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Chekhov M.I.A.

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In any sufficiently long-running series, if a main character's backstory includes a friend, relative, or beloved who is absent but not dead, that person will eventually show up.

Often in the Pilot of a series, the writers establish characters and their relationships to others and will mention how a certain friend or loved one disappeared without a trace. Because of the Law of Conservation of Detail, this becomes a form of foreshadowing that works better than an Ass Pull when the writers run out of ideas for new events; they can return the relative, often through some form of Applied Phlebotinum, or else He's Just Hiding. The characters will almost Never Say "Die" when it concerns their lost loved ones; they're simply Missing-In-Action due to the "mysterious circumstances" that took them away.

An uncommon variant has an established character saying that the MIA character IS dead, but the MIA character later shows up, with the established character's explanation being something along the lines of "he was/is dead to me", or else otherwise skewed by the character's viewpoint.

May be related to Never Found the Body as someone believed to be dead without proof may show up later. This trope can be considered an extreme version of The Bus Came Back, since this character tends to disappear before the series began, rather than in the middle of the series.

If the character mentioned as missing is found through either Internal Reveal or an In-Universe discovery but chooses to remain "missing," that's a Refused Reunion.

If the character mentioned early as missing actually is dead, and stays that way, then that's a Posthumous Character.

In some cases, Death is Cheap is to be blamed for this. Similar to Chekhov's Gunman, where a person mentioned who doesn't seem that important turns out to be very important.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Fubuki, the older brother of Asuka and a friend of Kaiser. It is said that he disappeared at the old Obelisk Blue Dorm, and he is introduced as Darkness and the first of the Seven Star Assassins who duels Judai. After his loss, he is freed from Darkness. Temporarily.
  • Van Hohenheim, Ed and Al's dad in Fullmetal Alchemist, who is a major character for the entire plot.
    • Later, Shou Tucker's wife is said to have left him just before he became a State Alchemist but turns out to have been turned into the talking chimera that allowed him to pass the Alchemy Exam in the first place. Then in an even more Chekhovian moment, the same thing happens to his daughter and his dog.
  • In the first episode of Moyashimon, the police are searching for a missing student. The main characters stumble over what they think is her grave only to learn she's alive and their professor's graduate student.
  • Subverted in Blue Gender where the hero's best friend is MIA, he's told that it's a near certainty that the guy is dead, and he indeed never shows up.
  • This is apparently going to happen in My Hero Academia with main character Izuku Midoriya's Disappeared Dad Hisashi Midoriya, who has so far only received a passing mention in episode 1 (in which he wasn't even named).
  • In One-Punch Man, the influential S-Class Rank 1 hero Blast was long alluded to until finally suddenly showing up in the Monster Assosciation arc.
  • Used slightly in One Piece, though the character in question wasn't part of the main canon at first. One of the original "Romance Dawn" one-shots features Luffy's grandpa, who goes unmentioned for much of the proper One Piece manga until he eventually appears as Vice-Admiral Monkey D. Garp. Another example could be the Rumbar Pirates, who are missing and presumed dead when the Straw Hats enter the Grand Line. The crew eventually encounters a survivor, Brook, who becomes their ninth crew member. Used more strongly later on when Luffy's childhood friend "Sabo", presumed dead, turns up again; they Never Found the Body and it was hinted that he was alive in said flashback.
  • Appears to be in the works, both as a straight and as a crooked subversion, in Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Negi's Father (which we know lives, somewhere, and as of late his mother, which we know lived for at least 8 years longer than official statements in Magic World counts as straight examples of this.
    • The Crooked subversion would be Asuna, due to her being "on stage" from chapter one but have a past which suffers from Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, Alan's father left his family, and his sister disappeared with no explanation. Both of them show up later, obviously.
  • Musashi, the kicker of the Devil Bats, from Eyeshield 21. He remained a mystery for a long time on who this "third original member" was, but it turns out he had been doing all their construction jobs for the clubhouse, which only Kurita and Hiruma knew.
  • Kid-friendly version from Twin Princess of Wonder Planet: When we (and the twins) first get to the Moon Kingdom palace, the queen notes that Prince Shade never seems to be in. Turns out later that he's that shady Eclipse guy who always seems to be following the twins around, though Shade's 'do being a match for Eclipse's probably tips that off.
  • Subverted in Code Geass with Kallen's brother Naoto. Officially he's said to be dead, with no known cause; however, the staff teased the viewers (and, in one DVD Commentary, Kallen's voice actress Ami Koshimizu) with the idea that he might still be alive. However, nothing came from the hints, and Naoto stayed mysteriously dead.
  • Dragon Ball GT: Piccolo, of all people, pulls this. He gets blasted by Baby while trying to help Goten and isn't seen again until the world is about to be destroyed. And THEN he dies.
  • Kana's Missing Mom in 20th Century Boys. She disappeared shortly after giving birth, leaving Kanna to be raised by Kenji, her brother. Later turns out to have developed the virus crucial to the second arc, and had the child of the Big Bad.
  • Naruto. In a world where techniques exist to revive people as zombies, we are going to mention one example: the two main villains mentioned, offhand, very early in the manga. They were Only Mostly Dead, but by the time the Shinobi World finds out they've already started a world war. Obito Uchiha, who survived the rockfall, is moulded into the main villain of Naruto... by the other Chekov MIA, Madara Uchiha, age 100+ and counting.
  • Zigzagged in the anime of Black Butler, as the character is technically shown but the audience doesn’t get to see the facenote  or hear the voice of Queen Victoria in a scene where the manga included it.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, the first episode of Kio's generation reveals that Asemu Asuno went missing in action (on a routine mission, of course) thirteen years ago, the day Kio was born. He returns as Captain Ash and has spent the intervening years leading the Bisidian pirates in a campaign to force a stalemate between the Federation (which is corrupt) and Vagan (which started the war).
  • In the first episode of Space Patrol Luluco, Luluco casually mentions that her mother ran off a few years prior. She shows up at the end of episode 4, with episode 5 revealing that she's a vicious Space Pirate named Lalaco Godspeed.
  • In Haikyuu!!, the famous high school volleyball ace The Little Giant is a frequent topic amongst the cast (especially his biggest fan Hinata, who was inspired to pick up the sport after watching him play on TV). However, for a long time, he only appears in flashbacks while faceless and it's never mentioned what became of him after his run at Nationals. He finally makes a proper appearance during the Nationals arc when he goes to watch Karasuno play there once more. The Little Giant —or Udai Tenma— meets Hinata, sticks by Akiteru and Saeko during the quarterfinal against Kamomedai, and gives some insight on the matchup of the two new little giants (Hinata and Kourai).

