Often, a hero needs more of a reason to keep on fighting than just to save the day. He needs to know that it's fairly Serious Business
. That's why, on occasion, someone close to him will die for generally no other reason than for the hero to angst
over his inability to save the loved one, driving him to protect everyone else he can.
Sometimes, this happens because the hero in question is carrying the Idiot Ball
for the day, in which case the hero has no reason to blame himself, but will do so anyway simply because it's "good for the hero."
The sacrificed character is frequently a Disposable Woman
, but it could be a whole Doomed Hometown
. When the corpse is left for the hero to stumble upon, it's Stuffed into the Fridge
. When it happens over and over again to the same hero, it's the Cartwright Curse
. See also Cynicism Catalyst
, My Greatest Failure
and Survivor Guilt
. When they die during a hero's backstory or initial appearance, it's Death by Origin Story
Note: While many Gwen Stacys
are also Lost Lenores
not every Lost Lenore is a Gwen Stacy. Whoever lost Lenore doesn't necessarily blame themselves for the death, but this feeling of self-blame and assumed responsibility is a key defining criterion for a Gwen Stacy.
Since this is a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked. Don't say we didn't warn you!
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Anime and Manga
- Van and Ray Lundgren's would be wives are this in Gun X Sword.
- Teresa's death in front of Clare in Claymore is the whole motivation that causes her to become a Claymore to begin with.
- Also a notable example of a Gwen Stacy who was most certainly not holding the Idiot Ball.
- Undine is also a shining example with Deneve as the Hero, and all the other Claymore who died in Pieta can be considered this
- The Gundam meta-series has used this trope a LOT.
- Fllay Allster for Kira Yamato in Gundam SEED and Stella Loussier for Shinn Asuka in Gundam SEED Destiny. This is actually Shinn's second big loss as his entire family dies in episode 1 of SEED Destiny, which seems to justify his extreme skill as a mobile suit pilot, and issues with rage for the entirety of the series. Of course, Stella's death just made him angrier.
- In the same show, Rau Le Creuset may serve as a villainous example to Gilbert Durandal. Durandal's flashbacks show that he in his capacity as Le Creuset's doctor and closest friend was well aware of the latter's suicidal and nihilistic tendencies, but was unable to do anything about them, ultimately leading to Le Creuset's descent into insanity, and eventual death while attempting to trigger the apocalypse. Durandal's Dark Messiah persona is based around ensuring that no one else ever has to suffer through the kind of pain, identity problems and self-loathing that Rau did, leading him to try and create a world where no one will ever feel lost through any means necessary. Le Creuset's ghost even visits the Chairman repeatedly, nicely driving home the point. A rare case of one Big Bad's death triggering the rise of another.
- Anew Returner for Lyle Dylandy in Gundam 00. Lyle goes into a Heroic BSOD after.
- And lest we forget, Yurin L'Ciel for Flit Asuno from the latest series Gundam Age. Seeing Flit completely lose it afterwards makes this depressing scene worse. Her death haunts him for the next seventy years, as he tries his hardest to slaughter all the Vagans he possibly can in revenge.
- And, of course, Lalah Sune in Mobile Suit Gundam and Four Murasame in Zeta Gundam. She turns out to be an especially interesting case, since she died saving Char by throwing herself in front of Amuro's beam saber strike, leading to Char and Amuro blaming each other for her death.
- Mary Magdalene's death in Chrono Crusade is the main event in Chrono's background that drives a lot of his actions in the present. In the manga her role is fleshed out and she has much more of a personality, but the anime gives her nothing more than a flashback in one episode, which weakens her as a character and gives her little more to do than to give Chrono a reason to angst.
- While not a death per se, Kolulu in Gash Bell largely fits this trope since, within the scope of the series, getting your book burned is, for all intents and purposes, death. She provides the bulk of the motivation for the main character to strive on to become King of the demon world.
- Also worth noting that Kolulu, Fllay, Stellar and Clare are all voiced by the same seiyu.
- Yoji of Weiss Kreuz is primarily motivated by the death of his partner and love interest Asuka. Ouka also becomes The Gwen Stacy for Omi after she's killed by Murphy's Bullet.
- Luna in Casshern Sins. Casshern apparently killed her, causing the Ruin, and we are offered glimpses of his killing her at the beginning of every episode, although he doesn't remember any of it; his realization that he did it apparently causes a Heroic BSOD which leads him to try to make amends.
- Luna turns out to be alive later, but she also turns out to be a Jerkass, which leads the characters to question whether she is really Luna at all.
- In Rurouni Kenshin the accidental death of Kenshin's first wife Yukishiro Tomoe at his own hands was the prime motivator for him to swear his no-killing oath and become a wandering swordsman to atone for his past.
- Cowboy Bebop: Julia becomes a Gwen Stacy during the final episode, and it leads Spike to his own (possible) death in a fight with his arch-nemesis, who also dies in the process.
- In Bleach, the death of Ichigo Kurosaki's mother is a huge motivator for him. Kaien Shiba plays a similar role for Rukia Kuchiki, but his death can serve as more of a de-motivator for her.
- Does Ishida's grandfather count?
- Kamui Shiro of X/1999 gets one in the form of his love interest Kotori Monou, whose murder sends him into a Heroic BSOD. After he snaps out of it, he carries on with the oath to never let it happen to his friends ever again.
- And Subaru Sumeragi has his own Gwen Stacy in the form of his twin sister Hokuto, who dies at the end of their own series after Subaru falls into a massive Heroic BSOD of his own. Subaru actually helps Kamui out of his BSOD through their mutual experience.
- Canon Foreigner Lily McGwire fills this role in the Fatal Fury anime specials and movie. Despite defeating her murderer in the first TV special, Terry is still haunted by her death in the second special and movie.
- In The Sacred Blacksmith, the titular Blacksmith, Luke, is burdened with guilt for directly or indirectly causing the death of his childhood friend Lisa (pronounced "Leeza", not "Leesa"...). Eventually he finds out the awful truth: He's angsting himself unnecessarily. Lisa voluntarily risked herself to protect him from Big Bad Valbanill.
- The Sailor Team (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus) in Sailor Moon are unique in this aspect that they've actually literally died twice for Sailor Moon. The first time in the original series, Sailor Moon brings them back with the power of the Silver Crystal, but they lose their memories (anime-only). The second time, they actually die permanently at the hands of Galaxia, but... it gets complicated from there.
- Carrisford Radofrics in Soukou No Strain, the death of whom disturbingly mirrors Sara's previous loss of her friends at Grabera.
- Leomon, from Digimon Tamers, could fall under this as a male example. Juri blamed herself for his death, and how she coped with it led to the D-Reaper almost destroying the world. She later realises what Leomon meant in his dying words to her (whether this lesson is about destiny or her having a lion's heart depends on the region), and begins to fight back against the D-Reaper.
- Wizardmon from Digimon Adventure is probably this for Gatomon, as even by season 02 when his digital ghost reappears, it still haunts her and the rest of the chosen children from the first series to this day.
- Haku and Zabuza very much fill this role in Naruto. While their deaths weren't directly caused by Naruto or Team 7 (although it's arguable that Kakashi caused the death of Haku), they forced the three to realize the suffering that came with being a ninja, and inspired Naruto to create his own way of the ninja - to never go back on his words.
- Kakashi has lived a life full of regrets because he blames himself for both of his teammates' deaths. Unfortunately, only Rin died. Obito didn't, and let's just say he didn't take Rin's death too well...
- Kisara from the last arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! is a prime example. Seto's romantic interest, she sacrifices herself to protect him and gives him the power of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. This is what finally motivates him to reject the Dark Side.
- Code Geass has at least Euphemia and Shirley, the latter eventually kick starts Lelouch's Zero Requiem.
- Kaze no Stigma had the main character's lover die which motivated him to form the pact and create the story.
- In One Piece, Ace's Heroic Sacrifice caused Luffy to suffer a massive shutdown, to the point he had to be carried off the battlefield by his allies. It's Ace's death that makes Luffy see that conviction and willpower isn't enough to become King of the Pirates, and that he's far too weak to go to the New World yet.
- In Guyver Chronos kidnaps Sho's father and turns him into a Zoanoid who rips out the Guyver's brain, causing Sho to go unconscious which leads the Guyver killing Sho's father on autopilot. Sho doesn't remember this, but he develops a psychological block against transforming. He doesn't find out about what he did until later on, where his angst lasts for about a minute before his CMoA ensues.
- Simon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann blames himself for the events of episode 8. He does get better by episode 11 but watching 3 episodes of depressed Simon is no fun at all. His return kicks all kinds of ass, though.
- If you think about it, he kinda did cause Kamina's death. If he had not been distracted and Kamina had not had to help him by punching him in the face, then Kamina wouldn't have been caught off guard by the ape general's mech exploding near him.
- Incidentally, it might have been Yoko. Simon saw Kamina and Yoko kissing, which caused him to unable to focus, which is kinda bad when your mecha counts on your own fighting spirit.
- In Vampire Knight, you have the death of Fuuka, who is slowly falling into a Level E vampire in the light novel. It's all the more of a Tearjerker when it's Aidou who kills Fuuka at Fuuka's request.
- In To Aru Kagaku no Railgun Misaka starts going into a mix of Heroic BSOD and a rage when she sees the Misaka clones get killed by Accelerator.
- Edward Elric has this in spades in Fullmetal Alchemist. He was unable to revive his mother, the botched attempt to revive his mother cost his brother his body, and he wasn't able to do anything better than attaching his brother's soul to a suit of armor, and then he wasn't able to save Nina. On top of that, he has a considerable amount of Survivor Guilt from Hughes' death.
- In Guilty Crown Shu's life crashes down after Hare dies, saving his life, and shatters in his arms.
- Issei in High School D×D experienced this when Asia had "died" the second time, causing him to activate Juggernaut Drive and eating Shalba Beelzebub, the guy responsible, alive. He would have died too if it weren't for Vali's Big Damn Heroes moment where it was revealed he and his group were able to get Asia out of the void dimension.
- The news of Katie's death hits hard Alyosha, for the first time feeling anger and pain for the death of anyone. Fortunately, it was just a Disney Death.
- Gwendolyn "Gwen" Stacy of Spider-Man is the Trope Namer. In the story The Night Gwen Stacy Died, after Gwen (Spidey's Love Interest at the time) is thrown off a bridge by the Green Goblin, Spidey tries to use his webbing to save her... but pulls too quickly and snaps her neck. Her death had a particular impact on comic book fans because it was a rare and early example of an important character dying (and a subversion of Not the Fall That Kills You to boot). In any case, as if the death of Uncle Ben, which Peter really could have prevented, wasn't enough, Gwen's death, which may or may not have been preventable, sent Spider-Man spiraling into a whole new level of Wangst, especially since her father, a cop that found out Peter was Spider-Man, was an earlier example during a fight he had with Doctor Octopus.
- There was a comic in the 1980s when Spidey found himself in the Gwen Stacy situation again. This time he let the webline play out a bit after snagging the rescuee and decelerated them gradually. His thought balloons specifically noted he had learned from his mistake.
- Similar to the 80s example, an issue of Marvel Knights Spider-Man had the Green Goblin pull it again, with Mary Jane as the victim. Spider-Man demonstrated having learned from his mistake by firing multiple web-lines so that every part of MJ would have support and she wouldn't be harmed. This example is interesting because Spidey's internal monologue reveals that, not only was he using multiple weblines to prevent the same mishap, but he was deliberately using several times more than needed, because he wasn't going to risk a thing if he could.
- There's also the "What if...?" comic in which Peter managed to save her. He jumped down instead of using his webbing. In the Spider-Man Trilogy this is exactly how he saves Mary Jane and Aunt May, who's put in the same situation.
- Ultimate Gwen Stacy died too, at the hands of Carnage this time. Spider-Man wasn't even around this time, but that doesn't stop him from kicking himself about it. It's later revealed that Carnage absorbed Gwen when it killed her, so she's not entirely "dead" and instead has Carnage as her Superpowered Evil Side.
- This trope is the reason Miles Morales from the same universe would become the second Spider-Man, but with Peter Parker in the role of Gwen Stacy this time.
- Some insight to Peter's mind (as well as the level of his devotion to Mary Jane) was revealed in House of M where he wakes up next to Gwen instead of M.J. It should be noted that the world that Scarlet Witch created had everyone's deepest desire come true.
- The (highly plausible) theory was put forward that Peter's 'deepest desire' wasn't a world in which he was married to Gwen instead of MJ, it was a world in which Gwen never died. Since he was in love with Gwen when she died, it's no stretch at all to think they would have ended up married in such a world.That theory is of course made all the more plausible because the world of House of M is also a world in which Uncle Ben and Gwen's father never died.
- Parker is also shown flirting with MJ at an interview for a new Spider-Man movie that they both star in together. Their chemistry together is noticed and discussed off-hand by other characters; the implication being that they are having an affair.
- In the alternate-future mini-series Spider-Man: Reign you have a somewhat similar scenario where Peter falls into a deep, long depression after accidentally causing the death of his wife Mary Jane. The depth and duration of his despair here by all appearances dwarfs what he went through when Gwen died (he got over that fairly soon in the 1970s, in no small part due to the unexpected emotional support from MJ).
- In that example, he doesn't even get over it enough to put on his costume again until her ghost (or something like a ghost) tells him that her final words to him ("go…") were actually cut short. She really meant to say, "Go get 'em tiger" one more time so he would know she was proud of him and didn't blame him for her death.
- Batman: Jason Todd, the second Robin, who is beaten by the Joker to within an inch of his life with a crowbar, and later killed in an explosion. It's often mentioned as Batman's greatest defeat, and shaped his current personality to a significant degree.
- This is referenced, of all places, in the Batman The Brave And The Bold episode "Emperor Joker". However since Todd's death doesn't fit the show either in continuity or theme, we can assume it was just part of Bat-Mite's ramblings (note how Batman doesn't react to it.)
- Awesomely subverted in Red Robin #10. Prudence (a former partner of Tim Drake in the League of Assassins) pulls a gun on the new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, and says she was assigned to kill her. Tim has a time-slows-down/flashback monologue about how he can't possibly stop her in time and Steph is going to die and it's all his fault and he shouldn't have let her get involved in this... on the next page, Steph ("No, not Steph. Batgirl.") immediately disarms and wipes the floor with Prudence. The look on Tim's face is priceless. That the gun wasn't loaded in the first place (Prudence was just testing Steph's reactions) doesn't diminish the awesome at all.
