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Karma Houdini Warranty

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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 in another installment, they painfully discover when the long-delayed punishment suddenly lands on them. A heroic guy may also suffer this trope, when the consequences of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished catch up with him.

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

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.

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.

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!


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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 
  • Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe: Even if it was a daydream of Beavis, Todd ends up getting decapitated by Serena, Beavis' "girlfriend". In the original series, he always got off scot-free with bullying the boys, as troublesome as they are themselves.
  • 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. Bonus points for Ernesto’s final fate being crushed under another bell.
  • 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 gets his hair set on fire and runs into a store full of fireworks, which causes him to get thrown into the sky.
  • 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.
  • Unfortunately 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 other adaptions of the original book, 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.
  • 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.
  • In Turning Red, this is Played for Drama. Ming commits a lot of antics that in real life would have probably gotten her arrested and served with a dozen restraining orders. Ming hasn't gotten in trouble for her actions only because her neighbors find her more ridiculous than threatening. She doesn't get in trouble for falsely accusing a drugstore clerk of sexually grooming a minor, let alone assaulting and battering (she did kick him) the security guard at the school, when most schools would have banned her. In fact, he allows her to drop off dumplings for Mei while reminding her she can't hide behind trees. Then she unleashes her kaiju form at the concert, literally bringing the facilities down on innocent children, and assaults Mei by grabbing her in a painful hold to berate her. Mei is forced to knock out Ming when the latter won't see reason and make her redo the red moon ritual. Afterward, Ming is apologetic about the whole fiasco, and the family's been ordered to pay CA$100 million for the damage she caused. Also, she has to constantly feed her new red panda Tamagotchi because it contains her primal panda form.

    Films — 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 discover 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.
  • In Jurassic Park, Lewis Dodgson hires Dennis Nedry to steal embryos from Jurassic Park, causing the events of the film. Though Nedry gets his comeuppance, Dodgson does not - until 29 years later, in Jurassic World Dominion, where, after destroying the evidence of his most recent plan and attempting to escape, he becomes trapped when the power goes out and is killed by three of the same dinosaurs that killed Nedry.
  • The 2009 adaptation of The Lovely Bones has a similar ending as the novel version, but with an extra twist. George Harvey gets away with killing 14-year-old Susie Salmon, and while family investigations get somewhere near the truth, Harvey manages to escape without incident. Harvey then moves onto his next target, another younger woman, only to get rejected. Similar to the book, Harvey gets hit on the head by an icicle, loses his balance, and falls off the cliff to his death... only the film version implies that this is Susie's last act in the in-between before passing on.
  • 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 (1997), 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, as far as he knew, Rose was dead and the Heart of the Ocean was lost forever. 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 politicians 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.
  • At the end of Saw 3D, Hoffman is abducted chained to a pipe in the bathroom and left to die by Lawrence Gordon, just as the latter was when the series began. But in Hoffman's case there will be no means of escape, rescue, or quickening his demise. A horrible thing, but after all the suffering he caused over the course of the series, he deserves it many times over.
  • 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.
  • The ending of Snake Eyes is slightly unusual in that this trope happens to the Anti-Hero protagonist. Corrupt Cop Rick Santoro has treated the Wretched Hive of Atlantic City as his own personal fiefdom for years, regularly brutalizing suspects, shaking down and extorting criminals, running around having affairs with every attractive woman who catches his eye, etc. Over the course of the film he acts in a genuinely heroic manner by exposing a group of conspirators that assassinated the Secretary of Defense and saving the life of a political whistleblower who had become the only person who could identify the members of the conspiracy. Unfortunately for Santoro the story doesn't end there. Once he's a national hero every criminal he stole from and suspect he beat are eager to tell their stories, and all his Suspicious Spending and corruption soon come to light. After years of being all but untouchable, it only takes a few months for Santoro to be exposed, after which his wife and mistresses all walk out on him, he's kicked off the police force, and is looking at jail time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 deeply regrets her actions, and ends the movie dying the same way Madeleine did. The main villain, Gavin Elster, has no remorse and escapes unpunished.
  • Halloween Ends ends, fittingly, with Michael Myers finally being killed after a fierce fight with Laurie. To ensure that he never threatens Haddonfield’s population ever again, Laurie parades his body through the town and then disposes of his body in a grinder.


