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Uncertain Doom

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Zuko: Did Jet just... die?
Sokka: You know, it was really unclear.

As an audience, we know that a doomed character can be saved at the last minute. There's always an 11th-Hour Superpower, Deus ex Machina, or Big Damn Heroes moment to rescue them. Other times, we get an on-screen death, or even a Fate Worse than Death. Very rarely, though, characters can be left in limbo; there's still a last minute, but we never see what happens after that.

This trope is the fate of any character who possibly didn't make it, but is never actually proven dead. This can happen at any point in a story, but happens so frequently at the end that we have tropes devoted specifically for that situation. Rule of thumb: if Uncertain Doom occurs at the ending of an entire work, it's probably a Bolivian Army Ending. If Uncertain Doom happens at the end of an installment of the work (like a novel or season), it's probably a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger.

Asking the creators for clarity usually will get you nowhere, as they often aren't entirely sure themselves. If they do confirm the character's death, the ambiguity of this trope allows them to get away with bringing the character back anyway should they change their minds.

When the audience doesn't even know if the characters are in danger, see Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and What Happened to the Mouse?. If Fridge Logic leads fans to assume this happened to one of the good guys, it can result in an Inferred Holocaust.

A Super-Trope to:

However, these subtropes tend to resolve the uncertainty of who's actually dead and who's still alive, as long as the next installment is made.

