Part of a villainous stock phrase that usually goes "When I Take Over the World, you will be spared." The other common variations are "I think I'll kill you last" and "Your death will be quick and painless."
Usually, the villain will make this promise to anyone who helps him, or to someone they feel indebted to, are friends with, or are in love with. If the villain really likes this person, expect them to sweeten the deal with a Shiny New Australia. This is generally played for laughs, since few "realistic" villains are quite so egomaniacal that they bandy out the lives of others this way.
If said to a hero, it may because they're Friendly Enemies. An Omnicidal Maniac may either express a desire to preserve one person or event that they like, or say that it's the one thing they'll miss after destroying the world. If they are sparing someone because that person had previously shown them kindness, then this overlaps with Because You Were Nice to Me. If they believe the person or people they spare have some sort of Uniqueness Value, that's Sparing the Aces. If they deliberately spare someone to have the person suffer from guilt, that's Cruel Mercy. If the villain doesn't even feel the need to deal with the individual, they're Not Worth Killing.
An alternative reason for a villain to invoke this trope is to leave behind a witness to tell of their misdeed, intending for it to have a demoralizing effect on the villain's enemies.
Contrast I'll Kill You!
- For Baccano!'s Ladd Russo and Lua Klein, nothing says love like "I'll kill you last." Ladd also says something along those lines to Graham Spectre ("No, I won't...I like brazen and impudent guys that only I'm able kill"), at which point Graham starts fanboying him like nobody's business.
- The Big Bad of Fullmetal Alchemist didn't say anything until he'd already made his move, but once they're the only two left alive, he gives something along the lines of this trope to Van Hohenheim, "in gratitude for giving me life." Poor man had had no inkling Homunculus was evil until then, and they had even established in conversation that Hohenheim was basically his father. This might help explain his somewhat ambivalent attitude toward his second and third sons. After the first one goes all Omnicidal Maniac on you and turns you into an immortal monster...
- In Aura Battler Dunbine, when the bad guys arrive on Earth and announce their plan to conquer it, they say they will spare the city of Boston out of respect for one of their pilots who came from there.
- In Claymore, the freshly resurrected and awakened Hysteria says that she'll spare any Claymore who removes the sword from her neck. One steps up and does so, and she keeps her word, avoiding that Claymore while slaughtering the rest. Also a prime example of Even Evil Has Standards.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Nazi officer Stroheim goes to a group of Mexican prisoners and makes them choose which one of them will be sacrificed to the "man in the column". One boy stands up to offer himself to save the rest, and Stroheim is so impressed by his bravery that he chooses to spare him and kill the rest.
- In My Hero Academia, Stain the Hero Killer will spare a hero if said hero has proven themselves to be heroic, even if he has them at his mercy. So far, only Izuku has proven to match his standards of what being a hero is aside from All Might himself. This even extends to saving Izuku when a Nomu has grabbed Izuku and attempts to fly off with him.
- In Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks, when a terrified store clerk gives Android 18 beautiful clothes, she is genuinely grateful and says he won't die today. However, as she is walking away, Android 17 blows the store up and kills him. 18 becomes upset because 17 made a liar out of her.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: When Tanjiro calls Rui out on his messed-up and abusive ideas on what family means, Rui offers him the choice to either recant it and receive a quick, painless death like the swift and messy one he inflicted on a Red Shirt Demon Slayer moments previously, or stand by his words and meet a much slower and more painful one. Tanjiro being Tanjiro, he naturally refuses, kicking off one of the series' more famous big ol' shonen fights.
- The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman): In the opening Arc the new antagonists Abyss, Aleph and Ex Nihilo have captured an Avengers team and intend to "Evolve" the Earth. Thor blusters and says they will be stopped until Abyss offers to free hm so they can escape and make a pantheon togather. Thor laughs this off until an Epic Kiss, then he states this trope.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: Peter and Kitty Pryde hit the mall on their first date and joke about the modern miracle that is the corn-dog on a stick. Kitty quips that when the mutants take over the world, the inventor of the corn-dog will be spared. She has to explain she was kidding when Peter looks nervous. Little did they know...
- In one Usagi Yojimbo story, Jei, the Blade of the Gods, comes across a group of bandits robbing a peasant's hut. He slaughters them, and then turns his eyes towards the lone survivor of the bandits' raid - a girl called Keiko. Instead of killing her, he decides she's "innocent" and leaves. Keiko then decides to travel with her new "Uncle".
- In the Death Note fic A Cure for Love Light says the following to L without really thinking about what he said because killing people who annoy him has almost become an automatic response:
L: I'm not doing anything stupid, Light. Apart from speaking to you.Light: Good, because I would hate to kill you.
- In another Death Note fic Monster Light spares L insisting that they can rule together and later brings him back to life with the death eraser after Misa killed L in a jealous rage. Also Mello spares Aizawa in a Pet the Dog moment:
Light: You may report back now...is there anyone else in the car?Mello: Yeah.Light: Oh. Kill him. (Hangs up)
- In the Death Note fic To Feel Alive Ryuk says this to Light, promising that his death would be quick and painless—much to Light's annoyance.
