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The Plot Reaper

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"His elimination in the pages that follow isn't presented as the inevitable tragic fate of a diabolically ambitious villain. It is, rather, an awkward and belated attempt to correct a wrong turn in the story, to purge an unnecessary character who wandered in, accidentally, from a different conspiratorial fantasy and never really belonged in this story in the first place."
Fred Clark (on Jonathan Stonagal in Left Behind)

Someone's in the way.

A character is more skilled than the hero, more awesome than the hero, has the job that the hero should have, or has the love interest the hero should have (or else is a love interest the hero shouldn't have). They might be the Obstructive Bureaucrat who's keeping the hero from going to the places he or she needs to go to save the world. Maybe they're the symbol of childhood innocence and the main character has to grow up now. They could be the Helicopter Parents of a Kid Hero who aren't keen on their child being thrown into danger (for good or for ill), and the hero needs to lose that tether. Or maybe they're simply too Genre Savvy and are keeping the hero from doing something that might advance the plot, but would also be bad for the hero in the long run.

It would take time and characterization to have the hero deal with it, so... the plot removes the complication by killing off the character in question. Problem removed, and the plot goes just as planned.

The Doomed Hometown provides both Parental Abandonment and the desire for revenge. Getting killed off is practically part of The Mentor's job description, because it wouldn't do for him to defeat the villain. Also, if there's corruption among the human hero's good guy organization, it's... messy to have a civil war or rebellion, especially if the corruption isn't composed entirely of obvious Card Carrying Villains. It's much cleaner to have the "real" villains kill them off or convert them fully, and then have the heroes take care of said less-nebulous villains.

Death of the Hypotenuse is when this is used as a way of Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends. For a nonlethal version, see Deus Exit Machina. Diabolus ex Machina is when someone dies at the end just for the sake of a tragic ending. See also Too Cool to Live. Stupid Sacrifice occurs when the writers can't be bothered to think of a better way to kill someone off, but don't want to drop a bridge on them. This trope often takes the form of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome and often slaughters the Temporary Love Interest, because being tied down to them would keep the show from being fun. Overlaps with The World's Expert (on Getting Killed) if the character had the best chance of saving the day. A Convenient Miscarriage happens when a character does not want to be pregnant, but Good Girls Avoid Abortion.

And of course he's responsible for Plotline Death.

