in Season 10's Thanksgiving, revealing he actually faked his own death and went A.W.O.L. Now it seems Kevin is back for good.
- At least with Cleveland's wife, Loretta, Seth MacFarlane had an entire episode where Loretta decides to leave Cleveland because he's boring (season four's "The Cleveland-Loretta-Quagmire"). It would have been very easy to just make her vanish when Family Guy was brought back from cancellation, but Seth didn't do that.
- This was averted in an episode of the Spin-Off series The Cleveland Show, when a Manatee Gag showed that Loretta, in a deconstruction of one of the show's running gags, died when her neck was broken when she fell out of her (and Cleveland's) old house in the bathtub after one of Peter's shenanigans. The episode mostly dealt with Cleveland being distraught over her death (much to Donna's dismay), before revealing he had "survivor's guilt", since the bathtub thing had never killed him.
- The Simpsons
- Amber, the Vegas showgirl Homer was accidentally "married" to, was later said to have died off screen in a later season. The family attends a funeral service for her at the beginning of an episode.
- Poochie, the much-hated third character from the Itchy and Scratchy Show, is to be removed through Executive Meddling because the viewers hate him. After a passionate speech by Homer (Poochie's voice actor) to save the poor dog, he is nevertheless literally pulled out of the cartoon with the deadpan "I have to go, my planet needs me," followed by a scribbled note that "Poochie died on the way to his home planet" and then Krusty comes up stating that they have made a legally binding contract never to return Poochie.
- A lot of good that did. In the syndicated version (at least in the United States; some overseas airings may have this), the part where Krusty mentions the legally-binding contract stating that Poochie can never return was cut. And let's not forget that Poochie appeared on two other Simpsons episodes featuring "Itchy and Scratchy": the Halloween episode where Bart and Lisa get sucked into the TV (Poochie is the one who gets hit by the police car as he's skating down the street) and another episode where Poochie was at Scratchy's funeral.
- Dr. Marvin Monroe was believed to have died in this manner (disappeared from the series, a 'memorial' hospital named after him, a tombstone for him shaped like a psychiatrist's couch), but he suddenly reappeared alive and well at a book signing, much to Marge's surprise.
- Matt Groening has said on DVD commentaries that he was never a fan of the Marvin Monroe character. He admits it was a lot of things with the gravelly and hoarse voice being the largest complaint he had. It was believed for years in Simpsons fandom that Monroe was dead, but it wasn't actually confirmed until the clip show episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" where it was the answer to a trivia question.
- Parodied with Shary Bobbins who flies off after helping the Simpsons. The kids ask if they'll see her again and Homer says he's sure they will just moments before she's sucked into a jet engine.
- Played out quite literally in an episode of American Dad! which began with the promise/threat that 100 characters were going to die off for real. It ends up teased several times where a major character will narrowly avoid a horrific death, until a literal busload of minor side characters who had been introduced over the previous seasons all went over a cliff together, accounting for 99 of the 100 deaths.
- Poor Huffer from Transformers Generation One was confirmed dead when his coffin was shown on the Autobot Mausoleum in "Dark Awakening," presumably because someone mistook him for Brawn, who had died in Transformers: The Movie. This becomes hilarious in the episode "Carnage In C-Minor" where due to an art error, both Huffer and Brawn accidentally make a cameo appearance despite both having been dead for months in the canon.
- King of the Hill: Bill's entire extended family (except for one survivor) met this fate. In one episode, you learn that Bill is of New Orleans ancestry, and his family turns out to be a colorful bunch of backstabbing rich Cajun layabouts. Bill gets caught up in their intrigues a couple of times, and then they aren't heard from again until the final season, when Bill's cousin Gilbert turns up to rather casually inform him that they all caught bad fevers and died. Their deaths are given little attention and essentially just serve to set up a plot where Bill worries about his own mortality.
- More accurately the plot of said episode relates to how Bill feels utterly alone in the world and fears dying thusly. The unceremonious deaths of the rest of his extended family being bluntly pointed out to him serves to accent his loneliness. So it's not really just an "Oh, hey, by the way, they're all dead" moment that's not dealt with, the deaths play a pretty important part in Bill's overall story.
- Cotton's war buddy Topsy suffered this fate who may have died from old age or sickness. He and Cotton are often shown together in episodes before his death. An episode showed that Cotton inherited his money and instead of using it for Topsy's funeral, he cremated him and used the rest trying to buy a timeshare in Mexico.
- A literal example happens with Doc Hudson prior to the events of Cars 2, due to Lightning McQueen recently winning the "Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup."
- Parodied in an episode of Kappa Mikey. In it a new writer is brought on the show and at first seems perfectly fine. But then it's discovered that the writer is infamous in Japan's entertainment industry because in every show he works in he kills off a major character. What humorous is that he always kills whatever character he kills off by having them get hit and killed by a bus, no matter how ridiculous the circumstances.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Professor Zei is last seen deciding to stay in Wan Shi Tong's enormous library as it sinks into the desert sands. Seventy years later, in Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Jinora comes across his mummified corpse, still sitting among the scrolls and books.