Seven Characters with Great Redemption Arcs

June 03, 2018

(AKA the really long fangirl-y post when I put overlong descriptions of my favorite characters) :)

Happy first Sunday of June, everyone!

What better way to start off this new summer month than talking about:

Character arcs.

Most of the time, there has to be some sort of character arc for me to even like the story. Some arcs are the “fall-from-grace” type, some are the “redemption” type, and some characters even have both (and I’ll probably write two other posts covering those characters).

But today, I’m talking about redemption arcs - my personal favorite! And, as it turns out, some of my favorite characters have these redemption arcs.

Let’s get started!

First off, what even is a redemption arc?

This is my definition:

Redemption arc: is attributed to someone who initially works against the main character or is evil, but as events play out, gradually realizes that they are doing wrong and sides with the main character  

While that’s probably not the official definition, it fits well enough to classify these types of characters.

(Caution: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Narnia, Marvel movies, the Amulet series, Artemis Fowl, the Inheritance Cycle, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Read at your own risk! Unless you're one of those reveal-all-spoilers people, in which case, go ahead.)

So, who are some of these “redemption arc” characters?
Ah, Edmund. Out of the four Pevensie siblings, he’s probably my first or second favorite.

At the beginning of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, he’s a brat who doesn’t seem to care about any of his siblings. He teases Lucy mercilessly about her supposed “visit to another world.” Even worse, when he actually gets inside Narnia, he lies to his siblings that he was even there to begin with.

Unfortunately, the first person he meets in Narnia happens to be the Witch, Jadis, and she quickly brings him over to her side.

From there, it only gets worse, as Edmund tries to betray his siblings by revealing their location to the Witch.

However, Edmund begins to see how cruel this leader of Narnia really is, as she kills innocent Talking animals, ties him up, and even prepares to have him killed. By the time Aslan’s army comes to get him, he regrets siding with her in the first place.

From there, of course, the rest is history. Aslan and Edmund’s siblings forgive him, and he even almost dies breaking Jadis’s special wand. And he only improves from there, as he goes on to help Prince Caspian and sails on the Dawn Treader. Although he does have occasional relapses, the new and improved Edmund is there to stay.
I think it’s safe to say that Loki is the best villain that Marvel created. (If you’ve only seen The Avengers, though, it’s a little difficult to come to that conclusion.)

Loki starts off as the looked-over brother of Thor. He doesn’t really want harm to come to Thor, at least at first. Then, of course, he learns that he’s not even Asgardian - he’s a Frost Giant that his adoptive father rescued.

To get revenge on his real father, Laufey, Loki hatches an elaborate plan to bring the Frost Giant king into Asgard and kill him in front of Odin, and thus prove that he is Thor’s equal.

Of course, Thor arrives and saves the day, but in the process has to fight Loki. By being defeated, and ultimately scorned by Odin, Loki vanishes, presumed dead. By the time Thor discovers that he’s alive, Loki has begun to hate Thor, and taps into his bad side by leading an army of Chitauri from Thanos against the home world of Thor’s beloved, Jane Foster.

Yet again, he is defeated and locked up in Asgard’s dungeons. In there, he learns that his mother, one of the ones who still cared about him, is dead, and begins his slow journey of redemption by helping Thor save Jane from the Dark Elves. He even “sacrifices” his life for the pair.

At the end of The Dark World, however, we learn that Loki has usurped Odin and disguised himself as his adoptive father. Somewhere along the line, Thor finds out, and calls Loki out on it. Unfortunately, the brothers don’t have time to duke it out any longer, as Hela decides to attack and send them sprawling through space, to a junkyard.

Long story short, Loki helps Thor save the rest of the Asgardians, and as Infinity War comes, Loki even sacrifices his life for Thor. (Although, is he really dead? The Internet says no.)

In the beginning, Loki would have done anything to get rid of Thor. At the end, he gave his life to save Thor. Not bad for a trickster, huh?
When we first meet Bucky, he definitely doesn’t seem like the type of character to need a redemption arc. He’s the best friend of Steve Rogers, brave, smart, and witty. Perfect, right?


Because everything goes wrong once he falls off of a train in Nazi Germany. As he was experimented on, he survived the fall and was captured by HYDRA. Brave, loyal Bucky was brainwashed to be the unthinking, brutal Winter Soldier.

What HYDRA doesn’t count on, though, is Steve finding out that his best friend is an assassin. During their emotionally tense battle on a helicarrier, Steve tries to bring back the real Bucky (and brings lots of tears from the audience).

Apparently, Captain America must have done something right, because Bucky proceeded to save Cap’s life. Then, the once-HYDRA assassin vanished.

All throughout Civil War, Bucky tries to redeem himself from his past actions and prove that he can be trusted. Unfortunately, Iron Man can’t see past the murders of his parents, even though Bucky says that he’s sorry.

In the end, Bucky fights valiantly on Cap’s side in Infinity War, and although he disintegrated, we can bet that he’ll be coming back in Avengers 4, with his redemption arc complete.
From what I hear, Amulet isn’t as popular as it was a couple years ago, but I still love the series - admittedly because of Trellis.

He’s a typical one-sided elf villain in the first book, trying to capture the main character, Emily. When she eventually fights back, he loses (kind of embarrassing, because she’d been using the Amulet magic for like a day, and he'd been using it for years). She makes him promise not to come near her or her family ever again.

Of course, that promise is broken, as we see him reprimanded by his father, the Elf King, and eventually cast out of his father’s trust, and left for dead by Luger, a general. But he’s not dead, and he inadvertently saves Emily’s life by distracting Luger just as he's about to kill her.

Soon, Emily and the rest of the gang accidentally come across him in a bar, and Emily saves his life. Trellis (and a now-repentant Luger) join the Stonekeeper and her brother Navin on their quest to defeat the Elf King. Through saving Emily’s and Navin’s lives multiple times, Trellis gains their trust.

In the seventh and latest installment, Emily acknowledges her trust in Trellis when the amulet takes over.
"Go find my family. And bring me back." -Emily to Trellis, book 7 
I can’t wait for Supernova, the next book in the Amulet series, to see what happens to Trellis as he tries to save Emily. (BUT HE'S NOT ON THE COVER. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.)
Criminal mastermind. Millionaire. Genius. And . . . a teenager?

Yep, that’s Artemis Fowl II, all right.

Except . . . who would have guessed that the “criminal mastermind” would have a change of heart?

Well, that’s exactly what happened.

Artemis started out the series by capturing fairy Holly Short and holding her for ransom. Holly hated him afterwards. Not surprising.

What was surprising? One book later, Holly had saved Artemis’s life at least twice. And a book later, she saved Butler’s life. And after that - well, you get the idea.

Artemis began to think about his actions. He sided with the fairies and the LEP on more than one occasion, helping them save both the fairy and human worlds. He even apologized for kidnapping Holly, which was impressive, considering his pride.

Of course, Artemis experienced some setbacks, including a mind wipe performed by the LEP, making him forget his past “nicer” self. (And heavens, let's not forget the Atlantis Complex, caused by the guilt of his past actions.)

But by far the most amazing thing in this entire arc is that in the end, Artemis virtually sacrificed himself to save the person he had initially kidnapped, way back eight books ago.

And that’s why I think that even criminal masterminds can have a spark of good in them.

(Also, Disney is making an Artemis Fowl movie that’s set to release in August 2019! What do you think? Tell me in the comments!)
Now, Murtagh is no criminal mastermind at all. Heck, he’s not even a bad guy - at first. The only bad thing to his name is his father - the Dragon Rider Morzan, one of the people who sided with the evil king and killed all the rest of the Dragon Riders.

As Murtagh tries to escape the king, who he knows is evil, he stumbles across a new Dragon Rider - Eragon, our protagonist. Murtagh helps him reach the Varden, and although Eragon learns of his heritage, he still trusts him.

Unfortunately, three days after a large battle, Murtagh is captured by spies of the king (Galbatorix). Then, the unthinkable happens - a dragon hatches for Murtagh, making him a Dragon Rider. Immediately Galbatorix makes Murtagh and his newly hatched dragon, Thorn, swear loyalty to him using the ancient language (which means that the vow can’t be broken). So, he’s kind of stuck.

And he remains stuck for about two-and-a-half books, as he fights Eragon, tells him, “oh, by the way, you’re my brother!” And they fight again. And again. And I have to admit, in those two-and-a-half books, it’s really hard to see any character development there.

But then something happens. Nasuada, the leader of the Varden is captured, and Murtagh accompanies Galbatorix in torturing her. (How nice.)

Now, apparently Murtagh feels bad for helping the king, because he comes to her room and takes away her pain multiple times. He even admits to Nasuada that he hates the king, but that there’s no way for him to stop helping, because the king knows his and Thorn’s true names, and if you know someone’s true name, you can control them.m

Nasuada urges Murtagh to help her in some way, and he actually agrees to help her escape.
"I'll find a way to free you." -Murtagh to Nasuada, book 4
But before that happens, Eragon and the Varden show up and attack the capital. Eragon tracks down Galbatorix, and the king makes Eragon fight Murtagh.

During the fight, Murtagh realizes something that Eragon said a while back. He can change who he is, and then his true name wouldn’t apply to him anymore. In understanding this, he attacks the king and sides with Eragon for the final conflict.

Then, one of the saddest things in the books, Murtagh decides to leave and be alone for a while, so he can figure stuff out. But he gave his support to Eragon for training the next generation of Riders.

Now, if only they’d put a little bit of this plot into the movie. . . .
And, of course, I can’t talk about redemption arcs without mentioning our favorite Fire Nation prince, Zuko.

Like most of the other characters, he had a difficult past. He was the overshadowed son, his sister was manipulative and a prodigy, and his father wasn’t exactly a big fan. His mother disappeared for years. And then, of course, there’s the whole his-father-burned-his-face-for-speaking-out-of-turn thing, leaving him banished, with the instructions that if he wanted his honor back, he needed to capture the Avatar. (Thus the root for the great “HONOR!” memes you can see online.)

Of course, he chases the Avatar throughout the first season of Avatar, with no avail. His tea-loving uncle, Iroh, doesn’t help much either.

However, in the second season, Zuko’s father, Fire Lord Ozai, sends his sister to take him back home and imprison him. Zuko and Iroh escape, and in doing so mark themselves as fugitives.

During this time as wanderers, Iroh tries to change Zuko for the better and help him get over his obsession with the Avatar. And Zuko does change. Or, at least, he starts to.

Because in the final battle of season two, his sister Azula bribes him with his father’s respect, and he turns away from Iroh’s advice and helps take down the Avatar.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t help Zuko at all. In fact, as he says in the third-season episode The Beach:

During the Avatar’s (failed) invasion of the Fire Nation capital, Zuko faces his father and tells him that he’s going to join the Avatar. This decision is sealed when the Fire Lord attacks Zuko, but through methods that Iroh taught him, Zuko survives.

From there, of course, Zuko joins Team Avatar and plays a crucial role in taking down the Fire Lord. And he does it all when he’s sixteen.


Well, that took an exceedingly long time, but that was fun! Later this month, I’ll be back with the second in this series!


Who are your favorite characters with redemption arcs? Least favorites?

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  1. YES, to all of these! Especially Loki, Bucky, and Edmund, their character arcs are so amazing.

    1. Oh, goodness, yes! Thanks for reading, Gray!

  2. Have you ever watched Dragons: Race to the Edge? The last season has a HUGE redemption ARC that was EPIC! but I don't want to give away spoilers.

    Awesome post!

    1. Ooh, no, I haven’t. You have gotten me officially interested, though!

      Aw, thanks, Ivie!

    2. And I just looked it up. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT THERE IS AN HTTYD TV SHOW??? Must. Watch!

    3. YES YOU MUST!! It is epic!! I love the movies (read: I am obsessed with the franchise!) The trailer for the third movie drops this Thursday! :D




    BUT STILL. EDMUND <333 I completely 100% adore him ^-^

    And I second Ivie! so many great redemption arcs in HTTYD tv series lol XDD

    Great blog you have here girl <3

  4. YES EDMUND <3 literally the best character from Narnia

    Ahhhh and now I need to watch that TV series even more!!!

    Thank you so much, Lisa!!

  5. Ooh Zuko!! He's one of my fav characters �� lovely post!

    1. Aahhhhh, yay, another Zuko fan!!!! And thanks, Aditi! :)


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