troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Manipulative Bastard: Live-Action TV
  • If you want to be a bad guy on 24 you must have a Masters degree in Manipulative Bastardness. They seem to specialize in the Smug Snake and Con Man subtypes, but that show has showcased at least three kinds of every type in its eight seasons.
    • This doesn't just extend to the antagonists, as sometimes the heroes manage to become this as well.
  • As the page quote suggests, Benjamin Linus of LOST beats out the majority of the other characters on this page.
    • Ben Linus is a combination of this, The Chessmaster, the Magnificent Bastard, and an emotionless monster. He has only shown a genuine facial expression in one episode of the series, when his daughter is shot by a Psycho for Hire. He's manipulated almost the entire cast at some point or another, and they only continue to even pay attention to him because he convinces them to. He actually spends most of the first part of season four tied up and constantly being hit by angry people, but he manages to talk his way out of it.
      • The incident above is the only time a genuine emotion is wrenched from him, but he's also smirked a couple of times when no one is watching him.
    • Ben Linus's lancer Juliet isn't anywhere near Ben's level, but she plays Jack Shepard like a fiddle for a good part of Season 3 until she undergoes a Heel-Face Turn.
  • Megan of Drake & Josh raised the bar to Olympic-worthy standards before hitting her teens.
    • Drake is another example.
  • Helena Peabody in season 2 of The L Word.
  • Klaus in The Vampire Diaries. He is cunning, calculating and sociopathic.
    • Katherine oh so much. She is sociopathic, cunning and always has an agenda.
  • Rachel in This Life.
  • Almost every demon on Supernatural. Even Crowley in season five- who he is helping the Winchesters without being overly manipulative- is still pulling deals with random mooks on the side. The crossroad demon, Azazel and Ruby all pull off impressive displays of manipulative bastardry. Even Meghas her moments - encouraging the boys to split up, for example- although she seems to lack the patience or psychological insight to be as good at this as the others. Maybe she just got found out too soon.
    • And, playing (sorta) for the other team, the Trickster/Gabriel. I know! Let's kill a guy who's doomed anyway just to teach his brother a lesson! And now let's do it a hundred more times!
    • And Zachariah, who will shunt you into a post-apocalyptic future to convince you to allow yourself to be possessed. Fun times.
  • Mike from The Young Ones can pull this off when dealing with the other members of his househould, but nobody else.
  • Clay Davies in The Wire
  • Livia Soprano and sometimes Johnny Sak in The Sopranos
  • Alex Russo from Wizards of Waverly Place.
    • And Justin. The Frankengirl episode, for instance, he twists Alex's arm into becoming a cheerleader (knowing she'll hate it) to keep her out of his room. The kicker? He gets his mom to call him the 'perfect son' because he got his sister into an extracurricular activity, as if this were his plan all along.
    • Max just might be better at manipulation than both of them combined.
  • Buffyverse:
    • The raison d'etre — his love of torturing people, both physically and emotionally, leads to his downfall more than once — of the sadistic vampire Angelus from Buffy and Angel:
    Angel: I couldn't take my eyes off [the victims]. I was only in it for the evil. It was everything to me. It was art. The destruction of a human being.
    • Though he rarely makes use of it, Angel is still dangerously capable in this regard.
    • Also, Holtz, Holland Manners, possessed Cordelia, Lindsey in fifth season appears to have picked up a couple of Holland Manners' tricks, well let's just say that Angel liked this sort of character.
    • Spike had whole episode in season 4 where he exploited the Scooby Gang's emotional shortcomings to drive them apart. He made a deal with Adam to get the chip out of his head.
    • Whistler in Season 9 of Buffy.
    • Twilight manipulates its own birth.
    • Simone is first seen in Season 9 driving a van loaded with guns, before the focus shifts to a former Vampire Vannabe who had been killing vamps then sets his sights on Buffy because of her Nice Job Breaking It, Hero actions. To cut a very long story short: the police shoot him, he turns out to have survived in the hospital where we discover Simone had sent him. She manipulates the AI personality Andrew placed into the real Buffy's body into fighting the real Buffy, who was in a robot body, and she manipulates Xander into helping her to save Dawn's life.
  • Thomas Barrow of Downton Abbey, although admittedly his schemes backfire most of the time.
  • In Charmed, there is Cole Turner, who unbeknownst to the sisters throughout Season 3 (but immediately to the audience), is the evil demon bounty hunter, Belthazor. Prue has her suspicions but nothing is confirmed until the mid-season finale. Then again in Season 4 when Cole is possessed by the source in the mid-season finale. Paige catches on, but Cole/The Source uses various tricks to make her question her own sanity. In both cases, Prue and Paige are the Only Sane Women
    • Christy Jenkins is revealed to be working for The Triad in Season 8 and manipulates her sister, Billie, in to turning against the Charmed ones.
  • Virgil "Web" Webster from the short lived crime drama The Inside ruthlessly preys on the psychological flaws of other people with a chilling indifference, often drawing comparisons to the very criminals he pursues.
  • Dr. Gregory House. He tricks his patients into highly risky medication or procedures, as well as manipulating colleagues/superiors for various purposes (chief among which is getting a Vicodin prescription).
    Rodney Foreman: My son says you're a manipulative bastard.
    Dr. House: It's just a pet name. I call him Doctor Bling.
    ...
    Dr. Cuddy: Don't you think this is a little manipulative?
    Dr. House: No. I think it's hugely manipulative.
    • In Poison House brutally manipulates a sick high school student's mother for half the episode, then, after the boy is treated and is leaving the hospital his mother stops to mention to House and Foreman that the CDC called her again. Oops indeed. When she catches back up to her son being wheeled out by Cameron we get this gem.
    Matt: Who were those guys?
    Matt's Mother: Oh, they're the arrogant jerks that saved your life
    • Dr. James Wilson knows how to manipulate people too, sometimes seeming to be the only one who can manipulate House.
  • Guy from Noah's Arc, who bit by bit manipulate Alex, Trey, and Alex's friends in an attempt to get Alex out of the picture and be with Trey. His plan is effective enough that at one point even Noah, Ricky and Chance (Alex's closest friends) are questioning Alex's credibility.
  • The magician Derren Brown is well known for this trait. In one show he recruits volunteers and offers to teach them psychological techniques. Instead, he manipulates them into robbing a security van. He once fooled a man into thinking that he was a ventriloquist's dummy, for heaven's sake.
    • Alternate interpretation: Derren Brown also manipulates viewers through use of paid actors.
    • Internet essayist Dan Hemmens of ferretbrain has written an alternative alternate interpretation that if right, would catapult Derren Brown to full-blown Magnificent Bastard status.
    • Robbin a van is nothing compared to getting a guy to pull out a gun in public and shoot a well-known actor. Go ahead, talk about how hypnosis can't get normal people to kill after this. All you have to do is convince them they're not shooting at people but at targets on a gun range.
  • Jim Profit and Bobbi Stakowski of Profit. LIKE WHOA. There's a reason Profit is where he's at in life despite being raised in a box: he finds your deepest weakness and exploits it. This can range from nudging the boss's wife into an affair with him to his psychological torture of Joanne in "Healing". As for Bobbi? Well, where do you think Jim got it from?
  • Any reality show is going to have at least one of these in the cast. Richard Hatch from season 1 of Survivor is an example.
  • Firefly:
    • Jubal Early.
    • Saffron/Bridget/Yolanda is a tremendous straight example in her first appearance, but almost counts as a deconstruction of just how messed up this character type would have to be during her appearance in "Trash".
    • River is a bit more playful in how she does this to other crewmembers, but she turns it into a rather deadly game of manipulation when she chats up the aforementioned Jubal Early.
  • Blackadder, in his later incarnations, can be very skilled at this. He tends to take this route when dealing with each series's wealthiest or most powerful Upper-Class Twit (Prince George, especially, but also Queenie and General Melchett). Mostly, though, he prefers to lie, cheat, scheme and use his skills as a Magnificent Bastard instead.
    • Another example is Philip of Burgundy from the first season finale. He assists Edmund in collecting together the band of villains that will seize the crown, then manipulates them into turning against Edmund so as to seize the crown himself.
  • T-Bag in Prison Break.
  • Fraggle Rock: "Convincing John can convince anyone to do anything!"
  • Evil Matriarch Angela Petrelli, Serial Killer Sylar and Magnificent Bastard Adam Monroe of Heroes. Nathan somewhat subverts this trope as his manipulations usually wind up blowing up in his face.
  • Dave Williams in Desperate Housewives.
  • Kings:
    • Queen Rose. Her Manipulative Bitch wonderfully compliments Silas's MagnificentBastardry.
    • Katrina Ghent tries hard for Manipulative Bitch status, and almost gets it when she blackmails Rose into almost ruining the reputation of either Jack or Michelle and then turns around and proposes to Jack, poised to become the next queen. Shame about that trip to Osteria.
  • Gemma in Sons of Anarchy.
  • Olivier in Six Feet Under.
  • Long in Juken Sentai Gekiranger. And in spades, I might add. In fact, come to think of it, calling him this is putting it mildly.
  • Micheal Cutter from Law & Order.
  • Robert Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
  • Editor Lynda Day from Press Gang. To quote her best friend Sarah after one of Lynda's finest moments of manipulation: "Can you explain to me how I just argued myself into doing what you wanted me to do in the first place? You are a devious, unfeeling, calculating, manipulative bitch!" Lynda's reply: "Well, you were asking what made me a better choice for editor."
  • Tony in Skins (seasons 1 & 2). Overlaps with True Art Is Angsty, which is lampshaded in his speech to Sid, where he tells him that he is a Manipulative Bastard to liven things up.
  • Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development starts off like this. By the end, it's clear she's also a Chessmaster and therefore a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Humphrey in Yes, Minister always knows exactly what to say to get people to see things his way, and it's clear he's the person who actually runs Hacker's department. Dorothy also has shades of this.
  • Helen Cutter from Primeval.
  • JAG: Loren Singer will gladly do anything short of actual criminal behavior to advance her Naval career. Even if it risks getting people disbarred (Mac), divorced (Bud), or humiliated (Bud, Harriet, Harm).
  • Hightower, the new boss on The Mentalist, shows signs of this in her very first episode. She politely and cheefully informs Patrick Jane that as far as she's concerned, he's an asset to the CBI and if he screws up with one of his stunts, no problem. She'll can Lisbon, who she immediately realizes he cares for deeply, instead. And despite what she says, she subtly gets Lisbon out of an interrogation, leaving the suspect alone, because she knows odds are Jane will try something, and she wants to give him the opportunity to see if he can succeed before the man's lawyer gets him out of custody. Jane, himself a card-carrying manipulative bastard, is suitably impressed.
  • Oz has Chris Keller who is obsessed with controlling and manipulating others and is recruited by Vern Schillinger to seduce Beecher for the express purpose of breaking his heart (and arms and legs). Also, Ryan O'Reilly who pits the various gangs and cliques within Oz against each other for the purposes of surviving.
  • Gossip Girl Chuck Bass, Jack Bass, Bart Bass...
    • Blair Waldorf.
  • Community: Jeff, though his skills started failing him right around when he came to Greendale.
    • The study group seemed to start figuring out his tricks.
    Jeff: How can I convince Senor Chang to do anything if I can't even convince you to not make me?
    Group: Ah yeah that makes sense....
    Troy: Wait a minute, he's convincing us!
  • Jim Keats, who is also a Corrupter and a Chessmaster starts out as a hugely successful one, turning the CID team against Gene Hunt. Evolves into a Magnificent Bastard when it's revealed he's actually Satan incarnate - or at the very least, a high-level minion - and it's been his plan to shatter the Purgatory that Gene's created and used to help troubled coppers. Unfortunately, his manipulation of Alex doesn't quite counteract her loyalty and affection for Gene, and everyone crosses over, preserving the order of things.
  • Cameron proves to be very capable when it comes to making people react how she wants. She can alternate between being innocent, friendly, and disarming to cold, dangerous, and intimidating with ease, and more than once has used her physical body and complete inability to be creeped out or embarrassed to manipulate others.
  • When Monty Hall, host of Lets Make A Deal, was interviewed by the New York Times with regards to the Monty Hall Problem, he quickly dispensed with the textbook solution only to demonstrate quite clearly who controls what happens on the show.
  • Joanna of Hells Kitchen Season 3 attempted this and failed badly. She tried to convince Melissa to not nominate her in the first episode and tried to convince Ramsey that taking Spaghetti from the top of the rubbish and reboiling it is somehow worse than actively trying to get away with serving rissoto with rancid crab in it. It didn't work either.
  • Smallville has Lionel Luthor (Trope Codifier for Magnificent Bastard) and his son Lex. Then there's Brainiac who uses Clark, Bizarro, and Lex with the greatest of ease, and Tess Mercer and Major Zod who spend the whole 9th Season trying to use one another for their own ends. And that's without counting Lex's various clones (including the very creepy Alexander), or Earth-2 Lionel, or the various telepaths.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond has Ray's mom, Marie, who manipulates the family by being passive-aggressive and guilt-tripping them into doing her bidding. She always manages to make Ray and Robert feel guilty and do her bidding as a result, and also apparently knows enough embarrassing information about each family member to keep them in line. Her daughter-in-law Debra, with whom she has an antagonistic relationship, is also a manipulative bitch within her household in the sense that she's constantly bullying Ray, and often goads him into fighting her battles for her whenever she's in conflict with another person, even when Ray himself thinks everyone should just try to get along; also in one episode she manipulates Robert as part of a larger scheme to make Ray quit his volunteering post at a hospital just because she wants him to do more chores around the house.
  • Sophie from Leverage has this as her job description. Nate is good at this as well.
    • Sterling is Nate's Evil Counterpart, although the fact that Nate is a criminal and Sterling is an Interpol agent, he may actually be a Good Counterpart.
  • Walter White, from Breaking Bad, slowly becomes more manipulative to everyone around him, but mostly to Jesse, through a variety of ways. He manipulates criminals he runs into by promising them he can make more money for them, he mostly lies and plays the victim for his family, and he uses Jesse's "Well Done, Son!" Guy problems to get him to do whatever Walt wants.
    • Gus Fring was able to convince the entire south coast that he was an upstanding citizen that ran a chain of fast food chicken joints and a dry cleaners. He often gave money to community causes, especially those that dealt with law enforcement, while at the same time, he was in control of a vast criminal empire. Walter White even picked up a thing or two by studying him, even though Walter saw him as a dangerous enemy.
  • Mr. Morden from Babylon 5 is this, and by extension, the Shadows as a whole. The Vorlons could also be considered this. Come to think of it, quite a few characters in the series could be considered this.
  • Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time seems to have everyone dancing to his tune.
    • Regina also has some skill in this direction, when she doesn't simply take the sledgehammer approach.
    • Regina's mother, Cora, makes it plain where she gets it from.
  • Agravaine in Merlin. Not many people can talk their way out of holding a knife to someone's throat.
    • Morgana. She manipulated Uther for quite a while until openly betraying him.
      • She also brought Lancelot back from the dead to break up Arthur and Guinevere's wedding.
  • Sunny Capaduca on 15/Love. A Child Prodigy and Jerk Jock, Sunny was inevitably able to use her seeming innocence and tremendous financial backing to get her own way. Resident High School Hustler, Gary "Squib" Furlong was also an effective liar and Con Man; he was opposed for most of the show's run by President Harold Bates who was less of a Dean Bitterman than he was a Stern Teacher/Manipulative Bastard cross.
  • Jim Moriarty in Sherlock. Moriarty is an infamous character, but his Manipulative Bastard status get bumped Up to Eleven in this incarnation. He's no longer the nonchalant professor, but now is a "consulting criminal" who has just as much power and influence over people, if not more, than Mycroft. What really makes him a Manipulative Bastard? Our Sherlock Holmes is no longer quite as stoic as previous incarnations and has a co-dependent relationship with his only friend John, whom Moriarty, in "The Great Game", kidnaps and straps a bomb to before forcing him to confront Sherlock, pretending to be Moriarty himself. . In "The Reichenbach Fall", Moriarty manages to make everyone in the show, sans Mrs. Hudson, Molly, and John believe that Sherlock is a fraud who created Moriarty by hiring an actor named Rich Brook to play the villain. What really takes the cake, the thing that really sends Sherlock into his Heroic BSOD, is threatening to assassinate John (and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson) unless Sherlock flings himself to his death off a building. Moriarty then shoots himself, leaving Sherlock with no choice but to fake suicide. While John is watching. Like Shakespeare's Iago, Moriarty does it all because he's bored. Everything he does, from kidnapping children and poisoning them with mercury to threatening to skin people and turn them into shoes is an exercise in terror.
    • And, according to Word of God, it's possible that Moriarty somehow survived eating his gun, although he won't be a major character in the third season.
    • Irene is this, although she's not nearly as much of a bastard as Moriarty. Her biggest bastard moments include making John extremely jealous and faking her own death.
    • In the first episode, Sherlock seems Oblivious to Love when Molly asks him out for coffee. In the next episode, he deliberately manipulates her feelings for him to get what he wants.
    • Sherlock himself definitely shows traces of this on his return in the third series, in particular getting John to believe that he can't stop the bomb, he hasn't called the police, and they will surely die below London He begs for forgiveness, complete with quavering voice and tears. And having received John's forgiveness as he reconciles himself to their deaths Sherlock laughs and turns it into a Did You Actually Believe? moment. .
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock's fiancee, T'Pring. She waits until Spock is half-mad with hormones and then forces a Xanatos Gambit on him.
  • Both Patty and Ellen in Damages. It's especially fun when they're trying to do it to each other.
  • The Seventh Doctor in Doctor Who has this as his hat among the Doctors. His speciality is manipulating villains into melting down and self-destructing.
    • The Daleks in Victory of the Daleks are a bit of this, as they trick the Doctor into helping them rebuild their race.
  • All the Number Twos in The Prisoner. And the heroic Number Six can do it right back to them.
  • Ansen Fullerton of Burn Notice certainly takes the cake among the other manipulators Michael has dealt with. He plays Michael like a fiddle for half of a season, using a mixture of passive-aggressive emotional bullying, blackmail, and hints of the answers Michale has been seeking.
    • Also, Tom Card, who has Ansen shot, with Michael's brother being collateral damage and nearly sucessfully manipulates Michael into walking straight into a trap. When Michael figures out the truth and tries to turn the tables on Card, the latter calmly shoots his Dragon (whom Michael subverted) and talk to Michael while planting evidence that it's all self-defense. He almost succeeds in getting Michael to join him... then Michael shoots him in the head.
  • The final villain of Tensou Sentai Goseiger turns out to be this. It's how Buredoran was on all three villain groups. He got all possible knowledge from each group and added them to his already incredible power. After he gains all necessary knowledge from a group, They Have Outlived Their Usefulness. He reveals after the defeat of the third group that he was once the ultimate Gosei Angel named Brajira but was condemned by other Gosei Angels, prompting him to time travel into the future and wipe out the corrupt humans and angels, manipulating all of the groups and, in some cases, the Goseigers themselves to become the only villain left.
    • The Power Rangers Megaforce counterpart, Vrak, is also this. In a bid to impress his father, Emperor Mavro of the Armada, Vrak sets off a series of complicated schemes, starting with his alliance with the Warstar and the Toxic Mutants, as well as the robots he built himself. He ultimately used those three groups as cannon fodder for the rangers. And when Super Megaforce hits, his plans are even more manipulative. While Vrak pulled the same You Have Outlived Your Usefulness schtick like Buredoran/Brajira did, he comes off as worse than his Japanese counterpart — as he lets his own brother, Prince Vekar, die at the hands of the rangers first. All the while, he powers himself up for his final, invincible form without the Armada's knowledge. And it doesn't stop there. He drains Orion's life force, disables Super Mega Mode powers, and plans to destroy Earth by using three huge drills that are powered by the Super Mega Mode powers. He also turns the then-missing Robo Knight against the poor rangers by using Orion's life force. And in what can be called the ultimate culmination of his complicated schemes, he manipulates his two last monsters into being his last cannon fodder for him, absorbing the rangers' attacks and turning them into the last two drills needed for his ultimate goal to come to fruition.
  • Press Secretary CJ Cregg from The West Wing is on a national (often even global) scale: her job is to play the White House press corps, the American news media, the heads of state of every other nation, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the DNC, the RNC, the DOD, the DOJ, all of K Street, every political organization and interest group in Washington, and the American public in general like a banjo. However, she is never this towards her friends or colleagues, and is in fact one of the bluntest and most straightforward advice-givers in the White House.
  • Evil! Will Wheaton from The Big Bang Theory once broke up the Official Couple to win a bowling match.
  • Brenda Johnson on The Closer, to a certain extent. She's an expert at getting the guilty party to confess to their crimes, but getting that confession often takes manipulation and outright lying on Brenda's part.
  • Scandal: Everyone in the show qualifies as this. Justified Trope, because the show takes place in Washington, D.C., where the rich and powerful perform politics daily.
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother is a self-described "master of manipulation" who mainly uses his manipulative powers to seduce women; on more than one occasion, he's actually convinced women that the fate of the world depends on them having sex with him. He's also played plenty of mind games on his friends, going so far as to spend five years using Pavolovian conditioning on Marshall, all so he could win a bet he hadn't even made yet.
  • Littlefinger on Game of Thrones.
    • Margaery Tyrell. In a setting filled with Smug Snakes and Obviously Evil conspirators, she manages to not only entice Joffrey into falling for her but also win over the greater public (who had previously been almost murderous in their hate for the king) through little more than being observant and playing her role as a kind, selfless, beautiful woman very, very well.
  • Elementary's Moriarty, also known as Irene Adler. Manages to construct an alternate identity apparently for the sole sake of getting Sherlock to fall in love with her, and is completely successful at it - and would probably have continued to be completely successful at it if Sherlock hadn't noticed a missing mole on her back. Sherlock and Watson are no slouches at being Manipulative Bastards themselves, and when Watson notices Moriarty is actually genuinely in love with Sherlock, this proves her undoing, at least for now. For an added bonus, she is portrayed by the same actress as the above Margaery Tyrell.
  • Stephen Fisher, Tim McInnerny's Home Office official in New Tricks, who amuses himself by maneuvering the team into doing what he wants, in at least one case by making them believe he wanted the exact opposite.
  • Arrow, despite being somewhat of a newborn series, has already dished out at least three of these:
  • Raina in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the villain who recruits people to test the super-soldier drugs that currently make them liable to explode. Talking around a guy who she's just had kidnapped was a step up, but she earns her place in this list in the episode "A Magical Place", where she convinces Coulson to co-operate with the Mind Reading Machine to find out how he was brought back from the dead.
  • Ascension (Miniseries): Viondra Denniger, who is not above using her social position as the captain's wife and official post as Chief Steward as a power broker.
LiteratureManipulative BastardVideo Games

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
60357
46