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Death of the Hypotenuse

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"For all [her good qualities] she as often as not marries the wrong person to begin with, and she suffers terribly from the plots and intrigues of the vicious baronet; but even death has a soft place in his heart for such a paragon, and remedies all mistakes for her just at the right moment. The vicious baronet is sure to be killed in a duel, and the tedious husband dies in his bed requesting his wife, as a particular favor to him, to marry the man she loves best, and having already dispatched a note to the lover informing him of the comfortable arrangement. "

Alice, Bob, and Charlie are in a Love Triangle. Alice loves Bob, but also has feelings for Charlie—or maybe she doesn't, but can't or doesn't want to turn him down. Maybe she's even in a relationship with, or married to Charlie, while pining after Bob. However will she resolve this dilemma? Well, fortunately, she doesn't have to — Charlie meets with a convenient illness, accident, or other such fatal situation, freeing Alice up to go after Bob without guilt. If Charlie is aware of Alice's feelings for Bob, he may tell her with his dying breath that she shouldn't mourn him too much, because he wants his beloved to be happy.

Note that not everybody uses "hypotenuse" in the way it appears here, as a triangle only has one hypotenuse, but two other sides (unless it is equilateral), so it would be logical to call Alice the hypotenuse in the above example. See for instance Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky", which mentions Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva's production of The Eternal Triangle, "starring Ingrid Bergman as the hypotenuse."

This trope is where The Plot Reaper meets Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends. If Charlie's death is not accidental, but intentionally done to remove him from the triangle, it's Murder the Hypotenuse or The Uriah Gambit, depending on whether it's done directly or set up indirectly. See Comforting the Widow. Compare to Ship Sinking. See also Competing with a Corpse, when the love triangle carries on even after the death.

May still be a Bittersweet Ending and even lead to Dead Guy Junior.

Contrast Die for Our Ship, when the fandom wishes the hypotenuse would die.

Spoilers may be within.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Anohana The Flower We Saw That Day smashes this to pieces. Back when they were children, Anaru liked Jintan and Tsuruko liked Yukiatsu, but both boys liked Menma and the girls, despite caring for Menma, felt that they couldn't compete with her. Menma's untimely death only made things worse for all of them (and their uninvolved friend Poppo), since such a tragedy tore the group apart and showed that, in reality, the demise of "the person who gets in-between" does NOT equal to the others getting together: the guys got so broken (and Jintan already had his own issues) that no girl in their eyes could match the very high standard that Menma had left, with Jintan becoming a hikkikomori and Yukiatsu both considering Anaru as a prospect "back-up girlfriend" (and neither she nor Tsuruko, understandably, are happy with that) and wearing dresses similar to those Menma used to wear.
  • More than one Case Closed case has a person killed for being one of the corners of a Love Triangle or getting in between a potential couple. Much more common if there's an Arranged Marriage (like a Dr. Jerk killing his ex-girlfriend so she won't stand in between him and the daughter of his boss whom he's marrying for the prestige or blackmail (like a policeman shooting his ex-girlfriend dead when she attempts to go the Honey Trap way right as he's actually about to move on with another woman) involved.
  • Inverted in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: the hypotenuse (Munakata) is the last one standing. Chisa killed herself thanks to her despair brainwashing, and Juzo bled out due to injuries Munakata inflicted out of paranoia.
  • From the New World:
    • It happens the ones involved in the Saki/Shun/Satoru Love Triangle. It has the twist that the hypotenuse who dies is the member of the Love Triangle that the other two are interested in, aka Shun.
    • Saki's girlfriend, Maria, is forced to run off with her other potential Love Interest Mamoru, leading to both their deaths.
  • Highschool of the Dead: This actually makes things worse for the hero since Rei's now focused on Takashi, but way too often she ends up comparing him to her dead boyfriend Hisashi or berating him in a way that makes Takashi think she is. She eventually gets over it and admits that she'd dated Hisashi more because it hurt too much to be with him, but now she's all his.
  • In Inuyasha, the Inuyasha - Kikyou - Kagome triangle is finally broken when Naraku engineers Kikyou's death for good, and she ends up perishing peacefully in Inuyasha's arms.
  • In Love Hina, described in volume 9 of the manga, Haruka, Seta and Sarah's mother were a Love Triangle. Seta had promised to choose by the time he turned 30, but Sarah's mother died; Haruka refused to accept victory by default and rejected Seta for years afterwards. She got over it eventually and they got married.
  • Macross Frontier subverts this. Near the end Sheryl, close to death from her illness pleads Alto to save Ranka, so the two can be together after she dies (emphasized more in the novels, but still present in the series). Then Ranka uses her powers to ''heal'' her CoolBigSis Sheryl, so the threesome persists, and remains unresolved in the show itself.
