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Redemption Equals Death
"Tell your sister... you were right."

"Please. I've done so much wrong. Allow me to do one last thing right..."
Loghain Mac Tir, Dragon Age: Origins

Often, when a character who has done something bad or evil sees the error of their ways and does a Heel-Face Turn in the course of fighting to undo the damage their redemption is often comes at the cost of their own life.

There are any number of reasons as to why authors do this:

1. It shows that the ex-villain is serious about helping the heroes, enough so to put his own life at stake to save them. This version is sometimes subverted with Redemption Earns Life or Redemption Equals Affliction especially if the ex-villain is popular enough since the willingness to die is all that is needed out of this version of the trope.

2. It may be that the bad guy is just so bad that it's hard to accept the idea that he gets a happy ending even if he's sincerely changed his ways and so has to die to make things seem right. Sometimes Executive Meddling forces this so as not to cross Moral Guardians who will object if the ex-villain suffered another suitable punishment. See Do Not Do This Cool Thing.

3. Maybe the author is reluctant to change the status quo of the story by introducing an Anti-Hero to the cast but he still wants an antagonist to be sympathetic so he has them redeem themselves before dying. Thus having the main cast experience What a Senseless Waste of Human Life.

4. It could be that there is no place in the world for them. Sure, the redeemed villain going off to a happy little life with Babies Ever After is heartwarming, but it might just not be possible if he's especially infamous with the general public. Even if the heroes are willing to forgive the ex-villain it doesn't always mean that the muggles will comply. In this case death by Heroic Sacrifice may actually be a happier end for the character than being strung up by an angry mob. If subverted the character may end up having to hide his identity or go into exile otherwise the heroes may end up having to plead his case.

Death Seeker and some types of the Martyr Without a Cause are characters most prone to believe this in universe. A possible end result of the Redemption Quest.

Compare Villain's Dying Grace when the villain is portrayed sympathetically as he is dying, Death Equals Redemption for when a dying villain chooses to do a final good act and Alas, Poor Villain when the character's death (speech) provides a reason for the fans to feel sorry for them. See also Heel Face Door Slam, when the poor guy doesn't even get to redeem himself before dying. Non-protagonist atoners are especially likely to be hit by this trope.

Naturally, this is a Death Trope. Expect unmarked spoilers ahead. You have been warned.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Saint Seiya, Saga kills himself after his good side regains control of his body, believing the only way of redeeming himself after what he's done to Athena and his fellow Saints is death.
  • Haou Airen: Hakuron, as he dies in the last volume. It really depends on your view of him.
  • Simoun: Mamiina starts as the Alpha Bitch, tries to kill a teammate, grows into a responsible true companion, gets the love and respect she wants, and dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Sailor Moon. The manga version of Sailor Galaxia realizes she was manipulated by Chaos and wanted love rather than conquest immediately before her death.
  • Both Mdlock and Ralph in Soukou No Strain. Ralph sets Medlock's own Tumor robots to tear her apart once she defects to the Union. Ralph's has more in common with a Heroic Sacrifice, although he is killed by Sara for his crime instead of jumping in to save her or anything. As The Gloire is about to blow up, he looks at his musical pendant and tells Sara to take care of the Emilys.
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, it happens to just about every first season villain. Gakuto (Gaito, if you're watching the anime) is doomed to be crushed by or sealed inside his own castle, and the Dark Lovers stay by his side; Sara, seeing the damage she's done, goes voluntarily with him. (Strangely enough, the actual dying only happens in the anime, which is generally the more child-friendly version.) Then there are Mimi and Sheshe, who were actually redeemed in the anime — in the manga, it's debatable. They get offed by Michel.
  • In Fatal Fury The Motion Picture, Laocorn instantly feels remorse for his sister's death, realizes he was being used all along, and then saves Mai at the cost of his own life, all in about three minutes.
  • Many times in Dragon Ball Z, but most would fall under Heroic Sacrifice, with the notable exception of Piccolo's death at the turning point of the climactic battle of the Saiyan Saga. This is a case of Redemption Equals Death as he had been training his ex-archenemy's son for the previous year, and showed more kindness to him than anyone before.
    • Partly averted in the case of Vegeta's Heroic Sacrifice when fighting against Buu after he betrayed his True Companions to become a Majin and beat Goku. This might redeem him in the eyes of most of the human characters, but King Yemma sees things differently and sends him to Hell for his previous crimes. Needless to say, Vegeta isn't happy with this and makes it difficult for the afterworld attendants to catch him.
    • It should be noted that death is rarely permanent in DBZ.
      • Although none of the villains (who stay evil) are ever wished back. The only two times anyone has ever considered it were Nappa asking Vegeta if they should wish Raditz back to life, and Garlic Jr. planning on collecting the Dragonballs to wish his father Garlic (who is dead before the first episode, probably before Dragonball itself) back to life. The closest to an exception is Kid Buu who is reincarnated as Uub, who fortunately is good and not evil.
    • How does Piccolo's death not fall under Heroic Sacrifice? He specifically threw himself in front of an energy blast meant for Gohan, but rather than doing it purely out of good, he saw Gohan as an extension of Goku, and saving the most treasured aspect of Goku's life is a form of repentance.
    • Android 16, despite being an intended weapon of mass destruction, is the only one to step in to save tremendously outmatched Gohan in his fight with Cell.
    • And in Dabura's case, it's more like Death Equals Redemption: not only because dying released him from Babidi's control, but because he was sent to heaven because King Yemma thought he would enjoy hell.
  • Teresa of the Faint Smile in Claymore, both on a personal level (recovering her human emotions) and on a Conspiracy Redemption level.
  • Almost everyone in End of Evangelion dies after attempting a Conspiracy Redemption.
    • Although not a villain herself, Rei redeems her previous unflinching subservience to morally nebulous Gendo when she defies him and leaves the fate of the world in Shinji's hands. She dies sometime afterward.
  • Darker Than Black is full of this trope, both on a 'redemption for evil' and 'trying to redeem themselves of their part of a conspiracy' level. Havoc is a prime example of the former (dying after recovering her Contractor powers, yet managing to retain her humanity and thus not use them), while November 11 is a prime example of the latter (and he takes his "conspiring to kill him" superior with him).
  • Monster seems to take great delight in showing how many of the show's villains and side characters are only flawed human beings with their own drives, problems and emotions and not soulless monsters... Most of them, in showing their human sides or by righting their previous flaws and sins, are killed by Johan shortly after. Even nearly dying doesn't redeem the titular Monster, however.
    • In fact, in what may be a subversion of this trope, nearly dying makes him worse. Near the end, his sister comes to believe that if she had forgiven him at that juncture instead of shooting him in the head, Johan may have stopped killing at that point. It's debatable whether his second near death experience, his sister's later forgiveness, and (above all) Tenma's saving him again (despite knowing what a monster he was this time) had any effect on him, but we can always hope.
  • Variation: In Code Geass, Suzaku thinks that Redemption Equals Death; having never been punished for the murder of his father at the age of 10, he throws himself into battles with the hope of being killed and redeeming himself, which has the side effect of making him look like a brave, heroic Knight in Shining Armor. The loving irony of this is that Lelouch eventually puts a "Live" Geass on Suzaku, so as to save himself when Suzaku tries to throw away both their lives under orders. This makes it impossible for Suzaku to willingly sacrifice himself for any reason, as he is now supernaturally hardwired to survive at any cost despite his emotional torture. It gets even worse for him when he learns about the command.
    • Played straight, however, with Rolo, who died saving Lelouch's life. Also overlaps with Alas, Poor Scrappy because some really bad screw ups made him one of the most hated characters in the series, but lots of people cried for him after his Heroic Sacrifice. The sad music and speech really helped.
    • Invoked with Lelouch, who incorporates his own death into his plan to bring peace to the world to atone for all the terrible things he's had to do to get to that point. The Official Guide Book points out that Suzaku is punished by having to continue living instead of dying per his wish, while Lelouch's death forever separates him from Nunnally. Lelouch had other options on the table, such as remaining around to help with the reconstruction of the world, but a combination of the painful experiences he went through (which most recently included Nunnally's apparent demise plus the Black Knights betrayal and barely saving Kallen from going down with him by lying to her) led to a Thanatos Gambit that simultaneously culminated in the rearrangement of the global status quo and his own Suicide by Cop. That said, there was also an odd double subversion of the trope since Lelouch's plan was fairly comparable to Schneizel's because it involved causing additional death and destruction for the sake of peace, to the point of exceeding what he was purportedly atoning for - albeit without intending to hold the world hostage or in fear forever and ever - which damned him in the eyes of history but grudgingly rehabilitated him from the perspectives of Nunnally and Kallen, among others.
  • Lust from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime dies shortly after defecting to the heroes' side.
    • It's also one possible interpretation for Scar's death in the TV series, and Wrath, and Hohenheim's in the movie, for that matter. Although Scar has just killed thousands of soldiers to create the Philosopher's Stone, and Hohenheim's Heroic Sacrifice (?) is a dubious way of apologizing to his son for abandoning him, not to mention the thousands of victims if not more that he created indirectly by making Envy and not killing him before four centuries had elapsed. At least, he seems to feel sufficiently punished for surviving his first son.
  • At the end of Trigun, Wolfwood's death in both the manga and anime qualifies too. Confetti and churches, What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?
  • In the Naru Taru manga and anime, Shiina's mother Misono became an absolute cold bitch after her eldest daughter Mishou died, apparently by suicide, blaming it on the main character in despair. In the manga...after many years, Misono starts to regret what she has done and how badly she treated Shiina. This reaches its peak in Volume 11, where after the death of Shiina's father Shunji and with some help of Shiina's friend Akira, mother and daughter are reunited and patch things up. But few after her redemption, Misono ends up shot to death in front of Shiina.
  • Any single villain in Fist of the North Star that feels ANY amount of sorrow for their heartless deeds after Kenshiro beats some sense into them WILL die. The most certain of them would be Raoh, Kaioh and Raiga and Fuuga, though it takes a few episodes for this to kick into effect for the latter two.
    • Raiga and Fuuga are not really villains at the first place; they were forced to guard the gate of Cassandra because their younger brother, Mitsu, was being held hostage by the true villain, Uighur.
  • In Zone of the Enders: Dolores, I, the main bad guy had plan to literally sweep out the whole earth. After getting his ass kicked by the main characters, he realized error in his way, and then sacrifice himself to save the earth.
  • Done tragically in Deep Love: The Story of Ayu, although the character in question isn't exactly evil. Rather, she's a bit immoral and misguided in her life. After meeting a kind old lady, Ayu learns to be a better person, and what it means to sacrifice for another. Through her efforts, another character is able to be healed of his previously fatal ailment. For all her new found selflessness, she contracts AIDS and dies. Alone. Wishing she could live. Holy crap...
  • Though most redeemed villains get to live and continue on as protagonists in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, at least one character, the first Reinforce, got smacked with this via Heroic Sacrifice shortly after her Omnicidal Maniac side was dealt with. She got better. Kinda.
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Cloney recovers his soul and emotions during the final battle just in time to take a fatal blow for the original.
  • In Naruto, Zabuza fits this. Chiyo also consider her Heroic Sacrifice as a form of redemption, as it was for Gaara, who she sealed the One-Tails into, which is why he was killed by Akatsuki.
    • Also Pain in chapter 449. Intersects with Karmic Death since it was the evil act he committed that causes it.
    • Filler character "Menma" also matched this. A career bandit, he repented during a raid and saved a girl from his former comrades. Ultimately, his entire run on the show was the time-gap between Redemption and Death for him.
  • In the Virtual World arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Noah bites it after he is about to escape the Virtual World, leaving the characters inside to die, but instead decides to return and rescue them, at the cost of his own life.
    • After his darker persona takes over his body, Marik realizes that a lot of the hardship he went through was his own fault and becomes horrified at what he's done, so he invokes this by trying to urge Yami Yugi to defeat him in any way possible even though it will mean his death as well. Subverted as Yami Yugi manages to still save Marik anyway.
  • Gin of One Piece, formerly a ruthless killer in the service of Don Krieg, decides to spare Sanji and ask Krieg to leave the Baratie. Krieg responds by ordering Gin to throw away his gas mask and attacking with poison gas. When Luffy throws him and Sanji gas masks, forgetting to get one for himself, Gin throws him his, and is seemingly fatally poisoned as a result. He isn't shown dying, though, although he is speculated to only have hours to live.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, at the end, Yukio Oikawa apologizes to the Digidestined for creating Arukenimon and Mummymon and ripping a hole between the real world. Then he dies/turns himself into butterflies to save the Digital World.
    • But averted when Ken finds out everything he's been doing as the Digimon Emperor is completely wrong and ends up...getting amnesia?
    • Averted in Tamers by Beelzemon, who almost died from an attack from the D-Reaper but was rescued by Grani and recovered while spending time with his Tamers.
  • Subverted somewhat in Bleach 354 when Ulquiorra finally learns what the heart is as he is literally disintegrating.
    • Played straight a chapter earlier, where he saves Orihime and Ishida from Zombie!Ichigo, but uses up the last of his energy doing so and is thus unable to regenerate. He dies in this chapter, but gets an internal monologue in the one above, which is how he both subverts and plays this trope straight.
    • Lampshaded and mixed with Dying as Yourself in 387 where Tousen finally see's that his path was wrong and that he has those who care for him the same way he cared for his friend only to explode into a mass of blood seconds later.
  • Mostly averted in Fairy Tail, except for Jellal, who supposedly gives his life to keep Erza from giving up hers to save her friends, and she mourns for him. Later, when it turns out he didn't die (how this is possible isn't even questioned). He tries to pull this a second time and is told he has no right to end his life. Still, at least he tried.
    • Hades, the Big Bad of the Sirius Island Arc, gets in on this act as well. Though he was originally killed brutally by Zeref and had his soul absorbed by Franmalth, after said demon's defeat freed his soul, he gives Lucy and Natsu a message. "It's not over yet. Tartaros's real goal is not Face. Tell Makarov...that it's time to let out the light."
  • 20th Century Boys has a number of examples, but some of the most notable are Yamane, Masao and Sadakiyo. A major theme in the final arc of the series is that of the people who help put Friend in power and, by extension, put the world in the sorry state its in, realising the error of their ways and seeking redemption. This leads to a number of deaths and Heroic Sacrifices on their part, leading to this trope.
    • Additionally, this almost happens to Kiriko when she testes out the vaccine to the blood virus on herself,
  • In Pretear, Sasame defects from the Leafe Knights to be by Takako's side because he fell in love with her—even though he knew she didn't love him in return. On her side, he attempts to kill his former teammates and turns Mawata into the Puppet of Darkness by breaking her heart, but when Takako has a Villainous Breakdown and is nearly attacked by the dark tree she summoned, Sasame throws himself in front of an attack meant for her. The dark energy possessing the two disintegrates, and (after admitting "[[{{"ampshading}} Not even my death will redeem me", he dies in the redeemed Takako's arms with a smile. His soul is even seen flying away into a bright white nothingness by his former teammates.]] However, this is one example where the redeemed DOES come back to life— Himeno revives him (and others) through her powers during the final battle with the Great Tree.
  • Metal Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie. He tries to destroy the world, but gets stopped and beaten by Sonic. He then rescues the President and Old Man Owl from a burning aircraft. Immediately afterwards, he collapses and falls into a Lava Pit, and and brushes away Sonic's attempt to save him
  • Shion at the very end of Meakashi-hen in Higurashino Naku Koro Ni, as she finally becomes sane and apologizes to everyone she's killed as she falls to her death, promising she won't do it again the next time.
  • This is what happens to Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin: Seisohen OVA. That this represents the ideological antithesis of the manga's conclusion is the specific reason why creator Nobuhiro Watsuki disowned it.
    • Subversion with one of the filler villains for the anime, Tomoe. He acted as a vigilant killing politicians that were supposedly corrupt, but wasn't aware that the politician sending him and supplying him with men was just using him to get rid off his political rivals and planned to kill him and his men they were done. After getting his kicked by Kenshin and learning the truth, Tomoe tries to kill himself, but his former teacher stops and tells him the suicide is just running away.
  • In Burst Angel (Bakuretsu Tenshi), at the end Jo's born enemy, Maria, dies so that Jo and Meg can escape the ship. Maria does this after realizing she likes Jo and is not able to fight.
  • In Toward the Terra, Keith Anyan ultimately redeems himself by turning against Grand Mother and freeing humanity from the SD System. He's rewarded for his efforts with a sword through the gut.
  • This happens to Ray Lundgren of GUN×SWORD just after he accepts an alternative form of revenge in place of the one he wanted.
  • In Tenshi Ni Narumon this may apply to Mikael after Noelle eventually turns into an angel and saves Yuusuke, which in turn allows him to save her family. After that he, Noelle and Silky start to merge into one angel being (meaning they start dying) so he indeed does something redeemable after becoming the series' Big Bad.
  • In Yoiroiden Samurai Troopers AKA The Ronin Warriors this is the fate of Dark Warlord Shuten Doji (Anubis) after his Heel-Face Turn when he saves who is the last of the Ancients clan Lady Kayura.
  • Subverted in Inazuma Eleven with Seijirou Kira. After he comes to realize what he's been doing has been a terrible mistake, minutes later the Aliea Academy building starts to collapse. As everyone else flees, he decides to let the building crush him to death as his way of atoning for his crimes and kneels in the middle of the collapsing building. But in the end, Hiroto and Endou turn back and talk him out of it, and he (and everyone else) escapes unscathed.
    • Played straight with Kageyama Reiji though. After confessing to all his crimes and willingly leaving with the police he gets killed by Garshield Bayhan who made his death seem like an accident.
  • Viro in Elemental Gelade, who fails spectacularly in her job as a spy/assassin.
  • A rather sad one in Ginga Densetsu Weed. Teru's father, an abusive father, was given the choice to either save his son from Hougen's hired assassins (Thunder and Lector) or to run away. After choosing whether or not to kill Kyoshiro, who attacked him and cut off his ear earlier, he chose to rescue his son. But then he ends up getting killed while fighting. His good-bye to his son was heart-wrenching.
    • Also Jerome in the anime. After being exiled by Weed for killing Thunder and Lector in cold blood, he helps Weed stay afloat during a flood. But then, to save him and to assure the safety of Ohu, he lets Weed be saved by the pack while he drowns.
  • Another sad one in Aquarion Evol. Just after completing his Heel-Face Turn and saving his new friends from defeat, Jin is killed by Mykage.
  • Downplayed in Holyland: Shougo in chapter 166 saves Yuu and beats down Ryuu, then gets arrested.

    Comic Books 
  • In the "Born Again" arc in Daredevil, the corrupt cop, after a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, still tries to confess to framing Matt Murdock/Daredevil, and is murdered by one of the Kingpin's minions.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Ulic Qel-Droma had an arc solely dedicated to his redemption. In the end he was able to make peace with himself and and the people he hurt before getting shot. This was still enough to reestablish his connection to the force and let him become one with it when he died.
  • Marvel's Wonder Man is one of the luckiest examples on record; he was originally a one-shot villain who decided he couldn't go through with taking out The Avengers, and whose own powers killed him as he came to their rescue. Twelve years later, he was resurrected, and since then he's been a prominent member of various Avengers teams.
  • During Marvel's Siege story arc, Loki realizes that he's partly responsible for the return of the Void, as well as the destruction of Asgard. He attempts to help the heroes defeat the Void and is killed in the process.
    • Subverts the algorithm of deadness; he comes back, because it's Marvel, and gods can come back a thousand time.
  • An odd example from The Amazing Spider-Man: Kaine, a flawed clone of Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), was a serial killer. However, during Grim Hunt, he disguises himself as Peter Parker, steals Spider-Man's costume, and walks into a trap set by the Kraven family for Spider-Man in order to screw up Kraven the Hunter's resurrection. It doesn't work quite as planned, as Kraven is resurrected normally, but his death does infuriate Peter to the extent that he stops holding back against them. Subverted in that two comics later, Kaine is resurrected as a spider-monster on the last page.
  • In the Hulk's very first appearance, he was captured by Yuri Topolov, the Gargoyle, a Soviet scientist who had been mutated into a big-headed dwarf. However, when the Gargoyle found that the Hulk had reverted to Bruce Banner, he lamented the loss of his own normalcy. Banner decided to use his own genius to cure Topolov, who responded by ensuring Banner's safe return to America while destroying his own base, taking himself and his Soviet handlers out in the process. Unfortunately, his son Kondrati took the wrong lesson from Yuri's sacrifice, deciding to blame the Hulk and the State for his father's death.
  • Fall of The Hulks, Samson sacrifices himself to help drain the gamma energy from the hulked-out heroes before it kills them.
  • In Kingdom Come, After breaking free of the mind control, Captain Marvel is offered the choice between stopping Superman and letting the nuke to kill all the metahumans, or leaving him and letting the metahuman war continue. Captain Marvel takes the third option, destroying the nuke and sacrificing himself in place of Superman.
  • Lampshaded in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, where Rodimus thinks that sacrificing oneself is a cheap way to gain redemption, particularly since he was the one who put Ax-Crazy Overlord onto their ship in the first place. He believes that redemption has to be earned by making amends past mistakes.

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animation 
  • Titan A.E. has a classic example. In this case, the improbability of Corso's sudden betrayal and total personality change, sudden redemption, and even suddener death really draws attention to this trope. It's even lampshaded. The hero hesitates to leave Corso to die, but Corso says, "Just go, it's easier this way."
  • In The Secret of NIMH, also directed by Don Bluth, Jenner's henchman Sullivan (only named in the credits) refuses to do the deed in Jenner's evil plan and is slashed to death by him, but before he dies, he throws his knife into Jenner's back, killing him, too.
  • Subverted in the dueling animated films, Despicable Me and Megamind, where the main plot is of an supposedly irredeemable villain finding himself turning a new leaf completely and gaining a new, happy and fulfilling life as a result.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven has an unusual variation of this, which also overlaps with Redemption Earns Life, of all the tropes to overlap with. The protagonist, Charlie, is introduced to be, to be blunt, a bit of a selfish, greedy, unsympathetic dick. Then he's murdered by the Big Bad, Carface, and goes to heaven, but he gets hold of his "life-clock" and tricks his way out of heaven, returning to life. He ends up meeting Anne-Marie, a young girl who Speaks Fluent Animal, and at first he just manipulates her to get money out of her so he's still being a selfish, greedy Jerkass, but over time he grows to genuinely care about her well-being. Eventually, he dies again to save her life, and this time he goes to Hell, but he is snatched up and told that because he sacrificed himself to save someone else, he gets to go to heaven after all. So, in the end, he's a morally ambiguous character who loses his mortal life through an undeniable act of heroism and selflessness, and in doing so, earns his redemption and a good afterlife.
  • In 9, 1 spends pretty much the whole movie being a real Jerkass, all but admitted he sent one of his own group out to die because he was old (despite 1 himself being even older), and didn't appear to give a crap about most of the others. Later, when he finally sees the error of his ways and shows remorse for what he's done, he dies in 9's place, at the hands of the Fabricator.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Boromir's famous death scene in The Fellowship of the Ring happened right after he attacked Frodo, tried to take the ring from him, and cursed him with "all the halflings". What was he doing during his death scene? Defending two of these "Halflings" with his life.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, James Norrington's reversion to the honorable man he was in the first movie, compared to his more amoral behavior in the second, leads to his death at the hands of Bootstrap Bill while ensuring Elizabeth's escape.
  • Darth Vader could well be considered the Trope Codifier. Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: The Emperor is electrocuting Luke with force lightning. Choosing his son over all power, Darth Vader lifts the Emperor away from Luke, hurls him down the Death Star reactor shaft, and as he does so is himself shocked touching the unintentionally self-inflicting Emperor, shorting out his life support system. After one last talk with his son, he dies peacefully. On the bright note Anakin became one with the force, along side Yoda, and Obi-wan.
  • Horribly apparent in the run-of-the-mill Harrison Ford action/suspense movie Firewall. Within a certain character's first few lines, it becomes obvious what his eventual fate will be.
  • Sort-of in Scarface (1983): Tony Montana is shown to be not-so-bad when he refuses to make a hit that will involve children in the collateral and pays for it when Sosa orders him killed. But he also kills his best friend and sister's future husband.
  • Fox in Wanted gets hit with this one, although it's a little closer to Redemption Is Death.
  • Grandmother Ruth in Dantes Peak, who has been hostile to Rachel since before the movie swears, "this mountain would never hurt us" just before the lava destroys her house. When the boat they escape across the lake in begins sinking because the lake has turned to acid, she jumps out and pulls the boat safely to shore at the cost of acid burns from her mid-chest down. Naturally, this is too much for an old lady; she has just long enough to reconcile with Rachel before she dies of the burns.
  • Used in Slumdog Millionaire with Jamal's brother, Salim. After living a life of crime to survive, including killing a man while he was in his teens and betraying his own brother, he then rescues his brother's love, Latika, from a crime lord and sends her after him—then, after shooting the crime lord, willingly allows himself to be shot to death while laying in a bathtub full of money.
  • Nathan/Repo Man in Repo! The Genetic Opera. His scene with Shilo as he lays dying also pulls double duty as the movie's biggest Tear Jerker and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Cade in Sky Blue decides to help Shua and Jay at the very very very end of the movie, after Jay is shot by Locke. He dies.
  • In The International two villains redeem themselves before dying. The first is an assassin employed by the evil Bank. Clive Owen's character pursues him and is about to make an arrest when the bank's other assassins turn on them both now that their assassin's identity has been compromised. He saves Owen's life and allows him to escape, fighting off the other assassins before being fatally wounded. The other character is an old guy employed by the bank who helps Owen later on bring down the bank but it costs him his life.
  • When Frank Hummel in The Rock does the noble thing and spares thousands of lives by cancelling the detonation of a chemical weapon, he is killed by his subordinates. Hummel was never planning on killing anyone with them (or anyone at all really), but his men didn't know that, and they certainly were.
  • In The Corruptor, Chow Yun Fat plays a corrupt cop who redeems himself in the end by taking a bullet to save a good cop. He gets a heroic cop send off at his public funeral. No one ever learns he was corrupt.
  • In Insomnia, Al Pacino's character is a cop who crossed the Moral Event Horizon but redeems himself in the end saving another cop from the Big Bad but dies in the process. He wins over her respect at least.
  • After spending the entire movie being a complete twat- going as far as pulling the trigger on a (thankfully unloaded) rifle at Shaun- David in Shaun of the Dead gets this via one of the most horrific live dismemberments in cinema moments before he is about to apologize for his twat-iness.
  • Man on Fire's main character (in the 1987 version starring Scott Glen) follows a path of redemption that culminates in this trope when he trades his life for the life of a child.
  • In Daybreakers, Frankie Dalton spends most of the film hunting the remaining humans as part of the U.S. Army to feed the world's vampire population. He finally has a change of heart after witnessing the execution of the daughter of the Big Bad who refused to drink human blood. After receiving the cure for vampirism, Frankie saves his brother Edward and his Love Interest Audrey from a group of bloodthirsty vampire soldiers by throwing himself at them and allowing himself to be ripped apart.
  • Inverted in Brooklyn's Finest. Richard Gere's character redeems himself at the end and lives. The other two main characters die.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Rinzler, who is the brainwashed Tron switches sides and kamikazes CLU, destroying both of their light-jets. However, when he tries to pull out a second light-jet, CLU attacks him and steals it, leaving him to fall to his presumed death in the Sea of Simulation. Then the lights on his costume come back on, and they've changed back from red to blue.
    • Arguably Flynn succumbs to this trope as well, though his crimes were more more of carelessness and hubris than of serving evil.
  • In The Magnificent Seven, Lee, played by Robert Vaughn is a gunfighter who has lost his nerve and usually tries to hide from participating in any of the shootouts in order to avoid being killed. In the end though, Lee finally finds his courage in rescuing some townsfolk inside of a farmhouse from three banditos during the climactic final showdown between the Seven and the Banditos. He's killed immediately after he walks out of the farmhouse.
  • In Pumpkinhead, redemption is the cause of death. Ed Harley, a good man who is driven to a terrible act out of grief and anger at the death of his only son, sends the unstoppable demon Pumpkinhead after the city kids who accidentally killed him. His conscience soon gets the better of him and he sets out to stop the monster, but finds that it won't listen to him. Ed discovers that he and Pumpkinhead are linked, as he is the one who summoned it, and shoots himself in the head to save the few survivors.
  • Doctor Octavius gets this in Spider-Man 2 when he drags his out-of-control fusion experiment underwater, stopping it but killing himself in the process.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, not long after formerly Mad Scientist Dr. Catheter decides to dedicate his life to good, he gets killed by the Electric Gremlin.
  • Marcus Wright before the start of Terminator Salvation in the cop-killing for which he was sentenced to death. At first, he is perfectly willing to have his body transformed following his lethal injection for a second chance at life, but by the end he realizes that he really did deserve to die, so he decides he may as well go out with his final act being a good deed: he volunteers to donate his own heart to John Connor, who was mortally wounded during the climax. Wright's heart ultimately saves John's life.
  • This is what gave John Woo's The Killer its Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending, though it was the hero rather than the villain who went through his redemption, as the victim was the hitman protagonist.
  • The title character of Carlitos Way is a gangster who has been freed early on a technicality. He really, sincerely strives to now live an honest life. Unfortunately, just about every other character in the film is determined to see him fail, and, while he does achieve his dream of redemption, it costs him his life.
  • Pitch Black:
    • This almost happened to Riddick. In the original script, Riddick was supposed to die instead of Fry. Executive Meddling put a stop to that, since The Chronicles of Carolyn Fry would not have made for a decent sequel.
    • Keep in mind, it was redemption for Carolyn, since she almost sacrificed her crew to save herself at the start of the film.
  • Thor: The Dark World: Loki dies heroically defending his brother Thor. Apparently. Subverted by the film's The End... Or Is It? ending, in which it's revealed that he faked his own death as part of a plan to become king of Asgard by usurping and impersonating Odin. And it worked!
  • Cube Zero. After Dodd has aided the Cube puppeteers for a long time and ignored all the people he's been ordered to kill, he helps Wynn escape from the Cube by sabotaging the Cube's power supply, knowing that this would mean certain death. Dodd is then murdered by Jax for his troubles.
  • In the Veronica Mars movie, Gia Goodman and Deputy Sacks are killed almost instantly after they break their silence over their involvement in separate crimes.
  • In Dark Blue, Detective Bobby Keough comes clear about his crimes an those of his partner Perry to Internal Affairs agent Beth and Holland, and they arrange for him to expose his department's corruption in a public inquiry. Bobby is later shot to death in a botched arrest of the criminals Orchard and Sidwell. Perry witnesses Bobby's murder and is apologetic, but Beth points out that Perry poisoned Bobby's mind to begin with and that it should have been Perry lying on the ground with a bullet in his gut instead.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Elsa Schneider qualifies to an extent. She helped Indiana dispatch the Big Bad, Walter Donovan, by purposely choosing one of the false grails for him to drink. This might have atoned for previously helping the Nazis; however, it’s arguable that she was doing it to get the real grail for herself. Ultimately, her redemption does not spare her from a Karmic Death. She crosses the seal, causing the temple to collapse in an earthquake. Indy catches her before she falls in a chasm and she’s faced with a Take My Hand choice: Let Indy pull her to safety or risk reaching for the grail. She can’t resist reaching for the grail and she falls to her death before she can.
  • In X-Men, just as Senator Kelly renounces his bigoted ways, the effects of Magneto's device overwhelm his body and kill him.

