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A Stock Phrase generally used for one of two reasons, dependent on whether good or evil is currently acting.
A. Good -- Sadistic Choice
The Captain is forced to make a decision where there is no third option and the cavalry most certainly won't save the day. Thousands, or perhaps millions will die. The only other choice is to let the enemy overrun the area, potentially killing everyone or capturing vital resources. This form generally creates a Hurting Hero, and in especially severe cases, a Heroic BSOD. He'll also often suffer from Flashback Nightmares.
B. Evil -- Horrific Realization
The Big Bad has capabilities that no one has ever imagined. He has the ability to slaughter everyone, take over the world, or what have you, and the only thing required for success is simply a bit of time. It would take a miracle from The Hero to even come close to curbing the assault, let alone win. In some cases, the situation really is hopeless, and everyone has to simply sit back and watch in abject horror as events take place.
Either case will usually result in massive loss of life, and in some cases, destruction on a global scale. Many times the action taken is the respective side's Last Res0rt. And given that it's a Last Res0rt there is little chance that anyone will ask Was It Really Worth It? due to the stakes being that absurdly high.
Sadistic Choice Examples:
- In Crimson Tide, The Captain, Ramsey, believes they should launch their nuclear missiles immediately to obliterate the terrorist faction in Russia. Hunter argues that they should get confirmation before starting a nuclear holocaust.
Ramsey: God help you if you're wrong.
Hunter: If I'm wrong, then we're at war; God help us all.
- The opening credits of Wing Commander has a montage of audio snippets, outlining the history of the film's universe. This ends with the President of The Terran Confederation informing the Senate that all attempts at peaceful reconciliation with the Kilrathi Empire had failed:
It is my sad duty to inform you... as of six AM this morning, we are formally at war with the Kilrathi. God help us all.
- Power Rangers RPM: Colonel Truman has to stop accepting refugees and shut up the Domed Hometown of Corinth before the Killer Robots can get in:
Soldier: What if there are still people out there?
Colonel Truman: Then Heaven help them. Because we can't.
- World in Conflict: One mission has the player defending Fort Teller from a massive Soviet assault. The Soviets believe the Fort had the American's anti-nuke program but the Americans know it's a bust. They have to stop the Soviets from taking the Fort and realizing this thus leading to millions of deaths from Nuclear strikes on major cities. The player is ultimately overwhelmed with an overwhelming force of Soviet tanks on the way. Colonel Sawyer is given authorization to nuke the area to stop the Soviets but Bannon points out that if everyone retreats the Russians will know something is up. Bannon stays behind to hold the Soviets off and the player orders the strike. After doing so Sawyer utters this phrase knowing full well the necessity of it.
- It's also used in multiplayer when you call in a nuclear strike.
Horrified Realization Examples:
- Watchmen The Comedian uses this phrase to indicate the danger of Dr. Manhattan growing out of touch with humanity.
Captain Fascist: Officer Howard. We are dealing with an Albeeno, which means: He has red eyes, evil in his heart, and create a storm the likes of which the human race has never seen. God help us all.
- Independence Day used a variation of type A when President Whitmore was forced to try the nuclear option on an alien ship above Houston, Texas: "May our children forgive us."
- Before that point, a news anchorman reporting the destruction of the helicopter sent to communicate with the aliens said straight out, "God help us all."
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as the Celts prepare to attack the outlaw village, Morgan Freeman's character gasps, "Allah, be merciful".
Captain Sisko: If we do nothing, the Dominion could sit behind that perimeter for the next five years rearming themselves. And when they're ready to come out, God help us all.
Rupert Giles: There's a reference here to the journal of Desmond Kane, pastor of a town called Sharpsville. "May 26, 1723. Tomorrow is the Ascension. God help us all." It was the last anyone heard.
Wesley: Of Kane?
Giles: Of Sharpsville.
- Lost Season 5's first episode's teaser ended with Pierre Chang saying, "God help us all" if the energy of the Orchid were released. The episode "The Lie" ended with Eloise Hawking saying, "God help us all," if Ben couldn't get the Oceanic 6 back to the island.
- Battlestar Galactica. Adama invokes this when he is forced to land the fleet on New Caprica.
- Law and Order UK. The detectives enter a building that has been torched. As they climb the stairs, Devlin covers his mouth with his scarf to block out the stench of smoke. But as they reach the main room, the camera zooms in on his face as he drops the scarf and gasps, "God have mercy". Cut to a long shot of several dozen bodies draped in white sheets, laid out on the floor.
- Linkin Park's "The Catalyst" uses phrasing of this sort in the verses.
(verse 1/opening/finale) God bless us, everyone / We're a broken people living in a loaded gun...
(verse 2) God save us, everyone / When we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns...
- Futurama: "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" has Nibbler ending a log like this, which is most likely intended as a parody.
Nibbler: ...and when that happens then may God help us all!
Leela: Time for a diaper change!
Nibbler: End transmission.
- Fry also shouted the phrase in "Fear Of A Bot Planet", while in the movie theater showing a film about humans attacking innocent robots.
- Subverted in The Simpsons when Ned's childhood psychologist hears about Ned's breakdown he says "May God have mercy on us all" as if it would likely result in a huge body count (which given his breakdown earlier, seemed quite possible). But shortly after, he finds out he left his shoes in the den and replies "May God have mercy on us all".
- Command and Conquer: Yuri's Revenge:
President Michael Dugan: My God. That maniac is really going to do it. May God help us all.
Colonel Holland: I'm barely getting you. What's your situation, over?
Carter: Colonel, there are no rebels. The Covenant are on Reach. Acknowledge?
Holland: Come again, Noble-1. Did you say Covenant?
Carter: Affirmative. It's the Winter Contingency.
Holland: ...May God help us all...
- Used in Paw's top 9 video game composers video by Spoony:
Angry Joe: But I do wonder... what would happen if Dark Paw got unleashed on the real world?
Spoony: Then God help us. (Overdramatic camera zooming in.) God help us all.
Sweeper: What if we get an eight?
Captain: Then God help us all.
- President Franklin Roosevelt uttered this upon being informed that the Nazis were invading Poland.