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Beyond Redemption

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"Some lives aren't worth saving."

The Hero has been trying to make the villain see the light for a while now. Perhaps the hero's said that Good Feels Good, but the villain has thrown it back in his face and said that Evil Feels Good. Maybe the hero has appealed to what they hope is the villain's true self inside, only to find they were acting of their own free will. Perhaps the villain has Kicked the Dog and rejected any chance at changing his wicked ways one too many times. Maybe the villain has done something so bad, there's no going back now.

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At that point, the hero comes to a sad realization: the villain is Beyond Redemption.

This is when a hero has been making a consistent effort to have a villain turn away from evil and become The Atoner, but eventually stops trying. This is often a bad sign for the villain; whereas the hero might have not gone into a fight at full power before, now The Gloves Come Off and they stop holding back. Often occurs towards the climax of a story (especially before the Final Battle, so the hero can really cut loose). Whether a villain makes that Heel–Face Turn after all later on, or gets persuaded by someone much more idealistic, depends on the story. What matters for this trope is that a hero had been trying to turn the villain good, but gave up.

Usually seen in media aimed at young adults and older, or on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. Long-running series often go about this as a way of raising the stakes; if the audience knows that the hero won't go the peaceful route anymore, there's sure to be some escalation of tension involved. If the villain himself thinks he's not worth redeeming, he might say "I've Come Too Far."

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This is In-Universe Examples Only, i.e when an in universe character has the opinion that someone is beyond redemption. The Out of Universe variant is Moral Event Horizon.

See also This Is Unforgivable!. Contrast Even Evil Can Be Loved. Not to be confused with It Is Beyond Saving, which is about a place that can't be rebuilt.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In My Little Pony: Nightmare Knights, Luna tries to convince an alternate version of Celestia who is permanently stuck as Daybreaker to turn good. But due to the events of Daybreaker's timeline — her and Luna being corrupted by the Pony of Shadows and killing Nightmare Moon when she tried to rebel — Daybreaker ultimately refuses redemption. The only caveat Luna can solemnly take from the experience is that Daybreaker was willing to let Luna and her allies leave the realm as a favor for helping Daybreaker regain her memories and freeing her from Eris's control. However, it's a small caveat, as Luna admits that this world's version of her sister won't be helped.
  • A variation in The Killing Joke. Batman tries to extend a last chance at redemption to The Joker. For a moment, Joker actually thinks about it, but decides that it's much too late for him, a conclusion Batman appears to accept.
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    Fan Works 
  • In season three of The Flash Sentry Chronicles, Grand Hoof comes to the realization that his son, Doom Raizer, will never own up to the mistakes that he made throughout his life, and gives up on him after seeing how far Doom Raizer was willing to go to get revenge on him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the climax of The Good Son, Susan is holding her son and veritable Creepy Child Henry as well as her nephew Mark over a cliff, after Henry tackles Mark over it. Despite trying to reform her son, this attempt at murder-suicide by Henry is enough to convince Susan that Henry won't be helped. As a result, Susan lets go of Henry, letting him fall down the cliff to his death while she pulls Mark to safety.
  • In the backstory of Halloween (1978), Dr. Samuel Loomis had tried to reach Michael Myers through psychotherapy and reform him. After more than fifteen years of attempts to reach Michael, Loomis decides that Michael simply has to be stopped, one way or another. In the eyes of the good doctor, Michael's caused way too much harm to be allowed to keep his killing spree going.
    Dr. Loomis: I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil.
  • Star Wars:

    Literature 
  • Discussed in Book 3 of The Expanse. The book poses the question of redemption throughout, and in particular the question of if a line can be drawn to define when someone is beyond redemption and if so, where to draw that line. Multiple characters have different stances on the matter, ranging from “every human life has value, no matter how tainted or corrupted” to “it is entirely possible for someone to go so far into the red that they can never balance the books.“ Melba Koh/Clarissa Mao in particular seems to constantly zig-zag where she draws that line with respect to herself and others, depending on her mental state and self-awareness.

    Live-Action TV 

    Religion 
  • Some sects of Christianity believe that there are some sins that are so severe, that God will not accept them into Heaven even if they repent their sins. Other sects of Christianity defy this, as they believe that as long as one repents their sins, no matter how severe it is, then God will forgive them and welcome them into Heaven.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, when Esmerelda tells Riku about Frollo and his prejudice against gypsies, Riku asks her if Frollo was always like this, implying that Riku wants to speak with Frollo so he can try to win him over to the light. However, after seeing Frollo attempt to burn down someone's house because he suspected they were holding gypsies, Riku declares that Frollo is beyond saving and will ultimately have to be subdued with force.
  • Octopath Traveler:
    • Wide-Eyed Idealist Alfyn saves the life of a man named Miguel by healing an infected wound. Through his travels, Alfyn learns that Miguel is a noted thief and murderer. Alfyn is warned about this by Ogen, another apothecary, saying "some lives aren't worth saving". Alfyn insists, especially once Miguel swears that he'll give up the criminal life. Later, Miguel goes back on his word. He kidnaps a young child, flees into the forest, and reveals that he'd been lying the whole time about turning over a new leaf. Enraged, Alfyn defeats Miguel in a fight (re-opening Miguel's wound in the process), rescues his hostage, and leaves him for dead.
    • Speaking of Ogen (see the quote at the top), he holds this attitude towards not only Miguel (about whom he turns out to be right), but himself as well. This is due to Ogen committing murder on the man who killed Ogen's wife while a the murderer was patient Ogen was treating, which caused him to become a cynic and intentionally not treat his own sicknesses. Late in Alfyn's story arc, Alfyn has to save Ogen from dying of the disease while giving Ogen a "World of Cardboard" Speech.
  • One of Arthas’ unit quotes in Warcraft 3 is: ‘You are past redemption!’. Ironically, this would happen to him in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in World of Warcraft, when Tyrion Fordring destroyed Arthas’ heart, after seeing that there was nothing left of him to save.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night, Heaven's Feel route: Sparing Saber Alter because Shirou can't bring himself to kill his friend results in a Bad End. Shirou has to kill Saber in order to progress the story, regardless of what this means for Saber (other than that she's okay with it).

    Western Animation 

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