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Enemy Compassion

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"I'm not sure any of that matters. Friends, enemies. So long as there's mercy. Always mercy."
The Doctor, Doctor Who, "The Witch's Familiar"

Heroes and Villains are forever in conflict. But sometimes, our enemies are the ones who know us the best. And in moments of distress, sometimes it is our foes who will offer us comfort.

If a villain does this, it is a form of Pet the Dog and overlaps with Sympathy for the Hero. This is the sort of thing one might expect from a Noble Demon or a Fair-Play Villain.

On the heroic end, a Friend to All Living Things, All-Loving Hero, or someone who embodies the Big Good will do this, too.

Can precede a Heel–Face Turn, or it could be that Status Quo Is God, and when the personal crisis is over, the hero and villain will be back to the way things were, before.

Of course, this trope isn't just about heroes and villains. Two characters with noted antipathy and hostility to one another showing compassion and mercy to one or the other or both will count.

Compare with Antagonist in Mourning, when their foe has already passed from this world.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess:
    • Belldandy, being a Friend to All Living Things, is typically loathe to even consider someone an enemy in the first place (though trying to harm Keiichi will definitely get her to consider you as such). That said, she often shows concern for the well-being of Mara and Sayoko, a demon and a human romantic rival respectively. She's invited Mara to dinner with them at least once, and she once helped Sayoko to get rid of a demon that was crushing her with doubt by telling her, "You don't have to believe in me, but you must believe in yourself!"
    • Once, Mara and Hild arrange to have Belldandy recategorized as a demon, meaning that if she did good, Keiichi would be harmed, and so she had to do evil things to keep Keiichi well. Fortunately, the reciprocal effect was based on how evil Bell thought the acts were, as she couldn't bring herself to do more than a Felony Misdemeanor. Before it's over, Mara and even Hild are actually feeling sorry for Bell.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: During The Final Problem arc and William's race towards his death, his Friendly Enemy, Worthy Opponent, and Mirror Character Sherlock Holmes tries to talk him out of his despair and cares for William afterward as he recovers from the injuries from their confrontation.
  • My-HiME: Since their first meeting in episode 7, there has been nothing but hostility between Nao and Natsuki. This is only exacerbated when Nao loses an eye fighting Natsuki when the latter had been tricked into believing that Nao had attacked Sister Yukariko. But when Natsuki learns about Nao's circumstances, that her mother was comatose after a home invasion, and that she'd been left all alone, Natsuki realizes that they're not so different. She steps in to save Nao from her vengeful Love Interest, Shizuru.

    Comic Books 
  • Marshal Bass: Batsheba and Madame Cleopatra may show hostility to each other every chance they get, but when Sheriff Lawrence is ready to shoot one of Cleo's girls out of spite, it's Batsheba who convinces River Bass to intervene.
  • Secret Wars (1984): Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel attempts to apprehend Volcana and The Molecule Man, Owen Reese. Reese had been injured badly by Wolverine earlier in the story, and Volcana yells at Captain Marvel that she's reopening his injuries. Rambeau immediately apologizes, saying she didn't know he was injured and asks if he's going to be okay.
  • Watchmen: In a rare moment of not being a Knight Templar when it comes to enforcing the law, Rorschach allows Moloch to keep the illegal medications he has after Moloch informs him that he has cancer. It's a rare moment of pity for Rorschach and one that shows the reader that he's not entirely unreasonable.
  • Wolverine: In one issue, Wolverine and Jubilee are battling a group of advanced Sentinels. One of them has its head chopped off and is shutting down. It expresses fear of "the dark" as it fades, with Jubilee feeling sorry for it. Her display of empathy intrigues the lead Sentinel, who had dubbed himself 3.14159. Instead of carrying out his plan to roast the Earth with a solar flare, he instead locks himself and his fellow Sentinels in the "Anthill" complex so they can work on an algorithm to help them comprehend and feel empathy.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: The Killing Joke: The quote, taken directly from the comic, about Batman trying to find a way to put an end to the conflict with him and The Joker, without them killing each other.
    Batman: Don't you understand? I don't want to hurt you. I don't want either of us to end up killing the other. But we're both running out of alternatives... and we both know it. Maybe it all hinges on tonight. Maybe this is our last chance to sort this bloody mess out. If you don't take it, then we're both locked onto a suicide course. Both of us. To the death. It doesn't have to end like that. I don't know what it was that bent your life out of shape, but who knows? Maybe I've been there too. Maybe I can help. We could work together. I could rehabilitate you. You needn't be out there on the edge anymore. You needn't be alone. We don't have to kill each other. What do you say?
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: Despite spending most of the film plotting to replace Kiara with Kovu, Kiara is still willing to fish Zira out of her precarious hold above a raging river. Zira, however, is too consumed with hate to take Kiara's aid, which results in Zira's Disney Villain Death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1971 film Billy Jack has The Hero defend an alternative school in Arizona from hostile bigots and nimbys. After some rowdies start a fight at a fundraiser, Billy Jack gives them all a drubbing. The ruffians flee, except one with a dislocated shoulder. Billy Jack tells this fellow to hold his folded arm close to his chest while Billy rolls the humerus back into its socket. The fellow learns two things from this: 1) five against one is not enough against a Green Beret veteran, and 2) better men help and heal while lesser men harm and hurt.
  • In You Were Never Really Here, Joe returns home to discover that two assassins have murdered his mother and are now waiting for him. After killing one of them and mortally wounding the other in the ensuing fight, Joe briefly interrogates the dying man and asks if his mother's death was painful. When the assassin assures him that she was shot in her sleep and didn't feel anything, Joe lies down beside him and holds his hand while he's dying.

  • The Bible: A large part of the Sermon On The Mount is all about showing your enemies compassion, best summed up in Matthew 5:44.
    Jesus: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spike storms over to Buffy's house with a shotgun, determined to finish her off once and for all...only to find her sobbing on her front porch after learning her mother has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He tosses the gun out of sight, sits down next to her and tries to awkwardly comfort her. Justified since Spike has been trying to repress growing romantic feelings for Buffy.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor will often show compassion for his enemies.
    • "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar" provides a Double Subversion. The Doctor comes to Skaro to see Davros because Davros is dying. The two of them actually have a genuine, heartfelt laugh between them when Davros has the Daleks provide the Doctor with "the only other chair on Skaro". But Davros was counting on the Doctor's mercy and compassion, hoping to goad the Doctor into giving him his regeneration energy to restore him, so he arranged to steal all of it to give his Daleks the power of regeneration. But the Doctor was aware of Davros' scheme and knew that the transfer would ALSO restore the sludge in the Skaro sewers that was the decaying but not dead Daleks, who would rise up in hatred of their own brethren.
  • Scrubs: When Dr. Cox has a Heroic BSoD after accidentally causing the death of several patients by approving organ transplants from a patient who had died of rabies (he didn't know at the time, and it wasn't common to test for it), Dr. Kelso tries hard to break him out of his funk, saying he missed their fights, and that the hospital needed him.

  • Inherit the Wind: After the trial, Brady tries to make a speech about the importance of the case (which ended with a sentence of a small fine). Everyone is ignoring him, except the defendant and his allies, who look at his desperate attempt to cling to relevance and just feel sorry for him.
  • One of the major conflicts of Hamlet is Fortinbras, the new king of Norway, threatening war against Denmark. At the end of the play, when virtually every major character but Horatio is dead, Fortinbras enters Elsinore Castle, having successfully invaded the country. But even though he came to the castle to either kill or conquer Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet, he realizes that something horrible has happened, stops his soldiers from seizing anyone, and encourages Horatio to tell the tale. His final line—"Go, bid the soldiers shoot"—is generally interpreted as him ordering a proper salute and burial for the dead.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Several.
    • "Harley's Holiday". Harleen Quinzel is given a clean bill of health and released from Arkham. She then proceeds to have a very bad day. Bruce, first as himself, and then later as Batman, tries to help her. At the end, Harley asks him why he stuck his neck out for someone who'd only ever given him trouble. Batman's reply is pure Heartwarming.
      Batman: I know what it's like to try and rebuild a life. I had a bad day, too, once.
    • "Lock-Up": When it becomes apparent that Lyle Bolton is abusing his charges at Arkham, Bruce helps to see him fired. When he becomes the villain Lock-Up, he makes a (to him) startling realization about Batman.
  • Infinity Train. Tulip shows compassion and empathy to Amelia, even after all she'd done to her through the five months that Tulip had spent on the train, encouraging Amelia to try to move past the death of her husband, just as Tulip had to learn to cope with her parents' divorce.
  • Justice League:
    • The world believes that Superman is dead. A funeral is being held in Metropolis. And Lex Luthor, of all people, shows up to pay his respects. Lois Lane lashes out at him, slapping him, and pounding her fists on his chest. Luthor allows her to vent her frustration and rage on him, then calmly holds her to himself, saying, sincerely:
      Luthor: Believe it or not, I'm going to miss him, too.
    • Perhaps one of the best examples is the episode "Flash and Substance". Flash, Batman, and Orion go to a Bad Guy Bar to find The Trickster there, moping about how the other villains didn't respect him. Orion and Batman threaten to go all Jack Bauer on him when Flash demands that they take it down a notch. He then addresses his rogue by his real name, James, and points out to him that he's off his meds and wearing "the suit" again. Showing mercy and compassion, Flash convinces The Trickster to tell them about other villains' plans and to give himself up as soon as he finished his drink.
      Orion: Central City builds statues to this... fool. Who makes bad jokes, who concerns himself with pitiful men like the Trickster. I don't understand.
      Batman: No. You don't.
  • The Raccoons:
    • In "Trouble Shooter!", after Bentley runs away from home after trying to change his math grades, and after he thinks he's no longer allowed to stay with Bert, Ralph, and Melissa, Cyril finds Bentley walking alone and convinces him to work things out with his parents so he can take him home.
    • In "Join the Club!", after Cyril refuses to demolish his son Cedric's clubhouse to join a fancy country club, he finds Lisa crying and breaking cigarettes because a friend broke up with her because she refused to smoke. Cyril helps her feel better by giving her a pep talk about the merits of individuality and Lisa tells him that he's not as bad as everybody warned her he was.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Scorpia tries to capture Adora in a remote tundra base and Sea Hawk shows up to rescue her. However, they get to talking about how they feel the people only want them when they need something and empathize which each other's pain. Scorpia and Sea Hawk eventually decide there's nothing wrong with them and that they are capable of amazing things, which they resolve to prove to everyone else.
  • Occurs in My Life as a Teenage Robot by the villainous Lonely Hearts Club Gang towards Sheldon. Despite kidnapping Sheldon to draw Jenny into a trap, when Jenny unloads a heart-breaking He's Not My Boyfriend "Reason You Suck" Speech on Sheldon and breaks his heart, the Club lets him go, offers their sympathies and membership after Sheldon graduates from school, and plans on dismantling Jenny both for Sheldon and out of revenger for foiling their schemes. Luckily Sheldon returns to save Jenny because he's a decent guy at heart.
  • In "Teen Titans", specifically the episode "Nevermore" Raven nearly kills the villain Dr. Light. Robin and Starfire go to comfort the villain they had just been fighting after Raven calms down, with Robin telling Dr. Light that "Everything will be all right".