Shouldn't he be grateful that he wasn't planning on giving him a painful, lingering death?
- This occurs in Heir (a Dark!Harry fic where Harry was raised by the horcrux in his head) when Harry and Tom are choosing victims to be petrified by the basilisk they are so impressed with the muggleborn Hermione Granger that they decide to spare her and move on to a new target.
- In Chapter 23 of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, a girl named Belladonna Tyrian raids the Gringy City Power Plant, and when she encounters two guards, she kills one, but the other pleads for his life because of his family. She knocks him out and leaves him stuffed in a closet with a message so he can be found.
- Sabrina has gained herself a reputation for killing challengers she deems as "unworthy", but she spares those who manage to impress her. This is partly because it helps attracting weak ones as they know there is a chance for survival.
- Though he never actually tells her as much, Cat R. Waul of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West intends to spare Tanya Mousekewitz after he and his gang kill and eat every other mouse in town, because of her singing voice. During the climax, she tricks him into thinking she's caught in his fatal trap, and he freaks out and stops his minions from continuing what they're doing because "You'll crush the diva!"
- Subverted with Kai in Kung Fu Panda 3, when Po is the only one to recognize Kai by his titles, Kai admits that it almost makes him want to spare the pandas life.
- In his first scene in Mulan, Shan Yu kills all but two of the Emperor's soldiers. The two survivors are directed to return to the Emperor with his message, and they run away in terror. He watches them, and smiles thoughtfully before asking his closest followers, "How many men does it take to deliver a message?" His archer replies, "One," and aims.
- The Patriot: After Colonel Tavington finds proof that Anne's village is helping Benjamin and his militia, he has the whole town rounded up and says they'll be "forgiven their treason" if they tell him where Benjamin is. One guy eventually caves, and Tavington burns the whole village alive anyway.
Villager: You said we'd be forgiven!
Tavington: And indeed you may! But that's between you and God.
- In the B-Movie Evil Alien Conquerors, said conquerors tell a normal human, when he helps them, that he will die painlessly. It's something of a Running Gag, to the point that he eventually waves them off with a parting "Die painlessly" to theirs.
- In Coneheads, this is what Mr. Conehead says to the woman who sabotages her driving exam in an attempt to start an affair with him. He won't sleep with her, but promises she'll be on the protected list once his people invade.
- Transformers Film Series:
- In the first film, Megatron makes the offer to Sam: "Give me the Allspark, and you may live to be my pet."
- Becomes a major plot point in the third film. Carly's boss Dylan, and some of his associates, are the descendants of humans who worked for NASA when the Ark was discovered on the moon. To ensure that no other human learned of this, Soundwave and Laserbeak forced NASA's employees to keep quiet about the discovery, lest they be killed off. Dylan turns out to be one of the few humans chosen to be spared after the Decepticons enslave humanity, possibly to work as a liaison between the 'Cons and the human slaves. It's also revealed that the various deaths in history related to NASA were Soundwave and Laserbeak getting rid of "loose ends."
- Subverted in Commando: Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tells Sully, a wise-cracking bad guy, that he'll kill him last. What's lost in Memetic Mutation, however, is that Matrix was clearly being sarcastic when he speaks the line.note Later, Sully gets the picture during a High-Altitude Interrogation:
Matrix: Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
Sully: That's right, Matrix! You did!
Matrix: I lied. (Drops Sully to his death.)
- Anti-Hero-ic version in Blade II. Blade gets information out of a Vampire Mook, saying, "Tell me what I want to know, and I'll consider you as a loose end." The Mook spills the beans, and Blade actually lets him get away, even when he runs into him again later on. Of course, at the very end, Blade catches up to the guy in a sleazy porn theater about three countries away: "Well, you didn't think I forgot about you did you? <Brain-stab>"
- In Doctor Zhivago, Yuri runs into the War Train of the brutal Bolshevik general Strelnikov, whom no one knows anything about. After questioning, he discovers that Strelnikov is actually his long-lost lover's Bishōnen ex-boyfriend, who was presumed dead and suffered a Heroic BSoD and now carries an evil scar. He informs Dr. Zhivago that Lara is still alive and has been spared the purge due to their past relationship. After leaving, the guards tell Yuri he must be blessed: no one is questioned by Strelnikov and lived to tell the tale.
- In Lord of Illusions, Nix confesses to Swann that his intent (unsurprisingly) is to "murder the world", but rather charitably offers to kill Swann last if he helps Nix with said murder.
Nix: Now you know I will kill you when we're done. I have to.
- In Billy Madison, after Billy apologizes to a guy he used to bully as a kid, said person marks him off his "People to Kill" list and saves his life in the ending.
- In Hellboy, Rasputin says "It will be quick" to Professor Bruttenholm right before he kills him. It appears to be true.
