"There's always that one guy on the team too, he was a last minute replacement. He's not one of the original gang.
But one of the other guys vouches for him. 'No, no, dude... trust me, this guy's cool. He's solid and he's cool.' But he's not cool, is he? He doesn't really say anything ever, right?
He just stands there, looks cool... and then at one point he might be like... 'Let's kill these bitches.'"
— Dane Cook
Getting along with a group of people in everyday life is hard, working together with a group of people under stressful situations can be downright murder.
But that's where all the tension and drama is, right?
A group of survivors is rarely written as a cohesive group, or if they are, there's one little catch. One of them is emotionally fragile, and given the right situation, will have a psychotic breakdown, usually due to crossing the Despair Event Horizon
. So now the group of survivors has to be wary of not only external threats, but an internal one as well, from someone who could possibly slaughter everyone in the group without knowing it. This character isn't (normally) evil, but they are a convenient obstacle for the protagonists. Usually, there's a tough decision on whether or not to kill the person in question. When it's someone whom you least expect to flip out, the trope becomes that much more chilling.
These characters come in two types:
Type I: These are seemingly normal people who for whatever reason becomes mentally and or emotionally unhinged and becomes a danger to the group. Before hand they were seemingly normal and sane.
Type II: These characters are probably loose cannons who goes over the moral line with their brutality and or hasty behavior. Usually overlaps with Token Evil Teammate
Could be a result of a maddening revelation
Contrast with Token Evil Teammate
, Could also overlap with A House Divided
, and Zombie Infectee
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Anime and Manga
- Gundam ZZ has Elpeo Puru. Normally she's a hyperactive young girl with a sisterly attachment to Judau, but sometimes her obsession with him can go a bit... far. The worst case was when she tried to kill Leina, seeing her as a rival for Judau's brotherly affections. Judau manages to stop this and calm her down, and Puru is heartbroken over Leina's supposed death a short time later.
- The Walking Dead has quite a few of these.
- Specifically Ben brutally slaughters Billy, and before then he was seen killing a cat, and of course the group goes through the whole should we or shouldn't we kill him debate. Because Murder Is the Best Solution. Carl of course makes the decision for them while everyone was preoccupied.
- Michonne, and even Rick teeters on the brink of this sometimes, and possibly Morgan and Carl.
- Archer Maggot from The Dirty Dozen is a Type II. He's clearly off-balance from the start, spouting off racist comments like nobody's business, but he really becomes a problem at the climax where he nearly foils the mission by stabbing a woman to death at the party...for no reason.
- Arguably Capt. Rhodes, although he's the most practical, and the only one that makes any sense.
- Dr. William Weir from Event Horizon. For the most part he was still sane up until the film's climax. In fact he was genuinely remorseful when he came across Peters body.
- Ian from Final Destination 3 snaps due to the loss of his girlfriend. He then tries to kill his friends to steal their time and get off of Death's list.
- Panic Room - Raoul. Things would really have been a lot better if Junior hadn't gotten him involved.
- Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs. His response to someone hitting the alarm during the heist that makes up the movie was to go on a kill-crazy rampage, and so it's little wonder that a good 90% of anyone else's dialogue about the man is how psychotic he is. And that's before we get to the Cold-Blooded Torture scene...
- Pinbacker from Danny Boyle's Sunshine, who lost his marbles and killed his crew members.
- Blair from John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). Although there's a good chance he was right to act so crazy. At first, anyway.
- Craig Toomy in Stephen King's The Langoliers. He's already bubbling on the verge of a breakdown before the story heats up, but he's pushed over the edge by the maddening revelation that the stale-time-eating Langoliers he heard stories about in his youth are real.
- River is the Psycho Party Member in Firefly. After her treatment at the hands of the Alliance government, she is only sometimes sane and is apt to flip out at the slightest (if any) provocation. Most of the crew realize that her behavior is not her fault, and are protective toward her, but they do remain wary. The episode Objects in Space revolves a lot around the other characters beginning to seriously consider the threat River poses to them, and their concern is increased by Serenity when they find out that River was intended to be an elite assassin.
- Despite it being about a group of survivors under very stressful conditions, LOST averted this. Though Michael came so close in early season 2.
- Happens twice in The Pacific. On Peleliu an unnamed Marine begins to freak out one night, and his comrades have to resort to bashing his head in with an entrenching tool to silence him. Later on Okinawa, Pvt. Peck snaps as a result of the rain, Japanese shelling, and hazing he's been receiving from Snafu, Sledge and Leyden, and begins screaming at the Japanese position across from them, even firing a few shots in their direction. While the others attempt to calm him another replacement having better luck fitting in with the others, Pvt. Hamm, is shot and killed by the Japanese responding to Peck's breakdown. Truth in Television.
- Ronald Speirs in Band of Brothers has this vibe going, and actually makes it work for him. His comrades speculate whether he's really as psychotic as the stories make him, or if it's all just an act. As with the above, this is also Truth in Television, and to this day no one is really sure whether the stories told about Speirs during the War were true or if it was an image he allowed his subordinates to cultivate. He was certainly well-respected and popular among the men of Easy Company.
- In Bat Boy The Musical, Dr. Parker's already somewhat loose grip on reality is shattered when his wife takes Edgar's side over his, and he begins killing people and framing Edgar for the crimes.
- Although he literally fits the trope name, Belkar of The Order of the Stick is usually the Token Evil Teammate rather than this trope. As is frequently noted in-story, this is because of Roy's ability to keep him in line. When Roy dies and Haley becomes the party leader, Belkar moves into this trope. The first demonstration is when he randomly kills an innocent gnome merchant whom they meet on the road. When he then kills the Oracle, whose help the party needed, it's the last straw.
- Porkfry is/was this apparently for the Penny Arcade crew, according to this comic where he suggests the best response to Tycho standing them up for Guys' Night Out is to kill him (Complete with brandishing a pocket knife)
Porkfry: (Disappointed) We never do what I want to do.
Gabe: Listen, if you wanted to go to Dairy Queen or something, fine, let's go. But no. You always want to fucking kill people. You never just want a Blizzard.