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So...you're unconscious. That sucks for you, huh? After all, this is probably the result of being banged on the head, having some horrible illness, or just being so injured that you can't voluntarily wake up or move around. The doctors around you are talking openly about the likeliness of you never waking up. Bye-bye, you.

But wait! You're not licked yet! As you slowly begin to rouse yourself, a telltale sign of your impending consciousness will show itself. It will often go unnoticed, perhaps when everyone has turned away. But it will indeed happen: your fingers will twitch back to life.

This is an extremely common trope, usually done in extreme close-up on the hand as a last-second Cliff Hanger of a scene or even the entire show/film. The dual categories of whose fingers could be twitching determines the tone of this trope. If it's a hero or a love interest, this is a moment of renewed hope and happiness (and usually is then immediately followed by the full wake-up scene); if it's a villain, the moment is a threat. The ubiquitiousness of this trope covers up the fact that twitching fingers may not always be the most likely part of the body to first signify someone's revival - eyes could open, shoulders could adjust, chest could rise and fall with breath. But even when the arms and fingers of a character have been significantly hurt, and are even bandaged up or suspended in one spot, this is more often than not the way we'll be shown that the character is coming back to his/her senses.

See also Playing Possum, No One Could Survive That, and The End - or Is It?.

Compare to Eye Awaken, which this may be used along with. Additionally, by its nature, this is more often than not a spoiler trope.

Could also potentially be horrific if the character whose finger twitches goes completely unnoticed. Those around could go on to assume that the character is deceased and treat them as such. This can then lead to many situations like abandonment, burial, cremation and the likes... all while the character is still alive.

Movement as proof of life, incidentally, is not always Truth in Television: Creepily enough, even dead bodies can sometimes move or make noise caused by the contraction of tendons and the presence of gas escaping from the corpse. Burned bodies often curl into a fetal position as the tendons dry and contract, which can give rise to stories of deceased persons suddenly "sitting up" on the pyre.


Examples of Finger-Twitching Revival include:


Anime

  • Dragonball Z loves this trope. There are simply too many examples of this to list.
  • This situation occurred in Ikki Tousen, when one of the characters was stabbed in the spine. The doctors said that he may be permanently paralyzed and never wake up from his coma. Then, at the last few minutes of the show, said character raises his hand into a fist.
  • Also happens in Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai, when Shion finally finds Satoshi, who is in a medicated coma. Irie says that Satoshi suffered massive brain damage, but has a good chance of recovering. Then, a split second before the scene changes, we see Satoshi shed a tear.
    • This also happens in the anime-original arc, Yakusamashi-hen. After the Hinamizawa Gas Disaster, Satoko is in a coma, but moves slightly when Ooishi mentions Rika's death. Unfortunately, she gets bumped off before Ooishi realizes that she must know something.
  • One Piece loves this one. It uses variants all the time, especially explicitly in the anime -- for example, during the final stages of Luffy's final battle with Crocodile.
  • This also happens in the first two minutes of the .hack//Sign intro episode when Tsukasa wakes up to find himself trapped within The World.
  • In Highschool of the Dead, this is an indicator of being infected by them.
  • Used during Asura's resurrection in Soul Eater. The anime gets across the manic twitching, scratching and banging perfectly as the Kishin, unable to see, struggles out of his prison.
  • Used in Gantz manga at the end of the Onion Alien arc: Kato appears to be dead, but after a bit of suspense he twitches slightly - enough for Gantz to consider him alive and teleport him back safely.

Film

  • It's alive . . . it's alive, it's alive! IT'S ALIVE!! [1]
  • When The Pale Man comes to life in Pan's Labyrinth, it starts first with this trope.
  • Obviously (and quite so) done in The Strangers, where it's clearly obvious from the whole lead-up that Liv Tyler's Too Dumb to Live character is going to scream and show that she's still alive. Adding yet another disappointment to an already subpar picture.
  • In the recent film of The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky indicates his impending revival by his fingers coming to staccato life as Gen. Ross is walking away from his hospital bed. Even though his fingers are almost fully wrapped up in bandages and his whole arm and hand are in a suspension cast. Now that is a commitment to this trope.
  • This happened in Independence Day, followed shortly by an Eye Awaken, when the captured alien woke up in the middle of the Area 51 scientists trying to dissect it.
  • Happens at the end of Christine, after the car has been compacted into a cube. A bar from the grill starts to move, showing that the car maybe Not Quite Dead.
  • Subverted in Johnny Mnemonic with an insane cyborg who just wouldn't die. He is finally electrocuted to death and everybody's happy. Then the camera shows his hand moving on the ground. The camera pans out, showing the corpse (still quite dead and sizzling) being lifted by a crane.
  • Subverted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II with Super Shredder, who collapses a heavy pier onto himself as the Turtles he is trying to take with him escape. The Turtles emerge from the water to look upon the wreckage, only to find Super Shredder's hand emerging from the wreckage to their horror. Raph exclaims "No One Could Have Survived That!" And then the hand falters and falls limp upon the ruins of the pier, never to rise again, signifying that yes, the Shredder is finally done for.
    • But played straight near the start of the film where Shredder's hand can be seen slowly rising out of a pile of garbadge to show that he survived the first movie after all.
    • Later Subverted again in the Fox TV series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, which claims that yes, Super Shredder DID survive it and was somehow restored to a non-mutant form.
  • In The Terminator, Reese shoots the T-101 several times with a sawed-off shotgun when it tries to move in on Sarah in TechNoir. Shortly after it hits the floor, its fingers twitch, offering the audience their first clue that the big scary guy isn't human.
  • This is done in William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet to signal that Juliet is beginning to revive. The only problem is, this is happening JUST as Romeo is preparing to drink the poison!
  • Played with at the end of X-Men 3. Magneto's fingers cause a chess piece to twitch, implying his powers are returning.

Literature

  • This trope was used in the obligatory The End - or Is It? ending of the sixth Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear book, Army of Terror. Eppon's finger twitches on the final page, implying that Gog's ultimate weapon is not only alive, but survived having its head blown off with a cortex bomb.
  • Alan Dean Foster's novelization of Terminator Salvation has Marcus Wright badly hurt but right as Kate Connor is about to call him dead, they see his metallic fingers curing around Blair Williams' hand.

Live Action TV

  • The first Sheriff of Nottingham in series 3 of Robin Hood. Though it takes him a surprisingly long time to return from his Not Quite Death.
  • A Chinese soap titled Freezing Point ends with (long story) the protagonist in the hospital in a coma, her fingers twitching back to life as her love ones surround her and beg her to Please Wake Up.
  • It was subverted in Season 5 of Desperate Housewives. Edie is accidentally electrocuted, falls down... then we get a close up of the Twitching Hand right before the credits. The following episode starts with the character already cremated, IIRC.
  • Happens in House, and the entire episode is in first person perspective, as they guy is helped to get back from his current state.
  • While not a direct example, some characters in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica often wake up or regain consciousness via this. One example would be Baltar in Torn: Up to that point, the audience is not sure what happened to Baltar since New Caprica. At the beginning of Torn, we get a Mind Screw dream sequence ending with Baltar's hand twitching and Baltar waking up aboard a Basestar.
  • In Happy Days when the Fonz is frozen by Mork he comes back by first wiggling his thumb.
  • The Doctor Who Made for TV Movie has the Doctor doing this as he's Waking Up At the Morgue. The shot alternates with Frankenstein's Monster coming to life in the black-and-white movie the morgue attendant is watching. Yes, they tried to make the Doctor out to be quite spooky. Afterward, he escapes the morgue via Barrier-Busting Blow, maintaining the spookiness factor, and then we see him looking confused and clutching his shroud tightly around himself and flinching when the morgue attendant screams and faints when he sees him.
    • Happens twice in Destiny of the Daleks.
  • In one episode of MASH, a soldier's "corpse" is shipped to the 4077th along with a bunch of wounded. For most of the episode, the viewers are the only ones who see the soldier try to move enough to call for help.
  • Supernatural 7x02: Sam and Dean's first fight with one of the season's brand-new monsters ends with them dropping a car on it. At the end of the episode, we see its hand sticking out from under the car, fingers twitching, and the pool of blood retreating back into its body.

Music

  • In the music video for "Anna Molly" by Incubus we see a girl who is found in a forest presumed dead. However leading up to the end of the song we find the girl start to faintly respond... while a nearby doctor prepares to lobotomise her. Her fingers twitch and we even see a tear slip out of her unblinking eyes as the buzzsaw draws nearer. Fortunately she regains control of her arm and grabs the doctor, causing him to drop the saw on the floor. Just in Time.

Theater

  • This is how the characters in Rent realize Mimi is alive.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Subverted/averted in Justice League Unlimited. When Galatea, Supergirl's evil clone, is beaten by Supergirl by way of massive electrical shock, we see the fried Galatea on the floor as Supergirl and Steel walk away. Her fingers twitch ever so lightly. However, we never hear from her again nor do we learn her fate, so this might have been a Finger-Twitching Revival that was ignored by its creators, put there to use if they wanted. Unused, it could just be residue bodily response to the electricity.
    • Or it could have been just to imply the character is still alive, since the show was reluctant to kill humans or human-like characters on screen due to Animation Age Ghetto.
  • In WALL-E, when he regains his memories and his personality, the first thing to move is his fingers, and they twitch downwards slightly before fully closing around EVE's hand.
  • The chicken mascot in Family Guy.
  • In the 90s-era G.I. Joe episode "The Greatest Evil", the heavily-armed drug lord known only as "The Headman" got in on this action in an odd way: After seemingly dying from an overdose of his own "Spark" and being trapped in his own Collapsing Lair, as the camera lingered on his hand sticking out of the rubble, he was all set to go down as one of the few clear-cut deaths in the series... and then his hand twitches, specifically tying in with that OVERDOOOOOSE.
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