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Villains Want Mercy

"You terrorists are all the same; cowardly to the core! You'll crush anyone in your path, but cringe in fear when your own life is in danger!"
Captain Electron, Captain Electron #1

Megatron: Grant me mercy, Optimus Prime... I beg of you...
Optimus Prime: You... who are without mercy... now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff...
Megatron and Optimus Prime from Transformers: The Movie

Sometimes when the heroes defeat the Big Bad, he goes down gracefully. Sometimes he tries to take the heroes with him. Sometimes the villain is so Badass he just won't stop fighting until he's Deader than Dead. This trope is not about those villains.

Smug Snakes, Dirty Cowards, and bad guys who suffer from Villain Decay rarely go down with their heads held high. They're much more likely to get on their hands and knees and beg for mercy. This also serves to contrast them with the hero, as heroes usually don't beg for mercy from the villain in the opposite situation, at least not for themselves. Very rarely, it's the act of a Noble Demon who is consistent about offering his foes mercy, and expects the favour to be returned. Depending on where the hero is on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, they might call the villain out on how many people they've denied mercy before sparing them anyway. Others may deliver a Reason You Suck Speech and leave the villain alive just to spite him. Or they might just shoot him.

If the hero does grant him mercy, its very common for the villain to attempt to attack the hero one last time, usually while his back is turned. This will rarely work.

In popular works, such as James Bond and such, where killing the villain is considered standard operating policy, you will rarely, if ever, actually see someone begging for mercy and then be killed by the hero as the resulting Mood Whiplash would be too great and might result in the audience turning against the hero. Of course, there are always Darker and Edgier exceptions, such as with 24 and its licenced-to-kill lead character Jack Bauer.

Compare I Surrender, Suckers if the villain uses the surrender to trick the hero. When the hero does this, it's Ain't Too Proud to Beg.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, part of Light Yagami's Villainous Breakdown is calling out to anybody to help him, because, after slaughtering countless of innocents (alongside the criminals he initially set out to punish) he JUST. DOESN'T. WANT TO DIE.
  • Dragon Ball Z
    • Raditz pulls this out on Goku after being grabbed by his weak point, his tail. After Goku lets him go, however, he hits him in the stomach and Goku has to sacrifice his life to defeat him, this time ignoring his brother even when he tries begging for his life again.
    • Later, when Frieza begs Super Saiyan Goku for some energy after being sliced in two by his own attack, Goku complies once again, but not before calling Frieza out on how many people had probably begged him for mercy and he hadn't given them any. Frieza then uses the energy for one last-ditch attack, but Goku just turns around and blasts him.
    • King Kold tries this when he's mortally wounded by Future Trunks. It doesn't work, as Trunks is savvier than Goku about these matters.
  • Dub-induced example in the Sailor Moon anime: As Telulu's giant plant is trying to eat her, she screams for the Senshi to help her. Strays into Nightmare Fuel when she lets out a desperate "I'LL BE GOOD, I PROMISE!!!" as the plant explodes, killing her.
  • Invariably done by many villains in Berserk when they find themselves at the end of Guts' colossal sword, especially the demonic Apostles in a particularly ironic case of monsters Mugging the Monster. The Apostles are even more terrified of dying because they know what awaits them when they die.
  • Team Rocket of Pokémon frequently beg and snivel once an attack goes wrong. It rarely prevents a comical beatdown from the vengeful heroes.
  • In the Laboon Arc of One Piece, the Big Bad Duumvirate Mr. 9 and Miss Wednesday beg for mercy from the Straw Hats and ask them to take them to Whiskey Peak. It's later subverted when it turns out they were never really evil, and one of them was even a Reverse Mole.
    • Several criminals in Impel Down begged one of the guards to not kill them; he responds by saying they deserved it, asking how many people they had killed before they arrived.

