Vengeance Feels Empty

Roman: There you go, you got your revenge. How does it feel?
Niko: I don't know how it feels. I'm trying to take it all in.
Roman: This is the moment you've been waiting for for so long, Niko. What do you mean you don't know how you feel?
Niko: I mean I don't know. I feel empty, okay? I feel empty.

A powerful plot element, pursuit of revenge may be a driving motivation for a character. It may even be central to the plot. Upon finally exacting his revenge, rather than the sense of satisfaction he may have expected, he may get... nothing. Maybe it wasn't really worth it, or maybe he just doesn't know what to do with himself now. This is one of the bad results of ignoring Forgiveness.

Related to Wanting Is Better Than Having, and Revenge Before Reason. Compare Victory Is Boring.

The other major downside to seeking vengeance is the Cycle of Revenge — somebody may come along bent on Avenging the Villain in turn. For another consequence, see He Who Fights Monsters in which seeking vengeance causes the character become morally corrupted.

Contrast Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which is when someone usually enjoys their revenge. However, even those who are enjoying their revenge often feel empty when it's over. Some of them solve the quandary with a Murder-Suicide, which may cross over with Miles to Go Before I Sleep. Can be closely related to Being Evil Sucks in which this trope is more along the lines of "Being Vengeful Sucks".


Anime and Manga
  • The whole character arc of Mikagami Tokiya in Flame of Recca. He starts out as a cold, distant jerk dedicated for only one thing: vengeance for his dead big sister. It's not until he found his not-so Evil Counterpart, Kai, who is bent on vengeance against how he's always considered second-fiddle by Tokiya's master, that his vision on vengeance-driven life starts to shake and eventually be destroyed: Kai dedicated himself so much in his vengeance with Mikagami that even after he actually won against Tokiya (since Tokiya is a Glass Cannon), he felt so empty that the only path he saw is to be Driven to Suicide. However, he gave a stern warning for Tokiya to not follow his path, and to go with it, one more Awful Truth, putting Tokiya's shattered resolve in trial: The murderer of his sister is his master. It's not until the final arc that he confronted his master to find out that it's his grandpa, and he just took credit of the murder because he felt guilty of unable to protect said sister from being murdered protecting Tokiya and wanted to atone by having Tokiya kill him. As a result of 'melding' with the Hokage, infected with their optimism and discarding the majority of his cruel ways (even at cost of becoming a Distressed Dude several times), Tokiya took the lessons at heart and refused to take vengeance, and once the story is over, he's changed into a warmer man.
  • This is a lesson that the good guys try to impart on Sasuke in Naruto. Kakashi warns Sasuke that even if he gets his so-called revenge on Itachi, all he'll feel afterwards is emptiness. Indeed, once Itachi actually dies, Sasuke has this utterly hollow look on his face. At least, until Tobi tells him that Itachi's reasons for killing the Uchiha Clan are more complicated than you think.
  • Played with in Tiger & Bunny. Finding his parents murderer is Barnaby's driving motivation, and though he ends up holding back from actually killing Jake Martinez, he's satisfied and ready to move on with his life when Jake accentently ends up killing himself. Played straight when he discovers that Jake wasn't the one who murdered his parents.
  • This is tragically presented in Blood-C: The Last Dark. Saya's main objective in the movie to find Fumito and kill him for putting her into a lot of hell in the TV series. She finally did it but she found out that Fumito's actions are for her survival and that he loved her. This made her confused and sad and at the end, she didn't return to Mana, after she found out what had happpened to her dad, and went into an aimless journey.

Comic Books
  • In "Kitchen Irish" storyline of The Punisher MAX, Yorkie Mitchell meets with Frank, bringing with him the son of a fellow soldier murdered by an Irish terrorist now hiding in New York. In the end, the kid kills his father's murderer, but states he doesn't feel any better for it.
  • In The Sandman, after escaping from imprisonment, avenging himself on his captors and regaining his kingdom and his tools, Morpheus goes to Central Park and mopes because he does not feel as satisfied as he thought he would. His older sister snaps him out of it.
  • In Animal Man, after Buddy Baker brutally avenges the murder of his wife and children, he feels it was all for nothing, and decides instead to travel back in time and attempt to warn his family in advance.
  • Though the main character frequently takes pleasure in brutal revenge, this trope pops up in the Marvel comic version of Conan the Barbarian when Conan's ally Zula slays his former master. After Conan asks him how it felt, Zula responds that it simply felt hollow. Interestingly, Red Sonja also mentions this trope during this conversation when she says she was unable to slay the man who ravished her after he had been badly tortured.
  • Atrocitus in the Green Lantern universe runs into this problem when Krona is killed. He's still left with his rage when it's all said and done.

