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"Kill the spare."
—Voldemort, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
The Sacrificial Lion is a sympathetic character who is slated to die so that the audience knows that the villain is playing for keeps, or that the situation really is as dangerous and desperate as it seems. The death is often ultimately unnecessary in the large scheme of things, but it does provide a shocking twist to the proceedings.
The main distinction between this and a Sacrificial Lamb is in the presentation of their characters. The Sacrificial Lamb is a throwaway minor character who is made to be likable just so that the audience feels sad when they die. Their death provides no real change to the plot, only that we know the enemy is Dead Serious.
On the other hand, the Sacrificial Lion might not be central to the plot, but the character isn't throwaway; quite often, in fact, a Sacrificial Lion will be one of the second- or even first-tier characters. Their death usually produces a noticeable shockwave to the story or change the way the rest of the characters behave. Sometimes they die specifically to bump the villain over the Moral Event Horizon. If their death is key to the story (such as a political assassination), then it ceases to be a "sacrificial" character and becomes plot relevant.
Often found in Anyone Can Die stories. A Mauve Shirt is frequently in danger of becoming a Sacrificial Lion, if the writers decide to kill him off for a cheap shock. Decoy Protagonists can rapidly become Sacrificial Lions as well, in which case this also qualifies as a Gut Punch. This is essentially The Worf Effect taken right to the hilt. Compare the Knight of Cerebus, who probably killed him. In a video game, his death is likely to be a Player Punch.
Anime & Manga
- Death Note:
- Naomi Misora is probably on the borderline between a Sacrificial Lion and a Sacrificial Lamb. She starts out as a savvy victim of Not Now, Kiddo. After the predictable results, she gets her own Backstory, the beginnings of Character Development, and stars in the prequel novel. Her death reveals the series' Anyone Can Die nature.
- The more straightforward Death Note example comes later. Let Them Die Happy has rarely been so tear-jerking.
- The lovable Maes Hughes of Fullmetal Alchemist dies a ways into the series. He was already well underway to unraveling the plot before the main protagonists (and it's not until a good deal later that the protagonists and the audience discover just how close Hughes had come to figuring out the villains' scheme) and even manages to get the drop on his assassin.
- Robert "Roy" Device from Silent Moebius.
- Nuriko of Fushigi Yuugi was killed by an enemy warrior roughly two-thirds of the way through the story. It came as a real shock since Nuriko was a comic but well-developed character, he was extremely popular, and it was the first time a Suzaku warrior had been Killed Off for Real. His death was also a foretaste of the much bloodier turn the series was about to take, in which most of the Suzaku and Seiryuu warriors were picked off one by one.
- Of course, Nuriko's case was very obviously a case of this, as his death could have been averted with common sense. The only reason he died was for a Player Punch.
- Due to a case of Schrodingers Cat, the manga version of Evangelion's Toji Suzuhara met a much more definite fate than his anime counterpart shortly past the show's halfway point. He did undergo some character development back as one of Those Two Guys (mainly through his connection to his hospitalized sister), but only really became notable after he got The Call. Of course, even in the anime he still disappears off the face of the earth after the fact.
- Gesicht, the main character of Pluto, is murdered three-quarters of the way through. The other robots would count as well.
- Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. He started off as a Decoy Protagonist, and his death one third of the way through the show sends the main character into a Heroic BSOD.
- Kittan as well, along with all the minor pilots.
- Leomon in the Digimon Franchise. Incidentally, he's an actual lion. This is a recurring in-joke for the meta-series which the directors are entirely aware of. When they were deciding on which digimon would be killed during Digimon Tamers they chose Leomon simply because he had been killed before. Other seasons seem to follow suit and at least one Leomon is killed per continuity.
- Every member of the Band of the Hawk who isn't Guts, Griffith or Casca dies horribly during the final episode of Berserk after Griffith makes his Deal with the Devil and marks everyone for sacrifice to the Godhand. The only other survivor of it all was Rickert, who had the good fortune to not be with the general group when the Eclipse went down.
- Actually, Casca herself can serve as an example. She didn't die, but went through a horrific Stuffed Into the Fridge ordeal that involved her being violently raped to insanity by Griffith in front of Guts when he became a demigod. Her fate is suppose to serve as a constant and disturbing reminder to the audience that Griffith is not a good guy, especially since every explanation for the act falls flat on its face and was really unnecessary in the end.
- Theresa of the Faint Smile in Claymore. More a variant of this trope, as we know she's dead from the start, but are shown her story (and thus Clare's backstory) about a third of the way through the main plot, and if the backstory were presented first, the audience would never see it coming.
- It then happens again later on to show just how out of their league the Claymores are in the Northern campaign, where Rigald takes out Undine, Veronica, Jean, and Flora in rapid succession. Although Veronica was basically a Mauve Shirt, the other three had all gotten fair amounts of character development by this point, and only Jean was able to hang onto life long enough to make her death shift from "shocking" to "tragic."
- Legend of Galactic Heroes has two separate instances of this trope. The first is Kircheis, Reinhard's best friend and equal, who takes a bullet for him a quarter of the way through. The second is Yang Wenli, the main character next to Reinhard, who is shot in the leg and dies from blood loss three-quarters of the way through.
- Rei from Fist of the North Star.