Compare He's Just Hiding, where the character is almost definitely dead, even if some people out-of-universe insist otherwise. Compare and contrast Killed Offscreen, which can be a subversion of this trope. For characters that are literally between life and death, see Mortality Grey Area.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • The official Cap'n Crunch Twitter had a storyline where Jean LaFoote, wounded, was last seen jumping into the sea and never posted again.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Plenty of characters simply vanish between stories with no obvious cause. Given the difficult line of work they live in and the lack of Comic-Book Time, it's not quite clear if they've died in battle, moved away, or simply retired.
  • Batman: In Legends of the Dark Knight, Cavalier chooses a Bolivian Army-esque Suicide by Cop as an honorable end.
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: After Scylla's killed in the Battle of Yuss, Cybershark is put in charge of the forces remaining there. Later on, the fleet falls to the Vehicons, and Cybershark goes missing, presumed dead or assimilated.
  • Dean Tightbill from Darkwing Duck. We don't know if Steelbeak actually opened the "alligator briefcase" or if he just used the threat of it to frighten Tightbill into handing over the money.
  • Darth Vader :
    • In The Ghost Prison:
      • It is said that the remaining followers of Gentis are rounded up and executed, but the general whose recruitment to the plot was shown in detail earlier on is not explicitly shown.
      • Although only Shonn Volta is shown getting an Imperial commission, only fourteen of the other thirty-two remaining prisoners from the Ghost Prison are shown boarding the booby-trapped shuttle, although some of the others may have died in the battle.
    • In The Lost Command:
      • At the end of the first issue, Vader is preparing to drown several local prisoners when Lady Saro appears and offers to bargain with him, but it is never shown if her bargain included Vader sparing their lives.
      • Many of the soldiers helping Saro, Garoche, and Shale are alive when last seen, but their fate is unclear after the Empire plans to continue attacking the sector and will show no mercy to any Rebels they find.
    • In The Ninth Assassin, three of the first eight assassins hired to kill Vader are dead and the other five have vanished. The majordomo of the ninth assassin is confident those five died and wouldn’t have quit the job and fled with their advance payments, but the sheer formidability and infamy of Vader may have caused at least some of those five to chicken out of following their contract.
    • In The Cry of Shadows:
      • A Cerean Jedi shown being arrested and captured soon after Order 66 faces likely execution or torture to become an Inquisitor, but his exact fate is never shown.
      • After cutting one Jedi in half during a montage scene, Vader shoves three others off a cliff, but it isn’t a very high cliff, so their fate is ambiguous.
      • After Hock tries to stop the final massacre, it is unclear if Vader kills all of the Handicapped Badass hospital patients who try to stand up to him or just some of them.
      • General Farstar is the only Rebel Leader not shown being killed, although some of his allies only hear static when they try to radio him at one point.
  • DC: The New Frontier: Sarge and Storm of the Losers are never seen again after Sarge charges into the jungle after dinosaurs and a pterodactyl carries off Storm. Both men are treated as undisputedly dead in-universe, but other characters survive worse.
  • Dark Times: The Fire Carrier arc features a sympathetic Imperial officer who eventually starts bringing supplies to a group of Order 66 survivors every year. One year, he doesn't show up. The Jedi suspect that he died in the Galactic Civil War but acknowledge he may have only been transferred off-world or gotten married (with his new family needing the credits he'd previously used to buy them supplies).
  • The Golden Age: It is hard to tell whether Human Bomb and Doll Man survive the final battle, as they are listed in a montage where Johnny Quick repeatedly laments "many fallen heroes", but Dr. Mid-nite is also shown in that montage and survives. Also, the blows that take them out of the aren't shown.
  • Just a Pilgrim: One of the remaining Marianas Trench survivors, a man in a cap who is seen working on the helicopter and standing around in the background a few times, is alive when the Pilgrim and his two companions leave to try and rescue Maggy and is never shown among the slider-possessed people when they return to camp. However, he also isn't shown hiding onboard the rocket, so it's likely he was Killed Offscreen.
  • Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness ends with Ash escaping the zombie-infested dimension via Dr. Doom's portal only to end up in a dimension inhabited by werewolf superheroes, and the last frame is a shot of them running after him. Qualifies as a Bolivian Army Ending for Ash, but the crossover is a prequel for the entire Marvel Zombies universe.
  • Night of the Owls: There's a montage of several Gothamites being attacked by the Court of Owls. A few, such as Judge Jan Spitz (who is jogging when attacked), Public Advocate John Lee (who's driving his car) and City Councilman Michael Guadalupe (who tries to fight off his attacker with a pistol) aren't killed onscreen and might have been able to avoid the assassins long enough for Batman's allies to save them.
  • Santa Versus Dracula:
    • The fight between Rumspringer and Mr. Hyde ends with both of them collapsing as the glow in Rumpsringer's nose goes out and Mr. Hyde turns back into Dr. Jekyll. The implications of Rumpsringer's nose ceasing to glow aside, it isn't directly stated whether they died or not.
    • Near the end of the story, Wintry appears possessing the Frankenstein Monster through his enchanted hat after his original snowman body melted and fights the Yeti transformed into a werewolf. Both of them end up going down a cliff, but the respective beings' demonstration of toughness makes it doubtful that the fall could've killed them.
  • Shazam! (2012): The Wizard is last seen collapsed on the floor of the Rock of Eternity, weak and dying. The story never answers whether he actually is dead.
  • Superman:
    • Superboy-Prime: At the end of Adventure Comics #5, after Superboy-Prime's battle with the Black Lanterns and admitting to himself that he hates what he has become and only wanting a happy ending. Laurie Lemmon enters the basement, sporting a broken arm. She comforts Prime, telling him that "they" heard him, and that they sent her to tell him that they are sorry for what they did to him, and are going to leave him alone — "they" being previously mentioned as being the writers at DC Comics. As they embrace, a Black Lantern ring is shown on Laurie's hand detects the hope within Prime's heart, implying she is really a Black Lantern and is manipulating him into feeling hope before she kills him. However, a flashback in Prime's last appearance shows him reconnection with Laurie and them to be happy, implying she is the real Laurie Lemmon and that they are happy.
    • The demon Ordox in Supergirl (1972), who chooses to bring his mountain down rather than letting himself be captured by Supergirl and Zatanna. Both heroines theorize that Ordox possibly died with his mountain, but his fate is never revealed.
    • In The Third Kryptonian, villain Amalak smashes the Bottle City of Kandor — not the genuine article but a bottle-shaped interface between an alien ghetto trapped in a dimensional warp and the real world. Superman can't reach Kandor and find out if its inhabitants are still alive, dead or wounded... and he never finds out, because the whole matter was forgotten when the real Kandor was found a few months later.
    • The Krypton Chronicles: While investigating the life of his ancestor Val-El, Superman learns that, after reaching the continent of Lurvan and founding Argo City, Val-El and his men went to explore the interior. Eventually, they reached the Valley of Juru... and they disappeared from the face of the planet. Nobody knows what happens to them because no one who ever entered Juru afterwards returned.
    • In Crucible, it's unclear what happens to villain Rendll after getting defeated by Maxima. On the one hand, Maxima runs an energy dagger through Rendll's neck as shouting she'll kill her if Maxima's teammate Comet dies at hands of Rendll's partners. On the another hand, Maxima had shortly before driven an energy dagger into Rendll's neck, and it barely inconvenienced her. Did she get killed or merely knocked out? Either way, Rendll isn't seen or talked about again.
    • The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor: Villain Mad Bomber seems to become disintegrated after getting caught by his own telekinetic blast. In the aftermath of the battle, though, Supergirl and her friend Lena notice neither of them saw him exploding, so they wonder if he merely caused an explosion to conceal his escape. The truth is never revealed, whatever it may be.
  • In the Tintin series, astronaut Frank Wolff in Explorers on the Moon steps out of the Moon-Rocket into space to save oxygen for the remaining passengers and is never seen again. Because of Executive Meddling, creator Hergé was forced to imply the possibility of Wolff's survival in his suicide note. Word of God, after the fact, confirmed that there was no way Wolff survived.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Armada: In the comic series, the Destruction Mini-con team, who've been a thorn in Megatron's side, are absent when all the mini-cons are gathered together. When asked, Megatron says that they're "better off without them." The author, Simon Furman, mentions that Megatron strapped them to a rocket and shot them into the sun, which was an empty threat he made to Cyclonus earlier in the cartoon, leaving their fates ambiguous.
    • Transformers/G.I. Joe: Flint ends up captured and tortured into revealing intel to Cobra by Zartan, who then impersonates Flint before Scarlett recognizes him as an imposter and kills him. The fate of the real Flint remains unclear, even when the cancelled continuation Divided Front establishes a successor.
    • The Transformers: Unicron: A lot of supporting characters from Robots in Disguise and Till All Are One (Rattrap, the Combaticons, Airachnid) are unaccounted for when Cybertron gets destroyed. Given they aren't seen on Earth, they're probably dead.
  • Hooded Justice from Watchmen simply vanished from public view. Ozymandias theorizes that the Comedian killed him, but he could have simply retired, and the truth may never be known. Hooded Justice does appear alive in Watchmen (2019) and is revealed to be black, but the TV show is not strictly canonical to Moore’s original work so must be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Byrna Brilyant's mind is said to have "crashed" when Diana took down her mecha since she was wired to it in order to make it a more effective Motion-Capture Mecha. Byrna is not seen thereafter and it's unknown whether this means she died or was left in a coma or vegetative state.
  • X-Men: During the End of the Grey's story arc some of Rachel's relatives (notably recurring character the Bailey twins) aren't shown being killed, or lying on the ground dead, but the ending of the story indicates that everyone else at the house was killed.
  • X-Men: Blue:
    • At the end of "Cross-Time Capers", Magneto confronts the Future Brotherhood, and ominously looks like he's about to kill them for their actions... before the issue ends, without confirming whether he actually did or not.
    • Similarly, the Ultimate X-Men are taken out by Ms. Sinister, and never spoken of or seen afterwards.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Maid Maleen": When Maleen gets out of the tower where she spent seven years imprisoned, she finds her father's royal castle and town lay in empty, burned ruins. It is unknown whether her father was slain together with all his subjects by the enemy army or he was merely driven away.
  • "Reygoch": Curlylocks forces a steed called Black to ride through a barren, icy plan for seven days and into the city of Frosten before hopping off him. Black keeps galloping around the abandoned city's walls until finding the northern gate and racing out and back into the vast frozen desert...and no one knows what happened to him afterwards.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The fate of Vivienne Graham's elderly mother Susan — it's ambiguous for a while whether Susan is still alive in the present, or she died during the time inbetween Vivienne's Only Mostly Dead and her and San's escape from captivity (either from old age or during the global Titan rampage depicted in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)). Subverted when Susan's status is finally revealed in Chapter 11.
  • Children of Remnant: Marcus Black gets an appearance in the midpoint of the story, but there's no mention of Mercury. Considering that they got in a fight to the death before he met Cinder in canon, it's not clear if Mercury is still alive or something happened to make him lose the fight. He's later revealed to still be alive, and is only upset that he didn't get to kill Marcus himself.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In chapter 12 of the sequel Diplomat at Large, when asked about Starswirl's fate, Luna informs Aria that he and his companions disappeared over a thousand years ago; while he isn't dead, they don't know what actually happened to him.
  • The End of the World:
    • In The Golden Mean, after meeting the crowds of District 12 survivors, Haymitch comments that he doesn't see any of the families of his past tributes except for the Everdeens and River Bloodwood's sister, indicating that most to all of them died in the bombing of District 12. However, he could have easily missed several faces in a crowd of nine hundred people (some in injured or disheveled states), and it's mentioned that Haymitch avoids at least some of the families of kids he can't save (many of whom have kids who might look different all grown up), so his not spotting the relatives of any other tributes doesn't mean that none survived. Further supporting this is how a recently deceased tribute is named Plonia Fisher, and one of the rare merchant survivors of the District survived because she was making a delivery to a family named Fisher which lives away from where the bombs hit.
    • Many of Peeta and Delly's friends are confirmed dead when Delly says that none of the other merchant kids her and Peeta's age survived the District 12 bombing and few of the merchant survivors of other ages really know Peeta. However, that does leave the fates of a few Bit Characters slightly ambiguous due to them either being a few years older or younger than Delly and Peeta and not super close with Peeta (such as Elly Breen and Suza Pike), not explicitly being stated to be merchant kids despite that class status being implied (like Jemina Kingery), or both (like Dianner Teets).
  • Everfree Infection AU: Spike's whereabouts and fate are unknown, as he was last seen with Twilight when she was gathering field samples and became Patient Zero. His profile lists him as being immune, but given the existence of asymptomatic infected ponies who share design elements with characters listed as being immune, it's unclear if this is actually true. He's also been unable to be contacted in any way since Twilight disappeared, even through Luna's dream walking.
  • In A Far Green Country, chapter 12, orcs surround and trap Surad and Durus, but Elden does not see their deaths. The orcs have orders to kill, so they probably do kill Surad and Durus, but their deaths are not certain.
  • In A Force of Four, Mars disappears after getting struck by the Amazons' Purple Ray. Mars was blasted into oblivion or he merely teleported away? Neither the Amazons nor Power Girl know.
  • FURTHERFELL: During the ending phone call of Rethroned, Undyne mentions that Alphys went into her lab after she was defeated in a confrontation between Undyne and Hare for killing Toriel and hasn't been seen since. Given that this event essentially destroyed her last positive relationship and Undertale both establishes that Alphys avoids people associated with trauma and heavily implies she commits suicide in endings where she loses people she cares about, it's unclear if Alphys went into the lab to die or hide from her problems long-term.
  • The Golden Boys Last Temptation: Everybody in America realized when fomer President Prez dies, but nobody ever found out how or why. Supergirl even says she and Superman searched for his remains through the whole continent using their Super-Senses but they never found the body. All they knew is that Prez was definitely dead and gone.
  • The Good Hunter: The entry about Sierra Underwood by the Wandering Scholar indicates that at some point after Chapter 21, Wilmarina and her band (including her husband Elt, Ursula, etc.) attacked Sasha's orphanage in order to use Sierra, who was residing at said orphanage, as a means to gain leverage over the Moon Scented Hunter, their target. This action prompted him to undergo a Roaring Rampage of Rescue that might as well be a massacre. It is neither shown nor proven whether the entire band was wiped out, but according to the Wandering Scholar, Wilmarina "would never be the same woman ever again, not after what the Hunter had done to her, her husband and her friends". Clearly, their fates are anything but good.
  • In Higher Learning, Kaoru revealed that his father was sealed inside the Geofront in punishment for killing his own mother. Kaoru assumes his father eventually died down there but he can't know for sure since they never checked back on him.
  • Kara of Rokyn: Barry Allen disappears during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and nobody knows whether he died or survived by time-traveling to the far future.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: In the last scene involving him, Lorenz Keel dismisses the rest of Seele and is left alone with a minion who he believes to be loyal. However, Doctor Hideki Nakayima has a firearm and a very good reason to want Lorenz dead. The scene concludes with Doctor Nakayima reaching into his pocket for his gun while Lorenz's back is turned. Lorenz's fate remains unrevealed in the epilogue.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash's Squirtle declares himself the Sole Survivor of the Squirtle Squad. A sidestory reveals that he was separated from them by a cave-in during an ambush in an underground route, and believes they were all buried alive. However, The Stinger of that sidestory reveals that at least one of them survived.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: In Nightmares Yet to Come, one chapter ends with Duke Greengrass being beaten up by the story's main villains, with their leader explaining that he's a Wild Card who needs to be taken out of the picture. Then Greengrass recognizes him... the chapter ends with him being knocked out, but confirmation on just what these villains ultimately did.
  • At the beginning of To Hell and Back (Arrowverse), Kara hurls one thug into a tree hard enough to break the trunk in half. It's never revealed that happens to him and the narration states he might or might not be dead.
    Kara struggled in her captor’s hold, writhing as his arms tightened, until she screamed and, completely on instinct, hitched up her back, lifting the man up and throwing him over her body to one of the trees. His body had been thrown with such force that it broke through the tree trunk, ripping it in half. He continued to skid across the ground before his back hit another tree, and remained there motionless, either unconscious or dead.'
  • At the end of Trustworthy (part 2 here), a fanfic of The Loud House, it's left uncertain as to whether Lana's snake El Diablo and her lizard Izzy died in the House Fire or if they ran away.
  • In The Werewolf of Hope's Peak Academy!, Mukuro is last seen getting thrown into a wall by Makoto (the titular werewolf) after a vain attempt to defend Junko from him. However, only Junko is confirmed to be dead and it's never made clear if she was just knocked out or the impact killed her.
  • A Crusade Of Blood And Dust: Most of the Remnant characters, those who survived the Horus Heresy, went on to achieve great things such as founding important Imperial Noble Houses or, in Roman's case, a Rogue Trader Dynasty. All except Ruby Rose who, after becoming a legendary Huntress and an extended tour with the Death Guard (during which she befriended Mortarion and helped prevent his Start of Darkness) apparently disappeared shortly before the outbreak of the Heresy; all that's known is that she boarded a ship bound for Remant and that it never exited the Warp; she was never heard from again. Given the way time tends to work in the Warp, however, that doesn't mean she won't be.

    Films — Animation 
  • Battle for Terra: General Hemners terraforming operators are seen running from the control room before the kanikazie attack hits it but given the size of the explosion it’s doubtful (although not impossible) they could have gotten clear in time.
  • The BIONICLE animated films:
    • Mask of Light ends with Takanuva and the Makuta fusing into Takutanuva, who is then crushed by a stone gate. Takanuva is resurrected but no mention is made of Makuta's fate. Books published years later confirmed he survived and came out on the other side of the gate, though his body was damaged beyond repair. Luckily, he is an Energy Being, so this was a minor setback.
    • Web of Shadows ends with Makuta's servant Roodaka being blown to the ground, Makuta's shadow-hand grabbing her and making her vanish, leaving only her heart stone, a symbol of Makuta. In the previous film, this shadow-hand killed everyone it touched, which would suggest that also became Roodaka's fate. The novelization is similarly vague, implying she was destroyed with only her heart stone remaining. Later books revealed she survived; Makuta didn't destroy her, he merely teleported her unconscious body away before the heroes could finish off or capture her.
    • In The Legend Reborn, Skrall leader Tuma collapses and passes out after his duel with Mata Nui and is never seen afterward. The unproduced sequel would have showed him alive but weak and humiliated, leading only a small group of Skrall devotees. In written canon, he is said to have survived but didn't make further appearances.
  • At the end of Cars 2, Grem and Acer are last seen being beaten up by angry patrons inside the Ye Left Turn Inn pub during the final battle.
  • Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget: The main villain is never seen again after she's fired on by security drones, leaving her survival ambiguous. Additionally, the fates of Dr. Fry, Reginald Smith and the Fun-Land Farms workers are also left up in the air when the factory is last shown exploding from afar.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ends with the mayor stranded on his mostly-eaten boat made of food. We never find out if he drowns or not; while the credits show him surviving and being arrested, they may not be canon, and he's never mentioned in the sequel.
  • Candlewick in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio. The last we see of him, he’s searching for Pinocchio after his father is blown up by a bomb at the training camp. It’s bombed again moments later but his fate isn’t confirmed.
  • Drago Bludvist from How to Train Your Dragon 2 was originally supposed to come back in the third film but his role was written out, leaving his fate in the second movie unknown. However, since he has been stated to be "defeated" and The Remnant of his army still fight Hiccup, it is likely that he drowned when his Bewilderbeast submerged in the water. This is even more likely because he had only one arm, thus making it much harder for him to swim.
  • Ice Age:
    • In the first movie, Soto's minion Zeke gets his head stuck in the hollow of a rock while trying to kill Sid. The movie gives no indication of if he managed to get himself out or if he died in there.
    • The pterosaur in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
    • Captain Gutt in Ice Age: Continental Drift is last seen being attacked by a siren-like lungfish, with more coming to join in. While one can assume they kill him, there are comedic noises during their attack and Gutt's noises of pain sound more like he just stepped into a really hot bath with cold feet, so it is unclear or not if they really did kill him. However, with no more ships or crewmen, we can assume Gutt’s days of piracy are over regardless of his fate.
  • Justice League Dark: Apokolips War:
    • Wonder Girl appears briefly at Titans Tower during the opening. Unlike the other Titans, we never learn her fate, as she isn't among the bodies shown during the Paradooms' attack on the Tower, yet unlike Robin, Superboy, and Raven, she also doesn't appear after it.
    • We also aren't shown for sure if Swamp Thing, Batwoman, and Batwing do die. We see Swamp Thing swarmed by the Paradooms, Batwoman tackled off one of the towers, and Batwing shot out of the sky, but we aren't shown anything that indicates they died.
  • Madame Medusa from The Rescuers is last seen hanging for dear life and with crocodiles chomping at her, but the scene ends before showing if her willpower ran out before theirs did.
  • At the end of Robin Hood (1973), the crocodile guard captain is never seen, heard, nor mentioned again after the Sheriff accidentally burns down Prince John's mother's castle, and is not even seen being arrested nor sentenced to hard labor as punishment like with the other villains, implying that he may have actually died in the fire instead. On the other hand, considering the previous implications of him being a Punch-Clock Villain with no particular loyalty to Prince John, it's also possible that he was let off the hook like his compatriots Nutsy and Trigger.
  • Sing: Mike is last seen in the process of skipping town with his love interest to get away from the bear gangsters that want to kill him, but neither of them notices one of the bears clinging to the back of their car... Notably, he's the only member of the main cast that doesn't appear, nor is even mentioned, in the sequel.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry:
    • After Mallory "Soccer Mom" McDoogle narrowly escapes from her car before it sinks into quicksand, she decides to try and hike her way out of the Amazon rainforest. The last shot she's in is of her walking into the distance as creepy insects ominously cloud the camera, suggesting but not confirming that she died before she could make it.
    • Not long after reaching the edge of the southern ice cap off the coast of Antarctica, Gorthan gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole. Then the chunk of ice he and the flagpole are on breaks off from the main sheet and drifts away into the ocean. He never appears again, nor is his fate ever mentioned.

  • Jon and Martin in the final episode of The Magnus Archives. After Jon kills Jonah Magnus and takes his place as the ruler of the fearscape, Martin is forced to stab him to banish the Fears from their reality, but it's unclear if this actually kills both of them or sends them somewhere else (aka another dimension). But regardless, they promise that whatever happens to them they'll go through it together.
    Archivist: Cut the tether. Send them away. Maybe we both die. Probably. But maybe not. Maybe, maybe everything works out, and we end up somewhere else.
    Martin: Together?

  • Dana Cardinal in Welcome to Night Vale. In part A of the two-part episode The Sandstorm, identical doubles of everyone in Night Vale came to town. When Dana, working as an intern at Night Vale Community Radio, met hers, she killed it. Or maybe it killed her and took her place. Nobody really knows for sure, and even Dana herself isn't sure if she's really Dana or Dana's double.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Trial of Annhilation against Clan Wolverine. In-universe, all that is known is that A) after the Trial was complete, comparing casualty lists to the rolls of Wolverines showed a large discrepancy, B) much of Clan Wolverine's warriors were descended from the Star League's 331st Royal BattleMech division, whose unit patch bore an icon of the state of Minnesota, C) about a year after the Annhilation, a mysterious group called "The Minnesota Tribe" raided through Draconis Combine territory before just as mysteriously vanishing into parts unknown. How much of Clan Wolverine survived, what happened to them after the events of the Annhilation, if they really are connected to the Minnesota Tribe, and where they ultimately went is the source of much speculation in-universe. Out-of-universe, it's been pretty well confirmed that the Minnesota Tribe are Wolverine survivors, but there is still no canon information about what happened to them afterwards.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Gith, the legendary hero and liberator of the gith species, was adviced by her trusted advisor Vlaakith to seek out aid in their war against the mind flayers from the dragon goddess Tiamat. Vlaakith and Gith went together to Tiamat's lair in the nine hells, but only Vlaakith returned. She told the githyanki that Tiamat had pledged some of her dragons to their cause, and that Gith had declared Vlaakith her regent until she returned from some mystical quest. The obvious implication is that Vlaakith fed Gith to Tiamat, but nothing has ever been stated for certain.
  • In Nomine: Officially, Uriel was taken by God to the Higher Heavens until the end of days to prevent Heaven from descending into another civil war over Uriel's bloody crusade against the Marches. Unofficially, there are various theories that he's been imprisoned by any of various Archangels or simply executed by the Seraphim Council. No-one knows for sure, but its notable that, when the end of days were imminent in The Last Trumpet, there was no trace of him...
  • Warhammer 40,000: At one point, Roboute Guilliman (Primarch of the Ultramarines) duelled and killed his brother Alpharius (Primarch of the Alpha Legion). However, since every single Space Marine of the Alpha Legion claims to be Alpharius, it's not known if the "Alpharius" killed by Guilliman was the real Alpharius, his twin Omegon or just a high-ranking Marine of the Alpha Legion.

