Green Arrow: I still don't think I belong up here.The Morality Chain is a character who is the reason another character is Good. Stereotypically a female love interest, a mother, a daughter, or a little sister; as long as this person is alive, her target of affection will at the very least be a Noble Demon. There is no Restraining Bolt involved; this person is the only thing preventing someone from happily killing their "friends" and family. (One wonders whether such a form of "goodness" has much value in it until one remembers that it keeps them from killing their friends and family). If a Morality Chain were to fall, commit betrayal, or get seriously hurt or die, there is nothing to prevent a Face-Heel Turn happening so fast and so hard that the unchained character is gladly chopping his former teammates into pieces before you can say "Neutral Evil". This is more than the Roaring Rampage of Revenge; everyone has to suffer. A similar, and often confused with, trope is the Morality Pet. The difference between the two is subtle: a morality pet is a character who redeems a villain. The villain's affection for the pet starts them down the path of good, and even should the pet get hurt the villain will most likely behave as a hero (or anti-hero) in seeking their revenge or protecting the pet. By contrast, the morality chain keeps an otherwise anti-heroic character (such as a Sociopathic Hero) from going full villain. The loss of the chain would spell doom for any involved party, and likely anyone nearby as well. In a nutshell: a morality pet turns a bad guy good; a morality chain stops a good guy from turning bad. Sometimes this is inverted. The death of the Morality Chain motivates the target of affection to become more determined to be good to honor her memory, or something. Usually in these cases the cause of death is either natural, or because of a villain (especially if it's a buddy of theirs that the Morality Chain had disapproved of). Now, if the cause of death is their loved one, either through an accident or because they Kicked The Morality Pet, then they may either go comatose or crazy. See also: Morality Pet, Cynicism Catalyst, Morality Chip, Living Emotional Crutch, Driven to Villainy. Contrast: The Kid with the Leash, The Farmer and the Viper.
Batman: That's the point. Someone like you will keep us honest.
Batman: That's the point. Someone like you will keep us honest.
— Justice League Unlimited, "Initiation"
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Berserk, Casca is this to Guts. Being Guts's lover driven insane by the actions of Griffith and the Godhand during the Eclipse, she is the only reason why he refuses to completely give into his Super-Powered Evil Side. Said evil side, a Hell Hound-like beast, is fully aware of this and constantly importunes Guts to kill her so it can take over his mind and turn him into a being of pure hatred. The Beast is literally chained thanks to Gut's devotion to Casca, though it promises Guts that it will be free one day.
- Kara no Kyoukai plays it straight. The only reason Shiki doesn't go around killing people is because she understands that she would break Mikiya's heart if she betrayed his trust. It's only after she's (incorrectly) told of his death that she decides to kill the one responsible. He's diced into half a dozen pieces before he even hits the ground.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Malik's Superpowered Evil Side takes over after his loyal servant Rishid is knocked unconscious. Later, when Rishid wakes from his coma, he is able to persuade the real Malik to overcome his evil side.
- Yugi and his True Companions are this for Dark Yugi/Atem. They have stopped him from injuring or killing others several times.
- Hare in Guilty Crown, to an extent. Her death causes the main character to metaphorically rape the person closest to him, and marks his travel all the way down to the slippery slope's bottom
- Suzuya from Tokyo Ghoul deserves special mention. Before Shinohara become his morality chain, he was a sadistic sociopath. After this he's mostly behaving in front of him and has shades of Sociopathic Hero. When Shinohara is horribly injured in front of him, Suzuya loses it and tries in vain to save him. When the older man falls into a coma from the injuries, Suzuya is rather calm about it, having changed for the better, thanks to Shinohara's influence.
- Nunnally in Code Geass is Lelouch's Morality Chain. Lelouch's main motivation comes from terrorists assassinating his mother and crippling his sister, which led his father (the emperor) to abandon Lelouch and Nunnally. Because of this, he's motivated to avenge his mother, destroy his father's empire, and build a gentler world where his sister can be happy. Even with Nunnally alive, Lelouch already skirts the edges of Byronic Hero...
- When Lelouch's own actions indirectly caused the loss of his Morality Chain, Lelouch vowed to personally drag his father to Hell with him. When he found her again, she had learned his motives. And she did NOT like being the Morality Chain.
- Nunnally didn't even realise that she was the Morality Chain. She just thought he was downright evil for killing Euphemia, and who knows who else, thanks to Schneizel's interpretation of events... and Lelouch's own preventions against his (correct) interpretation of Schneizel's character.
- Lelouch wasn't completely out of it until the Black Knights' sudden betrayal pushed him entirely past the Despair Event Horizon. And the "drag his father to Hell" bit was just a bit of a fancy Taking You with Me proclamation.
- When Lelouch's own actions indirectly caused the loss of his Morality Chain, Lelouch vowed to personally drag his father to Hell with him. When he found her again, she had learned his motives. And she did NOT like being the Morality Chain.
- Nana from Elfen Lied has her father. She's the only diclonius with a loving parent, and the only one who hasn't gone on a massive killing spree.
- Rurouni Kenshin features this for everyone's favourite Hitokiri; Kaoru's presence during Kenshin's duels with everyone prior to Saitou was what kept him from falling all the way back into the ways of the Hitokiri. Yahiko also briefly functioned as this during Kenshin's Curb-Stomp Battle with Raijuta; he told Raijuta that the fact that he was still alive (ie; Raijuta hadn't killed Yahiko) was the only thing stopping Kenshin from murdering the man.
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, an important point is narrator Kyon's role as this for Haruhi. Before Kyon, she was a sociopathic, melancholic jerkass and with him, she's a sociopathic but cheerful Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Kyon also is the only one who can hammer some sense of right and wrong into her. It is a very credible possibility that, should Kyon ever die, the universe would be destroyed. Ryoko Asakura tried to test this theory by attempting to kill Kyon herself but she is stopped in a Crowning Moment of Awesome by Yuki Nagato.
- In the final Slayers light novel arc (currently Japanese-only), Milina serves this role for Luke. When she dies, Luke's anger and despair trigger the Second Resurrection of the Dark Lord, causing him to become Luke-Shabranigdu.
- In Hell Teacher Nube, the students of class 5-3 become Minki's Morality Chain altogether unwittingly — she believes she's still a nasty evil Oni who doesn't disregard human life as much as enjoy extinguishing it... until she sees Hiroshi, Kyoko, and Miki in danger, leading her to shielding them with her own body. Similarly, her big brother, Baki, gleefully shifts from Laughably Evil to Neutral Evil depending on his whims, but will go insane with fury if anyone hurts his beloved sister. Therefore, when she decides to fight him to protect her friends, and he sees Nube give HIS life to protect Minki, Baki immediately allies himself with Nube on the condition that he should never hurt Minki.
- In Deadman Wonderland
- the only thing really holding Genkaku (while he was a child) back from going completely Ax-Crazy was his little kitty.
- Minatsuki deserves special mention. Before Ganta and her brother become her morality chain, she was a sadistic sociopath. After this she's mostly Yandere with shades of Sociopathic Hero.
- It's only implied but, there's the general vibe that if Ganta died, very bad things would start happening in Shiro's vicinity.
- Yin in Darker Than Black is the Anti-Hero Hei's Morality Pet in the main series, but could definitely qualify for this, since he's fairly upbeat at the end of the first season and in the interquel even though he's lost his other teammates. It's when he loses her to a forced Face-Heel Turn that he Took a Level in Jerkass for the second season.
- What little we know about the circumstances indicates he may have had a good reason for totally breaking down: she had an attack of Super-Powered Evil Side and killed a ton of people (he blames himself for some reason and it probably dredged up some nasty memories to boot), and he knows he's going to have to kill her to prevent it from happening again. No wonder he's to the point where he just wants to drink himself into a stupor.
- Invoked with Marie Mjolnir for Franken Stein in Soul Eater: they're paired up in the hope that her positive wavelength will keep him from falling (deeper) into madness. Unfortunately, thanks to Medusa's machinations, he has a pretty hard time of it even with her around.
- From what little we've seen of Stein, Marie's influence now that Medusa's snake is gone seems to be doing the trick. His reaction to Marie after BJ's death showed that in some way he really does care.
- Spirit may have something of this, although his role seems to be to keep Stein in line - he states during the Medusa fight it's his "job to control this crazy kid". However, he does seem genuinely concerned about Stein's welfare and is the one who allows him to 'escape' and search for BJ's real killer.
- In Black Lagoon, Rock acts as a morality chain for Revy that moves her from Neutral Evil to Sociopathic Hero, willing to help Rock pull off good endings in the Yakuza and El Baile De La Muerte arcs (failure and partial success respectively). Suffice it to say that in the event of Rock's death, Revy would make the events of the Nazi arc look like cheerful shoujo by comparison.
- Let's not forget that the Lovelace family is this to Roberta. Her Roaring Rampage of Revenge in El Baile de la Muerte started when Garcia's father, the leader of the Lovelaces, was blown to smithereens.
- It's kind of scary to think of given how unbalanced the cast is already, but several episodes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei indicate that Itoshiki-sensei fills this role for his class. Without him, their loneliness and mental instability would drive them completely over the edge.
- In Bamboo Blade, Miyako "Miya-Miya" Miyazaki has her boyfriend Danjuro Eiga as her morality chain. It's fairly evident throughout the series that she only cares to keep her repressed aggression in check whenever he's around.
- Precia's Cat Girl familiar Linith from the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Sound Stages was this for her since the already very disturbed Precia demonstrated normal human reactions from time to time while Linith was around. As soon as she was gone things became very dark...
- It might be said that the Book of Darkness needs a master to function as a Morality Chain. It just has a bad habit of killing them, and everyone else shortly thereafter.
- In Black Butler Elizabeth's entire reason for existence seems to be keeping Ciel from falling into the abyss.
- Luca who was Alois/Jim's little brother was implied to be this for Alois/Jim. Alois was very protective of Luca, wished death on people who hurt Luca, and when Luca died Alois fell into despair, became very ruthless and quickly swore revenge on whomever he suspected to have had a hand in Luca's death.
- Yachiru from Bleach is this to Kenpachi, to an extent, even though she can be just as violent as him at times. Kenpachi may be a savage now, but before he took in Yachiru he was little more than an animal with a sword. All he did was kill; he didn't even care that he had no name. He may be on the bottom of the morality ladder now, but before meeting her, he wasn't even aware it existed.
- Kämpfer: Natsuru to Kampfer!Akane.
- MW: Garai makes ineffectual attempts to be this to Michio, and instead ends up being a subverted Morality Pet - the one person Michio really cares for, but not treated any better for it.
- Hunter × Hunter: The Chimera Ant King only avoids slipping past the Moral Event Horizon because he takes care of a heavily handicapped girl when she's injured.
- Possibly you could state that on the blimp, Gon played this part for Killua. In the anime, he was about to kill a girl named Anita when he heard Gon still fighting for her outside, and it brought him back to his old self; since then, he's actually seemed to avoid killing people if there was an alternative.
- Gon, Killua and Leorio play this for Kirapika during the Yorknew arc, keeping him from Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in his quest for revenge.
- Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest: Aoshika-sensei "graduates" from Morality Pet to this, for Inugami. But in an horrifying twist, once Haguro realizes it... he actively seeks out to break her completely so Inugami will go back to him. Even by brutally raping and torturing her, if needed.
- Fushigi Yuugi: With Amiboshi around, Suboshi was as much a Jerk Ass. When Suboshi thought he was dead... all he needed was a push from Nakago to fly off the deep end and kill Tamahome's family in revenge.
- YuYu Hakusho: Yukina for Hiei.
- Likewise Shiori for Kurama.
- In One Piece, in some ways, Fisher Tiger was this to Arlong and some of the other crew.
- Koala could be argued to be this for Tiger since her innocence convinced him that there was a hope for positive relations between fishmen and humans, an ideal that he finally believed on his death bed.
- A Certain Magical Index has Last Order as the Morality Chain and Berserk Button of local Anti-Hero Accelerator. Every time she goes missing or is otherwise threatened, he reverts from Jerk with a Heart of Gold to sadistic serial killer. Why is that a bad thing? For one, he's got a shotgun. For another, he won the Superpower Lottery and can manipulate movement vectors. And the kicker? If you really piss him off like Kihara did, he'll become a fucking angel and kill you Deader Than Dead.
- Hellsing: Integra to Alucard, being the person he acknowledged to serve.
- Tenchi Muyo!: To some extent, the title character to Ryoko. She's still a Jerk Ass, but nowhere near as bad as she could be if she didn't have her affections for Tenchi.
- In Rosario + Vampire Tsukune is this for Inner Moka.
- Later on, all of the girls become this for Tsukune's Superpowered Evil Side.
- Naruto: Rin certainly is an interesting case. She is the one person that glues together her team, and when she dies, The Team falls apart. Obito becomes a masked terrorist under the alias of Tobi, Kakashi becomes a pathetic self-loathing man wracked with chronic guilt depression. Had she not died, both men would not have become the broken men they are now.
- Izuna Uchiha was this to his brother, Madara Uchiha. Madara is the man he is today because of Izuna's death, and Hashirama believes that everything that's happened in the series that has any connection to Madara is just him lashing out in his grief.
- Shion is this to Nezumi in No. 6 with all the Ho Yay implications that come with it.
- Gunslinger Girl plays this oddly with idealistic former Europol officer Victor Hillshire, where Triela, the girl he rescued from the set of a snuff film and threw away his career in the hopes of getting her rehabilitated is his chain to an Italian wetwork squadnote . He would have thrown his life away rather than cooperate with the Social Welfare Agency, but who would take care of her?
- Sagara Yoshiharu is this towards Oda Nobuna in Oda Nobuna no Yabou. Being forced to play the part of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who incidentally, was killed saving Yoshiharu) to this timeline's Oda Nobunaga (who also turns out to be a girl) during the Sengoku Period in Japan, he changes a lot of things around largely by pleading to her merciful side, such as forgiving her brother for his small rebellion rather than kill him as the real Nobunaga did. When Yoshiharu is presumed killed later in the series, she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which puts fears to her rivals, but concerns her allies that she may be crossing a Moral Event Horizon.
- In Zettai Karen Children, Minamoto is the only thing keeping Kaoru from taking one look at the Fantastic Racism shown towards espers and saying "Then Let Me Be Evil." The driving question of the series is whether he'll be able to prevent her from turning against humanity anyway.
- A bizarre example in Death Note: Ironically enough, Light Yagami is this for L, though it's fairly subtle and most noticeable after Light's Memory Gambit in the Yotsuba arc. Light's role as the tale's Villain Protagonist forces L to play the role of the hero to counteract it, despite their being Not So Different; at his core, L would gladly go to vicious extremes to satisfy his "justice" - and occasionally he does fall into darker territory, like in his torture of Misa - but Light holds him back, both by literally refusing to allow L to take certain measures and by inflaming L's desire to be better than his opponent, both intellectually and morally. Of course, it's a strange example in that L actually hates Light, Light himself is The Sociopath, and they're literally chained together.
L: Let's show him... that the good guys always win.
- Subverted with Light's little sister Sayu; she seems to be this when she interrupts his killing spree to request help with her homework and he stops, but ultimately he cares about her about as much as everybody else... which is to say, not at all.
- Light's other morality chain is his father. While he certainly isn't somehow an influence that stops his son from using the death note and killing hundreds of people easily, he is the one person Light said whose name he never would write into the death note and kill. But when Soichiro dies, Light's final chain breaks and things go to hell.
- The Saint of Killers' family in Preacher - it is after their death that he becomes so full of hate, which in turn leads to him freezing Hell after his own death and being transformed by the Angel of Death.
- In Runaways Chase reveals that he believes his girlfriend Gert is the only thing keeping him in line. He does go off the deep end for a while after Gert's murder, but he never really becomes evil.
- In Young Avengers, we saw how quickly Gentle Giant Hulkling lost his shit when his boyfriend (who is ironically the grandson of a supervillain) sort of disappeared from reality.He got better when said boyfriend was back.
- Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen doesn't have a Morality Chain so much as a Humanity Chain, in the form of his girlfriend Laurie (also known as Silk Spectre). He states openly that the only reason he maintains any interest in the earth is because of his link to her, and when she leaves him he heads off to Mars within the day, completely indifferent to the fact that his leaving is likely to trigger nuclear holocaust.
- Notably, it's also their later conversation and partial reconciliation that convinces him to return.
- Isis serves this role for Black Adam in 52. After she dies and comes back to life, he tries to dissuade her from indulging in her new omnicidal mania, meaning he's trying to be her morality chain.
- The comic also has Superman acting as this to Lex Luthor of all people. Granted, Lex is pretty damn evil when Superman is around, but when Superman drops off the face of the Earth and Lex doesn't have him to obsess over, he creates the Everyman Project, which can turn normal people into superheroes, in order to test the process out before he uses it on himself. However, when he discovers he's incompatible with the process, he angrily shuts off the superpowers of everybody in the project, standing on the top floor of LexCorp as he watches the dozens of Everymen that were flying at the time plummeting to their deaths.
- Deathstroke's Battle Butler Wintergreen was this for the entire Wilson family. His Undying Loyalty made him complicit in Slade's shadier dealings, but he always tried to bring out the best in him and his children. Wintergeen's death at the hands of the Jericho-possessed Deathstroke destroyed any chance that Slade could ever go through a true Heel-Face Turn. Rose at least managed to eventually turn good.
- In Justice Society of America, after Damage dies, Judomaster goes after her father's killer because of the loss. Sand reveals to her that Damage, forewarned of his death, had left her a message; this is what persuades her not to kill him.
- It has been hinted that Norman Osborn's wife Emily was this; he recalls being more whole and balanced with her than at any other time, and her Death by Childbirthnote helped push him off the deep end, at the very least kick-starting his resentment of his son Harry.
"Gaining an heir cost me the finest woman I had ever known. It wasn't a fair trade."
- In Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! #2, Eddie Brock, who had recently undergone a Heel-Face Turn and become the "superhero" Anti-Venom, uses his new Healing Hands to cure a teenaged drug addict named Jenna Cole of her addiction. Come New Ways To Live, Eddie's sanity takes a dive after he finds out his idol Martin Li is the supervillain Mr. Negative and he openly admits that Jenna is the only thing stopping him from reverting back to his "Lethal Protector" persona, becoming violently protective of her and beating up anyone who insinuates she's still on drugs. When a cartel abducts her and gets her "high out of her mind", Eddie is... not amused.
- Fairchild is acting as this for the New52 version of Superboy. In fact, she insists on it.
- In Transformers Meta It's Personal Hound inwardly directly states that Bumblebee is this to Grimlock while he is contemplating their friendship.
- A Crown Of Stars:
- In chapter 52 Shinji realized he was just like his father and he would also burn the world for the woman he loves. So that he asked Asuka keeping him from becoming a monster.
- Shortly before Asuka had wished punishing a bloody dictator and rapist with extreme prejudice, but she held back because she thought that Shinji -who hates hurting people and killing- would have a trouble with punishing him too severely.
- Fluttershy becomes this for Rainbow Dash in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, as Rainbow Dash in this continuity never became the Element of Loyalty, thus never forming the True Companions like in the main story. This also deconstructs this trope in that with just a Morality Chain and no one else, she is unable to extend that sympathy to other people or really relate to them.
- Thousand Shinji: In this story Shinji is a psychotic, arrogant, manipulative Jerkass with little empathy. Believe it or not, if his girlfriend Asuka, his surrogate -or so he thinks- sister Rei, his surrogate mother Misato, his friends Touji and Kensuke... he would be way, way worse. Before moving in Tokyo-3 he regarded people as tools to be used and discarded or morons. But after finding them Shinji begins to show love, empathy, tenderness, caring, pity... when he is around them, and he even tries to use his well-trained manipulative skills for the good.
- In Voiceless the Third Hokage seems to be this for Naruto. In chapter 4 the narrator mentioned how he sometimes hated his trainer, Kakashi, and often thought about leaving the village because he didn't have many other attachments.
- In A Cure for Love L becomes Light's Morality Chain. Even after Light regains his memories he shows more restraint as Kira than he did before (to the point that a fellow Knight Templar thinks he’s gone soft) and Light even considers L to be his "partner" in destroying another enemy. But then when L "betrays" Light by suggesting he should be committed; Light snaps, abandons any remaining moral constraints, and essentially takes over the world in an afternoon.
- In All You Need Is Love Naomi Misora realizes, to her horror, that she's the Morality Chain so she sticks around Light even while knowing he's a manipulative, narcissistic, mass-murderer because she knows he could be so much worse.
- In the Avatar fanfic by the same name as this trope, Zuko (and to some extent Ursa) is a morality chain for Azula. Striving to earn her mother's affection, she goes along with her promise to watch over Zuko. She is still a manipulative psychopath with little concept on base emotions like love and still out to capture the Avatar, but she shows genuine care and concern for not only her brother but her friends Ty Lee and Mai as well. You cannot help but to root for her in some scenes.
- Inner Demons: In a way, Trixie serves as this to Queen!Twilight, as the former's Undying Loyalty brings out what little compassion and good is left in the latter. When Trixie dies, Queen!Twilight suffers a full-blown Villainous Breakdown and shifts from an Evil Overlord to an Omnicidal Maniac.
- An Invoked Trope in Heir when Voldemort worries about what kind of monster he might become without Severus.
- In the Hunger Games fanfiction Some Semblance of Meaning, heroine Vale holds onto the promise she made to her younger sister that she wouldn't sacrifice her morality in the arena, whenever she considers doing anything morally reprehensible (not that such a Shrinking Violet would probably start chopping her friends and allies to pieces, anyway, but her promise to Laurel ensures it). An even better example would be the way that Vale herself serves as a Morality Chain to Obsidian.
- In Children of Time, Professor Moriarty tells Dr. Watson that Sherlock Holmes is "drowning" without his Watson. Heartbreakingly true.
- In Kaleidoscope of Magic Hermione becomes the one thing keeping Harry gray-not-dark after Dumbledore and Algernon Croaker throw him into Azkaban and have him tortured to give him a superpower which only awakens in response to extreme misery.
- In If Thems The Rules, a Time Travel fic where Harry raises young Tom Riddle. Tom is still a Sociopath but he behaves himself out of loyalty to Harry because Harry is the only person to ever show him kindness.
- In Diaries of a Madman, Taya and Flo often act as this for Navarone, putting a damper on some of his more unethical behaviour.
- In He Is Not One of Us Snape finds out that Harry is secretly studying the Dark Arts and advises him to keep some humanity in order to avoid their seductive aspects and Harry replies (referring to Hermione) "She's outside the door."
- In Mega Man Reawakened, Robert was this to Tron when he was human. When she finds out he's still alive, she turns good. Later it's reversed, with Tron helping to keep him on the straight and narrow.
- Molly Weasley is this to Harry in the one-shot After The Final Battle. Harry easily admits to himself the only reason he doesn't kill Ron is because he knew it would devastate her and she's the only adult who ever acted like a parent for him. Especially after seeing her boggart (which shows a person's greatest fears) was her family dead, which included Harry.
- In a series of stories written by WithoutHesitation, Beetlejuice is a complete monster who frequently and indiscriminately commits acts of extreme violence ... except when Lydia is around, and only because he doesn't want her to view him in a negative light. Ironically, later in the series it's implied that his relationship with Lydia ultimately resulted in Beelejuice murdering many, many more people than he would have if he'd never met her, all due to his aggressively possessive and protective behavior.
- Zigzagged in Cultstuck. Karkat is Gamzee's moirail, and Gamzee sobers up, which makes him evil, so he can protect Karkat effectively. During Gamzee's POV chapters, his love for Karkat is basically the only thing keeping him coherent. The creepiness of this is not ignored.
- Inverted in the Batman fanfic Macushla, where Stephanie Brown, due to a long series of events, becomes Damian's bodyguard and caretaker/Morality Pet. After Talia al Ghul has Stephanie killed or at least, that's what she tells Damian, Damian joins the Batclan to honor her memory.
- In Hail Odysseus James Potter's shade heavily implies that a Slytherin Ginny Weasley serves this function for Harry.
Films — Animated
- In The LEGO Movie, Bad Cop has a morality chain in the form of... himself. While not the dominant personality, Good Cop is strong enough to rein in Bad Cop's sadism and prevents him from using the Kragle on his parents. When Lord Business rubs out Good Cop's face with nail polish remover, Bad Cop goes through with freezing his parents.
Films — Live-Action
- Four Brothers has Evelyn Mercer serve a similar function, as the following quote demonstrates. That said, as soon as she dies it's as if Sauron were let loose in that town. Eventually, the brothers do somewhat settle back down once enough people are dead.
Detective Fowler: If this woman's such a goddamned saint, how did she end up raising four total fuck-ups?
Lt. Green: Miss Evelyn cycled hundreds of kids out of the foster program and into permanent homes. In 30 years she only came across four lost causes. Four delinquents so far gone she couldn't find anyone to take them in. So she did. Trust me, Fowler, these kids are congressmen compared to what they would've been.
- Happy Gilmore: Happy's grandmother is his defining moral point — her being in trouble is what sparks the whole plot off, and Happy rejects anything that will cause her harm in some way.
- The title character in Harry Brown loses his wife and best friend in the first few minutes. With them gone, there's nothing left (except advanced age) to keep him from reverting to the ruthless torture-using Royal Marine he once was.
- Shilo acts as one of these for her father, Nathan in Repo! The Genetic Opera. She replaced her mother, Marni, who was more of a Morality Pet. It's implied that without Shilo, Nathan would take on the Repo Man persona full time.
- Extensively played with in The Sons Of Katie Elder when the four sons return to their mother's home for her funeral and the three elder brothers (all "bad men" in the sense that they were Gunslingers and so forth) decide that the youngest needs to go to college and be respectable so that their mother can be honored. Of course, the youngest son wants to be like his older brothers. They proceed to inform him that he is now required to be the honor bearer for the whole family. This involves a significant amount of brotherly violence to make sure he understands.
- Star Wars basically had Emperor Palpatine psyching Anakin/Darth Vader to the point of killing his own Morality Chain, Padmé.
- For that matter, Return of the Jedi has Luke becoming a Morality Chain for his dying father.
- Actually, they serve as each others' Morality Chains. Darth keeps Luke from giving in to the Dark Side, and Luke brings Anakin back to the Light. Leia also serves this function for Luke somewhat in that when Vader threatens her Luke jumps back into battle.
- And Palpatine notes in the Revenge of the Sith novel that Obi-Wan is Anakin's other morality chain, with Dooku's plan being to break the chain by killing Obi-Wan. Palpatine has other ideas, of course. He also managed to weaken the effect of both of Anakin's chains; at the start of the novel Anakin has some respect for his wife's autonomy and doesn't want to hurt her. Later, even before he strangles her, he sees her less as a person he loves and more as a possession expressing fear and pain, emotions that are beautiful to behold because he earned them.
- Palpatine also sows distrust between Anakin and his morality chains, framing Obi Wan and Padme's recognition of Palpatine's growing dictatorship as treason and betrayal of Anakin personally. He also is very careful to isolate Anakin from both of them, going so far as to manipulate the Jedi into sending Obi Wan half a galaxy away when the crux of the plan is in play.
- Kota and Juno is generally Galen's morality chain, with Juno being the only person who he really cared about and loved.
- For that matter, Return of the Jedi has Luke becoming a Morality Chain for his dying father.
- In Unforgiven, Will Munny's wife is his morality chain. Once she dies, he tries to continue in her memory, as well as for his kids.
