Ranting and raving and carrying on
Maybe they're right when they tell me I'm wrong...
The Ignored Epiphany is a moment where the villain or morally gray character has a moment of clarity or revelation about themselves and their actions, seeing it in perspective for perhaps the first time and realizing exactly how useless and off base their various self-delusions and justifications were. It's often a low moment for these characters, and may provoke sympathy from the audience. The character may acknowledge it various ways, with a sigh, a bitter laugh, muttering "What Have I Become?" or possibly saying to someone or themselves "I've really messed this one up".
Then... there's nothing. No HeelFace Turn, no last minute redemption or even an attempt to undo the harm they've wrought. Nor is there any mental trauma equivalent to a Villainous BSoD or mental breakdown. There's just... nothing.
There's generally little, if any change in the character. The moment itself is fleeting, and whether it be their natural temperament reasserting itself, or their Fatal Flaw preventing them from changing, outside events do something that force them out of this frame of mind and right back into their usual one, or simply the feeling that they've spent this long and put this much effort into whatever it is they're doing, and now they have to go through with it. A common variant is a character starting to so say "My God, What Have I Done?'', stopping halfway through, then blaming the whole thing on some other person or outside force.
One interesting version of this involves a character realizing they've crossed the Moral Event Horizon... and therefore, there's no turning back. You have no hope of redemption, so there's no point worrying about it any more may as well embrace the Dark Side, and hope that being Drunk on the Dark Side will help you forget your troubles.
This is a common issue in works based on Real Life. Authors and audiences want to see deep moral conflicts in the characters, and see them doubting or guilty over the things we feel they should be doubting or guilty over. The problem is that the real characters may not have felt that at all so we get fictionalized versions that show great doubts and agonizing self-evaluation in private, then instantly go back to behaving like it never happened when the story continues to follow reality.
This trope is a close cousin to My God, What Have I Done?; this version tends to happen mostly to Villain Protagonists, Anti Villains, Fallen Heroes and sometimes Anti Heroes whereas My God, What Have I Done? tends to make a difference in a character's behavior and personality,
Compare Heel Realization which is when a character has an epiphany and realizes for the first time that they're one of the bad guys. Also compare Aesop Amnesia where a character appears to have learned their lesson, but goes back to their old ways in later episodes to maintain the status quo. Then again, they might be on to something if the HeelFace Door-Slam is any indication. This may happen before pulling a Redemption Rejection when offered that Last-Second Chance. Overlaps with Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
Do note that if this trope hits in, it doesn't mean that they won't ever think of redemption again or being redeemed. The character may find a new epiphany that doesn't get ignored and bring themselves to the good guys again... so long as they don't start Jumping Off the Slippery Slope or cross the Moral Event Horizon beforehand. Or get stuck in the HeelFace Revolving Door, where the character's epiphany will change him for a while, but he won't permanently follow the path of virtue.
- Attack on Titan uses the variation of having already crossed the Moral Event Horizon, to heartbreaking effect. After confessing to Eren, Reiner breaks down and admits that he isn't even sure whether the things he's doing are right or wrong anymore. But since he's already come too far, there's no choice left to him but to charge ahead and throw proverbial gasoline on the fire. He grimly accepts that he's a murderer doomed to a brutal, short life. Similarly, Bertolt's stoic exterior crumbles when he admits that he's done horrible things and states it isn't even remotely possible to apologize. Like his partner, he accepts that it's too late to consider stopping. While more subdued, Annie seems to also realize just how far she's gone — apologizing in horror to the corpse of a soldier, but later brutally slaughtering soldiers while hunting for Eren. When she finds herself cornered, she encases herself in a Crystal Prison to escape.
- Several times over the course of the Golden Age arc in Berserk, it dawns on Griffith just what atrocities he has to commit in order to achieve his dream. And each time, he buries it so that he can continue pursuing his ambition. It comes to a head during the Eclipse where he sheds his final tear for sacrificing his most loyal soldiers just before completing his transformation into Femto. And then he rapes Casca in front of Guts.
- Death Note: Light Yagami gives one of the quotes on the quote page after making his second kill. Light is briefly overwhelmed when it's confirmed that writing someone's name in the notebook really does cause them to die, and the consequences of what he has done drive him into a mini crisis of conscience. However, after a very short Villainous BSoD, he shrugs it off and decides that killing people off via the notebook is the perfect means to force the world towards his vision for it. Over the course of the next few days he proceeds to kill so many people that a death god is surprised, and that's a tiny fraction of the total people he will kill with the notebook over the course of the series.
- Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta is a weird case. He was reduced to a sobbing Final Speech, disgusted by what he'd turned into and begging Goku to destroy Frieza so that it wouldn't happen to anyone else. Once revived, he's right back to being a huge Jerkass and threatening to take over the universe; he then remains a dormant villain for years, and while he does eventually make a HeelFace Turn, the exact moment is hard to pinpoint and it doesn't seem to be related to the first epiphany. However, him being disgusted at himself was just Dub Text Funimation added in. In the original version, he never says anything of the sort, but just begs for Frieza to "fall by a Saiyan's hand", as revenge for his race.
- One could also apply this trope to Frieza. Goku turns into a Super Saiyan, and after a long, hard fight, it's obvious that the tyrant has lost to who he dismissed as a mere "simian bastard". Even after Goku tries to leave Frieza (knowing he's no longer a challenge), AND after giving him some of his energy to get off an exploding Namek, Frieza STILL refuses to accept his defeat. He uses that very energy to blast the saiyan... only for him to finally snap and finish the overlord.
- Dragon Ball Super: Zamasu has such a moment after killing a mortal in cold blood when he could have simply left with his master; when Gowasu is lecturing him over it, he can't even look him in the eye. In his very next scene, Zamasu has gotten over it and believes his actions were justified because, as far as he's concerned, mortals are Always Chaotic Evil.
- In Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, Pop speculates at one point that Merle might have liked him, but dismisses it soon afterwards.note
Pop: You'd think she liked me or something... as if! Ha ha ha ha!Matoriv: (thinking to himself) This guy... he's completely clueless unless the girl he likes is involved... he's hopeless...
- Future Diary has one, with Yuno about to kill her third self, and realizing how twisted she has become, before deciding to attempt it anyway. Then AGAIN, when she is about to kill her family, realizes how much she loves Yuki, and how amazing he is for changing the future to allow her family to come together and be happy. She then attempts to kill all three of them anyway.
- When DOME reveals the truth about Newtypes in After War Gundam X, the authoritarian dictators of Earth (Fixx Bloodman) and the colonies (Seidel Rasso) take it in very different ways. Bloodman realizes that he might have been mistaken in conquering Earth so he could destroy the perceived threat from space. Rasso, however, rejects DOME's claim that Newytpes are an anomaly rather than a spacefaring Master Race and dives even harder into his zealotry.
- In ∀ Gundam, Kihel tries to spell out the Aesop she thinks should be taken from the Dark History: that mobile suit warfare is devastating and civilization-destroying. Guin, having seen the same footage, ignores her because he sees the possibility of industrial revolution in it.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny:
- Neo Roanoke is fully aware that he's a monster, and that what he does brainwashing Tykebombs into serving as Sociopathic Soldiers is beyond the pale. Yet he never does anything about it, and continues on his way despite his doubts, convinced that it is too late to turn back now. It's only with the revelation that he too has been brainwashed that he turns around.
- Meanwhile every time Shinn expresses doubt in what he and Rey and Durandal are doing, the other two either butter him up with something or try to guilt trip him.
- A short scene in the Metroid manga mixes this trope and Dramatic Irony. Ridley watches over the destruction of Samus' home of K-2L that he and his men caused and then meets a toddler Samus oblivious to what he had done and tries to befriend him. Ridley had a clear feeling of shame, but that was tossed aside when Samus' mother came running towards them to save her which made Ridley go straight back to normal and killed her right in front of Samus. When they crossed paths years later, the first thing he does is gloat over eating her mother's corpse. Then again, this scene is also open to a fair bit of Alternative Character Interpretation: maybe he pretended to be sorry to get Samus to let her guard down, or maybe he thought she was just so incredibly stupid for trying to befriend him.
- Shinji/Paul from Pokémon: The Series has done this one time, when he battled Shirona/Cynthia and got royally curb-stomped, she told him he needed to treat his Pokémon with love and respect, which he scoffed at.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Beginnings, Sayaka witnesses the gruesome sight of Mami's death and goes home crying, understanding for the first time how brutal being a magical girl is... but then she remembers how much she wants that wish from Kyubey, and contracts a day later.
- In Ranma ½, after a ton of effort, the protagonists seem to finally convince Happosai that it's for the best to let Pantyhose Taro pick a new name for himself. He agrees, Pantyhose Taro picks a name he loves, and goes to drop Happosai off in some distant land. Just when it looks like happy endings are for everyone, Happosai decides that there's no better name than Pantyhose Taro, and he won't let there be a name change.
- In the Manga version of Sailor Moon, Queen Beryl actually has one of these, very briefly musing how she's sold her soul to Metallia and that there's no going back.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's has Jack realizing, through his interactions with Carly, that power isn't everything and it's possible for someone like him to be redeemed. After the Dark Signer Arc ends, he goes right back to being a power-hungry Jerkass who barely acknowledges Carly. Even worse, Bommer warns him at some point that Jack's obsession over power would later destroy him. As Jack is about to face that, he subverts this trope by using a different, less power-driven strategy, but double subverts this again when his Red Daemon's Dragon receives a Next Tier Power-Up that focuses even more on power than before, but this time it's treated positively.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Judai as the Supreme King believes that he killed Jim, one of his newer friends, in a heated duel. Then he casually turns to O'Brien and asks "So are you next?".
- The same willpower that allowed Doctor Doom to resist the Red Skull's Hate Wave in AXIS also meant he was able to deny the revelations about himself the Truth Wave that was unleashed to counter the Hate Wave forced upon him (in the Axis tie-in issues of Loki: Agent of Asgard). The literal bonafide Truth smacked Doom in the face...and he refused to accept it. That's either impressive or sad. Maybe both.
- Black Science: This is pretty much Grant and Saras Fatal Flaw, in a Deconstruction of the Determinator trope. No matter how often theyre told and shown that their obsessions with the pillars and protecting their children are just causing chaos and destruction, they keep going and ignore any objections. Their alternate selves are just as bad; one Ward explicitly complains that, throughout the whole multiverse, Grant and Sara seemingly never learn their lesson and just keep ruining lives with the pillars. Theres a reason for this; the Prime universe Grant has implanted a subliminal imperative to build and use pillars in all his alternates because hes an Omnicidal Maniac who wants to start a chain reaction that will destroy the multiverse. They keep using the pillars because they have an instinctual drive to use them.
- Hughie from The Boys has a moment of this when Butcher manipulates him into walking out on Starlight. She desperately begs him not to leave and calls out to him in tears, but Hughie is so angry, confused, and ashamed that he leaves her without looking back. As the narration from that scene puts it:
The strange thing was, he knew she was right. Without being sure exactly why, he knew he was making the wrong choice. But he dredged up what he needed to keep going. To put one leaden foot in front of the other.
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck:
- It uses one of these for maximum effect. After his greatest failure, Scrooge spends decades wandering the planet, building his fortune. When he finally comes home, his sisters (who abandoned him afterwards) have gathered his family to greet him... but he storms past them, demanding they arrange for the people seeking donations to get away. Hortense, furious at the change in her brother, tells him he can either stop them from leaving or never see them again, at which point all and sundry walk out (a young Donald Duck giving Scrooge a kick in the ass for good measure). Scrooge, realizing how badly he's screwed up, is about to run after them... when he sees his Roster of the Rich and realizes he's the richest man in the world. The last panel shows him laughing in celebration... as his family walks away, leaving him Lonely at the Top.
- Earlier, while he's looking for gold in the Yukon, he spends some time sitting on a mountaintop, enraptured by the scenery, and wondering if he should just give up his money-grubbing ways and live off the land... then he says to heck with that, and announces that he'd put an oil pipeline through it if it would make him rich.
- In "Cry Duck!", Scrooge staged "tests" to see how his employees (among them Donald Duck) reacted. Hilarity Ensued when a real thug attacked him and Donald dismissed his plight as another test, but Scrooge failed to learn anything, refused to admit he was ever at fault, and ends up chasing Donald out of town trying to clobber him.
- Mr Gone from The Maxx knows every little psychological detail of why he does what he does. He even feels bad about it. That doesn't stop him.
- Cassidy's pattern of abusing women, then feeling remorse in Preacher.
Cassidy: Yeh do it an' yeh're one of the monsters...But yeh know what? Yeh wake up the next mornin' an' yer still alive...Yeh sort yerself out a bit... An' a wee tiny part've yeh starts to believe in a second chance.
Jesse: An' then you do it again.
- Velma handwaves this in a Gold Key Scooby-Doo story (issue 23's "Tribute in Flames") where a monster from a volcano terrorizes a town. Shaggy thinks the monster is a scientist the gang met earlier, so he and Scooby run to confront him:
Fred: (as he, Velma and Daphne run after Shaggy and Scooby) We've got to stop him before he does something stupid.
Velma: (dryly) Why tamper with nature?
- Secret Wars (2015)'s Giant Size Little Marvel: a vs. x, the twins finally have enough of the in-fighting between the heroes and chew out Cyclops, Iron Man, Captain America and Medusa. The kids are remorseful over it, but when the twins ask if they would stop fighting for now on, all four declare "NAH!" and we're greeted with a two-page spread of an all-out war between heroes and the twins end up joining the bad guys.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
- In issue 59, Sonic and Tails get trapped in a pocket dimension with Horizont-Al and Verti-Cal, who are now locked in eternal combat thanks to the events of issue 50. At the end, after Sonic and Tails win with The Power of Friendship, they give Al and Cal a speech about how they should go back to being friends. They briefly ponder this... then decide "Naaaaaaah!" and return to killing each other.
- After Sonic's return from space, Fiona Fox admits to him that his Heroic Sacrifice against the Xorda is what finally convinced her that he truly was a valiant hero, having convinced herself otherwise after he unintentionally left her behind in Robotnik's lab. Upon her defection to Scourge in issue 172, Fiona has disregarded this and throws his failure to save her in his face, telling Tails that he can't count on or trust anyone and using Sonic as her "prime example".
- In Superman: Red Son, Pyotr at one point laments his own evil deeds, most notably having killed that universe's versions of Thomas and Martha Wayne. He even attempts to commit suicide while Drowning His Sorrows, but is saved by Superman. At one point Pyotr says something along the lines of how Superman makes him want to be a better person than he is. But once Stalin dies and Supes becomes head of the Soviet Union, Pyotr promptly goes right back to being a ruthless, scheming bastard who actively attempts to depose Superman.
- One issue of Superior Spider-Man Team Up had SpOck's "Superior Six" plan utterly backfire on him with him realizing what he had done was horrible and that he's planning on quit being Spider-Man and turn himself in to The Avengers. However, when he encounters Namor and the former ruler talks to him about his problems... he knocks Namor on his ass, tells him to get out of his city and promptly swings away, proclaiming that he will still be the Superior Spider-Man.
- Basically applies to the digital recreation of Octavius that emerged during the events of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy; learning about the circumstances of the original Octavius's death (he willingly deleted himself from Peter's mind because he recognised that Peter was the true 'Superior Spider-Man'), the 'new' Octavius instead convinces himself that his other self had some sort of mental breakdown because Peter's brain couldn't cope with his own superior intellect.
- The Transformers Megaseries: After murdering Leadfoot in cold blood, Galvatron suddenly pauses and, for the briefest of moments, seems to realize how pointless and his obsession with power and violence really is; it hasnt made him happy and has cost him everything he truly cared about. Then the rest of Leadfoots squad attacks to avenge his death, and Galvatron immediately pushes the thought out of his head to focus on fighting.
- In The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Prowl falls under Decepticon mind control. This causes a chain of events that culminate in riots, and death and critical injuries within the main cast. Afterwards, the character realises that the reason nobody except Arcee noticed what was wrong was because he already had a reputation for being an insufferable jerk even before he was mind controlled. He then promptly goes back to his usual jerkass shenanigans, including provoking Chromedome about his dead husband, spying on Optimus, pointing a gun at Jazz's head for a completely illogical reason, revealing himself and putting humans in danger just to chase one down for a simple talk, and generally doing things behind the Autobots' backs. Go figure.
- Sins of the Wreckers lampshades this, with Prowl's old partner Tarantulas noting that Prowl often goes through "cyclical phases" of regretting his actions and wanting to change, only to go right back to being the same morally compromised jerk he always was.
- Wonder Woman:
- Wonder Woman (1942): In Judgment In Infinity after putting mankind to a test, the Adjudicator briefly wonders whether he should spare Earth in order to study humans further. One second later, he decides he is not interested in researching worlds but in "judging" them (that is to say, destroying them).
- Wonder Woman (1987): When Circe regains herself after her Memory Gambit as Donna Milton she is quite conflicted about her newly learned sense of morality, and even tries to help rescue Artemis. The next time she's seen she's still struggling with it, before deciding that she's furious she even has such thoughts and goes to help another villain kidnap, torture and mind rape a teen into attacking and murdering other teens before going on a murder spree of her own in New York.
- Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force has Wolverine's tendency towards this examined:
- Fantomex kills a kid version of Apocalypse, even after the rest of the team agreed it was unjustifiable? A clear sign that X-Force is going too far, right? No, according to Wolverine it was totally justified in hindsight and X-Force is still a perfectly good idea. Deadpool and Psylocke immediately call him out on the fact that he's not just lying to himself, but also blatantly contradicting his previous opinions. And keep in mind that the only reason Fantomex didn't agree with them was because he used the World to revive Kid Apocalypse and undo his indoctrination; in other words, instead of denying his sins like Logan, he actually made effort to undo or atone for them.
- Its eventually revealed that the team's ruthless "no matter the cost" attitude will bring about a Bad Future where crime is prevented by brutally executing anybody who even thinks about doing something bad. Despite being given firsthand evidence that he's becoming just as bad as the villains and the rest of the team being justifiably unnerved, Wolverine still refuses to believe that he's done anything morally wrong and even tries to justify the horrific world his future self has helped create. It takes Psylocke attempting suicide and being forced to kill his own son for Wolverine to finally realize and accept the mistakes he's made.
- Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Alan Jonah has obviously responded this way to the aftermath of Ghidorah's death and the human-Titan coexistence — so long as there are human beings in the world, he'll never be satisfied. Downplayed by MaNi/Elder Brother, who seems to pause and distantly recall his tragic origin story when Vivienne says the right word with the right context, but he promptly brushes it off.
- Advice and Trust:
- In chapter 7 Shinji manages getting Hikari out of Unit 03 where she was stuck into. Gendo could have realized maybe it meant Yui could come out but she did not choose not to -therefore he should stop his little "I'll get the whole mankind killed in order to save my wife" scheme-, but he chose focusing on the fact that it is possible for a soul come out of an Eva.
- In chapter 8 Rei shows many signs that she isn't interested in Gendo and she doesn't even like him. Still Ritsuko refused to realize the implications, and kept drugging Rei because she thought that "the doll" was "competition".
- In Avenger Goddess, according to Diana, the Twelve Labors were intended to help Herakles learn humility after he was temporarily driven mad and killed his family, but instead he viewed them as an opportunity to hone his skills and avenge his family by training to kill the gods themselves.
- In Boys und Sensha-do!, this can be seen as applying to Miho's mother. At the end of the first season of the anime, after seeing Miho defeat her older sister Maho's until recently undefeated school, sighs and claps, signifying some degree of acceptance of Miho's style of tankery, even if it goes against that of the Nishizumi family. In the fic, however, she is still planning on disowning Miho, as she was in Episode 8, because of what had happened and because Miho now has boys on her team. She ultimately ends up disowning Miho in Chapter 7.
- Le Commencement du Diable Blanc:
- Petunia immediately regrets slapping her nephew for being smarter than her son, and it's compounded by the kid stating he hates her afterwards — the first words he ever said to her. But she's ultimately too jealous of her late sister to start treating the boy differently, resolving to never raise her hand against him again.
- Dumbledore was acutely aware he comdemned baby Harry to a loveless, neglected childhood when he sent him to the Dursleys, but stubbornly maintains this is the only way for Harry to become Voldemort's true equal.
- Contract Labor: Motoko has a brief My God, What Have I Done? moment after realizing she attacked an innocent Keitaro with intent to kill, but her very next scene has her back to blaming men for everything and refusing to own up to her actions.
- A Crown of Stars: Jinnai was present when Asuka declared she liked neither -former Big Bad- Winthrop nor Jinnai and she accepted to be their plaything for her own protection, and Winthrop hinted that Asuka had acted to protect Shinji. However he did pay little heed to the exchange, and he got shocked -and jealous- when he heard Asuka had hooked up with Shinji.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
- The show subverts the original Funimation dub with Vegeta mentioned in the Anime section above. In DBZA, it's Goku who suggests that Freeza made Vegeta evil, but Vegeta insists he'd be evil anyway.
- Teased when Freeza is trying to hold off the Spirit Bomb before ultimately being averted.
Freeza: If I had any single regret for the countless horrific events that have transpired in my wake, it's that I'm dying.
- Played straight with Freeza after he becomes half the man he used to be. When Goku spares him some energy, he begins to ponder if he should turn over a new leaf.
Freeza: Maybe I was wrong... Nah!
- In History of Trunks abridged, Android 17 actually becomes truly and completely bored with the pointless destructive rampage that he and his sister have been on. He begins pondering changing his life, becoming a park ranger and sparing the human race... and then in the middle of his reverie Gohan lands a surprise hit on 17. This immediately makes 17 change his mind and decide that he is definitely going to entirely wipe out the human race, then become a park ranger.
- Eden (Obsessmuch): Upon assaulting Hermione, Lucius realizes that she's not some clever manipulator trying to use him, but a innocent girl who is terrified of him and wants him to stay away. He realizes this, but then clarifies that he's a grown man and she can't do anything to him, so he rapes her. After that, he silently regrets what he did.
- Guan Yu has one after his death in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. Yes, he'd killed just as many people as Lu Meng, and had no right to complain... so clearly, he needed to kill a few more people.
- Fate/Long Night: The Stranger's Champion helps Zouken Matou realize how his obsession with immortality has ruined his life and cut him off from his loved ones. Zouken seems to consider it for a few seconds, then angrily declares his goal is all that matters.
- For His Own Sake: When Granny Hina learns just how hellish Keitaro's time running the Hinata Inn has been, not only is she remorseful, she rebukes Naru and Motoko for trying to drive his father away as well, informing them that they are to treat her family with respect. Unfortunately, she later slips back into seeing herself as the only one who understands the girls, and starts trying to manipulate everyone into doing what she wants again.
- While spying on Alex and Ranko for potential blackmail material in How I Learned to Love the Wild Horse, Caitlyn witnesses Ranko break down crying over her life and being comforted by Alex. For a moment she considers that editing the tape she's filming to make it look like an intimate moment is a dick move. But then she decides she'll simply advise Mandy not to post it online (and thus cause Genma and the Tendos to find out where he is) but if Mandy does anyway, oh well.
- Gladion has major issues with this in Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily. Before the main plot kicks into gear, he reflects upon recent events and muses whether things might have turned out better if he'd actually informed anyone about what he'd witnessed on the night his sister was traumatized. Had he done so, her Poké-phobia could have been treated more effectively much sooner, sparing her years of grief. However, he immediately dismisses that notion, deciding he was completely right to leave her behind while he embarked on a quest to 'grow strong enough to protect her'. When Lillie subsequently calls him out on this, he treats her like an Ungrateful Bastard, and his inability to consider her feelings is part of what traps him on the Train.
- Jaune Arc goes through this in Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger. In the chapter "Gnawing", Pyrrha helps Jaune gain a moment of clarity, during which he comes to the realization that Darth Nihilus has been manipulating him the entire time and that his use of the Dark Side has deteriorated his mind. Unfortunately, Jaune is addicted to the Dark Side at this point and has developed a total dependency on it. Rather than coming clean to his friends about the Mask of Darth Nihilus, Jaune doubles down and believes that the problem is he hasn't drawn enough power from the Dark Side. He then concludes that there's no point in trying to resist Nihilus' influence since he feels like he's already lost control over his life anyway.
- The Karma of Lies:
- Notably absent with Adrien. Despite having it repeatedly spelled out to him throughout the story — by Plagg, Marinette, Ladybug, his classmates and the Agreste family lawyers — how his own actions have led to him being Hoist by His Own Petard and facing serious karmic backlash, he never allows himself to consider the possibility that any of them are right. Instead, he remains firmly convinced that he is supposed to be getting everything he wants because he's a 'good guy', and that it's unfair for him to be suffering consequences when he hasn't done anything wrong.
- Downplayed with Alya and the majority of Marinette's former friends/classmates. Juleka notes that while they, like her, likely realize that they wronged Marinette by shunning her in favor of Lila, they refuse to admit any fault, expecting to be Easily Forgiven and for Marinette to accept them back with open arms... and go right back to letting them exploit her generous nature.
- Highlighted by Alya's Moral Myopia — while scheming to force Marinette to take them back by appealing directly to her parents, Alya gloats about how she intends to hold Marinette's 'mistake' over her head forever. While ignoring the fact that said 'mistake' is ignoring her former friends in exactly the same way they were ignoring her.
- Alya takes this to impressive levels throughout LadyBugOut:
- When confronting Ladybug about being Retired and Replaced as the Fox Bearer, Ladybug points out that the anger she's feeling over this parallels how she felt about Alya posting that photo without context or permission. Alya appears to realize this, only to stubbornly insist that it's different.
- Even after Lila unintentionally outs herself as a liar to Alya and Nino by claiming to have been Rena Rouge herself, causing Nino to have his own realization, Alya continues insisting that she was betrayed first and harder, and that Marinette should apologize to HER for taking Ladybug's side. This leads to Nino breaking up with her, something that only adds to her victim complex.
- The Lament Series (ChaoticNeutral):
- In Gabriel's Lament, he finds that the consequences of his actions as Hawk Moth have followed him into the new reality created by his Wish. He also admits to himself that Emilie likely wouldn't agree with him that everything he did to save her was Worth It, particularly when it comes to how he neglected and abused their son. Yet he continuously insists that his actions were completely justified, and balks at the prospect of doing anything that might endanger his 'happy ending', despite how it's already unraveling before his eyes.
- Chloe's Lament features her spiraling into increasingly intense levels of denial as Adrien stands up to her and takes her to task for being such a self-absorbed Spoiled Brat. Faced with mounting evidence that Marinette isn't Secretly Selfish like her, she rejects reality and makes a Wish to swap places with her, expecting Marinette to become just as despised as she was... while ignoring that she was hated for her cruel, bullying ways.
- The straightest example comes with she overhears Adrien confessing that he doesn't really consider her a friend anymore, and mostly just pities her for isolating herself. This brings Chloe right to the cusp of a Heel Realization, only to back away and insist that he's betrayed her just like everybody else.
- Loved and Lost: When ordered to massacre the entire population of Ponyville, the sadistic and extremist Commander Hildread is disturbed by the idea of massacring ponies she believes she's protecting. However, she obeys her master regardless and chooses her delusions over her conscience when her rival Shining Armor calls her out.
- Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy: Katsuki becomes a violent vigilante as a way of coping with his frustration over 'useless Deku' becoming an infamous criminal mastermind. When this leads to him accidentally killing somebody, he's briefly horrified... then gets furious at his own victim for dying. Following his fall from grace, he's actually insulted by the notion that he's still considered less dangerous than Midoriya, and runs away from home intending to prove his superiority by becoming the #1 Villain.
- In Mega Man Reawakened, Robert seems to be paying attention to what Wood Man is saying about his anger issues, but when he goes to talk it out with Dr. Light he becomes enraged at things being hidden from him, resulting in a huge argument.
- Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race:
- Wily has one in the episode 11 epilogue as he realizes ProtoMan leaving was his fault. Then he decides it can't be entirely his fault and rages at Dr. Light.
- Tiesel has one in episode 13 when he feels guilty for what the Conduit is making him do, but suppresses his guilt when he remembers the Conduit's threats against him.
- Neon Metathesis Evangelion: Ritsuko rants internally over how even Rei has more people who care about her than she does, with Shinji and Asuka being outright in love with Rei. Ritsuko realizes she's pushing everyone out of her life to be with Gendo who even she admits shows her no affection, but insists it's worth it because how obsessed she is with him. Even after Rei starts showing emotions and emotional attachments, Ritsuko continues to think of her as a thing and blames Rei for all her problems. Eventually, Ritsuko decides to make Rei pay for all her own pain despite knowing the girl had nothing to do with it beyond Gendo valuing her (as a connection to Yui) over Ritsuko.
- The One I Love Is...:
- Played straight in chapter three. Shinji is making out with Rei. Suddenly he starts thinking about Asuka, and he is unable to go on. If he would have realized that it meant he loved Asuka the most, the Love Triangle could have been resolved right then, but instead of getting a clue he complained about Asuka mucking things up.
- Played straight again one chapter later. Asuka dares Shinji to kiss her because she was bored. Typically clueless, Shinji replies that "You don't kiss a guy because you're bored". Exactly, Shinji. Hence, think: Why does she want to kiss you?
- Nearly played straight again in a later chapter. Shinji suggests Asuka her parents surely care about her. She lets him know that his father does not give a damn about her and her mother is dead. After few seconds it hit him that she was just like him.
- The One to Make It Stay:
- Zig-Zagging Trope with Alya after she posts a heavily edited video to the Ladyblog. Though she brushes off most of Ladybug's concerns, one point gives her pause: the fact that Hawkmoth might follow her blog for intel. However, that is the only thing she is willing to apologize for. The rest she still attempts to dismiss as no big deal, and accuses Ladybug of overreacting and punishing her too harshly. When Marinette brings up the same issue later, Alya blows her off completely, declaring that the Ladyblog isn't likely to attract his interest. She later recants and goes full-blown My God, What Have I Done? after learning that Chat's Ring was stolen, fearing that her video inspired Hawkmoth's plan.
- When Marinette confronts her and points out that Ladybug wouldn't approve of her bullying Aurore, Chloe briefly looks horrified before scoffing, dismissing her warning by proclaiming that Marinette's just jealous of her being Queen Bee.
- In his Interlude, Don't Step over My Head, Gabriel is slightly shaken by the revelation that he was fighting his son all along. However, he is all too quick to shift the blame, refusing to reexamine or reconsider his methods.
- All three have a Foil in Adrien, who notably averts this thus far by virtue of not having any kind of epiphany about his actions whatsoever, despite having done plenty of things one might expect would trigger a moment of self-reflection. The closest he has come is blaming Marinette and Alya for the guilt he feels over overhearing a private conversation — by his logic, if Marinette just told him what he learned that way, he wouldn't have to feel bad about accidentally eavesdropping. Considering that his actions and inaction have led to consequences like Miracle Queen swiping his ring and Hawkmoth setting Feline Fatale loose on Paris, the fact that said eavesdropping is the only thing he feels mildly guilty about says a lot about his priorities.
- Sleeper Hit AU:
- Zig-Zagged by Aizawa. On one hand, he'd sincerely come to regret expelling Midoriya on his first day at U.A. long before Sleeper Hit mentioned that little detail in an interview. But this is partly because he believes that Midoriya would've been useful to have around during the League's assault on the USJ, which he considers his greatest failure due to the loss of Asui and Mineta. When Shinsou confronts him, he still attempts to defend and justify away his decisions despite those regrets, and has difficulty admitting just how much he wronged Midoriya.
- Bakugou serves as a much straighter example. Not only does he show absolutely no remorse for how he treated Midoriya, he doubles down on his cruelty, insisting that Izuku deserves to be broken. This causes Kirishima to stand against him, calling him out with a Meaningful Echo of Shigaraki's claims that King Nitro is more villain than hero. This cracks through Katsuki's denial... but he quickly pins the blame on Izuku instead.
- In Spectacular Seven, Moondancer seemingly has a Heel Realization when she learns that Twilight Sparkle loves Sunset Shimmer of her own free will, and that everything she did for Twilight was All for Nothing. Unfortunately, because she is determined to make Twilight Sparkle hers, she shrugs it off.
- During his massacre of the pandas in The Vow, Lord Shen momentarily feels some pity upon spotting Po (a baby at the time) before he brushes that aside.
- In Dragon Ball story The Warrior's Daughter, Gero sometimes met Lapis and Lazuli's mother while she was searching for her missing children, and felt a very brief twinge of remorse... which he proceeded to completely squash down.
Gero never returned to that village. Was it relief what washed over him when he found out [their mother] was dead, that she would no longer send search crews every year on the anniversary of their [children] disappearance? Or was it a sense of sadness that he had caused this innocent woman to suffer? He reasoned with himself for many, many years that he had done those kids a favor. He made them elite fighting machines. He gave them a purpose.
- In Cars 2, the villainous group of Lemons (cars that don't ever work right) are trying to become rich and powerful by discrediting alternative fuels during a high-stakes World Grand Prix, then selling oil they've begun drilling off the coast, so they can get revenge on the cars who had mocked them their entire lives. Mater, who had gone through an epiphany of his own upon realizing the world was mocking him just as much, gives a speech to the entire Lemon army about how he had been mocked his whole life, and that their schemes wouldn't make them feel better. The Lemons seemed touched by this sentiment and appear on the verge of tears, but they decide it's worth a shot to keep going with their plan anyway.
- In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Well-Intentioned Extremist General Hein has a couple of epiphanies where he realizes what he has done as a result of his zeal for destroying the Phantoms but goes ahead with his firing of the Zeus cannon anyway, even though it kills him and many others on board the space station with him, and proves to be utterly unsuccessful.
- Prince Hans has two big moments in Frozen where he is briefly reluctant about his plans to seize control of Arendelle, but these self-doubts are quickly ignored.
- In A Frozen Heart, a novelization of the movie from his POV, Hans felt slightly hesitant about quickly agreeing to a Fourth Date Marriage with Anna, wondering if he's going way too fast and how his family would react to this — his father would call him an idiot, while Lars would say that it was done too hastily. But then, these doubts are quashed by his goal to seize control of Arendelle.
- He gets another when he tells Elsa that Anna is dead because of her and causes the snowstorm to stop, and briefly notices how Elsa is taking it. He's genuinely surprised at the grief she has for her beloved sister, and for a moment, he starts to realize he might have gone too far, but he brushes it off, believing there's no point now that he has a big chance to end the winter and be free from the Southern Isles forever.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo seems to have one of some sort in the song Hellfire when he sings "God have mercy on her/God have mercy on me". True to the trope, immediately follows it up with "But she will be mine, or she will burn!" For someone who's an Egocentrically Religious Churchgoing Villain, Judge Frollo himself doesn't realize the Bible's true message on compassion and pride. Others repeatedly try to knock some sense into him and call him out on his hypocrisy, but to his dying words, he never realizes he could be wrong. For all the Holier Than Thou harping and Bible-thumping he does throughout the movie, he's just a paranoid loon who blames others, including God, for his issues. His bloated ego prevents him from realizing that pride is the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, and it ultimately leads to his eternal damnation in Hell.
- At the end of Kung Fu Panda, when Shifu apologizes for his mistakes in raising Tai Lung, Tai Lung appears genuinely moved for a moment or two... but then decides that he doesn't want Shifu's apology and continues his assault.
- Kung Fu Panda 2:
- Lord Shen spends most of the film thinking that his parents banished him from his homeland because they hated him. When he tells this to the Soothsayer, she reveals that they actually loved him to such an extent that having to banish him literally killed them. Shen seems genuinely moved by this for a few seconds before promptly brushing it off.
- He gets another after Po destroys his cannon fleet, where he accepts Po is right about not letting the past define who you choose to be now. He chooses to continue attacking Po, leading to his death.
- The Onceler does this twice in the 1972 Animated Adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Once when the Bar-ba-Loots were sent away, and again when the Swomee Swans and Humming Fish leave. The latter instance segues into his rant from the climax of the book. The epiphany only sticks after it's too late to fix anything. Specifically, the Onceler has this musical Inner Monologue.
Every once in a while, I sit down with myself asking,
"Onceler! Why are you a Onceler?"
And I cringe, I don't smile, as I sit there on trial asking,
"Aren't you ashamed, you old Onceler?
You ought to be locked in hoosegow, you should!
The things that you do are completely un-good!"
"Yeah? But if I didn't do them, then someone else would!"
"That's a very good point, Mr. Onceler."
- O'Hare in the 2012 version of The Lorax provides a comical example during his portion of "Let it Grow".
The things you say just might be true
It could be time to start anew
And maybe change my point of view...
Nah! I say let it die!
- At the climax of Penguins of Madagascar, after Big Bad Dave has turned all of the penguins into disgusting monsters, he states that he feels empty as if there is a hole in him now. He comes to the conclusion that the best way to fix that is to plan MORE revenge and starts preparing to uglify every other cute animal species.
- In Sausage Party, Sammy Bagel Jr. reveals that hes friends with Hamas, whom Kareem Abdul Lavash is also friends with. But when Lavash is about to say that any friend of Hummus is a friend of his, he takes one good look at Sammy and tells him to get the fuck away from him. Subverted later on, when Lavash and Sammy become Friends with Benefits.
- Shark Tale gives a rather humorous example from Don Lino upon seeing his son Lenny in a dolphin disguise.
Lino: What did I ever do to you?! You took Frankie away, and you turned Lenny into a dolphin! [his sadness quickly turns to fury] I'M GONNA GET YOU!
- Sheila Brokflovski from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut looked like she finally came to her senses after her son Kyle tries to reason with her. She then gunned down Terrence and Phillip.
- Plankton in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water. After defeating Burger Beard in the climax, Plankton lets Mr. Krabs keep the secret formula in an act of selflessness. When SpongeBob takes the gang back to Bikini Bottom, he tries disguising himself in a Gary robot to steal the Krabby Patty formula yet again. After being caught by SpongeBob, he says it himself:
SpongeBob: Up to your old tricks again already, eh?
Plankton: Hey, I'm just putting things back the way they were...
- In The Bad and the Beautiful, we first meet Jonathan Shields at the funeral for his father, a former Hollywood big shot who died penniless after his studio went bust. Despite the fact that literally everyone at the funeral except himself was paid to be there and pretend to be mourning, Jonathan takes nothing away from the fate of the man he calls "the king of the heels," except that he'll have to work extra hard to ram the Shields name down the throats of everyone who didn't pay him in the proper respect. He then spends the rest of the movie being a bigger bastard than his dad ever was.
- In Being John Malkovich, Craig has a moment where he seems to become horrified at how he locked up his wife Lotte in a monkey cage to keep her away from Maxine, the woman they both want, and he frees Lotte and allows her to call Maxine. Then the very next scene shows that he locked her up again and has gone off to meet Maxine in her place. It's left ambiguous if Craig's moment of remorse was a sincere one that he chose to ignore, or if he was faking the ignored epiphany to get Lotte to set up a meeting with Maxine that he could take advantage of.
- In John Woo's Broken Arrow, Deakins kills a man by crushing his throat, then remarks, "I just realized something. I never actually killed anyone before. I mean, I dropped bombs on Baghdad, but, uh... never face to face." [Beat] "I don't know what the big deal is, I really don't."
- Played for Laughs at the end of Christmas with the Kranks when, after everything that happened as a result of them deciding to skip Christmas and go on a cruise, we get this:
Luthor: What a dumb idea. Skipping Christmas.Nora: Maybe next year.
- In Death to Smoochy, Rainbow Randolph decides that it is time to end his vendetta against Smoochy. He talks of "gracefully marching forward" and "admitting that the rhino has won." That is until he picks up a photo of Sheldon with his ex-girlfriend. Angelo's panicked reminder of his resolution falls on deaf ears as Randolf screams and curses that he's going to end Smoochy once and for all.
- Towards the end of Hong Kong wuxia film Duel to the Death, Ching Wan tries to convince an embittered Chinese lord against the plan that he made with the Shogun of Japan to betray China. It makes the lord think, but just a minute later he tries to backstab the hero, only to hit and kill his own daughter instead.
- Forrest Warrior: Corrupt logger Travis Thorne has a brief moment of softness, recalling how he used to play in the old treehouse as a kid and showing surprise at his spies report that its still there with a smile. Barely a second later, he orders his men to blow it up to give the kids less reason to hang around there and give him trouble.
- In The Godfather Part II, when Michael returns from Cuba to be told that his wife had a miscarriage while he was gone, he starts to think about what's happened to his immediate family since he became don and talks to his mother about it, asking whether it's possible to be so focused on the idea of protecting your family that in the meantime, you lose them — basically spelling out the entire main theme of the three films. But his mother tells him that "you can never lose your family," and he's reassured that he's doing the right thing. Later in his confrontation with Kay, he tells her he knows they've been growing apart and that she blames him for the miscarriage, but they'll get past it: "I've learned that I have the strength to change." She tells him how blind he is; that it wasn't a miscarriage but an abortion, because she wouldn't bring another child of his into the world, which enrages him so much he forgets any idea of repairing the damage he's done.
- A Kitten For Hitler has Hitler being given a kitten for Christmas by a boy, which almost causes him to have a change of heart. This ends when he discovers the boy is Jewish, making him decide to continue his atrocities.
- In Knives Out, Harlan realizes late in life that his children, their spouses and grandchildren have turned into a group of Jerkass Spoiled Brats and it was his fault for enabling them all this time. However, rather than sitting down with everyone and admitting to them that he made a mistake, Harlan decides to not only fire his son Walt without any notice, but also cut all of his family out of his will without much explanation. To be fair, some of Harlan's dialogue implies he did intend to talk with his family but his sudden death prevented that.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In The Avengers, when the Chitauri are attacking New York, Thor tries for a last time to approach his brother, trying to make him aware of the destruction caused by the Chitauri and the fact that they are getting out of Loki's control. For a short moment, Loki seems genuinely shocked, telling Thor that "it's too late to stop it." But just when Thor responds that they can do it together, Loki stabs him and flees.
- Later in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor explicitly calls Loki out on this. As he points out, despite he fact that all his evil plans and tricks continually blow up in his face and have effectively ruined his life, Loki continues to act like an selfish, manipulative asshole who constantly betrays the trust of others. Thor makes clear that he's given up on trying to redeem Loki, saying that he'll never change and will just continue to be a pathetic jerk for the rest of his life. Ultimately subverted, as this "The Reason You Suck" Speech ends up being what finally makes Loki realize that he really has been blaming everyone else for his flaws. He proceeds to back Thor and his allies up during their battle with Hela and by the end of the movie he is on his way to some degree of redemption.
- In Avengers: Endgame, when the Thanos of 2014 sees that his future self succeeded in his Depopulation Bomb of the entire universe, but everyone's still recovering and people haven't gotten over the sudden deaths of half of all living things even five years after the event to the point that the Avengers are trying to undo it, instead of realizing his solution to overpopulation was wrong, he decides everyone else is simply ungrateful and that he needs to be even more extreme, killing off the entire universe this time and replacing it with one that will never know of the horrible atrocities he committed and will see him as their hero.
- Schindler's List:
- Schindler tells Amon Goeth in one scene that real power isn't in killing people, but in forgiveness. Goeth seems genuinely moved by this, and a couple scenes later, when a Jewish boy fails to clean the stains from his tub, he pardons the boy just to see how it feels... and then shoots him almost immediately after.
- Later, while alone with his Jewish mistress, Goeth begins to think that maybe the problem isn't with his feelings for her, but with the Nazi ideology telling him he should hate her. He quickly abandons the thought, blaming it on her evil Jewish powers, before beating her and smashing a shelf full of wine on top of it.
- In Spider-Man 2, J. Jonah Jameson is just about to admit that Spider-Man was a hero until he notices that Spider-Man has stolen his suit back from the Bugle, at which point he reneges his speech at the last second and returns to his original disdain of him.
Jameson: Yes. Spider-Man was a hero. I just couldn't see it. He was a- [notices that the Spider-Man suit is missing] A THIEF! A CRIMINAL! He stole my suit! He's a menace to the entire city! I want that wall-crawling arachnid prosecuted! I want him strung up by his web! I WANT SPIDER-MAN!!!!
- Star Wars:
- Vader has at least one such moment before doing his Redemption Equals Death HeelFace Turn. When Luke turns himself in to the Imperials during Return of the Jedi, the two have a talk together where Luke tries to turn him away from The Dark Side. At the end Vader simply says "It is too late for me, son", hinting that he knows he's on the wrong side but he believes that after everything he's done, he is beyond redemption. Then, he takes Luke up to face the Emperor, knowing the Emperor's plans to corrupt Luke's soul.
- In Revenge of the Sith Anakin does a My God, What Have I Done? right after he helps Palpatine kill Windu. Right after that, he goes on with his FaceHeel Turn to become Darth Vader.
- In Young Adult, Mavis Gary has to deal with the fact her high school boyfriend's actually happy with his wife and newborn daughter, and she herself has been behaving in an increasingly immature fashion; but just as Mavis says "I need to change", she learns a very minor character still considers her a winner, and her narcissism is once again fed.
