Sevarius: I was particularly proud of my death scene.
Frankly, Sevarius, I thought you overplayed the part.
A character's death is faked, for one or more of the following purposes:
Often the audience will think the character is genuinely dead
. Extra points if a fake crime scene photo or Staged Shooting
is used. Sometimes a John Doe's remains are substituted and destroyed beyond recognition, or everyone is simply told 'They Never Found the Body
.' The person faking his death might attend his own funeral
. Of course, when this happens to main characters in a series, the audience should not be fooled.
When the method of faking temporarily turns the character into a realistic-seeming corpse, this is Faux Death
Death Faked for You
, Playing Possum
and Fake Kill Scare
. The inverse
is Of Corpse He's Alive
(a "live" person is actually dead).
A play on the common turn of phrase "waking the dead." Contrast He's Just Hiding
. Not to be confused with Fake Weakness
. See also Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated
For what happens next, see Starting A New Life
Beware of spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- In the Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?, Superman fakes his death by exposure by gold kryptonite (removing his powers) and walking to his death into the frozen Antarctic. In reality, he became Jordan Elliot, a regular working class guy.
- In the DCU, the Outsiders led by Nightwing fake their death to be able to work undercover. The stratagem is blown in the One Year Later storyline, and the team then has to deal with the various consequences for their actions.
- In an issue of Batgirl, Batgirl once fakes the dead to get the villain to trust Robin, who's supposedly taken her down. That includes staying still when Robin shoots her on the villain's orders, who's Dangerously Genre Savvy.
- Occasionally pulled by Batman when he needs to lure a villain into a false sense of security.
- Tintin does this a few times. Once, he goes into a nose-dive while flying so his pursuers think he's been hit.
- Iron Man once faked his death when he was suffering from nerve disintegration. It was a ploy to get healed. Unfortunately, Rhodey didn't know about it and was pissed off.
- Professor Xavier faked his death so as to counter an alien invasion. An already dying shape-shifter named Changeling replaced him as atonement. Only Jean, of all his students, knew the truth.
- In X-Men Noir, Jean Grey fakes her death by killing Anne-Marie Rankin, cutting off/out any distinguishing facial features, and dyeing her hair. She them assumes her identity by dyeing her own hair. Why? She wanted out of the X-Men, essentially - and to collect her trust fund, of course.
- In God Loves Man Kills, Purifiers make it look as if they've killed the Professor, Scott, and Ororo in an explosion, when they have actually taken the three prisoner. Only Wolverine's enhanced senses reveal the deception.
- In Fear Itself, Bucky Barnes, the current Captain America had apparently been killed off while fighting Sin, the Red Skull's daughter. However, as revealed in a post-series epilogue, Bucky did survive the brutal attack and his death was faked by both Black Widow and Nick Fury in order to convince Steve Rogers to become Captain America once more, as well as to allow Bucky to deal with remaining Winter Soldier-esque sleeper agents without any trouble. How? A well-placed Life Model Decoy and the Infinity Formula did the trick.
- This seems to be the MO to Spider-Man supervillain Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley - set up some poor schmuck as the Hobgoblin and let him run around as him for awhile; if he dies, no skin off Roderick's back.
- Carnage can do this as well, slipping a piece of the symbiote over a dead body to make someone think that he's dead, just so he can slip away or get in and gut someone. Of course, it doesn't work all the time, as it didn't fool Batman when he did it then. Of course, he was aiming for The Joker.
- In Wanted, Wesley's father faked his own death so he could set his son on the path to succeeding him and becoming one of the most powerful supervillains in the world.
- In Sonic the Comic, Amy, Tails, Johnny, and the Kintobor Computer use this to stop Super Sonic trying to kill them: Amy had the Kintobor Computer remotely fly their plane.
- Princeless: By having her tower burnt, Princess Adrienne mislead everyone who'd be looking for her into think she was burned as well.
- In DC Comics' Legends, Doctor Bedlam fakes his own death while posing as Magno-Man in order to disgrace Captain Marvel for killing him by using his magic lightning bolt to transform back into Billy Batson. It's still rather traumatic for him to go through, though.
- The Green Lantern Corps believes that Kyle Rayner pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Relic at the end of the Lights Out storyline. In fact, he survived, but what he saw at the Source Wall and what it means for his own White Lantern powers and those of the other Corps means he's not ready to return.
- Daredevil once faked his death after it seemed that someone knew his secret identity. He ended up using the dead body of his Evil Knockoff Hellspawn, created during Infinity War and was altered by a mutagenic virus.
- In the New 52 version of Green Arrow, it turns out that Henry Queen faked his death, and then became the masked figure that tortured Ollie on the island, to force his son to become the Arrow. Ollie's reaction is that his dad is a lunatic, and the Henry Queen he remembers is still dead.
- At the end of The Infinity Gauntlet Thanos does this when everyone believes that he died due to a thermonuclear bomb on his belt. He used the opportunity to... become a farmer.
- In Game Theory, Precia sets things up to appear as if she and her allies had fallen into Imaginary Space to throw the TSAB off their trail, when she had actually found a way to revive Alicia without traveling to Alhazred.
- In the Death Note AU New World Without End Light Yagami does this after his victory so he can live out his life in peace and continue to act as Kira. Light and Mikami added an extra body to the pile at the Yellowbox warehouse (and with help from the notebook they could ensure that the victim’s faces wouldn't be identifiable through dental records) and torched the warehouse. Afterwards Light and Mikami released the name Light Yagami as among the police officers that opposed Kira who were eliminated.
- The God Empress Of Ponykind: The Chaos Gods did this as part of a gambit to get rid of the Emperor.
- The final Calvin and Hobbes: The Series story has Jack doing this ti fool Thunderstorm and Shadow.
Film - Live Action
- This is the setup for Double Jeopardy. A husband frames his wife for his murder so that he can run off with his wife's friend and the life insurance money while evading his creditors. When confronted, the husband has the audacity to claim that he intended to fake his suicide. That may have been believable, except for the blood, knife, and the radio message claiming his wife was trying to kill him.
- Happens in The Dark Knight with Jim Gordon; the Joker also pulls this off at one point, but the audience knows it's clearly a trick from the beginning.
- Also near the end when Two-Face was about to shoot Gordon's son, Batman convinces him to shoot him instead, which Two-Face does. And just when he was going to turn the gun back on Gordon's son, Batman tackles him.
- And in the sequel, Batman fakes his death during the climax in order to live a normal life, while giving Gotham a symbol of hope.
- James Bond does it to himself in You Only Live Twice, hence the title.
- He does this for Pushkin, saving his life just as an assassin was going to kill him in The Living Daylights.
- Alec Trevelyan in Golden Eye.
- And Tan-Sun Moon In Die Another Day.
- Bond does this twice in Tomorrow Never Dies.
- Done briefly in Skyfall, when Bond is presumed KIA and is happy to let everyone think that for a while.
- Also done in Diamonds Are Forever: when Bond kills enemy agent Peter Franks, he switches their IDs to impersonate Franks while convincing everyone he's "killed" James Bond.
- The movie Eraser is about a federal agent who fakes people's deaths for the Witness Protection Program.
- In Red Dragon, Dolarhyde fakes his own death using the body of a man he shot to make his blind girlfriend think he shot himself.
- The Lady from Shanghai (1947) has a faked death that turns out to be real.
- In Gilda, Balin Mundson (Gilda's husband) takes off in his plane and leaves it to crash into the ocean while he secretly gets picked up by a boat.
- Both Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting.
- Raw Deal (1986). Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing an ex-FBI agent turned sheriff) fakes his own death before going undercover as a mob hitman. He drives his squad car into an oil refinery, opens a few valves then blows it up with a flare pistol.
- Jackie Chan playing the villain in Killer Meteors fakes his own death early on, and then later reveals to the hero (played by Jimmy Wang Yu) "You didn't see me die, you only saw me fall over". Makes perfect sense.
- The villain's master plan in Bruceploitation film Game of Death 2.
- Jigsaw does this for the entirety of the bathroom trap in Saw.
- Agent Perez in Saw VI faked her death two movies before.
- The Soldier (1982). A hot Mossad chick shoots a terrorist after he's identified by an informer. She goes into the next room after the interrogation where it's revealed via Latex Perfection that the terrorist is actually a Mossad Double Agent.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Kayla Silverfox conspires with William Stryker to win Logan's heart and then fake her death in exchange for her abducted sister's safety.
- In The Wolverine, Ichirō Yashida is carried away in the middle of the night after passing away shortly after Logan arrives in Japan. Then the very end of the film shows that he's still alive, though just barely, and attempts to steal Logan's Healing Factor to prolong his own life.
- In Revenge of The Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau is targeted for assassination. After one of the (unsuccessful) attempts leads to the public mistakenly thinking he's been killed, Clouseau decides to maintain the ruse in order to find out who's behind the plot.
- In The Negotiator, Roman, the hostage negotiator-turned-taker, pretends to shoot one of the hostages in order to convince the police to take him seriously so that he can figure out who framed him via computer files. It's also used at the end, when Saban shoots Roman and he falls to the ground, motionless and with blood pooling on the floor. He convinces Frost he wants a cut of the money at stake in order to get him to spill the beans about setting Roman up.
- It's part of the profession of the titular pair in The Brothers Bloom. They're con-men.
- Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later reveals that Laurie Strode faked her death after the events of Halloween II (1981) to escape her evil, murderous brother.
- In Bullitt, the police investigation ultimately uncovers a mobster's plot to fake his own death and escape scot-free. Johnny Ross embezzles money from The Mafia, then cuts a deal with a senator to testify against the Mafia in exchange for a pardon and witness protection. Ross then tricks an innocent man into going to San Fransisco in his place, where he's killed by the mob hitmen sent to silence Ross.
- Extreme Prejudice (1987). A govt black ops team is made up of people who supposedly died in action or training accidents. Unfortunately they go up against a sheriff in the United States who can access military records — this is something of a Fridge Logic moment, as a more plausible means of establishing deniablity would be to have the ex-soldiers fired under trumped-up disciplinary charges.
- In Easy Money, Rodney Dangerfield's mother-in-law fakes her own death to trick him into changing his lifestyle in compliance with the terms of her will.
- In The Quick and the Dead, this is done by the Lady to gain an advantage on Herod, who cannot be beaten in a straight fight by anyone except for Cort, who is handcuffed most of the time and unwilling to kill except to save his own life.
- In The Usual Suspects, it's part of Dean Keaton's Backstory (and one of the reasons Agent Kujan has such a hard on for him). He was presumed dead long enough to dodge a murder rap. And while he was dead, every witness against him died under suspicious circumstances. The interesting part is that Keaton claims to have lived in the same city under the same name ever since, and that Internal Affairs just dropped the ball and had him declared dead for no good reason.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon has the Autobots doing this when they realize that Sentinel's demand for them to leave Earth in exchange for peace was a trap. What they do is send up the ship with no one in it, so when Starscream destroys the ship, everyone including the Decepticons believe they are dead, allowing them to take on the Decepticons by surprise.
- At the climax of Oz: The Great and Powerful, Oscar fakes his death by tricking Theodora into destroying a hot air balloon she and the rest of the Emerald City believed he was on, so that he can appear to come back as an incorporeal Person of Mass Destruction using fireworks and a video projector. The Wicked Witches, unfamiliar with the technology available in Oscar's world, believe it to be genuine magic and quickly flee the city.
- The Illusionist does this with a very convincing temporary Faux Death.
- In Now You See Me, Jack Wilder's death is faked with the assistance of the other Horsemen.
- Early on in RED 2, Marvin stages his death in a car explosion, then plays his corpse at his own funeral. According to Frank, this isn't the first time he's done something like this.
- In Thor: The Dark World, Loki saves Thor from Kurst by impaling him, then is stabbed himself with the same weapon. Loki seemingly dies from his injuries. At the end, however, it is revealed that he survived (whether he was really injured at all is debateable - this is Loki we're talking about, after all), and sneaked into Asgard disguised as a soldier to tell Odin about his son's "death", then usurped the throne - at the end, Odin is revealed to be Loki in disguise.
- During Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury is the assassination target of Alexander Pierce, first by being assaulted on the streets of Washington DC and later sniped by the Winter Soldier while hiding out at Steve Rogers's apartment. The second attack seemingly fells Fury but it turns out to be a ploy by the loyal agents of SHIELD to make it seem like Fury had perished and the assailants' plot had succeeded.
- In Tell No One, it turns out Margot did this, with the help of her father Jacques, after she killed the son of the Big Bad in self-defense.
- Averted by the Genre Savvy Master Computer in Colossus The Forbin Project. After learning of a plot to overload its system, Colossus demands the immediate execution of the conspirators by Firing Squad. The computer then orders that the bodies be left in the view of its CCTV cameras for 24 hours, then cremated on the spot, to prevent any chance of the executions being faked.
Film - Animation
- In Cars 2, secret agent Finn McMissile uses a set of decoy tires to pretend that he's been torpedoed by the enemy.
- The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible hides behind the skeleton of Gazerbeam to escape Syndrome's seeker robot - the robot scans the skeleton, assumes it's him, and flies off to report his demise.
- Finding Nemo: Nemo pretends to be dead in order to get flushed down the toilet and back to sea. Not only does it almost not work, it happens just as Marlin arrives, leading him to think his son really is dead.
- Rio: Blu and Jewel play dead to trick the poachers.
- Such an incident leads to most of the plot of Megamind.
- BloodyJack This happens several times over the series.
- Huckleberry Finn does this to escape from his drunken and abusive father.
- Creator/Agatha Christie used this trope several times:
- In the short story "The Yellow Iris", Poirot gets the intended victim to fake being poisoned, in order to catch the murderer.
- The novels Peril at End House and Three Act Tragedy similarly have Poirot persuade the principal character (who is working with him to an extent) to fake their own death, but both cases add a twist in that this character turns out to be the killer.
- And Then There Were None had the killer fake his own death.
- In Murder on the Links, a man was murdered while attempting to fake his own death.
- This is how Arthur Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes back in "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) after previously attempting to permanently kill him off in "The Final Problem" (1893).
- David Gerrold's The War Against the Chtorr. Colonel Ira Wallachstein, head of the covert Uncle Ira Group, is reportedly killed by an escaping Chtorran worm in the first novel of this sci-fi series. However he comes back "apparently suffering only a mild case of death" in the fourth book. It turns out his death was faked. Given the way the Uncle Ira Group operates, this is not particularly surprising.
- Caine does this in The Chronicles of Amber — by murdering the version of himself from one of the closer Shadow worlds.
- Happens in the X-Wing Series time and time again. Mostly, it's the Rogues managing to escape death and taking advantage of everyone's assumptions until they can come back triumphant, but Asyr Sei'lar instead goes back to her homeworld to fight her species' Hat of political treachery, and then there's Isard. The survival of the Rogues is believed by one minor Imperial character to be a fake - he believes that they really have died each time, and were replaced by clones.
- Another notably one from the same series is Lara Notsil, who helps take down Iron Fist from the inside after her true identity as a former Imperial Intelligence Agent is revealed. It seems at first that she's pulled a Redemption Equals Death, but a message to her Love Interest from her squadron reveals that's she survived and took on a new identity. Luckily for her, Wedge and Han send the message on to said love interest and mutually agree that she's died in battle, deciding that her contributions to Wraith Squadron far outweigh the mistakes she made as an Imperial and that she doesn't deserve to get executed for treason when she is clearly no longer that person anymore.
- Another book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe has a birdman who really wants to quit the criminal business and return to his homeworld, but he's fairly high up in the criminal syndicate Black Sun, and Resignations Not Accepted something like that. His underlord even hints that if he tries, his world will suffer. In the same book, Darth Vader gives a character the terrible choice of betraying his friend, one of the last surviving Jedi, or having the plateau where his people live bombed from orbit. Both of them are eventually thought to have been caught in a nuclear blast, and both of them take advantage of being thought dead.
- In Literature/The Legendsong Saga'' Solen apparently downs himself after being caught out about taking Fay to Darkfall and accused of treason. He later turns up perfectly alive on Glynn’s ship from Fomhika, having shed his Shadowman agent cover.