- Richard Brown from Monster, Driven to Suicide after several chapters/episodes where he appeared to be the main character of the Munich arc.
- One Piece: Whitebeard, whose death had a huge impact on the whole world, and Ace, whose death had a huge impact on Luffy.
- Pisces Albafica in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, letting us know that Anyone Can Die and marks the start of the dwindling of the party.
- Starscream meets his end this way in Transformers Armada. After battling with Megatron and trying to convince him that Unicron is the real threat, he finally attacks Unicron himself and is destroyed in one shot. (Of course, considering how much damage he'd taken already, it was hardly a surprise.)
- In Blood Plus, George asks to be killed by Saya before Delta 67 could turn him into a monster.
- Lieutenant Blue, the movie's (arguably) Good Counterpart of General Blue in Dragon Ball Mystic Adventure was this. He tried to warn Emperor Chiaotzu about Tao and Shen's treacherous ambitions after somehow stumbling on Ranfan, Chiaotzu's wife, in Shen's bedroom, which got him killed by Tao.
- In the main series we have two Sacrificial Lions in Krillin who dies the first major death in all of Dragon Ball and then Future Trunks towards the end of the Cell Saga to show just how bad things got.
- Bora's death at the hands of Tao also qualify. His first appearance had him being strong enough to take out an entire unit of the Red Ribbon Army long before Goku got there, and was also a noble indian. He ends up impaled by his own spear by Tao.
- Ryu Jose from Mobile Suit Gundam's death ended up making everyone on the White Base stronger.
- Bleach: Yamamoto's liutenant, Choujiro Sasakibe. Even in spite of his minor role, his death is not only is extremely violent and bloody, but it plays out as a major, MAJOR Wham! Episode.
- Hiruzen Sarutobi, the Third Hokage in Naruto, who went out fighting Orochimaru, the Big Bad of Part 1. Even though he goes via Heroic Sacrifice, it still counts as the villain had pushed him into a spot with no alternative, and was the first major "good guy" death (2nd following Hayate Gekko). It also has a huge impact and lasting consequences (specifically, being replaced in his station by Tsunade). His son Asuma, Team Leader for Team 10 qualifies even moreso, dying partway into Part 2 and embellishing how dangerous Akatsuki members are. Incidentally, in the two anime adaptations both Sarutobi men die in Episode 70.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica seemed like an almost light and normal magical girl series until Tomoe Mami literally got her head bitten off.
- In GoLion, not only Takashi "Quiet" Shirogane was the first main character to perish, but his death had a massive Break the Cutie effect on the whole team.
- In a rare case NOT involving a villain, Kazuya Uesugi's accidental death in Touch takes place around 1/4 into the plot. . . and completely changes everything. Especially for his Angsty Surviving Twin Tatsuya, The Protagonist of the series.
- 90% of the secondary civilian characters in Watchmen.
- Granch in Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld was an ally of the titular protagonist in the first half of the original maxi-series. As the story progresses, he rallies together his siblings for an attack on the Big Bad Dark Opal (Granch and his siblings were Dark Opal's children, but they were rejected by him due to their deformities, and Opal instead adopted Carnelian to replace them). In the end, all of Granch's siblings are killed, and Granch himself dies in battle against Dark Opal himself. This is at the half-way point of the series.
- Mindfuck, from Empowered, whose death leaves Sistah Spooky barely this side of catatonic and Emp herself with a heaping dose of survivor's guilt.
- Sally Avril from Untold Tales of Spider Man, one of Peter Parker's fellow students. She tries to become a vigilante like Spider-Man, but he tries to dissuade her due to the risks. Undaunted, she later dies in an auto accident after recklessly pursuing Spidey to get photographs of him in action.
- Janet Leigh's character in Psycho is a classic example of this, set up to be the main character, only to be killed horribly early on.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi plays this role in Star Wars Episode IV.
- And mirrored by Qui-Gon Jinn in Episode I.
- And used to a similar degree with Mace Windu in Episode III.
- Russel Franklin, Samuel L. Jackson's character in Deep Blue Sea. Most of the first half of the movie is character development for this man. You get to know him. Get to know how adventuresome and noble and kind-hearted but not naive he is. He even gets to give a moving speech about how they'll all get out of there alive if they just pull together! And then out of the blue, a shark eats him.
- From Serenity:
- Hoban Washburn, pilot extraordinaire, is a perfect example given that the creator of the film admitted he killed the man off just to make the Reavers look even more dangerous and to break the PC Shield.
- Which makes Shepherd Book's death an example as well, killed to make The Operative look even more dangerous.
- Snails, the Plucky Comic Relief from the dubious Dungeons and Dragons movie, abruptly turns into a Sacrificial Lion in the middle of the film when they need to show how evil The Dragon is.
- In the sequel, Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of The Dragon God, Dorian the Cleric bites the dust after getting frozen, eaten and then exploded by a White Dragon... interestingly, nearly everyone else in the party gets horribly wounded and maimed in every single scene after that, when having a Cleric would have been nice.
- Benicio del Toro admitted in the DVD commentary that this was his character's purposes in The Usual Suspects. He also said he added the accent and the behavior, because if he had to die, he at least wanted to be memorable.
