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Face Heel Turn / Live-Action TV

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  • 24 embodies this trope. Most seasons have at least one of The Mole at some point. Sometimes this turns out to be misleading, with a few Fake Defectors, but there are several infamous true face heel turns. Going back to the first season was Nina Myers, who turns into a recurring villain for two more seasons. Most recently was the even more drastic Tony Almeida, whose Heel–Face Revolving Door led the audience to be surprised by the (second) revelation that he was a villain, despite the fact that this was technically common knowledge months before the season even began.
    • A surprising one is that Jack Bauer himself undergoes something of one in the final season. After Renee Walker is killed and he gets screwed over by President Taylor when she effectively sells her soul to Charles Logan and undergoes her own FH Turn, he sets out on his own. Initially it seems like he's still trying to just do the right thing and expose the cover-up that Taylor's involved in, but when he murders Dana Walsh in cold blood even though she wasn't directly tied up with what happened to Renee it becomes clear that all he's after is vengeance regardless of the consequences. He gets so consumed he nearly starts World War III solely in the name of revenge, and it takes Chloe to literally talk him down at the eleventh hour. But by this point his actions have still effectively screwed him over and left him an international fugitive.
  • Happens all the time on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it being a spy show (and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
    • A mass face heel turn occurs in the second half of the first season: turns out about half of S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually Hydra sleeper agents, a massive infiltration dating back decades. Thus, this is one of the cases where always-been-heels characters are outed as such. Notable examples include:
      • Grant Ward, a notable member of Coulson's team (and the main cast).
      • John Garrett, Coulson's friend and colleague and a command-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, who turns out to be a mid-ranking Hydra mastermind.
      • In related events happening at the same time in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, World Security Council Secretary Alexander Pierce, the ultimate boss above Nick Fury and all of S.H.I.E.L.D., turns out to be the mastermind of a Hydra plot to take over the world, and recurring S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is revealed as a Hydra agent as well.
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    • Super soldier Mike Peterson winds up working for Hydra in season 1 after they kidnap his son and put a bomb in his head. They turn him into the MCU version of Deathlok.
    • Skye's mother Jaiying becomes the final villain of season 2 when her desire for revenge against SHIELD and Hydra overpowers her desire to be a good leader to the Inhuman community.
    • Season 3's Big Bad Hive has the ability to induce this in Inhumans, enslaving them with his parasites.
      • Also in season 3, Agent Blake, once a high ranking member of SHIELD, is revealed as the founder of the Inhuman-hating group, the Watchdogs.
    • In season 4...
      • Doctor Radcliffe reads the magic book the Darkhold, then turns on SHIELD once it becomes clear that they will not support his research into LMDs and virtual reality.
      • Later, the LMD "Aida" desires to become a real person and so exploits loop holes in her programming to betray Radcliffe. He even compliments her "genius". It's implied that her desire arose after she, too, read the Darkhold. She eventually becomes a real human with Inhuman powers, as well as the MCU version of Madame Hydra.
      • As a result of Aida's machinations within the virtual reality "Framework", several characters switch factions inside. Leopold Fitz becomes the sadistic Doctor, and the most threatening figure within the Framework. Melinda May willingly becomes one of Hydra's top operatives. Most surprisingly, the virtual version of Grant Ward turns out to be a good guy, having been recruited by SHIELD agent Victoria Hand instead of John Garrett in the virtual timeline.
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    • At the end of season 5, Brigadier-General Glenn Talbott becomes the MCU version of Graviton and turns against SHIELD. Well-Intentioned Extremist variant.
      • Earlier in the season, Fitz tragically suffers a psychotic break that causes him to hallucinate the Doctor version of himself torturing his friends, albeit in service of SHIELD's larger goals. Then Fitz discovers that it was him all along...
  • Half the cast of Alias. Double-agency was a big part of the premise of the show, so it is to be expected.
    • Perhaps most notable was Lauren, Vaughn's (first) wife, which was probably supposed to be a big surprise, but which everyone saw coming anyway.
    • There were several in-show Face-Heel Turns that the audience was in on before the characters were:
      • Sydney was a double-agent for the real CIA, supposedly working for SD-6, and when she revealed herself to Dixon, he saw that as a face-heel turn. He came around eventually.
      • Francie was killed and doubled, and her doppelganger worked for a season as a bad guy, and when she was revealed, Sydney would have seen it as a face-heel turn (mitigated by the fact that she wasn't really who she looked like).
      • Sydney's mother did this over and over and over. It's not a spoiler because it's a defining trait of her character, and in the end you're never really sure which side she was on.
      • Vaughn appeared to do this at the end of season 4, but then it's pretty gray as to what's happening. The show has so much of this trope that the audience expected it (or at least was hardly surprised), and then the turn was subverted because he didn't really turn evil.
  • Tyr on Andromeda - though we all knew it would happen sooner or later, as Tyr was always playing his own game.
  • Slade Wilson starts out as a hero in Arrow, but after he learns of Ivo pulling a Sadistic Choice on Oliver that results in Shado's death, combined with the Mirakuru's effect on his mind, he turns on Oliver, blaming him for what happened more than he does Ivo.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) Season 3 kicks off with the introduction of new DCI Jim Keats. He seems like an upright, intelligent guy who even Gene Hunt begrudgingly respects - mainly because Keats is allowing Hunt to operate the way he wants to operate and isn't interfering the way other IAB officers would. He repeatedly tells Alex that he wants to help her, and he knows she has a larger purpose in this world. He makes overtures to the rest of the CID gang - Chris in particular - even bringing over a bottle of champagne to celebrate their closing a case. And then, about five minutes before the end of the episode, he walks into Gene's office, closes the door, and delivers one of the most scathing denouncements of Hunt and his people we've ever heard, and vows to bring Hunt down, no matter what.
  • Londo Mollari begins the Babylon 5 Myth Arc as the human commander's closest ally, but effectively becomes The Dragon as the series progresses. In fact, he vacillates between good and evil repeatedly as the series goes on.
    • Also Talia Winters, once her (utterly psychotic) "sleeper" personality was unlocked.
    • ...and Garibaldi in season 4, due to a bad case of More Than Mind Control.
    • ...and Anna Sheridan, who could be assumed to be a good person prior to getting Shadowed.
    • In a way, the entire Minbari race after the disastrous first contact with humanity. Mostly reverted later.
  • In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, Felix Gaeta leads a failed mutiny against Admiral Adama, resulting in his and Zarek's deaths.
    • Earlier on in the series, Boomer appears to have joined Cavil's side in the Cylon civil war, later helps the final Cylon escape from exploratory brain surgery and gives her lover a literal Imagine/Hope Spot then steals her "twin's" daughter only to bond with her "niece" and give her back and is finally killed by her "sister".
  • Dr. Zack Addy, who turned out to be the serial killer's apprentice on Bones. He didn't actually kill anyone and it's more of a case of a weak will being overpowered by a strong one, but only Sweets knows that Zack prefers to be thought of as insane since he wouldn't survive prison. Regardless, his friends still love him (to the confusion of his replacements).
  • Arguably the central plot of Breaking Bad which follows the journey of Walter White across five seasons from sympathetic, kindhearted chemistry teacher and family man suffering from cancer to a fairly loathsome Villain Protagonist who wouldn't hesitate to poison a child.
    Jesse: Nah, come on, man! Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass, all a sudden at age, what, sixty, he's just gonna break bad?
    • Gets surprisingly flipped halfway through the fifth season when Walt, having reached the top of his empire, having taken his operation global realizes that he has made more money than he could ever hope to spend and far more than he even set out for initially. This leads him to decide he is out of the game, make amends with his former business partner by giving him the money he's owed and try to start over fresh with his family. And then his DEA agent brother-in-law finally figures out he's a drug dealer.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Angel in Season 2 (starts with "Innocence"), Willow in Season 6 (starts in "Seeing Red") and Faith in Season 3 (starts in "Consequences"). All three get subsequent Heel Face Turns.
    • Angel's Face–Heel Turn happened due to having what is later described as a "moment of perfect happiness" which was his night with Buffy. This activated the Curse Escape Clause which brought back his original self, the incredibly evil Angelus.
    • Angel's evil alter ego is used several times on his spinoff, to the extent that he's now Heel–Face Revolving Door.
      • This is more Jekyll & Hyde with Angel, as it is stated quite clearly that the two are mutually exclusive. Angelus hates his Alter Ego and considers him weak because he won't feed from humans.
    • Willow's Face–Heel Turn came about due to her going crazy after Warren accidentally killed Tara while trying to gun down Buffy. She corners and kills Warren in exceedingly cruel fashion and then goes after the others, until she eventually Jumps Off The Slippery Slope and tries to destroy the world.
      • Willow's is far more this trope than Angel as she was always the same person (albeit far, far more angry). She even says later that she remembers exactly how it felt and why she was doing it - and that it felt pretty good. Dark Willow is Normal Willow on the ultimate despairing rage power trip.
    • The worst part about Faith's heel turn, was unlike Angel or Willow, it was partially the good guy's fault, due to how terrible they treated her.
    • Giles in "The Lost Slayer" novel Bizarro World, in his vampire version.
    • Riley appears to be doing this by working with the Twilight Group in the comics, but it turns out he's a mole.
    • Warren, in a way. In Season 5, he is clearly not malevolent in the least and tries to aid Buffy in stopping the rampage of his creation.
      • How malevolent he was in Season 5 is up for debate. He wasn't killing anyone, no, but he did program his Sexbot to feel pain when he was gone, abandon her despite this (and the fact that she was a potentially dangerous robot with super strength), and when he realized she was looking for him he tried to bail before Buffy confronted him. Combine that with his obvious misogyny (look at the other ways he programmed the AprilBot and how he treats Katrina) and his descent into evil in Season 6 isn't all that surprising.
    • Forrest was more Knight Templar when he was still a "good guy".
  • In the final season of Burn Notice, Michael Westen goes deep undercover for the CIA to capture a criminal, James Kendrick. During his time undercover, Michael learns that James is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who made it his mission to go after the villains that the government wouldn't. Michael doesn't agree at first, but slowly becomes impressed with James' way of doing things. When the time comes to finally apprehend James, however, Michael learns that the leader of the extraction team is none other than Ax-Crazy murderer Simon Escher. After Michael kills Simon, he reveals the truth to James, betraying the CIA, the agency that burned him and put a psychopath like Simon in charge.
  • Every character on Charmed, at some point or other.
    • Subverted with "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World", where the entire WORLD takes a face heel turn, excluding the demons, which all take a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Chuck:
    • Daniel Shaw is an all-American hero, willing to die for his country, but when he finds out thanks to the Ring that Sarah killed his wife, he joins the Ring setting on killing Sarah for revenge; this turns out to be fatal, as Chuck kills him in order to protect Sarah.
    • Shaw does survive, though not without super-advanced medical help, and returns later on a grand plan to take over every major American intelligence agency while framing his former allies as traitors before executing them. If that wasn't enough, he gets his own Intersect and kills Chuck's dad.
  • On CSI NY Marty Pino, who went from recurring coroner to drug dealer processing body parts from victims for the drugs they contained.
  • The third season of Degrassi revolves entirely around Manny and Sean turning heel, then slowly turning back to face.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Captain Mike Yates turns out to be part of the conspiracy to return the world outside London to a pre-historic age in "Invasion of the Dinosaurs".
    • Professor Yana from "Utopia" starts off as a soft, quirky Absent-Minded Professor, whose sole mission is to get humanity to Utopia so it can survive after the heat death of the universe. However, after opening his supposedly broken fob-watch, it turns out that Yana is actually The Master in disguise, who subsequently becomes the Big Bad for the series finale.
    • The Tenth Doctor went a little overboard (shall we say) in "The Waters of Mars" when he finally realized he was the only Time Lord left in the Universe and didn't have to follow their rules anymore. He became megalomaniacal and declared himself the "Time Lord Victorious" until the episode's heroine corrects his mistake. By killing herself.
    • This is played straight with the Time Lords, led by Lord President of the Time Lords Rassilon, turning into Omnicidal Knight Templars with the Time War, leading to the destruction of most of the Daleks as well as the Time Lords, including Gallifrey, by the Doctor.
    • Down the line in "Hell Bent", Twelve becomes, well, hell bent on saving companion Clara, to the point of again tampering with history in a way that could cause a Reality-Breaking Paradox if not handled juuuust so. In both cases, it's less that what he's doing is bad and more that the rules he's breaking in order to save someone are in place for a reason. All that said, as far as the Time Lords are concerned, the Doctor has turned heel, and even Clara becomes concerned that the Doctor may be on the way across the Moral Event Horizon, forcing her to exercise a form of tough love on him when she learns his plans to save him include erasing her memories.
  • EastEnders - James Wilmott-Brown started out as the friendly face of the brewery, then bought his own bar, got obsessed with barmaid Kathy, and eventually raped her.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Olly is Jon Snow's trusted steward until he helps Alliser Thorne murder Jon as revenge for the latter saving and forming an alliance with the Wildlings.
    • Theon illustrates his turn by burning his warning letter to Robb as the Stark theme shifts into the Greyjoy theme.
    • It's only referenced obliquely, but Mance Rayder went from being one of the best rangers in the Night's Watch to King Beyond the Wall.
    • Never the most heroic bunch in the first place, House Bolton betray the Starks and turn fully villainous in "The Rains of Castamere".
    • Despite their reputation as a "famously loyal" house, House Umber betray House Stark and change allegiances to House Bolton in Season 6.
    • Doreah turns on Dany to side with Xaro Xhoan Daxos...and pays dearly for it.

    • Daenerys herself declines into villainy in what is one of the series most controversial moves. Her actions in Essos involved standing up to and ending the atrocities in Essos: fighting against the Dothraki's misogyny and single handily ending slavery in the western continent were good acts and even her most morally ambigous decisions. When she set her sights on the Iron throne she begins her descent into insanity burning alive soldiers who refused to bend the knee or allow themselves to be sent to the walls. She justifies this because she is fighting against Cersie Lannister, one of the worst tyrants in the History of Westeros. However over the course of the final three episodes Daenerys snaps for essentially no reason culminating in her burning down Kings Landing because the ringing of the Bells annoyed her. Whiles Daenerys was slowly descending into villainy the show skipped over all the context that would explain the descent, making her evil actions seem rushed and out of character
  • Jake Straka, for some reason, near the end of The Guardian.
  • Heroes Reborn: In the years that have passed since Heroes originally aired, it's revealed that Matt Parkman has converted to the side of evil, working for Erica Kravid and Renautas Corporation as the Director of Sunstone Manor, a secluded property where specials are held prisoner and brainwashed by Matt into staying.
  • Duncan MacLeod does this for two episodes in Highlander: The Series, while he's possessed by the Dark Quickening. His good and evil sides finally battle after Methos drags him into a magical hot spring, and his goodness wins, enabling a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Forms the basis of the main plot of Homeland, with a CIA agent convinced that a formerly imprisoned U.S. Marine has been turned into a terrorist during the years of torture he'd endured.
  • House of Anubis: Jason Winkler joins the Secret Society early on in Season 1, betraying Patricia in the process. It's a bit of a complicated case as Jason still did care about the students (Patricia especially) and was only in on it to save himself from dying of a degenerative illness. He never did anything bad beyond being on Victor's team, and even tried to save the students from Rufus in the finale.
    • This also applies to the Sinners, who, after getting their souls stolen practically become sociopaths with no allegiance to anyone but Ammut and Robert Frobisher-Smythe. They were all brought back to normal later.
    • Mr. Sweet, who left Victor's team in season 2 to focus on being a good principal and father, turned evil again in season 3 in order to try and awaken Ammut. He went about this by manipulating and betraying Eddie at every opportunity.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One has a shocking example where, when Izu was destroyed by Horobi, Aruto Hiden, the titular Rider himself, pulled this, becoming the evil Kamen Rider Ark-One. Overlaps with Became Their Own Antithesis, as Ark-One's finisher's involve extremely negative emotions, where early on Aruto's main desire was to make people laugh.
  • Professional Idiot Ball handler Stuckey in the 2009 season finale of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit subverting Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize. After That Yellow Bastard and Simka Graves, the audience for one didn't suspect the guy who'd been there since the beginning of the season.
  • On Lost, Michael was of the Well-Intentioned Extremist variety, as he just wanted to save Walt, his son. He felt really bad about it, but there's varying opinion over whether or not we should feel sorry for him.
    • Charlie performs his when he kidnaps Aaron and Claire finds out he's a junkie. He had recently fought his demons, won, and turned around from a spoiled jerk to a almost hero. Then they demonize him again. May have involved the writers strike.
    • Locke also tagged along with the Others for a while, but he didn't really switch sides (though he certainly came close to being an out and out villain during a portion of Season 4, where his leadership was borderline tyrannical.)
    • Claire and Sayid in the final season, due to being infected by The Sickness. Both eventually fight their way out of it in the end.
  • In the Merlin (1998) series, Lord Lot and Morgan Le Fay both turn against Arthur and Merlin.
  • As of the finale of season 3 of the BBC's Merlin (2008), Morgana has finally completely turned against Arthur, Merlin and the rest of Camelot, and, with the possible death of Morgause, is in a prime position to take over as the Big Bad of the next season. Technically she was an enemy right from the beginning of season 3, it's just that now everyone knows about her Face Heel Turn instead of just Merlin and Gaius (and Gwen later on).
    • The "face-heel-turning" actually begins that the start of Series 3 after Morgana returns to Camelot after going missing for a year and becomes The Mole for Morgause and begins doing things like killing people in cold blood and threatening Merlin who unwittingly provokes her move to the dark side by attempting to kill her (for valid reasons) at the end of Series 2. The face-heel-turning of Morgana is amplified by the fact the first two seasons spend extensive time establishing the character as sympathetic and on a few occasions heroic.
    • In Series 5, Mordred goes from the Adorkable, loyal youngest knight to Arthur's killer after the girl he loves is executed for trying to kill Arthur.
  • Agent Lee on NCIS appears to be The Mole, faking a relationship to gain access to a private area (of the complex, you pervs) and killing another agent to protect herself. She's actually being forced to do it by her niece's kidnappers. Naturally, Redemption Equals Death for Agent Lee.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Spencer Hastings, who joins the "A-Team" after Mona convinces her to, claiming she has information about Toby. It is revealed that he is not actually dead and she has a Heel–Face Turn and begins using her newfound alliance to stay ahead in the game.
  • Allan in season 2 of the new Robin Hood, at least until his Heel–Face Turn later on in the season.
  • Resurrection Ertugrul: A variation of this happens to Turgut after he is captured by the Templars and is exposed to liquid narcotics to serve their campaign. Once they return him to Ertugrul, the brainwashed Turgut stabs him in the back, nearly killing his former master and prompting the tribe to keep him imprisoned to prevent another tragedy. Downplayed in that Turgut had no control over his so-called betrayal of Ertugrul. Oh, and he recovers from the drugs, allowing him to side with the Kayis again.
    • A straighter example occurs with Hamza Alp. He was one of Ertugrul’s most prized soldiers back in season 1, then goes along with Abdurrahman Alp to gain information from the Mongols by pretending to side with them during the following season. Unlike Abdurrahman though, Hamza is genuinely corrupted by the promise of riches and betrays the Kayis out of such a vice. Even when he tries to repent later, his attempts are cut short after Noyan kills him off, leaving him without the Kayis' blessings.
    • Secretly enacted by Afsin Bey after he murders Halime’s father. While Ertugrul does become suspicious of him, he never finds out explicitly if Afsin truly betrayed the Kayis by being the one to commit such a sin before he leaves at the end of season 1.
  • In Smallville: Oh you highlighted this. For shame!
  • Gul Dukat of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine starts off as a recurring annoyance, but gradually warms up to the crew and looks like he's on the road to Badass Decay... then he realizes Good Is Dumb and stabs everyone in the back.
    • Gul Dukat was one of the more interesting 'grey' characters (along with fellow Cardassian Garak). Most of Dukat's crimes were committed way before the series started, so the fans would not automatically hate him along with Kira Nerys. It was more of case the DS9ers were warming up to him, especially when he embarked on his one-bird-of-prey crusade against the Klingons. But as soon as he is sees the chance to 'make Cardassia strong again' (i.e. get himself into a position of power again) he does indeed remind everyone that sometimes Good Is Dumb.
    • Eddington is a more straightforward example from Deep Space 9.
  • Sweet-natured Kes returns to Star Trek: Voyager to crumple bulkheads and anonymous ensigns in "Fury". It turns out she's angry at her former friends because... well it's never really explained. But don't worry as everything's back to normal by the end.
    • Kes was supposed to be upset over being talked into leaving all of her people and life behind to travel to the middle of nowhere with Voyager's crew, and the episode's plot was about her trying to go back in time and convince her younger self to bail while she still had the chance. Given her Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence exit in "The Gift", it was likely a case of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • St. Elsewhere's Dr. Peter White winds up being a serial rapist.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Big Bad of Season 6, to whom both Crowley and Eve played Disc-One Final Boss, is revealed to be Castiel, who has decided that to defeat Archangel Raphael and put Heaven on the right track, anything is acceptable - in this case, taking on a million souls. The Winchester boys do their best to stop Castiel throughout the final episodes of the season, while he continues to plead for them to accept him and his reasons for evil.
    • The last moments of Season 9 have Dean Winchester being resurrected as a demon, thanks to the Mark of Cain.
  • Ollie Reeder in The Thick of It. He starts off as a somewhat unconfident and idealistic geek, gradually becomes a bit of a jerk and eventually transforms into an amoral and treacherous manipulator who is willing to throw anyone under the bus to improve his own career.
  • In the miniseries Thumb Wrestling Federation (this sorta fits here), former Dextera member Evil Ira left for the Sinistras, simply because being good while he has evil in his name was too confusing.
  • True Blood
    • Debbie Pelt performs a Heel–Face Turn offscreen after season 3 and then this trope (onscreen) in season 4.
    • Bill Compton started working for the Vampire Authority and went from mainstreamer to full-on Vampire Bible fanatic, slaughtering humans everywhere and doing all in his power to make vampires the dominant force on the planet.
  • Stefan Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries at the end of season two and for most of season three. Klaus reverted Stefan into his darker alter ego, the Ripper.
  • Shane in The Walking Dead does this during the course of the first two seasons. Subtly at first, but rapidly gaining speed. Until his death.


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