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In death, there are no accidents, no coincidences, no mishaps...and no escapes.

William Bludworth, Final Destination.

In the Final Destination series, Death (also known as the Grim Reaper) is an active, cunning, volatile, supernatural personified force, and the series' primary antagonist. While invisible to people, it nevertheless makes a somewhat noticeable and ominous presence wherever it goes and can manipulate any aspect of an environment to its will. Although the character of Death is never seen, in truth it is an entity that wants its design to never be violated.

It has been highly suggested that Death essentially programs the events of a person's entire lifespan, ultimately deciding where, when, and how they will die. Should anyone deviate or "cheat" from what Death has set for them, whether deliberately or not, Death will punish them by using his servants to inflict the most gruesome and torturous death. Despite it often being called "cheating" or "avoiding" Death, there are moments where Death seems to have planned for the survivors to escape as they were supposed to die later and the visions were to help them get to that right place at said right time, or to get Death more souls in a quicker span of time. The evidence for this seems to be the finale of The Final Destination, where Nick O'Bannon realizes that he and his friends were meant to die in a truck crash all along rather than a cinema explosion, or the ending of Final Destination 5 where Death planned to tie up a loose end from one incident and wipe out more people in one go.

The person who receives the vision and successfully allows people to escape from their planned death must be involved - or at least witness - every future death in their "list".[1]

Death maintains a strict order and, unless people die in the specific original vision, Death spares them from any future deaths in its plan to kill the survivors, maintaining its specific plans and their unfortunate problems of being caught up as bystanders such as people in Final Destination 4 who are in a cinema which explodes who are left unharmed.

Death seems to have a both a form of respect, however grudging that may be, and the ability to know when it shouldn't draw out someone's death - such as with Clear Rivers; Clear knew what to look for in the signs Death would leave and Death gave her a quick death in an explosion (something which featured in all her "escaped" Deaths too - no fewer than twenty four[2]) meaning Death respected her enough to make it quick but was also clever enough to know that she was dangerous as she could see signs and escape, so took her out as quickly as possible to ensure she didn't escape again or help other people escape, once even breaking its own list to try and finish Clear off.

Death itself implies that the survivors escaping is actually making future incidents worse and worse, not just for themselves but for others too[3] and that it is not a malicious entity, merely one tying up the "checks and balances that control the world".

The Final Destination Series

Death1

The Grim Reaper: One of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and iconic personification of Death in Western folklore.

Throughout the series, Death comes in the form of overly complex freak accidents to kill off survivors of a major disaster they were originally supposed to die in as well as in the order they would have died in said disaster. If somebody intervenes in a person's death, then Death will cheat by skipping that person and moving on to the next before returning to that person to complete the rift in its design, although the order has been shown to reverse itself. In Final Destination 2, the death order of those who were supposed to die in the Route 23 pile up was reversed due to the deaths of the Flight 180 survivors.

There are also a few cases where someone's death comes before (or after) another victim on the list for an unexplained reason (Gunter Nonhoff and Eric Prescott most notably). Death will, however, seemingly make implausible situations when someone deliberately trying to commit suicide will ultimately fail, as seen when Eugene Dix tries to shoot himself in the head with a fully loaded six shot revolver, only for every bullet to be a misfire.

Usually there are mysterious clues as to how the next person will die, its most common form being a brief gust of spontaneous wind. Other clues range from pictures or brief images or signs or an odd formation of something on the ground. The clues could be about anything on how they die (i.e. the word "EYE" for Evan Lewis, a series of cracks in the ground that look like a skeletal hand for Hal Ward, the song "Rocky Mountain High" for various situations, or nothing but a dark, black shadow that appears out of nowhere).

Fd1 kettleofdoom

Death seen as a vague black shadowy mass on Valerie Lewton's kettle.

Death also has a handful of servants who unintentionally (in some cases on purpose) kill a person on Death's list. Additionally, Death does not appear to be above killing others to hasten its acquisition of survivors, with Tom Gaines theorizing the entity is perfectly willing to "sneak souls" when the opportunity to do so arises. There have been mixed theories in what Death will do if the survivor with premonitions deliberately kills him/herself despite not being next on the list. Ian McKinley had a theory that, if the last on Death's list (usually the person with the premonitions) kills him/herself, it would ruin Death's plans, since the survivor isn't next to die.

It has been suggested that it would ruin Death's list and save everyone else still alive from the accident. In an alternate ending in The Final Destination, Nick kills himself, ruining Death's design. However, at the very end of it, the final two survivors of the McKinley Speedway accident died at the exact same moment, meaning Death would just kill the rest of the survivors without hesitation based on the design they were supposed to die. Or, like what happened to Eugene Dix, the last would not be able to kill themselves.

In the alternate ending of Final Destination, Alex saves Clear from an electric wire on the front of the car, therefore, he was caught on fire and died, ruining Death's design. After this, Clear and Carter both lived the rest of their lives in peace, meaning that the final survivors of Flight 180 actually defeated Death. It was not clear what Death would actually do if this situation happened, since these situations only happened in alternate endings.

It should be noted however that in Final Destination 3, it took five months after Ian's death for Train 081 to happen, meaning that in the alternate ending of Final Destination the reason Clear and Carter survived is because the scene showed could have been before five months passed or because Clear gave birth to a baby, as it was mentioned in Final Destination 2 that if someone who was supposed to die in an accident but survived gave birth, all the remaining survivors would live. William Bludworth himself said that "only new life defeats Death".

It should also be noted that Death can be somewhat confused. In The Final Destination, Nick's vision showed that Hunt and Janet would die at the same time. Death attempted to kill Janet three times. However, the first time, she saved herself, the second time Lori saved her, and the third time, Death was just too late. After this, Janet should have been the last, because she cheated death yet again. However, the order was slightly scrambled, and Janet died between George and Lori. However, it can also be assumed that Death created a new list involving George, Lori, Nick, and Janet.

Appearance

DeathSpringBreak

Death appears before Matt in a cloud of smoke in Final Destination: Spring Break.

Death takes many forms (skulls, shadows, possessed objects that ultimately kill their victims) but its most notable form (which was in the novel Final Destination: Looks Could Kill) was an elderly Black man who wears a gray suit, has shiny white teeth, gray hair, and a cane with a skull on the end. Death adopts a form similar to this one in a dream Kate Shelley has in Final Destination: End of the Line, implicating it may be its preferred one when dealing directly with mortals. However, Death being depicted as a skeleton with a black cape and scythe (the Grim Reaper) is merely a stereotype.

Death's true form (according to a dream Jessica Golden and Macy had in Final Destination: Dead Reckoning) may be a massive abomination composed of decaying, shifting corpses and bones from thousands of species. In Final Destination: Spring Break, Death can be seen as a giant cloud of smoke. In the Final Destination film series, Death is never physically shown, but its presence is known when there is a sudden large gust of wind or when it casts a large, dark shadow.

Defeated

Despite being ruthless in its intent of killing anyone who cheats its design, Death isn't perfect in its plans and can be defeated. Anyone who survive its intended disasters and cheats it always searches for ways to cheat it completely, but almost always fails. However, there are ways to defeat it, depending on perspective:

  • New Life: By far the most effective strategy and is achieved by having a survivor reproduce. Death cannot kill people (i.e. their offspring) that never existed in its original design. Fortunately, this "mercy" extends to their parents. It also considers people who were "resurrected" from the dead to be New Life, such as Kimberly Corman, since Death doesn't consider them to be the same person that existed in their design.
  • Steal another's lifespan: In Final Destination 5, it's revealed by William Bludworth that if someone who cheated Death kills someone who isn't meant to die, they will receive that person's unlived lifespan and be safe, essentially swapping places with that person and taking their place among the living. This strategy is likewise very effective as long as the deceased person had a long lifespan. However, Death still kills the survivor in the same brutal manner once the stolen lifespan is complete, as shown by Nathan Sears's death, who accidentally took the life of a man with brain aneurysm.

