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Resurrection Death Loop

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Live. Die. Repeat.

Any form of immortality is usually seen as either a blessing or as a strength, at most a Cursed with Awesome situation, but not with these characters: these characters, due to fate, a curse, or just plain old bad luck, are destined to die and come back to life — only to die again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

The form of resurrection itself may vary. They may simply be brought Back from the Dead, or be sent back in time before their death, though not without experiencing it first; a "Groundhog Day" Loop may be involved. If the character's lucky, the loop may end at some point, or it may continue indefinitely.

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This process will, more often than not, damage the character's psyche, as they're forced to experience the sensation of death potentially forever.

See also: Immortality Hurts, Who Wants to Live Forever?, The Many Deaths of You, and A Fate Worse Than Death.

Compare with Resurrective Immortality, where someone can be killed but will come back to life anyway (minus the guaranteed loop of suffering). Contrast with Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, and They Killed Kenny Again. A Death Montage may be used to demonstrate the immortality aspect.

Beware of unmarked spoilers.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kurou Sakuragawa from In/Spectre possesses the prophetic power of a Kudan, which allows him to see the ebb and flow of the future whenever he is near death. He can then latch onto a specific path of the future from his vision, creating an odd version of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy where that path becomes the one true future. He also possesses the nigh immortality of a mermaid, meaning that whenever he is killed, he will just get right back up and live in the future he just created. In the Nanase story, he and main character Kotoko make the most use out of this to find a way to defeat the Steel Girder Nanase phantom, by having Kurou fight the phantom bare-handed and using each of his deaths to create a future where the phantom is finally destroyed. Unfortunately for them, the phantom iteself was created by Rikka Sakuragawa, Kurou's cousin who possesses the same prophetic powers as he does, and who goes so far as to kill herself multiple times to create a future where the Nanase phantom lives.
  • Diavolo from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is struck by this in the final fight of Part 5. After receiving a thorough Curb-Stomp Battle by the newly awakened Gold Experience Requiem he also begins to be constantly affected by Requiem's 'back to zero' effect, which in his case means he constantly dies over and over, always in a different way. Nobody else notices it, and he can't ever escape from it, making it both this and A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • The main concept of Re:Zero is all based around this. The main character, Subaru, is cursed with going back in time whenever he dies, keeping his memories. And, being a completely mundane human with no special talents in fighting or magic, he dies quite often. While this does take its toll on him and wears his sanity down, he does put it to good use in order to overcome the problems, trying again and again and trying till he does succeed in his intentions, badly mentally scarred as it leaves him.
  • A goddess in The Seven Deadly Sins was cursed to spend eternity being repeatedly resurrected as a human. Every time she regains her memories, she dies within three days and is reborn immediately as a new infant. Elizabeth is her 107th reincarnation.

    Audio Dramas 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who episode "Protect and Survive", the Doctor is revealed to have trapped two Elder Gods in the form of an elderly married couple and imprisoned them in a "Groundhog Day" Loop Prison Dimension based on the Bad Future they hoped to create: a global thermonuclear war. On every single iteration, the prisoners will have to endure the same fear and pain the real couple would have experienced in the days following the nuclear bombardment, before dying of radiation sickness; they then restart the loop on the day before the war, set to do it all over again until they learn their lesson. By the start of the story, the punishment has been going on for over a century. Unfortunately, things go a bit awry when Ace and Hex end up landing the TARDIS there by mistake - allowing the prisoners to subject them to the same torture.

