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Despair Event Horizon / Live-Action TV

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  • Halfway through Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica, the fleet discovers that Earth has been destroyed, causing borderline cases of this for many characters, and a full-blown case for both Dualla and Number Three.
    • Athena goes through a more personal one towards the end of the season after Boomer kidnaps her daughter, Hera. In the episode after the kidnapping Athena's completely broken and rejects all of Helo's theories about how they can get their daughter back, openly telling him the girl has probably been killed already. She only recovers when Admiral Adama announces that he'll personally lead the rescue mission to get Hera back.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Angel: As revealed in a flashback in "Double or Nothing", Gunn seemingly crossed it at age 17, to the extent that he sold his soul to the demon Jenoff for a truck, believing he had nothing to live for; at that time, Gunn was maybe a notch above homeless, in a city where the homeless are basically a vampire buffet:
      Jenoff: You will sell your future in exchange for present happiness?
      Gunn: What future?
    • Angel himself crossed it "Reprise"; after firing his staff and descending into a Knight Templar phase to stop Wolfram & Hart, he tries to break into their Home Office and kill them once and for all... only to discover said Home Office is Earth itself and Wolfram & Hart's power comes not from demons, but from from the evil within humanity itself. With his spirit broken and his resolve exhausted, he tries to shed his soul by having sex with Darla, an encounter he outright describes as "perfect despair." However, thanks to an epiphany, Angel manages to bounce back, realizing his purpose was still to do all the good he could, even if he couldn't do all the good he wanted to.
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    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy crosses it in "Weight of the World"; when all of her efforts to protect Dawn are rendered moot when Glory finally captures her, Buffy loses it and is rendered catatonic. Willow goes on a Journey to the Center of the Mind to snap her out of it, and during said journey, Buffy confesses to Willow that she'd long since given up hope of actually beating Glory, to the extent that part of her actually wanted her to win just so the fear would finally end.
  • In Charité at War, Martin crosses it after the Nazi regime has him arrested for homosexuality and the doctor responsible for his assessment makes clear that he can't do anything now that would save him from the concentration camp. Even worse, he insinuates if he doesn't confess that he seduced his boyfriend against his will, his "little catamite" will suffer in the same way. After that, he quietly resigns himself to his fate. Then he gets unexpected help from his boyfriend's sister, who gives a false testimony about Martin's love life.
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  • In The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, after the Big Bad Prune buys Prim's Department Store and basically steals the money Santa earned to pay for toys he damaged, deliberately screwing Santa over from paying the rent he owes to Prune, Santa and Whipple stroll listlessly down the street, hoping desperately for a miracle...
  • A Serial Killer uses this as part of his MO in the Cold Case episode "The Road". A Serial Killer known as John Smith would capture women, seal them in a room in the middle of nowhere, and subject them to Mind Rape. Once they lost the will to live, which he would prove by standing aside and giving them the option of walking out, he would seal them in completely and let them starve. He comments that once someone gives up hope, dying is just a formality. The fact that his last victim didn't cross the Despair Event Horizon really rattles him.
  • In the first episode of Season 5 of Community, Jeff informs his old law firm partner that he isn't giving up on his career (even though repo men are taking his furniture away as they talk), for he still has a beacon of hope left. A repo man takes the glass of scotch he was holding. That was it.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Rian crosses this briefly, thanks to a Breaking Speech from skekSil the Chamberlain. Thankfully, getting saved by Gurjin and Naia snapped him out of it, but the speech still heavily affected him, and even after being saved convinced him that he's tired of running away.
  • Dead Set. Space agrees to unlock the Diary Room so Kelly can make a futile attempt to fight her way out only after seeing a zombie Pippa (his former girlfriend) hammering on the glass outside.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Eighth Doctor was ready to die permanently upon realizing that the Last Great Time War was making it impossible for him to do any more good as a Time Lord. He was convinced to regenerate and to find a way to bring the war to an end for the sake of the universe... but decided to give up his principles as a healer to do so. The result? After years of fighting, the War Doctor was ultimately willing to destroy both the Daleks and his own people, including billions of innocent children, to bring the war to an end. His later incarnations deliberately forgot about him for this and other dirty deeds — though after the events of "The Day of the Doctor", in which he helped them save Gallifrey instead, he was acknowledged once more.
    • The Twelfth Doctor undergoes a horrific Trauma Conga Line in the final three episodes of Series 9: First, he is betrayed by Ashildr, who owed her now-immortal life to him. This accidentally leads to the death of his companion Clara via a foolish, Senseless Sacrifice, which he is helpless to stop. Then, his enemies imprison him in a giant torture chamber; save for a mute monster, the place is deserted and he has no TARDIS or anyone to help him through his anguish and rage. The enemies turn out to be his own people. By the time he finally escapes — four-and-a-half billion years later, all of which he remembers — he has undergone a Sanity Slippage and become a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds obsessed with saving Clara by preventing her death, heedless of the paradox and, while this is at first actually successful, he firmly crosses the horizon when he realizes that she won't, and can't, fully return to life even as he is risking the entire universe in hopes of making it so. No one can convince him to come back across it; it isn't until he has a Heel Realization that he does so by not only parting from Clara for good but losing many of his memories of her — namely those that made him love her. This relieves him of his burden of sorrow and resultant madness, thus he is able to come back and be a selfless hero once again.
    • In a comparatively minor example of the trope, near the end of "The Ghost Monument", the Thirteenth Doctor briefly hits this when she thinks that she and her friends are stranded on Desolation and will die because the TARDIS (stuck in a thousand-year materialization loop) won't appear in time. Fortunately, it does.
  • Implied to have contributed to Father Jack's severe alcoholism on Father Ted. When Ted gets him fully sober for the first time in years, Jack says mournfully, "Don't tell me I'm still on that feckin' island!"
  • Firefly:
    • Malcolm Reynolds lost all idealism, along with any faith in God, at the battle of Serenity Valley which meant that the Independent Planets will be unified with and ruled over by the morally ambiguous if not downright evil Alliance.
    • River Tam's dialogue indicates that she has no hope of ever being "normal" again. At one point, she even rails against the drugs Simon is giving her, saying that she hates being able to think clearly because she knows she'll just slip back into madness sooner or later. You can actually see the very moment River breaks in the R. Tam Sessions, in the third video where the "counselor" tells River that her brother "is very busy". She stops, silently nods, then whispers "Yes..." and starts crying. (crack)
  • Flashpoint: "Haunting The Barn" is about a recently-retired officer who is driven to this by the accumulation of traumatic memories from his years on the job, capped off by one case where he blamed himself for getting a teenage boy killed. Ed manages to talk him off the ledge.
    • Ed himself comes precariously close to this in "Fit For Duty" (though it's mostly a delayed reaction to what happened in "Broken Peace"). Luckily for him, something in his subconscious drives him into the arms of a psychologist, who is able to help him before he falls apart completely.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Talisa is killed, Robb loses the will to fight back and just crawls to her corpse, cradles her body, makes an effort to stand up and lets Roose Bolton stab him through the heart.
    • Catelyn suffers a Heroic Blue Screen of Death and doesn't even try to resist her own death after Robb is murdered before her eyes.
    • Theon finally breaks under the Cold-Blooded Torture in "Mhysa" and accepts the name of "Reek".
    • When his Humiliation Conga of a trial finally breaks him when Shae testifies against him, Tyrion lets all his pent-up bitterness and rage loose upon the court.
    • After two seasons of being a powerless king, and then Tommen witnesses the Great Sept of Baelor exploding, he is so devastated by the death of hundreds, including his beloved Margaery, the destruction of the center of his new-found faith, and the realization that his own mother was responsible, that he simply removes his crown and jumps to his death with zero hesitation from a window in the Red Keep.
    • Sansa is in this at the start of Season 4, refusing to talk to people, eat for days, even admitting to Tyrion that she goes to godswood because she'll be left alone there and not because she prays or believes anymore.
    • Bran wishes that he had died rather than being crippled for life. He eventually snaps out of this.
    • Meera is at her wit's end when the wights finally catch up with her and Bran after they barely escape the Three-Eyed Raven's cave. She embraces him crying, convinced of their ultimate fate, to provide the last protection to her one remaining friend. Then, Benjen fends off the wights and saves their lives.
    • The death of his family and men seems to have broken Robett Glover. But he snaps out of it when Jon Snow retakes Winterfell.
    • Although Cersei doesn't become a monster after she and Robert have a conversation where it initially looks like they're going to reconcile and improve their relationship, she is then rejected by Robert. This scene ends with Robert asking her how she feels, and her responding that she doesn't feel anything. Her subsequent actions make a lot more sense in light of this. And then, if she hadn't crossed it before, she certainly does when Joffrey dies in her arms in "The Lion and the Rose". Later, it turns out there was still some sanity for her to lose, which she finally does when Tommen abandons her to her fate in the hands of the Sparrows, which prompts Cersei to mass murder all of her enemies she can at once — along with a good chunk of bystanders — and even give up on her son himself.
    • Selyse reaches it in "The Dance of Dragons" as Shireen is being burnt at the stake. She kills herself shortly afterward.
    • Sandor is in this state for most of the series, ever since his brother was knighted despite burning Sandor's face and murdering their sister. This made Sandor lose any shred of idealism, and develop the Hound as a persona (similar to Tyrion). He keeps his trauma and sadness hidden under layers of cynicism, snark, and brutality. Whenever the mask of stoicism falls, what we see is a scared, broken man who has lost all hope.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Young midshipman Archie Kennedy loses his will to live in "The Duchess and the Devil", the third episode of the miniseries. He was horribly tormented and abused by a sadistic bully of a midshipman. He got lost at sea during a stealth raid (his tormentor tried to murder him), and he ended up in Spanish jail. His escape attempts earned him Cold-Blooded Torture in a Punishment Box. When, by some incredible chance, his friend and fellow middie Horatio appears in the very same cell, it brings back memories of his tormentor and he also feels that his life is one big screw-up, compared to the heroic and successful Horatio. When Hornblower insists that they will all try to escape together once he gets better, he doesn't want to. He decides to starve himself to death so that Horatio and his men needn't deal with him. When Horatio realizes what's happening at the last moment, Archie refuses his help. Horatio convinces him that he needs him. He eventually gets better, but it was a hard and painful process. That said, Archie ends up paying this forward both later in the episode and later in the series. First by being the one to encourage a hostile shipmate named Hunter to eat and get strong as Horatio did for him after Hunter's disastrous head-on escape attempt ends with Horatio landing himself in the Punishment Box by refusing to sell him out, then by testifying against himself to save Horatio's life while he's dying of a massive wound in series two.
  • House of Cards (US): Congressman Peter Russo, who's running for Governor of Pennsylvania, has this after the drunken radio interview he gave after Underwood set him up to fall off the wagon with an ex-call girl who owed him favors. He hid from the press and disappeared for a few days, leaving his campaign in limbo, before being found by Underwood who plied him with more liquor and murdered him, making it look like a suicide.
  • JAG: In "King of the Fleas", Roscoe Martin tells the story how had as a POW during The Vietnam War been tricked into revealing the names of the pilot inmates at the P.O.W. Camp, and was then forced to watch as the Vietcong executed the rest of them, which had plagued him ever since. Subverted in that after he had killed the camp commander in the present-day (1997-98), he regained hope again, as evidently seen in "The Martin Baker Fan Club".
  • Kamen Rider: A recurring element.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki: Shiro Kanzaki goes through this everytime his sister, Yui dies.
    • Kamen Rider Decade: The AR version of Kamen Rider Amazon suffers this in his arc when the young boy he befriended turned against him, stealing the Gigi Bracelet in an attempt to rejoin Dai Shocker. It gets worse when his last hideaway is ransacked and he's close to taking Yuusuke's offer to join them in world hopping.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard: A core element of the series. Individuals called Gates possess an inner demon called a Phantom, which is held in check by their will to live; crossing the Horizon allows the Phantom to break free into the real world, killing their host in the process. Thus the Phantoms that already manifested try to expand their numbers by forcing Gates past the Horizon while Wizard fights them off and tries to be the last hope for their victims. However, if a Gate comes close to the Horizon but regains their hope through Heroic Willpower, they gain the ability to tap into their Phantom's magical powers and can (with training) become magic-users like Wizard; this happens to three individuals over the course of the series, all of whom become Kamen Rider Mage.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: Several Riders, and other characters, go through this.
      • Ryoji Hase/Kamen Rider Kurokage, when he loses everything between #11 and #13. His powers, his friends, his dignity; no wonder he gets desperate and consumes a Helheim Fruit, turning into an Inves and getting killed off shortly afterward.
      • Mitsuzane Kureshima/Kamen Rider Ryugen, who is so shocked by the sight of a ruined alien civilization that he immediately accepts Takatora's offer to join Yggdrasill. He completely crosses it in #34, as seeing Roshuo's god-like power makes him decide to sell out humanity to the Overlords. Finally, in #43, after his business with Kouta is finished, he ends up being betrayed by Ryoma before breaking down in despair like a hysterical child. It's so brutal that he actually stopped caring about whether or not Mai could be saved, and basically spends the rest of the series doing nothing but sobbing alone over just how badly he screwed everything up. It's good to note that his Image Song is called Point Of No Return.
      • Takatora Kureshima/Kamen Rider Zangetsu loses the will to fight in #28 after he realizes Ryoma has betrayed him. He then goes through better and worse only to get better again.
      • Kaito Kumon/Kamen Rider Baron, whose desire for power and learning of the (supposed) deaths of Kouta and Mai, two people whom he respects to varying degrees, leads to his consuming a Helheim Fruit and becoming an Overlord Inves in a desperate attempt to gain the godlike power of the Golden Fruit and save Mai.
      • Roshuo, the leader of the Inves, is well past it when he first appears, with no motivation other than to resurrect his dead wife.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost: Alain/Kamen Rider Necrom suffers from an acute version of this as he goes completely unresponsive after Adel kills their father and just lets Takeru drag him around. True Companions help him (mostly) recover.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid:
      • Prequel special Kamen Rider Snipe: Episode Zero shows the backstory of Taiga Hanaya/Kamen Rider Snipe. He used to be a kind radiologist working at Seito University Hospital. Then the Zero Day came and he failed to save a patient suffering from Game Disease, which caused him to lose his medical license and become a Fallen Hero. Main story doesn't pull any punches at showing how much this messed him up.
      • The death of Saki Momose is this to her boyfriend, Hiiro Kagami/Kamen Rider Brave, who became a self-hating bundle of repressed emotions afterward. She developed the Game Disease (partially also because of his aloofness and neglect) and he didn't know about anything until he was called in to be with her in her final moments.
      • Kiriya Kujo/Kamen Rider Lazer told his friend that he is infected with (then) untreatable Game Disease because he didn't want to lie to him. This led to his friend getting into an accident that might have been a suicide and Kiriya lost any hope in trusting people or telling the truth.
    • Kamen Rider Build:
      • Ryuga Banjou/Kamen Rider Cross-Z crossed the line after his girlfriend was turned into a monster and didn't survive the restorative process. She died in his arms and Ryuga just stopped caring what happens to him.
      • Sento Kiryu/Kamen Rider Build is slowly pushed towards his breaking point by events pilling up on (being powerless to save some people, finding out his true identity, war breaking out because of his inventions). He finally snaps under the horror of killing a man while in Hazard Trigger induced berserk state. He recovered only some of his marbles from then on as apparent by developing a general apathy towards his life and anything relating to it.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has several episodes where victims are pushed over this by their experiences. In some cases, the detectives find out and are able to convince the victim to get help, but sometimes, for one reason or another, there's nothing they can do.
  • Invoked in-universe in an episode of Night Court when a woman claims to have shot her husband, when in fact he killed himself due to being terminally ill and in constant pain. She confessed to the shooting to avoid having people think her husband was weak. But Mac cites this trope in telling her there's no shame because "We all have our limits, and beyond those limits is a place that God just does not want us to go."
  • Orange Is the New Black has most of these for their characters.
    • Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson in Season 7 had lost hope of ever getting out of prison after being found guilty of a murder she did not commit and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. She had tried to kill herself many times, but failed due to intervention. In the last episode, she makes the best of her sentence by helping other inmates.
