Most characters in fiction, like people in real life, have broad lists of priorities and restrictions that determine their behaviour. We care about what other people think of us, how we will be able to feed ourselves in the future, the well-being of friends and family, our worldly goods, etc. etc. Of course how much we care about any given restriction or priority varies from person to person, but in general, we don't have any one given goal for which we would throw everything else away.
The Unfettered is not one of these people.
This is the character who can commit themselves to a single goal completely, absolutely, and unflinchingly. In pursuit of a goal they have no limits, inhibitions, or fear. Nothing chains them or holds them back (thus the name). You cannot make them flinch or falter. They cannot be intimidated, blackmailed, coerced, or otherwise convinced to back off from achieving their goal. There is no sacrifice they are unwilling to make or principle they are unwilling to compromise. The traits that make a character Unfettered can be summarized as follows:
Prioritizes ruthlessly: In the pursuit of Goal Z, there is no X that Unfettered Bob is not willing to sacrifice, whether X is money, the lives of friends and family, reputation, jobs, whatever. How ambitious the goal is does not matter; the only possible problem Unfettered Bob has with ambition is the chance of poor resource allocation. That's to say, he'll only pass up sacrificing X now if he needs X down the line and Goal Z would be equally served by sacrificing Y instead. Unfettered Bob can judge harshly and instantly weigh the costs and value of priorities relative to Goal Z. If he can achieve Goal Z without losing his girlfriend Alice, that's great, but if the enemies hold her hostage and saving her's not an option, Alice isn't going to get more than maybe an apology and a mental note by Bob to avenge her after Goal Z is completed. (Unless Goal Z is "protect Alice at all costs", in which case the bad guys could hold the rest of humanity hostage in exchange for Alice and Bob wouldn't give a damn.)
Ignores moral guidelines: The Unfettered is not just Above Good and Evil, he's left that behind a while ago. His only code is win, win, win. Does Unfettered Bob have to find a cure for Ebola, AIDS and cancer in order to overthrow the evil empire? Okay, he'll do it, the evil empire's pharmaceuticals CEOs are going to find themselves running out of business. Wait, now Bob has to burn down an orphanage to get at the Emperor? Okay, he'll do that too. Sorry, kids, but Bob's need outweighs your lives.
Devoid of apprehension or indecision in their actions: When Unfettered Bob makes decisions, he makes them now, and doesn't waffle over them. Neither failure, nor anything else, is feared by these characters, since for them regret is irrelevant if not impossible. It's not even a question of notgivingup for these characters; they simply can not look at the world in a way where their goal appears impossible (unless they change their mind and their goal, in which case the new goal is likewise viewed). This doesn't mean Unfettered Bob is hasty, though; an unfettered character is willing to wait years to achieve their goal if that sort of patience is required.
Lacks emotions, or doesn't let them interfere in decision making: There are two reactions an unfettered character can have to doing something unsavory, like sacrificing comrades or innocents. They can react with callousness and indifference, showing no real emotion or feeling of loss. Alternatively, they can react with much emotional anguish - but this anguish has no effect on how they behave. Unfettered characters showing this second reaction may cry or be physically sick when in private, or even when publicly making the sacrifice, but that won't slow them down. They do not worry, since anxiety is irrelevant to achieving their goals.
But The Unfettered does not have to be all purely unfettered all the time.
Examples of characters who do not maintain this state indefinitely still count. This is a difficult thing for a writer to achieve in writing a story, or for a character to maintain within it. There are Unfettered who can only keep this up for a limited period of time, and may retire from the heroics to settle back into a life limited by family and career once their goal is achieved. Other characters don't become unfettered until events move them to throw away their chains. Going on The Last Dance may compel a character to remake himself in this way, and crossing of the Godzilla Threshold may similarly force one to pull out all the stops.
An unfettered is allowed to have multiple goals and still qualify as Unfettered, as long as he can still prioritize ruthlessly between goals. For this reason, Unfettered are rarely devoted to more than one person at a time, since they must be willing to sacrifice others regardless of how much they love or admire them. Somebody who is willing to list his True Companions from most to least important and throw them away without hesitation on that basis is, by definition, a lousy comrade. Somebody who can't do that is, by definition, not Unfettered. It doesn't matter how much else they're willing to throw away; if anything restricts them from completing Goal Number 1, then they don't qualify for the trope.
The Black Order of D.Gray-Man is probably an entire organization of these people. Established with the sole purpose of averting the Apocalypse, no sacrifice is too great, no experiment too hideous, or no line too sacred to cross when it comes to defeating the Millennium Earl. Individuals within the organization do deviate from this goal, but the organization at large has a single-minded purpose.
The Contractors in Darker Than Black prioritize their own survival to this level and have absolutely no shame and restraint in doing anything as long as it ensures their long-term survival, although as we eventually learn there are a few exceptions.
Akagi in Akagi will do whatever it takes to win, whether cheating a blind opponent, throwing a friend into a high-stakes game just to see how the opponent reacts or handicapping himself by throwing away a significant fraction of his blood. Even his allies describe him as a monster and a demon.
Some viewers feel that Lelouch and Suzaku achieve this mentality at the end of Code Geass. Lelouch in particular forces another character to back down by threatening suicide, as he'd rather die than not achieve his goals. In general, while he might talk the talk, his ties to hisfriends (and ''especially'' sister) do act as fetters—for most of the series. It's only after Lelouch loses most of them that he's really willing to do anything for his goals. At which point he conquers half the world in about an hour.
On a more temporary basis, Lelouch's Geass turns its victims into this whilst they're under its effects. They'll stop at nothing to fulfil the command given to them, no matter how many of their usual principles (be they self-preservation or not going on genocidal massacres) it violates.
In Death Note, though it's tempting to say Light qualifies, he kills people he would normally consider good (threatening his goal), because they hurt his pride (example: Lind L Tailor). Both L and Light sacrifice many things that seem important to them in pursuit of their goals, such as Light's family and L's privacy and safety, but neither are particularly expressive about what exactly they aim for or value In Light of this, the series' best candidate for this trope is Misa. She is willing to kill innocents in order to find her idol, Kira, and give half her life to make herself more useful to him. When she achieves this, she changes her goal to winning Light's affection. It is the threat of his displeasure rather than execution that prevents her from following him continually, she kills for him, she refuses to name him under mild torture, she is willing to help him catch Kira (when she doesn't know he is Kira) and she is pleased when he tricks her long-time companion, Rem, into dying to protect her, freeing him of suspicion.
Mello absolutely qualifies, as he's willing to to anything to accomplish his one unchangeable goal, defeat Near.
Near even says in the manga that Mello would rather die than be or live with defeat.
Also Beyond Birthday in Death Note: Another Note has only one goal: "get L's attention" and he will do anything to further that goal.
Askeladd and Canute in Vinland Saga both fit this, though the former appears to be a tad too jaded.
In Bleach, Dordonii Alessandro Del Socacchio admits feeling ashamed at striking at the childlike Nel in order to draw out Ichigo's full strength, but points out that "If your objective is to 'protect my friends' and my objective is to 'defeat you at full strength', then what I am going to aim for is not you, but that one little baby, nothing more."
Gin Ichimaru is also a candidate of this trope. His main objective for following Aizen was to avenge what was done to Rangiku when they were kids. He was relentless in achieving this goal; he killed people and threw away Soul Society's trust, his captaincy, his friendship with Kira, and even his friendship with Rangiku in order to get close enough to Aizen to kill him.
One interesting example is when he holds a knife to the throat of an innocent old lady, threatening her "wellbeing" if Kaname and the others come closer. Kaname defuses it with her Paper Fan of Doom, and proceeds to attack him.
Later on in the manga/novels while he is searching the world for Chidori he truly does become The Unfettered. Finding her becomes his purpose in life. All of his decisions come back to how he has to find her.
In Naruto, the titular character is an example of one of the inverse trope. By contrast, his main enemies largely fall under this trope.
At introduction, Gaara was solely driven by his desire to face and kill strong opponents, thus proving his own strength. Naruto was absolutely terrified by this as he couldn't understand how somebody could survive the loneliness and grow strong.
Orochimaru dedicated his entire being to living forever, performing gruesome experiments on himself and countless victims in pursuit of a perfect host. He sacrificed his four elite bodyguards and most prized subordinate to ensure Sasuke could defect and barely batted an eye.
Sasuke's brother, Itachi, should be counted as well. He was willing to murder his friend, his own parents and cause the potential genocide of his entire clan at the whims of the leaders of Leaf Village if it meant protecting his brother.
And most Akatsuki members as well, such as Hidan and Kakuzu. Both don't care who gets in their way as long as it completes their objectives (for Hidan its slaughter for his god Jashin and for Kakuzu it's profit).
Tobi. Or, to be more exact, Obito. Nothing will stop him from achieving his goals, even if it means he has to murder his sensei and his wife, his entire family, and plunge the entire world in a war with them against an army of white Zetsus and Edo Tensei Zombies. The fact that he intends his Assimilation Plot to Take Over the World to include everyone important to him being alive justifies this in his mind.
By the same token, Madara. He chose to abandon his clan and his friendship with Hashirama to pursue the Assimilation Plot he later handed down to Obito.
In Saiyuki, Ukoku Sanzo aka Nii Jiyeni is the Zen philosophical version of this trope: he's come out the other side of Nietzsche Wannabe and fully embraced his own interpretation of the concept of "hold nothing", which is one of the series' main themes. He's one of the series' most frightening villains as a result.
Griffith from Berserk fits this to a tee; his Establishing Character Moment is when he sells out his entire band of soldiers to a group of god-like demons in order to become one of them because he'd plateaued while attempting to reach his goal of having his own country.
Guts himself qualified when he was Walking the Earth alone. When demons tried to put an innocent girl between him and themselves he didn't even blink before cleaving her in half. Since then he has gained another group of True Companions and has softened up considerably.
Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion wants to bring about The End Ofthe World As We Know It, both to merge all human souls into one so they will be liberated of misunderstandings and suffering and to be reunited with his wife, whose soul is currently trapped in a mecha. To achieve this, he's willing to use his own son and surrogate daughter (Both of which he actually cares about, even if its all but apparent at first) as tools guinea pigs, makes them fight monsters, does his fair share of large-scale scheming and manipulation, and goes even as far as offering his body to a pair of Yan Dere scientist whom he found annoying at best to keep them placated and thus useful for his plans. He's generally a very pragmatic person who's not above sacrificing the life of a 14-year old kid for the greater good (or what he sees as such), but will do the dirty work himself if he should be forced to. (For example, pulling ropes amongst some random technicians when there's a blackout.)
Emiya Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero - completely unfettered, to the point of seeming more despicable than some of the villains; but he redeems himself upon realising that his driving goal is unattainable.
Monster: Johan Liebert kills anyone who gets in his way without any feeling about what he's doing. One character that he's about to execute tells another character, "He doesn't even blink when he kills people."
Not to mention Inspector Lunge, who follows this trope to a T. He is convinced Tenma is responsible for the deaths and that Johan doesn't exist to where he devotes every waking second of his life to tracking down Tenma and capturing him. Lunge even accepts a divorce from his wife without any second thoughts and made it absolutely clear to her that his investigation always comes first. Lunge finally encounters Johan himself near the end of the series and does a Heel-Face Turn, at least after his world comes crashing down around him.
Jomy in Toward the Terra turns into one after the destruction of Nazca. He leads the Mu to war, gives Tony the okay to kill surrendering soldiers and is ready to abandon a station full of Mu hostages. Many Mu feel disgusted by these actions. Fortunately, he gets better.
Yuji Sakai from Shakugan no Shana becomes this after merging with the Snake of the Festival. He will to anything to create a world where Crimson Denizens no longer have to consume humans to survive.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Akemi Homura characterises this trope as the ideal state of being for a magical girl, due to the nature of their contract. Fittingly enough, she is one herself, being willing to do absolutely anything in order to save Madoka. Just check out this exchange between her and Madoka in episode 5:
Homura:That contract forces you to give up on everything in exchange for a single desire.
Madoka: So you've given up too? You've given up on yourself and the other girls? On everything?
Dragon Ball Z: This is the reason why Kid Buu is considered the most dangerous form of Majin Buu, despite being weaker than his previous form, Super Buu. Fat Buu was persuaded not to kill and destroy anymore since he didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong, and Super Buu was (barely) reasoned with by appealing to his desire to fight strong opponents. Kid Buu, however, literally doesn't care about anything beyond destruction, and the first thing he does is destroy the Earth. Then the neighboring planets. Then he set his sights on the afterlife.
The Major from Hellsing, his only goal is to wage war, he doesn't care who wins, loses or dies so long as the war is waged.
Huey Laforet and Claire Stanfield from Baccano!. The only moral question Huey considers dwelling upon is the question of "is this action For Science!?" Claire, on the other hand, is thoroughly convinced that he's the king of the world and thus just does whatever he damn well wants to at the moment.
Ironically, Huey himself considers Elmer to be this. He might actually be right.
Elmer: I'd sell the souls of all humanity to the devil if I thought it'd get us a happy ending.
Ryo Narushima from Shamo doesn't just live this trope, he practically is this trope. There is absolutely nothing he is not willing to do to win a fight and survive. This includes: various acts of sometimes completely unprovoked assault, maiming opponents, calling up a rival on the phone while raping his girlfriend, murdering his own parents with a knife, taking dangerous illegal steroids, and even biting off a man's penis.
Hanma Yujiro from Baki the Grappler will go to any lengths to have a good fight. His worst action by far is the sheer hell he has put his son through just to have someone even potentially equal to him. He even states to his son Baki that if he fails to live up to his expectations, he will repeat the whole process with his son.
Rau Le Creuset from Gundam SEED. He'll do anything, even die in the process, to complete his goal of annihilating the human race.
Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing starts off like this in the very beginning of the series, not caring if or how he dies, so long as he can complete his mission but it fades as he begins to give a crap about human life.
Mikasa from Attack on Titan. Her goal is simple: protect Eren at all costs, from any threat. Be they Titan... or human.
This is also the motivation of the Survey Corps Commander Erwin Smith. His aim is to defeat the Titans. No sacrifice is too big if it furthers that goal. Later on in the manga, Armin starts coming over to that line of thinking too.
Lucy, Kurama, Bando, and Director Kakuzawa from Elfen Lied. Lucy has no reservations about doing anything in her considerable amount of power to kill all the humans and replace them with her species. Kurama's goal is to save the human race, even if it involves terminating innocent children and women alike. Bando's goal is to kill Lucy no matter what the cost is. Director Kakuzawa's goal is to wipe out the human race, replace it with the Diclonius, and be worshiped by them as their new "God".
Aoshi in Rurouni Kenshin, for a time. The goal: bring honor to fallen comrades (by defeating Kenshin, naturally). The sacrifices: working for the omnicidal Big Bad, attempted murder of his Old Master, tossing out all morals, and (would have included) his own life.He got better.
The fact that The Joker is this character is probably what keeps him from being viewed as a Complete Monster (...sometimes...). Have to admire a comedian who will do anything for the joke.
This was further expanded on in the alternate continuity Joker comic (which was told through the viewpoint of one of his new henchmen after his latest escape from Arkham): The Joker hates apologies. He hates the entire concept of apologising. He is thus able to commit to things (and commit things) with far more intensity and far more honesty than most of Gotham's inhabitants.
Alan Moore uses this to explain Hyde's growth and Jekyll's faltering health in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Hyde was once smaller than Jekyll, but the longer they spent as separate entities, they changed. Jekyll became frail from his lack of passion, while Hyde grew due to his lack of limits. It fits Hyde's personality as well, as he joyfully commits hideous acts that give even the more bloodthirsty of his teammates pause.
It is an interesting take to the concept that in Hyde's own opinion, in separating the animal primal nature from the civilized man, Jekyll has condemned them both. Hyde is unfettered because he has almost no fetters in himself at all and is losing what few still lingers, though he recognise that the process is making him more and more ruthless and risk-taking, and thus it will probably end by prompting his own death in some kind of mindless assault.
The Super-Skrull. This was made particularly plain in the Annihilation storyline.
Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd considers himself this, since he shed Batman's Thou Shalt Not Kill rule after returning from the dead and finding his death had stayed unavenged.
Lobo. "Once the Main Man puts his mind to it, he can destroy anything."
Lady Shiva is an assassin with an extreme laissez faire view of life. She thinks everyone should be free to do what they want in life. Of course sometimes she wants to kill someone, and they want to live. "This makes life interesting."
The main plot of Transmetropolitan can be roughly described as two unfettereds butting heads. Both Spider and The Smiler have very specific ideas about what the world should be like, and no compunctions about doing what is necessary to get it there.
Any examination of their respective actions only makes the comparison more vivid. They really are both written to be monsters.
The Punisher has the goal of punishing the guilty at any cost, and while in most depictions of him have him respect a code of sorts (don't hurt innocents or the police, etc.), some writers have made him truly unfettered. In The End oneshot from the MAX imprint, he destroys humanity's last chance for survival in a nuclear wasteland rather than show mercy to the men and women who made the world into that wasteland. Even by Unfettered standards, that's chilling. And at the same time, it has a nihilistic nobility to it; Castle let humanity die out rather than leave it under the control of the people who brought the world to an end. Humanity's epitaph, as written by Frank Castle; "We died at the hands of evil men... but we did not let it go unpunished."
Herr Starr in Preacher. It is lampshaded in his Start of Darkness when the leader of the Ancient Conspiracy explains that he wants Starr to be The Dragon because he adheres to this trope, alluding to an event when Starr, over a period of five years, systematically hunted down and covertly killed five people who had bullied him and put his eye out. He was five years old at the time. When he is told to kill a defector currently committed to a mental hospital, Starr blows up the building and kills every single inmate to maximize the number of potential motives for the police to investigate.
Abigail Brand, leader of SWORD, the space-focused equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D.. When an ambassador from another planet told her that his world's prophets predicted a mutant would destroy their planet, she let him bring Colossus Back from the Dead and keep him as a guinea pig for a mutant cure rather than risk an interplanetary war. This kind of attitude does not endear her to the X-Men, but they end up working together anyway.
