Character Rerailment

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". Unfortunately, they became more overexposed and less useful to the plot as the series went on, leading to fan dissatisfaction once again.
    • 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, taking a backseat to his own sidekicks Iris and Cilan half the time. 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Fiction 
  • 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.

     Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 

  • 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?"

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: After two seasons of Character Derailment, first into an unpleasable harpy, and then into a doormat, Dana Tan is finally restored to her original sweet and supportive characterization... in the Fully Absorbed Distant Finale.
  • One of the main points to the first season of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien is to finally mend Kevin's abrupt, unexplained shift in characterization and powers that occurred in Alien Force, ultimately culminating in using his old, sanity-warping powers as a means to save the world, and becoming evil again as a side-effect.
    • Mileages vary as to how well this worked out in the end though, as some feel that this effort to connect his original series characterization with his new one only succeeded in derailing both of them, with his old one being retconned from truly sociopathic to a result of alien heritage, and his new one treated so seriously that his sudden change back to comic relief after the first season finale, with no more mention of what transpired before, was not taken well.
    • Kevin's rerailment was tried again in Omniverse, with even more mixed results. It reached its most base-breaking level when it was Retconned that almost EVERYTHING about Kevin's backstory and personality from the sequels was a mental fabrication by an evil faction of the Plumbers and that his Heel-Face Turn was all part of their master plan. Granted, Kevin redeems himself for real after learning this instead of follow through with his intended mission, but many fans of him from the previous sequel shows felt cheated all the same at having invested themselves in a total phony.
    • Vilgax's characterization and vocalsnote  in one of the Alien Force video games, Vilgax Attacks!, was much closer to how he was portrayed in the first series. He also regained his original series personality in the Grand Finale of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, what with outsmarting a Eldritch Abomination God and what not.
    • Zombozo, in the first series, was an undead, supernatural Monster Clown who was rather dangerous. Ultimate Alien seemed to remove the supernatural aspects in favor of a much more Joker-like character. Omniverse reworks the character to showcase him as more of a walking corpse who can stretch his arms, bringing the supernatural aspect of the character back. He's a little less effective and a little more comical, though.
    • Charmcaster had an accumulative derailment process in both Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, with a totally new look and personality, and eventually practically crossing the Moral Event Horizon even though she'd never been that heinous a villain before and had in fact previously seemed to have a Heel-Face Turn. Omniverse restored her to her original look, gave her a zanier version of her old immature personality, and an arc about going back to her old power-seeking ways as a means to heal from a mental breakdown: essentially a metaphor for her undergoing this trope. She's also left in a far better place for her to both mentally and morally improve at the end of the series, Gwen even lampshades the fact.
  • The Simpsons: Homer goes from Jerkass to the original Homer sometimes at will. Flanders was de-Flanderized in The Movie.
  • Family Guy horribly subverted this trope with Stewie: in the season 9 premiere, he killed a character for first time in years and revealed that he still wanted to kill Lois, although this still hasn't happened.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Many of the characters have undergone Flanderization after the movie. SpongeBob and Patrick Took a Level in Dumbass, though the most notable change is Mr. Krabs' greed stooping to horrible levels. Arguably at the turn of Season 9, many of these changes were decreased and the characters began to act somewhat like their former selves.
  • Most of the Character Derailment in Total Drama Action was reverted in Total Drama World Tour. Trent (although only a minor character) was back to being normal, Courtney stopped being evil and started being the holier-than-thou Small Name, Big Ego she was in season 1. Most of the characters who were flanderized like Owen and Bridgette returned to having multiple dimensions.
  • The DCAU team has admitted that Superman got derailed into a punching bag during the early days of Justice League and took steps in later episodes to remind viewers why he's, well, Superman.
  • Recent characterizations of Daffy Duck have attempted, with varying levels of success, to get him back to his daffier roots.
  • Although unintentional, the real reason why Waspinator was portrayed as the Butt Monkey of the Transformers franchise is because Hasbro actually found his cartoon voice extremely stupid. As a result he ended up getting kicked around and being blown up every single time, while muttering to himself "Waspinator has plansssss..." as he tries to put himself back together again. At the end of Beast Wars' final episode, poor Waspinator is rescued by tribe of natives and crowned their leader, causing him to finally become "happy at last", but in Beast Machines, he for some reason returned to Cybertron where he is immediately rehired by Megatron, who then wipes his memory clean and transfers his spark into that of the Vehicon Thrust's (who is smarter, stronger, and more dangerous than Waspinator). When Waspinator-as-Thrust finally gets his memories back, he eventually starts to get kicked around and being blown up again, and when the Maximals turn Cybertron into a second Earth, they also transfer Waspinator's spark back into his original (but smaller) wasp mode again. In Transformers Animated Waspinator returns, but is now known as Wasp instead, and he is changed into an extremely terrifying and powerful villain.
  • Zigzagged with Mickey Mouse: He was originally depicted as a brave action hero, but later shorts changed him into a laid-back slacker while Donald Duck took the spotlight. Now, he's either back to being an action hero in several video games, is the owner of a nightclub for other Disney characters, or a Dora the Explorer-esque kids' show host.
  • After suffering Badass Decay throughout most of Ultimate Spider-Man, Agent Phil Coulson reminds us that he is a SHIELD agent by fighting off a trio of Asgardians mounted on fire breathing wolves using a pair of BFGs that are almost as big as him.
    Coulson: No running in the halls.
    • Not to mention holding his own against the Beetle (who in this version has nearly Iron Man-grade Powered Armor and previously was a difficult enemy for Spidey, Iron Fist, Power Man, Nova and White Tiger as a team) using nothing but a steel pipe he found lying around.
  • Rufus and Amberley of The Dreamstone started off as Badass Normals with distinctive personalities in the pilot, before quickly downgrading into generic incompetent Hero Antagonists afterwards. Season 3 onward gradually reverts back to their original personalities and level of competence (if not higher). Their Unscrupulous Hero tendencies were also dialed back by the start of season 4, making them look more sympathetic and provoked against the Urpneys.
  • Many of the engines' slowly waxed and waned in the long run of Thomas the Tank Engine, some becoming almost polar opposites of their former selves. From Season 17 onward however, a new writing team was brought on board, reverting back many of the engines to their original personalities and refreshing it's roots to The Railway Series. Some traits introduced in the TV show remain, albeit more as Hidden Depths.