Usually happens in an action scene - bullets and blades flying every which way - chaos and mayhem dominate. At either a lull in the fighting, or the final victory of one side (usually the heroes), we see one of the characters standing fairly still, looking pale. Then something about the scene changes. Either the camera pans to reveal a gaping hole that really shouldn't be there, or essential parts of the character drop off. They don't have to die instantly, but the wound has to be lethal, and revealed
The heroic version tends to be used in works where Anyone Can Die
, and played for tragedy. The villainous version tends to be either a) the loved one of the Big Bad
, so they go berserk - which usually humanises colder villains, or b) a major villain has been killed, most often The Dragon
or the Big Bad
, bringing that arc to a close, sometimes unexpectedly early. Mooks are too small fry to waste serious stage directions on.
May arrive after a Gory Discretion Shot
, as a sort of Subversion
though this is by no means necessary. More often there's no clue given that anyone on the team that thinks
they won is hurt beforehand. May very well be used in an example of Not Quite Saved Enough
See also Gun Struggle
, Bullet Holes and Revelations
, and Diagonal Cut
. Some forms of Robotic Reveal
subvert this trope - the robot, of course, does not die from their 'mortal' wound.
Compare Almost Dead Guy
, Secret Stab Wound
, After-Action Healing Drama
, Zombie Infectee
(where the injured party deliberately hides that they've received a wound, rather than the author/director hiding it from the audience), and Game-Breaking Injury
(where it's specifically the Hero who receives a significant - though not
necessarily mortal - wound).
Non-lethal examples will usually go under either Secret Stab Wound
or Game-Breaking Injury
, or if they really
don't fit either of those tropes for some reason, go here as a Playing With
of some kind, invoking either No One Could Survive That
, or No One Should Survive That
. May result in the dying character doing The Dying Walk
This is a Death Trope
so Unmarked Spoilers
follow. You have been warned!
Anime and Manga
- In Otonashi's flashback sequence in Angel Beats!, Otonashi has just managed to rally and negotiate peace throughout the survivors of the subway cave-in accident and walked off to get a break when he pulls his jacket back, revealing the blood spreading under his skin from the terrible internal injury that eventually kills him.
- Following a lengthy fight, Solomon in Blood+ staggers into a dark alley and rips open a small cut on his clothing. Turns out a small wound with Saya's blood was enough to make his body slowly crystallize and crumble.
- Played With in Fullmetal Alchemist. Ed fights Kimblee only to be taken by surprise when Kimblee reveals he has a Philosophers Stone, which he uses to collapse the mineshaft serving as their battleground. After the collapse, Ed wakes up on the floor of the mineshaft, suitably pissed off. When he tries to get up, blood pools around him, and the camera pulls back revealing that he's been impaled with a metal bar from the collapsed mine. He actually manages to live—by using his own soul as energy to boost his medical alchemy, saving his life now at the expense of a shortened lifespan.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has a particularly cruel example, where Lichty's Heroic Sacrifice for and reveal of his cyborg nature to Christina Sierra is then followed by the reveal that she'd been pierced by a chunk of shrapnel and he hadn't noticed before he died in her arms. She too dies shortly afterwards, still clutching his body.
- About halfway through the Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime, Fokker's plane is hit during a mission. He lands and proceeds to continue his plans for the evening. The fact that he was wounded is only revealed when the maintenance crew finds blood on his pilot seat and the extent of it when he silently passes away on his girlfriend's couch.
- As a Shout-Out, Macross Frontier set up the exact same thing with Ozma getting hit in a battle and going to Ranka's concert fully knowing he's gonna die but him passing out from blood loss alerted his subordinates that something's wrong, saving his life.
- Trigun arguably subverts this, since it's obvious in a meta sense that Nicholas Wolfwood isn't long for this world following his confrontation with Church, but since Vash is too deep into an Heroic BSOD to notice, the direction doesn't make it explicit until their actual death scene.
- Bleach has a not-so-villainous example with Ulquiorra. He's able to get back up and stop Ichigo's Super-Powered Evil Side after being on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle, so none of the heroes realize how injured he really is until his remaining wing explodes into ashnote . Then again, his thoughts also reveal that his organs are not coming back.
- Tsume from Wolf's Rain got seriously injured in a battle. His pose suggested he was deliberately hiding it, but then he looked like he was surprised to see his side ripped open and a huge pool of blood.
- Naruto loves to invert this trope. A ninja gets filled with shuriken, stabbed, or nailed with a high-powered Jutsu. A few reaction shots... and then the predictable reveal that the ninja A. was a Clone, B. used a Substitution Jutsu, or C. the situation was not what it seemed in another way (Genjutsu, Transformation Jutsu, a last-second counter-move mitigated the hit somehow, they have some sort of regenerative or protective power...)
- A tank example in Girls und Panzer. During the Final Battle, the Hetzer manages to execute a plan to destroy the enemy's Maus tank, but shortly afterward, it shuts down from the damage it took; the tanks have a system in which if they're hit with sufficient force, or take enough damage, a flag rises and they're out of the game.
- In Shin Mazinger, Kabuto Juuzo flysnote to Mazinger to teach Kouji how to control it. It's not until the lesson is over that Kouji notices that he is bleeding heavily from a gut wound, though the viewer sees it earlier.
- One Piece: One of the first big Whammos of the Water 7/CP 9 arc was the reveal that the Straw Hat's beloved ship, "Going Merry", had cracked its keelnote during their travels.
Films — Animated
- In I Did Not Want To Die, the protagonist's wounds are revealed to be lethal once he starts coughing up blood.
Films — Live-Action
- Mulan discovers she is seriously injured. The mood dramatically changes as she and her friends realise that she's wounded, and changes again when, in the process of treating her wounds, everyone realizes she's a woman.
- Antz: A soldier who Z is talking to turns out to be missing everything from his neck down.
- In Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Yossarian attempts to tend to the small wound of a crew member who was hit by flak on a bombing mission. But when he loosens the crew member's jumpsuit, he finds a huge exit wound, and can do nothing but attempt to comfort the dying man. The non-chronological order of the narrative makes it a bit hard to tell, but this is the experience that pushes him into him into becoming the paranoid, cowardly Cloud Cuckoo Lander / Only Sane Man that defines his character for most of the novel.
- In the post apocalyptic book, Last Refuge, two characters have left the last refuge to travel across a wasteland representing the Hindu Book of the Dead. After tangling with a cannibal and needing to get away as quickly and as far as possible, the wounded person hides his wound so that his friend can get away without slowing them down by trying to give medical aid.
- In Parellity, we get a nice long description of the gang successfully defeating the last Corsair buggy before we learn that Doug's been shot.
- Happens to Mels in the Doctor Who episode "Let's Kill Hitler" when one of Hitler's stray bullets hits her in the stomach. This leads to the reveal that she is River and causes her to regenerate into her.
- In The West Wing at the end of Season One/beginning of Season Two, the president and his staff are the targets of shooters. After the shots, Toby attempts to find Josh and comes across him sitting against a wall. At first it seems that Josh is fine, but as Toby walks closer he sees that Josh is holding his stomach over a bullet wound. Being a major character, Josh does survive. This trope is also played fairly straight with the President, another bullet victim noticed after the fact (he also lives).
- The Breaking Bad episode "Face Off", Gus walks away from an explosion caused by a bomb, seemingly unhurt. However, the camera pans around as horrified nurses look on, and reveals that most of the right side of his head is burned or missing. He then collapses and dies.
- In the second series of Horatio Hornblower, this happens to Archie Kennedy. Although the wounding is shown (he is shot at and sits down abruptly), it isn't until the aftermath that Horatio rips his coat open and sees that he's been shot in the stomach. However, it takes him quite a long time for the wound to kill him; the wound was mortal largely because of the state of medicine in early 1800's Europe.
- Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is stabbed under the arm of Romeo during a confused street brawl. It is often played as a Mortal Wound Reveal, including in Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version, and Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version.
- Les Misérables: When Éponine collapses upon returning to the barricade Marius first notices blood in her hair and then opens the large overcoat she wears to reveal her heavily bloodied shirt.
Marius: Eponine, what's wrong? / There's something wet upon your hair / Eponine, you're hurt! / You need some help / Oh, God, it's everywhere!
- Played with in Dominic Deegan with a wound that would have been lethal if the characters weren't already in Hell.
- The Order of the Stick has a particularly extreme example; after Miko destroys the Gate in Azure City, causing a massive explosion, she is seen lying on the ground from the chest up, speaking with Soon Kim's ghost. After her highly ironic last words ("I can live with that"), we see that she has been ripped in half at the waist.
- Karate Bears rarely lose and this is why
- Played with in the Looney Tunes short A Corny Concerto. Porky Pig and his hunting dog are hunting Bugs Bunny, and after a chipmunk gets ahold of Porky's rifle and shoots it, the three of them stand to the camera with their hands over their chest. Porky and his dog both cautiously check under their hands, and realize they're fine. Bugs peeks under his hand, goes green and collapses. He's faking, of course.
- In Transformers Prime, Dreadwing is shot by Megatron and we get to see a close-up of the gaping hole in his chest.
- When the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot (triggering WWI), his wife Sophie apparently fainted from shock. This trope happened once they realised she also took a bullet to the abdomen.
- Sadly, the same trope applied to the Archduke's aunt, the Empress Elisabeth, sixteen years earlier. When an assassin stabbed her in the chest with a sharpened needle file (while making it look like he stumbled against her), she fell down but quickly regained her feet and was able to proceed to the steamship she was walking to. On board she fainted again, and it was only after her clothing was loosened that the fatal wound was revealed (in fact, the tightly wound corset she wore had compressed the wound and prolonged her life).