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Redemption Equals Death / Live-Action TV

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Redemptions equalling death on live-action TV.

  • 12 Monkeys: Cole seems to believe this, which is his motivation for agreeing to participate in the time-travel missions. If he succeeds, he (or at least, this particular version of him) will be erased from existence, along with all the violent actions he committed as a 'Scavenger' in order to survive in the harsh post-apocalyptic world.
  • 24:
    • Unlikable Obstructive Bureaucrat Ryan Chappelle gets some sympathetic character development and starts being useful right before he gets horrifically killed.
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    • Flipped around with George Mason, who, aware of his impending death, decides to try to make up with the people who dislike him, and dies in a Heroic Sacrifice while at the same time convincing Jack he has reason to live on. While he is going to die anyway, his means of redeeming himself costs him his life.
    • And then we have another Jerkass Obstructive Bureaucrat who sacrifices himself: Lynn McGill. His death would have been more impressive if it wasn't his fault things were this bad in the first place though.
    • Subverted in Season 8, when Terin Faroush is shot after helping Kayla escape from the terrorists. His death is actually faked, and Kayla gets tricked into bringing an EMP bomb to CTU.
    • Zig-zagged in the case of Jack. After his Heel–Face Turn in Day 8, he sacrifices himself by letting the antagonists catch him so Chloe can expose the real masterminds of the season, but is saved just seconds before he's executed. In Day 9 however, after earning back the trust of the public he's taken in by the Russians in retaliation for murdering one of their corrupt officials, and is either going to be held in prison for life or executed.
  • Angel:
    • In "You're Welcome", Cordelia comes back, redeems herself after the mess Jasmine left, then dies. Well, okay, order might be a little off.
    • In an aversion of the standard permanent death, Spike from Buffy returns in this series after a large amount of effort.
      • Spike's return is in fact used to reveal a subversion of this trope. Angel admits to Spike that, no matter what good they do, no matter how hard they try, their sins are too heavy; when they finally die, they will go to hell anyway. There is no final redemption for them.
      • Of course, whether that's gospel: Wesley sees it as evidence that Angel has given up hope and tries to persuade him otherwise. Either way, the show's Bolivian Army Ending means they may have found out pretty soon...
    • Similar to the Spike example, Faith tries to pull a Redemption Equals Death when she returns to the show, but Angel refuses to let her since it would be too easy.
      Angel: Our time is never up, Faith. We pay for everything.
      Faith: It hurts.
      Angel: I know. I know.
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    • In "Lullaby", Darla stakes herself in order to allow Connor, the "only good thing" she and Angel ever did together, to be born.
    • In "Hero", Doyle sacrifices himself to stop the Scourge's weapon and atone for his My Greatest Failure tragedy.
    • In "Blind Date", Amoral Attorney Lindsey gets a case of Wouldn't Hurt a Child when he is tasked by his law firm to prepare a defense for a contract killer set to kill some innocent children. He runs to Angel Investigations in an attempt at a Heel–Face Turn but balks at the idea of returning to the highly secured law firm to help Angel stop the assassination since it could mean his death. Angel then accuses Lindsey of being more worried about self preservation than changing for the better and tries to invoke this trope.
      Lindsey: I can't go back there, they'll kill me!
      Angel: That's what we call an acceptable risk. You're panicking right now, you can't believe how bad you've let things get. That's not change. See, you have to make a decision to change, that's something you do by yourself. Most people they never do.
      Lindsey: I get myself killed that'll convince you I've changed?
      Angel: It's a start.
  • Arrow:
    • Sebastian Blood realizes Slade has no interest in Starling City other than outright destroying it, so he decides to betray him by giving the Mirakuru cure to the Arrow and pays the ultimate price because of it. Oliver even later refers to Sebastian as a friend.
    • In "Suicidal Tendencies", Deadshot sacrifices himself to save Diggle and Lila so that they can see their daughter, Sara, again. He does this because he screwed things up with his own family and wants things to turn out differently for someone else.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Neroon is not fully redeemed until he commits ritual suicide to end the Minbari civil war, sacrificing himself in place of Delenn. It's not just the sacrifice, though, as only that would have given victory to the Warrior Caste. In his last moments, he announces that he is now a member of the Spiritual Caste, thus giving victory to Delenn's side.
