Created By: ChrisMD123 on June 25, 2011 Last Edited By: ChrisMD123 on April 20, 2013

Kicked His Last Dog

A bad guy commits a minor but key evil act, setting up his imminent death.

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So, the Big Bad has kicked many dogs, Jumped Off The Slippery Slope, crossed the Moral Event Horizon a few times over, and has truly become a Complete Monster. And yet, this character is still given remarkable leeway by the universe and The Hero, who may be convinced that even a Complete Monster is redeemable, although the audience can see that it will never happen.

And then, this character does something simple and minor. He decides to Kick the Dog just one more time, choosing a target that The Hero in some way considers sacrosanct, a target that triggers The Hero's Berserk Button. Suddenly, all bets are off for The Hero, who decides that this Big Bad must be stopped at all costs. It could be as atrocious as threatening the family of The Hero, or as innocuous as putting down The Hero's choice of clothing. Whatever it may be, the balance shifts, and it becomes clear that the Big Bad Complete Monster is about to die or otherwise be neutralised as a result.

Occasionally, The Hero isn't the one who actually dispatches the villain. However, The Hero will still be quite happy with the result.

Compare with the Self-Disposing Villain, especially when Hoist by His Own Petard. Contrast with Karmic Death, where it is a major, Moral Event Horizon type act that brings about the villain's death. If the villain's Last Dog is The Hero, may take the form of a Backstab Backfire.

As this is typically a Death Trope, expect spoilers.

Examples:

Anime and Manga:
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Frieza does all sorts of unpleasant things to various good guys, good species, and good planets, establishing him unequivocally as an irredeemable villain. Goku finally defeats him by chopping him in half with his own energy disk, then feels pity and gives Frieza a little of his own energy so he can get away. Frieza uses this to betray him and try to finish him off... Which makes Goku blow him away.
  • In ''One Piece', the Fishman Arlong kicks dogs uncountable before Luffy finally goes to take him out. Their fight escalates higher and higher, but when Arlong says that Nami will be his slave and nakama, he doesn't last five minutes before Luffy kicks him through an entire building.
  • Sousuke finally killed Gauron in Full Metal Panic! when, lying, he told him that Kaname had been raped and killed.

Film
  • In Super 8, Overmeyer steals Joey Lamb's locket--the last memento of his late mother. Although this isn't really the most callous or gruesome thing he does, it carries the most emotional weight. Minutes later, Overmeyer is brutally slaughtered by the alien, and before abandoning the corpse, Joey takes the locket back.

Needs More Examples
Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • June 25, 2011
    Leaper
    I have no idea what the name means. And the "laconic" is much more descriptive than your description; if it weren't for that, I wouldn't have been able to tell what you were going for.
  • June 25, 2011
    Arivne
    This looks a lot like Asshole Victim.
  • June 26, 2011
    TwoGunAngel
    How is this different from Kick The Dog or Moral Event Horizon?
  • June 26, 2011
    Aielyn
    OK, while I think the trope name sucks, it's not Asshole Victim - that's about creating an asshole as a character specifically because you needed a victim, and didn't want that victim to be sympathetic. It's also not Kick The Dog or Moral Event Horizon, which is about establishing a character as either mildly or completely evil.

    This trope is clearly about the case where a character who is evil commits a certain act that triggers the good guy, I assume, to finally get rid of that character. Of course, I say "clearly" in the sense that between the laconic and the description, that's what is being described. Think of this trope as where the bad guy kicks the wrong dog, and it bites him, killing him.

    Definitely needs a better description, and a better trope name. The Laconic also needs to be more complete, something along the lines of "An evil character hits the good guy's Berserk Button by kicking the wrong dog, and death is the result"
  • June 26, 2011
    ChrisMD123
    Name comes from Super 8. If you don't like it, say it aloud a couple of times - it works.
  • June 27, 2011
    Frank75
    Over my, er, Spock it?
  • June 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Of her? My! Her spa kit.
  • June 27, 2011
    c0ry
    Nope, pretty sure this isn't needed.
  • June 27, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I understand that it's where the name comes from - but it's too obscure a reference, most people don't know Super 8, or if they do, they don't know it well enough. Trope names have to be easy to remember, and if there's a Trope Namer, it needs to be somewhat well-known.

