- 24: Season 1 example: One of the girls kidnapped by a sub-villain as part of a plan that's waaay too complicated to describe here gets away and is hit by a car, so only Kimberly is taken instead. Said sub-villain says he killed the other girl, but his boss already knew that she'd been taken to a hospital. He takes a page straight from the Darth Vader book of villainy:Dan: [stammers] Well, the thing is that... maybe she wasn't quite dead.
Ira: Well, I'll tell ya, Dan. You're either dead or you're not dead. There's no such thing as "sorta dead". Here, let me show you. [shoots him on the spot, turns to other, more sympathetic underling] You've just been promoted. Congratulations.
- Used this as well. Wolfram and Hart was notorious for it, though they rarely did it onscreen. There was also the vampire Knox (not to be confused with Knox the W & H employee of Season 5), who killed one of his best minions, who had been with the gang for 75 years, to prove a point about them getting soft.
- Played with / Inverted Trope when Linwood Murrow finds out about Lilah's affair with good guy Wesley. It seems like he might try to pull this in the middle of a board meeting...until Lilah mentions that she contacted one of the Senior Partners, who agreed with her that Murrow himself was doing a terrible job dealing with Angel.Murrow: Are you actually telling me that you went over my head?
[Razor blades pop out of his chair, decapitating him]
Lilah: Just under it, actually.
- When Brother Blood almost has his identity exposed by Team Arrow halfway through Season 2, his benefactor Slade Wilson kills several of his associates as punishment for his clumsiness, and warns him that if it happens again, Slade will kill him.
- Damien Darhk has a habit of killing anyone who fails (or even disagrees with) him using his magic. At one point, one of his lieutenants expresses doubt over Darhk's wife's ability to win the mayoral election, while in a tele-conference, thinking he's safe from Darhk's reprisal. He's wrong. So, after Darhk's source of power is destroyed by the Vixen, he finds himself in jail with most of his underlings happy to let him rot there. And when Darhk's powers are restored, he takes his revenge by killing all his associates and taking full control of HIVE.
- Blindspot: In "Authentic Flirt", one of Rich Dotcom's security guards gets his ID card stolen by the heroes. When Rich finds out, he shoots him.
- Breaking Bad: "Box Cutter" has Gus Fring doing this to Victor. Take a wild guess as to what he uses to carry out the deed.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Offering their life in penance" was something The Master demanded. One of the worst examples was when he told the Three to kill Buffy because she was killing too many of his servants, and they almost did, easily overpowering her. Angel showed up and helped her run away. As opposed to telling them to get back out there and try again and keep an eye out for Angel this time, The Master double-subverted this trope:The Master: True, they did fail, but also true, we who walk at night share a common bond. The taking of a life — I'm not talking about humans, of course — is a serious matter.
Collin: So you would spare them?
Master: Hmm. I am weary, and their deaths will bring me little joy.
[motions to Darla, who stabs each of the Three in succession]
The Master: Of course, sometimes a little is enough.
- The Master injures one of his minions in "The Harvest". "You have something in your eye."
- Subverted when Spike showed up and after he failed and was told he should offer his life, killed the Anointed One instead.
- And, two seasons later, when faced with a Big Bad he can't kill, Spike is smart enough to start fleeing as soon as he hears the words "You have failed..."
- It looked like Spike was going to pull this on Billy Fordham in "Lie To Me" when Billy's plan to deliver several dozen people to Spike is foiled by Buffy. But not only does Spike not kill Billy, he keeps his end of the deal and sires Billy. After all, Billy kept up his part of the deal, and Spike probably knew that Buffy would be waiting at Billy's grave to stake him when he rose anyways.
- Glory does this to two of her minions in "Intervention".
- "Offering their life in penance" was something The Master demanded. One of the worst examples was when he told the Three to kill Buffy because she was killing too many of his servants, and they almost did, easily overpowering her. Angel showed up and helped her run away. As opposed to telling them to get back out there and try again and keep an eye out for Angel this time, The Master double-subverted this trope:
- Chuck: The Ring had Nicos Vassilis executed by gun from one of their agents for failing to retrieve the mask. Before his death, he asks how they are going to deal with Chuck, to which the Ring Elders remark "The same way we'll deal with you." just before he is shot.
- Colony: In the Season 1 finale, Proxy Snyder — having repeatedly failed to curb the resistance, even failing to prevent the attack that killed the Chief Minister — is removed from his position and is last seen being escorted away by the Red Berets.
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: SkekSil the Chamberlain and skekTek the Scientist fail to prevent a Gelfling, Rian, from escaping with evidence that the Skeksis are draining people for their essence. Even though it's mostly his fault, the Chamberlain manages to successfully pin the blame for the whole thing on the Scientist, and so Emperor skekSo decrees that he should "see the peeper beetle." This ends up being an Ugly Cute, Fluffy the Terrible type insect that eats people's eyes out. SkekTek has one of his eyes eaten out by the bug while everyone, including the Chamberlain, watches and laughs.
- A non-fatal example happens later in the series when The General is mortally wounded in duel with Rian, and loses the duel, as The General passes The Emperor, muttering his apologies, The Emperor venomously tells him to leave his sight, saying this trope verbatim before flicking his hand at him to send him off.
- Doctor Who:
- The Daleks regularly exterminate those who fail them, including other Daleks. Although being Omnicidal Maniacs probably means that they'd exterminate the other species anyway when they were no longer needed.
- Played straight in "The Smugglers". The Doctor and Jacob Kewper have played a superstitious pirate, overpowered him, and gotten clean away. Captain Pike very calmly dispatches the pirate in question.
- Subverted Trope in "The Pirate Planet". The villainous Captain hisses "When someone fails me, Mr. Fibuli, someone dies!" — then kills a random extra instead of the person who actually failed, because he's the Captain's right-hand man and is too useful to kill just out of pique. Of course, the Evil Overlord List specifically says not to do this, but the Captain is just too awesome to care.
- An interesting variation is in "City of Death". Two of Count Scarlioni's henchmen have actually successfully recovered his wife's bracelet which the Doctor stole. "Good," he tells them. "But not good enough." He then has them killed and replaced with two different guys. Considering they got the bracelet, it's anyone's guess as to why he thinks they underperformed. It certainly can't be punishment for not being discreet, considering their replacements are just as brazen.
- "The Long Game" has a rare non-villainous version: After Adam Mitchell has a brain-chip installed and attempts to record information on future technology to his mother's answering machine to use the information for profit, the Doctor dumps him back at his house and erases the information because Adam is now a walking paradox waiting to happen.
- "School Reunion": The Evil Teachers at Deffry Vale school eat any students who fail them that they can get away with, such as one girl who lives in a children's home.
- In "Time Heist", Ms. Delphox knows when someone is fired from the bank, it is "messy". They get incinerated.
- Played for Laughs in "The Crimson Horror": When Strax gets lost he tells the horse pulling the cart that it has failed in its mission, draws his gun and asks for its' last words.
- Due South: The episode Gift of the Wheelman has the bad guy pulling this on one of his henchmen for falling for a double cross by another henchman.
- Earth: Final Conflict: Alien leader Zo'or once punished subordinate Sandoval, not by killing him, but by firing the Taelon mothership's weapons into the ocean, causing a massive tidal wave that utterly destroys the island Sandoval was born on.
- Subverted Trope: both Scorpius and Grayza use non-lethal methods of punishment, though they are generally quite painful.
- Played straight in the episode "Losing Time": at the urging of project leader Drillic, Scorpius sends a test pilot on a flight into an unstable wormhole — only for the pilot to melt inside the cockpit. Scorpius, who generally believes in treating subordinates with proper respect, punishes Drillic for the casual waste of life by assigning him the task of piloting the second test-flight.
- Firefly: Adelai Niska does this routinely. He intimidates Mal and crew by showing them a prisoner he's in the process of torturing to death. Then he attempts (and temporarily succeeds) to do the same to Mal and Wash after they fail to carry out the theft he hired them for.
- Flash Forward: In the episode "Better Angels", merciless Somalian leader Abdi shoots two of his followers but spares the heroes, saying "They have failed me; you will not."
- Game of Thrones:
- Gregor Clegane's Establishing Character Moment and only line in the first season: "Sword!" after he loses to Ser Loras. That poor horse....
- When Ramsay Bolton's men set fire to Stannis' army's supplies without anybody seeing them, Stannis orders everyone on guard duty that night to be interrogated as to whether they fell asleep or conspired with the enemy, then have them all hanged nonetheless.
- Ramsay tired of Violet when she became pregnant, and killed her in one of his hunts.
- Get Smart: Siegfried tells the henchmen who have failed him, "It's time to put Plan B and Plan C into action." One of the mooks asks what "Plan C" is. Take a guess how Siegfried responds.
- iZombie: Subverted. Blaine stabs a henchman in the neck when he reports that a valuable shipment has been stolen... but since Blaine and all his henchmen are zombies, this is nonfatal and the guy gets back up afterwards.
- Jake 2.0: Happens in one episode with the leader of a domestic terrorist group. At the start of the episode, a teenager operative of the group ends up captured by the NSA. It turns out that he's the leader's son. The leader promptly executes the guy sent to keep an eye on his son. Subverted later on, when the guys sent to kidnap Jake to trade for the kid end up kidnaping his little brother (who stole Jake's ID to get into a bar). However, when the Mook offers his own gun to the leader to accept punishment for failure, the leader smiles and tells him that the guy didn't fail. As a matter of fact, capturing Jake's brother is a better plan than capturing Jake himself.
- Kamen Rider largely avoids it, making the few villains who indulge stand out all the more:
- Kamen Rider Kuuga deals with the Grongi, a race of serial killers who live by this trope. Each individual Grongi's killing spree is part of a game played for status among their kin, and failure means death.
- Kamen Rider Fourze Big Bad Mitsuaki Gamou has one of his enforcers devoted primarily to disposing of other generals who fail him by using her teleportation powers to send the offending general off to a Fate Worse than Death. This is an unusually practical policy for him, as he's going to need to take all of their individual Transformation Trinkets for his master plan sooner or later, and the ones he disposes of are mostly the ones who would hesitate to give him their powers when asked. Garden variety minions, whose powers are useless to him, are never subject to this trope.
- Kamen Rider Drive villain Medic deems most of her fellow Roidmudes useless and in need of pruning so they won't get in the way of the others trying to evolve, after she's been driven insane by absorbing their negative emotions. Eventually the Big Bad discovers this and immediately makes her stop, since Roidmudes are incapable of reproducing and thus each one is irreplaceable.
- Kamen Rider Zero-One villain Gai Amatsu starts increasingly relying on the threat of violence as he loses control of the situation, eventually reaching the point where he starts having his own minions killed for failing him. Unlike the above examples, there's not even a hint of justification for this behavior, not even insanity: Gai's simply a monster.
- Kingdom Adventure: Zordock downplays this trope in that he uses an Agony Beam on minions who've failed him rather than killing them outright, as he does not have many minions to work with. At the same time, he exaggerates it by using his Agony Beam on minions who annoy him, whether the annoyance is due to failure or not.
- Legend of the Seeker: Darken Rahl seems to be getting in the habit of this, usually by feigning understanding, taking the other person's hand, then slicing them from the wrist to the elbow and letting them bleed out. He only did it once, in the pilot, to his general, who was supposed to kill the Seeker as the baby but failed. And the blood didn't go to waste — he used it immediately to send a message to his troops.
- In Lexx, His Divine Shadow demonstrates a rather drawn out and chilling example when dealing with the officers who allowed the Lexx to be hijacked. Later in the episode, an admiral takes his ship into a Fractal Core in pursuit of the Lexx despite his subordinate's warning since he's more afraid of the consequences of failing His Shadow.His Shadow: Major? Kill [the general].
[she quickly disintegrates the general's head while he whispers "I worship His Shadow"]
His Shadow: Good. Now, kill yourself.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Wilson Fisk in Daredevil (2015) repeatedly uses this:
- After Karen Page exposes a numbers racket that he was running at Union Allied Construction, Fisk has everyone involved in the scheme killed off. He spares Karen because everything she knows is now public knowledge, but he has her boss killed and staged to look like a drug overdose. Clyde Farnum (a guard that James Wesley had blackmailed into attempting to hang Karen in her jail cell, which failed as she fought back and clawed at his eyes) is shot in his basement and staged to look like a suicide. And Rance (an assassin that tried to kill Karen in her apartment, but whom Matt Murdock fought off) is hanged in his jail cell, ironically by the very method that Farnum had tried to do to Karen
- After Detective Christian Blake, a corrupt cop on Fisk's payroll, accidentally leaks information to the "Devil of Hell's Kitchen" about the Russians' hideouts, Fisk arranges for him to be shot by a sniper while manning the scene of a hostage situation. This fails to kill Blake, forcing Fisk to send his partner Carl Hoffman to finish him off at the hospital.
- Luke Cage (2016):
- Cottonmouth kills his lieutenant Tone after Tone, dispatched to find Chico, tries to take him out by lighting up Pop's barbershop with two submachine guns, killing Pop (who was a mentor and friend to Cottonmouth) in the process.
- When Shades questions Diamondback's actions too much, Diamondback decides to send Zip to kill him. The attempt backfires as Shades is able to grab a gun, kill both of Zip's men, get Zip to admit to Diamondback's complicity, then shoots Zip in the head.
- Wilson Fisk in Daredevil (2015) repeatedly uses this:
- The Outpost:
- In an example that's also a case of Make Way for the New Villains, Season 2 introduces The Three by having them punish Ambassador Dred for the failure of his plans in the previous season by stripping him of his rank, imprisoning him, and having him tortured.
- In the Season 2 finale, Sana's first action after becoming the new One is to execute the guards who failed to protect her predecessor.
- In Penny Dreadful Dracula does this to his most prominent minion when, after a couple episodes of ominous stalking, he appears to Vanessa openly and speaks of her past, causing her to break off her relationship with Dracula's alter ego Dr. Sweet for fear of the danger to him. A furious blow that hurls him across the room followed by ordering the rest of the minions to devour him makes obvious the master's displeasure with his lack of subtlety.
- Person of Interest has this as standard operating procedure for Control.
- Reese and his partner succeeded in their directive of killing a target but failed to acquire his latop, something they were not informed about. Control sent them to identify the laptop and mark its location, at which point they were to be killed in a targeted airstrike.
- Power Rangers:
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: When Lord Zedd made his grand entrance, he punished Rita by sticking her back in her dumpster (well, that or a different dumpster) and sending her off into space.
- Power Rangers RPM: Subverted/parodied: minion Tenaya 7, after returning from a seemingly failed mission and beginning to be condemned by her boss Venjix, outright mockingly asks if he's going to say the titular trope line. Venjix is not pleased.
- In the episode "Ties That Bind", Corporal Lawrence had to report to Sergeant Will Strausser that he was unable to capture Miles Matheson. Strausser responds by stabbing him dead on the spot.
- In the episode "The Song Remains The Same", Tom Neville fails his mission for General Monroe, so he simply gets his wife Julia Neville and flees the Monroe Republic, because they both know that Monroe is unstable and has no tolerance for failures. That makes it a Defied Trope in this case.
- Rise of Empires: Ottoman: Mehmet considers beheading one of his Admirals who fails to stop the Genoan ships from relieving the defenders, but settles for A Taste of the Lash.
- Sleepy Hollow: This is Moloch's stated reason for killing Brooks at the end of the pilot. However, considering that he was about to tell Abbie and Ichabod everything as part of a plea bargain, there's also an element of He Knows Too Much in there, too. And in any case, he gets resurrected the following episode anyway, as Moloch seems to realize that he can still be useful.
