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You Have Outlived Your Usefulness / Live-Action TV

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Villains disposing of no-longer-necessary minions in live-action TV.

  • The same style is used in 24, especially when it comes to civilians they kidnap that have a useful skill they can exploit. It always ends badly for the poor civilians.
    • Also pulled by the heroes. Jack works with both Nina Meyers and Christopher Henderson to foil the terrorists, putting aside his desire for revenge. As soon as the terrorists are stopped or they no longer have a use, he killed them both. Both of them know him well enough to see this coming and take steps to avoid it, but both fail.
      • He also pulls this one last time on Dana Walsh in the final season, but with a twist. Despite Dana being one of the villains, Jack carrying this out is to actually reveal that he isn't the hero this time around.
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  • Adam Adamant Lives!: After betraying Adam to the Face, Louise served her new master faithfully for sixty-five years. That didn't cut any ice with the Face; as soon as he was revived, he made off with his new, younger Femme Fatale sidekick, leaving Louise to die in Adam's arms.
  • Alex Rider: Dr Greif plans to kill the pupils he's replaced with his clones. Stellenbosch goes to carry out the murders, only to find Kyra's already broken the out. He falls victim to this trope himself when Yassen Gregorovitch murders him on the way to be interrogated. Finally, the duplicate Alex is gunned down outside the school by Yassen Gregorovitch.
  • Alcatraz: Garrett Stillman was once betrayed by his partner in crime so now he gets rid of all his accomplices after they have fulfilled their role. He's also the victim of this trope, c/o Tommy Madsen.
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  • Arrow: At the end of the first season, this, combined with He Knows Too Much, is why Malcolm/Dark Archer kills the scientists who built the Markov earthquake-generating device for him upon its completion.
  • Attila: Emperor Valentinian and his mother pull this on Flavius Aetius after he has defeated Attila, killing him on the basis that he's no longer useful to them.
  • The pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica (1978) had the Cylons kill Baltar after they didn't need him anymore. note  This is changed for the series, when Baltar is spared by the new Imperious Leader because he's useful again.
  • The Barrier: Agents of the Police State don't seem to care much about people surviving their Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, as long as they get the information they need. When Álex gets taken out of the interrogation room by a police higher-up who is curious about information other than what he was interrogated about, he's convinced to give that information by being threatened to be sent back to the interrogation room and the reminder that his chances of leaving it alive are limited.
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  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) plays this straight with Admiral Cain, shown in its full detail in the Razor flashback: during an attack on a Cylon staging ground, a large amount of Raiders jump in but Cain still orders her Viper compliment to launch in what is a blatant violation of her earlier promise of not sacrificing her underlings in a mad quest for revenge. Her XO calls her out on it, to lethal consequences.
    Belzen: This is exactly what you said we wouldn't do. Even if we succeed, is this really worth the lives and planes what it'd cost?
    Cain: Mr. Belzen, are you refusing to carry out my orders?
    Belzen: Sir, I cannot in good conscience obey that.
    Cain: Mr. Belzen, give me your sidearm...
    Belzen: Sir?
    Cain: I said, give me your sidearm! NOW!!!
    (Belzen turns over his weapon, she immediately shoots him in the head with it in front of the crew)
    Fisk: Gods...!
    Cain: Colonel Fisk... Colonel FISK! (Fisk steps up) You are now my XO.
  • In Bron|Broen, happens to Daniel Ferbe in the first season, who is gassed to death in his car after losing his job and no longer being useful as a spokesman for the killer, and the entire first group of terrorists in the second season, who are gassed to death in a shipping container after coming under police suspicion.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Mayor promises Principle Snyder a reward for his services. A few hours later, he eats him.
  • Burn Notice: The organization that burned Michael has killing operatives who outlive the usefulness as standard protocol. They have a similar protocol for operatives who Have Failed Them.
  • Cannon: In "Flight Plan", the villain of the week leaves a trail of bodies behind him in his escape route across Mexico: killing each of his accomplices after they have fulfilled their part in his escape.
  • Used in an episode of CSI. Three people work together rob a casino. One is killed by his partners at the scene. Another is killed sometime later. The mastermind, who had killed the other two, is himself killed by a Dirty Cop he had bribed earlier in the episode, who wanted all the spoils to himself.
    • Another episode has several Monster Fangirls show up to support a Serial Killer in his bid for freedom. In the end, one woman helps him escape, but as she's gushing about their new life together, she's killed by another woman. That one is then killed by still another in a later episode, and the last one is personally killed by the killer once her usefulness expires.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This exchange from "Doomsday" sums up the Daleks' attitude:
      Rose: You didn't need to kill him!
      Dalek Sec: Neither did we need him alive.
    • The Cybermen kill their own programmed workhouse owners.
      • The Cybermen have even turned the statement that I Lied before they "convert" whoever helped them into a catch phrase... though arguably from their perspective that's not killing them.
    • "Pyramids of Mars": The first thing Sutekh's Dragon does on arriving is dispose of the minion who did all the preliminary work. Given that Sutekh plans to destroy all life anyway, from his point it's Pragmatic Villainy.
      Namin: Master, spare me. Spare me. I am a true servant of the great Sutekh.
      Dragon: I am the servant of Sutekh. He needs no other. [kills him]
    • "The Curse of Fenric": Fenric orders the destruction of his entire undead army the moment he no longer requires its services.
    • "The Idiot's Lantern": The Wire disintegrates its unwilling henchman Mr. Magpie when it doesn't need him anymore.
    • "Fear Her": Despite the Isolus telling Chloe it loves her, it leaves her to deal with the dangerous drawing of her abusive father the instant it can go home and doesn't need her anymore.
    • "The Runaway Bride": Lance is used for a key and then fed to the Racnoss children once the Empress doesn't need him anymore. It also comes with a side order of Even Evil Has Standards and Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves, as the Empress comments that she disapproves of males who mistreat their mates.
    • "Daleks in Manhattan": Diagoras, the human assisting the Daleks, has a foreman on the Empire State Building who threatens a work stoppage because of the speed Diagoras is demanding, as well as the unsafe conditions, hauled off by the Daleks to become either a pig-slave or one of the Dalek-human hybrids.
    • "Partners in Crime": The Adiposian royal family decides to let their nanny go when she has Outlived her Usefulness regarding the illegal breeding of their new generation on Earth.
    • "The Poison Sky": The Sontarans execute the human soldiers they brainwashed to serve them, and were planning on using their human pawn Rattigan and his students for target practice when they showed up, having lied to Rattigan that they would take him and his students to a (non-existent) planet that they could colonize.
    • "The Next Doctor": Miss Hartigan has the mind-controlled workhouse masters after they've delivered the children in their care to her. She and the Cybermen then attempt to dispose of the kidnapped children after they've gotten the Cyberking's starter engine up to 100%, but the Doctor and company save the kids just in time.
    • "The End of Time": After the Master opens the lock around the Time War, Big Bad Rassilon reveals his plan to destroy the entire universe so the Time Lords can become beings of pure thought. With the Master's role fulfilled, Rassilon also declares he's going to personally vaporize him for being "diseased — albeit a disease of our own making."
    • "Victory of the Daleks" has the last three Daleks (made out of whatever hodge-podge genetic elements Davros could scrabble together) activate a progenitor device that creates new-model, redesigned Daleks... who, of course, decide to exterminate their saviors, because they're inferior. The three Daleks are perfectly okay with this and even agree with the new Daleks' assessment because... well, they're Daleks.
      The Doctor: Blimey. What do you do to the ones who mess up?
    • "The Wedding of River Song": The Silence kill Madame Kovarian, not because of a specific failure, but because the best way to get at their enemies would happen to also kill her, and they hate their enemies more than they need her.
    • "Dark Water": Missy kills Dr. Chang when he's no longer necessary. And For the Evulz. After insisting he first "say something nice".
      Missy: Now, come on, let's not dwell on horrid things. This is going to be our last conversation, and I'm the one who's going to have to live with that.
  • Ezel: Temmuz calmly instructs a unnamed henchwoman to kill Chucky after he kills Tevfik, as he has "served his purpose". The order is particularly shocking as Chucky was set up as an expected Morality Pet — not to mention he's no older than twelve at the very most.
  • Subverted in Farscape; in an early episode, Crais nonchalantly killed a subordinate so no one else would know he had been recalled. When this was uncovered by his superiors much later, it was his downfall.
  • Referenced in Firefly
    Mal: "They killed Heinrich? Guess he wasn't useful anymore."
  • This happens to Max's boyfriend/colleague Tom in The Following. Mark and Daisy extort him into helping them after they catch him with the corpse of a colleague he just murdered, after which Mark throws acid in his face and Daisy shoots him. Daisy is acutely aware that she may end up a victim of the trope at the hands of Theo.
  • A woman kidnaps geniuses on Fringe so she can get them to finish a formula. At the end, she gives the formula to a mysterious henchman, who tests it. The test successful, she has just enough time to stare in awe and exclaim it's amazing before the henchman pulls a gun and shoots her.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Littlefinger kills Dontos Hollard for this and He Knows Too Much.
    • Ramsay has Tansy hunted down by his dogs just because he's gotten bored with her and Myranda is a tad jealous.
    • The Master Torturer is tricked and murdered by Ramsay Snow in order to gain Theon's trust.
    • As the war starts winding down, Tywin has no problem selling Gregor Clegane out to Oberyn Martell.
    • King Maegor Targaryen had the builders of the Red Keep massacred to protect its secrets.
    • In a heroic example, Sansa executes Littlefinger once the Stark control of the North is achieved and she finds out the extent of his crimes.
  • Narrowly averted in Heroes: Arthur Petrelli says "I think you may have outlived your usefulness" to Linderman, who's savvy enough to take the hint and stop slacking. (Oh, and betray Arthur by breaking his mind-control on Angela.)
    • The above perpetrator has Adam Monroe abducted and brought to him so he can steal his power. The victim tries to bargain his way out of it, insisting he can be of use to him alive, but the man disagrees and steals his power, the act itself killing him.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: Hitler is shown cultivating a close alliance with Ernst Rohm, particularly during his early years in Munich. However, when Rohm refuses to accept that the SA will never replace the German Army, Hitler purges the SA and has Rohm executed for "treason".
  • JAG: In "Brig Break", once Gunnery Sergeant Gentry has got the nukes, he kills his accomplices.
  • Happens in Episode 47 of Kamen Rider Wizard: Now that 4 Wizards have been created, there's no need for any more Gates to be found, so Medusa soon becomes the victim of this trope.
  • In Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, Daizujin has this attitude towards Burai following "Reborn! The Ultimate God!". During the Zyurangers' hibernation, Burai's body got crushed by rocks. Daizyujin only cured him because they needed six Zyurangers in order to unleash Ultimate Daizyujin. Unlike the others, Burai awoke with a magic candle that would cause him to die at a certain time following Ultimate Daizujin's release. Daizyujin explained to the Zyurangers that they found it unnecessary for Burai to live beyond that event.
    • Later, in Tensou Sentai Goseiger, it was was revealed that this was partly the reason Buredoran was on every villain team: Gain knowledge from each group- Warfare from the first, magic from the second, and technology from the third- and let them all fall when he perfected them so no one could interfere in his master plan, sometimes even orchestrating the fall. Most notably is the third group, where he manipulates the Robogog and Metal-Alice into becoming severely weakened and then personally finishing them off. Soon after, while the Goseigers start talking about why Buredoran is doing this, Buredoran is currently taking over the third group's base and talking to himself about his plan, so the viewers can start to realize that Buredoran is the TRUE Big Bad and that the three groups were expendable to him. At the end of the episode and the beginning of the next, it's confirmed that this is the case.
    • Earlier, in Battle Fever J, when Big Bad Satan Egos grows to giant-size for the final battle, the transformation causes his castle to collapse on top of his last remaining henchwoman, Salome. It's not clear whether he did this deliberately, but he didn't seem too bothered either way.
    • In several Super Sentai series, especially during the '80s, a favorite tactic for disposing of useless, failing, or disobedient henchmen is to chuck them into the monster-making machine and mutate them into a mindless beast for the heroes to kill. Choushinsei Flashman's Emperor Lah Deus in particular was fond of this ploy, dispatching no less than seven unwanted minions thusly. It's then turned right back on him in the finale when his treacherous head scientist sticks a knife in his back.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Revolution", the main villain strangles a henchmen he considers to have become a liability.
  • In an episode of The Legend Of William Tell, a summoned demon overhears two mooks discussing that the sorcerer will unsummon it when it has served its purpose. It's not happy about that. After the heroes have escaped, they discuss with the Kalem that they were lucky that the demon betrayed its master... at which point Kalem polymorphs into a Mook before their eyes for a second.
  • In Lexx, His Divine Shadow was a parasitic Insect essence that would bond with human hosts to maintain the Divine Order dedicated to reviving his original Insect body. He would keep the hosts' brains around as Divine Predecessors which would act as advisors to the current incarnation as well as providing power. In "Gigashadow", the essence returns to its original body. When its essence makes contact with the Predecessors aboard the Lexx, they rejoice thinking it is their time of salvation. The Gigashadow has other ideas.
    Predecessors: Gigashadow! It is our time of rejoicing!
    Gigashadow: Wrong! It is your time of pain! You are no longer needed, human vessels of my essence.
    [the Gigashadow promptly pops each of the predecessors like grapes as they shriek in agony]
  • In Lois & Clark S01E18 “Vatman”, the villain drops this line verbatim while speaking to Superman.
  • Textbook example in Merlin. After a season of Unresolved Sexual Tension and heavy subtext, Morgause finally gains control of Cenred's army and immediately has Cenred dispatched by one of his own men.
  • In the revival of Mission: Impossible, an episode has such order given to an underling (paraphrased):
    Big Bad: Find the best bomb expert in the city. Have him replace the bomb detonator with this one, then kill him.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "This One Goes To Eleven", the murderer disposes of their accomplices once they have served their purpose; killing the two thieves after they have stolen the painting, and disposing of the forger when he threatens to become a liability.
  • In the movie The Castle of Fu Manchu (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), this happens twice. When the bad guys capture the titular castle, Fu Manchu graciously thanks the mercenaries he's hired to help him overthrow it — just before ordering their execution. Later on, a messenger delivers some news to the leader of the mercenaries. His "reward" is to get murdered off-camera. Given how stoned the mercenary leader looked while he was receiving the news, one can only hope he didn't immediately forget it.
  • Jason Dean is sacrificed to NCIS after killing Colonel Bell for his real employer.
  • NCIS: New Orleans: In "Sleeping With the Enemy", The Mole does this to one of his underlings; detonating the bomb he has just finished constructing in an attempt to make the NCIS team think that the underling was the mastermind and that he has just accidentally blown himself up, taking all of the explosives with him.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Last of the Cybernauts...??", Kane employs Goff to get the Cybernauts working. Once they are operating, he quickly determines that Goff is only an engineer and incapable of making any improvements to the robots, he uses a Cybernaut to snap Goff's neck.
  • Once Upon a Time: Peter Pan has Greg Mendell killed, and his Lost Boys try to do the same to Tamara, after they have successfully done the task he hired them to do (bringing Henry to Neverland).
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Last Supper", a Mad Scientist is on the trail of an immortal woman he wants to experiment on. When his assistant manages to find her, the scientist stabs him in the chest.
  • Perfect Assassins: The assassins are programmed to kill themselves after getting their targets.
  • Person of Interest: In the Season 1 episode “Mission Creep”, Sam Latimer runs a ring of ex-soldiers turned criminals who conduct high-end robberies and noted for their discipline and efficiency (they can conduct a Bank Robbery in no more than a minute). Later on we learn why they're so effective: whenever the gang gets erratic or becomes a liability, Latimer kills the gang and hires a new crew. At the end of the episode, Latimer himself is killed by a client to tie up loose ends.
  • In Power Rangers Jungle Fury, Dai Shi, the Big Bad, and his Dragon Camille, gleefully allows his overlords to be destroyed, two of them by the rangers and one by the Phantom Beast Generals, when they are no longer useful in his plans now that he has learned enough about his techniques from them.
    Camille: They've destroyed Carnisoar.
    Dai Shi: They did me a favor. One less overlord and a lot more power.
    • It had a lot to do with the fact that Grizzaka, the leader of the Overlords, laid claim to Dai Shi's position. The honeymoon was over.
  • In an episode of The Persuaders!, Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) manages to recruit an actor impersonating a dead millionaire by warning him of what might happen when his employers don't need to hide the millionaire's death anymore.
  • Revolution: In episode 9, Monroe "Doesn't need [Rachel] anymore" because one of her former colleagues is now willing to build an amplifier the electricity pendants. She kills said colleague with a screwdriver and then remarks "You need me now."
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham, in the new BBC series of Robin Hood, does this a lot.
  • The Rookie (2018): Armstrong is told to murder Nolan, and takes the gun willingly. It turns out to be empty though, and he's shot instead, presumably because (with his work for them revealed) he's of no more use to the mob.
  • The Shadow Line:
    • Gatehouse kills Andy Dixon and his family in episode 3, because they've fulfilled their roles in his plan.
    • In episode 6, the Counterpoint leaders try to do this to Gatehouse himself. It fails, and prompts him to decide they've outlived their usefulness.
  • In Smallville:
    • In "Stray", when Ryan refused to give the code and reveal that Gibson plans to shoot Debra forcing Gibson to shoot her, Gibson decided to get rid of Ryan.
    • In "Asylum", three of Clark's old enemies, Ian Randall, Van McNulty, and Eric Summers team up to lure Clark to them so Eric can steal his powers and use them to escape from Belle Reeve. After Van does his part by smuggling in a piece of kryptonite, Ian kills him. After Eric steals Clark's powers, he declares he's invincible and thus doesn't need Ian anymore, then throws him into a wall, presumably killing him.
    • In "Covenant", Jor-El's disposal of Kara after Clark discovers she is not actually Kryptonian. Instead of the normal phrase, he uses "She served her purpose."
  • Subverted in Stargate Atlantis: Michael, a villain known to have a low opinion of humanity in general takes a gun away from a clone he created and tells him that he's "served his purpose"... then draws his own stun weapon and uses that to shoot him. It's possible he was just being cruel, though; the clone was already dying.
    • Played completely straight, and stated word for word by a Wraith queen in regards to Todd the Wraith in another episode.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Starship Mine", Kelsey, the leader of a terrorist group trying to steal the highly unstable toxic waste of Enterprise's engine core, shoots one of her mooks after learning from him how to remove the trilithium from its container.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The Dominion used the Cardassians as help in invading Alpha Quadrant. And then it switched to the Breen. And it was planning to betray them, too.
      • The Dominion is also in the habit of executing Jem'Hadar soldiers as soon as they show signs of insubordination, conscience, honour, or really anything other than fanatical devotion to the Founders.
      • Kai Winn has no qualms about doing this with Vedek Bareil. After he's injured during the middle of sensitive negotiations with Cardassia, she pushes for more extreme treatments right up until the treaty is signed. Then she says it's time to pull the plug. In Winn's defence, Bariel was given enough choice to insist that he be a part of the talks by any means, and chose to let himself die after the talks were concluded.
    • Star Trek: Discovery: Lorca, in his verbose way, puts it plainly:
      Lorca: Speaking of which, we've reached the tipping point, where your usefulness to me is outweighed by the risk of keeping you alive.
    • Star Trek: Picard: In "The Impossible Box", after Narek gains information from Soji about her homeworld, he locks her inside a room and tries to kill her with his puzzle box, in which he had placed a tiny canister that emits a poisonous, radioactive gas. Fortunately for Soji, her android strength activates and she escapes by punching her way through the floor.
  • Supernatural:
    • In "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester", Samhain does this to the witch who raised him. Not a nice way to reward several hundred years of summoning.
    • And in season five, the demon Crowley helps the Winchesters in trying to stop the Apocalypse because he believes Lucifer is going to pull this trope on the demons once he's won (Lucifer hates humans, and demons are corrupted human souls—do the math). He's right.
    • Invoked by Dean in "Point Of No Return", where he says he'll only agree to become Michael's host if Michael pulls this on Zachariah first. After all, who's more important now?
      Zachariah: You listen to me - you are nothing but a maggot, inside a worm's ass. Do you know who I am?! After I deliver you to Michael?
      Dean: Expendable.
    • A somewhat unusual example happens in the Season 7 finale. Due to a deal, Crowley (who is now the king of hell) and his demons can't (actively) help the Winchesters fight the Leviathans. The demon Meg, who is fighting against Crowley, can. While the Winchesters don't turn on her, Crowley has his men grab her as soon as she has played her part.
  • On Social Game shows such as Survivor, this is common. Some have noticed that typically when an alliance has all their threats down or, decides to turn on each other thinking the other target(s) are of no threat, this happens to one of two people. Either the person who carried the alliance through by winning challenges or making plans, or the low-man on the totem pole who just was another vote. More often than not, it's the first.
    • Russell Hantz pulled one of these every other episode (which alliance-mate Natalie White was fully aware of and used as her cover).
  • In Teen Wolf, Kate offers to team up with Derek in exchange for giving her the identity of the Alpha. When she finds out that he doesn't know anything, she more or less declares this and tries to off him.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terminators typically dispose of human subordinates this way once their objectives are completed, usually to prevent them from talking about sensitive information. At one point, Cameron uses a man and his sister to find information on the Turk, on the promise that she would help them deal with The Mafiya goons out to kill him. However, once she has the information she abandons them to be killed, since they serve no further purpose to her, and she doesn't have anything else invested in their survival.
  • In the True Blood episode "Release Me", Maryann has her servant Daphne put to death with a ritual dagger after thanking her for her efforts and service.
  • In Season 3 of Warehouse 13, this trope is why even thinking of siding with Walter Sykes is a very bad idea.
    • Similarly, in the second season opener "Time Will Tell", Wells kills MacPherson by setting off his Disintegrator Leash after he becomes a liability to her plan.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place:
    Justin: What's... what's going on?
    Gorog: Oh, you'll soon see. You brought me the Moral Compass, so I'm done with you.


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