For the Trope Namer website Superdickery.com, go here.
It's a widespread tactic in serial fiction: show a teaser portraying the normally upright heroacting in an evil and despicable manner, causing the audience to wonder "Gasp! How could this be?" and then, hopefully, to read/watch/listen to the thing you're advertising.
You look at the cover to the newest issue of your favorite comic, and what do you see? The Super Hero, apparently killing his sidekick and Love Interest! Or, On the Next episode of the new prime-time TV series, the main character goes bad, selling his team out to the Big Bad and shooting the Plucky Comic Relief in the face!
So you read or watch the installment in question, and find out It Makes Sense in Context. The hero (or his sidekick or lover) was a Reverse Mole, a Secret Test of Character, Not Himself, ReallyNot Himself, just playacting, or had learned that if Jimmy had gotten what he wanted for Christmas, it would have resulted in the destruction of every possible universe. It is also entirely possible that it was an "imaginary story" or otherwise All Just a Dream. And many comic books flat-out ignore elements on the cover. For television, Manipulative Editing might also splice together two unrelated scenes for the promo, and it turns out the hero was being a dick to someone who actually deserved it. You should have known that Covers Always Lie and you can Never Trust a Trailer, but you were pulled in... by Superdickery.
Warning: Silver Age comics did have a tendency to induce Comedic Sociopathy in characters, alongside the strange plot devices and twists. This means that even if Superman wasn't as evil as the cover made him sound, the reader might still have to say "what a dick!" at the end of the story.
Doesn't really work with Anti Heroes.
The reason for this trope, however, isn't the writer's intent. During the Silver Age, the covers were designed first, and the writers had to work around that cover that had been drawn without a story.
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Way, way, way overdone in the Silver AgeSuperman comics, to the point where Supes seemed more like some kind of sadist for putting his friends through these situations, even if they were fake. If you look at enough of them, you start to realize that, for many of them, there is no possible situation that could explain what you're seeing. Other than utter lunacy, of course, because this is the SILVER AGE!
Arguably, the first instance of Super Dickery was in Superman's first issue. The cover of his Action Comics debut shows him smashing a car to pieces for no apparent reason as the car's occupants flee in terror. You have to read the comic itself to learn that it's a criminal's getaway car he's destroying. This almost makes sense given that Siegel and Shuster's original story, Reign of the Superman, is more ambivalent about a super-being coexisting with normals.
It's not just Superman who had this happen to him, either. There were plenty of covers involving Jimmy Olsen or Batman giving away the secret identity of/imprisoning/refusing to help/killing Superman.
Lois Lane is being blackmailed, and what's Supes' response? Impersonate her blackmailer because he simply must know her terrible secret. This leads to a bit of actual story-within-a-story Super Dickery, as "her" secret actually turned out to be footage of Superman killing a bunch of people... whom further footage reveals to be evil aliens in disguise, for that "What Measure Is a Non-Human?" bit of okay-but-you're-still-kind-of-a-dick.
And Lois herself for being willing to keep what she thought was murder a secret.
All too often, though, the torment of another character by Superman (often someone he's supposed to be friends or loved ones with) really does occur, and for no apparent constructive reason at all. In one silver age comic, Superman puts Lois Lane (You know? The love of his life?) through an embarrassing and gut-wrenching physical transformation without her permission, allegedly to keep a crook from recognizing her. Of course, even supposing that reason held any water at all, that still doesn't excuse how Superman pretends not to recognize Lois immediately after the transformation, and even out-and-out insults her on her appearance.
While many Silver and Golden Age stories had Superman being a dick, many had his friends being dicks to him- Lois Lane (and Lana Lang, when he was Superboy) constantly tried to prove that Clark was Superman, on the assumption that he would have to marry her once she did! He also had to constantly save them from danger that they put themselves in recklessly. The latter was also a problem with Jimmy Olsen. So it was really a mutual thing. About the only regular character who wasn't a dick was Perry White, despite his gruff behavior.
He'd never marry either of them, for this reason. And, of course, is totally a dick in explaining it.
Bizarrely, the whole prove-his-identity-to-get-him-to-marry-me bit seems to have been valid for Superman. A comic in which he went back in time to get away from Lois and Lana had him meet another girl who — surprise — came to the same conclusion and tried to get his secret identity. She never tells Superman that this is her plan, but when he gets back to the present and finds out that she's become fat, he expresses relief that he didn't end up having to marry her. Perhaps Superman is subject to the True Name effect?
In Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #76, Perry forces the other members of the Daily Planet to go on a death march.
The cover that provides the page image? Superman overheard an oracle saying that Superman would destroy "his son" on the 17th, so he tries to drive Jimmy away before that happened. After he succeeds, he explains the truth to Jimmy - only to learn that the oracle meant an artificial sun he'd created long ago - and cancelled adoptions can't be renewed.
Exaggerate? Some of the covers flat-out lied. "The Miracle of Thirsty Thursday"'s cover shows Metropolis citizens dying of thirst whilst Superman stands before a gushing fire hydrant and explicitly denies water to everyone. Of course, a thoughtful reader may assume that the clarifying context is that the water is in some way contaminated and that Superman is protecting them. In this case, however, the "context" is that the cover is a lie: in the actual story, citizens of Metropolis are affected by a serum that creates an aversion to water, and Superman has to come up with a means to make them drink.
Another aspect of comic books during that age was that the audience was primarily children 6-12, and many of the stories would feature incidents that would speak to them - such as being punished via spanking. To an adult's eyes, it would seem... bizarre (and kinky in some cases), but to a child, it would be a real threat, as would being made fat, losing a parental figure, and so on.
Perhaps even more important, many of these covers were made by people not otherwise involved in writing the books, after which the point the writers would make up a story attempting to justify it (or blatantly ignoring it!) as best they could.
Used in All-Star Superman, which is a 2000s continuation of the Silver Age comics. Issue four is called "The Superman/Olsen War!", and its cover depicts Superman trying to kill his best pal. He's under the influence of Black Kryptonite.
This list from Cracked gives some highlights. Unlike previous examples, all these are from Golden Age comics, when Superman wasn't the boy scout the world came to know.
Interestingly, one of the most bizarre examples of these is an aversion. There's a cover that shows Jimmy Olsen commanding a group of bikers to take down Superman. The context: that scenes happens exactly as depicted on the cover. The mystery of the story is 1) why is there a group of young people in a Lost World and 2) why is Jimmy Olsen turning against Superman?
The Goddamn Batman from All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder is probably the ultimate inversion. He's right up there with Silver Age Supes in being an asshole, if not even more (thanks to Frank Miller's patented Darker and Edgier style). The covers portray him like his regular counterpart: taking in Dick Grayson after his parents are murdered and raising him to help him cope with his grief. But in the actual story, he doesn't just offer the twelve-year-old Dick Grayson, age twelve, the chance to train to avenge his parents - he outright kidnaps the boy for kicks (complete with Dick getting his Face on a Milk Carton, as we see in a panel later). And his idea of teaching the 12-year-old boy to toughen up? Leave him to fend for himself in the dark corners of the Batcave and deny him food - going so far as to tell him to catch some rats and eat them if he ever goes hungry. And he even lashes out at Alfred caring for the kid and feeding him properly! In fact, the entire story is messed up from top to bottom, and Bats' behavior is just the beginning.
One Astro City story, "Shining Armor," was a Deconstruction of Lois Lane's own brand of dickery. An Expy Lois Lane (Irene Merriweather) tries to prove herself worthy of an Expy Superman (Atomicus) by exposing his secret identity, but when she finally succeeds, he just gets pissed and leaves Earth forever. It turns out he never wanted to play that game with her but was too afraid to admit it. But just to reiterate so that the gravity of the situation can sink in: Irene was so insane about discovering Atomicus' secret identity that he, the greatest hero of the Atomic age, left the freaking planet forever. To wander aimlessly through space. Forever. That is how insufferable she was.
What's more? In her initial inquiries into his identity, word started spreading and Adam Peterson's house was blown up by the local mafia. Afterwards, she kept trying to prove he was Atomicus.
There was also a brief mention in another story of a situation that would seem rather familiar; Supersonic, after an adventure that temporarily gave him 16 exact doubles, took his Lois-type girlfriend Caroleen to a dance as Supersonic and had one of his doubles come as his secret identity of Dale Enright. He did this just to mess with Caroleen for no reason.
Can be done on-panel: In the "Torn" Story Arc of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, a depowered Cyclops was casually gunning down villains and talking about it as if completely unconcerned. (This after the previous issue's Wham Episode ending of him shooting Emma Frost.) Turns out he's not crazy: he's the only one who's figured out that they're psychic projections created by a villain to move her Evil Plan along.
Another on-panel version - the original introduction of the Skrulls had the Fantastic Four doing criminal acts, from the minor to the not very minor (like knocking over an oil rig). Soon after, it's - surprise - really the Skrulls causing trouble.
The Legion actually started with Super Dickery before moving on to actual heroics. It was several years before stories about the Legion fighting villains and being heroes outnumbered the stories of them being jerks to Superboy.
The latest round of Legion stories had a handful of people they rejected from the team being so devastated they turn homicidal and take over the Earth. Oops. Of course, it also explained that the real reason they were rejected was for being dangerously unstable.
This trope was frequently used the other way around in the British comic The Beano with Dennis the Menace shockingly becoming good. Of course, it didn't last.
Inverted in Wolverine #70. The cover shows him fighting with his Rogues Gallery and losing but in the comic he handles them quite easily, because they are his friends and he was fooled by Mysterio.
Speaking of Wolverine, one issue of X-Men featured Wolvie standing over an eviscerated Kitty Pryde. Wolverine was actually Mystique in disguise, and Kitty was an android; Mystique was just practicing.
There's a similar moment on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #276 where Wolverine is standing over a downed Professor X with his claws popped out. In the issue, that's because "Professor X" is really a Skrull in disguise.
Another one from the X-books: One has Professor X piloting a "Psi-ber Sentinel," gleefully laughing as he tries to mow down the X-Men. In the actual story, it's revealed to be even more Blatant Lies than most of these scenes. Nothing of the sort happens; not a clone, not brainwashing. In fact, the prof was a prisoner, and his psychic energy was being drained to run the robot, which had been sent by actual bad guys. (And you'd think that if they really wanted people to buy the comic, they'd have simply mentioned on the cover that Deadpool was in the issue, a fact that was actually not advertised.)
Spider-Man had at least one run-in with this when a comic opened with him robbing a bank. He was actually taking a bomb meant to destroy the safe out of it.
Done again in Ultimate Spider-Man, where one issue starts with Spider-Man bursting into a bank with an unconscious cop in one hand and declaring that the bank is being robbed by none other than Spider-Man. It's quickly revealed that this is not Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but an impostor copying his motif.
Done yet again in the Playstation One Spider-Man video game, which opens to Spidey stealing some technology, and it is not subverted by the fact that the person he's stealing from is Doctor Octopus, reformed or not. Later revealed, of course, to be Mysterio, stealing the tech for none other than Doctor Octopus himself.
More of an in-universe example, though, since the cinematic also shows Peter Parker taking pictures there.
Complete with him saying to himself "Wait a minute, I thought I was Spider-Man."
And later it's revealed that Mysterio worked for Octopus, who planned the whole thing in order to frame Spidey to accomplish his Evil Plan without being disturbed.
And, as with the ur-example of Superman's first comic cover, the first cover for Spider-Man was supposed to be ambiguous as to whether he was saving the man or kidnapping him.
The cover to issue #28 of Sonic the Hedgehog depicts Sonic having just beaten up the other Freedom Fighters and being commanded by Robotnik to finish them off. However, the apparent dickery here is kind of made not that suspenseful by the fact that this was printing the second half of a two-part, and therefore if you read the previous issue, then you know that Sonic is just suffering amnesia and thinks he's on Robotnik's side.
The more recent #203, has Bunnie pinning Sonic under her foot and preparing to blast him with her arm cannon, complete with the caption "Bunnie Gone Bad?!". Actually reading it reveals the Iron Queen, being a techno-mage, has taken control of her cybernetic limbs and is forcing her to fight the others. They did the same thing next issue with Monkey Khan, though, like the above example, it's not at all suspenseful if you've read the previous issue. It has almost the same explanation as Bunnie's.
That doesn't stop Antoine (Bunnie's husband) from attacking Khan meaningfully, since apparently Khan knew of the Iron Queen's abilities—and specifically, his own liability towards her powers—beforehand, and never told anybody else so they could prepare for it. Then again, coming close to becoming a widower would do that to any respectable husband, and Antoine is long removed from his days as a Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey at that point.
Issue #217 inverts this - on the cover, we see Sonic drowning in oil, and Bunnie rushing to help him. Not only does this never happen in the story, but on the first page, Bunnie and Sonic are in the middle of an all-out battle in the middle of an oil refinery; the issue-long flashback that shows how they got to this point reveals that neither one was being forced, and they're fighting over largely ideological differences.
Issue #59 is another inversion. Earlier in the series, Sonic visited an odd dimension where two men named Horizont-al and Verti-cal lived and comically harassed Sonic. The cover of the issue in question shows them wrestling over a Sega Saturn controller while Sonic and Tails watch from behind the monitor, suggesting another light-hearted romp in their wacky world. The actual story is much more tragic, as Robotnik's doings back in the Endgame arc caused a mutation of their zone, twisting them into nightmarish mechanical monsters who only live to fight (so while the cover is not deceiving you, the events of the story are far more disturbing). While Sonic and Tails are in their zone, they claim them as pawns and put their own unending battle on hold to let Sonic and Tails battle each other on their behalf. At the end of the story Sonic and Tails free themselves from Horizont-al and Verti-cal's control but are unable to convince the two to stop their feuding, leaving them alone in their zone to fight forever more.
Bill Willingham makes a point in The Elementals about how the silver-age Superman spent all his time saving Jimmy Olsen from dropping packages and preventing Perry from tripping over his shoelaces, while on the other side of the world thousands died of famine and poverty.
An issue of Batman and Robin shows Robin preparing to decapitate Batman with a giant sword. The issue is even called "Batman vs. Robin." And it does happen! In one panel. Then Robin has a pre-emptive My God, What Have I Done? and freaks out.
Actually, he's fighting off the mind control that his mother implanted into his spine after he was injured
This trope in Silver Age Superman covers is given an amusing nod in Masterpiece Comics, a parody book that has famous literary works in the style of comic strips and comic books. The retelling of The Stranger has Superman standing in for Mersault, and the novel is told through a series of what look like Silver Age Covers. Thus, the dickish things Mersault does in the book are a close (if exagerated) parallel to the kind of things Superman would be shown doing on the cover.
Sleepwalker did this in-story at the end of one issue. A mob of bizarre alien "mindspawn" who all strongly resemble Sleepwalker are invading New York City and killing the innocent bystanders. The issue ends with Sleepwalker seemingly destroying and absorbing Rick Sheridan's mind, with the final caption asking if Sleepwalker is a Supervillain. It's later revealed that Sleepwalker actually absorbed Rick's mind in a special weapon to protect him from being killed by the mindspawn, who really were going to kill him. Sleepwalker knew that if he tried to fight the mindspawn, Rick could have gotten hurt in the crossfire. This way, he could both keep Rick's mind safe and ingratiate himself with the mindspawn, which allows him to free their human prisoners.
Richie Rich, usually a nice kid, sometimes flaunts his ludicrous fortune in the search of a bad, money-related pun or the apparent envy of bypassers on the covers. He shapes everything in the shape of a dollar sign; replaces workers with robots or genetically modifies animals to be made out of gems, gold, gem-encrusted gold, money or at the very least, speckled with dollar signs. Occupy Richie Rich portrays him as bullying the working class with his sheer fortune.
The cover to Captain America #153 shows Cap beating up on a black man, as the Falcon attempts to stop him. We soon learn that the "Captain America" on the cover isn't the real deal, but rather the 1950s Cap, who went insane due to a faulty version of the Super-Soldier Serum being used on him.
A JLA storyline had Adam Strange kidnapping the League and putting them to work as slaves for the aliens rebuilding his planet, apparently driven insane by the death of his wife. At the end of the first half, J'onn J'onzz joins forces with him. It's all a ruse to confuse the invaders.
One cover of the Brave and the Bold features the original Teen Titans beating the living crap out of Batman. In the actual story, only two of the Titans "beat up" Batman, and that's because they're undercover with a group of criminals and Batman is intentionally letting them "work him over" so they can maintain their cover.
One of the first trailers in the 199 Hero movie of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger depicts the Rangers fighting against the previous Sentai teams, highlighted by the fact that even the narration declares confusion over what's going on. The battle did make it into the movie, but the heroes were actually fighting against puppets animated by the Big Bad from the Gokaigers' Ranger Keys.
Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Superhero Taisen features two separate Legions of Doom, a reformed Dai Shocker and the all-new Dai Zangyack. Both are staffed by villains from both franchises...and headed by two *heroes*, Kamen Rider Decade and Gokai Red. Okay, Decade used to be a villain, but promo material says he only reformed Dai Shocker after the Sentai villains invaded the Rider universe. It turns out a massive gambit by the two heroes to get the villains to bring their super-weapons out into the open so they and the other heroes (whom they faked killing while really sending them to a pocket dimension for safety) could destroy them.
Apparently this is law for Gokaiger movies. In Go-Busters vs Gokaiger, (whose name isn't an example - team-ups are always named "[current team] vs [returning team]" even though it's not really accurate) we have trailers of the Gokaigers dressed in a more traditionally piratical manner than usual and attacking the Go-Busters. Needless to say, they're still not really bad guys, and they still fight alongside the other heroes.
And again with the Kyoryuger vs Go-Busters movie, which is being advertised with images of the Kyoryugersin black outfits swearing to destroy the dinosaurs — which are the Kyoryugers' allies and partners normally.
One of the promotional posters for Man of Steel shows Superman in handcuffs being led away by soldiers. It turns out he just turned himself in to the military so he could gain their trust. Apparently, he can't completely escape this trope, even in these modern times.
In The Lone Ranger, at the beginning of the film, a scene depicts The Lone Ranger and Tonto are seen robbing a bank. By the end of the movie when we come full round to this scene They're robbing the bank because it has explosives in it so they can take down the big bad.
At the start of Persuader,Jack Reacher, our hero appears to shoot a cop, steal a car and kidnap a child. After you're completely hooked, it turns out there's a good explanation.
Live Action TV
Most episodes of Breaking Bad started with a Flash Forward that lacked any context and usually consisted of lots of close ups that made it difficult to discern what was actually going on. Season 2 had most episodes start with increasingly longer sections of the same scene that didn't actually come to happen until the very end of that seasons last episode. In almost all cases, the scene either meant something entirely different in context, or it was actually just a minor thing that wasn't really a major event for the characters.
The Flash Forwards in season 2 made it look as if there had been a massive shot out in Walters backyard, while it's actually a random airplane crash that had debris and two corpses land on Walters property.
Given the massive amounts of mind-altering powers and chemicals that showed up in early Smallville, this trope quickly wore itself thin, with Lana kissing Clark, Jon going nuts, etc. However, even once that wore out, they continued to claim that the next episode would have Lex finally turn to evil. The scenes they showed were antihero actions out of context, or else Lex under, you guessed it, mind-altering powers and/or chemicals.
Progeny opens with Chloe forcing Lex's car off the road, knock him out and rob him of his cell phone. Not that he doesn't deserve it.
Sleeper starts with a man fully clad in black surprising and robbing some guy of his high tech briefcase and stealing information from it. He then escapes through the elevator, changing to a formal suit on the way, revealing its Jimmy Olsen. Turns out he's doing this because the DDS are blackmailing him into finding out what Chloe is hacking and armed him with the spy toys to do it.
Done a few times with Angel, with the additional attraction that there was no guarantee he wouldn't do the awful things hinted at, thanks to his "bad side" Angelus. In season 5 he infiltrates the Circle of The Black Thorn, even killing Drogyn to prove his loyalty. His friends are convinced his new position has taken him to the Dark Side.
Played straight in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Angelus allies himself with Faith to lure Buffy into a trap. When Faith has Buffy completely at her mercy, it turns out that...
Faith: What can I say? I'm the world's best actor. Angel:Second best.
Season 3 of Heroes features many instances of dickery by the heroes. However, other than Hiro stabbing Ando (which turned out to be an elaborate hoax by the two of them to fool the bad guys), most of it was actually real.
This is mainly because Season 3 started out with the Volume "Villains", which attempted to reboot the show (which was slipping in the ratings after the last season) by claiming any of the heroes could become a villain by the end of the season. Ironically, the end result was a number of pointless heel face turns and unnecessary deaths that actually made it less popular than last season.
Done at least once in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Dress the friendly neighborhood Terminator up in a way to evoke memories of the T-1000 and stick that sucker in the trailer, and your fanbase starts wondering if she hasn't gone bonkers.
Supernatural has used this multiple times. The first and most shocking being when the teaser featured a woman being tied up and tortured by a sadistic captor, the police storm the place only to reveal... it's Dean! Turns out it wasn't, they were tracking a shapeshifter who assumed Dean's form.
Of course, when the same series has characters using their superpowers as a cruel joke this way (such as constantly beaming gay porn into a bully's head), the shocks have to get stranger.
Subverted (rather brilliantly) in Season 7 of 24. The preview trailers suggested that Tony Almeida was the culprit of the terrorist attacks: and at first it is revealed that Tony is working a deep cover agent, but later it turns out he is one of the bad guys. And then he has his own agenda in the end, which was just, though his means were well over the deep end.
An episode of Stargate Atlantis which featured Teyla impersonating a Wraith queen came with commercials trying very hard to imply she'd gone off the reservation and wanted to wipe out the Atlantis crew. The episode itself contains not even the hint that this is a possibility, and her "Destroy that ship!" lines from the commercials were directed at another Wraith hive.
The (more than usual, at least) UST is easily explained — if Merlin is contemplating killing Arthur, his eyes will be naturally drawn to his heart... and who can blame him if he gets distracted by that chest?
An episode of Sanctuary opened with Will killing Magnus by cutting off the air to her compartment of the sub. He actually does kill her, then the episode goes back in time to explain why, including his debating with her about it. He then works very hard to bring her back after the bug infecting her has left.
Happens again in the teaser of "Veritas" with Will finding out that Helen apparently killed the Big Guy turns out it was all a Batman Gambit to flush out a bad guy.
There's at least one Doctor Who cliff hanger that uses this technique. In "The Invasion of Time" the Doctor returns to Gallifrey to claim his post as the Lord President. He starts acting out of character and becomes abrasive, moody and power mad. At the end of one episode in the story he's seen laughing evilly as he helps a group of evil aliens take over Gallifrey. Of course it was all part of an elaborate plan to defeat said aliens, but he can't tell anyone that because the aliens can monitor his thoughts. None of this stops the Doctor from obviously enjoying a chance to freak out people he dislikes by playing The Caligula.
Castellan: Is there anything else I can get you, sir?
The Doctor: Yes. A jelly baby. My right-hand pocket.
Castellan: What color would you prefer, sir?
The Doctor: Orange.
Castellan: (nervously) There doesn't appear to be an orange one.
The Doctor: (suddenly grabbing the Castellan's arm) One grows tired of jelly babies, Castellan.
Castellan: Indeed one does, sir.
The Doctor: One grows tired of almost everything, Castellan.
Castellan: Indeed, sir.
The Doctor: Except power.
This trope was also used in another Fourth Doctor serial, The Deadly Assassin. In Part 1, the Doctor experiences a vision of the Time Lord president being assassinated. Arriving on Gallifrey, he determines to prevent this from happening. He heads to the balcony overlooking the room where the murder is to take place so that he will be able to see what's going on, and finds a gun lying there. The Doctor picks up the gun, sights along it, and fires. The president falls over, dead! Cut to credits! In Part 2, as is standard in Doctor Who, we see the last minute or so of the previous episode over again — only this time an extra shot is inserted that wasn't there before: that of a person in the crowd below holding a gun. It all becomes clear: the Doctor was trying to shoot at the assassin below, but his gun had been tampered with so that he would be unable to hit the assassin. The fact that he figures that out and convinces the investigating officer goes a long way towards clearing his name.
This occurs in "The Day of the Moon" with the recently-introduced character Canton Delaware. For the first several scenes, we are mystified as to why he is going around killing the main characters, but the situation becomes clear after a point.
An inverted (and partially straight) example at the second Cliffhanger in "Power of the Daleks", with a rather friendly, obedient Dalek constantly screaming "I-AM-YOUR-SERVANT" at the humans. The Doctor, meanwhile, rants and raves to the humans that the Daleks' only function is to exterminate people.
Star Trek: The Original Series did this with the episode called "The Enterprise Incident". Kirk, seemingly against Starfleet orders, invades Romulan space and gets the Enterprise captured. Spock then betrays the ship by siding with the Romulans, and testifies that Kirk has gone insane from the pressures of command, before killing Kirk in self defense. This all turns out to be a plan set up by Starfleet to allow Kirk and Spock to steal a Romulan cloaking device, while providing Starfleet with plausible deniability should the deal go south.
In the Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario", the Maquis stage a mutiny and Torres joins them, but it turns out to be a holodeck simulation; Tuvok set up the simulation to counter a possible rebellion from the Maquis crew that had joined Voyager's crew, but the two crews integrated so well that he decided not to finish the simulation.
In "Living Witness", the episode starts with Janeway declaring that "violence is the Starfleet way", and Voyager participating in an alien civil war, oppressively putting down a rebel faction. This turns out to be a simulation created by a museum curator many years in the future, painting Voyager's crew in a negative light. When a back-up of the holographic Doctor is discovered, the Doctor helps the curator sort out what really happened.
Glee loves doing this in their previews. One of the most egregious ones was for the second episode of season two, where Finn is shown telling a happy Quinn "I'd be lying if I said I didn't still have feelings for you" followed by a shot of a tearful Rachel looking on. What really happened: Finn followed that statement by reassuring Quinn of his devotion to Rachel, and Quinn was only coming on to Finn in the first place as part of a deal she struck with Rachel to reassure her of Finn's loyalty. There was also the absolutely ridiculous hype when the creators announced a beloved character would die in the episode "Funeral," and the speculations included countless popular, major characters only for it to turn out to be Jean Sylvester, Sue's sister with Down Syndrome, a guest character who had only appeared in six episodes in two seasons.
This is sort of a version of this trope: The House season 6 finale begins with House sitting in a bathroom, opening a bottle of vicodin, and we're all, "WHAT, WHY DAT VICODIN?!". The narration then goes back to the beginning of the day. In the very end of the episode, the situation is pretty much what it looked like in the opening of the episode, but Cuddy shows up, having broken up with Lucas, and wants to try a relationship with House, just preventing him from taking the pill.
The Wild Wild West: In "The Night of the Turncoat," a mysterious villain sets Jim up in various situations that are meant to make him look bad (like hiring a man to play a priest claiming Jim attacked him). Jim’s dickish response to his confused boss and partner make things worse until he’s finally fired by Richmond and punches out Artemus. However, after the first commercial break, we learn that all the good guys had the villain’s plan (to alienate Jim from the Secret Service so the agent would work for him) figured out from the beginning and staged Jim’s break-up from the government and Artemus so he can be a Fake Defector and see what he's up to. Similarly "The Night of the Skulls" which opens with Jim shooting Artemus dead. After the credits, we find out it was all staged to find the person who's recently been kidnapping murderers.
The episode "Bad Blood" of The X-Files opened in a forest at night with a terrified chubby guy being pursued and ultimately killed by a tall man in a dark suit... who is then revealed to be Mulder, with Scully running behind trying to stop him. Cue one of the funniestHow We Got Here, "Rashomon"-Style plots ever filmed.
One On the Next segment for CSI: Miami made it look like Walter was about to be shot by another member of the team. IIRC, the shooter was actually firing at a booby trap set by the perp, to destroy it before it could kill Walter.
In the promo for season 3, episode 4 of Downton Abbey, there's a shot of Branson crying with Lord Grantham loudly scolding him on "abandoning a pregnant woman [Sybil] in a land that's not her own, while you run for it!" and the descriptions for the new episode were full of stuff about "Sybil's loyalty being tested to the limit." It gave every impression of making viewers think that Sybil and Branson, one of the most popular couples on the show, might be headed to a break-up or at least some major tension. Instead, what happened was: Sybil was totally on-board with Branson's decision to escape Ireland to Downton and on her way after him.
In Chuck, one of the subplots of the first season involved Chuck's animosity towards his ex-Stamford University roommate Bryce Larkin (played by Matt Bomer, who would go on to voice Superman himself, amusingly enough), who framed Chuck for selling test answers to the other students in order to get him expelled. It turns out that Bryce did this in order to keep Chuck from being forcefully recruited into the CIA, as he felt Chuck was too good a person to be mixed up in their shadiness, didn't want his life to be risked, and deserved a chance to live his own life.
Much later in the third season, an episode opens with Chuck chasing a man and killing him in cold blood. The man was The Mole and was going to attempt to kill Chuck, and as it turns out, Chuck didn't even kill him - Casey did.
A promotional clip for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Magical Place" shows Agent May telling Agent Hand that Skye was of no use on the plane. Because Agent May knew that Agent Hand and the other extra agents on the Bus would interfere with Skye as she did her part in the mission, and she wanted Skye to do her part unhindered.
RuPaul's Drag Raceloves this trope. One of the Season 5 promos showed Alaska—one of the mellower contestants that season—yelling "I WILL WHOOP YOUR FUCKING ASS!" at somebody. It turned out she (and the others) were playfully acting. And in the "After the commercial break" clips, the show likes to Accentuate the Negative of the judges' critiques, even taking positive comments out of context, like a judge saying "Your look reminded me of a savage beast," followed by a shocked or frowning queen, when the actual line was praise and directed at someone else.
Used in trailers for Devil May Cry 4, in which Dante, usually a wiseguy at worst, was seen bursting in on some sort of church-esque place and shooting a prominent priest-like person in the forehead. Turns out the shootee, Sanctus, was the Big Bad. It also has Nero, the protagonist for most of the game, uttering the line, "Now I know...this arm was made for sending guys like you back to Hell!" apparently directed at Dante, but actually, in the game itself, to Sanctus during the final battle.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Shepherd tries to get Price to back off raiding the nuclear submarine, saying that he's too far off the deep end and wanting a plan of revenge. You go through with the mission, believing Price will stop the missile. He doesn't. Cue about five minutes of 'HINT IT'S OBVIOUSLY GOING TO HIT NORTH AMERICA', complete with nuclear blast seen from two points of view - but he was just utilizing the EMP blast to give the Americans a fighting chance, not wipe it off the map.
Used in Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game opens in flash forward in which Sam meets Anna Grímsdóttir, his closest ally, in the White House while it is under attack. She proceeds to shoot him in the shoulder, appearing to betray him. The scene is revisited throughout the game, revealing more each time, including dialogue that suggest she really has turned. At the end of the game, it's revealed it was only a ploy to get Sam close to the Big Bad without immediately endangering the hostage president.
Every single case in Franchise/Aceattorney opens with a very misleading scene. The only exceptions are the first two cases in the first game, which are Reverse Whodunnit.
The opening sequence of case 5 of Ace Attorney Investigations is arranged to strongly imply that Kay will set fire to a building. She doesn't.
In the first game, at the start of 1-4, a similar sequence plays out, making it seem as though Edgeworth was the murderer. He was actually framed.
Chrono Cross starts with a dream sequence in which we see the protagonist, Serge, killing one of his friends. Later in the game, we get to actually see the scene come true, but it turns out that one of the villains had managed to switch bodies with Serge.
Kirby's Adventure (NES) has King Dedede stealing the Star Rod and breaking it into seven pieces to hide all over Dreamland. Kirby goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, only to learn that Dedede stole the Rod to keep it from the Nightmare that corrupted the Fountain of Dreams and to protect Dreamland. But he decides not to tell Kirby about it.
Bayonetta tends to treat Luka and especially Enzo like garbage. But she really does like Luka because he treated her lovingly when she was a little girl named Cereza.
In Luka's case it's this trope interspersed with her flirting with him. In one of the early chapters she's generally trolling him. While calling him "my little Cheshire puss". Cereza had a patchwork cat doll that she called Cheshire.
Injustice: Gods Among Us, the whole game. The intro/cover trailers give the vibe that Superman has become a Fallen Hero and led the world into a dictatorship, with nearly every other hero gone bad. When you play the game, you find out that Supes becomes like this in one Alternate Universe, there's still a 'default' DC universe where he and the other heroes are still 100% good and they eventually fix things.
Siren: Blood Curse - Chapter 3 ends with a scene where Saiga, the only armed, living person seen thus far, shooting Sam, one of the other playable characters, for what appears to be no reason. Then cut to the recap of the chapter at the start of the next one, and it suddenly turns out Saiga's target was a shibito sneaking up on Sam that clearly wasn't there the first time around.
Parodied in Allen The Alien in a Poorly Drawn Allen strip. On the cover of a comic book, a superhero says "I'll rape your babies, and murder you, and spoilThe Mousetrap." In tiny font, *He's really doing this to help him.
The Batman: The Animated Series pulled one off and made it absolutely terrifying, in which Commissioner Gordon goes into all out war against Batman for the death of Barbara Gordon. It's all Barbara's nightmare.
An episode of the related webseries Gotham Girls ended with Batgirl kicking (an admittedly dickish) Commissioner Gordon off a roof and into the Bat-Signal. Turns out it was a robot Gordon and she knew it.
The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Runaway" opens with Katara apparently turning Toph in to the authorities, self-righteously claiming that "You brought this on yourself". Then the episode flashes back a few days to show the two characters at odds, with Katara becoming increasingly annoyed with Toph's use of scams and con tricks to make money... until ultimately Katara decides to take part in a scam herself in an attempt to prove that she isn't purely a goody-goody, and pretends to turn Toph in — as we saw — for the reward.
There's also the Grand Finale, where Zuko suddenly attacks Aang because he thought the rest of the group was wasting time hanging around on the beach when the comet was coming in a couple days.
Supergirl herself demonstrates supreme Superdickery in the cold open for "Fearful Symmetry" on Justice League Unlimited, gleefully destroying everything in her path, and proving that Evil Is Cool, in her pursuit of a terrified civilian. It's actually a dream triggered by psychic echoes of memories of her Evil Twin clone Galatea.
There's also the opening where Superman kills Lex Luthor, who is the president of the United States, and proclaims he doesn't want to be a hero anymore. It was the Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment of an Alternate Universe Superman who became a tyrant as a consequence.
The Spectacular Spider-Man episode "Opening Night" has a particularly bizarre "usually Reasonable Authority Figure-to-hero" example: The opening shows Norman Osborn, Captain Stacy, and J. Jonah Jameson locking Spidey in a high-security jail-cell. The very first scene of the actual episode shows... he's there willingly, and this is just to test the security as a favor. (Of course, Jonah's still a dick about it.)
The Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Above and Beyond" features the Plumbers' Helpers, who need to go to a space station to save Max, who's being attacked by an apparently psychotic Ben. The entire thing turns out to just be a test to see if they qualify for Plumbers Academy. Still turns out pretty creepy.
The Gargoyles episode "Revelations'' begins with what looks like Matt Bluestone having betrayed Goliath. However, it was all just a plan to expose the Illuminati.
Elisa gets it when she suddenly starts acting more irritable and violent, until she quits the force to join the mob. Of course, she's really undercover the whole time.
The Young Justice episode "Image" opens with Batman, Green Arrow and Black Canary watching a recording of Black Canary and Superboy sparring and starting to kiss passionately. After the title credits it turns out it's actually Miss Martian taking on Black Canary's image. The real Black Canary wasn't happy to learn about it.
A second season episode shows Aqualad skewering Artemis on one of his blades, after which a frantic Nightwing attempts CPR before Superboy announces that he can't hear her heartbeat. At the end, it's revealed that the whole thing was a Batman Gambit set up by Nightwing, Artemis, Kid Flash, and Aqualad in order to help Aqualad's cover as The Mole.
Superboy's introduction has him beating the crap out of Aqualad, Robin, and Kid Flash after they free him. Aqualad is Genre Savvy enough to realize that he was psychically forced to do so.
Batman himself has his own Super Dickery case in "Death Race to Oblivion!" When various heroes and villains are gathered by Mongul to race against his champion, and any of them getting heart's desire if they win, Batman coldly attempts to beat everyone in the race even sacrificing his own fellow heroes. Turns out he and Green Arrow are secretly working together to take Mongul out with Green Arrow intentionally losing the race.
In the Beast Wars episode "Double Jeopardy," Rattrap apparently betrays the Maximals to save his own skin. It turns out to be an act set up between him and Optimus to figure out how the Predacons were always aware of their plans. Part of the plan was for Optimus and Rattrap to "argue" about Rattrap's loyalty.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series shows how to do this trope right. After being well-established as a good, if a little reckless, Green Lantern, Sinestro randomly starts attacking Hal and Kilowog. As he's a villain in the comics, it's not to hard to buy this as his Face-Heel Turn. It's not.
In Superman vs. the Elite, the Elite, a group of merciless antiheroes, decide to take on Superman for 'endangering innocent people' by not being as violent as they are, and they apparently kill him... At which point he decides to play by their rules, and easily and gleefully kill most of them and reduces their leader, Manchester Black, to tears and on his knees, while not caring about the collateral damage. Then the whole world stopped trembling in fear when Superman revealed he was just showing the world exactly how scary he would be if he started being judge, jury and executioner as the Elite tried to be, and that he didn't kill anyone (the Elite are still alive but Brought Down to Normal, and Superman's robots saved the people who were apparently killed by the collateral damage).