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Playing With / If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him

Basic Trope: After fighting his way to the final villain, the hero lets the villain go to avoid the guilt of killing him.
  • Straight: After Keith, the villain, killed several people, Bob, the hero, fights his way to Keith. When Bob has Keith at his mercy, he lets Keith go, after Alice, his girlfriend, begs Bob not to "sink to Keith's level".
  • Exaggerated: Keith has personally tortured, enslaved, and massacred millions of innocent people, and Bob lets him go after Keith merely says "I'm sorry, I can change."
  • Downplayed: Bob chooses not to hit Keith after Keith hits him, feeling this would lower him to Keith's level.
  • Justified:
  • Inverted:
    • Alice urges Bob to Kill Him Already.
    • Keith needs to do good things every once and while to keep up the good publicity for his Evil Plan to work. But he is worried or warned that he might become more like Bob and thus ultimately decides against it.
  • Subverted:
    • Alice begs Bob not to sink to Keith's level... By torturing and killing him.
    • Alice tells Bob not to kill him, even though he could never stoop as low as him. This guy has feelings and it would be bad, though not as bad as what he had done.
    • *Smiling, holding several Noodle Implements* "Oh, I won't kill him. There are better things to do to him..."
    • Bob decides to Make It Look Like an Accident after careful consideration of how to make it plausible. As a result, it can only be speculated that Bob had anything to do with it.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Alice corrects herself: Torturing or killing.
    • When he refuses to hurt him, she says that she is proud of him, and that she didn't want to frighten him, but that he would have gotten just as bad as him.
    • Bob thinks about it, realizing that inflicting inhumane torture on any sentient being, even Keith, is something that will haunt his conscience forever, deciding not to go through with it.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice begs Bob not to sink to Keith's level as the camera pans across the hundreds of soldiers Bob slaughtered to reach Keith.
    • "Well, shit. Can I at least break his legs?"
    • A moment after Alice begs Bob not to sink to Keith's level, she found that Keith's attack also leaves a scratch on her brand new car. And she tells Bob "Just kill him, NOW."
    • Bob kills Keith, and instantly morphs into an exact copy of Keith.
  • Zig Zagged:
    Alice: "Bob, don't kill him. Don't sink to his level! I don't think you can live with his blood on your hands!"
    Bob: "Okay... hey! Wait a minute! I just butchered my way through 500 of his minions to get to him! What's one more life to me now?
    Keith: "Bob, forgive me! I know nothing I say or do could give you your dead sister back, but I am truly, truly sorry."
    Bob: "OK!" (turns to leave)
    Keith: "Fool..." (Offhand Backhand) "*Hurk... bleagh*"
    Bob: "Oopsie... Darned reflexes."(smug look)
  • Averted: Bob kills Keith without flinching.
  • Enforced:
  • Lampshaded: "Are you really comparing me to Keith after what he's done?"
  • Invoked: "What will make you any better than me if you kill me? We're Not So Different, when you think about it."
  • Exploited: Keith realizes that no matter what he does, Bob won't lay a finger on him. He seizes the opportunity to perform evil while Bob is on duty, as to not be interrupted and to watch smugly Bob helplessly staring at him.
  • Defied:
  • Discussed:
    • "If you have a chance to kill Keith, would it be right?"
    • "Wait, you're going to fight your way to Keith and then just let him go?"
  • Conversed: "Ugh! I always hate how one hero uses the whole "don't kill him or you'll just be like him" speech on the other hero. It's so annoying! Just kill the bastard already!"
  • Deconstructed:
    • Keith continues his reign of terror, and when Bob and Alice return home, instead of being welcomed as heroes, they are demonized, condemned, spat upon, called disgusting words, and later are tried and executed for dereliction of duty and extreme negligence.
    • Bob let Keith go. Unfortunately, Keith was beyond redemption and the only way to prevent him from doing evil again was killing him. So he continues wreaking havoc upon the town & some people blame Bob because he didn't kill him when he had the chance even though he just wanted to avoid being evil in his-own eyes. Zach scoffs at Bob for "proving that traditional heroes are stupid, and Alice for her beliefs holding Bob back. He goes on to kill Keith himself, earning the credit for finally ending the latter's reign of terror.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Keith is moved by Bob's gesture of mercy and reforms. Zach was not convinced, however. He leaves the town, unwilling to stick around to see if Keith's Heel–Face Turn would stick.
    • Keith is taken down by a Karmic Death or Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work instead, leaving Bob's hands clean.
    • Keith is simply taken to prison (or fictional equivalent of thereof), where he spends the rest of his life, harmless to society.

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