"Returning to the bridge where Gwen died had become an established
Spider-Man cliché by that point — and an overused one, at that. To this day, whenever a
Spider-Man writer tries for dramatic irony or poignancy, it usually involves Spider-Man being at that bridge."
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
. If some third character blames the hero for the death, its Failure-to-Save Murder
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
- Kai goes through this in Beyblade V-Force after Wyatt's (version specific) fate at the hands of an unstable cyber bitbeast.
- Van and Ray Lundgren's would be wives are this in GUN×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
- Ango from 7 Seeds blames himself for Shigeru's death - thinking that if he had not been injured, he could've not been such a load when it was necessary. He also blames himself for Mayu's death, among other people who died during the Final Test, mostly because he feels he should've told them that the test would mean "Live Or Die" for all of them, though Shigeru's death is the biggest one for him and the one he blames himself the most about.
- 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.
- Four Murasame is the most prominent in Zeta Gundam for Kamille, although she wasn't the first or last death that would drive him forward in this series.
- And, of course, the original that all others usually nod to, Lalah Sune in Mobile Suit 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 for almost the rest of their lives.
- 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 Sword Art Online, Kirito joins a guild of players, keeping the fact that he was a former beta tester and significantly higher in experience levels than his guildmates secret. This turns around to bite him in the ass when, while doing a dungeon run, he and his party get trapped in a room they can't warp away from, causing the death of the entire guild (his party members dying in battle and the leader being Driven to Suicide). Kirito's guilt over letting his guildmates die drives him into Ineffectual Loner / Death Seeker territory for months afterward.
- 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.
- Ichigo transformed from a crybaby who got beat up by girls into a badass protector of everyone due to the death of his mother Masaki which he spent years thinking was his fault. The real cause of her death becomes very important to his decisions and behaviour in the final arc.
- Uryuu's resolve to protect people from hollows and also to work with a quincy's traditional enemies, shinigami, comes from guilt at being unable to save his grandfather's life despite having been a young child at the time. His (and especially his father Ryuuken's) behaviour is also deeply connected to the death of his mother, Kanae Katagiri, whose mysterious death becomes extremely important in the final arc and is also linked to the real cause of Masaki's death.
- 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. Even when Lily's soul comes to him and explicitely tells him to not grieve for him.
- 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...
- During the Fourth Shinobi World War, Hiashi mentally apologizes to Hizashi for letting Neji die, even though it wasn't his fault as Neji willingly took the bullet to save Naruto and Hinata.
- 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 death of Kamina. 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. Yoko also seems to feel a degree of this, but for different reasons.
- 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 A Certain Scientific Railgun, Mikoto starts going into a mix of Heroic BSOD and a rage when she sees her 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, Hare is killed off in an explosion mostly to make Shu feel bad. She's promptly forgotten about by the next episode.
- Issei in High School DXD 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.
- He also has an interesting example much earlier on. Interesting because the Gwen Stacy in question, Yuuma/Raynare, had already murdered him once, killed above-mentioned Asianote , and mocked everything Issei had invested in their brief relationship. Issei snaps punches her, only for her to revert to her Yuuma persona and plead for her life. Issei couldn't bring himself to kill her, but left her to Rias' discretion, knowing Rias now had more reason to ever to see her dead. His deeply conflicted feelings over the whole affair leave him with intimacy issues that haunt him for a long time after.
- 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.
- Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan seems to be collecting them. As a child, he was helpless to save his mother from being eaten by a Titan. Years later, he becomes The Sixth Ranger to The Squad, a team of exceptionally skilled soldiers known as the Special Operations Squad. On their first mission together, he's repeatedly asked to believe in them and not take on the Female Titan. He decides to do just that, leaving them to face the Female Titan alone and watches helplessly from a distance as the entire squad is wiped out. He immediately blames himself for making the wrong decision, and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- In Fairy Tail Rogue Cheney from the future suffers this of having his Shadow Dragon Magic succumbs him after Frosch is killed by Gray Fullbuster when having a job request destroying Avatar]], turning future Rogue evil as well, and plans to go back in time to use Zeref's Time magic and becoming a new Dragon King during Grand Magic Games arc. After his defeat at the hands of Natsu, but before returning to his timeline, he warned and entrust Natsu about his present-self, Frosch, and Gray's fate next year, thus Natsu vow to fullfill future Rogue's promises to subvert his and Frosch's fate into repeating itself.
- Happens a lot in 'Regular Show' fanfics where Rigby becomes Mordecai's Gwen Stacy in the "Rigby dies and Mordecai suffers from it" fics.
- Tsukey is this for Tavros in Hivefled. She was one of the members of the sufferist cult and his former palecrush; he couldn't convince her to come with the main cast, and she was later captured, tortured for information and eventually killed, becoming one of the Kin along the way.
