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Rationalizing the Overkill

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"You aimed for my head. You've got to know that a blow like that can kill a guy, right? That means you were deliberately trying to kill me, right? That means whatever happens next... IS WHAT YOU DESERVE, RIGHT?"
Shizuo Heiwajima, Durarara!!

When a character wrongs another character, the victim is more than likely to get back at them, usually by giving them the same treatment they gave to them. Seems fair, does it? Not quite. That's not enough to satisfy the victim. So why not dish out some Disproportionate Retribution? Wait, that's going too far! Then again, it doesn't matter to the character as long as "justice" is served.

This is when a character sees their excessive punishment of another as completely justified. Perhaps the character has been abused for far too long by their tormentor(s), and going overboard with their revenge is exactly how they feel. This is quite common with a bullied character turning into a villain. They may be a self-righteous Knight Templar who puts too much value on morality and feels that any "just" and "righteous" punishment must be extremely harsh. Perhaps the guy wants to Make an Example of Them, whether they're a Knight Templar or a mob boss who wants to enforce the rules for his underlings and/or the people around them. For whatever reason, this will demonstrate how vengeful the character is and that they have allowed revenge to consume them.

In another variation, an unsympathetic character is suffering tremendously and other characters, especially those who were wronged, will tell them that they deserve what was coming to them as opposed to others who feel that they didn't deserve a punishment like that, even if the character was a jerk.

Subtrope of There Is No Kill Like Overkill. Compare It's the Only Way to Be Sure, Make Sure He's Dead. An Asshole Victim can be subject to this. See also Minor Injury Overreaction. Contrast Was Too Hard on Him if the character regrets punishing another character so harshly. Can be a unique way to refute a What the Hell, Hero? speech from other characters who think they've done enough damage. Also contrast Restrained Revenge, where the character's "justified" punishment isn't excessive.


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  • In Fate/Zero, Saber chastizes Kiritsugu over not only blackmailing Kayneth into killing Lancer, but also having Kayneth and his fiancee killed after promising them safety. Kiritsugu counters that a Master that has had their Servant killed can still re-enter the Grail War by making another contract with a Servant that has had their Master killed, and killing the Master no matter what is the only way to make sure that they are not a threat. Considering how much trouble could have been avoided by killing Kotomine (who was protected by the Church) before he got another Servant and re-entered the war, he kind of has a point. This point is lessened when Fridge Logic reveals he could have included that in his magically binding contract.

    Comic Book 
  • Frank Castle has a tendency to do this in his Internal Monologue. Usually justified by the target's inhuman toughness or exceptional Asshole Victim status. Sometimes both.
    Harry "Heck" Thornton. Hitman and all around Arkansas redneck. Heard a story about Harry that four state troopers managed to surround him once. He draws and kills three of them, the fourth one gets off a shot, Harry ducks it and shoots him dead. Dodged a bullet, so I use thirty.

    It [being in an exploding car] was enough to kill most men, but with him it was just unfinished business. Barracuda was dead when you shot him to bits and shot the bits and burned them. Anything less just left nagging doubt.*

  • In Escape From The Hokage's Hat, the council wants to banish Naruto, want Sasuke's prison sentence forgotten, and were smart enough to get the Daimyo to agree with any of their decisions. Tsunade's response? Shove Sasuke in one of the darkest ANBU cells being kept barely alive, setting up the collapse of Konoha's economy, taking money from the accounts of every clan that ever wronged Naruto, and finally making Jiraiya (temporary) Sixth Hokage while she leaves with Shizune, Hinata, and Naruto for a six-month training trip. When she explains why she did it to Naruto, she has this to say:
    "I decided to teach those meddling old fools a lesson in respect. If the reason I came back to the village is kicked out, I am SO joining in the fun!"

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back: In "The Final Order", this is one of the reasons for Captain Canonhaus's disillusionment with the Empire. Whenever the Empire commits an atrocity, its people will come up with reasons why that atrocity was reasonable and necessary after the fact, thus evading any questions about abuse of power or culpability. The most relevant example in the story is Darth Vader's recent execution of Admiral Ozzel, which Canonhaus's junior Commander Tian is already convincing herself was justified.
  • In the I, Richard Plantagenet Series, Richard III has his brother's best friend Will Hastings summarily executed so quickly they don't even bother building a scaffold. Later, Richard worries that this was overkill, but then tells himself he did what he had to do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Admiral Cain in the Battlestar Galactica (2003) series. For starters she's a Tauron, who are Space Sicilians as far as vendettas go, and then she discovers her lover is a Cylon saboteur. Cain cranks the vindictiveness up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • At the end of "The Christmas Invasion", Harriet Jones (Prime Minister) blasts the Sycorax spaceship out of the sky while they were retreating. She justifies it by saying that though the Doctor scared them off, they would show other, stronger, aliens the way to Earth. Given how frequently Britain has been invaded by aliens much mightier than these in the history of the series, past and future, the concern is warranted, although the Doctor still disapproves.
    • The Cult of Skaro also had one in "Doomsday", when Rose told them that they didn't need to kill someone, their response was "neither did we need him alive".
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig" Mal stabs Atherton Wing a couple times after disarming him. Wing had previously insulted Inara and injured Mal quite badly in the ensuing duel.
  • In an episode of Raumschiff GameStar, Darth Vader orders his henchman to deliver a parcel bomb onto the eponymous starship. When the henchman rightly points out that the Gamestar is currently sinking, anyway, Vader retorts "Twice destroyed holds better."

  • In The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, Malta's Governor, Ferneze, taxes every Jew at half their income so he can pay the tribute he owes Turkey. When the title character, Barabas, protests this injustice, Ferneze confiscates all his wealth. Barabas plots to avenge himself on the Governor, but he doesn't stop there. He orchestrates the death not only of Ferneze's son Lodowick, but also of Lodowick's friend Mathias, an entire convent of nuns (deliberately including his own daughter after she converts to Catholicism and takes holy orders), and two friars.note  Barabas rationalizes his actions thus: "It's no sin to deceive a Christian, / For they themselves hold it a principle / Faith is not to be held with heretics; / But all are heretics that are not Jews." (2.3.313-316)
  • Likewise The Merchant of Venice, which many scholars suspect was heavily inspired by the above, albeit with a much more sympathetic Jewish character.

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    Web Comics 
  • From Schlock Mercenary, the oft quoted Maxim 37: There is no overkill, only "Open fire" and "I need to reload".

    Web Original 
  • The Quintessential Mary-Sue: Mary-Sue rationalizes her bad behavior (including ruining people’s lives and making them serve her forever) on the grounds that they deserve it for bullying her as a child. When really her childhood was perfect and she was given falsified memories of it sucking, and it wasn’t much worse than schoolyard taunts and distant foster parents even if it were real. Even after she knows the truth, she still uses this excuse, suggesting that she thinks being subjected to any hardship for any reason justifies her making everyone else’s lives a literal hell.

    Web Videos 
  • The SWAG leader of Demo Reel assumes that kidnapping someone at gunpoint and leaving them to starve to death slowly in an abandoned patch of woods is justifiable punishment for his territory getting threatened.

    Western Animation 
  • At times in The Dreamstone, after the Noops have thwarted the Urpneys' plan, they will continue a more elaborate slapstick revenge, insisting they are jerks who need to be "taught a lesson". At least once, however, the writers caught wise to the overkill and had it backfire on them.
  • A more half hearted case in Ed, Edd n Eddy. In an instance Sarah unleashes hell onto all three Eds (for a prank Eddy committed), she later laments that Double D probably didn't have anything to do with it, but "give those cute ones an inch and they take a mile!"
  • In the Family Guy episode "And I'm Joyce Kinney", the titular reporter got revenge on Lois for a Carrie-style prank in high school that made Joyce a laughingstock by revealing the latter did a porn in college, getting her shunned by the entire town. Lois pleads that she is sorry for what she did, but Joyce refuses to go back on her retribution.