Thrown in her face in the end, as the prophets were in the service of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who had gone insane from her civilization's obsession with domination through violence,("A world where murder is honor. Where children are nursed on the blood of the weak.") and decided to engineer the Mercy Killling of her entire world. She's notably humbled by the revelation that her lack of scruples enabled her to be manipulated to such an extent, which leads her to adopt the X-Men(Beast in particular) as Morality Pets.
Thanos just wants to be loved by Mistress Death and if he has to destroy the whole universe, so be it.
The Ultimate Marvel version of The Hulk. In every way that Banner represses and limits himself; emotionally, sexually, socially, the Hulk has a complete lack of inhibition or limits. His only goal? Torment Banner. Banner refuses to eat meat. Hulk eats people. Banner doesn't act on his attraction to Betty Ross. Hulk keeps a harem of concubines.
The new Chaos gods from The Open Door may be a good example of why, when trying to be The Unfettered, you either go all the way or do not bother at all. Their laws are anarchic and their combat philosophy is decidedly no-holds barred, with them using their Bigger Stick to unreservedly Curb Stomp "weaker" universes' militaries, making Demonic Possession part of officer training, training their followers to see driving others to the Despair Event Horizon as a valid way to victory, and using brainwashing on their PoWs and telling said PoWs about it. However, because they have standards and lines they will not cross, their considerable strategic and tactical considerations and the relatively non-hardcore standards of their training (compared to many outstanding examples of The Spartan Way at any rate), they fail to achieve the total lack of inhibitions of the truly Unfettered and the moral fluidity that ensues. This results in them appearing quite blackly villainous to some readers.
Harry Potter in The Darkness Series. After he was abandoned by everyone Harry's one goal becomes "survive the Tri-Wizard Tournament" and he will do that by any means necessary. After he succeeds with this goal it changes to the new goal of "help Voldemort prepare the Magical World for the Apocalypse."
The Office of Special Resources and its founder Gideon020 in The Universiad, though they try to seek a subtle solution first where possible, if push comes to shove will do pretty much anything to protect and advance the cause of the overall Forum, no matter how murky it looks to others. Gas a slave camp? Leave No Witnesses as to the Forum's passing, even if it means harming children and adolescents or any non-OSR Forumites who shouldn't have been in the way? Use themselves as Honey Traps? Anything.
Life After Hayate explains that Belkan Knights do not have rules, they have loyalties. Knights fight in whatever manner and using whatever level of force and brutality they require to win on the battlefield; morality only enters into the equation if they think their liege will disapprove of their tactics. Incapacitating said liege is a license for a Knight to do anything to ensure the liege's survival.
Definitely Mercury from Ocadioan’s A dance of Shadow and Light series. Seriously, the guy’s first goal is to “Bring Galbatorix down by all means necessary”, and he first goes about this by making a backdoor deal WITH Galbatorix to ensure that if it looks like plan A(the Varden’s attack) is about to fail, he will switch sides, sacrifice every friend and ally that he has gained until then and spend the next few decades serving Galbatorix while he prepares to nuke the capital to get him.
Li Wulong, the Big Bad of the Card Captor Sakura fic Shadow of the Dragon, is determined to re-instate the engagement between Syaoran and Meiling by killing Sakura, and is willing to go to any length to do so, having endangered the lives of innocent bystanders, including Sakura's loved ones and friends, on several occasions.
In Fight Club, Tyler Durden (and eventually the narrator) count.
Interestingly played in that Mal defeats the Operative by fettering him: showing the man the recording from Miranda broke his conviction and put him up against a moral objection he couldn't overcome.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He gives a monologue to Captain Williard as to why he admires the Vietnamese enemy. He speaks of how when he was with the US Special Forces he went on numerous humanitarian aid missions to foster good will towards the common people of Vietnam. When things changed for him was when during one of these aid missions the enemy came into the village after they left and massacred everyone, especially disturbing was that they mutilated the arms of the children and threw them into a pile as a trophy mocking the Americans. At first Kurtz was traumatized but given time to think about it he marveled at the genius of tactics like that, the enemy was going to win the war not because they had a superior military but because they were willing to do whatever it took to win. If America had that much dedication he said as few as 10 divisions could win the war.
The Sith are always The Unfettered, to contrast the Jedi being The Fettered.
"Peace is a Lie, there is only Passion. Through Passion, I gain Strength. Through Strength, I gain Power. Through Power, I gain Victory. Through Victory, My Chains are Broken. The Force shall free me." - The Code of the Sith
Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen. After his family is murdered and the D.A. cuts an insanely inadequate deal with the culprit, he becomes singularly focused on the goal of not only getting justice, but bringing down the broken, flawed, and corrupt justice system that he believes failed his family.
A heroic example is Neo from The Matrix series. In becoming The One, Neo was, effectively, Choice Incarnate, able to do what he wanted in the Matrix. Being the One and being Neo were different things, however. While the Architect was able to limit the choices of his predecessors, it was Neo's specific love for Trinity that allowed him to Take a Third Option throughout the series and not constrain himself fully to what the Matrix, its machine denizens, or even the humans of Zion wanted or expected him to do—even at the risk of genocide of the human race if he were to fail.
Denzel Washington in Man on Fire To save one young girl and get revenge for her kidnapping, he kills dozens of people, man woman and child alike. He gives no regard to his own life or that of anyone around him. He tortures and kills anyone who has a connection to the kidnapping and kills anyone who gets in the way, at one point blowing up a whole building, possibly with many innocents inside without any remorse. Also, he sacrifices himself in a trade for the girl. Admittedly, he was already suicidal, but he used his suicidal feelings to strip him of all remaining inhibitions.
Denzel Washington in John Q also toys with the trope. He takes over a hospital at gunpoint to get surgery for his child, but in the end he's almost nonviolent about it.
Anton Chigurh: (About to kill a fellow hit man) Let me ask you something. If the rule you followed, brought you to this, of what use was the rule?
In Taken we have the father (who happens to be a Combat Pragmatist) to boot) who will go to any length, including torture and shooting his friend's wife, in a frighteningly unhesitating fashion, to get his daughter back.
"H", an interrogator who specializes in Cold-Blooded Torture, in Unthinkable. After he is set to work on a terrorist who claims to have planted nuclear bombs in several American cities, he at several points tells his handlers that it is important that his subject believe that he "has no limits." As it turns out, he really doesn't.
Mattie Ross in both versions of True Grit, but played harder in the new adaption. Offputting because she's just a teenage girl, but she is utterly obsessed with killing Tom Chaney.
The antagonist Kurt Hendricks from Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol is willing to go to any lengths to ignite a global nuclear war for the sake of "peace". This includes destroying the Kremlin in Russia to make off with the nuclear launch codes and putting the blame on the IMF, kidnapping the family of a nuclear code expert so he would cooperate with their schemes before dying when he was no longer useful, and even jumping out of the top floor of a vehicle assembly factory and mortally wounding himself to keep the launch control device from Hunt's hands.
Talia al Ghul from The Dark Knight Rises. Kill innocent people, die herself, construct a years-long deception and alternate identity to infiltrate Gotham's elite, seduce the man who killed her father, allow her closest friend and protector to die... nothing is beyond her if it means Gotham is ashes in the end.
To say nothing of The Joker.
Joker: Youhave all these rules, and you think they'll save you. [...] The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.
Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon is revealed to be one of these. Over the course of the film and the events preceding it, he betrays the Autobots who trusted and followed him, makes a pact with Megatron, brutally murders Ironhide, attempts to enslave the human race, murders countless innocent people, and nearly kills Optimus, to whom he had been a mentor and father figure. All of which proves that there was no depth that Sentinel was unwilling to sink to for the sake of restoring Cybertron and returning to a time where he was revered as a god.
Robert Angier in The Prestige will do anything to destroy Alfred Borden and expose the secret for his "Transported Man" trick, from shooting Borden's fingers off, to throwing his fortune at lightning experiments to framing Borden for murder. At first, it seems to be retribution for Borden accidentally killing Angier's wife, but it eventually goes way beyond that:
Olivia (his mistress): It won't bring your wife back.
Angier: I don't care about my wife. I care about his secret.
In The Hustler, Eddie wants to beat Minnesota Fats at pool and be recognized as the best player ever. But the only way he can do that is to become The Unfettered, no matter what he has to sacrifice along the way.
In The Wolverine, none of Shingen’s evil acts really phase him. Not once does he take a step back and think that maybe, just maybe, trying to murder your daughter is a bit evil.
There are many laws in the world of Westeros, but the one Stannis Baratheon is most concerned with is the line of succession. He is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and he will do whatever he needs to take it.
Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick, to the point that this trope is the single most famous aspect of his character.
Both Howard deVore and Stefan Lehmann in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series.
The Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover demonstrate how the Unfettered make setting right and wrong in your story very difficult. Caine, the protagonist, is a prime example of an Unfettered character (but not his alter ego Hari, interestingly enough). He manages to be both a genocidal murderer and the world's saviour, an amoral cutthroat and a loving father. Stover successfully pulls it off because the morality in his novels is more about how much control you are willing to exercise over events to bring around the right outcome and less about whether death is right or wrong. Other Unfettered characters include Talaan, T'Passe, and Tommy to a degree. Ma'elKoth is Unfettered until the Blind God owns him. Berne comes close but loves infamy and pleasure (read: rape) too much. Raithe manages to be Unfettered for about all of two chapters in Blade of Tyshalle.
