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Ignored Epiphany

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"In many ways, he was a refreshingly simple man."

"Maybe I shouldn't be singing this song
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 Heel–Face 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 Heel–Face 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 Heel–Face Revolving Door, where the character's epiphany will change him for a while, but he won't permanently follow the path of virtue.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the original manga for AKIRA, Tetsuo undergoes a Vision Quest in which he realizes that he's merely an influencer of a vast universal force that can't be controlled. Rather than turning away from using his Psychic Powers selfishly however, he instead doubles down on his megalomania.
  • 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.
  • Baccano!: After the much-abused Ennis finally turns on him, Szilard Quates' ensuing Villainous Breakdown has him reveal that not only is she just the latest in a long line of homunculi he's created and destroyed… because they all eventually rebelled against Quates just like Ennis. It seems that Quates just cannot stop himself from abusing his henchmen, no matter how often it backfires on him.
  • Battle Angel Alita: Aga Mbadi speaking to Queen Limeira causes him to have a Heel Realization and become overwhelmed with remorse for his actions to the point where he cries and almost confesses to ordering her father's assassination. While he vows to set the world right in order to make it up to her, it turns into a Redemption Rejection.
  • 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:
    • 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 Heel–Face Turn, the exact moment is hard to pinpoint and it doesn't seem to be related to the first epiphany. However, during his first death, 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.
    • 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.
    • An unusual case of the trope goes to Goku for his inability to take the Tournament of Power seriously. It's unusual because the epiphany isn't being ignored, but more of the lines of him being too excited about the powerful opponents he'll face in the tournament to even notice it.
  • 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.
  • Gundam:
    • 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.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Upon failing to beat Komugi at Gungi, Meruem begins to question his own ideals of supremacy, pondering how many of the people he killed may have had the potential to surpass him in a certain field... before turning back on his heel and proudly proclaiming that brute force is the only meaningful type of power, and he could kill Komugi in a second if he wanted to. When he approached Komugi to do exactly that, however, he ends up saving her from an eagle pecking at her and calls her a "valuable guest", while utterly confused at what exactly his own motives are anymore.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: After being defeated twice, Boingo learns from the experience, and resolves to pull a Heel–Face Turn, get over his cowardice, and from then on use his power to help people. It seems things are finally looking up for him... only to kick away a box and accidentally hit Iggy in the head with it, who then proceeds to maul him. As a result, he gets sent to the hospital and ends up meeker than ever.
    • Stone Ocean: When Ermes tells off Thunder McQueen on how he's gotta stop thinking of himself and drop Pucci's manipulation over him, he sheds Tears of Joy on her words impacting him, but then shifts to say he's glad to find someone to bring down with him.
  • In the The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), when Zant loses to Link, he finally admits that he never really believed in himself and that all of his conquests and mayhem were a futile attempt to escape that truth. When Link tries to reach out to him more, however, Zant doubles down and keeps asserting that he won’t surrender his throne to anyone.
  • 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. Then again, Paul is revealed to have not only eventually taken this advice into consideration, but he was revealed to be a lot nicer when he returned in Journeys.
  • 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.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What?: Kumoko's musings turn toward her own shortcomings and how she's not all that different from the monsters she is slaughtering. She then immediately dismisses such thoughts from her mind and continues to behave in the same manner.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • 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?".
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Angel:
    • 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.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Knives", Londo Mollari 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.
  • The Boys (2019):
  • 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 in a nervous breakdown.
    • In Season 3, Skyler discovers that Walt has been cooking and selling meth to pay his hospital bills and files for divorce, but struggles to go through with it and second guesses herself upon finding just how much money he's bringing in and rationalizing that Walt's terminal cancer led him to take desperate and irrational actions. She brings this up with Pamela, her family lawyer, as their attorney-client privilege prevents her from telling the police. By her second visit, Pam straight up tells Walt's motives for drug dealing are "horseshit", that Skyler continuing to stick with him makes her an accessory after the fact to Walt's crimes, and that she and their children could easily lose everything for refusing to immediately divorce Walt. She never ends up divorcing Walt and does end up in dire straits when Walt's crimes eventually become public.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season Six, Warren, Jonathan and Andrew use a Mind-Control Device to abduct Katrina as a mindless Sex Slave. When the effect wears off and Katrina starts screaming that what they were doing is rape, Jonathan and Andrew are shocked, and become even more horrified when they accidentally kill her while trying to stop her going to the police. However, Jonathan is the only one who remains horrified - by the end of the episode, Andrew decides that it was "cool" to have gotten away with murder.
  • 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 brother’s death was an accident. Maldis then shows Crais an image of Crais’ brother’s death, and Crais goes straight back to trying to kill Crichton, ignoring all of Crichton’s attempts to reason with him.
  • One post-war episode of Foyle's War has a local right-wing politician who is little more than a brownshirt stir up a mob against Jews and foreigners, which results in the death of an innocent Polish couple when the mob hurls a Molotov cocktail through their window. The politican's son angrily refuses to have anything more to do with him over his hatemongering. For a moment, the man looks hurt by his son's words—and then he turns back to planning his next meeting.
  • 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!
  • Monica in Friends calls out her mother, Judy, for her crappy behavior towards her. Judy's mother had treated her like crap in the same way that Judy does to Monica now (making snide remarks, treating her as the red headed child of the bunch, etc). Monica points it all out, hoping that Judy would see the light and change her ways. Judy thinks about it for a moment and then says she doesn't see what the problem is.
  • 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: By the time Galadriel finally meets Sauron, he turned into a Retired Monster. He knows he fucked up Middle-earth really bad when he joined Morgoth and decides he could redeem himself and undo the destruction he created by asking Galadriel to join forces with him. Galadriel knows that his idea of healing Middle-earth together, just means ruling over it like tyrants and refuses his offer. Sauron gets angry and decides to head for Mordor, not carrying anymore about any redemption or healing Middle-earth.
  • In Lucifer (2016), the titular character almost has a Green-Eyed Epiphany when confronting a murderer who was in a situation mirroring his jealousy of Dan and Chloe’s relationship until stating they’re 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 American West 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 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.
  • Oz: Schillinger has several moments where he realizes how much his racist and vile behavior has ruined his own life, pushed his family away, and caused him to increasingly escalate his feud against his Arch-Enemy Beecher to self-destructive levels. Each time he winds up ignoring it. He has a rather long period of genuinely trying to reform in Season 4 and bury the hatchet with Beecher, only to go right back into his old ways when he realizes Beecher didn't tell him he was up for parole and tries to murder him over it.
  • Rome:
    • 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."
  • The Shield:
    • Vic has several wake-up calls about how his corruption and immoral behavior will inevitably ruin his life and how it harms the people he cares about. Vic pretty much always ignores it and never self-reflects because then he'd have to deal with the guilt for all of his crimes. In the final season, he ultimately realizes what a terrible person he is for the first time and decides he might as well run with it by this point.
    • After Vic murders fellow cop Terry Crowley to cover up their drug-dealing, his violent and unstable Dragon Shane is horrified and guilt-ridden by what he's done. Vic convinces Shane that what he did was necessary and a proper punishment for Terry betraying them, and Shane quickly gets over his guilt and reverts back to his old ways.
  • 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. If anything, he's become even more monstrous.
    • In one episode, Tony's wide Carmela becomes conflicted over her marriage to a mob boss, visits a therapist named Dr. Krakower, who spells it out very clearly and brutally that Carmela is deluding herself by saying that Tony, a serial cheater, a murderous gangster, possessing a Hair-Trigger Temper and serious mental issues, is basically a "good man" deep down, she's an enabler and an accomplice for choosing to stick with him, her decades of supposedly attempting to steer him to a more righteous path have been completely useless and always will be, and rather than wanting to hear the truth, she just wanted to be validated for her terrible life choices. Even before the episode is over, she's justifying herself sticking with him and ultimately ignores Dr. Krakower's advice to divorce Tony as soon as possible.
    • 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.

  • Pirate Song by Alestorm:
    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...
    Ah, Hell...
    It's exactly what it seems.
  • The narrator of Rivers Cuomo's "Hot Tub" spends most of the song trying to convince a woman to have casual sex... The bridge has him lamenting that pursuing meaningless sex can leave him feeling unfulfilled, and realizing that he'd "be more of a man" if he could just commit... only to conclude that "I admit this is a problem / To be solved another other day", and subsequently go right back into the Intercourse with You chorus.
  • 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.
    Say you don't love me, Lady
    'Cos you got me goin' outta my mind!
    Now I'm a killer, baby-
    Well, I'll see you in our perfect 25.
  • In the bridge of "Kill Bill", SZA has a moment of clarity in which she mentions she's a mature woman who's seeing a therapist to help her with her breakup and thinks about how there are many other men out there... only to immediately conclude that she only wants her ex, following into the chorus in which she starts fantasizing about killing him and his new girlfriend.
    I'm so mature, I'm so mature
    I'm so mature, I got me a therapist to tell me there's other men
    I don't want none, I just want you
    If I can't have you, no one should
    I might
    I might kill my ex, not the best idea
    His new girlfriend's next, how'd I get here?
    I might kill my ex, I still love him though
    Rather be in jail than alone

  • 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.

  • The Bible:
    • Pontius Pilate is in the predicament of either exonerating Jesus or handing him off to his crucifixion, with a lot of factors pushing him in both directions. According to the Gospel of Matthew, his wife warned him because of a dream not to mistreat him. And in the Gospel of John, Pilate confronts Jesus, who tells Pilate that he is indeed a king but not of this world, who came into the world to speak the truth. Pilate cynically asks "What is truth?" But after learning Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, it's strongly implied Pilate suspects that Jesus is the real deal, and tries to have him set free. But eventually, he caves to the Jewish crowd demanding Jesus' death after they invoke fealty to Caesar.
    • Felix the governor of Judea hears Paul (currently imprisoned) speak of Jesus, and he becomes alarmed. But he sends him away for the time being, secretly also hoping for a bribe. Although he regularly converses with Paul, after two years he is succeeded in his position and leaves Paul in prison to do the Jews a favor. The strong implication is that he missed out on his chance to see the truth because of his greed and servility.

  • 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).

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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!"
  • 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]

    Video Games 

  • 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 rein 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.
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG:
    • Prime Minister Morgalia starts showing regret about how she treated Chase and how she sold out Vulcanite to Zeta, but when Clyde offers to brainwash Chase to obey her, Morgalia sides with Zeta anyways. In the scenario where Edgar stays behind to start the minecart, he calls Morgalia out on never taking responsibility for her horrible treatment of Chase.
    • In Zazz's logs about the Detritus series, he's disturbed at Detritus Seven's sadistic murder and oppression of the citizens of Vulcanite and notes that as the one who built Seven, he would be considered the worst mass-murderer and dictator in history, but he ultimately absolves himself of all blame by stating that his victims aren't human.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
    • Freya follows in Kratos's footsteps in God of War (PS4). She admits at several points that the invulnerability spell she put on Baldur (which drove him insane with Sense Loss Sadness) was a product of her own selfishness... and then absolutely refuses to remove it and does everything she can to prevent other sources from removing it, even when Baldur begs her or threatens her friends and her own life. Baldur absolutely hates her for paying lip service to acknowledging her selfishness but refusing to do anything about it. The epiphany only sticks in Ragnarok after she meets the Norns, who bluntly tell her that her excuse of "prophecy said he'd die" was meaningless because there's no such thing as predestination, only predictable choices... and the choice they predicted was that Freya would be too selfish to remove the curse, which would in turn lead to Baldur going insane and provoking people until somebody found out how to kill him.
  • 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.
  • 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 Star Wars: 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!
  • Lost Judgment: Hiro Mikoshiba, a student teacher at Seiryo High, was said to have regretted bullying his classmate, Toshiro Ehara, into committing suicide, and that he would always get depressed about it prior to his death. Nevertheless, this didn't stop Mikoshiba from singling out Mami Koda for bullying, or from encouraging his students to act the same way towards her.
  • Scorpion suffers this in the orignal timeline of Mortal Kombat:
    • In Mortal Kombat 4, he discovers that the elder Sub-Zero (whom he killed in the first game) was never involved in his family's deaths, that he had been framed, and that Scorpion's thurst for vengeance were uncalled for. That would mean Scorpion would not make any more poor decisions based on revenge, right? Sadly no, as Scorpion instead transfers his hate towards the actual culprit: Quan Chi. Scorpion's vengance would make him spend most of the following game torturing Quan Chi until he escaped from the Netherrealm and formed the deadly alliance with Shang Tsung, basically kickstarting the events of that game.
    • In Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, this obsession with wanting vengeance causes Scorpion to plot to kill Taven and Daegon as vengeance towards the Elder Gods, when they revive his Shirai Ryu clan as revenants, like Scorpion himself (after Scorpion spent the previous game being their errand boy in trying to stop Onaga), with Scorpion seeing this as betrayal on their part.
  • 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.
  • Case 03: True Cannibal Boy: When Lily calls Marty out for being controlling of Sally and not considering her feelings, it seems like he might finally tone down his Yandere attitude. In the true ending, he kills Lily to use as Sally's new body without Sally's knowledge, all while claiming that he's not hurting her feelings as long as she doesn't know.
  • 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.
  • Psychonauts 2: When Maligula finally understands that she's the one who killed her sister Marona, she just dismisses her as one of the many she killed.
  • Rave Heart: When Prince Eryn learns his mother Lumina died, he's distraught at first, but then quickly shifts the blame on Ellemine for failing to protect her, even though Lumina died due to Eryn siding with Count Vorakia Estuuban in the first place.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: Dr. M Has a brief discussion with Sly near the end of the last fight, and Sly manages to get M to acknowledge that Sly doesn't treat his Gang like Conner did when he and Dr. M were in the previous Cooper Gang. Dr. M appears to finally back down... but then Sly claims that he isn't like his ancestors, and that "touchy-feely rhetoric" enrages Dr. M past the boiling point.
  • 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.
  • In The New Order Last Days Of Europe, this happens to commander Yuri Evtukovich. While overseeing the results of a recent gas attack against "enemy" positions, he comes across the withered corpses of Mother and her Baby. This makes him question if murdering thousands of his countrymen for the sake of an insane Jewish Fascist and a long dead-child prince is a good idea, but he eventualy decides that Orders are orders and they must be completed.
  • View from Below: Rose seems to show a soft side when she realizes Ash carries the same pain as her and realizes it would be wrong to kill someone who is in the same situation as her. Unfortunately, she doesn't learn to extend to empathy to Melody and tries to sacrifice the latter to the Crimson God.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Mega Man Dies at the End: While having an experience in the afterlife, Mega Man is told he has only one chance at redemption, but instead interprets it as a sign that he needs to be an even bigger asshole.
  • 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 actually is good advice, only to then dismiss it as being ridiculous.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • Freefall: When the alien Sam Starfall's arguments about the inherent value of non-human life get too persuasive for the spaceship AI's comfort, it deletes the record of the conversation from its memory rather than have to think about them.
  • 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...
  • 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.
    I wonder sometimes... why I do this at all. Perhaps... for the faintest hope... that someday men like me need not exist. (a sad expression crosses his face and he seems pensive, only to forcefully regain his composure) Oh, well. Until a better age I suppose.
  • 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.
    • He has another when Oona bluntly spells out his entire character to him and how he's setting himself up for disaster, but instead of taking her point (that he won't be able to to convince himself he was right and do good for goblinkind forever, so he's going to have to choose- and Oona knows damn well he'll choose to be a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist) he chooses to quibble about the metaphor she uses.
    • 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.
  • Polandball:
    • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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?'

    Web Videos 
  • 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.
    • In real life, players are more likely to have had an epiphany before that point, due to the game brutally beating you over the head with "There is literally no point to what you are doing and the developer explicitly designed this to be as unfun as possible because you're playing as the bad guy."

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • In the series finale, Finn and Jake use a magic potion to trap themselves and Fern, Princess Bubblegum, and Gumbald in a collective dreamworld where they can sort out their differences without anyone else getting involved. Finn helps Fern overcome the demon inside him, while Gumbald and Bubblegum seem to get an understanding of the other. All of them wake up, and Gumbald tells Bubblegum that he's willing to put the war behind them and is about to embrace her when he's tripped by Lolly, exposing the fact he didn't come to an understanding at all, he just wanted to get close enough to splash Bubblegum with the Dum Dum Juice under his cloak. Instead, the bottle shatters when he lands, splashing himself with the juice.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Blame", Elmore's Moral Guardians succeed in banning videogames as they believe they're dangerous for their kids' safety. So, Gumball (actually Darwin, before he shamelessly stole his idea) and the other kids come up with a plan to show their parents books are as, if not more dangerous and violent than videogames, making a point on how it's the adults' responsibility to look after their children and teach them to respond appropriately to outer stimuli. The result is, of course, a mass Book Burning under the kids' horrified eyes.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • 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, claiming Aang kidnapped her.
    • By the season two finale, "The Crossroads of Destiny", 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 Break Them by Talking 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 Heel–Face 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.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "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.
    • Harley Quinn
      • 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.
  • 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 that someone, in this case Bob, asks why he wasn't mad at the shark operator. Although Teddy does realize this, whether out of stubbornness to accept that he wasted his vendetta or genuine belief that it's evil, he insists that 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!"
    • This 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.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Christmas Episode has Eddy embark on a personal journey to discover the joy of selflessness and giving. Upon fixing a broken decorated Christmas tree, he gets rewarded with a gigantic sack of presents for him and the rest of the neighborhood, but then he instantly goes back to his old self by snatching the load and running off to loot it for himself.
  • 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.
  • Futurama:
    • In the episode "The 30% Iron Chef", Zoidberg accidentally breaks a ship-in-a-bottle and blames it on Fry, forcing Fry to pay the cost to have it replaced (ten dollars). The whole thing leaves Zoidberg wracked with guilt, until he decides he needs to take responsibility and end his life — which he does, using a sword owned by the host of a cooking show. As Zoidberg is a crustacean, all that happens is the sword crumples against his shell. The host, aghast, claims that the sword was worth five thousand dollars... and Zoidberg immediately blames Fry.
    • In an episode of The Scary Door, a Show Within a Show, a scientist invents a robot to do all his research and assume his social obligations, freeing him to laze around and drink beer. Years later, an official comes by with an award, which he presents to the robot, and the scientist's son calls the robot his daddy. The man realizes that the robot has won all the fame and love that he could have had... and then orders the robot to experience the tragic irony for him. As the robot lets out a Big "NO!", he goes back to lazing around and drinking beer.
  • Gargoyles:
    • 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.
    • In "The Price", Xanatos 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:
  • 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.
    Brick: What?
    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.
  • The Once-ler does this twice in The Lorax (1972): 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 Once-ler has this musical Inner Monologue:
    Every once in a while, I sit down with myself asking,
    "Once-ler! Why are you a Once-ler?"
    And I cringe, I don't smile, as I sit there on trial asking,
    "Aren't you ashamed, you old Once-ler?
    You ought to be locked in a 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. Once-ler."
  • 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 "Queen's Battle, Part 2". After the most powerful akuma he made at the point is defeated and his son is 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.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): This happens twice in the 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 sleepwalk when they thought that the Mayor and Townsville police department had killed the professor, because they loved the toys so much.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: After Double Trouble's "The Reason You Suck" Speech in the fourth season, Catra has finally hit rock bottom and has no choice but to improve. But instead, at the beginning of the final season, she tries to get in with Horde Prime the way she had with Hordak. When Glimmer calls her out on it, Catra blows her off, calling herself "a survivor", which belies her own cowardice. It isn't until Catra realizes that if Adora makes it to Prime's ship, Adora will be killed, Catra finally decides to improve and do "one good thing in her life".
  • 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!"

    Real Life 
  • This trope, along with Never My Fault, is one of the many traits of sociopaths and narcissists, 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 is flawed or even 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 stress and in some cases 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!

Alternative Title(s): What Did They Make Me Do


"THAT SWORD COST $5,000!!"

Zoidberg sets Fry up as a scapegoat for breaking the Professor's model ship, and despite feeling guilty blames Fry again when he accidentally breaks the Chairman's very expensive sword. The latter case is played for laughs.

How well does it match the trope?

4.54 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / Seppuku

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