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"He's all yours."—Iron Man, dropping a terrorist before his victims
The hero has the villain at his mercy. He can kill him right here -- but he won't. But not because he would be stooping to the villain's level, or because letting them live would be more of a punishment. No, rather than killing the villain himself, the hero will instead leave him to the tender mercies of his victims, usually with some variation on the trope name. He may arm the victims first.
Slaves, oppressed citizens, abused prisoners, terrorized villagers, tortured laboratory subjects and the families of the victims are the most commonly used.Death Trope. Expect unmarked spoilers.
- In DC: The New Frontier, Wonder Woman, after defeating some enemy soldiers, gives their weapons to the women they'd been using as sex slaves. One guess as to what they do with them.
- Iron Man: (After defeating a bunch of mooks except for their leader, which he hands over to the victims) "He's all yours."
- In their second miniseries, the Secret Six do something similar with the inmates of a North Korean prison. They also do it later in their ongoing when they hand a childkiller over to the father of one of his victims (although he did hire them to do it), Catman even giving him instructions on how to most effectively torture him to death.
- Jonah Hex: Jonah hands an Indian-butchering sheriff over to the tribe he's been preying on, but then subverts it in another issue, where he hands a murderess over to the carnival who hired him, but when he sees them start to enact "carnival justice" which involves beating her to death all night long, he puts a bullet in her head.
- Inverted in Spawn, where Spawn uses his powers to turn a Ku Klux Klan leader black and then leaves him to be found by his fellow Klan members, who lynch him.
- Magicka: The heroine at one point encounters Hitler (the most evil men Earth produced were assembled in one point in time and space) but is prevented from killing him. Later on, she teleports him, in full uniform, into the middle of a crowd of prisoners in Auschwitz, circa 1942. The view then pans out to the silent crowd holding boards with nails in them...
- In an issue of Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, Guy Gardner disarms some sadistic alien slave drivers and leaves them to the picks and shovels of their charges. However, this is taken as a bad sign that the trace of Red Light inside him may be growing.
- A non-lethal variant in an issue of Preacher (Comic Book) has Jesse drive the local KKK leader (in full uniform) into the black part of town and dump him out in front of a bar.
- In one of the grimmer Batman story arcs, the Dark Knight is captured by a cult and brainwashed into helping them kill their way through Gotham. He manages to break free and later returns to bring down the leader, Deacon Blackfire. Knowing that giving Blackfire a well-deserved death would only serve to make him a martyr, Batman focuses on causing as much pain with every blow as possible. Eventually Blackfire breaks and begs for mercy, in front of the throngs of cultists. The fatal element of this is that part of Blackfire's creed that he hammered into the heads of his kidnapped followers was that their substantial suffering was insignificant in the greater scheme of things. To show himself to be weak and submissive enraged the people that had suffered greatly for him, and the disillusioned cultists tore him apart so ferociously that nothing identifiable remained.
- Nextwave: The squad does this by accident. Upon de-transforming a police officer who had been changed into a giant mecha, they leave him in the care of a crowd that claims to be his friends. In his weakened state, they don't notice his panicked eyes and whispered protests, and don't know that the cop is extremely corrupt and they just handed him over to the people he's been terrorizing and extorting for the last twenty years.
- 'X-Man: In issue 66, Nate Grey learns that the monster from whom he'd been defending a group of mutant Corrupt Corporate Executives was targeting them because they stole his race's children in order to harvest and sell their organs, Nate executes most of the group himself, but he singles out the one who had come up with the idea to steal the children, and delivers her alive to the monster and his people.
- The Authority does this to one unnamed Indonesian general when he claims they wouldn't kill him as this would bring the rest of the world's governments on them. they reply that they won't do anything to him but drop him off (in the middle of a slum that had particularly suffered from his actions).
- In Incorruptible, Max Damage drops a gang of murderous white supremecists off in the middle of an ethnic neighborhood they terrorized.
- In The Hunting Party, the protagonists ultimately succeed in capturing a Serbian war criminal. They drive to a town he persecuted, leave him in the town square, and drive away. We don't see his fate, but it was probably unpleasant.
- In the first Iron Man movie, after Tony's first 'live-fire exercise' with the completed armor, he leaves the leader of the 10 Rings Mercenaries to the mercy of the villagers they'd been terrorizing, after disarming him.
- There is a movie (old, perhaps someone remembers the title?) where a duel is set up between the best fighters of Korea and Japan. During some town festivities a couple of puppeteers make a show ridiculing the Japanese fighter and an angry samurai kills the man. Just as he is about to get away with it, the Action Girl shows up, gives the terrified wife a sword to hold, then challenges the samurai to a duel and gets him impaled on the blade, allowing the woman indirect vengeance for her husband.
