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Redemption Earns Life

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I turn my head to the East, I don't see nobody by my side
I turn my head to the West, still nobody in sight.
So I turn my head to the North, swallow that pill that they call pride
That old me's dead and gone, but the new me'll be alright
T.I., "Dead And Gone"

Say your standard Mook or villain has an actual change of heart and does a Mook–Face Turn or Heel–Face Turn. Most of the time, it will result in their boss triggering their Cyanide Pill or Villain Override, and it usually turns into a Heroic Sacrifice because Redemption Equals Death. Sometimes, however, the right choice isn't burdened with a great price... but rewarded with life.

While the rest of the enemy army and their evil bosses meet their timely end, those who repented survived. They may get upgraded to Mauve Shirt, put in the team's roster, or just allowed to go on their way and live a normal life. Whatever the case, they've effectively redeemed themselves, done good, and lived to tell about it.

If a villain ever accepts the hero's Last-Second Chance, this is likely the result. Also is often what leads to The Atoner. This is no guarantee of surviving in a sequel, however. Contrast Villain's Dying Grace. See also Screw This, I'm Outta Here, which often has similar results while requiring much less of a commitment. See also Love Redeems and In Love with the Mark, which can save a hitman and target's life.

NOTE: This trope only applies to characters where the redemption clearly saves their life rather than just "they change sides and live."


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Fiamma of the Right is The Man Behind the Man of the Roman Catholic Church's darker motives and actions, manipulating events to start World War III and uncaring of anyone who has to die in his one-man quest to save the world. Touma beats him down both with fists and words and tells him to re-evaluate his opinion on humanity while sending him to safety in an escape pod. After seeing his efforts go down in flames, Fiamma takes a moment to consider his words, decides that maybe Touma was right... and promptly gets attacked and nearly killed by Aleister Crowley, who's tired of Fiamma's plans interfering with his own. Despite this, Fiamma continues to believe in Touma's words as he tries (and fails) to fight back to keep Aleister from trying to use Touma, and after being left for dead he winds up saved from dying of blood loss and exposure in the snowy Russian plains by Ollerus.
  • The four "evil" Legendary Warriors in Digimon Frontier get killed, but their data is purified and their spirits actually show up to help out toward the end. At the very end of the series, all the Legendary Warrior spirits (both the good and Heel Face Turned evil ones) are resurrected back to life.
  • Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z reformed in the Cell Saga, but was a Nominal Hero at best. After he sacrifices himself trying to stop Buu, he can't be brought back to life by Earth's Dragon Balls since he's been resurrected by them before, but when Namek's Dragon Balls are used to wish all the good people back, Vegeta is resurrected too.
    • Fat Buu is the only form of Buu to perform a Heel–Face Turn, and he's rewarded by surviving his arc, while Super Buu is de-fused and Kid Buu was atomized by a Spirit Bomb.
    • Frieza in Dragon Ball Super. While he's still definitely evil, he is a loyal and invaluable team member in the Tournament of Power, including playing a vital role in helping Goku finally defeat Jiren. As thanks for the good work, Beerus has Whis revive him. He immediately confirms that no, he's not turning good any time soon, but at least he's cooled on his obsession with Goku and leaves without further incident.
  • She never technically fell to begin with but in Elfen Lied, Nana wasn't anywhere near as bloodthirsty as other Diclonii, only snapping occasionally under extreme duress. The only person she makes a conscious effort to kill was Lucy, and that was mostly to stop her psychotic rampages. Even still, events kept preventing Nana from scoring even a single fatality, even when she was trying to cause one. She's rewarded by being the only Diclonius to survive the events of the Manga.
  • Eas of Fresh Pretty Cure! discards her evil identity and is quickly killed for it, but because she changed sides, she receives the Akarun and it restores her to life. This would be a spoiler, but Toei sure doesn't think so.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, the Rival Turned Evil Yui Hongo's final wish before the god Seiryuu consumes her. Notable in that it's an instance where redemption equals death and life because her wish allows Miaka to summon Suzaku, and Miaka in turn uses her first wish to bring Yui back.
  • In I'm Gonna Be an Angel! after finally letting go and resigning to the worst, Mikael and Silky managed to come out alive.
  • In part three of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure anti-villain Polnareff, after trying to murder our protagonists, is about to die and has an opportunity to murder Avdol by stabbing him in the back. Rather than kill Avdol in a dishonorable manner, Polnareff decides to die with honor instead. Avdol, who arranged the whole thing, decides that Polnareff passed his Secret Test of Character and saves his life instead. Furthermore, Polnareff is one of the only protagonists to survive part three.
  • While Lyrical Nanoha is known for a low death count, Cinque and the newer cyborg numbers (with the exception of Sette, who has unwavering loyalty to Tre, not her creator) became a part of the Nakajima family or joined the Saint Church after the end of the series. The unrepentant ones? Practically Demoted to Extra, Put on a Bus, or killed off.
  • In Macross Frontier, Ranka and Brera are brainwashed into serving the Big Bad's plans, but snap out of it and help to defeat said Big Bad. They surely would be discarded once they were no longer needed if they continued being used. In fact, the hero at one point contemplates that he has to kill Ranka but Sheryl convinces him to try and save her instead. In contrast, everyone who remained with Battle Galaxy was killed in the end.
    • In Macross as a whole, redemption dramatically increases your chances of survival (Guld being the major exception), but sometimes the non-redeemed survive as well.
  • In the Land of the Sea filler arc in Naruto, Isaribi, a human test subject in an experiment to give people the ability to breathe underwater, works for Amachi, sinking ships for him in exchange for eventually being cured. After Naruto convinces her to see the error of her ways and defeats Amachi, Amachi reveals that he planned to dissect her when he was done with her, and the group takes her back to the village so that Tsunade can return her to normal.
  • In Ronin Warriors, Anubis tries to turn against his master, who ends up trying an Assimilation Plot. He survives, and later becomes the new Ancient.
  • Enforced hardcore in Rurouni Kenshin. The Word of God was very adamant about the theme that if one can make up for their past sins, and most importantly, forgive themselves, one can earn a happy ending where Everybody Lives. It's pretty much shot to hell in the OVAs and movie, though (that they weren't part of the manga first probably explains why).
  • The anime version of Sailor Moon seems to have an almost even gender split between this trope and Redemption Equals Death. Men who switch sides almost invariably die (Nephrite, Diamande, Sapphir) while women get redeemed (En, The Amazon Quartet, the Ayakashi sisters in the Black Moon arc, Sailor Galaxia). Bucking the trend on male death are Professor Tomoe, Ali, and the Amazon Trio. Note that the manga is utterly devoid of this: the Amazon Trio is a very minor group of villains whom the Sailors nonchalantly kill almost immediately after their introduction; the Ayakashi sisters receive a similar treatment; Nephrite, Diamond, Sapphire, and Tomoe are unrepentant villains or irrevocably Brainwashed and Crazy; and Galaxia is genuinely evil rather than being controlled, and while that doesn't stop her from getting redemption, it does stop her from surviving it.
  • Medusa of Soul Eater all but spells out to Stein and Spirit that she was going to kill Crona for being a failed experiment shortly after Asura was revived. Crona, however, surrenders themself to the DWMA before that could happen. Ironically, in the manga Crona goes back to Medusa but pulls another Heel–Face Turn, and that time, Redemption Equals Affliction.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Rafael has a duel with Yami Yugi, with Rafael inevitably activating the Seal Of Orichalcos (which steals the soul of the loser). Rafael loses, but does so by resurrecting the Monsters that he turned his back on initially after activating it, in a sense making a Heroic Sacrifice. He redeems himself and as a result, the Seal does not take his soul like it normally does. It seems to be subverted when the building they were duelling on collapses, performing another Heroic Sacrifice by throwing Yami Yugi to safety... only to be double subverted when he's later shown alive, albeit scuffed up.

