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"Self-Disposing Villain"
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
I was recently grousing about this trope, and didn't have a good pithy way to describe it. TVTropes, of course, does have one: "Self-Disposing Villain".
The villain hanging on the cliffside will accept the offered hand and Last-Second Chance only to try and backstab the hero, making his self-defense kill morally just. Or better for the hero's conscience, the villain will scream "No! This Cannot Be!! I just need more power!!!" Cue the Superpower Meltdown that destroys the Artifact of Doom empowering him. In essence, their excessive ego and poor planning somehow gets them Hoist By Their Own Petard, put in a Fate Worse Than Death, or destroyed by their own creation/plan. Less lethally, they may dispose of themselves in a non-threatening form, like in ending up in a Convenient Coma, as an amnesiac, Depowered, or trapped in a Tailor-Made Prison.

The purpose of this trope is to allow the hero to continue to be a no-kill hero without having to worry about the morally complex minutia of disposing of a human adversary.
This always bugs me. If you want the villain to die, then *own* that.

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Totally averted in Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus urban fantasy series. Verus has a dark past which he's trying to escape, but if he has to kill to survive, he will do so... and then angst about it afterwards. as though he was a real person.

If you want the villain to die, then *own* that.

Who is "you"? The hero? The author? The viewer?

Imo it's a fine old trope (though I haven't seen it with the back-stabbing). Ilse reaching for the Grail instead of letting Indiana Jones pull her out ... Gollum scuffling/dancing with the Ring and falling into the flames.

Ambiguity deliberate :-)

I don't feel that the Gollum example quite qualifies (though it is close). What I find annoying about this trope is when you get:
A) Hero has opportunity to kill baddie;
B) Hero takes moral high ground and doesn't kill baddie;
C) Baddie conveniently dies anyways
...all happening in the same scene. While all those events happen with regard to Gollum (including at least 3 different instances of A and B), C doesn't happen until much later. Indeed, C doesn't happen until the scene where the hero has notably *failed* his morality check and decided not to destroy the Ring.

That said, Saruman's fate is totally a trope example.

Huh. This was the first trope I ever noticed as a recurring trope, because it was so ridiculously prevalent in the action movies of the 80s that it got a bit ridiculous. You started to think heroes purposely left the gun right by the villain's "dead" body so there could be the final shoot out...

Good to have a name for it. (Seems like "This Villain Will Self-Destruct In..." is a good name for the subtrope where he falls into his own death-trap.)

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