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From Nobody To Nightmare / Live-Action TV

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  • Lampshaded in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Glenn Talbot gains his gravity powers and goes batshit insane and evil with them, and Coulson and May are reflecting on it:
    May: (Laughs) The first time we met him.
    Coulson: (Laughs) When he told us about the "peacekeeping force" he was sending to The Hub?
    May: I mean, imagine back then if someone had told us that someday we'd be worried about Glenn Talbot.
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  • Being Human: Invoked by Mr. Cram/Crumb in the fifth series of the original version of the show.
    "They ignored me. Patronized me. Now they'll dream about me for the rest of their lives. I'm the world's worst nightmare: the victim who gets super powers!"
  • Boardwalk Empire: About half of the younger generation of gangsters. Lucky Luciano? Just some dumb, Hot-Blooded kid. Al Capone? He's just the The Don's immature driver who makes up stories about serving in The Great War so he can make himself look more badass. Bugsy Siegel? A crazy kid always making silly jokes and doing funny animal noises, albeit with a bad temper.
    • The biggest is definitely Meyer Lansky. In his first appearance, he's on the receiving end of jokes about being a kid in his dad's suit. Within twenty years, he will be one of the most powerful men in America.
    • Richard Harrow starts out as a unemployed, disfigured Shell-Shocked Veteran whom Jimmy Darmondy meets in Chicago. He quickly becomes one of Atlantic City's deadliest hit men and in season 3 he pretty much singlehandly ends a Mob War when he pulls a One-Man Army and slaughters more than a dozen armed gangsters within the span of 15-20 minutes.
  • Breaking Bad
    • The show is one long study in this trope for Walter White. In season one he's a mild mannered science teacher living in a near shell shocked state over all the disappointments and missed opportunities in his life, and, unknown even to himself, is secretly enraged by it all. By the end of season four, he's toppled a major drug ring, murdered a LOT of people, and in season five, is the Big Bad of his own story.
    • Gus Fring. A flashback shows him as a mild-mannered fast food cook on the bottom rung of the drug trade who watches helplessly as the cartel murders his friend and partnernote . In the present, he's become the ruthlessly competent and dangerously savvy head of an international drug empire.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Liam was just a cheap and fun loving young man, just one of many in the world who would have led an unremarkable life — until he met a beautiful vampire. Reborn as Angelus, he immediately distinguished himself from other vampires by his sheer cruelty and inhumanity. Even the Master, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires seen in the series, called him "the most vicious creature I've ever met." Despite being not that much stronger than the average vampire his age, Angelus always inspires fear and dread whenever he reasserts himself. During his stint as Big Bad he came closer to destroying humanity than anyone else in the series, even the First Evil itself.
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    • Really, this applies to nearly all the Master's line: Darla, Drusilla, and Spike started out as, respectively, a High-Class Call Girl dying of syphilis, a chaste and timid young woman suffering from unwanted visions, and a Momma's Boy who wrote bloody awful poetry. Who would have expected the likes of them to become a crew of Hero Killers?
    • Willow went from a powerless, clueless Muggle to the most dangerous member of the Scoobies and probably the most powerful magic user on the planet over the course of six seasons, but didn't become a Nightmare until Tara was killed and she went on an Unstoppable Rage rampage that almost ended with the world ending. Jonathan, having known her almost as long as Buffy and Xander, could hardly believe she was the same person.
    • Warren Mears at first seemed to just be some pathetic geek living in his mom's basement, until he showed up at Buffy's place with a gun.
      • Arguably, the From Nobody To Nightmare happened in the episode Dead Things. Before this episode, Warren was presented more like Jonathan and Andrew, i.e. immature geeks trying to act like comic book supervillains, though he had been the only one willing to have a demon kill Buffy in "Flooded" and tried to dissolve her in "Gone" instead of re-visibling her. However, in Dead Things, Warren mind controls his ex-girlfriend, then proceeds to try and have sex with her, and then crosses the Moral Event Horizon by accidentally killing her when she wakes up, then manipulates Jonathan and Andrew into framing Buffy for murder, using magic so even Buffy believes she's the killer. Then he just gets worse from there...
    • Mayor Wilkins. He was originally a mortal human, stumbled across the Hellmouth while prospecting for gold, and made a deal with the demons (which included the founding of Sunnydale on the Hellmouth and his gaining immortality) mainly in order to avoid being killed.
    • The comic story "Haunted" reveals Adam was just a random, faceless Initiative grunt killed by the Mayor.
    • Discussed at the end of the episode "Damage" in the final season of Angel. The episode concerns a woman who when she was just a young child, her parents were murdered by a serial killer and she was abducted and tortured by him, literally driven insane. In the present she inherits Slayer abilities and Super Strength, and the result is a rampage with multiple deaths. At the end of episode she's tranquilized and taken by the other Slayers, but Spike is pessimistic about their chances of being able to help her.
      Spike: She's too far gone to help. She's... one of us now. She's a monster.
      Angel: She's an innocent victim.
      Spike: So were we, once upon a time.
    • The Senior Partners, the Greater-Scope Villains of Angel's spin-off show. Back during the Primordial Age when the Old Ones ruled the Earth, they were, according to Illyria, weaklings who were barely considered stronger than a vampire. In the here and now, they're all-powerful extradimensional beings who pretty much control our world and more from behind the scenes.
    • In the IDW comic series After the Fall, the various Demon Lords who took over L.A. when the Senior Partners sent the city to Hell were, for the most part, originally just low-level demons who took advantage of the chaos to build their power bases.
    • From the bad guys' viewpoint, Buffy herself is arguably one. While the Slayer was always feared, Buffy herself was just a normal teenage girl interested in shopping, cheerleading, and boys, and had no idea demons and monsters existed. Then she got called and became the longest serving Slayer on record, stopped multiple Apocalypses, has taken down numerous Big Bads that run the world of evil and doesn't even let a little thing like death stop her. While a lot of it was down to luck, determination and her friends, she's still a force to be reckoned with and it's implied Slayer or not, evil is afraid of her.
  • Over the course of the first three seasons of Community, "Senor" Ben Chang went from a lousy teacher, to a power-hungry wannabe war lord.
  • The Day of the Triffids: Torrence sees the collapse of society as an opportunity to get himself a nice suit and an army of mercenaries and try to take over the country.
  • Doctor Who: In the serial Planet of Spiders, the main (human) villain, Lupton, was a former salesman and manager for 25 years who was embittered when his company fired him. So he volunteered to do the bidding of giant spiders, who gave him great powers.
    • The Master. Before he looked into the Untempered Schism and had the drum beat implanted into his brain, he would just have been a harmless Time Lord child.
    • The Snowmen reveals that classic Who monster the Great Intelligence started out as a parasitic lifeform in the form of sentient snow, feeding on the negative emotions of a single misanthropic man for most of his life, until it eventually developed a mind of its own and became magnitudes more deadly.
    • The Doctor, who is a demonstration of what happens when a member of the most powerful race in the Universe, decides to ignore their non-interference policy, steal a time machine and interfere!
    • Pretty much all Time Lords have the potential to be this. Even the first one Omega, who, according to Big Finish, started out as a student with bad test results and becomes someone who nearly destroys the Time Lords.
    • From Big Finish Doctor Who Sebastian Grayle. He was originally a Roman Soldier who didn't have enough money to marry his love. He is given immortality by the Nimons, and after living for centuries, outliving everybody he marries, becomes a bitter twisted figure who helps the Nimon invade Earth. He becomes so terrible that when he goes back in time his past self kills him.
    • Davros started off as a scared child in a war between the Kaleds and the Thals. He rose to become the Kaleds' leader in the scientific division. He then created a new species from the mutated Kaleds. After he was thrwatred by the other Kaleds, he arranged his own species extinction using the Thals, whom he also attempts to wipe out. The species he creates? The Daleks, a race of omnicidal maniacs that became the Doctor's Arch-Enemy.
  • Fargo: Lester Nygaard from Season 1 is a local salesman and a Butt-Monkey at the beginning of the show, but develops into this after what ensues when he first meets Lorne Malvo.
  • Farscape: Namtar was a lab animal given a serum that boosted his intelligence. By the time the crew meets him he's an Evilutionary Biologist who terrifies everyone around him.
    • Unlike most Peacekeepers, the first-season Big Bad Captain Crais actually grew up on an agricultural commune and was fully expected to spend his life as a common farmer like his parents... up until a Peacekeeper press-gang arrived in search of new recruits. Ambitious and eager to prove himself, Bialar Crais rose through the ranks on wits and hatred - until, by the start of the season, he's in charge of his own command carrier.
    • The series-wide Big Bad, Scorpius, was born into slavery as the hybrid offspring of a raped test subject. Weak and sickly throughout his childhood, his Scarran captors considered him a failed experiment... right up until he escaped from captivity. Worse still, the attempt to recapture him ended with his "nanny" getting a coolant rod to the eyeballs and a Peacekeeper ambush being called in on her dreadnought. Impressed with his intelligence, Peacekeeper command decided to waive the rules against hybrids and allow Scorpius to join them. By the time the crew meets him, the former slave is in command of a top-secret research facility; over the series, he levels up to commanding his own warship, to commanding his own interstellar experiment, to commanding his own fleet.
  • The Flash (2014) is packed with people who were once nothing but small time crooks or even innocents but then a particle accelerator explosion granted them powers and quite often twisted them.
    • Leonard Snart was the son of an abusive cop turned imprisoned thief. Pushed to crime himself, he stole a weapon to make himself Captain Cold. Mick Rory was a young pyromaniac turned brutal crook himself who got the other weapon to become Heatwave.
    • The Mardon Brothers were small-time crooks until they each gained the power to control the weather to the point of nearly burying Central City in a tsunami.
    • Kyle Nimbus was to be executed but instead gained the ability to turn his body into a deadly gas to kill others.
    • Bette Sans was a soldier who suffered shrapnel wounds from defusing a bomb. When the accelerator hit her, she found herself able to detonate anything with her hands and became Plastique.
    • Grodd was a simple captive gorilla who gained hyper-intelligence, powerful telepathic abilities and a hate of the human race.
    • Roy G. Bivolo was a color-blind artist who gained the power to fill anyone with rage with a look.
    • Sam Scudder was a crook trapped in a mirror who gained the power to travel through them and use reflections as weapons to become Mirror Master.
    • James Jesse was a simple crook who became the maniacal Trickster.
    • Amunet was a flight attendant of all things who put up with regular harassment by her male pilots. When she gained the power to control metal, she killed them and then created a massive criminal empire.
    • Becky Sharpe was a woman with horrendously bad luck before a burst of dark matter caused her to alter probabilities so only good things happen to her. But to make it work means horrible random events hit anyone around her and the luckier she gets, the worse it is for them.
    • Clifford DeVoe was a bright man using a device to amplify his mind when the accelerator hit. With his mind expanded to genius levels, he at first wanted to use it to help mankind. But then he discovered that accessing so much brain power was shutting down all his other motor functions and forcing him to life in a nearly paralyzed state. He thus uses his mind to steal the bodies and powers of others and even uses a hyper-drug on his wife to ensure she won't turn on him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Melisandre, the terrifying Red Priestess with great powers, reveals to Gendry that she was once a slave.
    • Daenerys rises from a timid bride to a Young Conqueror. At the start of Season 2, she is the leader of only a few dozen ex-slaves, most of which are women, old men, and children; with one knight under her command. By halfway through Season 3, she has an army, dragons old enough to kill, and is feared by the cities of Essos. By the end of Season 6, she is queen of Meereen and has the largest forces by far, ready to claim the Iron Throne.
