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My Master, Right or Wrong
The liege orders, "Slaughter these peasants who raise against me as I'm working them to death."
The vassal answers, "They're asking for more food... perhaps they could work better if Your Greatness gave them some."
"No."
"Forgive my boldness, but doesn't that seem harsh?"
"I like being harsh, hurry up, take the army and mow them down!"
"Certainly, my lord." He answers, nauseated, and he goes and does it.

This is when a leader is cruel and, perhaps, incompetent, and the underling obeys him out of adherence to some ideal, while hating every minute of it.

The trope is mostly used in vaguely medieval settings. Feudalism, after all, is based on personal obligations to a liege-lord (in other structures, the loyalty is more impersonal, usually based on a community or an ideology). The underling usually is a minor noble of a warrior caste, a knight or Samurai or such.

To make certain that the public understands that this character is not following out of Blind Obedience or sadism and in fact disagrees, he will get a lot of Pet the Dog moments, appeal to his liege to re-think a decision, beg for the lives of others, angst visibly when he's alone, and try to twist his orders a little if possible. He often doesn't even consider the heroes his enemy and is an honorable opponent. Also, he might be seen as suffering as much under his lord as the next subject, for sympathy points.

These types tend to be The Fettered who have sworn an oath to unreliable leaders and refuse to break their word. Such characters are prone to Heel-Face Turn because all they need is to broaden their ethic horizon a bit. It's also popular for some Deliberate Values Dissonance, presenting feudal ideals and showing the modern public how an obviously compassionate man can be made to freely follow obviously cruel orders.

Of course, in many real feudal systems, trying to force a vassal to act dishonorably—or making him jeopardize the value of the land-grant that secured his service in the first place, e.g. by overworking his serfs—could jeopardize his vassalage itself. In "High" Medieval Western Europe, also, a vassal could hardly be said to have a "master"; vassals were obligated to show up with troops when their liege asked, and stay for a term (usually 90 days or so). After that term, they could leave, and while they were obligated to generally assist their liege they were (in theory) their liege's equals—hence why nobles are called "peers"—and thus didn't have to take orders, so battle-planning involved negotiations over who would do what.

This deals with such questions as: What is an oath worth? What are wrong and right, personal mercy or abstract principles? What is honor? The liege is evil, how evil is the vassal?

Liege and vassal are great foils for each other and for the relationship of a leading hero and his followers.

Especially tragic when the vassal is also more competent than the liege. Very similar to My Country, Right or Wrong, only more personal. A common characterization of The Dragon. Contrast Rebellious Rebel, Mook-Face Turn, Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal, Secret Test of Character. Compare Blind Obedience, where the character follows their liege because of a belief they can't be wrong and shouldn't be questioned.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Benawi of Utawarerumono hates his orders, and yet stays loyal until the end. The heroes surround the castle, and before he lets them kill his lord, he first urges him to commit Seppuku, and when the lord doesn't, he kills him himself. Not out of his clear contempt, anger, or hate, but as his second.
  • In Digimon Adventure MetalGarurumon challenges WarGreymon to a fight on Matt's orders. He even pretty much says this trope, though it was more like "my friend needs to know somebody's on his side, so it's gotta be this way."
    • In Digimon Adventure 02, Wormmon has this approach to the Digimon Emperor. Unusually for this trope, the Digimon Emperor has nothing but contempt for him, but when he sacrifices himself to save the Emperor's life, it prompts a Heel Realization.
    • Renamon from Digimon Tamers seems to hover somewhere between this trope and Extreme Doormat in the early part of the series, while being treated as a soulless fighting machine by her Tamer. She kept a soldier-like nobility, and it's eventually revealed that Renamon chose Rika and not the other way around. Both had to undergo Character Development and learn there was more to life than becoming stronger, but it didn't happen to them at the same time or in the same way.
    • Gaomon in Digimon Savers is depicted as very servile to his partner; "Sir, yes sir!" can be his entire dialogue in some episodes, and in the Japanese version, his catchphrase was "Yes, Master." However, when his partner temporarily joined the Big Bad because only he could save his sister, it seemed like Gaomon was finally going to have to act with a will of his own for the first time ever to prevent some true horrors from taking place. In the end, Thomas was only pretending and Gaomon had long since worked it out.
    • The biggest example in the Digimon franchise is the Royal Knights. They are the elite protectors of the Digital World and absolutely loyal to their leader, no matter who sits on the throne. When that's the Big Bad, or a misguided computer that's decided that that "free will" stuff was a bad idea, that means they'll be The Dragon to an Omnicidal Maniac as readily as they once fought to protect the same world.
  • Played for Laughs with the (Anime only) character of Sasuke in Ranma ˝, who serves the Kunou's every whim, no matter how deranged or unpleasant.
  • Done several times in Saint Seiya. One such instance occurred with the Leo Saint realizing that his master was not acting in the interest of Athena but actually against her and deciding to confront him before being brainwashed back into his service. The Sagittarius Saint went rogue and broke into the Sanctuary to saving baby Athena from being killed by the Pope, the ruler of the Sanctuary.
    • It also happens the other way around in the Asgard arc, in which, no matter if their princess is right or wrong, her warriors decide to fight for her until their death, even if they do acknowledge that she has changed. Yet in another variation, near the end of this arc, Siegfried disobeyed his princess' orders when he realized that the ones he was fighting against were not the real enemies and were, in fact, trying to free his princess from the mind control ring she was subjected to. He actually gave them the last MacGuffin required to free her and sacrificed himself by turning on the emissary of his true enemy. In this case, he refused to serve his Lady for her own good in spite of the consequence, his death.
  • Happens quite a bit in Lone Wolf and Cub, for differing values of Lords.
  • In Samurai Champloo, one such samurai has the misfortune of serving a lord who has hired a Mad Scientist to revive her daughter. Said scientist tries to accomplish this by kidnapping beautiful young maidens and chopping up their parts to create a flesh golem.
  • Abelia towards King Hamdo in Now and Then, Here and There. She gets better.
  • Entei to Molly in the movie, Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unown. He actually says, "Whether it is right or wrong, I will do as she wishes!"
    • In the Pokémon episode Island of the Giant Pokémon, Jessie's Ekans and James's Koffing explain to Meowth that they're not necessarily bad Pokémon, and go so far as to assert that no Pokémon is truly bad; Ekans and Koffing, for example, just do what Jessie and James tell them to do. Granted, trained Pokémon in general seem to follow this trope, since the point of capturing a Pokémon is to gain a faithful companion.
    • In an episode of the Battle Frontier saga, Ash gets possessed by an ancient spirit right before battling Pyramid King Brandon. He orders Sceptile to use some questionable tactics during the fight, and while Sceptile is clearly shocked by each command, it still follows them.
  • Arguably, Souseiseki from Rozen Maiden is subject to this trope. She is loyal to her original master and does whatever he asks of her, no matter how heinous, but it is pretty clear that she doesn't like doing such acts and only does it to help her master become a better person.
  • Chachamaru of Mahou Sensei Negima! is fully loyal to Evangeline (and, to a lesser extent, her co-creators, Chao and Hakase). It never really becomes much of an issue after Eva's one token attempt at forcing her way to freedom, though, as Eva turns out to be a Noble Demon at worst, and she usually allows Chachamaru a degree of freedom.
  • Naruto
    • Haku is this to Zabuza. A rather strange example, in that he hates every moment he's hurting people, but is still loyal, actually likes Zabuza, and not a subversion.
    • Kimimaro serves the Mad Scientist Orochimaru loyally, even on his death bed, because Orochimaru gave him a purpose - being his next body. It doesn't matter how evil Orochimaru is, he gave him a purpose.
    • Even further, many unnamed shinobi probably have been forced to do things for their village that they thought were immoral, like slaughter another, smaller village's people in an enemy land. But as a ninja, you are no longer in control of your free will. Like soldiers, you are trained to do what your masters tell you to do, and to do it well. Emotions just get in the way, which is why the ninjas are taught over and over throughout the anime and manga to be emotionless and cold and to not feel anything for their victims (which is something the above-mentioned Haku sorely lacks).
    • There are also Danzo's ROOT, who have at least in theory had theory ability to 'care'' whether their master is right or wrong trained out of them. Sai at least regains it, due to the Naruto factor.
    • Uchiha Itachi turned out to be an interesting variation on this. He was one of Danzo's, but (as the heir to a great house and all) he didn't have as heavy an indoctrination as ROOT members, and it wasn't his loyalty to Danzo specifically that was played on, but to his village; he was also laboring under the expectations of his clan and a split sense of duty along with apparently a kind heart, and got used into to ground. In this case, though, he actively chose one loyalty over another when 'both'' were demanding this of him, though since our information is largely third-hand it's unclear whether the deciding factor was that he felt the Uchiha were more wrong than the village or that siding with the Uchiha would just cause more casualties.
  • Bleach: In the Bount arc, Big Bad Kariya has Maki Ichinose (who is a shinigami) working for him. Ichinose in question embodies this trope so well that Kenpachi compares him to a vine that can't grow without something to cling to.
    • Stark, while extremely powerful, does not enjoy fighting or hurting others. He admits that he dislikes what Aizen orders him to do, but he obeys him out of eternal gratitude for ending his loneliness.
  • Fried, from Fairy Tail, is willing to do whatever Laxus Dreyar tells him to, up to and including killing members of Fairy Tail. This doesn't stop him from questioning Laxus, which usually doesn't go well. Fortunately, Mirajane stops him before there's any fatalities.
    • Later, Azuma does whatever Hades tells him to do and points out that he dislikes it.
  • More or less, Crona to Medusa in Soul Eater, his/her mother. She tells him/her to spy on the DWMA after he/she had made friends with them...and he/she reluctantly agrees.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Odion was a top ranked member of his master Marik's Rare Hunters, even though he knew Marik's plans were evil. Odion stayed by his side because he was the only one who could keep Marik's darker side at bay.
  • Played with with Goku in Saiyuki, who starts the series as this towards Sanzo, and through the power of character development, realizes that he will continue west not for Sanzo, but for his own reasons. It helps that Sanzo prefers people live for their own reasons anyways, and thinks living for others is stupid (probably something to do with the fact that he once lived for the sake of his master, and was left with quite a conundrum when said master died).
  • Seems to be the case with the Nations, in Axis Powers Hetalia. Several points show that the Nations follow orders that they don't understand (Russia digging a trench with no tools or food, Germany looking for the Holy Grail, America having to say the Roswell UFO was a weather balloon, etc) or don't like (Ukraine crying because her boss forbid her to see Russia). One comic also has Russia say that he can befriend the Italies only now that his boss and their boss have become allies. Exactly how strict this is not made certain, although fanfiction writers like to speculate.
  • In Pandora Hearts, Glen Baskerville apparently told his servants to kill everyone gathered in his mansion during the chain transferring ceremony. Lotti was startled and asked if he was serious but committed the act nonetheless. Much later, she admits that she never knew why he ordered the slaughter that started off the Tragedy of Sablier but that since he was her master, she would not disobey him.
  • In One Piece during the Baratie arc Gin obeys Don Kreig's orders to the letter, even if he doesn't want to, and even if it involves killing himself. The only time he can't obey an order is when he's told to kill Sanji, the only person who ever showed him kindness by feeding him when he was starving.
  • In Berserk, part of Guts still feels this way towards Griffith, despite everything that's happened.
  • Mayo Chiki!: Subaru regreted abducting Jiro in episode 13 but, as a butler, she'd never disobey her master.
  • In the "Little Army" prequel manga of Girls und Panzer Miho asks Sakuyo, one of her family's maids, about her opinion on her mother's approach to tank combat. Sakuyo sadly refuses to answer, saying that she's "indebted" to the Nishizumi school and can't give her opinion on her mistress.