Fan Works
  • Turnabout Storm: After a rather long time trying to break through their lies, Gilda Griffon breaks down, finally admiting that their spontaneous plan to try to take revenge on the defendant ended up with this.
  • This is the trait of Maylu Sakurai from Maylu's Revenge. Her goal is to delete Roll for being Brainwashed and Crazy. She eventually pulls it off, but she only feels angrier about it. Maylu then moves on to destroy DenTech City when she learned that Roll's actions were driven by the politics of the city. When the city DOES gets destroyed, she will feels empty so she plans on killing anyone who lives in the city itself.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, Natsuki and Nao reach this conclusion late in the fic. Natsuki, after learning that the Usurper-possessed Obsidian Lord has destroyed the First District, still believes that they deserved to die, but realizes that even if everyone related to her mother's death is dead, she won't come back and her triumph feels empty. Nao realizes that robbing perverts "was fun for a while, but (she) realized (she) was never getting anywhere." The two of them find a new purpose, however, in defeating the Obsidian Lord, the Usurper and the rest of the SUEs so that they can bring the conflict to an end.

  • Cell 8 (Swedish crime thriller/Author Tract on capital punishment): One character is desperately waiting for the state to execute a prisoner on Death Row in vengeance for what the prisoner did, so that the character can finally move on. When that finally happens towards the end of the book, he's still not able to move on. and then the real killer reveals that the prisoner was innocent all along.
  • The Princess Bride: Once Inigo Montoya has killed his father's killer, Inigo's life is rather empty, although it's not really a lack of satisfaction but rather "That's everything on the to do list. Now what?"
    Westly: You'd make a great 'Dread Pirate Roberts'.
    • However, in the book, the narration reveals that he loved the sight of the terrified face of the Count's corpse.
  • Batman Forever references this trope when Batman tries to persuade Dick Grayson not to pursue his revenge against Two-Face. Also toyed with in that Riddler convinces Two-Face that just shooting Batman would just leave him with "cold, wet hands; post-homicidal depression". Much better to find out his secret identity, ruin everything he cares about, utterly destroy him mentally, then kill him.
  • Implied to have happened in the remake of True Grit.
  • This is, rather explicitly, the entire point of Oldboy, the second film in the ''Vengeance'' Trilogy. Immediately after successfully completing his massive, 15 year Batman Gambit, the Big Bad blows his brains out.
  • In the final scene of the The Sting Hooker, proving Gondorff right, feels this way after beating Lonnegan and remarks vengeance it's not enough. He still cracks a joke: "but it's close!"
  • In Death Sentence, this is how Det. Jessica Wallis thinks Nick Hume's revenge spree will end.
  • Uttered by Hattori in Kill Bill in how it's easy to lose one's way for revenge. Granted The Bride has good reasons for it but not without certain consequences along the way. After getting her revenge she spends hours locked in a bathroom, crying pitifully.
  • Said nearly word for word by Dave in Penguins of Madagascar. However his solution is more revenge.

  • At the end of Take A Thief, the person responsible for Bazie's (Skif's thief-mentor) death is killed by Skif. When Alberich asks, Skif says he's not happy, because "there weren't no justice" — the man got a quick death, and can't be hauled into court to answer for everything else he was behind.
  • The protagonist of Jack Vance's The Demon Princes trains since childhood to avenge his parents deaths and his Doomed Home Town, but after finally taking revenge on all of the titular princes, he realizes he no longer has any purpose in life, and is devastated.
  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Hereticus, after the death of the man who killed her father, Medea realizes that her desire for revenge was really displaced desire to have known her father. (She asks Eisenhorn to tell her about her father).
  • In Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Joe Kavalier escaped Czechoslovkia prior to US entry into World War II and spent two years cultivating his rage over the Nazi occupation of Prague, resettlement of his family, death of his father and finally, death of his beloved brother by German U-Boat. Hell-bent on revenge, Joe joins the navy in hopes of killing German soldiers. By way of Antarctica, he finally acheives his goal of murdering a German. However, the man was an innocent scientist and Joe's successful revenge made him feel like "the worst man in the world."
  • In Bloodhound, Beka speaks to the ghost of one of the people behind the counterfeit plot, who wanted to get back at the whole country because they ended his years of loyal military service for hitting one incompetent officer. He doesn't have any regret for the many victims, but he does say it feels rather hollow to look at it as a ghost.
  • During Dinoverse Janine's old bully has to ask a favor of her. Janine tells her she'll grant it, but Candayce can't say a word until permitted, and so Janine airs her grievances, reminding Candayce - who's been growing a conscience - of all the horrible petty things she's done to Janine. But it's not fun, it doesn't mean anything.
  • At the end of Space Viking, Lucas Trask finally catches up to Andray Dunnan, who he had been pursuing ever since Dunnan murdered his bride on their wedding day.
    It hadn't made the least difference. It had been like shooting a snake, or one of the nasty scorpion-things that infested the old buildings in Rivington. Just no more Andray Dunnan.
  • George Orwell's essay "Revenge Is Sour", published on 9 November 1945 in Tribune, discusses this trope in the context of the Second World War having just ended.

Live-Action TV
  • The story of Daedalus as told in The Storyteller has this message. After causing the deaths of his son and nephew, Daedalus tried to live a good life, but that was sabotaged by King Minos. Daedalus later takes a terrible revenge on Minos, but in doing so, realizes he's destroyed any chance of happiness/being a good person, and is totally emotionally broken.
  • In LOST: Sawyer spent most his adult life tracking down the con man who killed his father. When he finally finds him, he guns the man down in cold blood. Afterwards, though, he still feels empty.
  • It happens to Regina in Once Upon a Time, because after what she went through, she wants a revenge which continues whatever happens.
  • In Game of Thrones, even though Robert Baratheon killed the man who captured his beloved in single combat, he seems to be unable to be satisfied with it. He mentions in his dreams that "he kills him every night" which betrays the emptiness he feels even with having revenge.

  • In the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Waylaid in the Windy City, Part 2" Wit gives a Crowning Moment of Awesome speech to Richard Maxwell about the futility of revenge, focusing on how how pursuing revenge will harm Richard. Keep in mind that this is while Richard has the man who ruined his life at gunpoint.
    Don't you understand that when you go out for revenge, you've got to dig two graves! One for the person you're after and one for yourself! Richard, there's no such thing as revenge, not really. It never replaces what you lost. It never restores. It doesn't even satisfy. You're out of the detention center now. You've got you're whole life ahead of you! Now please, give me the gun!

