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You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.

"... for the last time!"

Commonly in a Sic Em scene, the Big Bad - usually a Diabolical Mastermind - kills one of his henchmen who has failed to capture and/or kill The Hero, as motivation to all of his other (surviving) underlings not to repeat their failure. Presumably, the other underlings immediately all fall into line instead of (say) quietly updating their resumes and trying to find a less psychopathic overlord to work for. This is related to Karmic Death.

Some bad guys will use The Blofeld Ploy to pull off the underling murder. Others will drop the offending underling through a Trap Door in The War Room into a Shark Pool or other Death Trap.

The Big Bad may eventually realize there's something special about the hero and stop summarily executing minions for their failures as he gains a healthy admiration for his skills, but don't bet on it, evil organizations more often than not will stick to an explicit policy of "You fail, you die." Few stories address the question of what happens when this policy is taken to its logical conclusion, oddly enough. (Realistically, such a policy causes its practitioners to kill off many of their own skilled leaders, while leaving the survivors demoralized, afraid to take initiative, and inclined to either desert or kill the leader before he kills them. See the unfortunate results described in the Hitler and Stalin examples under "Real Life".)

Another variant on this is instead of the Big Bad doing this, a high-ranking, oftentimes very loyal, and particularly ruthless official working for the Big Bad, possibly The Dragon, does it instead — perhaps without the boss' approval.

See also: Bad Boss, Shoot the Messenger, You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, and Villainous Demotivator. Contrast Even Evil Has Loved Ones, I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure.

Examples of You Have Failed Me include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Rosario to Vampire, Anti-Thesis leaders execute anyone who fails to kill Aono Tsukune...and are then promptly executed by their higher-ups when they fail to kill him. Subverted at the end of the first manga season when the second in command appears to execute the leader for failure, and then heals him instead. It helps that the second in command was the leader's only friend during the time he is a human and gave him some of his abilities to help survive.
  • Mimi and Sheshe suffer this fate at the hands of both their bosses in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. They got off lucky the first time, only turning back to their original forms; the second time, depending which version you're following, either their hearts are absorbed like Seira's, or they get eaten alive.
  • Subverted twice in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 by Bunbee. He drops Girinma down the Trap Door, presumably never to be seen again... only for Girinma to climb back up five episodes later, ready to fail him again. Much later, Bunbee finds himself on the other end of this trope, being dropped off of a building by Kawarino. Bunbee turns out to have grabbed a convenient ledge... and then remembered that, you know, he can fly, thus the reason why he has appeared during the sequel.
  • The Quirky Miniboss Squad in 4 of the 5 Sailor Moon seasons all fall prey to this trope at the hands of each season's Big Bad. There was at least one villain per saga doing so, from Queen Beryl killing Jadeite to Galaxia eventually winding up killing all but one of her minions, including the "Brainwashed" Uranus and Neptune. Rubeus gives a specially cruel twist to it in regards to Kooan from the Ayakashi Sisters, whom he gives an exploding MacGuffin and sends off to fight the Senshi to force her kill herself for him, since she loved him.
    • Sailor Stars is a particularly cruel instance of this trope. The Big Bad (Sailor Galaxia) sends her four minions, the Anima-Mates to Earth to find "true star seeds" (immortal souls) inside of the living beings of Earth that would impede her chances of taking over the galaxy, and killed most of them when they failed (except Sailor Lead Crow, who was too ambitious for her own good and got eaten by a black hole). At the end of the series, it turns out Galaxia knew that the Sailor Soldiers held the true star seeds the whole time, which makes it seem like she toyed around with the Anima-Mates for yuks and giggles.
      • What's amusing, such stratospheric minion-disposing rate is the consequence of the anime being Lighter and Softer compared to the manga. In the manga, Sailor Senshi just fry most of their opponents, while the anime tones down violence considerably, so when villains (with notable exceptions of certain Big Bads), die, it is either through this trope or Hoist by His Own Petard.
      • Interestingly, the Live Action TV version, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon; averts this by having Queen Beryl respond to a subordinate suggesting their rival be killed for failure "....why should I kill a loyal servant?"
    • This practice is also probably the reason that no youmas in Series 1 ever attempt to flee when outmatched. In Episode 05, Jadeite calmly informs youma Kyurene that should she fail at her task, her life is forfeit.. so when she indeed fails, she only flies a short distance away and then does not try to run away when Sailor Moon attacks her - probably knowing she is doomed to die either way.
  • Subverted in Excel Saga, in which Diabolical Mastermind Il Palazzo drops Excel down a miles-deep, alligator-filled pit almost every episode and in several chapters. It isn't always alligators; in fact, the first time they appear in the anime, Il Palazzo refers to them as a Christmas present ("I have provided you with a knife and all suitable supplies"). The next time we see Excel, she's discussing the proper way of killing an alligator and complaining about how tough it is to skin one.
    • Played straight later in the anime and the manga, though in different ways. In the anime Il Palazzo shoots Excel through the chest and leaves her to die in the desert, and in the manga Il Palazzo abandons Excel on a deserted island and replaces her with a competent robotic double.
  • Mai-HiME: Father Joseph gets the "You're fired" speech from the higher-ups at Searrs for failing to eliminate the main characters in Episode 12. However, they don't actually kill him...they allow him to sit and watch as Alyssa and Miyu enact their plan to take over Fuuka Academy. He was eventually killed by Miyu after he shot little Alyssa at mission's end.
    • His shooting Alyssa was also an example of this trope, as he was sent in to deal with Alyssa for her failing to take over the school.
  • During the Saiyan Saga of Dragonball Z, Vegeta kills his partner Nappa after he gets his ass kicked by Goku, considering Nappa to be no use to him as a Saiyan warrior considering how Goku made an idiot out of him.
    • Must be genetic. King Vegeta pulls one of these during a flashback.
    • Well, his back was also broken during the course of the fight... it was still a jerkass thing to do.
      • Especially given that they had access to medical technology that would heal such injuries.
      • Plus the natural ability of Saiyans to gain huge power boosts after recovering from near-death injuries would have made Nappa much more of a match for Goku.
    • Freeza also does this to his henchman Orlen when he failed to question the Namek that he killed so he blasted him with his eyebeams.
    • Dragon Ball loves this trope. The Red Ribbon Army is known for its low tolerance for failure. For his failure to collect Dragon Balls, General Blue is used as a measuring stick for new baddie Tao Pai Pai. Colonel Silver is likewise condemned for his inability to retrieve Dragon Balls (being explicitly executed in the Manga, while the Anime leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not he managed to escape execution). Freeza holds his army in line with fear of this. He promised this punishment to Zarbon if he failed to retrieve Vegeta (and also enacted this exact punishment to Orlen after the latter made the mistake of admitting to Frieza that he killed a survivor of Vegeta's raid on a Namekian village before he interrogated him on the location of a Dragon Ball, also partly to act as motivation for Zarbon as aforementioned). When facing off with Trunks, he kills one of his lackeys who is scared to face Trunks after all the other Mooks are sliced up effortlessly.
      • Regarding the Trunks example, it should be noted that this trope only applied in the English dub. In the original Japanese, Frieza's reason for killing him was arguably more petty, as Frieza decided to just personally confront Trunks and only killed the poor sap because he was unfortunate enough to be standing in his way.
      • On the topic of the Red Ribbon Army, their definition of failure is... well, just say that anything even slightly wrong is a failure, sometimes with the successes expected to be beyond the impossible. For instance, Commander Red, when he is talking to Colonel Silver, mentioned that a soldier who ended up losing an eye from being unable to efficiently dodge Red sicing his pet cat at him was "no longer with them", implying that he executed him because he couldn't evade the cat efficiently. In addition, General Blue himself utilized this trope twice: The first time was when one of the submarine pilots fired a torpedo at Goku and Bulma's submarine and missed twice, and the second time was shortly after he survived the events of the pirate cave and returned to base, where he witnessed the sole surviving soldier at his camp hiding from Bulma, Goku, and Krillin, with it being strongly implied with the cut away sound that he shot him (though it is only this trope in the Japanese version. The English dub downplays it by implying that Blue executed him for sleeping on the job due to his saying "Apology accepted, Soldier 23. Now you can sleep all you want.").
  • MetalSeadramon from Digimon Adventure kills Scorpiomon after he fails to capture and incapacitate all 8 of the kids (Joe and Mimi escape). Though it must be said Scorpiomon failed big time and multiple times before MetalSeadramon did him in, and that MetalSeadramon was probably the least Bad Boss out of all the Digimon Adventure villains.
    • Machinedramon also kills WaruMonzaemon after he's defeated by the kids, and Puppetmon shoots Blossomon and Mushroomon after they let TK slip away. And the most famous, Myotismon's killing of Pumpkinmon and Gotsumon when they fail at being evil. Myotismon did this a lot actually. Very few of his minions survived till the end of the arc and at least half of them were killed by him for this reason, and most of those that did were absorbed to fuel his One-Winged Angel form.
    • In Digimon Frontier Duskmon says Arbormon (who was just defeated) has become a liability because he has lost his Beast Spirit before casually slicing him.
  • In Princess Tutu, when Princess Kraehe continually fails to bring the Raven a heart as a sacrifice, he attempts to eat her heart instead. She escapes, but barely. (Ironically, he then later seems to be surprised when she betrays him and tries to save Mytho from the same fate.)
  • In Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid, a Running Gag sees Ax Crazy Psycho for Hire Gates do this to quite a lot of subordinates for any number of random reasons. It's mostly played for comedy, if only because of the utterly insane ways he does it: In one case, he shoots a man who gainsaid him in the head point blank and then argues with his corpse for a good thirty seconds before noticing he is dead, and then starts bemoaning the man's sudden and unexpected death and wonders how it happened.
  • Marik Ishtar of Yu-Gi-Oh! tends to do this whenever one of his Rare Hunters loses. He controls their minds briefly and leaves them in a seemingly permanent comatose state after delivering his messages.
    • In the manga, Marik's punishment to Pandora (Arcana in the US) could be considered worse. Marik scans the unconscious Pandora's mind for a time he contemplated suicide and increased those fealings, stating that when Pandora comes to he's immediately be Driven to Suicide.
  • Averted in Mazinger Z, where Dr. Hell certainly punished and berated his subordinates when they failed, but never killed them for their failures. When Ashura died in battle, Dr. Hell was very pissed off at the heroes.
  • The One Piece conspiracy group Baroque Works held this as the penalty for any agents failing their assigned mission. While none of them liked it (except insofar as it got them promoted), most of the Officer Agents treated it merely as part of the job.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo does this to Bellamy after he loses to Luffy for disgracing his flag by using his powers to force Sarquiss to kill him.[1] He later attempts it again on Gecko Moria, apparently on orders of someone in the World Government who outranks Sengoku, as it would be better for the Seven Warlords of the Sea's reputation.
    • Nero, a CP9 initiate, gets finished off and thrown in the ocean by Rob Lucci for failing to defeat Franky, as well as for losing his temper and trying to kill him instead of bringing him in alive.
  • Subverted in Naruto. After Madara notices that Sasuke failed to capture the eight-tailed beast for Akatsuki, he intercepts him and reminds him that betrayal means death, but instead of killing him, has him go to kill Danzo instead.
    • Mentioned much earlier in the Sasuke Retrieval arc, when Kimimaro stated that even if Tayuya succeeds in killing of Shikamaru (which she didn't), he was going to kill her (and probably anyone else left in the Sound Four) anyway because she failed to bring Sasuke to Orochimaru by sunset. Kimimaro would never have gotten a chance to make good on his threat, though, since he died too.
    • Sasuke eventually does this to his second team, throwing Suigetsu and Jugo to the wolves just because he doesn't want to wait to fight Danzo, then stabbing Danzo through Karin rather than making an effort to save her as he decided her getting taken hostage makes her not worth keeping (he was even going to finish her off himself to keep her quiet).
  • Used in Nurarihyon no Mago. Interestingly, this isn't used just to demonstrate that the Big Bad is a dick. One of the protangonist's youkai allies uses this to infer that the Big Bad in question is extremely confident and has legitimate reason to be so.
  • In episode 42 of Tekkaman Blade, Tekkaman Omega imprisons Blade's twin brother in a sort of organic prison pod for his repeated failures. It's only when his sole other Tekkaman is slain that he is willing to release him.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn has a bad guy group which actually has a stated policy of killing those who fail. They're the Varia, the Vongola crime family's elite assassination squad. One of the reasons they're so tough is their tradition of "erasing the weak," meaning those who fail in a mission are swiftly put to death by one of the others.
    • They must go through a lot of recruitment drives.
      • Or so you'd think, but this may be closer to an Informed Ability, as we've only actually seen them carry out the policy once, and the victim survived and was even allowed to rejoin the unit.
  • This is apparently the standard policy of The Syndicate in Darker Than Black. Huang regularly reminds Hei of this whenever he gets insubordinate, but Hei, apparently aware of the absurdity of the situation completely ignores him most of the time. Huang was right, though; their bosses do try to wipe them out when they get too far out of line.
  • Bleach
    • After Renji is defeated by Ichigo in the Soul Society arc, Byakuya orders him imprisoned without having his life threatening injuries healed.
    • Aizen murdering Halibel, and later Tousen.
    • Rudbone and the Exequias, whose job it is to kill any Arrancar who loses a fight, like Dordonii and Ciricci. In other words, Aizen is so fond of this trope he actually created an official department of You Have Failed Me.
  • The Major attempts to pull this on a commander who questions his order to have all of the troops suicidally rush Alucard's familiars. Unfortunately for the Major's dignity, he isn't the best marksman in the world (although he just orders his troops to do it instead).
    • Played straight later on with Zorin Blitz. The Major informs her, via Schroedinger, that normally he'd have an incompetent subordinate killed by activating their suicide chip, but as Millennium are currently occupied with Walter, he'll leave her execution to Seras Victoria. Who is more than happy to oblige.
  • Subverted in Soul Eater. After failing to prevent their plans being foiled Mosquito is offered a drink by Arachne. Giriko implies it may be poisoned, however Arachne reassures him and tells him to make up for it by doing better next time.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! season 0 had Kaiba doing this with his brother Mokuba. This was the first series based on Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Mokuba wasn't Kaiba's Morality Pet there.
  • Yes. Even Pokémon.
    • In the anime, we don't see this out of actual villains, though Giovanni rightly chews out field grunts Jessie and James whenever they try to call him. On the other hand, Paul will regularly release any Pokemon that fails to live up to his standards, however ridiculous they may be. This tends to overlap with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, as being a long runner on his team does not provide immunity - as Chimchar came to learn firsthand. This came back to bite him big time when Ash finally beat Paul using the same Chimchar he threw away.
    • Pokémon Special sees Ark, an Aqua Admin, ordered to stay behind and defend team headquarters while Archie, Amber, Angie, and the Magma alumni take the Kaien I to the Cave of Origin. To be fair to Archie, Ark should have known better about when and around who to indulge in Evil Gloating. To be fair to Ark, however, Sapphire is harder to kill than the lot of them anticipated.
  • Rapunzel in MAR has the unfortunate habit of offing any of her teammates who lose in battle, but gives them the chance to redeem themselves if they beat her in a game of rock paper scissors. It's a mark of what a Complete Monster she is, considering her teammates are Aqua, Captain Hook, and her equally as horrible brother. She cheats at rock paper scissors- Aqua wins, and Rapunzel's brother murders Aqua anyway. Her cruel ways turn out to earn her a well deserved death, killed off by a member of her side, Ian.
  • Jack and the Witch. After being given a chance to recapture Jack and his friends, Allegra fails. As an example to all who fail, the evil queen punishes her by exiling her to the Ice Caves for eternity.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father and Pride consume the people who fail them, even members of their own "family".
  • Star Driver features a rather tame version of this one. Glittering Star pilots who lose to Takuto get their Cybody piloting privileges revoked. It's understandable, as the series repeatedly mentions that Cybodies are really freaking expensive and they can't just have any incompetent buffoon step in and break their toys whenever they feel like it.
  • In Shaman King, Hao does this to three random shamans by burning them alive after their failure to capture and get their revenge on Lyserg. And retains his calm, cheery attitude in doing so. Creepy.
  • Averted hard in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where Reinhard doesn't kill any of his admirals despite some of them having some rather spectacular failures. Especially in the case of Hot-Blooded Admiral Bittenfeld, who walks into an obvious trap that ends in Admiral Fahrenheit dying in an attempt to bail him out, which would certainly get him killed by Vader, but gets to fight again and distinguishes himself in the following battle.


  • Played straight and slightly subverted in the first Robin miniseries. The villain of the piece kills two of his Mooks with his bare hands for failing him, then promotes a Dragon Lady named Lynx to the position of head Mook. When she inevitably fails as well, he ponders over the dilemma of leaving her unpunished and having to kill a woman. He then hands her to his Dragon for a "not too dire, but memorable" punishment. Which to the Dragon, meant putting out her eye.
  • This is also done in 'Welcome Back Frank', Garth Ennis's opening Punisher mini-series. Ma Gnucci, after having her arms and legs torn off by a polar bear in the NY Zoo, berates her Mooks for failing to catch Castle and then orders one of them executed for asking her how she's feeling. The guy she orders to do it protests, so she orders him executed as well. She goes through about three underlings before she finds someone willing to shoot the previous executees.
  • One of the better variations on this trope in recent years was the "Tangled Web of Spider-Man" issue(#4), "Severance Package", in which the Kingpin deals with an underling who botches an illegal arms job. The story is especially chilling because it's told from the point of view of the underling, who knows full well that he's about to die but refuses to run away, despite having a wife and children.
  • In early issues of Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik often did this to robots who messed up.
  • The Joker has an interesting variation: You have succeeded admirably... But I'm bored. Working for Joker is like Russian Roulette. With bullets in all 6 chambers. And two guns. And the bullets are dipped in poison. And you don't get to spin the barrel.
  • Dr. Doom, mostly with his robotic henchmen, though.
    • In one instance during a battle with the Fantastic 4 his head scientist had a flamethrower and the flames were getting dangerously close to a priceless painting he obtained so he shot him with the gun the scientist built for him.
      • He also kills that henchman's vengeful brother (also a henchman) who tried to trick Doom into a device that would kill him.
  • Near the end of the first volume of Runaways, the Pride's main mole in the police, Lieutenant Flores, tries to capture the kids without telling the Pride in advance. The ensuing fight destroys the Hostel and nearly gets everyone involved killed. His bosses are there when his men find him.

 "I thought I was dead."

"And for once, you were right." *shotgun*

  • Completely subverted in Hourman. When a villain who presides over a hellish slave camp learns that one of the Mooks screwed up, he finds the underling cowering in fear, certain that he's about to be killed for his failure. Instead, the villain pats him on the back, tells him to believe in himself, and gives him a couple of bucks to go buy himself a snack. It turns out their entire evil organization uses a series of self-help seminars as a front, and so they have a policy of only using positive reinforcement with the henchmen. And it works.
  • Subverted and played straight in Mandrake. The evil organization "8" has a strict policy to kill anyone who fails, however so many have been defeated by Mandrake that they no longer kill those that fail against him because of the enormous losses it would mean.
  • In the Marvel Universe, HYDRA has this as their standard policy. In fact, in the years when the organization was in disarray without the overall control of Baron Von Strucker, the various factions seemed to spend more time killing each other after each defeat than achieving anything.
  • Darkseid usually averts this (once commenting that such thinking is just wasteful). In fact sometimes it seems you're more likely to live a lot longer the more you screw up because the moment you finish your task he'll throw you under the bus.
    • Not that he doesn't sometimes kill people who fail him - he has to keep up appearances - but since he uses his Omega Beams, he usually just resurrects them later when he needs them again.
  • From Asterix and the Black Gold: Dubbelosix, a Druid spying for the Romans, has to get the secret of magic potion and stop our heroes from procuring an ingredient. Asterix, however, outgambits him, and Dubbelosix and his superior both end up sentenced to death in the arena, covered in BEES!
  • While a competent and highly skilled agent, Count Dooku's Dark Side Adept Asajj Ventress was prone to failure because she specifically targeted Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who were out of her league. After spending months healing from a particularly brutal loss as Anakin's hands, Ventress is found by Obi-Wan and immediately attacks him, moving far from her master's side across a battlefield. With the Republic forces closing in and Ventress too far away, Dooku comments that she had failed him too many times and orders her shot. She survives, though.
  • Shockwave, as portrayed in most Transformers comics, is the ultimate aversion of this trope. Motivated by logic and reason, and utterly aware of the dwindling numbers available to the Decepticons (in a race that cannot reproduce without the Matrix), Shockwave hates to let soliders go to waste. He can and will harshly reprimand failure (as he does with Frenzy in "Mind Games"), but doesn't ever kill them. Insomuch, that after ursurping leadership from Megatron, then soundly beating the ex-leader - he leaves Megatron alive and makes him swear loyalty to him, not fearing from any retribution. Perhaps the best example, though, is in DW comics "The War Within - Ages of Wrath", where Rumble and Frenzy have seemingly caused an explosion that destroyed most of his work in his lab, Shockwave only questions the two and then sends them away to get back to work... In leaving, Rumble and Frenzy even remark that had this happened with Megatron, he would have ripped them apart in anger.
    • Shockwave even gives failed minions time to explain themselves - and accepts logical reasoning. When Megatron - his subordinate at the time - led a suicidal attack on the Ark resulting in the deaths/capture of many Decepticons, Shockwave prepares to promptly execute him. But after Megatron points out that Shockwave made a bigger blunder by allowing the Autobots to steal the secrets of Combiner technology, Shockwave not only accepts his excuse, but relinquishes Decepticon leadership back to Megatron!
    • In another situation, after Soundwave let Buster Witwicky, whom he was ordered to capture, go away free despite him having the upper hand, Shockwave comes to the conclusion that Soundwave is either a traitor, or defective, and has outlived his usefulness. But when Soundwave explains Buster's mind needs to re-unite with Optimus so the Decepticons can tap into its secrets, Shockwave accepts this without question.
  • Double-subverted by Darkhell in Les Legendaires: Origines, when one of his generals fails to bring him back Princess Jadina. Darkhell grasps him and raises him above a pit of lava. The general begs him for mercy, and the following scene ensues:

 Darkhell: I sometimes do give a second chance...

General: T-Thanks, master...

Darkhell: ...Never a third one (let him fall to his death)


Fan Fiction

  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Fanfic "Demon Duelist Legacy," Kilomet Sestros is the ALL-TIME CHAMPION of this trope. If you breathe the wrong way while working under him, you can expect to be tortured excessively before finally dying. And he may eat your corpse afterwards. And he has billions of clones, so you can't kill him easily.
    • It gets worse in the GX Sequel Fic "Legends of a Demon Duelist," in which he gains power over darkness, and then he does stuff that even a Complete Monster would abstain from.
  • Ponies Make War: Near the end of the story, Prince Empyrean is drained of his power by the Elements of Harmony, at which point his father King Titan doesn't hesitate to kill him.


  • The trope name comes from what is possibly the most famous instance: Darth Vader's "You have failed me for the last time" in The Empire Strikes Back, before choking Admiral Ozzel and promoting Captain Piett to replace him before the body hits the floor. True to form, Piett survives a number of failures, once Vader realizes the heroes may actually count as a legitimate challenge. It helps that he didn't take any foolish chances like Ozzel was punished for.
    • He does it again to the hapless Captain Needa before the film's even halfway done, even when Needa had the foresight to apologize to Vader for losing track of the Millenium Falcon (There's a reason Vader says "Apology accepted, Captain Needa"). The turnover rate for Imperial officers must be appalling.
      • And ultimately lampshaded 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, apparently too depressed about losing his son to kill any more underlings today.
        • That, and because it wasn't Piett's fault. Exactly how callous Vader is about his suboordinates varies Depending on the Writer, but mostly he's said to go after underlings that he thinks are to blame. Usually. He also likes some of them more than others (Piett had been with him for a while, and according to Allegiance he already distrusted Ozzel).
          • On that note, Vader when killing Ozzel implied that Ozzel had already committed several blunders under his watch before then due to saying "You have failed me for the last time, Admiral."
        • Needa's expression when he tells his men that he's going to personally apologise to Vader tells the whole story. Needa knows Vader will kill him - but if he takes the blame, none of his underlings will.
      • Supplemental materials have also hinted that Vader was looking for an excuse to get rid of Ozzel, as he was considered to be incompetent, disloyal, and an extremely poor military commander, who advanced as far as he did because of Blue Blood status, and a well off family.
    • It's even noted in one of the novels that the fastest way to promotion in the Empire was to get yourself assigned to Vader's flagship, the Executor. One could say that the commander of the vessel is an example of Exactly What It Says on the Tin... A really BIG tin...
      • Lampshaded in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina; an Imperial officer tells a local that he engineered his own demotions because "the mortality rate [under Vader] is phenomenal."
      • The flip side of that coin is, as Pellaeon says, that this meant the crew of the Executor was entirely staffed by people who were either hypercompetent or very lucky, since they were the only ones who survived. Which meant that when it went down at Endor, the Empire lost more than a really big ship.
      • Vader's tendency to do this is lampshaded again in the video game 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).
        • Speaking of The Force Unleashed, a subversion occurs in the beginning of the game. When Vader made an unexpected arrival on Kashyyyk while in the middle of a warzone, the implied commanding officer of the operation nervously explains that they had been ambushed upon arrival, but they have the situation under control. Vader then begins to strangle him before he could finish the sentence, only to pointedly state that he has no interest in the actual battle, let alone the officer's failure, and only came to the planet for his own personal reasons before promptly letting him go and leaving him as he's gasping for air. The same officer later does end up killed by Vader, although it had absolutely nothing to do with the earlier failure so much as Vader wanting to eliminate witnesses towards his taking in a child (and saving said orphaned child, Galen Marek) to act as his secret apprentice. The PS2 and PS3 versions make it obvious that Vader spared the officer, although the Wii, PSP, and Xbox 360 versions leave it ambiguous as to the guy's fate due to it cutting to behind Vader just as he released his grip.
    • Not an Example, but worth mentioning: in Darths and Droids, where Vader complains when Obiwan tells him he has failed at Jedi Ethics, a call back to Yoda's remonstration of Qui Gon Jiin. See it here.
    • Parodied in this Irregular WebComic strip, where Vader strangles an officer, and then admits he hadn't even done anything wrong.
    • Parodied by Robot Chicken where it is revealed that the Imperial officers just pretend to be strangled by Vader. After suitable dramatics and "death" they are dragged out of the room where they put on a simple disguise and go back to work, with Vader none the wiser. They do this because Vader only thinks he can strangle people with his mind. He does, however, have a lightsaber which can cut people in half, so it's better for everyone involved to play along.
    • And again in Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman.
    • In Spaceballs, a hapless officer gets a Groin Attack rather than killed when he displeases Dark Helmet. For the rest of the movie, Helmet's subordinates cover themselves when reporting to him.
    • Bevel Lemelisk, lead designer of the Death Star, is a walking Lampshade Hanging of this trope in Star Wars. After the first Death Star was destroyed in the battle of Yavin, Palpatine summons Lemelisk and has him eaten alive by piranha beetles as punishment for overlooking such a massive design flaw . . . and then proceeds to bring Lemelisk back to life with a clone body and Sith Alchemy, because in spite of this mistake, Lemelisk is too much of an asset to throw away. Palpatine 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. Hilariously, this gets to the point where, after one incident where Palpatine decided the Execution of the Week would be slowly dipping Lemelisk in molten copper, Lemelisk felt it necessary to ask why the metal was copper, and not some other metal. (Answer: It's what the smelter happened to be using that day.)
      • The New Republic eventually captured and (permanently) executed Lemelisk. His last words were "Just make sure you do it right this time..."
    • Not explicitly shown in Return of the Jedi, but Vader heavily implies that if the officer and the crew working on the second Death Star doesn'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 issued by the Emperor that is so horrific for their failure that Vader's use of the trope seems like a sympathy-enduced pat on the back in comparison.
      • Specifically "The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am." This is coming from Lord Darth Vader!
  • Years before Star Wars, in the Hammer Horror Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Dracula (Christopher Lee) uses this line in a snarl to the hapless Zena (one of his pretty victims) before vampirising her to death and having her remains burnt in a baker's oven.
    • It was also implemented in the 1931 Universal film when Renfield accidentally leads Dr. Van Helsing and Jonathan to Dracula's lair and Dracula strangles Renfield to death. It's worth noting that Dracula doesn't even say a thing; he just gives Renfield an evil glare before Renfield goes into hysterics and is then killed.
  • Played straight in the first Austin Powers movie, when Dr. Evil dumps several underlings into a fiery pit for failing to kill Austin Powers. It is then parodied when he tries to do the same thing thirty years later...and the minion survives, and is very noisy. Dr. Evil gets someone to go down there and shoot him, and that does the trick... eventually.
  • In Desperado, after Bucho's gang repeatedly fails to find and kill the Mariachi, Bucho demonstrates what they're supposed to do by saying "Look! I don't know him! He has a gun! That must be the guy!" and shooting one of his henchmen. "How hard is that?"
  • In The Fifth Element, Zorg apparently has all of his men (or all public phones) wired with explosives, and, in one scene, where a minion fails to impersonate the heroes, he types in the code to blow him up (with just barely contained rage) just as the heroes get away, not even knowing the mook had been there.
  • The exact same scenario depicted in The Fifth Element, above, occurs in Casino Royale 1967 in which Le Chiffre likewise detonates a minion in a phone booth, remotely.
    • And he was on the receiving end of this trope in the 2006 Casino Royale. Mr. White walked in on him while he was torturing Bond. Chiffre tried saying to him, "I'll get you the money." But White replies, "Money is not as important as knowing who to trust." And he shoots him.
  • The Rider in The Dark Is Rising (movie) actually said "You have failed me for the last time".
  • Nicely subverted in Die Hard 2, when the Card-Carrying Villain puts the barrel of his gun to the Mooks' forehead and pulls the trigger. The gun doesn't fire, the Mook breathes a sigh of relief as the villain tells him that next time, the chamber won't be empty... and then happily goes back to work doing his evil Mook duties.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Shao Kahn does this twice. The Outworld "ninja" Rain, who failed to sufficiently torture a pair of Earth Warriors (specifically, by making them beg for their lives before destroying them) he captured quickly, offscreen, and with no chance of escape, is knocked into a lava pit with a big whacking hammer. Jade, Kahn's mole in the ranks of the heroes, suffers an even more ignominious death after she too fails to destroy them when following Kahn's plan — she's fed to a monster carving in a wall, which lets out a great big burp after it's done with her. Sindel is threatened with this as she tries to back Jade up, despite Sindel being crucial to the plot and one of the most powerful generals.
  • "Suicide, or be shot by someone else" was the option given to the losing Soviet general at the start of Enemy at the Gates.
  • "No. YoU haVe FAileD yoUrsElveS."
  • "Would you be killed in your sleep like an ailing pet?"
    • Considering the alternative...YES!
  • Slightly debugged for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, when Captain Barbossa shoots one of his own crewman, Pintel, to see if they're all still cursed with immortality, and Pintel survives. The screenwriters Elliot and Rossio remarked in the DVD commentary that this was the only way a villain could repeatedly achieve You Have Failed Me moments without ever running out of henchmen. It also nearly leads to the crew mutinying on the spot, only averted by the heroes' escape attempt.
    • In the third film, Jack Sparrow hallucinates dozens of clones of himself crewing the Black Pearl. When one of the Jacks displays sub-par performance, the main Jack stabs and kills him, then proceeds to lecture the rest of his imaginary crew about discipline.
  • Non-lethal version shows up in Shoot Em Up. After the first time Smith thwarts Hertz's men, Hertz is seen talking with one of them who was wounded in the buttocks. The guy says something to the effect of, "It won't happen again. I've got a piece of metal in my butt to remind me." At this point, Hertz pulls out his pistol, shoots him in the posterior once again, and quips, "And let that be a reminder never to fail me again," as the Mook collapses yelling "AAH! MY ASS!"
  • In the film Peter Pan, Hook shoots two of his pirates for annoying him.
  • In The Untouchables, Al Capone beats one of his goons to death with a bat.
    • This is actually based on a real event. Capone hosted a dinner to let one of his henchmen, Antonino "Joe Batters" Accardo, kill two other henchmen with a baseball bat.
  • Happens in Eragon, where Durza executes the head Urgal for failing to kill the title character then immediately promotes a random Urgal, whose look implies that he is not happy with the promotion.
  • James Bond has a few examples. Ernst Blofeld wasn't kidding when he said "This organization does not tolerate failure":
  • Happens to several mooks in Banlieue 13. Eventually the mooks band together and kill the Big Bad.
  • Upon awakening in Transformers, Megatron reunites with Starscream who reveals to him that the Allspark, the very reason they are on Earth and the ultimate power source of Megatron's obsession, is in the possession of the Human soldiers who are attempting to keep it away from him. His response is quite a ticked off; You have failed me yet again Starscream. GET THEM!
  • In Tim Burton's Batman, The Joker immediately executes his top henchman after his master plan is foiled:

