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Steve has been accused of a particularly heinous crime, and the locals are screaming for blood. While the supporting cast believe that Steve is innocent and seek to prove he was Wrongly Accused, Steve shocks everyone by admitting his guilt and preparing to accept whatever they do to him, as he's convinced that he deserves it and that Forgiveness Requires Death. It doesn't help matters that the grieved Untrusting Community usually has archaic laws where the penalty for Steve's crime (and all crimes in general) is death. Usually in a brutal manner at that.

In this setup, the supporting cast generally divides into three reactions:

  • This doesn't apply to us. Why bother accepting their law? The team member that thinks the group's higher calling supersedes some pathetic village folk. Will often try to talk Steve into a morally dubious jailbreak. Steve won't listen because he is a Slave to PR.
  • You don't deserve this! The most common. The group that tries to find a way to prove Steve's innocence, while simultaneously getting him to accept it himself, lest the episode end in a Warped Aesop regarding the legal system.
  • I can't believe you could do such a thing! How can I ever trust you again? The people that agree with Steve, due to a narrow black and white view of morality. Often at odds with the previous two.

Distinct from Redemption Equals Death, which is the tendency of Heel Face Turners to buy it in a Heroic Sacrifice soon after changing sides. An extreme case of Self-Restraint.

Examples of Forgiveness Requires Death include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Trigun, Vash is such a pacifist that he holds himself liable for the deaths of people killed by the Villain. Thus, when people learn his identity, capture him, and proceed to torture him with every intention of eventually killing him, all he can do is submit. He even states that he's to blame. It's only the interference of those he's befriended that stops the violence and frees him.
  • Pretty much the whole point of the Soul Society arc in Bleach. Rukia has pretty much accepted her fate. Her True Companions don't see it that way, of course, all the way down to the guy who supposedly hates everyone like her. It could have been Narmtastic, but somehow it works out to about one Crowning Moment of Awesome every few episodes and a handful of Crowning Moments Of Heartwarming to boot.


Live Action TV

  • Stargate SG-1 did this with Teal'c attempting to die for the murder of a local's father when he was Apophis's First Prime. Naturally, the fact that Apophis had threatened to kill everybody if he didn't kill one guy did little to touch the "judge", who was the victim's son. By design.
    • Teal'c even hides the fact that he did it to save the rest of the community from his friends because he truly believes he deserves the punishment and doesn't want his friends defending his actions.
  • This is the main plot of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Duet": a minor bureaucrat in an infamous Cardassian labor camp attempts both to atone for his moral cowardice and to bring his government to account for its atrocities by impersonating the camp's commandant and submitting to a Bajoran war crimes tribunal, where he would face almost certain death.
    • In the Deep Space Nine episode "The Adversary", Odo killed another Changeling to prevent him from killing the crew of the Defiant. By doing this, he broke the law of his people never to kill a fellow Changeling. Although Odo had previously broken with his people and the Federation was soon to be at war with them, he headed to his home planet anyway, since he believed he deserved to be tried for his deed. The trial ended with Odo being found guilty and turned into a human, which basically meant his death as a Changeling.
  • Boston Legal, "Death Be Not Proud": James Spader goes down to Texas to try and get a kid spared from the death penalty, but cannot because the kid has been told so many times that he was guilty that he'd convinced himself of it. Ends with a passionate speech against the death penalty, and then a horrible scene where the kid dies. Emotional TV.
  • Star Trek Enterprise, the final episodes from season one (Shockwave Part 1). As the crew visits a mining colony with a highly inflammable atmosphere the air suddenly ignites and the entire planet's surface is destroyed (along with the thousands or so of workers on it). While the officers claim to have followed procedures exactly it seems undeniable that the blast originated from the Enterprise's shuttle and the colonist's homeworld demands retribution while the Vulcans use it as another argument to get Enterprise out of space.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Snow White seems to take this attitude in the letter she sent to the Evil Queen after she realizes that the Queen had sent a huntsman to kill her. In the letter, she admits that it is her fault that the Queen "will never know true love, so it is only fitting that I be denied that same joy." However, Snow is quick enough to run off when the Huntsman gives her the chance, so this may not actually be how she feels.

Real Life

Tabletop Games

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Avatar Day". But, thanks to issues with reincarnation, the accused wasn't expecting to make a guilty plea beforehand...
    • But he takes a fourth option... community service defending the village when it is attacked.
      • More like given a fourth option... The mayor moved the wheel from burning oil to community service when Aang stated he had no reason to defend the village if he was to die anyway. Yes, that's right, punishment was decided by spinning a wheel.
      • If Aang said that, he did take the option.
  • Happened to Green Lantern John Stewart in the animated Justice League (and the comic-book story the episode was based on). He was framed into thinking a stray blast from his ring destroyed a nearby inhabited planet as part of a larger plot.


  • In the second album by The Protomen, Father Of Death, Dr. Light is framed for the murder of his girlfriend by Dr. Wily. Because Light built the robot that Wily used to kill her, he feels so guilty and hopeless that even when he's acquitted in court, he doesn't resist when Wily whips up a lynch mob out for his blood. His security detail getting him on a train out of The City is the only reason he lives long enough to make his plans to overthrow Wily.
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