Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Shoot the Dog

Go To

Basic Trope: The Hero performs a morally reprehensible act because it's the most logical/merciful/convenient/"decent" thing to do.

  • Straight: The easiest way to activate the MacGuffin is by taking a life. Bob uses an innocent dog to do so.
  • Exaggerated: The MacGuffin requires a massive number of sacrifices to be used. Bob kills hundreds of dogs to do so.
  • Downplayed:
    • The sacrifice to activate the MacGuffin is a small amount of blood. Bob grazes the dog with his gun to get the blood.
    • Advertisement:
    • Bob has been Walking the Earth peacefully, but when he gets involved in a conflict, he shoos the dog because he doesn't have time to take care of it and it could get in danger hanging around with him.
  • Justified:
    • There is no other way to activate the Macguffin than by shooting a dog.
    • The dog is the only one who they can stand to lose at that moment - losing human members would end badly for the group as a whole.
    • It's a Mercy Kill -not shooting the dog would be worse.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted: Bob prepares to shoot the dog, but Alice stops him at the last minute, and convinces him to activate it some other way.
  • Double Subverted: ...Then Bob shoots the dog anyway, when he finds he's running out of time.
  • Parodied:
  • Zig Zagged: Bob seemingly shoots the dog. Then it turns out it's just playing dead. But actually he meant to shoot it, he just missed. He tries again, but it survives. The reason it survived is that it's a zombie, so Bob eventually resorts to Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain. Then it turns out that doesn't even work on this kind of zombie...
  • Averted: Bob doesn't shoot the dog.
  • Enforced: The writers need to show that things have become extremely serious, so they have Bob need to shoot the dog to continue his quest.
  • Advertisement:
  • Lampshaded: "We're going to have to shoot poor Fido now, aren't we?"
  • Invoked: The Big Bad sets up a situation where the only way out is to shoot an innocent puppy.
  • Exploited: The Big Bad uses a video of Bob shooting the dog to break public support for him.
  • Defied:
    • Bob takes steps to keep from having to shoot any dogs.
    • Jim, the Implacable Man owner of the dog, gets in Bob's face and growls: "If you ever so much as carry a weapon around that dog, or if you ever shoot any damned dogs EVER, I'm gonna do things to you that would make John Wick go all "whoa, dude, it was just a dog, CHILL!!!", do you understand me?" Bob decides to check if the sacrifice can be done with something else — like a whole lot of ketchup.
  • Discussed: "Just watch, we're going to have to shoot a dog or something."
  • Conversed: "They're shooting a dog? Are you serious?"
  • Deconstructed:
  • Reconstructed:
    • Bob's shooting of the dog makes him a pariah, until everyone learns exactly why it was necessary to do so.
    • But the alternative would cost even more lives.
  • Played For Drama: Bob is forced to kill his only companion from all these years, to ensure millions don't die.
  • Played For Laughs: The act Bob must do is a Felony Misdemeanor like allowing his dog to piss his bathroom. It still carries all of the gravitas of a man weighting whether or not to allow a dozen men to die to save a billion.
  • Played For Horror: Bob's decision to shoot a dog is his first step to becoming a totalitarian sociopath.

Back to Shoot the Dog

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: