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Part of a villainous stock phrase that usually goes "When I take over the world, you will be spared." The other variations are "I think I'll kill you last" and "Your death will be quick and painless."
Usually, the villain will make this promise to anyone who helps him, or to someone they feel indebted to, are friends with, or are in love with. If the villain really likes this person, expect them to sweeten the deal with a Shiny New Australia. This is generally played for laughs, since few "realistic" villains are quite so egomaniacal that they bandy out the lives of others this way
If said to a hero, it may because they're Friendly Enemies. An Omnicidal Maniac may either express a desire to preserve one person or event that they like, or say that it's the one thing they'll miss after destroying the world. If they believe the person or people they spare have some sort of Uniqueness Value, that's Sparing the Aces.
An alternative reason for a villain to invoke this trope is to leave behind a witness to tell of their misdeed, intending for it to have a demoralizing effect on the villain's enemies.
Contrast I'll Kill You!.
Anime & Manga
- Marik Ishtar from Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series has to following evil monologue:
With his help I shall defeat you and then conquer the world! Ah-hahaha! Oh hey look a bird! Isn't it just the cutest little guy-- I mean no! In my new world all birds will be enslaved! Especially this one! And he shall be named Mr. Tweetums, because it is very evil! Ah-hahaha! Now be gone Mr. Tweetums. I am trying to stalk my nemesis.
- He also likes Joey, who will be killed last.
- Evil Bakura quotes the Commando exchange with Pegasus.
- In Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks, when a terrified store clerk gives Android 18 beautiful clothes, she is genuinely grateful and says he won't die today. However, as she is walking away, Android 17 blows the store up and kills him. 18 becomes upset because 17 made a liar out of her.
- In Resurrection F Pilaf and crew gather the Dragon balls for Sorbet so he could use them to bring Frieza back to life. Afterward the trio voice their worries that they might be killed now that their task had been completed only for Sorbet to tell them he would spare them because they might be of use later.
- For Baccano's Ladd Russo and Lua Klein, nothing says love like "I'll kill you last."
- Ladd also says something along those lines to Graham Spectre ("No, I won't...I like brazen and impudent guys that only I'm able kill"), at which point Graham starts fanboying him like nobody's business.
- The Big Bad of Fullmetal Alchemist didn't say anything until he'd already made his move, but once they're the only two left alive he gives something along the lines of this trope to Van Hohenheim, "in gratitude for giving me life." Poor man had had no inkling Homunculus was evil until then, and they had even established in conversation that he was basically his father.
- In Aura Battler Dunbine, when the bad guys arrive on Earth announce their plan to conquer it, they say they will spare the city of Boston out of respect for one of their pilots who came from there.
- In the Death Note fic A Cure for Love Light says the following to L without really thinking about what he said because killing people who annoy him has almost become an automatic response:
- In the B-Movie, Evil Alien Conquerors, said conquerors tell a normal human, when he helps them, that he will die painlessly. It's something of a Running Gag, to the point that he eventually waves them off with a parting "Die painlessly" to theirs.
- In the Coneheads movie, this is what Mr. Conehead says to the woman who sabotages her driving exam in an attempt to start an affair with him. He won't sleep with her, but promises she'll be on the protected list once his people invade.
- Megatron makes the offer to Sam: "Give me the Allspark, and you may live to be my pet."
- Becomes a major plot point in the third film. Carly's boss Dylan, and some of his associates, are the descendents of humans who worked for NASA when the Ark was discovered on the moon. To ensure that no other human learned of this, Soundwave and Laserbeak forced NASA's employees to keep quiet about the discovery, lest they be killed off. Dylan turns out to be one of the few humans chosen to be spared after the Decepticons enslave humanity, possibly to work as a liaison between the 'Cons and the human slaves. It's also revealed that the various deaths in history related to NASA were Soundwave and Laserbeak getting rid of "loose ends."
- Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tells this to one of the villains in Commando. Later, he's hanging him over a long drop by his leg:
Matrix: Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
- Anti-Hero-ic version in Blade 2. Blade gets information out of a Vampire Mook, saying, "Tell me what I want to know, and I'll consider you as a loose end." The Mook spills the beans, and Blade actually lets him get away, even when he runs into him again later on. Of course, at the very end, Blade catches up to the guy in a sleazy porn theater about three countries away: "Well you didn't think I forgot about you did you? <Brain-stab>"
- In Doctor Zhivago, Yuri runs into the War Train of the brutal Bolshevik general Strelnikov, whom no one knows anything about. After questioning, he discovers that Strelnikov is actually his long-lost lover's Bishonen ex-boyfriend, who was presumed dead and suffered a Heroic BSOD and now carries an evil scar. He informs Dr. Zhivago that Lara is still alive and has been spared the purge due to their past relationship. After leaving, the guards tell Yuri he must be blessed: no one is questioned by Strelnikov and lived to tell the tale.
- In Lord Of Illusions, Nix confesses to Swann that his intent (unsurprisingly) is to "murder the world", but rather charitably offers to kill Swann last if he helps Nix with said murder.
- "Now you know I will kill you when we're done. I have to."
- In Billy Madison, after Billy apologizes to a guy he used to bully as a kid, said person marks him off his "People to Kill" list and saves his life in the ending.
- In Hellboy, Rasputin says "It will be quick" to Professor Bruttenholm right before he kills him. It appears to be true.
- During a flashback in Secondhand Lions, Hub has The Sheik, who has tried to kill him on several occasions, defenseless, and at his mercy. He decides to spare him, and leaves him with this.
Hub: "I have held your life in my hands twice, and twice I have given it back to you. The third time, your life is mine."
- The Wizard of Oz has the "I'll kill you last" version.
Wicked Witch: The last to go. She'll see the first three go before her.
- Ur Example: In The Odyssey, when Odysseus gives his name to the Cyclops as "Noman", the Cyclops says that he will eat "Noman" last.
- A rare heroic version in Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit - Will Travel: just before Humanity on Trial, Kip is assured that he and Pee-wee will be allowed to live out their lives. Kip asks that they be returned to Earth if humanity loses, which may have been a factor in deciding to spare for now — although they intend to re-evaluate later.
- In Wintersmith, the titular Anthropomorphic Personification offered to spare Tiffany and the Chalk (where she came from); the rest of the Disc would remain frozen forever.
- Inverted by Virigar the Werewolf King in Ryk Spoor's Digital Knight, when he tells Jason Wood, "I'm minded to let you live for a while.... So you will suffer all the more while everything you value is destroyed before your very eyes!"
- In the book Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter the main vampire--though not exactly a villain--would say, every time he and Abraham Lincoln met, and he didn't kill him--or the vampire would save him--he'd ask why and the vampire would say "Some people are just too interesting to kill." Then in the end, when Abraham Lincoln died and the vampire brought him back as a vampire himself, he said, "Some people are just too interesting to let die."
- The Onion's Our Dumb Century" features Hitler saying this about the Japanese.
- Harry Potter: After bumping Lily and her family to top of Voldemort's hit list, Severus Snape begged him to spare her (though not her husband and son), in part due to his unrequited love for her. It didn't work, though Voldemort offered Lily the chance to step aside.
- Friends has this exchange from Phoebe: When the revolution comes, I will have to destroy you all... except you, Joey.
- Heroes has Sylar informing Mohinder "I wasn't begging for my life... I was offering you yours."
- Because they had an unwitting hand in his genesis, a Big Bad tells the Lexx crew that they will be the last in the universe to die.
Mantrid: That will be my thank you.
- On Supernatural, the demons assisting Lucifer will be killed as soon as Lucifer is finished with the humans and angels if not sooner. Any demon caught assisting Team Free Will will be granted immortality instead.
- Lost inverts the "I'll kill you last" variety. Said by Ethan to Charlie, this is a threat: Charlie will see all his friends die before he's killed.
- "What They Died For" plays it straight with the Man in Black offering to spare Penny if Widmore tells him what he needs to know.
- Ingrid tells her therapist this after the therapist helps her get past her Villainous BSOD. The therapist believes that her ability to make such jokes is a good sign.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6: While drowning sorrows and bemoaning their (lack of) love lives together, Spike tells Anya that she's the only one he wouldn't bite if he didn't have his Restraining Bolt. He respects women who say exactly what's on their minds (even if they happen to be off their rocker like Drusilla).
- Soul Nomad and The World Eaters has Omnicidal Maniac Gig, who mentions if he gets control over the hero's body he will destroy everything, "except maybe those hotpods. Those are good. I'll keep those."
- Saren attempts to invoke this in Mass Effect by making organics useful to the Big Bad.
- Even though the whole point of what they were trying to do was to kill them all. Saren was brainwashed into thinking he could actually have a few organics be spared so the next evolution of species/their own would be able to recover much faster. Then again, who would think that as the races of the galaxy would have a heads up?
- In Mass Effect 2 we learned that a certain amount of people would be spared. Though they probably will wish they hadn't.
- This is one of the taunts in Red Alert 2. The exact wording depends on the faction, ranging from "I promise amnesty for you and your troops" for the Americans, to "Surrender now and I'll kill you quickly" for the Cubans.
- Inverted in Star Control 2; if you surrender to the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, they will tell you that all of your crew will be spared, but your main character will be executed.
- Axenos from Wizard 101 inverts this trope by combining it with Mercy Kill. Since the player (accidentally) releases him, he thanks them and promises to kill the first so they would be spared from witnessing the horrors he'd bring about on the Spiral.
- In Pv P, after horrifying him by Story-Boarding the Apocalypse, Scratch reassures a quivering Skull that his death will be painless.
- VG Cats plays with this here with the The Church Of The One-Winged Angel Of Latter-Day Summons.
"So if I join, I'll be saved?"
- Dominic Deegan uses this when Snow Song is thinking about how she'll destroy the town in a restaurant, but then the waitress gives her some chocolate cake on the house:
Snow Song: None of these drones will be spared... Except for her.
"Look, I don't do this... uh, ever. But you guys are basically like kittens stuck on a leaking lifeboat in a typhoon. Just run."
- Also, upon stumbling upon the Dark Warriors trying to steal the Cosmic Keystones to defeat him and gain ultimate power, Sarda asks them if they even know how to use them. Bikke tosses his keystone at Sarda, becoming the first person in the series to land any sort of hit on him:
"You're a quick thinker and spiteful. I can respect that. You won't be killed, Bikke."
- "You're a crazy bastard, yes? You, I like. I'll kill you last." Though considering the speaker's modus operandi, this is probably of no consolation to the guy who really doesn't like seeing his friends killed.
- Bob and George For being entertaining opponents
- This Buttersafe.
- Girl Genius:
Gil, to Tarvek: "I am Gilgamesh Wulfenbach — heir to the Empire and defender of the Pax Transylvaniana — and I will crush this whole Knights of Jove/Storm King mess of yours. Ooh, don't worry — I'll let you escape. You can go skulking around with your little plans — after all, I'll always need someone to take the blame."
- Castle Heterodyne eventually uses the "I will kill you quickly" line on Professor Tiktoffen, while crushing him to death.
- A posthumous variant is employed in Sam and Fuzzy, in which Mr. Blank states that he made Mr. Black's death as quick and painless as possible because the person in question "had earned it"... But the person he's talking to is not going to be in for the same treatment.
- Played with in Transformers. The Quintessons strike up their first alliance with the Decepticons Galvatron tells them that in exchange for their help he'd let them live. The Quints then told him that incentive wasn't enough. Now that took balls!
- Family Guy has Stewie, who has said this to Peter (Your death shall be quick and painless) when he turned off the mind-numbing Teletubbies show, and again to Flappy (Good news! I've decided not to kill you!) to let him know that his pancakes were satisfactory.
- In "Petarded", Peter says "When we retarded guys take over you will beg for mercy, and we will consider it".
- Futurama: Bender has said he might spare Fry when he kills all humans.
- At Fry's funeral (don't worry, he gets better):
- As of "Lethal Inspection", Hermes has been added to the list of humans to not kill.
- Robot Santa proclaimed his intention to kill the entire Planet Express team ... except Zoidberg, who hadn't been naughty and got a pogo stick instead.
- This line from Dr. Robotnik in an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog...
"Perhaps due to your change of heart, I'll exterminate you somewhat painlessly..."
- The Justice League Unlimited episode Alive offers Darkseid's take:
Darkseid: It seems I have you to thank for my resurrection. Though your world will suffer slowly, I grant you a quick death.
- In the fourth episode of The Legend of Korra, Amon ambushes Korra and has a golden opportunity to take her bending away, but doesn't take it because that would make her a martyr. Instead he gives a Breaking Speech explaining that he'll save her for last.
- This is supposedly one of the reasons to worship Cthulhu. Upon his rising, cultists will be devoured first, sparing them what happens next.
- Seen on 4chan: "youfunnyguyikillyoulast.jpg"
- On I Can Has Cheezburger?: A promise made by a cute little tiger cub.
- Red vs. Blue, Big Bad Omnicidal Maniac Omega discussing his plans to conquer the universe with Mission Control Vic.
"Then, the universe will be mine, and I'll CRUSH EVERY LIVING SOUL INTO DUST!!.... Um... except for you, Vic. You can be assistant crusher."
- In The Onion`s "Our Dumb Century", this is the Nazis' response when (as the headline says) Non-white Japan allies with White Supremacist Nazi Germany in Well-Thought Out Scheme.
- Dane Cook has a stand-up act about befriending the creepy loner in your office so that this happens when he inevitably snaps and goes on a rampage with a shotgun.
- On Atop the Fourth Wall, because he defeated someone who was a nuisance to it the Entity does save Linkara for last and lets him run and hide after it absorbs everyone else — but it's waiting when he comes back out.
- The author of A Hundred Little Hitlers (about Neo-Nazis), who is Jewish, apparently impressed one Neo-Nazi so much that he told her when he annihilated all the Jews, he'd spare her.
- This trope most likely lay at the heart of the cynical German-Japanese military alliance during World War II from at least the Nazis' perspective (but possibly the Japanese as well). A paranoid, virulently racist, white supremacist country decides to team up against other enemies with a nation they probably deem subhuman when it gets down to it. This article from Our Dumb Century puts it best.
- Hitler also made offers of this kind to the UK during the early phase of the war, generally along the lines of "Britannia can rule the waves and Germania the earth." The UK ignored them (they didn't even acknowledge they had received them), which is essentially a diplomatic way of saying, "f*** off."