A Treacherous Advisor character is the type the heroes
consult when they're digging up an Ancient Conspiracy
, or something of the sort, and have hit a dead end. Surely he's in a position to be helpful? After all, he's the scholar/politician/military man/whatever, and just likely to have the information they need. Not to mention he can keep a secret.
Unfortunately, this trusted expert is secretly one of the bad guys. Sometimes he may be the Big Bad
himself! What makes him different from your average Mole
is the degree to which the heroes require his assistance — he's not a regular part of The Team
, but he's the only person who can give exactly the help needed.
The dead giveaway for this character type is accepting the heroes theories with a complete lack of skepticism. If it were anyone else, the first thing out of their mouth would be, "Why should I believe you?" If the character says "Have you told anyone else
?" or "It's a good thing you came to me." be warned: they're either about to give The Reveal
or planning on making some calls and starting a massive cover-up as soon as the hero leaves the room.
Another common trait of Treacherous Advisors is storing the Plot Coupons the heroes are fetching
, revealing themselves once they have the last one. In these cases, a common giveaway is their seeming a little too interested in the Plot Coupons
, more specifically in the act of taking them. A dead giveaway is if he doesn't let the hero look at the ones he's already collected. The hero will sometimes catch on as he's returning the last one, but never before then.
In a Tournament Arc
, the Treacherous Advisor may be the one who helps the hero reach the finals because he (or his Big Bad
boss) has a trap waiting in the final round.
They appear to be benevolent Mentors
or Reasonable Authority Figure
,until their The Reveal
shows their true nature. On rare occasions, everyone
of importance whose help the hero seeks is a mole; the hero's only real allies are the ones with no power or influence.
Not to be confused with the Evil Chancellor
. Contrast Sarcastic Devotee
and Deceptive Disciple
. Compare Big Bad Friend
and Regent for Life
. Despite its name, the Evil Mentor
and this trope rarely overlap as the Evil Mentor will not try to hide its true nature.
WARNING: Examples can be major spoilers for a climactic reveal. Read ahead at your own risk.
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Anime and Manga
- Gil Graham in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
- Subverted in : Daitokouji-sensei, Judai's teacher and ally, was revealed to be The Mole, and then later The Mole for the good guys.
- Played straight with Edo Phoenix's adoptive father DD. He was a criminal who murdered Edo's true father and stole the Ultimate D card, becoming a vassal of the Light of Ruin in the process; the whole reason he took Edo under his wing was to throw suspicion off of himself. Eventually, he confronted Edo and the truth came out, but Edo defeated him (ironically, using a card that his father designed to defeat the Ulitimate D card) and DD perished in the resulting fire.
- Kabuto in Naruto's Chuunin Exam Tournament Arc.
- Colonel Urube Ishikawa in G Gundam.
- Kirei Kotomine in Fate/stay night, though neither Rin nor Shirou trust him very much anyway.
- Words Worth: Both Tessio of the Shadow Tribe and Menza of the Light tribe, who are later revealed to be two halves of the same entity, who is pushing the tribes to remain in a constant state of war to keep the Words Worth Tablet prophecy from being fulfilled.
- Big Bad Albert Maverick from Tiger & Bunny is this to Barnaby. He steers Barnaby to become a highly marketable (and easily-manipulated) corporate-sponsored superhero who works tirelessly for the company and TV channel of which he is the CEO. Barnaby constantly looks to Maverick for guidance (and obviously considers him to be a Parental Substitute) for more than two-thirds of the series.
- Haazen in Knights of the Old Republic. He manipulates Lucien Draay into doing some truly nasty things — including ordering the deaths of several of his colleagues apprentices and trying to kill his own — because that was supposed to prevent the return of the Sith. Turns out Haazen was Sith himself, and was aiming to both control the Jedi through Lucien and generally spit on the grave of Barrison Draay, Lucien's father and Haazen's one-time friend-turned-rival.
- In Bookhunter, after the Library Police finally retrieve the stolen book, Agent Bay realizes that the stolen copy was actually another forgery—because the original book had already been stolen by the Chief of Library Security.
- When NYPD criminologist Carlie Cooper discovers Officer Vin Gonzales is part of a conspiracy to frame Spidey, she goes straight to the precinct sergeant. He turns out to be deeper in it than Vin, and quite prepared to pin the whole thing on Vin and Carlie.
- Ultimate Spider-Man had Jean De Wolffe. Her regular 616 Marvel universe counterpart was a by the book cop who had a soft spot for Spider-Man, and whose death was a tragedy. Her Ultimate Universe counterpart seemed to be shaping up to be similar, sending Spider-Man to potential bad guys' hideouts but in the end turned out to be working for the Kingpin and unceremoniously shot by The Punisher because he knew she was a bent cop.
