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Death Equals Redemption
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 happens because 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 flashback.

Occasionally, the character goes through a moment of clarity just prior to death, finally noticing something he has overlooked for the whole story. Sometimes the death itself may be their redemption, if they die by sacrificing themselves. Other times 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. They may affect the main character's view of them if they expressed themselves as part of a Dying Truce. 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 Villain's 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.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • There's also 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. Note that this only applies to the Dub Text, though.
  • 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.
    Precia Testarossa: I've always been this way, haven't I? I never notice things until it's too late.
  • 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 InuYasha. 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.
  • Two examples in Rosario + Vampire. First, Lady Oyakata, who had been on a major vendetta against humans for destroying the environment and had wounded Ruby, her former disciple, in combat, is saved by Ruby when her most powerful spell ends up backfiring on her, and she uses the last of her strength to heal Ruby. Later on, when she's dying from wounds inflicted by Kokoa, Kahlua realizes that she had not been a good sister and apologizes to her for it.

    Comic Books 
  • 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, "This Man... This Monster!", featured another Changeling (must be something with the name), though quite different from the X-Man. This mystery man 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 his experiment - a portal to the Negative Zone - "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".

    Fan Works 
  • In The Man With No Name, the villain dies to save the Doctor and Mal's lives after beginning 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.
  • Bounty Hunter in RE-TAKE.

    Films — Animated 
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: Rat
    Rat: The boy is being held in an apple crate on top of a gun cabinet in the attic of Bean Annex.
    Fox: Would you have told me if I hadn't killed you first?
    Rat: Never.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: As Jack says, maybe for Blackbeard.
  • In the The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Denethor gets a moment of clarity when he sees Faramir smile at being called his son just before he catches fire.
  • Played for Laughs in Blackbeard's Ghost.
  • The original Green Goblin in the film version of Spider-Man.
  • In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer is extremely selfish while he has something to gain from it, but when he knows he's going to die anyway, he does what he can to help out.
  • In The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, a man who is perfectly willing to murder an innocent person if it will benefit him does what he can to save the same person when he knows he's about to die anyway.
  • In The Expendables, Gunner reveals to Barney all the information necessary to successfully complete their mission after the latter is forced to Shoot the Dog when the former goes rogue in a drug-induced homicidal rampage. Averted when it is revealed in the ending to be just merely a Disney Death after all.
  • Hudson Hawk. After being betrayed and shot full of arrows, Kit Kat's final action is to loosen the ropes holding the Damsel in Distress, allowing her to escape a few moments later.
  • In Nine Dead, Leon tries to escape but the captor wounds him fatally, then locks him back up in the room and says that he's moved him to the front of the list. Knowing that he's dead anyway, Leon tries to redeem himself by helping the others in his last few minutes.
  • Invoked in In Harm's Way by Eddington, who decides to take a plane on a Suicide Mission to find the Japanese fleet and radio its location back to Rock Torrey before he is shot down by Japanese fighter pilots.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Stand, Harold Lauder eventually receives the You Have Outlived Your Usefulness treatment from Flagg via a motorcycle crash. As Harold lies dying slowly and painfully, he finally lets go of the petty hate and resentment that he's carried throughout his entire life and drove him to villainy. He writes an apology to everyone he betrayed in Boulder before shooting himself. Made more poignant in the television mini-series, since Harold is only able to scrawl a brief apology. Though it's doubtful anyone in Boulder would accept it.
    I'm sorry. I was misled.
  • In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Helen cares for Mr Huntingdon when he is ill, and urges him to mend his ways. He basically doesn't, until he's really about to die, and makes at least some strides towards redeeming himself in her eyes, at least partly spurred on by his fear of Hell. Assuming he's sincere, though he's probably not, it's almost a Heel Face Door Slam.
  • The Mortal Instruments usually averts this, as the bad guys often die instantaneously, but when Sebastian is killed with heavenly fire the real Jonathan emerges and is redeemed.
  • The Power of Five: Jamie, at least, feels this way about Scott's death.
  • The Hobbit. Just before he dies, Thorin forgives Bilbo for stealing the Arkenstone of Thráin.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: The Lord Ruler downplays the trope. He certainly was not a good person by a long shot and even before his death showed no regrets about his system of government. However he knew that there was a harsher enemy out there and his vast preparations to enable humanity's survival are at times awe-inspiring. While his forethought and preparations may not have defeated the enemy it certainly helped save many from being killed by the natural disasters created by Ruin. Vin, his killer, even mutters a 'thank you' to him for his excellent planning when she realizes the scope and effectiveness.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Walt in Breaking Bad dies from a stray round from the rigged M60 he set up in the trunk of his car to take out the Neo-Nazis. However, he managed to release Jesse from slavery, and take out several of the most evil characters in the entire series.
  • 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 sacrifices 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: Warrior Princess. 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.
  • On Once Upon a Time, Regina gives Cora her heart back, which proves fatal because of a curse, but allows Cora to truly love Regina for the first time in a long time, perhaps even ever. Regina...does not take it well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 40,000: 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.

