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Karmic Nod

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Laser-Guided Karma can be hard to accept if you are on the receiving end of it. Sometimes, however, a character who has committed anything from a minor misdeed to outright villainy shows a surprising stroke of humility and wisdom in the face of misfortune, and openly (verbally or non-verbally) accepts that it is a fair retribution.

The experience of this karmic retribution may also be sufficiently harrowing to the character to bring about an upheaval of their self-image and priorities, eventually leading to acceptance and a change of heart. In this case, the trope may coincide with Redemption Equals Affliction and/or The Atoner.

Simply being made aware of receiving karmic retribution is not sufficient for this trope; the character must be shown to resign himself or herself to it.

A character exhibiting this trope could be seen as the equivalent of Graceful Loser where the victor is not another person but Karma or fate. May be related to Being Good Sucks, and can overlap with Redemption Equals Death and Face Death with Dignity. See Heroic Self-Deprecation for characters who nod without reason to. See Call It Karma for characters considering what others experience to be karma. Compare Touché. Contrast Never My Fault.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Attack on Titan:
    • Reiner Braun seems fully aware of how his having infiltrated humanity as a Titan Shifter after breaking down the walls and resulting in the deaths of a fifth of the human race makes him and his accomplices "murderers living on borrowed time," and appears to accept this.
    • After losing his right arm during a desperate effort, during which many soldiers lost their lives, Erwin sees it as a small price to pay compared to how many hundreds of soldiers he sent to their deaths, and that he will have to pay back the rest in hell.
  • Fairy Tail: After the Oración Seis is defeated, both Hoteye (Richard Buchanan) and Jellal acknowledge their involvement and accept being taken by the Rune Knights (despite Natsu trying to stop it as it's against Fairy Tail to punish rather than forgive).
  • Maria no Danzai: One of the reasons Yashima puts up with Kowase's abuse is because, since he caught her shoplifting, she thinks she's just reaping what she's sown. Maria discouraging her from this train of thought eventually leads to Yashima growing a spine and standing up to Kowase.
  • In Naruto, as Obito Uchiha is dying, Black Zetsu contemptuously says that he will end up Dying Alone, having lost everyone dear to him, being hated by everyone else and failing at his goals. Obito says "This death suits a criminal like me."

    Comic Books 
  • Hellboy once runs into the animated skeletons of monks who were burned alive and buried in the walls of their monastery. They aren't hostile in the least, telling him the fire was a just punishment for their many sins, and even point him to the exit when he asks where it is.

     Fan Works 

     Films — Live-Action  

  • In Drive Angry Milton acknowledges that he has done some very bad things in his life and deserved going to Hell after death.
  • In The Green Mile, Paul Edgcomb accepts that even though he doesn't want to, he will live long enough to experience a lot more sorrow and loss, as a punishment for unwillingly executing John Coffey.
    Paul: Elaine — you'll die, too. And my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. It's my atonement, you see — it's my punishment for lettin' John Coffey ride the lightning. For killing a miracle of God. You'll be gone like all the others, and I'll have to stay. Oh, I'll die eventually; of that, I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death long before Death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already.
  • Gremlins (1984): Upon seeing the Gremlins for the first time, Mrs. Deagle is convinced "they're" coming for her. Her breakdown into delusional sobbing before she activates her tampered stairlift and her own demise almost makes you feel sorry for her makes you cheer as she literally flies down to Hell where she belongs (the Latin American translation even adds "to go to Hell" to the line below).
    Mrs. Deagle: I'm not ready!!!
  • In Machete, Machete disposes of one of the main bad guys. When the dying villain asks where his wife and daughter are, Machete replies "with God" (they're actually in a church). He laments that he won't be seeing them again, clearly accepting where he'll be going instead after all his crimes.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, after a woman is convicted of being a witch using a thoroughly ridiculous procedure ("So, logically, if she weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood. And therefore, a witch!"), she calmly says, "It's a fair cop."
  • In Nine Dead, nine people are locked up in a room by a mysterious captor and told to figure out what brought them there or he'll kill one of them every ten minutes.
    • Coogan admits that he's a child molester, and the others say that he deserves to die for his crimes. He's self aware enough to admit that's probably true, but asks the others what they did to deserve a death sentence, leaving them wondering.
    • When the captor kills one of the prisoners, the prisoner taunts him with a See You in Hell boast. The captor simply replies "I know".
    • Although Sully firebombed an elderly man's apartment, he thoroughly regrets that his act unwittingly killed the man's grandchildren, with Sully stating that he deserves to die because of this.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • In Curse of the Black Pearl, while leading Will around a pirate run tavern, Captain Jack Sparrow meets a couple of harlots who slap him though he comments that he didn't think he deserved them. When picking his crew, one of such is a female named Anamaria who promptly slaps him when they meet.
    Will: I suppose you didn't deserve that one, either?
    Jack: No, that one I deserved.
    • In At World's End, at the end, Jack wants to show off the Black Pearl to two more harlots only to find it off in the distance having been once again stolen by Barbosa, a dingy left for him and Gibbs asleep on the port. After a bit of a rant, the harlots slap him and he in turns slaps Gibbs. Gibbs looks to retaliate... but shrugs and nods, non-verbally accepting he deserved that.
  • At the end of The Departed, Colin Sullivan's reaction to his imminent death is a resigned "Okay."
  • A Year and Change: Pete acknowledges that "he deserved that" when Owen punches him in the face after catching him in bed with Pam.


  • In Brilliance of the Moon from Tales of the Otori, Kenji submits that losing his daughter was his punishment for betraying Takeo and Shigeru, the latter to his death.
  • In The Red Lion, Cornelius calmly accepts that Ernst is about to come and kill him, in the same way that his previous incarnation killed Rochard.
  • In The Two Towers, a dying Boromir confesses his failure to Aragorn, and how he "has paid" for it with his life.
    Boromir: I tried to take the Ring from Frodo. I am sorry. I have paid.
  • Chapter 37 of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, just before Tess and Angel part ways:
    Tess: I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only - only - don't make it more than I can bear!
  • At the end of Ghost Story, the titular ghost (having concluded his Unfinished Business) regains consciousness deep underground, with a crazed Fae staring hungrily at him. With an utter lack of surprise, he acknowledges that he's in Hell. And then Mab informs him that he's still alive and she won't let him escape their deal so easily.

     Live Action TV  
  • Breaking Bad: Implied. While Walt doesn't verbally admit it, the first line of the song "Baby Blue" by Badfinger (which plays as Walt bleeds to death from a gunshot wound) is "Guess I got what I deserved", indicating that Walt knows deep down that he had it coming.
  • Game of Thrones: Stannis Baratheon's final moments have him facing Brienne of Tarth sentencing him to death for killing his brother Renly (whom she had followed and loved) with an air of serene resignation, accepting his fate by telling Brienne to do her "duty", just as Stannis always believed that he has been dutiful all his life.
  • This is the impetus for The List on My Name Is Earl, when Earl learned about the concept of Karma as he is in the hospital recuperating from being hit by a car.
  • Denna has a moment in the 2009 episode "Bloodline" from Legend of the Seeker:
    Denna: I deserve my punishment and more. Release me and I'll show you such pleasure that all will be forgiven.
  • In Doctor Who "The Impossible Astronaut" after River Song sees the Doctor do something terrible, she runs into his 200-year younger self (time travel and all) and slaps him hard.
    Doctor: OK. I'm assuming that's for something I haven't done yet.
    River: Yes, it is.
    Doctor: Good, looking forward to it.
  • Angel, "Damage": Spike runs into a psychotic Slayer who cuts his hands off, believing him to be the man who had killed her family and kidnapped her when she was a little girl. He takes it philosophically.
    The lass thought I killed her family. And I'm supposed to what, complain 'cause hers wasn't one of the hundreds of families I did kill?
  • Discussed by the wise guys in The Sopranos. Cristopher is conflicted because when he nearly died he had a dream where he found himself in Hell, but Paulie corrects him and claims that he was in Purgatory. He further states that they'll probably have to spend several hundred years in torment for their crimes before going to Heaven, highlighting how the mobsters still fundamentally see themselves as good guys.
  • In the Babylon 5 TV movie In the Beginning Londo comments that he knows his sins, and the price he will eventually pay for them.
    • Contrast his attitude there with himself years earlier. Keep in mind this is after he's pretty much started a couple of wars.
    Londo: The Universe hates me for some reason. I do not know why, I have not done anything to the Universe. (Nearby, G'Kar rolls his eyes) Alright, maybe a few things, but after a while you would think it would be enough!
  • In the Smith and Jones production The Waiting Room, Griff Rhys Jones's fire and brimstone vicar character cheerfully goes to hell for his sins, the ultimate of which was being tempted by a display of cut-price biscuits in the window of Sainsbury's.


  • King David from The Bible realises that the death of his traitorous son Absalom is karmic retribution for his Uriah Gambit.
  • The Penitent Thief (St. Dismas in the Catholic tradition) accepts his condemnation and crucifixion, acknowledging "we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes" (Luke 23:41).


  • From Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, Mrs Erlynne considers herself punished once again for her behavior when she was younger, by having to observe her daughter do the same.
    Mrs Erlynne: (reading a letter) Oh, how terrible! The same words that twenty years ago I wrote to her father! and how bitterly I have been punished for it! No; my punishment, my real punishment is to-night, is now!

     Video Games  

  • Venom Snake in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, who is the leader of a large-scale mercenary company responsible for popularizing the idea of private military companies carrying nuclear weapons and generally living off world conflict, has this to say about himself:
    Venom Snake: I'm already a demon... Heaven's not my kind of place anyway.
  • Planescape: Torment ends with the Nameless One accepting death, even knowing he will be literally damned for the countless deaths that fueled his immortality (to say nothing of all the horrible shit that his previous incarnations did). The last we see of him is in Hell, witnessing an ongoing conflict of the Blood War... and walking into it without hesitation.
  • World of Warcraft
    • Mennu the Betrayer, a Broken who betrayed his people to the nagas and is the first boss of the Slave Pens, says "I... Deserve this." as he dies.
    • When Wrathion walks into the Stormwind Throne room at the beginning of the Black Empire Campaign, Anduin immediately rises from his throne, approaches him, and punches him right in the face, getting a measure of payback for the events of War Crimes. Wrathion takes it in good humor, simply responding with "I suppose I deserved that."

     Visual Novels  

  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: After the class correctly accuses Mondo of murdering Chihiro, his Villainous Breakdown is most sympathetic, to the point that it was cut from the anime entirely. He puts up very little defense, fully accepting his punishment (i.e. being executed in a horrific manner) because he believes he should atone for his actions. In his final Free Time event, he expresses unease about his future, as well as a similar sentiment.
      "Maybe I'm being punished for doing what I felt like all my life."
    • In the second game, Gundam says that regardless of the extremely extenuating circumstances (the survivors are locked in a funhouse without food until someone kills another person or they all starve to death) and the fact that he only killed to save everyone else, what he did is still murder, and gracefully accepts his punishment. He even scolds Sonia for trying to beg for his life, saying that it is disgraceful to do so for someone who has accepted his fate. Before he's led away, he says that it would have been an insult to life itself to just let everyone powerlessly accept death by starvation, and that one must always keep on persevering in the face of adversity.
  • Happens from time to time in the Ace Attorney series, usually when a witness is punished for interfering with the investigation, such as Lana Skye in the first game, Adrian Andrews (for trying to frame Matt Engarde) in Justice For All, Sister Iris in Trials and Tribulations, and Machi Tobaye in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. They're typically grateful for being cleared of their murder charges, often have put some significant personal issue to rest in the trial, and are willing to pay for their crimes.

     Web Comics  

  • In the climax of the Gunnerkrigg Court chapter "Quicksilver," Reynardine tells Hetty that he accepts his current form as punishment for his actions right before setting her on fire.
  • The cast of 8-Bit Theater occasionally acknowledge this, although it never occurs to them that maybe they should do things differently.
    Red Mage: I can't decide if this is unfair or exactly what we deserve for being, you know, us.

     Western Animation  

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka laughs at Aang when he gets hit in the head with a rock, only to receive one in the head as well, prompting this trope.
  • In the Futurama episode "Three Hundred Big Boys", Bender steals a very expensive cigar. As the other stories resolve themselves at the end, Bender has the nagging feeling that something is missing. When the police arrest him for the theft, he triumphantly shouts, "All right! Closure!"
  • In the Grossology episode, after saying "quick read" in response to Abby says he read her mind, Ty says a deadpan "I deserved that" when Abby throws macaroni in his face.
  • In the PAW Patrol episode "Pups Save a Freighter", after getting splashed by a whale, Danny says he deserved it for being an idiot with the light in the lighthouse.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes", Mr. Goldenfold acknowledges it when the Devil reveals that the "gift" he gave him that made him irresistible to women also made him impotent. Though it's less of a nod and more of an all-out Scenery Chewing.
    Mr. Goldenfold: My lust! My greed! I deserve this!
  • In Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, Alakshmi, after she was Made a Slave by the Fire Civilisation, mentions that she suspects this is a punishment for her evil deeds.
  • When the title of Little Miss Springfield was passed on to Lisa in The Simpsons (due to the previous LMS having been struck by lightning via the metal sceptre she carried), Krusty the Clown playfully pulls away a few times when moving to present the sceptre to Lisa in the transfer ceremony. He then promptly gets struck by lightning himself.
    Krusty: [pained] I deserved that.
  • Kaeloo: In Episode 231, we find out that every time Stumpy loses a sock, he throws the remaining one under his bed instead of trying to reunite them, adding to a giant mess in his room. The socks, who are sentient, are unhappy about being split from their partners, swear revenge on Stumpy. As the plot progresses, the ending moves to a happy one with everyone enjoying themselves at a party on an island. Stumpy tells the socks that this came about as a direct result of his messiness and tells them that they should thank him, prompting the irate socks to chuck him off the island. Stumpy turns to the audience and says "I admit it, I deserved that."



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