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You Have Failed Me / Star Wars

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  • The trope name originates from The Empire Strikes Back, and possibly the most famous instance: Darth Vader's "You have failed me for the last time" before choking Admiral Ozzel to death for botching the fleet's approach to Hoth. Ozzel had brought the Imperial fleet out of hyperspace too close to Hoth, which gave the Rebels enough advance warning to activate their shield generator and begin evacuating before the fleet was in position to attack. Ozzel's death deserves special mention, as Vader wasn't even in the same room and killed him over the intercom/viewscreen, promoting Captain Piett to Admiral before the body hits the floor.
    • While the scene in the film makes no bones about Vader's displeasure, the radio drama accompanied it with an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
      Vader: Ozzel, the power closing about your throat is the Force. It is my anger reaching out to end your life. It would be pointless to merely punish someone so useless.
  • He does it again to the hapless Captain Needa before the film's even halfway done, despite the man having the foresight and backbone to personally apologize to Vader for losing track of the Millennium Falcon (hence Vader's line "Apology accepted, Captain Needa"). Needa's expression when he tells his men that he's going to apologize personally to Vader tells the whole story; he knows Vader will kill him—but if he takes the blame, none of his underlings will.
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  • Ultimately subverted by the end of the film when the Falcon escapes to lightspeed. Piett visibly soils himself as Vader strides toward him, only to brush right past, either because he knew it wasn't Piett's fault or because he was too depressed about losing his son to kill any more underlings today, possibly both.
  • Despite his reputation, Vader's preference for using this trope is something of a Flanderization. While he's certainly not someone you would want to work under as evidenced by the fact he ordered his fleet into an Asteroid Thicket that resulted in at least one star destroyer losing its bridge tower to a flying rock, he only kills Ozzel and Needa for screwing up, and spares Piett even when everyone in-universe and out expected him to go three for three. As far as Expanded Universe materials are concerned it really depends on who's writing him:
    • In some works he's a madman who will kill anyone at the drop of a hat; even if you did nothing wrong, being the guy standing nearest to him when something goes wrong or even when he's just in a worse mood than usual could mean an early grave. Very competent, very irreplaceable high-ranking Imperials lost forever for things they could have done nothing about? Very much a thing. People trying to avoid promotion because you stay beneath his notice if you value your life? Ditto. Only dumb luck decided whether or not you will be one of the few who actually survives working for him, and as far as the Rebels are concerned Vader becoming the leading cause of death for high-ranking Imperials is the best thing ever. This is one explanation for why the TIE fighters didn't hesitate to chase the Falcon into that Asteroid Thicket; the pilots knew damn well simply breaking off pursuit would be an instant death sentence from Vader. Tatooine Ghost at one point noted that Vader's reputation was so bad the only people in the galaxy more scared of him than the Rebels were the Imperial officers serving directly under him.
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    • In others he's evil, not stupid — while he's brutal to those he's decided are useless, "the last time" was never the first time; you had to screw up habitually, badly, or in Ozzel's case, both. According to Star Wars Legends, Ozzel was a Neidermeyer who loved to blame subordinates for his own mistakes and kept his job mainly through family connections, meaning that Vader was looking for any excuse to get rid of him. Indeed, in Allegiance, Mara Jade asks Vader to keep an eye on then-Captain Ozzel, with the implication that his promotion to Vader's flagship is Vader's way of doing exactly that. Vader was certainly harsh but he wasn't completely unreasonable; if your failure was the result of something you had control over (e.g. you didn't utilize resources properly, you gave up too quickly, you had poor judgement, you were Admiral Ozzel), then you said goodbye to your trachea. However, if the failure was a result of something you had no control over (you lost a battle because of unexpected enemy reinforcements), he'd let you live, but you damn well better plan for whatever tripped you up the next time. This would seem to be the intended characterization from the films, as seen when Vader didn't kill Piett when the Falcon escaped. In this case his trap failed because R2 arrived with Luke and repaired the sabotage to the Falcon—something that Piett couldn't have expected, and was in fact partially Vader's fault because he'd drawn Luke there in the first place and just locked the R2 out and let the droid go instead of destroying him.
