Demonic legions, orc hordes, elven overlords, and gang leaders all do it. One of the continuous sins of fantasy and science-fiction to showcase how bad a villain is to randomly execute a nervous mook, a newcomer minion, god forbid one of team bad guy/antagonist isn’t perfect. There’s a difference between brutal efficiency in eliminating someone who purposely jeopardize a military action: that’s treason at worst, purposeful sabotage at best.
Often, this genre device was used to instill fear into an Overlord’s minions, to show the power of an Imperial officer, or how badass the 8ft demoness champion who don’t take no shit is.
But it’s a waste of resources. Randomly executing unnamed mooks doesn’t instill fear or awe in me as a reader. It bores me and makes me cringe. First, executing said minion realistically might instill fear, but what it more often does is instill resentment, hatred, which contrary to fiction, are not a good means to maintain troop morale. Think of this way: you kill Korvo the Broken Fist and his sister, Marlia Two Fists, wants to now kill the White Fang Legion’s upper champion: Arylaz the Unbroken. But because their other unit member, Roglash, is the kin of Arylaz, it creates tension. It leads to paranoia. Unit cohesion breaks down, kin feuds grow, the unit’s tensions spreads through their lines, and woops, it leads to the disintegration of the Legion’s two year conquest due to lack of cooperation, the decline of trust between Legion officers, and Archhorn Illrisla is a goofball author protected villain because her creator cannot into basic military/psychological cohesion.
Also, if said mook is a seasoned frontline veteran, why in ten shits would you execute them? I mean, hello? Yes, let’s eliminate ten+ years respected mook who trained younger now seasoned soldiers. Wow, author, you really thought that one out. Fine, if it’s the character’s personality, let em do it. But employ consequences so I don’t throw my book across the bed because “shit’s grim and dark in my world. See, see how tough and ruthless you have to be to surv….” Pffffttttt. Yeah, ok, armchair general. And if I read/hear one more “our culture is built for war. Only warriors survive in our ranks…” Yeah, tell that to every warrior culture that collectively died their last breath in the face of modern soldier based armies.
The next time Arylz the Unbroken executes a weaker soldier, don’t worry, Bob the Star Eater will come to kill her and her demon legion to have mercy on their collective IQ drop.
GRIM AND DARK, MAN