Created By: Aries on January 24, 2011 Last Edited By: Aries on February 5, 2011
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Rank Up

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No matter what country your from, if you are in the military, there will be a ranking system.

Most of the time, military personel are required to be in a certain rank for X amount of months or years before you are even allowed to be promoted. This justifies the reason why you don't often see military promotions in television or movies.

But this trope is about when a character is promoted in show. During season one, you may have known him as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Bob, but by the third season he becomes known as Captain Bob.

After this promotion expect the character, if he is not a protagonist, to go in one of two directions. Either his increase in responsibility makes him a more important character in the series, or his responsibility causes him to have to spend less time with his friends. The middle ground is rare.

Compare Took a Level in Badass, except this character's badassness has a title.

This is not simply a military trope. Large companies have a ranking system also, but these promotions have little impact on the story, unless the character is striving for it (in which most of the time they never get it).

Not related to Level Up, where taking a level in badass includes numbers and stats, not titles and authority.

Examples

  • Fullmetal Alchemist subverts this. Major Hughes is promoted two ranks to Brigadier General and stays a mostly important part of the story. However, he is promoted posthumously, and instead of being a major character he becomes a major plot point.
    • Colonel Mustang is also promoted to Brigadier General around the final parts of the first series.
    • Subverted in also in that even though Ed ranks up from a civilian to a major within the story, it happens on the instant when he signs the state alchemist contract.
  • Anakin Skywalker rises through the jedi ranks throughout the Star Wars series.
  • Almost all of the Konoha 12 ninja are promoted in between the Time Skip. Naruto himself averts this, being now possibly the most powerful ninja in the village but having one of the lowest ranks.
    • Gaara, however, takes this further by going from Geninto the Kazekage.
  • Jim Gordon ranks up to his comic book rank of Commissioner in The Dark Knight.
  • In Chuck, Major John Casey gets promoted to Colonel toward the end of Season Two.
  • In early seasons of M*A*S*H Lt. Colonel Flagg from Military Intelligence was a recurring character. In the fourth season he became Colonel Flagg. This paralleled the head of 4077th going from Lt. Col. Blake to Col. Potter, because Flagg couldn't be subordinate to the CO otherwise his orders could be easily countermanded.
    • Also, in the last season or so Klinger is promotoed from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahey from 2nd Lt. to 1st.
  • NYPD Blue: Detective Martinez takes the Sergeant's exam and passes, so he can get Put on a Bus to another precinct. (Earlier he had been promoted from undercover cop to detective, but it was never shown or made a deal of.)
    • Bobby Simone gets promoted to Detective First Class (or whatever it's called) in a big ceremony.
    • New Guy John Clark is promoted to Detective for meritorious service; at the same time Sipowitz is promoted to Detective 1st class, which pisses off John Clark Sr.
    • Sipowitz takes the Sergeant exam; he passes and becomes the desk sergeant downstairs from the squad. In the final episode he gets promoted (ahead of others waiting) to be the squad commander, still as a Sgt. He promises that this will be his last job - he's not planning to try for another promotion or transfer.
  • Barney Miller: In the last episode Barney gets promoted to Inspector, and uniformed officer Levitt gets promoted to Detective.
  • Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1 gets a double treatment: promoted from colonel to brigadier general in season 8, and to head of Homeworld Security in season 9.
  • In Exosquad, Lt. J.T. Marsh is promoted to Wing Commander mid-second season. Appropriately, this coincides with him assuming command over two more mecha squadrons, while the former Chick Nara Burns becomes the official leader of the eponymous Able Squad. (In practice, however, the two new squadrons rarely appear and Marsh still commands the Able Squad whenever it is sent on a solo mission.)
  • Dark Heresy uses a system of ranks to represent the characters "leveling up" to a certain extent.
  • Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started off as a commander and was promoted to captain later.
  • In One Piece, Captain Smoker gets promoted by the Marines to Commodore. Commodore Smoker is not too happy about his promotion as he feels he didn't deserve it, but he does use his new leverage to operate wherever he wants.

Rolling Updates
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • January 24, 2011
    LoopyChew
    In Chuck, Major John Casey gets promoted to Colonel toward the end of Season Two.
  • January 24, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • In early seasons of MASH Lt. Colonel Flagg from Military Intelligence was a recurring character. In the fourth season he became Colonel Flagg. This paralleled the head of 4077th going from Lt. Col. Blake to Col. Potter, because Flagg couldn't be subordinate to the CO otherwise his orders could be easily countermanded.
      • Also, in the last season or so Klinger is promotoed from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahey from 2nd Lt. to 1st.
    • NYPD Blue:
      • Detective Martinez takes the Sergeant's exam and passes, so he can get Put On A Bus to another precinct. (Earlier he had been promoted from undercover cop to detective, but it was never shown or made a deal of.)
      • Bobby Simone gets promoted to Detective First Class (or whatever it's called) in a big ceremony.
      • New Guy John Clark is promoted to Detective for meritorious service; at the same time Sipowitz is promoted to Detective 1st class, which pisses off John Clark Sr.
      • Sipowitz takes the Sergeant exam; he passes and becomes the desk sergeant downstairs from the squad. In the final episode he gets promoted (ahead of others waiting) to be the squad commander, still as a Sgt. He promises that this will be his last job - he's not planning to try for another promotion or transfer.
    • Barney Miller: In the last episode Barney gets promoted to Inspector, and uniformed officer Levitt gets promoted to Detective.
  • January 24, 2011
    peccantis
    To go with Full Metal Alchemist:
    • Subverted in also in that even though Ed ranks up from a civilian to a major within the story, it happens on the instant when he signs the state alchemist contract.
  • January 24, 2011
    SinusPi
    Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1 gets a double treatment: promoted from colonel to brigadier general in season 8, and to head of Homeworld Security in season 9.
  • January 25, 2011
    Koveras
    In Exosquad, Lt. J.T. Marsh is promoted to Wing Commander mid-second season. Appropriately, this coincides with him assuming command over two more mecha squadrons, while the former Chick Nara Burns becomes the official leader of the eponymous Able Squad. (In practice, however, the two new squadrons rarely appear and Marsh still commands the Able Squad whenever it is sent on a solo mission.)
  • January 25, 2011
    Ajardoor
    Dark Heresy uses a system of ranks to represent the characters "leveling up" to a certain extent.
  • January 25, 2011
    Speedball
    Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek Deep Space Nine started off as a commander and was promoted to captain later.
  • January 25, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    In One Piece, Captain Smoker gets promoted by the Marines to Commodore. Commodore Smoker is not too happy about his promotion as he feels he didn't deserve it, but he does use his new leverage to operate wherever he wants.
  • January 25, 2011
    LostLenore
    Are we counting books? In Catch-22 Scheisskopf is constantly promoted. He begins as a Lieutenant, but by the end of the book, is a Lieutenant General in charge of the whole army.
  • January 26, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • On Star Trek The Next Generation Riker got a field promotion to Captain when Picard was captured by the Borg. When Picard was rescued Riker got demoted back to Commander.
      • Wesley was promoted from Boy to Acting Ensign, to actual Ensign.
      • In the episode "Lower Decks" several ensigns are concerned about who will be promoted. After the one Most Likely To got killed in action her friend was promoted but he didn't feel he deserved it.
      • Troi went for a promotion to Commander; the test's Secret Test Of Character was whether or not she'd send a friend (Geordi) on a Suicide Mission in order to save the ship.
    • Gomer Pyle USMC: an episode revolved around Gomer and the rest of his platoon going for Corporal. (Or maybe it was PSC to PFC, it's been a long time since I've seen the episode.) Gomer didn't want to at first, he "liked being the backbone." (Privates are - or were - called the Backbone of the Marine Corp.)
    • The Simpsons: when Homer became a missionary and went to a pacific island, he promoted Bart to Man of the House, Lisa to Boy, and Maggie to Brainy Girl. "The toaster can fill in for Maggie."
      • When Police Chief Wiggum was promoted to commissioner, he promoted Lou to Police Chief, and Eddie to Lou.
        Wiggum: Lou, you're promoted to chief of police.
        Lou: Sweet.
        Wiggum: And Eddie, you're promoted to Lou.
        Eddie: Nice. And, uh, who's gonna be Eddie?
        Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie.
    • The hero of Time Enough For Love's story-within-the-story "The Man who was Too Lazy to Fail" got promoted over and over again while never actually doing anything.
    • Real Life: During the American Civil War Elisha Hunt Rhodes went from private to Colonel.
  • January 27, 2011
    Lurkie
    • Happens in Babylon 5. Lieutenant JG David Corwin is promoted to full Lieutenant. Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova is promoted twice: first to Commander and later to Captain. (Commander Jeffrey Sinclair's appointment as Ambassador to Minbar probably doesn't count, since Ambassador is not a military rank.)
  • January 29, 2011
    Aries
    Bumped for more examples.
  • January 29, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    • Johnny Rico in the Starship Troopers film starts off as a private and gets promoted up to Squad Leader, then Sergeant, then Lieutenant. The same for his ex-girlfriend, who goes from a Lieutenant to a Captain.
  • January 30, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    Vader: You have failed me for the last time, Admiral. Captain Piett?
    Piett: Yes, my lord?
    Vader: [gives instructions] You are in command now, Admiral Piett.
  • January 30, 2011
    AFP
    Quite a few characters in the Star Trek franchise get promoted, already listed in Limited Advancement Opportunities. Whenever this trope goes live, we can just transplant them.

    For Babylon Five, Ivonova eventually makes General, as shown in the second Distant Finale Actually, she gets canonized in the first one, along with several other characters. Other characters on B5 to get promotions possibly include Captain Lochley (she is a Colonel in The Lost Tales, but it's not clear if it was a promotion or just part of a rank restructuring) and Zack Allen (goes from Officer to Chief of Security. Since Station Security is set up more like a police department than a military force, those appear to be the only two named ranks, though Zack does end up replacing Garibaldi's first right-hand-man after the first one shoots Garibaldi in the back. Sinclair's situation is more along the lines of being Reassigned To Antarctica and Reassignment Backfire.
  • January 30, 2011
    GymQuirk
    More Star Trek:

    • Lt.(j.g.) Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge.

    • Major Kira Nerys gets bumped to Lt. Col in the Bajoran Militia (and then commissioned as a Starfleet Commander).
  • January 30, 2011
    CastingCrowns
    Captain Tony Nelson and Captain Roger Healey of I Dream Of Jeannie were promoted to Major late in the first season or early in the second.
  • January 30, 2011
    rage24
    In the show [[{{24}} 24]], Tony gets promoted to director of CTU in season 2.
  • January 31, 2011
    aurora369
    Another Real Life example: during the World War One and the Russian Civil War, the Czech adventurer Radola Gaida got promoted from a civilian pharmacist to general.
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