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Death Equals Redemption

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"...I am Sprout, master of the Sacred Sword. In death, I have reclaimed my honor."
Sprout, Phantom Brave

In Redemption Equals Death, a villain will make a Heel–Face Turn and then is killed off. In this trope, the order is flipped: the Heel–Face Turn happens because the villain knows that they are absolutely about to die. Usually, a character who undergoes Death Equals Redemption only lives long enough afterward to say something that shows they are no longer evil to the core, though some get to give a Final Speech, or even undergo a full-blown Freudian Excuse flashback. Essentially, while Redemption Equals Death means a villain dies because they redeemed themselves, Death Equals Redemption makes dying in of itself the villain's redemption.

Occasionally, the character goes through a moment of clarity just prior to death, finally noticing something they have overlooked for the whole story. Sometimes the death itself may be their redemption, if they die by sacrificing themselves. Other times the character realizes just how much being evil has lost them. And sometimes the character is trying to buy themself a way into heaven.

Since the character dies shortly after the Heel–Face Turn, this change of heart is unlikely to affect the plot much. They may affect the main character's view of them if they expressed themselves as part of a Dying Truce. There are exceptions, of course; occasionally, the dying character's last words can inspire the hero or even give him a vital clue. Rarely (very rarely), they recover; in media where "recovery" is routine, the redemption might not stick much longer than the death. May overlap Dying Reconciliation.

Compare Alas, Poor Villain and Alas, Poor Scrappy, in which the character is at least partially redeemed in the audience's eyes simply through the act of dying even though they stay a villain. May overlap with Death Means Humanity if the villain is a non-human being and part of his redemption is being treated like a full person. in which Dying as Yourself, Heel–Face Door-Slam, and Villain's Dying Grace are all sometimes (but not always) sub-tropes. Compare The Last Dance, which is when a character has a longer period before death, and Posthumous Popularity Potential, the (possible) real-life version of this trope.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Claymore, Ophelia has just awakened and has gone full blown psycho villain (as if she wasn't before), and pretty much forgets why she became a claymore in the first place. Then she see's her reflection and realizes the monster she's become, and goads Clare into killing her. Until the final blow, she remembers her late brother who sacrificed himself to save her, and her reason for taking up the sword. Just before dying she tells Clare to fulfill her original goal of vengeance to kill Priscilla, and tearfully welcomes death to be reunited with her brother.
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers: Anubias and Sellon at the Co-Dragons to Mag Mel who are unrepentant in the villainy they commit under his orders, before he kills them for their failure/success respectively, with their desire to remain alive being used to fuel his own resurrection. And then in the final battle, they reappear as a Spirit Advisor to their former teammates to encourage them to defeat Mag Mel. (Especially odd in Sellon’s case, considering the second to last thing she ever did was a Kick the Dog to her team).
  • In Ergo Proxy Raul and Daedalus both get their priorities straight just before dying.
  • Quent in Wolf's Rain, realizing that wolves aren't evil when Toboe tries to save him.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • There's an unusual case with the demon Dabura, who is sent to heaven when he dies because the ruler of the afterlife wants to punish him and thinks he'd enjoy hell too much. Being around so much pure good actually turns him into a cuddly emotional guy that likes to pick flowers.
    • There's also Vegeta in the Frieza Saga, after being beaten by Frieza and on the verge of death he throws his pride to the side and begs Goku to stop Frieza; he even cries and is given a Freudian Excuse for the way he acts. Although when he is finally resurrected his Heel–Face Turn at the edge of death is more or less forgotten. Note that this only applies to the Dub Text, though.
    • Denied in the Buu Saga, Vegeta, about to do a Taking You with Me on Majin Buu, asks Piccolo if he'll see Goku in the afterlife. Piccolo tells him point-blank that even though the Saiyan prince has cleaned up his act recently, he still spent a major portion of his life doing evil and fighting for his own pride. As such, he's going to Hell.
  • In Slayers, Rezo the Red Priest's evil plan backfires on him and he is possessed by Shabranigdo the Dark Lord. However, in the end, Rezo's soul surpresses Shabranigdo's and gives Lina Inverse the chance to destroy him. As Rezo's soul departs to the afterlife, his voice thanks Lina.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Lordgenome, previous Big Bad, sacrifices his life in order to give the Team Dai Gurren a fighting chance, by converting the Big Bang Storm launched by the Anti-Spiral into energy, declaring in his Final Speech that helping build a future for humanity would leave him completely satisfied. Simon accepts Lordgenome's wish and uses the energy to either power up the titular mecha or transform into Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
    • Rossiu planned on committing suicide in hope that it would make up for the fact that he betrayed Simon and almost condemned the whole of humanity to death. Fortunately Simon and Kinon (just Kinon in the movie) got there in time and knocked some sense into him.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: In contrast to her TV version, who remained an Evil Matriarch when she died, this movie version of Precia Testarossa realizes at the very end that she should have treated Fate as a second daughter instead of obsessing over the death of Alicia.
    Precia Testarossa: I've always been this way, haven't I? I never notice things until it's too late.
  • Fist of the North Star: Souther acts out as a man who defies love all the time and prefers being an Evil Overlord all the time, until he's beaten out by Kenshiro and realize he'll die. In his last breaths, he recalled his love with his master Ougai, revealing his human side shortly before he dies with his crumbling mausoleum.
  • In I'm Gonna Be an Angel! it might be be kinda subverted, since in the last episode, it looked like Mikael and Silky (especially Mikael) could gain redemption only through letting go and dying, but then at the very end when Noelle eventually cleaned up the whole mess, everything turned out just fine, no one died and everyone seemed to get their happy ending.
  • Inuyasha: Kanna tells Kagome through a small shard Naraku's Achilles' Heel as a result of Naraku ordering her death.
  • In Shadow Skill, insane Fallen Hero G is finally restored to sanity when he is forced to fight Gau in a lucid state. He self-destructs shortly afterwards as he was already a Paper Talisman Lich Living on Borrowed Time but Defeat Equals Friendship such that he manages to come back later as a ghost to help in the Final Battle.
  • Bleach: Tousen. He spent much of his adult life plotting revenge on Soul Society as a result of the death of his friend. One of his deepest fears was to die a Soul Reaper, the thing he hated most. As a result, he hollowfied to escape being a Soul Reaper. At the end, when defeated and dying after his battle with Komamura and Hisagi, he returns to the Soul Reaper form he had once despised, finally understanding the value of the friendships he had forged amongst the Soul Reapers. He has just enough time to make his apologies to Komamura and Hisagi absolutely clear before he explodes.
  • Kaiser Ryo of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX most likely fits in season 3. Having found out that he's dying, he spends most of the season looking for one last great duel. However, he also repeatedly saves his brother's life, snaps Judai out of a Heroic BSoD with a Heroic Sacrifice, and is generally loses most of the harsh, psychotic persona of season 2.
  • Two examples in Rosario + Vampire. First, Lady Oyakata, who had been on a major vendetta against humans for destroying the environment and had wounded Ruby, her former disciple, in combat, is saved by Ruby when her most powerful spell ends up backfiring on her, and she uses the last of her strength to heal Ruby. Later on, when she's dying from wounds inflicted by Kokoa, Kahlua realizes that she had not been a good sister and apologizes to her for it.
  • Fresh Pretty Cure! has Soular and Westar. After unknowingly being sent to their deaths, they are revived and then they join the Cures.
  • Suite Pretty Cure ♪ has Falsetto. Justifiable since he was absorbed by Noise for being annoying. After he's revived, he returns good.
  • Fairy Tail: Karen Lilica was unrepentently abusive to her contracted Celestial Spirits, Leo and Aries. Sometime after she is killed, her ghost appears to a dying Leo and encourages him to live on, implying she redeemed herself.

    Comic Books 
  • The original Crisis on Infinite Earths opens with the Crime Syndicate of America (the evil Mirror Universe counterparts of the Justice League) fighting futilely to save Earth-3 from the wave of annihilation overtaking it. The irony of their deaths being heroic is noted by both them and the heroic Alexander Luthor.
  • Doctor Strange:
    • Baron Mordo, when he discovers that he's dying of cancer. Then he's brought back to life as a villain by writers who don't know his history.
    • Similarly in Doctor Strange: The Oath the main antagonist manages to linger a few minutes after dying to give a conflicted Strange some counsel.
  • X-Men:
    • The early run of Uncanny X-Men had a villain called the Changeling, who did this when he realized he had six months to live.
    • Pyro, who was dying of Stryfe's Legacy Virus and eventually gave his life to protect Senator Kelly.
    • Jason Wyngarde got this in the 90s; after contracting the Legacy Virus he finally realizes the pain he's inflicted on so many and so tries to make amends. Though his powers make things go wrong he ultimately manages to redeem himself by saving Jean Grey from dying alongside him.
  • An early Fantastic Four story, "This Man... This Monster!", featured another Changeling (must be something with the name), though quite different from the X-Man. This mystery man steals the Thing's powers simultaneously turning himself into a rock monster and returning Ben Grimm to his much-desired human form. While assisting his hated rival, Mr. Fantastic, with his experiment - a portal to the Negative Zone - "The Thing" sacrifices himself to save Richards after realizing that, for all his jealousy at Richards, Mr. Fantastic was a selfless individual and that the Changeling has been the one who had never done anything helpful with his life.
  • In Thorgal: Ogathai recognizes Thorgal as his son in a brief moment of clarity after being fatally shot.
  • In Tintin adventure Explorers on the Moon, Wolff, the traitor of the story, sacrifices himself heroically to save the others. Deeply moved by his suicide note, the others consider him "a hero".
  • In Les Légendaires, the protagonists' Arch-Enemy Darkhell ends up committing a Heroic Sacrifice in order to help them escape Anathos. Once Anathos is defeated, his body is buried and his sacrifice honored along with those who died in the conflict.
  • In Dark Nights: Death Metal, Superboy Prime ends up battling the Batman Who Laughs and ultimately sacrifices himself to deal the beast a crushing blow that gives the heroes a fighting chance. The multiverse responds by resurrecting him on his Earth-Prime with his own Krypto and his villainous past erased, giving him a second chance.
  • In Superman: Space Age, Bruce lets himself be killed fighting the Joker to both stop his plan and atone for his own mistakes.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Defied. After rescuing Gendo (long story), Yui tells him how displeased she is at him for ruining their son and (literally) everybody's else lives, she makes him realizing how badly he has screwed and she warns him that she can not forgive him unless Shinji, Rei and Asuka forgive him first. He stays for a very long while staring silently and expressionlessly at the wall, and another character informs him that he will not be allowed die until he has redeemed himself.
  • In The Man with No Name, the villain dies to save the Doctor and Mal's lives after beginning to regret what he had done and finding out he wouldn't have much longer to live because of his actions.
  • The One I Love Is...: Averted with Gendo. In the final moment of his life he met Yui at last, and he confessed he knew he had done many horrible things to try to get her back, and he said he was sorry for what he had done to his son. His wife informed him that he had to earn his redemption yet in order to have her forgiveness.
  • RE-TAKE: In addition to abandon his son and summon him back to blackmail him into piloting a giant robot to fight alien monsters, Gendo manipulated the events of a battle so that Asuka blew herself up and Shinji went along with his scenario. When he was dying, though, he admitted all his wrongs. Ritsuko forgave him while he lay bleeding.
  • In Part 2 of Clash of the Elements: Smithy, who dies realizing that he managed to create a living weapon in the form of Gemini who has actually managed to overcome the desire to destroy lingering in his demonic heart and has become a force of good that he can be proud of before he finally falls into eternal slumber.
  • In the Pony POV Series Dark World Arc, this happens with Discord. Though in this case, its more 'Death Permits Redemption'. After being mortally wounded by his sister Rancor, he's confronted by the Dark World Mane Cast on his deathbed. Normally, any attempt on his part to help the heroes would overwritten by Nightmare Paradox to keep him 'in character', not allowing him to act on the Heel Realization he had long ago. However, because she doesn't have any "footage" of him dying this way, he's able to pass on his memories to Twilight via her Memory Spell, allowing her to finally break free of the "Groundhog Day" Loop and have a chance to stop Paradox. That it was a Heel–Face Turn is confirmed when we see him in the afterlife, where he's sent apology letters to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy for what he's done to them.
  • In the The Dark Knight fanfic "Legend", after Anna Ramierez is demoted to patrol officer for her role in the death of Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face, she is initially shown trying to help by giving Batman information, but she only achieves true redemption when she is abducted by the Joker and tortured during a live broadcast. The Joker wanted Ramierez to confess that Dent was the one who committed the murders that Batman has been blamed for, but instead, Ramierez takes responsibility for Dent's murders herself, even when aware that Joker would kill her for that lie. It's later noted that while Ramierez will be publically condemned as a corrupt cop, those who know the truth will judge her by her final actions, admiring how she was willing to sacrifice everything to atone for her mistake.
