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Inferred Survival

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"It seems that reports of my... survival... have been greatly exaggerated."

In fiction, Death is relative (no, not that kind of relative!) and less than permanent at times. So just as survival is unlikely for some, death is unlikely for others.

Perhaps the Anti-Hero was Left for Dead in a Heroic Sacrifice that no one could survive, but since they Never Found the Body, and they already had a penchant for Faking the Dead, their survival isn't so far fetched. Perhaps in the supposed Bolivian Army Ending there is a power, technology or ability that, while not explicitly mentioned, could save them. Perhaps the perennial Arch-Enemy has been bested in a final showdown and, refusing the hero's offer to save them, seemingly plummeted to their doom, but the audience knows how many times this has happened.

Any time an author leaves the door ajar on a character's death to later bring them back plausibly if the plot requires it. Compare He's Just Hiding and Uncertain Doom. Often a result of Epileptic Trees and/or Fridge Logic, or even Word of God.

See also the Wild Mass Guessing Sorting Algorithm of Deadness for the odds of some characters returning.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Protagonist of Witchblade Masane Amaha supposedly died in the ending in such a way that even nigh indestructible (it caused The Tokyo Fireball once, with itself in the center) Witchblade itself wasn't left behind. However, due to the fact that this disagrees with the comic book canon (which the anime is part of), her death is called into severe question. It only get worse when you realize the ending contains equals parts Cliffhanger and Never Found the Body.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass. Complete Immortality exists in universe, and he had time to plan for what eventually happened to him, so it is possible. Word of God denied it, although this particular God has lied about who's dead before…
    • In the Movie it's revealed he actually did die but he gets ressurected
  • One Piece: Zoro's childhood Kuina was supposed to have died (and in the manga, we see the body), and now we have Identical Stranger Tashigi. This trope wouldn't come up if it weren't for how One Piece is a World of Ham where women can hold babies in their bodies for 20 months, states again and again that true friendship never ends, and that Zoro working on their promise alone isn't thematically consistent with "No one is alone at sea." Though, Word of God has shot down that Tashigi and Kuina are the same person/even remotely related to one another and that it's just coincidence. Still, in the world of One Piece, anything can happen.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Giorno Giovanna's Stand Gold Experience Requiem has the power to negate what happened, and set it back to it's beginning. Cue Part VI, the children of DIO are brought to the U.S., however, Giorno is nowhere to be found. When the universe is reset, Giorno may well have just used Gold Experience Requiem and survived. The Jorge Joestar novel says this happens.
  • 4Kids Entertainment loves applying this trope in their dubs, even when in the original Japanese version it is blatantly obvious that the character died.
  • Funimation adamantly refused to admit that anyone in Dragon Ball Z died, or if they did they were merely "in another dimension" note . The best example is in a relatively early episode in which Vegeta and Nappa arrive on Earth in the middle of a city, surrounded by curious people. Nappa makes a gesture and instantly vaporises an enormous portion of the city, forming a suitably wide crater, then mentions that everyone evacuated.
  • Despite how most chose to interpret it, the End Of Evangelion ends with this, as the narration makes clear that anyone can regain their individuality if they have the will to.
  • The fate of Chrono in the epilogue of Chrono Crusade. He is shown to have survived the final battle with Aion, but was last seen seven years later at Rosette's death. His survival to the last point of the epilogue, sixty seven years later, is not proven. Still, somebody had to be leaving those flowers on Rosette's grave every year without ever being seen...
  • Witch Hunter Robin lampshaded this regarding Robin and Amon at the end of the series.
  • Orochimaru of Naruto was absorbed by Sasuke at one point, but it was speculated by many fans he was merely suppressed and waiting for an opportunity to re-emerge. He did, and was immediately killed, but the appearance of a white snake trying to flee the battlefield hinted it wasn't so clean cut. Turns out Orochimaru's consciousness can hide in any of his cursed seals, so he came back again.
