You Have Failed Me

Admiral Ozzel: Lord Vader. The fleet has moved out of lightspeed and we're preparing to— [Force choke]
Darth Vader: You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.

Commonly in a Sic 'em scene, the Big Bad—usually a Diabolical Mastermind—kills one of their henchmen who has failed to capture and/or kill The Hero, as motivation to all of their other (surviving) underlings not to repeat their failure. Presumably, the other underlings immediately all fall into line instead of (say) quietly updating their resumes and trying to find a less psychopathic overlord to work for. Some bad guys will use the Blofeld Ploy to pull off the underling murder. Others will drop the offending underling through a Trap Door into a Shark Pool or other deathtrap, or feed them to their Right-Hand Attack Dog. A variation has the Big Bad not killing the failed underling on the spot but sending him off on a Suicide Mission, usually with a cold-hearted reminder that doing one's duty comes before self-preservation.

The Big Bad may eventually realize there's something special about the hero and stop summarily executing minions for their failures as they gain a healthy admiration for their skills, but don't bet on it. Evil organizations more often than not will stick to an explicit policy of "Succeed, or die."

Few stories address the question of what happens when this policy is taken to its logical conclusion. Realistically, such a policy causes its practitioners to kill off many of their own skilled leaders, while leaving the survivors demoralized, afraid to take initiative, more concerned with sucking up and dodging blame than with actually doing their jobs well, and inclined to either desert, defect, or kill their boss before he kills them. See the unfortunate results described in the Hitler and Stalin examples under "Real Life". Sometimes, this makes it easier for the heroes to spare Mooks when they beg for mercy; if the heroes know that the minions will be killed if they try to return to the villains' service, they know they won't end up regretting letting them live, and might even do so because they believe the minions are working under duress. In a reconstruction, pragmatic, if ruthless, villains may avoid this trope for most cases of failure, reserving this fate explicitly for those who have shown repeated or total incompetence.

Another variant on this is instead of the Big Bad doing this, a high-ranking, oftentimes very loyal, and particularly ruthless official working for the Big Bad, possibly The Dragon, does it instead — perhaps without the boss' approval.

Some Big Bads do this by phone. Mook 1 phones Big Bad with bad news while Mook 2 stands nearby. Big Bad asks Mook 1 to pass his phone to Mook 2. Mook 2 says "Ok Boss, I understand. I'll see to that rightaway. Bye Boss... here's your phone back" and then shoots Mook 1 while he is distracted with his phone.

See also: Bad Boss, Shoot the Messenger, You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, and Villainous Demotivator. Contrast Even Evil Has Loved Ones, I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure, and Can't Kill You, Still Need You. Can lead to Mook Depletion if the villain overdoes this. See Make an Example of Them when the failure is punished especially harshly "to encourage the others". See also The Purge when this is done en masse to anyone even suspected of incompetence or disloyalty. May be an example of Karmic Death if the character has actually earned this fate.


Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Fanfic Demon Duelist Legacy, Kilomet Sestros is the ALL-TIME CHAMPION of this trope. If you breathe the wrong way while working under him, you can expect to be tortured excessively before finally dying. And he may eat your corpse afterwards. And he has billions of clones, so you can't kill him easily. It gets worse in the GX Sequel Fic Legends of a Demon Duelist, in which he gains power over darkness.
  • The Immortal Game: Near the end of the story, Prince Empyrean is drained of his power by the Elements of Harmony, at which point his father King Titan doesn't hesitate to kill him.
  • Friendship Is Aura: After Chrysalis ends up back in his realm following her defeat by Lucario, Tartarus responds by absorbing her into himself.
  • The evil Calvin duplicate in The Pez Dispenser And The Reign Of Terror shoots one of his own men for being a "coward".
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, any SUE who fails against the Himes will be killed by the next one to step up. This happens to Toki, who is the only one who remains alive after being defeated.
  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, the Council has somewhat inconsistent enforcement on death as being a punishment for failure. The head of the Kibusi Corporation is killed after one failed attempt at killing Ronan by bombing a theater, but Madara, who has more failures to his name, is kept around and never executed for failing.
  • In the Unacceptable Sitch Series story "Under the Milky Way Tonight", Gemini's habit of dropping unsuccessful agents down trapdoors, which was played for laughs in the show, is instead given realistic consequences. Gemini's minions are terrified to act on their own initiative when a plan starts going off the rails, which becomes an important factor in the heroes' ultimate victory.
  • Subverted in Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams in a couple of cases involving the Kingpin:
    • When the Kingpin hires the Porcupine to protect an essential arms deal and Lightmaster defeats him, the Porcupine is arrested by the police and taken to the prison hospital to recover from his injuries. The Kingpin does not have the Porcupine killed, because he has succeeded enough times at other missions that the Kingpin decides he still has some value.
    • The Kingpin eventually has the Enforcers, who serve as his Co-Dragons in running the day to day affairs of his crime syndicate, killed after they are unable to keep the organization from being driven out of New York. However, given that the Enforcers have proven themselves to be very competent and loyal minions up until this point, the Kingpin has them killed by Batroc the Leaper, an Affably Evil badass who cooks each of them a delicious Cordon Bleu dinner as a last meal before killing them quickly and painlessly.
  • In Eugenesis, the world-weary Sixshot deliberately holds his battalion back from the first battle with the Quintessons because he was present at the previous war with them and is still deeply traumatized from his experiences. This partly leads to most of the Decepticon military getting slaughtered in the ensuing firefight, with Soundwave himself narrowly avoiding death or capture. When he finally meets up with Sixshot's battalion, Sixshot attempts to make excuses and pleasantries but Soundwave is done tolerating failure and shoots him dead.
  • In chapter 9 of Children of an Elder God, Rei kills The King of Yellow, stating that he’s failed and the Outer Gods don’t tolerate failures:
    "The Crawling Chaos will devour you all!" The King shouted. "The Outer Gods cannot be mocked! I have gazed upon the Throne of Azathoth! I have..."
    "You have failed. And the Herald of the Outer Gods has no patience for those who fail him."

    Films — Animation 

    Gamebooks 
  • Lone Wolf:
    • This is the reason why Vonotar the Traitor has to flee to the icy wastes of Kalte in Book 3: he had failed to prevent Lone Wolf from bringing the Sommerswerd to Sommerlund and from stopping the Durenese reinforcement with his ghost fleet in the previous book. The Darklords don't tolerate such failures and would have killed him if he didn't escape; even after that, they send a helghast assassin to pursue him.
    • We learn in Book 12 that Darklord Kraagenskûl likes to whip out his psychic Agony Beam when his servants disappoint him.
    • The final book starring Lone Wolf The Curse of Naar reveals that the Dark God Naar has no tolerance for failure. Lone Wolf's travels in the Plane of Darkness lead him to the Plains of Despair, where the spirits of those who failed Naar in life are hunted and tortured for eternity by the demonic spectre Tzor and his fiery whips. Among them are old foes such as Zahda and Darklords Gnaag, Haakon, and Kraagenskûl. The moment Lone Wolf defeats Naar's champion Kekataag the Avenger, Kekataag's spirit joins them.

    Pinballs 
  • Getting the Last Wave Bonusnote  in Doctor Who triggers a cutscene where the Supreme Dalek reports his failure to capture the Doctor to the Emperor Dalek, who responds by vaporizing it. Getting another bonus inverts this: it starts out the same, but before the Supreme Dalek says anything he shoots the Emperor Dalek.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Ted DiBiase fires Bam Bam Bigelow for losing to Lawrence Taylor at Wrestlemania.
  • Tarzan Goto started "Shin" FMW to prove he could be as big a star as Atsushi Onita but the story ended up being him breaking a chair on new tag team partner Ryo Miyake after the later got pinned too many times. Subverted in that rather than try to get rid of Miyake, Goto continued to attack and put Miyake in dangerous gimmick matches with himself in an effort to make Miyake more manly.
  • Caught up in the middle of their feud while in Interstate Championship Wrestling, The Diva got this in 2002 from Lexie Fyfe in regards to messing up her chance to eliminate Macaela Mercedes and from Mercedes after coming to her for help against Fyfe.
  • When MNM lost Smackdown's tag team title's to London and Kendrick, Melina blamed Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro agreed.
  • El Profe kicks Disiple and Lady Demonique out of New Wrestling Stars and WWC's Starr Wrestling Club on account of their losses to TNT and Black Rose.
  • Chris Hero doing away with his Kings Of Wrestling partner Claudio Castagnoli in Chikara and joining up with F.I.S.T. (who in turn, didn't actually want to team with Hero-he and Castagnoli would make up, but not before he sent Hero out of Chikara, seemingly for good)
  • Awesome Kong put up with Raisha Saeed's demands for a long while, but ended up throwing her off the Impact stage once her antics led to failure one too many times.
  • The Nexus has leader Wade Barrett. On a night where each member had to fight alone, he stated that if anyone in the group lost their match, they would be kicked out of Nexus. After a series of fluke wins, there was a match between Babyface John Cena and the weakest member of the group, Darren Young. Seeing how Darren had gotten his ass handed to him by Cena several times before, it was no surprise that he lost. So as Darren is surrounded by his former team, he tries apologizing to Wade, but then he gets mugged by all 6 of them. Here's the video.
  • Antonio Cesaro dumped Aksana for not stopping his getting pinned by Santino Marella, after months of her distracting Santino to help Cesaro.
  • 2011 had been a bad year for Britani Knight, and it only got worse when her mom disowned her SHIMMER volume 43 and said she was putting out a help wanted ad for a new daughter, as Britani's run in the promotion had basically been the apotheosis of everything that had gone wrong up to that point.
  • Variation after an internet exclusive tryout match pitting QT Marshall and Ta'Darius Thomas against The C&C Wrestle Factory. After Thomas was pinned, Marshall berated and attacked him but put the real blame on Ring of Honor for making Ta'Darius his tag team partner in the first place. Marshall would have to eat his words when ROH held a "top prospects" tournament, which he would be knocked out of in the semifinals, by Thomas.
  • Kevin Steen initially worked with the House Of Truth before starting S.C.U.M. When S.C.U.M. became a problem he could no longer control, Steen went to Michael Elgin for help, who abandoned Steen when they took on S.C.U.M. and Steen was pinned by Jimmy Jacobs.
  • Alberto Del Rio sends this message to Ricardo Rodriguez but kicking his head into the ring post, with the steel steps, for costing him a match that wasn't even for the title. Rodriguez sides with Rob Van Dam as a result.
  • Former Wrestling Alliance Revolution Champion Carlito Colón sends this message to former manager Rico Cassanova, who accidentally cost him the title to Pablo Marquez at a Coastal Championship Wrestling show by giving him a back stabber.
  • Anthony Nese put Mr. A in a match against Moose at EVOLVE 30 to punish A for failing to ensure the Premier Athlete Brand got the Open The United Gate from The Young Bucks.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Common in Warhammer 40,000 (naturally) among Chaos warlords, Ork bosses, Dark Eldar archons, and Imperial commanders alike. Some specific examples:
    • Imperial Guardsmen units with an attached Commissar need not fear Morale checks - or rather they do, a lot. If the squad fails such a test, the Commissar will execute the squad leader for incompetence and immediately rally the unit. Thanks to this motivation, any squad leader with a Commissar breathing down his neck will actually receive a bonus to Leadership. Sadly, due to an Obvious Rule Patch regarding the way targets of this ability are chosen, the commissar cannot shoot himself despite the obvious effect on morale this would have.
      • Other units react differently to Commissars, however. Special character Nork Deddog, the thick but doggedly-loyal Ogryn bodyguard, will retaliate if a Commissar executes the officer he's protecting. Meanwhile the Catachan Jungle Fighters, being a bunch of headstrong commando Rambo types, dislike Commissars to the extent that before a battle you have to check to see if the political officers have suffered an "accident" - the "Oops, Sorry Sir!" rule.
      • Lampshaded by Ciaphas Cain, who specifically avoids doing this because he knows that the more trigger happy Commissars have an alarming tendency to be killed by enemy fire, despite the enemy being a suspiciously long way away.
    • Even Imperial Governors are not immune to this, those who send particularly sub-par tithes in either manpower or materials often recieve a visit from the Adeptus Arbites, or worse, the Inquisition.
    • Abaddon the Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos, has such an insanely violent temper that his underlings would rather commit suicide than deliver him bad news. If he's fielded in the Battlefleet Gothic Gaiden Game, his flagship will open fire on one of your vessels if it fails a (re-rolled) command test in his presence... and if he's out of firing range, Abaddon will abandon that ship, preventing it from being able to use his rerolls for command tests for the rest of the game. If it happens on his ship? It'll take a certain amount of damage from him and his retinue slaughtering some of the crew. The name of the rule in question? "You Have Failed Me For The Last Time".
    • Perturabo's first act upon taking command of what would become the Iron Warriors was to have one in ten executed for failing to live up to their potential. They weren't even doing that badly; the Legion just wasn't doing well enough for Perturabo's tastes, in that it was not the pre-eminent Astartes force in the entire Crusade.
    • The Tau do... something... to their officers who somehow fail the Greater Good, implied to be a form of seppuku.
  • Exalted: The Neverborn have this reputation with regards to their lieutenants, the Deathlords. Failure is not tolerated. The First and Forsaken Lion screwed up the whole Great Contagion thing — which, by that point, had wiped out ninety percent of all life in Creation — and was painfully welded into his armor. Princess Magnificent with Lips of Black Coral lost hold of her territory to three upstart gods telling a story, and was almost thrown headfirst into Oblivion.
  • Shadowrun 3E supplement Corporate Download. Runners who work for for the Mega Corp. Saeder-Krupp are killed if they fail their assignments.
    • It gets better in Fourth Edition. Saeder-Krupp is run by the Great Dragon Lofywr. It's heavily implied that Shadowrunners who fail the company get eaten.

    Theater 
  • In Margin for Error, the Consul tells Horst that he's finished for having made a laughingstock of the glorious Nazi party. When Horst asks what he can do now, the Consul suggests finding a martyr willing to die for the cause, going on to say: "My dear Horst, if you could contrive to get yourself—how do they say it here—rubbed out by a—Jew!" Horst laughs at this, but his expression changes to horror when the Consul says he could arrange it for him.

    Web Animation 
  • In Mastermind, the main character does this every single time he calls a meeting, with his prompt being "Does anyone know why I called this meeting?" His minions eventually call him out on this. Later, it turns out that his smart engineer apparently redirected his Shark Pool Trap Door to lead to the cafeteria instead.
  • In RWBY, Junior Xiong reveals that the henchmen he loaned to Roman Torchwick never came back. He assumes Roman killed them for incompetence, and says he would have probably done the same thing.

    Web Original 
  • Survival of the Fittest:
    • After Monique St.Claire spent the duration of a fight at the small cottage hiding from the opponents and her group, Melina Frost killed her for cowardice and being useless.
    • In Version 4, Danya has long time henchman Achyls shot after he fails to report Liz Polanski acting suspiciously, allowing her to successfully disable her collar.
    Danya: That's what happens when you become a hindrance, Renee. So keep yourself out of that horrid category.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible is told that not only does he need to commit a murder to enter the Evil League of Evil, due to his previous failures Bad Horse will execute him if he screws this one up. It's put quite catchily, too:
    Cowboys: There will be blood/It might be yours/So go kill someone/Signed, Bad Horse!
  • In Star Harbor Nights, Webmistress explains she had to resort to this to cover when she accidentally killed a Mook she had meant to reward with a blissful injection, due to glitchy cybernetics.
  • Führer Katrina from v2-v4 of Open Blue, due to her perfectionist nature, had a tendency to shoot officers who botched missions. And officers who smelled like alcohol whenever she showed up for a surprise inspection.
  • The Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M.:
    • The bald villain does this to a henchman by way of Baleful Polymorph in "Jurassic Peril!"
    • And then he crushes a garden gnome under his foot for the same reason in "Bitter Gnomes and Gardens" (It Makes Sense in Context).
    • The fate of said villain from his peers in Season 2 finale, "Dead End".
  • One story on Not Always Right has a customer come in, whining as always about something that the store can't really do anything about. The employee then says it's Murray's fault, and has "Murray" called to the front desk. When he arrives, the employee tells him what happened, ending with "you're fired". "Murray" sags and goes out of sight so he can get back to work, while the customer, satisfied that they have successfully ruined someone else's day, finally leaves. The final line notes that customer complaints have been reduced ever since "blame it on Murray" became store policy.
  • Sawyer in Void Domain says this of his daughter and Hugo after they screwed up one of his plans. Both paid dearly for their failures.

Alternative Title(s): Death For Failure

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YouHAveFailedMe