Follow TV Tropes


Go and Sin No More

Go To

"Most Gracious Queen, we thee implore
To go away and sin no more,
But if that effort be too great,
To go away at any rate."
— Anonymous. Refers to George IV's wife, Queen Caroline

The villain has either been defeated or acknowledges the error of his ways. He surrenders to the hero, expecting to be killed or punished in some other way. Instead, the hero lets him go, telling him to repent for his crimes by doing good deeds. This usually turns the villain into The Atoner and sends him on a Redemption Quest.


May overlap with The Punishment Is the Crime in cases where the hero decides that the villain has been sufficiently punished by his own remorse or other harmful consequences of his deeds. Time may eventually subvert this, and show that the hero really intended Cruel Mercy, or worse, the villain may just go doing more sin. On the other hand, if Rousseau Was Right, then the villain may very well reform themselves and become a force for good in the world.

This is a common tactic of The Redeemer.

Compare Let Off by the Detective, when the fate the villain is spared is being processed by the official justice system.

Trope Namer is The Bible, in which Jesus releases an adulteress rather than stone her to death, as was common at the time. Easy, then, to see why the hero who bestows this mercy is often a Messianic Archetype or All-Loving Hero.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Goku of Dragon Ball Z tries this on Freeza twice. It doesn't work.
  • This happens in the Nuts Fujimori manga adaptation of Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu. In this adaptation, one of the early bad guys, Kinbois of Verdane, is portayed as deep down not being evil, just someone influencable who was following the wrong path. Sigurd notices this, and lets him live on the promise he will atone for his sins. Kinbois is genuinely moved by this mercy and promises. This turns out to be crucial, as Kinbois' brother Jamuka later fights Sigurd because he believes, in a misunderstanding, that Sigurd has killed his beloved brother in battle: after learning the truth and seeing Sigurd's generosity, Jamuka joins his party.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Several times by Kenshin because of his Thou Shall Not Kill thing. This earns him several friends. He doesn't try it with Shishio Makoto, probably because he recognized that the man is too far gone off the deep end in his belief in Might Makes Right and too dangerous to risk letting him live.
  • Exorcist ninja in Ayakashi Triangle, as the name suggest, are tasked with "exorcising" ayakashi that hurt or endanger humans. For incredibly malicious ayakashi this means being outright obliterated, but less dangerous ones are "exorcised" by just performing a strange ritual that will scare them into staying out of human-occupied space.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: After his defeat at the hands of Soulburner, Varis turns to leave, promising to never bother him or Playmaker again. However, Soulburner implores him to make up for his past actions by stopping others who might try the same thing, to which he accepts their offer.

    Comic Books 
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), this marks Dimitri's Heel–Face Turn, after appealing to his descendant Knuckles.
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "The Fake Smurf", Gargamel (and Hogatha in the 1980s Animated Adaptation) pleads for mercy when he is brought out into the forest after being revealed as the fake Smurf and his attempt to restore himself has failed, resulting in reverting to his original form but not also his original size. Papa Smurf spares Gargamel, telling him to go and let what has been done to him be a reminder to amend his ways. Gargamel flees, but as usual with the character, he still swears vengeance upon the Smurfs.

     Fan Works 
  • In the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney fic Dirty Sympathy, Edgeworth decides to let Klavier and Apollo go instead of sending them back to the U.S. to get arrested after verifying that they were being truthful of their justification of their crimes and they truly had no way out of their abuse before everything escalated.
  • The TRON fic Through a Diamond Sky features a bit more literal case than most. The villain's Dragon has second thoughts and switches sides to help the heroes and captured Isos. She fully expects Flynn to de-rez her, but Flynn has other ideas, giving her a directive to seek out other Programs and Isos who are in danger of losing their way like she did, and finishing it up by quoting the trope namer.

  • In Gandhi a Hindu comes to Gandhi as he's partaking in a fast and says he (the Hindu) is going to Hell, because he killed a Muslim child in revenge for Muslims killing his son. Gandhi tells the man he can repent by finding a Muslim boy whose parents have been killed, and raise him. But here's the kicker: he's to raise the boy as a Muslim.

    Folklore, Mythology and Religion 
  • The Trope Namer is a story in The Bible, specifically The Four Gospels.
  • If you identify "the hero" in the page description with God, you'd have a fairly accurate representation of the Christian doctrines of repentance and salvation.
  • Most versions of the story of Momotarō end this way. He beats the oni in battle but, instead of killing them, tells them to change their ways.

  • Brother Cadfael discovers the recently-unmasked killer in Monk's Hood on the run... or rather, the killer attacks him, but can't bring himself to murder a monk in cold blood. Cadfael calmly tells him that he 'was never meant to be a murderer', that Cadfael knew his crime was done on impulse when circumstances made it possible, and gives him a sentence of voluntary banishment and always doing good for the rest of his life—oh, and making a confession to a priest as soon as he can and asking him to post it to the sheriff of Shrewsbury (as the man is illiterate) to clear his innocent relation of suspicion.
  • Done to the corrupt police chief in The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov. Instead of arresting the chief for the murder of a pro-robot, pro-space travel scientist, Elijah and Daneel tell him to rally support for robots and space travel among the Luddite "Medievalists" he worked with. Daneel uses the exact words "Go and sin no more" as Elijah had told him the story of the Trope Namer before.
  • Happens to Flambeau, a thief, in the Father Brown mysteries. Specifically, in The Queer Feet, Father Brown catches Flambeau and then lets him go after listening to his confession (and retrieving the loot). Not long afterwards, Flambeau appears as a fellow detective.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novel Spock's World, McCoy and Kirk tell the Big Bad to get out of prison and do some good with that intelligence.
  • Subverted Trope in Wizard's First Rule. Richard forgives his brother Michael for everything he did to him. However, Richard still has him beheaded as he does not forgive him for crimes he committed against others, feeling he doesn't have the right to. While reasonable, Michael doesn't get to have a trial, either.
  • In the first Warrior Cats series, Blackfoot is one of the antagonists, a Dragon of the villains who attempts to kidnap kits and manages to murder several cats. In The Darkest Hour, after Tigerstar's death, he's set to become leader of ShadowClan. Even though some of Blackfoot's crimes are recent, The Hero Firestar simply warns him to learn from his predecessors, and Blackfoot does go on to become a much better leader than the cats he served.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor makes a Sontaran work as a nurse.
  • Power Rangers in Space; After Astronema figures out that she's Andros' sister, she turns herself in to the Rangers, and they - minus Andros - have to discuss how to handle this in private. She wonders if they're planning to dump her into a black hole, and Andros doesn't help matters by saying there's one nearby. To her surprise, they pardon her rather quickly.
    • If there is ever a case of debate over including a formerly Evil Sixth Ranger and Tommy Oliver is around, he will be a solid vote for the new member's inclusion (Kat, who replaced Kimberly as the second Pink Ranger, and Trent Mercer are notably vouched for by Tommy). Usually his justification is that he was given a shot when he was in the same position. Most antagonist Sixth Rangers in Power Rangers get this treatment.
  • Played with in Resha Sentai To Qger. Akira/Zaram is genuinly remorseful for causing it to rain on an otherwise sunny day to such a degree that he seeks his own Redemption Equals Death moment. Right clearly doesn't think he's the worst Shadow Monster they've met, but does use this trope to justify making him the team's Sixth Ranger. Of course, some time later, it's played much more straight. Akira betrays the To Qgers because, as a Shadow Monster, he genuinly thought that his Sixth Ranger Status was an alliance of convience and didn't consider his teammates actually cared for and loved him. The genuine forgiveness of his teammates resolves his conviction to fight the Shadowline along side them.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Warriors of Kudlak", an alien who had been kidnapping children to use as Child Soldiers realizes that the war his people were fighting had ended without his knowledge. He allows Sarah Jane Smith to take his life, but she refuses. The alien then promises to return to his homeworld and bring back the humans he had abducted.

  • In Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, Posthumous is asked to choose a sentence for the villain who falsely "proved" Posthumous' wife unfaithful and thus prompted him to order her killed. Posthumous' answer: "Live, and deal with others better."

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, you can meet up with Mr. Freeze after you have helped him track down his still-frozen wife Nora. When Freeze says all he wants is for his wife to be healthy again, Batman replies that he should do that and give up his life of crime, because he's better than it.
  • This is a plot-point in BioShock Infinite. Booker's sinful past of war-crimes and heinous acts against Native Americans led to him deciding to accept a baptism in order to wash away his sins and become a new, virtuous man. However, he misinterpreted the "Go Forth and Sin No More" line to mean "you are now unable to sin no matter what you do" instead of "stop sinning, you asshole". This led him to commit even worse acts, believing they were virtuous acts just because he was the one doing them.
  • You can potentially do this in Dishonored with Daud, the final assassination target by choosing to directly challenge him in a fight. After beating his target in a duel, Corvo listens to his target lament their fate, and ends it with a call to finish them. Corvo can, if the player chooses, simply holster his weapon and walk away, which stuns both the target and the Outsider. Most notably, this is the only time in the game where sparing a target is framed as a genuine act of mercy rather than an act of Cruel Mercy/getting them properly sentenced for their crimes.
  • A possible judgement for a Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Ser Ruth hands herself over to the Inquisition in order to atone for the crimes she feels the order has committed. You can say Off with Her Head! or send her in the deep roads, or invoke this trope. She's baffled as she leaves the throne room, but a later report shows it actually worked out well.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has a few missions end with an option to finish a cornered enemy off with a Coup de Grâce or get rid of them with this trope.
  • After beating her in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the player has several options for what to do with the fallen Atris. One of the light side choices is to show her mercy in this fashion by acknowledging how the Exile's choice to fight in the Mandalorian Wars contributed to her fall.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games, after Duke Onkled betrayed the King of Hyrule by siding with Ganon, he gets off by being told to "Scrub all the floors in Hyrule."
  • In MARDEK, Gope gets this treatment from Mardek and Duegan. Unless you decide otherwise. He shows up later on and gives you an item needed to get to a bonus area, and again in the next game as a traveling merchant who can be useful for getting supplies in exotic places.
  • In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, many minor opponents and most of the Arc Villains can be offered this option. Tartuk or Hargulka will accept it and leave to build a civilization outside the reach of humans, Tristian will rejoin your kingdom, and Armag will rejoin his tribe, possibly to lead them to a better path. Irovetti can be offered it as well, but he will reject it and kill himself. Even Nyrissa can be redeemed, but only if you've put a lot of work into trying to sympathize with her through the entire game and have learned how curses work in the Stolen Lands.
  • In Planescape: Torment, you can tell Trias to redeem himself and seek forgiveness in the upper Planes after defeating him in battle. That is, unless you have Vhailor in your party...
    • Vhailor, despite his Black-and-White Insanity, has a couple moments where he will spare a sinner on the grounds that said sinner is already being punished enough.
  • In several Mass Effect games, you can either kill an enemy as a Renegade decision or let them go for Paragon points. Most, but definitely not all, of the time it will work out in Shepard's favor to spare the character.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, in the Jedi Knight quest line, you have an option to let one of the top Imperial agents go despite all the trouble he caused you. If you do, he will send a letter saying that he had assumed a new identity and found a new life in the Republic. They can also do this to a particularly honorable Sith, who if spared will show up later having defected to the Republic and become a Jedi.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ren Fujii from Dies Irae pulls a variation on Kei after he beats her in Kasumi's route. While he planned on killing her first, after he sees her make such a pitiful and sad face he just can't bring himself to finish her off and tells her instead that she should continue to live and atone for her actions. Unfortunately, Kei having lost everything she considered worth living for and having accepted the truth about the Golden Alchemy ends up confronting Kasumi after the final battle and after a brief exchange, kills herself in front of her.