Bond Villain Stupidity
And Now You Die, Mr. Bond! (Beatrix Rule): (...) Rather than kill you when they have you at their mercy, the villains will settle for merely blasting you down to 1 hit point and leaving you in a crumpled heap while they stroll off, laughing. (This is, of course, because they're already planning ahead how they'll manipulate you into doing their bidding later in the game -- see Way To Go, Serge.)
Bond Villain Stupidity is a form of Genre Blindness commonly exhibited by villains. It occurs when a villain fails to kill the hero when he has him cornered, incapacitated, or otherwise defenseless, thus giving the hero a chance to escape and later come back to defeat the villain. It is so named because it occurs frequently in James Bond movies. A common form of Bond Villain Stupidity is to place the hero in an elaborate Death Trap from which he can escape (slow dipping mechanisms over pits of sharks, alligators, or lava are perennial favorites). If you ever asked why the villains don't just shoot him then use their resources to dispose of the body, then congratulations, you are smarter than the average megalomaniac. Also common is the inability to resist a Just Between You and Me moment before putting the hero in said death trap. Several variants of this one made the Evil Overlord List.
If they actually expect the hero to die before their eyes, it's Prepare to Die.
This is so common that the Hypercompetent Sidekick pointing out the inherent flaws in this trope and suggesting a more pragmatic solution has become a trope on its own: Stating the Simple Solution. For more generalized villainous incompetence, see Villain Ball. For those villains that avert this trope, see Dangerously Genre Savvy.
In all fairness however, in Real Life these deathtraps would likely have a reasonably high chance of succeeding, especially if The Hero were to fall into them again and again. Sooner or later, the Real Life James Bond would die. Horribly.
Note that there are several legitimate reasons why the villain may opt to let the hero walk away:
- The villain wants the hero to join his side and would prefer not to kill him.
- The villain may just be looking for a good fight and considers the hero a Worthy Opponent, opting to keep him around for future entertainment. In some cases, the success of the scheme is actually a secondary goal to the fun of actually carrying it out.
- The villain considers killing the hero secondary to breaking his spirit via a Breaking Lecture, Forced to Watch, etc.
- The villain is secretly manipulating the heroes into doing his bidding for him; perhaps he wants them to escape so that he can track them to their secret hideout, but it will only work if they think they've escaped on their own.
- The villain, which evil according to his own stature, is not evil enough to engage in cold-blooded murder.
Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball Z has many examples of this:
- Frieza shows that he completely outclasses Goku and the rest of the heroes while only fighting at 50% power and that he could kill all of them in an instant, and yet he toys with them and lets the fight drag on... until Goku transforms, that is.
- During the Cell Saga, Vegeta, after having training for a year in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, becomes an Ascended Super Saiyan, and much, much stronger than his opponent, Semi-Perfect Cell. Rather than finish him here, Vegeta lets Cell absorb Android 18 and upgrade to his Perfect form, lusting for a greater fight. Cue Perfect Cell completely Curb-Stomping Vegeta, and later Trunks. While Vegeta is on the good guys' side at this time, the effect is the same.
- Cell himself makes the exact same mistake. After ascending to his Perfect form, and defeating Piccolo, Vegeta, Trunks, and Android 16 in the process, he becomes the most powerful being on earth. Rather than kill everyone he opts to give the Z-Fighters 10 days to prepare for a tournament.
- Those were probably the Vegeta cells inside him, as Vegeta himself does this a few times as well, as mentioned above.
- Insanely Inverted with Majin Buu. He has the Z-Fighters cornered, but Piccolo makes a sick choice that will buy them more time - telling Buu to kill the rest of the humans on Earth in the meantime, prompting horrified reactions all around. Buu simply kills the remaining survivors with one attack, then proceeds to thin the numbers of the Z-Fighters and blow up the world. EPIC FAIL!
- After knocking about most of the cast with ease, the Big Bad of Shingetsutan Tsukihime inexplicably declares "We Will Meet Again" and falls backwards off a bridge while laughing madly. This isn't the only instance, but it is by far the most entertaining.
- The Big Bad does this during the game as well. He goes off on a long winded display and speech that not only allows the hero to think but also pisses the hell out of him which allows him to retaliate. To be fair, the Big Bad had a lot of reasons to think he completely had the upper hand and much of what he said is important to the background of the plot.
- Justified in the game version, where the Big Bad believed he and the hero were equals and as such felt perfectly justified in explaining to the hero many important background details.
- Done quite deliberately by Jeremiah Gottwald in the Grand Finale of Code Geass, when he calls off Lelouch's Knightmare Royal Guard and duels the attacking Zero/Suzaku by himself, so as to allow Suzaku to convincingly kill Lelouch for world peace.
- Sir Crocodile of One Piece suffered from this trope not once but twice. First, he created a huge patch of quicksand under Luffy's feet, and after Luffy ran out of it, he impaled him on his hook and threw him in to die. Luffy survived when Ms. All Sunday (Nico Robin) pulled him out, just because she wondered what's with his family's (middle initial of D.) uncanny determination. Later, Luffy confronts Crocodile again on the place rooftop. At this time, Luffy learned how to negate Crocodile's ability to turn into sand: Get even the slightest bit of him wet. After absorbing all of the moisture out of the surrounding environment, Crocodile grabbed Luffy, dehydrating Luffy to put it mildly, and left him on the ground to suffer and die. As luck would have it, Luffy blew some water in the air to get Crocodile wet. It landed on him after the fight and restored him. Obviously enough, Luffy beat him in their next encounter. Not that Luffy would've died from those anyway, this is One Piece!
- Subverted in the 5th Kara no Kyoukai movie. Araya mercilessly destroys Tohko but keeps her head alive on purpose - she's created multiple exact duplicates of her own body and linked them to herself, so whenever she is "killed" her consciousness transfers to the next body, making her depend on this trope. When Alba fulfills the trope and crushes her head, she comes back with a vengeance(-in-a-box).
- After stomping Negi and his team, Fate decides they aren't completely worthless because they barely pulled off
a recoverynot dying of the wounds he inflicted. Instead of, you know, killing them in the face like he's clearly capable of, he basically says 'Okay I'm bored just gonna blow the gate up now. By the way, you suck Negi. Go level grind moar. Later' May be justified in that he intended to use Negi and seems oddly reluctant to actually kill people. Also definitely planning on using Asuna for something, but we don't know what yet.