- Rowling is fond of this trope.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry pretends to be dead after surviving yet another Killing Curse from Voldemort. He pretends to be dead until the height of the battle, during which he leaps into the fray to save Mrs. Weasley from being fried by old Voldie.
- Janus Thickey disappeared leaving only a hasty Oh, Crap A Lethifold's Killing Me note. His family went into mourning until he was found living with the landlady of a local inn. It may be related that the hospital's ward for long term spell damage is named for him.
- As early as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, she reveals that Peter Pettigrew was killed in a magical duel with Sirius Black, destroyed so utterly that only a single finger remained. Black was sent to Azkaban for the crime. Except Pettigrew faked his death in order to frame Black, get him out of the way, and promote his master Voldemort's agenda.
- In The Leper of St. Giles by Ellis Peters, Brother Cadfael discovers that a mourned crusader is still alive, but had his Saracen captors falsely report his death from battle-wounds. In reality, the unfortunate warrior had contracted leprosy and didn't want anyone to see or pity his disfigurements.
- A tactic employed in self-defense by the Count in A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, to avert a potential assassination.
- In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean fakes drowning in order to escape prison without being searched for.
- Cao Cao spreads rumours of his death in Romance of the Three Kingdoms in order to set up an ambush for Lu Bu. Invoked/subverted by Zhuge Liang, who uses the fear of this (and a rather lifelike carving of himself) to keep Sima Yi from pursuing the Shu army when it retreats upon his death.
- In Annals of the Black Company, Raven pulls this — twice.
- In the Claire Malloy mystery Tickled To Death, a character presumed to have died turned out to have had this trope applied to them without their knowledge. She'd quietly left town after embezzling a fortune from a wildlife-protection charity, and rather than admit what happened and see future donations dry up, her associates from the foundation faked her death in a boating accident.
- A favoured plot device of Christopher Pike - used in Falling, Chain Letter (Neal), Slumber Party (Nicole/Celeste), Weekend (Bert), Gimme a Kiss (Jane), Scavenger Hunt (Joe/Tom), Fall Into Darkness (Ann).
- The Westing Game: Sam Westing
- In the Foundation series, the entire Second Foundation pulls this off.
- When Marco's father is targeted by the Yeerks for nearly discovering Zero-space, Marco has Erek and Mr. King, two of their android friends, use their holograms to impersonate him and his dad for when the Yeerks come to shoot them with their Dracon beams.
- David killed a red-tailed hawk that stumbled into his path, but believed he had killed Tobias, who is trapped in red-tail hawk morph. Even though this wasn't intentional on the heroes' part, they're quick to play it up and take advantage of it.
- A major plot twist early in the series is Marco discovering that his mother was the host of Visser One, who faked her death when she left Earth to pursue other missions.
- Finally, Jake fakes the deaths of all the other Animorphs in order to sneak them on the Pool ship in his final plan.
- Untold Story by Monica Ali focuses on a fictional princess, based on Princess Diana, who fakes her own death and escapes abroad because she is convinced she's about to be assassinated by the Secret Service.
- One of the alternative endings for The Dandee Diamond Mystery features the benefactor of the will alive and telling the reader/protagonist he just faked his death so he could see how far his relatives would go to find the Dandee Diamond.
- In Detectives in Togas, his family fakes Caius' burial. (But the Romans cremated their dead...)
- In the Knight and Rogue Series Michael gets Rosamund listed as officially dead so his father won't interfere with her love life.
- In the Sword of Truth, this is called a "Death Spell". It's used to make people think someone is dead. Go figure.
- In the sequel to Ishmael, it's revealed that the titular teacher faked his own death so that his pupil would apply what he had learned.
- Happens as an inadvertent result of technology in The Moon Maze Game, in which Darla is "killed out" of the scenario just before armed kidnappers interrupt the proceedings to take the Gamers hostage. As she's in the process of crawling out of the play area on her belly, remaining unseen while her slain NPC persona's holographic "corpse" is left behind, she's already undercover when the thugs arrive and they don't realize her faux-body had previously been a living actress.
- In the historical novel Wings of Dawn: Lord Hawkwood.
- The Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novel The Good That Men Do retcons the death of Trip Tucker in the show into being this.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager Relaunch novels, B'Elanna Torres does this in order to stay safe from enemies. Her husband Tom is in on the deception, but Harry Kim is not, and does not take it well when he finds out he was lied to.
- In The Clockwork Angel, Tessa fakes her own suicide to prevent Mortmain from using her power.
- In the first Warrior Cats book, Ravenpaw's death is faked in order to protect him from Tigerclaw, who had intended to silence him for witnessing something he shouldn't have.
- The Mortal Instruments, while posing as Michael Wayland, Valentine faked his own death to strengthen Jace.
- Near the beginning of Price of the Stars, Beka Rosselin-Metadi attracts the wrong sort of attention nosing about the death of her stateswoman mother and is obliged to (with the aid of an old family friend) stage a messy spaceship crash complete with organic material smeared among what was left of a malfunctioning lifepod. Her father General Jos Metadinote arrived to personally investigate the crash site and essentially dictated the findings which hinted at successfully subtle sabotage.
- Towards the end of Fort Hope, Greg figures out that the man who has tormented him most of his adult life is actually Alexander's brother, who faked his death over a quarter century before the events of the novel.
- A Mage's Power: Aio is one of many guises worn by Tasio. He made this big show about fatal injury and Famous Last Words when it came time for his "death". It was necessary in order to galvanize Eric into action.
- In Gone Girl, Amy had staged her "disappearance", correctly predicting people would suspect her husband of murdering her.
Live Action TV
- In Pretty Little Liars, Alison fakes her death to get away from A, it's still not known how
- In an episode of Happy Endings, Max mentions having done this.
Max: You sure you wanna do this, man? You could always fake your own death.
Max: I've done it, super easy. If you're ever in Newark, New Jersey, do not ask for a Joseph Reynolds. He's a ghost.
- Numerous people in Alias, so much that fans are suspicious of those who are supposedly Killed Off for Real.
- Jack shooting Nina in season 1 of 24 on the demands of the terrorists, and Jack himself at the end of season 4.
- His fake killing of Nina is especially a nice touch, as she had no clue what was going on; and it was not revealed to the audience, or her for that matter, that Jack managed to slip a flack-jacket onto her. Surprisingly, she gets over it pretty quick.
- Alex in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. (This was a slight variation, in that the bad guys really did shoot her, but the Feds let everyone think it killed her.)
- And she was then whisked away into WitSec, not to be seen again for five seasons. Olivia's expression: made of pure Tear Jerker.
- The franchise has also used this ruse while Lying to the Perp, as when a rapist is accused of murder so he'll insist that he'd left his victim alive. Only after he's said this on tape do the cops reveal she didn't die from her injuries after all.
- In The X-Files, Mulder fakes his own suicide at the end of season four, only to return several episodes into the next season.
- Captain Kirk on Star Trek: The Original Series in "Amok Time" (where he has apparently been killed by Spock, but we learn that Dr. McCoy has actually given him a shot to knock him out), and in "The Enterprise Incident" (where Spock uses the fictional Vulcan Death Grip on Kirk so he can return to a Romulan ship in disguise).
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark's life is put in danger twice because of other people doing this. Grand Nagus Zek named Quark his successor, and "died", to see if his son would use business smarts to undermine Quark and take the title, but instead he just tries to assassinate Quark. And Morn once faked his death and left 1000 bars of gold pressed latinum to Quark, but the latinum was from a heist, and his partners were coming for their share.
- The Dresden Files uses this to throw a demon off the trail, so an ex-demon and his girlfriend can go into the High Council's witness protection program and live happily ever after.
- This particular death-fakery is done for all the reasons listed above, as Harry manages to get the demon in question arrested to boot.
- Done by George Senior on Arrested Development.
- House does this when he hires a hooker to die as a patient Kutner was advising under House's name. We figure this out at the end of the episode when House pretends to resuscitate her and she wakes up in an Oh, Crap moment.
- House does this to himself in the series finale by switching dental records with a terminal patient.