- There are only two people Daniel Plainview has any kind of love for; his adopted son H.W. and his half-brother Henry. But even this love has limits. Henry is revealed to be an impostor who took Henry's identity after he died of tuberculosis to find work; Daniel kills him in cold blood. He also grows increasingly frustrated with his son's recent deafness, until finally, when an adult H.W. respectfully asks to dissolve their partnership to seek his fortune, Daniel lashes out at him, telling H.W. of his real parentage and subjecting him to verbal abuse. H.W. ultimately walks away in disgust, leaving Daniel all alone.
- In The Godfather, after he figures out the treachery of Carlo, the brother-in-law, Michael waits to assassinate him until the death of Vito, because he doesn't want to hurt the old man by breaking up the family. After Vito dies of a heart attack, all bets are off.
- Taken even further in The Godfather Part II, where Mike finds out that his actual brother, Fredo, has betrayed the family. He explicitly tells Fredo that he is safe for now, because Mike knows what killing him would do to their mama. After Mama dies, though...
- In the 1951 film version of Scrooge, which delves deeper into Scrooge's past than the book does, Scrooge's sister Fan is depicted as having been this for his younger self. She was his only family member who ever loved him, and he's a nice young man as long as he has her, but her death marks the start of his transformation into the miserable miser we all know.
- Owen Grady is this in Jurassic World to his four Velociraptors. He is the only person they won't kill on sight and manages to retain a small measure of control over these Reformed, but Not Tamed animals... at least until halfway through the film when they decide that the I. rex makes a better alpha. And then they switch sides again in the finale when Delta and Echo fight to the death to protect Owen and Blue pulls a Big Damn Heroes with Rexie and the Mosasaurus to take down the I. rex. Charlie also refused to attack Owen during the earlier firefight, which ended up getting her killed by Hoskins' merc team.
- The second half of the orignal Slayers novels (the ninth-through-fifteenth novels, which were never translated into English) introduced a new rival to Lina, Luke. He is an ex-assassin, and the only reason he never turned back is because of his partner Milina (and it' shown that he is clearly in love with her). With her he is more or less a Jerk Ass, but when Milina is killed later on, Luke becomes a crazed Omnicidal Maniac, allowing his piece of Shabranigdo, the Big Bad, to awaken out of his soul.
- Dexter's foster father, Harry, who trained Dexter to select his targets according to certain standards of morality and justice. Dexter calls it the "Code of Harry".
- Turned on its head in the Discworld novel Witches Abroad. Granny Weatherwax is good because her sister turned evil, which by the Theory of Narrative Causality meant she had to be the 'good' one to balance things out. Granny never forgave her sister for that, since she maintains adamantly that she'd be an infinitely better villain than the sister. It should be noted that Granny was more pissed off because she never got to choose. She had to be the Good One because her sister was the bad one. That the sister thought she was the Good One was simply the icing on the cake.
- Witches as a "community" keep an eye on each other for this very reason. Any group of witches larger than Three has a tendency to fall apart from bickering, but there's still a silent understanding that some level of contact helps them avoid "going to the bad".
- In the Prince Roger books by David Weber and John Ringo, Sergeant Nimashet Despreaux is told by a number of her comrades that she must survive because she is the Morality Chain for Prince Roger MacClintock, who will be the next emperor of mankind. She is also told that is why she has to marry him.
- Zigzagged with Snape in Harry Potter: though his love for Lily was not enough to keep him from joining the Death Eaters, Voldemort threatening her life switched him to good, and her death (and his responsibility for it) was the main reason he dedicated his life to protecting Harry, even though the two loathed each other.
- Downplayed with Aragog and Hagrid. Aragog's loyalty and devotion to Hagrid were strong enough to suppress Aragog's natural instinct as a dangerous magical creature to eat humans. This only went so far; Aragog didn't try to deny his family the opportunity to eat Harry and Ron when they visited him in the Forbidden Forest, though he would prevent them from trying the same with Hagrid. Of course, whether or not a sapient monster (whose instincts drive it to eat people) actually eating people could be considered "evil" is a tricky matter.
- In The Demons Lexicon by Sarah Rees-Brennan, the protagonist's brother Alan acts as a Morality Chain for him.
- The Reynard Cycle: Persephone is this to Reynard. Which is rather ironic, given that the majority of the reprehensible things he does throughout the series are motivated by him wanting to possess her.
- Invoked in the Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Sanguinius. When Rafen offers to challenge Arkio's claim to be Sanguinius reincarnated in combat, Stele is glad despite the unexpected turn Rafen's survival has caused, because he believes that Rafen is the last link Arkio has to his humanity and that Rafen's death will cause Arkio to be permanently lost to Chaos.
- "One Lonely Night" begins with Private Detective Mike Hammer angsting over being chewed out by a judge merely for blowing away a scumbag who likely would have been executed anyway. He spends much of the book bothered by his Honor's assertion that he's no better than the man he killed, and so is quite pleased when he's able to retrieve the MacGuffin without killing many more people. Then his Sexy Secretary Velda gets kidnapped and Mike realises he's been kidding himself. Of course he's an evil murdering bastard. That's what he was put on Earth for! He then proceeds to track down the Dirty Communists who kidnapped his secretary and Kill Them All.
- Gone with the Wind: At no point in the book or movie is Scarlett honestly a morally admirable human being, but after her mother Ellen dies, the puppies really start flying.
- In the novelization of Metropolis, Hel functioned as one of these for both Joh Fredersen and Rotwang. After she dies, Joh withdraws completely into work and becomes a cold-hearted executive, and Rotwang withdraws into his laboratory to spend all his time plotting revenge and building a robot clone of Hel. At the end, Joh Fredersen is redeemed by his son Freder, who becomes his new morality chain.
- In the Vorkosigan Saga the sadistic Sociopathic Soldier Sergeant Bothari has two morality chains: his daughter Elena and the young Miles Vorkosigan. Lacking any moral sense, he uses duty to dictate how he treats them.
- While the cold and ruthless Tywin Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire was never really a nice guy (he wiped out two families of rebellious vassals as a young man), it's mentioned that he used to be somewhat more humane, and in particular, showed his most visible happiness and emotion around his beloved wife. When she died in childbirth, all of that humanity was gone for good.
- In The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, Philip's daughter Penny is the only thing that keeps him from snapping during the Zombie Apocalypse.
- Relatively benign example in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. Nick Rostu was mind-controlled into attacking Luke, who took a chance and saved Nick. Now Nick can return the favor by gunning down thirty-odd mind controlled people and saving Luke... but... he hesitates
because he had an overpowering intuition: if Luke Skywalker thought he might save thirty innocent lives by sacrificing his own, he wouldn't hesitate. Ten innocent lives.One."Or, hell, one not-so-innocent life," Nick muttered. "Like mine." He flipped the carbine's power setting to stun. "I hate Jedi."
- Christine in "Beauty and the Opera, or the Phantom Beast," by Suzy McKee Charnas. The Phantom's whole idea of morality consists of obeying Christine's decree that he must not murder people who annoy him.
- Catherine Earnshaw is this to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. He was never a nice person (though this may be a case of Then Let Me Be Evil, considering that everyone ostracizes him and expects him to be evil from the start because he's an Ambiguously Brown rescued street urchin), but once she marries another man and then dies in childbirth, he develops into a near-demonic Villain Protagonist and takes elaborate revenge on everyone who has ever kept him from Catherine or otherwise screwed him over (and their children).
- In I, Claudius, Tiberius has three people like that: his first wife, Vipsania, his brother Drusus and his friend Cocceius Nerva. Claudius notes that initially their influence checked the worse elements of his nature, but as he was forced to divorce Vipsania and Drusus was sent on a military campaign to a different part of the empire, their influence on Tiberius was removed and he gradually went altogether to the bad (especially after the two died). As for Nerva, he was too absent-minded and innocent to keep Tiberius in check.
- In the Logan's Run books, Logan is a hardened killer with barely a conscience to speak of. He actually goes on the run on his Lastday in order to achieve the glory of finding Sanctuary and destroying it, dying as the greatest Sandman ever. He (at first) dupes Jessica so that she'll be his Unwitting Pawn. But Jess impresses him by having more bravery and will to live than anyone he's seen, and falls for her instead, eventually converting to her cause and defecting. When Jess isn't around to rein him in, he does revert back to an unpleasant Anti-Hero.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Ritchie is revealed to have been this for Kalak for the previous book and earlier.. Once he dies, Mordak stirs, Kalak's marriage decays and he visits Zarracka for comfort.
- The Exile's Violin: Clay's character development involves becoming one of these for Jacquie; he keeps her darker anti hero aspects in check.
- Liz Pennykettle to pretty much every character in The Last Dragon Chronicles.
- War and Democide Never Again. The protagonist, John, thinks he is this to Joy, but when things get hairy he is completely ineffectual in reining in her sociopathic tendencies... until she crosses the Moral Event Horizon completely, leaving him with no choice but to kill her to prevent her from causing any further harm.
- In the Matthew Swift series, the titular character is this for the blue electric angels who are infantile, amoral, quite capable of burning London to the ground for shits and giggles, and with whom he shares a mind; although others suspect he may be more of a Morality Pet. On the occasions when Matthew is forced to take a back seat, havoc ensues. As one character puts it:
Vera: God, if there wasn't a fucking sorcerer still in that skin, they'd have ripped the city apart just for kicks.
- Later in the series, when Matthew becomes Midnight Mayor, it's speculated that he was chosen for the office (as London's mystic guardian) in order to force the angels to be invested in the city's well being, essentially making the entirety of London into a Morality Chain.
- Niko is this to Cal Leandros as his human side slowly starts dwindling away. He is also just as protective of Niko as Niko is of him. So it's a bad idea to hurt either of them, mm'kay?
- After his death and Brain Uploading, Nahrmahn plays this role for Merlin in the Safehold series. He offers reassurance when Merlin fears what his power (to essentially kill anyone he has to with impunity) may turn him into, and makes sure Merlin doesn't shut himself out from his friends and loved ones.
- Journey To Chaos: Captain Hasina is a Mad Scientist who might experiment on random bystanders all day and all night if her lieutenant didn't stick to her like glue and tell her not to.
Live Action TV
- In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Dirty Half Dozen," Xena says that Gabrielle is something of a morality chain and confirmed in seasons 5 & 6; Gabrielle throws away her staff, Xena and her minions commit genocide versus gods, centaurs, Amazons, Japanese etc.
- On As the World Turns: Many characters believe that Luke is the reason that Reid is becoming nicer and more human... and they're right.
- Team Angel, as a whole, is Angel's Morality Chain. Notably, during Season Two, he abandons them, believing they are making him "weak", and getting in the way of his fight against evil. Without them, he begins to lose more and more of his humanity, until he sleeps with Darla in an attempt to lose his soul and become Angelus.
- Dexter: Harry once again, though his family (Rita, the kids, his sister,) are like reinforcing links on the chain.
- Doing nothing to stop the accusations of Ho Yay, Supernatural did this in "Mystery Spot". Dean is really gone this time and while Sam isn't exactly 'evil', he's a more unhinged, colder mix of John and Gordon. While it didn't last (although there was pretty crappy after-effects on Sam's mental state), it still showcased their Sibling Yin-Yang awesomely: If it weren't for Sam then Dean would commit suicide and if it weren't for Dean then Sam would lose his innate humanity.
- In Season 1 and early Season 2, there are suggestions in Sam's moralizing that he's going to be the morality chain for Dean. As the troper above indicated, this gets turned around hard in later seasons.
- Sam didn't get addicted to demon blood until Dean was no longer there to stop him. Sam has generally good intentions, but he went from a deontological moralizer in Season 1 and parts of Season 2 (won't kill humans, doesn't like moral ambiguity, wants Dean to kill him if he goes darkside) to a fervent consequentialist by the beginning of Season 4 ("It's totally cool to bang a demon chick as long as she's in a (mostly) dead body and also to guzzle down demon blood because it lets me save people.") Sam's motives don't fundamentally change, but failing to stop Dean's descent into Hell drives him all the way off the slippery slope on the sliding scale of means vs. ends.
- At the end of Season 4, Sam brutalizes Dean and nearly chokes him to death before relenting, to which Dean responds with an extremely ill-advised ultimatum mirroring their father's when Sam left for college, and EVEN THEN, Sam's trust in and love for Dean very nearly prevent him from engaging in the final orgy of demon blood and violence that freed Satan from hell just as he's about to do it. It's only because Zachariah edited the reconciliatory phone message Dean left on Sam's voice mail that Sam finally comes to believe that Dean has abandoned him, and that he has to go through with his plan.
- In Season 6 when Sam is missing his soul, Dean takes on the role of his conscience. How much he succeeds varies, though it is acknowledged that before Dean joined Sam, Sam was extremely ruthless, killing and sacrificing innocents in order to finish a hunt. With Dean around, this happens much less.
- Likewise, in a Season 5 episode The End, Dean is sent to a future where he and Sam never reunite and Sam ends up becoming Lucifer's vessel. Even Dean has to admit that his future self is a callous dick and by the end of the episode, has come to the conclusion that they "keep each other human."
- In I, Claudius, Drusus Germanicus to Tiberius.
- Alternate Future Sylar from Volume 3 of Heroes has his son Noah as his Morality Chain, one strong enough to subvert Do Not Call Me Gabriel. With Noah around, Sylar was able to curb his hunger and become a good man. But then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong when it turns out that Knox doesn't know the meaning of Infant Immortality.
- Davis Bloome from Smallville transforms into killing machine Doomsday with enough agitation; however, Chloe Sullivan's physical presence is the only thing that could calm him enough to stop the transformations. When he finds out Chloe truly loves Jimmy Olsen instead of him and that she ran away with him just to protect Clark, though, Davis (the human) goes apeshit and murderous.
- The entire Torchwood team fills this role for Captain Jack Harkness. Word of God has it that if Ianto hadn't died, Jack would not have been able to kill his grandson later on.
- Lady Adira and Vir Cotto to Londo Mollari in Babylon 5.It doesn't end well.
- Well, Not for him. Or for Adira. But by all accounts, Emperor Cotto leaves the Centauri Republic far better than he found it, or indeed better than Cartagia had found it years earlier—and he wouldn't have become Emperor were it not for Londo's Thanatos Gambit. Babylon 5: reminding you that you have to take the good with the bad since 1994.
- Lilly Truscott of Hannah Montana is quite often the only thing reining in Miley's diva-ness.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor's companions sometimes fill this role, though how much this is needed varies across his incarnations.
Doctor: Why do I even keep you around?
- This trait goes back to the very first serial, with the very first companions of the very first Doctor. In "An Unearthly Child", a much more morally ambiguous Doctor is prepared to kill an injured caveman because he is slowing down their escape while companions Barbara and Ian are insistent on helping him. Ian doesn't let him do it.
- Steven is fairly good at telling the First Doctor when he's crossed the line - reminding him about all the lives wasted when the Doctor is quite willing to celebrate a genocide of the Daleks in "The Daleks' Master Plan", and giving him an ultimatum upon carelessly abandoning him and refusing to rescue even one person from a historical atrocity in "The Massacre".
- Donna says outright in "The Runaway Bride" that the Tenth Doctor needs to find someone who can serve this purpose for him. Later, after losing her, he rejects the notion of companionship altogether, and ends up arrogantly deciding that the rules of time are his to command, not obey. Needless to say, this backfires immediately when a woman that he rescues from a vital point in history commits suicide upon realizing the consequences. In "The End of Time, Part 1", he has a tearful breakdown as he remembers why he needs a companion.
- This resurfaces with the Eleventh Doctor, as he tries shifting to a part-time companion model, dropping in on them from time to time. Turns out, well-intentioned as the idea might be, going without companions for long periods still has an erosive effect on his morality.
- The Twelfth Doctor is fully aware Clara acts as this for him, calling him out on his morally dubious actions and suggesting alternatives, and appreciates it.
Clara: Because the alternative would be developing a conscience of your own?
- Clara is an interesting example because she can be every bit as bossy, smartass-ish, and manipulative as the Doctor when sufficiently pushed, and has a strong need to feel in-control and being a Consummate Liar as her major character flaws, although she usually hides this and tries her best to be mature, level-headed and moral, leading to a dynamic where both she and Twelve are this, in equal parts for each other. They take frequent jabs at each other's closeted vanity, and there are notable scenes where he calls her out or keeps her grounded when she screws up, most notably the scene where she has a major short-circuit moment after her boyfriend's death and attempts to blackmail the Doctor into bringing him back. The series 8 finale has a pair of closely mirrored scenes where they're willing to kill to spare the other the experience, explicitly referred to in the episode as "saving [the other person's] soul".
- As a further interesting twist, from that very same episode, is that Clara gets a situation where she stops the Doctor not from going ballistic on a villain, but from sparing them because of his previous personal attachment to them; The villain in question was so dangerous, insane and notoriously hard to contain that, for a change, ''shooting the dog'' is the more moral choice.
Clara: "If you've ever let this creature live, all of this is on you!"
- The Master takes companions, but not out of a desire for friendship as much as for domination. The Doctor attempts to be a morality chain for him on several occasions, but is rebuffed until "The End of Time", when the Master chooses to sacrifice himself rather than see the Doctor killed.
- More rarely, the dynamic is reversed and the Doctor prevents the companions from doing questionable things:
- In "The Aztecs", the First Doctor has to pull an increasingly megalomaniac Barbara out of trying to change history.
- The Third Doctor spends almost all of his tenure trying to keep the Brigadier from calling in the army to shoot at the Monster of the Week or blow up the Negative Space Wedgie and instead trust his own science and diplomacy methods. Not only does this show lack of imagination, it's not uncommon that the aliens aren't even hostile until the Brigadier starts trying to kill them, and it never helps regardless.
- "Genesis of the Daleks", where Sarah Jane and Harry are quite ready to commit genocide, but the Doctor persuades them it would be wrong to do it.
- Leela's companionship was mostly based around the Doctor teaching her to use her mind and diplomacy to achieve her goals, as she was raised as a warrior in a primitive culture and knew little else besides killing. The Doctor was therefore relegated to talking her out of trying to knife people.
- Interestingly, the roles were flipped behind the scenes. Tom Baker despised the character of Leela (he thought she was too violent for Doctor Who), and kept acting like an ass on set, repeatedly upstaging her scenes by coming in too early. The only reason he stopped was Louise Jameson's insistence on doing the scenes over and over until he knocked it off.
- In Firefly, Mal is Jayne's Morality Chain, though it's not that Mal makes Jayne good so much as Mal is willing to toss him out the airlock if he betrays any of the crew.
- One could argue that the entire crew (sans Simon and River) is something of a more classic morality chain to him, probably due to them being a strong sense of family, he hasn't had as a mercenary (although there's hints he had one as a child). This is shown most in the same scene where he's more concerned about how the crew will think of him after he's dead than actually being dead.
- On Charmed, many characters have explicitly stated that Phoebe plays this role in making sure that Cole remains good. In fact, Cole's well-known tendency for being a Heel-Face Revolving Door is pretty much a function of his relationship with Phoebe—that is, Phoebe and Cole are constantly breaking up and reestablishing their relationship, and every time this happens, it has a major effect on Cole's status as evil or good. Although Phoebe is very much aware of her power to be Cole's Morality Chain, she usually seems to be merely yanking his chain based on her own emotions, rather than consistently using her influence to make sure Cole becomes and remains a redeemed demon.
- Chris is also one for his fiancee Bianca.
- Used in some episodes of Criminal Minds. In fact, one of the killers outright stated that as long as his morality chain was with him, he would do no harm. Another episode has a close examination of the strange, symbiotic relationship between the killer and his chain that ends in a truly heartbreaking fashion.
- True Blood: Russell Edgington, Big Bad of Season 3, had one in his lover Talbot. While he was always clearly the bad guy, he spent the first two thirds of the season being a Faux Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard who spent most of his time monologing, trying to seduce the main characters to his side. However, once Talbot was murdered, shit got real.
Eric: "Russell Edgington was maybe the oldest and strongest vampire on the planet. Now he is also the craziest."
- In Being Human (UK), Mitchell describes this trope - when asked by another vampire how he lives with his Horror Hunger without succumbing, he says: "you surround yourself with good people, that's what you do. You find someone better than you. Cause then when you fail, you have to deal with their disappointment."
- In the fourth season, Hal goes out to kill a man, like, ten minutes after losing his family. He stops because Annie told him how much they would be disappointed.
- House explicitly asks Martha Masters to become one for him. Without someone acting as an ethical compass, he stands to lose Cuddy.
- Wilson acts as this for House sometimes too.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In seasons 5 and 6, Buffy and Dawn act as Spike's Morality Chains. Dawn also fits the role of Morality Pet (Buffy doesn't).
- Faith serves as one for Angel during the Angel & Faith comics, which is exactly what Angel wants: a friend he trusts to make sure he doesn't Jump Off The Slippery Slope again like he did as Twilight.
- An episode of Fringe involved a man and his counterpart from the other dimension both of whom struggled with an inner "darkness" as a child (resulting in things like mutilating animals), one ended up a memory stealing serial killer, the other was a well adjusted criminal psychologist because he encountered and developed a relationship with a loving mother figure in his youth. Eventually the two cross paths and the killer steals his memories of the mother figure then kills himself out of remorse when those memories take root and make capable of understanding how monstrous his actions have been. The FBI is worried that the surviving psychologist (now suffering from partial amnesia regarding the woman who saved him) will become a killer himself, but it's implied that he still retains things she taught him and her influence persists even without being able to remember her specifically.
- Ted is something of this to Barney in How I Met Your Mother, and Barney has been shown to forgo his more despicable actions if he's afraid of pushing Ted too far. Notably, when he has a one-night stand with a recently-dumped Robin, Ted's ex-girlfriend (and very close friend), Ted does temporarily break off their friendship, which sends Barney into a spiral of depression, desperation, and revenge plots. Ironically, this may have been the first time in Barney's life when he was actually being kind and comforting instead of just using a girl for sex, but given Barney's history, it's hard to blame Ted for not believing him.
You know, I always thought there was a limit. I always thought I was the limit!
- Leverage is intersting in that there are sort of two characters fitting this role. Nate is this to the rest of the team, causing them to do good. On the other hand, he is willing to often go too far in cons unless Sophie stops him. Sophie's importance is especially seen during season 2 when she temporarily leaves and he begins to go too far.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Changeling Founders (Odo's people) lead the tyrannical Dominion and wage war against the Alpha Quadrant powers. Laas argues that Kira is the only reason why Odo hasn't left Deep Space Nine and joined the Dominion.
Odo: I won't have anything to do with the Founders and their war.Laas: Odo, we linked. I know the truth. You stayed here because of Kira. If it weren't for her, you would be with our people. War or no war, you would be a Founder!
- Also has another example of one that ends very badly with Gul Dukat's daughter, Ziyal. While she's around, Dukat begins to turn over a new leaf but after his second banana Damar shoots her dead, Dukat goes completely off the deep end and tries to sacrifice the entire universe to a bunch of alien demons.
- In Once Upon a Time, Belle is this for Gold/Rumplestiltskin. He tries to be good for her, even though he is still pretty bad. Without her there is nothing holding him back from being downright evil and killing whoever he wants. Belle can also be seen as a Morality Pet, since she is the living embodiment of Pet the Dog. She is the only one that Rumple is nice and sweet to, his only weakness. If anyone messes with her they are toast. He even says in season 2 episode 12 that if any harm comes to Belle while he is gone, he will kill everyone! Due to her, we see that Rumple does have a heart after all. His lost son will also probably serve as a morality chain for him once he finds him.
- Also, in season two, Henry serves as such for his adoptive mother, Regina/The Evil Queen. He is almost literally the only reason she ever tries to be good in the present time. At times, when she feels she is on the verge of losing him to others' affections, she turns to evil again, only to turn back when pressured by him.
- Defiance has a complicated example in Nolan and Irisa's relationship. Nolan was a ruthless trigger-happy solider before adopting Irisa. Meanwhile Irisa is a damaged, violence-prone wild child with serious trust issues. They serve as Morality Chains for each other: taking care of Irisa made Nolan more compassionate, and being cared for by Nolan made Irisa more emotionally stable.
- Homeland has Dana Brody, whose last minute phone conversation with her father in the Season 1 finale convinces him against blowing himself up to assassinate the Vice President and the other national security personnel
- Howard Moon is this to Vince Noir of The Mighty Boosh. Vince has a definite heart of gold under all his selfishness, but Howard seems to be the only person who keeps him from forgetting that it's there. In the episode Strange Tale of the Crack Fox, the drug addicted and homoicidal Club Kid Crack Fox is basically what Vince would be if Howard wasn't there to keep him grounded.
- In Person of Interest, Finch is this to Reese. Before Finch hired him (and became his Only Friend), he was a CIA agent who was a merciless killer (Ok, he never killed an innocent, but he didn't go out of his way to save them either) and then a bum on the street, beating up jerks who opposed him. Once he was hired he became a Big Good Bad Ass In A Nice Suit.
- Finch's effect on Reese is such that by the end of the first season, when Reese is on a Roaring Rampage of Rescue for his Only Friend, Dectective Fusco is seriously concerned about what John is capable of without Harold's influence.
- The Machine also has this role for Root, causing her to actually become one of the good guys and preventing her from killing anyone.
- the second season of The Following gave us Ryan Hardy's niece Max,who tries her very best to keep her uncle on the right side of the law in his pursuit of serial killer Joe Carroll, and to get him to share what he knows with the FBI (not that he pays attention to her in that regard)
- Discussed in Stargate Universe. In one episode, Dr Rush uses alien technology to relive his memories of the days leading up to the death of his wife. As she's dying, he tells her that she is his Morality Chain. However she responds that he can't make her into this and must continue to be a good man even though she's gone. From this point on, Rush is noticeably, albeit slighty, nicer.
- Sherlock: John is this for Sherlock, since he's the only person who can reign in Sherlock's weirdness and get him to question his "high-functioning sociopath" theory. Oh, and he's the only person Sherlock sees as a friend. He can also be seen as a Morality Pet since, in "The Great Game" when his life is threatened, Sherlock asks if he's alright.
- MacGyver: Murdoch's sister is this to Murdoch in "Halloween Knights". Learning he had a sister causes Murdoch to attempt to go straight and quit the Murder, Inc. organisation he worked for. They respond by kidnapping the sister, forcing Murdoch into an Enemy Mine situation with MacGyver to rescue her. However, she dies before Murdoch's next appearance, causing him to revert to his villainous ways.
- In 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles of The Bible, Jehoiada the priest served as King Joash/Jehoash's Morality Chain as long as he was alive, as the king did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, including having the Temple repaired. However, after Jehoiada died, 2nd Chronicles records that Jehoash forsook the Lord, and served the groves and idols, even going as far as having Zechariah the son of Jehoiada murdered for speaking the Lord's words against the king. In the end, his own servants conspired against him and killed him, and he was not buried alongside the kings of Judah.
Role Playing Games
- In Survival of the Fittest, Elizabeth Priestly is this to twin brother Lenny. When she's not around him, he acts even more of a complete bastard to get her back/find her.
- And now that she's permanently out of the picture, we can probably expect even nastier things to happen to anybody Lenny meets...especially Gabe McCallum.
- In Rifts, Baarrtk Krror is only prevented from giving in entirely to hate by his dear friend, Malik Savant.