    • Londo Mollari, as seen in "War Without End, Part 2", sacrifices himself in order to save the Centauri Republic from the Drakh, freeing Sheridan and Delenn in the process. As foreshadowed before, G'Kar does the deed, choking Londo to death as Londo is forced by his Keeper to do the same to G'Kar.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Boomer. After being the poster child of the Heel–Face Revolving Door thanks to a number of traumatizing experiences, her actions culminate in the kidnapping of Cylon/human hybrid Hera Agathon so she could be studied. Soon enough, after bonding with her "niece," Boomer faces second thoughts and rescues Hera before anything serious can happen. She is reunited with the crew of Galactica, and upon returning Hera to them, Athena, Boomer's genetic twin and Hera's mother, guns Boomer down in a hail of bullets, finally allowing Boomer to achieve total redemption.
    • Felix Gaeta. After the revelation of Earth being a big nuked out wasteland and the fact that the rebel cylons were going to be granted amnesty by the fleet, Gaeta, with the help of The Starscream Tom Zarek, leads a mutiny against Adama. After pulling many horrible decisions, including ordering the craft carrying Roslin be destroyed, throwing a joke of a trial for Adama, and imprisoning Helo, Athena, Hera and Sam, Gaeta loses a lot of sympathy, both from in and out of the show. After the mutiny fails and he is sentenced to death, Gaeta's amputated leg stops hurting and he wins some sympathy back.
  • In Being Human Lauren pulls a Big Damn Heroes, stakes Seth, allowing our cornered heroes to escape, then has Mitchell stake her because she can't take the stress between her conscience and her hunger.
    • By the end of series 3, we have another example in Mitchell who spent the entire series lying and manipulating his friends into dangerous situations, trying to weasel his way out of retribution, and generally trying to pull a Karma Houdini. He finally realizes that the only way he can protect his friends (and the rest of the world) is a stake to the chest delivered by George.
  • Walter White in Breaking Bad is a partial example. He dies in the Series Finale after apologizing and making amends with everyone he has hurt one way or another. He also finally admits the real reason he kept cooking meth: because he was good at it. On the other hand, he is more apologetic about the consequences of his actions, but is completely unapologetic about the actions themselves, and makes it quite clear he would do it all again in a heartbeat if given the chance. The ending also shows that to his final breath, his true love was, not his family, but his precious blue meth.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Chosen", Spike saves the whole world... and dies (also Heroic Sacrifice). Though he gets better later.
    • Also Anya, and Jenny Calendar (who didn't have all that much to redeem anyway).
    • Played with in Andrew's case in "Storyteller": when it looks like Buffy will have to sacrifice him to stop the First Evil's current plan, he starts babbling about it being his 'redemption at last'. She tells him to stop acting like he's living in a story, and asks him if him dying will make up for him killing Jonathan. He admits that it won't and properly owns up to his actions for the first time - which is just what Buffy needed to happen (they didn't need his blood for the ritual, but tears of remorse). At the end of the episode, he concludes that while he's probably going to die in the upcoming fight, and that's probably what he deserves, it won't change anything. When he makes it to the end of the series alive, he's more surprised than anyone else.
    • Jonathan is a much straighter example. Pretty much everything he has done in the series, all of his acts of near-villainy, have been in response to being bullied and picked on in high school. Then in "Conversations With Dead People", he returns to Sunnydale with a genuine desire to prevent the town and its inhabitants from being destroyed in the Apocalypse and makes a stirring speech about how he's worked through the pain and now only has fond memories of high school and a desire to do good left...and then Andrew stabs him to death at the behest of the First Evil.
      Andrew: You do realize that none of the people who picked on you in high school are worried about you now, right? Not one of them is sitting there thinking, "Oh yeah, Jonathan, I wonder what he's up to these days?" They do not. Care. About you!
      Jonathan: I know. But I care about them.
    • Buffy Season 8 has Giles and Faith working together to be the poisonous friends for the entire Slayer Organization, redeeming or killing evil Slayers. Giles dies near the end of Season 8.
    • Ethan in Season 8. His final act in life is helping Buffy.
    • Angel in "Becoming Part 2". Just as he casts off the Angelus persona, Buffy runs him through with a sword and he gets pulled into Hell by Acathla. He gets better.
  • In the third season finale of Castle it is revealed that Captain Montgomery is the Third Cop who was involved in the organization that killed Beckett's mother. Although he got out of it before Johanna was murdered, it was the accidental discharge of his gun that killed her client and turned her onto the case. He dies defending Beckett and Castle from an assassin, and they agree to cover up his past crimes and give him the honorable death he deserved.
  • In Community episode "Modern Warfare" Britta makes up for her attempt to double-cross Jeff by sacrificing herself to defeat Chang. Parodied in that she just gets hit with a paintball and doesn't actually die, but the other characters act as though it's this trope anyway.
  • Omen of Dark Oracle, a former Big Bad, makes a turn around in the Grand Finale, helps them save Lance from the Puppet-Master, and then dies Taking the Bullet for Cally.
  • In the Death in Paradise episode "A Personal Murder", the victim of the week was fully prepared to come clean about his role in the death of a local youth 45 years before when he is killed in his sleep.
  • Orson's ex-wife Alma in Desperate Housewives. When she finally realizes that Orson will never love her, Orson's mother locks her up. She escapes through a window and climbs on the roof, but falls to her death while trying to warn Danielle that Orson's mother plans to kill Bree. Orson never learns about this.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This was a favourite trope in the old days. A guest character would do something terrible, then redeem themselves by sacrificing their life. Examples include Sara Kingdom (executed her brother under orders, then gives her life to save the galaxy from the Daleks' Master Plan), Fewsham (a Dirty Coward who aided the Ice Warriors in their plan, then when he realized what he had done arranged to alert Earth to the Ice Warrior fleet and how to stop them; he gets shot when the Ice Warriors get suspicious at his recapitulation of everything and then notice recording in progress), and Galloway in "Death to the Daleks", who blows himself up along with their spacecraft.
    • "Tooth and Claw": Sir Robert MacLeish sacrifices himself to slow down the werewolf in order to atone for his (somewhat unwilling) aiding of the Evil Plan set up by it and its worshippers.
    • "Doomsday": Yvonne Hartman, head of the speciesist, imperialistic Torchwood Institute, and partially responsible for the ongoing Alien Invasion, gets Cyberconverted and then sacrifices herself to prevent the escape of the Cyber-Leader.
    • "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks": Dalek Sec fuses with the human building contractor Mr. Diagoras, instilling him with a human sense of creativity and a rudimentary morality. The three other Daleks in the episode then turn upon him, and exterminate him when he shields the Doctor. This is also a Heroic Sacrifice because he jumped in front of the beam headed for the Doctor.
    • "42": Captain McDonnell atones for harvesting fuel from a living star by ejecting herself and her possessed husband from an airlock to save everyone else.
    • "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky": Luke Rattigan allied himself with the Sontarans in a plot to destroy the Earth because, disillusioned with society, they promised they would take him, and a group of humans he chose, to a colony world to, in his words, "start again". He sees the error of his ways after he learns they were lying about the planet, and intended to kill him and his colonists once they didn't need him anymore. The Doctor plans to transport himself to the Sontaran ship with a device that will destroy it, but at the last minute Luke takes his place and makes the sacrifice instead.
    • In "Journey's End", it's revealed that Dalek Caan manipulated events in order to bring about the destruction of his own race, after finally seeing the evil in what they were. He's last seen inside The Crucible as it exploded, making no effort to save himself.
    • "The End of Time":
      • The Master. "YOU. DID. THIS. TO. ME. ONE. TWO. THREE. FOUR." Considering his track record, though, it's unlikely that either the death or the redemption will stick. If anything, his redemption in this case was heavily motivated by a desire for revenge. And sure enough she returns in Series 8 as the Big Bad.
      • The Tenth Doctor could be an example of this, having gone too far in "The Waters of Mars" and generally acting up until the return of the Master and Time Lords, after which he is forced to sacrifice himself to save an ordinary human, Wilf, bringing him (and his ego) back down to earth.
    • In "The Doctor Falls", Missy dies in a Mutual Kill after stabbing her former self. No one will ever find out, though.
  • Dollhouse: Bennett reconciles with her past (sort of) and agrees to repair Caroline's wedge, makes out with Topher, and then gets shot in the head by Whiskey, who has been reprogrammed by Rossum.
    • Also, Topher himself. He invented the tech that nearly brought about the end of civilization, and in the series finale, having arguably already redeemed himself by inventing a way to reverse it, he dies to set off the signal that will restore everybody who's been wiped or imprinted to their original personalities.
  • The Following: In the penultimate season 1 episode, Jacob — who has spent the whole season struggling with his identity as part of the cult — decides he can't follow Carroll anymore and decides to leave. However, when he tries to get Emma to leave with him, she slits his throat.
  • An episode of Fringe had an example of this with a very odd twist: the Anti-Villain of the episode was a woman who was unable to die yet wished to in order to join her family who were murdered when she should've been as well. She sought out people likely to commit suicide hoping that she could be with them and follow them to the afterlife. After many repeated failures she got on train knowing there was a bomb aboard hoping the mass loss of life would finally be enough. The Fringe team managed to talk her out of it and take the bomb off the train...only to have her be blown up by it and receive the death she wanted.
  • In Game of Thrones, Theon Greyjoy, a lech, an oathbreaker, a murderer of children and betrayer of the Stark family, sells his life protecting Bran in the Godswood in the battle against the Night King and his forces.
