Rank Up

Wiggum: Lou, you're promoted to chief of police.
Lou: Sweet.
Wiggum: And Eddie, you're promoted to Lou.
Eddie: Nice. And, uh, who's gonna be Eddie?
Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie. (Eddie is visibly saddened by his closing remark.)

No matter what country you're from, if you are in the military, there will be a ranking system.

Most of the time, military personnel are required to be in a certain rank for X amount of months or years before they are even allowed to be promoted. This justifies the reason why you don't often see military promotions in television or movies.

But this trope is about when a character is promoted in show. During season one, you may have known him as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Bob, but by the third season he becomes known as Captain Bob.

After this promotion expect the character, if he is not a protagonist, to go in one of two directions. Either his increase in responsibility makes him a more important character in the series, or his responsibility gives him less time to spend with his friends. The middle ground is rare.

Compare Took a Level in Badass, except this character's badassness has a title.

This is not simply a military trope. Law enforcement agencies are hierarchical and large companies have a ranking system also, but these promotions have little impact on the story, unless the character is striving for it (in which most of the time he never gets it).

Not related to Level Up, where taking a level in badass includes numbers and stats, not titles and authority, although games whose characters are part of a military or paramilitary force may tie one to the other.

Contrast this with Limited Advancement Opportunities. See also Field Promotion and You Are in Command Now. Compare Up Through the Ranks when a veteran enlisted man is made an officer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, almost all of the Konoha 12 ninja are promoted in between the Time Skip. Naruto himself averts this, being now possibly the most powerful ninja in the village but having one of the lowest ranks.
    • Gaara, however, takes this further by going from Genin to the Kazekage, and his siblings and Neji become Jonin.
  • In One Piece, Captain Smoker gets promoted by the Marines to Commodore. Commodore Smoker is not too happy about his promotion as he feels he didn't deserve it, but he does use his new leverage to operate wherever he wants. After the Time Skip, he gets promoted to Vice-Admiral. This time it was by his own merits, seeing as he needed this rank to go chasing after the Straw Hats in the New World.
    • Smoker is an interesting case in that he was an Almighty Janitor. While there is no doubt that he gained that promotion as a result of a cover-up, it can be easily argued that he should've gotten it sooner, by virtue of the fact that he was way stronger than the average captain or commodore already by that point. The only reason his rank wasn't higher when he first debuted was because his Cowboy Cop tendencies.
    • Akainu is another example. In his first appearance, in Robin's flashback to 20 years ago, he's a Vice Admiral. When he first appears in the present, at the start of the War Arc, he's an Admiral. After the Time Skip, he's mentioned to be the new Fleet Admiral, though he hasn't appeared yet in person post-timeskip.
  • Between seasons in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the characters go up ranks. The Forwards start out with Subaru and Teana as Privates Second Class and Erio and Caro as Privates Third Class, but by Striker S Sound Stage X, Erio and Caro are Privates First Class, Subaru is a Corporal, and Teana is an Enforcer with equivalent rank to a Second Lieutenant. By Force, Subaru has been promoted again to Sergeant. In the same time period, Signum and Vita, Second Lieutenants, advance to Captain and First Lieutenant, respectively.
  • Bleach:
    • Rukia Kuchiki is promoted from a seatless soldier to lieutenant during the Time Skip.
    • Turn Back the Pendulum begins with Urahara's promotion to captain of the 12th Division from third seat in the 2nd Division.
    • In between TBTP and the main story, Byakuya, Sui-Feng, Mayuri, Aizen, Gin and Tousen all Rank Up to Captain from lower positions.
    • The biggest Rank Up, by far, goes to Shunsui Kyoraku, who goes from Captain to Captain-Commander.
    • After Everything but the Rain, Hitsugaya is promoted to captain from 3rd seat to replace Isshin Shiba.
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes, most of the main characters were promoted at least once by the time the series ended. An example would be Yang Wen-li, who started out as a Commodore in series 1 and reached the rank of Fleet Admiral by series 3.

     Comic Books 
  • At the end of Batman: Year One Lt James Gordon is promoted to Captain. By Year Two, he's become Commissioner Gordon.

    Fan Works 
  • Bait and Switch: Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra joins the USS Bajor's crew as operations officer because the ship's previous ops officer, Lieutenant Commander T'Var, was promoted and given her first command.

  • Anakin Skywalker rises through the Jedi ranks throughout the Star Wars series. He does resent the fact that the Council gives him a seat (at Palpatine's insistence), but doesn't grant him the rank of Master.
    • In the novelization, he thought that getting the Council seat would give him the rank, then he could access the restricted records in the Jedi Archives that would show how he could use the Force to keep Padme from dying in childbirth.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: Darth Vader is strangling Admiral Ozzel.
    Vader: You have failed me for the last time, Admiral. Captain Piett?
    Piett: Yes, my lord?
    Vader: [gives instructions] You Are in Command Now, Admiral Piett.
    • Later, he shows just how tenuous the "promotion" is:
    Vader: [after the Millennium Falcon "disappeared"] Don't fail me again, "Admiral."
  • Return of the Jedi: Captain Han Solo becomes General Han Solo, because he is just crazy enough to volunteer to lead the Rebel strike team to Endor's surface.
    • As does his "friend," Lando Calrissian; he goes from Bespin City Administrator/Executive to General.
  • In The Dark Knight, Jim Gordon ranks up to his comic book rank of commissioner. In the previous film, he starts off as a Sergeant and gets promoted to Lieutenant.
  • Johnny Rico in the Starship Troopers film starts off as a private and gets promoted to squad leader, then sergeant, then lieutenant. The same for his ex-girlfriend, who goes from a lieutenant to a captain.
  • Star Trek films:
    • James T. Kirk got promoted to admiral sometime prior to Star Trek The Motion Picture. However, at the end of The Voyage Home Starfleet busted him back down to captain for stealing the Enterprise in defiance of orders in The Search for Spock.
    • Star Trek ends with the rather ridiculous promotion of James T. Kirk from third-year officer cadet straight to captain. This is [[Handwave| handwaved]] as being because Nero and his crew apparently killed a lot of Starfleet's senior officers during the course of the movie.

  • In Catch-22 Scheisskopf is constantly promoted. He begins as a Lieutenant, but by the end of the book, is a Lieutenant General in charge of the whole army.
    • Yossarian gets promoted to Captain for one of his missions and is offered a promotion to Major if he tells everyone that the war is a good thing.
  • The hero of Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love's story-within-the-story "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" got promoted over and over again while never actually doing anything.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers has plenty of examples, but also two inversions; Captain Hassan, a field commissioned officer who chose to go through OCS and become an officer "properly", so he would have a chance to advance beyond Captain, and Colonel Nielsen, who chose to become the OCS Commandant instead of taking a medical discharge. Since he was a General and Commandant is a Colonel's billet, he took a demotion (though it's stated that he will be promoted back up when he retires).
  • Happens lots in the Honor Harrington series, both to the main character (who has gone from a Commander to Admiral of the Fleet) and much of the cast—many characters from previous books reappear promoted. Those that survive, anyway.
  • Likewise her predecessor Horatio Hornblower, who went from Midshipman to Admiral
  • In the end of Animorphs, Ax is promoted from Aristh (cadet) to Prince (an officer of the Andalite army)
    • Elfangor's Prince promotion in The Andalite Chronicles probably also counts.
    • And Visser Three's ascension through the ranks, to eventually Visser One by the end of the series.
  • In Win, Lose or Die by John Gardner, James Bond is promoted from Commander to Captain when he has to return to active duty in the Royal Navy as part of an assignment. He keeps this rank for the remainder of Gardner's series.
  • In the Discworld novel Guards! Guards! Carrot Ironfoundersson joins the watch as Lance-Constable Carrot, who is made a full Constable at the end. By the start of Men at Arms, Carrot has become a Corporal, and by the end he's Captain Carrot and his commanding officer Captain Vimes is made Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Men At Arms also introduces Lance-Constables Detritus and Angua; Detritus becomes a Sergeant before Feet of Clay and Angua is Corporal by Jingo, Sergeant by The Fifth Elephant and a Captain by I Shall Wear Midnight. And Cheery Littlebottom is introduced in Feet of Clay as a Corporal (she gets extra rank for being an alchemist rather than a beat officer, as long as she doesn't try to give orders to real watchmen) and becomes a Sergeant (and accepted as a real watchman) by Thud!
    • Sergeant Colon gets a temporary promotion to Captain in The Fifth Elephant owing to an absence of higher ranking officers. It doesn't go well. Apart from that, he and Corporal Nobbs are firmly settled into their positions.
  • Over the course of the Phryne Fisher novels, Hugh Collins is promoted from constable to sergeant.

  • In Cactus Canyon, there are five ranks that the player can get (Stranger, Partner, Deputy, Sheriff, and Marshall), with increases coming either from winning Gun Fights or random awards.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dark Heresy uses a system of ranks to represent the characters "leveling up" to a certain extent.
  • In the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons, leveling up past a certain level as a Druid was rigidly tied to the character's position in the druidic hierarchy, meaning that she could not gain a new level until she was promoted to the next rank (which often required vacating the corresponding position first).

    Video Games 
  • World in Conflict:
    • Parker is promoted twice during the single-player campaign: off-screen between the mid-story flashbacks and the beginning of the campaign (from Second to First Lieutenant) and after Bannon's death (to Captain).
    • Also, online matches promote you. Each online player gets a Rank Up after they have scored enough points in online matches, though officer ranks additionally have the "be in the top X% of the global ladder" requirements. While fancy insignia are largely just a Cosmetic Award, online players are much more inclined to follow a star-rank player's lead.
  • The entire Wardog Squadron in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is promoted from Lieutenants to Captains following their mission in the Razgriz Straights. Also, Chopper is posthumously further promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
  • The Red Baron series has a rank system incorporated into its Campaign Mode. By default, you start out on the lowest tier of your chosen air service, and your missions are assigned for you. As you successfully complete missions and receive promotions, you receive more opportunities to lead flights and choose missions for yourself.
  • Between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 3, Ashley is promoted from Gunnery Chief (somewhere between OR-7 and OR-9) to Lieutenant-Commander (OF-3), while Kaidan Alenko goes from Staff Lieutenant (OF-2) to Major (counter-intuitively, OF-5), technically outranking his CO, Commander Shepard, who remains at OF-4 throughout the trilogy. Captain Anderson becomes an Admiral by the third game and commander of all Alliance forces remaining on Reaper-occupied Earth, and while Admiral Hackett remained an Admiral, he went from commanding the Fifth Fleet to commanding all Alliance Forces by the third game, and eventually became the de facto leader of the Systems Alliance, as well as the commander of the combined military might of most of the Galaxy by the end.
    • The in-game codex lists Lieutenant Commander (OF-3) and Staff Commander (OF-4), both would be addressed as commander. If Shepard was Lieutenant Commander in the first game it is possible a promotion was given shortly before the second game's tutorial stage. But really everyone does what you say because you're Shepard and are very possibly the only thing standing between civlisation and oblivion.
  • Terran units in StarCraft II get promoted based on the number of kills they make.
    • An in-universe example is Artanis, who becomes the leader of the Protoss after Brood War.
  • Some examples happen in World of Warcraft, typically from one expansion to another:
    • In the Stonetalon Mountains questline for the Horde, the player rises through the ranks of Overlord Krom'gar's army, becoming a general by the end. At the end, Garrosh kills Krom'gar for his war crimes and tells the player that his or her rank in Krom'gar's army no longer has any meaning.
    • In the Vashj'ir zone of Cataclysm, players fight alongside an officer of their faction- Taylor for the Alliance and Nazgrim for the Horde. In Mists of Pandaria, that NPC receives a promotion; from Captain to Admiral for Taylor, and from Legionnaire to General for Nazgrim (he had previously been promoted from Sergeant in Wrath of the Lich King), and the player meets them in the Jade Forest storyline.
    • Gryan Stoutmantle of Westfall. In classic World of Warcraft he was the head of a local militia. In Wrath of the Lich King, he appears in Grizzly Hills as a proper Captain in the military. Come Cataclysm, he has returned to Westfall and is now a Marshal.
    • Colonel Troteman, from Redridge Mountains and the Burning Steppes, is now a Marshal in Pandaria.
  • In the Soviet campaign in Command & Conquer: Red Alert, the player Non-Entity General starts out as a Lieutenant and gets promoted all the way up to General with Kane making him Chairman after Stalin is assassinated. Kukov starts out as a Captain and is later promoted to General also. Averted in the Allied campaign, where the player character is a Commander for the duration of the war.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown ties the soldiers' ranks to their Character Level: all recruits start at the Rookie rank/level 1, and progress through Squaddie (2), Corporal (3), Sergeant (4), Lieutenant (5), Captain (6), Major (7), to Colonel (8), gaining a new skill with every rank/level up.
    • The original series had a different rank system: Rookie, Squaddie, Sergeant, Captain, Colonel and Commander. Rookies are automatically promoted to Squaddies after their first combat kill but the rest of the ranks are dependent on the global number of Squaddies you have: 1 Sergeant per 5 Squaddies, 1 Captain per 11 Squaddies, 1 Colonel per 23 Squaddies and a single Commander once the player has least 30 Squaddies. Promotions happen automatically whenever there's an opening, with the maximum number of officers capped at 50 Sergeants, 22 Captains, 10 Colonels and a single Commander. The primary reason for taking an officer into combat isn't their combat experience but because their mere presence on the battlefield decreases morale loss in the team from injuries and casualties - but if the officer is the one who bites it, the entire team loses more morale than they normally would.
  • Star Trek Online similarly ties character rank to Character Level. Depending on whether you're in Starfleet, the Romulan Republic, or the Klingon Defense Force, the player starts at level 1 as a cadetnote  or lieutenant and works their way up to fleet admiral/Dahar Master at level 60 (actual promotions for KDF tops out at General at 55, equivalent to Starfleet and Republic Militia Admiral — Dahar Master is an honorary and highly prestigious title). Your bridge officers can similarly be promoted from ensign up through commander/subcommander.

    Web Comics 
  • The young Delta Green informer in Ow, my sanity:
    Old agent: Well done, Slick.
    Young informer: "Slick"? What happened to "Sport"?
    Old agent: You just got graduated to Slick.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Exo Squad, Lt. J.T. Marsh is promoted to wing commander mid-second season. Appropriately, this coincides with him assuming command over two more mecha squadrons, while the former Chick Nara Burns becomes the official leader of the eponymous Able Squad. (In practice, however, the two new squadrons rarely appear and Marsh still commands the Able Squad whenever it is sent on a solo mission.)
  • The Simpsons: When Homer became a missionary and went to a Pacific island, he promoted Bart to Man of the House, Lisa to Boy, and Maggie to Brainy Girl. "The toaster can fill in for Maggie." Marge, however, was a consultant.
    • As noted in the page quote, when police Chief Clancy Wiggum was promoted to commissioner, he promoted Lou to police chief, and Eddie to Lou.
    • Parodied when Wiggum tells Lou that he'll promote him to Sergeant. Lou notes that he already is a Sergeant. Wiggum tells him to shut up or he'll bust him down to Sergeant.
  • Spoofed on The Penguins of Madagascar, when Private is promoted to private first class. "Of course, we'll still call you Private. First Class is implied."

    Real Life