- The Vampire: The Requiem supplement Danse Macabre introduces the concept of "anchors" as a replacement for the Humanity system. The way it works, essentially, is that you have a set of Morality Chains that prevent you from degenerating and giving into The Beast. You lose an anchor when they become too exposed to the rest of vampiric society or you damage the relationship too thoroughly. Did we mention that the anchor system is meant to be used in conjunction with the Atrocity system and your anchors are the easiest way to safely vent Atrocity dice?
- Blumiere (a.k.a. Count Bleck) of Super Paper Mario decided to destroy all of reality when his love interest died. When it was revealed that she was actually alive, he reverted.
- Inverted in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Midna spends the first third or more of the game thinking only of her own world and recovering the things that she needs. The selflessness she discovers in the personalities of Link and Princess Zelda, however, become a Morality Chain for her which develops over time, to the point where she cares more about them than she does about herself.
- In La Pucelle, the Dark Prince became such when his love interest is killed. Even after Amnesiac Dissonance, he reverts to such when someone who looks like said love interest is in the same situation that killed his original love, and reverted completely when he witnessed the original event again. In Ragnarok, Croix (The Dark Prince) himself is a Morality Chain for Overlord Priere.
- In Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow, Soma Cruz will immediately turn evil should something happen to his love interest.
- In Dragon Quest IV, Psaro is already a Well-Intentioned Extremist. But when Rose gets kidnapped and murdered by greedy thugs... ...Well, that sends him careening over the edge.
- Bastila and Revan in Knights of the Old Republic serve as each others' Morality Chain, as their telepathic bond allows them to subtly influence each other towards the Dark or the Light. The ending for Lightside!Revan is actually something of a Morality Chain Tug-Of-War, with Bastila trying to use the connection to convince Revan to fall with her and Revan using it to support his "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight speech.
- The mother of the villains Isair and Madae in Icewind Dale 2, although her death happened before the beginning of the story.
- Raspberyl to Mao in Disgaea 3. When she dies in the worst ending, he completely loses it.
- Flonne could also be seen as becoming one to Laharl gradually throughout Disgaea. In the Normal Ending, when he learns that he's actually responsible for killing her, he sacrifices himself to bring her back to life, effectively inverting this trope.
- In the Bad Ending, instead of sacrificing himself to revive Flonne, Laharl simply wanders the Netherworld for the rest of his life, holding the flower that Flonne was turned into.
- Played straight in Disgaea 2, though reversing the roles. Rozalin warms up to Adell's strong sense of justice, his family, and his determination to bring her back safely to her father. In the worst ending, unlocked by having too many ally kills, after finding out Rozalin is actually an extremely powerful demon overlord who sealed herself in an attempt to escape a life of violence, she judges Adell to be a creature of sin and it is presumed she destroys everyone. This, of course, is avoided in the good ending where the Adell who has lived up to his ideals is able to bring her back to her senses with the Powerof Love.
- And, in the worst ending, Adell (in addition to failing his Morality Chain duties) is forced to kill Rozalin when her Super-Powered Evil Side is unleashed. Unfortunately, her now-bodiless evil side simply possesses Adell and the screen goes black. Then we get to listen as Adell kills his little brother and sister while they beg and plead for him to stop.
- If the Japanese audio is any indication, he then proceeds to eat them.
- Visco Dotrish ends up serving this role for the wicked Swamp Witch, Metallia, in The Witch and the Hundred Knight, which is also made by Nippon Ichi. The two develop an Odd Friendship that ultimately culminates in Metallia shaking the very fabric of the dimensions to bring Visco back to life.
- Flonne could also be seen as becoming one to Laharl gradually throughout Disgaea. In the Normal Ending, when he learns that he's actually responsible for killing her, he sacrifices himself to bring her back to life, effectively inverting this trope.
- In Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, the memories of the titular Anti-Hero are haunted by his friend Maria who was murdered 50 years prior. Due to false recollection, he spends the majority of the first game (and, depending on your options, some of the second) avenging her death by attempting to destroy humanity, but after a revelation in both cases, he remembers her last wish to bring peace to her people.
- One of the odder cases, in that Maria is not so much the thing keeping Shadow on the side of good as she for a long time the only thing motivating him to do anything at all - good or evil. His belief that she wished him to avenge her motivates him to attempt to kill everyone on the planet - including himself - by bringing a Space Station he lived on out of orbit. His belief that she wanted peace for all motivates him to save the planet from the station, but entirely for her sake without pretence that it's his own goal or even morality that he's following. After which he may even have attempted to kill himself by falling into the atmosphere. Maria isn't so much the morality chain keeping him on the side of good as she is the morality chain giving him any sort of morality at all. Without her input he could be considered almost amoral and certainly apathetic.
- Rouge The Bat takes up the role as Shadow's Morality Chain in Sonic Heroes and Sonic2006. In the former, an amnesiatic Shadow follows Rouge's lead more than anything and in the latter it's Rouge's constant friendship that keeps Shadow focused on the task at hand without giving in to Mephelise' visions and influence.
- Amy Rose is this for E-102 Gamma in Sonic Adventure. It's through his interactions with her that he's able to break away from Eggman's influence and gain the free will needed to save his animal friends trapped inside the other E-series robots.
- Sonic ends up being this for Jet somewhat. Sonic's Chronic Hero Syndrome and their rivalry with each other drives Jet to do heroic things at times when he'd either not be bothered or be wanting to do something morally questionable himself.
- Tikal is this for Chaos, earning his trust by helping him watch after the Chao and trying her best to maintain relations and peace between the Chao colony and the Echidna empire. She ultimately fails in her job, however, when the Knuckles tribe attacks shrine of the Master Emerald, slaughtering all the Chao and mortally wounding Tikal, which sent him into a blind rage wherein he nearly destroyed the world before Tikal could seal him away in the Master Emerald.
- In Planescape: Torment you meet a devil called Fhjull Forked-Tongue. He made an angel called Trias enter into a Deal with the Devil with him, hoping to corrupt Trias to evil. Unfortunately, Trias was better at contract manipulation, and Fjull got stuck with the short straw: By the contract, he bound to be good for as long as Trias is alive; breaking the contract would mean his death. Trias, on his end, does not have to fulfill any part of the contract for as long as Fjull is still in the process of fulfilling his own stipulations (in other words, Trias gets off scot-free until Fhjull willingly becomes Lawful Good, at which point Fhjull wouldn't want Trias to fulfil his part of the bargain). Although forced to be good, Fjull is still allowed to be bitter about it, which he is. Oh so very much.
- In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the night elf Leyara is a key member of Fandral Staghelm's Druids of the Flame, who answer to the malevolent Old God-aligned Ragnaros the Firelord. She goes down this path after her daughter Astaria is slaughtered by Horde raiders invading their village, and is aggrieved by Malfurion's belief that interfaction warfare is too much of a distraction from saving the world being torched by Ragnaros. The fact that Leyara is Fandral Staghelm's daughter-in-law also seems to have something to do with her downward spiral, given that Fandral had previously kept Malfurion trapped in the Emerald Nightmare and has become Ragnaros' new right-hand man.
- In Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, losing Katey in this continuity turns Chuck into a psychotic alcoholic and one of the Psychopath bosses for Frank to deal with.
- In The Elder Scrolls games, Clavicus Vile the Daedric Prince of Wishes and Deals is fond of making deals that often screw over foolish mortals. His hound Barbas is the manifestation of his conscience who tries his best to keep his master from ruining too many lives.
- In Half-Minute Hero, whenever something bad happens to Millennia, Beautiful Evil Lord goes absolutely berserk.
- Grand Cleric Elthina of Dragon Age II is a morality chain to Sebastian. Once she's killed, Sebastian swears to raze the whole city in vengeance if Hawke chooses not to kill Anders, her murderer.
- Elthina is also morality chain to Meredith who, out of deference to the Grand Cleric, is merely tyrannical rather than genocidal.
- A Hawke who takes the romance or friendship path with Anders is this to him and Justice until the third act. Likewise, Hawke can garner enough relationship points to stop Fenris from killing his long-lost sister after she sells him out to his former master but can't prevent Merrill from working on the Eluvian that will eventually take out her mentor and possibly her entire clan or Isabela from running off with the Qunari relic—at first.
- A Paragon Commander Shepard in Mass Effect plays this role to nearly any character with an ounce of anti-heroic traits. Notable examples are Garrus, Liara, Jack, Miranda, and Aria T'Loak.
- In The Walking Dead, Clementine can be this for Lee, depending on how the player chooses to portray him.
- In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Jim Raynor is this (to some extent at least) for Sarah Kerrigan. When Kerrigan thinks Raynor's dead, she goes back to the Swarm so she can exact vengeance on Mengsk, and she becomes rather ruthless in pursuit of this goal. When she later finds out that Jim is actually alive (shortly after getting herself re-infested as a primal zerg), her ruthlessness dials back somewhat, to the point that when she finally does arrive at Korhal to exact her vengeance, she tries to avoid civilian casualties (at the request of Valerian Mengsk). Kerrigan never completely turns evil (even at her worst, she seems to have more of a moral code than she ever did as the Queen of Blades), but she's definitely a worse person when she thinks Jim's dead than when she knows he's alive.
- Kerrigan herself is this to the rest of the Swarm now that she's regained her humanity. Zerg on their own view every other living thing as a threat to be destroyed or assimilated so Kerrigan steers them away from innocents and refuses to let them attack allies once they're finished being useful.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, if Tharja gets married her husband becomes this to her. While he cannot completely keep her darker sides at bay, he at least manages to keep her mildly functioning. When he dies in the Bad Future, Tharja completely snaps and becomes a very dark mixture of Abusive Parent and Crusading Widow who only sorta recovered some bits of her sanity when it was time to pull an Heroic Sacrifice for Noire.
- Similarly, when Henry gets a girlfriend/marries, said girlfriend becomes this to him. And so does their Kid from the Future. This also counts in regards to his friends in the army, particularly Ricken: even when he still has quite the case of Blue and Orange Morality, Henry says that if Ricken was killed in battle, he'd go in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Dizzy to Testament in Guilty Gear. More than a few bad endings has Testament reverting back to the misanthropic, genocidal Anti-Villain he was at the start of the series once Dizzy is harmed in any way.
- In Fate/stay night, Ilya is evidently this to Berserker. Note, he's still a massive lump of destructive impulse given terrifying form, he's just better tempered when she's around... unless she orders him to kill someone. Then he gets WORSE.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni has Hideyoshi Ushiromiya fulfilling this role for his wife Eva. Whenever he kicks the bucket (which happens in every arc), she snaps.
- Dan's mother Destania from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures was a powerful, manipulative, cunning and utterly ruthless Succubus with little to no regard for Beings (the "Normals" of the setting). Then she fell in love with Dan's adventurer father and gave birth to Dan and grew to love life as a loving mother to Dan and his half-sister Alexi; so much so that she renounced her previous life as Destania. Then Dan's father was kidnapped by dragons. While scheming to get him back, and without the presence of her children, Destania is slowly but surely reverting to her past villainous self.
- The Order of the Stick
- Roy to Belkar. Without Roy (and by extension, the rest of the party) to play the role of commanding officer and coax him into coming along on their adventurers under the occasional threat of force, Belkar would be dropping the 'heroic' part of Heroic Comedic Sociopath very quickly. This is given a Lampshade Hanging when Roy goes to the afterlife and a character reveals that Belkar's growth on the 'Evil-O-Meter' began to reverse after he signed on with the Order. Note that Roy isn't making Belkar behave any less evil — he's merely got him pointed in the direction of people who deserve it slightly more.
- Belkar's cat, Mr. Scruffy, seems to be becoming this as well. While Belkar seemed to be faking it at first, it may be that Belkar is Becoming the Mask somewhat.
- This is one aspect of moirallegiance in Homestuck's troll society. Unlike most examples, it is expected to be a reciprocal relationship.
Feferi: I am really sorry, Eridan. It has just been so hard looking after you and keeping you out of trouble! It has taken its toll, and honestly I am really exhausted.
- Feferi was this to Eridan. While they were together, Eridan was a racist Jerkass with genocidal ambitions. After she breaks up with him he snaps completely, murdering her and Kanaya. He also destroys the Matriorb, ensuring their race's destruction.
- At this point, Karkat is probably this for Gamzee, as the creation of their moirallegiance was the only thing stopping his murder spree, but at this point no-one knows whether Gamzee would revert back without his influence.
- It might not be quite "morality", per se, but the Draconian Dignitary's influence and nagging is pretty much the only thing keeping Jack Noir from killing everyone and obliterating everything, and instead keeping his murder and Earth-Shattering Kabooms reasonably limited to ensure that Derse still has some people to oppress and tax.
- After Mike's death in College Roomies From Hell, Marsha comments on her insanity, saying he was the rope on her catapult. Now he's gone, and she can soar...
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Bob and Molly are this for Galatea.
- In El Goonish Shive, all known Alternate Universe variants of Tedd got a good friend Elliot and at least once the female counterpart Ellen is his girlfriend; the only exclusion is Lord Tedd's world — and instead of Grace there's a big ill-mannered Blood Knight.
- In Freefall, Sam thinks of himself as an immorality chain to Helix -- Florence's noble example is corrupting him.
- Their relationship is no more than that of good friends, but the green-haired girl definitely appears to be this to minus. When she is around, minus generally uses her powers for beneficial ends. When she isn't around, on the other hand, bad things tend to happen. Mind you, minus isn't actually evil, just clueless about the consequences of her actions.
- Asia Ellis in morphE is the morality chain for the entire seedling group but particularly Billy. In their captivity Asia is unwilling to compromise morals and Billy advocates "anything to survive". Without Asia to keep Billy in check he would go too far before too long.
- Dr. Horrible of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has two motivations: to Take Over the World and to get up the courage to talk to Penny, the girl at the laundromat. When the Jerk Ass Designated Hero, Captain Hammer, accidentally kills her with Dr. Horrible's Death Ray, Horrible's closing song makes it clear that he's lost the only thing he really cared about and now there's nothing keeping him from turning truly evil.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes it's implied that the sweet optimistic Jimmy is this to the sadistic girl genius Heloise considering that she has a crush on him, only acts nice around him, and (barely) tolerates Beezy and Cerbee because of Jimmy. (Although even Jimmy is not safe from her rage and wrath at times). It's also been stated that the main reason she fell for him is because there's "something about sweet, innocent guys that appeals to the last shred of humanity in her". Suffice to say, if Jimmy were to disappear somehow Heloise would probably immediately revert from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Evil, have no reason to be nice to anyone at all, and lose that last shred of human compassion she has that she only brings out around Jimmy.
- Lydia is this for Beetlejuice on occasion.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: To an extent, Edd is this to the other two Eds.
- Chuckie is this to Tommy, Phil, and Lil on occasion in Rugrats, particularly when they are being led astray by Angelica. In "Rebel Without a Teddy Bear" Chuckie's vocal intervention is the only thing that keeps Tommy from becoming as much of a mean-spirited hellion as Angelica.
- Other episodes like "The Gold Rush" and "Chuckie's Wonderful Life" strongly hint that Chuckie is this to the other babies as well.
- Lampshaded in Justice League Unlimited. When the original seven heroes discuss their worries over sliding down the slippery totalitarian slope like their Bad Future counterparts, Flash cheerfully points out that he's the team's Morality Chain, so all they've got to do is make sure he stays alive and everything's cool. The rest of the team is not impressed. He turns out to be right: there's an Alternate Universe in which Flash died at the hands of Luthor... and the main heroes become the ruthless Justice Lords.
- Further, the drastic expansion of the League was partly this; when Green Arrow just about leads a coup against the founding-seven because a large number of the members felt they were starting to abuse their powers (not to mention that they just revealed the Watchtower doubled as a Kill Sat), they're thanked and reminded that half the reason that the more Badass Normal heroes and the ones more in-tune with the life on the street are there to keep the borderline-Physical God heroes down to earth, on top of being amazing (and often underrated) heroes in their own right.
- Batman wanted Green Arrow on the League specifically because he would help the main seven and more powerful members to remain grounded.
- In 'Fearful Symmetry', The Question concludes that Galatea wants the original Supergirl dead because their Psychic Link works both ways. While Supergirl was beginning to fear she was a killer, Galatea was developing a conscience as a result of her 'dreams' of her counterpart. To test this, Question challenges Galatea to kill him. While Supergirl's intervention prevents us getting a clear answer, Galatea's moment of hesitation is the one example we get of her having any reluctance to kill.
- In an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Lois Lane ends up in a parallel universe, where her double was killed by a car bomb. While in her own reality, Superman got there just in time to save her, this world's Superman failed and has never forgiven himself. Since then, he has become much less forgiving to criminals and abandoned his "no killing" rule, blasting any criminal he sees with his Eye Beams. When Lois encounters this version of Superman, he no longer wears the same uniform◊ and appears to be working with Lex Luthor. She manages to set him right, though. Of course, she goes back to her own universe at the end of the episode, which means the other Superman is once again without a Morality Chain.
- Ahsoka Tano can be seen as this to Anakin in Star Wars: The Clone Wars in addition to Padme. Having her as his padawan teaches Anakin some responsibility and she helps to reign in Anakin's rashness and bold tendencies when Obi-Wan is not around.
- In Teen Titans, Starfire is thrown into a temporal vortex in the episode "How Long Is Forever?". She lands in a world where she's been lost for several years, and it turns out that the Titans were so dispirited and sad after her disappearance, that they have been disbanded and haven't seen each other for years. BB is a freak show in a circus, Raven went the maddened into misanthropy way, Cyborg has spent years alone in the remains of the Titans Tower, and only Robin (now Nightwing) remains as a crimefighter.
- Young Justice gives this trope a dark twist in the episode "Secrets:" the psychopathic villain Harm realized that his sister Greta was the only person keeping him from being "pure," and murdered her.
- Invoked in the second season, when Impulse decides to become Blue Beetle's to keep him from destroying the Earth.
- A scene at the end of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker suggests that The Joker was an Anti-Morality Chain for Harley Quinn. Return of the Joker shows that the Joker was killed, and Harley presumed dead; of course she wasn't, and reappears to scold her twin granddaughters for joining the Jokerz gang.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: Stimpy to Ren, to an extent - we can't be sure due to cases of Depending on the Writer.
- When Newton the Centaur assists The Mighty Hercules out of a spot, he'll usually chirp "What would you do without me, Herc?"
- Discord, from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has one from season 3 onwards in the form of Fluttershy, who, after she reformed him by befriending him, threatens to revoke her friendship with him to get him back on course if he seems to be going too far.