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Indiana Jones: "Don't worry Wu Han I'm gonna get you out of here!"

Wu Han: "Not this time Indy. I followed you on many adventures... but against the great unknown mystery...I go first Indy...!

So here it is, the first episode of a brand-new story. You want to give a powerful first impression, the idea that this story will be different and you can't expect the typical stuff from this story. Aware that the Genre Savvy audience needs to be impressed, you need to establish this is a place where Anyone Can Die.

For that reason, they wheel on the Sacrificial Lamb. S/He is presented as an important part in the plot or having a close relationship with the main characters, perhaps filling a character archetype (love interest, best friend, etc). Then, in a shocking twist, the lamb is slaughtered early on - by episode seven, tops. The law is laid down: You like these characters? Well anything can happen here. You have been warned.

In short -- This Character Exists to Die.

Because of their disposable origin, they are often forgotten once the plot actually kicks into gear. In the worst cases, this is followed by everyone acting as though the lamb never existed in the first place. The opening credits may bill the lamb equally with the other non-lead characters, implying that they form part of the regular cast. And of course, if the lamb turns out to be an Ensemble Darkhorse, they may end up Back From the Dead very quickly.

Sometimes, to help maximize impact, they get to be the Intro-Only Point of View.

Compare to the Sacrificial Lion, who fills a similar purpose (die to establish threat) but whose character has been around for a longer time and whose death has long term repercussions with the characters and the story.

Also see the Red Shirt, who is not so much a character as he is a practice dummy for the villains, and We Hardly Knew Ye, in which a character is introduced and dies much more quickly with less impact.

See also Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome, for the curious tendency of people who survive horror movies to wind up as this if they appear in a sequel.

See also Dead Star Walking, First-Episode Resurrection. Related to Stuffed Into the Fridge, Doomed Hometown, which are meant to affect the protagonist rather than the audience, and Player Punch for the video game version.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Sacrificial Lamb include:


Anime

  • Bleach: Ivan Azgiaro and Luders Friegen. The latter served as the Mouth of Sauron, declaring war to Yamamoto and acting as the spokesman for the Malevolent Masked Men. The former is the first member of the Vandenreich that we meet, who attacks The Hero within the first five chapters of the latest arc. Luders was thought of as The Dragon; Ivan was seen as The Rival to The Hero. Both were killed by their boss shortly after they're introduced.
  • Both Elfen Lied and Genesis Climber Mospeada boast first episodes with lots of Lambs.
  • Sven from Voltron. Uniquely, though he died in the original GoLion, he was merely wounded in Voltron, so he was able to come back in later episodes and in the modern comic book.
  • Gai Daigouji from Martian Successor Nadesico.
  • "Hot Ice" Hilda from Outlaw Star, though it was nearly far enough to qualify her as a Sacrificial Lamb. Clearly a case of being Too Awesome to Live.
  • One of the most infamous Lambs in all anime is Musashi Tomoe from Getter Robo. He's not nicknamed "Kenny" just for the lulz, huh. He did make it through the entire original Getter Robo before making his Heroic Sacrifice, but later versions would kill him sooner- Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo makes his Heroic Sacrifice the opening scene.
    • Not surprisingly, Mazinger Z also has a lamb. Two Words: MORIMORI-HAKASEEEEEEE!!!!!
    • Musashi's replacement, Benkei, doesn't fare any better in the Getter Robo manga by Ken Ishikawa either. Ryoma even lampshades the fact.
      • Musashi and Benkei are at least Sacrificial Lions considering how much screentime both of them get. The real Sacrificial Lamb in Getter Robo is Dr. Saotome's son Tatsuhito, who is always killed before Hayato Jin sets foot in Get-2.
  • Sophie Oswald (Leon's sister) and Aaron Killian (Yuri's father) from Kaleido Star.
  • Got used to seeing Akane and Kazuya happily in love with one another in Mai-HiME? Don't get too attached...they're both put out of commission before the end of the first Story Arc.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni subverts and uses this by killing Mion, Rena, Keichii, Takano and Tomitake in the first arc, only to see them back again because of the Groundhog Day Loop. They die again in other arcs too. Frequently. However, we find out halfway through the second season that Takano actually never died, and never actually does.
  • Professor Goh in Transformers Super God Masterforce - Shuta's father and a good friend of Metalhawk, he was set up to function as The Professor and Mission Control for the series. Died in the third episode.
  • The apparent Big Bad of Code Geass, Clovis, is killed within the first few episodes. By the protagonist. And he is in no way the last.
    • In an interview, the show's head writer commented that Clovis didn't last as long as originally planned, while the Ensemble Darkhorse (the one with the page image) lasted a lot longer than intended.
    • This is pretty much what Monica and Dorothea are there for. Bismark, too, to a lesser extent. Gotta give the audience the impression that the final battle is going to be a slaughter house.
  • In Ga-Rei Zero the entire cast is one of these, killed at the end of the first episode. Then we meet the real cast, at *their* death scene, then we go back in time.
  • Kurokami quickly knocks off the main character's mother, one of his classmates and that cute kid from next door in rapid order (although the first one was during a Flash Back), all during the first episode.
  • Darker Than Black has a serious case of this, setting up a ludicrously obvious Meet Cute and then smashing the whole thing to tiny little bits at the end of the second episode. That lady who looked like a love interest? The one who everyone was looking for and who knew a lot about the Gate? She was actually a doll programmed with the original's personality as a trap for Hei, and the main reason for his repeated rescues (not to mention flirting) was so that he could get information out of her. The original Chiaki was Dead All Along. By the end of the second episode, Chiaki has had this happen to her twice. It says a lot about the series that someone so obviously set up as a major character had been used as a human shield within two episodes of their introduction.
    • Nika plays this role in the second season. He's a friend and possible crush for Suo, not to mention the other person among their friends to suffer from becoming an Unperson. Not to mention the possible drama of him interacting with friend-turned-Contractor, Tanya. Nope, he's just horribly murdered by Tanya, which serves the purpose of unleashing Suo's Super-Powered Evil Side.
    • Subverted with Suo's dad, who also gets killed off very shortly into the second season -- the one Hei killed was actually a copy made by Shion's power, and the original escaped.
    • In Shikkoku no Hana manga a girl who just became a really interesting character was blasted into dust simply by a freakish accident no one wanted or expected, leaving Hei and her bewildered friend only a shoe.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Tomoe Mami is built up as a sort of Big Sister Mentor figure to the title character for the first few episodes, and then come Episode 3, she winds up dying horribly against Charlotte's One-Winged Angel form in order to show that being a Magical Girl is not as innocent as it appears to be. And the worst part? She's one of the main characters. She's since showed up in the Groundhog Day Loop from episode 10, where she takes a more active role in things before being killed off like nearly everyone else.
  • Kotori from X 1999 dies early on. It is foreordained that she will die.
  • Usually an appropriate Sacrificial Lion in the main series, a Leomon gets killed in the first 5 minutes of Digimon X Evolution.
  • Chirin no Suzu actually took this literally.
  • In Naruto, this role belongs to Ill Boy Jonin Hayate Gekko, the original proctor for the Third Stage of the Chunin Exams - he gets a little screentime (in which, to be fair, he does a fair bit) before being the first named good guy from the main storyline to snuff it. It's true he dies later than most, but still qualifies as his death heralds both the steadily darkening storyline and the first major character death, 3rd Hokage Hiruzen Sarutobi.
  • Kanade from Senki Zesshou Symphogear. Symphogear actually wasn't very kill-happy at all, but they used Kanade's death in the first episode to plant that little seed of doubt in the audience's mind that character X might be dead for real.
  • Monster has quite a few of these, such as Mauler and Nina's foster parents, but their deaths are legitimately tragic, and they're remembered by the other characters rather than simply forgotten.

Comic Books

  • Similarly, in the Bronze Age Revival of the X-Men comic, Thunderbird is killed two issues after he's introduced. He was actually created to be kicked off the team in his first issue, but the writers changed their mind at the last moment. Then they realized they no idea what to do with him.
  • A recent example is MVP in Avengers: The Initiative, though it turned out he was later cloned, making it almost a First-Episode Resurrection.
  • In Milestone Comics' Blood Syndicate, team leader Tech-Nine turns out to be the lamb, spontaneously disintegrating from a Phlebotinum Breakdown at the end of the first arc.
  • Kole, of the Teen Titans comics, was created just so she could die in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • All but one of the members of the X-Force revamp later known as the X-Statix were killed at the end of the first issue - including the team leader and narrator. Later, the new team assembled in the wake of the original group's demise saw Bloke and St. Anna bite it on their first mission. The survival rate improved slightly until the Spike and U-Go Girl died just before the change to X-Statix.
  • Blink of Generation X dies in the team's first real mission (via Heroic Sacrifice). She's remained "dead", despite said death (She used her powers to "blink" apart a giant enemy, but couldn't get herself clear) being ready made for a Never Found the Body return. (The Blink starring in Exiles is from the Age of Apocalypse timeline)
  • In X-Men 2099, Serpentina (easily the most likeable character) has the less than impressive power to stretch her arms. Guess what happened to her in the third issue?
  • One Hundred Bullets: Lee Dolan is the second recipient of Graves' attache case that we see. He gets a headshot from the target of his revenge.

