Ever wonder what the deadliest moment in any given episode is? The very last second before the credits roll, of course! Statistics show that any character - hero, supporting, or otherwise - is 73% more likely to be mortally wounded at the very end of an episode that at any point in time before it. In its most typical form, the soon-to-be-dead character finds themselves staring down the barrel of a loaded gun in their very last scene. Cut to black, gunshot rings, credits roll, and your audience is forced to stick around for the next episode to see the fallout. In deaths that don't involve a bullet to the brain, replace the ringing gunshot with something equally damming — like the heavy * thunk* of the character's fresh corpse. Warning: Nowadays, this trope is just as likely to be subverted as it is played straight. As the death literally happens Behind the Black, it isn't uncommon for the next episode to reveal that the "dead" character came away relatively unscathed, making it a case of Our Hero Is Dead. In fact, it might be revealed that the killer is the poor sod who bit it instead. Also note that, even when this trope isn't subverted, the mortally wounded character is still likely to stick around long enough to deliver his Final Speech in the next episode.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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- Mr. White's death in Reservoir Dogs
- And Mr. Orange's, for that matter, although it happens offscreen.
- James Woods faces down the villain at the end of Cop: "The good news is I am a cop and I do have to bring you in. The bad news is I've been suspended and I don't give a fuck." (fires his shotgun, quick cut to black, roll credits)
- Two books of A Song of Ice and Fire have had epilogues, and both epilogues ended with the death of the narrating character. The series also inverts this trope, with any character who narrates a prologue biting it either in the prologue or very shortly after.
Live Action TV
- NCIS did this with Kate's death. In fact, it's Double Subverted— she jumps in front of a bullet to save Gibbs' life, but then it's revealed that she was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Then, while they're laughing it off, she gets shot in the head.
- Hill Street Blues does this with a cop's suicide.
- The Sopranos might have ended with this. Maybe. We don't really know for sure.
- Horribly, horribly subverted by the season finale of CSI in which Warrick gets shot moments before the episode ends. The audience witnesses the entire thing in Slo Mo, with no Gory Discretion Shot, either.
- "A Stitch In Time", one of the better episodes of The Outer Limits (1995) revival, ended like this, with a newly-forged time-traveling Knight Templar gunning down a serial-killer-to-be.
- The Magnum, P.I. episode "Did You See the Sunrise?" ends in this way, with a freeze-frame of Magnum cold-bloodedly killing the Russian assassin who had, earlier in the episode, murdered one of Magnum's friends.
- Supernatural: the episode "Heart" ends with Sam shooting a friend offscreen, to stop her turning into a werewolf.
- Criminal Minds: season 4's finale "... And Back" ended like this.
- So did the season one finale, "The Fisher King (Part 1)".
- In Highlander, Duncan MacLeod rescues his girlfriend Tessa from a psychotic Immortal hunter (and the first Watcher we see in the series) then, just when it seems that the day is saved, she's killed by a random mugger.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tara (and Buffy, but she lived) was shot right at the end of the episode.
- The final moments of Blake's 7: The crew is gunned down, save Avon, who is quickly surrounded by Federation troops. He straddles Blake's corpse, raises his gun, puts on his best Slasher Smile...fade out, the sound of shooting, roll credits.
- In the episode Turn Turn Turn from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward murders Agent Hand and her two bodyguards in order to rescue Garrett (aka The Clairvoyant) just as the episode ends. As Garrett had been revealed earlier in the episode, that was a Wham Episode indeed. (The episode also featured a Hydra ending.)
Manga And Anime
- The Sengoku Basara anime does this with both Nagamasa and Oichi. In the first case it's played straight, though Nagamasa does technically last until the next episode. Oichi's is the classic "killer gets killed instead" subversion.
- The second episode of Baccano!! ends with the Sacrificial Lamb being murdered in this fashion.
- In Durarara!! by the same studio, we see Shizuo getting shot and lying in a pool of blood just before credits roll. Though being Shizuo, he ends up just walking away.
- Volume 6 of the series has another example, where Izaya is stabbed by a rival Information Broker and passes out from blood loss before he can contact anyone he trusts to help him. The paramedics get to him in time, but the fact that he's now stuck in a hospital bed while his name, status and location are broadcasted to anyone who might want to finish him off starts driving him a wee bit crazy.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Togusa gets shot at the end of an episode and appears to be dead. In the next episode, we find out he survived, but suffered serious injuries.
- In the penultimate episode of the first season, Major Kusanagi's head explodes from sniper fire. Batou responds by screaming into the sky, then the credits roll. However, the Major is a full-body cyborg; a lingering shot of her body informs sharp-eyed viewers that it was just a remote decoy body that had been killed, foreshadowing her return in the final episode.
- Macross Frontier , ep. 24: "SCATTER TO THE ENDS OF THE GALAXY!" , Alto! But of course, he is Not Quite Dead...
- Tiger & Bunny, episode 11. Poor, poor Origami Cyclone. He barely manages to subvert the trope and live.
- In the Phantom Bullet arc of Sword Art Online, Death Gun has shot Sinnon with a stun bolt, and gets up close to finish her with his Death Gun. Her eyes go wide, the screen goes black, and a shot rings out. Come the next episode, it turns out that it was Kirito shooting Death Gun.
- This happens during Grand Theft Auto III. Although, when you consider that the whole reason you went on the mission was to save Maria, it seems pretty stupid to kill her at the end just for being annoying.
- Claude nearly dies a dozen times, throws away a million dollars, and ends up having to shoot a helicopter out of the air to save her. Is Maria grateful? Hell no. Claude can be forgiven for realizing what a stupid move he made at that point and... "correcting" it.
- Ovelia and possibly Delita in Final Fantasy Tactics.
- Delita is an established historical character in the setting who had a long and prosperous reign, so no, he didn't die at that point.
- In Dead Space after fighting through an army of space zombies, and their hivemind, Isaac Clarke sits back, takes off his helmet and is attacked by his zombie girlfriend (which may have been a hallucination), cue credits.
- In I Wanna Be the Guy, you can die during the ending by failing to dodge that last failing delicious fruit.
- While The Walking Dead Telltale is no stranger to suspenseful cliffhangers, the finale is the most prominent example of this trope, if you decide to have Lee talk Clementine into mercy-killing him to prevent him from turning. Downplayed in that Lee's fate is already sealed, but it still ends with a gunshot to black followed by credits.
- A more traditional example occurs at the end of Season 2, Episode 4 - the party is lead into a Mexican Standoff with Arvo's family, and as tensions rise, Rebecca is revealed to have succumbed to exhaustion after delivering her son and is slowly reanimating. You are then prompted to either shoot her, or warn Kenny - either way, bullets end up flying, and the screen cuts to black. Miraculously, this trope is revealed to be subverted in terms of deaths at the beginning of episode 5 - well, at least for Clementine's group.