  • In The King and I, this is the fate of Tuptim. After learning that her lover Lun Tha is dead, she exits declaring "Then I shall join him soon," presumably meaning either that she intends to kill herself or expects to die of grief. In the following scenes that take place several months later, she's neither seen nor mentioned, so we never know if she died or not.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: In general, while it's usually somewhat implied the true culprit of a case is facing the death penalty, there's only been two explicitly confirmed cases of this actually happening: Dahlia Hawthorne and Manfred Von Karma.note  Every other time, it's more ambiguous, and considering that Frank Sahwit shows up alive and well in Gyakuten Kenji 2, it's possible it only applies to premeditated murder.
    • The fate of Matt Engarde. At the end of his trial, he's found guilty, but more importantly, he betrayed the professional assassin Shelly de Killer, who gets really angry at clients betraying his trust. He's definitely never going to be bothering anyone again, but it's unknown whether he spent the rest of his life in prison, got the death penalty, or was murdered in prison by de Killer.
    • Godot, the main prosecutor from Trials and Tribulations. It's made very clear by the end that he's in extremely frail health and had his face slashed with a knife, meaning that, even without the risk of a death penalty, it's unclear if he survived for much longer past the events of the game. The fact he's never so much as mentioned after Tribulations and that he's shown in a drawing along with the very much dead Mia and Misty Fey at the end doesn't bode particularly well, however.
  • Invoked by the protagonist of Double Homework when Mr. Adler questions him about what happened to Dr. Mosely/Zeta. However, Mr. Adler isn’t buying it.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: The Balrog vs. TJ Combo episode has Balrog escalate a boxing match between the two into a life-or-death fight and assault the referee for trying to interfere. While the ref is never seen getting up, it's not clear if Balrog killed him or just knocked him out.
  • Helluva Boss: While Moxxie seems convinced that Martha's husband and children died when the police blew up their house, their bodies are never shown, which is unusual for this series; Moxxie had earlier told them he was going to report them to the authorities, meaning they might've fled knowing the law was coming for them.
  • Meta Runner: Dr. Sheridan and Lucinia were both caught up in an explosion while working on Project Blue. Come the end of Season 1, both their fates are still up in the air. Both are revealed to be Not Quite Dead in Season 2, with Sheridan even being revealed to be the Greater-Scope Villain of the series and the Big Bad of Season 3.
  • RWBY:
    • After thrashing Weiss in battle, the White Fang Lieutenant is never seen again. The villains confirm that a lot of Faunus died in the tunnels after the train crashed, but it's never confirmed if the lieutenant is one of them. He is simply never seen again.
    • Shay D. Mann is last seen guarding the entrance to the tribe's camp with two companions when Cinder, Watts, Mercury, and Emerald arrive; the scene ends with Emerald drawing her weapons. When the four arrive in the camp, two of the guards are seen in the background watching the confrontation with Raven but Shay is nowhere to be seen. It's unclear if he was just incapacitated or if he was killed.
  • In the Star Trek Logical Thinking video about the Appeal to Emotions, some colonists are missing and nobody knows if they're dead or alive. Nurse Chapel says they have to be alive as three of them are/were kids and the Death of a Child is too horrible to think about. Spock points out that this is a logical fallacy, but he still hopes they're alive. We never find out.
  • Sunset Paradise: Shadow Meggy, the physical embodiment of Meggy’s negative emotions, dissipates at the end of the series once Meggy finds out what she wants to do with life. Despite this, we don’t know if she’ll return next time Meggy feels doubtful about herself.
  • SMG4:
    • Heavily downplayed with Francis in the Anime Arc. While we know he’s dead, we don’t know how exactly he died, as it’s possible that the Ink Zuccer may have killed him before the island exploded.
    • Played straight with Zero in the Genesis Arc. While it appears he got completely wiped from existence after Axol’s death, James Bailey (SMG3’s voice actor) confirmed that Zero’s story isn’t over yet, though he couldn’t go further in due to NDAs, so it’s possible either Zero is still alive and is plotting revenge, or that he is truly dead and we may just learn more about him in the future. His words proved true when Zero (or rather, his Big Bad Friend Niles, who'd been in control of his body from the start) would be the Final Boss of the Revelation Arc.

