No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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No good deed goes unpunished
All helpful urges should be circumvented
No good deed goes unpunished

Sure, I meant well -- well, look at what well-meant did!
Elphaba, "No Good Deed" from Wicked

We all know that Karma can be a bitch, but sometimes it's a total Jerkass. It's not enough that the bad guy is a Karma Houdini. It's not enough that the good guy Can't Get Away with Nuthin'. It's not even enough that he's a Butt Monkey or Chew Toy, put through the wringer for no reason, not to mention having to deal with The Call Knowing Where He Lives, a Clingy MacGuffin and being constantly threatened with Death By Pragmatism if he dares respond to a problem in the way a normal person would and should. No, sometimes fate isn't satisfied until disaster befalls the good guy purely as a result of his doing the right thing.

If this happens because the hero helps people who are ungrateful, it can be a case of All of the Other Reindeer or The Farmer and the Viper. More often, helping out exposes the hero to some other danger, like the wrath of a villain whose plans were disrupted by said good deed, or the wrath of a populace that is opposed to the method of said helping out, such as in many Burn the Witch stories that involve actual witches, or being Arrested for Heroism.

Not every hero can handle this, and if it happens often enough or particularly badly enough, a hero may very well fall. If they stick it through even to the end, knowing what's coming to them, it shows who they are in the dark.

It should also be noted that this trope is more complicated than it looks. Sometimes good intentions bring unjust punishment, but sometimes good intentions result in very bad results because the good-intentioned person was also foolish, incompetent, or ignorant. In many cases whether a bad outcome was undeserved or not depends on the details. As Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long observes in one story, "Good intentions are no substitute for knowing how the buzzsaw works." Which doesn't mean that life is not often cruelly unjust, it merely means that things are often not as simple as they look at first glance.

Named for a well-known saying attributed to Clare Boothe Luce. Compare Being Good Sucks, where it's the act of being good (rather than the deeds themselves) that brings suffering, and contrast Laser-Guided Karma where every deed (good or otherwise) gets paid back in spades.

