The Wild Card is so used to swinging between teams that they have no default 'good' or 'evil' Character Alignment or even a 'home team'. They're not Chaotic Neutral, because Chaotic Neutral usually implies being on someone's team, despite being capricious, perhaps criminal, and having a limited attention span. This trope, on the other hand, truly isn't interested in consistently remaining with either side, and will very often simply want both to leave him alone. He can be the sort of person who will stay out of things entirely, until someone else (usually the hero or a sympathetic character) asks him for help.
Because the Wild Card doesn't care whose toes they stamp on, even if they're supposed to be their team. Come to think of it... the Hero probably only got them on the team (if they even manage to do that) because the Wild Card owes him big time. The Wild Card can really shake up a team - the more suspicious characters will quite rightly not trust him.
Wild Cards often share a few of these traits:
Bystander Syndrome - "As long as that rampaging evil beast doesn't get in my way, it's not my problem. But if it does... well, the good guys just got a new ally."
The Chessmaster - "Why shouldn't I manipulate both teams at once if it'll help me get what I want?!"
A Distraction - "I'm not really evil enough to be the real Big Bad. I may have distracted the good guys from what's important and endangered the world, but that wasn't my intention. On another day I might divert the Big Bad's attention away from the heroes."
Becoming the Mask - "Although it doesn't necessarily last forever, my unsteady moral compass often gets in the way of what I'm trying to do, especially when I'm trying to stick it to the good guys."
Redemption Equals Death - "My redemption is never to turn 'good' (what does that mean to someone like me, anyway?) But as soon as I become steady, reliable, and predictable, I'm usually gone."
It Amused Me - "I don't care whose side I'm on, as long as I get to have fun!"
Sometimes Wild Cards fall in love. Love is the bane of the Wild Card, because no longer does the world revolve around one amazing and easy to understand person - there's somebody else. Oh my god, What Is This Feeling??! Knowing how erratic the Wild Card can be, it could be somebody from either team - or both. With somebody to care about, the Wild Card may well become more reliable for a team. Or if there's multiple people to care about, they may become less reliable. There are also some Wild Cards who became so because they fell in love with someone.
Wild Cards are very rarely Big Bads, though; they aren't really dedicated enough to evil - or to anything - to be that evil. However much they may enjoy doing what they do, most Wild Cards have either some form of morality, or high survival instincts, and are likely to turn on their evil employer because they were betrayed, don't want to be blown up with the planet, or even just because they just don't like being that evil. Wild Cards are more likely to be a Big Bad's poor choice of Bastard Understudy, or even the Good Team's Token Evil Teammate.
While the average Wild Card sees their 'friends' as a handy Bulletproof Human Shield, they have just enough conscience to feel bad about abandoning them when the fight turns ugly. No Wild Card switches teams because they care about their friends - they switch teams because it means a better life for them.
On rare occasions, a Wild Card may unexpectedly pull a sudden act of Heroic Sacrifice, though it'll likely be because they guessed that if they didn't sacrifice themselves, they'd probably die anyway - along with everybody else.
Wild Cards are just that unreliable.
Not to be confused with the Wild Cardsbook series.
See also: True Neutral, Enigmatic Minion, Lovable Traitor, Double Reverse Quadruple Agent, The Starscream, Heel-Face Revolving Door and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Compare/contrast Nominal Hero.
Particularly wild Wild Cards tend to fall under For the Lulz.
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Anime and Manga
Ryuk from Death Note makes it clear early on that he's not on anyone's side; he only goes along with Light for as long as it makes things interesting for him. This is proven when in the manga, after Light runs out of plans and ideas and turns to Ryuk to save him, Ryuk kills him.
Mello could also count; all he does is only done so that he can prove himself to be the best.
Impmon from Digimon Tamers ranges from an arrogant and selfish loner, to helpful and fun-loving (if a bit begrudgingly), to a depressed wreck, to The Atoner.
Wang Liu Mei from Gundam 00, who would aid/manipulate anybody and everybody to achieve her vision for the future of the world (which was in a nutshell a change in its nature, and exactly that specific). The Ptolemaios faction of Celestial Being, to a certain extent; their Necessarily Evil nature make the intentions and targets of their interventions hard to second-guess, along with their tendencies to be flit between ruthlessness and diplomacy (depending on the circumstances).
Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter, who's sole desire to fight strong opponents causes this. He wants to fight and kill Gon and Killua, but not until they get stronger, which means he'll occasionally even lend them a hand. He's also a member of the Phantom Troupe or at least he's pretending to be one, but only because he wants to get the leader alone and fight him, which means he actually feeds information about the group to Kirapika during the Yorknew arc to help this along but when Kurapika seals Chrollo's nen abilities and brings him back down to normal, he starts working towards getting him back up to full power again..
Evangeline doesn't care about Negi's welfare and will occasionally help the villains if she feels it will be entertaining. Eva also seemed to treat the entire Battle of Mahora arc as a massive training exercise for Negi. If she had wanted to influence the outcome, she could have probably won the battle for either side singlehandedly.
Evangeline's partner Chachamaru, being a robot, will show loyalty to whoever she's programmed to, including the people she otherwise acts friendly around.
Tatsumiya Mana and Asakura Kasumi side with Chao Lingshen because they believe in her goal while having helped Negi several times previously (well, Kasumi switches sides when she learns of the consequences for Negi).
And now there is Kurt Godel, who is said (with reason!) to be extremely dangerous and fits the trope to a T. He appears to be on a different side of the conflict every time he appears in a new chapter. The guy is Infuriating Awesome.
There is also Tsukiyomi, who will betray her side and remain hostile to the other side at the drop of a hat if it looks like fun. Unlike most others of her sort, you can't even point her at your enemies and let her loose- but she will make you think you can, right up to the point where the slices your limbs off.
Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! was apparently originally this, before becoming attached to his friends at Mithril and Kaname. It's implied that the reason he joined Mithril as a Wild Card was because Kalinin was part of Mithril, and he decided to join him there. Sousuke especially fits this trope in the section of Wild Cards that fall in love. He originally had no conflicting emotions, since his world and goals only revolved around getting the job done. However, it's made clear that falling in love with Kaname is his bane, making him much weaker. Gauron is less than pleased with this change...
Ironically, Gauron turns out to be a more evil version of this. He never has any sort of attachment to any of the organisations he's part of, not even of a financial nature. He kills and betrays (or not) only according to his whims, and can not be threatened, bribed or convinced out of it by nothing and no one. Not even when offered the very real possibility of getting the past/future of his choice, and he knows it's possible. And in the end, he betrays Amalgam to Sousuke, because apparently he really did feel... erm, something disturbingly close to actual affection for the kid.
Hibari and Mukuro from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. Apparently, after 10 years, however, they both seem to be more loyal to Tsuna (even possibly admiring and respecting his strength). Of course, neither would ever admit it. Their present time selves definitely fit this trope very well, though.
Don't forget Xanxus. Or the whole of the Varia. They will fight under the name of Vongola.
Ladd Russo in Baccano!. He mostly just wants whatever to satisfy his sadism, regardless of who he's teaming with.
Nijima, self-proclaimed 'friend' of Kenichi in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple - though calling him a Wild Card implies that he has a good side. He doesn't; all he's really interested in is gathering information, spreading rumours and ranking everyone in school. Oh, and running away. Even Kenichi gets tired of his shit.
Nico Robin from One Piece used to be one, jumping from crew to crew to find the Poneglyphs until she got in with the Straw Hats.
Also Trafalgar Law. He's extremely powerful but backstabs people quite frequently. It's still unclear whether or not he'll betray Luffy at some point as well, now that they are in an alliance...
CP9. Now that the World Government has dismissed their Psychos for Hire and turned them into outlaws, the only thing known for sure about their goals is that they don't plan on being apprehended...though it's pretty obvious that Spandam, at least, hasn't seen the last of them.
The Straw Hats are seen as a whole crew of Wild Cards by the world at large. There are certain unspoken rules that pirates are expected to follow. The Straw Hats do not follow them. When Zoro almost attacks a World Noble (Who can summon an Admiral down on whomever they feel like), a bystander notes, "I heard the Straw Hats were crazy, but..."
Sora from .hack//SIGN is probably one of the best examples in Anime, checking the entire list from above. Since the setting of the story is an MMORPG, Sora's goal is strictly to have fun, at anyone's expense. He doesn't seem to understand the gravity of the situation as the plot progresses probably because he's a child in the real world, and continues to flip back and forth between sides. Even though it's a game, Sora strives to survive at all costs; he only helps either side if there's an immediate tangible benefit to him, and isn't above playing both sides at once, although this ultimately costs him badly when he pulls one Back Stab too many, fulfilling the Redemption Equals Death aspect. The effects this have on him as a person are eventually examined through Haseo, a later character played by Sora's player after he's grown up somewhat, in .Hack//GU.
Izaya Orihara from Durarara!!. There's nothing he loves more than stirring up conflict between people and watching the human drama unfold. He's probably helped out and back stabbed every significant character in the series just For the Lulz... except for Shizuo.
In Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke is well known for staying on one side only as long as it benefits him, then moving on. The sides bounce from good (Konoha) to evil (Orochimaru and Tobi) to basically neutral (Hebi), then back to evil (Orochimaru again) for a short while, then back to good ( the zombie Hokages). Considering that Sasuke has been getting progressively less moral, it's easy to characterize him as a bad guy, but when it comes down to it, he's killed more major bad guys than all the good guys put together.
While she's not quite a typical Wild Card, the direction the Berserk storyline is going is pretty much dependant on what Casca's going to do after she regains her sanity in the coming chapters. There's a strong possibility she's going to Come Back Wrong, but no-one is quite sure how yet.
Ymir from Attack on Titan, due to playing her cards very close to her chest. While most can agree she's devoted to Krista, her true motivations and alliagences are a mystery to everyone. As an unfilitated Titan Shifter, it seems she's got loyalty to all of two people: Krista and herself. Her Heel-Face Revolving Door and unwillingness to share what she knows leaves everyone but Krista justifiably suspicious of her.
Wolverine in many of his comic portrayals proves to be something of a Chaotic Good Wild Card - while usually on the side of the good guys, he's violent, dangerous, unreliable and extremely intelligent. While he may not swing fully from Villain to Hero and back again, like many Wild Cards enjoy doing, his comic incarnation especially has a high number of team affiliations, and he has frequently worked on his own.
This was far more explicit in the Ultimate Universe. Wolverine started off as a cold-blooded assassin working for Magneto. Then he did a Heel-Face Turn in order to sleep with Jean Grey. Then when she dumped him, he responded by trying to murder her new boyfriend, Cyclops (by dropping him off a cliff. He broke a bunch of bones and spent a month lying in a pit eating bugs). Then he was given one last chance to rejoin the team (after having the crap blasted out of him by Cyclops), and has stayed good since. Except that then his time-traveling future self turned up and apparently murdered Xavier.
Emma Frost she is any ally of the X men but occasionally sides with the villains depending on what she can get out of it.
Nyna Calixte/Morrigan Corde from Star Wars: Legacy has helped and hindered just about every major faction in the comic at least once. She clearly has an agenda she's pushing towards, but whatever it is remains completely unknown (and is the subject of much discussion on Star Wars fan forums), and as such it's difficult for fans and nigh impossible for characters to predict her next move.
Deadpool. He usually has no rational reason to do anything. And being both liked and loathed by people in both sides of the hero/villain community (sometimes even liked and hated by the same person) certainly qualifies him.
In Secret Wars, the Beyonder transports a group of superheroes and a group of supervillains to "Battleworld" and expects the two groups to battle each other to aid his study of what it is to be human. It doesn't precisely work out: Magneto is grouped with heroes, despite still being a villain at the time, due to his Anti-Villain nature. The other heroes obviously aren't thrilled and he goes off to do his own thing before finally signing on with them. The Lizard is too savage to understand the concept of "sides" and ends up most loyal to the Wasp for having treated him when he was injured, and Galactus just ignores all the other combatants and spends the entire series working out a way to take on the Beyonder himself.
Lobo the Main Man has fought against and along side with several DC heroes and villains. Most of the time he does it because he's a bounty hunter, and he gets paid for what he does, or he felt like doing it.
Jason Todd (aka The Red Hood) from is a definite example. While Commissioner Gordon normally relies on Batman to do the dirty things he won't, Jason will do the dirty things Batman won't. He will kill criminals, initiate crime wars, recruit gangsters (only to betray them at the right moment), resort to torture to get information (or just because he feels like it), and so on and so forth. It is all part of his vendetta against crime and vision of a better world. Or something like that. While he does truly think he's doing some good for Gotham, his actions sometimes cause innocents to be casualties. He (tries) to kill whoever gets in his way, even his former mentor and foster parent (Batman) along with his "siblings" (the other Robins). Sometimes it isn't even just about them being in his way but him just feeling competitive. It is hard to classify him as hero or villain, but it's clear he is not someone to be messed with.
Ben Tennyson is seen as this in Fate Stay Night Ultimate Master by everyone else in the Holy Grail War; his only interest is in preventing casualties or lost of innocent lives, including the other Masters. As such, he will team up with anybody just to protect other Masters, but will just as easily turn against them if they cross that line. Rin even refers to Ben as such.
Films — Animated
Iago from Disney's Aladdin is about as reliable morality-wise as a chocolate teapot. He spends much of Aladdin: The Series stealing treasures from his 'friends', manipulating people's good natures, and abandoning fights that turn ugly. However he doesn't like his friends getting hurt, and has had some surprisingly brave moments. Jafar makes note of it in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar:
Jafar: "Iago... you betrayed me and allied yourself with my enemies! Then you turned on them as soon at it was in your best interests. That's what I love about you. You're so perfectly... predictable. A villain through and through!"
And his conscience moment...
Iago: "Hey, I did my good deed! I don't owe you a thing! You hear me?!" (beat) "Not a thing..."
Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. While she starts off as an ally to Indiana, we find out that she's really a Nazi agent. However, towards the second half of the movie, she shows lots of mixed behavior that suggests she's not truly "evil" nor believes in the Nazi cause. She even helps Indiana by dispatching Donovan in the grail chamber (even if it was to further her selfish motive to get the grail). In the end, her character was just too morally ambiguous for a popular film, and the writers use a Death by Materialism to seal her fate.
The stranger in Last Man Standing not only hires himself out as a mercenary to both sides, but does so in the expectation that his presence will swing the gang violence into gang war, in which he can make more of a profit. Then he guns down both gangs.
Arguably, all the pirates. By the third film, everyone's allegiance is best described as being on "their own side."
In the Forgotten Realms, Jarlaxle is a Chaotic NeutralMagnificent Bastard Wild Card. One excellent example of his playing both sides and the middle is when he captured a young woman, made a half-hearted attempt at seducing her, and set things up so his own ally would "betray" him and free her, so they could go rescue her would-be boyfriend and the ally's rival, who was being held by Jarlaxle's employer. Ta-daaa.
Sethra Lavode from the Dragaera books might qualify as a Lawful Neutral Wild Card, given that she is loyal above all to The Empire but not necessarily the current emperor or empress on the throne. She is also rather a Chessmaster along with being eons old and ultra-powerful, and it's noted in the Khaavren series how some villages view her as the Evil Overlord to be defeated in their fairy tales, while she is considered a "fairy godmother" /Physical God the next village over. In the Taltos series, her actions are more unambiguously good, and she experiences Becoming the Mask in her kindly and likeable persona as Classy Cat-Burglar Kiera, which was initially just a scheme to monitor organized crime in the Empire.
The House she is associated with, the Dzur, is also something of a Wild Card group, as Sethra notes in the book Dzur how that group likes fighting for its own sake and will choose the right side when everyone else is against it.
Along the same lines as Talleyrand, both Fernand and Vilefort from The Count of Monte Cristo might count, being excellent judges of when to change their politics and thus rise through society at a time when most people suffer because of having Napoleonic or Royalist politics at the wrong time.
Codex Alera features the ironically-named spy Fidelias, who starts the events of the first book when he turns traitor in an attempt to replace the aging First Lord with a new ruling noble, Aquitaine. He believes that what he is doing is no different than the many acts he has previously performed as a loyal spy, acting to preserve the long-term stability of Alera. In the later books, he turns again upon realizing that The Hero is the heir to the throne and would make a far better ruler than Aquitaine.
Sadi, Chief Eunich of the Nyssian Royal Court in the Belgariad really shows hints of this in the sequel series, the Mallorean. He shanghais the heroes to escape from some rivals' plots (Of course, his part in the prophecies didn't help matters either), manages to trick the leader of the Dagashi (ninja-like assassins) to the point that even said leader is impressed with his cleverness, and then near the end, represents his government (despite at that time having no legal standing whatsoever) in a set of very lucrative accords, and uses his standing in the accords to buy himself back into his queen's good graces.
Durnik: Did we kill anybody?
Sadi: Two. (off their expressions) It's a little hard to un-poison a knife...
In A Song of Ice and Fire, we have Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Lord Varys, both of whom have switched sides at least three times (Lannister to Tyrell to himself in Littlefinger's case, Targaryen to Baratheon to Lannister to Targaryen for Varys) depending on who happens to be able to help them out. Varys actually mentions more than once that his big talent in life is sucking up to whoever is in power. Both come from very humble backgrounds for the circles they operate in (the littlest of Lordlings for Littlefinger, foreign eunuch for Varys) but through raw talent became Councilors and major players in the realm, and both are aware of how they have to secure themselves at all costs. Particularly Varys, who despite decades as a major player has no title or wealth whatsoever of his own.
Vergere from the New Jedi Order series. What she was doing was pretty clear (training Jacen Solo to be an uber-Force user) but the why was so ambiguous that even the editors can't seem to decide. At first the official position was that she wanted peace but wasn't allied with any faction in particular, then that she was a loyal (albeit unorthodox) Jedi of the Old Republic, and now she's apparently supposed to be a Sith acolyte. Thing is, the original Vergere was just such a messed-up enigma that the authors seem to dust her off whenever they need someone to act as the linchpin of the ongoing plot, giving a sort of weird meta-status as the Wild Card.
Talon Karrde as well, although at least he's honourable enough not to sell anyone out if he can help it. He even lampshades it at one point, telling a Republic officer that he's in it for the money, not the ideology. The reason he sides mostly with the good-guys? He reckons they're going to win in the end.
The Marquis de Carabas from Neverwhere. He's your man right up until there's more in it for him not to be.
Walter Baranov the Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist of the mystery novel The False Inspector Dew qualifies as one of these in terms of his actions, particularly because the novel never conveys his mental state to the reader, making his true nature ambiguous. Walter had planned on killing his nagging wife on board a ship, but when she doesn't show and another corpse turns up, he has to impersonate a famous detective on account of using that detective's name as a pseudonym, and solves the murder. The ending implies that he will very soon be trying The Perfect Crime again, this time successfully.
Padan Fain/Mordeth from The Wheel of Time is the embodiment of this trope. He is sort of possessed by an Evil Chancellor (Mordeth) who became pure evil to ward his city from an other evil two millenia ago. But, as it turns out, he (Padan Fain) was working for the main villain before that, and now his only goal is to screw with both teams by killing the hero and making sure no one else does before him. Note that unlike many Wild Cards, Fain is unabashedly evil- it's just that his goals put him at odds in various ways with almost every major faction in the series.
Diana from Gone is a Card-Carrying Villain, but she hasn't done anything truly, overtly evil, at least not relative to some of the people she hangs out with. She acts as the Caine's chief assistant and seems to genuinely care for him, but helps the heroes from time to time so Caine's Dragon, who has a sadistic fixation on her, will have someone else to target. And, although she has an apparant Heel-Face Turn in Plague, it seems to mostly be because she can no longer control the Big Bad.
Everworld plays this in several ways—Senna is dragged into Everworld to help Loki escape, but she has her own ideas on how things should play out. To this end she drags several acquaintances through the portal with her, knowing that they will also be wild cards that she can control better than her enemies can. That being said, they become savvier as the series goes on, and pretty soon they're messing up her plans as well.
24 has recently been bringing this trope out with Tony Almeida, who seems to have turned double agent in an attempt to get revenge on the man who killed his wife. This means he has no qualms about acting against his country's best interests in order to gain the Big Bad's trust.
Jack also played with it, "going rogue" as a result of the fact that the country wasn't exactly happy with him in the first place, but he still always had the country's best interests in mind and was merely playing the bad guys. Then again, when half the bad guys in the show are corrupt politicians, often going against the authorities is being the good guy.
A rare Lawful Neutral Wild Card comes about in the personage of Jack Bristow from Alias. He's a Wild Card, despite being almost rigidly Lawful Neutral, because he has not one but two goals, which he values almost equally. The first is, as an intelligence agent of the United States, to secure and defend America's military, diplomatic, and industrial interests abroad. The second, and more important, is as a father: to keep his daughter—also an intelligence agent—safe. Because of the dangerous nature of his daughter's missions, these two goals come into conflict more often than might be thought.
Gaius Baltar from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. His final line in the Pilot Episode is, in fact, "I'm on nobody's side." So there you go. He certainly does his best to muck up Admiral Adama's command while recruiting groupies wherever he goes; first he tries to seize power politically, but when that plan goes bust, he embraces the mantle of the 'martyr', founding a sect of monotheists (a novelty in the Twelve Colonies, which are devoutly polytheistic) and running afoul of some Romans, i.e. President Roslin. However, he never quite embraces the Cylons despite prodding from various incarnations of Six. The finale reveals that a higher power was manipulating Baltar's greed for their own purposes.
Despite being nominally a villain or hero at various times, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer functions as a Wild Card for most of season 4 and early season 5 as he makes his gradual Heel-Face Turn. During that changeover period he provides backup or information to the main cast when he's paid for it but also betrays them to Adam at the drop of a hat when it appears to suit his purpose.
And The Immortal from Angel has been described as being not on the side of good or evil, instead fighting for himself.
Cole Turner in Charmed switched sides so often, it could give you a headache trying to keep up. Over the course of the three seasons that he was part of the regular cast, he went from being the Big Bad's Dragon to the sisters' Token Evil Teammate to a human under the sisters' protection to becoming the new Big Bad (replacing the one he had originally worked for) to not caring about anything but trying to win Phoebe back by any means necessary.
Doctor Who: the Master in all his incarnations drifts inscrutably between sides, when he isn't a side unto himself.
He's always a side unto himself, and never works for anyone, just tricks people into doing his bidding.
Similarly, Sabbath from the Eighth Doctor Adventures tends to do a lot of becoming mortal enemies with everyone he allies himself with and shifting his goals because of it. He started off engaged in mildly Teeth-Clenched Teamwork with the Doctor, and, well. That didn't last. He carries on getting into Enemy Mine situations with the Doctor, bookended by attempts on the Doctor's life, until he decides he's actually "more than a little fond of" the Doctor.
Firefly's Jayne Cobb appears to be this type of character, but when his one attempted betrayal is weighed against all the instances where he unhesitatingly stands by the crew against overwhelming odds he suddenly looks far less neutral. This may be because the one time he tried to betray the crew, Mal damn near threw him out the airlock.
Saffron (a.k.a YoSaffBridge), in her two appearances. There's a girl who truly can't be trusted.
The first is September, and the rest of the mysterious Observers. All they do is watch and observe... So there's one (or twelve) wild card(s).
William Bell's true allegiances are never really clear. On one occassion, he's fighting against Walternate and helping Olivia, on the other, he's the very man who created the shapeshifters. He's also behind some of the show's more...morally questionable acts.
Next, we have Sam Weiss. On one hand, he's very friendly, helps rehabilitate Olivia and makes a new friend in the process. On the other hand, Walternate is somehow aware of his existance and doesn't trust him, he appears to be the author behind the century-old book The First People, and knows exactly who Peter Bishop is and what his connection to the Wake Sink Device is. Eventually, we learn that he was just an ordinary guy all along who happened to have generations of knowledge bestowed upon him.
The show's biggest wild card is arguably The Man In The X T-Shirt. Olivia has absolutely no memories of the man despite the fact that he was in her mind. Even more creepy is that he wasn't a normal "mental projection". Because Olivia regressed and hid because of her fears deep in her subconciousness, all of her memories of everyone she knew turned malevolent, seeking to harm her as well as anything that "doesn't belong" (i.e, Peter, Water and Bell). This man, on the other hand, wasn't a malevolent entity - he simply sought to escape the zeppelin he was trapped in. And finally, after Olivia returned better than ever, this man's image simply appeared in her mind, and she nonchalantly stated that "he's the man who's gonna kill her."Word of God says that he's somehow connected to September, and David Robert Jones.
Heroes: Sylar's intentions change to suit whatever his situation at the moment calls for; he'll assist either the good guys or the bad guys if he thinks he has something to gain from it. However, he also dislikes being lied to, and every attempt to control him through lying and manipulation has ended horribly with a bloodbath and Sylar defecting to the other side by default.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: When Mac is fitting all of the bar into a Five-Man Band structure, he designates Charlie as "the wild card" and for good reason. In that episode alone, he tries to proposition their loan officer, switches the bar to run on a gasoline engine, tries to sell some more gasoline to a random woman using a Texas accent (and sounding like a gigolo), and pushes four large garbage cans of gas out of the car and jumps out. When asked about any of it, he just says "Wild Card!"
Mac: Why aren't the brakes working?
Charlie: BECAUSE I CUT THE BRAKES! WILD CARD, BITCHES! YEEEHAW! * jumps out of car*
Frank also serves as a Wild Card, with less insanity and more selfishness. He doesn't have any loyalty, he just does whatever he thinks will net him the most money/enjoyment.
Benjamin Linus of LOST, even though his early appearances set him up as the Big Bad. Even up to the finale, the audience isn't quite sure what he's going to do or who he's going to side with.
Krenshaw from Monk is probably the closest to being a Wild Card that could be given in the series. A notable example is in the episode where he attempted to vote for the destruction of a parking garage solely to spite Monk, who attempted to defend it from its destruction.
Eli David of NCIS seems to be this as well. He seems to put country above everything including family, to the degree of being an Abusive Parent because of this. At the same time, he is not a completely unsympathetic character. Still no one knows what he will do.
From the same show, Trent Kort, because nobody knows his reasons, which side he's on, or even his actual name. You don't get much wilder than that.
Piggy of Power Rangers S.P.D. was able to align himself with all three fractions in the series (The Heroes, the Villains, and The Villain Traitors) all for want of money. This isn't a guy who sided with whoever paid the most, this is a guy who just wanted pay.
Sheppard:Here's my problem. Every time we get involved with you, I feel like I'm walking around with a live grenade in my pocket, just waiting for it all to go wrong - for that one thing you forgot to mention.
Garak of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He actually skirts the edges of having no allegiance, because he is steadfastly loyal to Cardassia. However, he is not necessarily loyal to its current government, and he is on the side of the protagonists in later seasons because he believes the current government does not have the best interests of Cardassia in mind. Only rarely, however, is he actually opposed to the protagonists. It is not uncommon for him to be confrontational though (Particularly, his methods do not always sit well with Starfleet ethics).
Although we didn't find out his true loyalties until later seasons. Even then he displayed his Magnificent Bastard abilities by keeping people guessing if he was really on their side.
Lana Lang on Smallville, more or less because the writers weren't sure to do with her. Lana's first Heel Turn came about as the resulting of being possessed by her ancestor, a malevolent witch. Later seasons had her marrying Lex Luthor (who was demoted to "cuckolded husband" almost immediately), embezzling all of his money, and setting up her own Cape Busters syndicate. She eventually became a super-powered secret agent and left the show to pursue adventures of her own
In season three of Supernatural, Bela pulls a lot of scams that endanger the Winchester's lives but will occasionally help them (usually out of self preservation).
In any given episode, Crowley , Meg and Ruby might be working alongside or against the boys, and are ready to betray them at a moment's notice. Demons are tricksy like that.
The angels aren't much better. Gabriel, Balthazar, Anna and even good old Cas frequently switch between helping or hindering the Winchesters.
Survivor has had many, but the practice started with Rob Cesternino in The Amazon and resulted in the Pearl Islands season that followed being an all-wild card situation after Rupert's elimination. Special mention to Sandra, who won employing a self-proclaimed strategy of "as long as it ain't me."
Veronica Mars: the title character's on-again, off-again Homme Fatal boyfriend Logan Echolls helps the investigations as often as he messes with them - all for his own shady reasons, of course. His own girlfriend believes him capable of murder, so there's that, too.
Vezon from BIONICLE would work for whoever had the best chance of killing him at the given moment, however he was mostly out to follow his own twisted yet never quite defined plans. After he gained the power to travel between dimensions, this mostly stopped being a problem for him, although even so, he was once seen doing errands for another, highly powerful character.
The business calls these folks "Tweeners" (as in, betweenHeel and Face). Essentially, it's when the bad guysget heroes' welcomes. (Keep in mind, the inversions of this - babyfaces who get booed out of the building, or supposed big things who get no reaction at all - do not qualify as Tweeners; that's called X-Pac Heat.) Examples of Tweeners include:
WWE wrestler Triple H seems to settle into this role whenever he attempts a Heel-Face Turn. Mostly because, even as a face, he's kind of a prick—but a smart, funny prick.
During his TNA days, Christian Cage settled into this role after the dissolution of Christian's Coalition, and his major storyline was about him trying to rebuild his burned bridges with the faces on the roster, in order to combat his allies who had now joined the Angle Alliance. The fact that he was still pretty much a cocky asshole heel in characterization really hurt his efforts.
Ric Flair, whose exceptional skill at both grappling and cutting promos, and his ability to carry even the most pathetic "wrestlers" to four-star affairs while remaining the Dirtiest Player In The Game throughout, made him almost impossible to boo even as he started to push sixty.
Even at his most face-ish, the late Eddie Guerrero would lie, cheat, and steal to get his way. It was on his shirt. As he once said while teaming with his nephew Chavo, "Hey, we may lie, cheat, and steal — but at least we're honest about it."
Which begs the question: what the hell's an honest liar?
Which provides the answer to: "The following statement is true: the preceding statement was false."
One can pretty much just simply say any mid-card WCW wrestler that later became pretty big draws in WWE.
The Rock kinda fits this example too. Whether he's a Face or a Heel, he will attack anybody just because he simply doesn't like him (examples: Vince McMahon and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin). Also, even when he's supposed to be a heel post-1999, fans will still cheer him on such as his fight with Goldberg. His charisma and obvious desire to entertain the fans even as a heel makes it really REALLY hard for fans to legitimately hate his character.
His assaults on both John Cena's father and the McMahon family should have made him the biggest heel in the company. Instead, fans tended to cheer him more.
The Undertaker and Kane also fit this example, as they will attack anybody they feel is a threat to them, not caring whether they are a Face or a Heel.
John Cena, despite turning Face in late 2003, still used Heel tactics to win some of his matches such as the one at Wrestlemania XX when he used the steel chain to defeat Big Show.
Kurt Angle will often be cheered regardless of his status as a face or heel due to his incredible in-ring ability. In fact, he once cut a promo proving exactly this: After saying that he is not a fan of "the black people" and wanting to make Jesus Christ tap out, he said people still wouldn't boo him because they knew he was the best in the world. The crowd promptly cheered.
Mickie James has never actually been booed in WWE. Fans loved her crazed psycho lesbian stalker gimmick so much she was cheered over the also very popular Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 and continued to be cheered through her heel run so she turned face and has remained so throughout her entire career.
Beth Phoenix slipped into this role when she was moved to Smackdown (she had been a heel on Raw) where she was immediately shown to be out for herself and a bit of a three way feud started between her, Mickie and Michelle McCool with Beth's allegiance constantly in question. Eventually she made a Heel-Face Turn. Curiously when she turned back Heel she was still getting a large amount of cheers from the crowd, due to her character having a sympathetic point of view - wanting to make the division about talent instead of looks.
Similar to Beth, Kharma debuted as a Monster Heel but she only attacked heel divas at first, before then going for Face divas too. Her farewell promo blurred the lines even further.
During the summer of 2011, the WWE pulled off the rarely-successful main event tweener feud with John Cena vs. CM Punk. John Cena is nominally the face, does face things, and is certainly beloved by younger demographics, but has long had a poor reputation with the older fans who, while no longer giving him X-Pac Heat, think of his Boring Invincible Hero Hogan-like dominance as a clear symptom of WWE's static nature and an on-screen product that was getting old. CM Punk's current persona is the straight-edge The Guy Who Says What Older Fans Are Thinking. Officially, that makes him a heel, but understandably, it doesn't lead to him getting booed, and his Anti-Hero antics are hilariously entertaining to boot. Throw in some excellent matches between the two of them, and the result was arenas split 50-50 with support.
CM Punk in general: since he settled into his "Straight Edge Messiah" gimmick across multiple organizations, typically the only difference between whether he's a face or a heel is how condescendingly he talks to the audience when trying to "help" them, or whether he: picks a fight then runs away; or picks a fight, kicks the guy in the face, then runs away. He's also pulled more than one Face-Heel Turn by being the most beloved guy in the company for weeks or months, executing a grandiose betrayal, and calling everyone out for trusting him again, once outright stating "I'm still a snake, you idiots!"
AJ Styles' 2013 Face-Heel Turn has him saying he's sick and tired of doing the right thing and instead he'll do his own thing. During the TNA roster's war with Aces & Eights, Styles refuses to join either side and instead viciously attacks both sides.
Being a Wild Card was explicitly a major part of Mexican legend Dos Caras's gimmick; hence the name Dos Caras, which translates to "Two Faces".
Metal Gear: Revolver Ocelot is perhaps the greatest example of a Wild Card in the history of fiction. He at first seems to be aligned with Liquid Snake in 2005, and then it turns out he's working for Solidus, who was the one that had Ocelot convince Liquid to instigate the entire Shadow Moses Incident in the first place. In 2007, he partners with Sergei Gurlukovich, and then almost immediately betrays him while still working for Solidus...until eventually betraying him in 2009, revealing that he's actually working for the Patriots. However, if we go back to 1964, he appears to be working for the GRU, but is secretly operating as a spy for both the KGB and the CIA. Then, in 1970, when the CIA and Pentagon were bickering over the Philosopher's Legacy, he took the opportunity to join Zero. Then when he started thinking about leaving HIM, Zero lured him back with battle data on the "Perfect Soldier Project," and the concept of genomes. By staying with Zero, Ocelot ends up being one of the founders of the Patriots, along with Zero, Para-Medic, Sigint, EVA and Big Bossnote one of Ocelot's requirements for joining was that Big Boss must join too. He would continue to act as a Patriot spy in the KGB, and left Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Theeeeeen, fast-forward to 2014: once Ocelot is possessed by Liquid's ghost, and Snake apparently beats “Liquid Ocelot” so hard that he knocks it out of him, Ocelot dies from a new stream of FOXDIE. After this, we find out from Big Boss (who is still alive thanks to Ocelot, EVA and nanomachines) that Ocelot wasn't working for anyone, and that he was actually coordinating a huge scheme in order to destroy the Patriotsnote part of which was intentionally adapting Liquid's persona probably since the early 70s, all in admiration of Big Boss (the man who put "Revolver" in his name). Oh, Ocelot, you Magnificent Bastard.
Ada from "Resident Evil" is definitely this character. She's basically a free agent who works for people only when convenient and always to further her own ends. Somewhat subverted by the fact that she seems to have feelings for Leon and helps him out whenever she can.
In "Resident Evil 6", you see that while she works on her own, she does actually care about people to a certain degree and doesn't what sociopaths taking over/destroying the world.
In Tales of Symphonia, Zelos mentions several times that he's only helping Lloyd to be on the "winning team". He's actually helping all three factions in the game- the party, the Renegades and the Angels- so that he can side with whatever faction seems to be on top at the end. Still he will always side with you, as long as you don't reject everyone at a certain event.
Ramza is himself a Wild Card in the Lion War, though for the opposite reason as Delita. Almost every faction wants him dead, and the main plot of the third chapter is, from his perspective, one long Blast Out. Delita is just happy to give him fuel and let him clear up the Gambit Pileup for him.
Boomerang from the first Wild ARMs, though technically on the side of the bad guys, is only interested in fighting and hence couldn't care less about his own side. At least once in the game he protects your party from them.
Shadow the mercenary from Final Fantasy VI is a slightly less teetering Wild Card; he indeed seems to care little for the overarching plot, and will randomly leave your party in the first half of the game. He also works for the bad guys in one area of the game, but since you're also working with them at that point, the issue never really comes up.
Scorpion from Mortal Kombat frequently switches sides, though in fairness this is frequently the result of being duped or enslaved by the higher-ups. It's especially apparent during the third game, where his single-minded pursuit of his hated rival Sub-Zero causes him to attack good and evil characters alike, and in the ninth game where he said he would only defeat Sub-Zero in battle, but ended up killing him anyway when Quan-Chi reminded him of what Subby supposedly did to his clan, wife and child.
Pat: Scorpion's not evil, he's just insane with the spirit of vengeance!
Shadow the Hedgehog works with whomever takes his fancy at that particular moment. In his game, you can switch his allegiance at any time.
The player characters in the Mercenaries series are private contractors. They have an overarching goal (The substantial bounty on General Song's head in the original, payback on Ramon Solano in the sequel), but are willing to play any side of the conflict, as long as it gets them closer to that goal. For instance, in the original, they had to work with the Allied Nations, since they were the ones giving out the Ace missions, but in order to get intel leading to the Aces, the players had to do missions for the Chinese Army, South Koreans, and Russian Mafia. Since the Chinese and South Koreans were hostile to one another, and the Mafia was at cross purposes with pretty much everyone, that meant the players had to fight for, and against, pretty much every faction at one point or another in order to maximize profits.
The upcoming Going Rogue expansion for City of Heroes is giving players this ability: heroes can change into villains, villains can change into heroes, or they can stay somewhere in between as rogues or vigilantes.
Vile: Incite rebellion. Split up the Hunters' forces. That's the way to get to X... But Sigma, I may be the wild card you hadn't counted on!
Dynamo shows up as a True Neutral mercenary for Big Bad Sigma. In X5 he wipes out an entire space colony, loads it with a computer virus, then initiates a Colony Drop. He's quite jovial though as he stalls for time by fighting X and Zero. When he shows up in X6, he has no relation to the crisis at hand and is merely hunting for Nightmare Soul for his own profit (note that X and Zero are also collecting Nightmare Soul.) When defeated, he has no hard feelings and merely departs. It seems he just wants to get his job done.
Baldur's Gate has a few, but Haer'Dalis from Baldur's Gate II is a shining example of the trope. He's a tiefling (demonkin) from a wholly different plane of existence who joins the party to do some sightseeing, seduction, and provocation.
Jan Jansen from the same game is also an example, although he's much more down-to-earth than Haer'Dalis.
Vergil in Devil May Cry. He serves the most powerful — though of course his main intention is to become the most powerful.
Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II. Ostensibly she's the main character's ally and adviser but only because that puts her in the best position to manipulate others without herself being manipulated.
In Fallout: New Vegas, this is a potential option for The Courier to take towards the end. The line of quests is even known as "Wild Card". Indeed, working with all the factions and stringing them along for as long as possible before upending all their plans and seizing power without warning is the encouraged way to get that ending.
In the promotional deck of cards that came with special editions of the game, the Courier and Benny (who's lack of success makes him more a Spanner in the Works in the grand scheme) are depicted as the Jokers.
Hawke is treated as this by every faction in the game. This ultimately leads to them getting blamed for causing the Mage-Templar War, when they actually had very little influence on the underlying problems that sparked the conflict and were merely the Right Man in the Wrong Place.
The player character of Dragon Age: Inquisition will lead what is nominally a Chantry organization, but have no pre-determined allegiance in practice. You can thus pick and choose your allies as you see fit.
Rogue CIA agent Steven Heck of Alpha Protocol has no real loyalties to anyone save for himself due to the fact that he's completely insane. He is however an ally of Michael Thorton provided that he stays on Heck's good side.
Dark Pit from Kid Icarus: Uprising. He's apparently a reflection of the part of Pit that doesn't like being a loyal pet to the Goddess of Light. This means he's even more pissed off about the fact that he was created just to be a servant of the Goddess of Darkness.
The Monquistans from Pirate101 act like this because they are easily insulted . The most famous of them is Mr. Gandry who had served in three different navies before he became a pirate.
Mass Effect has arguably a few, but from the point of view of most organisations and unaligned people Shepard seems like this. He has a clear goal that is essentially a good one (prevent the Reapers from destroying all advanced organic life) but most people either don't know about the Reapers at all or don't believe they're real. Even those few who do believe the Reapers are real and a threat to all civilisation (such as the Illusive Man) can be badly disappointed at how Shepard treats the problem.
In the first game, Shepard is mostly a diplomatic investment for the Alliance and a tool for incarcerating a rogue Spectre for the Council. S/he's in a position where it's impossible to please both and for them Shepard turns out to be something of a liability until right at the end of the game.
In the second game the player can have Shepard be very cooperative for the Cerberus, but actually because of how the game mechanics work, Shepard remains a wild card for them as well. And of course, because s/he's technically working for Cerberus, the Council and the Alliance don't really know where Shepard stands.
Illusive Man: You're making a habit of costing me more than just time and money, Shepard.
In the third game Shepard is reinstated in the Alliance Military, but that doesn't mean that s/he does everything they tell her to or in the way they hoped s/he would. However, by the time there's no intergalactic politics to meddle in in the game and most of the organisations more or less admit that We ARE Struggling Together. Shepard is more of the Big Good at this point, being the symbol of hope and unity as well as the Reapers' feared enemy. So you could argue that most other factions that don't get their shit together and side with him/her are the Wild Cards. There are, of course, still plenty of occasions to piss people off and blur the line between friend and foe.
Archer in Fate/stay night. He pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice in Fate, goes through Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in UBW and then does his job as a Counter Guardian in Heavens Feel. In all cases he's immensely powerful and knowledgeable and to a large extent drives the plot, mostly in the latter two routes. He has his own goals, but he's not quite willing to destroy the world to fulfill them.
Rider as well in HF. Her goal is to keep Sakura safe and obey her. So throughout HF she's busy switching sides to ensure Sakura's survival and after she becomes unsure of what is the best option, she disappears despite presumably being on the good guy side at the moment. Sakura/Rider combo ends up causing more bad ends than pretty much every other character, beating out Caster and Ilya by a narrow margin. But she saves Shirou's at the end and even gets to live in the True End.
Lambdadelta in Umineko no Naku Koro ni for differing reasons throughout the story. First is because she doesn't want an outright winner between Beatrice and Battler, later she acts in a fair manner because it's more interesting and, when pressed, is even capable of saying in red that she is completely neutral. While she's helping everyone out in order to amuse herself, you just need to remember the part about 'in order to amuse herself.'
Most of the main characters in Darken to a greater or lesser extent, but especially Jill.
Bun-bun from Sluggy Freelance is one of these through and through. He tends to fall on the good guys' side more often than not lately, though that's largely because the other characters have gotten better at making sure it's in Bun-bun's best interest to keep them alive.
Bun-bun: Deal, but I reserve the right to mug the target and/or switch sides at any time.
Riff: I know, I know, "your usual disclaimer."
Wanda Firebaugh, the dread Croakamancer of Erfworld, who's seemingly working for Stanley the Tool, but is involved with Jillian Zamussels who is on the other side, and is really working for herself. In large part, this is because she appears to see herself as a servant of fate, and will do whatever's needed to see that fate realised.
Played around with in Vriska from Homestuck. On the one hand, she was responsible for setting a Cycle of Revenge into place and keeping it going. On the other hand, she also agreed to end it, and showed some signs of genuine remorse. On the other hand, when she entered the veil she set in motion the events that lead to Jack Noir being prototyped by Bec, which doomed the kids' session. On the other hand, she claimed she was only doing it to make John stronger, and that she intended to try to face Bec Noir herself. On the other hand, she then proceeded to kill Tavros for pretty much no reason. On the other hand, she seems genuinely regretful of that, and has been talking more and more to John lately, who seems to be steering her down the right path. All in all Vriska's Wild Card days seem mostly over, though it's not out of the question she'll revert back to her old ways...
Later in the story, it's stated that the Bard class is considered a Wild Card class as its role is to have a major influence in how the game progresses in either a positive or potentially devastating way. In the case of Gamzee, he was at least partially responsible for the Trolls' victory against the Black King by delivering the single most powerful blow of the entire battle, and later in the story he winds up working for the Big Bad of the story Lord English/Caliborn.
Zombie Ranch gives us Rosa Amarilla, whose loyalties so far are proving to be... fluid. She's even portrayed as the Joker card in what appears to be a poker hand on the cover of issue five.
Maxie Dasai from Survival of the Fittest version three who, whilst not stabbing anybody in the back or outright betraying them, was prone to walking out on groups or partners that she felt wouldn't benefit her. She wasn't exactly cowardly or villainous per se, but Maxie was definitely not somebody to be relied on.
She-Beast, daughter of the supervillain Dr. Diabolik in the Whateley Universe, looks to be in it for whatever she can get out of the deal. Usually hangs with the other Bad Seeds (children of supervillains), but seems to have a thing for Phase, who's pretty close to Lawful Good.
She-Beast has a dirty secret, though. She's Chaotic Good herself. She, in fact, wants to be a super-hero, or something close. She's pretty sure her mom IS a super-hero, in fact. Since her dad is Doctor Doom...Nobody trusts her, so she gives off a True Neutral impression.
In DC Nation's Olympics plot, Terra was one of these. Both Hades and Troia tried to recruit her because she was too damn dangerous NOT to. True to form, however, she took the divinity potion Hades offered her, and betrayed him as soon as he pissed her off. She is now a minor deity of Strife and Chaos (and a pain in the ass for the Titans' shapeshifters), a position that suits her perfectly.
New York Magician: Raymond. Cthulhu. Michel's grandmother. Michel himself (as seen by everyone else). Baba Yaga- is it possible to have a whole cast of wild cards?
YWC aka (Youtube Wrestling Community)as everyone switches sides as soon as the person they sided with previously upsets them, the wrestling vloggers also switch sides just as much.
Femme Fatale Blackarachnia from Transformers: Beast Wars starts out as an example of a Neutral Evil Wild Card. First of all, she was Starscream's Bastard Understudy in the episode Possession. After learning the ways of treachery from him though, she displayed genuine Wild Card traits by using her new skills on him before the episode ended. Later on she fell in love with Silverbolt, an action which changed her alignment (eventually) to Chaotic Neutral, although it didn't keep her from shooting him in the leg. Later versions of Blackarachnia (Beast Machines, for example) were less unreliable and more faithful to the Maximals.
Silverbolt: "You shot me!"
Blackarachnia: "He was going to blow your head off!"
The second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series has two of these. The second, Torbin Zixx, is a mercenary who will betray everyone twice in order to complete a job. The first and more important one, however, is Foot Clan member Karai, whose sense of honor clashes with her devotion to her father in a way that makes her impossible to predict.
Bigmouth in The Smurfs can play either friend or villain of the Smurfs, depending on what will get him more food.
Reboot has Mouse the agent for hire/turned goody when her employer disregards her own safety during a job.
The Legend of Korra has Varrick, a businessman who initially allies with Team Avatar against Unalaq because his blockade on the Southern Water Tribes is hurting his shipping business and even backs a war with the Northern Water Tribe. Later on, he seeks to prolong the war for the sake of profit and is willing to use his friends to his ends by bankrupting Asami's corporation so that he can buy her out and framing Mako for a crime when he learns of the former.
Boxter Hamdon from She Zow would on occasion support the Episode's villian because he dosen't like when SheZow steals his thunder.
The page quote comes from Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, a French diplomat who embodied this trope a couple of hundred years ago. He started out under the Gallic Church and King Louis XVI, switched sides to the anti-Church, anti-Royalist Republic, ditched them to help Napoleon seize power, converted back just as Napoleon had allied with Russia, convened the Senate that legally dismissed Napoleon, and finally threw his support to the Citizen King Louis-Philippe. All this time he remained powerful and influential, and even managed to stay out of prison. The Other Wiki says he was known as "The Prince of Diplomats" but Napoleon himself came up with the perhaps equally fitting (if less flattering) label "shit in a silk stocking".
When he acclaimed brie as the "king of cheeses", it was said that it was the only king he had not betrayed.
Alcibiades. He switched sides five times during the Peloponnesian War, always for who was willing to give him the power and glory to match his military ability.
This is the constitutional position of the monarchy in Britain, last used to pick a new Prime Minister in 1963.
In countries which suffer from a hung parliament after an election, independents and third parties usually become this.