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The Death of Death

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"That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die."
— "The Nameless City" (first story of the Cthulhu Mythos) by H. P. Lovecraft

The Grim Reaper is always considered to be the embodiment of death. As such, it only makes sense that such a being would be considered immortal and unable to actually die. Can't die if you are death itself.

Not so much the case here. If this trope is in play, then death is just as capable of dying as everybody else. In some cases, the grim reaper getting killed off ends up coming with some serious consequences. In other cases, death is simply reborn and continues his business. If somebody is responsible for the reaper dying, they might be forced into taking up the role.

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Compare to Death Takes a Holiday, wherein Death is no longer doing his job. See also Kill the God. If a mere mortal manages to take down the big guy, see Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?

Spoilers will not be marked due to this being a Death Trope.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Secret Wars II: The Beyonder is a Reality Warper who wants to make things better for mankind, and doesn't think that mere superhero stuff is enough. An advisor convinces him to kill Death itself, but unlike most of his other feats, this one would not be possible to reverse. After he does this, cosmic entities show up and complain that The Beyonder has upset the cosmic balance. The Molecule Man argues that, without death, life is meaningless. The advisor agrees. They've made a terrible mistake. But, as resurrecting (the original) Death is beyond the Beyonder's power, he instead turns the advisor into a new personification of Death.
  • Nekron, the Embodiment of Death in The DCU is the Big Bad of the Zombie Apocalypse Crisis Crossover event Blackest Night. Being Death himself, it's impossible to kill him, even with Sinestro taking The Entity and converting himself into a White Lantern. But he was eventually defeated when Hal Jordan and the rest of the superheroes that had been revived, included The DC Trinity take The Entity's power and all become White Lanterns and all of them aim at Black Hand (Nekron's avatar and connection to the Earth) with their rings and revive him as a White Lantern too, causing Nekron to explode. He is later resurrected as part of a Godzilla Threshold to kill The First Lantern Volthoom, but is imprisoned a second time for good.
  • In The Thanos Imperative, we see an alternate universe called "The Cancerverse". In the Cancerverse, life won and Death was destroyed. This resulted in all life in the universe becoming a Cosmic Horror Story (almost all living beings in the Cancerverse worship the "Many Angled Ones") and almost all available space in the universe is filled by a truly horrifying organism, described as "a cancer attempting to metastasize into our reality" to find more space to occupy.
  • In the second arc of Jane Foster: Valkyrie, Valkyrie has to team up with other medically-themed heroes to treat Death for a mysterious illness. Death is ailing because the Marvel universe has even more resurrections than usual in 2019-2020. Gamma mutates are all allowed to resurrect now (Immortal Hulk), and mutants also have a "get out of death free" card thanks to the Resurrection Protocols in Dawn of X. And while curing Death, Valkyrie justifies it by deducing that the death of Death would lead to "a sort of Cancerverse" — see the note on The Thanos Imperative above.
  • In the first issue of The Sandman a magician attempts to summon and bind Death, only to get Dream instead. When he finally escapes over 70 years later he tells the magician's son that it was very fortunate for the planet that they snared Death's little brother instead of her.
  • This is the premise of the French comic Zorn et Dirna: a king has managed to imprison Death through a magical ritual. As a result, nobody dies, even those for whom it would be a blessing, and killing someone means that their ghost will enter the killer's body as an additional personality. The titular characters are two siblings who can cause someone to actually die when they both touch them.
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    Film (Live-Action) 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in the Grand Finale of The Colbert Report. In the intro to the "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A." segment, Grimmy finally catches Stephen cheating at their chess game and tries to kill him, only for Stephen to pull a gun and kill Grimmy instead. Stephen then absorbs Grimmy's power Highlander-style and becomes immortal.
  • Played with in the Red Dwarf episode "Only the Good…". Rimmer is left to die on a rapidly disintegrating Red Dwarf. Death comes to claim him and Rimmer kicks him in the testicles. Rimmer says that "Only the good die young" and runs off, leaving Death to note that this has never happened before and collapse in pain.
  • In Supernatural, Death himself met his demise at Dean's hands after handing him the only thing in existence that could kill him, his scythe. To elaborate, Dean was being corrupted by the Mark of Cain into becoming a bloodthirsty killing machine, couldn't be killed since the Mark would simply resurrect him, and couldn't have the Mark removed because it was the seal to an even more dangerous Sealed Evil in a Can. Death offered to lock him in a Prison Dimension where he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else, on the condition that he kill Sam, because he knew that as long as Sam was alive, he would tirelessly search for a way to get Dean back and eventually succeed, which would ruin the whole point of locking him away in the first place. Death handed Dean his scythe so he could do the deed, only to get a face full of it himself. Of course, since Death had plenty of Reapers working under him, his death didn't affect actual death that much, and one of them is eventually promoted to the new Death.
    • In the final season, Billie, the aforementioned new Death, is killed by the Shadow/Cosmic Entity. And her successor is easily killed by Lucifer. In both these cases, they have to be killed as Reapers before they become the new Death, so both Billie and her successor die twice.
  • The premise of Torchwood: Miracle Day is that one day everybody suddenly stopped dying. It turns out to be something to do with the immortal Jack Harkness's blood, and Torchwood successfully reverses it.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In both scripture and church tradition, Christ is said to have conquered death with his resurrection.
    The last enemy to be destroyed is death - 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 15:26
    • At the end of The Bible, Death itself will be destroyed.
    Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death. -Revelation 20:14

