Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.

Following

Character Rerailment

Go To

Stewie: I've always been about world domination. The hell did you think I was talking about when I said "victory shall be mine"?
Brian: You have not said that in a very long time.
Stewie: Well, I'm back on it.
Family Guy, "Mr. and Mrs. Stewie"

Character Rerailment is what happens when a derailed character returns to their previous characterization. Generally this signals the end of an Audience-Alienating Era. This may also follow a changing of the guard at the asylum. May also happen repeatedly if a character bounces between writers. Sometimes the time spent derailed turns out to be All Just a Dream or Actually a Doombot.

Advertisement:

Sometimes used as an Author's Saving Throw or Forgot Flanders Could Do That. A temporary reversion to prior characterization is a Character Check. Can be an Adaptation Personality Change if this occurs in a new adaptation of a story that's been comprehensively derailed. See also, We Want Our Jerk Back!, "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • While in the past two or three volumes, she was murderously insane in every single chapter, in volume 8 of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Chiri returns to her original characterization as very uptight, but still somewhat the Straight Man.
  • Orihime Inoue from Bleach is an odd case of rerailment due to Character Development instead of undoing Character Derailment. She has recently gone back to being her humorous, perky self like how she was to begin with rather than the broken, emotional character she's been portrayed as throughout the Hueco Mundo arc as a result of a MASSIVE Break the Cutie process that involved her being kidnapped, being mentally/physically/sexually (manga only) harrassed by the enemy, being forced to see her friends being hurt in several ways, and ultimately watching her Love Interest being beaten to near death. This is because all her issues from said arc were wrapped up and she was free to be a content person once more, with added life experiences and stronger determination.
  • Code Geass: Kaname Ohgi went through a lot of derailment, going from the Black Knights' Voice of Reason and Only Sane Man to an idiotic hypocrite who made increasingly rash and idiotic decisions, backstabbing Lelouch based on Villains Never Lie and functionally surrendering the entire world to Britannia in an under-the-table deal to free Japan), becoming quite The Scrappy as a result. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection and its preceding movie trilogy makes efforts to revert Ohgi back to his original characterization; in the last compilation film, he begs for Lelouch to tell the truth before Schneizel's men and Rolo interfere, and he also punched Diethard for working behind the Black Knights' backs. He may also feel guilty for reluctantly making a deal with Schneizel, having stepped down from his position as Japan's Prime Minister at the start of Re;surrection (which takes place a year after the Zero Requiem), and even briefly attempts to commit suicide during his talk with Lelouch at Zilkhstan before the latter casually snaps him out of it.
  • Mamoru Chiba/Darian from Sailor Moon was subjected to quite the Character Derailment in the R season, going from a polite young man who still didn't unnecessarily sugarcoat his words and did tell his (much-younger) girlfriend and her friends what he had in his mind, to a Angsty and broken mess who acted borderline abusive to her, badmouthing her to keep her away and safe, and caused her lots of turmoil (which once almost killed her since he would not tell her what he did have his reasons... when in fact said reasons did involve her and she had all the right to know). Fortunately, once he finally told her the truth and the arc reached its end, Mamoru's Out of Character half-season was put in a shelf and he returned to be the Senshi's Big Brother Mentor and a kind yet sincere boyfriend to Usagi. Too bad fandom won't let him live it down, though.... him being put heavily Out of Focus in the next few seasons didn't help matters either.
  • The few constants among the Pokémon cast seem to be re-hitting their stride in the XY saga.
    • Jessie, James, and Meowth were first introduced as true members of the evil Team Rocket organization, constantly obeying their leader Giovanni all the time. But after their obsession with capturing Ash Ketchum's Pikachu began in the show's second episode, they started to ignore Giovanni and mainly went after Pikachu, which inevitably resulted in them constantly getting kicked around and "being blasted off again" every single time, even when Ash continued his journeys beyond Kanto. By Sinnoh, they had gone from their original intentions of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains to an outright Goldfish Poop Gang with silly dances and Boss Fantasies being seen as outright detrimental to both the show in general and the Terrible TRio specifically. The writers for the Best Wishes arc made them super competent and super important; which generated (yet another) Broken Base and was ultimately seen as swinging the pendulum too far the other way. Early Kalos seems to have split the difference, wherein Team Rocket's plans are self-contained and usually doomed to failure, yet Pikachu is now an occasional target, giving way to the Pokémon of the Week note  and the trio sometimes still putting up a Not So Harmless offence against Ash's team that led to intense two-way fights instead of one-sided beatings. This has struck fans early on as a "happy medium."
    • Ash himself seems to be undergoing this in Kalos as well. In Hoenn, he served as a Big Brother Mentor to Max and an equal to May. In Sinnoh, his Idiot traits are a bit more pronounced, but he still comes off as a capable Trainer. In Unova, he was completely rebooted into a full-fledged rookie, except when the plot required otherwise, taking a backseat to his own sidekicks Iris and Cilan half the time. Kalos, however, is widely seen as a return to form; he's still a bit wide-eyed, but most of his faux pas early on have come from lack of knowledge of the new region's dynamics, as opposed to the outright virtual lobotomy in Unova. It helps that he started Kalos with a Moment of Awesome note , is a quasi-Big Brother Mentor to Bonnie note , and also has Serena to play off as she's the novice of the group.
      • Kalos had it's own lingering flaws by the end of it's run in terms of Ash's somewhat vanilla and overly serious personality, being a capable battler but lacking much else in terms of quirks besides being very upbeat and forever engrossed by Pokemon. Alola fills in this remaining hole, making Ash still competent and insightful, but much more emotive and childlike again, and even reemerging some of his awkward or Butt-Monkey qualities without undermining his gained experience as a trainer too heavily, and sometimes even blending it into giving him some Success Through Insanity in strategy and training.
  • Dragon Ball
    • Frieza is also a stellar example. After his time as the Arc Villain and Big Bad was up, the manga had Frieza anticlimactically worfed by future Trunks, whereafter he quit appearing, leaving him a memorable villain who simply got outstripped after his time in the limelight had ended, but nothing uncommonly undignified. The anime and other extended media, however, kept bringing him back after this point and had him unceremonously subjected to more one-sided beatdowns, and started characterizing him as a Small Name, Big Ego in the bigger scheme of things who Can't Catch Up to the heroes. During Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, however, not only are all of his previous defeats explicitly removed from continuity, it is revealed that Frieza is an insanely talented prodigy who simply had never trained. During his comeback, Frieza returns as an opponent with power and cruelty to be feared, and his second return during the Universe Survival Arc drives the point home that, regardless of whatever more powerful or skilled opponents Goku may face, Frieza will always be his most hated and vicious foe.
    • Pan, as she was introduced at the end of Dragon Ball Z, was portrayed as a bright-eyed, happy Cheerful Child. When an older preteen Pan was made into one of the main characters of the sequel anime Dragon Ball GT, her characterization was now a more snarky Bratty Half-Pint. When Super showcased Pan as an infant, it restored her characterization back to her upbeat Cheerful Child self from the end of Z, something that made her far more popular with viewers.
  • While most fans wouldn't say he was ever outright ruined, many felt that Sanji from One Piece was hit with a lot of Flanderization over the years in regards to his weakness towards women. He always was very much a Chivalrous Pervert, but his horny comedic side was usually balanced with things like his kindness or his coolness to stop him from feeling one-note. After the timeskip, however, his pervy gags seemed to eclipse other aspects of his character, especially in the Fishman Island arc where his horny nosebleeds nearly getting him killed becomes a significant plot point. In the Wholecake Island arc, however, he's given an arc's worth of development as certain aspects of his past come to light and some less shown aspects of his character such as his selflessness are explored in greater detail, causing him to come off as a far more serious character. By the time of the Wano arc he's still very much a horny goofball (It is One Piece after all), but his gags are balanced with more serious moments from him.

