The Final Temptation

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When the plot (usually courtesy of the antagonist), in a last ditch effort, tempts the hero into abandoning his potentially painful and tragic cause to pursue what would be a fairly ordinary and happy life, especially with a vision or daydream of said situation. The true hero, naturally, doesn't fall for this, or at least acknowledges he has a higher calling.

Occasionally, the dream implies whatever the hero was doing has been done somehow, and they shouldn't worry about it now. Although sometimes the quest still exists but is suddenly Somebody Else's Problem.

Different than All Just a Dream in that the audience usually isn't supposed to be fooled by this; not everyone in the "dream" plays along, and usually a friend of the hero or a vision of them appears in the fantasy, outright confirming it's fake.

This might be the fantasy conjured up by a Lotus Eater Machine, and often fails when it overplays its promise. May be used in conjunction with More Than Mind Control, though the villain has the added burden of first convincing the victim the offer is what they want.

The name is drawn from the novel and film The Last Temptation of Christ, in which Satan tempts the dying Jesus with a vision of a long and happy life where he gets to marry Mary Magdalene and raise a family as a simple farmer.

Compare We Can Rule Together. See also Leave Your Quest Test, but without necessarily a supernatural slide show. Not to be confused with the last temptation in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral.

Examples of The Final Temptation include:

Anime

  • Whilst not the main protagonist, Fate Testarossa undergoes this in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's.
  • The episode where this happened to all of the Digidestined (except Davis) in Digimon Adventure 02 was actually titled "The Last Temptation of the DigiDestined". Davis was actually able to avoid the effects because, unlike the other brooding heroes of the series, Davis was perfectly happy as he was.
    • This example crosses over with Lotus Eater Machine, as the Big Bad used his powers to trap the DigiDestined in illusions not just designed to distract them, but that were actually based on their deepest desires.
  • The infamous Schoolyard Comedy sequence in the final episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's up for debate whether Shinji's fantasy world was a real possibility or just an Instrumentality-induced illusion, which is probably intended.
  • In the anime My-HiME, Mai experiences this at one of her lowest points courtesy of another HiME's powers. Her temptation is an idyllic life free of the many tragedies that have afflicted Mai's thus far but she rejects it for harsh reality. (And mind you, this is not even her last temptation; that would be the temptation to remake the world to her liking, which she eventually rejects as well.)
  • This happens to Tenchi Muyo! near the end of Tenchi In Tokyo, in which the temptation is to be with his girlfriend Sakuya forever in a dream world after she was erased from the real world. This comes after the revelation that Sakuya was created by Yugi for the sole purpose of preventing Tenchi from being able to stop Yugi's evil plan. Ironically, it's Sakuya herself (having gained a will of her own) who gets Tenchi to leave, at the cost of her own life.
  • In the last episode of Angel Sanctuary Setsuna creates a picture perfect world in which there are no angels fighting, Sara is not his sister and mass destruction has not occurred. It doesn't last long, of course.
  • Arguably, Ergo Proxy provides an example of this trope as Vincent dreams/conjures/creates a version of Romdeau in which he holds the high position of Head of Security, Real is his fiancée and Deadelus her friendly genius kid brother.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has one in the form of a Lotus Eater Machine imposed by the Anti-Spirals. Particularly touching in that it shows Viral (originally a Noble Demon mortal enemy of the protagonists who eventually sides with them out of necessity), who can't reproduce, with a wife and child in the dream world, who he has to leave behind to return to the battle.
  • In fourth Suzumiya Haruhi novel, Kyon finds himself in a world without any of the former supernatural elements (gods, aliens, time travelers, etc...), and no one else remembers the world being any other way. A Memory Gambit of sorts by Yuki leads Kyon to a one-time opportunity to choose between staying and having ordinary fun with a depowered SOS Brigade and a Moe Moe Yuki (!!!) who has a crush on him... and trying to revert the world. Kyon chooses the latter, showing that he really does like strange and exciting things no matter how he complains. The fact that Yuki wanted to be a normal schoolgirl "free of her old duties" yet gave Kyon the option to change things back means it's somewhat of a Last Temptation for her, too, and he knows it.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico sees the crew of the titular Cool Ship deserting it late in the series and trying to find happiness in normal lives they had before... only to fail the last part miserably and return to battle like real heroes should.
  • Similarly, the Solo crew in Space Runaway Ideon are tempted to leave Solo Ship and Ideon behind in Earth or Buff Clan's possession, ending their hopeless and endless Stern Chase across the universe for good. Eventually, they don't and it doesn't end well.
  • GaoGaiGar has this happen during the TV Series has Gai being shown a vision of himself awakening from a two year coma. He of course breaks free using the power of HotBlood.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Evangeline trying to convince Setsuna to give up her swordsmanship in favor of living the life of a normal girl. It doesn't go as planned. Maybe.


Comic Books

  • The Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, in which Superman's mind is trapped in an illusion induced by an evil plant called the Black Mercy, depicting him living a happy life on an intact planet Krypton. He later breaks free of it through sheer force of will, then turns his full unstoppable fury on Mongul, the guy who put him into the illusion. This is one of the few times we witness Superman go all out on someone with intent to kill, and it's both awesome and terrifying.
  • There's a part in Catwoman in which the titular character ends up in a weird mind-control machine on some other planet somewhere. She's invincible and feared by everyone; it takes a lot for Lex Luthor to get her to snap out of it.


Fanfic

  • In the JLA Watchtower universe, Hades attempted to persuade Omen to his side, and convince her to let him kill the Titans so that they could go to Elysium, instead of letting her and Troia return to life with them. They would have a life in paradise as innocent children, with Omen taking Persephone's place as Queen of the Dead. Hades also broadly hinted at why heroes get a revolving door at the afterlife...and this was written 4 years before Blackest Night!


Film

  • The Nexus in Star Trek Generations, which offered to anyone who entered their happiest fantasies come to life. It didn't work on Picard. He was always at his happiest when on the Enterprise, and the Nexus deprived him of that, giving him the chance to see through the illusion. Even so, the chance to see his beloved (but recently deceased) nephew again and to live with the family his career never left time for is almost enough to tempt him into staying, if lives weren't hanging in the balance
  • Jareth does this at the climax of Labyrinth, offering Sarah himself and all her fantasies come true if she stays with him. He is undone with six words: "You have no power over me."


Literature

  • One of the earlier examples is from G. K. Chesterton's book The Ball and The Cross: At the pinnacle of an extended metaphor revolving around the eponymous shapes, "Professor" Lucifer successively tempts the two protagonists (a Catholic and an Atheist) with monarchic and anarchistic utopias, respectively. Both refuse his offer by falling out of the airship, the first trusting in miracles and the second in the fact that he's probably dreaming.
  • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, the only Ringbearer in history to refuse the temptation of the One Ring. Being the quintessential hobbit, this was attributed to his "plain hobbit sense." He imagines a garden the size of an entire realm, then realizes it'd be impossible to manage and unfulfilling to have servants do it for him.
  • Achilles is told early on that if he does not go to the war he will find peace and have a family of his own but he will eventually be forgotten; if he goes to Troy, his name will last for eternity but he will die there.]] Guess which one he took.
  • Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock: the telepathic Wyverns put Shann Lantee through a test involving illusions, including reunion with a pet he'd had a few years before -- "the only thing Shann had ever known which he could love wholeheartedly...." To pass that part of the test, he had to force himself to recall in detail how his pet died, in pain from an injury Shann was powerless to heal. He was, understandably, in a rather bad mood for some time afterwards.
  • I, Lucifer has Jesus being tempted by Lucifer in order to sway him from sacrificing himself. Unlike the bible, Lucifer states he simply showed him a vision of the future in order to see if it would be worth it. The vision shakes Jesus' faith but God strikes the vision with lightning and Christ regains his resolve. Leading Luce to angrily point out God had cheated when aiding Jesus through his test.
  • In The Belgariad, Farm Boy-turned-hero Garion is on his way to confront the Dark God, Torak, when he begins dreaming of a life in which he is not orphaned, with the implication that Torak could make it happen if Garion gives up the quest to slay him. Garion sees through it with the help of the Light Prophecy, and delivers a defiant Shut UP, Hannibal.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Nynaeve finds herself in a world where she and Lan have married, had kids, and settled down to peaceful farm life. Different from many examples in that the temptation is not created by a villain, but is part of a magical test she has to pass to join the Aes Sedai.


Live Action TV

  • In the third season (2007) Doctor Who episode Family of Blood, the Doctor, before deciding to change back to a Time Lord, sees a vision of himself as a human, marrying, having children, and growing old.
    • Unusually, the vision may have had an effect on The Doctor, as it's quite likely WHY the Family received their fate worse than death.
    • And in the second season (2006) episode "School Reunion", the Krillatines offer the Doctor the chance to share in the power of the Skasis Paradigmn, allowing him to bring his people back from extinction.
  • Supernatural, "What Is And What Should Never Be": Dean has to choose between his life as a hunter and a Lotus Eater Machine where his mother is still alive, his father died of natural causes, and Sam finished law school and got engaged to Jessica.
    • Especially epic (and also arguably trope-subverted) in that Dean makes the decision to try and break free before he knows that its an illusion. Regardless of how much better life was for himself and his family, Dean wouldn't accept it at the price of all the innocent lives him and Sam had saved as Hunters. He would have refused the temptation even if it had been true.
  • The spores in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "This Side Of Paradise" caused the target to be content with living a simple comfortable life, abandoning any greater ambitions.
  • An episode of The X-Files had Mulder imagining that he'd given up his crusade for a peaceful life. Darkly subverted in that it ends with him dying in bed with only the Cigarette-Smoking Man for company, who then looks out the window to watch an alien spacecraft bombarding a destroyed Earth.
  • Not exactly the same sort of temptation, but fitting the trope: An episode of Scrubs introduces Dr Cox's friend Ben (an avid photographer who likes to take spontaneous pictures, claiming that 'posed pictures aren't real'), who gets diagnosed with cancer. JD takes a liking to Ben, and gets convinced that the diagnosis is wrong - all his friends have complained how important files have been mixed up and the wrong patients sent to surgery and so on, and JD believes that the same thing happens here. After convincing the lab doctor to redo the test, Ben is proven to be healthy, and everything is rosy... and the edges of the frame starts getting kinda blurry... when Ben wants everyone to gather together for a group pic, JD thinks it's odd because doesn't Ben think pics like that aren't real? And Ben replies, "Don't you see? None of this is real." And that's when JD's wishful daydream, which has been going on since just before the second blood test, ends.
    • And in a later episode, Ben visits for Cox's son's birthday party, Dr. Cox blames JD for the death of a patient, and Ben manages to convince Dr. Cox to apologize. Later, Dr. Cox and Ben are on the way to the party, and JD arrives, prompting Dr. Cox to realize that Ben is not there, that Ben was in fact the patient who died and that they are attending his funeral rather than Jack's birthday party.
  • Happens in the Space: 1999 two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder".


Video Games

  • Persona 3 has an especially twisted and (for some) heart-wrenching variation: It turns out that one of the main character's friends from school, Ryoji Mochizuki, is actually the Cosmic Horror who will bring about The End of the World as We Know It Because Destiny Says So. However, because they've developed such a close friendship, Ryoji offers him the option of killing his physical avatar to erase the team's memories of the Dark Hour, meaning that when the End comes, everyone will die instantly instead of having to live with the knowledge that their doom approaches. In effect, the main character's choice boils down to accepting his fate and killing Ryoji, or letting him live and Screwing Destiny.
    • Made especially painful because everyone involved heavily plays up that Nyx is unbeatable and invincible, a force of nature that cannot be destroyed or pushed back, that to resist is meaningless - merely slow and painful death, complete and total despair as you watch the sands of your metaphorical hourglass tick away in a battle that is impossible to win, instead of a swift, merciful, blessedly unaware death..
  • Occurs in Neverwinter Nights (Hordes of the Underdark, to be specific) if you try to oppose the Elder Brain. It's not very tough to overpower the illusion - but fighting off the three big uglies that show up when you do is another matter. (After which the Elder Brain dies almost anticlimactically, since it's... well... a giant brain.)
  • In a not-very-Secret Test of Character in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, a figure representing your character's lost innocence tempts you to give up all your power and become this your younger self again. However, you don't even have the chance to acquiesce, and it's not clear how this rewinding the clock is supposed to be possible. When you refuse, "your innocence" will turn into the monstrous avatar of Bhaal you also have the ability to turn into and attack, making for a mildly challenging fight.
  • Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction plays with this right before the final boss fight with Tachyon, by showing Ratchet the dimension the Lombaxes had escaped to, and offering Ratchet a chance to join them, leaving Tachyon unopposed. Naturally, Ratchet claims he has a Higher Calling (i.e. kicking Tachyon's ass).
  • Part of the Air Gem tests in the AGD Interactive Fan Remake of King's Quest II. Graham is thrust forward in time to his darkest moment - Daventry is in ruins, the three-headed dragon ravaging the land has demanded Graham's daughter as a Human Sacrifice, and Graham's son was kidnapped by his enemies. That's when the Big Bad (who masterminded the whole thing in a Batman Gambit) shows up to gloat and offer a deal. He will send away the dragon, return Graham's kids, and restore the blighted kingdom in exchange for Graham's crown. It's playable, so you have several options. The one scoring the highest points is telling him that the act of passing on the crown to someone like him would be treason against the principles that Daventry is founded on, and that certain values must be put above oneself and one's family. The fiend ends up being quite impressed with your sense of loyalty.
  • The Perfect World in Fable 2. As a last ditch effort to keep you from stopping his plans, Lucien traps you in a Lotus Eater Machine that gives back the life you lost. You are a child, living in a beautiful estate, and your sister is alive again. After a day or so of fun and games, you are awakened by the Music Box you bought long ago. As you follow the music, the blissful dream gradually gives way to a nightmarish road littered with corpses. When you finally reach the box, the illusion shatters completely, and you set out to finish the quest once and for all.
  • Ramza of Final Fantasy Tactics is occasionally offered peace if he simply stops opposing the bad guys. Ramza naturally refuses every single one of them, much to the detriment of his reputation, causing history to remember him as a monster. In the end Ramza completes his goal of rescuing his sister and, according to Word of God, goes off to live in another country while antagonist Deltia, who has sold out all his principles to become king, is left alone and miserable despite being remembered by history as a hero.

Webcomics


Western Animation

  • Samwise Gamgee's temptation is played up in the animated The Return of the King. It comes in an intense A God Am I fantasy that pulls him within a second of being consumed by the Ruling Ring before his conscience rebelled.
  • This happened to Shipwreck in G.I. Joe in the episode "There's No Place Like Springfield".
  • In Barbie and the Diamond Castle, the heroines come across an isolated mansion and are told that it now belongs to them. As it would provide them with more food and dresses than they ever had before, Alexa wants to stay, while Liana feels they should continue on to the Diamond Castle to save the world from being robbed of all music. The two girls split up, but it turns out the mansion was just a trap set by the villain, and Alexa is promptly captured.
  • Dr. Facilier of The Princess and the Frog tempts Tiana with a vision of the restaurant she's been trying to open her entire life, in one of the straightest applications of this trope.
  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series featured Batman caught in a virtual dream world by the Mad Hatter (who fortunately could not observe the dream itself) living a life as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, with his parents alive and well (and thus he had never become Batman). In the dream he was engaged to Selina Kyle (who was not Catwoman) and the mysterious Batman was someone ELSE who just showed up in Gotham. His friends and family in the dream almost had him completely convinced he had created his real life as a delusion to escape his feelings of not having accomplished anything on his own, but the illusion fell apart when he discovered he couldn't read anything (because reading requires parts of the brain not used in dreams?). Suffice to say, he did NOT appreciate the Mind Screw when he woke himself up.
    • Trying to read something in a dream is a trick used by lucid dreamers to detect whether they are dreaming. Unless you have a photographic memory, your brain will have some trouble trying to remember or imagine a page full of text.
  • Used in The Penguins of Madagascar episode "The Lost Treasure of the Golden Squirrel".
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