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Post-Mortem Comeback

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Tuvok: She has been dead for over a year now. There would have been no way to predict this turn of events.
Paris: I guess we should have known Seska wouldn't let a little thing like death stop her from getting even.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Worst Case Scenario"

The Big Bad is dead, but there's something missing. The fans want to see more from him; the author has a few ideas left for him that didn't make it before he was killed; or the conflict hasn't entirely been resolved in your view. What can you do? Bring him back, without bringing him back.


A supposedly deceased villain can do this by previously laying one final failsafe to antagonize the heroes, or indirectly allowing their acts to force the heroes to hallucinate about him. A more unorthodox method allows the villain to transfer his memories, consciousness or soul into someone or something else, gradually allowing him to re-materialize in that new object or being like a parasite.

Compare Thanatos Gambit and My Death Is Just the Beginning. This may lead to Your Princess Is in Another Castle!. Not to be confused with Back from the Dead.

Be warned that as this is a Death Trope and usually a Plot Twist, spoilers on this page are unmarked.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach had one of the most disturbing examples, enough that it led to a Moral Event Horizon. At the end of his encounter with Mayuri Kurotsuchi, Szayelaporro Granz was devoured by Ashisogi Jizo, but he revived himself by implanting pieces of his Battle Aura into Nemu, allowing him to reform himself while inside her stomach. You read that right - he raped her. It also backfired on him. Horribly.
  • A possible Trope Codifier has King Piccolo vomiting up an egg that contained his nearly-identical (appearance and personality) son, who eventually went into an Enemy Mine with Goku against Raditz and ended up killing both Saiyans thanks to Goku's Heroic Sacrifice. But then Piccolo Jr. went Off the Rails and became one of Goku's staunchest allies and friends.
    • There's also Dr. Gero, with his Androids 17 and 18 (who would actually succeed in killing most of the heroes and the population of the Earth in an alternate timeline) and later, Cell (who did accomplish Gero's original goal, kill Goku).

    Comic Books 
  • In The Clone Saga, after the Jackal dies, a post-mortem compulsion activates within Spider-Man's brain, causing him to try to kill whoever he loves most under temporary conscious mind control.
  • At the conclusion of a very long Spider-Man arc involving robots disguised as Peter's parents, we discover that the entire plan was set in motion by Harry Osborn (Green Goblin II) some time before his death. It gets even better because while Harry eventually forgave Spider-Man and moved on, the last time he was seen (prior to One More Day) was here, on a videotape he'd made, gloating over an enraged Spider-Man.
  • In The Incredible Hulk comics, after the Leader died (circa #345) and before he came Back from the Dead, he implanted his memories into a loyal follower who had a similar gamma-induced mutation as he.

    Fan Works 
  • The Lion King Adventures:
    • Death, the Big Bad of Series 3, is destroyed in Darkness Falls, but returns twice in Series 4 via some "extremely complex" prerecorded messages.
    • Hago is the king of coming Back from the Dead, but in between his resurrections, there are a few examples of this:
      • After his original death in Friends to the End, he spends most of Series 2 haunting Simba in dreams and Foreshadowing at his return.
      • Then, after yet another death in Tama's Troubles, the events of the following story, Survival, are revealed to be a trap he set at some point in the past, complete with recorded message from him.
  • At the end of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Shadows, King Sombra is Killed Off for Real. However, in the sequel, The Divide, it turns out that there's an echo of him left in Twilight's mind (as a result of the dark magic she used), which spends a couple of chapters haunting her and damaging her faith in Celestia, before finally being purged from her mind.
  • The Teen Titans (2003) fic Dust is set after the episode "Haunted", so Slade's hallucinated presence is referenced. More important are several pre-recorded messages he left behind prior to his death to taunt Robin. And then it turns out that the story's entire plot — someone conducting a campaign to emotionally destroy the Titans — was set up in advance by him at some point during Season 2.

    Film — Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: It appears that the years-dead Joker is mysteriously alive again. It is eventually revealed that while the original Joker really is dead (the circumstances of his death being revealed in the movie), he unfortunately had one last trick up his sleeve. Specifically, the new Joker is actually the former Robin Tim Drake, on the verge of having his original personality permanently overwritten by a microchip implanted in his brain containing an upload of the original Joker's consciousness and DNA.


    Live Action TV 
  • Airwolf once had this: Airwolf's mad creator had a program hidden inside it that nearly caused it to trigger World War III. The creator's been dead for quite a while, yet his revenge wasn't complete.
  • Arrow: Adrian Chase AKA Prometheus commits suicide by shooting himself in the head in the Season 5 finale. He reappears in Season 6 as a hallucination to Oliver induced by Vertigo.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Mayor, the Big Bad of season 3 who's killed at the end of the season, gets one final hurrah in season 4 when a contingency plan he set up lets Faith pull a Grand Theft Me on Buffy.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribbleations features the Klingon from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Trouble with tribbles going back 100 years into the past to plant a bomb that will kill Kirk.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario" (S3 E25), a highly adaptive hologram of Seska enters the program and manipulates it to her own ends.
  • Stargate SG-1: An episode in one of the later seasons featured a villain of the week named Khalek. He's not only revealed to be a Goa'uld-Human hybrid, but a clone of Anubis, the Big Bad of season 5 to 8 and the most evil Go'uld who ever lived. Anubis had built him as a backup plan with Genetic Memory from his "father" in the event that he was taken out for good himself.
  • In the fourth season of Sherlock, Jim Moriarty, who apparently killed himself at the end of the second season, is hinted to be somehow still alive and plotting the events of the season. It is revealed in the final episode that he really did die, but pre-arranged with the new Big Bad that the villain in question could use recordings of him to troll Sherlock.
  • In Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the Gorma Tribe members that resurfaced from 6,000 years ago are actually clay doll copies created by the Big Bad, the originals having died 6,000 years ago. Much to the Big Bad's shock, he discovers that he's also a clay doll copy that the original Big Bad made in his image.

    Video Games 
  • Square Enix had Sephiroth do this in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children by focusing on his hatred of Cloud to keep from being assimilated by The Lifestream; while using Kadaj and his gang to find what was left of Jenova to bring about Hojo's reunion theory. Thereby allowing him to be reborn.
  • In Grim Fandango, the hero's rival Domino has been dead for over a year, but the good guys still have to contend with a deadly booby-trap he's laid for them when they finally get back to Rubacava to find the hiding place of their car. Dom's laid out an elaborate set of dominos all around the car that will trigger a bomb if they disturb it.
  • Mass Effect had a variant, where Saren was reanimated into a husk.
    • Mass Effect 2 had the Derelict Reaper continuing to influence the crew that investigated its insides after it was disabled. It was disabled millions of years ago. Very, very Lovecraftian.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2, Liquid's hand possesses Ocelot.
  • The final puzzle in Still Life 2 revolves around this. After finally identifying and killing the villain, our heroine rushes to save the hostage, only to find her strapped to the bomb, and a villains' final recording playing on the screen - he has planned for his death and left us with a final Sadistic Choice - try to save the hostage and risk detonating the bomb that kills you both; or save yourself and leave the hostage to die - which will get transmitted all over the Internet.

    Western Animation 
  • ReBoot had this. When Bob enters the core to save data and force a system restart,Bob encountered a program left behind by Megabyte, who at this point was launched into the Web. It's a simulation of Megabyte, which can self-replicate. All it does it taunt Bob.
  • Teen Titans (2003):
    • Slade makes a very effective one in season three. He was thrown into a pool of lava in the second season, but the dust in his mask left a chemical substance that made Robin see, hear and feel Slade, even when he wasn't there. And as a final touch of paranoia, it turns out that someone deliberately triggered this effect from outside the tower...
    • Slade is brought Back from the Dead by Trigon in the following season. Whether he triggered the above plan himself is never stated.
  • A variation of this occurs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), where it is eventually revealed that the Shredder keeps an online backup of his mind, in case his body is ever destroyed. After he was written off the series—exiled, but not killed—the writers had that backup infect, rewrite, reformat, and eventually take over the mind of the cybernetic villainess Viral from the Fast Forward season, therefore allowing a new version of the Shredder (fittingly titled "Cyber Shredder") to enter the fold in Back to the Sewers.
  • Wakfu: In Season 3, Nox (the Big Bad of Season 1) manifests in Yugo's nightmares and attacks him, apparently a projection of Yugo's guilt over being unable to save him.


Video Example(s):


Slade's Final Trick?

After Robin's harrowing experience with what appears to be Slade despite his apparent death, the Titans discover that Slade had left behind a chemical reagent that infected Robin and made him hallucinate him. After Robin leaves, however, Cyborg reveals something chilling to the other Titans.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / PostMortemComeback

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