Assassins Are Always Betrayed

"First rule of assassinations: kill the assassins."
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

A Plot Twist where the main character is an assassin and is betrayed by his organization, or at least his mentor. A common component is 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!


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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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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: Subverted. When Valentine is hired by a Femme Fatale to assassinate a politician, she teleports her associates into the room after the mission to kill him too for being a loose end. He had already planned for this, and kills his contractors before they can do the same to him. Hey, he didn't live long enough to write his memoirs by not being Crazy-Prepared.

  • 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:
    • The Bride seeks revenge after Bill and the other members of her organization blow away her entire wedding party, give her a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and put one in her skull.
    • Budd is killed by Elle using a black mamba in the Briefcase Full of Money.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith 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-rank 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 accord.
  • 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. Why? 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.

  • Doubly subverted in 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 gunman, with the intention to kill him once the hit mad been made 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 him before the hit occurs, but doesn't realize there's another gunman until he starts shooting.

    Live Action TV 
  • Nikita left Division after they had her civilian fiancé killed, ostensibly to protect the secret.

    Tabletop RP Gs 
  • Seems to happen quite a lot in Shadowrun, even when the runners' mission is not an assassination. In the hands of certain GMs, you can count on the Johnson who hired the party to stab them in the back when it's least convenient.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Hitman:
    • 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 deliberately set her up to be killed to remove any potential threat she could have posed to his plans.
  • 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 both Assassin's Creed III and Assassins Creed IV where Haytham Kenway and Duncan Walpole turn out to be former Assassins who have decided to join the Templars. Haytham succeeds in becoming the Grandmaster of the Templars in the New World, while Duncan is killed by Haytham's father in self-defense.
    • 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 boss (Menderley and Simmons) 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.

    Real Life 
  • According to conspiracy theorists, this is what happened to Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • The standard operating procedure of the Hashishin (which is where the term assassin comes from.) They got a regular joe high on hashish (which is where the group got its name from), then showed him a literal paradise of half-naked women and waterfalls of milk and honey, and told them this awaited them if they killed a target. The goal was the assassin would kill his target in front of everyone in the middle of the day, and allow himself to be killed, expecting the afterlife promised.
  • 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.