"Removing evil is not the same as creating good."
So the character descends upon the settlement, burns their buildings, kills the inhabitants, takes their money and resources, and leaves, pleased that now he'll be able to buy that shiny new whatever he was wanting.
Is this the new Big Bad
? No! It's the Hero! ...oh wait, did I forget to mention that it was a settlement of bandits? Right. So it's okay then.
Welcome to a special kind of morality where otherwise evil actions are considered okay because the victims deserved it
. Of course, this can be played straight
, or left disquietingly gray
depending on the author. This one's very common with Revenge
stories in general, since revenge is basically a snippet of Paying Evil Unto Evil.
Expect an extra heavy Villain Ball
complete with kicking
dogs by the Asshole Victim
if the author especially wants you to know it's okay. Also the plot often tries to justify this as "people whom the law let get away." Expect What the Hell, Hero?
. The villain may also call out a Not So Different
speech to the "hero"
as a final insult.
Sometimes this is done retroactively.
If the hero does something incredibly horrible to someone, it will then
be revealed that this person was really evil all along.
Often gains an Inspector Javert
opponent, whose rightness depends from case to case.
It is also a common and effective way to give a Sympathetic P.O.V.
to an Anti-Hero
in works with Black and Gray Morality
. In darker Crime and Punishment Series
, this is often the reaction of the police department to Cop Killers
Contrast with If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him
, The Farmer and the Viper
and Kick the Son of a Bitch
(when the victim in question isn't recognized by the killer for the bad things they've done). May overlap with Disproportionate Retribution
See also Vigilante Man
, Just Like Robin Hood
, Serial-Killer Killer
, Unscrupulous Hero
, and Wife-Basher Basher
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Alucard in Hellsing (the TV version) fits...maybe until near the end. Not so much in the manga and OVA where he's a little less discriminating as some hapless SWAT soldiers find out.
- Very occasionally done in Ranma ˝. It's full of Jerk Ass characters, so there's rarely a shortage of asshole victims, but very few actually practice this MO, mind you. Ranma is the straightest example and once, he mastered the Hiryuu Shoten-Ha to use against Happousai. Mousse, Kuno, Principal Kuno and Gosunkugi all charge into the battle to beat on Ranma; nice guy that he is, Ranma hesitates to use his new attack out of concern they'll all be caught in the massive blast. Then he remembers how the same four characters had earlier viciously ganged up on him when he was too weak to defend himself. He promptly launches the attack.
- Zig-zagged in Yu-Gi-Oh!, when the early installments, back when the series was still intended to be a horror story and Yami Yugi was a dark avenger, taking on a variety of bullies and crooks on the behalf of Yugi and his friends, frequently with Penalty Games. It's ambiguous whether any of them died from the treatment, but more than one would be hospitalised. The adults are usually either too powerless to help, and the police don't seem to exist. This character habit is later toned down when the move towards tournament arcs takes precedence, and the character needed to evolve from an anti-hero to a generally mysterious hero. Bakura later points out in Millennium World that the Millennium Items themselves are a compass between good and evil, and can corrupt the people trying to use them to do 'justice' of any sort. The one exception to this treatment is Kaiba - Yami's second penalty game is designed to give him a spiritual rehabilitation, after some effort.
- Kazuma in s-CRY-ed at times, particularly after Kimishima is killed and he decides to go wreck the nearest unit with a HOLY emblem on it.
- Franky/Zoro from One Piece sometimes. Also Whitebeard.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch has moments of this, but is generally too ruthless to qualify. Although he does turn a terrorist group into rebels with good publicity by convincing them to attack anyone who abuses power, as opposed to simply attacking the government and letting Britannian casualties fall where they would, as they had in the past.
- Lelouch has an infamous line in the second series: "I commit evil to fight the greater evil!". However, he is willing to commit hypocrisy on this regard if it will serve the interest of his goal.
- Thoroughly deconstructed in Monster, although it is played straight in the first couple of episodes when Tenma, in a fit of rage, declares that his superiors should die. They indeed do so, whereupon the trope is deconstructed since it is the audience, not the characters, who wholeheartedly approve of the act.
- The titular Akumetsu's modus operandi. Corrupt politicians get buried in bridges, injected with tainted medicine, thrown off buildings, shot, or just hacked to death with an axe.
- So much Nightmare Fuel. The last 'normal' Akumetsu he does involves entombing alive an old guy whose sin was apparently not being corrupt or evil or twisted but really liking highways, and building unnecessary ones with public monies. Not only that, the old guy doesn't even get the chance to go out in privacy, he has to deal with a camera and a smirking Akumetsu who's just going to have his consciousness copied into a new body when he dies, and so isn't actually sacrificing much. Good thing the yakuza weighed in at this point.
- The axe guy on the other hand was repulsive in every possible way, and made a pretty good debut. Given our viewpoint character was the first-day-as-a-teen-prostitute girl he was making lick his sweaty feet when Akumetsu came in, we were so glad to see his head split.
- Death Note: Light Yagami murders dozens of people on a daily basis in spasms of Unholy Satanic Glee because they're criminals...or someone said they're criminals. It goes downhill from there.
- L locks people up in solitary confinement and uses sensory deprivation on them for months on end in order to get a confession, and he has few qualms about letting a few dozen people die in order to catch his man (although when presented with a less objectionable option, he did accept it with enthusiasm of an undetermined sincerity level).
- Teru Mikami believed this even without the super-temptation book of When All You Have Is a Hammer. When he got one, he did something similar to Light.
- In Mai-Otome, Tomoe was probably the most evil character in the series, up to arranging an Attempted Rape on Arika because she saw her as a threat to her True Love for Shizuru. When Tomoe finally joined the enemy, she was "rewarded" with Shizuru as a Sex Slave, a job which Shizuru not only wanted (because it put her where she needed to be for the Grand Finale) but thoroughly enjoyed while she had it. When it came time for the finale, Shizuru openly told Tomoe that, yes, she'd been using Tomoe the whole way, and maybe that would teach Tomoe not to play with people's emotions. If Tomoe had been an ounce less evil, that would have come across as undeniably vile behavior.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, the philosophy of Historical-Domain Character Saito Hajime, "Aku Soku Zan", can be loosely translated as "Slay Evil Immediately". A great many evildoers that crossed him didn't survive the experience. Though he himself is more of a Noble Demon, not wholly on the heroes' sides.
- At the beginning of the series, he's a police officer with apparently a covert license to kill, offing a corrupt official. He's like a saner Kurogasa, really, without the nihilism. (The real Saitou spent a considerable period with the police, but he appears to have been quite an ordinary member of the force.)
- The basic premise of the assassin organization Weiß Kreuz is to commit sinful murders to "deny these evil beasts their tomorrows." (Almost subverted, however, since the organization is extremely indifferent, and barely better than the villains it sends our assassins to kill.)
- Ash and friends are normally perfectly content to allow the Big Bad to be quietly arrested, but in dealing with Grings Kodai, the Big Bad of Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, they, and even the cops, arranged for him to watch as his Evil Gloating is broadcast live on his own TV station, pretty much forcing him to watch his public humiliation. While harsh for them, Kodai was an absolute sociopath who committed the anime's first true murder of a Pokémon and electrocuted a baby right in front of its mother with no remorse.
- Invoked by Yuu from Holyland before he fights Taka in Masaki's stead. "All I know is that I will answer malice... with violence."
- After he stops killing clones en masse in a "level up" experiment Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index pretty much decides on this when dealing with anyone he sees harming innocent people. usually ending in a swift or painful death, and he holds little remorse for it.
- As Ogami Rei's motto states "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, evil for evil".
- In Toriko, Zebra of the Four Emperors was imprisoned for life for single-handedly hunting 26 different species to extinction. However, we later find out that they all messed up the ecosystems they were in, and quite possibly they were vicious, mindless living weapons sent there by an enemy. He doesn't exactly do this intentionally, though.
- Happens occasionally in some hentai plots.
- Sometimes it's done TO the rapist. Other times it's done BY the rapist:
- In Anette XXX two girls harassed and bullied their little brothers for all their lives. The two guys conspire to rape each other's sister.
- In Saint Beast, purging angels is about the worst thing you can do to them and Zeus does it to make heaven pure.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, this is deconstructed with the comeuppance of Envy. He's slowly and methodically tortured by Mustang, and despite him deserving much of the pain he goes through, it's still unnerving to see Mustang like this, and he's ultimately subject to the What the Hell, Hero? treatment from all his nearby allies that shames him out of taking the final blow.
- In Baccano!, two separate gangs try to take over the same train independently, and neither side is worried about innocent casualties (the black suits were actually planning to kill everyone whether their demands are met or not). Claire Stanfield proceeds to kill them all in some of the most gruesome ways possible—but he remains one of the most popular characters in the series.
- Lunatic from Tiger & Bunny is a big subscriber to this philosophy, and will even kill criminals who have already been arrested and/or imprisoned if he decides they're sufficiently heinous. On the other hand, his sense of honor is strong enough that he goes out of his way to protect Kotetsu when the latter is falsely accused of murder.
- Hell Girl runs on this trope. For the most part, the people getting sent to Hell are Asshole Victims and are sent by someone they tormented.
- Akame ga Kiru! follows a group of assassins who only kill people who have proven to be guilty of crimes not punished by the corrupt government they live under, such as human trafficking, murder, torture and human experimentation. They do not sugar coat what they do. They are murderers, killers and sinners and in no way shape or form are they the good guys, even if what they do is good. They are also perfectly willing to kill anyone they have to, guards, servants and relatives of the people they kill, even if they are loosely connected to the crime. They also only kill those they have been paid to and many of their clients work themselves to death raising the money.
- Mayuri, while barely qualifying as a hero, has a couple of moments. He kills Szayel by using him as a test subject for a drug that makes Szayel feel like he's experiencing a slow, agonizing death over a century. Despite Szayel's torture of Renji and Uryuu and his forcible impregnation of Nemu, Mayuri feels Szayel's cardinal sin is to seek, and claim to have found, perfection - for which he believes a torturous death via an experimental drug is an acceptable way to die.
- Giselle Gewelle is an abusive, sadistic troll who gleefully transforms people into her zombie slaves. Mayuri, using the blood of his Arrancar zombies, actually reprograms Giselle's zombies into his zombies, which then turn on her and impale her with extreme prejudice.
- Bokurano has Chizuru slaughtering her rapists with Zearth's lasers. While they had it coming, she goes straight into Kick the Dog territory when she notices that one of her attackers is carrying his young daughter and vaporizes him anyway, presumably killing the kid as well.
- This is the justification of The Punisher, who brutally guns down criminals. How this is received depends on where in the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism the comic he's appearing in is.
- The MAX arc "The Slavers" is one of the more infamous examples of this trope. In it, Castle's fighting a group of war criminals turned human traffickers who do horrible, horrible things to their captives. When Castle finds one of the three ringleaders of the operation, he douses the guy with fuel and burns him alive. Let's just say Castle spends the rest of the arc using other inventive methods to mete out payback.
- The other two ringleaders (Who happen to be the the fuel doused one's son and daughter) were also disposed of in very graphic ways. The daughter was thrown against a shatterproof window face first multiple times till the windowframe broke, making her do a swan dive many stories high. Her brother ended up getting drugged, dragged out into the wilderness, his stomach slit open and had hung from his own entrails on a tree branch. Then Frank WOKE HIM UP before letting him bleed out.
- "It had been a long, long time since I hated anyone the way I hated them"
- Lampshaded in "Welcome Back, Frank", where a victim that he left helpless in a gasoline doused house is screaming that he's no different from her. The Punisher turns back to the mansion with a grenade, calmly replies "Tell me something I don't know," and pulls the pin.
- On the DC side of things, The Spectre is pretty much the poster boy for this trope. Depending on the writer, it's usually somewhere between "implied" and "outright stated, there on page 2" that the Spectre is the embodiment of the wrath of God, and he's usually more than willing to outright torture people that "deserve it." In the darker arcs, it's made clear that as far as the Spectre is concerned, everybody "deserves it" (in the "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" sense) and he's actually holding/being held back most of the time.
- Jason Todd tended toward this attitude during his career as Robin. Since he came back from the dead, he's denied Batman's Thou Shalt Not Kill rule and considers himself Batman as he should be.
- Every time Magneto clashes with anti-mutant hate groups.
- Magneto is Jewish and survived the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. The Red Skull is a Nazi. While working together during Acts Of Vengeance, Magneto decided to get some revenge on the Red Skull, beating the living crap out of him and locking him in an Oubliette with some jugs of water and his own thoughts.
- So according to Wikipedia when Bart Allen ended his tenure as the Flash by dying, Wally West reappeared and took down Bart's nemesis Inertia. The punishment? Wally froze Inertia in time, but left his mind running. Then he stuck him on display in the Flash Museum forcing Inertia to forever STARE at statues of Bart. How is that NOT cruel and unusual?
- Marv of Sin City inflicts on various criminals horrible torture which would maybe even make Jack Bauer sick. He's kind of like Dexter in being a pretty messed up person himself.
- Rorschach from Watchmen has this as his MO, although he ranks sex along with murder on the scale of morality, and proceeds to break a guy's fingers just for calling attention to the fact that he is, uh, hygienically challenged.
- To provide some context, he'd gone into an apparently-random dive bar to try and get information out of the patrons, and the crack about his hygiene was why he picked on that particular guy. (This worked about as well as you might expect.)
- And in his monologues he implies that this is his standard method for gathering information: walk into some underworld dive, and break bones of random people until someone confesses something.
- Rorscharch's shifting inkblot mask also symbolically adds to this, with his mask being a direct representation of how he sees the world: through an extreme filter of Black and White. In his words, "there is no bullshit grey", a crime is a crime no matter how small and must be rightfully punished.
- Granted the Guy is Ax-Crazy, so we're not supposed to think it's okay.
- A clearer example is the incident that drives Rorschach Ax-Crazy. He tracks a child abductor/molester to his home, only to find out that the abductor has murdered the little girl he kidnapped, chopped her into pieces, and fed her to his dogs. Rorschach responds by killing the guy's dogs, waiting for him to return home, throwing his dead dogs at him, beating him half to death, then handcuffing him in place and killing him as he screams for mercy and begs to simply be arrested (the method differs here; in the original comic, he burns the place down, frying the man alive, while in the movie, he simply splits the guy's head open repeatedly with a cleaver as he shouts, "Men get arrested...dogs get put down!")
- The change may have been to avoid invoking this trope. To be fair, in the book he gives the guy a chance to live.
- In Miracleman, Johnny Bates performs his final transformation into Kid Miracleman while being raped by a bully, then spends about three seconds paying evil unto evil before paying evil unto just about everyone else.
- One of the Ghost Rider's powers is the penance stare; he can cause a villain exactly as much pain as the villain has inflicted upon innocents. Usually, this ends up leaving the villain catatonic.
- Daredevil does this to Bullseye when he attacks Hell's Kitchen again. His solution? Break his arms and impale him with a sai. Also functions as a Karmic Death after what happened with Elektra.
- Back in the 1970s comics, Superman in his Clark Kent persona had a co-worker named Steve Lombard, who was a little bit of a bully, generally in the form of "practical jokes" such as using a fountain pen to spray ink all over someone's face. For reasons one hopes are obvious, they tended to backfire when he attempted to pull them on Clark (or anyone else when Clark was around). Not very high on the evil scale, of course, but without Steve's initial malicious intent Superman would have quickly come to look like a first-class jerk.
- In American Vampire, you have Pearl's revenge on the Hollywood Coven. Not to mention what Hattie ends up doing to the vamps keeping her prisoner...
- What is considered Cyclops' Moral Event Horizon by many is when he formed X-Force to do this. To provide context, following Decimation, the Purifiers had started a war against what was left of the world's mutants, almost all of whom had taken refuge in the X-Mansion. They started by attacking the children, brutally murdering many and causing a lot of pain to many more, driving Dust to question her faith. When Hope was born and people realized that she was the mutant Messiah, The Purifiers decided to kill her, so Cyclops formed X-Force and sent them out to stop them, any means necessary. The team basically goes around killing madmen who pose great risk to the rest of the mutant population or humanity in general. Once Mutant births start happening again and people start developing mutant powers following the death of Purifier leader Bastion, Cyclops disbands them so they can go back to the way things were. Many still consider this a dick move of his, but in retrospect, had he not done this, many more would have died and the Purifiers may have in fact killed them all.
- In-Universe, however, many still dislike him doing this, but that dislike mostly boils down to him not telling anyone about it and recruiting relative innocents (along with someone being actively rehabilitated) for the wetwork.
- In the Nineties Anti-Hero version, Morbius the Living Vampire uses this as a solution to slake his bloodthirst, figuring that if he needs to kill, he'll kill serious criminals.
- V from V for Vendetta personally murders every single staff member of the concentration camp where he was imprisoned, as well as a few other people, and commits terrorist attacks against the fascist regime that has taken over Britain. The moral ambiguity does not go unmentioned, but the people who he kills are honestly very bad people.
- Johnny the Homicidal Maniac likes to use this to justify his many, many murders—and the way he tortures his victims beforehand. Sometimes, it really is justified, in the cases of a paedophile and a rapist. Sometimes, it's because he got called a mean name or hates someone's tie. Sometimes, he accidentally grabs a legitimately good person and kills him anyway. He's not exactly sane, though readers somehow end up rooting for him anyway (or just laughing at the carnage).
- Deconstructed in Green Lantern: Amon Sur fled from the Sinestro Corps War and went to the recently deceased Green Lantern Ke'Haan's home world, killing his family. The Green Lantern Laira, who was in love with Ke'Haan killed Amon when he smugly surrendered. She is promptly arrested, because, bastard or no, she murdered a surrendering enemy in cold blood, and the Lanterns realized now that with the rings authorized for lethal force, they could easily abuse their power like she did.
- Xadhoom in Paperinik New Adventures. The Evronians pulled a We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill on her homeworld and made her The Last Of Her Kind while she was away performing the experiment that made her a Physical Goddess. Since then she roamed the galaxy searching and killing any Evronian she could find in the most painful and humiliating way she could think of, not stopping even before Evronian spores (basically their fetuses). Her rampage ended only when she had already exterminated untold billions of Evronians, destroyed both their homeworld and the worldship that had brought to safety the Emperor and the Senate, and only because she had discovered and saved the last remnants of her race (as some of her people had survived, she considered bringing the Evronians to the brink of extinction as settling their score). Then, just before her Heroic Sacrifice, she settled events in motion to make the surviving Evronians believe she was still around and would finish the job if they looked funny at the surviving Xerbians.
- The post-Infinite Crisis version of Checkmate began on this note, with the supposedly heroic organization, which included a Darker and Edgier version of the JLA eye candy character Fire, committing cold-blooded killings against the terrorist organization KOBRA. This is in fact a major plot element of the first story arc, as traditionalist characters such as the original Green Lantern tended to call Checkmate up on this. Afterwards, however, this aspect of the organization faded into the background and later issues tended not to focus on the "wet work" aspect of Checkmate.
- Deconstructed in Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: The Wreckers fight Squadron X, a team of dangerous and deadly Decepticons, and defeat them. When Prowl tells them that they have to let them go because the battle was on a protected planet, Impactor walks into their cell, and shoots them all in the head when they're restrained. He's arrested and sent to a maximum security prison. His protege Springer testifies against him, and later when he tries to defend himself, Springer tells him "They deserved to die, but you didn't deserve to kill them." Roadbuster reveals that the team approved of his actions, but they were afraid of prison time, so they pretended to agree with Springer.
- X-23's whole life has revolved around this:
- This was also an incidental reason for her creation in the first place: While many of the Facility's clients for her services were certainly bad men (among the bidders shown in one conference are Mr. Sinister, Doctor Doom, and the freakin' Red Skull), many of her targets ended up being rather bad men (dictators, drug czars, etc.) as well. Sarah also uses her to track down and murder the serial killer who abducted her niece, while Rice sending her to kill Sutter crosses over with Kick the Son of a Bitch, as Sutter may not have abused her himself, but he sure as hell enabled everything.
- Though she was bred to be an emotionless killing machine and racked up a body count in the hundreds by the time she was a teenager, she was also horrifically tortured and abused by the Facility, the organization which created her. Her mother, the geneticist who created her, finally had enough, and turned Laura loose against them. Dialog in Target X suggests that she slaughtered everyone in the installation housing her. This would mean not just the surgical head, (who Laura beat to death bare-handed over ten fucking minutes) guards and scientists, but the receptionists, janitorial staff. Everyone. Of course, this was an organization that performed human experimentation, sold Laura's services to people like the Kingpin, and were preparing to breed an army of clones to sell to anyone with the cash.
- After her escape, Laura's cold detachment towards killing and torturing her enemies means she does this a lot when her friends and teammates are unwilling to do so themselves, which except when she's serving on X-Force (a whole team of X-Men like Wolverine who are willing to pay evil unto evil) is pretty much all the time. Not that she doesn't get called out on her methods.
