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Rationalizing The Overkill
Sir Warwick Harrow: You didn't have to wound him.
Malcolm Reynolds: Yeah, I know, it was just funny.
— "Shindig", Firefly

When a character wrongs another character, the victim is more likely to get back at them, usually by giving them the same treatment they gave to them. Seems fair, does it? Not quite. That's not enough to satisfy the victim. So why not dishing out some Disproportionate Retribution? Wait, that's going too far! Then again, it doesn't matter to the character as long as "justice" is served.

This is when a character sees their excessive punishment on another as completely justified. Perhaps the character has been abused far too long from their tormentor(s) and that going overboard with their revenge is exactly how they feel, which is quite common with a bullied character turning into a villain. Perhaps they may be a self-righteous Knight Templar who puts too much value in morality and any "just" and "righteous" punishment must be extremely harsh. For whatever reason, this will demonstrate how vengeful the character is and they have already allowed revenge to consume them so terribly.

In another variations, an unsympathetic character is suffering tremendously and other characters, especially those who were wronged, will tell them that they deserve what was coming to them as opposed to others who feel that they didn't deserve a punishment like that, even if the character was a jerk.

Subtrope of There Is No Kill Like Overkill. Compare It's The Only Way To Be Sure, Make Sure He's Dead. An Asshole Victim can be subject to this. See also Minor Injury Overreaction. Contrast Was Too Hard on Him if the character regrets punishing a character very harshly. Can be a unique way to refute a What the Hell, Hero? speech from other characters who think they've done enough damage. Also contrast Restrained Revenge where the character's "justified" punishment isn't excessive.

Examples:

Fanfic
  • In Escape From The Hokage's Hat, the council wants to banish Naruto, want Sasuke's prison sentence forgotten and were smart enough to get the Daimyo to agree with any of their decisions. Tsunade's response? Shove Sasuke in one of the darkest ANBU cells being kept barely alive, setting up the collapse of Konoha's economy, taking money from the accounts of every clan that ever wronged Naruto and finally making Jiraiya (temporary) Sixth Hokage while she leaves with Shizune, Hinata and Naruto for a six month training trip. When she explains why she did it to Naruto, she has this to say:
    "I decided to teach those meddling old fools a lesson in respect. If the reason I came back to the village is kicked out, I am SO joining in the fun!"

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • At the end of the Doctor Who episode The Christmas Invasion, Harriet Jones (Prime Minister) blasts the Sycorax spaceship out of the sky while they were retreating. She justifies it by saying that though the Doctor scared them off, they would show other, stronger, aliens the way to Earth. Given how frequently Britain had been invaded by aliens much mightier than these in the history of the series, past and future, the concern is warranted, although the Doctor still disapproves.
    • The Cult of Skaro also had one in "Doomsday", when Rose told them that they didn't need to kill someone, their response was "neither did we need him alive".
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig" Mal stabs Atherton Wing a couple times after disarming him. Wing had previously insulted Inara and injured Mal quite badly in the ensuing duel.
  • In an episode of Raumschiff GameStar, Darth Vader orders his henchman to deliver a parcel bomb onto the eponymous starship. When the henchman rightly points out that the Gamestar is currently sinking, anyway, Vader retorts "Twice destroyed holds better."
  • Admiral Kane in the Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) series. For starters she's a Tauron, who are Space Sicilians as far as vendettas go, and then she discovers her lover is a Cylon saboteur. Kane cranks the vindictiveness Up to Eleven.

Religion

Theatre
  • In The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, Malta's Governor, Ferneze, taxes every Jew at half their income so he can pay the tribute he owes Turkey. When the title character, Barabas, protests this injustice, Ferneze confiscates all his wealth. Barabas plots to avenge himself on the Governor, but he doesn't stop there. He orchestrates the death not only of Ferneze's son Lodowick, but also of Lodowick's friend Mathias, an entire convent of nuns (deliberately including his own daughter after she converts to Catholicism and takes holy orders), and two friars.note  Barabas rationalizes his actions thus: "It's no sin to deceive a Christian, / For they themselves hold it a principle / Faith is not to be held with heretics; / But all are heretics that are not Jews." (2.3.313-316)

Video Game
  • Future Luke, a.k.a Clive from Professor Layton and the Unwound Future created a gigantic underground futuristic version of London, built a giant robot, put up a great farce, and tried to blow up the real London only because his parents died in an unfortunate accident. He then attempts to justify it by saying that it's teaching the government not to callously disregard ordinary people (since Bill Hawks managed to not only avoid responsibility for his failed time travel, but reached high office).

Web Videos
  • The SWAG leader of Demo Reel assumes that kidnapping someone at gunpoint and leaving them to starve to death slowly in an abandoned patch of woods is justifiable punishment for his territory getting threatened.

Western Animation
Disproportionate RetributionRevenge TropesThe Dog Bites Back
Pretext for WarExcuse of an IndexRelatively Flimsy Excuse
A Rare SentenceDialogueReading the Stage Directions Out Loud
Punished for SympathyThe Only Righteous Index of FanaticsRestart The World
The RatCrime and Punishment TropesReading Your Rights

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