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"The innocent die while the guilty laugh. WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?"
Tombstone, Freedom Force

A standard subversion of a Karma Houdini. This trope describes situations where a villain gets away with their crimes — but later they painfully discover when the long-delayed punishment suddenly lands on them.

Certain circumstances and actions can void the warranty, resulting in the vicious delayed retribution of Karma, related phenomena, and even their own mistakes:

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If one of these conditions is met, the Karma from their previous actions returns in full force and everyone turns on them.

This usually provides a Catharsis Factor by pulling the rug out from under the former Houdini. In this case, the Smug Snake, Villain with Good Publicity, Invincible Villain, Complete Monster, etc. realizes they're at someone's mercy and the villain that fans Love to Hate (or is just a Hate Sink) is finally punished. Both the characters and the audience turn the untouchable evil into a Butt-Monkey.

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Of course, Karma may get vindictive and make even minor blemishes seriously punished while good deeds are belittled. The expiration of a Karma Houdini Warranty may occasionally turn the character into The Woobie or a Jerkass Woobie for the audience... but this isn't the case in-universe. The other characters (and the author) usually believe that the character is getting their just deserts, and show No Sympathy. They might try to use a Freudian Excuse to justify their actions but get shut down quickly. If it is the first condition that is met, then it may be a case of Redemption Equals Affliction.

Compare Adaptational Karma, where a character who got away with their actions in the original work is given their comeuppance in the adaptation. Contrast Offscreen Karma, in which the character's karmic retribution is explicitly mentioned to have happened but isn't shown, often because it would be too complicated to provide details for or because it's (supposedly) more satisfying that the retribution reduces the Karma Houdini to a mere In-Universe footnote.

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Warning: because this trope requires someone initially be a Karma Houdini, which is a spoiler, all spoilers will be unmarked.

The Karma Houdini Warranty is now available in our Trope Co. catalogue!


Examples:

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    Fairy Tales 
  • "How Jack Sought The Golden Apples": The two older princes originally manage to convince their father that they cured him and Jack tried to poison him. After the princess arrives, the truth comes out. Their father imprisons them.
  • In "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes", the wicked mother who attempted to starve her middle daughter to death isn't mentioned in the epilogue. This is often taken to imply she died off-screen.

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz got away with murder, theft, and plagiarism while he was alive but was killed in 1942 by a falling church bell. But even in death, people still flocked to his concerts and he continued to throw many a party. It wasn't until 96 years after Héctor's death that both Lands of the Living and Dead learned the truth and Ernesto faced the consequences.
  • While the Almighty Tallest occasionally suffer a setback or misfortune in Invader Zim, their lie to get rid of Zim allows Operation Impending Doom II to progress unimpeded. In Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, Zim finally figures out what happened and forces the entire Irken Fleet to come to Earth which ultimately ends with the Tallest trapped and tormented in a hell dimension with no way to escape.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part sees President Business, who was rather Easily Forgiven for his actions in the previous film, callously abandon everyone to the mercy of The Duplo Aliens. When he returns at the end, he's snagged by one of the celebratory fireworks and sent flying into a store full of them.
  • At the end of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the bigoted social worker Mrs. Grunion, who has spent the entirety of the movie trying to separate Mr. Peabody and Sherman, seems to get off scot-free when she is taken to the past by Agamemnon and marries him... But if you know your Greek tragedy, you know it won’t be long until Grunion isn’t just unhappy but quite dead.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer is blasted with the Elements of Harmony, left crying and rotting in the crater, and is seemingly forgiven by the Mane Six for her actions. Come My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, and Sunset is still disliked by the entire student body, and even her friends don't particularly trust her.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Principal Cinch of Crystal Prep does many horrible acts, including blackmailing the Human Twilight to compete in the games and later pressuring her to cheat using the collected magic which put multiple lives in danger. She doesn't get much onscreen punishment though, besides the fact that with the games being a tie she has lost her "perfect reputation" of Crystal Prep always winning and being unable to prove that CHS has magic without looking insane, she just walks off before she can be embarrassed anymore. Come "Dance Magic", it is mentioned that Cadance has become the Principal of Crystal Prep, implying that Cinch's actions have gotten her fired and ruined the legacy she tried desperately to be remembered for.
  • Averted in Pinocchio, but nearly became a reality when a rumored deleted scene revealed the fate of Honest John and Gideon. Shortly before Pinocchio goes off to rescue Geppetto from Monstro the Whale, John and Gideon run into him for a 3rd time and attempt to swindle the boy once more. Realizing the men's true nature, Pinocchio avoids them and they are both apprehended and placed under arrest by the police.
    • Played straight in another adaptation where the duo steal Pinocchio's money by tricking him into burying it, claiming that it will grow into a money tree, and proceeding to dig it up themselves when the puppet leaves. At the end of the movie, Pinocchio runs into them again and sees that not only have they become destitute beggars but the one that had been pretending to be blind previously is now actually blind.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, Homer's selfish antics have more repercussions than is usual in the original series - especially for his relationship with Marge (though they naturally end up back together in the end).
    • This applies to Mr. Burns as well. He's never been a very likable man, especially in the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-part episode, but he really shows his despicableness when he hogs all of his resources for himself when the town is cut off from the world. And when a few of the townsfolk swallowed their pride and begged him to spare some of his supplies, he coldly sics his hounds on them. At the end of the movie when everything is resolved, the townspeople invade his mansion and steal all of his property, leaving him without even a dime (though he somehow does manage to get his riches back).
  • Plucky Duck from Tiny Toon Adventures has been known to exploit and sell out his friends and practically get away with it. This is not the case in How I Spent My Vacation, Spring Break Special and Night Ghoulery. In these three specials, he is kicked around, humiliated and thrown under the bus. Whether this is disproportionately unfair or not depends on the viewer.
  • Starscream spends the first two seasons of The Transformers plotting to overthrow Megatron but never suffers any repercussions that last longer than an episode or two. Come The Transformers: The Movie, he waits until Megatron is heavily damaged and has him jettisoned into space while declaring himself Decepticon leader. He even holds a bombastic coronation only to see it crashed by a revived Megatron (now Galvatron) who shoots him dead on the spot.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho 2: All American Girl opens with Patrick Bateman from the first film being killed by this film's Villain Protagonist Rachel.
  • In the Korean Film Assassination, Seok-Jin Yum, who is a Korean who supported Japanese during the colonial era and indirectly involved in killing countless people, was found not guilty after his arrest after the Korean independence in 1945. Just when he was about to settle into a normal life, On-Yuk Ahn, who is a main protagonist of the movie, comes back from her retirement of killing to finish her job along with Seok-Jin's former accomplice. In the end, she did succeed and the movie ends with Seok-Jin, now bullet-ridden and walking away from them, finally succumbing to his wounds and collapsing on the barren ground, symbolizing his pathetic and cowardly life and death.
