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Alfred Hitchcock: Just think of the shock value, killing off your leading lady halfway through. I mean, you are intrigued, are you not, my dear? Come on, admit it. Admit it.
Alma Reville: Actually, I think it's a huge mistake. You shouldn't wait 'til halfway through. Kill her off after 30 minutes.

So, you're cast in a brand new series, and there's something about your character that just screams, "Hey, major character here." It could be that you're a name performer, or the character plays a central role or is just plain interesting. So why do you get guest star billing? Well, either your contract requires it, or the powers that be are out to kill you, if not in the premiere, then by the second episode. Or it could just be that they don't have enough to pay your name performer salary for more than a few appearances.

Basically, a subversion of Contractual Immortality. This trope is occasionally used to effect (or affect) Anyone Can Die. In pilot episodes, it's also an early indicator of Sacrificial Lamb. It tends to be less surprising in television because it's generally assumed that Mel Gibson isn't going to be sticking around your family sitcom forever.

A warning to budding directors: this trope can be slightly undermined by casting a Chronically Killed Actor, however A-List they may be... unless careful.

See also Billing Displacement, Death by Cameo or (at times) Decoy Protagonist. Can overlap with Advertised Extra. Nothing to do with Star-Derailing Role but could have this effect. Nor is it to be confused with a star actually dying during filming. Also has nothing to do with the Death Star.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Prof. Heinz Schneider in El Cazador de la Bruja. And he is voiced by Shinichiro Miki, to boot.
  • Kisaragi is one of the first named characters to appear in Elfen Lied and gets a proper introduction. Name bar? Check. Clumsy but cute? Check. Works for another main character? Yeppers. Determined to overcome her shyness and make people proud of her one day? Double check. Twenty pages/five minutes later, Lucy comes into the picture. Kisaragi has her head ripped off and her corpse used as a meat shield that gets shredded to pieces in a hail of bullets, only to be dumped in a corridor once everyone else is dead. This immediately sets the tone for the next 106 chapters.
  • In the The Eminence in Shadow anime, this is inverted. The first episode follows a Decoy Protagonist, only for the main character to be killed off and sent to another world.
  • In Ga-Rei -Zero- the squad in the promotional posters and trailers, supposed to be the main characters of the series, after kicking some ass are surprisingly slaughtered at the end of the first episode. The true main characters first appear in episode 2.
  • Extreme example: Genesis Climber MOSPEADA leaves just one survivor in episode 1, bumping off everyone else.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny:
    • Singer Takanori Nishikawa aka "TM Revolution" voices two short-lived characters. In SEED, Miguel is a Face Enemy who actually survives his first battle with the protagonist. However, he is promptly killed in the very next battle. This was telegraphed by the fact that he wasn't in the OP, though. However, in the sequel, it's more played like a running gag, despite the depth of the character.
    • According to urban legend, Nami Tamaki (who sang the last two opening themes of SEED and the first of Destiny) was offered a similar character, but turned down the offer. That character, Shiho Hannenfuss (ultimately voiced by Makiko Ohmoto, but only in the videogames since she was The Voiceless in the anime itself), became very popular, with many suggesting that Tamaki's passing on the role saved Shiho from suffering the same fate as TMR's characters.
    • There's also a rumor that Nishikawa would've preferred to play a bigger role (especially in Destiny, where his character Heine Westenfluss became quite popular as well), but couldn't spare much time from his very tight touring and recording schedule, so he had to stick to this trope.
  • Amuria in Simoun.
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry kills the lead character's two love interests, best friends, enemy, most of the cast of the first episode... in the best example of Dead Star Walking, the series actually kills off Rie Tanaka's character twice.
  • Seki Ray Shiroe from Toward the Terra, played by Marina Inoue; it seems as though he might even become the protagonist's protege, and failing that, he begins to cultivate a relationship with the antihero as well - however, he is heartlessly (and, in the manga and original movie, a bit abruptly) snuffed out. (Savvy fans may predict this trope when they observe that Inoue is the only voice actor credited for Shiroe, indicating that he's not going to live long enough for his voice to change.)
  • In the anime adaptation of Baccano!, Masakazu Morita's character gets his face blown off during the closing of the very episode he first shows up in. Subverted since said character is Claire Stanfield, who not only survives but becomes a major player in the plot later on.
  • Oh, look, an obvious love interest! Aw, look how that cute Chinese exchange student keeps rescuing her from all the evil people with superpowers chasing her! Wait a minute... did he just knock her out after getting information out of her? And... hold on, we saw that Badass Longcoat at the beginning of the last episode... Wait, she wasn't even the real person? And did she just jump in front of him so she dies from a rather nasty attack instead? Congratulations, you have just finished the second episode of Darker than Black.
  • Kamina in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is set as The Protagonist and is voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi, whose popularity soared with this role. Except that he was killed dramatically less than 10 episodes into the story.
  • Mami Tomoe in Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a senior Magical Girl voiced by the fairly popular Kaori Mizuhashi and becomes the Cool Big Sis to the protagonist. But three episodes later, she falls victim to a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Not a death, per se, but the Hashiratani Deer in Eyeshield 21 are hyped up as one of the best, most experienced team in the league, especially their leader Onihei. Before the Devil Bats can play them, they get a crushing defeat at the hands of the Kyoshin Poseidons.
  • Minami Takayama voices one of the four main leads of Symphogear, Kanade who dies in a flashback in the first episode.
  • Mamoru Miyano voices Rei's boyfriend Hisashi in High School Of The Dead and gets turned into one of them and later killed at the end of the first episode.
  • Jun Fukuyama voices Suguru Aizawa in Area no Kishi. The soccer star is pronounced dead by the third episode. He still continues to play a significant role in the plot, though.
  • Barrage is named after a character who only lasts 5 pages in the first chapter before he's unceremoniously killed. Subverted, as the reason hes killed so fast is that hes not the real Barrage. The actual one shows up later.
  • Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan subverts this. He's eaten by a Titan fairly early on but survives by turning into one and smashing his way out.
  • Hampnie Hambart in Sunday Without God. He dies at the end of the first arc after his wish for a happy death comes true.
  • In Cross Ange, the characters of Megumi Hayashibara (Empress Sophia), Kōichi Yamadera (Emperor Jurai), Michiko Neya (Zola), and Minori Chihara (Miranda) all die within the first three episodes.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Comics series Exiles, Magnus was one of the six characters gathered in the first issue as a team of dimension-hoppers who must Set Right What Once Went Wrong. He was also clearly the most powerful of the six. In the second issue he dies, and it eventually became clear this was an inherent gimmick of the series to allow logical cast changes.
  • In the first issue of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's run on the Marvel comic book X-Force, a new X-Force team is introduced with most of the focus put on the sympathetic team leader. Almost all of the team gets brutally killed off in the same issue, including the aforementioned leader. This effects Any One Can Die for the remainder of the book's run and its follow-up X-Statix.
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers spends its first issue introducing the quirky new Wreckers team, who are either major league characters or promising newbies, as they prepare to go on an important mission. Then it starts killing them left and right. Most notably, Rotorstorm gets his head blown off almost as soon as the mission begins. The sequel repeats this, tricking the reader into thinking Stakeout will be a major character when hes really killed off halfway in.

    Film Animation 
  • Epic (2013): Despite being heavily promoted in promotional material, Queen Tara (voiced by Beyonc) dies partway through the movie and gives the MacGuffin to the female lead. A lesser example happens with Dagda, son of the Big Bad, who was also played up in promotional material but got killed earlier in the movie.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The BBC has done this so often in its genre series in the 2000s that it's become predictable.
    • The first example, genuinely surprising and gruesome: Lisa Faulkner on Spooks was being set up as a major performer on the show, playing a Spooks employee moving from a desk job to fieldwork. She got deep fried in the 2nd episode. Literally. Her head was shoved into a deep fryer. It worked for a surprise on this show because of the lack of any kind of credits. It also established early on that any character could be killed at any time which made the program much more suspenseful. The spin-off Spooks Code 9 also killed off the apparent team leader at the end of the first episode.
    • Freema Agyeman was heavily involved in the promotion of the remake of Survivors. She dies halfway through the first episode. To add to the impact, the character she played was, in the original, the only one to survive for the entire show.
      • The 1970s original did this as well, casting the well-known Peter Bowles as the husband to Abby (played by relative unknown Carolyn Seymour) who stays healthy while she collapses with the plague. However, towards the end of the first episode, she is the one who wakes up, to find his dead body, after he succumbs off-screen. With no actors listed in the opening titles and some very careful scripting, it was probably a big shock to viewers at the time. This was repeated in the remake, with Abby's husband played by Shaun Dingwall, Rose's dad Pete from Doctor Who. Paul's death near the start of the second season is also a good one - half the Season 1 cast had just been written out after a big format change and the show seemed settled on a new direction, only to promptly kill off another first series star within a couple of episodes.
    • In Torchwood, Suzie Costello, played by Indira Varma, is the second-in-command of Torchwood Three... for most of "Everything Changes". Then she explains how she can't live without the job but is going to get fired when they find out she's been killing people for Resurrection Gauntlet test subjects and puts a bullet in her skull. She comes back, though, and is revealed to have had a goddamn amazing Gambit Roulette going which planned for her death and resurrection as a crucial stage, in "They Keep Killing Suzie". She was also featured heavily in the promotional material. Torchwood is an odd example in that its leading man and star gets killed several times a season. He doesn't stay dead for long, though.
      • In Torchwood: Miracle Day, we get Dr. Juarez, who is killed off (as much as someone can die in Miracle Day, anyway) the very episode where she joins the Torchwood team.
    • Jamie Bamber's character Mitchell Hoban in Outcasts. All of the promotional material assures the viewer that Mitchell, why he's acting so irrationally, his Expeditionary Forces, and his conflict with President Tate are going to be vital parts of the show. Then, in the pilot, he commits Suicide by Cop via Fleur after beating his wife into a coma.
  • 24 did this so often that it became a Running Gag. Long story short — if a character was introduced in a position of authority (or as a close friend to Jack Bauer), their chances of survival were extremely low:
    • The first season set the tone with Richard Walsh (played by noted character actor Michael O'Neill of The West Wing fame), who's the Administrative Director of CTU. He gets gunned down by terrorists at the end of the second episode to illustrate that Anyone Can Die, even major characters, and his death sets Jack on the path to the rest of the day's events.
    • Later on in the first season, Lou Diamond Phillips appears as the administrator of a black-ops prison that ends up being used to house Big Bad Victor Drazen. He gets barely an episode's worth of screentime (stretching across two episodes) before he's gunned down by Andre Drazen after they siege the prison.
    • Crossing into Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome/Death by Cameo, season five opens with the deaths of former President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) and Michelle Dessler (Reiko Aylesworth) just minutes into the premiere, a huge shock to viewers watching at the time.
    • 24: Redemption introduces Carl Benton, an old friend of Jack's (played by name actor Robert Carlyle), who is helping him teach at a school in Sangala. Less than an hour into the film, he ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice to help Jack and the children at the school escape.
  • The 100 was going to do this with Jasper Jordan, played by Devon Bostick. They set him up as a main character and had him speared in the chest at the end of the pilot- before deciding that they liked him too much and saving him.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Season 2 starts with some big names added to the cast, including Lucy Lawless as an Action Girl ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent now loyal to Coulson... who lasts exactly one episode, after months of promos billing her as a major character.
    • More understatedly, B.J. Britt took Grant Ward's place on Coulson's team in the latter third of the first season, and was in promo shots for the second season, standing with the team and appearing to have been promoted to regular, which would have made sense. He's still billed as a guest star, though. Why? Because he dies in the mid-season finale.
    • Midway through the second season, Edward James Olmos joins the cast as a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. official named Robert Gonzalez. Gonzalez actually does stick around for a few episodes, before being betrayed and murdered by Jiaying so that she can start a war with the humans.
  • Ingo Fischer, one of the two top-billed stars in Alarm fr Cobra 11 died in the second episode.
  • Callum Keith Rennie as Don Morgan in Alphas: the team's original government liaison, who is present in the pilot episode, Put on a Bus for the second, and then violently killed off in the third.
  • In Angel, Doyle was killed off after nine episodes, and if it weren't for his visions Angel wouldn't have such an easy time finding (and killing) the baddies.
  • As an Homage to the famous use of this trope in Psycho, Bates Motel cast Rihanna as Marian Crane then subverts audience expectations by letting her live.
  • Ryan Phillippe was the biggest name in the cast of Big Sky and most of the advertisement focused on him. His character Cody Hoyt is abruptly shot dead at then end of the first episode.
  • Peter Cook appeared in the first episode of Blackadder as Richard III. As in the play and real life, he gets decapitated in battle, though his ghost haunts Edmund.
  • Derek Jacobi is one of the more prominent names among the cast of The Borgias...and he gets fatally poisoned in the very first episode.
  • Tom Skerritt was the father in Brothers and Sisters. Although the father died in the pilot, he has appeared in flashbacks since.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Joss Whedon wanted to do this for Eric Balfour as Jesse in the first episode, but was denied permission by the network. He ultimately got his wish in "Seeing Red", when after thirty-nine appearances as a guest star Amber Benson was finally promoted to the show's full credits - just in time for her character Tara to be shot dead.
  • Elias Koteas' character in Conviction appeared to be major, but when he was billed as a guest star in the first episode, it made it pretty obvious he was getting killed.
  • Nave Newcomer Holly hardly had any time to get to know her CSI buddies before getting offed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TV Movie actually brought back Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, just so he could be killed off to regenerate into Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.
    • Sir Derek Jacobi makes a memorable guest appearance as Professor Yana (a.k.a. The Master) in "Utopia". However, he is killed (and then regenerates into John Simm) before the episode ends.
    • Kylie Minogue showing up as a guest star in the 2007 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned". The Doctor wanted to bring her character Astrid along as a companion, but naturally, she was killed off at the end of the episode.
    • Possibly the all-time weirdest version of this: Jenna Coleman, already announced as a forthcoming companion, appeared in the episode "Asylum of the Daleks" as a character called Oswin, and died at the end. Then she turned up a few episodes later, as another character called Clara, and died again. The following episode introduced the "proper" version of the character. This was a major plot point for the season. Believe it or not, it actually does make sense in context.
    • Sharon D. Clarke was announced as a "returning character" in advance publicity for Series Eleven, sparking much speculation as to whether the BBC meant "recurring character" or if she'd actually be playing a new version of an existing character. She ended up playing Grace — the respective wife and grandmother of companions Graham and Ryan — and was electrocuted by an alien robot at the end of the first episode, "The Woman Who Fell to Earth". The earlier publicity led to much He's Just Hiding speculation, but she was in fact simply dead, and only appeared in two more episodes: once in Graham's imagination as part of a Dead Person Conversation, and another time as part of an illusion created by a Genius Loci. She makes one more appearance in the following season, this time as part of a nightmare Graham is having, and finally made a brief cameo as a ghost/vision/memory/something in Graham's and Ryan's farewell episode, the 2020 Christmas special "Revolution of the Daleks".
  • Benton Fraser's father (played by Gordon Pinsent) dies at the beginning of the pilot episode of Due South, although he continues to appear as a ghost for the rest of the series.
  • William Hurt gets top billing as Duke Leto Atreides in Sci-Fi Channel's Dune miniseries, despite his character getting killed at the end of part one (of three).
  • Ellery Queen: The most recognizable name in an episode's cast would often be the person playing the victim. A prominent example is George Burns in "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils".
  • In the first episode of the FX anthology series Fargo, Kieran Culkin is accidentally run over by Kirsten Dunst. He dies a little later in her garage.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Fans have caught on to several tells from the way HBO markets the show and other announcements. More often than not, the most publicized actor prior to each season ends up being killed off:
      • HBO gleefully marketed Sean Bean as the "main character" of the first season. He gets his head chopped off in the penultimate episode. Bean was pretty famous for getting killed off in anything he was a star of (or co-star, or extra... okay ANYthing he was acting in) up to this point. So if it was a shock to anyone, it shouldn't have been.
      • Prior to the fourth season, Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) was put front and center in the show's publicity campaign, giving the most interviews and featuring heavily in the trailers and commercials, only for his character to be poisoned in the second episode.note 
      • Prior to the sixth season, Natalie Dormer (Margaery) was put front and center in the marketing, giving far more interviews about the show than any of her co-stars, to the point of it being referred to as a "one-woman publicity tour", while Finn Jones, who played her brother, Loras, had recently been announced as the lead of Netflix's Iron Fist, indicating that his future filming schedule wouldn't have much time for Game of Thrones. Their characters were incinerated in the season finale.
    • While Sean Bean's character being killed off is rather (in)famous, the very first Dead Star Walking in the series is actually Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen. He is billed as a main cast member, set up as a potential major player of the story as a pretender to the Iron Throne...and then gets killed in the sixth episode, three episodes before Ned Stark bites the dust.
    • Jason Momoa of Stargate Atlantis fame, who didn't merit being in the opening credits in the first season despite playing a major character, gets killed off in the season finale.
    • Played very straight with Ian McShane in the sixth season. McShane had stated his character would make a "one-shot" appearance, which, given the nature of the show, meant he would probably be dead by the end of his episode.
    • HBO also announced that Rickon Stark would return in season six after being absent for two seasons, still being played by Art Parkinson. As the show had a habit of recasting children with older actors after a prolonged absence, fans guessed this meant Rickon wouldn't have much of a presence in the future of the show. He gets shot through the heart by Ramsay Bolton in the penultimate episode without having a single line of dialogue in the entire season.
  • The General Hospital spinoff Night Shift had Pat Crawford Brown as a tapestry-sewing patient for the first 3 episodes, before having a Serial Killer off her via IV. Granted, Brown has rarely ever had a regular role on any TV show, but still...
  • About 20 or so characters introduced in volume three of Heroes.
    • In Season 4, the writers decided to bring back Charlie, a popular character from Season 1. Unfortunately, that same year Jayma Mays was cast in the new show Glee, so we knew her relationship with Hiro wasn't going to work. Had Hiro not forgotten about her for 3 years, he could have saved her.
  • House of Cards (US): Frank Underwood was killed off the show's final season, following actor Kevin Spacey's firing over sexual misconduct allegations. While his character's dead for Season 6, Frank Underwood's past deeds loom over the season.
  • In Kolchak: The Night Stalker Phil Silvers guest starred in an episode, and was set up as an ally of Kolchak who would assist him through his adventure. Instead, he gets killed off about 15 minutes in.
  • Falk Hentschel was heavily featured as a main cast member in the promos for Legends of Tomorrow as Hawkman, playing a major role in the crossover between The Flash (2014) and Arrow the year before. He's killed by the end of the two-part pilot. While Hentschel does return as Hawkman in the final episodes of the season, it's of his next reincarnated life. The previous incarnation he played at the beginning stays dead.
  • In the Largo Winch series, David Carradine plays Largo's father Nerio. Naturally, he gets killed five minutes into the opening. Carradine later returned for two episodes to play an evil impersonator.
  • In the final season of Line of Duty, one suspect, Marcus Thurwell, initially appeared as a photo of James Nesbitt, and was not only killed in the following episode, but all we saw of this was bodycam footage of a corpse. Dead Star Never Even Walking.
  • Almost happened on Lost. The original plan was to have a reasonably well-known movie actor, such as Michael Keaton, be cast as Jack. All the promotions, released information, cast photos, and interviews would indicate that Keaton (or whoever was cast as Jack) was a permanent part of the show and would be the main character throughout. Then, halfway through the pilot episode, he'd be killed by the monster, thus putting everyone on notice that Lost was a show where Anyone Can Die and where crazy stuff happens all the time. Kate (possibly played by Yunjin Kim) would then become the leader and the show's hero. The network vetoed the plan, believing the audience would feel manipulated and resentful. As a result, Matthew Fox was cast as Jack and the character of the pilot (played by Greg Grunberg) was created to die in Jack's place.
  • For the first few seasons of Lost in Space, Doctor Smith (Jonathan Harris) got billed as a special guest star in the title credits. Word of God has it that he was supposed to escape the ship (or die) early on, but that never came about.
  • Though he wasn't a big star at the time, it's amusing to see Jimmy Smits playing Don Johnson's partner only to get blown up within the first few minutes of the pilot episode of Miami Vice.
  • The Night Agent: Robert Patrick's character, FBI assistant director Jamie Hawkins, is clearly set up as a major character and probable antagonist. He doesn't make it out of the second episode alive.
  • John Goodman portrays the main character of Now and Again for about thirty seconds of the first episode before he's hit by a train and has his brain placed in an artificially engineered body, thus setting up the rest of the series.
  • Jon Seda's character on Oz, Dino Ortolani, was set up as the (or at least a) main character, only to be burned to death at the end of the 1st episode.
  • Parodied on Police Squad!: in each episode's Title Montage, a different celebrity Special Guest is killed off as they are being introduced.
  • Poker Face: Adrien Brody features prominently in the advertising - only for his character, Sterling Jr., to commit suicide in the first episode.
  • The pilot episode of Red Dwarf was originally intended to be this, with everyone except the main character being top-billing stars, only to have them killed off in the first episode and left with "Craig who?". While this wasn't quite the effect during the original airing, after a decade this is somewhat applicable as many of the crew went on to have parts in works such as Alien and EastEnders!
  • For its first two seasons, Thandie Newton played the lead in the series Rogue. In the third, the setting was changed from the Bay Area to Chicago, and she was listed as a guest actor. Her character was killed within a few episodes.
  • Scream: The TV Series:
    • Much like how the films employed this trope (as noted on the Live-Action Films page), the first season did the same with Bella Thorne's character, killing her off in the pilot episode and having her death drive the plot. She actually sought out the role because of its iconic nature in the films.
    • The second season, meanwhile, opens with Lele Pons appearing as the opening victim in Murderville, the terrible movie that had been based on the Lakewood massacre. It's subverted within the "real" world, however, where the Ghostface trying to kill Audrey turns out to be a harmless prankster, though not before Audrey stabs him in self-defense.
    • The Halloween Special opened with season 2's killer Kieran getting killed off in prison, in a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
    • Scream: Resurrection, a reboot of the series, did a fake-out with Paris Jackson, whose character looks like she's being set up as the opening victim only to be left completely unharmed. Instead, it's the protagonist Deion's twin brother Marcus who gets killed.
  • The Scream Queens TV series. Whilst being advertised as a series regular, Ariana Grande's character was killed off at the end of the pilot episode before we even knew her (real) name. Strangely, this is an unintentional example of the trope, as she was supposed to have a recurring role, but scheduling issues involving her singing career necessitated rewriting her part.
  • Detective Terry Crowley in The Shield seems to be set up as one of the main characters of the series in the pilot episode when he's assigned to the Strike Team as a mole with the intention of exposing their corrupt activities, and gets more than his fair share of screen time in the process... until the final minute of the episode, where Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell kill him and frame an also-deceased drug dealer as the killer. Crowley's death isn't brushed aside, though, as it haunts the Strike Team for the rest of the series and the character himself appears in flashback episodes.
    • To help keep Crowley's death as a surprise to the viewers, his actor was listed as a regular in the pilot episode's opening credits.
  • Byung Hee was being set up as the main character in Shut Up Flower Boy Band. He was suddenly killed at the end of the second episode. The remainder of the show is about his best friend and his band coping with the loss.
  • The pilot episode of Sleepy Hollow has three recognizable actors: Clancy Brown, Orlando Jones and John Cho. Two of them are dead by the end of the episode (one in the first five minutes). Subverted in that both of them reappear in the second episode: one shows up in a flashback and as a ghost and the other is resurrected by the Big Bad who killed him.
  • Stargate:
    • In Stargate Atlantis, Robert Patrick plays Colonel Sumner in the pilot. He's supposed to be the head of the military unit attached to the Atlantis team and naturally is killed off before the end of the second episode.
    • Fans expected the same trick to be pulled in the premiere of Stargate Universe with Lou Diamond Phillips, who didn't seem to have an appropriately large role for a name-actor. However, his character lived, and the one who actually died in the pilot was that guy who played Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore. Phillips's character does die in a later episode... only for another version of him to show up.
  • When Stargirl (2020) was still in pre-production, one of the show's highest profile casting announcements came when it was revealed that Joel Mchale would be playing Starman. Starman ends up getting killed off in the opening scene of the first episode, and the remainder of the series instead follows his teenage successor.
    • Subverted in the final episode of season 1 when someone played by Mchale and claiming to be Starman suddenly appears trying to find Pat.
  • Star Trek: Discovery managed the casting coup of getting Malaysian action icon Michelle Yeoh to play the ship's captain. Given Yeoh's level of fame, it was perhaps less surprising than intended when her character was killed off in the second episode. It also didn't help that the show's marketing had effectively spoiled this, gleefully stating the show would feature Star Trek's first African-American female lead, played by Sonequa Martin-Green.
    • Then subverted later when Yeoh plays a major role in the final third of the season as Georgiou's Mirror Universe duplicate, who is still alive at the end and in the main universe, returning again in the second season.
  • An unusual variation: in the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager (Trek itself having numerous examples played straight), Jennifer Lien, cast regular for the first three seasons, is billed as a "special guest star." Her character violently evolved into an energy being and abruptly left the show in the second episode of that season, once her Suspiciously Similar Substitute was settled.
    • She does come back for one episode, intent on revenge against the Voyager crew and Janeway in particular. She uses her powers, boosted by the Voyager's warp core, to travel back in time in order to destroy the ship before her past self begins to "evolve".
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Picard: publicity and trailers suggested that Dahj, played by Isa Briones, a mysterious young woman who seeks Picard's protection against equally mysterious assassins, would play a major role in the show. Dahj is caught and murdered by her pursuers at the end of the first episode, but the focus of the show then shifts to her identical twin Soji, who is also played by Briones.
  • Like Spooks, FX Network's Thief had a 6-episode first season. Like Spooks, it bumped off a name performer by the 2nd episode: Linda "Terminator 1 and 2" Hamilton as the handler. Unlike Spooks, Hamilton was just the latest in a rather misogynistic streak. Including the handler, there were three surprising deaths in the first two eps — all women. Unlike Spooks, Thief was not renewed beyond its initial 6 ep run.
  • Subverted in Succession, which seems to be setting up the death of Logan Roy (Brian Cox), who has just turned 80 and suffered a brain hemorrhage in the series premiere. Turns out he's far too stubborn to go out like that.
  • Christopher Meloni joined True Blood in the second episode of the fifth season. He was added to the opening credits, only to be killed in the sixth episode.
  • The first episode of Vigil kills off CPO Craig Burke, played by Martin Compston — one of the BBC's hottest stars at the time, having just come off the lead role in Line of Duty. Slightly subverted in that audio recordings he's made turn up shortly afterwards, so he still has a presence.
  • On The Walking Dead, Entertainment Weekly noted that "there is a long, sad history of Walking Dead actors being killed off soon after news gets out about them accepting a different acting role."
    • The sixth season ended with a big cliffhanger where one of the main characters, unknown to the viewers, had his or her head smashed in with a baseball bat, and the identity of said character would not be revealed until the seventh season a few months later. AMC went to great lengths to prevent spoilers from leaking to the point of filming every character being killed so even the crew wouldn't know, even though the scene in question had appeared years earlier in the comics with Glenn as the victim. It was Hollywood trade publications that unintentionally spoiled Glenn's fate, as Steven Yeun had been announced to star in two films that would conflict with The Walking Dead's filming schedule, so even fans that hadn't read the comics could figure he wasn't working on the show anymore. The victim was revealed after a six-month wait to be Abraham, only for Glenn to die minutes later as punishment for Daryl's outburst. Thus making both Yeun and Michael Cudlitz an example of this trope.
  • On Watchmen (2019): Don Johnson's character is murdered at the end of the pilot episode, despite appearing prominently in the promos and in a great deal of the episode.
  • The first season of Wayward Pines did this twice. Of the big name cast members, Juliette Lewis's character dies at the end of the second episode, and Terrence Howard's in the third.
  • Zero Zero Zero: Gabriel Byrne is the highest-profile actor on the show. He's the first person we see in the first episode, and he provides the narration. The episode teases the trope by introducing him as he rolls helplessly on the ground after being shot. It then flashes back to a How We Got Here to eventually reveal that he's wearing a Bulletproof Vest and survives the gunshot. But in the beginning of the very next episode, he keels over and dies of a heart attack from the stress of the ordeal. His storyline gets taken up by his children.

  • A Very Potter Musical cast the campus' biggest actor Tyler Brunsman in the role of Cedric Diggory. Cedric's role is fairly minor with the occasional joke and only one short solo in the opening number. Then near the end of act 1, he's killed by Voldemort, just like in the original story. After this, the scene continues, which includes the show's biggest musical number, all with him lying on the floor dead. Then in act 2, Brunsman appears in a second role as Cornelius Fudge. Very shortly after being introduced, Fudge also gets murdered by Voldemort, and then another long scene plays out with Brunsman once again relegated to playing a corpse while all the real action happens.

    Video Games 
  • Wheatley from Portal 2 is crushed by GLaDOS after accidentally waking her up at the end of Chapter 1. Subverted as he makes an Unexplained Recovery and ends up being a very vital character throughout the rest of the game.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho: The squad leader, Devin Ross, is suddenly killed off at the end of the first time period. However, while his body may be dead, his spirit escapes into the body of one of his squadmates, and he is then able to jump into the consciousness of each of them.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Patrick Stewart voices the Emperor Uriel Septim VII, who is assassinated by the end of the first tutorial mission. On the other hand, it's heavily Foreshadowed, as he starts talking about his impending death in the actual opening credits sequence and continues right up until it happens.
  • In Lands of Lore, Patrick Stewart portrays the voice of the king, who gets frozen after you manage to complete the first quest he gives you. His unfreezing becomes the player character's goal, which you manage to do just before it is time for the final battle against the villain.
  • Even in video games, Liam Neeson can't avoid this trope. In Fallout 3 he plays the dad of the main character, only to disappear as soon as the tutorial missions are over. When the player finally manages to track him down and he seems to become an active part of the story again, he dies right in front of your eyes. To keep Project Purity out of Enclave hands, he floods the chamber he's in with intense radiation so he can take his enemies with him. Unfortunately The Dragon Colonel Autumn manages to survive regardless.
  • Phillipe Loren in Saints Row: The Third who was billed as the Big Bad in all the advertisments only to be killed off in the first act of the game.
    • Johnny Gat also qualifies in the third. However, Saints Row 4 retcons it by being kidnapped by aliens during his death scene instead
  • In Final Fantasy XII we have the practically omnipresent Yuri Lowenthal voice the tutorial character, Reks. He doesn't last long.
  • In Final Fantasy XVI, veteran screen actor Ralph Ineson voices series mainstay Cidolfus "Cid" Telamon. Naturally, Cid suffers Mentor Occupational Hazard when the party attacks Drake's Head and Cid expends all of his life energy protecting Clive from Ultima.
  • Games in The Dark Pictures Anthology where the whole point is that anyone can die or survive based on player choices always feature a recognisable Inksuit Actor on the cover art and in one of the five leading roles. However, it's about a fifty-fifty chance whether they'll be incredibly hard to kill or follow this trope as one of the first characters who can bite the dust.
    • So far, Shawn Ashmore fulfills this trope the best (the first of the 5 characters in Man of Medan that can die), followed by Ashley Tisdale (second in House of Ashes), Jessie Buckley (fourth in The Devil in Me), and finally Will Poulter, who is given so much plot armor in Little Hope that he is the final character that can die, which can't actually happen until the epilogue.

    Web Original 
  • Variation: In Survival of the Fittest, the character called Josh Goodman was built up in version three's pregame to be an unstoppable force, taking over the school within his first day thereby blackmailing the principal and raping her, causing her to commit suicide, and later nearly cripples a star football player. He was killed off in one of the main game's first posts, electrocuted in a pool of blood. The student who killed him became one of the top killers on the island.
  • That SciFi Guy appears at the beginning of To Boldly Flee as one of the team members analyzing a mysterious signal coming from Jupiter. However, he is Killed Off for Real before the end of Part One when the enemy's Wave-Motion Gun vaporizes his house. Or is he?

    Western Animation