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"When someone survives due to a sequence of freak events we call it a miracle. But when someone dies due to a sequence of freak events, that's also a miracle. Just because it isn't nice, doesn't mean it's not miraculous."
Possibly the most Egregious (and possibly stupid) black sheep of Death by Irony, though not always meant as such. A Necro Non Sequitur puts a character on a one-way track at full speed, destination 6 feet under, on the "What the hell was that?" express. Characters who die by this trope meet their demise in the form of a cosmic Rube Goldberg Device of coincidences, with everything lining up just so to ensure that the sheer impossibility of how they were killed happens just like clockwork. Sometimes it's long and tedious, sometimes it's quick and convenient, but no matter what, it cannot make any sense whatsoever when one looks at it close enough. Also, depending on the situation, the COD could be used for a number of plotlines; the two biggest being (1) to give the investigators something more oddball to occupy their time with and (2) to convey that some higher power has an active hand in things, and is a sick, sick little monkey to boot.
Anime and Manga
- Played with in Death Note. The user of the Death Note can specify the circumstances of their victim's death, including what exactly they do before death, offering a limited degree of Mind Control over the victim; however, if the specified circumstances are physically impossible, or the actions described are completely out of character, the victim will simply die of a heart attack in 40 seconds as usual. (It's worth noting that suicide is never considered "out of character" as far as the Death Note is concerned.)
- A death curse causes a few of these deaths in Another. The first such death is a girl who trips on a staircase and gets impaled by the pointy end of an umbrella at the bottom.
- In The Sandman, Morpheus meets his end due to one of these. It is implied that it wasn't so much this trope as a Xanatos Roulette set up by himself.
- "You mean where he put a round between the eyes of that one guy with poor trigger safety and someone managed to have the bullet spray from the death spasms break the locking mechanism on a crane, thus dropping a cargo container full of volatile drugs on the advancing forces right before we were about to be overrun? Yeah, I'll admit that was art," Vita conceded.
- This is the entire premise of the Final Destination film series, though the worst offender comes from one of the novels: Going in for some liposuction, one of the women fated to die, along with the doctors and nurses on call, gets knocked out. When she awakens hours later, she finds that the machine is still on and had sucked out all her internal organs.
- The most convoluted death was that of the teacher from the first film, who pours out her coffee because it is too hot, pours cold vodka into the cup instead which creates a crack in the cup due to the rapid change in temperature, causing a leak which short-circuits her computer monitor causing the screen to explode in her face sending glass into her neck, starting a fire, then stumbling into the kitchen WHILE THE FIRE STILL BURNS THE HOUSE, tripping and falling onto the floor, pulling down a towel to hold against her neck without realizing it was on top of a knife rack, causing a knife to fall directly into her chest, and still surviving until the main character reaches her house, when an explosion from the fire knocks over a chair, which lands on the knife and pushes it further into her chest, finally killing her. And then her house explodes.
- A character dies this way in Frankenfish (incidentally being the only character not killed by the fish). The main action takes place on houseboats, through a complicated series of events there ends up being an unoccupied houseboat, on fire, with various weapons laying on it. Just as one character on another houseboat starts explaining how they have a plan to escape, the heat from the fire causes one of the guns lying on the deck to go off, shooting that character in the face. Which when you think about it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. A few seconds later an explosion on the burning boat sends a flaming piece of wreckage soaring over the main characters houseboat and down into the houseboat behind it (also occupied). Though no one dies from that.
- In The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, the influence of the Auditors (who desire to hold up human progress so we don't escape Earth before it becomes a snowball) means that in every single Alternate Universe, Darwin dies in increasingly unlikely ways before he can write The Origin of Species.
- Interesting Times also mentions this effect in one of Pratchett's archetypal footnotes.
- And also demonstrates it. When Rincewind gets sent by the wizards, they just happen to get a lit cannon in return due to the nature of the spell. Ponder stops it firing, seemingly in innocent subversion of an overused trope. Most of a Novel later they decide to bring Rincewind Back, and light the cannon again just to leave it as they found it. Guess what happens to the main villain....
- Interesting Times also mentions this effect in one of Pratchett's archetypal footnotes.
When someone survives due to a sequence of freak events we call it a miracle. But when someone dies due to a sequence of freak events, that's also a miracle. Just because it isn't nice, doesn't mean it's not miraculous.
- Aornis Hades, from Thursday Next's Lost In a Good Book, specializes in these, thanks to her ability to control entropy and coincidences - Thursday senses her presence by shaking a jar of lentils and rice; if they form patterns, watch out. In fact, Fforde in general seems to like these.
- "Try and Change the Past" by Fritz Leiber, in which a Time Soldier tries to use his tools to prevent his own past death. (Time Soldiers are recruited just before the moment of their death, but - for handwaved reasons - remember dying.) He goes back and prevents himself from being shot, only to see his past self, with a look of despair, pick up the gun and shoot himself. So he goes back again and disables the gun - only to see his past self hit by a bullet-sized meteorite in exactly the same place the bullet struck in the previous two deaths. At which point he understandably gives up.
- In The Dresden Files, an "entropy curse" causes bad luck and is a magical way of murdering without it being detectable (by mundane means, at least.) A sloppy one can result in positively cartoonish ways of dying instead of the preferred plausible accidents.
- For example, one victim was hit by a runaway car... while water skiing. One was stung to death by bees that appeared out of nowhere in the trunk of her car. But perhaps the most spectacular was when Harry redirected the curse at the last moment to an attacking vampire, only to see him crushed by a frozen turkey falling at terminal velocity. And then the timer dings.
- Arguably, John Dixon Carr's The Hollow Man, often considered with some justification to be the definitive Locked Room Mystery. It's a very clever explanation, but the more you think about it, the less likely it becomes.
- Similarly to the Science Of Discworld example, And Another Thing has Fate get so piqued at Arthur's survival that every other Arthur Dent in the multiverse gets killed in ways ranging from the plausible (being run over by the bulldozer when lying outside his house) to the less so (being electrocuted by his headphones while at his local radio job). Most of them are Continuity Nods, with the cleverest example probably being the Arthur who drowns in a freak rainstorm after pissing off Rob McKenna.
Live Action TV
- One episode of CSI had the disappearance and death of a college student turn out to be a series of horrible coincidences (her trash can was swallowed by a grabby trash chute; when she went down to the dumpster to retrieve it, the dumpster was hit by a car, and she was slammed against the wall -- she then fell into the dumpster and died of internal bleeding). Needless to say, her parents refuse to accept it, and claim they'll hire a private investigator to find the real killer.
- Another episode had that season's serial killer stalking his next blonde, female victim... just as a male fraternity pledge with long, blonde hair ran by as part of a hazing ritual. The serial killer fed the body through a wood chipper to try to hide the fact that he'd messed up so badly.
- Another one went something along the lines of a big abusive drunk/drug addict boxer was poisoned by someone he was having an affair with using his shellfish allergy. As he was stumbling about with his throat closing up, a slightly slow individual he'd beaten up on several occasions who for some reason had a crossbow shot at him thinking he was some kind of demon. The arrow passed through his trachea giving him a makeshift tracheotomy, which allowed him to breathe again. Instead of going to the hospital, he went and found his allergy medication, and fixed that issue. He then went to sit down by the swimming pool, whereupon his lawn chair collapsed and dumped him in, and he drowned. The CSIs despair of the case ever coming to anything against the original poisoner, since "the lawn chair did it." Note: some of the details might be a little off. It's been a while since I saw the episode...
- This troper remembers the boxer also being hit on the head with a crowbar and injected with snake venom. In fact, the snake venom was what started the entire chain of events, while the crowbar was the last thing to happen before he went to the swimming pool (and ironically, the two were done by the same person, the crowbar in self-defense after he came looking for her because of the snake venom). The lack of a potential conviction came from the fact that with five possible causes of death ranging from drowning to poisoning the coroner was unable to determine who actually killed him. This would not likely have worked out quite like that in real life, because they would simply have charged all involved with separate accounts of attempted murder. However, it was funnier that way, and Jim Brass' expression after he's gotten the third consecutive person to confess only to find out that's not what killed him is one of the funniest moments in the show.
- The good old furry episode featured a man in a fursuit mildly poisoned, shot when mistaken for a coyote and finally hit by a car driven by his girlfriend, who is herself killed moments later by an incoming truck.
- Then there's the "spontaneous combustion" episode, with melting ice, electricity and body fat forming a perfect trifecta of Flame On.
- Come to think of it, CSI has a lot of these. There was one episode with a B-plot of a driver who was shocked to death in a Jeep driving by a downed power line. The team was puzzled, as the tires should have insulated the car; however, as the driver was wearing a watch resting here and board shorts with metal brads resting here, he completed the circuit.
- An episode of The X-Files had several mobsters trying to kill the luckiest man on Earth; all of them perished themselves in increasingly complicated ways. They were trying to kill him because he was using his luck to collect enough money to pay for a new liver for his dying neighbor. The last mobster to die was an organ donor, and just happened to be a match for the sick neighbor.
- The reaper characters in Dead Like Me had these sorts of deaths (along with murder and suicide, much less often) as their areas of specialization, and a gaggle of little nearly invisible hobgoblin-things running around to make sure the inane contrivances necessary would be set up JUST right.
- Slightly averted in the Pilot episode. Gravelings set the majority of events in action in the entire series. However, in the bank scene when Mason takes George along to get some hands-on experience, the only event in that entire scene (if memory serves me correct) that the Graveling had anything to do with was dropping the banana peel.The rest of the events were caused by gunshots, adultery and a ridiculous, poorly thought out bank robbery.
- This is also how the main character met her demise: Death by toilet seat from space.
- Due to their Seen It All mindset, this gets to the point where the Reapers frequently make small talk discussing how their assigned target is going to get killed. Even funnier is they rarely, if ever, are able to guess how it's actually going to happen.
- In a reversal of The X-Files example, Supernatural's "Bad Day At Black Rock" features an Artifact of Doom lucky rabbit's foot that grants its owner phenomenal luck... until they lose it(and "EVERYONE LOSES IT!"), at which point they suffer more and more until they eventually meet their demise with this trope.
- Near the end of the episode, when Dean, who has the rabbit's foot, is held at gunpoint while standing near Sam, Dean boasts that the shooter can't hit him, but as the shooter demonstrates, the fact that Sam is among those who've lost the foot means that she can't miss him. They destroy the foot before it kills them, but other examples in the episode actually showed this trope in motion.
- Also in "Mystery Spot" they were trapped in a Groundhog Day Loop where Dean died at some point every time. Initially fairly mundane, the manner of his death became increasingly outlandish. Eventually it was revealed that the Trickster god had set it up. And of course, has a nasty sense of humor.
- "My Heart Will Go On" introduces Atropos, who kills by freezing time and setting up these coincidences.
- The vast majority of Jonathan Creek murders fall under this.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Cassandra", the eponymous computer has the ability to predict the future, and knows that she will be killed by one Dave Lister. Said character explains to her that he has no intention of doing so, and makes a point of peacefully walking away from her. But not before spitting out his chewing gum and absent-mindedly sticking it to the wall...
- Lampshaded and soon subverted in NCIS episode "Family Secret", wherein Abby describes a complex set of events that caused an ambulance to blow up.
Gibbs: Not an accident.
Abby: Not unless the angel of death is going through a Rube Goldberg stage.
- She later found the detonator.
- Much of the premise behind One Thousand Ways to Die
- In a season 3 episode of Fringe, set in the Alternate Universe, a low-IQ test subject was tested with a drug that increased his intelligence to unseen levels, but, since in that universe subjects must be returned to their previous state when the trials end, he, who became so intelligent that can compute and predict all the outcomes of actions in the near future, started setting up the doctors to die in this fashion so he won't come back to normal. One example is the very first scene, where he balances a ballpen over a mailbox on the street, which falls to the ground and prompts an old man nearby to pick it up (probably out of nostalgia, since in the AU pens were almost entirely replaced by digital means), the old man stood in the way of a biker, who tried to avoid and ended up hitting stand of a shop, such commotion distracted a bus driver, who then ran over the intended target.
- Many Urban Legends deal with these kinds of deaths, with some covered by the various CSI incarnations.
- Myth Busters has been known to test these crazy deaths, though obviously they use crash test dummies, ballistics gel, and data-gathering instruments to determine whether a person would actually die in the circumstance and how. For example, in a myth where someone was decapitated by a ceiling fan, they determined that while the ceiling fan could certainly deliver a deadly blow, it would not completely sever head from body.
- Geist: The Sin Eaters mentions that these are the kinds of deaths that claim the Forgotten the first time around.
- In Mage: The Ascension this is a typical result of pissing off an Entropy mage. Many players favour this method of assassination as it is 1) "coincidental magic" (much safer than obvious displays of supernatural powers) and 2) allows them to get sadistically creative
- In one cliffhanger season finale of King of the Hill, Peggy discovers the body of Buck's disgruntled mistress Debbie in a dumpster, just as Buck is in the midst of a messy divorce. The following season premiere revolves around the mystery of who killed Debbie, and despite several people having different reasons for wanting her dead, they eventually figure out that Debbie accidentally killed herself: while hiding in a dumpster waiting to kill Buck with a shotgun, she got impatient and bought a giant nachos and drink, then tripped over the shotgun trying to climb back into the dumpster without spilling her soda and shot herself.
- Happy Tree Friends. 'Nuff said.
- The Aeon Flux short animations and the pilot were like this:
- The protagonist nimbly shoots his way through a small army of mooks and climbs into a flying ship by jumping on the dead mooks that were trying to rappel down. He gets shot almost-offscreen and the camera continues like it still was in the middle of a typical action sequence.
- Aeon Flux is held at gunpoint by an enemy mook. Her comrade is trying to sneak up on the mook from behind. She makes faces to distract the mook. The mook shoots her, turns and shoots her comrade. The Faceless Mook then upgrades himself to Mauve Shirt by removing his mask and proceeds to gun down the rest of the invaders.
- She has successfully shot her way through hundreds of mooks and is spying on the Big Bad from a windowsill. She puts some weight on her heel, driving a stray nail through her boot. Distracted by pain, she loses her balance and falls.
- She's climbing on a plane and slips when she's just about to reach the hatch. She falls, but does manage to get her grappling hook attached to a nearby bridge. However, she is too distracted to notice that the rope has tangled up around her neck. Cue Gory Discretion Shot.
- She's on a mission to assassinate someone and jumps off from a ladder. She slips and falls in full view of a camera. Embarassed, she tracks down the tape for the camera but fails to notice that the camera also captured someone else descending the same ladder. She continues to explore the house until she gets shot by the mystery antagonist.
- She has successfully infiltrated an alien ship and retrieved some alien eggs. On her way out, she encounters a fully-grown alien. The alien makes a maze of metal bars to hinder her escape. She nimbly navigates the maze, but the alien is nimbler. Cue Gory Discretion Shot.
- While she is less accident-prone in the series, there is one incident where she's in the middle of a Rise to the Challenge involving a fluid that paralyzes everything it touches. The antagonist has already escaped the flooding facility, so she goes back to find the missing part of the MacGuffin, which could neutralize the fluid and allow her to swim out. She gets it in the nick of time and races to the escape hatch, where the other part of the MacGuffin is. She almost gets the other part before the corruption responsible for the flooding breaks the handrail she was holding on. The last shot is of her floating in the fluid, seeing the two parts of the MacGuffin floating and just barely missing combining right next to her.
- Homer's various near-misses in Treehouse of Horror XI segment "G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad". He ends up dying by choking on a piece of broccoli.
Marge: But I thought broccoli was good for you!
Dr. Hibbert: Oh no, broccoli is one of nature's most dangerous foods. It even tries to warn you with its terrible taste!