- Spider-Man (Japan): The last episode of the series has Professor Monster give Amazoness one last chance in killing Spider-Man. Amazoness thinks she succeeds, but after Spider-Man is revealed to be still alive, Professor Monster responds by having Bella and Rita mortally wound her. Amazoness tries to spite her boss by fleeing in his escape rocket as she dies, but Professor Monster simply blows the rocket to Kingdom Come as it takes off.
- Stargate SG-1
- Played with in "Threads". Anubis says exactly these lines to Ba'al for losing Dakara to the Jaffa, but points out that Ba'al not only failed, he did the one thing worse than failure or even cowardice. Ba'al betrayed Anubis by cooperating with his enemies to destroy the Dakara superweapon and prevent Anubis from using it to complete his omnicidal megalomania. Anubis delays Ba'al's execution only so he can witness Anubis wiping out all life in the galaxy at once, Ba'al included.
- This is the reason why Teal'c desired to free the Jaffa from the System Lords, coupled with You Killed My Father: Teal'c's father was tasked by his master, Cronus, with leading and winning a battle. Tealc's father called a retreat instead. Upon returning to Cronus, Cronus executed him for it by squeezing his symbiote in his hand (a particularly slow and painful death for a Jaffa). The kicker? The reason Teal'c's father ordered to retreat is because there really was no way they could reasonably win the battle.
- Apophis himself ordered Teal'c to kill one of fellow Jaffa, Va'lar, who had similarly underperformed, despite Va'lar offering to lead the second wave from the front. Teal'c faked the Va'lar's death.
- Stargate Atlantis: Double Subversion in the episode "Irresponsible": Genii commander Kolya aims his gun at a mook who failed to capture Sheppard and pulls the trigger, only for the gun to click as if empty. The mook thanks him and Kolya lets him go, saying it's his last chance... before angrily giving away his gun for repair.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Damar: Oh, I'm sure she'll understand. But if she doesn't, I look forward to meeting Weyoun 9.
- Happened to more than one Weyoun clone. And Damar is absolutely gleeful when taunting Weyoun 8 about the prospect of it happening again.
- This also happens (offscreen) to a whole team of Vorta doctors who weren't getting things done fast enough for the Female Changeling.
- Played with in the series finale. When the Cardassians revolt against the Dominion, the nameless changeling has all of the Cardassians in the Dominion military complex executed. Her right hand man, a Cardassian, protests that he has not turned on the Dominion even as he is dragged off to be executed. The changeling replies that she is making sure he never will.
- A variation occurs as well in "Sacrifice of Angels" where Damar kills Ziyal, the daughter of Gul Dukat, after learning she turned traitor and tried to help the Federation retake the station; using Dukat's own words on how traitors must be dealt with as the reason why he had to do this. Dukat suffers a complete mental breakdown as a result.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: A non-lethal example: in the Mirror Universe episode "Mirror, Mirror", one of the first things we see after the transporter malfunction is Mirror!Spock torturing the transporter technician with the "agonizer" device simply for allowing the malfunction to happen — despite the fact that it wasn't the technician's fault. Seemingly, this is standard practice....
- Star Trek: Voyager: Lonzak barely manages to avoid this fate in the Captain Proton holodeck program.
- Famine devours one of his demon Mooks when he loses a soul that he was supposed to bring to Famine for consumption.
- The Leviathans have a standard practice for this, called "bibbing". It's called this because the failed Leviathan in question is made to wear a bib, and then forced to eat themselves. When their leader gets really mad, however, he decides not to "waste a perfectly good meal".
- High-ranking angel Zachariah fully expects his boss Michael to do this to him when he lost track of the Winchesters once again. Subverted, as Michael instead gives him another chance to fulfill his mission. Zachariah later remarks to Dean that for Heaven, a "firing" is very literal.
- Tin Man: In this SciFi miniseries, Azkadellia's actual reply to the general who let
DorothyDG escape is a sympathetic "You did your best", but considering she immediately followed it up with a fatal Life Energy drain, the meaning's the same.
- In the Titans, episode "Together", the Nuclear Family are killed by the Organisation after being captured by the Titans, partly due to this trope and partly so they can't talk. Armed goons are sent after Dr Adamson, the Family's handler as well, but he's saved by Dick and Jason.
- In The Tribe, Ram kills a Techno who completely failed his programming mission, mostly to show Ebony that he doesnt shy away from killing people. He does it again in a later episode in front of the rest of his terrified mooks.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): "The Obsolete Man": The Chancellor of the State is tricked and trapped by a lowly simple librarian named Romney Wordsworth after Wordsworth is sentenced to death for his obsolescence. Wordsworth is given the choice of his manner in death and chooses an assassin. The assassin, at Wordsworth's instructions, placed a powerful bomb in Wordsworth's apartment, then a film crew set up a remote camera to film the death, and then Wordsworth asked the Chancellor over. Once the man is there, Wordsworth locks the door and plans to keep the man there until the bomb goes off. While the Chancellor is initially confident someone will order his rescue, Wordsworth is confident that the State would never risk losing face in needing to rescue one of their own. The Chancellor realizes there is truth to this and spends the next half hour increasingly nervous and antsy while Wordsworth calmly reads passages from the Bible to all who are watching. Before the final minute is up, the Chancellor cracks and begs in the name of God to be set free, which Wordsworth grants but remains in the blast. For his cowardice before the televised audience, the next day the Chancellor is declared "Obsolete" and the mob which sentenced Wordsworth now surrounds and lunges at the former Chancellor, who all the while is proclaiming his worth to the State as they drag him away to be killed.
- Ultraman Mebius has the target point this out — while being shot.Mephilas: Emperor! Have I become a useless piece in this game? Alas! (explodes)
- Undercover (2019): Invoked by Bob. He frames Jurgen for a fatal hit and run, which combined with Jurgen's known record of drinking and anger problems, causes John to kill him. In the pilot, John also kills another member of the gang who let two workers escape from a drug lab and then tried to cover it up.
- In The Wire, this is done with disturbing frequency by the Barksdale drug empire, and taken even further later by the Stanfield empire, who supplant the Barksdales as the most powerful criminal organization in West Baltimore. If someone screws up in a job or seems insufficiently reliable at a time when the cops are cracking down on these groups, then those people tend to disappear.
- A rare, non-lethal example from the good guys' side: In Season 3 the police brass start having to attend weekly Comstat meetings where the district commanders are grilled by the commissioner and his feared deputy Col. Rawls. One commander, Major Taylor, is seen at one to seem incompetent, having to look through his paperwork for information about recent crimes in his district that Rawls knows off the top of his head. Before a second meeting he is seen to be so nervous he throws up in the bathroom, and indeed at that meeting, after a similarly unimpressive performance, Rawls announces that Taylor's deputy is now in charge of the district.
- Wiseguy: A Mafia boss is annoyed that an outside contract killer has messed up a hit. The killer replies that he emptied "an entire clip from an Uzi" into the victim. The boss retorts that the proper way is to shoot someone in the back of the head and stuff their body in a trunk... and then does exactly that to the hitman.
- Wolf Hall begins each episode with a few title cards to explain the situation. The first informs the viewers of the situation with Henry VIII's attempts to annul his marriage with Katharine of Aragon, that it is in this and only this matter that Cardinal Wolsey has failed him. Wolsey is exiled and later accused of treason, suffering Death by Despair en route to trial. In the sixth episode it's Anne Boleyn who has failed by having a daughter and two miscarriages rather than a sonnote and what happened to her, everyone knows. The fifth episode ends with Thomas Cromwell, the protagonist, having a Dead Person Conversation with Cardinal Wolsey: "The king wants a new wife. Fix him one. I didn't, and I'm dead."
You Have Failed Me / Live-Action TV