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"Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you have managed to break so far is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that and we'll just call it a day."—GLaDOS, Portal
Bob takes things too far, either in his quest for power, revenge, or even just to win a battle. After it's all said and done, he or Alice have to ask 'was it really worth it?' In this case, it's actually a valid question, possibly for a number of reasons. Maybe killing his opponent made him just like them. Maybe to win a friendly duel, he had to shatter his best friend's weapon (or worse, shatter his best friend!) In any case what Bob's done raises serious moral questions for him, and the answer isn't necessarily "Hell yeah, it was Worth It!"
Note that the question doesn't necessarily even have to be asked, nor must it be after the deed's been done.
Not to be confused with What the Hell, Hero?, which is about the character being called on for flat out evil things. If someone wins a battle, but accidentally kills their friend's sister in the process, it's this. If they intentionally do so, and are called on for it, it's that. If Bob decides it's not worth it after all, but only after the fact, it's My God, What Have I Done?.
A subtrope of Pyrrhic Victory. See also Pyrrhic Villainy, for where the villain's actions are definitely not worth it. If a character's actions or victory eventually result in him being bored because of it, then you have a case of Victory Is Boring. Compare And Then What?
Anime and Manga
- In Afro Samurai Resurrection, after Afro kills Shichigoro in front of his adopted son Kotaku, the show itself compares him to the villain of the first season, with flashbacks to Afro's father being killed. Afro makes the comparison at the end, leaving the Number 2 headband in Kotaku's hands with a quiet "Whenever you're ready."
- The ending of Chrono Crusade is a great example of this applied to a Heroic Sacrifice. The manga seems to answer: "Yes, it was worth it." The anime seems to agree with the manga, but acknowledges the severity of Rosette's sacrifice to a greater extent.
- Previously very close teammates, the last conversation between Iron Man and Captain America has the latter in a cell, awaiting trial, and asking the former, "Was it worth it?" Later, an opportunistic villain assassinates Captain America on his way to trial, and Iron Man, confronted with his body, finally answers the question. Was it worth it? No. No it was not.
- Watchmen ends with Ozymandias successfully completing his plan to create world peace, but at the price of millions of lives. His face, after Dr. Manhattan tells him before leaving the galaxy, "Nothing ends, Adrien. Nothing ever ends," suggests he's asking himself whether it was worth it.
- In a comic by Joakim Pirinen, a young boy has murdered his mother and almost made it look like suicide. The cop investigating asks him, as he is about to be taken away:
Inspector Liikanen: But why did you kill your mother?
Boy: To become happy.
Inspector Liikanen(gently): Are you happy now?
Boy(breaks down in tears): No...
- In an early arc of Birds of Prey, which chronicled the first meeting between Black Canary and Huntress, the adventure was summed up thusly:
Oracle: "You travelled five thousand miles. You hooked up with a loose cannon--possibly psychotic--vigilante who doesn't place much value on life...and a world class felon. You stressed my network to the max. You faced the world's deadliest martial artist. All to get back at a guy who didn't call you the next day. Was it worth it?"
Black Canary: "Yeah, it was."
- At the end of The Long Halloween, in light of of Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face and his subsequent killing of Carmine Falcone, Batman and Jim Gordon have this moment.
Film - Animated
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated movie, Leo and Raph have a grudge match, in which Leo is the dominant fighter, but Raph breaks his swords when he decides to take it to the line, and Leo is consequently captured not long after.
- Disney's The Rescuers, Penny has gone way too far making herself a diva at certain subjects, so people begin to paralyze her by reporting her, hitting her, and yelling at her.
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, the Soothsayer, Lord Shen's adviser and Parental Substitute asks him if, in the end, everything he's done will be worth it. While he says it will, even Lord Shen seems to wonder rather it will be or not.
Film - Live Action
- The question in Dogma "Was Wisconsin really that bad?", an eternity there as opposed to destroying the entire universe and making war on God to get home.
- The ending of the original Godzilla film has the main surviving humans wondering if using the Oxygen Destroyer was worth the Heroic Sacrifice of Dr. Serizawa and worrying that another Godzilla may appear.
- Given that Godzilla vs. Destoroyah featured two Godzillas, a technology extremely close to the Oxygen Destroyer (Serizawa sacrificed himself to keep something like that from happening), and a monster created by the use of the original Destroyer, the answer seems to be "No."
- At the end of Hamburger Hill there is a sign reading: "Hamburger Hill... Was it worth it?"
- In The Great Escape Hendley is informed by the SBO that 50 escaped POW's have been executed, but the escape itself caused havoc behind the German lines, tying up thousands of troops that would have been utilized elsewhere. Hendley asks of all his dead friends, "Was it worth it?" and is told "It depends on your point of view, doesn't it?"
- In American History X, the words that convince Edward Norton to stop being a skinhead are, "Has anything you've done made your life any better?"
- In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, Abaddon expected to feel "savage joy" at Loken and Torgaddon's deaths. Instead he just feels empty. Though his reaction to Aximund's My God, What Have I Done? and Tears of Remorse is that he needs to be watched.
- In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos knows, objectively, that sacrificing the scouts as a distraction was a sound move, but he finds the cost very bitter.
- In the Dale Brown novel Wings of Fire, Patrick McLanahan says this after the Night Stalkers receive very large paychecks for the mission where Paul was killed and Wendy went missing.
- At the end of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy:
'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' he said at last.
'Oh, just something I threw into the river this evening. I don't think I'll be wanting it any more,' said Arthur Dent.
- The Bible: Mark 8:36
For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
Live Action TV
- Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip episode "The Christmas Show":
Danny Tripp: Was sleeping with him for that information really worth it?
- Doctor Who example from "Dalek", when the Doctor confronts a villain:
The Doctor: I could have killed that Dalek in its cell. But you stopped me.
Henry van Statten: It was the prize of my collection!
The Doctor: YOUR COLLECTION?! Well, was it worth it?! Worth all those men's deaths?! Worth Rose?!
- At the end of Torchwood: Children of Earth, in order to defeat the 456, Captain Jack has to kill his grandson. He can't live with himself afterwards (ironic, given he's immortal) and leaves the Earth.
- In Babylon 5's fourth season, while the Centauri are ending their occupation of Narn, Vir and Londo talk about Vir's killing of Cartagia.
Vir: "What was it all for, Londo? What was any of it even for?"
- The pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis ends with Sheppard asking Weir if the hundred or so people he saved were really worth reawakening the Wraith.
- In Merlin Morgana has a dream of the far-distant future, one that implies that both she and Arthur die on the battlefield. She reaches for Merlin standing above her, who asks her: "Is this really what you wanted, Morgana?"
- Eric Bogle's song about the Fist World War "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda". As the old man sits on his porch, watching the veterans march past every ANZAC Day, he muses:
The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask m'self the same question.
- In Fable, after you kill Jack of Blades, and have the opportunity to get the Sword of Aeons, your sister gives you a short speech, asking if striking her down would be worth it for the power. It's up to the player whether it is or isn't. Canonically, you don't kill her. She's the same Theresa as the one in Fable 2.
- In Blue's story in Saga Frontier, after killing Kylin for the gift for Space magic, Mei-Ling asks "All this for the Gift?" A very valid question, as apparently, Kylin maintains a paradise for all children that exists which gets destroyed on his death.
- Portal has GlaDOS ask "Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far is my heart." However, she is asking it in the context of attempting to save her own skin (figuratively speaking) from a test subject who has gone Off the Rails and is trying to destroy her. It isn't until the second game that we find out that Chell's actions may have inadvertently made things much, much worse.
- Final Fantasy Tactics. King Delita Heiral.
- Shadow of the Colossus. To explain it would ruin the game.
- Glenn and Janus from Chrono Trigger, in BOTH directions.
- Shepard (as in you, the player) from Mass Effect can throw this at Mordin, asking him accusingly if enacting the genophage, which reduced the fertility of the Proud Warrior Race Guy, was really worth it. For the record, he says yes. Probably.
- Shepard also gets confronted by a human reporter with a distinctly anti-alien bias, who demands to know if spending human lives to save the Council in the previous game was worth it. Shepard's responses consist of either completely flooring the reporter by telling her she's disrespecting the dead and their sacrifice, or flooring her with a fist to the face.
- At the end of Makai Kingdom, Seedle sarcastically asks Zetta if becoming the strongest Overlord was worth his former pupil and lover Salome slowly and willingly killing herself by feeding him all of her Mana energy.
- All but spelled out by Nie R's endings A and C, as Nier tries to enjoy his life with Yonah, having sacrificed so much for her in the former, and mourns Kaine's death in the latter. Heavily implied to the player in ending D.
- At the end of God of War 3, Kratos finally gets his revenge having killed everyone who ever wronged him...but by that point he realizes just how much of his misery was his own fault. He also finally notices the devastation he wrought upon the world during his campaign for vengeance and he's been changed enough to actually give a damn about it.
- In Soul Nomad and The World Eaters, we have the Demon Path ending where Revya destroys the world. After the deed is done, you get one last line to read: It doesn't matter. It was fun.
- In Saints Row: The Third the player is given an option at the end... go after Killbane or rescue Shaundi, who is about to be killed in a terrorist attack STAG had set up to blame the Saints on. Choose the former and you get the bad (good?) ending, where Shaundi dies, the Saints are blamed as terrorists, the Boss is asked if it was worth it (s\he can't answer) and STAG attempts to destroy Steelport during her funeral, then the Saints basically go terrorist when they fight the army off.
- In Penny and Aggie, the ambitious, slick, social-climbing Stan wins the election for class president (important to him for his college applications), but at the cost of the only serious relationship he'd ever had. When Aggie tells him he'd better be ready to face the consquences of choosing "power over love and friendship," he responds sadly, "I kinda have to be...don't I?"
- Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog ends this way for Billy/Doctor Horrible.
- In the Robin vs. Speedy fight during the Teen Titans episode "Winner Take All", Robin wins, but snaps Speedy's bow while doing so, in what had been a friendly match. After Robin celebrates his victory, Speedy asks this before being teleported away.
- Macbeth in Gargoyles uses Revenge as the 'it: "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. And I have waited nine hundred years for this meal." However, Goliath points out to him and his nemesis Demona that every time either of them has attempted to get revenge, it only made their lives worse. "What profit vengeance?" has been described by producer Greg Weisman as one of his favorite themes.
- In an episode of Transformers Animated, an upgraded Prowl beats (clone) Starscream. Unfortunately there's a lot of collateral damage - including a torn down tree and broken bird eggs that he earlier made an effort to protect. Seeing these, Prowl realizes what a total asshole he's being.
- A similar theme was used in the G1 cartoon, when a beautiful woodland glen was wrecked when Autobots and Decepticons fought over possession of the pool of electrum at its center. The final scene has one of the former glumly viewing the devastation and saying "We won", in tones that embody this trope.
- In order to save the very small village South Park from getting destroyed by lava, Randy Marsh redirected the magma - and accidentally destroyed Denver.
- Parody/subversion in the episode "Casa Bonita", where Cartman effectively holds Butters hostage in order to take his place at Kyle's birthday celebration, which is being held at the eponymous establishment. In the final scene, a cop asks Cartman if it was worth making the town panic, alienating his friends, and going to juvenile hall. Cartman dreamily responds "Totally."
- A Subversion in Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 during the second season finale "Unite And Strike!" Krytus asks Sage if it was worth freezing the entire Red Sentient civilization just to stop his multiversal conquest. Sage's response is that Krytus was such a threat to not only the Blue Sentients but the entire multiverse that she had no choice but to resort to her Nuclear Option. Krytus responds that she was absolutely right, not that he cares.
- The Battle of Hamburger Hill
- World War One
- Let's just say that the relationship between Afghanistan and military futility goes back a looong time. That region is what finally exhausted Alexander the Great's undefeatable army and what caused him to turn back after the Siege of Multan. The Mongols came to it during their expansion that flattened every army and civilization they came across and went around.
- Vietnam. One veteran actually asked, "Was it really worth it?"
- The Battle of Bunker Hill. Even though the British won it took over 800 wounded and 226 killed, including a notably large number of officers. This was against a small group of people who were low on supplies from the start. At the end the commanding officer made a statement with the general mean "this was not a victory, simply an achievement of the objective".
- Let's just face it: war. Period. While arguments can be made in certain situations that, yes, it was worth it for the defending side against an openly hostile and unprovoked attack, the concept of war as a necessity is one of the great philosophical debates of all time.
- Then again, according to Sun Tzu war should only be started when it is definitely worth it.
- The atomic bombings of Japan. There's a reason there was plenty of consideration over whether it'd be worth using a nuclear weapon as opposed to a full invasion of Japan. Ultimately, the general belief is it was worth it, because millions of lives would've been lost in such an invasion on both sides, and resulted in turning every significant city in Japan into nothing but rubble piles with a conventional bombing campaign.
- The battle of Iwo-Jima was a victory for America, but the death toll on both sides was utterly horrendous. Virtually none were left alive on the Japanese side, and nearly half of the American troops were killed or wounded. The outcome of Iwo-Jima was a major factor in making the above decision to deploy nuclear weapons against Japan in the hopes of avoiding further outcomes like the Iwo Jima one.