Follow TV Tropes


Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand

Go To

"I don't believe you could kill me. You could try. You're afraid to kill me."
Delilah to Samson, Samson and Delilah (1949)

This trope describes the situation where:

  1. Alice has a reason to kill Bob.
  2. Bob knows this.
  3. Bob decides that the best way to handle Alice is to get both of them alone together and give her exactly what she wants — a chance to take his life.

Why would Bob embark on such a suicidal course of action? Because he believes that Alice is not a murderer, and he wants to force her to realize that too. When Alice discovers that she can't actually take another person's life, not even in a situation where no one would know she did it, she will have to acknowledge that she is a better person than she thought she was. She will also have to acknowledge that Bob is a better person than she thought he was, since an evil man would never have risked so much on The Power of Trust.

When this trope is played straight, Bob's gambit works and both of them leave the room alive. Though the exact degree of loyalty this inspires in Alice can vary widely, the result is generally a moral improvement all the way up to a full Heel–Face Turn. Other times, Bob is wrong, wrong, wrong, and the best we can hope for Alice is that she will eventually regret killing the man who believed in her. Still other times Bob's gambit works, but only because Alice has a reason to keep him alive. In a rare occasion, Bob gets Out-Gambitted and is shot by Alice in cold blood, or Bob reveals some kind of defense and gives Alice a Disappointed in You, which could have the same effect or just led to (possibly lethal) punishment for Alice.

This could be considered a Secret Test of Character, though what is being tested is more Bob's estimate of Alice's character.

See Get It Over With and Sword over Head for things that may happen in the resulting scene. Also compare Turn the Other Cheek. If Bob genuinely expects Alice to kill him, and thinks that he deserves it, see Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You. Not to be confused with Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Ulquiorra does this while he's dissolving into ash.
    • Sosuke Aizen has this sort of relationship with pretty much all of his minions, especially Gin and Baraggan. After years of trying to be in a position where he could kill Aizen, Gin takes his chance as soon as it arrives but fails due to bullshit.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch dared his fellow rebels, the Black Knights, to kill him when they questioned his leadership. They step back, in part because he also points out that they're completely screwed without him acting as their strategist. One of them even comments that that must have taken an incredible amount of guts.
  • Dragon Ball GT: Naturon Shenron pulls this on Goku during their fight, after absorbing Pan. Of course, he's only doing it because he's convinced Goku simply doesn't have the heart to kill him with Pan absorbed, and he completely loses his cool and begs for his life the instant it looks like he's going to do it.
  • Kujibiki♡Unbalance: President uses a form of this to keep her ninja-Miko subordinate in line (both from the first time they meet to the very end when she's accused of "losing her way"), and she never need lift a finger to do it.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Lacus combines this with Full-Name Ultimatum. It was probably Athrun's last chance to keep her as a fiancée despite their parents having now turned against an Arranged Marriage between them.
  • One Piece: After Arlong is released from prison, thanks to Jimbei becoming a Warlord, an unimpressed Arlong decides to break away from the Sunny Pirates and lead his own crew again, promising to spread the hatred of the Fishmen for humans wherever he goes, and goads Jimbei to kill him where he stands if he has a problem with it. Jimbei is so enraged that Tiger's last wishes were going to waste that he nearly does by savagely beating him, but he stops at the last moment, as he could never could bring himself to kill his own "brother".
  • Filia from Slayers Try does this with Jillas. When Jillas points a gun at her, she holds his hand with the gun and tells him to shoot. He's shocked and unable to do it, and eventually does a Heel–Face Turn when she saves his life.
  • Trigun's manga versions of Vash and Wolfwood have a moment like this, where they're having a fairly friendly moment, Wolfwood stares at Vash's back and thinks, he's open, I could kill him right now; the motivation being that Vash is Knives' twin brother and if Knives by himself is a threat, and Knives' orders to him as Chapel were to protect Vash, and if the Big Bad wants him protected, well... And he doesn't. And then Vash looks around at him, one of those really sad smiles he does, and Wolfwood sort of smiles and thinks Vash knew exactly what he was thinking. They're kind of messed-up for best friends.
  • In Utawarerumono, After Hakuouro completely defeats fellow Emperor and friend Kuya, he stands in front of her barely functional Humongous Mecha... and surrenders. If she kills him, she will have won the war she's practically lost, her country will flourish, and her people will no longer be persecuted. Kuya realizes she can't kill a friend in cold blood, and moreover, that cooperation is what she should have tried, rather than forced unification. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there rather quickly.
  • Thorfinn from Vinland Saga joins a group of vikings for the sole purpose of killing their leader, Askeladd. However, he refuses to kill Askeladd in anything besides an honorable duel.
  • Toward the end of Witch Hunter Robin, the eponymous pyrokinetic (now on the run) pulls this on her former partner Amon after learning he was assigned to take her down.

    Comic Books 
  • In Aquaman's first DC Rebirth storyline, Black Manta sets off a terrorist attack on an Atlantis embassy in the US to get at Aquaman and the two start fighting. Aquaman defeats him, then offers him the chance to kill him to get back at him killing his father. However, he warns him that if he does so, he'll have nothing else left to live for. Black Manta concedes and surrenders.
  • In Black Panther (2021), T'Challa faces the Colonialist's army and ends up in a duel with the Buffalo Soldier. Realising that his opponent's been manipulated by the Colonialist, he stops fighting and takes his mask off. The Soldier shouts at him to fight back, and even shoots and wounds him, but the gesture prompts a Heel–Face Turn and the Buffalo Soldier then switches sides to fight against the Colonialist.
  • The Punisher: One arc has Daredevil, Spider-Man and Wolverine team up to take out Frank. Frank manages to incapacitate each one (landing Spidey in a minefield, blowing up Wolverine's lower half, and knocking Daredevil out with ultrasounds. Matt wakes up chained with a gun in his hand pointed at Frank, who's preparing to snipe a mob boss. Frank makes it clear that so long as other heroes keep to their Thou Shalt Not Kill code, he'll keep on killing criminals, and Daredevil can save all those lives by killing Frank here and now. Matt eventually fires after much agonizing... but the gun was empty. After Frank escapes, Daredevil frees himself and tells Spidey he's safe, as Frank doesn't kill heroes (Wolverine, by virtue of having a Healing Factor, didn't get the painless way out). Spidey leaves the mindefield and says this won't go in his biography.

    Fan Works 
  • Ebott's Wake: During the attack on the auditorium, Frisk stands in front of Dwayne Riley, who was about to shoot Undyne. Frisk tells Riley to shoot them or give up the attack. Riley can't do it—can't even try to shoot around them—and he drops his gun.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: Subverted during the Wolf's duel with Euron. The Wolf puts down his sword and taunts Euron into attacking him, but it's just a way to further humiliate him, because the Wolf wouldn't even need a sword to kill Euron.
  • Us and Them: In the epilogue as some financial officer of complaining to Rufus about all the changes he's made at Shinra, specifically how much they cost, Rufus sarcastically says if the guy thinks he can do better, to just kill him and take over. He won't get a better chance. The man backs down.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Eddie in 8mm tries this on Tom Welles. Welles has him dead to rights, but Eddie mocks him, pointing out that Welles's gun is registered and that he doesn't have the guts to kill him, even leaning in and licking the gun. Welles steps outside, calls the snuff film victim's mother, and asks for permission to kill Eddie. Once he gets it, he steps back inside and beats Eddie to death with his gun.
  • Casablanca. When Ilsa aims a pistol at Rick and demands a document, he tells her exactly where it is on his person, but that she'll have to shoot him to take it. He then walks up to her, so that her gun is against his chest. Maybe he's sure she won't fire, maybe he doesn't care. Either way, she decides not to shoot...
  • In City Slickers, after several personality clashes between Mitch and Curly, the former finally delivers this combined with an apology and a "Reason You Suck" Speech, all the while Curly is sharpening a massive knife.
    Mitch: You know the first time I tried to talk to you, you embarrassed me, so I teased you a little, which maybe I shouldn't have done, so I'm sorry. But now you're sitting over there, playing with your knife, trying to frighten me... (nervously) which you're doing a really good job! (coldly) But if you're going to kill me, get on with it. If not, shut the hell up! I'm on vacation.
  • Joker in The Dark Knight confronts the newly emerged Two-Face and when threatened with a gun, presses his head to the muzzle. It works only because Dent resorts to his trademark coin, but Joker actually approves of that. note 
  • A nearly perfect example happens in the movie In Bruges when Harry Walters confronts his hitman Ken for not killing Ray. It's partially subverted in that Harry still shoots Ken in the leg. It's fully subverted later when Harry finds out Ray is still in Bruges; Harry then shoots Ken in order to stop Ken from stopping him so he can kill Ray.
  • In John Carter, Sab Than arrives with Dejah's father to rescue her and the titular character from a tribe of Tharks. He reiterates his original offer to marry Dejah, so that the feud between their city-states Zodanga and Helium ends. He then takes out his sword and offers it to Dejah, getting on his knees, explaining that, if she wishes his death, she can take his head right now. Dejah appears to seriously think about doing that, then gives him the sword back and tells him they have a wedding to plan. However, Sab Than knows that Dejah is too much of a good person to kill even someone like him in cold blood. He himself plans to stage an all-out attack on Helium during the ceremony to wipe out his ancient enemy once and for all.
  • In Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Poirot gives this ultimatum to the conspirators after The Summation. It turns out to be a Secret Test of Character.
    Poirot: You wish to go free without punishment for your crime, then you must commit one more.
  • Delivered by Mal in Serenity trying to talk down a psychotic River, only to be rapidly rescinded when she cocks the gun she's holding in reply.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk and Spock set a trap for The Mole on the Enterprise, who turns out to be Spock's protege, Lt. Valeris.
    Spock: You have to shoot. If you are logical, you have to shoot.
    Valeris: I do not want to.
    Spock: What you want is irrelevant. What you have chosen is at hand!
    Kirk: (entering) I'd just as soon you didn't.
    (Spock smacks the phaser out of her hand)
  • Star Wars:
    • Revenge of the Sith: When Anakin finds out that Palpatine is the Sith Lord the Jedi have been looking for, he ignites his lightsaber. Palpatine, who had been hinting that he had the power to save Padmé from dying, asks if Anakin is going to kill him. Anakin replies that he'd like to — but he puts his lightsaber away, partly because cold-blooded murder isn't the Jedi way but mostly because he still hoped to save Padmé's life. The whole scene is also a Call-Forward to Return of the Jedi when Palpatine tells Luke "Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!", which indicates that Palpatine is fond of such gambits.
    • In The Force Awakens, Han Solo confronts his son Kylo Ren in a drastically unfavourable location, offering to forgive them for joining the First Order and take them back to safety. Han gets impaled for his trouble: what he thought was a plea for help was a prayer to Darth Vader.
  • Achilles to Briseis in the movie Troy with a knife to his neck. More like "kill me or have sex with me, your choice."

  • In his autobiography About Face, Colonel David Hackworth is responsible for toughening up a unit in Vietnam, and makes himself so unpopular that a rumor spreads about a contract on his life. When the company supposedly responsible for this contract comes under fire, Hackworth decides to call their bluff by advancing out in front of them so even the most inadequate marksman could hit him. It works perfectly because the troops were more concerned with getting out of the ambush (and hoped their CO would help them do that) than settling scores.
  • In Andre Norton's The Beast Master, Hosteen has to persuade an alien that a spaceship, landing in a forbidden area, is not a human ship but that of their enemies. He concludes by giving him a knife and telling it to drive it home if he doesn't believe him.
  • At the end of Brotherhood of the Rose, CIA-trained assassin Saul is sneaking up on the hotel where his surrogate father, Diabolical Mastermind Elliot, is staying...only to find Elliot standing out in the open waiting for him, clearly exposed to his fire. Elliot asks for an end to this conflict between him and his 'son', and to be allowed to retire peacefully. Saul nearly shoots him anyway, but realises he could have been killed while they were talking. So he agrees to a truce and follows Elliot into his hotel room where he gets jumped by Elliot's bodyguards. After all, as Elliot says, what's to stop Saul from changing his mind later on? This way he can dispose of Saul without alarming the hotel guests. Saul is able to overcome the attack and promptly submachine-guns Elliot to death. No point in making the same mistake twice.
  • In the Cirque Du Freak novels, Mr. Crepsley gives Darren a chance to kill him when he lets him control his spider. It turns out that he had taken most of the poison out of the spider, meaning he was never in danger.
  • In "The Detachment", John Rain suspects (accurately) that Larison is planning to kill them and keep all the loot for himself. Knowing they aren't so different and aware of how his own viewpoint changed due to the Power of Trust from his best friend Dox, he hands Larison a silenced Glock and gives him the option of either leaving with his share or accompanying them to stop a terrorist atrocity. Larison (who was expecting to get shot on the spot) is too stunned to say much, but does end up going with them, despite having refused earlier.
  • Discworld: In a mild form, in Terry Pratchett's Making Money, Vetinari hands Moist a sword while questioning him. He observes afterward that Moist was more nervous while holding the sword than Vetinari was.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Small Favor, when Nicodemus points out to Harry that his friends don't trust him, Harry demands that Michael speak to him alone, and has him draw his sword. Whereupon Harry gets the sword to point at his throat and demands his trust. He convinces him sufficiently that Michael points out the evidence that his mind's been tampered with, and when Harry reacts, carefully tends him.
  • In Dune Messiah, the second Dune book, Duncan Idaho comes back to life with the help of magical Tleilaxu scientists who brainwash him to kill Paul-Muad'Dib. Paul knows this, and deliberately gives Idaho a chance near the end of the book to kill him. Idaho snaps out of his brainwashing and lets Paul live, regaining his memories from before death in the process.
    • In the sequel "God-Emperor of Dune", this has become the standard method used to awaken the memories of Duncan Idaho's series of clones.
  • Used in Orson Scott Card's Ender in Exile. However, while Achilles Jr. does stop short of killing Ender, he does beat the shit out of him.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker, Major Rawne and Gaunt are alone in the wintry wilderness. At one point, Rawne stands over him with a knife, ready to cut his throat; he hears Gaunt mutter in Past Experience Nightmares (about, incidentally, the reason he wants Gaunt dead) and instead kills an ork sneaking up on them. Later, when Gaunt is about to slip into the sea of boiling hydrocarbons and drown, Rawne sacrifices his prized silver knife to afford Gaunt a hand-hold. Though he professes a desire to kill Gaunt later — even to Gaunt's own face — he never attempts it. Unusually, Rawne had made an actual attempt to kill Gaunt earlier, on a battlefield. Gaunt had knocked him unconscious and then, despite his own injuries, carried Rawne to safety.
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King: In a Friend-or-Idol Decision, the Man in Black, who The Gunslinger has been pursuing for years in hopes of revenge for the destruction of his kingdom, shouts "Come now... or find me never!"note 
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore tests Draco this way, knowing Voldemort has given Draco the task of killing Dumbledore. He doesn't believe that the character he tests has it in him to kill. He's right. Snape does it instead. Which was also all part of the plan.
  • In the Illuminatus! trilogy, Hagbard Celine uses this as the climax of his program to convert people away from authoritarianism.
    • That is, he intimidates people with a loaded gun, and after awhile gives the gun to them, telling it's their turn now.
  • The short story "Just Lather, That's All" by Hernando Téllez, in which a barber in Colombia during La Violencia has a leader of a guerilla group come to him for a shave, apparently not realizing he's an enemy, and vacillates between just doing his job and slashing the man's throat while he has him in the chair. He recalls all the people the captain has had murdered and mutilated and listens to him talk about what they plan to do to the ones they've recently captured, but ultimately decides he can't kill him and just finishes shaving him. The captain thanks him, pays him, and pauses before leaving to say, "They told me that you'd kill me. I came to find out. But killing isn't easy. You can take my word for it."
  • Kitty Norville: In Kitty and the Midnight Hour, after Cormac tells Kitty that he will never shoot her by accident, she walks up to him and tells him to do it if he intends to do it on purpose.
  • In The Last Chancers books, Lieutenant Kage has expressed a desire to kill Colonel Schaeffer, including one to his face, and in fact has had several opportunities to do so. He always decides against it, and the Colonel always smirks at him afterwards. As for the admittance to his face?
    Kage: I hate what you've done to me, and one day I'll kill you for it.
    Schaeffer: But not today, Kage.
    Kage: No, not today.
  • In The Last Temptation of Christ, Judas has sworn that he will kill the traitorous cross-maker Jesus and follows him to a monastery to do so when he leaves. When Jesus emerges from the monastery and begins fulfilling the role of the Messiah, the two have a depthy conversation about it and Judas instead becomes his surly but most devoted follower. Of course, Jesus knows who he must turn to when the time comes for someone to give him up to the Romans so that he can die and redeem the world. This has the added benefit of allowing Judas to keep from breaking his prior oath.
    • And it is Judas who comes to him during the eponymous temptation and confronts him for having shirked his duty to the world in favor of a simple life with a loving family and children.
  • Les Misérables, between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. No Heel–Face Turn here — Javert commits suicide rather than live in a world where his enemy does the right thing, and he is in the wrong.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade, whose final command from the Emperor was to kill Luke, in The Thrawn Trilogy. (Mara eventually gets out of this by killing a clone of Luke, which fulfills the order via technicality, thus releasing her from the obligation.)
    • In the X-Wing Series, The Mole Lara Notsil gets Wedge Antilles in her sights, but The Power of Trust gets to her. Not only does she not kill him, she becomes the mask.
    • Outbound Flight: Kinman Doriana, an agent of Sidious, had come along to watch a Neimoidan with a Trade Federation fleet destroy Outbound Flight. This didn't work out so well, since Thrawn's tiny picket force utterly destroyed that fleet except for one command ship and took Doriana and the Neimoidan hostage. Thrawn also eventually killed the Jedi on Outbound Flight with Doriana's help (long story), and smacked around another alien force while he was at it, and the Neimoidan wanted to then kill Thrawn so no one would know what happened to Outbound Flight. And Doriana, realizing what all of that together means, doesn't... and eventually Thrawn joins the Empire.
    • Command Decision, another story by Timothy Zahn, has a version of this. Thrawn's captain is infuriated by the tactics he's using and could mutiny with a general who wants to—but after some agonizing he doesn't, and Thrawn knew he wouldn't. That part of the scheme was to make this captain realize that he did trust Thrawn to know what he was doing.
    • In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, after outing himself as Darth Sidious, Palpatine gives Anakin an easy opportunity to kill him...knowing damn well that Anakin won't do it, as he still needs Palpatine's help to save Padme (or so he thinks).
      Anakin: You. It's you. It's been you all along! I should kill you. I will kill you!
      Palpatine: For what?
      Anakin: You're a Sith Lord!
      Palpatine: I am. I am also your friend. I am also the man who has always been here for you. I am the man you have never needed to lie to. I am the man who wants nothing from you but that you follow your conscience. If that conscience requires you to commit murder, simply over a ... philosophical difference ... I will not resist. Anakin, when I told you that you can have anything you want, did you think I was excluding my life?
      Anakin: You—you won't even fight—?
      Palpatine: Fight you? But what will happen when you kill me? What will happen to the Republic? What will happen to Padmé?
      Anakin: Padmé ...
      Palpatine: When I die, my knowledge dies with me. Unless, that is, I have the opportunity to teach it ... to my apprentice ...
      Anakin: I ... I don't know what to do ...
      Palpatine: Anakin, let's talk.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's The Traitor's Hand, how Ciaphas Cain got Beije to stop trying to arrest him. To be sure, he was wearing armor at the time, but he didn't know if it would save him.
    We don't have any more time to waste on these ridiculous fantasies. If you're going to shoot us, you'll have to do it In the Back.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga book Shards of Honor, Aral Vorkosigan deals with a mutineer by giving him a gun and sitting down with his back to him. "I told him I couldn't work with a man who made my shoulder blades itch, and this was the last chance I was going to give him for instant promotion." Subverted in that Aral admits he didn't know if it would work, and the reason he did it was that he was so damned tired he didn't care if he killed him or not.
  • In Matt Farrer's Warhammer 40,000 story "After Desh'ea" (in the Horus Heresy book Tales of Heresy), Kharn tells Angron that despite Angron's demand that he fight, he had given his word not to lift his hand to him, and if that means he dies, he dies. Angron is clearly moved by such devotion.
  • In the Warlock of Gramarye book The Warlock in Spite of Himself, Rod Gallowglass has his servant Big Tom lower him from a roof so he can see something. Afterward, he tells him a story from Japan about an overlord, who had a subordinate who wanted to rebel: he invited the man into a garden and gave him his own sword to carry on the grounds he was old and tired, and they talked, and the subordinate was faithful for the rest of his life. Big Tom admits to being a spy, and is faithful for the rest of his life, which is about eighty pages long.
  • Wizard and Glass by Stephen King: Roland, The Gunslinger has been on a lengthy tirade against the Spiteful A.I., Blaine.
    Roland: Kill if you will, but command me nothing! You have forgotten the faces of those that made you! Now, either kill us or be silent and listen to me, Roland of Gilead, son of Steven, gunslinger, and lord of ancient lands! I have not come across all the miles and all the years to listen to your childish prating! Do you understand? Now you will listen to ME!
  • Xanth: While Bink and Chameleon do not actually want to kill Trent in A Spell For Chameleon, they certainly regard him as "Evil Magician Trent", mistrust him, and would cause his defeat if they could. Their Enemy Mine situation caused them to reevaluate him, but a particularly important event was when Trent handed Bink his sword, to keep guard, and went to sleep. Chameleon explicitly states that an evil man would not have trusted them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 exploits this trope twice.
    • In Season 3, when Jack Bauer is working undercover with the Salazars, Hector gives his brother, Ramon, a pistol and tells him to kill Bauer if it'll please him. Ramon actually fires the gun; the only reason why Bauer doesn't die is because Hector knocked Ramon's aim off.
    • In Season 4, Habib Marwan tells Dina Araz to prove her loyalty by murdering Bauer in cold blood. She takes the gun he offers her and pulls the trigger on Marwan instead. It's empty. One of Marwan's men kills Dina less than a minute later for her betrayal.
  • This trope is literally the final words spoken in the first season of Andor. In the final scene (excluding the post-credits stinger), Cassian Andor confronts the Rebel spymaster, Luthan Rael whom he knows has specifically travelled to the planet Ferrix to tie up a loose end.
    Cassian: You came here to kill me, didn't you?
    Luthan: You don't make it easy.
    Cassian: I will now. (indicates his pistol)
    Luthan : (ponderously picks up the gun) What game is this?
    Cassian: No game. Kill me — or take me in.
    (Luthan smiles; Cassian briefly glances down before holding Luthan's gaze; blackout; roll credits)
  • In Angel, Angel gives Charles Gunn a stake, after he faces Conflicting Loyalties between his old vampire-hunting gang and his new friends at Angel Investigations.
    Angel: Here, Charles — let me make it simple for you. (morphs into Game Face) Take a look. This is what I am. Deal with it or don't. But make a damn choice.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Interludes and Examinations", Sheridan finally gets fed up with the Vorlon's inaction in the Shadow War, and goes to confront Ambassador Kosh about it. When Kosh rejects his request, he keeps pushing until Kosh gets so angry that he pins him to the wall with an energy field. Sheridan still won't back down, and asks Kosh to kill him if it will make up for all the people who've already died in the war. This is what finally convinces Kosh that he was right, and that the Vorlons should get directly involved.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • The Cylon who would come to be known as Athena inverts trope when, as a prisoner of the Colonials on Kobol, she is handed a chance to kill Adama and escape, but instead saves his life, proves she could have killed him right then if she wanted to, then hands her gun back to her captors.
    • In season 3 Adama does this with both Kara and Colonel Tigh, in order to shame them over their spreading malcontent after the events on New Caprica.
    • Kara Thrace tries this in season 4. It backfired spectacularly in several interesting ways, though fortunately Roslin was a poor enough shot that the obvious way didn't kill her. Particularly amusing was Starbuck's cliche 'I'm not a Cylon and you know that as much as I do' moment followed by Roslin essentially saying 'Actually I do think you're a Cylon' and trying to shoot her.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and Angel do this with each other after The Reveal about Angel's vampire nature in Season One. Angel gives Buffy a chance to shoot him with her crossbow; Buffy lays down the crossbow and bares her neck for him.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael believes that Rebecca killed his brother. After trying to kill her throughout the episode, she finally turns herself over to him. She explains she is not the one responsible, but isn't going to spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder. So he can either kill her right now, or let her go. He lets her go. It wasn't her.
  • Dexter: Sgt. Doakes discovers proof that the titular character is the infamous Bay Harbor Butcher, but before he can tell anyone, Dexter manages to kidnap him. Doakes knows Dexter won't be able to keep him trapped forever, and implores him to either kill him now (which he is reluctant to do, as he only targets other killers) or set him free (and be exposed as a serial killer).
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The Hound invites Arya to take a swing at his head with a rock, but if she fails he will break both her hands. Answer Cut to a sulking Arya riding on the Hound's horse.
    • Tywin Lannister orders his guards to leave him alone with Hot-Blooded Oberyn Martell, who is genre savvy enough to know he will not survive the attempt.
    • Tyrion Lannister is in a tense negotiation with his sister Cersei, who blames him for everything that's gone wrong including the deaths of her children. Tyrion marches right up to Cersei's undead killing machine Gregor Clegane and dares her to give the order to cut him down. Cersei visibly wrestles with the urge, but for once puts pragmatism above her personal desires.
  • Garth Marenghis Darkplace. Garth bares his chest to a trio of supernatural claymore-armed Scotsmen seeking revenge for Garth's discriminatory comments against the Scots. Deciding that he's shown "the courage of a highlander (Scottish person)" they present Garth with a kilt and bagpipes and let him live.
  • Halo (2022). In the pilot episode, when Kwan Ha holds Master Chief at gunpoint, he points out the rounds would never penetrate his armor. He then unmasks himself and tells her to aim for his head to gain her trust. Kwan has a good reason to fire as Master Chief killed her mother years before, but as he's currently trying to save her life she doesn't.
  • Heroes plays with this trope at least twice:
    • In one episode, Nathan Petrelli was going to assassinate Mr. Linderman (the season Big Bad). After pulling a gun on him, Linderman laughed and convinced Petrelli to join him. This wasn't a complete example, as Linderman made it quite clear that Petrelli would be killed immediately if he killed Linderman.
    • Another episode has some Secret Service agents trying to stop Peter, Claire and Nathan from getting to Sylar (who has disguised himself as Nathan). Claire steps in front of the guard with the gun and says "I can either tell you what's going on now, or I can tell you after you shoot me." Averted because thanks to her powers she wouldn't actually die if they shot her.
  • A non-fatal variant in season 1, episode 3 of House of Cards (US). Underwood tells a grieving family, whose daughter died when a peach-shaped water tower Underwood had fought to maintain distracted her while driving, that he will resign if it will give them any peace. By this point, however, he knows he has neutralised their hatred of him.
  • House of the Dragon: During the stolen dragon egg arc in Season 1, Rhaenyra dares her uncle Daemon (who stole the egg) to kill her and clear the only thing standing between him and being King Viserys' only (current) heir. As she correctly surmises, he won't do it (either out of fear of the consequences or affection for her) and he's forced to back down, returning the stolen egg.
  • In Season 3 of Outlander Jamie gives Lord John Grey the chance to kill him after escaping from prison. Grey refuses, arguing that this counts as a final repayment of his debt of honor to Jamie from years before during the Jacobite Rising.
  • A Torchwood episode uses this where Owen actually winds up shooting Jack, though obviously it doesn't kill him and in fact the whole thing turns into a moving moment in the end.
  • In Touching Evil, Kreegan tries this with Keller, after allowing him to beat him up. It doesn't work. It possibly backfires, depending on how much import you attribute to Keller's repeated "remember what you said."
  • In the "Kill Straker!" episode of UFO (1970), Colonel Foster has been given a subliminal command to kill his superior Commander Straker. Straker needs to be absolutely sure the command has been erased, so he orders the guards to lock them in the Shooting Gallery, then proceeds to take pot shots at Foster in order to provoke him, screaming "Kill! Kill!" when Foster finally picks up a gun to defend himself. Needless to say he doesn't. Afterwards when Foster protests that Straker was trying to kill him, Straker shoots out a row of tiny targets from the hip and says "I could have killed you at any time."
  • In the season 2 finale of Warehouse 13, Myka uses this tactic to talk H. G. Wells down from her world-destroying plan.
  • One episode of The X-Files used this trope: Fox Mulder manages to track down the Cigarette-Smoking Man in his home and pulls a gun on him. A short conversation in the style of the trope then follows with the result that the Man and the Mulder both wind up, well, alive.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is how Spite dies in the metafiction of Sentinels of the Multiverse. His Arch-Enemy, the Wraith, holds to a Thou Shall Not Kill rule. When she had Spite cornered, he pointed this out, along with all the other opportunities she'd had to permanently end his long list of terrible deeds. She was paralyzed by indecision... and then Spite took an arrow to the brain. Cue the introduction of the hero Parse, who didn't have the Wraith's hangups about killing people.

  • Julius Caesar:
    • In Act I, Scene II, Casca tells Cassius and Brutus of the off-stage events when Caesar refused the crown three times, foamed at the mouth and fainted, baring his chest, and offering his bare throat for the citizens to slash. Afterwards, he comes to, and asks the crowd's forgiveness for a fit of temporary insanity.
    • In Act IV, Scene III, Cassius and Brutus have a heated disagreement, with Brutus accusing Cassius of denying him gold for his soldiers. Cassius bares his chest, and dares Brutus to stab him in the heart, because he believed that Brutus found Caesar's company more preferable than Cassius's friendship. Afterwards, Brutus urges Cassius to put his dagger away, and they reconcile.
  • Les Misérables, between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. No Heel–Face Turn here — Javert commits suicide rather than live in a world where his enemy does the right thing, and he is in the wrong.
  • Richard in Richard III uses a slightly modified version of this on Lady Anne, in order to convince her that he only killed her first husband because he loved her. "Take up the sword again, or take up me." He's a Magnificent Bastard, so it works.

    Video Games 
  • In "The Bridge" chapter of Detroit: Become Human, when Hank pulls out his gun, Connor can move forward until the gun barrel is against his head with a bit of Reverse Psychology telling Hank he won't shoot him. Whether this ends up subverted or not depends on Connor's relationship with Hank. If it's "Hostile", Hank shoots him, if it's anything above that, he doesn't.
  • Far Cry 3 begins with the main character, Jason, and his brother being captured (and his brother killed) by pirates on a remote island. After fleeing, he is saved by Dennis, a local tribesman. Upon waking up, he attempts to subtly grab a weapon, presuming Dennis to be an enemy, but Dennis puts his machete to Jason's throat, saying 'You have the right to take my life. But know, I will also take yours.' He then hands Jason the machete, proving he can be trusted.
    • Technically subverted if Jason decides to defy and insult Citra. Dennis takes this as a sign of betrayal (what with Citra being his whole life and all) and tries to kill him. We never figure out if Jason would have killed him in self-defense; it... doesn't work out.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, an injured Snow hands Hope the knife that he tried to kill him with not even a couple of hours ago, while he's carrying the kid on his back. It's either this trope, or Snow is naiver and more optimistic than people think he is. It pays off either way.
  • Resident Evil 2 (Remake) has a slightly altered version of the standoff between Leon and Ada where, after a bit of Gunpoint Banter, Leon lowers his gun and tells Ada to shoot him, also noting that he doesn't think she has it in her. He's right — after a moment she ultimately lowers her gun.
  • Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun: In the Epilogue of Aiko's Choice, Lady Chiyo - having faked her death at Hana Gakuen - reveals to Aiko that she is Good All Along. However, the way she went about her gambit exposes Aiko and her friends to various dangers and the fact that she knows about Aiko's pregnancy mean Aiko cannot fully trust her to be the teacher she once knew and won't come after the people she cares about later. Chiyo then presents her student the titular choice: either kill her right now or leave her alive and retire in peace. It's up to the player to decide the outcome.
  • In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan invokes this with Jim Raynor, placing his pistol to her head. She expects him to either kill her or to forgive her for transforming herself into a new Queen Of Blades. He takes a third option: because killing her at this point would doom the galaxy (and he knows it), he expresses his anger with her by firing the entire load of his Hand Cannon into the wall behind her, pulling the trigger a few extra times with audible 'click-click-click' sounds, then leaves in disgust, saying "we're done."note 

  • Girl Genius:
    • When Tarvek confronts someone he suspects has infiltrated several militaries, the man quietly tries to warn him off only for stakes to be raised:
      Tarvek: Oh, are you going to threaten me? Then here. (places the man's hand on his own throat) Do it right. Because if you don't believe by now that I will do anything for Agatha, then it all ends here, anyway. Doesn't it, General?
    • This slightly backfires as said character makes it very clear he could kill him... except he sees how useful he is to Agatha and that he is genuine with his affections for her. Thus grants a very creepy kind of approval for their relationship while making it clear that Tarvek is not in control here.
  • In The Order of the Stick prequel book Start of Darkness, Xykon to Redcloak at the end, is an incredibly dark and tear-jerking version that involves Xykon betting on Redcloak killing his own brother, with the twist that Xykon was never in any danger to begin with, but just wanted to make sure Redcloak would actually disintegrate his own brother for Xykon's (or "the plan's") sake.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Venture Brothers, Sergeant Hatred uses this as a last ditch attempt to win Hank's respect and loyalty. Of course, Hank was simply being a typical rebellious teenager and had no interest in killing him, but that didn't stop Hatred from turning the scene into a full-blown, deadly serious melodramatic affair.

    Real Life 
  • Alexander the Great, when bedridden with illness, is said to have done something like this to a doctor whose loyalty he suspected. When warned that the doctor might try to poison his medicine, he invited the doctor to his bedside. He then downed the medicine in one gulp and told the doctor that he didn't know anything about medicine, but he did know people and he knew that he would never betray him. The medicine was not poisoned, nor was any subsequent medicine.
  • Napoleon: "Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish." Not only that, he pretty much proceeded to do exactly the same thing with the entirety of France. Of course, he got pulverized in the subsequent war, but still.
  • Before Theodore Roosevelt became president, while he was away on a hunting trip, someone hired a man named Paddock to either scare him off his land or just shoot him off it. When Teddy came back and found out that Paddock had been hired to kill him, he personally went to Paddock's house and told him "I understand you have threatened to kill me on sight. I have come over to see when you want to begin the killing." Obviously, the threats ended then and there.
  • According to some zoologists, this is what it means for a cat to roll up and show you his/her tummy. By exposing their most vulnerable parts (neck and stomach) a cat is placing its utmost trust in you that you won't hurt them or let any harm come to them. And they say Cats Are Mean!


Video Example(s):


What game is this? No Game

Cassian Andor knows that spymaster Luthan Rael wants him dead to tie up a loose end. So he offers a simple choice.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / KillMeNowOrForeverStayYourHand

Media sources: