Eye Lights Out
aka: Lights Off Their Eyes
Optimus was like a nightlight for children across the world.... one that just burned out. Again
Whenever a being, mechanical, magical or meaty, has Glowing Eyes of Doom
(or just glowing eyes, Doom
Sold Separately) these will flicker and fade out whenever they die. Much like a candle guttering on the last of its wick, death can turn off the literal light in someone's eyes. If the being also has natural Power Crystals
in their body (or as the eyes themselves), these too will fade out.
The standard justification for having glowing eyes in the first place is that these eyes are not detecting by ambient light, so the death of the owner also terminates whatever biological, mystical, or electronic process
that makes them light up. It probably has more to do with the Rule of Cool
Speaking of, since most beings capable of lighting up their peepers aren't human, you can expect that if one is Not Quite Dead
they won't just have their eyes open
, but blaze brightly.
Related to No Ontological Inertia
, and when objects that the person has linked to their Life Force
(which also glows) fades out or breaks at their death. Glowing Mechanical Eyes
are a prerequesite for the robotic version. Not at all related to By the Lights of Their Eyes
. Nor when you See the Whites of Their Eyes
. Compare Volcanic Veins
, where the veins stop glowing once the character dies.
This is a death trope. Spoilers ahoy.
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Anime and Manga
- Both times Kuma dies in Afro Samurai (once in the first series, once in Resurrection), his one cyborg eye goes offline.
- After Cell crushes Android #16's head in Dragon Ball Z, a piece of circuitry with a bright green light falls out, and slowly dims to black, signaling that he is irreparably dead.
- In the One Piece anime, when a pacifista is destroyed by the Strawhat Crew.
- The 0 Gundam does this after it is impaled on Exia's GN Sword in the finale of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, complete with the entire mobile suit going limp before it explodes.
- In the first season, the entire face mask on HOWARD MASOOOOOONNNNN's flag goes dark when it is turned into a pin cushion by the Throne Zwei's GN Fangs.
- Neon Genesis Evangelions Unit 01. Its eyes tend go out when it runs out of power or the pilot's synchronization is interrupted by something. Although if the pilot's in sufficiently deep shit, its probably going to get right back up with the eyes lighting up again. Especially noticeable in End of Evangelion when Unit 01 simply turns off while hovering in mid-air to represent that Shinji hitting his Despair Event Horizon resulted in him losing his chance of fighting back for good.
- Rebuild of Evangelion does it a little differently. When Unit 01 runs out of power, the green parts of its armor fade out along with the eye. Makes sense as the armor is the only part that actually requires power. Similarly, while the dummy plug-controlled Unit 01 is strangling Unit 03, Unit 03's eyes are shown flickering before Unit 01 breaks its neck with sheer strength. Right before Unit 01 punches Unit 03's head so hard it splatters like a watermelon, Unit 03's face is shown once again with the eye still flickering but much dimmer.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, whenever Alphonse's soul is "unconscious", or being pulled over to the Gate, his eye-lights go out.
- Downplayed variation in Transformers Cybertron - a similar effect indicates unconsciousness in a Transformer (which is actually very serious in a series where visible armour damage and/or visible short circuits indicate significant damage, and many attacks are successful but have no visible effect).
- HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Happens to Marvin in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Of course he's not really dead, but the first time you see it in the theater it's very dramatic, with a hint of "did that really happen?"
- It happens to Marvin in the books too. Only later. And he really does die.
- The Matrix. After Trinity removes the Agents' bug from Neo's body, it returns to its mini-robot form, which has a small red light. After she drops it out of the car, it falls to the ground and its red light goes out.
- Kiryu's (AKA Mechagodzilla 3) eyes stop glowing in Godzilla Tokyo SOS after he sinks into the bottom of the ocean with Godzilla during a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Similarly in Godzilla (1998) when the mutant lizard is finally felled there is one last shot of its eye as it slowly dims and closes to the sound of falling rain.
- In Godzilla (2014), when the male Muto dies, we get a close up on his eyes to emphasize with this trope that he is dead.
- Happens to giant alien robot in Monsters vs. Aliens.
- Spoofed in Scary Movie III. A woman is hit by a car and ends with the engine block through her body. When she dies, the car's lights go out.
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, C-3P0's eyes go out when he's blasted apart by the stormtrooper. Notably, after Chewbacca repairs Threepio, his lights were still out, and he complained about not being able to see. When Chewie fixes that, they come on again.
- Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers animated movie. The authors must have had some bet on how many tropes they can fit into one death scene...
- And several times in the Transformers Film Series. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen in particular has a gut-wrenching repeat of Optimus' eyes fading out. We know he'll come back, but you can't help but feel your gut clench when Mecha Jesus dies protecting a human.
- Transformers uses this a lot. Sometimes eyes even blow out from leftover energy.
- Though it is seen in one part that Frenzy's eyes could stop glowing when he was blending in with the scenery. Playing dead?
- Mind you, a 'bot can be temporarily down and still have his eye lights go out. Don't relax too much if you think your enemy's down until you've made sure his spark chamber is empty. In fact, many instances of this trope have had the robot character in question get better.
- WALL•E's AUTO and EVE.
- In the film version of The Last Unicorn, King Haggard at first sees a forest-scape in Lady Amalthea's eyes. After a while in her human form, this image fades to the normal human reflection, hinting at the death of the unicorn inside.
- Golems in Discworld have glowing eyes that go out when they're inactive.
- The glow in Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes go out right after his Famous Last Words.
- Subverted by Ton Phanan in the X-Wing Series. Even after he dies, his mechanical eye is still powered and glows redly.
- When Ba'alzamon in The Wheel of Time dies, the flames that constantly come out of his eyes (and mouth) go out... leaving burnt out sockets (and mouth) behind.
- The short story "Ieia" features a deity trapped in a statue, with glowing amber eyes as the only sign of life. The statue's owner, who doesn't believe in the supernatural, thinks she's imagining the glow. When the deity proves its existence in the course of committing a Heroic Sacrifice, the owner is so overcome with reverence that she barely notices the eyes have gone dim.
Live Action TV
- The Centurions in Battlestar Galactica too, for that matter. Not only do they have the Cyber Cyclops roaming red eye, but it goes out when the 'bot is destroyed.
- A slight variation in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data and his identical brother Lore have amber irises. In Lore's final episode when Data deactivates him for good his pupils shrink until they disappear, leaving his eyes blank and sightless.
- Callister in Eureka.
- A similar thing happens with the Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1. Since their eyes aren't always glowing, and only do so when they choose, they don't fade when they die like in most cases of this trope. Instead, the eyes flash once and then fade before they die, accompanied by the special Goa'uld eye-flash sound effect.
- There's a particularly good example of this in "Double Jeopardy", when Teal'C's robot duplicate shoots Cronus in the back several times with a staff weapon - his eyes flash in time with the energy blasts hitting them, then light up one last time and slowly fade as he expires.
- The genetically-engineered Goa'uld Kull Warriors wear full-body armor, including helmets with blue lights over the eyes. When the warrior dies, the lights fade out. (The armor seems to sense the brain activity of the wearer, to know when they want to fire their weapons or when they die.)
- Happens to the robot in the pilot episode of The Tick immediately before he says "Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress".
- Ultra Series
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be", the djinn's glowing blue eyes fade before he collapses dead.
- All the R-Y model robots in Chrono Trigger (including party member Robo) have this happen to them.
- A variation in the intro of Dawn of War II, the eye lenses of a space marine's Power Armor fade as he dies.
- In Planescape: Torment, if Nordom (the modron) dies, the eyes of his portrait go black.
- In Final Fantasy XI, Dynamis Statues have glowing eyes which not only fade when destroyed, but may restore HP or MP to everyone depending on the color (Blue for HP, Green for MP, while Red eyes do nothing).
- Raiden's visor does this in Metal Gear Solid 4. But it later turns out he's Not Quite Dead.
- Happens to each of the Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus.
- The Big Daddies in BioShock exhibit this.
- Arthas/The Lich King does this in World of Warcraft. Promptly followed by various other signs such as rolling eyes, going limp/his arm releasing it's grip on his father's ghost and eyes rolling back into his skull. Although in this case, the reason the eyes stop glowing is presumably because Ner'zhul is no longer possessing him. The glow stopping and death aren't directly connected.
- In Mass Effect 2, shortly before the Collector General's death, the light in its eyes go out as Harbinger releases control.
- In the first game, if you pay careful attention to geth corpses (that weren't incinerated, frozen, melted, or turned into clouds of ionized gas) you'll find that after about ten seconds, their flashbulb heads begin to dim and eventually go out.
- Geth eyelights don't seem to switch off automatically. In Mass Effect 3 Legion's lights continue to glow when he's dead, at least while the camera is on him. The sinister red glow of a Reaper's firing chamber does go out, though.
- The protagonist of Limbo upon death.
- In Metroid Prime, Space Pirates eye's appear to be on fire - when killed they go out. This is most noticable when the Omega Pirate is killed, and falls on you.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, Myrkul's eyes go out if his spirit is devoured by the player or a certain companion.
- In Warcraft III, after Grom kills Mannoroth, he collapses, and his red eyes stop glowing.
- In the intro for Mortal Kombat: Deception, Quan Chi and Shang Tsung "defeat" Raiden, whose eyes lose their glow shortly afterwards. He recovers soon after in time to take on the new Big Bad, Onaga.
- This is actually more Truth in Television than people realise, there are species of animal (such as pink-eyed Guinea Pigs) whose eyes really do fade to a dull brown the moment they die.
- A few humanoid robots have glowing eyes which obviously shut down when being inactive or broken.