- Hustle did this several times, referring to the practice as 'pulling a cacklebladder'. Mickey pulled one in the premiere, and a later episode had Celebrity Guest Richard Chamberlain pulling a double-bluff cacklebladder, actually killing himself. It was then revealed to be a double double-bluff cacklebladder, and he really was alive. Damn.)
- It almost ended in tragedy in the second episode when Mickey shoots Danny in front of the mark using a blank, then the mark pulls out his gun and shoots Danny for real. It took some quick thinking to save Danny's life while making the mark believe that he had killed Danny and go into hiding.
- PC Nick Klein in The Bill (The UK police drama).
- Stroker and his son do this in an episode of Stroker and Hoop to throw ninjas off their trail.
- This was done at least twice on Monk, the first in Mr. Monk Meets the Psychic, where Monk and the police pretend that the suspect killed his old girlfriend in order to get him to admit that he really killed his wife. More notably, in the Season 6 finale, After Monk has been accused of murder, Stottlemeyer pretends to shoot Monk to death in order to keep him under the radar while he looks for the real murderer.
- Tracy in Firefly
- Along with Kaylee in the pilot, as part of a mean-spirited joke played by Mal on Simon.
- Simon and River do this in order to get into the hospital for the episode "Ariel."
- This has been done in a final episode of a season of Smallville a couple of times. In season 3 witness protection faked Chloe's death by blowing up her house and burying her coffin. Lana Lang fakes her death in season 6 by substituting the body of one of her clones in place of herself.
- On Bones, Booth takes advantage of being shot by a Stalker with a Crush to fake his own death and nab some criminal he'd been waiting years to get.
- Heroes: When Angela Petrelli poisoned her husband Arthur in an attempt to kill him, Arthur survived, though in a paralyzed state, where he telepathically gave commands out to his minions and planned his revenge.
- Later used by Sylar, with the unwilling help of of a shapeshifter, supposedly to throw Noah Bennet off of his scent. However, Noah pulls it apart in record time... and runs headlong into a sadistic The Plan.
- Jimmy's girlfriend in Doctors, who was an undercover cop had to fake her own death at the hands of another undercover agent to make it seem like her partner was willing to kill cops and thus get closer to the heart of a drug smuggling ring.
- On character in Eastenders faked his death to find out how his girlfriend really felt about him.
- Despereaux the "master thief," in an episode of Psych. He's quite annoyed when the heroes find him.
Despereaux: Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a convincing body double? This one's too tall, this one's too fat...this one's just right, but he's an Eskimo!
- Kyle XY, of all shows, recently used this: as part of a Batman Gambit to get Kyle into Cassidy's trust, after having Kyle pretend to kill Jessi in self-defense for trying to kill Cassidy (it's complicated), Jessi slows her heartbeat down to two beats a minute. This is enough to fool Cassidy, who checks her pulse and declares her dead. She wakes up a few minutes after Kyle and Cassidy leave, completely unharmed.
- LOST: Locke's father fakes his death in order to avoid the wrath of some men from whom he stole money. Locke helps, after the fact.
- A Three's Company episode has Jack doing this after he's threatened by a man who thinks he's trying to steal his girlfriend.
- The title character, in the first series of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.
- Done by Lytton in Doctor Who. His unit comes under fire (with weapons that kill you outright without any obvious damage) and everyone falls down. After the attackers move on, he gets back up, uninjured, and leaves.
- In the series six finale, the Doctor himself pulls this off with the assistance of his time machine and a shapeshifting robot.
- In "Day of the Moon", Amy and Rory do this with the help of Canton Everett Delaware III to get back to the Doctor.
- In "Destiny of the Daleks", Romana used her ability to stop her own hearts in order to escape from slavery by faking her own death. Earlier, she had been told that "the only way to escape the Daleks was to feign death."
- Being immortal, Captain Jack pulls this off a few times in Torchwood to get the drop on enemies, most noticably on the villain of the first episode.
- In Charmed, Phoebe, Piper, Paige, and Leo faked their deaths to lead a normal life in the same house, raising the same kids, but with magical disguises and magically created ID. It didn't last too long.
- Happened in NCIS a couple of times:
- Agent Fornell faked his own suicide to find a mole in the FBI, and clear his own name.
- Agent Gibbs faked being shot, as part of a sting against a crooked ATF agent.
- The short-lived NBC show Players had a few of these.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, Hal is recognized by a woman who thought he was dead. Years ago, he faked his death—involving blowing up a phone booth—to avoid repaying her the $400 he'd borrowed from her.
- In Babylon 5, an entire ship of people was captured by the Shadows. The ones who agreed to serve them got this (the others suffered a Fate Worse Than Death).
- Vir Cotto, the Centauri government's token nice guy, manages to free thousands of Narns from Centauri death camps by sneaking them away and officially declaring them dead.
- The Korean Series Shining Inheritance has the father, Go Pyung Joong, hiding after after a body found in a gas explosion is thought to be him. He did this to give his family the insurance money.
- Played straight and offscreen in Dollhouse, "Epitaph Two: The Return" with this exchange:
Echo: I thought we lost you in Reno.
Alpha I kinda wanted you to think that.
- In another episode, Echo tried to smuggle a woman out of prison by injecting her with something that would slow her heart rate enough to make her appear dead. Unfortunately it wore off before she could get out.
- This crops up from time to time in Burn Notice. Larry Sizemore in particular may Never Live It Down; just about every time he shows up, someone will say "What, dead Larry?" and his subtitle is "Undead Spy".
- In Chuck, Orion did this to throw off those who were after him. Complete with explosion so the lack of a body wouldn't be too unusual.
- And the Ring director (and some Mooks) did it to hide the fact that Shaw had turned traitor, and also to gain some unwitting help from their enemy. This one used squibs, and they were quickly revealed to be alive.
- In the fourth season, one episode has Chuck figuring out the best way to draw out Casey's old team in order to find out more about his missing mother. The plan in question? To have Casey pretend to be dead, complete with the guy in a catatonic state to add authenticity to the "funeral".
- A Mash episode has Hawkeye mistakenly listed as dead. Frustrated with his lack of success in getting the Army bureaucracy to rectify the error and unable to get in touch with his father (who he learns received a letter informing him of his son's "demise"), he decides to allow himself to be transported home as a "cadaver"...before wounded arrive and he feels duty-bound to remain.
- Played for Laughs in My Name Is Earl. Earl had been in a relationship with a Naïve Everygirl after a hookup at a Halloween party. But, when things began to get too serious too fast, Earl faked his own death to avoid hurting her feelings. (Her current boyfriend got the idea from Earl and did it, too.) Later that episode, the woman in question faked her own death to get back at Earl for yelling at her about being an Extreme Doormat. (Thus marking the point where she becomes more assertive than ever before.)
- Lois of Lois and Clark had Superman freeze her using his superbreath as a ploy to get a villian.
- In another episode, Clark was forced to do this after being shot by a mobster at point-blank range. Being in a room filled with people, if he didn't drop to the ground and pretend to be dead, everyone would have realized he was Superman.
- In one episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Charlie and Mac fakes their deaths in an outrageously sloppy manner that seemingly couldn't fool anyone. It does anyway, or so it seems. Turns out the others just pretend to be sad and throws a fake funeral to make fun of them.
- In Get Smart, Max overhears a KAOS plot and is shot by two KAOS agents, but they believe he is dead. CONTROL allows everyone to believe he is dead so that they can stop the plot. But not every agent is told about the plan so that KAOS will be convinced that Max is dead. In fact 2 agents, besides Max know he's not really dead, The Chief and Agent 13. When Max figures out how to stop the evil plot, he is unable to contact the Chief or Agent 13 and when he tries to tell another agent, he disregards his comments because Maxwell Smart couldn't possibly be talking to him because he's dead.
- Taken to a bizarre extreme on Benson. A businessman tries to have his way with Denise in exchange for a deal with the state. After the date, the gang pretends she's been murdered to get him to confess. Benson plays a British detective (dressed as Sherlock Holmes), Pete plays Denise's biker brother, Katie plays a starry-eyed witness, and Miss Kraus plays a psychic. Oddly, it works.
- Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files uses this several times throughout the series. Usually it is the "part of a con" variety, but he uses "one little mistake" once or twice as well.
- Being a show about running cons, the Leverage team uses this every so often to convince their mark of the seriousness of the situation - in one notable instance, Parker was run over by a car, with the mark standing right there. In another, someone tried to assassinate a team-member, so they pretended the attempt succeeded - complete with funeral - to figure out who it was.
- The final episode started with a failed interrogation in which it seemed like a failed heist had left the entire team but Ford dead. This was actually all part of the plan, so the team could get inside as part of the investigation of the first, fake heist. Complete with actual fake bodies in body bags, with realistic-looking fabricated heads!
- Halfway through Season Six of Supernatural, Crowley is seemingly killed off, but a few episodes before the season finale, it's revealed that he faked his death with help from Castiel so that he could continue his plans under the Winchesters' noses.
- Happens a few times in Airwolf Both Moffett and Hawke use a trick that involves firing the ADF missiles at just the right time to make it appear that Airwolf has been blown up. Then they activate the "whisper mode" and ambush the opposition.
- Both Catherine Willows and DB Russell in CSI "Willows In The Wind", when a squad of hit men was after them.
- Frequently happened on Highlander as a result of the immortal nature of many characters.
- They get killed and their killer drops his guard, not knowing his victim will resurrect.
- They also fake their own death, or pretend their previous persona died of old age, in order to assume a new identity elsewhere.
- Fraser on Due South in the episode 'Dead Men Don't Throw Rice".
- Arthur did it on Merlin to get his father to cry tears of true remorse, the only thing that would break the troll magic used on him (Uther).
- In accordance with the original Doyle canon (see Literature above), this trope appears in the Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall".
- For the last half of season six of Criminal Minds, Prentiss was believed to be dead by the rest of the team except for Hotch and JJ, who were the ones who set it up that way.
- When Paget Brewster came back to the show a season later, there was quite a bit of time spent on bringing her back from the dead and the team's anger over having been lied to. Especially Morgan, who thought he could have saved her.
- Community: As revealed in the third season finale, Star-Burns faked his death in a meth lab explosion.
- In the fourth finale of The Mentalist, Jane shoots Lisbon in order to deliver the body to Red John as a gift of friendship. At the same time, Rigsby's death is also faked with the use of a corpse from earlier in the episode.
- Henry does this in an episode of Unnatural History.
- Doris McGarrett did this years before the show started on Hawaii Five-0. Her son (and the audience) only found out at the end of the second season.
- Happy Days: The fifth-season, two-part episode "Fonzie's Funeral" had the Cunninghams stage a fake funeral for Fonzie to put him into protection. (Fonzie had gone to the police to turn in $100 bills found in a hearse he was repairing, but local crime lord The Candyman — wanted for counterfeiting, extortion, money laundering and robbery — finds out and sends his henchmen after him.) Fonzie is then declared "dead" to put him into hiding and allow the Cunninghams time to devise a plan to defeat the Candyman. Prior to the climatic scene, there is the "hilarious visitation" featuring the series' regulars and memorable guests saying their "farewells," and "Fonzie's mother" (Fonzie in drag) comforting the survivors.
- "You have Fonzie's lips." "It runs in the family."
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Had several, most of which were played for laughs but some played for drama:
- During the first season, an episode dealt with a man named Henry Flatt, a friend of Uncle Jesse's who staged his death rather than go to prison. A problem arises when the Hazzard Cemetery is going to be dug up, and Flatt asks for help because this means his grave will be opened and the ruse exposed.
- Early in the series' run, "The Ghost of the General Lee" sees Bo and Luke presumed drowned after a pair of car thieves steal the General Lee and drive it into a lake, and no bodies are found. When Boss tries to take advantage of the situation by declaring his antique watch stolen and then, after declaring them responsible, suing the Duke boys' estate to collect its worth (so he can foreclose on the Duke farm, natch), Bo and Luke decide to "stay dead" long enough come up with a ghostly scheme to scare Boss and Rosco into admitting the watch was never stolen.
- The Coy-and-Vance era episode "Ding Dong, the Boss is Dead," where Boss agrees to "die" to ensure that he will not be stalked by his old moonshining rival, "Big" Floyd Calloway (who was sent to prison on Boss' testimony for extortion). But matters are complicated when Calloway wants to pay his "respects" to Boss in person.
- Another Coy-and-Vance episode, "The Great Insurance Fraud," has a pair of con artists call Boss on his crooked insurance policies scheme when they stage a phony fatal car accident to collect the $100,000 survivor's payment. The catch is that they swerve the car off the road just as they're driving toward Coy and Vance, and Coy - who was driving the General Lee – is deeply upset because he thinks he caused the accident, where the driver of the other car died after being trapped in his burning car.
- Little House on the Prairie: The first-season episode, "If I Should Wake Before I Die" is played as a straight drama, and sees Charles help an elderly woman, who had been virtually left for dead by her long-absent children, stage her own funeral to lure the fortune-seeking kids back to Walnut Grove for that coveted visit.
- In the Stargate Atlantis episode The Siege part 3, the expedition allows the Wraith to believe that Atlantis was destroyed via nuke. In reality, the expedition merely cloaked the city after weathering the blast under the city's shield.
- The 2 Broke Girls episode "And the Big Opening" suggests Max tried to make her mother think she'd committed suicide two years earlier.
- In the Pilot Episode of Columbo, a psychiatrist murders his wife, then has his actress girlfriend pretend to be her in order to set up his alibi. Columbo figures out what happened and starts trying to get the girlfriend to confess because he has no evidence that would stand up in court. A little later, Columbo calls the psychiatrist to the girlfriend's house, where she has drowned herself in the swimming pool. Columbo tell the psychiatrist that the girlfriend was his last chance of proving murder, so Columbo has lost. However, he continues, the psychiatrist has also lost because he lost the love of his life, the reason he committed murder in the first place. The psychiatrist laughs, and says that, hypothetically speaking, if he had committed murder it would have been for his wife's money, and the girl would have been a dupe who would have had to be disposed of eventually. Cue the girl revealing that she had faked her death at Columbo's instigation, and now that she knows what her boyfriend really thinks of her she is willing to confess and testify against him.
- In one episode of Cheers rival Gary does this to Sam as a Halloween prank where it looks like Sam accidentally scared him to death.
- Season 4 of Justified centers on the mystery of Drew Thompson, a pilot and drug smuggler who three decades ago plummeted to his death after he jumped out of an airplane with a bag full of cocaine and his parachute malfunctioned. Raylan discovers that Drew faked his death and the dead man was actually Waldo Truth. Noone discovered the switch because Waldo was a no-good lowlife and wife beater so his wife simply paid another man to pretend to be Waldo and kept collecting his government disability cheques. Drew faked his death because he witnessed mafia boss Theo Tonin kill a government informant and decided not to take his chances in Witness Protection. Before leaving he burned every photo of himself he could find which makes identifying him after 30 years quite a challenge. After making everyone think he was dead, he assumed a new identity and settled in Harlam. In the end Raylan discovers that Drew has been hiding as Shelby, a longtime police officer and current Sheriff of Harlan County.
- One season of the Glaswegian sitcom City Lights opened with Willie and Tam at Loveable Rogue Chancer's funeral. On their way to the pub, they were joined by Chancer, who was just trying to get out of paying the poll tax.
Willie: This is the stupidest wake I've ever been to!
- In the Sherlock episode The Reichenbach Fall Sherlock fakes his death by jumping off a tall building in order to prevent Moriarty's henchmen from killing his friends.
- On Elementary, Mycroft Holmes is forced to fake his death as the murder victim was a mole and was going to blow Mycroft's cover. In order to prevent this, the NSA killed the mole and fakes Mycroft's death to throw off suspicion. Before he disappears in hiding, he tells Sherlock he loves him.
- In one episode of Castle, a woman fakes the deaths of herself and her young son in a desperate attempt to get away from her husband, who is as abusive as he is well-connected.
- Lampshaded in the Season 1 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Garrett quips that it must be "the only tag team match between four dead guys". Namely: Nick Fury let HYDRA believe they had killed him during their uprising and went into hiding. John Garrett had Ward feed S.H.I.E.L.D. false intelligence before they discovered Ward was a HYDRA mole. Mike Peterson had "died" in an explosion before HYDRA kidnapped him and made him into a cyborg. Phil Coulson really did die but was revived by Project T.A.H.I.T.I.
