So, it's getting near the end of the episode, and the Five-Man Band is in a heated battle against the forces of evil. Sure, it's a tough fight, but you know the team will pull through. Right Makes Might, and because of that, the villain doesn't stand a chance!
But then, out of nowhere, The Hero gets hit with a devastating blow and collapses in a pool of his own blood. His faithful companions, thinking "No One Could Survive That" belt out a collective Big "NO!". Cue the credits!
This trope is when an episode ends with the main character appearing to have been killed. This is supposedly a very dramatic event, so writers typically save this one for late in a season. Problem is, while the True Companions and the Big Bad will think Our Hero Is Dead, the audience isn't fooled. Contrary to popular belief, most viewers know that if the hero died, the story would be over. But even knowing the hero isn't as dead as he looks, it can still be shocking.
And sure enough, in the next episode, we learn that the hero's Plot Armor saved him. The rest of the band rushes to his side, finds out he still has a pulse, and the team retreats with the fallen hero slung over the shoulder of The Big Guy to get him some desperately needed medical attention. Then all the hero needs is some time to rest up, and they'll be back to fight another day.
Except, of course, when the character dies because Real Life Writes the Plot, so that they can be The Nth Doctor'd or replaced by a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
In short, a main character's Disney Death, used as a Cliff Hanger.
Subtrope of Uncertain Doom. Contrast The Hero Dies, for when the hero really does die, as well as Dead to Begin With, when they're already dead at the start of the story. Also see Fake Kill Scare, where someone's death is faked to frighten a loved one.
This is a Death Trope, so beware of spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
The quote above comes from late in the first season of Slayers, as Lina narrates over her Not Quite Dead body.
In Digimon Xros Wars episode 53, Shoutmon dies towards the end of the episode. This is ruined when you reach the "next episode" preview, because Shoutmon X7 is there and Shoutmon's silhouette is at the episode title.
Subverted, in that Deckerdramon and Beelzebumon did die in the episodes that spoke of their "last cry". They pretty much remained dead until the finale revival.
One of the few things to be played straight in Excel♥Saga. The next episode's theme was "no gags", but Excel still survived getting shot by Il Palazzo, mainly because it went through her shoulder area. Must have just missed her lung.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed is impaled by a metal beam after a fight with Kimblee, and collapses from blood loss, while, miles from there, Al collapses, saying he can feel his soul being pulled away. The chapter ends with a shot of both brothers unconscious while Winry yells Ed's name.
In the 2003 anime version, Ed is killed moments after Envy's true form is revealed. There was one more episode that followed, showing Al sacrificing himself to bring Ed back to life, and then Ed doing the same for Al, leaving the two brothers on opposite sides of The Gate.
And before that, Ed, in his alternate universe counterpart's body, is killed when a WWI zeppelin crashes into him; this is what brings him back to save the day.
Subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann with Kamina, who pulls the standard "seems to die but then gets back up" only to collapse again, this time for good, shortly afterward. Turns out he wasn't the hero.
Played straight in Full Metal Panic!. Sousuke is apparently killed in a rocket blast while hiding behind water faucets in the school yard. The next episode reveals that he simply jumped into one of the classroom windows without so much as a scratch.
In the novels, it's shown that he did suffer some minor injuries, and was saved from worse damage only by his bulletproof uniform. Also, he was knocked unconscious by the blast of the explosion — even with the wall in between.
Funny you should mention that. In the One Night Stand novel (which covers the Behemoth arc from the anime), it is revealed at the end that Gauron was actually not very far away from Sousuke&co. at the time. He and one of his associates from Amalgam were taking notes and video footage of the Behemoth, because their organization had built the giant AS and wanted to know how it would fare in battle. The associate was disappointed by the results (destroyed in less than 15 minutes). Gauron, however, was simply elated because he had gotten the chance to see "his precious boy" again. So much so, that his partner was literally rolling his eyes in the background.