    Comic Books 
  • In Fables, it turns out that Faithful John's master is working for the Big Bad and, since his fable is all about loyalty, he has no choice but to be The Mole.
  • Two amazons in the widely reviled Amazons Attack spent a lot of time discussing Hippolyta's insane actions and how they should stop her. They ended up doing nothing.
  • Captain Torame in Usagi Yojimbo lives this axiom. In "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy", Usagi infiltrates the army of a lord planning a coup against the Shogun, who has Torame as an honorable second in command. In the climax of the story, when Usagi reveals his hand and fights to stop the lord, he confronts Torame who refuses to switch sides. Usagi admits that he understands, considering that he never abandoned his own lord (albeit a good guy) when the odds went hopeless against him.
  • Seems to be the case with Espio in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic. He's obediently followed orders ever since the Iron Queen took control of his clan, even though he doesn't seem to want to since he has to attack his former friends.
    • Though he does explain a lot of things we already know while holding his friend at knife-point by his dreadlocks over the edge of a floating island. I wonder what tricky situations he has in store for everyone else.
      • As we eventually find out, while Espio's loyalty was still to his clan, his clan only served the Iron Dominion out of fear. When they eventually turned against the Dominion - a decision Espio himself helped the clan leader to reach - Espio was allowed to side with his friends once more. Notably, while he's shown to still be haunted by the guilt of his previous actions, his friends have forgiven him.
  • The UK Transformers comic story "State Games" both subverts and plays this trope straight; the last Autobot Overlord, an old and enfeebled robot, and his compatriots are pinned down by a battalion of mechs that he had personally pissed off by trying to curb their civil war with a neighboring city with gladiatorial bloodsport. His comrades' only chance of survival is to ditch him and make a run for it, since his geriatric skidplate would only slow them down. One of the Overlord's two bodyguards sacrifices himself in a kamikaze run against the battalion instead of breaking his pact to protect the guy to the end. The other bodyguard, though, leaves the Overlord to rust, allying himself with a then little-known soldier accompanying them as a better choice of leadership of the planet. The latter bodyguard would go on to pull his own version of this trope during a Beast Wars storyline. His name? Ravage.
  • The Shi'Ar Empire has had some real prizes on the Imperial Throne...D'Ken, Deathbird, and Vulcan, among others. Through it all, Gladiator, Praetor of the Imperial Guard, remained loyal to whomever was in charge...until he wasn't. This is something of a recurring theme in Shi'Ar storylines.
  • This trope is the reason why Batman never liked fighting his enemies' animal minions, since they're only as evil as their masters.
  • Similar to Batman, there have been a couple of times where The Punisher has said that he dislikes killing animals, because animals can't truly be guilty.

    Fanfic 
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: subverted. Shinji is extremely kind and compassionate, as befits his station. Doesn't mean that Rei wouldn't do anything, including grand larceny or cold-blooded murder, at the snap of his finger.
  • In A New Chance at Life, Lance's Dragonite sees the shortsightedness in trying to attack and take Latios, but goes with his trainer's plan anyway. He even apologizes to Latios before attacking him.
  • Pokeumans: the minions of Pokextinction are fanatically loyal to Mr. X and his ideals thanks to a little mind control.

    Film 
  • General Glozelle in Prince Caspian (the film, maybe in the book too, but my memory is hazy). Throughout the film, he's got this squeamish but helpless look, has some dialogue with Lord Sopesian to the effect of "watch your butt, or Miraz'll kill you", and looks utterly devastated when King Miraz orders him to kill some of his soldiers to make it look like Caspian is bloodthirsty...which he does. He seems relieved when Aslan offers the Telmarines a fresh start someplace else.
    • Not the book. They were both utter scheming bastards in the book, who knew they were smarter than Miraz and manipulated him into agreeing to single combat (with Peter) because as far as they were concerned they had nothing to lose-Miraz was the only thing really at risk, and they don't view him as a strategic asset. Rather the opposite, which was why they took the opportunity to stab him in the back and blame it on Peter.
  • The 47 Ronin.
  • The Man in the Iron Mask has one of the musketeers be blindly loyal to Louis, despite his evil and capricious nature, because he is Louis' father. Eventually, he comes around to the other musketeers' viewpoint that he's gotta go, when he learns that their look-alike for the king is his twin brother.
  • Darth Vader of Star Wars displays traits of this with his master Palpatine...when he's not actively trying to subvert him.
    Vader: You underestimate the power of The Dark Side. I must obey my master.
  • Quintus in Gladiator is in charge of the Praetorian Guard and obeys Caesar's order to have Maximus, his friend and respected General, killed along with his family. In his words, "I'm a soldier. I obey." Maximus (a career soldier in his own right) understands, but later manages to talk Quintus into a Heel-Face Turn for the final battle.
  • Hanbei from 13 Assassins knows that his master is probably the most evil person in Japan, but thinks that a samurai must always stay loyal to their lord. He and the hero have a Worthy Opponent thing going, since they're both only doing what they think is right.
  • In the Holocaust drama Conspiracy, Major Lange is briefly mentored by General Heydrich after Lange notes how disturbed he is by all the massacres in the east. When Heydrich later asks Lange for his opinion at the table, he simply submits to the chain of command and states that he has no other gods before it.

