Sergei: "I'm sorry about the unfortunate incident. It was excessive, and more to the point it was foolish. Mikhi did it without consulting me."
"He turned rogue and can't be controlled? Is that it?"
A member of a government intelligence agency or military unit who starts operating on his own authority. Often this is merely a cover for activities the government in question would denounce
if anything went wrong. If more than one person is involved, it will be described as a "renegade operation" or "rogue elephant".
For writers this is a good way to have a villain with all the skills and knowledge of the heroes
, should they also be spooks or special forces soldiers. Also useful if you're Backed by the Pentagon
, as you're not disparaging the organization as a whole, just a "bad apple". Likewise, Irish terrorists are often described as being from rogue factions to avoid having to deal with The Irish Question
For the group version of this, see Renegade Splinter Faction
. Also Renegade Russian
and Terrorists Without a Cause
for specific examples of this trope.
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Anime and Manga
- A major theme of Ronin where the characters are former Cold War spies and special forces operatives working as mercenaries, but at least one — and possibly others — are still secretly working for their own governments. Likewise, the terrorist Seamus is denounced by Sinn Fein as a 'rogue breakaway operative' after he fails to get his hands on the mysterious suitcase.
- The Bourne Series: The employers of the main character think he's done this, but he's actually suffering from Easy Amnesia.
- In The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Agent Smith drops his "agent" position and simply becomes "Smith" when he goes rogue and takes over the Matrix.
- Under Siege: William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones) is a renegade/rogue former CIA agent, as is Travis Dane in the sequel. The latter was merely fired, but as the former turned traitor they tried (unsuccessfully of course) to have him killed. Both are murderously unhappy at their respective plights.
- From the James Bond series.
- Three Days Of The Condor. The murders turn out to be a result of members of the CIA trying to hide a renegade operation from their own organisation.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, Harrison was Starfleet's best agent before a perceived betrayal by his superiors sent him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the entire Federation. It's a cover story for his work at Section 31 and his true identity.
- In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Klingon Ambassador tries painting Captain Kirk as a "renegade and terrorist" due to the events of the previous film. The likely reason why the Ambassador doesn't claim the entire Federation is on a conspiracy to "annihilate the Klingon species" is political tact.
- In the X-Wing Series, Rogue Squadron left the New Republic to pursue a foe that the New Republic couldn't touch without alienating their allies. Notably, at this point in time there were a number of anti-Imperial groups who were only loosely affiliated with the Rebel Alliance/New Republic, and the Rogues were able to set themselves up as one of them, though there were rumors that Rogue Leader, Wedge Antilles, was setting himself up as a warlord. When they succeeded in helping a faction on that planet to overthrow Isard, they were retroactively sanctioned, and that whole thing where the New Republic's best fighter squadron publicly resigned was brushed under the rug.
- The protagonists of the Eisenhorn and Ravenor series become Rogue Agents in, respectively, Hereticus and Ravenor: Rogue. It's necessary under the circumstances, but Eisenhorn kills at least one man whose only crime is trying to stop him.
- Flight of the Intruder: A protagonist example, with the two main characters going on a renegade bombing mission to hit Communist Party Headquarters. They miss, succeeding only in blowing out some of the windows.
- 19 by Roger Hall: A peculiar variant was the title organization "19". Most of the members were still part of various U.S. intelligence agencies, but secretly working for a retired OSS officer (who'd been their commander during the war) to do the work of American counterintelligence more effectively than the official agencies could. Its existence was unproven, its makeup unknown, and although it was evidently working to protect the U.S., many U.S. security types were determined to break it.
"Are you talking about a penetration?"
"Literally speaking, yes. But not by the opposition. If 19 exists, it's on our side. Although some of the things it's done, if it did them, were enough to give me the inside sweats."
Live Action TV
- Jack Bauer in every season of 24 qualifies, though he remains on the side of good the whole time barring the end of the final season where he becomes an Anti-Villain. Nina Myers, Stephen Saunders, Christopher Henderson and Tony Almeida (in Season 7) are all villainous examples.
- JAG has Clark Palmer a former DSD agent who has tried to either kill or frame on Harm several occasions.
- NCIS has Mossad agents Ari Hassari and Michael Rivkin. The former is a Double Agent who turns out to be Evil All Along; the latter is called a rogue but was actually acting under Director David's full authority.
- Stargate SG-1: Rogue NID agents becomes the standard human villains. Also very occasionally played by SG-1 itself — notably at the end of Season 1, when the Stargate program is being shut down just as Daniel has knowledge from an alternate timeline that Goa'ould are about to devastate Earth. Since he turns out to be right and they stop this from happening in the main timeline, they're forgiven and everything goes back to normal.
- Another episode had Jack going rogue and stealing technology from Earth's allies as part of a sting to capture the actual rogue NID agents.
- Farscape. The Peacekeeper Crais goes rogue to hunt down John Crichton whom he blames for the death of his brother.
- In one episode of The Fixer, John Mercer is ordered to kill his predecessor, who has started to pick his own targets instead of those selected by the mysterious unit he works for. There's also the SAS man who (under orders) used drug money to finance his anti-Taliban operation, who decided to go into business for himself.
- Doctor Who. The Doctor is used in this role in his 3rd and 4th incarnations, as a deniable agent for when the Time Lords decide to break their own rules of non-intervention. The Doctor is not happy about it, as he'd rather be a genuine rogue.
- Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This causes problems for the Watcher's Council as until she dies the line of Slayers can't continue; they do their best to rectify the situation in Angel.
- Wesley tries to reinvent himself as a rogue demon hunter after being fired. Nobody really buys it (at least not initially).
- This is constant issue in Nikita.
- Division was originally a clandestine organization working for the US government but its leader, Percy, went rogue and blackmailed his superiors into giving him complete autonomy. Division still acts to support the interests of the US but they also perform 'side missions' that further Percy's ambitions or help fund the organization.
- Oversight, the group who sponsored Division, was itself a rogue group composed of prominent politicians, businessmen and military officers who acted without the knowledge and permission of the U.S. President or Congress.
- A number of Division undercover agents decided to go rogue and stopped obeying orders from Division.
- The James Bond video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent involves, as you'd expect, an MI6 agent going rogue after being discharged due to "needless brutality" and being recruited into SPECTRE by Goldfinger himself.
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction has protagonist Sam Fisher on the run, regarded as a rouge agent by his own people.
- Killing your boss/best friend to maintain cover may have something to do with it.
- The Point Man is this by F3AR.
- For the majority of Alpha Protocol, Mike Thorton is a rogue agent when he learns that his own agency tried to kill him after he recovered the "stolen" missiles.
- Of the people you meet during the game, Conrad Marburg is an ex-rogue agent turned civilian contractor (and also something of Mike's Evil Counterpart). And then there's Steven Heck, who may be a rogue agent. He may also be a non-rogue agent for a particularly deep-cover (and indiscriminate) part of the CIA. Or he may be completely bugfuck insane and thinks he is either of the above. A mail recovered from the CIA's Rome listening post implies it's option one.
- Mass Effect 1 has Saren, the Council's most famous Spectre, going rogue. Of course it's later revealed he's actually been indoctrinated by Sovereign, but at the same time, it's clear that he was pretty much fond of Kick the Dog behavior even before he got indoctrinated.
- The galaxy sees Shepard as one in Mass Effect 2 when s/he's forced to work with Cerberus. Particularly in the Arrival DLC, where Shepard detonates a Mass Relay to delay the imminent arrival of the Reapers, despite the fact this will mean sacrificing the lives of 300,000 Batarians in the system as a result. Hence why the third game appropriately begins with Shepard on trial for having essentially committed a war crime.
- The first game had several encounters with Cerberus which painted a rather horrifying image of the organization. When Shepard is forced to work with them in the second, every person speaking for them tries to downplay all the less savory things they've done. Some new ones are encountered, but Miranda and the Illusive Man are very quick to claim that these were all the work of rogue elements. A Paragon Shepard, especially one benefiting from the Overlord DLC, can see some definite hints that these claims are Blatant Lies, or in Miranda's case, completely blind idealism for a group that she feels saved her life. She eventually sees past it as well.
- Virtually every agent from Red vs. Blue's Project Freelancer goes rogue at some point. Given the group's extensive experiments with AI implantation, this is not the least bit surprising.
- Hitler Rants: Willenbrock is a German U-Boat Captain who's made a career out of making Hitler's life miserable, and uses all his naval expertise to avoid being brought to justice.