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Schiff One-Liner

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A wry comment at the end of an episode, often highlighting the moral ambiguity of the episode's outcome. Often found in legal or medical dramas, where very often there is no Black and White Morality, only Shades of Gray.

A subset of the One-Liner.

The Trope Namer is District Attorney Adam Schiff of the television series Law & Order, who frequently ended an episode with one. The trope has no connection with the Schiff from Blood+, nor with actor Richard Schiff (although he is quite good at them), nor with the currently sitting US Representative from California's 28th district, Rep. Adam Schiff.


Note that the examples contain many spoilers, some unmarked.


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    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen has one (though it's not exactly the last line of the series) when Dr. Manhattan is asked whether the plan worked in the end (i.e., did the ends justify the means), he just tells Adrian Veidt "Nothing ever ends," after the latter has slaughtered thousands with a genetically engineered squid in a gambit to end the threat of nuclear war. Veidt's reaction is the first moment of doubt in the perfection of his plan that we ever see.

     Film — Live Action 
  • From both King Kong (1933) and at least two of the remakes: "It was beauty killed the beast."
  • "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."
  • Blade Runner: "It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"
  • The Maltese Falcon: "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of."
  • In a MST'd B-movie King Dinosaur, one of the scientists says "We've really done it. We've brought civilization to planet Nova." That's after nuking an island of basically harmless creatures.
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: "Victory, you say? Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun, the Clone War has."
  • Se7en: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."
  • The Untouchables: "I think I'll have a drink."

    Live Action TV 
  • In Law & Order, as noted above, DA Adam Schiff got one in nearly every episode he was in. Ben Stone and Jack McCoy (along with the occasional ADA) got their fair share as well.
    • There is one remark that Jack McCoy has used three times, each time at the end of an episode dealing with the iniquities of reality TV; when asked what He will be doing when he gets home, Jack replies,
    "I'll be reading a book".
  • In Law & Order: Criminal Intent, nearly all the characters have gotten one in at one time or another.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 6th season episode "Unnatural Selection" Jonas Quinn uses the line, "We used his humanity against him" in reference to a replicator android, the only one who had feelings, whom they betrayed. (And yes, this does come back to bite them in the ass.)
  • In Merlin, the young druid boy's words "My name is Mordred" end the scene with a reminder that this little boy play a larger role later on.
  • Angel:
    • The end of the episode "The Ring," which was about freeing several demons who were imprisoned and forced to fight each other. The Fang Gang proudly notes that they freed the captives. The last line reminds us that they freed a bunch of freakin' demons!
    • The end of Season 4 episode "Peace Out," where Lilah Morgan literally returns from hell to congratulate Angel and the gang for ending world peace.
  • One episode of Person of Interest ends with John talking to a jerk who he had just talked the week's PoI into not killing. The last line is "Help me make the right decision". The question of whether or not John killing the man himself is the "right" decision is never answered, as is what decision he makes.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The episode "A Golden Crown" ends with Daenerys commenting on her brother's death: "He was no dragon. Fire can not kill a dragon."
    • The first episode ends with Jaime Lannister saying "The things I do for love" before pushing Bran Stark from a tower window after he saw Jaime having sex with Queen Cersei - which is not only treason, but incest given that Jaime and Cersei are twins.
  • Outnumbered usually ends with one that's a punch line. Example; the mom and dad are installing parental controls on the computer, over the eldest son's protest. They reiterate that this is going to happen but:
    Dad: We need you to do it, we can't even begin to figure this out.
  • On the original Star Trek, Kirk had quite a few. Perhaps the most glaring was his line at the end of the episode, "Return of the Archons."
    Spock: How often mankind has wished for a world as peaceful and secure as the one Landru provided.
    Kirk: Yes. And we never got it. [beat] Just lucky, I guess.
  • Dragnet was never a show for moral ambiguity, but Sgt. Friday would typically make some wryly trenchant comment at the end of the main part of the episode, leading to the four-note Sting and the results of the trial. Some of his best:
    • To a Neo-Nazi whose terrorism attempt has just been thwarted:
      Friday: You keep harping about minorities...
      Neo-Nazi: That's right.
      Friday: Well Mister, you're a psycho, and they're a minority, too.
    • When talking to a raging egomaniac who claims that his crimes were justified simply because he was the one who committed them, and who insists on being called "Mister":
      Friday: Well now, it's going to be a little rough on you from here on in, isn't it?
      Lumis: How's that, Friday?
      Friday: Well, where you're headed, there are no "Misters."
      Lumis: That's so?
      Friday: Just numbers.
    • At the start of the episode, a pair of brutal robbers gun down Officer Dave Roberts in cold blood. Unknown to them, the patrolman survived, but with no memory of the attack, and unable to describe them. Under interrogation, the robbers refuse to admit to the shooting, knowing they've killed the only possible witness, but seeing the cop alive just outside the interrogation room causes one of them to point fingers at the other, thus sealing their fates as the interrogation was being recorded. Friday talks to the patrolman just outside the room after closing the door again:
      Roberts: You know something, Joe?
      Friday: What's that, Dave?
      Roberts: I still don't remember them.
      Friday: You don't have to now, Dave.
  • Hill Street Blues: Captain Furillo has finally managed to obtain the crucial confession and testimony needed for a conviction in the case of a brutal rape and murder case, but at the cost of pulling some very questionably ethical tactics and only barely staying on the right side of the law. Joyce, natually, does not hesitate to call him out on this, and in the last moments of the episode we see Frank going to confession for what's probably the first time in quite a while.
    Frank: Bless me, father, I have sinned.
  • Mal gets one at the end of the Firefly episode "Bushwhacked", on the outskirts of civilized space where everyone is being attacked by Reavers:
    Jayne: You saved his gorram life, he still takes the cargo.
    Mal: Had to. Couldn't let us profit. Wouldn't be civilized.
  • Series "Doctor Who", episode "Midnight"; the Doctor has just had the most harrowing experience of his entire life, and has come closer than he ever has before to getting killed. Donna innocently repeats what the Doctor just said, an old joke between them before now, but the Doctor's trauma involved such repetition; he fixes her with a VERY hard stare and says,
    The Doctor: "Don't! Just....don't".


    Video Games 
  • Armored Core:
    Thermidor: Prepare your souls. These cowardly ideals, they will cause the downfall of humanity!
    Wynne D. Fanchon: Humanity? I don't see humanity anywhere, Otsdarva.

    Western Animation 
  • The DCAU was fond of these. Batman Beyond comes to mind but Justice League Unlimited had quite a few.
  • The end of the Hey Arnold! episode where Arnold and Gerald skip school.
  • The end of the Transformers Generation One episode "The Golden Lagoon" features one from, of all Transformers, pacifistic and somewhat hippie-like Beachcomber—which is precisely why it works so well.
    Beachcomber: We won.
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos - being the Trope Namer for the Xanatos Gambit - could usually profit from his schemes even when they were foiled. The attempt to make a clone of Goliath without his moral code was not one of those times.
    Owen: You mean that that creature is still out there? It has the money. It's as powerful as Goliath. And it's SMARTER than you?
    Xanatos: Owen, I think I created a monster.


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