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Cheated Death, Died Anyway

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Alice receives a phone call and is told that there has been a fire at the office Bob works and he is missing, presumed dead. She is called again later and is told Bob has survived, much to Alice's relief.

Then only a half hour later, Alice receives yet another phone call. Bob is dead. He crashed his car driving home from the office.

Essentially, this character narrowly escapes death on occasion (and perhaps more than one occasion), only to die shortly thereafter a completely different way. As We All Die Someday, death is a natural part of everyone's lives, and so this trope only applies when a character dies for real in an unexpected / violent / sudden manner, and that the irony is present that they were saved only to later die in such a way. Exactly how close the two incidents have to be varies, so the important factor in this trope is the presence of irony. This can apply in a matter of minutes, months, or even (in rare cases) years; the deciding factor is the Bait-and-Switch element of the death.


It may overlap with All for Nothing. This may be a result of Balancing Death's Books (which will usually be acknowledged in more supernatural works). If it's a villain that dies this way, it may be an example of Karma Houdini Warranty. If it's a hero, it may form part of the conclusion to a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story.

Yes, this is a death trope, so spoilers ahead.

Subtrope of You Can't Fight Fate. See also Take a Moment to Catch Your Death, Not Quite Saved Enough, and Life Will Kill You.



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     Comic Books 
  • This is part of Ghost Rider's origin. Johnny Blaze sold his soul to Mephisto in exchange for a cure for his adopted father's cancer. Mephisto agreed, and thus Crash Simpson was miraculously cured of cancer, but he then died in a stunt gone wrong.
  • Welcome Back, Frank: Frank Castle interrogates a mafioso in his car on the freeway, before telling him to get out (while the car is still moving). The man does so, miraculously survives... only to get run over by a food truck. Belonging to a company called Frank's.

    Fan Works 

  • In Brazil, Sam manages to save Jill by hacking into a government database and declaring her dead. Shortly after doing so, she is killed by a government agents during a raid. An official tells Sam that somehow she's managed to die twice.
  • Invoked in-universe in Escape Room. All of the main characters are revealed to have survived earlier incidents only to be killed off one by one in each room after the first. The Big Bad purposely chose them to, in Zoey's words, "see who's the luckiest of the lucky."
  • The premise of the Final Destination franchise is that a moment of premonition allows people to predict, and avoid, an accidental death. Then, a strange force ensures that all of those people will die soon afterwards in similar accidents.
  • In Ghost Town, Frank narrowly avoids getting crushed by a falling air conditioner, only to then get hit by a bus.
  • Goldeneye: Boris survives the destruction of Janos' base in Cuba, only to be frozen solid by an exploding nitrogen tank moments after he celebrates his good fortune with his catchphrase 'I AM INVINCIBLE!'
  • Lawrence of Arabia: After leading the Arab cavalry through the Nefud (an inhospitable region of sand dunes) during the night, Lawrence finds one of his men, Gasim, got separated from the group and is now lost. His advisors tell Lawrence that Gasim is as good as dead now that the Sun is up, but Lawrence rides back anyway and successfully rescues him. Not long after, a quarrel amongst the Arabs leaves one man dead, and Lawrence realizes the only way to prevent this from spinning into a Cycle of Revenge is if he executes the murderer himself. As it turns out, the murderer is none other than Gasim — and Lawrence does his duty and executes him.
  • Patton: One of the more Crazy Awesome scenes is Patton firing at a Nazi bomber strafing his command. Towards then end the film has a scene that hints at Patton's death in a traffic accident. The TV movie sequel The Last Days of Patton, takes place during and after the car accident that took his life.
  • The climax of The Matrix Reloaded is The Architect presenting Neo with a Sadistic Choice: either Neo can save his love interest Trinity from certain death, or he can save the rest of humanity from certain extinction. Neo rejects this dichotomy and saves Trinity (literally bringing her back from the dead using his powers as The One), then insists he'll find a way to save humanity afterwards, anyway. Then, in a blatant case of a Two-Part Trilogy, that plot concludes in The Matrix Revolutions, set just hours or days after Reloaded. Neo and Trinity travel to the Machine City in order to save humanity—but Trinity dies en route, and this time Neo can't bring her back. (Ironically, proving The Architect was correct that Neo couldn't save both, but wrong about how each option would play out.)
  • Trick 'r Treat has this happen to Kreeg. Survives a fight to death against the embodiment of Halloween itself, gets to then show redemption in giving children candy for a few minutes, maybe an hour. Followed by getting killed by a group of zombies whose death he had caused in the past.

