Resurrection (story trope)

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)back from the dead, back to life, no one stays dead forever
Related tropes/genresReincarnation, Alternate Universe, Immortality
Related articles on Fanlore.

Resurrection is a common trope in many fandoms. While it is particularly common in canon sources with magical elements, its variants can occur in more "realistic" sources as well.

Resurrection is different from Reincarnation which often involves a destiny-type storyline and is distinguished by a person being reborn as a child, sometimes with no memory of who they once were (at least at first). Instead, resurrection may involve anything from a very brief death where someone is simply mistakenly believed to have died, to someone being gone for years and somehow brought back. But it does not involve the following:

  • An actor returning (or continuing) in a canon as a form of doppleganger to the original character (i.e., Madeline "Maddy" Ferguson in Twin Peaks, or Harmony Kendall in Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • Ongoing use of flashbacks to a time when the character was alive
  • Storylines that turn out to be extended dream sequences where the character dies but actually doesn't in the canon's timeline (i.e., Bobby Ewing in Dallas, or Dan Conner in Roseanne) or deaths of a character in an Alternate Universe storyline.

Canon Uses

The killing off of characters [1] and then the (often) return of characters from the dead [2] has become so frequent a storyline in recent years that it has been commented on as cheapening the death of characters generally and a sign of lazy writing. In canon, the reasons may include the renewed availability of an actor, the need for a ratings boost, or a twist in a long-term story arc. Resurrection can take various forms such as:

  • Mistaken death
    1. Letty Ortiz is presumed dead in the first The Fast and the Furious movie but returns several sequels later.
    2. Michael Scofield is presumed dead in the finale of the original Prison Break series, but is revealed to be alive when the series returned.
  • Literal Resurrection A character is actually brought back from the dead after a considerable time.
    1. Agent Coulson dies in The Avengers (Marvel). It is revealed in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that he was revived, days after his death, using a serum made from alien DNA.
    2. Darla dies in Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is brought back four years later by Wolfram & Hart in Season 2 of Angel
    3. Urameshi Yuusuke from Yuu Yuu Hakusho dies in the first episode, but several episodes later comes back to life with help from Koenma.
  • Unclear Death A character returns potentially changed from a deathlike experience.
    1. Sam Winchester falls into hell in the Season 5 finale of Supernatural but returns without his soul (temporarily) in Season 6.
    2. Sara Lance is brought back in Arrow through use of the Lazarus Pit in Nanda Parbat, but returned with both a bloodlust and enhanced physical abilities.
  • Undead Resurrection A character returns to an unnatural or incomplete state of life.
    1. Uchiha Madara from Naruto is brought back with the use of the edo tensei technique; the technique involves anchoring a deceased person's soul to a living sacrifice and allows the resurrected party to survive injuries well past what would normally have re-killed them.


In fanworks, resurrection is generally a fix it storyline where a character lost in canon can be returned. The death itself and its effects are usually important, however, so resurrection is distinguished from:

For example:

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy spends most of Season 6 depressed and attempting to readjust to the comparative harshness of her life after the peace of death. She arguably would not have become sexually involved with Spike had she not died. Many fanworks centered on her during this season either examine her state of mind or imagine alternate behaviors for Buffy, particularly if other circumstances are also changed (for example, Giles does not leave, her friends are more supportive, or her own mother had not died).
  • In Merlin, Merlin is shown in the series finale to have spent thousands of years waiting for Arthur's return. In the stories of Arthur's resurrection, or even in those where he does not appear, but an expected resurrection is at the center of the story, the toll the wait has taken on Merlin may be a story feature. His response can run the gamut from relief and joy to ones where Merlin has become suicidal, deranged, or destructive from the effects of his long wait. In other cases it is Arthur's lack of familiarity with the modern world or his own horror at Merlin's experience that can be a central feature.
  • In Supernatural stories centered around the episode "Mystery Spot" may examine the psychological effects on Sam of having repeatedly experienced his brother's death, or of a Dean who may be haunted by flashes of his deaths within the time loop.