    Anyway, I just thought of a possible trope name. Kick The Berserk Button, since it's usually a case where the jerk goes to Kick The Dog, but despite being a relatively minor slight, but hits the hero's Berserk Button, resulting in the jerk's death or other similar fate.
  • June 28, 2011
    Valentine
    Terrible name, terrible description, but if we don't have a trope where a character performs some action which bumps them up to "death imminent" on the Sorting Algorithm Of Mortality, we need one.
  • June 28, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I agree this isn't Asshole Victim, which is often about giving multiple characters motives for murder (or what-have-you). I also concur with Aielyn: this sounds like a relatively minor insult (at least to an outside observer) that hits somebody's Berserk Button or otherwise brings about Disproportionate Retribution (perhaps in a more karmic fashion).
  • June 28, 2011
    Aielyn
    True, 69Bookworm69, but there is one extra piece to it - it's not just a relatively minor insult, it's a relatively minor insult compared with everything else the character has done. The target character, the one that is about to die, has to already be well and truly worthy of death, to fit this trope.
  • June 29, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Oh, of course, the villainy has to be well established, and the contrast makes the relatively minor insult stand out as the red flag cuing the death.
  • June 29, 2011
    Confusion567
    Seems like a variation on Wafer Thin Mint, commonly known as The Last Straw. See also Rant Inucing Slight.

    This is definitely stronger than those, but it's certainly in the same class. We need something to combine last straw with Berserk Button. I kinda like Kick The Berserk Button, but it's a little too snowcloney.
  • June 29, 2011
    Aielyn
    Confusion567 - Snowclones aren't bad, so long as they're used correctly. Bad Snowclones are snowclones that are used purely because they sound like an existing trope, not because they're related.

    In this case, the trope is a subtrope of Kick The Dog, and involves the Berserk Button. It is not a Bad Snowclone.
  • June 29, 2011
    MtheR
    Death Inducing Slight is another possibility.
  • June 30, 2011
    Confusion567
    After mulling for a bit, I think I've got a better one. As described (or at least, as I read it), this isn't necessarily about the hero's reaction, it's more of a storytelling trope - it's not so much that after the character does this, the hero kills him, it's more like after he does this, proper storytelling demands that he dies.

    The audience is watching him and thinking, "He's kicked the dog, he's the bad guy... He's Jumped Off The Slippery Slope, he's going to lose eventually, but not just yet... Oh, he's crossed the Moral Event Horizon, he's definitely going to die, but not just yet...", but then he does this one ultimate action, and the audience goes, "That's it, he's gone too far, he's done, he won't last five minutes, even if he beats the hero the plot is going to kill him somehow."

    The audience thinks to themselves, "He's Kicked His Last Dog." It's not that he's being established as evil - we know that. It's not that he's being established as irredeemable - we know that. This is the death knell, the last evil act he's going to do before SOMETHING happens to him.

    Lemme see if I can cook up some examples... This is a Death Trope, so spoilers will be unmarked.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, Frieza does all sorts of unpleasant things to various good guys, good species, and good planets, establishing him unequivocally as an irredeemable villain. Goku finally defeats him by chopping him in half with his own energy disk, then feels pity and gives Frieza a little of his own energy so he can get away. Frieza uses this to betray him and try to finish him off... Which makes Goku blow him away.
    • In One Piece, the Fishman Arlong kicks dogs uncountable before Luffy finally goes to take him out. Their fight escalates higher and higher, but when Arlong says that Nami will be his slave and nakama, he doesn't last five minutes before Luffy kicks him through an entire building.

    For a non Berserk Button example,
    • In the last episode of Death Note, Yagami Light, believing he has won, reveals his entire plan. Of course, he HASN'T actually won, and this uncharacteristic lapse in his cool means the investigators he's taunting have all the proof they need. He runs from the building, ashamed of what he's done, and Ryuk kills him by writing his name in the Note.
    • Spider-Man. Spidey, infuriated over his girlfriend's death/near-death (depending on which version you're reading/watching), has the Green Goblin on the ropes when the villain reveals that he is Spider-Man's friend's father. As the Green Goblin apologizes, he sets up his glider behind our hero. Spidey jumps out of the way at the last second and the blade on the glider's tip impales the Goblin, killing him. For now. His attempt to betray the hero seals his fate, making it this trope as well as all the others it fits into.
  • June 30, 2011
    Ryusui
    Kicked His Last Dog? I like it. Not sure about Death Inducing Slight, but that could work, too. Anything but Overmeyers Pocket - the first thing I thought as I read the trope title was "who the @#$% is Overmeyer?" Sokath, his eyes shut, man.
  • June 30, 2011
    Aielyn
    Confusion678 - the problem is, if you do it that way, it becomes a YMMV trope.

    You seem to have identified an interesting variation to the original trope - one where the villain's own actions causes his or her death. It's distinct from the one you started with, and they shouldn't be treated as the same trope.

    Kicked His Last Dog is a great name for the original, and it even allows you to pull back on the Death Trope element, and allows for examples where it isn't death, just an end to their evil deeds, that occurs. For instance, in Batman, most of the time, villains don't actually die, they just end up in Arkham Asylum - if Kicked His Last Dog were to occur in that series, death wouldn't ensue, just incarceration.

    As for the own-action version of the trope, it sounds more like a case where the villain ends up holding the Stupidity Ball at the wrong moment, and usually has an "Oh, crap" realisation as they discover just what they've done. How about... Villain Defeat Thyself?
  • June 30, 2011
    Confusion567
    Well, that's just Self-Disposing Villain.

    As I'm (reading/interpreting/inventing) this, it's a Karmic Death sort of thing where they cross the line from "evil" to "too evil to live" (or be free or whatever you want to expand this to).

    I think it can be taken away from YMMV this way: When a villain is defeated, ask if the last action they performed was directly a Kick The Dog moment. If so, he's Kicked His Last Dog, particularly if the action led to their death directly.

    For counter-examples, in Dragon Ball Z Cell's last action is just more energy blasts, and in One Piece the last thing Don Krieg does is put Luffy in a net. The net ended up spelling his defeat, but it wasn't a Kick The Dog moment by any means, and it was clear he was on his way out soon anyway.
  • July 2, 2011
    Confusion567
    Bump. I think this is totally tropable, even if it needs some work. Incidentally, it's been 5 days since the original poster has commented on this... what's the statute of limitations before something becomes Up For Grabs?
  • July 14, 2011
    ChrisMD123
    Confusion567, you've got the right idea on this. Though I disagree with the principle that a trope name has to come from something immediately recognizable, and believe that a catchy name that rolls off the tongue (Overmeyer's Pocket is a syllabically strong name), Kicked His Last Dog works pretty damn well. After all, who really knew "growing the beard" or "jump the shark" until it became a thing? Only complete geeks like us, but those ended up becoming something much more for people who never even saw an episode of TNG or Happy Days. (Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that most people still have never seen the "Cunninghams go to Hollywood" cycle...)

    Anyway, I release this one into the wild for others to run with. Have fun.
  • July 14, 2011
    Aielyn
    The key about Jumping The Shark is that it was in common vernacular before TV Tropes used it as the name. And both Happy Days and Star Trek are iconic TV series', and thus are able to be known by many, many people - indeed, most people would recognise the main characters from TNG even if they've never seen an episode. Also noteworthy is that in both instances, they're the trope codifiers that are being used as the trope namers. Overmeyer's Pocket, on the other hand, is an obscure reference that nobody will get outside of some absurdly small fanbase that watched and rewatched Super 8 repeatedly. Just to demonstrate the point, "Overmeyer" isn't even mentioned, at this point, on the works page for that movie, that's how obscure it is. And it's so recent, many, many people probably haven't seen it, which means that if they are linked to it, it becomes an automatic spoiler, too.

    Confusion567, have you chosen to take the trope? If not, I'm willing to work on it.
  • July 14, 2011
    MisterTimor
    Sousuke finally killed Gauron in Full Metal Panic when he told him (the lie that) Kaname had been raped and killed.
  • July 25, 2011
    ChrisMD123
    Aielyn, it looks like it's all you.
  • July 25, 2011
    Aielyn
    OK, I've "Grabbed" this YKTTW, now. Hope the description is OK.
  • July 26, 2011
    KamenZero
    I dunno, i kinda like "Kicked His Last Dog".. I didn't recognize it as a reference to Super 8, but as a regular troper, I did recognize it as a reference to Kick The Dog.
  • July 26, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    So basically, this has to drive the hero further than he previously went? How much further, and in what sense?
  • July 26, 2011
    Aielyn
    It's not a question of the extent to which it "drives" the hero. Indeed, strictly speaking, it doesn't have to "drive" the hero at all. It's not about the hero, in the end, but the villain.