    • Blanca Flores in Season 7 lost hope of being free and having a family with her boyfriend Diablo due to ICE picking her up from Litchfield, her green card being voided, and her boyfriend even being detained by ICE due to his green card being expired. Maritza who was also detained tried to get her to be positive and not give up, but Blanca shouted at her to stop for they'll never get help outside the detention center. However, they did get help from their old friends from Litchfield Max, but Maritza got deported back to Colombia for helping other detainees.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Glyphic", every child in the small town of Tolemy (with the exception of Cassie and Louis Boussard) died of a rare form of brain cancer due to contamination from the town's mill. This resulted in the townspeople losing all hope for the future.
  • Poldark: George crosses it in the Series 4 finale when his wife Elizabeth passes away. As cruel as he is, he really did love her and regrets his actions that pushed her to her early pregnancy. He grows despondent, even suicidal, and begins hallucinating her. Even when he's brought back to stability, a sadness hangs over him that never really leaves.
  • Joseph Bede crosses it in the final episode of The Shadow Line. His wife, whose Alzheimer's treatment he intends to pay for with the proceeds from his drug dealer, tries to kill herself and is hospitalized. This prompts him to leave his gun behind when meeting Jay, who he already knows intends to betray him, which leads to his death.
  • In Spooks,note  Lucas North shuts down when Harry tells him that "Albany", the biological weapon blueprint he betrayed all his friends over, getting his New Old Flame killed in the crossfire as he did so... is a fake. The "express elevator down" option off the top of the building they're on soon follows.
    Harry: Who are you Lucas? Who are you?
    Lucas: ...I'm nothing.
  • Star Trek
    • Commodore Decker in Star Trek: The Original Series was already in this when we first meet him in "The Doomsday Machine", having witnessed the death of his crew to the planetkiller weapon when he had hoped that he saved them. He's later Driven to Suicide by this action.
    • M-5, "The Ultimate Computer", when Kirk helps it realize that it's been responsible for the death of 500 Starfleet crewmen.
    • Anton Karidian (the alias of mass murderer Kodos the Executioner) remains in control of himself even as Kirk's suspicions become increasingly evident, but breaks down in horror when he learns that his daughter Lenore — the one part of his life that he thought was untainted by his past — knows the truth and has been killing people to protect him.
    • In The Changeling Kirk neutralizes Nomad by convincing Nomad that it had committed three errors and that being imperfect, it must sterilize itself. Nomad's headlong plunge is actually quite heartrending.
    • Both Benjamin Sisko and Worf his this in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Image in the Sand" — Sisko had already been there due to the fact that he failed to stop the Wormhole from collapsing, sealing the Prophets away, and getting Jadiza Dax killed. Worf has it pretty bad when he learns of how Jadiza died, realizing she'll never ascend to Sto-Vo-Kor. They spend that episode and the next fixing those little problems.
    • Janeway ordering the crew to Abandon Ship at the end of the first part of "Year Of Hell" serves as this, and she spends the second part of the episode becoming a Death Seeker, all the way to the point that she remains on board as she orders the last of the senior staff to other ships and drives Voyager itself into Annorex's time ship in an effort to smash the Reset Button.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • After Raffi was laid off by Starfleet, she became a substance abuser consumed by paranoia who neglected her family. She remains an alcoholic and a druggie fourteen years onward, and she's still estranged from her son.
      • For "Nepenthe", Jonathan Del Arco mentions in this interview that when the xBs are slain by Narissa and her underlings in front of Hugh, any optimism that his character carried is thoroughly shattered.
        Del Arco: Certainly in my last episode of Season 1, when I watch [Narissa] kill my guys, that is a heartbreaking thing for [Hugh], it breaks, it really does crush every little bit of hope he had.
      • "Broken Pieces" reveals that Cristóbal Rios was discharged from Starfleet because he was diagnosed with post-traumatic dysphoria after he witnessed Captain Vandermeer, who was like a father figure to him, assassinate two people and then Ate His Gun in remorse. Nine years later, Rios still hasn't fully recovered from the trauma.
  • Supernatural:
    • Dean Winchester crosses the line in the Season 2 finale after his brother Sam dies in his arms. He ends up selling his soul to bring him back, and after a year is sent to hell. This leads to him crossing the line again; after 30 years of torture he breaks and takes up on Alistair's offer to torture other souls. Ironically, in the Season 5 finale, Dean is the only one of the main characters not to lose hope after Lucifer possesses Sam. Dean still had enough faith in his brother to wade into an apocalyptic showdown and try to get through to Sam. Although to be fair, he made it clear that he had absolutely nothing to lose at that point. In Season 9, he is so wracked with guilt over everything that has gone wrong as a result of his initially ill-thought decision to have an angel possess Sam that he trashes the room he's in, takes off as soon as he ascertains that Sam is alright, then takes on the deadly Mark of Cain — while literally cutting off Cain mid-sentence when he tries to explain the consequences of the Mark. He literally no longer cared what happened to him at that point.
    • Sam has also had several of these over the course of the series, especially times when Dean has died/Sam has believed him to be dead. In particular, after Dean went to Hell at the end of Season 3, Sam drank himself into a near-stupor and was overtly suicidal until Ruby propelled him into a revenge mission. When Dean disappeared at the end of Season 7, Sam "imploded," stopped any kind of hunting, and drove aimlessly for months — which was quite unfortunate, as Dean was, in fact, alive and could have really used the help. Between Sam's shame at not saving Dean (combined with other mistakes he'd made over the course of the series) and being worn down and ill by the Trials in Season 8, he seemed to hit that point again and by the end of Season 8 was entirely okay with dying to finish the Trials (after taking them on initially because he wanted to live and thought Dean would use the Trials as an elaborate suicide). Then again in "First Born" in Season 9, when Sam discovered that Dean tricked him into accepting an angel possession to save his life, resulting in Kevin's death at Sam's hands, he became suicidal again and practically urged Cas to kill him in a slim-chance attempt to track the aforementioned angel, as he felt he never should have survived in the first place.
    • I think it's safe to say that the whole of Season 10 is one big Despair Event Horizon... And Season 11. Especially Season 11. Dean, Sam, Cas...
    • The Season 12 finale has them crossing it again, what with the deaths of Castiel and Crowley, as well as Mary being lost in a parallel universe.
  • Series 3 of Torchwood has multiple Despair Event Horizons — as you would expect from a plot that involves the governments of the world caving into an alien race's demands for 10% of the Earth's children. Obstructive Bureaucrat Anti-Villain Frobisher is told by the Prime Minister that, for PR purposes, his daughters will be among the 10% given to the aliens — so Frobisher takes a gun home and kills his wife and children, before turning it on himself. Then Jack, who has just had to watch his boyfriend die pointlessly, realizes that there's a way to defeat the aliens after all... but it will mean killing a child. And the only child close to hand is his own grandson, who he is forced to murder in front of his screaming daughter. Safe to say, Jack doesn't hang around on Earth for very long after that.
  • The Walking Dead: Rick gets two of these. The first after he's forced to kill his best friend in the season finale and the second after Lori dies in Season 3.
  • WandaVision: Wanda Maximoff hitting one of these, unable to deal with the grief of losing everyone she's ever loved (her parents, her brother, and ultimately her fiance), is what kicks off the plot of the show. When she finally snaps, her emotional outburst turns an entire town into an idealized Stepford Suburbia out of a '50s Dom Com where she can finally have the all-American suburban life she always wanted.
  • Warehouse 13. Quite a few plots are centered around crossing the line, most notably in Reset, where H.G. Wells turns on the agents to put the world into a new ice age, effectively resetting human life. She is stopped at the last second by Myka Bering.
  • Wayward Pines: The reason why so few people know the truth about the town. In fact, originally, everyone knew the truth, only to commit suicide or leave the town to be hunted down by the Abbies. Thus, most people are kept in the dark and have to follow the cardinal rules, which prohibit attempts to leave and speaking of the past. They don't know why, but the punishment for breaking them include public executions. Dr. Pilcher himself almost ends up hitting this trope, but his sister shows him a path to salvation (of both himself and humanity, which he predicted would die out in a matter of centuries or mutate into Abbies).