More often than not when a story has a BigBad there will be a BigGood to counter them. This has a number of advantages; it keeps the heroes' side balanced against the antagonists', provides a source of support for the heroes and generally stops the series getting too cynical. On the other hand, it raises some problems. Namely, with the strength of such a strong ally, where's the tension? The BigGood could easily end up being a StoryBreakerPower, which also begs the question of why they don't get off their arse and send their villainous counterpart packing ([[OrcusOnHisThrone or vice versa]]).

Cue this trope--a powerful benefactor of the heroes (essentially doing the same thing in the story that a BigGood would) who has their own agenda or reasons for helping them. Perhaps they're mysterious and hard to trust, perhaps they're visible, but seem a little too keen to ShootTheDog. Other times, they're genuinely benevolent beings who are working within some sort of non-interference clause, and may employ the same tactics as their opponents. Either way, they'll provide the support the cast needs, but the heroes (or at least the audience) don't quite know if they can be trusted. Even if they are the BigGood proper, they might [[KnightTemplar not be planning to do things in an entirely moral manner]] or have it in for the heroes and wish to make them suffer more than they really need to. In a worst case scenario, they might become the new BigBad or turn out to be a GreaterScopeVillain.

Remember that this isn't a simple case of OmniscientMoralityLicense or InMysteriousWays, nor are they a BigGood who likes to stay hidden or keep an air of mystery around themselves; the entity in question must be at least visibly untrustworthy rather than having an excuse for their seemingly questionable behaviour. A hero with this trope as their main support might (but doesn't always) find themselves as an UnwittingPawn, although to count as this trope, the MysteriousBacker must further the heroes' agenda as much as their own (assuming they aren't one and the same). They're quite fond of the PassiveRescue (particularly when it means the hero might be forced to do something on his way out). It's not unheard of for them to be a GreaterScopeVillain, if their interests turn against the antagonists'.

A subtrope of ThePowersThatBe and MysteriousStranger. See PoisonousFriend for another type of ally who might not see eye to eye with the rest of the team. Compare AnonymousBenefactor. Contrast with BigBadFriend, for someone who's close to and trusted by the hero, but leads the villains, and EnigmaticMinion for someone who's on the villain's side with unclear motives.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'', [[spoiler: Kyubey]] is this to the letter. [[spoiler: even after finishing the series, his BlueAndOrangeMorality makes it difficult to discern whether or not he was a villain or hero, or any variation involving the prefix "anti-"]].
* Urahara from ''Manga/{{Bleach}}''. He guides Ichigo through the whole series, and obviously knows more than just about anyone else when it comes to just what the hell is going on, but don't expect him to fill you in any time soon.
* In ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'', the [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien Data Entity]] fits this role.
* Yugi Mouto is this in the first episode of ''Anime/YuGiOhGX'', giving Judai the Winged Kuiboh card that becomes his NonHumanSidekick, and not showing up until the SeriesFinale to explain why.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'' Nico Robin seems to have been this for Nefertari Vivi during her time as a mole in Baroque Works. Though to what extent is never explicitly shown, as much of it takes place before the story begins.

* ''Comicbook/GreenLantern'''s Guardians of the Universe. They think they're the BigGood, but they're completely full of themselves and wind up being the cause of a lot of messes the Lanterns have to clean up.
** As of the New 52, [[spoiler: they've given up all pretense of this, attempting to annihilate all life in the universe by converting it into the Third Army.]]
* Invoked in the second series of ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}''. A group of former superheroes get a mysterious phone call asking them to come out of retirement for OneLastJob. The heroes call him out, but they still wind up taking the job.
* Most of the major Marvel principalities, particularly the Vishanti. They're mainly on the side of good, but they have a perspective which is sometimes completely alien to normal humans. On more than one occasion Comicbook/DoctorStrange has renounced them, taking the loss of power as a consequence, rather than be beholden to them any longer.
* The "Fourth Man" of ''ComicBook/{{Planetary}}. A major part of the first half of the series is the mystery of his or her identity.
-->'''Jakita Wagner''': We don't know a name, that's part of the deal. Could be Bill Gates, could be Hitler, all we know is he's got more money than God and has been funding Planetary's operations since before any of us can remember.
* Haeroth the Damned in ''Franchise/Warhammer40000'' comic ''ComicBook/{{Bloodquest}}'' serves as a guide to the Blood Angels while they are stuck in the [[EldritchLocation Daemon World of Eidolon]]. Because of his nature as a [[MysteryCult Dark Angel]] and having stayed for too long in the Warp, the heroes are very suspicious of him, but given they are trapped in a planet surrounded by daemonic enemies with no allies to rely on, they have no choice but to accept his help. [[spoiler:Turns out their suspicions weren't unfounded as it turns out he was possessed by the same daemon who brought them in the first place]].

[[folder:Fairy Tales]]
* In ''Literature/JackAndTheBeanstalk'', there's the merchant who trades Jack the beans for his cow. At first he seems like a SnakeOilSalesman, but as it turns out, the beans are clearly worth far more than a cow that no longer gives milk. His motivations for helping Jack are never revealed.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''FanFic/BadFutureCrusaders'' has [[SecretIdentity Arpeggio]], who borders on being the BigGood, or would if her intentions weren't so enigmatic. She hires Silver Spoon to steal the Element of Magic from [[DaddysLittleVillain Dinky Doo]], hires [[BountyHunter Apple Bloom]] to hunt down [[TheDrifter Scootaloo]] so that she can tell them where the Element of Loyalty is (though she drops the ball on this, not knowing that the two know each other), and has some connection with the [[LaResistance Rainbolts]]. It's clear that she wants the Elements of Harmony in order to take down [[EvilOverlord Queen Twilight]], but it's clear just how benevolent her intentions or, or even who she really is.

* In the ''Franchise/StarWars'' prequel trilogy Senator Palpatine fulfills this role, since he's apparently helping the protagonists, but anyone who had already seen the original trilogy knew [[BigBad what he had in mind]].
* In the film ''Film/{{Upldr}}'', Lucius appeared to Victor to offer him funds, technology, and even [[spoiler: a brain]].
* Rufus in ''Film/BillAndTedsExcellentAdventure''. Neither the two protagonists nor the viewers know why he's helping them until he tells them at the very end.
** He fits the Trope in the sequel too, as [[spoiler:not even the viewers know until the end that the--female--concert director who gives the protagonists a chance is actually him in disguise.]]
* Deep Throat in ''Film/AllThePresidentsMen'', emphasis on "mysterious". Of course, he was based on an informant whose identity and motives were, at the time, a heavily-guarded secret, but the film certainly upped the mysterious part, portraying him as a shadowy figure with a gravely voice. (Very much unlike the actual Mark Felt, especially when he admitted, publically, to being the informant in 2005.)
* The Driver in ''Film/{{Drive}}''. It's not revealed who he is, what his relation is to the woman and child he's escorting, or just why he's protecting them; important thing is, he does so.

* [[spoiler: Cira]] in ''Literature/ABrothersPrice''. First she seems to be one of the villains, then she announces her intent to help Jerin, [[spoiler:and indeed does so.]]
* ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' has loads of these; Marcone (a pragmatic, but still ruthless, gangster), the head of the White Council (who ''is'' the BigGood... but also has it in for Harry), pretty much [[TheFairFolk any fey that helps him]] (since BlueAndOrangeMorality is their chief export).
* The Ellimist from ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' technically tries to help the heroes, but he is either too roundabout in his methods to really gain their trust or too held up by [[EldritchAbomination Crayak]] (with whom he has a self-enforced stalemate) to help at all.
* Eru in all of Creator/JRRTolkien's works. All of the Valar as well.
* Melisandre from ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''. A red priestess from Asshai who supports and advises Lord Stannis Baratheon in his campaign for the throne of Westeros and believes he is TheChosenOne. It's ambiguous whether she's actually good; she might be a TautologicalTemplar.
* [[OriginalCharacter Trent]] from the S.D. Perry ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' was invented to be this and fill the gaping [[PlotHole Plot Holes]] between the games the books are based on.
* ''Literature/ShadesChildren'' has Shade, the morally ambiguous VirtualGhost who leads his eponymous children.
* ''Literature/TheBalancedSword'' has Khoros, the wizard in the funny hat who shows up from time to time to give events a nudge. He has no scruples about lying or putting people into danger with incomplete information, and on at least one occasion seems to have deliberately steered someone into getting seriously injured so that they would be rescued by someone they needed to meet; the presumption is that it all works out for the best in the long run, but he attracts a certain amount of distrust and, from at least one character, intense and personal dislike.

