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Special Aesop Victim

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"We offered him treatment, could have saved him. Instead, he walked away … How do I treat someone who is offered help and chooses to walk away?"
Bailey (about a COVID-denying patient), Grey's Anatomy

Special Aesop Victim is a person who ends up dying or seriously injured to reinforce a message for an aesop or Very Special Episode.

The victims are mostly those with close ties towards the main cast, like friends or family members. This gives the audience some measure of emotional connection through the characters themselves.

Now, who ends up dying or just severely injured really depends on whether or not they are part of the main cast. If they're part of the main or supporting cast, they are lucky to just end up injured. But if they were never mentioned or appeared beforehand, they are most likely to end up dead. Though there are times when the reverse is true.

Compare Aesop Collateral Damage, which can overlap.


Comic Books

  • One Marvel Team-Up arc introduced fledgling hero Freedom Ring, who was brutally killed off at the end of the arc for no other purpose than to drive home a lesson about what happens when someone with very little training fails to take being a superhero seriously.
  • Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia tackles the apathy towards dead sex workers from law enforcement and society in general. Melody Wellys is a victim of sex trafficking and dies from a drug overdose. Her death is dismissed as "just another junkie whore" by the cops, prompting her sister Danny to kill the men who trafficked her and got her hooked on drugs.


  • The Struwwelpeter (Shockheaded Peter) is a collection of illustrated poems for children that teach the dangers of everyday life and proper manners. Characters often end up dead or mutilated:
    • When being left alone at home, Pauline plays with matches. She ends up setting her hair ablaze and burns down completely, leaving only a pair of shoes behind.
    • Kaspar, a healthy boy, refuses to eat soup. Consequently, he starves to death five days later.

Live Action TV

  • In 227, Calvin becomes friends with a kid who was selling drugs. When Mary finds out, she tries to warn the boy's mother who doesn't believe her. Later on Mary and the other adults take the kids to a drug prevention meeting which the kids don't take seriously. That is until the mother comes in and tells them her son was murdered in a dealing gone wrong.
  • in the fourth episode of season 1 of 9-1-1: Lone Star, a father whose children are trapped under the house after a tornado dies from injuries sustained from the same disaster. Michelle then remarks they could have saved him but he was too worried about his kids. This ends up being a grim reminder for Owen's own cancer and him being unable to tell his son before it's too late.
  • All in the Family: in "Archie Is Branded," the Bunker family is mistakenly targeted by neo-Nazis. A charismatic Jewish vigilante named Paul Benjamin visits and promises his group will protect them, leading to an argument with Mike about the cycle of violence. Archie surprisingly takes a shine to Paul, and is devastated when he's abruptly killed by a car bomb in front of the house.
  • Community has an In-Universe example in the episode "Celebrity Pharmacology". The study group puts on a children's play about the dangers of drugs. One of the bits and pieces of the play that we see shows a funeral for Jeff's character, apparently due to drugs, but we're not shown the exact circumstances that led to his character dying.
  • In Degrassi: The Next Generation, there is the Wham Episode of season 4's "Time Stands Still" for bullying. In the episode, Rick, who was being bullied through out the season because he was abusive towards Terri and put her in a coma, brings a gun to school after being humiliated on national television when paint and feathers were dump all over his body. It ends with Rick shooting Jimmy in the back, falsely believing he was behind it, and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and Rick getting accidentally killed by Sean when he wrestled the gun out of Rick's hands.
  • In an episode of Different Strokes, Willis starts drinking with a friend in college despite not being legally aged. The two would then up in a car accident while intoxicated. While Willis only ends up being banged up, his friend isn't so lucky and dies from his injuries.
  • In one episode of The Facts of Life, an Eastland student attempts suicide via pill swallowing. While she is transported to the hospital in an attempt to save her, she ends up dead in the end. While the girls are confused on why she did, it's strongly implied that her unstable family life was a factor in her suicide.
  • The Family Matters "The Gun" has Laura and her friends being harrassed by a gang who are carrying around guns. Later on, one of Laura's friends brings a gun for protection but ends up being shot anyway.
  • In a Season 17 episode of Grey's Anatomy, which takes place during the COVID-19 Pandemic, a Patient of the Week comes in with shortness of breath but refuses to believe that it could be COVID-19 or that the pandemic is real, and instead tells the doctors that it is all a scam for hospitals to collect extra money. He is of course diagnosed with COVID, but he refuses to believe it and signs himself out of the hospital. He does not even make it to his car before collapsing and dying. This is meant to teach the audience that the pandemic should not be dismissed as a hoax.
  • The "Second Chance" episode of Growing Pains with drunk driving. In it, Carol's boyfriend Sandy gets in a car accident caused by his drunk driving. While at first it seems like everything was going to be ok after Carol talked Sandy out of drinking after visiting him in the hospital, the last few minutes has Mike telling Carol at home that Sandy ended up dying from internal injuries.
  • In Mom, Jodi, a recovering addict sponsored by Christy and Bonnie, ends up dying from a drug overdose. Her death ended being used as a grim reminder of how easily it is to fall off the wagon and that you can die from your addictions.
  • One episode of Supergirl sees Nia's transgender roommate Yvette catfished and beaten by a transphobic man hoping to force the openly trans Dreamer into retiring.
  • An episode of Roc has his daughter falling for a young man who belongs to a gang and has already "proven his worth" by robbing someone at gunpoint. Roc was able to counsel the boy into changing his ways and while it appears that he will give up the old life and do better for himself, he is gunned down in a drive-by shooting at the end of the episode.


  • In "Bradley Bentley Baxter Bloome", Bradley doesn't clean his room, so he suffocates to death in the trash. The poem ends with a warning to clean your room so you don't die.
  • In the anti-fur poem "Rose Marie Rassmussen", the eponymous girl wears fur... but then the animals are still alive and maul her to death.
  • Shel Silverstein was fond of using this trope, thought usually in a tongue-in-cheek and/or exaggerated fashion. For example, "Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout, Who Would Not Take The Garbage Out" ends up creating a literal mountain of trash that ends up crushing her and killing her.
  • The poem "Wendy Wise" cautions readers to exercise, because Wendy didn't, and she died from having a feather fall on her head.

Western Animation

  • Beast Wars has the episode "Transmutate", where the titular character (a malformed Transformer who just awoke from a highly damaged pod and is considered a high level threat) awakens and is greeted by the Predacon Rampage, who finds an equal in him. Silverbolt, the show's resident Knight in Shining Armor, also takes an interest, and resolves to befriend Transmutate, after having a heated debate with the Maximals' leader Optimus Prime. However, during the episode, Silverbolt and Rampage's enmity becomes more important that their friendship towards Transmutate, and the latter eventually dies by being caught in the crossfire. At the end of the episode, when Optimus suggests taking down Rampage while he's down, Silverbolt prevents him from doing so, saying that for the moment, they're brothers.
  • Bravestarr had an anti-drug episode called "The Price" where a boy named Jay died of an overdose of "Spin".
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Mind Pollution", Linka's cousin Boris becomes hooked on the Fantastic Drug Bliss and dies of an overdose near the end of the episode.
  • Parodied in Clone High's "Litter Kills: Litterally" when the never-before-seen student Ponce, who's also said to be JFK's best friend, suffocates to death as a result of all the trash he and other students had thrown around the school. Joan uses this to enforce her point about how bad littering is.
  • Tito Garcia’s little brother Fernando in Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. His only appearance ends with him jumping to save his older brother from a gang of criminals with guns, getting fatally shot in the process.
  • In the Gargoyles episode "Deadly Force", Elisa gets accidentally shot by Broadway when he plays around with her gun. She ends up in critical danger and actually almost dies. Luckily she pulls through and both she and Broadway learned the importance of gun safety.
  • In the Static Shock episode "Jimmy", the titular character is relentlessly bullied by Nick and his pals. After one horrifying incident, Jimmy decides to bring a gun to school to kill Nick. While Richie and Frieda are able to talk Jimmy down, Nick's pals tackles him, setting off the gun which hits Richie's leg. While the gunshot wound doesn't leave permanent damage, he does remark he could have ended up worst off if the bullet hit a bit higher.
  • Parodied in the fittingly titled Steven Universe: Future episode, "A Very Special Episode". Steven makes plans to babysit Onion as Rainbow Quartz with Pearl on the same day he promised to host a safety seminar with Garnet as Sunstone. Events quickly escalate until the Gems Sunstone was supposed to be teaching and Onion plummet off a cliff, only for it to be revealed the episode was actually about the dangers of improperly managing one's time and isn't canon, so no one died.