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Redemption Earns Life
I turn my head to the East, I don't see nobody by my side.
I turn my head to the West, still nobody in sight.
So I turn my head to the North, swallow that pill that they call pride.
That old me's dead and gone, but the new me'll be alright.
Dead And Gone

Say your standard Mook or Villain has an actual change of heart and does a Mook-Face Turn or Heel-Face Turn. Most of the time, it will result in their boss triggering their Cyanide Pill or Villain Override, and it usually turns into a Heroic Sacrifice because Redemption Equals Death. Sometimes, however, the right choice isn't burdened with a great price... but rewarded with life.

While the rest of the enemy army and their evil bosses meet their timely end, those who repented survived. They may get upgraded to Mauve Shirt, put in the teams roster, or just allowed to go on their way and live a normal life. Whatever the case, they've effectively redeemed themselves, done good, and lived to tell about it.

If a villain ever accepts the hero's Last-Second Chance, this is likely the result. Also is often what leads to The Atoner. This is no guarantee of surviving in a sequel, however. Contrast Villain's Dying Grace. See also Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, which often has similar results while requiring much less of a commitment. See also Love Redeems and In Love with the Mark, which can save a hitman and target's life.

NOTE: This trope only applies to characters where the redemption clearly saves their life rather than just "they change sides and live."


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z reformed in the Cell Saga, but was a Nominal Hero at best. After he sacrifices himself trying to stop Buu, he is not counted among the "good people" wished back to life by the Dragon Balls. After dying, he is sent back to Earth to get another shot at Buu, teams up with Goku, and realizes that what he truly lacked wasn't motivation, but selflessness. The next time the Dragon Balls are used to wish all the good people back, Vegeta is resurrected too.
  • In Ronin Warriors, Anubis tries to turn against his master, who ends up trying an Assimilation Plot. He survives, and later becomes the new Ancient.
  • While Nanoha is known for a low death count, Cinque and the newer cyborg numbers (with the exception of Sette, who has unwavering loyalty to Tre, not her creator) became a part of the Nakajima family or joined the Saint Church after the end of the series. The unrepentant ones? Practically Demoted to Extra, Put on a Bus, or killed off.
  • The anime version of Sailor Moon seems to have an almost even gender split between this trope and Redemption Equals Death. Men who switch sides almost invariably die (Nephrite, Diamande, Sapphir) while women get redeemed (En, The Amazon Quartet, the Ayakashi sisters in the Black Moon arc, Sailor Galaxia). Bucking the trend on male death are Professor Tomoe, Ail, and the Amazon Trio. Note that the Amazon Trio in the manga are very minor villains who get nonchalantly killed by Sailor Senshi almost immediately after their introduction. Ali and En being anime only are nowhere in the manga., while Nephrite, Diamond, Sapphire, and Tomoe are unrepentant villains or irrevocably Brainwashed and Crazy. Although maybe that's just the manga being Darker and Edgier, as the Ayakashi Sisters are quickly killed extras there as well, and Galaxia is genuinely evil rather than being controlled and her redemption does not earn her life. Just to note: not all women had Redemption Earns Life treatment. In the Sailor Moon S arc, Kaorinite, along with the Witches 5 dive due to being killed outright, Hoist By Their Own Petard or Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • She never technically fell to begin with, but in Elfen Lied Nana wasn't anywhere near as bloodthirsty as other Diclonii, only snapping occasionally under extreme duress. The only person she makes a conscious effort to kill was Lucy, and that was mostly to stop her psychotic rampages. Even still, events kept preventing Nana from scoring even a single fatality, even when she was trying to cause one. She's rewarded by being the only Diclonius to survive the events of the Manga.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, the Rival Turned Evil Yui Hongo's final wish before the god Seiryuu consumes her. Notable in that it's an instance where redemption equals death and life, because her wish allows Miaka to summon Suzaku, and Miaka in turn uses her first wish to bring Yui back.
  • Eas of Fresh Pretty Cure! discards her evil identity and is quickly killed for it, but because she changed sides, she receives the Akarun and it restores her to life. This would be a spoiler, but Toei sure doesn't think so.
  • The four "evil" Legendary Warriors in Digimon Frontier get killed, but their data is purified and their spirits actually show up to help out toward the end. At the very end of the series, all the Legendary Warrior spirits (both the good and Heel Face Turned evil ones) are resurrected back to life.
  • In the Land of the Sea filler arc in Naruto, Isaribi, a human test subject in an experiment to give people the ability to breathe underwater, works for Amachi, sinking ships for him in exchange for eventually being cured. After Naruto convinces her to see the error of her ways and defeats Amachi, Amachi reveals that he planned to dissect her when he was done with her, and the group takes her back to the village so that Tsunade can return her to normal.
  • In Tenshi Ni Narumon after finally letting go and resigning to the worst, Mikael and Silky managed to come out alive.
  • In Macross Frontier, Ranka and Brera are brainwashed Into serving the Big Bad's plans, but snap out of it and help to defeat said Big Bad. They surely would be discarded once they were no longer needed if they continued being used. In fact, the hero at one point contemplates that he has to kill Ranka but Sheryl convinces him to try and save her instead.
    • Also everybody onboard Battle Galaxy was killed in the end.
    • Generally in Macross, the defectors survive more often than not (Guld being the major exception), but sometimes, non-defectors survive as well.
  • Enforced hardcore in Rurouni Kenshin. The Word of God was very adamant about the theme that if one can make up for their past sins, and most importantly, forgive themselves, one can earn a happy ending where Everybody Lives. It's pretty much shot to hell in the OVAs and movie, though (that they weren't part of the manga first probably explains why).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Rafael has a duel with Yami Yugi, with Rafael inevitably activating the Seal Of Orichalcos (which steals the soul of the loser). Rafael loses, but does so by resurrecting the Monsters that he turned his back on initially after activating it, in a sense making a Heroic Sacrifice. He redeems himself and as a result, the Seal does not take his soul like it normally does. It seems to be subverted when the building they were duelling on collapses, performing another Heroic Sacrifice by throwing Yami Yugi to safety... only to be double subverted when he's later shown alive, albeit scuffed up.
  • Medusa of Soul Eater all but spells out to Stein and Spirit that she was going to kill Crona for being a failed experiment shortly after Asura was revived. Crona, however, surrenders hirself to the DWMA before that could happen. Ironically, in the manga Crona goes back to Medusa but pulls another Heel-Face Turn, and that time the exact opposite trope comes into effect.

    Comic Books 
  • One arc of The Authority had an Avengers Expy team kidnap the newborn Jenny Quantum. Midnighter managed to use a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal on the Iron Man equivalent, even convincing him to help him out of rubble after being badly injured... and this from a team of supers who rarely let their enemies live. Another example in the same arc had them convince a Mad Scientist type in charge of the team to turn good and use his brilliant ideas to help humanity.
  • The White Lantern Corps, full stop. The Entity has chosen 12 people to come back from the dead after Blackest Night to fulfill a given task. When fulfilled, the life of the individual is returned, otherwise they keep suffering some residual effects of the Black Lantern Corps. The only problem is, the Entity doesn't seem to really care about anyone, and will do whatever it takes to fulfill its goal. In addition to the Entity having its own peculiar notion of redemption, two of the 12 have been killed immediately after having their lives fully restored. And this was when they'd finally broken the curse that kept them reincarnating. Then again, the characters the Entity killed were still part of the Entity's plan to protect Earth. When the Black Avatar, an evil version of Swamp Thing, rises to destroy all life, the Entity, resurrects the people it killed as Elemental Embodiments (Aquaman is Water, Firestorm is Fire, Martian Manhunter is Earth, Hawkman and Hawkwoman are Air) to fight the Black Avatar, while the new protector of Earth is chosen. When the chosen protector, a new Swamp Thing empowered by the Entity, destroys the Black Avatar, the Entity restores the Elementals to their natural selves, but Hawkwoman remains as the Elemental of Air, much to Hawkman's heartbreak.

    Fan Fic 
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this happens to Drill Man, who is saved from a suicide mission and turns good as a result.
  • In A Growing Affection Nagato's use of the Pein jutsu is killing him. But thanks to Konan and Naruto he stops using the jutsu and switches sides, allowing Tsunade to save his life.

    Films — Animated 
  • A complicated example in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Charlie left Heaven and lost his place there as a result (he only got it because he was a dog and they all go to Heaven), thus if he dies again, he'll go to Hell. Well in the end, he performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Anne-Marie's life and dies. While this would normally be Redemption Equals Death, the act redeems his soul and saves him from an eternity in Hell, thus Redemption Equals After Life. Same happens to Carface in the third film. It's revealed that if he doesn't change his ways, not only will he be dead before next Christmas, he'll be spending eternity in Hell. In the end, he decides to do the right thing and pull a Heel-Face Turn, saving his soul and his life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Little Sweetheart, Elizabeth defies the laws of physics and human biology, living to the end credits due to her Heel-Face Turn.
  • In Star Wars, there's Lando Calrissian, who betrays Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and the Droids to Darth Vader and later ends up saving all of them except Han, who he later helps rescue. Word of God has it that it was supposed to be a Redemption Equals Death, but was changed fairly early in the screenwriting process.
  • In the 1995 film version of Village of the Damned, twelve children with Mind Manipulation abilities are born. The one who refuses to use his ability to harm humans survives, the rest get killed.
  • At the climax of The Prestige, Borden has a debate with himself (i.e. his twin, Fallon, who swaps places with him, but the audience doesn't know this yet) about if he should find out how Angier's trick works and break it, or if their cycling revenge has already cost too much and they should pull out. Fallon's curiosity leads him to fall for Angier's bait and gets him executed for his trouble; Borden survives to steal his daughter back from Angier and kill him.
  • A somewhat complicated example: In Constantine, the hero (who was never bad, but was locked out of Heaven for committing suicide as a teenager) earns redemption through self-sacrifice and then redemption indirectly saves his life. After discovering he's been redeemed, Satan heals him, Satan's theory being that if Constantine gets to live, he'll eventually screw up and damn himself all over again.
  • In Devil, the Devil comes to Earth to torment various sinners, before killing them to torment them further in hell. The last one however moments before death, confesses his sins, apologizes, and begs forgiveness redeeming himself. While the Devil could still kill him, as he's been redeemed he'd just go to heaven, so he's spared.
  • Pain and Gain: Paul gets a crisis of conscience and ends up confessing. He ends up living with 15 years in prison while the other two get death sentences.
  • Street Fighter: Zangief has a Heel Realization after Dee Jay tells him Bison is the bad guy, and he quickly runs to help the heroes escape. Almost all of Bison's followers are either dead or marched off a gunpoint (But not Bison) while Zangief gets a thumbs up and a freeze-frame Yeah Shot with the good guys.