- Subverted in Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams when the Green Goblin throws Gwen Stacy off the bridge and Spider-Man jumps after her to save her. He successfully manages to do so by spinning a full-fledged web net that cushions Gwen's entire body and prevents her from being hurt. Unfortunately, the Goblin had anticipated Spider-Man being able to save her, and plans to attack them while Spider-Man is getting Gwen to safety so they both fall to their deaths. Luckily, he didn't anticipate Sleepwalker catching up to the scene and distracting him, giving Spider-Man the time he needs to get Gwen to safety...
- After Captain George Stacy died helping Spider-Man stop the Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter's guilt over this event essentially plays out in this manner in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as he struggles with his love for Gwen and his fears that his being Spider-Man will lead to her dying. Towards the end of the film, Spider-Man finds himself trying to save Gwen from falling to her death in a clock tower whilst fighting off the Green Goblin; at the same time he knocks out the Goblin, however, the webline that Gwen is hanging from snaps and Spidey dives after her. Realising he won't reach Gwen before she hits the floor, Peter fires a webline to Gwen and grabs hold of a pole to stop their falls, the sudden stop causing the webline to go taut and the resulting recoil caused Gwen's head to hit the ground. Peter's guilt and depression over not being able to save Gwen sees him quit being Spider-Man for 5 months.
- Really this trope is Peter's guiding principle in general, probably to a higher degree than in other adaptations. Peter starts out his superhero career because he believes he brought about Uncle Ben's death by forcing Ben to look for him on the streets of New York, resulting in the incident that got him shot (the incident he could have prevented). The Raimi-verse Peter sought revenge against the thug who shot his uncle but his actual heroic motivation is derived from wanting to honor Ben's last words whereas the Amazing universe Peter pushes on due to personal commitment (this explains his more crude and savage early attempts at being a hero, since he was more in it for himself, and what allows his Character Development to take place further on).
- 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 angst.
- 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.
- In the sequel, Bruce is still brooding, having hung up his costume partly because of his guilt over Rachel's death. It's not until much later that Alfred finally reveals that Rachel wasn't going to stay with Bruce but planned to accept Harvey's marriage proposal.
- 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).
- 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 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.
- 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, Calhoun in Hero's Duty has been programmed with the most tragic backstory ever: her fiancé was eaten by a Cy-Bug on their wedding day because she had forgotten to do a perimeter check. This whole "tragic backstory" is deliberately played up to such absurd levels that it's pure black comedy, as the bug just appears 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.
- Godzilla (2014) has this for Joe Brody. Back in 1999, he had his wife Sandra go down to investigate the Janjira NPP's reactor in the wake of mysterious tremors. Not only did this put her in harm's way when there was a breach, he ends up having to close the blast doors on her and her team in order to keep radioactive gas from leaking into the rest of the city. His obsession with figuring out the cause of the breach that killed his wife leads to him discovering that some large, strange entity is now active in the ruins of the facility.
- In Top Gun, Maverick and Goose are Heterosexual Life-Partners, Goose being essentilly the only family Maverick has. So when Goose dies in a training exercise gone wrong, Maverick takes it very hard, essentially quitting. Going through the scenario again when actually under fire enables Maverick to break out of his BSOD and live up to his full potential.
(about 2 weeks after the incident): The simple fact is that you feel responsible for Goose and you have a confidence problem.
- Many in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, since this is a Joss Whedon show after all; Tara may be the most notable.
- In the Doctor Who mini-episode "The Night of the Doctor", the Eighth Doctor meets a prospective companion, Cass, who turns out to be a soldier in a war with his species. When he shows her the TARDIS, she realizes what he is and refuses to board, despite his lame protestations that he's "one of the nice ones." Cass' ship goes down, she is killed in the crash. This turns out to be the lever which causes the Doctor to join the war effort: As an act of solidarity with Cass' cause, Eight takes her bandoleer and regenerates into the War Doctor, a soldier with no particular allegiance to either side in the war - only its victims.
- Game of Thrones: There was absolutely nothing Brienne of Tarth could do to defend her beloved king against Melisandre's black magic, but she nevertheless feels horrible that she couldn't save Renly Baratheon.
- 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.
- Supernatural has quite a few Gwen Stacys. Dean was a child when his mother died horribly at the hands of a demon. Sam was a baby and can't remember it, but Dean can and does, and feels terrible guilt over the fact that he couldn't save her. Dean was four years old. Their father suffers the same guilt, even though they all would have died if he hadn't gotten the kids out of the fire first.
- Mystery Spot is one of the best examples of Mood Whiplash in the series, going from absolutely hilarious to a punch in the emotional gut. Sam is put in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in which he relives a Tuesday over 10,000 times, each time witnessing Dean dying in ways he can't predict. The deaths are comedic at first, until it hits home that Sam has tried everything to save his brother - and over 10,000 times, has failed.
- Sha're becomes this for Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-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. She and the rest of the CIA also treat 9/11 as this, though it more My Greatest Failure.
- 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.
- Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad feels this way about his girlfriend Jane's death from a heroin overdose, and it takes him much of a season to finally overcome the guilt.
- Series/House has two: first, Amber "Cutthroat Bitch" Volakis, one of the candidates for House's diagnostic team in Season 4 who didn't make the cut, but later returned as Wilson's girlfriend. She was on a bus with House when she came to take him home after he went drinking when the bus crashed. Amber suffered injuries that, combined with flu medication, caused her to suffer multiple organ failure and die. House's guilt over her death remained seeded in him before manifesting in Season 5 as a Vicodin-induced hallucination. The second is Lawrence Kutner, a member of the team who committed suicide in Season 5. House convinced himself for some time that it was actually murder, since suicide would've meant that he never caught on to his problems. When House hallucinates both Amber and Kutner at the end of Season 5, he concedes that he needs help and checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. Both hallucinations return one last time for the series finale when House begins to ponder whether his own life is worth living.
- 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:
- Happens to Hercules in Hercules The Legendary Journeys twice with both his wives. Both are killed by the Gods to spite him.
- Allison's death in Teen Wolf. The fact that she was Scott's main love interest and his 'anchor', and the fact that Allison was the female lead probably doesn't help the case either.
Scott: I can't take your pain!
Allison: That's because it doesn't hurt...
- 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.
- 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.
- While on the quest for the Seventh Toa, Jaller was killed while protecting Takua, which prompted the latter to don the mask and turn into Takanuva and fight Teridax. Unlike other examples, after Takanuva achieved this goal Jaller was revived (although he didn't know this would happen at the time).
- 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 Denzel, a hefty dose of survivor's guilt towards Zack, and depression and anxiety are symptoms of Geostigma.
- 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. For clarity: while Godot outwardly blames Phoenix for most of the game, at the end of the game Godot admits that, more than anything, he blamed himself for not being able to be there, even though he was comatose and near death himself.
- 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 Mega Man X4. Specifically, Zero was the one who accidentally killed her, and they were set up as a couple, even. 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, to the point that he tries to avoid all attachment to prevent that kind of loss again.
- 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.
- In Valkyria Chronicles III, not only the Power Trio let their Gwen Stacy Gusurg die, they even shoot him himself. There's even a DLC specifically dealing with the psychological aftermath.
- 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. And according to Axel, if he did not interfere, he predicts that Kyosuke would fall into despair out of this trope... and turns into another world-destroying maniac like Beowulf. It's that bad.
- 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.
- inFAMOUS: 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 they were unable to save a young boy from getting zapped by the Reapers on Earth, though the boy is actually just the face Shepard remembers when thinking about all the people dying on Earth to the Reaper invasion.
- Notably, the original game initially seems 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. The second and third games, however, show that it was not a death that Shepard ordered lightly, and they regret that there was no other choice.
- 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.
- This is the reason for Lon'qu's aversion of women in Fire Emblem Awakening: his First Love, Ke'ri, pulled an Heroic Sacrifice to save him from bandits, so his "aversion" is much more about him believing that he will bring women misfortune and death. His supports reveal that while the family of the girl who died has eventually forgiven him, he hasn't forgiven himself and has constant nightmares over it.
- Dragon Age II does this several times. One of Hawke's sibling's dies to darkspawn at the start, with the other either falling to the taint or being forcibly recruited by the end of the first act. Later, the player's mother is also killed by a crazed murderer. None of these have any foreshadowing or plot implications, and the only emotional attachment felt by the player was probably to any equipment the second sibling happened to be wearing.
- The entire town of Akzeriuth getting destroyed serves as this for Luke in Tales of the Abyss, prompting a massive personality 180 as he tries to make up for it. Although he was manipulated into making it happen, the party still holds him partially responsible for keeping them in the dark about what was going on until it was too late to stop it.
- Part of the reason the plot of Injustice: Gods Among Us happen: Superman got hit with a Fear Toxin by Joker and thought he was fighting Doomsday by taking him to space... only to reveal that he's actually taking Lois Lane and her unborn baby (he's the dad). They die, and her death triggered a nuclear explosion that levels down Metropolis. Most of it was Joker's fault, but part of Superman's descent of evil was because of the loss of Lois and Metropolis.
- Final Fantasy XIII: No less than three people feel this way towards Serah. First and foremost, her sister Lightning and fiancé Snow, the former for not believing her at a key moment, the latter for accidentally getting her captured by a fal'Cie, both of them blaming themselves for her subsequent transformation into a human paperweight. In this iteration, she gets better, but after dropping dead at the end of the second game, Lightning, Snow and Noel get this trope in spades. Again, she gets better, due to the universe being rebooted.
- 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.
- After the Disney/Marvel merger was announced, Something*Positive couldn't help but poke fun with a possible crossover - The Night Goof Stacy Died.
- In El Goonish Shive, the revelation that Mr. Guyur, who Damien killed right in front of Grace, was her father is this for her as it leads her to vow to never again let something like that happen again.
- 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 Sozin 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 Bros., #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. The video game Young Justice: Legacy confirms it in no uncertain terms— Tula's death is the climax of the plot.
- 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.