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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.
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. Related to Karmic Death.
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Anime and Manga
In Rosario + Vampire, Anti-Thesis leaders execute anyone who fails to kill Aono Tsukune... and are then promptly executed by their higher-ups when they fail to kill him. Subverted at the end of the first manga season when the second in command appears to execute the leader for failure, and then heals him instead. It helps that the second-in-command was the leader's only friend during the time he was a human and gave him some of his abilities to help survive.
Mimi and Sheshe suffer this fate at the hands of both their bosses in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. They got off lucky the first time, only turning back to their original forms; the second time, depending which version you're following, either their hearts are absorbed like Seira's, or they get eaten alive.
Subverted twice in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 by Bunbee. He drops Girinma down the Trap Door, presumably never to be seen again... only for Girinma to climb back up five episodes later, ready to fail him again. Much later, Bunbee finds himself on the other end of this trope, being dropped off of a building by Kawarino. Bunbee turns out to have grabbed a convenient ledge... and then remembered that, you know, he can fly, thus the reason why he has appeared during the sequel.
The Quirky Miniboss Squad in 4 of the 5 Sailor Moon seasons all fall prey to this trope at the hands of each season's Big Bad. There was at least one villain per saga doing so, from Queen Beryl killing Jadeite to Galaxia eventually winding up killing all but one of her minions, including the "brainwashed" Uranus and Neptune. Rubeus gives a specially cruel twist to it in regards to Kooan from the Ayakashi Sisters, whom he gives an exploding MacGuffin and sends off to fight the Senshi to force her to kill herself for him, since she loved him.
This practice is also probably the reason that no youmas in Series 1 ever attempt to flee when outmatched. In Episode 05, Jadeite calmly informs youma Kyurene that should she fail at her task, her life is forfeit.. so when she indeed fails, she only flies a short distance away and then does not try to run away when Sailor Moon attacks her - probably knowing she is doomed to die either way.
Sailor Stars is a particularly cruel instance of this trope. The Big Bad (Sailor Galaxia) sends her four minions, the Anima-Mates, to Earth to find "true star seeds" (immortal souls) inside of the living beings of Earth that would impede her chances of taking over the galaxy, and killed most of them when they failed (except Sailor Lead Crow, who was too ambitious for her own good and got eaten by a black hole). At the end of the series, it turns out Galaxia knew that the Sailor Soldiers held the true star seeds the whole time, which makes it seem like she toyed around with the Anima-Mates for yuks and giggles.
What's amusing, such stratospheric minion-disposing rate is the consequence of the anime being Lighter and Softer compared to the manga. In the manga, Sailor Senshi just fry most of their opponents, while the anime tones down violence considerably, so when villains (with notable exceptions of certain Big Bads) die, it is either through this trope or Hoist by His Own Petard.
Subverted in Excel Saga, in which Diabolical Mastermind Il Palazzo drops Excel down a miles-deep, alligator-filled pit almost every episode and in several chapters. It isn't always alligators; in fact, the first time they appear in the anime, Il Palazzo refers to them as a Christmas present ("I have provided you with a knife and all suitable supplies"). The next time we see Excel, she's discussing the proper way of killing an alligator and complaining about how tough it is to skin one.
Played straight later in the anime and the manga, though in different ways. In the anime Il Palazzo shoots Excel through the chest and leaves her to die in the desert, and in the manga Il Palazzo abandons Excel on a deserted island and replaces her with a competent robotic double.
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman plays it straight toward Leader X's commanders. For almost every episode, a new commander is brought in when one of his commanders fail. There are times, however, when one of the commanders are given a second chance before failing again and getting killed.
Mai-HiME: Father Joseph gets the "You're fired" speech from the higher-ups at Searrs for failing to eliminate the main characters in Episode 12. However, they don't actually kill him...they allow him to sit and watch as Alyssa and Miyu enact their plan to take over Fuuka Academy. He was eventually killed by Miyu after he shot little Alyssa at mission's end.
His shooting Alyssa was also an example of this trope, as he was sent in to deal with Alyssa for her failing to take over the school.
During the Saiyan Saga of Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta kills his partner Nappa after he gets his ass kicked by Goku, considering Nappa to be no use to him as a Saiyan warrior considering how Goku made an idiot out of him.
Frieza holds his army in line with fear of this, and promised this punishment to Zarbon if he failed to retrieve Vegeta. He does this to his henchman Orlen when he failed to question the Namek that he killed, and when facing off with Trunks, he kills one of his lackeys who is scared to face Trunks after all the other Mooks are sliced up effortlessly.
The Red Ribbon Army is known for its low tolerance for failure. For his failure to collect Dragon Balls, Commander Blue is used as a measuring stick for new baddie Tao Pai Pai. Commander Silver is likewise condemned for his inability to retrieve Dragon Balls.
On the topic of the Red Ribbon Army, their definition of failure is... well, just say that anything even slightly wrong is a failure, sometimes with the successes expected. For instance, Commander Red, when he is talking to Colonel Silver, mentioned that a soldier who ended up losing an eye from being unable to efficiently dodge Red sicing his pet cat at him was "no longer with them", implying that he executed him because he couldn't evade the cat efficiently.
MetalSeadramon from Digimon Adventure kills Scorpiomon after he fails to capture and incapacitate all 8 of the kids (Joe and Mimi escape). Though it must be said Scorpiomon failed big time and multiple times before MetalSeadramon did him in, and that MetalSeadramon was probably the least Bad Boss out of all the Digimon Adventure villains.
Machinedramon also kills WaruMonzaemon after he's defeated by the kids, and Puppetmon shoots Blossomon and Mushroomon after they let TK slip away. And the most famous, Myotismon's killing of Pumpkinmon and Gotsumon when they fail at being evil. Myotismon did this a lot actually. Very few of his minions survived till the end of the arc and at least half of them were killed by him for this reason, and most of those that did were absorbed to fuel his One-Winged Angel form.
In Digimon Frontier Duskmon says Arbormon (who was just defeated) has become a liability because he has lost his Beast Spirit before casually slicing him.
In Princess Tutu, when Princess Kraehe continually fails to bring the Raven a heart as a sacrifice, he attempts to eatherheart instead. She escapes, but barely. (Ironically, he then later seems to be surprised when she betrays him and tries to save Mytho from the same fate.)
In Full Metal Panic!!: The Second Raid, a Running Gag sees Ax-CrazyPsycho for Hire Gates do this to quite a lot of subordinates for any number of random reasons. It's mostly played for Black Comedy, if only because of the utterly insane ways he does it: In one case, he shoots a man who gainsaid him in the head point blank and then argues with his corpse for a good thirty seconds before noticing he is dead, and then starts bemoaning the man's sudden and unexpected death and wonders how it happened.
In the manga, Marik's punishment to Pandora (Arcana in the US) could be considered worse. Marik scans the unconscious Pandora's mind for a time he contemplated suicide and increased those feelings, stating that when Pandora comes to he's immediately be Driven to Suicide.
The One Piece conspiracy group Baroque Works held this as the penalty for any agents failing their assigned mission. While none of them liked it (except insofar as it got them promoted), most of the Officer Agents treated it merely as part of the job.
Donquixote Doflamingo does this to Bellamy after he loses to Luffy for disgracing his flag by using his powers to force Sarquiss to kill him; however Bellamy surives. He later attempts it again on Gecko Moria, apparently on orders of someone in the World Government who outranks Sengoku, as it would be better for the Seven Warlords of the Sea's reputation.
Turns out Bellamy got a second chance. Apparently, if you really do your best and you aren't an arrogant jackass, Doflamingo will be a Benevolent Boss to you.
Nero, a CP9 initiate, gets finished off and thrown in the ocean by Rob Lucci for failing to defeat Franky, as well as for losing his temper and trying to kill him instead of bringing him in alive.
Subverted in Naruto. After Madara notices that Sasuke failed to capture the eight-tailed beast for Akatsuki, he intercepts him and reminds him that betrayal means death, but instead of killing him, has him go to kill Danzo instead.
Mentioned much earlier in the Sasuke Retrieval arc, when Kimimaro stated that even if Tayuya succeeds in killing off Shikamaru (which she didn't), he was going to kill her (and probably anyone else left in the Sound Four) anyway because she failed to bring Sasuke to Orochimaru by sunset. Kimimaro would never have gotten a chance to make good on his threat, though, since he died too.
Sasuke eventually does this to his second team, throwing Suigetsu and Jugo to the wolves just because he doesn't want to wait to fight Danzo, then stabbing Danzo through Karin rather than making an effort to save her as he decided her getting taken hostage makes her not worth keeping (he was even going to finish her off himself to keep her quiet).
In episode 42 of Tekkaman Blade, Tekkaman Omega imprisons Blade's twin brother in a sort of organic prison pod for his repeated failures. It's only when his sole other Tekkaman is slain that he is willing to release him.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! has the Varia, the Vongola crime family's elite assassination squad, who have a stated policy of killing those who fail. One of the reasons they're so tough is their tradition of "erasing the weak," meaning those who fail in a mission are swiftly put to death by one of the others. This may be closer to an Informed Ability, as we've only actually seen them carry out the policy once, and the victim survived and was even allowed to rejoin the unit.
This is apparently the standard policy of The Syndicate in Darker Than Black. Huang regularly reminds Hei of this whenever he gets insubordinate, but Hei, apparently aware of the absurdity of the situation, completely ignores him most of the time. Huang was right, though; their bosses do try to wipe them out when they get too far out of line.
Aizen (almost) murdering Halibel, and later Tousen.
Rudbone and the Exequias, whose job it is to kill any Arrancar who loses a fight, like Dordonii and Ciricci. In other words, Aizen is so fond of this trope he actually created an official department of You Have Failed Me.
When Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez is beaten, but not killed, by Ichigo, his immediate superior Nnoitra Gilga appears out of nowhere and slashes his throat. Word of God indicates he managed to survive, but we still haven't seen him since then.
Given his harsh treatments to his subordinates, Yhwach also indulges in executing minions who fail at their tasks.
Played straight later on with Zorin Blitz. The Major informs her, via Schroedinger, that normally he'd have an incompetent subordinate killed by activating their suicide chip, but as Millennium are currently occupied with Walter, he'll leave her execution to Seras Victoria. Who is more than happy to oblige.
Subverted in Soul Eater. After failing to prevent their plans being foiled, Mosquito is offered a drink by Arachne. Giriko implies it may be poisoned; however, Arachne reassures him and tells him to make up for it by doing better next time.
Yu Gi Oh season 0 had Kaiba doing this with his brother Mokuba. This was the first series based on Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Mokuba wasn't Kaiba's Morality Pet there.
In the anime, we don't see this out of actual villains, though Giovanni rightly chews out field grunts Jessie and James whenever they try to call him. On the other hand, Paul will regularly release any Pokémon that fails to live up to his standards, however ridiculous they may be. This tends to overlap with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, as being a long runner on his team does not provide immunity — as Chimchar came to learn firsthand. This came back to bite him big time when Ash finally beat Paul using the same Chimchar he threw away.
Pokémon Special sees Ark, an Aqua Admin, ordered to stay behind and defend team headquarters while Archie, Amber, Angie, and the Magma alumni take the Kaien I to the Cave of Origin. To be fair to Archie, Ark should have known better about when and around who to indulge in Evil Gloating. To be fair to Ark, however, Sapphire is harder to kill than the lot of them anticipated.
Rapunzel in MÄR has the unfortunate habit of offing any of her teammates who lose in battle, but gives them the chance to redeem themselves if they beat her in a game of rock paper scissors. It's a mark of how bad she is, considering her teammates are Aqua, CaptainHook, and her equally as horrible brother. She cheats at rock paper scissors — Aqua wins, and Rapunzel's brother murders Aqua anyway. Her cruel ways turn out to earn her a well deserved death, killed off by a member of her side, Ian.
Jack and the Witch. After being given a chance to recapture Jack and his friends, Allegra fails. As an example to all who fail, the evil queen punishes her by exiling her to the Ice Caves for eternity.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father and Prideconsume the people who fail them, even members of their own "family".
Star Driver features a rather tame version of this one. Glittering Star pilots who lose to Takuto get their Cybody piloting privileges revoked. It's understandable, as the series repeatedly mentions that Cybodies are really freaking expensive and they can't just have any incompetent buffoon step in and break their toys whenever they feel like it.
In Shaman King, Hao does this to three random shamans by burning them alive after their failure to capture and get their revenge on Lyserg. And retains his calm, cheery attitude in doing so. Creepy.
Averted in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where Reinhard doesn't kill any of his admirals despite some of them having some rather spectacular failures. Especially in the case of Hot-Blooded Admiral Bittenfeld, who walks into an obvious trap that ends in Admiral Fahrenheit dying in an attempt to bail him out, which would certainly get him killed by Vader, but gets to fight again and distinguishes himself in the following battle.
In Black Lagoon, this action sets off the Greenback Jane arc. The boss of the counterfeiting ring decides to do this to motivate everyone else. Problem is: he killed the only person who could access the servers that had the patterns, wrecking the entire operation. Then, Jane manages to escape and seeks refuge within the Ripoff Church...
First played straight and then later there's a subversion in the first Robin miniseries. The villain of the piece kills two of his Mooks with his bare hands for failing him, then promotes a Dragon Lady named Lynx to the position of head Mook. When she inevitably fails as well, he ponders over the dilemma of leaving her unpunished and having to kill a woman. He then hands her to his Dragon for a "not too dire, but memorable" punishment. Which, to the Dragon, meant putting out her eye.
This is also done in Welcome Back, Frank, Garth Ennis's opening The Punisher mini-series. Ma Gnucci, after having her arms and legs torn off by a polar bear in the NY Zoo, berates her Mooks for failing to catch Castle and then orders one of them executed for asking her how she's feeling. The guy she orders to do it protests, so she orders him executed as well. She goes through about three underlings before she finds someone willing to shoot the previous executees.
One of the better variations on this trope in recent years was the Tangled Web of Spider-Man issue(#4), "Severance Package", in which the Kingpin deals with an underling who botches an illegal arms job. The story is especially chilling because it's told from the point of view of the underling, who knows full well that he's about to die but refuses to run away, despite having a wife and children.
According to one writer, that same chaotic nature also means Joker might shower you in cash for doing something like tipping a chair over. This is presented as the only reason anyone would be stupid enough to work for the Joker: it's Russian Roulette mixed with traditional roulette.
In one instance during a battle with the Fantastic 4, his head scientist had a flamethrower and the flames were getting dangerously close to a priceless painting he obtained, so he shot him with the gun the scientist built for him. He also kills that henchman's vengeful brother (also a henchman) who tried to trick Doom into a device that would kill him.
Near the end of the first volume of Runaways, the Pride's main mole in the police, Lieutenant Flores, tries to capture the kids without telling the Pride in advance. The ensuing fight destroys the Hostel and nearly gets all his men killed and, more importantly to The Pride, endangers their children. His bosses are there when his men find him.
"I thought I was dead."
"And for once, you were right." *shotgun*
Ironically this ends up being the fate of the Pride themselves; after the team ruins their Evil Plan, the Gibborim get fed up with their pathetic failures and behavior and kill them all.
Completely subverted in Hourman. When a villain who presides over a hellish slave camp learns that one of the mooks screwed up, he finds the underling cowering in fear, certain that he's about to be killed for his failure. Instead, the villain pats him on the back, tells him to believe in himself, and gives him a couple of bucks to go buy himself a snack. It turns out their entire evil organization uses a series of self-help seminars as a front, and so they have a policy of only using positive reinforcement with the henchmen. And it works.
Subverted and played straight in Mandrake. The evil organization "8" has a strict policy to kill anyone who fails; however, so many have been defeated by Mandrake that they no longer kill those that fail against him because of the enormous losses it would mean.
In the Marvel Universe, HYDRA has this as their standard policy. In fact, in the years when the organization was in disarray without the overall control of Baron Von Strucker, the various factions seemed to spend more time killing each other after each defeat than achieving anything.
Darkseid sometimes kills people who fail him — he has to keep up appearances — but since he uses his Omega Beams, he usually just resurrects them later when he needs them again.
From Astérix and the Black Gold: Dubbelosix, a Druid spying for the Romans, has to get the secret of magic potion and stop our heroes from procuring an ingredient. Asterix, however, outgambits him, and Dubbelosix and his superior both end up sentenced to death in the arena, covered in BEES!
While a competent and highly skilled agent, Count Dooku's Dark Side Adept Asajj Ventress was prone to failure because she specifically targeted Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who were out of her league. After spending months healing from a particularly brutal loss at Anakin's hands, Ventress is found by Obi-Wan and immediately attacks him, moving far from her master's side across a battlefield. With the Republic forces closing in and Ventress too far away, Dooku comments that she had failed him too many times and orders her shot. She survives, though.
Shockwave, as portrayed in most Transformers comics, is the ultimate aversion of this trope. Motivated by logic and reason, and utterly aware of the dwindling numbers available to the Decepticons (in a race that cannot reproduce without the Matrix), Shockwave hates to let soldiers go to waste. He can and will harshly reprimand failure (as he does with Frenzy in "Mind Games"), but doesn't ever kill them. Insomuch, that after usurping leadership from Megatron, then soundly beating the ex-leader - he leaves Megatron alive and makes him swear loyalty to him, not fearing from any retribution. Perhaps the best example, though, is in DW comics "The War Within - Ages of Wrath", where Rumble and Frenzy have seemingly caused an explosion that destroyed most of his work in his lab, Shockwave only questions the two and then sends them away to get back to work... In leaving, Rumble and Frenzy even remark that had this happened with Megatron, he would have ripped them apart in anger.
Shockwave even gives failed minions time to explain themselves - and accepts logical reasoning. When Megatron - his subordinate at the time - led a suicidal attack on the Ark, resulting in the deaths/capture of many Decepticons, Shockwave prepares to promptly execute him. But after Megatron points out that Shockwave made a bigger blunder by allowing the Autobots to steal the secrets of Combiner technology, Shockwave not only accepts his excuse, but relinquishes Decepticon leadership back to Megatron!
In another situation, after Soundwave let Buster Witwicky, whom he was ordered to capture, go away free despite him having the upper hand, Shockwave comes to the conclusion that Soundwave is either a traitor, or defective, and has outlived his usefulness. But when Soundwave explains Buster's mind needs to re-unite with Optimus so the Decepticons can tap into its secrets, Shockwave accepts this without question.
Cruelly double-subverted by Darkhell in Les Légendaires: Origines, when one of his generals fails to bring him back Princess Jadina for the second time. Darkhell grasps him and raises him above a pit of lava. The general begs him for mercy, and the following scene ensues:
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.
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.
When the Jokerz appeared on Justice League Unlimited under the control of Chronos, he did kill one of them, but it was the portly Chucko instead.
Chronos: Do you know what killed the dinosaurs?
Ghoul: No... Sir.
Chronos: Well, CHUCKO DOES!
At the end of The Princess and the Frog, after Dr. Facilier's plot is foiled, rendering him unable to pay off his debt to his "Friends on the Other Side", said "Friends" show up to collect anyway... by dragging Facilier to his childhood trauma-inducing doom.
Films — Live-Action
The trope name comes from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and possibly the most famous instance: Darth Vader's "You have failed me for the last time" before choking Admiral Ozzel and promoting Captain Piett to replace him before the body hits the floor. True to form, Piett survives a number of failures, once Vader realizes the heroes may actually count as a legitimate challenge. It helps that he didn't take any foolish chances like Ozzel was punished for. Ozzel's death deserves special mention, as Vader is doing it over the intercom/viewscreen. He's not even in the same room as Ozzel.
He does it again to the hapless Captain Needa before the film's even halfway done, even when Needa had the foresight to apologize to Vader for losing track of the Millenium Falcon (There's a reason Vader says "Apology accepted, Captain Needa"). The turnover rate for Imperial officers must be appalling.
Which also explains why the TIE fighters didn't hesitate chasing the Falcon into the Asteroid Thicket; the pilots knew damn well simply breaking off pursuit would have been an instant death sentence from Vader.
And ultimately subverted by the end of the film, when the Falcon escapes to lightspeed. Piett visibly soils himself as Vader strides toward him, only to brush right past, apparently too depressed about losing his son to kill any more underlings today.
It's noted in one of the novels that the fastest way to promotion in the Empire was to get yourself assigned to Vader's flagship, the Executor. The flip side of that coin is, as Pellaeon says, that this meant the crew of the Executor was entirely staffed by people who were either hypercompetent or very lucky, since they were the only ones who survived. Which meant that when it was destroyed at Endor, the Empire lost more than a really big ship, they lost the best of the officer corps.
Vader's tendency to do this is lampshaded in The Force Unleashed where there is an achievement for killing a certain number of your own men while playing as Vader in the prologue. Bonus points for it being an Actor Allusion as well (Matt Sloane, the voice of Vader in that game, also voiced Chad Vader, with the achievement being a direct reference to that series).
Not explicitly shown in Return of the Jedi, but Vader heavily implies that if the officer and the crew working on the second Death Star doesn't make sure that the station is fully operational by the time of the Emperor's arrival, the crew will end up suffering a punishment issued by the Emperor that is so horrific for their failure that Vader's use of the trope seems like a sympathy-enduced pat on the back in comparison. "The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am."
Proven by Bevel Lemelisk. The lead designer of the Death Star, he is executed when Sidious has him eaten alive by piranha beetles as punishment for overlooking such a massive design flaw... and then proceeds to bring Lemelisk back to life with a clone body and Sith Alchemy, because in spite of this mistake, Lemelisk is too much of an asset to throw away. Sidious proceeded to make a point of executing and resurrecting Lemelisk every time something went wrong with the Death Star II's construction, with a new and unique method of execution every time. At least Vader is business-like about killing you; Sidious will make sure you suffer.