    Myths & Religion 
  • In general, many (and especially the modern) religions see their respective "hellish" afterlives (or reincarnations into worse lives) as places were every Karma Houdini in Real Life will finally get their comeuppance - when it doesn't happen in this life, then in the afterlife.
  • 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, which 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. Somehow, it actually gets worse for Heliod after that - he's let free to aid in the fight against New Phyrexia, and ends up compleated.
    • Nicol Bolas is finally defeated in War of the Spark and stripped of his powers, reducing him to little more than an insect trapped forever until he dies in a couple of thousand years.

  • 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:
    • 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:
      • Kristoph Gavin initially got away scott-free with ruining Phoenix's career out of jealousy, but 7 years later he decides to commit a couple murders of people connected to the forgery he used to frame Phoenix (well, one death was planned to happen earlier but was delayed due to circumstances), resulting in Phoenix and Apollo nailing him both for the murders and the forgery.
      • In case 4-2, Pal Meraktis is able to get away with concealing his own malpractice and Wocky Kitalki's extremely delicate medical condition... only to wind up killed by his initial accomplice after he tried to kill her to prevent her from talking.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: The phantom got away with killing Metis Cykes in the UR-1 incident because Athena Cykes accidentally implicated herself and Simon Blackquill took the fall to protect her, leaving most unaware that there was someone else on the scene. He's then later able to successfully steal the identity of (and probably kill) police detective Bobby Fulbright to clean up any lose ends, as well as kill Clay Terran. However, he overreaches himself with that last one and raises suspicions on himself, resulting in his true identity and crimes being revealed in a retrial for UR-1.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: Queen Ga'ran holds the longest record for getting away with her crimes at a solid 23 years after usurping the throne from her sister Amara, framing Amara's husband Dhurke for Amara's murder, and making the country of Khura'in a dictatorship with a Kangaroo Court system where defense attorneys are punished along with their clients. Then Phoenix Wright appeared and actually managed to successfully defend Ahlbi Ur'Gaid, and the cracks just got worse from there. By the time of Turnabout Revolution she's barely holding on in the face of the Defiant Dragons rebellion, and Apollo delivers the last nail in her coffin by proving that she never had a legitimate claim to the throne, turning even her royal guard against her.
    • 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 be killed afterward by third parties. 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.
      • William Shamspeare got away with killing Duncan Ross prior to the game as the death was ruled an accident. Later on, he is nearly killed by poison and Soseki Natsume is accused of the crime... and during the trial, Shamspeare's involvement in Ross's death are unveiled.
      • 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 Queen Victoria 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 light novel 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 Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane, Lloyd von Sanctus gets off scot free despite your efforts proving that he's responsible for the death of Justin Waye because he is the leader of one of the most important noble houses. Come case 5, he's murdered.
  • 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 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: One episode Akane become a celebrity despite her being a massively untouchable bully to everyone in her middle school, including pretending what she did to other people was done to her instead. Cue Azami, enraged by her lies, who made a forum post exposing her. Dozens of old classmates then follow suit, and going as far as to even target her father, who's a scummy businessman himself. By the end of it, Akane ends up getting fired from her agency, and her father's company goes bankrupt.
  • 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.
  • Manga-Waido:
    • "My girlfriend falls onto the ground with a red arm as a lady screams at her!": Aya's past affair with a married man comes back to bite her when someone uploads the beach incident with a waitress (revealed as the wife's younger sister) to the internet. From there on, she became the target of rumors, leading to her boss avoiding her. To top it off, even her own parents got sick of her BS and kick her out of the house because their neighbors know about her adultery.
    • "I was forced to babysit my annoying co-worker and this is what happened": After getting away with his crime, Satou ended up getting what's coming to him when Nakamura exposed the former's tweets about attempting to break the latter's computer and his foiled harassment of a female employee. Since he had pictures of himself in his tweets, Satou couldn't deny it and apologized, only for the CEO to fire both him and his dad.
  • 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.

  • 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. Meta Guy 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.

    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):


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.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmaHoudiniWarranty

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