Trivia

  • Series creator Jeffrey Reddick stated in an interview that in the first draft for the first movie, Death was supposed to appear for a moment near the end of the film, but it was later decided by the crew that the entity would not be fully seen.
    • In the novels and comics, however, Death has been personified and given form in varying ways, at some points even interacting with survivors to some extent, such as bargaining with Stephanie Pulaski or appearing to Kate Shelley in a dream.
  • Contrary to many cultural portrayals of Death as an amoral force, Death in Final Destination is far more villainous since its punishments involve excessive cruelty. In fact, its modus operandi is comparable to slasher villains.
    • Death also makes it difficult for other people, including its servants, to save their intended victims. For example, the old man struggled and ultimately failed to save Nora Carpenter from being decapitated even though he unintentionally caused her predicament in the first place. Carter Horton was also almost killed by an incoming train after Death locked his car doors and jammed his seat belt.
    • In the Final Destination 3 novel, Wendy notices that Death always kills off people right in front of her to make her witness it all.
    • Its presence drives survivors to murder, such as Peter Friedkin, who tried to kill people to steal their lifespans. Even worse, these murders prove to be useless especially if their victims were going to die shortly, had they not been killed.
    • Death sometimes gives false hope to survivors with visions so that it could kill them in the right place and time, like in the finale of The Final Destination.
    • Despite presenting itself as an amoral force of nature, Death sometimes covers its tracks to prevent blame, like with Tod Wagner's death. It is also willing to cause collateral damage when targeting one victim. For example, Death massacred all of the passengers on Flight 180 so that it could specifically kill Sam Lawton (and possibly Molly Harper), who cheated death.
    • Death is also quite hypocritical since it is willing to break the laws of nature to kill people, despite being intolerant of those who violate its design. Death, for example, killed Terry Chaney by having a bus speed through a tightly barricaded road, with said barricades not being destroyed.

References

  1. The following conversation occurs between Death and Sherry in Final Destination: Looks Could Kill:
    Death: There is a complicated system of checks and balances that control the world invisible to the human eye. As you were responsible for intercepting with the fates of the individual survivors, your presence is necessary to bring about their harvest. It is imperative that those who escaped their deaths be reclaimed by me, in the exact order in which they were originally slated to die. And that all six be taken before the birth of the child.
    Sherry: What about the baby?
    Death: I'm certain even once such as you heard the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon and typhoons forming in the Indian Ocean. Once a life never originally meant to exist is brought into the world, the entire schemata must be reworked and new deadlines assigned to every living thing on the face of the Earth. With each reworking of the master plan, the chances of another anomaly such as yours increases exponentially.
    Sherry: Are you saying that Cabby's baby being born will cause the end of the world?
    Death: No! I am saying the child's birth will seriously inconvenience me! I do not appreciate being inconvenienced!
  2. Clear states that she and Alex cheated Death "dozens of times" between them, indicating at least twelve off-screen escapes for each of them between FD1 and FD2, assuming she is being literal and not exaggerating. This implies that Alex's death from a falling brick was his thirteenth encounter with Death since leaving Paris. See conversation below:
    Clear Rivers: Look, we drove a long way to get here, so if you happen to know how to stop Death, it would be really great if you told us.
    William Bludworth: You can't cheat Death. There are no escapes.
    Clear Rivers: Bullshit! You told me Death has a distinct design. Alex and I cheated Death, not once but dozens of times. The design is flawed; it can be beaten.
  3. The following conversation occurs between Death and Sherry in Final Destination: Looks Could Kill:
    Death: There is a complicated system of checks and balances that control the world invisible to the human eye. As you were responsible for intercepting with the fates of the individual survivors, your presence is necessary to bring about their harvest. It is imperative that those who escaped their deaths be reclaimed by me, in the exact order in which they were originally slated to die. And that all six be taken before the birth of the child.
    Sherry: What about the baby?
    Death: I'm certain even once such as you heard the analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon and typhoons forming in the Indian Ocean. Once a life never originally meant to exist is brought into the world, the entire schemata must be reworked and new deadlines assigned to every living thing on the face of the Earth. With each reworking of the master plan, the chances of another anomaly such as yours increases exponentially.
    Sherry: Are you saying that Cabby's baby being born will cause the end of the world?
    Death: No! I am saying the child's birth will seriously inconvenience me! I do not appreciate being inconvenienced!
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