Karma Houdini Warranty

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."
Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III

Sometimes, a character seems like a Karma Houdini. However, certain circumstances and actions taken can result in the vicious delayed retribution of Karma, related phenomena, and even his own mistakes:

If one of these conditions is met, the Karma from his previous actions returns in full force and everyone turns on him.

Karma may get vindictive and make even minor blemishes seriously punished while good deeds are belittled. The expiration of a Karma Houdini Warranty tends to turn the character into The Woobie or a Jerkass Woobie for the audience... but this isn't the case in-universe. The other characters (and the author) usually believe that the character is getting their just deserts, and show No Sympathy. If it is the first condition that is met, then it may be a case of Redemption Equals Affliction.

Karma may provide a Catharsis Factor by pulling the rug out from under the former Houdini. In this case, the Smug Snake realizes they're at someone's mercy and the villains that fans Love to Hate is finally punished. Both the characters and the audience turning the untouchable evil into a Butt-Monkey.

The Karma Houdini Warranty is now available in our Trope Co. catalogue!


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • A Certain Magical Index's Accelerator didn't quite go unpunished, but he might as well have. What happened? Beaten up and kicked out of a program he actually didn't want to participate in in the first place. What had he done? Killed ten thousand teenage (kinda) girls and planned to kill another ten thousand after that. So that people would quit messing with him. Maybe. After this, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn... and takes a bullet in the forehead for it. Permanent brain damage that leaves him unable to speak properly, use higher brain functions or motor control without outside assistance (which, ironically, comes from the other ten thousand girls he didn't kill).
    • Othinus was hit with this big time too. Being one of the strongest characters in the series and a literal Physical God that only few figures had hopes of matching against, and she pretty much kicked the ass of everyone including Touma himself. Add the fact that she was the leader of a terrorist organization that plotted to eliminate technology, is a Bad Boss to her subjects, tormented the lives of everyone that stood against her, succeeded in destroying the world, and finally mental torturing Touma to force him to give up his Imagine Breaker. The moment she pulls a Heel–Face Turn, her warranty immediately expires. The entire world wants her dead, she gets stripped of all her powers by gods stronger than her to the point that she's shrunk down to Fun Size, is forced to rely on people she once looked down on for protection, and catches a cold.
  • From Eroica with Love has Dorian, a rogue and a thief, but he always seems to come off worst when he keeps his word and/or his intentions are good. The Major assumes the worst at all times, and pulls his nastiest double crosses when Dorian genuinely keeps his word or takes action to help.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, invoking this trope is a core part of Roy Mustang's motivation. As a soldier in a past civil war, Mustang and his fellow soldiers committed many horrible atrocities, however, because they were on the winning side, they were all commended and treated as war heroes. Mustang's goal throughout the series is to become the Führer of the country, so that he can ensure that this is rectified. When his subordinate (and Love Interest) points out that this means Mustang will most likely be tried as a war criminal himself and sent off to prison, Mustang informs her that that's exactly what he wants. We never see it occur, anyhow.
    • We have Word of God that he does indeed see his day in court, and is found guilty and then pardoned, mostly for saving everyone.
  • In the Monogatari series, Deshuu Kaiki seems to get away with scamming kids with little more than Koyomi's stern warning for him to never return. When he does return, he is implied to have gained some remorse over his past actions (not that he's going to admit it), so he goes out of his way to save Koyomi from a Snake God-influenced Nadeko and convince her to move on from her obsession with him, even if he has little to gain, or without the direct involvement of Kanbaru, the only person in town he has ever shown kindness to. And all it got him was a potentially fatal wound from one of the boys he scammed in the past.
  • Pet Shop of Horrors has Leon Orcot, who was characterized by his muleheadedness and cynicism over the supernatural. Count D welcomes him at the pet shop nonetheless...until Leon actually proves himself in a confrontation with D's father and recognizes the pet shop and the Count for what they truly are. That's when he gets abandoned.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion: Kyubey has spent millennia scamming and ultimately destroying innocent Magical Girls from all over the universe and walked away every time smelling like a rose. Even Madoka's giant "Eff You" at the end of the original system didn't "punish" him, per se, even though he hadn't gotten precisely what he wanted. But in Rebellion, karma finally finds him; in trying to reinstate the Witch System, Kyubey pushes his luck too far. By the time the dust settles, not only are his plans annihilated, he's ended up making Homura even stronger than Madoka herself, and proceeds to get his entire race enslaved and himself horrifically Mind Raped for his troubles.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena ends with Akio seeing his sister Anthy, who he had manipulated and abused for countless years along with everyone else at the school, walk out on him after telling him that he can continue to play prince in his own little world but she has to find Utena. The implications of the final shot featuring him are quite dark, since he's all alone and overshadowed by his massive office, and it's implied that without Anthy has has no real power and his actions will catch up to him soon.
  • Sword Art Online Progressive has an example of the "sorry for his actions" type in Nezha the blacksmith. He helps his guildmates scam people out of their weapons and sell them so that they can keep pace with the rest of the "clearers," since they'd fallen behind while trying to help Nezha (who's essentially legally blind in-game as a result of a Full-Dive Nonconformity). Eventually, Kirito and Asuna see through his trick, and he's nearly Driven to Suicide out of guilt, but they convince him to reallocate his skills to help others. By switching some skills around so that he no longer has smithing, Nezha is able to master the chakram, and helps save the clearers from the boss of the second floor. Afterward, someone notices that Nezha has a rare weapon and asks about it, leading to Nezha's crimes being exposed and him nearly being killed for (supposedly) indirectly causing someone's death, until his guildmates take responsibility.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Because Bardock: The Father of Goku and Dragon Ball Minus are prequels to Dragon Ball, Frieza gets away with killing almost all the Saiyans and laughs happily as Planet Vegeta explodes. Bardock's final vision in the TV Special, however, is one of Goku fighting Frieza on Namek. So despite everything, Bardock dies knowing that his son will avenge him. Even in Minus, we see a panel of Goku and Frieza facing each other as the final shot. Indeed, Frieza's downfall comes about as a result of his own actions; for starters, his attempt to prevent a Super Saiyan from coming into being end up bringing one forth when he pushes Goku too far.