    Literature 
  • Olivier of the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters is a paragon of knightly virtue who sees all the faults of Empress Maud. She isn't evil, but she and King Stephen are locked in a stalemate of a civil war that is devastating the country. For a good part of Brother Cadfael's Penance, Olivier deeply despises a former friend who switched sides to Stephen in the hope of the war finally being decided. (It doesn't work.) Olivier wishes for peace but clearly values staying true to one's merciless liege higher than ending the war.
  • The Kingsguard of A Song of Ice and Fire are supposed to be this, defending the king and executing his orders no matter what they are. Most of Mad King Aerys' Kingsguard died defending him against Robert Baratheon's rebellion. Famously averted by the youngest member, Jaime Lannister, who got fed up with the insanity and murdered Aerys shortly before Robert took King's Landing. It's later revealed that he did it because Aerys had made plans to burn down the entire city and everyone in it.
    • Subverted by The Hound. At first, he's set up as being unquestioningly obedient to the Lannisters, but it's implied later on that, even if Joffrey told him to, he won't hit Sansa. Also, he later abandons his post and leaves King's Landing, and asks Sansa to go with him.
    • Former Kingsguard member Barristan Selmy used to be like this and condemned Jaime for betraying his oath. As of A Dance with Dragons, he's starting to believe Jaime had been right all along.
  • A central theme in Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel The Deluge. The warrior Kmicic becomes very impressed by Prince Radziwiłł and swears fealty to him. When he later finds out that Radziwiłł is actually a traitor who made a deal with the invading Swedes, he is shocked. He finds the Prince's actions to be dishonorable and appalling. However, he finds his vows to be sacred and continues serving The Evil Prince, even though he knows it is wrong. Later on, after much internal conflict, he uses an opportunity to fake his death and breaks his vows. He takes up a new identity, Babinicz, and loyally serves his country to atone for his sins.
  • This is one of the main themes in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath series. Among the Kencyr people, obedience to one's Lord is considered a foundation of honor; if one's Lord orders one to do something dishonorable, the feeling goes, the dishonor rests on his head, not one's own. However, the whole system is set up with the expectation that such occasions will be few, minor, and moderated by the priests and the judges. Then a situation comes up that wasn't expected; the Highlord of the Kencyrath, the highest authority in the Kencyr people, decides to betray his people to their ancient enemy in return for personal immortality, but he needs the co-operation of others, particularly those close to him in his own House, to pull this betrayal off. Do the rules of honor still apply? When the order is not simply mildly dishonorable but utter betrayal, does honor still compel obedience? Some decide that it does, and, with a heavy heart, commit atrocity. Some decide that it does not, and struggle against him. Others decide that suicide is the only honorable option, while yet others don't know the full extent of what they're asked to do until it's too late. However, honor only requires obedience to the Lord's Exact Words; some decide to obey their orders in as unhelpful a way as they can possibly get away with.
  • The Fifth Elephant had a scene that pointed out how stupid this line of thinking is, by having Vimes order Sergeant Detritus to shoot Captain Tantony in cold blood. The sergeant's (quite sensible!) response was to tell Vimes to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. (This was the point on Vimes' part as well.)
    • Discworld's Igors also have this as something of a clan policy. They maintain that it's "a pleasure to be commanded in a clear, firm voithe" and will follow any directions their master gives to the best of their ability. If the mob actually manages to break the door down, the Igor in question will have fled by his own private back ways long beforehand and will be safe (loyalty to Igorhood comes before loyalty to their master), but they will still follow an order even if it's guaranteed to bring the mob to their doors. The only time an Igor is ever seen to rebel in the Discworld books is in Carpe Jugulum, when his master has been consistently mistreating him and, interestingly, trying to modernize by not giving these kinds of orders.
      • The betrayal culminated in reverting to a previous master and pulling him out of his crypt.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • The faerie retainers of the Summer and Winter Courts are bound to obey the orders of their Queens, whether they agree with them or not. They must serve the Court and Queen. This becomes important in Small Favor, where Harry is being hunted by the gruffs, powerful retainers of Summer. When confronted by Eldest Brother Gruff, the faerie turns out to be a jovial, friendly fellow who is disturbed by his orders and dislikes having to carry them out. Fortunately, Harry is able to use a favor he'd earned with Summer Court (though not strong enough to countermand this task) to request that Eldest Gruff depart to get him a "real, Chicago doughnut." This is because the Court comes first and to kill Harry when Harry is owed a strong debt would be equal to reneging on their promise. So to avert the problem, the Eldest Gruff is happy to oblige.
    • Also the Wardens, perhaps most notable with Morgan. In Proven Guilty, Harry makes such a convincing argument for Molly to be granted clemency that even Morgan is horrified when the Merlin sentences her to death, but he nevertheless moves to carry out the sentence, looking sickened the whole while.
  • An interesting subversion in Crusade: long in the past, the war leader Cranaa'tolnatha was ordered by the leader of an allied clan - overall commander of a combined force - to obey a battle plan that he knew would result in the forces of all the joined clans except the traitorous warlord's being killed. But he didn't have any actual proof, so he had to choose between obeying his orders and dooming his clan, or disobeying orders and being stripped of all honor and banished from all inhabited lands. He chose to save his people, and was disgraced. But centuries later, Cranaa'tolnatha, the warrior who had the courage to dishonor himself in order to save his people, was remembered as the single greatest hero of the Orion Khanate, while nobody remembered the name of the treacherous warlord he betrayed, not even the clan he once led. His name had been removed from the clan rolls out of shame.
  • Marcus Antonius, in The Light Bearer, is cast by his "friend", the Emperor Domitian, as Chief Advisor — he soon realizes that Domitian has crossed the Moral Event Horizon, but takes years carefully planning his death to prevent a revolt.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall be Born", Valerius, despite Tamaris' sudden transformation into The Caligula, is deeply troubled by the thought of revolt.
    We hardly knew what we were fighting for, but it was against Constantius and his devils—not against Taramis, I swear it! Constantius shouted to cut the traitors down. We were not traitors!
  • Percy Weasley was loyal to the Ministry over his own family thanks to his personal ambition and sense of order. This is corrected by the end of the last book when he rejoins the forces of good.
  • Honor Harrington: in the twilight of the People's Republic of Haven, this was a common issue amongst many in the Havenite military, then many, many more when the Pierre regime took control.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Isengrim is prone to this throughout Defender of the Crown. Eventually, he realizes that he can no longer go along with the program, and performs an abrupt Heel-Face Turn.
  • A truly terrifying example in Szeth-son-son-Vallano of The Stormlight Archive. His status as Truthless binds him to do anything his master commands him to do. And we do mean anything. The only two orders he won't follow are orders to kill himself or orders to surrender his Shardblade.
    • Even more terrifying, one of his viewpoints makes it clear that he is still considered fully responsible for every evil act he performs under his master's orders.

