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Resurrection Gambit

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Many characters are so devoted to an ideal that they are willing to sacrifice their life for its completion. Fewer are willing and able to incorporate their own death into a plan that furthers their goals. And fewer still can contrive matters such that, if their plan is completed successfully, they will be brought back to life.

There must be some special reason for a character to let themselves die if they intend to come back. Perhaps they plan to use their (temporary) death to motivate a third party, then come back on the sly and reap the benefits. Perhaps the method of resurrection will imbue them with special powers. Or maybe the resurrection is simply a reset button on a terminal disease or mundane aging, giving the recipient extra time on earth afterward.

The major downside to this kind of plan is that once dead, the character can no longer influence events and must hope that everything is set up properly, though sometimes they will linger on as a ghost or lich and have some remaining influence. A common result is for an opposing faction to find out about the planned resurrection and attempt to prevent it.

Note that this trope doesn't apply if the resurrection is sought by a different party on their own initiative: that's Seeks Another's Resurrection. This trope must involve a character planning their own death and intending to recover from it.

Subtrope of Thanatos Gambit and My Death Is Just the Beginning. See also Flatline Plotline and Revival Loophole.

Warning: As a Death Trope, this page contains unmarked spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Knights opens with Big Bad Nadil's head already in custody of the Dragon Knights Rath, Rune, and Thatz. Problem is, that's exactly what Nadil hoped would happen when he lost his head, and it ends well for none of the good guys.
  • Naruto: Madara Uchiha sought to pull this gambit off in order to oversee his Eye of the Moon plan as he was getting very old. However, it didn't exactly go as planned. One, the person he tasked to oversee the plan after his death, Obito Uchiha, sought to carry out the Eye of the Moon plan on his own without Madara. Two, Pain, the person who was supposed to revive Madara in the future, ended up doing a Redemption Equals Death and resurrected the victims of his invasion of Konoha after being convinced by Naruto the folly of his ways. Kabuto partially resurrected him with Edo Tensei, but in that form he couldn't carry out his plan, so he still had to be fully resurrected. It took the actions of Black Zetsu to fully bring back Madara to the living.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astonishing X-Men, Cyclops allows himself to be ejected into space while the group is supposedly fleeing from the Breakworld and its aliens. The people of the Breakworld have the technology to revive the dead, and so the heroes pretended that Cyclops was the only one who knew about a secret weapon that they had in their possession, correctly reasoning that the extraterrestrials would seize his body and restore it to life to learn more. The secret weapon, much like Cyclops's death, is a sham—they just needed a way for someone to get inside the Breakworld's defense compound to take on the planet's leaders and advance their own plans.
  • In Batman and Robin (2009), Batwoman is paralyzed by a cave-in during a mission. Since the cavern was home to a Lazarus Pit, she deliberately overdoses on morphine from Batman's kit so she can be resurrected in the Pit. It works, and not only does the Pit heal her injuries, it's implied that the morphine prevented Batwoman from developing the mental instability that can result from being Pitted.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Batman's ultimate plan in the last chapter is to take himself out of the public spotlight by faking his death. However, he knows that Superman will be the government's tool to stop him and actually faking death won't fool his super senses, so he takes a drug that actually does kill him by stopping his heart after a couple of hours, but restarts his heart later on. The problem is that Superman hears his heartbeat start back up while he's in his coffin; fortunately, he simply winks at Carrie Kelly (the new Robin) and leaves, keeping Batman's secret.
  • In Joker's Last Laugh, the Joker arranges his escape from "The Slab," a high-tech prison for supervillains, by repeatedly killing Multi-Man, who has the ability to come back from the dead with a new superpower each time he's resurrected; the Clown Prince of Crime simply keeps murdering the poor guy until he gets something useful. Later, the heroes are forced to do the same to Multi-Man to undo the original damage, although they at least offer him some extra prison privileges in exchange for his help.
  • At the end of Preacher, the vampire Cassidy does a deal with God whereby he will distract Jesse at a particular moment, in exchange for God resurrecting him as a living human being.
  • Shilo Norman, the second Mister Miracle, dies in Seven Soldiers while freeing the hero Aurakles, but rises from the grave at the end of the miniseries due to the influence of Mother Box. His resulting insights allow him to help stop Darkseid in Final Crisis.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: As a Dungeon Keeper, Ami can revive so long as one of her Dungeon Hearts dies, which kills her, but revives as long as another is still alive. She uses a spell to sacrifice one to kill all her enemies but reviving at another one.
  • In a Halloween chapter for A Game of Cat and Cat, the immortal Nanashi allows himself to be caught and publicly executed so he can sabotage Mikado's military operations under guise of a haunting. It's so effective that it becomes a local ghost story, even spawning a real ghost.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Abyss, when Bud and Lindsey are trapped in a flooding chamber with only one air supply, the only plan they can think of is to let Lindsey drown so that she can be dragged back to safety and resuscitated, counting on the extreme frigidity of the water to prevent brain damage for an adequate amount of time. It barely works.
  • Fear Street: Done at the climax of 1994 in order to escape from the witch's curse on Sam. Since it will haunt her "until her last breath", she and the other protagonists decide to induce a drug overdose, and then resuscitate her with adrenaline and CPR after the curse is broken and the conjured undead killers are banished. She ends up vomiting up the drugs, so Deena goes with a makeshift Plan B of drowning Sam in a lobster tank and then reviving her afterwards. It works.
  • Final Destination 2: Kimberley's final plan to try and defeat Death is that she drives herself into the lake, then is resurrected via CPR, thus resetting Death's list and buying everyone more time. It works in the film itself, but bonus materials for Final Destination 3 reveal that she died later by being dragged into a woodchipper.

