Character Rerailment is what happens when a derailed character
returns to their previous characterization. Generally this signals the end of a Dork Age
. This may also follow a changing of the guard at the asylum
. May also happen repeatedly if a character bounces between writers
. Sometimes the time spent derailed turns out to be All Just a Dream
Sometimes used as an Author's Saving Throw
. See also, We Want Our Jerk Back
, Flowers for Algernon Syndrome
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Anime & Manga
- While in the past two or three volumes, she was murderously insane in every single chapter, in volume 8 of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Chiri returns to her original characterization as very uptight, but still somewhat the Straight Man.
- Orihime Inoue from Bleach is an odd case of rerailment due to Character Development instead of undoing Character Derailment. She has recently gone back to being her humorous, perky self like how she was to begin with rather than the broken, emotional character she's been portrayed as throughout the Hueco Mundo arc as a result of a MASSIVE Break the Cutie process that involved her being kidnapped, being mentally/physically/sexually (manga only) harrassed by the enemy, being forced to see her friends being hurt in several ways, and ultimately watching her Love Interest being beaten to near death. This is because all her issues from said arc were wrapped up and she was free to be a content person once more, with added life experiences and stronger determination.
- Mamoru Chiba/Darian from Sailor Moon was subjected to quite the Character Derailment in the R season, going from a polite young man who still didn't unnecessarily sugarcoat his words and did tell his (much-younger) girlfriend and her friends what he had in his mind, to a Angsty and broken mess who acted borderline abusive to her, badmouthing her to keep her away and safe, and caused her lots of turmoil (which once almost killed her since he would not tell her what he did have his reasons... when in fact said reasons did involve her and she had all the right to know). Fortunately, once he finally told her the truth and the arc reached its end, Mamoru's Out of Character half-season was put in a shelf and he returned to be the Senshi's Big Brother Mentor and a kind yet sincere boyfriend to Usagi. Too bad fandom won't let him live it down, though....him being put heavily Out of Focus in the next few seasons didn't help matters either.
- The few constants among the Pokémon cast seem to be re-hitting their stride in the XY saga.
- Jessie, James, and Meowth were first introduced as true members of the evil Team Rocket organization, constantly obeying their leader Giovanni all the time. But after their obsession with capturing Ash Ketchum's Pikachu began in the show's second episode, they started to ignore Giovanni and mainly went after Pikachu, which inevitably resulted in them constantly getting kicked around and "being blasted off again" every single time, even when Ash continued his journeys beyond Kanto. By Sinnoh, they had gone from their original intentions of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains to an outright Goldfish Poop Gang with silly dances and Boss Fantasies being seen as outright detrimental to both the show in general and the Terrible TRio specifically. The writers for the Best Wishes arc made them super competent and super important; which generated (yet another) Broken Base and was ultimately seen as swinging the pendulum too far the other way. Early Kalos seems to have split the difference, wherein Team Rocket's plans are self-contained and usually doomed to failure, yet Pikachu is now an occasional target, giving way to the Pokemon of the Week.note This has struck fans early on as a "happy medium". It also helps that they're not in every episode, thus their appearances seem less forced.
- Ash himself seems to be undergoing this in Kalos as well. In Hoenn, he served as a Big Brother Mentor to Max and an equal to May. In Sinnoh, his Idiot traits are more pronounced, but he still comes off as somewhat capable, at least when he's not up against a Creator's Pet or a Diabolus Ex Machina. In Unova, he was completely rebooted into a full-fledged rookie, except when the plot required otherwise. Iris's condescension didn't help matters at all. In Kalos, however, he returns to Hoenn-era form; he's still a bit wide-eyed, but most of his faux-pas early on have come from lack of knowledge of the new region's dynamics, as opposed to the outright virtual lobotomy in Unova. It helps that he started Kalos with a Moment of Awesomenote , is a quasi-Big Brother Mentor to Bonnie,note and also has Serena to play off as she's the Novice of the group.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 rerails several members of the cast after their derailment in Seasons 6 and 7, while at the same time continuing their character development. Some, however, still haven't really recovered (Giles, Amy, Buffy herself to a widly varying degree, etc.)
- A number of comic book characters have gone through this. Like Batman, who swings between Jerkass behavior and being called out on it, typically going on a trip to rediscover himself.
- Nightwing underwent a similar process after Devin Grayson's disastrous run on the series, which had him join Deathstroke as Renegade. The Reset Button on that one was pounded so hard it cracked.
- For Nightwing, it was a case of rerailment or death. Dan DiDio has stated that it was originally planned to have Nightwing die at the end of Infinite Crisis (if you've read it, you can probably figure out where), and he kind of implies that Devin Grayson's handling of the character is one of the reasons.
- This seems to be a pattern with Batman characters, including the case of Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl... for a while, at least. After she was revealed to have thrown out her heroic side and become evil, later writers retconned this by saying that she was under the control of Deathstroke through a drug, only to have her swing back to killing people again. Poor girl can't catch a break.
- After years of being brought down to harmless under comic censorship, The Joker finally returned to the Monster Clown we all love in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge".
- Hal Jordan of the Green Lanterns went through this after he went insane and killed most of the other Lanterns. It was eventually revealed that he'd been possessed by Parallax, the embodiment of fear, and though at the time this seemed like an Ass Pull both Parallax and the Sinestro Corps have gone on to become an integral part of the Green Lantern mythos. Oh, and several of the dead Lanterns turn out to be alive.
- Writer Peter David, who wrote The Incredible Hulk for 12 years, disliked the changes made by a subsequent writer so much that when he came back to write the title, he had the entire previous storyline revealed to have been All Just a Dream.
- At this point, there are at least three different characterizations of Magneto, with authors repeatedly rerailing one by derailing the others. The original characterization was a generically evil Big Bad. Chris Claremont's tormented Well-Intentioned Extremist is the most complex and long-running, considered his "true" self by most, but Grant Morrison's Ax-Crazy Complete Monster is actually arguably closer to the character's roots. However, nobody complained about Magneto's return to the character he'd been from 1975 to 2003 immediately after by Claremont himself, with Morrison's Magneto revealed as an impostor. Morrison, however, wasn't the first to try and make him The Heavy again, though they did make sure he had sufficient provocation for "Fatal Attractions" back in the 90s.
- Like Peter David, Alan Davis dismissed a later writer's run on ClanDestine as a dream. It was hilarious because it was just a single-line throwaway.
- Gambit started off as a Rule of Cool-based, Mr. Fanservice Manipulative Bastard Handsome Lech Death Dealing Badass Longcoat who relished the challenge of getting his hands on the Forbidden Fruit Rogue, though stymied by his self-centered Jerk Ass qualities and the large number of people he pissed off in his thief career. Then, Rogue left him to die in Antarctica. After this, the result was a lot of Angst on Gambit's part, whose characterization was changed from the previously-described version to a Self-loathing Atoner desperate to punish himself for his (morally blameless) role in the Mutant Massacre. More recent adaptations, however, have reached back to the character's roots: X-Men Origins: Wolverine showed Gambit as competent, charming, handsome and relatively low-angst card-shark who won a Cool Plane in a poker game, and Wolverine and the X-Men had Gambit as a mercenary, ruthless, charming, manipulative thief for hire (albeit in only two episodes). Whether or not this trend will continue is currently unknown.
- However, his role in the Mutant Massacre brings him to derailment in other ways: he's a villain in both X-Men: Evolution and WATXM, because apparently leading the Marauders to the Morlock tunnels having no idea what's about to happen makes you a bad guy. However, it's softer in X-Evo, as he's found in the employ of Magneto, whose Character Development is well on its way (though he's still mostly in opposition to the X-Men) by the time Gambit shows up. Still, we last saw Gambit as an X-Man in animation in the 1990s series.