  • Avengers: Infinity War ends with Villain Protagonist Thanos succeeding at his goal in murdering half of all life in the universe, and retiring to live on a farm. Avengers: Endgame opens with the Avengers tracking him down a few days later, and an enraged Thor cutting off his arm and his head in short succession...but he still "wins" because he destroyed the stones before they arrived, ensuring his work could never be undone. Five years later, the Avengers discovery a way to fix things and travel back to the past to collect all the Infinity Stones and Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but Thanos' Truer to the Text past self travels after them to finish what his Alternate Self started. After an intense Final Battle, Thanos puts on the Infinity Gauntlet and tries to kill all life in the universe and recreate it with a Badass Fingersnap... and nothing happens, because Tony Stark's affixed the Stones to his own Gauntlet, and he uses them to snap out Thanos and his entire army instead, though at the cost of his own life. Good riddance, Mad Titan.
  • For Your Eyes Only begins with Blofeld (or, at least, a suspicious-looking bald man who has many of Blofeld’s characteristics) tormenting James Bond with a booby-trapped helicopter before Bond turns the tables by regaining control over the chopper and has him at his mercy when Bond uses the helicopter's skids to capture the villain's wheelchair, lifting him into the skies. He even begs Bond to spare him, but Bond won't have any and drops him down a tall industrial chimney stack to his death.
  • I Care a Lot: Marla appears to have gotten away with everything and become the multi millionaire she always wanted to be by exploiting the elderly on a mass scale. Then the guy from the opening who threatened her shows up and makes good on his promise, shooting and killing her.
  • The entire plot of Promising Young Woman revolves around the protagonist Cassie enforcing this trope upon the men who got away with raping her friend Nina back in college (which led her to kill herself), as well as the people who helped them get away with it. And she gets one last good one at the very end when she finally confronts the rapist Al and he manages to kill her... except Cassie, who was strongly hinted by that point to have a death wish, prepared for that by first sending the video of Al raping Nina to his former lawyer Jordan, who bullied Nina into dropping the charges and has hated himself for it ever since, as well as information on where to find her if she went missing. The end of the film has the police showing up at Al's wedding to arrest him for Cassie's murder.
  • Sleepaway Camp: Aunt Martha. She wants a little girl to raise, not a boy. So she decides that when she is left with custody of Peter due to the death of his entire family, she has a right to force him to adopt his sister Angela's identity. The results of her decision are very nasty, to say the least. We don't find out what became of her until Return to Sleepaway Camp with a Freeze-Frame Bonus that shows a newspaper clipping about what Aunt Martha did to Peter and mentioning that she is in police custody. So presumably she did face the consequences of her actions, albeit offscreen.
  • In Titanic, Cal Hockley the asshole fiance seems likely to die on the boat, but manages in the end to sneak onto one of the lifeboats and survive the wreck. However, we learn later that he eventually lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929 and Ate His Gun.
  • Ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes from Meet the Parents gets away with stressing out Greg throughout the movie by giving a half-assed apology before quickly returning to his old ways of spying on him. In the sequel Meet the Fockers, he drugs Greg with truth serum after suspecting him of having an illegitimate son, causing him to make an ass of himself in front of both families. Everyone finds out what Jack did the next day and are rightfully angry with him. To rub salt on the wounds, he learns that Greg has no bastard son at all. This causes Jack to have a Jerkass Realization for real.
    • Denny, Pam's pothead brother, never gets any comeuppance for framing Greg for smoking marijuana in the first film. In the second, however, Dina mentions that he was sent to military school, so it seems that karma caught up with him off-screen.
    • Naturally, Jack is back to his old suspicious self in Little Fockers, even though Greg is now in charge of the nursing department and spends his days in a suit rather than scrubs. When an attractive young woman expresses an interest in Greg, Jack is quick to suspect Greg of infidelity, even though Greg has never been anything but a devoted husband and father. It's not until Jack does his "living lie detector" bit again does he realize he was wrong, just in time to have a heart attack that Greg, thanks to his medical training and experience, is able to save him from.
  • The Purge has the New Founding Fathers who created a yearly night where all crime is legal, causing normal every day people to become psychotic killers, innocent people dying left and right, and other horrific human behavior, all to weed out lower class citizens. This goes on for nearly 25 years until U.S. Senator Charlene Roan runs for president with the intention of having the Purge outlawed. They obviously didn't want that so they revoked a rule used to protect them and other politions to have her assassinated before the election. They realized too late that they too are fair game. They finally overstay their hand in The Forever Purge when they lose control over the Purge, get overthrown by the Ever After Purgers, and are blamed by very angry non-Purgers for causing everything to go From Bad to Worse.