  • Girl Genius:
    • Princess Zulenna. The last the reader hears of her, Baron Wulfenbach orders her to be revived after being stabbed by Bangladesh DuPree. In-universe, that was somewhere around three years ago; out of universe, she died in August 2004. Tarvek brings up her death as one of his failings in trying to protect people he cares about in a 2019 strip, but it's unclear if she'd been revived or not as her family would consider her good as dead and her titles and inheritance would be forfeit.
    • Agatha's father and uncle, who disappeared at separate times years before the comic starts.
    • Gottmurg Snarlantz, the spark who created the slaver wasp capable of infecting sparks, is from a town that was entirely overrun by Revenants of his own making, but three other Order members were able to safely recover things from his lab so while it's implied he's dead it's unclear what really happened to him.
    • In an arc set in the future, infamous hero Othar Tryggvassen is considered to be "lost", so he probably won't be asking for any of his stuff back.
  • Magick Chicks: The fates of Faith, Jacqui, and the student council are unknown following the teleportation incident, since Cerise claims to have transported them all into a volcano. Whether there's any truth to what Cerise said, or not, Tandy believes they're all dead. We do find out their fate out later: Cerise did teleport them into a live volcano. But she overdid the spell, so she also teleported a large enough chunk of the ground underneath their feet that it allowed them to escape.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Thog is last seen when Roy defeats him by tricking him into collapsing part of a stadium on top of himself. Afterwards, Tarquin says that they won't be sure if he survived until he's dug out of the wreckage. Later dialogue to Nale implies he survived, but Tarquin might just have not wanted to let on that he got Thog killed.
    • It's never resolved whether Miron and Laurin managed to escape the Snarl, although it's not likely.
    • Spoofed when Belkar is thrown out a window and off the mountain of the Godsmoot by the vampirized Durkon. Several strips later, he's revealed to have survived, thanks to a Feather Fall item he had obtained, but he's not happy, not just because he was thrown off a mountain, but because the comic left his fate in suspense for about twenty strips.
      Belkar: And who cuts away when a beloved character is in danger like that?
  • Sleepless Domain: The fate of Cassidy Tailor remains unknown following her apparent death at the hands of the Purple One's monsters, as destroying both of her clones at once caused her to simply vanish without leaving a trace. Anemone, the comic's almost-omniscient narrator, offered some cryptic clarification shortly afterwords, remarking that she "[doesn't] see her anywhere anymore."