- In the 1988 remake of The Blob we follow the character of Paul throughout the first half of the movie and we slowly get to know him, but then he's the second person to be consumed by the blob.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street sets Tina Grey up as a Decoy Protagonist. Then she dies (messily) and we realize that her best friend is the real main character. The remake does something similar.
- Gabriel, the son of Mel Gibson's protagonist character Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, gets a good amount of screen time and character development establishing him as a secondary protagonist. Then Gabriel's love interest and her family are burned to death when the film's Big Bad Tavington locks them in a church and sets it on fire. Gabriel attempts to get vengeance on Tavington, but is instead stabbed to death by Tavington in the fight. Of course, Tavington already crossed the Moral Event Horizon with the church-burning incident, so Gabriel's death basically serves to remind us that it's Mel Gibson's character who's the protagonist, and only he is allowed to finally kill Tavington at the end. Gabriel's death just gives Benjamin Martin added motivation.
- Dick Halloran from The Shining.
- Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, who suffers character decay compared to the first film as a result.
- Parody movie Amazon Women On The Moon has an interesting take on this. An astronaut's character development is alluded to, and is killed about halfway through the movie, but none of this is actually shown due to the film reel being faulty.
- Lt. Hawk in Star Trek: First Contact, while not getting an extreme amount of screentime he was presented as basically Worf's replacement onboard the Enterprise-E while Worf was stationed at Deep Space Nine. Hawk winds up being assimilated by the Borg and shot off into space.
- William Cabot in The Sum Of All Fears is one of these.
- Laurie Strode finally meets her death at the hands of Michael at the beginning of Halloween: Resurrection.
- Liam Neeson's Godfrey in Kingdom of Heaven. Godfrey is wounded about 15 minutes into the film and dies before the 30 minute mark, thus catalyzing his son Balian's new life in the Holy Lands and the main plot of the film. What made Godfrey's death so unexpected was that Liam Neeson was promoted as one of the biggest and most important names in the film.
- The titular lion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He seems to like being this character. He recovers this time though.
- The movie version of L.A. Confidential alternates its focus between the three cops Ed Exley, Bud White, and Jack Vincennes, establishing the characters' different approaches to their duties and their overall personality. Then Jack Vincennes is shot to death in the middle of the third act, letting us know this is a film where Anyone Can Die.
- Avatar has two: Dr. Grace Augustine and Trudy Chacon.
- 28 Weeks Later has at least three. Firstly, it looks like Robert Carlyle's character, Don, is going to be the main protagonist, since he's the biggest name in the film, and most of the promotional material focused on him. However, he's actually the first person infected by the zombie virus. Then Scarlet, a scientist looking for a cure, and Doyle, a soldier who helps them, are the new protagonists. Doyle performs a Heroic Sacrifice pretty soon, and Scarlet is killed by, ironically enough, Don, the film's first Sacrificial Lion.
- And the first film has Frank, infected halfway through.
- Franka Potente's character in The Bourne Supremacy is killed off almost immediately even though she got second billing. Doubly surprising as in the Ludlum novels the Bourne series is (loosely) based on, nothing happens to her character.
- In the 2009 Star Trek film it establishes early on that the second-in-command is George Kirk, Jim Kirk's father. The (memorable) Captain promotes Kirk to captain, implying that he knows full well that he may not make it back alive from the meeting with the Romulan's in the super-powerful ship. Once the ship resumes attacking George Kirk orders an evacuation and stays behind to fight off the Romulans, eventually making suicide run. Spock's mother, too, is killed when Vulcan is destroyed, both of which reinforce that anything can happen in this timeline.
- The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio's character) from The Quick and the Dead gets so much face time he's one of the films Ensemble Darkhorses, but in the end he's gut-shot and left to die in the street simply to show that Harod's so evil he'd kill his own son just to finish a gunfight contest.
- Baragon in Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is the first monster to be summoned to stop Godzilla, and is the first monster to die after being utterly curb-stomped by Godzilla.
- Reservoir Dogs, with Mr. Blonde being shot by Mr. Orange. An inversion since he's the good guy, but it's the first death of a main character, and it ups the ante from will Orange get treatment in time and will the cops bust in, to who will survive.
- Alien has Dallas, the archetypical hero and rugged captain who wind up victim #3.
- Alien 3: When Ripley first crash lands on the prison planet, she is treated by Charles Dance's kindly doctor/former inmate Clemens. As the film progresses, the two form an increasingly close bond and eventually sleep together, implying that Clemens will be a major character and, at the very least, be given a Heroic Sacrifice towards the end - then the alien appears, and Clemens is one of the first to die.
- Alien Resurrection: Don't get too attached to Michael Wincott's Badass ship captain - far from being the grizzlier, outlaw counterpart to the second movie's Corporal Hicks as he first appears, he's the first of the smuggler's to get chomped when the aliens escape their holding cells.
- Ironhide is killed by the treacherous Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (immediately following an awesome Mexican Standoff scene with the 'Cons) by being shot in the back. He has enough time to ask "Why" before Sentinel sadistically "releases" the soldier from duty. It comes as especially shocking as up until then Sentinel was portrayed as an almost grandfatherly figure and mentor to Optimus.