Not only was he elated. As mentioned above, Gauron had filmed pretty much everything concerning the Behemoth and Takuma. Which means that Amalgam has a video featuring a giant AS, while Gauron has a video featuring Sousuke. Think about it for a second.
This happens again in the end when Sousuke is left on the island with a nuke speeding his way. It detonates, of course, and he is presumed dead. Luckily, Al is one intelligent AI, and shields them. Now, all that's left to do is have an adorable reunion with Kaname.
About halfway through the Houshin Engi manga, Taikoubou is killed by Choukoumei. The chapter even ends with Closing Credits (apparently written by Choukoumei, seeing as how he's listed as the hero). Then the next chapter begins with a new manga series (also written by Choukoumei) until the remaining good guys put a stop to it. It later turns out Taikoubou wasn't killed, and another villain sacrificed himself to save him.
Happened in Rurouni Kenshin, at the end of the episode The Age Chooses Shishio. The hero stays down for half of the next episode before getting up again to finish the fight.
While in the games not many people really notice, in the Kingdom Hearts manga, Beast and the six remaining princesses are shocked when they realize the Keyblade master had just dissolved into thin air. Especially since they needed him to seal the keyhole. However, as soon as Beast says "The Key-bearer is no longer..." Sora's voice answers from the doorway: "No longer what?"
One episode of One Piece during the Arabasta arc ends with Luffy being impaled by Crocodile. He's shown to be alive 1 or two episodes later, but the rest of this crew is lead by the bad guys to believe that he's dead for a awhile until he makes his long awaited return.
Both played straight and averted in Pluto. Being a retelling of a famous Astro Boy story, one can't actually expect Atom to stay dead and, sure enough, it looks like he's finally back. Of course, as this is also a Tezuka story written by Naoki Urasawa, anyone else is free game including Gesicht, the main character — although that's likewise a Foregone Conclusion to anyone who read the original story.
Speaking of Astroboy, that particular plot point didn't come from the original "World's Strongest Robot" arc, but instead was based on the finale of the Blue Knight saga, which ended with Astro losing his head & half his upper torso in a Heroic Sacrifice to protect the evil Count Burg from being killed by the Blue Knight's final desperation attack in his own death-throws. The subsequent "Astro Reborn" arc had several failed attempts to revive him before Dr. Tenma finally resurfaced & pulled it off, but with Astro losing all his memories & briefly doing a Face-Heel Turn.
In Macross Frontier, the 24th episode ends with the protagonist Alto Saotome being destroyed, with the path of his explosion following that of Ranka Lee's arm, resulting in the expected reaction montage. In the next episode, once SMS returns, we find that Alto ejected as he passed through the illusion and is 'safe' amidst some debris until such times as his VF-25 is brought back out to him.
In the fourth episode of the Gate Keepers OVA, Ayane is shot from behind on the way home after defeating one of the Quirky Miniboss Squad. The last thing she sees before fading to black is her bell, after which she spends the next episode and a half in a coma.
At the end of the third season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the main character Judai is the only one that doesn't return from the Duel Monsters world (well, Misawa didn't return as well, but no one cares about him — he was Demoted to Extra). However, he returns one episode later, saying he went on a journey to 'grow up'.
In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Keiichi dies in just about every arc. Though the emphasis on him as the "main character" isn't as big as deal as other shows. Rika is the true main character and also dies in about every arc.
Maburaho plays with this; the entire second half of the season deals with the Harem trying to bring him back to life from ghost-hood.
This happens in episode 5 of the first Tenchi Muyo! series. The cast spends most of the next episode thinking Tenchi's dead, but he shows up just in time to face the Big Bad.
The second-to-last episode of the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ends with the Major's Asploding. Good thing she wasn't in the body at the time. The Tachikoma do one in each season, although more for philosophical reasons than for dramatic ones.
Ulquiorra of Bleach blew a giant gaping hole in Ichigo's chest after curbstomping him. He was probably legitimately dead. Orihime didn't care for that and Ichigo is currently some sort of berserk hollow... thing... that doesn't seem to be related to/act like his own inner hollow. The fight turned one sided in the other direction and ended in approximately four seconds.
