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"Could you kill your best friend?"
Sometimes, a character you care for is going to die. Rather than killed off by the bad guys or some cosmic whim, though, the murderer is another character who cares very much for the deceased. Perhaps your little sis has become a Tragic Monster and you have to stake them or maybe you have to Fight Your Friend to the death. Occasionally it's a case of Shoot the Dog or Mercy Kill. In any case, the characters know each other, as well as their relationship to each other. And the killer knows that the other has to die for anything to be resolved. In some cases leads to Cradling Your Kill.
In video games, this is invariably a Player Punch. This trope usually doesn't villainize the killer, since the now-dead character generally has to be killed to right wrongs, or at least keep the story going. Doesn't stop him or her from feeling like crap afterwards, though.
Anime and Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji killing his only friend Kaworu, in order to save humanity. Kaworu actually smiles when he tells Shinji he has to die...
- Baldr Force EXE: Tohru has to kill Ren to keep her from destroying everything in the Wired.
- Raziel from Angel Sanctuary forces himself to shoot his beloved superior Zaphikel when the latter transforms into a ghoul.
- Blood Plus: due to Psycho Serum Delta 67, the heroine Saya's adoptive father George Miyagusuku starts to turn into a mindless bloodthirsty monster and she must reluctantly kill him before the drug takes effect.
- Code Geass: Lelouch (as Zero) is forced to shoot Euphemia after he accidentally Geasses her into killing all the Japanese, sending her on a rampage. Just as he does it, he mentally bids her farewell, and even thinks to himself that she was his first love. He's later shown angsting over it.
- And then there's the finale, where Suzaku, disguised as Zero, stabs Lelouch in a Thanatos Gambit. He's shown crying while doing it.
- It's also especially tragic because everybody except Lelouch thinks Suzaku is dead and since he was an accomplice in the Zero-Approval Gambit, he can't go public or he'll ruin Lelouch's plans. Also, he can't take the easy way out because his "live" Geass forces him to do exactly that.
- And then there's the finale, where Suzaku, disguised as Zero, stabs Lelouch in a Thanatos Gambit. He's shown crying while doing it.
- Weiss Kreuz loves this trope. Loves it. Aya has to kill two of his mentors; Ken has to kill his best friend, girlfriend, surrogate mother, and old friend's brother; and Youji gets to kill three girlfriends.
- In Naruto, Sakura has decided to kill Sasuke with her own hands, to save their land and spare him from falling even lower than he already has. Subverted, as when push comes to shove, she can't bring herself to do it and is nearly killed herself.
- In RG Veda, believing that Sōma can't survive the battle and will be killed, Kendappa-ō kills her herself, and then commits suicide because she sees no point in living on without her.
- Bleach: Rukia Kuchiki was forced to kill her mentor and first love, Kaien Shiba, when he became possessed by a Hollow.
- In the Claymore universe, this sort of thing happens all the time due to the whole I Cannot Self-Terminate thing. The first instance occured in the very first volume when Clare was called upon to Mercy Kill her girlhood friend Elena.
- The instance with Raphaela is particulary memorable, tough.
- Yomi ;_; It's even the anime's tag line!
- In Corsair, this is a major issue for Canale. His murder of Sesaam, his lover at the time, is the biggest instance but he also feels responsible for his mother's suicide and the general death and destruction that follow him wherever he goes.
- In Project ARMS, all of the heroes say, in no uncertain terms, that they won't hesitate to kill Ryo if he's taken over by the Jabberwock. Given that he fears that happening to him, it's actually comforting. At the end of the manga, he remembers this when he has to bring himself to kill Katsumi, who is possessed by Alice. Fortunately, she gets better.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Mami during the third timeline of episode ten's Groundhog Day Loop hits the Despair Event Horizon upon learning the true nature of Magical Girls after Sayaka turns into a witch and has to be killed. Not wanting the rest of the magical girls to turn like her, Mami kills Kyouko, but before she is able to kill Homura and Madoka before presumably ending her own life, Madoka shoots her.
- An even more tragic example is later in the third timeline, when Madoka and Homura destroy Walpurgisnacht, but are both in danger of becoming witches. Madoka removes the darkness from Homura's Soul Gem in order to spare her from becoming a witch, and Homura returns the favor by tearfully Mercy Killing Madoka before she becomes a witch.
- Realising that he has to do this to his Love Interest, Yin because her Super-Powered Evil Side will destroy the world if he doesn't causes Hei from Darker Than Black to BSOD big time leading to him becoming the drunken Jerkass we know from the second season.
- This is the entire point of the Sacrifice of Berserk, as first revealed in the Guardians of Desire arc. By consigning that which you most love to be eaten by demons, the would-be Apostle (or Godhand) cuts himself or herself off from humanity and opens himself or herself to evil. Unlike most of the examples on this page, this act is presented as a monstrous betrayal of everything the person holds dear and a crossing of the Moral Event Horizon, both because of the Cruel And Unusual Deaths often suffered by those who get the Brand put on them and due to the added little detail that anyone sacrificed in the creation of a demon gets his or her soul condemned to Hell for all eternity.
- Taimanin Asagi has Asagi doing this to Kyousuke close to the end. He had been turned into a monster, he was lucid at that moment, and she said "I love you" just before breaking his neck and killing him quickly. You would have to have a heart made out of stone not to feel anything over that.
- In Mai-HiME, Natsuki takes it upon herself to end her best (and for a long time, only) friend Shizuru's rampage, knowing that both of them will die in the process.
- Kyo Kara Maoh likes to flirt with this trope. Particularly Conrad and Yozak--they've been best friends for decades, are probably more comfortable with one another than with anyone else in the world, are the only survivors of their Half-Human Hybrid battalion. But in the second episode in which they appear together, Conrad threatens to kill Yozak if he messes with Yuuri again. This scene is so much freakier when you see it again after learning all the background between the characters.
- Conrad also throws Yozak off a cliff during his Face Heel Turn, right after Yozak attacked him while giving a declaration that was basically, 'you're my best friend and my captain and if this is how it's going to be I'll kill you myself.'
- And in the weird guest episode with the mountain of betrayal miasma, where everyone except Yuuri became convinced that everyone else had been compromised by the mist of betrayal and become their enemy. Yozak and Conrad had rather a good duel in the snow.
- When Conrad and Yuuri met in the coliseum it looked like this was going to happen, too, and about ten episodes later it very nearly did.
- In Amakusa 1637, two events shattered Naozumi Yatsuka's view of the world. One was the phenomenon that got him and his friends Trapped in the Past. The other was killing the first person in said past who understood him, his young and handsome slave Shirou. Yes, that Shirou.
- The ending to Million Dollar Baby. The film's star boxer has suffered a career-ending injury, is paralyzed below the neck, has no hope of recovery beyond being immobile for the rest of her life, and is actively suicidal but incapable of successfully completing the act due to her injuries. Her manager later makes the painful decision to cut off her life support and give her a massive dose of tranquilizers to avert her prolonged suffering.
- Averted in Serenity: "bullet in the brainpan squish." Just enough to scare the audience into thinking that was the planned ending. It is easy to imagine the writer pulling that one.
- In John Woo's The Killer, the title character has to put a bullet to Sidney, his best friend, in an I Cannot Self-Terminate moment, after he went through serious hell to get the money the Killer needs to have Jenny's eyes fixed to him and got shot by the bad guys.
- Subverted in the ending of Pan's Labyrinth, when Ofelia has to kill her baby brother to prove herself as a princess of another world. She refuses to do so. Soon, she's killed... and then she's spirited away to her real home anyway.
- Double Subverted in Kill Bill. At first, all we see of The Bride is her Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Bill, her ex-lover, but after she kills him, she breaks down sobbing for several moments.
- Shaun of the Dead: Shaun shoots the zombie Barbara after her transformation.
- The Usual Suspects has a sickening version. According to a legend, when Keyser Söze was a small-time gangster, someone once tried to take him down by going after his wife and children. He came home to find them being held hostage, guns and knives being held to them, pleading eyes, etc. Not to be cowed, he killed them all himself, then the shocked hostage-takers, "then their parents, then their parents' friends..."
- In X Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine is forced to kill Jean to stop her murderous Phoenix alter-ego from destroying everything.
- As mentioned in the Literature section, Old Yeller is one of the oldest examples in film. At first there is a Hope Spot tease when Travis pens the dog in a corncrib, hoping he won't turn rabid — he does.
- Will Smith's dog in I Am Legend.
- Both the film and book version of Of Mice and Men show two examples. The first is a subversion depicting a man who has to have someone shoot his rabies-infected dog. He laments that he didn't do it himself. It is later brutally invoked when George has to kill Lenny to save him from an angry mob.
- In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Jim Prideaux and Bill Haydon are known as "The Inseparables", their relationship so close that it's possibly not totally platonic. But when it turns out Haydon is The Mole, Prideaux is the one who executes him.
- The end of Old Yeller, where Travis has to Shoot the Dog after Old Yeller has defended the family from a rabid wolf. Unlike the film, Travis knows the dog will inevitably succumb to rabies and shoots him as soon as he sees the dog's injuries.
- Averted in the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac in The Bible. It turned out to have been a Secret Test of Character for Abraham.
- Speaking of sacrifices: Agamemnon had to kill his daughter Iphigenia so that the Greek fleet could sail...(opinions differ as to whether he actually did the deed.)
- In Outlander, Jamie has to kill his godfather, Murtagh, after he's grievously wounded at the battle of Culloden.
- In the Stephen King novel Salem's Lot, Ben is forced to kill Susan after she becomes a vampire.
- In the finale of the novel Of Mice and Men, George has to kill his best friend Lennie to save him from being lynched after the latter kills Curley's wife by breaking her neck by accident.
- Rosemary Sutcliffe's Mark of the Horse Lord begins with the gladiator hero having to kill his best friend in the arena.
- In Agatha Christie's Nemesis, a young woman who is about to elope is murdered by her guardian because she was loved by her too much.
- At the climax of Changes Harry has to kill Susan once she fully turns into a Red Court vampire, turning their bloodline curse back against the Red Court and wiping them out.
Live Action TV
- In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Colonel Tigh has to poison his wife after she betrays the resistance on New Caprica (which she did to save his life).
- Done tragically in NCIS — Ziva kills her brother Ari (who is a Complete Monster) and is never able to mention him again without visibly stiffening or crying.
- In House, Wilson does this when he turns off Amber's life support. For everybody else, though, it was Alas, Poor Scrappy.
- In Torchwood: Children of Earth, Jack has to sacrifice his grandson.
- Russell T. Davies seems to like this trope. In The Second Coming, Steven Baxter, who also happens to be the son of God, is poisoned by his girlfriend Judith. She does tell him that the food is poisoned, but he finds that she is right, he must die.
- Steven Moffat's not letting off with this trope either, playing it heartbreakingly straight with Rory, who accidentally shoots Amy in an attempt to hold off Auton control of his mind.
- In Merlin, Merlin poisons Morgana — who was unaware that she was the vessel of the Knights of Medhir — because he did what he had to do in order to save Camelot, but at the price of killing his friend and someone he cared about. Many fans, while praising the acting of Colin and Katie, did not agree with Merlin's actions. Also a Shoot the Dog moment.
- In Nikita, Alex shoots Thom, whom she had feelings for and even kisses him before he dies.
- In Supernatural Bobby kills his wife when she's possessed by a demon. Then kills her again, when Death brings her back to life but learns that she's turning into a flesh-eating zombie. Naturally it pains him a great deal.
Bobby: She was the love of my life. How many times do I have to kill her?
- This trope is a major deal in the series. It is also the background of recurring antagonist Blood Knight Gordon Walker, whose sister was turned into a vampire.
- And, of course, in the season one finale John Winchester ordered Sam to shoot him with the Colt to take the demon out as well. (He didn't.) And a few episodes later John's final direction to Dean was that he 'had to save Sam,' or he 'might have to kill him.'
- And Sam's mid-Season Two insistence that Dean promise to do just that if Sam goes darkside. Dean promised. He was lying.
- The trope is played with a little in Season Six, with soulless Robo-Sam determined to prevent Dean from restoring his soul. Rogue angel Balthazar informs him that to get his soul to reject reunion with his body he needs to pollute it with a crime such as patricide. Robo-Sam can't feel love, but apparently Sam's regard for Bobby as surrogate father is enough for murdering him to be 'good enough.'
- This is also the scenario that gives Bobby the Fridge Logic-freaky line "nobody kills me in my house but me!"
- Other lesser instances abound, particularly where family members or Love Interests of both recurring and incidental cast turn out to be or turn into monsters. Sam's first girlfriend after his episode-one bereavement turns out to be a werewolf who asks him to kill her. Or there's that time Sam strangled Dean, or that time Sam shot Dean, or that time Sam was possessed and shot Dean...
- There's also the Bad Future.
- Buffy to Angel in the season two finale is the obvious one (although He recovered).
- And, as evidenced in flashbacks on Angel, Holtz had to kill his daughter after Angelus (or possibly Darla) turned her into a vampire.
- Also in Angel, Gunn stakes his sister after she is turned into a vampire.
- In Charmed, Phoebe needs to overcome her emotions and vanquish her husband and Heel Face Revolving Door Cole. Three times.
- Played with in Robin Hood. In the finale of season two Guy of Gisborne stabs Marian to death after she reveals her love for Robin Hood. The crime of passion ends with him being guilt-ridden for the rest of the show's duration, and even in his dying moments he doesn't hold out any hope that he'll ever see her again in the afterlife. He also gives his little sister a vial of poison so that she can kill herself, even after she tells him: "you loved me once."
- This is the philosophy of Big Bad John Wakefield on Harpers Island. He also tries to make Henry, his son and accomplice in the murders, kill the woman he loves. Henry refuses.
- In the 4th season finale of The Mentalist, Lorelei suggests that in order to become his disciple, Jane bring Red John a gift- the dead body of Teresa Lisbon, his close friend and partner. Subverted in that he only pretends to kill her.
- The Decemberists' Culling of the Fold is, basically, about this. For pretty much no reason. Just because someone's got to do the culling of the fold.
- Judas in musical Jesus Christ Superstar (the Biblical text itself could be basis for this trope too, depending on how you look at it).
I don't believe he knows I acted for our good
- Othello is led by the lies of Manipulative Bastard Iago to do this to his wife Desdemona.
- In Richard Wagner's "Ring", Wotan does this to his son Siegmund in Die Walküre and Brünhild to Siegfried in Götterdämmerung, although the actual killing is done by Hunding in the first case, and by Hagen in the second.
- Minerva from Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon wants to be the one to kill her brother Michalis, an enemy of the protagonist's group:
Minerva: (...) Even now, some part of me loves him.
- Metal Gear Solid 3 has a huge one in the form of a Player Punch. The player, as Naked Snake, is actually forced to press the button and shoot The Boss while she's down. Let's just say that any player who's human felt as depressed as Snake doing that.
- The end cutscene twists the knife by revealing that The Boss was a Fake Defector after all, and it was her sworn duty to be killed by Snake in order to prevent a nuclear war.
- The Boss had to experience something similar: She ended up having to go to Tselinoyarsk in 1962 to fight The Sorrow, and the flashbacks shown when Snake regains consciousness implies that she was unwilling to kill The Sorrow. Peace Walker explains the exact circumstances of what happened: The Philosophers forced them to fight each other to the death under the threat of Ocelot's life if both survive.
- You have to do this in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne if you take the Neutral path, in order to stop your friends from bringing their selfish ideas of paradise to reality.
- Or, in fact, if you take any other path. You can't be allied to both Chiaki and Isamu after all, you'll have to fight at least one of them.
- In Valkyrie Profile Covenant of the Plume, the titular feather is used to sacrifice party members, but it will only work on people who already trust you as a friend. So they have to like you for you to kill them.
- Silent Hill Homecoming has this as the first of two choices (or three, depending on which ending you're going for) that determine the ending you get. Your mom is strapped to a device and is obviously in pain, and you are given the choice to either end her life or try to get her off. Killing her leads to a better ending.
- Used all over the place in the Dept Heaven series:
- In Riviera the Promised Land, the trope is zigzagged, with a huge deal made out of how Ein is going to have to fight his mentor and best friend Ledah; the player is made to expect this trope. The battle leaves Ledah badly injured and asking for a Mercy Kill, but Ein refuses on the grounds of no way is he doing that to a friend. Shortly after this, Ledah does die, but it's at the hands of an enemy character after all.
- Yggdra Union has quite a lot of these--you are forced to kill the sympathetic queen of the Undines, either Roswell or Rosary (both of whom are otherwise recruitable), and a lot of innocent Bronquian civilians; in each case Yggdra and company are left wondering whether this is really the right thing to do. On top of that, there are three Shoot the Dog fights--against the Verlaine ruler you killed and Kylier after they Came Back Wrong, and Gulcasa, maddened by grief and about to unwittingly trigger The End of the World as We Know It by very literally sacrificing himself. The last three especially are infamous Tear Jerker moments.
- There's also quite a bit of this in Blaze Union--C route gives us the quintessential Came Back Wrong fight with Jenon, and the bad end of the B route has Omnicidal Maniac Emilia in need of staking. The A route tries to pull this when Medoute concludes that Gulcasa has become a monster and decides to take him down herself, but Gulcasa gives this trope the finger and spares her, despite being told in no uncertain terms that this is incredibly dangerous. As this proves his humanity, however, Medoute and Jenon leave the country instead of going after him again.
- Knights in The Nightmare has Willimgard unwittingly kill his own son, who's been turned into a werewolf, and later the now-harpy Pisce as well. The narrator calls him out on the latter.
- Gungnir zigzags the trope much in the same manner as Riviera, but ultimately averts it against all odds: despite the huge, dramatic battle between Julio and Ragnus, Julio doesn't kill his brother at the end of it, and after a lot of yelling at the party, Ragnus gets up and walks away.
- Gloria Union features three of these fights--Ishut against his childhood frienemy Velgas, Elisha and Zazarland against Elisha's mother Enryetta, and Ishut versus his badly-abused twin brother Ashley. Despite this being a Lighter and Softer game, the trope is played straight every time.
- Very prevalent in Tales of Symphonia. Let's see...
- It's part of the backstory of four members of the main cast for similar reasons (we play Lloyd and Genis as they're made to kill Marble, Regal killed his lover and Kratos killed his wife.)
- In an alternate route, it's possible to fight and kill Zelos — very close to one member of the cast (who mourns him) and a character many players adore.
- Less prominently, Yuan is fighting to prevent the resurrection of his fiancée.
- Subverted when Lloyd has to fight his father, who fully intends to die but ends up saved against his will.
- The last boss battle is against Mithos in child form and you can have Genis, who befriended him, join in the fight.
- And in the sequel, the last two boss battles are Emil VS Richter, in which Emil has always idolized Richter and looks exactly like Richter's dead best friend, then Emil VS his crush Marta and friend Lloyd, which is also a very effective and unexpected Player Punch since Marta was the only other permanent member of your party for the entire game, and Lloyd is the hero of the first game.
- In Famous 2's evil ending has Cole do this to Nix and Zeke
- Left 4 Dead: In Zoey's backstory, she shot her father so that he would not become infected after being bit. However, It's heavily implied that he was a carrier (immune), but Zoey couldn't have possibly known this...
- Imaginary!Barry in Alan Wake's second DLC "The Writer" lampshades this with the line "'kill your darlings'" as Alan goes to the Cabin for the final battle.
- Dragon Age II is madly in love with this trope. In the prologue, Aveline is forced to kill Wesley, her husband, to save him from the Darkspawn taint, unless Hawke does it for her. Later on, Anders has the choice between either killing his ex-lover Karl, or leaving him to remain Tranquil, which he and Karl both regard as a Fate Worse Than Death. Hawke may be forced to Mercy Kill a tainted sibling, and Merrill may have to kill her mentor and adoptive mother, Keeper Marethari, as well as potentially her entire clan. Varric ends up having to either Mercy Kill his brother Bartrand, or spend the rest of his life caring for him as he has been driven completely insane by the idol (after Bartrand tried to kill him). Fenris may kill his sister, in revenge for having given him to Danarius as a slave. And in the endgame, Hawke may kill his/her lover, if s/he romanced Anders and chooses to kill him after he blows up the Chantry. Damn.
- Blaz Blue: After her lover, Lotte Carmine, lost his body and his mind and turned into Arakune, Litchi Faye-Ling set out to either cure him of his condition, or put an end to him, should that prove to be an impossible task, though no conclusion has been reached yet. The developers play this for heartwrenching drama in the canon continuty, but aren't shy to play it for laughs everywhere else.
- This trope is Survival of the Fittest to a tee. Particularly, in V2, Bryan Calvert has to Mercy Kill his best friend, Seth Mattlock, en route to to fighting Mariavel Varella, a former friend turned psycho.
- Saddam Hussein would order his bodyguards to kill members of their family, so they would "have nowhere to run."
- In seppuku, the role of the kaishaku is to behead the man who has just committed the act. It was usually filled by a friend, or at least a loyal servant. This likely formed because seppuku, being a suicide ritual in which you stab yourself in abdomen and cut left from right, would otherwise bring about an incredibly painful end. The exact time to behead varied and was discussed between the principal and kaishaku beforehand — while initially the beheading was performed after stabbing themselves and cutting horizontally, it changed as time went on to that they may beheaded as soon as they stab themselves before they can even show pain from it, or even just showing they intended to go through with it by making a motion toward grabbing the suicide blade.
- (It may say something about either Balthazar or Robo-Sam that fratricide does not get brought to the table, or that may have been a matter of scheduling, since Dean was already meeting with Death at that point.)