- During a flashback in Secondhand Lions, Hub has The Sheik, who has tried to kill him on several occasions, defenseless and at his mercy. He decides to spare him, and leaves him with this.
Hub: "I have held your life in my hands twice, and twice I have given it back to you. The third time, your life is mine."
- The Wizard of Oz has the "I'll kill you last" version.
Wicked Witch: The last to go will see the first three go before her.
- Imhotep makes this promise to Beni in The Mummy (1999).
- This happens between Zorg and Cornelius in The Fifth Element.
Jean Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg: You saved my life, and in return I'll spare yours... for now.
- The Chronicles of Riddick:
- In the 2004 The Chronicles of Riddick, the Lord Marshall promises Aereon that he might save her homeworld for last during the Necromonger purge across the cosmos if she gives him another prophecy on his odds to reach the Underverse. She promises him that he'll reach it pretty soon.
- At the end of the director's cut of the third Riddick movie, Riddick confronts Krone as he's praying in the Lord Marshal's private chambers, having taken up Riddick's former post after betraying Riddick and leaving him for dead. Riddick promises to kill Vaako first and Krone second if he tells him where he can find Vaako. Krone launches into a long-winded rant instead of answering him, prompting Riddick to kill him ahead of schedule.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar spares Rodney when the apes break out, putting him in a cell for his own protection.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: When Harvey provokes Butch into fighting him, he pointedly tells Sundance, "This doesn't concern you", because he doesn't want Sundance as an enemy, and right as he and Butch are getting ready to fight:
Harvey: Sundance? When we're done, if he's dead, you're welcome to stay.
Butch: Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but, uh, when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.
Sundance: Love to. (raises his hand to Harvey and smiles)
- In Ghostbusters (2016), Rowan, a one-man harbinger of the Apocalypse, as a form of deranged comfort, tells fellow blue-collar worker Patty that "menial workers like you and I will be among the last to go" when the cataclysm he is trying to unleash begins. He then caps it off with a sincere smile as he tells her to "treasure the extra time."
- In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the main vampire—though not exactly a villain—would say, every time he and Abraham Lincoln met, and he didn't kill him—or the vampire would save him—he'd ask why and the vampire would say "Some people are just too interesting to kill." Then in the end, when Abraham Lincoln died and the vampire brought him back as a vampire himself, he said, "Some people are just too interesting to let die."
- Discworld: In Wintersmith, the titular Anthropomorphic Personification offered to spare Tiffany and the Chalk (where she came from); the rest of the Disc would remain frozen forever.
- Fire & Blood: When Rhaenyra takes the crown back from her half-brother Aegon, she has all of Aegon's supporters imprisoned or killed. Dowager Queen Alicent, Aegon's mom, is imprisoned, even though she's still mouthing off about Rhaenyra's children. Rhaenyra makes clear this is only because her father loved Alicent.
- Gods and Warriors:
- During their final confrontation in Eye of the Falcon, Kreon offers to give Hylas a quick and painless death in exchange for the dagger of Koronos but promises to make it torturous if the boy refuses. Despite being badly outmatched against the grown warrior, Hylas refuses to give in.
- In the prologue of The Crocodile Tomb, Telamon tells the captive Userref that if he immediately reveals where he hid the dagger of Koronos, he'll be killed painlessly and buried with the proper Egyptian rites, but if he refuses, Alekto will torture the information out of him and he won't get a proper burial, dooming his spirit for eternity. Userref refuses and endures all the torture before he manages to commit suicide and deny the Crows what they want.
- Harry Potter:
- In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort tells Harry that if he surrenders, his death will be quick, and possibly painless.
"I would not know... I have never died."
- After bumping Lily and her family to the top of Voldemort's hit list, Severus Snape begged him to spare her (though not James, whom he hated, or Harry, who was Voldemort's primary target and had no chance of being spared), in part due to his unrequited love for her. It almost worked; Voldemort did offer Lily the chance to step aside, but since she insisted on protecting Harry, he ended up killing her anyway. When Dumbledore found out about this, he royally ripped Snape a new one for apparently thinking he could pull some manner of Comforting the Widow on Lily after being complicit in the deaths of her husband and child. On the other hand, the fact that she had a choice is what powered the protective magic which shielded Harry from Voldemort after her death - so in an indirect, unintentional way, Snape saved Harry's life.
- In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort tells Harry that if he surrenders, his death will be quick, and possibly painless.
- A rare heroic version in Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit Will Travel: just before Humanity on Trial, Kip is assured that he and Pee-wee will be allowed to live out their lives. Kip asks that they be returned to Earth if humanity loses, which may have been a factor in deciding to spare humanity for now — although they intend to re-evaluate later.
- Jason Wood: Inverted by Virigar the Werewolf King in Digital Knight, when he tells Jason Wood, "I'm minded to let you live for a while... So you will suffer all the more while everything you value is destroyed before your very eyes!"
- Bagheera does this in The Jungle Book. During the water peace (when he is not allowed to hunt) he absent-mindedly says he wishes he could eat grass. A young animal from one of his prey species quips: "So do we". Everybody laughs and Bagheera makes an effort to memorize this animal's appearance so he can remember not to eat the animal that made him laugh next time they meet.
- Ur-Example: In The Odyssey, when Odysseus gives his name to the Cyclops as "Nobody", the Cyclops says that he will eat "Nobody" last out of thanks for giving him the wine. (It may or may not have been the giant's sick idea of a joke.) This also doubles as a kick the dog moment to make him evil enough that the audience can enjoy him getting brutally blinded later. Capturing, enslaving and killing intruders wouldn't make him particularly bad in the eyes of Homer's audience (eating them is a bit over the top, though). Deliberately insulting the laws of Sacred Hospitality by expressly making this Odysseus' "guest gift" is sacrilege though, and that's a completely different matter.
- In the second season of 3rd Rock from the Sun when Evil Dick takes over and meets the students in Dick's physics class for the first time, he assesses several of their attributes. He tells Leon "You will be spared and made to carry heavy things."
- The first scene of the Blade: The Series pilot subverts the trope after Blade chases down a vampire in Russia and acquires some information from him at swordpoint.
Blade: You can go.
Vampire: You are kidding, yes?
Blade: Yes. (whack)
- Breaking Bad:
- In a flashback in "Hermanos", it's revealed that while Gus Fring's old partner Max was killed, Gus was spared from being killed by Don Eladio because Eladio knows who Gus really is.
- Having just killed Hank and Gomez, the Neo-Nazi crew of Uncle Jack Welker spares Walter and Jesse for very different reasons: Jesse, who they keep alive and enslave to cook meth for them; and Walt, who they leave with $11 million to disappear and keep the heat on him. It comes back to bite them since Walt does return to avenge Hank's death.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6: While drowning sorrows and bemoaning their (lack of) love lives together, Spike tells Anya that she's the only one he wouldn't bite if he didn't have his Restraining Bolt. He respects women who say exactly what's on their minds (even if they happen to be off their rocker like Drusilla).
- Doctor Who:
- "Boom Town": Discussed and deconstructed. The main villain, a surviving Slitheen from a previous episode, spares a nosy journalist despite her getting dangerously close to uncovering her evil plan because the journalist is pregnant. When the Doctor takes Margaret the Slitheen prisoner with the intent to send her back to her home planet so she can put on trial for her crimes, Margaret brings up her flash of mercy as a sign that she is capable of redemption. The Doctor coldly rebukes this as a typical example of a killer justifying themselves, but Margaret responds in equal measure that only a killer would know that. And in the end, while Margaret technically does take a last chance at redemption, she still proceeds to threaten the entire planet by ripping open a rift in spacetime.
- "The Waters of Mars": The Doctor meets a woman in 2059 whom he knows is critically important to history. She reveals that the reason she's in space is because she was spared by a Dalek during their invasion of Earth fifty years earlier. She never knew why, but the Doctor knows that it's because of her importance to the future; she's a "fixed point in time", and even the Daleks know better than to mess with those.
- "The Day of the Doctor" reveals this was actually forced on the Doctor during the Time War. When the War Doctor was contemplating using the Moment to destroy both the Time Lords and Daleks, it told him that his punishment would be that he would be the only one to survive it, forcing him to live with the guilt for eternity.
- Friends has this exchange from Phoebe: "When the revolution comes, I will have to destroy you all... except you, Joey."
- Because they had an unwitting hand in his genesis, a Big Bad tells the Lexx crew that they will be the last in the universe to die.
Mantrid: That will be my thank you.
- In Gotham, Fish Mooney does this to a few helpless victims she has strung up.
"You... and you, will die slow." *Points at Gordon* "You... It'll be quick." *Points at Bullock* "And you... We're cool."
- In the Haven episode "Speak No Evil", Mara tricks Vickie into helping her open a portal to another dimension. Mara says as thanks, she will spare her life once she gets what she needs, comes back, and basically conquers the world. When the portal closes before she can pass through, Mara angrily shoots Vickie with a taser, but doesn't kill her.
- Heroes has Sylar informing Mohinder, "I wasn't begging for my life... I was offering you yours."
- The show inverts the "I'll kill you last" variety. Said by Ethan to Charlie, this is a threat: Charlie will see all his friends die before he's killed.
- "What They Died For" plays it straight with the Man in Black offering to spare Penny if Widmore tells him what he needs to know.
- In the Season 2 finale of The Mentalist, series Big Bad Red John kills two college kids who were making a slasher film based on his work, but spares the life of a third kid who they forced to help them by kidnapping and threatening his mother.
- In Person of Interest, Root tells her psychiatrist she's deciding whether or not to kill him. She ultimately decides to spare him, thus playing the trope straight.
- On Supernatural, the demons assisting Lucifer will be killed as soon as Lucifer is finished with the humans and angels if not sooner. Any demon caught assisting Team Free Will will be granted immortality instead.
- Young Dracula: Ingrid tells her therapist this after the therapist helps her get past her Villainous BSoD. The therapist believes that her ability to make such jokes is a good sign.
- Another Older Than Feudalism heroic one is in The Bible—Rahab is told that she and her family will be spared after hiding the Hebrew spies from the soldiers of Jericho, but only if they were in Rahab's dwelling at the time of the attack.
- According to Jewish tradition, the only two Egyptian firstborn who didn't die in the final plague were Pharaoh (because God already had other plans for him) and Batya, the princess who raised Moses and thus earned God's favor.
- When the Israelites were about to conquer the Promised Land, ten of their spies said that it would be impossible, despite having God on their side; the people crossed the Despair Event Horizon and Raged Against the Heavens. God was so angry that He declared that forty years would pass before they could enter the land, and in that time, every man over the age of 20 would die. The only exceptions were Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who had gone against the majority and kept their faith in God's power.
- How Alquist ended up as the last human in R.U.R.. In the world of the play, robots did all the manual labor, but Alquist started building walls as a hobby. After the robots took over the factory where he worked, he was dragged before the one in charge, the usually human-hating Radius, who took one look at him and told the other robots to leave him be because 'he works with his hands like a robot'.
- Soul Nomad & the World Eaters has Omnicidal Maniac Gig, who mentions if he gets control over the hero's body he will destroy everything, "except maybe those hotpods. Those are good. I'll keep those."
- Saren attempts to invoke this in Mass Effect by making organics useful to the Big Bad. Even though the whole point of what they were trying to do was to kill them all. Saren was brainwashed into thinking he could actually have a few organics be spared so the next evolution of species/their own would be able to recover much faster. Then again, who would think that as the races of the galaxy would have a heads up?
- In Mass Effect 2, we learn that a certain amount of people would be spared. But they probably will wish they hadn't.
- In Mass Effect 3 we learned that only the most advanced races are wiped out in each Cycle. During the Prothean's Cycle for example, the ancestors of the present day races were spared. The Reaper Cycle is actually a rather warped attempt to preserve organic life in the galaxy by periodically hitting a Reset Button on civilization to prevent an all out Robot War that would completely wipe out life. This leads to the Reapers' downfall, since the people of each Cycle worked on the Crucible, the weapon that ultimately defeats them.
- This is one of the taunts in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. The exact wording depends on the faction, ranging from "I promise amnesty for you and your troops" for the Americans, to "Surrender now and I'll kill you quickly" for the Cubans.
- Inverted in Star Control II; if you surrender to the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, they will tell you that all of your crew will be spared, but your main character will be executed.
- Axenos from Wizard101 inverts this trope by combining it with Mercy Kill. Since the player (accidentally) releases him, he thanks them and promises to kill the first so they would be spared from witnessing the horrors he'd bring about on the Spiral.
- Weapon Lord has an interesting integration of this on the Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration, as sparing an opponent instead of killing them in Story mode will force you to fight them again before fighting Zarak. Sparing certain people can also net you a different Story Ending.
- Jen-Tai has been known to spare her opponents in order to let them learn from their mistakes and challenge her again.
- In MouseHunt's "Great Winter Hunt 2012", the player assists an embittered mouse and receives a note of thanks, including the line "When we mice finally overthrow your world and become the rightful rulers, I will be sure to make sure the other mice treat you well."
- Right before the Final Battle of EarthBound Beginnings, Giygas offers to spare Ninten, and only Ninten, and take him back to Giygas' world out of lingering sentimentality for Ninten's great-grandmother Maria, who was Giygas' Parental Substitute when he was a baby. Ninten of course refuses, and the battle commences.
- At the conclusion of Sleeping Dogs's main story, the new Sun On Yee Dragon Head "Broken Nose" Jiang informs her advisor that the protagonist Wei Shen is to be spared despite having been an undercover cop who'd infiltrated his way to "Red Pole" -- and thus one of her peers, since while he had abetted Sonny Wo's arrest he also had defended her and his own gang when rival triads attacked, and in decimating Henry "Big Smile" Lee's gang and killing him Wei had cleared the way for her own ascension.
- Galactic Civilizations: Implied as part of the deal between the Korath Clan and the Dread Lords; if the Korath Clan help the Dread Lords kill everybody, they will be allowed to continue to live. Whether the Dread Lords have any intention of letting the Korath live afterward, or they plan to betray them, is an open-ended question.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: In the Shadow of Revan expansion, Emperor Vitiate makes this promise to the Sith Warrior, letting you know in no uncertain terms that when his time comes, you will be forced to watch the entire galaxy die for your betrayal.
- In Quan Chi's ending in Mortal Kombat 4, this is his "reward" for helping Shinnok. He does not take it well and challenges the fallen elder god. He actually WINS.
Shinnok: As payment for your loyal services, Quan Chi, I grant you the gift of your existence.
Quan Chi: My existence?
Shinnok: Understand, sorcerer, I consume all energies, including the life forces of all that live. But I shall spare you.