It was also implemented in the 1931 Universal film when Renfield accidentally leads Dr. Van Helsing and Jonathan to Dracula's lair and Dracula strangles Renfield to death. It's worth noting that Dracula doesn't even say a thing; he just gives Renfield an evil glare before Renfield goes into hysterics and is then killed.
Played straight in the first Austin Powers movie, when Dr. Evil dumps several underlings into a fiery pit for failing to kill Austin Powers. It is then parodied when he tries to do the same thing thirty years later...and the minion survives, and is very noisy. Dr. Evil gets someone to go down there and shoot him, and that does the trick... eventually.
In Desperado, after Bucho's gang repeatedly fails to find and kill the Mariachi, Bucho demonstrates what they're supposed to do by saying "Look! I don't know him! He has a gun! That must be the guy!" and shooting one of his henchmen. "How hard is that?"
In The Fifth Element, Zorg apparently has all of his men (or all public phones) wired with explosives, and, in one scene, where a minion fails to impersonate the heroes, he types in the code to blow him up (with just barely contained rage) just as the heroes get away, not even knowing the mook had been there.
And he was on the receiving end of this trope in the 2006 Casino Royale. Mr. White walked in on him while he was torturing Bond. Chiffre tried saying to him, "I'll get you the money." But White replies, "Money is not as important as knowing who to trust." And he shoots him.
The Rider in The Seekeractually said "You have failed me for the last time".
Nicely subverted in Die Hard 2: when Miller, the black soldier, arrives at the church and reports his comrade's death to Colonel Stuart, Stuart says, "Well then, the damage is minimal. The penalty could be severe." He then puts the barrel of his pistol to Miller's forehard and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks on an empty chamber. Miller breathes a sigh of relief as Stuart tells him, "You fail me again, and the chamber won't be empty. Dismissed."
In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Shao Kahn does this twice. The Outworld "ninja" Rain, who failed to sufficiently torture a pair of Earth Warriors (specifically, by making them beg for their lives before destroying them) he captured quickly, offscreen, and with no chance of escape, is knocked into a lava pit with a big whacking hammer. Jade, Kahn's mole in the ranks of the heroes, suffers an even more ignominious death after she too fails to destroy them when following Kahn's plan — she's fed to a monster carving in a wall, which lets out a great big burp after it's done with her. Sindel is threatened with this as she tries to back Jade up, despite Sindel being crucial to the plot and one of the most powerful generals.
"Suicide, or be shot by someone else" was the option given to the losing Soviet general at the start of Enemy at the Gates.
Slightly debugged for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, when Captain Barbossa shoots one of his own crewman, Pintel, to see if they're all still cursed with immortality, and Pintel survives. The screenwriters Elliot and Rossio remarked in the DVD commentary that this was the only way a villain could repeatedly achieve You Have Failed Me moments without ever running out of henchmen. It also nearly leads to the crew mutinying on the spot, only averted by the heroes' escape attempt.
In the third film, Jack Sparrow hallucinates dozens of clones of himself crewing the Black Pearl. When one of the Jacks displays sub-par performance, the main Jack stabs and kills him, then proceeds to lecture the rest of his imaginary crew about discipline.
Non-lethal version shows up in Shoot 'em Up. After the first time Smith thwarts Hertz's men, Hertz is seen talking with one of them who was wounded in the buttocks. The guy says something to the effect of, "It won't happen again. I've got a piece of metal in my butt to remind me." At this point, Hertz pulls out his pistol, shoots him in the posterior once again, and quips, "And let that be a reminder never to fail me again," as the Mook collapses yelling "AAH! MY ASS!"
In the film Peter Pan, Hook shoots two of his pirates for annoying him.
This is actually based on a real event. Capone hosted a dinner to let one of his henchmen, Antonino "Joe Batters" Accardo, kill two other henchmen with a baseball bat.
Happens in Eragon, where Durza executes the head Urgal for failing to kill the title character then immediately promotes a random Urgal, whose look implies that he is not happy with the promotion.
James Bond has a few examples. Ernst Blofeld wasn't kidding when he said "This organization does not tolerate failure":
SPECTRE planner Kronsteen in From Russia with Love. Somewhat amusingly, Kronsteen's plan actually went perfectly. It was Rosa Klebb who failed, by hiring the wrong assassin. Pity no one else knew that.
Another Thunderball example. An assassin tries and fails to kill Bond. He is then killed himself, both for failing and because this attempt is what made Bond realize something was up. It also introduces Fiona, who is apparently tasked with killing SPECTRE agents who fail.
Upon awakening in Transformers, Megatron reunites with Starscream, who reveals to him that the Allspark, the very reason they are on Earth and the ultimate power source of Megatron's obsession, is in the possession of the Human soldiers who are attempting to keep it away from him. His response is quite a ticked off; You have failed me yet again Starscream. GET THEM!
The Joker: "My balloons. Those are my balloons. He stole my balloons! Why didn't anyone tell me he had one of those... things? Bob? Gun."
Bob the Henchman: hands the Joker a gun, who promptly shoots him
Honestly, Joker does this all the time, but it's less about failure and more about the fact that he's the Joker.
Drucker, the Big Bad in The 6th Day, does this to his henchman Wiley. A fairly justified version of this trope. Not only has Wiley been screwing up the most, but he also accidentally shot Drucker just before, which apparently was the last straw.
He even tells his mooks not to clone Wiley again, so he wouldn't have another chance to fail him.
Unusual for this trope, Carver is willing to let the guy go back to the States with a reprimand. Unfortunately for the agent, he decides to claim that he can't be Mind Raped again. Carver proves him wrong. So this is more like "You have failed me and don't know when to shut up".
Framed hilariously in Six String Samurai, with the Big Bad starting to deliver the usual "You have failed me for the last—" then pauses, looks down, and says, "nice shoes..." Next cut shows the Big Bad and his minions walking off with the failure's shoes.
Tank Girl. Kesslee, the Big Bad of Water & Power, has a subordinate who has failed to stop the Rippers. He forces the subordinate to walk across broken glass barefooted, then drains all of the blood out of his body, converts it to water, and drinks it.
Kesslee is so fond of this trope that, by the end of the film, his entire army is under the command of a sergeant.
Lethal Weapon 2. After Rudd's henchman Hans loses a million dollars worth of gold Krugerrands, Rudd has his The Dragon Pieter execute him.
Inverted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, where Commander Kruge kills his gunner for failing to not destroy the USS Grissom. Kruge only wanted to disable its engines so he could take prisoners, but the gunner had a "lucky shot" and destroyed the whole ship.
Played straight in the Green Lantern movie. When Parallax arrives on Earth, his first action is to kill his human minion for failing to kill Hal Jordan before Parallax arrived.
Red Skull, after the Howling Commandos led by Captain America managed to destroy one of HYDRA's bases in Captain America: The First Avenger, has an officer brought to him, to which the officer stated that they fought to the last man. Red Skull, not in a forgiving mood, states "Evidentially not!" and then uses his Tesseract/Cosmic Cube-powered handgun to vaporize the officer.
Herod does this to Ratsy in The Quick and the Dead after Ratsy oversteps his authority and breaks Cort's hand before the big gunfight. Herod does give Ratsy a running start, however.
Bill Cox does this in Firewall. "We all make mistakes, Willy. Just not as many as you do. "
In Lone Star State of Mind, a pizza delivery guy who's secretly a drug runner reports to his mob boss that he was robbed. The boss orders him to run away... in a zig-zag pattern. The boss waits for a few seconds, then shoots him in the back.
In Sholay, Gabbar plays a variation of Russian Roulette with 3 of his mooks because they were defeated by the heroes. He fires away 3 bullets off a loaded six shooter and spins the cylinder. He pulls the trigger on each of the 3 mooks, and extraordinarily all 3 survive the game. After laughing evilly he shoots all 3 of them
In a deleted scene from the Apocalypse film series movie Judgment, Antichrist Franco Maccalusso sends Amoral Attorney Victoria Thorne and the judge from the court case in the movie to an uncertain fate after failing to give him the desired verdict.
In Tribulation, Calvin Canboro was choked to death inside the Day Of Wonders program by the Antichrist's Digital Avatar when he failed to convert his brother.
Serenity provides a double subversion: The scientist in charge of the Academy is terrified when the Operative comes to call, since he assumes he is going to be killed for allowing River Tam to escape. However, his bosses are surprisingly understanding about that, realizing that with the time and effort River's brother went to, there was really no way to stop him. What they are unhappy about is that key members of Parliament were brought in to personally observe River.
Operative: The minds behind every military, diplomatic, and covert operation in the galaxy, and you put them in a room with a psychic.
In Death Race the 2008 remake, Machine Gun Joe apparently plays this trope straight with his male navigators.
Non-lethal version in First Knight. Malagant sends his mooks to kidnap Guinevere, who tears strips from her dress to leave a trail for the good guys to follow. When she is delivered to him, Malagant becomes enraged at seeing the damage to her dress and beats a mook senseless, saying he gave specific orders for her to be completely unharmed.
Subverted in Dredd, though not out of kindness. Ma-Ma says she would've done this to Kay after he almost got taken in for interrogation, thereby threatening to expose her entire operation. However, Dredd and Anderson have already cost her enough men that she can't afford to lose more.
Apocalypto: In his rage the leader of the raider troop kills one of his underlings after Jaguar Paw escapes at the waterfall.
In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Ivan Ooze disintegrates his Tengu Mooks after they fail to stop the Power Rangers from going towards the Great Power and report back to him about this.
Undercover Brother. When Mr. Feather fails to kill Undercover Brother as he ordered, The Man flies away in his helicopter and leaves him to his fate. Mr. Feather ends up getting eaten by a shark.
New Jack City. After the police infiltrate the drug operation and the CMB are forced to destroy their production plant when they capture a police informant, Nino threatens his gang with killing them if they fail him again, stabbing one through the hand to make his point.
In 300, Xerxes orders a demonic executioner with saw blades for arms to decapitate one of his generals for failing to defeat the Spartans with a unit using primitive grenades.
In End of Days, Satan murders his minions for the slighest failure or inconvenience. Most notably, after the lead Satanist doesn't convince the chosen girl's keeper to bring her over immediately because she thinks there are militant Christians observing the house outside, Satan decapitates him with a superpowered punch because he now has to go through the trouble of walking over there.
Subverted in the 2004 King Arthur. Cynric fails his mission to capture the patrician Roman family that Arthur is transporting back to the south. His father King Cerdic notes that they have lost the enemy's respect and Cynric offers his life in return. Cerdic instead demotes his son and gives him a Mark of Shame by giving him a small scar on his cheek.
The final book starring Lone WolfThe 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 Kraagenskul. The moment Lone Wolf defeats Naar's champion Kekataag the Avenger, Kekataag's spirit joins them.
In PC Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, Rawneth has a particularly nasty example. She strips the names of some twenty underlings, making the affected underlings' souls to fade away, and causing everyone else under her to mostly (but not completely — they know they're missing something) forget them too. However, this causes a great deal of unrest among her followers, and some cases of civil disobedience.
In a rare heroic instance, George Cooper in Song of the Lioness is quite a ruthless King of Thieves. Fail him once, he takes your ear. Fail him twice, he takes your life.
In Trickster's Queen, we learn that Ulasim has prohibited his people undercover at the prison to get promoted beyond a certain level, because: "The Rittevons were notoriously fond of executing people in charge when things went wrong." This is so reliable that Aly realises that their plans will receive a major boost upon reaching a certain point, once all of their most experienced enemies are executed for letting things get this far.
Cluny the Scourge, the Big Bad of the first Redwall book, consistently reminds his subordinates that the penalty for failure is death and/or torture. He never hesitates to follow through with his threats, either.
Many villains from the Redwall series in general often kill subordinates for failures of varying magnitude.
Thrawn used a small measure of fear, certainly: the Grand Admiral realized that fear of failure was a powerful motivating force in a military the size of the Empire. But Thrawn's ability to invoke a sense of pride in his troops was his most powerful asset. Palpatine inspired arrogance and callousness in his officers; Thrawn made his men proud to be Imperial soldiers. Thrawn's officers would have willingly died for the Grand Admiral.
The Evil Overlord version (in which the Big Bad kills a random minion as a lesson) is subverted in the New Jedi Order series. Supreme Overlord Shimrra can be a really Bad Boss, but he's clever enough to recognize when he's being played. Near the end, it looks as if he's about to execute High Prefect Jakan, who's been framed as a supporter of the heretics—then turns on the High Priestess who's framing him and is a heretic.
This trope seems to be liked by villainous Imperials and former Imperials in general. In the X-Wing Series, Zsinj, spying on the consoles of his bridge crew, sees that one of them is playing flight simulators instead of paying attention while on duty. He has been warned about this, but he wants to be a pilot so much. Zsinj has his second-in-command whisk the crewman off in the dead of night telling him it's a secret pilot test, put him through the standard set of pilot qualification simulations, praise or chastise him as necessary, and then kill him. Later on he puts a pair of scientists in a Shoot Your Mate Or I Kill You Both. The trope, and the fact that they're cruel about it rather than simply just shooting them, serves as a good reminder that while Zsinj and his Dragon are interesting, clever, and often funny characters, they are also the bad guys, and for good reason.
The Queen of this trope is Ysanne Isard, whose murderous punishments for failure were known to go as far as Familicide. Isard's love affair with this trope is skewered in one of Allston's X-Wing novels, where another Imperial explains that anyone working for a capricious psycho like Isard had nothing to look forward to except either death by the Rebels, or death by her.
When someone he's interrogating dies before giving up the information he needs, Kirtan Loor is summoned back to Imperial Center by Isard. All along the way, even while marveling at the view, he's sweating and expecting her to kill him. She doesn't - not at that point in time - but she does make her displeasure at his poor thinking clear, and wants him to perform better.
Corran: "Tavira, when she doesn't hear that you succeeded, will see you as having failed. And you know her — failure isn't an accident, it's a conspiracy."
Exagerated in Legacy of the Force: Caedus kills an officer who was fooled by a false ship identification, even if it was obvious that Luke's ruse was too well-prepared; there was no way she could have suspected the trap.
Harry Potter: The fear of hearing Voldemort say this, no doubt quickly followed by "Crucio!" and "Avada Kedavra!", hangs over the head of every Death Eater.
However, very few times do we see him actually kill one of his minions for failing him. Lucius Malfoy, for example, fails him spectacularly a number of times; and his punishment is psychological and possibly worse than death in its way: his only child sent on a suicide mission.
It is suggested in the sixth book that Voldemort would be more, uh... picky if he didn't have so few followers.
In book 7 he does at one point shoot everyone in sight when he is called after the Trio breaks into the Lestranges' vault, stealing Hufflepuff's Cup. This is very much a Villainous Breakdown on his part; he now knows that Potter knows his secret.
Played straight in book7, with Wormtail, his silver hand, given to him by Voldemort strangles him to death after he spares Harry. Voldemort hinted at this in book 4, when he says "May your loyalties never waver again"
Animorphs' takes this to the logical conclusion with the Big Bad, Visser Three. It's strongly implied that his tendency to kill off anyone smarter than him is the only reason the Animorphs remain undiscovered for so long. At one point, the mooks explicitly decide not to report the Animorphs in order to avoid Visser 3's wrath. And near the end, a number of Yeerks desert as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Visser 3 does this so reliably that Marco's able to bluff his way out of a situation where three flunkies were expected by saying, "I think Visser Three killed them for doing something wrong".
A heroic version shows up in the earlier novel Necropolis, where an officer named Modile is in charge of coordinating communication between the various Imperial Guard regiments, but he shuts down the network when the plan starts to fall apart. Gaunt executes Modile for his cowardice and incompetence. Notable as the first time in the series we see Gaunt perform a summary execution.
Mocked in the Emberverse. Mike Havel pontificates for a while on how a "You fail, you die" policy is detrimental to subordinates' willingness to tell their superiors about their mistakes, thus effectively crippling said superior's ability to do his job.
In Thud!, two trolls working for a mob boss threaten Vimes. When Vimes meets with their boss, he claims he hadn't told them to make threats, and indicates a box. The narration is quick to point out wouldn't fit an intact troll. And then to cement what happened, the boss asks Vimes if he could use some gravel.
In the Dale Brown novel Plan of Attack, one Russian general fails to rein in trigger-happy underlings who cost them a SAM group. The Big Bad has someone sneak in while the general is napping and deliver a Boom, Headshot.
Stephen King's The Stand has a real doozy in the demise of Randall Flagg's henchman, the hapless Bobby Terry. Bobby rather overdoes the orders that he's given to simply capture the Judge, one of the good guys, ending up by accidentally blowing the top half of his head off. On a lonely road, in the middle of nowhere, a panicking Bobby suddenly hears footsteps approaching him, faster and faster, from behind...and turns to see Flagg charging at him with a huge, manic grin..."HEY, BOBBY TERRY, YOU SCREEEEEEWED UPPPPPP!!!"...'There were worse things than crucifixion. There were teeth.'
Robespierre gives Chauvelin this ultimatum in The Elusive Pimpernel, one of the sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, where Chauvelin epically failed to capture the eponymous vigilante Super Hero. Chauvelin keeps the Scarlet Pimpernel's Secret Identity a secret even though he discovered it in the first book because he knows that knowledge is the only reason his superiors allow him to live despite his repeated failures.
Recurring villain Overseer Biron in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories is quick to kill off subordinates who fail him. As an Elite Officer-caste Androssi, he is within his rights to kill a Worker at any time. Failure, even relatively minor, often results in instant vaporization and replacement - Workers are considered fully expendable. Ironically, Biron's own boss is rather forgiving on those occasions that Biron himself fails.
The Klingons are like this throughout the Star Trek Novel Verse, though all but the most unhinged practice restraint. In Star Trek: Vanguard, when Captain Kutal's weapons officer Tonar responds to an order by saying "I'm endeavouring to do just that", Kutal replies: "then endeavour with greater zeal, or I shall find a new weapons officer". In Star Trek: Klingon Empire, General Kriz kills a captain under his command for failing to conquer a planet and ignoring good advice from his underlings.
In Theodore Cogswell's short story Wolfie, sorcerer Dr. Arsoldi's "colleague" will drag him off to hell if ever a murder he aids and abets fails. Naturally, there's eventually an insurmountable slip-up.
In Death: Max Ricker stands out as a crime boss who will not be happy with employees who fail to carry out their missions. Considering that he is an Ax-CrazyBad Boss, the penalty for failure is undoubtedly unpleasant.
Judging by the reaction of the assassin in Septimus Heap to the Supreme Custodian's demand to bring her target's body to him, You Have Failed Me seems to be standard for the assassins.
This is official government policy in the People's Republic of Haven under Pierre and Saint-Just. In fact, not only do they kill officers who fail to carry out their orders, but their entire families as well. This has the effect of stifling initiative, which hampers the war effort against Manticore, and has similar effects in real life. Ironically, the policy was put in place because they were afraid that the officers might try to overthrow them if they were given a free reign, but it inspired resentment among the military, which ultimately led to several coup attempts, one of which was eventually successful, becoming something of a self fulfilling prophecy.
Subverted by Albrecht Detweiler, who generally does NOT take out his anger on his subordinates. In fact, one subordinate who failed (Aldona Anasimovna) actually got promoted, because his analysis of the failed Monica operation suggested that if she had been better informed about the Mesan Alignment's goals, it might have succeeded. Also, the main reason that particular operation failed was nothing in particular Anasimovna did, but rather sheer coincidence and a very bored midshipman.
Trapped on Draconica: Gothon does not take kindly to Zarracka returning empty handed. Downplayed. He never intended to kill her, only to humiliate her by making her think he would.
In Charles Stross' Iron Sunrise, Portia Hoechst strangles a subordinate who bungled his assignment to abduct Wednesday Shadowmist as soon as she gets him back on the ship.
The standard operating procedure of the Cetagandan Empire in Vorkosigan Saga.
Aral Vorkosigan himself once personally broke the neck of the officer who ordered the Solctice Massacre during the conquest of Komarr.
After Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane royally screwed up the 74th Annual Hunger Games so that it ended with two victors, President Snow was not happy...
24: Season one example: One of the girls kidnapped by a sub-villain as part of a plan that's waaay too complicated to describe here gets away and is hit by a car, so only Kimberly is taken instead. Said sub-villain says he killed the other girl, but his boss already knew that she'd been taken to a hospital. He takes a page straight from the Darth Vader book of villainy:
Sub-villain: [Stammers] Well, the thing is that... maybe she wasn't quite dead. Boss: Well, I'll tell ya. [...] You're either dead or you're not dead. There's no such thing as "sorta dead". Here, let me show you. [Shoots him on the spot, turns to other, more sympathetic underling] You've just been promoted. Congratulations.
Used this as well. Wolfram and Hart was notorious for it, though they rarely did it onscreen. There was also the vampire Knox (not to be confused with Knox the W & H employee of Season Five), who killed one of his best minions, who had been with the gang for 75 years, to prove a point about them getting soft.
Played with / Inverted Trope when Linwood Murrow finds out about Lilah's affair with good guy Wesley. It seems like he might try to pull this in the middle of a board meeting...until Lilah mentions that she contacted one of the Senior Partners, who agreed with her that Murrow himself was doing a terrible job dealing with Angel.
Murrow: Are you actually telling me that you went over my head?
(Razor blades pop out of his chair, decapitating him)
Lilah: Just under it, actually.
Arrow: When Brother Blood almost has his identity exposed by Team Arrow halfway through Season 2, his benefactorSlade Wilson kills several of his associates as punishment for his clumsiness, and warns him that if it happens again, Slade will kill him.
"Offering their life in penance" was something The Master demanded. One of the worst examples was when he told the Three to kill Buffy because she was killing too many of his servants, and they almost did, easily overpowering her. Angel showed up and helped her run away. As opposed to telling them to get back out there and try again and keep an eye out for Angel this time, The Master double-subverted this trope:
The Master: True, they did fail, but also true, we who walk at night share a common bond. The taking of a life — I'm not talking about humans, of course — is a serious matter.
Master: Hmm. I am weary, and their deaths will bring me little joy.
(motions to Darla, who stabs each of the Three in succession)
The Master: Of course, sometimes a little is enough.
The Master kills one of his minions in episode 2. "You have something in your eye."
Subverted Trope when Spike showed up and after he failed and was told he should offer his life, killed the Anointed One instead.
And, two seasons later, when faced with a Big Bad he can't kill, Spike is Genre Savvy enough to start fleeing as soon as he hears the words "You have failed..."
It looked like Spike was going to pull this on Billy Fordham in "Lie To Me" when Billy's plan to deliver several dozen people to Spike is foiled by Buffy. But not only does Spike not kill Billy, he keeps his end of the deal and sires Billy. After all, Billy kept up his part of the deal, and Spike probably knew that Buffy would be waiting at Billy's grave to stake him when he rose anyways.
Glory does this to 2 of her minions in "Intervention".
Chuck: The Ring had Nicos Vassilis executed by gun from one of their agents for failing to retrieve the mask. Before his death, he asks how they are going to deal with Chuck, to which the Ring Elders remark "The same way we'll deal with you." just before he is shot.
Played straight in another pirate story, The Smugglers. The Doctor and Jacob Kewper have played a superstitious pirate, overpowered him, and gotten clean away. Captain Pike very calmly dispatches the pirate in question.
Subverted Trope in The Pirate Planet. The villainous Captain hisses "When someone fails me, Mr. Fibuli, someone dies!" — then kills a random extra instead of the person who actually failed, because he's the Captain's right-hand man and is too useful to kill just out of pique. Of course, the Evil Overlord List specifically says not to do this, but the Captain is just too awesome to care.
An interesting variation is in City of Death. Two of Count Scarlioni's henchmen have actually successfully recovered his wife's bracelet which the Doctor stole. "Good," he tells them. "But not good enough." He then has them killed and replaced with two different guys. Considering they got the bracelet, it's anyone's guess as to why he thinks they underperformed. It certainly can't be punishment for not being discreet, considering their replacements are just as brazen.
In Time Heist, Ms. Delphox knows when someone is fired from the bank it is "messy". They get incinerated.
Due South: The episode Gift of the Wheelman has the bad guy pulling this on one of his henchmen for falling for a double cross by another henchman.
Subverted Trope: both Scorpius and Grayza use non-lethal methods of punishment, though they are generally quite painful.
Played straight in the episode "Losing Time": at the urging of project leader Drillic, Scorpius sends a test pilot on a flight into an unstable wormhole - only for the pilot to melt inside the cockpit. Scorpius, who generally believes in treating subordinates with proper respect, punishes Drillic for the casual waste of life by assigning him the task of piloting the second test-flight.
Firefly: Adelai Niska does this routinely. He intimidates Mal and crew by showing them a prisoner he's in the process of torturing to death. Then he attempts (and temporarily succeeds) to do the same to Mal and Wash after they fail to carry out the theft he hired them for.
Flash Forward: In the episode "Better Angels", merciless Somalian leader Abdi shoots two of his followers but spares the heroes, saying "They have failed me; you will not."
Get Smart: Siegfried tells the henchmen who have failed him, "It's time to put Plan B and Plan C into action." One of the mooks asks what "Plan C" is. Take a guess how Siegfried responds.
Jake 2.0: Happens in one episode with the leader of a domestic terrorist group. At the start of the episode, a teenager operative of the group ends up captured by the NSA. It turns out that he's the leader's son. The leader promptly executes the guy sent to keep an eye on his son. Subverted later on, when the guys sent to kidnap Jake to trade for the kid end up kidnaping his little brother (who stole Jake's ID to get into a bar). However, when the Mook offers his own gun to the leader to accept punishment for failure, the leader smiles and tells him that the guy didn't fail. As a matter of fact, capturing Jake's brother is a better plan than capturing Jake himself.
Legend of the Seeker: Darken Rahl seems to be getting in the habit of this, usually by feigning understanding, taking the other person's hand, then slicing them from the wrist to the elbow and letting them bleed out. He only did it once, in the pilot, to his general, who was supposed to kill the Seeker as the baby but failed. And the blood didn't go to waste - he used it immediately to send a message to his troops.
In Lexx, His Divine Shadow demonstrates a rather drawn out and chilling example when dealing with the officers who allowed the Lexx to be hijacked. Later in the episode, an admiral takes his ship into a Fractal Core in pursuit of the Lexx despite his subordinate's warning since he's more afraid of the consequences of failing His Shadow.
His Shadow: Major? Kill [the general].
(she quickly disintegrates the general's head while he whispers "I worship His Shadow")
His Shadow: Good. Now, kill yourself.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: When Lord Zedd made his grand entrance, he punished Rita by sticking her back in her dumpster (well, that or a different dumpster) and sending her off into space.
Reese and his partner succeeded in their directive of killing a target but failed to acquire his latop, something they were not informed about. Control sent them to identify the laptop and mark its location, at which point they were to be killed in a targeted airstrike.
Power Rangers RPM: Subverted/parodied: minion Tenaya 7, after returning from a seemingly failed mission and beginning to be condemned by her boss Venjix, outright mockingly asks if he's going to say the titular trope line. Venjix is not pleased.
In the episode "Ties That Bind", Corporal Lawrence had to report to Sergeant Will Strausser that he was unable to capture Miles Matheson. Strausser responds by stabbing him dead on the spot. A Justified Trope, because Strausser is explicitly stated to be a sociopath.
In the episode "The Song Remains The Same", Tom Neville fails his mission for General Monroe, so he simply gets his wife Julia Neville and flees the Monroe Republic, because they both know that Monroe is unstable and has no tolerance for failures. That makes it a Defied Trope in this case.
Sleepy Hollow: This is Moloch's stated reason for killing Brooks at the end of the pilot. However, considering that he was about to tell Abbie and Ichabod everything as part of a plea bargain, there's also an element of He Knows Too Much in there, too. And in any case, he gets resurrected the following episode anyway, as Moloch seems to realize that he can still be useful.
Double Subversion in the episode "Irresponsible": Genii commander Kolya aims his gun at a mook who failed to capture Sheppard and pulls the trigger, only for the gun to click as if empty. The mook thanks him and Kolya lets him go, saying it's his last chance... before angrily giving away his gun for repair.
Played with in "Threads". Anubis says exactly these lines to Ba'al for losing Dakara to the Jaffa, but points out that Ba'al not only failed, he did the one thing worse than failure or even cowardice. Ba'al betrayed Anubis by cooperating with his enemies to destroy the Dakara superweapon and prevent Anubis from using it to complete his omnicidal megalomania. Anubis delays Ba'al's execution only so he can witness Anubis wiping out all life in the galaxy at once, Ba'al included.
Played with in the series finale. When the Cardassians revolt against the Dominion, the nameless changeling has all of the Cardassians in the Dominion military complex executed. Her right hand man, a Cardassian, protests that he has not turned on the Dominion even as he is dragged off to be executed. The changeling replies that she is making sure he never will.
A variation occurs as well in "Sacrifice of Angels" where Damar kills Ziyal, the daughter of Gul Dukat, after learning she turned traitor and tried to help the Federation retake the station; using Dukat's own words on how traitors must be dealt with as the reason why he had to do this. Dukat suffers a complete mental breakdown as a result.
Star Trek: The Original Series: A non-lethal example: in the Mirror Universe episode Mirror, Mirror, one of the first things we see after the transporter malfunction is Mirror!Spock torturing the transporter technician with the "agonizer" device simply for allowing the malfunction to happen - despite the fact that it wasn't the technician's fault. Seemingly, this is standard practice....
Famine devours one of his demon Mooks when he loses a soul that he was supposed to bring to Famine for consumption.
The Leviathans have a standard practice for this, called "bibbing". It's called this because the failed Leviathan in question is made to wear a bib, and then forced to eat themselves. When their leader gets really mad, however, he decides not to "waste a perfectly good meal".
High-ranking angel Zachariah fully expects his boss Michael to do this to him when he lost track of the Winchesters once again. Subverted, as Michael instead gives him another chance to fulfill his mission. Zachariah later remarks to Dean that for Heaven, a "firing" is very literal.
Tin Man: In this SciFi miniseries, Azkadellia's actual reply to the general who let Dorothy DG escape is a sympathetic "You did your best", but considering she immediately followed it up with a fatal Life Energy drain, the meaning's the same.
In The Tribe, Ram kills a Techno who completely failed his programming mission, mostly to show Ebony that he doesn’t shy away from killing people. He does it again in a later episode in front of the rest of his terrified mooks.
Mephilas: Emperor! Have I become a useless piece in this game? Alas! (explodes)
In The Wire, this is done with disturbing frequency by the Barksdale drug empire, and taken even further later by the Stanfield empire, who supplant the Barksdales as the most powerful criminal organization in West Baltimore. If someone screws up in a job or seems insufficiently reliable at a time when the cops are cracking down on these groups, then those people tend to disappear.
Wiseguy: A Mafia boss is annoyed that an outside contract killer has messed up a hit. The killer replies that he emptied "an entire clip from an Uzi" into the victim. The boss retorts that the proper way is to shoot someone in the back of the head and stuff their body in a trunk...and then does exactly that to the hitman.
Getting the Last Wave Bonusnote clearing all the stages in one Video Mode wave 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.
El Profe kicks Disiple and Lady Demonique out of New Star Wrestling and WWC's Starr Wrestling Club on account of their losses to TNT and Black Rose.
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 lead 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 BabyfaceJohn 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.
2011 had been a bad year for Britani Knight, and it only got worse when her mom disowned her at a SHIMMER event, as her run in the promotion had basically been the apotheosis of everything that had gone wrong up to that point.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 GothicGaiden 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. The name of the rule in question? "You Have Failed Me For The Last Time".
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.
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.
Averted (amazingly enough) by Darth Malak in Knights of the Old Republic, after a bounty hunter hired by Saul Karath fails to kill the heroes. "The penalty for failure is death, Admiral Karath... but the failure was Calo's, not yours. You may rise."
While taking the "test" of the insane ex-master of the Sith Academy, one of the hypothetical situations involves a loyal and capable subordinate embarrassing you in front of your superiors. The proper answer to the question is to execute the underling rather than take the chance of him screwing up again.
Knights of the Old Republic II also has a 'You have failed me' moment directed at the player, when Kreia loses her patience with a dark-side Exile's psychopathic comments after the Exile has killed all the Jedi Masters and the party returns to Dantooine. Unusually, Kreia's not concerned with what the Exile has done, but with why they do it. When she realises that the Exile favours brute force and vengeance over manipulation or advancing an ideology, she embarks on an idiosyncratic philosophical rant, starting with the very words 'You have failed me. Completely and utterly.' Marking the beginning of the endgame, she does then proceed to almost kill the Exile, but then the Exile mysteriously wakes up again.
The Sith Empire in Star Wars: The Old Republic has numerous people fail for the last time as well. Notably, in a particular flashpoint, the player character can execute a starship captain for refusing orders to attack a superior Republic ship and then assume command of his vessel.
In Emperor: Battle for Dune, if you fail a critical battle, you will be executed depending on your chosen house. House Harkonnen will install a heart plug, then pull it out; House Ordos will attach your severed head to a life-support system ("Why won't they let us die?"); while the Atreides, being the nice guys of the game, will simply let you go... into the hands of their Fremen allies, who want your water. All of your water. (Fun fact: The human body is 60 to 65 percent water.)
You can do this on Evil Genius with your minions to completely refill the loyalty, attention and endurance of everyone in the room. There's even a number of short voice-overs for each Evil Genius when you do this; Maximilian gets bonus points because one of his actually is "You have failed me... for the last time!"
Happens to Drakuru in World of Warcraft. After being deceived and nearly defeated by the player, he summons Arthas, The Lich King, and explains that you've been double-crossing them. Arthas' response—to say this, kill Drakuru, and spare the player.
Ragnaros in Molten Core quite happily slays Majordomo Executus after he fails to stop the players reaching Ragnaros' lair. Not only that, but he also shouts "You have failed me, Executus!" before the encounter.
Archimonde apparently has this as policy, as does most of the Burning Legion. Kil'jaeden stands out as being willing to give people a second chance. If you fail him, he might torture you physicallyand psychically and turn you into a monster so you can serve a different role in his fiendish plans, but he rarely actually kills anyone for mere failure, unless it was due to the minion's complete and utter incompetence.
In the Battle for Sen'jin Village, Vol'jin decides to let the fleeing Kor'kron Mooks get away, because Garrosh will execute them for their cowardice if they return.
In the first Mega Man Star Force, Queen Ophiuca is killed by Gemini Spark shortly after her defeat. Gemini then sends an ominous warning to Mega Man that the next lightning bolt will be for him.
Similarly, Airman's operator is executed by the head of Gospel in Mega Man Battle Network 2. The leader claims that the execution is due to a different principle: Death to those who make lame excuses.
In Skies of Arcadia, Admiral Alfonso attempts to save his own reputation by placing blame on his vice-captain and chucking the poor guy overboard (even if these were regular oceans, with water, all that armor would drown him) for this reason. Refreshingly, Galcian sees right through it thanks to Alfonso's own men filing a full - and accurate - report prior to the meeting.
In Team Fortress 2, the price of being informed by the Announcer that "You failed!" is having your weapons removed, your opponents getting guaranteed critical hits, and being pulled into third person to watch your character cower and flee with their hands in the air. It's not called "Humiliation" for nothing.
Tenchu 2. Suzaku kills Yukihotaru after she loses to Rikimaru.
Devil May Cry has this, minus three words, after the final fight with Griffon, where Mundus appears in the sky as an ominous three points of light, declares "Griffon, you have failed me. You are no longer worthy" And Agony BeamsGriffon to death while it begs for mercy.
In Resident Evil 5, during Mercenaries mode, if dying, Albert Wesker grunts. "You've... failed... me." Whether he exacts the typical post-failure execution is more a matter of player creativity.
In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Petrine orders her men to carry off the minor boss Dakova to what is presumably his execution, if the player fails to kill him before the chapter ends. If you do kill him, Petrine sends his subordinate to his doom instead.
Narshen in Sword of Seals threatens to do this to one of his underlings named Slater. The guy is so unsettled by the death threat that he is easily defeated.
A Genre Savvy boss named Beran flees on a boat with a Mook to avoid this fate if the player fails to kill him. Judging from the fact that his boss is an even more psychotic Expy of Narshen, he made the right choice.
In Fire Emblem: Shin Monshou No Nazo Lady Eremiya leaves a heavily wounded Kleine to die after her second try at assassinating Marth. Ironically, this is what happens to Eremiya herself later.
In Final Fantasy V, the Braggart Boss Gilgamesh gets banished into the Void by his boss Exdeath for being a one-man Goldfish Poop Gang. This is actually an effective Kick the Dog moment, because Gilgamesh is really funny. He's even a somewhat sympathetic villain - in the same battle, he gives you a moment of silence after hearing from a party member that her grandfather, someone Gilgamesh had a fond (on his side) rivalry with, recently died. It's even worse because Gilgamesh actually is a decently competent enemy (at least in comparison to anyone else who isn't Exdeath); the only reason he's doing so poorly in this fight is because his untested Infinity+1 Sword is actually a Joke Item.
In the Hoth mission included in The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition, Starkiller one-ups Vader by informing an Imperial captain "You have failed me for the last time" and Force-choking him, all over the radio.
Varesh does this at least once in Guild Wars, to a guard who captures the players party (thus allowing the players ot escape during a mission) rather than killing them directly.
In Final Fantasy XIII, If a l'Cie fails in his or her Focus, they get turned into a Cie'th, a crystalline zombie, doomed to walk the earth until they fall apart and turn to stone - and even then they are still alive, and suffering. Apparently, there's no more incentive to succeed either, as the ones who do just get turned into a crystal statue of themselves. Although in Final Fantasy XIII-2, a character that was revived from crystallization after the events of the first game mentions having had happy dreams while in that state, so it's not as bad as it sounds and certainly better then the eternal suffering of a Cie'th. Still kind of a shitty "reward" though.
Final Fantasy Tactics has a sequence where the characters take refuge with a cardinal fleeing mercenaries working for the corrupt Bart Company. Later it's revealed the cardinal is actually the leader of the conspiracy, and shortly afterwards he executes the leader of Bart Company for failure.
Aria also averts this trope in the novels. Though she isn't afraid to use violence as punishment, she is also savvy enough to know that punishing loyal subordinates who are working in good faith would only foster resentment towards her.
In Armored Core Last Raven, Jack-O have absolutely no qualms about killing other Ravens off using third degree executions (Claiming that a Raven "Betrayed" Vertex for example.) to accomplish his goal of destroying the Pulverizers. Even the Corporations will not be so willing to throw Ravens away.
In Assassins Creed II, Jacopo de'Pazzi gets stabbed a few times by Rodrigo Borgia for failing to kill Lorenzo de'Medici and Ezio.
In Dawn of War, the Imperial Commissar will sometimes spout the trope name if you use his "Execute Guardsman" command. And in one of the stronghold battles:
Guardsman: The Emperor has abandoned us!
Commissar: *BLAM* If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!
A hapless cultist suffers this in the original campaign. According to Sindri only an idiot would personally deliver bad news to Bale, and Sindri won't abide stupidity.
In Winter Assault, Gorgutz' plane is shot down and his pilot is killed in the crash. "I don't care if da flyboy is dead, get me another so I can kill him instead!"
Defeating the Ork stronghold in Soulstorm has Gorgutz turn the stronghold's original owner into paste, then casually saunters off to find a new group of boyz to lead.
Defeating the Chaos stronghold in the Dark Crusade expansion has Eliphas the Inheritor on the receiving end of this, courtesy of a Daemon Prince who psychically choke-slams Eliphas into a geyser of gore. He gets better in time for Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, though.
Strangely averted in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped; sick of Cortex's failure, Uka Uka decides to do a plan right. He did try to fry Cortex for a couple of later failures, though has bad aim. In Crash Of The Titans he once again decides to fire Cortex, but in a business sense.
Cortex: You can't replace me! My name's on the stationary!!!
Velo: As punishment, you must clean the trophy podium...and when you're done with that you can clean...the entire coliseum. *Evil Laugh*
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has a variation that is even worse than the normal use: It mentioned that The Patriots would have killed Olga Gurlukovich's baby if she failed her part of the S3 plan, and the Patriots imply in their mind screw speech to Raiden that, if he fails to kill Solidus, not only will the Patriots execute Gurlukovich's child, but they'll also kill Rosemary the exact same way (And, oh, it gets worse: This happened after Rosemary revealed that she was pregnant with Raiden's child, so not only are they going to kill Rosemary, but they're also going to abort their child in the process)
Also heavily implied to be one of the reasons why they deactivated Richard Ames' nanomachines besides the obvious fact that he had outlived his usefulness in their S3 plan (If you read the in-game novel In the Darkness of Shadow Moses, you'll notice that Richard Ames not only spared Nastasha Romanenko, but also supplied her with the records of the Shadow Moses Incident, as well as all the details of FOXDIE's development and the people involved (which means he might also turn himself in, since FOXDIE is his brainchild, and by extension the Patriots), which also resulted in the creation of the novel, and it is implied from the Colonel [actually an AI construct] that the Patriots did not like the book.)
Similarly, Paz also was given a threat about this if she failed her mission. The punishment for failure was actually a Fate Worse Than Death.
Volgin threatened the soldiers at Groznyj Grad that he'll kill them if Snake dies in his prison.
In Star Wars: Rebel Assault II, Vader says the same line when he Force-chokes Admiral Sarn near the end of the game.
At the end of Wing Commander Secret Missions, the leader of the task force that destroyed the Goddard Colony was executed by the Kilrathi Emperor for losing the entire task force, including it's flagship, the experimental warship Sivar, to the pilots of the Tiger's Claw. The leader of the task force was the Emperor's own son. The commander's death causes the promotion of his son, Prince Thrakhath, who would be a major villain in the series until the end of the third game.
In Fallout: New Vegas, Caesar's Legion's former Legate Joshua Graham was set on fire by order of Caesar as punishment for failing to capture the Hoover Dam from the NCR. Unfortunately for him, Graham turned out to be Made of Iron, surviving said punishment.
In the Martian intro cinematic for Jeff Waynes Warof The Worlds, the Martian society as a whole gives a mass telepathic execution to the Senior Elder for his ineffective actions in solving the dying of Mars. If the invasion fails, his successor suffers the same fate.
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn indicated that this was how the Brotherhood of Nod handled incompetent officers, with Seth, Kane's second in command, warning the player that if you failed you died. Seth, it is worth noting, starts seeming wary of you (noting that "you are rapidly becoming Kane's favorite") as the campaign progresses and continues sending you on difficult missions with faulty intelligence. He eventually tries to send you on an outright Suicide Mission against the Pentagon (all the way across the ocean from the African theater where you're fighting). Then Kane introduces himself by executing Seth in mid-sentence, pushing him out of the chair, and promoting you.
In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun's GDI campaign, a Nod General has just lost to the player character GDI commander McNeil and is beseeching Kane for reinforcements. Kane's response is to nuke the General's island base.
In Command & Conquer: Renegade, Raveshaw uses this against Sakura when she fails to kill Havoc. The player can also overhear a conversation between Kane and an incompetent Nod officer who is ordered to "report to Interrogation for 'faith restructuring'."
In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Stalin personally chokes a general who has failed to disable the Allied self-destruct device resulting in the loss of the Chronosphere, which you have just barely managed to capture. Stalin nearly has you killed over the same thing, before another officer interjects by explaining that the fault wasn't yours, it was Kukov's — you followed your instructions perfectly, but you weren't told about one of the communication centres in the area (the self-destruct could be deactivated by neutralizing the comm centres in the region — but it had to be all the comm centres, otherwise it wouldn't work). Stalin quickly rescinds your execution order and does the above mentioned choking. Then he tells you he's giving you one chance to redeem your failure, otherwise this trope is coming into effect.
The ending of one level of Heroes of Might and Magic V has Demon Sovereign Kha-Beleth killing one of his generals for failing to capture the renegade Agrael.
Twice in Baldurs Gate Dark Alliance II: Aizagora strangles her servant, the Red Queen, as punishment for fleeing from a fight. When Habdazar swears an oath to guard the Air Foundation with his life, Kharn tells him that if the Zhentarim lose control of the Foundation, his life will be forfeit; when Habdazar flees the foundation in order to beg Kharn for reinforcements, Kharn reminds him of his promise as he stabs him through the guts.
In Blood, the intro cinematic has dark god Tchernobog tell the Chosen Ones "You have failed me. I disavow you all". Only before the very end of the story is the reason for this explained.
Mastermind World Conqueror, naturally, lets you do this in order to keep your minions in line as well as to buff the others. You can also do this to your Patsys to free up space.
In Baldur's Gate II, Jan Jansen makes fun of this trope. When you are tasked with killing the rebel sahuagin prince by the king, he finishes his sentence with "Succeed, and you shall be rewarded with great riches!" To which Jan continues:
Jan Jansen: I've heard this tune before. It's right up there on the oldies-but-goodies list along with 'Fail and I Kill You'. Or, maybe in this case, it's that variant sung by the infamous ogre bard Chumba-khan, 'Fail and I Eat You'.
In Jade Empire, Gao the Greater and the Lotus Assassins tend to kill minions who fail them, which has some fairly adverse consequences. One of Gao's men can plead for mercy on the basis that he'd be killed if he returned to Gao (although it's up to the player to decide whether to spare him). Lim tries to attack the Spirit Monk despite having found the fragment of the amulet, knowing that he's failed on a few other fronts and wanting to make up for it, resulting in his death and the loss of the fragment.
In Halo 2 the Prophets seemingly do this to the entire Elite race; after the destruction of one of the Halos and the death of the Prophet of Regret, they decided to scapegoat them for their loss, and have the Brutes take over their roles as the Covenant's vanguards. The expanded universe, however, hints that the Prophet of Truth was planning to do this for a long time, and were just waiting for the right excuse; indeed, he intentionally let Regret die as part of his plans. In this case, though, it completely backfires; the Prophets end up on the losing side of the resulting civil war against the Elites, and are driven to near-extinction.
In Dragon Age: Origins, Zevran joins up with the player after losing to them specfically because he expects his former employers, the Antivan Crows, to pull this trope on him if he comes back in defeat, or even if he tries again and succeeds, just for failing the first time, and by traveling with the player's group he gets protection from them.
In Bioshock Infinite, the head of security for Jeremiah Fink is blamed for a rise in criminal activity from a dissident group. The player soon finds that he has been "sacked".
In Valis II, Magus slices Gillan in half after the latter is defeated by Yuko.
In the second Vader mission of Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, if you fail the mission, Vader shoots one of his own officers while informing him, "This failure is unacceptable!" Even if the mission failure was clearly your fault.
In The Matrix Path Of Neo the Merovingian delete's three of his vampire mooks after a whole club of them fails to kill Neo. Then he brings out the Elite Mooks, the Master Vampire to try and finally kill Neo.
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 Genre Savvy engineer apparently redirected his Shark PoolTrap 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.
Averted by Therkla. She fails in her mission, but is able to deflect the blame to another minion. Her master praises her for weaseling her way out of her responsibilities, but then informs her next time, he will accept no loopholes.
Xykon refuses to allow Redcloak to regenerate his right eye, calling it an "idiot tax" for failing him. He tells him to resurrect his hobgoblin henchman because he at least shouted a warning before being cut down by a hero.
Also practiced to extremes by General Tarquin.
Empire of Blood soldier: We'll fight the guy with the big sword - he can only kill us. [Tarquin] can have our whole families wiped out.
In Sluggy Freelance Lord Horribus kills a couple of demons for not doing their part in the hunt for Torg. It's actually somewhat more understandable in this case, since it was less a case of the demons failing to capture Torg and more that they hadn't even been trying.
In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, two of Frans Rayner's mooks report that they were unable to capture the Doctor's father because he was on fire. Rayner insists that he could catch both of his mooks if they were on fire, and has his midget douse them with gasoline and light a match to prove it. He just sits there and watches them run around screaming.
Assistant: You're not trying to catch them, sir?
Rayner: * Sips his coffee* No. I guess they were right.
The Speaker in Harkovast forces a Junlock minion who disrespects The Speaker's religion to drown himself. He also causes the Junlock's friends to think this was perfectly okay.
Krystal in Kid Radd loves doing this. Every time one of her subordinates brings bad news, instead of executing them, she just inflicts horrific pain on them.
In Soapbox Hill, a Demon-chick gets defeated and cast back into the netherworld. Her overlord whispers in her ear "this is the third time you've failed me..." The look on her face is one of utter terror...
When Darth Vader shows up after the time-skip, one of the first things he does is order an underling to fix his mistake and then execute himself. The "I find your lack of faith disturbing" scene then becomes Motti complaining about Vader's policies requiring them to replace half the Death Star workforce. Vader doesn't quite get the point.
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 Doctor Horribles 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 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.
Phaeton, the Big Bad of Exo Squad had a habit of summarily executing his generals whenever they really screwed up. But since he could easily clone them, he could easily replace them... with themselves.
Although, he does give them a few chances first. Typhonus, for example, attempted to betray Phaeton, accidentally convinced the Pirates to ally with the Exofleet, and then got his own fleet annihilated before Phaeton finally got rid of him.
In the second episode of the Double Dragon cartoon, the Shadow Master kills two underlings (Abobo and Willy) for failing him by trapping them in the Shadow Mural. Particularly annoying, as he never does this to his goons later. Maybe he just realized that if he killed somebody for every failure he'd run out of men fast.
The only other time he does such a thing is in the Season 2 episode "Shadow Conned", when Countdown revolts against the Shadow Master by freeing the Shadow Khan from his shield. He does so by trapping Countdown in the Khan's shield.
An early Birdman villain in the employ of F.E.A.R., the Ringmaster, seems to be terrified of finding himself on the receiving end of this when he is captured. In "Murro the Marauder", a nameless mook gets the Trap Door treatment after being thwarted by Birdman in his attempt to steal a secret formula.
Phobos, the season one Big Bad of W.I.T.C.H., punished his Mooks heavily for failure, to the point where by the end of the season, one of them defected to the side of the heroes after they found him injured following a battle, knowing full well what Phobos did to those soldiers he discovered had been wounded. He even took a break from the Final Battle to punish his right-hand Giant Mook Cedric, transforming him from a giant snake monster into a tiny, pathetic one. This would later come back to bite Phobos in the ass in season two, after he regains his power and gives Cedric one more shot. Cedric returns the favor by stealing all of Phobos' power by eating Phobos alive during the penultimate episode.
Prime Evil, the Big Bad of Filmations Ghostbusters, was quite fond of saying this to his ghostly minions, often exacting some kind of "humorous" punishment on them. (Example: Fangster, a werewolf ghost, gets inflicted with vampire fleas.)
In the Kim Possible movie, Drakken says this to his sidekick Shego after she failed the mission, but he's really just being dramatic. She replies "Why are you all, 'You have failed me for the last time!' Are you kidding me with that?" Then they get down to the new evil plan.
In another episode, WorldWide Evil Empire head Gemini tells one of his underlings: "You have failed me for the last time." The underlings response? "Um, I just started last Thursday, so I haven't actually failed you bef—" Gemini cuts him off with "Silence!" then sends him down a trapdoor anyway.
Subverted in Cat City. After each failure, Mr. Teufel, The Dragon, invites his semi-competent secretary "for a few words". The latter survives, but appears in ever-increasing number of bandages.
Teufel's boss, however, has the mounted heads of Teufel's precedessors on his wall.
Lord Nebula of Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys uses the phrase constantly to terrorize his toady Rhesus-2 (along with a few hard knocks). It's not an idle threat because his predecessor, Rhesus-1, was threatened constantly as well; he was eventually shot with a death ray and reduced to a ribcage in a pile of red goo.
Robotnik does this to a Swatbot in the Sonic Sat AM episode "Hooked On Sonics."
The Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 would always kill his Mooks when they failed him. For minions he couldn't replace, well, it varied. Stockman would lose a piece of him every time, until he was just a brain in a robot body which would be punished with electric shocks. Everybody else usually got off without so much as a slap on the wrist. Sharp contrast to the older cartoon version that would just berate Bebop and Rocksteady for their stupidity, and then send them back again.
Averted in Transformers: The Movie. Unicron invokes the trope name, then gives Galvatron the 411 and sends him off to the Planet of Junk to try again.
Dr. Zin from Jonny Quest does this a lot to his minions. This is taken to the extremes in Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects, in which he has three head scientists. Each time one of them fails, he kills that scientist then promotes another of them. The first one he fed to the insects, the second he throws into a pit of acid, and the third he froze in liquid nitrogen and breaks him into pieces.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars this is what Count Dooku tells Ventress when he "fires" her from the services of the Separatists.
Sometimes subverted with the Monarch and his henchmen in The Venture Bros.. He frequently kills his henchmen for minor infractions, by accident, or simply because he's having a bad day.
An episode of Stroker and Hoop has a ninja mook terrified of this trope after failing to kill the main characters. The head ninja points out how horrible for morale it would be to murder his henchmen every time they mess up... and then slices the mook in half.
"Send in some more ninjas, please."
The Pirates of Dark Water villain Bloth "rewards" failure by tossing the offending minion to the Constrictus, a mutant monster that lives in a pool on his ship. However, he seems willing to allow second chances to those who escape that fate, and the rest of his crew make bets on whether or not the victim will survive. However, escaping the Constrictus is extremely rare: the only mook to succeed against the Constrictus was Konk, but he lost a leg in the process. He made it out of there the most intact of anyone before Ren.
In the first episode, King Primus escapes. Bloth is very unhappy and promptly takes out his anger on the guy who was supposed to be guarding the King.
Brigmaster: I took my off of him for but a moment! Bloth: And a moment is all you've left to live! [drops him into the Constrictus pit]
Subverted in Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, where Darkling Lord ruler Darkstorm regulary sends his loyal toadie Mortdredd down the Trap Door - even when he succeeds in his mission, or just whenever he feels like humiliating the guy. Showing a brain-dead kind of loyalty, Mortdredd never even complains and just climbs back from the pit - often to be thrown back again.
Doofenschmirtz: "Oop! Ooo! Oh, I told Nancy to keep the backdoor locked! Note to self... My evil deed for tomorrow: fire the maid."
In the Transformers Prime episode "Inside Job", Knock-Out ends up suffering a non-fatal example of this. After a fight with Smokescreen over the Phase Shifter ends with him stuck in a wall, Megatron leaves him there as an example to his other minions. He gets let out in the following episode when Megatron needs him.
In the Danger Mouse episode "Day Of The Suds," after DM and Penfold escape Greenback's army of sentient washing machines.
Greenback: Escaped?! Failed?! Useless tin cans! (to Stiletto) Stiletto...pay them the wages of failure.
Stiletto: Si, Baroni! (presses a button; the lead washers are detonated)
Inverted in a sub-plot of "Demons Aren't Dull." Greenback secretly stages a "This Is Your Life"-type testimonial show designed to magnify Danger Mouse as being a blundering fool. DM, feeling that England now thinks of him as inept, tries to resign until Colonel K tells him that the programme he was in was never transmitted.
Surprisingly averted in G.I. Joe. Despite the constant distrust COBRA's henchmen have for their leader and their frequent attempts to criticize or even outright usurp him, or if their plans against G.I. Joe completely fail, Cobra Commander never enacts any punishment on his troops.
This may come as a surprise, but in Samurai Jack, Aku tends to avoid the Bad Boss Trope and rarely kills his own minions (of course, most of them are mindless robots. However, he did kill Demongo after failing to defeat Jack. Having said that, Demongo's failure was not something to be taken lightly. Jack not only defeated him, he freed every imprisoned soul that Demongo had accumulated in his career, and seeing as these dozens - possibly hundreds - of Aku's enemies were all problems for him again as a result, you couldn't blame him for being angry.
In Batman Beyond, a Society of Assassins member who fails to kill the target becomes the Society's next target. This backfires when Curaré, after failing to complete a job, destroys the rest of the group in self-defense.
A probable Trope Namer: played straight in the Wars of the Roses by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, during the Battle of Tewkesbury 1471. He killed his subordinate commander, Baron Wenlock, who had failed to support him, by smashing his head with warhammer in the midst of the battle.
Admiral John Byng failed England at the Battle of Minorca (1756) by choosing not to bring his heavily-damaged ships into battle against an undamaged French fleet; he ended up before a firing squad. Voltaire satirized this episode in Candide: "In this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others." (You may come across the phrase from the original French, "pour encourager les autres".)
It can be argued that it actually worked: the Seven Years War marked the rise of England as the major naval power in Europe, mostly due to the freshly 'motivated' attitude of the RN.
Byng wasn't the only one, either. At the time British naval law had a provision that an officer failing "to do his utmost" against the enemy was a capital offense.
It also explained why British naval officers were gung ho and notoriously and successfully aggressive. However, "doing your utmost" didn't necessarily require success. A captain who fought a superior force, had his ship shot from under him, and was captured, might end up being ransomed and promoted. It was the officer who retreated from battle who had to worry.
To probably no one's surprise at all, Hitler had this one in his cartoonishly evil playbook. As the remnants of the Sixth Army were dying at Stalingrad, with no hope of escape or rescue, he promoted their commander, General Paulus, to Field Marshal. Because no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered, it was obvious to everyone that this was a subtle order for Paulus to commit suicide for his failure to win the battle. Subverting the trope, he didn't.
Men lower down on the German army totem pole also tended to suffer this a lot, particularly as war turned against Germany. For example, when the U.S. 9th Armored Division captured an intact bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, the German officers responsible for its defense were quickly court-martialed and executed. By the war's end, German soldiers had almost as much to fear from accusations of 'desertion', 'cowardice' or 'defeatism' from their own side as they did from the enemy.
Stalin executed many high-ranking officers who lost to significantly smaller numbers of Finnish soldiers during the Winter War. Since "failing Stalin (for the last time)" is not a charge that can be formally brought at a court-martial, one general's official offense was losing twelve battlefield kitchens to the enemy. To be sure, field kitchens were vital material for winter warfare, but in this case it was just a pretext for killing a loyal officer for being involved in an embarrassing defeat.
Stalin had also executed many high-ranking officers (read: 4-5% of his officer corps, including c.90% of all officers commanding more than 1000 people) before the war started as part of an ideological cleansing, which was a great part of why the Red Army did so badly during the Winter War; c.90% of all officers commanding units of 1000+ people had been in their new jobs for less than a year. One rather egregious case was that of a Captain and Batallion Commander (500 men) who was promoted to Brigade Commander (3000 men) and arrived at his new unit (a Rifle Division of 14,000 men) only to discover that the Division Commander, Division Commisar, and all the other Brigade Commanders had been arrested - making him de facto Division Commander, a post which he was two ranks too junior and ten years too inexperienced for. Ironically, as a result of the Post-WWII purges to re-politicise the army and society (after the war-time professionalisation), when Stalin had a stroke in his room one morning no guard dared to enter and check on him. By the time lunchtime had gone by and they'd found Lavrenty Beria, NKVD chief, and got him to open the door Stalin's condition had gone untreated for too long and he died in agony soon afterward.
Stalin was not a forgiving man during the Second World War, either. When production of the Il-2 attack aircraft fell behind schedule, he dashed off a telegram to Ilyushin's plant managers which read "YOU HAVE LET DOWN OUR COUNTRY AND OUR RED ARMY. YOU HAVE NOT MANUFACTURED IL-2S UNTIL NOW. THE IL-2 AIRCRAFT ARE NECESSARY FOR OUR RED ARMY NOW, LIKE AIR, LIKE BREAD. SHENKMAN ... PRODUCES ONE IL-2 A DAY AND TRETIAKOV ... ONE OR TWO MIG-3S DAILY. IT A MOCKERY OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE RED ARMY. I ASK YOU NOT TO TRY THE GOVERNMENT'S PATIENCE, AND DEMAND THAT YOU MANUFACTURE MORE ILS. I WARN YOU FOR THE LAST TIME. STALIN." Ilyushin went on to produce 36,000 Il-2s, making it one of the most heavily-produced aircraft in history.
Some more sensationalist (read: interested in inflating death-figures to make headlines and sell books) accounts have assumed some 2% of all Soviet losses in WWII were due to executions, this figure presumably being reached by including all deaths in penal batallions, reprisals against anti-Soviet partisans and collaborators, and prisoners en-route to and in the gulags. Field Marshall Georgi Zhukovnote HERO OF THE SOVIET UNION himself had hundreds of his subordinates shot, and his punch line was Act or you'll face the firing squad!
Cowardly Roman soldiers were punished by being divided into groups of ten and drawing lots, whereupon the unfortunate soldier in each group would be beaten to death by his comrades. And that's where we get the word "decimated".
This practice was abolished before the Imperial era. The reason was that brutal punishments have averse effect: they will collapse the already shaky morale altogether. Ordinary soldiers, who face the enemy on the battlefield, consider killing one of their own as a murder. A decimated unit usually had to be disbanded and its soldiers assigned to other units. Decimatio does not mean only losing one tenth of an unit: it means losing the whole unit. Instead punishment of shame, like having to eat only barley instead of wheat or not being allowed to eat sitting were introduced.
During the French Revolution, and more specifically during the Revolutionary Wars, generals who failed were executed. This is explained by the fact that i. only traitors could fail considering French "élan vital" couldn't be beat (according to the Convention) ii. most if not all generals were generals during the monarchy, and henceforth considered as traitors, except if they proved otherwise by actually winning.
Execution for failure was the standard in Ancient China. Part of why Cao Cao succeeded against Yuan Shao was that the latter kept executing capable generals for failures or for giving advice he didn't want to hear. Even Zhuge Liang (yeah, that one) executed one of his most brilliant generals who lost a crucial battle. According to the book at least, it was because the general failed to take important tactical advice into consideration and Zhuge Liang was reluctant to do it because he considered the other man to be like a son to him.
Even earlier, a Han general was captured by the Xiongnu ("Northern Barbarians," probably Turks or Mongols or some such), and landed his family in hot water for not committing suicide. The furious emperor had him and his family executed and had the one guy (Sima Qian) who spoke up for him thrown in prison and castrated. (The castration was supposed to be an encouragement to suicide, but Qian instead decided to write the massive and definitive history of China up to his time, the Records of the Grand Historian).
The Records of the Grand Historian, incidentally, are also called the Shiji (史記), and also contain a variant example. Sima Qian records that Sun Tzu employed a variant of this trope to demonstrate his teachings. Before hiring Sun Tzu, the King of Wu tested Sun Tzu's skills by commanding him to train a harem of 180 concubines into soldiers. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, appointing the two concubines most favored by the king as the company commanders. When Sun Tzu first ordered the concubines to face right, they giggled. In response, Sun Tzu said that the general, in this case himself, was responsible for ensuring that soldiers understood the commands given to them. Then, he explained and reiterated the command; again the concubines just stood and giggled. Sun Tzu then ordered the execution of the king's two favored concubines, to the king's protests. He explained that if the general's soldiers understood their commands but did not obey, it was the fault of the officers. Sun Tzu also said that, once a general was appointed, it was his duty to carry out his mission, even if the king objected. After both concubines were killed, new officers were chosen to replace them. Afterwards, both companies performed their maneuvers flawlessly and in complete silence. Sun Tzu then announced, "The troops are now well disciplined. They may be employed as the King desires, even to the extent of going through fire and water." Despite his bitterness at losing his favorite concubines, the King recognized Sun Tzu's skill and appointed him General. In the following years Sun Tzu contributed to a number of victories that cemented the State of Wu's place as a leading power in the region.
After a 2012 season with 93 losses, Miami Marlins owner fired manager Ozzie Guillen and proceeded to trade away the three star players he had signed the previous season along with the rest of his team...except for Giancarlo Stanton. They promptly had 100 losses in 2013.
In a more mild, good-guy example, the US Army in World War Two, under George Marshall's leadership, was ruthless in relieving senior officers (in comparison to the other Western Allies) when they didn't perform on the battlefield or otherwise screwed up. In a subversion, many of those officers were given second chances (and often succeeded), or found success in roles other than battlefield command.
More then that. Marshal would relieve officers for messing up during maneuvers before hostilities began. Which may be one reason the US Army didn't do worse then it did in the first year.
Many Japanese officers during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II opted to kill themselves after a defeat because the fate awaiting a supposedly failed commander at home was very unpleasant, even when the officer actually did extremely well under the circumstances. For example a reconnaissance battalion managed to delay the Soviet Encirclement forces from fulling cutting-off the main Japanese force dug-in at Nomonhan/Khalkin Ghol for nearly a day before they realised that nobody in the pocket was going to try to break outand retreated. But for the crime of "fleeing from the enemy"'s vastly superior forces and not attempting a suicidal counter-attack to relieve the encircled forces their commander was subject to a court martial and before the proceedings started, was "persuaded" to commit suicide. The overall commander of the Japanese forces there, who'd refused to order a break-out, was severely criticised not for his failure to salvage the situation with a break-out but instead merely for 'losing' - it's a sign of just how Axe Crazy and Blood Knight -y the Japanese were relative to the superbly innovative Soviets that they couldn't find anything wrong with his performance in their post-mortem analysis of the battle. The commander, General Komatsubara, lived to die of cancer after the war.
In countries with "at-will" employment, getting fired is a common consequence of an employee making a major mistake.