Video Games
  • The Trope Namer is Grand Theft Auto IV. In the game's final act, Niko finally tracks down the man who betrayed his squad a decade ago, only to find that he's a broken, pathetic mess, begging for death. The game then gives the player the option to either kill him or leave him to suffer; choosing the former results in the Trope Namer conversation, whereas sparing him leaves Niko feeling like he can finally move on.
    • Strangely, the game averts this shortly afterwards, giving the player the choice of either taking revenge on Dimitri Rascalov or forgiving him for the sake of a deal. The former leaves Niko feeling better, while the latter leaves him angry with himself. Of course, the situations are quite different - while the traitor is a harmless, suicidal junkie who has long since paid for his crimes, Dimitri is a dangerous, backstabbing lunatic who has been trying to kill Niko for the whole game.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Carth obsessively focuses on destroying his former mentor, Saul Karath, after Karath defects to the Empire, glasses his home planet, and kills his wife. After Carth and the player kill Karath, Carth admits that it didn't bring him the peace he thought it would.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor finds space pirate Andronikos Revel in the process of tracking down and murdering his mutinous crew. At several times during the story, he misses out on the chance to personally kill his betrayers, and is visibly distraught about this.
  • In Mass Effect 2, it is possible to convince Garrus of this through Paragon dialogue during his loyalty mission.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Javik the last Prothean and the self-proclaimed avatar of vengeance can be pushed either towards this realization (in which case he despairs and plans to commit suicide after the war) or away from it (letting him start enjoying his life again).
  • The fugitive ex-slave Fenris experiences this in Dragon Age II. It's kill-or-be-killed (or worse, returned to slavery), but neither killing his master's apprentice nor his master brings him any satisfaction, despite the years of abuse they put him through. As an amnesiac whose few memories are still of slavery, he has no idea what do once he doesn't have to run and fight any longer.
  • Maiev Shadowsong of Warcraft III's expansion pack The Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft; she pursued Illidan Stormrage for a long time, and realised this after she (along with a large set of adventurers) killed Illidan.
  • Present to an extent in the Max Payne series. At the end of the first game, Max has completed his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and seems to have achieved a measure of inner peace and satisfaction. By the time of the second game, however, he's wracked with shame and Survivor Guilt, wishing he'd been punished for the events of the first game, and by the third, has become bitterly resigned to the fate it brought him.
  • In Borderlands 2 you can do a sidequest for Sir Hammerlock where he asks you to kill the thresher which tore off his arm. After you do it, he realises that he doesn't feel any better but still considers it a job well done.
  • In Fire Emblem Genealogy of Holy War, the protagonist of the second generation Celice feels this way after killing Emperor Alvis, who murdered the former's father. The secret event between Celice and the ghosts of his parents has the latter lecturing the former about this trope.
  • Fatal Fury 2: Invoked by Terry, at the conclusion of his rematch with Wulfgang Krauser, when he tells Tony that fighting for revenge leaves only emptiness.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, after Trip kills Well-Intentioned Extremist Pyramid she obviously doesn't feel any satisfaction, and asks Monkey if she did the right thing.
  • In Starcraft II, Kerrigan is repeatedly warned by various people that her desire for vengeance is empty and won't make her feel any better. It turns out to be a subversion; after killing Mengsk, she is instantly and noticeably happier.
    • She is happy not because she killed Mengsk, but rather because Raynor has forgiven her for her past atrocities (which plays this trope straight). Sarah realized after meeting Raynor on the prison ship that killing Mengsk just for the sake of doing it would not make things better, and decided to cooperate with Raynor and Valerian because of this.
  • Defied in Watch_Dogs. Aiden realizes that this is usually where people say they just feel empty, but he feels "awake" when he kills Lucky Quinn.
  • Played with in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, by inflicting it on the player. The entire game is about a pointless cycle of vengeance, with Travis seeking revenge against the man who killed his best (well, only) friend, when Travis himself killed that man's father and brothers. The last boss starts out as the Best Boss Ever, but his second form is just blatantly unfair, combining Teleport Spam with not knowing when to die and sometimes just throwing you to your death. After that, his final form is a giant Anticlimax Boss who, despite being the size of a parade balloon, turns out to be about as threatening. Knowing Suda51, this was intentional.

Western Animation
  • In the Fantastic Four episode "Behold, A Distant Star", Susan and Johnny's long-lost father Franklin Storm was killed by a Skrull plot. They both want to avenge him by attacking the Skrulls (or to kill the Skrull responsible). By the end of the episode, after the Skrull Emperor gives the team a pardon for saving his daughter from a crossfire between Skrull groups, they asked for the one who killed Franklin. The Emperor sadly points to Morrat, her daughter's lover, who tried to overthrow the Emperor. The team leaves for home, feeling much worse.
  • Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender is typically the Team Mom and voice of reason, but when she gets a lead on the man that killed her mother, nothing stands in her way. She finally tracks him down only to find out he's an old man, long LONG past his prime, legitimately regrets all the pain he's caused as a Fire Nation soldier, and lives with his overbearing mother. She comes to the realization of this trope when her ice-daggers are inches from his throat. He offers her the chance to kill HIS mother, because that would be fair, right?
  • In the beginning of the sixth season of Adventure Time, Finn swears to take vengeance on his father for abandoning him and running off with a gang of escaped criminals, costing Finn an arm. Ultimately, Princess Bubblegum tricks him into thinking heís doing that, but soon feels awful when his Ďfatherí is noticeably hurting, while itís actually a simulator she had constructed, to demonstrate this trope to him.