 The Joker: "My balloons. Those are my balloons. He stole my balloons! Why didn't anyone tell me he had one of those... things? Bob? Gun."

Bob the Henchman: hands the Joker a gun, who promptly shoots him

    • Honestly, Joker does this all the time, but it's less about failure and more about the fact that he's the Joker.
  • Drucker, the Big Bad in The 6th Day does this to his henchman Wiley. A fairly justified version of this trope. Not only has Wiley been screwing up the most, but he also accidentally shot Drucker just before, which apparently was the last straw.
  • Henry Carver, the Big Bad in Push, Mind Rapes an agent to shoot himself for letting a girl escape, who also Mind Raped the agent to shoot his own partner.
    • Unusual for this trope, Carver is willing to let the guy go back to the States with a reprimand. Unfortunately for he agent, he decides to claim that he can't be Mind Raped again. Carver proves him wrong. So this is more like "You have failed me and don't know when to shut up".
  • The Jade Warlord in The Forbidden Kingdom kills a soldier with his own dagger for bringing bad news, while he was in the process of choosing a girl for the night.
  • Framed hilariously in Six String Samurai, with the Big Bad starting to deliver the usual "You have failed me for the last--" then pauses, looks down, and says, "nice shoes..." Next cut shows the Big Bad and his minions walking off with the failures' shoes.
  • Tank Girl. Kesslee, the Big Bad of Water & Power, has a subordinate who has failed to stop the Rippers. He forces the subordinate to walk across broken glass barefooted, then drains all of the blood out of his body, converts it to water and drinks it.
    • Kesslee is so fond of this trope that, by the end of the film, his entire army is under the command of a sergeant.
  • Lethal Weapon 2. After Rudd's henchman Hans loses a million dollars worth of gold Krugerrands, Rudd has his The Dragon Pieter execute him.
  • In the otherwise forgettable Masters of the Universe movie, Skeletor Took a Level In Badass and obliterated one of his Goldfish Poop Gang when they screw up their assignment. Details can be read here.
  • Inverted in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, where Commander Kruge kills his gunner for failing to not destroy the USS Grissom. Kruge only wanted to disable its engines so he could take prisoners, but the gunner had a "lucky shot" and destroyed the whole ship.
  • Played straight in the Green Lantern movie. When Parallax arrives on Earth, his first action is to kill his human minion for failing to kill Hal Jordan before Parallax arrived.
  • Red Skull, after the Howling Commandos led by Captain America managed to destroy one of HYDRA's bases in Captain America the First Avenger, has an officer brought to him, to which the officer stated that they fought to the last man. Red Skull, not in a forgiving mood, states "Evidentially not!" and then uses his Tesseract/Cosmic Cube-powered handgun to vaporize the officer.
  • Herod does this to Ratsy in The Quick and the Dead after Ratsy oversteps his authority and breaks Cort's hand before the big gunfight. Herod does give Ratsy a running start, however.
  • Bill Cox does this in Firewall. "We all make mistakes, Willy. Just not as many as you do. "
  • In Lone Star State of Mind, a pizza delivery guy who's secretly a drug runner reports to his mob boss that he was robbed. The boss orders him to run away... in a zig-zag pattern. The boss waits for a few seconds, then shoots him in the back.
  • In Sholay, Gabbar plays a variation of Russian Roulette with 3 of his mooks because they were defeated by the heroes. He fires away 3 bullets off a loaded six shooter and spins the cylinder. He pulls the trigger on each of the 3 mooks, and extraordinarily all 3 survive the game. After laughing evilly he shoots all 3 of them
  • In a deleted scene from the Apocalypse film series movie Judgment, Antichrist Franco Maccalusso sends Amoral Attorney Victoria Thorne and the judge from the court case in the movie to an uncertain fate after failing to give him the desired verdict.
    • In Tribulation, Calvin Canboro was choked to death inside the Day Of Wonders program by the Antichrist's Digital Avatar when he failed to convert his brother.
  • Maleficent does a non-lethal variation of the trope in Sleeping Beauty after she not only learned that her henchmen failed to find Aurora for sixteen years, but had literally been searching for an infant during that time, clearly not taking into account aging. Of course, that being said, it could be argued that it actually would have been more merciful if she had in fact killed them since she zapped them with lightning in response.


  • In PC Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, Rawneth has a particularly nasty example. She strips the names of some twenty underlings, making the affected underlings' souls to fade away, and causing everyone else under her to mostly (but not completely — they know they're missing something) forget them too. However, this causes a great deal of unrest among her followers, and some cases of civil disobedience.
  • In Trickster's Queen, we learn that Ulasim has prohibited his people undercover at the prison to get promoted beyond a certain level, because: "The Rittevons were notoriously fond of executing people in charge when things went wrong"
  • Subverted in The Thrawn Trilogy, part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where tactical genius villain Grand Admiral Thrawn makes a point of not indiscriminately killing subordinates, and in fact quietly lampshades this when his Commander Contrarian expects him to act more like Vader. He instead has a Tractor Beam operator (who was also a Contest Winner Cameo!) killed for not following procedure from his training - and for trying to pin the blame on his superior - and later actually promotes a different Tractor Beam operator who quickly came up with a creative solution to a sudden problem that was "no less impressive for its failure" and for accepting the blame himself.

  Thrawn used a small measure of fear, certainly: the Grand Admiral realized that fear of failure was a powerful motivating force in a military the size of the Empire. But Thrawn's ability to invoke a sense of pride in his troops was his most powerful asset. Palpatine inspired arrogance and callousness in his officers; Thrawn made his men proud to be Imperial soldiers. Thrawn's officers would have willingly died for the Grand Admiral.

    • The Evil Overlord version (in which the Big Bad kills a random minion as a lesson) is subverted in the New Jedi Order series. Supreme Overlord Shimrra can be a really Bad Boss, but he's clever enough to recognize when he's being played. Near the end, it looks as if he's about to execute High Prefect Jakan, who's been framed as a supporter of the heretics--then turns on the High Priestess who's framing him and is a heretic.
    • This trope seems to be liked by villainous Imperials and former Imperials in general. In the X Wing Series, Zsinj, spying on the consoles of his bridge crew, sees that one of them is playing flight simulators instead of paying attention while on duty. He has been warned about this, but he wants to be a pilot so much. Zsinj has his second-in-command whisk the crewman off in the dead of night telling him it's a secret pilot test, put him through the standard set of pilot qualification simulations, praise or chastise him as necessary, and then kill him. Later on he puts a pair of scientists in a Shoot Your Mate Or I Kill You Both. The trope, and the fact that they're cruel about it rather than simply just shooting them, serves as a good reminder that while Zsinj and his Dragon are interesting, clever, and often funny characters, they are also the bad guys, and for good reason.
    • When someone he's interrogating dies before giving up the information he needs, Kirtan Loor is summoned back to Imperial Center by Ysanne Isard, Empress in all but name. All along the way, even while marveling at the view, he's sweating and expecting her to kill him. She doesn't - not at that point in time - but she does make her displeasure at his poor thinking clear, and wants him to perform better.
      • The Queen of this trope is Ysanne Isard, whose murderous punishments for failure were known to go as far as Familicide. Isard's love affair with this trope is skewered in one of Allston's X-Wing novels, where another Imperial explains that anyone working for a capricious psycho like Isard had nothing to look forward to except either death by the Rebels, or death by her.
    • Moff Leona Tavira.

 Corran: "Tavira, when she doesn't hear that you succeeded, will see you as having failed. And you know her — failure isn't an accident, it's a conspiracy."

