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After undergoing an genuine Heel Face Turn (often after a "My God, What Have I Done?" experience), the formerly-evil but now honestly good character is forced by the circumstances (usually a great injustice done to him or the death of his loved one) to revert to his evil and violent ways again, losing everything good that he earned during his benevolent phase. A form of Tragic Monster.

The Moral of the Story being: Being Good Sucks but Being Evil Sucks even more and circumstances will conspire to tempt you from one to the other.

Compare Chronic Villainy, where the ex-baddie has an inner compulsion to commit evil again (rather than being forced into it by external circumstances); Reformed but Rejected, where everyone thinks that he will revert even though he does not; and Heel Face Door Slam, where an evil character wants to go clean but is not even allowed to start. Contrast Heel Face Revolving Door, where the bad guy changes alignment so often, it's hard to speak of any redemption in his case.

Examples of Redemption Failure include:

Anime and Manga

  • Roberta in Black Lagoon quits the Professional Killer business to become an simple maid, only to resort to massive violence again after her master is killed.
  • In Soul Eater this happens to Crona in the manga. In both the manga and the anime after their Heel Face Turn, Medusa suddenly shows up again and forces them to betray Shibusen. In the anime Crona gets better. In the manga they appear to have crossed the Moral Event Horizon by killing a death scythe, murdering Medusa for being nice to them (as she planned) and Maka et al have been ordered to kill them.
  • In Dragonball Z, Buu is convinced to stop his rampage by Mr. Satan/Hercule for a time, but his destructive nature breaks free and later takes control once entirely after a criminal shoots his pet puppy and wounds Mr. Satan.
  • Throughout the first half of Durarara, we see reference to the original leader of the Yellow Scarves abandoning the gang after a turf war went bad. Then, in part 2, Masaomi Kida is revealed as that same original leader when he retakes control of the group to defend themselves from The Dollars and The Slasher. While he was never evil, per se, he treats it like an example of this.

Comic Books

  • Since he's something of an Expy of Clint Eastwood's characters, Saint of Killers in Preacher (Comic Book) gets a backstory about his life as a retired outlaw and gunslinger. Things rapidly go awry in fashion very similar to what befalls Eastwood's character in Unforgiven. See the Film section for more details.
  • In Fifty Two, the very Anti Heroic, if not outright villainous, Black Adam decides to start flying straight under the influence of his two new Morality Pets and turns his dominion Kahndaq into a rather utopian place. Then, both Morality Pets are killed by the Intergang. And one of them suffers a Heroic BSOD on top of that, instructing Adam to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Which he does, becoming the most wanted mass-murderer on the planet for a while.


  • In American History X, some alternative endings have Danny's murder cause Derek to revert back to his old, racist ways.
  • William Munny in Unforgiven is a former badman, who tried to make a go at being a farmer. When his farm fails he decideds to take just one more job and for a time goes back to his old ways. (Although it's hinted at at the end that he eventually returned to a mundane life once more.)
  • The Godfather Part III has Michael's famous "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."
  • The plot of Kill Bill plot is driven by this trope. The Bride faces a major Redemption Failure at the very beginning of the film: in the little chapel of Two Pines (Texas), the rehearsal of her wedding is ruined by former friends from her former assassin's life. They kill everybody in the chapel but miss The Bride, who, although very badly hurt, survives. The last three and half hours of film depict her vengeance. A vengeance that feeds on what she wanted most to forget about: her mind-blowing killing-machine skills.


Live Action TV

  • In Justified, Boyd Crowder tries to go straight but circumstances keep pointing him back toward a life of crime.
  • Lindsey on Angel becomes a Heel Face Revolving Door as he abandons his evil employer but can't manage to not return, once it seems he finally has he comes back anyway plotting against Angel out of jealousy, after failing he agrees to team up with Angel again, but with the realization that he will turn on the team again when things go bad, Angel has Lorne, a member of his team eliminate him.

Video Games

  • Ray McCall in Call of Juarez is a criminal who became a priest after killing his brother but takes up his guns again when his other brother is murdered.
  • Hitman contains an Anti-Hero (or possibly Anti-Villain) example. In the second game, 47 abandons the life of crime to become a gardener for a priest, yet he's forced back into it when his employer is kidnapped. In the end, he realizes that, being essentially a Super Soldier, he can't turn his back on the business of death and goes back to being an assassin.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, John Marston quits the life of an outlaw after his "friends" leave him to die, but The Government kidnaps his wife and son and orders him to dispose of his old comrades. He is forced to go back to his bad ways and although the player largely determines whether he becomes evil again, even with a good karma he still kills an awful lot of people on the way.

Western Animation

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