  • American Gods (ending spoilers): This is Mr. Wednesday/Odin's plan. He arranges his own assassination by the New Gods, thus setting up a conflict between them and the Old Gods. The intention is to have Loki dedicate their battle to Odin, thus feeding him the energy of the resulting mayhem and reviving him with greater power than ever before. Shadow discovers this just in time to explain the situation, allowing the two sides to make a truce and leave peacefully.
  • The Bible, of course. Jesus's plan was basically thus: live a guiltless life, sacrifice himself as the punishment for everyone else's sins, come back to life to prove his divinity, and empower his followers to carry on his message. Without that crucial third step, he'd be just another cultist nutjob who came to an untimely end and was forgotten by history.
  • Final Destination:
    • Destination Zero:
      • Patti's grandmother apparently cheated death by being able to escape a disaster. In order to buy herself more time, she drowned herself, so that she could be resurrected.
      • This is how Patti herself ends up as the Final Girl. She overdoses so that she can be revived and go on living.
    • End of the Line: Louise attempts to do this, planning to overdose so that she can survive. And she does...but she comes back as Death's puppet, and she ends up killing her own brother by subconsciously tampering with his brakes so that he dies.
  • Harrow the Ninth reveals that the Necromancer Palamedes had, before his Suicide Attack in Gideon the Ninth, transformed all the matter in his body into a Haunted Fetter, preserving his soul in a Pocket Dimension for later retrieval. The Stinger suggests that he and Camilla have successfully bonded their souls to become a Lyctor.
  • The Heartstrikers: Amelia gives Marci half her fire then has Bob kill her so that she can hitch a ride into the mortal afterlife and become the Spirit of Dragons.
  • Aslan (the embodiment of Jesus in Narnia) employs this in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Jadis, having tricked Edmund into betraying his family, has the right to execute him, which would screw up the prophecy that requires four humans to sit at Cair Paravel and become kings and queens in order to break her power forever. Aslan offers himself instead, and she happily accepts what seems like a bigger prize, not realizing that the ancient magic laid on the sacrificial Stone Table will resurrect him because he was innocent and accepted the punishment freely. As a result, Edmund is absolved and able to help complete the prophecy, while Aslan is ultimately no weaker for having been briefly dead, and rallies the witch's enemies to defeat her in battle.
  • The Misfit of Demon King Academy: Anos Voldigoad, the not-so-evil Demon King of Tyranny, made a pact with the Hero, Kanon, to use his own death at Kanon's hand to create a barrier between the demon world and the human world. His magic lets him reincarnate 2,000 years later in the series' present, but he discovers that in the meantime somebody named Avos Dilhevia has usurped the collective memory of the Demon King of Tyranny — including changing the memories of his surviving minions.
  • The Marquis de Carabas does this in Neverwhere, hiding his life force in a Soul Jar that is then left in another's safekeeping so that he can allow himself to be caught and murdered by Croup and Vandemar, all so that he can find out who their employer is.
  • In The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong, Shen Qingqiu, believing his disciple Luo Binghe will be out for revenge for throwing him into the Endless Abyss, decides that rather than faking his death, he should just actually die, and prepares a backup body for himself grown from the Sun and Moon Dew Flower Seed. He ends up self destructing his golden core in order to keep Luo Binghe from losing control of Xin Mo and wakes up in the plant body... five years later.
  • In the first book of The Villains Series, Victor goads Eli into a violent brawl, which he knows will end in his own death, because Eli can heal from any injury instantly. Which means when the cops arrive, they find Eli standing over a corpse with a knife in his hand... with no visible injuries, meaning all claims at self-defense are doomed to fail. And Victor has a young girl who can raise the dead on his side, so once Eli's been arrested, all she has to do is find his grave, dig him up, and resurrect him. Eli, for his part, realizes this as soon as he's arrested and begins screaming at the authorities to burn the body, but they all ignore him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who, the Master does this between "Last of the Time Lords" and "The End of Time" as a way of escaping imprisonment by the Doctor, sealing his essence in a ring which is then revived by some hidden sycophantic cultists. Unfortunately, he Came Back Wrong, as a perpetually-hungry madman with lightning powers.
  • Mighty Med: This turns out to be the crux of Mr. Terror/Bridget's plan. She knows that absorbing the power of the Arcturion will kill her, so she seduces Horace Diaz, who has the power to resurrect a set number of times. Thus, Horace will save his beloved fiance, and she will wake up the most powerful villain in existence.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts: Master Xehanort suffered bodily death when he possessed Terra, but in doing so, he continued to exist (though without any memory, courtesy of Aqua beating him senseless and Terra fighting from within). All of this is part of a grand scheme to bring himself back so he can open Kingdom Hearts.
  • In Persona 5, Shido pulls this to try to prevent his heart being stolen, as his death would forcibly collapse his Palace, killing anyone caught inside. Despite taking the pill that would temporarily kill him without hesitation, the Phantom Thieves are a step ahead and manage to steal his treasure and survive, though not without a close call.
  • Resident Evil: Albert Wesker turns out to have injected himself with a virus, banking on it causing a Death-Activated Superpower, before releasing the Tyrant and deliberately allowing it to kill him. It works.
  • Warcraft III:
    • The necromancer Kel'thuzad isn't too worried when Arthas kills him. He comes back to haunt (well, advise and snark at) him as a ghost after Arthas' Faceā€“Heel Turn, and then gets reborn as a Lich, a much more powerful spellcaster, all according to their master Ner'zhul's plan.
    • The Tauren Chieftain's Reincarnation ability brings him back to life with full mana once killed, though it has a long cooldown. As he tends to run out of mana rather quickly, leaving him to tank an entire army's worth of attacks can be a valid strategy.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Arcana: Julian intentionally lets himself be hanged in order to ask one of the Major Arcana, the Hanged Man, for the cure to the plague. Then, according to his plan, he comes back to life due to his Healing Factor.

  • Due to Homestuck having several mechanisms for resurrection, this happens a few times:
    • After being wounded in a fight, Vriska forces Tavros to take her to her quest bed and commands him to kill her, as dying on your quest bed causes you to be reborn with God-Tier powers. Tavros can't do it and she has to kill herself instead.
    • In order to be able to get into the session and escape forces attacking him, Dirk decapitates his own head and sendificates (teleports) it to Jake, who is pressured into kissing it, knowing that this will bring him back to life. This also serves as a way to force a Relationship Upgrade between the two.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Gannji and Enor are forced to kill each other in a gladiator fight. Gannji's escape plan involves letting Enor kill him, cut off his tail, escape from the arena on his own, then use the tail to get Gannji resurrected. According to Gannji, nobody will question the tail-cutting part because Enor is part ogre and taking a Battle Trophy is a normal thing for them.
    • In the prequel Start of Darkness, Lirian traps Redcloak and Xykon in a prison and inflicts them with a virus that disables Xykon's magical abilities. In order to escape, Redcloak hatches a plan to kill Xykon and resurrect him as a lich, getting around the actions of the virus as it doesn't work on the undead.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, teraports are by far most convenient method of FTL but they are highly injurious to dark matter creatures like the Pa'anuri and actually attempting to teraport would kill them. This poses a challenge when invading the Milky Way, which they solve by bringing along non-dark matter warships to gather up the now dead dark matter and turn it back into a living Pa'anuri warrior.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets: Razul, from the Lost Desert plot, was an Immortality Seeker with immense power. He cursed his own nation and his own son Jazan, leaving them in a monstrous state unless his son could marry the princess of Sakhmet. Unfortunately for Jazan, the marriage didn't break the curse, it only brought Razul back to life like he'd intended to hundreds of years prior.

    Western Animation 
  • In the fourth-season finale of Archer, the team is stuck in a flooding underwater laboratory, and they don't have enough oxygen suits to ensure that everyone will make it out alive. Archer offers to forgo a suit so that Lana will have one, then arranges for Lana to drown him so that he's temporarily dead, on the assumption that if they get back to their sub quickly enough, the onboard defibrillator can be used to revive him.


Video Example(s):


Wiz Explains Madara's Plan

Wizard describes the details of Madara's convoluted plan, resulting in him passing out from exhaustion.

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Main / EvilPlan

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