A character type in SpyFiction, particularly in those which lean in the GovernmentConspiracy direction and/or those with [[HiredGuns assassins]] as their protagonists. The heroes [[MysteriousEmployer don't have access to their bosses]], but instead have orders relayed to them through the "Handler" whose jobs include looking out for the hero's physical and emotional well-being and/or killing the hero should they act out of line. In cases with the hero and Handler being of different genders, it is somewhat common for the Handler to have UnresolvedSexualTension with the hero as they are the "human face" of the secret organization to which the hero belongs.

See also MissionControl, MysteriousEmployer. The [[ManBehindTheMan handler's handler]] is TheSpymaster.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''DarkerThanBlack'' has the abrasive JerkWithAHeartOfGold Huang relaying orders to Hei, the AntiHero of the series
** Who in turn has another higher ranked Handler... who just so happens to be a Contractor. The Syndicate's cell structure is somewhat odd at times.
* All of the girls of ''GunslingerGirl'' get one, and relationship dynamics vary with each one: they can be either the sweetest guys (like Giuseppe [[spoiler:until he TookALevelInJerkass]]) or the biggest jerkasses (like Jean [[spoiler:who's doing it to [[JerkassFacade toughen himself and detach him from her]]]] and Lauro [[spoiler: who DIES for that]]).
* Weiss in ''WeissKreuz'' go through several of these: Manx, Birman, Botan, and Rex. Their [[HighTurnoverRate mortality rate]] isn't much better than that of anyone else who comes into contact with [[DoomMagnet Weiss]].
* In ''{{Claymore}}'', the handlers of the eponymous characters (particularly Louvre) are a major feature of the plot.
* Mr. Kim in the anime ''RODTheTV'', to the Paper Sisters when they do contract work for Dokusensha. He's described exactly as a handler several times.
* Watari is considered L's handler from Manga/DeathNote - the name "Watari" was chosen because it ''means'' handler.
* In ''MaidenRose'', Klaus has one in Taki's country, who supplies him with [[BottledHeroicResolve drugs]] among other things. When he tells Klaus he's getting out soon and Klaus should too before he dies there [[DoubleAgent Klaus]] mocks him for getting too attached to him.
* ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' has a rank-reversed version. Colonel Roy Mustang appoints his second-in-command, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, to be ''his'' handler. He has even ordered her, should he ever undergo a FaceHeelTurn, to kill him on the spot.
* Though never outright stated as such, ''HaruhiSuzumiya'' has the [[FutureMeScaresMe future Mikuru Asahina]] play this role, especially in the appropriately-named ''Intrigues'' light novel, where both Kyon and present-day Mikuru act essentially as cutouts, servicing dead drops and the like.[[note]]Although it's less for the purpose of contacting other agents, and more for StableTimeLoop shenanigans.[[/note]] The strict system of classification that her agency uses, not to mention her unconventional but effective way of [[PinkySwear securing Kyon's loyalty]], both point to the role for her.

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[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* Frank's only real connection to the world in ''{{Red}}'' is his handler, Sally. The equivalent character in the movie isn't an example, as for various reasons her role was both changed and expanded.

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[[folder: Film ]]

* Sidney was the title character's handler in John Woo's ''The Killer'', who acted as a [[BloodBrothers Blood Brother]] to him.
* Nicky Parsons of the [[Film/TheBourneSeries Bourne]] [[TheFilmOfTheBook movies]] fits this trope ''word for word.''
* Tom Hagen was ''Film/TheGodfather's'' adopted son and personal assistant or ''[[TheConsigliere consigliere]]''.

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* In the Literature/{{Quiller}} novels by Adam Hall each [[GovernmentAgencyOfFiction Bureau]] "shadow executive" has a director-in-the-field who organises safehouses, communication, transport, identity papers, liaison with government officials -- in short, anything the agent needs for the mission; especially since Bureau agents are never told what the mission is about, the idea being that the agent should not get distracted by any larger political implications. Agents have a right to refuse to work with a particular director, given that trust between the two is so important. Quiller's preferred director is Ferris, even though he's slightly creepy (he's rumored to strangle mice).
* Due to its small size, a common methodology of Special Circumstances from Literature/TheCulture novels is to employ or manipulate non-SC or even non-Culture agents to do the dirty work, with SC operatives acting as handlers. Examples include Diziet Sma in ''Literature/UseOfWeapons'' and Flere-Imsaho in ''Literature/ThePlayerOfGames''.
* Andrew Osnard (played by Pierce Brosnan in the [[FilmOfTheBook film]]) of Creator/JohnLeCarre's ''The Tailor of Panama'' is a classic example, recruiting title character Harold Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) as a spy and [[spoiler:applying so much pressure to him that he makes up information that when acted on majorly destabilises the region]]
** Ned, from Le Carré's ''Literature/TheRussiaHouse'' and ''The Secret Pilgrim.''
** Actually practically all of Le Carre's spy novels include some sort of handler.
* Literature/VorkosiganSaga: From ''A Civil Campaign'' on, it is strongly hinted that [[spoiler: Lady Alys Vorpatril]] is the handler for the [=ImpSec=] domestic spy [[spoiler: Byerly Vorrutyer]].

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* Auggie is Annie's handler on ''Series/CovertAffairs''.
* In ''Series/{{Chuck}}'', Sarah and Casey serve as Handlers for the title character.
** The reason why Chuck has two handlers is because they represent two different agencies collaborating on the Intersect project: CIA (Sarah) and NSA (Casey).
* ''Series/TheInvisibleMan'' TV series had Claire the "Keeper"
* ''SheSpies''. The title characters had two Agent Handlers in the course of the show.
* Michael (or Bob in the movie) filled the same role for ''Series/LaFemmeNikita'', and in the case of the former, there was definite UST.
* Bosley of ''Series/CharliesAngels'' in both the TV show and films.
* Carla in ''Series/BurnNotice''
** Victor is specifically called this
* Michael Vaughn served as the Case Officer for [[Series/{{Alias}} Sydney Bristow]].
* Boyd, then later [[spoiler:Paul]], is Echo's handler in ''{{Dollhouse}}''.
* ''{{Wiseguy}}''. Frank [=McPike=], Vinnie Terranova's DeadpanSnarker boss in the Organised Crime Bureau.
* ThePretender: Sydney was Jarod's handler at the Centre from the time Jarod was a child, who gave Jarod the simulations to do and recorded the results.
* In ''Series/ScarecrowAndMrsKing'', Scarecrow is in some ways more like a handler then a partner. At the least if a veteran agent ever worked with a housewife turned spy (actually not impossible in RealLife though it would probably be less Hallmark-like) he would probably be a handler even if he told her he was a partner. In this case both the handler and the handled are heroic characters.
* In ''TheDresdenFiles'', Ebenezer [=McCoy=] was assigned as a troubled teenage Harry's handler (unbeknownst to Harry) in case he ever [[DrunkOnTheDarkSide went nuts]] and needed to be eliminated.
* Peter to Neal in ''WhiteCollar''
* Mr. Morden in ''Series/BabylonFive'', to Centauri Ambassador [[TragicHero Londo Molario]] and [[AristocratsAreEvil Lord Refa.]]
** Sheridan was shown to have one or two of these in the show's second and third seasons, due to his association with various Earth Force officers who had... doubts... about the circumstances between President Santiago's [[MakeItLookLikeAnAccident tragic death]] and the subsequent rise to power of [[PresidentEvil President Clark.]]
* ''Now and Again'': Dr. Morris was Michael Wiseman's handler and keeper, tasked with both setting up Michael's missions and preventing him from interacting with the outside world (especially his [[BackFromTheDead widow]]).
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. In theory, the Watcher plays this role for the Slayer. Whether Buffy or Faith chose to follow the Watchers Council's orders is another matter.
* Benjamin Tallmadge is Abraham Woodhulls handler in ''{{Series/Turn}}''.

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[[folder: Videogames ]]

* Diana filled this role for 47 in ''VideoGame/{{Hitman}} Blood Money''.
* Any shadowy government types who serve as quest-givers in a [[VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto GTA]] game, notably Mike Toreno in ''San Andreas'', and "United Liberty Paper" in ''[[VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV Grand Theft Auto 4]]''.
* ''AlphaProtocol'' takes this UpToEleven; there are ''eight'' handlers used throughout the various missions. And yes, Mike and his primary (female) handler Mina have UnresolvedSexualTension.
** Mike can have UST with all four of the potential female handlers, if you play your cards right with the dialogue options.
* [[TheVoice Admiral Steven Hackett]] in ''Franchise/MassEffect'' serves as the face and voice of the [[TheAlliance Alliance]] [[StandardSciFiFleet Navy]] for the audience and is Shepard's primary contact in the Alliance command. In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', [[FemmeFatale Miranda]] arguably takes on this role, though [[WarriorTherapist Shepard]] spends rather more time tending to her emotional well-being than she does to Shepard's. In the case of a male Shepard, there is also way more sexual tension in the second case than in the first.
** Admiral Hackett picks up additional shades of this when he contacts Shepard to retrieve an Alliance researcher who claimed to have found evidence of an impending Reaper invasion while operating covertly in Batarian Space - at the time, Shepard was on the outs with the Alliance due to his/her involvement with Cerberus, and Hackett needed someone both skilled enough to succeed and in a position to be disavowed easily if s/he failed.

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[[folder: Real Life ]]

* In RealLife these people are known as Agent Handlers or Case Officers
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