    Comic Books 
  • One arc of The Authority had an Avengers Expy team kidnap the newborn Jenny Quantum. Midnighter managed to use a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal on the Iron Man equivalent, even convincing him to help him out of rubble after being badly injured... and this from a team of supers who rarely let their enemies live. Another example in the same arc had them convince a Mad Scientist type in charge of the team to turn good and use his brilliant ideas to help humanity.
  • American Vampire features an almost literal example and also surprisingly dark variant for this trope: Infamous outlaw turned vampire Skinner Sweet lived many lifetimes of crime, murder, and betrayal until he is forced to side with the Vassals of the Morning Star to fight against the Beast. He serves as a Nominal Hero up until he decides to pull a Heroic Sacrifice to save his partner Calvin Poole when the two are trapped inside a space station, by manually directing the shuttle from the outside to ensure his partner survives as Sweet burns while re-entering Earth's atmosphere. Not only is he successful, but he also survives as well and discovers he has been cured of vampirism. So in a literal sense, redemption did make him alive again. On the downside, he can no longer be infected again and he has a Heroic BSoD when he realizes he is Brought Down to Normal.
  • The White Lantern Corps, full stop. The Entity has chosen 12 people to come back from the dead after Blackest Night to fulfill a given task. When fulfilled, the life of the individual is returned, otherwise they keep suffering some residual effects of the Black Lantern Corps. The only problem is, the Entity doesn't seem to really care about anyone, and will do whatever it takes to fulfill its goal. In addition to the Entity having its own peculiar notion of redemption, two of the 12 have been killed immediately after having their lives fully restored. And this was when they'd finally broken the curse that kept them reincarnating. Then again, the characters the Entity killed were still part of the Entity's plan to protect Earth. When the Black Avatar, an evil version of Swamp Thing, rises to destroy all life, the Entity, resurrects the people it killed as Elemental Embodiments (Aquaman is Water, Firestorm is Fire, Martian Manhunter is Earth, Hawkman and Hawkwoman are Air) to fight the Black Avatar, while the new protector of Earth is chosen. When the chosen protector, a new Swamp Thing empowered by the Entity, destroys the Black Avatar, the Entity restores the Elementals to their natural selves, but Hawkwoman remains as the Elemental of Air, much to Hawkman's heartbreak.
  • Red Sonja's family was murdered by brigands, but she escaped and killed them all with her hunting skills — except for Fellan, whose woodscraft equaled her own. Decades later a chance encounter allows her to track him down. He explains that he left the band and the robbing lifestyle immediately on that day and has lived a peaceful life ever since, which is why it was so difficult for her to find him. She allows him to live, on grounds that he is no longer the person who sinned against her.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Blackstar isn't offered all of his nine lives by StarClan due to his previous crimes, and has to earn his lives gradually by atoning for what he did.
  • Zabuza and Haku in Dreaming of Sunshine gets this treatment, at least compared to canon where Haku never actually turned and Zabuza simply went out via Taking You with Me.
  • In Greyjoy Alla Breve, Lancel Lannister has gone well past the Despair Event Horizon and has become a Death Seeker after the presumed death of his entire family (most of them are actually alive, but he was lied to by Joffrey) when the war takes him through the Crownlands, where Joffrey sends knights to horrifically destroy nearby villages because they did not want to become cannon fodder for him. When Joffrey sends Lancel against one village, he decides to send a scout well ahead of him so the villagers know where to run so as to escape Joffrey's claws. This saves several hundreds of villagers (as those who ran warned others) and, after he somehow survives the last battle of the war, ensures Lancel has a good reputation and a chance to return to a normal (or almost) life.
  • In A Growing Affection, Nagato's use of the Pein jutsu is killing him. But thanks to Konan and Naruto he stops using the jutsu and switches sides, allowing Tsunade to save his life.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this happens to Drill Man, who is saved from a suicide mission and turns good as a result.
  • A New Hope (Danganronpa) plays with this trope as Kotoko was unknowingly taking Hiyoko's place in the Killing Game, which allows her to bond with several of the students, notably Kirumi so by the time she gets her memories back, she has come to understand that not adults are evil and commits a Heel–Face Turn. This, in turn, means she is the only Warrior of Hope to not be present in the Kuma-Kuma Land Killing Game, where all of them are killed off.
  • In Ripples, Waves, Tsunamis, we have Raijax. He goes from public enemy number one for both Kayaku and the Straw Hats to honorary Straw Hat and guardian of Kayaku.
  • Splint: Baladnor, Ingrid's alcoholic husband, starts out hating Orcs because he was crippled in the last raid he took as an Orc hunter, leaving him suffering from chronic pain, joint problems and inability to get aroused thanks to the Orcish poison in his system, which no human healer knows how to cure. After Rukhash learns Baladnor – whom she thought she had killed – was at said raid, she ultimately decides to settle for letting the poison do its work of gradually killing him as revenge. When he attempts to provoke her to prove she's nothing but a monster who doesn't deserve protection, he learns that she lost her mate and children (the former by his hand) in that raid. Seeing her raw grief makes him concede that her hatred of him is justified, so he refuses to help Barmund murder her and saves her life by warning Magistrate Halbard whose men stop Barmund and his gang just in time. After Rukhash is told of what Baladnor did, she tells him about the poison and reluctantly gives him the antidote for the sake of looking forward. The antidote saves him from eventual death and rids him of his ailments, allowing him to live happily again with Ingrid. When Rukhash and Cadoc later become wanted by Orc-haters, Baladnor helps Magistrate Halbard testify for the couple in front of King Elessar to get the unjust bounty called off.
  • In Zero 2: A Revision, Blackwargreymon is the only Control Spire Digimon that is reborn as a regular Digimon because he took an attack meant for Davis before dying from Skullsatamon's attack.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Paradox, Flay Allster is spared from death by the eponymous Paradox Gundam, which in the process caused a divergence in the Cosmic Era timeline. Ever since surviving the war, Flay goes on to atone for her past sins of manipulating Kira and her Fantastic Racism against Coordinators by becoming a member of Orb's Team Paradox.

    Films — Animated 
  • A complicated example in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Charlie left Heaven and lost his place there as a result (he only got it because he was a dog and they all go to Heaven), thus if he dies again, he'll go to Hell. Well, in the end, he performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Anne-Marie's life and dies. While this would normally be Redemption Equals Death, the act redeems his soul and saves him from an eternity in Hell, thus Redemption Earns After Life. Same happens to Carface in the third film. It's revealed that if he doesn't change his ways, not only will he be dead before next Christmas, he'll be spending eternity in Hell. In the end, he decides to do the right thing and pull a Heel–Face Turn, saving his soul and his life.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) when Tempest Shadow leaps in front of the Storm King's Petrification Orb to save the Mane 6, turning the two to crystal and knocking them both off the Canterlot Castle balcony. However, while the Storm King hits the ground and shatters, Tempest is saved by the Mane 6 and unpetrified.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Endgame: Gamora is the only member of Thanos' army from the alternate 2014 to switch sides, helping Nebula escape and participating in the final battle on the Avengers' side. She is also the only one who survives Tony Stark's snap that eliminates Thanos' army (Peter Quill is searching for her in the ending, and the deleted scenes confirm that she quietly departs after the battle while the rest of the heroes pay respects to Tony's sacrifice). Since the timeline is fixed afterwards, this also makes her the only survivor from the alternate 2014.
  • A somewhat complicated example: In Constantine (2005), the hero (who was never bad, but was locked out of Heaven for committing suicide as a teenager) earns redemption through self-sacrifice and then redemption indirectly saves his life. After discovering he's been redeemed, Satan heals him, Satan's theory being that if Constantine gets to live, he'll eventually screw up and damn himself all over again.
  • In Devil, the Devil comes to Earth to torment various sinners, before killing them to torment them further in hell. The last one however moments before death, confesses his sins, apologizes, and begs forgiveness redeeming himself. While the Devil could still kill him, as he's been redeemed he'd just go to heaven, so he's spared.
  • In Let the Right One In Oskar is beaten and bullied by several bullies. Eventually they even try to drown him. But Eli comes just in time to kill them and save Oskar. The one bully who did not participate in the attempted murder is spared by Eli.
    • Inverted in the remake Let Me In. There the bullies are much more cruel and brutal to Oskar, and none of them regret what they did or leave Owen alone. When they try to drown him, none of them are spared by Abby.
  • In Little Sweetheart, Elizabeth defies the laws of physics and human biology, living to the end credits due to her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Pain & Gain: Paul gets a crisis of conscience and ends up confessing. He ends up living with 15 years in prison while the other two get death sentences.
  • At the climax of The Prestige, Borden has a debate with himself (i.e. his twin, Fallon, who swaps places with him, but the audience doesn't know this yet) about if he should find out how Angier's trick works and break it, or if their cycling revenge has already cost too much and they should pull out. Fallon's curiosity leads him to fall for Angier's bait and gets him executed for his trouble; Borden survives to steal his daughter back from Angier and kill him.
  • In Star Wars, there's Lando Calrissian, who betrays Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and the Droids to Darth Vader and later ends up saving all of them except Han, who he later helps rescue. Word of God has it that it was supposed to be a Redemption Equals Death, but was changed fairly early in the screenwriting process.
  • Street Fighter: Zangief has a Heel Realization after Dee Jay tells him Bison is the bad guy, and he quickly runs to help the heroes escape. Almost all of Bison's followers are either dead or marched off a gunpoint (But not Bison) while Zangief gets a thumbs up and a freeze-frame Yeah Shot with the good guys.
  • In Village of the Damned (1995), twelve children with Mind Manipulation abilities are born. The one who refuses to use his ability to harm humans survives, the rest get killed.

  • In The Edge Chronicles book "Vox", Xanth breaks Magda out of the Tower of Night, and refuses to abandon her when they are caught. The ultimate result of this is that when the Great Maelstrom comes and destroys the Tower (and all of Undertown) he is safely with the good guys.
  • Harry Potter: The Malfoys, deciding that they care more about each other than anything else, give up helping Voldemort. They survive the final battle, and according to Word of God, manage to weasel their way out of Azkaban, specifically because of this trope.
  • In Safehold, Cayleb makes it pretty clear that he wants Nahrmahn Baytz's head, but the plump prince Ain't Too Proud to Beg and performs a Heel–Face Turn, defusing the situation. The two actually become friends over the next years.
  • The wretched inhabitants of Tyr Anwyn in The Endless Knot, final book of Stephen Lawhead's Song of Albion trilogy. Nominally servants of Siawn Hy, some of them side with protagonist Llew shortly before Llew's death unleashes the series' titular Song, burning through Tyr Anwyn and turning the substance of the land into something higher and purer. Siawn Hy's army gets turned completely into ash; the few who sided with Llew are remade as 'Men and Women of Stature' and described as wearing what amount to royal garments.

    Live-Action TV 
  • At the end of the original run of 24, Jack has completely torn up Manhattan to slaughter the masterminds behind the earlier terrorist attacks on the city in revenge for killing his would-be love interest, damn near becoming just as bad as they've been. He stands ready to kill the leader, the President of Russia, at the cost of starting a third World War, but manages to get talked down by Chloe, so he gives her the data card that proves their guilt and lets himself be taken hostage by their allies, even though this means he'll face execution since he's too dangerous to be left alive. Because of this, the data card eventually winds up in the hands of President Taylor, who's working with said masterminds for her own benefit. She discovers that Jack has left a video will on it, which leads her to realize how she's perverted her own ideals and makes her own Heel–Face Turn. She's then able to help Chloe locate where Jack is and call off his murder just seconds before he has a bullet put in his head.
  • Jesse from Breaking Bad has his Heel Realization before Walt, and attempts to get out of the meth business. Although later his attempt fails spectacularly, and he is forced to cook meth for Jack's gang. After a few months, Walt comes to kill him and the rest of the Neo-Nazis under the assumption that Jesse is willingly cooking meth for them, but after seeing personally how ruined he has become, Walt changes his mind and saves him from his machine gun, allowing him to live and escape scot-free.
  • Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer regrets his evil deeds. This leads to the fact that he finds himself on the side of the good, and ultimately is even accepted as one of them by the other heroes. He is also the only one of the trio of former super villains to survive the series and the comics.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Kai's demise took the evil Imagin loyal to him with him due to them being sustained by his memories. The Imagin who performed a Heel–Face Turn and joined the Riders were sustained by their memories instead, saving them from that fate.
  • Seems to have happened so far in Season 6 of Lost, to Benjamin Linus. He was almost executed by Ilana for killing Jacob, and when given the opportunity to escape, he instead explains himself to her, telling her how much he regrets what he's done, and she tells him he can stay with her.
  • Regina in the Season 2 Finale of Once Upon a Time initially leans toward Redemption Equals Death, but it turns into this instead. Other characters activate a device that will kill everyone in Storybrook, and Regina is going to delay it to give everyone else time to escape. Doing so will end in her death, but she comments that this is merely the price she deserves to pay. When the other characters learn of this, they refuse to accept it and return to help her. As Henry puts it, "You're willing to die to save everyone, that makes you a hero." She and Emma are then able to combine their magic to stop it and save everyone, leaving her redeemed and alive.
  • Happens in Power Rangers on occasion:
  • During Season 8 of Stargate SG-1, the team are captured by a minor system lord while trying to warn him of an impending assassination by one of Anubis' Kull warriors. They convince their guard to free them, because his "god" was either dead or gone and his obedience would only kill them all.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Discovery when the Emperor — the mirror universe version of Captain Georgiou — offers to buy Michael time to escape and go down guns blazing. Michael manages to grab her into the transporter beam instead, but the Emperor isn't remotely pleased to be taken from her Dying Moment of Awesome. Nor, as she points out later, is this a way for Michael to atone for not saving Captain Georgiou because they are not the same person and the Emperor has no intention of giving up her ruthless, authoritarian, xenophobic ways.
  • Kaitlin in VR Troopers had an Evil Knockoff mirror clone made of her, and due to instability both couldn't exist at the same time. After being found out and imprisoned by the good guys, Ryan managed to convince her to switch sides, and she was reintegrated into the original Kaitlin, even giving her a "Double Me!" attack that created a clone of her.

  • In The Grand Cyberpunk Gala of Gabriella Gadfly, the protagonists are menaced by AIsnote  led by a representative named Mary, who had kept them imprisoned in a simulated reality as part of a gambit to nullify the threat the AIs' future selves posed due to their growing Lack of Empathy. When the two surviving protagonists fight back, killing all the AI except for Mary, Mary's fear of death causes her to have an epiphany expressed in the song "Sublimity". Her Heel Realization and re-awakened empathy prevent the others from being able to kill her in good conscience, and one of them agrees to return to the simulation with her to keep her company.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible:
    • According to Jewish tradition, the Egyptian princess (Bithiah/Batya) who raised Moses was a firstborn but was saved from the tenth plague and left Egypt with the Israelites. Some also believe that other, God-fearing Egyptians left with the Israelites as well.
    • In the Book of Joshua, Rahab was a prostitute living in the city of Jericho at the time that the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, were coming in to conquer it. Joshua sent spies ahead to scout it out; they found refuge in Rahab's house, even though she knew full well what they were up to. (Joshua 2) Because of this, Rahab (and her family) was spared during the eventual judgement.
    • Acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's savior (Romans 10:9), followed by repentance (Acts 3:19-20), will lead to eternal life in Heaven after death.
    • Though in a deeper spiritual sense taking the offer of redemption that Jesus sacrificed his life to give you earns you eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible makes it clear that choosing Jesus is to choose life instead of death.
  • This is present in Hinduism and Buddhism, which work on the principle we humans are part of a cycle of rebirth and reincarnate every time according to how saintly or evil we were in the previous life (until being released from the cycle, that is). Even if you die shortly after redeeming from evil ways, having already done so is technically a bonus of good karma for your rebirth, meaning that, essentially, all redemptions earn you a bit of life in the next. Of course, this might or might not be enough to compensate for all the rest of your bad karma, but you will have again the possibility to work towards it.
  • In Classical Mythology, the Danaides were fifty sisters who were forced by their uncle to marry their fifty male cousins; their father advised them to murder their husbands on their wedding night. One of the grooms, Lynceus, respected his new wife Hypermnestra's desire to remain a virgin, so she spared him; she, in turn, was saved by Aphrodite when her father tried to kill her in anger. Also, she got to go to Elysium, the good afterlife, while her sisters spent theirs constantly trying to fill sieves/broken jugs with water.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons introduced an unusual variant of this in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells with the Hellbred race: a villainous character who discovered the error of their ways and had a true change of heart just before dying, but did not have time to seek true redemption and thus earn an afterlife in the Good or Neutral realms. The planes end up temporarily and quietly warring over their soul, a process known as The Scourging, before the person reincarnates as a Hellbred with their memories blurred, muffled, or erased outright. They then have a chance to live life anew and possibly earn themselves a better fate... though if they don't do something to get an entity of sufficient power to support them Hell will claim their souls anyway. Still, it's a chance they wouldn't have otherwise.
  • The Eldar Exodites of Warhammer 40,000. When the Eldar civilization plunged into horrific depravity and hedonism, some Eldar grew disgusted by what their kin became and decided to get as far away from it all as possible, fleeing to the harsh outpost worlds on the borders of their interstellar empire and becoming essentially Space Amish. When Slaanesh was born and hir psychic backlash obliterated the Eldar civilization, the border worlds remained miraculously untouched.

    Video Games 
  • In BioShock, Brigid Tenenbaum is the only named NPC who survives the events of the game, as everyone else was already dead by the time Jack came back to Rapture, or was killed by Jack's hands as their enemy. Tenenbaum wisely decides to stay out of Jack's way and never betray him, even if he decides to harvest Little Sisters, acknowledging her shady past with them and doing her best to make up to them.
  • In Castlevania 64, Reinhardt encounters a young woman named Rosa, who's been turned into a vampire and considers this a Fate Worse than Death, even attempting to commit Suicide by Sunlight and begging Reinhardt to kill her so as to end her suffering. Late in the game, she's forced to fight him while being under Death's control, and after he spares her again, she ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice to save his life. In the good ending, after Reinhardt destroys Dracula's true form, Rosa is resurrected as a human through divine intervention, with the heavy implication they'll now start a new life together.
  • Averted in the Victory Bay mission in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, when playing as the Space Marines. As you play, squads of the Imperial Guardsmen you're facing defect from the opposing side and fight for you - likely expecting this would spare their lives. It doesn't — at the culmination of the mission, the Imperial Guardsmen who fought against you get heroes' burials and commendations for following orders even until the bitter end (the surviving loyalists, if there are any, get transport and safe passage home), and the guardsmen who joined your side are executed for treason and cowardice. Given they turn traitor when ANY of the faction knock out the commissar, this is actually reasonable!
  • Variation. In Devil Survivor if Keisuke doesn't get redeemed, he dies.
  • Possible in Dishonored, where sparing Daud is considered an act of actual mercy rather than the other kind, particularly if you beat him in a fight, he'll proceed to state how killing the empress left him filled with regret and self-loathing. He then allows you to determine his fate. In the DLC series focused on the character, the Low Chaos ending also results in Corvo sparing Daud.
  • Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins can join your party if you spare his life at the Landsmeet and induct him into the Grey Wardens, although depending on your choices, he may make a Heroic Sacrifice against the final boss.
    • You can choose to recruit him and then leave him behind at the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. He's very puzzled by your decision, and asks why. One of your possible responses is basically along the lines of "one day, you'll figure out why". He goes on to become The Atoner and an all-around Cool Old Guy, helping to rebuild the Grey Wardens in Ferelden.
  • At the end of Fallout 2, a squad of Enclave Elite Mooks can be convinced to help the Chosen One defeat Frank Horrigan, in exchange for a ride off the Enclave Oil Rig (which is about to explode). Those that survive the fight with Horrigan escape along with the heroes, while the rest of the Enclave goes up in a mushroom cloud.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Fujin and Raijin in Final Fantasy VIII. They refused to protect Seifer because they realized he's a pawn of Ultimecia, and tried to talk him out of it. Not only did they survive, but so did Seifer.
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, it turns out Golbez is secretly trying to help the Warriors of Cosmos win the war. He only fights for the Chaos side because he personally believes that his inner darkness taints him and makes him unsuitable for serving Cosmos - he doesn't even seek redemption, he thinks he doesn't deserve it (Cecil and many players disagree). Ultimately by the end of the game, Golbez is the only Warrior of Chaos still standing, meeting Cecil one last time to say that he's going off to wander the world alone, but he will come to walk with Cecil when the time comes. He makes good on his promise.
  • This is a staple of the Fire Emblem series. Any mook that has a face portrait and is not a boss (and even some who are bosses) can usually be recruited for your team by talking to them with the right person. This quite literally saves their life, because your party goes on to slaughter every other mook on the map.
  • Ghost Trick: Zig-zagged with Yomiel. The final chapter is going ten years into the past to when a shard of the Temsik meteorite impales him and turns him into an immortal but unhappy ghost. The heroes discuss the posibility that Yomiel might die anyway since at the time he also had a gun trained on him by Detective Jowd, but Yomiel decides he's fine with that since at least he won't become a ghost. In the end, events occur where Yomiel is saved from both the Temsik shard and the Jowd's gun accidentally firing, but he still both gets impaled on a sharp spike and crushed by a giant statue after ghost!Yomiel puppeteers his past self's body to save Lynn from being crushed. Miraculously though, he ends up surviving all that and returns to the new timeline alive (albeit incarcerated in the intervening time period for escaping interogation and holding a child hostage) and a changed man.
  • In Hi-Fi RUSH, Korsica proves to be willing to listen to reason and begins investigating the truth about Kale Vandelay's secret SPECTRA project. As a result, their boss fight doesn't involve Chai having to fight them to the death like the other department heads. Kale attempts to kill her for knowing too much, leaving her badly wounded, and she's resuscitated at the hideout, which convinces her to join the gang in taking down Kale. As a result, they're the only department head to not explode or suffer Uncertain Doom by the story's end.
  • God of War Ragnarök: This is Kratos's ultimate fate. He manages to overcome his guilt and Death Seeker tendencies and develop into a genuine hero... and in doing so, he averts a prophecy of his death by doing the one thing fate would never expect of him. The prophecy can be inferred to go something like this: During the final battle, Kratos (if he were the Nominal Hero he was in Greece) allows massive civilian casualties. Because of this, he is unable to talk down Thrud and ends up killing her. Thor, in turn, is furious about the death of his daughter, attacks Kratos without reservation, and can't be talked down either. Kratos is still somewhat rusty on the Unstoppable Rage deal and is killed. But, because of the compassion Kratos showed, it was easy to convince Thrud that he was a friend, which greatly diminished Thor's motivation to fight.
  • In Library of Ruina, as part of the Golden Ending, Angela decides to release everything she's absorbed and give up her human body to reverse the damage she'd done, fully well expecting to die in the process. However, Roland pulls her out of the light at the last second, saving her life (at the cost of her instead just returning to a mechanical body), cementing both characters' Character Development and acknowledging the friendship they share.
  • Happens in Mass Effect. Feron eventually does a permanent Heel–Face Turn and ultimately commits a Heroic Sacrifice to save Liara and Shepard's body from the Shadow Broker...cut to two years later, where Liara and Shepard go to great lengths to save him from the Shadow Broker because of his heroic sacrifice. Also happens with Wrex, if you talk him down on Virmire.
  • This happens to Mr. Big Bad, Lord Wily himself, in the Mega Man Battle Network series. Touched by the Heroic Sacrifice of Iris and Colonel, his creations, he survives the explosion of his base, and then willingly surrenders to the authorities, ready to atone for all his sins. He also sends Lan and Mega Man a letter, thanking them for showing him the error of his ways.
  • In the final chapter of Octopath Traveler II, the player discovers Ori has been a member of a nihilistic death cult her whole life and was completely on board with sacrificing herself to bring about the endless night. However, her interactions with the selfless Partitio cause her to shake her beliefs as she realizes that maybe the Moonshade Order was wrong and the world deserves to see a new dawn. This causes her to botch the ritualistic suicide she was about to perform, leaving her on the brink of death but still able to be nursed back to health. She's the only member of the Order left alive by the end with newfound faith in humanity, while everyone else either died at the hands of the heroes or were sacrificed to resurrect Vide.
  • At the end of Scarface: The World Is Yours, after having demolished the army of mooks hanging around and killing Sosa and friends, one last mook shows up and begs for mercy as Tony prepares to leave. He gets offered a job and accepts. A similar scene occurs in the film.
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm largely focuses on Kerrigan's redemption for her various atrocities in StarCraft Brood War. This is most apparent in the final mission, when she agrees to put herself in a severe tactical disadvantage to allow Valerian and Horner to evacuate the maximum number of civilians from the battleground. This decision, more than anything else, is what motivates Raynor to help her in the battle and eventually save her from being killed by Mengsk.
  • Ryoto Hikawa, in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, is shown as a reluctant mook of the Divine Crusaders who doesn't seem to have the heart for fighting, but believes in their cause. Unfortunately for him, the DC doesn't reciprocate this belief, and use him as a delivery vector for a bomb to blow up the Hagane. His surrender to the Hagane's crew literally saves his life.
  • Tales of Symphonia has an almost semi-meta version in the case of Zelos. There are two possible storyline routes. In the first, the character pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the last minute, saves everyone in your party from death traps, and grants you a power vital to defeating the final boss. This is the route in which the character survives. If you choose the other route, he never turns; he was Evil All Along, entirely selfishly motivated, and after this reveal, he attacks the party and you're forced to kill him. So if you don't pick the route which allows him to redeem himself, he dies.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Raven, or Captain Schwann if you prefer, does this due to the blastia embedded within his chest and a deal he made with Alexei.
    • More specifically, Alexei was planning on burying Raven alive along with the rest of the party. After his figurative change of heart, Raven ends up not only holding the ceiling up long enough for them to escape but surviving to rejoin them later on.
  • In Traffic Department 2192, General Orlok sincerely wants to reform the Vultures for the sake of peace. Velasquez, weary of fighting, cooperates with him, and Orlok ends up being one of the only characters in the game who doesn't die.
  • Undertale Yellow offers an Inverted example with the protagonist, related to the Fan Game's status as a prequel to the original game. Clover is Doomed by Canon unless the player pursues a Merciless route, slaughtering their way through the underground in order to survive.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • There's a meta example in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc with Byakuya Togami, who acts as The Rival for the game. He's also the only rival in the main three games to survive- because unlike the other two (Nagito Komaeda and Kokichi Oma) he eventually gets over himself and stops his needless antagonism of the other students. The other two die as the victim/murderer/it's complicated of the fifth chapter of their games, but Byakuya officially declares he's joining the team at the end of the fourth chapter, ensuring he survives the fifth as the Mastermind can't use him to spark the final conflict.
    • It's non-canon, but this is essentially the basis for the short story Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc IF. Mukuro Ikusaba is canonically Junko's (somewhat conflicted but still loyal) accomplice, and dies in that role early on when Junko betrays her. In IF, Makoto saves Mukuro from her canonical death. The realization that Junko never cared for her prompts Mukuro to betray her, and she then spends the rest of the novel working to make sure that Everybody Lives, including Mukuro herself.
  • In Fate/stay night, this is how Sakura survives the Heaven's Feel route, as her battle with Rin forces her out of her despair and she begins resisting her bond with Angra Manyu. As a result, Shirou has enough time to find her and free her from becoming the next Holy Grail. The true ending makes things even better for her, as Shirou ends up surviving as well and they both live happily together.

  • A slightly more pragmatic version of this trope is discussed in Captain SNES: The Game Masta:
    Cecil Harvey: I cannot stress how imperative it is that you renounce your current path. Now. [...] Because your repentance is the only thing that will keep me from ending you.
  • What looks to be a case of Redemption Equals Death ends up turning out to be this in Ensign Sue Must Die. The titular Ensign Sue, by the end of the third story, had redeemed herself and eventually convinced Sue Prime to give up on her plan. Sue Prime exiting the universe meant that all of the Sues she created vanished (as they were parts of her), which at first includes Ensign Sue- but the last page shows that Ensign Sue has been reincarnated as a normal human called Ensign Mary Smith.

    Western Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Series, Mirage transforms street urchins into El Khatib, extremely powerful monsters that can only exist on Earth during a full moon. One of them, Amal, used to be friends with Aladdin and refuses to kill him. When Mirage abandons the El Khatib on Earth and the moon sets, they all get obliterated - except for Amal, who has partially regained his humanity.
  • Amphibia: Ultimately, King Andrias decision to let Anne win against him and stop his invasion is what keeps her from going all out to kill him. Heavily damaged as he is afterwards, he continues to do what was right whenever he can, such as helping aid the girls against the Core's Colony Drop gambit and ridding himself of its influence on him once and for all. He is shown to have lived all the way up to the series finale, living life as a simple and happy (albeit imprisoned) farmer.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long does this with the Huntsclan. When Rose wishes that the entire clan was destroyed, she is saved by Jake, which is a normal version of this trope. However, Huntsboys 88 and 89 get this a bit more directly: once they hear Rose's wish they immediately throw down their weapons and declare that they quit, and the spell passes them by harmlessly.
  • In What If…? (2021), the Ravager Variant of Thanos is the only version of him (including both his main counterpart and his 2014 Variant) who is talked down from his genocidal plan to kill half of the universe and thus is the only one to survive his story.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Redemption Equals Life


Sir Pentious' Redemption

(SPOILER WARNING) Sir Pentious tries to take out Adam with a suicide run of his Airship, but Adam vaporizes him and the ship without even realizing what was happening. Luckily, it wasn't in vain.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeroicSacrifice

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