- Seven Samurai has an unusual variant of this trope. The samurai capture a bandit and immediately have to protect him from the (justifiably) murderous villagers. However, when they are approached by the oldest woman of the town, who lost every member of her family to bandits and has since been almost unwilling to continue living, they quietly step aside and allow her her vengeance.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Anthony, after rescuing Johanna from Fogg's Asylum, leaves the cruel asylum keeper to the mercy of his "children".
- In Inception, Saito turns False Friend Nash over to Cobol Engineering. It is implied that he will come down with a bad case of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
- At the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Alice uses her powers to awaken all of Freddy's devoured souls, who rip him apart from within.
- In the 2011 Conan film Conan liberates a slave camp and then informs the now freed slaves that if they want to remove their shackles they had to get the keys which he just shoved down the slave master's gullet.
- Something similar to the Conan example happened in Django unchained.
- In The Painted Bird, there are some Nazi-aligned Polish partisans who have been raping women and basically torturing and killing everyone in the village they enter. They are defeated by Communist partisans who hand them over to the townspeople, who brutally torture them to death.
- Attempted in Sandman Slim - it doesn't quite take, as Mason survives the pounding by the Hellions and ends up gaining (at least political) power again.
- Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: The Lunar rebellion is set off early after some Peace Dragoons rape and murder a woman named Marie Lyons. After they're captured:
Finn decided that shooting was too good for them, so he went judge and used his squad as jury. They were stripped, hamstrung at ankles and wrists, turned over to women in Complex. Makes me sick to think about what happened next but don't suppose they lived through as long an ordeal as Marie Lyons endured.
- Tortall Universe: This is how the K'mir culture executes criminals.
- In Shamran by Bjarne Reuter, the hero, Filip, confronts the officer in charge of "marking" the people of Tronn, a mandatory practice where any citizen (except for members of the government and the military) of a certain age has one of his/hers abilities (sight, hearing or speech) surgically removed. After disarming the officer, Flip throws him at the feet of the patrons in one of the capitols larger inns, all of them people the officer so zealously have marked throughout his life. In the next scene, the guards of the capitol's castle gets a nasty surprise in form of the officer, now blind, deaf, and mute, fumbling and crawling around in the dirt in front of them.
- Ged does this in the third book of the Earthsea Trilogy. On a slaver ship. Where there are only half a dozen slavers. All he needs is to remove the slaves' chains.
- In Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, Daniel Waterhouse does this to Big Bad (and actual historical figure) George Jeffreys.
Daniel Waterhouse: You speak of putting Jeffreys to death with the strength of your right arm. Yet I tell you that if we must rely on your arm, strong as it is, we would fail. But if, as I believe, England is with us, why, then we need do no more than find him and say in a clear voice, 'This fellow here is my lord Jeffreys,' and his death will follow as if by natural law, like a ball rolling down a ramp.
Daniel Waterhouse (some time later): I apologize for the disruption. You have heard of Jeffreys, the Hanging Judge, the one who decorated trees in Dorset with bodies of ordinary Englishmen, who sold English schoolgirls into chattel slavery? [...] The man I speak of, whose name you have all heard, the man who is responsible for the Bloody Assizes and many other crimes besides-judicial murders, for which he has never dreamed he would be made to pay, until this moment-George Jeffreys, Baron of Wem, is he. *points*
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the sadistic, pain-obsessed droid EV-9D9 has her limbs blasted off and is left to the mercies of the mutilated droids in her Torture Cellar. For extra points, her pain receptor and "pain vision" third eye are removed beforehand, robbing her of the sensation of her own destruction (which she had been anticipating).
- In Kaiju War Chronicles, Match 113 ends with Glidor, the Mad Scientist who set up a Let's You and Him Fight between Frankenstein and King Kong, accidentally revealing to Frankenstein that he set the whole thing up. This enrages Frankenstein, but Glidor then reminds Frankenstein that the monster would never kill a human and thus won't kill him. Seeing this, Frankenstien frees Kong from his bonds and tells him that Glidor was the one who took him from his home island. Kong, now knowing who to blame for his kidnapping, sends Glidor on a one way flight into a mountain.
Live Action TV
- In Babylon 5, Lord Antono Refa, a racist Centauri noble, responsible for the bombing of the Narn homeworld with Weapons of Mass Destruction and the mastermind of death camps and genetic cleansing programs, is handed over to a mob of Narn insurgents led by G'Kar. Instead of doing the deed himself, G'Kar calmly instructs his followers to make sure that the planted evidence is found and that Refa's head remains intact for identification.
