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Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves

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"But vipers inject venom with their fan-urk!"
And innocent though we were, with dread,
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead;
Till one cried: "Hangman, who is he
For whom you raise the gallows-tree?"
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
"He who serves me best," said he,
"Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree."
Maurice Ogden, "The Hangman"

The villain approaches one of the good guys, often having captured them first. The good guy is then offered a deal: if he will help the villain by betraying his comrades, he will be amply rewarded with money, a high-ranking position in the villain's organization, or something else that would be attractive. He accepts the bargain, and keeps his end of it.

Of course, the villain has no intention of honoring his own part of the bargain. One reason is that no Card-Carrying Villain would want to share anything with a stooge who has outlived his usefulness. Another reason is that smart villains never trust a traitor, no matter which side he's working for — after all, they have proven a willingness to abandon their cause for filthy lucre's sake; who is to say that they won't turn double agent on the villain at the first ripe opportunity?

So, the traitor gets the "reward" of being put to death or being reduced to menial slavery. Not such a pleasant outcome for him, is that? Frequently, this is accompanied by a speech of withering contempt for treachery, which demonstrates that the villain is an honorable enemy or Worthy Opponent to some degree — though in most cases this only serves to make the villain look like a great big hypocrite (after all, he did employ a traitor, and by invoking this trope, betrayed them) and an Ungrateful Bastard. In other cases, it could be more Pragmatic Villainy; as noted above, trusting a proven traitor is never a good idea. In a variation, the hero refuses to turn, and is rewarded and praised for his loyalty.

Sometimes it happens in reverse, where the good guys are approached with an offer by a would-be Turn Coat from the enemy, and invoke this trope to show their scorn for treachery — before or without even using him or his information. This can be a prime source of Values Dissonance with works created or set in feudally organized cultures, where loyalty placed much, much higher in the hierarchy of virtues than in modern Western society. In these cases, what seems to the reader like a straight Mook–Face Turn will instead be met with an ostensibly deserved horrible fate. This might be justified for pragmatic reasons, as shoving a Heel–Face Door-Slam is much safer than dealing with a would-be Sixth Ranger Traitor.

A Noble Demon will often use Exact Words to turn the traitor's promised "reward" into this trope. For example, the villain may show the good guy that he has his wife, and offers to release her from his prison in exchange for his cooperation. When it comes time to reward the traitor, the villain slyly gives him False Reassurance that she has indeed been "released", and that now it is time for him to join her.

In another variation, the villain is besieging a city or fortress. Someone leaves a side door (a sewer gate is a popular choice) open, and the bad guys storm in. But when the turncoat comes to the villain for his reward, he's promptly killed because that's what any traitor deserves. This usually either signifies that the villain likes to use it as an excuse to satisfy their bloodlust, or show that they have at least some standards about loyalty (which would, again, make him a hypocrite), depending on how it's played. It generally shows, however, how ruthless and treacherous the main villain is.

A possible exception to this trope if the reason for being a traitor was to indulge in their malicious urges that would be allowed under the new regime. While greed or cowardice won't save you, for some reason, the Evil Overlord may trust people who betray their comrades out of hatred or cynicism, perhaps because such people are less likely to have second thoughts and even if they do would find it difficult to return to their former allies after showing their true colors. This is doubly true if the traitor shares the villain's ideology, and sees the villain as his true master. A Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal may also not result in this fate, as not many people would be willing to betray someone who treats them well for someone who treated them poorly.

Also, historically, smarter betrayers have always had two options open to them for avoiding this punishment. The first, if the betrayal was of a ruler, is to seize power as a de facto Klingon Promotion. Since some cultures consider this a legitimate method of succession, the new ruler will not be considered guilty of treason, though he may have to rule by fear to keep the former ruler's supporters from taking their revenge on him. The other method, if the betrayer lacks the ambition or power to seize the throne and hold it, is not to wait for the axe to fall, but get the hell out of Dodge. Notably, the latter method is especially recommended to anyone who has helped another betrayer achieve the former method: the new ruler all too often gets a taste for backstabbing minions as well as superiors, is just as aware of this as his fellow conspirators, and will surely hate to be reminded that he owes his position to them.

Recurring problem for The Starscream, but beware one doesn't scare off would-be Defector from Decadence too. Compare Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil. Often, the metanarrative purpose of this trope is to have Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work by having them finish off a traitor that the audience would want to see punished without dirtying the heroes' hands. Frequently accompanied by Contempt Crossfire or You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.

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    Comic Books 
  • In The Boys, Vice President Evil "Vic the Veep" was a Lethally Stupid Puppet King for the Evil, Inc. Vought who indirectly caused 9/11 after knocking out the President on their orders. After he gets the President killed through his idiocy and takes his place, he's brutally Killed Offscreen by Homelander during The Coup.
  • In the Chick Tract "The Poor Revolutionist", the main characters are executed after the rebellion succeeds, with the leader reasoning that they will eventually betray him.
  • Appears in Give Me Liberty. President Nissen's Cabinet members kill him, Julius Caesar style, then are promptly killed when their ringmaster blows up the White House.
  • In Les Légendaires: Origines, Prince Halan's bodyguard Chakra agrees to provide Darkhell's lieutenant Raptor with a map showing him the route Halan's fiancé Princess Jadina is gonna use, hoping to make Jadina disappear so she can have Halan instead of her. Unfortunately for her, as soon as she gives the map to him, Raptor mocks her by pointing out how Love Makes You Dumb and mercilessly kills her with his magic blade. And the kick? It was entirely pointless for her to do this: Jadina didn't want to marry Halan anyway and was just coming to tell him about her disagreement.
  • In Old Man Hawkeye, a spin-off of Old Man Logan, the Thunderbolts get this in spades. While they were still "good guys", they betray the Avengers sparing only Hawkeye. For this, the Thunderbolts get to live under the villain regime but are "awarded" dead-end menial jobs like circus freak and Doombot assembly worker. Then Hawkeye goes to kill the traitorous Thunderbolts before he becomes completely blind.
  • In Runaways, Alex's brilliant plan to betray all his friends to the Gibborim earns him a fiery death; the Gibborim, it turns out, don't appreciate children trying to "improve" on their plans.
  • In the UK Sonic the Comic, after selling out the entire Chaotix Crew to the Metallix Empire, Nack the Weasel is told he'll "Get what he deserves". And he does, when the Metallix blast him, nearly killing him. Nack was actually clever enough to expect this, and bring a Disruptor, but it didn't do him much good.
  • In Marvel's Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos, "The Grandeur that was Greece", the Howlers are given the mission to escort a prominent member of the Greek Resistance, a Michael Kazantis, to assume command, the meeting in Greece, of course, at some prominent ruins of an amphitheater. However, a disgruntled member of the Resistance has betrayed Kazantis and the Howlers to the Germans, and they ambush the group, which only surrenders when the Germans threaten to destroy the ruins with artillery fire. The traitor comes forth to claim his reward from the German officer in charge, who tells him that the "reward" he's deserving of be given over to the Greeks he'd just betrayed! We don't see it in the subsequent frames, but we can guess that man's life expectancy was...SHORT.
    • A similar scenario occurs in another issue of the above series("Not a Man Shall Remain Alive"), when the Howlers and the resistance in a French town are sold out to a Nazi occupying force by a collaborator. The snitch later approaches the leader of the Nazi squad (Baron Wolfgang von Strucker) to claim his reward. Strucker, already pissed at being given orders to exterminate the town's populace, is disgusted by the man's treachery born of greed, and promptly orders the rat to be "taken away", stating that he'll be given "the reward of any traitor". Odds are the reward was.... not what the snitch expected.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Private Scales, one of the original Freedom Fighters, betrays the others to Robotnik, proudly boasting that, as a snake, it's in his nature to betray others. In response, Robotnik throws him into the trap with the others, commenting "How can I trust you? You did just say you were a snake," before roboticizing him and banishing him to the Zone of Silence with the others.
  • Happens in the Squadron Supreme limited series, when The Mink fatally stabs Foxfire after she betrays Nighthawk's rebels.
  • The Ten-Seconders: When Malloy is turned into a God, he tries to remake the Earth. He starts by incinerating every human who collaborated with the former Gods in their fascist regime, "because fuck 'em".
  • Current page picture comes from Thorgal. When a group of cultists shows up in the village to kidnap Thorgal's son, an elderly woman leads them to his house for a promise of reward. Once they capture the child, one of them tears off her tongue.
  • In the Brian Reed run of Red Sonja, Sonja's sister Verona sides with Lord Lucan Martur with whom she has been having a secret affair and they send a crew of pirates to kill Sonja and her husband Daniel Dorn. Lucan ends up selling Verona and their baby into slavery for money and Verona is ultimately murdered by Sonja after her treachery is revealed, with her baby being given by Sonja to a kindly woman who wanted a daughter of her own.
  • In the first Usagi Yojimbo story, it is explain that Usagi's master Lord Mifune died in battle because of a betrayal from General Toda, who sold them out to Lord Hijiki. During the story, Usagi defends a monster, which is revealed to be Toda transformed; After the battle, Hijiki had Toda beaten then banished. Unable to cope with what he had done, Toda eventually became a goblin to prey on innocent travelers.
  • In DC's Villains United #6, Cheshire, having leaked the location of the Secret Six's hideout to a Secret Society of Super-Villains death squad, attempts to leave the hideout to join them:
    Cheshire: I'm coming out! I am unarmed! I'm one of you! I'm one of you! I am un— [shot by Deathstroke]
    Deathstroke: Sorry, Cheshire. We don't need any traitors in the Society.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Swipe betrays the US to the Nazis for a bit of cash, but unfortunately for him his Nazi contact is Paula von Gunther, who while sadistic, fatalistic and nihilistic has not forgotten that she's only working for the Nazis because they're holding her daughter hostage and already murdered her husband for her attempts to avoid them. She murders Swipe as soon as she's gotten a bit of use out of him.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Emperor orders Sakritt executed once the information she's given them while betraying the revolutionaries is proven. When Sakritt's betrayal turns out to have been a ruse and the Emperor concedes to the revolutionaries' demands the Emperor instead chooses to work with Sakritt long term since they greatly value loyalty and Sakritt's dangerous play proved that she is incredibly loyal to her companions of choice.
  • X-Factor (2006): Darwin's father Hector sells him out to the Karma Project for the promise of half a million dollars. Unfortunately for him, they have no intention of paying him and shoot him instead leaving him in a coma.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Flash Gordon, after rewarding Sonja's treachery as promised, by marrying her and making her empress, Ming the Merciless immediately has her executed.
  • In Terry and the Pirates, Klang does this to a defector from the Dragon Lady's forces. After the defector has given Klang the information he desired, he is rewarded with a bayonet through the chest.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Aesop's Fables: In "The Lion, the Fox and the Donkey" a fox and a donkey who are best buds encounter a hungry lion. The fox, only thinking about saving his own selfish ass rather than his companion ass, secretly makes an offer to the lion to trick the donkey jumping into a pit where he can't get out, in exchange for sparing his own life. The lion agrees to the fox's proposal, but immediately goes back on his word and devours the fox once he's sent the donkey into the pit.

    Films — Animated 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Jordan Pryce uses his position within Wayne Enterprises to help the Joker to steal from the company in exchange for their cooperation in getting rid of Bruce Wayne so he'll become the new CEO. When the Joker decides to cut loose ends, they try to kill Pryce. Batman saves him but, thanks to that failed attempt, has evidence of the betrayal.
  • In The Jungle King, the evil chancellor, seeking the throne, approaches the neighboring king for help after his last plan somehow failed. The king agrees to help him, ostentatiously for a piece of the kingdom. After the chancellor leaves, the king asks one of his retainers to remind him to execute the chancellor after helping him. "Never trust a traitor."
  • In Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole, Allomere betrays the Guardians to Metalbeak, who soon after has him killed by bats. Allomere believed he would get to rule the Guardians' tree for his part, but Metalbeak told him "There is only room for one king."
  • Wonder Woman subverts this. When trying to stop Ares from entering Hades' domain, Diana and Steve discover that a Human Sacrifice is required to do so. We then cut to Ares staring menacingly at Persephone — who betrayed her fellow Amazons to free him out of Lima Syndrome. Just when it looks like he's about to use her as a sacrifice, he grabs one of his cultists instead. Apparently betrayal doesn't count when it's done out of love.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Arthur And Merlin: A villager goes to Aberthol's minions and tells them where they can find Arthur and Merlin. Once they have the information they need, they kill him.
  • In Bad Day at Black Rock, Liz Wirth helps Macreedy escape from town in her jeep, only to drive him straight into an ambush set by Reno Smith. Smith then shoots her in the back as part of his plan to silence his old accomplices.
  • Batman (1989): Lt. Eckhardt gets offed by Jack Napier at the beginning of the film. But this could also be seen as revenge, as Napier undoubtedly figured out that it was Eckhardt who revealed to their boss Carl Grissom that Jack was messing around with Grissom's squeeze Alicia, causing Grissom to set Napier up for execution.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica movie, the Cylons beheaded Baltar after he betrayed his fellow humans.
  • Beau Geste: Said nearly word-for-word when Markoff makes the spy who ratted out the mutiny stand guard in a tower that the raiders have a good shot at. The guy faces his fate with more dignity than most examples of the trope, though.
  • Black Christmas (2019): The Mole for DKO, Helena, who set her sisters up to be murdered, is killed offhandedly to make a point.
  • Played with in Black Mass when "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) briefly threatens the life of one of his cronies for revealing a secret family recipe — to him. It is of course a sick joke, but not a terribly funny one, since Bulger is a confirmed sociopath and will personally kill anyone who becomes a liability to him if given half a chance.
  • Cold Pursuit: When Coxman hires the Eskimo to eliminate Viking, the Eskimo takes the upfront payment and then goes to Viking to inform him of Coxman's intent, collecting another $90,000 from Viking. Viking pays the money into the Eskimo's account, and then has the Eskimo executed; disgusted by his lack of professionalism.
  • A very satisfying example in Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. when black marketeer Brockley betrays the Doctor to the Daleks. As the Doctor is led away, most of the Daleks remain behind and stare at Brockley silently. Realising where this is going, Brockley runs back into the shed where the Doctor was hiding before he turned him in, which the Daleks promptly blow up.
  • Deep Cover: After one of Barbossa's henchmen is caught by the police, the henchman gives up undercover cop Russell (thinking he's just a street dealer) to keep his own ass out of jail, confident that his bosses would consider Russell expendable. Instead they kill the henchman for making a deal with the cops and reward Russell for keeping his mouth shut all the way to his trial by giving him the henchman's job.
  • Roach from Demon Knight sells out his friends to the demon leader and his horde, in exchange for being spared. Not surprisingly, the head demon informs him that he lied and promptly has his horde devour him.
  • The Fifth Commandment have Angel's agent, who turns out to be the man who ordered her assassination due to her contract expiring and his preference to have her executed to bring in a younger singer as a replacement, never mind how his actions indirectly led to the deaths of dozens of people in the process. But moments after his betrayal is revealed, he then earns three bullets in the chest from his own hired hitman, who actually wants Angel alive.
  • In the 1960s Fu Manchu movie series starring Christopher Lee, Fu Manchu rewards just about everyone who helps him by smiling, thanking them, then having them dragged away to be imprisoned or executed. One wonders how he manages to get anyone to help him at all by the time the last movie in the series rolls around.
  • The Gatling Gun: Sneed escapes from the cavalry patrol, and runs to Two Knives' camp, but it is not greeted with open arms. Believing Sneed had deliberately deceived him, Two Knives has him captured, tortured and finally killed.
  • In Gramps Is in the Resistance, Wehrmacht General Spontz states that he can't stand traitors, and as such he only has contempt for former janitor turned Gestapo Collaborateur Adolfo Ramirez, despite the latter (loudly) claiming they're on the same side. Especially since he first meets him harassing the Bourdelles (the French family whose Spontz requisitioned the house) for petty revenge and stealing their food rations. When Spontz catches Ramirez snooping around in his own apartment, he almost drowns him in a sink and burns his neck with a smoothing iron.
  • Gun Fury: When Slayton finds out that Jess is riding with Ben in pursuit of him, he makes Ben an offer: he'll return Ben's fiancée Jennifer is Jess rejoins him. Ben and Jess agree to the deal and Jess returns to Slayton expecting to be welcomed with open arms, only for Slayton to gun him down.
  • Discussed and wiggled around in Hard Boiled, when Alan (secretly an undercover cop named Tony) is in the process of selling out mob boss Mr. Chiu to the up-and-comer Johnny Wong. He insists to Wong that he's not a traitor and will be loyal to Chiu until Chiu is dead, and then helps to make that the case. Wong is entirely okay with this and keeps Alan around, but his right-hand man, Mad Dog, is unimpressed with the treason.
  • Hawk the Slayer: At the climax, one of the nuns in the church makes a deal with Voltan in an attempt to get him to spare the church, where she drugs the defenders and allows him in. As soon as he's in he stabs her in the gut.
  • The Horse Soldiers: After finding a pair of Confederate deserters holding the local sheriff hostage, Colonel Marlowe allows them to believe he will take them into his command. After he has gained all of the tactical information they possess about Newton Station, he knocks them out, ties them up and hands them over to the sheriff to be punished for desertion.
  • In the film Immortals, Lysander does a Face–Heel Turn since he fears Hyperion's forces cannot be stopped. Hyperion agrees to take him in, but orders his guards to physically scar his face as well as neuter him via giant mallet, since he feels Lysander shouldn't get preferential treatment for switching sides the way he did, nor does he want the traitor to spread his seed by having kids.
  • This happens to Nash, Cobb's original architect in Inception, who betrayed Cobb and sold him out to Saito. Saito originally offers Cobb a gun to deal with it personally, but Cobb isn't willing to kill. Saito then leaves him to the mercy of Cobol Engineering, who would inevitably hunt him down and kill him when they catch him.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, the Allies accept Hans Landa's offer to betray Hitler in return for protection after the war. Aldo Raine is furious that the Allies uphold their end of the bargain, but manages to get one last shot at Landa by killing his minion and carving a Swastika into his forehead, marking him for life as a Nazi. In this case it is less about treason and more the fact that he was a Nazi (and a willing one who betrayed Hitler because it was in his own interest).
  • In My Country: Dumi, on being discovered by the anti-apartheid fighters he'd been friends with from that time to have been an informant who'd given up a man whom the police killed, is shot dead by them.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, The Mole in Axe and Cross betrays them to the Witch Queen in exchange for gaining magic, only to be told that "you can't turn clay into gold" and the Witch Queen killing him for being human.
  • Defied in Licence to Kill. After persuading DEA agent Ed Killifer to help him escape, Franz Sanchez still insists upon properly paying Killifer as promised. When Milton Krest, one of Sanchez's associates, ask why he would do this instead of killing him, Sanchez answers "Loyalty is more important to me than money." Killifer eventually dies facing a vengeful James Bond.
  • The Mask: In a Deleted Scene, after Peggy sells Stanley out to Tyrell and his men, the first thing Tyrell does after putting the Mask of Loki on is toss Peggy into a printing press, killing her.
  • Mean Guns: Cam is approached by a police detective she believes she can trust with incriminating evidence about the Syndicate she was unwittingly laundering money for. It turns out that he's a Dirty Cop when he immediately delivers her to Marcus, one of the Syndicate's chief enforcers. However, when he starts demanding a huge sum of money for his services, Marcus just shoots him for being a rat.
  • Mean Machine: "Nitro" tries to murder a fellow prisoner in exchange for a promised transfer to a minimum security prison. He gets sent to a Bedlam House instead.
  • Operation Delta Force: Dr. Wells, the UN traitor who sold information about the new viral strain to Johann Nash and his terrorists, ends up being executed by Nash after the UN facility is captured.
  • In The Patriot (2000), when Tavington rounds up an entire town suspected of aiding Martin's soldiers, he offers them forgiveness if they give up any relevant information. One of the townspeople ends up talking, but Tavington has the entire town killed anyways, saying that they can get their forgiveness from God.
  • In Ran two retainers help defeat their master, Hidetora. Hidetora's son rewards them as they agreed, however he then explains that he can't very well have retainers who obviously disregard loyalty to their master, and kicks them out. Later on they wander too close to one of Hidetora's loyal followers and get chased down and killed.
  • In The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood, Polly betrays Robin to Prince John; telling him that Marian has informed Robin of the trap to catch him. Lady Sallyforth takes Polly away to receive her 'reward', but then kills her when she will not reveal the location of Richard's gold (which was something she did not know).
  • When one of the outlaws in Robin Hood (1991) rats out to the authorities, he's next seen dead in a gibbet with maggots in his empty eye sockets.
  • RoboCop:
    • RoboCop 2: One of the councilmen sells Mayor Kusak out to OCP upon hearing of an impending deal that would derail OCP's plans for Delta City. It doesn't exclude him of being targeted and gunned down by the newly made RoboCop 2 all the same.
    • In RoboCop 3, Coontz leads the Rehabs to the rebel base in exchange for money. The Rehabs then kill him so they don't have to pay him.
  • Serenity. Mr. Universe reluctantly cooperates with the Operative by luring Serenity into an Alliance trap. Afterwards he turns to the Operative and begins an angry rant, only for the Operative to run Mr Universe through on his sword rather than allow any chance of the truth coming out. Bonus points because the traitor was demanding his thirty pieces of silver. He knew that one way or another, he didn't have much to look forward to after what he'd done.
  • Snatch.: Brick Top's Establishing Character Moment has him disposing of someone who's betrayed him in some manner or other before having the man's sidekick disposed of in the same manner while explaining he's "got no time for grassersnote ".
  • In Sucker Punch, Blondie tells Blue about the girls' plan to escape, but only because she didn't want her friends to die. Blue praises her, at first, then replies that he doesn't like snitches. She's quickly dispatched with a bullet to the head.
  • The Suicide Squad: Blackguard apparently sold out Team A to the military army before the mission even began, and when he steps forward to reveal himself as the source, he gets shot in the face.
  • Superman II. Lex Luthor betrays the human race by allying with the Kryptonian super villains and leading them to Lois Lane so they can find Superman. After he does this General Zod orders Non to murder him, and he's only saved by the arrival of Superman.
  • In Sword of Sherwood Forest, the Sheriff makes this offer to one of Robin Hood's men; promising him a free pardon. After he gets the information, the Sheriff has him shot and then orders a pardon drawn up for him.
  • Castor and Gem in TRON: Legacy by Clu, as well as outliving their usefulness.
  • In a 1979 Romanian biopic of Vlad Dracula, a battle with a rival prince is averted when he's killed by his own captain. When Vlad orders the assassin executed (with his own murder weapon), he points out that Vlad would have slain his rival anyway. Vlad counters that he never swore loyalty to him.
  • In Wee Willie Winkie, Mohammed-din is the seemingly loyal, obsequious manservant to a British army unit on the Afghan frontier. It turns out that he is The Mole, working on behalf of the enemy Afghans. He helps them liberate their leader Khoda Khan from imprisonment, then kidnaps Col. Williams' cute little daughter Priscilla (Shirley Temple) and brings her to the Afghan fortress. The Afghans reward him by throwing him off the battlements of the fortress to his death.
  • In Wrath of the Titans, Perseus warns everybody not to pray to Ares, since a god can hear and locate anybody who prays to them and Ares is their enemy. Eventually, Korrina gives in to fear and prays to Ares, thinking he will save her. Ares teleports to the heroes' location and starts slaughtering everybody. When Korrina reveals herself as the person who prayed to him, Ares kills her without a second thought.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the Iliad, Dolon was captured by Odysseus and Diomedes and interrogated. To save his life, he quickly tells everything he knows. Then Diomedes kills him for speaking too easily.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • King of Pisa, Oenomaus challenged the suitors of his daughter Hippodamia in a chariot race and killed the losers. He was always winning as his own horses were gifts of his father the god Ares. Pelops bribed the king’s charioteer, Myrtilus son of Hermes, to sabotage the chariot in exchange for half the Kingdom and one night with Hippodamia. Pelops then casted Myrtilus in the sea later named the Myrtoan Sea.
    • Scylla, daughter of king of Megara Nisos, fell in love with invader Minos, the king of Crete. Nisus had a single lock of purple hair which granted him invincibility. When Minos saw the princess presenting Nisus' hair, he cursed her and left her alone or threw her into the sea depending on the versions.
  • The Bible:
    • King David was fighting a civil war against King Saul's successor, Ish-Bosheth, and two opportunistic officers assassinated the enemy king and presented his head to David in anticipation of a reward. He executed the traitors, cut off their hands and feet, and hung their corpses up by the pool at Hebron as a warning to others. As for Ish-Bosheth, David ordered him buried with full honors. This is also in keeping with how he treated an Amalekite who came bringing his predecessor Saul's crown and armband, claiming to have done a mercy-killing on Saul himself. Although David presumably found out later (after executing him) that the man was lying, he cited his decision concerning this other man to Ish-Bosheth's murderers, pointing out that what they'd done was far worse.
    • Abner, Ish-Bosheth's general who defected to David, also ended up being killed by David's chief commander Joab, although this was more for revenge on Abner specifically than any principled stand against betrayal.
    • Averted when Balaam shows his loyalty to Yahweh even though his life was at risk and blessed the Israelites rather than cursing them as God told him to. He was killed for trying to have it both ways. He wouldn't betray God by pronouncing a curse where a blessing was required, but he still wanted the reward that the Midianites were offering to him. So he taught them how they could turn the Israelites away from the commandments of God and bring His curse upon themselves.
    • Averted when the prostitute Rahab gave aid and comfort to two Israelite spies, allowing them to bring back information that allowed them to annihilate Jericho. She was spared by Joshua.
    • Books of Kings: During Jehu's Ruling Family Massacre of the house of Ahab, Ahab's palace officials refused to fight and offered to swear loyalty to him. Jehu told them to prove their loyalty by killing all 40 of the surviving princes of the house of Ahab and bring their heads to the city gate. They did so, and were promptly executed for the murders at Jehu's command.

  • In Interstitial: Actual Play, Larxene decides to help the party rather than their own associates since they don't like them very much. Not long after that, they get shot by Diz and begin to fade into darkness.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • This is the eventual fate of Michael Hasek-Davion after one too many attempts to double-cross both his own liege and the enemy ruler he was conspiring with. Said enemy ruler is from a notoriously unstable royal family and orders Michael's execution when he's had enough of the constant betrayal.
    • It is implied that this would have been the ultimate fate of Aldo Lestrade, a separatist and secessionist whose scheming nearly got the heir-princess of his nation killed. The Draconis Combine intelligence services viewed him as a distasteful necessity... who then end up asking each other who was the one that spoiled the satisfaction by carrying out their planned assassination of Lestrade too early. It turns out to be none of them. An angered third party harmed by Lestrade's schemes makes him pay his last dues before the Combine can.
  • GDW's Dark Conspiracy adventure Hellsgate. Margaret Ryan betrays the Player Characters while in the service of an evil alien being, but the alien betrays her by having her bofy altered. The resulting Margaret-Thing is Multi-Armed and Dangerous, has faceted eyes like a fly and two non-human legs.
  • In the Planescape verse, the githzerai race, which is much devoted to examples in history and folklore, uses the story of Vilquar to describe the foolishness of betrayal in general. Once, when the Mind Flayers were still holding their race in slavery, Vilquar tried to get special treatment by selling out the rebellion. They tricked him into thinking it had disbanded, and when he went to claim his reward, Vilquar's master ate his brain.
  • Shadowrun, Ka•Ge magazine Volume 1 Issue 8 (2nd quarter 1993) story "Instruction Takes a Turn". The decker Kam betrays the rest of his team to the corporation they're infiltrating in return for money, allowing the corp to prepare for their attack. However, the corp has Kam murdered because they have no love for traitors and know that if he will betray his fellow shadowrunners, he'll betray the corporation too.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • While the convicts of the Penal Legions of the Imperium's crimes vary from more standard crimes such as murder to heresy and apostasy, the Imperium clearly sees them as traitors to the Emperor — fit only as cannon fodder. Subverted on some occasions since it is possible for Legionnaires to be pardoned for performing a particularly meritorious act.
    • One friendly neighborhood Ordo Xeno inquisitor states that Callidus Temple has "Treachery is its own reward" as organisation motto.
    • As detailed in Chains of Golgotha, Sebastian Yarrick organised a slave revolt whilst imprisoned by Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. During the course of said revolt, one of the men loses his nerve and attempts to betray Yarrick to Thraka in exchange for his own life. Thraka responds to this by having the man made into a sentient servitor.

  • This happens to Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well — although his captors were actually his comrades playing a trick on him.
  • In the stage version of Bugsy Malone, Shady gives Fat Sam information that will lead his men into a trap; he then collects his money from Dandy Dan only to be killed (splurged) while walking away. Dandy Dan takes back his money, commenting he can't stand traitors.
  • In The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew, the Baron hires Doctor Moloch to poison the dragon that rules half the island. When the Baron attempts to pay his fee with chocolate money, Moloch goes to the dragon's cave and tells it of the plot (omitting his own part). The dragon, having thanked Moloch for the information, promptly tempts him into its cave with promises of financial reward and eats him.

    • Nidhiki attempts to betray Metru Nui to the Dark Hunters during the Toa-Dark Hunter War, but Lhikan catches on and arranges things so the Toa win anyway. Nidhiki is forced to go back with the Dark Hunters to their island base, Odina, where he is treated very poorly due to his known status as a would-be betrayer of Metru Nui. He is rejected from partnering with his only "friend", Lariska, in favor of the big dumb brute Krekka, who is meant to keep him in line, and upon trying to escape, Roodaka transforms him into a horrifying insectoid creature. This forces him to remain a Dark Hunter until his death at the hands of Makuta, and to top it all off, Nidhiki's worst fear was his phobia of insectoid creatures...
    • Takadox betrayed his fellow Barraki back during their original rebellion by leaking their plans to the Brotherhood of Makuta on the off-chance they lost and received a "tablet of transit" so that he could at least escape with his life while the rest were executed. The fact that Makuta was getting ready to execute all of them regardless before Botar showed up to spirit them away makes it clear that would not save him. He held onto the tablet as insurance while in the Pit in the event they ever escaped, and then tried to use it to bargain his way out of beating from Makuta while the rest of the Barraki were getting thrashed. Makuta crushed it and subjected him to a Mind Rape, showing Takadox clearly didn't learn from the first time. When the others learned about this betrayal between these two instances thanks to Mantax and Takadox's attempts to silence him, it's made clear the only reason they don't give him a slow and painful death right then and there is because they need his help to recover the Mask of Life, and Pridak only looks on contemptuously as Takadox is reduced to a screaming crying wreck from Makuta's "mercy".

    Web Animation 

  • In Girl Genius, Dr. Beetle, the much beloved ruler of Beetleburg, dies as a result of Silas Merlot's unnecessarily dramatic actions. Merlot attempts to toady up to Baron Wulfenbach and formulate a plan to hide Dr. Beetle's death — whereupon the Baron Neck Lifts him, commands that Dr. Beetle be given a funeral with highest honors, the exact details of his death hidden from the public, and, just to illustrate to Merlot how hard he's fucked up, Merlot is put in charge of Beetleburg and the University. Merlot, having never much liked our protagonist Agatha, expels her on the spot for sheer petty spite. Later, a team of Wulfenbach's cryptographers decode Dr. Beetle's encrypted notes, revealing Agatha's true identity to Merlot, who begins a frantic search for her, which fails (because she's already on Castle Wulfenbach). Merlot thinks that if Wulfenbach found out who Merlot let slip through his fingers, it would be curtains... so he destroys all evidence — labs, record halls and the cryptographers — in a fire. Wulfenbach discovers it another way, finds out about Merlot's attempts to cover his butt and so he sends him to Castle Heterodyne.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • The future Lord Horribus sent the Asps to kill his informant Amospia, who gave the demons the key to the city so that she and her lover could escape. It worked out rather more ironically than her merely being killed.
    • Basphomy was the original patron of Halloween, a nightmarish holiday she created to torment mortals. Terrified of her ambition, the other holidays voted the Pumpkin King, a Harmless Villain, as her replacement, forcing her to serve as his second. She always kept a hammer ready just in case she ever got the opportunity to usurp him. When Bun-bun attempts to conquer the Holidays in a bid for godhood, she sides with him. But he knows she would eventually betray him next to reclaim Halloween, and as such leaves her imprisoned in an obsidian cage.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Long Feng, who is revealed to hide the truth of the Hundred Year War and is imprisoned, allies with Princess Azula to launch a coup on the Earth King and his cabinet all so that he gets to rule it. After the Earth King is deposed, Long Feng tries to betray Azula but Azula having anticipated it, gets the Dai Li to turn against him.
    • Similarly, in the finale, Azula in midst of a Villainous Breakdown, banishes the Dai Li. Despite the organization being loyal to her, Azula replies she doesn't trust them as they have also turned on Long Feng without much impetus.
  • Beast Wars:
    • Dinobot is afraid of returning to Cybertron alongside his new Maximal companions because, despite Optimus Primal's insistence he'll be treated as one of them, he fears they'll pull this trope on him instead.
      Dinobot: YOU'RE what I'm afraid of! You're so eager to go home, but your home is not my home. I am Predacon, despite our alliance, and when your ship comes to rescue you, my fate will be the same as Megatron's. Perhaps, even worse.
    • Later episodes expand on this further and reveal he's also afraid of not being rewarded as a traitor deserves, as being treated as a Maximal also means abandoning his Predacon heritage and turning his back on his core beliefs. So much so that it's implied part of his motivation for dying to save the valley was to take a third option.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse has a non-lethal example in the episode "Frogs of War": Argit betrays the rebellion to the Incursean Empire. As soon as he has lured them into the trap, Attea shoots him and has him imprisoned with the others.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Episode 12, one of the members of Mario's resistance group tries to betray them to the Germans in an attempt to save his own skin. Naturally, as soon as he has told the Germans everything he knows, they promptly arrest him.
  • In Castlevania, Hector, one of Dracula's most loyal human servants, lets Carmilla, one of his generals, manipulate him into betraying his master. This along with other factors led to Dracula's defeat. Afterwards, Carmilla rewards Hector by savagely beating him into submission while laughing and makes it clear he is her slave now, and the real reason she fooled him into betraying Dracula was because she needed a Forgemaster of her own to create an army of demons to take over and rule in Dracula's place. In the long-run, however, it's something of a deconstruction as well. Carmilla's abuse of Hector while he's her slave causes him to plot against her, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately lead to her death. If Carmilla had actually shown Hector some gratitude, he may have actually stayed loyal to her.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk:
    • Mildew, the local Berk Jerkass, betrays his tribe (his chief's son most specifically) to the Outcasts. The result? He spends his residence with the Outcasts in constant terror of being disposed of by his new Bad Boss and has to repeatedly come up with new plans (that always fail) for attacking his homeland to convince Alvin he has not outlived his usefulness. Once the Outcasts are taken over by Dagur and his Berserker tribe, he's demoted to a servant assigned to feeding/taking care of the trained dragons (the creature he hated enough to prompt his betrayal in the first place).
    • In the opening episode of Dragons: Race to the Edge, "Dragon Eye of the Beholder, Part One", Dagur the Deranged escapes from prison with the help of a guard that left the key to his cell. Before escaping, Dagur knocks the guard out along with the honest ones, remarking, "I hate traitors."
  • Elena of Avalor: As revealed in the episode "King of the Carnaval," Esteban and his friend, Victor Delgado, willingly helped Shuriki take over Avalor in exchange for a high-ranking position. Shuriki gave him the power he wanted when she took over, but not before killing Elena's parents, trying to do the same to Elena herself, and having Victor and his entire family banished from the kingdom, ensuring that at every waking moment, Esteban would be tormented by the guilt of losing everyone he ever cared for.
  • Gargoyles:
    • This happens when Demona betrays Macbeth to Canmore. After Canmore "kills" Macbeth and Demona, he says, "She betrayed Macbeth; it was only a matter of time before she would have betrayed us. It's a good thing we had the rest of her clan destroyed as well. Her kind was an abomination; they did not deserve to live!"
    • This happened to her before, too, as she and the human Guard Captain of the castle betrayed the human inhabitants to the viking raiders due to how poorly the humans regarded their protectors. Hakon, naturally, broke the terms of the deal that involved leaving the (currently stone) gargoyles alone.
  • In Gravity Falls, Preston Northwest gets a full face of Nightmare Fuel and Body Horror as a "reward" for offering to join Bill Cipher's legion of Hench-Maniacs. Quite literally, in fact:
    Preston: I would just like to say that as a rich capitalist I welcome your tyrannical rule. Perhaps I could be one of your, uh... horsemen of the apocalypse?
    Bill: Oh wow, that's a great offer. How 'bout instead I shuffle the functions of every hole in your face?
  • Narrowly averted in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002). Evil-Lyn is offered to be "honored above all others" if she betrays Skeletor and joins the ranks of King Hsss. It turns out that, as far as Snake people are concerned, there is no higher honor than to be devoured by your king... but Hsss decides to spare her when he decides she's of more use to him alive.
  • Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5: This is the final fate of Grimian. Grimian was an ambitious Vandal who emerged to challenge Kalus' position as Vandal Warlord. As it turns out, however, Grimian was secretly working for Krytus, intending to bring the Vandals under his command. When this is finally revealed in "Grimian's Secret", much of the Vandals reject the idea of having Grimian as a leader as a result. Hatch then destroys his vehicle before Kalus sends him into exile. in "Rumble In The Jungle", Grimian ends up suffering this again when he assembles the remaining Vandals under him to eliminate Kalus and his army. Grimian was aided in this move by Krytus, only to find out too late that Krytus intended to betray him. Kalus calls Grimian out on how he's pretty much doomed the Vandals by doing so; if it weren't the Kharamanos' Phase-Nullification Bomb, the Red Sentients and Red Sark would've wiped out the Vandals for good. After this, the remaining Vandals finally affirm their loyalty to Kalus. As for Grimian, the final scene we have of him is him getting cornered by the Vandals before Kalus approaches him with a spear and a Slasher Smile. Given how Grimian doesn't appear in the series' epilogue, it's safe to say that Kalus finally executed him.
  • Played with and ultimately averted in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Alive!" In the aftermath of an Enemy Civil War, Luthor's side has beaten Grodd's, and Luthor asks if any of them can give a reason they shouldn't continue following Grodd. Killer Frost, one of Grodd's cabal, steps forward, turns around and immediately freezes all the others on her side. This even unnerves the villains on Luthor's side.
    Luthor: Killer Frost... you've got a future. Get rid of the rest.
    Frost: You got it.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 2", Discord betrays the ponies to aid Tirek after he offered him freedom. In the end, Discord is betrayed by Tirek and his magic is drained, leaving him to dwell on what he had done.
  • In The Pirates of Dark Water, during the pilot mini-series, Bloth "rewards" a pirate who returns his minion Konk by conscripting her into service as a Dagron pilot.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: In "Of Shadows and Skulls", Shadow Weaver is so tired of being mistreated by Hordak she helps Skeletor to overthrow him. Skeletor rewards her by locking her up inside the same cage they locked Hordak in.
  • A mild version occurs in The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul". Bart pulls a prank at church by switching the opening hymn with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". Milhouse ends up ratting him out and is praised by Rev. Lovejoy for it, who then takes Bart away for punishment... and drags Milhouse along, too, saying, "You too, snitchy."
  • In Skeleton Warriors, Baron Dark frequently rewards people who betrayed the rebels by turning them into more Skeleton Warriors. Since the transformation burns all of the goodness out of a subject, it effectively turns them into a Black Shirt and partially falls under the exception mentioned near the end of the trope description.
  • In one episode of Sonic Underground, a black-market dealer, angry with Sonic and his siblings for not paying him for some vital information, sells them out to Sleet and Dingo. Sleet promises him, "I'll make sure you get everything that's coming to you". The dealer assumes this means money. It doesn't. It's implied that this is standard practice for snitches.
    Sleet: [activating the roboticizer] I said you'd get what's coming to you.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
  • In the final episode of Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, a villager sells Ahsoka out to the Empire after she uses the Force to save his sister. When an Inquisitor arrives to investigate, Ahsoka isn't there, so the Inquisitor believes he's lying and razes the village to the ground. When Ahsoka finally arrives, the Inquisitor agrees he can have his "reward", and prepares to kill him. Ahsoka manages to save him, though.
  • Averted in the backstory of Storm Hawks. The Dark Ace of Cyclonia was a member of the original Storm Hawks who betrayed his team when they fought against the Empire for glory and power, and the previous Master Cyclonis followed through on the deal with no strings attached. He even became The Dragon for the current Master Cyclonis in her campaign to conquer Atmos.
  • Superman: The Animated Series:
    • In "Warrior Queen", Queen Maxima's handmaiden Sazu helps De'Cine to take over Maxima's throne and De'Cine rewards her by having her imprisoned with the dethroned Queen.
    • Once Darkseid has no further use for Bruno Mannheim, he leaves him to die in a reactor explosion. When Mannheim protests that Darkseid promised to make him a king, Darkseid replies that he is a king — a king of fools.
  • Starscream from The Transformers is, in every incarnation, trying to betray or overthrow Megatron as leader of the Decepticons, and is even willing to work with the Autobots on occasion if it means furthering his own plans. Nearly every time he attempts a coup, though, he gets hit with this trope.
  • The TRON: Uprising episode "Isolated" has this with Paige's friends. They alert General Tessler to the fact that two ISOs, Quorra and her friend, passed through and were given medical assistance. General Tessler promptly thanks them for their assitance, then procceds to derezz the pair of them (and everyone else in the Hospital bar Paige) because they harboured and assisted ISOs.
  • In the first Wing Commander Academy episode, "Red and Blue", the human technician who betrayed the Terran Confederation is spaced by the Kilrathi captain he ran to with the stolen information. Played with in that the captain asks why he betrayed his own kind, then killed him because the reason was absurdly petty (resentment over being washed out of the Academy over a bad psych evaluation).
    Burroughs: [doors seal in front of him] Wait! We had a deal! [doors open behind him into space] A DEEEEEAAAAAL!!!
    Kilrathi: A man without honor has no reason to live.
  • Surprisingly averted in Xiaolin Showdown, despite the show's usual Black-and-White Morality. Wuya, a Card-Carrying Villain in nearly every other respect, actually gives Raimundo plenty of wealth and status after his betrayal, with zero strings attached. This ultimately leads to her downfall.
  • Young Samson and Goliath episode "The Idol Rama-Keesh". Ramu is the priest of a temple of the deity Rama-Keesh. He constructs a robot in the shape of an idol of his deity and uses it to scare the local villagers into leaving. He later meets with General Tong, who had him do it so he could invade and use the village as his headquarters. When he asks General Tong for his reward, Tong hits him over the head with a mallet, knocking him unconscious. He tries to have the robot drop Ramu in a fire pit to kill him, but Samson appears and saves Ramu from death.


Harold Saxon's Cabinet

The Master, under his Harold Saxon alias, gasses his cabinet to death

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoardToDeath

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