Staking the Loved One
"Will it be no joy to think of hereafter in the silence of the night when sleep is not, 'It was my hand that sent her to the stars. It was the hand of him that loved her best, the hand that of all she would herself have chosen, had it been to her to choose?'"One of the occupational hazards of Demon Slaying involves the death of your friends and family out of vengeance from the monsters you hunt. But sometimes the monsters don't just kill your loved ones. No, sometimes they turn them into one of their own. This puts the protagonist in the awful position of having to kill someone they truly loved. Expect this trope to crop up in Vampire Fiction, almost always when the monsters are Always Chaotic Evil. Usually averted with the Friendly Neighborhood Vampire. This situation can also crop up with other monsters, the most common variations being werewolves and zombies. See also And Then John Was a Zombie. May be a case of Van Helsing Hate Crimes when the monsters are not Always Chaotic Evil. Related to Transhuman Treachery, as this is what the newly turned are feared to commit. Often the only "good" way What Happened To Mommy can end up. Frequently a Tear Jerker. See also I Cannot Self-Terminate, Mercy Kill. Sub-Trope of Kill the Ones You Love and Tragic Monster. Not to be confused with stalking the loved one.
— Van Helsing, Dracula
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's ends with everyone defeating the Self-Defense Program of Reinforce, the former Book of Darkness. She's grateful, but the next day informs them that they have to finish the job with her too or else her programming will be forced to regenerate the SDP. Nanoha and Fate do, because it would be too cruel to make Hayate do so.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
- Kyouko is forced to kill Sayaka, who turned into a Witch.
- In the previous iteration, it's Homura who must Mercy Kill Madoka. This pushes her into Antiherodom.
- Darkly Invoked too by Mami in the previous iteration, rather than seeing her other mentee go Sayaka's path, she would rather kill them. Madoka stopped her from killing Homura... by shooting her first.
- In Hellsing, Integra is instructed to put down her subordinates-turned-ghouls herself, since she was their leader and thus their being defeated and transformed is her responsibility.
- In an inversion, Rosario + Vampire has the vampiric Moka nearly beating the human Tsukune to death because he had become a ghoul that was dangerous to everyone around him. She considered it her responsibility to finish him because she was the one who caused the transformation.
- Fate/Zero shows us the consequences of not doing it: after drinking a potion that transformed her in a vampire, Kiritsugu's childhood friend Shirley begged Kiritsugu to kill her while she was still capable of resisting her instincts, but when Kiritsugu couldn't go through it (opting instead to ask the local priest for counsel) she caused a vampire outbreak that claimed everyone on the island but Kiritsugu and his father. The experience, including the Church and the Mage Association killing all the vampires and burning down the place and having to kill his own father for experimenting on vampirism, was Kiritsugu's Cynicism Catalyst: since then Kiritsugu never hesitated to pull the trigger whenever necessary, and when he got to choose between shooting down a plane with his mother surrogate and a horde of ghouls on it and risking it to cause another vampire outbreak he immediately shot down the plane.
- Cassie Hack in Hack Slash had to do this to her deranged undead mother. It ended up as a recurring Flashback Nightmare for her. She's actually done it three times so far. Delilah Hack just doesn't seem to want to stay dead.
- The last act of Dmitri Mishkin, in House of Mystery's "I... Vampire" series, was to stake his own mother. Kind of an odd encounter, given that she'd been turned when Dmitri was a small boy and he'd been hunting her for decades, so his mom looks a good fifty years younger than he does.
- In Marvel's The Tomb of Dracula, Drac is clockwork predictable with this trope. Virtually no one outside the 'Bridge Crew' was taken prisoner without being turned.c
- In one Spider-Man story, Morbius the Living Vampire is confronted by his once human ex-fiancée Martine, now a real vampire. During the fight that follows, Spider-Man is unable to go through with staking her because he reasons she used to be a living human being. It is Morbius who then throws Martine onto the stake Spider-Man is holding, afterwards explaining that the real Martine died a long time ago.
- Done with a twist in The Return when one character is forced to shoot her sister who has been turned into a demon, so that she can be given an Emergency Transformation to save her.
- In Stephen King's Night of the Living Dead (1968) fanfic story "The Reach", the inhabitants of a small New England island off the coast of Massachusetts cooperate to rid their island of zombies and to prevent the local graveyard from spawning new ones. When the strain gets to be too much for one old man, he begins suffering a heart attack. Rather than risk dying and coming back as a zombie, he tells his sons that he's going to recite the Lord's prayer, and when he says "Amen", they are to put the muzzles of their shotguns up to his chest and pull the trigger, just so he can spare them this.
- I Am Legend featured the main character's dog being bitten by the "vampires" and he must put her down when it becomes obvious that the antidote he's been trying to develop didn't work. Worse than a lot of examples because the main character is the last human left in a city full of monsters, and the dog was his only companion.
- From Dusk Till Dawn. Seth has to kill his brother. Kate has to kill her father and brother after her brother found himself unable to kill the father and was infected as a result.
- Parodied in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, where Van Helsing (played by Mel Brooks) invokes this trope as an excuse to not have to stake Lucy:
Van Helsing: It must be done by one who loved her in life!Jonathan Harker: But I only liked her!Van Helsing: Close enough!
- Subverted in the first Count Yorga film, one of the protagonist is given the chance to stake a female friend of his that been turned by the title character (she actually stands there and waits on him). He considers it but ultimately can't do it and leaves her in her undead state.
- In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun has to kill his zombified mother. Subverted in the case of his zombified best friend; Shaun locks him in a shed in his back yard and they play video games together.
- Blade has to stake his own mother in the first film; he believed she had died giving birth to him after a Vampire bite.
- He also gives Whistler a gun to shoot himself before he fully turns. Blade does an Unflinching Walk as a gunshot is heard behind him. Subverted when it turns out that Whistler missed and survived.
- In Night of the Living Dead (1990), Barbara is forced to shoot her friend Ben after he dies and turns into a zombie.
- Resident Evil (2002). Matthew Addison has to kill his ally Rain Ocampo after she turns into a zombie.
- Non-fantastic example in The Searchers: Debbie Edwards's own family expect her uncle to kill her after they learn she's been indoctrinated by the Comanches who kidnapped her into becoming their squaw - and they have hardly any regrets, because after all Debbie is now the enemy. Of course, since said uncle is a fanatical Indian-hating psychopath, Debbie's blood tie to him never even enters the picture until he actually has the opportunity to do it, and he experiences an Adopt the Dog moment.
- In Zombieland, Columbus and Tallahassee come across Wichita and her zombie-bitten sister, Little Rock. They hand her the gun to do the mercy kill, but things don't go quite as they plan because they're faking the zombie bite just so they can get a hold of Columbus and Tallahassee's guns and truck.
- In 28 Days Later Selena tells Jim right near the start that if he got infected she'd kill him "in a heartbeat", and she proves this by killing one of her other friends when he turns. At the climax she believes Jim has been infected due to the shockingly brutal killing the formerly gentle man commits. She can't bring herself to actually attack him.
- Earlier on Frank is infected but Jim can't bring himself to deliver the death blow, even though he knows he's only got seconds before they're all in danger and Selena is screaming at him to do it.
- When Secker and Paxton in Taste the Blood of Dracula find vampirized Lucy in a casket, Secker tries to stake her, only for Paxton to chase him away, so that the task of slaying his daughter would befall on him alone. He fails because he takes too much time to do the deed.
- Best known example from Bram Stoker's Dracula when Helsing shows the men first hand of Lucy's undead form after she "dies" and seeing she's more monster then human. He forces her fiancee Arthur to do it claiming a loved one should set her soul free.
- In I Am Legend, Neville must kill his reanimated wife when she returns.
- The Gardella Vampire Chronicles.
- Subversion in All Just Glass. The main character herself is a vampire hunter and witch who is turned into a vampire. Her sister, another hunter, wants to do this, but ultimately can't bring herself to do it.
- There's another subversion in the book that comes right before it in the series, Shattered Mirror. Sarah goes out to kill Kristopher, and then gets turned into a vampire.
- In one Anita Blake book, the parents of a dead girl ask Anita to do this for them before their daughter rises as a vampire.
- Happens to several characters in 'Salem's Lot.
