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Bleed 'em and Weep

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A non-fighter — call her Alice — gets the drop on a bad guy who is threatening her or another sympathetic character. The bad guy is usually undeterred since they doubt that Alice could actually do it and will often try to talk her down or simply step in and take the gun away. But she holds fast, pulls the trigger, and shoots.

Immediately afterwards, we see the emotional weight of what's just happened land on Alice like a ton of bricks. Perhaps a horrified or sickened expression settles on her face. She may go into a full Heroic BSoD, dropping the gun and bursting into tears. Sometimes she collapses. Alternatively, she doesn't react much but she freezes in shock, neither moving nor lowering her weapon until someone more battle-hardened comes over and takes it out of her trembling hand. Sometimes that other is the bad guy themselves, who was merely wounded and is ready for Round 2.

The usual meaning of this trope is to signify that Alice has never shot anyone before (perhaps has never even held a gun before) and is emotionally unprepared for the aftermath. While either gender can react this way, it is more likely to show on female characters, who may act shaky and hysterical even before the act. Where a man could look down the barrel and coldly say "I'll Kill You!", a woman will point the gun with a hand quivering in rage/fear and scream "I'LL KILL YOU!" with tears running down her face.


There is a real phenomenon, occasionally called "Killer's Remorse", that can accompany the first kill of someone not trained against it, punctuated by tears, shakes, and occasional vomiting. This is generally considered a healthy reaction, as taking a life is supposed to be a difficult and turbulent stigma to overcome, i.e. unpleasant in every sense of the word. Soldiers actively train to prevent this from happening, while sociopaths and psychopaths do not experience it at all. Most police services require mandatory counselling for officers who have to take a life. And it's also an issue that impacts civilians forced to kill to defend themselves. Of course, once that initial unpleasant experience has passed, It Gets Easier might apply. Which, depending on the circumstances, can be worrisome. (However, It Never Gets Any Easier may also apply, if the person is not in a line of duty that involves multiple kills.) Killer's remorse is also known to impact hunters who kill game for the first time, with It Gets Easier usually expected to follow, though some people hang up their rifles and swear never to do it again.)


Compare These Hands Have Killed, when a killer looks at their hands while contemplating the gravity of what they have done. Also see My God, What Have I Done? and Cradling Your Kill.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Battle Royale: Noriko Nakagawa bursts into tears when she shoots Kazuo Kiriyama, even though he had slaughtered thirteen people previously.
  • Detective Conan: In the Captured In Her Eyes movie, Ran screams and faints when Sato gets shot in front of her, thinking it was her fault. She ends up getting amnesia.
  • In Highschool of the Dead, Saya Takagi breaks down for a moment after killing her first zombie.
  • Attack on Titan: As the Survey Corps are on the run from the Military Police after the failed attempt to rescue Eren and Historia, one woman in the Central 1st Brigade mangers to get Jean at gunpoint. Armin shoots her in the nick of time, saving Jean's life, but after he gets back to their hideout, he runs outside, vomits in the dirt, and tearfully asks Mikasa if killing for the first time was just as hard on her.
  • Happens to Light in Death Note. After the reality that he's just killed two people sets in, he Stress Vomits in an alleyway. In the manga, this breakdown is explored in greater detail; he winds up not eating or sleeping for a week. It Gets Easier, though.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul Jack, Taishi Fura collapses and weeps hysterically after killing Minami/Lantern in self-defense. In :Re, an adult Fura recalls this experience and advises Shirazu that his struggle with his first major kill is not only normal, but a sign that he's in better shape mentally than anyone that doesn't feel distressed over killing.
  • Codename: Sailor V is bookended by Minako crying after defeating an enemy: in the first case, because the youma she killed had been her crush, in the latter case because she killed the man she loved, who was also the Big Bad. To make it worse, his parting shot was saying she'd never find love because she'd put her duty to Princess Serenity first.

    Comic Books 
  • DC: The New Frontier: Shooting a North Korean is an extremely traumatic experience for fighter pilot Hal Jordan, who blames himself for not remembering how to say in Korean that the war was already over.
  • In early 1980s, Mark Gruenwald tried to do this with Captain America, of all characters. When a HYDRA agent is unwittingly killed by his own bullet ricocheting off of Cap's shield, Cap spends the next three issues tearfully wringing his hands over it, even going so far as to say that he has never taken a life even in his capacity as a soldier in World War II and that if he did, he would be no better than the Nazis. This story ended up Canon Discontinuity pretty quickly, and since then Cap has been consistently written to hold life sacred and not take killing lightly, but willing to do so if it needs to be done, and without blubbering about it.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War: After seemingly killing her abusive foster father Thanos, Gamora begins weeping and falls into a hunched over pose. It's left ambiguous whether this is from her lingering affection for Thanos, who for better or worse was the only father figure she had for almost twenty years, or simply being unprepared for what she might feel after doing it. Of course it becomes moot after Thanos reveals this was all an illusion, which he set up to let her kill him so he could gauge her reaction to offing him.
  • Seen in the John Wayne movie, Rio Lobo. Amelita (Sherry Lansing) shoots a corrupt sheriff repeatedly (and very coldly), then breaks down sobbing afterwards, making the point that enduring physical pain and overcoming the emotional trauma of killing someone are very different things.
  • Shooter. Sarah kills the mook who broke into her house...and promptly goes into shock over it, letting Payne get the drop on her. He spends a great deal of time tormenting her and is heavily implied to rape her. In the climax, she kills him with a fallen pistol, and is something of an emotional wreck for a little while.
  • The Eye of the Needle (1981) ends with Kate Nelligan shooting Donald Sutherland (a Nazi spy who became her secret lover, only to murder her crippled husband and threaten the life of her young son when his cover was blown) to prevent him rowing out to a U-Boat with info about the impending D-Day landings. "I had to do it," she sobs, when reinforcements finally arrive (in a helicopter).
  • In The Getaway (1972) , Ali McGraw stares aghast after emptying a Colt Model 1903 into the Big Bad. There are factors influencing her emotions: she had been sleeping with him, and was supposed to have killed her husband.
  • The Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Hard Target contains something of an aversion to this trope: Yancy Butler shoots one of the bad guy's henchmen and is admonished by Uncle Douvee (Wilford Brimley) for doing a man's work. He attempts to take the gun off her but she takes it back and walks grimly away.
  • In Legion there's a gender-flipped subversion. Jeep desperately wants to be able to shoot the bad guy because he wants to protect the girl. But he can't. He ends up in the rest room sobbing and puking just from coming that close to firing a gun at someone.
  • In Ride Lonesome, Karen Steele's Determined Widow character points a rifle at the protagonists and tries to shoot, but Randolph Carter takes the weapon from her and convinces her that they're on her side.
  • In the Rob Zombie version of Halloween (2007), Laurie shoots Michael in the face, then proceeds to scream like a crazy person over his body for a really long time.
  • In Blade Runner, Rachel is very shaken after shooting Leon off Deckard.
  • In Unforgiven, the Schofield Kid breaks down crying (in a somewhat delayed reaction) after killing Quick Mike while the latter was using the outhouse. While he talks tough about his reputation as a stone-cold killer, this is actually his very first kill.
  • Inverted in indie Western Shroud: the heroine is understandably panicky when she is attacked and threatened with rape by a cowboy—but after she manages to snatch his gun from its holster, she grows visibly calmer with each shot as she empties the gun into him.
  • Harry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang breaks down after shooting a goon.
  • In Man of Steel, Clark, who has spent the entire movie trying to save everyone, breaks down crying after he is forced to directly kill General Zod to keep him from murdering a terrified family. It's treated not as a rite of passage but a terribly traumatic choice that forced him to do something strongly against his nature.
  • Veronica shoots Seth/Brundlefly, by his own request, to put him out of his misery at the end of The Fly (1986). First blam, then bawl.
  • In Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White sheds tears after killing Ravenna, despite having known she would have to do so and having prepared for it to a degree. The fact that she felt sorrow rather than hatred for Ravenna may have contributed.
  • In Saw I, both Lawrence and Adam do this; Lawrence finally forces himself to shoot Adam so that his wife and daughter aren't killed by Zep, and collapses immediately afterward, sobbing and screaming. Shortly thereafter, when Zep is about to shoot Lawrence, Adam, who was only pretending to be incapacitated, bashes Zep's head in with a toilet tank lid, and when Lawrence pulls him close to calm him down after, Adam too breaks down crying.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, after shooting Galahad point-blank between the eyes, Big Bad and Bond villain fanboy Richmond Valentine nearly vomits, cringes away, and has to have someone else confirm that the target is actually dead. Not that he doesn't mind wiping out most of humanity, but he says that pulling the trigger himself is "horrible."
  • Used in Seven Swords: Yuanyin breaks down in tears, either from pain or remorse, after a life-or-death fight (implied to have been her first). Han is also visibly shaken after his first kill. Yufang, on the other hand, has a complete breakdown after killing the traitor and witnessing him murder every other adult in Martial Village, including her father. She's still hysterical hours after the fact, and attacks the rescue party when they show up.
  • Blackhawk Down: Near the end of the film, one of the Rangers sights in on a Somali woman running to pick up a rifle dropped by a fallen militiaman. As soon as she picks it up to fire at the Rangers, he shoots her on the spot, and immediately vomits at what he had to do.
  • The World Is Not Enough: After shooting dead Elektra King, Bond leans over her body and strokes her hair, clearly shaken by what he's done. Pretty significant for a trained assassin.
  • In Sleeping with the Enemy, Laura collapses in tears after shooting dead her abusive husband.
  • In Thoroughbreds, Lily breaks down sobbing after murdering her stepfather Mark. She holds an unconscious Amanda for comfort, who intentionally chugged a roofied drink so she would go to prison for the crime instead of Lily.
  • In Kill Bill: Vol. 1, this happens to the Bride twice. It first happens after killing Vernita (although technically, she acted in self-defense) since, regrettably, it happened in front of her young daughter and after departing, she gives the home one long, pensive look. The second time happens after she kills O-Ren Ishii, who actually apologized for humiliating her earlier and after dispatching her, she sits down on a nearby bench and cries.

  • Isaac Asimov's "The Mule": After killing Ebling Mis, the narration tells us that this is the first time Bayta has cried since her childhood. She's emotionally unstable afterwards, because she no longer has to stress over keeping her secret, but at the same time, she rather liked the kooky old scientist. She wants to smile and laugh in relief, but the wound of killing is also fresh in her mind, making her smiles brittle, and her laughter harsh.
  • Star Wars Legends
    • When he's new to the Rebellion and to killing people, Luke Skywalker can handle shooting people down in his X-Wing or a firefight but has a lot of trouble after the fact when he kills someone at close range without giving them a chance to fight. Choices of One has him, after doing this, passionately think that doing this tears a fresh line across his heart every time, and he suspects it always will. Rebel Force heavily implies that he cries after unleashing monsters designed to take out infantry on unsuspecting Imperials.
    • This is also in sharp contrast to the Jedi of the Old Republic, who considered themselves safest from the Dark Side by repressing all of their emotions, including remorse.
    • Happens to Kyle Katarn, of all people, in the Soldier For the Empire audio drama. After making his first kill (A rebel soldier charging towards his Stormtrooper squad), he temporarily breaks down at the thought of killing another person, and has his squad's medic check the Rebel afterwards.
  • Jerin in A Brother's Price; it's not stated if he cries, but he stands in utter shock and horror for several minutes. The novel has a Stereotype Flip of most gender roles; the much more violent woman he's escaping with winced earlier at exposing him to what she does and apologizes that he has to be there for her killing people. It's only the need to save her that got him to shoot.
    • Cira is shocked herself a few minutes later when Jerin calmly uses the woman he's just killed as a literal 'dead woman brake' to bleed off steam from the boilers.
  • This trope is referenced in a The Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization. Napoleon asks a female agent if she's ever killed anyone. She answers no and he says okay, this isn't the time to start 'The first time is very difficult'.
  • Invoked in The Truth with a side of OOC Is Serious Business. Vimes and William discuss the witness testimony that says Lord Vetinari stood over someone he stabbed and said, "I've killed him, I'm sorry." William finds it hard to believe Vetinari stabbed someone — while Vimes finds it hard to believe Vetinari was sorry, as Vetinari is usually stone cold and a trained Assassin. (Also, the man he supposedly killed was still alive, and If I Wanted You Dead... applies.)
  • A frequent occurrence in the Redwall series. Downplayed more often than not because it's a protagonist and it's always followed by someone saying that these are vermin who should be killed, but it's still often there.
  • While Laurence's little preteenage ensigns in the Temeraire series are not precisely non-fighters, as they're groomed to fight from dragonback as aviators, they're still children, and aren't ordinarily supposed to be in combat that young. But a surprise attack leads to the kids, Emily Roland and Peter Dyer, killing their first man in the midst of a Last Stand- Dyer knocks the man over with a thrown vase and Emily slits the man's throat. Afterwards, the little ensigns have to drop out of the battle for a few minutes to vomit in a corner.
  • Invoked deliberately by Lady Jessica in reaction to her son Paul's first kill in Dune. Paul proceeds to literally weep, which earns him some respect with the Fremen who hold water sacred.
  • In Brightly Burning, Lavan's Traumatic Superpower Awakening occurred when a gang of teenage bullies torture him, driving him to the brink: he incinerated most of them in a completely uncontrolled firestorm. Several months later, after psychologically recovering and confiding in his more legally-educated friends, Lavan accepts that his guilt over the situation is misplaced...although he still feels awful that it happened. Tuck says that he should, and it's part of what makes him human.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Professionals episode 'Runner' ends when a female character, played by Barbara Kellerman, shoots a bad guy (who killed her boyfriend earlier in the show) just before he kills one of the CI 5 agents. She weeps mascara tears.
  • Sharpe: in Sharpe's Gold a woman begins the episode by taking a boat from Ireland, riding on horseback across war-torn Europe up to the front lines, bullying her cousin Wellington into letting her stay at the camp, and beating everyone except Sharpe himself in a marksmanship contest. Then, when forced to shoot a man in self-defense, she bawls like a baby (and makes out with Sharpe). Furthermore, when Sharpe tries to tell her she "proved herself," she protests that women prove themselves when they have babies.
  • In one episode of Charlie's Angels, one of the Angels loses her memory. A group of men attempt to steal her bag; she fights them off, eventually finding a gun in her struggles and pulling it on them to convince them to back off. Although she doesn't shoot anyone, as soon as the danger is over she drops the gun and runs crying down the beach.
    • Another episode depicts Kris Munroe shooting a bad guy and breaking down in tears as she states it's the first time she's ever shot anyone. Possibly due to Executive Meddling, a line of dialogue is shoehorned into the episode stating that the guy actually survived. (Which is also a bit of Truth in Television as not everyone who gets shot dies.)
  • Kimberly Bauer of 24 breaks out in tears when she shoots the man who attempted to kill her. More tears ensue when her father instructs her to shoot him again.
  • A Target Women segment parodies an "intervention"-themed clothing commercial by having Sarah shoot a friend to stop her from buying the wrong outfit, freak out, accidentally shoot the other friend she brought with her and then casually step over to the rack and start browsing.
  • Tessa breaks down in Highlander after she takes out a serial killer with her car. Much later, Duncan breaks down after accidentally killing Richie.
  • Breaking Bad: You don't get to see Jesse's reaction immediately after he shoots Gale, but he hesitates for a long time holding the gun and he's softly crying the entire time. The whole event shocks him so much that the resulting Heroic BSoD lasts for half the next season.
    • ''Breaking Bad" might almost be This Trope: The Series.
      • Neither Walt nor Jesse handle the deaths of Emilio and Krazy-8 very well despite it being very much a "them or us" situation.
      • When it turns out Krazy-8 was only "mostly dead" and Walt is faced with the prospect of needing to finish the job in cold blood, he spends an entire episode trying to convince himself it's not necessary.
      • Even as late as the fifth season, Walt is visibly horrified after shooting Mike, though he gets over it.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1x17 has Fitz (a Non-Action Guy usually afraid of combat) forced to fatally shoot a HYDRA agent in the back when it looks like the agent is about to get the drop on May. Having been reluctant to even pick up a real gun (as opposed to his tranquilizer gun, which he presumably lost while being searched earlier in the scene), Fitz quickly throws it back down after shooting the enemy agent, looking absolutely horrified. Of course, with everything that was going on the poor guy had already been in tears for most of the scene, but he certainly doesn't get any happier after shooting someone.
  • The 100 shows Bellamy, Finn, and Wick each being visibly shaken after killing someone for the first time. Lincoln suggests his first kill may have been this for him as well; he doesn't describe his immediate reaction to the event, but it's clearly had a traumatic effect on him.
  • Hannibal actively specializes in manipulating his patients into this, instilling subtle thoughts of killing in their minds before setting them upon one another like a cockfight. Most of the time, he sends the more overtly unstable person after the other, and in turn the victim of the attack goes far beyond what is considered self-defense thanks to Hannibal convincing them to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in such a situation. This still doesn't stop the victim from feeling remorse, though once again Hannibal's influence usually causes them to start going down the slippery slope and believe they're nothing more than murderers.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Hope Schlottman, while under Kilgrave's mind control, shoots and kills her parents in an elevator. Then breaks down wailing.
  • Daredevil (2015): Karen Page sheds a few tears from shock after shooting James Wesley to death with his own gun.
  • Subtly done in Chuck: After his Intersect 2.0 upgrade, Chuck is a Technical Pacifist who Does Not Like Guns. As a general rule he carries tranq guns instead of live firearms. However midway through the third season, he's in a situation where he has no choice but to shoot Shaw, landing two shots in his chest. For a moment Chuck stares in disbelief at the gun in his hands, however he's not given long to dwell on it because Shaw tries to pull Sarah over the bridge he's now falling over the side of with him.
  • In the NCIS episode "Detour", Palmer pretty much has a nervous breakdown after killing the terrorist who was about two seconds away from killing Ducky. He needs to snap out of it fast when it turns out the guy was wearing a bulletproof vest and he didn't even hurt him.
  • Midnight Caller: In the first episode, Jack Kilian cries after he accidentally shoots his partner Rusty dead.
  • In one episode of The Mentalist, Jane shoots a murderer who was about to kill Lisbon. Not being a cop or having any sort of combat training, he immediately drops the gun, looking shocked.
  • Arrow. In "Unthinkable", Malcolm Merlyn (the Big Bad of the previous season) reveals himself to be Not Quite Dead to his natural daughter Thea Queen. She responds by shooting him, dropping the gun afterwards and walking away in shock, weeping. Malcolm just gets to his feet again as he's wearing a bulletproof vest, and expresses his approval that his daughter had the emotional fortitude to shoot him in the first place.

