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Basic Trope: After fighting his way to the final villain, the hero lets the villain go to avoid the guilt of killing him.

  • Straight: After Keith, a crime ring boss, killed several people, Officer Bob fights his way to Keith. When Bob has Keith at his mercy, he lets Keith go, after Alice, his girlfriend, begs Bob not to "sink to Keith's level".
  • Exaggerated: Keith is a brutal dictator who has personally tortured, enslaved, and massacred millions of innocent people, and Bob lets him go after Keith merely says "I'm sorry, I can change."
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  • Downplayed: Bob chooses not to hit Keith after Keith hits him, feeling this would lower him to Keith's level.
  • Justified:
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
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    • Keith tries to guilt Bob into not executing him, but Bob pulls the trigger with absolutely no hesitation before the bad guy could even finish his speech, and Alice can only watch in stunned horror as her friend calmly wipes Keith's brains off his gun the same way he cleans his dishes. For Alice, this marks the moment Bob has crossed the Moral Event Horizon. But for Bob, his murder of Keith means nothing to him.
    • Alice begs Bob not to sink to Keith's level... By torturing and killing him.
    • Alice tells Bob not to kill him, even though he could never stoop as low as him. This guy has feelings and it would be bad, though not as bad as what he had done.
    • (smiling, holding several Noodle Implements) "Oh, I won't kill him. There are better things to do to him..."
    • Bob decides to Make It Look Like an Accident after careful consideration of how to make it plausible. As a result, it can only be speculated that Bob had anything to do with it.
    • Alice begs Bob not to kill Keith to avoid sinking to his level. Mid-speech, Keith interrupts her speech to Bob by mocking her idealistic stance, to which she responds with "...Nevermind, go ahead and kill him."
    • Alice's speech was merely to distract Bob so she could kill Keith herself.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Alice corrects herself: Torturing or killing.
    • When he refuses to hurt him, she says that she is proud of him, and that she didn't want to frighten him, but that he would have gotten just as bad as him.
    • Bob thinks about it, realizing that inflicting inhumane torture on any sentient being, even Keith, is something that will haunt his conscience forever, deciding not to go through with it.
    • After pondering about the "indirect murder" plan for some time, Bob drops it, deeming it dishonest and dishonorable.
    • Bob calls Alice out for making an idealistic speech only to back out the moment her Pride was harmed, and spares Keith out of spite.
    • However, after getting the chance to kill Keith, Alice also gives it up.
  • Parodied:
  • Zig Zagged:
    Alice: "Bob, don't kill him. Don't sink to his level! I don't think you can live with his blood on your hands!"
    Bob: "Okay... hey! Wait a minute! I just butchered my way through 500 of his minions to get to him! What's one more life to me now?
    Keith: "Bob, forgive me! I know nothing I say or do could give you your dead sister back, but I am truly, truly sorry."
    Bob: "OK!" (turns to leave)
    Keith: "Fool..." (Offhand Backhand) "*Hurk... bleagh*"
    Bob: "Oopsie... Bloody reflexes." (smug look)
  • Averted: Bob shoots Keith without hesitating, as he has unconventional ethics when it comes to dealing with bad guys.
  • Enforced:
  • Lampshaded: "Are you really comparing me to Keith after what he's done?"
  • Invoked: "What will make you any better than me if you kill me? We're Not So Different, when you think about it."
  • Exploited: Keith realizes that no matter what he does, Bob won't lay a finger on him. He seizes the opportunity to perform evil while Bob is on duty, as to not be interrupted and to watch smugly Bob helplessly staring at him.
  • Defied:
  • Discussed:
    • "If you have a chance to kill Keith, would it be right?"
    • "Wait, you're going to fight your way to Keith and then just let him go?"
  • Conversed: "Eeeh, I'm long since fed up with how one hero goes rantin' about "don't kill him or you gonna be like him" on the other hero. It's so annoying! If I were Bob, I'd just kill the bastard already!"
  • Deconstructed:
    • Keith continues his reign of terror, and when Bob and Alice return home, instead of being welcomed as heroes, they are demonized, condemned, spat upon, called disgusting words, and later are tried and executed for dereliction of duty and extreme negligence.
    • Bob let Keith go. Unfortunately, Keith was beyond redemption and the only way to prevent him from doing evil again was killing him. So he continues wreaking havoc upon the town & some people blame Bob because he didn't kill him when he had the chance even though he just wanted to avoid being evil in his own eyes. Zach scoffs at Bob for proving that traditional heroes are stupid, and Alice for her beliefs holding Bob back. He goes on to kill Keith himself, earning the credit for finally ending the latter's reign of terror.
    • Alice has a very strict standard of how people are the best and is not informed or has even seen the crimes that Keith had committed. To her, the lives that Keith had taken pale in comparison to Bob ridding the world of a criminal. It's only when he is spared and ends up killing someone close to Alice (or even Alice herself) does she realize that she had screwed up big time.
  • Reconstructed:
  • Played For Laughs: Keith offs himself during Alice's speech simply to avoid hearing her idealism.
  • Played For Drama:
    • Bob most definitely does not want to spare Keith after seeing the horrors the latter did to him, but Alice still outright forces him to let Keith escape alive against Bob's will. The audience is shown the deep negative effect this has on Bob.
    • After being defeated, Keith seemingly appears to deeply regret his actions, but he has already long crossed the Moral Event Horizon for many and his actions are unforgivable for many. Bob knows this, and does not know what to do. Alice tells him that everyone should be given a chance to redeem themselves and says they should spare Keith. Zach says he's seen many other bad guys pretend they deeply regret what they did only to stab forgiving heroes in the back and return to their usual lifes of crime, and even if Keith was some exception - which Zach heavily doubts - his actions are irreversible and too great to ignore, to which he tells Bob he should end Keith's miserable life. Amidst the two conflicting stances, Bob is pressured and helpless on what to do.

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