  • In The Good Doctor, a convicted hitman tries to donate part of his liver to a young boy in need of a transplant, but he is allergic to anaesthetic which makes surgery impossible. So, he shoots himself in the head. The boy, who didn't want the liver of a "bad man", changes his mind when he hears about what happened.
  • Of all the characters in Heroes to be redeemed in death, psychic cop Matt Parkman's deadbeat dad Maury is weirdly given this type of death in Season 3.
    • Later on in volume 4, Tracy Strauss escapes from building 26 but is found by Noah. He promises to let her go if she helps him capture Rebel, who has been helping the other heroes escape the Hunter's team. She agrees but when she discovers that Rebel is Micah, she allows him to escape by freezing the entire room and everyone in it, including herself. She is then shot to pieces by the Hunter while Micah escapes. She's Not Quite Dead, and now seems to have got a new power out of it.
    • In that same episode, reformed villain Daphne Millbrook dies as the result of a gunshot wound she sustained while attempting to rescue the specials who had been rounded up by Homeland Security. Daphne might have survived had Emile Danko not removed her from the medical facility.
    • In the volume 4 finale, Nathan Petrelli tries to atone for his spearheading of the Government's plan to capture all evolved humans by taking on Sylar alone. Sylar finishes him off with a finger flick. Then Peter (unaware of his brother's death) manages to completely and utterly pwn Sylar, and Noah Bennet, Angela Petrelli and Matt Parkman decide to brainwash him into believing he's Nathan. The Volume 5 preview shows that it did NOT end as well as they thought.
  • Gentoku Himuro in Kamen Rider Build spends much of his time after turning good contemplating whether he could truly be forgived for his actions as Night Rogue. He receives his answer when he's cheered on by the citizens in the Final Battle against Evolt, moments before he launches a fierce assault that results in him being killed, but also damages the Evolt's One-Winged Angel and provides his comrades a chance to finish him off before he causes The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Several characters in Legend of the Seeker, including Michael Cypher and Panis Rahl, the latter of which makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save Thaddicus and Zedd, whose father he killed years prior.
    • Also Denna appears to have been convinced by Zedd to let him go and change her ways... then Cara's arrow sends her off a cliff.
  • In a Lie to Me episode, Lightman manages to convince an American spy in the Middle East who has switched sides to cover their escape from the advancing terrorist forces. He does this until the bunker blows.
  • Lost is famous for this. Many characters "get over" whatever big issue they have, then get killed. Though this may just be a case of wanting to complete the character's story before killing them, some people see this as important.
    • Sayid, a man who committed some borderline unforgiveable actions in life, eventually even joining the "dark side" in Season 6 of Lost, redeems himself by sacrificing his life inside a submarine, running away with a ticking bomb and in turn saving four of his friends lives.
    • Likewise, Jack redeems himself in Season 6 of Lost, by sacrificing himself to save his friends and the island, making up for his bad decisions of the past.
    • Notably subverted with Eko, whose big redemption is...rejecting the idea that he needs to be redeemed and admitting that he's not sorry for anything he did. In fact, he's proud of his (many, many) sins, or at least his first one, killing a man in cold blood, because in doing so he saved his brother from going down the same path he did.
    • Anna-Lucia: Interesting in that her redemption happens just prior to her death in screen-time, but not in chronological time. We are shown a flash-back where she apologizes to her mother for killing a man, then we return to the present where she is killed. Part of her redemption also takes place in the present, in that she finds she can't bring herself to kill Henry Gale anymore.
    • Michael betrayed his friends to save his son Walt, but ends up sacrificing his life to save Sun, Jin, and several others from a bomb. Jack, one of the most traumatized as the result of Michael’s betrayal, implies that he forgave him following his death, and Hurley, whose girlfriend Michael killed, even dedicates part of his life to helping Michael move on from his imprisonment on the Island.
  • Discussed on Lucifer by Amenadiel (a fallen angel) and Charlotte Richards (an evil lawyer who spent several months in Hell while her body was possessed by God's wife, and is therefore trying to be a good person in order to avoid going back there). They realise that, unless his wings grow back, neither of them has any way of knowing whether their efforts to reform have worked — until they die. Shortly thereafter, Charlotte throws herself in front of Amenadiel to protect him from a gunman. As she lies dying in his arms, his wings spontaneously grow back and he flies her straight up...
  • NCIS:
    • Agent Michelle Lee in the Episode "Dagger" was revealed as a mole, working for a criminal who kidnapped her daughter. In the process of helping to catch him, she is held and used as a human shield. She nods to Gibbs to signify that he should shoot through her, which he does.
    • Jenny Shepard dies in a shootout while trying to protect Gibbs from a woman she was supposed to have killed years before. She was apparently dying of something anyway. Fandom was just happy to see Paris flashbacks die with her.