    Live Action TV 
  • In one episode of Batwoman (2019), Alice and her good alternate-reality counterpart Beth are both dying because only one version of them can exist in the same reality. Beth's stepsister Mary manages to find a medical cure that will keep her alive just long enough that she'll outlive Alice, at which point she''ll survive by default. Unfortunately, as Lucas is transporting Beth to a safe place to recuperate, Beth gets shot by a sniper who mistakes her for Alice, against whom he has a grudge.
  • Season 1 finale of Being Erica: Erica goes back and saves her brother Leo from dying. When she's back in the present, he's alive for 5 minutes before he dies in a car crash. This was because she broke the rules of time travel and the universe repaired itself.
  • In an episode of Bones, Sweets meets a young man on the subway who had just gotten clear of cancer. Then an earthquake hits DC and the young man is killed.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Help", Buffy saves a girl (who believes she will die on that day) from being killed by a cult; then just before midnight the girl collapses & dies of a congenital heart defect.
  • In CSI: NY, it's revealed that Mac's wife (who died in 9/11) made it out of the first tower, only to be crushed by falling rubble from the second.
  • In Game of Thrones, Robb needs Walder Frey's men to help him survive the battle with the Lannisters, which he does, but it requires him to enter a marriage pact with Walder Frey's daughter. He ends up getting injured - but not dying - on the battlefield, where he meets Talisa, falls in love with her, and gets killed by Walder Frey and his men in punishment for breaking his word.
  • The back story of God Friended Me is that Miles' mother was suffering from cancer when he was eight. He'd pray every night for her to get better. It seemed like his prayers were answered when his mother went into remission. Then on the way home from the doctor's, she died in a car accident. The sheer unfairness of the situation drove Miles to become an atheist.
  • In Jane the Virgin, Michael survives being shot by Rose, only to collapse and apparently die half a season later.
  • Lost Girl has one episode where a banshee wails to signal the death of a Fae, which turns out to be Sean Kavanaugh. Sean's brother Liam (a fraudulent Wall Street broker) had hired an assassin to kill him. After defeating the assassin and reconciling the brothers, Liam calls off the hit, but Sean ends up getting killed at the end anyway by a disgruntled investor who was aiming for Liam.
  • Inverted in a post-9/11 episode of NYPD Blue a woman's body is found buried in concrete. It turns out she worked at the World Trade Center and was missing/presumed dead from that, but she was actually killed by her lover earlier that day.
  • In one episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer travels back into the past and somehow alters his own history in a way that when he returns to the present he's still alive instead of being a hologram- only to be killed moments later.
  • Six Feet Under: Nate learns at the end of Season 1 that he has a brain condition which means he could have a seizure or stroke at any time. The first couple of seasons build up to Nate having the risky surgery that will repair his condition, which he eventually does, and he is cured and appears to live a normal and much happier life. Then he has a second brain haemorrhage that has built up since he had it repaired, but he's expected to make a full recovery. Then he actually has another haemorrhage that results in his death.
  • One episode of The Twilight Zone (2002) is all about this trope. A man survives lethal execution and a serious of other bizarre nearly life-ending mishaps one after the other, but always hears a voice shouting "not yet!" When it finally shouts, "NOW!", a statue falls on him and crushes him.
  • The Unusuals: A woman who claims to be psychic believes she is going to die on a bus, and confesses that much to Leo - who himself is afraid of dying at age 42 because all his male relatives died at 42 (and he's 42 now), so he always wears a bullet proof vest. She keeps getting on buses she somehow knows are going to be hijacked by a man with a grenade. Leo followes her onto one of the buses. When the hijacker drops the grenade, Leo falls on it. But it was a fake, and obviously didn't explode. The psychic is confused, but Leo thinks he's found a way to Screw Destiny. He even gives up his bulletproof vest. Until later that night, he gets a call: there was a bus accident and the psychic had been killed in it. Cue Leo buckling up his vest again.
  • You:
    • Joe saves Beck from being crushed under train tracks at the beginning of the story after she drunkenly falls onto them because he's stalking her. At the end of the Season 1, he strangles her to death after she finds out that he was stalking her (and murdering her friends and exes.)
    • Candace managed to dig herself out after being buried alive by Joe before Season 1, as revealed in flashbacks throughout Season 2. She returns to find Joe and make him suffer before revealing what he did, and attempts to protect his new girlfriend, Love. When Candace manages to imprison Joe (after he makes several attempts to kill her), she actually gets him to feel some genuine remorse, she then makes the fatal mistake of bringing Love to see Joe. Love turns out to be a Joe-centred yandere, and she kills Candace via slashed throat for real this time.
  • At the end of The Young Ones, Vyvyan drives a double decker bus, with the rest of the gang, over a cliff. After hitting the bottom they somehow survive, only to have the bus explode, resulting in their deaths.

    Video Games 
  • At the end of Mass Effect, Commander Shepard narrowly evades being crushed by falling debris. Mass Effect 2 begins with Shepard being killed without mercy by the Collectors a month later, when they destroy their spaceship, the SSV Normandy. Extensive augmentation on Shepard's remains by the human supremacists Cerberus allows the Commander to return two years later.
  • Resident Evil: In the remake of the original game, during both Chris and Jill's campaigns, you can save Richard from dying by being bitten by Yawn by retrieving anti-venom for him, only for him to die later by being eaten by the aforementioned Yawn in Jill's route or by being attacked by Neptune in Chris's route.


  • In the Cyanide & Happiness short "Step on a Crack", a man thinks his daughter stepping on a line will break his spine, as a similar thing just happened to her mother, only to find that he is not the girl's real father when the neighbor's back is broken instead. However, the girl's brother accidentally steps on another line on the ground, killing the father as he's driving away.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Rudolf Diels, the first chief of the Gestapo, had an amazing knack for surviving the deadly political games of the Nazi regime, only to accidentally shoot himself on a hunting trip.
  • In a very tragic example, Hilda Yolanda Mayol, a 26-year old American woman, was working in the World Trade Center at the time of 9/11 and managed to survive. She died just two months later aboard the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 587.
    • Also, Jessica Ghawi survived the June 2012 shooting at the Eaton Centre, only to be killed a month later in the July 2012 Aurora shooting.
  • T. E. Lawrence, of Lawrence of Arabia fame. Lots of firefights, frequently against greater numbers. Survived a plane crash, what, seven times? Got his toe (!) broken by a stray piece of a wheel of a locomotive he blew up. Killed in a motorcycle crash.
  • There's an Urban Legend about a cat who fell off the top of the Washington Monument and survived just fine, then got killed by a dog while trying to run away from the scene. Its stuffed body is now at the Smithsonian.
  • Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky survived a raid on his villa, during which NKVD agents riddled his home with bullets. Three months later, he died courtesy of an ice pick to the face.
  • Despite being the trope namer for Rasputinian Death, the real Rasputin's death was more like this. He survived a poisoning attempt (generally believed to be because the preparation of the cake rendered the poison inert), but was shot shortly afterwards by Prince Felix Yusopov.

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