- Many of the allies and love interests of James Bond throughout the series: Quarrel in Dr. No, Karim Bey in From Russia with Love, Paula in Thunderball, Ferrarra in For Your Eyes Only, Veejay in Octopussy, Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill, etc.
- The Avengers has Agent Coulson being impaled by Loki while trying to keep him away from the console that would drop the caged Thor. He does get his Dying Moment of Awesome when he fires off his BFG that he didn't even know what it would do.
- In Jurassic Park Robert Muldoon is a major character, the most knowledgeable about the raptors, and a Badass. Than he gets killed by a raptor while he is trying to snipe one.
- Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men.
- Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
- Jack Chapman, Victor Nieves, and Will Randa in Kong: Skull Island.
- Hayes in the 2006 remake of King Kong.
- In Batman Begins DA Carl Finch is Rachel Dawes’ mentor and seems like an Expy of Harvey Dent, only to be abruptly killed by agents of the League of Shadows.
- In The Perfect Storm Sgt. Millard Jones, one of the trio of Coast Guardsmen who rescue the Mistral and seem to be about to rescue the Andrea Gail drowns when the plane crashes, at which point the film gets a lot bleaker.
- In Independence Day Jimmy and Marilyn are both killed by the aliens.
- Cedric Diggory, the former Trope Namer from Harry Potter. He's introduced a book before, given loads of Character Development, becomes Harry's friend in addition to his rival... and then is rather casually murdered, just to show how evil Voldemort is.
- Mad Eye Moody in the beginning of the seventh Harry Potter book. Immediately after his death, the characters comment on how surprising Moody's death is given his seemingly badass and invincible nature. If Mad-Eye can die, anyone's at risk. This is especially ironic because at the time Mad Eye was riding with Mundungus Fletcher, a veritable Mauve shirt.
- Hedwig Rather distressing given that she had been Harry's faithful pet owl for the entire series up to that point.
- And, quite heartbreakingly, Fred Weasley. It was his death that led to the climax of Harry going off to face Voldemort on his own to prevent more deaths.
- Susan, in Diane Duane's The Book of Night with Moon. She isn't personally involved in the plot, but the Lone Power dropped a car on her in an attempt to push the main character over the Despair Event Horizon. The Lone Power does this a lot.
- In Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, the main action is kicked off by Carcer's murder of Sergeant Stronginthearm. Stronginthearm was a dwarf who was leading a riot against the trolls and was drafted into the new Watch by Captain Carrot in the second of the Watch novels. Since then, he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a mainstay of the City Watch, as evidenced by his rank. His death, while not as shocking as that of a first or second tier character, managed to effectively communicate just how dangerous Carcer was, and how the story was about to take a turn for the worse.
- Despite making it to Sergeant, he receives one lone mention in Discworld/Jingo and a few short scenes in The Fifth Elephant.
- Another Terry Pratchett example in Men at Arms with Cuddy.
- Boromir from Lord of the Rings is a Stealth Sacrificial Lion. He's given as much Character Development as any of the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring, and then is given a Badass death to show just how much meaner than normal orcs the Uruk-hai happen to be.
- Dorelei in Kushiel's Legacy. Perhaps Alcuin and Delaunay qualify as this as well.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Robert Baratheon is a warm-up Sacrificial Lion for the real Sacrificial Lion, namely Eddard Stark.
- If he didn't come Back From the Dead, Aslan would be a quite literal example in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- Most Redwall novels have at least one major character dying halfway through or towards the end of every book. Salamandastron took it up a notch and killed off one of the main characters.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Talent And The Hive novel, Damia, Larak Raven (younger brother and closest relative of the title character) dies when he absorbs the brunt of a psychic attack meant for another. A good amount of the book is spent establishing that Larak his coming into his own as an adult, contrasting the conflicted, unsatisfied life of his sister.
- Partially averted. Larak is openly described as the only T3 rated Talent among his siblings. Mc Caffrey doesn't kill Primes, just the lesser talents can die. A sub-trope maybe?
- The Ben Elton novel Gridlock does this to Decoy Protagonist Geoffrey, creator of the book's MacGuffin.
- Occurs frequently in Matthew Reilly's books. Hawkins in Contest, Book in Ice Station, Van Lewin in Temple... Let's just call it Once an Episode.
- New Jedi Order pulled a pretty major one in Vector Prime, the first book of the series, with Chewbacca.
- The Druid Allanon gets killed in The Wishsong of Shannara, letting you know that this really is the end of an era.
- When Bigwig in Watership Down sets himself up for a toe-to-toe with Woundwort, he fully expects to go out as one of these. It's his last fight, whatever happens, and he knows it. His Crowning Moment of Awesome is to not only subvert the trope but send Woundwort packing in fear - something that had never happened before and (given what happens shortly thereafter) never happens again.
- In The Elenium, Kurik gets this treatment. After spending 3 books demonstrating how he is a match for any knight in the series, he gets unceremoniously slaughtered by Adus.
Live Action TV
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 loves to point these out. Tom Servo once called out, "Ding-ding-ding--VICTIM!" at one blatantly obvious Sacrificial Lion in I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It became a Running Gag as the teen walked through a desolated path.
- Action Girl Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Granted her death was a way to shuffle Denise Crosby off the stage, but story-wise she's killed simply to make the Monster of the Week look even more lethal.