- Mostly averted by Batman, surprisingly. His MO involves terrorizing criminals and pummeling them within an inch of their lives, but he refuses to kill, and he does indeed have a very strong belief in justice, and believes that you can't fix the system if you yourself are hindering it. Of course, this all depends on the writer. Sometimes he's a borderline outlaw who doesn't give a damn about the law, and will even beat the hell out of petty criminals. But other times he will having varying levels of tolerance towards certain criminals. Two contrasting examples would be Batman No Mans Land and Noel.
Films — Animated
- The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible kills the villain by causing him to get sucked into his plane's engine. Granted, the villain had previously murdered a great portion of his fellow superheroes and nearly his family and he did try to kidnap his baby son to raise as a supervillain sidekick, but it's pretty jarring that earlier, he had mocked Incredible for his inability to resort to murder. What makes it worse is that Mr. Incredible did it right in front of his his whole family.
- If Elsa from Frozen harms someone with malicious intent, it's pretty much safe to say they had it coming. Just ask the Duke of Weselton and his henchmen, who draw first blood and provoke her into an Unstoppable Rage against them.
Films — Live-Action
- Kill Bill: This is kind of The Bride's thing.
- Little Sweetheart gives us an example of evil paying evil on to evil back and forth, or at least trying. Thelma blackmails Robert without knowing he was a bank robber, and later on, he roughs up the person he thought it was (her older brother) before the brother explains the truth. He then plans to scare the shit out of Thelma (but not harm her, she's only 9), but the cops get in the way.
- A common perception of Sheriff Wydell's actions towards the Villain Protagonists of The Devils Rejects. Yes, what Wydell did was to embrace He Who Fights Monsters to anvilicious extremes, but, on the other hand, the people he was horrifically abusing and butchering had a years- if not decades-long history of torture, rape and serial murder.
- In Dead Man's Shoes, the Anti-Hero Richard comes back to his town to take bloody revenge on the people who bullied his brother when they were younger, killing them brutally one by one. The film is interspersed with disturbing flashbacks showing what they did, any of which could explain the extent of Richard's fury, culminating in the most horrific: they drive him out into the country, literally torture him and abandon him with a rope around his neck that he uses to hang himself. The brother, who had appeared as a character throughout the film, was Dead All Along. However, whilst the bullies were indeed monstrous, we're not entirely expected to agree with Richard's actions — and in the final scene, Richard acknowledges that the things he's done have been terrible.
- In Dogville, a woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, however, they force her to do more chores within the same time, for less pay. The townspeople then start treating her like a slave, raping and abusing her. Unfortunately for them, she turns out to be the daughter of a mob boss — and the townspeople have lost all chance of her forgiveness...
- The Boondock Saints believe in this. It's arguable whether their actions and success are a result of divine intervention or just plain dumb luck — but either way, you do not mess with the MacManus brothers.
- The Good The Bad And The Ugly: Blondie is only "the Good" because he shows some mercy (and most of his ruthless acts are retaliation...).
- Speaking of Clint Eastwood, High Plains Drifter is an entire movie devoted to this trope.
- If you find yourself in a movie where Eastwood's character doesn't have a name, you should probably run like hell.
- Star Wars:
- Subverted (albeit in a rather Narmy way) in Attack of the Clones, where Anakin's massacre of a Sand People settlement (women and children included) is considered a very bad thing. The Sand People are presented in the film series as Always Chaotic Evil raiders, but the viewers are expected to understand that Anakin's Unstoppable Rage is the start of his path to the Dark Side. In the expanded universe, the Sand People are portrayed more sympathetically, supporting Anakin's grief over his actions.
- Subverted more clearly in Revenge of the Sith... Tusken Raiders are portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil "as a group" but Nute Gunray and his minions are portrayed as evil "as individuals." However, Anakin's eagerness to kill them is portrayed as alarming nonetheless. There still does seem to be some trace of this trope present; Anakin's killing of Nute Gunray and his minions is shown on screen, whereas Anakin's massacre of the innocent children in the Jedi temple is not. Of course, that might have just been the limits of a PG-13 rating.
- What Jigsaw perceives to be his modus operandi in the Saw series. Of course, when you're taking people who don't appreciate their lives and killing them with methods of steadily escalating atrocity, maybe the message doesn't come across so clearly.
- Part of the premise of Law Abiding Citizen. Particularly when Clyde Shelton dismembers Clarence Darby, who killed his family.
- In Mad Max, Max gives Johnny the Boy a Life or Limb Decision, handcuffing his ankle to a wrecked vehicle and setting a crude time-delay fuse. It's all a part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- In John Wayne's The Cowboys, the evil guy is finally defeated by the young boys. Instead of just shooting him dead (as he deserved), the boys leave him attached to a horse by the ankle and send the horse off running, with him dragging on the ground (which he deserved just as much).
- Wild Wild West Dr. Arless Loveless is a racist bigot who is constantly making racial slurs and jokes against Will Smith's Jim West. He's also lost his entire body below the waist, so James West responds by making "short" jokes about him.
- The protagonist of Grosse Pointe Blank uses this as justification for his career as a hitman. He comments that the files on most of his targets read like a demon's resume, and says "If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there." This gets deconstructed for him when he discovers his last intended target is his former flame's dad, who is about to testify about faulty seat-belts killing people in accidents. It's enough to make him decide he wants no part of the business anymore.
- The Inglourious Basterds would be tried for war crimes and hanged for what they did in France. Such crimes include but are not limited to: murdering soldiers, beating them to death with baseball bats, scalping their corpses, permanently scarring survivors for life, shooting into crowds of unarmed citizens, and suicide bombing a crowded theater. However, it's all okay, because they're committing all these atrocious acts on the Nazis!
- Much of X-Men: First Class is composed of Erik (later Magneto) doing this. He's Jewish, as a child he and his family are sent to Auschwitz, and a Nazi there (who we later find out is the mutant Sebastian Shaw) murders Erik's mother when Erik is unable to use his (latent) powers. As an adult, the first part of the film has Erik hunting down, torturing and murdering Nazis and their supporters. At the end of the movie he gives Shaw a very Karmic Death - the film clearly intends it to be a Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment, but Shaw's such a madman that much of the audience is inclined to cheer Erik on for doing it, especially as there's also little reason to believe Shaw could be safely captured. And then the US and Soviet militaries try to murder the mutants who just saved them from nuclear war, and Erik turns their missiles back on them. Paying evil to evil is basically his personal philosophy, contrasting with Charles' pay-good-unto-evil-and-maybe-they'll-have-a-change-of-heart ethos (and influenced by the fact that Erik's seen a lot more of evil than Charles has at this point), and it's a substantial part of what ultimately separates them.
- The book and movie A Time to Kill are about a father who kills the two men who raped his ten-year-old daughter, before they have even been brought to trial. He was afraid that they would be acquitted, despite being caught red-handed, because they were white and his daughter was black. It was set in The Deep South, after all. The daughter's father throughout expresses no remorse, even loudly declaring in court, "Yes they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!"
Lucien Wilbanks (to Defense counsel Brigance): If you win this case, justice will prevail. But if you lose, justice will also prevail. Now that is a strange case.
- Subverted rather well in The Magnificent Seven: Calvera, the movie's Big Bad, who corners the seven and lets them go by taking their weapons and riding them out of town. His justification? An old Mexican quote: "A thief who steals from another thief is pardoned for a hundred years." Of course, he assumed that they were just Hired Guns who'd skip town the moment they were paid...By the end of the film, Calvera finds his assumptions were very, very, wrong.
- In Outrage, Robert Preston plays the father of a woman who is raped and murdered, by a man who ends up getting away with the crime on a technicality. After this incident causes his wife so much grief that she dies, he hunts down the man and shoots him dead, then calmly drives to the police station and turns himself in.
- Taken is 90 minutes of this. In most other films, the protagonist doing things like jamming rusty nails into a villain's thighs and then leaving them to be electrocuted to death would be something that disgusts the audience into reviling said protagonist. But when said villain is a human trafficker who kidnaps teenage girls, addicts them to drugs and then sells them to be prostitutes and sex slaves and is planning to do so to the protagonist's daughter, you find yourself cheering instead.
- Near the end of Star Trek: Insurrection, Picard has managed to keep the Son'a leader Ru'afo off his back long enough to trigger the self-destruct of the Phlebotinum collector. The Enterprise, the sensors of which have been depicted moments earlier as sensitive enough to identify a lone Klingon on an entire battleship, flies past the exploding collector and beams off Picard... but not Ru'afo, who must have been detected when the transporter operator scanned the collector to locate Picard. But it's okay to leave someone to certain death when he's plotted to destroy an entire race and killed a Starfleet admiral.
- ... This is Star Trek. Large body counts shouldn't really be Moral Dissonance anymore.
- Refreshingly averted in the 2009 Star Trek film. Nero has just spent the whole time running around slaughtering everyone in his path and blowing up a planet on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. That doesn't stop Kirk from offering to save him and his men when the Narada is being disintegrated into an artificially-created Negative Space Wedgie (Spock, who was personally targeted by this revenge, finds the offer logical but hates it). Nero declines the offer, whereupon Kirk orders the Enterprise to hasten/ensure his passing.
- This is the premise of the movie Paparazzi
- While the main philosophy in Swordfish is the idea that a few innocent casualties are OK if you stop a greater evil, it is heavily implied that Gabriel Shear is a terrorist who only targets terrorists who are plotting against the U.S.
- In Transformers: Dark of the Moon the Wreckers tore a Decepticon pilot limb from limb, said Con was vaporizing civilians for several seconds before.
- In Let the Right One In, the bullies who have tormented Oskar throughout the movie are joined by the older brother of one of them who plans to force Oskar to stay underwater for three whole minutes in the school swimming pool -if he can't, they'll cut Oskar's eye out with a knife. After a minute of this, Eli crashes into the swimming pool through the skylight and literally rips them apart. The audience never considers Eli to be evil for doing this. She was saving Oskar's life and the bullies had previously shown themselves to be sadistic bullies who enjoyed hurting Owen simply because they could.
- Teaser posters for the American film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo feature the tagline "Evil Shall With Evil Be Expelled"◊.
- The Dark Knight: Two-Face's entire M.O. becomes this after Rachel Dawes' death. As a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he starts out by shooting Det. Michael Wuertz.
- In Dogma, As the Angel of Death, this was Loki's role. He throws down his fiery sword after disagreeing with God on who deserves to die and is cast out of Heaven. Upon Bartleby's finding a way back in, he returns to his role with gusto.
- It's implied at the end of The Collection that Arkin is gonna return the favor back at The Collector himself after all the hell he went through due to said killer's hands after setting him on fire, finding out he escaped, learning his past, tracking him down thanks to his new knowledge and ambushing The Collector in his own home.
- Played for laughs in True Lies when Harry is under the influence of a truth serum.
Helen: Have you ever killed anyone?
Harry: Yeah, but they were all bad.
- Sartana does this to all the evil men he's ever encountered. The series even hints that he's a supernatural spirit of vengeance because of how often he takes down bad guys.
- In Goldeneye, Valentin tells Bond a story about the Lienz Cossacks, who worked with the Nazi government against the Soviets during the Second World War, then helped the British against the Nazis when it became obvious the Nazis were going to lose. After the war, the British government handed the Cossacks over to Stalin, and many of them died in the gulags. Bond claims it was "not exactly our finest hour", and while Valentin agrees, he considers the Cossacks ruthless people who got what they deserved.
- I Spit on Your Grave is about a rape victim taking revenge in vicious ways.
- Drive Angry: John Milton slaughters the cultists en masse and shows no mercy towards them, especially their leader Jonah King, whom he erases from existence with the Godkiller and uses his skull to drink some beer from. The villains are really bad to make this serviceable. These people are a baby-sacrificing cult, and King is a sadistic rapist, murderer and power-tripping maniac.
- Robin Hood: Steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Goes up and down the scales with each retelling; sometimes it's anyone rich, sometimes it's clearly someone who has unfairly taxed said poor. If it was anyone rich, that may be because the folks that this lore was for probably thought all nobles were evil back then.
- It's fair to note that that way of thinking was largely well-founded. Early Robin Hood stories had him nearly exclusively target clergy. Considering the way both The Catholic Church and later, The Church of England behaved back then, it's not surprising at all. He was later bowdlerised into a folk hero who robbed from the rich.
- There are also elements of a race/culture conflict (not just a class one) here: the common people were mostly Anglo-Saxon; the upper class and nobility were mainly Normans. It's understandable that someone who is taking revenge on people you regard as invading foreign conquerors is a hero regardless of exactly how he does it.
- There is Reynard The Fox of the Beast Fables when he's not an out and out Sociopathic Hero; often times he pays for slights against him with brutal retaliation, abject humiliation preferably both at once. In one story, King Leo had three creatures try to catch him for crimes; Tybalt the Cat ends up getting half-strangled to death and one eye popped out by a priest and he's put down as a whiner for the rest of the story.
- In Animorphs, Jake, before flushing the Pool into space, decides that Yeerks are subhuman parasites who deserve nothing but cold, frozen death: "They could've stayed home, I thought. No one had asked them to come to Earth. No more than they deserved. Aliens. Parasites. Subhuman."
- Also, Marco isn't very good at hiding the fact that he takes pleasure from killing Yeerks. In #19, he tells Cassie, "You don't make peace with parasites. You don't turn them around. You bury them."
- It eventually subsides, though, as part of Marco's Character Development; over the course of the series he becomes much less emotional, which makes him a more effective strategist.
- Admittedly, some of Carrie White's classmates in Carrie had treated her very badly. However, her vengeance on them was probably, in quite a few individual cases, well beyond what they had actually deserved.
- And when she goes on to bring Armageddon to the rest of the town, well...
- It's worth noting, however, that Stephen King never depicts her revenge as being justified; instead her actions are considered extremely disproportionate.
- Her abusive upbringing hasn't really encouraged a sense of moral distinction, especially when her mother was Ax-Crazy to begin with.
- Raffles is Affably Evil, but he still draws the line...while he's normally not one for murder, he comes close to killing a blackmailer, and after his return, has no remorse for inadvertently causing the deaths of some Camorra men who'd captured him.
- Arguably Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights begins like this. When he returns to Yorkshire after Catherine's wedding, the first thing he does is swindle his alcoholic foster brother Hindley out of ownership of the house. While Heathcliff's later actions are inexcusable, many readers will argue that Hindley deserved what he got for having turned him into a servant and thwarting his love affair with Catherine in the first place.
- In Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, John Kelly is an ex-Navy SEAL who falls for an ex-prostitute/drug mule and rehabilitates her, only to see her raped and murdered by her former pimp. He spends the next year hunting down and brutally executing the entire drug ring, working his way up the chain one pusher/pimp at a time. This comes to the attention of the CIA, who are simultaneously recruiting him for a Vietnam rescue mission; when they find out what he did, they arrange for his "Kelly" identity to die in an apparent suicide, and they give him a new identity as "John Clark". Much later in the series, the President of the United States pardons him.
- The later Sword of Truth books feature, among other things, the hero leading a charge through peace protesters with, essentially, this justification (said protesters, it should be noted, were guarding an army of monsters, but Richard could have made an effort to Take a Third Option), and sending his army to attack cities and other settlements that are supporting the Imperial Order, basically a strategy of total war. The justification given is that it would be impossible to beat the Order in a straight up fight, since they're outnumbered 100 to 1. Richard notably orders his troops not to kill civilians if it can be avoided, but that they should still make them afraid of the D'Haran troops.
- In the book Fantastic Mr. Fox, the eponymous hero is nearly hunted down by Mr. Boggis, Mr. Bunce, and Mr. Bean for simply providing food from his family, which is by stealing. The three men decide to use heavy equipment to further succeed in eliminating the fox and his family, not to mention half the countryside of good land (and every other animal, as well)! What does Mr. Fox do? He and his children dig and tunnel their way to each of the three men's farms and steal from them, Stalag 13-style... while the three nasty farmers wait around the hole where the fox is supposed to pop up at!
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Imperius and Cruciatus curses. When they're first introduced, it's stated that using these curses wins the caster a one-way ticket to Azkaban, and Barty Crouch is portrayed in a bad light for authorizing the Aurors to use the spells in exactly the same way the heroes eventually do. It's just a little disconcerting to see, for example, McGonagall tossing around Imperius because she couldn't be bothered picking up two wands herself. The use is seen as somewhat morally ambiguous, and it functions as a slow buildup - with Harry having used two of the three "Unforgivable Curses" by the climax of the book, it's reasonable to expect he'd use the last one, the Killing Curse, to finish off Voldemort. He doesn't. Voldemort dies as a result of his own actions.
- Gryffindors also take the opportunity to pay evil unto the oft-deserving Slytherins, James and Sirius bully the racist and dark-magic-obsessed Snape, and Hagrid and Fred and George punish Harry's bullying cousin Dudley with jinxes, although Arthur Weasley doesn't find his sons' behavior funny. Also, Sirius treats Kreacher quite nastily, an odd case as Kreacher is one of the most unlikable victims in the series, but also served as one of the examples where the good perpetrator was seriously criticized for his bad actions, because Sirius is in a position of authority over Kreacher (Kreacher, as a house elf, is magically impelled to obey him).
- Hermione hexes the girl who sold out the DA, and in doing so left Hogwarts under the control of a sadistic teacher who tortured children, by raising pimples on her forehead which spell out that she's a traitor, and last for several months at the least. J. K. Rowling confirmed that Marietta's pimples faded but left a few scars. Hermione also lures said sadistic teacher into being attacked by centaurs, although admittedly that went further than Hermione had originally intended. She also blackmails Rita Skeeter for writing a false article that caused Hermione to be showered with hate mail. Don't mess with Hermione Granger - she's got a ruthless side.
- The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot". Holmes lets the murderer go free when he realizes what a monster the victim was.
- Conan Doyle uses this trope several times, when his sympathies lie with the criminal rather than the victim. Other stories that use it include "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" (The murdered husband habitually battered his wife) and "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" (because he knows who the killer is, why Milverton was murdered, and that he was a blackmailer of the vilest sort, he declines to even assist the police).
- Actually in "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", you could make a pretty fair case for self-defense.
- In the Milverton case, Holmes himself was Paying Evil Unto Evil—at the moment the crime was committed, he and Watson were in the middle of burgling Milverton's house to get rid of his blackmail material. Holmes knows who the murderer is, but revealing her identity would mean revealing that he too was very much on the wrong side of the law.
- Then there's "The Speckled Band", where Holmes's actions mean that the murderer and would-be double murderer ends up getting Hoist by His Own Petard. He says he won't let it affect him too much.
- Another time Holmes himself attempts this is in the story "The Five Orange Pips", in which Holmes, after identifying the murderer, sends him the same death threat that had been sent to all of his victims. However, before Holmes can actually carry out the threat, the murderer dies in a storm at sea.
- Agatha Christie used this in her novel Ten Little Indians (and all of its other titles) and in all of its adaptations. The murderer who kills most (or all) of the villainous characters on the Island is a Hanging Judge who like Dexter is a psychopath who decided to only harm the guilty.
- This plot is interestingly played with in the Ripliad novel Ripley Under Water. While the book follows a sort of Psycho for Hire terrorizing a murderer and career criminal, Ripley the "hero" is the murderer and career criminal and the story is told in a way that he comes across as a sympathetic victim while his tormentor is the villain of the novel.
- One of this trope's best examples occurs in the Hercule Poirot novel Murder on the Orient Express. It turns out that the victim had been guilty of the kidnapping and murder of a small child years before. Poirot not only declines to turn the murderer over to the police, he offered a theory of how the murderer escaped the train which was as plausible as it was false.
- In The Dresden Files, the perception of such things as a first step on the Slippery Slope is the main reason for the uncompromising reaction of the White Council to breaches of the Laws of Magic — sure, that guy you just killed may have been a bad guy, but killing with magic changes the soul, and they think it'll make you want to do it again... Whether this is justified or not is one of the major questions of the series — particularly as Harry himself murdered his Evil Mentor Jason Du Mourne prior to the series's beginning.
- Harry Dresden does this in basically every book. Most of the time, it comes off as morally upright; Harry has been known to ask villains to surrender when said villain has summoned demons and sent them against Harry and his friends. In the third book, however, vampires kidnap his girlfriend and he torches the entire building — including quite a few of the bums and teenagers the vampires were keeping around as snacks. Harry angsts over this quite a bit, especially due to the "Law of Three" (anything you do with magic supposedly returns threefold). Michael reassures him with a quote that's on the quote page. It helps, to a point.
- Beating Cassius with a bat, and several books later impaling the Red King's eyes before setting them on fire. Both had it coming to them, and the latter was a monster beyond description.
- In a training camp in New Mexico two children were killed and eaten by a ghoul. He severed the ghoul that did it in half, set the fat and nerves of its upper body on fire, like a candle, and threw it down a mineshaft. He then returned to the captured ghouls who surrendered to him and told him where to find the children in exchange for being allowed to live, and buried one of them up to its neck, melted the ghoul's face and melted the sand around it into glass, then poured a trail of orange juice from its head to a fire ant nest. He let the other ghoul go, minus an arm and a leg, to carry the warning.
- In the third book of the Inheritance Cycle, the main character Eragon does some pretty heinous things. He wipes out what is apparently the last of a dying race, Mind Rapes a Jerk Ass from his hometown who stabbed his friends and family in the back (literally with one guy) and mercilessly slaughters a group of conscripted soldiers who were Just Following Orders. His feelings on each of the separate matters… vary.
- He feels no guilt at all for wiping out the Ra’zac, seeing them as nothing more than a race of monsters. Which is not quite true. They’re undoubtedly evil, but that’s at least partially due to Blue and Orange Morality. The last ones death showed that it was at least capable of feeling sadness, but it showed no remorse for all the people it and its family had killed over the years.
- In regards to the Ra'zac, they could never coexist with humans unless one of two things happen: either they would need to find a new food source, or the humans would have to agree that they are allowed to feed on humans.
- His feelings on Mind Raping Sloan is… not a shining example of morality. The dude was an Asshole Victim and Knight Templar Parent who chose to betray his peers (and murder one of them) when his daughter didn’t obey him. But he pretty much got what he had coming to him at the hands of the Ra’zac. Eragon feels no guilt at all for piling the Mind Rape on top of the torture, starvation, and blinding he had already suffered.
- However, he gave said Jerk Ass a chance improve his life and remove the Mind Rape, if he can genuinely change. The fact that he gets to live in a magical forest and the elves will tend to his every need changes this into Stupid Good.
- On the other hand Eragon does feel guilty for slaughtering the conscripted soldiers. Not enough to spare their lives, but he honestly regrets having to kill them. From his perspective, it’s somewhere between Shoot the Dog and I Did What I Had to Do, since the conscripts are magically bound to report his presence.
- Redwall comes off as a rather well-done example. The fighters usually try to repel or turn the bad guys, not kill them outright. In fact, for the most part, the only deaths in the series are:
- In the Saint stories by Leslie Charteris, the title character targeted criminals and other evil characters for justice, including sometimes killing them.
- The Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. McGee goes after the worst of the worst, and, though he's only supposed to get back stolen/defrauded property, he often ends up killing his targets.
- Travis is quite aware of this trope and works hard to avoid it. The people he kills are people who are trying to kill him. He doesn't belong with this trope. In one instance, when he has to kill several people who are part of a terrorist group who would kill him in a second if he didn't agree to help them, he suffers a Heroic BSOD from having to kill them.
- Artemis Fowl may no longer be a Villain Protagonist, but he still commits crimes against criminals.
- In various parts of the Inferno, Dante kicks, beats, or swindles the damned souls, always with the approval of his guide Virgil. Justified (in the context of the poem, at least) in that the victims genuinely are damned souls who have been condemned by God for their sins, and pitying them would be an act of impiety.
- Subverted in The Hobbit, which quite possibly was the most important act in the series. After getting away from Gollum using the Ring to become invisible, Bilbo has a perfect chance to kill Gollum for trying to kill and eat him after losing the riddle game... But chooses not to after realizing what a miserable life the creature had.
- Played straight in Red Seas Under Red Skies. When Locke needs to commit a very public bit of villainy, he heads straight for the disgustingly decadent Salon Corbeau and sacks the city.
- Corwin of The Chronicles of Amber describes his attitude at one point:
In the mirrors of the many judgments, my hands are the color of blood. I am a part of the evil that exists in the world and in Shadow. I sometimes fancy myself an evil which exists to oppose other evils. I destroy [them] when I find them, and on that Great Day ... when the world is completely cleansed of evil, then I, too, will go down into darkness, swallowing curses... But whatever... Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.
- In Shutter Island, one of the things that haunts Teddy is the massacre of the surrendered guards at the death camp. He basically says that it was sheer murder what they did, but the press called them heroes for it because it was Nazis.
- Jenna receives a lecture about the importance of doing this in the Great Alta Saga, but still refuses because, well, she's seventeen and has lived a fairly sheltered life up until that point. As a result, one of her best friends is killed.
- Fully justified in The Godfather. While the two boys that savagely beat Bonasera's daughter to the point that "she will never be beautiful again" are implied to get what they deserve in the movie, the novel goes into detail. It would fall under Extreme Melee Revenge, except that that requires the revenge to go well beyond what is deserved, and there's little doubt that these two deserved every bit of it. Skipping over the details, the young men are said to need several months of hospital care and extensive reconstructive surgery.
- Subverted in later chapters, when Michael goes to Sicily and sees the end result of an entire society dedicated to Pay Evil unto Evil. This is a huge part of what drives his attempts to drive the Corleone Family into legitimate enterprises.
- File this one under Older Than They Think: One of the stories in Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. (published in the 19th century) involves the hero and his pals taking on the school bullies... at the suggestion of their priest.
- Lisbeth Salander from The Millennium Trilogy. She started this as a child, when being assaulted by a boy far bigger and stronger than herself, on a following day she took revenge by hitting him with a baseball bat. When her guardian rapes her, she has her revenge by incapacitating him with a taser, torturing him, and forcing him to watch the recording of her rape. She then threatens to make the recording public unless he arranges for her to have permanent control over her money. Finally, she tattoos "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert and a rapist" in large letters on his torso.
- Retconned with Lestat in the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles novels where we find out later that the only people he's ever outright killed have been evil people of some sort.
- In The Oathbreakers, from the Heralds of Valdemar series, Kethry works a powerful sorcery that gathers the combined rage of her mercenary company and uses it to punish the rapist/murderer of their former captain in a massively Karmic way. She specifically states that the magic is as close to evil as it's possible to get and she has to walk a very fine line between just retribution and cold-blooded vengeance, lest she fall to The Dark Side in the process.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: the Mereenese Grand Masters welcome Daenerys by nailing a bunch of disemboweled slave children on columns beside the road with their fingers pointing to Mereen. Later, they end up the same way on the main square of Mereen. (In the TV series at least, her advisers suggest this may not be the wisest course, and sure enough it's later pointed out to her that one of the guys she did this had spent his life working to improve the lot of the slaves, lampshading the negative side of the trope.)
- In A Storm of Swords, Vargo Hoat, leader of the Brave Companions, a foreign band of mercenaries whose whole strategy can be summed up as terrorize the smallfolk and inflict atrocity after atrocity on their enemies, finds himself abandoned by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister, the man whose son he maimed. He ends up being tortured to death, having his limbs cut off slowly and fed back to him over a span of weeks by the Mountain.
- Speaking of the Mountain, Gregor Clegane. Another monster in Lord Tywin's arsenal, the 8 foot giant set off to rampage across the Riverlands, leading to more devastation at Lannister hands. Became infamous during the Sack of King's Landing, when he killed the infant heir to the Targaryen kings, then brutally raped and murdered the mother, Elia of Dorne. After defeating Oberyn, Elia's vengeful brother in a duel, he slowly succumbs to Oberyn's poisoned spear, which tormented him over the span of several weeks, leading to his exceptionally gruesome death.
- In Dances With Dragons Wyman Manderly secretly kills three Freys and cooks them into three huge pies to serve to the Boltons and Freys, as vengeance for their role in the Red Wedding.
- In the Dale Brown novel Wings of Fire, Chris Wohl's killing of Pavel Kazakov, two stabs to the diaphragm that fill his lungs with blood, followed by a stab-and-slash to the throat, is vicious by any objective standard, but considering the evil scum he was doing it to...
- In Rainbow Six, one of the Basque separatists kills a Littlest Cancer Patient on live TV. Homer initially isn't allowed to take the shot because of fears that the plan will be screwed up; when he does get to take it, he goes for a liver-shot that will make the separatist die slowly and painfully. Ding gives him a perfunctory dressing-down afterwards, but no one is really complaining.
- Maybe not evil per se, but Extirpon's means of dealing with the scumbags he battles is pretty extreme, being a Reality Warper and all. Probably the best example of him crossing a line is when he slits a child rapist's throat and then makes a large container appear out of nowhere in the apartment. He promptly locks his victim in the container, then floods it to drown him. Turns out, the victim was the same guy that had drowned and later decapitated one of Extirpon's past lovers. This is after forcing the Mooks to cough up green mambas, which bite and kill them.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Overuse of this trope is a major cause in losing all sympathy for the Sisterhood. Vendetta has the Sisterhood capture the Chinese ambassador's son who drunkenly killed Barbara Rutledge and her unborn child in a hit and run, and was not punished due to Diplomatic Impunity. They punish him for this, by skinning him alive, and then shrugging it off afterward! He was a creep and not a nice guy, but he simply did not deserve that level of punishment! The author actually tries to justify all this by saying that the law is unable to punish criminals, and seriously expect you to cheer on the Vigilantes when they inflict terrible punishments on their targets! It's too bad you find yourself feeling sorry for their targets instead of the protagonists themselves!
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast, the Burroughs' discover an Alternate History United States who's justice system is based on "An Eye for an Eye". Someone who's careless driving caused another person to lose a leg has his leg removed and has to wait the exact time his victim did before medical help will proceed to help him. Murderers are killed, arsonists are burned to death and it is suggested that rapists are raped (somehow).
- North from Of Fear and Faith is a firm believer in this, often bringing him into conflict with Phenix, who is much more merciful.
- Jack Reacher is a firm believer in this, which is the main thing that keeps him a sympathetic protagonist; while he frequently kills people in cold blood (Lee Child himself describes it as murder in interviews), they're all human traffickers, paedophiles, and serial killers.
- Browns Pine Ridge Stories: Defied in the fourth story. The young Gary wants retribution for Ole Strawberry's Death, but his father quickly rebukes him stating that it is the duty of the Justice system to try and punish the offenders.
Live Action TV
- Dexter is a serial murderer who only kills other murderers. He identifies himself as a monster though.
- Omar Little of The Wire is a renowned stick-up man who only robs from people involved in the drug trade. The police pretty much turn a blind eye to this.
- A mild version of this happens in the opening for the Firefly episode "Shindig," where Mal pickpockets the cash off a smug, proud, self-admitted slave dealer during a game of pool. The slave dealer isn't supposed to notice until he goes for his next round of drinks, but it turns out he's a very good drinker, and that leads to....
- The entire series of Firefly is one big example. The main characters spend the entire first season robbing almost anybody, so long as that person is The Government, corporate supporters of the government, slavers, or anybody else not approved of by the main characters.
