Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Sparing the Aces

Go To

Basic Trope: A person who is brilliant in some way is spared due to the intrinsic value of their brilliance.

  • Straight: Alice is an unparalleled genius in numerous fields including science, math, and military strategy. However, she serves the Big Bad. Bob slays the Big Bad and has the opportunity to kill Alice as well. Bob would be fully justified in doing so due to her association with the Big Bad. However, Bob decides against killing Alice because someone so brilliant has intrinsic value, and he doesn't want to deprive the world of it.
  • Advertisement:
  • Exaggerated: Alice is literally the most brilliant person who has ever lived, and she is spared despite the horrific nature of her actions.
  • Downplayed: Alice is a person of notable intelligence, and her actions aren't really that bad.
  • Justified: Bob very much wants to kill Alice, but she is the only person brilliant enough to resolve a different crisis, so she is spared.
  • Inverted: Alice is a completely inept moron, so Bob spares her out of pity.
  • Subverted: Bob spares Alice due to her brilliance, which Bob's allies accept. However, Bob then kills Alice in secret later on, deciding that her brilliance shouldn't save her from the punishment for her crimes.
  • Advertisement:
  • Double Subverted: Bob spares Alice due to her brilliance in order to appease his allies. Bob plans to kill Alice later in secret, but because she is so brilliant, she sees it coming and escapes.
  • Parodied: This conversation:
    Bob: As punishment for your crimes, I'm going to execute you right here and now...
    Alice: But I'm a genius! You wouldn't deprive the world of my brilliance, would you?
    Bob: Being the world's greatest shuffleboard player doesn't qualify you as a 'genius', Alice...
  • Zig-Zagged: Bob spares Alice due to her brilliance...But it turns out Alice was manipulating him from the start using said brilliance. It's left ambiguous whether this was a choice on Bob part, or if it isn't entirely his decision...
  • Averted: Bob recognizes Alice's brilliance, but kills her anyway as punishment for her crimes.
  • Advertisement:
  • Enforced: The work is a prequel, and the audience knows that Alice is still alive in chronologically later works. Therefor Bob has to spare Alice.
  • Lampshaded: "You may sooner destroy a priceless stained glass window than a genius of this caliber, but I'd like to point out she was trying to kill you no more than five minutes earlier, Bob!"
  • Invoked: Bob's superiors tell him that Alice is so brilliant, that she must be taken alive at all costs.
  • Exploited: Bob kills the Big Bad and appears to spare Alice due to her brilliance, which Bob's allies accept. However, Bob is The Mole and made a plan with Alice to kill the Big Bad so she could usurp his position. They couldn't pull it off on their own, so they got Bob's allies to help out unknowingly.
  • Defied: Bob is expected to spare Alice due to her brilliance, but when they get to her, Bob kills her anyway, on principle
  • Discussed: Bob outright tells Alice that he is only sparing her because she is so brilliant.
  • Conversed: This conversation:
    Bob's Ally: Maybe we should take Alice alive. I know what she has done is horrible, but there are only so many people that brilliant in the world.
    Bob: You're fine. Fine, we take her alive at all costs.
  • Deconstructed: Sparing someone who is a) that smart and b) not on your side does not end well for Bob. Alice inevitably escapes the Cardboard Prison and sets about destroying Bob's life in retaliation.
  • Reconstructed: Alice's deeds were awful, but she is ultimately a Punch-Clock Villain with no interest in revenge. As such, it's to Bob's advantage to spare her so they can recruit her help later, even if she's far from reformed or loyal.
  • Played For Drama: Bob thinks that Sparing the Aces is reasonable, but his allies disagree, resulting in a rift between them when Alice inevitably escapes again.

Back to Sparing the Aces.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: