Final Guard: [immediately pretends to faint]
This is a scene you've probably seen a few times: the Action Hero has just single-handedly defeated an entire group of enemies while clearly outclassing them. After such an impressive display of violence, only one opponent is left. Either due to a sense of mercy or not wanting to over-exert himself before he gets to the Big Bad, the Hero advises this final opponent to pretend the hero beat him up and spare himself the painful injuries. Seeing his dead and/or unconscious mates, the mook decides that it's the perfect time for a nap and has a lie-down among his fallen friends as the hero runs off to continue the plot.
If there is more than one mook to take the deal, they may try to do something such as punch each other or otherwise Make It Look Like a Struggle. This will leave them bruises to prove they tried, since their boss likely won't tolerate slackers and cowards.
This trope is often Played for Laughs, especially if the mook in question does a really unconvincing job of faking their injury or defeat. That said, it's not unheard of for it to be Played for Drama, especially if the hero later regrets leaving the mook alive, turning it into No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
If dialogue is involved in this action, it is usually some variation of This Is the Part Where...
Sister Trope to Must Let Them Get Away, where the good guy lets the Big Bad run for their life instead. May overlap with Spare a Messenger, especially if the final mook is instructed to spread the word about what happened. Among characters who are more than nameless or faceless mooks, the ones likely to take this deal include Punch-Clock Villains and/or those Only in It for the Money (after all, their heart's not in this, so why get killed over it) a Minion with an F in Evil, the Merciful Minion (especially if they previously showed mercy to the hero or one of the hero's friends), and the Token Good Teammate. It's also a good idea to make this offer to anyone who is Trapped in Villainy or has been Forced into Evil. Cowardly Mooks also tend to get the offer to be spared and are often quick to take it. Contrast with Cruel Mercy, where someone is spared because that would be worse for them. Contrast Leave No Survivors.
- One Piece has a villain variation. In the Syrup Village arc, a flashback shows Captain Kuro slaughtering the crew of an attacking Marine ship, leaving only a severely injured marine alive. Kuro who at this point was planning to retire from piracy undisturbed, saw the Sole Survivor as a perfect pawn for this scheme. He ordered his first mate Jango to hypnotize the marine into thinking he had captured Kuro and he send him off along a lookalike pirate hypnotized into thinking he was Kuro. The lookalike was executed sometime later, freeing Kuro from being a wanted man, and the marine promoted to captain.At this point, the marine is revealed to be "Axe-Hand" Morgan, a previous antagonist and the first noteworthy marine appearing in the work.
- Subverted in the final episode from the first season of One-Punch Man. Saitama has gone on a rampage through the invading alien ship, wiping out much of the crew and defeating the leader, Boros. After the ship crashes, maybe half a dozen from what used to be a crew of hundreds survive. The other heroes initially intend to capture them alive, but Amai Mask steps up while everyone is talking and instantly slaughters the survivors, effortlessly reducing them to Ludicrous Gibs, to the shock of the other heroes. It establishes Amai Mask, who has mostly played a passive part in the series so far, as both more dangerous than the viewer had reason to expect as well as The Unfettered and a Knight Templar.
- Subverted in Heavy Liquid. The protagonist, a man called S, is being pursed by two parties: a man in a black suit and a trio of costumed mooks. The suit eventually catches the three mooks and easily kills two of them. Then he says this to the remaining mook:
MiB: Tell your boss I said ... no.Mook: "No"? Whaddya mean, "no"?MiB: I changed my mind. [He kills the mook.]
- American Ninja: In the second movie, The Confrontation, Curtis Jackson had defeated four ninjas in a row and is facing down a fifth and last ninja. Said ninja repeatedly keeps getting back up, no matter what Jackson hits him with. Finally, tired after all the fighting when he sees the ninja about to get up from yet another blow that should have ended the fight, Jackson shouts "Stay down!" The ninja decides not to push his luck any further and goes back to being flat on the floor immediately, and Jackson moves on, letting the ninja survive the battle.
- Austin Powers in Goldmember: When Nigel is fighting Dr. Evil's goons, the very last one (after he has effortlessly knocked the others out) hesitates and very obviously is terrified of him. Nigel notices this and tells the goon that if he just drops on the ground they can pretend that Nigel beat him like the others and move on. The guard quickly takes the deal and drops to the floor Playing Possum.
Nigel Powers: Do you know who I am? [the mook nods] Have you any idea how many anonymous henchmen I've killed over the years? [the mook nods] And look at you, you haven't even got a nametag, you've got no chance... Why don't you just fall down? Go on, son. [the mook obliges]
- Batman: After a lengthy fight with the Joker's henchmen, Batman defeats them all except for the Joker's right-hand Bob. As Bob approaches with a knife, Batman simply beckons, daring him to fight. Bob opts to drop the knife and run, and Batman allows him to escape.
- The Driver concludes a car chase pursuing The Kid into a warehouse, where they conduct a cat-and-mouse game. When The Kid makes a break for the exit, he gets shunted into a railway bay where his car is disabled. The Driver shoots The Kid for killing his pretty accomplice but spares The Kid's driver, who'd done an admirable job trying to evade pursuit.
Scared kid: I'm just the driver.
The Driver: Go home.
- Fury (2014) inverts this after the final battle when a very young mook from the SS battalion the protagonists had fought finds Norman, the last member of the Fury's crew, alive but pretending to be dead. Realizing that he's caught, Norman tries to silently show that he's unarmed and done fighting. The mook hesitates for a few seconds, but seeing that Norman is no longer a threat, he lets Norman stay in hiding and acts as though he never saw Norman. Because of this Norman is the group's Sole Survivor.
- John Wick: Chapter 2: John stabs Cassian in the chest during their Knife Fight and tells him the blade is in his aorta; he can either follow and die or try to get medical attention. The Bowery King later relates John having done something similar to him: the future King was a mook between John and his then-target, and John cut his throat and told him he could either pursue and die, or hold the wound closed long enough to get to an ER.
- By the time The Bride kills every other member of the Crazy 88's in Kill Bill Vol. 1, she sees that the remaining mook is just a trembling boy. Instead of killing him, she slices his sword to pieces, puts him over her knee and then spanks him with the flat-end of her Hanzo-sword, ordering him to go home to his mother.
The Bride: (as she spanks the boy) This! Is what! You get! For fucking! Around! With yakuzas! Go home to your mother!
- The Losers: In a pretty memorable scene, Jensen is held at gunpoint by three security guards, but he pretends to have telekinetic powers and repel two of them before allowing the last one to surrender.
- In Machete, when the eponymous hero takes out several henchmen, the last remaining one drops his gun and says he quits before running away.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- During the final confrontation with Ajax and his mooks in Deadpool, Deadpool cuts his way through the mooks after they initially refuse to surrender... until he gets to the last one left, a guy by the name of Bob who Deadpool knows and is friendly with, either from his days in the Special Forces or a mercenary after that. After some friendly chatting Deadpool knocks Bob out with a headbutt, but aside from Ajax's female enforcer Angel, Bob is the only person working for Ajax that Deadpool spares. Hopefully Bob regained consciousness and left the site before Deadpool's fight blew a bunch of stuff up and caused tons of other collateral damage.
- Iron Man 3: During his escape from Aldrich Killian's mansion, Tony shoots several guards, but when the last one gets Tony in a standoff where they're both pointing guns at each other, the mook suddenly opts to stop fighting, dropping his gun without even negotiating to be sure Tony will accept his surrender. Tony lets him leave.
Last Guard: [suddenly stops pointing his gun at Tony and drops it to the ground while raising his hands in surrender] Honestly, I hate working here, they are so weird. [Tony waves goodbye to the guard, who immediately flees]
- Black Panther:
- Early in the film, Black Panther subjects a group of terrorists to a Mook Horror Show, then rushes towards the final mook, who just so happens to be a young teenage boy, with the intent to kill him like he's done to the rest of the terrorists. He is thankfully stopped when Nakia intervenes in time to point out the boy's young age and the all too real possibility that he was forced into working with the terrorists and is just as much a victim as the captives T'challa and Nakia are working to rescue.
- Ulysses Klaw subverts this during a museum raid. He and his men gun down all the museum staff in a room save one random security guard and Klaw says he can go. Klaw then shoots the guy in the back, explaining that he let the man make it out of the room only because it would look more like the whole heist was done by amateurs rather than professionals.
- Subverted in Mortal Kombat: The Movie during Johnny Cage's Establishing Character Moment. Cage is confronted by a gang of mooks and quickly beats them until just one is left standing. He lands several blows including an impressive kick on the last one and then tells the guy "This is the part where you fall down", making it appear that he is telling the guy to give up instead of continuing to take a beating. The guy belatedly throws himself to the floor... and then Cage complains about the low quality of help he's working with and the scene shifts to show that Johnny is acting out a fight scene from a movie instead of being in a real fight.
Johnny Cage: Where do you get these guys?
- At one point in Saving Private Ryan, the team looking for Ryan comes across a German machine gun nest and Captain Miller insists on taking it out instead of leaving the Germans there to ambush and tear through the next group of American soldiers to come through the area. A single German is taken alive, but because the American Medic is killed in the fighting, the other soldiers are in no mood for taking prisoners and prepare to execute the man. Corporal Upham, the group's translator, pleads on behalf of the man and points out the barbarity of what the group is planning to do. Others in the squad note that if they let him go he'll likely wind up getting picked up by other Germans and sent right back to the fight. Eventually Miller opts to tie the guy's hands and blindfold him and let him walk away. Sure enough, in the final battle of the movie, the soldier is seen among the Germans the Americans are fighting, and he kills several Americans, including Captain Miller.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Kirk has blown up most of the crew of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey when he engaged the Enterprise's Self-Destruct. The Mooks on the planet were killed by phaser fire by our heroes as they rescue Spock and Saavik, and Kirk took out their boss Commander Kruge. This just leaves the Klingon Maltz (played by John Larroquette) aboard the ship. Trying to figure out the controls of the Bird-of-Prey, Kirk tells him, "Help us or die." Maltz replies, "I do not deserve to live." Kirk, bluff called, says, "Fine, I'll kill you later." When "later" comes, Maltz protests that he's being thrown in the brig. Kirk's reply? I Lied.
- In Yojimbo, one of the criminals in the Big Bad's gang is a teenage wannabe crook who ran away from home because he refused to spend the rest of his days living as a poor farmer eating gruel. In the final fight, Sanjuro (who passed the kid on the road as he was in the middle of storming away from home), pauses his killing spree when the goon screams for his mother, and tells the kid that maybe it would be best to stick to eating gruel before letting him go.
- During the first season of Boardwalk Empire, the powerful New York mobster Arnold Rothstein pays to have the D'Alessio brothers (a violent gang made up of six brothers) attack and undermine Villain Protagonist Nucky Thompson's position in Atlantic City. Near the end of the season, two of the brothers are captured along with a young man working for Rothstein. Rather than keeping their mouths shut, the brothers antagonize their captors until they both get killed for mouthing off. Nucky decides to spare the last captive (some kid by the name of Meyer Lansky) so he can tell the tale to his boss.
- In the first episode of The Musical television series Galavant, we follow the title character, a legendary knight, as he tries to save his kidnapped lover Madalena from the evil King Richard (well, the supposedly evil King Richard), who is trying to get her to marry him. As he rushes through Richard's castle to break up the wedding, Galavant effortlessly defeats multiple mooks standing before the castle's chapel, and then tells the final one to just fall instead of fighting him. The mook complies.
- Luke Cage: Cage breaks up an attempt by Cottonmouth's thugs to shake down Genghis Connie, effortlessly defeating three of them, showing off his Super-Strength, Super-Toughness, and how he is Immune to Bullets along the way. Cage then turns to the fourth and last goon (who hasn't done anything except stare in shock the whole time), and asks him "You want some?" The guy promptly flees.
- Star Wars: In The Mandalorian episode "The Jedi", when Ahsoka Tano begins her assault on the town gate, a group of the Magistrate's soldiers attempt to stop her. During the fight with various guards, she disarms one, who stays out of the rest of the fight while she kills the others. When Ahsoka finally notices the disarmed guard again, he holds his hands up, likely expecting her to attack, but instead she gives him a little "Go on, get out of here" head flip. The guard wastes no time before fleeing.
- Xena: Warrior Princess: Subverted when Velasca, newly turned into a god, destroyed a temple of Artemis. Before she began destroying the temple in earnest, Velasca told the last guard that she would leave him alive to tell the story to others, then went on a rant against Artemis for not having been a proper deity to the Amazons, and used her powers to set the temple on fire. When she finished and the guard tried to run away, however, she killed him. The reason for doing so is ambiguous; it might have been a result of not having full control of her powers, or it might have been because her new powers were messing with her mind (considering Velasca was rather vicious and a self-admitted sadist as a mortal, having her hold on sanity shaken further by becoming a god was a very bad thing), or she might have simply been startled when the temple guard tried to make a run for it.
- ANNO: Mutationem: When a group of thugs from the Factio Pugni arrive at The Sicilian Jar searching for her brother, Ann leads them outside and takes down all of them until a single member is left, who immediately surrenders and explains why they were looking for Ryan before running off.
- Subverted in the Batman: Arkham Series. When an informant or data handler is in a group of enemies, Batman can opt to save them for last. Instead of knocking them unconscious, Batman interrogates them, with the enemy usually under the belief that they will be spared for divulging information. However, Batman always ends the encounter by knocking the enemy out and leaving them with the rest of the fallen enemies.
- Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number: After clearing a garage as one final mission for the Russian Mafia, the Henchman finds a bag of money and prepares to leave but is stopped by a random hooligan who worked at the garage. The Henchman chooses to spare him because he already has what he wants and doesn't feel the need to kill him. However, this random hooligan contacts The Fans and they kill The Henchman in a nightclub.
- In Injustice: Gods Among Us, when Superman enters the alternate reality and defeats Black Adam after a brief fight, Sinestro sneaks from behind a smashes him with a giant mace. Superman then goes behind Sinestro and disarms him by yanking off his ring, and then turns to Yellow Lantern-Hal Jordan, and tells him to stop what he's doing. Knowing it's over, Hal takes off the ring and hands it over to Superman.
- Max Payne 3: At one point during Max's rampage inside the U.F.E.'s building, he gets into a shootout with several heavily-armed Elite Mooks in a shooting range. After clearing out the enemies in the room, the sole surviving officer — having witnessed a bald, aging, painkiller-addicted ex-cop slaughter all of his comrades — rightfully surrenders on the spot.
- Metroid II: Return of Samus: Played with. After killing all the Metroids she encountered in her way (including their Queen), Samus reaches the last corner of the nest and finds a Metroid that mistakes her for its mother. Samus spares it but, instead of simply letting it go, she lets it follow her, taking it to her gunship to later give it to the Galactic Federation so they research it peacefully (and in Metroid: Samus Returns, it even helps her during the surprise boss fight against Proteus Ridley).
- Pathfinder: Kingmaker: While storming King Castruccio Irovetti's palace in Pitax, the party runs across one particular group of guards who Know When to Fold 'Em: they insist they're servants and that their weapons are kitchen implements, and take off running.
- The final mission in Scarface: The World Is Yours has Tony slaughtering Sosa and all of his mooks. After the carnage, Tony finds one of Sosa's men in hiding and he begs Tony not to kill him since he has a family. Tony offers the mook to work for him, which he accepts. He's seen in the ending giving Tony and his girl drinks in the hot tub.
- Undertale: In the genocide run, some encounters for killing all other enemies will cause the final one to become frozen with fear, at which point you can spare them instantly, without the need for figuring out the right conditions to spare an enemy. Doing this will break the genocide run however, as in it you must kill everyone.
- Played for drama in Rogue Galaxy. After the gangster Gale has a change of heart and decides to turn on his boss, Zax Morarty, a firefight ensues in which Gale manages to kill his former boss as well as all of the gunmen he had with him. As Gale begins to leave the scene, he passes by a former underling who up to that point was depicted as a cowardly junior member, and tells him dismissively that he's free now and to scram. The underling then pulls a knife and stabs Gale fatally, claiming revenge for his dad, Morarty.
- The Order of the Stick author Rich Burlew used to write about his own Dungeons & Dragons experiences and campaigns on his site as a way of advising readers on ways to have the best possible experiences for players and authors who might want to write a campaign or fantasy story. He noted one occasion where a random mook got a series of such lucky dice rolls and the players such poor ones that eventually they decided to offer the mook, who had survived an improbably long time but was still overmatched and inevitably would eventually be beaten, a chance to simply walk away from the encounter. The mook agreed, and Burlew later brought the same character back in a different campaign, where said mook had gone on to become a much bigger deal and was that campaign's Big Bad.
- The Channel Awesome anniversary special Suburban Knights has a rare villainous version. When Big Bad Malachite shows up in the aftermath of the brawl between the critics and the foes they've been facing, those foes quickly attack Malachite instead, recognizing him as a bigger problem. (And indeed, the one they originally intended to guard against.) Malachite effortlessly beats two of the three Black Cloaks in melee combat, launched an unresisting Jaffers into orbit with a punch, then nonchalantly uses magical lightning to kill the Woods Witch and Cat. The last of the Cloaks seems to ready himself for a final, doomed effort to stop Malachite... then says Screw This, I'm Outta Here and runs away. Malachite, who has never before shown any signs of mercy and murdered plenty of innocent people simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, lets him go.
- The Lion Guard: "Lions of the Outlands" has a non-lethal variant. After using the Roar to send Zira's Outsiders flying, Kion allows Kovu (who wisely chose to get out of the way) to leave without issue.
- Used in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way in the Napoleon Dynamite episode "Thundercone": After Napoleon uses a Matrix Reloaded-styled pole move to take out most of the best Thundercone fighters (he was using an experimental acme cream that makes him good at fighting), the last standing man begs to be spared, telling Napoleon that he has a daughter. Napoleon responds with "Then go to her, and tell her who spared your life this day".
- In a Robot Chicken skit that spoofs the famous Oner fight scene from Tony Jaa's The Protector, the Chicken breaks free from his restraints and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Mad Scientist, fighting his way through every character who ever featured on the show. The guard in front of the final door is none other than the show's nerd character... who after a glare from the Chicken meekly steps aside and holds the door open. The Chicken allows him to live, unlike all the others the Chicken encountered, including some who didn't even attempt to fight the Chicken but were killed regardless.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) episode "Tokka vs. The World", General Griffin tries to kill Tokka in spite of Bishop's warnings. When Bishop tries averting a bloodbath, Griffin's soldiers try apprehending Bishop. After Bishop decimates most of the soldiers easily, the last soldier shoots his hands up in defeat. Bishop motions for him to go down and as though he'd been beaten like the rest of the mooks, and the man does just that.