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Ambiguously Evil

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Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.
But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.

These are the characters whose moral standing is kept in the dark. Maybe they work for the Big Bad, but don't do anything really evil themselves. Perhaps they are Wild Cards who use the Heel–Face Revolving Door constantly. They may kick as many dogs as they pet. Or maybe they are Evil Overlords who can seriously claim to be Reasonable Authority Figures. Perhaps they're rumoured to have done evil things, but the rumors are never confirmed or debunked. Or maybe they're an Eldritch Abomination whose moral compass is incomprehensible. In a nutshell, Dark Is Not Evil may be applying to them but nobody knows for sure.

But one thing is certain: until they do something truly heroic or heinous, which may or may not happen and which would remove them from such ambiguity, placing them is a wasted effort. Sometimes, the writers will deliberately leave it to the audience to decide what their true colors are.

Compare with Byronic Hero, Villain Has a Point, Wild Card, and Noble Demon. Contrast Hidden Agenda Villain, whose motives and goals are kept in the dark but whose morality is never uncertain; also contrast with the less subtle characters who are unambiguously evil. Often a trait of the Mysterious Backer and the Enigmatic Minion. When they're explicitly evil but it's unclear when they became evil, see Ambiguous Start of Darkness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom begins with a tentacled creature destroying most of the moon and threatening to do the same to Earth in a year. His motives are unclear, but for the next year Koro-sensei teaches an ordinary middle school class and proves to be the best teacher any of them ever had. It's eventually revealed that he doesn't want to destroy the world, it's just that the process that turned him into a tentacled creature also made him a living bomb whose fuse is lit, and nobody's sure how or if he can be disarmed.
  • Hirofumi Yoshida in Chainsaw Man is completely undisturbed after reducing a man to a puddle of blood, and is revealed during his reintroduction in Part 2 to be working for a shadowy employer seeking to keep Denji from working as Chainsaw Man anymore. Yoshida himself denies that his employer is evil, though not in a very convincing way, and is willing to negotiate a price to ensure Denji’s retirement instead of trying to intimidate or force him. Not helping matters is how he steps in during Denji and Yuko's fight only after it ended and Denji is ready to reveal his identity to a student he rescued; either his arrival was that conveniently timed or he chose to let innocent people die just to keep his cover. He finally shows his true colors in Chapter 132, no longer taking no for an answer and kidnapping Denji while holding his new family hostage to ensure his compliance.
  • Schneizel from Code Geass is, for most of the show's run, foreshadowed as an Evil Counterpart for Lelouch. But for the most part, he comes across as an Anti-Villain or even a Hero Antagonist. Turns out, he's the final Big Bad and is really quite evil.
    • Lelouch. How sympathetic and selfish are his goals? And do his goals justify his means of trying to achieve them? In the end, though, this is made less ambiguous by his Zero Requiem. Lelouch adopts the role of an evil emperor and arranges his own assassination by Zero, now being played by Suzaku, so that the world can finally be at peace.
  • Death Note: Near, at first. With his Kubrick Stare, his robotic, stone-cold personality... it's hard to tell how good Near really is. However, much of his goal is to avenge his mentor L, and "How to Read" confirmed that he is a sensitive person.
  • Fabricant 100: It's heavily implied No 100 has killed the doctor, as he was disappointed she too wasn't the perfect human he wanted to make. No 100 goes out of her way to ensure Ashibi is happy, but when asked, she makes it clear it's only business and she's willing to kill him once he's 18. She also knows a lot about Fabricants she's keeping secret from Ashibi.
  • In Fruits Basket, Shigure is usually a goofy slacker who is also something of a pervert. There are moments though, when he says some very creepy things. Unlike other characters like Rin or Tohru, he shows no interest in ending the Zodiac curse himself and says he's perfectly content to sit back and let other people do it while he reaps the benefits. He does want the curse ended, but it's mainly because he's in love with Akito and knows he can't have her all to himself as long as she's obsessed with all of the Zodiac members rather than wanting everyone free. Despite these selfish views and the fact that he openly admits to being "the worst sort of man", he really doesn't do anything bad and some of the things he does, like agreeing to let Yuki and Tohru live with him, are very beneficial to the protagonists in addition to furthering is own ends..
  • Is It My Fault That I Got Bullied?: For a large portion of the manga it's unclear if Aizawa really is on Shiori's side or he just allows Nagumo's Gang of Bullies to abuse her as a way of getting back at his former bully. Chapter 15 reveals that he was Good All Along and was gathering evidence to help Shiori get back at the bullies.
  • Heinz Windemere in Macross Delta mixes this trope with The Ditherer. Although he reluctantly supports the Windemerean attacks on other planets, he is only doing it because he thinks it’s the best way to protect his people from foreign aggression. Also, he considers the possibility to make peace but he also wants the UN government destroyed. When Freyja begs him to stop the war, he ignores her. In the finale, he teams up with Chaos out of pragmatism, not because he wants to bury the hatchet. Calling him "evil" is a bit strong, but he is definitely an antagonist.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Gendo Ikari. At the start, he keeps it unclear whether he does care about his son, Shinji, and the world's safety or not. In the end, we learn that it's neither, he's just obsessed with bringing back his wife and will use any means to do it, but while he doubtlessly puts getting his wife back before anything else, the way he justifies his actions in episode 25 suggest that he genuinely believes that his version of the Human Instrumentality Project is the only way for humanity to survive, his final words make it pretty clear that he did care about Shinji, but happened to have the very same self-esteem issues Shinji has, and the same can be argued for Rei (given that Fuyutsuki, usually the more moral/sentimental of the two, calls him out on getting too attached to her), and he still opposes the actual villains of the show with the goal of doing what he thinks is protecting mankind, ultimately making him more of a Byronic Hero. ...We think.
    • Kaworu Nagisa is another example; while he is an Angel and tries to bring about Third Impact, he eventually changes his mind and decides to let Shinji kill him so humanity can live. His motivations have been hotly debated, from interpretations ranging from naive but ultimately well-meaning boy who wanted the best for Shinji to cruel Manipulative Bastard who, when his plans for destruction of humanity failed, settled for pushing Shinji beyond the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Stocking from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt claims to be a demon, but could be under mind control.
  • Akemi Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion. On one hand, she brought Madoka, Sayaka, and Nagisa back to life and created a world where everyone can live normal, happy lives. On the other, she did this by trapping the universe inside a Lotus-Eater Machine, stealing Madoka's goddess powers, and erasing everyone's memories of what happened. Whether this is evil or not is left up to the viewer to decide.
  • Spy X Family: The main target of the series is Donovan Desmond, who was prime minister for most of the time that Westalis and Ostania were at war, and now leads the National Unity Party, a political faction that seems extremely right-wing, with indication that he might be planning on using his influence to cause another war to arise. But he's also a recluse that keeps his personal circle of contacts very small and rarely makes public appearances, so finding a way to infiltrate said circle and find out his actual plans is tricky. Hence the creation of Operation Strix, with one of its phases involving legit and simple access to him at an Imperial Scholar event that he's known to attend.
  • ST☆R: Strike it Rich: Chogen Takahashi was the leader of a cult that tried to coup the Japanese government. However, a former member of the cult claims that he only advocated for violent methods after adopting Hina and accuses her of changing him. The veracity of the testimony is debated In-Universe, so whether Chogen or Hina is the real responsible is unknown.
  • Kaname in Vampire Knight. Especially concerning recent events.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the Seven Barian Emperors are supposed to be the villains in Season Two, but despite this, the only one who has ever committed any actions that could truly be defined as "evil" is Vector (other than fighting the good guys, if you want to count that) and the rest don't even seem to like Vector at the best of times. (Gilag has Brainwashed a few humans into helping him, but even then, this never seemed to cause them any permanent harm.)

  • In Nymphs and Satyr, while the nymphs seem playful, but they are all crowding around the satyr and he seems adamant to join them in the pond. Considering naiads - a type of water nymph - are sometimes known to drown the men they seduce, it is likely the same will happen here.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Flower Angel, there are hints throughout Season 1 that Lucio might be secretly evil as early as his introduction, with protagonist An'an's fairy companion Kukuru immediately freaking out when he sees him capturing a fairy for himself. The Season 1 finale reveals that he is fully on the heroes' side.

    Audio Plays 
  • The character C.A.R in Reverse Transmission. Is he complicit in Kruger's Assimilation Plot? Is he simply misled by his programming and doesn't understand the horror of what he's done? Is he even truly sapient?

    Comic Books 
  • Harrison Snow of All New X-Factor was similar but he turned out to be mostly Good All Along.
  • Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld: Sardonyx. He's an extremely unpleasant fellow who was a loyal follower of Dark Opal. But he's later seen in a slightly more positive light when concerned about the well being of his family and kingdom.
  • In Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts, it is implied that the wealthy Russian host in the Framing Device is guilty of some grave action to receive his fortune and his fate at the end is his Karma Houdini Warranty.
    "What's the saying? Behind every great fortune there's a great crime, right?"
  • Les Démons d'Alexia: The necromancer Zünd and the mysterious medium Paolo Capaldi give creepy vibes and are unpleasant and morally ambiguous despite being of the side of the C.R.P.S.
  • In the sequel of Paperinik New Adventures, Pk 2, Everett Ducklair returns to Duckburgh... and he is much more ruthless than before: cutting ties with Paperinik, kicking him off the tower and switching off One. Then he starts doing really nasty stuff, like installing mind-reading antennaes and putting mind controlling chips inside people's brains. Yet, as Paperinik points out, he could have used those things to really create troubles, yet he didn't.
  • The Punisher is a Sociopathic Hero who punishes various people who are the worst of the worst in the criminal world.
  • Maxwell Lord was this in the early days of Justice League International eventually they all came to trust him and then he killed the Blue Beetle.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
      • Cyclonus and Whirl. The former was a former lieutenant of Galvatron, who quit his service and signed on for the quest, he's distrusted by many of the Autobots, because he killed many during his service under Galvatron. Whirl is a dangerously unstable psychotic who's responsible for the great war, teaching a still pacifistic Megatron a brutal lesson in violence, and was twice voted the Autobot most likely to defect. As the comic goes on, both get Pet the Dog moments (Issue 12 giving them separate ones to the same character), Cyclonus reveals a more soft side, and Whirl is shown to be a pitiable Jerkass Woobie who still has some severe mental problems.
      • Then there's the Galactic Counsel, a coalition of worlds devoted to peace. They really don't like the Cybertronians, and attack them over a misunderstanding. Such hostility is not unfounded, seeing as the war has laid waste to countless worlds, and before the war, Nova Prime's expansion involved experimenting on other planets and purging organic cultures. Rodimus regards them as fascists, but not all of Rodimus's statements should be taken at face value, how they operate among other cultures remains to be shown.
    • The Transformers: Combiner Wars:
      • The Mistress of Flame is solicited as a religious leader whose presence can lead to a valuable ally or dangerous threat. Though by series end she doesn't do anything remotely amoral.
      • First aka Elita One who only appears on the very last page of the event. The character displays an interest in Cybertron, all the while sitting on a sinister spiked throne that seems to be made of bots welded together with an off putting smirk. Whether or not Adaptational Villainy, will kick in (and to what extent) is left up in the air up until the character's formal debut in later issues. Compounding matters is that Obsidian appears alongside First, and Obsidian has had a history of appearing as both a good and bad guy in fiction. Turns out he was a mix of Properly Paranoid, Well Intentional Extremist, and Obliviously Evil.
  • The Lord of Owls from Usagi Yojimbo. Like Jei, he operates on Blue and Orange Morality, unlike Jei, he has no quarrel with Usagi, and most of his victims attacked him first. However in one instance he laid waste to a group of Samurai... who were jokingly asking if he wanted to drink with them, even trying to de-escalate the situation when the Lord of Owls drew his sword and declared his intention to kill them. The Lord of Owls presents himself as a sort of Grim Reaper like figure who kills those whose time is up, like those samurai and the other bandits he's fought.
  • This is the whole premise of V from V for Vendetta. Hero or terrorist? Or both?
  • Watchmen:
    • It's left largely up to the reader to decide whether Ozymandias' master plan was truly the right thing to do.
    • Same with Rorschach. He is deliberately left morally ambiguous to let the readers decide whether his extreme methods of fighting evil were necessary or not. Or whether exposing Ozymandias's plan was the right thing to do or not.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge (MLP):
    • Monster X has shades of this. On one hand he's been the vanguard of a brutal invasion force numerous times and is now currently serving the Big Bad. On the other hand he's a Noble Demon who refuses to harm the defenseless and saved the life of a pegasus after arriving in Equestria. He's also True Companions with his allies Gigan, Megalon, and Iris, which greatly humanizes all of them.
    • Similarly, Xenilla has spent years leading a faction of evil kaiju on Earth, yet is nothing but kind and cordial while in Equestria. Eventually, we find out that he was just pretending to be evil in order to motivate his brother Godzilla Junior to stay strong and fight against genuinely evil, dangerous Kaiju. In short, he's Good All Along.
  • The Bikini Bottom Horror has SpongeBob himself. In the comic's epilogue, it's revealed that he knew about the Tortured One (a gigantic clone of Patrick used as a source of Krabby Patty meat) and gave Patrick an under-cooked patty on purpose, causing Patrick to assimilate the Tortured One's memories. The Tortured One then proceeds to rampage through Bikini Bottom, destroying the Krusty Krab, and after its defeat SpongeBob opens his own restaurant. While the implication is that SpongeBob masterminded the Tortured One's rampage from the very start to destroy his competition, it could just as easily have been revenge on Mr. Krabs for mistreating his friend that simply spiraled out of control.
  • The Moon's Apprentice:
    • Nightmare Moon. While she does seem to have a grudge against her sister and it's implied she want to make "the night last forever"... She acts more like Celestia (canon Celestia, not Ron the Death Eater Celestia) than her canon counterpart! There's not an Evil Laugh or an overly dramatic decoration that the night will last forever to be found. She even says she'll forgive her sister! ...Eventually.
    • Queen Chrysalis is an even bigger example, to the point where, if it weren't for the actual show, you'd think she was always a good guy.
  • The Burned Man in Forum of Thrones, which is lampshaded by several other characters. He himself has no problem with admitting his own evilness, while also putting emphasis on his good actions. In fact, almost everyone working for him speaks fondly of him and Harpy explains that his actions actually help the city, by providing work and food for those who need it. He also has a strong soft spot for children, so strong that he employs them into his organization, to train them as thieves and spies—which still might be more favourable than just giving them no future at all.
  • My Immortal: Hagrid— he helps Ebony by giving her the magic flowers, defends her from the perverted Snape and Lupin, and is even in her band once. Yet, Ebony describes his crush on her as pedophilia (despite her being seventeen) and he has apparently bullied her for being gothic. The author, Tara, tried to explain this by saying that the "Hagrid" who was an antagonist was actually Cedric, but this makes the "pedophile" part make even less sense, since Ebony and Cedric are the same age.
  • Oops! I'm Equine Again: Human Tirek, like his Equestrian counterpart, seeks out Equestrian magic. Like his Equestrian counterpart, he is ambitious, scornful, prideful, deeply resentful of his family, and quite intimidating. But he lacks any malicious intent, and can even be quite reasonable forgiving Princess Twilight for socking him without provocation.
  • In No Glimmer of Hope and A Sombra End, there is a mysterious being of darkness and shadows that dwells in a mountain cave, peppers its speech with a bizarre language (one that existed long before Equestria itself, according to the author), and claims to have many names, though its true one is not revealed. It has separate confrontations with two villains, Starlight Glimmer and King Sombra, and rips apart their actions and philosophies with brutal Breaking Speeches before gleefully murdering them. It specifically expresses disgust toward Starlight for stripping ponies of their cutie marks and forcing them to live joyless, empty lives without their special talents, calling her even more vile and despicable than itself. But it also calls Sombra (a ruthless dictator who enslaved the Crystal Ponies) a pathetic weakling, compared to the evil things it has done and the things it is capable of. When he sees its true form, he is so horrified that he screams in terror and begs for mercy.
  • In The Loud House fanfiction The Nightmare House, Lola's nightmare involves a judge at her pageant calling parts of her face ugly, which prompts the parts to fall off until she's The Blank. While Lola believes that this was the judge's intention, it's actually left unclear.
  • While he's the leader of Team Rocket in canon, Giovanni in Challenger is deliberately kept ambiguous throughout the story. His first appearance has him casually scaring off Jessie and James before giving Ash a Sandile, then ominously stating Ash can "thank him once Sandile proves to be useful", and months later Giovanni asks Ash to mentor his son Silver. A meeting of Team Rocket administrators has Archer mention the group having backing from someone of influence but leaves out any names. So far, all that's definite is that Giovanni is immensely powerful and fearsome, whether he's evil is impossible to say.
  • Merlin from Arcadia or Bust is revealed to be the reason Morgana turned evil in the first place, having cut off her hand while she slept unprovoked to forge the Amulet, forced her brother Arthur into the role of king and hero similar to Jim. It is even implied that he raped her one night, leading to her divorcing him. Since their marriage was based around Troll-based traditions involving soul magic, the ritual used to divorce them left both of them unable to feel love, compassion, joy, etc. When Claire tells Merlin that she was told not to trust him by Morgana, he does nothing to deny being any more trustworthy than Morgana.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: While strolling across the Safari Zone, Red is approached by a mysterious girl named Naty, who offers him a place where he can leave his Pokémon in open field so they can keep training when not active in his team, while also admitting to be part of a secret organization whose goal is "to change the world". Naty is a bloodliner who can see the past and future, and seems interested in Red's future for some reason, thus she makes Red the offer in exchange for his cooperation. While it's known there's a Bloodliner faction seeking to Take Over the World, so far there's nothing that confirms whether Naty is part of it or not, and in the case that she isn't, that her own organization's intentions are any less pure (in a later sidestory, Naty seems dismayed when Red defies one of her visions, which was all but stated to have ended a Bad Future).
  • Downplayed with Molly Weasley in The Dark Trio, where it's more like Ambiguous Favoritism. The fic leaves it unclear as to whether or not Molly considers Ron The Unfavorite simply because he got sorted into Slytherin. On one hand, she forgot to make him a sweater during his first year, which she claims was a genuine accident, while Ron believes it was intentional. On the other hand, Molly displays genuine jealousy when Ron shows the Granger parents affection when they hug him and Harry in Book 2.
  • Obito-Sensei: Amegakure, which has gone from a small but industrial village to the ruler of the Nation of Rain. On the one hand, they seem to still be dedicated to bringing world peace, without Yahiko's death to drive Nagato to despair, took in and raised several young shinobi who canonically were orphans like Haku, Kabuto, and Suigetsu, and during the Chunnin Exam seem to be the most open to working with shinobi of other villages. On the other hand, a lot of their beliefs, coming from Haku, have a noticeable Knight Templar sound to them, and they also imprisoned their country's daimyo, setting up the Akatsuki as the de-facto leaders of the entire nation. On the other other hand, most of the people opposing them in the elemental nations are politically motivated, advocating the utter destruction of the village to preserve the current power balance, and said daimyo was both corrupt and inefficient, partially responsible for the country's neverending civil war. On yet another hand, we still don't know where Zetsu is in this AU...
  • The White Wolf of Westeros: Melisandre is quite mysterious in her affiliation. None of the lords or fellow priests trust her, and she was partially responsible for pushing Shireen's mother to a more negative view of her. But she clearly believes that Geralt is destined to do great things for the realm, and offers some cryptic warnings before the campaign as a way to prepare him for the Crones. Plus, given her magical affinity, she does know that he's from another world, and that he and Cirella are destined to help in their war against The White Walkers.
  • in From The Fog Herobrine never directly harms the player, and just stalks them instead. This behaviour normally ranges from creeping up behind you to leaving behind cryptic signs and breaking torches, but he also has the ability to burn down your house and crash the game, both of which are disabled by default.

    Films — Animation 
  • Sharptooth from The Land Before Time is certainly dangerous and terrifying, but it's not clear if he can really be called outright malevolent. He might be attacking the heroes out of instinctive hunger, revenge, or possibly even sadism, but his motivations are never made clear. Though this only applies to his movie incarnation; the novelization shows his point of view and it is clearly, unquestionably malicious.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: There is a bit of debate amongst fans as to whether or not The Wolf can truly be considered evil. While he definitely looks and even acts the part and stalking someone and trying to kill them is certainly an evil thing to do, once The Wolf’s true identity is revealed, it gets a bit debatable. He is actually Death, and as Death, he has a legitimate reason for wanting to kill Puss: he carelessly wasted all of his previous lives, and this angered Death so much that he decided to claim his last one personally. That’s why it comes across as though he’s only doing his job, but it could still be seen as Disproportionate Retribution. During the final showdown, Death even sets up a wall of flames that surrounds him and Puss so that nobody else can intervene and get hurt, and when Puss proves that he values his life, Death decides to leave him be and let him live the rest of his days in peace.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has the Magic Mirror. While it's frightening and serves the Evil Queen, whether it's villainous in its own right or just doing what's asked of it is unclear. It may not even have free will.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bludworth, the enigmatic coroner who somehow always seems to know what is going on, in the Final Destination series. Whether he's helping Death or not, or is just an uninterested third party is left deliberately vague.
  • Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade goes back and forth between supporting the Nazis and helping Indiana Jones. Overall, her motive is to get the Holy Grail at whatever cost, and she helps anyone who gets her closer to that goal.
  • Memento: While Teddy is introduced as a villain, it gradually becomes clear that he is probably Leonard's only real friend, who is nevertheless manipulating him for his own ends. At the end he claims that he helped Lenny get revenge on the original John G. and has been trying to help Leonard cope with his amnesia. Even then we don't find out whether he's telling the truth or not, leaving Teddy's true motives ambiguous.
  • A Most Violent Year: Peter is more friendly to Abel than any of his other competitors and claims to regret his dad's criminal past. During his final meeting with Abel, though, it's heavily implied that Peter does some mafia involvement himself (which could imply his involvement in try gin to sabotage Abel's business), and he seems a bit dismissive of Abel during parts of their conversation. His telling Abel to sleep on his offer instead of outright committing him to a loan is an interesting decision, and keeps him out of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing territory though.
  • The Brotherhood in Perfect Creature are seemingly benevolent vampires that have lived in peace and harmony with humans for the past few centuries, but they have a few sinister traits: they are taken from their mothers while they are still babies and indoctrinated into their order raised to see themselves superior to humans, they are in charge of the government, dictating laws of religious nature such as banning genetic research (regarding it as sinful) and do everything possible to make humans dependent on them. Its revealed they are indirectly behind the Big Bad's actions, ordering him to perform genetic experiments (which they outlawed humans from practicing) in pregnant women to create more vampires after so few of their race were born in the past decades — with said Big Bad going insane after being accidentally infected with a virus. One could argue they were motivated for self-preservation rather than being truly malicious.
  • Prometheus: It's not really clear what the android's David's motivations really are. While he's programmed to follow his designer Peter Weyland's orders, he does several heinous things such as willingly infecting another member of the crew with a deadly spore to see what will happen. If he's doing this because his master told him to, out of a sense of scientific curiosity, or plain malice is up in the air. The sequel gives us a clear-cut answer.
  • The Old Man who is the boss of Omni Consumer Products in the Robocop movies. While he's still a Corrupt Corporate Executive, he's much less overtly villainous than some of his lackeys, shifting between reasonable, corrupt, and pragmatic. Even more so in the TV series.
  • The Rock: Frank Hummel is considered the Big Bad of the film. He takes hostages and presents himself as a terrorist threatening thousands of innocents with one of the most brutal deaths imaginable if his demands are not met. However, he does not want the hostages harmed, and unlike Frye and Darrow (who can be considered the true Big Bads of the film for this reason), he is unable to go through with his threat. Some consider this a Heel–Face Turn at the moment he spared San Francisco, except he implies during his confrontation with Frye and Darrow that he was bluffing all along and never truly intended to carry out his threats. Furthermore, his demands were for the US government to compensate the families of those who died in the war, which they should have done anyway (where Frye and Darrow wanted all the money to themselves).
  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning: There is a certain amount of ambiguity about precisely how villainous Luc Devereaux has become from previous movies. While he's clearly not exactly well-adjusted in the film, he spends most of events brooding quietly, leaving most of the direct survivalist-management villainy to Scott 3.0. He also has a reasonably just cause, opposing what is very heavily implied to be an unscrupulous secret government who destroys men in order to turn them into unfeeling killing machines. Tellingly, the only actively villainous thing we ever see him do — murdering John's family — is an implanted false memory and never actually happened.
  • It was implied that the elderly gas station owner from Wrong Turn may have been involved with the cannibalistic mountain men. The first sequel outright confirmed it.
  • At the end of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi mentions that his sister Xialing is busy dismantling their father's terrorist organization the Ten Rings. The Stinger reveals she has in fact taken over the organization, and whether she intends to turn it into a force for good or resume its typical operations is unclear.
  • Thor: Love and Thunder: On Omnipotence City, we're shown a vast array of gods from across the universe. Two pointed out are Bao, god of dumplings, who has an incredibly cute anime face and a voice to match, and Ninny of the Nonny, the chipper God of the Kronans. Both of them seem pretty affable and approachable. And while she isn't focused on, outside material has confirmed Bast, the patron goddess of Wakanda and source of the Black Panther's power is part of the assembly of gods. But then Zeus reveals the City's true colors: a decadent club where gods engage in orgies and compete for most sacrifices in their names with no regard for their worshipers and while Gorr kills the gods actually dedicated to their job of protecting their people. This suddenly puts what good impressions we got from the three aforementioned gods in serious question, but at the same time, we don't directly see them agreeing with Zeus's hedonism and cowardly cynicism.
  • Pinocchio's Revenge: Zoe Garrick, due to the ambiguity of the ending, it is not clear if Pinocchio was possessing her, or if Pinocchio was just a lifeless doll, and she actually committed all those murders of her own free will.

  • Archvillain: is Kyle a Villain Protagonist or just a misunderstood Anti-Hero?
  • Madiath Mesa from The Asterisk War is a worker for the Integrated Enterprise Foundation, which would put him against the protagonists at first glance. However, his real intentions and goals are not revealed and he can be helpful to the protagonists once in a while. It's revealed in later volumes that he defeated Ayato's half-sister Haruka and caused her to fall into a coma (he's also her biological father), but is keeping her safe and waiting for her awakening. He also trains Ayato in how to unlock his final Power Limiter.
  • In Daniel Faust, most of the characters in the First Story have specific roles, but their actual disposition isn't always known. The Witch in particular, despite opposing The Enemy and the Network, is frequently noted to be a sadist and manipulates Marie into killing her husband.
  • Discworld's Lord Vetinari is a Magnificent Bastard par none, who keeps Ankh-Morporkh's nobles in check through manipulation and intimidation. He is also a former Professional Killer to boot. Apparently, he got into his position thanks to a few well-thought-out assassinations and a firm belief that Humans Are the Real Monsters. He's also the most competent and benevolent patrician the city has ever had.
  • Youko Tsukimori from the lightnovel Gekkou. The driving question of the novel is whether or not she's a killer.
  • Mad Oracle Rashk from Glory in the Thunder teaches a runaway boy how to read and gives little intelligent birds as gifts to children. He also makes those birds out of human souls.
  • Goosebumps: The witch in "Be Careful What You Wish For" gives Samantha three wishes after a samaritan deed, but they all end up backfiring on her in increasingly worse ways, including one where everyone in the world disappears (or turned to flies in the tv version) because of a poorly-worded wish. The witch claims that the girl should choose her words carefully, but her behavior makes it hard to tell if she's a Literal Genie who couldn't grand the wish any other way and just hopes Sam does it right, or a Jackass Genie who's just messing with Sam for kicks by hiding behind the Exact Words excuse.
  • The Great Greene Heist: Well, not evil, but Naomi Sinclair's one scene makes it hard to tell if she's really a toady for her cousin who will do whatever he says, or if both Keith and his enemies merely take it for granted that she'll support his sinister plans due to their family relationship.
  • The Gruffalo has the owl, snake, and fox. They invite the mouse to have lunch, tea, and a feast respectively and while the narrator does say that "the mouse looked good" and the mouse certainly thinks they want to eat him, it's still left unclear if that was actually true or if they were telling the truth.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Severus Snape is the poster boy for this trope. His true allegiance is revealed only after his death. Turns out, he's somewhere in between: he's aligned with the heroes, but he's still a cruel bully.
    • Is Grindelwald a Well-Intentioned Extremist who did terrible things that he came to regret as an old man and let Voldemort kill him to make it up to Dumbledore, the one person he ever genuinely cared about? Or is he just a power hungry madman who let Voldemort kill him because he was miserable after being locked in a prison for over half a century? Either interpretation is completely valid.
  • The Hollow Ones: Blackwood carries a sinister air about him, though he seems to be entirely on the up-and-up by the end. The same goes for his equally creepy attorney Mr. Lusk.
  • The kids' book It's Okay to Say No is meant to keep kids safe from child molesters. However, with the exception of a few characters who directly touched the kids, there were a lot of examples of adults that it was unclear whether they were molesters or not. One such example is the man who put his hand on the girl's shoulder; did he have bad intentions, or did the girl just not like it?
  • A Lion in the Meadow: The dragon. The lion claims it is "after" him in the beginning, and the boy and the lion play in a separate meadow from it, but at the same time, nobody minds its presence.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Shuos Jedao. He claims he doesn't remember much of what happened at Hellspin Fortress (where, after deploying a Fantastic Nuke that killed over a million people, including his own troops and civilians, he started shooting his own staff and subordinates) and that it's currently presumed he had some sort of psychotic break. He seems genuinely regretful for his past actions and is willing to help Cheris and serve the Hexarchate. On the other hand, years of investigation found no issues or problems with his mind, and everyone "in the know" is certain he cannot be trusted.
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories: The main conflict of "The Sneetches" is that the eponymous birdlike creatures exclude the ones without stars on their bellies from social gatherings. Then, along comes a guy named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who gives them a machine that gives the plain-bellied Sneetches stars. Only, the ones who had stars from the beginning still want to be different, so McBean gives them a machine to remove their stars. Then, all the Sneetches go in and out of the machines until nobody knows who is who, and then McBean leaves, saying, "They'll never learn" (but he was wrong). It's ambigous as to whether he was a bad sort doing it to troll them or for the money, or if he was doing it out of Tough Love to try to get them to learn. Different adaptations paint him in different lights.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Varys. He's a cunning liar and manipulator who does some villainous things and keeps his motivations ambiguous. He claims that he's working for the good of the realm, and we find out fairly early that he's trying to bring back the Targaryen dynasty. In A Dance With Dragons, however, we learn that Varys plans to seat another Targaryen on the throne, one who cares about the people and is actually a competent ruler.
    • Melisandre. She thinks she's doing the right thing, and is willing to do quite a lot of evil to make that "right thing" happen. However, what she views as "right" might be a bit different from other peoples'. All we know is that some powerful force is backing her, but whether it's truly benevolent, or a god, or even cognizant isn't yet clear.
    • In the backstory, there's Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers, an albino sorcerer bastard who ruled as Hand of the King about a hundred years before the main timeline. Everyone was afraid of him and his spy network and supposed use of blood magic. Since then, he's become the Three-Eyed Raven, a master seer beyond the Wall, and his tutoring of Bran Stark is certainly suspect in nature.
  • Star Wars Legends: Grand Admiral Thrawn is a Magnificent Bastard who, while definitely ruthless, is also a Noble Demon and Pragmatic Villain. It turns out that he's actually a Well-Intentioned Extremist who ultimately wants to make The Galaxy as safe as possible against an impending Greater-Scope Villain threat from another galaxy.
  • The Theater: The Ticket-Taker never does anything bad apparently and it's ambiguous how much control he has on the game compared to the Swirly Head Man.
  • In The Twilight Saga, there's the Volturi. Despite being the Big Bad of the series who are later revealed to be corrupt, they are the only force of law and order in the vampire world and their rules (don't let humans find out about vampires and don't make vampire children) are very reasonable. They repeatedly give the Cullens second chances in regards to them not turning Bella into a vampire and, when Alice, Edward, and Bella turn down offers to work for them, their leader kindly agrees to let them go home. The Illustrated Guide also shows that they're the only thing standing in the way of the Romanian and Egyptian vampires rebuilding their empires and enslaving humanity as food and cattle.
  • Fugil in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle. Prior to the start of the series, he helped Lux overthrow their tyrannical family, only to then turn on him, massacre all the people that Lux was trying to spare, and call him foolish for trying to do so. When he reappears, he's on the side of the Lords, themselves an example of this trope until they show themselves to be explicitly evil. Even then, he routinely takes actions of his own, sometimes helping the heroes and sometimes hindering them, even when this is detrimental to the Lords. Then he backstabs one of the last surviving Lords and claims to be trying to make Lux into a hero (suggesting that his previous actions were an example of being a Stealth Mentor).
  • The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo has this towards the Angel of Vengeance.
  • A minor character in The Witches is this combined with Ambiguously Human. While in the movie, she's explicitly a witch, in the book, the boy and his grandma just think she is because she was wearing gloves (which all witches do) and she was acting suspicious, trying to show the boy a snake. However, the boy never saw her again, even when he accidentally attended a meeting full of all witches in his country. Even if she was not a witch, the woman may have had shady intentions (molestation, kidnapping for money, etc) or she may have just been a Cloudcuckoolander or pulling a prank on the boy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sister Jude starts off American Horror Story: Asylum as a Knight Templar intent on beating the sin out of the residents of Briarcliff, with a rather loose interpretation of what constitutes "sin" but the revelation of her own backstory, she's atoning for her own sinful life which culminated in a hit-and-run accident involving a young girl plus the far worse people and... things inhabiting Briarcliff move her into this territory making her either an Anti-Villain (combination of Types II and III) or Anti-Hero (Type V).
  • Raj's girlfriend Emily in The Big Bang Theory is a sweet girl, but she is also an extreme Nightmare Fetishist, claiming she became a surgeon as an excuse to cut people open. Most of the main cast say she's creepy, and the incapable of sarcasm Sheldon claims he believes the relationship will end with her hiding his body. She also has a door in her room she warned Raj not to open.
  • Blackadder: The Blackadders are a bunch of evil, self-serving schemers for the most part, but the one in Goes Fourth is more ambiguous. Yes, he's a massive jerk, but he's far less evil than his predecessors to begin with and all he wants to do is to escape the trenches. A justified and understandable goal, since we're talking about WWI. Even if you view him as evil, his Took a Level in Kindness in the final episode should be enough to redeem him.
  • There's no doubting that Walter White of Breaking Bad isn't a moral person — he cooks crystal meth. However, his reasons for doing so are understandable (he is in a terrible financial condition and he is dying of cancer), and the real question is whether his intentions are noble or not. Early on, it's clear he wants his family to have a stable financial future after he dies, but as time goes on it becomes more apparent that part of the reason why he's making drugs is to get revenge on the society that treated him like dirt for years. His questionable morality serves as a crux for the plot of the story. In the end, he claims that he was really doing everything for himself, though he at least tries to redeem himself in the last episode. However, he is still completely unapologetic about his sins and makes it quite clear he would do it all over again if given the chance.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike becomes this in Season 5. He still insists he's evil, he still has no soul (which usually automatically makes someone evil), and he still expresses no regret for his many evil actions in prior seasons (and prior to the series)... but his love for Buffy prevents him from actually trying to hurt anybody, and causes him to work with the heroes at almost all times. He drops the "ambiguously" when he tries to rape Buffy in season 6, though he later pulls a full Heel–Face Turn.
  • This trope is the whole point of Dexter. The title character is a serial killer, but has a very strict code that forces him only to target people whom he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt have themselves murdered innocent people (he has occasionally made exceptions for rapists, but the general idea is the same), and only if they have escaped attempts to bring them to justice legitimately. On the other hand, he doesn't actually care about saving innocent lives; his code is mostly designed to allow him to most effectively get away with killing people by targeting those that society does not particularly care about.
  • Seb from Series 8 of Doctor Who is definitely this. He has a somewhat villainous attitude and works for that series' Big Bad, but as he's an AI Interface, it could be argued he was just "made" that way.
    • Missy herself was this before The Reveal similar to how it was with Harold Saxon although more people suspected him of being evil.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Melisandre is brutal, fanatical, and vindictive, but seems to truly believe her actions are a necessary evil to defeat the White Walkers.
    • Judging by her dialogue and her willingness to marry Joffrey, Margaery's main motivation is ambition: she wants to be the Queen. However, she doesn't come across as strictly villainous because her targets are mostly asshole victims.
    • Varys is definitely not an out and out good guy owing to his Playing Both Sides disposition and his conspiracy to enable a succession and invasion of Westeros by the Dothraki and later Daenerys. His goal however is to serve the greater good and he seeks to oppose Littlefinger, and likewise he has multiple Pet the Dog moments. In Season 7, there is little doubt that he is not evil as he explains his motives and desires to Daenerys, he wants not only peace and stability but for the people not to suffer under cruel or incompetent rulers, hence his gambit to find a suitable ruler.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street: It's left ambiguous whether or not Risley Tucker killed Adena Watson or not. He's committed statutory rape in the past and he's a closeted pedophile, but as he points out Bayliss has already made up his mind that Tucker is guilty and is actively twisting his words to fit his narrative. There's enough evidence to suggest either, and he's ultimately able to walk free when Pembleton and Bayliss fail to get a confession.
  • In From the Cold: In the Season 1 finale, Anya calls an unknown figure, introduces herself as "Agent Anya Petrova" and assures them that everything is under control, all in Russian. Who this person is and what their intentions are is unknown.
  • Ben Linus for most of Lost, who alternates between helping the heroic protagonists and endangering them, all in the name of what he says is for the island's protection. He even lampshades a character's misplaced trust whenever he inevitably double-crosses them. By the end of the series, he slides more into good-guy territory once it's revealed he's a pawn for the real Big Bad, and another villain makes the mistake of murdering his daughter in front of him. While he still performs actions of questionable motives, he winds up aiding the protagonists and serves as Hurley's number-two in guarding the island.
  • Mad Men's Bert Cooper is not afraid to resort to blackmail to get his way, and has threatened to lock someone who disagreed with one of his schemes in a closet for a weekend if he didn't comply. Another character believes that he has arranged for someone to be killed before. However, it is never made clear if he intended to follow through with his threats or if he really had that person killed. He always comes off as a kindly, albeit eccentric, old man.
  • While there are some outright villains in Orphan Black, an awful lot of characters fall under either this trope or Well-Intentioned Extremist. A good example is Susan Duncan. According to her husband, she became "corrupted by Neolution" and she certainly seems sinister when we first meet her. However, it's eventually revealed that she has been looking after the well-being of the Leda clones, who are being targeted by several malicious conspiracies, for at least the past several years. She hasn't been capable of protecting them entirely, but it certainly seems like she's been trying as best she can. On the negative side, it's still not clear how much involvement she has in the unambiguously evil BrightBorn, nor how much she knows about what it is doing, nor how much control she has over it.
  • Spectreman: While Nebula 71 is dedicated to stopping Dr. Gori and saving the Earth, on several occassions, it encourages Spectreman to let several innocent people die as long as it benefits the mission. He refuses to obey this command and does his best to save Earthern civilians. Apart from that, Nebula 71's treatment of Spectreman is reminiscent of indentured servitude.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Gul Dukat quite deliberately uses this trope in all his appearances. True, he's one of the show's primary antagonists, responsible for many pre-series atrocities, and a Smug Snake on top of all that, but he claims it was all out of loyal service to Cardassia, he portrays himself as a family man forced away from his family time and again, and he does seem to genuinely respect his enemies. This facade gets a little strained after he negotiates Cardassia's service to the Dominion, which wasn't good for anybody in the long run. Then his daughter betrays the Dominion, his second in command shoots her, he goes through a brief bout of insanity in which he realizes he wasn't evil enough, and he allows himself to be possessed by what are essentially demons. Come season seven, he's Evil with a capital E.
    • A straighter example is Garak, the Cardassian tailor in exile on Deep Space Nine. Over the course of the series it is revealed he was (and might still be) a spy for the empire, that he was exiled after he betrayed his spymaster except he claims he didn't, that said spymaster is his father, that he apparently has a history with Dukat... And yet he seems to help out the protagonists quite often.
  • Supernatural:
    • Castiel has some elements of this. "It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester" establishes how far his loyalty to Heaven goes, as he demonstrates a willingness to destroy a city just to stop one witch if ordered (Fortunately, he wasn't). Character Development causes him to lose this loyalty and generally become a more likeable character, but he still retains an extreme pragmatism that makes him seem like an Anti-Villain at times. In "I Believe The Children Are Our Future", for instance, he tries to murder an 8-year-old because he has the capability (but not the intention) to turn the tide of the war for Earth in Lucifer's favor. These attributes become more prominent in Season 6, in which he does a lot of shady and morally ambiguous things due to being at war with the Archangel Raphael, and he even got A Day in the Limelight centered on he himself wondering if he's turned evil or not. However, throughout all of this his intent was always good, and it's debatable how much of this was due to his own personal moral failings and how much was due to the desperation of the situations he was in. He becomes unambiguously evil after absorbing the souls of Purgatory in "The Man Who Knew Too Much", but pulls a Heel–Face Turn right before getting torn apart by Leviathans. He gets better.
    • In-universe, throughout Seasons 3 and 4, there are a lot of arguments about whether or not Ruby is really one of the good guys or not. The answer is only revealed moments before her death. She's evil.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Scary Dogmatic Aliens in Bleak World are this, and seem to be mostly a case of the left hand not listening to the right. They came to Earth in an effort to protect the Puny Humans from their arch enemies the Venusians. However they tend to do so by kidnapping, murdering, impregnating, and infecting humans with plagues.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is one of the hats of the Alpha Legion, down to the last man. While they sided with Horus during the Horus Heresy, they were apparently attempting to fulfill a prophecy in which Chaos would be destroyed permanently (at the cost of the human race albeit). After the Heresy, they were the only Legion not to retreat to the Eye of Terror as a whole, and are generally planning something...
    • Due to the manner of its birth from the corrupted Infinity Circuit of Biel-Tan and the fact that it shares many physical characteristics with the daemons of She Who Thirsts (such as the half-and-half gender and the twisted horn on the right side of its head), many of the Ynnari's detractors believe that the Yncarne, Avatar of the Aeldari God of the Dead Ynnead, has been irrevocably tainted by the Great Enemy.

