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Conscience Makes You Go Back

Paul: You can't just walk away.
Jarvis: You did.
Paul: (sighs) How did I end up with Jiminy Cricket? (turns the car around)

Someone is about to walk away from those in need, but then have a moment when they realize it's wrong. So they go back and help.

Say our hero, or lancer, Bob isn't interested in helping Alice. Either he did his job already, or he owes nothing to her. It's not his problem, and he's Not in This for Your Revolution. So Bob just walks off... And then about thirty seconds to a few minutes later, Bob's face shows he can't do this. He has to go back and help. He's annoyed, or even angry, but he does go back.

This can overlap with 10-Minute Retirement, or Changed My Mind, Kid. The key is that we have to specifically see these characters stopping on their way, and realizing they have to do this.

Even villains can do this, because of course Even Evil Has Standards. When forced to own up to why they did it, the character may gripe that Being Good Sucks; an otherwise hostile character may claim that I Was Just Passing Through.

Compare Everyone Has Standards.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Naruto, this happened with Kakashi in his backstory. When his teammate Rin was captured by the enemy, he abandoned her to continue the mission. His other teammate Obito called him out on this, and although Kakashi refused to try to rescue her at first, his conscience eventually got the better of him and he went back to help Obito save Rin.
  • In the Monster Rancher anime, when Hare is introduced to the series he completely humiliates Tiger in a tournament match by using a dirty trick (in the original version, this dirty trick was to pass a huge fart to knock Tiger out by smell; in the dubbed version, the dirty trick is that Hare sobs for mercy so Tiger will turn his back on him, and then he sucker-punches Tiger for a knockout when his guard is down). After that, Hare apologizes for the dirty trick and treats our heroes to dinner...and then steals their money and leaves them stuck with the bill. After all of this, Hare finally gets into a mess when he almost falls off a cliff and is left dangling by a broken bridge's rope. Hare begs Tiger to save his life, and Tiger retorts that Hare humiliated him in front of thousands of people, and then stole from them on top of that, so perhaps Hare should explain why Tiger should help him at all. Hare can't come up with a good answer, but Tiger's conscience eventually causes him to save Hare anyway. A good move, since Hare then joins the group to aid them in combat.

    Comics 
  • In the Carl Barks story "The Horseradish Story," Scrooge McDuck does this when he has to Save the Villain: as the swindler Chisel McSue dangles helplessly from the side of Scrooge's raft, Scrooge spends three panels ranting about how he has no reason to save the guy who's trying to take all of his money, and if he doesn't save McSue, all his troubles will be over... Then, at the last second, he rushes to the rescue.
    Scrooge: Oh, phooey! I'm a soft old fool! I can't let the rat down!
  • In one of the earliest Spider-Man comics Peter Parker's high school nemesis Flash Thompson is abducted by Doctor Doom while impersonating Spider-Man. When the real deal discovers this, he happily thinks how now he'll just wait until Doom finishes Flash off and he'll never have to worry about him again. He immediately follows this up by thinking, "Oh, who am I kidding?," and suits up, ready to save his tormentor.
  • In Peter David's Supergirl, Buzz the demon does this without realising that's what he's doing — he thinks the agonising headaches he gets when he tries to abandon Linda are direct punishment from God, and he's not being given any choice, but it turns out that if you haven't used your conscience for two thousand years, it's a bit stiff and painful when it becomes active again.

    Films - Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Pacha warns Kuzco not to go out into the jungle alone. Kuzco ignores him and Pacha has every intention to let him get killed, since that would solve all his problems once and for all. He starts walking away, but can't bring himself to continue and goes after Kuzco.
  • In The Iron Giant, Hogarth sees the Giant get caught in some electrical wires, roaring as electricity runs through him. At first Hogarth runs away, but then senses that somehow this metal thing from outer space is suffering, so he runs back and turns off the power station, saving him.
  • In Ratatouille, Colette returns to the restaurant to help Linguini and Remy after remembering her idol Gusteau's motto: Anyone can cook.
  • In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Iago saved the good guys from Jafar. So he's done now. No, seriously, he doesn't owe them anything else, so he is not going to risk his life trying to defeat Jafar. Then he does.
  • In Chicken Run, Rocky leaves the other chickens to fend for themselves, but turns back after seeing a billboard for Mrs. Tweedy's Homemade Chicken Pies.
  • In Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket (ironically enough, a conscience) is about to leave Pinocchio on Pleasure Island with Lampwick until he discovers that the boys on the island end up being turned into donkeys.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • In X-Men, after Wolverine finds Rogue stowed away in his truck, he's about to leave her by the side of the road until he realizes he can't.
  • Ray Liotta in Cop Land does this, and then practically screams at his conscience over knowing he has to go back and help.
  • In Pulp Fiction: Butch, a boxer on the run from gangster Marsellus Wallace for failing to throw a fight for him, is captured alongside said enemy by a store owner and his hick cop buddy. While the sickos rape and beat Marsellus in the next room, Butch escapes his bonds and makes for the door, but stops when he hears Marsellus screaming. After a brief pause, he reluctantly searches for a weapon, picking a katana, and heads back downstairs, where he saves his enemy and his conscience.
  • In Black Dynamite, Black Dynamite is leaving the White House when he decides he just has to go apologize to first lady Patricia Nixon for hitting her. Even though she was shooting at him. She really thinks he was perfectly justified but appreciates the apology anyway.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest captain Jack Sparrow abandons his ship and his crew to the Kraken's mercy but then returns in the crucial moment and saves them all.
  • In No Country for Old Men, Llewelyn sees the aftermath of a firefight, and just takes whatever's not nailed down, ignoring the survivor begging for water and leaving the car door open against his wishes out of spite. That night (when the man couldn't possibly have been alive), he feels guilty and brings a gallon of water to the site; things kind of go downhill from there.
  • In The Film of the Book version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry almost allows Cedric to be devoured by the maze during the third task, choosing instead to run to the Goblet while he has the chance (due, in part, to the maze's quasi-demonic influence over whoever enters). He ultimately decides to run back to pull Cedric free.
  • In District 9, protagonist Wikus van de Merwe has a small chance of escaping his mercenary pursuers. He gladly abandons his Fire Forged Friend, the alien Christopher, and runs for it... and then Wikus overhears the mercenaries' plan to execute him. What follows is awesome.
  • In An American Werewolf in London, David and Jack are walking on the road in the middle of the night when suddenly Jack gets attacked by a large werewolf. David runs away in fear. Realizing that he can't leave his friend to die, he decides to go back and help him. It doesn't go quite well for either of them...
  • At the end of The Wild Bunch the remaining bandits failed to save their friend from the local warlord and are now getting ready to leave with their money. However, they realize that their conscience won't allow them to let the warlord get away with murdering their friend like this and their go back for a final Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Lampshaded in the film Necessary Roughness.
  • One of the staff member briefly does this in Titanic when Jack and Rose come to a locked stairwell and see him on the other side trying to head to the upper deck. He nearly leaves them there, but ultimately turns back to try to unlock the door. However, he drops the keys in the quickly flooding water, gives a quick apology and leaves them, forcing the two to search for the keys and unlock the door themselves.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek, McCoy does this when the fleet is preparing to confront the Narada. Kirk has been suspended from duty and isn't allowed on board, and McCoy has declined to help. He's a few seconds into walking off when he realizes he can't just leave Kirk behind.
  • David tries desperately not to do this in We're the Millers , but he does.
  • In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Han Solo is not in this for the revolution. After being bluntly dismissed by a disappointed Luke, Chewie eventually guilt-trips Han into making his Big Damn Heroes moment in the Death Star trench run.

    Literature 
  • Huckleberry Finn's line "I'll go to hell" counts, since he was prepared to betray Jim and then changed his mind. An unusual case in that due to Values Dissonance his subjective thought was more like "I Have To Do The Wrong Thing".
  • Discworld:
    • In Sourcery, Rincewind has this, when what he really wants to do, and really thinks that he should do, is flee for his life, but his conscience forces him to try to stop the all-powerful wizard Coin from destroying the universe. He even argues against his conscience. End result: Rincewind goes up against Coin with a brick in a sock. and inadvertently succeeds in stopping the destruction of the universe by accidentally inducing a Heel-Face Turn in Coin.
    • Also happens in The Light Fantastic; Twoflower declares he's going to go back to make sure Cohen's alright, and Rincewind says he's not going along. Cut scene to the two of them tied up, having been ambushed on the way back. In this case it was a mixture of conscience and The Luggage.
      Twoflower: I thought you'd come back.
      Rincewind: I don't want to talk about it.
  • In The Stormlight Archive Highprince Sadeas betrays Dalinar and leaves him and his army to be slaughtered by a vastly larger number of Parshendi. Kaladin, who originally wants to use this as a way to escape from Sadeas ends up deciding (with encouragement from Syl) to return with the bridge and save Dalinar and his men because somebody has to do the right thing.

    Live Action TV 
  • Lennier in Babylon 5 has had a serious crush on Delenn the entire series, but she married John Sheridan. Near the end of the series, Sheridan gets trapped in a sealed hallway filling with poisonous gas, and Lennier who could easily save him (and the unconscious Ranger that Sheridan was trying to save). Instead, he leaves so the gas can Murder the Hypotenuse. However, he says to himself that he can't go through with it. Sheridan saves himself, and upon seeing this, Lennier flees in shame.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor is leaving Bowie Base One and its crew to their unalterable fates. He can hear their frantic efforts to survive turn to failure as more and more of them fall to the waterborne virus, culminating in the self-destruct of their shuttle. Then he remembers his own words: "I'm not just a Time Lord, I'm the last of the Time Lords." And he returns to save those he can.
    • Of course, this example is...well, let's just say "complicated" by the fact that to save those people would be to alter a fixed point in time, an act which could possibly destroy time itself. Part of the reason he went back was because he was sick of failing people, yes, especially in light of the fact that he thinks he's going to die soon. But when he actually does save them — or at least thinks he has — he goes absolutely, terrifyingly guano. The whole exercise was about power as much as conscience.
  • In the pilot of The Invisible Man, Darien Fawkes is robbing a safe when an old man walks in and get a heart attack over explosion of the safe. It sets off alarms, and Darien attempts to run away but stops in the door. Then he goes back and tries to give the other man CPR. That doesn't end well.

    Video Games 
  • In Corpse Party, Ayumi and Yoshiki are returned to the classroom by one of the ghost children as thanks for returning her tongue. Ayumi wants to go back and save their surviving friends. Yoshiki, if you choose to object (or allow Yuka to be caught by Kizami) will do so and Ayumi will return alone after an argument. Yoshiki, however, is reminded of how much his friends mean to him and begs the ghost girl to send him back. It still leads to a Wrong End, though.
  • In Dragon Age II, if you manage to get Isabella's friendship/rivalry meter high enough, she will return the Qunari relic to the Arishok rather than save her own skin.
  • In Scratches, the protagonist, Michael, is about to leave the haunted mansion but decides to stay until he purges the curse of the mansion, fearing that something terrible might happen to someone in the future if he leaves just like that.
  • In Solatorobo, when Elh is captured by the Kurvasz, Red seriously considers leaving and declaring the whole issue Someone Else's Problem. Especially since Elh did betray them and tried to sacrifice him in the Rite of Forfeit. Chocolat agrees with him initially, but it's all a ploy to get him to realize that they should turn around and go rescue Elh.
  • In ClockTower, you can find a car and try to drive away. The game will actually ask you if you want to leave your friends and save your own life. But in any case, if you manage to drive away, you will eventually get a bad ending, so the only way to obtain the good ending is to stay in manor and try to save your friends.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, Drachma abandons Vyse, Aika and Fina in the desert town Maramba, feeling their quest to find the Moon Crystals has gotten in the way of his own personal hunt for Rhaknam. A short while later, he's seen alone aboard the Little Jack contemplating whether he did the right thing or not. When he spots the Valuan Admiral Belleza's ship preparing to ambush the other protagonists, he turns around and arrives just in time to save them.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Catwoman agonizes over whether to walk away with her loot or save Batman from Protocol Ten. You can actually make her walk away with the loot, at which point the credits roll, though after a minute the game rewinds and lets you make the "right" choice.
  • Final Fantasy X: There is point in the game when Seymour, gone into one of many One-Winged Angel forms, confronts the party. Kimahri volunteers to hold him off so that everyone else can escape. Yuna, distraught at the prospect of losing her oldest friend, eventually stops everyone and invokes this. Both her and Tidus' words convincing Wakka, then Rikku, then Lulu and then Auron to turn tail and go back to help him.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Subverted in the short "Bugs Bunny Rides Again". Bugs has tricked Yosemite Sam into walking off a cliff. Suddenly he runs down to the bottom and puts down a mattress, explaining to the audience, "Sometimes me conscience kinda bothers me... but not this time!", and pulls away the mattress at the last minute.
    • Bugs plays it straight in "Frigid Hare", when a penguin he's been trying to get rid of gets captured by an Eskimo. At first he goes "Oh, well. I'm not my penguin's keeper" and sets back to his hole. Moments later, he pops back up and goes back to save him, but not before he tries to explain himself to the audience.
  • Futurama: Fry is about to leave Leela, who is chasing him, trapped in a cryogenic chamber for a thousand years. Conscience gets the better of him, and he changes it to five minutes: 'you owe me!'
  • In an episode of the The Legend of Zelda animated cartoon, Link feels spurned and rejected by Zelda in favor of the prince. Link leaves the castle but hears Zelda's screams for help after the Prince refuses to help her. Link thinks to himself before turning back to aid her saying "Bah, I'm such a sucker".
  • In the DuckTales episode "The Golden Fleecing", Scrooge McDuck almost abandons Launchpad in danger over the Golden Fleece, but the friend's scream for help brings Scrooge to his senses.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Brain Drain", after Perry foils yet another of Doofenshmirtz's plans he is about to walk off, but then he realizes he left Doof in a position that would humiliate both him and his daughter. Perry goes back to fix it.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender When Aang finds out that Zuko is the Blue Spirit his initial reaction is to turn and run from the soldiers chasing both of them and leave the unconscious Zuko behind, of course being Aang he goes back.

Comes Great ResponsibilityResponsibility TropesFoolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling
The ConscienceIndex Of ShameCurious Qualms of Conscience
Chaotic GoodGoodness TropesContagious Heroism
Dominic DeeganImageSource/WebcomicsFertile Feet

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