- The entire purpose of One More Day was to get Spider-Man single again and make him "young and fresh" again. In order to do this, he was made to make a deal with Mephisto to save his aunt from dying, at the cost of his wife and unborn child, then was reset to being single, "young and fresh", and... living with his elderly aunt again. Safe to say, this didn't work out so well, but later writers have done their best to salvage it.
- Shatterstar's an odd case in that the "rerailment" wasn't to his original characterization. X-Force had him slowly lose his rage, but handled it believably, and didn't give him Badass Decay. Rob Liefeld's work on the series snapped him back to his old self, but didn't do much with the possibilities involved. X-Factor toned him down again, and has had more of a positive reception.
- Speedball's infamous transition from wacky comic relief to self-hating atoner in Civil War has been undone, redone, and partially undone again as different writers debate over the character. As of Heroic Age, he's still haunted by his memories, but he's slowly recovering.
- In Transformers: All Hail Megatron Prowl, the normally level-headed second in command, reveals a darker side, and shows him as a schemer doing what may be unethical but necessary to win the war (here having the mind of a respected soldier altered to serve his purposes). In The Transformers IDW his personality does a 180 and he becomes a self-sacrificial maverick, tries to save a Decepticon, and acts like the kind of rule-breaker he previously hated, this carries over to Infestation, but not to the concurrent Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers wherein he manipulated many events behind the story. Transformers: Robots in Disguise has Prowl revert to his scheming, being more irrational and hot-headed, but still bending the rules for what he feels is the greater good. He remarks that his actions in the previous series were irrational and brought on by too much trust. He's caught in an Armed with Canon tug-of-war and prone to repeatedly deciding that he was wrong during the previous writer's take on him and should have stayed like the writer before that had him.
- Fan Fic Sporkings sometimes have the characters derailed in the fic comment on what the character would have actually done in whatever situation the fic describes.
- The main aim of most fixfics.
- Before The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (see below), the Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper film Murder by Decree made a good-faith effort to rescue Watson from his post-Nigel Bruce image as a dundering blockhead. James Mason's Watson is an occasional Deadpan Snarker who makes one of the biggest contributions to solving the case, when he isn't taking out a much younger man in a fistfight.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor himself:
- The Third Doctor era had done a drastic Re Tool into a Spy Fiction-influenced series, with the Third Doctor being a radical departure from the first two Doctors in being a rather more humanlike, severe character with a job in UNIT and a rather militaristic attitude. While this era is well-liked, some regard the characterisation as Doctor Who In Name Only. When he regenerated into the Fourth Doctor he reverted to a clownish characterisation quite similar to the Second Doctor (although this developed in a more nuanced and rounded direction after his first serial) and cut most of his ties to Earth and UNIT, in favour of the wild space travel and battles with monsters upon which the first two had focused. He even does some Leaning on the Fourth Wall to inform the other characters that he's back to being how he should be ("I'm THE Doctor. The definite article.").
- The Seventh Doctor era attempted - at first - to make the Doctor a lot Lighter and Softer, making him a foolish Cloud Cuckoo Lander who didn't seem to have a clue what was going on and would break into vaudeville spoon-playing and clowning. In addition to this being a very shallow interpretation of the Doctor's characterisation, it caused severe whiplash coming as it did after an era with a particularly Jerkass Doctor who had featured in some very dark and violent stories. However, once the Executive Meddling eased up, the script editor and Sylvester McCoy teamed up to gradually rerail the Doctor back into being a mysterious, powerful and frightening figure, who just also happened to be a loveable figure of fun into the bargain as well, as he had always been before that and will likely always be after.