    I will make it a point, though (in about half a day, as I need to sleep right now), to emphasise that it doesn't have to be a personal slight, and that it doesn't strictly even have to hit a Berserk Button - it can simply be that point at which the hero, and the audience, decides he's about to die for his actions. For instance, it could literally be a matter of kicking a dog.

    The key to this trope is that a character that is already well beyond the Kick The Dog stage of evil ends up being brought down due to a gratuitous Kick The Dog.

    KamenZero - I'm confused by your comment. Were you replying to someone?
  • July 26, 2011
    ryanasaurus0077
    May as well include the Overmeyer example. Here's how i'd word it:

    • Overmeyer steals Joey Lamb's locket--the last memento of his late mother. Minutes later, Overmeyer is brutally slaughtered by the alien, and before abandoning the corpse, Joey takes the locket back.
  • July 27, 2011
    Fanra
    Not sure if this is quite this trope but in the Discworld novel Feet Of Clay:

    Poisoning the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork in an attempt to take over the city is nothing compared to:

    "The candles killed two other people", said Carrot.
    Carry started to panic again, "Who?".
    "An old lady and a baby in Cockbill Street."
    "Were they important?" said Carry
    Carrot nodded to himself. "I was almost feeling sorry for you," he said. "Right up to that point".
  • July 28, 2011
    Aielyn
    I think I need a bit more information on that example, Fanra. It's not clear to me whether it's this trope or not, as your explanation doesn't actually address the key issue - who might have Kicked His Last Dog, what was the actual "kick", and what happened to that character?
  • July 28, 2011
    Fanra
    Sure. The point is not that Carry was involved in all sorts of things but that he crossed the Moral Event Horizon when he simply made the ordinary (to him) statement about someone who was killed. It was, "Were they important?".

    It's not the poisoning of the Patrician, or even the deaths of the old lady and baby that condemn him, since he didn't deliberately mean to kill anyone. It's the fact that he doesn't care that the old lady and baby died in "collateral damage" and he doesn't expect anyone else to care either, unless the people who died were someone "important".

    As for what happens to him, he is soon after killed off by the Big Bad when he is cornered by the Watch and offers them a deal to spare him in exchange for testifying against the Big Bad.
  • July 29, 2011
    Aielyn
    While interesting, I think it doesn't quite fit this trope. Why? Well, I see three issues - First, Carry was killed by the Big Bad, not by a hero or anything similar. Second, the poisoning and killing is, as you say, not deliberate, which makes the indifference the Moral Event Horizon act, rather than a Kick The Dog. Third, Carry's death comes because he chooses to testify against the Big Bad, which makes it an attempt at self-preservation that also acts as an act that borders on redemption, making it more Redemption Equals Death than Kicked His Last Dog.
  • July 29, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Often overlaps with Backstab Backfire, The Farmer And The Viper, Self Disposing Villain (as noted above), and Taking You With Me.

    Actually, Backstab Backfire might be a subtrope.
  • July 29, 2011
    Aielyn
    I see how Backstab Backfire can overlap with this trope (and have added a mention of it to the description), but I'm not sure where The Farmer And The Viper comes into it (after all, to take someone's offer of help, and then backstab them, is well beyond mere Kick The Dog). As for Taking You With Me, that's really the sort of thing that can apply to any Death Trope, so I don't see the need to explicitly note it.
  • July 29, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    ^In a slightly more family friendly version of The Farmer And The Viper, there's a scorpion and a frog. The scorpion stings the frog while the frog is swimming with the scorpion on its back; the frog asks the scorpion why it attacked it's benefactor; the scorpion replies with some variant of "because I'm a scorpion". The scorpion then drowns when the weakened frog slips beneath the surface.
  • August 13, 2011
    ryanasaurus0077
    • In The Bible, a surviving Amalekite reports to David that he had killed King Saul. Never mind the guy had tried to kill David in the past, David orders the Amalekite killed because not only was Saul still reigning at the time of his death, David still considered him as a friend even through all those attempts on his life and didn't want to let his subjects know he either supported regicide or held any ill will toward Saul.
  • August 17, 2011
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    I think I have an example here. In Criminal Minds, the Boston Reaper crossed the Moral Event Horizon long before we ever met him, being a sociopathic Serial Killer who murders people out of a desire for fame. Across his four or five episode run on the show, he murders a busload of people, escapes from prison, captures and tortures Hotch, and finally, tracks down and murders Hotch's ex-wife Haley, while Hotch listens on the phone. When Hotch arrives at the house, he has murder on his mind, but there's no garuntee that the Reaper is done for. He accquits himself well in the fight, and it's possible that he'll get away. It's possible that Hotch will have a change of heart and simply arrest him. It's possible that Morgan and the others will arrive and stop Hotch before he does something he'll regret. And then he says the following line: "After I finish you, I'm gonna find that little bastard son of yours, and I'm gonna show him both of his dead parents, and I'm gonna tell him that it was all your fault, and then I'm gonna--" He never finishes the sentence. Hotch hits him with a table leg, tackles him, and starts hitting him. And we know, just from that one line, that Morgan and the others are not going to arrive in time to prevent Hotch from beating the Reaper to death. Going off of the discussion and trope description that sounds like this to me.

    Here's a link to the fight if anyone wants to verify it for themself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGDWPqcDO6Q

  • August 17, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Double-subverted with Gilda's bullying of Fluttershy in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Griffon the Brush-Off." Pinkie gets indignant, saying "this calls for extreme measures, Pinkie Pie style;" cut to a party Pinkie invited everyone to, where Gilda was the guest of honour. Gilda ends up setting off a series of pranks, triggering Gilda to suspect that Pinkie set them all up for her, eventually leading her to rant at Pinkie about how lame her pranks are, prompting Rainbow Dash (Gilda's friend) to point out that they were actually her own pranks, not Pinkie's, and thus that it's her pranks being called lame. This leads Rainbow Dash to the realization of what a jerk Gilda is, resulting in the Laser Guided Karma of Gilda being left friendless.
  • August 17, 2011
    Stratadrake
    How does this relate to The Dog Bites Back?
  • August 18, 2011
    Fanra
    Second, the poisoning and killing is, as you say, not deliberate, which makes the indifference the Moral Event Horizon act, rather than a Kick The Dog. Third, Carry's death comes because he chooses to testify against the Big Bad, which makes it an attempt at self-preservation that also acts as an act that borders on redemption, making it more Redemption Equals Death than Kicked His Last Dog.

    You may be right. Just want to point out that the poisoning was deliberate, only it was meant to sicken, not kill. Also, there was zero redemption involved, as it was an attempt to testify in order to get a lesser sentence, he wasn't in the least sorry about anything other then being caught.
  • October 7, 2011
    KingZeal
    • Also in Dragon Ball Z, Cell spent several episodes trying to piss Gohan off enough in order to see the "hidden power" his father Goku had boasted about. Attacking Gohan directly, threatening the destroy the Earth, and even torturing and maiming his loved ones right in front of him doesn't trigger the desired effect. It isn't until Android 16, completely irrelevant minor character, tries to calm Gohan down and Cell casually destroys him that Gohan finally snaps. And from that point on, Cell was pretty much fucked.
  • October 7, 2011
    MiinU

    Film

    • This happens to Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi, after repeatedly refusing to bargin with Luke in an exchange for Han Solo.
      • First he takes R2D2 and C3PO, but blantantly renegs on keeping his end of the agreement (not that ever agreed to the deal to begin with) to free Han. Strike one.
      • Next, when Luke arrives to bargain with him in person, Jabba laughs him off and attempts to feed him to the Rancor instead. This doesn't end well, since Luke kills it. Strike two.
      • After being brought up from the Rancor pit, Luke offers Jabba one last chance at a deal, only now, it's for Han AND Leia and he makes it clear it's non-negotiable. So what does Jabba do? He sentences Luke, Han, and Chewbacca to die in the Sarlacc Pit for killing his Rancor and pissing him off. Strike three, which leads to the following quote:
      Luke: (smiling as he's lead away in chains) "You should've bargained when you had the chance. That's the last mistake you'll ever make."
  • May 22, 2012
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    Arthur Burns' death in The Proposition. We've seen him commit rape and murder. We've seen him commit atrocities while asking his brother "Why can't you ever stop me Charlie?" Yet none of these crimes ever seem like enough. There always seems to be more story. When Arthur attacks and tortures the Sheriff, we know that things between he and Charlie are finally going to come to a head. When he orders Samuel, his protege to rape the Sheriff's wife, we know that Arthur doesn't have a lot of time left. Yet it's not until he tells Samuel to start singing a hymn while he rapes her that we know that not only is Arthur going to die, but that there isn't going to even be a fight. Charlie's just going to shoot him. And that's exactly what happens.
  • April 20, 2013
    Noah1
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ia7i0ywjpz1jgu3vp394a9xr