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When the hero lets the Big Bad go, or refuses to off a dangerous character (thanks to the Karmic Death scenario), he will sometimes be quite depressed that justice wasn't served. Invariably, his Lancer will tell him, "You Did the Right Thing". Invariably, this will never satisfy the hero.
A common subversion is to have the You Did the Right Thing speech, then have the hero say, "I was out of bullets," or other conveyance that he was unable, rather than unwilling, to kill.
Also see I Did What I Had to Do.
Compare with Not Quite the Right Thing in what either is or seems to be the right thing doesn't bring good results.
Contrast You Did Everything You Could
- Standard sitcom line delivered to a protagonist like the Naive Everygirl who chooses to be nice to or understand The Alpha Bitch, a favorite Broken Aesop.
- Said by the detectives to many a suspect on Law and Order Special Victims Unit who decides to cooperate and help nail the worst bad guy.
- Said by Iroh to Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender when he gives up on his latest crazy scheme to find Aang... an episode before the stress of doing something so against his Determinator nature drives him into a feverish frenzy.
Katara: "Was it because I was too weak, or because I was strong enough not to?"
- When Anakin ends up beheading Count Dooku, he gets a bit bent up about it considering it wasn't the Jedi way. Palpatine, however, ensures him that he did the right thing, since Dooku was far too dangerous. Of course, this might be Not Quite the Right Thing, as this ends up being one step for Anakin in turning to the darkside.
- Said by Midori to Mai in Mai-HiME at the start of the HiME Carnival arc when Nao reminds her of what happened to Alyssa. After she leaves, Midori told Mai that she had no choice, since Alyssa was planning to nuke the school from orbit (it was the only way to be sure).
- And the fact that they didn't know what destroying a Child does at the time.
- On Babylon 5, Zack is acting as a double agent between the legitimate forces of government and the Knight Templar forces looking to overthrow them (which is which is debatable, though the author's sympathies are clear). Just about everyone tells him he's doing the right thing at one time or another. He finds this less than comforting.
- In an earlier episode, a doctor kills an escaped prisoner in self-defense. Franklin tells her "You Did the Right Thing" she replies "I did the necessary thing, this is not the same as the right thing."
- Used by Slim at the end of Of Mice and Men
- "You hadda, George. I swear you hadda."
- Stated word-for-word by Kermit the Frog, playing as Captain Smollet, in Muppet Treasure Island after Jim Hawkins lets Long John Silver escape with the treasure. Moments later we learn that out of the Hispanola's jolly boats, Silver took the one that was...unsafe.
- Near the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Misato tells Shinji he did the right thing after killing the 17th Angel. Seeing as the 17th was also the only person in the show who showed any kind of unconditional affection for Shinji, and Shinji was in truly desperate need of affection from anyone, this just serves to break Shinji even further and sends him over the Despair Event Horizon.