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Was It Really Worth It?
aka: What Were We Fighting For
Fatherly pride is always worth it.

"Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you have managed to break so far is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that and we'll just call it a day."
GLaDOS, Portal

Bob takes things too far, either in his quest for power, revenge, or even just to win a battle. After it's all said and done, he or Alice have to ask 'was it really worth it?' In this case, it's actually a valid question, possibly for a number of reasons. Maybe killing his opponent made him just like them. Maybe to win a friendly duel, he had to shatter his best friend's weapon (or worse, shatter his best friend!) In any case what Bob's done raises serious moral questions for him, and the answer isn't necessarily "Hell yeah, it was Worth It!"

Note that the question doesn't necessarily even have to be asked, nor must it be after the deed's been done.

Not to be confused with What the Hell, Hero?, which is about the character being called on for flat out evil things. If someone wins a battle, but accidentally kills their friend's sister in the process, it's this. If they intentionally do so, and are called on for it, it's that. If Bob decides it's not worth it after all, but only after the fact, it's My God, What Have I Done?.

If the 'it' was something like a Heroic Sacrifice, this may cause a Bittersweet Ending. After all, the Big Bad may be dead, but so is Bob, and that's no cause for celebration.

A subtrope of Pyrrhic Victory. See also Pyrrhic Villainy, for where the villain's actions are definitely not worth it. If a character's actions or victory eventually result in him being bored because of it, then you have a case of Victory Is Boring. Compare And Then What?.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Afro Samurai Resurrection, after Afro kills Shichigoro in front of his adopted son Kotaku, the show itself compares him to the villain of the first season, with flashbacks to Afro's father being killed. Afro makes the comparison at the end, leaving the Number 2 headband in Kotaku's hands with a quiet "Whenever you're ready."
  • The ending of Chrono Crusade is a great example of this applied to a Heroic Sacrifice. The manga seems to answer: "Yes, it was worth it." The anime seems to agree with the manga, but acknowledges the severity of Rosette's sacrifice to a greater extent.
  • InuYasha: When Sesshomaru comes across Rin's dead body in the Underworld while undergoing his mother's test, he is completely heartbroken and outright states that nothing he could have gained was worth losing Rin. Once he's learned the lesson his parents needed to teach him, Rin is resurrected to ensure she didn't have to suffer for Sesshomaru's mistakes.

     Comic Books 
  • Previously very close teammates, the last conversation between Iron Man and Captain America has the latter in a cell, awaiting trial, and asking the former, "Was it worth it?" Later, an opportunistic villain assassinates Captain America on his way to trial, and Iron Man, confronted with his body, finally answers the question. Was it worth it? No. No it was not.
  • Watchmen ends with Ozymandias successfully completing his plan to create world peace, but at the price of millions of lives. His face, after Dr. Manhattan tells him before leaving the galaxy, "Nothing ends, Adrien. Nothing ever ends," suggests he's asking himself whether it was worth it.
  • In a comic by Joakim Pirinen, a young boy has murdered his mother and almost made it look like suicide. The cop investigating asks him, as he is about to be taken away:
    Inspector Liikanen: But why did you kill your mother?
    Boy: To become happy.
    Inspector Liikanen(gently): Are you happy now?
    Boy(breaks down in tears): No...
  • In an early arc of Birds of Prey, which chronicled the first meeting between Black Canary and Huntress, the adventure was summed up thusly:
    Oracle: "You travelled five thousand miles. You hooked up with a loose cannon—possibly psychotic—vigilante who doesn't place much value on life...and a world class felon. You stressed my network to the max. You faced the world's deadliest martial artist. All to get back at a guy who didn't call you the next day. Was it worth it?"
    Black Canary: "Yeah, it was."
  • At the end of The Long Halloween, in light of of Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face and his subsequent killing of Carmine Falcone, Batman and Jim Gordon have this moment.
    Batman: The promise that we made to bring down the Roman. What it cost us. Harvey...
    Gordon: If you're asking me "Did the good guys win?" Yes, the good guys won, Batman. But, I won't know if it was worth it for a very long time...
  • Angel & Faith: Nadira spends most of the first season's run singlemindedly obsessed with getting revenge on Angel/Twilight, Pearl, and Nash for their slaughter of her Slayer squad, of which she was the Sole Survivor thanks to Willow's intervention. In the final issue, after being nearly burned to death by Nash and killing him in turn with Faith's help, Faith tries to comfort Nadira by assuring her she had finally gotten her revenge, but Nadira has realized that it was never worth it in the first place and tells Faith as such.