    Video Games 
  • In AdventureQuest Worlds, during the "AQW Zombies" Saga, Sepulchure pulls off one of the most impressive Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? examples ever. Sepulchure starts off by killing King Alteon, and since this was someone of importance Death arrived personally to guide his soul to the afterlife. Sepulchure then confronts Death who taunts him that he would reap Sepulchure's soul one day too, only for the DoomKnight to defiantly tell Death this would not happen. Death laughs and mockingly asks Sepulchure if he was going to "kill Death", to which he replies with a Flat "Yes" and slays the Grim Reaper then and there.
    Player Character: Did Sepulchure just kill Death?
  • Death appears as a boss in almost every game in the Castlevania franchise. Some games require you to fight him twice, but he always eventually returns to a corporeal form.
  • In Dante's Inferno, the game starts with the protagonist killing the Grim Reaper in an effort to avoid being Dragged Off to Hell. Spoilers, it doesn't work.
  • Ginormo Sword: Death is one of the bosses, but killing him has no consequence on the rest of the game.
  • In Grim Fandango, being a grim reaper is just another job one can receive in the afterlife, and it doesn't offer any sort of special protection from being sprouted or otherwise dying a second death.
  • Twisted Metal: A downplayed example in Twisted Metal: Head On. If Mr. Grimm wins the Twisted Metal tournament, he wishes for somebody else to take his role as the grim reaper. When Claypso grants his wish, a nearby girl is turned into the reaper while Mr. Grimm is turned into a mortal human being. Unfortunately for him, he is killed by a truck shortly after.
  • In Gauntlet, use of a potion eliminates all Deaths on screen, earning the player from 1,000 to 8,000 points for each. Death also vanishes after taking 200 health points from a player.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 ends with the goddess of death, Etro, being killed. The sequel Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII shows the consequences that came after Etro's death, such as how no one can die of old age, nor can any new life be born into the world. However, people can still die by means outside aging, like sickness or being attacked by a monster.
  • Dragon's Crown subverts this with the boss of The Castle of the Dead's B route. The Wraith is normally immune to damage unless a Goddess Statue is lit. While you can fight back, the narrator will state that you can't destroy death, the opposite of life. The most you can do is either flee the stage or destroy its dream heart to send it back to the underworld.
  • In in the main Shin Megami Tensei games, the Fiends are a race of powerful demons that embody a different aspect of death, with the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse being among the most powerful of them all. Yet, all of them can be slain and be summoned as a minion.
  • Legends of Runeterra has the Etherfiend, a grim reaper whose job is to reap other grim reapers once they have been forgotten. He's currently after the Fading Icon, a grim reaper of a group of demigods cursed with immortality (since they can't die, they've forgotten all about him), and while Kindred, the big personification of death that appears in League of Legends, is currently safe from the Etherfiend, even they will fall to him in the distant future.
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    Web Animation 
  • CliffSide: Death Itself rides on the back of Yannis the pterodactyl during her attempt to kill Waylon and Cordie, only for Cordie to use her web to send them plummeting to the ground and their demise. Later revealed to be subverted when Cordie mentions that they actually can't kill Death.

    Webcomics 
  • Irregular Webcomic!: There are many different Deaths in Irregular Webcomic, so of course they're going to have their fair share of demises on their own. One especially notable instance: Death of Getting Wrestled To Death By Steve gets wrestled to death. By Steve.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: In the End of Death Canon, during the research of SCP-3448 (Halfterlife), Foundation agents visit the afterlife and accidentally kill Death. This causes an ΩK-Class ("End-of-Death") Scenario, which means "immortality is forced upon all life, without any other biological change".
    "We fucked up. We didn't contain death. We neutralized it."

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Family Guy where Death is killed in a car accident, where a taller version of himself, Super Death, tells him that he's going to be born as a kid in China. He disappears for a second, then reappears. Apparently, Death was born as a girl.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has Grim dying (or entering a state of non-existence) in a number of episodes. He's always fine by the next episode.
    • In "Night of the Living Grim", Grim ends up becoming sick with Encroaching Doom Syndrome, so he is brought to the doctors in the underworld. However, they are unable to save him, and he ends up passing away... in that he is now a living human being.
  • Mad Jack the Pirate: In "Of Zerzin, Fleebis, Queues and Cures", Mad Jack and Snuk are on a quest to find a cure for Mad Jack before he succumbs to Fleebis, and will be claimed by Mr. Death. They succeed just in time, and to get back at Mr. Death, they trick him into eating poisonous berries, killing him (which even Mr. Death himself thought was impossible).
  • In the Mary Shelley's Frankenhole episode "Edgar Allan Poe's Jesus!", Death finds Jesus's company so unbearable that it drives himself to drink, eventually dying of alcohol poisoning. This causes all attempts at death (whether they are regular humans or immortal monsters) impossible.
  • Robot Chicken: in one sketch, a mouse gets killed by a mousetrap causing a grim reaper mouse to appear to claim him, only for said reaper to be killed and devoured by a cat who chokes to death on him, causing a grim reaper cat to appear to claim him.
  • The Simpsons: In the Treehouse of Horror segment "Reaper Madness", Death comes to the Simpsons house to claim Bart. As the family runs to keep Death from taking him away, Homer hits him with a bowling ball, killing him and creating a world without death until Homer puts on his cloak and becomes Death himself.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of South Park. When the kids are trapped inside their school bus, they pass the time by retelling past exploits with a slight twist that didn't happen in real life. Kenny's is him killing Death when it was the other way around.

 
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Video Example(s):

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Mary Shelley's Frankenhole

Death dies of alcohol poisoning and it causes problems.

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