- Jadzia Dax's death in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Tears of the Prophets" is there to make Dukat an even more ominous Big Bad than he already was, and serves to give Sisko a Ten-Minute Retirement in Cliff Hanger form. (Don't worry, Dax gets better).
Eddington: "You don't get to be a captain wearing a gold uniform."
- Season two brings the first of many examples from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Jenny Calendar. She's specifically killed to convince the Scooby Gang that Angelus is an actual threat. And Puccini would never be the same again.
- In the Buffy Spin-Off Angel, Doyle appears in the first episode, gets some strong characterization and a potential Love Interest, and undergoes some noticeable Character Development. Then, he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice in the ninth episode because of his actor's drug habits.. Notably, unlike Jesse in the parent series, Doyle is NOT forgotten, and even in the fifth and final season, his name and legacy are sore spots for the main characters.
- On Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Skulls, Racetrack, Kat, Socinus, Crashdown, Jammer, Dualla, and even Cally are all given screen time, character development, and plot points (in some cases, entire storylines and multi-episode story arcs). And then they die just to show how shitty the situation was.
- Some of those are more Mauve Shirts then sacrificial lions.
- 24 is riddled with these, especially in Season 5. Don't get too attached to anyone in this show; they'll probably be dead by the end of the series.
- Lieutenant Keffer, hotshot pilot of Babylon 5, had an entire season of character development and screen time for the fans to get to know him. Then he's killed in the season finale so everyone would know the Shadows are back and ready to rumble. For fun, this was actually a Writer Revolt: The network insisted on the character.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles:
- Derek Reese gets killed in the penultimate episode of the second season, just to show that the new AI isn't playing around like John Henry and Weaver were.
- Charley Dixon dies the episode before Derek; they are both examples of Anyone Can Die.
- Derek also subverts the trope. Due to time travel, he reappears in the next episode alive and well.
- Damn near everyone in Supernatural. In particular, John Winchester in "In My Time Of Dying", Hendickson in "Jus In Bello" and Jo and Ellen in "Abandon All Hope". Another possible example is Kubrick is "Fresh Blood", as he seems to be getting set up as another recurring antagonist, only to be killed in his second episode. Not to mention Bella (to remind us what's about to happen to Dean) and Anna (angels can stay dead).
- Boone Carlyle in Lost receives a good deal of character development before being the first main character to die, restoring a Anyone Can Die atmosphere to the show that it had lost after the first few episodes (thanks to the weird Disney Death of Charlie) and that it has maintained ever since.
- Cardinal Wolsey's banishment from court and subsequent execution in The Tudors could arguable be a drawn out version of this trope. The show had taken the time to build up Wolsey and establish him as a major force in the royal court and politics of Europe and billed the actor as a member of the main cast. His downfall helped establish Henry's fickle nature and demonstrate that in
this showReal Life Anyone Can Die.
- Though he wasn't executed.
- Agent Charlie Francis of Fringe. After getting through the first season relatively unharmed, being established as Olivia's Wing Man and one of the major Agents in Fringe Division, and surviving a M-Preg gone horribly wrong, we all assumed that Charlie had developed Plot Armor as one of the core characters. Then the writers Dropped a Shape-Shifting Assassin From The Other World On Him.
- Another J.J. Abrams' show, Alias, does the same thing. Irony points, the character in Alias who was replaced by an identical assassin was named Francie. Awfully similar to Francis, ain't it?
- Roughly 40% of the guest stars that featured on Robin Hood, in particular Carter and Legrand.
- Varro on Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
- Pompey Magnus in Rome. Of course, it wasn't a surprise to anyone who knew their history, but being killed halfway through the first season after the show had been focused entirely on the rivalry between him and Julius Caesar still makes it feel pretty abrupt.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy did this in the second episode (two-part season premiere) with the character Mike, leaving his brother Leo to take his place as the Red Ranger for the season. While Leo was obviously The Hero of the story from the beginning, such things never happen in Power Rangers.
- Kendrix's death towards the middle of the season came as quite a shocking conclusion to the Power Rangers in Space crossover (caused due to the actress being diagnosed with leukemia and needing to leave for treatments). Both characters get better.
- Mahou Sentai Magiranger has MagiMother fall in battle to Wolzard at the start of the second episode, leaving her children without her guidance in their battles against Infershia.
- In the fifth season of Burn Notice, Max. They introduce him, give him strong characterization, show that he's one of the rare, unambiguously good guys, and then they kill the shit out of him. And frame Michael in the process.
- In a villainous example (with a show that likes to keep around the really cool bad guys), Brennan is killed just before the season finale by another bad guy, "Dead" Larry.
- Boardwalk Empire plays this trope hard in the second season finale when after seemingly having patched things up Nucky murders Jimmy after two seasons of him as the show's most important character besides Nucky himself.
- Marvel's Agents of SHIELD has played this trope a number of times. Season 6 has Davis, a Mauve Shirt introduced the previous season, have plenty of screen time as he helps Daisy and Jemma in their search for Fitz. Then, later on in the season, he is thrown to his death by Izel, the season's Big Bad.
- Victoria Hand is gunned down halfway through Season One at the moment of Grant Ward's being revealed as TheMole.