  • In A Teacher's Glory this is averted with Gaara, who dies alone and afraid and is not greatly missed. However, Sasuke decided to apply this to the Third Hokage and forgive him for ordering the Uchiha Massacre.
  • In Cellar Secrets, while she already had regrets about how she treated her children, Ragyo resolves to make amends with them just as she dies of terminal illness, telling them she loved them and wishes very much she change what she's done, acknowledging how horrible of a mother she had been. When they have her funeral a little while afterwards, Satsuki then forgives her.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Noah, the Big Bad of season 3, is under the impression that sacrificing himself to save everybody from an oncoming missile makes up for all the atrocities he put Yugi and his friends through. Despite his efforts, everybody flat out rejects Noah (at first), especially considering the fact that it was him who launched the missile in the first place.
  • In the The PreDespair Kids, after Kazuichi is revealed to be one of the despairs, he chooses to commit suicide rather than hurt Sonia.
  • Risen: Discussed. Some X-Men believe Jean Grey already redeemed herself when she committed suicide, but Jean herself doesn't believe her actions can ever be forgiven.
  • In Magical Metamorphosis, after Pettigrew is killed by Voldemort for letting Cedric escape, his Priori Incantatem shade warns Holly about Barty Crouch Jr being disguised as Moody and tells her he's sorry for everything.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Secret of NIMH: Jenner's henchman Sullivan, who after being slashed across the throat by Jenner, uses his last breath to throw his dagger into the evil rat's back.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Helga's last moments are spent stopping her treacherous boss from escaping, thwarting his evil plan for good. However, how much of this is a last act of conscience (as she was shown to be slightly more reluctant than he was to kill innocent people in pursuit of their goals, though not enough to actually stop) or to spite him for betraying and fatally discarding her, is unclear.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: Rat.
    Rat: The boy is being held in an apple crate on top of a gun cabinet in the attic of Bean Annex.
    Fox: Would you have told me if I hadn't killed you first?
    Rat: Never.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Denethor gets a moment of clarity when he sees Faramir smile at being called his son just before he catches fire.
  • Spider-Man: Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, unless you subscribe to the belief that it was just another trick, given that Peter not telling Harry the truth in order to spare his feelings like Norman asked of him ends up backfiring on him. Both the death and the redemption get undone due to the events in Spiderman No Way Home.
  • In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer is extremely selfish while he has something to gain from it, but when he knows he's going to die anyway, he does what he can to help out.
  • In The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a man who is perfectly willing to murder an innocent person if it will benefit him does what he can to save the same person when he knows he's about to die anyway.
  • In The Expendables, Gunner reveals to Barney all the information necessary to successfully complete their mission after the latter is forced to Shoot the Dog when the former goes rogue in a drug-induced homicidal rampage. Averted when it is revealed in the ending to be just merely a Disney Death after all.
  • Hudson Hawk. After being betrayed and shot full of arrows, Kit Kat's final action is to loosen the ropes holding the Damsel in Distress, allowing her to escape a few moments later.
  • In Nine Dead, Leon tries to escape but the captor wounds him fatally, then locks him back up in the room and says that he's moved him to the front of the list. Knowing that he's dead anyway, Leon tries to redeem himself by helping the others in his last few minutes.
  • Invoked in In Harm's Way by Eddington, who decides to take a plane on a Suicide Mission to find the Japanese fleet and radio its location back to Rock Torrey before he is shot down by Japanese fighter pilots.
  • Gladiator: Facing his imminent death is what gets Emperor Marcus Aurelius to reassess his life and legacy in which he fears that he, "brought the sword. Nothing more." Setting him on the trajectory of getting a suitable successor to purge the corruption that's been allowed to fester in the senate and then give power back to them and by proxy the people. However, this is also a case that dovetails into being an example of Redemption Equals Death given that it is these pursuits that wind up getting him killed earlier by his son Commodus instead of the oncoming one from natural causes.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Robert Ford achieves emotional closure once he's shot by John Kelley and admits to Cynthy that he regrets killing Jesse James, who he still considers his friend up to his last breath.
  • The Escapist: Frank gives his life so that Lacey and the others can escape, and is reunited, presumably in heaven, with his daughter after seeing Lacey to freedom.
  • In Danger Diva, tech mogul Stanley Arkoff is so willing to stay alive he's willing to implant his brain synapses into a hypothetical future child. At the last second, though, he realizes he is okay with dying and begs for the chance for his son to live a normal life.