[[folder:Live Action Television]]
* ''Series/{{Warehouse 13}}'' (which has its own series) serves as this in ''Series/{{Eureka}}''.
* The Vorlons were this in the first part of ''Series/BabylonFive''. Their definition of good (as opposed to the chaos of the Shadows) lets them help the heroes, but they go past good. Soon they are blowing stuff up veering into Lawful stupid territory.
* Escher and his Piron Corp. from ''Series/{{Continuum}}''. Escher obviously has motives of his own, but he does help Kiera out every once in a while despite her open contempt for him, not to mention that in season 2 he [[spoiler: begins funding the police department, which the public ends up (rightfully) accusing them of having a conflict of interest because of it, although it still obviously helps with the department's resources.]]
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'':
** Definitely an odd example, but the "Machine". It's a practically omniscient computer that can see and hear almost everything happening in the entire country, and while it does provide the "team" with the basic information they need[[note]]The Social Security numbers of either the victims or the perpetrators of a violent crime being plotted (which is called the "irrelevant" list), and nothing more[[/note]] to carry out their "mission", it never, say, leads them to catching their (and arguably the public's) biggest threats, i.e. the various [[BigBad Big Bads]] they face, unless they happen to line up directly with the Machine's "Irrelevant" list.
** While it's true that the Machine's creator, Finch, intended for it to be as inaccessible to everybody as possible, and to not give out information that anybody could use personally so as to keep anybody (himself included) from abusing its power, and it hasn't ever lead them directly to a Big Bad, even when violent crimes are plotted and happen only because of them. It only gives Finch their numbers if they're ''personally'' involved in the violent crime, even though it must know that some of these numbers have, and will continue happening only thanks to the people who are masterminding them.
** It's also been shown to be perfectly capable of giving out reliable on-the-go information, although, granted, this only happens in certain specific situations (after Finch made it personal-use proof), such as when something is happening to the Machine itself, [[spoiler: like while it's searching for a new administrator after being attacked by a virus, following a self-reboot.]]
** Definitely some bonus points for it, at times, ''learning.'' It's even occasionally been vaguely hinted at being ''self-aware.'' Which ended up practically stated as true in the episode [[Recap/PersonOfInterestS03E12 Aletheia]].
** There are also some other things even Finch couldn't predict and doesn't completely understand about it.
** Of course, this is also what Finch is to John, from John's point of view.
** The villainous hacker Root has a HeelFaithTurn when she is confronted by all that the Machine has accomplished and starts treating the Machine as her god. As part of her belief system she does not question the many mysterious things the Machine has her do but takes it as a matter of faith that the Machine has an excellent reason for it. She follows the Machine's instructions without question and is rewarded for that faith when the Machine helps her accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.
* In the two-part ''Series/MightyMorphinPowerRangers'' episode "Island of Illusion", there was Quagmire [[WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy (no relation to this one)]] an elf-like being who spoke in rhymes. Who he was or why he was on the Island isn't known, but he was clearly one of Rita's enemies, and he was instrumental to the heroes' escaping the horrid place.
* Eddie Morra from ''Series/{{Limitless}}'', who kidnaps Brian, patches up his gunshot wound, and offers to supply him with the formula that staves off [[FantasticDrug NZT's]] side effects. In return, all he wants is for Brian to solve his friend's murder, as Eddie somehow knows that doing so will land him in a good position with the FBI. Somehow this all works in Morra's favour, whatever he's after.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/D20Modern'' loves this trope. Nearly every possible setting recommended in the various sourcebooks has some kind of suggestion for a mysterious backer. By default it's Department-7, which comes with a few suggestions for how it might fit into a campaign but whose true nature is ultimately left up to the GameMaster. The ''d20 Past'' book suggests "the Fellowship" instead in the late-Victorian ''Shadow Stalkers'' campaign, a group that becomes a rival or potential villain in the modern-day ''Shadow Chasers'' setting.
* And then there's the Hoffman Institute in ''TabletopGame/DarkMatter'', from which ''d20 Modern'' took a lot of inspiration even before republishing it as a sourcebook for the latter game. Ostensibly a BenevolentConspiracy, the Institute is still very secretive and run by a grey alien disguised as a human. The game books provide suggestions for making the Institute's goals and behavior quite murky, turning them from a "save the world" organization into an alien-backed conspiracy out for its own slice of the secret world pie, only happening to do good things through the PlayerCharacters along the way.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Mantarok from ''VideoGame/EternalDarkness''. Sure it's the only one of the ancients who isn't planning to enter the world and run amok, is actively opposing the others and even spent some time serving as [[MoralityPet a small village's personal fertility god]]. On the other hand, it's hardly in a position to oppose humanity and [[spoiler: after masterminding the destruction of the other three ancients, who knows what it's planning...]]
** WordOfGod also states that another ancient is responsible for protecting humans by cleaning away the remains of {{Eldritch Abomination}}s (as seen in the form of the yellow glow that accompanies the [[EverythingFades disappearing dead enemies]]), and may be an example of this (its yellow element [[spoiler: certainly blocks Alex's progress in the final chapter]]).
* Sammael from ''VideoGame/{{Darksiders}}''; An archdemon from hell so Powerful that the destroyer had him imprisoned and reduced to an extra. But He uses what power he does have left to help War, the games protagonist, so that War will help him get his powers back (and because [[spoiler:he respects a man bent on revenge]]).
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars'': The Order of Whispers, in ''Nightfall'', is the BigGood organization confronting Abaddon. However, they're a very mysterious lot, none more so than the Master of Whispers himself (one of the NPC heroes the player can acquire during the campaign), and the player character [[LampshadeHanging lampshades]] this in in-game dialogue with the Order of Whispers shrine attendants from which he/she gets bonuses in explorable areas, saying, in almost as many words, "I don't trust you or your Order, but we have a common enemy, so I'll help you."
* [[spoiler:Verus]] in ''VideoGame/BatenKaitosOrigins'', detailed on the [[Characters/BatenKaitos game's character page]].
* Theresa in ''VideoGame/FableII'' is textbook this trope--apparently the Big Good of the whole game until the last ten seconds of the final {{cutscene}}.
* In the ''VideoGame/HalfLife'' series we have--say it with me now--the G-Man. Is he on your side? Seems to be, but it's hard to say, and he has a far more sinister vibe than any other person Gordon meets. And he doesn't give you much reason to trust him, seeing as he [[KidnappedByTheCall blackmails Gordon into working for him]], puts him in a ''twenty-year nap'' without warning him beforehand, sets him down in a dystopian future so he can risk his life sparking a revolution, then tries to kidnap him ''again''--while ostensibly leaving beloved sidekick Alyx Vance to get blown up in a reactor explosion. [[AffablyEvil All very politely, of course.]] It certainly doesn't bode well for his trustworthiness that the vortigaunts, an unmistakeable ally, stop him from carrying out whatever plan he had for Gordon in ''Episode One'', and are implied to actively prevent him from consorting with Gordon for the entire rest of the game. Not to mention that in ''Opposing Force'', after Adrian deactivates a ''nuclear bomb'' that was set to blow the Black Mesa Facility, the G-Man ''turns it back on and lets the facility blow up, killing what was probably hundreds of people still left inside''. the end of the day, he does seem to want Gordon--and the Resistance--to succeed. He just uses [[TotalitarianUtilitarian questionable means to achieve his goals]].
* In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', despite the nature of the organization, Cerberus acts like this towards Shepard.
** Your father's memories in ''VideoGame/MassEffectAndromeda'' reveal that the Andromeda Initiative had an unknown backer. Someone, or something, who apparently knew about the imminent Reaper invasion - possibly before even Shepard knew - and was trying to FlingALightIntoTheFuture by putting a viable population outside their reach. Since the game bombed and the spinoff series died with it, it's likely we'll never know who, or what, that benefactor was.
* [[Literature/BabaYaga Flemeth]], the [[AmbiguouslyEvil (in)famous]] [[RetiredMonster "Witch of]] [[VoluntaryShapeshifter the Wilds"]] from the ''Franchise/DragonAge'' series.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfMonkeyIsland'' portrays the Voodoo Lady that has helped Guybrush throughout his career as this.
* ''VideoGame/MadWorld'' featured Jack participating in the Deathwatch. After he goes rogue from the competition, he still receives backing, though it's obvious that [[EvenEvilHasStandards it was the sponsor from earlier in the game, who despised what the game had become]].
* ''VideoGame/ZenoClash'' has Golem; a mysterious giant with a face that's shrouded in shadow and an extremely out of place Rubix cube in his possession;
** When he appears in the first game, he seems to know exactly what's going on, is opposing [[BigBad Father-Mother]] and guide's Ghat... but seriously, what the hell are his goals? [[spoiler: Plus another Golem was watching what he was doing from afar]].
** In ''VideoGame/ZenoClash2'', Golem's basically become ruler and tried to bring law and order to the land...which puts him at odds with Ghat. This is further complicated by another Golem, who helps Ghat along on his journey (apparently just to see what would happen). [[spoiler: To cut a long story short; the first golem's a WellIntentionedExtremist (who performs a HeroicSacrifice to set things right), while the second one just likes putting people through cruel "tests" [[ForTheEvulz for the sake of it]].]]
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'', Delita effectively acts as one for Ramza. Delita's biggest contribution for Ramza's cause is [[spoiler:effectively deploying [[GameBreaker Thunder God Cid]] to fight along his side]]. Talk about friends in high places...
* The composer (AKA [[spoiler: Joshua]]) in ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou''. He more or less manipulated Neku into [[spoiler: stopping the BigBad's EvilPlan]] and was even considering [[spoiler: destroying everything anyway (although Neku's actions made him change his mind)]].
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty'' has in its post-credits scene Otacon informing Snake that one of their biggest contributors was in fact one of the supposed members of th Wisemen's Committee, although he shortly thereafter reveals that they were dead since a century before the events of the game.
* In the tie-in comic for ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum'', ''The Road to Arkham'', Batman suspects that the anonymous tips about Zsasz's activities, Scarecrow's activities, and the location of SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker were given by the same person. Evidence from the game itself as well as its sequel, ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'', implies that the source of the anonymous tips were either [[spoiler:Quincy Sharp, Dr. Strange, or Ra's al Ghul.]]
* In ''KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' Kreia mentors the PC, but don't think she's the same as those other Jedi masters...
* ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'':
** Igor from the ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'' series. He's very weird and creepy, and who knows what exactly his motives are, but he is genuinely helpful.
** In the main series, this role tends to go to either Lucifer or Stephen.
* ''VideoGame/{{Submachine}}'': Murtaugh towards the player, especially since he's the only contact you have throughout the series. [[spoiler: And it turns out he was DeadAllAlong.]]
* One famous example is the sinister "Happy Mask Salesman" from ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask''. Sure, he leads and supports Link on his quest to defeat [[EldritchAbomination Majora]] and save Termina, but given how unclear his motives are, and how shady and downright ''nightmarish'' he is, his status as BigGood becomes kind of doubtful.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'': This is Yukari Yakumo's usual modus operandi. One of the most powerful beings in [[FantasticNatureReserve Gensokyo]], she positively ''oozes'' shiftiness to the point where the protagonists have been known to [[NotMeThisTime attack her on sight, assuming she's up to something]]. At the same time she's more or less the valley's custodian - she offers [[TheHero Reimu]] a good deal of support (both seen and unseen), and when she actually asks for help with something the protagonists tend to [[OOCIsSeriousBusiness assume the situation must be serious and agree to it immediately]]. Then again, it's implied that her idea of "serious" is [[BlueAndOrangeMorality very different from that of humans or even other youkai]].
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** According to the [[HistoricalHeroUpgrade more "heretical" tales]] of the life of Tiber Septim, the [[FounderOfTheKingdom founder]] of the Third Tamriellic Empire, he himself was not responsible for many of the heroic deeds ascribed to him. Instead, he had a powerful secret ally known as the Underking. The Underking, believed to possibly be the ancient [[HornyVikings Nord]] hero and [[EternalHero Shezarrine]] Wulfharth Ash-King (who had been "blasted to ash" by the [[OldMaster Greybeards]] when they [[RefusedByTheCall refused him as the "chosen one"]]), took the form of a great storm that could also apparently [[BodyDouble take the form of Septim]], which allowed for Septim to appear to be (and lead and campaign) in two places at once. [[WrittenByTheWinners Imperial orthodox history]], of course, denies this.
** In the [[WizardingSchool College of Winterhold]] questline in ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'', the [[TheOrder Psijic Order]], a powerful MagicalSociety and the oldest monastic order in Tamriel, acts as one to the [[PlayerCharacter Dragonborn]]. The Order offers information and clues on how they should deal with the [[ArtifactOfDoom Eye of Magnus]], although this advice tends to be ''highly'' cryptic. [[spoiler:Once recovered and saved from the [[ANaziByAnyOtherName Thalmor]], the Psijics confiscate the Eye of Magnus while declaring that TheWorldIsNotReady for it, then they name the Dragonborn the new Arch-Mage of the College]].

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja'' features the clone of Benjamin Franklin, who is working on an eternal life serum, which doesn't quite work out the way he expected (he's killed by ninjas, but comes back to life--sort of, as [[spoiler: he becomes a HeadlessHorseman]]). He reveals to Dr. [=McNinja=] that his backer was a reclusive Eastern European billionaire that he hadn't met personally, who gave his name as [[spoiler: {{Alucard}}]]. Doc, who can't believe Ben fell for [[spoiler: that SdrawkcabAlias]], instantly realizes the true identity of the backer: [[spoiler:{{Dracula}}! King of All Vampires!]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Machinima/RedVsBlue has the enigmatic Director, head of Project Freelancer.
** Vic too in the early episodes, in the sense of being MissionControl with some sort of agenda.
* Literature/{{Worm}} has the Undersiders' unknown boss. Eventually revealed to be [[spoiler:[[DiabolicalMastermind Coil]]]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Deconstructed in ''WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooMysteryIncorporated'', during the first half of the first season, Mr E has been secretly helping Mystery Inc in some of the mysteries they are solving, but he soon puts them all in real danger for his personal gain. Such as sending one his hired hands to attack them so that he can lure out Prof Pericles.