    • Similarly, because of the nature of The History of Trunks, the Bad Future counterparts of Androids 17 and 18 are never made to pay for their crimes; when Trunks tries to avenge Gohan's death at their hands, he's nearly killed. They finally get their just desserts three years later when Trunks, having Took a Level in Badass thanks to his training in the past, returns and dishes out to them exactly what they did to Gohan: making them feel completely powerless and outmatched before killing them.
  • Hayate's parents from Hayate the Combat Butler get away with every parental crime they inflict on their son from stealing his hard earned money, abandoning him to a yakuza and generally messing with his life. The final arc is when they finally get their comeuppance. In their attempt to get money from Nagi and sabotage Hayate's job as her butler, they end up screwing over Hisui's plans for the King's Jewel's power. Their final scene is them watching in horror as the girl rips off the hood of their car.
  • Nobliss Gordon from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans spends the series' entire run pretending to be the heroes' friends while secretly plotting to have them killed for his own personal gain; even though the heroes suspect him of something, he's just good enough at hiding his tracks to make it impossible for them to pay him back. This culminates in his men pulling off a successful hit on Tekkadan's leader Orga Itsuka at a time when the group needed his leadership more than ever. Nobliss' warranty finally expires in the series epilogue, where he enters a public toilet and gets shot dead by Ride Mass, Tekkadan's "little brother" figure, in revenge for Orga.
  • Haman Karn is Neo-Zeon's leader who wants to restore Zeon to its former glory and at the end of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. She outlives Paptimus Scirroco and the Titans and personally defeats Char Aznable while the AEUG is in shambles which makes her as the only threat standing against the Earth Sphere. Her warranty is slowly expiring in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ when Judau Ashta enters the picture and while she continues being a threat to the Earth Sphere, Neo-Zeon slowly experience betrayals courtesy of Glemmy Toto. The civil war within Neo-Zeon gives Judau and his Gundam team a chance to defeat Haman Karn once and for all. Despite Judau's idealism which slowly made her realize her conviction, Haman decides to kill herself.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: Geoffrey St. John got away with committing treason, which included a long list of actions such as letting Dr. Robotnik usurp the kingdom, because he was pardoned by his then recently crowned master, Ixis Naugus. When Naugus' plan to use Mind Control on the Council of Acorn fails, and Geoffrey finally sees Naugus for what he is, he tries to appeal to Naugus to change his ways, and gets possessed by Naugus. Now that the book has gone through a Continuity Reboot, Geoffrey's ultimate fate is unclear, but he's no longer relevant to the book. Though it's very possible that he's been wiped from existence due to the lawsuit that resulted in said reboot.
  • An Archie comic from the early 70s starts with Reggie yanking away a pennant from Jughead and saying "Take your hands off!" Jughead replies "I can't, they're attached to my arms!" and proceeds to drive Reggie crazy with his incessant recital of "Dem Bones." Later Jughead realizes he may have gone too far and seeks to apologize. He finds Reggie half way around the bend and tells him "I didn't want to upset you." This drives Reggie even crazier as he didn't accept it as a valid apology.
    • Archie himself turns into a Screwy Squirrel / Karmic Trickster in a story about a fake rubber hand he borrowed from the art class. He uses it to play practical jokes on Reggie and Big Moose, getting them in trouble with Mr. Weatherbee. Jughead, who disapproves of Archie's behavior, thinks a hand clinging to the outside of a window sill is Archie's fake hand and nudges it off, only to find it was the janitor. Jughead, Reggie and Big Moose wind up serving detention, with Archie delivering a final needle ("I sure wish I could give you a hand!") As Archie laughs outside, three arms from the detention room reach out towards him.
  • The Christine Spar arc of Grendel has the serial child murderer vampire Tujiro XIV, who started all the trouble, escape at the end. He unexpectedly turns up again as the main villain of the Eppy Thatcher arc, and this time dies.
  • Loki's Karma Houdini Warranty over what they did at the end of Journey into Mystery (Killed their own child incarnation and took over his body) expired in the 10th issue of Loki: Agent of Asgard, the kicker is: They're type one. Their own guilt over this crime almost unmade reality in Young Avengers, they're trying to make amends ever since, and what actually triggers the karmic punishment is a confession to Thor.
  • In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, a flashback arc set in the Pre-War era has the corrupt Senator Proteus get away with all the terrible things he's done... but only because the comic's chronology states that Proteus gets brutally murdered for his crimes a couple months afterwards.
  • In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, an alien Corrupt Corporate Executive named Joshua Dogbolter acted as a recurring villain in a lengthy arc in the early-to-mid eighties, but then disappeared from the strip unpunished for his many crimes due to a change of writer aborting the arc. "The Stockbridge Showdown", a Milestone Celebration strip in the magazine's 500th issue, centred around the Doctor finally defeating him.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Death Note fic Constant Temptation Light picks up the Distress Ball almost immediately after he decides he doesn't really want to be Kira anymore.
  • Likewise in Fever Dreams as soon as Light decides he wants to quit being Kira he has to deal with potentially deadly and/or incriminating disaster after disaster.
  • In For His Own Sake, all of the Hinata Girls suffer a massive Humiliation Conga after Keitaro, who finally Grew a Spine after years of "comedic" abuse, leaves the Inn and dumps Naru, and, in trying to undo those, find Reality Ensues hard on them. So far only Hina, Naru, Motoko and Mutsumi are still trying to get an extension of their warranty, but everything points to their own bad choices biting even harder.
  • An Alternate Keitaro Urashima:
    • This is the cause of the in-universe expiration of the Hinata Girls' Karma Houdini Warranty. If the girls had just followed their base anti-male reflexes and refused to carry on Granny Hina's plan of bringing her grandson to become the Inn manager (a thing none of them wanted but still accepted to do because of their love for their landlady), none of them (Hina included) would have received the reality bitch-slaps they're getting.
    • It's particularly notable with Motoko, who suffers a major Humiliation Conga after threatening Keitaro with her katana in public, getting, in this order, arrested, defeated in a duel by Keitaro, kicked out of the Kendo Club, and stripped of her position as heir to her family's school. According to the other Hinata Girls, Motoko has committed similar acts in the past, and Keitaro is the first one who ever pressed charges against her.
  • Zouken nearly makes it through Fate Zero Sanity, only for some OSG members to come and finish him off near the end.

    Films — Animation 
  • Homer in The Simpsons Movie comes to mind. For the entire series everyone loves his antics, but in the movie Marge actually leaves him over them (though they naturally end up together in the end).
    • This applies for Mr. Burns as well. He's never been a very likable man, especially in the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-part episode, but he really shows his despicableness when he hogs all of his resources for himself when the town is cut off from the world. And when a few of the townsfolk swallowed their pride and begged him to spare some of his supplies, he coldly sicks his hounds on them. At the end of the movie when everything is resolved, the townspeople invade his mansion and steals all of his property, leaving him without even a dime (though he somehow does manage to get his riches back).
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer is blasted with the Elements of Harmony, left crying and rotting in the crater, and is seemingly forgiven by the Mane 6 for her actions. Come My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, and Sunset is still disliked by the entire student body, and even her friends don't particularly trust her.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Principal Cinch of Crystal Prep does many horrible acts, including blackmailing the Human Twilight to compete in the games and later pressuring her to cheat using the collected magic which put multiple lives in danger. She doesn't get much onscreen punishment though, besides the fact that with the games being a tie she has lost her "perfect reputation" of Crystal Prep always winning and being unable to prove that CHS has magic without looking insane, she just walks off before she can be embarrassed anymore. Come "Dance Magic", it is mentioned that Cadance has become the Principal of Crystal Prep, implying that Cinch's actions have gotten her fired and ruined the legacy she tried desperately to be remembered for.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Archie in the film adaptation of The Chocolate War runs into this at the end of the film. Unlike the novel it's based on, where Archie gets away with manipulating everyone and sets up the book's protagonist to suffer a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, Archie isn't a Karma Houdini in the film and deservedly gets his ass kicked in the end.
  • The movie Flight is about an alcoholic, hedonistic pilot who happens to save most of the people on his plane when it suffers a mechanical failure. Said pilot manages to convince plenty of people to stand up for him and help cover up the consequences of his alcoholism... right up until he has to testify in front of the hearing for the commission, at which point his guilt overcomes him, he confesses to being drunk during the plane ride, and all the consequences of his actions come back to bite him. Subverted: He considers his stint in prison to be the best thing that ever happened to him, since it gave him the chance to clean up and fix his life, including allowing him to reconnect with his estranged son.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Hans Landa captures Raine and Utivich and negociates with the Allies his immunity in exchange of leaving the operation meant to kill Hitler go unhindered. Too bad he forgot, when surrendering to Raine afterward, that the man has the habit to let no Nazi go free without a permanent reminder of their past on their forehead...
  • In Shooter, the main antagonist even gives a speech about his Karma Houdini status, and how he'll get away with everything because the protagonist has no proof. Too bad he forgot the protagonist isn't above working outside the law.
  • Cal Hockley in Titanic. He treats Rose like crap throughout the film and tries to have Jack arrested, but ends up surviving the sinking. However, as far as he knew, Rose perished and the Heart of the Ocean was lost forever. Later, he lost all his money in the stock market crash of 1929 and committed suicide.
  • The Anti-Villain protagonist of Baby Driver is a getaway driver who has been involved in countless robberies over the years (albeit under coercion to pay a massive debt to the criminal mastermind he works for). Over the course of just the few jobs that we see, this makes him an accessory to robbery, assault and murder, including the deaths of numerous police officers both corrupt and honest. In the end, just when it looks like he and his Love Interest have escaped his criminal life and are about to ride off into the sunset, the police catch up to him, at which point he surrenders and is put on trial for his crimes. Thanks to his kind deeds throughout the movie and the many people willing to vouch for his character, Baby is released early on parole, but still has to serve five years in prison before he can get his happy ending.
  • For Your Eyes Only: In the beginning of the film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond's biggest Arch-Enemy and the former leader of SPECTRE, suddenly resurfaces after years of laying low and is back with a plan to exact revenge on 007 for foiling his numerous Evil Plans, permanently crippling him at the end of Diamonds Are Forever and causing the downfall of his criminal empire. He tries to kill 007 while the latter is visiting the grave of his dead wife via a remote-controlled chopper. Sadistically taunting Bond, he causes the chopper to make several near misses on high buildings before steering it into a disused factory where it will inevitably crash. But Blofeld's warranty finally expires when Bond turns the tables by regaining control over the helicopter and has him at his mercy when 007 uses the helicopter's skids to capture his wheelchair, lifting him into the skies. Blofeld even pathetically begs Bond to spare him, but Bond won't have any and drops him down a tall industrial chimney stack to his death, killing him for good.

    Literature 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Though many of Count Olaf's schemes are thwarted, he always manages to escape punishment and go on to torment the Baudelaires again, making their lives Hell all for the sake of acquiring their fortune. His streak finally comes to an end in the final book, when Olaf is harpooned by Ishmael and exposed to the toxic Medusoid Mycelium he had planned to threaten his enemies with. Despite eating an apple that contained a cure to the Mycelium, Olaf was nonetheless mortally wounded and succumbs to the injury, realizing that all of his plans have been foiled, he has nothing left to live for, having lost everyone close to him, and he has no chance of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune.