Film

  • Completely spoofed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which despite being released after Raiders of the Lost Ark, is in fact a prequel. In this film, Indy's sidekick gets killed within the first five minutes, but of course since this is chronologically the first Indiana Jones film, the audience never got to know him.
  • Children of Men gives Julianne Moore star billing only to have that character Killed Off for Real roughly ten minutes into the movie, clearly establishing it as an Anyone Can Die film.
  • Steven Seagal's character in Executive Decision. On some posters, Seagal was given equal billing with Kurt Russell, making his death a real shock.
  • Drew Barrymore's casting as Casey from Scream, who is one of the first ones to die in the movie, gave the first major sequence of the movie some much-needed Emotional Torque.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder actually has an innocent-looking female aide-de-camp called Lamb. Guess who gets executed for sedition?
  • Angie from Vantage Point
  • Sarah from Law Abiding Citizen. Quite upsetting to see since Sarah was one of the nicest and least corrupt characters in the film.
  • The Empire Strikes Back gave us Dack, Luke's gunner. Luke apparently knows him better than we do.
  • Both segments of Grindhouse use this trope:
    • In Planet Terror, we get to know Dr. Block's lesbian lover just long enough to care when she gets eaten.
    • Death Proof takes this trope to 11 by setting up an entire protagonist cast and then smoking them in one fell swoop.
  • In the otherwise very goofy Chicken Run, at the very beginning of the film, one of the chickens who has stopped laying eggs is killed and eaten by the farmers, to remind the viewers that yes, this is a chicken farm, and yes, when they get too old, they get eaten (which is why the chickens are trying to escape, of course). This particular chicken is only named as she's picked for the slaughter, gets no lines, and is only vaguely referenced later.
  • Possibly unintentionally, Toy Story 3's revelation of Bo Peep's absence (not to mention Woody's reaction to someone mentioning her) had the effect of this trope on the audience.
    • Another Pixar example would be Doc Hudson in Cars 2.
  • In Hot Shots, the most sympathetic trainee pilot dies about a third of the way into the movie, after ticking just about every 'doomed' box an action film can offer (beautiful loving wife, hasn't signed his life insurance papers, is carrying the evidence to crack the Kennedy murder case in his pocket....) Maybe he shouldn't have picked "Dead Meat" as his callsign...
  • The Toon shoe that Judge Doom kills to demonstrate the Toon-killing power of his Dip in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
    • R. J. Maroon might be a better example. The shoe showed up just long enough to get Dipped. And as I recall it was colored red.
  • Art Lean from Mortal Kombat mainly existed to show the characters (and the audience) how badass Goro was (and give Johnny Cage some serious motivation to kick his four-armed ass) as well as give Shang Tsung a major Kick the Dog moment by devouring his soul.
  • Watership Down had Violet, a rabbit extra who didn't exist in the book, dying early on to show the world was full of danger. But to those who remember the book, it was a foregone conclusion anyway since once they reach Watership Down, they have no females to continue their lineage with and have to search for more.
  • The movie version of Twilight features Waylon Forge, a character not in the books. Guess they wanted to show the vampires actually killing someone.
  • In Independence Day: Resurgence President Lanford and Jasmine Hiller are killed by the aliens.
  • In The Living Daylights MI6 agents Green Four and 004 are killed to showcase the darker tone and just how dangerous the “death to spies” policy is.
  • In Silverado Kelly gets little characterization before being killed by Sheriff Cobb to demonstrate Cobb’s ruthlessness.

Literature

  • So far, every prologue (and epilogue) character in A Song of Ice and Fire has died. Chett was lucky enough to have an offscreen death.
  • Ogilvy the astronomer in The War of the Worlds is an early example. He is one of a handful of named characters, is a friend of the narrator, and takes part in much of the action of the novel... until he is killed by a Martian Death Ray in Chapter Five.
  • The elven guards in the first chapter of The Inheritance Trilogy. Paragraphs of detailed, important-sounding description... boop, gone.
  • In the spinoff of the CHERUB series, Hendersons Boys a young boy named Hugo becomes part of the plot in the first book, only to get shot in the back by a Nazi officer 10 chapters later and die.
  • Charity Burbage in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Her death in the very first chapter is to show that the war with Voldemort will be serious, and that not all deaths will be heroic and noble.
  • In the Chaos Walking trilogy, Plucky Girl Maddy is introduced and killed off early on the second book. She was one of the few cheerful and optimistic characters, and her death demonstrated the senseless brutality of the Mayor's men.
  • Isaiah in Someone Elses War.

Live Action TV

  • The special double-length pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduces Jesse, best friend of Xander, the show's Plucky Comic Relief. It seems that Xander and Jesse will be a regular pairing throughout the show, mirroring the Buffy and Willow friendship. Then Jesse is turned into a vampire and Xander is forced to kill him. But that's okay, because he's never mentioned again.
    • Joss Whedon actually planned to bring Jesse back as a ghost or form of the First Evil talking to Xander in the final season, but real-life problems prevented it. (This happened a few other times: He also had to have the late Cassie speak for the also-late Tara in one episode because Tara's actress thought having the First appear as Tara was too cruel, and then had to completely scrap an episode idea to bring Tara Back From the Dead because the actress wasn't available... among others.)
  • The Buffy Spin-Off Angel plays a similar trick in its pilot episode, in which Angel is tasked with saving the life of a beautiful young woman. Unfortunately, she is killed by that episode's villain before they can become romantically entangled.
    • Then there's Doyle, who was a main character for nine episodes until his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • CSI began with a Naive Newcomer character who basically served to introduce the various members of the show's cast. With that out of the way, she caught two in the back of the head, turning into the second victim and confirming her status as the New Meat.
  • When the Doctor Who Spin-Off Torchwood was being developed, the crew went further than usual by casting a well-respected actress as the Sacrificial Lamb and involving her character, Suzie, heavily in pre-publicity (including a special feature in the Radio Times), to increase the shock when she bought it. The show then got more mileage from both character and casting by bringing Suzie Back From the Dead temporarily for a later episode.
  • MI 5 had Lisa Faulkner, who was sacrificed in the second episode, but shocking nonetheless.
    • Helped by the fact that Spooks (as the show is known in the rest of the world) does not have opening or closing credits, meaning that audience has no way of knowing who's a regular cast member, who's recurring, who's a guest, etc.
  • The Shield began with Detective Terry Crowley being assigned to an LA police department's Strike Team to secretly investigate rumours of corruption and brutality. The episode ended with the show's protagonist, Vic Mackey, finding out and blowing the back of Terry's skull off. In a break with Lamb tradition, Crowley's death came back to haunt Mackey several times in the following seven years, and the character appeared in flashbacks.
  • The original script for the Lost pilot established Jack as the leader... only to kill him at the halfway point and force Kate into the role. Network executives shot down the idea.
  • The TV series Stargate SG-1 had the character of Major Charles Kowalski infected with a Goa'uld parasite in the pilot episode, and killed off in the episode immediately following it. This was done after he had played a significant role in the original movie on which the show was based. Furthermore, the real use of the character is to have a situation where the defector, Teal'c, gets to prove his worth and loyalty to the Earth authorities.
    • And its sister show Stargate Atlantis gave us Colonel Sumner, who was supposed to be the military head of Atlantis... until he's captured by the Wraith, has his life sucked out, and has to be put out of his misery by then-Major Sheppard.
    • Stargate SG-1 started long before that, offing the entire Five-Man Band in the first episode, in order to introduce a Five-Man Band with four slightly more interesting characters.
  • Supernatural had a love interest of Sam's be a Sacrificial Lamb in the pilot.
  • Andy Renko (played by Charles Haid), one of Hill Street Blues ' major characters, wasn't originally even supposed to make it to episode two. The plan was that at the shootout at the end of the pilot, Renko would be killed, and only his partner Hill (played by Michael Warren) would survive, to try to adjust to a new partner (Jake Mitchell, who had been in the same show with Warren before, Paris). However, in test screenings, the camaraderie between Warren and Haid was universally felt to be a special strength of the show, so Haid got a contract as a regular (and an "And X as Y" credit), and Mitchell had to settle for a single guest appearance.
  • Hustle did this in the premiere, by shooting the group leader through the head, and then subverted it by revealing it to be Faking the Dead.
  • Firefly subverts this -- for a minute, it looks like Kaylee is going to be a Sacrificial Lamb, but it turns out that Mal was playing a rather psychotic joke on Simon when he told him that she was dead. "I'm a bad man," he admits.
  • Jesse Pinkman was supposed to be killed off in Season 1 of Breaking Bad, but the creator loved his character and Aaron Paul's performance so much that he changed his mind.
  • ER was supposed to start like this, with Julianna Margulies's character committing suicide in the pilot, but test-market audiences liked her so much that they decided to keep her in the show (she had overdosed on pills, so they just had her pull through instead of dying).
  • On the first episode of Shark somebody got fired. The only real character to die on the show wasn't until the end of the first season.
  • In Regenesis, Hira Khan is killed three episodes in.
  • A bit longer lasting than most, but Simone Deveaux of Heroes basically fits this trope.
    • Charlie Andrews also counts. She is killed off in the episode she is introduced, then Hiro goes back in time to save her only her to reveal a dangerous deformity is already killing her. Then Hiro goes back in time again and manages to get rid of said deformity only for her to get sent back to the 1940s. (Though the fact that her actress was a main cast member on another show contributed to the last one.)
  • Kirk's BFF Gary Mitchell in the second Star Trek: The Original Series pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
    • Later in Star Trek: Voyager the Chief Medical Officer of the Voyager is introduced as a source of tension in the ship between him and Tom Paris, only to be killed along with the rest of the Medical Staff to make way to the Emergency Medical Hologram.
  • In The Phone pilot, the first team was introduced and competed against the second team per a normal Reality TV show until about maybe half an hour (tops) into it when they don't complete the given task and are subsequently eliminated and DROWNED.
  • Subverted in Hill Street Blues, where a pair of cops just happen to walk in on the wrong group of nervous drug dealers and are anticlimactically shot. The aftermath is played with appropriate drama, sending the message that, as in real life, no one is completely safe. But just as the plot of the episode has been resolved and it would be fairly easy to let it set at that, Furillo receives word that they're alive, but in critical condition...
  • Uncle Marty plays this role in Harper's Island, as apparently his actor was one of the biggest names in the cast (he's killed in the first episode).
  • Reg Cox in Eastenders.
  • Failed Brit daytime soap The Royal Today began with three nurses fresh from college doing their first hospital shift. The blonde one got stabbed by a crazy in episode one and bled to death, but then what did you think was gonna happen?
  • Robin Hood killed off outlaw Roy four episodes in. Somewhat diluted by the fact that after that episode, he was never mentioned again.
  • In The Adventures of Sinbad, Mustapha figured prominently into the first episode only to die in the second. He wasn't billed in the intro, though, so it was obvious from the beginning. And of course once he was dead he was basically forgotten.
  • Miami Vice: The show's characters were introduced in the pilot. One of them was Lt Rodriguez, who commanded the unit. Rodriguez was played by Gregory Sierra, who was a well-known actor from Barney Miller and his character appeared to be a part of the show's regular cast. Then he was killed in the fourth episode. It was Edward James Olmos who joined the regular cast as Lt Castillo, Rodriguez' replacement.
  • Oz: While the pilot introduces the show's characters, the central figure of this episode is Dino Ortolani (played by Jon Seda) who appears to be a main character. But the pilot climaxes with his murder.
  • The opening episode of Misfits features a sixth member of the community service group called Gary. However, he misses out on the storm that gives everyone superpowers and in the same episode gets hacked apart with an axe.
    • Then in series two, in a deconstruction of the Sixth Ranger trope, a character called Ollie was introduced. The promo and opening scenes of the episodes framed him as a new main character. He became part of the community service group, was given a backstory and power (teleportation). Then 15 minutes into the episode he is shot and killed by the Villain of the Week.
    • Gary manages to do this again in series 3 - in the Alternate Reality Episode he is shown to have survived... only to be killed by a Nazi officer testing out his new superpowers.
  • Vicki Donovan in The Vampire Diaries is introduced in the pilot and then killed off in the seventh episode of the show.
  • "Big" Jim Colosimo on Boardwalk Empire, at the end of the pilot. He retired on account of the bullet to his brain.

Video Games

  • Cyberswine: The Distraught Woman's purpose in the plot is to show the effects of the Grid Virus. She dies from it, and the protagonists watch her disintegrate until she is gone.
  • In Gears of War, Carmine is the first squad member killed. He's also the only one without a unique face, just wearing a helmet. His name is a shade of red, no wonder he's a Red Shirt. His Backup Quadruplet brother shows up in the sequel only to get killed off too.
    • Lieutenant Kim from the first game also counts, as he had his own character model, and thus actually had a chance of being a reccuring character.
  • Corporal Richard L. Jenkins in Mass Effect 1 is killed by the first enemies in the game, which also doubles as a case of Decoy Protagonist. Nihlus, Shepard's appointed mentor, is killed moments later by Saren. This was a rather obvious use of the trope.
    • There's also Wilson in the second game, who unlike Jenkins, actually lasts manages to last throughout the entire introductory mission working alongside Shepard. Then it turns out he's a traitor and he's shot in the head by Miranda.
  • Zero from Mega Man X fits this to a T, including being the Ensemble Darkhorse and returning in the sequel ASAP. Of course, Zero's character design was actually the original rejected design of X himself.
  • Crysis does this with two members of the player's squad. Aztec dies before you even get a good look at his face, and Jester gets offed by a giant alien squid at the end of the first level.
  • The way Super Robot Wars: Original Generations was set up, probably Lamia Loveless was turned into a Sacrificial Lamb to add suspense in OG Gaiden. So you get acquainted with her a lot in the OG 2 portion. Then in the bonus segment... she's shot down dead. Of course, when OG Gaiden comes out, it turns out to be just a set up for Cliff Hanger and she came back... well enough. She's not an Ensemble Darkhorse like Zero, though.
  • In Persona 3, a large bulk of the games boss fights come from the Full Moon Shadows, extremely powerful Shadows that each represent a different Tarot Arcana. You fight them all...except for Magician, the first to show appear, who is quickly killed by the Main Character in a cutscene.
  • The sequel Persona 4 has Saki Konishi, 3rd year student and potential love interest of the Main Character's new buddy Yosuke. She hangs out with them for a bit, gives them info on the first murder, and seems to be set up to be the wise Sempai to the team much like Akihiko and Mitsuru in Persona 3. Then she becomes the 2nd victim of the murder case, there are no upperclassmen to help you out in Persona 4, instead you are the upperclassman and in charge. To make matters worse, when the team finds the place where she died, lingering thoughts of her inner self reveal she always found Yosuke annoying and was only acting nice because he was her bosses' son. Despite knowing that inner thoughts aren't a total representation of the character, due to interaction with his own inner self Yosuke becomes convinced she loathed him for the rest of the game.
  • Ling in Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is a very odd case of this, where she is on the cover of the game box, and the poster inside the game is practically a pin-up of her, and then she dies the second mission in.
  • Technically, they've already finished their role in the story and also their character development. But Caster, Assassin, Lancer, Shinji (non fatally) and Kuzuki? That sure shows that Heavens Feel route is not going to be like the previous two. People are dropping like flies, because this is only the first couple days and the entire route can be summarized as It Got Worse.
  • Wedge and Biggs' death in Final Fantasy VI served to show us how powerful the Espers are.
  • In The World Ends With You, Rhyme serves this purpose. From up until then, the game was fairly lighthearted, if not slightly confusing. But that one event opens up a whole can of worms and is the final push to set the rest of the plot into motion.
  • Elia/Aria from Final Fantasy III fits the trope perfectly. She's the first character to appear once you leave the Floating Continent (starting the game properly), gets about half an hour of character development, and is killed by the first boss you encounter.
  • Duncan in Dragon Age dies right right after the Warden's initiation.
    • Not to mention that Daveth is killed at the start of the Joining just so Jory loses what little nerve he had and the Warden is the only one who survives.
    • In the Awakening expansion pack Mhairi is introduced like any companion character would be, with even a little bit more character detail given because you meet her first, but then she dies during the joining.
    • The sequel features Bethany and Carver, who are inversions of the trope. While one of them always dies depending on your chosen class, the other sticks around as a regular party member.
  • Although Mia Fey of the Ace Attorney series hits all the criteria, the universe itself is not really Anyone Can Die. Even weirder, she sticks around after the fact to serve as the main character's Sexy Mentor through the magic of spirit channelling.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Gauldoth, a Noble Demon necromancer, saves the life of a priest named Alana and brings her with him on a quest so he can have someone to debate philosophy with. She's initially set up as a Morality Pet who believes she can turn Gauldoth to Good, but when Gauldoth realises the dangers involved in activating the MacGuffin, he tricks Alana into activating it instead, killing her.
  • Jacques Batiste in Medal of Honor: Underground, who gets killed at the end of the very first mission, which involved escorting him.
  • The Ninth Man in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors dies at the start. Brutally.
  • Trask Ulgo in Knights of the Old Republic.
  • Amie Fern in Neverwinter Nights 2.
  • The Fire Emblem remake Shadow Dragon adds a new character early on that wasn't in the previous versions. It also adds a prologue segment, where, in an object lesson in necessary sacrifice, you have to send one of your units to certain death. This new character has little to no plot relevance and seems to be in the game solely so you can send someone off without losing one of the starting army from the previous versions.
  • In [[Half Life (series)|Half Life: Opposing Force a friendly security guard at Black Mesa who helps out Shepard is killed by an electric fence in his second scene.

Web Comics

  • Richard from Earthsong. Killed (well, sent home, but close enough) inside the first 25 pages.
    • Played with, in that he is in fact a bad guy. Also provides the important point of explaining WHY they fight the bad guys.
  • Off White: The entire pack (except for one) that was introduced in chapter 2. Yes, even the puppies.
  • One Eye from Goblins. His most important contribution to the plot is to become a motivation for Big Ears to become a paladin.

Web Original

  • Survival of the Fittest has a variation of this trope, where usually an NPC is murdered in the prologue. In the first version, it was a nameless student that Danya shot because he was wearing his hat sideways, and Danya "didn't like punks". However, true to this trope, in other versions (and alluded to in the first version) the teachers, who the characters had probably interacted with at some point during pregame are promptly shot. And very often, the prologue is told in the perspective of one of the teachers murdered.
    • It happens with the students as well. When V4 started, a few characters active during pre-game were killed off immediately, namely Remi Pierce, Warren Brown, Reika Ishida and Chris Davidson.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Red soldier Phil is killed by Wyoming to establish him as a Knight of Cerebus.
    • Captain Miller, Dellario, and Burke are killed by the Meta to establish how dangerous and bloodthirsty it is.
    • Cunningham and Rogers are killed to show both the war on Chorus's danger and Felix's ruthlessness.
    • An entire UNSC base full of civilians is massacred by the Blues and Reds to establish how dangerous they are.

Western Animation

  • Morph on the X-Men cartoon series, who came Back From the Dead due to popularity.
  • Cat in the Sonic the Hedgehog "SatAM" series.
  • Most of the Monarch's henchmen in The Venture Brothers only last a single episode before being brutally killed by Brock Sampson or another threat. Only Henchmen 21 and 24 survived all of them until the third season, when 24 was killed in an explosion.
  • 2 of ~9~ is the first of 9's kind he meets, fixes 9's voice, tries to defend him from a monster ten times his size and half-cat skeleton half-machine, gets caught and carried off by it, is revealed to have been rather well-loved by his group, is subject to a rescue mission by 5 and 9, and gets killed as a result of 9 having a Too Dumb to Live moment as soon as it looks like he's in the clear. All within the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie.
  • Felicity in Felidae
  • Ripcord in G.I. Joe: Renegades, though his death wasn't just for drama: The premise of the show is that his teammates are being pursued for his murder (which they didn't cause) and the destruction of a Cobra Industries plant (which they were responsible for, but they acted in self-defense).
  • Transformers Prime pulled the exact same thing with Cliffjumper, he was briefly brought back to life, but he Came Back Wrong, and then died in an explosion, with no signs he'll return. There is the possibility his relation with Arcee will be explored in flashback, though.
  • A whole episode of Clone High was devoted to parodying this trope. It begins with the narrator telling us that one character will die, and assuring us that they're not going to do something cheap like bring in a new character just so they can kill him. The show then proceeds to do exactly that, in an incredibly obvious fashion, complete with the cast going out of their way to act like the new guy had been around all along ("Oh Ponce, you're a regular character!") Ponce dies almost immediately after the regular cast are done telling us how much they love him.
  • Frank Grimes on The Simpsons.
  • The captured sentries guarding the Great Wall of China in Mulan. "How many men does it take to deliver a message?" "One..."
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