- Mal probably puts it best in The Train Job, when he decides not to do the job he was hired to do and wants to return the money to his employer:
"We're not thieves." beat
"Okay, we are thieves. Point is, we're not taking what's his."
- iCarly: In "iReunite With Missy", Missy broke Sam's cellphone on purpose and offered to buy her a new one. When Missy wins the 6-month cruise, given up by Freddie to get rid of Missy, Carly asks Sam how Missy could still compensate for her phone. Sam then reveals that she stole Missy's phone.
- Michael of the TV show Burn Notice helps the victims of evil by assisting them in gaining protection against their oppressors. Sometimes, his methods involve conning and/or leading to the arrest of the villain, but often, his plots end with the death of the villain through his machinations/at his hands.
- Jarod on The Pretender is fond of this, often putting villians in the same situation they did to someone else.
- Note that he puts them into a less lethal/physically harmful version of what they've done to one of their victims—- they just don't know it. In Jared's case, it's much more about inflicting psychological damage on them as they believe they're about to suffer the same fate of someone they've wronged before being taken in by the authorities.
- While Mr Chapel of Vengeance Unlimited doesn't kill, he can completely ruin the life of some of his "victims", including two that he had branded as insane.
- Chapel often doesn't go out of his way to get people killed, it's a result of the show's formula. If people survived his scams it would quickly get around that he's not who he says he is. There are also times when he really is trying to make sure they die, though.
- Davis Bloome was more or less forced into this; he has a choice between killing a couple criminals every so often and doing nothing (which allows his Superpowered Evil Side to take over and massacre a bunch of innocents).
- In "Sacrifice", Zod gets a small one when he throws Waller about twenty feet but Clark stops him from killing her. Although the fans rooted for Zod on this one.
- Happens a few times in Farscape, though they're usually forced into it by the bad guys. One example: In order to save D'Argo's son (and 9,999 other slaves), our heroes plan to rob a bank, justifying their actions by saying it's a "shadow depository", ie, where bad guys hide the stuff they steal.
- Sledgehammer is a Cowboy Cop who doesn't hesitate to use the violent criminal scum's own violent criminal methods against them... to the consternation of Captain Trunk.
- At some points in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, it can be argued that Libby was the victim of bullying from Sabrina instead of the other way around. After all, being a Reality Warper gives you an unfair advantage. However, Sabrina seems to be maturing past this - now most of her morally questionable uses of magic against Libby are based on trying to redress wrongs or make Libby a better person, instead of simply hurting Libby. Sometimes she even uses it to do something nice for Libby, even knowing that Libby will most likely never know about it and certainly wouldn't return the favor if she did. (For example, in "Sabrina Claus", she has to take over for Santa Claus and her gift to Libby is to use magic to make Libby's Annoying Younger Sibling be nice to her. Possibly still morally questionable, depending on how you feel about magically influencing the free will of a child.)
- The main characters of Hustle only con the corrupt and the greedy. In one episode, they even call off a con when it becomes clear their supposedly evil target is reforming.
- Leverage does almost exactly the same thing.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Done deliberately by a particularly Genre Savvy Benjamin Sisko when he's chasing down the traitorous Starfleet officer, Eddington. After Eddington poisons a Cardassian settled-planet with a chemical only dangerous to Cardassians thus forcing them to evacuate, Sisko, invoking Les Misérables since Eddington had called him Inspector Javert, forces Eddington to make a Heroic Sacrifice by doing the same thing to a human-settled planet occupied by the Maquis and threatening to keep doing it unless Eddington surrendered.
- Garak once tried to commit genocide on the Founders' home world by gaining access to Defiant's weapons systems. Had he succeeded, he may have averted the war altogether.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Few mourned, and many cheered, when Dark Willow flayed Warren Mears alive. Those that refrained from cheering did so not out of sympathy for Warren, but concern for Willow.
- Except for those of us who think Willow had already crossed the Moral Event Horizon by (repeatedly) mind-raping and raping Tara, who don't see Willow as a particularly sympathetic character by that point in the Bt VS mythology.
- After Spike gets his Restraining Bolt, Buffy enjoys herself taunting him over his 'impotence' and beating him up for fun and information (until Spike declares he's fallen in love with her, and Buffy comes to the belated realisation that doing this to a Combat Sadomasochist is a sexual come-on).
- Angel had a terrific example in Season 2. After coming across his archenemies from Wolfram & Hart being held hostage by Darla and Dru, Angel stands contemplative for a moment. Wolfram & Hart is an evil organisation with absolutely no qualms about murdering innocent people. Rather than save them, Angel locks the door and lets the vamps go to work. The formerly unflappable Holland Manners is terrified and begs, "People are going to die," to which Angel responds, "And yet somehow I just can't seem to care." Whilst harrowing in a sense, it doesn't stop seeing them get their karma from being wholly satisfying.
- 24: If they're someone who's royally pissed him off or killed somebody close to him and there's no longer any need to keep them alive, Jack Bauer has absolutely no problem taking vengeance into his own hands. One particularly stand-out moment occurs in the final season where he's torturing the man who earlier killed Renee Walker, and the bastard refuses to break, even bragging how he murdered Renee. When Jack learns that the guy swallowed something that has some potentially crucial information he could use on it, Jack proceeds to cut the guy's stomach open and empty it to obtain what he swallowed. Even though what Jack's doing is horrible, for a total prick like this one can't help but at least smirk a little.
- CSI: Miami: Occasionally, Horatio Caine gives a little bit more "justice" than the law allows. In "To Kill A Predator", he gives a savage beating to a child predator for "Resisting Arrest" (when he was doing nothing but standing there). And in "Wheels Up", it's implied he does the same to an abusive boyfriend of the victim of the week; while the guy didn't kill her, a byproduct of that abuse (a healing fragment of a previous broken rib) is what ultimately killed her.
- In Once Upon a Time, Snow White (of all people) pulls off this trope. Her wicked stepmother's even more evil mother Cora admitted to killing Snow's mom by magic, threw Snow's old nanny to her death right in front of her For the Lulz, and cheerfully admits her whole goal is to obtain the dagger of the Dark One so she would become a completely invincible force of power. Regina (the stepmother) has made Snow's life (and everyone else's) life a living hell for the last 30 years. So, when she casts a death curse on Cora's heart (she stores it separately) and tricks Regina into putting it back...Well, it's a little hard not to be both horrified at Snow's actions, but also believe the parties she paid evil unto richly deserved it.
- Hook is a villain on the series but his primary motivation is to get revenge on Rumpelstiltskin who is directly or indirectly responsible for most of the evil stuff that happened on the show. Most of the good characters in the show would not have a major problem if Hook got to "skin his crocodile" but Hook keeps allying himself with people like Cora and Regina so the good guys have to thwart him.
- This is more or less the plot of the first season of Arrow. Oliver Queen is trying to atone for his father's crimes by "cleaning up his list", and he's not afraid to kill in the process. Also, the main villain, the Dark Archer is trying to do the same. He's also not afraid of killing. Killing everyone in a bad part of town where his wife died.
- Person of Interest: In a flashback in "The Devil's Share", Detective Fusco, a reformed Dirty Cop who now works with the heroes, got his Start of Darkness when he gunned down a drug dealer in cold blood. Said drug dealer had previously killed an off-duty rookie.
- The same episode ends with Simmons, the Big Bad who murdered Carter after she upended his whole corrupt organisation, arrested and in hospital, because the protagonists ultimately decided to do what Carter would have wanted instead of seeking revenge for her death. But who is this, waiting in the shadows of the hospital room when Simmons wakes up? Why, it's Elias, the mafia don whose life Carter saved last season. And here's his henchman Scarface, with a garotte.
- Ex-assassins Reese and Shaw also somewhat fit this belief; though they generally try and avoid lethal force, they aren't exactly bothered when do.
- Played with in the AC/DC song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. The suggested recipients of the titular deeds are a lecherous teacher, an adulterous husband, and a nagging wife.
- The Insane Clown Posse has a song called To Catch A Predator wherein the protagonist talks about his exploits in baiting pedophiles into coming down to his house, wherein he mutilates them and chains them up in his basement. The chorus sums up his motives nicely: "I'm probably gonna burn for this/Ain't no lesson to learn from this/There's nothing I'ma earn/But it sure is fun".
- Certain faces are able to get away with heel-like tactics because they're using them on heels.
- Used by Edge against Kane. Kane is known for being a sadistic monster that torments and tortures his opponents without remorse: a Noble Demon at best, one of the biggest heels in all of wrestling at worst. Edge proceeds to kidnap Kane's evil father (who'd himself been seen as a monster quite often) and torture and torment him and Kane. Just so happens to follow Kane being an even bigger monster than normal, it's almost as if the WWE wanted to make sure Kane had it coming.
- One of the big things that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is known for is harassing, sabotaging, and generally torturing his opponents (usually heel in these cases), often using their methods. (stalking and setting booby traps for DX, putting Undertaker up on the cross, trying to kill HHH at Survivor Series, etc.)
- Actually, this is pretty common in general. If a character or faction, especially a heel character or faction, is known for tormenting their opponents in a certain way (breaking a certain bone, setting them on fire, spray-painting them in order to humiliate them after the match, 5-on-1 attacks, etc.), chances are that it's going to happen to them before the gig is up. And semi-major heel characters are generally free game to humiliate and torture without earning the ire of the audience.
Religion and Mythology
- The Bible:
- Book of Joshua tells how the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan and killed or enslaved the native peoples. It was justified by them evidently worshipping pagan gods—by practicing child sacrifice and being sexually immoral. Later, this punishment was applied to the Israelites themselves for the very same crimes.
- While staying in the borders of Shechem, a city-state, the son of the lord of the city raped Dinah, a daughter of Jacob who was visiting with some of the town girls. The two fathers hammered out an agreement between them so that the two would wed to try and put the situation behind them. Two of Jacobs elder sons, Simeon and Levi, however, took offense to the rape and slaughtered the entire male population in retaliation. When confronted by an irate Jacob, who was worried about other city states sending out warriors to kill the entire clan, Simeon and Levi pretty much told him to screw himself.
- "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?!"
- Sodom and Gomorrah. The Ten Plagues. The Flood. Samson killing 3,000 Philistines. The slaughter after the Israelites were found worshipping idols (though this one's debatable, as God actually didn't give Moses any instruction to do that, and it may have had more to do with putting down a revolt.)
- The (executed) command to kill every Midianite male (regardless of age) and every Midianite female who wasn't a virgin. (Presumably, the few who were virgins ended up concubines as instructed in Deuteronomy 21:10-14.) The Old Testament God was really into this trope.
- King David's daughter Tamar was raped by one of her brother's half-brothers Amnon. When David refused to take action, her brother Absalom ultimately took matters into his own hands and ordered his men to kill Amnon.
- King David made Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, his mistress. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David called Uriah's troop back to the capital in the hopes that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba so that the scandal would be hidden. Uriah was such a loyal soldier that he bunked down with his men instead, since it was unfair for him to go home when they couldn't. So David arranged for Uriah to die on the battlefield and took Bathsheba into his household. As punishment for his evil deeds, David's first son by Bathsheba fell ill and died after seven days and Absalom declared war on him.
- Moses sent twelve scouts into the land of Israel. Ten of them came back with a report that the people living there were unbeatable, and despite the protests of the other two spies, the Israelites formed a mob and turned on Moses and Aaron. After saving them, God decreed that the Israelites would never set foot in the Promised Land until after every adult—-except the two good spies-—who left Egypt had died. He then afflicted the other ten spies with a very painful and fatal illness.
- In the Scroll of Esther, Haman plotted to have all of the Jews in the Persian Empire killed. Instead, after Esther exposes Haman's plot, he and his sons (who were never mentioned as having been part of the plot) were hung on the gallows he had built for the Jews.
- Averted in the Book Of Jonah; Jonah actually gets rather upset that God forgave the people of Nineveh. God explains that, unlike the people of Sodom and Gormorrah, the Ninevites took the warning seriously and repented sincerely, so He wasn't about to go killing a bunch of innocents along with the guilty when there wasn't any need.
- In Chapter 34 of Genesis, Jacob's only daughter Dinah was violated by a Shechemite prince. Simon and Levi, her brothers, sat down with their father when the prince and his father came by offering a lavish bride-price. They lied and said they'd only agree to the marriage if the Shechemite men agreed to be circumcised like them, which they did. When the men were incapacitated after the surgery, Jacob's sons (without his knowledge) went into the Shechemite village and slaughtered every male they could find before bringing Dinah home (along with everyone and everything else they managed to plunder). Jacob called them out on this, fearing for his tribe's safety. Their justification was "Should we have let him use her for a whore?"
- And this is what the Lord says: If the innocent must suffer, how much more must you? You will not go unpunished! You must drink from this cup of judgment! For I have sworn by my own name," says the Lord-Jeremiah 49:12
- The idea behind "an eye for an eye" was to limit what you could do in response to someone who wronged you. According to Hammurabi, the guy who codified the idea in the first place, this was to prevent the old-fashioned method of redressing a wrong...in that, in the old, bad days, if someone did a wrong to you, whether it was murder a loved one, rape your favorite daughter, steal your cattle, or insult you, you and your strongest male relatives would go out and kill the offender, then slaughter their entire clan before they could do the same to you. So, by making the law "an eye for an eye," you cannot take more than what you lost.
- This comes into play in The Godfather. Vito refuses to kill the boys who attacked Bonasera's daughter because she was not killed. As Vito himself puts it, "that would not be justice." He does have his men brutally beat the boys and put them in the hospital, though.
- BattleTech has the Word of Blake, who broke a centuries long Nuclear Weapons Taboo... on civilians. All the other factions in the Inner Sphere proceeded to break the same taboo and nuke them back.
- The ilKhan Bret Andrews of Clan Steel Viper instigated the Wars of Reaving, which pitted the Clans against each other, and killed the Star Adder Khan N'Buta in a fit of rage. This was the last straw for the Clans, and the Star Adder saKhan Banacek killed Bret, and the remaining Clans annihilated the Steel Vipers.
- A published Call of Cthulhu adventure, Digging Up a Dead God, has the players playing Nazis on an archaeological expedition. Given that it's CoC, and it's almost guaranteed to kill or drive the characters insane by the end, well... Most people would say there's no group more deserving of a horrible ending.
- The Grey Guard prestige class in Dungeons & Dragons is built entirely around permitting paladins to make exceptions to their code of conduct for the sake of fighting greater evils.
- Dungeons & Dragons has had "Kill Evil and Take Their Stuff" as a motto for years. And sometimes it's not even that discriminating.
- The Gothic D&D setting Ravenloft made this explicit with its "Powers Checks," a sort of Karma Meter. The severity of an evil deed was proportional to how good the victim was. And Game Masters are encouraged to curtail the 'Stab and Loot' mentality.
- And with the Ravenloft Setting, Van Richten the resident Expert Monster Hunter strongly advises against indiscriminately slaughtering every creature that opposes them (Lycanthropes could be cured). Ironically, he himself has done this at least once, setting flesh-eating zombies on the tribe of Vistani who kidnapped his son and sold him to a vampire for their own personal profit.
- Interestingly averted in The Hobbit; early on Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves find Elvish swords stolen by trolls, and the only person to have a legitimate claim to them relinquishes them (Glamdring belonged to Elrond's great-grandfather).
- A politicized kobold gets to put the case against "delving and discovery" (i.e. dungeon raiding) in Tales Of MU. Magisterius University does, of course, have a big D&D faculty.
- In Exalted, Green Sun Princes can use this as a loophole to act as something resembling heroes. The terms of their servitude to the Yozis state that they absolutely have to behave in an appropriately evil manner... but the terms say nothing about who they have to target. They can solely target people as bad or worse than they are, and as long as they're sufficiently villainous in dispatching them, it doesn't risk Torment. The net result being that they're no better or worse than any other Exalt, or totally deluded monsters, depending on the campaign.
- Hunter: The Vigil has Aegis Kai Doru, a group of hunters who kill magic-users and take their artifacts so that it's easier to kill more magic-users (and sometimes werewolves). The book contains a lengthy section on how to deal with the Karma Meter in light of goals like that.
- Forget about the Greek Indiana Jones. Hunters are the only people who can modify their Moral Code to justify about everything they do, as long as it's in the light of the hunt. The text example has "murdering someone" replaced with "letting a witch/warlock loose". This only makes paying evil unto evil far, far easier for them than other denizens of shadow.
- Warhammer 40,000 likes this one, though it must be noted that the setting already runs on Black and Grey Morality. The Imperium and Chaos both enjoy sacrificing innocents — the former sacrifice to the Emperor, the latter to the Chaos Gods, to name one example.
- Generally speaking, though, those who run the Imperium want their citizens to die fighting, even if victory on a given field is impossible, so that they can take down as many Renegades, Xenos, or Heretics as they can with their last breaths. Though they do regularly sacrifice hundreds of Pskyers a year to give power to the life-support-reliant Emperor, many of them would've threatened humanity had they been allowed to live.
- The Forces of Chaos, on the other hand, sacrifice innocents in order to grant the favor of the Dark Gods so they can go on world-molesting crusades, or in particularly evil moments, for fun. However, some Chaos Space Marine players use this to make their army out to be less evil, since the Emperor himself did some pretty nasty things while establishing the Imperium, and that the society itself is very opressive. From that perspective, the Imperium has to go for the better of mankind.
- The Horus Heresy, as the titular novels show, can really be seen as the Traitor Legions doing this to the Emperor for all the crap he did unto them first. Notable examples include snatching Angron away from a Last Stand and leaving the closest thing he had to a family to die (whilst having ample options for saving them all), slaughtering an entire world just to emphasize his demand that Lorgar Stop Worshipping Me, and refusing to listen to Magnus's warnings about the building Civil War and siccing Leman Russ and his followers onto Magnus's world.
- In the Planescape campaign setting, one of Sigil's factions (gangs united by a common philosophy) are the Mercykillers (nickname: "The Red Death"), militants who believe The Multiverse is inherently flawed with sin and that perfection can only be obtained by purifying your sins through just punishment. As their name implies, they do not believe in the concept of 'mercy' and any evil is to be punished, violently. They run Sigil's prison system and deal with executions. Crossing them is generally considered a poor idea.
- The spin-off game Planescape: Torment features Vhailor, a member of the Mercykillers considered fanatical even by his faction's standards. His belief in Justice (capital letter included) is so strong it's allowed him to postphone his own death because there are still lawbreakers to punish.
- Zigzagged in Deadlands, in that, whilst some "Gray Hats" are so dark it's outright stated that it's a matter of when, not if, they will become villains themselves, the game still lets some surprisingly dark characters play the good guys.
- Throughout all three lines, there's the Harrowed; a Revenant Zombie with a demonic Enemy Within who can never be removed because it's the source of the Harrowed's undeath, meaning every time they go to sleep, they may end up unable to stop themselves from committing murder and mayhem.
- In the classic game, there's the Huckster, a wizard who literally makes a Deal with the Devil every single time he casts a spell.
- The classic game also rules for a magic using priest who derives his powers from either Aztec Blood Magic or Anahuac (a syncretic mixture of Aztec faith and Catholicism).
- Then there's the Rogue Whatley, who practices Blood Magic.
- The playable vampire is one of those "damnation is inescapable" Gray Hats mentioned above.
- Another comes from Hell on Earth, where the Anti-Templar draws upon the powers of the Reckoners. Ironically, many people consider the Anti-Templars better people than the Templars they oppose, even if they do end up corrupted, since the Anti-Templers both believe they are weakening the Reckoners by leeching away their power and only want that power to protect as many people as possible, whilst the Templars are known for being extremely judgmental and self-righteous.
- In Electra, despite the fact that murdering your mother is admittedly bad, if the gods are on your side it's acceptable. Orestes and Electra feel particularly justified by the fact that Clytemnestra killed their father.
- And Aegisthus had killed not just Agamemnon but (years earlier) the latter's father Atreus.
- Pretty much the standard response for Chuck AKA Weapon Brown. Among his more noteable accomplishments is tearing off the cybernetic limbs off his old tormentor Croc, brutally beating and torturing him for a bit, before shoving him assfirst onto a flamethrower, and firing it, and cutting out Lucy's tongue, and watch her try to beg for mercy without it.
- In Looking for Group, Richard the Undead Warlock embodies this trope. He can turn the tide of pretty much any battle, is lord of his own legion of undead villagers (ones he most likely killed himself), slaughters indiscriminately, eats babies (even once being placed into a nursery by a woman mistaking him for a child after he was shrunk, which he is later removed from and asks why he had to leave the buffet with lamenting women in the background), and he would fit Always Chaotic Evil perfectly if not for the fact that he does have a few moments where a softer personality shows up, if only for a moment, and the fact that the majority of the slaughtering he does is to help the Heroes win the war against their Big Bad, even going out of his way to ensure the survival of his allies despite constantly saying that he's only along for the fun of killing. In one particular Momentof Awesome, Richard rescues Cale'Anon, cauterizing a mortal wound in his throat with fire to keep the elf from bleeding to death, carrying him down a mountainside, slaughtering a massively fat Black Dwarf, slicing the dwarf open, putting Cale inside it, sealing it shut again, and encasing the dwarf in a massive block of ice in order to protect Cale from a massive wave of hot lava that was rushing towards them from the mountainside, simply standing outside the block of ice and waiting for the wave to hit him rather than trying to save himself, as seen here
- Reflected in Darths & Droids Episode 64:
We'll have to find some money somehow. What's my character's alignment again? <...> GM: Lawful Good
. In theory. Qui-Gon:
Right. So if we rob people, we should make sure they're gangsters first.
- Oasis from Sluggy Freelance adopts this practice when she becomes Podunkton's resident vigilante. Most characters in this storyline have at least a couple moments where they're uneasy about Oasis's casual attitude towards murdering criminals, but considering her history as a Brainwashed assassin and Yandere, this is still seen as a step in the right direction.
- Plus they're all too terrified to actually do anything about it.
- Being based on Dungeons & Dragons, The Order of the Stick addresses this. It's notable that usually the heroes don't go 'kill evil and take their stuff', as a general rule. They have a quest to kill a very evil person, and have to fight and kill said evil person's minions. When resident Heroic Comedic Sociopath Belkar mentions it, the others look at him strangely.
- An interesting case of values backlash occurred in one arc. Many issues ago the party came across and slew a dragon that was considered Always Chaotic Evil due to what kind of dragon it was. Many issues after that, paladin Miko's wrath at them for slaying a dragon was softened when she found out what kind it was. Cue even more issues later when the vengeful, grieving mother of the dragon attempts to kill the children of Vaarsuvius the wizard, leading to him casting a spell that ended up killing hundreds of dragons in a single shot. Then came this comic, a Wham Episode that (along with the following comic) showed the full (unpleasant) ramifications of V's actions.
- The prequel book On the Origin of PCs had an interesting subversion of this: Roy and Durkon meet up when they're with an adventuring party that's supposed to wipe out a group of unruly orcs. Roy manages to deduce that the orcs are just rowdy music fans in town for a concert, and decides to spare them... much to the chagrin of his party, who wanted the XP. That's when he and Durkon decide they really need to part ways with the rest of the party.
- Also an example of this in the prequel Start of Darkness; Since the goblin race is supposedly 'Always Chaotic Evil', normally good and honest paladins burn and pillage a goblin town without a second thought.
- It's also noted that the goblins are justifiably angry because of this situation, so much so that their leader ascended to godhood after death. He is currently trying to gain the power of the Snarl (Via his mortal representative Redcloak, who has some of the Dark One's power via his trademark cloak) to use it to extort the more powerful gods into giving the Goblins a lot in life above EXP fodder. My point? The Paladins raid the goblins to protect the gate and to gain strength to do that better, and the goblins raid the humans to keep from being EXP fodder for life. It's a Two-Way-Vicious-Cycle of pay evil unto evil. They each attack the other because its what the other does to them and to ensure their own survival.
- Axe Cop devotes most of his time to cleaving the skulls of "bad guys". Enforced in that the author is six-years old.
- Also, he can tell good guys from bad guys by their front kicks.
- Goblins has done a fair job of pulling up the monster view of this trope. The start of the comic features a goblin "war camp", but it is eventually revealed that the camp was established simply to distract heroes and keep them from going deeper into the forest and discovering the village where the women and children live.
- When the Fortuneteller confronted Forgath, she managed to point out to him the horror being inflicted on the goblins. For a brief moment, Forgath realized that their actions were even more evil than the goblins who had simply been arguing about various things in their camp. Then Fortuneteller ruined it...
- Minmax also throws Dellyn Goblinslayer through the bar window before picking a fight with him. Then immediately at the end of their fight, Goblinslayer was stabbed to death by Kin, whom he spent his time raping.
- An alternate universe Dellyn killed Kin and tortured Forgath to death. Minmax found a magic orb that let him see what happened to them, and then tortured Dellyn with the exact same methods in one go. Dellyn made it through all of Kin's torture and six of Forgath's before dying.
- Jessica tries to do this to Tess in Bittersweet Candy Bowl, using the "fact" that she's a whore (a rumor created by Tess two years before the present time; Jessica was, in fact, a virgin) to seduce Tess's love interest Paulo, going on a date with him and finally having sex with him in the bathroom of a dance club. It backfires on her though, as she gets no satisfaction out of it and in the end feels like a whore - a real one.
- Ame from Heart Core hopes to gather food for both herself and her sister by tearing out the hearts of a couple of would be muggers/rapists, thinking that there would be no consequences if she only harvested and killed criminals. She was wrong, leading to both a demonic demon hunter and a paladin being assigned to find her.
- In Strong Female Protagonist, a webcomic dealing a teenage ex-superhero (Allison, aka Mega-Girl) wrestling with questions about the efficacy and ethics of traditional superheroism, Moonshadow is of this view, and takes to killing rapists who escape justice under the law. Allison admits she'd like to Pay Evil unto Evil sometimes, but recognizes it's wrong.
- Common in children's shows for the main characters with special powers to torment bullies. Hey, they deserve it, right?
- It's hard to believe that Bulk and Skull were bullies after all the humiliation given to them constantly for about the five original seasons of Power Rangers. The good guys never used their powers explicitly other than dodge attacks, but they did laugh at them a lot in the freeze shot that ended episodes.
- They were pretty bad in the first season (Both in the sense of not being nice, but also just not good at being bullies), but later on they got better.
- Danny Phantom sometimes got a What the Hell, Hero? or Not So Different speech for messing with the bullies in his school with his ghost powers. This rarely lasted more than an episode.
- The first of these amounting to a B-plot aesop about judging people. The ghost of the week showed up while Danny was getting his revenge on the Jock/Bully Dash, and jumps to the conclusion that Danny is the bully, irresponsibly using his powers to torment an undeserving victim. Ghost proceeds to expel Danny to a Ghost Zone area with the main plot being Danny trying to escape, while the B-plot had Possesed!Danny subtly using his powers to help and befriend Dash, who didn't act so terrible while this was going on.
- On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara uses this logic to defend her theft of a Waterbending scroll: "Stealing is wrong... unless it's from pirates." Toph later uses the same rationale for cheating in a crooked gambling game: "Hey, I only cheated because he was cheating. I cheated a cheater. What's wrong with that?" The kids never learn any Aesop contradicting this.
- This was also implied to be what Katara used to justify the use of Bloodbending — a technique explicitly played up to be terrible and bad and ultimate evil yadda yadda yadda — on a Fire Nation soldier because she thought he was the one who murdered her mother in cold blood. Only it wasn't him it turns out. Oops.
- The episode which introduced bloodbending itself actually plays with this trope. The definitely-evil waterbender who created the technique forces Katara to learn it despite her hesitation about the moral consequences:
Katara: I don't know if I want that kind of power...
Hama: The choice is not yours. The power exists...and it's your duty to use the gifts you've been given to win this war. Katara, they tried to wipe us out, our entire culture...your mother!
- Regarding "The Southern Raiders", Katara hunts down Yon Rha initially intending to kill him. She does not do so, but only because she decides he is a detestable, pathetic piece of work who is Not Worth Killing.
- Similarly, in The Legend of Korra, "The Revelation" episode shows Amon Debending the Leaders of the gangs in the city. These people have used their bending to make the people fear them, and he's giving them what they deserve. Ultimately though, this is a subversion, and is really a Kick the Son of a Bitch, as he's willing to take the bending away from anyone for having it, regardless of whether they're good or evil. He debent the gangsters first so more people would see him as the good-guy and follow him.
- Matrix, from the third and fourth seasons of ReBoot, tends towards this. Immediately after his age-up, he was a Type IV Anti-Hero who believed that all viruses should be eradicated. Later in the season, he cooled down a bit, even sparing Megabyte's life at the end.
- In The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy eventually wishes Vicky was young enough for him to be her babysitter so he could get his revenge, doing the exact same kind of things she did to him to her. Now if Vicky had actually been the same person she was as an adult, it'd have been well deserved... but it feels awful because she's at an age where she wasn't evil and is just a poor five year old girl. This further backfires when Vicky gets Cosmo and Wanda due to how bad Timmy made her feel and uses them to take her own revenge on him. Ultimately, Timmy learns his Aesop and decides, before returning her to normal, giving her a great day.
- The Simpsons seems considerably fond of this trope. 22 Short Films About Springfield ends with a grown man Nelson made fun of pulling down Nelson's pants, ordering him to walk down the street with his pants down, telling everyone on the street that now is their chance to make fun of Nelson, and everyone in town pointing and laughing at him at the same time. And then Bart and Milhouse pour ketchup and mustard on Nelson's face.
- Although you can't really say they are doing it to punish Nelson or out of a sense of feeling morally superior to him. Just before that, they had been pouring ketchup and mustard on passing cars.
- Very much the subject of Batman: Under the Red Hood. The villain, Red Hood, who is actually Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin is trying to prove to Batman that his code against killing is inadequate and he can be a better crime-fighter by just murdering criminals.
- Miss Martian in season 2 of Young Justice gains a disturbing habit of mind raping her opponents to gain information, leaving them catatonic. While she justifies herself with this logic, it becomes harder to defend once it's revealed she tried to do something similar to her boyfriend Superboy, in order to make him forget that he had a problem with her behavior.
- And it proceeds to bite her in the ass hard in 2x10, when she lobotomizies Aqualad for killing Artemis, and in the process finds out that he is a Reverse Mole who faked Artemis' death to bring her undercover with him. She mindraped one of her closest friends, and most likely doomed Artemis' cover as well. Cue Heroic BSOD.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Putting Your Hoof Down", the episode involves Fluttershy smacking a bunch of jerkass ponies who attempted to take advantage of or abuse her. This is subverted in that Fluttershy's collision with the jerkass ponies she came across is considered a very bad thing. Her neighbors might have been unfair to her, yes. But her desire to get her assertiveness and her eagerness to fight back with others who push her around is portrayed as alarming nonetheless. Also, fans are expected to understand that her Unstoppable Rage is extremely disproportionate and results in her playing some serious Jerkass Ball.
- However, there do seems to be some trace of this trope present. Her sticking up against Mr. Greenhooves is considered understandable while the sticking of the mailpony in the mailbox is not.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Anytime Meatwad gets his revenge on Master Shake counts as this. Whilst he can get pretty disturbing about it, it's kinda hard to feel sorry for Shake given the crap he puts Meatwad through.