    Comic Books 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 rerails several members of the cast after their derailment in Seasons 6 and 7, while at the same time continuing their character development. Some, however, still haven't really recovered (Giles, Amy, Buffy herself to a widly varying degree, etc.)
  • A number of comic book characters have gone through this. Like Batman, who swings between Jerkass behavior and being called out on it, typically going on a trip to rediscover himself.
    • Nightwing underwent a similar process after Devin Grayson's disastrous run on the series, which had him join Deathstroke as Renegade. The Reset Button on that one was pounded so hard it cracked.
    • For Nightwing, it was a case of rerailment or death. Dan DiDio has stated that it was originally planned to have Nightwing die at the end of Infinite Crisis (if you've read it, you can probably figure out where), and he kind of implies that Devin Grayson's handling of the character is one of the reasons.
    • This seems to be a pattern with Batman characters, including the case of Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl... for a while, at least. After she was revealed to have thrown out her heroic side and become evil, later writers retconned this by saying that she was under the control of Deathstroke through a drug, only to have her swing back to killing people again. Poor girl can't catch a break. Later, she would go back to not killing, with the second turn to killing ignored.
    • The Joker is a particularly poignant example; initially a murderous criminal who just happened to look like a clown and sometimes use modified joke paraphenalia in his crimes, the Golden Age Joker went from a cold, grim and relatively rational but bad-tempered professional criminal to a harmless and super-wacky "robbing jester" during the Silver Age stories. Finally, the Bronze Age brought the two takes of the character together for the first time in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge", establishing the wacky-but-horrifically-evil personality that has become his defining characterization ever since. However, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction, with The Joker doing things like cutting off his own face and wearing it. DC Rebirth reconciled these different interpretations by explaining there are three Jokers.
    • Bane has had this a lot. He started out as a Genius Bruiser that used a drug called Venom to augment his already impressive strength, and managed to exhaust Batman enough that he easily won their first fight, and broke Batman's back. He basically became known for only breaking Batman's back and his use of venom, and became Dumb Muscle subject to The Worf Effect. Gail Simone's Secret Six run would revert him to Genius Bruiser and have him try to wean himself off Venom. However, then the New 52 reboot hit and Bane was back to being Dumb Muscle and constantly using Venom, though sometimes showed a Genius Bruiser side. Eventually, Tom King would revert him to Genius Bruiser in his Batman run, while having Bane's Venom use be a more mental thing, with it not only augmenting his considerable physical strength, but also removing his ability to feel fear, implied to be why Bane really used Venom.
  • Green Lantern Hal Jordan went through this after he went insane and killed most of the other Lanterns. It was eventually revealed in Green Lantern: Rebirth that he'd been possessed by Parallax, the embodiment of fear, and he proceeded to regain his true heroic self; though at the time this seemed like an Ass Pull to some, both Parallax and the Sinestro Corps have gone on to become an integral part of the Green Lantern mythos. Oh, and several of the dead Lanterns turned out to be alive.
  • Writer Peter David, who wrote Incredible Hulk for 12 years, disliked the changes made by a subsequent writer so much that when he came back to write the title, he had the entire previous storyline revealed to have been All Just a Dream.
  • Iron Man had been reduced to a Tin Tyrant Fascist who was really no better than Doctor Doom by Civil War, despite what seemed to be attempts to portray him as right. Nothing could make anyone feel any sort of sympathy towards this man who felt it necessary to trap his political opponents in a dimension of pure suffering. Post-Civil War stories have done better at making him sympathetic without making him go back on his opinion about the Superhero Registration Act, with one New Avengers comic showing him desperately plead with the (invisible but present) Avengers to be taken in to prevent further tragedy, and World War Hulk has his Big Badass Battle Sequence with the Incredible Hulk where he owns up to his role in causing the event in a broadcast to the entire world, and ends by saying that whatever he has done, is doing or will do was for the sake of the world.
  • At this point, there are at least three different characterizations of Magneto, with authors repeatedly rerailing one by derailing the others. The original characterization was a generically evil Big Bad. Chris Claremont's tormented Well-Intentioned Extremist is the most complex and long-running, considered his "true" self by most, but Grant Morrison's Ax-Crazy villain is closer to the character's roots. However, nobody complained about Magneto's return to the character he'd been from 1975 to 2003 immediately after by Claremont himself, with Morrison's Magneto revealed as an impostor. Morrison, however, wasn't the first to try and make him The Heavy again, though they did make sure he had sufficient provocation for "Fatal Attractions" back in the 90s.
  • Alan Davis dismissed a later writer's run on ClanDestine as a dream. It was hilarious because it was just a single-line throwaway.
  • The Punisher famously went through a 90s Audience-Alienating Era where he was reimagined as a supernatural character who hunted demons at the behest of Angels from Heaven. Garth Ennis took over the character and brought him back to his gritty roots, with the Heaven stuff dismissed with a single (now iconic) Hand Wave line:
    Punisher: Tried it. Didn't like it.
  • Christopher Priest used the same tactic when he got ahold of The Creeper during his Deathstroke run. The Creeper had previously been heavily reimagined in the New 52 as a Darker and Edgier Japanese Oni, much to the ire of his fans. Priest brought back the character's original appearance, and only mentioned the Oni stuff in passing with a line saying that the Creeper had been going through some changes recently, but was now feeling like his old self again.
  • Gambit started off as a Rule of Cool-based, Mr. Fanservice Manipulative Bastard Handsome Lech Death Dealing Badass Longcoat who relished the challenge of getting his hands on the Forbidden Fruit Rogue, though stymied by his self-centered Jerkass qualities and the large number of people he pissed off in his thief career. Then, Rogue left him to die in Antarctica. After this, the result was a lot of Angst on Gambit's part, whose characterization was changed from the previously-described version to a Self-loathing Atoner desperate to punish himself for his (morally blameless) role in the Mutant Massacre. More recent adaptations, however, have reached back to the character's roots: X-Men Origins: Wolverine showed Gambit as competent, charming, handsome and relatively low-angst card-shark who won a Cool Plane in a poker game, and Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) had Gambit as a mercenary, ruthless, charming, manipulative thief for hire (albeit in only two episodes). Whether or not this trend will continue is currently unknown, though his recent solo series, which compromises by having him return to his thieving roots and ultimately becoming King of Thieves, while remaining a loose faculty member at the Jean Grey School (Wolverine explains that they don't actually expect him to turn up much... but they trust him to be there when it counts, when he's really needed), before joining X-Factor, but still remaining King of Thieves.
  • The entire purpose of One More Day was to get Spider-Man single again and make him "young and fresh" again. In order to do this, he was made to make a deal with Mephisto to save his aunt from dying, at the cost of his wife and unborn child, then was reset to being single, "young and fresh", and... living with his elderly aunt again. Safe to say, this didn't work out so well, but later writers have done their best to salvage it. The Amazing Spider-Man (Nick Spencer) is a better attempt at this as it restores some of the development and ethos the books had lost since OMD.
  • Following an encounter with Dr Octopus that resulted in her going to jail, the Black Cat decided to reinvent herself as a an up and coming mob boss in the New York crime scene. This change was controversial to say the least and following her roles in Venom Inc. and Brian Michael Bendis's Defenders, Felicia pulled a Heel–Face Turn. Nick Spencer's Spider-Man run also restored her knowledge of Spider-Man's identity, the loss of which some fans had felt regressed Felicia greatly; Spencer seems to agree with them, as he explicitly states in-story that the loss was messing with her head.
