Playing With / Ambiguously Evil

Basic Trope: A seemingly evil character turns out to be hard to clearly categorize anywhere on the good-evil continuum.
  • Straight: Alice works knowingly with the Big Bad, for purposes that probably are not what she says they are and puts effort into inconveniencing the heroes. Even so, the main villain is in for it if erring to do certain kinds of things (or demand Alice to do so) - something made clear implicitly or explicitly. Alice actually avoids directly harming the heroes if it seems to serve her (unknown) objectives in the slightest. She avoids crossing certain lines and claims it's for pragmatic reasons, but there seems to be something else to the story.
  • Exaggerated: Alice fights alongside bad guys without looking the slightest bit bothered about this. She constantly sabotages the heroes' efforts, covertly manipulates, arranges and influences situations to her advantage and leads people on wild goose chases while she seems not only to be wise to mind games played by villains, but also to possess a lot of information she's withholding until she sees it necessary to reveal a small something to someone. However, she also goes to extra lengths to refrain from doing anything too extreme, provocative or vile. In a few instances she even ends up helping a hero avert a danger or doing them a favor and matter-of-factly stating afterwards that it happened to serve her own objectives. She seems to be willingly forthright about many things to some characters, telling about possible dangers facing them from different directions and likely consequences should they choose certain courses of action while warning them there are things they are better off not knowing. Many of her actions turn out to be smoke and mirrors to fool heroes, villains and/or whoever she happens to meet. Some of her cryptic statements ends up being of help to some characters.
  • Downplayed: Alice seems shady. Though she's relatively overt about warning the main characters not to proceed on their way, there is a lot she is plain secretive about - while pulling attention to this and claiming everyone and everything else is something else than it seems. She actually tries giving the main characters something useful like money to get them to leave while relating reasons why it's better for them to leave, telling stories about horrible things happening (it's unclear how much is real and how much is made-up or distorted). At the same time she stirs up suspicions for them in locals, persuading them to create a subtly uninviting atmosphere to make sure the main characters do end up leaving.
  • Justified:
    • Winning the trust of the villains is the quickest and the most effective way for Alice to advance her own goals.
    • Alice is a Wild Card Magnificent Bastard playing all sides against each other.
    • The setting thrives on Grey and Gray Morality, and Alice is milking the trope for all it's worth.
  • Inverted: Alice is an Anti-Hero note 
  • Subverted: Alice commits something so vile as to shake off ambiguity like sending thugs to beat someone up because of getting too near to the truth.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Though Alice claims to be behind it, this actually turns out to be false and someone else did it instead. Why Alice says she had any hand in it, even indirectly, is a question indeed.
    • It starts to be very dubious throughout the story whether Alice actually has had any hand, even indirectly, in committing the kinds of deeds she says she has.
  • Parodied: The organisers of the annual VillainCon have lengthy debates each year over to whether or not Alice should be invited.
  • Zig Zagged: Alice constantly changes sides.
  • Averted:
    • Alice can be doubtlessly seen as evil.
    • Alternatively, Alice is clearly good.
  • Enforced: "Grey and Gray Morality is all the rage these days, we should get rid of some of Alice's more heinous acts, so she can remain ambiguous."
  • Lampshaded: "You know guys, for a villain, she doesn't seem all that bad."
  • Invoked: "As long as I don't do anything truly evil, I can fight for whatever side I want, and the heroes won't have an excuse to get rid of me."
  • Exploited:
    • The Hero knows that Alice will most likely not do anything too hasty against her and her team, so she starts playing mind games on Alice.
    • Even though Alice's working with the Space Nazis, the heroes know that she's sufficiently uninterested in the ideology for them to just bribe her into supplying the heroes with Space Nazi secrets.
  • Defied: "If I'm a villain, then I might as well go all the way! Now, where's an orphanage that I can burn down?"
  • Discussed: "Is she really evil, or is she just messing with us?"
  • Conversed: "These, 'are they good or bad,' type of villains always wind up having the most amount of fans, I tell you."
  • Deconstructed: Alice's refusal to commit alienates both sides. The villains can't trust that she won't sell them out, and the heroes are suspicious of her ethics. As a result, Alice frequently finds herself fighting both sides, and is unable to accomplish any of her own goals.

Back to trying to think of an easier label than this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWith/AmbiguouslyEvil