Emerging from the Shadows
"Sorry, this corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. (beat) I think a bulb is out or something."Someone's face, or whole body, is kept in shadows until just the right moment to come out and show his/her face to the other characters and/or the audience. This person might be someone the audience knows, or looks like that person, or it might just be someone we don't know, but it's time to see who this character looks like. The duration of the shadow hiding can also vary. It could be just a few seconds, to spending several episodes not seeing this person. And how much shadow there is can also vary. This can range from going into the only source of light in a dark area, to leaving the only shadow in a bright area. This is especially popular in some High Fantasy (usually involving a shadow in a lighted scene), and Film Noir (usually involving a light in a dark scene). A Sub-Trope of The Reveal, Chiaroscuro, Rule of Drama. A Sister Trope to Lightning Reveal, The Unmasking. Compare Face Framed in Shadow, Dramatic Spotlight, Natural Spotlight and Face-Revealing Turn. Contrast The Un-Reveal.
— Agent Phil Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Pilot"
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Films — Animation
- When Belle pleads for her father in Beauty and the Beast, she asks Beast to step into the light, and we see his full form for the first time.
- Esmeralda beckoning Quasimodo to come out of the cathedral at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Downplayed in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, when the Dazzlings introduce themselves to Sunset Shimmer. Not the first look at them since they're seen already in the prologue, but at least a first look at their standard clothes.
- Rapunzel does this to Flynn in Tangled.
Films — Live-Action
- Colonel Kurtz's face in Apocalypse Now is emerging from the shadows only after minutes of talking.
- In The Third Man, Harry Lime is revealed when light from a window shines on him from across the street.
- David Lynch has done this in many of his movies, particularly when revealing a love interest or Femme Fatale.
- In Dead Again, Roman's face is in the shadows for a couple minutes.
- Done very creepily in one of the Hellboy movies. The door at the end of a shadowed hallway opens, a security guard shines his flashlight around to make sure no one's lurking there... and as soon as he leaves and the hallway is dark again, out steps Rasputin.
- Dr. Claw is sort of revealed this way in the Inspector Gadget adaptation.
- Inverted with Gandalf's reappearance in The Two Towers: his face is revealed after a bright flare dies down to background lighting.
- There's a scene in Land of the Dead where Zombie Infectee Cholo was heading back to the city, determined to settle things with his Bad Boss Kaufman before dying. When Kaufman is trying to flee the zombie invaded city, we see Cholo take a shot at him while standing in the shadows and miss. Kaufman shoots back, hitting him in the chest, and Cholo falls. Kaufman goes back to packing his bags into the escape car only to hear a noise. Turning, he turns to see Cholo walking towards him. "You're dead!" Kaufman shouts. Cholo then finally comes into the light, revealing that he had turned into a zombie at some point while walking back into the city, and he's now close enough to do a Deadly Lunge at Kaufman. Kaufman reacts by saying "Oh god, you are dead!" in dismay.
- In The Men Who Stare at Goats, Bill is revealed this way to Lyn and Bob in the goat barn.
- In The Fly (1986) remake, during the "Insect Politics" scene, when Veronica tells Brundle, "I don't know what you're trying to say," he finally reveals himself to her, as he steps into the light coming from the skylight.
- Ben Hur uses this trope for a big return to his adversary's home place.
- In the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Lolita, Humbert comes home to find a man waiting inside; he turns on the lights to reveal Claire Quilty (known to the audience but not Humbert) in the guise of the college psychiatrist, Dr. Zempf. "I sat in ze dark to save you ze expense of ze electricity." Given his general behavior, it's likely this is a deliberate attempt to screw with Humbert's head.
- The male lead in House Of Games enters the story this way.
- Blackbeard combines this with Feet-First Introduction and Hitler Cam for his first scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Intrepid Reporter Polly Perkins is waiting for Sky Captain in his darkened office. Rather than stepping from the shadows, her face is revealed when our hero tilts his desk lamp towards her.
- In the science fiction series, Alterien, the antagonist, Theseus Spencer reveals himself to be the one behind the string of terrorist attacks executed by brainwashed people. Theseus had actually used his telepathy to program them into doing what he wanted in an elaborate test to see if Oberon was another Alterien.
- In The Lord of the Rings, a revived Gandalf the White keeps his face and new garments hidden until it is time to reveal himself. The films actually invert this, by having him reveal himself as a blinding light fades.
- In Take a Thief, when the thief Skif, having just been Chosen, is brought to the Collegium, one of the Heralds confronting him is waiting in the shadows. That Herald, Weaponsmaster Alberich, turns out to be a tough guy familiar to Skif.
- "Kandor": Jor-El is revealed this way.
- "Idol": Chloe does this to the Wonder Twins; comes with a pretty epic threat.
- The final villain in Chuck is revealed this way.
- In the Doctor Who serial City of Death, Captain Tancredi's identity is revealed in this way.
- In the 5th Season Finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sela showing her face is the last shot.
- The Twilight Zone does this in "Eye of the Beholder" (when revealing that these "humans" have quite a different standard of beauty than ours) and "He's Alive" (when revealing that the person guiding the neo-Nazi is Hitler himself).
- A very common occurrence in The X-Files, particularly if it's someone involved in some way with the myth arc conspiracy.
- Happens in almost every season of American Horror Story (In season one it's Ben appearing to Larry. In season four, Desiree appears to Dell)
- In the first season of Angel, a demon comes to Angel Investigations seeking protection from the Determinator who's been chasing him across several states. Angel is then confronted by a leather-clad man in the shadows holding a crossbow, but is singularly unimpressed when Comedic Hero Wesley steps into the light.
- Angel himself does this in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, knocking out the lights, then emerging in Game Face to attack Willow in the Internal Reveal that he's turned evil. Given Angelus' love for mind games, he's obviously doing it deliberately to scare everyone.
- In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson reveals he's still alive this way, and immediately lampshades it in true Joss Whedon fashion.
Agent Coulson: (steps out of shadows dramatically) Welcome to Level Seven. (beat) Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. I think there's a bulb out.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), the shadow of the djinn appears on the screen behind the woman in white before he appears.
- The original version of Stern Pinball's Batman has a large black cylinder in the middle of the playfield. During the game, the side rotates away, revealing The Joker inside.
- Stern Pinball's Playboy has the "Tease Screen," a black curtain that drops down during a game to reveal the Playmate hidden behind it.
- The gangster that hijacks the ride vehicle on The Great Movie Ride does exactly this in his/her first scene.
- Persona Q has it revealing the protagonists from P3 and P4.
- In The Order of the Stick, Xykon won't let the Creature in the Darkness step out of the shadows until it's dramatically appropriate. The creature was supposed to do this during the big battle at Dorukan's Gate, but things didn't quite go to plan. It's spent years hiding in shadows, being shut in a box, or being forced to carry around a magical (albeit nice-looking) umbrella that creates darkness beneath it.
- Tower of God: Quant loves to do this. It looks especially cool with his red Glowing Eyes of Doom.
- In the American Dad! episode "Dungeons and Wagons", Haley's game avatar is revealed this way.
- Tirek in the My Little Pony special "Rescue at Midnight Castle", when he is about to use his Rainbow of Darkness for the first time.
- Captain Hindsight in the South Park episode "Mysterion Rises".
- Played for Laughs in The Simpsons. Bart and Lisa meet a shady figure in a parking garage, and he stands in the shadows as he tells them to investigate Sideshow Bob's successful run for mayor, but refuses to give away his identity. Suddenly Homer drives up, illuminating the man in his headlights, and cheerfully calls out "Hi, Mr. Smithers!"
- In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, when we first see the Jokerz and their gang speak with their leader, he is partly concealed in the shadows at first, except for his red Glowing Eyes of Doom and his grin, but then, after shooting Bonk dead for defecting him, he emerges from the shadows, revealing himself to be the newly-resurrected Joker.
- Another Played for Laughs example shows up in the Kim Possible episode "Two to Tutor", Señor Senior Senior records a warning message about an upcoming heist by Junior and Shego (he'd gotten annoyed with them because, after he hired Shego to tutor Junior in villainy, she kept blowing him off whenever he tried to check in on them). He recorded the message in a dark room with only his eyes showing... until Junior barged in and turned on the light.
Junior: "Father? Why are you sitting in the dark?"