- Game of Thrones : The death of Ned Stark in Episode 9 of Season One let people know this is a show where Anyone Can Die. It also made it clear just how dangerous Joffrey was, as he deliberately went against the initial agreed upon banishment to have Ned Stark executed to make an example out of him.
- In 'Beyond the Wall', episode 6 of Season Seven, The Night King (leader of the White Walkers) did what no previous enemy of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons had been able to do when he threw an ice javelin and killed Viserion, one of Daenerys' three dragons. Later on, the Night King raises Viserion to be part of his undead army, making him and the army even more dangerous in the process.
- When Chicago Fire returned for Season 8 after the previous season's cliffhanger endangering most of the main cast, Brian “Otis” Zvonecek is fatally injured in an explosion caused by a mattress factory fire, and dies in the hospital after speaking his last words in Russian to his best friend Joe Cruz. Word of God says this death was to give the series a sense of real danger that it had been lacking in recent years.
- The death of Oliver Queen in the Arrowverse's 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' crossover wasn't a surprise, as it'd been set up as far back as the previous years' 'Elseworlds' crossover, and the prophecy of the death played an important role in much of the eighth season of Arrow. What WAS surprising is that the death (Oliver Queen succumbs to mortal wounds after a Heroic Sacrifice) occurred not in part five of the five-parter, but part one. Word of God says that this was done to surprise the audience and give them the impression that no one is safe and that anything can happen in the crossover event.
- In Romeo and Juliet during Act III, Mercutio is killed by Tybalt in a duel, showcasing the shift from comedy to tragedy and setting the stage (Pun not intended) for the rest of the play.
- Every so often, promotions will give a rookie wrestler a massive push to sell him as a "young, uncannily talented phenom", with a major part of the push involving having the rookie defeat a couple well-established main eventers or former world champions.
- The Cheshire Cat from American McGee's Alice fits this trope very nicely, especially since the last bit of info he tries to impart is that the Queen of Hearts and Alice share the same mind.
- Toroko and King from Cave Story.
- One Guest Star Party Member in every Tales franchise installment with the sole exception of Phantasia.
- Final Fantasy VI:
- General Leo.
- As does Emperor Gestahl, who finds out, to his dismay, that someone else gets to be the Final Boss. He only fits this trope if you think he's a sympathetic character, though.
- Tai in Gears of War 2 fits this mold. Much of the first act is building up his invincible nature and the second act shows how he survived brutal torture by the locust. It breaks him so badly he kills himself. Benjamin Carmine also fits the mold, surviving through the second act and having Marcus and the others noticeably saddened by his death. This is especially noticeable compared to his Sacrificial Lamb brother Anthony Carmine in the first game, who was killed by a random sniper shot in the first act.
- Isara from Valkyria Chronicles.
- Eternal Darkness is loaded with characters who could at least be considered this. At the very least Anthony is an undeniable Sacrificial Lion, and pretty good cases can also be made for Paul and Roberto - though oddly enough, all of these are among the main characters.
- Rhyme Bito in The World Ends With You. Given the information of the instruction booklet, it looked like she would spend the whole game as The Messiah.
- 777, Nao and Sota also serve as this, all of them surviving a fair way into the game and having Character Development before they're offed.
- Subverted in King's Quest V, in that Cedric has been Graham's sidekick for most of the game only to be struck down by Mordack at the very end, but not hard enough to kill him.
- Lars Halford in Brutal Legend. He's initially in charge of La Résistance, and about halfway through the game he makes a bold stand against Emperor Doviculus, declaring that he will lead the humans to rise up and defeat the Tainted Coil. Doviculus basically says "Can't let you do that" and fatally stabs Lars where he stands.
- Final Fantasy VII:
- The original AVALANCHE members, Biggs, Wedge, and Jesse, fill this role. They start off as your initial companions (although not as party members) and are given distinct personalities, but are then promptly killed following a botched attempt to save the Midgar slums.
- Aerith may be a far more definitive version, or possibly fall into another trope.
- In Persona 3, Shinjiro Aragaki was killed off to show just how evil Strega is, and to propel the Character Development of Ken Amada and Akihiko Sanada, both of whom reach a degree of personal resolution and receive upgraded Personas as a result. Given that he's a well-balanced character and that he has his own personal weapon type that you can continue buying until the end of game (quite unlike most temporary guest characters), it can come as a bit of a shock.
- Guild Wars:
- Kehanni in Nightfall, whose death is the catalyst for General Morgahn's Heel Face Turn.
- To some extent, Rurik in Prophecies, although curiously both he and the dwarves who kill him are forgotten almost immediately thereafter. You finally do end up fighting the dwarves much later in the game, although without mention of them being the guys responsible for Rurik's death.
- And while his popularity with the fans is debatable, Yijo Tahn serves the same role in Factions. He goes through a few starting missions with you and is pretty much Togo's other star student...until he gets sent to help the victims of the plague and ends up as an Afflicted.
- Yoshimo from Baldur's Gate 2. Mind you, you're the one who kills him, but showing that he's been an unwilling The Mole for the Big Bad all along helps.
- Fate/stay night:
SaberAll the Servants except Rider in the Heavens Feel route. It's a good thing they added about half a dozen characters to the main lineup for this one or we'd be down to Shirou and Tohsaka and no villain.
- Archer in the Fate route. Though the anime gave him his crowning moment here, in the game it happened offscreen.
- The protagonists brother in Red Faction: Guerrilla. He dies after the tutorial mission, conveniently after you have explained to him you just want to do "honest work" and "are not a terrorist". His death turns you into one. Not by choice.
- Halo 3:
- Miranda Keyes. This definitely qualifies as a Player Punch also.
- And, a little later, Sergeant Johnson gets killed, just to remind you of Halo: Combat Evolved and of how annoying 343 Guilty Spark was and then rubbing it in your face when you think he may actually be able to redeem himself.
- Call of Duty 4:
- Hawk in Soldier of Fortune. You get to watch the Big Bad execute him two thirds of the way through the game. Big Player Punch.
- Happens repeatedly in Final Fantasy II (to Josef, Minwu, Richard and Cid), to the point where the GBA Enhanced Remake (and every other one after it) had a bonus game, Dawn Of Souls, made up entirely of playable characters who had died (and cameos from other non-playable characters who had also died), and now they're fighting on in the next life. In fact, parts of FFII felt more like a Kill'Em All in a similar vein to death-saturated stories like The Silmarillion.
- Tellah in Final Fantasy IV. Though his death was probably foreshadowed as an inevitability by the fact that Tellah's stats never go up (and sometimes decline) when he's Level Grinding. He still manages to Take a Level In Badass giving his last battle all he's got.
- Galuf in Final Fantasy V. Though it wasn't as much a practical loss because, upon his death, all his abilities were instantly transferred to his granddaughter Krile, who continued his role in the party as if nothing had changed. Also, his death was remarkably similar to Tellah's in the previous example.
- Anyone who's played the series knows Fire Emblem is an Anyone Can Die series. However, Genealogy Of The Holy War gets MEAN with this. Upon hitting Chapter 5: Door to Destiny (Fitting name) you see 2 former party members die to a boss that you can't fight, but the real kick is when you clear that chapter -- you're treated to the "Battle" of Bahara -- and the death of not 1 character, but the death of damn near the ENTIRE CAST. And Now for Someone Completely Different...
- During the Virmire mission in the first Mass Effect game, two of your party members become mutually exclusive. There is no way around it, and they'll both insist that you should have saved the other one afterwards. You can also lose Wrex, but that one's avoidable.
- The sequel has your entire original ship, several of its crew, and, best of all, you. Later, your ship is attacked again, and nearly every member of your crew is taken. This time, however, you can rescue them.
- Mass Effect 3, being set in a galactic war, has several instances of this with your own party members, current and past. Your choices throughout all three games can defy some of these cases, however. There is on case of a sacrficial lion that is unavoidable in Thane Krios, one of the deadliest assassins in the galaxy, whose only role in the game is to be killed by Kai Leng after a quick one on one duel, thus demonstrating just how deadly and ruthless he and Cerberus can be.
- There's also one other choice regarding the Genophage cure where you have to either martyr Mordin to cure the Krogans or refuse to finish the cure and instead kill Wrex after he becomes enraged at Shepard's betrayal of his trust. Plus, Captain Anderson, who's essentially been Shepard's mentor since the beginning of the original game, dies regardless of his/her actions... it just determines whether he dies quickly or manages to have one final poignant scene with Shepard before his death at the end.
- Briggs the pirate in Golden Sun Dark Dawn. Killed by the shadow monsters spawned by the Grave Eclipse, during the mission to rescue his son Eoleo (who then joins your party to avenge him).
- Leo from The Witcher.
- Duncan from Dragon Age Origins is introduced as The Obi-Wan after you lose everyone else in your Origin, only to be killed off a bit later, before he can even start acting this role.
- In Blaze Union, we have Siskier in route A, Luciana in route B, and Jenon in route C. Each route also has a few sympathetic enemy characters who serve a similar purpose, at least as far as showing the situation's direness goes.
- Several of the heroes in Mortal Kombat 9 play a large part of the overall story, only to be Killed Off for Real near the end to show how truly catastrophic the changes to the timeline has become.
- Left 4 Dead's Bill was one of the playable survivors in the first game. In "The Passing", his corpse can be found slumped up against a generator, his cigarette still in his mouth and his M-16, which you can loot for yourself, in his hands.
- In the DLC campaign "The Sacrifice" you can relive his last moments.
- Emma from The Last Remnant dies in combat against the Conqueror when he single-handedly invades Athlum and steals their Remnant. The impact of her death is only slightly lessened by the arrival of her younger daughter Emmy, who immediately replaces her.
- Almost all of the friendly NPCs in Dark Souls end up dying or going hollow, losing their humanity to the curse of the Undead in the ruins of Lordran.
- In one version of Ao Oni, after evading the titular monster and navigating through its house, Hiroshi eventually reunites with his friends. As they debate whether or not the creature's real or some sort of Scooby-Doo Hoax, Takuro tries to take charge and tells everyone not to panic. Cue the Ao Oni popping up and biting his head clean off, effectively proving it's more than some guy in a suit.
- In Slightly Damned, Sakido gets sniped by a demon-slaying arrow just as the story setting moves from Hell to the mortal realm. Word of God has actually stated that Sakido's entire purpose was to have the readers grow attached to her only to see her cruelly picked off right when she, Rhea and Buwaro were about to earn their happy ending.
- In Cuanta Vida, Gabry (better known simply as Red) is clever, vivacious, and determined. He's also the lover of Liam (the BLU Sniper) and the guy masterminding the entire escape plan - generally the guy most of the cast is counting on despite his quirkiness. Then, this happens.
- In Homestuck, Jade's Dream Self gets killed off by Jack, mostly to show how deathly seriously broken their game is.
- Most recently, Jack's first action after being prototyped with Becquerel is to kill Bro, whom he had been fighting with on equal terms before.
- And even later, trolls have begun to die.
- Not just any trolls. Equius, Eridan and Vriska, certainly the most physically powerful of the trolls, have all been killed. The worst part? They were killed by other trolls. Remember, these characters respectively were able to punch off a high-level ogre's head in one hit, slaughter dozens of powerful angels, and put up a fight against freaking Jack Noir.
- In Panthera, the Sacrificial Lion (pun not intended) is Valeska Köhler when the Big Bad demonstrates that this is a Matter of Life and Death.
- In Fite, Guz is one of the two main characters and Lucco's Heterosexual Life Partner, and he eventually is killed by a Frogera while Lucco is fighting the King Mook. Guz is then absorbed by Lucco, and seems to be a Spirit Advisor to him after he wakes up.
- Pauline, from Our Little Adventure. Her murderer wasn't the Big Bad, but she was the first non-recoverable casualty in Julie's quest. Julie of course does not take it well, at least until Pauline's funeral which gives Julie and her friends a chance to good bye properly.
- Order of the Stick makes one out of Roy!.
- Also done with the half-orc female ninja Therkla
- Lieutenant Brad from Schlock Mercenary. Other toughs have died as well, but this guy got a lot of character development (he starter out as a Corporal..
- In the first arc of Goblins, a lot of characters die to show that really Anyone Can Die. Then, for a long time, no major protagonist dies. Later, in book 4, a main character dies on both story arcs: K'seliss and Chief.
- JJ Sturn of Survival of the Fittest was built up to be one of the most important characters of v4. Then came along Jimmy Brennan...
- Virtually every single one of Sonic and Shadow's friends qualify in Super Mario Bros Z, and it served to show just how much of a ruthless and horrific monster Mecha Sonic became, as well as the bleakness of the situation of fighting against him.
- Jon, a developed but secondary character, was killed but the CRG. This utterly changed the playing board.
- In Gaia Online's recent/current (began in spring 2010, still active as of spring 2012) deicide story arc, one of the first victims was Johnny K. Gambino, who up until that point had Plot Armor that could (and did) bounce a World Sundering Kaboom.
- General Donald Doyle in Red vs. Blue’s thirteenth season.
- If there was any question of just what Transformers Animated's Shockwave was made of, it was removed when he crushed Blurr into a cube.
- Cliffjumper in Transformers Prime, who's killed by Starscream in the intro of the first episode. Surprisingly, although the set-up puts him in the category of a sacrificial lamb, his death has a significant effect on the Autobots as they come together closer as a team and with their human friends. And it makes them a little sore when confronting the Decepticons later on.
- A rare villainous version occurs in Crossfire, with Breakdown getting evicerated by Airachnid to show she's cutting ties with the Decepticons.
- Cliffjumper in Transformers Prime, who's killed by Starscream in the intro of the first episode. Surprisingly, although the set-up puts him in the category of a sacrificial lamb, his death has a significant effect on the Autobots as they come together closer as a team and with their human friends. And it makes them a little sore when confronting the Decepticons later on.
- Spoofed in Clone High, in which Ponce d'Leon would appear to be one of these if not for the fact that he's introduced in the same episode that he snuffs it, as well as the amusingly obvious foreshadowing of his death. Both the next-episode preview and the cold open feature the narrator making a big deal of "a clone dies tonight!"
- The Incredibles originally planned on having a civilian airplane pilot killed after being shot down to prove that the bad guys were playing for keeps. Fortunately for him, the creators of the film decided that it would take too long to introduce the character for long enough to make the audience care about his death, and the character's role was reduced to simply loaning Helen a plane.
- Watch that scene--right after the main body of the airplane hits the water between the main characters, there's a shot looking down into the depths for a few seconds as the plane sinks. The pilot's hat was originally supposed to be drifting forlornly upwards in that shot, making it look a little pointless without it.
- Another Pixar example would be Rod "Torque" Redline from Cars 2.
- The death of Jet in Avatar: The Last Airbender certainly counts. He's killed soon after redeeming himself, and besides the fact that it came because he helped Aang find Appa again, his death doesn't otherwise benefit the heroes in the least (not like Yue's in the Book One finale). Add to it that he died in "Book Two: Chapter 17" - only three episodes before the (temporary) death of Aang himself - and it really emphasises the seriousness of the conflict. It almost pushes the series into Anyone Can Die territory, but not quite.
- Was Jet really killed?
- Master Thundering Rhino from Kung Fu Panda 2 is killed by Lord Shen's cannon.
- In Final Space the show shifts into Cerebus Syndrome at full throttle after Avocato dies right after reuniting with his son Little Cato.