    Literature 
  • House of the Scorpion: Tam Lin invokes this trope on himself as a form of penance for accidentally killing twenty school children in a bomb plot gone awry.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Severus Snape. He spent his entire life trying to make up for betraying Lily Potter, the love of his life, to Voldemort. He ends up giving Harry Potter just the information the boy needs to finally take down Voldemort. And then dies.
    • Let's not forget Wormtail, as his death was case of LITERAL Redemption Equals Death (actually, Doubt Equals Death) and Hoist by His Own Petard AT THE SAME TIME. When he refrains from killing Harry, his silver hand promptly chokes him to death.
    • There's also a subversion later on in the same book. Near the climax, Percy finally comes back to the good side, only for his brother to promptly die..
    • Also subverted with Voldemort. It's stated that if he took back all his horcruxes, by feeling real remorse, then its fairly certain he would have died in the process. And it probably wouldn't have been very lovely.
    • This also happens to Regulus Black.
    • And Grindelwald, who lies to Voldemort about the Elder Wand.
    • To some degree, this happens with Rufus Scrimgeour, even if he wasn't one of the bad guys. All throughout Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, he's trying to get Harry to be a Ministry poster boy, even though Harry disagrees adamantly. When Scrimgeour goes down in a fight against the Death Eaters, defending the Ministry, and refuses to betray Harry to Voldemort, right to his face, the trio grows to respect his bravery more.
    • Another subversion is the Malfoy family. They were among Voldemort's earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, but grew disillusioned primarily because of the poor treatment they received at Voldemort's hands. By the end Lucius and Narcissa remained in the final battle only to search for their son, and Narcissa in fact betrayed Voldemort by protecting Harry in order to find Draco. In the end, there is no mention of any of them being punished for their actions. In fact, it's said they "weaseled their way out trouble."
  • Nevva Winter (Gee, sound familiar?) from the Pendragon series was a Traveler gone wrong; she turns into an emotionless Manipulative Bitch. However, thanks to her mother, Bobby, and his friend, she turns into a good guy— just to be killed by the person she'd turned "evil" (depends on your view of her) for, Saint Dane.
  • In Being A Green Mother in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, Satan has this happen when he falls in love with Gaea and sings her a hymn to God at their wedding. He literally goes up in flames as a result.
  • Everworld's Christopher Hitchcock has no Genre Blindness, so he had an internal monologue to this effect in book 11. "I was so dead. By all the Unwritten Rules of Movies and Television, I was dead: The reformed bad boy who does the heroic thing at last? I could not be more dead."
  • Dates back to Victorian times: If a woman had sex outside of marriage or in adultery, the only accepted redemption for her was death. The very rare plays that dared to challenge this sexual Double Standard, such as W. S. Gilbert's Charity, were declared immoral.
    • Averted in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, where the married Hester Prynne sleeps with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whose sin is considered worse than hers because of his position, so he dies instead, and she redeems herself through general good works.
      • Also, Hester couldn't hide her adultery because of an ill-timed pregnancy. She faced up to her punishment, and started to redeem herself. Dimmesdale continued to live in the community's good graces while Hester was shunned, and only fessed up when he couldn't take the guilt anymore. It's possible that his part of the adultery was worse, but hiding it didn't get him any redemption points either.
      • And once more—the strange thing about The Scarlet Letter is that the whole novel up to the point of Dimmesdale's death reads as a subversion of this trope. But this is the Victorian era, so of course, someone must die for the adultery.
    • Victorians also averted this trope by shipping "fallen women" overseas. Charles Dickens does this in David Copperfield (Emily and Martha head off to Australia, along with several other characters). Though he played it straight with Nancy in Oliver Twist...
      • To an extent, Sidney Carton's death in The Tale of Two Cities counts. Although not a sinful man, Sidney spent much of the story as a useless, inactive character with low self-esteem. Then, he takes steps to rescue Lucy and Charles, eventually dying.
  • Boromir of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Though never a villain, he did screw up enormously, briefly became The Atoner, and then got mercilessly slaughtered.
    • Also, Théoden nearly allowed Rohan to fall by trusting Gríma, but rose and proved critical in victories at Helm's Deep and the Pelennor Fields, where he died a hero's death. "I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed."
  • In Foucaults Pendulum, Diotallevi rejects the Plan and dies of cancer shortly thereafter. Jacopo Belbo refuses to tell the horde of Diabolicals where the Map is, or even reveal that the whole story of the Map is a lie... and is then hanged. On a pendulum.
  • The Thursday Next series does this twice: first, Cindy Stoker in Something Rotten literally takes Thursday's place crossing the Styx, saying that Thursday is a better person than she will ever be, and more deserving of a second chance. In First Among Sequels Evil Thursday uses her final moments to help Thursday to safety, knowing that she herself cannot escape.
  • Subverted in Fred Saberhagen's Third Book of Swords. Yambu, the Silver Queen, who was the antagonist of the first book, joins forces with the heroes to stop the even worse villain Vilkata, the Dark King, who possesses the Mindsword. In the final battle, she draws Soulcutter, which neutralizes the power of the Mindsword, but which also appears to kill her. But it turns out she survives after all, although she is prematurely aged as a result; she then gives up her throne and spends the rest of the follow-up series on a pilgrimage with Prince Zoltan to find redemption the old-fashioned way.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 Last Chancer novel Annihilation Squad, at the very end, Kage is freed from a daemon's control, manages, with great effort, to remember what had happened while he was controlled, and realizes the value of sacrifice. He immediately drags the man they had come to assassinate over the cliff.
  • Prince Ellidyr, the resident Jerkass in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain spends most of The Black Cauldron putting down the main character for being lowly born and eventually betrays the party to satisfy his own lust for glory. At the end, he realizes the error of his ways and makes a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the titular Artifact of Doom before it can be used on the heroes.
  • In Kushiel's Dart, Isidore d'Aiglemort goes on a suicide mission to avoid being remembered as a traitor (and foil the plans of Chess Master, Melisande).
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, when taxed with the Word Bearers still in their midst, and they can't tell the Blood Angels where they are, the people of the planet voluntarily, even ecstatically, submit to death as punishment.
  • In Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier novel Treason, Dr. Selar dies in an explosion that saves other characters' lives—making up for the rest of the novel, in which she goes temporarily insane, contemplates murdering one of her patients, continues destroying her relationship with Burgoyne 172, kidnaps a former crewmate's newborn son, and various other things of like ilk.
  • In the Agatha Christie novel Cat Among the Pigeons one of the murderers redeems herself by taking a bullet to stop her best friend being killed and thus atoning for her own murder.
  • Another Agatha Christie example is Mrs Lorrimer from Cards On The Table, who, the night before being murdered, attempts to turn herself in for the murder of Mr Shaitana, both to protect another suspect and to atone for having gotten away with murdering her husband years earlier.
  • In Myst: The Book of Ti'ana, Veovis, who has been manipulated by A'gaeris into helping him destroy D'ni, refuses to let A'gaeris set himself up as a god. A'gaeris then backstabs him. As he is dying, Aitrus finds him. He repents of his evils and gives Aitrus the way to save his family, then dies.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, Phaidor, the Woman Scorned, attacks and kills Thurid, before explaining to John Carter that she has seen the error of her ways and there is only way she can atone. Then she jumps from the airship.
  • The fate of Commander Gaes in The Lost Fleet who had been opposed to Geary's methods of running the fleet and latter mutinied with Captain Falco. The carnage Falco led her through followed by Geary's rescue led her to have a change of heart and she latter warned him of an attempt on his life by Captain Kila. When it became clear Gaes was no longer cooperating, the next attempt on Geary's life included a successful one on hers.
  • In Annals of the Black Company, may or may not be averted by The Lady. Knowing what the outcome will be, she chooses to accept the loss of her powers rather than allow an even bigger evil than herself to be unleashed on the world. On the other hand, her powers had allowed her to maintain her youth and beauty indefinitely; it is strongly hinted that without them she will die eventually. So this could be seen as a very delayed form of Redemption Equals Death.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Plan of Attack, Russian chief of staff General Nikolai Stepashin had planned the nuclear sneak bombings on the US. He later gives away the position of General Gryzlov's alternate command centre, where they are both hiding in, to the Air Battle Force. He dies when the man finds out and kills him.
  • This is how Kronos is killed in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Luke remembers his promise to keep Annabeth safe, and realizes that he's come very, very close to killing her, so he fights against Kronos, takes Annabeth's knife from Percy, and kills himself with it, killing Kronos in the process.
    • Silena Beauregard was killed after taking her best friend's armor and leading the Ares cabin into battle, trying to make up for the fact that she was The Mole the entire time.
    • Ethan Nakamura is killed after realizing that Kronos only wants to destroy everything, not make things more equal for minor gods/goddesses like Ethan's mother.
  • In Farworld, Land keep, Rhaidnan betrays his friends Kyja and Marcus to the Zentan. One chapter later, after being berated by his family, he takes a flaming dagger to the chest to save Kyja- saying as he bursts into flames
    " tell Char I didn't disappoint. Made...children...proud"
  • In The Guardians, death is the only way to release Lilith from their Deal with the Devil. Unfortunately, it doesn't take.
  • The Wheel of Time: In near the end of The Great Hunt, one of the characters revealed to be a darkfriend decides to stay back to hold off the approaching horde of mooks to allow Rand and his friends to escape. This Heroic Sacrifice allows him to die with honor and return to the Light.
  • The character of A.J. Raffles, upper-middle-class gentleman-thief created by E.W. Hornung, volunteered with his sidekick Bunny for service in the Boer War after his exposure; Raffles is killed, Bunny is wounded. In the words of George Orwell, it was Raffles' only acceptable way out. "A duke who has served a prison sentence is still a duke, whereas a mere man about town, if once disgraced, ceases to be "about town" for evermore.... According to the public-school code there is only one means of rehabilitation: death in battle. Raffles dies fighting against the Boers (a practised reader would foresee this from the start), and in the eyes of both Bunny and his creator this cancels his crimes."
  • In the novel Death Star, the Imperial gunner for the battlestation feels horrible for destroying Alderaan. He can't get over the guilt of being directly responsible of the deaths of two billion people. So when Luke is racing for the exhaust port and he is ordered to destroy Yavin IV, he hesitates and orders his crew to stand by, unknowingly giving Luke just enough time to score a direct hit and destroy the battlestation before it could destroy Yavin IV.
  • The ancient Irish story of Lugh and the Sons of Tuireann. In it, the sons kill Lugh's father and in response, Lugh sends them on a massive and nigh impossible fetch quest. Naturally they succeed, but all three are mortally wounded during the last task. They have just enough time to return to Lugh and show them that they have atoned before they all die.
  • Sextus, son of the last Roman king Tarquinius Superbus had raped one Roman woman, Lucretia, who was well known for her beauty and goodness. Now at this time raped women were seen as damaged goods. And additionally, there was mistrust around: Would they believe her, or claim she was lying? The solution for her dilemma: She confessed being raped to her relatives and killed herself afterwards. So, nobody could claim that her example would set a bad precedent for women randomly accusing men of being rapists. Her male relatives went on and kicked the king out, starting The Roman Republic.
  • In one instance in a hadithnote , there was a woman who came to him, saying she had become pregnant from adultery, and that she wished to be purified. He told her to come back after she had the baby, which she did, again requesting purification. He told her to come back after she had weaned her baby. She did, even feeding her toddler a piece of bread to prove that the child had, in fact, been weaned. He then condemned her to be stoned to death, the ordinary punishment for adultery.
  • In Death series: Poor Mick Connolley from Betrayal in Death. He helped to distract Roarke long enough for a group of criminals to pull off a heist at a big auction. Roarke did figure it out beforehand, and got his old friend Connolley to explain everything. Mick didn't feel bad about what he did...until he found out from Roarke that the criminals tried to distract Roarke by having a hitman kill off two employees, and try to kill off Summerset. Mick doesn't have a problem with stealing, but he does have a problem with being a party to murder. He did attempt to make amends, and it costed him his life.
  • Ebenezer Saint in The Inventors and the City of Stolen Souls dies (for the second time, thanks to a robot body) taking over the megalomaniac computer that was the book's final villain and making a Heroic Sacrifice to take it with him, admittedly after a brief attempt to take over the computer and the world with it. In the previous book, he'd been working on a plan straight out of the James Bond villain playbook to obliterate the surface with nukes, then build his own "perfect world".
  • Averted and subverted in The Aftermath by Ben Bova. The book starts off with a mercenary leader destroying a colony full of defenseless civilians. He afterwards tries to commit suicide, is brought back as a cyborg, and spends most of the rest of the novel trying to atone by giving final rites to the victims of old space battles lost in space. He tries to get himself killed repeatedly but fails, and survives through the end of the book finally achieving redemption and a will to go on living
  • Denna of the Sword of Truth. In a surprisingly heartbreaking way to end a gratuitous S&M sequence.
  • In the Star Trek novel A Time to Heal, Erokene Yaelon is a military leader on planet Tezwa, and a supporter of power-mad prime minister Kinchawn - at least at first. After Kinchawn's Drunk with Power outrages lead to a brutal Klingon counterstrike that kills Yaelon's family (among many others), he loses faith in his leader. Eventually, he earns a degree of redemption for his earlier support by helping Commander Riker escape captivity, at the cost of his own life.
  • Zigzagged in The Painter Knight when a child sovereign declines to condemn the repentant traitor and orders him to return for sentencing after she's of age, knowing he's mortally ill and won't live that long.
  • Les Misérables combines this with To Be Lawful or Good and Take a Third Option. Inspector Javert, who has spent his life believing dogmatically that Law = Good and law-breakers are evil forever, tries again and again to arrest Valjean, who was a petty crook but redeemed himself into a paragon of selfless goodness. When Javert is caught undercover behind the barricade, Valjean volunteers to execute him... and promptly lets him go, telling him Valjean's home address so that Javert may arrest him afterwards. This proves Javert's entire mindset wrong, and throws him into a tailspin: he can arrest Valjean and uphold the law, or let him go and repay the life-debt, mutually exclusive actions that would put him at odds either with his vocation or with God. He avoids having to make the decision by throwing himself off a bridge.
  • The Power of Five: After betraying the other Gatekeepers to the Old Ones, Scott regrets his actions and sacrifices himself to open the portal at Antarctica after it was sealed by the Old Ones, allowing Pedro and Jaime to reach the other Gatekeepers and put a stop to the Old Ones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Orson's ex-wife Alma in Desperate Housewives. When she finally realizes that Orson will never love her, Orson's mother locks her up. She escapes through a window and climbs on the roof, but falls to her death while trying to warn Danielle that Orson's mother plans to kill Bree. Orson never learns about this.
  • Doctor Who
    • In the episode "Evolution of the Daleks", Dalek Sec fuses with the human building contractor Mr Diagoras, instilling him with a human sense of creativity and a rudimentary morality. The three other Daleks in the episode then turn upon him, and exterminate him when he shields the Doctor. This is also a Heroic Sacrifice because he jumped in front of the beam headed for the Doctor.
    • In "The Poison Sky", Luke Rattigan had allied himself with the Sontarans and later saw the error of his ways (after the Sontarans used the device he built to nearly destroy the Earth). The Doctor plans to transport himself to the Sontaran ship with a device that will destroy it, but at the last minute Luke takes his place and makes the sacrifice instead.
      • Rattigan didn't see the error of his ways so much as the Sontarans double-crossed him and revealed their promise to take him and his followers to a new world was a lie. He was fully aware that Earth was going to be destroyed and didn't care until he was personally betrayed, so the idea of "redemption" is debatable.
      • Still an arguable case, since his first reaction upon finding out he was betrayed was to lie on the ground weeping and then waving around a gun and make excuses for himself when the Doctor shows up. It's not until the Doctor tells him to "go do something clever" with his life that he seems inspired and decides to sacrifice himself instead of letting the Doctor die.
    • This was a favourite trope of Doctor Who in the old days. A guest character would do something terrible, then redeem themselves by sacrificing their life. Examples include Sara Kingdom (executed her brother under orders, then gives her life to save the galaxy from the Daleks' Master Plan), Fewsham (a Dirty Coward who aided the Ice Warriors in their plan, then when he realized what he had done arranged to alert Earth to the Ice Warrior fleet and how to stop them; he gets shot when the Ice Warriors get suspicious at his recapitulation of everything and then notice recording in progress), and Galloway in "Death to the Daleks" who blows himself up along with their spacecraft.
    • In "The End of Time": The Master. "YOU. DID. THIS. TO. ME. ONE. TWO. THREE. FOUR." Considering his track record, though, it's unlikely that either the death or the redemption will stick. If anything, his redemption in this case was heavily motivated by a desire for revenge.
      • Also in "The End of Time", The Tenth Doctor could be an example of this, having gone too far in "The Waters of Mars" and generally acting up until the return of the Master and Time Lords, after which he is forced to sacrifice himself to save an ordinary human, Wilf, bringing him (and his ego) back down to earth.
    • In "Journey's End", it's revealed that Dalek Caan manipulated events in order to bring about the destruction of his own race, after finally seeing the evil in what they were. He's last seen inside The Crucible as it exploded, making no effort to save himself.
  • The Secret Circle: Charles in the season finale, though he may still be alive — we see him in a catatonic state at the end of the episode, with his mother doing something to his body.
    • This is likely to be the same binding spell that Cassie's mother had placed on the demon host in the show previously. So he's still alive, just catatonic.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena's death is an example of this. After spending some six seasons trying to redeem herself through actions such as helping people and saving the world, the final episode "A Friend in Need" quite clearly shows that only death will do. This bit of writing is quite possibly the most universally despised plot piece in all the Xenaverse. Somewhat different from regular examples of this trope in that the great mistake is shown as a flashback, from before even her earliest appearance on Hercules.
    • It almost became the case earlier, in her previous appearances in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The only thing that allowed her to survive the episode she was originally supposed to die in was her popularity with fans, and the decision to give her her own spin-off show.
    • Deconstructed with one of Xena's Disposable Love Interests. After a lifetime of crime, Marcus protects an innocent young girl at the cost of his own life - only to end up punished for all his misdeeds by being sent to Tartarus. Later he reappears to Xena as a ghost and is temporarily given his mortality back again to help stop a serial killer. Though he is given an opportunity to cheat death for a second time, he choses to go ahead and die - but this time, Xena has bargained for a place for him in the Elysian Fields.
  • Walter White in Breaking Bad is a partial example. He dies in the Series Finale after apologizing and making amends with everyone he has hurt one way or another. He also finally admits the real reason he kept cooking meth: because he was good at it. On the other hand, he is more apologetic about the consequences of his actions, but is completely unapologetic about the actions themselves, and makes it quite clear he would do it all again in a heartbeat if given the chance. The ending also shows that to his final breath, his true love was, not his family, but his precious blue meth.
  • Arrow: Sebastian Blood realizes Slade has no interest in Starling City other than outright destroying it, so he decides to betray him by giving the Mirakuru cure to The Arrow and pays the ultimate price because of it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Spike saves the whole world... and dies (also Heroic Sacrifice).
    • Also Anya, and Jenny Calendar (who didn't have all that much to redeem anyway).
    • Played with in Andrew's case: when it looks like Buffy will have to sacrifice him to stop the First Evil's current plan, he starts babbling about it being his 'redemption at last'. She tells him to stop acting like he's living in a story, and asks him if him dying will make up for him killing Jonathan. He admits that it won't and properly owns up to his actions for the first time - which is just what Buffy needed to happen (they didn't need his blood for the ritual, but tears of remorse). At the end of the episode, he concludes that while he's probably going to die in the upcoming fight, and that's probably what he deserves, it won't change anything. When he makes it to the end of the series alive, he's more surprised than anyone else.
    • Jonathan is a much straighter example. Pretty much everything he has done in the series, all of his acts of near-villainy, have been in response to being bullied and picked on in high school. Then in Season 7 he returns to Sunnydale with a genuine desire to prevent the town and its inhabitants from being destroyed in the Apocalypse and makes a stirring speech about how he's worked through the pain and now only has fond memories of high school and a desire to do good left...and then Andrew stabs him to death at the behest of the First Evil.
      Andrew: You do realize that none of the people who picked on you in high school are worried about you now, right? Not one of them is sitting there thinking, "Oh yeah, Jonathan, I wonder what he's up to these days?" They do not. Care. About you!
      Jonathan: I know. But I care about them.
    • Buffy Season 8 has Giles and Faith working together to be the poisonous friends for the entire Slayer Organization, redeeming or killing evil Slayers. Giles dies near the end of Season 8.
    • Ethan in Season 8. His final act in life is helping Buffy.
    • Angel. Just as he casts off the Angelus persona, Buffy runs him through with a sword and he gets pulled into Hell by Acathla. He gets better.
  • Angel:
    • Cordelia comes back, redeems herself after the mess Jasmine left, then dies. Well, okay, order might be a little off.
    • In an aversion of the standard permanent death, Spike from Buffy returns in this series after a large amount of effort.
      • Spike's return is in fact used to reveal a subversion of this trope. Angel admits to Spike that, no matter what good they do, no matter how hard they try, their sins are too heavy; when they finally die, they will go to hell anyway. There is no final redemption for them.
      • Of course, whether that's gospel: Wesley sees it as evidence that Angel has given up hope and tries to persuade him otherwise. Either way, the show's Bolivian Army Ending means they may have found out pretty soon...
    • Similar to the Spike example, Faith tries to pull a Redemption Equals Death when she returns to the show, but Angel refuses to let her since it would be too easy.
    Angel: Our time is never up, Faith. We pay for everything.
    Faith: It hurts.
    Angel: I know. I know.
    • Darla stakes herself in order to allow Connor, the "only good thing" she and Angel ever did together, to be born.
    • Doyle sacrifices himself to stop the Scourge's weapon and atone for his My Greatest Failure tragedy.
  • Dollhouse: Bennett reconciles with her past (sort of) and agrees to repair Caroline's wedge, makes out with Topher, and then gets shot in the head by Whiskey, who has been reprogrammed by Rossum.
    • Also, Topher himself. He invented the tech that nearly brought about the end of civilization, and in the series finale, having arguably already redeemed himself by inventing a way to reverse it, he dies to set off the signal that will restore everybody who's been wiped or imprinted to their original personalities.
  • 24:
    • Unlikable Obstructive Bureaucrat Ryan Chappelle gets some sympathetic character development and starts being useful right before he gets horrifically killed.
    • Flipped around with George Mason, who, aware of his impending death, decides to try to make up with the people who dislike him, and dies in a Heroic Sacrifice while at the same time convincing Jack he has reason to live on. While he is going to die anyway, his means of redeeming himself costs him his life.
    • And then we have another Jerk Ass Obstructive Bureaucrat who sacrifices himself: Lynn McGill. His death would have been more impressive if it wasn't his fault things were this bad in the first place though.
    • Subverted in Season 8, when Terin Faroush is shot after helping Kayla escape from the terrorists. His death is actually faked, and Kayla gets tricked into bringing an EMP bomb to CTU.
    • And it's averted in the case of Jack. After his Heel-Face Turn, he sacrifices himself by letting the antagonists catch him so Chloe can expose the real masterminds of the season, but is saved just seconds before he's executed.
  • LOST is famous for this. Many characters "get over" whatever big issue they have, then get killed. Though this may just be a case of wanting to complete the character's story before killing them, some people see this as important.
    • Sayid, a man who committed some borderline unforgiveable actions in life, eventually even joining the "dark side" in Season 6 of Lost, redeems himself by sacrificing his life inside a submarine, running away with a ticking bomb and in turn saving four of his friends lives.
    • Likewise, Jack redeems himself in Season 6 of Lost, by sacrificing himself to save his friends and the island, making up for his bad decisions of the past.
    • Notably subverted with Eko, whose big redemption is...rejecting the idea that he needs to be redeemed and admitting that he's not sorry for anything he did. In fact, he's proud of his (many, many) sins, or at least his first one, killing a man in cold blood, because in doing so he saved his brother from going down the same path he did.
    • Anna-Lucia: Interesting in that her redemption happens just prior to her death in screen-time, but not in chronological time. We are shown a flash-back where she apologizes to her mother for killing a man, then we return to the present where she is killed. Part of her redemption also takes place in the present, in that she finds she can't bring herself to kill Henry Gale anymore.
    • Michael betrayed his friends to save his son Walt, but ends up sacrificing his life to save Sun, Jin, and several others from a bomb.
  • Supernatural lost one of its most awesome antagonists Agent Henriksen just after deciding that he and the Winchesters should be total BFFs. Poor bastard should have known better. Although he didn't have anything to redeem himself for - the evidence that the Winchesters were psycho-killers was convincing and he didn't go to any dark depths in his pursuit of them.
    • This could also apply to their father, John, in the Season Two premiere. After being a bit of a bastard for the whole first season, completely unavailable emotionally throughout his boys' lives, and realising what a crappy Dad he's been (The Big Bad even says "If only your boys knew how much their Daddy loved them."), he makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save Dean's life. The show's deconstruction of the trope means that his apparent redemption leaves his boys with even more issues with him than they had started out with, and him telling Dean the (big, sucky, useless) secret about his brother nearly drove Dean to suicide. So, like with everything on this show, he actually only got worse.
    • The Trickster/Gabriel could definitely fall under this. He killed Dean repeatedly, didn't tell them that they were the vessels of Michael and Lucifer until he was trapped by holy fire and had no other option, but came through in the end by attempting to kill Lucifer, even though he still loved his brother. It didn't work and he was killed, but left a porn DVD (yes, really) telling the Winchesters how to put Lucifer back in his cage.
    • In the Season 9 finale, Gadreel, who had been serving as Metatron's Dragon, is finally made to see the error of his ways, when confronted with undeniable proof that his master is a megalomaniacal narcissist that doesn't give a damn about the angels he's leading, lying to and willing to slaughter them all as part of his plan to make himself the new God. Gadreel helps sneak Castiel into Heaven in order to destroy the tablet giving Metatron all his power, only for them to be caught and imprisoned. He ultimately performs a Heroic Sacrifice, performing a suicide attack to free Castiel and proving to Cas's former followers that he's telling the truth about Metatron, thus setting the stage for the latter's downfall. Cas even says he truly redeemed himself.
  • In The Sopranos, after spending a season and a half being a sleazy, obnoxious, almost completely unlikeable asshole, Ralph Cifaretto finally begins to show signs of wanting to redeem himself as a human being after one of his sons is seriously injured. He is then promptly killed in the very same episode, as Tony accuses him of killing the racehorse they purchased for the insurance money and the two get into a fight resulting in Ralph's death. It is never made explicitly clear whether Ralph actually committed the crime or not.
  • Super Sentai
    • Rio and Mele in Juken Sentai Gekiranger, after finally turning to the side of good, meet their deaths in a battle against the season's Big Bad. Mele is crunched between his teeth with a horrifying sound, which provides Rio with enough Heroic Resolve to make a Heroic Sacrifice for her. They get to have one last scene as a Spirit Advisors, though.
    • How can you not forget their predecessors Burai and Mikoto, while both joined earlier, both died? Ironically, both of them come from dinosaur-themed Sentai teams. One not so epically while the other did the same Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the Critical Existence Failure from blowing up and killing everybody.
      • It tends to vary in Sentai. Some like Liveman and Jetman have any sympathetic bad guys still tragically killed regardless while others like Changeman have quite a few baddies defecting to Changeman's side and surviving the series.
      • It is more on the fact that every "evil ranger" whom redeemed themselves had to die, while they come back for the Crossover, most remained Killed Off for Real. The only time an Evil Ranger didn't died permanently was Disappeared Dad Isamu since apparently killing off the father in a show about the bonds of family would have been too much.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the 2nd pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". She spends the whole episode campaigning for Gary Mitchell, despite his god complex, and later turns out to have his powers as well. At the end, she turns on Mitchell to save Captain Kirk's life and is mortally wounded by Mitchell's retaliation.
    • "Bread and Circuses". In the Back Story Captain Merick saved his life by calling his ship's crew down to the surface so they could be captured by the "Romans" and sentenced to death in the arena. During the episode he steals one of the Enterprise communicators from the "Romans". At the end he uses the communicator to call the Enterprise and allows the landing party to be rescued, but he's stabbed by one of the "Romans" and dies.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Damar leads the Cardassians in a war against the Federation alongside the Dominion and, perhaps more pertinently, murders Tora Ziyal. Eventually though, he realises the Cardassians' warlike ways are leading them to ruin so allies himself with the Federation and resolves to build a new, better Cardassia only to die in the assault on Dominion Headquarters. Unfortunately, his wife and son were also forced to pay the price with him, the Dominion finds and executes them after he begins his rebellion. The realization that his past actions make him Not So Different from the people who just murdered his family is instrumental in his character development.
    • Also Kai Winn. After seven seasons of being a thorn in Sisko's side and siding with Dukat to free the Pah-Wraiths from the Fire Caves, she finally sees the light in the last minutes of the last episode and sides with Sisko. A few seconds later, she is immolated by the Pah-Wraiths.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager Lon Suder, a convicted murderer who was driven to insane violence by his out-of-control temper, is the only crew member left onboard the ship when aliens take over. In a stunning display of badassery, he storms Engineering and kills all 11 intruders before he sabatoges the ship, allowing it to be retaken. However, he is shot in the back during his attack, and dies immediately after completing the sabotage.
  • Agent Michelle Lee in the NCIS Episode "Dagger" was revealed as a mole, working for a criminal who kidnapped her daughter. In the process of helping to catch him, she is held and used as a human shield. She nods to Gibbs to signify that he should shoot through her, which he does.
    • Jenny Shepard also fits this trope. She dies in a shootout while trying to protect Gibbs from a woman she was supposed to have killed years before. She was apparently dying of something anyway. Fandom was just happy to see Paris flashbacks die with her.
  • Of all the characters in Heroes to be redeemed in death, psychic cop Matt Parkman's deadbeat dad Maury is weirdly given this type of death in Season 3.
    • Later on in volume 4, Tracy Strauss escapes from building 26 but is found by Noah. He promises to let her go if she helps him capture Rebel, who has been helping the other heroes escape the Hunter's team. She agrees but when she discovers that Rebel is Micah, she allows him to escape by freezing the entire room and everyone in it, including herself. She is then shot to pieces by the Hunter while Micah escapes. She's Not Quite Dead, and now seems to have got a new power out of it.
    • In that same episode, reformed villain Daphne Millbrook dies as the result of a gunshot wound she sustained while attempting to rescue the specials who had been rounded up by Homeland Security. Daphne might have survived, had Emile Danko not removed her from the medical facility.
    • In the volume 4 finale, Nathan Petrelli tries to atone for his spearheading of the Government's plan to capture all evolved humans by taking on Sylar alone. Sylar finishes him off with a finger flick. Then Peter (unaware of his brother's death) manages to completely and utterly pwn Sylar, and Noah Bennet, Angela Petrelli and Matt Parkman decide to brainwash him into believing he's Nathan. The Volume 5 preview shows that it did NOT end as well as they thought.
  • Babylon 5's Neroon is not fully redeemed until he commits ritual suicide to end the Minbari civil war, sacrificing himself in place of Delenn.
    • Londo Mollari, as seen in "War Without End, Part 2", sacrifices himself in order to save the Centauri Republic from the Drakh, freeing Sheridan and Delenn in the process. As foreshadowed before, G'Kar does the deed, choking Londo to death as Londo is forced by his Keeper to do the same to G'Kar.
  • Battlestar Galactica has this happen to Boomer. After being the poster child of the Heel-Face Revolving Door thanks to a number of traumatizing experiences, her actions culminate in the kidnapping of Cylon/human hybrid Hera Agathon so she could be studied. Soon enough, after bonding with her "niece," Boomer faces second thoughts and rescues Hera before anything serious can happen. She is reunited with the crew of Galactica, and upon returning Hera to them, Athena, Boomer's genetic twin and Hera's mother, guns Boomer down in a hail of bullets, finally allowing Boomer to achieve total redemption.
    • Another example is Felix Gaeta. After the revelation of Earth being a big nuked out wasteland and the fact that the rebel cylons were going to be granted amnesty by the fleet, Gaeta, with the help of The Starscream Tom Zarek, leads a mutiny against Adama. After pulling many horrible decisions, including ordering the craft carrying Roslin be destroyed, throwing a joke of a trial for Adama, and imprisoning Helo, Athena, Hera and Sam, Gaeta loses a lot of sympathy, both from in and out of the show. After the mutiny fails and he is sentenced to death, Gaeta's amputated leg stops hurting and he wins some sympathy back.
  • Lionel Luthor in Smallville. At one point he seems to be ready to sacrifice anyone and everyone involving his own son for the sake of power, survival or even just getting his own way. But being inhabited by Clark's spirit seems to affect him and becoming the vessel for Jor-El definitely affects him, turning him into a not-entirely-trusted ally. In the end, he dies protecting Clark, getting pushed to his death by Lex after refusing to divulge information.
    • His Alternate Universe counterpart gets a villainous inversion version of sorts, when he gives up his body and soul to Darkseid in order to bring Lex back to life - the only person he actually cared about. Of course, he wasn't truly redeemed by that one act, and bringing Lex back could be considered a bad thing...
    • Played straight in the series finale with Tess Mercer and she took something with her.
      • Technically, Tess managed this twice: her decision in "Salvation" to turn on Zod in favor of Clark led to her death, too. She just came back.
  • Bellick in Prison Break begins as a complete asshole and cowardly bully, but after significant Character Development, joins Michael Scofield's search for Scylla. In "Greatness Achieved", he sacrifices himself to allow the others to carry on, by climbing into a pipe to lift a cross-pipe into place, knowing the pipe he's in will flood.
    • This would have applied to Kellerman, who was initially and asshole desperately trying to please an Ice Queen. He frames Lincoln for murder, kills a judge, shoots his partner for having a change of heart, and brutally tortures Sara. Later, he realizes he's been played for a fool and decides to help the heroes. At the end of season 2, he testifies in court on behalf of Sara, incriminating himself and naming his superiors. During transport to prison, his van is intercepted by a group of armed masked men. The camera angle is then switched to outside the van, and gunshots are heard. Since he gets better, this trope is subverted in this case.
  • Gerak in Stargate SG-1, in a Heroic Sacrifice to help Earth heal the Ori plague — despite having been made a full Prior earlier in the episode.
  • In Being Human Lauren pulls a Big Damn Heroes, stakes Seth, allowing our cornered heroes to escape, then has Mitchell stake her because she can't take the stress between her conscience and her hunger.
    • By the end of series 3, we have another example in Mitchell who spent the entire series lying and manipulating his friends into dangerous situations, trying to weasel his way out of retribution, and generally trying to pull a Karma Houdini. He finally realizes that the only way he can protect his friends (and the rest of the world) is a stake to the chest delivered by George.
  • Several characters in Legend of the Seeker, including Michael Cypher and Panis Rahl, the latter of which makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save Thaddicus and Zedd, whose father he killed years prior.
    • Also Denna appears to have been convinced by Zedd to let him go and change her ways... then Cara's arrow sends her off a cliff.
  • Played straight and averted in Sanctuary. Ashley Magnus is reprogrammed by the Cabal to lead an invincible team of Abnormals to take down the Sanctuary network. They nearly succeed, leaving death and destruction in their wake. However, Helen Magnus manages to reach her daughter who then teleports with an evil Abnormal knowing the scrambled field is on, killing both.
    • Also played straight with Jimmy and Edward Forsythe, although the latter case is debatable, as he was already dying.
    • Averted with John Druitt, whose homicidal insanity was revealed to have been caused by an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Guy of Gisbourne in the 2000s Robin Hood series. After falling out of favour and being made an outlaw himself, he agrees to help Robin protect their mutual half-brother and shows surprisingly loyalty to the gang despite killing their family and friends in the past. Not long after, he dies fighting alongside Robin. Not that it did much good, since Robin is fatally wounded in the same battle and as an indirect result of Guy's actions to boot. Some redemption, huh?
  • In a Lie to Me episode, Lightman manages to convince an American spy in the Middle East who has switched sides to cover their escape from the advancing terrorist forces. He does this until the bunker blows.
  • An episode of Fringe had an example of this with a very odd twist: the Anti-Villain of the episode was a woman who was unable to die yet wished to in order to join her family who were murdered when she should've been as well. She sought out people likely to commit suicide hoping that she could be with them and follow them to the afterlife. After many repeated failures she got on train knowing there was a bomb aboard hoping the mass loss of life would finally be enough. The Fringe team managed to talk her out of it and take the bomb off the train...only to have her be blown up by it and receive the death she wanted.
  • Omen of Dark Oracle, a former Big Bad, makes a turn around in the Grand Finale, helps them save Lance from the Puppet-Master, and then dies Taking the Bullet for Cally.
  • In Community episode Modern Warfare Britta makes up for her attempt to double-cross Jeff by sacrificing herself to defeat Chang.
  • In the season finale of Castle it is revealed that Captain Montgomery is the Third Cop who was involved in the organization that killed Beckett's mother. Although he got out of it before Johanna was murdered, it was the accidental discharge of his gun that killed her client and turned her onto the case. He dies defending Beckett and Castle from an assassin, and they agree to cover up his past crimes and give him the honorable death he deserved.
  • In Ultraman Nexus, Riko Saida in the form of Dark Faust sacrifices herself to save Komon. Later in the series, Shunya Mizorogi/Dark Mephisto sacrifices himself to help Ultraman defeat Misawa who had become the new Dark Mephisto.
  • The miniseries adaptation of The Shining changed the ending from the book, which had Jack briefly overcoming the hotel's influence to tell Danny he loved him, then being completely taken over by the hotel's ghosts, who try to stop the hotel's boiler from exploding, but failing. The adaptation has Jack managing to overcome the hotel's influence, and deliberately setting off the boiler himself, not only defeating the hotel and the ghosts, but finally overcoming his personal demons.
  • During the original V miniseries, Kristine Walsh served as the Visitors' main spokesperson, until she realized the Resistance was right about them, and tried to expose them on air. Diana promptly shot her.
  • In The Walking Dead TV series, Merle Dixon. Up until his death he was a racist asshole who even kidnapped Michonne to bring her to be tortured and/or killed in the episode he died. His redemption came when he freed her and drove off to kill The Governor on his own. And he would've done it too if not for a walker jumping him just before he took the shot, allowing The Governor and his men to grab him and kill him (kind of, he becomes a walker and his brother needs to finish him).
  • In Warehouse 13, the villain Walter Sykes was turned bad by Carlo Collodi's Bracelet that allowed the paraplegic boy to walk again. After Pete's mom had Artie and McPherson confiscate the bracelet, Sykes became obsessed with it. It's heavily implied that they got to the bracelet too late and that it had already "planted a dark seed" in the boy. Decades later, Sykes is a wealthy man who has managed to recover a number of Artifacts and learn much about the Warehouse. He manages to infiltrate the Warehouse, takes back the bracelet, and leaves an Artifact-enhanced bomb (fueled by his own hate) to destroy the building. After Artie rewinds time to before the bomb goes off, Gandhi's shroud is used to take away Sykes's hate, stopping the countdown. Sykes apologizes and dies, implying that there was nothing left in him but hate.
    • Helena also manages to redeem herself by saving Artie, Pete, and Myka and letting herself be killed by Sykes's bomb. Since time has been rewound the bomb stopped, Artie convinces the Regents to pardon her.
  • The Following: In the penultimate season 1 episode, Jacob — who has spent the whole season struggling with his identity as part of the cult — decides he can't follow Carroll anymore and decides to leave. However, when he tries to get Emma to leave with him, she slits his throat.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000. Depending on which version of the story you believe the Chaos gods possessing Horus abandon him as soon as the tables turn during his final battle with the Emperor. Realising what he has done, Horus begs the Emperor to forgive him for his betrayal. The Emperor does so, then kills Horus to prevent him from being possessed again.
    • Quite commonly accepted in-universe. The Ecclesiarchy alone gives us Arco-Flagellants ("repentant" heretics implanted with cyber weaponry and pumped full of combat drugs), Penitent Engines (not quite Humongous Mecha piloted by arch-heretics tied to the front of the thing), Sisters Repentia (Sisters Of Battle with a death-wish because of some personal failure armed with an Eviscerator) and with the RPG the newly-created Sisters Oblatia (Sisters Of Battle with a death-wish because of someone else's personal failure — according to their creed, they can redeem another person, group or even planet if their death is heroic enough. Taking the vow associated with this is considered a high honour that is not granted lightly...)
      • The Penal legions are criminals on death row who are sent on suicide missions. If live or (far more likely) die, their sins are forgiven.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Eventually, Gishki Noelia was purified of her corruption, leading her to sacrifice herself to revive her daughter, Gishki Emilia.

