"First rule of assassinations: kill the assassins."A Plot Twist where the main character is an assassin and is betrayed by his organization, or at least his mentor. Often it turns out that the main character has been assassinating members of his own organization, as a ploy for Mission Control to gain power. In order to keep the main character sympathetic, this is almost inevitable when the main character doesn't betray his allies first. Often an example of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. This betrayal usually takes the form of a Contract on the Hitman. Related to Murder, Inc. and Professional Killer. Warning: Due to this trope's nature as a Plot Twist, spoilers may be unmarked!
— Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
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Anime and Manga
- In Darker Than Black season one, it turns out all the various organizations hiring contractors do so with the express purpose of killing said contractors.
- Golgo 13 has often been betrayed by his employers. The one thing more spotless than Duke Togo's assassination record is his record of lethal vengeance against said employers.
- Alluded to in Batman: DOA, a graphic novel-length story where Batman has been poisoned and needs to find an antidote, stat. Two-Face, one of the three instigators of the plot (the other two being the Joker and the Penguin), mentions that he got one of his best men to administer the poison, and an even better hitman to take out the poisoner.
- Shakara: When Valentine is hired by a Femme Fatale to assassinate a politician, she teleports her associates into the room after he completes the mission to kill him too for being a loose end. This fails when he had already planned for this, and kills his contractors before they can do the same to him, having lived long enough to write his memoirs by being Crazy-Prepared.
- Scud the Disposable Assassin is an assassin robot programmed to self-destruct once the job is done. After accidentally reading his label in the mirror Scud decides to put his target on life support instead, and take up “freelance” work to pay for continued care.
- In Wanted, Wesley is only recruited by the Fraternity so he could kill his own father for them, and he is betrayed immediately after doing so.
- The Bourne Series starts with the titular character being hunted down by his organization after he botched an assassination. Interesting in that both sides think the other betrayed them.
- Ah Jong from The Killer is betrayed by his boss upon completing his last job.
- In Crank, it turns out near the end that Chev Chelios' assassination was planned by Verona.
- Kill Bill:
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) is a double example of this, since both Mr. and Mrs. Smith are betrayed by their respective agencies.
- In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the two low-ranked crewmen who actually carried out the assassination against Gorkon and many of his aides are in turn shot with a phaser on stun right against the temples by the orchestrator on board the Enterprise, Lieutenant Valeris, killing them without setting off the weapon discharge alarms. Valeris almost suffers this fate as well as a second assassin tries to clean up loose ends after our heroes thwart the attempt on the Federation President's life at the Khitomer peace summit.
- This is the crux of The Art of War, in which Shaw (Wesley Snipes) is an assassin/covert agent for the UN, who has to uncover an international conspiracy after being set up, by his employer, Elenor Hooks (Anne Archer), with help from his best friend and fellow agent, Bly.
- In This Gun for Hire, after Raven kills someone his employer reports a fake robbery and gives the police the numbers of the bills with which he paid for the murder.
- In Hitman, Agent 47 is betrayed by his superiors after carrying out the assassination of the Russian President, because he's the only one who knows for sure that the guy is dead and has been replaced by a body double. Everyone else thinks he was only wounded.
- Attack of the Clones: After assassin Zam Wesell has been caught by Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jango Fett shoots her with a poison dart to keep her from spilling any details on their attempt to kill Senator Amidala.
- In John Wick: Chapter 2, Big Bad Santino orders a hit on John after he forces the latter to murder his sister so he can gain a seat at the High Table. When John kills forty of Santino's men in about four minutes, Santino extends a seven million dollar contract on John that results in a legion of independent assassins coming after him.
- This is mentioned in Shooter, with a man claiming that the real killers of JFK were themselves killed and buried in the desert within hours of the assassination. It foreshadows the fact that the main character (who is set up to look like an assassin) will be targeted for the same fate.
- The 1995 Venezuelan film Sicario has a group of Columbian street kids being trained for an assassination by a cartel boss. He picks the best one, the protagonist Jairo, and sends his men to kill the others. Despite a speech by the Affably Evil cartel boss how they're Not So Different, Jairo knows full well he's next on the list after he carries out the assassin, so draws a gun on his best friend who's driving his getaway motorbike, only to be forced to kill him when he refuses to let him just walk away. Jairo and his girlfriend then try to get out of the city, only for Jario to be gunned down by another street kid like himself.
- Subverted in The Death of Achilles: Achimas thinks his contractor betrayed him (as he expected from the start) but it turns out that it was just his liaison who tried pocketing Achimas' payment. His contractor lets Achimas kill the liaison and thanks him for a well-done job.
- Mistborn: The Original Trilogy has Zane in "The Well of Ascension", who his employer (his own father) has people attempt to kill in his sleep near the end of his story for what said father assumes to be a betrayal of Zane's own. The attempt fails, but Zane doesn't return the favor.
- In Tom Clancy's Red Rabbit, the Soviets hire a Bulgarian hitman to assassinate the Pope. He, in turn, hires someone else to be the actual gunman, with the intention to kill him once the hit had been done and escape in the chaos that would surely follow an attempt on the Pope's life. It doesn't turn out that way, as Jack Ryan sees and subdues the Bulgarian before the hit occurs, but doesn't realize there's another gunman until he starts shooting.
- The John Rain novels by Barry Eisler
- In A Clean Kill In Tokyo, Rain discovers that he's been working all along for his CIA nemesis from The Vietnam War.
- In Extremis, Rain goes to great lengths to protect Midori, who ends up betraying him to the Yakuza in the belief that he'll always be a threat to their son.
- In The Detachment, Colonel Horton hires Rain, Dox, Treven and Larison to forestall The Coup which he claims is being plotted by senior American officials. However Horton is working both sides and intends to Leave No Witnesses of his involvement.
- In Dune the Baron Harkonnen not only has Yueh killed after he opens House Atreides' defenses and brings Duke Leto to him, he kills Yueh's wife whom he was holding hostage as well. Though, Yueh was expecting that and hid a poison gas capsule in the Duke's teeth.
Live Action TV
- Nikita left Division after they had her civilian fiancé killed, ostensibly to protect the secret.
- Underbelly looks at the phenomenon with gangsters and standover men betraying and killing each other, with highlights including Benji Veniman who may or may not have been betrayed by Mick Gatto, or may or may not have betrayed him by killing his best mate Graham. Gatto was released on self defense and Graham is by now a cold case, unsolved. Assassin Lewis Caine would also be set up and killed by an old gangster called The Journeyman, who wanted everyone dead so he could move in and take over.
- A Tale Of Two Cities had Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire Chris Flannerly who had proven to be disloyal, untrustworthy and so dangerous to other criminals, the police and the public that it wasn't a case of who would be behind it, but who wouldn't. "Legitimate businessman" George Freeman was the prime suspect and portrayed as working with corrupt police in Flannerly's murder but this was a case of Who Murdered the Asshole?.
Tabletop RP Gs
- In the Downloadable Content of Mafia II, this is the eventual fate of Jimmy in The Betrayal of Jimmy, and becomes the driving force behind his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Jimmy's Vendetta.
- In Dishonored, you are betrayed by Admiral Havelock, who attempts to poison Corvo and kills most of his Loyalist allies so that he can seize control of the city. And depending on your Chaos level, Samuel the boatman may betray you as well.
- In the Knife of Dunwall DLC, it is revealed in the final mission that Billie Lurk, Daud's Dragon was working with Delilah to kill him. Depending on his Chaos level, she either goes through with it or ends up confessing and throws herself at his mercy.
- In the original Hitman: Codename 47, Ort-Meyer, the client who ordered the assassinations, is really trying to capture 47, whom he created as a "perfect human". The last assassination he ordered is in fact a trap, and the others were a test of his skills as well as eliminating dead ends.
- Hitman 2: Silent Assassin pulls off pretty much the same scenario, with the client turning out to be Russian terrorist Sergei Zavorotko who orchestrated the kidnapping of 47's friend to get him back into the assassination business so that he can use 47 to, in order, kill everyone who knew about the nuke Sergei stole, acquire a missile guidance system and steal the guidance software to deliver it, steal the nuke back when it got stolen from him and finally eliminate a traitor. Once these tasks were done, Sergei was outed as a terrorist and the UN ordered a hit on him... except Sergei set up a trap specifically designed to get 47 killed via Scope Snipe, with a second trap laid at 47's home in case he survives the first one.
- Inverted in Hitman: Absolution. Agent 47 actually betrays the Agency, leading to them hunting him down. However, he does this for the sake of the game's Morality Pet, Victoria, who is a genetically-altered child just like him, and he doesn't want anyone else to turn out like he did.
- Metal Gear Solid:
- In MGS1, first Master Miller reveals Naomi to have ulterior motives for helping Snake, and implicates that she only assisted in the mission as revenge for Snake killing her adoptive brother. Then Master Miller turns out to be Liquid Snake, the Big Bad.
- In MGS2, Raiden is betrayed by Mission Control, and then learns that the entire mission was an experiment.
