Dr. Wilson: I thought you had lunch with coma guy.
This is persistent vegetative state guy, much more interesting.
In Real Life
, having a friend or family member fall into a coma is a heart wrenching tragedy. On the one hand they are physically present and alive... but for all intents and purposes they are dead. Waiting for a family member to come out of a coma can be like a slow, painful torture that might never end.
Not so in fiction.
In Medical Dramas
and Live-Action TV
series, coming out of a coma isn't a matter of if, but when.
More often than not it's an ideal way to have a character Put on a Bus
without dropping a bridge on them
(never drop a bridge you may want the casting department to cross again, eh?
). If a Super Hero
's Secret Identity
is exposed, a Convenient Coma
to the hapless discoverer solves those dangling plot threads without resorting to killing or changing the status quo
. Speaking of killing
, it's also a good way for moralistic heroes to do away with a bad guy without losing their no-killing reputation. Of course, the coma was the villain's own fault.
A favorite for writers is that as soon as the hero clears the table
and is ready to settle down with his first love
, that plucky Unlucky Childhood Friend
turned Human Popsicle
will wake up and be a Fish out of Water
. Oblivious to all the extant romantic Character Development
, she reintroduces entire layers
of confusion, angst, guilt, and other soap opera staples to the once clean equation. The same is true for villains or people who found out the hero's secret ID.
If they're not long term, comas are usually treated as the step before death
for someone who's ill. Being told that the patient has "slipped into a coma" is generally a signal to the heroes to hurry up and find the cure. Staying beside and talking to the comatose person, often in shifts to allow each character in an ensemble to pour their hearts out, is usually a given. Expect a Mistimed Revival
to result just as they leave. If they don't make it in time, the comatose friend will invariably
wake up, say they heard everything, and deliver a heartwrenching Final Speech
before quietly slipping off.
Sometimes, interrogating a comatose person for info will start to wake him up, or at least spike his EKG or EEG. He is then a Comatose Canary
. In Speculative Fiction
stories, heroes with Telepathy
or telepahy-like technology may try an Orphean Rescue
to wake them up. Other times, the coma is caused by an Astral Projection Gone Horribly Wrong
The comatose person may start waking up either with the eyes
or the fingers
Many a pregnant comatose mother will give birth while in a coma, at times resulting in spectacularly tragic Death by Childbirth
as the mother never sees the child.
Expect the comatose person to wake up with selective memory problems.
May overlap with Angst Coma
, in which the coma is either caused by the sufferer's personal problems, or cured by dealing with them, or both. Compare Empty Shell
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- Another case of 'pregnant in a coma': the Bride from Kill Bill, who got a bullet in the head by Bill himself after taking a hell of a beating from her fellow Deadly Vipers while she was pregnant. It's a wonder the kid even made it to term, really.
- The Pedro Almodovar film Talk to Her is about two men who visit two comatose women at hospital. one of them impregnates the one he visits.
- In De Vere Stacpoole's original The Blue Lagoon novel, Emmeline comes walking out of the forest with the baby she had a few hours earlier. She explains to Richard that she felt ill, went to sit in the forest, and then "remembered nothing more" until she woke to find the little creature lying beside her. Apparently she remembers more about the birth later.
- This happens to the titular character Karen in Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma. She gets pregnant a few hours before falling into a coma for seventeen years.
- In Wicked, Elphaba gives birth to Liir while in a fugue state. Not quite a coma, but close enough.
- All My Children's Kendall was in a coma when she gave birth to Spike. This led to much argument over whether to deliver him early (risking his health) or wait until he was stronger (risking the mother's health.)
- As of this writing, she's in a coma again (not pregnant this time) to allow Alicia Minshew to go on her honeymoon.
- On One Tree Hill, at the end of season 6, Peyton falls into a coma shortly after her wedding to Lucas. Her daughter is delivered via cesarian section.
- Fake Amanda on Revenge suffers a physics-defying fall over the banister at Grayson manor during her baby shower. The roughly full-term baby boy is safely delivered via C-section after the less fortunate Fauxmanda is placed in a medically induced coma.
- Meg on Veronica Mars. Originally was supposed to have died in the season two bus crash/explosion, network meddling led to Meg surviving and for added trauma, pregnant with Veronica's old flame Duncan Kane's child. She ultimately woke up long enough to give birth and warn Duncan and Veronica to not let her family raise the child, before Rob Thomas could finally kill her off via her dropping dead from an sudden aneurysm.
- In the Superman story "For the Man Who Has Everything" (by Alan Moore), Superman has an alien parasite attached to him which grants his fondest fantasy; a normal life on Krypton. He has to force himself to deny the fantasy to wake up and save his friends.
- In the animated adaptation in the series Justice League Unlimited, Batman and Wonder Woman manage to help him, by disrupting its hold when trying to pull it off, allowing him to shake himself awake by realizing that Krypton's survival is false—only for the parasite to end up on Batman, being Batman he breaks himself out quite quickly, after watching his dad savagely beat the living daylights out of the mugger who should have killed him. (Wonder Woman didn't get away unscathed, either: while this was going on, she had to fight Mongul, who had sent the thing to Clark in the first place.)
- Earl and his fantasy of "The Hickey's" in My Name Is Earl.
- In an episode of One Tree Hill, Lucas is in a coma and is visited by his Uncle Keith who shows him how sad the world would be without him, a la It's a Wonderful Life.
- In an episode of Supernatural a Djinn did this to Dean.
- Fei in Xenogears had an inner child personality that was functionally comatose and constantly reliving his happiest memories. Of course, Fei himself was in a coma as well for a while there.
Medical Drama Comas
- Talk to Her: The entire premise of this film is: "Will the girls wake up?" Where, in real life, there is usually little question and the person simply stays that way until he or she dies.
- Grey's Anatomy does the exact same thing with "Really Old Guy", who's in a coma. I think a year after House did it. Lazy Grey's Anatomy.
- House woke up a comatose guy just to ask him some questions.
- As the page quote can attest, House also tends to use the comatose patients' rooms as his personal cafeteria, since that way no one bothers him.
- Plus their rooms have cable.
- Also as the quote attests, House woke up "Vegetative State Guy" and the method he used would only work once due to the body gaining a resistance. "Coma Guy" is somebody else and he's still in a coma.
- Also, many episodes include the patient of the week slipping into a coma. This adds the urgency and time limit for House&company to find out what's wrong with them.
- Alternatively the doctors sometimes deliberately put the patient into a chemically-induced coma, in one case to initiate rapid cocaine detoxing.
- In season 1 of One Tree Hill, Lucas goes into a coma after a car crash. Dan is forced to admit he is Lucas' father to get Lucas the treatment he needs.
- This is the central premise of Saving Hope. In the premiere Dr. Charlie Harris is in a car accident and a head injury causes him to fall into a coma. he enters a state of Near Death Clairvoyance and gets to observe as other doctors, including his fiancee, are trying to save his life and wake him from the coma. Since all the main characters are doctors, they fully understand how bad Charlie's condition is and as months pass, they start to lose hope that he will ever wake up.
- While in his out-of-body state Charlie meets the spirit of another coma patient who has been in a coma for decades and is now an old man. The man dies of old age without ever waking up.
- On Futurama, the only role Bender was suited for in All My Circuits was a comatose robot. On another episode, Leela goes into a coma after a space wasp sting, although the episode actually follows Leela as she dreams Fry died trying to save her from being stung. Her dream gradually keeps getting stranger, and it seems she's going insane from guilt over Fry's death. The audience isn't shown that Leela was comatose until right before she wakes up.
Anime and Manga
- In Bleach, Komamura was put into a coma after his fight with Tenken in the Zanpaktou arc. Since the last time we see him (episode 235) until the end of episode 253 (near the end of the arc, it ends at episode 255) he's unconcious, he presumably stays this way until then. This may be the writer's way of keeping him out of the arc this time. When he starts slaying Gillians, it's revealed that he's still sore from that fight.
- Made worse that in the long run, both Sajin and Tenken wind up pointless to the arc. There is no interaction between them after that fight, in the final battle, Tenken stands behind Komamura but it's like he never existed. The fans of Koma were not pleased at this.
- In Naruto Tsunade was put in a coma after the Pain Invasion Arc, letting Danzo take over the village, and she came out of it right after he died.
- President Rexall of Give Me Liberty has one of these, which keeps him out of the limelight for most of the series.
- Before the events of the Superior Spider-Man comic series, Spider-Man supporting character Madame Web falls into a coma. Coincidentally, she could've perfectly discovered and revealed that Doctor Octopus had swapped bodies with the true Spider-Man if she had been around.
- Cordelia in Angel, comatose for half a season before coming Back for the Dead.
- Jonathan Turner in Boy Meets World. (He never did come out of it).
- His long absence is later lampshaded when Minkus (another character who disappeared) informs Cory and Shawn that he and Mr. Turner have merely been in/teaching classes on the other side of the school. So apparently he did come out of it.
- Justified in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faith wakes up from her coma a year afterward, and she had the healing abilities of a slayer.
- Odd that she had no neurological symptoms, though. Even with special healing skills, she should at least have had serious brain damage for awhile after awakening. Indeed, someone in a coma doesn't just 'wake up', there are several intermediate stages (look up Glasgow coma scale).
- There's a fanfic set during Faith's coma that deals with her fading in and out of various states, including ones where she's semi-aware but unable to move, and slowly trying to get her body under enough control to be able to escape the hospital without falling over. At which point the Watchers turn up and put her into a magical coma.
- Parodied in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Will replaces a cast member of a soap opera, and his character is put in a coma. He wakes up to find that the Jodie he was reading about in the script was a man.
- Paroded in Friends when Joey's character on Days of Our Lives fell down an open elevator shaft and was put in a coma. All this because he said he helped write the scripts in an interview.
- Michael Corinthos in General Hospital. Said bus went through a time warp and he woke up five years older — a year later.
- In the PSP port/remake of Persona 3, you get the option to play as a girl and romance some of the resident guys, discovering Hidden Depths in some of the major male characters that couldn't be explored in the original game or the male path of the PSP version due to them not being social links. One of them, Shinjiro Aragaki, dies from a gunshot wound if you're playing as a guy (which was the only option in the original and its Updated Re-release, Persona 3 FES). However, he's a possible love interest for the female main character, and maxing out his Relationship Values opens up a short fetch quest where if you complete it, in the scene where he would normally die, he survives the gunshot. But since he dies in every other continuity, in order to keep the plot on the same path he spends the rest of the game hospitalized and in a coma. If it's a New Game+ and you successfully romanced him and saved his life, then he can wake up just in time to come and spend the ending of the game with you, turning it into a different kind of Convenient Coma.
- Ultra Magnus in Transformers Animated, which neatly cleared the stage for Sentinel Prime to take over. The odd with this one is that he's still in it by the end of the series.
Anime and Manga
- Angel Sanctuary puts Raphael in one of these after discovering his true love. But just in case that doesn't pan out, the decades or possibly centuries he'll spend in recovery will take care of the Triangle Relations he'd established previously with the main character's sister.
- Frequently used to Never Say "Die" in the Bowdlerisation of several Anime dubs intended to be syndicated on US television "For Kids". Not really convenient for the victim, but rather for the dubbing company. Case-in-point, Shun's mom in Bakugan. (Which, admittedly, is dubbed by Nelvana...)
- Satoshi of Higurashi: When They Cry, at least in the anime, is in a coma for almost the entire series. It turns out that he developed the Hinamizawa Syndrome, escalated to Level Five, and needed to be sedated to avoid harming himself/others. And of course they didn't tell his little sister.
