Deadly Change-of-Heart: When the cold heart of a villain softens and he turns into a good guy, the plot will quickly require him to be killed, usually after maudlin final words.
In Redemption Equals Death
, a villain will make a Heel Face Turn
and then is killed off. In this
trope, the order is flipped: the Heel Face Turn
the villain knows that he is absolutely about to die. Usually, a character who undergoes Death Equals Redemption only lives long enough afterward to say something that shows he is no longer evil to the core, though some get to give a Final Speech
, or even undergo a full-blown Freudian Excuse
Occasionally, the character goes through a moment of clarity just prior to death, finally noticing something he has overlooked for the whole story. Occasionally the character realizes just how much being evil has lost him. And sometimes the character is trying to buy himself a way into heaven.
Since the character dies shortly after the Heel Face Turn
, this change of heart is unlikely to affect the plot much. There are exceptions, of course; occasionally, the dying character's last words can inspire the hero or even give him a vital clue. Rarely (very rarely), they recover; in media where "recovery" is routine, the redemption might not stick much longer than the death.
Compare Alas, Poor Villain
and Alas, Poor Scrappy
, in which the character is at least partially redeemed in the audience's eyes simply through the act of dying even though they stay a villain. Dying as Yourself
, Heel Face Door Slam
, and Villains Dying Grace
are all sometimes (but not always) sub-tropes
. Compare The Last Dance
, which is when a character has a longer period before death.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
- Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night, both the in TV version and the Fate route. In his dying moments, he forgets all his bitternes and admits that the reason he wanted to possess Saber was because he couldn't.
- In Ergo Proxy Raul and Daedalus both get their priorities straight just before dying.
- Quent in Wolf's Rain, realizing that wolves aren't evil when Toboe tries to save him.
- In Dragon Ball Z, there's an unusual case with the demon Dabura, who is sent to heaven when he dies because the ruler of the afterlife wants to punish him and thinks he'd enjoy hell too much. Being around so much pure good actually turns him into a cuddly emotional guy that likes to pick flowers.
- Not to mention Vegeta in the Frieza Saga, after being beaten by Frieza and on the verge of death he throws his pride to the side begs and Goku to stop Frieza, cries even and is given a Freudian Excuse for the way he acts. Although when he is finally resurrected his Heel Face Turn at the edge of death is more or less forgotten.
- In The Slayers, Rezo the Red Priest's evil plan backfires on him and he is possessed by Shabranigdo the Dark Lord. However, in the end, Rezo's soul surpresses Shabranigdo's and gives Lina Inverse the chance to destroy him. As Rezo's soul departs to the afterlife, his voice thanks Lina.
- Lordgenome, previous Big Bad from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann sacrifices his life in order to give the Team Dai Gurren a fighting chance, by converting the Big Bang Storm launched by the Anti-Spiral into energy, declaring in his Final Speech that helping build a future for humanity would leave him completely satisfied. Simon accepts Lordgenome's wish and uses the energy to either power up the titular mecha or transform into Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- Precia Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie First. In contrast to her TV version, who remained an Evil Matriarch when she died, this version of Precia realizes at the very end that she should have treated Fate as a second daughter instead of obsessing over the death of Alicia.
- Souther/Thouzer in Fist of the North Star acts out as a man who defies love all the time and prefers being an Evil Overlord all the time, until he's beaten out by Kenshiro and realize he'll die. In his last breaths, he recalled his love with his master Ougai, revealing his human side shortly before he dies with his crumbling Holy Cross Mausoleum.
- In Tenshi Ni Narumon it might be be kinda subverted, since in the last episode, it looked like Mikael and Silky (especially Mikael) could gain redemption only through letting go and dying, but then at the very end when Noelle eventually cleaned up the whole mess, everything turned out just fine, no one died and everyone seemed to get their happy ending.
- Kanna from Inu Yasha. She tells Kagome through a small shard Naraku's Achilles Heel as a result of Naraku ordering her death.
- In Shadow Skill, insane Fallen Hero G is finally restored to sanity when he is forced to fight Gau in a lucid state. He self-destructs shortly afterwards as he was already a Paper Talisman Lich Living on Borrowed Time but Defeat Equals Friendship such that he manages to come back later as a ghost to help in the Final Battle.
- Bleach: Tousen. He spent much of his adult life plotting revenge on Soul Society as a result of the death of his friend. One of his deepest fears was to die a shinigami, the thing he hated most. As a result, he hollowfied to escape being a shinigami. At the end, when defeated and dying after his battle with Komamura and Hisagi, he returns to the shinigami form he had once despised, finally understanding the value of the friendships he had forged amongst the shinigami. He has just enough time to make his apologies to Komamura and Hisagi absolutely clear before Aizen kills him. Of course, he was dying anyway, but Aizen just wanted to prove a point.
- Kaiser Ryo of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX most likely fits in season 3. Having found out that he's dying, he spends most of the season looking for one last great duel. However, he also repeatedly saves his brother's life, snaps Judai out of a Heroic BSOD with a Heroic Sacrifice, and is generally loses most of the harsh, psychotic persona of season 2.
- Baron Mordo, when he discovers that he's dying of cancer. Then he's brought back to life as a villain by writers who don't know his history.
- Similarly in Doctor Strange: The Oath the main antagonist manages to linger a few minutes after dying to give a conflicted Strange some counsel.
- The early run of X-Men had a villain called the Changeling, who did this when he realized he had six months to live. His character later became the inspiration for the character of Morph.
- An early Fantastic Four story another Changeling (must be something with the name) steals the Thing's powers simultaneously turning himself into a rock monster and returning Ben Grimm to his much-desired human form. While assisting his hated rival, Mr. Fantastic, with a temporal experiment "The Thing" sacrifices himself to save Richards after realizing that, for all his jealousy at Richards, Mr. Fantastic was a selfless individual and that the Changeling has been the one who had never done anything helpful with his life.
- In Thorgal: Ogathai. He recognizes Thorgal as his son in a brief moment of clarity after being fatally shot.
- In Tintin adventure Explorers on the Moon, Wolff, the traitor of the story, finally sacrifices himself heroically to save the others. Deeply moved by his suicide note, the others consider him "a hero".
- In The Man With No Name, the villain dies to save the Doctor and Mal's lives after begining to regret what he had done and finding out he wouldn't have much longer to live because of his actions.
- In Part 2 of Clash Of The Elements: Smithy, who dies realizing that he managed to create a living weapon in the form of Gemini who has actually managed to overcome the desire to destroy lingering in his demonic heart and has become a force of good that he can be proud of before he finally falls into eternal slumber.
- In The Pony POV Series Dark World Arc, this happens with Discord. Though in this case, its more 'Death Permits Redemption'. After being mortally wounded by his sister Rancor, he's confronted by the Dark World Mane Cast on his deathbed. Normally, any attempt on his part to help the heroes would overwritten by Nightmare Paradox to keep him 'in character', not allowing him to act on the Heel Realization he had long ago. However, because she doesn't have any 'footage' of him dying this way, he's able to pass on his memories to Twilight via her Memory Spell, allowing her to finally break free of the Groundhog Day Loop and have a chance to stop Paradox. That it was a Heel Face Turn is confirmed when we see him in the afterlife, where he's sent apology letters to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy for what he's done to them.
- Erayk Dynnys, former archbishop of the Safehold kingdom of Charis, rediscovered his faith while awaiting execution as a scapegoat by the corrupt Church of God Awaiting in the second book, By Schism Rent Asunder, after having spent the first book a low-level Sinister Minister.
- Edmund in King Lear. An evil villain throughout, once he's fatally wounded in a duel with Edgar he repents.
- In Hamlet, Laertes. Once he gets poisoned, he realises how low he had gone in his quest for vengence.
- In A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley becomes The Atoner after death. His eternal punishment is to wander the earth while having it hammered into him what a Jerk Ass he was when he was alive. The chains he wears are symbols of the kind of life he led, every link a sin he once committed (and he knows exactly which sinful act is represented by which link), but he tells Scrooge that the real pain of his existence comes from looking at all the living people who are suffering, being overwhelmed with compassion and sympathy for them, but being completely unable to do anything about their situations. Marley's afterlife is a Heel Face Door Slam of the cruelest variety. At least they let him help redeem Scrooge.
- Either this or Redemption Equals Death in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: Percy spends book two on distrusting Luke and basically calling him evil. It is only when Luke is already about to die that Percy trusts him enough to give him a weapon (leaving Percy defenseless) so that Luke can kill himself and take Kronos with him. Afterwards, Percy treats him like a hero instead of a villain.
- For Colonel Stone, death equaled not only Redemption, but Confession and Implication as well.
- Craig Toomy's death in The Langoliers is what allows the heroes to escape alive.
- Can happen in the Discworld novels, although the redemption generally happens after death, when the deceased has a chat with Death. Despite Death's Catch Phrase "There's no justice. There's just me.", this redemption does tend to avoid an Ironic Hell. Contrast the fate of Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip in The Truth.
- When Ebenezer Rat is found in a Mutual Kill with a basilisk in The Book of the Dun Cow, Chauntecleer kisses and absolves him.
- Boromir in The Lord of the Rings.
Live Action TV
- 24 George Mason in Season 2. He is initially an Obstructive Bureaucrat, and then attempts to leave LA when he realizes how big the nuclear explosion will be. He is exposed to lethal amounts of plutonium. After learning he will die very soon but he is not contagious, he returns to work and takes control of the situation. He the ultimately flies the bomb to where it can be safely detonated, saving Jack and convincing him to not give up.
- In the Alien Nation made-for-tv movie Dark Horizon, the Tenctonese Overseer Ahpossno spends the entire movie trying to bring back news to his masters of the slaves' survival on Earth. In a desperate attempt to stop him, George infects him with a lethal virus, hoping that the slavemasters will think this means all of the Tenctonese died of a plague on Earth. As Ahpossno is dying while en route to his masters, he has flashbacks of the happy times he shared with George's family. Ultimately he sides with his people and, with his dying breath, tells his fellow Overseers that all of the slaves are dead.
- In the Lewis episode "The Point Of Vanishing", a character who (believing he has driven his son to become a murderer) takes his own life invokes this as the reason.
- In Lost, evil undead Sayid fights back against his brainwashing and sacrafices himself saving the lives of his friends.
- A somewhat literal case with Gowron in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jealous of Martok's popularity, he decides to take control of the Klingon fleet and squander lives in order to gain himself political glory until Worf challenges him to a duel to the death. As a result, he dies an honourable warrior's death and Worf performs the Klingon death ritual for him. However, once the fatal blow is stuck against him, Gowron never undergoes a Heel Realization or repents his actions upon recognizing he's about to die; his last words being "You will not have this... day."
- Subverted in an episode of Xena. An early episode had Xena meet Marcus, an old boyfriend from her warlord days, on the side of the Villain of the Week. At the end of the episode he did a Heel Face Turn and a Heroic Sacrifice taking an arrow for a princess. A few seasons later, Xena was summoned by Hades to help quell a rebellion by the damned souls of Tartarus...which included Marcus. Turns out that one act of selflessness was *not* enough to make up for a lifetime of thieving and murder.
- Exalted: By the time of the Usurpation, most of the Solar Exalted had gone completely nanners. After being killed, most of them made their way down to the Underworld... where they found that Oblivion was maybe two steps away from eating the whole thing. They united, drove back Oblivion, then passed through Lethe and re-entered the cycle of reincarnation after atoning for their sins of hubris. At least... most of them did...
- Warhammer 40000: Depending on what version you believe, Horus rebelled against the Emperor in a grimdark, bloody civil war. He eventually pushes to Terra, and engages the Emperor in single combat. Unwilling to use his full strength against his favored son, the Emperor is easily outmatched by Horus. As Horus delivers a mortal wound on his foe, a foot soldier charges into to help the Emperor. He is then flayed alive by Horus. Seeing the abomination that his son has become the Emperor musters his full strength and crushes Horus's soul entirely. The redemption comes in the final moment of his life as he gains his sanity to understand that it must be done. Compare with same story in Redemption Equals Death.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Hardcase was a career criminal with a stack of open warrants against him in four different states. When al-Queda attacked the World Trade Center, he didn't hesitate to go and help rescue people from the damaged buildings. He was killed when the North Tower collapsed, and earned a full presidential pardon for all his crimes.
- In the Beast Machines episode "Fallout" Rhinox's spark expressed regret over his recent actions as the Vehicon Tankor.