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Villain's Dying Grace
aka: My Revenge Is Mercy
Near death experiences have a tendency to change a person's outlook on life. Knowing you're going to die is no different; however, when faced with imminent death, villains by and large repent nothing and decide that if they're going to die, they try and take you down with them.

But on rare occasions, the villain will have a Heel Realization where they ask "My God, What Have I Done?" as, faced with a lifetime of evil flashing in front of their eyes as the Collapsing Lair implodes, they decide to do one good thing before they die: save the hero. They may cling to life so that their death doesn't collapse their castle, or to hold back a wave of monsters. Perhaps they'll show them where their personal escape passage is hidden or briefly become a Load-Bearing Hero to let them escape. Another situation is where they feel they were beaten by a Worthy Opponent, and therefore the superior one should carry on.

This isn't quite a Heroic Sacrifice or Redemption Equals Death — they would have died anyway — but at the least it shows they weren't completely evil and still retained a measure of nobility as a Fallen Hero, Noble Demon or Anti-Hero. Sadly, this is definitely not enough for Redemption Earns Life. In a best case scenario, they Died Happily Ever After.

Subtrope of Graceful Loser and Death Equals Redemption. Compare to Heel Face Door Slam where the villains never truly gets to redeem themselves. Not to be confused with Cruel Mercy. Can be used as a form of Restrained Revenge.

This is a Death Trope, so naturally there are spoilers ahoy!

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: In a Worthy Opponent example, Dordonii Alessandro Del Socacchio fends off his own compatriots to allow Ichigo a way out of an otherwise deadly situation, in return for not holding back in their fight.
    • Tousen joined Aizen because he wanted to get revenge for the death of the woman he loved, even if it meant betraying his long time friends Komamura and Shuhei. After being beaten by both of them, they let him know that they forgive him, which seems to inspire some regret for the things he did. And then he blows up.
    • After getting beaten to a bloody pulp by the zombie-hollow hybrid, one of the last things Ulquiorra does is break its control over Ichigo to save Orihime and Ishida from getting blasted into nothing. It looks like he's going to be okay...and then it turns out he was too badly injured for his Healing Factor to kick in.
  • In an early episode of Captain Harlock, an enemy captain did an extreme form of this after losing a ship-to-ship duel.
  • Altena does this at the end of Noir. Kirika has pushed herself and Altena into the Lava Pit; Altena has Kirika's arm, and Mireille has Altena's. Altena somehow throws Kirika into Mireille's reach to take her hand at the expense of falling herself. Interestingly, Altena in no way was wanting "redemption"; she never had malice towards them in the first place. There was no way that Mireille could pull both of them up; and whether they would be True Noir or not, there was no reason for Kirika to die too.
  • The Read or Die OVA had Nancy do this at the end.
  • Capricorn Shura in Saint Seiya has a Heel Realization while flying to outer space due to Shiryu's Dangerous Forbidden Technique, and after Shiryu faints he pulls out his armour, puts it on Shiryu and kicks him back to earth so that he survives while Shura dies upon reaching space.
  • Suitengu in Speed Grapher.
  • In Ginga Densetsu Weed the minor villain Blue's last act is to save the hero's life, when the hero risks it trying to save Blue.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Accelerator attempts to invoke this trope on himself when he's faced with the choice of saving a little girl by using his vector-controlling ability to essentially hack her brain or allowing a bullet shot at his head to hit. He chooses the former... but survives anyway as he managed to finish his work and deflect the bullet just before it reached his brain. Then he doubles it up by saving Yoshikawa after the latter was shot in the aorta from point-blank range by keeping her blood flowing between the ends of the damaged section instead of having her bleed out in seconds, while he himself is unconscious and bleeding out from a combination of cracked skull and brain damage due to the previously mentioned headshot. Result: everyone but the bad guy survives, including Accelerator as a Handicapped Badass Anti-Hero with the aforementioned little girl as his Morality Chain.
  • At the end of the first arc of Naruto Zabuza, a wanted ninja who previously had both of his arms broken in a fight against Kakashi, decides to use his remaining strength to kill his sleazebag former employer. And his the majority of his gang.With one kunai. In his mouth.
    • After his defeat by Chiyo and Sakura, Sasori takes a few minutes to expire. During this time he explains to Sakura where and when she can meet with the sleeper agent he imbedded in the Sound Village. This is not entirely altruistic, as Sasori also despises Orochimaru and figures Sakura's team can make his life difficult.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in a Doctor Strange story, where Baron Mordo uses what he thinks will be his last act to send one of Strange's associates to safety. They all live, but she is somewhat smitten with him, which he manipulates to his own advantage for some time. It ends with a minor Pet the Dog moment which reveals he's not entirely evil.
  • The Hellfire Club, in their early days, was presented as more amoral than evil, and it showed in the death of one of their Inner Circle. In battle with the ultimate Sentinel Nimrod, Harry Leland of the Hellfire Club stresses out and the overweight gravity/mass manipulator suffers a fatal heart attack. Rather than just give up or give in, however, he manages to hang on to life long enough to use his own teammate, invulnerable mutant Sebastian Shaw, as a human Kinetic Kill Weapon onto Nimrod with his literal final efforts.
  • The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants were close to assassinating anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly until former Brotherhood member Pyro, dying of the Legacy Virus, stopped them before the virus killed him. His actions forced Kelly to rethink his anti-mutant stance and probably prevented the disastrous age of Sentinels.
  • Mimic, an occasional enemy of the original X-Men died after absorbing purposely absorbing too much of the Hulk's gamma radiation to both prevent the Hulk from further rampages as well as to "eliminate the menace the Mimic posed to the world"
    • But then he was revived, rendering his sacrifice moot.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • In "The Borderland of Sol", the villain saves the life of two of the three protagonists by increasing the air pressure in his breached asteroid habitat, before being sucked into his miniature black hole, allowing the protagonists an extra bit of time for rescuers to find them.
  • In First Among Sequels evil Thursday saves Thursday's life when her own life is doomed.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Kamen Rider Fourze, Gamou's last act is to use the Aquarius Switch's healing power to save Kengo.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp", and giant murderous alien wasp called a Vespiform dies by drowning, but due to a psychic connection it has with Agatha Christie (It Makes Sense in Context), she is dying too. At the last moment, it releases its hold on her, saving her life.
  • In Person of Interest Terney, a member of HR is fatally shot by Carter. As he's rapidly bleeding out, she asks him to be a cop one last time and tell her who the head of HR is. And he does.

    Theatre 
  • King Lear. After the deaths of Goneril and Regan, a dying Edmund is moved to try and stop the killing of the third daughter, though it's too late. (In some versions.)
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. In the end, as his lair is collapsing, the Phantom realizes what he's put his love through and helps both her and her lover to escape; although the rose on her grave several years later suggests that he may not have died after all.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

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alternative title(s): My Revenge Is Mercy; Merciful In Death
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