  • All the Light We Cannot See: After rescuing Marie-Laure from the war-torn city, Werner dies when he accidentally steps on a land mine, shortly before the war ends.
  • The Book of the Dun Cow: When Ebenezer Rat is found in a Mutual Kill with a basilisk, Chauntecleer kisses and absolves him.
  • A Christmas Carol: Jacob Marley becomes The Atoner after death. His eternal punishment is to wander the Earth while having it hammered into him what a jerkass he was when he was alive. The chains he wears are symbols of the kind of life he led, every link a sin he once committed (and he knows exactly which sinful act is represented by which link), but he tells Scrooge that the real pain of his existence comes from looking at all the living people who are suffering, being overwhelmed with compassion and sympathy for them, but being completely unable to do anything about their situations. At least they let him help redeem Scrooge.
  • In City of Heavenly Fire, the Heavenly Fire burns the evil out of Sebastian/Jonathan. But what little good there was in him is not enough to keep him alive, unlike Jace who was similarly burned in it. He does use his command of the Endarkened to keep them from hurting his former captives, and tells Jace how to destroy the Infernal Cup before he dies.
  • In The Hike, Joni sees sacrificing her life to protect her friends from Vilhelm as this; she'd hurt them all with her selfish and thoughtless decisions, in particular sleeping with Liz's husband and endangering them by stealing cocaine, and she's determined that they all make it home safe even if she doesn't. She didn't know for certain she'd die, but she knew the risk and is accepting of her death. Her friends all mourn her deeply; while Liz admits she's still angry at Joni for what she did, she also misses Joni and acknowledges that she died to save her, Helena and Maggie.
  • The Hobbit. Just before he dies, Thorin forgives Bilbo for stealing the Arkenstone of Thráin.
  • Mistborn: The Lord Ruler downplays the trope. He certainly was not a good person by a long shot and even before his death showed no regrets about his system of government. However he knew that there was a harsher enemy out there and his vast preparations to enable humanity's survival are at times awe-inspiring. While his forethought and preparations may not have defeated the enemy it certainly helped save many from being killed by the natural disasters created by Ruin. Vin, his killer, even mutters a 'thank you' to him for his excellent planning when she realizes the scope and effectiveness.
  • Nevermoor: Played with by Professor Onstald, who spends most of the second book being a horribly bigoted Sadist Teacher towards Morrigan. However, when she risks her life to save him and some other kidnapping victims, he seems to realize he was wrong about her, and sacrifices his life so she and the others can escape. Morrigan has very complicated feelings about this, since every other interaction she ever had with him involved him treating her like garbage. Jupiter says that, while what Onstald did was undoubtedly brave and heroic, it doesn't erase everything else he did. One selfless act does not undo the damage he did to Morrigan.
    Jupiter: Some people are brave bullies. Some people are friendly cowards.
  • An Outcast in Another World: Kenzotul begs Rob to kill him so that he can end his suffering and atone for the crimes he committed during The Scouring. Rob refuses to follow through, telling Kenzotul that true redemption would come from living despite the pain and working to make the world a better place.
  • Percy Jackson: Percy spends book two on distrusting Luke and basically calling him evil. It is only when Luke is already about to die that Percy trusts him enough to give him a weapon (leaving Percy defenseless) so that Luke can kill himself and take Kronos with him. Afterwards, Percy treats him like a hero instead of a villain.
    "We need a shroud. A shroud for the son of Hermes."
  • In The Stand, Harold Lauder eventually receives the You Have Outlived Your Usefulness treatment from Flagg via a motorcycle crash. As Harold lies dying slowly and painfully, he finally lets go of the petty hate and resentment that he's carried throughout his entire life and drove him to villainy. He writes an apology to everyone he betrayed in Boulder before shooting himself. Made more poignant in the television mini-series, since Harold is only able to scrawl a brief apology. Though it's doubtful anyone in Boulder would accept it.
    I'm sorry. I was misled.
  • The Sword of Saint Ferdinand: Discussed when Fortún reports that the bodies of their old enemies Guzmán and Gazul have just been found in the river Genil. Elvira and Blanca hope that their souls can rest in peace now, but Fortún consider it unlikely since they were evil assholes...unless that they regretted and swore off their bad actions before dying.
  • In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Helen cares for Mr Huntingdon when he is ill, and urges him to mend his ways. He basically doesn't, until he's really about to die, and makes at least some strides towards redeeming himself in her eyes, at least partly spurred on by his fear of Hell. Assuming he's sincere, though he's probably not, it's almost a Heel–Face Door-Slam.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom: Slightly so, as while she will always be remembered as the most evil woman in the history of the Nine Kingdoms, King Wendall ensures that his step-mother the Queen, aka. Christine Lewis's body is treated with the utmost care and respect, due to his affection for Virgina and Tony.
  • Walt in Breaking Bad dies from a stray round from the rigged M60 he set up in the trunk of his car to take out the Neo-Nazis. However, he managed to release Jesse from slavery, and take out several of the most evil characters in the entire series.
  • 24: George Mason in Season 2. He is initially an Obstructive Bureaucrat, and then attempts to leave LA when he realizes how big the nuclear explosion will be. He is exposed to lethal amounts of plutonium. After learning he will die very soon but he is not contagious, he returns to work and takes control of the situation. He the ultimately flies the bomb to where it can be safely detonated, saving Jack and convincing him to not give up.
  • In the Alien Nation made-for-tv movie Dark Horizon, the Tenctonese Overseer Ahpossno spends the entire movie trying to bring back news to his masters of the slaves' survival on Earth. In a desperate attempt to stop him, George infects him with a lethal virus, hoping that the slavemasters will think this means all of the Tenctonese died of a plague on Earth. As Ahpossno is dying while en route to his masters, he has flashbacks of the happy times he shared with George's family. Ultimately he sides with his people and, with his dying breath, tells his fellow Overseers that all of the slaves are dead.
  • In the Lewis episode "The Point Of Vanishing", a character who (believing he has driven his son to become a murderer) takes his own life invokes this as the reason.
  • In Lost, evil undead Sayid fights back against his brainwashing and sacrifices himself saving the lives of his friends.
  • Special Agent Michelle Lee from NCIS died taking one for the team when she signals Gibbs to shoot THROUGH her in the final confrontation, killing the antagonist. Lee was hardly a full-on heel, but in previous episodes, she killed a fellow agent to keep the secret that she was a mole operating under duress.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jealous of Martok's popularity, Gowron decides to take control of the Klingon fleet and squander lives in order to gain himself political glory until Worf challenges him to a duel to the death. Gowron meets this challenge head-on and dies an honourable warrior's death which Worf acknowledges by performing the Klingon death roar, meaning that Gowron will ascend to Sto-Vo-Kor. However, once the fatal blow is stuck against him, Gowron never undergoes a Heel Realization or repents his actions upon recognizing he's about to die; his last words being "You will not have this... day."
  • Subverted in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. An early episode had Xena meet Marcus, an old boyfriend from her warlord days, on the side of the Villain of the Week. At the end of the episode he did a Heel–Face Turn and a Heroic Sacrifice taking an arrow for a princess. A few seasons later, Xena was summoned by Hades to help quell a rebellion by the damned souls of Tartarus... which included Marcus. Turns out that one act of selflessness was *not* enough to make up for a lifetime of thieving and murder.
  • On Once Upon a Time, Regina gives Cora her heart back, which proves fatal because of a curse, but allows Cora to truly love Regina for the first time in a long time, perhaps even ever. Regina...does not take it well.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery episode "Coming Home", United Earth General Ndoye volunteers to participate in a Suicide Mission to stop Tarka and Book from trying to steal Species 10-C's power source for the Dark Matter Anomaly. This is mostly because she nearly ruined First Contact in a panic when the diplomats initially disappeared. Subverted in that when she pulls it off, Discovery is able to teleport her back with injuries, but makes it.

  • "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean: The title character, with at least one murder or manslaughter in his past, ends up giving his life in saving a group of trapped miners. "At the bottom of this mine lies a helluva man", indeed.

  • The Four Gospels: From The Gospel of Luke, we learn of the Penitent Thief, who repents just as he, along with another thief, is being crucified by the side of Jesus Christ. Judging by the fact that the other Gospels mention both thieves mocking Christ, the repentance doesn't happen immediately, but at one point, when the second thief starts blaspheming, the Penitent Thief tells him that they are rightfully condemned for their crimes while Christ is innocent, and asks Christ to remember him in His Kingdom:
    Jesus Christ: "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: By the time of the Usurpation, most of the Solar Exalted had gone completely nanners. After being killed, most of them made their way down to the Underworld... where they found that Oblivion was maybe two steps away from eating the whole thing. They united, drove back Oblivion, then passed through Lethe and re-entered the cycle of reincarnation after atoning for their sins of hubris. At least... most of them did...
  • Warhammer 40,000: Depending on what version you believe, Horus rebelled against the Emperor in a grimdark, bloody civil war. He eventually pushes to Terra, and engages the Emperor in single combat. Unwilling to use his full strength against his favored son, the Emperor is easily outmatched by Horus. As Horus delivers a mortal wound on his foe, a foot soldier charges into to help the Emperor. He is then flayed alive by Horus. Seeing the abomination that his son has become the Emperor musters his full strength and crushes Horus's soul entirely. The redemption comes in the final moment of his life as he gains his sanity to understand that it must be done. Compare with same story in Redemption Equals Death.
    • This is also the entire modus operandi of the Death Korps of Krieg Imperial Guard regiments. The inhabitants of a world that rebelled against the Imperium, causing a devastating planet wide civil war that ended up turning it into a nuclear hellscape in what was essentially a 500-year-long version of World War I by Imperium loyalists in order to return it to Imperium control. In atonement for their world's heresy the Death Korps deliberately picks the worst war zones the galaxy has to offer, paying no mind to casualties (in fact they actually have trouble with Commissars for being too willing to die for the Imperium). This is best illustrated at the Siege of Vraks, where 14 million of them died over 17 years of hell.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Bontu sells out the rest of the gods of Amonkhet, which shouldn't be surprising given her nature, and promptly gets killed for it. Though it's worded ambiguously, it seems like her final act with her dying breath (so to speak) is to set the not-quite-dead Hazoret, whom she had just helped defeat, free from the prison trapping her that Bontu had just created so that at least one god could survive to take revenge.
    • Liliana thought this would apply to her when she turned against Nicol Bolas during the War of the Spark, since her Deal with the Devil would cause her to burn to death should Bolas decide so. She was therefore rather surprised when Gideon takes the price of her betrayal upon himself, saving her life at the cost of his own. As a corollary to not dying, she is also not considered redeemed and assassins are sent after her in retribution for aiding Nicol Bolas, her turn against him considered too little and too late.

  • In Hamlet, Laertes. Once he gets poisoned, he realises how low he had gone in his quest for vengeance.

    Video Games 
  • Armored Core 2: Leos Klein, immediately following his defeat at your hands, tells you how to avert the catastrophe on Mars that he was in the process of causing.
    Klein: Destroy the orbit control mechanism; Phobos will stop when you do so.
  • In BlazBlue Continuum Shift Lambda-11 jumps in front of Hazama's killing blow aimed at Ragna before expressing her joy at seeing him again, giving some words of encouragement, and dying in his arms. Immediately after Ragna completely loses it and uses Lambda's Idea Engine to upgrade his Azure Grimoire, break Hazama's lock on it, and unleash the True Azure. This might seem like an odd reaction given that they barely spent any time together, but when you remember that the she and the other Murakumo Units are clones of Ragna's little sister you realize that for Ragna this was like watching Hazama murder his little sister right in front of him.
  • In DoDonPachi SaiDaiOuJou, the nature of Hina's redemption differs based on whether you are playing in Xbox 360 Mode or not. Against Saya, she gives a Final Speech. Against everyone else, she has a Heel Realization and accepts that "there are those who wish to choose their own shape".
  • Dragon Age:
    • Chancellor Roderick in Dragon Age: Inquisition spends most of the first act demanding that the Herald be arrested and constantly denouncing the Inquisition. During the Siege of Haven, he is mortally wounded while trying to help. With the last of his strength, he shows the Inquisition a hidden pilgrimage path he accidentally discovered on a whim that could lead the survivors to safety. The coincidence of this makes him believe that the Inquisition and the Herald really have been Chosen by the Maker to save Thedas. Ultimately he helps save the Inquisition and dies peacefully with his faith restored, his only regret being that he didn't support them from the start.
    • Dragon Age: Origins has this with Loghain, should you choose to sacrifice him, at least in the eyes of the public. Every ending related to him has his terrible deeds remain at the forefront of his legacy...unless he's the one to kill the Archdemon and dies as a result. If he does, his darker deeds gradually become forgotten in favour of his heroic ones.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • After being freed from Zemus' control in Final Fantasy IV, Golbez becomes this—though he doesn't say so directly, Rosa immediately recognizes that his intention is to die in atonement. Even though he was Brainwashed and Crazy, Golbez still blames himself for having enough resentment for Zemus to seize on. Though he survives, he can die in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years if the player doesn't meet certain conditions.
    • Queen Brahne in Final Fantasy IX. After Kuja betrays her and she lies dying on the shore, her adopted daughter Garnet finds her, and Brahne bids her farewell as the loving mother she had once been.
    • For that matter, Kuja from Final Fantasy IX invokes this trope in the most poignant way, since his encroaching mortality is what drives him over the edge to try and destroy EVERYTHING, until the last second when he has been defeated and it is literally the only thing that spurs him to any degree of redemption (and possibly the only thing that could do so).
    • Lady Lilith in Final Fantasy XI Wings of the Goddess : once she realizes that she's done for, she gives to Lilisette a solution to save both futures.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia has Golbez explain his refusal to join the party despite greatly aiding them (especially by helping Cecil regain his memory) by saying that his sins are unforgivable except by death. Galuf shoots back that he could do much more to make up for what he's done by living and working to do good, rather than simply dying.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: In the Array plot, Vace, a real Jerkass of a soldier, gets ganged up on by the Noctilucent clones during his and Sol's mission to disable the Array. Vace then knows that he's about to die, so he lets Sol go and sneak into the Array chamber while he valiantly tries distracting the clones. Sol worries about him and thinks about his sacrifice as they plug the payload into the Array, but thankfully, Vace manages to survive. He then realizes the hard way how tough being a "true" hero is, and slowly warms up to Sol in the epilogue.
  • Kingdom Hearts III: Master Xehanort, while he is slowly dying from the blow given to him in the final battle (plus all the darkness of his other selves getting obliterated elsewhere, as revealed in Re:mind), finally gives up the X-Blade and abandons his wicked ways. When it becomes clear that he will not succeed, but rather he will pass on into the afterlife with Eraqus, Xehanort accepts his fate and gives Sora the X-Blade.
  • The Last Story has Dagran, who manages to return to the good side right after his terminal defeat in the final battle. Even after his death, he manages to use the power of the Outsider to revive Lowell.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: In other Zelda games, whenever Ganon/Ganondorf is defeated or fatally wounded, he would promise vengeance on Link and Zelda's descendants. But in The Wind Waker, rather than cursing Link upon his imminent demise, Ganondorf simply smiles and weakly laughs that "The wind [is] blowing" around him. His last words refer to his speech prior to the final battle, where he explains that his power-hungry nature is the result of living in the harsh Gerudo Desert and then seeing the lush lands of Hyrule, symbolized by the winds. Hyrule Encyclopedia would later clarify that Ganondorf's death finally brought him peace, freed from his lust for the Triforce that clung to him like a curse.
  • Life Is Strange: Nathan Prescott is antagonistic towards Max throughout the entire game, but in Episode 5 he realizes that Jefferson is going to kill him to cover up his own crimes. Nathan calls Max and warns her that Jefferson will come after her as well. He also apologizes for his role in Jefferson's schemes. Had Jefferson not captured Max at the end of Episode 4 he may have succeeded.
  • Mega Man X4: If Zero beats Magma Dragoon, he tells Zero that he was sorry for taking up Sigma's offer to Colony Drop the Sky Lagoon so that he could fight the heroes. Then he explodes. (Notable for being the only animal/plant maverick in the X series to talk after defeated).
  • Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, in his Final Speech, helps you move on and mentions it's the first time in a long time he's used his power to help people. He declares it 'nostalgic' (or 'kind of... nice') just before he dies. Subverted as part of it was really him leading you on further into the villains' Batman Gambit.
  • Nioh 2: Every boss Yokai and most of the lesser enemies are either grateful that you killed them and released them from their pitiable state, or acknowledge you as the stronger and pledge to help you in your efforts. Ultimately, though many of them are frightening, Yokai are not Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Played literally in Portal 2 with the Turret Redemption Line. The turret redemption line is a conveyer belt full of broken turrets heading towards an incinerator. Turrets heading towards the incinerator are heading for "redemption".
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: Near the end of the game, Arthur Morgan learns he is dying from tuberculosis. This causes him to have a crisis of morality as he realizes he has wasted his life doing violence for a man who was never truly the person Arthur thought he was. Ultimately, he decides to spend his last days making amends and helping the truly deserving, eventually giving his life to help John Marston escape from their vengeful former comrades.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: The light side ending. Malak pretty much does one of these, going on about now, how when he's dying, he realizes he is worthless. "And now, as the darkness takes me, I am nothing..."
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves; Harry Flynn is subjected to You Have Outlived Your Usefulness by Lazarevic and gets shot in a way that lets him die slowly, and is left in a place where the heroes will inevitably come across him, along with a grenade. He hates Drake so much that he mocks Elena's attempts to be the "Plucky Girl who reforms the villain and saves the day" and uses the grenade on them in a final attempt to kill Drake rather than help him. Elena gets caught in the blast and spends the rest of the game at death's door but ultimately recovers from it.
  • Faldio in Valkyria Chronicles; Faldio realizes he was wrong for believing in firepower over The Power of Friendship when it comes to saving lives on the battlefield. He proceeds to break himself out of prison just in time to kill himself in a combination Heroic/Stupid Sacrifice as an apology to Welkin and Alicia, and to maintain some of the game's overall themes. It's a matter of some contention in the fandom.
  • In the World of Warcraft Patch 3:3:2, the time finally comes to defeat Arthas, The Lich King himself. In the cinematic after he is defeated he sees the ghost of his father and asks him if it is finally over. Despite everything he had done, his father still holds and comforts him in his last moments, essentially forgiving him.
    Arthas: I see only darkness before me...
    • Whether or not the other lore characters/player population forgive him, however, is open to debate. Though Jaina seems to have forgiven him as well since he apparently kept enough of his humanity to hold onto a keepsake of their love, and Uther's spirit and Muradin felt regretful that they could not stop his Face–Heel Turn, and chose to remember what he once was.
    • Kil'jaeden also expresses regret for his crimes in his final moments, admitting that one of the main causes of his joining was his belief that the Legion couldn't be stopped and wishing the heroes luck.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 
  • In Jerma985's 'TF2: Bring On The Thundah!', Jerma and Star, both of them were phlogistinator pyros, were originally intended to take down the enemy teleporter at their spawn but then the enemy started to come out. Jerma wanted to hide from the enemy but STAR_ just stayed at the spawn door and using his phlog special crit power and Jerma followed suit. They ended up with a very effect double phlog crit chain spawn camp and Jerma realized what dicks they are for doing such tactics and only felt relief when he got killed.
  • Monster Island Buddies: In episode 96, "Rodan marries Mothra", King Ghidorah, Death Ghidorah and Kiryu crash Rodan and Mothra's wedding to do battle with the buddies once more. After Death Ghidorah flees and Kiryu is destroyed, Mothra, Rodan and the other monsters convince King Ghidorah to let go of the whole thing, citing that he never truly desired to rule the world and just wanted to be buddies with everyone else. As Ghido realizes the error of his ways, Grand King Ghidorah swoops down suddenly, accuses his grandson of being "soft" and brutally kills him with his own gravity beams. In one last act of kindness though, King Ghidorah lets Mothra absorb his energy, turning her into Fire Mothra and giving her the power neccesary to destroy Grand King Ghidorah once and for all.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Beast Machines episode "Fallout", Rhinox's spark expressed regret over his recent actions as the Vehicon Tankor.
  • Late into Beast Wars, Dinobot begins to question his decision to defect to the Maximals and ends up returning to Megatron's side. Not for long, but long enough to give him back the Golden Disk and certainly long enough to make the Maximals not trust him any longer. Though they let him come back, it's clear he's not exactly "welcome" back and even Rattrap seems done with him at this point saying that for all of Dinobot's faults he at least thought he knew were he stood. Him single-handedly fighting off the entire Predacon army to protect the Proto-Humans, defeating all of them save for Megatron himself and destroying the Golden Disk at the cost of taking so much damage he's been irrepairably damaged is more than enough to redeem him in the eyes of his Maximal comrades.
    Optimus Primal: Well fought, my friend. You saved the valley. You saved the lives of those who live here... and of those who are still to come.
    Dinobot: Then... there is nothing to regret.
    Dinobot: Upwind of you, for preference, vermin. Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest... is silence.
  • Hazbin Hotel: In the finale of Season 1, Sir Pentious pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice against Adam, laying down his life for the very hotel that he tried ([[IneffectualSympatheticVillain and failed) to attack several times before. Because of his change of heart and his sacrifice, however, Sir Pentious reincarnates in Heaven, both giving the guy a second chance and proving to Sera beyond a shadow of a doubt that sinners truly can be redeemed.]] In fact, the entire show is a spin on this trope, since it's about redeeming people who ALREADY ended up in Hell.
    Angel Dust: We're in Hell, toots. That's kinda the end of the road.
    Vaggie: Well, maybe it doesn't have to be.
  • Parodied in Robot Chicken's Star Wars special when Emperor Palpatine Invokes this mid-Disney Villain Death and crashes the party celebrating his defeat as a (naked) Force ghost:
    Palpatine: Wazzup wazzuuuup! Fourth-quarter conversion to the Light Side, y'all! ...We partyin' or what? [Laughs]
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, abusive Parental Substitute Shadow Weaver sacrifices herself to save Adora and Catra from a humongous creature in the series finale, while simultaneously finally giving Catra the "I'm Proud of you" she always wanted. It's notable that even in her final moments, Shadow Weaver manages to make her sacrifice a somewhat-selfish act, opting for a Mutual Kill rather than face the consequences of her years of cruelty, and clearly relishing the idea of being seen as noble for dying ("You're welcome").
  • Zarkon and Lotor in the end of Voltron: Legendary Defender, who, while unable to reach a Heel–Face Turn in life, both work with the Paladins against Honerva from beyond the grave.


Video Example(s):


Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail

In "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Rat reveals an important secret, but admits that he's only doing so because he's about to die, killed by Mr. Fox. Did he redeem himself? You decide, but as Mr. Fox says, in the end he's still just another dead rat in a garbage pail behind a Chinese restaurant.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathEqualsRedemption

Media sources: