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"He didn't know it yet, but by the end of the page, Tropey the Wonder Dog... would be dead."

When an author says a character will die way before they do, thus revealing an important part of the plot. This is used mainly for emotional buildup and to change the audience's focus. Rather than "Will this person die?" the audience will wonder "How and why does this person die?"

Of course, more devious writers can also employ it as a way of misdirection. An audience that is already preoccupied with the impending death of a character, usually a pretty significant event in itself, are probably less likely to suspect that a more serious twist could sneak up on them in the same episode.

Subtrope of Foregone Conclusion. Leads to Dramatic Irony. Compare Spoiler Title, where for some reason you're still meant to be surprised, or to In Medias Res where they establish some event (might be dying or might not) by showing it and jump back to show how they got there. For the more vague version see: Tonight, Someone Dies. Might overlap with Posthumous Narration.

Be warned that as a Death Trope, there will be unmarked spoilers below.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler: the arc starting from Chapter 38 does this with the last panel of said chapter showing Sebastian brutally murdered with the words "The tragedy that occurred that stormy night..."
  • The Case Study of Vanitas: Chapter 1 ends with the statement that the narrator Noé will kill Vanitas at the end.
  • Late in the Grand Magic Games arc of Fairy Tail, Levy writes in her letter to Lucy that on July 7, X791, at least five characters will die, including "her beloved". She doesn't mention their names, though.
  • The first line of Grave of the Fireflies: "September 21, 1945. That's was the night I died." Seita's not the only one who'll die before ninety minutes are up.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: the beginning of Onikakushi-hen and Watanagashi-hen showcase the double murder of Mion and Rena and Rika's suicide respectively, leaving the audience to wonder exactly how things get that bad. Also subverted by the fact that Rika's suicide doesn't happen in the arc that shows that clip (at least on screen), but instead an alternate version of that arc told from Shion's perspective.
  • The trailer for Neon Genesis Evangelion episode 23 stated that Rei will have to choose sacrificing herself, or allowing Shinji to be attacked. Well, it turns out that it is actually not the most important event in that episode.
  • Many examples in One Piece, where we'll be told that a major character lost someone important to them a while before we actually see the flashback where they die. Some examples:
    • Nami's and Nojiko's foster mother Bellemere, as we see Nami visiting her grave before Nojiko explains Nami's past to her friends.
    • Everyone on Robin's home island of Ohara, since we learn that she's the only survivor many arcs before we see her flashback that explains why the island was destroyed.
    • Jimbei's former captain Fisher Tiger, a hero who freed many slaves in Mariejois, is also stated to be dead long before we find out much more about him.
    • Law tells Luffy that someone he loved, his savior and Doflamingo's brother, Donquixote Rocinante (a.k.a. Corazón), was murdered by Doflamingo himself. We don't get the details until about 10 chapters later, in Law's flashback.
  • Shiki appears to combine this with Spoiler Opening once the characters who'd been shown Stripped to the Bone in the opening theme start dying. However, two of them actually survive.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In the Epigraphs that open each chapter of A Thing of Vikings, some entries include birth and death dates for major characters—some of them decades in the future, telling us that they won't die during the course of the fic (for example, Empress Theodora dies in 1068, over 20 years from the events of the fic). Likewise, there's mention of Tuffnut and Mór's wedding having to be postponed multiple times before they finally marry in 1054, telling us that something will interrupt their wedding planned for Fall 1043.

    Films — Animated 
  • Gnomeo & Juliet. A supporting character clearly believes this is going to happen and states it many times because the troubles of a new-found friend resembles a classic story he once wrote. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • At the beginning of Rango, the mariachi owls declare the story is about "the amazing life and untimely death" of the title character. Throughout the movie, they further drop hints that he is going to die in the desert. At the end, when he's still very much alive, they clarify that "he will inevitably die someday"—just not in that story. Technically, Rango the fraud did die, though he was reborn as Rango the hero.
  • Tangled begins with Flynn Rider narrating, "This is the story of how I died." He got better, though, so this is something of a subversion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Beauty opens with the protagonist and narrator saying he'll be dead in less than a year.
  • The narrator of the MST-ed turd The Dead Talk Back simply will not shut up about the upcoming murder in Act 1. Crow even points out that it won't be all that suspenseful once it happens, and whaddaya know; he's right.
  • Played straight and inverted at the same time in Fallen. The movie begins with "let me tell you about the time I almost died. The twist is twofold: a) who's speaking b) you will most likely have forgot about this entirely until it is repeated at the end.
  • Fruitvale Station opens with cell phone footage of the real-life shooting that inspired the movie.
  • It was Francis Ford Coppola's intention to do this with The Godfather Part III — he wanted to call it The Death of Michael Corleone.
  • A lot of the marketing for Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was premised around the fact that this movie would end with Godzilla's death. The movie itself has a very retrospective tone, bringing back a few of the human characters from previous films in the series, and with a villain directly calling back to the thing that killed the original Godzilla back in the first movie.
  • Done in the Uwe Boll adaptation of House of the Dead, which opens with Rudy narrating how everyone except him are dead.
  • The film I Miss You, I Miss You opens with Tina telling the audience that her twin sister Cilla will die soon and that the story is about what happens to the sister who is left.
  • Love Story: "What can you say about a girl who died?"
  • In Moulin Rouge!, Christian says at the beginning that the woman he loved is dead. Then cue Satine.
  • Used in Stranger Than Fiction, where the victim can hear the narrator (but not vice versa). So when he hears this on a crowded street corner:
    What? What? Hey! Hellloo! What? Why? Why my death? Hello? Excuse me? When?
    • It's an interesting example in that the narrator changes her mind and spares him.
  • Averted in Reservoir Dogs. The original script called for a placard to be displayed onscreen saying that all but one of the main characters will die before the end of the movie, but Quentin Tarantino was talked out of it.
  • The film noir classic Sunset Boulevard opens with a shot of a corpse floating in a swimming pool, while the narrator informs us that he is that corpse.
  • If a ship can qualify as a character, then Titanic (1997) does this, with its Framing Story - and a basic knowledge of history - setting up right away not only that the ship will sink, but even how. It's this sense of grim inevitability, as in a Greek tragedy, that creates most of the narrative suspense.
  • Likewise, in Japan, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was released as The Last Seven Days in the Life of Laura Palmer. This is hardly a Spoiler Title, though, since the earlier Twin Peaks TV series opened with Laura's dead body washing up on a beach.

  • In the second book of the Alcatraz Series, Alcatraz casually mentions that Bastille will die by the end. He lied. What did you expect?
  • Inverted in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons where he says how a character will survive.
  • The Kate Atkinson novel Behind The Scenes At The Museum mentions, only a few pages in, that the narrator's sister Gillian will be run over and killed on Christmas Eve several years hence. Also averted, in that the narrator has a dead twin sister she's forgotten about, whose death is never explicitly mentioned until the narrator remembers it in her teens. The fact that Gillian's death is dealt with so matter-of-factly throughout the book means this revelation hits even harder.
  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak runs on this trope. This does absolutely nothing to prevent falling in love with the characters anyway. And, in all fairness, the narrator is Death.
  • In the Lord of the Rings parody Bored of the Rings, Boromir-analogue Bromosel arrives at the Council of Orlon with a prophecy that states, "You cash in your chips around page eighty-eight." It's off by a few pages.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
  • A rather odd pseudo-example or maybe subversion occurs in Dostoevsky's otherwise wonderful The Brothers Karamazov. We are told multiple times that Dmitri is going to perish in a horrible way; but he is very much alive at the end. Sentenced to Siberia, yes, but his friends have a good plan to bust him out. Possibly Dostoevsky was just using it as a metaphor for being sentenced to hard labor. Or maybe Dmitri was going to die horribly in the planned sequels. Or maybe he was just messing with our heads.
  • A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in addition to containing all the relevant information eponymously, does this repeatedly throughout the book in buildup for the murder at the very end. The very first sentence of the book is "On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on."
  • Ciaphas Cain: Subverted, while the first story has Cain imply Jurgen died, later works retcon this by having Jurgen attend Cain's funeral (according to Vail). Of course, this being the Inquisition, this is assuming both are dead instead of whisked away for Inquisitorial service or servitor-ized.
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.
  • The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave. There are actually three people in the book with that name, but it's still more or less obvious who the title is referring to.
  • The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy.
  • The back cover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency mentions that the cat dies. The cat, however, is practically irrelevant to the story.
  • The Drowning of Stephan Jones. Guess what? Stephan Jones... drowns. They strip Stephen, tease him about his genitalia, and then throw him over the bridge. Absolutely accidental murder, right?
  • Played With in The Fault in Our Stars. The main character, Hazel, opens the book by telling us that her cancer has never been anything but terminal. At the end of the book, she's still alive, but her boyfriend has died of his cancer, which had been in remission.
  • The very first sentence of the thriller The Fist of God is "The man with ten minutes to live was laughing."
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In the penultimate chapter of "The Mule", the first lines indicate the upcoming death of Ebling Mis. In this chapter, he dies after figuring out where the Second Foundation is hidden.
    "After that there were only two weeks left to the life of Ebling Mis."
  • In Galápagos, if a character will die soon, there will be an asterisk by their name. But then, it also has a mild case of Anachronic Order, since it's being narrated by a ghost a million years later. Which just makes it better, since soon is measured in pages.
    • Vonnegut basically did some variation on this in every book. Even in-story in Slaughterhouse-Five—Billy Pilgrim knows exactly when and how he will die. There's also Edgar Derby—pretty much every time he appears, the narration notes that eventually, he'll be executed for stealing a teapot.
  • Go, Mutants!: "A shame he [J!m] didn't know he would be dead before the weekend was out."
  • Although averted in the film, in the original novel of The Godfather this happens with Luca Brasi and Sonny Corleone: their deaths are respectively revealed out of the blue, and then each following chapter flashes back to the day of their death to show when and how they died. Vito Corleone's attempted assassination is also treated this way, while his actual death is revealed chronologically.
  • Inverted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - when the Heart of Gold comes under a missile attack, the narrator takes a moment to assure the readers that the ship is not destroyed and nobody aboard is seriously injured. (On the other hand, a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale aren't so lucky.)
  • The Iliad does this often, with Hector, Patroclus and Achilles being the most frequent.
  • "I Miss You, I Miss You" starts by telling you about identical twins Cilla and Tina and how Cilla won't live to see their next birthday because she's soon going to die in a car accident.
  • And then there's John Dies at the End. Guess what happens to John? He dies at the end ... of chapter 1. Kind of.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff uses this in the home of the first wiseman.
  • Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, or The Death of King Arthur. Of course, the book is also about his life, growing up, becoming King, forming the Round Table, and so on, but it ends with his death.
    • Also, in one of the Tristram books it tells you that Mordred and Agravaine kill Dinandan in the Grail Quest. Especially annoying because it doesn't tell you that it happens at the point where it happens, and never mentions it afterwards.
  • In Maniac Magee, in the middle portion of the book the title character is taken in by an old man named Earl Grayson. At the end of a chapter that shows the two celebrating Christmas, it concludes with the following sentence: "Five days later the old man was dead."
  • The very opening of Maxis Secrets goes: "Let's get this part over with—it's no secret. My dog, Maxi, dies." And as it turns out later, it's from bone cancer.
  • There is a book titled My Brother Sam Is Dead. The narrator has a brother named Sam. Guess what happens in the final chapter? Yeah, Sam dies. In the very last sentence of the very last page of the final chapter, no less.
  • Old Yeller, with the dog.
  • Subverted in One Hundred Years of Solitude, which, early in the novel, describes the feelings of Colonel Aurelino as he's facing the firing line. As it turns out, the soldiers in the firing line are so afraid of the backlash of executing the Colonel in his home village that they defect to the other side.
  • The prologue of The Phantom of the Opera tells us that both Erik (the phantom) and Philippe de Chagny die. We also know that the Persian survives to talk with the narrator.
  • About halfway through The Poisonwood Bible, Orleanna mentions almost in passing that one of her daughters died in Africa. It isn't until much later that you find out which one. It was Ruth May.
  • In The Princess Bride (the book, not the movie), William Goldman's father tells him in advance about Westley's death.
    Boy: What do you mean "Westley dies"? You mean dies?
    • Inverted: Goldman then remarks upon how obvious it is that you can't really make shark kibble out of your leading lady when a book has barely begin. In The Film of the Book, it is appears as well, although it's a shark, not an eel.
      Grandpa: She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time.
      Grandson: What?
      Grandpa: The eel doesn't get her. I'm explaining to you because you look nervous.
      Grandson: I wasn't nervous. Maybe I was a little bit concerned but that's not the same thing.
    • Inverted in the movie as well, when it is revealed that Humperdinck lives.
  • The first line of the novel Ready Okay is "The day I turned sixteen years old I had no idea that in a few weeks nearly everyone I cared about would be dead." (Although we don't find out until the end of the book exactly who the survivors are.)
  • The Red Dwarf novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers ends a chapter with a statement about the entire crew (save one) of the Red Dwarf: "In just over seven months, every one of them would be dead."
  • Inverted in Remnants; we were told from the beginning that Jobs and Mo'Steel would survive, and everyone else is fair game. And by everyone, we mean everyone.
  • Used many times in A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    • The death of Uncle Monty is spoiled this way in The Reptile Room.
    • Beautifully used in The Wide Window. "Aunt Josephine was not dead. Not yet."
  • In Sienkiewicz Trilogy, during Longinus' awesome moment the narrator states how his deeds in the battle made his ancestors proud... while also explicitly calling him Last of His Kind.
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.
  • Stephen King uses this trope in nearly every book. Seriously, pick a book of his with a large cast and you'll probably find some form of "And that was the last time she ever saw him alive".
    • The Stand
    • The Regulators with the paperboy.
    • The main character's daughter in Duma Key.
    • Granted, The Green Mile is set on death row, but King still makes free and easy with various details of characters' deaths long before they happen. Somehow, he manages to do it in such a way that it only intensifies your urge to read more.
    • At least twice in Pet Sematary.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, in detailing the deaths of Johnny's brothers, reveals that he too will die young.
  • Indirectly used in the Warrior Cats book Twilight which says one character will face their end, it is left ambiguous in the prologue, but revealed to be Cinderpelt at the end.
    • Also, before the release of the Warrior Cats novel The Last Hope, the author revealed that Firestar would die in it.

    Live Action Television 
  • Played for Laughs on the Tonight, Someone Dies episode of Arrested Development, when the one non-recurring, non-celebrity character from the trailer montage says GOB could "charm the black off a telegraph boy," and the narrator chimes in with "OK, we'll just tell you right now: she's the one that dies."
  • In the fourth season finale of Babylon 5, we see future historians watch some video footage of Garibaldi at the mercy of terrorists; Sheridan refuses their demands, and the video cuts to black, followed by the sound of gunfire. All this comes to pass in Season 5, but Garibaldi's not the one who gets shot.
  • On an episode of Cinematech that crossed over with GameSpot, Jeff Gerstmann finished up a summary of Final Fantasy VII as such: "And oh yeah, Aerith dies."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Since it's impossible to recast the Doctor without announcing it in advance (along with the replacement) and since contracts work in such a way that he will obviously be dying at the end of the season, this is, on occasion, exploited by the showrunners:
      • The Arc of Season 18—each story drops a heavy symbolic hint that the Fourth Doctor is going to die soon, dealing with themes like the natural death of all things or fears of ageing and weakness. By the time a future incarnation of himself begins interfering in events like a revenant (significantly named "the Watcher"), he—and the audience—know this is it for him. The rest of the story is about putting the Doctor, facing his death with brooding dignity, in a variety of precarious situations and teasing us with how exactly he will die—which, significantly, is not a Heroic Sacrifice like the Doctor wanted but an accident stemming from his attempt.
      • The final act of Season 4 and the series of specials with the Tenth Doctor, which started after David Tennant had announced his departure. This was exploited to create maximum pain for both the Doctor and the audience—in-story, we get hints and then an explicit statement that the Doctor is going to die, and out-of-story we get show titles like "The Next Doctor" (which does not star the next Doctor, but could have done) and one particularly brutal Cliffhanger where the Doctor begins to regenerate. The second part of "The End of Time" (in a manner similar to "Logopolis" above) delights in putting the Doctor through all kinds of nasty situations likely to kill him—long drops off high things (as eventually killed the Fourth Doctor), torture from the Master (a Red Herring based around the Arc Words "he will knock four times")—before finally killing him in a situation where he was forced to flood himself with radiation to save the life of a lovely old man.
    • The episode "The Death of Dr. Who" (part of "The Chase"). Of course he doesn't die—but his Evil Knockoff Robot Me does.
    • Episode "Army of Ghosts" features Rose saying, in voiceover, "This is the story of how I died." Subverted in that she didn't actually die, but got stuck in another dimension, and as a result is officially presumed dead in "ours".
    • Something similar happened to Donna at the end of season 4; rather than dying, she just got her memories of her experiences with the Doctor erased.
    • "The Angels Take Manhattan" did this both out-of-universe (The Ponds' demise was announced well in advance) and in-story.
    • Averted almost to the level of being a Denied Trope in the case of Adric's death in Earthshock. John Nathan-Turner went so far as to have the writer of Timeflight write a small scene of a holographic Adric in the first episode of the next serial precisely because the way that the Radio Times worked, the next episode's synopsis would be on newsstands before the final episode of Earthshock had aired, and Matthew Waterhouse could be listed in the credits, preserving the twist.
  • Subverted in the final episode of season 5 of Leverage: given that there were rumors that the show was being canceled (later proven accurate), when a few minutes into the episode an interrogator asked Ford for the details of the rest of the characters' deaths during the botched heist—and cut to said details—it would not have been surprising if the writers had pulled a Whedon and decided to kill everyone in the final episode of the show. Turns out the whole How We Got Here was actually simply Ford spinning a story of the heist, so that in checking for verification of the story, Interpol would unlock some doors the team couldn't unlock themselves, and they could sneak in and pull off the heist while Ford was being interrogated.
  • A flashforward in Lost reveals in advance that Jin never makes it off the island and even shows his gravestone. However, he survives the explosion that you're meant to think killed him. Another at the end of Season 4 reveals John Locke dies as well.
  • M*A*S*H: The titular General of the episode "Iron Guts Kelly" dies while making out with Hot Lips. His aide wants to make it appear that he died in battle so he looks for some fighting to where to take the General's body. Henry is oblivious to the incident up until he receives a call about some battle action and he gets the news. His reaction is passive at first ("Oh...and the General is dead"), then it shifts from 0 to 60 in no time flat ("DEAD???!!")
    • When Kelly is found dead in Hot Lips' tent, Hawkeye is atypically cavalier about it.
    Hawkeye: If his last words were "I shall return," don't wait up.
  • In an episode of Pushing Daisies, the magician known as The Great Herrmann (played by Fred Willard) hires Emerson to find out who's been killing his assistants. Shortly after that, the show's narrator eventually states that he'll eventually the Victim/Body of the Week.
    The Great Herrmann (after performing a death-defying illusion): I live to amaze another day!
    Narrator (VO): But not another day after that.
  • Used repeatedly in A Series of Unfortunate Events, where Lemony Snicket usually warns the audience about upcoming deaths before they happen -Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, and Jacques Snicket all had their deaths spoiled by Snicket. Also played with in the case of Olivia Caliban, as Snicket implies some horrible fate is in store for her, but doesn't specifically say that she dies. She does -she's devoured by lions after Count Olaf pushes her into a pit of them.
  • The final episode of the second series of Sherlock opens with Watson tearfully stating that Sherlock Holmes is dead. The rest of the episode is a flashback telling us the circumstances of his death. In a subversion, the final moments of the episode suggest Sherlock may have somehow faked his death.
  • In the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, the final adventure of the Enterprise NX-1 is shown as a holographic recreation by Will Riker and Deanna Troi. At one point, they sadly look at Trip, and Troi mentions that he didn't know he wouldn't make it back. Trip performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Enterprise and Archer.
    • Subverted in the Expanded Universe continuation novels, which are basically canon Fix Fic.


    Video Games 
  • Operation 7-18 in Arknights is titled 'Death of a Patriot', which refers to the Reunion general codenamed Patriot who has been serving as the Arc Villain for this set of levels. Everyone heads to this battle knowing that Patriot will have to die in order for Rhodes Island to move forward since the buildup of his indefatigable determination to prevent the protagonists from making their way to stop Talulah. The more important questions for both player and character are how much will it take for them to accomplish it and what happens after.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight:
    Gordon: This is how it happened... This is how The Batman died...
  • The first lines of The Darkness go like this.
    Jackie: I remember the night of my twenty-first birthday. That was the first time I died...
  • The first lines of Call of Duty: Black Ops II has Alex Mason's son reveals his father from the first game is dead while showing his son next to Mason's corpse. However, The game's Multiple Endings means this trope can be subverted if Woods shoots "Nexus Target" anywhere but the head. If this happens, it turns out Mason was just in a Convenient Coma and one of the ending scenes has him reunite with his son and Woods.
    David "Section" Mason: My father, Alex Mason, gave up everything he had. He abandoned me, so he could defend his country from people like you.
  • In the intro to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Emperor Uriel Septim remarks that his death is only a few hours away.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: The first line of narration acknowledges that the world will never be the same, and subtly forshadows the narrator's death;
    Vanille (in narration): The thirteen days after we awoke were the beginning... of the end.
    • Of course, the narrator is not as blunt as to say she will die by the end of the story, but several of her lines heavily lean towards this:
    You said it made you happy when I smiled, didn't you?
    Although we didn't know it... our final journey had just begun.
    • Also, the very nature of being a l'Cie means you will inevitably die (or end up in a horrible situation) in one way or another; ignore your focus—you're a Cie'th—or complete it—you're an elaborate crystal paperweight. Since the party are made l'Cie very early on in the story, it becomes this trope, and the contemplation of this fate is what creates most of the dramatic tension between characters.
  • God of War begins with Kratos' suicide. Averted when Athena makes him the new god of War.
  • Project Zomboid: The opening sequence makes it quite clear this is not a game about you survive, it is about how you died.

  • Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman.
  • Dominic Deegan has Jayden repeatedly saying she's going to die it's metaphorical; then again that story has barely begun.
  • Homestuck: During the Alterniabound update on 10/25/10, it was revealed that Aradiabot would eventually explode. This didn't actually happen until 12/28/10. Then subverted, as the circumstances of Aradiabot's death result in her actual consciousness, Aradia, coming back as a god-tier.
  • Parodied in Unwinder's Tall Comics. The in-universe anime My Brother Was a Dancing Robot has a narrator who reminds the audience multiple times per episode that his dancing robot brother is going to die soon. Unwinder finds this heartstring-tugging far too overbearing for its own good.
    Narrator: My brother cheered everyone he met. If only I had known that he was going to die.
    Unwinder: It kind of loses something when they remind us every less than two scenes that the robot dies. Bittersweetness should not be this crass.

    Western Animation 

Oh my God, Tropey! Look out for that falling... *Splat* ...bridge.

Oh, Tropey... *sob*... we'll miss you...