    Live Action TV 
  • It's implied that Teal'c was like this before his Heel-Face Turn in the first episode of Stargate SG-1. He did terrible things, and hated himself for them, but he was ordered to by, well, his god. When O'Neill gives him the chance of freedom from Apophis, he jumps at the chance.
    • Oshu, First Prime to Lord Yu, is a more extreme example. Not only does he know that Yu is not a god, but he knows that he's going senile. Despite this, he remains loyal to Yu until both are killed by Replicarter.
  • Arguably, Arthur is this to Uther Pendragon in Merlin. Increasingly through Character Development he comes to realize how many of the things Uther does are wrong; on the other hand, he also goes against his father's express orders sometimes, generally by sneaking out condemned persons he doesn't believe deserve it. Though come to think of it, it rarely occurs to Uther to specifically say, "Arthur, don't release my prisoners from the dungeon."
  • In the Burn Notice episode "Comrades", the team capture a Russian Mobster who, among his many amiable qualities, was an enforcer, a murderer, and a sex-slaver. They subject him to intense Perp Sweating which involves trying to convince him that his world has collapsed, that he is all alone surrounded by The Men in Black, and that he is quite likely to be subjected to the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. And yet he never yields and has to be deceived into thinking that he has escaped so he can be followed. In a curious sort of way, you have to admire him.
    • His master does not; just having been interrogated is unforgivable. Paranoia trumps gratitude, apparently.
  • You get the feeling that Thomas Cromwell is this in The Tudors, and Charles Brandon almost certainly is. Though Brandon is also Henry's friend, so it may go beyond this trope.
  • Lucius Vorenus on Rome. Once he swears loyalty to someone, he remains loyal until that person relieves him of his promise or dies, no matter how much he hates it or how morally wrong he feels his master is behaving.
  • Vir to Londo in Babylon 5 .
  • In the 2000 TV version of Arabian Nights, one of Scheherazade's stories concerns a capricious Sultan with a taste for cruel practical jokes; his courtiers don't like him or his jokes, but they always assist him when ordered. They're quite relieved when one of his jokes backfires on him fatally and they end up with a sane and competent replacement.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Rocks and Shoals". Both Sisko's team and a Jem'Hadar unit (led by Third Ramata'clan) are stranded on a planet along with an injured Vorta. Unfortunately, the Vorta is nearly running out of Ketracel White, which is necessary to prevent the Jem'Hadar from going berserk and killing everyone they see. The Vorta arranges to be healed by Doctor Bashir and offers his surrender and a comm unit to ensure the Federation's rescue in exchange for the Federation killing off the Jem'Hadar unit. That way he gets to spend the rest of the war in the comfort of a Federation prison (known to treat prisoners fairly, especially compared to the alternatives in other cultures) instead of risking his neck for the Dominion. He plans on sending the Jem'Hadar to attack whether or not Sisko agrees, leaving Sisko with no choice but to agree. Sickened by the thought of ambushing soldiers who are just following orders, Sisko tells the Third about the Vorta's betrayal. It turns out the Third already knew. And, despite having questioned the Vorta's decisions in the past, it doesn't change his commitment to carry out his orders because that is what it means to be Jem'Hadar.
    Sisko: "Kievan doesn't deserve the unwavering loyalty you're giving him."
    Third: "He does not have to earn my loyalty, Captain. He has had it, from the moment I was conceived. I am a Jem'Hadar. He is the Vorta. It is the order of things."
    Sisko: "Do you really want to give up your life for 'the order of things?'"
    Third: "It is not my life to give up, Captain. It never was."
  • JAG: In "Contemptuous Words", Harm is accused of writing an article which contains a harsh opinion against then-President Clinton, going well beyond insubordination. To help defend him, a lobbyist group helps pay for a private lawyer. During a mock-cross, the lawyer forces Harm into a corner when he cannot say he would condone a higher ranking officer to play loose with the truth and having sexual relationships with subordinates as President Clinton did.note  When the truth comes out, Harm tells one of the group's leaders that while he may have personal issues with President Clinton's actions, he's his Commander-in-Chief and he would take a bullet for him if need be.

    Music 
  • The whole tragedy of mothy's "Aku no Monogatari"/"Story of Evil" could have very likely been avoided if the queen's servant had just put his foot down and stopped spoiling her like he did. He goes as far as to commit a Gendercide of the Green Country, in the process killing the girl that he loved, all because the Prince of Blue, who the queen was in love with, also loved that woman:
    With her gentle voice and tender smile,
    I fell in love with her at first sight.
    However, if the queen wishes for that girl to be erased from this world,
    then I will fulfill your wish.

    Mythology 
  • "The Tale of the Loyal Samurai" comes up quite often in, obviously, Samurai stories. The gist of it is that loyalty is the most important tenet of Bushido, even if you're loyal to a wicked master. Even if your lord went headlong past the Moral Event Horizon, to rebel would be an unpardonable loss of honor.

    Video Games 
  • Gray Fox in Metal Gear 2 was loyal to Big Boss even with the latter's Blood Knight tendencies and dreams of a Warrior Heaven. Justified in that Big Boss had saved him twice (three to four times counting the events of Portable Ops and depending on whether Big Boss was still involved in saving Gray Fox's hide in Vietnam). It also had something to do with the fact that he needs the battlefield.
  • Elliot from Jagged Alliance 2. He works for an evil queen, and must realize that she's a cruel dictator after she keeps threatening her own citizenry. She slaps him around and bloodies his face every time he brings bad news, eventually becoming angry enough to shoot him in the head (he survives). And yet, he's still willing to pull out a gun and start firing at your team when you finally confront him.
  • Knightman.EXE from Mega Man Battle Network 2 exhibits this trait, up to his deletion.
    • And also Protoman.EXE from Battle Network 1, until Lan and Megaman.EXE defeats him in a net battle, that is. After that, he asks Megaman what Lan means to him. Megaman's response is that Lan is his best friend, and Protoman becomes nicer. Chaud, on the other hand, takes a bit longer to get through to.
  • Cecil and Kain in Final Fantasy IV both struggle with this, though more visibly so with Cecil, since he's the viewpoint character. It takes the burning of a peaceful village and the implied order to kill a child to get the pair to disobey the king. Turns out, the king really was a noble and decent human being, but he was killed and replaced by a monster sometime prior to the start of the game
  • General Leo of Final Fantasy VI is seen as an honorable and fair figure to both The Empire and the Returners, whereas Celes is first encountered being held captive due to her wavering allegiance, and the first Kefka sighting involves ordering a brainwashed Terra to vaporize his own men (followed by setting Castle Figaro on fire and poisoning everyone in Doma Castle, including Imperial prisoners). Leo is trying his hardest to follow his emperor's orders with minimal casualties and suffering. Leo cannot bring himself to quit working for The Empire until the Thamasa mission, where Kefka starts killing espers left and right, prompting Leo to try to stop him.
  • Beatrix in Final Fantasy IX turns on Queen Brahne halfway through the game, after the Queen uses Odin to destroy Cleyra, and then proceeds to order Princess Garnet's death. The party still has to fight her one more time after she starts doubting her liege, though.
  • Fire Emblem has a few people in its own right. In Fire Emblem Jugdral, Eldigan knows the crimes King Chagaal has caused, and yet he saves him from death, as he is "all that Augustria has left". Unfortunately, Chagaal had him killed anyway. Likewise, many of the lords oppose the child hunts in the second half of the game, including Emperor Arvis himself, by this point little more than a figurehead for Prince Julius/Loptyr and the prince's girlfriend, Ishtar, and while they try to stop them behind the scenes, none of them ever turns on the Empire. And in Fire Emblem 8, Selena knows that what Vigarde was doing was not just, but she loves him and fights Ephraim's army anyways. What she doesn't know is that Vigarde was Dead All Along and was merely a puppet of the Demon King-possessed Prince Lyon.
    • There's a big whopping chain of this in Radiant Dawn, pretty much all of it spoilers. General Levail follows Zelgius unquestioningly, Zelgius follows Sephiran unquestioningly, and Sephiran follows Ashera unquestioningly.
  • Captain Saladin and the other Guard Dogs in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow are fiercely loyal to whoever is currently ruling the Land of the Green Isles. Unfortunately, the current ruler happens to be the Evil Vizier. Needless to say, they are not on your side.
  • Visas in Knights of the Old Republic 2 serves Darth Nihilus out of gratitude for him sparing her when he destroyed every other living being on her homeworld, and out of despair that no one will ever be able to defeat him. When she is defeated by the Exile, however, she gains a flicker of hope that Nihilus might meet his match, and promptly turns to your side.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Judge Zargabaath followed the orders of Lord Vayne. He repeatedly begged him to spare lives and lamented how, in his own words, "The empires debts grow legion". But when Vayne invariably ignored or rejected his pleas, Zargabaath followed the orders anyway.
  • Ser Cauthrien, the knight who serves Loghain Mac Tir in Dragon Age: Origins, remains zealously loyal to Loghain despite knowing full well that he abandoned Cailan at Ostagar and has committed terrible acts since then. She attempts to waylay the Warden twice: once at Arl Howe's estate and a second time at the Landsmeet. However, she may be persuaded to allow the Warden to pass on the second occassion if the Warden successfully convinces her that what Loghain is doing is wrong.
    • Alistair will continue to follow you even if you do things he disapproves of, due to wanting to end the Blight above all else. The only way he'll leave for good is if you recruit Loghain.
  • You can become this kind of Master in Mass Effect 2 to Samara, who swears an oath to serve you even if you commit horrific crimes. However, it's slightly subverted in that she knows she's doing evil in your name, and tells you upfront that she intends to kill you once the terms of her oath are fulfilled.
  • The Knights in Sonic and the Black Knight. Lancelot (Shadow) is convinced that whatever King Arthur orders is right, because the King ordered it and therefore it must be right, while Gawain and Percival (Knuckles and Blaze) follow orders on the basis that it's their job, but don't necessarily agree with them.
  • Galahad from Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. He despises Consul Theovore and his policies, but he is a servant of the Emperor, and Theovore is the Emperor's representative in Slaith, so he has to obey. Later on, Theovore ends up firing Galahad, thus releasing him from the constraints of his honor. Big mistake.
  • Appears repeatedly in Touhou: Sakuya towards Remilia, Youmu towards Yuyuko, Ran towards Yukari, Reisen towards Eirin, Eirin towards Kaguya...It helps that none of them do anything particularly bad (with the possible exception of Youmu). However, it is clear that though they will never disobey their respective masters, they would much rather not be performing whatever absurd task they have planned this time.
  • The Four Guardians in Mega Man Zero are all fiercely loyal to Copy-X, a Knight Templar who persecutes innocent Reploids in the name of building a utopia for humans. But after Copy-X dies, they quickly transfer their loyalty to the real X (even Phantom, who tried to defend "Master X" with a suicide attack).
  • Inverted in Aveyond 3. Yemite the darkling doesn't understand why her mistress Mel doesn't want to Take Over the World and encourages her to become a Dark Messiah, but she follows Mel's orders to bring a rescue party anyway.
  • Charon, a potential companion in Fallout 3, is brainwashed to obey anyone who owns his contract, regardless of alignment (although he refuses certain actions and turns hostile if you attack him). If you purchase the contract, he will pointedly take a moment to have a "private conversation" with his former owner...
    • Note however that this can apply to you too, if the player happens to be an evil bastard and you decide to release him from your duty.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has Yes Man, an AI who is programmed to be as helpful as possible to anyone and is instrumental to the Wild Card mission path where you take over Vegas for yourself. In said path, no matter your actions, Yes Man cannot disobey you and will be forced to proceed with the plan. This includes blowing up the Hidden Securitron Bunker, which is absolutely vital to the plan or if you elect not to deal with certain potentially troublesome factions. However, Yes Man is capable of pointing out the problems of your actions in a somewhat passive-aggressive way and will note that you sure are brave trying to conquer Vegas with no standing army whatsoever.
    Yes Man: "This is going to be great! I'm going to help you accomplish so much, whether I want to or not!"
  • In Breath of Fire II, Ray (the guy we've been led to believe is The Dragon to this point) has just witnessed first hand his leader and adopted father Habaraku (who is the real Dragon) publicly and brutally murder a helpless prisoner (and the man who tried to save her). And he brainwashed a church full of witnesses into watching the whole thing and cheering. Yet immediately afterwards, he makes a Last Stand to keep the protagonists away from Habaraku out of a sense of both duty (to his church) and loyalty (to the man who raised and trained him). It doesn't end well for him.
  • The Shadow Triad acts as this toward Ghetsis in Pokémon Black and White. Even when Ghetsis's real plan comes out at the end of the main storyline and everyone in Team Plasma, including the other 6 sages, turns against him, the Triad stays loyal to him, because he saved their lives long ago.
  • Balrog and Misery in Cave Story, who are forced to obey the Doctor's orders regardless but gripe the whole time and eventually end up defying them, by helping the hero and by attempting to lash out.
  • Muneshige Tachibana is this to Sorin Otomo in Sengoku Basara. He's a humane, honorable, and reasonable man who would rather stay home, drink tea, and read books who is forced by his oath to follow the orders of a foppish, fanatically religious brat who mistreats him at every turn.
  • In World of Warcraft's upcoming Siege of Orgrimmar raid, fan favorite Nazgrim is set to be a boss. As the in-game Dungeon Journal puts it:
    "Fiercely loyal to the Horde and bound by a rigorous code of honor and duty, Nazgrim will hold the line for his Warchief until his dying breath."
  • The Soviet soldiers fighting for General Guba in Operation Flashpoint, especially Colonel Eusev. Notable exceptions include Dimitri Lukin.
  • Gauldoth from Heroes of Might and Magic IV displays this attitude towards his master Kalibarr, most notably in the fourth chapter of his campaign, when he's forced to betray a powerful and trustworthy ally because Kalibarr covets an artefact in the ally's possession. He finally turns on Kalibarr in the fifth chapter, when he learns his master is in league with an Omnicidal Maniac and between them, they are planning to cause the extinction of all life on Axeoth.

    Visual Novels 
  • Lancer in Fate/stay night and Lancer in Fate/Zero. It doesn't end well either time, but in at least one case, it ends in a spectacularly awesome fashion.
  • Genji, Shannon and Kanon from Umineko no Naku Koro ni seems rather okay and uncaring in the face of Kinzo's actions and all the murders that occurs. In reality Kinzo is already dead, Shannon and Kanon is the same person, Yasu, who is Kinzo's illegitimate child with his daughter Beatrice the second and is the one Genji considers his new master. Yasu then plan the murders without any protest from Genji who even helps with covering them up.

    Webcomics 
  • Florence Ambrose of Freefall invokes the fable of the Loyal Samurai (above) in explaining why she continues to work for a known kleptomaniac and all-around antisocial alien.
    • Aside from technically being Florence's CO, Sam might qualify thanks to his Blue and Orange Morality - many of the traits that make Florence adhere to this trope in serving Sam are actually considered virtues in Sam's culture (on account of the fact that they're a society of scavengers who don't know where their next meal is coming from, let alone anything else), while the honesty, altruism, and integrity she tries to teach him are considered foolish quirks at best and suicidal liabilities at worst.
  • The Dreamland Chronicles: the king of the dwarves is loyal to the king of Dreamland.
  • Izor, from Dubious Company, is torn between this and My Country, Right or Wrong. Even when he reveals his plot, he needs serious convincing by Future High Priestess Sal to assassinate the Emperor instead of using him as a Puppet King.
    • Played for laughs with the royal guards of the Elven Kingdom. When the King and Queen order each other's arrest, it leads the guards to obeying whoever spoke last until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • Vlad from El Goonish Shive was completely loyal to Damien, to the point of externally agreeing with his methods until after Damien was quite safely dead.
  • Units in Erfworld are compelled to obey leaders by a loyalty mechanic. This shocks Parson as much as his notion of "free will" shocks the Erfworlders.

