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Take a Moment to Catch Your Death
"Fly, you fools!"

This happens after the character or characters narrowly escape some kind of disaster. The bomb is defused with one second left. The Booby Trap is jammed. The bad guy is buried under a ton of rubble. Whew. It's finally ov—OH GOD, THE HORROR! Death claims a victim suddenly and often quite violently. The key to this trope is that someone believes that everything is okay, and in that moment of relaxation, when the tense music has stopped, someone dies.

To clarify, this does NOT refer to just any sudden, shocking death like Samuel L. Jackson's in Deep Blue Sea. The death in question must immediately follow an escape from imminent peril, interrupting the peaceful tranquility of apparent success. However, the cause of death need not be the exact thing that was perilizing the heroes in the first place. They could be blindsided by a completely new threat or an older one they'd forgotten about. Or a wound could suddenly catch up to them — aversions of Hard Head often produce this.

This is often a Jump Scare. Except when it's supposed to be darkly ironic. The Beat is a distant comedic relative.

Can possibly be combined with a Finger Twitching Revival if it involves a bad guy Playing Possum.

The Video Game variant of this is Kaizo Trap, when during a seemingly moment of peace the player will be killed if not ready.

Also called "Whew That Was BOOM"... as in... "Boom! Athletes Foot!" ...Only more fatal.

Related to Hope Spot, may be preceded by a Cat Scare, and has been known to involve Not Quite Saved Enough and Diabolus ex Machina. This is the kind that definitely ends in death. If a character collapses and faces the serious danger of death, see After-Action Healing Drama.

Spoilers ahoy...

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • In 9, the surviving dolls have a small celebration once they think they've destroyed the Cat Beast. They haven't — it gets back up after a few minutes and kills 5.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The ending Aftershock. The Final Girl escapes the rapist mob...only to see a tsunami bearing down on her.
  • In Ghost Town, Greg Kinnear's character avoids being crushed by a falling air conditioner. As he talks about his close call over the phone, he's run over by a bus.
  • 2012:
    • Sascha manages to stop the plane right before it falls off the cliff. He then breathes a sigh of relief.... and the plane tilts forward... and blows up after it hits the ground.
    • The president of the USA stands up after a 9.5 magnitude earthquake near the White House where the refugees are (to be exact, at North Chesapeake Bay),... only for a tsunami to wipe out the White House.
  • The Fifth Element: Zorg defuses his own bomb, five seconds before it was set to go off, and breathes a sigh of relief. Then a dying Mangalore sets his own bomb, with a five-second timer.
  • In Vertical Limit, two of the climbers get the message that the nitroglycerin they're carrying should be kept out of the sun, but it's been in the sun so long already! Oh, no! It's leaking! Hurry, get it in the shade! Bury it in the snow! Whew. That was close. Let's have a good laugh about that. Then the nitro leaks out into the sunlight. BOOOOOM!
  • The film Serenity did this to Wash, right after crash-landing the ship on Mr. Universe's moon. Damn you, Joss...
  • The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf is snatched off of the bridge after uttering an audible sigh of relief. (He comes back in the next movie, though.)
  • Master and Commander. The crew board the Acheron after a sea battle, and find the deck covered with bodies. The old sailing master comments, "Looks like the job is done, lads." Boom! It's an ambush.
  • The Final Destination series follows this trope all the time, with only varying times between the near-miss and the death blow.
    • In Final Destination 2, Evan narrowly escapes an explosion in his apartment. In an effort to make the escape ladder drop, he trips but lands on his feet. Proclaiming his luck, he then slips on a pile of spaghetti he threw out the window earlier, just as the ladder decides to fall. Amazingly it stops short right above his eye, giving him a moment to sigh in relief... but then.
    • Final Destination 3 had the football player narrowly avoid having his head cut off by ornamental scimitars while on a weight machine. Exuberant, he does another rep on the machine, not realizing that the scimitars have frayed the cables, resulting in them snapping and crushing his head between the weights. Who would design a machine like that anyway?
  • The surviving teens in the reboot of Friday the 13th (2009) dump Jason's body off the pier, only for him to break through it and drag them down.
  • A straight example in the remake of The Longest Yard: Caretaker enters Crewe's cell to leave him a package. Ominous music swells, and Caretaker reaches for the lightbulb cord. We see that the bulb is suspiciously dark, as though someone has filled it with flammables — Caretaker clicks the light and nothing happens. It doesn't even turn on. The music stops. He whistles and turns on the radio, setting off an explosion that kills him tragically.
  • Played with in Blade II: One of the Blood Pack has a small explosive in the back of his skull, courtesy of Blade. It is revealed that Whistler's replacement, Scud, is The Mole and the supposed explosive he provided is a dud. Scud pulls out the explosive for some quality gloating time. Blade promptly reveals that he knew Scud was a traitor, "and no, it's not a dud." He hits the detonator and Scud is killed in the explosion.
  • Night of the Living Dead: After living through the night, the main character is relieved to find other humans...who promptly shoot him dead, assuming he's a zombie.
  • Happens to Alan Tudyk (again!) as the Doc in the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. After escaping the miners and riding off with Ben Wade the music is soaring triumphantly. The Doc shouts to the others: "Did you see me hit that guy with the shovel [during the melee]?" and is promptly shot and killed by their pursuers.
  • Near the end of Cloverfield, when the surviving characters have finally gotten onto the escape helicopters, they finally have a moment to relax and for the first time in the movie get a good idea of what the monster looks like. After cheering when the military appears to land a powerful blow against the monster, it promptly lunges out of the smoke and punches the helicopter, sealing the fate of those survivors.
  • Alien franchise:
    • At the end of the original Alien Ripley blows up the Nostromo, finally begins relaxing, and just as she's plotting the co-ordinates the titular monster's arm swings into her face. However, it is subverted in that she survives the encounter.
    • In Aliens, Ripley and Newt have just been rescued by Bishop, having arrived just in time in the drop ship to help them escape the Queen Alien...who announces that she hitched a ride by impaling Bishop and tearing him in half. Being a robot he doesn't die, but it fits the trope in all other ways.
  • Tremors has this happen to the doctor's wife, after she narrowly escapes the graboid that just ate her husband. The car she's in stops shaking, the camera zooms away from her face as calm music plays on the radio... and suddenly zooms back in when the graboid returns to pull the whole car underground.
  • True Lies combines this with The Last Straw (and plays it for laughs) as a car full of terrorists totters on the edge of a bridge. They have just enough time to start cheering before a pelican lands on the hood of the car and unbalances it.
  • In Pitch Black the death of the female lead at the end after she and Riddick survive a confrontation with two of the monsters when another lunges out of the dark and snatches her up (it's unclear and debated if Riddick may have caused her death by accidentally stabbing her in the "catch your breath" moment, attracting the last creature to the scent of her blood)
  • Happens to Boris in the Bond film GoldenEye. He survives grenades, remote mines, a falling array, but then, while screaming "I AM INVINCIBLE"...
  • Comedic example in The Naked Gun 2: the bad guy survives the fall from a hotel window, goes away unscathed... only to be mauled by a lion freed from the zoo by Drebin earlier in the film.
  • The beginning sequence of Saving Private Ryan has a soldier remove his helmet to gaze at it in disbelief of how it just deflected a bullet, only for another to pass through his suddenly unprotected head.
  • In the end of The Guardian, Jake is trying to free the captain of a small ship from some machines that have him pinned. He manages to get him free and they take a moment to grin at each other, then a large wave rolls the ship over, throwing stuff all over and knocking the captain dead. And now Jake is trapped in a hold that is filling with water.
  • At the end of One Night At McCool's, Carl's character escapes a shootout between Dehling and Utah's twin brother, and runs across a street screaming an elated "Thank you God!", only to have a dumpster dropped on his head.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the heroes save the day and everybody is cheering when suddenly a bullet hits Quelleck...
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2: After destroying Electro, Peter and Gwen share a moment of relief. Then the Green Goblin flies into the scene, and, well...

    Literature 
  • In the Halo novel Ghosts of Onyx: Dante's death. Most of the Spartans get to relative safety, he reports "I think I got nicked, sir," then dies.
  • In George R.R. Martin's The Hedge Knight, after the Combat by Champion is over and concluded, one of champions dies abruptly from a wound he suffered during the melee.
  • In R. J. Rummel's Nuclear Holocaust Never Again, the heroes are blown up immediately after they prevent a dictator who would have taken over the world and starting a nuclear war from coming to power.
  • In The Shining, the evil spirits animating Jack Torrance race him down to the boiler room to relieve the pressure after Danny tells them that they forgot. The spirits (still using Jack's body) turn the relief valve, the pressure starts to go down, and they shout "Not too late!". Then the boiler explodes. (The Stanley Kubrick film abandoned this climax for a completely different ending.)

    Live Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (Classic) (1970s): The episode "Lost Planet of the Gods" part 2. After Adama, Apollo and Serina escape from the tomb, a Cylon Centurion suddenly appears and shoots Serina, mortally wounding her.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Has occurred several times throughout this series.
    • The series finale that led to David Tennant's regeneration.
    • The 11th Doctor episode Let's Kill Hitler: The random Nazi officer in the beginning.
    • In a way that is possible only via time travel, in The Angels Take Manhattan Amy and Rory trigger a paradox (by jumping to their deaths) to avoid a lifetime of being trapped in a building by the Weeping Angels (where they had previously witnessed an old Rory dying). After the timeline repairs itself and everyone is safe in 2012, Rory notices a gravestone with his name carved into it ... before being suddenly zapped back in time by a Weeping Angel (and the gravestone updates itself to reflect the age he died at). The Doctor views it as if Rory had been killed, because that point in New York's timestream has been damaged enough that the Doctor can't land the TARDIS back there to go get him.
  • Grey's Anatomy: Has this in Episode 2x17 after the live grenade stuck in a man's chest is finally removed and taken away by a member of the bomb squad, triumphant music plays, dramatic slow motion is in full effect and Meredith has finally a moment to catch her breath after being in mortal danger for almost two episodes. She follows the bomb squad member and... cue Ludicrous Gibs
  • NCIS: When Kate gets sniped off.
  • Revolution: In episode 11, the heroes and the American Rebel Army decide to make one last stand against Monroe and his army, despite the fact that they are mostly without power and Monroe now has helicopters with big machine guns and rocket launchers. However, Miles manages to get a rocket launcher of his own, with just enough power from a pendant to operate that one weapon. As he takes aim at the helicopter carrying the power supply, a rocket explodes too close, causing him to lose his bearings and drop the launcher. Charlie and Rachel rush out to see to him, and Danny grabs the rocket launcher and takes out the power supply. As it falls to the ground in a fiery inferno, the other one begins a lurching descent to the ground, spraying gunfire in the general direction of the heroes. Danny takes four rounds to the chest and dies as quickly as you'd expect from that kind of trauma, right after his heroics saved the whole rebel camp. However, it does give his mother the option of retrieving a medical device from his lungs that is somehow still functioning after the blackout.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The death of Dr. Beckett, following a surgery to remove an explosive tumor, and the subsequent pass off to the bomb squad with portable containment chamber... it explodes before they can get it inside said containment chamber — right in the middle of radioing in the success no less!
  • The Young Ones: In the final episode, the characters are on a bus which falls off a cliff. They survive the crash and comment on how lucky it was, and the bus promptly explodes into flames. Whether they survive isn't explained.
  • In the middle of season 5 of 24, CTU has been infected with nerve gas and a handful of survivors have made it to quarantined saferooms, but an acidic complex in the gas is slowly dissolving the protective seals. Eventually, two men sacrifice themselves by exposing their room in order to filter the gas. Eventually one of them can't hold his breath anymore and is forced to take a gasp of air. Nothing happens for several seconds, he begins expressing relief and joy that the gas must have been filtered out in time... and then begins coughing up blood and spit. The other guy soon follows.
    • This is how Audrey dies in Day 9 (Live Another Day): She's saved by the CIA from a sniper that was about to kill her, only for another assassin accompanying him to run and and gun her down seconds later.
  • Mad Men: During the Korean War, Dick Whitman and Don Draper (the real one) take cover from enemy fire. After the shooting halts, the two get up and breathe sighs of relief...until Dick accidentally drops his lighter and causes an explosion, killing Don.

    Roleplay 
  • This was a running joke with Mister Easter, a street-level hero from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe who had the power to come back from the dead after three days (he's Mister Easter, get it?). One of Mister Easter's Disadvantages was "Fated to Die at Least Once Per Story" and boy did he live up to that. During his crimefighting career he was hit by the bus several times, choked on a fish bone, was hit on the head by a falling fire-escape ladder, accidentally electrocuted himself, and once was stabbed to death by a bad guy who wasn't quite dead. And the GM always managed to make his death a perfect example of this trope.

    Video Games 
  • In Bayonetta, after fighting one of the bosses, there is a cutscene in which one of the angelic enemies braces itself, expecting to be hit by a runaway streetcar. The car stops just before hitting the angel, and you can see the angel sigh in relief— and then the streetcar tips over and crushes it.
  • A strange occurrence happens in Dead Space. Throughout the game, Isaac runs into scripted events in which a tentacle shoots out around the corner and grabs him by the ankle. If Isaac fails to wound the tentacle enough, it pulls him into the hole and a scripted death occurs. During one of these death scenes, Isaac holds onto the sides of the hole for dear life, but the tentacle actually lets go. Isaac stands up, trying to catch his breath, but just as he goes to escape, the tentacle comes back out, grabs him by the face, and finally pulls him down, killing him.
  • One of Ever17's endings has the characters escaping the imploding facility via submarine. They are amazed that they survived. Cue the Diabolus ex Machina where the sub starts sinking, and the main character's way of reducing the weight.
  • In Dead to Rights, Eve is killed immediately after your Escort Mission with her.
  • At the end of the New Alexandria mission in Halo: Reach, the team is escaping to shelter as the city is being glassed. Then "Bang", out of nowhere, Kat is Killed Mid-Sentence by an Elite sniper.
  • This can happen in many video games in general: Defeat a difficult enemy with just a sliver of health left and, during the death animation, a stray obstacle defeats the player character and forces the player to fight the enemy all over again.

    Webcomics 
  • Discussed by Elan and averted by O-Chul in this Order of the Stick strip.
    Elan: Whenever someone says that right after surviving something dangerous, something totally random pops out and kills them!


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alternative title(s): Whew That Was BOOM; Death By Sigh Of Relief
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