: I was wrong about you, Katarn. Your failure as a Jedi hasn't weakened you; it's made you stronger. Come, join me
. You know in your heart that you'll never truly be one of them. Kyle Katarn
: Maybe, maybe not, but I know I won't be alone
. How 'bout you, Desann? Even now, after all this pain, it's not too late... Come, join us
: ...You weak fool!
The Heel-Face Turn
that never was.
If your villain is tragic, insane
, infected with some kind of horrible, mutating, alien virus
or otherwise not entirely responsible for his actions, and your hero isn't a complete meanie
, then you might want to include the Last-Second Chance
scene, in which the hero offers to help the villain put things right and/or cure his affliction. "It is not too late yet" is a common stock phrase.
Because viewers have come to expect that villains must
die in the final act, this offer is usually turned down. It may be done tragically ("no, no, I can't go back now,
not after what I've done"),
selfishly ("why would I want to give up this power?")
or dramatically ("there's nothing left for me any more...")
, but it will almost certainly happen
. It may also happen after the innocent loved one of the villain is killed,
giving him no reason to turn back and driving him into a despairing rage. Most frustrating perhaps is when the villain realizes that accepting what the hero says is the right thing to do... but he doesn't do it anyway
This scene typically occurs just after the big climactic battle, so that the villain can have one last go at killing the hero before meeting a Karmic Death
. Sometimes, however, it happens just before
the big battle, so that the audience can relax and enjoy the fireworks without having their conscience harmed. This also serves to make them a Self-Disposing Villain
, freeing the hero from much of the guilt associated with killing.
Should the villain actually accept the Last-Second Chance
, it's usually curtains for them, since Redemption Equals Death
, maybe even immediately
. At best, they may get a Redemption Quest
to go on in their attempt to become The Atoner
. Still, this is nothing to sneeze at since they have essentially proved Redemption Earns Life
May also occur with a Rival Turned Evil
. Different from the Kirk Summation
in that there the hero is trying to browbeat the baddie into capitulating through moral rightness, whereas here the hero is trying to save
the villain and offer help.
Compare Save the Villain
. Flip the speaking roles, and it's We Can Rule Together
. In particularly poignant examples, one party can attempt to take the offer after all, only to learn
that it's now Off the Table
Incidentally, the trope name is sort of a phrasal portmanteau, and can be interpreted both as "another chance offered at the last second" and "the final offer of a second chance" at the same time.
Since many of these occur at the end of a work, spoilers may be unmarked.
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Anime and Manga
- Lyle Dylandy offers this to Ali al-Saachez in episode 24 of Season 2 of Gundam 00. It doesn't work... however he's Genre Savvy enough not to lower his gun, allowing him to immediately shoot Ali when the latter attempts to turn around and fire at him.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hanyuu gives this sort of version to Takano after she lost, saying that she can forgive the sins of man. However, Takano rejects the offer, saying that it's too late, then tries to shoot Mion.
- Used at the end of season one of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Precia refuses Fate's invokement of the trope, however, and goes down with the tank containing Alicia's lifeless body.
- Nina tries to pull this on Johan in Monster by forgiving him for his actions (towards her, at least) in the climax, to stop his plan to make Tenma shoot him. Johan replies, apparently somewhat saddened, that some things cannot be taken back or forgiven. He had already pulled the same plan on her ten years ago, and she shot him.
- Occurs during the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. When Metal Sonic is about to fall into the Lava below, Sonic reaches out to him offering his hand in a last ditch bid to help him. Just when he's gotten close enough, Metal knocks his hand away with the same statement he's been saying all movie: "There is only one Sonic", and he apparently doesn't think it's him.
- Also occurs in Sonic X when Yellow Zelkova basically commits suicide rather than choosing to let Knuckles save him.
- One of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s most prominent examples is Jounouchi's/Joey's second duel with Mai during the Doma arc. Unfortunately, by the time she decides she doesn't want to kill him, he's already in the throes of a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Not really. Mai was still under Mind Rape/brainwashing when she was about to finish him off, but suddenly snapped out of it at that very moment.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Vector of the Barian emperors has proven himself to be a remorseless monster, but when he was about to get absorbed by the series' God of Evil, Yuma risks his life to save him, saying he still considers him a friend (since Vector had previously masqueraded as one of Yuma's lovable friends, and it has been revealed that most of his sadistic persona is due to Mind Rape). While it appears at first that Vector is moved, he reveals his psychotic face again, wanting to take Yuma with him towards their demise, much to the others' shock. However, Yuma still smiles to him and promises him to go with him, so that he is never alone. This time however, Vector let goes of Yuma and bids him farewell before letting himself be absorbed.
- In Toriko, IGO President Ichiryuu visits the Gourmet Corp headquarters to confront Midora. He invites Midora to share a meal with him at one of their old hangouts, reminding Midora of the good old days when they considered each other family. He then asks if Midora would be willing to share GOD. Midora smirks and declares that he'll be taking GOD all for himself. Ichiryuu resigns himself to war with his former brother, realizing they can no longer sit at the same dining table.
- In Attack on Titan, Jean and Connie desperately try to talk Reiner and Bertolt down, using The Power of Friendship. After this triggers Bertolt's Villainous BSOD, Mikasa calms down from her previous murderous rage and asks him to give Eren back. He regrettably responds that he can't, and after several more casualties, the group ultimately manages to rescue Eren, leaving Reiner and Bertolt behind.
- In Dragon Ball Z Goku abruptly ends the battle with Frieza, claiming that the tyrant was no longer a challenge to him and thus not worth fighting anymore. Goku goes on to say that he's satisfied in leaving Namek in the knowledge that Frieza would be forever tormented by the humiliation of his defeat at the hands of a Saiyan. To reinforce his distaste in continuing the battle Goku powers down from his Super Saiyan form and immediately flies off. Frieza enraged by his words throws an energy disk at Goku (akin to Krillen's destructo disk) as a last ditch effort to kill Goku; this betrayal of the mercy Goku offered Frieza incites his wrath and has him passionately retort: "You truly are a helpless fool! I gave you one last chance to live, and this is how you repay me?!"
- At the end of Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman confronts The Joker and asks him to let Batman help him back towards sanity. The Joker refuses. Actually, many Batman stories have him asking his more deranged enemies to go peacefully back to Arkham Asylum for treatment... usually followed by a big fight. The Joker, for probably the only time in his villainous career, actually considers Batman's plea to try to get rehabilitated, which he dismisses with surprisingly humane sadness (it's "far too late for me", he says) rather than rejecting it instantly.
- Batman never stops trying to rehabilitate his former friend Harvey Dent aka Two-Face. Sadly, Harvey's inner demons are too strong and his Heel Face Turns never last.
- In the latest Wavedancers graphic collection, Surge (former chief) is so paranoid about "landers" (humans, but by extension, anyone who doesn't live underwater) that he takes drastic measures to prevent his tribe from becoming friends with the "lander" elves. This includes kidnapping Cutter (chief of the non-Wavedancer elves) and swearing to kill him if he doesn't get his way. During the hostage situation, Cutter just about talks him into being more open-minded, when the actual chief of the Wavedancers challenges Surge (his father). The chance is lost, and Surge reverts to his paranoid control-freak persona. But in the end, he does sacrifice himself to save Cutter, and there is an afterlife for elves, so it's kinda okay.
- Deconstructed in Irredeemable where The Doctor expy Qubit saves Plutonian from death or tortuous-but-fit-for-his-crimes imprisonment a number of times in the hope that Tony isn't, well, irredeemable. Each time Tony goes on another Roaring Rampage of Revenge, killing millions, and Qubit's teammates are not pleased.
- In the Death Note fic A Cure for Love Light/Kira asks L if he's changed his mind and is going to join him. L in turn pleads that he stop being Kira and they could run away to an island somewhere. Light explains that he can't stop being Kira because he's made a Deal with the Devil and in any case he doesn't want to because being Kira is "his calling" and besides there's nothing left to go back to.
- The Immortal Game: After stripping Titan of all his power, Twilight offers him a chance to live the rest of his life as a normal pony, and maybe atone for what he's done. He opts instead for a final, suicidal charge.
- At the end of the Dashverse story May the Best Friends Win, Rainbow Dash tells Trixie she can either leave town, thus ending their friendship, or stay and try to make amends for her actions, giving them a chance to rebuild. She chooses the latter.
- Friendship Is Aura: Lucario offers Chrysalis a chance to leave in peace if she tells him where the kidnapped Celestia is. She responds by absorbing her followers and trying one last time to kill him. This gets her killed.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Mass Effect Fusion Fic, Mass Effect The Equestrian Equation, it is instinct to do this to any potential opponent for both the Equestrians and their ancient ancestors, the Equines. However, having evolved from prey animals, they are a lot shorter-tempered with outsiders trying to pick on the small, harmless-looking critters than they are with each other. At one point, Twilight gives a broadcast explaining that while Equestrians have an elaborate conflict solving/defusing social ritual, it only applies to their own kind; other species get given one chance to back down, and then are immediately attacked with everything the Equestrian has to offer.
- Mare of Steel: During the Final Battle of the first arc, Rainbow Dash offers Zod a chance to surrender and become The Atoner, but he refuses, opting instead to attempt Taking You with Me.
- Towards the end of the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film, the White Queen offers one to the Red Queen.
White Queen: Racie, we don't have to fight.
White Queen: (Quietly) Please...
Red Queen: NO! It is MY crown! I AM THE ELDEST!
- Occurs in Batman Returns, where Bruce gives Catwoman the offer to live happily ever after with him in his mansion. Her answer, she could never live with herself.
- The ending of Falling Down has Det. Martin Prendergast asking William "D-Fens" Foster to surrender so that he can still watch his little girl grow up. Foster refuses, insisting instead on a final shoot-out with Prendergast. It turns out to be Suicide by Cop, since Foster only has a water pistol.
- In the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar, after a much more taunting version of the climactic song than usual, Jesus reaches out to Judas, who rejects him one last time. Once Jesus is back in the physical world, the demonic showgirls vanish, and the last we see of Judas is of him suffering in Hell.
- In the film version of David Brin's The Postman the title character does this to General Bethlehem after defeating him His reward? A predictable but failed attempt to stab him in the back.
- Of course, the final scene in Return of the Jedi is an example of this in incredibly slow-motion, with Darth Vader refusing to save Luke several times before finally saving him, and as always, Redemption Equals Death.
- Offering a Last Second Chance to potentially redeemable opponents is the Jedi's counter to the Sith's "Dun Moch".
- In Robot Jox, the two leading robot pilots, hero Achilles and villain Alexander, end up fighting it out hand to hand after they destroy each others' mecha. After a Not So Different realization that they are both just soldiers for their corporate masters, Achilles offers Alexander a chance to end the fight in an honorable draw that would let them both survive. Unusually for this trope, Alexander accepts the offer, and the movie ends with the two saluting each other.
- Spider-Man 2 has a memorable scene where Dr. Octavius (AKA Doc Ock) takes the Last-Second Chance, and dies saving the city from his own machinations.
- In the new Star Trek film, the villain is on the ropes and is especially spiteful in turning down his Last-Second Chance. "I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times! I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you!"
- "You got it."
- In Search for Spock, Kirk tries to save the Klingon commander from falling into a lava field. Of course, Klingons being Klingons, the commander tries to drag Kirk down with him; and gets kicked off.
"I... have had... enough of... you!"
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Optimus trying to awake some good in his old mentor Sentinel Prime but fails and ultimately forcing him to execute the latter. When Sam Witwicky was fighting Dylan Gloud in the final battle, he tried to reason with him but likewise, said person didn't listen.
- Taken 2: Bryan Mills tries to offer the Big Bad Murad a chance to walk away in exchange for leaving his family in peace. Murad blows it.
- At the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Dr. Elsa Schneider had a second chance when Indiana dove for her hands as she almost fell into an abyss. All she had to do was let him lift her up to safety; instead, she pried one of her hands free to reach the grail underneath her. As she stretched, the glove on her other hand came off slowly but surely, resulting in a fatal plunge.
- Kill Bill: Before their fight begins, the Bride offers Gogo Yubari a chance to back off and go home (most likely because she is 17 at the very oldest), but it's laughingly denied.
- Harry Potter: Harry, naturally, gives Voldemort the "last chance to feel remorse" speech before an Inaction Sequence Wizard Duel because Harry knows what will happen to him after death if he doesn't mend his soul. It isn't death he's trying to save him from.
- The Grapes of Wrath has an odd example, when Jim Casy tries to talk a strikebreaker into switching sides, because the strikers can't afford any more wage cuts. Said strikebreaker bashes his head in.
- Gandalf offer one to Saruman in The Two Towers, and while Saruman actually considers it seriously for awhile, his overwhelming pride and jealousy of Gandalf make him ultimately refuse. And then he gets offered another one toward the end of The Return of The King.
Galadriel: Saruman, we have other errands and other cares that seem to us more urgent than hunting for you. Say rather that you are overtaken by good fortune, for now you have a last chance.
Saruman: If it be truly the last, I am glad, for I shall be spared the trouble of refusing it again.
- In The Silmarillion, Maedhros and Maglor receive one from Eönwë, after they demand the remaining Silmarils from him. Eönwë tells them that they no longer have any right to the Silmarils, and gives them a chance to return to Valinor and be judged by the Valar for their crimes. Maglor wants to go and tries to persuade Maedhros, but Maedhros refuses, and in the end persuades Maglor to go along with his plan to steal the Silmarils from Eönwë. Needless to say, it doesn't end well...
- The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne, title character, gets one against a passive-aggressive villain, just after he's had his epiphany.
Chillingworth: Thou hadst great elements. Peradventure, hast though met earlier with a better love than mine, this evil had not been. I pity thee, for the good that has been wasted in thy nature!
Hester: And I thee, for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man into a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee, and be once more human?
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan the Barbarian appeals to Rinaldo, the idealist among his assassins to give it up.
- Subverted in A Song of Ice and Fire when Theon Greyjoy is offered the opportunity to be conscripted into the Night's Watch as an alternative to being executed after his botched invasion of Winterfell. He considers the offer, but his acceptance of it is interrupted by the invading Bolton army, who drag him away to a much worse fate.
- In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel, Madcap Magician attempt to persuade Admiral Tufayli to surrender so that he and his men can be treated and released. The other guy doesn't bite.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe book Dark Rendezvous, Yoda travels to meet with Count Dooku, his former pupil, to negotiate an end to the Clone Wars. Dooku tells Yoda that what started out as an idealistic crusade has gone horribly wrong and that he's in over his head, and Yoda offers to let Dooku return home to the Jedi Order. Darth Sidious however gets wind of what's going on, and playing off Dooku's dislike and jealousy of Anakin Skywalker, sends none other than Anakin and Obi-Wan to go "help" Yoda. When battle breaks out between Dooku's guards and the two younger Jedi, Dooku assumes that Yoda brought them along as reinforcements and feeling rather betrayed, he flees the scene.
- In Darth Bane, one of Bane's former comrades from his days in the Sith Army reaches out to him and tries to get him to turn away from the path of the Sith. It almost seems like it will work, and for a brief moment Bane is Dessel again. His own apprentice Zannah kills his comrade to stop it, and the moment passes.
- In the last book of The Wheel of Time, Rand offers his Arch-Enemy and Evil Counterpart Moridin a final chance to, for once in his life, do the right thing. Moridin will have none of it. Cue final duel.
- Lanfear also gets one of these. It actually looks like she seriously considers taking it for a moment, but of course she doesn't. Cue Neck Snap. There's more than a bit of Alas, Poor Villain about this one.
- In The Dresden Files: Skin Game, Michael offers this to Nicodemus after they break into Hades' vault, pointing out that Nicodemus' pursuit of power has cost him the one thing that can never be replaced: Deirdre, his daughter and lover, and the one person who truly loved him, whom he had to sacrifice to get through the Gate of Blood. It's also the reason Karrin doesn't believe she's fit to be a Knight of the Cross, as the Knights must always allow their targets to seek redemption if they are willing, and Murphy believes that truly evil people deserve to be punished.
- Earlier in the same book, Nicodemus specifically has the Genoskwa distract Michael as Deirdre sacrifices herself because he knows Michael would offer Deirdre the Last-Second Chance, and -in her final moments and facing a Fate Worse Than Death- she might actually accept.
- In Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor makes a point of offering most of his enemies a peaceful resolution if possible. Woe betide them if they refuse... "No second chances. I'm that sort of a man." In his tenure as the Doctor, exactly one villain ever took him up on this. Still, he's often inconsistent and generally never stops trying to get the enemy to come over to the light.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane also tends to do this. Three guesses where she learned it from, and the first two don't count.
- In Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard's team repeatedly tried to convince Lt. Ford to return to Atlantis to get cured to no avail. Note that he was not an actual villain, but just crazy because of the wraith enzyme that he was addicted to and prone to endangering the lives of expedition members without realizing it.
- Averted in an early episode of Andromeda where Trance offers a second chance to the man who killed her in the pilot, and after a few threats and a chase scene he accepts. As Trance explained to Harper at the end of the episode. "Everyone deserves a second chance.... or as many as they need."
- Turned up to 11 in Xena episode "Tsunami": Villain tries to kill Gabrielle, Xena says "If you do that again, I will kill you." Villain tries to kill the Captain, Xena says etc. etc. Villain tries to kill the pregnant woman, Xena says etc. etc. Villain tries to kill everybody, Xena says etc. etc. Repeat for 40 minutes.
- Occurred once in Farscape, when Crichton tries to convince Pathfinder Neeyala to help save Moya instead of her research vessel, offering to return her to her home planet. Neeyala coldy refuses, explaining that returning home without her ship and its precious data would be punished with her execution, the execution of her family, and the families of her crew.
- Michael Westen offers one of these in the Burn Notice episode "Friends and Family", as outlined in a page quote.
- Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Faith: Give me that speech again. [...] It's not too late, we can still save you.
Willow: It's way too late.
- Used in The Vampire Diaries on Damon, who is seemingly permanently on this trope, usually with Bonnie, on occasions with Elena & Stefan. Due to Contractual Immortality it's unlikely he'll ever get his full comeuppance.
- Averted for Sonny Steelgrave in the first season of Wiseguy: although Vinnie admits to Sonny that he would have given him a Last-Second Chance to elude prosecution, Sonny murders a man in cold blood while Vinnie's hidden video camera is recording him, making it impossible for Vinnie to invoke this trope for him.
- In the Christian radio drama Adventures in Odyssey, Mr. Alan gives Dr. Blackguard a chance to redeem himself after his plot to collect a mineral that could be used to produce a super virus he was planning on selling. The Dr. says he's beyond saving, and decides to trigger a bomb to take him, Mr. Alan, and much of Whit's End out. Ironically in a scene, and part of an arc that the show's creators would have criticized for being too violent if it had been in a visual form rather than audio only.
- Boy, Gordon Frohman of Concerned gets his chances. Too bad he never makes proper use of any of them. He even manages to undo his Deus ex Machina.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace gives one to Damien asking him to surrender but he doesn't take it.
- In Erfworld, just before Jillian goes to attack Stanley, she makes one final attempt to salvage her relationship with Wanda, assuming that Wanda is bound to serve Stanley via a loyalty spell. Wanda shows, in no uncertain terms, that she is Not Brainwashed.
- Inverted in A Girl and Her Fed, when Jesse asks for this, and is flatly refused.
- In strip #913 of The Order of the Stick, Tarquin makes one last attempt to reconcile with Nale, even after Nale rebelled against him and killed his best friend Malack. Nale stubbornly refuses and declares that he wants nothing from Tarquin. Tarquin promptly stabs Nale to avenge Malack.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Zuko getting a last second chance was the major point of hype for the season 2 finale, a chance he blew when his sister played the "honor and father's love" cards. His Heel-Face Turn only came around when he finally got sick of playing along with her in the third season, by which point none of the viewers were surprised.
- Of course, Aang gives one to Ozai, who just laughs it off.
- Katrina from the second My Little Pony special is offered this — and she accepts.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Celestia offers one to her younger sister, the defeated Nightmare Moon reverted to Princess Luna by the Elements of Harmony. For once, Luna accepts and repents for what she's done. Unsurprising considering the theme of the show and that Word of God has confirmed Princess Luna didn't turn into Nightmare Moon completely of her own accord in the first place.
- Late in season 3, Celestia does this once again to Discord, enlisting Fluttershy to reform him. Surprisingly, it (mostly) works.
- In Twilights Kingdom Part 1, according to Tirek's back story, his brother Scorpan tried this after having a Heel-Face Turn, trying to convince him to abandon their plans. Tirek wouldn't listen, so Scorpan had no choice but to arrange for him to be imprisoned in Tartarus.
- Bob from ReBoot actively tries not to delete Megabyte because he believes all viruses can be redeemed and believes that if Megabyte can it would serve as the ultimate example. He has some backing for this: as he points out, if he had deleted Hexadecimal earlier in the series instead of trying to redeem her, the entire Internet would have been destroyed in the first movie.
- The second season of the animated Teen Titans series ended with one of these, with Terra sacrificing herself to stop a volcanic eruption. Note that in the comics she was much less sympathetic, so naturally she didn't get this treatment.
- Nox, the Big Bad from Wakfu is offered this after his plan to travel back in time to save his family fails. In a bit of a twist on the norm, he accepts and retreats. The finality of his last line hints that he does not intend to return.
- In Transformers Prime, Dreadwing is disillusioned with the Decepticon cause after discovering just how little honor really matters to Megatron. He then aids the Autobots by giving them the Forge of Solus Prime. Optimus once again asks Dreadwing to join the Autobots. Dreadwing refuses, since betraying the Decepticons doesn't mean he is ready to join the Autobots. Dreadwing then returns to the Nemesis and takes actions that he almost certainly knows will lead to his death and indeed they do.