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Bait-and-Switch Tyrant

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Homer: Mr. Burns' reign of terror is over! And today begins my reign of terrr... [workers look nervous]...-iffic management!
Lenny: Man, I thought he was going to say terror!
Carl: I didn't think he was going that way.

This is a common subversion of Tyrant Takes the Helm. It occurs when a character who at first appeared to be a tyrant actually turns out to be a pretty decent person or at the very least someone with a few good qualities. In this case, the other characters will eventually quit rebelling against their new leader and try to adapt to the new management style.

When the Tyrant's methods really are as onerous as they seem at first but get results that the underlings love, expect them to make satisfying the hardass a point of pride and brag about it to those with less rigid leaders.

Given enough Character Development, the Bait And Switch Tyrant may soften up or even develop an odd friendship with the rest of the cast; even when his onerous ways get good results he may discover that some of them are unnecessary, or relax them for special occasions.

It is not unknown for him to criticize his predecessor harshly — how else could all his subordinates be so bad? — in order to get them to straighten up.

When this occurs in a TV series, it will usually be done to introduce the new boss. Therefore, the Bait And Switch Tyrant may become a regular as opposed to when a Tyrant Takes the Helm; the tyrant is almost always intended for only a single episode or Story Arc.

Note this only applies to characters who redeem themselves while in power. If their redemption occurs once they are no longer in power, it's Break the Haughty. Compare Depending on the Writer. See also Benevolent Dictator, also a person whom the audience would not expect to rule well.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Chu- Bra!!, Tsukamoto-sensei finally is shown in this light. She does appreciate underwear, she just wasn't comfortable with the idea of such young girls showing their underwear in public. Given the characters' ages, it is quite justified.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, this ends up being the case with Pariston Hill, Arc Villain of the Election Day Episode. He appeared to be a Token Evil Teammate to the rest of the Zodiacs running the Hunter Association, and seemed to be on his way to becoming a President Evil. However, once he won the election, he immediately resigned as his entire campaign was just an elaborate troll.
  • In Overlord (2012), Ainz quickly proves to be this after he takes over the city of E-Rantel and founds his Sorcerer Kingdom. Virtually everyone, from his new subjects to every other nation in the New World, expects the Undead King to demand massive sacrifices in his name for some evil ritual or another, or launch a genocidal campaign against any who do not submit to his rule. Instead, they are visibly surprised when he brings stability and peace: everyone has enough food to eat, jobs are readily available or created, the undead handle all the paperwork and all races are able to coexist as equals. His neighbors still take issue with a country ruled by an undead, of course, but are hardly in a position to remove Ainz from power.
  • In ...Virgin Love, Kaoru and Chiharu both overwork their subordinates when they want to get things done, but are liked for the fact that they are effective and work equally hard. Kaoru specifically often takes responsibility for mistakes that his subordinates make, for which they are grateful.

    Comic Books 
  • Ben Daimio from the Hellboy comics is a double Bait and Switch Tyrant: While he is a competent leader who eventually earns the respect—even friendship!— of most of his team, it later turns out he was possessed by an evil Jaguar spirit the whole time. He eventually loses control of it and kills several people.
  • Democracy: While Peisistratus started as a tyrant (which is truth, as the Real Life entry above states), he cared about his people, tried to help them in any way, by giving money even to his enemies, creating new trading roads and an effective police consisting of Scythian archers, being a general and beautifying the city with squares. Even some people call the days he ruled an "Age of Gold".

    Fan Works 
  • In The Peace Not Promised, Lily and the Marauders are thoroughly scared when Slytherin House unites around Severus Snape, who decrees that the House must all support and protect each other, and who is known to be affiliated with the prospective Death Eaters. Even within Slytherin, Sebastian Urquart is unhappy about Severus driving all of the outcast or vulnerable members of the House into the Death Eaters' arms (since they all assume that this new policy of protection and inclusion is coming from them). When Severus very publicly declares that he will not become a Death Eater or follow them, that he is leading Slytherin House in a different direction, everyone around is shocked. Lily, in particular, doesn't know whether to believe her ears, but really wants to. The House proceeds to split between those who are still aiming to become Death Eaters, versus those who stick by Severus and his reform. In the end, though, the prospect of no-one being left behind is too tempting for the majority of children to ignore, and Severus gains the upper hand.