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl: In most continuities, Kara believes that her parents passed away after sending her to Earth only to find out later they weren't dead after all, meeting back with them... and seeing them die for real. Sometimes, bloodily.
  • In Daredevil #1, readers are informed that Matt Murdock's mother is dead. During Frank Miller's run, it turns out she was only dead to the world, having become a nun.
  • The Avengers: The mystery of the parents of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch took years to solve. First they came to believe that they were the children of two Golden Age heroes, the Whizzer and Miss America. Later, after their long-lost adoptive father Django Maximoff made a reappearance, it eventually emerged that they are the children of Magneto.
  • X-Men:
    • Cyclops' absent father showed up about a hundred issues down the line as the space pirate Corsair. His absent mother is then revealed to have been murdered, but still later it turns out she was alive long enough for a third Summers brother to come into the world. Oh, and ca. Uncanny X-Men #170 readers learn that Scott's paternal grandparents are also still very much alive.
    • Nightcrawler had been told that he had been found as a baby next to his dying father (or mother, there were conflicting accounts). It eventually turns out that he is the son of Mystique and Azazel (although Chris Claremont had wanted him to be the son of Mystique and Destiny earlier).
    • Rogue had run away from her birth family to become the adopted daughter of Mystique and Destiny. The story of her biological parents was eventually told in Rogue vol. 3 #1-5.
  • Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner fulfills both the traditional and variant version. He originally stated that his mother was dead; after referring to her as alive later on, he modified this to their getting on so badly that he thought of her as dead, and after a reconciliation, she became an occasional recurring character until she was Killed Off for Real. His father, meanwhile, is established early to have left when Kyle was five; Kyle finally tracks him down some hundred issues later and discovers that he had a good reason.
  • The first gatherings of the Endless in The Sandman (1989) make it clear that there's an absent brother, one who has abandoned his realm and cut ties with the family. This turns out to be Destruction, and the quest to meet him forms the basis of Brief Lives.
  • The Transformers Megaseries introduces Nova Prime, who founded the Golden Age of Cybertron but disappeared during an expedition to explore the cosmos. He and the rest of his crew fell into a zombie realm and became servants of its will.
  • Immortal Hulk:
    • The series makes a point of noting that, out of the many Hulks over the years, the Professor Hulk and the Green Scar are absent. Eventually, the latter shows up... but he's not himself.
    • During General Fortean's rampage through Gamma Flight, he kills Walt Langowski, who as a gamma mutate could resurrect. He doesn't, but Puck has him put on ice anyways (Alpha Flight members don't always stay dead, eh?). In issue #40, Doc Samson manages to come back to life from his most recent death a few issues prior, in Walt's body, but he notes that Walt's apparent absence means that he could have resurrected.

    Fan Works 
  • Chiaroscuro: Remember how the Wave arc is skipped in favor of an original first C-rank? Zabuza and Haku don't die, so they eventually reappear as Mei Terumi's subordinates and help her infiltrate the Akatsuki.
  • Child of the Storm has the technical examples of Lily Potter and Regulus Black, both of whom are believed to be dead (and the former of whom technically is having Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence by merging with the Phoenix, while the latter became Peter Wisdom).
    • The mysterious Lady Knight, an unwilling time traveller and immortal who vanished in the 17th century. One running theory is that she's really Spitfire I, who was believed killed by the Winter Soldier - which still leaves the open question of who she is. She finally pops up in The Phoenix and the Serpent, and reveals that she was actually active well into the 20th century (at least into the 1920s, going by her time as a private detective in Melbourne), just keeping a rather lower profile for somewhat vague time-related reasons, before winding up on Sakaar. How that happened, why that happened, and who she really is are still mysteries - especially since she reveals a degree of nanotech-based Voluntary Shapeshifting.
    • Peggy Carter vanished in 1962, and there's a good deal of In-Universe speculation as to who or what got her - with a sidenote of speculation of whether she was 'got' at all. It's implied that the First Class of X-Men and Alison (and Doctor Strange, naturally) know what happened, but that they're all keeping their mouths shut - though Strange hints that it's "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey."
  • Coby's Choice: Jimbe, despite being a major character in the Fishman Island arc in canon and getting invited by Luffy to join his crew after the final battle, doesn't appear in the arc's adaptation. His absence is certainly treated as of major importance at the end of Arc where neither his king Neptune nor fellow pirate Namur remember who he is after finding a letter addressed from Jimbe to Luffy.
  • In the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades story, A Month of Sundays, Damballa states to the Aries Zodiarts that the Zodiarts caused him to be separated by his own grandson. His grandson, Quetzalcoatl is actually fine and became a god in Aztec Mythology before finding Ankh, possessing him, and then going to the side of good thanks to Jun.
  • In Mega Man Reawakened, Protoman is mentioned in passing in the first few chapters; it's stated he left for parts unknown. He appears in the finale of Arc 3.
  • In Pokéumans, Sakato, Nathan and Starr each failed to rescue a friend or family member from Pokextinction and their brainwashing. So guess who Mr. X uses to try and break their spirit when they infiltrate the Pine Barrows base?
  • In the Pony POV Series, the Alicorn Pantheon was described in-story and by Word of God until all the Major Arcana were accounted for except for The Magician, who wasn't named or even described at all (not even their gender). Then the conclusion of the Dark World Series revealed that this is because The Magician is (and always has been and will be) Dark World!Twilight, having ascended after fused with Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox.
  • In The Tainted Grimoire, there is Grant, who only appeared as part of Vaticus' backstory and later shows up in the story proper to provide hope for Clan Gully, that Cid will recover from his injuries.
  • In With This Ring, James Lockhart and Firebrand are first mentioned when Alan points them out while showing Paul his old photo album. James Lockhart is mentioned to have retired from superheroics early on to become a doctor. While Firebrand is mentioned to have died Taking the Bullet for Jay Garrick.
  • Wolfblood: Aiden was killed on a hunt years prior to the start of the tale and Lambert is still deeply in mourning over him, however they Never Found the Body so of course he turns up later horrifically injured but alive.

