Villains Want Mercy

Jack the Ripper: M-Mercy, honourable knight! Spare me!
Sir Dan: Nah-ah! *BANG!*

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 them mercy, they may perform a Heel-Face Turn out of gratitude. However, it's very common for the villain to attempt to attack the hero one last time, usually while their 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

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, part of Light Yagami's Villainous Breakdown is calling out to someone, anyone to save him; despite having slaughtered countless innocents (alongside the criminals he initially set out to punish), he's absolutely terrified at the thought of dying himself.
  • 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.
    • In their second fight on Namek, as soon as Vegeta punches a hole through his gut, Zarbon frantically starts pleading for mercy, even offering to team up with him to overthrow Frieza. Vegeta just fires an energy beam right through Zarbon after outright demanding to know why he should show him mercy, considering the fact that Zarbon had done nothing but insult him and push him around for years.
    • After being cut in half by his own attack, Frieza begs Goku for mercy. Goku gives Frieza some of his own energy so he could escape Namek before it exploded, 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 Cold tries this when he's mortally wounded by Future Trunks. It doesn't work, as Trunks is savvier than Goku about these matters.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, Eis Shenron pulls this on Goku the minute Goku has him at his mercy; despite having every reason to just kill Eis considering the fact that among the dirty tricks Eis pulled during the fight was using Pan as a Human Shield, Goku decides to let him go on the grounds that he give him the three-star Dragon Ball and never show his face again. The minute Goku lets his guard down, Eis forms a set of icy Wolverine Claws and uses them to blind Goku, bragging about how easily Goku fell for it; unfortunately for Eis, Goku, unhindered in the slightest by the loss of his eyesight, punches a hole through Eis' gut before completely obliterating him with a Dragon Fist.
  • 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 Pokmon 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.
  • Rosario + Vampire:
    • The minute Keito realizes that Inner Moka is way out of her league, she starts pathetically begging for mercy and trying to bargain with her. Inner Moka bluntly tells her to piss off (yes, those are her actual words) before Megaton Kicking her into next year.
    • As San Otonashi finishes him off, Kanade Kamiya flips out and begs for someone to save him; no one does. Considering the fact that Kanade had previously gone on a human-killing spree simply as an excuse to clear his head, one can hardly blame San for not showing him mercy.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    Kenshin: If you're begging for your life, why don't you ask your money to save you?!
    • A variation occurs during the Kyoto arc during Kenshin and Shishio's showdown. As Shishio's body is reaching its limits, Yumi, unable to bear the sight, throws herself between Kenshin and Shishio and tearfully begs Kenshin to have mercy. The minute Kenshin lowers his guard, Shishio uses it to his advantage by stabbing through Yumi to get to Kenshin.

    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)
  • During the climax of the "Grim Hunt" arc, Spider-Man has embarked on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Kravinoff family for everything they put him and his "spider family" through, at one point using his Wall Crawling powers to tear a handprint-shaped mass of flesh clean off of Sasha Kravinoff's face. When Sasha frantically begs him to wait, Spidey hatefully asks her if she "waited" when she killed Kaine, Mattie Franklin, and Madame Web.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the Joker angrily calls Batman crazy when he tries to capture him even though the Joker's 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.
  • The Lion King: The minute Simba corners Scar, the latter pathetically starts begging him for mercy, going to such lengths as pulling the family card and blaming the hyenas for his own actions; Simba doesn't buy any of it for a second, but ultimately decides not to kill Scar because he doesn't want to stoop to Scar's level, instead opting to banish him. Scar starts to walk away, but then flings burning embers into Simba's eyes and attacks him. When he loses the fight and is thrown down to the Hyenas (who heard everything), he tries to pull the same act...with no such luck.
  • Lotso begs Woody and Buzz to help him survive at the trash dump after he had been actively screwing them over for most of the movie, as well as being responsible for them being there in the first place. How does he repay them? He proceeds to leave them to die at the hands of the incinerator after he is given an opportunity to stop the machinery carrying them down there, taunting Woody in the process with the pivotal line "Where's your kid now, sheriff?" Fortunately, karma catches up to him.
  • Transformers: The Movie: After losing the fight with Optimus Prime, Megatron spots a gun just beyond his reach and begs Prime for mercy. Optimus calls him out on it ("You, who are without mercy, now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff.") Unfortunately for Prime, Hot Rod runs in and distracts Prime long enough for Megatron to grab the gun and shoot Prime repeatedly, ultimately providing the fatal wound that would kill him.

    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 Enw and Ar-Pharazn 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 Enw said it wasn't within his powers/abilities to do so. Only Manw 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 Danewho is a completely ruthless, coldblooded, genius, immortal, superhuman teleporting shapeshifteris 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.
  • Leodes, one of Penelope's suitors in The Odyssey begs for mercy at the last, but the only mercy Odysseus grants is a quick death. Two other people present (a herald and a bard) are spared (and the bard does beg mercy in much the same way Leodes did), but only because they did not abuse xenia like the suitors did, and indeed were not there to court Penelope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    Buffy: You're a god. Make it stop. [proceeds to beat Glory into a bloody pulp]
    • In the season 6 episode "Villains," as soon as he realizes that Dark Willow really does intend to kill him, Warren freaks out and starts frantically begging for mercy, pointing out that Willow isn't a "bad person" like him. His pleas fall flat, and Willow skins him alive.
  • 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. Shooting the Doctor right before this probably didn't help its case.
    • 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 led 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.
  • Arrow: Malcolm Merlyn usually only shows two emotions — smug superiority and violent rage. But when he's captured by the League of Assassins and brought before Ra's Al-Ghul, he pathetically begs for his life and a chance to serve again. Ra's is less than impressed, and tells Malcolm to at least try and die with some dignity.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), after Jake is lying on the ground with Sam aiming his gun at him to finish him off, Jake says, "Please... don't. Please." Sam is not moved.

    Video Games 
  • Dr. Wily does this after being defeated in nearly every classic-series Mega Man game.
    • At the end of Mega Man 7, Mega Man clearly showed he was tired of Dr. Wily's games, and was considering killing Dr. Wily himself before Bass intervened.
    • Gloriously lampshaded at the end of Mega Man 9. When Wily begs for mercy yet again, Mega Man puts on a slideshow of Wily begging at the end of each of the previous games in the series.
    • It's so iconic that in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, his trophy depicts him begging for mercy!
  • The Wand of Gamelon: Duke Onkled.
  • The Ripper in MediEvil 2 begs for mercy from Sir Fortesque when defeated. He gets a bullet to the face instead.
  • Happens often in FTL: Faster Than Light as pirates, slavers, and rebel ships will offer resources in return for survival.
  • Ridiculously common in Star Wars games, especially the Old Republic series. Of course, it's up to the player if you go for mercy, Cruel Mercy, or Finish Him!
  • Theodore "Teddy" Lagerfield Jr., the Psychopath representing the Deadly Sin of Sloth in Dead Rising 3, tries to kill Nick with a swarm of helicopter drones when the latter demands he return the armory key he stole. Once Nick manages to break into his basement control room, Teddy immediately begs Nick not to hurt him. Not that it matters anyway, as he dies of a heart attack brought on by fear and his poor health seconds later.
  • Frequently happens with the computer-controlled empires in Star Ruler. When they realize they are losing, and losing badly, they will begin to beg for a cease-fire while bribing the attacking party with all their remaining resources as tribute. Depending on the AI personality, they'll sometime declare war again once they think they've been built up enough, though.
  • Hyrule Warriors: After being beaten by Cia in a failed attempt to betray her, Wizzro is reduced to shamelessly begging for his life. It works the first time, but not the second time.
  • Happens in random battles in the Shin Megami Tensei main series, where enemy demons will offer Macca, items, information, or themselves (as a new party member) in exchange for their lives when they're near dead. Of course, it's also possible for them to run away without giving you anything or even pull an I Surrender, Suckers and get a free turn out of it.

    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.
  • 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.
  • ReBoot: At the end of season 3, Matrix has successfully defeated Megabyte and is seemingly about to finish him off with AndrAIa's trident, to which Megabyte insists that he can't do it because it "goes against everything he stands for." Matrix hatefully reminds him that Megabyte ruined his life, destroyed his home, and caused all manner of pain to his loved ones... but ultimately decides to let Megabyte go on the grounds that he's not worth it.