- Inverted in MGS3, where initially The Boss betrays Snake, and America with him, until near the end, where it turns out she was acting on orders to infiltrate Volgin's group.
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker reveals that The Boss was a straight example of this. Hot Coldman (who was coincidentally Reassigned To South America) planned out the entire Snake Eater Op, including Volgin's psychotic breakdown, the nuclear strike on a Russian military base, and Snake's involvement as the Boss' assassin. Eva's research reveals that the CIA deliberately sent her on increasingly suicidal missions which they intentionally sabotaged, because they feared that her status as a legendary heroine, her international assets and connections to the world's most powerful organizations, and her vision of a new world order made her a potential one-woman Non Government Organization who could put an end to the CIA's conspiracies.
- In Mark of the Ninja, most of the second half is determining whether you have been betrayed, or have instead gone insane. It's both.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Oblivion's Dark Brotherhood storyline eventually has Lucien Lachance arrive to tell you that your last several marks were in fact members of the Brotherhood's upper echelon, due to a mole tampering with the dead drops where you got your orders.
- Skyrim does it again with the Brotherhood. When trying to assassinate the Emperor, you are sold out by Astrid, who is trying to spare the Dark Brotherhood by making a deal with the target.
- In Assassins Creed, it turns out that Al Mualim has sent Altaïr to assassinate the other leaders of the Templars in order to get the piece of Eden himself.
- This later leads another Assassin to make a power grab and turn the other Assassins against Altaïr.
- Inverted in Assassins Creed IV where Duncan Walpole turn out to be a former Assassins who decided to join the Templars. Duncan is killed by Edward Kenway in self-defense before he can complete his betrayal, however, Edward goes through with it anyways while impersonating him.
- Then there's Lucy who has also betrayed the Assassins to the Templars.
- In Assassin's Creed: Rogue, protagonist Shay Cormac is an Assassin that ends up defecting to the Templars after growing horrified with their obsession with precursor artifacts that lead to mass destruction.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, the GenoHaradan series of quests ends with Hulas revealing that the targets the Player Character has been sent after are the other three guild overseers. You have the option of walking away or meeting Hulas for a duel on Tatooine.
- In Deus Ex, it somehow happens to the protagonist JC Denton, although the whole scenario can be summarized as many factions repeatedly betraying one another for various good and bad reasons. It is clear, however, that JC's direct superiors (Joseph Manderley and Walton Simons) are up to no good, are constantly manipulating him and hiding the true purpose of his missions, and attempt to kill him by remote controlling the nanomachines in his body when he becomes more a problem than an asset.
- In Baten Kaitos Origins, Sagi starts the game working for the dark service, whom are given the task of assassinating emperor Olgan. Once Sagi and his group reach him, it turns out Olgan's already dead. Immediately afterwards, they are framed for the murder by the very group that gave them their orders, and are attacked.
- Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins was a reformed priestess and former bard, the game's code for assassin or spy. Leliana's Song gives details of how she was concerned about stealing state secrets and given at the time she was a vicious killer her mentor fears Leliana would betray her so she struck first.
- Downplayed in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All. The assassin in the fourth case has been recorded by his client, in an attempt by said client to blackmail the assassin later. This turns out to be a major mistake on the part of the client, as the assassin works by a code of trust between himself and the client...and by doing this, the client has betrayed that code of trust. When the assassin learns the truth, he breaks their current agreement and promises to go after the client next.
- Mary in Twig is abandoned by her creator after she's no longer of any use, and is taken in by the Lambsbridge Gang after Sylvester convinces her to give it a shot, becoming a key part in the gestalt...until Sylvester, who has decided to quit the gang, kneecaps her in order to stop her from pursuing him, bringing this trope full circle.
- The Hashashin (where the term assassin originated) would get their would-be tool stoned, shown extraordinary settings of women and honey as a promise of the afterlife for their suicidal assassination. To wit, the poor dope would publicly kill their target in broad daylight, expecting to be killed in retaliation, or die refusing to reveal their employer.
- According to conspiracy theorists, this is what happened to Lee Harvey Oswald.
- In Montreal during the biker gang wars, hitmen were known to have been hired and then gunned them down after a job to prevent any witnesses.
- The Melbourne Gangland Wars as pointed out above had numerous criminals set up and murdered, including hitmen Flannerly, Veniman and Caine. Benji as he was affectionately known is dicey because the man behind his death, Mick Gatto, may not have actually set him up, with Benji being known to fly off the handle, if indeed he is even a mobster.