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    • It's noted in one of the novels that the fastest way to promotion in the Imperial Navy was to get yourself assigned to Vader's flagship, the Executor. The flip side of that coin is, as Captain Pellaeon says, this meant the crew of the Executor was entirely staffed by people who were either hypercompetent or very lucky (Vader was known for strangling people who delivered messages to his quarters while he was in a bad mood, so the crew drew lots whenever someone had to do that, with the honor going to the loser), since they were the only ones who survived, which meant that when it was destroyed at Endor the Empire lost the best of the officer corps along with it.
    • Played for Laughs (somewhat) in the new EU novel Dark Lords of the Sith, where Palpatine's advisor Mas Amedda expresses utter frustration with Vader's habit of applying this trope to every underling within reach.
    • Subverted in the new EU novel Star Wars: Tarkin, when Vader tells a Stormtrooper that he has failed for the last time, but doesn't kill him. Immediately afterward, Sergeant Crest captures the warehouse of a crime lord and Vader promotes him. It's implied that for the rest of his life, Lieutenant Crest never fails Vader again, so it really was "for the last time."
    • Subverted again in Rogue One when Vader summons Director Krennic to his residence and the director clearly expects to be killed, but Vader instead just threatens him and tells him to go clean up his mess. Then Krennic gets mouthy and Vader Force-chokes him to shut him up, but leaves him alive.
    • Lampshaded in The Force Unleashed where there is an achievement for killing a certain number of your own men while playing as Vader in the prologue. Bonus points for it being an Actor Allusion as well (Matt Sloane, the voice of Vader in that game, also voiced Chad Vader, with the achievement being a direct reference to that series).
    • Hilariously, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith has a scene where Palpatine of all people feels the need to tell Vader to chill out and stop killing people over every little slight. “I do not wish to rule over a galaxy of the dead”. It’s a reasonable complaint, but also delightfully hypocritical given what's mentioned below.
  • In direct contrast to Vader was Grand Admiral Thrawn, Pellaeon's superior, who deconstructs the whole idea of this trope. Throughout the Thrawn Trilogy we are shown just how widespread the practice of killing people for failure was, not just for for Vader but the Empire in general, with Pellaeon still expecting it to happen even long after Vader was dead. The poor captain was so thoroughly conditioned by this treatment that he kept expecting Thrawn to go ballistic and kill him or anyone every time something went wrong, but with the sole exception of the tractor beam operator mentioned below he never did, which results in Pellaeon intellectually realizing Thrawn won't do it but still instinctively bracing himself for an eruption every time something goes wrong. The result of Thrawn's refusal to kill underlings wantonly for failures beyond their control and rewarding them if they showed initiative and cleverness meant that his crew followed Thrawn out of genuine respect and loyalty rather than fear. Thrawn's entry at the Star Wars Wiki says he was appalled at the "Vader style" of command, and a large part of this is that Thrawn, unlike many Imperial officers and leaders, knew how to admit defeat. In the Thrawn Trilogy, after the New Republic bested him in battle, Thrawn outright said (not in so many words), "Okay, we've been beaten this time. Let's shake it off and have another go."
    • The best examples of Thrawn's management style can be seen after the heroes manage to escape being caught in a tractor beam. He had the officer manning the tractor beam station executed, but only after he quizzed said officer about his performance and the officer's answers confirmed Thrawn's initial hunch that the man was impossible to salvage due to his incompetent and insubordinate nature. When it happened again, Thrawn grilled the replacement officer in the same way, but this officer's description of how the trick was pulled off and how he almost managed to counter it resulted in Thrawn deciding the officer acted to the best of his abilities, promoting him, and telling him to keep looking for a way to counter the maneuver so that their tractor beam emitters don't eat any more proton torpedoes. And in a later story, the maneuver is countered, suggesting that he eventually succeeded.
      • Basically, the first officer failed to counter the heroes' maneuver and then tried to blame the training his superiors gave him. The second one saw the heroes' maneuver, made a conscious decision to deviate from standard protocols in an attempt to counter it, and took responsibility for his actions despite knowing that Thrawn had the previous officer executed.
  • While Vader had a reputation for this, Emperor Palpatine was far, far worse. It isn't explicitly shown in Return of the Jedi, but Vader heavily implies ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.") that if the officer and the crew working on the second Death Star don't make sure that the station is fully operational by the time of the Emperor's arrival, the crew will end up suffering a punishment so horrific that Vader's use of the trope will seem like a sympathy-induced pat on the back in comparison. Star Wars Legends went into more detail, and reveals that he wasn't fucking kidding:
    • Bevel Lemelisk, lead designer of the Death Star, was executed by Sidious having him Eaten Alive by piranha beetles as punishment for overlooking such a massive design flaw... and then brought back to life with a clone body and Sith Alchemy because despite this mistake Lemelisk was too much of an asset to throw away. Sidious proceeded to make a point of executing and resurrecting Lemelisk every time something went wrong with the Death Star II's construction, with a new and unique method of execution every time. The punishments we learn about are the aforementioned Piranha Beetles, getting Thrown Out the Airlock, lowered inch by inch into a vat of molten copper ("It was what the smelter used that day."), and being chained in a drive tube while the engine was slowly powered up. This happened six times, meaning there were two more punishments that we never learned the details about. When the New Republic finally got ahold of Lemelisk and sentenced him to death, his request to the firing squad was that they "do it right this time." At least Vader is business-like about killing you; Sidious will make sure you suffer.
    • It gets even worse when you read various stories from the old Expanded Universe which showed that Vader would kill you for failing him, but the Emperor would not only kill you in any number of agonizing ways — as Lemelisk could attest — he would also kill your entire family. One story from Tales of the Bounty Hunters took it even further by implying that even if Vader would off underlings for many reasons, he always had a definite reason for killing them, but the Emperor... he would straight-up kill for pleasure, something Vader never did.
    • The new Star Wars Expanded Universe has this in the form of Operation Cinder, a "contingency plan" ordered by Palpatine in the event of his death. Far from being some form of retribution against the Rebellion, instead it's one final act of spite against the entire galaxy and the Empire, using special climate satellites to devastate hundreds of worlds, ranging from Rebel-held systems to loyal Imperial planets, all for the simple "crime" of being unable to protect him and, in Palpatine's twisted, self-absorbed mind, proving itself unworthy of existence.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, Aresko and Grint repeatedly fail to deal with rebel operations on Lothal. In response, Governor Tarkin has the Grand Inquisitor execute them in front of Agent Kallus and Minister Tua, making it clear that they're next if they screw up as well.
    • Later in the series, the Grand Inquisitor himself chooses to let himself die after failing to defeat Kanan rather than live and report his failure to Vader.
    • Towards the end of the series this is strongly implied by Thrawn towards Governor Pryce after she ends up destroying most of the planet's fuel supply in an attempt to kill the escaping rebels, a blunder so colossal that unlike the sole example of him doing this in The Thrawn Trilogy, he is visibly seething with so much rage that he can't even use full sentences.
      Thrawn: I. Will deal with you. When I return. Governor.
    • Pryce herself acknowledges this soon after, while threatening one of her own subordinates with the same.
      Pryce: Thrawn will return soon, and if I do not have the Rebels, I will be executed. But before that happens to me, do you know what I will do to you for failing?
  • The Force Awakens: Despite worshiping the Empire's legacy to an almost cult-like degree, the First Order actually averts this trope. This could simply be Pragmatic Villainy, as the First Order's numbers are much smaller than the Empire's and they need everyone they can get.
    • First, a terrified officer, Lieutenant Mitaka, reports to Kylo Ren on how BB-8 and Finn have escaped aboard the Millennium Falcon, the man fully expecting to be killed. Instead, Ren ignites his lightsaber and slashes a computer wall to pieces. When he's finished, he quite calmly asks "anything else?" as if nothing had happened. He does Force-choke the lieutenant when he starts to explain that BB-8 and Finn had the help of a girl (Rey), but Mitaka is seen later, shaken but still alive.
    • Later, when Ren finds out that Rey has escaped, he howls with rage and slashes a chair apart with his saber. Two stormtroopers walking down the hallway hear Ren's outraged roars and see pieces of the chair flying out of the room, they promptly decide to quietly walk back the way they came.
    • Finally, when Starkiller Base is about to collapse, Supreme Leader Snoke orders Hux to return to him, and gives no indication he's going to be punished for the loss of this weapon. Indeed, Hux is still in command of the First Order's military come The Last Jedi, even if he's on a shorter leash as Snoke has arrived to personally oversee the destruction of the Resistance.
    • However, while Snoke will not go out to kill you, he will still humiliate in front of your subordinates and force slam you, as Hux found out after the Resistance destroyed Fulminatrix and escaped.
  • As Star Wars: Legacy shows, the Sith are pretty big fans of this in general, at least in the Legends continuity. It’s made clear they tend see anyone who’s not a fellow Sith or related to them as expendable and interchangeable, so their attitude is pretty much “if I kill this dude who’s failing, a new dude will replace him and maybe won’t screw up”. The result, of course, is that most of the stormtroopers and imperial officers hate them, with most only serving out of fear or loyalty to the Fel Empire, which the Sith forcibly took control of. Special mention has to go to Darth Azard, who seems to brutally kill subordinates for failure in every single scene he’s in. At one point we see him chop one poor guy in half just for getting mind-tricked.
  • Averted (amazingly enough) by Darth Malak in Knights of the Old Republic, after a bounty hunter hired by Saul Karath fails to kill the heroes. "The penalty for failure is death, Admiral Karath... but the failure was Calo's, not yours. You may rise."
    • By contrast, Malak's apprentice Darth Bandon blasts away a random underling just for crossing his path.
    • While taking the "test" of the insane ex-master of the Sith Academy, one of the hypothetical situations involves a loyal and capable subordinate embarrassing you in front of your superiors. The proper answer to the question is to execute the underling rather than take the chance of him screwing up again.
    • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords also has a 'You have failed me' moment directed at the player, when Kreia loses her patience with a dark-side Exile's psychopathic comments after the Exile has killed all the Jedi Masters and the party returns to Dantooine. Unusually, Kreia's not concerned with what the Exile has done, but with why they do it. When she realizes that the Exile favours brute force and vengeance over manipulation or advancing an ideology, she embarks on an idiosyncratic philosophical rant, starting with the very words 'You have failed me. Completely and utterly.' Marking the beginning of the endgame, she does then proceed to almost kill the Exile, but then the Exile mysteriously wakes up again.
  • The Sith Empire in Star Wars: The Old Republic has numerous people fail for the last time as well. Notably, in the first Imperial flashpoint, the player character can execute a starship captain for refusing orders to attack a superior Republic ship and then assume command of his vessel. Since you're operating under Grand Moff Kilran's authority, you can even do this as a Bounty Hunter. However, doing this will cause the crew to eventually panic and kill each other by the end of the mission.
    • It's totally possible to play as one of these, especially when playing as a Sith character. Nothing's stopping you from wantonly choking/electrocuting anyone that so much as sasses at you.
    • The Sith Warrior storyline features Darth Baras doing this to an underling in a direct recreation of/homage to the trope-naming scene, albeit on a smaller scale (from the rank of ensign to commander).
  • Subverted in an issue of the original Marvel Star Wars comics. An admiral reports to Vader to take responsibility for the failure of an important mission. Unlike with Needa, Vader is impressed with the display and lets him live—though he still demotes him down to Lieutenant as punishment.


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