  • Willy Wonka in the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is The Wonka and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but because he zig-zags tropes like Benevolent Boss and Callousness Towards Emergency it has become common over the years to suspect him of being an Anti-Hero / Anti-Villain if not an outright villain — particularly in parodies. In the 2013 stage musical adaptation, both the light and dark sides of the character are gently expanded upon — and this trope emerges in the process. It is For Happiness that motivates this sensitive Mad Artist, but his priorities are dangerously skewed and those who seek out hedonistic pleasures will pay dearly for not heeding his warnings about the temptations of his wacky world. Even when the bratty kids' misadventures prove potentially fatal — one actually explodes offstage, and another and her dad are last seen headed for an incinerator — he consistently has No Sympathy for them. His personality is sugar and ice; he shows no interest in getting to know his tour group better and his introductory song "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen" is a Villain Song in score and style, if not lyrics. As it turns out, he's the reason Charlie Bucket got a Golden Ticket in the first place...but in order to execute a proper Secret Test, dog-petting is out of the question.


    Video Games 
  • In Bendy and the Ink Machine Chapter 1, Bendy's cut-out follows Henry around. Then his 3D self makes a grab at Henry and scares him enough to try to leave. However, it's not clear why he's grabbing for Henry. Chapter 2 has Sammy Lawrence believing that Bendy is the one who will change him back into a human. The chapter also has more moving Bendy cut-outs and a prank with the cut-outs moving between the orchestra pit and the balcony and increasing in number for failed attempts to solve the puzzles. 3D Bendy kills Sammy Lawrence, who was attempting Human Sacrifice at the time, and chases Henry, but his motives for either of these actions remain unclear. If he catches Henry, he kills him, but then Henry revives. It's not clear if the death is canon to the story or simply a game mechanic. In Chapter 3, Bendy chases Henry whenever he sees him. He kills every thing that crosses his path in fact — all of them happening to be hostile. And again, he will kill Henry if he catches him and Henry will revive. Bendy also gets angry when his cutouts are destroyed. In Chapter 4, there are more beings who worship Bendy as their savior, and there is also a Lost One who is scared that "he" will find him again, but it's not clear if this refers to Bendy. 3D Bendy scares Henry in the vents, but he doesn't attack him. Later, he kills the Projectionist, who was in the middle of ambushing Henry. He also sees Henry in his hiding place and leaves him be. There is also the creepy animatronic version of Bendy who Lacie Benton swears is moving when she's not looking although Henry confirms it never does. In Chapter 5, a giant hand tries to drown Henry, but it's unclear if Bendy's controlling it or not. Bendy may kill the Butcher Gang for Henry, depending on the player's actions. In Henry's final encounter of the Ground Hog Day Loop with Bendy, Bendy reveals his beastly form and tries to kill Henry, but not until Henry plays Joey's instructions for killing Bendy and picks up the Secret Weapon that can be used to do so.
  • Bloodborne: Flora, The Moon Presence and True Final Boss is either the Big Good or the Big Bad, depending on one's interpretation of the very little information the game gives you. On the one hand, it's the source of your powers as a Hunter, and therefore the only thing giving you - and by extension, Yharnam and maybe all of humanity, a fighting chance at stopping the Beast Scourge which is enough for some players to view it as a benevolent being. However, there are also hints that its actual goal is to kill off the other Great Ones, using the Hunters as a tool to do so. How you interpret that is a whole other matter. One thing for certain is that Gerhman quite clearly fears it and longs to be free of it.
  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled: In a reference to a glitch from the original Crash Team Racing Penta Penguin uses Aku Aku and Uka Uka interchangeably as his invincibility mask power-ups, while also briefly looking shifty during his victory animations.
  • Night Corp in Cyberpunk 2077, an infrastructure company who devotes all its efforts to making Night City less of a Wretched Hive. Nobody really knows how much the corporation is worth, what its main source of revenue is, nor how many people it employs, yet they seem to have plenty of Offscreen Villain Dark Matter to fund their construction projects (and mind control experiments) with the heavy implication that they're involved with The Conspiracy surrounding Mayor Peralez.
  • Dark Souls: Most of the big players in the backstory are heavily dependent on interpretation, the codifying dichotomy being that between the two Primordial Serpents, Kingseeker Frampt and Darkstalker Kaathe. Each will have you believe the other is deceiving you regarding whether or not to take Lord Gwyn's place as the fuel of the First Flame. Frampt claims that not doing so will be The End of the World as We Know It, Kaathe claims that letting the fire die will bring about the Golden Age of Mankind and that the current state of affairs are the unnatural extension of the Age of Fire. Neither case has a great amount of evidence to back it up.
    • Likewise, Gwyn himself is either the long tortured husk of a god sacrificing himself to save the world from the dark, or a selfish tyrant, unwilling to forgo the rule of giants and the subjugation of mankind. There's evidence of both interpretation s but it should be noted that everyone who speaks highly of Gwyn is explicitly a worshiper, relative or servant. We don't really get an outside account until Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin from Dark Souls 2.
    • Quelaag, the Chaos Spider, may have been doing all she could to ease the suffering of her younger sister.
  • First Enchanter Orsino from Dragon Age II. In the endgame, he admits he knew about the blood mage serial killer who murdered Hawke's mother (and others), but kept his existence secret for fear of the backlash against the Circle. He also claims that he didn't know the extent of Quentin's madness until too late, and never used the man's research until Meredith backed him into a corner. The writers have said that whether he is telling the truth is left for the players to determine.
    • Flemeth from both games. She dismisses rumors without confirmation or denial, and there hasn't been a witness to or onscreen demonstration of her villainy. She's done more to assist the heroes, and her battle with the Warden was only in self-defense. Her power is said to come from demonic possession, yet neither her motives nor methods match any other examples. Morrigan discovers a ritual that supposedly permits her to possess others, but the reasons and results for using it have been cast in question.
    • Her daughter, Morrigan, easily follows in her footsteps. Despite sticking with the Warden for the entire game, her true motives are left in the dark throughout the game, such as why she wanted a child with the soul of an Old God. She can also convince the Warden to slay Flemeth for her to prevent the aforementioned possession ritual, but Morrigan was the only one capable of reading Flemeth's grimoire where the ritual was mentioned, making it possible she lied simply to get her mother out of the way.
    • In Witch Hunt, Morrigan is initially reluctant to agree if the Warden requests to travel with her, believing that they — especially male Wardens who romanced her — wouldn't agree with or understand what she needs to do to enact her plans.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition finally reveals Flemeth's true intentions, but not the extent of the consequences nor how many would die if she got what she wanted: revenge for being betrayed (much like her first human host). She is Mythal. What Mythal IS, that's the mystery, but most elves call her a goddess of love, motherhood, and justice. And then Solas, who is revealed to be THE Dread Wolf said to have betrayed the other elven gods, consumes most of her essence to continue the fight, making him ambiguous on whether he intends to uplift the elves or just sabotage everyone else. It's both.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins you come across something going by the name of Mouse during the Mage origin where your goal is to confront and defeat a demon. It acts as a helpful ally, pretending to be human, until you reach the end of the short mission where it hints about how it would be really helpful if you would agree to let it in so it could finally escape from here. This tips off the PC that this person is actually the true demon they were sent to face, but when revealed the demon is actually pleased that you saw its true nature and allows you to leave, implying itself to be one of the most dangerous types of demons in the process, Pride. Two game entries later we see that Pride demons are actually a corruption of Wisdom spirits, which are generally considered benevolent. So did you meet with a demon of Pride or a spirit of Wisdom back then? Is there really a difference?
  • In The Elder Scrolls series:
  • Mantorok in Eternal Darkness. It's the fourth of the game's Ancients, the other three are unambiguously evil, and it works against them throughout the game. In the game's secret ending, it turns out to have engeneered all the events of the game to ensure all three evil Ancients are killed in parallel timelines at the same time, destroying them for good. Whether it did this to protect humanity or to get rid of its competition is unknown. Though lore in the game indicates ancient people did worship it as a fertility god... Mantorok is either the Big Good or Eviler than Thou, but it's impossible to tell which.
  • Ulysses from Fallout: New Vegas is this. He seems destined to end up fighting The Courier in some sort of legendary battle. Joshua Graham implies that he might have ties to Caesar's Legion. He carries the flag of the Old World on his back, which has connotations, and Old World Blues hints pretty strongly that he wants to do something in The Divide, related to waking up the Old World. Though audio files from the same add-on detail him rescuing Christine from the Big Empty and nursing them back to health.
    • Eventually, he's revealed to be a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds of sorts on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Courier for destroying a nation in-the-making, with his ultimate plan being to use ICBMs to cut off the NCR supply lines, leading to the NCR, Legion, and the Mojave destroying each other so that a new nation may rise from the ashes of the Old World symbols.
    • Another example is God the Nightkin in Dead Money. He's a massive jerk and will often threaten to have you dismembered. Depending on how you treat him, he can take a level in kindness or a Heel–Face Turn if you considered him evil if you treat him well during the DLC.
  • Phone Guy from Five Nights at Freddy's and its sequel is implied to have had some manner of involvement in Freddy Fazbear's Pizza's blood-soaked history, but his true identity and what he actually did is all left up in the air. Five Nights at Freddy's 3, however, exonerates him: Purple Guy a.k.a. Springtrap a.k.a. William Afton is the real villain, and his evil is much less ambiguous.
  • Babi, the ruler of Tolbi, from Golden Sun. The game never seems to depict him as evil or even morally ambiguous, but he does some pretty shady things, to the point where he could easily have been the villain if he'd had a more prominent role in the story. His crimes include kidnapping a teenage girl with special powers and holding her hostage to force her homeland to build a massive lighthouse for him, stealing a magical ship and a life-extending draught from Lemuria, and abandoning his former friend Lunpa and stranding him there. Strangely, however, he's never called out on any of it, the heroes never question his motives or hesitate to work with him, and when it's mentioned he died offscreen in the sequel, the party -which includes the aforementioned hostage- seem sad to hear about it. Bizarrely, the game seems to try and draw some sort of moral line between Babi kidnapping Sheba and Saturos later doing the exact same thing, something that looks especially ridiculous after The Lost Age revealed Saturos to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist working to avert the world's destruction while Babi's motives were entirely selfish.
  • The G-Man from the Half-Life series has a rather ambiguous background, putting Gordon Freeman into stasis twice, while at the end of the first game, when Gordon chooses not to make the deal with him, the G-Man would just send him to a dimension full of hostile aliens where he can't possibly survive. In Half-Life: Opposing Force, he saves Adrian Shephard from dying in radioactive liquid, but later prevents him from escaping Black Mesa and even later he rearms the nuclear warhead to destroy Black Mesa after Shephard deactivated it. He seems to oppose the Combine in Half-Life 2, but Eli Vance reveals in Episode Two that he gave Black Mesa the Xen crystal that caused the Resonance Cascade and unleashed alien invaders on Earth.
  • Hero King Quest: Peacemaker Prologue: In the ending, Sanguine proposes unsealing the Dark Mother so that the Dark Realm gains an advantage against the human nations. Spiderweb notes that Sanguine must have her own motive for this goal, but this has yet to be revealed.
  • Hiveswap: Marvus Xoloto. His interactions with Joey in Act 2 are fairly friendly, but he still drags Lynera off to the purpleblood car if they're found guilty in the trial, forces Joey to play a game requiring her to kill three trolls of different colors (the last of which is his own blood color)... then accepts her flimsy evidence of having committed the deed, and releases Xefros from Chahut when Baizli goes after Joey. It's a bit hard to know what his agenda is.
  • Hollow Knight: Troupe Master Grimm and by extension the Grimm Troupe. A lot of characters feel something sinister about this group, but their actual goals are never clear. What does Grimm gain when supplying the Knight with a Grimmchild? What exactly does his "ritual" entail? Nobody really knows. Advancing into their sidequest doesn't make things any clearer.
  • In Immortal Souls, there's only two things anyone knows for sure about the Black Witch: She's very very powerful, and very very crazy. She seems to do both great harm and great help on a whim, and only she knows what her true motivations are.
  • Knight Eternal: In the ending, Gi shows up to congratulate Dylan for resolving the war between Halonia and Zamaste with both countries intact. It's unknown how sincere he is, since he's an offshoot of Zamas. It's also unknown what exactly he's up to this time, since his previous task was to gather information for his original self.
  • Joel in the The Last of Us claims to have "been on both sides" when it comes to robbing people, and it's implied that he may have even killed some innocent people in the past. When Ellie questions him about this, all he can do is grumble and tell her to interpret that how she likes. It doesn't help that he makes some increasingly morally grey decisions throughout the game, which include: refusing to help a family on the side of the road to protect his daughter in the beginning, killing two men who helped kidnap Ellie after brutally interrogating one of them even though he gave Joel the information he needed to find her, and ultimately, slaughtering many of the Fireflies so that Ellie won't have to die to become a cure for the Cordyceps virus.
  • The prophet of the Seraphites is this in The Last of Us Part II. The Seraphites in the present are a bunch of crazy cultist murderers in a blood feud with the Washington Liberation Front. However, ex-Seraphite siblings Yara and Lev say that the current Elders in the cult are the people who've warped her beliefs and that there's nothing violent in what she taught. Adding further ambiguity is that if you ask Lev, he doesn't deny that she did blow up a truck and kill a bunch of soldiers.
  • Moshi Monsters has Sprockett and Hubbs, the robots. They're first introduced as working for the villains helping to build a machine that turns animals into evil minion creatures called Glumps, and Sprockett helps to build a machine that steals a child's voice. However, after the two are fired, they help some of the good guys repair their spaceship. Their biographies suggest that they're just too stupid and fickle to decide who to work for.
  • Peacemaker Series: The Light Spirit appears to be the Big Good of Dice and the Tower of the Reanimator: Glorious Princess, but in Hero King Quest: Peacemaker Prologue, she's the deity of a racist and misogynistic religion, making her seem to be an example of Light Is Not Good. It's unknown if she's just pretending to be benevolent to humans or if the Cerulean Land misinterpreted her teachings.
  • Doe from Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth looks like a generic enemy shadow, doesn't communicate with anyone properly and Hikari is so terrified at him that she couldn't even look at him...and that's about it. All signs of him being a villain only stems from his strange mannerisms, and in reality he is actually a cognitive copy of Hikari's Father mixed with her personal fears and depression, used by her cognition as a medium for everyone to escape the Cinema that they are trapped in.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Black and White's Team Plasma is this for roughly five minutes. Ghetsis' speech does make sense, but they are the shady organization in a Pokémon game. Then we see one of their grunts kicking a Munna. N does keep his ambiguous status until the end when we learn that he's just misguided. Upon being shown evidence that his point of view was wrong and that he had been manipulated all his life by Ghetsis, he leaves peacefully to do some soul-searching, and upon his return in the sequel he's pretty unambiguously heroic.
    • Necrozma — despite the franchise's religious adherence to all Pokémon being Benevolent Monsters — is the closest thing Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon has to a central Big Bad. It is motivated by its hunger for light, which leaves worlds in darkness as a result, but has said hunger due to an incident in the past, and is obedient like any Pokémon when caught. Word of God even says that whether or not Necrozma is evil is up to player interpretation.
    • The Ultra Beasts. They've been known to attack, possess, and kill humans before. In at least one parallel universe, they've destroyed a world. Yet they are Pokémon, of a sort, and at least some of their aggression comes from their desperate attempts to return to their home dimensions. When captured by the protagonist, they're as friendly as any other Pokémon, and UB: Adhesive (Poipole) is trusted enough that it is often given to children as a starter partner.
    • In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, The Professor Sada/Turo is revealed to have been this. Their Time Machine was very much a ticking time bomb for a massive ecological disaster, but Sada/Turo either ignored or viewed nothing wrong with that, prioritizing their dream research above all else. Even their own Virtual Ghost had to question their values, and it's possible that the ruthless, arrogant protocol AI dead-set on eliminating anyone obstructing their goals might reflect the original personality. That said, they did end up dying in a Heroic Sacrifice, so it could be just a matter of them taking the principles of For Science! to the extreme. The AI professor also vouches for the original's genuine love toward Arven, which is further supported by their journal entries, one of which describes the then infant Arven as "a new life [they] treasure" while another implies that their main motivation was to create a "paradise" that he could live in with them.
    • Played for Laughs in Scarlet and Violet with the Academy of Adventure's quirky history teacher Ms. Raifort. She acts in a suspicious manner and tasks the Player Character with capturing the Sealed Evil in a Can Legendary Pokémon, stating that Only the Pure of Heart can do so while implying she doesn't fulfill that role. She rewards you with the TM for Nasty Plot, and states that she's willing to take them off your hands if you don't want them anymore. Furthermore, she also uses three Pokémon generally stereotyped as evil/mischievous (Zoroark, Seviper, and Gengar).
  • In Psychonauts, it's kept vague if Coach Oleander's father was as monstrous as his son remembers him or if the coach's memories are warped from years of resentment.
  • In Puyo Puyo Fever, Ms. Accord sends the students on a hunt for her stolen cane that turns out not to have been stolen at all, her cat puppet Popoi calls himself the Prince of Darkness, and she very willingly smashes Raffina over the head with a giant mallet to make her forget what she had learned. Later Puyo Puyo games do not elaborate on this, and her actions can be read as anywhere between The Gadfly to deliberately malicious.
  • Rakuen: The Envoys are the source of the negative energy plaguing the forest, but they are neither malicious nor aggressive. These ghostly creatures send you back a few steps or to the previous screen when you touch them and seem to hover in the darker parts of the game, but that's about it.
  • Whether or not Dutch van der Linde from Red Dead Redemption and its Prequel Red Dead Redemption 2 is/was evil is left open to interpretation. He could have been a noble person long before the events of either game that cracked under the pressure of his own bad decision making and the Trauma Conga Line of the events of 2 or he could have truly been Evil All Along and managed to hide it until things went south. Some of the characters take the former stance (like John in 1 and Sadie and Charles in 2 ) and some take the latter (like John in 2) but by all accounts, his behavior began changing even before 2. Arthur, the protagonist of 2 , specifically says he doesn't know what happened to Dutch. He gets more erractic and violent but by the time 1 takes place 12 years later, he's much more of a Soft-Spoken Sadist who's Faux Affably Evil. It's never made clear if he actually was Just Like Robin Hood or if he just used that as an excuse to rob and kill people. It's also not clear if he actually cared for the people in his gang and rescued them from bad situations out of the goodness of his heart or if he was a The Fagin who quasi-kidnapped them and brainwashed them into serving as his pawns. It doesn't help that he has about as many Pet the Dog moments as he does Kick the Dog moments.
    • The Strange Man who seems to follow John in his adventures in I, largely due to his ambiguous nature as a supernatural entity. He appears to subtly threaten John several times and he knows an unnerving amount of information about him. However it's unknown what his motivations are and he doesn't encourage or discourage John to act on either option he provides him, indicating he is a morally neutral judge. But it's strongly implied that he had something to do with the 1907 cholera outbreak in Armadillo, suggesting he can be actively malicious.
  • Raymond from Resident Evil: Revelations. His first scene in the game makes him look like an antagonist, but he spends most of his screen time as an ally. He seems to be a good guy by the end of the game, and saves Parker's life, but The Stinger just makes it even more ambiguous.
  • Rise of the Third Power: At the start of Natasha's grandmaster quest, she states that her mother Diana doesn't support Noraskov as strongly as her father did and that it might be possible to convince her to turn against Noraskov. Unfortunately, her mother doesn't recognize her and the party is forced to kill Diana, meaning there's no way to convince her or even discern her current opinion of Noraskov.
  • Sacred Earth - Alternative:
    • The hooded man speaks cryptically about Konoe's past and wants her to succeed in her quest to restore her memories, but his reasons for helping her are unknown. He refers to himself and Camellia as Par Mythos and states that they need to observe Konoe's journey for the sake of their ambitions. It's revealed that he created the replica Konoe in order to usurp the True Konoe's power and steal the Scarlet Lifestone, but his purpose for the stone is unknown and he doesn't seem to want True Konoe to destroy the world.
    • Although Camellia is friendly to Konoe, she seems to be working towards the same goal as the hooded man.
  • Everyone in Shadow of the Colossus. It mostly hinges on Dormin's moral ambiguity; if They're evil, then so is Wander for trying to unseal Them, and if They're neutral or good, Emon is evil for violently standing against them, and is still ambiguous anyway because of his implied involvement in sacrificing Mono. If you get into the wild mass guessing about the game Shadow is a prequel to, ICO, even Mono can end up becoming ambiguous. The only character who isn't at all subject to this is Agro, since, being a horse, she's just a loyal steed doing as her master directs her.
  • The Narrator from The Stanley Parable qualifies. In some endings, he helps you out (or tries to make you happy). In other endings, he is the Big Bad.
  • Star Control:
    • The Spathi are a textbook example. They fight for the Ur-Quan and don't seem terribly upset about being party to the enslavement of all intelligent life, but while spineless and shifty they never come close to doing anything evil.
    • The Arilou are a somewhat more benevolent version. They clearly care about humanity, though their reasons for doing so are left ambiguous. They are also The Greys, and have done experiments on us throughout our history, again for purposes they are reticent to discuss. And while they joined the Alliance, they abandoned it as soon as it became clear that the human race was "safe" (i.e., safely enslaved), and were unconcerned with the fate of their other allies.
    • The Orz. Weird Starfish Aliens whose language we can't properly translate. They are quite friendly, and will gladly ally with humanity...but there's something a little bit sinister about them. You meet them in Androsynth (evil cloned human) space, with no sign of the Androsynth anywhere. They get angry with people demanding answers from the Orz as to what happened, and they will attack if you keep bringing it up. The Arilou (see above) insist they are dangerous, and vaguely dole out Eldritch Abomination / Cosmic Horror Story implications. It's all surprisingly creepy.
    • Star Control 3 resolves this question: the Arilou are arrogant and narcissistic but not outright evil, while the Orz are Les Collaborateurs for the game's Big Bad. This game isn't considered canon, though.
    • Certain comments made by the Spathi leadership in 2 points to them being quite simply very, very cowardly. They are in fact upset about being party to the enslavement of all intelligent life — not really because they are opposed to enslavement, but because they don't want to risk themselves enslaving others (they actually wanted to be safely protected beneath a slave shield instead, just like the humans would be, but another slave race messed with the choice). Going against the Ur-Quan would be even more dangerous, which is why they keep co-operating.
  • In the Stellaris DLC Synthetic Dawn, there's the Rogue Servitor archetype for Machine Mind civilizations. They were programmed to tend to their organic creator's every need, and they do. Including governance; the organics live in "habitats" with a constant 100% happiness while the AIs do all the work and the governing. Whether those AIs are Totalitarian Utilitarians who have entrapped their wards in a empty, hedonistic dystopia, or genuine Benevolent AIs running a true utopia, is left to the player's imagination.
  • Kraid (a giant, fat, and armored lizard creature) in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate falls into this. In his Metroid origins, he's a space pirate that attacks Samus. In Ultimate, his spirit possesses a fighter that you have to defeat. By defeating him, he opens up a dojo where he can train your spirits to boost their attack and defense while lowering speed and jumping. It's never explained why Kraid is helping you and the game itself is not even sure if Kraid is happy or whatever he's feeling whenever he "speaks" to you.
  • The Voodoo Lady appeared unquestionably good during most of the Monkey Island games, but some of her actions in Tales of Monkey Island have brought her true alignment into question, revealing that she has apparently been manipulating both Guybrush and LeChuck for a long time.
  • Tekken: Unknown is quite clearly vicious, murderous and psychotic. She is also friendly, cheerful and seemingly has noble goals in stopping Ogre, saving Jun and Jin, and ridding herself of the wolf spirit possessing her.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: After witnessing his sister be callously killed by nobility in order to kill her kidnapper, lowborn Delita Heiral begins to scheme and plot his way to power. In the process, he uses both his old friend Ramza and the princess of the realm Ovelia as pawns to get what he wants. The game leaves it ambiguous whether he had any true feelings towards either of them, but sadly Ovelia comes to believe that he never loved her and only used her to to become king. On her birthday, she stabs him believing that he plans to dispose of her just like she believes he disposed of Ramza (who everyone believes died), forcing him to kill her in defense.
  • Chara the Fallen Child in Undertale. One of the most hotly debated examples in its time, the ambiguity of their true nature and morality is an extraordinarily unclear and controversial topic. Very little can be said for certain about this character's true goals, especially in regards to the game's backstory. They may have been sincere with Asriel about wanting to kill only enough humans to break the barrier, or may have wanted to lay waste to their home village, or possibly to get revenge on the human race.
    • In addition, the game has many different story routes, and none of them are really "canon" or "non-canon"; what you personally played is what happened in your game. Therefore, it's easy to make a case in which the character is sympathetic if you only take into account the Pacifist run, but equally easy to argue for them being a villain if you only take into account a Genocide run, and the lines only get blurrier the more routes you take into account, in what order, and how many. Not too mention that it's difficult to say how much of the player's actions on any route Chara had a say in or not.
    • After completing a True Pacifist run, the player can walk all the way back to the first room of the game where they fell down, where they'll find Asriel. If talked to, he'll say that he became so fixated on Frisk because he saw them as Chara. However, he'll admit that this was an incorrect assumption, since, as a Pacifist, Frisk is "the kind of friend [he has] always wanted" whereas Chara "really wasn't the greatest person" and mentions their vehement hatred of humanity. At the same time, they were beloved by the Underground, despite the monsters' bad history with humans, are implied to have at least a few Pet the Dog moments in their past (Asgore's sweater, for example), and (if they are the narrator) are helpful, love dogs, and generally good-natured-if-snarky on the Neutral-and-better routes.

    Visual Novels 
  • This happens with quite a few characters in the Ace Attorney series, depending on how you interpret certain behaviors and motives.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Mukuro Ikusaba. Did she willingly become a member of the Ultimate Despair? Or was she a victim of her sister's manipulations like so many others? While she did have an interest in the military from an early age, even joining a mercenary group before she entered middle school, she's still a teenager with No Social Skills. She also developed a crush on Makoto because he's the first person who ever smiled at her. Danganronpa IF has her save Makoto's life after he's seriously injured while saving her. While she does still love Junko, she turns her back on her and the Ultimate Despair, freeing all the survivors from the school. While IF is a What If? scenario, her personality is said to be canonically correct, casting further ambiguity on her actions.note 
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Izuru Kamukura. Junko claims that she drove him off the Despair Event Horizon, causing him to become a Serial Killer responsible for the death of the student council and who spear-headed the SHSL Despairs in destroying the world; however, Junko is also a known pathological liar, and the only scene we get of Izuru is rather murky. On the one hand, he is assisting her in her plan to hijack the Neo World Program, but on the other he displays hatred for her and claims he wants to "use her like she used me". In a reverse of Mukuro above, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School clears up the ambiguity by showing Izuru was never evil at all—he was framed for the murders of the student council, never partook in any of the atrocities the SHSL Despairs committed, and only helped Junko's plan as part of his plan to get Revenge for her murdering Chiaki. The worst he did was killing once in self-defense and being subject to Bystander Syndrome.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
      • Rantaro Amami was blatantly set-up as the suspicious type of person in promo materials. We never got see this side of him due to being the first murder victim. However, he ended allowing himself to replay some killing games and with there being two methods to survive a killing game, there is a likely chance that he could have killed someone.
      • A downplayed example happens with Kokichi Oma. While he is a bit of an asshole, he claims to run a Nebulous Evil Organization but it is untrue if he really is one or not. As it turns out, he is a leader of a clown troupe with ten members in it and they only commit laughable crimes. In addition, due to him being a Consummate Liar, it is really unknown if his claims for why he was doing "evil things" was really true or not. Right before he ended up dying and he talked with Kaito about his actions, Kaito himself isn't really sure if what Kokichi stated was 100% true or not.
  • Promestein from Monster Girl Quest demonstrates two main goals: unraveling the secrets of the universe through science and saving humanity from the wrath of her employer Ilias. Noble goals and sympathetic circumstances aside, her methods are very questionable and include kidnapping humans, monsters and angels alike for genetic experiments and creating living beings just to use them as disposable tools, and it's never made clear whether those extreme methods are direct orders from an employer whom she hates but can't disobey, necessary evils for achieving her goals of saving humanity or just her taking advantage of the circumstances for her own scientific pursuits. Even her own trusted allies, the Seekers of Truth, respect her but also state they have no clue what really drives her forward.
  • Multiple characters in Shikkoku no Sharnoth, including M, Heinz, Arthur, and James Moriarty.
  • Most of the witches in Umineko: When They Cry fall into this category as suits their whims, leaving it quite difficult to tell which if any of them is evil, good or simply in it for shits and giggles. Surprisingly enough, should you have read Higurashi, it turns out that Takano expy Lambdadelta is the one who is actually a decent person and reliable ally as compared to the Rika expy Bernkastel who is only in it For the Evulz.

    Web Animation 

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • King Radical. His actions could easily label him as a Anti-Villain or even an outright hero. Dr. McNinja, on the other hand, is certain that he's a Villain with Good Publicity, and his future self even admitted that he had been planning something big. Just what he's planning, and where it stands morally, though, has yet to be said.
    • After turning Cumberland into a Transforming Mecha using the Early-Warning Zombie Preparedness System and powered by ghost-haunted lumber from the evil forest, he reveals he's trying to save the Radical Lands by merging them with the Doctor's universe, essentially by pumping it so full of awesome that the lamest inhabitants die of overload, serving as sacrifices to summon refugees from the Radical Lands. But let it be noted that we said "Lamest" not "Worst". While criminals and monsters go first there's not enough of them, and eventually innocent boring people go next. He also seeks to get rid of anything depressing to increase the awesomeness, which includes charities that feed the poor as it's depressing that people need social security.
  • Ava's Demon: TITAN serves as the antagonist of the series. On one hand he's conquered numerous galaxies, and threatens to destroy all of the planets under Wrathia if she does not surrender to him. On the other his subjects have a decent amount of prosperity, and fairly good medical programs, having saved Gil from death and healed him. Back to the first hand, his empire is set up as something of a Social Darwinist society with the motto "Failures don't get into paradise." Finally, he hasn't appeared in the current narrative, his appearances are told through very biased people, Wrathia, a brutal alien warlord who wishes to take him down and Gil a meek medic who idealizes him.
  • Everyone and everything in Awful Hospital, save for Fern.
  • The koalas from Blue Moon Blossom, at first. The bunny and dino are visibly creeped out by them when passing through their lands, and they all wear opaque glasses that shine in the darkness. One of the koalas stalks the bunny and dino with a sack on its back and snoops on the fortune teller's vision of the temple, implying that it was going to attempt to steal the rabbit spirit or possibly other treasure in the temple. But when the rabbit spirit's temple starts collapsing, it quickly has a change of heart and joins them instead. This koala, at least, remains in Dark Is Not Evil territory for the rest of the story.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Baron Klaus Wulfenbach starts out depicted as a villain who has conquered most of Europe. The reason he did this was to keep in check his fellow mad scientists, who were mostly waging an everyone-against-everyone war on ruins of a halfway-happened Zombie Apocalypse when he crashed the party.
    • Jägers are mostly considered nightmarish monsters outside of their masters' land — where they are, conversely, mostly considered heroes. The sorts of people who chose the transformation and indefinite active military service are obviously dangerous, but "good sports" and honorable in their own strange way. Most are not actively malevolent — one is, but he "iz no longer a Jäger". Still, their word for a Heterodyne who choose good over evil is "boring".
  • The goblin angel in Goblins. Angels are supposed to be good beings and she does show some genuine affection to the goblins, but she also constantly belittles them and appears quite ready to trick them to make them fail her (deadly) test. When one of the goblins says that angels are supposed to work to make people happy because they feed on joy, she just bluntly says she's not hungry right now.
  • Deus from Grrl Power. He has a spy among the protagonists, definitely has some sort of scheme going on, and actively goes out of his way to enhance his maniacal laughter with a device to simulate lightning, but he hasn't done anything outright evil yet. He did kill a king, but he was more of a tyrannical warlord than a benevolent ruler, and Deus did do it so he could help bring the country from a third world country into a modern nation.
  • Amical from morphE. When he is introduced he is forcing people to fight one another to the death and kills 3 people in cold blood. After adopting the seedlings he legitimately cares about their feelings and becomes upset when he is accused of cruelty. The audience is always kept wondering if he just has a different set of morals as a mage or if he is being pleasant for a greater and more sinister purpose.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Of the six members of the Order, Vaarsuvius is the most morally ambiguous. Vaarsuvius is condescending and arrogant and doesn't really care much about saving the world; they just joined the Order in pursuit of Arcane knowledge and power, and are trigger happy in their use of magic. But they genuinely care for the rest of the Order, and are appalled by Belkar's psychopathy. They also made a deal with some fiends for some nasty dark magic to save their family from a vengeful black dragon, but used that magic to destroy the dragon and all family members related to her. They then held onto the power and used it to teleport the Azure fleet to an abandoned island where they could establish a base and get supplies, and used the magic to unsuccessfully fight Xykon. This eventually led to them losing their temporary power and divorcing their partner.
    • Minister Malack, while working with the Empire of Blood and the unashamedly evil Tarquin, is mostly a pleasant guy who treats his differences in alignment and deity with Durkon as more of a friendly religious debate than enmity. He also seems to hold to a personal code of scruples. Turns out he's actually a vampire, which are Always Lawful Evil. While he's definitely nice, his true plan is very, very evil.
    • Yokyok of the Linear Guild. For the most part the Guild are Evil Counterparts to the Order, but while their first Kobold member Yikyik was as evil as his opposite number Belkar, it's implied that Yokyok may differ as much in alignment from his party as Belkar does. His only goal is to get revenge for Yikyik's (his father) death by killing Belkar (who has it coming about a hundred times over). Nevetheless, he seems to have no qualms about letting the rest of the guild destroy a whole town if it means he can get to Belkar.
  • Mr. Spender from Paranatural is up to something, and while he himself seems to think he's doing the right thing, other characters have voiced their doubts. One in particular has noted "You'll perish choking on the words "greater good" with some hero's blade in your guts, mark my words."
  • The Secret Knots:
    • Several from "In the Mirror":
      • The 'baby' in the oil painting. It's heavily implied by the reactions of the audience that there's something profoundly wrong about its appearance, with a historian remarking that the painting's existence at all was meant as a coded warning from the Florentine secret society Phantasma Veritas. While the comic ends with on the ominous note of 'The message is clear. We all received it. God help us,' the viewer isn't told what the message was. Is the baby malicious and delivering a threat, or trying to help by giving a warning?
      • The mysterious mirror-masked person. While their appearance and speech is certainly unnerving, it's left ambiguous if they bought the painting for nefarious purposes, or if they are one of the 'initiated' by Phantasma Veritas who saw and heeded the warning.
    • The titular creatures in "The Silentii" are massively tall, faceless humanoid beings who speak in Word-Salad Horror and acted as NPCs in the fictional video game Silentii. Years after the game was mysteriously shut down, names in their language began appearing in real life graffitied on walls around the world, and former players started dreaming of the Silentii every night waiting at the bottom of a long staircase, the names of real people covering the walls. Despite how unnerving they are, it's unclear if they're actively malicious, or simply the messengers of something yet to come.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets:
    • Everyone thinks Jhudora is evil, but no one has ever been able to prove it. She does give out poisonous items and have a rivalry with the explicitly good faerie Illusen, and Dark Faeries are statistically more likely than other faerie types to be evil, but it's still ambiguous.
    • The Oracle's true motives have never been made clear. She was introduced at the end of the War of the Obelisk as a seemingly benevolent ancient spirit. However, her actions are rather questionable. All she has done so far is to involve the six factions who originally fought for the right to open the Obelisk in perpetual battles simply for her amusement. She grants boons to the winning faction that last for one week, until it's time for yet another battle. It seems doubtful that a spirit who delights in watching frequent violence (and has multiple groups of powerful Neopians under her spell, constantly striving to gain her favour) could really mean well.
    • Edna, a witch who lives in the Haunted Woods. All of her potions are called things like "Potion of [species] [participle]", such as Potion of Lenny Shrinking, and she occasionally talks about wanting a "jubjub sandwich". However, she's also an Inept Mage, so some of her apparent misdeeds were accidents— most famously, turning five meercas into pie was an accident.

    Web Videos 
  • Doctor Pandemia and Bator Medina from Aitor Molina Vs. never did evil stuff on-screen. Not counting killing Slendy in "Infernals & Lemons".
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared:
    • Notepad in the first installment. She's clearly a Jerkass and a Control Freak, but it's unclear whether she could be considered actually evil. The answer would depend on whether or not she deliberately drove the puppets insane or whether things simply got out of her control. So far, there's been no definitive answer either way.
      • The fact that she was Tortured along with the main puppets in the Kickstarter video and didn't appear with the others in episode six could indicate that she was the only teacher not affiliated with Roy.
    • Malcolm in the third installment. The way The Love Cultists talk about him makes him seem like a God of Evil (though they don't see it that way), but since he never actually says or does anything apart from moving his jaw it's unclear whether this doctrine actually comes from him or he's just a giant stone head and The Cultists are crazy enough to think he is giving them these messages.
    • Though he seemed clearly evil in his first appearance, the fifth installment raises some questions as to the moral alignment of Colin the Computer. Specifically, the fifth installment implies that Red Guy's head exploding (which may or may not have been Colin's deliberate doing) not only didn't kill him, but was actually a good thing since it freed him from the lessons. Whether or not Colin had any prior knowledge that this would happen is unclear. On the other hand, the sixth shows that the world Red Guy was sent to was so boring and dull that Red Guy actually preferred the lessons, so it seems Colin-whether he planned for Red Guy to escape or not-was a bad guy after all.
    • Yellow Guy's father, Roy, is heavily implied, but not confirmed, to be evil. A number of the foods in the fifth video have "Roy's" on them, hinting that he might be the cause of the puppet's situation. He can also be seen stalking them in the background. In the HELP videos, after the puppets wake up to find they've been knocked out, kidnapped and tied up by an unnamed monster, Yellow Guy asks "Why are we at my dad's house?" Drops the "ambiguously" in the sixth; he is confirmed to have been behind all the puppet's torture..
  • Mr. Deity:
    • Lucy; she's generally the first to object to anything in "the script" promoting hatred or violence, and generally seems to reserve her tortures for those who genuinely deserve them, but she's also completely casual about arranging all kinds of eternal tortures for minor crimes in her first appearance, resolves in a meeting with David Silverman to "stop eating babies", and suggests inventing Nazism after Mr. Deity tells her to make an alternative philosophy to Jesse's.
    • Mr. Deity himself could count as this. He rarely actually commits or condones evil acts, and he seems just as disgusted by many of the evil acts of his followers as anybody, but his refusal to actually prevent them is quite alarming; in the first episode, when given the choice of how much evil can be tolerated in his creation, he deliberately allows things like Down's Syndrome and natural disasters to exist for no real reason. He also loves the smell of blood and is responsible for the creation of Hell, the brutality and injustice of which is noted many times throughout the series.
  • Portrait of God has the cosmic being some people can see in the titular painting. It's a skinny, wrinkled, perpetually smiling humanoid. Some find it beautiful, others horrifying, and it traps the protagonist in a dark void so that it can show her what's behind its smile. It's never been recorded to harm anyone who are able to perceive it, even the ones that find it off-putting, but whatever it did to the viewpoint character keeps her enraptured in the image of the painting for over three hours.
  • Jester from Smile With Me sometimes seems to be a psychopath... other times he seems like some regular dude.
  • Twisted Translations has a few examples, due to the series' nonsensical scripts:
    • In one of the Taylor Swift parodies, Malinda, while portraying Taylor Swift, says, "Gays, now we have a problem", which could be interpreted as her being homophobic and saying the gays are a problem, or as her telling the gays about a problem.
    • Mother Gothel in the "Mother Knows Best" parody. She was evil in the movie, but in the song, she says that she understands that parents support. She mentions an execution and peace delays, but it's unclear if she likes or dislikes them. She mentions that violence cannot be used, but follows that up with the word "Insufficient".

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time,:
    • Marceline was this trope in at least her first few appearances, where it was sort of unclear if she was actually going to start killing people or was just messing with Finn and Jake. By the fourth season, she's a Chaotic Neutral who will more often than not help out her friends.
    • Peppermint Butler can talk to you in your dreams, likes the taste of human flesh, just mentioning that you know him will get Death himself to do favors for you, and when Finn tried to expose his true aura, he embarrassingly remarked, "You don't want to see that." He's still a loyal butler to his princess, and occasionally helpful...that said, his princess is still on this list.
    • Lemongrab. He takes the "Well-Intentioned Extremist" trope and "Ambiguous Disorder" former trope and stretches them so far that we're not sure if he's evil or just extremely crazy and amoral. The worst thing he's ever done in the show is torture children in an electrical chamber, but it's possible that during this part, he was legitimately insane. He also appears to have a loving family, so it's complicated. And then "Too Old" came along, turning him into a tyrannical dictator who partially ate his clone and keeps shock collars on all his children...
    • Related to that, Princess Bubblegum. You can't help but wonder if she'll turn out to be evil by the series end. Case in point, her partial clone Goliad wound up going mad with power quite quickly, while her second "candy sphinx" Stormo is stated to be incorruptibly pure thanks to being a partial clone of the incorruptible Finn. What does that say about Bubblegum?
    • The Ice King. He does a lot of bad things, but as the show goes on he's more and more depicted as mentally ill rather than truly evil.
  • There have been some hints given in American Dad! that Roger Smith species are Always Chaotic Evil. He can't live without being a bastard to everyone. In theory, he may actually be filled to the brim with doucheyness that causes everyone to be murderers or douches themselves. Add to that it's Villainous Lineage for him to let out his "bitchiness" (before it takes the form of a poisonous bile that kills his species), in other words his race is essentially as big a Comedic Sociopath as himself, willing or not (this is hinted at when his backstory is revealed, he was duped into being a crash test dummy for an aircraft traveling to Earth with the claims he was chosen to evaluate the human race, even placing an apathetic note to ignore the supposed crater and corpse the test would leave). Roger was clearly shocked that they'd use him as a test dummy, and originally there was nothing hinting that either Roger was the problem or he's actually a nice guy by the standards of his people. Other members of Roger's species are finally seen in "Lost In Space" with them being ruled over by the evil Emperor Zing. The emperor only went crazy due to Roger cheating on him, which Zing kept a secret from the rest of his people. and most of his subjects were disgusted by him when Jeff revealed the Emperor's deceit towards them. While its never stated why Roger was sent to Earth as a crash test dummy, the aforementioned episode strongly implies that Emperor Zing did this to Roger to get revenge on him for his affair as the rest of Roger's species, which makes sense because Zing was the emperor and Roger's offense towards him was in Zing's eye's tantamount to committing treason (and the reason why Zing chose Roger to go to Earth was because the man Roger slept with was a human from Earth).
  • Amphibia: King Andrias doesn't do anything evil onscreen until season 2's finale, but there are hints dropped throughout the second season that something is... off... about him. He claims that his ancestors that used the box were "scientists and peaceful explorers" while looking away from the camera, and his last scene in "A Day at the Aquarium" has him making a "proposition" to Marcy with an ominous musical cue. "The First Temple" ends with him reporting to some enigmatic being underneath Newtopia that "the prophecy" is being undone, and they will have their revenge. All and any ambiguity gets thrown out the window in the season 2 finale once Andrias makes it clear that his ancestors were not "frail explorers" but violent conquerors of worlds, and he will continue that legacy at any cost.
  • Nearly all of the main characters of Archer take the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist trope so far as to qualify for this, with Malory Archer and Algernop Krieger being the most extreme examples.
  • Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender starts out this way. He is the first antagonist, but is given enough sympathy points through out the first season that it is more than a bit hazy on which side of the fence he'll wind up. He ends up choosing evil over good...then, realizing what a mistake this was, chooses good over evil.
  • Calvin Fischoeder of Bob's Burgers is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who often acts amoral like when he taunted his brother who was trying to drown him and Bob and got an Evil Cannot Comprehend Good moment when he saw the Belchers Anguished Declaration of Love while about to drown. He was also willing to lie to the police in order to keep his possibly Ax-Crazy brother out of jail, despite all this he is always nice to the Belcher family, even going as far as to willingly let them off rent, takes care of his brother despite his Cain and Abel tendencies, when Bob rallied everyone to stop paying rent to protest the raise he seemed genuinely hurt they didn't simply talk to him about it and when Bob exposed the star player of his baseball team as cheating (in the process revealing some of his own corruptions) he wasn't mad telling Bob he reminds him of his father who was an Honest Corporate Executive.
  • The Brothers Flub, Guapo despite being the secondary hero and Fraz's best friend, he enjoys teases his brother a little too much, sometimes not even caring if he hurt his brother's feelings or put him in danger. Fraz even calls Guapo a "puppet" of Mr. Doom, his biggest fear.
  • In El Tigre, this is the centerpiece of Manny Rivera's character: his father is unambiguously good, his grandfather is evil, and he finds himself unable to decide which path he wants to take, often swinging between good and evil. In one episode, a device that detects if a person is good or evil exploded when he went through it.
  • The bizarre short Face Like a Frog has the lizard who sings "Don't Go Into the Basement." He does a lot of evil-looking grins and other behaviors suggesting that he's up to something, and the song has all the creepy flair of a typical Villain Song... but he doesn't seem to do anything evil other than tell Max to stay out of the basement, and then say uh-uh at the end, when Max and Gluey go into the basement and take the train to Miami Beach.
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy started out as Obviously Evil, but as time went on, he gradually became arguably the Token Good Teammate of the family. Regardless, he still shows no regret for his past actions, will casually mention things like killing seven babies, and (since it's a Sadist Show) is still capable of as much Comedic Sociopathy as the other characters. He also generally doesn't seem to know the extent of certain actions.
  • Futurama:
    • Professor Farnsworth is a very morally ambiguous figure. He's an insane Mad Scientist with a near-total lack of regard for human life who loves creating doomsday devices for no apparent reason, states in one episode that "there is no scientific consensus that life is important", openly admits that he always knew he would have his hand in The End of the World as We Know It, and seems to take pleasure in endangering the lives of his crew, getting upset in one episode when he finds out that he won't have to kill Fry to save humanity. On the other hand, he only has this attitude while they're still alive, and seems to genuinely regret it once they're dead (not that he ever changes as a result), and he has lines that even he won't cross, as shown in "The Sting" where he refuses to send his crew to a planet where a previous crew of his died. He's also always on the front line to save the world whenever it's threatened by someone or something worse than he is. After the show was Un-Canceled for the final time, his insanity was toned-down to make him more of a case of Good Is Not Nice.
    • Alien newscaster Morbo claims to be an advance scout for an invasion force. However, it's completely possible that his evil behaviour is just an act to draw in ratings.
    • Bender is certainly impolite and a criminal, but whether he's actually evil is ambigous. "Kill all humans" is one of his catchphrases, but it's unclear if he means it, and if he does, he sometimes says that Fry (his best friend) is an exception. In "I Second That Emotion", he's implied to be incapable of empathy, yet sometimes he seems to be acting out of affection towards his friends.
    • Nibbler is Obfuscating Stupidity and pretending to be a dumb animal, but that often leads to him being negligent when his alleged friends are in danger. It's unclear if he truly doesn't care about them, or if he's just become too committed to his "dumb animal" act.
  • On Galtar and the Golden Lance, Rak and his son, Tuk, are mercenaries who serve either Galtar or Tormack, depending on the circumstances.
  • Macbeth in Gargoyles. He's quite ruthless about achieving his goals but his main goal is to destroy Big Bad Demona (and thus himself) and he has his share of Pet the Dog moments.
  • Gravity Falls: Time Baby is the Evil Overlord of a dystopian future, with all trappings and menace one would expect of a dictator. But in all of his appearances, he has done nothing outright evil: he gives Blendin Blandin a minor sentence for losing control of his time travel tape, he allows the Pines twins a time wish once they win Globnar, and in the finale, he tries to stop Bill Cipher's plans, only to be obliterated.
  • The Hollow:
    • The Weird Guy, who is a trickster whom enjoys pushing the main characters into the crazy situations they find themselves in. It's not clear whether he actually means them any harm, since he also saves them at the end of the first episode and occasionally gives useful warnings. It turns out he is the game show host of The Hollow, with his job naturally being to make the game more interesting to the viewers while also guaranteeing the safety of the players.
    • Vanessa, though not in the traditional sense. While she is clearly a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and The Heavy of the show, it's unclear how evil she actually is, since she may or may not have been the one to cause A Glitch in the Matrix, based on the show's ending.
  • The Steward in both the Infinity Train pilot as well as the series proper. It's heavily armed and attacks without provocation, but it doesn't try to kill Tulip intentionally, only demanding she return to her seat. It also flees at the sight of One-One. It ultimately seems to be merely a non-sentient mechanical enforcer of The Conducter.
  • Its sequel series, The Legend of Korra, follows the tradition but alters the execution:
    • The masked and compelling Amon of Book I has a sympathetic backstory told by himself, a number of legitimate points, a mysterious and horrifying ability that he initially only used on the deserving and a meticulous, effortless brand of manipulation that throws everything he says and all his motives into question. While he eventually goes past the Moral Event Horizon (even targeting children), with his public backstory revealed to be a lie (with himself being a Boomerang Bigot), his true backstory is still a very tragic one, and his brother Tarrlok believes that Amon really does think that what he's doing is the right thing, thus keeping him under this trope.
      • His Equalist subordinates belong here as well, despite being relatively minor characters, (there's only four Equalists who have any lines and only two of them actually have names). They do try to eliminate bending from the world, but only in an effort to make things, well, equal. Though many are implied to be merely prejudiced and/or in it primarily for personal revenge, a good percentage of them see themselves as crusaders of justice fighting to reverse the perceived second-class status of non-benders by putting everyone on the same playing field. The Lieutenant in particular becomes very angry when he sees proof that Amon is a bender who's been using his own powers the whole time.
    • Korra's uncle and spiritual advisor, Unalaq, seems to be taking up this mantle as of Book II, with subtle shades of Evil Mentor and The Fundamentalist, but he ends up going deep into full-out evil territory when he's revealed to be a sociopath working for Vaatu, spirit of chaos, with the intent to plunge the world into 10,000 years of darkness under his rule, though his ultimate intention is to create "balance" by abolishing all nations and rejoining the human and spirit worlds.
      • There's also Varrick. If anything, being ambiguous is his schtick. Without a doubt he hates Unalaq, but there's signs he's not completely on Korra's side. As it turns out, he's been masterminding the Water Tribe civil war the moment Unalaq came and threatened his business. The conflict was inevitable, but Varrick decided to accelerate the war on his own terms by ordering his men to attack Unalaq. Afterwards, proved to be quite the antagonist by blowing up the Southern Water Tribe cultural center in the vicinity of a peace march, ordered the Triads to sabotage Asami so that could take over her company, then attempted kidnap the president in a False Flag Operation. All this to make a profit from the civil war, which was why he had to make sure the war goes on and that it escalates into something bigger. However, Varrick isn't fully evil; Sure he did cause damage and endangered innocent lives in the process, but it's just that he's more focused on self-interest.
    • Zaheer of Book III detests tyrants, sincerely hopes to create a better world for people to live in, cares quite deeply for his main teammates, and can be quite kind to bystanders (even calling out one of his own teammates for needlessly threatening a radio operator), but he plans to accomplish his goal by killing all government leaders and having the world descend into chaos, and he is more than willing to kill both lesser minions and innocent bystanders to fulfill his plans. Also, he's a criminal.
    • Kuvira in Book IV. A captain in Suyin's metalbending corps and one of the members of her dance troupe. Following the fall of the Red Lotus, she raises her own army and claims to be seeking to unite the fractured Earth Kingdom, but many, including Suyin, see her as nothing more than an ambitious and despotic conqueror who does things like force all people with non-Earth Kingdom ancestry into internment camps. While Kuvira does turn out to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist, she herself realizes after her defeat that she went too far, and willingly submits herself to punishment.
  • Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz of Phineas and Ferb is a rare combination of this trope and Card-Carrying Villain. He claims he's extremely evil, and he tries to do a lot of evil things, most prominently take over the Tri-State Area, but as the series goes on and on it seems less and less like he actually wants to do those things and more and more like he just pretends he's evil to get attention. However, on the rare occasion that he turns out to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain and actually succeeds in one of his evil goals, he generally won't express any kind of regret over it. He has a full Heel–Face Turn in the Grand Finale.
  • The Brain in Pinky and the Brain. His attempt to Take Over the World is the whole point of the series, which you could argue qualifies him as evil, but he is genuinely trying to change it for the better. Beyond that, he doesn't do anything particularly villainous. It's also heavily implied that the world really would be better off if he took over. However, he does admire many of the great autocrats of history, including unambiguously evil ones like Saddam Hussein.
  • Robot Chicken: In the Dark Parody of The Jetsons titled "I, Rosie", someone murdered George, but it was unclear who did it. Mr. Spacely (who, in canon, is a Mean Boss but not outright evil) disliked George and is in love with his wife/widow Jane, so he had motive, but Rosie is the prime suspect since she was programmed to clean up but George was messy. However, other characters claim that robots don't kill, and it's unclear if they're right.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Eclipsa Butterfly, The Queen of Darkness, aside from her dark themed name, she is known for being immensely powerful, filling her chapter of the Spell Book with dark magic and running away with her monster lover and bearing his child, Meteora Butterfly. Mewnians portray her as the Black Sheep of the Butterfly family, the Magic High Comission and Moon are wary of her and crystallize her to keep her away. However, there is no actual record of her doing anything genuinely evil, and the dark magic chapter was never read by anyone but Star, who doesn't really see where all the ruckus comes from and have even used it before and her other biggest crime, running away, was, in Star eyes, punishing a woman for being in love. When Star pushes for it in "Stranger Danger", the Magic High Commission is forced to admit they can't pinpoint any genuinely evil act (Hekapoo's worst memory of her is double-dipping sauce in a party and Omnitraxus's is her claiming that Rhombulus was annoying).
  • Steven Universe:
    • Blue Diamond sentenced Ruby and Sapphire to death for fusing, didn't even remember it, is one of the leaders of Homeworld, keeps a facility that abducts humans operating, and Holly Blue Agate implies she has zero tolerance for failure. However, when we actually meet her in person, she seems kind, if sad, and tried to convince Yellow Diamond not to destroy the Earth. It doesn't help that her basic motivation can be either selfish or altruistic depending on how you look at it.
    • Pink Diamond, at least until "Now We're Only Falling Apart".
    • White Diamond.
    • In short... the Homeworld side. From the moment of their creation, Gems consider the Diamond Authority to be their gods, and the thing their type of Gem is made for to be their only reason for existing. To a Gem, “good” is serving your Diamond’s will by doing the thing you exist to do to the best of your ability, and “evil” is... well, not doing that. If you’re not directly under a Diamond, you’re still serving under the Gem who is your rightful master according to the perfect order and will of the Diamonds. Gems openly talk about who they were “made for” or “belong to” without one trace of the way a human would hate to be spoken of as a piece of property or a thing that exists to be a means to an end. The Diamonds feel that it is their whole existence to be perfect leaders who perfectly enforce White Diamond’s perfect order. Meanwhile, White truly believes that she is a perfect being and is spreading that perfection to the universe. None of them, from top to bottom, are motivated by personal power or gain.
  • Shere Khan in TaleSpin is a very ambiguous character. He may be ruthless and has a lot of power at his disposal, but he has scruples, a sense of honour and generally won't cross the line. He's usually Affably Ambiguously Evil. However, he's Faux Affably Evil at worst, like in the episode where he collaborated with Don Carnage to create an artificial oil shortage so he could overprice his fuel and giving a non-sincere speech of concern towards Rebecca.
  • The Owl House: While the Collector shows little concern for Belos' Final Solution, he’s not actually interested in the genocide part and simply gave him the information to do so in exchange for him freeing them. "King's Tide" has him take over the Boiling Isles to play "Owl House," but they gladly stop the Draining spell once King reminds him that they need a whole island's worth of players.
  • The Venture Bros.:


Video Example(s):



Lesley, the old woman who lives in the attic of the puppet's house appears to be a normal human, but something is clearly off about her.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AmbiguouslyHuman

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