     Theatre 
  • In The Gentleman Ranker, the disgraced Lieutenant Graylen rejoins the army as Private Smith. He finds himself under the command of his father, Colonel Graylen, who tells him I Have No Son. Smith volunteers to push through enemy lines to make contact with reinforcements. He makes it through, but dies of his wounds. Colonel Graylen acknowledges his son again, posthumously

    Video Games 
  • A major part of the plot in Planescape: Torment. The reason the protagonist is immortal is that he felt he needed immortality to have enough time to redeem himself of his evil deeds far prior to the game. Turns out that immortality comes with amnesia. By the end of the game, he finally undoes his immortality and dies, never having had the chance to redeem himself. He ends up either going to hell, or erasing himself from existence.
  • If you are able to successfully convince him that he's being controlled by Sovereign, then Saren of Mass Effect fits under this trope. Though, you still have to fight what's left of him as a final boss due to the robotic implants he got while under Sovereign's control.
    • In Mass Effect 3 if Wrex and Eve have both survived, Mordin will choose to sacrifice himself to spread the Genophage cure no matter your choice. He believes he made a mistake all those years ago and that Eve is the force the Krogan need to correct it.
  • Depending on the player's choices, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir of Dragon Age: Origins might get a "chance" at this, complete with a very much Heroic Sacrifice.
  • World in Conflict. The glory-seeking, cowardly insubordinate Captain Charles Bannon is a considerable annoyance throughout the game. He whines continually, exhibits defeatism, and in his rush to grab glory for himself causes the deaths of both a French ally and a group of Russian civilians. Nonetheless, he manages to redeem himself - in the last-ditch battle to stop a Soviet army group reaching the Strategic Defence Initiative headquarters, he and his men willingly sacrifice themselves to fix the Soviet attackers in place so they can be finally stopped with a tactical nuclear weapon. It's heavily implied that he's purposely doing this to redeem himself for all his previous failures. Colonel Sawyer, who despises him, and whose approval he has constantly sought, forgives him in their final radio conversation, telling him he's humbled to have served with him.
  • Happens in Tales of Destiny, at least the remake version. After he betrayed the party, and they kicked his ass, Leon Magnus goes to help them escape the soon-to-be-flooded battlefield, while staying behind and letting himself drown, instantly clearing him of any sins he's done in the past. This never happened in the original version, though. He was a sadistic Jerkass there.
    • His redemption on that version comes in the sequel Tales of Destiny 2, as Judas. He's helping out the good guys there, but that comes with a price. After his redemption is fulfilled by beating the crap outta the final boss, he went back in time and died again. This guy never takes a break...
    • Probably due to the fact that he was originally meant to die as a jerkass but, due to his surprising popularity, that was changed in later games.
  • In Myst IV: Revelation Achenar has mended his ways, and sacrifices himself to save Yeesha and restore the lifestone to the memory chamber.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, if you handle a quest a certain way, you can get the best result and redeem Yuthura Ban to the light side. Since she doesn't reappear in the sequel, she presumably died with everyone else when Darth Malak destroyed the Jedi Enclave. The Old Republic, however, suggests she survived, as one of her descendants is fought by imperial characters early on in their careers.
    • It is possible to complete that quest after Darth Malak destroys the Jedi Enclave. And it doesn't seem like there were no survivors, if Vandar and Vrook made it, who else could have?
    • Ajunta Pall is an interesting variation on the trope. He's a (very, very) long dead Dark Lord of the Sith, actually said to be the first human Dark Lord. He lived and died long before the lightsaber was invented. You can talk to his spirit, and find that he has regrets after all this time. You can then attack him or try and coax him to redemption. He disappears after being fought; fail at your Persuade roll and he tells you that it's too late, tells you, "Be at peace", and also vanishes. Succeed in your Persuade roll, and his last lines are a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming. But it does seem like this is the one route in which he finally leaves this world.
    "If... if I could return. Oh, my Master... it has been... so long... and I regret so much..."
    • Judging from what (little) has been said from the MMORPG's site this is what happened to Revan. S/He simply "never returns," meaning s/he died out in the middle of nowhere trying to forestall the True Sith and failing.
      • Depends what you mean by "failing". The novel "Revan" reveals that he was able to resist The Emperor's attempts to break him for 300 years, subtly influencing him to hold off on invading the Republic. Had the True Sith attacked then, while the Republic was still recovering, it would have been a Curb-Stomp Battle. Revan's main goal was to make sure that neither his wife nor their son had to live through another war. In that he succeeded.
    • A cut ending would have given a female player the option to kill Bastila, turn back to the light, and die on the Star Forge with Carth.
    • From the second game, a deleted content where Atton dies after losing his fight against Darth Sion can be interpreted as this, considering his backstory as a former Sith assassin.
  • In The Force Unleashed, set inbetween trilogies, Galen Marek has been raised by Darth Vader, doing his bidding. He decides to be a Jedi rather than a Sith, founds the Rebel Alliance, and then dies to save the lives of the other founders. His family crest goes on to become the symbol of the Rebellion, and later the New Republic.
    • The sequel partly subverts this. While Starkiller is back, it's never made clear if he's the original somehow revived or just another clone. Given that takes down Vader (for however long that lasts) and earns the Rebellion a major victory, nobody cares, not even his Love Interest.
  • Apparently Nod's Redeemer in Kane's wrath is this, based on how it shouts "Redemption is Yours!" when issued an attack order
  • Kingdom Hearts: Axel falls victim to this trope, deliberately sacrificing his own life to help out Sora to make up for his earlier actions. Whether or not it was actually necessary for him to do so is a hotbutton topic among the fans.
    • Ansem the Wise might fit this, too. His research started most of the problems in the storyline and in trying to atone for this, he committed many questionable deeds. In the end, he realizes the error of his ways and sacrifices himself to set everything right. Except it turns out he's not actually dead...
  • At the end of F.E.A.R., Harlan Wade, overcome by guilt at what happened during Project Origin, chooses to release his daughter, Alma, who then subsequently kills him. His dialogue as he goes into this indicates he was fully aware that this was what was going to happen.
  • Kurtis of Disgaea sacrifices himself to break the Villain Override on Jennifer (that he installed in her). However, this being Disgaea, He gets better in time to pull a Big Damn Heroes in the last chapter (though considering HOW he Got Better, this may in fact be a subversion). Given that Prinnies are Prinnies so they can pay off their sins from life, it probably is a subversion. He didn't redeem himself just with self-sacrifice.
  • In Metroid: Fusion, the X are trying to kill Samus the entire game because she is part Metroid. However, Samus becomes powerful enough to beat every X including one that's a mutation of her own suit, SA-X. She then sets the station to crash into the planet and wipe all X from existence. She is then attacked by an Omega Metroid, which promptly beats her because she doesn't have the Ice beam (Ice missiles don't work because they can't pierce the Metroid's hide). At that point, SA-X returns and saves Samus from certain doom, and allows itself to be absorbed into her, giving her the ability to defeat the Metroid. At first it may seem like it just wants to kill Metroids, but if you think about it there's no point to killing the already-doomed-to-blow-up Metroid unless it wanted Samus to escape.
  • Elpizo, the Big Bad of Mega Man Zero 2 spent half of the game trying to unleash the Dark Messiah Dark Elf, which has the power to destroy the world. Zero defeats him, naturally, and Elpizo was regretful for his actions. The Dark Elf, however, turns him into a cyber-elf, actually saving his life.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has Faldio. His decision to shoot Alicia and awaken her invincible Valkyria powers so she'd save the army gets him instantly arrested and vilified by the rest of the cast. He spends the rest of the game stewing in prison, and comes out at the end just long enough to take the villain down with him in a suicide grapple, despite said villain being defeated and surrounded by a whole bunch of people with guns. Notably, no one even attempts to stop him from killing himself as an apology.
  • In the ending scene of Gunstar Heroes, Green announces his intent to atone for his misdeeds just before ramming his Seven Force into Golden Silver, catching both in the ensuing explosion.
  • A semi-example in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Master Hand has just been freed from Tabuu's control, and he attempts to fight him, only to be beaten and presumably killed. (Although, he's died several times when a player beats Classic.)
  • The Masked Man aka Claus at the end of Mother 3. It's implied that The Masked Man killed himself after finally remembering who he was before. However, the ending is ambiguous and there are a couple different ways to interpret the text in the final battle.
  • Baten Kaitos
    • Giacomo, who dies right after telling Ayme and Folon to help Kalas and Co. stop Melodia in the Celestial Alps.
    • If you choose not to kill them when given the opportunity, Heughes and Nasca in Baten Kaitos Origins do something similar, when they sacrifice themselves to help Sagi and Milly escape Tarazed.
  • Byrne in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks eventually succumbs to this after his Heel-Face Turn, using the last of his power to keep Malladus away from Zelda's body and let Zelda get her physical form back in the final battle.
  • In Resident Evil 4, though Luis Sera decided to redeem himself before Leon ever met him, still suffers a gruesome death at the hands of his former boss, creepy cult leader Saddler.
  • Red Dead Redemption epitomizes this trope in name alone, but for added value there is also the fact that John Marston's hard work and seemingly happy ending is interrupted with a Dying Moment of Awesome after the army counters his Improbable Aiming Skills with More Dakka, leaving behind a Tragic Keepsake for his Replacement Scrappy.
  • L.A. Noire features this [at the ending, with Cole sacrificing himself in a flooding sewer tunnel to save Elsa and Jack.
  • Subverted in Tales of Symphonia. Kratos ultimately wants to drive Lloyd to kill him in a duel, but Lloyd refuses and flat out chews him out for believing that killing himself would make up for the things he did.
  • Also subverted in Tales of Vesperia with Raven, who manages to survive his Heel-Face Turn. Though not for lack of trying.
  • This is actually a major part of Luke's character arc in Talesofthe Abyss, and as is tradition for the franchise it has a little fun deconstructing the idea. When the character Does a Bad Thing and sinks Akzeriuth, killing ten thousand people, when he says that he'd die to rectify his mistake. Later on he almost gets the chance, and plans to sacrifice himself to destroy the miasma. The death part doesn't seem to take, and when he realizes his death ultimately won't fix anything he declares that he would rather live for himself for as long as possible. Which won't be very long, because the botched Heroic Sacrifice has left him with the terminal condition of slowly dissolving on a molecular level. But in the end, perhaps it was all worth it:
    Lorelei: You have done admirably.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn King Volechek unknowingly triggers the Grave Eclipse in the center of his city. The party next sees him when he gives his life to end the Eclipse.
  • Depending on the party makeup at the time, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years can wind up with Golbez dying at the hands of Cecil's dark side.
  • In Modern Warfare 3, Yuri, one of the main characters, was a former member of Makarov's inner circle and turned against him during the events of the "No Russian" mission in the previous game, which nearly cost him his life. He survives and turns against Makarov, trying to stop his insanity. At the end of the game's final mission, he manages to save Price from Makarov, but dies in the process. His actions gave Price just enough time to finish the lunatic off.
  • In Super Robot Wars UX, Skrugg Nick survives to the finale of the Heroman storyline and Joey and everybody tries to convince him there's still a chance he can return back to normal which is why he was doing things as a Skrugg; thinking he can't return back to normal, but he is still killed by Gogorr who just resurrected. So he only survived enough long to still die.
  • In Jade Empire, Sagacious Zu chooses to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by collapsing the chamber on himself and Death's Hand, his former master. However, considering that he stopped being a Lotus Assassin when he chose to save Dawn Star as a baby, it can be argued that he had already earned his redemption.
  • Word of God states that this was originally Shadow's fate in Sonic Adventure 2, but there was enough ambiguity in the way he died that when he became a Breakout Character, Sega decided to Retcon his death.