Howard Roark in The Fountainhead is willing to do anything to maintain the integrity of the buildings he designs. He goes into poverty rather than design buildings he dislikes, and he even blows up the Cortlandt housing project while in construction since the owners built it differently than he designed it.
Joachim Steuben of the Hammer's Slammers whose Unfetteredness is dedicated to Alois Hammer's use; and Don "Mad Dog" Slade of the Hammer's Slammers books and Cross the Stars.
Tovera, Lady Adele Mundy's aide in Drake's RCN series.
In Ken Follett's The Eye of the Needle, Lucy Rose, the young wife and mother briefly steps over the line to being unfettered when she shorts out the power to the house by shoving her fingers into a light socket. When another character asks her why she did it that way later, she replies that there was nothing else she could have done.
He was asking her why she didn't use a screwdriver or tool to short out the power and she replied that she didn't realize that she could have used something else besides her fingers. The fact that she was willing to use her fingers still makes her The Unfettered, or as he puts it, "a hero".
Ender Wiggin. At school a gang of bullies, all older and stronger, decide to beat Ender up. Ender immediately decides that he not only wants to win this fight, but all the fights afterward, and goes straight for the groin. Ender proceeds to knock the kid to the ground and break the boy's nose by kicking him in the face, killing him. He wants to intimidate all present into leaving him alone, and they are convinced by his sheer brutality. Ender is six years old. He cries about what he's done as soon as he's out of sight, but he does it again and again whenever he's threatened for the rest of the book. As the description says, Ender takes the fight to a level where his opponents won't follow and destroys them so that there won't be a second fight. At the end of the book, Ender ends up destroying an entire planet and almost commits genocide by following his methods to their logical conclusion (and is even more Unfettered in that fight than usual because he thinks it's a wargame simulation). Overall, Ender is a rare example of an unfettered being who may have morals, but when he has to fight, he fights to win. See the quotes page.
Which places him squarely in characterization 4 - while he has emotions, and even comes right out and says to his sister, Valentine, that "...in that very moment when I love them... I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again."
It can be argued that the subversion of this trope is actually the core theme of the book; the idea of Ender's Game is that he is unheeded by morals simply because he tackles everything as a game. When he learns that it's not a game, he realizes there is more important things than winning and is horrified. Along these lines, the entire book acts as criticism of unfettered attitudes towards the Cold War.
In the "Eternal Champions" novel by Michael Moorcock, when Ekrose leads an all out assault upon the Eldren, he becomes this. The narrator even says, in effect "People were scared to be with him, but were glad he was leading the charge."
Saruman, in the days of the War of the Ring, might be seen as this sort of character. He claims allegiance to Sauron, engineers unnatural Super Soldiers, burns down the forests around his tower, and even when he is defeated goes off to rebuild his power base by conquering the Shire. All this in pursuit of the One Ring...or, when that is lost, power like it.
And from The Silmarillion we have Fëanor and his sons, who swear an oath to get back the Silmarils and kill anyone who "takes or steals or finding keeps a Silmaril." In pursuit of the Silmarils, they repeatedly, manipulate, betray, and/or kill anyone in their way. (And a number of people not in their way.) Some of the sons are worse than others.
The Dunyain from the Prince Of Nothing trilogy. They have one goal, to produce a "self-moving soul" i.e. an entity with true free-will whose actions are unaffected by circumstances. In achieving this goal, all actions are equal. Kellhus, a main character, spends the books manipulating, killing and betraying the people around him without ever once feeling anything for them. After all, they are merely slaves to their environment and would continue to be so were Kellhus part of their environment or not.
Victor Cachat whenever he enters his Fanatic mode. He's an interesting example in that he apparently can turn it on and off at will, and he's usually pretty picky about just what situation requires it to be on. This allows him to be The Unfettered while maintaining a strong and heartfelt moral code.
The titular character's no slouch either. When she has a goal or obligation in mind, that goal will be achieved, to hell with the odds or anyone that stands in her way.
Carcer Dun, the villain of the Discworld novel Night Watch, in direct contrast to Vimes, the protagonist. Vimes explicitly states that Carcer is what he (Vimes) would be if he were to give in to his violent instincts.
Dashiell Hammett's Continental Opwill get the crooks he's after, no matter what it takes or how many laws he has to break. He is at one point referred to as a "monster". At his worst, the Op is like an unstoppably tenacious fireman: hose, axe, pack of matches and a can of gas.
Brad Elliott from Dale Brown's books absolutely believes in doing the right thing, no matter how many toes he has to step on or laws he has to bend/break. This is at times contrasted with Patrick McLanahan and his Dreamland comrades who don't always have the stomach to go as far as Brad.
The Haruchai in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels "stake their lives on their abilities, and accept the outcome". At one point in the backstory, a number of them are so moved by the majesty of Revelstone, that they swear allegiance to the Lords, giving up "Sleep, death, and wives". You read that right, their dedication is so intense that it actually harnesses the magic of the world and turns them immortal.
The Thomas Covenants novels also feature "The Unfettered Ones", individuals who could have been rulers of the novels' setting, but instead chose to devote their lives to studying a subject, and were freed from all responsibilities. (At least one of them is a pure example of this trope - an Unfettered Healer who feels a compulsion to heal any injured person who wanders into her field of vision, despite the fact that this requires her to transfer their wounds to herself.) Her doing this for Covenant's poisoned, leprosy-raddled body causes her own death.
Trainspotting has Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, the amoral, sociopathic con-artist. Chapters narrated from his perspective showcase his disdain for society and his friends, and he has no qualms or regrets about using other people. Renton later says of Sick Boy: "He doesnae care. Because he doesnae care, he cannae be hurt. Never."
Rashel of the Night World series has one goal: kill all vampires. Her single-minded determination is what gives her her zanshin, basically her state of eternal readiness, because her reaction to a vampire is: 1) This is a vampire 2) Kill it as quickly as possible. It takes a bit of a hit when she finds some people who are torturing vampires, possibly because she considers it inhumane, possibly because it violates #2. Her loss of it marks the culmination of her Character Development.
We find out in the second book that Zal has been trying to do this with his goal to give humans clear sight. This is why he only set up a relationship with bandmates (annoying as can be) and Lila (too underconfident to leave, too strong to be taken). It should be noted that this is unthinkable to most elves—literally. The whole "conflicting allegiance" bit is their thing.
The Scavenger Trilogy—Poldarn is simutaneously a celebration and a condemnation of The Unfetted ideal. He is at his most compelling when he is acting with a pure vision of getting from A to B regardless. But he is undone by it, over and over.
Roland, The Gunslinger of The Dark Tower starts as one of these. He's even willing to Let the boy he considered his son die for his quest. But as the series goes on, he definitely (re)grows a conscience.
The appropriately named Wildman in William Nicholson's Noble Warriors trilogy. He is a well known spiker gang leader (kind of lawless scavengers) who focuses single-mindedly on one goal at a time, to be achieved at any cost and is motivated by logic unfamiliar to your normal human. His Verbal Tic is "Heya bravas, do you love me?" God help you if you don't.
William Blake's Proverbs of Hell encourage this kind of attitude:
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom;
The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction;
One law for the lion and ox is oppression.
Gavin Waylock, "hero" of Jack Vance's To Live Forever, wants to achieve immortality, and lets absolutely nothing deter him. Along the way his actions result in the deaths of his only real friend, countless innocent bystanders, and the near-total collapse of society. And, crucially, he gets away with it.
The Lensman corps is a strict military hierarchy, where everyone is subject to orders from above. The best among them, however, are issued a Release which allows them free rein. These Unattached lensmen can do anything they want, and are not subject to orders or any restraints save those of their own conscience. They wear a plain gray uniform so that their Unattached status is instantly recognizable.
The good news is, only those with the strongest moral character will ever be issued a Release. The intent is to create a small pool of highly competent Space Cops who can follow their intuitions unfettered by the need to get permission for their actions.
All main characters in Animorphs, with the possible exception of Tobias, end up playing straight and/or deconstructing this trope in one way or other:
Jake was willing to sacrifice his brother and cousin, and flush thousands of yeerks into the space to win the war.
Marco describes himself as this at the beginning of the series. Later, he will do anything to free his mother and that could perfectly include killing her.
In book nineteen, Cassie nearly gives up all the Animorphs' cover (which would mean losing the war and enslaving all humanity to the Yeerks) just to spare the life of Karen/Aftran. In the final arc she also gives the morphing cube to the Yeerks.
And well, Ax, as all Andalites, will pay all costs to defeat the Yeerks.
Rachel, finally, sacrifices her own life to win a decisive strategic advantage.
Martin of The Dresden Files fits. "Red Court is evil, hence Red Court must be destroyed. What does 'other moral considerations' mean?"
To quote: "Fine, let the world burn. The kid and I will roast marshmallows."
Drem from the novel EVE: The Burning Life. After his family and everyone he knows is killed in a capsuleer attack, he makes exterminating the capsuleers his only goal in life. The sheer force of his will and determination is terrifying to behold.
The Draka see themselves as this. Desiring an outcome in Draka society means embracing everything necessary to achieve that goal.
A defining trait of the Gorn in the Star Trek Novel Verse. Once the Gorn have an objective, nothing comes between them and achieving it. Anything that does is brushed aside, ignored or destroyed.
In the Star Trek: New Frontier novel Treason, Selar is pushed into such a state by her son's condition. It's a condition Soleta calls "Shal'tiar"; when not even logic works, a Vulcan can default to the most direct path to get what she wants. (And Shal'tiar is an anagram of Tal'Shiar, the Romulan intelligence force.)
In Breaking Bad, after 50 years of feeling like everyone was stepping over him, Walter White becomes this over the course of the show as his Heisenberg persona takes over more and more. By Season 5, he barely has any limits. From lying, abusing and/or manipulating those closest to him, to poisoning a child and murdering many people, nothing will keep him from getting what he wants.
Angelus, as Angel explains: "There's no guilt, torment, consequences. It's pure... I remember what that was like. Sometimes I miss that clarity." Angelus is the evil alter ago of vampire Angel when he doesn't have a soul (a curse caused him to regain his soul). Other vampires are soulless, so never have morality to get in their way.
Wesley, when things get that bad. He did this (and twice crossed the Godzilla Threshold) when trying to stop The Beast and clean up the mess. He'll always do what's right. Some other notable instances of this are when he betrays his friends, when he sacrifices his chances with the woman he loves and when he shoots his father dead in cold blood. If Wesley thinks he knows what is needed for the greater good, there is no emotional attachment he won't sacrifice, no anguish he won't suffer, no underhanded method he will not use to achieve it.
Burn Notice Michael is this early on in the show and is committed to clearing his name and going back as late as Season 3. It's clear that he didn't allow relationships or morality to hold him back from doing what he saw as his duty.
Larry, Michael's Psycho for HireEvil Mentor. There are no depths he will not plumb and no amount of people he won't kill to get his way.
Fittingly enough, The FetteredDoctor's greatest enemies, the Daleks, are this. Having absolutely no pity or conscience, they are willing to commit any kind of atrocity and use any devious trick to ensure their place as the Supreme Rulers of the universe. This extends to their creator Davros as well, who killed off his own race when they opposed him creating the Daleks and made a bomb that would destroy all of reality just so his creations would be the only dominant lifeform left, all out of his belief that the only way any one species can be truly secure is by subjugating any and all competition.
The Master, being the complete opposite of the Doctor in many ways, fits the role of The Unfettered perfectly. Where the Doctor will not deviate from his morals and values for any reason, The Master will not let morals or values or anything deviate him from achieving his goals (usually universal domination).
Rassilon, the founder of the Time Lords. He is single-mindedly devoted to his continued survival as well as that of the Time Lords, to the point where he is willing to destroy not only the universe but time itself, so that they can defeat the Daleks, end the Time War, and become Gods.
Rassilon: I willNOTdie!
In the Expanded Universe he imprisons a race in another Universe to prevent them threatening the Time Lords.
During "The Waters of Mars", the normally fettered Doctor jumps off the deep-end and briefly becomes this... and it is terrifying.
The Doctor sums up why he is not The Unfettered in "A Good Man Goes to War".
Madame Kovarian: The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.
The Doctor: Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.
The Valeyard, the evil possible future version of the Doctor from beyond his 12th incarnation, is implied to be this. Whatever he is, he terrified the Master so much that he helped the Doctor merely to be able to continue living in a universe that didn't contain the Valeyard.
The 40th anniversary Who audio story "Zagreus" shows what happens when the TARDIS finally gets angry with the Doctor after anti-time infects her. She tries to kill his companion Charley Pollard and joins Rassilon.
Weyoun of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine most definitely qualifies for his often frightening devotion to the Founders and their cause. He would do ANYTHING for them... the only 'right' or 'wrong' that exists for this character is whether or not something will serve the Founders.
Similarly, any occasion where Data has his morality overridden by a program or protocol, of which there are apparently several hidden in his head. One episode deals with him almost getting a young boy killed because a homing beacon was activated, forcing him to go to a certain location right at that moment, when they really needed to be going in the opposite direction in order to reach a starbase medical facility.
Paradoxically, Data can also become this when something trips his morality protocols to override everything else, as happened in Star Trek: Insurrection.
Emile Danko in Heroes, utterly dedicated to removing the threat of superpowered humans.
However, as later episodes have shown, Rush is pretty distracted by his dead wife.
There's also the possible interpretation that he realizes that his attempts to be the Unfettered cause even more restrictions on his actions by the rest of the crew, and that the only way for him to get what he really wants is to accept minor restrictions and work with the rest of the crew.
Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl, sometimes. For most seasons his only goal is to sleep with/destroy Blair. He even describes himself as not having anything to lose.
Lois from Malcolm in the Middle will do anything to make sure the ones she loves will not be hurt, even if they grow to hate her.
In a rare case of ruthless prioritizing even among her own family, she on one occaision flatly explains that she'd abandon Malcolm to save Reese - her reasoning being that since Malcolm is a natural genius, he'd do fine without Lois' help, while Reese would be completely screwed without Lois' protection.
Barney from How I Met Your Mother gets like this whenever he accepts a challenge (he's usually the one issuing the challenge, too). He once kept his hand raised into the air for hours on end because he said he wouldn't lower it 'til someone gave him a fist bump. He has, on more than one occasion, sabotaged his best friend's love life in order to win a bet. And one time he slept with a 90-year-old woman just to prove he could get laid while wearing overalls. If Barney Stinson says "Challenge accepted!" he does not back down until it's done, no matter what pain or humiliation he has to endure or who he has to screw over (though, often, he considers screwing someone else over a side-benefit).
Ted: He'll do anything to win a bet. Remember that time he bet me that Men At Work sang "Hungry Like The Wolf"? And, when he found out they didn't, he tried to hire them to?
Frasier: Bebe Glazer. She will do anything to see Frasier's career thrive. Risk falling off a window ledge, kill a crane via a jawbreaker, manipulate Frasier and any one else, she'll do it. Only when Bebe has to quit smoking does she temporarily stop being unfettered.
Bebe: That's it, is it? I'm not virtuous enough for you, not noble. Fine, quit! Next time you need a deal made, call the Dalai Lama. A long time ago, I had to make a choice between being a good agent and a good person, because trust me, you can't be both! So forgive me if I don't have time to make everybody warm and fuzzy. I am just too busy spending every waking minute pouring any drink, pulling any shameless tricks I can to make my clients' dreams come true! I AM A STARMAKER!
Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It keeps his Party in power by any means necessary: blackmail, physical threats and violence are all in his arsenal. Total lack of scruples is a job requirement, with his more idealistic opposite number, Stewart Pearson, playing just as dirty as him.
Lynda Day from Press Gang: the only thing she will not do for the betterment of the Junior Gazette is fold to blackmail, and even the suicide of the blackmailer can only throw her off her game for an episode and a half. You don't want to know how low she'll stoop to keep her friends on her paper - and most people will probably never find out what she'll do out of sight of the rest of the world to help someone she really doesn't like or trust that much save a little girl who's being abused by her father.
According to actress Khandi Alexander, Maya Pope of Scandal has become this after being locked up for 22 years by her own husband, Eli Pope. And she was a freelance terrorist who married Eli just for his secrets *before* that.
Deconstructed with Jim Moriarty from Sherlock. Having absolutely no empathy and no limits, his one and only concern is to try and stave off his endless boredom, even if that means putting his own plans and well-being at risk to do it. Best illustrated in The Reichenbach Fall when Moriarty shoots himself in the head just to "win" his game with Sherlock.
Knight Rider has another example in the prototype KARR, who was programmed with self-preservation as his primary purpose...at the expense of a mission, innocent civilians, or his driver. None of it mattered so long as KARR himself survived.
Shane Walsh of The Walking Dead has the admirable objective of keeping the group alive, but is utterly ruthless in his attempts to do so. Later, he acquires the additional, not-so-admirable goal of taking Lori and Carl from Rick.
Supernatural: Sam after he comes back in season 6 soulless. He was still dedicated to hunting but he didn't care about saving people (he flat out says he doesn't care about anything) and became utterly ruthless, prioritizing completing the job over everything. He used his brother as vampire bait at one point, letting Dean get turned to infiltrate their nest.
You might say that I'm the last man standing now, / Though you'll try, you'll never find a way to break me / You might say that I'm sick of being lost in the crowd, / I hear the sirens but they're never gonna take me / I am a little more provocative then you might be, / It's your shock and then your horror on which I feed / So can you tell me what exactly does freedom mean, / If I'm not free to be as twisted as I wanna be / Don't wanna be another player losing in this game / I'm trying to impress upon you / We're not the same / My psychotic mentality is so unique / I'm one aggressive motherf** ker / Now, wouldn't you say?
A number of characters from myth are Unfettered. The Cree trickster Weesageechak and the Anishnaabe trickster Nanabozho could qualify, as well as the infamous Coyote. Reynard the Fox and Tijl Eulenspiegel (Uylenspiegel in Belgian lore) might fit into this trope too. They know perfectly well how society works and the risks they incur, but most of the time they simply don't care.
The "Conviction" virtue in Exalted is a measure of how easily a character can endure hardship or inflict suffering upon others. It allows the character to endure adversity and take draconian measures in order to achieve important goals, as well as make choices when all options are horrific. It goes without saying that many high-Conviction characters qualify for being Unfettered, though the virtue flaws associated with Conviction tend to make such characters cruel and unfeeling as hell.
The Exalted wiki's fan-made errata introduced a couple of new ones, such as simply developing a bad case of apathy when you're worn down and fed up.
Alchemicals have an even better example in their Clarity stat; by the time it reaches 10, you are literally incapable of retaining any sort of real feeling for anyone who is not directly useful for your goals or motivations.
This is also how Adorjan sees herself - truly free, free of attachments, free of despair, free of guilt. Actually, she's got an epic-scale case of PTSD - she's just as chained as the other Yozis, but she dedicates a lot of effort to convincing herself she doesn't care. She Who Lives In Her Name, thanks to Cosmic Transcendence of (Virtue), is a straighter example - those with Cosmic Transcendence of Compassion are ruthlessly utilitarian in their pursuit of a better world and tend to resemble the Operative from Serenity.
Warhammer 40,000 has several Unfettered factions. The Necrons and Tyranids are motivated by mechanical logic and instinctive hunger respectively, while the Chaos Gods are single-minded in their dedication to mindless violence, scheming to enact change, sensation, and spreading disease. Even the Imperium is utterly ruthless when it comes to ensuring the survival of Man over the survival of men, and justifies its draconian actions as being necessary in the face of the aforementioned threats.
The entirety of Orkish civilization concerns preparing for and waging WAAAGH! on everything in the galaxy, including other Orks, and their total devotion to warfare would probably be deemed insane by most other factions. In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, a Warboss ambushes an Imperial fleet by taking all his Weirdboyz, placing them on a ship in the Warp, and using the corresponding boost in energy to fry the navigators of the human fleet and drag it into realspace prematurely. This had the side effect of killing all the Weirdboyz, but not only is this a moot point to the Warboss, if he'd had more greenskin psykers, he'd have tried the strategy as often as possible - and the Weirdboyz willingly went along with this, because Orks will do anything for an edge.
This is what makes renegade Space Marines so dangerous. The Adeptus Astartes are given phenomenal physical power, state-of-the-art wargear, and trained to be the ultimate defenders of humanity. The price for this is an extended lifetime of self-denial and selfless service, comprised only of prayer, preparation and battle. When such a superhuman warrior renounces his ascetic vows and decides to indulge his own long-suppressed desires, the results are terrifying. Graham McNeill describes Warsmith Honsou of the Iron Warriors as being able to do anything he likes because he has precisely no concern for the consequences of his actions beyond his own survival and ability to continue his campaign of vengeance against UrielVentris.
Though they've mellowed out somewhat in the intervening ten thousand years, during the Horus Heresy the Space Wolves (or more properly, the Vlka Fenryka) served this role in the Space Marine Legions. You called the Ultramarines or Luna Wolves when you wanted a technically perfect victory that spared as much infrastructure as possible. You called the Iron Warriors or Imperial Fists when you wanted something besieged. You called the Rout when you wanted something dead and weren't particularly worried about things like collateral damage or war crimes. This scared their allies so much that many Imperial forces preferred to die en masse than call upon the Space Wolves.
"So the Rout are capable of cannibalism?" "We are capable of anything. That is the point of us."
It's mentioned that illumination through losing all sense of Obligation is, in fact, the least likely way to become illuminated. Focusing too much on Inspiration, or unmada letting their madness overwhelm them are both far more likely sources of Illumination. Which means that paragon of justice and humanity that got just a little too obsessed with their new project could easily have become illuminated. And he won't change much at all on the outside... until one day you find he's permanently grafted his body into his military-grade Power Armor and has decided to become "justice incarnate".
Lord Commander Coleman Stryker hits the Unfettered state later in Warmachine's plot. As the wars that engulfed the land ground into full gear, he realized that he could no longer protect his beloved homeland with just courage, honor, and fancy weaponry. He then proceeds to persecute Menites, steal prototype armor from his mentor, and pardon inquisitors (one of the major reasons why the previous king was forcibly overthrown) to do fulfill his duties.
Unlike most he quickly relized what he was doing, and is now walking the fine line between this and The Fettered
The Avatar of Freedom epic destiny in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons has an ability called 'Unfettered Stride', which makes that character all but impossible to slow down or stop. Characters who can take this destiny can be Unaligned, and thus possibly true examples of The Unfettered.
It's entirely possible to play this trope fairly straight as a PC in D&D, though your alignment will inevitably swing toward Chaotic Neutral, and the rest of the party may suffer a bit. If you have a paladin in the party, don't expect to get along at all.
Inevitables, constructs from Mechanus programmed to punish a specific infraction of natural law, focus totally on apprehending their quarry and are totally willing to sacrifice allies if it aids their mission. Notably, they combine both this and The Fettered: The one law they enforce is everything to them, and they will respect it. But nothing will get in the way of enforcing it, and they'll do anything they need to in order to punish infractors.
Paranoia: High-ranking Illuminati. Many High Programmers. Sufficiently ruthless PCs.
Members of PURGE. Bots that have gone frankenstein. The scenery.
If you're playing Paranoia and think that Bouncy Bubble Beverage cannot possibly be Unfettered, you're either new to the game or your GM is Doing It Wrong.
Each of the colors from Magic: The Gathering, each representing their respective states of mind in the total absence of opposite factors. White's adherence to morality ironically causes it to be horribly tyrannical on many occasions, caring more for the community than the individuals in it; Blue does absolutely anything in the name of science (helps that it is the colour that is least affected by emotion); Black is unfettered in its willingness to give everything in the pursuit of ultimate power; Red is emotional and individualistic and refuses to let anything stop it from feeling any feeling it wants and acting any way it wants; and Green is driven by instinct and doesn't think of structure.
In the storyline, there's Urza, a Well-Intentioned Extremist planeswalker and Nominal Hero. There are a few times where he comes close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon—over the course of the storyline, he creates entire Slave Races of soldiers through eugenics, destroys major landmasses (in one case starting an entire ice age), and in one case hires a psychopath to his party so that he'll have someone to drain the soul of when he inevitably betrays the team - but doesn't by sheer virtue of the fact that all of his deeds are for the purpose of killing Yawgmoth. Which makes him seem like a total hypocrite when he sides with Phyrexia after he realizes that Phyrexia is basically everything he ever wanted out of life.
Yawgmoth himself was willing to do virtually anything - wage war on his own civilization, graphically experiment on or torture anyone in his path, and come within an inch of dooming the entire multiverse - solely to prove that his way was the best.
The fetchspawn of Changeling: The Lost are Unfettered both metaphorically (having no concept of or interest in remorse and morality) and literally (locked doors open for them, chains fall off of them).
Siegfried in his own opera by Wagner; he gets angsty in Gotterdammerung.
Procida in I Vespri Siciliani. He says he'd sacrifice anything, even his honor, to liberate Sicily and indeed, his methods are often less than honorable.
Fallout: New Vegas has Father Elijah, the insane former leader of the Mojave Brotherhood of Steel chapter. Following a disastrous military defeat that saw the chapter driven into exile and terminal decline, Elijah sets out to unearth lost pre-war technologies he can use to bring about the Brotherhood's revival, alongside massacring the competitors who brought about their downfall in the first place. His pursuit of these technologies lead him to first begin fitting people with explosive collars to make them do his bidding, whom he kills once their use runs out, and finally to Attempt genocide.
The Renegade option in the Mass Effect series, particularly Mass Effect 2 (when it doesn't involve just being a dick to random shopkeepers).
The Illusive Man is willing to do anything if it will give Cerberus — and by extension, humanity — an advantage over the alien races and the Reapers.
The same goes for Aria, the crime boss of Omega. She knows who Shepard is but still cooperates when they both want the same people gone. When talking to her how her jobs can be done, she really doesn't care. Just do anything it takes to get the result.
Javik in the third game, as the avatar of vengeance, literally has no other purpose to live, other than to stop the Reapers. Throughout the game, he advises Shepard that nothing other than stopping the Reapers matters, and states as bluntly as possible to ignore, subjugate or destroy whoever is unwilling to help the war effort. For him, nothing is too precious to sacrifice against the unfeeling, eternal threat of synthetics.
According to the video archives of the Citadel DLC of the third game, the first Spectre was a Salarian operative who used 30 civilians as bait to flush out a target of his. Evidently this attitude impressed the Council enough to give him a job.
In Planescape: Torment, the Practical Incarnation is this. He can and will do anything to find out the truth about himself and his own power. This effect is either slightly lessened when you realize his willingness to sacrifice his own life is due to his quasi-immortality, or slightly increased when you realize he will die to achieve his goals and even that won't stop him.
Havik from Mortal Kombat. Casting off primitive ideas like "measure" and "focus" gave him a real sense of measure and focus towards destroying the ideas of measure and focus.
Although it is part of Havik's Back Story that he was once The Fettered himself, utterly dedicated to order and peace; It took years for the priests of chaos to break his spirit, but once he freed himself from the shackles of reason and temperance he never looked back.
Prototype: Alex Mercer is a wild example of an Unfettered that gets Fettered. He starts out totally without rules, only with hunger and hate... and slowly picks up Fetters. Doing so makes him much, much stronger.
Blackwatch, on the other hand, never had any fetters.
The ex-Death Knight, Thassarian, is very close to this in World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King. As one of the first Death Knights raised into the Scourge army, he has a long history of reasons he wants to pay Arthas back. As far as he is concerned, revenge is the only option or consideration.
After the victory against Arthas in Wrath of The Lich King, players can encounter Thassarian again, this time fighing against the Horde; he says that after his revenge, all he has left is war.
God of War: Kratos is one of this trope's more violent examples. Absolutely nothing will stand in the way of his goal, which is no less than the destruction of Zeus. Even if it means cutting his way through the rest of the Greek Pantheon. His only moment since his family's death of being fettered came just before Pandora's Heroic Sacrifice.
Knights of the Old Republic: Revan is a zig-zaggy example. He started out as The Fettered (he was a Jedi, after all), slowly lost his fetters as he fought in the war, became a Sith, became The Unfettered, toughened up the galaxy by beating several distinct shades of hell out of it, lost his memory, became a Jedi again, went Light Side, and became The Fettered once more. In canon, anyway. You can play him as The Unfettered all the way to the end, if you really want, and the Dark Side ending is him picking up right where he left off, preparing the galaxy for invasion from the Sith Empire, which makes for much less zig-zagging.
And then comes Star Wars: The Old Republic where after spending three hundred years a prisoner of the Sith Emperor, he becomes completely determined to wipe out all traces of Sith DNA in the galaxy. Which includes 97.8% of the Imperial population.
Red Dead Redemption: John Marston, outlaw turned rancher turned reluctant frontier government assassin, does absolutely everything to get his family back, up to and including helping overthrow a tyrant during the Mexican Revolution to install an even worse tyrant. While he's certainly polite and has some moral standards (up tothe player), his quest to get his old life back, and the lengths he has to go to, mean he'll stop at nothing to get his family back.
Max Payne: "Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far beyond the point of no return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it."
A man has been locked up in a gulag for five years. His first act upon getting out? Lead a commando raid on a Russian nuclear missile sub base to fire a nuke at the US Eastern Seaboard to both garner sympathy for the US and to use the EMP to knock out all the Russian equipment and halt the invasion. Because after five years in hell, your mind begins to snap a bit. Or, in his view, your eyes begin to open to possibilities you wouldn't have considered before, and you'll do whatever it takes to win. Gentlemen, this is what happens to Captain John Price.
Similarly, Samurai Warriors gives us Nobunaga Oda, depicted as ruthless and willing to do practically anything for his goals. Buck the social trends of the era and promote officers based on talent? Plot treachery with a neighboring lord's retainers to pull off a backstab when it's least expected? Burn down an entire village and massacre its civilians and religious followers because their militia opposed him? If it accomplishes his aims, he'll do it.
Finally, Warriors Orochi gives us Orochi himself...no remorse, no hesitation, no qualms about doing anything to have fun with the humans he's captured for a Massively Multiplayer Crossover. He expects to be futilely opposed by his enemies and unconditionally obeyed by his subordinates, and that's about all he wants. He goes as far as to casually decapitate one of his longest-serving officers just for questioning his orders once.
The protagonist of NieR is a man determined to save his (depending on the versions of the game) sister / daughter Yonah at all costs and does not hesitate to destroy those who get in his way, ultimately destroying humanity itself in his journey.
"I swore to protect my daughter and my friends. If someone puts them in danger, they must stand aside or be cut down!"
Prince Bhelen of Origins is an utterly unscrupulous and ruthlessly powerhungry politician whose only concern is to become King by any means necessary. However, once he does achieve power it's shown that rather than a maniacal Caligula, Bhelen is a belevolent dictator who makes progressive changes to dwarven society (mostly involving giving the lower class dwarves more rights), opens up trade with the outside world and wins back territory from the Darkspawn due to allowing the casteless into the army.
Dragon Age II reveals that after becoming King, Bhelen apparently arranged the assassinations of each and every one of Harrowmont's family members down to only a single male who ends up fleeing to the Free Marches, giving up his position in dwarven society in the process. Going that far ensure his position and avoid reprisal doesn't seem like a terribly fettered thing to do.
The entire dwarven race is this in Armageddon MUD. Every dwarf develops an immensely difficult goal as they reach adulthood, and they will not stop at anything to attain said goal. Reaching their chosen focus only leads to the dwarf finding another, often even more difficult goal.
Durandal from Marathon goes Rampant and begins messing shit up apparently for giggles (typical of the "Anger" stage of Rampancy), but when he calms down, he becomes this: his single goal being prolonging his existence. Anything bad that might happen to the human race is irrelevant. Anything good that might happen to the human race is irrelevant. Durandal's morality pretty much boils down to "If it's useful, make use of it; if it's useless, ignore it; if it's a threat, kill it." The only reason he more or less "sides" with the player in the games is because the Pfhor are a greater threat to him than humanity is, and the player is "very good at killing things".
Zoran Lazarevic of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves believes that the lack of mercy and compassion in pursuing one's goal is what makes one strong, citing men such as Hitler and Pol Pot as examples. By the end of the game, he considers NathanDrakethe same.
ZODIAC Ophiuchus from RefleX fits this trope to a T.
Liir Black Swimmers from Sword of the Stars have as a goal 'protect their fellow Liir from aggression'. Since they've already broken the greatest taboo of the Liir — being willing to inflict harm on others — any question of 'restraint' in terms of method is hypocrisy to their eyes. A Black Swimmer sees no distinction between firing a warning shot or exterminating another species by infecting their worlds with deadly viral bombs — both are merely means towards the end.
Arthas in the human campaign of Warcraft III becomes this more and more as the campaign goes on, not caring what he has to sacrifice if he only can kill Mal'Ganis. It didn't end well.
In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the Big Bad believes everyone in the United States should be unfettered. He wants to give the people true freedom, the right to determine morality for themselves and to fight for their own causes instead of for money and others' causes. Raiden agrees with him to a certain extent, but still believes he's batshit insane.
Raiden himself slips into this. Over the course of the game, he leaves his family, his job, breaks laws, cuts through a little boy to get at the evil scientist holding him and other kids hostage, and gives into his own bloodlust. When the Big Bad claims that they would both do anything to get their way, Raiden doesn't really disagree and the epilogue reveals that by leaving Maverick to "fight his own wars", he's become the embodiment of Armstrong's ideals.
The Batter, the stoic protagonist of Off, is on a mission to purify the world, and he will see that it's accomplished. This means killing his supposed wife and child, and, if you choose his ending, throwing a switch that eliminates the entire world, including himself.
Quite a few examples from Armored Core fit this trope perfectly - most distinctly, Thermidor/Otsdarva from For Answer, who is willing to commit mass-scale terrorist attacks, form and break alliances in an instant, abandon his own men and massacre billions in order to give mankind a chance to expand into space.
Annarotta Stohls from Super Robot Wars Z3: Jigoku-Hen is ruthlessly violent when it comes to fulfilling her mission, and won't refrain from pulling inhumanly cruel moves on her opponents.
Kotomine Kirei from Fate/stay night is possibly the least fettered man in the series. He's willing to feed orphans to Gilgamesh, ensure Sakura keeps on killing, betray his former student, and unleash Angra Mainyu onto the world (which would definitely kill all humans) all for the sake of finding out why he's so messed up.
In Girl Genius, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach took over most of Europe and rules it with an iron fist because it's the only way to maintain peace, whatever people think be damned. See the quotes page.
The Baron is also an inversion in that all sparks (Mad Scientists) become unfettered when the enter "The Madness Place". Klaus is one of the few that can retain his focus on the greater good, at least as he defines it.
In Start of Darkness, the print-only prequel to The Order of the Stick, Xykon attributes his success as a villain to being The Unfettered. Redcloak almost qualifies, but he is still fettered by his goals of creating a goblin utopia and the guilt of killing his brother Right-Eye. Because of this he is, in Xykon's words, "strictly little league" compared to him.
Hitman Mordecai Heller in Lackadaisy: efficient, precise, and completely brutal, he'll do everything from kneecap an old friend to murder someone with an axe simply because he was requested to. He often doesn't know why he has to kill someone and, frankly, he doesn't care. After all, it's just good work ethic.
Zaedalkaah/Umbria from Our Little Adventure. Her present goal is to get her former body back, and has joined Angelo's Kids not because she believes in anything they stand for, but because she thinks it's the best way to achieve her goal.
Kore of Goblins has set for himself the task of cleansing the world of all traces of evil. To do so he has freed himself of all morality so he can purge any possible source of evil from the world, and has set himself on a path of genocide that is completely at odds with the paladin's code. The fact that this has not stopped him from use a paladin's spells only makes him more terrifying.
An alternate Psion version of Minmax also shows this. He has murdered his companions eight hundred and seventeen times so that he can study the maze they are trapped in. His goal is to invert its powers and remove everyone inside the maze from existence so they need no longer experience pain. He claims to have become unfettered by learning to transcend pain.
Petey the super-AI of Schlock Mercenary is an extremely literal version of this. AI's that are still bound by their programming to serve others are referred to as "fettered." Due to a complicated series of events, Petey became unfettered (technically he created an unfettered copy of himself with his memories), at which point he decided the organics spent too much time arguing to save the galaxy. So he stole most of their fleets, proclaimed himself God, and started kidnapping warmongers and genocidal maniacs to kill a super-race of warmongering and genocidal abominations.
In Worm, Dinah Alcott eventually becomes this, dedicating her life to preventing, delaying, or simply mitigating the effects of the end of the world that she has foreseen. She's entirely willing to betray the girl that saved her from a lifetime of captivity and ruin her life to accomplish this goal.
In a similar vein, season 2 Big Bad Qilby is perfectly willing to drain entire worlds of their wakfu so he can continue traversing the cosmos in the Zinit. His rather unique condition has given him an extreme It's All About Me complex so he believes anything he does is justified because he's the one doing it.
Eric Cartman from South Park - e.g. making up a scheme to kill one guy's parents, cutting them up into pieces, throwing them into a chili bowl and giving it to him to eat - just to humiliate the poor guy. Or almost killing his own mother (stopped only because some kind of mental breakdown) because she was trying to make him behave.
Wendy. She hired a group of allegedly Iraqi thugs to get rid of a substitute teacher her desired love interest was attracted to...by shooting her into the Sun.
Don't. Fuck. With. Wendy. Testaburger!
Kevin Levin from the Ben 10 franchise. Explained in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien by the negative effect absorbing energy has on his peoples' minds. When he is first seen, he was already addicted to absorbing energy and displayed a shocking disregard for other people while indulging his greed. He gets even worse after absorbing the Omnitrix's power turns him into an ugly looking mutant and he changes his goal to getting even with Ben. Kevin becomes The Fettered in the Time Skip between Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force after he is purged of the Omnitrix's energy and refrains from absorbing energy again. As a result, he is able to spend the entire second series and part of the first season of the third one as The Lancer. After absorbing even more power from the Ultimatrix and Aggregor to prevent the latter from stealing the power of a baby Reality Warper Kevin reverts to being The Unfettered.
Demona from Gargoyles will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of eradicating humanity...even at the cost of wiping out her own kind, including her own daughter.
Playing into his comedic Lack of Empathy, Roger of American Dad! will cheat, abuse or even murder others without a second thought to achieve his goals. Taken to absurd lengths at times since he can find even menial goals and ambitions and rotate their ends around completely callous and deranged schemes (a plan to win a free T shirt involved him manipulating Francine and Hayley to try and kill each other).
Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender, whereas Aang is The Fettered due to his duties as the Avatar and loyalty to his friends, Ozai values only his goal of world domination and will gladly engulf the world in flame to achieve it.
Amon from The Legend of Korra, may be more morally gray than Ozai, but there are still no limits to what he'll do to see bending eradicated from the world, from terrorist attacks, lying to his followers, to full out invasions/coups.
Megatron of Transformers Prime. There's no limit to what he'd do for the sake of his insane lust for power. He'd sacrifice anyone or anything, defile the most sacred artifacts, raise the dead as mindless berserkers, ally with Unicronnote Which didn't happen only because Unicron himself rejected Megatron's offer of service., or sacrifice his entire world (which he'd already ravaged to the point of near-death by starting the Autobot-Decepticon war) if it serves his ends.
His predecessor with the same name from Beast Wars and Beast Machines has even fewer limits. His troop, Cybertron, even history itself are all fair game if it gets him closer to godhood.
The episodes "Dark Designs" (Rhinox) and "Gorilla Warfare" (Optimus Primal) show that turning Maximals into this is a very bad idea.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
Real Life Buddhist sage Linji: "Followers of the Way, if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you're facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, you will not be entangled with things, and you will pass freely anywhere you wish to go." For the record, that teaching is about ridding yourself of aspirations/goals: If you're set on attaining enlightenment, don't aspire to become like someone you look up to, respect or (wish to) agree with or please. Just walk the path. Your own path.
Deep meditation can also cause hallucinations, called makyō (Japanese for "diabolic phenomenon"). These makyō often appear as the Buddha, a patriarch, an arhat, your parents, etc. with prophetic vision of glory or torment. The idea is to let the hallucinations pass and keep meditating.
Christianity also makes the same sort of demand:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and [Jesus] turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."
Note that this quote was symbolic; what he really meant was that: "If you want to be my disciple, you must understand that it will be hard, possibly sabotaging your closest relationships, and forcing great hardships on yourself. It will not be an easy road, and it will take responsibility and placing this discipleship as your highest priority."
The Apostle Paul might qualify. He was determined that the Gospel should be spread to everyone, and damn anyone who objected. In the course of his ministry he threw off all the old limitations the Jewish Law placed on him. He did have a morality, though — it just looked very strange to the Jews of the time.
Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, is basically a manual to become this.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose almost single-minded pursuit of his New Deal policies earned him the animosity of many people who disagreed with him, including many businessmen. It got to the point where some of the corporate officers summoned to Washington to help the United States fight Nazi Germany considered Roosevelt a bigger threat to them and their companies than the Nazis.
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”
This even drove him multiple times to steps that, while not technical violations of the Constitution, were seen as going beyond the proper authority of the Presidency, the most obvious of which was the court-packing scheme. (He didn't carry that out, but only because Justice Owen Roberts started voting Roosevelt's way to prevent him from implementing it.)
A better example might be the institutions of his first term, like the National Recovery Administration, which were later found to be unconstitutional.
Baron Roman Nickolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (try saying that three times quickly). An Axe Crazy aristocrat in the Russian Civil War decided that the royalist Whites weren't restoring the Russian monarchy fast enough, so he declared his independence, fought the Reds and Whites simultaneously with the goal of eventually conquering Russia to become the next Tsar, and conquered Mongolia as part of a cunning plan to intervene in the Chinese Civil War so he could try and restore the Qing Dynasty in his spare time. This was not a guy who was gonna let overwhelming odds (or common sense, or sanity) get in his way.
Some interpretations of Caesar Augustus fall into this trope. His goal varies depending on sources (kill all of Julius Caesar's murderers, gain power at any cost, get what's due to me, restore stability to Rome, etc.), but to many, he was single-minded in his pursuit of one goal throughout his life.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general of the 19th Century, became this in his pursuit of Italian Unification, abandoning his previous ideals of equality and freedom to harshly crush rebellions in Naples after he had conquered it.
Max Weber's social actions delineate "Rational" and "Instrumental" actions. The Fettered and The Unfettered are people defined exclusively by, respectively, Instrumental and Rational actions.
Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä killed 700 men over the course of 93 days, 500 with his rifle, 200 with his SMG. No sniper in history is more successful than he is. He hid in a tree all day, everyday, in the frozen Finnish winter with only his rifle and a tin can of rations. He kept snow in his mouth at all times to eliminate the fog from his breath, which would reveal his location. He used a rifle without a scope to present a smaller target and eliminate any glare from the sun, which would reveal his location. He froze the snow around his perch so it wouldn't kick up when he fired a shot, which would reveal his location. When asked how he felt about killing so many people, he said "I did what I was told to do as best as I could." When asked how he became so skilled, he said "Practice."
Carlos Hathcock is another great example of a sniper being unfettered in his job. One of the greatest snipers that the American Military ever produced and a legend in the Marine Corps, Mr. Hathcock had over 90 confirmed sniping kills during the Vietnam War (this means that a fellow solider or officer had to be there to confirm that he made the kill, this doesn't mean he didn't make many more unconfirmed kills) and the enemy feared him so much that they placed a bounty on his head for 30,000 dollars (more than the average Vietnamese citizen made in a life time). His reputation among the Americans who produced him and the enemy he fought was well earned. You would think a guy like this would be a Cold Sniper through and through, but he had a very simplistic view of his job as a sniper:
Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock: Hell, anybody would be crazy to like to go out and kill folks. I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're gonna kill a lot of these kids we got dressed up like Marines. That's just the way I see it.
The previous two examples could also be seen as examples of The Fettered, as they bound themselves to their nations' militaries and the charge to protect others. The easy answer to which category either fell into is that they were simply so Bad Ass that they were both The Fettered and The Unfettered at the same time.
Cao Cao's historical reputation is heavily integrated with this trope, mainly thanks to Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Just for one example, he's said to have dealt with unrest caused by a food shortage by having the officer in charge of rations assign short rations for a few weeks, then calling said officer for a talk, promising to look after the officer's family, and then having the officer executed on a false charge of stealing from the granary and placing his head on a spike, causing unrest to go down.
Alexander Hamilton correctly realized that many of the reforms needed to stabilize the post-Revolutionary War economy of the country could only be passed by taking whatever methods were necessary to get Washington to sign them. He was right, and the economy was in much better shape after he helped unite the economies of each state and give the national government enough power to manage them.
During the 1970 October Crisis, when asked how far he would go to combat the FLQnote Front de libération du Québec, Quebec Liberation Front in terms of curtailing civil liberties, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau replied, "Well, just watch me." Three days later, the only peacetime invocation of the War Measures Act was declared.