Vengeance Feels Empty YKTTW Discussion

Vengeance Feels Empty
A character who's devoted his/her life to vengeance finds that it doesn't give the hoped-for satisfaction
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(permanent link) added: 2012-03-04 20:48:15 sponsor: sionnachiemel edited by: morenohijazo (last reply: 2013-03-05 02:47:44)

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Roman: There you go, you got your revenge. How does it feel?
Niko: I don't know how it feels. I'm trying to take it all in.
Roman: This is the moment you've been waiting for for so long, Niko. What do you mean you don't know how you feel?
Niko: I mean I don't know. I feel empty, okay? I feel empty.
--> Grand Theft Auto IV

Revenge is pointless! It only leaves you with more anger!
The Pharaoh, Yu-Gi-Oh!

A powerful plot element, pursuit of revenge may be a driving motivation for a character. It may even be central to the plot. Upon finally exacting his revenge, rather than the sense of satisfaction he may have expected, he may get... nothing. Maybe it wasn't really worth it, or maybe he just doesn't know what to do with himself now. This is one of the bad results of ignoring Forgiveness.

Related to Wanting Is Better Than Having, and Revenge Before Reason. Compare Victory Is Boring.

Contrast Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which is when someone usually enjoys their revenge. However, even those who are enjoying their revenge often feel empty when it's over.

Needs a Better Description.

Indexes: Revenge Tropes.


Anime and Manga
  • Deliberately subverted in GUN×SWORD. The protagonist is obsessed with taking revenge on the Claw to the detriment of personal connections, but when he finally does take revenge, the somewhat Family-Unfriendly Aesop is "revenge feels great".
  • This is the main character trait of Sasuke in Naruto. Initially, his desire was revenge on his brother for killing the rest of his clan. Sasuke eventually pulls it off, but he only feels angrier about it. He moves on to wanting to destroy the Hidden Leaf Village as he finds out his brother's actions were driven by the village's politics. When the village DOES get destroyed, he still feels empty and unfilfulled. He now wants to personally kill anyone who's lived in the village. Sasuke was also originally going to spare his childhood friend Naruto but now has Naruto at the top of his personal hit list, first for repeatedly getting in his way and now for being the village's hero. Note that Sasuke is a unique case of this in the series--a number of other characters have learned to forgive and forget, whereas Sasuke sinks deeper and deeper.
  • Subverted in Tiger & Bunny when Barnaby takes revenge on Jake for killing his parents. Instead of feeling empty, he now feels free to live life for himself. Double Subverted when it turns out that Jake wasn't responsible. Barnaby has a Heroic BSOD when he finds out.

Comic Books
  • Highly averted in Sin City when characters enact revenge, they often remark how good it feels.
  • The Punisher: Yorkie Mitchell meets with Frank, bringing with him the son of a fellow soldier murdered by an Irish terrorist now hiding in New York. In the end, the kid kills his father's murderer, but states he doesn't feel any better for it.
  • In The Sandman, after escaping from imprisonment, avenging himself on his captors and regaining his kingdom and his tools, Morpheus goes to Central Park and mopes because he does not feel as satisfied as he thought he would. His older sister snaps him out of it.

  • Cell 8 (Swedish crime thriller/Author Tract on capital punishment): One character is desperately waiting for the state to execute a prisoner on Death Row in vengeance for what the prisoner did, so that the character can finally move on. When that finally happens towards the end of the book, he's still not able to move on. and then the real killer reveals that the prisoner was innocent all along.
  • The Princess Bride: Once Inigo Montoya has killed his father's killer, Inigo's life is rather empty, although it's not really a lack of satisfaction but rather "That's everything on the to do list. Now what?"
    Westly: You'd make a great 'Dread Pirate Roberts'.
    • However, in the book, the narration reveals that he loved the sight of the terrified face of the Count's corpse.
  • Batman Forever references this trope when Batman tries to persuade Dick Grayson not to pursue his revenge against Two-Face.
  • Implied to have happened in the remake of True Grit.
  • This is, rather explicitly, the entire point of Oldboy, the second film in the ''Vengeance'' Trilogy. Immediately after successfully completing his massive, 15 year Batman Gambit, the Big Bad blows his brains out.
  • In the final scene of the The Sting Hooker, proving Gondorff right, feels this way after beating Lonnegan and remarks vengeance it's not enough. He still cracks a joke: "but it's close!"
  • Highly averted in Revenge of the Sith. The newly-enthroned Emperor Palpatine, the Sith mastermind behind the whole Clone War business, seems quite happy about what he did to the Jedi.
  • Completely averted in Django Unchained: everyone is vengeful, and everyone enjoys vengeance a lot.
  • In Death Sentence, this is how Det. Wallis thinks Nick's revenge spree will end.

  • At the end of Take A Thief, the person responsible for Bazie's (Skif's thief-mentor) death is killed by Skif. When Alberich asks, Skif says he's not happy, because "there weren't no justice" -- the man got a quick death, and can't be hauled into court to answer for everything else he was behind.
  • The protagonist of Jack Vance's The Demon Princes trains since childhood to avenge his parents deaths and his Doomed Home Town, but after finally taking revenge on all of the titular princes, he realizes he no longer has any purpose in life, and is devastated.
  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Hereticus, after the death of the man who killed her father, Medea realizes that her desire for Revenge was really displaced desire to have known her father. (She asks Eisenhorn to tell her about her father).

Live-Action TV
  • The story of Daedalus as told in The Storyteller has this message. After causing the deaths of his son and nephew, Daedalus tried to live a good life, but that was sabotaged by King Minos. Daedalus later takes a terrible revenge on Minos, but in doing so, realizes he's destroyed any chance of happiness/being a good person, and is totally emotionally broken.
  • In Lost: Sawyer spent most his adult life tracking down the con man who killed his father. When he finally finds him, he guns the man down in cold blood. Afterwards, though, he still feels empty.
  • It happens to Regina in Once Upon a Time, because after what she went through, she wants a revenge which continues whatever happens.

  • In the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Waylaid in the Windy City, Part 2" Wit gives a Crowning Moment of Awesome speech to Richard Maxwell about the futility of revenge, focusing on how how pursuing revenge will harm Richard. Keep in mind that this is while Richard has the man who ruined his life at gunpoint.
    • I just found the quote of that speech:
    Don't you understand that when you go out for revenge, you've got to dig two graves! One for the person you're after and one for yourself! Richard, there's no such thing as revenge, not really. It never replaces what you lost. It never restores. It doesn't even satisfy. You're out of the detention center now. You've got you're whole life ahead of you! Now please, give me the gun!

Video Games
  • The Trope Namer is Grand Theft Auto IV. If at the end of the game you choose to kill Darko (that's what you wanted to do for the whole game), after being asked how he feels, Niko says "empty", as shown in the page quote.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Carth obsessively focuses on destroying his former mentor, Saul Karath, after Karath defects to the Empire, glasses his home planet, and kills his wife. After Carth and the player kill Karath, Carth admits that it didn't bring him the peace he thought it would.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor finds space pirate Andronikos Revel in the process of tracking down and murdering his mutinous crew. At several times during the story, he misses out on the chance to personally kill his betrayers, and is visibly distraught about this.
  • In Mass Effect 2, it is possible to convince Garrus of this through Paragon dialogue during his loyalty mission.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Javik the last Prothean and the self-proclaimed avatar of vengeance can be pushed either towards this realization (in which case he despairs and plans to commit suicide after the war) or away from it (letting him start enjoying his life again).
  • Maiev Shadowsong of Warcraft3 's expansion pack The Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft; she pursued Illidan Stormrage for a long time, and realised this after she / adventurers (can't remember who) killed Illidan.
  • Present to an extent in the Max Payne series. At the end of the first game, Max has completed his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and seems to have achieved a measure of inner peace and satisfaction. By the time of the second game, however, he's wracked with shame and Survivor Guilt, wishing he'd been punished for the events of the first game.
  • In Borderlands 2 you can do a sidequest for Sir Hammerlock where he asks you to kill the thresher which tore off his arm. After you do it, he realises that he doesn't feel any better but still considers it a job well done.
  • In Fire Emblem Genealogy of Holy War, the protagonist of the second generation Celice feels this way after killing Emperor Alvis, who murdered the former's father. The secret event between Celice and the ghosts of his parents has the latter lecturing the former about this trope.
  • Fatal Fury 2: Invoked by Terry, at the conclusion of his rematch with Wulfgang Krauser, when he tells Tony that fighting for revenge leaves only emptiness.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, after Trip kills Well-Intentioned Extremist Pyramid she obviously doesn't feel any satisfaction, and asks Monkey if she did the right thing.

Western Animation
  • In the Fantastic Four episode "Behold, A Distant Star", Susan and Johnny's long-lost father Franklin Storm was killed by a Skrull plot. They both want to avenge him by attacking the Skrulls (or to kill the Skrull responsible). By the end of the episode, after the Skrull Emperor gives the team a pardon for saving his daughter from a crossfire between Skrull groups, they asked for the one who killed Franklin. The Emperor sadly points to Morrat, her daughter's lover, who tried to overthrow the Emperor. The team leaves for home, feeling much worse.
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