    Video Games 
  • Lara does this in Tomb Raider (2013) after killing Vladimir. However, It Gets Easier soon after, to her horror.
  • Iji: the main character apologizes for the first few kills. If she kills more, she gradually hardens her heart.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, this happens in the intro of Mission 20. As Arkham falls from Hell to the top of the Temen-ni-gru tower, he is approached by Lady. He tries to talk her out of killing him, but she goes ahead and shoots him dead. Then she stumbles back and starts laughing and crying, in one of the saddest moments of the game. She's killed entire armies of demons up to this point, but it's still a shock to kill her father.
    "I promised myself I wasn't going to cry..."
  • This is apparently what happens to Eddie in Silent Hill 2, as his first appearance sees him copiously vomiting into a toilet with a corpse in the next room (and his Suspiciously Specific Denial as to what happened doesn't exactly help prove his innocence). Unfortunately, every subsequent meeting with him thereafter shows that he's quickly learned that It Gets Easier... and fun.
  • In Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, this is the Establishing Character Moment for Evan Wright, the Writer. After a The Mafiya bouncer refuses to let him enter a building to see a contact, he beats the bouncer bloody... and then stops, realises what he's done, and frantically attempts CPR.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, this is Luke's reaction when, in self-defence, he ends up killing his first human opponent. The anime shows his horror a bit better due to the format and better graphics. And, unlike most, It Gets Easier does not apply for him and he's later noted to still have nightmares about killing human opponents late into the game. He even has unique after battle dialogue after a battle with human opponents.
  • If you use fatal strikes to finish off your opponent in The Last Blade while playing as meek Martial Pacifist Hibiki Takane, her reaction upon seeing what she's done is to drop her sword and shake her head in horror while trying to convince herself that what just happened isn't real... Do it three times, and she starts sobbing... Do it six times, and It Gets Easier kicks in with a vengeance.
  • In Life Is Strange, this is Chloe's reaction if she shoots Frank.

    Web Original 
  • When Michael is knocked unconscious during the battle at the end of We're Alive's first season, Pegs is left defenseless when Latch and Scratch come looking for them - or so you think, until she picks up Michael's SMG and kills Latch with it, leaving Scratch emotionally scarred (they were twins, after all). So far, Pegs is still being haunted by what she had to do that night to save Michael.
  • RWBY:
    • In the sixth volume, where Adam finally meets his well-deserved demise, Blake immediately sheds tears after killing someone who she once considered an ally, and is immediately comforted by Yang.
    • Volume 8 has Jaune being forced to Mercy Kill Penny after she is mortally wounded rather than heal her so that her maiden powers will go to Winter, since it would be pointless for him to heal her. Then he lets out an absolutely gut-wrenching cry of despair and immediately tries to murder Cinder, who was the one that had wounded Penny in the first place.

    Western Animation 
  • Experienced by Tim Drake in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Having been subjected to torture, brainwashing and supreme disfigurement as part of the Joker's efforts to craft a son, Tim is thrown one of the Joker's signature "Bang" Guns and told to make "Daddy" Proud by delivering the punchline (aka shooting Batman with it.). Tim points the gun at Batman laughing all the while only to shoot and kill the Joker instead. Slowly the mad laughter devolves into sobs and Tim sinks to his knees as tears fill his eyes. TearJerker doesn't even begin to cover it.
  • Steven Universe: Future: Steven kills for the first time when a rematch with Jasper goes way too far and he hurls a spike-covered shield right at her face, shattering her Gem to pieces. Though he's able to restore her with his healing powers, he nearly has a mental breakdown in the process, sobbing the whole time.

Alternative Title(s): Killers Remorse


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