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"See? It happens every time! Just as they're about to tell you who the murderer is... they get killt!"
—MAD, "Kane Keen, Private Eye"
The informer, about to give the hero a key piece of information, is killed before he can tell who is th--
Frequently, the scene is stretched out by the informer being excessively verbose before dying without actually getting to the important information. Sometimes, he's dying and goes on at length about how he doesn't have the strength left to provide the necessary information; this is, naturally, Played for Laughs.
In many cases where the informant is killed by an unknown assassin, the hero is just as easy a target, prompting viewers to wonder why the assassin doesn't just kill the hero instead and end the story right there. A well-made story will arrange the scene so that the hero isn't a viable target (behind an obstacle, on the other end of a phone call, etc.), and in rare cases, the Big Bad has a reason to let the hero live... for now.
- Spoofed in an advertisement for Call Waiting (Miss Marple is yakking to Hercule Poirot on the phone and doesn't realise the witness is trying to ring through (...and so nine out of the ten ate the pumpkin soup!).
Witness: "The killer is...ggarrghh!"
Anime and Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion did this to an absurd extent in order to keep Shinji from learning that his friend Touji is the pilot of the possessed Eva Unit-03 until after he'd nearly been killed.
- Apart from the fact that nobody actually dies in the process, in the anime, at least.
- South Burning in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, about halfway through the series, manages to get his hands on a briefcase detailing the enemy's forces and plans, taking some apparently minor hits to his mobile suit in the process. As the heroes fly back to their ship, he opens the briefcase and starts reading through it, discovering the enemy plans are much more far-reaching than anyone imagined. Just as he starts to tell his protege, Kou Uraki what he's discovered, Burning's mecha explodes. Which would've been far more shocking if we hadn't been shown constant cuts to that seemingly minor damage throughout the second half of the episode.
- Said character got loads upon loads of Retirony in the first half of the episode, making the death even easier to see coming.
- In the first arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Legend of the Golden Witch, the protagonist Battler's father, Rudolf, tells his son and wife that there is something he needs to talk to both of them about later something that is later heavily implied to be something related to Battler's birth, and then indicates that he seems to know he might die. Which he does.
- In the second arc, Kanon is killed right as he's about to tell Jessica his real name.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, when Ed has defeated one of the Animated Armor guards at Lab 5, he convinces him to give him an explanation of at least some of what's going on... but then Lust and Envy shut the guy up before he can tell Ed anything useful.
- In Death Note, Light is just about to get L's real name off Misa when L saves himself by having her arrested. And by stealing her phone.
- In Darker Than Black, Wei kills Kirihara's informant just before he can come in to provide evidence.
- In Naruto just when Aoba is about to see Tobi/Madara's true face by delving into the memories of an unconscious Kisame, the latter forces himself to wake up by biting through his own tongue and then commits suicide using his summoned sharks.
- While not totally played straight, in Detective Conan, during one of the mysteries, Takagi is going to reveal the man who killed Detective Sato's father on his cell phone. As he's about to tell her the culprits name, a dark shadow appears behind him and slams a rock upon his head, instantly knocking him out as we later learn.
- Pretty much defines Dorothea Ernst in Code Geass.
- Played for Laughs in Mahou Sensei Negima, when mind-controlled Negi is about to say who he likes most, but Yue and Nodoka stun everyone and drag him away.
- Lampshaded in, of all things, an issue of the classic Stan Lee-Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man. The Crime Master is mortally wounded in a gunfight, and then declares that if he's going down, the Green Goblin will go down with him. He attempts to reveal the Goblin's secret identity (which was not known at the time). "The Goblin is..." and then he dies. The lampshading comes when one of the police officers at the scene comments "If I saw that happen in a mystery movie, I'd laugh at how corny it was."
- One day, Batman discovers that his parent's killer, Joe Chill is still alive and kicking and a rising gang leader, and after tormenting him for a while, reveals his Secret Identity to Chill. Chill freaks out and goes and tells his mob (without revealing the name). His irate mob, realising that Chill essentially created Batman, shoot him to the point of near-death. It's only then that they realize that they didn't know who exactly Batman was. Chill nearly is able to croak it out, but Batman barges in at that moment.
- Also happens in the Hush arc, where Batman's mechanic, Harold is about to reveal the identity of the person who bribed him into betraying Batman, when he is shot in the head by the villian in question.
- Parodied in, of all places, a Disney comic book storyline, namely one by Italian writer/artist Silvia Ziche, known for having a thing for either single-panel jokes or long story arcs. During said storyline, Il Papero Del Mistero, better known as Papernovela, Scrooge, acting as a typical "landlord" Soap Opera character, is about to tell his family the reward for solving his riddle, he... he doesn't die (nor it is said), but... he suddenly becomes voiceless. Hilarity Ensues.
- Done in Tintin to great effect. The first one is played pretty much straight (before the victim is shot with something to make him go insane) in Cigars of the Pharaoh and the second one is played straight in The Secret of the Unicorn but is ultimately subverted as the victim recovers.
- Subverted in the terrible, terrible Troll Fic Light and Dark - The Adventures of Dark Yagami. Someone is about to reveal to L that Light Yagami is Kira. He manages to say "Kira is Light Yaga..." before he dies, but the world's greatest detective has no idea what he means to say.
- The very poorly-formatted but otherwise bearable Batman fan-fiction screenplay Batman: Masked Souls ends with Bane trying to tell a coast guard officer that Bruce Wayne really is Batman, before Bane falls dead (or unconscious?)
- An assassin working with Boba Fett's father, Jango Fett, fails to reveal Fett's name thanks to some kind of poison dart he shoots at her in Star Wars Episode II.
- The dart was ordered by Palpatine; he wanted the Jedi to go to Kamino.
- R.K. Maroon is shot before he can finish telling Eddie the truth about the Acme murder in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
- In the Battlestar Galactica movie, "Razor," Kendra Shaw's radio cuts out (and then she gets blown up) before she can reveal that, according to the Hybrid, Kara Thrace will lead the humans to their end. It takes until halfway through season 4 before anyone else manages to get this information again.
- Brilliantly parodied in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, where Lieutenant Frank Drebin fails to retrieve the information from a dying thug, and starts looking for another informant.
Lt. Frank Drebin: All right, who else is almost dead?
- Monty Python and The Holy Grail subverts this because this is carved into a wall and the knights all argue over whether that's actually the castle's name or if he died while writing it. It turns out it is indeed the castle's name.
King Arthur: What does it say, Brother Maynard?
- Variation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - the Klingon conspirator on Rura Penthe has recaptured Kirk and Mccoy and Kirk asks him who's the mastermind. He replies "As you're all going to die anyway, why not tell you - His Name Is..." and then the two of them are beamed away, much to Kirk's aggravation.
Kirk: Son of a - Couldn't you have waited two seconds? They were just about to tell us the whole thing!
- Similar variation in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The Big Bad has the hero at gunpoint, and is just about to tell him the secret of how he controls the killer tomatoes before shooting him — when the crazed parachuting flyboy from earlier in the film crashes into the room and runs the villain through with a sword.
- Subverted in Shrek the Third when the king is dying. He cuts off mid-sentence and seems to die twice before he finally dies for real; the second time ends with "His name is--", but he manages to finish his sentence when before he actually dies.
- What's Up, Tiger Lily? - a dying mook tells the hero "Beware of the man with...with...with...with..." into the fadeout.
- Happens in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Tuco manages to find out the name of the graveyard where the money is buried, but the soldier dies before he learns the name of the grave it's buried in. Blondie on the other hand did...
- Carry On Spying.
"His name is...ohhhh uhhhh!"
- The film version of Death on the Nile (see Literature) has someone aggravatingly slowly telling that she witnessed a murder. Her last words are "and I saw that it was - " before being shot in the head.
- Happens in Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile: a nosy female witness is shot in the head mere seconds before she names the culprit. One of the detectives races to the door and finds a smoking gun lying on the floor outside, and nobody who could have fired the shot is to be seen anywhere.
- In an another Christie novel, After the Funeral, a character is talking on the phone; just before she could reveal a clue, she's struck on the head (but doesn't die).
- Christie is fond of these. It happens again in A Murder Is Announced, when Miss Murgatroyd is trying to tell someone who wasn't in the room, and therefore was the killer. Not a strict example, since the person she's talking to, leaves, not realizing the importance of what Miss Murgatroyd is saying, and Miss Murgatroys is killed shortly afterwards.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. Mr Crouch turns up out of nowhere, babbling insanely, and then is killed while Harry runs for help. He does actually manage to denounce his murderer ( his son) before his death, but because it comes in the middle of a stream of insane babbling, everyone ignores it, especially because the person in question is supposed to be dead.
- Done by a robot in Isaac Asimov's Robots and Empire. The robot has accidentally risked shooting a human and is breaking down as a result; it attempts to tell its interrogators that its masters are hiding out on Three Mile Island but only manages to get out the word "mile", along with a couple of mouth motions.
- In Asimov's Foundation and Empire, when Ebling Mis offers to tell where the Second Foundation secretly resides, Bayta blasts him dead because she knew the Mule was listening.
- A Real Life version of this trope is mentioned in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, where a victim on being asked by police who shot him replied, "I'll tell you in a minute." Thirty seconds later he died.
- Happens in The Krytos Trap. Kirtan Loor, aware that Isard will have him killed soon, goes to the New Republic and offers to trade information about Isard's machinations in exchange for his life. They accept, Loor takes a speeder with a New Republic agent, and when they arrive, that agent's husband, who had unwittingly been one of Isard's Manchurian Agents, shoots Loor, tries to shoot his wife while babbling apologies, and is shot by her. Loor dies alone while the agent weeps over her dying husband. Ultimately somewhat subverted, since Loor had a datacard on his person with some of the information he was prepared to tell them.
- John Dickson Carr's Dark of the Moon has one suspect go through this. Subverted in that she survives (though obviously she doesn't recover enough to say anything until after the killer's already caught) and the fact that she was about to accuse someone of multiple crimes - including incest - that the accused didn't do.
- In Warrior Cats, it's zigzagged. Runningwind is dead and Fireheart sees Whitethroat, who he assumes to be the killer. Whitethroat is hit by a car after Fireheart realizes it wasn't him. Fireheart asks who killed Runningwind, and Whitethroat says who it was but Fireheart can't hear him over the noise of a passing car. Fireheart asks again, but Whitethroat dies just as he's about to say it, however he has a look of horror in his eyes. Then Fireheart turns around and sees the killer right there.
Live Action TV
- The title comes from the pilot episode of Get Smart. The informant blurts out the villain's name right away, and gloats that he escaped the death that always happens to the guy about to say the name. However, Smart forgets the name and asks the informant to repeat it. The informant isn't so lucky the second time.
- This scene definitely was in the episode 4.2 "Ironhand".
- Lampshaded in "Get Smart Again" where Smart tackles the informant to the ground when he is about to reveal the name, stating that "this is the part where they always get shot before telling us" (paraphrased, sorry). The informant still gets shot before revealing what he knows.
- One episode of Burn Notice in the first season features an (obviously doomed) informant meeting the main character on a rooftop to switch sides and give him valuable information. He doesn't do so well.
- In the series finale of Remington Steele, Steele discovers that his longtime mentor, Daniel Chalmers, is also his father. Chalmers dies just as Steele is asking him, "What is my real name?"
- Happens on Dinosaurs when the Sinclairs take their baby to the chief elder for naming. Their son gets stuck with "Augh Ugh I'm Dying You Idiot".
- In an episode of Babylon 5, a severely wounded man manages to spit out "They're going to kill him! They're going to kill --" before dying. During the investigation, Security Chief Michael Garibaldi is severely wounded; he makes a visible point of finishing the sentence before the medical staff cart him away. It's "they're going to kill the President", and they do.
- Parodied in Fat Guy Stuck In The Internet, when Watcher-Teacher dies very slowly, rambling on and on about how he wishes he had the time to tell Ken Gemberling of his destiny, prompting Gemberling to yell, "Just replace the words that you're saying with the ones about my destiny!"
- Happens constantly on Twenty Four, generally prompting Jack Bauer to scream "DAMMIT!"
- Inverted on Lost. Although wounded and dying, Libby is able to say the name of her and Ana Lucia's murderer... but since the murderer in question is one of them and was also wounded (as part of a trick to make them think the killer was the man they'd been holding prisoner), they think she's asking about his well-being, not noticing the frightened look on her face.
- Played straight with "I need you to go there and find my mother. Her name is..." before Daniel travels throught time.
- Becomes a Running Gag in the Wayne and Shuster sketch "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga".
"That's a funny name. Must be an Egyptian."
- In Castle, Detective John Raglan — the lead investigator into the unsolved murder of Beckett's mother — calls her up and asks for a meet, as he has important information to deliver. He instead rambles nervously for a bit about coffee and Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol, this giving the sinister conspiracy he's on the verge of exposing enough time to ensure that he never, ever tells anyone anything again just as he's about to spit it out.
- Happens again in "Dial M for Mayor". The suspect, who is working for the Big Bad of the entire series, is pressed for a name. And then cracks. After an agonizing series of pauses and false starts and more pauses and significant looks, the suspect says, "His... name... is...", and suddenly a mysterious lawyer shows up, declares that he's been retained to represent the suspect, and that he's advising his client to exercise his right to remain silent.
- Happened every second or third episode of the Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? game show, with a recurring character known as The Dying Witness.
- It happened several times in one episode of former Brazilian comedy show "Tv Pirata". A network was suffering several acts of sabotage. Everyone who tried to tell the culprit's name before the climax was killed at the exact point, prompting people to ask who that "Ooooohhhh" was. One of the trope's victims was even stabbed to death with a spoon because the killer ran out of knives.
- Red vs. Blue mocked this. After Captain Flowers was revived from death (eight hundred years in the future. Don't think about it too hard), he's about to tell Tucker the secret to beating the Red Team, but keeps delaying it until he's shot in the head.
Tucker: Hey, I could use some help.
- Happens again when Caboose is distracting Sheila the Tank so the others can shut her down (they think the Omega AI is controlling her)
Sheila: I am not host to the Omega AI, however, I know who is.
- In A Very Potter Musical, Snape is fatally poisoned by a snake bite to the wiener, reveals that Harry is the final horcrux and needs to sacrifice himself, and claims to know another way to fix everything:
- This just might be a literal statement. Technically speaking, Harry WOULD need to die, and Snape had a good opportunity for... well, demonstrating the technique.
- In Team Fortress 2's "Meet The Spy", the Blu Spy is explaining that anybody in the room could be the Red Spy. His long, dramatic speech ends with "It could be you! It could be me! It could even be-" He is then shot in the face by the Soldier's shotgun, who thought the Blu Spy was obviously the Red Spy in disguise. He wasn't.
- Aldaris is killed just before he can reveal a critical piece of information in Starcraft: Brood War.
- This happens in the 1998 videogame version of Mission Impossible, when an informant dies in the middle of giving information, Ethan Hunt says "I just knew he wasn't going to finish that sentence..."
- Half Life: Once the player makes it to the surface, he's greeted by a guard. The guard starts to relay a message to you, telling you to "watch out for-" before taking a bullet in the back and collapsing at your feet.
- Half Life 2 episode 2: Eli Vance starts to tell Gordon (and by extension the anxious player) about the mysterious G-Man, only to be interrupted before he can get to any of the juicy stuff. He doesn't survive long enough to resume the conversation. The by now rather jaded player is not surprised.
- Averted in the Kingdom Hearts series. This very line is said many times, but instead of the character getting killed, it was just Nomura setting up a moment for The Reveal.
- Played straight when Vexen almost reveals Roxas's existence to Sora, when Axel kills him.
- Thankfully averted in Grim Fandango. Glottis almost does this. "It could save me, if you have the right... *cough cough* The right... *cough* Fuel..." Of course, he doesn't stay conscious long enough to tell you exactly what fuel, but he probably didn't have any idea and figuring it out yourself makes for a nice puzzle.
- In Call of Duty Black Ops, the defecting scientist Clarke mentions numbers that fit into Dragovich's plan, but is interrupted by a firefight before he can elaborate. A little later on, while your group is trying to avoid sliding off a roof, Hudson asks him about them again, and Clarke begins telling him...before getting shot in the head.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link's uncle says, "Zelda is your...." then dies. Many speculated that the line would read "Zelda is your sister" or "Zelda is your destiny" but this is never brought up again later in the game. The GBA rerelease averts this trope by rewriting the dialogue to omit the line entirely.
- Taken to its logical extreme in Link To the Awesome when Link desperately tries to revive his uncle to get an answer, not wanting to accidentally commit incest in the future.
- In Mirror's Edge, hired thug/assassin Ropeburn gets shot just before telling you who hired him.
- In Batman: Arkham City, the first of Deadshot's victims is killed just as he's about to tell Batman the specifics of his work during the construction of Arkham City. A particularly bad case of the Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? variant, as Deadshot had a clear line of sight and we're explicitly told later in the sidequest that Batman was one of his targets, and the game even has you to stand around investigating the crime scene for a while before leaving.
- This is handwaved by the fact that Deadshot follows his own, extremely strict code - he has been scheduled to kill Batman at a specific time, and refuses to do it beforehand. That would be wrong.
- Happens in Dragon Quest IV: After defeating the Marquis de Leon, when you talk to Nun the Wiser in a shrine near Havre Leon, she almost reveals Estark's name before she suddenly chokes up and dies.
- Shogo: Mobile Armor Division has an interesting take on this when Kura is cornered and arrested by the CMC. She manages to tell Sanjuro that his brother Toshiro is Gabriel, but only starts a sentence with "Cothineal-" before she is taken away. She does, however, survive to tell you that Cothineal is controlling Toshiro.
- In Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, Peach's last e-mail message to Mario is interrupted before she can tell him or the player that the villains want the Shadow Queen to claim her body.
- The first Resident Evil game and the remake has Enrico, the leader of Bravo Team, tell you there's a traitor, however he is shot just before telling Chris or Jill who it is. A savvy player can find several clues to their identity before they reveal themselves: a slideshow of the bioweapons purposely created that includes a photo of the people involved, a file on security procedures that reveals their name, and if the character you play as finds the other missing playable character they'll reveal who it is.
- The Neo-Geo arcade game Art of Fighting has this in the ending, in which either Ryo or Robert beat up Mr. Karate badly, but just before they finish him off, Yuri suddenly appears to reveal Mr. Karate's identity, however before she can do so it cuts away to a "To Be Continued?" shot.
- Subverted in the Super NES version, in which they reveal Mr. Karate to be Takuma Sakazaki. He would go on to explain how he ended up in the situation he was in.
- Parodied in Sluggy Freelance, during the X-Files story arc. The waitress is shot while reciting the daily specials. One of the FBI agents dramatically demands to know what she was going to say, but she dies right before she can finish.
- Another time, it momentarily appears that this happens to Bun-bun's informant, but then it's revealed to have been a cut to where the bad guys who were supposed to kill that informant are killing the wrong guy who was just about to reveal someone the location of a rave.
- Parodied in Irregular Webcomic number 443
- Played almost straight in this Scary Go Round strip.
- Played for laughs in Rorschach and Deadpool. The pair finds four different informants, and Deadpool shoots every one of them as they finish saying the name of the trope. Purely because he finds their voices irritating.
- The Simpsons parody of 24. Bart has to tell Lisa the name of the traitor to the Counter Truancy Unit (CTU). "Now I don't have much time so I'm just gonna come out and say his name. So get ready to know his name. His name is the following. M-" ... and Martin knocks Bart unconscious.
- An episode of Doug featuring one of the Quail-Man adventures had Quail-Man asking Silver Skeeter, who had been half-frozen in a block of something like carbonite, who froze him. He replies saying he doesn't have the strength to say the name and is too worried he'll get halfway through telling him before he's completely frozen. When Quailman demands that he try, this is exactly what happens.
- Used in the Adventure Time episode "Mystery Train" where Colonel Candycorn was about to reveal who his enemy was.
"...and his or her name is-"
- The Duck Of Mystery
- Duck (Soap) Opera
- As well as a pizza boy and a random passerby, hell, even Rorschach