NOTE: All characters listed as following this trope are subject to spoiling their source material. Proceed with caution.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the final arc of Bleach the last Big Bad manages to kill Yamamoto, the leader of the Soul Reapers, the most powerful Soul Reaper bar none, and quite possibly the only one at the time who could actually match him in direct combat. This was the first time in the series that a truly major good guy had died, and it is a genuinely dramatic moment and greatly affects the other characters. But the fact that Byakuya survived his injuries, despite the story going to great lengths to make it look like he was done for would point to this trope being at least part of the reason he was killed off.
  • Even aside from the standard Mentor Occupational Hazard, if Teresa from Claymore hadn't died, Clare would still have had a mother figure and would never have become a Claymore. Also, the main villain would have been curb-stomped before ever reaching her full potential. And Teresa turning into an Awakened Being would completely shred existing characterization. She never had a chance.
  • In Code Geass, Princess Euphemia li Britannia sets up the Special Administrative Zone of Japan to peacefully end the fighting, and even gets Lelouch on board with the plan. Thus, she needs to die so Lelouch's plans with the Black Knights and the series as a whole can continue.
  • Death Note:
    • Word of God flat-out admits that this is the reasoning behind the death of Naomi Misora. If she didn't die, she would have found out and could prove Light was Kira long before the series was close to where the author wanted it to end.
    • The same was said about Mello, with the author stating that he had to carry the Idiot Ball at certain moments, or otherwise he would have been too effective and solved the Kira case.
  • In Dragon Ball Z's Bad Future Goku dies from a heart virus before the androids' arrival, making it impossible for him to be wished back since he died of natural causes. This is done to explain why the other characters are killed off since Goku being alive would've eventually led to the heroes' victory given his record.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist gives us Maes Hughes. He figured out the entire scheme of the Big Bad very early into the plot. Naturally, he had to be killed by Envy.
  • In High School Of The Dead, Hisashi gets taken out early on so Takashi can take the reigns as the protagonist and win the female love interest's affections.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, it is revealed that there's quite a bit of corruption among the higher-ups in the Time-Space Administration Bureau. This would get very messy if the cast had to pick sides. Nope! The villains kill them all off.
  • In My Hero Academia, Mirio Togata is upbeat, overly joyous, and had an amazing Quirk, Permeation. He’s The Ace similar to All-Might, and in-universe is seen as his natural successor. But after he’s hit with the Quirk-erasing bullet, he no longer, well, has his Quirk, so Izuku has to live up to the pressure instead. Subverted later on, as right before the Paranormal Liberation War, Mirio has Eri use her Quirk on him to restore his power, allowing him to return to the fight with backup for the heroes. However, by this time Izuku has advanced so much that there’s no risk of Mirio overshadowing him.
  • In Naruto:
    • Dosu, whose death at the hands of Gaara was a means of ensuring that Konoha Crush would go off without a hitch (since he was a Sound Ninja with a grudge against his leader Orochimaru who could have blabbed about it all had he not got cocky).
    • Sarutobi, whose death midway through Part I was a means of bringing in Tsunade as the Fifth Hokage.
    • Jiraiya, who fell prey to the Mentor Occupational Hazard.
    • Orochimaru, who had served his purpose as the Big Bad and had to make room for Sasuke to prove himself as a serious threat in his own right. But not so anymore, since Sasuke revived him for personal reasons.
    • Nagato, who died right after being convinced to stop being evil as he could've easily undone all progress in the ManBehindTheMan's plans and was too strong to be allowed to join the good guys.
      • In his case, he sacrificed his life in order to bring back the lives of those he killed in his rampage of Konoha using a very powerful, but life-consuming jutsu. At the least, he is resurrected alongside Itachi and spends a bit more time advising Naruto before he has to go once more.
  • While he doesn't quite die, Jack Rakan from Negima! Magister Negi Magi is so hideously broken that he's eventually erased from existence by Fate so that he doesn't single-handedly walk all over everyone (and even then, he still manages to come back from non-existence long enough to deliver a Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! punch to Negi).
  • Whitebeard from One Piece. Of course it is inevitable as the character's existence is standing in the way of not only the main character's ambitions but 70% of the extended casts' hopes and dreams too. That's what happens when you're the most likely candidate for the title the hero wants, and you're not evil enough for him to beat you himself.
    • By merit of being his successor, Ace fell from this shortly before.
    • This was also done to make the Evil Counterpart of the hero even more powerful and start a new age of piracy.
  • Buttataki from Soul Eater has the strongest soul perception of anyone in the series, to the point that he eventually became powerful enough to see through a witches' Soul Protect and detect them. He could've easily rooted out Medusa and located Arachnephobia's HQ and possibly even Asura with ease, which is why Justin killed him.
  • Kamina in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has the bad luck to be Too Cool to Live, and thus far more popular than the actual main character, Simon. Thus he gets impaled in the eighth episode. On the plus side, he does get a city named after him post-Time Skip.
    • In fact, Kamina's death is so iconic and important to the story, that even Super Robot Wars, a series that takes many mecha franchises and merges them into one story with the addition of Fix Fic and Spared by the Adaptation, Kamina is the only character that has never survived.

    Comic Books 
  • JLA: Act of God has most of the mystical heroes who could explain what's going on simply disappear in the depowering event and are never seen again.
  • While writing Watchmen, Alan Moore intended for Rorschach to live. After working on the character for a while, though, he realized that letting him live would create a whole other set of issues, or would require everything after the climax to be one big Out-of-Character Moment. Thus, the character had to die.
  • X-Men:
    • This is ridiculously common in comic books, but the most egregious is probably the New X-Men. At the end of House of M, when 90% of Earth's mutants lost their powers, the depowered students at Xavier's were Put on a Bus home for their safety (even though many of the kids had nowhere else to go). And then the bus was blown up by Reverend Stryker. One could argue that the death of all those students at once, coupled with the book's already-high mortality rate, was simply because the writers didn't know what to do with all those students. Because, you know, putting them on a bus to go home and lead uneventful (or eventful but not eventful enough to be in comics) lives and maybe come back later repowered or seeking revenge or as supporting characters or not coming back ever, well that sort of thing just wouldn't do for an X-Book.
    • Also, this sums up how Jean Grey inexplicably dies at the end of Grant Morrison's X-Men run. An editorial proclamation was made from on high to get rid of her in order to make Cyclops "more interesting" by having him date Emma Frost.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Firestar dies earlier than in canon, killed by Breezepelt in the transition between the rewritten Power of Three and Omen of the Stars, because having such a good leader on the heroes' side during Omen of the Stars would make the plot too easily resolved.
  • A Growing Affection: Ino, Choji, Shikamaru, and Temari meet and fight a young Jinchuriki. Ino gets close to the girl thanks to Mind Transfer, but ultimately they are forced to kill her when the demon takes control. Temari laments the existence of demon hosts, and the whole incident serves to make Ino and Choji sympathetic to Naruto's secret.
  • Juleka vs. the Forces of the Universe offers a non-fatal version of this with Master Fu. Initially, Fu's a Shipper on Deck for Marinette/Ladybug and Adrien/Chat Noir, just like most of Paris. But when Juleka points out how hopelessly lopsided their dynamic is, with Chat Noir acting entitled to Ladybug's love and prioritizing his harassment of her over his heroic responsibilities, Fu starts to realize he made a bad call. In order to prevent him from stripping Adrien of the Black Cat Ring, Fate forces Master Fu to make a Heroic Sacrifice that wipes all memories of the Miraculouses and his time as Guardian, robbing Marinette of one of her biggest allies and leaving her unaware that he was planning to deal with her Millstone of a "partner".

    Films — Animation 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: Word of God is that the reason Stoick was killed was to make room for Hiccup to become chief. Presumably, the Bewilderbeast died for the exact same reason, just for a different character: Toothless.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 3 Godfathers involves three bank robbers who have to take care of a newborn after the mother dies in childbirth. If the mother doesn't die in childbirth, there's no movie.
  • Done in Borat. Borat embarks on his quest for Pamela Anderson after his wife back home gets killed by a bear.
  • In The Bourne Supremacy, Marie dies almost immediately because there's no way Jason Bourne would have continued with the plot otherwise.
  • The Plot Reaper claims the Chinese man who owned Gizmo dies early on in Gremlins 2: The New Batch so that Gizmo will end up being reunited with the protagonists. Real Life Writes the Plot may have had a lot to do with this, as actor Keye Luke was in very poor health during shooting and couldn't have taken on a bigger role.
  • In Johnny English, the titular agent only got elevated in status following the death of all the other agents. First, their James Bond Expy was killed due to English's mistake checking a submarine hatch code. Then, all the other agents were killed at the first agent's funeral (where English was supposed to be providing the security).
  • In The Love Light, Maria stole Angela's baby and passed it off as her own. Maria decides to blow town with little Dolora after Angela figures out that Maria's baby is actually hers. Having gotten into the boat which sailed into the storm and wrecked, Maria—dies, for no apparent reason. This makes it pretty easy for Angela to board the wrecked ship and retrieve her live baby from Maria's dead arms.
  • Played for Laughs in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A terrible animated monster is chasing Arthur and his Knights and is only defeated when the animator animating the monster has a heart attack.
  • Did you think big, bad, giant tentacled monsters capable of sinking ships are safe from the Plot Reaper? Well, you thought wrong. The Kraken, which was a major menace in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, shows up in the next film dead on the shore. Apparently, Cutler Beckett forced Davy Jones to kill the Kraken off-screen. His death is used to illustrate the end of an era — on par with one theme of the film, particularly the scene that reveals the Kraken's corpse — but perhaps the film-makers also felt the Kraken stood in the way of the story at this point, and giving it a big climactic last battle would have made the movie at least a half-hour longer.
  • Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle only existed to die. They didn't want him to leave the farm; they had to be removed. Particularly obvious when Luke, who is completely obsessed with a father he never knew, never once mentioned the couple who raised him from infancy ever again.
  • The Thief: Might Katya and her little boy Sanya make a life together after they finally are separated from Toljan, thus making this a less depressing movie? Of course not! Katya dies from a botched abortion shortly after Toljan goes to prison.