  • Gwendolyn in the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton spent the entirety of the series as the spoilt, lazy, unpopular Butt-Monkey of her form. In the 5th book, however, Gwen meets the new girl Maureen, a similarly spoilt and unpopular schoolgirl. Gwen takes a disliking to her, recognizing her own personality flaws in Maureen, and so makes amends to behave better. Unfortunately for her, the rest of the form is now fed up of dealing with Gwen's antics and takes no notice of her Character Development.
    • The character development, however, goes to hell in the 6th book, and Gwen does eventually get her comeuppance. Her father falls very ill, and so she has to drop out of the prestigious Malory Towers to acquire an office job as she cares for her father.
  • Artemis Entreri from The Legend of Drizzt. He initially seems like a Karma Houdini, but karma catches up big-time in the sequel. He gets beaten up by his nemesis and shot with a sleeping dart, leaving him hanging by a tattered cloak from a rock spur. The person he treated so badly from the trilogy finds him and cuts the cloak. He survives, but winds up in a city full of people just like him and finds out how bad his lifestyle choice is, eventually triggering a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Pact gives us... the Thorburns. For seven generations of practitioners, this family of diabolists fairly successfully avoided the accumulated bad karma playing with demons will hand you using every trick in their library to sidestep it. The problem is, the debt is now so large that it's not possible to avoid it any longer. As a result, the last and current generations are really feeling the hit — as the debt is a blood one. Even the ones who aren't actually practitioners and, therefore, know nothing about their history are being affected by it; for all that "Innocents" shouldn't be this badly involved. Which, is quite an achievement. Trying to get the family karma account back into the black without getting killed off too fast is the main aim of the protagonist, Blake, for most of the story. He doesn't wish to pass the whole, messy can of worms along to the unsuspecting... any more than he wanted it handed to him in the first place. Other families in Jacob's Bell would do well to take note: they're not immune to their various warranties (personal or communal), expiring, either.
  • Gone Girl has an example that's both a Karma Houdini getting punished and the perpetrators going away scot-free. Amy has already faked her death to screw her husband's life and is hiding in a redneck community. Including a couple who suspect Amy is loaded with cash, assault her, and go away with all of her money. Then again, this forces the victims to a change of plans that lead to literally getting away with murder.
  • In the Harry Potter books, Dolores Umbridge doesn't get much comeuppance for being a Sadist Teacher, a war criminal and an all-around Jerk Ass, but according to Word of God, she receives a life sentence in Azkaban for crimes against Muggle-borns after the events of the 7th book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Throughout Arrow, Amanda Waller gets away with some pretty dubious things as the head of A.R.G.U.S, despite being The Sociopath, prone to Stupid Evil behavior and being an In-Universe Hate Sink absolutely nobody likes, even those ostensibly under her command. Until roughly halfway through season 4. After it's confirmed that the sociopathic Waller will let her entire staff be killed off in a hostage situation without even blinking if the alternative is bargaining, the leader of the terrorists immediately shoots her in the head in disgust and nonchalantly starts bargaining with the next best candidate instead.
  • Prohibition Agent Nelson van Alden of Boardwalk Empire does some pretty heinous things in his pursuit of Nucky Thompson, eventually being caught out for a past murder and going on the run. Once he flees Atlantic City and starts a new life in Chicago, living under an assumed name with his baby and the nanny he later married, everyone pretty much gives up hunting him and he settles into an honest civilian life, the hardships and humiliations of which he sees as his penance. What drags him back into the dark is that his wife, who he's given vague warnings about his shady past, murders an innocent visitor who she mistakes for one of the "bad men", and covering up the crime puts him in debt to the Chicago mob.
    • And seven years later when a member of said mob turns out to be an undercover government agent who figures out who he really is and arrests him, he's told he'll have to betray Al Capone in order to avoid serious jail time. Good luck with that one, Nelson.
  • Breaking Bad has this trope as one of its principal themes. As Vince Gilligan himself stated, he believes that at some point everyone will have to face the terrible consequences of their evil deeds, no matter how long it takes. This is why at the end of the series several of the drug dealers are either dead (including Walter White himself) or, if left alive, either had nothing to look forward to (such as Saul) or bore the stigma of guilt (such as Jesse).
    • The prequel series Better Call Saul looks like it's carrying this idea over too. For the first half of the first season, it seemed like the Kettlemans would invert this trope, but thinking about it, they were never gonna get away with it to begin with. They just wanted the dignity of not caving in and confessing their involvement. Plus, they thought that no matter what happened, as long as they kept the money, they'd win. Ultimately, thanks to Mike, that plan soon became moot.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: D'Hoffryn is last seen in Season 7 victorious, being allowed to kill Anya's friend Halfrek to punish her before disappearing, and continuing this streak throughout the Season 9 comics. His streak finally comes to an end at the end of the Season 10 comics, where he's been elevated to Big Bad; after killing the members of the Magic Council to steal their powers and killing the Anya replica for defying him, he's abandoned by his fellow Vengeance demons for betraying one of his own, stripped of his stolen powers, and rendered helpless before Buffy, who slices his head off.
  • ER's Kerry Weaver pulled numerous unethical stunts in order to advance her career, never incurring punishment for any of them, eventually becoming Chief of Staff after the worst one of all—hiding an alderman's STD diagnosis instead of reporting it to the department of health as she's legally obligated to do and treating his similarly infected boyfriend off the record, essentially killing the man when he suffers a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics she gives him. She's finally demoted and eventually fired when she finally has the guts and decency to admit to her fault in hiring a mentally unstable physician and ignoring repeated complaints about the man's erratic and violent behavior.
  • Midsomer Murders has one as the motive of a case. By chance a woman meets the son of a man who, 40 years ago while working as a mercenary in Africa, committed a war crime in the village where she was volunteering as a teacher. To get some revenge for his atrocity which left several of her students dead, she blackmails him to donate a million pounds to a charity dedicated to repairing the damage men like him caused. He knew she was a nun and attempted to murder her but killed one of her convent sisters instead because they both wore glasses. This led to the police getting involved and his being arrested.
  • The Series New Tricks is essentially built around a gang of retired detectives trying to track down Karma Houdinis and invalidate their warranties. The best example of the series is probably Ricky Hanson; the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad. After killing the wife of one of the main characters, his own brother, and countless victims in between, he is brought to trial in the first episode of season 5. Tragically, following a furious mudslinging match against the thoroughly discredited witnesses, some glaringly obvious jury tampering, and possibly a bit of muckraking from an insider (thus explaining how his lawyer knew so much about the UCOS team), he walks away Scott free and takes immense delight in cruelly rubbing Jack's face in it. Fortunately, he comes back into the picture in the season 6 episode "The Last Laugh" and is finally nailed, not just for the murder the team were investigating at the time, but also for several other crimes he had committed (including incest). The episode ends with the team breaking out the champagne and Jack sitting by his wife's grave assuring her "we got 'im!".
  • This is a major theme in Fargo, as characters who engage in crimes ranging from murder to petty blackmail often end up dead by the series' end. Seasons one and two dish out some pretty standard black and white examples, but season three shows that even the morally ambiguous are not exempt when they dabble in crime.
    • From season one: Lester Nygaard and Lorne Malvo spend the whole season diverting the authorities. A year after the case on their crimes closes, they run into each other again in Vegas and kick off a series of events that eventually leads to both of their downfalls.
    • From season two: Basically every main character that's not in the police force is committing some sort of crime, including the Blumquists, Kansas City Mafia, and Gerhatdt family. All of the Gerhardts are dead by the end of the season, Ed Blumquist is also dead, and Peggy is arrested. Mike Milligan survives and undergoes a promotion under Kansas City, but it's far from what he'd had in mind, and the entire organization undergoes Laser-Guided Karma offscreen before the events of season one. Hanzee Dent also subverts this trope when he adopts a new name and cleans himself from any involvement in the Sioux Falls massacre, only for his new identity to be revealed as one of a mobster who was taken out by Lorne Malvo in the first season.
    • From season three: Nikki Swango escapes authorities and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Narwhal. She succeeds in bringing them down with the help of Mr. Wrench, but dies at the hands of a state trooper when she tries making a move against Emmit. Emmit also manages to avoid paying for his crimes for a majority of the season. After rebuilding his life over the course of five years, he's taken out by Mr. Wrench.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • This happen to Jaime Lannister early on in Season 3. After two full seasons of getting away with stuff like trying to kill a child who discovered him committing incest with his twin sister and actually killing his own cousin for momentary advantage, he got off pretty lightly as a relatively well-treated prisoner of war who was to be returned home as part of a hostage exchange. In fact, one of the first genuinely kind and (almost) selfless things he's ever shown doing is intervening to prevent Brienne from being raped when it becomes apparent she's too outnumbered by attackers to defend herself for long. And it works... but their captors take umbrage at Jaime's superior attitude in doing so, and cut off his sword hand in what basically amounts to an act of senseless spite.
    • Ramsey Snow/Bolton always gets away with the horrible things that he did since Season 3 such as hunting down and flaying his victims, torturing and castrating Theon and raping Sansa during their wedding night. Despite that his dad, Roose Bolton, called him out on his needless violence which would affect their relations to the rest of the Northern houses, Ramsey had none of it and killed his own dad, taking control of their house. Then, he continues being a murdering asshole much to the viewers’ annoyance. Unfortunately for Ramsey, his time is up in the penultimate episode of Season 6, when his forces are overrun by the combined forces of Stark loyalists, the Wildings and Knights of the Vale and Jon Snow cornered him at Winterfell and beat him up into a bloody pulp. To add the cherry on top, Sansa finally got back at him for his horrible actions by feeding him to his own dogs.
    • Roose Bolton manages to get away with the Red Wedding and the conquer of Moat Cailin. He also manages to repel the Dragonstone army without suffering any particular loss. He meets his end thanks to his only decent act shown onscreen: wanting to protect Walda and their newborn son.
    • Petyr Baelish, AKA "Littlefinger", is a morally bankrupt Smug Snake whose motto is "Chaos is a ladder". His first act of treachery happened before the show even began; the murder of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King. He then betrays the next Hand, Ned Stark, to the Lannisters usurping the throne. He then has a hand in the assassination of King Joffrey, and then personally murders Jon Arryn's widow Lysa, whom he was plotting and consorting with. Then he sells his own Bastard Understudy, Sansa Stark, to a previously mentioned Karma Houdini familiy (whose warranty also ran out): the Boltons. Combined with Sansa finally (and covertly) coming on to the fact that he's the real enemy and Bran Stark (at that point the Three-Eyed Raven who sees all) seeing through all his lies with his farsight powers, Littlefinger dies like a whiny bitch when called out in court and executed.
  • At the end of The Pinkertons episode "Old Pap", it seems that General Sterling Price, a Politically Incorrect Villain and ruthless sadist who attempts to take over Missouri and revive slavery just after The American Civil War, is going to walk free since Will and Kate can't prove anything against him. But then, we learn that Price has gotten cholera from drinking contaminated water, although he had his own supply. It's implied he was poisoned by ex-slave John Bell, whom he'd maimed earlier in the episode. While the end of "Old Pap" leaves his fate ambiguous, in the Clip Show "Review" we learn that Price did indeed die of cholera, just as his Real Life equivalent did.
  • Scream Queens (2015): At the end of Season 1, Hester frames the Chanels for the Red Devil killings and walks away scot-free. By the time Season 2 picks up, however, it's revealed that she's since been tricked into confessing, and subsequently locked up.
  • Spartacus: Gods of the Arena has the utterly depraved Roman nobleman Cossutius, whose prime act in the series is raping the virgin slave girl Dionna, deliberately ensuring that her first sexual experience is as painful and degrading as would be possible without killing or physically injuring her. After she runs away from slavery and is recaptured, he is seen in the final episode taking sadistic pleasure in watching her execution. As would happen in Roman society, he gets away scot free. In the (in broadcast order) next series Vengeance, he appears at a party taking an enthusiastic part in torturing a captured rebel, but later gets killed with satisfying gruesomeness when he is hit by a spear that Spartacus threw at Glaber but that Glaber dodged.
  • Scrubs: The Janitor constantly pulls all sorts of nasty pranks on people, particularly JD, to the extent that in "His Story III," he gets off totally scot-free for trapping JD in a water tower for an entire day. However, he does get his comeuppance in "My Own Personal Hell" and "My Perspective", probably the only episodes where the Janitor's pranks on J.D. backfire and J.D. finally gets the last laugh on him.
  • Seinfeld: According to Word of God, this is why the core cast got convicted in the Grand Finale.

    Religion 
  • Orthodox Christianity, while it doesn't believe in Karma (as sins can be repented and destroyed), states that that's why God allow unrepentant sinners to thrive. He uses their conditions and attitude in mysterious ways, and still waits for them to repent, but if they are not... The result after death is well-known.

    Video Games 
  • Miles Edgeworth, from Ace Attorney, starts out as an Amoral Attorney prosecutor who does what it takes to get a win, including coaching witnesses and concealing (but not forging) evidence. After Phoenix Wright beats him a couple of times, he starts to look more for the person who is really guilty, instead of just assuming it's the defendant. Immediately afterward, his mentor attempts to frame him for murder (and in the process, makes him relive his guilt for the death of his father), the police chief tries something similar, rumors begin to fly about all his dirty dealings, and he learns — to his horror — that he won the big case that made his name using forged evidence.
    • All of the above is probably justified, since the Ace Attorney courts are a crooked system. They liked Edgeworth as a man who would go for a conviction and ask no questions — when he started honestly pursuing the truth he became a threat. Fortunately, with Phoenix's help, he rises above it all and becomes an Internal Reformist.
  • Byakuren Hijiri from Touhou is another example. She once posed as a Youkai exterminator for the humans while secretly colluding with the Youkai; this was solely done just so to assure her power from Youkai wouldn't "disappear." She eventually came to genuinely care for Youkai and realized this wasn't the way to go about things, thus changed her ways, relocating youkai to places where they couldn't harm humans while trying to make peace between the two species from behind the scenes. This got found out, and the humans who trusted her to be an exterminator before called her a traitor, and sealed her down in the demon world, Makai.
  • Near the end of Wolfenstein: The New Order, Deathshead's warranty finally expires. After seventeen years in-universe and thirteen years in real life, B.J. finally gets to kill Deathshead, though not without Deathshead nearly killing B.J. by blowing himself up with a grenade.
  • Mortal Kombat X, hoo boy was there a lot of warranty tearing. Mileena is reduced to a rebel with no truly loyal allies, and gets killed by D'Vorah. Kano gets beat up by Sonya and then arrested by Special Forces, and Quan Chi is reduced to a Butt-Monkey from the moment Sonya stomped on his crotch, and is offed by Scorpion near the end.
  • After being the main antagonists in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift and causing a whole bunch of trouble for the cast and never suffering any sort of setback in their plans, karma comes and bites Hazama and Relius right in the ass in Blaz Blue Chrono Phantasma. Hazama is weakened significantly after being caught in a trap laid by Kokonoe, and is ultimately killed by Hakumen in the True Ending. Relius gets his ass royally handed to him by Valkenhayn and while he comes out of it alive unlike Hazama, he's at Carl's and Litchi's mercy as the then former Imperator abandons him when he no longer proves useful.
    • Although by Central Fiction, while it's unknown how, we might be seeing Hazama/Terumi gluing his warranty again, because he's back. We'll just see how successful the gluing is once it's revealed HOW he survived. As it turns out, both Relius and Terumi managed to glue back their warranties, since Terumi turns out to be Susano'o, a Physical God and the original soul possessing the SUSANOO unit inhabited by Hakumen and goes to wreck more havoc... until Ragna himself tore it anew and burnt it to ash by obliterating him out of existence. Unfortunately, Relius managed to keep his warranty intact this time around.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Despite spending the entire game doing many despicable acts, including selling MSF out to Skull Face and XOF, leaving Strangelove in the Mammal Pod to smother to death, trying to use the then-infant Otacon as a test subject for Sahelanthropus, and triggering a vocal cord parasite outbreak onboard Mother Base that forces Venom Snake to Mercy Kill several Diamond Dogs, Huey Emmerich is allowed to escape with his life, with Snake opting to simply exile him from Mother Base despite all of his men cheering for Huey's death; the worst punishment Huey receives is being forced to dump his precious robotic legs overboard or sink. Of course, as revealed in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, years later, Huey was Driven to Suicide after discovering his second wife cheating on him with his own son.
  • At the end of Diablo III's third act, Adria is revealed to be a traitor to the heroes, using her daughter as a vessel for bringing back Diablo, but leaves with their life and there's absolutely no indication of justice being brought down upon them for the rest of the game...unless you're playing the Reaper of Souls expansion (released two years after the base game), which adds a new act in which one of the quests has the Nephalem slaughtering Adria in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after getting some important information from her.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Burning Legion is an army of demons who are able to invade worlds without fear of retribution because they are very hard to kill. When they die, they are reborn in the Twisting Nether; however, if a demon is confronted and slain there it is Deader Than Dead. In addition, there are some weapons that can do it, such as the sword ''Ashbringer''. As of the Legionfall update, confronting them there is exactly what the armies of Azeroth plan to do, and it happens to the de facto leader, Kil'jaeden. The next patch even hints the Burning Legion's method of regenerating in the Twisting Nether is about to be discovered and done away with, meaning the Burning Legion across all dimensions would lose their ability to come back.
  • In No More Heroes, Sylvia Christel plays Travis like a fool and manipulates him into becoming the #1 ranked assassin under the false promise of sex. She get's away completely unpunished when the game ends. In the sequel, we learn that her husband Trevor divorced her and she is shown miserable working in a strip club.
  • Resident Evil 2: Brian Irons had raped a fellow student during his university days and completely got away with it due to his "outstanding excellence in academics". After becoming Chief of Police, he took bribes from Umbrella on a routine basis and blocked all investigations and claims performed by S.T.A.R.S. after the Mansion Incident in the first game, which basically meant that no one could do anything against him. Once the T-Virus broke out in Raccoon City, Irons then took down the remaining survivors in the police precinct and killed the mayor's daughter just to drag everyone down with him. It isn't until the mutated William Birkin kills him that Irons finally reaps what he sows.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Textbook case: Fox Maharassa from Friendly Hostility. A flirt and a danger magnet with little empathy, Fox got away with quite a lot. But the "transgressions" that actually landed his relationship with Collin in serious trouble and, if you follow the sequel comic, ultimately led to their breakup, weren't really his fault. It involved Arath dripping poison in Collin's ear (incorrectly accusing Fox of cruelty and cheating when not only did Arath have no proof, he didn't know Fox to any extent at all), being stuck in a catch-22 with Collin (Collin flatly refusing to explain why Fox was in the doghouse and playing the "guess what you did wrong" game), and even having the goalposts moved on him when he took drastic measures to rescue their relationship. In short, Fox went from a lovable rogue to The Woobie.
    • Collin himself suffered the Always a Bigger Fish version of this trope when he encountered Lovable Rogue/Magnificent Bastard/Karma Houdini Leslie Rudd. Collin was always obnoxious, but in the one case he had every right to be annoyed - Rudd having sent Collin's boyfriend into serious danger - he got smacked down by the one character with no right to criticise. Oddly, while Fox suffered a backlash from the fandom (and perhaps, the creator) when his Karma Houdini Warranty expired, Rudd was universally adored...and as he adhered strictly to the terms of his warranty, got a happy ending.
    • While the Warranty certainly expired as a result of a Cerebus Syndrome, blaming the breakup on Arath is hardly fair. Collin ignored his gossip for years before finally agreeing with him, and when he did, it was because of an accumulated bitterness over Fox' past antics and the fact that he was failing at the guessing game, combined with breaking the isolation he'd had from the rest of the world.
  • Yorick from The Word Weary makes constant fun of his friend, John, who never retaliates or threatens to end the friendship over the constant berating... as long as he's sober.
  • The titular Dominic from Dominic Deegan alledgedly getting away with far too many morally questionable acts despite supposedly being an unquestionable hero, is a big reason for the comic's large snark and HateDoms. Then comes the end of the Snowsong arc and he finally gets some punishment for his more questionable actions when Nurse Pam forces him to do community servive as the town's resident seer. A job Dominic loathes beyond measure.
  • Magick Chicks: When we're first introduced to Faith, we're told she's the student council president, multi talented, and a powerful esper. As such she's initially shallow, petty, and manipulative. About mid way through the comic, she makes the mistake of using her psychic ability to bloodlust Layla, then tries to take her on without her powers! Big mistake. After Tiffany saves her by allowing Layla to feed on her, to calm her down, Faith not only has a change of heart, she falls in love with Tiffany; which marked the beginning of her turn around. From that point onward, it's gradually revealed that Faith is actually a pretty nice girl. Which is right around the time that all the bad karma, from before, decided to pay her a visit: in the form of an unexpected psychic attack.
    • Things start going downhill for Cerise once she actually starts caring for her girlfriend Callie.

    Web Original 
  • Jeffy from Super Mario Logan constantly makes Mario miserable and never seems to learn anything from it. For a while, he rarely, if ever, had anything bad happen to him. Following the backlash that the episode, "Locked Out!" received for having Jeffy get away with locking Mario out of his house and getting Mario arrested, karma seems to be catching up with Jeffy. In "Turkey Tyranny!", when Jeffy throws his dinner plate, Mario gives Jeffy a time-out by making him face a wall for the rest of the episode. Then, in "Shrek the Babysitter!", as punishment for locking him in the bathroom and eating his cheesecake, Shrek punishes both Jeffy and Bowser Junior by locking them in the bathroom, where the toilet is clogged up by his poop.

    Western Animation 
  • Seth MacFarlane shows had some examples:
    • Family Guy: Peter gets away with abuse, attempted murder, genuine murder, and once accidentally burned down a hospital, he gets away with those. In some episodes he's hit with Poor Communication Kills and ends up the "sympathetic" character, his interactions with Carter end with Carter screwing him over.
      • Speaking of Carter, he tends to get away with things far worse than Peter has, is completely unpleasant every time he appears, and never really gets punished for the things he's done. He get's his commence in "Christmas Guy" where he get's completely humiliated.
    • Similarly Roger of American Dad! is the resident Comedic Sociopath, ceaselessly getting away with abusing, conning or murdering for self gain or just for fun. Every now and then however, he suffers a violent comeuppance, usually courtesy of Stan.
    • Rallo from The Cleveland Show. He does get away with a lot of things that he really should be punished for, but there are times where he gets punished (or some kind of karmic retribution happens).
  • Will Harangue from Ben 10: Ultimate Alien somehow managed to get away with creating a Killer Robot and sending it to kill Ben, even avoiding getting arrested. As a result, most of his appearances in Ben 10: Omniverse essentially consist in him getting everything in the face: him supporting the Inkurseans' invasion of Earth in "Frogs of War" causes him to lose ratings when the occupation is over, and he eventually gets turned against his will into an alien.
  • Evil Overlord Zordrak spent most episodes of The Dreamstone safe in his lair while his Urpney minions did the dirty work of each scheme and suffered Disproportionate Retribution. Every season finale however, he suffers an elaborate comeuppance (in the final season he is the Butt-Monkey for the last three episodes, due to the Urpneys playing Idiot Houdini).
    • While not as conventional a case, the Noops also commonly inflicted enormous Disproportionate Retribution onto Frizz and Nug, sometimes even for stuff they had no control over or just for fun's sake. In "The Dream Beam Invasion" however, when they once again start an excessive beatdown on Frizz and Nug, they grow to enormous size and terrify them into retreating. Noticeably, the Noops tend to use more pragmatic retaliations after this episode.
  • In Duck Amuck the role of the sadistic animator turned out to be Bugs Bunny, one of few roles he is the antagonist who picks on his foe for no reason. While Daffy was powerless to stop Bugs in the previous cartoon, Rabbit Rampage has Bugs paid back in his own coin when Elmer Fudd gets hold of the animator's brush. May apply not just for Duck Amuck, but also for The Wacky Wabbit and Wabbit Trouble, where Bugs similarly heckled Elmer unprovoked.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy, after years and years of having the Eds punished all the damn time, finally gives everyone else their karmic retribution in The Movie. And thankfully, it actually brings a genuine Heel–Face Turn from the other cul-de-sac kids, who realized that Eddy's brother, to whom they looked up to, is far worse than they imagined, (not to mention that he's likely the direct cause of Eddy's jerkassery in the first place) even conspiring with the Eds to give him a much-deserved comeuppance.
    • A hindsight case with Eddy's Brother. Though he never appeared beforehand, it was clear he was a sadistic Big Brother Bully to Eddy, and likely was one his entire life. His just deserts finally come in the special where he gets smacked hard into a steel door and given "mouth to mouth" by the Kanker Sisters. Word of God notes that, compared to the usual standards of the show, it took very little to actually knock him out since he had been dishing out abuse his whole life and almost never experienced it himself.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • A lot of fans felt that Trixie received seriously Disproportionate Retribution for what happened in "Boast Busters" and that Snips and Snails were to blame for the Ursa Minor showing up yet got off without any punishment. Apparently the writers agreed: cue "Magic Duel" where Trixie shows up Drunk on the Dark Side with a power amplifying Artifact of Doom and, while taking some decent shots at everyone, hits Snips and Snails with more than what she hits the rest of the town combined with.
    • Some fans were upset about Featherweight being a Karma Houdini in "Ponyville Confidential". In "Slice of Life" he gets sprayed with ink, just like Diamond Tiara's punishment in the former episode, with the possibility of this being a recurring event very real.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the post-movie seasons, Mr. Krabs almost constantly gets away with all manner of horrible deeds, not the least of which nearly driving Plankton to suicide in "One Coarse Meal" for his own sadistic amusement. That being said, episodes such as "The Cent of Money" and "Patty Caper" end with him getting a suitable comeuppance.
  • Sentinel Prime from Transformers Animated is an odd example. In the backstory, he's a Karma Houdini (he was responsible for the incident that got Optimus Prime kicked to space bridge repair and Elita-1 turned into Blackarachnia, but got off scot-free and is now part of the Elite Guard because Optimus took the blame), but as soon as he lands on Earth, karma decides to make an example out of him, starting with disrespecting human traffic laws and falling off an unfinished overpass.
  • In the second season of Transformers Rescue Bots Corrupt Corporate Executive Madeline Pynch gets away with illgeal digging, including brainwashing the town of Griffin Rock into doing it, activates a doomsday weapon by accident and ultimately almost sinking the town—and unlike Mad Scientist Dr. Morocco, gets away scot free for that last stunt. The Season 4 episode "Cody's 11" sees Karma deliver a swift kick to her ass as the Burns and Bots decide to take back what she stole after she swiped some unstable Energon and tried to market it as an alternate energy source, and had the foresight to switch the mind-wiping Verne Device out with a fake and record her confession. Even her attempt to blackmail them fails as the town has learned the true nature of the Bots at the start of the season and accepted them.
  • While Iron Klaw avoided punishment for his misdeeds throughout most of the run of G.I. Joe Extreme, the series ends with him finally getting captured.
  • Aku from Samurai Jack kept avoiding getting killed by Jack and never got any punishment for conquering the world and annihilating all who oppose him. Then came the Grand Finale of the 2017 revival, where Jack finally makes it back to the past and kills the evil being for good.
  • Tom and Jerry: Jerry often comes out the victor in his conflicts with Tom, even in situations where he's the aggressor and Tom is the victim. However, shorts such as "The Million Dollar Cat" and "The Year of the Mouse" end with Tom winning for once, and Jerry getting a suitable comeuppance.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Shredder has never had to pay for any of his actions, excluding his burn-scarred face and the death of Tang Shen, to the extent that in the season 3 finale, he chooses to kill Splinter rather than save the world from the Triceratons, and goes to his death happy that he finally beat Splinter. Season 4 sees his warranty start to come to an end; when Splinter's death is undone in "Earth's Last Stand", Splinter is so outraged at Shredder for breaking the Enemy Mine that he beats him senseless; the next time we see Shredder, he's bedridden and in intensive care. He finally gets what's coming to him in "Owari," as his killing of Splinter and injuring Karai is what gets the Turtles to come after him full-force, and he's beheaded by Leonardo.
  • South Park: The PC Principle intimidates a lot of people for the pursuit of social justice and has gone as far as assaulting people who say something he considers insensitive (like savagely attacking Cartman because he used the words "capiche" and "spokesman"), and he's never gotten any retribution for it. Come the second half of Season 20, he is forced live with the fact that his actions partially caused one of the most politically incorrect characters to become president, who proceeds to rub it in his face, and force him to suck his dick.
  • Gargoyles: In "Deadly Force," Tony Dracon is implied to have been a Karma Houdini throughout his life at the time of his first appearance. He came up with ways to hide his involvement with various crimes and thus never had to stand trial. This trope bites him hard in the end when Goliath and Broadway have him and his cohorts captured and with evidence of their arms dealing in plain view in order to incriminate them.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KarmaHoudiniWarranty