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Last-Second Chance

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Desann: I was wrong about you, Katarn. Your failure as a Jedi hasn't weakened you; it's made you stronger. Come, join me. You know in your heart that you'll never truly be one of them.
Kyle Katarn: Maybe, maybe not, but I know I won't be alone. How 'bout you, Desann? Even now, after all this pain, it's not too late... [extends his hand] Come, join us.
Desann: ...Y-you weak fool! [activates his lightsaber]

The Heel–Face Turn that never was.

If your villain is tragic, insane, infected with some kind of horrible, mutating, alien virus or otherwise not entirely responsible for his actions, and your hero isn't a complete meanie, then you might want to include the Last-Second Chance scene, in which the hero offers to help the villain put things right and/or cure his affliction. "It's not too late yet" is a common stock phrase.

Because viewers have come to expect that villains must die in the final act, this offer is usually turned down. It may be done tragically ("no, no, I can't go back now, not after what I've done"), selfishly ("why would I want to give up this power?"), or dramatically ("there's nothing left for me anymore..."), but it will almost certainly happen. It may also happen after the innocent loved one of the villain is killed, giving him no reason to turn back and driving him into a despairing rage. Most frustrating perhaps is when the villain realizes that accepting what the hero says is the right thing to do... but he doesn't do it anyway.

This scene typically occurs just after the big climactic battle, so that the villain can have one last go at killing the hero before meeting a Karmic Death. Sometimes, however, it happens just before the big battle, so that the audience can relax and enjoy the fireworks without having their conscience harmed. This also serves to make them a Self-Disposing Villain, freeing the hero from much of the guilt associated with killing.

Should the villain actually accept the Last-Second Chance, it's usually curtains for them, since Redemption Equals Death, maybe even immediately. At best, they may get a Redemption Quest to go on in their attempt to become The Atoner. Still, this is nothing to sneeze at since they have essentially proved Redemption Earns Life.

May also occur with a Rival Turned Evil or a Fallen Hero. Different from the Kirk Summation in that there the hero is trying to browbeat the baddie into capitulating through moral rightness, whereas here the hero is trying to save the villain and offer help.

Compare Save the Villain and Redemption Rejection. Flip the speaking roles, and it's We Can Rule Together (if the villain is trying to convince the hero to join him) or Last Chance to Quit (if the villain just wants the hero to back off). In particularly poignant examples, one party can attempt to take the offer after all, only to learn that it's now Off the Table.

Incidentally, the trope name is sort of a phrasal portmanteau and can be interpreted both as "another chance offered at the last second" and "the final offer of a second chance" at the same time.

Since many of these occur at the end of a work, spoilers may be unmarked.


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    Audio Plays 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who half-hour freebie "Forever Fallen" asks the question "what if the villain took up the offer?". It starts with the Seventh Doctor on a space station, giving a The Evils of Free Will Well-Intentioned Extremist a Breaking Speech on Humanity and the importance of Free Will and the would-be villain stepping down... for now. The Doctor manages to get him to promise to meet him once a year for tea to discuss the matter. The rest of the story is a snapshot of their tea-dates and the Doctor ever so gently course-correcting his outlook and life from an embittered street-sweeper to becoming a hero of his people.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman confronts The Joker and asks him to let Batman help him back towards sanity. The Joker refuses. Actually, many Batman stories have him asking his more deranged enemies to go peacefully back to Arkham Asylum for treatment... usually followed by a big fight. The Joker, for probably the only time in his villainous career, actually considers Batman's plea to try to get rehabilitated, which he dismisses with surprisingly humane sadness (it's "far too late for me", he says) rather than rejecting it instantly.
    • Batman never stops trying to rehabilitate his former friend Harvey Dent aka Two-Face. Sadly, Harvey's inner demons are too strong and his Heel Face Turns never last.
  • Deconstructed in Irredeemable where The Doctor expy Qubit saves Plutonian from death or tortuous-but-fit-for-his-crimes imprisonment a number of times in the hope that Tony isn't, well, irredeemable. Each time Tony goes on another Roaring Rampage of Revenge, killing millions, and Qubit's teammates are not pleased.
  • In Amazing Spider-Man #500, Spidey sees a vision of a possible future, the end of his career. His future self is at his aunt's grave, the cemetery itself surrounded by a SWAT team. a plainclothes officer approaches him, addresses him as "Peter" and pleads for him to surrender, claiming the plea bargain still stands. (Whatever crime has been committed remains unknown, but is likely murder.) Spidey refuses, gives a few words of encouragement to the younger one watching, and then turns to fight the police, eventually being gunned down.
  • Supergirl is very big on "second chances" in her Rebirth book:
    • Played straight with Mastrocola, a data thief whom she put behind bars. Aftewards she visited him several times to encourage him to change his life. She got to him and later the man was seen attempting to be a hero.
    • Deconstructed with Cyborg Superman— the Zor-El version— when he invaded National City. Supergirl stopped him and then tried to help him afterwards. Another super-villain leaked she was protecting a murderer and the public turned against Kara despite her arguing her father was a broken mad man and she couldn't give up on him or anybody for that matter.
  • In the latest Wavedancers graphic collection, Surge (former chief) is so paranoid about "landers" (humans, but by extension, anyone who doesn't live underwater) that he takes drastic measures to prevent his tribe from becoming friends with the "lander" elves. This includes kidnapping Cutter (chief of the non-Wavedancer elves) and swearing to kill him if he doesn't get his way. During the hostage situation, Cutter just about talks him into being more open-minded, when the actual chief of the Wavedancers challenges Surge (his father). The chance is lost, and Surge reverts to his paranoid control-freak persona. But in the end, he does sacrifice himself to save Cutter, and there is an afterlife for elves, so it's kinda okay.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2 Po is able to achieve inner peace even after learning that the villain, Shen, massacred his people years ago. After defeating Shen with his new-found abilities Shen is dumbfounded and asks how Po was able to achieve such a state. Po explains that it is the ability to let go of the weight of the past that allows one to move forward, and it's Shen's choice on what he wants to do next. Shen ultimately agrees that it's his choice, and he chooses to go down fighting.
    • In fact, this happens throughout all three movies. In the first movie, Po tries to tell the Dragon Scroll's secret to Tai Lung in an attempt to make him stop pursuing revenge; in the third one, this happens at the beginning, with Oogway warning Kai that his pursue of power will end badly. In both cases, the antagonist refuses to redeem themselves.

  • Chameleon Circuit's "Exterminate Regenerate" is about two things: Davros telling the Doctor that they're not that different, and the Doctor rejecting this but still offering Davros an alternative to the two of them clawing at each other in a battle that could last to the end of reality.
    Exterminate, regenerate
    You know that it isn't too late
    To end what seems impossible
    And leave time turning
  • In The Megas, Mega Man offers one to Proto Man in "I Refuse (To Believe)". For once, it actually works, leading to "Melody From the Past".
    Mega Man: Stop pretending you don't have a choice, only that can set you free...This rage is not your destiny.

  • In the Christian radio drama Adventures in Odyssey, Mr. Alan gives Dr. Blackguard a chance to redeem himself after his plot to collect a mineral that could be used to produce a super virus he was planning on selling. The Dr. says he's beyond saving, and decides to trigger a bomb to take him, Mr. Alan, and much of Whit's End out. Ironically in a scene, and part of an arc that the show's creators would have criticized for being too violent if it had been in a visual form rather than audio only.

  • Boy, Gordon Frohman of Concerned gets his chances. Too bad he never makes proper use of any of them. He even manages to undo his Deus ex Machina.
  • Dracula Everlasting: In the climax, Cate offers this to Manson as he dangling from a second-story window. He refuses and winds up falling to his death while trying to shoot her.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace gives one to Damien asking him to surrender but he doesn't take it.
  • In Erfworld, just before Jillian goes to attack Stanley, she makes one final attempt to salvage her relationship with Wanda, assuming that Wanda is bound to serve Stanley via a loyalty spell. Wanda shows, in no uncertain terms, that she is Not Brainwashed.
  • Inverted in A Girl and Her Fed, when Jesse asks for this, and is flatly refused.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In strip #913, Tarquin makes one last attempt to reconcile with Nale, even after Nale rebelled against him and killed his best friend Malack. Nale stubbornly refuses and declares that he wants nothing from Tarquin. Tarquin promptly stabs Nale to avenge Malack.
    • In the next story-arc, Haley gives her rival Crystal one after the latter kills Bozzok for turning her into a flesh golem in constant pain. When Crystal rejects the idea of going on a quest to find a cure for her current state, preferring to stay where she is and kill gnomes to dull the pain temporarily, Haley leads her to her death via a lava pit.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Sam puts Mr. Black in a Morton's Fork between having to work with Sam or killing him, which would put someone who wants Black's head on a plate in control of the Ninja Mafia. Sam also throws a whole lot of concessions onto the table, including giving Black his own squad and a seat at the Mafia's ruling council. Unfortunately, Mr. Blank interferes at exactly the right moment.


Video Example(s):



During a lull in Kratos' fight with Heimdall, Kratos offers the Foresight God a chance to just walk away.

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