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  • Game of Thrones: There are two kinds of characters in the series: those who have this trope, and those who are living this trope.
    • Sandor Clegane had half his face burned off by his own brother for borrowing a toy.
    • Littlefinger Used to Be a Sweet Kid until his unrequited love for Catelyn Stark got him curb-stomped by Brandon Stark. Also, when Lysa reminds him of their "wedding night" many years ago, he looks like he's having a minor post-traumatic episode, subtly implying he didn't find it quite so pleasant as she did.note 
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    • Varys was a slave who was drugged, castrated, and left to die by a sorcerer as a boy.
    • Melisandre was once a slave who was "scourged and branded" and always hungry until she was lifted up by the Lord of Light.
    • Osha fled her homeland, north of the Wall, after her husband disappeared one night and then came back as a wight and tried to strangle her, forcing her to burn down their tent with him inside.
    • Xaro Xhoan Daxos arrived in Qarth less valued than a piece of cargo.
  • Ned from Pushing Daisies was abandoned by his father, accidentally killed both his mother and the father of his childhood sweetheart, and spent most of his childhood in a Boarding School of Horrors. This, along with being given the sometimes unfortunate gift of bringing people Back from the Dead with a touch, led him to grow into a nervous and shy adult with some trust issues.
    • And, upon trying to solve his first murder case (which was an accident) to make his father love him more, he was found with the man's body and thrown in jail. When he was 10 years old. Is there such a thing as a cosmic Moral Event Horizon?
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Tasha Yar grew up on a world that descended into anarchy and spent her childhood scrambling to survive and dodging violent rape gangs.
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    • The initial sequence of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot episode shows Sisko being bodily dragged out of his quarters because he refuses to voluntarily leave his wife's corpse behind, despite the fact that the ship was critically damaged by the Borg and he doesn't have enough time to dig her out of the rubble before it explodes. Then we flash forward three years to his arrival at the space station.
    • Sisko's second-in-command, Kira Nerys, grew up on Bajor under the brutal Cardassian Occupation and was participating in the Bajoran resistance movement by the time she was twelve or thirteen. Her mother slept with the Cardassian Big Bad to obtain more comforts/ensure the survival of her family. Her lover died in her arms. The list goes on.
  • Elle Bishop of Heroes - originally introduced as a demented vixen (everyone's favourite trope), but then revealed to be ridden with several issues, including being experimented upon as a child, locked up, and pumped full of drugs, eventually leading to her being diagnosed as a sociopath and the subsequent use as an "Executioner" by her own father.
  • Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most well mannered and uptight middle-aged English Gentlemen you will ever come across. However, one old friend from College still calls him by his old nickname, Ripper, and their conversations drop tonnes of hints that he used to be one evil, badass warlock in his youth, whose feared reputation was very rightfully earned. It's never explicitly mentioned what he and Ethan did in the past and what happened to the other people in their group, nor what made him change into the champion of good he is today.
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    • The rest of them were killed by Eyghon.
    • Spike used to be ridiculed by his social peers while still alive, and this is shown to deeply affect his personality, most evidently by lowering his already not-so-good social skills, along with leaving other significant marks. After siring his mother, she abused him verbally and sexually assaulted him, to the point that he was forced to kill her for good to stop her. He admits many years later that this episode has been weighting on him. After regaining his soul, he has to come to terms with the great sense of guilt he feels towards his criminal past. Us viewers usually get to see bits of his past via flashback, and the extent to which it is dark and troubled is occasionally emphasized by Spike telling Buffy that she really doesn't want to know how far he's gone in torturing and killing people. It gets better.
    • Angel also counts. Initially introduced as a mysterious protector of Buffy, his past is slowly revealed throughout Buffy and Angel, his own series. He is known as one of the worst vampires in history, and feels deep remorse for the thousands of people he has killed, tortured, and traumatized and for all of the lives he's destroyed. He has told Buffy that she truly does not want to know the extent of his evil, though he has been forced to confess some of the specifics. Now ensouled, he fully accepts the fact that he will never stop seeking redemption for all of the things he's done.
    • Faith Lehane. Grew up in an abusive home and poverty, no father mentioned, and her mother died at some point, likely while Faith was in her teens. It's heavily implied that being Chosen to fight the forces of darkness, something that very few Slayers lived more than a few years doing, was the highlight of her life so far. Oh yeah, and right after she was Chosen her Watcher, the only authority figure/person she trusted, was murdered right in front of her. And she blames herself for the incident, since y'know, the murderer was a vampire and Faith is a Vampire Slayer.
  • Daryl from "The Walking Dead has hinted at his occasionally. He and his brother were definitely products of Abusive Parents who shot guns in the house, drank, and beat them, leaving them Covered in Scars. He mentions in a drunken rant in Season 5 that he never got an Christmas presents and tells a story in Season 2 about being lost in the woods 12 days when he was a kid and no one noticing.
  • Then there's the Angel side. There's Gunn, who ended up a street teen because vampires killed his family, and Fred, who got sent to a hell dimension, enslaved, and lived in a cave for five years. Plus Wesley, who was emotionally abused by his father and locked in a dark closet for hours. Plus Angel himself, of course. And Connor, good lord, Connor. Raised in a hell dimension to hate his real father and once tied to a tree and left behind at five years old so he could work to escape and find his foster father.
  • Almost everyone on Grey's Anatomy?
    • Meredith - Abandoned by Dad, raised by a mother who didn't really care about her or want her.
    • Cristina - Witnessed her dad die when she was 9 (she actually felt his heart stop!)
    • Alex - Abusive dad, Crazy mother. Practically raised his siblings, went to Juvie.
    • Izzie - Grew up in a trailer park, gave up a baby for adoption in high school.
    • And that's just to name a few....
  • Several character in Babylon 5:
    • Marcus Cole , in the episode in which he was introduced, says he "doesn't believe in miracles". We later learn that he witnessed everyone he cared about, including his Ranger brother, being killed in a Shadow attack on his home colony. He can't shake the survivor's guilt.
    • It comes completely unexpected with Delenn, who, throughout the show, is well known for her compassion and kindness, as well as being a firm believer in the just cause and a wise advisor to others, cautioning against anger and hatred. However, it's not until much later that some details from her earlier life get revealed. She was aboard the ship that encountered the first human vessel and whose salute to the strangers scared the humans so much that they opened fire. When the initial salvo killed the most important religious leader of the minbari, she became the highest ranking person on the ship, and still holding the dead body of her teacher, immediately ordered a holy crusade by the whole minbari people to completely annihilate the entire human race. When the destruction of earth was stopped at the very last moment, it was partially because she regretted her order.
  • The character of Stephen Colbert is prone to Suspiciously Specific Denial of certain bad things that definitely didn't happen to him as a child. From his book I Am America (And So Can You!):
    "It doesn't matter how my parents raised me, because I loved my parents. Sure, they could be a little 'strict', but I often think back fondly on the memories I haven't repressed. The truth is, I wouldn't be the man I am today if it wasn't for the way my parents raised me."
    Margin note: I had a happy childhood.
    • Also a case of Truth in Television, since the real Colbert's father and two of his older brothers were killed in a plane crash when he was 10.
  • Almost everyone on House qualifies.
    • Dr. House himself figured out at age 13 that his "father" wasn't actually his biological father, and he was therefore the result of his mother's infidelity. The father who raised him was a strict military man who moved them all over the world and was fond of punishing his rebellious son with ice baths and other forms of corporal punishment. Also, there's the whole "losing part of my leg against my will thanks to a decision by Stacy, leaving me with chronic pain and a limp" thing. He didn't want his leg amputated. Later on in the series, when he has to go under for surgery again, he tells Cuddy not to let the doctors amputate it unless there's no other choice.
    • Dr. Chase's father abandoned the family, leaving Chase to care for his alcoholic mother, who eventually drank herself to death.
    • Dr. Cameron married a man she knew was dying of cancer when she was 21. Since she knew he was terminal when she married him, it's implied that her damage goes back even farther than this situation.
    • Dr. Taub is revealed to have cheated on his wife, and has had a suicide attempt in his past.
    • Even Dr. Kutner, who initially seems like the most happy and easygoing character on the show, later reveals that, when he was six years old, he witnessed the murder of his parents by an armed robber. He is sufficiently dark and troubled that he eventually kills himself.
    • Dr. Foreman was arrested during his teenage years, and has a brother currently in jail.
    • Dr. Hadley (Thirteen) saw her mother die a painful death from Huntington's disease, which she herself has.
      • She also killed her brother (upon his request) when his Huntington's got too advanced.
    • Dr. Wilson has a homeless and a schizophrenic brother, whose fate he blames himself for. He also had three divorces and a thing about "damaged people," i.e. he cannot help but try to help them.
  • Quite a few characters on NCIS, though namely Gibbs, Ziva, and Tony.
    • Gibbs lost his wife and daughter twelve years before the series began.
    • Tony lost his mother at the age of eight and was subsequently neglected by his father, who remarried again and again and sent him to live in various boarding schools for the majority of his childhood.
    • Ziva's mother died when she was young, and her father was basically a sociopath who raised her to kill people. Her younger sister was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing, and she was forced to kill her brother after he became a terrorist. She has also lost several friends while working with Mossad, one of whom was captured while undercover and beheaded.
    • Even Ducky gets into the act in some episodes. The late Director Shepard also had a screwed-up childhood. Basically, the only ones with possible good pasts are cheerful Perky Goth Abby and Hollywood Nerd McGee.
    • Whoops! Abby is still haunted by her first case, where she failed to reunite a damaged family. And McGee's father was emotionally abusive and distant. To be clear, that's all four members of the field team now with daddy issues.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles has this with everyone, but especially Callen, to the point where he doesn't know his FIRST NAME. Special mention to Marty Deeks, who had an abusive father who he eventually shot (at age eleven) to protect himself.
  • NUMB3RS: The brothers Eppes are mostly spared this, but many of the other cast members were less fortunate.
    • Megan Reeves literally disappointed her father by being born female (she was his last chance to have a son), and she spent years of her life trying to get his attention, first by positive means and then by acting out, until she finally ran away at 16.
    • David Sinclair grew up in a gang-ridden neighborhood, losing one of his best friends to gun violence when he was in high school. He also says at one point that his father died when he was about 14.
    • Colby Granger lost his father in a single-car wreck when he was 15; the cause of the wreck was never determined, but Colby always suspected it might have been a suicide, as his father had recently lost his job and was devastated. And that's not even getting into his time in the military, where he saw way more than his share of trauma.
    • Liz Warner's early life is never discussed, but she does say at one point that she had been pregnant in college and miscarried, and that her friends were so insensitive to her about it that she never spoke to them again.
    • Nikki's past is also not really explored, but we do know that early in her career, she was dumped into undercover work unprepared and one of the targets tried to rape her. The way she plays it off as no big deal also suggests she might have more (ultimately unexplored) trauma in her past.
  • Walter Bishop from Fringe crossed several ethical boundaries (including experimenting on children, see below) in the name of Science, before he was admitted to St. Claire's Psychiatric Institution.
    • Walter's also directly responsible for another Dark and Troubled Past: to save the other dimension's Peter after losing his own to a fatal illness, Walter kidnapped that Peter to this dimension. The ensuing years were implicitly turbulent and unhappy: by the time Peter was 13, Walter had been committed to a mental institution, and after Peter split for Europe at 18, Elizabeth Bishop committed suicide. We *still* don't know everything that Peter did or saw before joining Fringe Division, but it was apparently not all sunshine and puppies.
    • AND let's not forget Olivia in all this. Military brat who moved around a lot, abused by her stepfather, lost her mother at a young age, and, oh yeah, experimented on in Jacksonville by none other than Walter Bishop.
  • On Bones:
    • The titular character was abandoned by her parents at the age of 15, taken away from her older brother, and placed in foster care. She finds out later that her parents were bank robbers and "Temperance Brennan" isn't her actual birth name, and that her father is still alive (and an accused murderer).
    • FBI Agent Seeley Booth would be a parody if he wasn't so expertly written; He was the child of an abusive, alcoholic father who came within inches of killing him and his brother. He almost committed suicide as a teen. He was a top-rated US Army sniper, and feels deeply guilty about it because he came to believe his kills never really accomplished anything. And on top of that, he's a direct descendant of John Wilkes Booth.
    • Dr. Lance Sweets, the young psychologist, was adopted at the age of six by a loving elderly couple after he had been abused as a young child (he has scars from whips on his shoulders). His adoptive parents died shortly before he came to work with Booth and Brennan.
    • Booth lampshades all this at one point: "What are we, the island of misfit toys?"
    • And it’s not restricted to the main characters. Intern Finn Abernathy was so badly abused that he considered killing his stepfather. Only fear of being hunted by Booth and Brennan stopped him.
  • In the eighth season of 24, it is revealed that Renee has one of these.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice observes that this is very common in his line of work:
    People with happy families don't become spies. A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops: You don't trust anyone, you're used to getting smacked around, and you never get homesick.
  • The Pretender: Jarod, Miss Parker and Sydney all have dark and troubled pasts. Jarod's leads him to help people, Miss Parker's makes her icy and defensive and Sydney's leads him to stay at the Centre and try and prevent them doing as much damage as he can.
  • On Stargate SG-1, Dr. Daniel Jackson's cringe-worthy backstory explains how he can keep going in the face of the constant perils he faces on the show. He lost his parents to an accident (which he witnessed) as a kid, and his own grandpa was too busy to take him in, so he went to foster care. He was ridiculed for his (true!) archaeological theories and lost his apartment and research grants before he joined the Stargate program. There, he falls in love with a woman on another planet and stays with her, but she's kidnapped one year later and he leaves to go tramping around the galaxy trying to find her (which remains his motivation for continuing with SG1 until she dies, possesses, and almost succeeds in killing him). Add that to what happens to him during the actual run of the show, and he's still the first one to give anybody the benefit of doubt.
    • Teal'c's father was murdered horribly for losing an allegedly unwinnable battle, and he was the leader of Apophis' army for decades before he did a Heel–Face Turn. During that time, he did numerous unpleasant, if not outright evil, things. It's been made clear that he feels guilty about them.
    • While usually (but not always) portrayed as more of a jaded goofball than a dark character, Colonel Jack O'Neill doesn't have the most pleasant background. He is ex-Special Ops, and his professional backstory appears to fall under 'you don't want to know' territory. It was stated that he's done some 'distasteful things', and a few allusions have been made to his 'file' and his having a 'strong stomach'. He was also left for dead by his friend and teammate, Frank Cromwell, resulting in four months in an Iraqi prison. The Iraqis were not known for being nice to their prisoners, and he carried a grudge for at least seven years, to the extent that he refused to forgive Cromwell even when the planet was about to be sucked up by a black hole. This was never mentioned again. The specifics of his early life are unknown, but when Sam Carter was trying to get him to empathise with some new Air Force Academy graduates, he retorted that '[He] was never their age.' That one has about even odds of being a joke or a hint-within-a-joke, but it's a weird thing to say if it doesn't have any basis in fact. Finally, his son Charlie accidentally killed himself with O'Neill's sidearm, and O'Neill blames himself. He was suicidal and, were it not for the intervention of Daniel Jackson, he would have killed himself with a nuclear bomb and knowingly taken five-thousand people with him. All this before the show happened. At a later date, there was a little episode called Abyss.
    • It's actually pretty difficult to find a many character in any of the Stargate shows who hasn't had some horrible tragedy of varying levels heaped on them at some point or another. Mitchell, for example, is, so far, the only main character who has been confirmed to have both parents alive and well, but even he had that troubled experience where he blew up a truck of refugees, due to miscommunication.
  • Don Draper of Mad Men lives this trope. He was born to a prostitute and frequently abused as a child because of this. Oh, and she died in childbirth. His father had his head kicked in by a horse in front of him. Don then joined the Army, went to Korea, saw his CO die violently in front of him, switched identities with his CO to get discharged, got discovered by his CO's widow, divorced his CO's widow and married his current wife, only to have lots of extramarital affairs.
  • Torchwood: Jack Harkness gets a lot of this. The audience knows a bit of it due to remembering his origins in Doctor Who, but his actions over the last 100 years without the Doctor include giving up twelve children to aliens who wanted to use them for substance abuse in exchange for a cure to a deadly virus, being a member of a less than morally outstanding Time Agency earlier, having his blood drained as part of an immortality plot, and there are probably a few other things we haven't been made aware of.
  • Doctor Who, the Doctor himself has elements of this trope. At first, it wasn't that bad - sure, he stole the TARDIS from his own people and broke their laws on non-intervention. Then we started to wonder why he left... and when the Doctor mentioned 'pressing reasons' we knew it couldn't be good. Then, just to make sure we know that he falls into this trope, the Time War happened off screen, and now his back-story includes a horrible war, at least two (near) genocides, and the destruction of his fellow Time Lords.
  • A lot of the characters in Carnivàle have this trope:
    • Ben Hawkins being the primary example, having been raised by his partially insane mother (who was driven insane by virtue of having given birth to him), who drowned his pets and treated him like the devil's spawn because of his gift. When he met the Carnivale troupe, he had recently escaped from a chain gang.
    • Sofie had to deal with her mother being catatonic from birth, as well as slightly tapped in the head, and she tends to be a little cynical in her manner (although, given her circumstances, there's nothing unjustified about this).
    • Jonesy had his higher hopes of becoming a well-paid professional baseball player dashed by the Mob mutilating one of his legs after not throwing a game for them, forcing him into a life of crime and, later, employment as a roustabout by Samson.
    • Henry Scudder's entire characterization is built around this trope - he didn't want to be an avatar of darkness, and to try and avoid his fate, he traveled from one place to another, causing havoc wherever he went, eventually disappearing altogether.
    • Management had an accident involving a bear in the trenches during the Great War, leaving him horribly scarred and mutilated.
    • Justin and Iris both had messy childhoods before being adopted by Norman Balthus, both having to deal with Justin's inner demons, as well as their insane mother, who dragged them halfway across the world because she was convinced their father was evil and trying to kill them.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a large number of these in the main cast.
  • Hinted at, and later proved, with several characters on ER — Luka, Sam, etc.
  • On Castle, it's stated several times that Kate Beckett joined the police force because her mother was murdered. At one point in her life, she became totally obsessed with solving her mother's murder, to the point that it almost destroyed her. Despite finding the killer in the Season 2 episode "Sucker Punch", the crime remains unsolved.
  • Guy of Gisborne of the BBC's Robin Hood - turned out that, when he was a teenager, his dad was a leper and his mother was having it off with Robin Hood's father, and after his parents died, he sold his sister to an older man.
  • The origin of Dexter Morgan's "Dark Passenger" is from his early childhood, watching his mother being brutally murdered.
  • Admiral Al Calavicci of Quantum Leap. His family was penniless, his father was gone most of the time, and his mother ran out on him and his sister, Trudy, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. His father eventually found another job out of country, and left Al in an orphanage and Trudy in an institution, but came back in time to free his kids and then die of some unspecified cause. Al, ten years old by this time, went back to the orphanage and his sister back to the institution. Al spent his time running away and stirring up trouble, and, in his late teens, engaged in both boxing and theatre, but apparently, his grades were good enough to earn him entrance to Annapolis. Then, when he went to spring his sister from the loony bin, he was told that she had died of pneumonia some time before. Time goes on, though, and he graduated Annapolis to become a Naval pilot. He met the woman he referred to as the love of his life, a Navy nurse named Beth, and married her. Now, just when you think things are getting better, Vietnam came along. During his second tour of duty, he was shot down over enemy territory, and, depending on the timeline, spent either six or eight years as a prisoner of war. As if that wasn't bad enough, he was listed as MIA, and when he was finally repatriated, he found out that his wife had him declared dead and was already remarried. He went on to remarry four times and gradually declined into alcoholism. Though he did get better, sort of.
  • Firefly: Shepherd Book was always implied to have one of these, having unusual knowledge of crime, combat, and other esoteric skills suited for a spy or soldier that ran counter to his nature as a Shepherd. In The Shepherd's Tale comic, this past is enumerated on; his original name was Henry Evans, and he ran away from home to escape an abusive father, becoming a street criminal. He joined the Browncoat resistance to escape arrest and imprisonment, and became a spy that infiltrated the Alliance military and joined the Alliance command staff, first as an interrogator and then as a high-level officer. He was eventually disgraced when he planned an operation during the Unification War that got hundreds of Alliance soldiers killed, and was thrown out of the military to become a drunk drifter until, finally, he found and joined a monastery and became the Shepherd in the series.
  • Derek from Teen Wolf, via Dead Family, and eventually, ripped-in-half older sister.
  • Elena Gilbert from The Vampire Diaries. To date, she has lost every single one of her parental figures: her adoptive parents (who happened to be her biological Uncle and Aunt) were killed in a car accident shortly before the series began, leaving Elena with an enormous sense of survivor's guilt, having been in that same accident. She didn't find out she was adopted until halfway through the first season, and discovered that the man she thought was her uncle was actually her father, and her mother was a woman named Isobel who had been (willingly) turned into a vampire. They both died, John in order to allow Elena to wake up human at the end of the second season, and Isobel burning herself to a crisp in front of Elena in the cemetery. Jenna, Elena's aunt who assumed custody of the Gilbert siblings (technically cousins) after the tragic pre-series accident, died shortly before John, also in front of Elena, during the ritual in which Klaus ripped out her heart. And then, throughout the third season, Alaric, who had basically acted as Jeremy and Elena's guardian after Jenna's death (who had, incidentally, been in love with Jenna), became increasingly mentally unstable due to all the times he had died and come back to life with the Gilbert Life Ring, eventually turned into a vampire by the season's big bad and completely possessed by the need to eradicate the entire vampire race. And then he died, leaving Elena with Jeremy as her last living relative. And then he died, triggering a Heroic BSoD during which Elena switched off her humanity. When Jeremy came back, it was at the cost of the life of one of her best friends, Bonnie Bennett. (She got better too, but only by becoming the Anchor to the Other Side, through which every supernatural being has to pass (unless you're Katherine, lmao) which causes her unspeakable pain every time. AND THEN SHE GOT POSSESSED BY HER EVIL DOPPELGANGER. This show never gives Elena a rest.
  • The CSI franchise is rife with this:
    • CSI
    • Sara Sidle was abused by her father and watched her mother abused, then her mother killed her father and she was in foster care for a few years.
    • Warrick Brown somehow lost his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandmother. He struggled for years with gambling problems before Grissom turned him around.
    • Nick Stokes was molested as a child by his babysitter
    • Ray indicates he was abused by his father, and he's wrestled with his own violent tendancies his entire life.
    • CSI NY
    • Lindsay was the only survivor of the killing of her friends, and only because she was in the bathroom at the time. Her dark past was alluded to a lot before it got revealed.
    • Adam was physically abused-he says his dad was a 'bully'.
    • Stella grew up in an orphanage and foster homes
    • CSI: Miami
    • Horatio and his brother Ray were both abused by their father
  • Roswell Michael had enough of his foster father's abuse and went to court to emancipate himself.
  • Who in Supernatural does not have this?
  • Arrow: How has nobody yet mentioned Oliver Queen? He is the literal embodiment of this trope.
  • Community has this quite a bit. With everyone.
    • Jeff's father was an abusive alcoholic who eventually left the family, leaving Jeff with a lot of emotional scars. Additionally, he has seriously deep self-esteem, vanity and body image problems amongst other things.
    • Britta was taken advantage of at a young age, with no one, not even her controlling father standing up for her. Adding to the many insults and put-downs thrown out by the study group, other students, and even a priest.
    • Abed's father is cold, controlling, and distant towards him since his parents' divorce, blaming it on his son. He has a hard time to try and connect with other people, feeling alone and stuck in a metaphorical locker. He is so withdrawn he cannot allow himself to exist in his own ideal universe, and he constantly feels the need to scheme and change himself so that his friends won't abandon him.
    • Shirley used to be a happy, married mother, never thought about going to college and starting a business, until her husband left her, causing her to try and turn her life around while being a single mother and college student for the most of the series. She also used to have what seems to be a drinking problem.
    • Annie was driven by the pressure and stress to succeed that she ended up taking Adderall. Went to rehab against her parent's wishes (but ultimately for the better of her own health), and is currently estranged from her family.
    • Troy's parents overprotected him from the ideas and concepts of the adult world, despite him being out of high school. They left him unprepared, overly innocent, and naive. Furthermore, his parents are divorced and his father has pushed him out of the house because it is uncomfortable to have Troy there with his new girlfriend - who is Troy's age.
    • Pierce has spent his whole life trying to get any hint of appreciation, approval or affection from his prejudiced father, who has constantly emotionally abused him. Even to his dad's grave, he has never once gained any of that.
  • JAG has both Sarah Mac Kenzie (parental abandonment) and Jennifer Coates (criminal past).
  • Every single damn transgenic in Dark Angel, but particularly Alec, who spent twenty-two years as a Manticore soldier. In addition to the normal horrible Manticore torture and indoctrination, Alec spent at least two long-term stays in the Psy-Ops re-indoctrination unit. The longer of the two stays bought Alex six months of Cold-Blooded Torture just because his twin brother turned out to be psychotic, and his handlers were curious whether he would snap, too. Alec's flashbacks in the show are...unpleasant.
  • Exaggerated in Retro Game Master episodes such as the Parappa The Rapper episode, when Arino's comments on his past are referred by the narrator as this trope.
  • An interesting variation with Eliot Spencer from Leverage: a lot of viewers assumed that his violent reaction to an abusive father stemmed from a childhood history of abuse. Word of God denied this, and Season 4 strongly implied a much less sympathetic reason for it.
  • Pretty much the entire premise of Titus. Possibly one of the only uses of this for humor.
  • Strongly implied by Major Frank "Ferret Face" Burns in Mash, who regularly drops comments hinting at a very abusive family life as part of his Freudian Excuse.
  • Most of the main characters of Criminal Minds fit this trope.
    • Aaron Hotchner: It is implied that his father abused him when he was a child.
    • David Rossi: He failed to stop a killer from murdering a couple right in front of their three children.
      • When he was a teenager, a group of bullies forced him to shove a kid into a locker and then urinate on him.
    • Spencer Reid: His mother is a paranoid Schizophrenic, his father abandoned them, and he once had a group of bullies strip him naked and tie him to a goal post and left him there for the rest of the night.
    • Penelope Garcia: Her parents were both killed in a car accident when she was eighteen.
    • Derek Morgan: He watched his father get shot when he was a kid. He then hung out with a bad crowd until the owner of the youth center took him under his wing. We then find out that the so called "mentor" actually molested Morgan.
    • Elle Greenway: Her father, a police officer, was killed on duty when she was eight years old. Elle feels guilty because of this because the last thing she said to her dad was "I hate you."
  • Multiple characters in OrangeisTheNewBlack have a dark past that is explored to show how they came to be in prison.
  • 12 Monkeys: Cole. He grew up in a post-apocalyptic world following the release of the plague in 2017, and became a 'Scavenger'. It's strongly suggested that he committed several violent and horrifying acts in order to survive, and became emotionally and mentally scarred as a result.
    • Probably applies to pretty much every character in 2043, most notably Jones.
    • Jennifer Goines. She witnessed the massacre of her entire laboratory team by the Pallid Man, and was framed for the killings and committed to a mental institution. Between these traumatic experiences, as well as the medications she is given, she has truly become mentally unhinged.
  • On The 100, Octavia spent almost her entire life in a single, small room, often having to hide in a compartment underneath the floor, and never interacting with anyone besides her brother and her mother, because the Ark's Population Control laws made her very existence a crime. The one time she ventured outside her room, she was almost immediately caught, leading to her imprisonment, her brother's disgrace, and her mother's execution. This makes her react rather negatively towards any attempt to confine her.
    • Murphy reveals that his father was executed for trying to save him, and his mother became an alcoholic who died hating him. He blames this for his turn to crime.
  • Several Blake's 7 characters have this but Soolin takes the prize. You have to piece it together from casual lines in different episodes, as the whole thing would have been just too dark for taste and decency standards at the time, but she saw her whole family murdered in a Federation attack on her Doomed Hometown, was only spared because one of the killers was a pedophile who kept her as a child Sex Slave, and got away from him by feigning Stockholm Syndrome enough that he taught her to be a quick and deadly gunslinger, at which point she killed him and became a professional mercenary. Her first meeting with the Seven was also quite traumatic, as it involved discovering that her boyfriend at the time was planning to kill her to extend his own lifespan, although it didn't seem an especially meaningful relationship to her.
  • The Death in Paradise episode "A Personal Murder" reveals that The Mentor to Dwayne Myers, Cedrik Verga, was involved in a deadly incident 45 years before he died and was fully prepared to come clean about it when he was murdered. Specifically, a local youth, Vincent Garcia, died as a direct result of the actions of four older boys, Cedrik included. All of them went on to live respectable lives for 45 years afterwards, but the incident would continue to haunt them for many years, and with the boy's mother close to death's door herself, Cedrik realized that now was as good a time as any to confess, so that she may at least die in peace knowing what really happened.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Eiji Hino from Kamen Rider OOO. He is the son of a rich Japanese politician. During a visit to an African country, he befriended a local young girl named Alfreed. Unfortunately, he got caught up in a civil war and saw Alfreed die before his eyes. Eiji himself was captured and held for ransom. While his family did pay the ransom, his father used the tragedy Eiji went through as a way to gain more votes. This event left Eiji devoid of any selfish desire with him only wanting to live to help others.
    • Haruto Souma from Kamen Rider Wizard. Both of his parents died in a car crash. Just before the series starts, he was used as a sacrifice in a magic ritual known as the Sabbath. He barely managed to survive as he found the will to do so in a promise he made to his parents, where he said he would never give in to despair.
    • Kaito Kumon, The Rival in Kamen Rider Gaim. Yggdrassil shuts down his fathers factory, causing his family to become very poor. As a result, Kaito's father becomes an alcoholic who frequently abuses his family. To make matters worse, both of his parents commit suicide, resulting in Kaito being put into an orphanage.
  • Daredevil (2015)
    • Karen Page's mother died when she was a teen. She turned to drugs to cope with the stress of her dad's financial mismanagement of the family's diner. Eventually, she hooked up with a local drug dealer in her hometown of Fagan Corners, selling drugs at college frat parties and becoming high on his product. When her brother tried to intervene by burning down the boyfriend's trailer, the boyfriend retaliated by beating Kevin with a tire iron. Karen had to shoot him to stop him from hurting Kevin. Minutes later, while rushing Kevin to the hospital, Karen lost control of the car and hit a guardrail, sending the car tumbling on a dark road, injuring Karen and killing Kevin. Her father disowned her and forced her to leave Fagan Corners.
      • The events of what happened are so painful for Karen that she doesn't talk about her family, not even with her closest friends (Matt is genuinely surprised when he learns she has a brother). Part of the reason she pushes Ben Urich so hard to expose Wilson Fisk is because she believes that she can't go public with any kind of story herself. Ben implies that the information about her past makes her a noncredible source, which Karen doesn't even try to refute; when Mitchell Ellison hires on Karen at the Bulletin towards the end of season 2, and reveals that he's come into possession of Ben's research into Karen, he has to reassure her that he doesn't care about what happened with Kevin or with Todd.
      • When Fisk has Karen framed for murder, she doesn't get any support from her family. In "Semper Fidelis," when she's at Matt's apartment reminiscing about that night, she tells Matt that she knew, while sitting in the precinct interrogation room, that no one would come to help her, on account of her dad breaking off contact with her
      • She knows how to use a gun, and right before she kills James Wesley, she says, "Do you really think this is the first time I've ever shot someone?" being reminded of the night she shot Todd.
    • Wilson Fisk grew up under the control of an abusive father, and eventually beat him to death with a hammer while defending his mother.
    • Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter was a star pitcher on his Little League baseball team, until he killed his coach for trying to bench him. He saw a therapist who taught him how to fake empathy and fit in with society, though it's left him with some serious anger issues.
  • Dear White People: Coco in Episode 6 reveals she's watched friends and family die at the hands of Police Brutality and harbors the feeling that she could've done something to save them.
  • Lucifer (2016): Ella Lopez used to steal cars, says she has "lots of darkness" inside her, and has mentioned "voices" that she could only silence by counting cards while playing Black Jack.
  • Jung on Kim's Convenience was kicked out of (or ran away from) his house at 16 for stealing money from the Family Business, which led to him not finishing high school and spending time in juvenile detention. He still has a poor relationship with his father because of this, so much so that they avoid speaking to each other as much as possible.
  • Kiss Me First: Tippi reveals that in the past she'd have sex with men to get money for drugs.
  • Proven Innocent: Madeline spent ten years in prison for a murder she didn't commit.
  • A Discovery of Witches: Diana's parents were killed by muggles who'd found out they were witches. Since then, she's refused to use magic.
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