- Then there was Ezekiel. This mysterious man whose powers seemed to be the same as Spidey's (except mystical in nature, not scientific) helped him against Morlun and Shathra, predators of supernatural origin bent on preying on the hero. Ezekiel told Spidey that the spider that had bitten him was not mutated by the radiation, but actually trying to give him its powers before the radiation killed it. This meant that Spider-Man was now part of the supernatural food chain, and had become a target for other totems and beings who feed on totems (Hence why so many of Spider-Man's foes were based on animals; on some level, they 'sensed' that Peter was a true totem while they were merely impostors and were thus driven to destroy him. But it was all lies. It was later revealed that Morlun and Shathra were really after Ezekiel, and Ezekiel attempted to direct the consequences of gaining his powers onto Spider-Man himself, taking Spider-Man to the temple where he had been given his own powers and drawing blood to attract a massive spider that would take the 'false' totem warrior as a sacrifice. At the last moment, however, he realized that he had done nothing but selfish things with his powers, while Peter had selflessly risked his life to save others again and again. With that in mind, he attacked the spider, sacrificing himself to save Peter.
- In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared is this to Siphon and the Pantheon. Mildly subverted in that he is legitimately looking out for IQ Squared's best interests.
- The French series La Quête de l'Oiseau du Temps: Mara, the old witch-princess who sends the heroes on the quest in the first place, secretly wishes to steal the powers of the God of Evil as opposed to sealing him.
- Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has Governor Deacon's adviser, Newkirk, who didn't have well-laid plans. While not outright treacherous, he showed little to no concern for public safety. This got Newkirk fired.
- Tealove's Steamy Adventure. The story starts when a conversation with Pinkie Pie convinces Tealove to go on a quest to obtain some magic tea leaves. Pinkie even offers some advice for the trip. By the end of the story, Tealove has the magic tea leaves, and she has to keep them out of the hooves of an evil cultist. The cultist is very, very strongly implied to be Pinkie Pie in a disguise. Amusingly, this twist came about completely by accident. The story was a Round Robin with no communication between the different authors—so the guy who wrote Pinkie as the cultist had no idea that she'd appeared earlier as the quest-giver.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- The main antagonist in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
- In Another 48 Hours, a Retcon makes Jack Cate's fellow officer and longtime friend Ben the Big Bad whom Reggie Hammond had robbed in the Back Story to the first film, and the one who has been feeding Jack misinformation all along.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Both Walter Donovan and Dr. Elsa Schneider would qualify.
- Obadiah Stane from Iron Man. Not a big secret to those who know his history from the comics, but in the film, he founded Stark Industries with Tony's dad and pretends to be Stark's friend and mentor, but when the film begins, he pays to have Tony killed while on a trip showing off some of his new weapons (they don't, because they weren't told who he was). Later, he ends up building his own armor suit. Which he powers with the power source he pulls out of Tony's chest. Which was all that was keeping him alive.
- Lt. Neil Briggs (Hal Holbrook) in Magnum Force. His dismissal of Harry's Cowboy Cop methods is just him blowing smoke. He's a far more extreme Vigilante Man Killer Cop than Harry himself.
- Elijah Price in Unbreakable. Everything Elijah teaches David is so that he can be a great superhero and save people from other villains, but he has ulterior motives for guiding David on his journey. He wants David to be the hero so he has an enemy to fight and justify his role.
- The B-movies Full Contact (1992), Dragon Fire (1993) and Bloodfist 2050 (2005) all use exactly the same plot: a kickboxer who participates in the underground pit-fighting circuit in order to find the guy who has killed his brother. In each one, it turns out that the killer is the mentor who trained him.
- Watchmen adds shades of this to the relationship between Dan and Adrian, due to the fact that unlike in the graphic novel, they're close, affectionate friends in this version.
- Teddy Gammel in Memento. Complicated because his intentions aren't purely evil. While he's manipulating Lenny for his own purposes, he also does it to help Lenny function in daily life, and Lenny is also manipulating himself into killing innocent people just so he has a purpose in life. Teddy is a smug and greedy enabler, while Lenny is a willing Serial Killer... and tragically doesn't even remember it.
- Los Angeles Narcotics Detective Alonzo Harris from Training Day is THE poster boy of this trope.
- Palpatine is like a father to Anakin in the Star Wars prequel trilogy—he's also Darth kriffing Sidious.
- Leigh Teabing, the central villain (out of many candidates) in The Da Vinci Code.
- Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings books (and especially in the movies). Gríma Wormtongue also qualifies.
- Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential.
- Chauncy in The Dresden Files.
- This is also a big part of how the Fallen operate: If you pick up one of the Blackened Denarii you get an ancient, superintelligent and ridiculously powerful Spirit Advisor who'd be happy to show you how to solve any problem you run into — until you're so dependent on its help that it can control you completely.
- J.K. Rowling really likes this trope in the Harry Potter books.
- In Boris Akunin's Fiction, we have Ivan Panteleevich, leader of an elite Soviet sports club. Sergei Dronov, one of the superpowered protagonists, was discovered and saved by him early in the book, and has followed "the Sensei's" advice ever since, leaving the life of crime and becoming a sports celebrity and a powerful businessman during the Perestroika. In the end, it turns out that the Sensei was working for the Government Conspiracy all along — and indeed is one of its leaders. What's more, Dronov remains loyal to him and is all too happy to join a secret superhero team for the conspiracy. To this we may add that, under the pseudonym of Alexander Aleksandrovich, he is also the father of another protagonist's daughter (becoming something of an advisor to him as well, though not nearly as trusted as in the first case), and brings that protagonist in as well, though he is more skeptical after being told the truth. Mind you, he's not necessarily evil, inasmuch as he seems to genuinely want to help Dronov and is mostly concerned with fighting off an alien conspiracy that runs counter to the government conspiracy.
- In The Winter Queen (an earlier Boris Akunin novel), there is Ivan Frantsevich Brilling.
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms has several, including one who served Liu Bei but was tricked into serving Cao Cao; he refused to give meaningful advice from then on and kept his mouth shut when he saw through the ruse at Chi Bi. More importantly, it's the descendants of Sima Yi, Cao Cao's strategist, who ends up unifying the three kingdoms; one Cao son even gets murdered in broad daylight by the Sima clan.
- In The Kingdoms of Evil: De Macabre for certain, and possibly everyone else in Skrea.
- Dusk in Laini Taylor's Silksinger.
- From Provosts Guard, Tunstall, though only for the second half of the final book. He didn't want it to go so far, but it got out of hand, quickly.
- A Mage's Power: For a good chunk of the story, Eric is a Heroic Host for the spirit of Dengel. He relies on the dead mage's advice and knowledge of magic to get out of scraps and accomplish goals. Then he finds out that Dengel is only bidding his time until he can take over Eric's body.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", Sarah Jane Smith falls victim to this trope twice. First, the man she sees for help finding the villains' base turns out to be the one who helped them set it up. Then, after she escapes from him, she takes what she knows to the general who is coordinating the state of emergency, not knowing that, while she was away, he had also been revealed as a member of the conspiracy.
- Also "The Key to Time" arc (16th season) where the good guy they're collecting plot coupons for (the White Guardian) turns out to actually be the big bad, the Black Guardian.
- From Heroes: Claire has been hiding from her father the fact that she heals incredibly fast. She finally can't take the pressure anymore and decides to tell him... and he tells her he already knows, and asks her whom else she's told. Subsequently, every person she mentions has their memories of it wiped, and Claire herself is targeted for a wipe.
- In an ironic twist, though, HRG was trying to protect Claire (and the others) by doing this.
- From Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Gwendolyn Post (played by Serena Scott Thomas), the dark magician who poses as Faith's new Watcher, and "Doc" (played by Joel Grey), the strange old man/demon who helps out Dawn but is also working for the enemy.
- Digger in John Doe
- Harry Wolfe in Season 2, ep. 2 of Life On Mars.
- Subverted in "Aurora", an episode of Stargate Atlantis: When visiting the ruins of a ship that had the crew both in stasis and believing that they were still flying the vessel in a virtual reality setting, the second in command apparently was planning to do something against her boss. However, its later revealed that the actual second in command was killed long before the events of the episode by a Wraith, and a Wraith (presumably the same one that killed her) was impersonating her.
- Merlin has Agravaine as a good example of this. Arthur's uncle and advisor, as well as The Mole. Merlin and the rest eventually figure him out, but Arthur takes the longest to quit trusting him.
- Scandal: Cyrus, though he does have good intentions at times.
- Spooks, Series 7: Bernard Qualtrough, a retired MI5 spycatcher who Sir Harry Pearce calls on in the third episode, after realizing that Operation Sugarhorse, a plan to insert Western moles in high-ranking Russian government positions, is compromised. Harry has several meetings with him about likely suspects inside the Service who could be passing intel to the Russians, and he doesn't find out until the tail-end of episode five that Qualtrough himself is a long-term mole for them. By the next episode, Qualtrough has successfully framed Harry for the leak, in order to protect his real contact on the Grid — Connie James.
- In Pippin, the Lead Player is deliberately guiding Pippin down a path that is supposed to end with Pippin's dramatic suicide.
- Miranda West in The Wotch may qualify for this, given that she's keeping some very big secret from protagonist Anne and that she's willing to totally destroy the lives of a few people in order to make sure nobody interferes.
- Panthera has Reynder/Ari, who turns out to be Oosterhuis.
- In Pibgorn, a succubus can see that our heroes still find him useful.
- Nicodemus, the Big Bad of The Dreamland Chronicles got his start as one of these. Notably, he actually told his liege in advance that he would betray him, though he made it clear that he would only do so if his liege continued what Nicodemus considered to be a self-destructive policy. His liege didn't stop. Nicodemus was true to his word.
- Longarm/Longarm Prime/Shockwave in Transformers Animated.
- In Exo Squad, Barca plays this role in his attempts to get Halis to assassinate Simbacca.
- In the Men In Black Animated Adaptation, Kay's first partner and mentor Alpha turned out to be a scheming bastard. When Kay refused to join him, Alpha shot him and left him for dead. It's no wonder Kay became an emotionless robot after that.