    Video Games 
  • In the World of Warcraft Patch 3:3:2, the time finally comes to defeat Arthas, The Lich King himself. In the cinematic after he is defeated he sees the ghost of his father and asks him if it is finally over. Despite everything he had done, his father still holds and comforts him in his last moments, essentially forgiving him.
    Arthas: I see only darkness before me...
    • Whether or not the other lore characters/player population forgive him, however, is open to debate. Though Jaina seems to have forgiven him as well since he apparently kept enough of his humanity to hold onto a keepsake of their love, and Uther's spirit and Muradin felt regretful that they could not stop his Face-Heel Turn, and chose to remember what he once was.
  • Queen Brahne in Final Fantasy IX.
    • For that matter, Kuja invokes this trope in the most poignant way, since his encroaching mortality is what drives him over the edge to try and destroy EVERYTHING, until the last second when he has been defeated and it is literally the only thing that spurs him to any degree of redemption (and possibly the only thing that could do so).
  • Lady Lilith in Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess : once she realizes that she's done for, she gives to Lilisette a solution to save both futures.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The light side ending. Malak pretty much does one of these, going on about now, how when he's dying, he realizes he is worthless. "And now, as the darkness takes me, I am nothing..."
  • If you go to the trouble to redeem Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, it might count.
  • Faldio in Valkyria Chronicles; Faldio realizes he was wrong for believing in firepower over the Power of Friendship when it comes to saving lives on the battlefield. He proceeds to break himself out of prison just in time to kill himself in a combination Heroic/Stupid Sacrifice as an apology to Welkin and Alicia, and to maintain some of the game's overall themes. It's a matter of some contention in the fandom.
  • Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, in his Final Speech, helps you move on and mentions it's the first time in a long time he's used his power to help people. He declares it 'nostalgic' just before he dies. Subverted as part of it was really him leading you on further into the villains' Batman Gambit.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Uncharted 2; Harry Flynn is subjected to You Have Outlived Your Usefulness by Lazarevic and gets shot in a way that lets him die slowly, and is left in a place where the heroes will inevitably come across him, along with a grenade. He hates Drake so much that he mocks Elena's attempts to be the "Plucky Girl who reforms the villain and saves the day" and uses the grenade on them in a final attempt to kill Drake rather than help him. Elena gets caught in the blast and spends the rest of the game at death's door but ultimately recovers from it.
  • In BlazBlue Continuum Shift Nu-13 jumps in front of Hazama's killing blow aimed at Ragna before expressing her joy at seeing him again, giving some words of encouragement, and dying in his arms. Immediately after Ragna completely loses it and uses Nu's Idea Engine to upgrade his Azure Grimoire, break Hazama's lock on it, and unleash the True Azure. This might seem like an odd reaction given that Nu was the one trying to kill Ragna in the first game, but when you remember that the she and the other Murakumo Units are clones of Ragna's little sister you realize that for Ragna this was like watching Hazama murder his little sister right in front of him.
  • Mega Man X4: If Zero beats Magma Dragoon, he tells Zero that he was sorry for taking up Sigma's offer to Colony Drop the Sky Lagoon so that he could fight the heroes. Then he explodes. (Notable for being the only animal/plant maverick in the X series to talk after defeated).
  • The Last Story has Dagran, who manages to return to the good side right after his terminal defeat in the final battle. Even after his death, he manages to use the power of the Outsider to revive Lowell.
  • Played literally in Portal2 with the Turret Redemption Line. The turret redemption line is a conveyer belt full of broken turrets heading towards an incinerator. Turrets heading towards the incinerator are heading for "redemption".

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • 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 Jerma985's 'TF2: Bring On The Thundah!', Jerma and {{Web Video/STAR_}}, both of them were phlogistinator pyros, were originally intended to take down the enemy teleporter at their spawn but then the enemy started to come out. Jerma wanted to hide from the enemy but STAR_ just stayed at the spawn door and using his phlog special crit power and Jerma followed suit. They ended up with a very effect double phlog crit chain spawn camp and Jerma realized what dicks they are for doing such tactics and only felt relief when he got killed.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Beast Machines episode "Fallout" Rhinox's spark expressed regret over his recent actions as the Vehicon Tankor.


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