    Western Animation 
  • This is the struggle Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Karai faces in the second and third seasons of the second cartoon, where the character's loyalty to her adoptive father, The Shredder, clashes with her more noble instincts. One of the forms this clash takes is in her reluctance to kill the turtles, who had agreed to help her restore the New York Foot in exchange for ending the syndicate's vendetta against the turtles. While the agreement was made under false pretenses—it was made under the assumption that the Shredder was dead and that Karai would be leading the Foot, which Karai knew was not the case—she still felt compelled to keep it, despite her father's wishes.
  • Transformers: since Megatron is the undisputed Leader of All Decepticons, Always, anyone wearing the purple has to murmur this phrase if they want to stay sane. The least loyal of Megatron's troops have used excuses for staying under him ranging from "It's still better than the Autobots" to "I get to live how I want", but some 'Cons just say "He's the boss."
    • All except one.
    • Cyclonus in Season 3 of Generation One is a particularly good example of this, to Galvatron.
    • Played with in Beast Machines; the generals Strika and Obsidian are loyal to Cybertron, first, foremost, and always...and, by their own Insane Troll Logic, whoever is in control of Cybertron, at the time - regardless of who that individual is, or what his plans are - is Cybertron, and will shift their allegiances accordingly. This means, as their fellow Vehicon Thrust points out, that they're perfectly willing to sacrifice the sanctity of the planet itself, if that is what its current despot deems necessary (which, yes, does in fact render their "loyalty" to Cybertron moot).
      • Thrust himself is a better example: twice during the second season (once at the beginning and again near the end), when it seems as though Megatron has been killed, he refuses to bury the hatchet with the Maximals, deciding, instead, to await Megatron's inevitable return. He stays loyal to the very end, despite knowing that completing Megatron's plans will involve having his own spark ripped out and absorbed.
    • And, as stated above, Ravage pulls this off in Beast Wars, abandoning his mission to kill Megatron after learning that the guy was following the orders of the original Megatron, whom Ravage was still loyal to...even though said plan involved changing the future by assassinating Prime in the past, the consequences of which he should've been around long enough to figure out on his own (read: involuntary Apocalypse How).
    • Lugnut is like this out of blind loyalty. If his GLORIOUS master commands it, he will carry it out.
    Lugnut: STASIS LOCK ITSELF WILL NOT DETER ME FROM YOUR GRAND AND GLORIOUS PLAN, OH WISE AND NOBLE MEGATRON!
    Megatron: *twitch* Just... go...
  • On The Fairly Oddparents, Juandissimo does evil things simply because his godchild Remy orders him to. When Remy's not around, he's quite friendly.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Zuko in the first half of Season 3 does not say anything when his father orders his generals to commit genocide on the Earth Kingdom by raining fire on everything. To be fair though, you can't really blame him for not wanting to speak out in a war meeting again.
    • It's rather a subversion, because he was probably quietly thinking about the best way to prevent it from the very moment he heard of it. It is pure Fridge Brilliance because Zuko's Heel-Face Turn in The Day of the Black Sun looks very inconsistent when you think about how nice his father is to him at this point and how Zuko acted in the season two finale. Then, in the Grand Finale, you learn what they said during this meeting. Oh Crap.
    • Azula as well. By the end of the series, she is so desperate for her father's approval that she'll accept an assignment from him which takes her away from an opportunity for power, glory, and the chance to be at his side. The toll this (as well as the fear that Ozai doesn't think she's good enough and a few other things) has on her psyche is not pretty.
    • Season 1 Zuko actually was like this, not so much out of an understanding of honor that stated he had to obey even if his father was evil and wrong, as from conditioning against believing that it was possible for his father to be wrong, no matter how cruel he might be. He was just at the age to start really defining himself ethically, after already thirteen years of propagandistic brainwashing and persuasive evidence that he was considered expendable by his family, when he spoke up against a really coldblooded battle tactic and 'his father burned half his face off and told him it was his own fault,'' so he's spent the last three years policing himself for thoughtcrime. This is actually more psychologically plausible than this trope pure, not that the trope hasn't turned up plenty in reality.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, it seemed like Shining Knight was once ordered to destroy a village, but it turned out to be a test of his judgment, and he did the right thing by refusing, thus being an inversion of this trope.
    • However the General he told this to did not agree, claiming he was a failure for not immediately agreeing to an order from his commander.
  • Kif is this to Zapp Branagan in Futurama, replete with eye rolls and groans when Zapp does something idiotic. Granted, this is implied to be not out of loyalty or respect for Zapp, but because he has gotten stuck under his recruitment somehow. His self-esteem has withered to such a point that he is still subordinate to Zapp's orders even when both are temporary fired, and he becomes absolutely giddy at the thought of getting another employer.
  • An unintentional and and terribly done example occurs in the much-maligned Spongebob Square Pants episode "One Coarse Meal", where, after having spent the majority of the episode terrifying Plankton to the point of driving him to suicide, it seems like Mr. Krabs is finally going to get his comeuppance, but Spongebob intervenes to save him, letting him get off scot-free, despite how badly Spongebob himself is treated by Mr. Krabs.

My Country, Right or WrongAuthority TropesNo Badass to His Valet
My Country, Right or WrongAnti-VillainMysterious Backer
My Country, Right or WrongLoyalty TropesThe Oath-Breaker
My Country, Right or WrongVillainsMysterious Backer

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