Follow TV Tropes


Redemption Quest

Go To

"Come. There is a way to be good again."
Rahim Khan, The Kite Runner

Maybe your character was The Cape, but fell on bad times. Maybe he was an Anti-Hero who made a mistake and went flying off the slippery slope. They could even be a Villain Protagonist or Anti-Villain who is interested in redemption, either because they've kept their standards, or because they've been in conflict with an even worse villain and shown hints that there might be some good left in them after all. Whatever the case may be, the character is in a bad place but wants to do better, and they are granted one final chance to do so, usually in the form of a grand, nearly impossible task.

Maybe they're being asked to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, or to cure The Virus, or to stop the Evil Overlord. They may not be expected to live through this, but if they can pull it off, no one can say that they haven't cleared their name, regained their honor, or insured an afterlife in good old Fluffy Cloud Heaven. (That said, you may wind up with a case of Redemption Earns Life instead.)

Sometimes done in a quieter way as Character Development in a non-fantasy setting, where a character is looking to undo a past mistake or wrong to a love one that has haunted them or caused misery for people around them. Also known to happen in Sports Movies, where a character may see one last great year or performance as a redemption of their prior deeds or careers.

A Sub-Trope of The Hero's Journey and Must Make Amends. Usually follows a Heel Realization, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero or someone saying What the Hell, Hero?. Naturally, a staple of The Atoner. An alternative to Redemption Equals Death. Often a result of Go and Sin No More. Contrast Protagonist Journey to Villain and Redemption Failure.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In Brody's Ghost, Brody is roped into helping the titular ghost Talia into performing a "life task," a very good deed, so that she can be allowed to enter heaven (which she was locked out of for reasons she doesn't divulge). It turns out this entire story is bunk, however, as she's only interested in getting revenge on her killer.
  • Incorruptible, the companion story of Irredeemable, has former supervillain Max Damage trying to be a superhero after The Plutonium, the Superman analogue, becomes a Fallen Hero.
  • This is what the 3rd Loki was aiming for in Loki: Agent of Asgard, and because with Loki nothing is ever simple things got complicated. From misunderstanding how redemption works (no, just erasing the past without facing it won't do it), to fighting themselves (literally!).
  • Blue Devil in Shadowpact is assigned a Redemption Quest by the Catholic Church, to make up for selling his soul for fame in Underworld Unleashed - which led to the death of his friend Marla - and also to try and counter the message of a guy who sold his soul and subsequently gained demonic power being a high-profile superhero. It later turned out the Church couldn't do anything to help him... after he completed all the quests.
  • Anti-Venom (Eddie Brock, the original Venom) is on one of these to destroy the Venom Symbiote; and find some peace from the psychotic remnants of Venom locked in his mind from their bonding.

    Films — Animated 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show serves as this for Eddy; first, he is forced to confront and admit the fact that his selfish and jerkass tendencies are unhealthy and at risk of costing him the only two friends he has, and then he admits to everyone in the Cul-de-sac that the only reason he acts like a jerk is because his brother did; he thought that his brother was "respected" and "liked" by the other kids (when in actuality they were afraid of him), and that if he acted like his brother, then the other kids would like him. Once the illusion falls off, he's finally accepted and forgiven by the other kids.
  • Megamind: The titular character, who started out as a villain due to past experiences and growing up with not having the best role models or life experiences. Only throughout the events of the film, (some of the events being of his own fault) he slowly begins to become a superhero and takes Metro Man's place as Metro City's main hero.
  • Sunset Shimmer of the FiM spinoff series started off as the Big Bad of the first film, the Deuteragonist of the second, and finally The Hero from the third film, going forward.
  • ParaNorman looks like a typical zombie invasion triggered by a witch's curse until it's revealed that the zombies recognize that they've done something horrible and are putting themselves through a great deal of pain in order to find someone who can help the "witch" they killed (really an innocent 11-year-old girl) to move on.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In By the Sword, Suba is trying to make right what he did wrong at the fencing school he used to go to, what with him killing his maestro in a duel to the death.
  • The Color of Money is essentially about Eddie Felson's journey to redeem himself after the events of The Hustler (1961) and rediscover the unbridled joy of playing pool.
  • The film The Fisher King has shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) helping the deranged Henry/Parry Sagan (Robin Williams) in getting a love interest and finding the Holy Grail, as a redemption for having inadvertently caused the death of Sagan's wife.
  • In The Mission, mercenary and slaver Rodrigo Mendoza goes on one of these after he kills his own brother.
  • The eponymous Mystery Team is out to regain the respect of their community.
  • The Replacements (2000) a Keanu Reeves comedy football movie, has this happening to Reeves' character Shane Falco. Falco had notoriously choked in the final game of his college career, and performed miserably in his little time as a pro, so this last chance at the game represents a chance for him to erase that image. At the same time, the film makes it clear that none of the replacement players, including Falco, became permanent professional players and went back to their original jobs (in one case, back to prison). This is despite the fact that they've accomplished what the original highly-paid "superstars" couldn't.
  • A frequent theme in the Rocky movies. Apollo pursues a rematch with Rocky in the second movie so he can regain any respect he's lost from nearly losing to a bum, Rocky goes for a rematch with Clubber in Rocky III to erase the self doubts caused by the dramatic beating he got in their first fight, etc.
  • Discussed in Tears of the Sun when the team decide Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!, and choose to save everyone they possibly can.
    Zee: L.T., those Africans are my people too. For all the years that we were told to stand down and to stand by, you're doing the right thing.
    L.T.: For our sins.
    Both: Hooyah.
  • The film The Verdict starring Paul Newman as a middle aged, alcoholic lawyer taking a big malpractice case against a rich hospital.
  • Played with but Deconstructed in the end in The Wrestler, where what would normally be the subject of Randy "The Ram" Robinson's Redemption Quest in most other sports movies (namely, his big reunion bout with his old sparring nemesis "The Ayatollah") in fact isn't; his real Quest is to redeem himself in the eyes of his estranged daughter and to make a connection with the stripper with whom he has fallen in love. He ultimately fails at both, and his decision to go ahead with the bout even if his heart problems mean it'll kill him is ultimately a symbol of his failure in this; he wins the bout, but it's heavily implied that he dies in the process.

  • In The Crush, this is Kelly and Amber's entire drive. They lost half their team to the rogue James McTavish a year ago, and have been languishing in defeat since then. When they find out the latter is in their city, they jump at the chance to make it up to their fallen comrades. Both of them see it as a matter of honour to make good on their promise to protect their friends.
  • In his Back Story, Dragonlance character Lord Soth was given a chance to redeem his soul after becoming a Fallen Hero. At first he leaps at the chance, but turns his back on preventing The End of the World as We Know It to confront his wife about accusations of infidelity.
  • Severus Snape spends most of the Harry Potter series atoning for causing Lily's death by protecting Harry from harm and working as a double agent for both the Death Eaters and the Order.
  • Su Wukong (Monkey King) and the other bodyguards/traveling companions go along with the monk Tripitaka in Journey to the West to earn redemption for past misdeeds.
  • In The Kite Runner, Amir seeks to redeem his past actions towards Hassan by rescuing his friend's son.
  • The Licanius Trilogy deconstructs this with Caeden. While he tries his best to make up for his past atrocities, many characters (himself included) consider him beyond forgiveness, for the most part.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel is Marguerite's quest to atone for unintentionally causing the execution of the Marquis de St. Cyr, one of the French aristocratic fugitives her husband Sir Percy has devoted his life to protecting.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen sets out on this after getting his powers, with the setting's Sky Pirates and Sex Slavers being at the top of his list of targets.
  • The Silver Chair: Aslan assigns Jill the task of finding the lost prince Rilian as her Redemption Quest for causing Eustace to fall off a cliff.
  • From A Song of Ice and Fire, while not originally intended as such, as Jaime Lannister was still his arrogant and scumbag self and Catelyn saw him as beyond redemption, his quest to return the Stark girls became this, after being inspired by Brienne's example and losing his hand in a massive Break the Haughty moment. Afterwards, he gains a genuine desire to be an honorable Knight in Shining Armor again and return the Stark girls to Catelyn to repay Brienne and atone for his many horrible acts. While this doesn't work out, he is going to every length imaginable to keep his oath to never raise his sword against a Stark or Tully again.
    • Similarly, Theon Greyjoy spends most of book 5 trying to rescue Arya Stark, who is actually Jeyne Poole, from the Boltons in order to atone for betraying Robb Stark and causing the Red Wedding.
    • Barristan Selmy considers his service to Danareys Targaryen to be atonement for failing to protect her father, Aerys Targaryen, during Robert's Rebellion. Or maybe it's for rescuing him from the Defiance of Duskendale, the Start of Darkness moment after which Aerys began to truly earn his epithet, "the Mad King." Either way, he begins to believe that Jaime Lannister (In-Series Nickname: "The Kingslayer") may have been correct to kill Aerys, and desires to serve a ruler who is worthy of the "My Master, Right or Wrong" trope.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Emily sees infiltrating and undermining the Scholomance as this. Her initial mission failure was so bad that the good magic school Knightcharm won't even let her go into the field anymore, so running off on her own to hurt the Scholomance is the only way she sees to possibly make up for that failure and redeem herself.

  • Heracles had to do twelve of them after killing his family in a fit of madness.
  • Susanowo must make amends after throwing a dead horse (amongst other squicktastic things) at his big sister's court. He brought back the legendary Kusanagi to her. It's not known how much of it was kicking arses and taking names, and how much of it was genuine remorse.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Sgt. Slaughter, following his (in)famous 1990-1991 Iraqi sympathizer heel gimmick that made him the most hated wrestler in the world - and it wasn't a stretch to say he was among the most hated men in the world in real life – he based his Heel–Face Turn on redeeming himself, first by saving Hacksaw Jim Duggan from a brutal 2-on-1 attack by his former cronies, The Iron Sheik and General Adnan.
  • James Gibson's stay in Ring of Honor was largely this. He wanted to be seen as a great wrestler again, after being repeatedly humiliated on television, and decided he was going to wrestle the best in the world until he got one of their title belts.
  • The 2006 Road Of Homicide was half this and half Roaring Rampage of Revenge as Homicide was tired of failing in all his efforts to win a singles title in ROH but his method was attacking everyone who had so much as annoyed him in the company.
  • Jimmy Jacobs went on one to purge all evil from himself in 2011 and eventually took Steve Corino along for the ride. It failed because of the meddling of Kevin Steen.
  • Sami Callihan claimed he would go on one to better himself after being suspended from EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA, following his attack on El Generico.
  • After Hiromu Takahashi returned to New Japan from ROH, joined Los Ingobernables de Japon and defeated KUSHIDA in record time at Sakura Genesis, KUSHIDA decided to return to ROH to reinvigorate himself, since it clearly did something for Takahashi. While there he decided he was finally going to win an ROH belt too, beating Marty Scurll for the television title before returning to New Japan to regain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight belt.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons Plothook #309: "The cleric tells you that before he will cast atonement on you, he wants you to do this for him, to prove your remorse is genuine..."
    • This was a suggested method of restoring a character of an alignment-restricted class who broke his code, in earlier editions; the Player's Handbook specifically refers to fallen Rangers having to seek atonement through deeds.
    • Paladins both play it straight and avert it: if one commits a Chaotic act, she loses her powers and must go on a Redemption Quest, but if she commits an Evil act in 1st or 2nd Edition, she loses her powers and no amount of redemption questing will ever bring them back. Third Edition made it possible to Atone (via Atonement, as noted above) for committing an Evil act, and toned down the restriction on Chaotic acts so that it only applies for severe breaches of the Paladin's Code or being enough to shift the Paladin away from Lawful Good (both also solvable via Atonement).
  • This is a suggested plot thread for renegade Abyssal Exalts in Exalted. Redeeming the Abyssal Exaltation back into its original Solar form is explicitly possible- just very, very difficult. So difficult, in fact, that any PC who manages it will be, in the canonical setting, the first ever redeemed Abyssal.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade had Golconda, a state where the vampire no longer has the impulse to kill people and only needs minimal blood to live eternally. The exact ways of achieving it have always been left up to the individual Game Master but the general recommendation was to make it an epic quest, throughout which the vampire in question has to feel remorse for her past sins and make amends as best as she can.
  • A common plot in Warhammer 40,000 fluff is the "Penitent Crusade", undertaken by Space Marines who've majorly screwed up in one way or another. They typically involve recovering some lost relic of their Chapter and/or diving headfirst into someplace infested with Chaos/Xenos/something else nasty. These are typically started with the expectation of being a Suicide Mission, but Space Marines being Space Marines, they find a way to survive anyway, often as not.

    Visual Novels 
  • Marika's route in the fandisc of Princess Evangile doubles as this, as she learns to forgive herself while also getting closer to Masaya. It's heavily implied that the reason she never tries going after him in the original VN was due to her guilt in trying to have him kicked out of school by faking rape charges against him.
  • Umineko: When They Cry This is pretty much what Kinzo's life turned into after him raping his daughter, her giving birth to Yasu and Yasu being thrown off the cliff by Natsuhi. He desperately wants to be able to say he's sorry and give Yasu his/her grandmother's gold. In an example of Redemption Equals Death, the moment Yasu manages to solve the riddle and Kinzo can say he's sorry, he dies.
    Genji: ...After some sad incidents, Master's life... was completely reduced to atonement.

  • Sadick's search for his runaway sister in Charby the Vampirate.
  • Subverted by Miko in The Order of the Stick. After she falls from paladinhood because she killed Shojo she thinks that she can be redeemed by doing what the gods want of her. The problem, as it is explained by Soon's ghost before she dies, that she never actually atoned for her wrongdoings or considered that she'd done the wrong thing.
  • Villainous and thus inverted example: the driving force behind all Dimension of Pain stories in Sluggy Freelance is Lord Horribus seeking redemption for letting Torg escape, by hauling Torg's soul back to the demons' dimension for eternal torment. The "redemption" theme is mentioned explicitly in "That Which Redeems", which also features another similarly inverted example bordering on deconstruction in the form of a story (presented as an analogy to Horribus) of a man who came to a Heel Realization about his terrible deeds, turned to a local notion of God to seek redemption, and went on a crusade in God's name to commit even more terrible deeds. "That which redeems consumes."
  • Similar to the Avatar example, in TwoKinds, Keith is sent into exile for killing his father (though this was more to keep his father's good name intact by avoiding a trial) and the only way he can return is to bring back the human Grand Templar with him (which is supposed to be an Impossible Task). He succeeds, though mostly by accident (he'd long since befriended Trace when the group discovered he was the missing Grand Templar)

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Initially inverted when Prince Zuko's Evil Overlord father banished him for not being evil enough, with a hopeless Redemption Quest to capture the Avatar being Zuko's only means of ending that banishment. Zuko's true redemption quest then comes when he realizes how worthless the redemption his father offered is and instead pulls a Heel–Face Turn in season 3, and sets out to train the Avatar to help him overthrow his father.
    • Aang and Sokka set out to redeem themselves for (different) failings in the third season. Keep an eye out for the telltale (shared) line, "I have to restore my honor."
  • Carmen Sandiego: Carmen Sandiego, started her life raised by V.I.L.E. faculty, but upon her revelation that stealing isn't a game and people are hurt by thievery, she turns against the only family she has known. Unbeknownst to Carmen, one of her teachers, Shadowsan, is the one who found her and brought her to the island after the death of her father when her father tried to leave V.I.L.E. Shadowsan was there to kill him, but other forces were pursuing him and shot him. Shadowsan secretly never wanted her to join as he could see the inner goodness in Carmen and to respect her father's desire to keep her away from V.I.L.E. When Carmen escapes the island, it became the impetus for Shadowsan's own redemption quest. He first tries to join Carmen in her escape, but his pretense to run after her boat with sword drawn scares her to not trusting him. By the start of Season 2, Shadowsan joins Carmen officially and uses his intimate knowledge of V.I.L.E. to help Carmen destroy the criminal empire. Along the way, Shadowsan reveals more of his own past and further sins he seeks to atone for regarding his own family.
  • Infinity Train Cult of the Conductor, follows Cracked Reflection's minor antagonists Grace and Simon of the Apex, introduced as passengers who rampage the train and terrorize the inhabitants. As they find themselves separated from their followers and journey the train to find them, they learn certain truths that begin to affect their worldview. Grace is at first established as the worse of the cult leaders due to her Toxic Friend Influence to Simon and her lies about knowing how the train works. Throughout Book 3, accompanied by Hazel as a Morality Pet, Grace ends up confronted by her past and comes to terms with the consequences of her actions along with Simon's eventual betrayal and death. In the end, she resigns from the Apex and begins helping her former followers find a way off the train.
  • Smiling Friends: The second episode involves Charlie and Pim trying to rebuild the image and career of Mr. Frog, who was fired from his own show after trying to eat a TMZ reporter alive. All their attempts at redeeming the former star fail, resulting in a fan being strangled, a woman losing her hands and racist remarks being made on live television. Mr. Frog finally redeems himself by apologizing on live television... and then eating his former producer.
  • After spending the past four seasons of South Park as a Trumplica performing actions raging from nuking Canada to destroying a potential COVID-19 vaccine lead, Mr. Garrison spent the Vaccination Special atoning for his presidency. Eventually, he gets in touch with the Hollywood Elite to ship vaccines from Israel to South Park, saving the day and getting his old job as a teacher back.

    Real Life 
  • An important aspect of restorative justice is about an offender making restitution to his victims. Unlike "ordinary punishment," restorative justice is about making redemption voluntary and (hopefully!) genuine.


Video Example(s):


Assassin's Creed I

Most of the first game's story is him redeeming himself for his failure at Solomon's temple; not only was it a big important mission but he also got his two brother assassins killed and maimed, respectively; even worse, he broke all three of the Creed's Tenants in the process. So he has to complete nine missions with minimal assistance to regain his rank.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedemptionQuest

Media sources: