My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right, if wrong, to be set right.
The second part of that phrase tends to be forgotten by some.
You know the type. He loves his country. He loves the people of his country. He loves the ruler of his country. But if serving his country’s ruler ever came at the expense of his country or its people, he’d follow orders. For no adequately explained reason, doing the legal thing is more important to him than doing the right thing. Even if millions of his people have died in wars fought for reasons only the rulers care about, and are still dying around him, even if his country’s ruler has outright said he aims to summon Not Satan and bring about eternal night and destroy the world. Even if you’re a protagonist with a huge army that could easily kill the final boss, and he could join you and help set his country right, maybe even take over afterwards…
Your army probably even already has somebody from the Evil Army Of Evil who was forgiven of all his crimes and recruited mid-war! Maybe two, or three somebodies from that evil army! Why would they have nothing to say about an enemy general who would rather “die honourably” for team evil than risk death trying to oppose it? Why would they have anything positive to say about it?
It’s like the author wants a tragic scene where “war is bad” and you’re forced to kill someone “good” on the enemy team so you feel bad, there might even be sad music playing, but if your only choices are to die at the hands of dictators or serve them or surrender to them or kill them, you must kill dictators, that is your moral responsibility, your obligation. It’s what separates you from the dictators and their pawns and their enablers. An argument could be made that a farmer in Devilsburg shouldn’t be beheaded for being a farmer when it was ruled by devil worshippers, as he had to feed his family one way or another, but can somebody in the Demon Corps of Devilsburg helping them kill babies and conquer other nations to steal the eight Destiny Stones and help Lord Darkhon destroy the universe really claim they’re innocent? Dictators are nothing without order-following enforcers willing to get their hands dirty and die for evil causes. What is an army when most of its forces desert or join the resistance, and those who remain are too afraid to go after the armed friends and families of those who refuse to serve?
If the villain who serves evil because “He’s my king, what am I supposed to do, stop being a Monarchist?” is supposed to be seen as a hypocrite with a bad excuse for putting the whims of the King over the needs of people that should matter more to him than an old tyrant’s feelings, fine, let somebody come right out and say it. But if he’s supposed to be a flawed person doing bad things for flawed reasoning, at least one character should say it to his face so we can see what happens. When a hero goes along with it and says “You’re so noble and honourable, a true gentleman, right up until the end!” and lets him face death with a clear conscience after dying trying to kill humanity’s last hope for a better world, maybe even humanity’s last hope for there to be any world to save, it feels… off.
Somebody on the ground floor of a conflict between nations over water or land or resources can probably tell himself “I’m the hero of my own story” with a straight face. But when that country he’s killing for is cartoonishly evil, and ruled by cartoonishly evil worshippers of cartoonishly evil monsters? I don’t know, man. Feels like a bit of a stretch to pretend he doesn’t bear part of the blame of the nation he chooses to aid in its quest to conquer all, or worse, eliminate all.
Anybody here remember Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin aka Advance Wars: Dark Conflict? That game handled the idea of an evil enemy general better. You know, the old guy. He wasn’t even evil, he was just doing what was right for his country. You were working for the evil general, it was great, and he went and betrayed your trust and killed that guy for honourably surrendering with the expectation that his men (those who didn’t die fighting) would be spared and treated humanely. Then you turned on the evil general to protect the team blue people, it was great. Wasn’t the whole red team vs blue team conflict the fault of the evil general or evil doctor behind it all anyway? That worked. No jarring moment of crying over one dead soldier after cutting down hundreds while levelling up and quipping.
This trope CAN work if there are two countries that come into conflict for logical reasons. This trope CAN work if the whole point of the story is that the people on all sides of the conflict are people and the real darkness was the curse of hatred and the cycle of revenge and there is no objectively evil dark cult of doom out to destroy the world. This trope CAN work if the villain working for team evil is supposed to look like more of a coward than anybody who already swapped sides to join the hero. But after seeing so many stories try to recreate this moment without putting in the work to make it make sense, I have to wonder, why? Any named character you cut down in the name of saving the world from an evil cult’s objectively evil world-ending plans isn’t guaranteed more emotion and consideration from the viewer than the fifty-something unnamed grunts he had march to their deaths against you before you got to him and took him out to get the chance to spare any men and women under him.