  • Impled in The Wicker Tree, the Spiritual Successor to The Wicker Man (1973) with Lord Summerisle. A flashback has Christopher Lee playing the mentor of the Big Bad, with his look resembling Summerisle and his dialogue hinting that he had to relinquish power and flee from his island home when his cult decided upon him as the next sacrifice just as Sgt. Howie had predicted would happen. He doesn't live long enough to see his pupil's own cult that he inspired come to fruition.
  • RoboCop 3 features the downfall of OCP. The company is already in a downward spiral when the film opens with being bought out by Kanemitsu, it's seems like the Old Man suffered Offscreen Karma as it's implied he was forced out, the CEO replacing the Old Man is a moron, Johnson's attempt to force the police to do their bidding results in Reed and the rest of Metro West defecting to the rebels, Dr. Lazarus outs the truth about the Rehabs' actions, OCP's stock tanks because of the combination of the last two items, OCP's headquarters is destroyed, and the CEO is fired. Kanemitsu is the only one who doesn't suffer any repercussions.
  • New Jack City: At the end, Nino Brown manages to avoid justice by using his trial to shift the blame for running a criminal drug empire onto one of his subordinates, even taking time after he's exonerated to gloat about it to the detectives who were investigating him. While he's talking to the press outside the courtroom, an old man who was bullied out of his home by Nino's gang earlier in the film walks up and shoots him on the spot.
  • An unusual example because the Karma Houdini is a building: Because The Shining ends with the Overlook Hotel being Spared by the Adaptation, the film ends with the implication that it will continue to terrorize guests and driving any caretakers to homicidal madness. It took until the adaptation of Doctor Sleep (a whopping 39 years later) for the audience to discover that the hotel had long since been abandoned, and the film climaxes with Danny Torrance blowing up the whole place sky-high.
  • Star Wars:
    • Throughout the first six seasons of The Clone Wars, General Grievous always manages to escape with his life no matter what attempts any of the protagonists make to catch or kill him. His immunity finally expires halfway though Revenge of the Sith, which runs concurrently with the latter portion of Season 7 of The Clone Wars.
    • At the end of The Phantom Menace, Nute Gunray is arrested and tried four times for the invasion of Naboo, but the fact that he's still Trade Federation Viceroy by Attack of the Clones means he got off scott free. In The Clone Wars, he is captured by the Republic on Rodia, only to be liberated by Asajj Ventress en route to Coruscant for trial. Karma eventually does catch up to him in Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin/Darth Vader finally butchers him along with the rest of the Separatist leaders.
    • Emperor Palpatine himself. After decades of tyranny, corruption, and getting away with a lot of evil actions in the canon, he finally gets his first major comeuppance at the end of Return of the Jedi. And despite his best efforts to bring himself back from the brink decades later in The Rise of Skywalker, he gets destroyed by Rey and the spirits of all the Jedi while his First/Final Order collapses almost immediately after being in power for a measly year. In Star Wars Legends it took a couple more tries to put him down for good.
    • Psycho for Hire Bounty Hunter Aurra Sing was a Force-sensitive psychopath who briefly mentored Boba Fett and terrorized the galaxy for decades. In Solo she's mentioned to have been Killed Offscreen, while in Star Wars Legends she's imprisoned by Jacen Solo in Legacy of the Force.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home: This gets Played With in regards to Mysterio, who had managed to end Spider-Man: Far From Home by posthumously outing Peter Parker as Spider-Man and framing him for his own murder. In the legal sense, he was bested when Matt Murdock manages to get the charges dropped against Peter, but socially, he can't go anywhere without being ostracized by the public or J. Jonah Jameson. In the end, Mysterio's actions lead Peter to getting Doctor Strange to cast a spell to erase his identity from the public conscious, but it backfires and brings over both cinematic iterations of Spider-Man, their respective rogues they first fought, and Venom into the MCU, which results in the death of Aunt May and forces Peter to erase all knowledge of himself from the universe to save it. So, while Mysterio got his revenge and made Peter suffer for it, it was all for naught in the end.
  • Ted: Despite kidnapping Ted, Donny mostly got away with his vile actions. Come Ted 2, however, and Donny goes after Ted again when he goes to Comic-Con. Subsequently, after he injures John, Ted exposes Donny to the security using the same trick he used to lure him out of hiding, and Donny is last seen being dragged away by the guards to presumably be arrested for stalking, kidnapping, and attempted murder.
  • The Irishman: About two-thirds of the way through the film, karma gets rough with most of the characters. Jimmy Hoffa's career implodes due to the mob and he gets whacked by Frank. Then Tony Pro gets convicted for a murder that was discussed earlier, Sally Bugs is murdered due to a misunderstanding, Russ is convicted of conspiring to kill a witness and becomes The Atoner, Fat Tony goes to jail and gets prostate cancer and Frank serves time in prison for fraud and is abandoned by his family and left to die alone in his old age, wondering Was It Really Worth It?.
  • In French Connection II, Charnier, who managed to escape at the end of the first film, gets on a boat and attempts to escape once again, only to end up in the sights of Popeye's pistol sights. The film immediately ends with a hard cut to black as Popeye finally manages to shoot Chariner dead.
  • In ''Vertigo, Judy initially gets off scot-free for her involvement in the murder of Madeleine, but when she gets exposed at the end of the movie, she dies the same way Madeleine did.

    Light Novels 
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Accelerator didn't quite go unpunished, but he might as well have. What happened? Beaten up and kicked out of a program he actually didn't want to participate in in the first place. What had he done? Killed ten thousand teenage (kinda) girls and planned to kill another ten thousand after that. So that people would quit messing with him. Maybe. After this, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn... and takes a bullet in the forehead in the process of saving the remaining ten thousand from going insane from a virus and being killed off. Permanent brain damage that leaves him unable to speak properly, use higher brain functions or motor control without outside assistance (which, ironically, comes from the other ten thousand girls he didn't kill). And then he went and Took a Level in Badass to levels of power beyond what he originally had before the accident, all fueled by his desire to keep being The Atoner.
    • Othinus was hit with this big time too. Being one of the strongest characters in the series and a literal Physical God that only few figures had hopes of matching against, and she pretty much kicked the ass of everyone including Touma himself. Add the fact that she was the leader of a terrorist organization, is a Bad Boss to her subjects, tormented the lives of everyone that stood against her, succeeded in destroying the world, and finally tortured Touma to the point of successfully breaking him. The moment she pulls a Heel–Face Turn, her warranty immediately expires. The entire world wants her dead, she loses her power and is shrunk down to Fun Size, is forced to rely on people she once looked down on for protection, and catches a cold.
  • Bleach Cant Fear Your Own World: This is how Tokinada dies - stabbed In the Back by a random nobody out for revenge, all because he didn't remember to close the door of the mansion behind him. Because Tokinada is such an irredeemable monster that everyone in the entire Soul Society hates him and wants to kill him, and all he had to do was give them the slightest opportunity. Cue Villainous Breakdown on his part as he realizes he's dying the most pointless death possible at the hands of someone of no consequence.
  • Kirei, Zouken, and Gilgamesh do a lot of dirty deeds in Fate/Zero, and they not only get away unscathed but, in the case of Kirei and Gilgamesh, they get what they want. This warranty lasts for ten years, and they end up paying their debts in several gruesome ways.
  • In the Monogatari series, Deshuu Kaiki seems to get away with scamming kids with little more than Koyomi's stern warning for him to never return. When he does return, he is implied to have gained some remorse over his past actions (not that he's going to admit it), so he goes out of his way to save Koyomi from a Snake God-influenced Nadeko and convince her to move on from her obsession with him, even if he has little to gain, or without the direct involvement of Kanbaru, the only person in town he has ever shown kindness to. And all it got him was a potentially fatal wound from one of the boys he scammed in the past.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, King AultClay Melromarc and his daughter Princess Malty spend the entire first story arc screwing over Naofumi, getting him accused of crimes he didn't commit, and hampering his progression through the use of their positions of power. They continue to get away with it until Queen Mirelia returns from aboard and immediately puts her foot down. The backlash of their actions is so great that it had to be contained in a mini-arc. The king, however, is given a Freudian Excuse for his actions and will eventually pull a Heel–Face Turn. Things for Malty instead will only get worse and worse.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • During the Phantom Bullet arc, Endou and her Girl Posse take advantage of Shino to throw wild parties at her home. They're ultimately arrested for breaking and entering after a neighbor files a noise complaint on Shino's home because of her antics, and Shino refuses to cover for her. However, after the GGO fiasco, the three return and threaten Shino with a gun, in Japan while Shino is under surveillance because of Red Eyes Xaxa's "parting message"; she fails to disengage the safety, upon which Shino disarms her, shows her where she went wrong, and takes a perfect shot at a can before casually handing the gun back and walking away, leaving Endou stunned on her knees.
    • Progressive has an example of the "sorry for his actions" type in Nezha the blacksmith. He helps his guildmates scam people out of their weapons and sell them so that they can keep pace with the rest of the "clearers," since they'd fallen behind while trying to help Nezha (who's essentially legally blind in-game as a result of a Full-Dive Nonconformity). Eventually, Kirito and Asuna see through his trick, and he's nearly Driven to Suicide out of guilt, but they convince him to reallocate his skills to help others. By switching some skills around so that he no longer has smithing, Nezha is able to master the chakram, and helps save the clearers from the boss of the second floor. Afterward, someone notices that Nezha has a rare weapon and asks about it, leading to Nezha's crimes being exposed and him nearly being killed for (supposedly) indirectly causing someone's death, until his guildmates take responsibility. The guild is forced to sell their ill-gotten equipment, thus putting them back to square one.
    • The surviving members of the Laughing Coffin guild, all of whom gleefully killed other players despite full knowledge that doing so would kill them in real life, all get off scot-free for their actions in SAO because all the blame for any deaths was placed on Akihiko Kayaba. Several of their members return in later arcs to menace Kirito again, and karma finally catches up to them: XaXa and Johnny Black are arrested and incarcerated after perpetrating the Death Gun incident (although the latter escapes justice long enough to attack and nearly kill Kirito in real life), and PoH himself is subjected to a Fate Worse than Death by Kirito.

    Music 

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Orthodox Christianity, while it doesn't believe in Karma (as sins can be repented and destroyed), states that that's why God allow unrepentant sinners to thrive. He uses their conditions and attitude in mysterious ways, and still waits for them to repent, but if they are not... The result after death is well-known.
    • Satan gets away with being the source of all evil for centuries until Judgement Day when he finally gets defeated and cast into the lake of fire.
  • Zoroastrianism contains an even better example, since Angra Mainyu is equally as powerful as Ahura Mazda, but will inevitably be defeated and destroyed entirely because evil is self-defeating, rather than due to the source of goodness being stronger.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Heliod, the Top God of Theros, suffers little to no repercussions by the end of Godsend. Not only is he a massive Jerkass God, fond of smiting people for the smallest slights against him, but he also murders his champion Elspeth immediately after she goes through hell to kill Xenagos to stop him from destroying the whole plane. All for the extremely petty reason of her being a Planeswalker. The closest thing he gets to any recompense is his fellow Gods hating him, why doesn't matter to him anyways, and Ajani starting a movement to stop worshiping the Gods, which could be trouble down the line due to Theros' Gods being powered by belief. Karma finally catches up with him during Theros: Beyond Death. First, Elspeth manages to literally escape the underworld. She follows this up by convincing the people of Theros that her spear is actually his own divine one, causing his weapon to shatter when they clash. He surrenders, which leads to Erebos dragging him to the underworld and damning him to be weighed down by a boulder, either for all eternity or until all worship of him dies out.

    Theatre 
  • Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana wasn't punished for deserting Santuzza and smooching with a married woman because the Sicilian villagers allowed him to. However, when Alfio finds out, he kills Turiddu in a knife fight offstage, with a Screaming Woman revealing his final fate.
  • Abigail Williams of The Crucible is responsible for everything that goes wrong through her accusations and manipulations, and didn't give a damn about all the lives she ruined and destroyed as long as she could have John Proctor all to herself. After John was hanged, Abigail fled Salem and escaped scot-free. The epilogue revealed that Abigail was forced to turn to prostitution to survive and didn't live to see her 18th birthday.

    Visual Novels 
  • Happens many times in the Ace Attorney series. Many of the Big Bads and some minor culprits have committed heinous crimes in the past, often including one crime that no one has solved, and gotten away with it for years. Naturally, you are the one who finally uncovers their misdeeds and sends them to their long-deserved comeuppance. Examples include:
    • Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix Wright's main opponent in the first game, is an Amoral Attorney prosecutor who does whatever it takes to win, including coaching witnesses and concealing (but not forging) evidence. After losing two cases to Phoenix, he starts to realize that the defendant isn't automatically guilty and reconsiders his ways. Immediately afterward, he is framed for murder (and has to relive his guilt over the death of his father in the ensuing trial), the police chief tries something similar, rumors fly about all his dirty dealings, and he learns — to his horror — that he won the case that made his name using forged evidence. All of the above is probably justified since the Ace Attorney courts are a crooked system. They liked Edgeworth as a man who would go for a conviction and ask no questions; when he started honestly pursuing the truth he became a threat. Fortunately, with Phoenix's help, he rises above it all and becomes an Internal Reformist.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
      • Redd White uses his company, Bluecorp, to get blackmail material on people so he can control them. For years, he built himself up with this business model, even driving some people to suicide. When Mia Fey comes close to exposing him, he murders her and tries to pin it on Maya and Phoenix — by the end of the case, his luck has run out thanks in no small part to Mia herself.
      • Manfred von Karma, Miles Edgeworth's mentor and the most feared prosecutor in the world, has a near-perfect record which he got by manipulating trials so he always won, regardless of how many innocent people were put away. When Gregory Edgeworth gave him his one black mark, he killed him and adopted his son to psychologically abuse him in revenge. But Phoenix exposes his role in the plot to frame Miles and the murder of Gregory, putting an end to Manfred's career of evil.
      • Damon Gant, the corrupt police chief, killed Neil Marshall and forged evidence so that Spree Killer Joe Darke would take the fall. He also manipulated the scene to make Chief Prosecutor Lana Skye think her sister Ema did it, giving him control over the entire Prosector's Office. And he got away with it for years... until he panicked and killed Bruce Goodman to prevent him from reopening the case. At that point, Phoenix ended up defending Lana and helped expose Gant as Goodman and Marshall's killer.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All: Matt Engarde deliberately drove his ex-girlfriend Celeste to suicide just to spite his rival Juan Corrida. When Juan finally found out and set out to expose his secret, Matt paid an assassin to silence him, then used that same assassin to force Phoenix to acquit him. Needless to say, Phoenix ultimately turns the situation around on him, exposes all his crimes, and leaves him begging for prison so that the assassin won't come after him.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations: Dahlia Hawthorne murdered her step-sister Valerie and blamed it on her boyfriend Terry, who killed himself at her request. In the flashback fourth case, she gets away, but in the first case, which takes place sometime after, she commits another murder and blames it on Phoenix, only for Mia (who was also the defense attorney for Terry) to finally prove her guilt and make sure she did not get away this time, resulting in Dahlia being executed for the crime. She tries to get revenge as a spirit later, but that plan gets foiled as well.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth:
      • In the first game just about all the members of the smuggling ring have been getting away with it for years, especially the boss, Ambassador Quercus Alba (who has Diplomatic Impunity), and his spy, Calisto Yew (who was confronted by Edgeworth in the flashbacks fourth case but escaped). But Edgeworth is able to put them away, finally nabbing Alba and Yew in the final chapter.
      • In the second game, this is invoked by Vigilante Man Simon Keyes, who sets in motion the events of the game to punish the people who made his life miserable and got away with it, each of whom is a culprit in the game; from his father Dane Gustavia having murdered his partner, the case that became the DL-6 incident where Gregory was murdered, to Blaise Debeste and Patricia Roland, two prominent conspirators in the plot to unseat/kill President Di-Jun Huang and replace him with his body double. The imposter himself, however, is actually killed by Simon, which Edgeworth is finally able to arrest him for.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: In the backstory, Kristoph Gavin was the one responsible for disbarring Phoenix Wright and ushering in the Dark Age of the Law, where legal corruption runs rampant. But Phoenix himself implements a plan that ultimately gets Kristoph's corruption exposed and arrested for two murders he was responsible for.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: The phantom, the sociopathic spy, killed Detective Bobby Fulbright to impersonate him, killed Metis Cykes and got the innocent Simon Blackwill framed for it, and helped create the Dark Age fo the Law. But in the final case, thanks to the efforts of Metis's daughter Athena, and Simon himself, the Phantom's identity is exposed and he is finally arrested.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: Queen Ga'ran used trickery to usurp the throne from her sister and blame Dhurke for the crimes Ga'ran herself committed, slowly transforming Khurain into a dictatorship where defense attorneys are punished alongside their clients and any threat to her power is destroyed in a Kangaroo Court. But Apollo and the Defiant Dragons manage to slowly whittle away at her co-conspirators, until Apollo finally proves she has no legitimate claim to the throne, rendering all her draconic laws null and void.
    • The Great Ace Attorney:
      • The games flip the usual dynamic, with criminals getting away scot-free despite Ryunosuke's best efforts, only for them to get assassinated after the trial. Jezaille Brett is declared the culprit but gets away due to sort-of Diplomatic Immunity, only to end up the victim of the second game's first case. Meanwhile, Magnus McGilded gets a Not Guilty verdict despite the fact that he did it and tampered with both evidence and witnesses growing increasingly clear over the course of the trial... but he doesn't even make it out of the courtroom before the victim's son sets him on fire.
      • Played straight with Lord Chief Justice Mael Stronghart, the true Reaper of the Bailey at the head of a conspiracy who masterminded the Professor murders and many more killings in the past, as well as his cohort, Judge Seishiro Jigoku who was also responsible for a few of the murders. Both of them have gotten away with it for a long while, but come the last two cases in the second game, and Ryunosuke and his allies manage to piece together their culpability, prove it in front of his peers and the Queen herself, getting them arrested.
  • In Double Homework, Dennis’s blackmail threats over the protagonist are finally neutralized in the final chapter.
    Dr. Mosely/Zeta: The protagonist is clean as a whistle.
  • The anime Fate/Zero is a prequel to the visual novel Fate/stay night, so anyone who appears in the latter is guaranteed to at least live to the end of the former. Zouken Matou, the sadistic head of the Matou family, and the chief architect of Sakura’s suffering, sadly gets away with all of his cruelty towards her and his son Kariya in this war...but anyone who’s read Fate/stay night will know he’ll get his comeuppance in ten years.
  • The true ending for The Letter involves Luke Wright finally getting a comeuppance. He has gotten away with many crimes, including murder, for years, having used connections, threats, and more crimes to avoid being prosecuted. But when the true ending is reached, he feels genuine guilt over having killed his wife and their unborn children and leaving them to suffer the curse of the mansion. Luke then sacrifices himself to the ghost, even seeing her as a manifestation of karma that has come to him after all the wrong he's done.
  • In Your Turn to Die, Sou Hiyori turns out to be the indirect cause behind all three of Chapter 1's casualties purely to save his own ass, and initially goes unpunished by the group for it. Chapter 2 ends with him either being Forced to Watch his Only Friend / little sister Kanna Kizuchi become a human plantstem, or himself being subjected to a Multiple Gunshot Death from the Deadly Game's security system.