Examples of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Monster is all about this trope. Dr. Tenma saves the life of a young boy, who turns out to be the titular Complete Monster, and spends the rest of the series paying for it. He also has a habit of risking capture to tend to others' wounds, even when he knows they're bad guys, and he eventually gets caught by the police because he stopped to help a little kid who scraped his knee. Poor Tenma.
  • The reason Nagato finally snapped and became Pain. Well, that and a bit of more general Cosmic Plaything status and a dead best friend (whose corpse he preserved and rigged up as a zombie avatar of himself).
  • A few in Battle Royale, but most notably Yuichiro. He was the only person who ever had any faith in Mitsuko and tried to reach her at all (which actually did succeed), and what happened in the manga version? She raped him after he was shot, in a crazed attempt to "make it better," before stabbing him to death with her kama. Not only that, he was shot with his own gun, which he had traded to a friend as a sign of good faith. Note that the above happens only in the manga, and while Mitsuko does kill him in the movie, the novel and the manga, the events differ slightly in all three.
  • God, Tsuna from Katekyo Hitman Reborn is a very good kid. But it seems that whenever he ends up doing good or something morally right, he ends up paying for it. Sometimes literally. He saved a rare raccoon-panda thing from being rolled over by a roller coaster, but then the zoo fined him for breaking a few things in the process. He also caught a few infamous crooks, but the police arrested him too for looking like he was one of them, (he was in his boxers).
    • On a more serious note, he almost paid a greater price when Mukuro feigned a give-up and asked Tsuna to kill him. But Tsuna, invoking the Thou Shalt Not Kill trope, declined. Mukuro proceeded to grab him from behind, whispered why he fails at life into his ear- accompanied by a nasty headbutt- and then throws him in the direction of a nasty, pointed object.
    • This also turns out to be an Enforced Trope in the setting because the universe wants him to be a mafia boss, and even with the number of superpowers floating around the setting, it is logistically difficult to do this and be a morally upstanding young man. At least the main thing it actually requires him to do is to get into high-stakes superpowered battles with other mafiosi.
  • The main plot of Inuyasha got started when Kikyo decided to be nice and take care of a paralized bandit. The universe's reward for her kindness: She gets to slowly bleed to death, thinking that her first love, who is also the first person to ever treat her like a human woman, had decieved her from the start and killed her in cold blood. And that was only the beginning...
  • In Fruits Basket, Machi was afraid her baby brother was cold and went to put a blanket on him. Her parents accused her of trying to kill him and forced her out of home.
  • This happens frequently to the title character of Kaiji, almost to the point of being the theme of the show.
    • His situation starts with him cosigning on a loan for a friend. Months later, this turns out to be a loan from the Yakuza, who show up on Kaiji's doorstep to collect on the loan when said friend disappears. (Funnily enough, he trashes a nice car out of frustration just before this. It turns out to be a yakuza car... and he suffers no punishment at all.)
    • He gets an offer to go onto a ship and gamble for one night for a chance to clear this debt. After getting scammed multiple times in multiple ways, he decides to team up with his friend (who apparently didn't disappear after all...) and another man down on his luck to give him a better chance of winning the gamble. Early on, he meets the conditions to leave the ship with his debt cleared, but he refuses to leave until he's helped his two team members do the same. By the end of the allowed time for the gamble, he gets the other two to meet the conditions while losing his own advantage and being taken as a slave—however, with the extra those two got, they can "buy" him back immediately after and all three will be allowed to leave. They keep the money and leave him to be taken away to work off his debt as a slave.
    • He convinces someone else to "buy" him back and then takes back the extra cash his friends were trying to keep. He then uses this cash to "buy" back another scam victim out of sympathy. It turns out that this arrangement has a few strings attached, sending him into even greater debt than before.
    • He's later abducted by the yakuza again and presented with a race for enough money to cover his new debt three times over. He only gets this money if he finishes first or second. The race is a footrace across a thin iron bar. With a potentially fatal and definitely very painful elevation. There are three times as many contestants as iron bars. Pushing other contestants down is not only allowed, but encouraged, and there's one guy in front of him. The one guy in front of him is slow as hell, but he refuses to push. The guy behind him catches up and isn't so nice... Luckily, he manages to grab the bar and pull himself back up, being disqualified but not injured.
    • For another chance to get prize money (and for the winners of the previous "race" to collect theirs), it turns out that they have to walk, though not race, across another iron bar, this time with a dropping distance of several dozen stories and an extremely powerful electric current running through it. When the ten people who have decided to cross are all around the halfway point, he decides to get them to all forfeit the money so they can have the current cut and safely crawl back to safer ground. The power isn't cut... and everyone except Kaiji falls and dies. And then when he makes it, he finds out they were all disqualified because of him asking anyway, and he doesn't receive the prize money he just nearly died over.
  • No wonder Lelouch is such a lying bastard, since the universe seems to feel that every single attempt on his part to not act like an evil little sociopath must be dealt with as harshly as possible. Nearly everything that goes wrong can, in some way or another, be blamed on the fact that he wants to protect his little sister and doesn't want his best friend to get hurt.
    • The most egregious example: Lelouch decides not to go through with his plan to make it look like Euphemia plotted to assassinate him, which would've given Japan justification for a full-scale revolution. Instead, he decides to accept the third option that would allow everyone to get what they want without any bloodshed, even though it means he'll lose his chance at revenge. Oops, we can't have that! Instead, his Mind Control Evil Eye goes out of control at the worst possible time and he accidentally forces the most innocent and idealistic character in the show to massacre the people she was trying to help, sparking the revolution anyway, though it eventually fails and everyone is effectively back at square one.
    • Lelouch's desire to protect his sister can also be viewed as a character flaw. He often endangers his men by putting his sister, one person, before the good of everyone else in Japan.
    • If he killed or enslaved Suzaku when he had the chance, he'd be that much more powerful.
    • Had he not also spared Villetta in the second episode, he could have avoided many, many problems.
  • In Rave Master, because a woman named Aciela used magic to create a parallel world where humanity didn't go extinct, her each and every descended is doomed to a life of misery and loneliness.
  • In Okane ga Nai, Ayase kindly help a hurt and soaked Kanou, giving him shelter and words of comfort. Four years later, he gets owned (literally) by the very same Kanou, who begins the renewal of their relationship by raping him and subsequently taking control of every aspect of his life. This is not played quite positively, but it's not played entirely negatively, either. Presumably because it (and Ayase's incredible level of pathetic) are supposed to be titillating, since it is Hentai.
  • Crona from Soul Eater. The epitome of this trope when s/he joins Shibusen but is forced to spy on them by his/her Jerkass mother, Medusa
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke is a teen delinquent, always in trouble, being told he'll never amount to anything (and starting to believe it). One day, he sees a little boy chasing a ball into the street, and rushes out to stop him without a second thought. He gets killed as a result. The worst part is if Yusuke had not pushed the kid out of the way, the kid would have been perfectly fine. Because Yusuke 'saved' him, he got some scrapes. Though eventually dying turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Yusuke, since he gets better.
    • After everything he does in the series—a good half of it actively in pursuit of saving the day, and a majority of it within reasonable moral guidelines—he then gets killed again by the vastly more powerful villain. That isn't this trope; he totally earned getting killed by Sensui after Tempting Fate.[1] What is this trope is that his bosses then work out that he's got the genetic potential to turn into an atavistic super-demon, and send a strike team to obliterate his corpse. Again, he gets better.
  • Accelerator from To Aru Majutsu no Index suffers brain damage via a bullet to the head the first time he uses his powers to save rather than hurt someone.
    • Not to mention Touma himself, who almost always winds up in the hospital after helping someone. His first attempt at helping someone? Lost his memories.
  • Valiant efforts and good intentions don't usually turn out so well for people in Gantz. The series starts off with two of the main characters (one of them against his will) helping a drunk homeless man who had stumbled onto the subway tracks. They manage to get him onto the platform, and are subsequently hit by a train.
  • In the manga and second adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist, Winry's parents, two medics that worked to save the lives of several injured Ishbalans in the genocide, were killed by Scar, after bandaging him up and treating his wounds. When Winry finds out, she immediately loses it.
    • Also, when Armstrong finds two Ishbalan women and try to allow them a way to escape, they don't get far before they are incinerated by Kimblee right in front of him. This sends him into a massive Heroic BSOD.
  • In Macross Frontier, super popular Idol Singer Sheryl Nome, befriends a young girl Ranka Lee, who also wants to become a singer, and encourages her to do so, including offering a co place at her show. Not long after that, Ranka becomes the new celebrity, and Sheryl finds herself forgotten and deserted by both her fans and her agent.. Her CDs land in bargain bin, and her posters are thrown into rubbish to make place for Ranka's. Then it gets Subverted Trope hard as Ranka saves Sheryl from her illness and helps her defeat said agent. Oh, and Sheryl regains her popularity too...
    • And it seems that in the movie it gets even worse. While Sheryl's fall wasn't in the first movie, she is also set up to be ruined financially, having paid for rescue operation of Galaxy. And then Sheryl's "reward" for paying for rescue operation is being sentenced to death.
  • In Claymore, Teresa saves her dear Clare as well as an entire village from being raped, pillaged, and burned by a bunch of bandits, and got marked for death as a reward since the Lawful Stupid Organization forbids Claymores from killing humans, no matter the situation. Worse in that the village being attacked was her fault, since she'd intended to leave Clare there so she could live in peace and killed the yoma who had been there first. However, the presence of yoma in the village was what was keeping the bandits at bay, so killing the yoma meant giving a gateway for the bandits to begin their operation.
    • Even more sad was when Teresa saves another town from a yoma without being paid the hefty fee that the Organization asks for as payment (since she was on the run), but said it felt nice to do something good without being paid. Moments later, an execution party came to take her head.
  • One Piece: This seems to be one of the reasons why the Straw Hats are wanted. Every good thing they do (beating up other pirates or sadistic assassins) simply makes them look like a bigger threat in the eyes of the World Government and Marines. Though the corrupt marine Nezumi does cause Luffy to get his first bounty, it should be noted that Luffy's deeds were considered to be "undermining the worth of Marine forces" back in the East Blue Saga.
    • Though it's arguable as to whether this qualifies as punishment, considering bounties are the impromptu Power Levels of the One Piece world, and the Straw Hats(with a couple exceptions) think it's downright awesome when theirs go up.
  • In the 13th Dragonball Z movie, Gohan and Videl as The Great Saiyaman and Saiyawoman end up saving Hoi from committing suicide by jumping off a building. Turns out Hoi was a terrible man who wanted to revive a demon and was the survivor of an equally evil race of extraterrestrial wizards, and intended to feed Earth to it.
  • This is pretty much the punishment for being a good person in the Berserk universe.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Incredible Hulk is another series that springs from this trope, with Bruce Banner paying an even more personal cost for saving Rick Jones.
  • Deadpool's bad luck is compounded by his own insanity and off kilter morality. He might do good, but even if he's acknowledged by the other heroes, instead of acceptance he'll receive a swift boot out of the city. Acceptance is all the guy really wants, which makes Wade's case even more tragic.
    • The Fantastic Four eventually invited him to their weekly heroes-only poker game. He didn't go, but it's the thought that counts.
  • The Sin City story "That Yellow Bastard" is this trope in a nutshell. All Detective John Hartigan wants to do is close his one unsolved case and stop a Serial Killer who likes to rape little girls and slash them to ribbons and put his ass away so that he can finally retire in peace. Said sick fuck happens to be the son of a powerful and ruthless U.S. Senator, one who will not stand for anyone messing with him, no matter how justified it is. As a result, Hartigan pays dearly for saving Nancy Callahan, the eleven-year-old girl slated to become the monster's next victim. Good lord, does he pay dearly. Said corrupt senator pays to have Hartigan's heart fixed, and then sets him up to take the fall for raping the girl (who didn't even get raped). Worse, he has to let his wife think he's the Complete Monster everyone says he is, because she'll be killed if he ever claims innocence. There's a special circle in Hell reserved specifically for the Roark family, but years later when Nancy is in trouble again Hartigan does get revenge by castrating Junior (again, and with his bare hands) before killing him and succumbing to his own wounds.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3 #19 (February 1986): "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished", a group of Legionaires are forced to deal with the menace that the Sun-Eater they destroyed was intended to stop.
  • In The Long Halloween Thomas Wayne saved the life of Carmine Falcone, since he's a doctor first and foremost dedicated to saving lives, and rebuffed Carmine's father's attempts to bribe him to keep the incident quiet. When this incident came to light years later it cast suspicion on Thomas' son Bruce. Harvey Dent -- already resentful of Bruce Wayne's wealth—thought this incident was proof that the Falcones and Waynes had underhanded connections. Bruce even wonders if Gotham would have been better off if his father had put aside compassion and let Carmine die.
  • Just about every time a superhero Saves The Villain. The villain rarely ever appreciates the effort or does a Heel Face Turn. It just means the villain will live to make life hell for everyone else another day.
  • In the first issue of Ultimate X-Men, Bobby uses his ice powers to save a large group of people from a falling sentinel. He gets a bottle thrown at his head for doing so, since it just outed him as a mutant. Hell, the entire premise of X-Men is that they fight to save a world that hates and fears them, resulting in basically this.
    • Similarly, During Ultimatum, a lot of the X-Men die to stop Magneto, and the ones who survived did just as much. Mutants were just as effected by the attacks as everyone else, and most tried to stop it. Afterwords, mutants are being openly hunted by the goverment, the level of abuse they get has increased, and even thought mutants like Kitty Pryde risked their lives to help the public during the attacks, her peers are all bullying her and even report her to the goverment which causes them to come looking for her.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man ends with Spidey throwing all he has to stop the Ultimate Five, which ends with his death via a truck explosion.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In the Third Movement of With Strings Attached, the four encounter a colony of shrunken humans being used as a science project by aliens. They unshrink the humans and take 40 of them back to C'hou to start a new life. But the humans resent being removed from their universe and, among other things, steal the four's personal stuff after the four are whisked away to look for the third piece of the Vasyn.
  • Summer Days and Evening Flames: Starfall puts his racism against griffins aside long enough to rescue Gilda from several criminals, freeing her from her bonds and defending her form would-be lethal blows. Although he did kill one (in defense of another), he was still arrested due to "vigilantism" by not being reinstated into the guard yet.
  • Pattycakes: Dash would have preferred to keep napping, but went to see Fluttershy because she's a good friend; it got her mickey'd, mindraped and mentally regressed, roughly In That Order.