     Comic Books 
  • In Emperor Joker, The Joker acquires the reality warping powers of Mr. Mxyzptlk. What does Joker choose to do with them? Why kill Batman, of course! But why kill him just once, when you can kill him over and over and over? Every time Joker ends the Dark Knight's life, he brings him back to life just so he can kill him in a different way.
  • Darkseid's most dreaded ability is the Omega Beams that he fires from his eyes. Aside from being nigh-undodgeable even for a speedster and able to disintegrate anything they hit, they can also send anyone hit by them to the Omega Sanction, the "Death That Is Life" where they will be forced into an endless series of lives, each life more insufferable and each death more painful and humiliating than the last. Most people subjected to the Omega Sanction aren't aware of the hell they've been trapped in, and it usually takes a few hundred life cycles before their deaths become horrifying painful, gruesome, and torturous.
  • Mr. Immortal from Great Lakes Avengers is Blessed with Suck. A mutant with the power to come back to life after getting killed, he gets killed on a near-daily basis; plus, he's fully aware of the pain it causes every time.
  • In one attempt to explain the Continuity Snarl that is Wonder Girl Donna Troy's backstory, she was cursed by Dark Angel to live out multiple traumatic lives, with her coming back for more suffering after dying in each of them.
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    Fan Works 
  • In the Gravity Falls Dark Fic All The World's A Toybox, Bill Cipher celebrates his victory in conquering Earth by making the heroes participants in his planet-wide "games." In the case of Soos, he ends up being dumped on a seemingly endless road and told that his friends are imprisoned at the other end of it, forcing him to run along the road until something ends up killing him; then he's brought back to life and made to do it all over again. Suffice to say, Soos is left decidedly freaked out by this, and is eventually reduced to virtual automaton status in a desperate attempt to ignore the succession of former bodies he keeps tripping over.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inverted in Doctor Strange: To defeat the Eldritch Abomination Dormammu, Strange creates a Time Loop Trap in which Dormammu repeatedly kills him in various ways, only for him to rewind time and come back immediately. However, the purpose of this is to make Dormammu suffer, stuck trying to kill his enemy and becoming so frustrated he agrees to Strange's demands.
  • Enforced in Edge of Tomorrow. When William Cage kills a unique Mimic, it's blood sprays all over him and dissolves him, and he awakens the day before the battle. From that point on, no matter when he dies, he starts at the same point again, accumulating the necessary skills and strategies he's learned from each "life" in an attempt to completely destroy the Mimics. However, why this trope is enforced is that any time he gets injured and doesn't die, he risks losing this ability. Which is exactly what happens before the climax, and how Rita lost it sometime before the film's events began. Even worse, the Omega also has it, and is implied to have used it countless times before to ensure every victory the Mimics ever had against humanity.
  • In Happy Death Day, Tree is repeatedly murdered by a masked killer on her birthday and must prevent her own death in order to end the time loop. She goes through a similar ordeal in the sequel so she can return to her proper universe.

    Literature 
  • In The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, the main character and his fellow kalachakra experience Born-Again Immortality via "Groundhog Day" Loop: whenever they die, they find themselves repeating their lives from the very beginning, but with all the intelligence and memories of their previous life. First-time immortals often Freak Out as a result of this, and even veteran kalachakra are often reborn with the trauma of their previous deaths still haunting them; as such, it's the duty of the Cronus Club to provide vital psychological support to newly-reincarnated members. More disturbingly, the Club's punishment of Victor Hoeness involved inflicting this on purpose, torturing him over multiple lifetimes until he was born virtually brain-dead in his next life - whereupon the Club erased him from existence as a Mercy Kill.
  • In Wings of Fire, Queen Diamond punishes Foeslayer by killing her over and over with an enchanted spear that will freeze her when she dies and then revive her whenever the user wants.She ends up tying her there for thousands of years so new dragons can come to kill her during their Diamond Trials.
  • In the prose continuity of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there's a character called Agrajag who is repeatedly reincarnated all over time and space, but gets killed by Arthur Dent each time. He isn't happy about it.
  • Well World: In Midnight at the Well of Souls, one of the villains ends up being placed into the body of a deer-like animal on the home planet of a species of humanoid which hunts said animal in packs and eats it alive. Wanting to avoid such a grisly fate, he hurls himself off a cliff... only to wake up in the body of another such creature. Brazil made sure that he will experience death repeatedly, once for every person whose death he is responsible for — and he has a fair body count to his credit. However, the villain in question doesn't know that this will, eventually, end, and is thus made to think that he will be forced to experience this forever.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Heaven Sent", the Doctor eventually realizes that all the skulls he's been finding around the castle have belonged to him, courtesy of a Cloning Gambit he's been using in an attempt to escape without having to confess to the Veil. Being a clone, he doesn't remember any of it... up until the final realization hits home, and he remembers everything. The discovery almost breaks him, but with a little encouragement from his (currently) Imaginary Friend, he willingly subjects himself to fatal injuries at the hands of the Veil for his one chance to make a little bit more progress opening an escape route. Then, mortally wounded and in great pain, he laboriously drags himself back to the teleporter he arrived in, and uses himself as a fuel source to create a fresh copy of himself from the hard drive. And he has to do all of this — the fear, the confusion, the grief, the awful realization and the agonizing injuries — for every iteration until he can finally open his escape route.
    The Doctor: How long can I keep doing this, Clara? Burning the old me... to make a new one...
  • In the penultimate episode of season one of Doom Patrol, Mr. Nobody traps the Doom Patrol in a loop where they keep fighting (and losing) the same battle over and over, getting killed every time.
  • The Good Place: This becomes the plot in season two. Michael keeps resetting the experiment every time Eleanor discovers they were in The Bad Place the whole time. This comes in handy in season three when Eleanor finds that she fell in love with Chidi during one of the reboots.
  • Highlander had an episode with an immortal who went through this as he repeatedly starved to death on a desert island.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, the episode "Here We Go Again" has Zari getting put in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, so that each time the ship explodes, time resets itself. Zari uses each of these resets to find the source of the explosion and to investigate each of her teammates to discover who the culprit is. They finally discover that Time Agent Gary used a device to trigger the Time Loop, while the bomb was revealed to be a souvenir planted by Damien Darhk. However Gary's device gets destroyed, leaving no more resets, so Zari performs a Heroic Sacrifice to shield everyone else from the bomb with her powers. It's all revealed to be a virtual reality Secret Test of Character by the ship's Benevolent A.I. to allow Zari to bond with the Legends.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "Deja Vu" ends with the General Ripper responsible for the "Groundhog Day" Loop being trapped in a second-long time loop of his own: standing in front of an exploding nuclear bomb for all eternity.
  • The crux of Russian Doll. Essentially, main character Nadia has been trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that can only be reset by her death. Worse still, her merest presence seems to turn even the most innocuous scenario into a guaranteed fatality, to the point that Nadia starts avoiding the apartment staircase after tripping and breaking her neck four times in a row. Needless to say, she ends up suffering from some seriously traumatizing experiences, like dying of exposure on the streets or drowning - not helped by the fact that she begins the next loop puking up river water. After spending a large chunk of time worrying that she's suffering from a mental illness, she meets someone else trapped in the same loop, and he's been so worn down by all the deaths that he can barely react to his next fatal accident.
  • In Supernatural, the Winchester brothers find a man who is cursed to die every single day. It is later revealed that he is Prometheus, his curse being the punishment ordained by Zeus.
  • In the Season Two finale of Torchwood, Jack Harkness is buried alive by his evil brother and spends almost 1900 years repeatedly suffocating to death and resurrecting before being exhumed. It has surprisingly little mental effect on him in the long run.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): The episode "The Pool Guy" is about a man who is murdered by a mysterious stranger at the end of each day before he wakes up in his apartment again. It's all a Mind Prison meant to serve as an Ironic Hell, as he's really a murderer.

    Video Games 
  • In AdventureQuest Worlds, the "4d Pyramid" event has the TheHero being put through one that overlaps with a Stable Time Loop. Due to the strange nature of the Eldritch Location, it is possible for people to encounter versions of themselves from the recent future or past. "Future You" acts as the Quest Giver for the present Hero based on what they were told by the previous future version of themselves. This allows them to slowly progress through the Eldritch Location to collect an item called "Eye of the Gods", one million times. However going through each cycle, it results in you getting exposed to a deadly plague which kills you. Fortunately, the sarcophagus you woke up in at the start of the event conveniently revives anything put into it. So the Hero of the past, under the instruction of their future self, will put continue putting their future remains in the sarcophagus that will bring them back to life and allow them to continue the cycle again.
  • The Undead from Dark Souls are cursed to forever wander the world until they die enough times that they become Hollows, and lose their self completely. However, this is more or less a Gameplay and Story Segregation. While you, the player character, can't permanently die and are relocated back to a bonfire, all NPCs and bosses don't spawn back when they die. It's also left vague if dying after becoming a Hollow results in permanent death or not.
  • EverQuest has Dozekar the Cursed in the Temple of Veeshan. Draconic law states that A dragon must never mate with another dragon of a directly opposing element, because the resulting offspring will be both extremely powerful and completely mentally unstable. Dozekar, a fire element dragon, mated with an Ice element dragon, and their resulting offspring was the prismatic dragon Kerafyrm. Kerafyrm would eventually try to wage war against the dragons and needed divine intervention from the dragons' goddess, Veeshan herself just to put him to sleep. Being Kerafyrm's father, Dozekar was cursed to spend the rest of existence being killed and then resurrected by draconic priests over and over again. Adding Insult to Injury, he is cursed to die to lesser mortal beings and adventurers, which Dragons consider to be pretty degrading.
  • During the Fallout 3 mission "Tranquility Lane," it's discovered that the inhabitants of Vault 112 have been imprisoned in a virtual reality simulation run by sadistic Overseer Stanislaus Braun. For the last two hundred years, Braun has been regularly torturing his playthings to death, then resetting the scenario to bring them back to life - and also erasing their memories for good measure. The one exception to this is one Mrs Dithers: thanks to a malfunctioning tranquility lounger, she can no longer be mind-wiped, effectively leaving her trapped in a hellish lucid dream with no hope of rescue. The only way to spare the residents from any further torment is to use an incompatible "Chinese Invasion" program to override the safeties and put them down permanently, leaving Braun trapped in his virtual dominion with no more playthings. On the other hand, if you're playing on bad karma, you can play along with Braun's sick games and put them through a round of torture that ends with them being killed and resurrected all over again.
  • Outer Wilds: The Hearthean player character is trapped in a 22-minute time loop, and each loop ends with the Sun going supernova and killing them, sending them back in time before the disaster. The process repeats every loop, and it can also be triggered prematurely at any point if they die earlier than expected. This is he result of the Ash Twin Project, which was built by the Nomai to find the fabled Eye of the Universe. The project works by capturing and storing the memories of the individual via the Nomai statues (which the Hearthean becomes exposed to at the beginning of the game), and when the Sun goes supernova, it provides enough power to activate the Advanced Warp Core inside the Ash Twin, sending the Hearthean's memories back in time 22 minutes.
  • The Secret World:
    • It's eventually revealled that this has been the unfortunate fate of Lorraine Maillard. Following the events of The Park, Lorraine is forcibly implanted with one of the Bees, and unlike the player characters, the experience is anything but pleasant: quite apart from the Mind Rape of having an unwilling Bee bonded to her, the process of being killed and resurrected "chips away at you," until Lorraine believes that the process is taking something vital from her. Worse still, given that she's in the same line of work as the players, she is doomed to spend most of her time dying horribly. Already having hit the Despair Event Horizon post-The Park, the resurrections leave her even worse off - to the point that she embarks on a thirty-year quest to disable her Bee and stay dead. Then, of course, you screw the whole thing up and reactivate her Bee, bringing her back to life against her will.
    • Another Bee-implanted character ends up being captured by the Orochi Group for use in Project Odyssey: Gaia's Chosen are the only characters who can access Agartha, so the Group need samples of his tissue in order to allow their cyborgs to infiltrate the Hollow Earth... and the more cyborgs they make use of, the more tissue they take. And the anesthetic they use on him doesn't work. Eventually, the captive agent dies and returns to life, whereupon the cyborgs' implanted tissue disintegrates, forcing the project's scientists to take the samples all over again. Lather, rinse, and repeat. In the end, the Orochi Group scrap Project Odyssey in favor of just employing Bees of their own, but by now, the poor test subject has been completely broken by all the trauma... and then the cyborgs go rogue and get right back to keeping the guy on life-support while they rip more tissue off him.
  • This is actually a gameplay mechanic in Planescape: Torment, in which the Nameless One can die as much as the player needs or wants; by the start of the game, he's Covered in Scars and the trauma of the many deaths he's suffered has left his mind in a rather fragile state.

    Web Comics 
  • Awful Hospital: Fern is resurrected in a new body whenever she dies within the Hospital, and sometimes actually needs to get killed to achieve a goal, like when she bribes a monster with a sloppy joe made from one of her bodies. Later, she realizes how jaded she's become to it:
    Narration: You can't believe literally dying has become nothing more than obnoxious for you lately.
  • Crushed: The Doomed Kitty Adventures is a subset of Supermegatopia by the Burke brothers (before their Creative Differences). Crushed is a cute, young Cat Girl who goes about her Crapsack World seeking relics and treasures. However, Crushed seems to be in over her head, even with teammates coming along, and she routinely perishes in a noble but doomed effort. However, Crushed is an acolyte at the Temple of Infinite Lives, where she's remade after each demise.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation has a good example of this in the form of SCP-1922: he's somehow gained the power of Resurrective Immortality... but because he's an old man in very poor health, deaths are constantly guaranteed no matter how far he stays out of trouble. Worse still, because of his medical condition, 1922's had to have parts of his legs amputated. As such, the poor old man is openly suicidal and spends the last couple of interviews pleading for the Foundation scientists to just cremate him this time, hoping that this will be enough to put him down for good. Unfortunately, they don't oblige him.

    Web Videos 
  • Phelous used to have this as an Once an Episode gag, where something from the movie he'd review would kill him. This was completely Played for Laughs until the review of Jacob's Ladder, in which his repeated deaths turned out to be the result of the real Phelan dying in his first review and being unable to move on, turning his death into a gag to deny reality. This episode ends with him finally dying for real. He got better.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The episode "Emperor Joker!" is loosely based on the comic of the same name, except Joker acquires the powers of Bat-Mite instead of Mr. Mxyzptlk and uses them to kill Batman in various ways, bringing him back only to torture him again.
  • In a The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" special, Sideshow Bob finally kills Bart, and becomes a university professor afterwards. However, he soon finds killing Bart was the only thing that ever gave him satisfaction and finds a way to bring him back. Sideshow Bob then uses it to continuously revive and kill the boy over and over again to relive the happiest moment of his life.

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