Reliable Traitor

There are almost as many reasons for minions to serve a master as there are masters to serve. Some minions serve out of personal loyalty, while others serve out of fear.

Some minions, however, serve a master not because they're loyal to them personally, but because working for that master furthers their own goals. These goals can range from the strictly mercenary to something more abstract. Both minion and master know this, and both know that the minion will jump ship as soon as working for the master is no longer beneficial, but also both know that they will serve ably and well until then.

The result of this is that the master has a capable and reliable minion as long as his own plans align with that minion's, and the minion benefits from the greater resources available to the master's organization until it comes time to strike out on their own.

Of course, if the minion's and master's ultimate goals come into conflict, then the minion may graduate to The Starscream and plot to overthrow their boss, or the master may decide that the minion has outlived their usefulness and have the minion killed before she becomes a liability. But hey, until then, it's a win-win situation for everybody.

Note that the difference in goals has to be out in the open for the character to qualify; otherwise we're talking about a Dragon with an Agenda.

This character is frequently also an Enigmatic Minion. Compare Wild Card.


Anime and Manga
  • Thorfinn in Vinland Saga makes no secret of his homicidal hatred of Askeladd. Askeladd is still able to successfully use him for any job he needs as long as he promises to duel him in return.
  • Discussed in Attack on Titan with the ever-capricious Ymir. When The Mole suggests that they can work together, she laughs it off by stating that they definitely don't trust each other. In response, he points out that he can trust Ymir because he knows the only thing she cares about is protecting Krista. As long as their goals align where Krista is concerned, she's a trustworthy ally.
  • Wei becomes this to Amber in Darker Than Black. He serves Amber so that he can have a chance to fight Hei again.
  • Dark Magical Girl Lutecia from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS who cooperates with Mad Scientist Scaglietti not for his goals of world domination but to find and reanimate her mother, Megane, who is in a coma..
  • Nico Robin of One Piece starts out as Sir Crocodile's Dragon. His goal is eventual world domination. Hers is simply to discover information about the Lost Superweapon that her hometown was destroyed for researching. After Crocodile's defeat, she joins the Straw Hat crew solely because she thinks they give her the best opportunity to continue her search, although she quickly becomes one of their True Companions.

Comic Books
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Eggman has stated that he knows full well that Snivley, Lien-Da, and several others are planning to overthrow him, but because of that they will work the hardest for him, because they want to inherit a strong empire.
  • In Death Vigil, this is the gist of Maria's arrangement with The Pale Court. The Court wants access to The Dreamers' Codex, which only Maria can translate. Maria wants the Grim Reaper's scythe, which only the court has the muscle to get. Maria makes it quite clear that she's only in it for the scythe, and has absolutely no personal loyalty to the court beyond what's required for her to get it.

  • In Con Air, Cameron Poe asks black supremacist Diamond Dog why he's content to be second in command to white Big Bad Cyrus Grissom. Dog replies that while his long term agenda is vastly different from that of Cyrus, he needs to escape before he can get back to it going along with Cyrus is "a means to an end."
  • The hyenas from The Lion King don't particularly care about Scar's lust for power beyond the fact that him in charge means more food for them. By the time Simba returns they're on the brink of mutiny because he failed to deliver (he failed to account for the Fisher King effect).

  • Codex Alera: Fidelias, who fits the description above almost perfectly. He turns on Gaius Sextus because he feels his politicking is destroying the country, and becomes the Aquitaines' chief spy despite not liking them much because he thinks Attis would be the best leader. He remains absolutely reliable to them until he decides Gaius Octavian would make a better First Lord, at which point he delivers his letter of resignation with a poisoned balest bolt.
  • Tama Montezuma, mistress of racialist leader Marengo North English from the Garrett, P.I. novels, doesn't make any attempt to hide that she's staying with him because he provides her with a lavish lifestyle. The trope is subverted, though, as her honesty about regarding him as a Sugar Daddy blinds him, and other men she's seduced the same way, to the fact that she's been putting words in his mouth to exploit his underlings and allies while ostensibly acting as his intermediary.

Live-Action TV
  • Mitchell of Being Human describes himself this way, neatly summarizing his various changes of allegiance by saying that he will do anything to survive. He explains to Herrick, "Right now, the only way for me to stay alive is by siding with you. Completely and 100%? You bet. Forever? I doubt it."
  • Arrow: We learn in the episode "Deathstroke" that Isabel Rochev is this to Slade. She insists that she's working with him instead of for him as she is trying to exact her own revenge on the Queen family, and it's just that their goals are mutually beneficial.
  • Firefly: In the pilot, Mal has this conversation with his crewman Jayne:
    Mal: How come you didn't turn on me, Jayne?
    Jayne: Money wasn't good enough.
    Mal: What happens when it is?
    Jayne: Well... that'll be an interestin' day.
    • Later, in "Ariel," Jayne indeed does attempt to betray his crew for money. It doesn't go very well for him.
    • Out of Gas reveals that Mal actually recruited him this way, giving him a better cut than he would have gotten as part of the gang robbing them.

Video Games
  • In Dawn of War, Lord Bale expresses concern over joining forces with the Orks against the Blood Ravens due to their unpredictability, to which the Sorcerer Sindri replies "Orks are not unpredictable... they will honor our agreement, as long as we provide them with enemies to fight." The scene then cuts to the Orks giving their own reasons: the Chaos forces are obviously not a worthwhile opponent for da boyz if they need to get somebody else to fight for them, so there's no point fighting them while better options are available.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Dist the Reaper of the Six God-Generals makes no secret that he's only there so Van will provide him the materials to do his fomicry research. His one and only goal is bringing his dead mentor back to life (thus forcing Jade to acknowledge his ability), so as long as they're a useful means to that end, they can count on him.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard can end up as this to the Illusive Man. Even if he's actively against his employer's human supremacist agenda, he's willing to take orders from him as long as they involve saving lives and fighting the Reapers. However, at the end of the game, Shepard can decide that the order to salvage the collector base is over the line and end his association with TIM on the spot.
  • The Black Knight in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn aided The Chessmaster in unleashing Ashera and her judgement and fought on their side in the game's climax, but didn't seem to have much interest in which side won in the end. His only personal goal was to surpass his teacher, Greil, as a swordsman. After Greil was killed, he figured his son Ike would make a suitable substitute, and siding with Ashera gave him the chance to face Ike in combat. This goal also existed when he was serving Ashnard in Path of Radiance, but the player didn't know about it then.

Western Animation
  • During the fourth season of Teen Titans, Slade (formerly a Big Bad himself) only serves as Trigon's Dragon so he can get his mortal body back. Interestingly, he starts out this plotline very subservient to Trigon, and gradually starts acting less as a servant and more like a partner when he gets closer to getting what he wants. When it becomes apparent that Trigon has no intention of honoring their agreement, Slade teams up with the Titans to take him down.