    Web Comics 
  • Dominic Deegan
    • Dex Garritt seems to have gotten a retroactive version of this. When we first met him, Dex was the only decent guy in a team of Jerk Jock slaughterball players, and subsequent adventures have shown him to be an all-around nice and upstanding guy. Then, in the most recent story arc, we learn that in his younger days, Dex was an alcoholic and a druggie, and once beat his wife (although he did state that he regretted it, which was a major reason he became a decent, upstanding person to begin with). Almost immediately afterward, Dex gets his intestines ripped out by The Infernomancer, and since he's resistant to all forms of magic, there's no way to save his life with magical healing. Karma's a bitch. Turns out he's not quite ready to give up yet though, as his ex-wife is still not ready to forgive him. Dex basically invokes the reverse of this trope: If there's not going to be any Redemption, he refuses the Death. One could argue that he had already redeemed himself by starting a fistfight with an Eldritch Abomination to give the civilians, his wife among them, a chance to escape.
    • Taken almost literally when dealing with Bulgak and his adventures in Hell. Turns out when a soul in Hell admits to how wicked and horrible they were in life with genuine regret, their soul explodes.
  • Nega-Ki in General Protection Fault attempts to surprise Nega-Nick when he is about to use Nick's MU Te X device to escape. She is mortally wounded when Nega-Nick shoots her with a laser welder, but her actions give Nick an opportunity to try to get the welder away from his counterpart, before Nega-Nick tries to teleport away, but Nick was Crazy-Prepared and the lack of a critical part causes him to be warped to an unknown location, and possibly disintegrated.
    • Similarly, Chuck, who testified against and got his best friend Fooker convicted of murder, and was responsible for hitting Ki's father with a car while under Trudy's control, finally rebels after Ki gets him to come to his senses. He saves Fooker, but Trudy activates a device that causes him pain, turns it to its maximum setting and causes his death.
  • The Order of the Stick plays with this here and there, but thoroughly averted with Miko Miyazaki, though. Burlew even says in the graphic novel that Miko's death was meant to show that not everyone gets a chance to redeem themselves after fucking up royally in the real world, and we should all be mindful of our actions.
    • Whether intentional or not, Miko does redeem her character to some extent. She does, after all, finally accept a compromise (seeing Windstriker again, even if she couldn't become a paladin again). Also, Miko was widely hated by the fanbase but still gets redeemed enough in the fans eyes to get a tear jerker ending.
    • Therkla from the Kubota arc. Originally an assassin hired by Kubota to kill Elan and Hinjo so Kubota could take the throne of Azure City, Therkla instead ends up falling in love with Elan, causing her to turn against Kubota, who promptly poisons her to death.
  • In Shadowgirls Robert Olmstead and several other Deep Ones turn on Mother Hydra when she goes all-out Omnicidal Maniac and sends her own people to senseless death as Cannon Fodder. Robert chooses to be sacrificed, while his allies die in battle.
  • The theme of the Sluggy Freelance story "That Which Redeems" is that seeking redemption is a death wish. Mosp falls victim but Torg eventually decides that "redemption is overrated."
  • Arguably, Vriska from Homestuck. After crossing her Moral Event Horizon by brutally murdering one of her friends in cold blood, she then starts talking to John about how she regrets all the murders she's committed, announces her intention to take him on a date and decides to challenge the Big Bad to a duel she'll almost certainly lose. And then Terezi kills her in order to stop her from compromising the rest of the Trolls.
    • A case could be made for Equius as well. He's a Jerk Jock, a Bluenose Bowdlerizer and a racist, but he's genuinely sweet to his moirail, Nepeta. The exchange between the two of them before he's brutally murdered by Gamzee verges on being a Tear Jerker moment, especially since he makes peace with his romantic feelings for Aradia, despite her being the lowest troll on the hemospectrum right before he dies.
  • The Fan Webcomic}} Roommates gave us this lampshade-tastic conversation about the trope itself. Jamie knows what he is talking about "been there and done that"... and this is a comic where Nobody Can Die.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest, minor character Anna Grout kills herself out of guilt after accidentally slicing off Dane Zygmunt's arm and causing his subsequent death by blood loss. One of the reasons mentioned is offering his family some sort of redemption.
  • Dr. Griffin of KateModern is strangled by the Shadow after providing the heroes with the information they need to defeat his former associates in the Order.
  • Link in the final episode of There Will Be Brawl. It could actually count as a Double Subversion, since he had an apparent Heel Face Door Slam in the previous episode, thanks to Zelda's (quite literal) backstabbing. However, he gets better just long enough to face down Ganondorf one final time as a true hero.
  • Inverted in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, when Penny's death causes Dr Horrible's final damnation.