    Web Animation 
  • Gaming All Stars 2: Specter, Quan Chi, and Sweet Tooth, (All of whom escaped the events of the first series unscathed) are permanently defeated upon returning in the sequel series.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: In Episode 58, Jenna Darabond, who reveals that she burned down the Atchison mall way back in Episode 31, finally gets arrested for her actions thanks to Mackenzie.

    Webcomics 
  • Akuma's Comics: Evil Sonic and Evil Amy have gotten away with all sorts of havoc in their home universe, and when they're about to suffer karma from a vengeful Shadow the Hedgehog members of The Ministry rescue them and offer them an opportunity in another universe. Almost immediately they suffer mishaps in the main universe, eventually leading to them to figure out what karma exactly is so they can return to their old Karma Houdini status.
  • The titular Dominic from Dominic Deegan allegedly getting away with far too many morally questionable acts despite supposedly being an unquestionable hero, is a big reason for the comic's large snark and HateDoms. Then comes the end of the Snowsong arc and he finally gets some punishment for his more questionable actions when Nurse Pam forces him to do community service as the town's resident seer. A job Dominic loathes beyond measure.
  • Textbook case: Fox Maharassa from Friendly Hostility. A flirt and a danger magnet with little empathy, Fox got away with quite a lot. But the "transgressions" that actually landed his relationship with Collin in serious trouble and, if you follow the sequel comic, ultimately led to their breakup, weren't really his fault. It involved Arath dripping poison in Collin's ear (incorrectly accusing Fox of cruelty and cheating when not only did Arath have no proof, he didn't know Fox to any extent at all), being stuck in a catch-22 with Collin (Collin flatly refusing to explain why Fox was in the doghouse and playing the "guess what you did wrong" game), and even having the goalposts moved on him when he took drastic measures to rescue their relationship. In short, Fox went from a lovable rogue to The Woobie.
    • Collin himself suffered the Always a Bigger Fish version of this trope when he encountered Lovable Rogue/Magnificent Bastard/Karma Houdini Leslie Rudd. Collin was always obnoxious, but in the one case he had every right to be annoyed - Rudd having sent Collin's boyfriend into serious danger - he got smacked down by the one character with no right to criticise. Oddly, while Fox suffered a backlash from the fandom (and perhaps, the creator) when his Karma Houdini Warranty expired, Rudd was universally adored...and as he adhered strictly to the terms of his warranty, got a happy ending.
    • While the Warranty certainly expired as a result of a Cerebus Syndrome, blaming the breakup on Arath is hardly fair. Collin ignored his gossip for years before finally agreeing with him, and when he did, it was because of an accumulated bitterness over Fox' past antics and the fact that he was failing at the guessing game, combined with breaking the isolation he'd had from the rest of the world.
  • Magick Chicks: When we're first introduced to Faith, we're told she's the student council president, multi talented, and a powerful esper. As such she's initially shallow, petty, and manipulative. About midway through the comic, she makes the mistake of using her psychic ability to bloodlust Layla, then tries to take her on without her powers. After Tiffany saves her by allowing Layla to feed on her, to calm her down, Faith not only has a change of heart, she falls in love with Tiffany; which marked the beginning of her turn around. From that point onward, it's gradually revealed that Faith is actually a pretty nice girl. Which is right around the time that all the bad karma, from before, decided to pay her a visit: in the form of an unexpected psychic attack.
    • Things start going downhill for Cerise once she actually starts caring for her girlfriend Callie.
  • Discussed in The Order of the Stick, Tarquin talks about how he'll be OK when he gets his comeuppance once he becomes an Evil Overlord because he'll have been in power for some time before, and will have been in a position to remain in power indefinitely unless a hero comes to defeat him. When that time comes he won't think, "that good triumphed over evil." he'll think,"that he got to live like a god for three decades! Sure the last ten minutes sucked but you can't have everything." He then goes on to say that the story told about his defeat will inspire more villains because, "Audiences always think the villain is cooler than the hero is, anyway." Karma, when confronted by this, apparently decided to jump the tracks completely and pitted him against a son that refused to follow any tale he was familiar with, at which point it all starts to catch up. And rather than dying in a climactic battle like he wanted, he winds up getting abandoned in the desert by the heroes so he can live with the knowledge that he wasn't an important enough villain for them to deal with.
  • Yorick from The Word Weary makes constant fun of his friend, John, who never retaliates or threatens to end the friendship over the constant berating... as long as he's sober.

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Nino Brown

After getting off on a light sentence for his crimes, Nino takes the time to smugly gloat at Scotty and threatens to come for him once he gets out. An old man he threatened earlier makes sure he never makes good on his word.

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