Turns out this is just Hichigo's latest evolution. Ichigo also, technically, was killed by Urahara back when he was training to rescue Rukia, when the maniac cut his chain-o'-fate. According to the rules, he's now a dead guy periodically wearing a live body that just happens to be his own. This luckily does not seem to have side effects (although the story seems to have totally lost track of his body long ago.)
Mazinger Z: The "Kabuto Kouji Dies In Lava!" episodes (yes, they did this twice, though the second time was done with tongue firmly planted in cheek) are so infamous for this that they border on Memetic Mutation.
At the beginning of the Piccolo Daimaou saga of Dragon Ball, everyone believes Goku has been killed by Tamborine (and cannot be resurrected, as his friends don't find his body). Of course, he wasn't quite dead after all.
Happens with Goku several times outside his two real deaths that mix The Hero Dies and Heroic Sacrifice together. There's the Jackie Chun fight where he transformed a giant monkey and was apparently hit by a fully powered Kamehameha (turns out Chun destroyed moon instead to cause Goku to revert back to normal); his apparent death from Taopipi after getting hit by a Dodonpa blast (his 4-star Dragonball took the brunt of the attack); and most infamously there was his seeming death when Namek exploded (later revealed that he managed to get on one of the Ginyu Forces' ships and escape at the last second).
Occurs in The Vision of Escaflowne, where one episode ends with a worrying volume of Van's blood dripping from the cockpit of an entirely unresponsive Escaflowne — the implication being that he just bled to death after the recent battle. The next episode opens with the reveal that he's still (barely) alive, but things do not start looking up from there.
20th Century Boys contains one of the longest, most effective uses of this trope. At the end of the first arc the everyman hero Kenji apparently dies in an explosion. Throughout the entire middle third of the story he is nowhere to be seen, leaving us to believe he was simply a Decoy Protagonist as the narrative shifts unto his niece, Kanna. Then, fifteen in-story years and ten volumes later, he reappears out of the blue, having taken several levels in badass, in what is one of the most awesome scenes in the series - just after the series' Darkest Hour, no less!
Chrono Crusade mixes this with The Hero Dies. Due to her Deal with the Devil, it's a Foregone Conclusion that Rosette will someday die—so when she drops dead after a particularly taxing fight while Chrono's powers are unsealed, it's very easy for the reader to actually believe it. And she is, in fact, dead, but her soul is able to be returned to her body soon afterward.
Tiger & Bunny: Kotetsu is apparently killed (accidentally) by Barnaby while defeating H-01 at the end of episode 24. His powers ran out just a moment too early to jump out of the way.
In chapter 253 of Fairy Tail, the entire main cast is apparently wiped out by Acnologia.
This happens quite a bit with the titular character of Guyver, mostly to get across the point that he can recover from pretty much anything. The best example is Sho's first apparent death, which he survived by the unit cloning him from the tiniest shred of Guyver material left on the control metal.
In the 11th volume of High School D×D, Issei Hyodou apparently dies in an alternate dimension and the only clues that were given were the eight pawn pieces returned to Rias.
Cowboy Bebop had its twelfth episode, "Jupiter Jazz pt. 1", end with Spike getting shot. The following one revealed he'd been hit with a tranquilizer.
The anime of Devil May Cry plays this trope, like many others, as absolutely straight as possible. Dante is shown brutally impaled in a Crucified Hero Shot as the credits roll silently over the end of the second-to-last episode of the show. However, it continues to invoke it all the way through to the last third of the final episode, even unto having Patty deliver a truly heartwrenchingplea to Dante's apparently lifeless body, set to a reprisal of the music box theme from the first game that damn near makes you wonder if...
Patty - "Dante! Wake up, run away! No way you'd die from a little wound like this, right? Please wake up and take down the demons like you always do!... I'm sorry... I'm so sorry!.."