Film[edit | hide]

  • From Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Saga:
    • In The Dark Knight Sal Maroni explains to Batman that nobody will tell him where The Joker is because Batman has "rules," while the Joker does not. In a choice between the two, it's healthier to make Batman mad to avoid pissing off the Joker than it would be the other way around.
    • In Batman Begins, when Bruce went out of his way to save his mentor, he learns later he was Genocidal Knight Templar Ra's Al Ghul, and that in doing so he nearly destroys Gotham. And in fact, it is revealed that this is exactly the sort of work the League of Shadows (i.e. the clan of ninjas Bruce had been training under) had been doing for centuries, including sacking Rome and spreading the Black Plague.
  • In Léon: The Professional, saving Mathilda is what eventually gets Leon killed... but he was never happier.
  • No Country for Old Men. Llewelyn Moss would have gotten away with stealing the drug cash if he hadn't gone back to give water to a dying man.
  • In Snake Eyes, Nicolas Cage plays a sleazy corrupt cop who suddenly finds his conscience when he uncovers and subsequently tries to prevent a plot to assassinate a political whistleblower. He succeeds, and in the epilogue he is initially hailed as a hero, but winds up going to jail after the extra publicity shines a light on his shady past.
  • Mean Girls: when Cady goes to apologize to all the people she's hurt, she includes her math teacher "Mrs. Norbury, who's living proof that no good deed goes unpunished".
  • Another Lindsay Lohan movie, Georgia Rule, gets outright literal in here: Mormon Harlan gets to Georgia's house to fetch her grand-daughter Rachel (who performed oral sex on him on a canoe) to convince her to get to his actual girlfriend together with him to release him for his sins. When Georgia yells at him that it wasn't a big deal, but just a blowjob, and Georgia comes into the scene in a severely shocked manner, Rachel just responses that "no good deed goes unpunished".
  • The plot of Dragonheart is kicked off when Draco agrees to give half his heart to save the dying prince...who then grows up into a Complete Monster who terrorizes the entire kingdom and can't be killed unless Draco himself dies.
  • Eddie Carr from The Lost World tries to save Ian, Sarah, and Nick and gets eaten by two Tyrannosaurus Rexes for his trouble.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint is ostracized in the town because his inventions always fail spectacularly, which is a shame, since most of the things he invented were made with the intent of helping people out. Even when he invents something that does end up working, saves the town from a depression, and gets him the love and respect he always wanted, it still manages to Go Horribly Wrong in the end, threatening to destroy the whole world.
  • Ending of the French comedy Le folie des grandeurs - Blaze saved the king's life, revealed all conspirators plotting against the king and sunk down Don Salluste scheme to ruin the queen's reputation and even sacrificed his love to her so man who he impersonated could become her lover. Sadly, during all of it he makes the king believe he's in love with old Dona Juana and has to choose between marrying her or being sold into slavery. He ended as a slave of the same Arabic Sheik who bought the conspirators and Salluste. Good news – they don't hold a grudge against him. Bad news – Dona Juana comes after him.
  • Happens in the end of the Mexican film Un Mundo Maravilloso, but not to the protagonist: The main character (a homeless hobo), having crossed the Despair Event Horizon because he believed his wife was dead (she wasn't, as he happily finds out soon after), wanders into a middle class neighborhood during a storm, a middle class family upon seeing him from the inside of their house immediately out of kindness offers him shelter and gives him clothes, blankets and food. How does he repay them? Near the end of the film after deciding that "Better a day as a rich than a lifetime of poverty!", he with the help of his family and buddies, invades and takes over that very same middle class house, killing its owners.
  • In Escape to Witch Mountain, Tia saves a man's life. That man, Lucas Deranian, turns out to be an employee of Aristotle Bolt, a billionaire searching for supernatural powers to exploit. Bolt sends Deranian to pose as Tony and Tia's uncle, bringing them to his isolated mansion.
  • While Villain Protagonist Tony from Scarface was already on a downward spiral thanks to his over-indulgence of his own cocaine, it's his refusal to kill children that seals his fate.
  • At the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack would likely not have been arrested by Norrington if he hadn't rescued Elizabeth. Which is then lampshaded by Jack:

Norrington: One good deed is not enough to redeem a man of a lifetime of wickedness.
Jack: Though it seems enough to condemn him.

    • And in On Stranger Tides, Syrena rescuing Philip indirectly leads to her being captured and tortured by Blackbeard.
  • In the Halloween remake, the only security guard in the institution who ever showed Michael Myers compassion and stopped the others from bullying him is given an over-the-top and painful death.
    • In the sequel, the daughter of one of the rednecks who beat down Michael for trespassing pleads with them to leave him alone, and at least apologizes when they leave him for dead. Dead just the same.
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible stops a suicidal man from jumping off a building but accidentally injured the guy in the process. The dude "repays" the favor by suing him. This, and a buck of other lawsuits from people injured in the process of being saved, leads to a registration act that forces all superheroes into hiding, and the actual person responsible for their injuries, Bomb Voyage, ends up getting away with it scot-free, since it was his bomb that resulted in the railroad tracks they were on being destroyed and forcing Mr. Incredible, who was trying to save Buddy Pine from being blown to smithereens by that bomb, to stop the train from falling over the gap caused by the explosion.
  • In A Fistful of Dollars the Man With No Name manipulates the Mob War in San Miguel with ease; the only time he messes up and gets himself in real trouble is when he stops focusing on making money for a second and decides to free a woman the Rojo brothers were holding captive. This act tips off the Rojos that he's not on their side, leading them to ambush, capture, and torture him.
  • Wuxia: Xu Baijiu has this as his motivation; He once caught a kid stealing from his parents, but let him go him without telling anyone. He got poisoned for his trouble.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, Captain John Miller's decision to spare Steamboat Willie comes back to bite him in the ass later on, when the latter kills him.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, where the whole story revolves around a good deed that is punished, namely the protagonist's father, a defense attorney, making the unpopular decision to defend a black man who has been falsely accused. Even more so the reason that the black man is in trouble in the first place was because he did a number of good deeds for a troubled young white woman because he felt pity for her.
  • Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, is an incredibly over-the-top rendering of this trope, with the title character's virtue and good deeds rewarded with the worst kind of abuse and suffering throughout her life. And considering that the author's name is where we get the word "sadism," we have a clear picture of just how bad things get for her.
  • Happens constantly to Jon Snow in A Song of Ice and Fire. Actually happens to just about everyone in his family for that matter. And most people in Westeros.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Richard helps out a homeless person and becomes an Unperson for his trouble.
  • Elphaba in the book version of Wicked starts out trying to do good. She ends up getting killed off for real by the end of the book because of it. (The musical version has much more family friendly ending for her though she's still blamed for everything)
    • Glinda also indirectly suffers from this trope, since her attempt to help Dorothy by giving her the ruby slippers only contributes to Elphaba's eventual nervous breakdown when she hexes the ruby slippers so they won't come off Dorothy's feet, which keeps Dorothy from giving them to Elphaba...which could very well have kept Elphaba from lighting her broom, and... well...
  • In the The Wheel of Time, most characters after their heroics are punished accordingly by their local female authority, i.e. Aes Sedai, Wise Ones, Maidens, wife.
  • Fighting Fantasy was notorious about the "magical beggar" trope. Virtually every beggar you would meet would give you help that is far more valuable than the single coin you had to donate to them. In one book this is explained by the generosity of your donation: sure, you give a single gold piece every time, but the standard currency for those parts is copper.
  • In The Sound and the Fury, Quentin finds a young girl who is unable to speak English and he realizes that she is probably lost. Quentin proceeds to buy her some food and spend the next few hours trying to find her family. His thanks for this is an arrest from the police, who were summoned by the young girl's older brother who thought that Quentin was kidnapping the girl. Quentin is fined seven dollars for this 'crime'.
  • Anita Blake quotes the saying in her first book, Guilty Pleasures: "He had to be stopped. If I hadn't interfered tonight, he would have been stopped. No good deed goes unpunished."
  • Harry Dresden could be the poster child for this trope. No matter how many times he saves the world, no matter how many times he does the right thing, breaking even is coming out ahead for him. And he doesn't come out ahead very often.
    • And let's not forget poor Murphy. In Proven Guilty, she abandons an investigation to help Harry save a teenage girl who is the daughter of a Knight Templar, by going through the heart of Winter itself, with no guarentee that she'll come out alive, the odds stacked against her. She doesn't even hesitate to help. Her reward? A demotion, and a warning that she'll get fired if it happens again.
  • In The Bible, Jesus resurrects the dead, feeds the hungry, heals the sick and disabled, teaches the way of the right and has done no wrong. He becomes hated by the Pharisees and is put on the cross.
    • Proverbs 17:13 denounces this:

Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.

  • Drizz't's good deeds in the early part of his life caused him no small amount of grief. During his first surface raid he spared the life of a little elf girl and faked her death. Unfortunately, Lolth knew about this and didn't like that he wasn't an Ax Crazy child murderer. She demanded a sacrifice from his house, and his father Zaknafein sacrificed himself in Drizz't's place. It Got Worse when the little elf girl he spared grew up and mistakenly blamed Drizz't for the massacre that claimed her family that night due to her trauma. She spent her entire life hunting him and nearly killed him only to die in the attempt. Then there was the time he stumbled upon a gang of barghest whelps that had murdered a farming family and avenged them by killing the whelps. This earned him misplaced blame for the murders (as a Drow, he was a prime suspect) and the ire of a persistent bounty hunter. This trend more or less ended after he met his True Companions, who made sure Drizz't would get better PR.
    • And that girl he saved? The one his father was killed over because Drizz't didn't murder her? She grew up to be violently obsessed with the purple-eyed drow she saw on the day her family was killed, tracked him down, and forced Drizz't to kill her in self-defense when she tried to seek revenge on the man who saved her life for crimes he did not commit. Drizz't recognized her after she died.
  • In Honor Among Enemies, Warner Caslet is the captain of a light cruiser in the navy of the People's Republic of Haven. Haven has recently suffered a coup d'etat and is now ruled by a vicious, bloodthirsty regime which not only kills the officers who fail in their assignments, but shoots their families for good measure. When he is dispatched to the Silesian Confederacy as a scout for a commerce raiding operation that will prey on the merchant shipping of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, which Haven is at war with, he discovers a batch of home-grown pirates who are sadistic on a whole new level, capturing merchant ships even when they know they will not be able to take any captured cargo with them and torturing/raping the crew en masse. Caslet manages to convince his Peoples Commissioner that these pirates deserve to be caught, even if it is not in their orders to do so, and eventually tracks down their ship. However, the pirates are in the midst of capturing another freighter, and this one is a Manticoran ship, which Caslet has standing orders to capture himself. Caslet knows that there is a good chance that his ship will be destroyed if he decides to engage the pirates, and his own superiors might very well execute him on general principles if he risks his command to save a ship belonging to an enemy nation, but his personal integrity will not allow him to stand by and he again convinces his Commissioner to allow an intervention...then the Manticoran "freighter" he was trying to save revealed that it was a disguised warship and ended up capturing his ship. He avoids his government's wrath over this due to a legal loophole (All the officers claimed that the Manticoran freighter was flying under Andermani colors at the time in their reports, and his orders stated he was to assist Andermani ships), only then to end up earning the personal displeasure of a dubiously sane member of the Committee of Public Safety for showing basic decency to prisoners of war.
  • Michael (and Michael alone) is a frequent victim of this in the Knight and Rogue Series. Trying to save a 'kidnapped' woman gets Michael arrested, taking the fall for another man gets him flogged, letting Fisk escape Ceciel's guards gets him expreimented on, refusing to arrest an innocent woman gets him marked unredeemed, stopping a man from beating a young boy gets him arrested-again, helping to put out a fire gets him chased by a mob, helping arrest a murderer gets him kicked out of town, and trying to save a man who's falling gets him accused of murder. As Fisk says, heroism is vastly overrated.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Gideon: Refresh me, Lieutenant. How did we get in the middle of this again?
Matheson: I believe it was an act of mercy, Sir.
Gideon: Remind me never to do that again.
Matheson: Aye, Sir. No good deed goes unpunished.
Gideon: I'll have that embroidered on a sampler when we have time.

  • This trope is often used on Star Trek. A few examples:
    • Starfleet Academy's famous Kobayashi Maru test is a no-win scenario where answering a distress call gets you blown up for your trouble. Only Kirk ever passed, and he cheated.
    • There's a Next Generation episode called "Samaritan Snare". Guess what happens?
    • Geordi quotes this trope in "The Enemy", declaring it the motto of Galorndon Core. As the planet is perpetually covered by electrical stormclouds allowing only intermittent transporter windows and the surface is hot and rocky, this is fair.
    • In the dramatic climax of "Redemption", Worf spares the life of his enemy's son Toral, even though Klingon honor all but demands he kill the boy. Years later, Toral makes a surprise return on Deep Space Nine; instead of making something of his life, he's become as bad as his old man. He nearly succeeds in killing Worf and stealing the Sword of Kahless.
    • "No good deed ever goes unpunished" is the 285th and last Ferengi Rule of Acquisition.
    • Trip quotes the saying in Enterprise's "The Andorian Incident". The good deed in this case is paying a visit to a remote Vulcan monastery... which happens to have been taken over by Andorians, and the away team's arrival makes the situation even worse.
      • Except it results in them getting Commander Shran as an ally, which despite the problems he causes does Earth a lot of good in the long run. The act has serious consequences for T'Pol's career however.
  • One episode of Frasier has the title character question whether it's good to be a Good Samaritan on the basis of how frequently his attempts to do good have backfired on him (note that the parable itself is not an example—we don't know what happens to the Samaritan afterwards).
  • In Pushing Daisies, Ned attempts to undo the revenge taken by Chuck and Olive on Balsam's Bittersweets and gets arrested for murder as a result.
    • And once, when he was still a kid, he climbed up a tree for a kindergarten class to show them baby birds...but they were all dead. So he revived them, and showed the birds to the class...Then they decided to show him the three baby woodpeckers that they were going to release that day...
  • Doctor Who is stuffed with this trope. Even if the Doctor's help doesn't screw him at the time, it sometimes has ramifications in the timeline that he doesn't discover till later.
    • A particularly sharp example is the Fourth Doctor story The Face Of Evil, although it's not immediately obvious what's going on. It turns out the whole mess the Doctor finds himself in was in fact caused by himself, when he helped some colonists debug their computer. It wasn't a bug, it was a nascent AI, and he drove it insane by trying to fix it. On the meta hand, that good deed being punished led to Leela becoming his companion, and the dads of Britain rejoiced.
  • In the sixth season finale of House, House convinces a woman whose leg is trapped under a pile of rubble and whose life is endangered if they take too long to free her that she shouldn't let her leg be amputated. He sees parallels to the incident that ruined his own leg, where he made the same decision. However, after being called out by Cuddy, when she points out that his choice to refuse amputation has left him crippled, in pain, bitter, and alone, he convinces the woman to change her mind and performs the procedure himself. Everything seems fine... until, on the ride to the hospital, the woman succumbs to an embolism caused by the amputation, and House is powerless to do anything except watch her die. Later, Foreman tells him that he did the right thing, only for House to furiously assert that it doesn't matter because "she died anyway".
  • In Lost Season 5, Sayid (in the past) is locked in a cell awaiting execution. A young and at this point innocent Ben Linus who is sympathetic to Sayid steals a key and rescues him from his cell. After Sayid escapes, he repays Ben by knocking out a guard (Jin), stealing his gun, shooting Ben, and leaving him for dead. Sayid hates the adult Ben, but the child Ben was innocent and had just saved his life.
  • This is touched upon in Stargate SG-1, where bad results sometimes come from good deeds, often as a result of completely unpredictable, Butterfly Effect-esque cause-and-effect actions. One character remarks that the universe is so complex, and so random, that instead of having complete control over the actual consequences of one's deeds the only thing one can control is "whether we are good or evil."
    • Orlin got a particularly raw deal when he descended to a mortal form in order to provide valuable intel on the Ori and helped to develop a cure for the Prior plague. For his troubles, he not only became trapped in his mortal form, but also suffered permanent brain damage, consigning him to spend the rest of his life (which is considerable, as he came back as a 12-year-old boy) in a sanitarium, and even worse, his memory is so far gone that when Sam goes to visit him, he doesn't even remember her.
    • The Two-parter episode "Evolutions" has at least two examples: One was with a CIA agent named Burke who was Kicked Upstairs to an assignment in the worst possible location: Honduras. The reason he was exiled involved betrayal, but not as you might think: He actually killed the actual traitor, another fellow CIA agent named Woods, in self defense after he called him out on the action, but he took the fall for the sake of Woods' wife (had Woods been exposed as a traitor, his widowed wife would not receive pension). This was only mentioned and not explicitly shown. The second is a member of the anti Honduran extremist faction. He tried to side with Daniel Jackson about shutting off the Ancient healing device, as he's being creeped out by the device (and Jackson also explained that it should never be activated regardless of intentions). The leader responds by initially making it seem as though he is going to turn it off, but then unexpectedly shoots him and kills him. It gets worse in that he ends up being revived thanks to it being turned on, but his mind was permanently gone and thus was no different than a Zombie.
  • Not so much a good deed as a competent one, but near the end of the second season of The Wire, Ziggy finally loses the Idiot Ball and successfully disguises an inside job as a break-in. His reward is being conned out of $18,000. He doesn't take it well.
  • On The Colbert Report Stephen invokes this trope.
  • In the pilot episode of Hardcastle and McCormick, Mark McCormick steals a prototype car from the bad guy (who had killed the designer and forged legal documents in order to get his hands on it). In the ensuing Car Chase, a police car crashes and Mark comes to the rescue of the trapped cop...who gets a good look at Mark's face and (regretfully) has him arrested for the theft.
  • Dexter saves a man's life midway through season 4. That man kills Rita in the season finale, as well as several other people earlier.
    • This is a subversion, because Dexter saved his life so he could have the pleasure of killing him. However, in a more straight example, Dexter later stops Trinity from killing a young boy which is what drives him to kill Rita for revenge.
  • iCarly: Freddie, every time he does a good deed, it bite's him on the ass later. In iSam's Mom, he catches an elusive criminal on video when no one else could. He's rewarded with nothing but a coupon (buy a dozen smoothies, get 10% off on your 13th), which expired the very next day. Then on national television, T-Bo and a female schoolmate reveal his full name and address while the crook is still on the loose.
    • Freddie and Carly pushing Sam to admit she's in love with Brad backfires hard in iOMG. Sam is actually in love with Freddie, and ends up doing a Forceful Kiss on him when he's trying to prod her into telling Brad. Considering Freddie has canonically loved Carly since he was about 10 years old, and Carly could be fighting her own feelings for Freddie, this could easily be very bad.
  • Game of Thrones - being merciful likely results in becoming a head shorter.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", the Graduate Student Julie Teeger (not to be confused with Natalie's daughter) ends up getting a package meant to be delivered to a housewife of the same name by mistake, and generously delivers it to the rightful receiver. Unfortunately, that package contained evidence that her husband, George Teeger, was unfaithful to her, and both the housewife and the grad student in return end up killed by the husband.
  • A constant theme on The Wire, particularly with regard to the Baltimore Police Department. Any police character who sticks his neck out to try to do some good will be Reassigned to Antarctica, if not fired outright, for the sin of pissing off the bosses and/or the politicians.
  • Darien Fawkes is a thief who has been in and out of prison for most of his life. While trying to rob yet another place, he comes upon an elderly guard, who faints. Believing the old man is suffering a heart attack, Darien has a choice: run with the loot, or try to save the guy. He starts trying to perform CPR on the guy, only to be caught red-handed by the other guards. The old guy later testifies in court that Darien tried to rape him. Cue life in prison without parole.
  • Heroes: Someone is helping Mark Parkman fix a tire, unfortunately, Sylar is possessing him at the time and kills the helpful man with a tire iron.
  • Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory helped Penny go to the hospital by driving her over. She later rewards his kindness by essentially forcing him to go to court for a parking ticket on the same day as a Stan Lee autographing convention at the comic book store.


Myth and Legend[edit | hide]

  • In some versions, Mordred of Arthurian legend. At the Battle of Camlann, Mordred draws his sword in order to kill a serpent at Arthur's heel during peace negotiations, but Bedwyr sees this as an act of betrayal and calls for war. This ends with Arthur and Mordred killing one another and Mordred being seen as a traitor forever.


Tabletop RPG[edit | hide]

  • As settings, both Old World of Darkness and New World of Darkness love this. Do a good deed? Well, it'll cost you a pound of flesh and probably not greatly impact things anyway. Do the easy bad deed instead? Get rewarded with power/riches/expediency, but dinged by the Karma Meter. Do option 1 enough times and you'll get killed or ground to a masochistic paste. Do option 2 enough times and you'll destroy yourself. Do half and half and live a quasi-happy/angsty life... for a time. Try to live in happy ignorance and apathy, and somebody else will ding your Karma Meter for you when you aren't looking.
  • So common in Warhammer 40,000 that it's rare to see anyone even try to do good deeds anymore. A quote from the forces of Chaos Codex: "Let no good deed go unpunished, and let no evil deed go unrewarded."
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure A Hot Day in L'Trel in Dungeon magazine #44. After the PCs risk their lives to save a woman from a burning house, the woman sues them because she was injured during the rescue.
  • The Abyssal exalts in Exalted have this in spades. Picked out at death to serve Omnicidal Maniac undead gods and given corrupted divine powers, they can choose to go the Dark Is Not Evil route. Only the more positive, life affirming things they do, the likelier it is the said gods take over your body and someone you care about is randomly killed. This is why Abyssal Exaltation is the only type that both a) must be willingly accepted by the recipient and b) allows for the possibility of redeeming and changing state into a Solar Exalted. The designers already knew that it's a screw-over, and thus made it both require you to willingly sign on with the Neverborn (i.e., you've got it coming) and allow an escape mechanism.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Elphaba, the protagonist in the Broadway musical Wicked, finally has enough of her misfortunes during the song "No Good Deed," quoted above. By the time the musical number occurs, every major act of kindness or benevolence Elphaba's ever tried has blown up in her face. One of the more Egregious examples came when her enchanting of her crippled sister Nessarose's jeweled shoes enabled Nessa to walk, just in time to have her heart broken by the man she loved, and in a jealous rage, snatch up the very same book that gave her the use of her legs and use it to cast a horrible curse on him, which Elphaba could only save him from by turning him into the Tin Man.
    • And to quote the Tin-Man: Holy Christ!

It's due to her I'm made of tin, her spell made this occur. And for once I'm glad I'm heartless, I'll be heartless killing her!

    • Plus, her attempt to save Fiyero's life also kinda backfired. She saves him from death, but her panicky desperate wording of the spell "Let his flesh not be torn, let his blood leave no stain. When they beat him, let him feel no pain, let his bones never break" turns him into the Scarecrow.
    • Which in itself is still a step up from what she thought had happened: With no way of knowing the outcome of her spell, she assumed it had failed completely and that he'd been beaten to death while crucified. No wonder she flipped.


Video Games[edit | hide]

Kreia: If you seek to aid everyone that suffers in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself... and weaken them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory.

  • The ending of the original Fallout is a pretty stunning invocation of this trope. You've saved your Vault and the entire wasteland, but when you try to return home the Overseer exiles you so your story doesn't inspire other Vault dwellers to leave.
    • Fallout 3 quotes the original's ending almost word-for-word when you finish the "Trouble on the Home Front" quest. By leaving Vault 101 at the beginning of the game you've sparked a civil war between a faction that wants to leave and another that's convinced the Vault is the only safe place in the world. You can stop the bloodshed and bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution, even get your childhood friend chosen as the new Overseer, but she'll ask that you leave because your presence is dangerously disruptive.
      • Tenpenny Tower. So you've talked the bigoted inhabitants around around and convinced them to let the ghouls move in, everyone is quite content, and you leave whistling a happy tune. Then you return a few days later and all the humans are dead. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
      • If your karma is too high, you will be hunted down by Talon Company mercenaries, who said you have 1000 caps on your head. Inverted if you are evil as well, as you will be hunted down the same way by the Regulators.
    • Fallout: New Vegas makes finding happy endings for your companions difficult. Help Arcade link up with his foster family and fight with them at the Second Battle for Hoover Dam? Odds are good he'll end up a military prisoner or run out of the Mojave by bounty hunters. Convince Veronica to leave the isolationist Brotherhood of Steel to do humanitarian work with the Followers of the Apocalypse? Oops, angry Brotherhood Paladins have slaughtered the entire Followers outpost so Veronica can't share their secrets.
  • In Betrayal at Krondor, Gorath's method of saving his race, namely by warning their sworn enemies about the planned invasion to nip it in the bud and prevent another costly war, unfortunately happens to be one that his entire race condemns him for. Ultimately, his heroism directly leads to his death - had he not been merciful enough to be willing to spare Delekhan even after everything he had done and had simply killed him when he got the chance, the Lifestone never would have been endangered and called for him to protect it at the cost of his life.
  • Poor, poor Marona. Frequently a victim of this throughout most of Phantom Brave.
  • Played for comedic purposes in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice during the Almaz ending. He was right to stop Mao, but ends up losing everything for it. Possibly a case where Yank the Dog's Chain went too far.
  • Deconstructed in Castlevania with Lisa, who was burned at the stake for practicing medicine. Dracula does NOT take this well and resumes his war with humanity.
  • Ramza in Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the only legitimately good people in the story. His run of bad luck starts when he tries to help a desperate squire (Argath) rescue his Lord and Ramza's own brother subtly suggests how to go about it, which leaves his home at Eagrose undefended when the Corpse Brigade comes by to kidnap his best friend's sister. When the entire world is full of jerkasses, not being a Jerkass is asking for trouble. For Ramza to actually go around telling all the Jerk Asses to knock it off? Super trouble. In addition, Ramza is arguably one of the only people who survives (he either directly or indirectly killed a good amount of everyone else), and he's eventually vindicated by history, albeit hundreds of years later.
  • Happens in spades to Norman Jayden from Heavy Rain. If he goes to the warehouse to save Shaun, he slowly succumbs to his addiction to ARI and inability to differentiate it from reality
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia qualifies. Always nice to people, yet fate seems to hate her for no reason.
    • It also happened to Mithos in the backstory.
  • Vincent from Final Fantasy VII. He was a Turk (basically an elite hitman), yes, but was a genuinely kind person who fell in love with the woman he was assigned to protect. This woman then proceeded to break his heart and get married to the resident Complete Monster Mad Scientist, getting pregnant with his child almost right away. Vincent pulled an I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy and continued protecting her, until she started experimenting on her unborn child with her husband's help. He then confronted her husband about this, wanting nothing more than to protect her and keep an innocent baby from pain, and was consequently shot in the chest. Instead of letting him die peacefully, Lucrecia and Hojo made him into their newest lab rat, performed several horrific experiments on him, shoved four demons into his psyche, and then tossed him into a coffin to sleep for the next thirty years. And yet, he blames himself for all this mess. The amount of guilt he places on himself is incredible, especially since he was practically blameless.
    • Similarly, the woman who left him basically did it out of guilt for her part in Vincent's father's death when both were trying to research Chaos.
    • Chaos in Dissidia was shown to be somewhat merciful to his minions, even unwilling to punish them if they disobey them. Unfortunately for him, this also results in most of the villains not being truly loyal to Chaos, to the extent that once he offs Cosmos, they end up doing their own thing, abandoning Chaos, with only Garland remaining by Chaos' side.
  • Luigi, though this is played for comedic purposes since he's become a Chew Toy.
  • Subverted in Odin Sphere. Gwendolyn (outside the battlefield) is actually a pretty kind and caring person. She exposes and eliminates a traitor and rescues her half-sister Velvet (despite her own feelings) to ease her father's pain. She suffers punishment for this—but the powers that be give karma the finger by manipulating destiny so that her magically induced punishment ends up being her perfect match, and these two are supposed to save the world.
  • In Fate/stay night, Emiya Shirou stays at school late to sweep the archery dojo as a favour to his friend Shinji. This gets him stabbed in the heart. By Cúchulainn.
    • Also, Archer. His entire life turned out to be one big example of this trope as a result of his blind devotion to his ideals, and he keeps on doing it even after death.
    • In Fate/Zero the only thing Kayneth did which could be considered an act of kindness--giving up at the Grail War (with it his only chance to restore his pride and damaged body) to save his fiancee's life—gets him killed immediately after.
  • In the good ending for Phantasy Star Portable, you and your partner's reward for saving the galaxy is being discharged from the Guardians and being branded traitors because your partner was an unknowing (not to mention unwilling) pawn in the Big Bad's scheme and you refused to leave her behind. Is it any wonder the Guardians aren't very well liked in part 3?
  • In Shadow Hearts: From the New World, we learn that the main antagonist is hero Johnny Garland's older sister, who sacrificed her mind and memory to bring him Back from the Dead. She ends up wandering the land in a silent, amnesiac daze, slaughters the innocent, loses her love interest and fails to revive him, and the final battle against her is fixed so that Johnny is the one to kill her. Given what she had become, this could be seen as a Mercy Kill.
  • Mass Effect pulls the fake-distress-call-leading-to-a-trap routine on the player, and it's hinted that in Mass Effect 2, a great many of Shepard's decisions may come back to bite the player in the nether regions.
    • If you repent for killing the Rachni queen in the first game by saving the false queen in the third game, she'll eventually betray you and severely damage your military.
    • Meanwhile, in Mass Effect 2, turns out Elnora really was as bad as you thought she was. Too bad you let her go. Mostly, though, you're not really punished. ME2 even encourages you to be the Team Therapist by completing all those side missions, since if you don't, then most or all of your team -- possibly including Shepard -- will die.
    • In Mass Effect 3 if you managed to talk Wrex down, you're stuck with a no-win situation with the Salarians and Krogans. If you support the Salarians, you have to kill Wrex and lose the clans; if you support the Krogans, the Salarians withhold a fleet. Only if you killed Wrex can you get the benefits from both sides by betraying the Krogans.
      • This can be averted, however. If Kirrahe survived Virmire and subsequently survives the Cerberus attack on the Citadel, he will give Shepard the STG's support, even if it means defying the Dalatress if you sided with the Krogan. If Kirrahe isn't available, Thane can help out in his stead, and you'll still get support from the STG
    • Did you rewrite the Heretic Geth? Congrats, you just made getting the Geth and Quarians to make peace that much harder.
  • Massive irony (and massive spoilers) in one possible ending of Heavy Rain. If the Big Bad selflessly saves a certain person's life, and kills all the heroes, he'll appear to get away with it all in the end only to end up being killed by the one, completely unrelated person whose life he saved.
  • Subverted in Fahrenheit (2005 video game), at one point Lucas (who by this point is a fugitive wanted for murder) has the choice of saving a drowning boy while a cop who saw him leave the crime scene happens to be approaching. If he does save him, the cop does in fact recognize him but chooses to let him go.
  • In the backstory to Gears of War, Dom testifies in Fenix's defense after he is charged with desertion for his entirely justified attempt to save his father. His "reward" is being demoted, facing public humiliation, and being hated by the top brass for "supporting a traitor".
  • Similarly, in Resistance: Retribution, James Grayson's reward for destroying 26 Chimera conversion facilities is...to be imprisoned and threatened with execution because he disobeyed one order.
  • Demon's Souls has you meet Yurt, the Silent Chief in the second part of the prison level while he is caged. He is dressed in black Sauron-like armor, and wields scythes, but he happens to be one of the few sane humans left, and claims to be here to help fight demons as well. When you let him out, he thanks you and says he'll remember this. When you return to the Nexus later, instead of finding the usual scene of just another NPC added, you find two dead bodies. If you do nothing, the next bodies will be those of the shop keepers (some of whom have items you can't get elsewhere). This continues until either you talk to him, where upon he attacks you, revealing that he was here to kill all humans left in the kingdom, or he runs out of NPCs and sticks around waiting for you to talk to him.
    • You also have Patches the Hyena, who every time you "help" him, he traps you with a horrible enemy, Satsuki, who if you're good offers you a quest to grab a sword where at the end he tries to kill you with it if you give it to him, tries to kill you to steal it if you don't, and just straight up tries to kill you if he see's you with it equipped, if you're bad, his evil version tries to kill you without even bothering with the quest, and of course there is the end of the game where you get to be a Monumental, a living seal for the Old One until you die, assuming that the Maiden in Black was just doing the same routine as last time, though this is up for debate. Oh, this also means that all Soul Arts will be gone from the world.
  • One of the main ways Red Dead Redemption shows that it is depressing and cynical as hell is showing how nearly every good deed John performs ultimately amounts to nothing. Help the desperate hooker make a new life for herself? Her pimp hunts her down and murders her. Help a Chinese immigrant get back to his lover? He dies of an opium overdose before he's even halfway there. Help a woman whose pregnant get funds from her illegitimate suitor? It turns out she's a con artist, and you just killed an innocent man (albeit in self defense) and left a distraught woman widowed...
  • [[The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind]]: You may encounter a woman who will ask you to retrieve a ring from a pond. Say yes, hop in and grab it (if you can find the damn thing), and she and her visibly invisible friend will attack you. "No good deed goes unpunished, outlander," indeed.
  • So at the beginning of Singularity, an unstable time warp sends you back to 1955, right into the midst of a burning building and dying Soviet scientists. You find one man running for his life, only for the floor to collapse beneath him. Naturally, you grab his hand and carry him to safety. Oh, the catch? Turns out Dr. Demichev had cruelty to rival Stalin and because you saved him, the project he was working on went further than it ever had in the original history, giving him fantastic weapons that allowed him to take over the world. And the only way to undo it is to go back in time and kill yourself. If you do so, it causes a Snap Back to the beginning of the game so you don't technically die... then you find out you're in an alternate timeline where the Soviet Union still rules the world, albeit with a (hopefully) much more benevolent person in charge.
  • Return to Krondor plays this straight, at the beginning of the game no less. You can tear down a sweatshop that uses children as labourers. Now while this may give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, it turns out that there are consequences. The owner of the sweatshop, Yusef, worked for Jazhara's uncle in Kesh. You will encounter Izmali assassins - ninja-like killers who will attack you with poisoned daggers. They were apparently paid by Jazhara's uncle to kill you for meddling in the affairs of Kesh. You will encounter a group of them in the third chapter of the game, and another group roughly halfway through the game. In the second last chapter, you will find a dead group of these assassins. If you search their bodies, you will find out in a letter written by Jazhara's uncle that The Crawler, who Yusef was an agent for, pulled strings and is the one actually responsible for these assassins being sent in the first place. Jazhara's uncle is trying to tell her that he knows she was not meddling in the affairs of Kesh, and that there is little he can actually do, due to the Crawler being quite powerful and elusive. You can decide not to even investigate the sweatshop, and you will never be accosted by the Izmali assassins.
  • In Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Big Boss, when he participated in the Mozambician War of Independence, rescued a war orphan named Frank Jaegar after fighting him, and placed him in a rehab facility hoping that he would recover and be safe. Unfortunately for him, he didn't realize until after the fact that some CIA personnel accessed the rehab facility and took Frank Jaegar and placed him into an inhuman experiment called the Perfect Soldier Project, of which he was the sole successful, surviving result, turning him into Null.
  • Civilization 4 has a random wartime event that tells you the enemy has shown unexpected mercy towards wounded prisoners of war, and that this could be a stepping stone towards negotiations for peace. The player then receives the option to either force a 10 turn peace treaty with a +1 bonus to the relations with the enemy civ, or continue the fight. The option to continue the fight actually says "No good deed shall go unpunished".
  • Support nice old man Harrowmont to keep ruthless fratricidal bastard Bhelen off the throne of Orzammar in Dragon Age? Congratulations, Harrowmont gets assassinated within a year of his coronation and Orzammar is back to where it was before you intervened.
  • One of the defining tropes of Space Quest. So you saved the galaxy, the ambassador of Star Con, and the crew of an entire starship, defeating the Big Bad for good measure. So what's your reward for doing so? You are forcibly and literally stripped of your rank, demoted to Janitor, and basically told to be lucky that you weren't convicted of war crimes.
  • In Dark Souls the "reward" for following through with the quest to link the First Flame is a horrible burning existence as the new Cinder. And it's doubtful how "good" this deed really is.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Bruno Bozzetto's "How to Drive: Yes and No"
  • This Lord of the Rings fanfiction. The title says it all.
  • Agent Washington from Red vs. Blue could be a poster child for this trope. He went against his orders to spare Agent South's life... and she shot him in the back as thanks (following orders from the same command as him, no less). After he returns to work, instead of receiving the support he needs to stop The Meta, he gets saddled with bureaucracy and a team full of idiots. And after he takes down that military organization and puts a stop to its numerous unsanctioned experiments based on fragmented AIs, he gets slapped with a number of criminal charges for his efforts (most notably, 7 counts of destruction of military property).
  • The ending of Operation Graveyard counts as this. See it HERE
  • In V4 of Survival of the Fittest, Luke Templeton talks Clio Gabriella out of committing suicide and generally helps her out. How does she repay him? By shooting him in the chest and head.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • There's a Donald Duck cartoon short where Donald gives an ant a bit of sugar out of kindness. In return for his good deed, the ants invade his house for more and eventually cause it to blow up, presumably killing Donald.
  • In a similar vein, the episode "Can You Spare a Dime?" of SpongeBob SquarePants features Squidward quitting his job over a misunderstanding. When he ends up losing his house, Spongebob selflessly takes him into his own home, and takes care of him. Squidward "thanks" him by becoming a freeloader, forcing SpongeBob to wait on him hand and foot.
  • Happens rather brutally to Zuko in a season 2 episode of [[Avatar: The Last Airbender]] when a village he saves from corrupt guards instantly turns on him because he was a Firebender.
    • And even more brutally three years earlier when he spoke out against sacrificing newly-recruited soldiers, and got burned and banished for it.
    • And Haru in season 1, who saved an old guy from a cave using Earthbending, but was turned into the Fire Nation soldiers by said guy.
    • Azula of all people ships her brother and best friend together the result: Mai pulls a High Heel Face Turn betrayed her for Zuko and that was just the beginning
  • Eek! The Cat's catchphrase was "It never hurts to help!" It always did, though he often didn't notice.
  • Homer's mom became a runaway outlaw once she helped Mr. Burns after a bunch of hippies walked all over him. Even the producers lampshaded this in the commentary by saying that "Never act in kindness" was the moral.
    • Frank Grimes saves Homer from drinking a vial of acid, but smashes it against a wall. Burns chews out Grimes for wasting his precious acid (Though who keeps acid in the dining area?), and even worse, had he not saved Homer he might not have died.
    • Also, Ned Flanders attempted to be kind by allowing two female college students to stay while they sleep and work on their studies. How do they repay him? By using the room he rented out to them as a studio for a soft-core video site, sexy slumber party. Similarly in the same episode, Flanders attempts to be a good neighbor to his town and to Homer, but his attempts at good deeds are repaid by Homer leaking the video to the whole town, as well as the town cheering on the girls when he evicts them, and mocking him behind their backs.
    • Bart, as the Shadow Knight, decides to do a good deed and sacrifice two thirds of his life to resurrect an elf, Marge, although Marge tends to Bart, the same can't be said for the rest of the characters, deciding that his action meant he was easy pickings, and decided to take advantage of his weakened state by brutally slaughtering him.
    • When Homer became smart he sends a safety report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This leads to everyone losing their jobs.
  • Dib from Invader Zim, constantly. Perhaps most obvious in "Room With a Moose," where the kids mock, wedgy and ostracize him as he tries to warn them about Zim, and then has to use their cruel treatment of him to save their lives.
  • Buttons from Animaniacs embodies this trope. Every episode has Mindy getting out of her harness or crib etc, and causing Buttons to go and save her, going through absolute hell in the process. And at the end of every short the parents scolds him every FUCKING TIME!! Well, at least Mindy comforts him. He gets praised and rewarded for his dedication and loyalty in The Movie, however.
  • An episode of Adventure Time where Finn shares his food with a man who turns out to be a wizard. The wizard turns him into a giant foot for his kindness. The moral that this wizard was trying to teach Finn? People are jerks and you shouldn't help them.
  • Most of the time, when Disney's Aladdin does a good deed, it turns out okay. However, in "The Citadel", the introductory episode for Knight of Cerebus Evil Sorcerer Mozenrath, when Aladdin tries to save a woman and her baby from a monster, they're actually illusions designed to lure Aladdin in so that Mozenrath can try to talk him into capturing another monster. Aladdin refuses, because Mozenrath is Obviously Evil, but then gets sent to Mozenrath's castle anyway. He finally catches the creature, and then decides to do a good deed for it, letting it back into its own world rather than leaving it as a slave to Mozenrath. Essentially, good deeds were in this case punished with the bitter enmity of the series' most powerful villain.
  • Batman always follows through with one rule when dealing with the Joker, sometimes even saving the latter. Come Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and the flashback that ensued, Batman most likely will wish he hadn't followed that rule knowing that Batman was in a way responsible for the Joker's most horrific (as well as final) act.
  • In one Tom and Jerry cartoon, Tom is out in the snow and begs Jerry to help him. Jerry lets Tom into the penthouse apartment he lives in, warms Tom up, and gives him a hot meal. When the owner returns home and attempts to throw Tom out, he ingratiates himself to her by grabbing Jerry and throwing him out in the snow. Of course, this gives Jerry the justification he needs to scare Tom out of the house again and then ignore a second plea for help at the end of the cartoon.
  • X-Men: Evolution has the end of season 2: The sentinel is released, and by sticking around to fight it, the mutants are forced to reveal themselves, causing mass witch hunting and prejudice against them, even after they prove that they weren't responsible for the Sentinel and were the good guys there. Then, as the end of the series proves, the same thing happens when They defeat Apocalypse, and its revealed that mutant hatred will continue, more, and more powerful, sentinels will be built and used, one of their closest allies will be consumed by darkness, and at least two of them will be noticibly missing in the future line up. Hey, at least Magneto will become good and the Brotherhood will join SHIELD, but since it was SHIELD who were placed in charge of Sentinel production in the present, that might not be a good thing.
  • In an episode of Aladdin, thanks to Iago getting a bump on the head, he experienced an uncharacteristic amount of selflessness and charitability by giving away a lot of things, including Genie's lamp. Unfortunately, this characteristic ended up causing more harm than good not only to him, but to everyone near him as well.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • One example is that of Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a homeless man in NYC who attacked a mugger that was robbing a woman and succeeded in driving him off and allowing her to flee. He was stabbed for his troubles and bled to death on the sidewalk while about two dozen people walked by.
  • Additionally, crooked, lazy cops have been known to pin crimes on the people who called them just because they are having a difficult time finding the real criminal. Calling the cops and, as a consequence, being asked to testify in court as a witness can make them a target.
  • And when it comes gang violence, anyone who is a potential witness will either not call the cops or refuse to testify in court, fearing that the gang member's allies will hunt them and/or their family/friends down for revenge. Street gangs knew about this and some have started to wear shirts with the phrase "Don't Snitch" (or a variation of it) on them to intimidate people into keeping quiet.
  • Whistleblowers. You typically lose your job, can't easily find another with your status, and this is the best case scenario without legal repercussions or death threats.
  • Oliver Sipple saved President Gerald Ford. The resulting media frenzy over his heroic act outed him as a gay veteran, leading to estrangement from his conservative family and numerous unsuccessful lawsuits to the media.
  • A Mexican illegal alien while crossing the border stops to help a boy and his mother victims of a car crash, he gets detained and deported.
  • It is illegal in some states to top off parking meters in front of cars that don't belong to you, since it deprives the city of the money from a parking ticket.
  • It is illegal (operating a taxi without a license) in some cities to advertise a free service giving people a free ride home if they had too much to drink. This is because being able to get a drunk person into your car to take where you want is a wonderful opportunity for the less-than-generous, but it also causes people to drive when they really shouldn't.
  • The fact that Good Samaritan Laws exist in the US is a result of this. There are cases where a person tried to sue the person who performed CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver on them. In some cases this is because the good samaritan may performed life-saving technique wrong, injuring the victim even more than they already are, while certain other life-saving procedures result in injuries even when done correctly.[2] Because of events like this, people hesitate to help someone that is in trouble, fearing they will be punished for just trying to help out or hurt the victim even more.
    • In some emergencies, it really is preferable that non-experts not get involved, because they will either doom the victim or become new victims themselves. Drowning is a classic example. Don't jump into the water to rescue a swimmer in distress if you don't know what you're doing.
  • A grown man helping a child who is lost can get you marked as a sex offender and ruin your life.
  • The trope name is frequently quoted by Judge Judy, in cases where the plaintiff got screwed over by trying to help someone (usually by lending money to a deadbeat).
  • Read headlines at Fark.com and you'll eventually come across many of these.
  1. by demanding that Shinobu, his 'most powerful side' come out and fight after having had his ass handed to him by 'Minoru, the orator' and 'Katsuya, I do the sick work' and then rising above them
  2. one example being CPR, which tends to result in broken ribs