- In the Mercy Thompson novels, doing this to werewolves who can't control their "wolf side" is usually the duty of their closest werewolf relatives, but if they can't do it, the Marrok (Alpha-in-chief of all North America's werewolf packs) or his son Charles have to step in. The novels make it clear that both the Marrok and Charles have already done it too many times for their own peace of mind.
- In Blood Promise, Rose has to do this to Dimitri.
- In Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, Baltimore has to do this not only to his wife, but his father, mother, and sister as well.
- Invoked in-universe in Dream Park, when the casualties of the South Seas Treasure Game are sent back in make-up to "attack" their former comrades as part of a zombie horde. Gwen, acting under the Game Masters' orders, winds up in a duel with her out-of-game boyfriend Oliver, and he's so shocked that she has to whisper "Kill me, Ollie, please" before he'll play out the scene properly and strike her down with his virtual weapon.
- In the Discworld novels, Angua has specifically requested that Carrot do this if she ever ends up becoming as monstrous as her brother Wolfgang.
- In The Dresden Files, "Changes", Harry is forced to kill his vampire girlfriend Susan when she turns fully. The situation was further complicated in that the Red Court vampires that sired Susan were about to kill their daughter to activate a spell that would kill her family line, and by killing Susan, Harry could use the spell against the villains, destroying all members of the Red Court.
- Made even worse when one realizes that our hero knowingly manipulated the situation so that Susan would lose control and kill, thereby turning into the youngest Red Court vampire. He hates himself for doing it and will never forgive himself, even though it saved their daughter.
- Note finally that Susan had regained control in the final moments, and knew exactly what he was doing and why. The fact that she realized it was the only way to save their child, and didn't struggle, arguably made it even harder for Harry to cope with this trope.
- Buffy having to stake the vamped Giles in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel The Lost Slayer.
- In the Magic: The Gathering novel Nemesis, Eladamri kills the Phyrexian Belbe, who was created from the corpse of Eladamri's daughter. Overlaps with Van Helsing Hate Crime in that Belbe had already gone through a Heel-Face Turn and was actively sabotaging the Phyrexians' plans. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- In the post-Zombie Apocalypse Newsflesh world, it's accepted that if someone is about to amplify (become a zombie), even close relatives are expected to put the victim down for good, both as an act of compassion and to keep the victim from spreading the problem by attacking those around him/her. In the first book, we hear about a mother forced to kill her child and see an about-to-be-zombie shot by a close friend. Then there's Shaun performing a Mercy Kill on his lover/adoptive sister Georgia, which sends him into Sanity Slippage for the next two books.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, many times.
- Most notably when Buffy had to kill Angel to stop Acathla.
- The first episode also featured Xander staking one of his best friends - by accident. He couldn't do it, and only survived because a panicked bystander unknowingly shoved the vamp onto his raised stake.
- In "Phases" Angelus turns a schoolmate of Buffy's into a vampire, knowing that she'll be forced to stake her when she goes to examine the corpse. A flashback episode in Angel showed him pulling the same stunt with Holtz's daughter.
- Spike had to stake his newly-sired mother after it was made clear that she was a completely different person. And evil. And trying to shag him.
- Season Two is a protracted inner struggle for Buffy, who can't bring herself to stake Angelus in their first encounter.
Illyria: You held affection for this shell, and yet you strike at its form without remorse.
- Gunn staked his sister and Holtz was forced to throw his daughter into the sunlight.
- Subverted with Illyria and Spike: he didn't care if she had Fred's body, even though Fred was his buddy.
- None of them really showed any hesitation over trying to kill Illyria. Even Wesley tried, though Illyria's resemblance to Fred got to him later. They were just totally incapable of achieving it.
- A Running Gag is that whenever a member of Team Angel warns a co-worker to be ready to kill them if they turn evil, they agree a lot more readily than comfortable. Especially Connor.
- On two occasions a cast member had to dismember the body of a loved one in the mistaken belief they had been killed by vampires.
- Subverted in "Double or Nothing". Angel is playing an Absurdly High-Stakes Game that if he loses will cost him his soul (which will turn him evil). He hands Cordy a wooden stake and says she knows what to do if that happens. When Angel does lose the game, Cordy instead rams the stake through the Big Bad's palm, holding him in place so Angel can lop off his head.
