You're not seriously
going to fight us again, are you? Hawke:
I have no desire to trade blows with you. I'm going to bow out for the time being. There are some things I must investigate before I commit myself to this. Max:
There he goes. What is it with that guy? Even when he loses, he acts like he won.
The Enigmatic Minion is a strange, specific type of villain. Put simply, it is a non-Big Bad
antagonist whose agenda, motivations and villain cred
itself remains highly ambiguous for much of the story. Whether as a Monster of the Week
or as a long-term villain
, an Enigmatic Minion is defined by its ambiguous nature and the suspicion it evokes, both in the heroes and in the audience. There is certainly something altogether 'not right' about this character, but it is difficult to say how or why it acts the way it does.
The Enigmatic Minion lacks any obvious motives and desires to be discerned by the heroes or the viewer, and certainly won't reveal them if asked. In fact, good luck getting anything more than Cryptic Conversation
out of it. Despite assurances that it's an antagonist
, it obviously has a free will of sorts and have a modus operandi that does not entirely follow the expected for a villain. An Enigmatic Minion may take actions that turn out to help the heroes in the end,
or shower an unusual amount of personal attention
on their progress without opposing them. The minion will seem to know a lot more than it's letting on
- possibly even more so than the Big Bad
they are seemingly aligned with.
If a member of an evil organization, the Enigmatic Minion
will usually hold a prominent position, be trusted by the Big Bad
, or has a job only it is capable of doing, which would explain why it's being kept around. This importance also keeps the minion safe from You Have Failed Me
moments — at least for as long as the Big Bad
thinks they are still on the same side. Enigmatic Minions
usually don't 'fit' their assigned role, whether they're satisfied with it or not — and in the case of the latter, they certainly won't admit it.
Eventually, the story may offer a Reveal
as to the minion's true nature: This can be anything from being The Man Behind the Man
to being Good All Along
. Other times it may not and leave the character as mysterious as when it appeared. Expect The Messiah
to attempt to befriend this type of character, which may or may not take.
The enigmatic minion falls somewhere between a villain and a Wild Card
in a story, and fills a mold similar to the Lovable Traitor
or Reliable Traitor
. It may be constructed as a Worthy Opponent
, although an extremely ambiguous one at that.
Compare with the Hidden Agenda Villain
, who is a clear villain — and also clearly a Big Bad
— but whose plans are unknown. The Stealth Mentor
will frequently take on this guise as part of their teaching process. Also compare the Aloof Ally
, who is commonly mistaken for an Enigmatic Minion in their first appearances, but isn't a villain - they're just a jerk and the Mysterious Backer
, who's this trope with the "Minion" part replaced with "Big Good
". Subtrope of Mysterious Stranger
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Anime and Manga
- Kaworu in Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the best-known examples of this trope. He had been sent, possibly even created, by SEELE to infiltrate NERV, but because he is the most human of the Angels he also has thoughts and desires beyond the whims of his creators. During his brief storyline, he struggles to make sense of the situation and decide what stance he wants to take towards humanity.
- Kuze in Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex plays this part for most of the second season. The confusion arises from the fact that he is an Unwitting Pawn to the Big Bad, who happens to lead the task force that is supposed to capture or kill Kuze.
- Folken in Vision of Escaflowne.
- Joker in Flame of Recca.
- Laplace's Demon in Rozen Maiden. He doesn't appear until the second season in the anime, but in the manga, he shows up before five of the dolls do — and we still don't know what he's doing.
- The seemingly unstoppable Iwanbo from Rurouni Kenshin was simply too dumb to carry on a fight without being distracted and running off. The following arc that is covered in the manga would later reveal the character to be merely feigning idiocy in order to hide his true nature and purpose.
- Kyuzo fills this role for much of Samurai 7.
- Christopher Armalite (early on) and Cz (later on) from Scrapped Princess.
- Ikuto from Shugo Chara!.
- Half of the villains of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are this at one point. This has about a 100% overlap rate with the half of the villains that get befriended.
- Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter
- Ribbons Almark, Alejandro Corner's right hand in Gundam 00. Who turns out to be the true evil mastermind in the end... fucking Ribbons.
- And Regene Regetta is this to Ribbons in turn in the second series. While he fails to overthrow Ribbons and take over the conspiracy, he ends up helping the heroes to defeat Ribbons.
- Sara of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has aspects of this, being the grown-up version of the Dark Magical Girl. Sometimes, she can be found interrupting her own followers' plans if her conscience gets the best of her, which isn't often. Right afterwards, she goes right back to condemning The Power of Love. Like the previous example, though, she's not exactly a minion.
- Nagi from Mai-HiME is like this throughout most of the show, even after The Reveal.
- Xelloss from Slayers is cheerfully open about the fact that he is working towards his own villainous ends. The heroes let him hang around with them because he betrays their enemies just as often as he betrays them, with the explanation that he was only siding with them while it advanced his own plan. His own plan is, of course, a secret.
- Isako from Dennou Coil.
- Rakshas in Berserk fits this role in the new Band of the Hawk. He seems to be playing both sides, admits to joining Griffith just so he can make sure to be the one to kill him, and is nowhere to be found during the current battle.
- Shiner from Psyren fits this dangerously well.
- Gin Ichimaru was a Co Dragon for Aizen, but was distrusted by his putative allies both before and after defecting from Soul Society. Aizen himself acted like he mistrusted Gin, and Gin often engaged in odd behavior that brought his motives into question. Turns out that Gin only sided with Aizen in order to betray him… Aizen was aware of this and kept Gin around just for the amusement of seeing how he intended to go about it.
- Haschwalth is Dragon to Yhwach, but his true loyalties are a mystery. He's ambivalent about killing low-ranking Shinigami. He shows concern over how Yhwach handles Ichigo… for Ichigo's sake. His soldiers think he's Yhwach's rightful heir but whether Haschwalth even cares about the succession is unclear. Most enigmatic of all is his acceptance of Uryuu Ishida as Yhwach's Unexpected Successor. It's implied that he may sympathise with Uryuu's Kicked Upstairs status because of his own ambivalence towards Yhwach.
- Abelia from Now and Then, Here and There. She's an intelligent woman and capable leader. She's also unflinchingly loyal to an obviously insane despot, seeming for all the world like a extraordinary dark take on the Punch Clock Villain. The series ends without a stitch of explanation, much less backstory, in explanation. She does eventually have a Heel-Face Turn of sorts. Her insane boss is about to be drowned and is crying out for her to save him. She's more than capable of doing it, but chooses not to.
- It's heavily hinted that Hamdo wasn't always batshit crazy. It's also heavily hinted that she used to have a Bodyguard Crush on him, and spends the whole series hoping that he'll return to the man he used to be.
- Kabuto in Naruto. Due to his habit of betraying everyone he's ever met with a smile on his face, his loyalty to Orochimaru was pretty much the only thing anybody could be certain about him. After Orochimaru's death, Kabuto's goals and drives became more transparent when he tried to play both sides of the war against one another.
- Zetsu also fits this trope pretty well. He seems to be part spy, part... trash disposal for the Akatsuki. The only clue we've been given about his motives is Pain saying his reason for fighting is "land". Ultimately he is revealed to contain the will of Madara, allowing him to direct Tobi after his death.
- Itachi's a good example. His neglect to finish off enemies (outside of his backstory), unnecessary retreats from battle, and reluctance to share information with his Akatsuki allies often confuse both the protagonists and antagonists alike. It turned out that he was a spy with loyalties to Konoha and his younger brother.
- Nathan Mahler in Blood+.
- Carrossea Doon in Madlax.
- Beatrice's Battle Butler, Ronove has a servile and snarky tone towards her. It's not clear how deep his obligation toward her is, but he often lampshades clues or leaks important information for Battler.
- El Shitsurakuen fits this, posing as Karin when he is out to help her and being El to oppose her
- Aika seems to be one while following after Athena in Hayate the Combat Butler. Her motives are yet unexplored.
- Miyabi from Rosario + Vampire is one to Gyokuro; he's very Ambiguously Evil, to the point that even the main characters don't seem to know what to make of him, but he and Gyokuro don't seem to trust each other, he is really The Masked King and the Shinso Vampire Alucard.
- Mikage, and especially Mamiya, in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
- Nico Robin from One Piece was all over this trope before her Heel-Face Turn. She makes her premier blowing up Igaram's ship in a direct blow to Vivi's scheme to expose Crocodile, but immediately after that hands over an eternal pose to get the Straw Hats to Alabasta. In Alabasta she personally brings Vivi to Crocodile, badly injuring Pell in the process, then saves Luffy after Crocodile leaves him for dead.
- Kamisama in Saiyuki
- Comic example: In the X-Men universe, Mister Sinister serves this function in a number of arcs.
- Tarot in the Pokémon fanfic The Darkness Within.
- Faybol in the Star Wars Expanded Universe fic series Legacy of the Sith has many elements of this- mysterious, powerful, pops in and out of the story seemingly at will, etc. He turns out, however, to be almost completely evil and is one of the Big Bad's most loyal minions- he's just secretive by nature. Said Big Bad is also the only one who can be said to know all his secrets, though the reader now knows quite a bit about him too.
- Masque of Pokémon: Storm Clouds, a mysterious Team Rocket agent who specializes in brainwashing Pokémon to serve the Team, yet doesn't seem to actually care about Giovanni's agenda. Giovanni calls him on this and it turns out that Masque is Eviler than Thou by a great deal. He reveals that the army of Pokémon brainwashed to serve Team Rocket are more loyal to Masque himself, and takes up the mantle of Big Bad.
- Queen of All Oni has Blankman, the dark wizard who Jade hires to serve as the Shadow Hand's foreman. We know next to nothing about him (not even his real name), and when he finally gets some focus in a chapter, it just raises more questions and makes him seem more mysterious.
- Nights Favored Child: The Inquisitor is this in spades. Among other things, Nightmare Moon doesn't even remember when he started working for her — it's like he's been there all along. On top of that, he knows her as Luna, something that shouldn't be possible.
- Baron Samedi in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die.
- Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects.
- Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We know her brother hated their master, but just whose side Magenta's on is never quite clear...
- Agent Mercer of the East India Company in Pirates of the Caribbean has some qualities of an Enigmatic Minion, especially in the way he pops in and out of the story.
- Though unlike a lot of other examples, Mercer is truly evil, to the extent that death by Naughty Tentacles felt like karma.
- The Spaniard in On Stranger Tides is this to the King of Spain; he's the first of the three main factions to set out after the Fountain of Youth, but we see him by far the least and its never quite clear exactly what he wants with it. Turns out, he's been sent by the King to destroy the Fountain, which the Spanish see as blasphemous.
- The Man in Black in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, who appears throughout the movie and whose motivations aren't revealed until the next film Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
- The "Mystery Man" from Lost High Way has no clear goals or motivation, looks somewhat strange, and only shows obvious threatening behavior towards the end of the movie. His role in the movie is, along with everything else in it, open to interpretation... It is a David Lynch film, after all.
- Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade serves this role. While she's revealed as an ally of Donovan and the Nazis, her ultimate ambition is to get the grail. She constantly battles her personal views with her professional obligations. At the grail temple, she deceives her employer by giving him a fake holy grail, which makes the audience think she's done a Heel-Face Turn. However, she gets Gold Fever when the real grail is in her hands and in the process falls to her death while trying to reach it.
Live Action TV
- Awake: Captain Harper. The second episode reveals that she is in contact with the people who caused Britten's accident, and that she's conducting a cover-up. On the other hand, she seems to have moral objections to the murder.
- Continuum: This show is in love with this trope.
- The purportedly mute Haitian: working for the hidden higher power, Angela Petrelli, and looking damn enigmatic while doing it.
- HRG is this on occasion as well, especially in Volume 4.
- Richard Alpert seems to have become one of these, despite being on the side of the resident villains. He's mysterious, kind and friendly, polite even when taking weapons off the heroes, and is the only Other to openly defy Ben. While some things about him are divulged as the show goes along, his true motives are very mysterious like every other thing on the show.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Villain Lokar. He's technically a recurring Monster of the Week, but he only appears during multi-part episodes, always teleports away before defeat, and seems to be more of a peer than a servant to the Big Bad. The Sentai villain he's based on was that series' version of Satan and Bandora / Rita's direct superior.
- Revolution: Tom Neville. As the first season goes on, you start wondering why he's working for Sebastian Monroe, and what sort of agenda he has. The first season finale reveals that he is simply out to benefit himself by taking over the Monroe Republic, make sure the power never gets turned back on, and to take over the entire continent for himself.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Garak, whose trademark is his enigmatic nature. Although he seems to be on the good side, episodes like "The Die is Cast" prove that he can certainly play the role of the villain when it suits him. Like other Enigmatic Minions, he never reveals his motives, he's involved with a mysterious organization (The Obsidian Order), he is an Ensemble Darkhorse (he was originally just supposed to be a guest character), and he always knows more than he's letting on. And good luck getting any useful information out of him. In the end he turns out to have very straightforward loyalties; he is a loyal patriot of the Cardassian people, and a sworn enemy of the Cardassian government. He will strike against that government or it's later Dominion masters, but not if Cardassia itself is harmed.
- Witchblade: Ian Nottingham in the TV adaptation starts out this way. Throughout the first season, he swings closer and closer to a Heel-Face Turn, eventually sacrificing his life for Sarah.
- In the Exalted universe, the mysterious Green Lady is a powerful and ancient Sidereal Exalted who apparently betrayed Heaven and now serves no less than three different Deathlords, convincing each of them that she is their loyal minion and spying on the other two. If your character meets her in game she will certainly embody this trope to perfection. Which is normal since she is actually still working for Heaven but using an insanely dangerous Memory Gambit in order to study the Deathlords and learn how to destroy them.
- The villain Count Fosco from The Woman in White might count as an example of the mole variety, as because of his charming and whimsical façade, the heroine initially seeks his help against the more obvious villain, Sir Percival Glyde.
- Yuber from the Suikoden series.
- Kratos from Tales of Symphonia. His interest in your progression during the storyline becomes so prevalent and noticeable that Lloyd eventually begins wondering out loud why the heck someone who betrayed and all but killed him once and who constantly refers to himself as an enemy keeps appearing to drop enigmatic hints and encouragements about what he should be doing next.
- Ryoji Mochizuki from Persona 3. He isn't even aware of his role himself for a while.
- Dante in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. While at first just doing his job to hunt you, he eventually realizes there's something fishy going on...
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, Mastema is no longer the Smug Snake asshole he was in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. In fact, he has the Four Archangels' plan to eradicate Tokyo smashed, and imprisons three of them in Kagome Tower, only allowing Gabriel to escape. Thus, he saves Tokyo... and then collaborates with Tayama's scheme to produce Red Pills, ditching him in due time... To further mudden the waters, he's implied to be the only angel left who can actually hear God's voice, and despite being the fricking Angel of Hostility, he's surprisingly cool with you taking the Chaos Path, saying that straying from the Lord is one way to learn about Him as well.
- Mid-Boss from Disgaea, although he does a fair job of appearing pathetic rather than truly enigmatic.
- Zenon's masked underlings from Disgaea 2 fit the trope to a tee, however.
- Meta Knight, Kirby's mysterious recurring Worthy Opponent, sometimes fills this role; very much so in the anime, "Right Back at Ya!"
- And as quoted, Hawke in his appearance in Advance Wars: Dual Strike. He pulls a Heel-Face Turn when his boss tries to have him killed.
- Also, Hawke in the previous game (Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising) as well. After losing the battle for Green Earth, he leaves Sturm, only to come back at the end of the final mission and finish off sturm with his Super CO Power.
- Raven from the game Tekken 5 who gets introduced as an mysterious observer in the opening sequence, and is in the tournament on a mission for his unknown employments.
- Alex from Golden Sun fulfils this trope expertly; he nominally works for or with the villains but seems kind and decent, and shows sympathy to the heroes on numerous occasions. His motives are unfathomable, but it becomes clear that he's using both sides, and is ultimately the most dangerous of the lot. At one point in the second game, there is a battle that can be optionally won or lost; if the heroes win, Alex will save the villains, but if the villains win, Alex will save the heroes.
- He'll also heal the player's party just before the fight, and if you mind read him, shows concern over Mia, who is in a trap at the time.
- It's interesting to watch him as you play through for the second time. You can start to see how everything he does fits into his plan.
- He comes back to the role in (Golden Sun: Dark Dawn) manipulating the Tuaparang agents to some unknown goal, but also helping the player by distracting them so the player can end the eclipse. Since Alex engineered the eclipse in the first place though, he assumedly accomplished some goal of his own between starting and ending it. It also features his first battle against an ally, in which he downs Tyrell with a single attack.
- Naomi in the Metal Gear Solid series shows almost no signs of being anything but another member of Snake's large support team, but begins to act somewhat strangely over the course of the first game. Even after several turns of the Heel-Face Revolving Door you still have not the slightest idea whom the character is actually working for or is always coming back to your side, but does not seem to be trying to harm you.
- Xenosaga's testaments.
- Archer from Fate/stay night, especially in the Unlimited Blade Works route.
- Ada Wong from Resident Evil 4 is fairly enigmatic, being nominally Leon's enemy while having an agenda of her own and playing the other power players against each other.
- Harle in Chrono Cross, for confusing and spoilery reasons. Word of God even says that there's actually something of a connection between her and Kid, which players noted when comparing the similar build, reactions to Serge and almost identical facial features. Her eventual fate is pretty vague, actually.
- Samir Duran from StarCraft: Brood Wars.
- Suzaku from Tenchu 2.
- Garland becomes this in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, while somehow simultaneously being a Large Ham. He's surprisingly sympathetic, knows more about the nature of the universe than the gods themselves, and serves an even higher power. In fact, he has to personally explain the plot to the Big Bad. The one difference is that he never passes up a chance to fight the heroes. His job is to fight, and he enjoys doing it.
- Kariya from The World Ends with You.
- Vincent from Silent Hill 3 at first seems to be in league with Big Bad Claudia, sharing her background and occult beliefs and meeting with her a few times throughout the game, while also making it clear to the heroine Heather that he has his own hidden agenda. Later it turns out that he's working against Claudia and trying to save the world, though he's doing it for entirely selfish and amoral reasons.
- In Heavenly Sword, General Flying Fox meets the criteria of being high-up in the Big Bad's army despite not being trusted, and prone to turning up several times under rather unclear circumstances. However, while his exact motives are never explained, his general Ax Craziness in combat and his tendencies for murdering and sadistically toying with his victims and his surprisingly unconcerned grace when he is eventually defeated suggest that he is just a Blood Knight who lives for the thrill of life-or-death combat and enjoys making people suffer.
- Bohan's raven also appears to be this; it seems to be sentient, but never speaks, and appears rather mysteriously at various points. By the end of the game, the Raven remains pretty mysterious, but it turns out it was never a minion.
- Saints Row IV has the Professor Genki, an insane Deadly Game Show Host, willingly signing up to serve the Zin Empire to create versions of his game shows that utilize superpowers. But winning his games causes chaos that disrupts the Zin's systems, and he's as often found giving the player shiny new toys to wreak havoc as he is hindering them. Whether he's a genuine Quisling who isn't very good at his job, a Trickster Mentor, or just plain nuts is left up in the air.
- Axel from Kingdom Hearts. In his first appearance, Chain of Memories, he betrays (and is at least partially responsible for the deaths of) pretty much everyone in Castle Oblivion. Within his Organization his role appears to be a mix of assassin and secret police, and he's on no-one's side but his own. Even his team-mates remark that they don't have a clue about what goes on in his head. Eventually some light is shed on his motives—namely, helping his old friend Saix rise to power and keeping Roxas and Xion by his side.
- Phaxel is one of these in TTA, but that could just be because he gets bored easily.
- Adventurers!! has a particularly good example of this trope in Argent.
- Nioi in El Goonish Shive. She searches for a way to backstab gen. Shade Tail (Subordinate Excuse vs. Poisonous Friend court intrigue) when not on her proper job (artifacts research) or fixing minor problems like Kaoli's abnormal status.
- Veithel in Juathuur. Until the end, it's unclear if she cares for Ratheel and Dej or if she is willing to betray them for her father's benefit. Both, actually. And she will sacrifice to save Dejoru AND follow her father's wishes for her.
- Torg, protagonist of Sluggy Freelance, was doing this professionally for a while in an attempt to get back at another evil organization. He recently gave up after his "boss" turned out to have unintentionally betrayed him.
- Gamzee Makara of Homestuck definitely fits the wild card aspect of this. He's clearly an antagonist, but his relationships with some of the protagonists add ambiguity.
- The Masked Men from Marble Hornets. About all we can say for sure is that they have some connection to The Operator. Season 2 drops hints that they may not be entirely malevolent, culminating in the season finale, in which one of the masked men saves Jay and Jessica from Alex, who was holding them at gunpoint. Totheark, a YouTube account full of cryptic messages which might be run by one or more of the Masked Men, is similarly inscrutable.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, the Shadow and Simon are this. The Shadow works for the Grey Cult but has his own mind and a different agenda than his masters, which becomes especially true when he is finally returned to his true form Taliesin after which he still acts ambiguously. Simon is a seemingly obedient follower of his master's teachings and acts as a spokesman for all the Totenkopfs, but he tends to act rather ambiguously and his loyalties and goals aren't really clear-cut even to his superiors.
- Bluejay of the Alphas, at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. The Alphas are definitely evil, but Bluejay openly mocks the Big Bad and performs a bunch of less-than-evil acts that he passes off with excuses. But he's still helping the bad guys and we don't know what he's really up to.
- Justice Lord Batman from Justice League. Although the one responsible for allowing the Justice Lords to interact with the Justice League, he seems reluctant at best to follow the lead of the other Justice Lords and his true motivations for doing so in the first place is never revealed.
- Sideways plays one of these in Transformers Armada. He does so many sneaky evil laughs and sinister remarks while still being casually friendly with everyone that it's obvious he's The Mole, for Unicron, surprisingly enough.
- He does the same thing in Transformers Cybertron, even claiming to be an Autobot at one point for absolutely no clear reason. He is enigmatically joined by Soundwave about two thirds of the way through the series, who doesn't appear to be on anyone's side at all.
- Tarantulas also plays the enigmatic cackler in Beast Wars. Even at the end of the series it's not completely clear whose side he's on, though there's good money he's only on Team Tarantulas. His Multiple Choice Past muddies things even further.
- Owen, the original Xanatos' Battle Butler.
- Calypso in The Spectacular Spider-Man is more of a "Villain's Engimatic Girlfriend", but otherwise fits. She's introduced in the same episode as Kraven, pops in and out of the narrative, has what might be mystical powers and knowledge like her comic counterpart, or might just be spooky intuition, and is never really explained (though it's not unlikely that she was intended to have a role in later seasons, before the show was cancelled).
- Solomon from Sym-Bionic Titan- he's mysterious, Badass, tends to pop in and out of things, and is overally the least malevolent of the three main villains (himself, General Steel, and General Modula). He ends up becoming an ally of the heroes after they save his life against an Eldritch Abomination during an Enemy Mine and is solidified as a minion rather than a mastermind in his own right when the episode "Fortress of Decepion" revealed he had a boss, who's plenty enigmatic himself.
- Vater Orlaag from Metalocalypse. It's not clear exactly what his deal is, aside from seeming very loyal to Mr. Salacia.