Maybe your character was The Cape
, but fell on bad times
. Maybe he was an Anti-Hero
who made a mistake and went flying off the slippery slope
. They could even be a Villain Protagonist
who is interested in redemption, either because they've kept their standards
, or because they've been in conflict
with an even worse villain
and shown hints that there might be some good left in them after all. Whatever the case may be, the character is in a bad place but wants to do better, and they are granted one final chance to do so, usually in the form of a grand, nearly impossible task.
Maybe they're being asked to prevent The End of the World as We Know It
, or to cure The Virus
, or to stop the Evil Overlord
. They may not be expected to live through this
, but if they can pull it off no one can say that they haven't cleared their name, regained their honor, or insured an afterlife in good old Fluffy Cloud Heaven
. (That said, you may wind up with a case of Redemption Earns Life
Sometimes done in a quieter way as Character Development
in a non-fantasy setting, where a character is looking to undo a past mistake or wrong to a love one that has haunted them or caused misery for people around them. Also known to happen in Sports Movies
, where a character may see one last great year or performance as a redemption of their prior deeds or careers.
of The Hero's Journey
and Must Make Amends
. Usually follows a Heel Realization
, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
or someone saying What the Hell, Hero?
. Naturally, a staple of The Atoner
. An alternative to Redemption Equals Death
. Often a result of Go and Sin No More
. Contrast Redemption Failure
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Anime And Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin's quest to protect people and fight for justice without killing is his redemption for all the lives he previously took as an assassin. Both in the anime and manga, (but particularly in the anime, especially filler episodes or arcs whose stories were changed) he encourages other warriors to try to make amends and work towards making a better world rather than commit Seppuku when they fall into similar situations.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Edward Elric "I'm sorry, Al. This is all my fault. So I promise that no matter what, I'll get you your body back."
- Hohenheim, in a much longer timescale.
- Mustang, Hawkeye and Doctor Marcoh are doing it as well. Though from their point of view, they are past the point of redemption and can only make sure the next generation will not repeat their mistakes.
- Being a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs, Muteki Kanban Musume deconstructs this trope with Nishiyama Kankuro, who has come back from a local university to Hanami City to “stand up for himself” against Miki, his former bully who now is twenty and a Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up Man Child. Problem is, Kankuro is an Idiot Hero, and really wants to get Miki respect, but Miki is incapable of respecting anyone weaker than her, and she is stronger than Kankuro: to beat her is truly an Impossible Task. Kankuro is trapped in a Cycle of Revenge. Here he explains why while we see a Photo Montage in a computer… complete with a delete trash can image:
- In his Back Story, Dragonlance character Lord Soth was given a chance to redeem his soul after becoming a Fallen Hero. At first he leaps at the chance, but turns his back on preventing The End of the World as We Know It to confront his wife about accusations of infidelity.
- In The Kite Runner, Amir seeks to redeem his past actions towards Hassan by rescuing his friend's son.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel is Marguerite's quest to atone for unintentionally causing the execution of the Marquis de St. Cyr, one of the French aristocratic fugitives her husband Sir Percy has devoted his life to protecting.
- The Silver Chair: Aslan assigns Jill the task of finding the lost prince Rilian as her Redemption Quest for causing Eustace to fall off a cliff.
- Follows Lale's Heel Realization in The Assassins of Tamurin.
- Severus Snape spends most of the Harry Potter series atoning for causing Lily's death by protecting Harry from harm and working as a double agent for both the Death Eaters and the Order.
- Su Wukong (Monkey King) and the other bodyguards/traveling companions go along with the monk Tripitaka in Journey to the West to earn redemption for past misdeeds.
Live Action TV
- Brimstone: This is the entire premise of the show, where Fallen Hero Ezekiel Stone gets a second shot at life and a way out of Hell if he returns 113 souls that managed to escape.
- LOST's Michael has a redemption arc in season 4 after killing Ana and Libby in season 2. He manages to save Desmond, Aaron, Sun, and
maybe Jin before dying in the season finale.
- Little House on the Prairie: What happens with the Olesons' two natural children – Nellie and Willie – in the later years of the series.
- Caroline's idea to save $250,000 to launch the cupcake business, the driving arc of 2 Broke Girls.
- Sam Winchester from Supernatural. After breaking the final seal which unleashed the apocalypse on Earth, Sam spends all of Season 5 by trying to fix the mess he created. Season 5 is often viewed as Sam's redemption by many viewers.
- Stefan Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries. After becoming a blood-addicted Ripper who was controlled by Klaus for the first half of the third season, Stefan spends the other half of the third season trying to gain his free will back and turn on his humanity again. He tries to redeem himself for all of the immoral acts he committed during his Ripper phase by joining the fight in destroying Klaus.
- The Equalizer: A retired secret agent becomes a private investigator to help people who really need it. His past is never revealed, it's only hinted that he did a lot of amoral things.
- Basically the premise of My Name Is Earl, Earl did bad things and has a list of them and is trying to make up for them.
- Heracles had to do twelve of them after killing his family in a fit of madness.
- Susanowo must make amends after throwing a dead horse (amongst other squicktastic things) at his big sister's court. He brought back the legendary Kusanagi to her. It's not known how much of it was kicking arses and taking names, and how much of it was genuine remorse.
- Sgt Slaughter, following his (in)famous 1990-1991 Iraqi sympathizer heel gimmick that made him the most hated wrestler in the world - and it wasn't a stretch to say he was among the most hated men in the world in real life – he based his Heel-Face Turn on redeeming himself, first by saving Hacksaw Jim Duggan from a brutal 2-on-1 attack by his former cronies, The Iron Sheik and General Adnan.
- Jimmy Jacobs went on one to purge all evil from himself in 2011 and eventually took Steve Corino along for the ride. It failed because of the meddling of Kevin Steen.
- Sami Callihan claimed he would go on one to better himself after being suspended from EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA, following his attack on El Generico.
- Dungeons & Dragons Plothook #309: "The cleric tells you that before he will cast atonement on you, he wants you to do this for him, to prove your remorse is genuine..."
- This was a suggested method of restoring a character of an alignment-restricted class who broke his code, in earlier editions; the Player's Handbook specifically refers to fallen Rangers having to seek atonement through deeds.
- Paladins both play it straight and avert it: if one commits a Chaotic act, she loses her powers and must go on a Redemption Quest, but if she commits an Evil act in 1st or 2nd Edition, she loses her powers and no amount of redemption questing will ever bring them back. Third Edition made it possible to Atone (via Atonement, as noted above) for committing an Evil act, and toned down the restriction on Chaotic acts so that it only applies for severe breaches of the Paladin's Code or being enough to shift the Paladin away from Lawful Good (both also solvable via Atonement).
- This is a suggested plot thread for renegade Abyssal Exalts in Exalted. Redeeming the Abyssal Exaltation back into its original Solar form is explicitly possible- just very, very difficult. So difficult, in fact, that any PC who manages it will be, in the canonical setting, the first ever redeemed Abyssal.
- Vampire: The Masquerade had Golconda, a state where the vampire no longer has the impulse to kill people and only needs minimal blood to live eternally. The exact ways of achieving it have always been left up to the individual Game Master but the general recommendation was to make it an epic quest, throughout which the vampire in question has to feel remorse for her past sins and make amends as best as she can.
- It initially appeared that this sort of redemption was what Athena and the other gods had in mind for Kratos from God of War, but it turns out that wasn't quite the case. They do forgive him. However, it was not forgiveness Kratos wanted, but to forget all the terrible things he had done. Gods do not grant him that. And that is why there are no more Greek myths.
- Villainous and thus inverted example: the driving force behind all Dimension of Pain stories in Sluggy Freelance is Lord Horribus seeking redemption for letting Torg escape, by hauling Torg's soul back to the demons' dimension for eternal torment. The "redemption" theme is mentioned explicitly in "That Which Redeems", which also features another similarly inverted example bordering on deconstruction in the form of a story (which presented as an analogy to Horribus) of a man who came to a Heel Realization about his terrible deeds, turned to a local notion of God to seek redemption, and went on a crusade in God's name to commit even more terrible deeds. "That which redeems consumes."
- Similar to the Avatar example, in TwoKinds, Keith is sent into exile for killing his father (though this was more to keep the father's good name intact by avoiding a trial) and the only way he could return was to bring back the human Grand Templar with him (which was supposed to be an Impossible Task). He succeeds, though mostly by accident (he'd long since befriended Trace when the group discovered he was the missing Grand Templar)
- Subverted by Miko in The Order of the Stick. After she falls from paladinhood because she killed Shojo she thinks that she can be redeemed by doing what the gods want of her. The problem, as it is explained by Soon's ghost before she dies, that she never actually atoned for her wrongdoings or considered that she'd done the wrong thing.
- Initially inverted on Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Prince Zuko's Evil Overlord father banished him for not being evil enough, with a hopeless Redemption Quest being Zuko's only means of ending that banishment. Zuko's true redemption quest then comes when he realizes how worthless the redemption his father offered is and instead pulls a Heel-Face Turn in season 3. Also, Aang and Sokka set out to redeem themselves for (different) failings in the third season. Keep an eye out for the telltale (shared) line, "I have to restore my honor."
- An important aspect of restorative justice is about an offender making restitution to his victims. Unlike 'ordinary punishment', restorative justice is about making redemption voluntary and (hopefully!) genuine.