  • NUMB3RS: It may not be enough to fully redeem him, but Dwayne Carter giving up his life to save Colby in "Trust Metric" is the closest he ever gets in the show to being a decent person. Justified in that Carter has a tendency to exploit his "good" deeds (including a past incident in which he saved Colby's life) for personal gain; giving up his own life is the only way it could be a true redemption because that eliminates the possibility that he's acting with an ulterior motive.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Ingrid, the Snow Queen activates a curse that can only be stopped with her death. After learning of her sister's remorse at what she did to Ingrid, she pulls a Heel–Face Turn and kills herself to stop the curse, despite the heroes attempt to save her.
    • Arthur is an interesting example. He is murdered by Hades while still a villain but ends up in the Underworld where he proves vital to getting the information necessary to killing Hades permanently. Then he sticks around to restore the Underworld to it's former glory. So death gave him a chance at redemption.
    • Subverted by Regina in the season 2 finale who is ready to sacrifice herself to buy everyone enough time to flee from Storybrooke as it is destroyed by a magical trigger. This action is what proves to the heroes that she can be permanently redeemed and proceed to help her slow the trigger and succeed in shutting it off, letting her live.
    • Rumplestiltskin ends the winter finale of Season 3 by killing the Arc Villain, sacrificing his life in the process noting that "Villains don't get a happy ending". Subverted when he gets revived in the next arc and stays a villain.
      • Played straight in the Grand Finale, except that he does get a happy ending by being reunited with Belle forever.
  • Guy of Gisbourne in the 2000s Robin Hood series. After falling out of favour and being made an outlaw himself, he agrees to help Robin protect their mutual half-brother and shows surprisingly loyalty to the gang despite killing their family and friends in the past. Not long after, he dies fighting alongside Robin. Not that it did much good, since Robin is fatally wounded in the same battle and as an indirect result of Guy's actions to boot. Some redemption, huh?
  • Prison Break:
    • Bellick begins as a complete asshole and cowardly bully, but after significant Character Development, joins Michael Scofield's search for Scylla. In "Greatness Achieved", he sacrifices himself to allow the others to carry on, by climbing into a pipe to lift a cross-pipe into place, knowing the pipe he's in will flood.
    • This would have applied to Kellerman, who was initially an asshole desperately trying to please an Ice Queen. He frames Lincoln for murder, kills a judge, shoots his partner for having a change of heart, and brutally tortures Sara. Later, he realizes he's been played for a fool and decides to help the heroes. At the end of season 2, he testifies in court on behalf of Sara, incriminating himself and naming his superiors. During transport to prison, his van is intercepted by a group of armed masked men. The camera angle is then switched to outside the van, and gunshots are heard. Since he gets better, this trope is subverted in this case.
  • Played straight and averted in Sanctuary. Ashley Magnus is reprogrammed by the Cabal to lead an invincible team of Abnormals to take down the Sanctuary network. They nearly succeed, leaving death and destruction in their wake. However, Helen Magnus manages to reach her daughter who then teleports with an evil Abnormal knowing the scrambled field is on, killing both.
    • Also played straight with Jimmy and Edward Forsythe, although the latter case is debatable, as he was already dying.
    • Averted with John Druitt, whose homicidal insanity was revealed to have been caused by an Eldritch Abomination.
  • The Secret Circle: Charles in the season finale, though he may still be alive — we see him in a catatonic state at the end of the episode, with his mother doing something to his body.
    • This is likely to be the same binding spell that Cassie's mother had placed on the demon host in the show previously. So he's still alive, just catatonic.
  • The miniseries adaptation of The Shining changed the ending from the book, which had Jack briefly overcoming the hotel's influence to tell Danny he loved him, then being completely taken over by the hotel's ghosts, who try to stop the hotel's boiler from exploding, but failing. The adaptation has Jack managing to overcome the hotel's influence, and deliberately setting off the boiler himself, not only defeating the hotel and the ghosts, but finally overcoming his personal demons.
  • Smallville:
    • Lionel Luthor. At one point he seems to be ready to sacrifice anyone and everyone involving his own son for the sake of power, survival or even just getting his own way. But being inhabited by Clark's spirit seems to affect him and becoming the vessel for Jor-El definitely affects him, turning him into a not-entirely-trusted ally. In the end, he dies protecting Clark, getting pushed to his death by Lex after refusing to divulge information.
    • His Alternate Universe counterpart gets a villainous inversion version of sorts, when he gives up his body and soul to Darkseid in order to bring Lex back to life - the only person he actually cared about. Of course, he wasn't truly redeemed by that one act, and bringing Lex back could be considered a bad thing...
    • Played straight in the series finale with Tess Mercer and she took something with her.