    Daenerys: "A fortnight ago I had no army, a year ago I had no dragons."
    • Walder Frey goes from a unpleasant but relatively harmless Dirty Old Man to the regicidal lord paramount of the Riverlands without even leaving his chair.
    • Thousand of years previous to the events of the series, a man whose name has long been forgotten was captured by the Children of the Forest, who had grown desperate to drive the human invaders from their lands. In their desperation, they used their magic to transform him into the greatest nightmare of them all: The Night King. Their plan worked a little too well, and now he's coming for everyone.
  • Gotham might as well be called From Nobody to Nightmare: The Series. We see several members of Batman's Rogues Gallery before they became supervillians, and we get to watch their Start of Darkness: young and rather incompetent wannabe gangster Oswald Cobblepot, who will claw his way to the top of Gotham's criminal underword as the Penguin. A Super OCD coroner Edward Nygma with No Social Skills who is never respected will become the insane Prince of Puzzles. A shy and introverted little girl who will become a dreaded Mad Scientist Poisonous Person. A young female Artful Dodger who will become the ultimate Classy Cat-Burglar. A idealistic crusading District Attorney's mind will surrender to his latent dichotomous madness when he receives horrific injuries to half of his face. According to Word of God, someone will have One Bad Day and become The Clown Prince Of Crime. And, of course, a traumatized little boy will grow up to be a very different kind of nightmare.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Aunt Lydia was once just Miss Clements, a kind teacher very concerned with children's welfare. There's little hint how she became an Aunt, but presumably it's due to this concern being pushed toward extremes with the fertility crisis and adopting the Sons of Jacob's beliefs as a result. The start it seems was having a boy taken out of his mother's custody due to what Lydia saw as inadequate parenting.
  • Heroes: Sylar/Gabriel Gray goes from a nebbish clockmaker to Social Darwinist Serial Killer supervillain in a pretty short period of time. Even among other superpowered people, he's one of the most powerful and feared.
  • House of Cards: Both the original and the U.S. remake revolves around this trope. Francis Urquhart/Underwood was perfectly happy helping the Prime Minster/President's agenda, so long as he was promoted to the main cabinet/Secretary of State. Then the Prime Minister/President broke their deal, deciding Francis was better use to him as chief whip, a job Francis has held for twenty years. Cue the entire plot of the show, which is essentially Francis casually destroying everything his former "friends" have worked so hard for. All the while carrying a proud smile on his face. Being based on Macbeth, the show gives us the interesting twist of having said nobody to nightmare explain his plots, schemes, and motivations to the viewer, accompanied by a frequent Aside Glance.
  • iZombie: Before the Boat Party Massacre, Blaine McDonough was little more than a shiftless drug-dealing ne'er-do-well, unlikely to pop up on anyone's radar. One Zombie Outbreak later, after finding himself turned into a nigh-unkillable monster, he starts working his way up the organized crime ladder, eventually becoming the undead king of the Seattle underworld.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Several of the Monsters of the Week in the franchise are humans using a Transformation Trinket to turn into monsters. Most notable are the Dopants from Kamen Rider Double and the Zodiarts from Kamen Rider Fourze.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki has Satoru Tojo aka Kamen Rider Tiger. Before receiving his transformation trinket, Satoru was a very timid student with the desire to become a hero. After receiving his transformation trinket, he becomes a one of the most dangerous antagonists in the series, due to his tendency to murder other Riders at random, especially those emotionally close to him. This is because he thinks a hero is someone who sacrifices all that's dear to him for the greater good.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: Both Ryoma Sengoku and Kaito Kumon start out as orphans. Ryoma grew up to become an amoral scientist who enables a massive apocalypse to happen and one of the show's more powerful antagonists. Kaito ends up becoming a powerful godlike creature with Social Darwinist tendencies who'll gladly destroy humanity in order to create what he thinks is a perfect world.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O has this built into the very premise. Sougo Tokiwa is a well-meaning but flaky teenager whose only Goal in Life is to become a king; he then finds out that in 50 years, he supposedly become a nigh-omnipotent Evil Overlord who rules the world with an iron fist. In fact, the Opening Monologue never fails to mention that Sougo is just an Ordinary High-School Student before ever becoming the tyrant that subjugates everyone. Tsukuyomi, the time traveler who warned Sougo, is trying to prevent this by guiding Sougo down the path of the hero rather than the villain. Meanwhile, the Time Jackers (the show's villains) are trying to invoke this by taking ordinary people and turning them into twisted, corrupted versions of legendary Kamen Riders in the hopes that they will become the Demon King rather than Sougo.
  • Lexx: Mantrid. He would have stayed on his ice planet for all eternity (or until he died, maybe, eventually), but due to the heroes' actions, he instead became a composite part-evil scientist-part-Insect essence-all Big Bad planet-disassembling, sun-eating, universe-destroying superweapon superbeing.
    • Similarly, Stanley H. Tweedle, a technician fourth-class (lowest level) who had been nothing but a complete failure until fate intervened and he became the captain of the Lexx, which had the greatest destructive force in both universes.
    • Interestingly, Kai does not really qualify. He did start as a regular kid and his transformation into Divine Assassin does make him very powerful, but there were many Divine Assassins and it is never really explored if Kai was the best among them or not. His creator is quite proud of him, but is also an egomaniac and would never admit that someone else has created a better Divine Assassin. And there is a rank above Divine Assassin, the Divine Executors. Only one is encountered, but it is 'an' not 'the', so there were multiple. Kai is an elite mook who tends to follow Stanley and Xev around as bodyguard and rarely cares about anything else.
  • Limitless has Eddie Morra. In the original movie, Eddie goes from an out of work author to a financial genius who becomes entrenched in the world of financial giants. Now, he's a United States senator and The Chessmaster who controls the fate of Brian's future.
  • Lost: Benjamin freakin' Linus. Originally a pitiful little boy who was a victim of a drunken dad who always told him that his birthday is essentially the anniversary of the day he killed his mom. Flashforward 30 years later and he orchestrated the death of his whole town, including his father, who he killed with his own hands after reciting his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • Not to mention his first introduction. He was very convincing as the innocent Henry Gale, making it virtually impossible for anyone to Spot the Imposter. Then he began to show his manipulative nature that we're all familiar with, starting with stringing Locke against Jack even further, which had horrible results.
    • Hell, the Smoke Monster was just a guy who wanted to escape from his jerkwad mother and sniveling brother. But then he gets pushed too far murders his mother, gets murdered by his brother, dumped in a magic spring, and becomes the mass-murdering Big Bad monster.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Rumplestiltskin started out as a cowardly, crippled, wool-spinning peasant; then somebody made the mistake of threatening his son. Cue burning down the Duke's palace, killing an all-powerful evil sorcerer, and taking on said evil sorcerer's power, making ol' Rumple possibly the baddest dude in the fairy tale world. And it's not just his incredible magic; see any of the times when he was without magic but proved that he was still utterly dangerous.
    • Regina also would have been a nobody were it not for her ambitious mother. If Regina had had her way, she would have been the wife of a stable boy, her true love.
    • Regina's mother Cora was this. Twice. She rose from being a poor miller's daughter to a wealthy noblewoman and one of the most deadliest sorceresses in the world. Then again in Wonderland where she rose from being banished there with nothing but the clothes on her back to becoming the Queen of Hearts.
    • Isaac Heller was just an appliance salesman with dreams of being a famous writer, when he was recruited by the Apprentice to become the next Author, tasked with writing down the exploits of fantasy characters across many realms. Then he decided that just recording the stories was boring, and started rewriting things to be more "interesting..."
    • Zelena, abandoned by her mother, raised by a kind couple, she seemed happy with her life. Then her "mother" dies, her "father" reveals he never loved her and her quest for answers leads to the truth. Betrayed by her would-be mentor of the Dark One and overcome with jealousy at the sister she feels took what should have been hers, she transforms into the Wicked Witch of the West, a horror of a ruler out for a "goal" she can never meet.
    • Arthur, a young man with dreams of glory, becoming king but his obsession with becoming the greatest ruler he can be leads him to betray everything he stood for: invading other lands, murder, using magic to warp his wife to be his willing slave and his kingdom to be "perfect" and still out to gain what he feels is his "destiny," oblivious to how he has tarnished what should have been a glorious reign.
  • Tobias Beecher from Oz starts the series as a mild mannered lawyer who's in jail for vehicular manslaughter, stuffed in a maximum security prison with murderers, nazis and cannibals, and is promptly intimidated, brutalized and raped by other prisoners. Within his first couple of years in prison he had defecated on his cellmate and killed a guard with his fingernails, among other things.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers Wild Force: Viktor Adler / Master Org. Unlike most PR Big Bads, he started out as a completely ordinary man - an unassuming ecologist with a crush on one of his two co-workers. Then he found the remains of Master Org and got much, much worse (without ever developing a split personality like Anton Mercer and Mesogog).
    • Doctor K from Power Rangers RPM is a tragic unintentional example of this trope. She started out as a highly intelligent child slave working for an immoral government think tank, inadvertently unleashes the sentient Venjix computer virus on the internet in a failed escape attempt and is ultimately responsible for the death of 99% of mankind due to the resulting Robot War. Unlike most examples, Doctor K feels great remorse about this and tries her best to set things right.
  • Queen of the South begins with Teresa Mendoza established as the most powerful, ruthless and feared drug cartel leader in Mexico. When she's shot in the opening of the pilot, her life flashes before her eyes and the series shows how Teresa went from an innocent poor woman to this cold-blooded gangster.
  • Revolution: Before the blackout, General Monroe was just your basic Marine Corps sergeant. Now, he's the warlord of roughly a quarter of the former United States. Likewise, Captain, no, Major Neville used to be an insurance adjustor, which is shown in episode 5. Captain Jeremy Baker started as one of many random victims during the blackout, but he survived and went on to be a dangerous militia member, which is shown in episode 3.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: The villain in "Secrets of the Stars" was a failure in life before he was chosen by the Ancient Lights. This means Sarah Jane can't convince him to stop and he refuses to surrender and return to his old life when he's lost.
  • Sliders:
    • One episode features a world instantly cursed with twice its previous population because of the sliding technology. It's dominated by warlords who control the food supply. They meet one who mentions he used to be a shoe salesman.
    • In the pilot episode, Quinn is visited by another sliding Quinn, a cocky young man on his eighth slide, who helps him complete the formula for sliding. Many episodes later, Quinn encounters the same alternate version of himself, except his sliding experiences have turned him into a ruthless psychopath who has committed countless atrocities. He still has a tiny spark of humanity in him and wants "our" Quinn to kill him so that he can't hurt anyone else.
    • Said experiences? Giving sliding technology to a human-like race of underdogs losing a war on their own Earth against humans. Their name? Kromaggs. One of their first actions after learning to navigate the multi-verse is to conquer that Quinn's world.
  • Smallville: Lionel Luthor was just a dirt poor kid from the Suicide Slums with a set of drunken parents. Then after murdering his parents for the insurance, he became one of the richest men in the world and the poster boy for Magnificent Bastards everywhere. His son Lex also goes from a privileged child in Metropolis to perhaps the most dangerous man in the world due to the accident that caused his hair loss and his dad's emotional abuse.
  • Stargate SG-1: The Replicators were built originally as just (semi-intelligent) toys who diverged so far from that original function that they became a Horde of Alien Locusts bordering on omnicidal mania, and eventually, an evil race. Oh, and yeah, not only were they a toy, but they were in fact a toy built by what was essentially another toy, a messed-up android built as a daughter by a doddering old fool left alone on some backwater planet with nothing else to do.
  • Supergirl (2015): Benjamin Lockwood was a mild history professor and supporter of alien rights. Then his family's steel works business was forced into bankruptcy by the influx of cheaper alien metals, their home was destroyed by a fight between Martian Manhunter and a Daxamite Mook, he was fired for starting to express anti-alien rhetoric in his lectures, and his father was killed by the earthquakes caused by the Dark Kryptonians attempted terraforming of the planet. All this radicalized him and led him to becoming Agent Liberty, leader of a movement to kill every alien on Earth.
  • Supernatural: Crowley used to be a 17th century tailor named Fergus MacCloud who, as Bobby put it, "sold his soul for a couple of extra inches below the belt". Over the centuries, he's managed to work his way up the demonic ranks to head of all deals, and later King of Hell, as well as making his mark as one of the Winchesters' most dangerous and persistent enemies.
  • Teen Wolf: Matt Daehler was an ordinary kid who ended up traumatized by his near-drowning at the hands of a high school swim team and their coach. Fast forward six years and he’s a Teen Genius who has a crush on one of the prettiest girls at school. Then the girl rejects him and he gains control of a reptilian shapeshifter with razor claws and paralyzing venom. Cue killing spree…
    • When we first meet Erica, she's a troubled, skittish epileptic ostracized by the entire school. Then Derek gives her the bite. Who's Laughing Now??
  • Torchwood: Miracle Day: Oswald Danes was just your average, run-of-the-mill sex offender on death row until everyone in the world lost the ability to die and everyone saw his lethal injection fail on live television. He was then recruited by an evil corporation as a spokesperson to help promote their corrupt agenda because vile though he is, Danes is a well-known figure and very charismatic. His Karma Houdini bites him in the ass however when the corporation reveal that he has outlived his usefulness and he goes back to being a nobody. On the run. From everyone.
  • True Blood: Bill Compton was just a random and lost Confederate soldier dying of starvation as he tried to make his way back to Bon Temps to reunite with his family, who didn't even know if he was still alive. Cue one meeting with a lonely widow in a cabin deep in the woods and he was transformed into a vampire by the sadistic Lorena. He still remains somewhat of a nobody (with fangs) for about a century after this until he is recruited by Nan Flannagan to be a spy for the American Vampire League and the Authority. A succession of seasons later, and he has become first the King of Louisiana to replace the fallen Sophie-Anne, a Chancellor of the Authority after Roman's demise, and then...a Humanoid Abomination that is the physical avatar of the vampire goddess Lilith.
  • The Walking Dead: The Governor was a normal man of no distinction or ambition before the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • The Wire: Young drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield just starts out the third season as a small-time player with a few corners, albeit ones that are considered prime territory for a dealer. His first appearance is about 10 seconds. Due to the arrest of his competition at the end of the season, he has taken over by the end Season 3. In the fourth season, the police see him as just another drug kingpin like the one before. By the end of Season 4, they start finding the bodies of his victims in row houses. A lot of bodies. Turns out Marlo is the most murderous, ruthless, and sociopathic man to ever run a drug empire in Baltimore.
    • Avon Barksdale, whose gang ran the west Baltimore drug trade before Marlo took over, counts as well. In fact, the Major Crimes Unit's investigation into the Barksdale crew is stalled early on because of their inability to find much information on Avon, due to the fact that he, as McNulty puts it, basically came out of nowhere to become one of the biggest players in the city.
  • The Witcher (2019): In the Netflix version, Nilfgaard starts out as the butt of the joke for everyone, with a boorish king and little power. Fast-forward about a decade or so and they have a new iron-fisted emperor, fanatical followers, have launched a brutal invasion on the Northern Kingdoms and nobody is laughing at them anymore.
  • The X-Files: Billy Miles is one of these. In the pilot episode, Billy is only a poor young man abducted by aliens. And this is the last we think we see of him. Seven years later, he is abducted again, is returned with an alien virus, and turns into an indestructible killing machine, bent on murdering Scully and her unborn child.


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