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Last Grasp at Life

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A character dies falling into a Shark Pool, Acid Pool or Lava Pit, and their last action is a hand desperately reaching upwards to grasp at... nothing, before going under with the rest of them. Possibly it's the last part of their body to sink into the ooze, but a more dramatic version has them entirely submerged, before their hand bursts through the surface to give one final scare. Bonus points if it grabs someone's ankle.

This is generally, but not exclusively, reserved for villains. It's also by no means a guarantee they've been Killed Off for Real - possibly the hand clawing at life is a symbol of the kind of Heroic Willpower that can bring you Back from the Dead. The shot is often shown in reverse when someone digs out of their own grave. Contrast with Raised Hand of Survival, where the raised hand means all's just starting.


See also Futile Hand Reach, which is more likely to be executed by a witness to the death. Sister Trope to the Dead-Hand Shot.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Deadpool went out this way when Weapon X restored his failing healing factor, but added a kill switch. Deadpool melted into a pool of goo, except for his hand which was busy flipping everyone the bird.
  • The Terminator scene gets parodied in Lobo comics - while sinking in quick drying cement, Lobo (modified into a robocopesque cyborg at that time) uses his last gesture to give everyone a finger.

    Film: Animation 
  • Two examples in Aladdin:
    • After Jafar traps Jasmine in a giant hourglass, her hand is the last thing to disappear under the sand. Subverted in that Aladdin immediately breaks open the hourglass and rescues her afterwards.
    • Jafar's hand is the last thing to disappear into the lamp, reaching out to take Iago with him. Because if you're going to spend eternity in an oil lamp, you want Gilbert Gottfried in there with you.
  • In Flushed Away, when Rita's boat, the Jammy Dodger, sinks in a whirlpool, the last thing she sees is its mechanical arm giving a farewell salute.

    Film: Live-Action 
  • The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, as he sinks into the Acid Pool.
  • Subverted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, as Arnie signs off being lowered into the crucible with the thumbs-up taught to him by Connor.
    Dreamgun Film Reads: Arnie gives a thumbs up, the universally recognised sign for "I want to go back up!"
  • Gollum in the film version of Return of the King as he falls into the lava pit at Mount Doom, holding the Ring in that one hand.
  • The last we see of Dr. No in the eponymous James Bond movie is his artificial hand trying to grasp a metal support beam as he drowns in the cooling tank of a nuclear reactor.
  • Thrax dies in this way in Osmosis Jones. The last part of him to go is his index finger, which is his signature weapon, bursting cells upon contact.
  • The Naked Gun does this in the first movie, to a Mook sent by the main bad guy to kill Drebin at the slaughterhouse.
  • The second Der Wixxer movie gives us a variant of this, by having the bad guy giving the middle finger.
  • Towards the end of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Lady van Tassel is dragged to hell by the Hessian through the Tree of the Dead. All that remains of her in the physical world is her hand, which sticks out of the tree.
  • Used in at least one film rendition of Sherlock Holmes's famous story The Hound of the Baskervilles, which takes place in an English moor infamous for its swamps.
  • In TeenageMutant Ninja Turtles II Secret of the Ooze, Shredder begins the film by reaching his hand out from a pile of garbage. At the end he thrusts his hand out from the ruins of the dock that had just collapsed on him, only to die.
  • After Car Fuing several pursuing vehicles in the opening Chase Scene of The Roadwarrior, Max dismounts from his vehicle only to be startled by a sudden scream, and see a hand grasping in the middle of the wreckage before its owner expires.

  • In Nomads of Gor the Big Bad uses a living pool, "The Yellow Pool of Turia," as his preferred method of execution. He keeps it in a hothouse where there are vines growing around which he can manipulate via remote control so they're closer or further from the victim, to torture them by making them think they could grab a vine and pull themselves out. "I have even seen them reach for vines a spear's length above their head and think they could reach them!" Naturally this comes back to bite him in the ass during the climax.
  • In Nation, First Mate Cox raises his gun one last time as he's sinking into the lagoon full of sharks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: At the ending of the episode "The Return of Callisto", both Callisto and Xena end up trapped in a large pit of quicksand. Xena eventually manages to free herself, but leaves Callisto to her fate. As Callisto sinks more and more while frantically begging Xena to rescue her, the last we see of her are her hands fruitlessly trying to reach out until she sinks completely and drowns.

    Tabletop Game 

    Video Games 
  • In Twilight Princess, If Link falls into lava or quicksand, he'll sink down into it, with just his hand reaching up before he respawns.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, if Mario falls into toxic waste, he is seen sinking in it and then drowns before he puts a hand up above the surface one last time.
  • Blood Elf males in World of Warcraft perform this for the last frame of their death animation.
  • In one of the death scenes of the Giant Statue stage on Brain Dead 13, after Lance falls into the Acid Pool under the collapsing ground tile, which flies and lands back into the acid and crushes him, the camera cuts down to a close-up of his hands rising and clutching one tile as he tries in vain to pull himself out of the acid before one of them twitches and then becomes still.
  • This happens in Mega Man X: Command Mission in Chapter 7, when Ferham knocks X into a pit of quicksand. Massimo and Zero both feebly try to get him out, even when X has been completely dragged in and Massimo is close to being dragged in. Ferham continues to whip Zero's back while taunting him until he finally loses footing and falls into the quicksand as well, with his hand being all that is visible as he gets pulled in. Partially averted, however, in that all of them survive.
  • Cyrus Temple in Saints Row IV dies by falling in a chemical vat, his hand comes up with a controller to launch a nuke on Washington D.C. but his plan has been hindered by the boss of the saints.

  • In The Order of the Stick, Haley re-kills Crystal by dropping her into a pool of lava, and her reaching hand is the last thing to sink beneath the surface.
  • In Homestuck animation [S]GAME OVER, his hand desperately reaching out is the last we see of Karkat as he sinks/is thrown into a Lava Pit.

    Real Life 
  • This is (supposedly) the origin of the phrase "grasping at straws". It comes from the idea that a drowning person would (if they have no means of rescue and can't swim) try to pull themselves back to the surface by grabbing straws floating on it. A related trope is the old belief that a drowning person would manage to resurface three times before finally succumbing. Hence "going down for the third time" as a way of saying this was the end. Old Bugs Bunny cartoons would often have a hand coming up from the water displaying 1, 2, 3 on its fingers before going down for the last time.
  • Averted if the drowning person grabs something solid. Unfortunately if it's another person it can become an unintentional case of taking you with me.
    • In a shipwreck always swim away if you can swim at all, tread water at a distance, and come back after some minutes for floatation aids. Many drownings in marine emergencies are people pulled under by non-swimmers.


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