  • SiN: The Movie has SinTek owner Elexis Sinclaire fall to her death in a way ambiguous enough to set up a return for a sequel.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America dies in Dan Jurgens' Captain America vol. 3 #50. He's fine by his next appearance, and his death is never brought up again. John Ney Rieber planned to write a follow up mini-series addressing this, but it never materialized.
  • Example from The DCU: Due to the ludicrous event regarding her death, and since she was simply left for dead in a hospital, this is what some like to think happened to Dr. Light.... And lo and behold, a couple years later, an arc of Justice League of America confirmed that she survived.
  • Jean Grey has a tendency to die a lot in all kinds of adaptions. Of course, anyone familiar with the original X-Men setting knows that she is, in fact, Phoenix, and has made a career out of coming back from the dead. Thus, when she pulled a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the second X-Men movie, everybody knew she'd be coming back for the third (and she did)... her death in the Marvel 1602 timeline is also unlikely to have stuck. Apparently the characters in X-Men are pretty savvy, since her tombstone reads: Jean Grey-Summers: She Will Rise Again. It's gotten to the point where they're barely fazed at all by dying anymore. One of Cyclops's plans began with "Step 1: Die. Step 2: Come back to life," and works flawlessly. Another character remarked that Mutant Heaven doesn't have pearly gates, but a revolving door.
  • Used in character by Siryn in X-Factor. She refuses to believe her father is dead because X-Men come back from the dead all the time. This is partially treated as unhealthy denial but otherwise seems a logical enough assumption to make. He is actually dead, but indeed comes back to life a few years later.
  • Corsair was one of the victims of the "Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" arc, but unlike the various people who suffer deaths that are far more gruesome than X-Men's normal (though not to Gorn levels) his corpse was very non-brutalized. He was then buried on a habitable but uninhabited planet. Hmm.
    Fan Works 
  • The First Saniwa: The scene that plays out after Susabi breaks the laws of nature to remove permanent corruption magic from Hiromasa and Shishiō looks like he's mortally wounded and breathing out his last words with his wife by his side, though he himself denies this.
    Susabi: I'm alright. Though my powers have greatly diminished, I'm still alive. No need to worry about…
    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: The Red Skull's death looks suspiciously like teleportation while holding the Tesseract, similar to how he escapes death during Captain America: Winter Soldier by maintaining contact with the cube. Sure enough, Avengers: Infinity War confirmed that the Red Skull survived, having been teleported to Vormir by the Tesseract.
  • Star Wars: Shaak Ti has "cheated death" two or three times already, including two separate deleted scenes in Revenge of the Sith, so her official death in The Force Unleashed is met with much skepticism.
  • Star Trek:
    • Spock's death in Star Trek II was made non-permanent by a tiny little mind-meld with an unconscious McCoy.
    • Data's death in Star Trek: Nemesis was given an out by dumping all of Data's memories into B-4, implying Data's program could take over B-4's body. However, Star Trek: Picard revealed that this exact method at resurrection was attempted soon after the death, but failed due to B-4's hardware not being advanced enough.
  • Storm Shadow's death in GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, lampshaded by the director in the DVD commentary. And indeed, the character is back and alive in the sequel.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand: While the other deaths are debatable, Professor X is given an explicit setup for a return as he mentions his double, followed by The Stinger. Viewers are left to assume this method of return worked by The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past, since it's never brought up again.
  • The Jungle Book (2016): Both Louie and Kaa.
    • Louie is crushed by his temple collapsing on top of him. The end credits include a sequence where the other monkeys are digging him out, which would seem to indicate he survived, but they also show Shere Khan and it seems pretty unlikely he could have survived his death, so it's debatable whether that's supposed to be canon or not.
    • Kaa is mauled by Baloo, but Mowgli passes out right as it happens. She isn't mentioned again afterwards, so it's not clear if Baloo killed her or just scared her off. Certainly helped by the fact that Kaa is also massive (giving her great strength) and all-knowing (making her a skilled combatant), which could easily allow her to survive.

  • Powerful magicians in The Riftwar Cycle tend to find new ways to either survive death as essences of the original, or simply revive straight-out. Though this is often used to bring back a popular character after he or she died in the last series, it also serves, at times, to reinforce the permanence of death for non-magical characters.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Sandor Clegane is explicitly stated in A Feast for Crows to be dead and buried by the priest who found him dying. Clues within the chapter in question suggest otherwise to such an extent that his survival is widely accepted among readers. Might be a case of That Man Is Dead.
    • Gregor Clegane counts as well, for varying values of "alive"; shortly after he "dies," another individual fitting the same general (and unique) physical description shows up under mysterious circumstances and refuses to ever remove their armor. The TV show near-confirms this.
    • Despite the apparently fatal infliction of multiple stab wounds, this is the fandom's general consensus regarding Heroic Bastard Jon Snow. The fact that he dies in close proximity to a priest of a god who has been shown to raise the dead helps.
    • Syrio Forel, who dies offscreen, is widely suspected to be Faking the Dead. The fact that he hails from a culture that includes a society of assassins with the ability to alter their facial appearance at will makes him the perfect candidate for Wild Mass Guessing as to his current activities.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may well be the first author to find himself bitten by this trope, when he failed to produce a body or witness to Sherlock Holmes' "death" on Reichenbach Falls in "The Final Problem". After many years of fan outcry, he was forced to resurrect the Great Detective in "The Adventure of the Empty House".
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Near the end of the Shadows of the Empire book, Dash Rendar, the Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Han Solo, seems to die in a Heroic Sacrifice, although his allies Never Found the Body and there are a couple of lines about how if he did live, not informing them is very rude of him. It's like that in the easy version of the video game, too, but the hard mode shows that he survived and flew off without informing anyone. And he did show up in later works. Just not very prominently. What's a Han Solo stand-in without a Leia?
    • Luke notices that one of the paragliders on the landing platform of Xizor's palace is missing as the heroes take off in the Falcon, implying that Guri may have escaped. The sequel comic Shadows of the Empire: Evolution confirms she did.
    • A couple of characters who vanished during a particularly bloody book in the New Jedi Order survived to be the maimed semi- and actual antagonists in the Dark Nest Trilogy.
    • K'kruhk survived so many certain deaths it's almost funny. He later lampshades it:
    Cade Skywalker: K'Kruhk! But... I thought you are dead!
    K'kruhk: I died so many times before... at least that's what I heard.
  • Fans had strong suspicions that Hollyleaf in Warrior Cats survived because of the way her "death" was presented - we "see" it from the POV of a blind character who merely hears rocks caving in and automatically assumes that No-One Could Have Survived That without even trying to dig her out. The characters keep using the word "lost" instead of "died". When the other characters finally realize that she might still be alive since they Never Found the Body, they finally dig through the rubble... and find nothing, so they know she must be out there somewhere. She does return later that book.
  • A large amount of characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events are neither confirmed alive nor dead at the end, and Snicket usually points out that there's evidence to support either fate. However, some are indeed suggested to be alive: the islanders from The End, last seen leaving the island on a raft. Sunny says, "Kon-Tiki" after them, and said raft's occupants survived.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost any character on Lost, but particularly Jin. There was a lot of speculation that Juliet was still alive since Desmond survived an electromagnetic explosion in season 2. Leading many to believe Juliet would just wake up in the jungle like he did.
  • Doctor Who has done this sort of thing a lot, most particularly with the popular recurring villains The Master, Davros, and the Daleks.
  • The Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files is another example.
  • After certain point, who expected Daniel Jackson to stay dead in Stargate SG-1? Not the characters, certainly. At one point, after Daniel's last known location was a replicator ship that they're certain exploded in space (and the audience sees him get stabbed in the chest for good measure), General O'Neill refuses to hold even a memorial service because he's expecting Jackson to pop into his office by the end of the day; he does just that an episode later. Even a squad of Red Shirts cracks wise about the good doctor's tendency to die repeatedly.
  • Happens frequently on Stargate Atlantis, to the point where it gets lampshaded often. One of the most notable examples is Lt. Ford. After going rogue Colonel Kurtz style, he's last seen leading an attack on a Wraith starship that explodes (although whether or not he was actually still aboard the ship at the time is not shown). His fate is left ambiguous, and Commander Shepherd lampshades the fact that a lot of people they know have survived similar events many times before (although unlike most other characters who had this happen to them, Ford never resurfaced in a later episode before the series ended).
  • Sara Tancredi from Prison Break. The fans complained when she was killed off, so the writers took advantage of the fact her death was done off-screen for dramatic effect to bring her back.
  • The Witcher (2019) has an in-universe version: when a councilman tearfully describes how Geralt was Swallowed Whole and killed by a massive sea monster, The Bard Jaskier, who's seen the kind of feats Geralt's capable of, nonchalantly says "Ehhh, he's fine". Cue Geralt kicking open the door, covered in the monster's innards.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Goddess Eilistraee in Forgotten Realms, killed along with Qilué Veladorn whom she possessed. Even "lesser" powers like her may run multiple avatars. But then, possession ain't the same as avatar, so it would be stretched, but not too much — if not the circumstances of Qilué's own birth. Elué Silverhand was killed while possessed by Mystra, whom this accident neither deterred from acting immediately to save unborn Qilué, nor even lowered in Divine Ranks.
  • Something of a trend in Warhammer 40,000, where numerous characters seemingly deader than disco have returned later, and the persistent Continuity Snarl makes it difficult to determine when or even if a certain character died in the first place. The most well known is probably the situation with Alpharius, who was supposedly killed by Roboute Guilliman in the years following the Horus Heresy, but lots of doubt (both in and out of 'verse) has been cast on the Ultramarines' account of events, and Alpharius is certainly enough of a Magnificent Bastard to fake his own death (and that's before considering his identical twin Omegon).

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike: The deaths of Von Bolt and Hawke do this. It's certainly implied enough that Hawke survived, but Von Bolt's survival is ambiguous.
  • Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2: The Fade to Black ending makes it appear as though Captain Mitchell died during the EMP bombing, but is ambiguous enough that his return in Future Soldier many years later is plausible.
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy: It is strongly implied at the end of this first game in the long-running Jak and Daxter series that the villains, Gol and Maia, were not truly killed at the end of the game, as Samos states that they are dead, "...probably." Funnily enough, the two never make so much as a cameo appearance throughout the rest of the series, telling us that they truly are no more. Seems even Word of God can jump the shark at times.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: For a while, there was no solid proof that Zexion was dead, leading many fans to believe he was alive. When the game was remade for PS2, his death was shown in full detail. However, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] reveals that he was eventually revived as a whole being along with most of the other Organization members.
  • Silent Hill: The fate of Officer Cybil Bennett has long been a source of contention among series' fans, and Word of God has been notoriously contradictory on the subject. Silent Hill Chronicle: Lost Memories, the most famous Silent Hill information guide, stated that the Good Ending is the one which leads into the game's direct sequel, Silent Hill 3. One of the two requirements involved in obtaining this ending is killing Cybil instead of saving her with the red liquid. However, elsewhere in the same book, scenario writer Hiroyuki Owaku claims that Cybil's ultimate fate is left up to the player, causing a vocal minority to insist that the Good+ Ending is the true canon ending— despite Owaku's claim meaning that there isn't any true canon ending (between Good and Good+, anyhow; whichever the player chooses as headcanon, Cybil's fate has no bearing on the events of Silent Hill 3 either way).
    • A situation mirrored by his take on James Sunderland's fate in Silent Hill 2. Despite Silent Hill 4 trying to override Owaku, he said that whatever ultimately became of James is what that player believes should have happened to him, and that there is no canon resolution.
      • It's never explicitly said in Silent Hill 4 what the fate of James is as of SH4. It's revealed that James's father has lost contact with his son and his wife, but that still leaves James's fate ambiguous, considering how it can be argued that every ending has a way to account for James losing contact with his father, be it James committing suicide, still being in Silent Hill, or going into hiding to avoid being charged with his wife's murder. 4 is also vague as to which trip to Silent Hill his father is referring to, as it's very, very unlikely that James would have told anyone where he was going the second time around
  • Kenny in The Walking Dead was implied to have been killed by zombies in a Heroic Sacrifice during the last episode, but his body was never seen, so more than a few players saw it coming when he appeared in the Episode 2 of the second game.
  • A weird inversion of Never Found the Body has lead many to believe that Minamimoto from The World Ends with You survived. The things is that Reapers normally don't leave bodies, but they found his.
  • After Dekar's Heroic Sacrifice in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals/Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Guy remarks that Dekar is too dumb to die. He's right.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Just before the Final Boss, Jasper Batt Jr. reveals the severed heads of Sylvia, Henry, and Shinobu. Over the course of the fight, it's revealed that, at the very least, Henry's and Sylvia's heads are props, and that they're still alive, as they appear to assist Travis. While Shinobu doesn't reappear at all and her survival is not explicitly confirmed, the game makes the possibility real on the basis that Jasper just wanted to spite Travis and thus made him think that Shinobu was killed; her appearance in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and No More Heroes III makes it an easy given that her death in 2 was fake as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted with Terra in Teen Titans; the writers did it intentionally.
  • Expected with Jet's ambiguous death in Avatar: The Last Airbender, whose injuries (which didn't seem that bad in comparison to others') weren't explained and whose final fate was never explicitly explained, but Word of God stated he died, as do the Avatar Extras for "The Ember Island Players".
  • Beast Wars. Very few "dead" characters suffered more damage than surviving ones who were tossed into a CR chamber and popped out just fine. Except for Dinobot, and maybe Tigerhawk if he was completely vaporized, there's not one of them who wouldn't be just fine if someone were to find them and fix them up. In the comics, it's already happened to Ravage. The second Dinobot is even last seen on a ship that is going down, which is shorthand for "just wait three episodes or so" in cartoon-land. There just... weren't any more episodes.
  • In The Transformers: The Movie, the Decepticons brutally murder the crew of an Autobot shuttle, including Prowl, Ratchet, Brawn, and Ironhide. While it is pretty unambiguous that Prowl, Ironhide and Ratchet died, several people insist that Brawn actually survived, since he was only shot once in the shoulder and has taken tougher injuries in the past. Plus, he showed up in a shot in a later episode (though this was almost definitely an animation error, since the Decepticon Bonecrusher was with him) and was not mentioned among the dead Autobots in another. This theory is reliant on the idea that the Decepticons would leave Brawn alive for the duration of the shuttle ride from Cybertron to Earth, of course, though Brawn could easily have played dead, as many in active shooter situations have done to survive.
  • King Sombra is the only villain in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic to be killed. Just as his body shatters to pieces though, his horn can be seen flying off, fully intact. This wouldn't be much, if it weren't for the fact that, during the episode itself, a small piece of his horn was enough to spread his Corruption inside a magical barrier. King Sombra is an Equinoid Abomination, so its possible he could regrow his body from the horn. Due to his lack of characterization, many assume he'll be back eventually. The comics took advantage of this, and the show eventually followed suit in its final season, though there Sombra was definitively Killed Off for Real one episode after his revival.