"Can't any one of your damned little Scooby club at least
try to remember that
You introduced a character on your show with a certain characterization
. But lately he's been drifting off the rails
, and you suddenly notice that the character you established originally bears only the faintest resemblance to the one you've got now
, with no real justification
for the change. You don't particularly want to change the show's dynamic, but you feel guilty about the inconsistency. What do you do? Give them a Character Check
A Character Check
is when the writer realizes the character is no longer behaving the way he or she was first portrayed, and tries to cover it up by throwing in a scene in which the character ostentatiously reverts to form. Related to Author's Saving Throw
, but a Character Check
seldom leads to any lasting change and is not necessarily popular with the fans, who may have become attached to the "new" version of the character and dislike the brief resurgence of the old one.
Very common with Designated Villains
or Jerk Ass
characters who have moved into Jerk with a Heart of Gold
territory; this sort of reminder of "how things used to be" is a frequent side effect of Badass Decay
and Villain Decay
. Also likely to result from Depending on the Writer
. There is also a certain amount of Truth in Television
here. Someone may have changed over time
, but still fall back on old habits now and again. However, fictional characters are usually expected to behave more consistently
. This trope may make the audience exclaim, "I Forgot Flanders Could Do That
Anime and Manga
- A textbook example from Dragon Ball Z is how Vegeta behaves in the Buu saga, where he lets himself fall under the Mind Control of Babidi just to feel "like himself" again.
- In the Star Wars Corellian Trilogy, the group travels for a time with an astromech that can speak Basic. After being damaged, the droid becomes exceedingly paranoid and aggressive; when Anakin points out that "Q9 is acting funny", the droid runs diagnostics to get back to normal.
- Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a lot of these, with the most jarring and noticeable being the attempted rape of Buffy in Season 6. Only slightly less subtle was the scene in which he plays poker with other demons for kittens.
- Sylar in Heroes was prone to these in Season 3, as the writers veered erratically between portraying him as The Woobie and remembering, "Oh, yeah, this guy was a psychotic serial killer in Seasons 1 and 2." The utterly gratuitous murder of Elle was a case in point.
- Lionel Luthor of Smallville started out as a prime example of a Magnificent Bastard. He was cruel, manipulative, and gloriously evil. In Season 5, he started acting like a good guy while acting as the "Oracle" for Jor-El. In Season 6 the writers wanted to "slap [the audience] in the face" with a reminder of who he used to be, so they had him blackmail Lana into marrying Lex. Then, sad to say, he went back to being a good guy.
- Sawyer from LOST started out as the resident Jerk Ass with occasional glimpses of a heart of gold as Season 1 progressed, and midway through Season 2 he was moving to outright heroism, but he still had occasional moments where he would remind everyone that he was a jerk, most notably in the episode "The Long Con" in which he performed an elaborate con to get posession of the castaways' guns. Charlie asks Sawyer why he did it, and his response is that he's "not a good person. Never did a good thing in my life." This happens with Sawyer throughout the newer seasons as well, mostly because the writers can't seem to keep Sawyer in outright Jerk Ass territory due to the fact that he's one of the most popular characters.
- In M*A*S*H, the whole Margaret arc. She went from Hot Lips to Margaret. At first there was some homage paid to Hot Lips, then the writers just gave up.
- In Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor was intended to be this - after the Fifth Doctor, an extremely kind-hearted, subtle and humanlike incarnation, the desire was to return the Doctor to being a flamboyant and socially tone-deaf character (similar to the popular Fourth Doctor in some of his madder characterisations) who was more threatening, morally-ambiguous, and borderline impossible to deal with (similar to the Ur Example of the character, the First Doctor). Unfortunately, the writers failed to execute this with the subtlety it required, leading to a Establishing Character Moment of him trying to murder his own companion that cast a long and poisonous shadow over his personality in the eyes of fans.
- WWE's use of Victoria warrants a mention. First she was a hoe, then a silly dancing ex-ho, logical. Suddenly she was psychotic, obsessive, evil, held a grudge against Trish Stratus of doubtful justification, claimed to hear voices in her head and saw things that were not there, such as carrying an imaginary title belt... not so logical. Then after Wrestlemania XX Victoria was silly dancer again, her seeming split with Stevie Richards, who she claimed "needed help" was about the only nod to how she was prior. Then she turned heel and dropped all prior characterization but went crazy again for a feud with Mickie James (who transitioned into sanity much more sensibly). As the feud with Mickie went on though Victoria stopped being psycho and started being a goof, the only thing missing from her original character being the dancing.
- In Marathon 2, Durandal was far less of a nutjob than the first game. Still, he does briefly stop to remind you that "If you insist on stumbling around when our time here is limited, I may just decide that you're not all that special after all and teleport you out into space." Probably justified in that he was going through the early stages of Rampancy in the first game (which includes a "psychotic anger" phase), and by the second game has calmed down and stabilized a great deal.
- In Homestuck, many characters had drifted to being more serious, as the events of Act 5 became very stressful and worrisome. This meant characters were less prone to cracking jokes, and more prone to simple kindness, depression, anger, etc. After a year's Time Skip in Act 6 however, they have been shown to act more similarly to their original characterization, with their new characterization still lingering however. The most notable characters this has occurred with are John, Dave, and Karkat, though it has occurred with everyone affected by the Time Skip to some extent, with the exception of Terezi.
- A whole two-page sequence shows Rose, who had been becoming far more serious and dark, being 'returned' to her original self by John in which he expresses concern about how she hasn't been making many jokes lately, and she kids along with him, pretending to be a Straw Vulcan-type character.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes portrays The Wasp as energetic, witty, and caring, like in Marvel Adventures. However, one episode, "459", inexplicably reverts Wasp to her Silver Age personality. She desperately wishes her teammate Ant-Man would love her, and flirts with other male superheroes to make him jealous.
- Occasionally Stewie from Family Guy will go back to his evil genius persona from the earlier seasons, usually for a quick joke or the occasional odd episode.
- Rufus and Amberley were mostly diluted to Hero Antagonists after the pilot episode of The Dreamstone, however odd episodes made attempts to return them to center spotlight. Shades of their original characterizations also re emerged throughout Seasons Three and Four.
- Done to a few of the engines throughout the long run of Thomas the Tank Engine, despite Flanderization altering a lot of their personalities drastically, their old forms from the original novels and episodes do occasionally return. For example, Thomas, now more a Kindhearted Simpleton, will occasionally act cheeky or pompous, while Toby, now altered into a Lovable Coward, will show glimpses of his Big Brother Mentor persona.