Here’s what “A good death is its own reward” means in Man of Steel:
There are a few possibilities, but it seems like Faora says the line to Hardy as a means of conveying respect to him for his courage.
He says the line to her partially as a taunt and partially as a mantra to find the courage for what he needs to do.
He might also be showing her respect in that moment.
So if you want to learn all about the meaning of the line “A good death is its own reward”, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get right into it!
What Is Man of Steel?
You might already know, but just in case there is any confusion, we’re discussing the 2013 Zack Snyder Superman film called “Man of Steel.”
This is the one that stars Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
We’re all on the same page now? Good.
There’s one more thing I need to discuss.
This line is tied to some pretty important events in the movie.
If you haven’t watched this movie yet (even though it’s been out for almost a decade), and you want to avoid spoilers, then you need to stop reading.
I can’t discuss this line without giving away major secrets about the plot.
With that said, let’s dive in.
Who Says the Line “A Good Death Is Its Own Reward”?
The line actually comes up twice in the movie.
It is said by Faora and Colonel Hardy, so let’s break it down.
Faora is Zod’s female subordinate.
That means she is one of the Kryptonian villains in the movie, and as such, she has the same powers as superman.
Meanwhile, Colonel Hardy is a member of the United States Air Force.
He is a significant character throughout, as he is running the arctic site when Lois Lane is introduced.
Hardy also leads U.S. forces in the fight against the Kryptonians, and that brings us to the first utterance of this interesting line.
Faora and Nam-Ek (another Kryptonian villain) are wreaking havoc in Kansas in a two-on-one fight against Superman.
Superman is struggling when U.S. forces, led by Hardy, show up to fight.
The human fighters stand absolutely no chance against the Kryptonians, and while Superman is busy fighting Nam-Ek, Faora completely dismantles the attack group.
With virtually no one left standing, Hardy (who was just in a helicopter crash) grabs a gun and unloads it on Faora.
It has no effect.
Hardy then grabs his sidearm and unloads all of it on Faora.
It still has no effect.
Amused by his efforts, Faora takes her time approaching Hardy, clearly intent on killing him.
Out of ammo, Hardy grabs his knife and prepares to fight her hand-to-hand.
That is when she smiles and says, “A good death is its own reward.”
Right before she can kill Hardy, Superman intervenes.
Later in the movie, Hardy is in command of an airplane that is carrying Kryptonian technology.
Their mission is to use that technology to stop Zod’s machine that will destroy the entire planet.
En route, Faora shows up and dismantles the team.
Hardy is the last one standing yet again.
He looks Faroa in the face and repeats her own words back at her, “A good death is its own reward.”
He then steers the airplane into Zod’s machine, killing them both.
Why Is “A Good Death Is Its Own Reward” Said?
That covers the contexts of how and when the line is said. Now, we can talk about why each character says it.
When Faora says the line to Hardy for the first time, she has a smile on her face.
But, she pauses when she sees the knife, and it seems that she has respect for Hardy’s courage.
From her perspective, he has absolutely no chance in this fight, and he probably knows that.
Despite the situation, he pulls the knife without hesitation.
She likely says the line to him out of a sign of respect, even though moments previously she was amused by the futility of his efforts.
When Hardy says the line near the end of the movie, it’s a mix of things.
For starters, he’s throwing her own words back at her in a bit of a taunt.
At the same time, he means the words, and he’s using them to convey his acceptance of his own fate.
I’ll get into deeper meanings next, but Hardy’s use of the line is probably more complex than Faora’s.
She says it specifically to him.
He says it to her and to himself.
What Does “A Good Death Is Its Own Reward” Mean? (4 Things)
Let’s get into what this really means.
The movie never elaborates on the line.
Even though it is said twice, it is up to the audience to extrapolate meaning from context clues in the film.
One thing that is very clear is that Hardy and Faora are in very different states of mind when they say the words.
Faora is in a dominant position and offering the words to an enemy.
Hardy is desperately trying to complete a high-stakes mission in the face of an unbeatable enemy, and as I already said, he is talking to himself as much as he is talking to Faora.
Considering those differences, there are several viable meanings behind the line.
I’ll explain the most compelling among them, and I’ll explain which ones I think are correct.
This is the most common take on the line, and it’s the first thing that popped into my head the first time I saw the movie.
There is a long history of warriors pursuing an honorable death.
Such a death would come from battle, and the dying warrior would meet his or her fate without fear and without ever giving up.
It might be a romanticization of battle, but regardless, it’s an idea that has been around for a long time.
Faora is suggesting that Hardy is about to have an honorable death.
In the face of overwhelming odds, he is showing steadfast courage, and she recognizes that.
She sees him as a true warrior, even if he can’t win the fight, and she comments on that with her line.
A true warrior values the honor of a good death over the necessity of winning the fight—or something along those lines.
Meanwhile, when Hardy says it, he knows he is going to die, but he knows he is dying honorably.
He is fulfilling his duty to put his life between the citizens and danger.
Living up to that commitment is honorable, and the honor of that good death is rewarding.
From a similar perspective, this could be more about glory than honor.
Dying in battle is often considered a glorious way to die.
Or, put in another way, one can die for the sake of or in pursuit of glory.
In such a case, facing insurmountable odds only adds to the glory that is available for capture.
A good way to think about this is to look to real history.
One of the most remembered battles of all time is that of Thermopylae.
That is where the legendary 300 Spartans all died fighting a massive Persian army.
While much of that story is myth over history, it highlights the point.
The names of those Spartans are still remembered, thousands of years later.
They found glory in death that far outlived any of them.
From that perspective, the glory of death was the reward for fighting.
Applying this to Man of Steel, Faora is suggesting that Hardy is earning a glorious death at her hands.
Likewise, Hardy might be recognizing that there is glory in sacrificing yourself to fulfill your duty and save others.
This one doesn’t really apply to Faora, but I think this is the most likely reason that Hardy said the line right before his demise.
From his perspective, a good death is one that has meaning.
When you can die for the sake of a cause or a person, that’s a good death.
For him, there can be no greater meaning than being able to save lives, even at the cost of his own.
In this case, his mission is to literally save the entire world.
Considering that, his death is a great sacrifice because of how many lives it will save.
His reward is knowing that his sacrifice has value, and in that way, it’s rewarding to be able to die in such a manner.
What death could have more meaning?
And this explanation doesn’t really apply to Hardy.
From this perspective, the idea is that Faora is quite full of herself.
Considering how she toys with the human soldiers when she fights them, that’s believable.
It’s especially apparent when she slowly approaches Hardy with a smirk on her face.
She’s looking down on him.
Earlier, I suggested that she pauses when he draws his knife out of respect, but it’s possible that she is not capable of respecting Hardy.
She does think of humans as a lower life form, so she might not acknowledge the act as brave—rather she sees it as stupid or futile.
If that’s the case (which I think is possible but less likely), then her reasons for saying the line are a little different.
Instead of acknowledging Hardy, she’s praising herself.
She is saying that a death by her hand is a privilege, and he should feel honored.
In this case, she is handing out the reward, personally, in the form of a good death.
It’s all a reflection of her own vanity.