    Films — Animation 
  • This forms the backstory for Coco. Miguel's great-great-grandfather left his family to pursue a career in music never to return, leading his survivors to believe he abandoned them. Miguel uncovers an old photo missing the man's head, but including his guitar, the same iconic guitar owned by legendary musician Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel spends the film believing that De la Cruz is his great-great-grandfather, but De la Cruz murdered his great-great-grandfather and stole his songs and guitar to achieve fame.
  • Charles F. Muntz in Up is a legendary explorer who vanished one day. Carl finds him in Paradise Falls and he becomes the movie's main antagonist.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Fix-It Felix, Jr. tells Sergeant Calhoun the story of a character named Turbo, an Attention Whore who crashed another arcade game and caused it and his game to be unplugged; it is assumed he died when the game was unplugged. It turns out he game-hopped over into Sugar Rush and took it over.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Avengers (2012), a deleted scene shows a file of Bucky Barnes declaring him MIA, mainly because they Never Found the Body, despite the fact it's been close to seventy years and even on the off chance he did survive the fall that killed him, he'd be dead by this point. Come Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it turns out Bucky did survive, and became the eponymous Winter Soldier, retaining his youth thanks to the serum in his body and cryogenic freezing.
  • In The Cobbler, Max's dad is said to have disappeared for good when he went out to fetch some pears. Of course he returns during The Reveal.
  • The Departed: Mark Wahlburg's character shows up at the end to avenge Leonardo Dicaprio's character. People who had already seen Infernal Affairs would notice his absence more readily, since there is no second person who knows the undercover cop's identity in the original.
  • In Heartbreakers Max makes frequent mentions of Barbara, her old partner and mentor. It turns out that Gloria Vogel, the supposed IRS agent we meet early on, was actually Barbara as part of a scam to fool Paige.
  • Big one that spans two films of James Bond. In Casino Royale (2006), Vesper Lynd is working for QUANTUM because they kidnapped her boyfriend. However, in Quantum of Solace, it turns out that boyfriend is actually working for QUANTUM and he regularly seduces women working in government positions.
  • Will's father — "Bootstrap" Bill Turner — in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is listed as missing. As of the second movie, his fate is known. He's a crewman of the mystical Flying Dutchman.
  • In The Saddest Music in the World, Roderick asks his father if he has seen his missing wife and sure enough she turns out to be Roderick brother's current lover.
  • Stardust: It's mentioned early in the film that the fratricidal brothers competing for the throne of Stormhold have a sister named Una who disappeared decades ago. It turns out Una is Tristan's mother, making Tristan the rightful king by the end of the movie after all of Una's brothers died.
  • Star Trek makes it literal. Khan Noonien Singh, abandoned, forgotten, and left for dead. Appears again fifteen years later (in both story and real time) — and the first thing he does upon his return is cause Pavel Andreivich Chekhov to be MIA.
  • Star Wars:
    • The first trilogy is a good example. In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker's father is said to be dead, killed by a young Jedi called Darth Vader. Towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back, something Darth Vader says puts a new cast on things....
    • In The Force Awakens, the very first line of the opening crawl is "Luke Skywalker has vanished". Much of the plot consists of the two sides fighting over a map to his location — the heroes want his help or to ensure his safety, while the First Order wants to exterminate the Jedi. He is finally seen for the first time since Return of the Jedi in the last few minutes of the film, having gone into isolation years ago as a result of failing to establish a new Jedi Order and losing his nephew Ben Solo, a.k.a. Kylo Ren, to the Dark Side.
  • The 2011 Prequel to The Thing features the ice station's husky killed and absorbed off-screen by the titular thing. At the end of the film, we learn that the absorbed canine was hiding, and it runs off, setting up the events of the original film.
  • In-universe example: in The Truman Show, the show's crew decides to bring back Truman's missing and presumed dead father after he starts suspecting that something isn't quite right in his world.
  • TRON: Legacy:
    • The title character is excruciatingly conspicuous in his absence from the main plot. Until...
    • Ditto with Kevin Flynn, absent from the analog world for nearly 20 years. He just shows up earlier in the second film.
  • In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, one of the Decoy Protagonists who turns out to be the Big Bad claims that his father was killed before he was born by a hillbilly serial killer and that the body was never found. It turns out that the supposed hillbilly serial killer was actually a hillbilly serial rapist, and the Decoy Protagonist-turned-Big Bad's father, meaning it was all In the Blood.
  • In Viy, at the start two scholars mention that their friend was killed by a witch. He's actually been hiding in the old church and conspiring with the local priest to cover up their role in the "witch's" attack.

  • Very common in Agatha Christie-style mysteries. Any time a character is mentioned who disappeared years ago or inexplicably moved away to parts unknown, that character and/or what really happened to them will be important, even if their connection to the present-day mystery is not immediately apparent.
  • Animorphs:
    • Marco's mother Eva is believed dead, but technically it fits because she disappeared without a trace, then surfaced as Visser One four books in.
    • Not to mention Tobias' parents, whose absence in Tobias' life is a large part of his backstory. We end up learning eventually that we met his father in the first book: it's Elfangor. We get introduced to his mother Loren as a child in the Andalite Chronicles, but it won't be until The Diversion, 48 books later, that we actually learn her fate. She's alive, albeit blind and an amnesiac from a car accident.
  • In the first Artemis Fowl book, one of Artemis' motives for kidnapping Holly Short is to use the ransom money to fund search operations looking for his father, who went missing during a business trip to Russia. The second book, The Arctic Incident, revolves around him discovering his father's whereabouts and enlisting the fairies' help with a rescue operation.
  • The entire plot of Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar is built around this trope. At the beginning of the book, the title character—who inexplicably ran off to America some ten years earlier—reappears at his family home in England. At the end of the book, we learn that he never ran off. He was murdered—and then we learn who killed him.
  • The young adult book Daphne's Book features a middle-schooler trying to convince her grandmother and sister that her father, who went MIA during the Vietnam War, is not coming back. Averted when it's revealed he really isn't back—the grandmother "saw" him because she's suffering from dementia.
  • Dragonskin Slippers first mentions Shardas, a Dragon that befriends the main character, missing a "fair dragoness". Later, it's revealed that she was the Queen, and Shardas's mate, killed by the old king. Only not. She's still alive.
  • Elaine in The Dresden Files, who makes a surprise return in Summer Knight.
  • Mazer Rackham is mentioned several times throughout Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's assumed he's dead. Then, he is revealed to have survived by being flown on a relativistic ship specifically to train the future commander of the fleet.
  • The father of the main character in Esther Friesner's Gnome Man's Land series went out for a Sunday Times and never came back. It was later revealed that he'd spent the six years he'd been gone as the Champion of the Fey.
  • The Great Zoo of China: CJ leaves Johnson wounded in a dumbwaiter, telling him to wait there until she returns. When she does come back, there’s no sign of him, but none of a struggle either. He shows up in the climax to hijack one of the bombs in the zoo.
  • Genaa D'anhk in the Green-Sky Trilogy wants to find out what happened to her missing father, and this is a big factor in her rancor towards the Pash-San she believes responsible for his death. There aren't any Pash-San, and he's actually become a respected member of the Erdling community. He and Genaa become very prominent voices in the Rejoyner movement.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Special attention is given to the apparent murder of Peter Pettigrew by Sirius Black in the third book. It's mentioned that all they ever found was a finger. Pettigrew is an Animagus who has been disguised as Ron's pet rat for thirteen years. What's more, he was the one who betrayed Harry's parents.
    • Dumbledore's younger brother Aberforth is mentioned a couple of times, and the seventh book delves into the troubled history between them. It turns out he's the bartender of the Hog's Head, allowing Harry and friends safe passage into the school.
    • Before Harry even meets Dumbledore, he learns that he defeated a dark wizard named Grindelwald in 1945. Grindelwald isn’t mentioned again until the last book but turns out to have been "friends" with Dumbledore when they were teenagers. He finally shows up in the present at about the 2/3 mark when Voldemort goes to talk to him about the Elder Wand.
  • Andrew Trent in Matthew Reilly's Ice Station. Schofield has a Flash Back when his mission starts looking suspiciously similar to the one Trent disappeared on.
  • In the Lonely Werewolf Girl books much mention is made of the mysterious werewolf mage Minerva MacRinnalch who was a mentor to Thrix, but she remains unseen in person until late in book 2.
  • The Magicians features a lot of musing about the fate of Martin Chatwin, the first protagonist of the Fillory and Further fantasy novel series, last seen storming out of an argument with his siblings in the third book, never to be seen again. It's later revealed that the Chatwin kids were real people based on children that the author knew, so it's assumed he just ran away from home... up until the Magic Land of Fillory turns out real as well. To the shock of everyone, he's actually the Big Bad, having become a Humanoid Abomination after fleeing into the darkest regions of Fillory.
  • In the Millennium Series, Lizbeth Salander has a twin sister whom she hasn't seen since the day she tried to kill their abusive father. The ending of the third book implies that their reunion would have been a major part of the rumored fourth book.
  • In the Nightrunner series, Seregil's ex-lover Ilar is one. He is assumed to be dead when he is first mentioned, but it is revealed in Traitor's Moon that he is indeed alive. He is a slave in Plenimar when Alec and Seregil meet him.
  • Pippi Longstocking's absent sailor father, whom she claimed had been washed up on some tropical island and become a cannibal king, finally showed up in Pippi in the South Seas.
  • Wolf Boy, a.k.a. Boy 409 in Septimus Heap is mentioned in Magyk as having been lost in the river, but he's later revealed to have survived in Flyte.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Ser Barristan Selmy. In A Game of Thrones, he's forced into retirement when Cersei and Joffrey take the throne but refuses to give up, saying he'll be in the service of the true king. In the second book, all the candidates for the Iron Throne are making much ado about his comments, wondering why he hasn't shown up anywhere. In the third book, it turns out they had the wrong continent — he went to go serve Daenerys.
    • A Dance with Dragons gives us Aegon Targaryen, who instead of being dead was Switched at Birth with some other unfortunate infant and has been receiving education intended to make him an effective ruler since he was old enough to understand it; he is being raised by Jon Connington, another character who until the events of ADWD has been thought dead. Fans are also already speculating that "Septa" Lemore is Ashara Dayne, another background character who is supposedly dead. It's worth noting that Connington refers to her as "Lady Lemore" in his internal monologue. This may just be an inversion, as he was fully described as dead in all previous books, and all descriptions of his brutal murder make him just being "missing" with a surprise body swap come as a bit of an Ass Pull. However, popular theory is that based upon clues in the text, he really is dead and the teenaged boy claiming his name is just an unwitting imposter manipulated by Illyrio and Varys ("The Mummer's Dragon").
    • Rickon Stark has minimal impact and is rarely mentioned by anyone other than Bran while he's still actually present. He's last seen at the end of the second book, and nothing more than a passing mention is made of him again until a single instance in the fifth book, where he is set to become the key in overthrowing the Boltons' hold on the north, since their rule depends on Ramsay's marriage to 'Arya' (see below), and as Ned Stark's son Rickon comes before her in the succession.
    • In the first book Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole is "taken care of" by Petyr Baelish. You assume the poor girl is going to end up a reluctant whore in some brothel, never to be heard from again. Then she suddenly shows up again in ADWD as Fake Arya and is married off to Ramsay Bolton to strengthen his hold on the north.
    • Theon's sinister uncle Euron is mentioned offhandedly throughout A Clash of Kings as exiled from the Iron Islands. His return a book later proves to have significant consequences.
    • In A Game of Thrones, Stannis Baratheon is only mentioned as having retreated to Dragonstone for unclear purposes, although Ned suspects that he might have known the secret that Jon Arryn was supposedly assassinated for and fled to avoid being killed too, while Varys fears that he is building an army. Sure enough, he shows up in the next book as one of the titular Five Kings and becomes a major non-POV character in the series.
    • Brynden Rivers, the Targaryen bastard son of Aegon IV who proved to be a Hypercompetent Sidekick to the family, crusading against threats from the Blackfyres, was reported missing after conducting a ranging more than forty years ago. Then he shows up to Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor in A Dance with Dragons as a Greenseer, having formed a relationship with the thought-to-be-extinct Children of the Forest as the Three-Eyed Crow.
    • Zigzagged with the Starks' uncle Benjen, who disappears while ranging beyond the Wall in A Game of Thrones. In A Storm of Swords, a mysterious, silent character called Coldhands saves Sam and Gilly and escort them to the south of the Wall, then takes Bran and co. to the last greenseer in A Dance With Dragons. Coldhands is said to wear Night's Watch clothing and gives an aura of a White Walker but is not one himself. Naturally, fans theorized that he is secretly Benjen, but the notoriously teasing G. R. R. Martin actually felt the need to joss it out, so they're probably not. This didn't prevent fans from insisting that Benjen will play a role down the line.
    • Since the series isn't finished yet, several characters who have been mentioned but haven't appeared yet - such as Howland Reed and Gerion Lannister - often feature heavily in fan theories for the upcoming books, so they may well become examples (or aversions) later.
  • Mackenzie Calhoun's son Xyon in Star Trek: New Frontier. We go through an entire book with him as the secondary protagonist, then he and Calhoun finally meet, and Xyon introduces himself via a "Hey, You!" Haymaker.
  • The Two Princesses of Bamarre: Drualt is mentioned as a hero in the tale of the founding of Bamarre, but history records him as having eventually left in disgust after an incident. He turns up near the climax, having become a fairy.
  • The Vampire Chronicles: Mekare in Queen of the Damned has been missing for thousands of years. Her twin sister Maharet mentions several times how it was always Mekare who was the more decisive of the two of them. Just when it seems there will be a Curb-Stomp Battle between the vampire queen Akasha and the remaining vampires, Mekare enters the room and, having gone mad from being outside of civilization for so long, simply walks up to Akasha and pushes her through a glass window, decapitating the queen.
  • The Lost Fleet: Senator Rione's husband, a Space Navy officer who was unaccounted for but presumed killed in action after his ship was destroyed. Tragically, evidence that suggests he might have survived to be taken prisoner turns up within weeks of Rione finally allowing herself to move on and starting a relationship with Captain Geary. He's found in a prison camp after the end of the war, but his physical and mental health have suffered badly and he doesn't survive the sequel series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 1984 TV series Airwolf. Stringfellow Hawke blackmails a US government agency: He'll fly missions in their top-secret Airwolf helicopter in return for their assistance in locating his missing brother Saint John Hawke, which they do in the last season.
  • Alta Mar:
    • As soon as Nicolas told Eva that his first wife disappeared years prior during WWII it was only a matter of time before she would reveal herself to be alive.
    • Eva and Carolina's father, who died shortly before the series began, is revealed not only to be alive, but also a collaborator with the Nazis.
  • The prologue of Arrow sees Sara Lance apparently die in the sinking of the Queen's Gambit. It's revealed in Season 2 that she survived (and that Oliver knew she survived, but thought she'd died later).
  • Babylon 5 executes this trope well with Anna Sheridan.
  • Bones: Brennan's parents went mysteriously missing when she was a teenager. Why and what happened to them have since become major plot points.
  • Chuck:
    • Chuck Bartowski's dad, who mysteriously walked out on his kids after promising to make them pancakes...
    • Chuck's mother vanished. In fact, it was her disappearance that supposedly drove their father to leaving. And since he really left because he worked for the CIA, we can only imagine what that means for Chuck's mother. Turns out she was deep undercover trying to take down the world's biggest and most dangerous arms dealer. Who was only an arms dealer because Chuck's dad's program turned him from a timid British kid into an evil Russian chessmaster.
  • Horatio Caine's brother in CSI: Miami. Except he was mistaken for dead.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Though technically not an invocation of the trope from the beginning, when the series returned to TV in 2005, the disappearance of the Time Lords became an illustration of the trope, with them finally returning, temporarily, in "The End of Time". And finally, the Doctor saves them in "The Day of the Doctor".
    • "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances": Creepy Child Jamie is constantly asking, "Are you my mummy?" His mother, as it turns out, is Nancy, his alleged "older sister", who he's chasing and who has been present for the entire story.
    • Amy Pond's first episode reveals that she doesn't have any parents. The reason why and their eventual return make up a big part of the climax of her first season's storyline.
    • Downplayed with Bill Potts' mother, who died before the character was introduced. While the mother herself never returned, the Doctor altered history so that Bill could suddenly find a trove of photographs of her; previously she had absolutely nothing by which to remember her mother.
    • "Orphan 55": Bella tells Ryan that her mother died when she was 10. It turns out that this is a lie: her mother is in fact resort owner Kane, and Bella's come to Tranquillity Spa to destroy it in revenge for Kane abandoning the family.
  • Farscape had D'Argo's son Jothee and Chiana's brother Neri.
  • The 2007 Flash Gordon series: Flash's father.
  • Fringe has William Bell, founder of Massive Dynamic and Walter's former lab partner. He appears in the final episode of Season 1 though, with the explanation for his disappearance being that he is stuck in an Alternate Universe.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ser Barristan Selmy storms off in defiance at being forcibly retired in "The Pointy End", but reappears to join Daenerys in "Valar Dohaeris".
    • For three seasons the Blackfish wasn't sighted after surviving the Red Wedding thanks to the world's luckiest piss, until he reassembles the remnants of the Tully host and retakes Riverrun from House Frey, becoming the de facto leader and lord of House Tully during his nephew's captivity.
    • Arya's direwolf Nymeria had gone completely unseen and unmentioned since the second episode of the series until briefly returning in Season 7.
    • Benjen sorta disappears in the first season and throughout the following seasons, his status was kept a mystery. Then come Season 5, his return is used as a ploy for by traitorous members of the Night's Watch in order to murder Jon Snow. However, come the next season, Benjen comes back with a fiery vengeance, albeit as someone who is/might be deceased.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Midshipman Archie Kennedy is lost during a stealth Boarding Party of a French ship and presumed dead in the first episode of the miniseries. However, in the third episode Hornblower and his crew end up in Spanish prison, and guess who is his cellmate? It's Kennedy! Completely broken from being tortured and troubled by his sad fate, but he's alive! What a coincidence. This is more a result of Kennedy being combined with a book character who was lost and presumed dead in a similar fashion, leaving a convenient way back when the people writing the series decided they wanted to put Jamie Bamber in more episodes.
  • House: Remember Dr. Wilson's missing brother back in season 1? The one who is homeless? Wilson's brother was found and institutionalized, complete with Narm about how Wilson blames himself.
  • In Jake 2.0, Sarah mentions that her military father went MIA when working on a "top-secret project".
  • In The Middleman, Wendy Watson very specifically mentions that her father disappeared "under mysterious and as-yet unexplained circumstances". He shows up in the cliffhanger ending of the comic continuity, but remained MIA in the TV version
  • Gossip Girl: Serena and Eric's father, Chuck's mother
  • Season 1 of Heroes makes much mention of Peter and Nathan's late father, Arthur. Sure enough, as many fans predicted, he appears in Volume 3 as the Big Bad.
  • Subverted fairly well in In Plain Sight — not only has Mary and Brandi's father yet to show up but the two times that someone appears who may have information about him, nobody really wants to find him, so his whereabouts are still unknown.
  • In Kamen Rider Double, Shotaro's mentor Sokichi Narumi, himself Kamen Rider Skull, was killed one year prior to the start of the series, though his body was never found. In the second movie, Sokichi's Transformation Trinket allows Shotaro to become Kamen Rider Joker since he's currently unable to become Double.
  • In Kamen Rider Fourze, a student named Yamada is mentioned as having transfered to Subaruboshi High while Ryuusei transferred to Amanogawa High. Yamada would later appear in episode #31 as the Aries Zodiarts.
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Team Gaim's old leader, Yuya, received a Sengoku Driver from Sid, only to disappear shortly after. Turns out, he ended up becoming the Byakko Inves after being compelled to eat one of Helheim's fruits, leading to Kouta unknowingly killing him at the end of the very first episode. Though this trope is played with in the sense that while he does disappear and later returns with a major impact on the plot, he only reappears in flashbacks thanks to him dying after going missing.
  • Lost is pretty fond of this trope.
    • Particularly noteworthy is the con-man that ultimately drove Sawyer's father to commit a murder/suicide being Locke's father, and also showing up on the island.
    • Christian Sheppard, who was actually dead since before the events of the series even began, and yet continued to play a significant role throughout all six seasons of the show.
    • Jin (end of season 4) and Frank (late season 6) both pull rather impressive versions of this too, particularly Frank, since a lot of viewers thought he really was dead.
  • Manimal: Chase's father is last seen in the opening credits winging away in hawk form.
  • Monk's father came back (but wasn't seen) in one episode and came back again (and was seen) in another.
  • In Nash Bridges, Nash received his '71 Plymouth Barracuda when his brother Bobby went off to Vietnam and went MIA. Because Bobby never gave him the keys, Nash has to use a flattened nail in the ignition. A few seasons in, Bobby shows up as a drug dealer. The episode ends with a foot chase, and Nash eventually decides to let Bobby go after Bobby scales a chain-link fence. Bobby hands him the keys to the 'Cuda through the fence.
  • Once Upon a Time shows us a couple of flashbacks of Regina's wicked mother Cora, who is nowhere to be seen in Storybrooke and isn't killed off in her backstory. Season 2 reveals she's in the remains of the Enchanted Forest, plotting to get revenge on her daughter.
  • Power Rangers in Space: An early episode establishes that Andros's sister Karone was kidnapped as a child. It later turns out that she's actually Astronema, the season's Big Bad.
    • Because of this, many Power Rangers RPM fans correctly predicted that the girl Dillon was searching for would turn out to be Tenaya 7, mirroring the in Space plot almost exactly.
    • Then there's Mystic Force, where Nick's search for his biological parents, and Udonna's later search for her lost son Bowen reveal that Nick is Bowen, and Leanbow, his father, is Koragg.
    • Don't forget Aisynia Cruger, Doggie's wife, from SPD; as well as the A-Squad. SPD abused this trope.
  • The Pretty Little Liars plot reveals that Alison disappeared a year ago. Her body is found in the first episode...except it's eventually revealed that it's not her body. After a number of times where she's glimpsed, or where characters have conversations with her that may or may not be real, she's finally 100% confirmed as still alive in Season 4.
  • Primeval: Professor Cutter's wife just vanished without a trace. She shows up at the end of the pilot episode, now as the antagonist looking to wipe out humanity.
  • That Ned's father in Pushing Daisies abandoned him at a boarding school as a child is mentioned at practically the beginning of every episode. In the episode The Norwegians, Ned and Olive are rescued by a mysterious man, who at the end of the episode is revealed to be Ned's dad. Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of the show, this became an Aborted Arc and was never mentioned again for the rest of the series. In addition, Charlotte's father may be a twist on this trope, as he really is dead until Ned brings him back to life.
  • Glickman from The Shadow Line. His disappearance is a major plot point in the first episode and is mentioned frequently after that, so it's no surprise when he finally appears in person in episode 5.
  • The entire first season of Supernatural was built around this trope. In the first episode, the Winchester brothers team up to find their missing father, with each episode taking them closer to their goal.
    • Their mother, who actually is dead, still manages to appear in seasons 1, 4, and 5, in the first as a ghost and in the latter two via time travel. Also in various dreams and hallucinations, more often than the dad they actually grew up with, but those don't count.
    • Their half-brother, Adam, turns out to have been dead since before they met him. Or even knew about him. He still has a pivotal role in season five.
    • Their dead maternal grandfather is a major character in season six. This family does not stay dead.
  • In the 2008 series of Survivors, Abby is adamant that her son has survived the epidemic, in spite of the fact that the majority of the world's population has been wiped out. A bit of a twist on the formula seeing as he's not technically been "taken away", but at its heart, he's a missing boy and this is a slice of Chekov.
  • Terra Nova: Commander Taylor's son went missing some years back.
  • Also played to mixed results with Cain's family in Tin Man. Jeb Cain is alive and a leader in La Résistance, but the party finds the grave of Adora Cain. Also played with in the royal family. Azkedellia's on the throne, her mother is imprisoned. The younger princess is believed to be dead, and the lavender-eyed queen's consort was banished... The consort turns out to be very much alive and still in Oz, Just Hiding on his wife's orders. The younger princess is DG herself, sent to the Other Side as part of The Plan of her mother.
  • Torchwood gives us Gray, Jack's brother who was kidnapped by... something.
    • Jack's ongoing attempts to be reunited with the Doctor during season 1 also qualify if Torchwood is viewed as a standalone as opposed to being a spin-off.
  • Twin Peaks had Josie Packard's deceased husband Andrew.
  • Velvet: Alberto's mother Isabel is stated to have died when Alberto was a small child. Turns out Alberto's father involuntarily committed her in Cuba and abandoned her to marry Gloria in Spain.
  • The X-Files introduced Mulder's back-story early on. His sister went missing as a little girl and she was possibly abducted by aliens or conspirators. This became a major plot point and several clues indicated she is still alive. The actual explanation for what happened to her was fairly controversial: She was kidnapped to be experimented on by aliens collaborating with the conspirators, but then taken away by the ghosts of lost children or some race of strange angels or fairies so she wouldn't suffer anymore. Fans were not impressed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Lost Eldar Craftworld of Altansar, introduced to the game background c. 1992 as the place of origin of the Dark Reaper Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra. Maugan Ra was the last survivor of the doomed world-ship, which was dragged into the Eye of Terror millennia ago by treacherous warp-currents, and for just over a decade (real-world time!) that was all anyone knew about the place. In the Eye of Terror campaign and accompanying rulebook of 2003, Maugan Ra returned to the Eye with the express aim of rescuing Altansar and its inhabitants from their unpleasant sojourn. He succeeded, after a fashion, and the Craftworld's livery and background appeared in the 2006 Eldar codex. Unfortunately their period trapped in the warp has turned the Eldar of Altansar into otherworldly wraith-like creatures, but they are now officially at large in the universe once more.

  • In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Erronius has spent the last twenty years searching for his missing children, who had been kidnapped by pirates in infancy. At the end of the musical, it is revealed that Philia and Miles Gloriosus are his children. This allows for a Happy Ending on two fronts: a separated family is reunited, and Philia and Miles being siblings invalidates their engagement, which frees Philia up for her One True Love Hero.
  • In Pokémon Live!, Mewtwo is mentioned early on as Giovanni relates how he escaped from him, necessitating the creation of MechaMew2, and he appears in the finale to help Ash.

    Theme Parks 
  • The main character of Indiana Jones Adventure at the Disney Theme Parks is mentioned as having gone missing while venturing into the temple, but later on in the ride reappears in the nick of time to save the riders from being forced through the "Gates of Doom".

    Video Games 
  • Near the beginning of the first Ace Attorney game, Maya tells Phoenix about her mom's disappearance 15 years ago. In the last case of the third game, Misty Fey shows up under a fake name so as to not alert anyone to her true identity and shortly thereafter becomes the murder victim.
    • The best way to be missing in action and assumed dead is to be executed, right? Dahlia Hawthorne disagrees.
    • Inverted in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where it's established in the fourth case that Thalassa Gramarye was accidentally shot dead at a rehearsal. Just kidding. A witness from the third case, Lamiroir, turns out to have been her under an assumed name. (Granted, she had lost her eyesight and memory).
  • In AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative, during the investigation of Half Body Serial Killings, it is briefly mentioned that years ago a kid from Aioen Orphanage, Uru Somezuki, has been kidnapped. Guess who the serial killer turns out to be?
  • Dark Souls establishes that Gwyn's firstborn had been stripped of his status, exiled, and Unpersoned. He turns up in Dark Souls III, an untold amount of time later, under the title of the Nameless King, whereupon - in the series tradition of viciously hard Optional Bosses - he probably kicks your ass so hard you end up wearing it like a hat.
  • One of the very first quests in Diablo III has you exploring the abandoned home of Leah's allegedly long-dead mother Adria.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Technically, you DO have control of Tamlen in the Dalish Elf origin of Dragon Age: Origins for about thirty seconds. And then he vanishes and Duncan tells you there is no point looking for him. The phrasing he used was rather tricky, though, as he said Tamlen was gone and nothing could be done for him after three days of darkspawn taint. Not that he was dead. So when your camp comes under darkspawn attack, as a Dalish Elf you will see him again as he begs for death.
    • Oghren's wife, Paragon Branka, went missing several years before Origins and then went completely insane. Among other things.
    • Wynne mentions to Alistair in Origins that she gave birth to a son many years ago, but the Chantry took him away from her (as they do all children born to Circle mages). He later shows up as the protagonist of Asunder.
  • Dragon Quest IX has Corvus, former mentor to Aquila, who fell to the Protectorate centuries ago and disappeared. Guess who the Big Bad is.
  • Averted in Fallout 2. Sulik never finds his sister. He was originally planned to and would keep traveling with the MC out of gratitude, but the developers couldn't figure out a good place to put her without making it feel contrived, so she was Dummied Out and the quest has no resolution.
  • Fallout 76: The Overseer. The initial main questline involves following the trail she left while exploring Appalachia, and finally learning that she left the region to go elsewhere. In the Wastelanders expansion, she returns and becomes a major quest giver. This is related to how the game was intially designed with no living human NPCs, but later expansions abandoned this idea.
  • Final Fantasy II: The heroes' brother goes missing in the beginning after an enemy ambush. He later turns out to be the Black Knight, The Dragon who undergoes a Heel–Face Turn when the heroes reach him.
    • Unlike a lot of Chekov MIA's, this one actually is a surprise, since you're reasonably sure that the fourth character you named at the beginning of the game is still alive (if you even remember him), but the fact that he's The Dragon comes with almost no hints or clues whatsoever. It's a good deal more obvious in the GBA version (and presumably other ports) where the Black Knight's character portrait is pretty clearly Leon's, just hidden in shadow.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics: The chapter 1 is a flashback of a year ago that shows us that Delita is presumed dead by Ramza after the events of Battle of Ziekden Fortress. Back in present time, we see Delita abducting Princess Ovelia, to Ramza's surprise.
  • Final Fantasy X: Jecht is listed as dead, as is Seymour's mother. Tidus is also considered dead in the sequel. The truth...gets complicated.
  • Fire Emblem runs on this trope. Any relative of a character, no matter how briefly mentioned, will appear eventually.
    • From the Tellius games: Sanaki's thought-to-be-dead older sister? It's actually Micaiah. Lady Almedha's real son? That would be Soren. Also we have Lord Renning, the missing uncle of Elincia who was turned into Bertram of the Four Riders by Izuka.
    • When Blazing Blade came out as a Prequel to Binding Blade, the parents and siblings of many of the former game's characters, or even some of the elder ones themselves, became playable characters —but probably the most notable one, because they were actually mentioned in the earlier game, though not by name, were Canas (the son of one Binding Blade character from Niime, and the father of another, Hugh), Rath (likewise both the son and the father of a Binding Blade character), and most of all Karla, whose husband, brother and daughter all appear as playable characters in Binding Blade (the former two are also in Blazing Blade). The fact that Karla shows up so late in the game, and only in Hector's Story, makes this almost an Easter Egg of an appearance. And, of course, just about anyone mentioned in a conversation in the prequel is a character in the sequel (e.g. Hawkeye's daughter, Geitz's brother, etc.) And sometimes they'll just tie characters together by blood just for the hell of it, which leads to some theories....
  • Both inverted and played straight in the Halo series. For the most part, we know which Spartans are dead, but for morale reasons, they're listed as MIA. However, there are is at least one case of a genuine MIA who end up making a reappearance later; Randall-037 was mentioned in the early novels as being one of the few genuinely MIA Spartans, but Halo: Nightfall later revealed that he did survive the Human-Covenant War.
    • As revealed in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, Dr. Halsey, who was in charge of the SPARTAN-II program, makes it a point of keeping track of which ones are actually dead and which ones were M.I.A. in circumstances that actually suggest their possible survival. This is how she recognizes Kurt-051 even through his reflective faceplate.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, the protagonist will occasionally find an ID card belonging to someone she doesn't recognise. Upon bringing it to her homeroom teacher, he informs her that the student in question hasn't attended for quite a while and is considered to be missing. He's the subject of the secret route. Turns out he was missing because the school doctor was experimenting on him, and he only escapes in his own route.
    • Another example is the case of the blacked-out photograph in Kazuaki's route. Kazuaki tells the protagonist that the subject of the photograph is someone he loved dearly, but who he lost. This character has been there the entire time. He's Nageki, the bird you meet in the library. Kazuaki's right to say that he's dead, but in this series, that doesn't mean someone can't still interact with the plot.
  • Carth's son Dustil in Knights of the Old Republic. As well as Canderous's former subordinate Jagi. The official story is that Revan died when Bastila tried to capture him. Only a few people know he's alive, amnesiac, and running around the galaxy with a new identity.
    • The Game Mod Brotherhood of Shadow: Solomon's Revenge: There's Revan, of course. Then, there's Shadow herself who evacuated Revan's ship minutes before Bastila arrived. There's the titular Solomon, thought dead during the Mandalorian Wars. Arkikon Sin, last King of the Sith and the titular Brotherhood as Sealed Evil in a Can. The sneakiest one is where Shadow admits to killing a Jedi Master, but has no idea what became of the Padawan. It's heavily implied that the Padawan is Koybayashi, who ends up redeeming Shadow with a cross of "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight and The Power of Love.
  • Mass Effect 2: During your introduction to The Illusive Man, you can ask what happened to your teammates from the first game. TIM dutifully reports on each of their activities over the past two years... except for Garrus, who "disappeared ... even we haven't been able to locate him." Later on, when you're tracking down a vigilante Only Known by Their Nickname "Archangel", guess who it is.
  • In Mushroom Age, Professor Einbock's wife disappeared forty years ago. It turned out she'd been abducted by aliens.
  • In No More Heroes, Jeane (the person, not the cat), Travis' long-lost former love interest combines this with All There in the Manual. And then she comes into the scene when she shows up out of nowhere, kills Dark Star with a punch through the groin, drops a crap-ton of information about her and Travis, and becomes the real final penultimate boss.
  • After defeating the Iron Kaiser in the prologue of Super Robot Wars BX, Ryo Magami and Ken Kaido go missing. It turns out they were summoned to Byston Well and show up when the Dunbine characters show up on the surface, helping the group out by destroying a portion of the enemy Aura Battlers.
  • In Persona 5 Royal, when hanging out with Kasumi she will tell Joker that she had a sister who died in a traffic accident last spring. During the Third Semester arc (which is a lot later on during the game), Kasumi will reveal the sister's identity to be her younger sister Sumire. And it turns out that the "Kasumi" you met all the time was NOT Kasumi but her younger sister Sumire, and Kasumi is actually the name of her elder sister, who died saving Sumire from a traffic accident when she was absentmindedly running into traffic in an attempt to distance herself from Kasumi.
  • Athrun Zala and Lunamaria Hawke are conspicuously absent in Super Robot Wars Z3: Jigoku-Hen despite both them otherwise always being PC's along with Shinn and Kira. They aren't forgotten about like the other missing characters either, as Kira mentions them frequently. As it turns out they were secretly working with Char to rig Axis with GN Particle emitters, in the event Frontal betrayed him and tried to drop Axis anyway.
  • Tales of Symphonia does this quite a bit and other the course of the game we meet up with Lloyd's Father, we learn of his mother too. We meet Genis' and Raine's mum, meet Zelos' sister, find Regal's long lost love and Presea's older sister, find Marble's (who is a very minor character) daughter...even meeting up with the Big Bad's sister by the end.
  • Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind, was MIA throughout all of World of Warcraft and its first expansion. Ruling in his place was his nine-year-old son. In Wrath of the Lich King, he's back and became an incredibly skilled warrior. Characters who were confirmed dead are also strangely not dead, but not undead. Why? Probably to flesh out the expansion Because they were just that tough. Or something. (Possibly they used one of the numerous resurrection spells or walked to the Spirit Healer.)

  • Credenza, the protagonist of Archipelago, has a series of Flashback Nightmares about her friendship with and separation from Uru ten years prior. Uru not only is one of the people she's looking for to save the world, but actually joins the group, transformed into an animal, a good while before the Forceful Transformation is accidentally lifted and his identity revealed.
  • Drowtales has been running since 2001 so naturally has plenty of these, but perhaps the best example is Sha'sana, who narrates the prologue and is seen for one page, and was implied to have been killed by Snadhya'rune, until 25 chapters later when she's revealed to have survived.
  • In the opening chapters of Girl Genius, we find out that poor Agatha Clay was raised by two characters who aren't really her parents, and their identities are clues that point toward the identity of her real parents. But her real parents are still missing, and may be the most important people in the entire world, considering her father is one of The Heterodyne Brothers, saviors of the world and her mother is apparently the one who nearly destroyed the world.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony's Disappeared Dad Anthony Carver vanished immediately before the comic begins and abruptly reappears three in-comic years and ten real-life years later, with a scarred face and a missing hand, to teach at the Court for purposes unknown.
  • In The Order of the Stick:
    • Near the strip's beginning, Elan and his Evil Twin Nale's father is described as a conquering warlord in a distant country. 673 comics later, guess who finally shows his face?
    • Haley's father Ian, who was being held ransom. Though she'd been looking for him ever since they arrived on the Western Continent, he turns up quite unexpectedly.
    • The casual mention early on that Vaarsuvius has a spouse and children is revisited when an evil dragon promises to kill them all in revenge for Vaarsuvius killing her son.
    • Hilgya Firehelm, cleric of Loki, shows up as a member of the original Linear Guild. After the climactic battle, she helps save Durkon and journeys with him for a time before leaving in tears, though not before the pair spend the night together. Over a thousand strips later, she reappears to help save the party with Durkon's baby in tow.

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: During campaign 2, the Mighty Nein travel to the island of Rumblecusp where they meet Viridian, a woman with a missing leg whose memories were stolen by Vokodo. Once Caduceus manages to restore her memories, she tells them that she is actually Vilya, the mother of Keyleth from Campaign 1, who went missing during her Aramente and was presumed dead when search crews only managed to recover her severed leg. She travels back to Zephrah after everything is said and done, and the last the Nein see of her is her leaping into her daughter's arms.
  • All three formats of Noob insisted on telling the audience about Master Zen, the Noob guild's former leader who stopped playing before the story started thanks to being sent to jail by an Appliance Defenestration gone wrong. The franchise incidentally also qualifies for Cardboard Prison.
  • In Red vs. Blue', Agent Carolina is mentioned as far back as season 5, and again in season 6, where she's implied (but not stated!) to be dead, or at least not in good shape. Turns out she's just fine and is a major character from the finale of season 9 on.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Michael Waite has never known his father. Up until he finally manifests as a mutant and finds out that he is really a monster and his father is an Eldritch Abomination.
  • In Worm, Perdition of the Travellers disappears between the Travelers leaving Boston and arriving in Brockton Bay, with the implication being that Trickster has handed him over to the supervillain Accord to be killed. In reality, Perdition was sold to the Chinese military parahuman division known as the Yàngbǎn, and subsequently takes revenge during the Behemoth attack on New Delhi by murdering Accord, causing massive disruptions as Accord was coordinating the defense against Behemoth.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Katara and Sokka's parents are both missing. We soon learn that their mother has been killed, and their father went to war over two years ago but never came back. At the end of Book two, they find him back. Zuko also mentions his sister Azula offhandedly (she’s also the firebender in the opening credits) well before she’s introduced in the show.
  • Beast Machines begins with four of the Maximals who survived the Beast Wars together with no information on Silverbolt and Rhinox. It's eventually revealed that Megatron has possession of their sparks and reformats the missing Maximals to serve as his Vehicon generals under new identities.
    • Transformers: Cyberverse begins with Windblade finding Bumblebee on Earth while searching for the rest of the Ark's crew. The search for the missing Autobots forms the basis for much of the first season.
  • Scarlet holds Cobra Industries responsible for her father's disappearance in G.I. Joe: Renegades. Towards the end, we learn that he was developing a teleportation device for the corporation, but tried to destroy it when learned it would be used for evil. He was sucked into another dimension by the device when Cobra operatives broke into his lab to stop him.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic with Pinkie Pie's family. Season 1 gave the audience glimpse of her parents and two sisters through a flashback, but when an episode about one of her family members happens in Season 4, it's instead a completely new sibling named Maud Pie.
    • They have since played it straight with Rainbow Dash's parents' being revealed. Turns out we never saw them for the first seven series because Rainbow Dash was embarrassed by their constant, over the top encouragement to the point of being rude to other parents. Scootaloo makes her see this is unfair and she would've LOVED to have people who care enough about her to encourage her all the time. Scootaloo's family was not mentioned until the final season, in which her parents were depicted as living far enough away from Ponyville to prevent them regularly visiting her.
    • The parents of the Apple family ARE dead, so this isn't played straight exactly, but we did get an entire episode flashback of their kids learning about how they met.
  • In the Over the Garden Wall episode "Schooltown Follies", Miss Langtree laments that her boyfriend Jimmy Brown abandoned her with nary a goodbye. At the end of the episode, it is discovered that Jimmy is the wild gorilla supposedly terrorizing Langtree's school. He intended to join the circus dressing up as a gorilla to save up for an engagement ring for Langtree. The costume got stuck on him, so he tried to get people around the school to help him but everyone was too scared because they thought he was a real gorilla.
  • Steven Universe has White and Pink Diamond, who were depicted in art pieces but conspicuously never mentioned for a while. Pink is this especially, as the changing Diamond Authority symbol takes the pink diamond out, hinting that something happened to her, and her mural is mostly hidden from the viewers while White Diamond's mural is on full display. White Diamond is the closest thing the show has to a Big Bad, and Pink Diamond was the former ruler of Earth as a gem colony. The Crystal Gem rebellion was against her... and instigated by her, in disguise as Rose Quartz.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Master Splinter tells his sons that Shredder attacked him and his family, killing his wife and infant daughter, Miwa. During the first season finale, the Shredder tells him the truth: his wife died in the attack, but Shredder found his daughter and raised her as his own, naming her Karai.
  • In Thunder Cats 2011 prodigal Old Soldier Panthro's Death Notification is delivered to his friend King Claudus by fellow explorer Grune. Grune uses suspiciously vague terms to describe the circumstances of Panthro's death, and later becomes a Turncoat, so its no great surprise that Panthro shows up later, deeply peeved at being betrayed and left for dead.
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, Pidge/Katie's brother and father, Matt and Sam, are abducted by aliens thirty seconds into the first episode while exploring Kerberos, one of the moons of Pluto. Sure enough, she finds and reunites with them in Seasons 4 and 5, respectively.


Video Example(s):



Penelope works for the Black Baron, but is never seen in "Flight of Fancy". That's because she is the Baron.

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Main / ChekhovMIA

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