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On a scale of one to four, how dead is this guy?

It's a sad state of affairs when a beloved character dies, some fans won't even accept it as real, a predicament made all the more confusing because characters rarely stay dead. Because of this, fans love to speculate (morbidly) on the odds of a character coming Back from the Dead. The result is a kind of "Sorting Algorithm Of Deadness", where the circumstances, cause, genre, and reaction caused by a death are tallied up to see just how dead a character really is.

To use the Algorithm, take each column's "Death Value", multiply it by the number of ticks in that column, add it all up and divide by the number of applicable rows.

Relative deadness factor Deader Than Dead Maybe Back Later Be Back Soon Death? What's That?
Death Value 4 3 2 1
Cause of death Irony, Bridge Drop, Overkill, Stuffed in The Fridge, Ret-Gone Redemption, Sacrifice, Bus Crash, Mortal Wound Reveal No One Could Survive That, just plain killed in battle Jumping
Audience Expectation Anyone Can Die, Kill'Em All Killed Off for Real, Tonight Someone Dies Disney Death Back from the Dead, Death Is Cheap, Nobody Can Die
Body Found? Dead and Buried Only Bits And Pieces At The Morgue Never Found, Frozen, Petrified Left for Dead
Reaction Montage, Bond One-Liner He's Dead, Jim It's Personal Faux Death
Last Words Crap, Killed Mid-Sentence, Carry on men, His Name Is-- Catch Phrase, Famous Last Words, Final Speech, Obi-Wan Moment "Fly, you fools!" "Piece of cake" "My Death Is Just the Beginning"
Characterization Red Shirt, Loved One, Mauve Shirt Recurring Character, C-List Fodder Regular Protagonist, Archvillain
When did they die? 10+ years ago, Series Finale 5–10 years ago Same year Same arc
"Died" and come back? Not yet Died once, but got better Twice I've lost count

To see calculations-of-permanence-of-death in action, see the Wild Mass Guess Sorting Algorithm of Deadness, on the subpages of which this table has been copied for clarity's sake. Also remember that the author may choose to subvert this trope and bring back a character no matter how 'dead' he should be, sometimes horrifically as an Undead. Of course, sometimes a low score on the algorithm is no guarantee that the character hasn't been Killed Off for Real.

See the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality to determine whether a character is likely to die in the first place.

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


Baseline Example: The death of Superman.

  • Cause: Heroic Sacrifice, so he's not coming back from that too quickly, or the sacrifice will be cheapened. 3.
  • Genre: It's a comic book, so Death Is Cheap. 1.
  • The Body: Deader Than Dead, a Pietà Plagiarism too for supes sake! So no chance of Faking the Dead. 4.
  • Reaction: Really Dead Montage, uh-oh. 4.
  • Characterization: Protagonist. 1.
  • When did he die: Same year, so 2.
  • Come Back?: This was a first, so 4.
  • Average: So add it up... we get a pretty high score, 19! Since it's not a videogame, divide by 7, and we get... 19/7 = 2.7, meaning supes isn't coming back for at least a few months, maybe even years. In actuality the Death Of Superman happened in January 1993 and he came back some time before May 1994.

Now let's make a prediction with the recent[when?] death of Batman in Final Crisis.

  • Cause: Heroic Sacrifice, give or take. 3.
  • Genre: Comic book, so Death Is Cheap. 1.
  • The Body: Dead and buried, but it's a little more complicated. Still, it's a 4.
  • Reaction: He's Dead Clark, plus "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" probably counts as a Really Dead Montage. 3.5.
  • Last Words: "Try Me." 3.
  • Characterization: It's The Goddamn Batman, people. 1.
  • When did he die: Same year, so 2.
  • Come Back?: This would be the first time, so 4.
  • Average: 21.5/8= 2.7. A semi-high score, and DC seems to be sticking to this one for a while. Still, he'll definitely be back, likely before the end of 2010 at the latest. CORRECT!


Specific examples are explored on the subpages:


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