By Author:

  • Kate Chopin, an otherwise respected author whose work is often used as School Study Media, had a terrible habit of killing off characters she couldn't write a proper ending for. Typically, the character thus slain was someone who'd violated the social order and who was about to get metaphorically reamed by the hatred of their community, but at least once she used a convenient flood for Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends.

By Title:

  • Charles Dickens's brings out the reaper in Bleak House, doing in Lady Dedlock because she cannot remain alive (thanks to Victorian Moral Guardians) once the truth of Esther's parentage comes out.
  • Attis Aquitaine in the last book of the Codex Alera series. It sure is convenient for the main character that he died, and he was smart and ruthless enough that his survival could have gone either way and by the end, he might not even have needed Redemption Equals Death. However, after the final battle, any denouement where the protagonists have to worry about Aquitaine would be anticlimactic. It helps that the character's death wasn't sudden or out of nowhere. He sustains an injury early in the final book that is explicitly described as being sure to kill him slowly and painfully, letting him linger around to affect the plot but setting up his eventual death long before it happens. It's also implied that one of the main character's friends was intentionally working to assassinate him because of the threat he posed.
  • Leino in Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series. When his wife Pekka and Fernao, both major characters from the beginning, finally meet at the series's halfway point, they slowly start to fall in love with each other due to both Pekka and Leino kept in total isolation with their colleagues working on top-secret projects. Meanwhile, Leino's shagging one of his coworkers (who aside from her looks really has nothing going for her) with far fewer reservations. This could have created a very complicated and messy situation when everyone met, but instead, Turtledove kills Leino and his lover at the beginning of the last book. Somewhat played with as news of Leino's death (but not his affair, no one ever finds out about that) initially makes Pekka feel enormously guilty and break off her relationship with Fernao, though eventually they get back together and get married.
  • In Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, our hero's first wife (totally unsuitable) has to die so that he can marry his second wife (totally perfect).
  • Gaunt's Ghosts: In His Last Command, Colonel Lucien Wilder has taken over command of the titular unit after Gaunt has left to lead a commando mission. He's a likeable Father to His Men like Gaunt, but by the end, Gaunt has returned and an officer is needed to Hold the Line in a suicide mission. Guess who volunteers?
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the last three books, damn near EVERY older male Harry has come to rely on, or could ask advice of, gets offed. It starts with Sirius, then Dumbledore, "Mad-Eye" Moody, Remus Lupin. It's dangerous to mentor The Boy Who Lived. The exceptions, however, are Arthur Weasley, who makes it through the last battle relatively unscathed (but this resulted in Rowling deciding to kill off Lupin and Tonks in that one fell swoop), and the other exception is Rubeus Hagrid, because around Book 5 it became Harry and friends' job to parent Hagrid, rather than the other way around.
    • Word of God is that Hedwig's death at the start of Deathly Hallows was meant to represent the end of childhood innocence. Very convenient from a writer's perspective though. Because of how the plot of the last book went, it'd be quite hard to keep her around. Two birds with one stone.
    • A case might be made regarding Cedric Diggory, who was becoming both an older brother figure to Harry and who qualifies for Death of the Hypotenuse. It was then somewhat subverted, though - not only did Harry not end up with Cho Chang, but Cedric was more used to illustrate the casualties a person such as Voldemort would bring about. Also, Cedric was Too Good for This Sinful Earth, and his death was a trigger for Harry.
  • The Horatio Hornblower series. Maria, the plain and dull woman Hornblower married out of pity and gratitude, dies in childbirth so Hornblower can marry the beautiful and intelligent Lady Barbara Wellesley. To Hornblower's credit, he is overcome with grief and guilt and doesn't even think of Barbara.
  • At some point, Tom Clancy decided that his star character Jack Ryan needed to become President of the United States, despite being completely unelectable in the sense of having no political experience to speak of. The solution: have Ryan nominated Vice President as a political gift to replace an ousted Strawman Liberal VP, then kill off the President, most of the Cabinet, most of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Supreme Court in one massive catastrophe. What's amazing is that he pulls it off reasonably straight.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's novel Komarr, Ekaterin's unlikeable, abusive, and all-around Jerkass of a husband dies just as she has decided to leave him, freeing her to be courted by Miles Vorkosigan. Unfortunately, he dies in such a way that fewer than a score of people in the Barrayaran Empire have a high enough security clearance to be able to satisfy themselves that Miles didn't kill him out of jealousy. Which causes problems for Miles all throughout the next book...
  • Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The offscreen death of Johnny Baker conveniently and quickly removes the last obstacle between the protagonist and the girl.
  • In Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary, Charles Bovary's ugly original wife conveniently dies, making room for Emma to enter the plot fully.
  • In Garth Nix's Sabriel, it is pretty clear from the beginning that Sabriel's father Terciel is on the verge of Death, and not just in his line of work, but that considering how long he's spent in Death, and the fact that all the signs point to Sabriel inheriting the title of Abhorsen, he is granted, as he himself says, only "a hundred hundred heartbeats" left in life.
  • In the tenth Safehold book, Through Fiery Trials, a large number of important characters get killed off over the course of the plot, which covers a period of approximately seventeen years from the end of the previous book. Most of the deaths are the result of a combination of age, health problems, and the stress of dealing with the Jihad and its aftermath making the other two worse. Some deaths, such as Grand Vicar Rhobair Duchairn and Lord Protector Greyghor Stohnar of Siddarmark, we see on-screen. Others we only hear about after the fact. Meanwhile, much of the plot is also spent building up new characters such as Cayleb and Sharleyan's daughter, Alanah, and Prince Daivyn of Corisande.
  • Happens rather nakedly in the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dead Men Walking. At about the 80% mark, everyone has served their plot purpose and suddenly runs out of Protagonist Plot Armor.
  • In Turtledove's Worldwar series, A-bomb scientist Jens Larssen is lost and presumed dead after The Race attacks Chicago. When Larssen finally catches up the group that escaped and fled west, his wife is remarried to (and pregnant by) Sam Yeager, a conscripted Army sergeant. What might have been a long, awkward, painful process of working things out between the three of them is sorted in short order by Jens going Ax-Crazy, trying to defect to The Lizards, and getting cut down by Rance Auebach's squad before he could turn over the info he had on America's atomic bomb project.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All My Children wrote itself into a situation in which Tad, a biological father who never gave up his rights, is seeking his daughter Kathy, who was unknowingly adopted by Julia. This could have led to a nasty custody battle, in which many viewers would side with Julia, even though we're "supposed" to side with Tad. So instead they just killed Julia off. Problem solved.
  • Admiral Cain, a higher-in-command in Battlestar Galactica (2003), succumbs to the plot reaper, because she is a hazard and generally unpleasant for the fleet. Because she out-ranks Adama and doesn't recognize Roslin's authority, there's no way to put her under them, and they're supposed to be the designated heroes. Asininely enough, the characters actually discuss having her mutinously assassinated (which wouldn't be this trope), but then a toaster conveniently pops her off as to avoid the guilt and implications of murdering your superiors. This immediately after Adama backs down from assassinating Cain...and she simultaneously (and much to her own surprise) backs down from her own plan to assassinate Adama, indicating that she might not be completely irredeemable after all. Hooray for the guilt-free resolution(!)
  • In Blake's 7 Travis is The Dragon who's obsessed with catching and killing Blake, the man who crippled him. Blake forgoes several opportunities to kill Travis, as the series requires The Hero to have an Arch-Enemy (at this stage Servalan is running things from behind her desk at Star Command most of the time). However, when the actor playing Blake decided to leave the series, Travis was finally killed off in that episode and Servalan takes over the role as their Arch-Enemy.
  • The brand-new Chief of Police Tommy Delk in Season 7 of The Closer. He was going to demote a major character to the traffic department and make a character Brenda couldn't stand her direct superior; he was doomed as soon as the audience found that out.
  • Dexter: Sergeant James Doakes was far too suspicious of Dexter to simply leave him and his secret alone. His actor Erik King even notes that Doakes couldn't spend several seasons saying "I'm watching you" without compromising the integrity of the character. The problem is that Doakes doesn't fit Dexter's code, and Dexter wouldn't be able to get rid of him(whether through killing or framing) without losing audience sympathy. Ultimately, Lila solves the problem for him.
  • Doctor Who:
    • New companion Katarina is killed off in "The Daleks' Master Plan", because her character's gimmick (a Trojan priestess who believed the Doctor to be Zeus and for herself to be dead) was felt by the writers to be virtually unworkable, as she was far too uneducated even to understand explanations comprehensible to the 1960s audience.
    • In "The Evil of the Daleks", one of the characters rescued by the Doctor is Kemel, a Turkish strongman. The Doctor cannot leave him and remain likeable, but he would not be a good companion, and so he does a Heroic Sacrifice to get the Doctor back to the TARDIS. Lawrence Miles heavily criticised the story for this, saying he cannot stand characters being killed to save effort.
    • In "The Tomb of the Cybermen", Toberman, the party's monosyllabic Scary Black Man, sacrifices himself to shut the Cybermen back into the tomb. The Doctor's influence meant he had no reason to want to stay with the archaeology team anymore, meaning the only way he could get off Telos would be in the TARDIS - but he would not be a good companion, meaning killing him off was the only option.
    • In "The Enemy of the World", Fariah had successfully stolen all of the documents that would have implicated Salamander as a criminal and was going to bring them to the Doctor. She gets killed because it is a six-parter and if she'd managed, the plot would have stopped. Instead, the Doctor has to come across the information by other means.
    • In "The Robots of Death", the Doctor had become quite fond of D84 (as a robot who had worked out how to defy its programming) and D84 had no reason to want to stay in its world (it was in an undesirable social class even by robot standards, its only friend hated it and it was at risk of getting implicated for murder). Chances are the Doctor would have wanted to give D84 a trip in the TARDIS, but a creepy robot companion probably wouldn't work and so D84 performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Doctor from V5.
    • In "Voyage of the Damned", despite Astrid wanting to accompany the Doctor, it would have been unfeasible (and expensive) to keep Kylie Minogue as the main companion. So she performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save the Doctor and destroy the villain.
    • In "The Almost People", the Doctor comes up with a weapon that will destroy Gangers but leave non-Gangers unharmed. The Doctor's own Ganger duplicate insists on being the one to use it, thus tidying himself neatly away along with the monster of the week. Meanwhile, all the human characters who died are replaced by their duplicates, while the duplicates of all the surviving human characters die, leaving only one copy of each of them and making things a lot less complicated for their families.
  • Frequently in Game of Thrones, but a big example is the death of Littlefinger in the Season 7 finale. Notable in that he'd been a mainstay of the series as one of its primary villains, a Manipulative Bastard who rose to power via subtle politics and clever schemes in a complex web of intrigue. Once the main conflict was reduced to a fight against a zombie army followed by the straightforward dethroning of a mad queen, there was no place for him in the story.
  • Horatio Hornblower's best friend for two series, Archie Kennedy, is in the way both of his character development as an isolated individual, and the story itself, as he was not in the books. Instead of having him transferred to another ship, he was written out in a way that would make a return impossible.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • In its first season finale, Preacher (2016) manages to kill off nearly the entire supporting cast when Annville's methane plant explodes and levels the town, thereby leaving nothing but the core characters and the main story.
  • Arguably the entire Red Dwarf crew could have counted as this. Their death allowed two chicken soup repairmen (the lowest-ranked members of the crew) to get control of this ship, along with someone "evolved from the domestic cat and roughly half as intelligent" and a mechanoid designed primarily for cleaning lavatories. The characters would have never had a chance to do the things they did if even a handful of the more senior crew survived. Series 8 actually had the crew temporarily resurrected and inevitably our heroes got a lot less freedom on the ship.
  • The pilot for Star Trek: Voyager has Voyager enduring a cosmic accident that kills off nearly half its crew, including the original First Officer and the entire medical staff. This provides the excuse for Janeway to welcome the Maquis into her crew, making their leader Chakotay her First Officer as a way for them to bond further. It's also the reason the holographic EMH becomes the regular Doctor from there on.
  • Colonel Sumner is killed off in the pilot of Stargate Atlantis simply to justify a lower ranking military officer such as Major Sheperd getting command of the entire base.
    • One could also include the Icarus planet in the pilot of Stargate Universe. If it hadn't blown up, the otherwise-isolated ship could’ve just kept receiving supplies.

    Video Games 
  • A late-game revelation in Dragon Age: Origins is that the Grey Warden who slays the Archdemon will die alongside it. The Warden who reveals this to you, Riordan, offers to make the sacrifice due to him being a senior Warden who won't live much longer anyway. Unsurprisingly, he dies before he can kill it, since otherwise there wouldn't be a Sadistic Choice for the main characters to deal with.
  • Happens to Liberty Prime in Fallout 3: Broken Steel, care of a precision nuclear strike from an orbital weapons platform. If it hadn't happened, the otherwise invulnerable robot would curb stomp the everything in the Wasteland with virtually no effort. A repeatable quest at the end of the DLC lets you collect spare parts to repair him. By the time of Fallout 4, they're almost done.
  • Final Fantasy VII has Aerith Gainsborough. The Last Of Her Kind, with an obscene amount of magical power, who can talk to the planet and find out everything that needs to be found out, though she can't understand it that well at first. A visit to the ancestral temple of her people later, and she comes into her full heritage, just as the party becomes cognizant of the actual threat to the world. An interesting case in that she actually goes off on her own to resolve the problem single-handedly... with predictable results. On top of this, the decision to allow Aerith to do this in the first place was also made by the Plot Reaper; early in development, the only characters created were Cloud, Barret, and Aerith, and the team decided that they would have the gimmick of killing off one of the cast members in an unexpected and nasty way that the rest of the cast never quite get over. Cloud was obviously safe, because he was the main character, and Barret was safe as the team decided it would be too predictable (many Final Fantasy games previously had had Boisterous Bruiser friend characters sacrificing themselves for the good of the party and Barret slotted well into this archetype). Therefore, Aerith was the only one left and the one who had to die.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, on all routes other than Crimson Flower, the Battle at Gronder serves to incapacitate all of the non-Empire factions you didn't pick so that you are the only ones left who can oppose said Empire. On Crimson Flower, you side with the Empire and thus end up with the strongest faction who has the resources to fight all the other factions, even without the Battle of Gronder ever taking place.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has a non-lethal example in Aqua. Both Terra and Ventus figure into the villains' plot and get incapacitated midway through the game, but Aqua does not and ends up confronting the Big Bad as a fully realized Keyblade Master. However, the game is a prequel, and Aqua still being around would have caused plot complications with the first game, since there's no easy justification for Sora to protect the world when she could have done it herself. Something must be done. That something turns out to be Aqua being stranded in the Realm of Darkness, having attempted to save Terra-Xehanort from ending up there. This manages to kill two birds with one stone; Aqua ends up unavailable to help fight Ansem and Xemnas, while Xehanort is free to enact his plan because Aqua saved him.
  • Nihlus Kryik dies ten minutes into Mass Effect. Why? He was already a Spectre and was going to be observing Shepard on several missions before making his recommendations to the Council on whether or not to make Shepard one. Nihlus' death (along with the attack on Eden Prime) catapults Shepard into the ranks of the Spectres and kick-starts the game's plot.
  • This is your role in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Especially in the anarchy route, which ends with you killing damn near everybody in order to rid the world of all the supernatural entities that plague it.
  • Asch the Bloody's fate in Tales of the Abyss since in the end, There Can Be Only One Luke fon Fabre. Or Replica Luke in case that is Asch in the ending.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Pyrrha Nikos, firmly established as the best of the 8 main characters, dies in battle with the The Heavy Cinder at the end of Volume 3. It's main effect is on her own team JNPR, and even more so on team leader Jaune, around which there was plenty of mainly one-sided Will They or Won't They? and only just realized his own feelings before her death, but it also has an effect on Ruby, as she was the only one to witness her death, causing a Traumatic Superpower Awakening in the process. With her own team forcibly disbanded, she joins what's left of JNPR to hunt down Cinder. For Ruby, it's a massive dent in her naïveté, while she vows to continue being a Wide-Eyed Idealist; she at least is younger than Pyrrha's and has the potential to surpass her. Jaune does not; Pyrrha was his mentor, and now he has to learn how to get by on his own.

