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Desann: I was wrong about you, Katarn. Your failure as a Jedi hasn't weakened you; it's made you stronger. Come, join me. You know in your heart that you'll never truly be one of them.

Kyle Katarn: Maybe, maybe not, but I know I won't be alone. How 'bout you, Desann? Even now, after all this pain, there's still hope. Come, join us.

The Heel Face Turn that never was.

If your villain is tragic, insane, infected with some kind of horrible, mutating, alien virus or otherwise not entirely responsible for his actions, and your hero isn't a complete meanie, then you might want to include the Last Second Chance scene, in which the hero offers to help the villain put things right and/or cure his affliction. "It is not too late yet" is a common stock phrase.

Because viewers have come to expect that villains must die in the final act, this offer is usually turned down. It may be done tragically ("no, no, I can't go back now, not after what I've done"), selfishly ("why would I want to give up this power?") or dramatically ("there's nothing left for me any more..."), but it will almost certainly happen. It may also happen after the innocent loved one of the villain is killed, giving him no reason to turn back and driving him into a despairing rage. Most frustrating perhaps is when the villain realizes that accepting what the hero says is the right thing to do... but he doesn't do it anyway.

This scene typically occurs just after the big climactic battle, so that the villain can have one last go at killing the hero before meeting a Karmic Death. Sometimes, however, it happens just before the big battle, so that the audience can relax and enjoy the fireworks without having their conscience harmed. This also serves to make them a Self-Disposing Villain, freeing the hero from much of the guilt associated with killing.

Should the villain actually accept the Last Second Chance, it's usually curtains for them, since Redemption Equals Death, maybe even immediately. At best, they may get a Redemption Quest to go on in their attempt to become The Atoner. Still, this is nothing to sneeze at since they have essentially proved Redemption Earns Life.

May also occur with a Rival Turned Evil. Different from the Kirk Summation in that there the hero is trying to browbeat the baddie into capitulating through moral rightness, whereas here the hero is trying to save the villain and offer help.

Compare Save the Villain. Flip the speaking roles, and it's We Can Rule Together. In particularly poignant examples, one party can attempt to take the offer after all, only to learn that it's now Off the Table.

Since many of these occur at the end of a work, spoilers may be unmarked.

Examples of Last Second Chance include:


Anime and Manga

  • One of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s most prominent examples is Jounouchi's/Joey's second duel with Mai during the Doma arc. Unfortunately, by the time she decides she doesn't want to kill him, he's already in the throes of a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Not really. Mai was still under Mind Rape/brainwashing when she was about to finish him off, but suddenly snapped out of it at that very moment.
  • Used at the end of season one of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
  • Occurs during the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. When Metal Sonic is about to fall into the Lava below, Sonic reaches out to him offering his hand in a last ditch bid to help him. Just when he's gotten close enough, Metal knocks his hand away with the same statement he's been saying all movie: "There is only one Sonic", and he apparently doesn't think it's him.
  • Also occurs in Sonic X when Yellow Zelkova basically commits suicide rather than choosing to let Knuckles save him.
  • Lyle Dylandy offers this to Ali al-Saachez in episode 24 of Season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. It doesn't work.
    • However, he's Genre Savvy enough to not lower his gun, allowing him to immediately shoot Ali when the latter attempts to turn around and fire at him.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hanyuu gives this sort of version to Takano after she lost, saying that she can forgive the sins of man, even a Complete Monster. However, Takano rejects the offer, saying that it's too late, then tries to shoot Mion.
  • Nina tries to pull this on Johan in Monster by forgiving him for his actions (towards her, at least) in the climax, to stop his plan to make Tenma shoot him. Johan replies, apparently somewhat saddened, that some things cannot be taken back or forgiven. He had already pulled the same plan on her ten years ago, and she shot him.

Comic Books

  • At the end of Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman confronts The Joker and asks him to let Batman help him back towards sanity. Of course, The Joker refuses. Actually, many Batman stories have him asking his more deranged enemies to go peacefully back to Arkham Asylum for treatment... usually followed by a big fight. It's worth mentioning that the Joker, for probably the only time in his entire villainous career, actually considers Batman's plea to try and get rehabilitated, which he dismisses with surprisingly humane sadness (it's "far too late for me," he says) rather than rejecting it instantly.
    • Batman never stops trying to rehabilitate his former friend Harvey Dent aka Two-Face. Sadly, Harvey's inner demons are too strong and his Heel Face Turns never last.
  • In the latest Wavedancers graphic collection, Surge (former chief) is so paranoid about "landers" (humans, but by extension, anyone who doesn't live underwater) that he takes drastic measures to prevent his tribe from becoming friends with the "lander" elves. This includes kidnapping Cutter (chief of the non-Wavedancer elves) and swearing to kill him if he doesn't get his way. During the hostage situation, Cutter just about talks him into being more open-minded, when the actual chief of the Wavedancers challenges Surge (his father). The chance is lost, and Surge reverts to his paranoid control-freak persona. But in the end, he does sacrifice himself to save Cutter, and there is an afterlife for elves, so it's kinda okay...
    • ...but the whole thing just feels off. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that Surge (a) causes his own death (b) because he was unwilling to kill his son to win the battle and (c) because he went back to save Cutter. Karmic Death meets Redemption Equals Death? Karmic Death is when you failed to repent, and Redemption Equals Death is when you did repent, so what the heck is going on here? Brrrr.

Film

  • Occurs in Batman Returns, where Bruce gives Catwoman the offer to live happily ever after with him in his mansion. Her answer, she could never live with herself.
  • Spider-Man 2 has a memorable scene where Dr. Octavius (AKA Doc Ock) takes the Last Second Chance, and dies saving the city from his own machinations.
  • Of course, the final scene in Return of the Jedi is an example of this in incredibly slow-motion, with Darth Vader refusing to save Luke several times before finally saving him, and as always, Redemption Equals Death.
  • The ending of Falling Down has Det. Prendergast asking William "D-Fens" Foster to surrender so that he can still watch his little girl grow up. Foster refuses, insisting instead on a final shoot-out with Prendergast. It turns out to be Suicide by Cop, since Foster only has a water pistol.
  • In the film version of David Brin's The Postman the title character does this to General Bethlehem after defeating him His reward? A predictable but failed attempt to stab him in the back.
  • In the new Star Trek film, the villain is on the ropes and is especially spiteful in turning down his Last Second Chance. "I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times! I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you!"
    • "You got it."
    • In Search for Spock, Kirk tries to save the Klingon commander from falling into a lava field. Of course, Klingons being Klingons, the commander tries to drag Kirk down with him; and gets kicked off.

  "I... have had... enough of... you!"

  • Towards the end of the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film, the White Queen offers one to the Red Queen.

 White Queen: Racie, we don't have to fight.

Red Queen: I know what you're doing. You think you can blink those pretty little eyes of yours, and I'll melt, just like mummy and daddy did.

White Queen: (Quietly) Please...

Red Queen: NO! It is MY crown! I AM THE ELDEST!

  • In the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar, after a much more taunting version of the climactic song than usual, Jesus reaches out to Judas, who rejects him one last time. Once Jesus is back in the physical world, the demonic showgirls vanish, and the last we see of Judas is of him suffering in Hell.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Optimus trying to awake some good in his old mentor Sentinel Prime but fails and ultimately forcing him to execute the latter. When Sam was fighting Dylan in the final battle, he tried to reason with him but likewise, said person didn't listen.
  • In Robot Jox, the two leading robot pilots, hero Achilles and villain Alexander, end up fighting it out hand to hand after they destroy each others' mecha. After a Not So Different realization that they are both just soldiers for their corporate masters, Achilles offers Alexander a chance to end the fight in an honorable draw that would let them both survive. Unusually for this trope, Alexander accepts the offer, and the movie ends with the two saluting each other.

Literature

 Galadriel: "Saruman, we have other errands and other cares that seem to us more urgent than hunting for you. Say rather that you are overtaken by good fortune, for now you have a last chance."

Saruman: "If it be truly the last, I am glad, for I shall be spared the trouble of refusing it again."

    • In The Silmarillion, Maedhros and Maglor receive one from Eonwe, after they demand the remaining Silmarils from him. Eonwe tells them that they no longer have any right to the Silmarils, and gives them a chance to return to Valinor and be judged by the Valar for their crimes. Maglor wants to go and tries to persuade Maedhros, but Maedhros refuses, and in the end persuades Maglor to go along with his plan to steal the Silmarils from Eonwe. Needless to say, it doesn't end well...
  • The Scarlet Letter: Hester Prynne, title character, gets one against a passive-aggressive villain, just after he's had his epiphany.

 Chillingworth: Thou hadst great elements. Peradventure, hast though met earlier with a better love than mine, this evil had not been. I pity thee, for the good that has been wasted in thy nature!

Hester: And I thee, for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man into a fiend! Wilt thou yet purge it out of thee, and be once more human?

  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan the Barbarian appeals to Rinaldo, the idealist among his assassins to give it up.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Theon Greyjoy is offered the opportunity to be conscripted into the Night's Watch as an alternative to being executed after his botched invasion of Winterfell. He considers the offer, but his acceptance of it is interrupted by the invading Bolton army, who drag him away to a much worse fate.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel, Madcap Magician attempt to persuade Admiral Tufayli to surrender so that he and his men can be treated and released. The other guy doesn't bite.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Yoda: Dark Rendezvous all builds up to Jedi Master Yoda personally meeting with Count Dooku in what had started as a very obvious trap, and making a sincere attempt to -- as he said he would, long ago -- catch him after he's fallen so far, while at the same time, Dooku, upon being invited to do so, well and truly gives his best shot at getting Yoda to join him on the dark side of the Force. Since this takes place before Dooku's villainous last stand in Revenge of the Sith, it's a Foregone Conclusion that it won't work, but as it happens, it only fails because they're interrupted at the last second; old Dooku really was this close to coming back home.

Live Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor makes a point of offering most of his enemies a peaceful resolution if possible. Woe betide them if they refuse... "No second chances. I'm that sort of a man."
    • In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane also tends to do this. Three guesses where she learned it from, and the first two don't count.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard's team repeatedly tried to convince Lt. Ford to return to Atlantis to get cured to no avail. Note that he was not an actual villain, but just crazy because of the wraith enzyme that he was addicted to and prone to endangering the lives of expedition members without realizing it.
  • Averted in an early episode of Andromeda where Trance offers a second chance to the man who killed her in the pilot, and after a few threats and a chase scene he accepts. As Trance explained to Harper at the end of the episode. 'Everyone deserves a second chance.... or as many as they need."
  • Turned up to 11 in Xena episode Tsunami: Villain tries to kill Gabrielle, Xena says "If you do that again, I will kill you." Villain tries to kill the Captain, Xena says etc. etc. Villain tries to kill the pregnant woman, Xena says etc. etc. Villain tries to kill everybody, Xena says etc. etc. Repeat for 40 minutes.
  • Occurred once in Farscape, when Crichton tries to convince Pathfinder Neeyala to help save Moya instead of her research vessel, offering to return her to her home planet. Neeyala coldy refuses, explaining that returning home without her ship and its precious data would be punished with her execution, the execution of her family, and the families of her crew.
  • Michael Westen offers one of these in the Burn Notice episode "Friends and Family", as outlined in a page quote.
  • Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 Faith: Give me that speech again. [...] It's not too late, we can still save you.

Willow: It's way too late.

  • Averted for Sonny Steelgrave in the first season of Wiseguy: although Vinnie admits to Sonny that he would have given him a Last Second Chance to elude prosecution, Sonny murders a man in cold blood while Vinnie's hidden video camera is recording him, making it impossible for Vinnie to invoke this trope for him.

Radio

  • In the Christian radio drama Adventures in Odyssey, Mr. Alan gives Dr. Blackguard a chance to redeem himself after his plot to collect a mineral that could be used to produce a super virus he was planning on selling. The Dr. says he's beyond saving, and decides to trigger a bomb to take him, Mr. Alan, and much of Whit's End out. Ironically in a scene, and part of an arc that the show's creators would have criticized for being too violent if it had been in a visual form rather than audio only.

Video Games

  • Depending on the ending you're going for in Devil Survivor 2, you can do this to all your former party members after defeating them.But notable examples are Yamato and Ronaldo, who will either become available to recruit, try a last-ditch attack against one of your party members (disregarding the fact that he's a Physical God), or, in Yamato's case, perform a Heroic Sacrifice by pushing you out of the way of a falling tower.
  • In the Tales (series) series, the heroes almost always try and reason with the Big Bad at the end, which never works.
  • Jowy, the Rival Turned Evil in Suikoden II, gets his Last Second Chance at the end. As he insist that they have to fight, the player can either choose to strike him down, or consistently refuse to fight back, in which case he dies anyway. Unless, of course, you played the game in just the right way, in which case you end up with a rare subversion... but then again, he was only Necessarily Evil.
  • Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights has one if you have too few ranks in Persuade and didn't complete her romance subplot.
  • Three characters get a Last Second Chance in the Light Side path of Knights of the Old Republic. Bastila and Juhani can be persuaded to take it; (Malak) cannot.
    • Hell, the Player Character can get one if you choose to go down the path of the Dark Side if Revan is female and began a romance with Carth. True to the trope (patches notwithstanding), your character spits in the face of opportunity and you get the choice of killing Carth yourself or having Bastila do it for you... the ending in which it would have been possible to accept the offer and die together saving the Republic was cut from the game. Oh well.
    • Those are actually only the major characters, the game gives you the option to offer the Last Second Chance to pretty much every single Dark Jedi that doesn't attack you on sight. Only a handful of them will accept it.
      • Including one who's long past his last seconds; you can redeem his ghost.
      • The second in command of the Korriban Academy, Yuthura Ban, will actually accept it if your diplomacy's good enough and you've talked to her about her motive beforehand.
  • Kyle Katarn to Desann in Jedi Outcast, as seen in the page quote. No luck, but at least it manages to make him angry. Kyle's student Jaden Korr has even less success trying this on Alora in the next game; she just laughs.
  • One of the major villains in Chrono Trigger, Magus, gets one of these. In the final battle against him, when he realizes that he has lost, he admits defeat and invites you to kill him. However, you can take the merciful route, and not only let him live, but convince him to join your party to fight against the real Big Bad.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance does this in an oddly reversed way rather commonly. Muarim, Shinon, and Ena all are defeated, and recruited after the fact (though in Shinon's case, only if you satisfy certain requirements first, thus merging Last Second Chance with Defeat Means Friendship.
    • However, Bryce, the last of the Four Riders, plays this trope straight to the hilt, as his loyalty is to the Daein crown, no matter how insane its sovereign may be. This happens after Ashnard admits to killing everyone ahead of him in line for the throne, including his own father, the previous king to Bryce's face. Further, fighting him with Tauroneo, a former Rider of Daein and Bryce's old comrade, causes a bit of bonus dialogue where he admits that he realizes Tauroneo's decision to defect is more just, but that there are some people who can't change their ways.
    • Also notable is General Shiharam, father to party member Jill. Already a defectee from Begnion rather than serving the corruption in the senate, he sees his service to Daein as the only way to be sure that his troops have a home to come back to, following the orders of General Petrine who openly despises him as a foreigner in the process, and ends up dying to accomplish nothing. In an ironic turnabout, fighting him with Jill is a double Last Second Chance both ways: if Jill does not have a support built up with one of the other characters, she'll switch sides and fight alongside him.
    • Path of Radiance's sequel, Radiant Dawn, plays this straight more often. Jarod is given this choice when outnumbered and outmaneuvered at the end of the first act, and the final act features this choice given to Hetzel, Levail, Dheginsea, Nasir and Gareth if you choose to attack them, and finally Sephiran.
    • Radiant Dawn also subverts this a few times as well, with Ludveck, who pre-emptively accepts the Last Second Chance and surrenders before Elincia takes his head off and Oliver who volunteers to defect to the good side without any effort on the player's part if he spots Rafiel, much to everyone else's discomfort. Furthermore, with a little hoop jumping, Sephiran will actually accept rather than refuse his Last Second Chance on the second play through the game.
  • Seifer gets one of these just prior to the last fight with him in Final Fantasy VIII. Naturally he refuses it, claiming that he's gone too far to stop now. The ending sequence implies that, because he was fortunate enough to survive, he actually does renounce his evil ways, though it's a little ambiguous.
    • In a twist, this Last Second Chance is offered by Seifer's Silent Bob henchman, rather than by the hero.
  • At the end of Final Fantasy IX, right after the final boss is defeated, Kuja, the villain and Zidane's brother, is dying inside the roots of the Iifa Tree when he realizes the mistakes that he's made in his life, resolving to at least try to make up for them by teleporting Zidane and his friends with the last of his power safely away from the now convulsing roots of the dying tree. Zidane, being the good guy that he is, heads straight back into the roots, where he finds Kuja and tries to convince him that he doesn't have to die just yet, and that he can make up for what he's done. Kuja thanks Zidane for the offer, but knows that he's finished. Just then a root heads straight for them, with the scene fading to black right as it's about to hit. It's heavily implied that Kuja died saving his brother from the root, making this a Redemption Equals Death situation.
  • In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the player has a choice to either try to kill or save Malia at the end. Choosing the latter has her refusing to be saved as she sacrifices herself to destroy Tetelo.
  • You can offer this to a lot of characters in Baldur's Gate, most notably perhaps Yoshimo. He doesn't, or rather, can't, take it.
  • In the game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, you play as a mercenary blowing stuff up for money, eventually making many people angry at you. However, those same people know that if they pay you well, you will end up destroying your own clients, so these people come up with a deal. You give them a cut of the paycheck you received from your previous client (say, $100,000-$500,000), and they give you a brand new job. This, of course, leads to a cycle of you betraying every single faction of the game, and THEY STILL WILL HIRE YOU! Lampshaded when the leader of the South Korean faction, a CIA Spook, said, "This is your last second chance."
  • In Planescape: Torment, you can also offer try this trope at a few characters, most poignantly to Trias the Betrayer by reminding him that the Upper Planes are also a place of forgiveness. Bring Vhailor with you and it's a moot point, however, as he'll strike Trias down whether you succeed or no.
  • Mass Effect has one of these just before the final confrontation with Saren. If you succeed, he commits suicide. Sovereign still reanimates his corpse for the final battle, however.
  • Soul Nomad. In Demon route player's character gets this offer from good guys before the final battle. Aversion: you can accept it, but they immediately will take it back and battle starts, like nothing happened.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy Cecil offers a place among the Warriors of Cosmos to his designated nemesis, Golbez. He does this because, at this point, he knows that Golbez is his brother, and not entirely responsible for the evil he committed in their homeworld. Golbez refuses the first time, telling Cecil that he has done too much to be forgiven at this point. After their final final battle in Shade Impulse, Cecil offers him the same thing, and this time, while he still turns away, Golbez acknowledges that there may be hope for him someday.

  "But... maybe someday. If the light should smile upon me..."

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko getting a last second chance was the major point of hype for the season 2 finale, a chance he blew when his sister played the "honor and father's love" cards. His Heel Face Turn only came around when he finally got sick of playing along with her in the third season, by which point none of the viewers were surprised.
    • Of course, Aang gives one to Ozai, who just laughs it off.
  • The second season of the animated Teen Titans series ended with one of these, with Terra sacrificing herself to stop a volcanic eruption. Note that in the comics she was much less sympathetic, so naturally she didn't get this treatment.
  • Bob from Re Boot actively tries not to delete Megabyte because he believes all viruses can be redeemed and believes that if Megabyte can it would serve as the ultimate example. He has some backing for this: as he points out, if he had deleted Hexadecimal earlier in the series instead of trying to redeem her, the entire Internet would have been destroyed in the first movie.
  • Nox, the Big Bad from Wakfu is offered this after his plan to travel back in time to save his family fails. In a bit of a twist on the norm, he accepts and retreats. The finality of his last line hints that he does not intend to return.
  • Katrina from the second My Little Pony special is offered this - and she accepts.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Celestia offers one to her younger sister, the defeated Nightmare Moon reverted to Princess Luna by the Elements of Harmony. For once, Luna accepts and repents for what she's done. Justified, as Word of God has confirmed Princess Luna didn't turn into Nightmare Moon completely of her own accord in the first place.
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