Two characters meet to do battle on the field of honor, watched by someone in a position of authority over them. Maybe they are gladiators, fighting for the amusement of the King and his people
. Maybe they are two students fighting for the right to learn from a master
. In any case, they fight tooth and nail to defeat each other, and eventually one comes out on top, tasting victory while the opponent lies helpless and defeated.
As he enjoys his hard fought victory, he is congratulated by the onlooker, who then coldly orders him to finish the job and finish off his opponent
, killing them and taking the rightful place as the most brutal and powerful fighter in the land
If the winner is The Hero
(especially if he is The Messiah
), he will more often than not refuse to kill his opponent, and attempt to leave without any more blood on his hands, earning the ire of the onlooker (unless it was a Secret Test of Character
all along). If the heroic fighter is more aggressive, he may instead kill the captive to establish his character as being more inclined to brutality, to the amusement and satisfaction of the watcher
(who may not know that he is next).
Related to Coup de Grâce
and Mercy Kill
, where a character does this of their own free will, instead of being ordered to. Compare Kick Them While They Are Down
, Get It Over With
. Contrast Shoot Your Mate
, Kill Him Already
The title for this trope may be a Mortal Kombat meme
, but it's not
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- Near the end of the "Superman In Exile" storyline, Superman is forced to fight in gladiatorial games on the distant planet known as Warworld. After a hard fought battle against the champion, Superman comes out victorious, and is ordered to Finish Him by the Big Bad Warlord Mongul, who is watching the fight. When Supes refuses, it angers Mongul, demoralizes and humiliates the champion (who had hoped for an honorable death in battle), and astonishes the hordes of spectators watching the fight. This part of the storyline was adapted into a Justice League Unlimited episode titled "War World".
- Spartacus features what may be the Ur Example in modern film, with Spartacus and the "Nubian" forced to fight to the death at the gladiator school (in violation of school policy that they would not be forced to kill one another while there) for the amusement of several Roman nobles. In a bit of an aversion, Spartacus, the titular hero, actually loses and his opponent is the one who refuses to carry out the killing blow, opting instead to throw his trident at the evil Roman politician who gave the order and then climb the wall of the arena to get at him. The incident (along with Spartacus' love interest being taken away from him) is what kicks off the riot at the gladiator training facility and starts the slave revolt that forms the main plot.
- Star Wars
- Revenge of the Sith: After Anakin defeats Count Dooku he is ordered to Finish Him by the watching captive, Palpatine. After surprisingly little fight (or, perhaps, not so surprising), Anakin complies, and instantly regrets it.
- In Return of the Jedi, Palpatine gives Luke the same instruction as he stands over the defeated Darth Vader. This time, however, it doesn't work, and Luke's refusal to kill his own father is a major factor in the latter's Heel Face Turn.
- Batman Begins: Played straight, though, without prior knowledge of Ra's Al Ghul's personality, it would seem to a Secret Test of Character instead.
- Flash Gordon (1980). Flash and Prince Barin are fighting on the tilting floor (with pop-up knives). While Flash is lashing Barin with a whip, Prince Vultan yells "Come on boy, finish him!". Watch it on YouTube here, at 1:55.
- As well as Flash's mercy wins over Vultan and Barin.
- Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Max refuses to kill Blaster after knocking off his helmet and finding the hulking brute is actually a drooling idiot. This violates the rules of the Thunderdome, in which two men with a quarrel enter and only one leaves (designed to stop quarrels from spreading and involving others). Worse, he blurts out the fact that Aunty Entity hired him to kill Blaster, forcing The Dragon to take direct action and kill Blaster himself. Entity gets her revenge by banishing Max into the desert.
- TRON: As Crom struggles to climb back up onto a ring platform, Sark tells Flynn to "finish the game". When he refuses, Sark removes the platform and drops Crom to his de-resolution anyway (and almost does the same to Flynn, only reluctantly holding back when he remembers the MCP's orders to keep Flynn around until he dies in combat).
- Also used in TRON: Legacy when Clu 2 tries to make Rinzler, a corrupted version of Tron, take down the Flynns and Quorra, only to reply, "I fight for the Users", and turns against his former master.
- In Naked Weapon, the evil Madame M kidnaps little girls from all around the world, brings them to her heavily guarded secret island and trains them to be sexy assassins. Once they're all grown up and their training is finished, she makes all 25 of them fight to the death until only one is left standing. Talk about wasting resources...
- John Kreese in The Karate Kid says this, just before his pupil gets his ass handed to him by Daniel's Crane kick.
- Also used in the remake set in China. Kreese's equivalent in that movie orders one of his pupils to strike another student that he had incapacitated during practice; the student hesitates and is smacked in the face for his hesitation.
- History of the World Part I has its Roman section have the Emperor deem this when Comicus defeats Josephus. Comicus's response? 'Tough shit.' He hesitates, then ultimately revolts, when Josephus spends his would-be last moments crying and whimpering at the idea of dying.
- Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan has a case where the main character actually goes along, after a page of agonizing. This incidentally marks his Moral Event Horizon.
- In E. E. “Doc” Smith's Triplanetary, the end of Patrocles's fight in the Gladiator Games; he stabs his foe, unnecessarily. Which means he lives long enough for a futile Gladiator Revolt.
- In Starfighters of Adumar, Cartanese culture calls for the winner of a ground duel to offer this choice to someone in the crowd (usually either the perator or their Love Interest), who can choose either mercy or death. Part of Cheriss's plan to commit honorable suicide involves her giving the perator the choice and then refusing, knowing that after that, no one would offer her mercy.
- Battle of the Labyrinth: Percy refusing to kill Ethan after defeating him in a gladiator-style duel and being ordered to kill him.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko rescues Dukat from the Maquis. While holding a phaser on Maquis members to give them a message, he's told by an increasingly irritated Dukat, "What are you waiting for? Shoot them!"
- Firefly In the episode "Shindig", Mal ends up in a sword duel with a local aristocrat. Predicably (since, well, one of these guys is a main character and one of these guys is not), Mal wins, with the aristocrat lying wounded on the ground. He is informed that to leave his opponent defeated and wounded would leave the man with the stigma of living as a coward. Mal responds that "Mercy is the mark of a great man." note
- Prison Break: In Sona, a chicken-foot fight means only one of them can leave the fight alive. The first time Michael refuses and when the other guy comes at him with a knife Mahone kills him. The second time Whistler is about to kill Michael when their failed escape plan is found and the guards come storming in.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The King's Demons", the king orders the Doctor to do this after defeating his champion.
- In The Protomen's song "The Sons Of Fate", the fight between Megaman and Protoman is watched by the people of the City. Shortly after Megaman realizes they will never fight for themselves, the people shout "Destroy him!/You can save us!/You are our hope!/Kill Protoman!" Megaman does so, and leaves them to die.
- Trope Namer is Mortal Kombat, where Shang Tsung (and, subsequently, Shao Kahn) orders the winning fighter to do this after every match. However, this only rarely comes up in the storyline, as most characters are killed in battle rather than after it.
- At the end of Metal Gear Solid 3, the main character is standing over his mentor's broken body aiming his Patriot at her face. The game won't continue until you fire.
- In the first Fable, you fight alongside Whisper in the Arena. Since two people can't be the Arena Champion, you're ordered to fight eachother to the death. The two of you make a deal to "just give them a good show," with the winner just leaving after nearly killing the other, but it's up to the player whether or not to honor it.
- Guitar Hero III. After defeating Lou in the final boss battle in Hell, you get an opportunity to play the final section in the song and Finish Him to regain your soul. Why does he come back in GH:WT? He got sent back to hell.
- The devil always comes back. He came back to Georgia, after all.
- In World of Warcraft, the conclusion to the Final Boss battle vs. the Lich King is a form of this. After all appears lost, Tirion Fordring shatters the dread runeblade Frostmourne, breaking the Lich King's power and releasing all the souls he's stolen. As he floats there helpless, Terenas Menethil resurrects the raid group, and orders the players to finish off Arthas.
- The conclusion to the Archimonde battle at Mount Hyjal (Caverns of Time version) is this. When you get him down to 10% health, he Turns Red and unleashes far more powerful attacks...but the raid is buffed with Blessing of Elune, rendering all raid members immune to his attacks. While there is a limited duration to that buff, the wisps around Mount Hyjal are also attacking, pretty much guaranteeing that he dies before the buff expires.
- The Mech Commander intro video.
- In Mass Effect 2, Commander Sheppard can, if his/her Renegade points are high enough, force Jack to kill one of her childhood inmates to prevent him from reopening the facility. If you let him go, then you get a message in Mass Effect 3 that he has gone straight and thanks you for your mercy.
- In Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner, when you defeat Nohman in the final battle after the following cutscene in which Nohman gloats to Dingo that he had indeed killed his comrades, Dingo calmly tells him that they're waiting for him now and you're left to do the finishing move on Nohman by either obliterating him or by slashing him to pieces.
- The battle between Zoidberg and Fry in the Futurama episode, "Why Must I Be a Crustacean In Love?" Fry refuses, and goes into a dramatic speech about the importance of friendship. At which point Zoidberg chops off his arm, causing Fry to go into an Unstoppable Rage while chasing a terrified Zoidberg and beating him with said arm.
- In Avatar The Last Airbender, Zuko kicks Zhao's butt in a duel in the third episode. Zhao, probably knowing full well that Zuko wouldn't be able to finish him off, says "do it!" when Zuko has him defeated. Zuko doesn't finish him—our first clue that he's not truly evil. When Zuko turns his back to leave, Zhao dishonorably tries to strike from behind despite having already lost—confirming that he really is truly evil.
- There is an interesting variation in episode 2 of Beast Wars. Optimus and Dinobot are fighting on the terms, established by Dinobot, that the winner will lead the Maximals and the loser will be cast into the river below. Dinobot had been disarmed and knocked down by Optimus and tells Optimus to finish him, but he refuses. Dinobot takes this opportunity to retaliate and the whole thing just goes downhill from there.
- In Exo Squad, Lt. Marsh refuses to kill a pirate warrior he previously defeated in a ritual fight to the death, in spite of Simbacca encouraging. him to do so.
- In Adventure Time, the Fight King says this as the main character and Hero, Finn, is about to kill his best friend Jake. He doesn't go through with it.
- Parodied in an episode of King of the Hill, when Bobby and Peggy get in a fight on their front lawn, egged on by their neighbor Kahn: "She bluffing! Finish her!"
- In the Justice League episode "War World", after Superman defeats Gladiator Draega, Mongul orders Superman to do this. Being who he is, he refuses, even when Draega himself asks him to do so.