- The Tenth Doctor era tried to make him Darker and Edgier but went to the point of having him do some truly unheroic things and never get called on it (even though, as mentioned above, people were more likely to complain than thank him when he was clearly saving their asses.) However, the Tenth Doctor's last story contains none of the above and neither does the Reunion Show, and when the Eleventh Doctor is dark it's against actual bad guys, and we also finally get a What the Hell, Hero? moment done right (When the Doctor is about to leave a guy who'd once done awful things to his fate at the hands of the supposed villain of the episode, who proves to have come for revenge, Amy reads him the riot act, and the Doctor says that as the only one who can fight such creatures, he feels that every time he shows mercy to a villain who goes on to abuse it, he feels that he's responsible for everyone who suffers at their hands. Though he doesn't directly connect it to any of them, a lot of seeming Jerkass moments from the previous era look more forgivable in that light. And this time, Amy is able to talk him out of going through with it.)
- The Cybermen from Doctor Who were originally an emotionless and monotone species of cyborgs. From Earthshock onwards they turned into generic gun carrying evildoers. This was finally fixed in the New Series and Big Finish Doctor Who audio stories.
- The human race sort of gets this. Over the course of the Russell T Davies era, the focus on emotional realism and drama meant that the world was more and more prone to deciding that someone who had the power to beat the thing that almost took them out was too scary, and Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like reigned supreme. When Steven Moffat took over, when the Doctor was facing his Final Death, River showed him how the whole universe was saying they'd do whatever they could to help. "How dare you kill the giant spiders that were about to eat the world alive" is the exception; the universe does know him as the hero he is.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (and its successors) went to great pains to avoid the image of Watson as a fat, blundering old moron who couldn't see that the sun had risen until Holmes point it out to him, and turned him back into the young, fit, and incredibly accomplished surgeon with military background who, while still nowhere near as bright as Holmes, was still very intelligent in his own right.
- Television did this for both Perry Mason and Ellery Queen. In different series of movies in the 30's and 40's, Mason was depicted as a hard-living playboy with lavish offices and expensive tastes, while Queen was a comic bungler who was Too Dumb to Live. It took Raymond Burr (Mason) and Jim Hutton (Queen) to bring those characters back to the authors' original characterizations (which were far more serious and sensible).
- In Charmed Phoebe's character was seriously derailed in Season 5 and remained loathed by the fanbase. But when Season 8 came along, we saw a return to a maturer version of the original Phoebe. She was a lot less self-centred and less boy crazy - her Serial Romeo lifestyle was actually Deconstructed.
- After a bout of serious Flanderization and Character Derailment in the previous seasons, the characters in Community are returned to their original personalities in the fifth season, particularly Chang and Dean Pelton, who had become obnoxious cartoon characters by the fourth season.
- In Warhammer 40,000 this seems to be happening slightly to Khorne. In recent fluff, he has been going back to his older self, his hounds are stated to be sent to hunt down any of his Champions who kill an innocent (or at least offer them to Khrone). Not much, but hey. Progress.
- Those hounds also sent to hunt down those who run away from battle and abandons their fellow warriors.
- In Donkey Kong Country Returns, Cranky Kong is cranky again (Yeah, how THAT Character Derailment ever managed to happen in the first place we'll never know...)
- Sonic in Sonic Colors. After a few years of being portrayed in the games as something of a goody-goody, teamwork-obsessed invincible hero, he's back to being a slightly more nuanced version of the snarky Mascot with Attitude that he was supposed to be from the start.
- Before that, Sonic X was able to strike somewhat of a middle point, giving him a personality that could be described as a combination between his friendly and optimist portrayal from the then current games and his somewhat aloof self from the OVAs.
- Earlier in the series, Knuckles went from a smug echidna who laughed at being able to outwit Sonic to a completely serious guardian who is a bit gullible. Sonic Heroes attempted to combine the two portrayals into a bumbling Lancer who is smug at getting one over Sonic.
- After that, however, Knuckles' Hot-Blooded nature and bumbling naivete was Flanderized further in a case of Badass Decay. His role as guardian of Angel Island is also frequently neglected in favor of being another generic associate of Sonic.
- Tails as well. For a few games, he simply became a walking toolkit for the team, losing the childlike and friendly aspects that made him interesting and likable in the first place (and that his character was built from). Sonic Colors undoes some of the damage, especially that done to his friendship with Sonic.
- Amy Rose. Originally an All-Loving Hero with a giant hammer that she kept pulling out of nowhere, who had a crush on Sonic. She got a Plot-Relevant Age-Up from eight to twelve come Sonic Adventure, by which time her love for Sonic had completely taken over her character. She derailed even further in Sonic Riders, becoming a Spoiled Brat. Amy was finally rerailed in Sonic Boom series, becoming more of an Action Girl, with more elements of her All-Loving Hero status returned. Her crush on Sonic is back to much more nuanced, tolerable levels, along with her trying to hide said crush instead of showing it.
- Some games tried to make Eggman a more serious villain and downplay his comedic attributes, only for the next game to backpedal and revert him back to comedy relief self. As with Knuckles, latest games flanderized his comedic traits and behavior.
- Axel from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories underwent massive characterization changes and Badass Decay in Kingdom Hearts II. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, set between the two games, attempts to explain how this happened; he had been friends and co-conspirators with Saix, but gradually ended up bonding with Roxas and Xion instead, and using manipulative and underhanded means for what he at least claims is their own good, leading Roxas to leave the Organization and Xion to die fighting Roxas and be erased from everyone's memory.
- In The Sands of Time, the Prince of Persia was a snarky, slightly naive teenager (possibly) fresh from his first battle. In Warrior Within, he became dark, brooding, and occasionally yelled obscenities at his enemies. The Two Thrones backpedaled to the characterization from Sands, but justified his attitude in Warrior Within as the Prince's darker side - who manifests in The Two Thrones as the Prince's Superpowered Evil Side.
- In Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers, every character from the original games (except Pablo) went back to their original characterization (though not their look), winning huge applause in the process.
- Crisis Core did this for the Final Fantasy VII cast, particularly Cloud, Aerith and Yuffie. They weren't exactly the same as before, but this was justified by the game being set five years before the original game, and they were a lot closer to their original counterparts than they were in Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus. Aerith got her flirtiness and Plucky Girl traits back, Cloud regained his sense of humour and realistic levels of Angst, and Yuffie regained her snarkiness and manipulativeness.
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm turned Sylvanas back into her old bitchy, vengeful, bitter, snide, condescending, determined, manipulative self that had been gone since Warcraft III, motivated now with self-preservation rather than revenge.
- Mists of Pandaria tried this with Tyrande. It didn't work.
- Mortal Kombat 9 does this to most of its cast. Johnny Cage is shown as being a Hollywood douchebag with a heroic spirit, instead of the Butt Monkey who serves no purpose aside from being killed off as a gag. Likewise, Jax goes from being a stereotypical Blaxploitation hero back to his role as the badass Straight Man of the cast. And Shao Kahn finally stops being a regular playable character, and returns to his spot as the overpowered Final Boss.
- Tales of Monkey Island rerailed arguably the entire Monkey Island franchise, but ESPECIALLY LeChuck, turning him truly evil and threatening again after his disappointing appearance subservient to Ozzie in Escape from Monkey Island.
- This was one of the selling points of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies . After the loss of his badge and his subsequent derailment into a Manipulative Bastard in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, a lot of people wanted the old Adorkable Nice Guy Phoenix back. So in Dual Destinies, he's back to being a lawyer again, and he's not half as much of a jerk — though he's kept a few of the Apollo Justice-era mannerisms, and he acts a little more like a Team Dad Trickster Mentor, so his character in Dual Destinies is closer to a combination of this and Character Development.
- One of the darker arcs (Dark!Jareth arc) of the Mega Crossover Fan Webcomic Roommates invokes this in-universe mixed with a liberal dose of You Can't Fight Your Canon: After trying to be the hero (and failing) for 150 or so pages Jareth snaps and reverts back to his original characterization and this Superpowered Evil Side of his tries to force the others back too. It's heartbreaking and asks the highly meta question: "Is it even possible for a fictional character to change or redeem himself? Or does the story define everything he can ever be?"