      • Technically, Tess managed this twice: her decision in "Salvation" to turn on Zod in favor of Clark led to her death, too. She just came back.
  • In The Sopranos, after spending a season and a half being a sleazy, obnoxious, almost completely unlikeable asshole, Ralph Cifaretto finally begins to show signs of wanting to redeem himself as a human being after one of his sons is seriously injured. He is then promptly killed in the very same episode, as Tony accuses him of killing the racehorse they purchased for the insurance money and the two get into a fight resulting in Ralph's death. It is never made explicitly clear whether Ralph actually committed the crime or not.
  • In Stalker this turns out to be the ultimate fate of the Season 1 recurring antagonist Perry Whitley. For his last couple of episodes he teams up with Beth's old stalker Ray and comes to realize that he is far to extreme for his tastes. As Perry doesn't want to hurt or kill anybody, whilst Ray wants to. Ray eventually kidnaps Beth's friend Tracy to use as a hostage to draw her out. Perry ultimately retaliates and attacks Ray in an attempt to give Tracy the chance to escape. The ensuing fighting and chase ends with Ray ultimately killing Perry.
  • Gerak in Stargate SG-1, in a Heroic Sacrifice to help Earth heal the Ori plague — despite having been made a full Prior earlier in the episode.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the 2nd pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". She spends the whole episode campaigning for Gary Mitchell, despite his god complex, and later turns out to have his powers as well. At the end, she turns on Mitchell to save Captain Kirk's life and is mortally wounded by Mitchell's retaliation.
    • "Bread and Circuses". In the Back Story Captain Merick saved his life by calling his ship's crew down to the surface so they could be captured by the "Romans" and sentenced to death in the arena. During the episode he steals one of the Enterprise communicators from the "Romans". At the end he uses the communicator to call the Enterprise and allows the landing party to be rescued, but he's stabbed by one of the "Romans" and dies.
    • "Patterns of Force". John Gill's attempts to improve the Human Alien society on Ekos result in a Nazi-like regime obsessed with destroying the peaceful people on the neighboring planet Zeon. Kirk, Gill's student at the Starfleet Academy, finds out that Gill's Number Two Melakon has subverted Gill's teachings to his own ends and keeps Gill (the Führer of Ekos) perpetually drugged, so he can rule in Gill's name. McCoy detoxes Gill, who is horrified to learn the awful truth. Gill goes on the air and declares Melakon traitor as well as cancelling the war with Zeon. Before anyone can react, Melakon grabs a sub-machinengun and fatally wounds Gill before being shot himself.
    • In "The Conscience of the King", a man named Kodos the Executioner is living a quiet life under an assumed identity, trying to forget that he, as governor of a colony, ordered 4,000 people executed because there wasn't enough food for everyone. He was horrified to discover that his daughter, the one thing he had that he thought was untouched by his crimes, had murdered witnesses who could identify him. He subsequently jumps in front of a phaser beam meant for Kirk.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Damar leads the Cardassians in a war against the Federation alongside the Dominion and, perhaps more pertinently, murders Tora Ziyal. Eventually though, he realizes the Cardassians' warlike ways are leading them to ruin, and so launches a rebellion, eventually allying himself with the Federation. Unfortunately, his wife and son pay the price; the Dominion finds and executes them. The realization that his past actions make him Not So Different from the people who just murdered his family is instrumental in his character development. He dies leading an assault on the Dominion's headquarters, becoming a martyr to his fellow Cardassians, who succeeding in killing Weyoun and taking the female Changling prisoner.
    • Chancellor Gowron becomes increasingly corrupt during the war, to the point of attempting a Uriah Gambit against the popular and far more badass General Martok out of paranoia that Martok himself will attempt a Klingon Promotion. (Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Martok's Undying Loyalty demonstrates.) Eventually, Worf is forced to challenge Gowron to a Duel to the Death, and wins — and because Gowron died in honorable combat, Worf performs the traditional Death Wail to show that Gowron is on his way to Sto-Vo-Kor.
    • Also Kai Winn. After seven seasons of being a thorn in Sisko's side and siding with Dukat to free the Pah-Wraiths from the Fire Caves, she finally sees the light in the last minutes of the last episode and sides with Sisko. A few seconds later, she is immolated by the Pah-Wraiths.