    Comic Books 
  • Paperinik New Adventures issue 11: "Trauma". The titular villain puts Donald Duck as Paperinik through physical and mental hell, but when Paperinik fights back through sheer courage, turning the tables AND terrifying Trauma, he instantly begs the hero for mercy... which he grants... only after snarking how pathetic Trauma's being.
  • At the end of the first arc of the second volume of The Darkness, villain Cousin Paulie uses various attacks and manipulations to get Anti-Hero Jackie Estacado as his superhuman enforcer. Once Jackie figures out a way to remove the threats, he promptly blasts his way through all of Paulie's minions before trapping him in his room. When the lights go out and Jackie's darkness-based powers come to full bear, Paulie begs for mercy. Jackie's response?
    Jackie: It all happens in a bad dream. Paulie's life collapses like a house of cards in a tornado. The Darkness shows it to me in detail. I see dead pigs an' bloodstains. I see mass suicide and bubonic plague and Ebola and SARS and Russian roulette. I see dead people hanging by a thread and screaming for a lifeline. And Paulie Franchetti, he sees it a million times before he dies.
  • All-Star Superman, Superman vs Solaris.
    Solaris: Mercy.
    Superman: You'll live. (Megaton Punch)

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Robin Hood: Men in Tights Prince John tries to beg his way out of trouble with King Richard.
    John: It's not my fault. I got a lot of bad advice from Rottingham.
    Merry Men: (cough) BULLSHIT!
  • Dr. Frank N. Furter tries to desperately to get Riff Raff and Magenta to take pity on him in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It doesn't work, and Riff Raff kills him.
  • At the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and Koba's duel ends with the latter hanging from the top of a skyscraper, begging Caesar for help by reminding him "Ape Not Kill Ape" (which a shocking bit of hypocrisy given what he did to Ash earlier). Ultimately, Caesar decides to drop Koba to his death, telling him "You are not ape."

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Wormtail begs Ron, Hermione and Harry to protect him from Sirius and Remus (after he's already begged for mercy, to no avail, from the latter two).
  • J. R. R. Tolkien rather liked this trope.
    • Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings begs for mercy when his plot with Saruman is discovered and defeated, claiming that he was working for the greater good of Rohan. He's allowed to live, a decision that costs quite a few lives and considerable grief.
    • Also, Gollum begs for mercy from both Frodo and later Sam. Thankfully for Middle Earth, they both grant him it.
    • At both of his defeats in The Silmarillion, Morgoth begged for mercy from his fellow Valar: the first time he was simply imprisoned for three thousand years, the second time he... wasn't so lucky.
    • Tolkien also suggested that this is what Sauron would have done if the Valar came for him, however his actual surrenders to Eönwë and Ar-Pharazôn are less this and more I Surrender, Suckers. To be more precise: Sauron was perfectly willing to surrender and reform after Morgoth's final defeat but Eönwë said it wasn't within his powers/abilities to do so. Only Manwë himself could've given Sauron pardon and that's what made Sauron leave.
  • In the Stephen King short story "The Deathroom", the protagonist thinks that "in the end there might only be one way to tell the thugs from the patriots: when they saw their own death rising in your eyes like water, patriots made speeches. The thugs, on the other hand, gave you the number of their Swiss Bank Account and offered to put you on-line."
  • In the last installment of D. J. MacHale's Pendragon series, the Big Bad Saint Dane—who is a completely ruthless, coldblooded, genius, immortal, superhuman teleporting shapeshifter—is defeated in a fistfight by the hero. He then proceeds to annihilate all his character development of the previous nine books by dropping to his knees and sobbing for the heroes to spare his life.
  • In the Paladin of Shadows book A Deeper Blue, an interrogated terrorist attempts this. Mike chews him out majorly, reminding him that he never offered his victims mercy and did not deserve any.
  • In the Sword of the Stars novella The Deacon's Tale, this is the Deacon's reaction to getting a Care Bear Stare.
  • A very rare example in the James Bond franchise occurs in Colonel Sun when the titular big bad has been defeated and rendered helpless, and Bond kneels in front of him, knife in hand. The villain gives a silent appeal for mercy, but Bond pushes his knife into the man's heart anyway. Notably, this Bond novel was not written by Ian Fleming (who, like the writers of the films, chose to avoid Mood Whiplash), but by another author.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • At the conclusion of Season 32/Series 6, The Silence decide that their agent Madame Kovarian has outlived her usefulness and trigger a device in her Eyepatch of Power that begins electrocuting her. She knocks it loose and then has the gall to beg Amy for help, but after all she's done to Amy and her family, Amy refuses to help her and actually puts the eyepatch back on her, leaving her to die.
    • And in the Series 5 finale "The Big Bang", a Dalek of all things asks for mercy from River Song. It doesn't receive it.
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks," after tricking the Thals into nuking his own people and eliminating the handful of Kaled scientists still opposed to his work, Dalek-creator Davros loses control of his creations and pleads with the Daleks to "have pity" on him and his acolytes. "Pity?! I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!"
    • In "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", episode villain Solomon asks the Doctor to save him right after the Doctor redirects the missiles targeted at the Ark at Solomon's ship. Since he spent the whole episode being a bastard of a level usually reserved for Big Bads, the Doctor leaves him to be blown up.
      • The Doctor's actions in this episode resulted in the type of Mood Whiplash discussed in the introduction to this trope, with critics and viewers responding with a collective What the Hell, Hero?.
    • In "Dalek", the eponymous creature wanted pity from the Ninth Doctor. It wasn't coming (at least, not at first).
  • In the final season of Heroes, Sylar's doozy of psychological issues comes to a head and he seeks out Parkman to have his mind wiped clean again. Parkman, having been tormented by Sylar for most of the season and still reeling from the actions that lead Sylar to him, refuses to fall for it a second time. He instead traps Sylar inside an empty shell of a city inside his own mind to wallow in his issues for the rest of his life and then seals up the physically comatose man inside his basement. Then Peter shows up and frees Sylar because of a vision he received of his archnemesis playing a pivotal role in defeating Samuel.
  • True Blood: Debbie Pelt begs Sookie not to kill her in the season 4 finale. Right after shooting Tara (Sookie's Black Best Friend) with a shotgun. And the shot was intended to hit Sookie. Did she really think begging was going to save her in that situation?
  • In the final episode of Breaking Bad, Jack is the last of his gang left alive after Walt's machine-gun trap. As Walt stands over, ready to finish him off, Jack tries to negotiate, saying Walt will need him alive if he wants to know where his stolen money is. However, Walt no longer cares about the money and shoots him in the head before he can even finish his sentence.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Two examples in the first season finale, "Beginning of the End": first, when Ward finds himself nailed to the floor by May, he tries to plead with her, only to get punched in the throat, crushing his larynx. Then, when Deathlok breaks free of Garrett's control and turns on him, he pleads with Coulson to make Deathlok stop, only for Coulson to stand by and watch.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Vendetta", Ragnarok begs Kevin to save him from the collapsing spaceship. Considering that Ragnarok killed Kevin's dad, you can imagine the outcome.
  • An episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers had Dr. Blight beg the title hero to save her from being trampled to death by a genetically altered steer (that she created) stating, "You have to save me! It's in your hero code!" Cap admits she's right and does save her.
  • In an early episode of Batman: The Animated Series, The Joker is hanging over a pit of molten metal:
    Joker: Batman! You wouldn't let me fry, would you?
    Batman: (considers it)
    Joker: BATMAN! (Batman pulls him up)
    • Though the series wasn't consistent on this. Sometimes the Joker is genuinely afraid of dying and will beg to be saved, while other times he goes to his apparent demise laughing all the way. Then again, it is The Joker. Consistency is not exactly a hallmark of the character.
    • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm he angrily calls Batman crazy when he tries to capture him even though the Jokers base is about to explode and if he doesn't let him go they'll likely just both die. And shortly after that, he tries to surrender to the ruthless vigilante killer who wants revenge on him, personally, after Batman had beat him up and the bombs in the base are still of the verge of going off. But when they do go off, the Joker, being The Joker, starts gleefully Laughing Mad as everything explodes all around them in a fiery inferno while the vigilante killer teleports them both away to kill him. She lets him go, offscreen.
  • Qilby, the season 2 Big Bad of Wakfu does this twice. In his true backstory, he begs for mercy when Yugo's past incarnation seals him inside limbo. In the finale, he does it again when Yugo banishes him to the same void.
  • Starscream did this all the time. Usually a matter of seconds after trying (and failing) to stab Megatron in the back, although he did beg for it from the Autobots a few times.
  • The Urpneys of The Dreamstone do this over everything, sometimes even when there isn't anything threatening around. It still rarely works however.
  • Lotso from Toy Story 3 screamed for the help of Woody and his friends when hanging over a garbage disposal, prompting them to save him. True to form, he then abandons them when the positions get reversed.

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