- In Pre Crisis Superman stories, Superman felt guilt for the rest of his life because, despite being the most powerful person in the world, he wasn't able to save Ma and Pa Kent from the rare disease that killed them. In addition to being an additional source of angst for a guy who was already the poster child for Survivors Guilt, it was also an important lesson in humility for the man who can move planets, teaching him that even he has limits. Of course, after the Post Crisis reboot, Ma and Pa Kent never died.
- It's worse than that: Pre-Crisis, the Kent's deaths were Superman's fault! He found a chest and brought it home, not realizing that it contained a deadly disease. This was rarely mentioned even back then.
- Actually, no it wasn't. In those comics, Martha and Jonathan Kent were on vacation and discovered the chest on their own. This led them and Superboy going back in time to discover its origins, and after they returned his parents started to exhibit signs of the disease, dying not long after. This led young Clark to hang up his cape and suffer through a Heroic BSOD after believing that taking them back in time was what exposed them to disease. After discovering otherwise, he snapped out of it and returned to where the chest was and destroyed it to make sure nobody else would become infected.
- A later story had Lois and Lana infected with the same disease. The cure came from Superman's own blood.
- In the Marvel Transformers Generation One comics, Autobot spy Scrounge was Blaster's friend, even if he did have a tendency to report one too many false claims. However, Scrounge later died in a smelting pool trying to relay information about Optimus Prime's whereabouts, and with Blaster's help succeeded. Blaster was angsting ever since.
- In Boom! Kids Darkwing Duck series, one of the alternate universe Darkwings fights with a bow and arrows, because, in his universe, his daughter Gosalyn pulled a Heroic Sacrifice, and there was nothing he could do to save her. He took up her weapons and changed his name to Quiverwing Quack, in remembrance of her.
- In ElfQuest, healer Leetah has never seen death before when her friend Thiro suddenly dies from an animal attack. She realizes that because of her healer magic, the villagers had grown careless; but also that because she was so confident of her abilities, she was never prepared to deal with serious injury. To understand death, she ends up stabbing herself on purpose and healing her own mortal wounds, and becomes a stronger and more responsible healer by doing so.
- Sonic the Hedgehog went into a Heroic BSOD in Sonic The Comic when Chaos killed Johnny.
- Happens a lot in 'Regular Show' fanfics where Rigby becomes Mordecai's Gwen Stacy in the "Rigby dies and Mordecai suffers from it" fics.
- Kira in the Total Drama Remake Fanfic Series. Apparently, she fell into a biohazardous sinkhole that appeared out of nowhere. Mike developed a strong hatred for Chris afterwards due to him choosing the challenge location.
- About the Trope Namer, Emma Stone discusses this here in regards to this trope being invoked in the planned sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man.
- Superman (1978). There is a giant earthquake that threatens the very existence of California. Superman races against time to seal the fault before catastrophic damage is unleashed. While successful, several aftershocks occur, forcing Superman to complete several daring rescues (e.g., saving a school bus from falling over the railings of a crumbling Golden Gate Bridge and a train from falling into a hole in the tracks). While Superman is kept busy with rescue after rescue, Lois Lane is caught in one of the aftershocks while driving on a little-used road. The car - which stalls after running out of gas - begins to fall into a large crack, and the car is caught in an avalanche of debris and dirt before Lois can escape; she is eventually suffocated. Superman finally locates Lois' car, finds her dead and screams in Wangst.
- The trope is quickly reversed when the distraught Superman – ignoring Jor-El's admonition to not alter human history – reverses time to the point where Lex Luthor unleashed his evil plan (setting off the above ground nuclear explosion), and thus saves Lois.
- Deja in Higher Learning has a relationship with main character Malik up until the end, where she is a victim of a campus shooting spree. This causes Malik to straighten up and fly right at the very end of the film.
- In The Dark Knight, Rachel becomes Batman's Gwen Stacy when her warehouse blows up. This takes an emotional toll on Batman for the rest of the movie and raises the stakes of his feud with the Joker. She could also be considered a Gwen Stacy for Harvey Dent, as he had been saved in her place, likely thinking Batman chose to save him because he was more important to Gotham (when actually it was because the Joker lied). This has the opposite effect of pushing Harvey down the path to villainy.
- Shmi Skywalker and Padme in the Star Wars prequels could be considered Anakin Skywalker's Gwen Stacys, as they both fed into his wangst that aided his Face Heel Turn. The former's death he believed he could have prevented if he had stayed at home, while the latter he believed that he had accidentally killed (after all the trouble he went through turning evil to save her).
- Or he could just have confessed his love for Padme to Yoda who could have helped him find a better course of action. The way he asks Anakin if anything is wrong, it's clear that he already knows, but is trying to get Anakin to confess on his own.
- In the second Austin Powers, Vanessa becomes this for all of thirty seconds before Austin realizes that this means he's single and available. Cue theme song.
- This is the fate for Jean Grey at the end of X2: X-Men United movie for both Cyclops and Wolverine - though Cyclops, being married to her, takes it a lot harder. Of course she comes back with an appropriate Face Heel Turn.
- Piper Perabo's character in The Prestige who drowns during a botched escape trick, causing her husband to declare a vendetta against the man who tied the knots around her wrists.
- Silence of the Lambs gives us a more symbolic Gwen Stacy: when Clarice Starling was young, she was woken up by lambs being led to a slaughter. This motivated her to try to save one, but she failed at this; at a later age, she went on to join the FBI, and while on the Buffalo Bill case, Hannibal Lecter gets her to relate this story. At the end, after Lecter escapes custody and Buffalo Bill is caught, he calls Clarice to ask her "Have the lambs stopped screaming?", driving the role of the lamb as a metaphorical Gwen Stacy.
- In The Avengers, Nick Fury decides to enforce this trope in-universe, with Agent Phil Coulson as the Gwen Stacy of the situation, using Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers to assemble and save the Earth.
- In Doctor Horrible, Dr. Horrible's actions lead to the death of Penny causing him to become cold, as shown at the end of the movie.
- Invoked in the Live-Action Death Note movies. Light uses his Death Note to kill Naomi Misora...by having her kill his girlfriend and be so horrified at her actions she commits suicide (he can do this by detailing how they both die in the notebook). He then plays this card with L, talking about how his girlfriend is dead because of the Kira case and asking to be put on the case to catch Kira (really so he can get inside information on the people trying to stop him). L agrees, but makes it very clear he's not falling for it.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, this is Calhoun's tragic backstory is that her fiance was eaten by a Cy-Bug on their wedding day because she had forgotten to do a perimeter check. This ends up being much sillier than it sounds, as the bug comes out of nowhere, and she immediately pulls out a giant minigun from under her dress and starts shooting, screaming in terror. She and the other soldiers have learned from this mistake, as seen in her and Felix's wedding.
Live Action TV
- On the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, President Roslin was forced to make a split-second decision to shoot down the Olympic Carrier (a commercial space liner) when it began a kamikaze maneuver. She reveals in a later episode that she carries around index cards as a reminder of her past mistakes. The latest one says "Olympic Carrier".
- Angel's very first client, a waitress with a stalker problem, ended up being murdered on his watch.
- The finale even featured a villain listing off all the people Angel failed to protect over the course of the show.
- Family Matters: The 1991 Very Special Episode "I Should Have Done Something" sees Carl unusually apprehensive and crabby (even for him) as the one-year anniversary of a hostage situation gone wrong approaches. Carl blames himself for the hostage's murder, despite being told time and again that he and the other officers handled the situation correctly. Incidentally, it is only after Carl goes to the old man's grave and breaks down in tears as he begs for the victim's forgiveness that he is approached by the old man's widow, who helps Carl realize that he was not to blame for her husband's death.
- Josette DuPres, fiance of Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows.
- Sam from Supernatural had prophetic dreams about girlfriend Jessica's murder, and felt he should have been able to save her; both she and his mother were targeted (and killed) because of their relationship to him. Cue self-hatred.
- Sha're becomes this for Daniel Jackson in StargateSG-1 when she is kidnapped and possessed by a Goa'uld in the pilot. Many of the early seasons are spent with Daniel Jackson wangsting over not being yet able to save her. Eventually she is killed by Teal'c, nearly causing Daniel to quit the team. He doesn't and Status Quo returns because he find out she has a baby for him to rescue.
- After they're found, Skaara appears a few times, but Daniel hardly mentions his wife again. The child appears on two more occasions, outside of which he isn't mentioned again either.
- Caitlin almost becomes this for Peter in Heroes, except he quickly forgets she ever exists, and leaves her in a disease-stricken alternate reality (which no longer exists after solving the season's plot means that it won't come to pass.) Oh well, that's life. Same for Simone in Season 1 when she is forgotten almost as quickly as she is killed. Charlie Andrews was Hiro's Gwen Stacy (which was even mentioned within the show). Except now, thanks to Hiro's time-meddling, she's alive again, at least.
- Homeland: One of Carrie's contacts dies due to her inability to protect the operative. She blames the person's death on herself and doesn't cope with it well.
- In Torchwood: Children of Earth, Ianto Jones is killed off (due to the Captain's actions), causing Jack huge amounts of angst.
- LOST: Shannon for Sayid, Libby for Hurley, Juliet for Sawyer, and Charlotte for Daniel. Arguably Nadia for Sayid, once he leaves the island.
- In the Human Target episode "Christopher Chance" it's revealed that Chance left Katherine alone long enough for Baptiste to blow up the boat she was hiding in, a mistake that cemented his Heel Face Turn and one he's still atoning for.
- It also reveals the reason for why he refuses to leave a client alone.
- Clark Kent on Smallville Wangsts about any death that he fails to prevent, although Jonathan's death probably is the best example.
- In Criminal Minds, Hotch spends most the episode "Omnivore" angsting about all of the people he could have saved if he hadn't given up on finding the Boston Reaper. Rossi snaps him out of it with the healing, healing power of caustic mockery.
Rossi: So you think this is your fault?
Hotch: (voice tight) It is.
Rossi: Well, here, use mine. (offers Hotch his gun) No, really, you've convinced me. You hung up on him, practically killed them yourself. Go on, get it over with. Don't worry about us, we'll get this guy without you.
Hotch: Dave, I had ten years to do something about this!
: Shaughnessy made the deal
. The killing stopped, he closed the case and sent the BAU away. For ten years you worked on other cases, active cases-
Hotch: But I kept coming back to this profile.
: Hey, I was retired! Should I blame myself for every victim that got killed when I was on my book tour? Look, if you wanna end up like Shaughnessy, like Gideon
, blaming yourself for everything, you go ahead. But that voice in your head? It's not your conscience, it's your ego
. This isn't about us, Aaron, it's about the bad guys. That's why we
, it's their fault. We're just guys doing a job, and when we stop doing it, someone else will. Trust me, I know.
Hotch: (gesturing to the gun) You can put that away now.
Rossi: You sure?
Rossi: My wife always said I had a flair for the dramatic.
- An interesting version occurs for Monk: Although Monk does not continuously blame himself for his wife's death (although for the first season or two he does), he does blame his failure to locate the true murderer and bring them to justice, due to his excellent deductive skills. It is this reason why Monk feels he has to solve every crime and murder he comes across to make up for his failure.
- Person of Interest: Jessica called Reese for help, but he was on a mission and couldn't be there in time.
- Parodied (along with many other Police Procedural tropes) in the 30 Rock episode "Alexis Goodlooking and the Case of the Missing Whisky," where Jenna has a whodunit storyline in which she draws on her experience playing TV detective Alexis Goodlooking ("who is also good-looking, and her special ability is being good at looking for clues"). From a clip of the failed pilot:
- Magic: The Gathering: Chandra Nalaar explains in The Purifying Fire that when she was young and first discovering her extraordinary talent for pyromancy, she lit a large bonfire outside of her village. Soldiers from The Empire saw the flames and believed the village was training an army of pyromancers to overthrow the government. They barricaded all of the villagers inside their houses and let them burn to the ground. The trauma ignited Chandra's planeswalker spark, and she fled her home. She never returned, but she couldn't leave behind the guilt of inadvertently causing the death of all her friends and family.
- BIONICLE has two notable examples.
- First, Lhikan pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to save Vakama, when Vakama tried to use the Mask of Time. This gave Vakama the extra determination he needed to cripple the Makuta, so he and the other Toa Metru could seal him away.
- Second, early in his career as a Toa, Lesovikk accidentally led his team into an group of Zyglak and, because of his hesitation, all of his teammates, including his
girlfriend best friend Nikila, were killed. He spent the next several thousand years trying to redeem himself.
- Final Fantasy VII: Aerith Gainsborough for Cloud. Actually, her example is to video game fans what Gwen's was for comic fans for the very same reasons. Her death provides the motive for Cloud to take down Sephiroth, but he is still angsting about it by the time the movie comes around, though Advent Children Complete and other materials make it clear that his angst in the film also relates to his failure to find a cure for the Geostigma, afflicting himself and Denxel, not to mention depression being one of its symptoms.
- Detective Badd blames himself for Cece Yew's death in Ace Attorney.
- Played with in Trials and Tribulations. Phoenix never blamed himself for Mia's death, but Godot sure did.
- Baldurs Gate 2 has a particularly interactive version of this trope. Half way through the game, your ally and party member Yoshimo, if traveling with you, reveals that he's been magically forced to spy on you, and fights you to the death. This is unlike most other forms of the trope where the main character is the target. This time it targets the player. It relies on the fact that the player has probably invested quite a bit of effort in building Yoshimo.
- Iris to Zero in the Mega Man X series. Specifically, Zero was the one who accidentally killed her. Granted, she was already on her way out since she absorbed her brother's DNA, because the whole reason they're siblings is because the original reploid they were meant to be could not handle the stresses of being together. However, Zero does feel guilt over the fact that he had to be the one to put her down.
- Maria Robotnik serves this role for Shadow the Hedgehog.
- Isara in Valkyria Chronicles gets shot at one point during the game, causing everyone to be depressed and then motivated to fight for her sake for the next couple of chapters. It can be a little jarring, though, because it's possible to lose other members of Squad 7 in ordinary battles. Even if you're acutely aware of Gameplay and Story Segregation, it's hard not to be upset at the main cast for dropping everything to mourn for Isara, but not batting an eye at your favorite squad member (who's been in just as many battles as they have) getting killed.
- But if you play like a lot of people do in game that have Final Deaths like Fire Emblem that would be the first death that happened to them so then they have a reason to be depressed and furthermore if I'm not mistaken it's canon that no-one minus Isara actually died during the game.
- Temporarily hit Lamia Loveless in Super Robot Wars OG Gaiden, whereas although she was really just separated due to a shot that hit somewhere else, Kyosuke Nanbu thought she's dead and goes a bit of a Wangst followed by a Heroic BSOD about not letting anyone else suffer her fate. Until eventually she came back Brainwashed and Crazy, and sets up for Axel Almer's Heel Face Turn event.
- Kyosuke had a good reason for the Angst. He had rescued Lamia, was holding her in the palm of the Alt's (his Mech) hand and was talking to her. Unfortunately, he had also let his guard down (something he often warned others against), and the shot that was fired was aimed at the hand that was holding Lamia, causing him to throw her away and out of the reach of the others.
- Also previously in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, this hit Aya Kobayashi earlier when Ryusei launched a reckless attack against Balmar general Hazal Gozzo, and from that, not just Aya is thought to be dead, SRX is destroyed. Turns out she's just captured and the Balmar made a great use of her psychic power to make Mai's greater psychic power to run amok and threaten the party. But all is well when it turns out Aya has been rescued by both Luria Qayitz and Baran Doban.
- South Town, where Terry Bogard used to hang his hat, serves this role in the NESTS arc of The King Of Fighters. If Another Day is canon, it suggests that South Town is rebuilt by the time the events of the Ash saga roll around.
- Alice Elliot in the Shadow Hearts series falls into this trope. Unless of course you get the good ending in the first game and ignore the second entirely.
- In Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines, if the player turns Heather into a ghoul, she will be killed by the Sabbat towards the end of the game. This is mainly to give player more of a reason to hate the Sabbat. It is possible to save her by just letting her go soon enough.
- Final Fantasy VI has Rachel, who serves as The Gwen Stacy for Locke. One day, while exploring a cave with Rachel, he was too slow to keep her from falling down a cliff, which led to her contracting amnesia. Her parents blamed Locke and drove him from the village, and while he was away, Rachel was killed in an Imperial attack. Locke fully blames himself for once again not being there to protect her, like he promised he would. This is why he makes it his mission to protect Terra and Celes.
- In Famous: Trish. Her death not only teaches Cole that the lives of many outweigh the life of the few but is the final push for him to kill Kessler and complete the predestination paradox.
- Street Fighter Alpha has Charlie, who is fated to die and drive Guile to destroy Shadaloo. His Alpha 3 ending offers a happier, if not more gratuitous ending where Charlie nukes the Shadaloo base and shoots up Bison with the guns of a harrier jet.
- Don't worry, they fixed it when they added Guile's ending. Heroic Sacrifice away!
- Antiheroic example: Kratos' wife and daughter.
- Arguably, Hinawa and Claus (The Latter of which Came Back Wrong) for Lucas and Flint in Mother 3.
- Shogo: Mobile Armor Division has several in its backstory:
- For the main protagonist Sanjuro, his first girlfriend Kura, his brother Toshiro, and their friend Baku. Subverted that they were alive all along.
- Played more straight in the case of Sanjuro's commanding officer Admiral Akaraju. His wife was killed in during an earlier battle with the Fallen. He became determined to wipe them out since then.
- Space Griffin VF 9 being a survival horror, has it in spades as EVERYONE wangsts each time one of the team dies, and boy is there a lot of dying! Most of the time it's because one of them went off to explore on their own. Cue rest of team Gwen Stacying. Granted, they ARE in Macross Mecha, but it's an ABANDONED DERELICT SPACE STATION where so much blood is spilled the hangar looks like it came straight from Silent Hill on the hell side. You'd think they would know better even if they are in 20 foot tall death machines...
- In the first video game adaptation of The Darkness, Jackie is unable to prevent the death of his girlfriend Jenny.
- Mass Effect 3 opens with this in a more minor example, as Shepard remarks feeling regret that he was unable to save a young boy from getting zapped by the Reapers on Earth. Notably, the original game seemingly averts this with the death of either Kaidan or Ashley on Virmire, as Shepard is the one who rationalizes to the survivor that a choice had to be made.
- Can happen two different ways in Grand Theft Auto IV depending on the player's choice earlier to either go along with the deal with Dimitri or take the opportunity to exact revenge. In the former scenario, an assassin sent by Dimitri tries to kill Niko but, as Niko tries to wrestle the gun away, ends up shooting Niko's cousin Roman at his wedding instead. In the latter scenario, Niko's girlfriend Kate is gunned down at the same wedding when irate mob boss Jimmy Pegorino tries to off Niko in a driveby. In both scenarios, Niko blames himself for allowing other people to get close to him, knowing the risks of his criminal lifestyle. The death then provides the motivation for the final mission in the game.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Torg gets more than one. First, relatively early on, there's Valerie, whom he has to kill as a vampire and whom he later in the story (but chronologically earlier because of Time Travel) fails to save from becoming one. Then, in 2004, an alternative version of Zoë whom he had promised to protect and was in a relationship with dies too. His well-grounded fear after that is that his dimension's Zoë will be the next (life-threatening situations have much more common in her life since befriending Torg). However, when Zoë is seemingly killed/left in a Fate Worse Than Death, Torg goes through a lot of mental gymnastics to convince himself she's alive and perfectly okay, averting this trope.
- In Our Little Adventure, Julie is overwrought by Pauline's death when she was leader.
- In Freefall, Florence is distressed when she realizes that she is too late to save one robot, whose personality is irrevocably destroyed.
- Morph in the 1990s X-Men series, a character created just so he could die in the first episode and give the characters (mostly Wolverine) a personal reason to fight. He came back later though, but as a bad guy, and it takes Wolvie a LOT to bring him back to the side of good...
- This is especially evident at the beginning of season 2. Morph had 'died' in part because Wolverine was forcefully prevented from going back to help him after he was severely injured on a mission. When Wolverine discovers he's still alive, but in bad shape and on the run, he initially ignores the others (that think Morph should be left alone to sort things out for himself), and chases Morph all the way to the Amazon, rather than "abandon" him again. He eventually does let him go...but he and Cyclops, who gave the order to leave him behind (and Jean), immediately fly off to what appears to be Australia as soon as Morph calls them for help in the season finale.
- Ironically enough, this was averted with Gwen Stacy of The Spectacular Spider Man. The question of whether or not she will die was one of the most frequently asked of the fandom. Viewers assumed she would be fine as long as she stayed away from bridges and the Green Goblin.
- She started dating Harry though.......She never got near a bridge at least.
- Word Of God stated after the series ended that they hadn't intended to kill her.
- In Spider-Man the Animated Series, Mary Jane instead received the Gwen Stacyesque treatment, but through the less permanent method of being dropped into a portal. Spider-Man goes through similar emotional torment. The adaption is taken even further: Mary Jane appears to return, and things proceed as normal and the two become Happily Married... and then MJ's revealed as a clone with the original's memories, and dies in that two-parter and there is nothing Peter can do (clones don't live very long). The same thing that happened some years after Gwen's death in the comics: she returned, and then revealed to be a clone made by the Jackal (meaning, the real Gwen was still dead and did not really return). At the final scene of the Grand Finale Madame Web took him along so that they can find her, as a reward for saving The Multiverse; we don't see the actual reunion, but finding her is well within Madame Web's abilities.
- Word Of God said that if they'd done another season, he'd have found her in Victorian England. He was satisfied with the conclusion though, so no Wangst about that on his end.
- In Avatar The Last Airbender, Aang angsts a LOT over running away from the Air Temple and believes himself to be the reason the Fire Nation was able to successfully raid and destroy the Air Temple.
- And a particularly good example, too. There's a possibility that if he'd been there during the attack, he could have re-enacted the Season One Finale with a hurricane or something. There's a much greater possibility that he'd have died as well, pretty much dooming the world. Running away was the right thing to do, even if he didn't know it at the time.
- There's also another possibility that while he could have fended off the war, there would have been nothing he could have done to save his friends, since the avatar state is a defense mechanism, not something he can call upon (at the time) at will.
- Sokka also goes through this. Since he was supposed to protect Yue, he blames himself for her death, even though she willingly sacrificed herself to save her tribe.
- Aang's situation kind of toys with it in numerous ways. For example had he died, there would most certainly have been another Avatar born in time to repel the Earth kingdom invasion, at least. This is why Sojin and Ozai needed him alive. But had he also died, there's no telling how his friends at the air temple may have taken it. The series could have wound up with a completely different Big Bad as any number of ripples could have expanded out from Aang's premature death defeating the Fire Nation armada.
- The Castle Wyvern clan in Gargoyles are a villainous Gwen Stacy for Demona, who has a meltdown when she realizes that she is responsible for their deaths and actually becomes immortal just so she can live long enough to kill all of humanity.
- Demona may be a subversion since she immediately backpedals and shifts ALL of the blame to humanity. The one time she admits culpability, it is under extreme duress and she backpedals again just as quickly.
- In The Venture Brothers, #21 blames himself for #24's death at the end of the third season. As a result, #21 Took a Level in Badass.
- In The Transformers, Rodimus Prime's tenure as the new leader of the Autobots is tinged with his regret and guilt over his unfortunate role in the death of the previous leader Optimus Prime.
- Happens to Aquagirl in season 2 of Young Justice. Aqualad blames his friends for allowing her to die during a dangerous mission, and ends up betraying the team and joining his father, Black Manta.
- Subverted: As of the cliffhanger before the hiatus, it is revealed that Aqualad is acting as a double agent undercover in his father's organization. While this initially led to confusion on whether Aquagirl is really dead or not, Wally (who is in on the scheme) refers to her as someone Kaldur lost and a brief flashback to Aqualad and Nightwing forming the plan shows them shaking hands in front of Aquagirl's memorial.
- One fan theory for Nightwing's role in this same con, particularly the fact that he's become everything he said he didn't want to be, is that he was driven to it by the death of the second Robin.