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Can't Kill You, Still Need You

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"The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. [...] And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can't bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?"

When one person spares the other's life (despite really wishing to kill him on the spot) because he intends to use him later.

One response to Get It Over With. If a lesser villain is smart, they may make sure their boss always needs them, lest they outlive their usefulness. Can also prompt Stop, or I Shoot Myself! to put the boss at a disadvantage. Clever characters (almost invariably villains in this case) will typically resort to I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure to get around this. It may lead to Villainous Medical Care if someone held hostage/captive by the Big Bad ends up injured or dying. This trope is a good way to avoid Mook Depletion.

Can apply to both good and bad guys; if the latter, it's a subtrope of Pragmatic Villainy. Compare to Enemy Mine, Reforged into a Minion, I Need You Stronger, and I Want Them Alive!. Contrast You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, You Have Failed Me, and We Have Reserves. Compare/contrast Sympathy for the Devil and Sympathy for the Hero. When someone tries to invoke this it's Plea of Personal Necessity. See also Indispensable Scoundrel and Vetinari Job Security.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: The entire Eldian race is this to Marley. After Marley overthrew their former oppressors, they relegated the Eldians to second-class citizens but found they could use them in war, from transforming Eldians into mindless Titans to unleash on their enemies to entrusting an elite few with the powers of the Nine Titans and relatively privileged status. However, by the time of the Time Skip, the Titans are starting to lose their overwhelming advantage in war, and some Eldians realize that once the Titans become obsolete, Marley will have no more reason to let the Eldians live.
    • On a smaller scale, Eren becomes this to the Survey Corps following the Time Skip. It becomes increasingly clear to military leadership that Eren is unreliable at best and actively working against them at worst, but his possession of the Attack Titan still makes him Paradis’ best hope of fighting the impending invasion from Marley and the rest of the world. Eren invokes this trope after going AWOL in Marley. His plan to attack Liberio is done without authorization from his superiors, and his letters back to them essentially say that they have to come and reinforce him, lest they risk letting him die. The Scouts are forced to join in the attack, and can give Eren little more than a slap on the wrist for insubordination afterwards.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs:
    • In Chapter 31, Dazai passes up an opportunity to kill Q, his stated reason being that as long as Q is around, Dazai's nullification ability is needed as insurance, so the Port Mafia can't kill him. Dazai himself is still alive partially for a similar reason; Mori wants to recruit him back into the Port Mafia and thus has placed an order to not kill him.
    • Fyodor has a sniper shoot Dazai in Chapter 46 but states that the bullet should have missed anything vital because Dazai still has a part to play in Fyodor's plans.
  • Danganronpa 3: each character has a forbidden action, and if they perform that action they die. Kyosuke’s is opening doors—so when he and Makoto are fighting in a room with the door closed, he can’t kill Makoto despite desperately wanting to, because if he did he’d be trapped inside. Makoto, hoping to resolve the conflict with Kyosuke without one of them ending up dead, was counting on him doing this
  • Subverted hard in Death Note. After leading authorities in chase, Matt finds himself surrounded by Takada's army of bodyguards who all aim their weapons at him, but he's confident they won't fire as they need him alive for questioning. He ends up being dead wrong.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • When Vegeta and Nappa first attack Earth, they make a point not to kill Piccolo, as they need his help finding the Dragon Balls. Notably, they don't know that the Balls are tied to his and Kami's life-force, and when they learn Goku's coming they decide to just kill him and get the Namek Balls.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F': this is Vegeta's response to Freeza offering to allow him to kill a weakened Goku. He says that as much as he hates Goku, it's their rivalry that keeps really pushing him to get stronger, and he's not willing to give that motivation up.
    • Being a powerful warrior who just happens to have the same enemies as others or is willing to fight the enemies of others for profit is the main reason why Vegeta has lived for as long as he has. This is why Frieeza allowed him to serve him, and the reason the Z Fighters tolerated his mere existence.
    • Goku, despite being a fundamentally kind-hearted person, does not let all of his defeated villains go out of the goodness of his heart (except in the first Funimation dub, which changed his character to appeal to Western audiences). He lets them go because his one desire is to get stronger and fight strong opponents, and he needs them to push himself higher. He does this on numerous occasions:
      • Despite the insistence of his comrades, he refuses to kill Piccolo at the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. This case was also because killing Piccolo would kill Kami and destroy the Dragon Balls. But he doesn't just let Piccolo go, he gives him a Senzu to recover.
      • He prevents Krillin from killing Vegeta despite him being responsible for the murder of almost their entire group of friends because fighting him pushed Goku to new heights and he can't wait to have another crack at him.
      • After Future Trunks warns them that androids will appear in 3 years to kill them all, Bulma suggests finding their creator and killing him now before he can activate them. Goku refuses, stating that he wants to fight these new, challenging opponents.

  • Fabricant 100: The reason why Ashibi is still alive is that the power of Yao's blood won't fully work until he's 18, so Fabricants like No 100 would have to keep him around and harvest him later.
  • The villains of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) need the Elric brothers alive to fulfill their respective master plans. In the former, the same goes for Roy Mustang and a handful of others, since Father needs five people who have performed human transmutation for his country-wide transmutation circle, and Roy's a potential candidate for performing said transmutation. Several times however the homunculi come close to killing the necessary people before it's time, though usually only in bursts of passion such as Lust wounding Mustang with the intent of letting him bleed out and tearing Alphonse's metal body apart to get at Hawkeye, and then going for a killing strike on Mustang as he's burning her to death; or Gluttony going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Mustang for Lust's death without care for the Elrics being in his crossfire until Envy chews him out, or when they feel it doesn't matter anymore like when Envy upon being trapped in Gluttony's stomach with seemingly no way to escape decides he's gonna kill Edward for being an annoying little shit out of spite, only to backtrack when Edward figures out a way to get them out.
    • Likewise, the Elrics end up needing their former Anti-Hero/ Anti-Villain enemy Scar in the manga for his literacy skills in order to decode his deceased brother's counterplan to the villain's master plan.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, during the Chimera Ants' raid on the Royal Palace of East Gorteau to take the country over, they kill everybody in the palace. Everybody except Bizeff, the Man Behind the Man who's the real leader. He knows information crucial to running the country, and information that goes in and out of the country goes through him. Because killing him would immediately give away the Ants' takeover to the rest of the world, Bizeff is the only human allowed unrestricted access to the palace and its surrounding grounds. The Ants even provide him with everything he wants as long as he continues to serve them.
  • Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, Stealth Prequel to Dragon Ball, explains why Frieza allowed a handful of Saiyan to survive the destruction of their homeworld (and actually planned for it): the Galactic Patrol has bioweapons that could kill any lifeform on a planet, including his soldiers, but the Saiyans happen to be immune.
  • In Chapter 2 of Jujutsu Kaisen, Gojo spares Yuji, even though he was supposed to be executed after he ate one of the king of curses, Ryomen Sukuna's body parts, by asking Jujutsu Shamans at the decision-making level to delay Yuuji's execution as Yuji is the only known person capable of containing Sukuna's essence. However, it is said that Gojo and the higher-ups will eventually execute Yuuji after he finds and consumes all of Sukuna. Later in the story, it's revealed that Gojo secretly found and deliberately hid one of Sukuna's fingers himself so that he could have an excuse to convince the higher-ups to extend Yuji's stay of execution indefinitely.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: When the main characters take over CGS, they tell the adults to get lost (and kill those who try to fight back). When CGS's chief accountant says he'll leave peacefully, Biscuit says they still need him to manage their finances since most of the kids are illiterate. Unlike a lot of examples, they treat the man decently and actually consider his advice in important matters; as a result, he stays loyal to the group and is one of its few adult members.
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ambrosius refrains himself from killing Esteban and his gang because they're the only ones who can open the Cities of Gold.
  • Naruto:
    • Kimimaro stated that he fully intended to kill Tayuya once they returned to Orochimaru. The only reason he didn't do so immediately was that she could still be useful in slowing down the Leaf ninja. Not that it matters since they both end up dead at the end of their respective fights.
    • In the anime, Orochimaru states that he believes that this is the reason why he, Kabuto and Sasuke were allowed to get off with a relative slap on the wrist after the end of the original series: they are potential last resort options to be called upon for the next world-ending threat.
  • One Piece: Invoked by Tom, the shipwright who built the personal ship of Gold Roger, the former Pirate King. His trial was an Open-and-Shut Case and he was sentenced to death. Before the sentence could be carried out, Tom reveals that he can build a new form of travel that will revitalize the Wretched Hive they live in, earning a stay of execution to allow him to finish construction. Once he was done, he was looking at a full pardon at his retrial only to get another sentence of execution because he took the blame for an attack on the city he and his apprentices/adopted sons, Franky and Iceberg were framed for. To protect his young apprentices, Tom makes another deal with the judge: in exchange for accepting his original execution sentence, Franky and Iceberg would both pardoned for the damages inflicted by the attack. Out of respect for Tom's service, the judge agreed to these terms and took Tom to meet his fate on the judicial island.

  • John Pinette's routine of his visit to France, wherein he learned how close he was to the French-Italian border (and Italian food). After spending several weeks in France.
    John Pinette: I'll kill you later 'cause I need directions.

    Comic Books 
  • Batgirl: In The Attack of the Annihilator, the Big Bad blasts Supergirl out of his lab and then reassures Batgirl he does not intend to kill her because he has other plans for her.
  • In Blake and Mortimer, Xi-Li considers Han-Dié a loose end who should be executed. However, he needs a translator so he allows him to live until his work is done.
  • Family: Silver tells Kurt that he'd ordinarily kill him for going out with a member of the family, but he gives him a tip-off since he wants to take down Gio as much as he does.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • In "Dominion", the only reason Judge Death doesn't murder both of the crew members of the spaceship that bumped into him is so that he can use that person as a host, figuring that subterfuge works better for getting to the nearest seat of power. Of course, eventually the guy does outlive his usefulness.
    • In "The Torture Garden", the Dark Judges practically make a sport out of this. Having captured all the remaining survivors on Dominion, they've started "rationing" them, only killing one human each every ten days. If their captives can't figure out a reason to buy themselves more time (like keeping the rest of the prisoners in line or telling an amusing joke), they're next on the chopping block.
  • Maus: In Auschwitz, a Polish kapo gives special privileges to Vladek and keeps him from being selected for slave labor and/or certain death, as Vladek is able to speak Polish, German, and English. Seeing the approaching defeat of Nazi Germany, the kapo wants to learn English to increase his own chances of survival post-war. After a while, he does seem to develop some genuine affection for Vladek and arranges a job to keep him alive after Vladek is taken out of the quarantine block.
  • Star Wars:
    • Star Wars: Darth Vader provides the page image. Dr. Aphra is an archeologist/thief whom Vader recruits to revive Triple Zero, a murderous robot. To keep from outliving her usefulness and to further her own goals, she spends the rest of the series coming up with various ways to invoke this trope and stay useful to Vader so he can’t kill her. She eventually tries to get more permanent protection by spilling some of Vader’s secrets to the Emperor, hoping he’ll shield her from Vader’s wrath. Instead, the Emperor decides to silence her for good by handing her right back to Vader. Aphra only narrowly manages to escape.
    • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: Early in her spinoff series, Aphra is surprised when Robotic Psychopaths Triple-Zero and BT-1 don't kill her the moment she's forced to remove their Restraining Bolts. We find out why in the next arc, where they're blackmailing her to work for them in her specialty to find out about Triple-Zero's past.
  • Superman:
    • The Plague of the Antibiotic Man: Amalak—a genocidal maniac who intends to exterminate whatever is left of the Kryptonian race—passes up the chance to kill Supergirl because he is planning to hold her hostage against Superman.
    • "Brainiac Rebirth": Brainiac gets Superman depowered and captured, but although he really wants to kill him, he decides to examine him first to learn any useful secrets that Superman might still possess.
    • In The Earthwar Saga, Chameleon Boy sneaks into the ship of a band of space pirates called the "Resource Raiders", but he is caught and shot. Fortunately, he isn't killed, though, because their leader wants to search him, in case he is wearing a tracking device.
  • Über: After Anita Scheele floats the idea to Sieglinde that she might choose to defect like Siegmund, which would doom Germany's war effort because of her One-Man Army status, Scheele is arrested for treason. Albert Speer points out that the Fuhrer wanted her executed, but he argued to keep Scheele alive since her unique skill of using her halo as a sculpting tool is irreplaceable for the time being. However, to keep the secret that "Hitler" is actually Goebbels (who had his face altered by Scheele) from coming out, he orders her tongue and hands to be removed.

    Fan Works 
  • The Stars Ascendant justifies Tirek sparing his drained victims by noting that he only retains the power he steals as long as his victims are still alive.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, it's revealed this is the reason the Citadel Council kept Samantha Shepard around despite her less-than-heroic actions during the Reaper War. Taken to a larger scale with Sarah, the Force-wielding Siren, whose targeted death sprees killed hundreds of millions. Without this person, fighting the Flood would be next-to-impossible, and to be fair, some Character Development and a Heel–Face Turn make that individual more palatable/useful to the heroes' cause.
  • Neji, Sasuke, and Kiba in Four Teams only keep from killing each other because it'll take all of them to kill their sensei, Kakashi.
  • In The Bridge (MLP), Bagan pretends to be a Benevolent Boss and treats his servants well, but secretly wants to kill them all. He holds off on doing this because they can't serve him if they are dead, and if he kills them before they succeed in their tasks to restore him to full strength, he'll eventually become helpless when his stored power runs out.
  • The Ultimate Evil has a heroic version when Nataline wants to kill Valmont whose body is possessed by Shendu. Uncle discourages her from this course of action by telling her that should Valmont die, Shendu would be freed from his siblings' spell that is keeping him trapped in the crime lord's body and able to possess anyone else.
  • In the final chapters of The Very Secret Diary, invoking this trope is how Ginny keeps herself alive, despite her frequent insults and acts of defiance against Tom. When he threatens to kill her for her disobedience, she points out that if he gets rid of her, his plan is at a dead-end, and he has to start over again from square one.
  • Invoked and defied in Cycles Upon Cycles by Daro'Xan, the leader of a Quarian Renegade Splinter Faction. When captured by Shepard's Strikers, she tries to bargain for her life with all the information she has at her disposal. However, Shepard just reads her mind to gather anything relevant, and then lets Kasumi execute her.
  • In What Tomorrow Brings, Esplin so wants to kill Feriss along with his current host in revenge for the latter betraying him in the original timeline, but he decides to keep him around and command him to kill the Animorphs' families because he can rely on him to be cruel. Later, Jake talks Rachel out of killing some human-Controllers when he points out that they don't know what Feriss' host looks like; if he dies, the original timeline's version of him will be sent over.
  • In With This Ring, Paul debates if taking the opportunity to kill a weakened Nabu is worth it in "Hullevow". He ultimately decides against it.
    For a moment, I contemplate taking advantage of his momentary weakness. Drug Kaldur with something that would let me blame his loss of consciousness on the Terror Thing, chain Nabu up again, and hit his helmet with Mageslayers until he's gone. Might work, but… No. Do the job I'm here to do. He might be useful.
  • In Out of the Corner of the Eye, there are several occasions during the Massachusetts Arc when the Mythos cultists and entities have a chance to kill the J-Team members but know that they can't because they're needed alive for the Outer Gods' plans to go forward. During a fight in Innsmouth, Jackie and Viper take advantage of this, until Francis White realizes that alive doesn't mean unharmed, and shocks them within an inch of their life until they can be restrained.
  • In For Love of Magic, Harry and his group keep from killing Adrastia Zabini because she's more useful alive than dead and, more importantly, She Knows Too Much but Harry suspects she has contingencies in place to reveal his secrets if she dies.
  • This Bites!: The ever-growing pirate population is literally the only reason why Sengoku hasn't dishonorably discharged Akainu, tossed him into Level Six of Impel Down, and thrown away the key. That being said, he was dangerously close to doing so anyway after the PR fiasco that was Enies Lobby, but ultimately just reassigned Akainu to the New World and ordered him to wage war against the Four Emperors (away from the public eye) instead.
  • Invoked on a national scale in the Triptych Continuum's central story: in the years since the Elements have been rediscovered, there has been more happening than in the decades prior — especially when it comes to attacks on Equestria. Doctor Gentle won't let anypony in the conspiracy kill the Bearers because he feels it's possible there's more coming — and even though leaving them alive means he has to flee his own country, he refuses to leave that nation defenseless against future assaults. (He's also practical enough to realize how the palace would react upon discovering the deaths: a standard search might eventually give up, but one meant to find the murderer of the Bearers would only end with his capture or demise.)
  • This happens to Joseph Fenette and Prince Clovis in the Code Geass fanfic Rise of a New Moon. The former is a part of Code-R, but is spared because Luna doesn't want to Shirley to be hurt (not to mention has reached the limits of self-study on her Code and Dr. Fenette is capable and in the know enough to help her). The latter is spared so she can use him as a puppet as part of her plan to take over Japan without a fight. He ends up dead anyway and Luna has to improvise.
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Trixie is treated well in captivity, because Envy needs her alive and well.
  • In The Vampire of Steel, Vladislav's gang manage to take Buffy and Kara out, but Vladislav decides against killing them because he needs two sacrifices for summoning M'Nagaleh.
  • In Avatar of Victory, this is why Shepard is still the Avatar rather than reincarnating after being killed by the Collectors: the Avatar spirit realizes it does not have the time to reincarnate before the Reapers arrive, so it has to use Shepard.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters:
    • The Cavalcade of Horrors prevent Tarakudo from killing Nimue because their Master's plan requires her to still be alive for now. And he's given a warning that the same applies to Jade.
    • Cedric's intel is the main reason that the Rebellion keeps him alive after he's captured, despite the fact that most of them want him dead.
    • Following the Battle of the Meridian Plains, the Rebellion forces the nobility leaders not already on their side to surrender but allows them to return home, on the grounds that Elyon will need them to maintain order when she's enthroned. The fact that Jade successfully bluffs that her Blood Magic can remotely kill them if they get out of line certainly helps.
  • In the Naruto fanfiction My Wish Order Brother, Yukika really wants to kill her drunk and abusive husband (thankfully, she put a genjutsu on him that makes him think he's hurting her when he actually isn't), but she can't because he has valuable connections.
  • Epiphany: When Sephiroth comes for Aerith's things in the Turks' office, Reno hops to assist since he doesn't have a death wish, which he tells Sephiroth quite plainly. Sephiroth just says he wouldn't destroy something that might prove useful later.
  • Darth Vader: Hero of Naboo: When Vader and Sidious have a mental battle, it ends with Sidious holding his lightsaber to Padme's neck. Vader calls his bluff because he knows Padme is too valuable a pawn to sacrifice at the moment, so Sidious backs off.
  • Scarlet Lady has a Downplayed version (in that she doesn't want him stopped) with Hawk Moth. The titular character (a.k.a. Chloé) is so used to the fame she gets, she honestly doesn't want to apprehend and unmask Hawk Moth since she KNOWS she'll be forced to retire once he's beaten. In fact, she has ONLY acted on the single lead Chat Noir had since the possibility that it's Gabriel Agreste under the mask would allow her to comfort a shocked Adrien that his father was a terrorist. Other than suiting her own interests, Scarlet Lady doesn't care about stopping Hawk Moth at all.
  • Megami no Hanabira: Despite aching to, Phillips can't kill Mai once his goons capture her: her friends are still out somewhere in the city, and as long as they are the Flock's plans are in jeopardy. Instead, he ties her to a chair and leaves her without food and water, hoping to break her spirit so that she tells him where the others are.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path The Flame Emperor aka Edelgard pulls a reverse version of this on Solon when he not so subtly threatens her, pointing out he can't kill her because he still needs her.
  • Shadows over Meridian: With Vera subdued in Chapter 28, Jade is content to let Metalbeak decide her fate until Ymir points out that as the daughter of the governor of one of the most influential northern cities, she has irreplaceable hostage value in securing the north under Phobos' control. The Mogriffs don't give a damn and want to extinguish the Nest Butcher's line once and for all, but Jade, tired from the long day, decrees that after having some rest, she will come up with Ymir and Metalbeak a compromise that will satisfy them all regarding Vera. They ultimately decide to keep her alive but locked away where she'll never be a threat to anyone ever again.
  • In the Turning Red fic The Great Red Panda Rescue, the scientists treat Mei's injuries as they still need her alive to further their experiments.
  • Hero Academia Dx D: After botching the murder of Shujin's principal (he was supposed to Make It Look Like an Accident), Slidin' Go is sent into hiding by the leader and lieutenants of the MLA, as he's a Pro Hero in the Meta Liberation Army, and thus types like him are extremely hard to come by.
  • Metal Gear: Green: A non-fatal variant, but the reason Nezu doesn't fire Aizawa despite his Sadist Teacher and Trigger-Happy antics is because his quirk is too powerful to fall into HPSC hands while he wished to see the old Aizawa and not the current Aizawa. While Ocelot agrees on the first part, he tells Nezu he's a damn fool on the second part.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's The Great Mouse Detective, after Hiram Flaversham refuses Ratigan's command to complete a clockwork robot to impersonate the Queen, and adds insult by calling him a rat, Ratigan barely restrains himself from feeding Hiram to Felicia. When Hiram expresses that he isn't afraid to die, Ratigan instead threatens the life of his daughter, Olivia.
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Bowler Hat Guy orders the Tyrannosaurus rex he brought from the past not to kill Lewis, as he needs him alive to find out how Lewis's invention he stole works so he can propose it to a board of directors and get it mass-produced. He gives the dino permission to eat his friend Wilbur, though.
  • The plot of Over the Hedge kicks off when RJ attempts to steal Vincent's food stash and accidentally destroys it in the process. RJ then invokes this in a desperate attempt to save his skin, insisting he can replace everything in Vincent's stash and that "if you kill me, you'd have to do it!" Vincent concedes the point and gives RJ until the full moon to make good on his word, but tells him in no uncertain terms that if he fails or tries to escape, he will die.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Abandon Ship there are too many survivors for the one lifeboat. Most of the people are left clinging to the outside of the boat but the captain allows one passenger to pull his huge dog in. The dog's owner is incredibly grateful but another survivor demands to know why the dog gets in while he doesn't. The captain's answer was "If we're not picked up immediately we could be out here for a long time. If that happens, we can't eat you." Cue the horrified look on the dog owner's face.
  • In Captain Marvel (2019), after Vers frees herself aboard the Skrull ship, Talos prevents his men from just shooting her, as they need the information buried in her subconscious.
  • In the end of the film Casino , the head mob bosses decided to kill off most of the people whom were connected to them in illegally running Las Vegas so the Feds couldn't prosecute them. One of the only people they let live was protagonist Sam "Ace" Rothstein, because he was a master gambler who made money for them before getting picked to run a Casino, and they believed he could still make lots of money for them after said Casino failed which cause the fallout with law enforcement.
  • After the hospital scene in Collateral, Max (who is being used against his will) takes the assassin Vincent's briefcase with the target names and throws it off of a bridge in hopes of stopping him from killing anyone else. His gambit fails - instead of killing Max for messing up his plan or just quitting, Vincent thinks of another way to use him to get a backup copy of the target names.
  • In Crimson Tide, a US submarine gets word that some Renegade Russians are preparing to launch some nukes they've managed to get a hold of and are ordered to launch their own nukes first. Then a second message is Lost in Transmission regarding the launch, and the crew soon tears itself in two between those who want to launch nukes now and those who want to confirm the intent of the second message. Eventually, the Captain is put in a position where he is threatening another officer with a gun to try to and get the firing trigger. The officer, who is the only one who can access that trigger, refuses to open the safe it is in. The captain counts down... and then doesn't go through with the shooting because if he kills the officer, no one on the ship will be able to use the nukes. The Captain gets around it by threatening to shoot the officer's subordinate and friend instead.
  • The Dark Crystal: The reason the Skeksis never sent the Garthims against the Mystics? Their mutual lives are linked — if a Mystic dies, so does a Skeksis.