- Used in Space: Above and Beyond as a battle ploy, with the unintended side effect that the 58th's fellow Marines believe it too, until West can convince them otherwise.
- Done in the Diagnosis: Murder episode "The Murder of Mark Sloan". Mark realises that someone who wants him dead has rigged the gas tank of his car to explode, so he blows up the car by throwing a match into the leaking gasoline, hoping that the killer will get careless once they believe he's dead.
- In the Novacom arc of Adventures in Odyssey, Connie's friend Robert Mitchel who is secretly trying to stop the bad guys from taking over the world, fakes his death to make sure the bad guys won't actually try to kill him like they did to another person who found out their plans.
- A major element of many plots in Spycraft, for obvious reasons.
- In the same system, the "Zeroed" feat is essentially this, making the trail of clues to break your cover identity significantly longer.
- Older Than Feudalism: In Electra, Orestes' plot to murder his mother and step-father relies on lulling them into a false sense of security by sending a messenger stating Orestes died in a chariot race. Electra is devastated by the loss until the moment her brother reveals himself, and from then on she helps him keep the deception.
- William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Henry The Fourth Part 1 and Much Ado About Nothing.
- A Winter's Tale in which Hermione apparently fakes her own death for sixteen years just so she can pose as her own statue (voluntarily or otherwise) and come back to life in front of her husband and now grown-up daughter.
- Notably used in Antony and Cleopatra: Cleopatra tells a messenger to tell Antony that she is dead. This results in Antony killing himself and Cleopatra hitting the Despair Event Horizon.
- Wicked the Musical, where Elphaba pretends to melt, but goes down a trapdoor instead to wait for Fiyero... who, by the way, is the Scarecrow. She sings a final refrain with Glinda and vanishes to another land with Fiyero, leaving Glinda to believe that she died for real. (Glinda did not realize she had back-up on the refrain.) As Fiyero says "She can't know. No-one must know." Oh, by the way, before she carries out this charade, she makes Glinda promise to never try and clear her (Elphaba's) name so that Oz will stay peaceful under Glinda's rule and the people won't turn against her. Whew. Note that this is not what happens in the book version of Wicked. In the book, Elphaba meets exactly the same end as in the original Wizard of Oz movie — Dorothy flings a bucket of water at her, and she dies.
- In Angels In America, Roy Cohn pulls this trick on the ghost/hallucination/whatever of Ethel Rosenberg, who happily pushes the nurse's call button — only to have Roy spring back to life and gloat at her about falling for it. Subverted almost immediately, when the monitors Roy's hooked up to flatlines, and he dies for real.
- World of Warcraft has Feign Death as an ability of the Hunter class.
- Moreover, in classic EverQuest, the Feign Death skill was the hallmark of the Monk class (though some other classes eventually received weaker versions of it) and was the most effective countermeasure for a number of the game's more tedious and frustrating mechanics.
- In Suikoden II, the main character's not-quite-biological sister fakes her own death in order to avoid distracting him from his important task of ending a war — she's tired of all the fighting and wants to leave the war behind, but knows that he'd never leave her alone if he knew she was still alive. All this only happens in the perfect ending, however — if you make even the slightest misstep, before or after her apparent "death", she was actually killed off for good.
- In BioShock Atlas is actually mobster Frank Fontaine who supposedly died in a shootout with Rapture police forces 2 years before the game is set.
- Plus, some splicers pretend to be corpses so they could leap up an attack you by surprise.
- Solid Snake fakes his own death in Metal Gear Solid 2, in order to escape being witch-hunted as a terrorist. Interestingly enough, he does this by dressing up the corpse of his identical twin and presenting him to the authorities. Thus, later in the game, when the body is exhumed for a DNA test, it passes as genuine.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3, Snake carries a Cyanide Pill he can use to fake his death in front of enemies. "Dying" will fool every enemy and boss once, and popping back to life in front of them will scare them enough that you can get a cheap hit in; the only boss this doesn't work on is the one that taught you this trick.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, there is the corpse camo and the Big Boss mask to complete it that allows Snake to play dead which can fool even the machines.
- Pulled by the entire Global Defense Initiative in the first Command & Conquer, goading the Brotherhood of Nod into going on the offensive. Even the player gets suckered into it.
- In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Oliver is presumed dead after battle. In Radiant Dawn, he turns out to have been hiding for three years.
- Ditto the Black Knight, although to be fair, they Never Found the Body. Still, they dropped a fucking tower on him; No One Could Survive That!
- Actually Oliver really did die. Recruit him then talk to him with Ike and he mentions visiting Death's villa. Somehow he was brought back, and then hid.
- Earlier in the series, Prince Zephiel is poisoned in an assassination attempt by his father, King Desmond, but survives. He arranges a fake funeral and stabs his would-be murderer to death when Desmond approached the coffin to view the body. The exact details of this incident are revealed in Fuuin no Tsurugi, but they are mentioned in the epilogue of Rekka no Ken suggesting that they happened around that time (15 years after the events of Rekka no Ken; five years before Fūin no Tsurugi).
- Similarly, in Fire Emblem Awakening Khan Basilio pretends to be dead after attacking Walhart, and then shows up alive in a Big Damn Heroes against Validar and Co. Somewhat subverted in that this is how Basilio actually died in the Bad Future, but after Lucina aka "Marth" explained this "detail", he "fixed" it in the present.
- Subverted with Emmeryn if you play her Paralogue. She isn't actually faking the dead; she survived her Heroic Suicide but was left with massive Trauma-Induced Amnesia, so she can't remember what she had done until said Heroic Suicide. (It is speculated in fandom that she MAY have intended to play the trope straight, but yeah.)
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood needs to convince a local inkeeper that he is a member of the Goodsoup family and then feign death in order to cash in his life insurance policy (which only requires him to present his death certificate, regardless of whether or not he's actually alive) and gain admission to the Goodsoup family crypt, which technically isn't the cleverest way to go about doing either of those. His means of faking his death aren't that clever either: he mixes medicine with alcohol and passes out. And then the credits roll. Okay, not the REAL credits.
- This is a major gameplay element in Haze: Mantel Corporation mercenaries have a Fantastic Drug called Nectar injected into their bodies which gives them superhuman abilities and alters their brain chemistry to make them more useful for Mantel. One way they do this is trying to avoid PTSD by making Mantel troops incapable of seeing dead bodies. Once a soldier, friendly or enemy, dies, they become incapable of perceiving them. This is extremely easy to abuse once you make the inevitable switch to the anti-Mantel rebels; with the push of a button your character pretends to die, and the bad guys literally forget that you're there.
- The original Unreal Tournament had the feign death feature. This would later return in Unreal Tournament III. This was taken from Team Fortress.
- Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, doesn't have this feature; what it does have is the unlockable pocket watch for the Spy, the Dead Ringer. It creates a fake corpse the instant any damage is done to the user, and immediately makes the user completely invisible for a short period of time (not even bumping into other players reveals him, unlike the other two watches and the official reskins), at the expense of a really, really loud "becoming visible" sound effect. Naturally, like all of the Spy's tricks, it was useful for about a few days before players wised up.
- Played straight in Team Fortress Classic: Spies could drop to the floor (much like dead players' ragdolls) at any time, quietly or otherwise, and go into third-person view.
- Army of Two allows you to use the "Feign Death" command if your mercenary is getting hammered with a lot of incoming fire. This generally causes the enemy to direct their fire at your partner, giving you either time to (slowly) heal or a chance to spring up and go for cover. Naturally, the enemy will only fall for this once per encounter, and keep shooting you if you try it again.
- In Halo, The Flood will try to pull this on you. Dropping dead to the ground only to jump to their feet moments later. It can be difficult to tell when they are genuinely dead due to this, and the only real way to ensure they are is to watch them for a moment or punch/pump them full of lead.
- The starting novice class of Ragnarok Online can learn a Play Dead skill that renders all monsters non-aggressive by making the player out to be dead. They lose this skill when changing to a first class or supernovice, however.
- Similar to the below Hitman example, one of the Dark Brotherhood missions in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has the player "kill" an NPC with a special poison and revive him later to throw other assassins off his trail.
- The Nancy Drew game Lights, Camera, Curses! reveals that a famous actress's long-ago death was faked, to ensure that she wouldn't suffer the stigma of having done such a horrible acting job.
- This plays a key role in Steins;Gate: to prevent the Bad Future from unfolding without sacrificing anyone, the heroes have to replicate a grisly scene that Rintaro glimpsed in a vision right at the start of everything. It's a bit of a Mind Screw how it all unfolds.
- In Hitman Blood Money, the Agency sets up a false death for 47 so that he can get close to the mastermind of the plot to kill him that drives the main plot of the game. When Diana gives him a kiss, she's administering the antidote for the drug that she used on him (though if you let your life bar go down all the way during the "credits," it's Game Over for you).
- This also happens to Smith earlier on in the game, in order to sneak him out of rehab.
- In Mafia II, Henry has to kill Leo Galante to get into the Falcone crime family. Vito tries to get Leo out before Henry can whack him, but when Henry catches them and learns the facts, Leo offers to take the bullet. Vito leaves the kitchen, there's a gunshot, and Henry walks out, telling him "You owe me big for this one." Vito then drives Leo to the train station so he can leave Empire Bay.
- If loyalty was secured back in Mass Effect 2, Kasumi will turn out to have survived the explosion of the rigged terminal of the mission "Citadel: Hanar Diplomat" in Mass Effect 3.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, With the help of FIB Agent Dave Norton, Michael Townley fakes his death after a bank robbery gone awry and goes into Witness Protection. Afterwards, he and his family move to Los Santos under the surname 'De Santa'. The plan works Until nearly a decade later when Michael unintentionally reveals to his best friend Trevor Phillips that he's alive.
- In Batman: Arkham Origins, at the end of the Cyrus Pinkney case-file, you learn that the Spirit of Amadeus Arkham can make a potion that does this. It probably explains how the Joker faked his death at the beginning of Batman: Arkham City.
- Lost Eden has several examples:
- Moorkus Rex fakes the death of Mungo, Dina's lover, in an attempt to invoke a Heroic BSOD in Adam and company.
- Adam's mother and sister both escaped from the Tyrann raid to Shandovra, where Adam's sister changes her name to Shazia and became queen of the Chorrians.
- Discworld II puts a bit of a twist on it: one puzzle requires Rincewind to fake being undead (something currently very common, due to the game's Death Takes a Holiday plot) to receive a death certificate and get transported out of Ankh-Morpork. The player needs to find some way to present no breath, pulse or body temperature while being examined by a mortician.
- In Fantasy Life, it turns out that the Former Dark Sultan has been doing this all along.
- In Beyond the Canopy, Greliz and Jojo plan to do this as part of a confidence scheme. They organize a prize fight and serve as bookkeepers for the gambling. Their plan is to fake a fire before the fight ends, escape to the caves underground with all the gambled money, and then blow up the building after them—convincing all onlookers that they and the money went up in smoke.
- Agatha in Girl Genius. The unusual part is that given both circumstances and the habits during lifetime, it may double as a bizarre form of the funeral honours to the unfortunate who became their substitute corpse. Scamming the overlord of Europe into thinking she's the Heterodyne heir would be really hard to top.
- In Zeetha's opinion, however, this "perfect plan" had a flaw.
- Renard/Reynardine in Gunnerkrigg Court, as he phrased it himself, "had the perfect disguise". Whether this happened mostly by coincidence or was planned by the mythological trickster himself is perhaps the biggest point of disagreement in the fandom.
- Veithel of Juathuur, before the beginning of the story.
- In Spacetrawler, Dmitri uses holograms to make his attempted assassin (and the government that hired her) believe the assassination was successful.
- In Bob and George Protoman planted items to make himself look dead.
- In When She Was Bad, Max pretends to die after being shot in the chest by Jasper, both to hide his Healing Factor and to stop Gail's group of villains from trying to track him down. He has them fooled until he happens to bump into Gail on the bus.
- Wapsi Square: Bia faked her death "to make her daughter stronger".
- In Worm, Coil successfully pulls this off, staging a public death in his masked identity to allow his plans to go forward with his civilian identity taking a position of power.
- Bugs Bunny does this on a regular basis. Usually this causes his pursuer to feel remorse and go into a crying fit, only to have Bugs "come to life" and give him a kiss on the nose or something equally impudent.
- The most unique form of faking death was in "Whats Opera Doc", with Elmer Fudd using a Magic Helmet to strike the rabbit with massive lightning. Elmer Fudd felt remorse for killing the rabbit, but Bugs showed he was alive by breaking the fourth wall.
Bugs Bunny: Well, what did you expect in an opera — a HAPPY ending?
- Pepe Le Pew did this in one of his skits. Penelope the Cat that he regularly chases decides to lock herself in a reinforced glass safe that he can't get into, and being his usual self he acts as if she is playing hard to get and jokingly asks why she won't come out. Her response is that Pepe stinks, in despair he pulls out a gun, smiles, and then waves goodbye to Penelope as he walks behind the safe and a gunshot is heard. Penelope in despair rushes out of the safe to see if he really went through with it, and to her surprise Pepe is waiting for her, "I missed... Fortunately for you."
- Gargoyles has Sevarius faking his own death as part of Xanatos' plan to turn Talon into an Unwitting Pawn.
- In one episode of Family Guy, Quagmire marries a woman he barely knows, realizes he made a terrible mistake, and tries to break it off. When she reveals herself to be unstable, the guys help him fake his death so as not to end up with a Fatal Attraction case on their hands.
- When Death comes to collect him, he "comes back to life", but Death insists on collecting Quagmire. When she jumps in front of Glen, she touches Death and drops dead.
Peter: Technically, her name was Quagmire.
Death: Works for me!
- The episode "Thanksgiving" show's that Joe's son faked his death in order to go AWOL. Also there's a Cutaway Gag that shows Peter faking his death up to the point where he's in a coffin and being buried while his family and friends mourn him. Inside the coffin that's being covered with dirt, Peter says to himself, "Hehehe. No dentist appointment for this guy."
- Justice League Unlimited did this as well with Green Arrow taking a nerve relaxant so that he appeared to have been killed in the illegal Metabrawl at Wildcat's hands, to show the aging fighter what he could unintentionally do if he continued fighting in it.
- The second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender ends with Katara pulling Aang back from the ragged edge of death after the latter was struck down by Azula. Come the third season premiere (three weeks of unconsciousness later)...
: Yep, the whole world thinks you're dead! (stands up and raises his arms triumphantly
) Isn't that great?!
- There's also Zuko at the end of the first season—he survives an assassination attempt in which his ship is completely destroyed, but he and Iroh pretend that he did die so that he can stow away on one of the ships to the North Pole and catch the Avatar there.
- In The Simpsons, Homer has a dummy of himself made and tosses it off a cliff into a river where it falls over a waterfall, has its limbs crushed by rocks, is attacked by beavers, and ultimately is sucked into a turbine while his coworkers watch in horror... in order to get out of an afternoon of community service. "Best 600 bucks I ever spent!"
- What makes the scene hilarious is the Comedic Sociopathy of it all: rather than thinking to help Homer, all his co-workers think that all they have to do is say "Oh no! He's hit the rocks!" "Don't worry, those beavers will save him." "Oh no! The beavers are taking his clothes!" No one thinks to, you know, move and help him.
- Bart tried something like this, as well, but the Blind Without 'Em Milhouse unintentionally shoves the real Bart off of the cliff instead of the dummy. He, of course, didn't suffer the fate of the Homer dummy.
- The episode "Bart the Fink" has Krusty the Clown faking his death to collect on an insurance policy after the IRS strips him of his assets.
- In fact, he faked his death twice in that episode. First to escape his IRS debts and start a new life as "Rory B Bellows" and second to escape his new life, commenting as he does so that "The life of Rory B Bellows is insured for a surprisingly large amount".
- The boys force Butters to do this in the South Park episode "Marjorine".
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Norman Osborn (AKA Green Goblin) pulls this off in the final(?) step of his 2 season long Evil Plan.
- It was revealed in the season 3 premiere of Metalocalypse that Charles Ofdensen did this. It's not until the penultimate episode of season 4 that we find out why: when Mr. Selacia brainwashed Crozier, Ofdensen witnessed it and it caused his soul to separate from his body, making him 'The Dead Man' in the prophecies regarding Dethklok, and invisible to Selacia. He spent the time investigating the prophecy and spying on the Tribunal until Dethklok needed him again.
- Mr Herriman does this in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends during Halloween, in a group prank to get back at Bloo for pranking them all the last Halloweeen.
- When the Teen Titans are first attacked by the HIVE (Jinx, Mammoth and Gizmo), Robin falls to ominous doom, and the others only find his utility belt. He resurfaces after his teammates get kicked out of their own home.
- And at the end of season two, Terra seemingly killed the Titans, only for them all to somehow survive and later attack her when her guard is down. Needless to say, Slade was not pleased with her.
- In Johnny Test, Johnny and Dookie get overworked as their alter egos, Johnny X and Super Pooch. Ultimately, the only way to get out of the mess is to convince the town they're dead. They try once on their own, only to fail, so they get Susan and Mary to help them, disguising themselves as alien supervillains and making it look like they've vaporized the two. Susan and Mary actually seem to enjoy this...
- Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: When it seemed Mrs. Vandergelt's butler would finally get her fortune, it was revealed she had faked her death.
- In the Pilot Movie for Justice League, J'onn J'onnz telepathically prevents everyone from noticing Batman, leading to the villains (and heroes) not realizing he was there until it was time for him to attack. Being Batman, this was a plot he was used to; see the episode in his own series where everyone thinks a minor crook offed him.
- Rhinox/Tankor does this for a while in Beast Machines in order to be able to further his own agenda. Too bad for him that Megatron figured it out...
- Super Friends episode "Dr. Pelagian's War". Dr. Ansel Hillbrand fakes his death in a deep sea diving accident to allow him to prepare for his enviroterrorist activities as Dr. Pelagian.
- Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: Dr. Zin faked his death to see if his daughters were ready to take over his criminal empire. They failed.
- In the second season opener of the 90s Iron Man cartoon, Tony Stark fakes his death by allowing the Mandarin's flunkies to blow up his private jet.
- Philomena, the Phoenix pet of Princess Celestia, does this in an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Unlike most examples, Philomena is just doing it to be a jerk to Fluttershy.
- In season 2 of Young Justice, Artemis does this in order to infiltrate The Light with Kaldur.
- Both Artemis and Kaldur do it in the second season's penultimate episode. When their cover is blown, they're both immediately shot dead by Deathstroke- who was really just M'gann in disguise, armed with a fake gun, and the death were used as a catalyst to break down the uneasy partnership between The Light and The Reach.
- Professor Ivo was apparently presumed dead prior to the episode "Schooled."
- On King of the Hill, Peggy gets involved in a pyramid scheme while Dale is confronted by the man whose identity he (somewhat accidentally) stole years ago. While hiding in the same hedge they decide to fake a murder/suicide to get out of their respective predicaments. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Grojband episode "Hologroj", Corey tells the news that his band has mysteriously disappeared.
Truth In Television
- Elvis Presley: Elvis' death has been denied by some of his more obsessive fans. Similar conspiracy theories abound around other dead celebrities, such as Adolf Hitler, Bruce Lee, Jim Morrison, Lady Diana, ...
- This is an actual crime, called "pseudocide" (literally 'pretend murder').
- Reported by Talking Points Memo.
- Also the John Darwin case. Found out after a Google search.
- A woman in Des Moines faked her own death to avoid paying traffic tickets. Her scheme fell apart when she got pulled over for yet another traffic offense.
- The police sometimes use this tactic to nab suspects. In one case, a woman hired a contract killer (actually an undercover cop) to kill her husband. The police then faked his death, providing photos and "evidence" in order to fool the wife into incriminating herself.
- In Russia where political and business-related assassinations are unpleasantly common, this is a very common tactic for the local police.
- In matters of national security, or if the person's life will be in ongoing danger because of their testimony, the FBI may go as far as staging a closed-casket funeral for someone who is going into the Witness Relocation Program.
- Christopher Marlowe, sometimes theorized to be the "real" Shakespeare, is also sometimes theorized to have faked his own death. Even though a coroner confirmed the knife in his skull.
- Indeed, his autopsy report, witness reports and court documentation make this one of the best recorded events of the Elizabethan era. And people still believe this man lived on to impersonate Shakespeare for decades.
- People have been claiming since April 3, 1882, that Jesse James and Bob Ford faked James' murder. There was a two hour special on History International about this, albeit with very shaky reasoning on the "he didn't die" side. (At one point, a photo of a 20-something James is compared to the official post-mortem photo. The two photos have different hairlines, which "proves" they are of two different men. Because no male ever suffers from receding hairline.)
- These theories were largely put to rest after after an exhumation proved that the man in Jesse James' grave was a descendant of Jesse James' mother.
- Similar theories exist to claim that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid faked the former's killing of the latter. The story (which has no real evidence to substantiate it) is that the lawman and the outlaw were actually childhood friends, and they created a win-win situation out of the Kid's fugitive status: Garrett got the bounty and the Kid got to start a new life in Mexico. Several people have even come forward many decades later to claim they were Billy the Kid. There's even been a DNA test done from the remains of one of the claimants against blood allegedly from Billy the Kid, but the test results have not been revealed. The location of the body that was buried as Billy the Kid, regardless of whether it was really him, is not known for sure, due to a flood that washed away all the tombstones in the cemetery. A marker currently designates where the grave is estimated to be, but the uncertainty means testing that body against the blood sample would be pointless.
- Agatha Christie faked her own disappearance after her husband dumped her for another woman. Her knowledge allowed her to use elements from her own novels, but in the end the police found her ten days later in a nearby hotel, pretending to be an amnesiac.
- Many kinds of animals fake their own death as a last resort to protect themselves from predators. For some reason, many hunters won't eat what is already dead.
- If you find something dead, it may well have started rotting already. If it's suddenly dead but with no traces of injury, it can be assumed that it died from poison or some form of sickness that makes it undesirable to eat. While a human might stop to check the prey more thoroughly, many animal predators don't, and leave it alone due to instinct. Dead, but not eaten, and I didn't kill it? There must be something wrong with it.
- Hognose snakes are really good at this; they even produce a smell to make sure any predator with a sense of smell thinks they're dead. (They also pretend to be venomous snakes; the weird thing is that they need a plan B.)
- Play Possum: Possums don't only fake their own death when they feel threatened. They also mimick the smell of rotten meat thanks to a foul-smelling fluid that they secrete.
- There had been a myth saying that if cornered by a Brown Bear, a human should play dead to escape it, for bears would not eat corpses. Although it works in Real Life, as people with knowledge of the wild can tell, bears and other carnivores can and will scavenge corpses and can easily tell the difference between a still man on the ground and a dead one. The true reason behind the playing dead issue is to convince the bruin you're not a threat: if the beast sees the potential opponent stays down and does not move, will examine it for a little and then move away to more useful things like searching for food.
- According to the historian Suetonius, when Nero held special musical recitals and refused to let anyone leave for hours no matter how pressing the reason, some members of the audience would pretend to die in order to be carried away for burial.
- In The Big Con, Maurer expains how if the con didn't go quite as smoothly as it should have done, somebody would get mad at the con man and punch him, when he would release the cacklebladder he prepared earlier, leaking blood everywhere. Now the victim of the con would believe he was guilty of/an accessory to murder and would be happy to run away, no further questions asked.
- Sometimes done by victims in school shootings, where everyone except the gunman is unarmed, and frequently trapped in classrooms with only one way out. Often it succeeds because most mass shooters don't double-check to make sure every single victim is actually dead, but fires off round after round into a loaded classroom and leaves everyone for dead. On especially heartbreaking example of this is of one of the first-grade students whose classroom was attacked by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Lanza fired enough to shoot most of the people in the classroom multiple times; but missed her. She threw herself to the floor, in her classmates' blood, and waited for him to leave. Of course, he killed himself when he heard the police coming.