    • The movies seem to invert this. The "hypotenuse" is the only one left standing, while her victorious rival is in a coma, and their object of attraction is missing. However, Word of God confirms that they all survive, and implies that the latter two eventually get back together again after the ending.
  • Naruto: The backstory has a subversion in the Team Minato triangle. Obito is in love with Rin, who is in love with Kakashi. Obito apparently dies during a mission, thus leaving Rin and Kakashi free to hook up, right? Except Rin dies soon after and Obito is revealed to be alive, leaving the boys to mourn over the shared love interest (and Obito to do things).
  • Discussed in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Haruna references how common this happens in Japanese literature when it's revealed that Yue likes Negi in the same way that Nodoka does. The fact that both Yue and Nodoka are standing right behind her as she does this didn't help the situation at all.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The main love triangle between Shinji, Asuka and Rei ceases to exist when Rei pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save Shinji, shortly after arriving at the realization that she "wants to be one with him". As a sort-of deconstruction, Asuka ends up doubting the sincerity of Shinji's feelings, accusing him of coming to her because she's basically the only one left, since everyone else (including the clone replacing the Rei everyone used to know) either scares Shinji or has kicked the bucket at this point.
  • In No. 6, this happens to Safu, though it's really more of a case of merging her with a goddess-like entity, thus destroying a huge chunk of her personality, then blowing up the building she's in.
  • Psychic Academy: The love triangle between Ai, Orina, and Mew ends with Mew's death. In a subversion of this trope, Ai decides to spend the rest of his life being true to Mew's memory.
  • In Samurai Flamenco, Goto has two main love interests: his partner Masayoshi, and his off-screen girlfriend who texts him often.note  The story not only bumps Goto's girlfriend off, but flat out says she hasn't been alive for years — the bus she got on when she and Goto were young had everyone on it disappear, and he's been delusionally texting as her using her phone to cope. She even "dies" a second time when Sawada deletes the last message Goto got from her. Coincidentally, this also happens to be the same place where Masayoshi proposes to Goto in the climax. The finale subverts it, as Goto ends up lapsing back into his old habit to allow her to "check up" on him and Masayoshi one last time.
  • This is what breaks up the Sibling Triangle between twins Tatsuya and Kazuya and their neighbor Minami in the manga Touch (1981). Right before Kazuya was going to ask Minami's dad for his blessing, too... ouch.
  • Vampire Knight: Kaname, at the very end.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Anzu has a Two-Person Love Triangle between Yugi and Yami. At the end of the series, Yami goes to his final rest, having been a pharaoh who was dead for 3,000 years.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Very, very common in war films (all countries, all periods) generally, to the extent that a Pair the Spares solution is the exception to the rule.
  • Gordon in 2012.
  • Tsu'tey in Avatar. Even though Neytiri only ended up having feelings for Jake, she was technically supposed to have been betrothed to him from the beginning, so to free her from any possible obligation to or conflict with him, the triangle was predictably resolved by redeeming his character and subsequently killing him off.
  • In Better Luck Tomorrow, Stephanie decides she wants to be with Ben, who liked her for the whole movie, after her boyfriend Steve dies. Played with in several ways- Stephanie doesn't know Steve is dead when she makes this decision, but she's mad at him for mysteriously disappearing. Also, Ben is uncomfortable and isn't sure if he wants to be with her at this point, because he was involved in Steve's murder (which happened for reasons other than their romantic rivalry).
  • In Canyon Passage, George is Killed Offscreen by one of the townsmen. This frees Lucy to marry Logan.
  • In Cat People, the dilemma of the Love Triangle is being resolved by the death of the heroine.
  • A tragic example in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where Shu Lien's fiancee was killed in battle and also happened to be Mu Bai's best friend and sworn brother. For years, the two of them refused to pursue a relationship with each other, to honour the memory of their friend/fiancee.
  • The Fast and the Furious: The love triangle between Dom, Letty, and Elena is resolved in the eighth film when Elena gets killed by the villains, leaving her son with Dom to be raised by Dom and Letty.
  • Fear City: Matt used to have a thing with Loretta before they broke up. He wants to give it another try, but finds out that she's already involved with another stripper. Which makes it really convenient when said girlfriend becomes one of the killer's victims!
  • First Knight has it with King Arthur's death, leaving Guinevere free to hook up with Lancelot.
  • Forbidden Planet. Lieutenant Jerry Farman and Commander Adams are in a romantic competition over Altaira. Jerry is killed by the Creature from the Id when it attacks the United Planets ship and Adams and Altaira end up together.
