I am watching Homeland season 4. It seems the authors employ a trope where protagonist makes a decision to save one US citizen life, but that decision then leads to loss of dozens of US citizens and potentially local assets:

In the season protagonists have several opportunities to kill bunch of baddies together with one of the assets or US citizen. For example, they could've dropped a rocket on Saul and Haqqani, or drone'd Haqqani and his nephew. Also Carrie could've let Saul kill himself. Instead it leads to baddies break into embassy and kill 36 people.

is it a trope? What is it's name?

  • 3
    "Name for "saved one life but then lost many" trope": tragedy?
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 18:05
  • 1
    In German it's called FUBAR!
    – Rahul
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 16:04
  • 3
    The trolley problem? Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


Always Save the Girl

As per TVTropes:

The hero makes it plain that they value the life of their Love Interest over those of everyone else: friends, family, True Companions, strangers, even all other life in the universe. It can come about as the result of a Sadistic Choice, only having enough time to rescue one person out of several [Restricted Rescue Operation], a case of The Dulcinea Effect, or whatever other requirements the plot puts in their way and plainly making a decision.

As long as the hero shows a decent amount of angst over the decision [Dirty Business], the audience might sympathize.

As with all tropes, this is only the blueprint, and the specifics might not apply entirely to the examples you have in mind.


Couple of options, based on the situation:

  1. No good deed goes unpunished for when punishment is applied to the protagonist making the decision
  2. The road to hell is paved with good intentions – when situation can deteriorate but not directly affect the protagonist
  3. The trolley problem (as suggested in comments by Darth Pseudonym) – when the choice is clearly presented

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