  • Girl Genius: Poor Lars ends up being killed by the Baron in a Heroic Sacrifice to save Agatha right before Gil reappears in Agatha's life. Granted, Agatha liked him best when he was performing the parts of a Spark as an actor so that romance likely would not have worked out, but the complicated resolution was never given a chance.
  • Gold Coin Comics: Lance's ties to his past are cut because of a fire so that he may continue with the plot.
  • Homestuck:
    • The villain Jack Noir winds up becoming part god dog, and Tavros can control animals with his mind. Since Tavros was seen controlling the god dog that Jack Noir's new form is based on, Tavros could potentially mind control the main villain at the time and end the plot as it stood. Obviously, he gets killed due to Vriska.
    • This also happens to Jade. Since Jack Noir is pacified whenever next to her due to the god dog's loyalty, Jade winds up getting killed by the Courtyard Droll. However, it's a Subversion, as Jack Noir winds up setting up her revival before getting out of there, thus avoiding being trapped in another metaphorical leash.
  • Looking for Group: Poor Shora. Rescued from bandits by Cael'anon (well, Richard). Finishes growing up (and how) alongside him. Secretly marries him. Then is coerced into cheating on him by Cale's master (at the orders of the Archmage) so he will leave the temple to fulfil his destiny of restoring Kethenecia. Then invoked when she is murdered by the same duo specifically so Cale won't have anything to come back for. Way to drive the point home!
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius takes it upon themself to act as the plot reaper by quickly killing the villain Kubota after his capture, stating that V really doesn't have the patience to deal with what V sums up as potential Filler. This one act served quadruple duty: firstly, ridding us of the villain in a most fitting matter; secondly, avoiding more details that keep us from getting back to the main plot; thirdly, acting as Vaarsuvius's Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment; and fourthly, cementing Elan's realization that, while a happy ending is assured for him, those around him — even his friends — are not so guaranteed. So, much like Cael'anon from Looking for Group, he's learning that the world around him isn't as idealistic as he once believed... and it may be a while before we see the end result of this realization.
    • An interesting case is Tarquin killing his son Nale. While it was entirely in-character for both of them, the fact that the Genre Savvy Tarquin openly shrugs off the murder as being narratively necessary to get a redundant bit-character out of the way is incredibly chilling. Sure, Nale outright tells him that he doesn't want Tarquin to treat him like he's his son anymore, but Tarquin's turnaround on that mindset is... pretty sharp.
      Tarquin: He was never more than a B-list recurring villain and frankly, Elan's outgrown him.
    • Even more chilling is his response, or rather lack of response to Laurin disintegrating Nale's body so he can't ever be brought back. The only thing that dictates his reactions are each character's relevance to the plot. It just as easily could have been Elan that he killed if he weren't a main character.
      Tarquin: He was just cluttering up the obvious narrative arc between Elan and myself anyway.

    Western Animation 
  • Occurs in the Defenders of the Earth episode "The Adoption of Kshin", where Mandrake's plans to formally adopt Kshin are scuppered by the revelation that Kshin's grandfather, Hai, is still alive. Towards the end of the episode, however, Hai sacrifices himself to save Mandrake and Kshin from getting crushed by a statue; before he dies, he entrusts Kshin to Mandrake's care.
  • An entire episode of Frisky Dingo is spent setting up Nearl, Xander Crews' identical twin brother. After an extended monologue in which Nearl explains his life history and various motivations, Xtacle Ronny stands up and simply shoots him in the head. "This plot is complicated enough without all this evil-twin bullshit-having."