- Hitomi from ICE winds up in a coma after an accident, which causes her mind to blend with that of a woman in the dystopian future.
- Ayu Tsukimiya in Kanon turns out to have been an astral projection; her real body's in a coma, and has been for the past seven years. Unlike Key's usual Downer Ending fare, she gets better.
- Fuuko in CLANNAD is a revisiting of the Ayu story, but with some changes. You find out about her condition right away instead of at the end of her arc, and though she's been in a coma for a much shorter time, the amnesia spell surrounding her is magnified by ten.
- StrikerS Sound Stage X, set three years after the events of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, ends with Subaru learning that Ixpellia is only partially functioning and that she will soon slip into a coma that will last for maybe ten years... The two of them spend her last day being naturally awake together, until the latter falls asleep in Subaru's embrace.
- Mazinger Z: In Mazinger-Z versus Great General of Darkness, Shiro got badly injured and fell into a coma when the ceiling of the room he was in collapsed. He needed an urgent blood transfusion to save his life, and since blood supply was low (what with giant monsters obliterating major cities), Kouji demanded they used his own blood, in spite of he was hurt. Kouji spent the whole night by his brother's side, not knowing if he would live to see another day. Fortunately, Shiro came out of his coma the next day.
- Johan's coma at the end of Monster is neither medically improbable nor taken lightly, but it conveniently serves to eschew the question of his redemption and repentance.
- In The End of Evangelion, Asuka came out of her mental breakdown-induced coma just in time to take Unit 02 and kick ass (then get brutally killed a few minutes afterwards).
- More specifically, she awoke in the entry plug right as the JSSDF started dropping depth charges. One of the charges hit the Eva's head and started her "I don't wanna die" mantra. Finally, the Eva had enough and revealed her identitynote to Asuka, which instantly fixed her breakdown. What happened afterwards was her biggest Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Rumbling Hearts. Haruka is run over by a car and falls into a coma right after the protagonist confesses to her, and when she wakes (after three years!) he's dating her best friend. Drama ensues.
- The Riddler was smashed in the noggin with a mace during Infinite Crisis, was in a coma for the "One Year Later" time skip, and woke up A) having forgot Batman's secret identity, and B) free of his compulsions for both riddling and crime. He's currently a successful private detective, so fair play Edward!
- An explosion has since restored the Riddler's criminal nature, though given the reality reboot that occurred shortly after there's no telling what the Riddler's mental state is.
- "Special Officer" Matthew Bright falls into a coma and is visited every day by fellow superhero Jason Miller in Rising Stars. When Jason eventually dies defending his comatose friend, immediately Matthew wakes up, declares to have heard everything told to him during the years and sets off on a revenge trip.
- The Second Try plays this more realistically. In the Epilogue, it's revealed that Gendo fell into a coma after a self inflicted bullet to the brain. It's mostly convenient for Shinji, as he uses the opportunity to gain some closure while explaining what happened at the end of the story, but it ends with the possibility that the character may never recover.
- Good Bye, Lenin! used the coma of the lead's mom as a form of Time Travel from communist Germany to capitalist Germany.
- In the movie Just Like Heaven, Elizabeth had become comatose after being in a car crash. Her sister wanted to pull the Life Support after a while, but the Power of Love made her wake up at the last second. She can't remember the time she spent as a "ghost" when she was comatose until she touches David at the very end.
- Kickin' It Old School used a similar (but 20-year) Convenient Coma much less believably.
- Louis Lewis' coma in Season 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
- Desperate Housewives had Susan's main love interest Mike put into a coma. Over six months later, she tentatively hooked up with a man she met at the hospital who's wife had been a coma for many years. Of course, the prominence of this trope has lead viewers to assume that all coma patients wake up eventually, and thus accuse them both of cheating on people who were going to wake up any second. (Although, this being TV and not real life, Mike actually did...)
- Previously, in the first season, Carlos's mother was run over by a car a few minutes after discovering Gabrielle's adultery. After several weeks spent in a coma, dreaming about the moment where she will wake up and tell her son; she suddenly awakes in the middle of the night when the nurse is taking a break; she jumps on her feet, slips, falls down the stairs and dies
- The newly regenerated Tenth Doctor spends the majority of the Doctor Who episode "The Christmas Invasion" special completely out of it while aliens are in the process of invading.
- In a Monk episode, a woman is killed by a bomb mailed to her. Monk's investigation leads him to one of her brothers, who turns out to be in a coma. In fact, Captain Stottlemeyer remembers the incident. The guy deliberately hit his police cruiser and tried to run, only to be blindsided by a truck. After the guy wakes up from his coma, Monk reveals that the guy planned to kill his siblings to get all the inheritance, so he glued the packages with bombs in such a way as to drop after a certain time. His plan was to get arrested for reckless driving and spend the time in jail. The coma was an accident but gave him an ever better alibi.
- The early'90s Canadian TV series The Odyssey had a comatose young teen undergoing a sort of internal hero's quest as the basis of the series. After he awoke he slowly regained his physical abilities, progressing from a wheelchair to cane to walking unaided; however he wasn't affected cognitively by either the coma or the initial TBI, the biggest challenge in that area being catching up on two years' missed school.
- Prince Charming aka David Nolan in Once Upon a Time was in one of these in his first appearance in Storybrooke, due to having died before the Dark Curse was activated.
- Henry also goes into one after after Regina's poisoned apple turnovers.
- In the last episode of series one of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer Bob plays a practical joke on Vic after which it is revealed that the entire series has been all just a dream dreamed by Vic in a deep and life-threatening coma. After one last rousing song and dance routine Bob unplugs his life support machine, killing him.
- During Season 2 of One Tree Hill, Nathan Scott falls into a coma when he is involved in a car accident while on a racetrack. During his coma, he has a dream where he and his half-brother, Lucas, have switched lives.
- Used twice in Ace Attorney.
- Bat, brother to Acro, who was put into a coma after Regina put pepper on his scarf, causing her lion to sneeze when Bat stuck his head in the lion's mouth. This is why Acro tried to kill her. By the end of the game he hasn't woken up and it's unclear if he ever will.
- Godot/Diego Armando was poisoned and sent into a coma for years. He woke up to find that his love interest Mia had been murdered and set out on a crusade against Phoenix Wright, who he blamed for not protecting her.
- The Fallout 3 add on Broken Steel has both the player and Sarah Lyons(if she survived) fall into a coma for two weeks after the purifier is activated.
- In Suika, after spend the whole time in a coma, Sayo wakes up just in time for the epilogue.
- In Futurama after the show was Uncanceled, the crew had to be revitalized after a painful entry back to Earth. Something went wrong with Leela, causing her to fall into an irreversible coma, which she naturally wakes up from just before they bury her (though granted, Professor Farnsworth's method of trying to wake her up before declaring his verdict...really left something to be desired).
- In G.I. Joe: The Movie, Duke is grievously and bloodily wounded by Serpentor's snake staff. He uses his last wheezing gasp to force out the words "Go... Joe..." before collapsing, at which point one of the bystanders hilariously exclaims "he's slipped into a coma!" He stays in it for the entirety of the movie and comes out at the end. The original plan had been to kill Duke off, but Transformers: The Movie came out a short time earlier and the writers hastily rewrote the scene to avoid seeming to copy Optimus Prime's death.
- "Hastily" isn't the word: these two lines of dialogue are all that indicates Duke's in a coma. In some releases of the movie, Duke actually dies.
- In Once Upon a Forest Michelle's coma after inhaling toxic fumes serves as the main plot point, and her friends have to set out on a quest for the herbs that will revive her.