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Dead Partner

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"When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it."
Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon

So you're watching a Buddy Cop Show. The Naïve Newcomer on the force has made his way to the precinct, ready to fight crime and turn this city on its head. According to the chief, he's about to be paired off with the grizzled old, potentially loose cannon of a cop. You see, the Grizzled Cop doesn't currently have a partner, and will protest having to take on the rookie because, as he will vehemently and adamantly bark at the chief, "I WORK ALONE!"

Cut back to Grizzled Cop's desk, and pan to a picture of him and another boy in blue, perhaps as Naive Newcomers themselves. Then pan over to the desk paired off with his, completely empty. This is the camera telling the viewer that, in fact, the cop used to have a partner, and now he's dead.

Another way is to have the Naïve Newcomer rookie accidentally sit down in the now vacant chair of the dead partner, and have the Grizzled Cop blow out on him about it.

Usually used as a form of Death by Origin Story, and frequently as a result of Grizzled Cop's loose-cannon ways. Compare Dead Sidekick. A sub-trope of Standard Cop Backstory.

As this is a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman: Gordon of Gotham: The trope is lampshaded in regard to Bullock's new partner, Detective Eric "Survivor" Soong, who has survived firefights that killed his last three partners. He and Bullock both live.
      Detective Murphy: The partner always dies in the first reel. You seen the movie, right? Soong lives it.
    • Gotham Central: Driver's best friend and partner, Charlie Fields, is killed by Mr. Freeze in the first issue. Several arcs later in the series, Nate Patton (who is less fleshed out than his partner, tritagonist Romy Chandler) is mortally wounded by the Joker.
  • At the beginning of The Simping Detective, Jack used to have a partner named Cheyne. He and Jack killed the brother of someone very important. Jack is a tad more resourceful than Cheyne.
  • In Top 10, Smax lost Stochastic Fats shortly before the series began. Naturally, he has a hard time warming up to his new partner, Toybox. A similar situation occurs later in the series, when Girl One dies. Her partner, Irma Geddon, considered her family and was very close with her. As such, she treats her new partner, Joe Pi, with extreme hostility for a while.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Det. Sykes' previous partner in Alien Nation.
  • Foxxy's partner in Austin Powers in Goldmember was killed by the eponymous villain.
  • Dirty Harry: Pretty much all of Harry Callahan's partners end up dead or in the hospital, as he notes.
  • Part of Kung Fury's backstory. We in fact see Kung Fury's partner getting killed in flashback.
  • In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade notes that one has to avenge one's dead partner, regardless of one's personal feelings towards the partner.
  • In OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies , the plot is set in motion by the death of OSS 117's partner, and subsequently each mention of Jack causes OSS 117 to look wistful while Ho Yay-laden flashbacks appear on screen. Of course, He's not really dead. Since the whole film is a parody, this is Played for Laughs.
  • Heavily implied to be the case with James Carter from Rush Hour. He's the type of cop that says "he works alone" and constantly says that he doesn't need a partner. He doesn't want to supervise Lee, most likely because he doesn't want to witness another partner die. But James always sticks with him when he needs help. On the contrary, he says that his dad had problems with his partner, so he may be dancing around the truth.
    • Also the case with Inspector Lee's previous partner, who was murdered by the Big Bad of the second movie.
  • Split Second (1992): Stone lost his old partner Foster to the monster when they were both investigating the sewers. When Durkin asks Da Chief if Stone has Survivor's Guilt, he says that it's just plain guilt; Stone happened to be screwing Foster's wife at the time.
  • In The Sting, Robert Redford's character is motivated to pull the big sting of the title after his partner is murdered by a crime boss that the two of them pulled a small time con on.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant is a Hardboiled Detective who developed a sour disposition, a drinking problem and a hatred of cartoon characters after the murder of his brother Teddy (who was also his partner) by a rogue Toon.

  • Vincent's partner, Ernie, in Anonymous Rex is dead. Casual Rex is a prequel, leading up to how that happened.
  • The death of Nathan's partner in Every Demon Has Its Day is what drove Nathan to leave Texas and go home to Dogwood County.
  • This is part of Officer Borsch's backstory in the Sammy Keyes books.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam-12 had Officer Pete Malloy, who was about to quit the force because his last partner got killed, get paired up with rookie Jim Reed. Malloy is... less than enthused by this. Later in the series, we also see that he had a good friend that went to the Police Academy with him who was killed.
  • Air City: Ji-sung's partner Young-jae was killed while the two of them were chasing a bad guy through Hong Kong's alleyways. The bad guy got away and Ji-sung desperately wants to catch him. His only clue is that Young-jae died clutching a Triad amulet.
  • Detective Madsen in J. J. Abrams' Alcatraz is like this at the beginning of the series, though we actually see the incident in question before we see her refusing to take a new partner in the next scene.
  • Lampshaded in Altered Carbon. Poe, the avatar of an Artificial Intelligence, has been researching Film Noir and suggests that Takeshi Kovacs make him his partner, as they inevitably get killed whereas an AI would be difficult to kill. Kovacs has a "No. Just… No" Reaction. Sure enough in the Season Finale Poe is 'killed' by The Dragon using a weapon designed to destroy AI's (though he's brought back for Season 2).
  • Frank Reagan of Blue Bloods has a Dead Canine Partner, a police dog named Greta he'd handled as a young K9-unit officer. She was killed by a criminal Frank sent her after: an old regret that helped motivate him, decades later as Commissioner, to invest extra effort into exonerating another police dog that was falsely accused of biting a child.
  • Parodied in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where officers in the NYPD regularly roleplay as having dead partners for motivation when using undercover identities. Captain Holt initially refuses to do such a thing, seeing it as cliche and unprofessional. When he eventually gives in and claims that a non-existent partner of his was murdered by a Serial Killer to help Peralta out on a case, its one his first big points of Character Development.
  • In one episode of Castle, this trope was played with like mad for Esposito's backstory. His then-partner Ike Thornton was killed by a mob boss they were investigating. Except Thornton faked his death because there was a Dirty Cop informing on them, and kept investigating as a private citizen.
  • Det. John Munch lost his partner in Homicide: Life on the Street. It still haunts him as of Law & Order: SVU.
  • Mike Logan (Chris Noth) from the early run of Law & Order had an unfortunate tendency to lose partners. One got shot and partially crippled. Another got shot and killed. The third outlasted Logan—yet still died years later.
  • Law & Order: UK: DS Ronnie Brooks' backstory includes the fact that one of his partners was killed. What makes this worse is that it's his current partner DS Matt Devlin who accidentally reminds him of this—a year before Matt himself was killed in a drive-by shooting. However, Ronnie seems to subvert this trope, as neither of these tragedies have prevented him from forming good relationships with his subsequent colleagues—he got close enough to Matt to view him as a surrogate son. It was Matt's replacement Sam who seemed to be reluctant to develop a friendship. But when yet another friend of his (never his partner, but they knew each long enough that this trope applies) was killed off, this time, it did appear to have an adverse effect on his ability to bond with Sam's replacement.
  • This is part of Hardison's character background in the Leverage episode "The Bank Shot Job".
    Cop: I think we should go by the book on this one.
    Hardison: The book?! The book got a good man killed! (turns away, apparently overcome by emotion)
    Parker: Ex-partner. Probably shouldn't mention the book again. Or propellers.
  • Miami Vice: Crockett's first partner falls afoul of a car bomb early in the pilot.
  • Midnight Caller: Implied with Officer Slocum in "Uninvited Guests." Zymak says that a murdered INS agent was very close to his partner. Slocum replies, "That's why I don't like working with a partner."
  • Murderville: Exaggerated. In the first episode, grumpy homicide detective Terry relates that he never got over the loss of his partner, Lori Griffin. Not only has he not been able to keep a partner since, but he's also never touched her desk since she died, including never cleaning her breakfast burrito or feeding her rabbit (now a skeleton).
  • Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and its remake both involve a cop working with the ghost of his deceased partner.
  • Jim Ellison in The Sentinel; slightly different because his new 'partner' isn't a police officer at all, but an anthropology graduate student.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Early in his career, Captain Dobey's partner Elmo Jackson was found dead on a hook in a meat factory. The killer wasn't caught until years later.
  • In Tensou Sentai Goseiger: Gosei Blue's partner, Gosei Green, was killed in action before the series began, which is why he's the only team member from the Seaick tribe.
  • Total Recall 2070: Agent David Hume's first partner is killed by a sabotaged Beta-class android who later jumps off a building. He is then partnered up with an Alpha-class android detective.
  • More like The Undead Partner in Witchblade season one. Sara Pezzini's partner Danny Woo is murdered by a mafia hitman in the pilot, but the Witchblade lets her interact with his ghost and he follows her around dispensing advice for the remainder of the season. Due to later time travel shenanigans, his murder is avoided and he spends season 2 as Sara's flesh and blood partner.
  • In The X-Files, Mulder has this moment when paired with rookie Alex Krycek during season two. Scully has her moment when paired with John Dogget in season eight. Subverted in the fact that the other wasn't dead, only missing.

    Video Games 
  • Max Payne's story in 2001 starts with the murder of his partner, Alex Balder. Along with the death of his wife and child three years prior, this drives him on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge as he's lost everyone he's cared about by this point.
  • In Mortal Kombat, Sonya Blade's backstory is that she is pursuing Kano because he killed her partner.
  • In Resident Evil 5, Chris has difficulty focusing on his work because the Heroic Sacrifice of his partner, Jill, is still fresh in his mind. He's eventually able to open up to Sheva about it.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth:
    • Jacques Portsman likes this trope so much that he invoked it personally. Poor Buddy Faith.
    • Detective Badd suffers this. Showing him evidence relating to his partner's murder is one of the few things that makes him actually sentimental.

    Western Animation 
  • Max Tennyson lost his partner Devin Levin to the alien Ragnarok in Ben 10. Season 3 of Ben 10: Alien Force has an episode focusing on this event and Devin's son Kevin attempting to get revenge for his death.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command has this with Warp Darkmatter, Buzz's former partner. It's later revealed that his Warp didn't die, and was on Zurg's payroll all along.
  • In C.O.P.S. (Animated Series), Sundown's old partner Johnny Yuma didn't die... he went heel. As Bulletproof puts it, "Yuma never forgave Sundown. I think Sundown never forgave himself."
  • Parodied on The Critic, Jay reviews a Dirty Harry expy cop film in which the Cowboy Cop is assigned a new rookie partner fresh out of the academy, who spontaneously combusts upon his introduction.
  • The Simpsons: A Running Gag in the show are snippets from the fictional McBain movie, essentially an Arnold Schwarzenegger parody. Grizzled Cowboy Cop McBain loses his old partner in a hit arranged by his arch-enemy, the drug kingpin Senator Mendoza. For bonus points, the partner in question is A] black, B] due to retire in a few days, and C] shows McBain a picture of his family right before he dies.
  • Arcee of Transformers: Prime has, as of now, lost two of her partners to Decepticons, both rather horrifically. This has left her with little patience, but great protectiveness, for her newest partner: the human Jack. It took a near death experience for her to accept him as such. Unfortunately for Arcee, her anger at the Decepticons who killed her partners (particularly Airachnid) can make her prone to acting rashly. And the 'cons aren't above using this against her.


Video Example(s):



Skoie's two days from retirement, but not if Mendoza has anything to do with it.

How well does it match the trope?

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