Sometimes doing bad is, well, bad
. Not just immoral or unethical, but flat out impractical.
A Moral Pragmatist character starts out doing something wrong, because they believe it's the most practical way to achieve their ultimate goal. In the end, though, they ultimately ally with the side of good because it's more efficient.
A Moral Pragmatist's goal isn't what we'd call "evil"—in fact, some cases can be downright good
. However, they've been using evil or unethical means to achieve it. One of the good guys, however, realizes that if they want to be rich, why not just do things legally?
Or if they want to kill the Villain with Good Publicity
that murdered their parents
, hurting innocents will only improve the villain's PR and damage their own. Or, why would they try protecting their village using The Dark Side
when The Dark Side Will Make You Forget
, and they'd probably wind up killing the people they're trying to protect anyway? When presented with this information, the other party switches sides because they were simply wrong.
However, that doesn't mean that they've changed
. They still want to achieve the same goals, and they'll gladly go back to the bad side
if yet another means presents itself. Where this trope differs from Pragmatic Villainy
is that the pragmatic villain still has an ultimately sinister goal, but doing good helps them achieve it. As mentioned before, the goal for this character isn't really bad—they just did bad things to realize it
A character who follows this trope may eventually make a full Face turn in the future, if they find that Good Feels Good
Tropes this can overlap with:
Anime & Manga
- In very late chapters of Naruto, Sasuke pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment and decides to enter the Fourth Shinobi World War to protect his hometown Konoha. He also states that he want to become the Hokage, his village's head ninja. His reasoning, however, is that this is simply the best way to prevent the screw-ups done by previous Hokages from happening again.
- In Bleach, it's revealed that the first Kenpachi, Unohana, was originally Soul Society's most notorious criminal. She switched sides silmply because there'd be a better chance of finding a Worthy Opponent as a member of the Gotei 13.
- In Thunderbolts, some of the team (villains disguised as heroes) find that doing heroic acts gives them what they always wanted—such as fortune and fame. They start being seduced by the power of good.
- In the Marvel Universe Alternate Timeline of Earth-1191, Doctor Doom has become old and unsound in mind and body. He chooses to help the heroes simply because it allows him to stretch his still-impeccable intellect and retain mental lucidity for greater periods of time. He makes it clear, however, that if he ever became healthy again, he'd probably go back to his old ways.
- This is how Avengers Academy tries to reform the teenage would-be supervillains. It sticks with some, but not so much for others.
- This is canonically the reason why the British comic book character The Spider fights crime. As a bored rich man, he first became a cat-burglar then found that was too easy so he returned everything he'd stolen and became a crime-fighter instead. He sticks with it simply because it provides him with the excitement in life that he'd wanted.
- Peter Hale in Teen Wolf is somewhere between this and Pragmatic Villainy. He's more than willing to murder, manipulate and harm others to achieve his goals... until he loses his position as Alpha Werewolf and the Bigger Bads of season 2 and 3 effectively force him to ally with the heroes who brought him down and killed him; though he doesn't hold a grudge. While he's still the Token Evil Teammate, he's not bloodthirsty and actually rather prudent.
- Zack Addy in the "Bones" Season 3 Finale. After being revealed to be the Gormogon's Apprentice. He justifies his actions, arguing that the strategy of the killer is the logical means to achieving a better society. Dr. Brennan points out a single flaw in his logic and he immediately abandons team evil and gives the good guys everything they need to defeat his former mentor.
- Mass Effect
- Urdnot Wrex is this way. His goal is to ensure the survival of his doomed species, the krogan. He has developed very pragmatic ideas to help the krogan recover from the Genophage, but they're too proud and violent to listen to him. In the first game, when Saren finds a way to breed new krogan, he seriously considers betraying you, and you can only change his mind by either threatening to kill him or making him realize how stupid it would be to join Saren. In the third game, if he survived, Wrex refuses to help in the war against the Reapers unless you cure the genophage first, and if you sabotage said cure, he immediately withdraws all krogan support just so that humans will go extinct just like the krogan.
- Likewise, Zaeed Massani. If you're playing a Paragon Shepard, the only way to complete his loyalty mission is to convince him that letting his hated archenemy get away is less important than focusing on the main mission. If you do, he'll agree to leave that behind him until the job's done. Then, in the third game, he still happens to be on the same side as Shepard because he's got a common enemy in Cerberus.