    • The Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe is this on a national scale. After Kirk convinces Mirror Spock to become a good man, the latter becomes leader of the brutal Empire, and orders a mass demilitarization. Unfortunately for the newly reformed Empire, a Klingon-Cardassian alliance takes advantage of this and makes mincemeat out of them. A century later, in the DS9 era, Terrans and the species closely aligned with them are slaves, while the species most oppressed by them are their rulers under the Alliance.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, we have Sita Jaxa, a Bajoran who was part of the infamous Nova Squadron during "The First Duty". She was ostracized by her peers for her actions though, surprisingly, she was chosen by Picard himself to join the Enterprise-D crew. She's put through a Secret Test of Character to finally overcome her inability to speak up over something wrong and is chosen to participate in a secret mission to help a Cardassian escape Cardassia. Sadly, she is unable to fully escape and her shuttle is shot down with Picard himself commending her, showing that she indeed escaped her failure with Nova Squadron.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager Lon Suder, a convicted murderer who was driven to insane violence by his out-of-control temper, regains his mental health thanks to Tuvok mindmelding with him, and subsequently lives with enormous guilt for his actions. He is the only crew member left onboard the ship when aliens take over. In a stunning display of badassery, he storms Engineering and kills all 11 intruders before he sabatoges the ship, allowing it to be retaken. However, he is shot in the back during his attack, and dies immediately after completing the sabotage.
  • Stranger Things
  • Supernatural uses this a lot:
    • The show lost one of its most awesome antagonists, Agent Henriksen, just after he decided that he and the Winchesters should be total BFFs. Poor bastard should have known better. Although he didn't have anything to redeem himself for - the evidence that the Winchesters were psycho-killers was convincing and he didn't go to any dark depths in his pursuit of them.
    • This could also apply to their father, John, in the Season Two premiere. After being a bit of a bastard for the whole first season, completely unavailable emotionally throughout his boys' lives, and realising what a crappy Dad he's been (The Big Bad even says "If only your boys knew how much their Daddy loved them."), he makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save Dean's life. The show's deconstruction of the trope means that his apparent redemption leaves his boys with even more issues with him than they had started out with, and him telling Dean the (big, sucky, useless) secret about his brother nearly drove Dean to suicide. So, like with everything on this show, he actually only got worse.
    • The Trickster/Gabriel could definitely fall under this. He spent millennia walking the Earth enacting sadistic and often lethal Disproportionate Retribution on the arrogant, killed Dean repeatedly, didn't tell them that they were the vessels of Michael and Lucifer until he was trapped by holy fire and had no other option, but came through in the end by attempting to kill Lucifer, even though he still loved his brother. It didn't work and he was killed, but left a porn DVD (yes, really) telling the Winchesters how to put Lucifer back in his cage.
    • In the Season 9 finale, Gadreel, who had been serving as Metatron's Dragon, is finally made to see the error of his ways, when confronted with undeniable proof that his master is a megalomaniacal narcissist that doesn't give a damn about the angels he's leading, lying to and willing to slaughter them all as part of his plan to make himself the new God. Gadreel helps sneak Castiel into Heaven in order to destroy the tablet giving Metatron all his power, only for them to be caught and imprisoned. He ultimately performs a Heroic Sacrifice, performing a suicide attack to free Castiel and proving to Cas's former followers that he's telling the truth about Metatron, thus setting the stage for the latter's downfall. Cas even says he truly redeemed himself.
    • While not so much evil as just a massive Jerkass, Balthazar also qualifies. Near the end of Season 6, he allies with the Winchesters after deciding that Castiel's endgame is too risky. Castiel murders him for this.
    • The series' first recurring villain, the demon Meg, forms an Enemy Mine with Team Free Will against the Leviathans in Season 7 and Crowley in Season 8, and was in the midst of a Heel–Face Turn due to Love Redeems in "Goodbye Stranger", only to be killed by Crowley in the same episode.
    • In the Season 8 finale, Naomi, who had been part of a Big Bad Ensemble with Crowley throughout the season, has a Heel Realization, saying that she had forgotten her true mission, and that of all angels, to protect humanity, and informs the boys and Castiel of Metatron's true intentions. She is subsequently killed by Season 9's Big Bad, Metatron.
    • It's implied in "Monster Movie" that the unnamed shapeshifter repented on his deathbed, as his last words are "perhaps this is how a monster movie should end". note 
    • "Hello, Cruel World": Castiel had finished his Protagonist Journey to Villain in the previous two episodes by absorbing the souls of Purgatory, becoming a Physical God, getting Drunk with Power and using his newfound powers to go on a killing spree getting rid of anyone he disagreed with. In this episode, he has a Heel Realization and begs the Winchesters for help in returning the souls to Purgatory, robbing himself of his power in the process. He succeeds, but the soul-less Leviathans, which he also absorbed, stayed behind, and once he was reduced to a regular angel, they tore through him like a knife through butter. It initially appeared that this death was permanent (unlike the earlier times when Castiel died as a good guy), but "The Born-Again Identity" reveals that God resurrected him as a punishment so that he'd have to see the consequences of his actions (at least, Castiel believes this to be what happened).
    • Metatron, the Big Bad of Season 9, is reduced to a recurring nuisance in Season 10, and by Season 11 is a thoroughly broken shell of a man. It's at this point that God reveals Himself and his lack of intention to fight Amara and her plans to destroy Creation, seeing it as a failed experiment. Metatron is so enraged by this that he calls God out, along the way seeming to have a Heel Realization over his own actions. Later, he helps the Winchesters save Lucifer-in-Castiel from Amara, and ends up holding the line against her to buy them time, dooming himself. His last moments before Amara obliterates him are spent begging her to not destroy reality as Revenge by Proxy on God.
    • Season 12 gives us Mick Davies, who spearheads the British Men of Letters' attempts to assimilate the Winchesters and other American hunters into their cause. While Mick's not a villain per say, like all the other Men of Letters, he's a Knight Templar, and as thus works with Arthur Ketch (the Men of Letters' resident Psycho for Hire) to pursue a zero tolerance policy for nonhumans, killing even the ones who keep to themselves and don't hurt anyone, as well as any non-hunters who learn of their existence. However, Mick's time with the Winchesters has him start to doubt the rigid nature of the Men of Letters' Black-and-White Morality, enough that when his superiors decide the American hunters aren't worth keeping around anymore, Mick stands up for them. Sadly, all this gets him is shot in the head by Ketch moments later.
  • Super Sentai
  • Taken: In "God's Equation", even the ruthless Eric Crawford decides his daughter Mary has gone too far in putting innocent civilians at risk and endangering the life of the young girl Allie. He dies attempting to avoid a bloodbath, having been killed on Mary's orders.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "In Praise of Pip", the alcoholic bookie Max Phillips intends to turn his life around but ends up sacrificing it in order to save his son Pip.
  • In Ultraman Nexus, Riko Saida in the form of Dark Faust sacrifices herself to save Komon. Later in the series, Shunya Mizorogi/Dark Mephisto sacrifices himself to help Ultraman defeat Misawa who had become the new Dark Mephisto.
  • During the original V (1983) miniseries, Kristine Walsh served as the Visitors' main spokesperson, until she realized the Resistance was right about them, and tried to expose them on air. Diana promptly shot her.
  • In The Walking Dead TV series, Merle Dixon. Up until his death he was a racist asshole who even kidnapped Michonne to bring her to be tortured and/or killed in the episode he died. His redemption came when he freed her and drove off to kill The Governor on his own. And he would've done it too if not for a walker jumping him just before he took the shot, allowing The Governor and his men to grab him and kill him (kind of, he becomes a walker and his brother needs to finish him).
  • In Warehouse 13, the villain Walter Sykes was turned bad by Carlo Collodi's Bracelet that allowed the paraplegic boy to walk again. After Pete's mom had Artie and McPherson confiscate the bracelet, Sykes became obsessed with it. It's heavily implied that they got to the bracelet too late and that it had already "planted a dark seed" in the boy. Decades later, Sykes is a wealthy man who has managed to recover a number of Artifacts and learn much about the Warehouse. He manages to infiltrate the Warehouse, takes back the bracelet, and leaves an Artifact-enhanced bomb (fueled by his own hate) to destroy the building. After Artie rewinds time to before the bomb goes off, Gandhi's shroud is used to take away Sykes's hate, stopping the countdown. Sykes apologizes and dies, implying that there was nothing left in him but hate.
    • Helena also manages to redeem herself by saving Artie, Pete, and Myka and letting herself be killed by Sykes's bomb. Since time has been rewound the bomb stopped, Artie convinces the Regents to pardon her.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess:
    • Xena's death is an example of this. After spending some six seasons trying to redeem herself through actions such as helping people and saving the world, the final episode "A Friend in Need" quite clearly shows that only death will do. This bit of writing is quite possibly the most universally despised plot piece in all the Xenaverse. Somewhat different from regular examples of this trope in that the great mistake is shown as a flashback, from before even her earliest appearance on Hercules.
    • It almost became the case earlier, in her previous appearances in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The only thing that allowed her to survive the episode she was originally supposed to die in was her popularity with fans, and the decision to give her her own spin-off show.
    • Deconstructed with one of Xena's Disposable Love Interests. After a lifetime of crime, Marcus protects an innocent young girl at the cost of his own life - only to end up punished for all his misdeeds by being sent to Tartarus. Later he reappears to Xena as a ghost and is temporarily given his mortality back again to help stop a serial killer. Though he is given an opportunity to cheat death for a second time, he choses to go ahead and die - but this time, Xena has bargained for a place for him in the Elysian Fields.


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