    Literature 
  • The wretched inhabitants of Tyr Anwyn (may be misspelling name) in The Endless Knot, final book of Stephen Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy. Nominally servants of Siawn Hy, some of them side with protagonist Llew shortly before Llew's death unleashes the Series Titular Song, burning through Tyr Anwyn and turning the substance of the land into something higher and purer. Siawn Hy's army gets turned completely into ash; the few who sided with Llew are remade as 'Men and Women of Stature' and described as wearing what amount to royal garments.
  • In The Edge Chronicles book "Vox", Xanth breaks Magda out of the Tower of Night, and refuses to abandon her when they are caught. The ultimate result of this is that when the Great Maelstrom comes and destroys the Tower (and all of Undertown) he is safely with the good guys.
  • Harry Potter: The Malfoys, deciding that they care more about each other than anything else, give up helping Voldemort and all get to live.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jesse from Breaking Bad has his Heel Realization before Walt, and attempts to get out of the meth business, ending up the only one of the duo to survive in the finale.
  • During season 8 of Stargate SG-1, the team are captured by a minor system lord while trying to warn him of an impending assassination by one of Anubis' Kull warriors. They convince their guard to free them, because his "god" was either dead or gone and his obedience would only kill them all.
  • Kaitlin in VR Troopers had an Evil Knockoff mirror clone made of her, and due to instability both couldn't exist at the same time. After being found out and imprisoned by the good guys, Ryan managed to convince her to switch sides, and she was reintegrated into the original Kaitlin, even giving her a "Double Me!" attack that created a clone of her.
  • Seems to have happened so far in season six of LOST, to Benjamin Linus. He was almost executed by Ilana for killing Jacob, and when given the opportunity to escape, he instead explains himself to her, telling her how much he regrets what he's done, and she tells him he can stay with her.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Kai's demise took the evil Imagin loyal to him with him due to them being sustained by his memories. The Imagin who performed a Heel-Face Turn and joined the Riders were sustained by their memories instead, saving them from that fate.
  • Happens in Power Rangers on occasion:
  • Regina in the Season 2 Finale of Once Upon a Time initially leans toward Redemption Equals Death, but it turns into this instead. Other characters activate a device that kill everyone in Storybrook, and Regina is going to delay it to give everyone else time to escape. Doing so will end in her death, but she comments that that is merely the price she deserves to pay. When the other characters learn of this, they refuse to except it and return to help her. As Henry puts it, "You're willing to die to save everyone, that makes you a hero." She and Emma are then able to work together to stop it and save everyone, leaving her redeemed and alive.
  • At the end of the original run of 24, Jack has completely torn up Manhattan to slaughter the masterminds behind the earlier terrorist attacks on the city in revenge for killing his would-be love interest, damn near becoming just as bad as they've been. He stands ready to kill the leader, the President of Russia, at the cost of starting a third World War, but manages to get talked down by Chloe, so he gives her the data card that proves their guilt and lets himself be taken hostage by their allies, even though this means he'll face execution since he's too dangerous to be left alive. Because of this, the data card eventually winds up in the hands of President Taylor, who's working with said masterminds for her own benefit. She discovers that Jack has left a video will on it, which leads her to realize how she's perverted her own ideals and makes her own Heel-Face Turn. She's then able to help Chloe locate where Jack is and call off his murder just seconds before he has a bullet put in his head.

    Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's savior (Romans 10:9), followed by repentance (Acts 3:19-20), will lead to eternal life in Heaven after death.
    • Rahab was a prostitute living in the city of Jericho at the time that the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, were coming in to conquer it. Joshua sent spies ahead to scout it out; they found refuge in Rahab's house, even though she knew full well what they were up to. (Joshua 2) Because of this, Rahab (and her family) was spared during the eventual judgement.
    • Though in a deeper spiritual sense taking the offer of redemption that Jesus sacrificed his life to give you earns you eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible makes it clear that choosing Jesus is to choose life instead of death.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons introduced an unusual variant of this in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells with the Hellbred race: a villainous character who discovered the error of their ways and had a true change of heart just before dying, but did not have time to seek true redemption and thus earn an afterlife in the Good or Neutral realms. The planes end up temporarily and quietly warring over their soul, a process known as The Scourging, before the person reincarnates as a Hellbred with their memories blurred, muffled, or erased outright. They then have a chance to live life anew and possibly earn themselves a better fate... though if they don't do something to get an entity of sufficient power to support them Hell will claim their souls anyway. Still, it's a chance they wouldn't have otherwise.
  • The Eldar Exodites of Warhammer 40,000. When the Eldar civilization plunged into horrific depravity and hedonism, some Eldar grew disgusted by what their kin became and decided to get as far away from it all as possible, fleeing to the harsh outpost worlds on the borders of their interstellar empire and becoming essentially Space Amish. When Slaanesh was born and hir psychic backlash obliterated the Eldar civilization, the border worlds remained miraculously untouched.

    Video Games 
  • Happens in Mass Effect. Feron eventually does a permanent Heel-Face Turn and ultimately commits a Heroic Sacrifice to save Liara and Shepard's body from the Shadow Broker...cut to two years later, where Liara and Shepard go to great lengths to save him from the Shadow Broker because of his heroic sacrifice. Also happens with Wrex, if you talk him down on Virmire.
  • Fujin and Raijin in Final Fantasy VIII. They refused to protect Seifer because they realized he's a pawn of Ultimecia, and tried to talk him out of it. Not only did they survive, but so did Seifer.
  • At the end of Scarface: The World is Yours, after having demolished the army of mooks hanging around and killing Sosa and friends, one last mook shows up and begs for mercy as Tony prepares to leave. He gets offered a job and accepts. A similar scene occurs in the film.
  • This is a staple of the Fire Emblem series. Any mook that has a face portrait and is not a boss (and even some who are bosses) can usually be recruited for your team by talking to them with the right person. This quite literally saves their life, because your party goes on to slaughter every other mook on the map.
  • Averted in the Victory Bay mission in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, when playing as the Space Marines. As you play, squads of the Imperial Guardsmen you're facing defect from the opposing side and fight for you - likely expecting this would spare their lives. It doesn't - at the culmination of the mission, the Imperial Guardsmen who fought against you get heroes' burials and commendations for following orders even until the bitter end (the surviving loyalists, if there are any, get transport and safe passage home), and the guardsmen who joined your side are executed for treason and cowardice. Given they turn traitor when ANY of the faction knock out the commissar, this is actually reasonable!
  • Ryoto Hikawa, in Super Robot Wars Original Generation, is shown as a reluctant mook of the Divine Crusaders who doesn't seem to have the heart for fighting, but believes in their cause. Unfortunately for him, the DC doesn't reciprocate this belief and use him as a delivery vector for a bomb to blow up the Hagane. His surrender to the Hagane's crew literally saves his life.
  • This happens to Mr. Big Bad, Lord Wily himself, at the end of the Mega Man Battle Network series. Touched by the Heroic Sacrifice of Iris and Colonel, his creations, he survives the explosion of his base, and then willingly surrenders to the authorities, ready to atone for all his sins. He also sends Lan and Mega Man a letter, thanking them for showing him the error of his ways.
  • Variation. In Devil Survivor if Keisuke doesn't get redeemed, he dies.
  • At the end of Fallout 2, a squad of Enclave Elite Mooks can be convinced to help the Chosen One defeat Frank Horrigan, in exchange for a ride off the Enclave Oil Rig (which is about to explode). Those that survive the fight with Horrigan escape along with the heroes, while the rest of the Enclave goes up in a mushroom cloud.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Raven, or Captain Schwann if you prefer, does this due to the blastia embedded within his chest and a deal he made with Alexei.
    • More specifically, Alexei was planning on burying Raven alive along with the rest of the party. After his figurative change of heart, Raven ends up not only holding the ceiling up long enough for them to escape, but surviving to rejoin them later on.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins can join your party if you spare his life at the Landsmeet and induct him into the Grey Wardens, although depending on your choices he may make a Heroic Sacrifice against the final boss.
  • In Traffic Department 2192, General Orlok sincerely wants to reform the Vultures for the sake of peace. Velasquez, weary of fighting, cooperates with him, and Orlok ends up being one of the only characters in the game who doesn't die.
  • Tales of Symphonia has an almost semi-meta version in the case of Zelos. There are two possible storyline routes. In the first, the character pulls a Heel-Face Turn at the last minute, saves everyone in your party from death traps, and grants you a power vital to defeating the final boss. This is the route in which the character survives. If you choose the other route, he never turns; he was Evil All Along, entirely selfishly motivated, and after this reveal, he attacks the party and you're forced to kill him. So if you don't pick the route which allows him to redeem himself, he dies.
  • Possible in Dishonored, where sparing Daud is considered an act of actual mercy rather than the other kind, particularly if you beat him in a fight, he'll proceed to state how killing the empress left him filled with regret and self-loathing. He then allows you to determine his fate. In the DLC series focused on the character, the Low Chaos ending also results in Corvo sparing Daud.

    Webcomics 
  • A slightly more pragmatic version of this trope is discussed in Captain SNES:
    Cecil Harvey: I cannot stress how imperative it is that you renounce your current path. Now. [...] Because your repentance is the only thing that will keep me from ending you.

    Western Animation 


Redemption DemotionHeel Face IndexRedemption Equals Affliction
Reality Is UnrealisticLaws and FormulasRedemption Equals Affliction

alternative title(s): Redemption Equals Life
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