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Inverse Dialogue Death Rule

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"Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings."
— Robert Benchley

The Inverse Dialogue Death Rule requires that the more important a character is, the longer his or her death will take. While Mooks and other cannon fodder tend to die from a single Instant Death Bullet that would be Only a Flesh Wound for a more important character, the deaths of characters who have had significant amounts of dialogue (or at least screen time) usually last much longer.


Applies most strongly to short-term villains, especially of the Monster of the Week and Evil Minions varieties, but can also apply to heroes, who often manage at least some pithy Last Words, if not a full blown Final Speech. Of course if a writer is in the mood to surprise you, you may wind up with a character Killed Mid-Sentence.

See also Long-Lasting Last Words, in which all the time left is using for a large monologue before dying.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hellsing: After Pip Bernadette gets stabbed through the chest by Zorin Blitz's thrown scythe, he has enough time to deliver a final rousing speech to fledgling vampire Seras Victoria, give her a first and last kiss, and a final request that she drink his blood to become a true vampire. She does, and Pip eventually recovering as an added bonus. Then again at the end, after Seras shoots the Major, he also has time for a Robotic Reveal and a final speech.
  • In Naruto, the death or near-death of a major character can take the better part of an episode, and sometimes even spill over to the next. Then there's the funeral...
  • In Bleach, mooks usually get taken out with a sword slash and are forgotten, higher-level subordinate villains may get a few minutes to die, but every major character death is apparently contractually entitled to a half-to-whole-episode flashback either immediately before death or sometimes after it.

  • In Avengers: Infinity War, the disintegration caused by Thanos' snap takes place over the course of a few seconds for most characters, with the exception of Spider-Man, whose disintegration takes a full minute. Why? No reason, except he's Marvel's most famous character and the third most famous superhero.
  • In Battle Royale, all the major characters get long drawn out deaths, with the huge hordes of enemies at the end of the film all stopping their attacking to let characters like Shiori Kitano spend five full minutes making peace with the world.
  • Subverted in Brick - Dode is a very important character, but he gets the shit punched out of him and then is promptly shot in the face before he can get a word in edgewise.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Serenity. One major character, Book, and one throwaway character, Mr. Universe, get drawn-out deaths with the standard speech. On the other hand, Wash's death is instantaneous.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir not only takes forever to be killed (arrow after arrow, and overcranked as well), but he takes quite a while to die, complete with a speech to Aragorn—and that after waiting patiently through Aragorn's big duel with the chief Uruk-Hai.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, Trinity takes for-goddamn-ever to die while giving a long speech to Neo about all the things she wished she had said last time she died - which had been an aversion of the trope.

  • The Iliad: Although scores of heroes die during the epic's pages, most of them die without so much as a word before eating dust. However, the most pivotal death in the book, Patroclus' killing by Hector, has a long final speech by the victim, in which Patroclus warns Hector of his impeding death.

    Live Action Television 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Major and semi-major villains usually take several seconds to 'dust'. For instance, in The Harvest, Luke has time to fall from the stage to the floor before dusting, but run-of-the-mill vamps most often dust before the stake is removed. This may be loosely based on the vampire's power, given that The Master was reduced to a skeleton but never dust.
    • Also applies to the good guys. Jenny, Joyce, Tara, and Anya all died quick deaths. On the other hand, when Buffy sacrificed herself at the end of Season Five, she takes about a minute to die - and from her expression, it was an agonizing minute.
    • Could also be considered a subversion because all those characters were very important, yet all (save Buffy) died almost instantly.
    • Hilariously mocked in The Movie, when The Dragon (Peewee Herman) spends the entire rest of the movie in his death throes? Clear past the closing credits.
  • Subverted in NCIS with Kate Todd, who gets sniped straight in the center of her forehead and dies abruptly.
  • Subverted with Damar near the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, who despite being rather important to the plot and the universe went out with a one-word final speech.

  • Ubiquitous in opera - except in comedies, which, yes, they do exist (you've probably heard of The Barber of Seville, no?). But tragic opera is rather well known and parodied for long death arias. Who would have thought a character dying of consumption would have that much strength left in her lungs?

    Video Games 
  • In the Assassin's Creed game (besides Assassin's Creed II), the major assassination targets are capable of giving entire soliloquies, followed up by an explanation of important plot points, after you've stabbed them in the throat. It's implied that there is some kind of telepathy, or memory alteration going on.
  • Eternal Sonata has Claves, who has a dying monologue that drags on forever.
  • Drakan: The guy who dies at the beginning performs an infodump that lasts forever... while gasping and struggling the whole way, as though on his last breath.
  • Metal Gear: Big Boss' dying monologue in Metal Gear Solid 4 lasts at least a good five minutes (after a good ten-minute exposition, no less). Many other bosses in the series also take a while to actually die, but his takes the cake.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Mooks die easily, those with Nominal Importance have a final line or two, and major antagonist Zelgius, being critical to the plot of both games, has an extended scene post-battle in Radiant Dawn complete with Flashback before expiring.