- In The X-Files episode "Sleepless", the Preacher lets the ghosts/apparitions of the Vietnamese civilians whom he and his unit killed during the War and who follow him around kill his former squad-mates and superiors.
- Angel: A paranormal crime boss/casino owner comes to collect one of Angel's True Companions' souls. In the climax, Angel chops off the head of said crime boss. It quickly becomes apparent that this will only temporarily incapacitate him, so Angel asks who else in the casino owes the man, and leaves as the mob descends on the crime boss.
- GBH: In this British political comedy/thriller, the young thugs who have been stirring racial tensions by beating up black people while dressed as policemen are betrayed by their controller who hands them over to a gang of black rioters. They are probably only beaten up and humiliated rather than killed, but he doesn't seem to care; he laughs hysterically as he watches them dragged from their van.
- Blue Bloods: Danny Reagan ends up invoking this trope when he busts the mob hitman known as the Panther. After the Panther makes the mistake of implying that he had not only been responsible for the torching of Danny Reagan's old house, but also for the helicopter crash that killed his wife Linda, Danny ends up publicly thanking him in front of the various rounded up crooks that belonged to the mob, effectively implying to Panther's horror that the latter acted as a police informant and giving them permission to kill Panther as a rat. Let's just say the mob doesn't take too kindly to this hint.
- On the May 16th, 2011 episode of WWE Raw, Michael Cole is signing a contract for his match at Over The Limt with Jerry Lawler. In the middle of Cole's Hannibal Lecture, Jerry replies with a Shut UP, Hannibal...then praises Cole's Dragon-in-Chief Jack Swagger. Cole replies that being Cole's "sideick" is the best thing that's ever happened to Swagger and no one remembers what Swagger was ever the champion. Cue Swagger getting absolutely furious with Cole. However, instead of beating down Cole himself, he simply looks over Cole's shoulder to Jerry and says "He's all yours" and walks out of the ring, leaving Cole completely alone going into his match at Over The Limit with a justifably furious Lawler who beats the stuffing out of Cole and subjects him to a priceless Humiliation Conga. Though this may have been invoked by Lawler via Batman Gambit.
- Myst V: In the climax, villain Escher is captured by the freed Bahro, a slave race he had tortured and experimented on previously. Yeesha's instructions to them are to "treat him as one of the Least", making something of a Broken Aesop out of the whole episode.
- There are few of these in Red Dead Redemption. Mainly (if not exclusively) when John is in Mexico helping out the revolution. In particular, there's the fate of Vincente de Santa: John can either finish him off personally or just walk off and let the rebels shoot him up.
- Mass Effect 2: One of the possible endings of Jacob's loyalty mission is to just leave after having destroyed all the mechs that were protecting Ronald Taylor from the wrath of his feral former crewmates.
"You were a better man dead. Far as I'm concerned, you still are."
- Knights of the Old Republic 2 can have you doling this one out on Atris. After it's clear her Knight Templar tendencies and collection of Sith holocrons have corrupted her, you can cheerfully lock her in her archive room with those holocrons and walk away.
Exile: Those are Sith Holocrons, Atris. They don't tolerate failure...
- Uncharted2 ends with the beaten Big Bad at Drake's mercy. Drake opts to simply leave him there fully aware of what the circling Guardians will do to him.
- In God Hand, Gene finishes off Shannon this way.
- The Order of the Stick; Belkar Bitterleaf does this twice in one story arc. After slaughtering his way through a group of Mooks, he stabs a knife through the foot of the man who had betrayed him and his allies. Rather than finish him, Belkar leaves the man in the capable hands of his best friend who had also been sold out.
- In The Gamers Alliance, a villainous variant happens to Awar in the aftermath of the siege of Vanna. Ronove, who has betrayed his former companions in the Grand Alliance and has become the new Dreadlord of the Northern Horde, uses his authority to free Awar from demon captivity... only to end up handing him over to a pissed off Refan whose adoptive little sister Awar had killed some time earlier. Refan executes Awar then and there.
- Superman: The Animated Series: Superman tries this on Darkseid. It doesn't work out the way he intended -- the slaves on Apokolips are too broken to even consider rebelling, and approach him with reverence and questions of concern for his well being; then they gently carry the injured Darkseid away to recieve care.
"I am many things, Kal-El. But here, I am God."
- In World War II, most death camps had been abandoned by the times the US troops got there, but Dachau was still in operation. After taking the camp and seeing the atrocities, they armed the inmates and set them loose on the surviving German soldiers.
- There is also at least one account of a Japanese POW camp in which, after the camp was taken by Allied soldiers, the sadistic commander surrendered to them and demanded to be treated "as befits a Prisoner of War". The soldiers took one look around the camp and turned him over to the prisoners, who buried him alive.