- It eventually turns out that he's capable of changing the reality of the magic world on a whim, so his belief that they pose him no threat is at least partially justified.
- In the Kämpfer anime, Kaede had one of the good guys under her control, and used her to defeat the other blue and red Kampfers. But instead of just killing them like she said she would do, she tied them up with a chain, gloated at Shizuku, and tried to use the mind-controlled ally to kill them instead. However, not only did said victim break free of the mind control, but the heroes got Heroic Resolve so strong they broke free and went to town on the enemy.
- At one point in Sonic the Hedgehog The Movie, Tails is using a bit of Applied Phlebotinum, about the size of a wrist watch, to mess with Metal Sonic's programming. From off-screen, Dr. Robotnik whips out a laser gun and shoots the machine right off Tails' wrist, then he orders Metal Sonic to kill Sonic and Tails. Fridge Logic dictates that Robotnik could have just as easily saved a step by shooting Tails in the head.
- An explanation was given by the Hellfire Commentaries commentary of the movie:
FTA: Why doesn't he just put a bullet through Tails' head?
NTom64: Because it's a family film.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and Brotherhood series, Lust stabs Mustang and Havoc and leaves them to bleed to death on the floor and doesn't actually watch them die. Cue her surprise when Mustang comes back to kill her, having cauterized his own wound with fire.
- Quite eminent in Naruto; every time a villain has the hero in the bag, they invariably will stop to gloat, allow said hero to get back up to make the fight more fun, or just decided to be idiots instead of killing them right then and there.
- Notably when Orochimaru had the Third cornered with a kunai and instead of just SLICING HIS HEAD OFF like any smart person decided to do a huge elaborate drama in which he summon's the Third Hokage's own teachers to kill him, resulting in Orochimaru losing the use of his arms.
- Sadistically Subverted by Hidan: he savors killing so much, he toys with poor Asuma to the very end, who really does get Killed Off for Real- and then Double Subverted when Shikamaru plots a masterful revenge, blowing him to pieces and burying him alive.
- Both examples are actually justified. In the first, Pain feels himself unbeatable in that situation (and let's face it, he would be right in that belief), and actually WANTED to talk to Naruto about their prospective philosophies. Everything about that scene is perfectly logical for Pain's personality—he seemed to LIKE how events turned out (until things got out of hand for everyone involved). For the second example, Orochimaru couldn't have actually done that—The Third could easily have escaped from the attack. He just didn't care. Of course, Pain also subverts this trope against Jiraiya. As soon as he has the chance to take out the hero, he DOES.
- Unbelievably Subverted with the power of Edo Tensei- everyone under its control is already dead. As such, a Magnificent Bastard may pull any form of Kick the Dog they want without fear of getting killed by retaliation. However, they can still have their souls sealed away or put to rest. Absolute villains like Deidara, Kakuzu and Madara Uchiha push it to hellish extremes, while others, like Sasori, Gaara's father, Nagato and Itachi use it as means to apologize or atone. Itachi even has his free will back!
- At one point in Saki, Amae Koromo, who has been totally dominating the game since she appeared, has the opportunity to give one of her opponents a negative score, thus instantly ending the game and winning the tournament for her team. However, instead of doing this, she quite deliberately makes a lower-scoring move which reduces said opponent's score to exactly zero instead (according to the rules of this particular tournament, someone with a score of zero has a chance to come back) just because she wants to psychologically manipulate everyone and prevent the other players from making a certain type of high-scoring move. Sure enough, this buys our hero just enough time to come up with a way to win.
- In the second Black Jack OAV, when the title character stumbles upon an international drug ring working with a local hospital administrator in the course of treating a coma patient, instead of just shooting him, the gangsters drug Black Jack and leave him to die in a burning peyote grow op.
- Hentai, The villains usually lose because they are dedicated to rape the heroine, instead of just killing her.
- In the Ultimate Spider-Man series, one villain, Hammerhead, tries to avoid this trope by pulling out a gun and shooting a troublemaker; unfortunately said troublemaker manages to catch the bullet unharmed, much to Hammerhead's surprise.
- The Umbrella Academy Story Arc The Apocalypse Suite averts this, as the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds White Violin gets shot by her brother before she causes The End of the World as We Know It. Equally, it doesn't avert it earlier when Kraken (one of the White Violin's other brothers) fails, for some reason, to destroy her violin or bow when he had the chance.
- Lampshaded and cleverly justified in the classic Disney comic story "Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot." In the story, the villainous Blot puts Mickey in death traps time and time again, but Mickey always escapes. It turns out that The Blot does this because, despite being evil, he can't stand to actually see anyone get hurt, let alone die. So he constructs elaborate traps to kill Mickey for him, then always leaves because he can't bear to watch.
- That is until now.
- Taken to extremes in one of the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comics. Dr. Eggman decides he's sick of fooling around with Sonic and launches an all-out attack on his hometown. His forces manage to blast nearly every single good guy (except three) with powerful lasers that seem to vaporize them on contact. He then beats the crap out of Sonic for good measure. Looks like Eggman has finally won... except that those lasers didn't kill Sonic's friends, they were just teleport beams, which sent them all to cells at Eggman's HQ. Eggman announces he'll kill them all THERE... even though he could have killed them much more easily by simply making his lasers lethal in the first place.
- This is doubly stupid because Sonic believes everyone is dead... until Eggman TELLS Sonic that his friends are alive, and where to find them. Then he's actually surprised when Sonic mounts a rescue and frees them all. If he'd just kept his trap shut, Eggman would have had plenty of time to kill everybody.
- Averted so hard in Black Orchid half the tropes on that page are related to that single moment.
- The Yellow Bastard in Sin City was fine leaving Hartigan hanging by his neck and didn't stick around long to make sure he couldn't escape, which he did. To his credit, people typically die when they are hanged.
- Despite being a supergenius, Doctor Doom falls prey to this a lot whenever he's trying to kill his hated Arch Enemy Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. This is sort of justified though, because Doom's end goal isn't killing Reed — it's proving to Reed that Doom is smarter than him, and then killing him. Therefore, killing Reed without gloating about how he has been outsmarted and making him watch Doom Take Over the World and kill everyone Reed loves isn't just a tad disappointing to Doom — it would be completely antithetical to Doom's entire purpose in being evil.
- In Dracula vs. King Arthur, Dracula has Arthur captured and brought to Dracula where he could've easily killed him and took over the kingdom. But rather then doing the sensible thing to clinch victory, he instead decides to "break his will" and just have Arthur throw into the ocean after his subjects and he feed on him. As you can imagine not only does this not happen, but Arthur recovers, gains some new weapons from the Lady of the Lake and regroups his remaining forces for a final battle which ended in Dracula's defeat. Yeah, nice one, lord of the darkness.
- The Phantom wouldn't have lasted for one generation, let alone the twenty-one he's currently at, without practically every enemy he's ever met falling for this trope. Of course, Phantoms do get occasionally killed in the line of duty, but it's usually in open combat and not because someone's clever enough to Just Shoot Him when they have him captured.
- In With Strings Attached, the Big Bad (Brox) asks The Dragon (Grunnel) why he wouldn't let her kill George and Ringo, who were both useless to them. Grunnel responds with a number of reasons, including that it's funnier to have them powerless and unable to stop the proceedings. (Also, he does genuinely like them.) Later, after it becomes clear that the two have managed to get useful stuff done despite having their magic neutralized, Grunnel apologizes to Brox for being wrong. The latter isn't terribly upset, though, as she believes that they still can't bull their way through dozens of wizards to get into the warehouse.
- Frequently in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. For example, Madara manages to defeat Ronan once, but then decides to inject him with a serum and have him go around the world
Films -- Live-Action
James Bond films
- From the Trope Namer series.
- Classic example in The World Is Not Enough. Elektra King drops a loaded pistol for Bond to collect, before she runs up a set of stairs - unarmed.
- After a dinner goes wrong, Dr. No just orders his guards to beat up Bond and get him imprisoned. 007 later escapes, nearly getting drowned in the process (however, being the first Bond film nobody knew how dangerous he could be).
- In the book, he also had Bond run through Dr. No's death course. Bond was close to dying through it, multiple times.
- As did everyone else Dr. No had "tested"; the course was designed to kill. The only difference Dr. No ever expected was how long it would take. Funny how much difference a stolen lighter and a steak knife (and Bond!) can make...
- In the book, he also had Bond run through Dr. No's death course. Bond was close to dying through it, multiple times.
- Justified in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where just for once the villain genuinely has an actual sensible reason for keeping the captured James Bond alive and explaining the plot to him: Bond is trusted by the authorities and familiar with Blofeld's record, so his report will help convince the UN that the threat is serious.
- Similiarly averted by Goldfinger, who keeps Bond alive because if he dies, then the Secret Service will just send in some guy called 008. Goldfinger instead tricks Bond's superiors into thinking that the situation is well in hand.
- Also justified in the same film - Goldfinger originally was going to have Bond sliced in half by a laser. The inversion is that this was going to work; Bond had to talk his way out of it, and was literally seconds away from losing his manhood when Goldfinger agreed.
- The worst example is probably GoldenEye, when the villains have several opportunities (most notably in the Statue yard) to just shoot Bond and don't. Then Ouroumov has the chance to shoot Bond, announces that he is about to do it, and then is promptly cold-cocked. What moves this into beyond-belief territory is that both have direct evidence of how dangerous he is when cornered.
- In the Statue yard, they were trying to frame Bond and Natalya for the theft of the helicopter. If a post-explosion examination of the bodies revealed that they had been shot beforehand, it would have raised suspicion.
- In Diamonds Are Forever Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd had Bond unconscious and they simply dumped him in an unfinished pipeline and left, assuming he'd eventually die.
- Doubly stupid, as this was the second time the pair had been given an unconscious James Bond to dispose of; the first time they tried to incinerate him alive, and it didn't work then.
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond takes up Hai Fat's invitation to join him for dinner in his mansion while pretending to be Scaramanga, not knowing that the real Scaramanga had already gotten in touch with the guy. When he arrives there late at night, he's incapacitated by some guards in an ambush. As they're about to kill him, Hai Fat forbids them from doing so because he doesn't want Bond killed in his home. They'll just take him somewhere else to finish him off right? Nope. Hai Fat has Bond placed in a karate school to... get beaten up? Maybe?
- Justifiably invoked by Scaramanga late in the film; he freely admits that he could have used his solar-powered laser to blow up Bond's plane before he even landed on the island, but chose not to do so because of how unsatisfying it would be.
- Justified in the same fashion in True Lies, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Harry Tasker is captured alive so that he can document for the authorities that the terrorists are capable of carrying out their threat, and afterward when they intend to torture him since he's an American spy who most likely has some valuable information in his head.
- Naturally spoofed in the Austin Powers movies, with a lampshade lovingly hung.
- Subverted in the 1997 movie version of Le Bossu. After a long sword fight, the hero gets cornered by some soldiers and the Psycho for Hire. From what we have seen earlier, it will be difficult, but possible for him to escape. At this moment, the villain, exasperated by the long fight, steps up to the Psycho For Hire, draws his gun, asks why they can't do it "quick, modern and effective" and shoots the hero, who only survives because of his Character Shields.
- In the film Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Professor Moriarty originally intends to kill Holmes off quickly, but Holmes goads him into coming up with something "more creative," giving an example himself of the sort of death trap he would use if he had Moriarty at his mercy. Moriarty decides to prove his superior intelligence and creativity by... using the exact idea that Holmes just came up with! He does at least stick around to watch the death trap in action, and prepares to shoot Holmes when he decides it's taking too long; but he waits a bit longer than he should have, and Watson rescues Holmes Just in Time.
- In Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Katrina's stepmother has Katrina unconscious, isolated, and is armed with a pistol. Also, everyone believes the stepmother is dead, so no one would come looking for her later. Rather than just shooting Katrina, she decides to spend a lot of time summoning the Headless Horseman to do the job, giving Katrina plenty of time to wake up and run away (though granted the stepmother is hardly concerned when Katrina escapes, probably as she figures she's dead soon anyway).
- Annoyingly present in Terminator Salvation, when after luring John Connor into the heart of its main base, Skynet sends a single unarmed T-800 to dispatch our hero. Yeah. In a base probably full of hundreds of killer robots with guns, Skynet decides to send ONE unarmed unit to kill the hero. And it doesn't bother to send more armed killer robots after the fight drags out, with Connor getting backed up by Cyborg Marcus.
- Skynet doesn't even seem concerned when the fight spills into the T-800 assembly line, where countless Terminator power cores (I.E. easily set off miniature nuclear devices) lay for the humans to jury rig into a bomb that will destroy the entire base if they manage to defeat that lone T-800 you sent to kill them.
- In The Last Dragon, media-obsessed villain Eddie Arkadian first plays this trope straight, stopping a minion from plugging the hero during a big staged fight because it would ruin "the show". But then at the end of the movie when the show is "over", he whips out his own gun, gives a short sneering speech about "all this kung-fu crap", and fires. The hero catches the bullet in his teeth.
- In the Tom Selleck Australian Western Quigley Down Under, Quigley has rejected the Big Bad's offer to hire him to kill the local aborigines. The villain (played by Alan Rickman) has his goons beat him into unconsciousness. It would be easy to simply shoot Quigley in the head, bury him in a shallow grave, and tell the British soldiers that he went back to port. But that would mean the movie would only be a half-hour long, so Rickman decides to have his men take him into the middle of the Australian desert and leave him to die of exposure. Inevitably, this backfires spectacularly.
- As if that wasn't enough, he captures Quigley AGAIN, decides he's going to beat him in an Old West style quickdraw, and gives the man a fully-loaded pistol. Fortunately, Quigley never much cared for pistols...
- In Superman, Luthor has Superman incapacitated by Kryptonite and unable to get out of his swimming pool. Then he leaves him, expecting him to die - even though he just learned that his girlfriend's mother lives in the town that one of his bombs is about to destroy. Somehow, he does not see her betrayal coming.
- In a non-lethal example, in the final face-off in 8 Mile, Papa Doc makes the grave, and just plain stupid mistake of letting B. Rabbit go first. Big mistake, as it lets Rabbit take away every single possible verbal weapon Doc might have used against his opponent, thus losing him the battle.
- Leroy and Roger in Mystery Team." Justified in that the heroes are kids.
- Simon in Die Hard With a Vengeance handcuffs John McClane and Zeus to a bomb on a ship and leaves them to die, instead of shooting them and blowing up the ship after.
- After John's cover is blown in Stone Cold, the bad guys put him into a chopper (which is vital part of their Evil Plan) where they plan to strap him with explosives and then drop him on unsuspecting cops below. Of course, he gets loose, some other guy gets blown to bits mid-air instead and the chopper crashes.
- In John Buchan's 1919 World War I spy thriller Mr. Standfast, the villain, having finally captured the hero Richard Hannay, explains his evil plans at great length. Buchan was arguably the first writer of modern spy thrillers, thus making this Older Than Television.
- The Discworld novels Men At Arms and Witches Abroad both explain that bad guys don't kill the good guys straight away because they want to gloat, and make sure the good guy knows he's been beaten. In the first book it serves to show Carrot as a Good Man because he straightforwardly kills the bad guy without explanation; in the second it gives Granny Weatherwax a Not So Different moment, since she rather likes people she's defeated to know about it as well.
- Lampshaded and neatly subverted in Mort. Mort, Princess Keli, the wizard Cutwell and others being surrounded by the villainous Duke, who Cutwell correctly identifies as "not the kind of man who ties you up in a cellar with just enough time for the mice to eat your ropes before the flood-waters rise. This is the kind of man who just kills you here and now." Also played straight in that the Duke is willing to offer them life-long banishment (we know how well that kind of thing turns out).
- Unsurprisingly, this happens regularly in the James Bond novels. Some (Mr. Big, who has actually put quite a bit of thought into it) are smarter about it than others (Red Grant, where even Bond notices). However, the highlight has to be The Man with the Golden Gun, when it's actually not Bond, but M who gets this treatment from Russia's newest assassin, James Bond.
- In From Russia with Love, the Soviet Chessmaster Kronsteen lays a complicated and near-perfect trap for James Bond. Everything works as planned, all the pawns including Bond go through their predicted moves, and Bond gets exactly where the Soviets wanted him. But at the crucial moment the assasin Red Donovan - an Irishman who hates the English - makes the fatal mistake of engaging in prolonged crowing, boasting and gloating instead of just going ahead with his assinged task of killing Bond. This allows Bond the chance to improvise a desperate last-moment plan which works, enabling him to kill Donovan and use the information which Donovan carelessly revealed in order to catch the senior Soviet operative Rosa Klebb.
- This is probably the defining trait of Dr. Mabuse, a diabolical mastermind with a few self-destructive tendencies from a series of German novels. He has been called the direct forerunner to Blofeld. Observe the Meaningful Name: "m'abuse" is French for "abuse myself". Mabuse is his own worst enemy.
- Warrior Cats: Originally, it was believed that the only reason Tigerstar doesn't go into Firestar's dreams and kill him was because he couldn't. However, recent Word of God revealed that he can, but he just doesn't want to.
Iceclaw: If Tigerstar can harm cats like he can and walk in their dreams, why doesn't he just do it to Firestar, take revenge, and get it over with?
Vicky: Because Tigerstar wants a long-drawn out kind of vengeance, involving as many cats as possible, so that Firestar truly suffers. ...
- Happens in Harry Potter. Since Voldemort likes to establish a sense of grace and grandeur into his actions, he doesn't just kill Harry and be done with it. Near the end of Harry Potter, Harry has been disarmed, gagged, and tied securely to a gravestone. Rather than simply killing Harry after using his blood to regain his body, Voldemort not only has Wormtail cut him loose and give him back his wand, but insists on fighting him in a one-to-one duel and forbids interference from any of his Death Eaters, for no other reason than to prove, once and for all, that he is the stronger of the two. Of course the final result of this is that Harry manages to escape and tell the world about his return (not that many people listen at first).
- Uncharacteristically occurs with Grand Admiral Thrawn, usually one of the more Genre Savvy people in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. He has just betrayed Mara Jade by tricking her into revealing Talon Karrde's location, leading to his arrest by Imperials who will torture him if he doesn't hand over important intel, and then smugly mouths off to her face about it. Mara predictably goes berserk and attempts to attack Thrawn, at first physically then through the Force. Both of these fail, leaving Thrawn with the question of what to do with a still visibly enraged and always emotionally unstable Jade. Instead of killing her, he allows her to live, and lets her out of his sight aboard his ship before letting her go. Jade then predictably hacks into the computer network of Thrawn's ship, uses it to find Luke Skywalker, and saves him. The next one-and-a-half books can be accurately described as Jade sticking it to Thrawn which eventually leads to his plans collapsing and his death.
- The Jennifer Morgue had a very... unique case. Realizing that he is a mad genius billionaire with access to world-ending technology and a strong desire to actually use it, the Big Bad sets up a geas that makes the tropes of a Bond movie reality. He plans to make it so that the only person who stands a chance of thwarting his plan is a solitary British secret agent... and if one of those manages to get through, then he'll shut off the geas so that said agent is nothing more than a solitary man hundreds of miles away from any back-up who can easily be killed. Small problem: despite all his precautions, the Big Bad completely fails to realize by the end that the geas he thought he ended is still operating, even when he's got the hero and his fellow agent bound up and prefers to monologue at them rather than just kill them.
- The White Witch could have saved herself a lot of trouble if she'd just killed Edmund as soon as she met him.
- But in this case it's justified, since Edmund did not appear to represent any sort of threat personally, and she had a reasonable-seeming plan to use him to destroy her other enemies. She was in fact undone not by a flaw in her plan per se but but by Divine mercy. As Aslan points out, her knowledge went only back to the beginning of Time. She was unaware of key things that happened before that.
- At one point she is about to kill him, realizing that he's no longer necessary to her plans, and in the middle of sharpening her knife when Edmund (currently tied to a tree) is rescued.
- Most if not all of the villains in the Twilight series fall victim to this. Probably the most egregious are the Volturi. In New Moon, the only reason they don't want to kill Bella is because she looks like she'll make for an interesting vampire. Instead of just biting her then and there and holding her captive to brainwash her into being a member of their guard (which Breaking Dawn says is what they want from her), they decide to let her go back to Forks, and according to Edward will probably forget about her for thirty years or so, giving the Cullens plenty of time to turn her on their own terms, or hide her. In Breaking Dawn, their goal was apparently to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens/force some of them to join the guard. Instead of quickly going to Forks and doing the job, they spend a full month heading over (thus giving Alice a chance to see it and warn the family) and bring a ton of witnesses, which means they have to put on a show of being fair and let the Cullens go. The witnesses aren't even necessary, since Word of God says that the vampires generally accept the rule of the Volturi as right.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "cold station 12": "Five minutes after we leave, every stasis field in this station will shut down, releasing hundreds of pathogens. I wonder which one will kill you first".
- Lampshade hung in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode when Harmony captures Dawn in order to get Buffy to attempt to rescue and then capture Buffy. When Harmony's minions point out that they could just kill Dawn because as long as Buffy believes Dawn to be alive then she'll come anyway, instead of waiting until Buffy arrives to kill Dawn. Harmony refuses "Because that's not the plan, duh!".
- Played slightly straight when the Master, instead of draining Buffy dry, drinks a little blood from her and leaves her to drown in a pond. Though she was clinically dead, she got revived by CPR.
- MacGyver uses this constantly, usually in the form of the Big Bad securing the title hero (and usually a pretty lady) in some form of death trap that always has plenty of "useless" items lying around for MacGyver to use for escape. Lampshaded in the episode "The Ten Percent Solution", where a Nazi-lady tries to use a gas chamber on the heroes while a henchman ponders, "Why not just shoot them?"
- Happened all the time on Robin Hood. The worst examples were Guy using a half-dead lion to try and kill Robin instead of ordering the fully-armed elite soldiers to just shoot him dead; and later trapping Robin in a dungeon that was slowly filling with water and then...wandering away mid-execution. Needless to say, Robin survives both attempts on his life.
- Subverted in Get Smart when KAOS kidnaps Max, plants a Manchurian Candidate-style hypnotic suggestion in him, then allows for him to escape, making it absurdly easy - and he stubbornly resists escaping several times, convinced he's outsmarting some clever attempts to kill him.
- Doctor Who does this during The Dalek Invasion of Earth, when the Daleks restrain two Companions and then leave them to die in an explosion.
- Averted by the Master:
"Anyway. Why don't we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don't think!"
- Although he makes just this mistake later on with Rassilon, who has near-omnipotent technology at his disposal. Goodbye Master's masterplan!
- In the Smallville episode "Arrival", two evil Kryptonians confront Clark Kent. They open a portal to the Phantom Zone and shove Clark into it. At the last second, Clark grabs a piece of rebar and tries desperately to hold on as the portal sucks him in. Instead of doing something like cutting the bar with their heat vision, the villains just smirk and start walking away, only for Clark to Flash Step up to them, and shove them into the portal.
- Power Rangers villains aren't renowned for their intelligence, but were most guilty of Bond Villain stupidity during Power Rangers Jungle Fury, where a constant stream of new villainous overlords continued to defeat the Power Rangers then walk away, only to complain later about not being able to defeat the Rangers. By about the 20th time this happened in a 32 episode show, it was very hard to keep caring.
- A few 24 fans weren't too attached to the Affably Evil Jonas Hodges in season 7, because of this trope. At one point in the season, Jones Hodges manages to frame Jack Bauer for the death of a man he tortured by tasering, but could've just as easily killed Jack Bauer in the process. A bit of context: the incapacitated man was lying in the hospital bed recovering from the aforementioned torture when Jack Bauer sneaked back into the room (Bauer wasn't allowed to see him, but had to interrogate him...again). When this happened, Jonas Hodges deployed knockout gas into the room to knock them out for a few brief minutes, which he then sends some men to kill the tortured man, and then leave. This makes the more Genre Savvy fans think, "why didn't he kill Jack while he had the upper hand?" (Answer: because that would be bad for ratings) To be fair, many other villains kept Jack alive far longer than he should be, but those moments were done more realistically to suspend disbelief.
- Patrick Jane from The Mentalist has been saved by this trope quite a few times. Often involves Holding the Floor till Lisbon arrives.
- In the South Korean series Strong Girl Bong-soon, series villain Kim Jang-hyun cleverly manipulates Bong-soon into violating the strictures on the use of her mystically-granted super-strength, resulting in her losing it. However, he is not satisfied with just De-Powering her; he has to abduct her, bind her, chain her to a massive pipe and and duct-tape a time bomb to her, then leave her to die in a locked steel utility shed. All this served to do was give her a chance to beg the Powers which give her super-strength for its return so she can save the life of the man she loves, who has found the shed and, unable to break into it, vows to her that he will not leave her to die alone; the Powers are Reasonable Authority Figures and restore her strength. Which ultimately results in Kim Jang-hyun's capture, arrest and conviction for his crimes.
- This is the Unique Limitation of the Criminal Mastermind archetype from the Feng Shui supplement Seed of the New Flesh, appropriately titled "Slave to the Cheese." Not only are you 100% unable to just shoot any named cop or Buro characters you capture or non-lethally defeat, but you must do everything in your power to prevent anyone else from doing so, preferring to toy with your prey by putting them in elaborate death-traps or offering them some desperate (but psychotically "fair") gamble with which to win their lives and freedom. Not only that, but you absolutely cannot resist the urge to engage in a Just Between You and Me speech, telling them your plans in order to rub it in.
- The trapmaster in Super Munchkin. He plays a trap card at you when you start fighting him. If he defeats you, however, his Bad Stuff is that "he leaves you in one of his traps and strolls off laughing. The idiot. No effect."
- The Hero System features the Psychological Limitation "Over-The-Top Villainy". Villains with this Psych Limit must follow this trope (in addition to several of the other "Overblown Villain" Tropes.
- James Earnest's Totally Renamed Spy Game (the game formerly known as Before I Kill You Mr. Bond) is based entirely around tormenting captured spies before you kill them. Each consecutive time you Taunt a particular spy doubles your score when you finally do kill him, but if another player has and uses a Taunt card of the same type, the spy escapes and blows up your Lair. Taunts include Death Traps, No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine and Just Between You and Me.
- The Infernal Exalted have Acts of Villainy, specific behaviors installed by their Yozi masters to allow them to bleed off Torment accrued via defiance. As the Ebon Dragon took a hand in these, they're both a) obviously dickish behaviors and b) designed to screw someone over, be it the target or the Infernal. One of them, Infernal Genius Declaration, is basically this trope, granting the Infernal mental relief if they brag about their plans to their hated foe, especially when they're on the ropes.
- Double Subverted in the William Gillette play Sherlock Holmes, where Moriarty's first plan is in fact to just shoot Holmes. He doesn't try it again, though; his next plan involves preparing a Short Con as bait to lead Holmes into a Death Trap (which he escapes in dramatic fashion). Justified, since Moriarty doesn't want a gunshot to be heard outside.
- Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII has this badly. He could, at any given moment in the original game, completely obliterate the party with ease. However, he instead prefers to mock and taunt the heroes, stringing them along with plans to manipulate them later. As is expected with the trope, this came to haunt him later—when Sephiroth kills Aeris, she's already managed to summon Holy, which ultimately stops Meteor's impact. Had Sephiroth just killed Aeris when he had the chance, Holy wouldn't have been summoned, instead he waited for Cloud to catch up to her so he could kill Aeris in front of his eyes to torment him.
- Justified to some degree in that Seph wasn't intending to kill Cloud and (most of) his group, it was all part of his Xanatos Gambit to get him to deliver the Black Materia to his real body in the Northern Crater, which he then used to summon Meteor.
- Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX is the namesake of the rule quoted above. You will encounter her three times within the span of barely more than half a disc, and each time, she will always Stock Break your entire party at 1 HP, before laughing at your weakness and taking her leave. (She's later revealed to be a Punch Clock Villain, however.)
- Subverted though in that she is entirely right about your party being completely unable to stop her or the Alexandrians.
- In Final Fantasy X, the three party members who can breathe underwater indefinitely are sentenced to death by drowning in a long but open-ended underwater canal. The other party members have to walk through a monster-infested maze instead.
- Of course, the reason they were placed there at all and not just executed is because of religious tradition. It's called "The Path of Repentance" for a reason. Also, the bad guys break every Bond villain tradition in the book when they actually realize that this was a bad idea and place guards at the exit.
- In Chrono Trigger Dalton, upon first meeting your party: "Hm? Those clothes… You must be the ones the prophet said would come to interfere! I think I shall watch for the time being, and see how he plays his hand. Not that I suspect he'll tip his cards so easily. Ha!" This was a mistake and it was bad for everyone, considering what he does between games...
- In Half-Life, a pair of Mooks capture the player character and, rather than just shooting him, toss him in a trash compactor; they were under orders to bring him to their commander, but wanted to kill him for killing their comrades, and did it so that his body would be disposed of. Which he then escapes via conveniently stacked-up garbage.
- In Half-Life 2, near the end the main character willingly climbs into a transport within the alien citadel that totally immobilizes him. Naturally, its a trap and it carries him helplessly right to the Big Bad, who does not take the opportunity to shoot him. Justified later when the main villain tries to recruit him.
- Parodied in the computer game Evil Genius. In the game, super agents cannot be killed by normal means. When they run out of health, they simply fall unconscious for a few minutes. They can only be defeating by exploiting a specific weakness. So until you figure out what their particular weakness is, your options are pretty much limited to locking them up and torturing them regularly to keep their stats down.
- Metal Gear Solid 2 did this plenty of times. First, Solidus has Raiden restrained onto a torture device similar to that of the first MGS. Then, later in the game, he grabs Raiden by the throat with his tentacles and aims his gun at him, but stops and says "You still have some use." Then, for whatever reason, he tries to choke him to death just a few minutes later! Why not just kill him when you clearly had the chance TWICE??
- While not adequately explained in-game, the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty reveals there is a reason Solidus does this; he was trying to extract information on the GW AI (which would reveal the identities and locations of the Patriots), from the nanomachine's in Raiden's brain.
- In the original Metal Gear Solid this actually is all part of the villains' plans. Because the DARPA chief was "accidentally" killed by Ocelot, the terrorist didn't have the second part of the code to activate Metal Gear, so they needed Snake to progress through his mission and use an alternate means of activating Metal Gear (by making him think they'd already activated it, and that inputting the code would disable it). So locking Snake in a cell patrolled by an inept guard was all part of the plan.
- Labtech 123 in zOMG kindly takes the time to explain most of the Big Bad's plan to you, as well as how to override the security system, while he waits for reinforcements.
- Played straight for most of the Monkey Island series, with LeChuck dreaming up more ludicrous ways of dealing with Guybrush. In Tales of Monkey Island, however, it gets subverted twice. When LeChuck reveals he was the Heel Face Mole, he kill Guybrush by simply skewering him with a sword. When Guybrush returns in zombie form, LeChuck goes for a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to try and kill him. When Guybrush asks why LeChuck isn't going for his usual overcomplicated plan, LeChuck informs him he's learned from his mistakes.
- In Escape from Monkey Island. LeChuck points out to his villainous cohort that leaving Guybrush alive has always cost him in the past... then they do it anyway. By dumping him on an "inescapable" island that he's escaped from several times.
- In Devil May Cry 3, Mission 13 has Arkham detailing his plan in manipulating the twins and his daughter into spilling their blood to undo the seal. He undid the final part of the seal by stabbing Lady with her bayonet through the leg, but it was just as easy to stab her somewhere vital and kill her, which would have prevented her from getting up and turning her weapon on him. ... It also would have stopped her from killing him at the end, too.
- This trope is such an essential element of Touhou, with horrifically powerful beings fighting the player character with slow moving, colourful bullets instead of wiping her from existence, that ZUN created intricate justifications as part of the backstory to Gensoukyou. Not only would killing Reimu do Very Bad Things to Gensoukyou (though Marisa has no such protection), not only were the Spell Card rules implemented specifically to prevent that sort of destructive violence (though we don't know if there are any punishments for breaking them), but its denizens are mostly very old, very bored individuals that view fighting as an excellent hobby, and killing their opponent would prevent future encounters.
- Jon Irenicus stands out from the norm by averting this trope; not only does he feel no need to explain his plans to you at any point, he also make good use of sedatives to take you out rather than give you a chance to escape, and he makes sure to have you killed off properly after he no longer need you. Unfortunately (for him, at least) he decided to let his sister Bodhi deal with that. She played the trope straight, and had this interesting maze she wanted to test...
- Hugo Strange in Batman: Arkham City. Even though he knows you are the goddamned Batman, he doesn't take the opportunity to kill Bats at the beginning when Bruce was unconscious and shackled. He wakes you up and then dumps you into Arkham City without even bothering to track you. And then he tasks an assassin to kill you, suggesting that he wanted you dead the entire time.
- Occurs in Knights Of The Old Republic 2 when the party is trapped in force cages and a bounty hunter sneaks in to kill you. Even though he could overload the cages to kill you all effortlessly, which your teammate actually suggests, he turns the cages off so he can try to defeat two jedi and one scoundrel in a three-to-one hand-to-hand combat.
- Although the dialogue and voice-acting does seem to suggest that this was the bounty hunter's original plan, and Atton's goading bruises the guy's ego enough to change his plans. (Which is still pretty stupid.)
- This happens in Resident Evil 4 when the village chief nearly strangles Leon to death but lets him go when he sees he's been injected with a Plagas egg, knowing that he'll eventually succumb to the parasite's control. He later admits in a memo that he gravely underestimated Leon's capabilities and that at the rate he's going, he'll probably destroy the whole village before the Plagas takes over.
- Also from the Resident Evil series, 5 shows this in Wesker, who apparently toys with Chris rather than kill him outright. Various cutscenes also depict him grandstanding and effortlessly smacking Chris around, but never bothering to, say, pull out a knife and stab him. One boss fight against him even ends with him simply scoffing and strolling out of the room. Though the general long-term goal is for Chris to end up dead at some point, he doesn't seem to care if Chris is surviving at any given moment and mostly just relishes in tormenting him.
- Mostly averted in the very beginning of Skyrim. The Imperial Legion captured the rebel leader Ulfric Stormcloak and instead of taking him back to the capital and staging an elaborate trial, they immediately take him and the other captives to the next garrison where they are led to the chopping block right after getting of the cart. But even that turned out to be too much of a delay, as a dragon attacks and the prisoners escape in the chaos after just one of them had been beheaded.
- The extent to which the Imperial Legion are villains is fairly debatable as well. A more straight example would be the various mad scientist-cum-mages who feel the need to have you fight a pet monster of theirs rather than kill you outright, or even Alduin, who, rather than kill you outright when he meets you at dragon burial mounds, resurrects a lesser dragon and lets it do the work. Predictably, it always fails.
- World of Warcraft; in the Battle for Azeroth expansion, Queen Azshara uses her potent dark magic to drag an entire Alliance and Horde fleets into Nazjatar, an underwater domain covered by a dome of air. While she could dispel the dome and drown the survivors any time she wanted, she permits them to live so long as they "amuse" her. And given the comments she directs to the player during several World Quests, it seems that, for now, that is her motive.
- Lampshaded and inverted in this Bob and George strip. Don't worry, he got better.
- Averted in the vampire vs. zombie webcomic Last Blood, during the final battle, the vampires are captured by zombies who chain them up with the intent to torture them. However, for the past 20 pages, there have been allusions to the idea that the leader of the vampires, Addison Payne, has a brilliant scheme to defeat the zombies at some point, even once captured. So instead of letting him live and risking utter victory just for the sake of torture, the lead zombie simply stakes him through the heart, no suggestion necessary. Despite this stroke of brilliance, he still winds up losing it all when he decides to keep one of the human women as his presumed concubine, and goes to embrace her, at which point she promptly stakes him in the heart, killing him and turning his zombies loose.
- In Sluggy Freelance Dr. Steve originally was just going to shoot Torg, but got talked out of it.
Dr. Steve: I've decided to just shoot you and get this over with.
Torg: But wait, don't you want to reveal your master plan to me?
Dr. Steve: No.
Torg: If you were a real villain, you'd tell me your master plan before killing me.
- Double Subverted in Batman: The Animated Series with Roland Daggett when he had Batgirl and Catwoman at his mercy. When Batgirl taunted him with the suggestion that he leave them trussed up over one of his vats of deadly chemicals with acid burning through the rope, he pointed out how often this method had failed him before, and announced he was just going to have his men shoot them and toss their bodies into those vats instead. In the end, however, his stopping to tell them this gave them just enough time to get loose and take him down anyway.
- In Kim Possible, this trope is literally part of the Tradition.
- Averted and lampshaded in the episode "Best In Show".
Kim Possible: "Um... Aren't you going to leave now?"
Falsetto Jones: "Leave? What do you mean?"
Ron Stoppable: "Well, usually the bad guy says his lame pun and then walks out, you know, leaving us to our doom."
Falsetto Jones: "But then I'd miss the whole thing! Where's the fun in that? I'm not going anywhere!"
Kim Possible: "Okay, but I feel I must warn you, you're really breaking a super-villain tradition here."
- Lampshaded in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron - in the James Bond parody "Operation: Rescue Jet Fusion", Jimmy and Jet are left in an elaborate death trap... and, of course, manage to escape.
- Shown clearly in The Fairly OddParents when Mr. Crocker meets Norm the Genie. They both hold a deep hatred for Timmy Turner, and Norm suggests sending him to Mars, while Crocker tries out a horde of elaborate impractical traps
- Played straight then subverted in The Simpsons, where Homer's new employer, a megalomaniac, tries to kill Mr. Bont with such a deathtrap, and, of course, Bont escapes, only to be promptly tackled by Homer. Wising up, the guards just shoot him.
- To be fair to Homer, he did think that Bont was a loafer.
- In a scene made for the episode where gambling became legal but only shown in a special, a Bond-like character asked the villain to describe the plan but the villain said he wouldn't fall for that again.
- In yet another episode, Sideshow Bob was allowed out of prison to help the police to find out who's been trying to kill Homer in that episode. During a scene, somebody asked him why doesn't he simply shoot Bart. The topic wasn't discussed again until the epilogue, when Sideshow Bob did try to follow the advice but found out he grew accustomed to Bart's face.
- Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers has Pete doing this to Mickey. This is notable in that he averts this with Goofy and Donald Duck, who he flat out attempts to kill.
- In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the villain Hooded Claw constantly tries to murder the eponymous heroine(ish). The entire episodes are devised of the heroes foiling his extremely elaborate and overly complex homicide attempts.
- All the time in Inspector Gadget. The plot of any given episode has the villain du jour trying to put the titular inspector through increasingly elaborate Death Traps instead of, ya know, just shooting him.
- In the Teen Titans episode "X", Professor Chang's minions actually defeat Superhero team leader Robin. But, not only do they not kill him, they don't even bother taking him prisoner! Instead they just pass on a message that Chang has kidnapped the rest of the Teen Titans and will kill them if Robin interferes Chang's plans. They might as well have been daring Robin to swoop in and save the day at the last minute.
- Lampshaded and Averted in the first season finale of Generator Rex. When Van Kleiss gives the order for Biowolf to dispose of a depowered Rex to be disposed of, Rex asks him if he'd rather lock him a cage or tie him to a slab and use a slow moving laser on him, Biowolf simply says "No", and tosses him out the window of the Keep. Interestingly enough, this is played straight later in the episode by the Big "Good" of all people, who chooses not to turn his electromagnet defense system high enough to tear the nanites out of Biowolf's body, but simply to immobilize him for a good old fashioned beat down.
- Played straight in the Swat Kats episode "Night of the Dark Kat", where Dark Kat and Hard Drive have managed to capture the eponymous heroes, but instead of summarily executing them, set them on the end of a long Conveyor Belt O' Doom that leads to a rock crushing machine, a machine which is wired to blow up the warehouse if shut down, leading to predictable consequences. Dark Kat usually proves more Genre Savvy than that, too. Hard Drive even Lampshades it: "I still say you should have let me fry those two!"
- Lampshaded with Dr. Gene Splicer in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Hare Raising Night".
- Played straight, and not quite Narm, as it IS a kids show and Kids are Stupid, in almost every episode of Totally Spies! or it' follow-up Spies! Instead of actually spying as their occupations imply, it is always the sequence: get tiny bit of info, get captured, Villain explains evil plot, escape, foil.
- Played straight in an episode of Justice League when Aquaman's brother, Orm leaves Aquaman and his baby son pinned to a large piece of rock slowly sinking into lava rather than just killing them both outright. However, the escape becomes Aquaman's Crowning Moment of Awesome so its not so bad.
- In a similar example to the above Sherlock Holmes example, The Great Mouse Detective has Ratigan set up an incredibly elaborate deathtrap for Basil and Dawson instead of just killing them outright. However, the movie does at least give reasons for why he made it so elaborate (he couldn't decide on just one killing method) and why he left rather than stay to watch their deaths (Basil arrived at Ratigan's hideout later than expected, forcing him to leave early to carry out his Evil Plan). Ultimately Justified in that Ratigan probably didn't expect that Dawson would taunt the defeated Basil into creating a plan that set off the trap early and started a chain reaction that freed them rather than killed them.
- Futurama pulls this with the Slurm Queen during the 'Fry and the Slurm Factory' episode.
- Used and Lampshaded in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Nerdy Dancin'": Dr. Doofenshmirtz leaves Perry the Platypus shackled to a table with a slowly approaching laser beam, claiming, "I saw this in a movie once. I didn't catch the ending, 'cause I had other things to do, but it seemed pretty foolproof." Perry escapes as soon as Doof leaves, simply by slipping his small hands and feet out of the shackles.
- Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie; shown in this clip, Vega could have done Chun-Li in - as Bison told him too - had he not stopped for his asinine gloating routine.