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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. Also see Helpless Kicking for this trope's counterpart on the other end.


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    Anime & 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.
  • Lobo parodies the The Terminator scene — while sinking in quick drying cement, Lobo (modified into a robocopesque cyborg at that time) uses his last gesture to give everyone the finger.

    Film— Animation 
  • Aladdin: Two examples:
    • 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 drag Iago in with him.
  • 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.
  • In The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, after Zira falls from a cliff into the river at the climax, the last we see of her is her paw, which briefly resurfaces, only to be knocked beneath the rapids by a log.
  • In The Magic Voyage, when the Swam Lord's temple is destroyed at the climax, Marilyn falls into the river below, and as she sinks, her hand reaches up toward Pico, who tries to grab it from overhead and save her, but fails. Fortunately, though, it turns out to be a Disney Death in the end.

    Film— Live-Action 

  • The Belgariad: Relg uses his power of walking through stone to shove an enemy into a rock face, leaving only his hands sticking out, and entomb him there. They grasp desperately at nothing and then go limp.
  • Gods and Warriors: In the climax of The Crocodile Tomb, the last thing seen of Alekto is her arm reaching for the sky before crocodiles drag her under the Nile's surface.
  • In Nation, First Mate Cox raises his gun one last time as he's sinking into the lagoon full of sharks.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One of the posters for the HBO film "Deadly Voyage" (the story of 8 African stowaways murdered by the crew of the cargo ship they snuck onto) features this, with the large ship sailing away in the background. note 
  • 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 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.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, If Link falls into lava or quicksand, he'll sink down into it, with just his hand reaching up before he respawns.
  • 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.
  • One of Reptile's fatalities in Mortal Kombat X melts an opponent in an acid pool, leaving only a twitching hand.
  • 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.
  • Early on in Sin and Punishment, our hero Saki Amamiya does this while drowning in a sea of blood. And then he comes back in a One-Winged Angel form.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, if Mario falls into toxic waste or quicksand, he is seen sinking in it and then drowns before he puts a hand up above the surface one last time.
  • In World of Warcraft, elven males, both night and blood, perform this for the last frame of their death animation.

    Visual Novels 
  • Spirit Hunter: NG:
    • In the Game Overs where Akira is drowned by the Urashima Woman, the death CG has his arm desperately reaching for the surface as the last of his consciousness slips away.
    • When Ban dies in the Screaming Author Bad End, their hand can be seen reaching out to Akira as they're dragged away by the Author's razor wire. To compliment the effect, said hand is blurred and overexposed as it's closer to the 'camera' than the rest of his body.


    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, and the sinking ship itself may also drag you down with it.