- Genshin Impact: In Fischl's line for reaching the maximum level range (81-90), she assures the Traveler that they'll be spared during her future conquest of Teyvat:
Fischl: I appear to have now regained most of the strength I lost in my transition to this world. Mwuhahaha, the day of judgment is nigh! ...Ah, worry not. Even at the last, when I bring the lightning of retribution upon this world, you shall come to no harm, for thou art blessed by the Prinzessin.
- The Big Bad of Detectives United: Deadly Debt invokes the 'kill you last' version in the bonus chapter. Because James, the youngest of the three detectives, was the one who actually killed her in the main game, the Vengeful Ghost informs him that "I'll save you for last" so he can watch his two close friends be killed first.
- In PvP, after horrifying him by Storyboarding the Apocalypse, Scratch reassures a quivering Skull that his death will be painless.
- VG Cats plays with this here with The Church of the One-Winged Angel of Latter-Day Summons.
"So if I join, I'll be saved?""Oh no, you'll still die... but faster."
- Dominic Deegan uses this when Snow Song is thinking about how she'll destroy the town while sitting down to eat in a restaurant, but then the waitress gives her some chocolate cake on the house:
Snow Song: None of these drones will be spared... Except for her.
- In 8-Bit Theater:
- Sarda shows mercy to the Affably Evil Dark Warriors:
"Look, I don't do this... uh, ever. But you guys are basically like kittens stuck on a leaking lifeboat in a typhoon. Just run."
- Also, upon stumbling upon the Dark Warriors trying to steal the Cosmic Keystones to defeat him and gain ultimate power, Sarda asks them if they even know how to use them. Bikke tosses his keystone at Sarda, becoming the first person in the series to land any sort of hit on him:
"You're a quick thinker and spiteful. I can respect that. You won't be killed, Bikke."
- Sarda shows mercy to the Affably Evil Dark Warriors:
- Cuanta Vida: "You're a crazy bastard, yes? You, I like. I'll kill you last." Though considering the speaker's modus operandi, this is probably of no consolation to the guy who really doesn't like seeing his friends killed.
- Girl Genius:
Gil, to Tarvek: "I am Gilgamesh Wulfenbach - heir to the Empire and defender of the Pax Transylvaniana - and I will crush this whole Knights of Jove/Storm King mess of yours. Ooh, don't worry - I'll let you escape. You can go skulking around with your little plans - after all, I'll always need someone to take the blame."
- Castle Heterodyne eventually uses the "I like you, so I will kill you quickly" line on Professor Tiktoffen, while crushing him to death.
- Gil also uses a variant of this ("After this is over, you will be promoted") this to the one person who doesn't believe he's who he says he is just because of his hat.
- A posthumous variant is employed in Sam & Fuzzy, in which Mr. Blank states that he made Mr. Black's death as quick and painless as possible because the person in question "had earned it"... But the person he's talking to is not going to be in for the same treatment.
- Homestuck: Eridan wants to kill all the land dwwellers he admits he won't kill Kanaya. Of course when he snaps the only land dweller he kills is Kanaya by blowing a hole through her stomach with a "science wand" she made him.
CA: im not goin to vvery wwell kill you am i that wwould be fuckin unconscionableCA: wwhat kind of friend wwould i be
- The Disciple was also spared during The Sufferer's execution- she was supposed to die, but the Executioner couldn't bring himself to kill her.
- The "less painful death" variant is how Caliborn says he feels about Dirk. He's not lying, but at the same time, he wants to be bros with him too.
uu: THE DEATH I WISH ON HIM DOESN'T HAVE TO BE ESPECIALLY PAINFUL. IT COULD BE LIKE. GOING TO SLEEP. WITH MAYBE ONLY A SHORT SCREAM.
- Amical, the friendly villain of morphe is very fond of picking favorites and giving them favor in life or death situations. In the first chapter he recognizes a celebrity in a fight to the death and breaks the rules to help him win by shooting the other contestant in the back. Later the plot focuses on his use of this trope to select which of his pupils will have to die before his next big party.
- Rule 68 of the Evil Overlord List: "I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again."
- Marik Ishtar from Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series has to following evil monologue:
With his help I shall defeat you and then conquer the world! Ah-hahaha! Oh hey look a bird! Isn't it just the cutest little guy— I mean no! In my new world all birds will be enslaved! Especially this one! And he shall be named Mr. Tweetums, because it is very evil! Ah-hahaha! Now be gone Mr. Tweetums. I am trying to stalk my nemesis.
- He also likes Joey, who will be killed last. Evil Bakura quotes the Commando exchange with Pegasus.
- Ask That Guy with the Glasses:
The Narrator: Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?
Ask That Guy: You are very funny. That is why I am going to kill you last.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: In Episode 60, Cell combines this with Stealth Insult to Goku when he threatens to murder each of the Z Fighters to get Gohan to snap:
Piccolo: I mean, if you're just gonna say it...Goku: I don't get it...
- SCP Foundation: Under the "Broken Masquerade"note section of the Tales heading, a little boy writes a letter to 682 asking it all sorts of questions about its powers, and claiming that 682 is his "hero". 682 actually responds, harshly at first, and then with this trope:
- This line from Dr. Robotnik in an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog...
"Perhaps due to your change of heart, I'll exterminate you somewhat painlessly..."
- Family Guy:
- Stewie has said this to Peter ("Your death shall be quick and painless") when he turned off the mind-numbing Teletubbies show, and again to Flappy ("Good news! I've decided not to kill you!") to let him know that his pancakes were satisfactory.
- In "Petarded", Peter says, "When we retarded guys take over, you will beg for mercy, and we will consider it."
- Filmation's Ghostbusters: Two kids unwittingly release a ghost bent on revenge against the family of one of them. He spares the kid as thanks.
- Futurama: Bender has said he might spare Fry when he kills all humans.
- At Fry's funeral (don't worry, he gets better):
- As of "Lethal Inspection", Hermes has been added to the list of humans to not kill.
- Robot Santa proclaimed his intention to kill the entire Planet Express team... except Zoidberg, who hadn't been naughty and got a pogo stick instead.
- The Justice League Unlimited finale episodes "Alive" and "Destroyer" offer Darkseid's take:
- After being brought back to life by Luthor:
"It seems I have you to thank for my resurrection. Though your world will suffer slowly, I grant you a quick death." *BOOM*
- During the final showdown with Superman:
You impress me, Kryptonian. More, your valor has touched my heart. Oh yes, there is still some small part of me that knows mercy. I will end your pain... with something special I've been saving for just this occasion. (Darkseid draws a Kryptonite knife) I'm going to carve out your heart and put it on a pike in my throne room.
- After being brought back to life by Luthor:
- In the fourth episode of The Legend of Korra, Amon ambushes Korra and has a golden opportunity to take her bending away, but doesn't take it because that would make her a martyr. Instead he gives a Breaking Speech explaining that he'll save her for last.
- Star Wars: Rebels: In "Zero Hour", The Mole, Kallus, is unmasked, and subsequently held hostage by Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn says he won't stop until the last rebel falls, so it's an implied "I'm saving you for last" Kallus will definitely be the last. However, this winds up giving Kallus all the time he needs to plan his escape, and when he gets the chance to escape he takes it, so he survives anyway.
- In Castlevania (2017), Retired Monster Dracula fell in love with and married a human woman named Lisa, teaching her medical science before Walking the Earth at her request to better understand humanity. When he returned, he found their house burned to the ground and an elderly woman, a patient of his wife, who told Dracula that the Church took Lisa and had her burned at the stake for believing her scientific knowledge to be witchcraft. Lisa was kind to her old neighbor, so she chose to pay respects to her memory rather than attend the burning. In what Dracula calls his "last kindness", he warns the old woman to take her family and flee Wallachia before he makes his preparations to Kill All Humans therein.
- This is supposedly one of the reasons to worship Cthulhu. Upon his rising, cultists will be devoured first, sparing them what happens next.
- Seen on 4chan: "youfunnyguyikillyoulast.jpg"
- On I Can Has Cheezburger?: A promise made by a cute little tiger cub.
- Red vs. Blue, Big Bad Omnicidal Maniac Omega discussing his plans to conquer the universe with Mission Control Vic.
"Then, the universe will be mine, and I'll CRUSH EVERY LIVING SOUL INTO DUST!!.... Um... except for you, Vic. You can be assistant crusher."
- In The Onion's "Our Dumb Century", this is the Nazis' response when (as the headline says) Non-white Japan allies with White Supremacist Nazi Germany in Well-Thought Out Scheme.
- Dane Cook has a stand-up act about befriending the creepy loner in your office so that this happens when he inevitably snaps and goes on a rampage with a shotgun.
- On Atop the Fourth Wall, because he defeated someone who was a nuisance to it, the Entity does save Linkara for last and lets him run and hide after it absorbs everyone else - but it's waiting when he comes back out.
- In Noob, the hacker that is trying to get people to stop playing MMORPG says he'll leave the main guild alone due to them indirectly helping him with all the disasters they cause or a negotiated immunity from his business partner among them depending on the media. Another implied reason is the frequent Go-Karting with Bowser.
- Near the end of browser game Demon Thesis, Eldritch Abomination Mesmerus begins crossing over from his dimension to our world thanks in large part to the main characters being his Unwitting Pawns and states that the main characters will be killed quickly and at the same time, as that seems the most humane thing to do and he owes them that much for inadvertently helping him as they have.
- The author of A Hundred Little Hitlers (about Neo-Nazis), who is Jewish, apparently impressed one Neo-Nazi so much that he told her when he annihilated all the Jews, he'd spare her.
- We can one-up that one with the story of Ernest Hess, a Jewish former soldier in Nazi Germany, who was spared from all persecution, harassment and even death by his former military subordinate... Adolf Hitler. Yes. You read that right.
- Add to that the physician who looked after Hitler's mother, and who also happened to be Jewish. Hitler, who adored his mother, granted him special protection out of gratitude for his work.
- Nazi Germany was, in some sense, full of this trope. Many high ranking Nazi party officials, military officers, and government bureaucrats had friends and relatives who were Jewish or, more often, had recent Jewish ancestry, and in fact, quite a few had recent Jewish ancestry themselves. An entire legal process was created (described in detail in the book Hitler's Jewish Soldiers by Bryan Mark Riggs) whereby such people might apply for legal exceptions that spared them persecution—at least for the time being. Some high ranking Nazi leaders on trial at Nuremberg even used the help they had given their friends in securing these exemptions in an attempt to demonstrate that they were not hardcore Nazis. For example, Goering talked about how he helped his friend General Erhard Milch, whose father was Jewish, stay in "his" Luftwaffe (incidentally, Milch was himself on trial for war crimes at Nuremberg). Doenitz used the help he had given Captain Bernhard Rogge (who would become famous for his humane and honorable conduct as the captain of the German raider Atlantis) who had a Jewish grandfather, as his defense. According to Riggs, several hundred thousand such exemptions were granted throughout the Nazi era.
- Riggs notes that the degree of protection granted by these exemptions varied. At the end of the war, Milch was a field marshal and Rogge was an admiral. But many who had received the legal exemptions were still dismissed from their positions of prestige and a large number, despite some being highly decorated combat veterans, were conscripted into undignified labor units (Organization Todt) doing menial work.
- This trope most likely lay at the heart of the cynical German-Japanese military alliance during World War II from at least the Nazis' perspective (but possibly the Japanese as well). A paranoid, virulently racist, white supremacist country decides to team up against other enemies with a nation they probably deem subhuman when it gets down to it. This article from Our Dumb Century puts it best.
- Ironically enough, Imperial Japan had notions of racial purity and superior bloodlines which, if not as consuming as that of the Nazis, was a significant part of their cultural ideology. Basically, both countries were willing to make a deal with what they considered an inferior race for the sake of gaining power over their enemies.
- Also it was a lot less of an alliance than often shown, and more a vague "We are fighting roughly the same enemies and currently have no conflicting interests so let's help each other out a bit" deal. Japan had a non aggression pact with Russia, which allowed Russia to resist the Germans much easier, while Germany was happily aiding China in its struggle against Japan.
- Hitler also made offers of this kind to the UK during the early phase of the war, generally along the lines of "Britannia can rule the waves and Germania the earth." This seemed natural to Hitler, who was mystified as to why the UK wouldn't want to purge itself of the impure and unite with him against the "Jewish Bolsheviks". The UK ignored the offers (they didn't even acknowledge they had received them), which is essentially a diplomatic way of saying, "f*** off."
- There was a persistent Urban Legend floating around in the British media in the wake of the July 2007 suicide bombings in London about a woman stopping to assist a gentleman of Middle Eastern extraction with some problem or other -a lost contact lens, directions, whatever- and being told "don't take the tube on $DATE". If this exchange ever took place in any form outside someone's especially vivid imagination, it was a subversion; none of the quoted dates ever seem to match up to a known terrorist plot, successful or otherwise, and the person dispensing this advice was almost certainly taking the piss.
- A similar urban legend in the US involves someone doing something nice for a Muslim or Middle Eastern person, and being warned not to drink [insert brand of soda here] after a certain date. The story always has a strong implication of "because it'll be poisoned", but so far, there have been no mass poisonings via Coke or Pepsi.
- One of the reasons Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot to blow up the parliament failed was that many of the plotters had friends in Parliament and wanted to warn them not to go.
- As recounted by David Cullen, immediately before the Columbine High School massacre began, this happened:
Brooks Brown walked out for a cigarette and spotted Eric [Harris] parking in the wrong lot. Brooks charged up to confront him about the test [he had missed earlier that day]; by the time he got there, Eric had stepped out and was pulling out a big hulking duffel bag. "What's the matter with you?" Brooks yelled. "We had a test in psychology!" Eric was calm but insistent. "It doesn't matter anymore," he said. "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home."
- Brooks Brown wouldn't be the only person spared by the two shooters. While potentially dozens of people the shooters saw that day were not fired upon for reasons unknown, two people they encountered that day were explicitly spared from death or injury. The first was John Savage, who was instructed by Dylan Klebold to leave the school during the shooting; the other was Evan Todd, whom Dylan Klebold intimidated and taunted, but did not shoot.
- During the Umpqua college shooting, the gunman selected one person to deliver his manifesto to the police, sparing them from gunfire.
- Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof chose not to shoot one of the people in the building in order to have a witness to the attack explain what happened to the police.
- In the Siege of Baghdad in 1258, Hulagu Khan decimated the city and slaughtered the inhabitants . But the Christian populace was spared due to his wifes urgings as she was also Christian.