  • In Deadpool, this is the only reason the Merc with a Mouth doesn't just kill Francis the first time they meet in the story. Once Francis reveals that he can't fix Wade's face, his minutes are numbered.
  • Deep Cover: After Russell and David murder Barbossa, his boss Anton Gallegos demands a sitdown. He makes it abundantly clear that he considered Barbossa a valuable partner and the only reason he doesn't just kill them for their betrayal is because of Barbossa's open debt to Gallegos, which they now inherited. Russell and David realize that Gallegos has no intention of working with them even if they pay the debt, so they orchestrate his murder as well to force Gallegos' uncle to make a new deal in person.
  • Invoked by Vijay in Deewaar, when Samant suggests getting a Ballistic Discount. Vijay retorts that it would be killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, which sways Samant's mind. Vijay then proceeds to rip Samant off.
  • Ma-Ma in Dredd doesn't kill one of her lieutenants for getting her drug operation exposed, but only out of practical concerns, because Dredd has already killed too many of her soldiers by that point and she's short on manpower.
  • The Edge: Bob teasingly says he only saved Charles (who suspects Bob of having an affair with his wife) from the river due to needing him to navigate. He isn't joking.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
    • When Indy and Henry are captured by the Nazis, Elsa advises against killing them, as they may need them later. Shortly after, word comes that they have captured Marcus along with the map to the Grail. Orders come direct from das Furher to put the Joneses down. They escape shortly after.
    • Later, Donovan has the entire group at gunpoint in the Grail temple, but Indy is the only one who can figure out how to pass the trials and take the Grail. Donovan finds another way to motivate Indy.
    Walter Donovan: [pointing a gun at Indy] The Grail is mine. And you're going to get it for me.
    Indiana Jones: Shooting me won't get you anywhere.
    Walter Donovan: You know something, Dr. Jones? You're absolutely right. [Shoots Henry Jones in the stomach]
  • James Bond examples:
    • From Russia with Love. During the fight in the Gypsy camp, a knife-wielding Bulgar rushes Bond from behind, only to get sniped by Red Grant, as it doesn't suit SPECTRE's plan to have Bond dead at that point.
    • Goldfinger: Auric Goldfinger is fully intent on killing Bond by having him sawn in half with an industrial laser in the iconic "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" scene, but Bond manages to talk him out of it by convincing Goldfinger that Bond remaining alive and seemingly in control of the situation will ensure that MI6 won't interfere with his Evil Plan.
    Goldfinger: You are quite right, Mr. Bond. You are worth more to me alive.
    • In Thunderball, the SPECTRE operative Angelo Palazzi, assigned to kill and replace Major Francois Derval, demands an increase to his payment, smugly pointing out he's the only one able to do the job. His superior Count Lippe is sorely tempted to kill him until he's talked out of it by Fiona Volpe. But when word of his behavior gets out to Blofeld, he orders Largo to eliminate both Angelo and Lippe.
    • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Blofeld keeps Bond alive after the obligatory Just Between You and Me speech, because he wants Bond to convince the governments of the world of the threat Blofeld's Virus Omega represents.
    • In Diamonds Are Forever, Shady Tree rescues James Bond from Albert Wint and Charles Kidd's incineration attempt on him because he had passed phony diamonds on to Shady, and Shady wants the real stuff. Albert R. Saxby tries to rescue Shady Tree in the same manner, but as James soon finds out, Saxby had talked the two assassins down too late and Shady had already been shot in the head by Mr. Wint.
    • Casino Royale (2006):
      • Le Chiffre loses money from some African freedom fighters after Bond foils his attack at Miami airport. Their leader Obanno attacks Le Chiffre at Montenegro where he's attempting to win back the money. He tells Le Chiffre "I would take your hand, but you need it to play poker.", and threatens Le Chiffre's girlfriend. Obanno is subsequently killed by Bond when he realized he was snooping on them.
      • Also, when M assigns Bond to play in Le Chiffre's game, he initially thinks M wants Le Chiffre eliminated, but M tells him that MI6 needs him alive to take down the terrorists he'd funded, something Le Chiffre also notes to Bond. Le Chiffre gets killed by Mr. White for failing to get the money from Bond.
    • An Invoked Trope in No Time to Die when Safin calls Dr. Obruchev on the phone and tells him to cooperate with the SPECTRE commando team that's about to break into the secret MI6 laboratory, to further their own plan. In fact, Obruchev is the only person in the entire lab whose life is spared.
      Safin: They will not kill you. They think they need you.
      Obruchev: (Sarcasm Mode) They will not kill me...
  • Played with in John Carpenter's Vampires, where Father Guiteau puts himself in this scenario to save Jack. He shoots Cardinal and, when Valek demands Guiteau do the ritual insteadnote , he puts the gun to his own head with one hell of a Badass Boast:
    Guiteau: Try and make me!
    Jack: Attaboy, Padre! Fuck with him!
  • John Wick: Chapter 4: The Tracker does want to kill John Wick, but is also in a massive amount of debt, so he takes measures to ensure John stays alive long enough for the Marquis de Gramont to raise the bounty on him to a point that would solve his money troubles.
  • In Lockout, Alex kills one prison engineer, the second one has a problem getting the door open, so Alex has a third engineer brought up, shoots the second, hands the third the door control the second was trying to activate and tells him he has two minutes to get the door open. Realizing this isn't enough time, the engineer tells him, "You can shoot me, but I can guarantee I can get the door open in five minutes." Alex is pleased, admitting how he liked that this third engineer knows how to negotiate, and lets the engineer live after he does what he said he would.
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series:
    • Mission: Impossible II: In the climax of the movie, Nyah injects herself with the last sample of the Chimera virus. If Ambrose kills her then, before the virus replicates enough to be harvested or reaches its contagious phase, he will lose the obscene amounts of money he planned to make selling the antidote for the virus.
    • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: After his identity reveal, John Lark has Hunt at gunpoint at the elevator but admits he cannot kill him because the organization still needs Hunt to turn himself in as John Lark.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Shao Kahn seems to think nothing of executing his minions if they mess up. He knocks Rain into a pit of lava for failing to sufficiently torture a pair of Earth Warriors (specifically, by making them beg for their lives before killing them) and he later feeds Jade to a monster carving in a wall after she fails to kill them when following Kahn's plan. However, when Sindel tries to stand up for Jade, she's threatened with the same punishment, but Kahn spares her, as she's too crucial to his plans and one of the most powerful generals.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • The Mummy (1999): When Beni gets lost in the pyramid, the recently resurrected Imhotep is about to kill him as the cowardly Beni prays to various gods in an attempt to ward him off. When Beni starts to chant in Hebrew, Imhotep recognizes the language and instead forces Beni into his service, since having someone around who can actually understand him would be useful to someone who's planning to conquer the world.
    • The Mummy Returns: After Alex puts on the armband of the Scorpion King, he unwittingly becomes a Living MacGuffin and is thus kidnapped by the bad guys as Imhotep needs it to fight the Scorpion King but can only remove it from Alex's arm without destroying it at Anubis' Oasis. When Alex first tries to escape, a bunch of cultists stupidly open fire on him, so Imhotep teaches them a lesson by flinging them to their deaths.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
    • When Elizabeth suspects Barbossa of trying to poison her with an apple, Barbossa tells her not to worry, as her blood will be needed later for breaking the curse.
    • Jack and Will steal a ship, then fight when Jack tells Will his father was a pirate. Jack gets Will down with a sword to his neck, then reverses the sword, admitting he needs Will to sail the ship.
    Jack Sparrow: "And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can't bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?"
    • Later in the film, Elizabeth burns all the food, the shade, and the rum to signal a passing Royal Navy ship. Jack, who normally is reluctant to kill (which makes him a somewhat ineffective pirate in most areas), is so angered by this that he pulls out his pistol in a rage to shoot her in a moment of Black Comedy, but he stops himself when he realizes that in order to reclaim the Black Pearl and rescue Will, he will have to smooth-talk his way onto another ship. Which, thanks to Elizabeth, will be a Royal Navy ship. Shooting Elizabeth would remove the only thing keeping them (or Will) from executing him on sight, as well as waste the one shot he's been saving for Barbossa.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: Jack tricks Beckett into thinking this by telling him he can convince the other pirates to meet Beckett's armada head-on rather than holing up in Shipwreck Cove.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Purposely invoked by Gibbs. When Captain Barbossa — now a privateer serving the Crown — makes it clear to him that he'll hang unless he can produce something of value for Barbossa's expedition, the crafty Gibbs produces the map that leads to the Fountain of Youth... and promptly burns it.
    Barbossa: You Fool!
    Gibbs: I had just enough time to study those infernal circles. Every route, every destination; all safe... [taps his head] here.
    Barbossa: [venomously] Welcome back to His Majesty's Navy, Master Gibbs.
  • In the final act of The Ritual, Luke is fleeing for his life from Moder, the Eldritch Abomination whose cult just went up in flames. With her cult defunct and in need of followers, Moder goes out of her way to avoid killing Luke, instead repeatedly forcing him to his knees in supplication.
  • Schindler's List:
    • Thanks to his business savviness and managerial skills, Stern ends up being indispensable to Goeth for administering the work camp. This is even discussed in one scene when Stern bitterly remarks that he must organize the entire dismantling operation of the work camp and then put himself on the last train to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
    • Defied in another scene. When the concentration camp is being built, a Jewish prisoner who has a degree in structural engineering is working on the project. She objects to the designs because they're not sound but the head of the camp, Goeth, orders her to be executed for speaking out of turn. The other officers try to talk him out of it since she's the only person in the entire camp that actually has the knowledge to oversee the project. The man who shoots her groans while he does it.
  • 7. After a lengthy foot pursuit by Mills and Somerset, the Serial Killer turns the tables and is holding Detective Mills at gunpoint ready to shoot, only to flee instead. It's only at the end of the movie we discover why.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock is inches away from killing Harrison when Uhura stops him because they need Harrison's blood to save Kirk's life.
  • In the first/fourth ''Star Wars'', when all their efforts to get the rebel base of out Princess Leia prove useless, Darth Vader and Governor Tarkin order her termination. But then the Millennium Falcon arrives, with information Leia stole from them in tow, and they re-consider.
    Officer: We've captured a freighter entering the remains of the Alderaan system. Its markings match those of a ship that blasted its way out of Mos Eisley.
    Vader: They must be trying to return the stolen plans to the princess. She may yet be of some use to us...
  • In Street Fighter, Dr. Dhalsim makes the mistake of pressing M. Bison's Berserk Button by calling him psychotic. Bison considers killing him for a moment but backs off. Dhalsim is the one designing his army of Super Soldiers that he needs to Take Over the World, after all.
  • Tenet: The protagonists are repeatedly forced to save the Big Bad's life (or rather, stave off his inevitable death). They initially think it's because they need information he has. It is actually because he's wearing a Dead Man's Switch that is linked to his Doomsday Device, meaning they cannot kill him until it has been defused. Once it is, his luck runs out and he is shot dead without a second thought.
  • In Tower of London (1962), Richard III keeps Sir Justin alive, despite Sir Justin opposing him, because he needs Justin to act as an emissary between him and Lord Stanley. to ensure Justin's cooperation, he holds Justin's girlfriend Lady Margaret hostage in the dungeons.
  • True Lies: After it appears that the hero Harry has been killed, terrorist leader Aziz stops his paid ally Juno from shooting Harry's wife Helen too on the grounds that they may need a hostage.
  • Wild West Days: The bad guys, who are determined to seize Larry Monroe's ranch, hand him over to the local Injun Country tribe. They are happy to let Red Hatchet and the other Indians kill Larry for them until they discover that there's platinum somewhere on Larry's land. They realize that they have to capture Larry for themselves to find out where the platinum deposits are.

  • In All Our Yesterdays, the doctor keeps Em and Finn alive because they know the whereabouts of top-secret documents. It's later revealed that they burned them ages ago and he uses it as an excuse to keep them alive, wanting them to truly believe he's made a better world.
  • In The Ask and the Answer, the protagonists finally have the Big Bad at their mercy. Then, the native species of the planet launch a war against all humans, and they realize that they need him to command his army in order to survive.
  • The Beginning After the End:
    • In the wake of the attack on Xyrus Academy, Arthur and Sylvie are brought before the Council to face trial. The Eraliths are sympathetic to him, the Greysunders are willing Les Collaborateurs to Agrona and the Vritra Clan (who orchestrated the attack), and the Glayders have been cowed into supporting the latter out of fear for their children. When the asuras Windsom and Aldir arrive to foil Agrona's plot, they kill the Greysunders but choose to spare the Glayders. This is because unlike the Greysunders who had a weak hold over their kingdom, the Glayders are respected if not revered by their subjects. And since they were very reluctant about the whole deal in the first place, it was more pragmatic to spare them as having their brief collusion exposed would be disastrous in the face of Agrona's invasion of Dicathen.
    • From Volume 8 onward, Arthur becomes an aether-powered demigod and one of the strongest mages in the setting, one hell-bent on ending the tyranny of the Jerkass Gods responsible for laying waste to the world in the midst of their Divine Conflict. Although both sides of said conflict could still easily dispose of him, neither side does so as his mastery over aether makes him a person of interest. Kezess, who committed genocide upon Arthur's ancestors for not sharing their knowledge of aether with him, wants to extract Arthur's insight. Agrona, as a God Emperor Scientist, not only wants to dissect Arthur to see how he works but he needs him to strengthen the power of the Legacy, who is Arthur's opposite in that she has mastery over mana. In pitting the Legacy against Arthur, not only does Agrona want her to get stronger from these confrontations, but he hopes that the clash between mana and aether would reveal the true nature of power in the world.
      Seris: Kezess wants to drain the knowledge from your mind, while Agrona wants to dissect you and see how you work.
    • Lyra Dreide was the regent Agrona assigned to oversee Dicathen following his conquest. Naturally, being the one in charge of the invaders occupying their land made her a reviled figure among the Dicathians, but what truly cemented their hatred of her was that she paraded around the impaled bodies of Dicathen's kings and queens to mark Agrona's triumph. After Arthur reconquers Dicathen, Lyra surrenders to him on behalf of the remaining Alacryans. Instead of executing her, Arthur merely takes her as his prisoner as he needs to gain insight into Alacryan spellcasting and because some of her post-war suggestions over the Alacryans in Dicathen have merit. Afterwards, he gives her the role of overseeing the surrendered Alacryans as a temporary authority figure for them to look up to until he brings Seris over.
  • Downplayed in The Belgariad: Relg was on the verge of becoming a Sinister Minister to a genuinely good Physical God named UL. UL had no plans or even desire to kill Relg, but he did find Relg's actions annoying and disappointing and told Relg as much. Then he commanded Relg to travel with The Hero and his True Companions. Relg was terrified of this journey but told UL he'd go, even if it killed him. UL responded that he had plans for Relg after the journey, so it wouldn't kill him.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: Borant Corporation is absolutely fine with individual crawler deaths, or even groups, but it will step in to prevent things that would prematurely wipe them all out, e.g. blocking the inadvertent summoning of a highly destructive deity, since that would mean losing a lot of advertising and sponsorship revenue.
  • Happens more than once in Duumvirate. The biggest example is when William wants revenge on his creator for enslaving him to his own brother, but this trope kicks in instead.
  • Discussed in Fifth Quarter when unwillingly renegade Imperial Assassin Vree and her blackmailer Gyhard had a dispute on whether to eliminate the Bard they just pumped for information on the old man who kidnapped the prince Gyhard had been plotting to body-jack note . Vree pointed out that A) Bard Karlene could track their targetnote , B) Vree could not trust her own training/experience in killing the living to deal with the old man's already dead muscle, C) a reliable counter to the old man's formidable Bardic powers would likely be critical given the meat-shields, & D) if anything Karlene wants to get to Prince Otavas more badly than Gyhard (admittedly to save him or put him to rest rather than steal his body, but that can be dealt with once the Necromancer is out of the picture).
  • In John Birmingham's Final Impact, the "uptimer" Australian submarine Havoc wipes out the remains of the Japanese fleet, except the carrier of the the "Ohka" kamikaze jets. Just before the battleship Yamato is destroyed, Admiral Yamamoto receives a secret message from the "uptimers" with the location of the Soviet nuclear development facility in Kamchatka. Yamamoto sends the order to the Ohkas just before the Yamato is hit by a torpedo. The carrier launches its suicide fighters, who wipe out the Soviet facility. The Havoc then finishes the job by torpedoing the carrier in order to remove any witnesses.
  • Pathruushkè of The First Dwarf King would like nothing more than to kill his Dragon with an Agenda, Trang Barok, but doesn't, due to the latter's usefulness as a subordinate.
  • Forever and a Death: Curtis spends a while keeping George alive to try and recruit him as an active accomplice in his plan, or at least get further technical expertise out of him.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this is part of why Harry convinces Sirius Black and Remus Lupin not to kill Peter Pettigrew, who'd betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort. Bringing Peter back alive would prove Sirius's innocence, as Peter had faked his death (in an explosion that also killed a dozen Muggles) to frame Sirius for the betrayal, not to mention that turning him over to the authorities would send him to a Fate Worse than Death anyway. This backfires when Peter escapes at the climax and, in the next book, helps resurrect Voldemort.
  • The Lord of the Rings: A rare mutual dynamic between Gollum and Sam. Gollum hates Sam, but killing him means that Frodo would never return his precious ring, while Sam doesn't trust Gollum at all, but concedes that they need him to guide them through Mordor.
  • In Max Barry's Machine Man, the Corrupt Corporate Executive Cassandra Cautery has this in mind for Dr. Charles Neumann. She plans to keep him alive so Better Future can calibrate its weaponized parts for Super Soldiers.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Kel Command would much rather terminate Jedao, but his track record (he's never lost a battle) makes him too useful to discard.
  • Mass Effect: Revelation: At the story's end, a batarian who Saren has at gunpoint tries invoking this, claiming without him it'll be years before Saren can figure out the secrets of Sovereign. Saren calmly responds that he'll wait, and ventilates the man's head.
  • Redwall: Cluny determines that his doctor, Sela, is trying to gather intelligence on his plans and sell it to Redwall Abbey. However, since he requires her medical expertise to treat injuries he suffered in a nasty fall, he can't get rid of her. Instead, he tricks her into passing along false information while pretending to be unaware of what she's doing. Once he's healed to the point that he can complete his recovery without her help, he has her killed.
  • Early on in The Rising of the Shield Hero, our protagonist Naofumi Iwatani gets slapped with a False Rape Accusation by Princess Malty, the first of many, many on-screen betrayals she commits. Her father King Aultcray, having more than enough reasons to hate the Shield Hero for what happened to his sister thanks to demi-humans who worship the Shield Hero, admits he would have ordered Naofumi's execution right then and there if it wasn't for his status as a Cardinal Hero and thus one of the only people who could fight the Waves of Catastrophe.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, this is the reason why the Senate doesn't execute Daylen: he's too powerful and useful to not make use of him.
  • This is Mara Jade's opinion of Luke Skywalker in The Thrawn Trilogy. She wants revenge for the death of her old master, the Emperor, but always finds herself relying on him for survival or some other more immediate problem. As she comes to realize, it's actually not her desire for revenge; it's the last command of the Emperor, given to her as he died — not that this makes it any easier to ignore; if anything, her resistance to the command actually makes the compulsion stronger. She eventually frees herself from the compulsion by killing Luke's Evil Clone instead.
  • Captain Crow is on both ends of this trope in Tress of the Emerald Sea. The aether parasite in her blood will keep her alive as long as possible so that it can keep leaching water from her body to send back to the prime aether, and she cannot kill Tress because she needs to sell her to the dragon Xisis in exchange for curing her of the aether parasite.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, the Big Bad, Tigerstar, decides to spare Featherpaw and Stormpaw because he thinks they may still be useful to him. (Presumably as hostages, since they're the children of his enemy's best friend.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • All the Light We Cannot See:
    • Von Rumpel doesn't shoot Marie-Laure at the end of episode 1 because he thinks he can get the location of the Sea of Flames out of her.
    • Werner's superior says he could execute Werner for hiding Marie-Laure's broadcasts, but won't because there's no other radio operator in the town that could point them in her location.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Batwoman (2019): When Alice needs Parker to hack something for her, Parker tries to invoke this. Of course, Alice doesn't need her that much.
      Parker: You kill me, you lose.
      Alice: As. Do you. Because. You're. Dead. I'm sorry, do they not teach math...?
    • The Flash (2014):
      • In "The Man in the Yellow Suit", Reverse-Flash's first encounter with the Central City police has him attempt to slaughter the team sent after him. However, he pauses mid-attack when he sees that Eddie Thawne is amongst the team, giving the Flash enough time to stop him. It's later revealed that the reason Reverse-Flash froze up is that Eddie is his direct ancestor, so he can't do anything to Eddie without wiping himself from existence by triggering a Grandfather Paradox.
      • In Season 2, despite the fact he could have easily killed Barry when they first faced each other, Zoom limits himself to just crippling him and leaving him severely injured, taking several days to be able to walk again. As it turned out he needed Barry alive to steal his speed and heal himself of his terminal illness.
      • Again in Season 3, where Big Bad Savitar is far faster than the Flash and clearly had Barry at his mercy in their first fight, but ultimately lets him live. As it turns out Savitar is Barry's evil Time Remnant from a Bad Future, who needs Barry to live and play out the Stable Time Loop that ultimately creates Savitar himself.
      • The Season 4 finale has this with DeVoe, who had been stealing the bodies of several metahumans to sustain himself, ultimately settling on the body of Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man. When Barry enters DeVoe's mind, he discovers that Ralph's consciousness is still alive inside it, and deduces he hasn't killed him because doing so would kill the body he's inhabiting.
    • Legends of Tomorrow:
      • When Leonard Snart travels back in time to his childhood, he expresses a desire to kill his father then and there for the years of abuse he will suffer at his hand but lets him go because Leonard's younger sister and Morality Pet Lisa hadn't been born yet.
      • Kuasa would really like to kill Amaya... but killing her grandmother is tantamount to erasing herself from existence.
  • On Blindspot, Boston is held captive by Ivy to hack the FBI.
    Boston: I can do without the facade of the gun. Honestly, I've been through this "kidnapped to do hack thing before," the gun has always felt gauche. I mean, you're not going to kill me before I get you what you want.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • The main plot of Season 4. Gus can't kill Walt and Jesse because he has no one else to cook meth after they killed Gale, who Gus had been grooming to be Walt's successor. However, since they've already shown themselves willing to defy him, he tries to play them off against each other instead. Walt also realizes his position is incredibly precarious; Gus has cameras and guards in the lab watching his every move, so it's only a matter of time until he can replicate Walt's formula from extended observations.
    • In Season 5, Walt has a sit-down with Lydia, his supplier of methylamine, to ask her for the list of people from Gus Fring's old operation who might turn state's witness and implicate both of them unless they're disposed of. Lydia worries that Walt will kill her too the moment she hands over the list and tells him that she can help him expand his meth business to Europe through her company. Walt mocks her paranoia, pointing out that they're in a public space in broad daylight. Later, it turns out that he really was planning on killing her by slipping a poison into her drink, but she convinced him out of it.
    • In the last episode, Jack, who's badly wounded by the machine gun turret that mowed down all of his men, tries to convince Walt not to kill him, because otherwise he'll never find out where they hid all of his money barrels. At this point, Walt doesn't give a single crap about the money, and blows Jack's brains out mid-sentence.
  • Spike pulls one of these in one of the earlier Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons when he needs Angel to heal Drusilla.
  • Happens several times on Burke's Law as a suspect will defend themselves on the fact that they stood to lose more money with the victim dead than if they were alive.
    • One case has Burke realizing the killer of a car CEO was the one suspect who didn't own stock in the company and thus wouldn't lose anything if the guy was killed in his own car.
  • Charmed (1998): In "A Knight to Remember", the Evil Enchantress imprisons Lady Julia and uses a spell to make Julia's fiancé, the Prince, fall in love with her instead. However, if Julia is killed, the spell will break, something Julia taunts her about when she tries to intimidate Julia.
  • Doctor Who: At the beginning of "Doomsday", Rose prevents the Daleks from killing her, Mickey, and Dr. Singh by revealing that she knows their name and knows about the Time War, prompting the two men to follow suit. Dalek Sec decides they'll be necessary... just not all of them.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ramsay Snow claims this is why he won't kill Theon Greyjoy. It's pretty obvious that the real reason is that he's having too much fun torturing his prisoner. His father Roose even berates him for wasting such a potentially valuable hostage. However in the following season, once he's broken Theon, he does put him to good use in getting the surrender of a castle that's been seized by the Ironborn.
    • Littlefinger invokes this a lot, which is why he is able to get away with so much crap by offering valuable information and resources to people that otherwise would have wanted him dead. Sansa Stark is wary of him and would have ordered his death for the many unpleasant things he put her through, but is forced to rely on him such as when she summons his army to save her brother in the Battle of the Bastards. Littlefinger's luck runs out when Winterfell is recovered, his bannermen pledge their allegiance to Sansa's brother as King in the North and their surviving siblings return home, she finally orders his death when she has no use for him.
  • A variation in Good Girls. Beth, Annie, and Ruby discover too late that they ripped off a grocery store that was the front for gang leader Rico. Not impressed by their ideas to pay him back, Rico is ready to kill the trio in a faked home invasion. However, Beth points out that murdering three women known as normal, law-abiding suburban mothers will spark a massive investigation that Rico isn't ready for. Rico thus realizes sparing them will avoid a lot of heat and also how the trio can be useful running errands for him to pay off their debt.
  • On Haven, Nathan and Duke keep Mara alive because she's the one who created the Troubles and is the only one that can provide them with answers.
  • House: In Season 5 Episode 9 "Last Resort", a man with a mystery illness takes hostages in the emergency ward demanding to be treated. When he catches House trying to inject him with a sedative, House points out that he's not going to shoot probably the only person who could ever diagnose him. The hostage-taker concedes the point, but to prove that he's not to be messed with, shoots one of the other hostages instead (albeit in the leg).
  • Intergalactic: All of the prisoners hate Ash as she's a cop. They can't just kill her though, as she's the only pilot, which they need for the ship they've hijacked. As a result, Ash is reluctantly permitted to live... for now.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): In prison, Wilson Fisk intends to use Frank Castle to assassinate Dutton, the kingpin of the prison's underground economy. After Frank does the deed, Fisk has him locked in the cell block and releases Dutton's men from their cells, so that they can get revenge on their boss's killer. Frank makes short work of all of them, so Fisk decides that he won't kill Frank, but rather, have him smuggled out of the prison disguised as a guard, since that will allow Frank to continue his vigilante crusade, weakening Fisk's rivals to ensure that his return to power when he gets out of jail is much easier.
    • Luke Cage (2016): Diamondback, suspecting that Shades killed Cottonmouth,note  draws a gun and points it at Shades' head:
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: Give me one good reason why I shouldn't splatter this pristine desk with your brain matter.
      [As if by pure luck, Zip suddenly enters the office]
      Zip: Because it won't help you find Luke Cage any faster? [Diamondback grins and emits a wheezy laugh as he lowers his gun. Shades breathes a sigh of relief]
      Willis "Diamondback" Stryker: You're smarter than your name implies, Zip.
    • Invoked and subverted in Iron Fist (2017), when Danny Rand guesses that Bakuto probably isn't allowed to kill him. Bakuto agrees, says that this won't stop him doing whatever is taken to subdue him, then draws a katana and tries to slice him open. Since The Hand can resurrect people he's likely not worried about Danny even surviving, so long as his head is still attached.
  • Million Yen Women: A clear aversion shows up, as the killer deeply regrets having had to kill Minami, because she had talents and connections that would have been of use to them, but keeping her alive was an even bigger risk to their plans.
  • Referenced in an episode of NUMB3RS. When an escaped prisoner kidnaps the family of the man he blames for his downfall, the team initially assumes his intention is to lure the man to him so he can kill him, but Charlie later determines that he's actually trying to capture him alive (because he believes the man has valuable information he wants). This ultimately plays a critical role in their handling of the situation.
  • A Double Subversion kicks off Ozark. Marty and his accounting firm handle the money laundering for Mexican drug lord Del Rio. When Del Rio shows up, pressing on who's been Stealing from the Till, Marty snorts that they're not intimidated as he knows full well how vital they are to Del Rio's operation. At which point, Del Rio shoots innocent secretary Liz and has the group dragged to a garage where a Cleanup Crew is already preparing to dispose of their corpses. Too late, they realize Del Rio has no problem with killing them all and just hiring a new firm for his money. With a gun literally to his head, Marty talks about setting up a new system to launder millions in a small town and he's the only one with the connections. While suspecting (correctly) that Marty is just stalling, Del Rio is intrigued and so lets Marty do it while Marty uses this chance to prove his worth and keep himself and his family alive.
  • Person of Interest. When Control discovers that one of her assassins let Rogue Agent Shaw live after encountering her during a mission, she coldly informs him that normally he'd be killed (and we've seen more than enough evidence to back this up), but she's going to let him live as she needs a Rogue Agent of her own, having become suspicious of their so-called ally in the War on Terror, private intelligence service Decima Technologies.
  • Sherlock:
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World: "Tourist Season" shows what happens when dealing with people who don't abide by this. A hostile tribe kidnaps a boy named Rob Dillon, intending to trade him for a helicopter in the group's possession. However, they keep beating him up and refuse to feed or give him water. When Rob desperately points out they need him alive for the trade to work, they say they don't care about him and are prepared to double-cross the heroes and take what they want by force if needed. Fortunately, he gets rescued.
  • In Squid Game during the Glass Stepping Stones game, Deok-su (who had been remorselessly killing and bullying his way through the games up to this point) assures the player in front of him that he won't push him off, since that player needs to cross the bridge so that Deok-su can do so himself. Sure enough, he doesn't push him at all and even gives some words of encouagement when he starts slowing up, though it is clearly for pragmatic reasons rather than out of compassion.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 two-parter "The Quest", Adria protects the good guys (and Ba'al) from a dragon (It Makes Sense in Context) because they have the clues leading to the MacGuffin that she's also after.
    Adria: I extended my protective shield. [looking at Daniel] You're lucky I still need you.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the Season 4 premiere, arch-enemies Garak and Gul Dukat are forced to fight together when the Klingons invade the station. The next season, Garak confesses he was tempted in the middle of the fight to finally get rid of Dukat. But he reasoned, "I can't fight all these Klingons by myself."
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In the episode "In a Mirror, Darkly", the Mirror Universe version of Archer chews out its version of T'Pol for having sabotaged the I.S.S. Enterprise and thereby overturned his mutiny against Captain Forrest. He tells her that he'd frankly like to throw her out the nearest airlock, but needs her help getting the still-crippled U.S.S. Defiant up and running. He also threatens to kill her anyway if he hears "so much as a rumor that you've been working behind my back!"
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1", Sutra muses to Narek that her desire to kill him might have outweighed her immediate need of his services. Luckily for him, the latter won out.
  • Supernatural:
    • In Season 4, Uriel tells Sam to cease his demon blood consumption at once, because the minute he stops becoming useful to the angels, he intends to kill him.
    • In Season 5, the boys and demon Crowley capture another demon who serves and looks after the Four Horsemen. They need him to reveal the locations of Pestilence and Death, but the situation is complicated because this demon is revealed to have tortured and roasted Jessica, Sam's deceased love interest. The demon gives a disgusting gloat about his crimes, and Sam can just barely resist killing him on the spot and getting his revenge because they still need him.
    • In the seventh season, a slipping Castiel does this to Crowley because he still has use for him despite Crowley's counterbetrayal to him the previous season. He directs Crowley to downsize Hell and maintain the Cage for the two remaining Archangels. Crowley happily obliges.
    • At the end of Season 8, Dean and Sam capture Crowley for the last trial. In Season 9, they still have him locked in the basement, citing this trope, though he hasn't been useful to them yet.
  • Happens a few times in Vegas (2012).
    • Mobster Savino openly states that he allows Sheriff Don Lamb to live because Lamb can be "handled" better than a replacement would and respects Savino's control in the city.
    • When Lamb arrests a mobster for illegal gambling, the man calls a council demanding Lamb be killed. Savino says he wouldn't mind ("Hell, I'd probably enjoy it") but doing so will bring the Feds and Gaming Commission down on them. More importantly, it will mean Las Vegas will have two dead sheriffs in a month which will hurt the tourist trade and their lifeblood. The council agrees that it's better to let Lamb live for now.
    • Invoked by Savino when a major construction boss turns up murdered. He states the man was the only person in Vegas who could handle huge jobs and the mob was even willing to turn a blind eye to his skimming from them because of it. Thus, every casino boss is losing time and money with his death.
    • Savino meets with a group of ranchers only to find they're a powerful pack of wealthy Mormons who have basically controlled this area for decades. Savino is on his knees and beaten but points out how these men are losing land and resources because of the progress of the city and their ranching days are ending. He says the only way to be in power now is to own a casino and offers them his Tumbleweed one. When the Mormon leader says he doesn't know how to run a casino, Savino offers to do it for him.
  • Played with on Highlander, when Ritchie is held hostage by Immortal Kristov. When they each feel Duncan's presence, Kristov is ready to behead Ritchie only for Ritchie to remind him that doing so unleashes a massive energy storm that always leaves an Immortal weakened...and Duncan is coming for him.
    Ritchie: Go one, do it! Do it! And after the Quickening knocks you on your skinny little ass, MacLeod's going to be there to help you right up! I die, you go right behind me.
    • Realizing he's right, Kristov leaves Ritchie, who escapes and ends up killing Kristov himself.

  • The Mechanisms
    • In The Bifrost Incident, Odin has Loki mindwiped rather than executing her, since her knowledge of the Bifrost Project is too valuable to lose.
    • In "Frankenstein", the AI repeatedly kills Frankenstein, but always resurrects her, because she's the only one who can create a second AI to keep the first one company. The ending reveals it has tried this over three thousand times, and always failed.

  • In The AM Archives The only reason Helen doesn't immediately kill Owen is because she intends to use him to lure in Wadsworth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: If the Imperium of Man wanted to, they could wipe the Eldar and the Tau off of the face of the galaxy due to the former being a Dying Race, and the latter being the Naïve Newcomer of the galaxy. The only reason why they don’t is because not only would it be a costly campaign, but the Eldar and the Tau can distract the forces of Chaos, the Tyranids, the Orks, and the Necrons from Imperial worlds.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown:
    • A gameplay example occurs with Colonel McKinsey in the mission Tranfer Orders. In an aversion to Gameplay Ally Immortality, it is entirely possible to shoot down his plane, and be rewarded a thousand points for it. The only thing that’s stopping the player from doing so, is that killing him will fail the mission, so the player has to keep him alive, as he’s Trigger and Count’s ticket to freedom.
    • Ionela stares down at Dr. Schroeder with a loaded gun after finding out that he was gathering data from her grandfather, Mihaly, to improve upon Erusea’s drone army to get revenge on Osea for the fall of his homeland, Belka. But because of his knowledge on how to shut down the drone factories, she spares his life instead, and convinces him to help put an end to the war.
  • In AdventureQuest Worlds, Drakath, the Big Bad, has many opportunities to kill the Hero, but always chooses to save him or her on multiple occasions. The reason he still wants the Hero alive, however, is because... He intends to transform The Hero into the 13th Lord of Chaos, unleash a purple plague of Chaos upon Lore, unleash the 13th Chaos Beast then open the portal to release the Mother of All Monsters — which requires the defeat of all 13 Chaos Lords. Drakath kills the Hero and rampages across Lore, but unfortunately, the Hero has other plans...
  • BackStab begins with your player hero, Henry, being subjected to a Frame-Up from your evil mentor, Edmund Kane, in the middle of a battle against Conquistadores. Upon arrest, Kane stops one of his men from shooting you, that there's "plenty of chances for execution" once you're sentenced as his scapegoat.
  • Battle for Wesnoth: In The South Guard, if you picked the outlaw branch, the heroes would love to kill Urza Afalas for all his crimes, especially hiding that they can't immediately defeat the Big Bad without elves' help. But since the elves have already left when that is revealed, they have to spare him since they need his help to get out of the dark forest.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins: If you already know the final Reveal (that one of the Grey Wardens in your party must perform a Heroic Sacrifice after the Final Battle), this may become a motivation to spare the life of Teyrn Loghain and instead recruit him to the Grey Wardens. Riordan tries to argue in favor of doing so without publicly stating why.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, when presiding over the trials of captured enemies, with the right perks there's generally an option to make them serve as agents of the Inquisition on the basis that they possess useful skillsets/connections and that simply killing or imprisoning them is too much of a waste. For example, you can make Magister Alexius into a magical researcher due to his time magic being potentially useful or, in one particularly silly case, "exile" an irate Avaar warlord and his clan to Tevinter with as many weapons as they can carry.
  • Dawn of War: In Retribution, the Imperial Guard campaign has a scene where Merrick is holding a gun to General Castor's head, fully intent on shooting him for throwing the lives of Guardsmen away. Castor replies that yes, he has sent men to their deaths before, and will do so again (like every other Imperial Guard officer) — but what he does not do is waste those lives. He could have Merrick shot for insubordination right there (and indeed, the commissar is waiting to pull the trigger), but cites this trope to spare him.
  • In The Elder Scrolls: Arena, Jagar Tharn only banishes Emperor Uriel Septim VII to Oblivion, but doesn't kill him, before taking his place. Killing the Emperor would set off all sorts of magical alarms that would interfere with his ambitions, and as later shown in Oblivion, the Emperor being alive is important if you still want a world to conquer.
  • Elohim Eternal: The Babel Code: The Idinites capture Ruthia's Cainite group, but they spare the group because they need the Cainites to help them open Mount Sinai's gate. Unfortunately, many of the Idinite councilmembers want to kill the Cainites once they've outlived their usefulness. In the endgame, Lamech orders them all killed in order to fill up the jail cells with his political enemies.
  • Fable III: If you choose to spare Logan in the third game, the Hero Prince explains that "now is not the time for revenge.", politely asking for his brother's help. A kind way of putting it — you spare Logan because you need his built-up military to assist you.
  • Far Cry Primal: Takkar captures Dah, the commander of an Udam fort, and brings him back to the Wenja village so that Dah can teach the Wenja how to create rot bane to use against their enemies. The Wenja, however, hate the Udam for persecuting their people, so they haul Dah out of his cage behind Takkar's back and take him to a cave that fills with water in order to drown him. Takkar goes to the cave and saves Dah's life, calling out his people for their Revenge Before Reason mindset. Of course, an additional reason is that Takkar is feeling sympathetic towards Dah because he knows he's sick with "skull fire" and will die anyway.
    Takkar: Dah dies when I say he dies. Today, I say he lives.
  • In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, this is the case with Count Varley. When Bernadetta hopefully asks if Edelgard arrested him after the Black Eagles retake Enbarr, Edelgard replies, "Unfortunately not." No one in the Empire actually likes him due to the fact that he's a whiny coward, and nobody seems to care if he gets killed off in the last mission of the game. So why wasn't he arrested or outright executed earlier? He was an easy selection for the bishop of the Southern Church, which Edelgard needed to reinstate for political purposes.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: Trevor's supposed reason for not killing Michael after finding out Brad was dead is that they've still got the Union Depository to do. However, his reaction to Michael's death in Ending B and a post-game conversation in Ending C both imply he was lying and using the promise of the heist as an excuse.
    • In Ending C, when the characters decide to finally kill off all the people causing them trouble Michael specifically forbids Trevor from killing FIB Agent Dave Norton since they'll need him to cover everything up afterwards.
  • This is how Aloy justifies sparing Regalla in Horizon Forbidden West, making it clear that she's only sparing their life in order to send them to their death later, fighting Far Zenith. Regalla is actually happy about this because they felt insulted that Hekarro spared her life when the two of them fought a duel for leadership of the Tenakth, whereas a death in combat against a superior foe is an honor.
  • In John Wick Hex as part of his Might Makes Right mindset, Hex could have demonstrated how powerful he was by killing Winston and Charon at the Continental, which in itself is nothing short of suicide as anyone who does so is promptly killed on the spot, whether by Continental employees own hands or by the High Table since the Continental is neutral ground. He doesn't because he believes they're the key to helping him prove that he's on par, if not stronger, than the High Table.
  • Played for laughs in Lonely Wolf Treat. The real reason Treat doesn't want to eat the bunny Mochi is because Treat is just too nice to eat anybody. However, when Treat and Mochi go shopping for curry ingredients and the tough-acting fox Moxie wonders why Treat wants to buy meat instead of just eating Mochi, Treat gives a more logical answer: she needs Mochi to make the curry for her.
    Mochi: Even though we bonded so much, you're still giving a practical answer like that?! I'm hurt!!
  • LunarLux: General Saros doesn't make any kind of effort to kill Bella despite labeling her a wanted criminal and he later states that he expects his soldiers to fail to capture her. This is because he wants her to befriend the Murk Slayer and visit the latter's base, not knowing that Saros's drone is following her. Once Saros steals the Murk Slayer's anticores, he stops showing mercy to the party.
  • Mass Effect:
    • This is the standard Paragon outcome to Zaeed's quest in Mass Effect 2. If you've already completed the final mission at this point, however, you can leave him to die instead.
    • Similarly, in Mass Effect 3, Shepard can choose to spare Balaknote  in order to get the batarian fleets on her/his side. It's made exceptionally clear that Shepard would love nothing more than to kill him on the spot, but there's too much at stake to murder someone who could bring extra firepower to the war against the Reapers. It is telling how bad the situation is that Balak feels the same.
      Officer Noles: Is that... Do you want me to arrest him?
      Shepard: I want you to put a bullet in his head, but we're all making some sacrifices today.
  • In the climax of Metroid: Samus Returns, Ridley does not attack the Baby Metroid, despite the fact that it is actively helping his arch-enemy Samus in the fight against him, because the Space Pirates need it for their plans to take over the galaxy.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Earthrealm's heroes manage to capture Quan Chi, The Dragon to Big Bad Shinnok. However, they don't kill him because they need him to revive the revenants of those who died in the previous game and had yet to be restored. Unfortunately, Scorpion puts Revenge Before Reason upon learning of Quan Chi's complicity in the Shirai Ryu's destruction and kills him, dooming the remaining revenants to stay undead forever.
  • Doomfist of Overwatch knows Sombra is using both Talon and Volskaya Industries for her own purposes. He could easily do away with her but doesn't due to her hacking skills being amazingly useful, and being impressed with her ambition.
  • Nyarlathotep in Persona 2 pulls this on humanity as a whole. Due to being an Omnicidal Maniac, but also needing humans to continue existing due to being an incarnation of their destructive desires, he gleefuly blows up the planet without hesitation, but making sure that at least some humans survive on a city-turned-spacecraft.
  • In Ada's final chapter of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Ada finds her contact dead and a computer with Wesker's face on it. He tries to mock her and pull a You Have Failed Me until she dangles the G-Virus Sample in his face.
  • Rise of the Third Power: Sparrow kills everyone in the Cirinthian royal family except for Arielle and Rebecca. Arielle escapes the castle with the party's help, but Rebecca is kidnapped so that Arkadya can use her as a hostage. Sparrow also tails the party without killing them, all to find the location of the Resistance HQ.
  • In Shaun White Skateboarding, Shaun isn't executed because the Ministry wants to study how he can reshape reality and apply it to their own needs.
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Penelope signed in with Le Paradox because she hates and resents the Cooper Gang, especially Sly, and wishes to eliminate all of them along with Sly's (and presumably Murray's, and even the Queen's) ancestors out of spite. However, she intends to keep Bentley alive because he's a Gadgeteer Genius, and wants to use him to build Weapons of Mass Destruction for a fortune by pretending to love him. Subverted once Bentley learns the truth, causing Penelope to drop her charade and target Bentley (and possibly his ancestors) as well.
  • Star Shift Origins: Colonel Thraxton passes up an opportunity to kill the Dauntless party because he knows they'll go back in the past and attempt to discover the secrets of Keldar, which will lead the ESA to Keldar's slipstream gate.
  • Starcraft II: It is revealed that former Big Bad Kerrigan is needed to stop a Greater-Scope Villain.
    • In Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm, upon learning that Abathur was the one that turned her into the Queen of Blades, Kerrigan barely stops herself from killing him since he's necessary to improve her army.
    • Happens with Kerrigan's Number Two, a Brood Mother named Zagara that Kerrigan has been grooming to be her successor as Queen of the Zerg. When placed in a position where she is at Zagara's mercy, she asks why Zagara does not kill her. Zagara responds that she judged that she still had more to learn about leadership and vision from Kerrigan, and therefore it is better to keep Kerrigan alive for now rather than take over the Swarm just yet.
  • The Tiamat Sacrament: Ry'jin is responsible for driving dragons to near extinction while extracting their DNA, stealing their eggs, and turning their souls into Rune Blades. Despite this, he doesn't make a serious effort to kill the protagonist, Az'uar. Ry'jin left Az'uar's egg behind in Ilisrei's cave in case his Reaver experiments fail to unseal the rest of the Great Seven, who can only be unsealed by a fellow dragon. He also allowed Xandra to live so that she'll help Az'uar unseal the Great Seven. Once Az'uar and Xandra obtain six of the Great Seven's Soul Gems, Ry'jin captures Az'uar so he can extract the dragon's DNA and intends to kill him afterwards.
  • In World of Warcraft, many quests that directly involve the Lich King will have him letting you walk out alive for seemingly no reason; in one such quest exclusive to Alliance characters, he will even overtly say It Is Not Your Time. Turns out this trope is the reason; he's actually letting you kill his most powerful troops to test you and make you stronger so that when you reach the Frozen Throne, he can kill you with just a snap of his fingers and raise you under his service. This is exactly what happens when you fight him. You're only saved by a last-minute Deus ex Machina courtesy of Tirion Fordring and the Ashbringer.
  • In Yakuza 0 Chapter 11, Sagawa beats Majima senseless with a baseball bat, but stops short of killing them because the latter is still needed to find and kill Makoto for the former, and because Sagawa doesn't want word to get out that they failed to off her.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Gilgamesh attacks Shirou and Saber during their date and severely wounds Shirou, but doesn't kill him, explaining that killing Saber's Master would make her disappear, which he doesn't want since he wants to force Saber to marry him. Eventually, Shirou pisses Gilgamesh off so much that he decides to kill him after all, saying that he will resort to harder methods of keeping Saber alive, but Shirou and Saber manage to fend him off.
  • The same person in Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane (Beatrice Frega) is kept alive instead of killed by different people and for different reasons (albeit at different times). Eris could claim her life as per the Blood Contract they made, but needs to use her powerful magic in a convoluted plan to torture Tyrion. Then, after Eris is dispatched and the case is solved, Beatrice should be given the death penalty for murdering her father, but Tyrion and Celeste decide to keep her alive so she can detect when Eris returns.
    Beatrice: You're... using me like a canary in a coal mine?!

  • Dominic Deegan includes a couple of these. Notably, Evil Necromancer older brother Jacob including "don't kill Luna" as a major part of his demands when negotiating with the Shindula, simply because he expects to get some use out of her... for now. Of course, he has his Heel Realization and saves her just 'cause at the end of the arc. "Don't say I never did anything for this family."
  • Girl Genius: Tarvek stops his robotic sister Anevka from killing/torturing Agatha because they need her to perfect their copy of Agatha's voice for Anevka to use.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: How Scarlet and Chase viewed each other in the beginning. For her, he was a way to uncover her past and find a steady stream of sinners, but if he found out too much she was more than willing to kill him. For him, she was a way back onto the police force by being his lead in Case X, but he was also willing to kill her if need be. They eventually do become genuine friends, especially once they team up to kill sinners.
  • General Tarquin from The Order of the Stick was trying to use this to protect Nale, his son, as he is a screw-up who should've been cut loose and killed a long time ago. When Nale eventually denounces Tarquin, Tarquin kills him without a second thought.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Sam ends up becoming the legal heir to the Ninja Mafia after the events of the first Myth Arc though it's technically founded on a lie; Sam was simply the Sole Survivor of someone else killing the Mafia leadership. This puts him in this situation with Mr. Blank, who absolutely despises Sam but needs him alive in order to re-establish the Mafia, at least until he has officially re-established it and chosen a successor.
  • Tapiseri Soujourn: Soujourn doesn't seal or kill Daedalus right away because she knows she can get information out of him.

    Web Original 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, this was the main reason Baron Typhonus stepped in with his Divine Intervention to save Dr. Rex from death. He would not so easily let his strongest tether to LEGO Planet simply die, even if that meant keeping said tether in a perpetual Fate Worse than Death.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia:
    • In the Season 2 finale, "True Colors", King Andrias stabs Marcy from behind, and the latter seemingly dies. However, in the Season 3 intro, shown after the credits, Marcy is still alive but comatose and on life support for whatever evil purposes Andrias and his master, the Core, want with her. This turns out to being using Marcy's body as a host for the Core, since they'd deemed her smart enough to be a worthy addition to the Core's Mind Hive.
    • During the Final Battle in Season 3, Anne gets captured by Darcy and Andrias, who intend on killing her immediately to release her powers back into the Calamity Gems. However, Anne quickly points out that, as the Calamity Gems are a Black Box that no one quite understands, killing her might not have the effect they want, and could even depower the Gems entirely. Darcy reluctantly admits that Anne's right and spares her, but makes it clear that this is only temporary until they're absolutely sure of how to extract her powers.
  • Happens to Blackarachnia twice on Beast Wars. First in "Aftermath", Megatron threatens to kill her for working against him until she points out that, despite Optimus Primal's death during "Other Voices: Part II", the Predacons were still outnumbered thanks to Scorponok and Terrorsaur's deaths during this episode. Second, in "Optimal Situation", Blackarachnia officially turns against the Predacons because Megatron's attempt at killing Optimus Prime would have erased her existence. However, instead of killing her, he just non-fatally shoots her since she has the access codes to the Ark in her memory.
  • Blue Eye Samurai: Fowler manages to convince Mizu to not murder him at the end of season one, telling her that he is the only person who can bring her to her other potential fathers and if he's dead, then she'll be unable to find them.
  • A humorous variant occurs in an episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command where Buzz is in an Enemy Mine with Warp Darkmatter. At the end of the episode, Buzz is happy that Warp came back to help him, instead of stealing his space-car and abandoning him on the planet, prompting a Power of Friendship speech... only for Warp to interrupt and explain that he literally couldn't leave without Buzz: he can't drive stick.
  • Code Lyoko: XANA's main goal in season 1 was to devirtualize Aelita (which unlike the other Lyoko Warriors would permanently kill her at the time) since she was the only one who could stop his attacks. However, in seasons 2 and 4, his plans require her to be alive (even if they would ultimately result in her death). In "Saint Valentine's Day", in order to stop the Schypozoa from stealing the Keys to Lyoko from her memory, Jeremy orders Odd to shoot at Aelita, as XANA needs her alive to drain her memory. In "Hot Shower", when it seems as if there is no other way to stop the meteor from destroying the lab and trapping the gang on Lyoko, Aelita devirtualizes herself. XANA is forced to destroy the meteor, since he needs her alive and on Lyoko in order to lure Franz Hopper out by throwing her into the Digital Sea.
  • DuckTales (1987): In Part 2 of the Five-Episode Pilot, Glomgold and El Capitán attempt to blow up Scrooge and his nephews with a stick of dynamite to keep them from reaching the sunken ship first. Then they discover their map being eaten by their donkey, and Glomgold has to hastily undo his attempt on Scrooge's life.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In one episode, Billy uses magic to (accidentally) make Mandy grow continuously larger and, thanks to the particulars of the spell, is the only one who can stop or reverse it. Grim has to constantly remind Mandy of this so that she doesn't crush Billy, and she can't crush him either, because he's the only one reminding her not to crush Billy.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Amon discusses this trope. Ridding the new Avatar of her ability to bend and killing her when he first meets her would only create a martyr, so he fully intends to save her for last. He tells Korra all of this during their first meeting, and she's so terrified that she doesn't fight back.
    • After Bolin and Varrick's failed defection in Book 4, Kuvira sends Bolin to a re-education camp but keeps Varrick around, as she needs him to keep working on developing superweapons based off of the spirit vines.
  • The Owl House: Emperor Belos only puts a minimal effort into fighting Luz in the season 1 finale and ultimately lets her go without much hassle, because he needs her alive for a Stable Time Loop. Once he knows for sure Luz has traveled back in time and met his past self, he begins fighting her for real.
    • Raine is fully expecting to be executed when they're arrested for treason. Instead, they're brainwashed into obedience, because the Emperor needs all nine Coven Heads alive for his genocide plan to work.
  • Pantheon:When he's at the mercy of Prasad, Chandra begs his boss not to kill him. "Fortunately" Prasad feels Chandra's mind is still a valuable resource, but he didn't say that included his body....
  • A Running Gag in the first serial of Rocky and Bullwinkle, "Jet Fuel Formula", involves Boris repeatedly getting orders that go back and forth between "kill him" and "keep him alive", depending on whether or not they think they have all the ingredients for the rocket fuel Bullwinkle accidentally cooked up. Naturally, instructions of the latter type frequently come in right as Boris is setting in motion a plan to kill Bullwinkle, requiring him to take the brunt of his own plan in order to ensure Bullwinkle's continued survival.
  • Rick and Morty: As much as Rick would love to kill Jerry, he can't because they're family.
    "If I come home without you, I doubt Morty's gonna let me off the hook."
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
    • Hordak's desire to punish Entrapta for interfering with his personal research is stemmed after seeing that her additions to one of his devices solved a problem he'd been having, quickly realizing that she's the only being on Etheria able to comprehend his technology and thus help him advance his work.
    • Catra tries to invoke this in "Light Spinner", attempting to convince Hordak that Shadow Weaver shouldn't be killed. Her inability to do this, coupled with Shadow Weaver once again manipulating her in order to escape, leads to Hordak nearly killing Catra instead.
    • Catra tries to invoke this again in Season 5 with Horde Prime, telling him that she's the only one that knows how to use the Heart of Etheria, but Prime just gets what information he needs from Glimmer.
    • And then the one time this does happen to Catra is in a situation where she didn't want it to. After she pulls a Heel–Face Turn and helps Glimmer escape Horde Prime's ship, she fully expects to be executed, but figures a Death By Redemption is a good way to go. Except Prime keeps her alive as bait because he knows Adora will insist on trying to rescue her.
    • After a few attempts to get Adora to cooperate so he can use She-Ra to activate the Heart fail, Horde Prime decides to bypass the need for her and the other princesses by just brute-force hacking past the First Ones defenses around the weapon.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • Invoked by Sleet in the Sonic Underground three-parter "Chaos Emerald Chaos". Robotnik is about to Roboticize Sleet as punishment for his and Dingo's attempted coup when Sleet points out that he knows where Dingo is. Robotnik immediately lets him go, mainly because Dingo has absorbed a broken Chaos Emerald and is threatening to destroy the entire planet.
    • In the Sonic Boom episode, "The Curse of Buddy Buddy Temple", Sonic and Dr. Eggman get trapped in the titular temple, where the only way for them to escape is to work together. At one point, Eggman traps Sonic in the temple when the walls are about to close in on him. He then tries to escape on his own, but every time he tries to pull one of the two levers to the exit door, the other one doesn't stay down. Eggman has no choice but to set Sonic free so Sonic can help him escape.
  • South Park: This is the reason why Eric Cartman won't kill his mother.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • In "The Gungan General", Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin are chained at the waist to Count Dooku while being held prisoner and trying to escape. At one point during a bout of Snark-to-Snark Combat, Dooku has this to say:
    Dooku: I would kill you both right now if I did not have to drag your bodies.
    • In "The Lawless", after being defeated by Darth Sidious, Maul begs for mercy, but Darth Sidious tortures him and then tells him "he has plans for him" then proceeds to tortures him more as the episode ends.
    • In "Dangerous Debt", Pyke Syndicate leader Marg Krim refrains from killing Ahsoka, Rafa and Trace because he wants to know the location of his missing spice shipment, and intends to torture them until one of them spills.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • "Always Two There Are": The Seventh Sister points out to the Fifth Brother that killing Ezra, who they've just captured, right away is short-sighted because he can be used as bait to draw out the other rebels, Kanan and Ahsoka in particular.
    • "Through Imperial Eyes": At the end, Grand Admiral Thrawn tells Colonel Yularen this is why he's not having The Mole, Kallus, arrested and executed — now that Thrawn knows who the traitor is, he can Feed the Mole.
  • Steven Universe:
    • During the second season, Peridot invokes this, revealing the existence of the Cluster, a large alien creature lying dormant under the Earth's surface and whose awakening would destroy the planet from the inside out and pointing out that she is the only one with full knowledge of how to counter it. The Crystal Gems begrudgingly allow her to remain unbubbled as a result.
    • Steven himself tries to invoke this in a season three episode, pointing out that killing him to pretty much guarantee that Eyeball will remain aimlessly floating in space forever. However, she doesn't care and attempts to kill him anyway, forcing him to eject her from his bubble. However, it's revealed in the fifth season that she did eventually find her away back to Homeworld at some point.
  • Tabaluga: The in-universe reason the titular hero doesn't kill the Big Bad snowman Arktos despite being able to do so is because the snowman is also the avatar of ice and snow. Without him, all ice and snow would melt and there would be no more winter. Therefore, Arktos is too important for the balance of the world to be killed.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), this is the reason Baxter Stockman continues to live despite his repeated failures/betrayals. Of course, in his case, this just means that rather than simply executing him the Shredder maims him over the course of the series until he's reduced to a Brain in a Jar. By the series' end, it's hard not to feel bad for the guy.
  • In the final episode of the first season of Young Justice (2010), Vandal Savage notes this about the Justice League, explaining that they are still needed for Phase Two of the plan, mind-controlled or not.

    Real Life 
  • This is why the sudden death (under suicide watch) of mass sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in 2019 was considered a serious problem. While, as of this writing, there's a lot of unknown details and speculation about the case, the reason there was such a public outcry about it despite how horrific his actions were is because he was likely the only one who knew exactly what people were and weren't his clients and accomplices. With his death, that information may be stuck completely shrouded in mystery.
  • Many Allied leaders, particularly those from Great Britain, wanted Werhner Von Braun executed for his involvement in the creation of the V2 rocket, which was used to devastating effect on London. However, because of the possibility that the Soviet Union were developing their own rockets based on the V2 design, they kept him alive in the hopes that they could develop countermeasures.
  • Parasites generally won't survive very long without a living host to sustain them. Viruses are an exception, as they aren't technically "alive" to begin with; no host simply means no replication. While those with an envelope bud out their host cell to keep it alive, viruses without one will simply lyse out of it.
  • During the infamously horrifying shooting of the movie Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinski had such a terrible relationship with Werner Herzog, and the native South American native tribes that one the chiefs offered Herzog to kill him. In fact Herzog’s relationship with Kinski was so bad that he seriously considered accepting the offer. Herzog ultimately didn’t because not only did he need Kinski to finish the movie, it also would have cost him his career.


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Andrealphus & Stella

Fittingly enough big brother Andrealphus is the Blue Oni to Stella's Red (and not just because of the ice theming). While she's quick to anger and go for the blunter, curler assassination, Andrealphus is the one to remind her of the bigger picture, instructing her to be patient, take in all the details and then strike, rather than kill Stolas, as all that would do is transfer all his owning to Octavia.

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Main / RedOniBlueOni

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