    • Exagerated in Legacy of the Force: Caedus kill an officer who was fooled by a false ship identification, even if it was obvious that Luke's ruse was too well-prepared; there was no way she could have suspected the trap.
  • Harry Potter: The fear of hearing Voldemort say this, no doubt quickly followed by "Crucio!" and "Avada Kedavra!", hangs over the head of every Death Eater.
    • However, very few times do we see him actually kill one of his minions for failing him. Lucius Malfoy, for example, fails him spectacularly a number of times; and his punishment is psychological and possibly worse than death in its way: his only child sent on a suicide mission.
    • It is suggested in the sixth book that Voldemort would be more, uh... picky if he didn't have so few followers.
    • In book 7 he does at one point shoot everyone in sight when he is called after the Trio breaks into the Lestranges' vault, stealing Hufflepuff's Cup. This is very much a Villainous Breakdown on his part; he now knows that Potter knows his secret.
  • Animorphs' Big Bad, Visser Three, was famous for this, to the point where promotion for a Yeerk was a very dicey proposition, since every ladder rung you climb brings you slightly closer to Esplin 9466's stolen tail blade and hairtrigger temper. He does this so reliably that Marco's able to bluff his way out of a situation where three flunkies were expected by saying, "I think Visser Three killed them for doing something wrong".
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, Uexkull executes a commander as "an incompetent weakling" for failing to search for Gaunt and his men, and disables the second for not answering promptly enough — and has the third-in-command shoot him.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, at the end, Garand receives a message from Abaddon. He sends for his death-shroud before going.
  • Mocked in the Emberverse. Mike Havel pontificates for a while on how a "You fail, you die" policy is detrimental to subordinates' willingness to tell their superiors about their mistakes, thus effectively crippling said superior's ability to do his job.
  • In Thud!, two trolls working for a mob boss threaten Vimes. When Vimes meets with their boss, he claims he hadn't told them to make threats, and indicates a box. The narration is quick to point out wouldn't fit an intact troll.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Plan of Attack, one Russian general fails to rein in trigger-happy underlings who cost them a SAM group. The Big Bad has someone sneak in while the general is napping and deliver a Boom! Headshot!.
  • Stephen King's The Stand has a real doozy in the demise of Randall Flagg's henchman, the hapless Bobby Terry. Bobby rather overdoes the orders that he's given to simply capture the Judge, one of the good guys, ending up by accidentally blowing the top half of his head off. On a lonely road, in the middle of nowhere, a panicking Bobby suddenly hears footsteps approaching him, faster and faster, from behind...and turns to see Flagg charging at him with a huge, manic grin..."HEY, BOBBY TERRY, YOU SCREEEEEEWED UPPPPPP!!!"...'There were worse things than death. There were teeth.'
  • Robespierre gives Chauvelin this ultimatum in The Elusive Pimpernel, one of the sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel, where Chauvelin epically failed to capture the eponymous vigilante Superhero.
  • Recurring villain Overseer Biron in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories is quick to kill off subordinates who fail him. As an Elite Officer-caste Androssi, he is within his rights to kill a Worker at any time. Failure, even relatively minor, often results in instant vaporization and replacement - Workers are considered fully expendable. Ironically, Biron's own boss is rather forgiving on those occasions that Biron himself fails.
  • The Klingons are like this throughout the Star Trek Novel Verse, though all but the most unhinged practice restraint. In Star Trek: Vanguard, when Captain Kutal's weapons officer Tonar responds to an order by saying "I'm endeavouring to do just that", Kutal replies: "then endeavour with greater zeal, or I shall find a new weapons officer". In Star Trek: Klingon Empire, General Kriz kills a captain under his command for failing to conquer a planet and ignoring good advice from his underlings.
  • In Theodore Cogswell's short story Wolfie, sorcerer Dr. Arsoldi's "colleague" will drag him off to hell if ever a murder he aids and abets fails. Naturally, there's eventually an insurmountable slip-up.
  • In Death: Max Ricker stands out as a crime boss who will not be happy with employees who fail to carry out their missions. Considering that he is a Complete Monster combined with Ax Crazy and Bad Boss, the penalty for failure is undoubtedly unpleasant.
  • Judging by the reaction of the assassin in Septimus Heap to the Supreme Custodian's demand to bring her target's body to him, You Have Failed Me seems to be standard for the assassins.
  • In the Honor Harrington series, this is official government policy in the People's Republic of Haven under Pierre and Saint-Just. In fact, not only do they kill officers who fail to carry out their orders, but their entire families as well. This has the effect of stifling initiative, which hampers the war effort against Manticore. Ironically, the policy was put in place because they were afraid that the officers might try to overthrow them if they were given a free reign, but it inspired resentment among the military, which ultimately led to several coup attempts, one of which was eventually successful, becoming something of a self fulfilling prophecy.

Live-Action TV

  • Happened to more than one Weyoun clone in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Subverted 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.
    • Played straight in another pirate story, "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.
    • 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.
  • Double-subverted in the Stargate Atlantis 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.
    • Played straight with Anubis and Ba'al in Stargate SG-1. He actually says exactly those lines.
    • Ra does this at one point in the Stargate movie.
      • And they wonder why they can't get the Tau'ri to take them seriously....
  • In SciFi's Tin Man miniseries, Azkadellia's actual reply to the general who let Dorothy DG 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.
  • 24 season one 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:

 Sub-villain: [Stammers] Well, the thing is that... maybe she wasn't quite dead.

Boss: Well, I'll tell ya. [...] 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.

  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Lonzak barely manages to avoid this fate in the Captain Proton holodeck program.

 CHAOTICA: Where's Proton?

LONZAK: He... err... escaped.

CHAOTICA: FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! You shall PAY for your incompetence! Seize him!

SATAN'S ROBOT (clanking menacingly towards Lonzak): SUR-REND-DER!

LONZAK: But Majesty, I have brought prisoners!

  • Darken Rahl seems to be getting in the habit of this in Legend of the Seeker, 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.
  • "Offering their life in penance" was something The Master in Buffy the Vampire Slayer 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.

    • 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 Genre Savvy enough to start fleeing as soon as he hears the words "You have failed..."
  • Angel used this as well. Wolfram and Hart was notorious for it, though they rarely did it onscreen. There was also the vampire Knox, who killed one of his best minions to prove a point about them getting soft. Vampires seemed to get this treatment a lot in the Buffyverse, especially the less modern ones.
    • Played 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.

 Holland Manners: 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.

  • Adelai Niska on Firefly 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 to do the same to Mal and Wash after they fail to carry out the theft he hired them for.
    • Technically, he succeeds in torturing Mal to death (well, "dead" as in "heart stopped" or something, then promptly revived him so he could be tortured some more).
    • Said prisoner was also a relation of his.
  • Subverted/parodied in Power Rangers RPM: 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.
    • When Lord Zedd made his grand entrance in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, he punished Rita by sticking her back in her dumpster (well, that or a different dumpster) and sending her off into space.
  • On 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.
  • Subverted in Farscape: 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 promptly assigns Drillic the task of piloting the second test-flight.
  • Ultraman Mebius has the target point this out--while being shot.

   Mephilas: "Emperor! Have I become a useless piece in this game? Alas!" (Explodes)

  • In Flash Forward episode "Better Angels", merciless Somalian leader Abdi shoots two of his followers but spares the heroes, saying "They have failed me; you will not."
  • The Due South episode Gift of the Wheelman has the bag guy pulling this on one of his henchmen for falling for a double cross by another henchman.
  • WWE's newest Heel supergroup called The Nexus has leader Wade Barrett. On a night where each member had to fight alone, he stated that if anyone in the group lost their match, they would be kicked out of Nexus. After a series of fluke wins, there was a match between Baby Face John Cena and the weakest member of the group, Darren Young. Seeing how Darren had gotten his ass handed to him by Cena several times before, it was no surprise that he lost. So as Darren is surrounded by his former team, he tries apologizing to Wade, but then he gets mugged by all 6 of them.
  • The Ring in Chuck 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.
  • The Leviathans on Supernatural apparently 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".
  • Happens in an episode of Jake 2/0 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.

Tabletop Games

  • Common in Warhammer 40000 (naturally) among Chaos warlords, Ork bosses, Dark Eldar archons, and Imperial commanders alike. Some specific examples:
    • Imperial Guardsmen units with an attached Commissar need not fear Morale checks - or rather they do, a lot. If the squad fails such a test, the Commissar will execute the squad leader for incompetence and immediately rally the unit. Thanks to this motivation, any squad leader with a Commissar breathing down his neck will actually receive a bonus to Leadership.
      • Other units react differently to Commissars, however. Special character Nork Deddog, the thick but doggedly-loyal Ogryn bodyguard, will retaliate if a Commissar executes the officer he's protecting. Meanwhile the Catachan Jungle Fighters, being a bunch of headstrong commando types, dislike Commissars to the extent that before a battle you have to check to see if the political officers have suffered an "accident" - the "Oops, Sorry Sir!" rule.
    • Abaddon the Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos, has such an insanely violent temper that his underlings would rather commit suicide than deliver him bad news. If he's fielded in the Battlefleet Gothic spin-off game, his flagship will open fire on one of your vessels if it fails a (re-rolled) command test in his presence... and if he's out of firing range, Abaddon will abandon that ship, preventing it from being able to use his rerolls for command tests for the rest of the game.
  • Exalted: The Neverborn have this reputation with regards to their lieutenants, the Deathlords. Failure is not tolerated. The First and Forsaken Lion screwed up the whole Great Contagion thing — which, by that point, had wiped out ninety percent of all life in Creation — and was painfully welded into his armor. Princess Magnificent with Lips of Black Coral lost hold of her territory to three upstart gods telling a story, and was almost thrown headfirst into Oblivion.
  • Shadowrun 3E supplement Corporate Download. Runners who work for for the Mega Corp Saeder-Krupp are killed if they fail their assignments.
    • It gets better in Fourth Edition. Saeder-Krupp is run by the Great Dragon Lofywr. It's heavily implied that Shadowrunners who fail the company get eaten.


  • 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."
    • On the other hand, Malak's apprentice Darth Bandon blasts away a random underling just for crossing his path.
      • It makes a certain kind of sense, given the Sith's Social Darwinism. Anyone stupid enough to get in the way of an angry Sith lord is too stupid to prosper in that environment.
        • He forces pushes the mook into a droid and an officer on deck who were doing nothing but their jobs, killing both of them as well. Original KOTOR Sith are big on Stupid Evil. Revan was the only one who really had a plan; if it hadn't been for Malak's betrayal, he'd probably have won.
      • 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 2 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 Exile's 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 she does it. When she realises 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.
  • Considering the exposure the Sith Empire is given in Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's not exactly surprising that numerous people fail for the last time there as well. Notably, in a particular flashpoint, the player character can execute a starship captain for refusing orders to attack a superior republican ship and then assume command of his vessel.
  • In Dune II and its sequels if you lose too many battles House Harkonnen will install a heart plug, then pull it out; House Ordos will attach your severed head to a life-support system ("Why won't they let us die?"); while the Atreides, being the nice guys of the game, will simply let you go, into the hands of their Fremen allies who want your water.
  • You can do this on Evil Genius with your minions to completely refill the loyalty, attention and endurance of everyone in the room.
    • There's even a number of short voice-overs for each Evil Genius when you do this; Shen Yu gets bonus points because one of his actually is "You have failed me... for the last time!" Not that you'd expect anything less from a game that exists to affectionately parody cheesy action movies and their villains.
  • In Perfect Dark, after the first two version of their plan, which attempted to take advantage of Trent Easton's political connections, fail, Mr. Blonde reveals his alien nature and dispatches Easton in a combination of this trope and You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. When the last, least subtle plan is thwarted as well, the Skedar imprison their other ally Cassandra DeVries for the same reasons.
  • Happens to Drakuru in World of Warcraft. After being deceived and nearly defeated by the player, he summons the Arthas, The Lich King, and explains that you've been double-crossing them. Arthas' response--to say this, kill Drakuru, and spare the player.
    • Ragnaros in Molten Core quite happily slays Majordomo Executus after he fails to stop the players reaching Ragnaros' lair. Not only that, but he also shouts "You have failed me, Executus!" before the encounter.
    • Archimonde apparently has this as policy, as does most of the Burning Legion. Kil'jaeden stands out as being willing to give people a second chance.
  • In the first Mega Man Star Force, Queen Ophiuca is killed by Gemini Spark shortly after her defeat. Gemini then sends an ominous warning to Megaman that the next lightning bolt will be for him.
    • Similarly, Airman's operator is executed by the head of Gospel in Mega Man Battle Network 2. The leader claims that the execution is due to a different principle: Death to those who make lame excuses.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, Admiral Alfonso attempts to save his own reputation by placing blame on his vice-captain and chucking the poor guy overboard (even if these were regular oceans, with water, all that armor would drown him) for this reason. Refreshingly, Galcian sees right through it thanks to Alfonso's own men filing a full - and accurate - report prior to the meeting.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, the fake Ganondorf is punished by the real Ganondorf for exactly this reason.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the price of being informed by the Announcer that "You failed!" is having your weapons removed, your opponents getting guaranteed critical hits, and being pulled into third person to watch your character cower and flee with their hands in the air. It's not called "Humiliation" for nothing.
    • Additionally, during the war between the Soldier and Demoman, one of her special lines was "You have failed me... with your friendships."
    • Also, one of the Soldier's lines for the "Jeers" voice macro is "Each and every one of you has failed me!"
  • Tenchu 2. Suzaku kills Yukihotaru after she loses to Rikimaru.
  • Devil May Cry has this, minus three words, after the final fight with Griffon, where Mundus appears in the sky as an ominous three points of light, declares "Griffon, you have failed me. You are no longer worthy" And Agony Beams Griffon to death while it begs for mercy.
  • In Resident Evil 5, during Mercenaries mode, if dying, Albert Wesker grunts. "You've... failed... me." Whether he exacts the typical post-failure execution is more a matter of player creativity.
  • In Fire Emblem Path of Radiance, Petrine orders her men to carry off the minor boss Dakova to what is presumably his execution if the player fails to kill him.
    • Narshen in Sealed Sword threatens to do this to one of his underlings named Slater, the guy is so focused on the death threat that he is easily defeated.
    • A Genre Savy boss named Beran flees on a boat with a Mook to avoid this fate if the player fails to kill him. Judging from the fact that his boss is an even more psychotic Expy of Narshen, he made the right choice.
  • In Final Fantasy V, the Braggart Boss Gilgamesh gets banished into the Void by his boss Exdeath for being a one-man Goldfish Poop Gang. This is actually an effective Kick the Dog moment, because Gilgamesh is, while not sympathetic, really funny.
  • In the Hoth mission included in The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition, Starkiller one-ups Vader by informing an Imperial captain "You have failed me for the last time" and Force-choking him, all over the radio.
  • Varesh does this at least once in Guild Wars, to a guard who captures the players party (thus allowing the players ot escape during a mission) rather than killing them directly.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, If a l'Cie fails in his or her Focus, they get turned into a Zombie, doomed to walk the earth untill they fall apart.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has a sequence where the characters take refuge with a cardinal fleeing mercenaries working for the corrupt Bart Company. Later it's revealed the cardinal is actually the leader of the conspiracy, and shortly afterwards he executes the leader of Bart Company for failure.
  • In Mass Effect 2, the Reaper Harbinger grimly tells the Collector General, whom he has been possessing the entire game, that he has failed right before "releasing control" and leaving him to die in an exploding/ irradiated space station.
    • Making it a really amusing case of blaming someone else, he's been running around possessing random Collectors all through the game "Assuming direct control" over the situation...and repeatedly getting shot, zapped, or blown up by Shepherd's merry band. So nothing was really his fault. But since the Reapers consider themselves superior to everyone (probably not without reason given how they've been successful for millions of years), obviously the blame must go to something else.
    • He isn't talking to the Collector General at all, it's in his parting speech to Shepard as he flees the base. He's saying Shepard has failed to stop them as they will just find another way. Spoileriffic video of it here.
  • In Armored Core Last Raven, Jack-O have absolutely no qualms about killing other Ravens off using third degree executions (Claiming that a Raven "Betrayed" Vertex for example.) to accomplish his goal of destroying the Pulverizers. Even the Corporations will not be so willing to throw Ravens away.
  • In Assassin's Creed 2, Jacopo de'Pazzi gets stabbed a few times by Rodrigo Borgia for failing to kill Lorenzo de'Medici and Ezio.
  • In Dawn of War, the Imperial Commissar will sometimes spout the trope name if you use his "Execute Guardsman" command. And in one of the stronghold battles:

 Guardsman: The Emperor has abandoned us!

Commissar: If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!

    • If you defeat the Chaos faction in the Dark Crusade expansion, you'll see Eliphas the Inheritor on the receiving end of this courtesy of a Daemon Prince, who psychically choke-slams Eliphas into a geyser of gore. He gets better in time for Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, though.
  • Strangely averted in Crash Bandicoot: Warped; sick of Cortex's failure, Uka Uka decides to do a plan right. When you realize that, in the big scheme of things, Cortex has no major role in Uka Uka's plot, you can't help but wonder why he didn't just play it straight.
    • Except, oh yeah, then the rest of the series wouldn't exist.
    • He was "feeling...generous" since Cortex's last blunder had inadvertently led to his release from his temple prison. He did actually try to fry Cortex for a couple of later failures, though has bad aim. In Crash Of The Titans he once again decides to fire Cortex, but in a business sense.

 Cortex: You can't replace me! My name's on the stationary!!!


 Velo: As punishment, you must clean the trophy podium...and when you're done with that you can clean...the entire coliseum. *Evil Laugh*

  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty has a variation that is even worse than the normal use: It mentioned that The Patriots would have killed Olga Gurlukovich's baby if she failed her part of the S3 plan, and the Patriots imply in their mind screw speech to Raiden that, if he fails to kill Solidus, not only will the Patriots execute Gurlukovich's child, but they'll also kill Rosemary the exact same way (And, oh, it gets worse: This happened after Rosemary revealed that she was pregnant with Raiden's child, so not only are they going to kill Rosemary, but they're also going to abort their child in the process)
    • Also heavily implied to be one of the reasons why they deactivated Richard Ames' nanomachines besides the obvious fact that he had outlived his usefulness in their S3 plan (If you read the in-game novel In the Darkness of Shadow Moses, you'll notice that Richard Ames not only spared Nastasha Romanenko, but also supplied her with the records of the Shadow Moses Incident, as well as all the details of FOXDIE's development and the people involved (which means he might also turn himself in, since FOXDIE is his brainchild, and by extension the Patriots), which also resulted in the creation of the novel, and it is implied from the Colonel [actually an AI construct] that the Patriots did not like the book.)
    • Similarly, Paz also was given a threat about this if she failed her mission. The punishment for failure was actually a Fate Worse Than Death.
    • Volgin threatened the soldiers at Groznyj Grad that he'll kill them if Snake dies in his prison.
  • In Star Wars Rebel Assault II, Vader says the same line when he Force-chokes Admiral Sarn near the end of the game.
  • At the end of Wing Commander Secret Missions, the leader of the task force that destroyed the Goddard Colony was executed by the Kilrathi Emperor for losing the entire task force, including it's flagship, the experimental warship Sivar, to the pilots of the Tiger's Claw. The leader of the task force was the Emperor's own son. The commander's death causes the promotion of his son, Prince Thrakhath, who would be a major villain in the series until the end of the third game.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Caesar's Legion's former Legate Joshua Graham was set on fire by order of Caesar as punishment for failing to capture the Hoover Dam from the NCR. Unfortunately for him, Graham turned out to be Made of Iron, surviving said punishment.
  • The real Big Bad in Star Trek Elite Force II shoots The Mole after she fails to prevent you from beaming back to the Enterprise-E.
  • In the Martian intro cinematic for Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, the Martian society as a whole gives a mass telepathic execution to the Senior Elder for his ineffective actions in solving the dying of Mars. If the invasion fails, his successor suffers the same fate.
  • The original Command and Conquer indicated that this was how the Brotherhood of Nod handled incompetent officers, with Seth, Kane's second in command, warning the player that if you failed you died. Seth, it is worth noting, starts seeming wary of you (noting that "you are rapidly becoming Kane's favorite") as the campaign progresses and continues sending you on difficult missions with faulty intelligence. He eventually tries to send you on an outright Suicide Mission against the Pentagon (all the way across the ocean from the African theater where you're fighting). Then Kane introduces himself by executing Seth in mid-sentence, pushing him out of the chair, and promoting you. In Renegade the player can also overhear a conversation between Kane and an incompetent Nod officer who is ordered to "report to Interrogation for 'faith restructuring'."
    • In Tiberian Sun's GDI campaign, a Nod General has just lost to the player character GDI commander McNeil and is beseeching Kane for reinforcements. Kane's response is to nuke the General's island base.
    • In Renegade, Raveshaw uses this against Sakura when she fails to kill Havoc.
    • In Red Alert, Stalin personally chokes a general who has failed to disable the Allied self-destruct device resulting in the loss of the Chronosphere, which you have just barely managed to capture.
  • The ending of one level of Heroes of Might and Magic V has Demon Sovereign Kha-Beleth killing one of his generals for failing to capture the renegade Agrael.
  • Twice in Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II: Aizagora strangles her servant, the Red Queen, as punishment for fleeing from a fight. When Habdazar swears an oath to guard the Air Foundation with his life, Kharn tells him that if the Zhentarim lose control of the Foundation, his life will be forfeit; when Habdazar flees the foundation in order to beg Kharn for reinforcements, Kharn reminds him of his promise as he stabs him through the guts.
  • In the 1997 first-person shooter "Blood" by Monolith Productions, the intro cinematic has dark god Tchernobog tell the Chosen Ones "You have failed me. I disavow you all". Only before the very end of the story is the reason for this explained.
  • Mastermind World Conquerer, naturally, lets you do this in order to keep your minions in line.
  • In The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, by the Draug after the Draugir is defeated by Geralt.
  • In Baldur's Gate II, Jan Jansen makes fun of this trope. When you are tasked with killing the rebel sahuagin prince by the king, he finishes his sentence with "Succeed, and you shall be rewarded greatly..." To which Jan continues: "Oh, I know that song, it's the oldie-but-goodie "Fail and I shall kill you", as sung by the infamous ogre bard Chumba-Khan. In this case it is rather "Fail and I shall eat you", but still..."


  • The Order of the Stick. Xykon refuses to allow Redcloak to regenerate his right eye, calling it an "idiot tax" for failing him. He tells him to resurrect his hobgoblin henchman because he at least shouted a warning before being cut down by a hero.
    • Averted earlier by Therkla. She fails in her mission, but is able to deflect the blame to another minion. Her master praises her for weaseling her way out of her responsibilities, but then informs her next time, he will accept no loopholes.
  • Parodied in Eight Bit Theater, where Kary kills her minions for no reason at all, thinking that it's something villains just "do", with the eventual effect that she runs out of them.
  • This Antihero for Hire strip. To the Wizard's defense, he is genuinely insane and the Big Bad corporation made him so.
  • Parodied and lampshaded in this strip of The B Movie Comic, titled "What henchmen are good for". See also The Rant, quite instructive.
  • In Concerned, Dr. Breen (in here made a Card-Carrying Villain) tends to try and pull off a faux Force Chokehold when he's angry at someone, wishing for his minions to at least play along.
  • Khrima, from Adventurers, doesn't normally do this, but this particular minion really had it coming.
  • Subverted in The Wotch. This villain prefers minions with initiative.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Lord Horribus kills a couple of demons for not doing their part in the hunt for Torg. It's actually somewhat more understandable in this case, since it was less a case of the demons failing to capture Torg and more that they hadn't even been trying.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, two of Frans Rayner's mooks report that they were unable to capture the Doctor's father because he was on fire. Rayner insists that he could catch both of his mooks if they were on fire, and has his midget douse them with gasoline and light a match to prove it. He just sits there and watches them run around screaming.

 Assistant: You're not trying to catch them, sir?

Rayner: * Sips his coffee* No. I guess they were right.

  • The Speaker in Harkovast forces a Junlock minion who disrespects The Speaker's religion to drown himself. He also causes the Junlock's friends to think this was perfectly okay.
  • Krystal in Kid Radd loves to subvert this trope. Every time one of her subordinates brings bad news, instead of executing them, she just inflicts horrific pain on them.
  • In Soapbox Hill, a Demon-chick gets defeated and cast back into the netherworld. Her overlord whispers in her ear "this is the third time you've failed me..." The look on her face is one of utter terror...
  • Bob and George Your apology is accepted
  • Parodied in Darths and Droids, during Obi-Wan's and Anakin's climactic duel:

 Obi-Wan: Now I see I was fooling myself. You've earned a failing grade in Jedi Ethics.

Anakin: That's it, Obi-Wan! You've failed me for the last time!

    • When Darth Vader shows up (not played by the same person as Anakin - yet) one of the first things he does is order an underling to fix his mistake and then execute himself. The force-choke scene then becomes Motti complaining about Vader's policies instead of just mouthing off. Vader doesn't quite get the point.

Web Originals

  • In Survival of the Fittest, after Monique St.Claire spent the duration of a fight at the small cottage hiding from the opponents and her group, Melina Frost killed her for cowardice and being useless.
    • In Version 4, Danya has long time henchman Achyls shot after he fails to report Liz Polanski acting suspiciously, allowing her to successfully disable her collar.

 "That's what happens when you become a hindrance, Renee. So keep yourself out of that horrid category."

  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible is told that not only does he need to commit a murder to enter the Evil League of Evil, due to his previous failures Bad Horse will execute him if he screws this one up. It's put quite catchily, too:

 Cowboys: There will be blood/It might be yours/So go kill someone/Signed, Bad Horse!

  • In Star Harbor Nights, Webmistress explains she had to resort to this to cover when she accidentally killed a Mook she had meant to reward with a blissful injection, due to glitchy cybernetics.
  • Führer Katrina from v2 - v4 of Open Blue, due to her perfectionist nature, had a tendency to shoot officers who botched missions. And officers who smelled like alcohol whenever she showed up for a surprise inspection.
  • In Mastermind, the main character does this every single time he calls a meeting. His minions eventually call him out on this. Later, it turns out that his Genre Savvy engineer apparently redirected his Shark Pool Trap Door to lead to the cafeteria instead.
  • The fate of the villain in The Adventures of The League of STEAM Season 2 finale, "Dead End".

Western Animation

  • Phaeton, the Big Bad of Exo Squad had a habit of summarily executing his generals whenever they really screwed up. But since he could easily clone them, he could easily replace them... with themselves.
    • Although, he does give them a few chances first. Typhonus, for example, attempted to betray Phaeton, accidentally convinced the Pirates to ally with the Exofleet, and then got his own fleet annihilated before Phaeton finally got rid of him.
  • In the second episode of the Double Dragon cartoon, the Shadow Master kills two underlings (Abobo and Willy) for failing him by trapping them in the Shadow Mural. Particularly annoying, as he never does this to his goons later. Maybe he just realized that if he killed somebody for every failure he'd run out of men fast.
    • The only other time he does such a thing is in the Season 2 episode "Shadow Conned", when Countdown revolts against the Shadow Master by freeing the Shadow Khan from his shield. He does so by trapping Countdown in the Khan's shield.
  • An early Birdman villain in the employ of F.E.A.R., the Ringmaster, seems to be terrified of finding himself on the receiving end of this when he is captured. In "Murro the Marauder", a nameless mook gets the Trap Door treatment after being thwarted by Birdman in his attempt to steal a secret formula.
  • In The Emperors New Groove, Yzma does something even worse than killing her lackey Kronk: she insults his spinach-puff recipe.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: One of the Jokerz mouths off to the Joker for not telling them his plan after they fail a heist...

 Bonk: * Finishing his rant* I want out!

The Joker: * Pulls a gun* If you insist...

Bonk: Take... Take it easy, man — I was just kidding!

The Joker: So was I.

The Joker: Ooops... No I wasn't.

    • Said underling was named Bonk and was voiced by the always cool Henry Rollins (when said group of Jokerz appeared on Justice League Unlimited under the control of Chronos he was voiced by the equally cool Adam Baldwin instead). And also, Chronos did kill one of them, but it was the portly Chucko instead.

 Chronos: Do you know what killed the dinosaurs?

Ghoul: No... Sir.

Chronos: Well Chucko does.

  • Phobos, the season one Big Bad of WITCH, punished his Mooks heavily for failure, to the point where by the end of the season, one of them defected to the side of the heroes after they found him injured following a battle, knowing full well what Phobos did to those soldiers he discovered had been wounded. He even took a break from the Final Battle to punish his right-hand Giant Mook Cedric, transforming him from a giant snake monster into a tiny, pathetic one. This would later come back to bite Phobos in the ass in season two, after he regains his power and gives Cedric one more shot. Cedric returns the favor by stealing all of Phobos' power by eating Phobos alive during the penultimate episode.
  • Prime Evil, the Big Bad of Filmations Ghostbusters, was quite fond of saying this to his ghostly minions, often exacting some kind of "humorous" punishment on them. (Example: Fangster, a werewolf ghost, gets inflicted with vampire fleas.)
  • Black Mask from The Batman killed his Number One and told a random Mook "You! You're my new Number One." The first just because he was pissed and he shot, the second questioned anti-gravity spray working and was made a test subject.
  • In the Kim Possible movie, Drakken says this to his sidekick Shego after she failed the mission, but he's really just being dramatic. She replies "Why are you all, 'You have failed me for the last time!' Are you kidding me with that?" Then they get down to the new evil plan.
    • In another episode, WorldWide Evil Empire head Gemini tells one of his underlings: "You have failed me for the last time." The underlings response? "Um, I just started last Thursday, so I haven't actually failed you bef--" Gemini cuts him off with "Silence!" then sends him down a trapdoor anyway.
  • Subverted in Cat City. After each failure, Mr. Teufel, The Dragon, invites his semi-competent secretary "for a few words". The latter survives, but appears in ever-increasing number of bandages.
    • Teufel's boss, however, has the mounted heads of Teufel's precedessors on his wall.
  • Lord Nebula of Captain Simian and The Space Monkeys uses the phrase constantly to terrorize his toady Rhesus-2 (along with a few hard knocks). It's not an idle threat because his predecessor, Rhesus-1, was threatened constantly as well; he was eventually shot with a death ray and reduced to a ribcage in a pile of red goo.
  • Robotnik does this to a Swatbot in the Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Hooked On Sonics."
  • At the end of The Princess and the Frog, after Dr. Facilier's plot is foiled, rendering him unable to pay off his debt to his "Friends on the Other Side", said "Friends" show up to collect anyway... by dragging Facilier to his childhood trauma-inducing doom.
  • In one episode of Conan the Adventurer when a snakeman fails to obtain a piece of Greywolf's magic staff, he is executed by Wrath-Amon by being thrown into a pond with a tentacle-watcher thingy and being eaten alive. Thus, becoming probably the only snake-man being really killed on screen.

 Dreggs: Your pet is a messy eater.

  • The Shredder from the newer TMNT series would always kill his Mooks when they failed him. For minions he couldn't replace, well, it varied. Stockman would lose a piece of him every time, until he was just a brain in a robot body which would be punished with electric shocks. Everybody else usually got off without so much as a slap on the wrist. Sharp contrast to the older cartoon version that would just berate Bebop and Rocksteady for their stupidity, and then send them back again.
  • Averted in Transformers: The Movie. Unicron invokes the trope name, then gives Galvatron the 411 and sends him off to the Planet of Junk to try again.
  • When an intern pulls a Critical Research Failure regarding the Olympics on Total Drama Island Chris MacLean ejects him from the plane without a parachute.
  • Dr. Zin from Jonny Quest does this a lot to his minions. This is taken to the extremes in Jonny Quest Versus the Cyber Insects, in which he has three head scientists. Each time one of them fails, he kills that scientist then promotes another of them. The first one he fed to the insects, the second he throws into a pit of acid, and the third he froze in liquid nitrogen and breaks him into pieces.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars this is what Count Dooku tells Ventress when he "fires" her from the services of the Separatists.
  • Sometimes Subverted with the Monarch and his henchmen in The Venture Bros. He frequently kills his henchmen for minor infractions, by accident, or simply because he's having a bad day.
  • An episode of Stroker and Hoop has a ninja mook terrified of this trope after failing to kill the main characters. The head ninja points out how horrible for morale it would be to murder his henchmen every time they mess up... and then slices the mook in half.

  "Send in some more ninjas, please."

  • Pirates of Dark Water villain Bloth 'rewards' failure by tossing the offending minion to 'The Constrictus' a mutant monster that lives in a pool on his ship. However, he seems willing to allow second chances to those who escape that fate, and the rest of his crew make bets on whether or not the victim will survive. The only mook to succeed against the Constrictus was Konk, but he lost a leg in the process.
  • Subverted in Visionaries-Knights of the Magical Light, where Darkling Lord ruler Darkstorm regulary sends his loyal toadie Mortdredd down the Trap Door - even when he succeeds in his mission, or just whenever he feels like humiliating the guy. Showing a brain-dead kind of loyalty, Mortdredd never even complains and just climbs back from the pit - often to be thrown back again.
  • In one episode of Phineas and Ferb, Agent P avoids Doofenschmirtz's Piano (and Piano Player) Drop trap thanks to the maid's carelessness. Doofenschmirtz had this to say:

 Doofenschmirtz: "Oop! Ooo! Oh, I told Nancy to keep the backdoor locked! Note to self... My evil deed for tomorrow: fire the maid."


Real Life

  • Admiral John Byng had failed England at the Battle of Minorca.
    • "Sometimes it is necessary to execute one admiral to encourage the others." Since Voltaire said it, you may come across the phrase "pour encourager les autres".
    • It can be argued that it actually worked: the Seven Years War marked the rise of England as the major naval power in Europe, mostly due to the freshly 'motivated' attitude of the RN.
    • Byng wasn't the only one, either. At the time British naval law had a provision that an officer failing "to do his utmost" against the enemy was a capital offense.
    • It also explained why British naval officers were gung ho and notoriously and successfully aggressive- You had two choices- Death, or killing those other guys. Most people chose the second option.
  • To probably no one's surprise at all, Hitler had this one in his cartoonishly evil playbook. As the remnants of the Sixth Army were dying at Stalingrad, with no hope of escape or rescue, he promoted their commander, General Paulus, to Field Marshal. Because no German Field Marshal had ever surrendered, it was obvious to everyone that this was a subtle order for Paulus to commit suicide for his failure to win the battle. Subverting the trope, he didn't.
    • Men lower down on the German army totem pole also tended to suffer this a lot, particularly as war turned against Germany. For example, when the U.S. 9th Armored Division captured an intact bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, the German officers responsible for its defense were quickly court-martialed and executed. By the war's end, German soldiers had almost as much to fear from accusations of 'desertion', 'cowardice' or 'defeatism' from their own side as they did from the enemy.
    • Near the end, Hitler has this Up to Eleven: he thought the entire nation of Germany had failed him. Due to this, his final orders were to destroy the country in a sort of scorched-earth tactic. Fortunately, his generals finally decided he was batshit insane and surrendered instead.
  • Stalin executed many high-ranking officers who lost to significantly smaller numbers of Finnish soldiers during the Winter War. Since "failing Stalin (for the last time)" is not a charge that can be formally brought at a court-martial, one general's official offense was losing twelve battlefield kitchens to the enemy.
    • As field kitchens were crucial for winter warfare, this isn't quite as silly as it sounds.
      • It's still barbaric and excessive to kill loyal people for that.
    • Stalin had also executed many high-ranking officers (read: 90% of his officer corps) before the war started because he was pathologically afraid of them turning against him, which was a great part of why the Russian military failed so miserably during the Winter War; they had almost no veteran tacticians left. Nobody dared to contradict Stalin, lest the same thing happen to them. Ironically, as a result, when Stalin was dying in his room, no doctor dared to enter, due to their fear that he'd randomly have them executed; therefore Stalin died in agony as a result of his own purges.
      • Inverted in the case of Georgy Zhukov. Stalin pretty much killed his career (though fortunately never killed Zhukov himself) precisely because the guy actually won World War II for him, largely out of paranoia.
  • Stalin was not a forgiving man during the Second World War, either. When production of the Il-2 attack aircraft fell behind schedule, he dashed off a telegram to Ilyushin's plant managers which read "YOU HAVE LET DOWN OUR COUNTRY AND OUR RED ARMY. YOU HAVE NOT MANUFACTURED IL-2S UNTIL NOW. THE IL-2 AIRCRAFT ARE NECESSARY FOR OUR RED ARMY NOW, LIKE AIR, LIKE BREAD. SHENKMAN ... PRODUCES ONE IL-2 A DAY AND TRETIAKOV ... ONE OR TWO MIG-3S DAILY. IT A MOCKERY OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE RED ARMY. I ASK YOU NOT TO TRY THE GOVERNMENT'S PATIENCE, AND DEMAND THAT YOU MANUFACTURE MORE ILS. I WARN YOU FOR THE LAST TIME. STALIN." Ilyushin went on to produce 36,000 Il-2s, making it one of the most heavily-produced aircraft in history.
  • Vladimir Lenin may have been even less forgiving than Stalin, as he often rebuked his own followers if they hesitated to shoot randomly chosen hostages (which may even include family members), or restraining mobs from lynching people, and has even decreed that even anyone who stops at initial demands and nowhere further at best be sent to an insane asylum if not executed as a traitor outright. In fact, in his memo for the 1918 hanging orders, he even included a post-scrpt to the memo for his Cheka enforcers to "find tougher people".
  • After General Zhu Tao of the Tang Dynasty rushed into battle against two of his rivals and was soundly defeated, he executed two advisers who had advocated attacking immediately instead of allowing his soldiers to rest for a few days.
    • Execution for failure was the standard in Ancient China. Part of why Cao Cao succeeded against Yuan Shao was that the latter kept executing capable generals for failures or for giving advice he didn't want to hear. Even Zhuge Liang (yeah, that one) executed one of his most brilliant generals who lost a crucial battle. According to the book at least, it was because the general failed to take important tactical advice into consideration and Zhuge Liang was reluctant to do it because he considered the other man to be like a son to him.
    • Even earlier, a Han general was captured by the Mongols, and landed his family in hot water for not committing suicide. The furious emperor had his family executed and had the one guy (surnamed Sima, incidentally) who spoke up for him thrown in prison.
  • Cowardly Roman soldiers were punished by being divided into groups of ten and drawing lots, whereupon the unfortunate soldier in each group would be beaten to death by his comrades.
    • This practice is the origin of the word "decimated", which originally meant killing one out of ten, but was later Flanderized to mean "killing everyone".
    • This practice was abolished before the Imperial era. The reason was that brutal punishments have averse effect: they will collapse the already shaky morale altogether. Ordinary soldiers, who face the enemy on the battlefield, consider killing one of their own as a murder. A decimated unit usually had to be disbanded and its soldiers assigned to other units. Decimatio does not mean only losing one tenth of an unit: it means losing the whole unit. Instead punishment of shame, like having to eat only barley instead of wheat or not being allowed to eat sitting were introduced.
  • During the French Revolution, and more specifically during the Revolutionary Wars, generals who failed were executed. This is explained by the fact that i. only traitors could fail considering French "élan vital" couldn't be beat (according to the Convention) ii. most if not all generals were generals during the monarchy, and henceforth considered as traitors, except if they proved otherwise by actually winning.
  • Two notable times during the Greco Persian Wars. At one time the Persian Army was trying to build a pontoon and it was washed away by the ocean whereupon Xerxes executed the engineers. Another time at Salimis several Phoenician officers came to Xerxes to blame unpleasant fortunes of war on ships from Greek vassal states. At that moment Queen Artimisima was seen sinking a ship which Xerxes thought was an enemy (it was a friendly as it happened, which the queen was sinking for reasons of her own). Xerxes was enraged because the Phoenicians were not doing all that well, and the Greeks were; and ordered the officers beheaded.
    • These are little more than legend, or anecdote, really. The Greek sources also reported Xerxes bringing 2.4 million "slave soldiers" and 1207 warships, while in fact modern historians have reduced that number to 149 thousand troops and 600 triremes.
  1. Heavily implied, but not 100% certain. This is One Piece, after all. No dead body, no certainty.