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Alice often gave herself very good advice, but she very seldom followed it."
- In The Case of Sergeant Grisha, Major General Schieffenzahn is briefly convinced to rescind the order for Grisha's execution (and has a What Have I Become? moment too); but a snowstorm prevents him making a phone call, and by the time communication is restored, he's abandoned his forgiving whim.
- In The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor feels sick at heart after hearing Fortunato's bells jingle for the last time as walling him up alive, but dismisses it as being caused by the dampness of the catacombs.
- In the backstory of The Daily Task of Preventing My Disciple From Turning to the Dark Side, Mu Chen realizes that he was a bad mentor to his disciple, which probably contributed to said disciple's FaceHeel Turn. However, he thinks that this realization in itself means he now knows everything necessary to be a good mentor. He happily trots off to redeem his past failures by finding his disciple's reincarnation, and teaching him badly again, only in a completely different way this time. Although Mu Chen has technically learned something, he is still as ignorant as he was in the past, and ignorant of that fact. This pattern of behaviour continues throughout the series, with Mu Chen feeling entitled to a place in his disciple's life, and assuming that Gu Yunjue has no agency in the increasingly horrific actions he does. And of course, his disciple's evil couldn't have anything to do with the fact that Mu Chen is spoiling him rotten...
- Darth Bane has one when he realizes that he inadvertently killed his own father by unknowingly tapping into the Dark Side of the Force. His shock and guilt are strong enough to sever his connection to The Force, and he realizes that the Dark Side will ultimately destroy him. Unfortunately for everyone in the galaxy (especially himself), his desire for power overcomes this brief moment of remorse.
- According to Candayce this happens every time she or the other Wetherford bullies met Janine's eye and "soul-piercing gaze" in Dinoverse. They became aware of how petty and treacherous they were, how little integrity they had, but while this would distract them from what they were doing and keep them from doing anything to her, they never changed their behavior.
- In Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters, Granny Weatherwax uses headology on Lady Felmet to show her all the evil she's committed. There's a moment when Felmet acts like she's about to pull a HeelFace Turn, or at least a Villainous Breakdown, but she shakes it off and then says she knows exactly what she's done, and she likes it.
- The faculty members at Unseen University tend to dump unwanted tasks on younger wizard Ponder Stibbons, but they don't realize the extent of this behavior until Unseen Academicals, when he pulls off a one-man majority vote using his accumulated positions. At this point they finally realize what a burden they've placed on him and decide that someone has to do something about it. Three guesses as to who gets that job...
- In the Disney Fairies series, Vidia is infamous for plucking feathers from Mother Dove, whose molted feathers are used to make fairy dust. The first book, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, reveals that Vidia didn't enjoy plucking the feathers, but convinced herself that Mother Dove was making the pain seem worse than it really was. Later in the story, she has to pluck a feather from a golden hawk, who has the power to telepathically share its pain, and thus she feels what plucking feels like for herself. The narration points out that Vidia could have acknowledged that what she'd done was cruel, but instead she decided to believe the hawk had made the pain feel more powerful than it was to spite her. This is averted in the movie continuity though. More specifically, in Great Fairy Rescue Vidia slams a door of a makeshift house trapping Tinker Bell inside. She has a My God, What Have I Done? moment, goes back for help and even admits her mistake. Since then, she had always been supporting Tink and the gang, if still a bit snarky and sassy.
- Lord Soth has at least several of these during the Ravenloft novel Knight of the Black Rose.
- The first, in his backstory, begins with Soth having just been found guilty at his trial. As he is carted through the city of Palanthas in disgrace, a mob angrily taunts him and throws fruit and rocks at the once heroic knight. One of them shouts "The Kingpriest is right! Evil exists even within the Knights!" This gives Soth a moment of remorse and reflection that he has provided just that proof for the fanatical Kingpriest, and about how this will allow the Kingpriest's Corrupt Church to strengthen its grip on the world... but then a rock hits him and he forgets all about that and goes back to angrily cursing the crowd.
- After his escape from prison, Soth returns to his Tower, where the rest of the Knights besiege him. As this drags on longer, Soth becomes more corrupt and starts falling further and further from the hero he used to be. At one point, after an argument with his wife, he hits her. Looking at himself in the mirror afterwards, Soth realizes just how far he's fallen, goes back, begs forgiveness of his wife and the gods, and gets a divine vision of a Redemption Quest: to stop the Kingpriest from inadvertently causing the Cataclysm. Soth charges off on his quest... until he runs into a group that accuse his wife of being unfaithful, and Soth promptly charges right back, allowing The End of the World as We Know It so he can confront her about this.
- After wandering into the magic border of Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread, Soth is presented with a vision of himself and what might have been if he had fulfilled The Quest above: himself with his honor restored, his dead wife by his side, and the son she was pregnant with there with him. Soth is told that if he merely repents and asks forgiveness from the good gods this might come true. Soth hesitates for a time, but his pride prevents him from doing so, and he instead fights the other version of himself, and kills his son when the son tries to interfere. An arguable case because we don't know what Soth was thinking while he hesitated (the chapter is told through the point of view of another character), and there's a good chance it was a cruel joke on the part of the dark forces that control the demiplane. Though it is Canon Discontinuity, he nevertheless later subverts it later, and was allowed to return to Krynn, where he had a Death Equals Redemption.
- The character Raistlin does this in the alternate future where he becomes a god. When Raistlin has destroyed all the gods except Paladine (the chief god of good), he speaks with the immortal chronicler Astinus. Astinus tells Raistlin what will become of him after Paladine's death: an eternity of helpless, angry loneliness. Raistlin hesitates... then laughs bitterly and kills Paladine anyway. It's worth noting that this version of Raistlin was almost totally insane prior to this conversation, and seems to have snapped for good after learning of his fate. The main-timeline Raistlin, thankfully, subverts this trope.
- Lord Soth has at least several of these during the Ravenloft novel Knight of the Black Rose.
- In the Frog and Toad story "Cookies", Frog and Toad try to stop themselves from eating too many cookies by putting them in a box, but they keep opening up the box and eating cookies anyway. After some failed attempts at making the box increasingly inaccessible (tying the box up with string, putting the tied-up box on a high shelf, and so on), Frog throws the cookies to the birds to teach Toad about the importance of willpower. After this happens, Toad walks off and openly announces he's now going to bake a cake.
- In the The Godfather, Michael realizes during his time in exile that the Mafia had been the ruin of Sicily, and further realizes that it will be the ruin of America too if it, and specifically "his father's empire", is allowed to continue to grow. Needless to say, this does not stop him from taking over his father's empire and doing his best to make it grow.
- Harry Potter:
- During a Pensieve Flashback in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Hepzibah Smith notices briefly that Tom Riddle, Jr.'s eyes seem to have turned red, but she dismisses it as a trick of the light. According to Dumbledore, she died two days later.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry and the Dursleys are parting ways, seemingly forever, Petunia looks as if she's about to say something to Harry, then she simply... doesn't. A deleted scene from the movie suggests what she might have been about to say:
Petunia: You didn't just lose a mother that night in Godric's Hollow. I lost a sister.
- Happens to many of the characters in The Last Resort by Jan Carson, since an inability to move on is a major theme, but the best example is probably Richard. Richard works to help homeless people, but at home pretends he has the sort of job his father would approve of; one where he's climbing a corporate ladder with a suit and a briefcase. When the Impossible Thief takes his briefcase, he realises that if he goes home without it, his dad will ask where it is, and thinks that maybe this is his chance to make a clean breast of things and explain the whole situation. Or he could just say he left it at the office.
- Moby-Dick: In Chapter 132, Ahab considers cutting his losses, abandoning the chase for Moby Dick and returning home to his family. He doesn't go through with it.
- Paradise Lost:
- When Satan sees the beauty of Earth for the first time, he is deeply saddened and laments on how he used to be part of the beauty created by God, and that if he had been a lower angel, he would have been perfectly happy continuing to serve Him. Then he rejects the idea of repentance by concluding that any apology he gave would be insincere because he's gone too far into making evil his good, so he can't turn back.
- When Belial suggests that if all the fallen angels just say they're sorry, God may let them back in. Mammon shoots down the idea outright, but suggests that they could at least try to make Hell into a nice place and live basically at peace with God. It's Beelzebub (on Satan's earlier advice) who convinces everyone to just go with evil and try to corrupt humanity.
- The scientist Chatton in Project Tau. Even after hearing Kata's story, his fury and guilt is centered around the fact that he's been involved in the torture of a legal human, as opposed to just another clone like Tau, and not the act of torture itself.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, Eramus has repeated moments of this after some revelations. He gets called on it, frequently.
- In Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans spend most of the book getting a Fantastic Aesop about flying machines proven to them in every possible way but, as the narration points out near the end, both of them are just too stubborn and narrow-minded to let it alter their actions much.
- In Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles the hero, Uhtred, spends the first couple of books as a violent, arrogant, murderous thug whose only real virtues are loyalty to his oaths and being one of the best fighters around. Half-way through the second book a prostitute tells him exactly what she thinks of him, and he's forced into something of a personal re-evaluation after which... he doesn't stop being arrogant, murderous and unfaithful to his wife. But he does start to feel a little guilty about it.
- The Scarlet Letter: In the middle, Roger Chillingworth realizes that his desire for revenge against Rev. Dimmesdale for cuckolding him has turned him into "A fiend!" Hawthorne's narration says that this sort of moral clarity sometimes only occurs to people once in many years. However, Chillingworth's long since lost any purpose in life other than revenge, and so continues down the path.
- The Screwtape Letters offers some insight into the psychology that causes this in Real Life, with a dose of diabolical interference.
I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the countersuggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, "Quite. In fact much TOO important to tackle at the end of a morning," the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added, "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind," he was already halfway to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic." He is now safe in Our Father's house.
- Jack Torrance has one of these in Stephen King's The Shining. In the chapter "The Snowmobile," Jack experiences a moment of clarity in which he becomes aware of exactly how the hotel has been manipulating him and turning him against his family. However, he keeps on thinking about the issue so intensely that he changes his own mind, concludes that everything is his five-year-old son's fault and that Jack himself is doomed whatever he does, and destroys the snowmobile, the family's one real chance to escape. It's worth pointing out that it's not just a case of him changing his own mind; as a result of its (very tangible, very unpleasant) influence, his thoughts take a different direction as long as he's not actually inside any of the buildings that make up the hotel.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Roland Sullivan from Lethal Justice is the personification of this trope! He started out as a relatively decent guy and family man. Then Arden Gillespie entered into the picture. He became addicted to her, and engaged in adultery. He helped Arden suck up all the money belonging to an elderly couple, causing this couple to be Driven to Suicide. Then, to cover up their crime, they frame Sara Whittier (AKA Alexis Thorne), their own employee for it! Sara is found guilty and imprisoned for a year. It is only when they framed Sara that Roland had a Heel Realization. He made no attempt to make it right. He lost sleep over it, forced Arden to set up some pictures of Sara in their offices (as a reminder of how low they sunk), and tried to spend more time with his family. He and Arden practically blackmail each other. He actually wants to find Sara to apologize to her... and use Buy Them Off on her. He still uses his ill-gotten gain to live the high life. He still cheats on his wife with Arden. Sure, his internal monologues claim that he has no willpower, but it seems that he just uses that to excuse his behaviour. His wife finds out that he cheated on her, throws him out and makes moves to divorce him. He actually tried to claim that he did all this for his wife and brags that he'll bring in lots of money and they'll all live the high life, but she rejects this, and points out that she never wanted to live any high life. She makes it clear that she knows that he and Arden framed Sara and urges him to do the right thing. He just blows that off. Later, he says to Arden, "I just realized something. You don't have a conscience, do you?" Arden simply retorts that it is too late to worry about something like a conscience. Roland is clearly a Horrible Judge of Character if he only made this realization at this late date. He makes no attempt to do the right thing or break away from her. He gets involved in another money-stealing scheme with Arden. Sure, he tried to refuse, but he still went and got involved. By the end, he gives off the attitude of a man who wants to get caught and punished. The fact that he has multiple instances just makes him very unsympathetic.
- In the Spaceforce books, Jay is forcibly brought to the realisation more than once that his compulsive womanising may destroy his life, particularly as such behaviour is actually a criminal offence in the Taysan Empire. He does recognise this and vows to reform at the end of the first book — the very first scene of the next book finds him in a tavern, attempting to pursue a liaison with the serving wench.
- In the Spellsinger novel "Path of the Perumbulator" a Wolverine Wizard was driven insane because he was a coward, which is something against their natures. In his insanity he captured a Reality-Warping force to drive the rest of the world insane. In the end, the heroes free the force as well as cure his insanity through magic. He thanks them and realizes what he did was foolish, but then realizes that despite being insane and a coward, he had massive power over the world (Power is something all Wolverines pride above all else) which is now gone. So he decides to kill the heroes anyway.
- Harold Lauder, a highly intelligent but deeply disturbed teenager, has one in Stephen King's The Stand. Prior to the plague outbreak, he was a fat pimply high school outcast that embodied Wangst. After spending weeks living in Boulder, he manages to make a place for himself in the community. His work helping to bury bodies causes him to feel a sense of camaraderie with his fellow workers. At one point, one of the workers calls him "Hawk". Harold thinks the guy is making fun of him- calling fat, pimply Harold Lauder "Hawk"- only to realize that he isn't fat or pimply anymore, the people around him don't know that he was a loser in high school, and even if they knew, they wouldn't care. For a brief moment, Harold can see that all of that petty high school bullshit that he was carrying around was just that: bullshit. He goes home that day resolving to abandon his plans to betray the Free Zone and become an honest and upstanding citizen. Too bad the Big Bad sent Nadine Cross to seduce him back to the Dark Side.
- Tolkien's Legendarium:
- The Lord of the Rings:
- When Gandalf offers Saruman a Last-Second Chance, he genuinely struggles and seems perhaps on the edge of accepting before his Pride and jealousy of Gandalf cause him to refuse.
A shadow passed over Saruman's face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through the mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge. For a second he hesitated, and no one breathed. Then he spoke, and his voice was shrill and cold. Pride and hate were conquering him.
- Played with in Gollum's case. Seeing Frodo asleep at the top of Cirith Ungol, he teeters extremely close to a HeelFace Turn, but goes right back to being The Starscream a few minutes later, but only because Sam wakes up and, in his confusion, abuses him as he always does. Gollum didn't take it well at all.
- When Gandalf offers Saruman a Last-Second Chance, he genuinely struggles and seems perhaps on the edge of accepting before his Pride and jealousy of Gandalf cause him to refuse.
- Tolkien loves these. In The Silmarillion we have Sauron's repentance before Eönwë at the end of the War of Wrath, which he then takes back when Eönwë asks him to return to Valinor to be judged. The last king of Númenor Ar-Pharazôn also has one when he catches sight of the Undying Lands, and momentarily hesitates before invading them.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Johnny in The Truth of Rock and Roll becomes the Gray Man because he forgets Jenny's lessons.
- Edward knows that stalking Bella in Midnight Sun is wrong and he even points it out to himself; he just doesn't care. For that matter, Bella tells herself dozens of times throughout all of the books that Edward is dangerous, Jacob is dangerous, she's in danger, she shouldn't be with Edward, etc. She never pays these revelations much mind, and goes right back to ogling Edward right after.
- In Breaking Dawn, Leah calls Bella out on her selfishness. While everyone else jumps down Leah's throat for upsetting her, Bella admits that Leah is right. This realization is ignored by everyone, including Bella herself, who proceeds to continue being selfish anyway.
- In the Warhammer novel Caledor, as the Phoenix Guard smack Malekith around with halberds glimmering with the flame of Asuryan, he realises that the gods found him unworthy to be Phoenix King. All this does in the long term is move him from "I am the rightful King and all the elves who oppose me are wrong" to "I am the rightful King and the gods are wrong".
- Warhammer 40,000:
- In Graham McNeill's Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, Fulgrim realizes he is committing a horrible crime when he fights his brother Ferrus Manus, but his sword convinces him to kill him. (Then it lets him realize it, so it can destroy him.)
- Another novel reveals that Kharn the Betrayer went through this when a Loyalist tried to redeem him. The true reason he is so Ax-Crazy is that, deep down, he knows he's on the wrong side.
- Years before becoming the biggest Knight Templar out of many in The Warlord Chronicles, Nimue was just a druid's apprentice who, for a single day, considered throwing magic and the gods aside, marrying the main character (who had been in love with her since they were just kids) raising a family and owning a farm. Considering that many years later Nimue's actions resulted in the death of Merlin, the betrayal of Arthur, the maiming of main character Derfel, the deaths of many of Arthur's most loyal warriors and thus, indirectly, Arthur's death at the hands of Mordred and the weakening of Britain's ability to resist the Saxons not to mention the misery these actions caused her, it might have been better if she'd done just that.
- Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" describes the US as being in the grips of Patriotic Fervor (inspired by the Philippine-American War), set against the backdrop of a pastor preaching the justness of war and for victory for their soldiers. Then comes a stranger, pronouncing himself a Messenger from God, to intone the unspoken part of their prayer — that the enemy their sons face are torn to shreds, and every possible consequence stemming from such a large-scale loss of life. Notably, Twain deliberately published this posthumously, for fear of public backlash.
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits." It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.
- In Richard Adams' Watership Down, General Woundwort is offered an alternative to bloodshed by Hazel, and a chance to prove himself a "visionary" leader. He considers it for a moment, but then rejects it offhand in favour of his carefully planned destruction of the enemy warren.
- In the last book of The Wheel of Time, Demandred, the commanding general of the Shadow's forces, comes to the realization mid battle that he finally has everything he'd ever wanted- the love of a beautiful woman, an entire nation who revere him as a conquering hero, and the chance to (by switching sides mid-battle along with his followers) defeat the Shadow himself and become the world's savior. Unfortunately, he then decides that even if he did that, he'd never be happy until he killed Rand, the reincarnation of his hated rival. Needless to say, Demandred did not turn on the rest of the Shadow's forces that day, and remained a villain to his death.
- 24 has a tragic one late in the series. Alison Taylor, who up to this point has been the Big Good on the show, has ultimately allowed the masterminds behind the attacks on New York earlier in the day to go free in exchange for them signing a peace treaty. One episode later, her adviser Ethan gets her to realize she's just sold out her morals. But seconds before she's able to act on this Former President Logan is able to convince her that it's a necessary evil for the greater good, and she ultimately allows the coverup to continue. What really makes this a punch to the gut is had she not ignored her previous judgement not only would she likely have been able to salvage her political career like Ethan suggested, but Jack could possibly have been called off his Roaring Rampage of Revenge before he crossed the line and became an international criminal, a rampage where her agreeing to the coverup had been the deciding factor.
- Lindsey gets one in Season One's "Blind Date". He decides he can't let Wolfram and Hart kill some kids and so helps Angel and company save them. Naturally, his bosses were aware of it, but they know him, and with the offer of a promotion, a raise, and "ungodly benefits", he ends up joining them again.
- Lindsey resigns for good in Season Two, ironically after having earned a top position and a replacement hand to boot; he leaves Los Angeles, burying the hatchet with Angel for good. ...Or not. Actually, he was studying for years on how to join the elite Circle of the Black Thorn.
- Angel's epiphany, from the season 2 episode "Epiphany", is completely forgotten for the entirety of the season 5 arc.
- In his final moments in the season 3 finale "Tomorrow", Holtz openly acknowledges that he's most likely going to go to Hell for everything he's done... but makes it clear that as long as he finally gets his revenge against Angel/Angelus, he doesn't care.
- Harmony fondly remembers high school, and desperately wishes to be accepted by friends that way again. Unfortunately, Harmony self-sabotages every friendship she has due to being Stupid Evil.
- Londo Mollari from Babylon 5 comes to have doubts about both the political games he is playing with his co-conspirators on Centauri Prime and the alliance with The Shadows before being involved with them for long, but resolves to keep going, saying that it is too late to turn back now.
Londo: I have made many choices lately, Vir. And today, for the first time I am not sure those choices were right.
Vir: Perhaps some good has come out of this tragedy. It's not too late to make some new choices.
Londo: No. The blood is already on my hands. Right or wrong, I must follow the path to its end.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) has an inverted example by Saul Tigh at the end of season three: When he finds out he's a Cylon, he stops to think for a moment, then decides that he will stubbornly continue being Saul Tigh, human XO of the Galactica.
- On Breaking Bad, Jesse has a profound Heel Realization in rehab, but quickly returns to the meth business. It seems to be more out of inertia than anything else; this is the only skill he's ever bothered to develop. But his conscience continues to eat at him unlike Walt, who quits cooking a number of times, but never for that reason. As of the second half of Season 5, it appears to have kicked back in full force, after he witnessed a child murdered by one of his colleagues. He now wants nothing to do with the meth business and even throws and gives his $5 million away like candy.
- Doctor Who:
- "Evolution of the Daleks": After becoming a Half-Human Hybrid, Dalek Sec comes to the realization that the Daleks' warmongering will beget their destruction. The other three Daleks naturally ignore this, although Sec follows it through to the end.
- A couple of times in "Last of the Time Lords", the Master seems to almost listen to the Doctor's advice, only to go ahead with whatever he's planning.
- "Planet of the Ood": Solana, the PR representative for the company that's enslaving the Ood, helps the Doctor and Donna once, but then chooses to call the guards instead of going with them.
- The Doctor himself has a somewhat unintentional example in "The Wedding of River Song". After the Doctor learns of the Brigadier's death, one of his oldest friends in the show, this event shows him clearly realizing and accepting his own mortality only to reject it again when he finds a way out. Of course, it's not like they'll ever really kill him off.
- An episode of Everybody Loves Raymond had Frank and Marie living in a retirement home, and almost immediately getting kicked out. Despite the home giving a full list of complaints against the two of them, the pair blamed each other and guilted Robert and Amy into giving up their home, which they paid for, so they could live there again.
- In Farscape, when Crais and Crichton are forced to fight each other by Maldis, Crichton makes it clear to Crais that his brothers death was an accident. Maldis then shows Crais an image of Crais brothers death, and Crais goes straight back to trying to kill Crichton, ignoring all of Crichtons attempts to reason with him.
- Frasier is practically the king of this trope. It's easy to lose count the number of times Frasier and/or Niles openly recognize and come to terms with one of their faults only to almost immediately turn things around and go back to the way they are within seconds.
- Lampshaded on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will is blackmailing Hilary because he knows she dropped out of school and plans to make her do humiliating things at dinner:
Hilary: Will, if you have an ounce of compassion, you'll let me off the hook.
Will: That's a good point. [pause] Nah! We'll do it anyway!
- Game of Thrones:
- Balon hesitates and is clearly shaken by his son Theon's argument that everything Balon resents about Theon is Balon's own fault and a result of Balon's actions. By the next day in show time, Balon has chosen to disregard the exchange and refuses to acknowledge it or Theon's legitimate points ever again.
- There were moments in earlier seasons where Cersei tries to be nice to people: Sansa, Tyrion, her son Tommen, and Myrcella. She also understands that doing everything in her power to protect and prop up Joffrey isn't such a good idea. Then Joffrey dies, she immediately forgets her past kindness, and goes on a petty revenge binge that ultimately leads to her unleashing the biggest atrocity in recent Westerosi history just so she can be queen.
- Herod to Herodias in Franco Zefirelli's Jesus of Nazareth: "He (John the Baptist) is right, you know. We have sinned... And we go on sinning. And very pleasant it is, too! Repent! (kiss) Repent! (kiss) Repent!"
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Selfish", the infant daughter of a young, irresponsible mother dies after contracting measles from another child whose mother refused to vaccinate. After the anti-vax mother is found not responsible for the other child's death, the child's grandfather convinces his daughter (the victim's mother) to let go and honor her daughter by becoming a better person in her daughter's name. Then her aggressive, impulsive mother gets involved and immediately turns the victim's mother back on the path of getting even, and eventually convinces her husband (the only member of the family who hadn't initially been on the warpath) to do the same.
- In Lucifer, the titular character almost has a Green-Eyed Epiphany when confronting a murderer who was in a situation mirroring his jealousy of Dan and Chloes relationship until stating theyre not at all alike.
- One episode of Malcolm in the Middle involved Malcolm and Reese realizing they are the least popular kids in their school when literally every other student decides to skip class one day, and nobody told them to do it too. Infuriated, the two try to figure out what everybody has against them. At one point they realize that hey, maybe it's not just that everyone is out to get them, and everyone just hates them because they're both huge Jerkasses -Malcolm through his superiority complex and Reese through his bullying- but this is quickly shot down in favor of They're Just Jealous.
- Naked Chef's Jamie Oliver showed a group of
AmericanWest Virginian school kids the basically inedible chicken parts go into their McNuggets and they still wanted to eat them. A follow-up article revealed the kids also rejected his healthy lunch for their usual pizza and soda, although they said they'll still try new foods so I guess that's something. (Then again, the fact that we decree any part of a chicken inedible, when one clearly can eat it, is more than a little elitist.)
- Once Upon a Time: Regina is infamous (both in and out of universe) for her constant epiphanies about her life, none of which cause her to change her behavior except in ways that inevitably cause more trouble both for herself and others. Eventually, she has an epiphany about this... which she promptly ignores.
- In late season one, Brutus feels only betrayed by Caesar and gives in to his mother, going along with the plot to kill the dictator. He goes through with it, but then Antony comes in and they share a look where Brutus' guilt is written all over his face. He then cries out in agony over what he's done. However he seems to get over it rather fast, and stays allied to Cassius to the very end.
- Towards the end of the second series, as Atia accuses Octavian of being a monster, this is very subtly done with the look on Octavian face. One wonders whether at that moment he has a Heel Realization moment, but ultimately he goes on, business as usual.
- Saturday Night Live: In a couple of sketches, Steve Martin plays a medieval character, Theodoric of York, first as a medieval barber-surgeon, then later a judge. In both sketches, he laments the state of current surgery/law and lays out a better, modern method... only to dismiss it with a loud "Naaah!"
- Goes with the territory in Seinfeld: "no learning" was one of the rules of the show, after all.
- Season 7 opens with Jerry and George realizing that they're unfulfilled by their Manchild lifestyles and vowing to take relationships more seriously going forward. All it takes to cure Jerry of this is a chat with Kramer, while George almost instantly reverts to type after proposing to a former girlfriend and spends the rest of the season dragging his feet to the altar.
- "The Serenity Now" has Jerry getting in touch with his feelings, which causes a dramatic change in him and even leads to a Love Epiphany with regard to Elaine. After George tries to achieve similar emotional awareness by admitting his feelings to Jerry about everything, his admissions are so horrifying that Jerry snaps back on the spot, declaring that George has "scared [him] straight."
- Nearly every character in The Sopranos:
- One of the sharper examples is Phil Leotardo, who wages a brutal turf war against Tony during the final seasons. Tony attempts to put an end to it while Leotardo recovers from a heart attack in the hospital, pleading that they could bury the hatchet and live long enough to see their grandkids, which moved Phil to tears. But ultimately Phil's anger and resentments overrode his willingness to compromise, with disastrous results.
- Tony, of course, struggled constantly with the bad man that he is, and his therapy sessions often forced him to admit his faults. His exchanges with Dr. Melfi reveal that he is, in fact, capable of deep reflection and insight. But his attempts at self-improvement never really take, and by the end of the show it's difficult to say that he's changed much at all.
- Tony's sister Janice also saw a therapist for anger management, though her sessions were court-ordered. She seemed to being making progress at first, but Tony goads her into losing control basically out of resentment shortly after. By the end of the show, whatever stability and self-control she'd managed were completely undone after the murder of her husband.
- Christopher Moltisanti gets perhaps the show's most disturbing epiphany when he gets a vision of Hell while clinically dead for one minute, sees his father there with several old friends and enemies, and is told by Hell's "bouncer" that he too is going there. The experience disturbs him enough that he shares it with those close to him, and Carmela even tells him that God Himself has given Christopher a miraculous chance to redeem himself, but Christopher forgets all about it, and only changes for the worse as the show goes on. In The Many Saints of Newark, we learn thanks to Christopher's ghostly narration that the vision was real, and he indeed went to Hell when Tony finally kills him in Season 6.
- Oswald Danes has one in the final episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day when exposed to the Blessing. He first seems headed to a Villainous BSoD when forced to confront his (child molesting, murderous) soul. He snaps right out of it, though, apparently enjoying this evil revelation.
- Lampshaded in Wizards of Waverly Place where Alex comments on having got a weird warm and fuzzy feeling after helping Hugh Normous and upon learning that this is what happens when you do good comments that it's not bad, but that she doesn't plan on making a habit of it.
- Workaholics: In "Dry Guys", the guys stop drinking for a while, and have a therapy session with their company's HR substance abuse rep. They have a real breakthrough-Adam realizes he's very selfish, Ders apologizes for being too controlling, and Blake admits part of the reason he's immature is he doesn't want to grow up and leave his friends behind. A few minutes later, the guys realize that being sober makes things too real, and they go right into a montage of drinking.
- Alestorm - Pirate Song
And for what?
I've killed and I've shot
And reddened the cold tears of children with blood
And If I could go back and make my amends
I'd make all those mistakes again
I'd kill every last one of those bastards, my friend.
- "The Curse of Millhaven", by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, is a Murder Ballad about an Enfant Terrible. At one point in the song she says she's trying to change but immediately gives up and instead tries wholeheartedly to be awful.
Since I was no bigger than a weevil,
They've been saying I was evil
That if bad was a boot, that I'd fit it
That I'm a wicked young lady,
But I've been trying hard lately
Oh fuck it! I'm a monster! I admit it!
- Creature Feature's Such Horrible Things
I am not a bad man
Even though I do bad things
Very bad things
Such horrible things
But it's not quite what it seems
(Not quite what he seems)
Not quite what I seem...
It's exactly what it seems.
- Ice-T's New Jack Hustler has the protagonist briefly contemplate the destructive effect his drug dealing and accompanying violence is having on his community and the horrifying implication that this is exactly what was intended, but he can't wrap his head around that and drug dealing is making him more money than he could ever hope to have otherwise, so he goes right back to it.
Got me twisted, jammed in a paradox
Every dollar I get, another brother drops
Maybe that's the plan, and I don't understand
Goddamn! You got me sinking in quicksand!
But since I don't know, and I never learned
I gotta get paid, I got money to earn
- Actor/comedian Denis Leary gives us the page quote from his song Asshole, a satire and skewering of the American middle class in the early 90s. Throughout the song its main character talks about how, despite all the reasons he has to be content with life, he's actually an anger filled Jerkass whose true joys come from a nearly endless series of petty cruelties and abuses he inflicts on the people around him, along with just general self-centered/douchebag behavior. Around the middle of the song he considers the idea that maybe he's wrong to act this way, but, as seen in the quote, after only a second or two he dismisses the thought and refuses to change.
- In The Megas' second album, "History Repeating:Blue" Dr. Light gets a song that's a Dark Reprise of one of Wily's songs from their first album, "I Want to be the One (To Watch You Die)". In it, Light seems to wonder at one point if what he's done isn't so different from Wily, and he expresses remorse for turning Rock into a weapon against his rival. He then decides it doesn't matter, Wily needs to die, and Light wants to watch it happen.
- At the end of Hope Rides Alone by The Protomen, the citizens are asking questions like "what have we done?" and "where did we go so wrong?" They then do nothing whatsoever to act on this.
- In Stone Sour's double concept album House of Gold and Bones, the antagonist Allen realizes in the song "Black John" that villains never win, and that he should at least give the main character The Human a chance. He goes through with this halfway, the next song "Sadist" is Allen trying to convince The Human to quit while he's ahead.
- Voltaire's "When You're Evil". After a long, gleeful, litany of varying acts of nastiness and reveling in his Villain Cred ("The Devil tips his hat to me") , the narrator appears to waver and mournfully, (albeit selfishly) sings "It gets so lonely being evil", and says how sometimes he just wants to see other people smile and have companionship... but then snaps right back, and furthermore claims that his moment of weakness was just a lie to mess with your head. Played rather well in this Labyrinth fanvid.
- "Paradise (Stay Forever)", the ending theme of Paradise Killer, opens with the narrator lamenting that "now I'm a killer" and love's driven him out of his mind. Then he thinks of the woman he's doing all this crap to be reunited with (likely The Hero, his ex-wife, who was exiled some time ago), and decides it doesn't matter. Even worse, later verses imply that he expects her to eventually accept his lies.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance: Played for Laughs when the party kills a mook on what was supposed to be a pacifist mission, and decide to throw his body off a cliff to cover it up. Just before they do that, they opt to go through his pockets, and Griffin decides that they find his wallet, which contains pictures of the guy's family. They consider this for a Beat, and then...
Taako: They look racist.
- Wooden Overcoats: Rudyard spends most of the series needlessly and relentlessly antagonizing his absurdly popular rival, Eric. However, in the episode "Rudyard Makes a Friend," he briefly wonders if maybe the reason Eric is so popular is because he's actually a nice guy, and if maybe he's the real problem. Unfortunately, the person he voices this thought to hates Eric even more than he does.
- Bobby Jacks of Survival of the Fittest. He quickly comes to the realisation that he's one of the bad guys, but immediately after he decides that he's gone too far to try and repent. He even supplements this with a quote from Macbeth (the exact same one which Macbeth himself uses in this selfsame situation).
- This is what happens to a Dark Elf in Burning Wheel when they've almost, but not quite, maxed out Spite. (Maxing Spite is a bad idea.)
- This is how characters in the New World of Darkness slide down the Karma Meter. Every Morality check forces them to stop and ask themselves whether they can truly justify what they've done; if it's failed, they think, "Yep." and carry on unperturbed.
- In Warhammer 40,000, this is the hat of the Dark Eldar — they deliberately continue the nightmarishly hedonistic ways that brought their civilization to ruin, primarily because they'll be utterly destroyed if they don't. On rare occasions, the epiphany sticks, and a Dark Eldar abandons their old life to join a Craftworld.
- Doctor Faustus considers many times throughout the play whether he should rescind on his Deal with the Devil. He always convinces himself that he's too far gone to repent, so there is no point. He is eventually more repentant when on the brink of death, but this is too late for Marlowe's God. Although Faustus was aware of religion, he chose to defy it.
- In Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, the characters are trapped in their past behavioural patterns, most notably Mary with her morphine addiction and James with his alcoholism and hurtful tongue.
Mary: The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too.
- In Oliver! Fagin, while "Reviewing the Situation," considered going straight and the situations it might result in, but finally decided:
I'm reviewing the situation.
I'm a bad 'un and a bad 'un I shall stay!
You'll be seeing no transformation,
But it's wrong to be a rogue in ev'ry way.
- William Shakespeare is fond of this trope.
- After the scene in which Banquo's ghost memorably interrupts his feast, Macbeth has a quiet one of these. In the end he winds up deciding that it would be as bloody and dark a path if he were to turn back on his ambitions then as if he were to go forward, so he keeps going and soon after jumps completely off the slippery slope.
"I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
- Also used it in Hamlet, where Hamlet's Evil Uncle has a moment where he realizes what a truly evil and unforgivable thing he's done by killing his brother and marrying his brother's wife. He even realizes that repenting is useless as long as he still profits from his act, so he prays for the strength to give up everything he's gained. When he finds he can't do so, he abandons any thought of repenting and just does his best to hold onto the throne.
- Richard III has his worst moment when the ghosts of his victims plague him in a nightmare. He shouts for mercy. But in the morning he declares that conscience is a fraud "devised to keep the strong in awe. Conscience, avaunt!"
- After the scene in which Banquo's ghost memorably interrupts his feast, Macbeth has a quiet one of these. In the end he winds up deciding that it would be as bloody and dark a path if he were to turn back on his ambitions then as if he were to go forward, so he keeps going and soon after jumps completely off the slippery slope.
- In Turnabout Musical, the song "Decree of the Prosecutor" has Edgeworth go through one. He reflects on his actions and wonders if using underhanded tactics in the court makes him no better than the murderous people he prosecutes. He eventually decides that it's worth it, because "every criminal earns his punishment,/ so [he's] always done all [he] could/ What's the harm in filling in the blanks to some extent?/ If it's for the greater good?/ Indeed. If the defendant is clearly guilty, then [his] methods, no matter how extreme, should not be an issue at all!" He then wonders if his true motivations are actually caused by his personal feelings of "pretentious piety", but dismisses the notion on the grounds that it's best to use extreme methods to ensure that other people are spared the pain of loss that he himself went through.
- In A Very Potter Musical, Harry tries to convince Voldemort that he regrets his evil deeds, and sad music starts to play...
Voldemort: Well... maybe there's one—NO! points wand at musicians THERE ISN'T! [the musicians surrender]
- Absented Age: Squarebound: Rumi is initially shocked that her mistreatment and jealousy of Karen caused the latter to leave the Brass Band Club, but after Karen starts a new band with her friends, Rumi goes back to despising Karen and becomes worse than before. After Karen is pronounced dead due to a time paradox, Rumi reveals that she's actually glad that Karen is gone and spray paints over Karen's missing person poster out of spite.
- Andrew Ryan of BioShock has a very brief moment in one of his audio diaries where he admits that Rapture has gone straight down the tubes and it's pretty much his fault, only to go right back to his old ways.
- In BioShock Infinite, this is how Father Comstock started down the path to become an ultranationalist, racist, religiously fanatical tyrant. The things he did in the Indian Wars drove him to get a baptism at a Christian revival, but instead of being washed of his sins and repenting, Comstock interpreted the experience to mean that his crimes weren't sins in the first place, and were therefore fully justified.
- In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, Killian Qatar expresses doubts about the war in the second act of the Nod Campaign, when she sees how swiftly GDI was able to reorganize and launch a counterattack. But because she knows full well that Kane does not take too kindly to people doubting him, she shakes it off.
Killian: If Kane wants aggression: We will obey.
- Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time: Dr. Neo Cortex begins to lament the seemingly endless cycle of Crash beating him, and grows weary of their constant battles. It isn't until Dr. Nefarious Tropy betrays him, however, that he chooses to act upon it and helps Crash take him down. Unfortunately, this doesn't last long, and the second he's defeated, he plots to wipe Crash from history so that he never existed in the first place. ...Which fails.
- In The Curse of Monkey Island, it's possible for Guybrush to throw an And Then What? at LeChuck that leaves him stumped, pointing out that that if the villain actually destroys the hero, he's also doomed to oblivion. That doesn't lead to anything, though — it's a humorous bit of dialogue, not a way of making the main antagonist suddenly rethink his life.
- Dragon Age II gives us the final boss of Knight-Commander Meredith. During the battle, at one point, all allies and enemies will become stunned, and she will ask how such evil can be so powerful. She then wonders if she is wrong, that everything she is doing is madness. She then hardens her resolve in her next statement, and says she must hold fast to her convictions, and the battle continues.
- Anders apparently has one, but most of it is off-screen between Acts II and III. He tries to put his obsession with the mages' plight aside and learn to reign in Vengeance. If he actually killed the mage he rescued during his personal quest, he outright calls himself a monster. Yet, by Act III, the obsession is back. And its much, much worse. He goes so far as to fake an epiphany, using Exact Words to make it sound like he was trying to get rid of Vengeance, in order to trick Hawke into finding chemicals he can use to blow up the Chantry.
- 200 years before the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, Dean Domino concocted a scheme to ruin Frederic Sinclair and rob him of everything he had, purely out of envy that Sinclair was happier than him. Though he never managed to accomplish the robbing part, his scheme did result in the Sierra Madre becoming the poisonous Hellscape you see it as, as well as the tragic deaths of Sinclair and his love interest, Vera Keyes. If Dean (now a ghoul) survives to the end of the DLC, he will learn what happened to Sinclair and Vera and is said to feel remorse for his actions... except he doesn't understand why he feels sad, so he merely shrugs it off. It's at least enough to make him give up on robbing the Sierra Madre Casino... and set his sights on the casinos of New Vegas instead.
- You can cause this in the DLC Old World Blues if you pick the wrong dialog choice. Doctor Borous conducted some terrible experiments on his dog Gabe - pretty much the only living thing that genuinely loved him - turning him from a lovable pooch to a slavering, vicious cyberdog monstrosity. After confronting Gabe (and either putting him down or avoiding him), the Courier can return his food bowl to Borous, who finds himself feeling an uncharacteristic sense of nostalgia... and regret. Two of your dialog choices - one of which will look like the obvious, straight-forward "right" choice - amounts to telling Borous that what he did to Gabe was wrong and terrible. Borous will agree... and then say that he doesn't like feeling this way, and will thus suppress it and put it out of his mind, which leads to no change in behavior. The third choice is to affirm that Gabe was just another specimen and the experiments served a good purpose; since this doesn't cause Borous to suppress his feelings, they will instead stew slowly until he has a genuine change of heart.
- Final Fantasy XIII: when Hope details Operation Nora for Lightning, she realizes that Hope intends to kill Snow out of revenge for his mother's death (which really wasn't Snow's fault). Lightning tries to talk him out of it, but Hope is smart enough to know that revenge solves nothing. He just doesn't care, and wants to kill Snow anyways. note
- Kratos has one in the first God of War game, when he sees a pile of soldiers killed by the followers of Ares, and has a flashback to making his bargain with Ares. At the end he whispers "What have I become?" but then promptly forgets about it. Of course, the gods keep screwing him over, and at one point in the second game he says that he's what the gods have made him. He says this again, word for word at the end of Ghost of Sparta, after killing Thanatos and burying the bodies of his mother and brother, the gravekeeper simply looks to him and responds, "You have become Death."
- Horizon Zero Dawn: Towards the end of the game, Sylens reveals that he is the one who discovered HADES and got him in touch with the Eclipse in exchange for knowledge about the Old Ones, unwittingly kicking off the plot of the game. Aloy, while understandably angry about what Sylens's has unleashed with his obsessive knowledge-seeking, gives him credit for owning up to his mistake and trying to undo it... to which Sylens responds that he doesn't consider what he did a mistake (aside from not having enough safeguards in hindsight) and that he would happily do it again. And you know he means it because he does do it again; the master override he leads you too that will supposedly kill HADES does no such thing, it just incapacitates him so Sylens can capture him in a more secure container and plunder his data safely.
- Both Atris and Kreia have several such epiphanies throughout Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and decide to continue their evil ways just the same. "It is such a quiet thing, to fall. But far more terrible is to admit it." Both characters then proceed to attempt to bring about the Annihilation of All They Hold Dear, proudly proclaiming how wrong they were about everything when they force the protagonist to kill them. Depending on how things play out, Bastila may have met a similar fate in the first game.
- League of Legends plays this for laughs when Jinx believes she's killed a large number of people in an explosion and starts feeling bad about her Mad Bomber ways, realizing she doesn't want to hurt people. Then she learns the building was evacuated in time, so she immediately and gleefully ignores the revelation.
Jinx: Yaaaaaay nobody died I didn't have to learn anything yaaaaaay
- In Mortal Kombat, Scorpion discovered that the elder Sub-Zero was never involved in his family's deaths, that he had been framed, and that Scorpion's fits of rage were uncalled for. That would mean Scorpion would not make any more poor decisions based on revenge, right? Sadly no, as Scorpion now transferred his hate towards the actual culprit.
- Near the end of Portal 2, GLaDOS is terrified that the voice of conscience she hears is her own voice for the first time. After the final battle, she locates the Caroline subroutine responsible for it and unceremoniously deletes it.
- Word of God states that this is exactly what was intended. GLaDOS learns a lesson but chooses to reject it, and Wheatley learns a lesson but is in no position to repent.
- Although oddly enough, it's unclear if Caroline was really deleted or if GLaDOS was just lying about it. Fan debate rages on, not helped by the fact that Word Of God can't seem to come to an agreement.
- Gehn from Riven decided that the number five was the Arc Number essential to the art of writing Ages. All the evidence pointed to said number actually being six, but Gehn refused to acknowledge this. It didn't end well.
- Throughout Spec Ops: The Line, as Walker and his squad go deeper into the hell that is Dubai, they find evidence like audio recordings that indicate that Colonel Konrad had a Heel Realization about just what kind of a despot he was becoming in his attempts to maintain order in the sandstorm-choked city, even while Konrad chews out Walker over the radio for fighting against him. Except... Konrad was Dead All Along, and was Driven to Suicide by what he'd done to Dubai before Walker even showed up. So the "Konrad" that Walker is hearing over the (broken) radio is his own conscience trying to tell him that he didn't "have to" do any of the atrocities he committed to come this far, that everything's he's done has only made things worse, but Walker ignores it to shout back at "Konrad" and put all the blame on him. It's only at the very end, when he finds Konrad's long-dead corpse, that Walker is forced to confront the truth.
- In Episode 5 of Tales from the Borderlands after Rhys crashes Helios into Pandora he and Handsome Jack have a heart-to-heart conversation. Jack admits that ambition blinded him while he was alive, and he drove away everyone he cared about, including Angel. If pressed about her he admits he was responsible for her suicide, as he left her no other choice when he locked her up. This heart-to-heart then ends with Jack hijacking Rhys and trying to kill them both.
- Arthas in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne has one of these when he climbs up the steps towards the titular throne; he hears the voices of his former teachers and friendsnote scolding him, warning that he is making a terrible mistake. Then the Lich King commands him to return the blade, so Arthas does, striking the Frozen Throne so hard that it shatters and releases the armor trapped within. Then Arthas puts on the armor, fusing his and Ner'zhul's souls to become a new Lich King.
- Kil'jaeden has one in the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft. He questions Sargeras over the destiny that was promised to him and that despite following Sargeras' orders for so many years yet has only constant failure to show for it. When Sargeras begins to question his resolve, Kil'jaeden angrily retorts that he's sacrificed his own world in Sargeras' name. And then just like that, he goes quiet and carries out the next step of Sargeras' plans.
- Chester Stoddart from Ys: The Oath in Felghana has a moment of this midway through the game. Chester explains his desire for revenge against the man who killed his parents and had his hometown destroyed, the count he's been serving. Dogi simply asks Chester "And Then What?" Considering that Chester abandoned his little sister to get what he wanted, he has a moment where he considers what Dogi is saying... until he decides that he's come too far now and stabs Dogi in the chest.
- One genuinely heroic example in Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. When Shirou finds that his ideal and way of life are distorted after being challenged about them by Rin, he logically realizes that his processes are wrong. However, he also decides that he won't listen to her warning, because:
Shirou: There's no way that wanting to help people can be a mistake.
- In the Meakashi-hen arc of Higurashi: When They Cry Shion brutally kills Satoko and remembers that the last thing her disappeared boyfriend Satoshi had asked of her was to protect his little sister. At first, she's horrified... but then she realizes that she always knew in the back of her mind that Satoshi would have never wanted any of this and that the "demon" (aka the Hate Plague) had taken over her mind to make her lose her sanity and forget her feelings of loss, as well as make her commit bloody revenge. It is at this point that she considers herself irredeemable and not deserving of any sympathy, hence her tears when Keiichi shows her mercy. Regardless, at the very end, after it's stated that she can't sense the Hate Plague affecting her mind anymore, she feels so much remorse that she commits suicide (not shown in the anime), apologizing to Satoko and everyone else in her mind in her last moments. Of course, the next arc shows that perhaps it really wouldn't have been too late. An even later arc shows that Shion remembered this epiphany to become a better person in her next life, namely turning into Satoko's loving surrogate sister, willing to sacrifice her life for her.
- In three of the four "true" endings of Nicole, the kidnapper is momentarily shaken by the way the other potential love interests refute his reasoning for kidnapping the people he did, but he quickly shrugs it off and continues being a Smug Snake. In his own ending, he subverts this and has a Villainous BSoD instead.
- The villain of the second arc in Shikkoku no Sharnoth realizes he's in the wrong and that happiness is just in front of him if he just stops, but in the end he is just too insane to do it.
- Solid Snake has one of these at the end of this hilarious Flash video.
- Terrible Writing Advice: Half the jokes in a given episode are based around this. While giving his supposedly great writing advice, JP will often think of a valid objection to said advice or an alternate approach that acutally is good advice, only to then dismiss it as being ridiculous.
- Happened once or twice to Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater; he realizes that White Mage might actually like him if he stopped being an evil jackass. Then Fighter started talking and it all went stabways.
- In fact, BM is probably past the point where epiphanies have any chance of changing him — because at least once, he saw one coming and took measures to "protect" himself from it.
- In a cunning moment, Black Mage subverted this all to hell by faking an Epiphany after accidentally wounding White Mage. The faux epiphany made Fighter drop his guard and turn his back on Black Mage, which Black Mage promptly took advantage of.
- Three of the Light Warriors had near-simultaneous examples at the Castle of Ordeals. Black Mage stabbed the incarnation of all of his inner evil, and then reabsorbed it and refused to learn anything; Red Mage accidentally passed the Ordeal of Pride by admitting he had been bested, and then immediately concluded that he had passed because he was super brilliant and had passed it subconsciously; and Fighter, when told that he needed to stop resting on his swordplay laurels and use his brain in the Ordeal of Sloth, checked with his brain, found it suggested using swords, and killed the monster giving him the test. The only exception was Thief, who was randomly teleported away from his Ordeal before it could really get started, leaving Black Mage to solve that one too.
- Parodied in No Need for Bushido when Ken threatened to have a moral epiphany and stop mugging strangers if the rest of the group doesn't help him perform a play for his favorite Kabuki actor. Since this is the only source of income for the group, Ina quickly agrees, only for Ken to immediately tell her he never planned on going through with his threat in the first place.
- Played with in just the second strip of Chopping Block.
Weary of being a slave to these homicidal impulses, Butch seriously considered getting a lobotomy. But for that he'd need a referral from his Primary Care Physician, whom he'd buried under the back porch last Tuesday. Damn HMO.
- In Dominic Deegan, Bulgak the Orc Infernomancer keeps insisting that "(he) is good person", despite Infernomancers being evil by the very nature of their powers (they sell their souls to their patron demon in order to channel that demon's power) and Hell itself showing him the evil that he's done.
- He does get over it, and, surprisingly, is apparently Easily Forgiven by the powers-that-be when he makes the actual epiphany, but it takes way longer than it probably should.
- In Endstone, when about to Mind Rape her Parental Substitute, Cole wonders why she is doing these terrible things -- for a panel.
- Girl Genius:
- An inversion where the character isn't as bad as the semi-sarcastic self-description she delivers...but goes along with it anyway because it's useful.
Agatha: I'm the bad guy, because, for whatever reason, you didn't tell your nasty little friend who you are. And now she's sad. So you're mad at me—because now she's all teary and sweet and needs rescuing. And I'm the evil madgirl with the deathray and the freakish ancestors—and the town full of minions—and the horde of Jagers—and the homicidal castle full of sycophantic evil geniuses and fun-sized hunter-killer monster clanks and goodness knows what else...and you know what? I can work with that!
- At some later point, the Castle mentions an incident regarding a previous master :
Castle Heterodyne: Master Robur thought they were Angels [..] He believed heaven itself was coming to punish him. Though he was rather fuzzy on which sin in particular had crossed the line. He experienced a genuine crisis of faith. He didn't like it. So he smashed his device, which banished the... well, banished whatever they were... Then he had pie. Crisis over. In many ways he was a refreshingly simple man.
- On the other hand, there's Klaus Wulfenbach's problem with female Sparks...
Klaus: Don't you know, every woman with the Spark has tried to kill me? They're dangerous!
Gilgamesh: Father, maybe it's you.
[two beat panels of Klaus looking shocked and confused]
Klaus: [still uncertain] ... no? No, I don't think so...
- An inversion where the character isn't as bad as the semi-sarcastic self-description she delivers...but goes along with it anyway because it's useful.
- Goblins: Saves-a-Fox almost managed to give Duv a Heel Realization about how far from a goblin she has become, but then her less-than-materialist party member Biscuit tried to cure Duv of her obsessions with his OWN version of Heel Realization, which involved violent crippling and sheer nihilism. Next we see the now-wingless Duv, she's plucking the wings from little birds and on the brink of madness.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, Paz tells Annie that Kat is quite worried about the current situation, and that Annie had better not do anything to make it worse. While talking to herself later, Annie first wonders why Paz is speaking for Kat, then reflects that Kat doesn't always talk to Annie about her problems, and maybe she thinks she needs to put on a brave face in front of Annie, and Annie doesn't pay enough attention to notice. Then she decides Paz is just being unreasonable.
- Homestuck: Cronus Ampora admits that his whole "humankin"-greaser persona might be just another cry for attention and perhaps he ought to change who he is (if only to have a chance with Meenah), but fortunately Kankri shows up to tell him to trust his feelings and never doubt himself thus preventing Cronus from learning anything from the experience.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: During his duel with White Chain at the end of the Tournament Arc, Solomon David comes this close to admitting to himself that his rule is unjust, that he knows this, and that he holds the Tournament of Power in the unconscious hope that someone will dethrone him... but he then he just... doesn't.
- One Least I Could Do story arc made it look like Rayne might come to terms with his skirt-chasing after learning that he blew his chance with his hot boss Marcy because she moved on after spending years waiting for him to make a move. But then he gets over it by hanging out with his niece, and by the next week's strips he's back to being a man-whore.
- Nicole and Derek: Adrian manages to get Miss Fluffy to see the light regarding her extreme Control Freak ways. For about ten seconds, then Adrian finding a hair in his food sets Fluffy off to see to the matter herself (rather than let Adrian handle it himself).
Adrian: I really thought she was going to listen to me.
Shelby: It was a good try.
- Redcloak of The Order of the Stick has a moment like this in Start of Darkness when he has the opportunity to help his brother kill Xykon. What he does instead becomes the subject of an awesome breaking speech from Xykon that effectively defines Redcloak's character for the entire story to date.
- There's also Belkar, who Vaarsuvius uses Owl's Wisdom on to grant him the ability to use healing scrolls. That wisdom gives Belkar the chance to reflect upon the good he could do by devoting his life to healing instead of killing, then Vaarsuvius dismisses the spell, with Belkar reverting to his old self.
- Later on, a half-dead Belkar has a genuine epiphany, as he realizes that being a blatant murderer and psychopath is eventually going to get him killed by one of the genuinely-good guys. This does not convince him to turn away from evil, however — he just realizes that he has to learn how to fake that he is becoming a better person. And it works.
- Of course, the leaders of his genuinely good-guy group see through it immediately, but play along as it means that the little psycho would be easier to control for the remaining months of his life. As time goes on, it also seems like Belkar is in fact Becoming the Mask ... but he refuses to admit it to himself.
- Miko Miyazaki shows early on that she has a Murder Is the Best Solution mentality; it takes very specific orders from her liege to even consider bringing in a target alive. But when she turns her sword on a helpless old man, the Twelve Gods strip her of her Paladin feats, marking her as Fallen. Rather than accepting that she made a bad decision, Miko fanatically assumes that what's happened to her is a clearly a Secret Test of Character and continues to act as she always does, even after being arrested. After she dies, the ghost of her order's founder tells her that because she never acknowledged that she did anything wrong, she won't be redeemed, and her single-minded attempts to 'fulfill her duty' without taking anything else into consideration actually prevented said ghost from killing the Big Bad.
- Republika Srpska has one in this comic.◊ Instead of killing Bosniaks, he decides to keep killing Bosniaks, but with musical accompaniment.
- Through the Mind of North Korea◊ has North Korea coming to the realization that he needs to open up and start interacting with other countries. He reacts by shooting himself until the uncomfortable thought goes away.
- In Questionable Content, when Hikikomori Marigold is persuaded to go to the bar, Momo, her AnthroPC takes over her World of Warcraft character. When she returns Momo is too busy playing to talk to her about her night out. In the ensuing argument, Marigold realises that Momo was acting exactly the way she does ... and that reminds her that WoW is important.
- In Zebra Girl, Sam points out to Dr. Broadshoulders that villains are supposed to tell their plan to their captives for 'egomaniacal catharsis' and convinces him to tell his backstory. As Broadshoulders explains that he's damned to Hell and has given up on examining his own motives years ago, Sam calls him out on his crap. Broadshoulders stops for a moment, considers Sam's argument and is almost swayed. Then he turns and goes off to carry out his plan without telling Sam the plan itself.
- John Cheese on Cracked recounts how he was asked to be best man at his friend's wedding where they wouldn't have alcohol, and began to grow anxious and irritable because of not being able to drink. Eventually he cut his toast short and made up an excuse to leave early so he could drink. He realized that he was actually afraid of going without alcohol.
This realization is what motivated me to, uh, completely forget about it and continue drinking for about eight more years.
- The Onion plays with this trope in a Real Life context in There Was Definitely A Point During That Stoning Where We All Thought, 'Is This Weird?'
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: One way of looking at Dr. Horrible's final song has elements of this. The song plays with double meanings that underline the tragedy of the scene, most importantly the first, "Here lies everything/The world I wanted at my feet." Arguably, Horrible acknowledges here that everything that has just happened is (at least partially) his fault, and Penny is dead because of his recklessness and his drive to join the Evil League of Evil. They offer him a place, though, and he accepts, even though he hasn't forgotten his loss.
- Even though The Nostalgia Critic has a barrel-ton of Guilty Pleasures himself, when it comes to a movie he sees no good in (like the Jim Carrey remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), he never fully comprehends how others can like it. In the specific case of the Grinch movie, at the end of his review he contemplates taking a more tolerant, open-handed view and saying that if people take pleasure in it or see something in it that he doesn't, then maybe that's what counts... then essentially says "Nah, I'm right, they're wrong!"
- Taco-Man Plays a Video Game has an episode in which Taco-Man becomes so drunk, he awakens in a world based on several Atari 2600 games. After he escapes, he swears never to drink again. A cut to "Later That Night" shows Taco-Man sitting at home and reading a newspaper, appearing to subvert this trope. However, a cut to "Later Later That Night" shows him getting drunk at the same bar he visited at the beginning of the video, zig-zagging it.
- There are quite a number of Undertale fan videos on YouTube that show Player Character Frisk facing off against Sans, the final boss of the No Mercy path. In many of these videos Frisk's famous determination is finally wavering and Frisk is on the edge of a breakdown due to the actions Frisk has taken to get to this point. Frisk is even all but begging Sans to hurt and punish them further for their crimes and is about to hit the Reset Button to undo all the damage to the timeline... and then due to either one last burst of crazed determination or the influence of Chara/The Fallen Child, Frisk continues attacking Sans and succeeds in killing him, thus likely making the damage to the timeline permanent. Here's one example.
- Adventure Time:
- Lumpy-Space Princess erroneously becomes convinced that her new boyfriend Johnny no longer has affection for her and is instead interested in Princess Bubblegum despite being informed that the meeting was strictly business. She speaks as if she will accept his "betrayal" and talks about how letting someone you love go into the arms of another takes a big person. She then says "I don't know if I can be that big." before throwing a bottle of gasoline into a nearby truck and crashing it into the castle, causing a huge fire.
- In the episode "Temple of Mars" from the final season, Betty goes on a journey filled with metaphors designed to subconsciously get her to realize that she can't save Simon from being the Ice King, and that her obsession with doing so is just making things worse and killing any hope she has of saving herself. Betty briefly acknowledges and accepts the lesson, but after exiting the temple she rejects it, talks about how much of a Determinator Finn was during the journey, and that it has made her decide that she just has to try harder to save Simon.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- By the season two finale, Zuko improves his life by listening to Iroh, adopts a positive outlook and more or less giving up his chase for the Avatar. Then Azula arrives and gives Zuko the chance to capture or kill the Avatar together, which would finally restore Zuko's reputation and allow him to return from exile. Zuko almost listens to Iroh's plea not to listen to Azula and join Aang's quest instead, but Azula's breaking speech convinces Zuko to join her attack on his uncle and the Gang.
- He has another one in "The Beach," wherein Zuko has to come to grips with why he's still so angry and unsatisfied after returning to the Fire Nation. Despite having everything he's ever wanted he's still not happy, and after being pushed he realizes that what he's really angry at is himself, and the reason why is because he doesn't even know the difference between right and wrong anymore. (After all he's been steering his whole life around the idea that right meant being a good Fire Nation patriot, soldier, and a loyal son, but now he knows his country and father are on the wrong side of the war and about to commit genocide). Then he reconciles with Mai and continues to go along with things in the Fire Nation for about another half dozen episodes before finally doing his HeelFace Turn for real.
- In the same episode, Azula herself has one just before Zuko does, where each member of the group is sharing some hidden aspect of themselves and their flaws. Azula's is how she resented how their mother, Ursa, lavished attention on Zuko, and her perception that Ursa considered her a monster. She then wraps it up with "She was right, of course, but it still hurt!" This epiphany came back with a vengeance in the series finale, alongside a Villainous Breakdown.
- Lao Beifong, Toph's father, witnessed her true power in the climax of "The Blind Bandit" when she took down seven master Earthbenders without taking a single hit or breaking a sweat. He saw her do things even her "teacher" Master Yu was astonished by. Recognizing her power and abilities, he promptly grounds her and tells her she won't ever be without escort; all to protect her from the world. Toph ran away that night.
- Then made even worse when he hires her teacher and one of the guys that kidnapped her earlier to bring her back because he believes the Avatar took her.
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Used rather infuriatingly in "Harlequinade". A hilarious episode, but the amount of abuse Harley puts up with comes to a ridiculous point when she realizes the Joker is planning to nuke Gotham, without rescuing their friends at Arkham or their pet hyenas, and goes ballistic. She comes to the realization that Mister J "might not be the guy for me" (that's a huge epiphany for Harley to have) and fires her grappling hook at him, knocking him senseless. This causes a plane crash that had absolutely no excuse for not being fatal. When he emerges unscathed, she holds him at gunpoint; he proceeds to verbally beat her down until she cries, snaps, and pulls the trigger. That's right, Harley Quinn tries to whack the Joker. Of course, it turns out she picked up a gag gun by mistake, and nothing happens. And what happens within seconds of Harley's huge emotional breakdown? Joker comes out with a fluffy romantic line and they're back to being lovey-dovey. Even Batman sulks after seeing that!
- Happens again in the appropriately titled "Mad Love". The Joker crosses Harley's Moral Event Horizon when he throws her out a window for upstaging him when she placed Batman in a Death Trap as a gift to the Joker. As the episode ends Harley is back in Arkham, badly injured but looking saner than ever before in the series. Her expression is serious, her crazy grin gone, and her inner monologue shows that she now knows that the Joker is "a murderous, manipulative, irredeemable -" And then she sees a flower and "Get Well" card the Joker sent to her. "-Angel!" And the insane grin returns. This is entirely in character. Knowing the Joker, he sent the card solely to get her back on his hook.
- In "The Trial", the Joker Jury of villains argue that Batman is the reason they're all supervillains. Eventually, Batman's counsel convinces them they would have all been criminals anyway, just maybe without the gimmicks. However, since it turns out they all were evil on their own, they were going to kill Batman anyway, in spite of coming to the agreement that she was right about them all along.
- Bob's Burgers:
- In the episode "The Deepening", Teddy has an unhealthy amount of hate towards a shark prop from a movie he worked on because the shark operator made it bump into him as he was trying to hit on an extra, getting her messy and rejecting him, causing a lifetime of eating. It's only after all these years does someone, in this case Bob, ask why he wasn't mad at the shark operator. Although Teddy does realize that, whether it's stubborness to accept he wasted his vendetta or genuine belief that it's evil, he insists the shark drove him to do the deed.
- In the episode "Secret Ceramics Room of Secrets", Louise tries to find and break into the long lost ceramics room to find a gift for her grandparents instead of making one from scratch. When they find it, the find Mr. Frond hid his darkest secret in the room. He reveals that he cheated in the election for student president when he went to Wagstaff by hiding the votes for his opponent and the room was closed in a fire before he could confess. He agrees not to punish the Belcher kids if they agree to tell no one his secret. Tina tells Mr. Frond he shouldn't hide his secret, and that if kids knew about what he did then they'd respect him more and look up to him. He immediately tells Tina it's a terrible idea because kids don't want a relatable guidance counselor and that kids listen to him because he's perfect, even after Louise doesn't ignore her epiphany. Mr. Frond's ego and inability/refusal to understand children destroyed a chance to actually improve at being a guidance counselor.
- DuckTales (2017):
- At the end of "The House of the Lucky Gander!", after Louie and the other kids reject him in favor of Donald's perseverance, Gladstone starts to reflect on how much he's come to rely on his supernaturally good luck, coasting through life with it at the expense of building skills and developing lasting relationships. Then a woman comes up and offers to sell him a yacht for $20 (which is the exact amount his luck has randomly granted him), and he happily declares, "Gladstone's back, baby!"
- Seems to be a recurring thing with Goldie O'Gilt. How much of it is genuine remorse and how much of it is faked in order to manipulate Scrooge et al.'s emotions is hard to determine, but in "Happy Birthday, Doofus Drake!", she does realize her scheming has put Louie in genuine danger and drops the act in order to protect him. Just when it seems like she may be turning over a new leaf, she betrays Louie and steals the treasure out from under him. "The Forbidden Fountain of the Foreverglades!" shows her softening and ends with her returning Isabella Finch's journal to Scrooge, leaving the adventure with no gain except her relationship with Scrooge, then a few episodes later she reveals she went back to steal the fountain anyway.
- In The Fairly OddParents episode "Apartnership!", Mama Cosma realizes how much her son loves Wanda. She then vows to try harder to break them up.
- Demona gets one at the finale of the epic four-part episode "City of Stone". At the prompting of the Weird Sisters, she comes to the realization that all the events in her descent into villainy could be laid at her own feet, thereby shredding her justification for her genocidal hatred of humans into tiny pieces. After the Sisters stop talking, though, Demona angrily proclaims that she was tricked into saying that and has to be restrained by magic, leading Goliath to lament that she has learned nothing. Demona's still a villain the next time we see her.
- Also during "City of Stone", in the earliest part of Demona's Start of Darkness, when Demona's first plan goes wrong, she reacts to the death of her clan and the permanent freezing of Goliath and the others in stone by saying "What have I... what have they done to you?!!" In a great Call-Back, at the very end of the series John, (a human hunting gargoyles) accidentally shoots his brother while trying to kill Goliath and says the exact same line.
- Another Demona example: in the episode "Vows", Demona and Goliath travel back in time, and past-Demona reacts with horror to what she will become and helps Goliath defeat future-Demona. Goliath then delivers a speech urging Demona to amend her ways and live for the moment... only for future-Demona to wake up, tell Goliath she remembers his pathetic words of advice, spit in his face, and fly off into the night. Given that a well-established rule of time travel as depicted in Gargoyles is that it's impossible to change the past in any way, it was a Foregone Conclusion that Goliath's speech wouldn't work.
- Xanatos in "The Price" imprisons Hudson for a scheme, and quickly finds himself subjected to Armor-Piercing Question after Armor-Piercing Question about what he really wants. Near the end, Hudson asks Xanatos what his legacy will be when all his scheming is done. Xanatos seems disturbed by this...and then goes back to seeking immortality. Word of God confirms that this had a bigger impact on Xanatos than he himself realized at first.
- Gravity Falls:
- The group runs afoul of a secret society who uphold the masquerade with a memory erasing gun. When Dipper points out their actions have driven Old Man McGucket to insanity, their leader admits he feels bad, then immediately uses the gun to wipe that feeling from his mind.
- In the Gamebook Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel and the Curse of the Time Pirates' Treasure!, Axolotl implies that Bill Cipher regrets destroying his home world, but at the same time he refuses to believe that it's his fault.
- In the Kim Possible episode "All the News" stuntwoman Adrena Lynn bungees out of the blimp and Kim catches her, only for it to be a dummy, as the lady fakes all her own stunts. Ron learns this and, repulsed by Lynn's actions, writes a story exposing her as a fraud, resulting in her show being cancelled and leaving Lynn vowing revenge on Kim and Ron. Lynn learns about Kim dating a football player named Brick Flagg (actually a fake story Ron made up to get himself on the papers for Middleton High) and kidnaps him, taking him to the abandoned Middleton Fairgrounds and tying him on a coaster. Then, as Lynn uses several obstacles to prevent Kim from rescuing Brick:
Adrena Lynn: Hey, Kim! The quarterback's almost out of time, and you're going the wrong way!
Ron: Adrena Lynn, you can't do this!
Adrena Lynn: And why not?
Ron: I'm the one responsible for you've been cancelled. I called you a fake.
Ron: I guess takes one to know one. I made up that stuff about Kim liking Brick just to sell my story.
Brick: Oh, harsh!
Ron: It worked, kinda, but the thing is that if the fake part about you is what people like, what good is that?
Adrena Lynn: Hmm.. You're right.
Ron: Right. From now on, I'm keepin' it real!
Adrena Lynn: Me, too...STARTING WITH MY VERY REAL DEFEAT OF KIM POSSIBLE!! (laughs maniacally)
Ron: Okay, well, that didn't work.
- Miraculous Ladybug:
- In the episode "Stormy Weather 2", Hawk Moth briefly considers that he's taking too many risks with his actions, such as his son jumping off a building to escape one of his supervillains, then immediately decides that he has to succeed in achieving his goals and creates his Monster of the Week.
- Also happens in the "Queen's Battle" Trilogy. After the most powerful akuma he made at the point is defeated and his son got put in danger again, Hawkmoth decides to give up trying to steal the heroes' Miraculous and move on with his life. Then Chloe outs herself as the holder of the Bee Miraculous and opens herself up to being akumatized. Seeing that he has another chance at winning, Hawkmoth is unable to resist taking the opportunity and comes out of retirement.
- A sad case in Moral Orel's "Grounded". Orel undergoes a near death experience to talk to God, and the resulting Dream Sequence grants him a profound epiphany about his faith. Then his father spanks him until he forgets it because it didn't fall in line with official church dogma.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Fame and Misfortune", Twilight and her friends manage to teach their arguing fans that nopony is perfect, complete with a big musical number, but the crowd goes right back to arguing when they're finished.
- In "Frenemies", Grogar sends his Legion of Doom, consisting of Chrysalis, Tirek, and Cozy Glow, on a mission to retrieve his bell and finally learn to work together. The villains end up bonding over their shared hatred of Twilight Sparkle and her friends while on the mission, and successfully complete their mission by working together and helping each other. When they reflect on this and realize that helping each other seemed smarter than to continue fighting each other and that it actually felt nice to support someone other than themselves, they quickly realize that they are becoming friends and immediately reject the idea, refusing to accept the "magic of friendship" out of pride. They agree to only continue working together until they can betray Grogar and defeat their common enemies, afterwards they all agree to go back to trying to destroy each other.
- In Pinky and the Brain: a psychologist determines through hypnotism that Brain's desire to rule the world was actually created in him subversively and accidentally by the scientists at his lab. What Brain really wanted was to go back to his family, who lived in a can with a picture of the world on it. But his mind was warped by the experimentation to the point that all he could remember was his desire for the image. Brain considers the possibility, but ultimately dismisses it and goes on as planned.
- In the Pound Puppies (1980s) Christmas Episode "Happy Howlidays", Katrina Stoneheart's heartless scheme is to shut down the Puppy Pound by revealing to Holly bills she had hidden from her for months. When the Pound Puppies are left on the street, they summon the aid of Zazu the Fairy Dogmother to get Katrina to see the error of her ways, which they do by having Katrina dream she is a puppy and witness firsthand the consequences of making the Pound Puppies homeless. After she wakes up from the dream, Katrina actually considers making an effort to be on better terms with the Pound Puppies, but brushes it aside and continues with her cruel plot.
- Happens twice in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Ploys R' Us". First when the girls find out that the toys that they found in their room were stolen by the professor, but then they find that he was sleep walking when he stole them, they just let him go along with it. The second time occurs after the professor finds the toys, and the girls lie to him that they were gifts from the city, and Bubbles suggests that they should stop. But the girls go Naah, and let the professor do it again. Subverted when the girls confess to letting the professor sleep walk when they thought that the Mayor and Townsville police department had killed the professor, because they loved the toys so much.
- The Simpsons:
- Mr. Burns experiences one in "Rosebud" after Maggie returns his beloved childhood teddy bear, asking Smithers to write down that from now on, he's only going to be good and kind to everyone. Smithers realizes that he doesn't have a pencil and Burns responds "Eh, I'm sure I'll remember it."
- Another case occurs with Barney Gumble in "A Star is Burns", after his film about his drinking problems wins the Springfield Film Festival. He vows that from now on, he will be a new person, specifically, a clean and sober one. That is, until Mayor Quimby brings him the grand prize; a truck filled with Duff Beer. Barney's response? "Just hook it to my veins!"
- In "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", Skinner tries to find where Bart is playing hooky, but all the places he expects Bart to be hanging out (like the 4-H Club) are abandoned. Skinner asks himself if he's really become this out-of-touch, but then only concludes, "No, it's the children who are wrong."
- Cartman in South Park recurrently falls victim to this. He has a common inability to learn Aesops, especially about selflessness and empathy, as he is lampshaded as near physically lacking a conscience (he's even tried to deliver An Aesop, it was naturally mangled horribly). Even besides that Cartman is usually too egotistical and childish to learn from his mistakes.
Kyle: Dammit, Cartman, didn't you learn anything?
- In Steven Universe, both Yellow and Blue Diamond clearly regret deeply how their actions and treatment of Pink Diamond as a bratty child led to the latter's death at the hands of Rose Quartz during the Rebellion, and want nothing more than to have her back... And after the Tomato in the Mirror reveal that Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond and faked her own death, and that she had a son, they treat her son Steven the exact same way they treated Rose/Pink pre-Rebellion, which was the original cause of Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond deciding her family members didn't care about her at all. Subverted in "Change Your Mind", in which both of them finally realize they've been repeating the exact same cycle that drove Pink away in the first place.
- Wacky Races (2017): After Dick Dastardly experiences a race in a reality where all the other racers not only look and act like him, but are just as much as compulsive cheaters and the races apparently always end up in a no-contest because they always wreck their cars, Dastardly berates them all, telling them if they focused less on cheating and more on racing cleanly they would win for a change. He is then transported into a "Hall of Epiphany" inside his mind, where he meets the personification of his intellect so that he can see that after talking to all those doubles he now can see why he can never win: "It's all Muttley's fault!"
- This trope, along with Never My Fault, is one of the many traits of a sociopath, since it is nearly impossible for them to feel guilt; even if they do, they tend to sweep it under the rug.
- Also a defining trait of fanatical people (whether religious, political, or otherwise). Whenever they discover evidence that their ideology might be wrong, they will make any excuse, no matter how strained or ridiculous it sounds, rather than change their minds.
- Early in World War II, during the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Nazis carried out conventional acts of genocide via having death squads (Einsatzgruppen) massacre whole villages of Jews and similar undesirables. Problems started cropping up when the soldiers participating in the massacres started collapsing in horror at repeated murder, and even Heinrich Himmler vomited at the site of one such atrocity. Instead of acceding to these feelings of horror, however, the Nazis simply decided they needed a more detached and mechanical means of mass murder, and thus the original Final Solution was born.
Maybe we shouldn't be browsing TV Tropes so much... On the other hand, there's information to be catalogued!