- Sort of done in Being Human (UK). Lauren begged Mitchell to stake her and he did. Only counts as a "sort of" example as Mitchell was the one who turned her into a vampire in the first place.
- Done totally straight by George to Mitchell. He even makes sure to tell him "I'm doing this because i love you."
- Now in the US version, Aidan is forced to stake Bernie, his ten year old neighbor, because as a child he cannot control his emotions or appetites. A little later on, Aidan again stakes Rebecca at her request.
- Javier did this to his girlfriend on Blood Ties.
- The failure to do this quickly enough, when his infected friend hands him a silver-loaded pistol and begs him to end his suffering, is what set Eric Cord on his quest in Werewolf.
- On Supernatural, the second season episode "Heart" forced Sam to do this for Girl of the Week Madison, who had become a werewolf.
Bobby: She was the love of my live. How many times do I have to kill her?
- Gordon beheaded his sister after she became a vampire, a fact which disturbs Sam and Dean. Part of this was probably because he tracked her down and killed her (in an episode showing that Friendly Neighborhood Vampires, or at least non-murderous ones, existed too) instead of her attacking him.
- Invoked by Meg when she possessed Sam and tried to convince Dean that his Psychic Powers had turned him evil, knowing that killing his brother would cause him the most pain and that what he tried wouldn't kill her, just Sam's body.
- When he's suspected to have the Croatoan Virus, Dean refuses to kill him or let anyone else do it, instead deciding to stay with Sam until he "dies".
- Bobby had to do this to his wife twice: when became possessed, he stabbed her, not knowing what else to do, and later kills her again when she comes back to life as a zombie.
- Krista in Blade The Series does it to her mother after her plan to turn her into a vampire goes awry.
- Subverted in the case of Krista's uncle after he is bitten by Krista's newly-turned mother. Blade beheads him as a precautionary measure.
- A vampire hunter in a Sliders episode does this after finding his wife in a coffin, before the other vampires swarm him. Quinn is ready to do this to Wade, except she hasn't been bitten and was just sleeping in the coffin.
- On Forever Knight, LaCroix has to stake his daughter for much the same reason Spike staked his mom on Buffy.note
- Many times on The Walking Dead, given the fact that it's a show about the zombie apocalypse. A few notable examples: Andrea held her sister Amy's body until she rose again as a walker before stabbing her in the head. (Stabbing walkers in the head is the only way to stop brain activity and kill them.) In season 2, Hershel is unable to kill his zombified family members and instead keeps them in a barn. Shane goes and kills them all anyway.
- After the season 2 reveal that the virus is in all of them and when they die, regardless of if they were bit or not, they will rise again as a walker, it becomes standard procedure to stab their loved ones in the head whenever they die. One of the more disturbing examples is Carl, a young teenage boy, stabbing his mother in the head after she dies in childbirth.
- In the Sound Horizon song "Koibito wo Uchiotoshita Hi" ("The Day I Shot Down My Lover"), a girl must kill her lover - who saved her life from a monster - when the venom from his battle wound cause him to turn into a monster himself.
- Saber in Heavens Feel route of Fate/stay night, though in this route she's not a love interest so much as a very close friend. Quite a downer when the Taiga Dojo for not doing points out if you want to save her you can go play another route, because it's not happening here (assuming the resultant horrifically Bad End didn't floor you already).
- Akiha makes you promise this in Tsukihime when her demon blood is taking over. Averted in the True End, though, when you Take a Third Option by returning your life force to her. The Normal End is actually worse than if you had killed her. Also barely averted in Kohaku's route with Akiha again. Not Satsuki though. She was just a classmate, so Shiki is just upset he had to kill someone at all.
- In Melty Blood, Riesbyfe's path takes place in a timeline where Sion fell to vampirism, and she had to kill her. Then she had to do the same thing to Dust of Osirus; a clone of Sion's from the future. She does this knowing that Dust of Osirus is sustaining Riesbyfe's existance. "I hope to see you again, my friend; after the darkness."
- In Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time, the Prince finds himself having to fight his father as a Sand Demon.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, when Ramza has foiled the Lucavi's plots once too many times, Folmarv abducts his older half-brother, Zalbaag, and turns him into an undead monster. Although Zalbaag is perfectly conscious and aware of his condition, his body will relentlessly pursue Ramza and try to kill him, at which point he begs the younger Beoulve to put him out of his misery. Granted, Zalbaag was a bit of a jerkass throughout the game, but he was on the path of redemption and actually cared for his family, making this a Tear Jerker.
- In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Zack has to kill his mentor, Angeal, who actually makes himself monstrous to make it easier for Zack to kill him.
- In Baldur's Gate II, your love interest (if you have one) gets turned into a vampire and you have to kill them. There's a way to bring them back to life though.
- And if you didn't, don't spend ages trying to figure out what you're supposed to do with Bodhi's heart.
- Pretty heart wrenching in Parasite Eve when the police dog, Sheeva, goes berserk from Eve's influence. Ben, who is only 8 years old and is the son of Daniel, Aya's partner, chases after the dog and almost gets caught by monsters along the way. Once Ben catches up to Sheeva in a big empty room, he clings to the dog, wondering what is wrong with his new friend. Police chief Baker arrives and takes Ben away from Sheeva, telling Ben that Eve turned the dog into a monster. Within that moment, Sheeva mutates into a 3-headed beast, wounding Baker off-screen. Once Aya arrives, Ben tells Aya that Sheeva is already dead. Cue Boss Battle. The next day, Catherine informs you that Baker worked with Sheeva when he was a rookie (that's an old dog...) and that it must have been painful for him to shoot at her.
- In Final Fantasy Adventure, the hero is forced to kill Amanda, a fellow gladiator, after she gets bitten by Medusa.
- In Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, Steve is forced to kill his now-zombified father, causing him to have a brief Heroic BSOD.
- Ending C in NieR has the protagonist killing his Love Interest Kainé after the Shade part of her takes over.
- Played with in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn when Sveta realizes that activating the Apollo Lens required to end the Grave Eclipse will kill her brother, who was transformed into a monster of darkness by the games main antagonists. Made worse by the fact that she is the only one who can do it.
- Left 4 Dead provides the page image: In Zoey's backstory, she shot her father so that he would not become infected after being bit. It was only weeks later that she found out he was more likely than not immune.
- This situation comes up a few times during The Walking Dead, with the drama therein played to the hilt every time.
- Done in self-defense in Phantasmagoria. Heroine Adrienne is being padlocked into a torture chair which is rigged to kill her when a lever is pulled by her demon-possessed husband Don. At first, she tries to reach out to him with a snowman ornament and pleading that she loves him, but this will fail and he will pull the lever anyway if no action is taken. She has to pull the lever and make the rigging kill Don to save herself.
- In Starcarft:Brood Wars Zeratul is forced to slay his Matriach Razhagal after it turns out she was enslaved by Kerrigan.
- The most heart wrenching decision you'll have to make in The Walking Dead and possibly in video games in general) comes at the end where Lee is about to succumb to the infection that will turn him into a zombie, and the player must decide whether to have Clementine shoot him or simply run and leave him. It seems like a pretty clear cut choice and it would for most, but given the hell that poor Clementine has been through for most of the game, having to shoot the man who's faithfully protected her through it all must seem like murder. Whether she does it or not is up to the player, but either way, its hard to watch.
- Vamp You has included a few instances of people trying this trope, but it generally never works out. Usually, there just ends up being two vampires.
- In the Penny Arcade three part story, the Cardboard-Tube Samurai is forced to kill an old ally who has been possessed by a cursed sword.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has an arc where Mitzi is rather quick to do this to Dark Smoke Puncher when he gets possessed by a ghost. She's got good reason, though; for all she knows, the thing has outright killed her son and is using the body as a puppet, and she's being practical. Gordito, however, manages to drive the ghost out before that's necessary.
- The Left 4 Dead comic shows Zoey's back story that occurred a week after the zombie outbreak. A zombie breaks into the apartment and bites Zoey's mother. She gets infected and attacks Zoey's father, which forces him to shoot her dead. Fearing that he is now infected, Zoey's father asks her to shoot him, which she tearfully does so. This scene is more gut wrenching when Zoey discovers that the carrier gene (what prevents people from becoming a zombie) is passed down on the father's side on the family, thus there was a chance Zoey's father could have been just fine.