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Death Is Such an Odd Thing

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Magda is having an emotionally confusing day.

It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
The Schofield Kid, Unforgiven

A catchall term for the often confused reactions characters may have after losing someone close to them — or perhaps even an enemy.

Symptoms include frustrated speech, attempts to explain the sudden emptiness and feelings that nothing is right, and shock that one day a person can be there and the next they're gone. A person in this state tends to either rant or have trouble stringing two sentences together.

Compare Antagonist in Mourning, when a villain finds themselves depressed and listless after the demise of their longtime arch-enemy. May overlap with Death Equals Redemption, if the person dying actually redeems them in the eyes of others, and Death Means Humanity if one of the reactions involves seeing the humanity in a deceased non-human being.

As a Death Trope, this page will naturally contain spoilers!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Tachikoma in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, as robots whose memories are constantly backed up, are completely unable to comprehend death and are highly fascinated by what they consider the greatest philosophical mystery. Even when facing permanent dismantling or risking the destruction of their backup databases, they are unable to feel fear or sadness, and even seem to get a little giddy about the closest thing they can experience to death.
  • In Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai, this happens to Nagisa when she goes to Mokuzu's house and not only sees her Abusive Parent Masachika in there, but finds evidence that he kiled Mokuzu and dismembered her corpse. The poor kid is so horrified and shocked that they begin babbling about a quiz they heard of some time ago which dealt with a murderous mother.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan's near-omniscience causes him to become disinterested in human experiences like life and death. When he hears about the Comedian's death, he says "A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned?"
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake notes that he's not sure what to feel after Karl Ranck was killed since Ranck seemed to have been trying to be friendlier but had been a grade A jerk whom Tim mostly considered an annoyance. He spends the funeral feeling out of place.

    Fan Works 
  • Once again, kalash93 has two examples.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic The Legend of Royal Blue and La Sylphide, Gabriel is numb to the sudden death of M. Lévêque, his building's de facto handyman, who he only recently became friendly with. It's not until the memorial that Gabriel finally mourns. Not really for Lévêque, but because he waited until his last chance to talk to someone who lived downstairs.
    Gabriel: You...took care of all of us. Nobody asked you to do it, but you cooked, you cleaned, you did laundry, you fixed the pipes, and you fixed the leak in the roof. I never saw you, but you were always there. What's going to happen to our garden without you? [cries] I'm sorry, Monsieur Lé...Joseph. I'm so, so sorry.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Big Hero 6, Baymax is a robot designed to provide medical care. For a while, he struggles to grasp that his creator, a young man in good physical health, has unexpectedly died in a fiery explosion.
    Baymax: Tadashi was in excellent health. With a proper diet and exercise, he should have lived a long life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Orlando Bloom said in the DVD Commentary for the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that what he was trying for, when the camera had its closeup on his face in the One-Woman Wail montage after Gandalf fell, was coming to grips with what death was, as an elf whose only experience with it previously had been seeing enemies die in battle.
    • This is repeated, and again noted in the commentary, when Boromir dies in the climax. While Aragorn sheds Manly Tears and Gimli sighs in a "that's another one we've lost" kind of way, Legolas again appears saddened and confused.
  • The Usual Suspects: "It's the strangest thing." Although it's possible that this was MacManus' reaction to finding out the Twist Ending.
  • Apocalypse Now: "The horror... the horror..."


    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: As Galadriel explains in the opening narration, before Morgoth, the elves of Valinor did not know anything about the concept of death since they were immortal beings. After the War of Wrath, a war that lasted centuries with the death of elves being proportional to its length, the elves came to know many words for death.
  • An early episode of Mad Men opens with the characters hearing about a plane crash. A few minutes later, Pete learns that his father was on the plane. What stuns him the most? "Everything's exactly the same." This is all complicated by the fact that he and several others had been making sick jokes. Also, he hated his father.
  • Anya's speech in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Body": one of the most touching moments from her, where she explains her thought process, coming from immortality to mortality and being unprepared to deal with Buffy's mother, Joyce, being suddenly dead. And how she really doesn't know how to act, and human society makes it taboo to even ask how to act, so....
    Anya: But I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens, how we go through this. I mean — I knew her, and then she's... there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore! It's stupid! It's mortal and stupid! And... and Xander's crying and not talking, and... and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, "Well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch — ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever," and no one will explain to me why.
  • Alain of Kamen Rider Ghost has similar confused reaction as Anya mentioned above. All about going from immortality to mortality, complaining about things being stupid and mortal and not understading humans. His elderly human friend died a peaceful death, which he had never considered beforehand because he witnessed his father's death by Heroic Sacrifice not much earlier, so it was only natural for him to think that Death Is Dramatic. There was also the confusion caused by the mixed emotions he saw among the atendees at her funeral, not comprehending why they're both smiling and crying. Fortunately his friends explained to him that they are both mourning the loss of her and celebrating the good memories left behind. As long as they remember her, her death is not the definitive end. Recalling the moments of her kindness had eventually helped him too, somewhat.
  • This is a large part of the premise of Six Feet Under.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Gunslinger", Joel tries to explain to Crow and Tom about being dead, and the two are just utterly confused about it, Crow expressing that it's like "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Dark Water", Clara Oswald suddenly loses her boyfriend Danny Pink after he's hit by a car while talking to her on the phone. After this, she is surprised at how "boring" his death was.
  • Sesame Street: One famous episode deals with the death of Will Lee, who'd played friendly shopkeeper Mr. Hooper on the show for years. The writers decided to have the character die too and create a plot about Big Bird, the Audience Surrogate for children watching, dealing with conflicting emotions about the situation. At first, Big Bird doesn't get it at all and thinks Mr. Hooper will be coming back, and the adults have to gently explain that he is gone for good. Big Bird then moves through confusion, worry, and panic as he tries to piece together what death means. He ultimately becomes angry because the situation simply isn't fair. When Big Bird demands that someone give him "one good reason" why Mr. Hooper had to die, Gordon can only reply "It has to be this way...because. Just...because."


    Video Games 
  • Resident Evil 5 has Irving dying (although you could have seen that coming) with the line, "Dying ain't so bad, but it ain't gonna change nothin'; you're still screwed!" Touching.
  • In Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, when George questions a French Jerk road worker who saw the murder victim before he died, he has nothing but bad things to say about him; but after George tells him the man died, he feels bad for everything he said. Lampshaded by George's narration.
    Regret and remorse are strange emotions. They really bring out the hammiest actors in people.
  • The Dragons in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are eternal, immortal beings, and even when they die, they can be resurrected easily by another. As a result, the concept of mortality is alien to them; so alien in fact, that the humans weaponize it against them with the Dragonrend Shout. Made of 'Mortal', 'Finite' and 'Temporary', the Shout is a Brown Note to dragons, disorienting and causing them to fall from the sky.
  • Genshin Impact: Bennett's character story has him once ponder about what "death" truly means or feels like. He got a bit fearful when he thought about it, but he then thought that if an "adventurer's death" is a good one, then it must be an adventurer's final fortune... and then he went on to think that "not that fortune has anything to do with him". With that, he just stopped thinking about death altogether and goes on to find his next treasure.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Strong Bad's reaction to losing the Compy 386 in the Strong Bad Email "virus" is to babble incoherently and repeatedly Head Desk.
    'Strong Bad:" Dear Strong Bad... I duh doh douh crapfully yours... I duh doh douh crapfully yours!''

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The article 5 Things No One Tells You About Death illustrates this pretty well with Felix Clay's description of his own flustered internal debate over what he should wear to the hospital where a friend has just died:
    "Should I just go with what I had on? Do you wear a tie? A dress shirt? I had shorts on, did I need long pants? Long pants are respectful. A tie is respectful. But it's not a funeral, not yet. I didn't need to change yet, did I? Who the fuck spends this much time deciding on a wardrobe? An hour had passed. A whole hour, just looking at my collection of novelty T-shirts and colorful silk ties and accomplishing nothing."