  • Gone with the Wind: Scarlett has had a crush on Ashley for years, of which he once reciprocated to but then turned her away after he married Melanie. Her crush made her ungrateful for her own doting Rhett. Eventually, Melanie dies and her last words seem to be giving Scarlett permission to marry Ashley. By then Rhett has had enough and leaves so she can have Ashley, but she no longer wants him to go. No word after if she marries Ashley.
  • In the time between Hot Shots! and Hot Shots! Part Deux, Ramada left Harley because she realized that her never-before mentioned husband was still alive. Topper rescues his ex-lover's husband from an Iraqi prison camp in the second movie, but then Dexter accidentally backs off a cliff while taking photographs, freeing the two lovers to be together again.
  • An interesting variation in Jojo Rabbit - the offscreen hypotenuse, Elsa's resistance fighter boyfriend Nathan, has been dead the entire time, meeting an absolutely miserable end from cholera in a Nazi death camp. Elsa simply invented a fictional, nobler reason why he isn't around anymore to tell herself. Whether Elsa and Jojo end up together is ambiguous (there's still the six-year age difference to consider, and, of course, the fact that, as orphans in immediately-post-WWII Germany, they likely have higher priorities to think about) but they do finally get to dance together.
  • In Jurassic Park III, the divorced Paul and Amanda Kirby's reconciliation over rescuing their son Eric would have been complicated by Amanda's new boyfriend Ben — except that he was on the island with Eric, and they find his skeleton hanging from a Parachute in a Tree soon after they arrive.
  • Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: The love triangle between Anjali-Rahul-Tina ends after Tina's death. Rahul was initially reluctant to remarry due to his principal to marry only once in a lifetime. However, upon meeting Anjali again after losing contact for years and eventually realized to have fallen genuinely in love with her, he pursues her again. After heartbroken twice when Anjali almost marries her fiancé, Aman, Rahul and Anjali could eventually get together when Aman gives his blessing for their marriage.
  • In the 1992 version of Last of the Mohicans, Major Heyward dies as Cora and Nathaniel (and Chingachgook) go free, though technically it is at the hands of his rival Nathaniel (actually a Mercy Killing as the Hurons are burning him alive after Heyward's Heroic Sacrifice).
  • In Limelight, Charlie Chaplin's character dies in the end, freeing Terry to pursue a more suitable relationship with Neville.
  • In Oblivion (2013) Victoria is killed less than a day after Julia comes back into the picture. Bonus points come from it being her own fault, as she inadvertently sics the Drone on herself as well as Jack.
  • Outlaw Women: Even though Bob has made his preference for Beth fairly obvious, the film resolves the Sibling Triangle by having Ellen shot and killed by Sam Bass during the robbery at the Paradise.
  • Pearl Harbor does this twice with the same triangle. At the start of the film, Rafe is together with Evelyn, but he is presumed dead after a battle, leaving Evelyn to seek solace in Rafe's friend, Danny. Then Rafe unexpectedly appears to them very much alive, so there's some angsting about his friend stealing his girlfriend. Then Danny dies, letting Rafe to hook up with Evelyn once more...and raise Danny's and Evelyn's child, named after his father.
  • Death By Unrequited Love in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Elizabeth invokes Norrington's still-lingering feelings for her to get him to help her escape from Davy Jones... and the moment he does, Jones kills him for it.
  • In a 1972 interview, when discussing Rebel Without a Cause, Sal Mineo observed that his character Plato's death is this trope as well as Bury Your Gays, although given the film's era, it's only subtext.
    "... so it's like he [James Dean's character Jim] had the hots for Natalie [Wood] and me. Ergo, I had to be bumped off, out of the way."
  • In San Andreas, Daniel is crushed by a shipping container, so Emma is free to get back with Ray.
  • The whole concept of Say Yes. Lily has terminal cancer, and is being cared for by her husband Beau and her twin brother, Caden. Seeing their growing friendship and affection, she decides they should begin a romantic relationship when she dies.
  • In The Searchers, Martin Pawley finds himself in an Accidental Marriage to a Comanche woman, nicknamed Look. Naturally, this gets in the way of his relationship with Laurie Jorgenson. When Martin tries to press Look for information about the killer he's tracking, she panics and runs away. Martin later finds her dead— killed by the US Army in an attack on a Comanche camp.
  • Dizzy in the Starship Troopers movie. Also, the male fleet pilot who was trying to hook up with Carmen the whole time
  • In Unconscious, León's climactic death by chandelier removes the final obstacle to Alma and Salvador getting together.
  • In Underworld (1927), Rolls Royce is In Love with the Gangster's Girl. In the end, the gangster dies which clears the way for the lovers to resolve their UST and be happy ever after.
  • Cyclops' death in X-Men: The Last Stand can be seen as this crossed with Disposable Fiancé.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs was fond of the plot where the heroine is engaged to another, and the hero nobly relinquishes her because he knows she's too honorable to break her word, and then they suffer for a bit before the inconvenient fiancé has a convenient death (sometimes being handed the Jerkass Ball first to make sure the reader doesn't feel sorry for him).
    • Tarzan of the Apes ends with Jane, uncertain of her emotions, accepting a proposal from the buffoonish Romantic False Lead, William Clayton and Tarzan, accepting that she's honor-bound, choosing not to make an issue of it and going off alone. In the sequel, The Return of Tarzan, Jane and her fiancé go on a cruise and are shipwrecked, coincidentally very near Tarzan's latest adventure. The fianc&eacute dips a bit into selfish jerk territory by finding out Tarzan's identity as his missing cousin, John Clayton, and thus true heir to the Clayton estate, but not telling anyone about it so as to stay with Jane. Later in the novel, William gets a fatal case of malaria after being left for dead by the novel's Big Bad, when the now reunited Jane and Tarzan find him, the dying William redeems himself by revealing Tarzan's true identity, releasing Jane from the engagement and then giving the two his blessing to marry.
    • In The Mad King, Barney Custer and Princess Emma of Lutha fall in love while Barney is performing an Emergency Impersonation of Lutha's king, to whom Emma is betrothed. They're both too noble to act on their feelings when she's bound by her betrothal, so they suffer separately for a few years before King Leopold has a Death by Irony brought on directly by his jealousy over Emma's love for Barney.
  • In the final book of the Sequel Series of The 39 Clues, Evan, Amy's boyfriend, is killed off for the sole purpose of letting Amy and Jake be together—although she was already cheating on Evan with Jake, anyway. (The entire book was out-of-character for Amy.) The fandom was enraged.
  • Mandorallen, The Baroness of Vo Ebor and The Baron of Vo Ebor (who sees Mandorallen as a protege) in David Eddings' Belgariad (the Baron actually spends a fair bit of his time in dangerous hobbies like warfare and duelling people who badmouth his wife or his protege, with an implication he's trying to invoke this trope in a societally acceptable fashion — he's very well aware that Mandorallen and the Baroness are deeply in love and that both are far too noble and fond of him to actually do anything while he's still alive). In the fifth book, the Baron is seriously wounded. In one of the first books of the second pentology, the Malloreon, the Baron dies as a result of his injuries, but Mandorallen and the Baroness don't get together until a new hypotenuse shows up - a crony of the Baron's heir. Finally sick of the moping, and the incipient civil war looming between Mandorallen's family and the Baron's, Belgarion storms in and orders Mandorallen and the Baroness to marry and get it over with, paying off the Baron's heir just to make sure everything stays settled.
  • This is how the love triangle in The Castle of Otranto (the first Gothic Novel) was resolved, although it's a bit of an unusual variation. While the two surviving sides of the triangle do marry, they're both deeply distraught over the death (as the two love rivals were quite close friends), and it's said that part of the reason they get together is that they know that no one else will fully understand their grief.
  • Semi-averted in Cyrano de Bergerac. After Christian dies, Cyrano has the opportunity to reveal he wrote the letters and finally receive Roxane's love, but he withholds the information so that his beloved Roxane's memory of Christian won't be tarnished.
  • The Fifth Elephant: It happens to the wolf Gavin, who dies heroically. Implied that narrativium was working heavily in favour of the suitor that survived, or that Carrot was deliberately taking advantage of narrativium, and made sure it was Gavin that made the Heroic Sacrifice. Whether this was done consciously or unconsciously is impossible to tell through Carrot's constant Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Fridthjof's Saga: Ingibjörg and Fridthjof love each other, but Ingibjörg's brothers despise Fridthjof because he is not of royal rank, and instead force her to marry King Hring, who is old but actually a fine guy. As Fridthjof cannot bring himself to act against Hring, he offers to go away and never see Ingibjörg again, but Hring stops him and reveals that he has a deadly illness and knows he will die soon. He makes Fridthjof his jarl and successor, and at Hring's funeral Fridthjof marries Ingibjorg in accordance with Hring's own wish.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In Juliet Marillier's Heir to Sevenwaters, the heroine starts out courting Aidan before realizing she has feelings for Cathal. This dilemma is resolved when the villain randomly kills Aidan ... because he can, preventing Clodagh from having to make a hard decision.
  • The H.I.V.E. Series: Zero Hour resolves the Otto/Laura/Lucy love triangle by having Lucy heroically Taking the Bullet for Otto soon after their relationship begins to develop. Predictably, in the next book, Otto and Laura's relationship starts to develop, but, less predictably, it turns out Laura has been threatened into turning traitor, delaying their relationship further.
  • Happens to Horatio Hornblower three times over the course of the novels. Hornblower is initially married to Maria, and his Love Interest, the Lady Barbara Wellesy, goes on to marry Admiral Percy Leighton after being spurned by Hornblower. Hornblower is naturally placed under Leighton's command and is taken prisoner after his ship is disabled in combat. He escapes captivity and meets Marie, a French widow who helps shelter him, and they start an affair. Hornblower returns to England to learn that Leighton died in battle, and Maria died in childbirth, putting both Hornblower and Barbara in a position to marry. A few books later, Marie turns up again and is killed fighting Napoleon's troops after his return to France.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Komarr, Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan finds himself falling in love with Ekaterin Vorsoisson, the wife of an administrator peripherally involved with an apparent terraforming accident (and the feeling is, unbeknownst to him, mutual). Tien Vorsoisson turned out to be involved in an embezzlement scam, Ekaterin decided to leave him over it, and then Tien ended up accidentally killed by the conspirators when he tried to sell them out to Vorkosigan. Too bad things got classified enough to create a whole new set of barriers in any courtship.
  • Lolita. Charlotte wants Humbert; Humbert wants her young daughter, Dolores. Charlotte dies in a freak accident... or so Humbert claims. When discussing Charlotte's "accident", Humbert seems suspiciously eager to quickly skip over the details of the event, and even insists on not sharing the contents of his and Charlotte's last conversation before her death with the reader under the excuse that they would just be "boring".
  • In the novel Mary of Marion Isle by H. Rider Haggard, the wicked accidental wife accidentally drowns allowing the hero to marry the heroine who is his soul mate.
  • Middlemarch: Mr Casaubon tries hard to avert this in George Eliot's novel, by forbidding Dorothea from marrying Ladislaw in a codicil to his will, on pain of having her inheritance stripped. Ultimately the plan fails and she marries Ladislaw anyway.
  • In The Night Angel Trilogy, the protagonist's first love has to make a Heroic Sacrifice, and before doing so, wishes him happiness with the other contender.
  • In the Danielle Steel novel A Perfect Stranger, a young woman's much older husband finally passes away, leaving her free to be with the lawyer she's fallen in love with.
  • In Samuel Shellabarger's novel Prince of Foxes, the adventurer Andrea Orsini and the lady Camilla Varano discover an increasing attraction to each other which both resist out of respect for her Cool Old Guy husband Lord Varano. Varano dies heroically during the climactic siege of Città Del Monte, pushing Andrea and Camilla into each others' arms with his dying words.
  • Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series, Burrich is badly injured in a fight against a stone dragon. Despite the fact that there were three separate ways to save his life, only one is attempted and deemed too difficult. He eventually dies, his body thrown into the sea, and Fitz is now able to move in on Burrich's widow Molly, his childhood sweetheart.
  • Happens in Rose in Bloom to solve Rose's "which one of my cousins do I marry?" dilemma, when the Troubled, but Cute one takes himself out via horseriding accident.
  • Patricia Kennealy's The Silver Branch, first book of the Keltiad: The protagonist, Aeron marries Roderick because her parents wish her to. Roderick and her parents die in the same well, murder. She then marries Gwydion, which was what she had wanted but her parents thought a pair of magic-wielding royals to be too scary.
  • S.L. Viehl's Stardoc. Poor, doomed Kao Torin.
  • In Sweet Valley University, Elizabeth breaks up with her long term boyfriend Todd and he begins dating another girl, Gin-Yung. Gin-Yung conveniently contracts a brain tumour and dies, using her last words to tell Todd to get back together with Elizabeth.
  • Troika. Poor, doomed Veness.
  • Warrior Cats: Brambleclaw and Ashfur both love Squirrelflight. Subverted in that the hypotenuse dies long after the relationship issue ends.
  • In the Xanth book Isle of View, the characters themselves invoke this—Prince Dolph is engaged to both Nada and Electra, and for various complicated reasons cannot just pick one. With the deadline coming up, Electra and Nada (who get on quite well) quietly start taking turns anytime anything dangerous needs to be done, just in case fate should resolve the problem that way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Simmons ends up entering a relationship with a stranded astronaut named Will in the interregnum between seasons 2 and 3, much to the discomfort of Fitz, who had asked her out moments before she got sucked into a portal that transported her to the world Will was living on, and only finds out about this after risking his life to bring Simmons back to Earth. After a while, Fitz comes to terms with this and decides to pull I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, but then the winter finale reveals that Will was killed by Hive shortly after Simmons was rescued.
  • In Arrow, there is a Love Triangle between Oliver, Laurel (his ex-girlfriend), and Tommy (his best friend who dated Laurel for a while). At the end of Season 1, Tommy is killed coming to Laurel's rescue while her office building collapses.
  • As the World Turns: The love triangle between Luke, Noah, and Reid. Reid is killed off and Noah decides to move to LA, leaving Luke/Noah with a Maybe Ever After at best.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Dualla has some UST with Lee (which is mostly built up in deleted scenes) but is in a relationship with Billy. He asks her to marry him and she refuses because of her feelings for Lee, then Billy is conveniently killed off by the villain of the week.
    • Notably an Averted Trope for the most part with any love-triangle involving Lee and Starbuck (and there's a few). His brother's death in the backstory kinda counts as shown in one of the last episodes when a flashback shows Lee and Kara were interested in each other from the moment Zack introduced his fiance to his brother.
  • Choujin Sentai Jetman: Played with: after a series-long love triangle between Ryu, Kaori and Gai, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shows that Gai is fatally knifed by a bandit on his way to Ryu and Kaori's wedding. However, by this time he had come to accept them as a couple and makes it to the wedding to congratulate them before he dies. Maria/Rie would also count as this, since her death gives Ryu the closure he needs to finally begin a relationship with Kaori.
  • Degrassi High: Has a baroque (and rather creepy) example. In the first season, Caitlin dumps Joey because he's rather immature and because the new kid Claude seems so much more her type. But Claude turns out to be an ass and she dumps him too. In the second season, Claude is thinking of suicide (due to unrelated problems that Caitlin doesn't know about). Desperate for any hope, he asks Caitlin out again, and she tells him to get lost. When she gets home, she finds Claude has sent her flowers and his suicide note. As she's screaming with rage and guilt, her science teacher orders her to tutor her old ex-boyfriend Joey. He's had a lot of Character Development over the course of this season and comforts her during the tutoring. Soon, they're back together again.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Bad Wolf", the Doctor invites a sweet young woman by the name of Lynda aboard the TARDIS. His regular companion, Rose, who's been in love with him for most of the series, isn't at all impressed by this development. Fortunately for Rose's peace of mind, Lynda doesn't make it to the end of the following episode.
    • Series 8 establishes Danny Pink as a love interest for Clara Oswald after the Twelfth Doctor, having regenerated into an older form, basically pushes her away and puts an end to the romance that had been brewing with the Eleventh (acknowledging that the Eleventh thought of himself as her boyfriend). This evolves into a somewhat bizarre Love Triangle scenario as the season progresses and it becomes clear that the Doctor and Clara's feelings for each other remain in place — yet Clara is simultaneously also in love with Danny. Ultimately, it's not the Doctor who gets killed off, it's Danny. Followed by an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy moment in which a dream construct of Danny (created by Clara's mind — long story — but implied to possibly be the spirit of the real Danny) tells Clara to move on with her life; this almost immediately leads to an implied form of Relationship Upgrade between the Doctor and Clara in Series 9.
  • Dollhouse: Mellie loves Paul. Mellie leaves. Paul loves Echo. Echo loves Paul. Mellie returns — Paul loves Mellie too. Mellie dies. Paul and Echo can be together! Well, until he dies.
  • Downton Abbey:
    • Has Lavinia die suddenly of Spanish Flu at the end of series two to make way for Matthew/Mary.
    • Earlier in the series, Vera Bates unexpectedly commits suicide, allowing Bates to marry Anna. Not that this actually makes things any easier, since he's now the prime suspect for her "murder".
  • Farscape: Gillina meets this fate at the end of season one — the penalty for coming between Official Couple Aeryn and Crichton. Interestingly, so does Crichton. For the same reason.
  • The Flash (2014) has a Love Triangle between Barry, Eddie, and Iris. Eddie planned to propose to Iris, but he commits suicide to Ret-Gone his future descendant, the Reverse-Flash. Given that Barry and Iris have always been each other's One True Love, however, it's unclear whether the latter's marriage to Eddie would have lasted anyway.
  • Home and Away: Belle was killed off, apparently paving the way for Aden and Nicole.
  • How I Met Your Mother had this with Robin/Ted/The Mother in the series finale. Robin stopped hanging out with the gang not only because she’s busy with her job but she couldn’t stand Ted and The Mother enjoying themselves and that her ex-husband is there. In the end, it turns out the Mother died and Ted got the permission from his kids to date Robin again.
  • JAG: An unusual example in "Pilot Error", in that it was the object of both parties' affection, Harm's friend and Annie's husband, rather than one of the competitors, who dies.
  • Jane the Virgin technically ended the Michael/Jane/Rafael triangle halfway through season 2 by having Jane choose and marry Michael, but with Rafael still in the picture, still being Jane's friend, and them sharing a child, viewers speculated that it was only a matter of time before the triangle resurfaced again. Eventually it was resolved for good with Michael's death, clearing the path for a possible Jane/Rafael reunion.
    • Undone in the season 4 finale, when Michael is revealed to be alive.
  • Justified: Boyd Crowder has liked Ava for quite some time but she was married to his brother Bowman. However, Bowman committed Domestic Abuse and Ava ends up shooting him dead. When he hears what happened, Boyd is quite thrilled that Ava is single once again (he did not really care much for his brother or the way he treated Ava).
  • MADtv (1995): Parodied in one skit, where two lovers are trapped in the middle of open water, along with their beautiful diving instructor. The second the husband goes with the female diving instructor, Kelly Clarkson, Kelly dies.
  • Neighbours: Killed off Bridget for this reason and this reason alone. Apparently the writers didn't want to ruin the apparently endless opportunities for a good teenage romance plot by a marriage. It was a storyline that many fans hated because the two were always portrayed as happily married and madly in love.
  • Noah's Arc: Dre at the end of season 2, freeing up Wade to be with Noah again.
  • Once Upon a Time: In the first half of season 3, Emma struggles between her feelings for her son's father Neal and those for Captain Hook. Eventually Neal pulls a Heroic Sacrifice and Emma and Hooks end up together by the finale.
    • Rumpelstiltskin was involved in two love triangles that ended this way.
      • Even better, he had a hand in killing both of them.
  • Outlander: In season 2, Claire's 20th century husband Frank dies in 1968, thus freeing her to research her 18th century One True Love Jamie and Time Travel back to him (as she had promised her husband that she would never try to research his fate).
  • Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (both the original and the reboot) has a variation on this where Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk are best friends and a pair of Private Investigators. Jeff has a crush on Marty's wife (fiancée in the reboot) Jeannie which he would have been far too honorable to act on until Marty dies in the first episode.... matters get a bit more complicated when Marty comes back as a ghost only Jeff can see.
  • Revenge (2011): All of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke's love interests except for Jack Porter were Killed Off for Real. Aiden Mathis was killed by Victoria Grayson right after Emily finally got her revenge and cleared her father's name. Daniel Grayson died protecting Emily, and this was long after the Daniel/Emily ship had been sunk to the bottom of the ocean (though Daniel had redeemed himself before his death). Ben Hunter, a fourth option introduced in Season Four and one who was never really a serious contender, even compared to Daniel, was killed in one of the last episodes by an assassin. That left Childhood Friend Jack as Emily's final and true love interest.
  • Revolution: In the first season finale, Nora tells Rachel that Miles has feelings for her, despite the fact that Nora and Miles had just hooked up and rekindled an old flame together. Not long after, it's Nora who takes a round to her liver and dies in Miles' arms.
  • Smallville: Temporary Love Interests Kyla and Alicia dies so Clark could go back to being crazy over Lana.
  • Tayong Dalawa (lit. The Two of Us): Filipino primetime drama, where this is rather overdone. The show's title is an ambiguous title. It could either mean the two half-brothers, or one of them and the girl. It gets hyped up in a Tonight, Someone Dies preview, and is nicely (in a narrative sense) subverted when the girl dies. This underscores the point of the series, which is about the two brothers putting aside their differences becoming family.
  • Terra Nova: Josh wants to bring his girlfriend there from the future, even going so far as to make a deal with the Sixers to do so. His pretty female friend Skye decides to help, despite the fact that she obviously likes him. The Sixers manage to get his girlfriend on the next pilgrimage, but she dies immediately after coming through the time fracture when the Phoenix Group sends through a suicide bomber.

  • In Alice Cooper's "Millie and Billie", Billie admits that he liked Millie's late husband Donald before he was murdered and "sliced up and sealed tight in Baggies" to cover up the affair they had together.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One issue of The Far Side featured two men and one woman on a desert island. One of the men gets flattened by a meteor, much to the delight of the other.

  • Averted in the French tragedy Andromaque, where the dead hypothenuse is the only one free from the All Love Is Unrequited shenanigans, which have been summed up as "Oreste loves Hermione, who loves Pyrrhus, who loves Andromaque, who loves Hector, who is dead."
  • In Hamilton, John Laurens's death near the end of Act I serves as this. Notable that he is only one side of a quadrangle, all focused on Hamilton, with another Hypotenuse, Angelica, still in play.
  • Eponine's death in Les Misérables (in the book she was more of a Stalker with a Crush than an actual romantic option, though).
  • Lancelot's death in Artus - Excalibur.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech the death of Omi Kurita left Victor Steiner-Davion heartbroken, but Isis Marik was able to snap him out of his despair. The two later married and had three children.

    Video Games 
  • In Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, there was some form of love triangle between GV, Joule & Quinn, with Joule occasionally intervene in the conversation between GV and Quinn out of jealousy. In the true ending epilogue, Joule's "passing" leaves no obstacle for Quinn to have GV to herself & GV (now wearing civilian clothing) moving on his life with Quinn, wishing happiness for Joule. That said, it should be noted that Gunvolt still seems to treat Quinn more like a close friend than a romantic interest.
  • Final Fantasy VII: The Love Triangle between Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa ends when Aerith dies. A cutscene right before the final battle implies that Tifa and Cloud end up consumating their relationship. Amazingly enough, there's still Ship-to-Ship Combat between Cloud x Aerith fans and Cloud x Tifa fans, arguing who Cloud loves. Don't forget the Cloud x Seph and Cloud x Zack fans.
  • Mass Effect 3 can do this with love triangles involving love interests from the first two games, usually by killing off the Mass Effect 2 love interest. Thane automatically dies no matter what, and Miranda, Jack, and Tali can also die, but that's up to the player's actions.
    • Can also be done with the Mass Effect love interest if it's Ashley or Kaidan that was Shepard's love interest in the original. Just have Shepard be forced to shoot them dead.
    • Can also apply to the Virmire mission if the player wants to romance Liara without being confronted by Ashley or Kaidan.
  • If you happen to be a female in Metal Gear and Otacon loves you, expect to die in a cruel, yet beautiful way. The tendency for every girl that Otacon falls in love with to die is a big contributor to his Ho Yay-addled relationship with Snake. Lampshaded in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance when Sunny mentions in an optional codec that he's hesitant to go on dates because of his experiences in the past.
  • Throughout the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time trilogy, the titular hero has two love interests: the Indian princess Farah from the first game and the Empress of Time Kaileena from the second one. He leaves the former after saving her life and hooks up with the latter in Warrior Within's canonical ending. However, in Two Thrones, Kaileena is murdered by the Big Bad early into the game and the Prince is reunited with Farah, making a case of First Girl Wins.
  • Happens in Tales of Monkey Island episode 4, when Morgan LeFlay dies.
  • Their relationship is never called love, though otherwise is handled with the subtlety of a gorilla wielding a sledgehammer, but in Xenoblade Chronicles, there's Reyn, Sharla, and Gadolt, wherein it initially appears that Reyn is a Replacement Goldfish to Sharla, but then it's revealed that humans harvested by the Mechon are made into Face Units. Gadolt was one, and so Sharla's fiance is back from the dead, complicating the nascent romance between Reyn and Sharla the story has been teasing to this point, but almost as quickly as he enters the plot, Gadolt pulls a Heroic Sacrifice and is out of the picture again.
  • Can either be played straight OR averted in Pathfinder King Maker, just like the tabletop game campaign that it is based on. There are two party members who are in a committed, but open, relationship: albeit one that has a few problems. The player can show an interest in one or both of them, regardless of the player's gender. In one of the final encounters, one of these characters normally sacrifices themself for the other leading to a Bitter Sweet Ending where the survivor develops an unhealthy habit as a result of their grief (one becomes a workaholic, the other drowns their sorrows in drink). However, if you choose to form a relationship with both of them and help them with their relationship problems, you can save them both and unlock the best ending. This underscores a major theme of the game: which is ultimately about nation-building. What allows your character to succeed in building a nation in this infamously difficult place, is their ability to communicate effectively with different types of people. Almost all of the problems that plague the region which you have to solve are ultimately caused by communication failures, deliberate or accidental: on the part of everyone from kobolds to peasants to gods and goddesses. Restoring communication between the affected parties usually solves the problem (or at least unlocks the solution), although this is by no means always a peaceful process: especially where the miscommunication was deliberate.

  • Averted very notably in Girl Genius, where a major plot arc involved the heroine and her love interest curing the other love interest of a fatal disease (okay, so they did kill him a little bit, but it was more of a rolling death, and he has recovered now).
    • An earlier hypotenuse, an actor named Lars, did die, but neither of Agatha's primary love interests was ever aware of his existence, much less his removal from the equation.