  • Shatterstar's an odd case in that the "rerailment" wasn't to his original characterization. X-Force had him slowly lose his rage, but handled it believably, and didn't give him Badass Decay. Rob Liefeld's work on the series snapped him back to his old self, but didn't do much with the possibilities involved. X-Factor toned him down again, and has had more of a positive reception.
  • Speedball's infamous transition from wacky comic relief to self-hating atoner in Civil War has been undone, redone, and partially undone again as different writers debate over the character. As of Heroic Age, he's still haunted by his memories, but he's slowly recovering.
  • In The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Prowl, the normally level-headed second in command, reveals a darker side, and shows him as a schemer doing what may be unethical but necessary to win the war (here having the mind of a respected soldier altered to serve his purposes). In The Transformers (IDW) his personality does a 180 and he becomes a self-sacrificial maverick, tries to save a Decepticon, and acts like the kind of rule-breaker he previously hated, this carries over to Infestation, but not to the concurrent The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers wherein he manipulated many events behind the story. The Transformers: Robots in Disguise has Prowl revert to his scheming, being more irrational and hot-headed, but still bending the rules for what he feels is the greater good. He remarks that his actions in the previous series were irrational and brought on by too much trust. He's caught in an Armed with Canon tug-of-war and prone to repeatedly deciding that he was wrong during the previous writer's take on him and should have stayed like the writer before that had him.
  • An issue of Chris Claremont's X-Men had the villain Arcade light a match on Doctor Doom's armour, with Doom just allowing it. Many felt this was Character Derailment, and as it turns out, so did John Byrne. During his run on the title, he retconned that the Doom who worked with Arcade was actually a Doombot, and when the real Doom questions it on how he killed Arcade for such an act, the Doombot says it did not, for it felt Doom may need Arcade. Doom then casually destroys the Doombot, exclaiming, "Doom needs no one." This actually became one of Doom's most memorable moments as a character.
  • Supergirl was originally a short-tempered but optimistic, sweet girl. When she was reintroduced in 2004, editors thought the best way to bring the character up to date was characterizing her as a permanently angry, immature, edgy jerkass. Fans hated it and mass-dropped the book. The next creative team hurried to revert her to her kind-hearted self, and writer Sterling Gates dismissed her initial weird characterization as temporary Kryptonite-induced craziness. No one complained.
  • Carnage became increasingly megalomaniacal in the 2011 Carnage USA and 2014 Minimum Carnage story arcs, taking over the town of Doverton, Colorado in the former and seeking to conquer the Microverse in the latter. In Superior Carnage Annual, however, Cletus remarks that he doesn't know what came over him and decides to go back to his roots as a chaos-obsessed mass-murderer.
    Cletus: Dreaming of taking over cities... conquering tiny universes. Thought I was thinking big! But those kinds of ambitions... they're lies. Now the cataracts have been peeled from my eyes! I can see clearly! Back to the basics! Simple... beautiful... random ...Carnage!
  • The Ultimates: Ultimates 3 changed Hawkeye's suit and turned him into a Death Seeker. He was reverted to the original design and characterization in Ultimate Hawkeye, just in time for his debut in the MCU.
  • Impulse introduced Inertia, Impulse's evil clone from the future. Despite being a villain, he was portrayed as a tragic character who just wanted to be loved. However, later appearances portrayed Inertia as an Ax-Crazy sociopath who murders Impulse and several others before eventually being killed off. But when he returned from the dead in The Flash (Rebirth) #760, Inertia was again portrayed as a sympathetic character, with Barry Allen describing him as a "kid in pain".
Advertisement:

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Before The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (see below), the Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper film Murder by Decree made a good-faith effort to rescue Watson from his post-Nigel Bruce image as a dundering blockhead. James Mason's Watson is an occasional Deadpan Snarker who makes one of the biggest contributions to solving the case, when he isn't taking out a much younger man in a fistfight.
  • Curse of Chucky brought the titular Killer Doll back to his original characterization from the original film as a foul-mouthed thug trapped in the body of a children's doll, and out of his Flanderized, more comical Stupid Evil traits from the sequels.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Vernon's portrayal which sees him as friends with April who helps her and Raph rescue the others has him closer to how he originally was portrayed in the first season of the '87 cartoon before he Took a Level in Jerkass and became April's cowardly rival.
  • After some criticism about how Hot-Blooded and impulsive the previous two films made him out to be, Star Trek Beyond was well-received by fans of the original series by depicting James T. Kirk much closer to the Shatner version - brave, loyal, and assertive, for sure, but also distinctly level-headed and a born leader who's a better strategist than he is an action hero.
  • It's argued that The Dark Knight's Joker is a rerailment of the character as he appeared way back in the Golden Age: he doesn't bother with giant jack-in-the-boxes or acid-squirting corsages, used public announcements to terrify Gotham, and despite having an evil laugh, he was far from a giggling loon (in fact, his expression was usually pretty dead).
  • Similarly, one of Batman & Robin's many unforgivable sins was turning Bane into the very most boring and cartoonish type of Dumb Muscle. The Dark Knight Rises fixed that and then some by reintroducing Bane as the intimidating Genius Bruiser terrorist leader he was meant to be, who's both strong enough to break the Bat and smart enough to successfully separate Gotham City from the mainland. And he had a much better costume to boot.
  • Rogue One and The Last Jedi take two of the original trilogy's most beloved characters back to their roots in magnificent fashion: In Rogue One, Darth Vader is shown as an unstoppable, terrifying, borderline-horror film-level MONSTER who wades through rebels like he's carving a cake, and The Last Jedi undoes many years of Flanderization by returning Yoda to the goofy, expressive, optimistic Trickster Mentor he was in the first films, and keeps his famous speech pattern to an appropriate minimum. Plus, he's also portrayed by an actual puppet rather than CGI.
    • After his contentious portrayal in the previous film, The Rise of Skywalker brings Luke Skywalker, now a a Force Ghost, closer to his roots as the noble Ideal Hero that we've always known him as, Older and Wiser but with the same witty and sarcastic sense of humor that he showed off in The Last Jedi. Symbolically, his first scene in The Last Jedi saw him throw Anakin's lightsaber over a cliff on Ahch-To. The first thing he does in The Rise of Skywalker is catching it when an aggrieved Rey briefly throws it away on that same island.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Justice League: After being a Classical Anti-Hero with emotional hang-ups in the first two movies, Superman is portrayed with his more traditional characterization.
    • After the above theatrical cut turned Batman into a laughingstock with truly embarrassing lines who acted like a highschool girl with a childish crush smiling awkwardly upon Superman's return, Zack Snyder's Justice League rerails Batman into a badass and dignified leader who proves himself capable on the field once more while retaining his newfound idealism from the concluding hour or so of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Also from Zack Snyder's Justice League, Barry Allen's awkward obsessions with "brunch" and "Pet Sematary" that needlessly amplified his Ambiguous Disorder in the 2017 film are excised and he's not afraid to go fighting anymore. Superman meanwhile is much less of a Smug Super upon his return here with no quipping in his fight against Steppenwolf bar "Not. Impressed.", which is more in line with his Humble Hero portrayal in the previous two films without sacrificing his full transition into The Cape.
  • After the mockery that appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand, Deadpool 2 introduces a version of the Juggernaut who, while still somewhat weaker than in the comics canon, has the same appearance and (it seems) background.
  • King Ghidorah in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) returns the three-headed titan to his original role as a spacefaring planet-destroyer with his own agenda to wipe out all life on earth, a role he hadn't taken since his first appearance in the Showa films' Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. Later films after his debut had always tended to portray him as a mind controlled pawn, either by alien conquerors, by humans from the future, or by religious space cultists, depending on various timelines.
  • The titular heroine of Pollyanna is often Flanderized into a messiah determined to liven people's up through her Glad Game - spawning a trope about such a character ignorantly denying the negatives in favor of vainly focusing on the positives. Eleanor Porter, author of the book, expressed dissatisfaction with people viewing the character this way - stating that Pollyanna never denied the negatives of the world but merely "greeted the unknown with a cheer". The 1960 Disney film adaptation brings Pollyanna back in line with this interpretation; here her sunny attitude is entirely for herself, there's a scene where it's implied the Glad Game is a coping mechanism for the losses she's suffered and her defrosting of the town becomes more incidental. Director David Swift wanted to emphasise the girl's shyness, so the positive advice has to be coaxed out of her and her friendships are earned in quick succession.
  • Inspector Gadget 2 did this with Dr. Claw. In the first film, Claw, real name Sanford Scolex, was a Camp Straight Large Ham whose face was fully visible at all times and had a metal pincer for a hand, as opposed to the gravelly-voiced, spiked-gauntlet-wearing menace whose face was never shown in the original cartoon. In the second film, Claw, while retaining his pincer hand, spoke with a gravelly voice, kept his face hidden via a wide-brimmed hat, and was only ever called by his villainous moniker, making him closer to his original depiction.
  • After later Nightmare on Elm Street films made Freddy Krueger into a Large Ham jokester with a penchant for Pre-Mortem One-Liners, Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason brought Freddy back to his depiction in the original film, the cold-blooded ghost of a Serial Killer whose jokes were few in number and mainly to taunt his victims. The remake went even further and used the original idea they had for Freddy, which was to have him be not just a child murderer but specifically a pedophile who raped them.

    Live Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998) had an unfortunate case of Phoebe taking a level in Jerkass, becoming more selfish, abusing her powers more often and dating a neverending series of men in vain hopes of finding 'the one'. Season 8 sees her becoming much kinder, doing many selfless things and deconstructing her Serial Romeo habits by showing how hurt she's been by the endless string of failed relationships. Basically back to how she was in the earlier seasons - just with more Character Development. By the end of the series, she prioritizes her Charmed One duties over finding love (which while it does happen, becomes more incidental).
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor himself:
      • The Third Doctor era had done a drastic Retool into a Spy Fiction-influenced series, with the Third Doctor being a radical departure from the first two Doctors in that his TARDIS was broken and, stranded on Earth, he'd taken a job with the military. While this era is well-liked, some regard the characterisation as Doctor Who In Name Only, between the Doctor tending to throw his social class around a lot more and the fact that the setup seemed to play down the appealing points of the character. When he regenerated into the Fourth Doctor he reverted to a clownish characterisation quite similar to the Second Doctor (although this developed in a more nuanced and rounded direction after his first serial) and cut most of his ties to Earth and UNIT, in favour of the wild space travel and battles with monsters upon which the first two had focused.
      • The Seventh Doctor era attempted - at first - to make the Doctor a lot Lighter and Softer, making him a foolish Cloud Cuckoo Lander who didn't seem to have a clue what was going on and would break into vaudeville spoon-playing and clowning. In addition to this being a very shallow interpretation of the Doctor's characterisation, it caused severe whiplash coming as it did after an era with a particularly Jerkass Doctor who had featured in some very dark and violent stories. However, once the Executive Meddling eased up, the script editor and Sylvester McCoy teamed up to gradually rerail the Doctor back into being a mysterious, powerful and frightening figure, who just also happened to be a loveable figure of fun into the bargain as well, as he had always been before that and will likely always be after.
    • The Cybermen from Doctor Who were originally an emotionless and monotone species of cyborgs. From Earthshock onwards they turned into generic gun-carrying evildoers. This was finally fixed in the New Series and Big Finish Doctor Who audio stories.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (and its successors) went to great pains to avoid the image of Watson as a fat, blundering old moron who couldn't see that the sun had risen until Holmes point it out to him, and turned him back into the young, fit, and incredibly accomplished surgeon with military background who, while still nowhere near as bright as Holmes, was still very intelligent in his own right.
  • Television did this for both Perry Mason and Ellery Queen. In different series of movies in the 30s and 40s, Mason was depicted as a hard-living playboy with lavish offices and expensive tastes, while Queen was a comic bungler who was Too Dumb to Live. It took Raymond Burr (Mason) and Jim Hutton (Queen) to bring those characters back to the authors' original characterizations (which were far more serious and sensible).
  • After a bout of serious Flanderization and Character Derailment in the previous seasons, the characters in Community are returned to their original personalities in the fifth season, particularly Chang and Dean Pelton, who had become obnoxious cartoon characters by the fourth season.
  • The last season of True Blood rerailed Bill Compton. In the first two seasons he was brooding guy with a few secrets like being a spy but was trying to make up for his vampire nature by being nice and helpful to people and only drinking synthetic blood. Then in season three through six he became increasingly manipulative and callous and eventually megalomaniac. In the last season Bill saw the error of his ways and started trying to get rid other evil vampires and started being nice to the main cast again, especially main character Sookie who he finally started conversing with regularly again.
  • Game of Thrones: Jaime's current storyline in the books ends with him being fed up with Cersei's madness and abandoning her, as snow begins to fall in his area, indicating that winter has finally come. Season 6 finale teased it with a Death Glare he gave Cersei in the end after she blew up the Sept of Baelor with wildfire, but then he spent all Season 7 firmly at her side. Then in the Season 7 finale, he finally does the same decision as in the books, just as the snow begins to fall. Then, he got Character Derailment again once the White Walker threat is over in Season 8 by going back to Cersei. This is especially bizarre as the only 'interaction' they had that season was when Jaime met an assassin Cersei had sent to kill him, which isn't even mentioned when they meet.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon:
    • Minako in the 90s anime, she was introduced as a badass Sailor Guardian and the most powerful of them - before slowly undergoing Chickification until she'd become a ditz who was less competent than Usagi. The live action series restores her to the veteran Sailor Guardian persona, and gives her flaws that don't undermine her competency as a warrior (while still maintaining some of her playful side from the manga and anime).
    • Rei underwent a complete personality change in the anime to become hot tempered and boy crazy, as well as a needless rival to Usagi. The live action again brings back the Sugar-and-Ice Personality, giving her good reasons to clash with Usagi and also enough Character Development to still be likable.
    • Naru was a divisive character over her treatment in the 90s anime - particularly the English dub that gave her a Brooklyn accent that many found annoying. The live action puts more emphasis on how supportive a friend she is to Usagi, and she became an Ensemble Dark Horse as a result.
  • The first few episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street set Bolander up as a gruff, quirky mentor to his partner Munch and a veteran detective respected by the whole unit. However, for the rest of both the first and second seasons, Bolander's love life and insecurities were focused on in favor of his status as a mentor figure. As a consequence, he rapidly turned into a mopey and insecure sadsack, which likely wouldn't have been much of a problem had the writers not tried to turn Bolander (played by the overweight, elderly Ned Beatty) into a Kavorka Man and had his personal life not become a major storyline, which was often out of place in a gritty crime show. This quickly made him rather annoying; in the third season, he was rapidly reverted back to his previous characterization, and once again his experience and competence at the job became the primary focus of his character.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the flavor text on counterspells is usually a snarky and condescending quote from a blue mage. When Jace Beleren became the most prominent blue-aligned character, he took on this role, but in the actual story, he never quite behaved that way. In more recent sets, this tendency has been dialed back significantly so that the cards match the original intent of the story.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 this seems to be happening slightly to Khorne. In recent fluff, he has been going back to his older self, his hounds are stated to be sent to hunt down any of his Champions who kill an innocent (or at least offer them to Khorne). Not much, but hey. Progress.
    • Those hounds also sent to hunt down those who run away from battle and abandon their fellow warriors.
    • What makes it an odd example is the Warhammer version of him (it's intentionally vague if they're the actual same character or just identical) never lost those traits.
Advertisement:

    Video Games 
  • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, Cranky Kong is cranky again. (Yeah, how THAT Character Derailment ever managed to happen in the first place we'll never know...)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • According to Yuji Naka, this was the reason behind Sonic's redesign in Sonic Adventure. He was originally intended to be a bit of a "bad boy", with early Japanese media portraying him with a somewhat aloof yet assertive personality. In spite of this, western media tended to make him more hammy and sassy. Adding to that, despite being the Trope Codifier of Mascot with Attitude, once he blew up in popularity, his image gradually morphed into something more cutesy, particularly in Japanese merchandising. To counter this, Sonic Adventure introduced a new take on the cast, with artist Yuji Uekawa updating them to a taller and more angular design. Sonic's new design was the most drastic, putting a much stronger emphasis on that "bad boy" image.
      • Around the time of the series' Audience-Alienating Era in the mid-2000s, a lot of Sonic's attitude was downplayed in favor of presenting him as more of a generic nice guy, mainly in localizations.note  Sonic Colors tried to counter this by making him into a sassier and hammier Motor Mouth, but fans increasingly began to complain that it felt like Sonic was too sassy and arrogant now, making him more annoying than entertaining or likable. Interestingly, the original Japanese script of Sonic Forces attempted to rerail him by toning down his hamminess... only for the English dub to amp it back up, resulting in his sass jarring horribly with the story's darker direction (including the dub-added "tortured for six months" thing).
      • Oddly, it would be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that would first rein him in a bit; the World of Light trailer has him slow down and stretch out his hand in an effort to save Pikachu, though both are eventually killed doing so.
    • Earlier in the series, Knuckles went from a smug echidna who laughed at being able to outwit Sonic to an extremely committed guardian who is a bit gullible. Sonic Heroes attempted to combine the two portrayals into a Lancer who is smug at getting one over Sonic, but it marked the point in which Knuckles' Hot-Blooded nature and naivety started to get exaggerated in a case of Took a Level in Dumbass and Badass Decay, with later games following suit and culminating in his Sonic Boom self becoming a full-on Dumb Muscle. His role as guardian of Angel Island is also frequently overlooked in favor of being another generic associate of Sonic. And then he returns to his Adventure persona again in Sonic Runners, even explicitly saying that he's concerned about what happens to his island when he's away. Similarly, Sonic Forces slightly re-re-rails him, restoring his more serious demeanor and a bit of his intellect, having him make the plans for the Resistance, albeit very straightforward ones.
    • Amy Rose. Originally an energetic and cheerful girl with a who had a crush on Sonic and chased after him. She got a Plot-Relevant Age-Up from eight to twelve come Sonic Adventure, in which she became an All-Loving Hero and got more persistent about her attraction to Sonic without being entirely unreasonable, while also being a more active force for the good guys via helping in Gamma and Shadow's redemption arcs. Cue Sonic Heroes, where being a Stalker with a Crush had completely taken over her character in regards to her relationship with Sonic (though she still retained some agency in being Team Rose's leader). She derailed even further in Sonic Riders, becoming a Spoiled Brat, albeit one that had some good points about Sonic's actions at times. She was eventually rerailed in Sonic Unleashed, back to somewhere between Sonic CD and Sonic Adventure levels of crushing, though she'd have much less of a storyline role in the games onward. As of Sonic Lost World and Sonic Forces, her crush on Sonic is more nuanced and tolerable along the lines of CD and SA1-2, with her enthusiasm towards him still being prevalent, but not to the degree that it would hinder her more caring or strong-willed traits.
    • Dr. Eggman was originally introduced as an over-the-top yet relentless and conniving villain, with his manipulations of events in Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Adventure being the best examples of such. Later games tried to make Eggman a more serious villain and downplay his comedic attributes as the games' plot became darker, only for the next game to backpedal and revert him back to his comedy relief self, while at the same time eventually reducing him to the role of Disc-One Final Boss in favor of newer threats usurping him. Starting from Sonic Unleashed onward, however, his hamminess and comedic traits started to get more focus, likely to coincide with the now Denser and Wackier stories. On the other hand, he was able to keep the role of main villain in later games, and his comical traits were gradually de-emphasized through Sonic Lost World and the Darker and Edgier Sonic Forces, where his more conniving traits from the Adventure games were given increased focus instead. It remains to be seen whether or not it will stick this time.
    • That being said, what counts as Character Derailment or Rerailment depends on the fan, due to the Sonic franchise's notoriously Broken Base (and the series' constant admission onto the Cerebus Rollercoaster). Some consider the shift to the more light-hearted games from Unleashed on as Character Derailment and yearn for the more serious, complex stories of the previous era. However, others saw this change as a rerailment, as after a few years of being portrayed as a goody-goody invincible hero, Sonic was back to being the snarky Mascot with Attitude that he was, to these fans, always supposed to be.
  • Axel from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories underwent massive characterization changes and Badass Decay in Kingdom Hearts II. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, set between the two games, attempts to explain how this happened; he had been friends and co-conspirators with Saïx, but gradually ended up bonding with Roxas and Xion instead, and using manipulative and underhanded means for what he at least claims is their own good, leading Roxas to leave the Organization and Xion to die fighting Roxas and be erased from everyone's memory.
  • In The Sands of Time, the Prince of Persia was a snarky, slightly naive teenager (possibly) fresh from his first battle. In the Rated M for Money Warrior Within, he became dark, brooding, and occasionally yelled obscenities at his enemies. The Two Thrones backpedaled to the characterization from Sands, but justified his attitude in Warrior Within as the Prince's darker side — who manifests in The Two Thrones as the Prince's Superpowered Evil Side.
  • In Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers, every character from the original games (except Pablo) went back to their original characterization (though not their look), winning huge applause in the process.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The original Dissidia Final Fantasy had portrayed Terra as a fearful, Wangst-ridden Damsel Scrappy who gets tormented in a vaguely sexualised manner by the villains and saved a lot by various boys, a radical and borderline offensive departure from her original personality. This came under much criticism from fans in both the West and Japan. The expanded rerelease, Dissidia 012, fixed as much as it could by rewriting her non-voiced dialogue to be braver and more optimistic, willing to do her best to fight but unhappy with the need to fight in the first place, but she's still wimpy in the cutscenes. The developers of Dissidia (2015) stated that they redid Terra's voice and moves for their version because they wanted her to be "optimistic" this time.
    • After his first trip down the angst mines for Kingdom Hearts in 2002 where he was given dialogue written for Vincent, Cloud is gradually being readjusted to be closer to his original game personality in newer material. His bio in Theatrhythm describes him as an arrogant showoff, the trait that was originally the core of his character but had been since forgotten. Dissidia Final Fantasy (2015) had the developers hyping up that Cloud would have "a positive personality" in the game, with trailers showing him smiling while fighting, despite him having been a Perpetual Frowner ever since his original appearance. Super Smash Bros. 4 goes back to his classic power-set and gives him quotes and poses emphasising his Inferiority Superiority Complex, and his design in Final Fantasy VII Remake is more heavily based on his old design and less idealised.
    • Even the aforementioned Dirge of Cerberus undid some of the damage for Cloud, showing that, with all of the emotional baggage he was still carrying from the original game finally out of the way along with the cure of his Geostigma (which further contributed to his feelings of guilt, depression, and isolation), Cloud was capable of dryly cracking a few jokes with his friends, even lightly ribbing on Vincent once or twice. (And he gets to talk to his motorbike like it's a person.) Kingdom Hearts II gave a brief glimpse of Cloud's original personality as well, as seen with the banter between him and Leon during The War Sequence, though this was greatly overshadowed by Cloud's plot arc with Sephiroth and Tifa, which was essentially a retread of Advent Children with Tifa taking on Aerith's role.
    • Cloud's plotline in Mobius Final Fantasy is there to serve as a (re)introduction to the character for fans who don't remember the original, and writes him extremely close to his original game characterisation. When his memory problems begin to make him doubt his own existence, he reacts with snark and determination rather than angst, at one point eyeing the camera to say "I got sick of moping." His arrogant streak is back, with his backhanded compliments to Wol and rudeness to Echo driving a lot of the storyline's humour. He's still aloof, but not so unreasonably that he isn't able to express open gratitude when Wol and Echo try to give him emotional support.
    • The rerailment trend continues in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Cloud regains his 'cocky hotshot' personality, although it's toned down and Played for Drama in this version, and, for the first time since the original, is presented as not being as cool as he wants people to think he is. The developers were even worried about how uncool Cloud is in Remake compared to Compilation, saying his face and acting was redesigned to emphasise his 'dorky' side and warning his fans that he'd be showing a different side of his personality this time - probably not expecting the positive reaction to saying this that they got. Aerith gets the most extreme overhaul, losing the Incorruptible Pure Pureness and passivity and instead being presented as a silly, exuberant eccentric who is confident about her ability to fight and rattles off funny lines. Oh, and she also swears.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Cataclysm turned Sylvanas back into her old bitchy, vengeful, bitter, snide, condescending, determined, manipulative self that had been gone since Warcraft III, now motivated by self-preservation rather than revenge.
    • Mists of Pandaria tried this with Tyrande. It didn't work and most people instead saw her as impulsive and stupid, failing basic military tactics and requiring someone several thousand years her junior to set her straight.
    • Burning Crusade turned Illidan, a very complex character that threaded the line between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain, into a generic Evil Overlord just for the sake of giving the players a raid boss. Naturally fan outcry ensued, and many years later, in the Legion expansion, Illidan was brought Back from the Dead and was restored to his previous personality of a morally ambiguous character willing to do anything to fight the Burning Legion.
    • After Mists of Pandaria turned Jaina Proudmoore from a staunch believer in faction peace into a vengeful Horde hater, which was quite a divisive move, Battle for Azeroth, while initially sticking with that characterization, eventually returned her to her old Warcraft III ways, which proved just as divisive: some welcomed it, others condemned it for making little sense in an expansion where post-Theramore Jaina's misgivings about the Horde were completely vindicated.
    • Sylvanas derailed again starting with Battle for Azeroth, starting with the shockingly pointless destruction of Teldrassil and a majority of the Night Elf race before segueing into seeming omnicidal territory. Shadowlands and her tie-in novel attempt to tie together all the characterizations by giving context and her motivations, as well as revealing that her mind had been warped to some degree by the Jailer. The reception is decidedly mixed, in no small part due to many players only getting secondhand information about the very important novel.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 does this to most of its cast. Johnny Cage is shown as being a Hollywood douchebag with a heroic spirit, instead of the Butt-Monkey who serves no purpose aside from being killed off as a gag. Likewise, Jax goes from being a stereotypical Blaxploitation hero back to his role as the badass Straight Man of the cast. And Shao Kahn finally stops being a regular playable character, and returns to his spot as the overpowered Final Boss.
  • Tales of Monkey Island rerailed most of the Monkey Island characters, especially LeChuck, who was truly evil and threatening again after his disappointing apparent subservience to Ozzie in Escape from Monkey Island.
  • This was one of the selling points of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. After the loss of his badge and his subsequent derailment into a Manipulative Bastard in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, a lot of people wanted the old awkward Nice Guy Phoenix back. So in Dual Destinies, he's back to being a lawyer again, and he's not half as much of a jerk — though he's kept a few of the Apollo Justice-era mannerisms, and he acts a little more like a Team Dad Trickster Mentor, so his character in Dual Destinies is closer to a combination of this and Character Development.
    • Ema Skye's characterization from Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney also ruffled some feathers because she was no longer cheerful and enthusiastic but bored and disinterested because she hated her current job. She sat out a game (Bobby Fulbright taking her place in Dual Destinies) but has returned to the cast in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, having successfully achieved her dream of becoming a forensic investigator and sporting a better outlook on life, more reminiscent of her teenage years.
    • The Judge was a bit of a scatterbrain in the first game, but was more or less quite fair and had sound judgement. Later games would exaggerate the Judge's quirky traits until it became his defining feature. By Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, his characterization is back to how he was in the first game. Later games would mix his old and new personalities to give him a balance of serious and quirky.
  • A perfect example of how this trope can lead to a Broken Base is the case of the Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout. When introduced in the first game, the Brotherhood were essentially a bunch of xenophobic jerks who claimed a vaguely noble origin/ideology of "protect the Wasteland from people abusing the technology of the past", but who were pretty clearly shown to be just douchebags who wanted to hog the best tech for themselves and use this to bully those around them. This is emphasized in the second game, where they have lost their stranglehold on the supply of advanced technology and so are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the goings-on of the world around them. Then came Fallout 3, where the Capital Wasteland Chapter of the Brotherhood had abandoned essentially all of the original Brotherhood's teachings and instead set themselves up as futuristic knights, striving to protect and defend the good people of the Capital Wasteland. Though it was called out In-Universe that this isn't the traditional ideology of the Brotherhood and the "Outcasts", Brotherhood members who left the Chapter rather than abandon their traditions, became an interactive minor faction in their own right, many older fans bitterly complained about the change, even as newer fans found them quite interesting. Fallout: New Vegas attempted to rerail by showing how other Brotherhood Chapters elsewhere were still following their old traditions... slowly dying out in the process. Finally, in Fallout 4, the Capital Wasteland Chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel re-emerged after having merging their former leader's philosophy with the philosophy of their roots... which lead to some fans of their depiction in the previous game complaining about the perceived Character Derailment.
  • Samus Aran of the Metroid has historically been a Heroic Mime, thanks to the lack of other characters to interact with, and even in games where she does have other characters to react to, she tends to be very laconic if she speaks at all. The most she tends to say are short mission summaries like in Super Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission or equally short private monologues like in Metroid Fusion. This has, for most of the series, allowed Samus' body language to do most of the talking for her, and her general manner within cutscenes and during gameplay implied a stoic and badass persona to most players when combined with her sparse dialogue and monologues. Then came Metroid: Other M, which portrayed her as someone who was very poor at coping with life's problems, to the point that she froze up for a solid minute when faced with Ridley, someone she had by that point fought roughly four times previously and once more in a later game in the series with nothing even close to the same terrified reaction - indeed, in several games her only reaction to his appearance was anger or determination. Her relationship with Adam Malkovich, which was evidently going for him being a stern but caring father figure to her, was instead read as intensely abusive. In short, most of the fanbase who had grown to know Samus through the previous games in the series felt her portrayal in Other M contradicted nearly everything that had been established about her previously. Seven years later, Nintendo released Metroid: Samus Returns, which appeared to totally ignore the Other M characterization to return Samus to a silent, stoic Determinator. As if to underscore the point, she had absolutely no problems throwing down with Ridley at the end of the game. Metroid Dread continued this trend, with Samus appearing nearly unflappable by all the giant snarling monsters on planet ZDR. The only brief exception is near the end of the game, when Raven Beak nearly kills her. And even then, it's counterbalanced by an explosive Heroic Second Wind that underscores that Samus' power and determination is second to none in the Metroid universe, which further contrasts how ineffective she was in Other M.
  • Raiden took the role of the Cyborg Ninja in Metal Gear Solid 4 and, while it made him a lot more popular, his characterisation as a deeply depressed, hollow shell of a Blood Knight '90s Anti-Hero who thought of himself as a monster was very different from the rather comical This Loser Is You character he'd been in his initial appearance. Once fans had warmed up to him and no longer viewed him as a Replacement Scrappy, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance shifted his personality substantially closer to how it had been in 2, showing a much more humorous, earnest and slightly geeky side while still retaining the Ninja's coolness and protectiveness.
  • Gilgamesh of Fate/stay night, while a popular Awesome Ego and Smug Super, was noted by history-driven fans to be at odds with his real-life mythological counterpart. The mythological Gilgamesh started as an arrogant tyrant but became humble and more mature over his adventures, while the Archer-class Servant from Fate remained a self-centered tyrant that lives only on his whims, as if his Character Development never happened. Fate/EXTRA CCC remedied this discrepancy by having him as the protagonist's Servant, showing a much more decent and wiser, if still arrogant, side to him, as well as exploring his real-life backstory, including explaining its changes in the Nasuverse's version. It notably makes him much more sympathetic by detailing his friendship with Enkidu. This characterization consisting of a mix of his real life self and his Fate/stay night self continues in Fate/strange fake, which has him paired with a young girl in a war in which his best friend participates. As a result, he is much more relaxed, and frequently advises his Master, in an assholish way, about standing up for herself. Fate/Grand Order went further by introducing a Caster-class version of Gilgamesh, who represents Gilgamesh in his capacity as king of Uruk: though still sharp-tongued and prideful, he is a genuinely good king that cares for his subjects and overworks himself to govern his kingdom.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl by Word of God renders the events of Star Fox Command non-canon. The move scraps Krystal's reviled shift into a (literal) vixen of a jilted-lover and returns Krystal to her caring and courageous if prideful Team Mom personality as shown by her Easter Egg cameos within Brawl.
  • Spider-Man (PS4) was praised by gamers and long-time comic fans alike for striking a nice balance of writing a non-teenage Peter who maintain the core of his characters. After the One More Day retcon of the comics, the comics have been criticized for trying to articially make Peter come off as younger to mixed results. Similarly, the majority of the new adaptations prioritized making Peter a Kid-Appeal Character again. So the PS4 game coming out and allowing Peter to be in his 20s, having a mature relationship with Mary Jane, and once more paying more care to his struggles of his double life felt like a breathe of fresh air.

    Webcomics 
  • Roommates: The Dark Jareth arc Invokes this in-universe mixed with a liberal dose of You Can't Fight Your Canon. After trying to be the hero (and failing) for 150 or so pages Jareth snaps and reverts back to his original characterization and this Superpowered Evil Side of his tries to force the others back too. It's heartbreaking and asks the highly meta question: "Is it even possible for a fictional character to change or redeem themselves? Or does the story define everything they can ever be?"

    Western Animation 
  • The DCAU team has admitted that Superman got derailed into a punching bag during the first season of Justice League and took steps in the subsequent seasons to remind viewers why he's, well, Superman.
  • Ben 10:
    • One of the main points to the first season of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien is to finally mend Kevin's abrupt, unexplained shift in characterization and powers that occurred in Alien Force, ultimately culminating in using his old, sanity-warping powers as a means to save the world, and becoming evil again as a side-effect.
    • Mileages vary as to how well this worked out in the end though, as some feel that this effort to connect his original series characterization with his new one only succeeded in derailing both of them, with his old one being retconned from truly sociopathic to a result of alien heritage, and his new one treated so seriously that his sudden change back to comic relief after the first season finale, with no more mention of what transpired before, was not taken well.
    • Kevin's rerailment was tried again in Omniverse, with even more mixed results. It reached its most base-breaking level when it was retconned that almost EVERYTHING about Kevin's backstory and personality from the sequels was a mental fabrication by an evil faction of the Plumbers and that his Heel–Face Turn was all part of their master plan. Granted, Kevin redeems himself for real after learning this instead of following through with his intended mission, but many fans of him from the previous sequel shows felt cheated all the same at having invested themselves in a total phony.
    • The is zig-zagged with Ben himself in Omniverse. His personality owes to the exaggerated moron from Season 3 of Alien Force, much to the irritation of the fans who liked him as a more competent and heroic character, but some episodes like "Malefactor" or "Max's Monster" do showcase him as smarter and more competent. Unfortunately, by the next episode he usually tends to get back to be a moron, and the writers hadn't settled on either portrayal by the series' end.
    • Vilgax's characterization and vocalsnote  in one of the Alien Force video games, Vilgax Attacks!, was much closer to how he was portrayed in the Original Series. He also regained his original series personality in the Grand Finale of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, what with outsmarting an Eldritch Abomination God and what not.
    • Zombozo, in the original series, was an undead, supernatural Monster Clown who was rather dangerous. Ultimate Alien seemed to remove the supernatural aspects in favor of a much more Joker-like character. Omniverse reworks the character to showcase him as more of a walking corpse who can stretch his arms, bringing the supernatural aspect of the character back. He's a little less effective and a little more comical, though.
    • Charmcaster had an accumulative derailment process in both Alien Force and Ultimate Alien, with a totally new look and personality, and eventually practically crossing the Moral Event Horizon even though she'd never been that heinous a villain before and had in fact previously seemed to have a Heel–Face Turn. Omniverse restored her to her design from the original series, gave her a zanier version of her old immature personality, and an arc about going back to her old power-seeking ways as a means to heal from a mental breakdown: essentially a metaphor for her undergoing this trope. She's also left in a far better place for her to both mentally and morally improve at the end of the series; Gwen even lampshades the fact.
    • Despite being a reboot (and one more focused on comedy), Ben 10 (2016) does this for both The Hero and Big Bad. Ben is back to being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with a big case of Chronic Hero Syndrome after Omniverse made him much more selfish and unheroic. Vilgax is again portrayed as a Knight of Cerebus and One-Man Army capable of mopping the floor with several bounty hunters and Ben's aliens, while previous series focused more on his manipulation skills at the cost of his fighting abilities. His line after he reunites his two halves seems almost a meta commentary about this trope.
      "I'M VILGAX ONCE MORE!"
  • Johnny Bravo: In the first season, Johnny was arrogant and socially inept, but he still had common sense. Seasons 2 and 3 cranked up his stupidity to the point that he couldn't even solve the monkey and banana problem (his solution was to use the stools as wings to fly to the bananas). When Van Partible returned for season 4, Johnny went back to his Season 1 characterization.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer goes from Jerkass to the original Homer sometimes at will.
    • Ned Flanders, the namesake of Flanderization, returned to his earlier personality (a devout but accepting Nice Guy) in The Simpsons Movie.
    • Bart went through a failed attempt at this around 2010-12. He was initially Bratty Half-Pint who frequently got in trouble for his outrageous pranks and snappy one-liners, but the coming of more "extreme" characters like Eric Cartman and Peter Griffin, as well as society's more lax stance on child discipline, made Bart's once-shocking antics seem tame by comparison. Episodes like "Love is a Many Strangled Thing" and "Postcard from the Wedge" tried to return him to his "bad boy" roots, but because of the writers' attempts to outdo his successors, Bart ended up coming off as a destructive, uncaring monster.
    • This is showcased in the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, where Bart and Stewie become fast friends over their love of pranks. Though Bart changes his mind when he discovers that Stewie is willing to go much farther than Bart is comfortable with.
  • Family Guy subverted this trope with Stewie: in the season 9 premiere, he killed a character for the first time in years and revealed that he still wanted to kill Lois, although this still hasn't happened.
    • Although Stewie attempted to make himself evil again after Brian called him out on how soft he had gotten. It worked. Unfortunately, the writers dialed this new evil Stewie's chaotic tendencies to extremes, turning him into an idiot, while completely discarding his mastermind-style evil from the original characterization. But then, that was the whole point.
    • Joe was originally a Handicapped Badass cop who became an excuse to make cripple jokes after the show got Un-Canceled. The previous characterization is somewhat more apparent in recent episodes such as "Joe's Revenge".
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Many of the characters have undergone Flanderization after the movie. SpongeBob and Patrick Took a Level in Dumbass, though the most notable change is Mr. Krabs' greed stooping to horrible levels. During Season 9, many of these changes were decreased and the characters began to act somewhat like their former selves, and even more in episodes aired after the second movie, which can be attributed to creator Stephen Hillenberg returning to the series.
  • In Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, Geoff was rerailed back into the All-Loving Hero he was in Total Drama Island and losing the last bits of the Acquired Situational Narcissism and Small Name, Big Ego traits from Action that he hadn't quite lost in World Tour.
  • Although set in an Alternate Universe, Total DramaRama restores many of the original 22 contestants back to something closer to their original characterization. Courtney, for instance, is widely seen as an improvement over the last time we saw her, having lost the extreme cutthroat Competition Freak and jerkass qualities she acquired in later seasons and returned more to the more civil and moral character she was in Island while still retaining the uptightness she's known for.
  • Recent characterizations of Daffy Duck have attempted, with varying levels of success, to get him back to his daffier roots.
  • After Mudsy from The Funky Phantom was given Adaptational Villainy in an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (as part of a dream sequence, but still), his appearance in Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? returned him to his usual friendly self.
  • Zigzagged with Mickey Mouse: He was originally depicted as a brave action hero, but later shorts changed him into a laid-back slacker while Donald Duck took the spotlight. Now, he's either back to being an action hero in several video games, is the owner of a nightclub for other Disney characters, or a Dora the Explorer-esque kids' show host.
  • After suffering Badass Decay throughout most of Ultimate Spider-Man, Agent Phil Coulson reminds us that he is a SHIELD agent by fighting off a trio of Asgardians mounted on fire breathing wolves using a pair of BFGs that are almost as big as him.
    Coulson: No running in the halls.
    • Not to mention holding his own against the Beetle (who in this version has nearly Iron Man-grade Powered Armor and previously was a difficult enemy for Spidey, Iron Fist, Power Man, Nova and White Tiger as a team) using nothing but a steel pipe he found lying around.
  • Rufus and Amberley of The Dreamstone started off as Badass Normals with distinctive personalities in the pilot, before quickly downgrading into generic incompetent Hero Antagonists afterwards. Season 3 onward gradually reverts back to their original personalities and level of competence (if not higher). Their Unscrupulous Hero tendencies were also dialed back by the start of season 4, making them look more sympathetic and provoked against the Urpneys.
  • Many of the engines' slowly waxed and waned in the long run of Thomas & Friends, some becoming almost polar opposites of their former selves. From Season 17 onward however, a new writing team was brought on board, reverting back many of the engines to their original personalities and refreshing its roots to The Railway Series. Some traits introduced in the TV show remain, albeit more as Hidden Depths.
  • Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production:
  • Many fans disliked the Mayor of Townsville from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) after he devolved into a moronic and insensitive manchild in the show's later seasons, but his older characterization of being a Nice Guy who is only slightly ditzy turns up in the 2014 special Dance Pantsed. When Professor Utonium enters the Despair Event Horizon after Mojo Jojo controls the Powerpuff Girls' minds, the Mayor encourages the Professor not to give up on the girls. In addition, the Mayor feels remorse for insulting Ms. Bellum when she refused to open his jar of pickles and later apologizes to her for it.
  • After all four of them suffered from Character Derailment in the previous season, the third season of The Legend of Korra rerails Korra, Asami, Bolin and Lin Beifong. Within the first few episodes of that season, Korra's Hot-Blooded nature reaches a reasonable level again, after previously being amped up to a full blown Hair-Trigger Temper; Asami's back in action, after inexplicably suffering Chickification and sitting on the sidelines for most of season two; Bolin's ditched his Acquired Situational Narcissism, and shed his downright moronic persona, returning to his previous characterization of well-meaning but somewhat immature supporter; and Lin is no longer relegated to playing the stereotypical police chief and inexplicably ignoring evidence for the sake of the plot, instead getting a subplot of her own, multiple chances to show off her badassery and a showcase for her detective skills.
  • This affects Franklin himself in Franklin and Friends at the start of an episode, right after one that contains a Snap Back or an Aesop Amnesia that affected him.
  • Onua's personality from BIONICLE was very inconsistent despite him being a Static Character. Originally a Genius Bruiser who only spoke if it was really necessary, the first movie (and the non-canon tie-in game) portrayed him more as a tough but jolly muscle guy. His Generation 2 counterpart was also meant to be wise and smart, to which the 2015 online webisodes didn't quite do justice, mostly due to how dumb the voice work made him sound. Finally, he got re-railed in The Journey to One animated mini-series: a soft-spoken and mature heavyweight, equally capable physically and mentally.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • In the last two seasons, Arnold, who was originally just a kind, average kid, was flanderized into an omnibenevolent, advice giving savior who was never wrong and could do pretty much anything. He also became very flat and Out of Focus, to the point where the much more developed Helga almost completely overshadowed him as the protagonist. Perhaps in response to this, "April Fool's Day" and "The Journal", the final two episodes (though the latter was a two-parter), returned the focus to Arnold and he more or less retained his previous characterization. But since this happened so late in the series, and the episodes aired Out of Order, it seems like a waste.
    • Sid returns to his pre-Season 3 characterization (where he was much less of a Jerkass) in Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie and he spends the film being kind and courteous to his friends.
    • To some degree, Harold and Stinky get some as well after taking some levels in the later seasons along with Sid. Stinky seems back to his confused but friendly southern demeanor and Harold doesn't bully anyone or boast about himself throughout the course of the movie. Harold is even seen beating a junky replica of Arnold when they are first imprisoned by Lasombra, only to be snuggling the same dummy later that night crying about how he misses Arnold.
  • Archer: In Season 5, Pam developed a cocaine addiction, and her whole character suddenly revolved around this. Not only this made her incredibly unfunny, but also turned her into The Millstone. After noticing how much fans hated this, in Season 6 her character was returned to her much beloved persona from Seasons 3 and 4.
  • In the Jurassic World films, Rexy, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the original Jurassic Park movie, was portrayed in a much more heroic light than she was in her first appearance, never really being a threat to the heroes while actively fighting the various villains. In Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, however, she seemingly reverts to her original portrayal, being portrayed as a serious threat to the protagonists.

Top