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Karmic Death / Live-Action TV

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Karmic Deaths in live-action TV.


  • In Indonesian religious-themed TV dramas, every remorseless and unsympathetic antagonist will suffer a karmic death by receiving punishment from a god (which is called Azab) as the result of what they did while alive. Sometimes the punishment shown on television is way too exaggerated and illogical, in order to make the show look bombastic.

  • All My Children: After getting Off on a Technicality, Michael Cambias is shot dead by Bianca Montgomery, the very same woman he raped and knocked up, who was not only legally armed and acting in self-defense, but was also acquitted of all murder charges by a sympathetic judge. The karma doesn't stop with his death, either; Tad Martin, along with Boyd Larraby and Aidan Devane, proceeds to steal his body from the funeral home and bury it in the garbage dump.
  • Angel:
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    • Holland Manners encourages Drusilla and a freshly vampirized Darla to go on a killing spree. The same night, Holland holds a dinner party, which naturally the vampires crash. Furthermore, due to him spending the season trying to make Angel go bad and demonstrating how vile humans can be, Angel decides to leave them to die.
    • In Season 3, Lilah fights tooth and nail to free Billy Blim from a Prison Dimension, going so far as to torture Cordelia to force Angel to break him out for him. Billy proves to be an Ungrateful Bastard; he instead thanks Gavin, her rival, and induces him into beating the mortal shit out of Lilah while he walks away with a Psychotic Smirk. Fittingly, Lilah is ultimately the one to finish Billy off, shooting him In the Back while he's fighting Angel.
  • Late in Season 4 of Arrow, Damien Darhk murders Laurel by immobilizing her with magic and stabbing her in the chest with one of Oliver's arrows. In the Season Finale, Oliver makes a deliberate point of killing Darhk by stabbing him in the exact same way.
  • In Babylon 5, Lord Antono Refa, a racist Centauri noble, responsible for the bombing of the Narn homeworld with Weapons of Mass Destruction and the mastermind of death camps and genetic cleansing programs, is handed over to a mob of Narn insurgents led by G'Kar and beaten to death. All to the tune of "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place".
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    • Mr. Morden made the mistake of asking Vir what he wants. At that point, Mr. Morden and the Shadows had started a war between Centauri prime and Narn by taking advantage of Londo "dreaming about better days". About two years later Vir almost gets his wish. He did live a lot longer due to the ship that was about to destroy Centauri Prime being called to the front.
      Vir: I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up at your lifeless eyes and wave... like this. [waggles fingers, smiling] Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?
  • Black Mirror: Robert Daly the sadistic and tyrannical game designer from "USS Callister" meets his just end when he is tricked by his tormented AI crew and trapped alone in the game he built, braindead in the real world and likely to die in the game as his older modded version is deleted.
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  • A few in Breaking Bad, but none are more fittingly karmic than Lydia's. As a Dirty Coward who treated everyone as expendable loose ends to be murdered at the drop of a hat the second they become a liability, she fittingly dies (or ends the series dying) the slowest and most anti-climatic death in the series, with Walter poisoning her tea with ricin. In the end, for Walter, she was nothing more than a loose end who was just barely even worth his notice.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the second-season episode "Go Fish", the coach, who has been dosing the swim team with steroids that are turning them into Gill Monsters. He attempts to have them gang rape Buffy, but when she escapes he is devoured by his own creations — convenient, given Buffy's reluctance to kill normal humans.
    • A less Hoist by His Own Petard-esque example happens in Xander's Day in the Limelight episode, to the Zombie Jock who swears cold-served revenge... before abruptly getting eaten by a werewolf.
    • Mentioned but avoided in the finale of Season 5, where Giles points out that since Buffy is a hero, she could never kill in cold blood, but he is not a hero and proceeds to suffocate the Big Bad, while she is trapped inside her mortal and innocent shell.
    • Catherine Madison, who tried to steal her daughter's body for herself, attempted to curse Buffy into being stuck in a cheerleading trophy that she won years ago as a demonstration of her power, but didn't realize that she was a vampire slayer until it was too late and a mirror caused Catherine to accidentally curse herself.
  • Burn Notice does this a lot. It's rare that Michael actually kills anyone directly, despite his colleagues urging him to do so on many occasions. He often leaves the bad guys to be dispatched by angry fellow bad guys after he's done sabotaging their plans.
  • Channel Zero:
    • Candle Cove: Frances Booth is killed by the mother of the Physical God she worships, with the very hook she herself has been killing people with.
    • The No-End House: Seth spent years luring people into the No-End House and allowing them to be drained of their memories by the duplicates of their loved ones, in particular taking drained girls as sex slaves. In the end, his latest victims unleash the duplicates of his family, who suck him dry, and then leave him at the mercy of his girls.
    • Butcher's Block: After failing to provide it with their latest required Human Sacrifice, the Peach family are all slaughtered by the Pestilent God whom they worship. The exception is Smart Mouth, who meets his own karmic end when Luke beats him to death with his own hammer.
    • The Dream Door: Ian ends up killed by his berserk creation Tall Boy, whom he's been using to kill others for half the season.
  • Criminal Minds
    • The episode "Paradise" had a serial killer (played by Wil Wheaton) that would kill couples and then stage their bodies in cars at blind intersections so that they would get hit by tractor trailers and have the deaths blamed on an accident. When the team finally catches up with said killer, he runs away, only to get hit by a tractor trailer. Wesley got "Crushed".
    • In another episode, a hitman manages to elude capture by the BAU (and probably would have walked anyway, since they had no hard evidence against him). In the last scene, he is shot to death by the protege of a mobster he killed for trying to rat him out earlier in the episode.
    • There was an episode where a comic book artist (played by Frankie Muniz) went insane after he and his girlfriend were ambushed by a gang, and was Forced to Watch as they gang-raped and murdered his girlfriend before they gutted him. He survived psychically, but not mentally. He goes on a rampage and brutally slaughters the gang responsible. Even after he's eventually arrested, the cops can't help but sympathize with him and call his victims "animals".
    • Many episodes of Criminal Minds, if they're not portraying the criminal as The Woobie or as an Everyman with issues, but rather as a completely demonic killing machine, end with one of these. Usually, a member of the team will point a gun at them and give them a "Reason You Suck" Speech, then the guy will pull a gun or other weapon and be shot on sight, dying instantly. When this trope is subverted and the guy actually lives, it's often even more satisfying.
  • CSI:
    • Although many victims suffer karmic deaths, a particular favourite was in "Ending Happy" where the abusive bouncer Lorenzo "Happy" Morales survived being hit over the head with a club, poisoned (twice) and shot (all arguably deserved) - but ultimately died from falling off the chair (and into a swimming pool) that he had failed to fix.
    • Another episode dealt with an investigation of the death of a bodybuilder. As the case developed, it was discovered that the bodybuilder was using steroids and had murdered a woman he had slept with the night before. Ultimately, they found out that the bullet from the gun he used to kill her traveled into a wall and just happened to lodge itself under a leaky pipe. Over time, mold started to grow off of the water and residue blood from the bullet and eventually infested the house. Because of long term steroid abuse, the killer's immune system had weakened to the point where his body couldn't fight off the mold spores and he died of fungal infection. The characters even remarked at the end of the episode that this was a case of poetic justice.
    • The man who killed the HIV-positive porn star in the snuff film, only to become infected with her HIV when her blood splattered across his eyes. Lampshaded by Catherine and Sara who note that "You killed her. I guess she killed you back."
  • The titular serial killer of Dexter is a walking instrument of Karmic Death, but he usually makes sure the victims really get the karma. When he's got a drunk driver who gets out of convictions by feigning regret on his table, he plays the video of his last victim that was played at his trial. When he's working on a guy who breaks legs for a bookkeeper to pay off his gambling debts, he uses a room with disused casino equipment. And in the pilot, he forces a pedophilic serial killer to look at the bodies of his victims before going to work.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Hilariously done in the parody special "The Curse of Fatal Death", where the Master falls down a pit into a vast and disgusting sewer network. Three times. He doesn't exactly die, but it's still pretty bad.
    • Numerous Doctor Who villains are finished off by this trope, most likely due to the Doctor being a Technical Pacifist. Notable examples include Davros killed by his newly-created Daleks in "Genesis of the Daleks" (extra points for Davros pleading to his creations in the same way that the Doctor was pleading to Davros earlier), and the Master killed by his physically and mentally abused wife in "Last of the Time Lords".
    • "New Earth": Matron Casp and Sister Jatt, the two cat nuns who callously execute one of their Artificial Human clones while he's begging for help, die when they are infected by the clones when they are later released.
    • "The Age of Steel": John Lumic, creator of the Alternate Universe Cybermen, clearly didn't anticipate that they would turn against him. While he doesn't die, he gets to live out a Fate Worse than Death by being Cyber converted.
      Lumic: I will upgrade only with my last breath.
      Cyberman: Then breathe no more.
    • "Love & Monsters": The Abzorbaloff absorbed people into himself, and he's killed when his victims start pulling him apart from the inside, causing him to drop the cane emitting a field holding him together. This lets Elton break it, causing the Abzorbaloff to be himself absorbed into the Earth.
  • On Dollhouse Joe Hearn is a handler who abuses his power by raping the Active under his care. Adele gives him a chance to redeem himself by killing Mellie, a meek neighbor of Paul's who's recently become his lover and confidant. What Adele doesn't tell him, and he only learns in the last seconds of his life, is that Mellie is a Manchurian Agent Active herself, and a merciless killing machine when triggered.
  • Fringe.
  • Bob Dunn at the beginning of "Midnight". Spends his time cheating on his girlfriend at local nightclubs. But then he picks up the wrong girl and ends up getting his cerebrospinal fluid sucked from a chewed-up hole in what remained of his neck.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tywin Lannister constantly derided and expressed his hatred for his younger son, Tyrion, because he thought he was a continuous black mark in the family's dignity (among other things). Tywin was also a key conspirator in the Red Wedding. Tyrion kills him in a very undignified manner - and better yet, he died the same way most of the people at the Red Wedding were killed: feathered with crossbow bolts by someone they least suspected would have the nerve to kill them.
    • Lysa Arryn, who poisoned her husband at the behest of Littlefinger, the man she loved, and many times threatened to kill someone by throwing them out of the Moon Door, died when Littlefinger threw her out of the Moon Door.
    • Maester Aemon Targaryen is a rare non-villainous example. He's the kindest, gentlest soul in all of Westeros, and he dies an old man peacefully in his bed.
    • Roose Bolton, who once killed a man and raped that man's wife for the high crime of not informing him they had married, and who later betrayed his liege lord by stabbing him in the heart, is stabbed in the heart by Ramsay, the bastard offspring of the aforementioned rape.
    • The aforementioned Ramsay Bolton, the Ax-Crazy psychopath with extreme Chronic Backstabbing Disorder enjoys hunting down innocent women and letting his vicious hounds rip them apart when they can't run anymore - including his stepmother and newborn half-brother. He starves said hounds for a week before the battle with Jon Snow in anticipation of feeding Jon and his officers to them. After Ramsay loses the battle, Jon's sister Sansa - the woman Ramsay raped and abused for months, places Ramsay in their kennel, where the hounds proceed to eat him alive after he is informed House Bolton dies with him. Exaggerated in that he named his dogs after the girls he killed.
    • Walder Frey broke guest right and had a woman brutally killed by slitting her throat. His comeuppance takes the form of unwittingly eating a pie made of his sons' corpses (a reference to a legend about a cook that got turned into a rat, forever eating its own children, for serving a king his own children in a pie in a breaching of guest right) made by that woman's daughter, before getting killed in the exact same way.
    • King Robert decides his hunting accident was divine retribution for plotting to assassinate a pregnant girl.
    • Viserys brings a sword into Vaes Dothrak to threaten his sister - a woman he's abused his entire life, and demand Khal Drogo's army. Viserys believes he's at an advantage because the Dothraki cannot use weapons in their holy city. The Dothraki overpower Viserys and burn him to death by pouring a pot of molten gold (which Viserys intended to be forged into a crown for himself) over his head, while he fruitlessly begs his sister for mercy.
    • Arya gives Polliver an identical death to the child that he killed during his Moral Event Horizon, with the exact same sword, complete with Ironic Echo in the form of Arya repeating the exact same words to him.
    • Despite thinking "everyone is mine to torment", King Joffrey's treatment of his favorite Chew Toy Sansa directly leads to the motive of his assassination when he falls victim to someone who decided his constant sadism was a ticking time bomb not worth dealing with. It would be little exaggeration to label his death — suffocating painfully on his own blood and vomit — as quite possibly, and quite fittingly, the most brutal death in the entire show up until Oberyn's death at the hands of Gregor Clegane, which says a lot. Further, in a fantastic twist of cosmic irony, he dies in the exact same manner as Robb Stark: brutally betrayed and butchered at a wedding while his mother is forced to watch. His death drips with irony. After Joffrey's openly misogynistic behavior and distaste for "the wailing of women", he dies listening to his mother's cries as he slowly suffocates thanks to Olenna Tyrell, a woman.
    • Daenerys crucifies 163 masters in the exact same pose as the 163 slave children they crucified.
    • Locke spends all of Season 3 abusing and molesting two unarmed and powerless captives. In Season 4, he is killed by two unarmed and disabled captives (Bran physically, Hodor mentally). Zig-Zagged in that Locke is the man who crippled the man who crippled Bran.
    • Karl Tanner mocks Jon for fighting "with honor," then is fittingly stabbed In the Back twice: first by a woman he previously abused, then mortally by Jon.
    • Rast is eventually killed by the very direwolf he once taunted.
    • Ygritte is shot in the back by the son of a man she shot in the back.
    • Janos Slynt is executed by the son of the man whom he had betrayed, and with a blade of Valyrian steel as a bonus.
    • Smalljon, who hates Wildlings and joins the Boltons so they can help them kill the Wildlings, ends up being killed by Tormund, a wildling. Even more karmic is that Tormund's nickname is Giantsbane, making it fitting that he would off a brute like Smalljon (whose house sigil is a Giant). There is also irony in that Smalljon's House was loyal to the Starks before he betrayed them, which resulted in Rickon's death, while Tormund became Jon's friend after behaving as an enemy.
    • Ellaria Sand, widow of Oberyn Martell, is directly responsible for murdering Cersei's daughter with poison. When she and her daughter Tyene are captured, Cersei poisons Tyene and leaves Ellaria chained up to watch her die and rot.
    • The thing that truly cemented Littlefinger as a back-stabbing Manipulative Bastard was when he held a knife to Eddard Stark's throat. He is ultimately killed by having his throat slit by Arya Stark, the daughter of Eddard who was forced to witness her father be executed, thanks in part to Littlefinger's influence. Additionally, Littlefinger is killed by the same dagger that would have been used to murder Bran at the beginning of the series, an event which escalated the War of the Five Kings. And, this all only happens because Littlefinger made Sansa his Bastard Understudy, giving her the skills to Out Gambit him.
      • Even more karmic since he dies after threatening a relative of a woman who grew up in a Decadent Court of backstabbers and liars. He also had a habit of telling her most of his plans. Yes, the same way of death as Ned Stark, whom Littlefinger betrayed, had.
    • Rorge is stabbed through the heart by the young girl he repeatedly threatened to brutally rape, and she does so using the 'stick' he'd threatened to 'fuck her bloody' with.
    • Doreah betrayed her people for Xaro. And once Xaro's house is overtaken by Daenerys' forces, Doreah is found in bed with the merchant prince, and soon both are locked in Xaro's vault, condemned to slowly starve to death.
    • Balon spent almost every second onscreen insulting and belittling his family members. He ends up getting killed by a family member.
    • Qyburn is killed by the same man he experimented on and turned into an undead monster.
    • Gregor Clegane gets sent falling to his death in a fire by his younger brother, whose face he once burned as a child.
    • Cersei goes out of her way to antagonize Daenerys and force her to attack King's Landing in full force, in the misguided belief that her armies can win and she can keep her hold on the Iron Throne. Instead, Daenerys utterly wipes the floor with them, and causes such devastation that the Red Keep ends up collapsing on Cersei's head.
  • iZombie:
    • As soon as Vaughn du Clark discovered the existence of zombies, he not only blackmailed Major into killing them (for no other reason than to hide any possible connection to his energy drink company), but also began rounding up others and experimenting on them for the sake of perfecting his products, not caring when his scientists got killed, even allowing his own daughter Rita to be turned and then locking her up. This culminates in the Season 2 finale, wherein Major releases several zombies (including Rita), and leaving Vaughn to be eaten by them.
    • After the existence of zombies is revealed, Chase Graves becomes so determined to preserve a peaceful coexistence between humans and zombies in Seattle that he essentially turns the city into a Police State, up to and including public execution (by means of an anvil guillotine) of any zombie who breaks his new laws. In the Season 4 finale, he attempts this on Liv, only for Major to lead a riot against the execution site to save her, leading to a one-on-one personal fight with Chase. During the struggle, Chase ends up with his head on the guillotine, and Liv happily drops the anvil on him.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: The assassin known as the Pilgrim has an MO of retgoning her targets from history by killing their younger selves, which she eventually tries to apply to the Legends. In the end, she's defeated when she's stabbed by Rip's child self, which distracts her long enough for the Legends to finish her off with a Combination Attack.
  • MacGyver (1985): Sandra in "Kill Zone" dies because of the research project she flagrantly violated protocol for.
  • In the third season The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The It's All Greek to Me Affair", the estranged husband of the innocent-of-the-week is a convicted criminal who's escaped from prison, and who spends most of the episode threatening to kill his estranged wife's meek, milquetoast schoolteacher boyfriend. In the climactic fight scene, the estranged husband (who is fighting with his estranged wife's boyfriend) winds up accidentally stabbed to death by the THRUSH Central representative to whom he had hoped to sell a valuable U.N.C.L.E. code he'd stolen earlier in the episode.
  • In Medium a suspect has killed his wife and staged her death to make it look like she fell off a boat. Allison had a dream about how he really did it, as he killed her up in a mountain and chopped her hand off. When the police and her father discovered her remains, the father brought him in the woods and killed him the same manner the suspect killed his daughter.
  • In the Merlin episode "Lancelot and Guinevere", Hengist is eaten alive by his own pet monster that he has fed many other people to after the heroes escape. However, this is unusual for the series - most of the villains are killed a little more directly.
  • Nikita:
    • In the season 2 finale, series-long Big Bad Percy is finally killed by Nikita just as he was on the verge of becoming a Karma Houdini. (Un)fortunately, he chose that exact moment to shift into a Smug Snake, and rather than walking away tries one last time to kill her, which ends up resulting in him being dropped down a missile silo. For bonus points, he ends up falling smack into the prison cell he spent the first half of the season locked up in.
    • Earlier in the season, there's the former Division scientist who was turning people into Manchurian Agents, and ends up killed by one.
  • On Nip/Tuck Teddy Rowe is Sean's nurse who he falls in love with and marries. What he doesn't know is that Teddy is a twisted murderess with multiple identities who marries doctors and then kills them for the life insurance. On a camping trip, she plans to kill not only Sean but also his kids via carbon monoxide poisoning. But before she can, she runs into a guy who just happens to be a serial killer himself and adds her as his latest victim.
  • Lampshaded, though done in a way that would be Redemption Equals Death interestingly, in the Season 2 Finale of Once Upon a Time. Regina was going to use a device to destroy Storybrook and kill everyone while using magic beans (which she stole from the heroes) to safely transport herself and Henry to the Enchanted Forest. Other villains capture and torture her, steal both the beans and the device, and plan on using to it to kill everyone including her. She then teams up with the heroes, plans on slowing the device down which will kill her but will give everyone else enough time to steal the beans back and escape. She explains that all of this is ultimately her fault, so it is only fitting that she die trying to stop it. It winds up being Redemption Earns Life instead.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) uses this a lot:
    • In the episode "Tribunal", an elderly, but unrepentant and still evil Nazi is brought back into the past and stranded in the concentration camp where he used to work. His past self casually executes him, not realizing who he was, and dismissing the corpse as "Just another worthless Jew".
    • In "The Vaccine", the Jerkass Social Darwinists force the nurse main character to mix up the titular vaccine for them at gunpoint, and even after they promise to save one dose for the little boy, they take it and give it to one of their own when the nurse's back is turned. They then go into anaphylactic shock, because they were already exposed and immune to the virus; the vaccine itself killed them and they inadvertently saved the lives of more sympathetic characters.
    • In "Deja Vu", a character suffers a Karmic Fate Worse than Death; the general who secretly tried to weaponize a teleportation experiment ends up trapped in an endless loop of the second before his death when the experiment goes awry.
    • In "Last Supper", a Mad Scientist tortures an immortal woman while trying to figure out the secret to her immortality and eternal youth. Eventually, he injects himself with a syringe of her blood. It makes him younger... and younger... and younger until he's reduced to a puddle of raw cells.
    • In "Judgment Day", the corrupt TV producer who framed a man for murder so he could be hunted down and killed on live television, suffers the same fate after he kills someone in an attempt to cover it up. He's killed by the person he originally framed, in fact.
  • Serrator on Power Rangers Samurai had a plan of taking over both the human and Nighlock worlds by splitting the Earth in half. The Rangers ultimately destroyed him by splitting him in half.
    • An interesting case on the other side of the world would be the Big Bad of Choujuu Sentai Liveman, Great Professor Bias. After spending an untold amount of time trying to find eternal youth while showing a clear disgust of any other form of life, he ultimately dies as a weak old man who needs to be taken care of by his Dragon.
  • Several in all seasons of Primeval, the most notable pair being Season 3, where Christine gets chomped by a future predator after getting into a pissing match with Helen over who is the bigger Jerkass, and Helen herself finds the punishment for trying to Ret Gone humanity is death by Dromaeosaurus.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Ashur rapes Naevia and later arranges for her to be sold as a Sex Slave; all of which was simply for him to get revenge on Crixus (who was in love with Naevia). In Spartacus: Vengeance, Naevia and Ashur face off in a sword fight, culminating with her castrating and beheading him.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Subverted in "The Prodigal". At the climax of the episode, the half-Wraith Big Bad Michael is hanging by his fingers from a very high point on Atlantis. Teyla kicks his hands loose and he falls to his death. He had threatened her son and the entire city with the self-destruct.
  • Taken: Karmic Death: In "Acid Tests", Owen Crawford dies of a stroke after he learns that his younger son Sam, who has always been his favorite, is dead. In his final moments, his elder son Eric, very much The Unfavorite, tells Owen that this fate could have been avoided if he had not been so horrible to him for all of those years.
  • Teen Wolf: It was implied that Gerard might die after his defeat in season two. His master plan, you ask? To cure his cancer by becoming a werewolf. Only after Scott tampers with his medicine, does Gerard's body rejects the werewolf bite, and he starts violently oozing black goo. Of course, this is just an implication, so viewers are still gonna have to wait for season three.
  • Charlie Harper in Two and a Half Men was a frequent womanizer who cheats on various ladies. According to Ashton Kutcher, the reason the character died was that he went to Paris, cheated on a woman there, and she decided to make sure he paid for it by pushing him into a bus. Subverted in the fact that he never died that way, though he does get a piano (one of which he used for a living) dropped on him by the end of the series by Chuck Lorre.
    • Chuck Lorre is revealed to be an In-Verse character and it's through him that seasons 9-12 exist in the first place and that Charlie ended up in his predicament throughout those seasons to begin with. Almost immediately after he has a piano dropped on Charlie just as he returns home, just as Lorre is gloating over what he's done, another piano falls on top of him.
  • Martinez in The Walking Dead constructed special pits around his safe-zone to capture zombies for the Governor to use as weapons to kill other groups and experiment on. He is shown having great joy at torturing zombies and is enthusiastic about using them against other people. Then, the Governor decides he's no longer necessary and kills him by dumping him into one of his own pits where he's Eaten Alive slowly.
    • Gorman experiences a truly epic one in Season 5, courtesy of the two women he'd been harassing. After forcing a lollipop into Beth's mouth, he later tries to assault her in Dawn's office. Beth fights him off by smashing a jar of lollipops over his head, then leaves him to be eaten alive by the zombified Joan; a woman he had been repeatedly raping.
  • The X-Files episode "Aubrey" had a former serial killer die at the hands of his estranged grand-daughter who was channeling his "genetic memory" and had essentially become him.


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