Happens twice in the Light Novel versions of A Certain Magical Index. First at the end of Volume 1, when Touma's memories are erased permanently, as Touma is essentially a different person now. Then, at the end of Volume 22, when Touma vanishes without a trace after defeating Archangel Gabriel. He comes back safe and sound at the end of the next Volume.
Played straight in Attack on Titan, but unlike most examples here, many in the audience were quite shocked because it happened very early in the series.
In the Swamp Thing comics, at the beginning of Alan Moore's run, the eponymous character is shot through the head and his body frozen. Moore used this as an opportunity to dissect the character both literally and figuratively, then have him resurrected with the reveal that while you can kill a human by shooting it through the head, the same won't work on a plant that just thought it was human.
Mind you, characters in long-running comic book series are killed and resurrected so often that it might count as its owntrope.
The Wally West The Flash series memorably killed off Wally right before issue 50 and issue 100. Before issue 150, the previous Flash got killed as a change of pace.
Peter David did this to Aquaman. He was planning to keep him dead for a while, but had to settle for one issue since he was leaving the title.
Neatly subverted in an issue of Fantastic Four, in which Ben Grimm is killed... a couple of pages before the cliffhanger. The actual cliffhanger is Reed Richards announcing that he's found a way to bring Ben back to life.
Johnny Storm dies in a Bolivian Army Ending against Annihilus' forces, and he actually stays dead. For a year.
Hellboy's heart is torn out by the Queen of Blood and falls into hell, while his body turns to dust.
Spider-Man was considered dead for a month, and this was when he had four ongoing titles and none of them actually featured him, and dealt with the concept of his death.
The G3 timeline ends with Strife killing most of the heroes (Minty and Princess Rarity being the only ones she doesn't kill directly). Though all of them are given Reincarnations in the new timeline in some form, as they weren't on the "delete" list (Strife only did it to give them the chance to make a Last Stand instead of fading away with no chance to even try and save their world).
"Angry Cruel Love" ends with Dark World!Twilight having her Element ripped out by Angry Pie, being left to die of Rapid Aging and seemingly dying at Trixie's grave.
Game Theory ends with Precia and all her allies, including Nanoha, falling into Imaginary Space. Except that they didn't; Precia actually collapsed the Garden of Time into Imaginary Space to fake their deaths, and had already successfully revived Alicia without traveling to Alhazred.
The climax of Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest, when the hero of the series, Jack Sparrow, gets pulled under along with his ship by the Kraken, thanks to Elizabeth.
Note that he DOES die - the rest of the group simply goes to the afterlife and brings him back.
Subverted every which way in Dead Man, in which William Blake (Johnny Depp again), whose heroism itself is arguable, is shot early on. It is indeed fatal, and he spends the rest of the film trying not to get killed while he is, in fact, in the process of dying. It's implied that the film ends with his very last breath.
About halfway through Toy Story 3, the villains show their true colors and lock up Andy's toys. In order to keep them compliant, they show them Woody's hat, and claim he was killed when trying to leave.
Deliberately and effectively subverted in Philip K. Dick's novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, where the main character is killed halfway through and the plot basically falls apart for the rest of the novel.
When the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was nigh, the biggest question was: Is Harry going to die? Whole news reports were made about the pressing issue, and some people even made protest groups and petitions beggingJ. K. Rowling not to kill off our favorite lightning-scarred, bespectacled brit. While this may seem like people were taking this too seriously, remember that this is a character who we all grew up with, so his death would feel like the death of a friend or sibling.
So, doesHarry Potter die? As it turns out, he was supposed to die from the very start. Harry sees, through Snape's memories in the Pensieve, that Dumbledore has discovered that Voldemort accidentally manifested a piece of his soul in Harry's body once the Killing Curse backfired on him, which is why Harry could speak Parseltongue and share Voldemort's thoughts. So Harry needs to die in order to fully destroy Voldemort. Thus, Harry approaches Voldemort and lets the Dark Lord use the Killing Curse on him. Harry wakes up in a sort of "limbo" between life and death, which takes a form that Harry can understand - in this case, it's a train station. Dumbledore, who has been waiting for Harry there, tells Harry that he has a choice - to take a train, onward, into death, or to return to the living and finish what he and Voldemort started. Harry chooses the latter option and proceeds to destroy Voldemort.
Retroactively done by the Sherlock Holmes stories; Holmes' Duel to the Death and plunge into the Reichenbach Falls with Professor Moriarty was supposed to see him Killed Off for Real — however, Holmes was so popular with the public that Conan Doyle kept being bugged by people to bring him back to life. Conan Doyle eventually got so sick of it that he capitulated and wrote "The Empty House", which revealed that Holmes had faked his death all along.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance, Miles Vorkosigan takes a needle grenade to the chest during a covert operation, killing him. He's later revived thanks to the miracle of cryogenics — but he's dead for several months, which causes major problems for his friends and family.
The end of The Dresden Files novel Changes sees Harry Dresden killed. The title of the next book? Ghost Story. The ghost in question? Harry.
Alex Rider is shot in the heart at the end of Scorpia. Turns out the sniper missed by a millimeter. The thing that saved our hero? A curb.
In Brimstone, Aloysius Pendergast is sealed inside a wall to suffocate to death in the final few chapters by Count Fosco. In the very last chapter, His brother Diogenes begins working to break him out.
At the end of A Dance with DragonsJon gets stabbed by several other members of the Night's Watch. We've yet to see whether he survives or not, but considering his importance to the story so far, he will probably survive or be Back from the Dead a la Davos Seaworth.
Then again this IS ASOIAF, which is famous for George Martin seemingly killing off characters to screw with the fandom. Remember Eddard Stark? or his son Robb? or Tywin Lannister?
But note that only one of these is a viewpoint character; in fact, among the "proper" viewpoint characters (ie those whose names actually appear in the chapter headings), only two (Eddard and Catelyn) have been confirmed to be dead so far, and one of them didn't even stay dead.
Perhaps more importantly, these people died and their stories concluded with few loose ends. They failed at what they were trying to do, but there wasn't a whole lot of backlog of unrevealed storyline. Lyanna for Eddard Stark is the big one, but the general consensus is that it is actually *Jon's* story.
In Pact, Blake Thorburn gets into a fight with a demon and loses, being made an Unperson in the process. There's a denouement chapter of various characters reacting to the sudden absence, with his Distaff Counterpart Rose Thorburn becoming his successor as Thorburn Heir, before the narrative abruptly shifts to Goblin hunter Maggie Holt for seven chapters. After that, though The next chapter takes place from Blake's point of view, revealing that instead of being eaten he's fallen into an Eldritch Location called The Drains, which serves as the Belly of the Whale for his Hero's Journey.
Live Action TV
Happens to Marian in the second-to-last episode of the first season of the 2006 series of Robin Hood. It happens again in the finale of the second series. This time she stays dead.
Happened to Jack Bauer in season 2 of 24, and again in the season finale of season 4. In both instances, Bauer was clinically dead for a few minutes before being revived, which lead to the fun fact "Jack Bauer died for his country and lived to tell the tale. Twice."
There's also a cliffhanger roughly midway through the fifth season where Jack manages to catch the current villain but the time he takes doing so leave them both getting caught up in an explosion. They both survive.
Bones's third season featured an episode where Booth gets shot and the screen blacks out at the end.
In late season 6, Buffy and one of her friends are shot at the end of the episode. The next episode, Buffy gets all better. Her friend, a recurring character, not so much.
There's also the season 1 finale, during which Buffy drowns fighting the Master. She gets revived by Xander, but her temporary demise activates the next Slayer, Kendra.
Subverted in Supernatural Season 2 episode "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1", in that Sam really does die at the end of the episode. Played straight, however, in that he is brought back the next episode when his brother Dean sells his soul for him.
Done in "The Underwater Menace" when the Second Doctor returns to the sinking Atlantis because he's decided he can't leave the villain Professor Zaroff to die. There's a brief scene of Jamie and Polly mourning him and wondering what they can do now before he emerges, revealing he's fine (although failed to save Zaroff). This was before the writers had puzzled out what exactly regeneration was, so his death was quite possible.
In the penultimate episode of the new Series 4, a Dalek finally gets a shot in. Fans were worried about the actor leaving the show rather than the character dying, in fact since it wouldn't have ended this story the uncertainty probably made this a more effective use of this trope than a potential death.
The Tenth Doctor's regeneration storyline, "The End of Time", seriously exploited the fact that the audience knew the Doctor was not getting out of this one alive thanks to a highly public Doctor recasting. Multiple times in the climax of the story, the Doctor suffers severe injuries, does suicidal stunts and makes many Hubristic decisions, all of which underline the Doctor's desperation to win this one as well as exploit the tension as the audience waits for whatever is going to kill him. Then the 45-minute mark is reached without the Doctor dying, and just when the audience (and the Doctor) are marvelling at how thoroughly he's cheated death, the story quietly presents the Doctor with the obstacle that will kill him, and the episode is extended to allow the Doctor a farewell tour.
In the first episode of the 6th season (within the first 15 minutes!) we watch a scene of an astronaut apparently killing a future version of the Doctor. Amy and co. carried on adventuring with a past-Doctor. As it turns out, the Doctor was a Mobile-Suit Human with a miniaturized Doctor riding inside. It Makes Sense in Context.
Happens repeatedly in Farscape. Every main character has "died" at least once, but only Zhaan's (and arguably D'Argo's) deaths were permanent.
Played in the Monk two-parter "Mr. Monk Is On The Run", in which Monk has been convicted of a murder he didn't commit. The first part ends with the police cornering Monk on a pier. Monk attempts to escape, but Stottlemeyer shoots him in the chest twice and he falls into the lake. The second part begins with him crawling back to the shore. Turns out he was wearing a bulletproof vest, and he and Stottlemeyer planned the whole thing to get the police off Monk's back while he solved the case.
In one of the season one episodes of the BBC's Merlin, Merlin 'dies' after drinking from a poisoned goblet to save Arthur. He is still revived, however, by the magic Gaius did moments before.
Subverted in the season one finale "Le Morte De Arthur", where Arthur is dying from the bite of the Questing Beast, but Merlin and Gaius both rush to save him by offering their lives in place of his. Merlin ultimately kills Nimueh, saving both himself and Gaius while still delivering the price required to save Arthur.
Killing Fox Mulder at the end of the season has become somewhat of a staple in The X-Files, but one case stands out: in the end of season four he has a mental breakdown, kills himself, and Scully confirms that he is dead. However, in season five, it is revealed that the two of them have planned it all out to fool the traitor in the FBI.
Chrono Trigger. In an interesting subversion to the trope, you don't even have to bring the victim back to life to finish the game, and doing so triggers one of the Multiple Endings.
In Half-Life 2, if you happen to die with some rebel buddies next to you, they'll provide some parting words (before you have to start over from the last checkpoint, of course) that tend to echo the sentiment of this trope, such as "He's... he's dead!", "Now what?", and "Dibs on the suit."
The execrable Daikatana did the same. Superfly's laments were probably the highlight of the game.
And in the episodes that continue the events of Half-Life 2, Alyx has some strange habit of saying, "Look out!" or some variant thereof the second you die from whatever you should be looking out for.
Tales of Monkey Island: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood ends with Guybrush being killed by LeChuck, who turns out to have been faking his Heel-Face Turn. Guybrush returning to life takes up much of the plot of the fifth and final episode, Rise of the Pirate God.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation has Lara at the end of the game utterly exhausted from all the running, jumping, and fighting. She is merely a few feet away from the temple's exit when Von Croy appears before her. Still thinking Von Croy is possessed by the evil god, Set, Lara hesitates to approach him, but Von Croy shows he is back to his normal self and urges her to grab his hand. The temple collapses around Lara, forcing Von Croy to leave her behind and buried alive. This was supposed to be the end of the Tomb Raider series but Edios demanded more games, so Lara's demise was changed to show that she was still alive at the end of Chronicles.
Halo 3: "Hard to believe he's dead." "Were it so easy." Then after the credits, "Wake me, when you need me."
Mass Effect 2 starts with Shepard dying. Although s/he gets better (two years later), it's possible to have him/her Killed Off for Real in the suicide mission at the end.
In Ever17, no matter which of his routes you take, Takeshi always dies at the end; his death sets off half the plot, and he eventually gets better.
This is essentially the setup for the premise of the flash game series Sonny. The player character already died prior to the first game's start, being resurrected by some unspecified experiment. Also, the first (or depending on the game, only) sentence on the Game Over screen reads, "You're dead, Sonny."
Antimony falling off the bridge, ending Chapter 7 of Gunnerkrigg Court. This was also the end of the first, self-published, print volume of the comic.
Phobia, at the end of GastroPhobia, chapter 6, fell from the top of a tree and was knocked unconscious. And Klepto couldn't wake her up. Then night fell and, according to the Alt Text, she was eaten by wolves.
Roy in The Order of the Stick literally died—thank goodness he lives in a universe where Death Is Cheap, even if it took a few months to get his corpse to a cleric for resurrection.
A chapter of Girl Genius shows Agatha apparently being picked up and fried by a clank. The story then switches to another POV for a while.
Sluggy Freelance did this very dramatically with two main characters at the end of the chapter "bROKEN"; some people were actually convinced, while others were deep in He's Just Hiding. The truth was something in between. A much less serious one was at the end of a single comic (in the middle of the story, but in this case the daily nature of the webcomic was clearly exploited to make it a cliffhanger), where it appeared that Oasis had broken Torg's neck. Two days later it was shown that the snapping sound was really Bun-bun eating celery. And in one of Bun-bun's fights with Santa Claus, the rabbit ended up in a warehouse rigged to explode and wasn't heard of again for a while.
Spoony and the Critic have nothing on their fellow reviewer Phelous, who almost always dies Once per Episode (or is Dead All Along, or is killed at the start and the Phelous from the next episode shows up to do the review, or...); even when he cameos he has a nasty habit of not surviving long.
Chapter 16 of the 2010 Neopets story arc, "The Faeries Ruin", ends with Hanso turned to stone after destroying the artifact.
Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction ends with the death of the series' protagonist, Church. Played with, in that Church really does die and stay dead, but in the next season aversion of him comes back in the form of a Living Memory.
Agent Washington, the deuteragonist of Reconstruction, is shot in the chest and has his fate left ambiguous, but is revealed to be alive (though imprisoned) in the following season.
Following the climax of Worm, Taylor in shot in the head and apparently killed by Contessa. It turns out to have merely incapacitated her, and Contessa De Powered her and sent her to an alternate reality to give her a chance to start her life over.
Optimus Prime does this a lot. However, he's nice enough to wait a few episodes before coming back. Except in Animated, where he died in the pilot movie and came back in seventy-five seconds.
Played straight in Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Aang gets struck by lightning and killed in the second season finale, only to be brought back to life afterwards. Almost everyone in-universe thinks he's died, which becomes pivotal to the plot. But Dangerously Genre Savvy Azula, the one who blasted Aang with lightning, isn't fooled.
Enzo in ReBoot get this in "Game Over", when the User wins a game he was playing. The audience isn't fooled because we see him change his icon right before losing, but the people in Mainframe believe he dies. Next episode Enzo is back, but timeskipped into an adult and nowhere near Mainframe.
Happened in the penultimate episode of Superman: The Animated Series. In it, Superman had been captured and brainwashed by Darkseid into attacking Earth. Eventually, Lois confronted him and was able to get him to regain his memories... about one second before the government blasted him with a kryptonite missile.