    Fan Works 
  • Game Theory has Nanoha pondering this, after all the pain and suffering everyone went through because of the quest to revive Alicia. But in the end, Alicia is brought back successfully, and Nanoha decides that it was worth it.
  • Used spectacularly in I Did Not Want To Die, and it is heartbreaking because the protagonist had so much to live for, and he chose to go to war, where he is about to Die Alone hundreds of miles from home. Combined in I Don't Want to Die in that he laments that no, it wasn't worth it.
  • Escape From The Hokage's Hat: Sakura asks if begging Naruto to bring Sasuke back to Konoha was worth it. While Naruto accomplishes this, Sakura finds the answer is no, because she gets to see Naruto brought into the hospital with part of his chest and right arm either bleeding, burnt AND melting. As she states herself: "It wasn't worth this."
    • Isaribi is offered two options to cure her "condition" by Tsunade. Option 1 doesn't change anything but prevents her body from poisoning itself. Option 2 makes it possible for Isaribi to control her transformations but she has to live near the ocean (and swim in it EVERYDAY for a couple of hours so the sea water can break down the poison in her body). In her haste, she picks option 2 and realizes too late that she effectively traded freedom just to fit in with people and has effectively chained herself to the ocean.
  • Spoofed in the Australian Fan Film Star Wars Downunder, about a battle against the evil Darth Drongo who's stolen all the beer on the planet. After defeating Drongo, our hero ponders whether it was all worth the death and destruction, but thinks it was after downing a cold one.
  • Wisdom and Courage: Link finds himself arguing with both Navi and Tatl over whether or not using the Fierce Deity's Mask to beat Veran is worth the risk of losing his soul to it. Navi and Tatl insist that it isn't worth it, but Link is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Zelda safe.

    Film - Animated 
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated movie, Leo and Raph have a grudge match, in which Leo is the dominant fighter, but Raph breaks his swords when he decides to take it to the line, and Leo is consequently captured not long after.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the Soothsayer, Lord Shen's adviser and Parental Substitute asks him if, in the end, everything he's done will be worth it. While he says it will, even Lord Shen seems to wonder rather it will be or not.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The question in Dogma "Was Wisconsin really that bad?", an eternity there as opposed to destroying the entire universe and making war on God to get home.
  • The ending of the original Godzilla film has the main surviving humans wondering if using the Oxygen Destroyer was worth the Heroic Sacrifice of Dr. Serizawa and worrying that another Godzilla may appear.
    • Given that Godzilla vs. Destoroyah featured two Godzillas, a technology extremely close to the Oxygen Destroyer (Serizawa sacrificed himself to keep something like that from happening), and a monster created by the use of the original Destroyer, the answer seems to be "No."
  • At the end of Hamburger Hill there is a sign reading: "Hamburger Hill... Was it worth it?"
  • In The Great Escape Hendley is informed by the SBO that 50 escaped POW's have been executed, but the escape itself caused havoc behind the German lines, tying up thousands of troops that would have been utilized elsewhere. Hendley asks of all his dead friends, "Was it worth it?" and is told "It depends on your point of view, doesn't it?"
  • In American History X, the Armor-Piercing Question that convinces Derek Vinyard to stop being a skinhead after he's been sent to prison for killing a black guy is "Has anything you've done made your life any better?"
  • In the film Excalibur, Arthur ends up in a fight "to the death" against "a knight who is not [his] enemy" for bridge he could "easily ride around," and ends up not only almost killing Launcelot, but, more importantly (to him), shattering Excalibur. Luckily, the Lady of the Lake forgive him and mends the sword.
  • Marge Gunderson in Fargo asks Grimsrud if "a little bit of money" was really worth all that murder.
  • The several stories told in Spy Game about the efforts of one long-time CIA agent Nathan Muir and his protege Tom Bishop show the extreme lengths and sacrifices they will go to accomplish their objectives - the film itself is very much the "stale beer" flavor of Spy Fiction (as opposed to "martini" flavored glamorous ones like James Bond).
    • Implied and lampshaded by Bishop in the debriefing of a mission in Beirut to assassinate a terrorist leader, where after going to such great lengths to get the target's family doctor to apply a poison to him during a check-up (including persuading him to turn on him in the first place by bringing up his murdered family and Bishop rushing him through war-torn streets to get him to his appointment at an apartment building before they lose track of him) only for Muir to call in their back-up plan...a huge truck bomb that blows up the whole apartment and kills everyone there. The objective was accomplished, but...
    Bishop: We got a fucked-up barometer for success, don't we?
  • The Monuments Men. President Truman asks whether the two Monuments Men who died would have considered their deaths worthwhile. Despite having said to the men earlier in the movie that their deaths weren't worth a piece of art, their commander says that they would have.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, as Older Erik lies dying in the Bad Future, he laments to Charles about all the time they lost to ideological and political differences when they could've been close friends and fighting alongside each other instead. Considering their current circumstances, it looks like it wasn't worth it. At all.
    Magneto: All those years we wasted fighting each other, Charles...

    Literature 
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, Abaddon expected to feel "savage joy" at Loken and Torgaddon's deaths. Instead he just feels empty. Though his reaction to Aximund's My God, What Have I Done? and Tears of Remorse is that he needs to be watched.
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos knows, objectively, that sacrificing the scouts as a distraction was a sound move, but he finds the cost very bitter.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Wings of Fire, Patrick McLanahan says this after the Night Stalkers receive very large paychecks for the mission where Paul was killed and Wendy went missing.
  • At the end of Larry Niven's Ringworld's Children, Louis Wu has lost his son and the woman he was in love with to the depths of space, never to be seen again. Billions of sentient beings on the Ringworld itself were on the verge of madness, and Luis, himself, forced himself to voluntarily give up his status as a Protector-stage human in order to safeguard everything and everyone he cared about. It had to be done, but he hated it.
  • In The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, each individual must decide whether Utopia Justifies the Means - and with good reason, too.
  • This is a running theme in Iain M. Banks's The Culture series. The Culture fought a war with the Idirans in Consider Phlebas. The ethics and ramifications of the war were still being discussed up to The Hydrogen Sonata.

    Live Action TV 
  • The murders on Cold Case are sometimes these, as the suspects killed the victim because of something they thought was important at the time.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip episode "The Christmas Show":
    Danny Tripp: Was sleeping with him for that information really worth it?
  • Doctor Who example from "Dalek", when the Doctor confronts a villain:
    The Doctor: I could have killed that Dalek in its cell. But you stopped me.
    Henry van Statten: It was the prize of my collection!
    The Doctor: YOUR COLLECTION?! Well, was it worth it?! Worth all those men's deaths?! Worth Rose?!
  • At the end of Torchwood: Children of Earth, in order to defeat the 456, Captain Jack has to kill his grandson. He can't live with himself afterwards (ironic, given he's immortal) and leaves the Earth.
  • Babylon 5: In the fourth season, while the Centauri are ending their occupation of Narn, Vir and Londo talk about Vir's killing of Cartagia.
    Vir: "What was it all for, Londo? What was any of it even for?"
  • The pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis ends with Sheppard asking Weir if the hundred or so people he saved were really worth reawakening the Wraith.
  • In Merlin Morgana has a dream of the far-distant future, one that implies that both she and Arthur die on the battlefield. She reaches for Merlin standing above her, who asks her: "Is this really what you wanted, Morgana?" Oddly, when these events play out in real-time, no such question is asked of her.
  • The X-Files, a Myth Arc episode "Redux II": Agent Scully is dying of cancer and her brother Bill accuses Agent Mulder that it's his fault, summarizing and ridiculing his quest for the truth and uncovering the conspiracy as search for "little green men".
    Bill Scully: I've already lost one sister to this quest you're on, now I'm losing another. *struggles to hold back tears* Has it been worth it? To you, I mean. Have you found what you've been looking for?
    Mulder: No...
    Bill Scully: No. You know how that makes me feel?
  • In Breaking Bad, Walter laments how working in the drug industry has caused his wife to fear him and keep their children away from him and says that the meth empire he's building is all he has left to be proud of. His partner, Jesse, calls him out on this but it doesn't work.
    Jesse Pinkman: Mr. White... is a meth empire really something to be proud of?
  • In the First Season Finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., part of Coulson's To the Pain speech to Ward is to let him know that part of his punishment will be to sit in his cell and wonder if it was really worth it to throw his lot in with HYDRA and a crazy cyborg mentor.

    Music 
  • Sabaton: What's the Price of a Mile?
  • Eric Bogle's song about World War One "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". As the old man sits on his porch, watching the veterans march past every ANZAC Day, he muses:
    The young people ask, "What are they marching for?" and I ask m'self the same question.
    • His other famous song, "Willie Mac Bride", has the words:
      Did you really believe, when you answered the call,
      Did you really believe that this war would end war?
      For the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
      The killing and dying were all done in vain,
      For Willie Mac Bride, it all happened again,
      And again, and again, and again, and again.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible: Mark 8:36
    For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

    Video Games 
  • In Fable, after you kill Jack of Blades, and have the opportunity to get the Sword of Aeons, your sister gives you a short speech, asking if striking her down would be worth it for the power. It's up to the player whether it is or isn't. Canonically, you don't kill her. She's the same Theresa as the one in Fable 2.
    • Of course, with the expansion it isn't worth it at all unless you're already cartoonishly evil, as refusing to kill Theresa results in a short sidequest to gain an equally powerful sword.
  • In Blue's story in SaGa Frontier, after killing Kylin for the gift for Space magic, Mei-Ling asks "All this for the Gift?" A very valid question, as apparently, Kylin maintains a paradise for all children that exists which gets destroyed on his death.
  • Portal has GlaDOS ask "Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far is my heart." However, she is asking it in the context of attempting to save her own skin (figuratively speaking) from a test subject who has gone Off the Rails and is trying to destroy her. It isn't until the second game that we find out that Chell's actions may have inadvertently made things much, much worse.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics. [King Delita Heiral.
  • Shadow of the Colossus. To explain it would ruin the game, though the feeling does stand over every victory over a Colossus as well, with the possible exception of Malus.
  • Glenn and Janus from Chrono Trigger, in BOTH directions.
  • Shepard (as in you, the player) from Mass Effect 2 can throw this at Mordin, asking him accusingly if upgrading the genophage, a thousand-year-old bioweapon which reduced the fertility of the Proud Warrior Race Guy, was really worth it. For the record, he says yes. Probably.
  • At the end of Dragon Age II, if you side with the Templars, and your sister Bethany is in the Circle, you have the option to stand up for her alone after killing her teacher and most of her friends. If you defer to Meredith, her last words are "I hope this was all worth it, sister / brother." Then Meredith runs her through.
  • At the end of Makai Kingdom, Seedle sarcastically asks Zetta if becoming the strongest Overlord was worth his former pupil and lover Salome slowly and willingly killing herself by feeding him all of her Mana energy.
  • All but spelled out by NieR's endings A and C, as Nier tries to enjoy his life with Yonah, having sacrificed so much for her in the former, and mourns Kainé's death in the latter. Heavily implied to the player in ending D.
  • At the end of God of War III, Kratos finally gets his revenge having killed everyone who ever wronged him...but by that point he realizes just how much of his misery was his own fault. He also finally notices the devastation he wrought upon the world during his campaign for vengeance and he's been changed enough to actually give a damn about it.
  • In Soul Nomad, we have the Demon Path ending where Revya destroys the world. After the deed is done, you get one last line to read: It doesn't matter. It was fun.
  • In Saints Row: The Third the player is given an option at the end... go after Killbane or rescue Shaundi, who is about to be killed in a terrorist attack STAG had set up to blame the Saints on. Choose the former and you get the bad (good?) ending, where Shaundi dies, the Saints are blamed as terrorists, the Boss is asked if it was worth it (s\he can't answer) and STAG attempts to destroy Steelport during her funeral, then the Saints basically go terrorist when they fight the army off.
  • In Arc The Lad 2's ending, Arc and Kukuru are dead, along with much of humanity. Elc is left to question why the hell he even bothered.
    Elc: "It makes me wonder what we were fighting for. Arc died, and for what? So we could inherit this desolate and hopeless future? We didn't stop the world from ending, we survived it. And now we are left with nothing.
  • Final Fantasy X poses this question when Tidus fades from existence after the heroes defeat the big bad. They decide that it was indeed worth it, but Yuna's regret over the situation has a big affect on the sequel.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog ends this way for Billy/Doctor Horrible.
  • In one Global Guardians story, the local team of heroes manage to divert a nuclear missle that would have incinerated Vancouver into exploding far out over the Pacific Ocean... where the EMP from the detonation knocks four commercial airliners out of the air to crash into the sea with no survivors. Afterward, a reporter asks the team how they can live with themselves after effectively murdering nearly 1200 innocent people. They never do answer the question.
  • In Worm, Taylor becomes The Unfettered in pursuing the defeat of Jack Slash and his Slaughterhouse Nine in order to prevent the prophecized end of the world, going so far as to shoot a child held by Jack that could have caused the end. In the end, though, after she ultimately fails, she questions whether it was worth it and decides that it wasn't.
    • At the end of the story, Contessa asks Taylor if she feels that the actions she resorted to to stop Scion were worth it. Even though she was successful this time, Taylor feels it wasn't worth it. She doesn't regret saving the world, but she wishes she could have found another way to do it.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Robin vs. Speedy fight during the Teen Titans episode "Winner Take All", Robin wins, but snaps Speedy's bow while doing so, in what had been a friendly match. After Robin celebrates his victory, Speedy asks this before being teleported away. An odd example, as both Robin and Speedy had both explicitly said expressed that they'd do anything to win, and Speedy's bow didn't seem particularly irreplaceable (in fact, it inexplicably is repaired by the end of the episode).
  • Macbeth in Gargoyles uses Revenge as the 'it: "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. And I have waited nine hundred years for this meal." However, Goliath points out to him and his nemesis Demona that every time either of them has attempted to get revenge, it only made their lives worse. "What profit vengeance?" has been described by producer Greg Weisman as one of his favorite themes.
    • Subverted when it's revealed in "City of Stone" that his true goal isn't really revenge. He knows his life is a wreck because of his pursuit of revenge, and he just wants to end it. It's just a bonus that he can only die if he and Demona kill each other.
  • In an episode of Transformers Animated, an upgraded Prowl beats (clone) Starscream. Unfortunately there's a lot of collateral damage - including a torn down tree and broken bird eggs, earlier that day he made it a point to protect a similar nest on Dinobot Island. Seeing these, Prowl realizes what a total asshole he's being.
    • A similar theme was used in the G1 cartoon, when a beautiful woodland glen was wrecked when Autobots and Decepticons fought over possession of the pool of Blaster-reflecting electrum at its center. The final scene has the Autobot Beachcomber glumly viewing the devastation and saying "We won", in tones that embody this trope.
  • Parody/subversion in the South Park episode "Casa Bonita", where Cartman effectively holds Butters hostage for over a week in order to take his place at Kyle's birthday celebration, which is being held at the eponymous establishment. In the final scene, a cop asks Cartman if it was worth making the town panic, alienating his friends, and going to juvenile hall. Cartman dreamily responds "Totally."
  • A Subversion in Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 during the second season finale "Unite And Strike!" Krytus asks Sage if it was worth freezing the entire Red Sentient civilization just to stop his multiversal conquest. Sage's response is that Krytus was such a threat to not only the Blue Sentients but the entire multiverse that she had no choice but to resort to her Nuclear Option. Krytus responds that she was absolutely right, not that he cares.
  • In the end of Season 2 of Wakfu, Qilby is asked whether his crimes, primarily causing the near-total genocide of the Eliatropes, were worth it (by the only being that still remained somewhat sympathetic to him, no less). His answer? "Yes, yes, for me it was."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic villain Discord does this to himself in the episode Keep Calm and Flutter On. As he taunts Fluttershy for believing in him, he asks if she really thought he'd give up his World of Chaos for her friendship. As soon as he says it, he realizes the answer is: yes, he is willing to give it up for her.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : Firelord Sozin asks himself at the end of his life if making the world a better place by spreading Fire Nation culture was really worth the genocide of the Air Nomads, the deaths of thousands of both his people and those of the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes in the war, and betraying Avatar Roku, his best friend as he was growing up, leaving him to die when he could have saved him. He somberly concludes that it was not.


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alternative title(s): What Were We Fighting For
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