    Western Animation 
  • Tarrlok of The Legend of Korra is a classic Smug Snake who, at one time, kidnapped the Avatar and set the benders and non-benders of Republic City against each other. After he gets Depowered by his brother, Amon, Tarrlok has a moment of My God, What Have I Done? as he comes to terms with the fact that their abusive father, Yakone, manipulated them both into becoming exactly what he wanted them to be. Yakone, having been Depowered by the previous Avatar, Aang, manipulated his kids into fulfilling his quest for revenge against Aang and Republic City, leading Tarrlok becoming a tyrannical councilman and Amon becoming a Bender loathing Knight Templar as his own revenge for mistreatment. Later on, while Tarrlok and Amon are fleeing Republic City by boat, Tarrlok notices the boat is full of Equalist weapons. While Amon's intentions aren't made known, Tarrlok decides to take one of the shock gloves and use it to ignite the boat's gas tank, killing them both and end both Yakone's legacy and the Cycle of Revenge he started. A single tear from Amon right before Tarrlok blows the boat up suggests Amon knew that Tarrlok was going to kill them both, but chose to let him do it, or perhaps actually wanted a life of peace with his brother, but would now never realize it.
  • Teen Titans
    • Terra, The Mole for Big Bad Slade during season two, ended up turning on him in the season finale. In the ensuing battle between her and Slade, Terra triggered a volcanic eruption, and ended up having to sacrifice herself to save the city and her friends. She exhausted all of her powers and was turned into a statue. However, in the series finale "Things Change", Beast Boy encounters a schoolgirl who looks mysteriously like Terra, and after noticing that her stone statue is gone, begs the girl to return to the team. Despite repeated insistence that she doesn't know him, the girl finallly tells him that "Things were never the way you remember...'', ending the series on a sweetly sad note.
    • It's interesting to note that in the comics, Terra is merely a Psycho for Hire, and dies as she lived... trying to kill the heroes. Years later, a new, heroic Terra appears in the comics, with the body of the old Terra disappearing, and eventually it's strongly hinted that she's actually the original with amnesia. A central aspect of this character is that she's aware of the possibility and terrified that it could be true. Then she dies pointlessly in a later storyline to make way for yet another Terra.
  • Dinobot of Beast Wars was a Predacon who defected to the Maximals in the first season. In the second season, he betrayed the Maximals and gave Megatron the golden discs. Though Dinobot would return to the Maximals after realizing Megatron's evil, the Maximals had little reason to trust him from that point on. Redemption finally came in the episode Code of Hero where Dinobot battled against all the Predacons to save the early protohumans and won, but at the cost of his own life. Resulting in a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
    Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest... is silence.
  • Franz Hopper from Code Lyoko could be argued to have done this, having sacrificed himself to allow Aelita and Jérémie to destroy the malevolent program that he himself created years ago. The argument comes from the fact that this is played as a Heroic Sacrifice, but considering his track record of creating XANA and working intently as a Well-Intentioned Extremist to stop Project Carthage, one could come to the conclusion that he wasn't looked too well upon by the Lyoko Warriors, even if they were trying to save him.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Living Laser, who spent most of the series searching for his purpose in life, ends up sacrificing himself to help stop M.O.D.O.C. and save Iron Man's life after Tony Stark had shown him kindness when no one else in his life had.
    • The second season later inverts this when Mr. Fix brings him back to life.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man The Sandman apparently dies after helping the people on the oil tanker he wrecked escape and using his body as a shield to stop its explosion from killing everyone near. Of course, his character has come back from things like that before.
  • Mr Freeze in most of his most well known DCAU appearances (even though he doesn't really die in most of them).
    • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Mr Freeze is coaxed into helping an aging industrialist named Grant Walker into achieving immortality (by giving Walker the same icy biology that he has) and to use his freezing weaponry to initiate a new ice age, from which a new utopia will emerge led by Walker, all in exchange for the chance to cure his cryogenically frozen wife. After Batman arrives and convinces Freeze that destroying the world just for her would be wrong (and that she would think so as well) he helps destroy Walker's island, with himself still on it. It is revealed at the end of the episode that he survived with his wife's stasis tube frozen in a block of ice.
    • In the animated movie Batman And Mister Freeze Subzero, he attempts to save his dying wife by capturing Barbara Gordon and attempting to use her as a live organ transplant donor with assistance from one of his lying, scheming money-grabbing former friends (in actuality it turns out that his wife would not have needed the operation to survive and the dude was just lying to get the 'kaching'). Which, of course, would kill her. After Batman and Robin show up, Freeze is injured after being betrayed by his friend, yet he helps them escape with Barbara, his unconscious wife and an Inuit boy he had earlier adopted, urging them to leave without him. When Batman returns to save him, he seemingly falls to his death.

      He is later revealed to be alive and well in the Arctic (although with a broken leg) with his two pet Polar Bears and listens in to a television report in cabin outpost that Bruce Wayne had used his medical facilities to cure his wife and that she was now awake and stable. This causes a very happy tear to fall from his eye as he limps back into the cold wilderness.
    • In his appearance in Batman Beyond, he is given a new body in an attempt to experiment for creating a new body for Derek Powers. After it is revealed the experiment was faulty, Powers tries to have him killed and biopsied. Freeze survives and comes for revenge in a new armoured suit and attempts to blow up a reactor plant, with the reason being once it goes up, it will take him with it, ending the suffering he has caused and the suffering caused to him. After Batman is attacked by Blight (Powers' irradiated super-villain form), a critically injured Freeze saves Batman from his finishing blow (by shooting Blight halfway across the city) and forces Batman to leave him to die, stating that 'you're the only one who cares'.
  • In Exo Squad, after Captain Marcus leads a mutiny and takes the unprepared Exofleet into battle, resulting in the Neosapiens slaughtering them, he refuses to evacuate the heavily damged Resolute, instead using it to ram the Neo flagship, giving the rest of the fleet the chance to retreat.
    • Earlier, during the "Veil of Doom" story-arc, Diana, Shiva's spy in the Resistance attempted to make up for her treachery by capturing Prof. Algernon. Her attempt fails and she is herself captured by Draconis, who promises her a painful death.
  • Van Rook from The Secret Saturdays had been a good guy for all of the show's final season, but seemed only in it because Doyle owed him money. He finally cements his good guy credentials rather sadly, by taking an energy blast intended for Drew. The show ends with the characters mourning his loss at a graveyard, and Doyle giving the shows final line. "Two's plenty."
  • Nebula in the season 4 finale of Winx Club tries to die with the Fairy Hunters after having joined with the titular team in fighting them. Just thank Bloom for averting this.
  • Averted in the Darkwing Duck episode "Aduckyphobia" when a character goes to fix the problems caused, expecting to die. It doesn't fallout the way expected. pun intended.
  • In the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "The Midnight Zone", the gang forms an uneasy alliance with Angel Dynamite, the radio DJ who is actually original Mystery Inc. member Cassidy Williams who along with the other original members sought the hidden treasure of Crystal Cove. She had since disassociated herself from the others, and in this episode joins the gang underwater to a trench where Germanic robots are being assembled (the same robots that destroyed Cassidy's radio station and tried to kill her). They are joined by Tom, Tubb and their pet seal Scooby (from the 1967 Moby Dick cartoon—Moby here is a whale-shaped submarine), and as the episode's villain, Professor Pericles (the original team mascot) sets off explosives to destroy the city, everyone boards the sub but it cannot move due to a claw holding its tail. Cassidy stays behind to release the sub's tail as the robots converge on her and the explosions draw near. Everyone presumes Cassidy did not survive, to their heartbreak. (Exective producer Tony Cervone confirms that Cassidy did not survive.)
    Scooby: (sadly) She saved us...
    • Also in the finale Mr. E. But he and Cassidy are alive and well in the new timeline.
    • Don't forget about poor Danny Darrow. He dies and was also brought back in the new timeline.
  • In the Justice League episode "Hereafter", Vandal Savage spends 30,000 years alone after destroying the world in one of his attempts to conquer it. When Superman is accidentally sent forward to his time, he gladly helps him get back home in order to prevent this from happening, knowing that it will erase this version of himself from existence.


Redemption Equals AfflictionLaws and FormulasRedemption Equals Sex
No Export for YouOverdosed TropesMemetic Badass
Last StandDying Moment of AwesomeStaring Down Cthulhu
Ray GunImageSource/Star WarsStandard Sci-Fi Fleet
Really Dead MontageDeath TropesRed Shirt
Really Dead MontageTear JerkerRejected Apology
Red and Black and Evil All OverAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Red Eyes, Take Warning
Redemption Equals AfflictionHeel Face IndexRedemption Equals Sex

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