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[[quoteright:320:[[VideoGame/SilentHill2 http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/2dae5a0b8df8adc0ca6232f38493e154.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:320:Huh. [[GainaxEnding That explains everything.]]]]

->''"Not everything is over! Old Man Owl, you're going to pay for your crimes you pasty feathered bastard!"''
-->-- '''Sonic''' to the PluckyComicRelief, ''WebVideo/SonicTheOtherMovie''

TheManBehindTheMan turned out to be about the least conspicuous person possible. The HiddenVillain was underneath your nose the whole time. The dog was the mastermind! Guess sometimes it ''is'' [[BeneathSuspicion the person you least expect]].

[[ChekhovsGunman You've seen them before]]. Maybe once, maybe a few times, maybe repeatedly throughout the story, but you never suspected a thing up until TheReveal. [[UnwittingPawn Sucker]]. TheButlerDidIt is the classic, {{Cliche}} example (which [[DeadUnicornTrope never really was a cliché]].)

Beware, however, in certain types of fiction, such as when you are supposed to [[HiddenVillain guess the identity of the villain]], this can come off as an [[AssPull enormously]] [[ShockingSwerve crappy twist ending]]. Or at least [[GainaxEnding a really confusing one]].

This trope is named after ''Videogame/SilentHill2'' and its secret joke ending in which a female Shiba Inu dog named Mira is revealed to be the BigBad behind the entire town of Silent Hill.

Compare MilkmanConspiracy, which is when an entire organization that shouldn't have this much influence does.

Keep in mind that this is a '''Reveal Trope''', so beware of spoilers!




[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'':
** Sosuke Aizen is a famous example. Everything leading up to the events of the Soul Society arc was planned by the kind and nice captain who we have thought to be killed off. Tied to that, who would have thought that the man with the apparent great sense of justice, Kaname Tousen, is one of Aizen's right-hand men?
** While their character design was a big hint, nobody could think of [[spoiler:the Old Man Zangetsu being a manifestation of Ichigo's Quincy powers, and that they knew BigBad Yhwach looked the exact same as Old Man Zangetsu 1000 years ago]]?
* In ''Anime/CodeGeass'', no one could have possibly guessed that the co-BigBad of the story was actually [[spoiler:Anya, the fairly emotionless girl]]. Even less likely is anyone figuring out that [[spoiler: Lelouch's LadyMacbeth of a mother Marianne, believed to have died years ago, is the one ''actually'' behind Anya's position, having subjected her to a GrandTheftMe.]].
* In ''Manga/{{Domu}}'', the psychic menace terrorizing the apartment block turns out to be [[spoiler:the mentally-deficient little old man]].
* In ''Anime/EdenOfTheEast'', the mastermind behind the Selecao organization, Mr. Outside, is really [[spoiler:an old taxi driver. You may remembering seeing him in the earlier episodes, long before his reveal near the end of the story]].
* ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' (both manga and ''Brotherhood'' series): The Homunculus [[TheDragon Pride]] is [[spoiler:[[ReallySevenHundredYearsOld little Selim Bradley]], the son of King Fuehrer Bradley]]. The biggest clue to his identity are his speech patterns in the original Japanese, [[LostInTranslation which wouldn't get through to an American reader]]. One translator did pick up on this [[IKnewIt and correctly predicted his identity]].
* In an anime episode of ''Manga/{{Golgo 13}}'', Duke Togo is hired to kill a British aristocrat [[KnowledgeBroker running his own private intelligence agency]], but misses a perfect opportunity when he steps out of his armored limousine. Togo instead kills his manservant, having realized that the aristocrat was just being hired as a front. The man who hired Togo is impressed that, even when given the wrong information, Golgo 13 always gets his target!
* Who is the Claw in ''Anime/GunXSword''? [[spoiler:The old man talking to Wendy in the park.]]
* Used in ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler''. Santa in Hayate's 'imaginations' from the first chapter is revealed to be [[spoiler:Mikado]]. Although the reveal doesn't really unnerve Hayate, since he's already been unnerved by this point in the plot.
* In ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'', this is done so well that even if the BigBad had a creepy moment or two, you wouldn't have known who it was until TheReveal. The BigBad has been shown in every single arc, and, as far as the viewer was concerned, had no chance of being the villain. After all, it is extremely difficult to suspect a character that [[spoiler:looked like she was promptly killed off [[GroundhogDayLoop every single arc]]]]. Even with the very few creepy moments before TheReveal, who would suspect that [[spoiler:it was the dead nurse faking her death every time]]? The only big hint was that [[spoiler:the estimated time of her fake death was literally a day before Watanagashi, and there were plenty of witnesses who saw her alive during the festival]]. The BigBad knew the flaw, but used that as an advantage and added it as an extra mystery to confuse people (and the viewers).
* Comedic example: The villains of the first arc of ''LightNovel/HumanityHasDeclined'' are the [[spoiler:headless, skinless chickens]] that had appeared earlier but [[spoiler:did not even show evidence of intelligence]]. This should tell you [[WidgetSeries everything you need to know about the series]].
* In ''Manga/JoJosBizarreAdventure'' the user of Death 13, one of the most powerful Stands in Stardust Crusaders that also almost killed the entire main cast, was an 11 month old baby.
** Earlier in the story heroes were attacked by a stand in the form of [[BigCreepyCrawlies abnormally large]] and [[SuperSpeed incredibly fast]] bug, while they were on the plane. In the middle of the fight one of the passangers, plain-looking old man woke up, wanting to go to the toilet. After he noticed blood on the wall he started freaking out and Kakyoin knocked him out, so he wouldn't interfere in the battle. However, after they managed to destroy the stand, old man's head and tongue got sliced as well, revealing him to be the stand user all along.
* In ''LASBOSS X HERO'' the demon lord is [[spoiler:the heroine, Nina]]. [[FlatWhat What]].
* The lesser-known ''Anime/LilyCAT'' takes all of the tropes from the movie ''{{Film/Alien}}'' and puts them in a blender. There's even a cat on board the ship, and a secret android working to bring back the murderous alien at the expense of the crew. The catch... is that the cat ''is'' the android.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Medabots}}'' anime, the BigBad turns out to be a (cybernetic) house cat using the body of a mad scientist as its puppet.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'': The mysterious leader of the Akatsuki ninja terrorists is neither [[AGodAmI Pain]] nor [[GrandTheftMe Orochimaru]] nor [[GreaterScopeVillain Madara]], but [[spoiler:the PluckyComicRelief Tobi aka the secret identity of Obito Uchiha, a man believed to have died many years ago.]]
** The true BigBad of the story is ''not'' Madara Uchiha, [[spoiler:be it the real one or the fake]]. It's actually [[spoiler:Zetsu's black half, who's been manipulating practically all of history to revive [[GreaterScopeVillain Kaguya]], the first chakra user, who by that point had only been introduced ''thirty chapters earlier'']].
*** [[spoiler:Of course, Kaguya had already been introduced as the Ten Tails, and Black Zetsu is a manifestation of her will. Meaning, the true villain of the story was that freaky multi-eyed statue (the Ten Tails drained of all its power by ol' Six Path) that was first seen all the way back in Shippuden's first arc.]]
* In ''Manga/RosarioToVampire'', the leader of the terrorist organization Fairy Tale and most powerful character in the series is eventually revealed to be [[spoiler:Miyabi Fujisaki, the guy who was almost married off to Mizore back at the start of Part II]]. This character was important when first introduced, but was never mentioned again afterwards, and certainly showed no signs of [[spoiler:being ''Alucard himself'']].
* One story of ''Manga/OutlawStar'' had the main characters seek out and eliminate the leader of a small-time gang operating out of an ice cream truck. The leader turned out to be [[spoiler:the potted cactus with MindControl powers]].
* Hardly anyone could have expected Aji Tae, the BigBad of ''Manhwa/ShinAngyoOnshi'', DiabolicalMastermind who had already brought down a country before the series began and is stated to be an EvilSorcerer of the highest order to be [[spoiler:that {{Adorkable}} PrettyBoy healer with a pet goose who shows up to save one of the main characters and clearly plays into the role of not-so-covert sage mentor later]]. All exactly as planned by him. The fact that he completely changes his appearance between flashbacks and actual story helps to mislead readers.
* ''Manga/ShugoChara'' has one. Who was TheManBehindTheMan? [[spoiler:Hikaru Ichinomiya, the little kid]].
* In ''VisualNovel/SteinsGate'', it turns out that the SERN spy is none other than [[spoiler:Okarin's landlord, the completely un-suspicious Mr. Braun, who had never spoken a single line about anything plot-worthy until then]].
* ''Manga/DetectiveSchoolQ'' has an epic "Whaaaat!?" moment when the high priest behind ''five murder cases'' in the Kamaikakushi village is revealed to be [[spoiler: the cute and innocent girl who worked at the inn, Miyo Fuuma, who later turns out to be a AntiVillain thanks to MoreThanMindControl from her grandfather that [[BreakTheCutie Broke the Cutie]]]]. Result? Eventual redemption and TearsOfRemorse.
* ''Anime/TimeBokan'' series: "Zenderman". Oddly enough,[[spoiler: it was the Trio's pet this turn around who turned out to be the BigBad]].
* In chapters 6-7 of ''Manga/ZodiacPI'', Lili is behind someone who names itself "Sirius", thinking it's the one she already met in the past. In the first of those two chapters, a [[{{Meganekko}} girl with huge glasses]] named Yukiji appears multiple times in the background, staring down Lili multiple times, and also briefly helps her in the latter chapter. At the end, after Lili discovered that the Sirius they were searching for was not the same one as the last time, Yukiji is shown briefly monologuing about that guy who called himself "Sirius"... [[spoiler: then she takes off her glasses and a wig revealing she was the other Sirius all along, annoyed because someone stole her moniker and she wasn't the one who punished him for his evil deeds.]]
* In ''LightNovel/MushokuTensei'' the BigBad has many potential agents, all of which [[spoiler:Orsted]] has identified and tracked in the past save one. The single agent whose actions constantly foiled [[spoiler:Orsted]]'s plans while never drawing any attention was [[spoiler:Gisu]], a man with no combat power or political sway.
* ''Manga/TokyoGhoul'' pulls this off to an astounding degree. The One-Eyed Owl, the mysterious ghoul of [[AntiHumanAlliance Aogiri Tree]], turns out to be [[spoiler: Eto Yoshimura, the strange and childlike member of the organization always hanging around in the background]]. Then it takes it even further, revealing at the same time that [[spoiler: she's ''also'' Sen Takatsuki, the oft-mentioned and {{Adorkable}} horror novelist]].
* In ''Manga/KatekyoHitmanReborn'', nobody expected Checker Face to be [[spoiler:Kawariha, the guy who is known for ordering ramen by I-Pin]]. Before this reveal, he only appeared once on-panel.
* For roughly the first half of ''Tenshi Ni Rarumon'', the main villain is the campy, hammy Dispel, who spends most of his time launching attacks on Noelle, indulging in weird antics, and constantly mistreating his emotionless maid Silky. Then Silky just up and decides that Dispel is boring her, turns him back into a doll, and puts him away before resuming her role as the main villain.
* In ''Anime/{{Pokemon}} XY'', it first appears that the mysterious Madame X is using her Malamar to brainwash people and Pokémon for her unknown evil intentions, but it's then revealed that she herself is just a brainwashed Officer Junsa/[[DubNameChange Jenny]] who was used as a decoy and translator by the real mastermind Malamar, marking the first time that wild Pokémon can be (truly) evil.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Asterix}}'': The [[TheManBehindTheMan villain behind the sickle-trafficking gang]] in Asterix's second album, "Asterix and the Golden Sickle": [[ChekhovsGunman He appeared time and again before the reveal? ]] Check. Was he BeneathSuspicion? Check. [[TheReveal Is it a surprise both to the heroes and the audience? ]] Check. [[InherentInTheSystem Does it make sense with the general theme of that album? ]] You bet, because this is the only way the not so bright members of the sickle-trafficking gang could get away with an operation like this for so much time.
* In a two-part story in Detective Comics (circa 1989), Franchise/{{Batman}} tries to stop the anti-establishment villain (or anti-hero depending on individual viewpoint) ComicBook/{{Anarky}}. Over the course of the two issues, the reader is shown scenes of a family man and his son, both together and apart. These scenes slowly imply that Anarky is the father, and he even tries to take responsibility when Batman catches him with Anarky's cape. Turns out he was just covering for his son, who was the real Anarky. The son was a middle schooler at the time.
* In the ''ComicBook/DarkwingDuck'' comic book series, a recurring villain is a genetically engineered house cat who fakes his own kidnapping from a research laboratory. Yes, in the Darkwing Duck universe [[FurryConfusion ducks can keep cats as pets]].
* In the ''ComicBook/DoomPatrol'' comic, the would-be cosmos-destroyers in the Cult of the Unwritten book are led by the Archons of Nurnheim--i.e. a couple of Theatre/PunchAndJudy puppets. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, this was written by Creator/GrantMorrison.
* This happens ''twice'' in ''ComicBook/FiftyTwo''. The first time is a huge early reveal that [[spoiler:the time issues going on are the work of Skeets, Booster Gold's sidekick. Oh, and he kills Booster]]. In the very last issues [[spoiler:after Booster is revealed to be alive due to time travel tricks, it's discovered that Skeets is possessed by Mister Mind]]. Said villain had only appeared in a few panels without ever saying a word in the early issues.
* In the third ever Comicbook/JusticeSocietyOfAmerica story in ''All Star Comics'' #5, the JSA bust up a series of rackets headed by a mysterious figure known as Mr X. At the end of the story, an innocuous milquetoast who had appeared in each of the individual chapters turns up the police station. It turns out he is really Mr X and now, with all of his rackets smashed, he intends to turn himself in and live off the state in prison.
* In UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks, it was assumed by everyone - in-universe and out - that ComicBook/{{Captain Marvel}}'s unseen enemy Mr. Mind was an dangerously brilliant EvilGenius bent on world domination; this was true, but everyone also assumed he was human, which he was not. He's actually a tiny little worm from another planet, something which came as a surprise to everyone. (But he's one ''dangerous'' little worm.)
* ComicBook/NickFury, Agent of SHIELD, threw the readers a curve when the identity of HYDRA's leader, Don Antonio Caballero, proved to be an alias. Ripping off his life-like mask, the true Supreme Hydra stood revealed as Fury's long missing UsefulNotes/{{W|orldWarII}}W2 arch enemy Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. It was a moment so jarring, artist Jim Steranko made it a two page panel for the occasion.
* ''ComicBook/{{Rat-Man}}'': One story has the eponymous "hero" meeting Graziello, a stick figure who annoys him by telling corny jokes and laughing in a monotonous way, and Rat-Man can't get rid of him. In the end we discover that everything that happened in the issue was Graziello's plan: as a failed comic book character who never got the chance to be published, he lured Rat-Man to the comic book school and in doing that he had appeared in a ''Rat-Man'' issue, thus finally [[MediumAwareness being published and read by many people]]!
* In the original [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] ''Franchise/SpiderMan'' comic book, The Big Man--a New York crimelord and leader of the Enforcers--was revealed to be Frederick Foswell, a browbeaten reporter at ''The Daily Bugle''.
** This is something of a reoccurring theme among Spider-Man villains. The original Green Goblin was eventually revealed to be Comicbook/NormanOsborn, the father of his best friend (this being long before Norman established himself as the Lex Luthor of the Marvel Universe). The Jackal, better known as the villain who set up ComicBook/TheCloneSaga, was Peter's nerdy science professor. The Hobgoblin, a villain modeled after the Green Goblin, had a two-for-one deal. He was originally revealed to be a Daily Bugle reporter and longtime minor supporting cast member Ned Leeds until a RetCon explained that he was yet another minor supporting character who had since faded into near-obscurity.
** One particularly jarring example involves Spider-Man searching for the murderer of a scientist who had created a crime cataloging supercomputer. [[spoiler: The culprit is none of the three suspects, ''but the computer itself.'']]
* A variation in Jonathan Hickman's ''[[ComicBook/TheAvengers Avengers]]'' comic book. The Starbrand has come to our Earth, and we're shown several scenes at a college focusing on different characters we believe are potential hosts. At the end of the issue, the Starbrand chooses an inconspicuous background character that had meaningless interactions with each of the candidates.
* Homaged in Bongo Comics' [[ComicBook/TheSimpsons Radioactive Man]] series which generally parodied most of the major cliches in comics, superhero especially, and had the final issue reveal that Radioactive Man's deadliest foe was Radioactive Worm, an {{Expy}} of Mister Mind, who reveals it was caught in the same explosion that created RM. Indeed, as pointed out in a footnote, if you look back at the first issue's splash page of Claude caught in the atomic explosion, you can see a tiny earthworm crawling up from the ground right below him and being in it as well, thus planting the reveal as this rather than one of the StrangerBehindTheMask variety.
** Similarly, in their short-lived ''Bartman'' comic, the true villain behind the crime wave that's taken siege of Springfield? ''Lenny'', thanks to the fact that a faulty leak had dropped minor radioactive waste on his head resulting in him going temporarily insane, a moment that's briefly seen early on in the first chapter as a FunnyBackgroundEvent while Mr. Burns and Smithers were talking.
* An AntiHero version of this trope happened in ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}''. Rorschach's identity was mostly a secret until it is revealed he was [[spoiler:that random homeless guy that was always hanging out in the background]].
* In ''ComicBook/BatmanEternal'', all of Batman's RoguesGallery are brought together and manipulated by a mysterious hidden villain who seems to have learned Batman's identity. Each time Batman seems to be getting close to a big mastermind (Hush, Riddler, Owlman, even Ra's Al Ghul), it turns out that they were just invited by the real BigBad. In the finale it's revealed that the villain was [[spoiler: ''Cluemaster'', a fairly minor member of Batman's rogues who rarely pulled off anything big. As it turns out, Cluemaster had gotten fed up with his constant fights with Batman and decided to apply himself to making a fool-proof scheme to destroy him; to divert attention from himself he invited a bunch of big-name Gotham villains to the team-up to make Batman think the culprit had to be a huge and major enemy like the Joker. [[InvokedTrope That way, Batman was focusing on the idea that the mastermind would be this ungodly powerful person and never stopped to think that any of the c-listers would be able to pull something like this off]]]]. The twist was ultimately subverted: [[spoiler: The plan was indeed Cluemaster's, but far more [[TheUntwist likely and foreshadowed]] villain Lincoln March pulled a HijackedByGanon in order to serve as the story's final boss]].
* ComicBook/TheAvengers once encountered a mysterious super-villain called The Crimson Cowl; upon being unmasked, the Cowl was revealed to be "merely a robot", the "real" Cowl being Tony Stark's butler Jarvis; later, Jarvis confessed that he had been forced to impersonate the Cowl under duress, and he begged the "real" Cowl not to kill the Avengers "in the name of humanity"; the Cowl replied "What makes you think I am human?", and unmasked himself to reveal... that he was really the robot all along! (this was the first appearance in comics of the Avengers' enemy ComicBook/{{Ultron}}).

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* The ''Literature/HarryPotter'' story ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4101650/1/Backward_With_Purpose_Part_I_Always_and_Always Backward With Purpose]]'' involved Harry, Ginny, and Ron [[SetRightWhatOnceWasWrong traveling back in time]] [[PeggySue to fix]] a BadFuture. At the same time ([[TimeyWimeyBall relatively]]), someone else is also traveling from the future and [[TheManBehindTheMan tweaking things behind their backs]]. It is revealed to be [[spoiler:Harry and Ginny's son Albus, who was never seen previously and had not yet even existed in any form or timeline from the main characters' (and audiences') perspective]]. Perhaps most bizarrely, if you read the sequel ''it all makes sense''.
* In the ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' fanfic ''Fanfic/{{Forward}}'', it turns out that the mastermind behind the events of the "Charity" episode was [[spoiler:Katie, the little girl following Zoe around, who was actually a powerful psychic]].
* In the ''TabletopGame/LegendOfTheFiveRings'' fanfic ''Rokugan 2000'', the champion of the Realm of Evil turns out to be [[spoiler:Hoshi Jack, the motivational speaker who stars in a cheesy TV talk show]].
* A ''Literature/HarryPotter'' fanfic called ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8945972/1/The-Ones-You-Never-Expect The Ones You Never Expect]]'' starts off with Colin Creevey being revealed to have faked his death in the final battle. He then meets up with his brother to report to Dedalus Diggle. All three report to Crookshanks. Who reports to "The Queen": Hedwig. As it turns out: The war wasn't between Voldemort and Dumbledore; it was between Nagini and Fawkes. And Hedwig as been waiting on the sidelines, faking her death, until the two sides butchered each other so that she could take over the world in the aftermath.
* At the very end of ''[[http://www.fimfiction.net/story/169832/the-unchosen-one The Unchosen One]]'', it turns out that the mastermind for the whole operation--a plot including the near-destruction of Equestria, Twilight temporarily turning evil, and [[spoiler:Trixie getting ascended into an alicorn]], although the last one wasn't actually part of the plan--is actually [[spoiler:Princess Cadence, with some help from her henchman Discord. The whole thing was done so she could get her hooves on the Element of Dominance in order to establish her control of Equestria]]. No, this character has had no bearing on the plot whatsoever up until this point.
* In the last part of ''Fanfic/RealityIsFluid'', the person who sabotaged an experiment on the USS ''Bajor'' turns out to be a random background character who only even appeared in three paragraphs in what seemed like a throwaway scene in the middle of part I.
* Non-villainous version in ''FanFic/TheInfiniteLoops'': For several Equestrian loops, Twilight was vaguely aware that events were going... smoother than usual; fewer conflicts, fewer ponies getting into trouble from canon events, and so on. Eventually she discovers that [[spoiler:Big Macintosh]] Awoke at some point, and has been tampering with things while avoiding notice. His main reason for hiding? During the loop he Awoke for the first time, Twilight pretended to be a Nightmare-possessed villain as a prank, and it took him a long time to accept that she wasn't actually evil.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
%%* [[spoiler:Miles Axlerod]] from ''WesternAnimation/{{Cars 2}}''.
* The villain in ''WesternAnimation/{{Hoodwinked}}'' fits this to a T. Except instead of a dog it's [[spoiler:a cute little bunny rabbit named Boingo]]. The fact that [[spoiler:[[ChekhovsGunman he keeps appearing in the stories]]]] may send up warning flags to the savvy viewer. Used again in [[WesternAnimation/HoodwinkedTooHoodVersusEvil the sequel]], where [[spoiler:Hansel and Gretel, the supposedly kidnapped and innocent kids]], are behind everything.
* In ''Disney/MeetTheRobinsons'', the BigBad turns out to be [[spoiler:the future version of Lewis' roommate Goob]]. Except it's actually [[spoiler:future!Goob's [[UnnecessarilyCreepyRobot bowler hat]]]].
* ''WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfTheAmericanRabbit'' has the eponymous hero getting a big surprise when he tackles the BigBad, only to have him suddenly deflate. It turns out that the human-like figure was a decoy and the pet vulture who is usually perched on him is the real villain all along.
* Played ''almost'' straight in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH2TimmyToTheRescue''. There, instead it's The Mouse Was The Mastermind. In the movie it was almost obvious that the villain was a man named Doctor Valentine, a particularly scruples-less scientist working at NIMH. However, it is revealed that the real villain is [[spoiler: the mouse Martin, brother of Timmy (the hero) and son of the heroine of the first movie (Mrs Brisby)]], kidnapped earlier in the movie by Doctor Valentine, who performed experiments on Martin, enhancing his intelligence but also making him evil, which led [[spoiler: Evil!Martin]] to use Valentine's equipment to regress all the scientist's intelligences to those of dogs. [[spoiler: Evil!Martin]] then plans to create an army of genetically-modified rats to take over [[spoiler: Thorn Valley]], the valley in which the gentle intelligent rats who previously escaped the NIMH laboratories now live. This twist is often considered much too unbelievable, leading among other things to a very comical reaction of WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic: "WHAT ? [[spoiler: MARTIN]]'s the BAD GUY ? THIS IS THE DUMBEST TWIST I'VE EVER SEEN ! The MOUSE… is a MAD… SCIENTIST ?!?". (oh, of course, Timmy [[spoiler: gets his brother to reform]] in the end after [[spoiler: saving him from a fire]]).
* In ''{{Disney/Zootopia}}'', [[spoiler: Judy and Nick initially think that Mayor Lionheart is the BigBad for trying to cover up the predator citizens that have gone savage, and get him arrested. However, once they learn the truth about how the animals are going savage, they run into Assistant Mayor Bellwether, who reveals herself to be the true mastermind of a plot to turn prey against predator]].

* In ''Film/BloodWork'', the serial killer turns out to be [[spoiler:the protagonist's drunkard fisherman friend from the same marina]].
* In ''Film/Cube2Hypercube'', the supposed superhacker and mastermind Alex Trusk turns out to be... [[spoiler:a blind girl?]]
* ''Film/DreamHouse'' throws suspicion over nearly every character introduced. [[spoiler: The actual killer? Someone who drove by the main character's house during one scene and did not become relevant again until TheReveal.]]
* In ''Film/GalaxyOfTerror'', Kore, the unassuming cook, turned out to be [[spoiler:The [[BigBad Planet Master]] who had sent the crew of the starship Quest to the planet [[DeathWorld Morganthus]]]].
* An early cut of ''Film/HouseOf1000Corpses'' had the relatively harmless Grampa Hugo Firefly turn out to be Dr. Satan. Music/RobZombie decided this would have been anti-climactic and changed it.
* The entirety of ''Film/{{Identity}}'''s plot consists of a [[TheReveal massive build up]] to who the murderer will be. [[spoiler: Upon reaching the happy ending, it turns out it was the kid all along, and the viewer is treated to a [[{{Narm}} hilarious montage]] that involves a grumpy looking kid walking away from an explosion and an obese maniac talking in a high voice. On the other hand, all the killings were metaphorical and not physical.]]
* In the Hungarian film ''Film/{{Kontroll}}'', the masked killer is a welder who appears briefly in one scene. (Although that's not revealed in context; you can only find it out from behind-the-scenes information about the same actor playing both parts.)
* Played straight, and somewhat deconstructed, in the German Film "''Net of Steel - The witness''" (Stahlnetz - die Zeugin). The murderer is [[spoiler: the eponymous witness, a 12-yr-old girl picked on mercilessly by her family and threatened by others because of their secrets. The deconstruction applies because the girl is not a "mastermind" - rather a desperate (but still aggressive) child - and before TheReveal she is seen just as a random girl who saw too much]].
* Subverted in ''Film/PhoneBooth''. At first, it looks as though the Caller was [[spoiler: the pizza guy who only had a very brief appearance at the start of the film. However, it turned out the real Caller had the pizza guy hostage until he got caught, when he slashed his throat and left him as a decoy to escape. The real Caller only appears in person at the very end, when he reveals himself to Stu]].
* The first ''Film/SawI'' movie. [[spoiler:The "dead man" in the middle of the room (John Kramer) is also seen in a flashback, where he's equally inconspicuous as a patient at the cancer ward.]] There is a hint, though. [[spoiler:When someone starts loading the revolver the guy on the floor supposedly committed suicide with, it's empty. Revolvers don't eject spent cartridges. You can't kill yourself with an empty revolver...]]
* In ''Film/ScaryMovie'', the ''Film/{{Scream|1996}}''-esque serial killer is actually revealed to be [[spoiler: the apparently retarded officer. Then again it is a parody]].
* ''Film/ScoobyDoo'' has a literal example, as it turns out that the mastermind is [[spoiler: [[TheScrappy Scrappy-Doo]], who, up until that point had only appeared in a short flashback]].
* [[spoiler:Debbie Salt, the seemingly harmless journalist reporting the murders]], is the killer in ''Film/{{Scream 2}}''. [[spoiler:And mother to the previous film's killer.]]
* ''Film/SourceCode'': Major suspicion is cast on every person in the hero's immediate area (including TheHero himself!), and then in an interesting twist the Villain turns out to be [[spoiler: a background character who at most appears for maybe about five seconds each time the protagonist goes back into the program, during which time he gets off the train when it stops- so he can plant phony evidence of his death and detonate the bomb without killing himself in the process]].
* In the Japanese film ''Film/SuicideClub'', the real culprit turned out to be [[spoiler:the 14-year-old singers of the band named Dessert, who are often shown singing songs on the television at regular intervals but not actually playing any role in the plot--until TheReveal]].
* In ''Film/TheBoneCollector'', the killer is [[spoiler:Richard, the technician from the beginning of the movie]].
* All of the movies in ''Film/TheThinMan'' series operated this way. Start with a murder, present a colorful parade of suspects, end by revealing the killer to be someone the audience had no reason to suspect
* Parodied in the "Scooby-Doo Ending" of ''Film/WaynesWorld'', where it's revealed that Ben is really Old Man Withers, the amusement park owner who Wayne spoke to for five seconds near the beginning of the film.
* In ''Film/WhiteNoise'', a random construction worker seen for all of three seconds earlier in the film turns out to be behind the kidnapping repeatedly mentioned in the background and in league with the evil spirits.
* Played double in Takeshi Kitano's ''Film/{{Zatoichi}}'', when the leader of the Yakuza is revealed to be [[spoiler:the tavern keeper. Then it's revealed that even ''he'' was a decoy for the elderly busboy, who was the real power behind it all]].
* In ''Film/FridayThe13thPartVANewBeginning'', the copycat killer of Jason Voorhees turns out to be [[spoiler: the paramedic, Roy Burns]].
* The Wolf in ''Film/RedRidingHood'' is [[spoiler: Valerie's father, the village drunk Cesaire]].
* The killer in ''Film/IRobot'' is not a robot but [[spoiler: VIKI, the AI that controls all the robots]].
* ''Film/TheBodyguard''. [[spoiler: Rachel's sister Nikki hired the hitman who's been hounding her the whole movie.]]
* Played with in ''Film/TheHangover''. The three guys' friend is kidnapped. The one who did it was Mr. Chao, the [[NakedPeopleAreFunny naked guy]] who jumped out of the trunk of the police car they stole the night before. Worse is that the guy they saved isn't even the one they were looking for.
* ''Film/SleepyHollow''. The one who summoned the Headless Horseman was [[spoiler: the seemingly docile Lady Van Tassel]].
* In ''Film/TenaciousDInThePickOfDestiny'', the bored-looking open mic host (played by Paul F. Tompkins) from earlier in the movie is revealed at the end to be Satan in his human disguise.
* ''Film/{{Assassins}}''. Robert's contact who betrayed him, and Miguel's contact who sicced him on Robert turned out to be [[spoiler:Robert's supposed to be dead friend Nikolai]].
* Occurs in the FramingDevice of horror AnthologyFilm ''Asylum'': in order to get a job at a mental asylum, the psychiatrist Dr. Martin has to interview the patients there and determine which of them is really Dr. B. Starr, the former asylum head who had a mental breakdown and [[SplitPersonalityTakeover adopted a new personality]]. [[spoiler: None of the patients are B. Starr - Max, the orderly who has been taking him on a tour of the asylum, is... Once Dr. Martin guesses incorrectly, Max takes the opportunity to kill him.]]
* Parodied in ''Film/TheManWithTwoBrains''. The Elevator Killer is actually [[spoiler: Merv Griffin whose show appears for a few moments at the start of the movie]].
* The killer in ''Film/{{Se7en}}'' is the unseen "reporter" who Mills shouts at in one of the early crime scenes.
* ''Film/TheUsualSuspects'' is one of the most iconic examples. The semi-legendary killer Keyser Soze, who, according to various characters, was behind all the events that started the investigation, is revealed to be [[spoiler: Kint, seemingly clueless, lame and cowardly con-man being interrogated and then released]].
* While the true mastermind in ''Film/InsideMan'' introduces himself right off the bat, [[spoiler:the innocuous elderly Jewish man turns out to be working with him]].
* In ''Film/WonderWoman2017'', Ares, the god of war, is supposedly disguised as a normal human, and apparently orchestrated [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarI WWI]]. Ludendorff is the [[NeverTheObviousSuspect obvious suspect]], and the one Diana targets first. [[spoiler:After she kills Ludendorff, Ares appears in the form of Sir Patrick Morgan. He has only a handful of appearances before the reveal, and in every one appears to be trying to ''stop'' the war. [[TheChessmaster But appearances can be deceiving.]]]]
* In the movie ''Film/NoWayOut'', [[spoiler: the [[TheReveal ending reveals not only that Tom Farrell was a Soviet spy all along]] - though innocent of murdering his girlfriend - but his landlord was his Soviet handler]].
* In ''Film/HuntForRedOctober'', the spy amongst the crew who is trying to sabotage the ship so that it can be destroyed before it can fall into the Americans' hands is... [[spoiler: cook's assistant Loginov, [[ChekhovsGunman who appears in a single scene prior]] where he is [[BeneathNotice offhandedly]] made to witness the captain taking control of the dead political officer's nuclear key.]]

* The ''Literature/HarryPotter'' series has [[ChekhovsGun/HarryPotter its own page]] for ChekhovsGun and its various [[SubTrope Sub-Trope]]s, so this comes up a few times. These became so expected that Rowling ended up adding a page to her website's FAQ where she asked readers not to assume that EVERY named character in the series had a world-exploding secret. In particular, fans had fixated on a random Muggle kid who appears at the beginning of book five, with many emailing Rowling and saying they had "figured out" that he was the true key to the entire storyline. In reality, he was just a random Muggle kid who was never seen again who Rowling had (accidentally) made a RedHerring by giving him the same surname as Harry's mother.
** ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndThePhilosophersStone Philosopher's Stone]]'': [[spoiler:Professor Quirrel]], although he wasn't really ''behind'' the Man, but working for him. [[spoiler:Since the man was growing out of the back of his head, he technically ''was'' behind the man...]]
** ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndThePrisonerOfAzkaban Prisoner of Azkaban]]'': [[spoiler:Scabbers, Ron's pet rat]], who has been around since the first book. He's actually [[spoiler:Peter Pettigrew, the man who framed Sirius for murder, in Animagus form. The clues are rather obtuse--it's mentioned that Pettigrew was an Animagus of some variety (though there's a misleading implication that Animagi can't stay transformed for long periods of time), and [[EvilDetectingDog Hermione's cat always hated Scabbers]] (which seems meaningless before the reveal because cats naturally hunt rodents). The biggest clue is that Scabbers has been in Ron's family for over a decade, noted even in this magical universe to be a suspiciously long life for a rat; real ones top out at about 3 years. Even so, virtually no one saw this one coming]].
** ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire Goblet of Fire]]'': Similar to the previous book, but much more convoluted. [[spoiler:Barty Crouch Jr., son of the Ministry official of the same name, spent ''the entire school year'' Polyjuice-morphed into Mad-Eye Moody (requiring many doses of potion every day), in order to carry out an elaborate scheme to kidnap Harry for Voldemort's resurrection ritual. His existence is barely mentioned before the reveal--Harry spots "Barty Crouch" on the Marauder's Map, but assumes it's his father--and there were no clues (or at least none that the reader would be likely to recognize as being clues without knowing this spoiler) that "Moody" was an impostor (the real one never even appears until the end).]]
* One of the most famous examples from mystery fiction is Creator/AgathaChristie's ''Literature/TheMurderOfRogerAckroyd''. To put it simply, [[spoiler:[[UnreliableNarrator the narrator did it]]]].
* In another Creator/AgathaChristie example, in ''Crooked House'', the murderer turns out to be [[spoiler: the victim's ten year old granddaughter. Her diary reveals her to be a chilling psychopath, who killed her grandfather because he wouldn't let her take ballet lessons, with an implied heavy dose of ForTheEvulz]]
* In ''Literature/FoundationAndEmpire'' it is revealed that the Mule is [[spoiler:Magnifico the clown]]. On the other side, the end of ''Second Foundation'' reveals that the First Speaker of the Second Foundation is [[spoiler: the humble farmer Preem Palver]]. Moreover, the Second Foundation itself is [[spoiler: masked as a farming commune in the ruins of the old Imperial capital]], which had been visited by several of the main characters.
* In ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'', the masterminds of Deep Thought's experiment were the lab mice that humans thought they were experimenting on.
* In the ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse'' series ''Literature/NewJediOrder'', an evil alien race called the Yuuzhan Vong invades. Their leader is [[EvilOverlord Supreme Overlord]] Shimrra, a God-King who truly looks the part. The last novel in the series reveals that [[spoiler: he is actually being force controlled by his jester, Onimi]], a being so far below Shimrra that he was considered as little more than a pet.
* In the ''Literature/StarTrekNewFrontier'' novel "Stone and Anvil", the Excalibur crew needs to find the man who created Janos' intelligence to help him extend it. To bad he doesn't exactly know how to do that... the real mastermind is his pet Gribble, a small animal no larger than a rat. [[spoiler:Before the Gribble can do anything, though, Janos eats him]].
* Creator/CharlesStross
** In ''Literature/{{Accelerando}}'', everything that happened turns out to have been masterminded by [[spoiler:the Macx family's robotic cat]].
** The BigBad in ''Literature/TheJenniferMorgue'' is evil media tycoon Billington, the [[{{Expy}} Blofeld-alike]], right? Nope, it's [[spoiler:his white Persian cat, Fluffy]]. Okay, it's actually [[spoiler:a Cthonian war god ''possessing'' Fluffy]].
* Occurs in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's ''Literature/TheEgyptGame''--the murderer is [[spoiler:not a suspect and is only mentioned once ''in passing'']].
* [[spoiler:Quentin Makepeace, a foppish playwright in the Prime Minister's company,]] turns out to be the mastermind of all the events in ''Literature/TheBartimaeusTrilogy''.
* In ''Murder In Pastiche'', the killer turns out to be [[spoiler:the ship's purser, who was a detective fiction fan and thought it would be a waste if there were so many famous detectives on board and they didn't have a murder to solve]].
* In the first ''Norby'' book, Ing is [[spoiler:Fussbudget 2 Gidlow]].
* ''Literature/SherlockHolmes''
** In the story "Silver Blaze", the murderer was [[spoiler:a horse]].
** In the story "The Adventures of the Lion's Mane", the murderer was [[spoiler:a lion's mane jellyfish]].
* In the book version of ''Literature/TheBoneCollector'' in the ''Literature/LincolnRhyme'' series, the main villain was [[spoiler:the doctor]], also seen only briefly at the beginning and end.
** This pattern is also repeated in other books of the Literature/LincolnRhyme series. ''The Coffin Dancer'' [[spoiler:is pretending to be a hobo taken into custody as a witness]] and ''The Ghost'' [[spoiler:is masquerading as one of his own victims, as a Chinese illegal immigrant]].
* In Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter'', while there is a human villain, it turns out the real bad guy is [[spoiler:a robot dog who served as a Seeing-Eye dog for a scientist]]. Subverted in that the [[spoiler:dog]] was just the tool of the {{Big Bad}}s, revealed by doing something he shouldn't be able to do. There's an early brief clue concerning his reaction to a Venusian Frog.[[note]][[spoiler:The frogs are empathic. A cat's feelings were conveyed to the heroes by the frog. The dog's feelings weren't.]].[[/note]]
* In ''Literature/SkulduggeryPleasant: The Faceless Ones'', we find out early on that the elusive Batu is the man behind the Diablerie, but the mystery remains: Who is Batu? [[spoiler:It was a mortal farmer who wanted to bring back the Faceless Ones as a means of getting his own magical powers.]]
* In ''Literature/BridgeOfBirds'', [[spoiler:the true identity of the tyrannical Duke of Ch'in turns out to be the meek, perpetually-scared Key Rabbit. Oh, and his greedy peasant wife is a long-lost goddess]]. It actually makes perfect sense once Master Li explains it and there are many hints dropped throughout the novel, especially for the latter part, but it stunned many first-time readers.
* In ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', this is Molly's reaction when she is shown a photograph of [[spoiler:the traitor on the White Council]] in ''Literature/TurnCoat'':
-->... huh. Who's that?
* In ''Literature/DoorwaysInTheSand'', [[spoiler:there's a near-literal example: the mastermind is in nearly every scene, disguised as the cat]]. Also, the being who was influencing [[spoiler:Fred]] to steal the artifact in the first place was [[spoiler:the artifact itself]].
* In Creator/HarryHarrison's ''Literature/StarSmashersOfTheGalaxyRangers'', the race of {{Big Bad}}s, who were mentioned throughout the book turn out to be [[spoiler:tiny turtles with PsychicPowers kept as pets by another race]].
* In Creator/WilliamTenn's 1955 short story "The Servant Problem", the ruler of a future {{Dystopia}} is a SmugSnake subconsciously controlled by [[spoiler:his education minister]], an OutGambitted MagnificentBastard subconsciously controlled by a MagnificentBastard [[spoiler:psychologist]], who in turn was OutGambitted and controlled by [[spoiler:a junior technician]]. Things go pear-shaped for this [[TheManBehindTheMan Man Behind The Man Behind The Man Behind The Man]] when it turns out that [[spoiler:he, like everyone else in the world, was conditioned to worship the ruler; this dystopia is evidently now a dog chasing its own tail]].
* In one of the ''Agaton Sax'' kids' detective books, someone who appears to be an average-looking member of the crew of crooks turns out to be the criminal mastermind boss himself.
* In ''Literature/HushHush'', it turns out that the person trying to murder Nora was [[spoiler:Jules]]. Given how he was virtually nonexistent in the story, it was rather... jarring.
* In ''Literature/GoneGirl'', the person behind Amy's disappearance is [[spoiler: Amy herself]].
* ''Literature/PrettyLittleLiars'' does this a few times with the reveal of each A. The first A turned out to be [[spoiler:Mona, one of the main characters' best friends who pretended to be an A victim herself]]. The second A was [[spoiler:Alison--the ''real'' one. It's revealed that all along the girl they thought was Alison was actually Alison's twin sister, Courtney]]. The current and third A has yet to be revealed.
* Inverted in the Robert Cormier novel ''We All Fall Down''. One of the two main POV characters is an eleven-year-old boy who calls himself The Avenger after killing a bully with his grandfather's gun and then killing his grandfather to cover it up. It turns out [[spoiler:he actually committed the murders a couple of decades ago, and he is actually a seemingly insignificant middle-aged character who appeared briefly earlier in the novel. He's no mastermind, but rather a pitiful, profoundly mentally-ill man who regularly retreats into the delusion that he is still a child]].
* Creator/KimNewman's ''Literature/DraculaChaChaCha'' (aka ''Judgment of Tears'') has some parallels to the James Bond series and the Bond character shoots the Blofeld character. However, Bond had misread the situation. The real villain was [[spoiler:a vampire shapeshifter. He was the cat and the Blofeld character carrying him around was just one of his minions]].
* Often done by Fred Vargas: in quite a few of her novels, the murderer is a very inconspicuous and/or sympathetic character. [[spoiler:Ariane Lagarde]], in ''This Night's Foul Work'', [[spoiler:Lawrence]] in ''Seeking Who He May Devour'' and [[spoiler:Louis Nicolas Emeri]] in ''The Ghost Riders of Ordebec'' are notable examples. The latter gets extra points for [[spoiler:being the cop initially tasked with the investigation of the Ordebec murders]].
* In the Creator/DaleBrown novel ''A Time for Patriots'', the BigBad is actually [[spoiler:UnclePennybags Judah Andorsen]].
* In ''The Burglar in the Rye'' by Lawrence Block, Literature/BernieRhodenbarr has to find out who stole Gulliver Fairborn's letters and murdered Anthea Landau and Karen Kassenmeier so that he doesn't get sent to prison for the crimes. Karen, the second murder victim and absent owner of the hotel room in which Bernie hides from the police, was the thief with some help from the [[BeneathSuspicion hotel clerk]]. Erica, Bernie's best friend's overly-controlling new girlfriend, is the murderer.
* In ''Series/TheXFiles'' novel ''Goblins'', the invisible killer turns out to be the dispatch of the local police, whose role in the story up to that point has been saying few words over the radio. She is recognized by her CatchPhrase.
* The Creator/HermanMelville story "Benito Cereno" concern's an American ship captain's encounter with an under-provisioned Spanish slave ship. The Spanish captain's account of his navigational troubles doesn't quite add up, and his erratic behavior leads the American to suspect that he is a tyrant or insane. At the same time, he seems too ill and weak to be able to enforce his will at all. The explanation turns out to be that [[spoiler:the African slaves on the ship carried out a successful uprising, and are using the captain as their puppet to win the American's trust. The captain's "devoted" black manservant is actually the leader of the rebellion, and is following him everywhere in order to keep him in line]].
* ''Franchise/DocSavage'': In ''Devil on the Moon'', the true identity of the Man on the Moon turns out to be this. It is [[spoiler:Bob Thomas, a bystander seemingly killed by the Man on the Moon's mooks in the opening chapters]].
* In the first book of ''Literature/TheMagicians'', the mastermind turns out to be [[spoiler:the paramedic attending the death of the interviewer, who is attempting to create a StableTimeLoop in which Martin Chatwin is defeated]].
* In ''Literature/{{Noob}}'', the person who framed the Noob guild for the event leading to the third novel's DownerBeginning turns out to be [[spoiler:Master Zen]], who was so far only mentioned in the backstory and last known to no longer be an active player of the FictionalVideoGame in which the story is set.
* In Baynard Kendrick's novel "Death Knell" the killer sets up a death trap knowing that a writer likes to work on the balcony of his apartment and that his dog is terrified of the bells of a church nearby. [[spoiler: He puts a gun pointed at the writer's chair and the triggering mechanism in a place the dog runs to hide. The bells ring, the dog hides and the gun goes off - all while the killer has an alibi.]]
* Done in [[Literature/YoungWizards Young Wizards]] [[spoiler: literally. The dog was literally behind everything that has ever happened before, during and after. As it turns out, [[GodWasMyCopilot he was the creator (the one) in disguise.]] He also apparently really likes that "spell it backwards" joke]].
* In the first ''Literature/AllTheWrongQuestions'' book, the sneaky villain Hangfire who's behind all the wrongdoings turns out to be [[spoiler:[[TheButlerDidIt the client's butler]]]], who has no lines and appears only a couple of times. [[spoiler:He also wasn't really a butler; the woman he appeared to serve was an actor he hired to impersonate the former owner of the house.]] The only clue is that [[spoiler:he can imitate bird calls]]--near the end, it turns out that Hangfire can imitate people's voices.
* ''Literature/AgainstADarkBackground'' by Creator/IainMBanks. There's a lot going on in the story, like a pair of mysterious twins following Sharrow, the protagonist, who are somehow able to cause her great pain at will using something implanted in her body long ago. Late in the book, it's seemingly revealed that TheManBehindTheMan for everyone is a generic DiabolicalMastermind called Molgarin. [[spoiler: But even Molgarin turns out to be an actor planted by the real mastermind: Sharrow's cousin Geis. Geis has previously been presented as first a rather pathetic admirer of Sharrow, and later, it was shown that he'd gone as far as attempted rape to consummate his "love" for her. Well, he's still an obsessed creep in the ending, but one who has also worked a very long time so that he could orchestrate almost everything that happened in the book, not solely but largely just so that she'd be persuaded to love him.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}''. In "Roulette", Oliver is put through a series of life and death games. Whoever designed it has a really sick sense of humor. It is [[spoiler: Chloe Sullivan]].
* Good guy version: In the ''Series/GetSmart'' episode "The Mysterious Dr. T", it turned out the [[OmnidisciplinaryScientist genius inventor]] Dr. T was a [[spoiler:kid seen selling newspapers]].
* ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'' has already pulled it twice. In "[[Recap/SherlockS01E01AStudyInPink A Study in Pink]]", the serial killer turns out to be [[spoiler:a cabbie, seen earlier when Holmes and Watson chased down his cab because they thought the passenger might be the killer]]. In "[[Recap/SherlockS01E03TheGreatGame The Great Game]]", Moriarty is revealed to be [[spoiler:Molly's boyfriend Jim, who showed up briefly earlier in the episode]]. Though this last [[spoiler:was guessable, considering "Jim" is a nickname for "James"]]. Also, in the third season, the bad guy in "The Sign of Three" turns out to be [[spoiler:the one person, who never shows up in any wedding photo - the photographer himself]].
** The second example also incorporated a subversion--for a moment or two, before the real mastermind appeared, the audience is led to believe that [[spoiler:''Watson'']] is Moriarty.
* Many made-for-TV cop shows have this, but it was especially noticeable in ''Murphy''. The killer is the bloke who is in the background of scenes. If most of the suspects are interviewed in a club it's the barman--also expect him to be a long-lost relative of a victim or chief suspect.
* Mr. Yang in ''Series/{{Psych}}'' is revealed as this through flashbacks when Shawn meets [[spoiler: ''her'' at the end]].
* In the ''Series/{{Monk}}'' episode "Mr. Monk Makes the Playoffs", it is revealed that Monk met Bob Costas after helping him out with a matter of a cat salesman who sold demented cats. In particular, Monk proved that Costas's cat planned to kill him with a squeeze toy.
* [[Recap/CommunityS2E08CooperativeCalligraphy An episode]] of ''Series/{{Community}}'' has the study group trying to discover who among them stole Annie's pen. It turns out [[spoiler:it was Troy's pet monkey living in the vents, who we hadn't seen since his only episode one season ago]]. The study group doesn't find this out [[BrickJoke until much later in the season]], though. At the time, they all decide that the most logical explanation is that [[spoiler:[[ItMakesSenseInContext a ghost stole Annie's pen]]]].
* In an episode of ''Series/PushingDaisies'', the killer was, of all people, [[spoiler:a ''pig'']]. It was an accident, so the characters promptly [[spoiler:adopt him as a pet]].
* One episode of ''Series/{{Bones}}'' has the killer turn out to be the father of a friend of the victim, who was seen once in the beginning of the episode and had no lines whatsoever.
* [[spoiler:Quite literally applied]] in an episode of ''Series/MarriedWithChildren'' when the Bundys are arrested for harboring fugitive Steve Rhoades. They all accuse each other of ratting Steve out to the police, but the true mastermind was [[spoiler:Buck, the Bundys' family dog]].
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'':
** In "Aquiel," where the crew finds out that a shape-shifting organism is behind the MysteryOfTheWeek. Two people, a Klingon and the eponymous Aquiel, are suspected of being the monster, but [[spoiler:it's really Aquiel's dog, which served as a minor comedic subplot during the episode]].
** In "Future Imperfect", Riker awakens sixteen years in the future with apparent amnesia. However, the details of his future life don't add up; when he question his surroundings, the ''Enterprise'' bridge reveals itself to be a holodeck, with the evil Romulans pulling Riker's strings. Seems plausible. Yet, even this reality doesn't jibe with what Riker knows to be true. [[spoiler: The real mastermind is Riker's "son", who is present in both realities. The boy is actually an orphaned alien left behind on a desolate planet, with only a holodeck to amuse himself. When Riker came upon the cave, the boy was delighted to have a playmate and pieced together a false world from Riker's memories]].
* In the ''Series/{{Angel}}'' episode "[[ADayInTheLimelight Harm's Way]]," Harmony wakes up after a one-night stand to find the guy dead, and though she doesn't quite remember what happened, she eventually realizes that she was set up for the murder. It turns out the real killer was...[[UnknownRival some random other vampire chick named Tamika]] working at [[AmoralAttorney Wolfram and Hart]], whom Harmony had bumped into earlier. Tamika was upset that Harmony was on "the fast track" just from knowing Angel and his friends before they took over the company, and framed her so that she could take her job.
** Season 2 MonsterOfTheWeek Deevak was disguised as Jameel, the snitch.
* In ''Series/TheSarahJaneAdventures'': [[spoiler:Mr. Smith is a supporting character who gives information on aliens that land on Earth. It turns out he's a Xylok (sentient crystal) who created the computer as a host--and the most important thing to a Xylok is their purpose. Mr. Smith's purpose is to destroy the Earth's crust to free his kind--they were trapped there after their ship crashed to Earth (wiping out the dinosaurs). Mr. Smith escaped in the eruption of Krakatoa]].
* ''Series/{{Merlin|2008}}'':
** An unusual inversion in that it's from the POV of the dog. Merlin is Arthur's manservant, and thus while the audience sees everything he does, Arthur has no idea. So when all is revealed, it's probably going to be shocking to a lot of people that the king's clumsy, [[TheSoCalledCoward cowardly]] manservant has been behind everything (or at least aware it was going to happen).
** Particularly noticeable in the Series 4 finale, where Morgana takes over Camelot and Arthur loses his belief that he can be king. Merlin guides him to the Sword in the Stone, telling him that it belongs to the rightful king of Camelot (when in reality Merlin put it there specifically for him), thus restoring his faith. Then, when everyone falls asleep, he sneaks into Camelot and leaves a VoodooDoll under Morgana's bed to disable her powers. So, while it seems to Arthur that he was destined to retake Camelot, Merlin controls [[TheChessmaster the entire situation]].
* In a third season episode of ''Series/NCISLosAngeles'', Sam and Callen gun down a group of arms dealers, including Callen shooting the leader's driver in the cheek when he made a run for it. In a later episode, "The Chameleon", the driver turned out to be the mastermind, and everyone else was just hired help for that one job. The team started calling him [[TitleDrop the Chameleon]] after this turned out to be his standard M.O.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest''. The killer in the season 4 episode "Terra Incognita" was [[spoiler: the hotel doorman]].
* Subverted in the conclusion of the Carver arc in ''Series/NipTuck''. As Ryan Murphy said, "It's always a horrible cheat when it's someone like a neighbor who you met once, and they're the killer."
* In ''Series/ThePrisoner'', Number One turns out to be [[spoiler: a previously un-hinted-at duplicate of the hero, Number Six]]. Some of the writers have also hinted that in some way, [[TheButlerDidIt The Butler]] was behind everything.
* In ''Series/CriminalMinds'', the BAU are investigating the death of a child who was believed to have been killed by a captured pedophile. It turns out the pedophile was guilty of killing several children, but not the one they found. The real killer [[spoiler:was the boy's older brother, who was a budding [[TheSociopath sociopath]], and his parents were trying to cover it all up]].
* In a third season episode of ''Series/LostGirl'', one of the therapists at a psychiatrist office is believed to be influencing the patients to commit suicide by attempting to enact dangerous childhood dreams. The main suspects are a regression therapist who practices hypnosis and the receptionist, who is a type of Fae that feeds on despair. However, it turns out to be [[spoiler:the regression therapist's pet cat, "Dr. Bob", who is actually a shapeshifting rakshasa]].
* In ''Series/{{Broadchurch}}'', a boy is found dead and the main suspects are an old man with a sex-crime record, a technologically-savvy vicar who likes to volunteer at the school, and a woman who had hidden evidence from the police. In the end the killer is revealed to be [[spoiler:Joe Miller, the husband of Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller who had been investigating the case]].
** In the American remake ''Series/{{Gracepoint}}'', the above reveal happens, and then [[NotHisSled there's a second reveal]] that the real killer is [[spoiler: Ellie and Joe's twelve-year-old son Tom]].
* In season 1 of ''Series/TrueDetective'', the primary culprit of the murders, and [[spoiler:the "Green-Eared Spaghetti Monster"]] ends up being [[spoiler: the caretaker on the lawnmower from Episode 3]].
** The killer in season 2 is [[spoiler:the cinematographer on the film set from earlier in the season]].
* ''Series/NewTricks'': In "Ghosts", the murderer in a 60 year old murder case turns out to be [[spoiler:another resident of the nursing home where the wife of the victim now lives who Gerry interviewed once to gain information about the wife]].
* ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' has a brutal example of this when it is revealed in the last few episodes of the final season that the big bad head of the Rossum cooperation, who Echo has trying to remember all season, is [[spoiler: trusted friend, mentor, and ultimate father figure Boyd. He had been our AudienceSurrogate and Echo's BigGood for pretty much the entire run of the show]]. The outcry of horror and betrayal from the fans was overwhelming, even for a Joss Whedon show.
* ''Series/TheGoodGuys''. The serial peeper was the guy with the glasses in Ruiz's yoga class.
* ''Series/OnceUponATime'' season 4. The Author was posing as the peddler who pointed Snow and Charming to the Apprentice.
* Carla, ''Series/BurnNotice'' season 2 ArcVillain was introduced as a woman Sam helps with a crossword puzzle in the last moments of the season premiere.
* ''Series/TerminatorTheSarahConnorChronicles''. Sarkissian, the criminal who stole The Turk isn't the big guy who they killed. [[spoiler: He's the little guy Sarah manhandled at the bar earlier.]]
* The killer in the ''Series/ColdCase'' episode "Stalker" was [[spoiler: disguised as a male nurse]].
* In the latter half of Season 2 of ''Series/Daredevil2015'', Frank Castle [[spoiler: learns from Wilson Fisk that the real mastermind behind the deaths of his wife and children is a mysterious drug lord named the Blacksmith. In the second to last episode, we find out that the Blacksmith is Colonel Schoonover, Frank's former commanding officer from the Marine Corps that had only shown up in one prior episode]].
* Parodied on a couple of episodes of ''Series/BrooklynNineNine''.
** In "Cheddar", Captain Holt's dog Cheddar is missing, and Jake talks about him as if he's a master criminal in a cat-and-mouse game with him. [[DescriptionCut Then the camera cuts to Cheddar bumbling about town doing typical dog things.]]
** In "Terry Kitties", Terry recalls an old case at another precinct where he leads a raid on a burglary suspect, but the suspect is in a wheelchair. Out of desperation, he points at the cat next to him, claiming that he's somehow an accomplice. Terry's squad mates laugh at him, and they've been making fun of him ever since.
* Subverted in an episode of ''Series/{{Frasier}}''. Marty has been working on a cold case, and Daphne and Frasier come up with a theory that a [[EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys monkey]] committed the murder. Marty cracks the case and reveals the real killer before Daphne and Frasier make fools of themselves.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** On "What's My Line?", the third mercenary hired to kill Buffy is thought to be the girl who stowed away on a cargo plane. She is revealed to be Kendra the other Slayer. The mercenary is the police woman seen at the job fair.
** On " Earshot", the one planning to commit mass murder at the high school is the lunch lady.
** On "Doublemeat Palace", the monster is disguised as an old woman with a bad wig.
* ''Series/TheFamousJettJackson'': Done in the ''Silverstone'' ShowWithinAShow, where Silverstone travels to a small town in the middle of nowhere that is clearly inspired by the small town where Jett lives. At the end, the episode's BigBad is revealed to be [[spoiler:the sweet old lady inspired by his great-grandmother Miz Coretta]].
* The copycat serial killer in the last episodes of ''Series/TheWire'' is [[spoiler: the crazy homeless man that collects business cards]].
* ''Series/SleepyHollow'''s season 2 BigBad was hiding in plain sight throughout season 1: it's [[spoiler:Henry Parish]], who is revealed in the first season finale to be both the Horseman of War and Ichabod's son.
* ''Medici'': The killer of Giovanni de Medici turns out to be the bank manager Ugo, who usually only appeared in a few scenes.
* Occasionally PlayedForLaughs in ''Series/JoanOfArcadia.'' The whole premise is that God gives Joan various tasks to do by [[AFormYouAreComfortableWith assuming the forms of different individuals]]. Most episodes open with her having a casual conversation with someone, only for that person to turn out to be God; she then usually runs into another form of God later in the episode who tells her that she's not quite finished with her mission. Examples include a pizza delivery man, a seven-year-old girl, a newscaster, a Latina woman waiting for a bus, a heavyset girl in the school library, a Goth student, a butcher, a teen in a school mascot costume, and a street musician with a guitar. Humorously, Joan ''tries'' to become GenreSavvy about it and starts assuming that every stranger who speaks to her is God in a disguise; unfortunately, she's just as likely to get it wrong as she is to be correct.
** It's PlayedForDrama in the episode "Bringeth It On." A teenage girl abandons her baby in a dumpster, and calls the police to report it. Throughout the episode, the higher-ups in the police department keep pushing Will Girardi (Joan's father) to solve the case by focusing on the "unethical" girls at the local high school. Strangely, though, once the mother is finally revealed, the D.A. declines to press charges and the whole incident seems to disappear. Will wonders what happened, and his wife Helen sadly tells him that the mother's boyfriend is the son of a city councilman; when Will asks why she didn't volunteer the information, she points out that everyone was [[DoubleStandard so busy trying to determine which of the high school girls was having sex]] that "nobody ever asked about the father."
** In another, lighter episode, Joan gets involved in a school musical, and the high-maintenance, flamboyantly gay director repeatedly makes her life a living hell. At the end of the episode, he turns out to be one of God's forms, helping her on her mission.
* The [[TheManBehindTheMan true leader]] of the [[TheEmpire Zone Empire]] in ''Series/ChikyuuSentaiFiveman'' turns out to be Zone's [[GeniusLoci flagship]], Vulgyre, while Empress Meadow is simply an illusion created by it.
* In ''Series/TheTwilightZone1959'' episode "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?", the trope is subverted--any one of the eight individuals from the bus, including the driver, are suspected of being the titular character in a human disguise. [[spoiler: It's played straight, though, in the double-twist ending: the cheerful waiter at the diner where the characters were gathered, who stayed in the background and largely remained a non-entity, is secretly a Venusian who's part of a colonization force that's already defeated the Martians.]]

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* {{Parodied|Trope}} in ''ComicStrip/TheFarSide'' when ([[SignatureStyle what else?]]) a cow suddenly stands up in court and says, "All right, I confess! I did it! That's right! The cow! Ha ha! And I feel great!"
* [[PlayingWithATrope Played with]] and subverted in ''ComicStrip/{{Luann}}''. In the arc where two of the teachers (acting as chaperones) ended up dancing with each other, and getting recorded by an anonymous student via cell phone and posted on the internet and getting in trouble with the principal, one of the teachers thinks Luann did it, while another felt it was more likely that [[AlphaBitch Tiffany]] did it. The male teacher's reason was because of this trope, to which the female teacher pointed out that he would also qualify for that exact trope to prove that it shouldn't be used. It turns out Tiffany really did do it, after Luann [[YouJustToldMe tricked her into revealing to her deed]] by claiming credit as being between her and herself, although she ultimately wasn't able to reveal it after Tiffany recorded her changing and then used her old cell phone as a decoy in case Luann did attempt to tell her.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* In one of the more infamous angles of the late 90s, Wrestling/TheUndertaker, then leader of the Wrestling/MinistryOfDarkness, had been terrorizing Wrestling/VinceMcMahon and his family, going so far as to kidnap his daughter Stephanie and attempt to crucify her on a cross. During the angle, it is revealed that The Undertaker actually answers to a Higher Power, though nobody knows his/her true identity. After Stone Cold Steve Austin hits the ring to save Stephanie from being crucified on a segment of Raw, he is jumped by the Ministry and tied to the ropes as the Higher Power reveals his identity to him. Stone Cold is livid as the show goes off the air. The next week, [[ShockingSwerve the Higher Power is hilariously revealed to be Vince himself, who ridiculously concocted the plan to apparently get over on Austin.]] "IT'S ME, AUSTIN! IT WAS ME ''ALL ALONG'', AUSTIN! YOU ''ALL'' BOUGHT IT!" It's generally thought by fans that this was pulled off amazingly well. Vince's line "It's me, Austin!" and JR exclaiming "Aw, son of a bitch!" are still quoted by fans today. Despite all that, this storyline is looked at as being stupid because there was no real point for [=McMahon=] and his cohorts to go through all that trouble just to mess with Austin. It was a great moment until you think about what just happened. It is also generally known that Vince being the Higher Power was at least a Plan C. One of the original choices was Wrestling/MickFoley, but he turned the angle down because he didn't want to turn heel with no foreshadowing and wasn't in good enough shape to wrestle an angle with Austin. It's widely believed that [[Wrestling/DonCallis Don "The Jackyl" Callis]] was another choice, as he originally managed the Acolytes and stated that he would be controlling everything from behind the scenes. This was apparently dropped when Jackyl was released before the angle ended.
* Wrestling/{{Hornswoggle}} was the anonymous RAW GM - the same RAW GM who was sending messages via computer to then-heel-commentator Michael Cole to screw with the other wrestlers. Responses to this reveal were typically negative -- to the point where WWE actually felt the need to {{Retcon}} the twist away and bring back the "real" GM (i.e., the laptop) for a one-off skit later on.

* Almost parodied in at least two episodes of Radio/TheGoonShow- ''The Spanish Suitcase'' and ''The Phantom Head-Shaver'', where [[spoiler:Greenslade]] is the villain, in much this style. For which reason it's also [[spoiler: NarratorAllAlong]].

* Late in ''Toys/{{BIONICLE}}'''s run, one of the serials revealed that [[KingIncognito a Great Being was disguised as one of the characters we already knew]]. About a year after the serial went on a hiatus, it was revealed that that the Great Being was not only [[spoiler:Velika]] - a CloudCuckoolander that frequently spoke in riddles - but also that ''he'' was the one that [[spoiler:killed Karzahni and Tren Krom]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In the game ''Art of Murder: FBI Confidential'', the killer turned out to be [[spoiler: Raches, a character briefly mentioned in a newspaper article and supposedly dead]]. Although this is minorly subverted because [[spoiler: Raches is- in fact- your boss, Leon Chaser. Actually pretty obvious when you compare the two names]].
* In ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'''s co-op campaign, the robots are sent to kill what turns out to be [[spoiler:the bird from Chapter 6 of the single-player game]].
* In this case its played both metaphorically and literally. In ''VideoGame/DeadlyPremonition'' [[spoiler: the happy go lucky Forrest Kaysen turns out to be the Red Seed Killer the whole time- and his faithful companion Willie? He INTRODUCED Kaysen to the Red Seeds. Creator/SWERY65 confirmed Willie is Kaysen's "keeper" and was relaying orders from the Red Tree. If you take a closer look at the game map, it's [[http://www.gamesajare.com/2.0/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/GREENVALE.jpg intentionally shaped like him]], part of a bigger background story SWERY left out of the game]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheWitchsHouse'', [[spoiler:the GreaterScopeVillain turns out to be the savepoint cat, who was actually the demon Ellen summoned to claim her powers]].
* [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUDcSeUvkOw The Dog ending]] from ''VideoGame/SilentHill2'' is the [[TropeNamers trope namer]] and a literal example, although it's really a parody. Said dog (named Mira) makes cameos in future joke endings.
* After spending the short four hours playing through the 12 other ranked bosses in ''VideoGame/MadWorld'', you find out Rank 1 and a major accomplice in Deathwatch is none other than the man who hilariously gives tutorials for the bloody minigames. [[spoiler:The Black Baron gets extra points for being the most challenging and epic fight in the game.]]
* ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxTheDevilsPlayhouse: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls'' plays this to excellent effect; the true mastermind turns out to be [[spoiler: the ventriloquist's dummy [[LiveItem Max has been carrying around for half the episode]]]].
** In the beginning of the series finale, The Narrator of the series so far shows you a wall of pictures showing characters from the series, and proclaims that "one of the characters you see before you will betray Sam and Max." This sounds like an unnecessarily leading Reveal, until it's shown that [[spoiler: "one of the characters you see before you" includes The Narrator himself]].
** As well as the Season 2 finale ''What's New, Beelzebub?'', where it turns out that [[spoiler: the Soda Poppers]] have taken over Hell itself and have masterminded the events of the season in an attempt to make Hell more efficient (even going so far as to kick out Satan).
*** Subverted, though, in that [[WordOfGod Telltale]] thought they were playing this trope straight, because they thought [[spoiler:the Poppers]] were quite popular little schlubs, when in fact much of the fandom considered them TheScrappy, and thus thought TheReveal that they were the villains behind the entire last season was only too appropriate.
* Subverted in ''Videogame/{{MARDEK}} Chapter 3'', as the mastermind ''is'' a major villain that everyone suspects, but he's disguised as a "dog", [[spoiler:Clavis]], an enigmatic but inconspicuous character. The persona was actually made up by the villain in order to [[spoiler:talk some sense into Rohoph, who was sprinting towards becoming a KnightTemplar hard and fast]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheBastardOfKosigan'', the real mastermind behind the whole plot happens to be [[spoiler:Alexandra de Velan, your childhood sweetheart, who also happens to appear to die near the end of the second module]].
* ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'':
** ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' practically runs on this trope, in keeping with its theme of not letting first impressions or outward appearances deceive you. [[spoiler: All three of the major players in the kidnappings and murders can be frequently found around Inaba doing absolutely ''nothing'' out of the ordinary.]] However, the real kicker is that [[spoiler:the ''true'' final boss, [[TheManBehindTheMan the one who set the events of the game into motion]], turns out to be... the nameless, forgettable gas station attendant whom you met at the very beginning of the game, who turns out to be none other than the goddess Izanami in disguise. Made even better by the fact she didn't have a character portrait, which is a good indicator of a notable character, until AFTER the reveal]].
** Happens again in ''VideoGame/Persona5'' when it turns out that the true villain's real identity is none other than [[spoiler:'''Igor''', or rather, his evil impersonator Yaldabaoth, who trapped the real Igor within the Velvet Room and then took his place in order to mislead the protagonist.]]
* Tomator at the end of ''VideoGame/TheLostVikings 2'' turns out to be the BrattyHalfPint that sometimes appeared in the middle of the levels to be annoying.
* The head of the evil organization, H.A.R.M., in ''VideoGame/NoOneLivesForever'' turns out to be [[spoiler: a recurring background character that shows up drunk in most levels as a RunningGag]].
** The player is given one hint: [[spoiler: he sputters an alarmed "Uh-oh!!" when interacted with on the space station. He reverts to his usual drunken behaviour afterwards. This can also be taken as quite the compliment as most everyone else has been doubting Archer's abilities the BigBad responds to her appearance with OhCrap!]]
* In endings of ''VideoGame/VampireTheMasqueradeBloodlines'' where the Ankaran Sarcophagus is opened, the whole affair is revealed to be a massive practical joke orchestrated by [[spoiler:Jack and the cab driver (who may or may not be Caine)]].
* In ''VideoGame/HeavenlySword'' it's revealed that [[spoiler: King Bohan's bird is actually The Raven Lord; a demonic warlord from [[AllThereInTheManual the sword's backstory]]. The final battle is against a fused version of the two]].
* In ''Videogame/TazWanted'', [[spoiler: TWEETY]] is the mastermind behind it all. This is especially mind-numbing when you consider that [[spoiler: he's been your tutorial and hint provider for the ENTIRE GAME, including the final level]].
* In ''VideoGame/BatenKaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean'', it turns out the traitor is the one person everyone suspected least: [[spoiler:Kalas, the player character]].
* ''Franchise/BlazBlue'':
** In the True Ending of ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'', it turns out that [[spoiler: Hazama, Noel's superior from the Intelligence Department and a dialogue-only NPC]] is actually the new identity of [[BigBad Yuuki Terumi]], who burned down Ragna's childhood home and is basically one of the most amoral characters in all of fiction.
** At the very end of ''VideoGame/BlazBlueContinuumShift'', it is revealed that the Imperator of the NOL is [[spoiler:Saya, who we thought was a DamselInDistress all this time]].
*** Until the reveal from a Drama CD revealing that [[spoiler:Saya was brought forth to Relius shortly after her kidnapping and Relius made a cryptic comment that she's going to be a vessel for something, meaning Imperator Saya, for all means, could be a PuppetKing manipulated by Relius and Hazama, therefore the mastermind may have been both of them since the very beginning]].
*** In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueChronophantasma'', this turns out to be [[spoiler:''triple subverted''. In the end, Saya backstabbed them after their failures, and left them to their fates, claiming that they have played their parts, and seized Phantom for herself. But it was because the mastermind isn't exactly Saya herself, but the Goddess of Death Izanami who was possessing her. And it turns out that she is the aforementioned 'something' that Relius modified Saya as the vessel of. A Goddess of Death is no mere 'dog', my friend]].
* One that's really only known in Japan is the culprit in the old mystery game ''VisualNovel/ThePortopiaSerialMurderCase'' (although some may have heard about its ShoutOut in ''Manga/HaruhiChan''). The culprit is the one you'd least suspect, because not only is he your assistant, he's also (since the main character is an unseen HeroicMime) ''the guy executing the player's commands and speaking for the main character''. The revelation was so out of left field that the phrase "Yasu is the culprit" is something of a [[MemeticMutation minor Japanese meme]] for this sort of trope.
** This meme gets used in ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'', when we find out [[spoiler:the culprit's 'real']] name is Yasu.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Wild ARMs 3}}'', you'll occasionally notice a purple-haired little girl. She might just walk by for a second as you enter a town or dungeon, or show up standing near a plot-important character as he begins conspicuously talking to himself. She is [[spoiler:the BigBad ManipulativeBastard]].
* In the open-world FirstPersonShooter ''VideoGame/BoilingPointRoadToHell'', a patron in the bar at the beginning of the game turns out to be the game's BigBad.
* Played with in the "Killerman" event in ''VideoGame/{{Illbleed}}''. Midway through, you're asked to finger a suspect for the role of Killerman (if you're right, you win more money). Besides the proper suspects you've encountered, the choices for who may be the murderous Killerman includes... [[ShapedLikeItself Killerman]], and the ''[[BreakingTheFourthWall player]]''. The latter is explained that playing ''Illbleed'' [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame drove you insane and made you go on a killing spree]]. (This being ''Illbleed'', this is at least somewhat plausible.) As it so happens, [[spoiler:Killerman is the correct answer. Turns out the ghosts of those who've died at the park possessed one of the Killerman suits and have started murdering the employees in order to get their revenge]].
* In ''VideoGame/GhostTrick'', it turns out that the course of the entire game was orchestrated by [[spoiler: an alternate future version of seemingly-irrelevant-to-the-overall-plot character and literal dog Missile -- in the form of a desk lamp that has no apparent role after the tutorial for the vast majority of the game, at that -- trying to prevent the death of Lynne and Kamila that would have happened if he had not convinced Sissel to interfere. In the original version of events, TheBadGuyWins]]. What makes this particularly memorable is that at this point, everything is wrapped up in a neat little package; what other game [[spoiler:waits until the ''end'' to [[JustifiedTutorial justify the tutorial?]]]]
** On that note, there's also the black cat that appears in the first chapter. [[spoiler: Turns out to be the BigBad controlling the protagonist's original body.]]
* Played very straight in ''VideoGame/DiscworldNoir''. The serial killer who has been ritually murdering the citizens of Ankh Morpork (including the main character Lewton) is revealed to be the god Anu-Anu. When his worshipers are all gathered in church praying to him, his power grows and he transforms into a large bestial monster... but the rest of the time, he's trapped in the form of a small dog, which Lewton sees outside the Guild of Tomb Evacuators shortly before he is killed.
** This might count as a subversion, though, since Anu-Anu himself is manipulated by some members of his cult.
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'':
** In ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'' the diabolical [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Evice]] is none other than [[spoiler:the mayor of the town you saved at the very beginning. And he promised he'd help!]]
** In ''VideoGame/PokemonXDGaleOfDarkness'', Mr. Verich, the rich man who buys food for the sailors in Gateon Port and whose bodyguard helps you early on, [[spoiler:is Greevil, the Grand Master of Cipher]].
** In ''VideoGame/PokemonSuperMysteryDungeon'' it turns out one of culprits turning Pokemon into stone is [[spoiler: Nuzleaf, the caretaker of the player character. It's eventually revealed that he was mind controlled by Dark Matter and goes back to being a friend of the player after Dark Matter is defeated]].
* In the first ''VideoGame/LauraBow'' game, [[spoiler:Lilian]] turns out to be the BigBad. You would have easily suspected anybody else but especially [[spoiler:Rudy]] since they all had motive. However; it turns out that [[spoiler:the inheritance was after all a RedHerring and the ''real'' motive was a psychological disorder on Lillian's behalf, thinking everyone was getting in between her and the Colonel]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheLastExpress'', it turns out the thing that killed the main character's best friend, Tyler, was the very MacGuffin he was hiding: a gorgeous golden egg covered in gems. When a certain sequence is entered and a whistle is blown, it turns into a mechanical falcon that comes to life and kills everyone present.
* The first case of ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations 2'' involves the attempted assassination of a visiting president. At the end, after you had apparently caught the culprit, it turns out to have been orchestrated by [[spoiler:a clown at the local circus, and someone you had defended earlier in the game]].
** In the last case of ''Justice For All'', the true culprit is [[spoiler:your very client, Matt Engarde. Yes, the [[SurferDude dumb TV poster boy]] is actually a cold-blooded coward who couldn't even do the dirty deed himself]]. In ''VisualNovel/{{Apollo Justice|Ace Attorney}}'', the mastermind who orchestrated [[spoiler:Phoenix Wright's disbarment]] and two out of four murders in the game is [[spoiler:your own boss, Kristoph Gavin]]. And finally, in ''[[VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies Dual Destinies]]'', "the phantom", one of most dangerous people in the whole franchise, with an astounding score of two murders, three attempted murders, and three bombings, one of which occurred in a courtroom full of people, is none other than [[spoiler:Bobby Fulbright. Bobby [[StealthPun "In Justice We Trust"]] Fulbright, the goofy, overdramatic detective who helped you throughout the ENTIRE game. He's been impersonating the real (and dead) Bobby Fulbright all along]].
** The last case of ''Trials and Tribulations'' actually has two opposing examples: [[spoiler:Morgan Fey, a one-case VillainOfTheWeek from the previous game entirely, is TheManBehindTheMan to BigBad Dahlia Hawthorne here. However, the killer -- and the one responsible for the [[BadGuysDoTheDirtyWork Big Damn Villains]] (or BigDamnHeroes, depending on your point of view) against the formers' plan -- is new prosecutor Godot, who disappeared entirely after the third case until literally just a while ago (and is even the one who refuses to let the trial end until the whole truth's found)]].
* In the StylisticSuck "movie" ''Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective'', which is an episode of ''VideoGame/StrongBadsCoolGameForAttractivePeople'', after a plot involving Dangeresque's nemesis Perducci and Uzi Bazooka, the true identity of [[spoiler:actually, impostor of]] Dangeresque Too, the BigBad is [[spoiler:Craig, a character played by The Cheat, who had been in multiple scenes, unnamed, and previously referred to with the in-game tooltips by "The Cheat" when everyone else was described using their characters' names in the tooltips]].
* On the Homicide Desk in ''VideoGame/LANoire'', you are tasked with solving a string of murders, all seeming connected to the real-life Black Dahlia case. At the end, you discover the killer...[[spoiler:Garret Mason, a bartender you had interviewed as an incidental witness in the first case, and had likely forgotten about by the third]].
** However, GenreSavvy players can actually guess the murderer's identity once told that [[spoiler:he's a part-time bartender who fills in for other bartenders in most of LA's bars, something the Black Dahlia murderer would find rather useful to pick his victims]]. Furthermore, after the first case, [[spoiler:all the other bartenders you meet mention a temp agency]] which makes the connection all the more obvious.
* DS VisualNovel ''VisualNovel/TimeHollow'' posits the notion, in an optional extended ending, that [[spoiler:Sox the cat was the being behind most if not all of the game's events, or at the least that he's a mightier being than he lets on]].
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' : Okay, on the one hand, something was seriously wrong with Joshua. On the other hand, nobody really was expecting him to be [[spoiler: the Composer]].
* The Creator/{{Infocom}} TextAdventure game ''Bureaucracy'' (written by Creator/DouglasAdams of ''Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' fame) eventually revealed that the bureaucratic troubles the player had to navigate through during the entire game were secretly masterminded by an annoying nerd character who kept appearing at random and nagging the player to buy useless junk (and asking female characters for dates).
* In the ''VideoGame/MetalGear'' series, you don't find out who the founder of the [[AncientConspiracy Patriots]] really is until about halfway through ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots Guns Of The Patriots]]''. [[spoiler:It's Major Zero, the MissionControl from the ''[[VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3SnakeEater Snake Eater]]''.]] It's particularly a shocking reveal, since the character in question had not been revealed to have undergone a FaceHeelTurn or have traits of a WellIntentionedExtremist.
* In ''VideoGame/HotlineMiami'', who is organizing hitmen in animal masks to murder the Russian mafia? [[spoiler:It's the [[MilkmanConspiracy two janitors]] you see briefly in one of the first few missions in the game.]]
* In ''Videogame/BlueDragon'', the mastermind and final boss behind it all turns out to be [[spoiler: the friggin' blue frog thingy the bad guy carried around all the time]].
* ''Videogame/LifeIsStrange'' has [[spoiler:Mr Jefferson, the amiable and forgettable photography teacher be the GreaterScopeVillain]].
* In ''VideoGame/RaymanOrigins'', it turns out the person behind the all mess is [[spoiler: the magician who gave you advices in levels and collected your lums at the end of each one. Many players barely notice his appearance through the game leading to ShockingSwerve ]]. This twist was a holdover back from a time in development when the game still had an [[ExcusePlot actual story]], namely that [[spoiler: The Magician idolized Mr. Dark, the ever-mysterious BigBad of the very first game, and the whole plan was an attempt to emulate him.]]
* Appears often in the ''Franchise/ProfessorLayton'' series. Many seemingly innocuous, or at least well-meaning, characters, including [[spoiler: Chelmey in "The Curious Village," Flora in "The Diabolical Box," Doland the butler in "The Last Specter," and Angela in "The Miracle Mask,"]] are revealed to really be villains wearing infinitely clever (and impossibly detailed and well-fitting) costumes.
** It is especially prevalent in ''Video/ProfessorLaytonAndTheUnwoundFuture,'' which sees [[spoiler: Dimitri Allen disguised as the bartender at the Thames Arms, and Clive disguised as Future Luke. The latter plays it particularly straight because Clive has been parading around, as Future Luke, with Layton and his friends for most of the game, and had deceived his partner-in-crime, Dimitri, into believing he was building a time machine, when in reality, he was creating an enormous robotic weapon with which he intended to destroy London]].
** The inverse also occurs in ''Unwound Future,'' when [[spoiler: Don Paolo disguises himself as Layton as part of a plan Layton devised to foil Dimitri's attempts to trap him at the top of the Towering Pagoda]].
* In the indie game ''Pizza Delivery'' the real mastermind in the house was [[spoiler: the doll]].
* In the ''[[Literature/MaridAudran When Gravity Fails]]'' licensed game ''Circuit's Edge'' the mastermind behind what is going on turns out to be [[spoiler:the guy running the carpet shop]] who had no earlier involvement in the plot and you do not even have to meet at all when pursuing leads.
* ''VideoGame/KisekiSeries'':
** Just when you think ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfHeroesTrailsInTheSky'' has a simple story, [[spoiler: Professor Alba]] reveals, [[PlotTwist among other things]], that he's behind everything. In the second game's third chapter, you have to foil a planned attack on Liberl's capital. The one behind it all is [[spoiler: the little girl you spend part of the chapter playing hide and seek with.]]
** This series loves this trope so much that "Kiseki Paranoia" became a thing. In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfHeroesTrailsOfColdSteel'', [[spoiler: Crow is C and Misty/Vita is an Anguis of the Ouroboros.]] ''Cold Steel 3'' takes this UpToEleven by revealing that [[EvilChancellor Giliath Osbourne]]'s [[TheDragon Dragon]] is none other than [[spoiler: Alisa Reinford's father]], a character who not only ''[[TheGhost never appeared before]]'', but was heavily implied to be dead!
** This also stays true for ''VideoGame/ZeroNoKiseki''. The last remaining member of the D∴G Cult and the BigBad turns out to be [[spoiler: none other than the kindly doctor from St. Ursula, Joachim Gunter]]. And in Ao no Kiseki, we find out who killed Lloyd's brother. [[spoiler: It's Ian Grimwood, who's also an accomplice to the Crois family.]]
* In ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'', the metaphorical dog is.... YOU! Well, if you take the Independent route. You usurp Mister House, you savage the Legion, and then the pièce de résistance, you reveal to [[GeneralFailure General Oliver]] that you suckered the NCR as well. You're initially, and throughout the game, a courier. The three great factions vying for the Mojave essentially got suckered by their ''mailman''.
* In ''VisualNovel/{{Tsukihime}}'', the person who started the chain of events leading to the Near Side routes and was primarily responsible for everything that happens on the Far Side routes turns out to be [[spoiler: Kohaku, Akiha's maid]]
* ''Franchise/DanganRonpa'':
** ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' has a variation of this trope. [[spoiler:Ultimate Fashionista Junko Enoshima is killed early on by the BigBad, but late in the game it's revealed it wasn't actually Junko, but her twin sister. The real BigBad is... the actual Junko Enoshima, who was using her BackupTwin as a decoy, until she decided to kill her anyway.]]
** ''VisualNovel/SuperDanganRonpa2'' also plays with this trope. [[spoiler:It turns out Junko Enoshima is actually living on as an AI, which is how she hijacked the Neo World Program that the protagonists have been uploaded into and turned it into another killing game. But, pray, how did she get into the program in the first place? Why, it was all thanks to the main character himself! Or rather, his sociopathic Ultimate Despair persona, whom the Neo World Program was ''trying to fix.'']]
** ''VisualNovel/NewDanganRonpaV3'' pulls this off to a whole new level. [[spoiler:The Mastermind behind the killing game is ''not'' Junko nor Tsumugi Shirogane, but ''the developers of the Franchise/DanganRonpa franchise'', who decided to incorporate the elements of their games and turn it into an ''actual reality show'' set in the real world, and it's been going on for ''53 seasons''.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Rosenkreuzstilette}}'', the person responsible for instigating RKS' rebellion against the Holy Empire turns out to be [[spoiler:Iris Zeppelin, the biological daughter of Count Michael Zeppelin whom we all thought as just an average DamselInDistress, who is also revealed to be a reincarnation of Rosenkreuz. In the sequel, ~Freudenstachel~, she also instigated the church's founding of the Schwarzkreuz and the witch-hunt of the Magi (with help from Eifer Skute)]].
* In ''VisualNovel/NineHoursNinePersonsNineDoors'', the true mastermind; the person that planned the Nonary Game, planned the kidnapping of you and the other 8 people, blew up two people, and put you through the hellish game of life & death, is [[spoiler:the protagonist's childhood friend and love-interest, Akane. And she herself is exacting revenge on another guy who put her and multiple other children through an even ''more'' sadistic game nine years ago. Who is this GreaterScopeVillain, you ask? Why, it's your lovable elderly companion and co-participant, Ace!]]
* ''VisualNovel/VirtuesLastReward'' manages to top it's sister game "999", by having the mastermind behind everything be [[spoiler:the main character's future self]].
* And the [[http://www.spike-chunsoft.co.jp/zeroescape/index.html#prologue web preview page]] for the third game in the series, Zero Time Dilemma, shows a picture of a actual dog, "Gab", underneath the ''Mastermind'' header.
** ''VisualNovel/ZeroTimeDilemma'' [[spoiler:still continues with this tradition. It's revealed that the mastermind known as "Zero" was actually the blind and deaf old man in the wheelchair, who was so innocuous that he never even ''appears on camera'' before TheReveal.]]
*** You can also literally accuse a dog of being the mastermind. [[spoiler:It gets unique dialogue although Eric doesn't see the funny side and shoots the accuser on the spot for it.]]
* In ''VideoGame/MurderedSoulSuspect'', [[spoiler: The little girl that the protagonist first meets in the spirit world, after he is murdered, is the mastermind behind everything. She is originally presented as a friendly ghost who gives the protagonist a few tips about navigating in the spirit world. Then you don't see her again until the reveal that she is a witch who has been possessing the body of strong men to murder other witches, including the protagonist when he was alive. Then she sets the men up to be murdered to cover her tracks. If the player takes time to find all the collectables in the game, they'll uncover the truth before the reveal]].
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'' has Odin, the Dark Divinity [[spoiler: merely being a conjured or possessed wielder for the true primal, his sword, Zansetsuken. A hint is given when fighting his freeroaming FATE version, because the face of Odin is always the same as the last person to defeat him. TheReveal is shown after completing the Odin Extreme quest, when they realize his sword is always left behind after a fight unlike a normal primal. [[HereWeGoAgain And someone has just stolen the sword..]]]].
* See this cute looking robot in ''Third VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsZ: Tengoku-hen''? [[spoiler: He is in fact The Edel Bernel, specifically their representative, and thus was responsible for the majority of the events leading up to Z3]].
* In ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' [[spoiler:no one suspects that your ally, friend, and possible lover Solas is responsible for handing over the elven artifact that Corypheus used to create the Breach, any more than they suspect that he's guiding and using the Inquisition to his own ends - namely, retrieving the same artifact that he once gave to Corypheus - so that he can get on with his [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt original plan]]. A slightly more literal example than most, since Solas is the Dread Wolf]].
* In ''VideoGame/BillyVsSnakeman'', the main antagonist of the Hero's Quest arc (and by extension, most of the core game) is [[spoiler:Timmy, the young kid you helped train to be a ninja during your Special Jonin exam]]. In fact, [[spoiler:he's dating back to the War That Shattered The World, and he's been gathering information on how to kill you by hiding it in your Note every Loop, the accumulated knowledge turning him into quite the psychopath. Also, he's killed you several thousand times - before you started playing for the first time.]]
* In ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert'', Stalin's "advisor" (who up until then appeared once in the background and never spoke) is revealed to be none other than the BigBad of the ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberianSeries'', Kane.
* One of the example games in the ZZT scenario pack attempted this scenario, but thanks to the game having no identifiable character graphics (every character is represented by an ASCII smiling face), was reduced to having the final boss declare:
* In ''VideoGame/BravelyDefault'', [[spoiler:the whole crisis with the crystals, which has proven to spread between countless parallel worlds... was masterminded by that fairy who pops up on the bottom screen reminding you what the current objective is. "fLYING fAIRY", indeed.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TalesFromTheBorderlands'', the Masked Kidnapper that captured Rhys and Fiona at the beginning of the game and has been making them tell their story through flashbacks is revealed to be [[spoiler:Loader Bot. He witnessed Fiona destroy Gortys and felt betrayed, so he took the cyborg body Handsome Jack had built, downloaded himself into it, and captured Rhys and Fiona while hiding his identity to learn the full story from them, bring the team back together, and repair Gortys]].
* In ''VideoGame/BatmanTheTelltaleSeries'', the Children of Arkham's leader is [[spoiler:none other than news reporter Vicki Vale, an otherwise tangential figure until {{the reveal}} in Episode 3]].
* In ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil7Biohazard'', you realize [[spoiler: the BigBad is CreepyChild Eveline fairly early. However, you may not recognize Eveline as the wheelchair-bound senior citizen who you never see move or speak; she's aged decades in only a few years due to not having the medication that controls her mutations, and the previous sightings of child Eveline are hallucinations]].
* In ''VideoGame/UnchartedDrakesFortune'', one would assume that Gabriel Roman was the main antagonist looking to steal the treasure of El Dorado. However, at the game's climax, when he opens the golden coffin, he inhales the dust that drove the Spaniards mad and turned them into monsters. But before he could fully transform, he was shot by none other by his lackey, Navarro, who not only reveals that he led Roman to El Dorado, but had his suspicions of the treasure and used Roman as a guinea pig. And worst of all? He planned to sell it as a weapon to the highest bidder.
* In ''Videogame/RagnarokBattleOffline'' The final boss of the game turns out to be [[spoiler: a Kafra (member of a group of maids that in the original game provides saving, storage, and fast travel between cities) possessed by an unknown entity]].
* ''VideoGame/{{LISA}}: The Painful RPG''[='=]s GreaterScopeVillain turns out to be [[spoiler:a recurring NPC that can be seen playing the trumpet song in the area crossroads ("God's Call"). He's Dr. Yado, and he first just seems like a music gag-character unless one pieces together the various clues lying around.]]
* Done in more of a meta sense in ''Videogame/{{Undertale}}'', as the Annoying Dog that turns up frequently is the AuthorAvatar of the game's creator Toby Fox, and supposedly coded the game itself by whacking its face into a keyboard repeatedly.
* In ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaLamentOfInnocence'', [[spoiler: Leon Belmont's best friend, Mathias Cronqvist, who's only mentioned a handful of times throughout the game and is stated to be bedridden with grief after his wife's death, appears near the very end and reveals he orchestrated the entire plot so he could become a vampire [[RageAgainstTheHeavens as revenge against God for allowing his wife to die after devoting his life to serving Him.]] Since this is a prequel set before all the other games, this means that not only is Mathias the BigBad of this game, he's also the Big Bad for the ''entire series''. That's right. '''Mathias is Dracula.''']]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/TheAdventuresOfDrMcNinja'' story has one such reveal in the story [[spoiler: "There Is A Raptor In My Office". It turns out everything was engineered by the Fox News weatherman. Earlier in the story, he was all puffed up to do a story about three hurricanes in the Atlantic forming a Mickey Mouse shape only to be deflated by a lead in story about velociraptor riding banditos. The entire story sprung from his efforts to keep Dr. [=McNinja's=] latest adventure under the rug so that everyone will be interested in his story]].
* In ''Webcomic/RPGWorld'', after Galgarion disguises himself to infiltrate the heroes, we get an extremely elaborate RedHerringMole in the form of Eikre. Galgarion's actual disguise? [[spoiler:A ''flower'' that Eikre had bought and attempted to give to Cherry.]]
-->'''Eikre''': "Galgarion is [[spoiler:Cherry's ''butt'']]?! [[CrowningMomentOfFunny This is gonna be the coolest boss fight ever!]]"
* One ''Webcomic/ElectricWonderland'' story detailed Trawn's attempts to report on the bombing of the Nettropolis Mall. Lululu helps her find the man she suspected of causing the explosion, but he turns out to be a decoy. Who ''really'' led the attack? [[spoiler:The cat seen sitting on the suspect's table while Trawn searched his apartment for evidence.]] Anyone can take on any form in {{Cyberspace}}, after all.
* ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' has two key examples.
** Betty Crocker and Her Imperious Condescension. Both of them are little more than background references until it turns out that [[spoiler:they're actually the same person and a major villain in Act 6]].
** Everybody figured that Lil' Cal was at minimum extremely creepy. It was a bit of a shock when he's revealed to be [[spoiler:Doc Scratch's "father" of sorts]]. Then it's revealed that Cal himself [[spoiler:contains the soul of Caliborn, also known as Lord English - the primary antagonist of the entire story. [=ARquisprite=] and half of Gamzee Makara are also stuck inside his body]].
* The ''Webcomic/{{Roommates}}'' special titled "Mystery" would be a pretty standard FairPlayWhodunnit, if the culprit wouldn't turn out to be (for everybody's surprise including the detective) a freaking {{Muppet}}. It was background color and didn't seem to have any life of its own (carried around by a puppeteer) until the reveal. It... she also gives a pretty awesome MotiveRant to explain why she did it (she was jealous of the CultClassic status of some other {{muppet}}s running around the comic).
* The first arc of ''Webcomic/{{Unsounded}}''. Surely Cutter, the weird, [[RhymesOnADime rhyming]], over-the-top [[LizardFolk lizard man]], couldn't be the engineer behind the FantasticNuke! But he is, and a member of the [[MadScientist Black Tongues]] to boot. The only real clue is that his bizarre and sadistic personality is seemingly not typical of lizard-men, though we only see a few others. [[spoiler:He was apparently a guinea pig for the magical MadScientist Delicieu, and may or may not be Delicieu himself implanted into that lizard's body.]]
* In the Spanish webcomic ''Webcomic/ElVosque'', [[spoiler:the human king of the eponymous realm is a fat moron who seemingly only thinks about eating and having fun, to the point that he celebrates his birthday ''twice'' a year.]] Yeah, guess who the mastermind of the plan for the Other Kingdom's invasion of El Vosque really is.

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* In ''Literature/GreekNinja'', the one behind the attacks at Ariadnio and the danger unlike any the world had ever faced before, turned out to be [[spoiler: none other than a weak and bitter man from Sasha Hunter's past]]. [[ItMakesSenseInContext Really really past life...]]
* The identity of the butcher in ''WebVideo/ThereWillBeBrawl'' turns out to be [[spoiler:a duo: Ness and Lucas, who were seen briefly in an early episode]]. This was so effective that ''nobody'' in WildMassGuessing correctly guessed it. WordOfGod near-explicitly denied the possibility beforehand, claiming that [[spoiler: Ness or Lucas wouldn't play a large part in the series, since child actors were too hard to work with]]. While not ''[[ExactWords technically]]'' false, [[spoiler: since they only appeared in those two scenes and had no speaking parts,]] this was a highly misleading statement that helped to divert suspicion from the culprit(s).
* In episode 86 of ''WebAnimation/BonusStage'' it was revealed the second version of Evil was [[spoiler:MALCOLM, a very minor character who only appeared in one episode prior and never showed any signs of being evil]].
** It was originally going to be revealed to be someone else, but Matt Wilson got sick of doing the series and just ended the arc on an AssPull.
* Occasionally happens in ''Literature/ShadowUnit''--due to the nature of the anomaly, the gamma could be ''anybody'', including the sweet little old lady, the shy teenager, [[spoiler:a member of the team]]...
* In ''[[Blog/TheRaptureLogs OH GOD THE RAPTURE IS BURNING]]'', [[spoiler:Cockroach Jesus]] was meant to be a throwaway creature, the warmup to all the silly crazy creatures in the serial novel. However, by about Act III, [[spoiler:it is discovered he is the BigBad of the entire thing, and is the emissary to the universe-destroying [[GreaterScopeVillain Rapture]].]]
* Used/Parodied by [[WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall Linkara]] in a "previously" that had nothing to do with the comic.
-->'''Linkara:''' You! You're the secret manipulator behind everything! ''*pulls out a stuffed bear*'' BEARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
** Later in one of his serious storylines, it was revealed that [[EldritchAbomination The Entity]] had actually taken the form of [[CloudCuckooLander 90s Kid]] for months without anyone realizing it.
* The "DNA Evidence" arc of ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner''. After being ArcWords in a number of otherwise unrelated shorts, we get a story about a vial of green DNA Evidence that keeps changing hands and getting stolen. Turns out that it was from [[spoiler: Strong Sad, who doesn't want anyone to find out if he's part elephant]].
* In ''Series/BecomingHuman'', it turns out the killer is [[spoiler: Mr. Roe, the mild-mannered teacher, helpful teacher who was the only character to never be a suspect]]. A second more minor example is [[spoiler: the janitor, who spent a lot of time in the background before being believed to be an accomplice, but eventually turned out to be a RedHerring... or was he? ]]
* The TwistEnding of [[http://gegenschein17.deviantart.com/art/Sliding-Scale-of-Evil-299292851 this]] one-off ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fancomic.
* WebVideo/{{Phelous}} has some fun with trope while reviewing The Amityville Horror 4. Why? The big villain is a demon possessed lamp. No, really.
* The genocide arc of ''Website/GaiaOnline'''s storyline started in 2010 with vampire assassin Zhivago taking out a hit on Johnny K. Gambino, then reporting back to someone. Since Zhivago's previous boss was KilledOffForReal in 2007, the forums were abuzz with speculation on who the new boss would be, with guesses ranging from a [[UnexplainedRecovery resurrected Vlad Von Helson]] to the de-powered demigods to [[MindScrew Gambino himself]]. Finally, an update revealed Zhivago talking to his new boss... [[spoiler: [[TheMafia Don]] Luca [[OurElvesAreBetter Kuro]], a side character from a half-canceled forum event the year before]].
** Similarly, the main villain in Gaia's MMO game, ''[=zOMG!=]''? [[spoiler: Labtech X, a character who hadn't been heard from since his apparent death in 2005.]] Most of the ''players'' didn't know who that was, unless they'd been very thorough in reading the plot events and comics.
* ''WebVideo/LeVisiteurDuFutur'': When confronted to the BigBad, who so far only had been shown in the shadow, the Visitor asks him who he might be, successively suggesting a future or past version of himself, a future version of Raph or even a future version of their idiotic henchmen. Turns out they were... [[spoiler:a future version of two of Raph's friends who had only appeared briefly in the first episode of the season at this point]].
* In one ''Roleplay/GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse'' story, the mastermind behind the assault on a bank was the ten-year old boy the bank robbers released as a "good faith" gesture to the police.
* In ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', [[spoiler: the narrator of the intro]] is revealed to be the main villain.
* In the finale of [[https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfnopZIrGu0NZhqRjEKA3tg MangoTango's]] ''Yandere Middle School'', the main villain and one responsible for [[spoiler: Mr. Love's death and Sabre and Khloe's disappearance]] is none other than [[spoiler: "Can only say Yeah" [=RicherKidRichard=]]].
* In Andrew Kepple/TMST's 'Colin vs. Jesus' Animutation trilogy, the evil plastic Jesus H. Christ is revealed at the end to actually have been the 'Random Pokerap Guy' from the very first Animutation, who tried to conquer the world of Animutation all because he was jealous that Colin Mochrie got all the fame instead of him.
* The season 4 arc of the podcast ''Podcast/WelcomeToNightvale'' features a very literal version of this trope. [[spoiler: Though to be fair, the BigBad was really an evil eldritch entity / Satan just maskerading as a cute beagle puppy to charm people.]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** The trope name comes from the episode "Beyond Blunderdome" where Homer produces a remake of ''Film/MrSmithGoesToWashington'' in which the villain is replaced by a dog, made obvious (to Homer) because "[[TraitorShot the dog has shifty eyes]]". The exchange is below, courtesy of SNPP:
--->'''Creator/MelGibson:''' You want me to replace the villain with a dog? I mean nobody will know what's going on. \\
'''Homer:''' They will if you set up that the dog is evil. All you do is have to show him doing this. [lowers eyelids and glances around in shifty-eyed fashion] [[TropeNamers The people will suspect the dog.]]
*** As a BrickJoke, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T55ArHjeR1c a dog with shifty eyes appears at the end of the episode.]]
** The two-part episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns?". The culprit was [[spoiler: ''Maggie'']]. Funnily enough, there's a "shifty-eyed" moment that lets you know it: in Part 1, Mr. Burns asks the angry mob who's actually brave enough to stop him. Watch that scene and notice the ''one person'' who just keeps glaring without looking away. This twist ending gets a call-back a few seasons down the line, when a Mob gang that has come to punish Homer are all taken down with [[ImprobableAimingSkills precise, non-life-threatening shots]] from an unseen sniper. Who shot Fat Tony? Who do you ''think?''
** When Bart tells Lisa he wants to be reincarnated as a butterfly, Lisa asks why. He has an ImagineSpot after telling her, ''"Nobody suspects the butterfly..."''
--> '''Principal Skinner:''' I didn't burn down the school. It was the butterfly, I tell you! The butterfly!
--> '''Chief Wiggum:''' He's crazy boys. Get the taser.
--> Camera pans to Bart-reborn-as-a-butterfly holding an incredibly obvious and large gas tank, laughing maniacally.
* [[spoiler: The deer]] in the ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'' episode "No One Can Hear You".
* In the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode [[Recap/BatmanTheAnimatedSeriesE18BewareTheGrayGhost "Beware the Gray Ghost"]], the HiddenVillain MadBomber is [[spoiler:[[ChekhovsGunman the young toy collector that bought Simon Trent Gray Ghost memorabilia earlier in the episode]]]].
-->'''Simon Trent:''' What did you find?\\
'''Batman:''' Fingerprints on the toy car. And they belong to you, Simon Trent.\\
'''Simon Trent:''' That's not possible.\\
'''Batman:''' Your prints are on this car. You had the only copy of the show. The Mad Bomber followed the show step by step.\\
'''Simon Trent:''' But I'm not the Mad Bomber, Batman. I'm not. I sold my Gray Ghost cars months ago to pay for my... ''[[BeneathSuspicion No, it can't be him.]]''
* In ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', one episode has the Eds track down someone who went to great lengths to frame them for various crimes. [[spoiler:It ultimately turned out to be Jimmy - the person that Double-D immediately wrote off - was angry at Eddy for casually giving him a wedgie.]]
* One episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddParents'' has Timmy accidentally wish for a crew of pirates led by a captain named [[TheUnintelligible Dirtbeard]] that begins to pillage the town. In the end its revealed that [[spoiler: Dirtbeard is NOT the leader, his ''parrot'' is. Dirtbeard got a chicken bone stuck in his throat decades ago, and the parrot has been interpreting his unintelligible screeching wrong on purpose to lead the crew from behind the scenes]].
* In the TenLittleMurderVictims episode of ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy''. James Woods invites the core cast, "Family, friends and neighbours" to his mansion during a storm and people start getting killed off one by one. Turns out its [[spoiler: Diane Simmons; Tom Tucker wanted to replace her with a younger sexier co-star which would cost her her job so she started murdering people in order to frame him]]. Another twist, is that [[spoiler: Lois is the only one who knew she did it, so she was going to kill Lois. But Stewie from the mansion roof kills her first, saying no one kills Lois but him. The twist about this is that several seasons back he gave up trying to kill her and turned from the psychotic murdering child, into a giddy cheerful (possibly) homosexual, so it was unexpected to see Stewie acting like his old evil self]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Fangbone}}'', at the end of the two-part episode "The End Of The Beginning", it's revealed that [[spoiler:Venomous Drool's toe orchestrated the events of the episode to have Drool defeated so it could be free to implement its own plans]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'':
** The climax of the movie, ''Into the Wild Green Yonder,'' involved Fry trying to figure out the identity of the Dark One, who was the only individual whose mind Fry wouldn't be able to read. After he's able to read the mind of seemingly everyone else there, he comes to the conclusion that he himself has to be the Dark One. He isn't. The Dark One is [[spoiler:the leech that Leela saved at the beginning of the movie, and which has been attached to her neck more-or-less ever since]].
** In "That Darn Katz!" Amy finds out the professor who failed her doctoral presentation was an elaborate marionette worked by his ''cat'', who sabotaged her so he could steal her idea to use it to sacrifice Earth to save the cat home planet.
* An early ''WesternAnimation/HeyArnold'' episode has a WholePlotReference to ''Film/TwelveAngryMen'', as Arnold tries to defend [[BornUnlucky Eugene]] from the accusation of having pulled the school fire alarm. The evidence for his innocence piles up and eventually [[spoiler:Curly]], one of the other jurors, confesses. This was the first time the culprit had any sort of characterization, but sure enough s/he can be seen several times in the background when the crime was committed.
* Spoofed in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/InvaderZim:'' [[VillainProtagonist Zim]] is plotting in his lab, and we get several establishing shots of his surroundings, including an inexplicable cooked turkey with flies buzzing around it. A few minutes later it suddenly bursts open to reveal his [[RobotBuddy robotic servant]], [[CloudCuckooLander GIR]].
-->'''GIR:''' It was ''MEEEE! I'' was the turkey ''all along!''\\
'''Zim:''' ({{Beat}}) I was wondering what that turkey was doing there.
* At the end of ''[[WesternAnimation/JohnnyBravo Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood]]'', it turns out the mastermind behind the whole evil plot was [[spoiler:Johnny's helper monkey Jeeves]].
* The villain from the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' mini-arc taking place in a parody of Silver Age comics was actually [[spoiler: the Jimmy Olson {{Expy}} that had only appeared a few times before that and had actually created the false reality with his mind]].
* The BigBad of ''WesternAnimation/MuchaLucha'''s [[TheMovie movie]] is [[spoiler: a random girl that appears at the beginning]].
* The episode "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E24MysteryOnTheFriendshipExpress MMMystery on the Friendship Express]]" of ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', which ends with the reveal of [[spoiler: EverybodyDidIt, in a show about being truthful and unselfish]]. Any resemblance to a famous mystery novel is wholly intentional.
* The three-parter "Brainwashed" of ''WesternAnimation/PinkyAndTheBrain'' has several false leads behind the mastermind heading the plot to dumb down the world. Turns out it's the cat belonging to the scientist responsible for genetically modifying the eponymous mice.
* A throwaway scene in the third ''WesternAnimation/RobotChicken Franchise/StarWars Special'' reveals that Jar-Jar engineered the events of both trilogies, as he was a powerful Sith Lord.
* ''Franchise/ScoobyDoo'':
** ''WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooMysteryInc'' uses this a fair bit - usually, of the named characters, the culprit is the one who seems secondary, is introduced completely outside the course of the mystery, and doesn't seem to have anything to do with it at all. The biggest examples are probably [[spoiler:the Trickel's Triquids mascot]] from "Revenge of the Man Crab", who only appeared for 10 seconds, and [[spoiler:the Minner brothers]] from "Battle of the Humongonauts", who didn't appear at all before the unmasking and were only mentioned in radio ads and one scene on a billboard. "Wrath of Krampus" still beats them though; [[spoiler: the gang are behind the Krampus attacks, using them to trick the original Mystery Inc.]]
** Appears in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/WhatsNewScoobyDoo'' that took place in Greece involving a series of centaur attacks. At the end of the episode, Velma explains all the evidence that suggested that the criminal was the archaeologist, then unmasks it to reveal... a woman that she doesn't know. The mastermind was [[spoiler:the archaeologist's partner, who appeared ''in the teaser'' before the gang showed up]]. The trope is even {{lampshade|Hanging}}d when Velma complains that this should not count as her being wrong because she'd never seen the woman before and begins to sulk. Ironically, that episode is paired with another episode that took place in New Mexico involving attacks by a large bird. [[spoiler:The culprit didn't even appear before the unmasking!]]
** The ''WesternAnimation/APupNamedScoobyDoo'' episode "Chickenstein Lives" had the monster be an unidentified man, [[spoiler: who was actually "Granny Sweetwater" [[CreepyCrossdresser without the wig and dress]]]]. And one-upped in "Wrestle Maniacs" where the monster was really an unidentified man, [[spoiler: who was really "The Coolsville Comet", who looked different because he wrestled with a different mask on that made his face look completely different]]!
** OlderThanTheyThink. In the [[WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooWhereAreYou original series]] episode "A Clue For Scooby Doo" no one recognizes the unmasked monster at first, until Shaggy [[SmartBall of all people]] puts a beard on him. The ghost of the dead Captain Cutler was actually... [[FakingTheDead a very much alive]] [[ShapedLikeItself Captain Cutler]].
** In ''[[WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooCampScare Camp Scare]]'' the culprit ended up being [[spoiler:Deacon]] who was really [[spoiler:Babyface Boretti]] and Velma actually said "I did not see that coming."
** In an earlier movie, "[[WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooInWheresMyMummy Where's My Mummy]]", the villain was [[spoiler: Velma, who wanted to protect an archaeological site.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' has an InUniverse example: [[TagalongKid Steven]] and the Gems are watching a kung-fu movie, and the bad guy turns out to be the janitor. [[TheSmartGuy Pearl]] says it was obvious, since he had been in the background of every previous fight and was also on the DVD cover.
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'':
** In "About Last Night...", Kyle's toddler brother Ike was the key player in Obama and [=McCain's=] ''Film/OceansEleven''-style heist.
** A variation occurs in the Mysterion Trilogy ("Coon 2: Coon and Friends", "Mysterion Rises", and "Coon vs. Coon and Friends") when [[LateArrivalSpoiler Kenny as Mysterion]] tries to find out the origin of his immortality, learning it has something to do with the Cult of C'tulu. When a [[Franchise/{{Superman}} Jor-El type]] [[MakesJustAsMuchSenseInContext man in a glowing ball appears to explain everything completely out of nowhere]], it turns out [[spoiler: he was actually talking to Bradley Biggle AKA Mintberry Crunch, who had been a LivingProp up until these episodes, about HIS superpowers]].
** The TwistEnding from "Naughy Ninjas" reveals a RunningGag character as the season's BigBad.
-->'''Tom the Newsman:''' They are all part of [[WhamLine a plan to take down your town and everyone in it]].
-->'''Officer Barbrady:''' What?
-->'''Tom the Newsman:''' What do you know about [[spoiler:a little girl named Leslie]]?
* ''WesternAnimation/TheGrimAdventuresOfBillyAndMandy'':
** The true mastermind behind the events of the second movie was [[spoiler:a carton of chocolate milk. ItMakesSenseInContext, sort of]].
** An even ''stranger'' example occurs in one episode where Billy and Mandy are taken by a demonic circus troupe to be performers. The episode ends with an obvious spoof of Scooby-Doo-esque unmaskings when everyone is trying to figure out who was really the one behind the circus. The culprit is revealed to be disguised as ''many'' random characters, including Eris and Billy's mom, but it turns out that the ''real'' culprit was [[spoiler:a ''common earthworm'']]. It's only made even more [[MindScrew screwy]] that everyone ''acts'' like this makes perfect sense, except Billy, who is, for once, understandably confused.
* In ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerPuffGirls'' episode "Cat Man Do", the girls defeat a villain and adopt his RightHandCat -- only the ''cat'' was the real criminal, using hypnosis to make his "master" do his bidding.
* In the ending montage of ''WesternAnimation/OverTheGardenWall,'' it's revealed that the leader of the village of [[ItMakesSenseInContext skeletons in pumpkin costumes]] is actually a black housecat. Though if you're paying attention to the ''opening'' montage, [[HiddenInPlainSight it may not be as surprising]].
* Parodied in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/HouseOfMouse'', where the all the club's guests are mysteriously disappearing, and Mickey gets a clue from Ludwig Von Drake's "Detect-o-Matic Crime-puter". [[spoiler:It turns out to be a ''straight'' example, though: it was someone so incredibly BeneathSuspicion that even Mickey would seem obvious in comparison: the Crime-puter itself (which was being controlled by the Phantom Blob.)]]
-->'''Mickey:''' Look, "the criminal is the person you least suspect".
-->'''Goofy:''' MICKEY! I would have suspected I didn't suspect it was you!
* The SeasonFinale of Season 5 of ''[[WesternAnimation/DragonsRidersOfBerk Dragons: Race to the Edge]]'' ends with [[spoiler: Viggo and Krogan, previously presented as the leaders of the dragon-flyers, reporting to their actual boss ... Trader Johann, whose greedy but well-meaning LovableCoward act turns out to have been just that]].
* ''Close Encounters Of The Rick Kind'' of ''WesternAnimation/RickAndMorty'' ends with the reveal that Evil!Rick was nothing more than a cyborg puppet and ends with [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH56me1-Ja0 his Morty removing the controlling transmitter and blending in with the other Mortys to escape]].
--> ''"[[TheStinger I made the page! I did it!]]"''
--> ''"[[BeneathSuspicion Nahhh, it can't be]]'' you."