    Web Original 
  • Jeff the Killer: While Randy and Keith are explicitly killed during their fight with Jeff at the house party, Troy is last mentioned falling down after being hit in the face with a towel rack, with the story never clarifying if he survived his injuries or not.
  • The Noedolekcin Archives: In "July 25, 2005", SpongeBob is last seen collapsed on the floor of the Krusty Krab with Kirk and Gabore looking at him menacingly before the screen cuts to black, with the heavy implication that he died. Word of God would later confirm that SpongeBob did survive, and the Nickelodeon operators cut Kirk and Gabore off before they could kill him, but whether or not SpongeBob sustained any serious injuries is unknown.invoked
  • SCP Foundation: Due to the site's philosophy of "the only canon is that there is no canon", a lot of characters are subject to this trope. For example, SCP-096, a monster that kills anyone who sees its face, be it in person or in a photograph/video feed, is slated for immediate termination due to an incident wherein it escaped and destroyed a small population center. However, it is not listed as a terminated SCP, leaving its status unknown.

    Web Video 
  • Solid jj: The sequel to "Gangster SpongeBob" reveals that Patrick is arrested after the shootout Bolivian Army Ending and is later released alone while SpongeBob is absent from the rest of the video and what happened to him is not mentioned.

    Real Life 
  • Some missing person reports end this way — in most cases, if the missing individual is never found, they're assumed to be dead, but it's not always clear, and the issue is not exactly helped by the fact that history has shown that some missing people can turn up alive (though not necessarily well) years after their initial disappearances.
  • A man going by Dan Cooper (more commonly known as D. B. Cooper) perpetrated the only unsolved case of air piracy in 1971, parachuting into the night after receiving the ransom money he wanted and vanishing into the mists of time. Whether he survived remains a mystery to this day; some of the ransom money was found along the banks of the Columbia River, but no other trace of him ever surfaced.
  • The buffalo calf in the famous "Battle at Kruger" viral video is a downplayed example; it is attacked by both a pride of lionesses and a crocodile, who each play a deadly game of tug o' war with the poor thing. Despite this, the calf escapes with its life, but it almost certainly suffered a lot of severe injuries from the claws of the lionesses and the jaws of the crocodile. Many are unsure if the calf survived to adulthood or eventually succumbed to its injuries.
  • Common in history thanks to incomplete or contradictory records (or, if the era was particularly long ago and/or chaotic, no records at all). Some cases include:
    • Zenobia, Queen of the Palmyrene Empire, is generally agreed to have been paraded through the streets of Rome in emperor Aurelian's triumph. What happened to her after that is less clear; some accounts claim she was executed, others say Aurelian spared her and let her live out the rest of her days in peace.
    • Consort Shen/Empress Ruizhen of China's Tang Dynasty. She was captured during the An Lushan Rebellion, but rescued and reunited with her husband approximately a year later. The rebellion continued for several more years. Her husband went to fight the enemy again and left Consort Shen in the capital of Luoyang. While he was gone an enemy general captured Luoyang. Consort Shen disappeared during the chaos. Her husband and son tried repeatedly to locate her for the rest of their lives. Several imposters pretended to be her, but the real Consort Shen was never found. Finally her great-grandson declared her dead almost fifty years after her disappearance. The most likely explanation is she was killed in the fighting and her body wasn't identified.
    • Ghias ad-Din, king consort of Georgia (Caucasus), disappears from history somewhere around 1226. He disappeared after defecting to Georgia's enemies then redefecting to Georgia, so some historians believe he was murdered either by his wife or by someone else annoyed by his actions. If true, that raises questions of why no one bothered to record his death — the execution of such a high-profile double agent, especially one who was a foreign prince by birth, is hardly the sort of thing contemporary historians would have ignored. Others believe he survived, which if true raises its own set of questions, like where he went and why he was never mentioned again.
  • Several examples regarding the distant future: it's often speculated that the universe will either end in a Big Crunch (the universe collapses back on itself, a Big Rip (the universe tears itself apart), or a Big Freeze (the universe keeps expanding indefinitely until it finally goes dark), with the lattermost scenario being the most likely; when the Sun expands into a red giant in 5 billion years, it's very likely that Mercury and Venus will indeed both be engulfed, while Mars and the giant planets will all survive due to them orbiting much further away from the Sun, however Earth's ultimate fate is still unknown, although the former scenario seems more likely, even if Earth escapes it will still be sterilized by the Sun's increasing heat; and finally, most far future timelines culminating in either the ultimate fate of the Earth and Solar System and/or the universe will often tend to ignore the fate of humans altogether. For one thing, it's highly unlikely that humans will survive another 1 billion years. Or perhaps even another 1 million years. Or maybe even another 1000 years...


Video Example(s):


Lyle Lanley is Going Down

Having got away scot-free with scamming all of Springfield, Lanley gets an unexpected detour to a city his previous scams reduced to a ghost town.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / OhCrap

Media sources: