Created By: Chabal2 on April 4, 2018 Last Edited By: Koveras on April 7, 2018
Troped

Overzealous Underling

An underling takes their orders too far, resulting in problems for everyone.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
trope
Alice gives her underling Bob an order, which is then carried out far beyond what Alice asked for or intended.

If punished, the underling may feel it's a Bewildering Punishment. May be pulled off by the Psycho for Hire, Blood Knight or Obstructive Bureaucrat. Shoot the Dangerous Minion is a possible outcome.

Compare Poisonous Friend, Just Following Orders (what the underling thinks they're doing) and Rhetorical Request Blunder (when the order was stated but was never intended to be carried out in the first place) and Gone Horribly Right.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Gate: After Pina has negotiated an incredibly generous (compared to her society's usual reparation demands) settlement with the JSDF (they mostly want hostages back instead of punitive damages from the attack on Tokyo), her knights (unaware of the treaty, since messages can't go faster than horses) run into Itami, who they think is still an enemy and violently torment all the way back to the castle. Pina lashes out at Bozes and orders her to sleep with Itami to salvage the situation. Unfortunately, Bozes finds Itami in the middle of a tea party with his squad and some Petting Zoo People maids and slaps him. Pina then decides to go along with the JSDF to Japan in order to prevent any more screwups from her troops.
  • Sixshot is portrayed as such in Transformers Energon: due to his own vendetta against Optimus Prime, he frequently goes against Galvatron's orders to target the Autobots. Repeated disobeying of orders, almost killing his own side in the process or just butting into Galvatron's own obsessive rivalry with Prime made him the constant target of violent lambastings and tantrums from his Control Freak Bad Boss. Sure enough, this pattern slowly embittered Sixshot into The Starscream, sabotaging and blackmailing Galvatron with Cybertron's artillery to force him to deal with things his way, and eventually attacking and almost killing him, deeming the commander an interference to his own troops. Galvatron escaped and underwent an Emergency Transformation, making sure to crush Sixshot first thing before dealing with the Autobots.

Comic Books
  • Blake and Mortimer: In "The Oath of the Five Lords", an MI-5 agent is certain Lawrence of Arabia is betraying his country, having seen him in the company of foreign operatives. The agent (who's also jealous and resentful of Lawrence) inducts a young Henry Blake to unwittingly help him murder Lawrence for his betrayal... who it turns out was infiltrating on his superiors' orders. Oops.
  • Les Innommables: Colonel Lychee and the Dog-Man take a few of the latter's crewmen to dig up buried treasure. Lychee shoots them dead once they're done, telling the angry Dog-Man that they won't have to worry about them blabbing. The Dog-Man then says that's not the reason he's angry: they could just as easily have killed them onboard the ship, now Lychee will have to row the two of them back.
  • The Punisher: "When Frank Sleeps" has Frank go back in time to Prohibition, where he beats the crap out of Capone's goons before offering his services as a hitman. Capone uses Frank to exterminate rival gangs, then holds a victory banquet where the guests (members of Capone's gang who'd failed or betrayed him in some way) are all tied up so Capone can beat them to death with a baseball bat, citing his fear of Frank becoming this trope during the Motive Rant. Frank breaks free and kills Capone, destroying organized crime in America before it could become too powerful, saving his family from the mob shootout in Central Park in the future... and then he wakes up.
  • In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) #109, the Crimson Twins botch an order from Cobra Commander and order several captive Joes executed. An overzealous SAW Viper steps forward and immediately shoots; actually killing several of the prisoners. As this was not what Cobra Commander intended, this cause problems for everyone involved.

Film
  • In The Quick and the Dead, when the Quick Draw tournament is down to Herod and Cort, the night before the final match Herod has his follower Ratsy work Cort over, since Cort attempted to attack Herod earlier in the day. During the course of this, Ratsy breaks Cort's right hand. Herod, who claims that he's wanted to have a proper gunfight with Cort even back when the two were bandits together, so they can find out who really is the Fastest Gun in the West, is pissed when he sees what Ratsy did.

Jokes
  • A knight returns from a campaign and reports to his king:
    Knight: Sire, I have defeated your enemies to the north, to the west, to the east and to the south!
    King: South? We don't have any enemies to the south!
    Knight: Oh. Well, you do now.

Literature
  • The Sign Of Four: Small's accomplice is an Andaman native who thought he was carrying out Small's orders by killing Sholto (all Small wanted was to find the treasure Sholto's father had stolen from him), and is entirely surprised when Small lashes out at him.
  • 20 Years After: Grimaud takes his job as Beaufort's prison guard comically seriously, removing the duke's comb and a glass shard in accordance with the rule that the prisoner may not have any pointy or sharp objects on him. It's an act so no one will suspect he's actually there to help with Beaufort's escape.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • In "The Traitor's Hand", the Imperial Guard finds evidence of a daemon summoning ritual, though too late to find anything useful. Another site is discovered, but the overly puritanical Tallarn soldiers and their commissar Beije completely destroy the site before the psykers can examine it. Because Beije believes Cain to be acting traitorously (along with a big helping of resentment), he attempts to arrest Cain with a Tallarn squad as he investigates the final site, inadvertently providing Cain with reinforcements to defeat the daemon princess as she's summoned and character witnesses for his heroic behavior.
    • In "Duty Calls", a squad of Sororitas gets so caught up in burning Tyranids that they leave their position, leaving a gap in the line they're supposed to be defending and leaving the temple/refugee camp wide open. Cain gets them back in by pointing out that their noble sacrifices mean certain death for the civilians depending on them for protection.
  • Harry Potter: After Fudge orders the Daily Prophet to libel Harry as a delusional attention seeker for claiming that Voldemort returned, Umbridge takes it on herself to ensure his silence by siccing Dementors on him. While Fudge is forced to admit that Voldemort is back, having seen him with his own eyes, she isn't punished for this, staying with the Ministry until she is finally sent off to Azkaban after Voldemort's defeat.
  • This is a recurring problem for many sides in both A Song of Ice and Fire and its tv adaption Game of Thrones.
    • Tywin Lannister loves the terror inspired by his brute Gregor Clegane. Mostly Tywin sends Gregor out to add onto that reputation by doing all the thug work for the Lannisters, meaning a whole lot of Rape, Pillage, and Burn. Gregor is so enthusiastic in these tasks that it sometimes backfires. Multiple characters note that Gregor is too bloodthirsty and sadistic to take highborn captives, often killing them just because when he could get rich ransoms for them or use them strategically as hostages. And Gregor's needless rape and murder of Princess Elia years before the start of the story drove one of Elia's brothers to carefully plot to overthrow and destroy the Lannisters and everything they care about, while the other brother would eventually give Gregor a poisoned spear in the gut that caused him to die slowly and in horrific agony.
    • In the book, Robb Stark's uncle Edmure disobeys orders to stay put, (orders which are admittedly vague) and decides to move his army to block Tywin Lannister's army from crossing a river, repelling the large force with minimal losses in a series of minor skirmishes. Edmure believes he's doing the right thing by his nephew and that it was the only reasonable course based on what he knew, but this prevents Tywin from crossing the river and being caught in an ambush where Robb might have been able to crush the entire army. In the TV adaption he acts on his own initiative and wins a Pyrrhic Victory against Gregor Clegane instead, but Clegane and most of his force escape and it ruins a trap Robb had planned for Clegane.

Live-Action TV
  • Kaamelott: Grudu (Arthur's viking bodyguard) has a surefire method of ensuring no assassins can reach the king: murder anyone who passes near the king's bedroom (be it a servant who's just coming to light the candles or a knight of the Round Table) or gets near the king (such as, say, the king's current bedmate). Arthur tries to pull a Logic Bomb on him by holding a dagger to his own throat, but quickly stops as he sees Grudu about to go berserk.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Tone is the right-hand man of early Big Bad, Cottonmouth. Tone is so aggressively loyal to his boss that when the messenger from a much more powerful criminal doesn't show Cottonmouth the proper respect, Tone makes things difficult by threatening said messenger. Later, when a young crook steals money from him, Cottonmouth learns that he's hiding in the barber shop where Luke Cage and his friend/mentor, Pop, work. Cottonmouth is an old friend of Pop and respects his rule that the barber shop is neutral ground; Tone thinks that this makes his boss look weak, so he goes against orders and shoots up the entire shop, accidentally killing Pop while still failing to kill the target they were after. This move is so poorly thought-out that not only does Cottonmouth become enraged by his friend's death, but this act is the Inciting Incident that leads to Luke Cage rising up against crime in Harlem. For this (and many, many other mistakes Tone makes by the end of the episode), he gets murdered by Cottonmouth.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40K:
    • A frequent problem when Space Marines (or Sororitas) and Imperial Guard are working together, as the former have a tendency to forget the Guardsmen don't have their superhuman physiology/insane devotion to sniffing out and purging heresy, preferably with fire, resulting in entirely avoidable losses because they didn't wait for the Guard to catch up.
    • Exploited by the Space Wolves chapter of Space Marines, whose newest recruits are taken from their Viking Age-level societies convinced they're now in Warrior Heaven. They use them as land and airborne assault troops, reasoning that if they're going to rush into battle instead of using proper tactics, they may as well do so with the appropriate equipment. Once they've gotten it out of their system after a few battles, they can be trusted to hold different roles such as line troops or heavy weaponry.
    If they are so eager to die, and they will not heed the advice of their superiors, then let them rush headlong into the jaws of the lion. We can only hope some of them get caught in its throat.
  • In Monster of the Week, this is the point of the "Helper"-type bystanders: they are NPCs whose motivation is to assist the player-controlled monster hunters, but are mechanically treated as threats by the game, since in their zeal, they routinely cause more trouble than benefit.

Video Games
  • You can be given the chance to do this in Neverwinter Nights 2, depending on whether you side with the City Watch or the Shadow Thieves in the first chapter. If you side with the Watch, Marshal Cormick will order you to root out members of the Watch who are taking bribes; if you do so by killing them, Captain Brelaina will chew you out for your "foul" and "unrelenting" approach to justice. If you side with the Thieves, your handler Moire will command you to burn down the Watch post... after which her boss, Axle, will complain that your recklessness has started a war between the Watch and the Thieves which he didn't need.
  • In Far Cry 4, The Generalissimo Pagan Min's Establishing Character Moment has him nonchalantly kill a soldier who gets overenthusiastic and opens fire on a busful of people he was supposed to detain.
    Pagan: I distinctly remember staying stop the bus. Yes, stop the bus. Not shoot the bus...
    Soldier: It got out of control.
    Pagan: Out of control. I hate when things get out of control. [Stabs him in the throat] You had one fucking job and you couldn't fucking do that!

Webcomics
  • In The Order of the Stick, Lord Shojo orders Miko to arrest the titular band of adventurers supposedly for a great offense they inadvertently committed, but really because Shojo wants to recruit them for a secret, vitally important mission he can't assign to his own forces. Miko, not knowing this and being a Knight Templar with a big dose of Black and White Insanity, decides midway through tracking them that, considering their offense, she will act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner should they not surrender immediately, even without her giving them an explanation. By the time Durkon gets her to see reason, she could have easily killed several members of the group.

Web Original
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: In "World's Strongest", Dr . Wheelo is a giant Brain in a Jar who depends on his Dragon Kochin to get a body. Unfortunately, Kochin's determination that this new body have a functional penis leads him to kidnap (then reject) Bulma, Piccolo, and Master Roshi (getting Goku and Gohan involved). He also invested a fortune in a trap that lasted less than a minute against Goku and re-engineered some of Wheelo's creations into evil monsters. Dr. Wheelo is a complete Anti-Villain in this movie, who grows ever more horrified at Kochin's actions while completely powerless to stop him because, well...
    Dr. Wheelo: I am a brain! In a jar!

Western Animation
  • In Thunderbirds Are Go episode "Clean Sweep" a jobsworth employee creates the danger of the week by refusing to let a cleaning crew into an anti-pollution weather device a few minutes early because they are ahead of schedule, citing the employee rule book. When the International Rescue team arrive, he creates further rule bothering because he hasn't received official clearances and that is against the rules too. He genuinely thinks he is doing what his employer wants by doing all that. At the end of the episode he's reminded of Rule Zero saying that all rules can be waived if there is an actual reason to do so, and then fired.

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • April 4, 2018
    4tell0life4
  • April 4, 2018
    foxley
    In GI Joe A Real American Hero Marvel #109, the Crimson Twins botch an order from Cobra Commander and order several captive Joes executed. An overzealous SAW Viper steps forward and immediately shoots; actually killing several of the prisoners. As this was not what Cobra Commander intended, this cause problems for everyone involved.
  • April 4, 2018
    Miss_Desperado
    If every minion does this and doesn't learn from their mistakes, the villain may lament that (s)he is Surrounded By Idiots.
  • April 5, 2018
    CrypticMirror
    • In the Thunderbirds Are Go episode "Clean Sweep" a jobsworth employee creates the danger of the week by refusing to let a cleaning crew into an anti-pollution weather device a few minutes early because they are ahead of schedule, citing the employee rule book. When the International Rescue team arrive, he creates further rule bothering problems because he hasn't received official clearances and that is against the rules too. He genuinely thinks he is doing what his employer wants by doing all that. At the end of the episode he's reminded of Rule Zero saying that all rules can be waived if there is an actual reason to do so, and then fired.
  • April 5, 2018
    Koveras
    • In Monster Of The Week, this is the point of the "Helper"-type bystanders: they are NPCs whose motivation is to assist the player-controlled monster hunters, but are mechanically treated as threats by the game, since in their zeal, they routinely cause more trouble than benefit.
  • April 5, 2018
    NubianSatyress
    • Luke Cage: Tone is the right-hand man of early Big Bad, Cottonmouth. Tone is so aggressively loyal to his boss that when the messenger from a much more powerful criminal doesn't show Cottonmouth the proper respect, Tone makes this difficult by threatening said messenger. Later, when a young crook steals money from him, Cottonmouth learns that he's hiding in the barber shop where Luke Cage and his friend/mentor, Pops, work. Cottonmouth is an old friend of Pops and respects his rule that the barber shop is neutral ground; Tone thinks that this makes his boss look weak, so he goes against orders and shoots up the entire shop, accidentally killing Pops while still failing to kill the target they were after. This move is so poorly thought-out that not only does Cottonmouth become enraged by his friend's death, but this act is the Inciting Incident that leads to Luke Cage rising up against crime in Harlem. For this (and many, many other mistakes Tone makes by the end of the episode), he gets murdered by Cottonmouth.
  • April 5, 2018
    Astaroth
    You can be given the chance to do this in Neverwinter Nights 2, depending on whether you side with the City Watch or the Shadow Thieves in the first chapter. If you side with the Watch, Marshal Cormick will order you to root out members of the Watch who are taking bribes; if you do so by killing them, Captain Brelaina will chew you out for your "foul" and "unrelenting" approach to justice. If you side with the Thieves, your handler Moire will command you to burn down the Watch post... after which her boss, Axle, will complain that your recklessness has started a war between the Watch and the Thieves which he didn't need.
  • April 5, 2018
    bitemytail
    ^ "root out members of the watch" - fix typo, please.
  • April 5, 2018
    Psi001
    • Sixshot is portrayed as such in Transformers Energon, due to his own vendetta Optimus Prime, he frequently goes against Galvatron's orders to target the Autobots. Repeated disobeying of orders, almost killing his own side in the process or just butting into Galvatron's own obsessive rivalry with Prime made him the constant target of violent lambastings and tantrums from his Control Freak Bad Boss. Sure enough, this pattern slowly embittered Sixshot into The Starscream, sabotaging and blackmailing Galvatron with Cybertron's artillery to force him to deal with things his way, and eventually attacking and almost killing him, deeming the commander an interference to his own troops. Galvatron escaped and underwent an Emergency Transformation, making sure to crush Sixshot first thing before dealing with the Autobots.
  • April 5, 2018
    MathsAngelicVersion
    Could this go on Index Backfire?
  • April 5, 2018
    NubianSatyress
    Fixed my own errors in the Luke Cage example.
  • April 5, 2018
    intastiel
    • In Far Cry 4, The Generalissimo Pagan Min's Establishing Character Moment has him nonchalantly kill a soldier who gets overenthusiastic and opens fire on a busful of people he was supposed to detain.
      Pagan: I distinctly remember staying stop the bus. Yes, stop the bus. Not shoot the bus...
      Soldier: It got out of control.
      Pagan: Out of control. I hate when things get out of control. [Stabs him in the throat] You had one fucking job and you couldn't fucking do that!
  • April 5, 2018
    marcoasalazarm
    Contrast the Obstructive Bureaucrat (when he gets a bit too obsessed with Bothering By The Book)
  • April 6, 2018
    TheWanderer
    Sometimes it may benefit a villain to pretend that a minion is an overzealous underling in order to turn said minion into the Fall Guy. This is especially likely when the bad guy is a Villain With Good Publicity and needs to make sure their reputation remains clean.

    • In The Quick And The Dead, when the Quick Draw tournament is down to Herod and Cort, the night before the final match Herod has his follower Ratsy work Cort over, since Cort attempted to attack Herod earlier in the day. During the course of this, Ratsy breaks Cort's right hand. Herod, who claims that he's wanted to have a proper gunfight with Cort even back when the two were bandits together, so they can find out who really is the Fastest Gun In The West, is pissed when he sees what Ratsy did.

    • This is a recurring problem for many sides in both A Song Of Ice And Fire and its tv adaption Game Of Thrones.
      • Tywin Lannister loves the terror inspired by his brute Gregor Clegane. Mostly Tywin sends Gregor out to add onto that reputation by doing all the thug work for the Lannisters, meaning a whole lot of Rape Pillage And Burn. Gregor is so enthusiastic in these tasks that it sometimes backfires. Multiple characters note that Gregor is too bloodthirsty and sadistic to take highborn captives, often killing them just because when he could get rich ransoms for them or use them strategically as hostages. And Gregor's needless rape and murder of Princess Elia years before the start of the story drove one of Elia's brothers to carefully plot to overthrow and destroy the Lannisters and everything they care about, while the other brother would eventually give Gregor a poisoned spear in the gut that caused him to die slowly and in horrific agony.
      • In the book, Robb Stark's uncle Edmure disobeys orders to stay put, (orders which are admittedly vague) and decides to move his army to block Tywin Lannister's army from crossing a river, repelling the large force with minimal losses in a series of minor skirmishes. Edmure believes he's doing the right thing by his nephew and that it was the only reasonable course based on what he knew, but this prevents Tywin from crossing the river and being caught in an ambush where Robb might have been able to crush the entire army. In the TV adaption he acts on his own initiative and wins a Pyrrhic Victory against Gregor Clegane instead, but Clegane and most of his force escape and it ruins a trap Robb had planned for Clegane.

    • In Order Of The Stick, Lord Shojo orders Miko to arrest the titular band of adventurers supposedly for a great offense they inadvertently committed, but really because Shojo wants to recruit them for a secret, vitally important mission he can't assign to his own forces. Miko, not knowing this and being a Knight Templar with a big dose of Black And White Insanity, decides midway through tracking them that, considering their offense, she will act as Judge Jury And Executioner should they not surrender immediately, even without her giving them an explanation. By the time Durkon gets her to see reason, she could have easily killed several members of the group.
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