  • Many otherwise-good characters are very perturbed by the rise of Saruman of Many Devices, thinking that he's a rival dark lord as he was in canon. Gandalf is dismayed by the new orc-human hybrids he's created, Eomer is incensed by the peace treaty he negotiates with Rohan's ancient rivals the Dunlendings, and Central warns Saruman that if he doesn't keep his operations covert, then the Ents will soon rise up and level everything he's built. Nonetheless, the victories won both directly by his forces, and indirectly through his spread of improved technology, eventually persuade them of his good intentions. (Especially after feats such as sending Durin's Bane falling into a deep pit without taking casualties, and slaying multiple Ringwraiths.)
  • With This Ring:
    • The international community is very concerned about Teth Adom executing the government of Kahndaq and taking over as a demigod-king. Those who are close to him, however, know that not only is he a patriot to the core who wants to see Kahndaq prosper, but he actually tried very hard to avoid a coup, preferring to ride his immense popularity to the top peacefully. Only the mass slaughter of civilians by forces suspected to be affiliated with the corrupt government pushed him over the edge to violently take the reins. Once there, he encourages industry and education reform, does not seek self-aggrandisement, and has no tolerance for corruption of any kind.
    • In the Renegade timeline, Adom's takeover was more direct and less patient, but he's still a dedicated and fair ruler afterward.
    • The Renegade himself encounters various parties who are terrified of an alien tyrant taking over the Earth. He points out that he would rule mostly through humans, even having a human heir, and that he would do a much better job than the current systems, so apparently they just don't like aliens.
      Grayven: Are you a racist, Mr Kipling?

  • Red Rock West: Deputy Greytack initially seems to be accusing Michael of a crime he didn't commit, but once his boss shows up, it's made clear that he recognizes that the signs point to Michael's innocence and is just confused by the whole affair.
  • Dr. Johann Krauss from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. He initially comes across as very by-the-book, but eventually joins Hellboy and the others in finding Prince Nuada, as well as quitting the BPRD afterward.
    Krauss: "Dr. Manning, suck my ectoplasmic schwanzstucker!"
    • Even Manning comes across as this, to a lesser degree, in the first movie; at first he's a whiny, self-important Obstructive Bureaucrat, but, when worst comes to worst, he has the guts to throw a big metal cog into Ruprecht Kroenen's face, saving the Big Red's tail in doing so.
  • Gregory Peck's character in Twelve O'Clock High takes over a B-17 bomber group, formerly led by the ineffective Colonel Davenport. His efforts to instill discipline and order on the group are not well-received initially, but the men eventually recognize his competence, and the improvements in success rate and morale are evident.
    • In this case, an Invoked Trope. His orders were to essentially be a Drill Sergeant Nasty in order to whip the demoralized unit into shape, knowing full-well that they would probably hate him for it.
  • Douglas Bader plays a similar role to an RAF Hurricane fighter squadron in the film Reach for the Sky, being rather heavy-handed about enforcing the uniform regulations before he was made aware that the squadron had lost their mess blues along with almost everything but the remaining serviceable aircraft and whatever they and their attached ground crews could carry during the retreat from France. He then goes on to be equally heavy-handed about securing tools and spare parts to bring the squadron back to operational readiness, which improves their working relationship considerably.
  • In D3: The Mighty Ducks, the Ducks are accepted to a prestigious academy. However, their new coach, Ted Orion, initially makes many changes to the team roster and traditions to the point where the entire team loathed him. However, their previous coach manages to convince them that Orion isn't such a terrible coach, but just has a stricter coaching style than the Ducks are used to. The Ducks eventually accept Orion as their coach and Orion in turn eases up on his restrictions on them.
    • It should be noted that many of the changes he instigated, such as moving Goldberg from goalie to defenseman, proved to improve the team as a whole.
  • Rollo Lee in Fierce Creatures is a former cop who shows up to take over the zoo. One of his policies is the "Fierce Creatures" policy, in where any creature that isn't violent, dangerous, and basically interesting will be rid of. As the situation escalates and the workers keep trying to argue some of the tamer animals are fierce, he then pretends to shoot a group of the tame animals in his office. After Willa shows up and relieves him of his post, he proves to be a nice guy who didn't, in fact, kill the animals, and wants to do his best by the zoo. He ends up gaining the workers' trust as he tries to argue for them and the zoo as it threatens to close.
    • Willa herself quickly learns to love the zoo, and helps them keep it open when their boss wants it shut down.
  • In the first few minutes of The Proposition, Stanley seems to be a brute presenting the protagonist with a Sadistic Choice. He turns out to be one of the most decent people in the film.
  • In the Starship Troopers movie, Lt. Raschak has a reputation for being a "real nutbuster" among troops outside his unit, but Raschak's Roughnecks are fiercely loyal to their commander. He comes across as stern and demanding, not hesitant to shoot one of his own troopers to spare them being eaten alive by a nest of bugs, and says he'd expect anyone in his unit to do the same for him. But then we see that he understands the importance of soldier morale by ordering his troops have a party while they're in a safe zone, and even allowing Rico and Dizzy to finish up their R&R in the tent.
  • This is certainly the view of the Recon Platoon in regards to Gunny Highway taking over their training in Heartbreak Ridge. It's actually a bit more accurate to say that they'd been allowed to slack off prior to his taking over.
  • American Renegades: Admiral Levine enjoys beginning conversations where he's about to congratulate or reward the team by sounding stern and listing things they did wrong first.
  • Croc: Evelyn is first seen sternly taking note of some violations while inspecting Jack's farm, and shrugs off his claims of sabotage by the Konsongs. During her briefing, however, she does not recommend shutting the farm down, stating that the violations were minor, easily fixed ones. This causes the Konsongs to get her fired.
  • Python: Deputy Greg is introduced glaring around at John as he bikes around town, and later seeming a bit pleased at the prospect of questioning him over Lisa's murder but is fairly restrained when actually questioning John (especially compared to his overeager partner), doesn't really think he's guilty and eventually makes peace with John.
  • Zig-zagged in Principal Takes a Holiday, but only because the main characters find out that the substitute principal has been delayed and decide to hire a bum to take his place. The staff expects the real Dr. Baxter to be extremely strict and is shocked when Fitz turns the school into a laid-back place where students are actually having fun (in addition to learning). When the real Baxter finally arrives and sees all the positive changes Fitz has made, he vehemently approves, much to the chagrin of the usual principal.

    Live Action TV 
  • Chernobyl: Boris Scherbina is introduced as Obstructive Bureaucrat dismissing Legasov (the scientist telling him the core exploded), but when Legasov is quickly vindicated on all points and he realizes that Bryukhanov and Fomin are lying to him, he immediately becomes a Badass Bureaucrat.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • When Captain Edward Jellico is given command of the Enterprise, it looks a lot like a Tyrant Takes the Helm plot when he starts making rapid and aggressive changes, tells Troi to put on an actual uniform note , clashes with Riker (ultimately removing him from duty), and demands that someone "get rid of the damned fish" in Picard's office. But Jellico proves to be a very effective commander when he sees through several layers of Cardassian deception, traps the Cardassian fleet, secures Picard's release from a prison camp, and helps avert a potential war.
    • Picard himself seemed like this very briefly, especially compared to the more rough and tumble style of command favored by Kirk. He downright frightened Riker, demanding that he perform a needlessly difficult maneuver and raising questions about insubordination before the audience discovers that he was actually testing Riker's competence and character—and Riker had passed with flying colors.
  • Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. He starts off changing the name of Liz's show and drastically "retooling" it to increase its demographic appeal. It's arguable how much he's "improved" since then, but he seems to have grown on the other characters somewhat. (Also, the show seemed to have run out of Tyrant Takes the Helm plots for him after the first couple of episodes.) In later seasons his mentoring seems to be the only thing keeping Liz sane and thus keeping the cast and writers from going off the deep end. He actually states outright in the first episode that some of the changes are just for the sake of establishing dominance by putting "his mark" on things, which is Truth in Television for many new managers.
  • Dr. Mildred Finch on NUMB3RS. At first Charlie resents the changes she makes, but she generally has good reasons. She can be pushy, but she's a decent person and a competent administrator. And when she turns her supposed "pushiness" against people who are trying to take advantage or hurt Charlie, it turns into a moment of awesome, every time. It doesn't hurt that once she starts getting comfortable, she lets up a bit on some of the ultimatums she had laid down at the beginning.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • General Hammond on Stargate SG-1. One of his first acts was to try to blow up an inhabited planet and throw the Just Following Orders excuse, before tossing Jack O'Neill in a holding cell for creatively interpreting his orders in Stargate.note  However, he shortly after rethinks this and asks Jack for alternatives, setting up the series. It wasn't long before he would almost unquestioningly approve virtually any Crazy Enough to Work plan SG-1 ever came up with. At one point, when SG-1 has been captured by Hathor, he personally flies second seat in a special Goa'uld Death Glider to free them.
    • Although not a leader, Rodney McKay is an interesting example: he never develops beyond Jerkass in his first appearance, but gets Character Development in his second and eventually became a heroic figure on Stargate Atlantis.
    • A uniquely interesting example is Richard Woolsey, an Obstructive Bureaucrat who was first seen on SG-1; he waltzes in with his rulebook and starts annoying the hell out of everyone. But repeated brushes with Senator Kinsey show him that something is seriously wrong with the Senator. He then visits General Hammond and takes Magic Floppy Disk full of Blackmail material on Senator Kinsey. He then gives the disk to The President, who uses it to fire Kinsey. His departing speech to The President is: "I also hope history one day shows that I tried to do the right thing." He is essentially, the one who finally brought Kinsey down.
      He eventually shows up again in Atlantis - still trying to push his rulebook for the greater good. He starts annoying people again almost immediately, despite generally having good intentions. When he replaced Carter as the leader, this turned into awkwardness, because the crew was not used to someone so "bureaucrat-like". He soon learned to not only trust rules, however. While still being uptight, he shows a heart of gold on multiple occasions and even gets his own badass moments.
  • Kevin "Ug" Lee on Salute Your Shorts. Though his initial speech to the campers makes it clear that he's trying to be a hard-ass, it quickly becomes apparent that the guy is just trying to keep his job by enforcing rather reasonable rules (albeit with hilariously draconian punishments).
  • Colonel Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H. He was significantly more strict than his predecessor Henry Blake, but he loosened up as the series went along.
    • His first episode has Hawkeye and B.J. worried about how bad he'll be, and hard-nosed hypocrite Frank Burns absent for other reasons. Colonel Potter does many things they'd feared, including making Klinger change out of his normal cross-dressing attire into an actual uniform. By the time Burns comes back, eager to see a hard-nosed military man like he'd heard about, Potter is drinking in the Swamp and complimenting Klinger on his fashion sense. It's been theorized that Potter wanted to establish his authority first before showing his Cool Old Guy credentials.
      Potter: "When I was on Guam, I had a still. One night it blew up! [leans close to the boys] That's how I got my Purple Heart."
    • Oddly enough, arrogant Boston Brahmin Maj. Charles Winchester ends up being one of these in general during his one outing as acting CO of the unit. Winchester actually does act with the unit's best interests in mind and gets all the work done, though he does end up wimping out of standing up to a Jerkass Marine colonel throwing his weight around and obstructing the compassionate discharge of a Marine private at the camp.note  In fact, far from being a tyrant, his major duties seem to be listening to Wagner and looking impressive behind Potter's desk.
  • Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken on The West Wing. When Bartlet's daughter Zoey was kidnapped the president removes himself from power, with no vice president, meaning Walken, one of his chief political rivals, ends up as Acting President. Walken is introduced in a very foreboding shot, and immediately establishes himself as having a much harsher and more hawkish style than Bartlett. The West Wing staff are sure that he'll try to push his political agenda while he has control of the office. Walken, however, proves himself to be entirely competent in his role, and both his attitude and his actions are appropriate given the national crisis they're in. He also makes clear that he has zero intention of hijacking Bartlett's presidency (pointing out that, in addition to being morally repugnant, it would be political suicide). And he immediately surrenders the office once the crisis is resolved.
  • Several attendings on medical shows like ER, Scrubs or even Grey's Anatomy. Examples include Perry Cox (though in his case there's already a slight "reveal" on the pilot), Kerry Weaver (although YMMV on how friendly she becomes with the staff before she gets demoted), Robert Romano (who never becomes a friend of his subordinates anyway), Bob Kelso, etc.
    • Subverted on Scrubs with Dr. Maddox, Kelso's replacement. At first the team hopes she will be like Kelso, tough on the outside because she has to be in order to run the hospital efficiently. It becomes clear pretty quick that she truly enjoys being evil.
  • Shirley Schmidt from Boston Legal certainly applies. In her first appearance, she seems rather unpleasant to all involved, then quickly lightened up. In the fourth season, John Larroquette's character, Sack, did the same thing, threatening to fire Clarence because of his cross dressing, but, by the end of the episode, he changed his ways.
  • In the second season of She Spies, a type of Charlie's Angels modern ripoff, the new boss presents himself as A Tryant Taking The Helm, claiming the girl's previous boss, the charismatic Jack, was too soft on them.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures Season Two, Haresh Chandra is introduced in this manner to suggest that he will be the show's equivalent of Principal Snyder in Buffy or maybe even the Monster of the Week in human form. But he's actually just the new regular character's dad.
  • Director Leon Vance from NCIS first came in to oversee an internal affairs investigation against the previous director, Jenny Shepard, and later took over after Shepard's death. For starters he broke up Gibbs' team, sending them all to different locations which made him seem like a regular dictatorial manager. Later episodes, however, suggested ulterior (better) motives for his actions and that he, while more strict than his predecessors, is basically an okay guy.
    • Gibbs himself may come across as a hard-lining nutbuster to outsiders, the audience, or even members of his team sometimes, but then we see that he truly cares about his team, and accepts nothing but the best from them because he believes them to be the best.
  • Charles Miner in The Office is an unusual case, as for all intents and purposes he fills the usual Tyrant Taking The Helm role. However, it's actually just because he's a competent and no-nonsense manager, and the Dunder-Mifflin staff aren't used to having a boss who expects them to do their jobs responsibly after working for the spineless Michael Scott for years.
    • It doesn't help that Jim and Michael are basically the main viewpoint characters and they're generally treated very poorly by Miner.
    • This is a copy of the original Office, where Neil from Swindon becomes the new boss and is essentially a hard working yet fun loving guy, who Brent resents because he is everything he would like to be.
    • A minor example when Michael leaves, and Deangelo Vickers (very briefly) takes over the office. He calls a very nervous staff in for a meeting where he very sternly lays out his policies for the office, which include everyone leaving by five o'clock, and not brooking any complaints about the flavors available on Ice Cream Fridays.
  • Lizzi in Greek...but only to Casey, whom she steers towards a way to return Frannie to the house and thus eliminate her.
  • Inverted with Lynn McGill in the fifth season of 24; nobody at CTU likes him at first for his strictness, but he wasn't necessarily a tyrant. They began to like him starting at around the point when he was the only one to recognize Jack Bauer's duress code "Flank-Two Position". He eventually becomes such a tyrant however, the cast remove him from command. Ultimately he sacrifices his own life to re-secure the CTU facility after it had been contaminated by the Sentox VX nerve gas. Though it should be noted, it was his fault the CTU facility was attacked in the first place.
  • Inspector Thatcher from Due South, introduced in season two as Fraser's new boss with an inexplicable hatred for him, who even (briefly, apparently) fires him when he makes a well-reasoned defense of his uniform choices. However, she eventually starts getting wrapped up in Fraser's cases herself and gets a few Big Damn Heroes moments as well as a scorching hot Will They or Won't They? with Fraser.
  • Scott Sherwood on Remember WENN.
  • Criminal Minds' Erin Strauss has pretty much been vilified in the fandom for seeming to be trying to get rid of Aaron Hotchner. However, if you look past this potential motive, it actually seems like she's just trying to do what is best for the team. For example, in "100", she leads the team around in questioning so that she gets answers that will ensure that Hotchner is not fired (or arrested) for beating George Foyett to death.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Captain John Sheridan in the first few episodes of season 2: The alien ambassadors don't like him, many of the crew doesn't trust him, the Minbari hate him, but about half a season later, he has earned their trust so much that some of them would even die for him. This is partially a matter of narrative convenience; Sheridan is taking over for Captain Sinclair, whose actor was forced to leave the series to deal with schizophrenia, so stories that relied on the crew's loyalty to Sinclair had to be reworked to accommodate Sheridan. Invoked:
      General Hague: "(President Santiago) knew that if anything ever happened to him, President Clark would appoint some hard-nosed jarhead to run this place. Well, we both know you're not that, but from your record, you look like that. If Clark and his friends think you're one of them, they'll leave you alone, which is what we need."
    • Just before Sheridan's arrival, Ivanova's Captain's Log gives us the impression that she has been this to the various alien officials who were accustomed to Commander Sinclair's soft-spoken approach, with an elevator full of shouting officials being cowed into silence when Ivanova loses her temper.
    • It also helps that Ivanova at least has worked with Sheridan before and trusts him. And one of the first things Sheridan does aboard the station is to help save Garibaldi's life and find who tried to kill him.
    • Done again in Season 5 with the introduction of Captain Lochley. Just as was mentioned in the description, one of the first things she does upon taking command is to criticize Sheridan's apparently "sloppy" management of the station. Of course, it's later revealed that she still has some personal issues with Sheridan, namely that she was his first wife for all of 3 months.
  • Colonel Butts from Space: Above and Beyond, who takes over the squad for a classified mission in the fifth episode. He initially comes off as a nasty man and picks fights with almost everyone, but once the squad reaches their destination, he confesses that, while he had always been somewhat cruel, the Survivor's Guilt from watching his own team get wiped out had been a large part of why he acted the way he did. He ultimately sacrifices himself to take out enemy units that were able to pass dangerously close to a black hole before they could strike.
  • A good majority of CSI fans cringed when Conrad Ecklie, day shift supervisor and smug rival to Gil Grissom, was promoted to Assistant Director in Season 5. Politically-inclined, more interested in his own advancement than on the actual cases, he enjoyed a brief season as a true tyrant when he split the graveyard shift team and demoted his own investigator, Sophia Curtis, to work under Grissom. But at the end of season, he rallied his efforts to help Grissom rescue Nick Stokes from a kidnapper, and from that point on he became a trustworthy and dependable, if not quite friendly, ally. Several seasons and another promotion later, and he comes off as more of a Reasonable Authority Figure, while a Retcon explained the shift in character by revealing that he was gradually recovering from a drinking problem and a nasty divorce.
    • He gets a couple moments before the season finale too - get him away from the lab and into public relations and he might actually do some good. Like this scene: after Catherine had a memory card of evidence stolen and had the "pleasure" of sweating it out while Ecklie grilled her, the stolen pictures turn up on the news.
      Ecklie: "I'll have our public information officer contact his counterpart at the station. We'll also call Judge Anderson and get a warrant for the memory card, any copies, and the name of their source."
      Catherine: (surprised) "Thank you, Conrad."
      Ecklie: "It's my job."
  • Lane Pryce of Mad Men comes in at the beginning of Season 3 as the hated representative of Sterling Cooper's new British overlords, Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. PPL's vision for Sterling Cooper clashes at times with that of Roger Sterling and Don Draper, and in any case Pryce is responsible for making painful cutbacks and changes. He is naturally not very popular at first. By the end of Season 3, he's realized that he'll be sidelined by PPL (who are selling Sterling Cooper to advertising MegaCorp McCann Ericksonnote ) and joins Sterling, Cooper, and Draper in starting an entirely new agency: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Pryce is extremely competent in managing the firm's finances and curbing the excesses of the executives. Since the other partners are staunch capitalists they quickly appreciate how much money he is saving them. When business gets bad he is the one who keeps the firm afloat and everyone realizes this. When Lane's personal financial troubles (involving the Inland Revenue) drive him to embezzlement and then suicide, both the characters and the fans were sincerely saddened.
  • Sam Donovan on Sports Night. As the new ratings consultant, he arrives suddenly and makes changes to the show while seeming to have no respect for the producers and on-air talent. But he quickly proves that his no-nonsense tactics are about making the show better, not abusing his own power. Then, when he succeeds, the network execs offer him Isaac Jaffe's job and he not only turns them down flat but warns in no uncertain terms never to disrespect Isaac again.
  • Cam Saroyan on Bones began this way, threatening to fire Brennan for the first few episodes after she was introduced whenever Brennan would get upset about the new rules. However, she found middle ground over time and became a valued member of the team without letting the team forget that she is still in charge.
  • JAG: This is the initial perception of the new Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Major General Gordon Cresswell, in the tenth season of JAG from the perspective of the main characters.
  • The team on NCIS: Los Angeles gets placed under the supervision of an NCIS assistant director, Granger, after they collectively defy orders to save Hetty. He starts out acting like an Obstructive Bureaucrat but soon reveals he cares for them in his own way and is a former spook himself.
  • Oleg on The Americans is the middle-management version. He's introduced in season two as a fool who only got his job in the KGB due to nepotism, and is a threat to Double Agent Nina's honeypot on FBI agent Stan. Then, over the course of the season, he's revealed to be genuinely smart, good at his job, and when he uses his family influence to get in on Nina's work, he follows up by helping her start to turn Stan.
  • Sue Sylvester on Glee during her short-lived tenure as Principal. Normally an unrepentant Jerkass, she proves a surprisingly fair-minded principal who protects Kurt from Karofsky's bullying and resigns when Karofsky's allowed back in school.
  • London's Burning: Station Officer Nick Georgiadis, who takes over from the well-loved Station Officer Sidney Tate, initially comes off as a hardass and doesn't endear himself to Blue Watch. However, while his leadership style is still rather different, he quickly proves himself to be a Reasonable Authority Figure with a well-hidden sense of humour and a very good leader. On a later occasion, when a rescue plan involves desperate improvisation that violates several Brigade safety rules, and presents great personal risk, he insists on undertaking it himself.
  • The second season of Enemy at the Door introduces a new commanding officer of the German occupying forces, Generalmajor Müller. His arrival is preceded by rumours about him being a hardline by-the-book leader, in contrast to Major Richter's preferred style of trying to get on with the locals even if it means occasionally turning a blind eye, but he turns out to be not as bad as his reputation suggested.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Agent Hightower is introduced threatening to fire Lisbon if she can't keep Jane in line, and seemingly preparing to break up office couple Rigsby and Van Pelt, but soon does accept that Jane and Lisbon make too good of a team, often login to bat for them, and merely suggested to Van Pelt and Rigsby that one of them transfer to a different office so they could keep dating without violating the rules.
    • J.J. LaRoche is introduced as a menacing Inspector Javert figure, but is ultimately a fair-minded man whose more of a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist who happens to have a convincing case against the wrong person, and is able to work well with the core cast.
    • Judge Manchester is introduced annoyedly announcing to the FBI and CBI representatives that he's exasperated by a cover-up related to the case they've initiated and he will only give jurisdiction over the case to whoever annoys him the least during the meeting, but does listen reasonably and objectively to the two sides arguments for the rest of the scene.
    • Dennis Abbot is introduced shutting down the main characters office, insinuating that their all tainted by corruption and even being prepared to arrest them (all while his own honesty remains uncertain to the viewer) but, very gradually, shows a dorky side to his personality, and turns into a Father to His Men, and Shipper on Deck for Jane and Lisbon.
  • This happens every now and again in the Law & Order franchise, across all major shows. A new captain will either temporary, or permanently take over the department, and the detectives will assume the person is not as open to them as their previous captain and is a puppet for internal affairs or the FBI. Only for them to learn the new captain is on their side, they just have a different way of doing things from the previous one. Even Munch when he was made captain for a brief time on SVU didn't escape from this, being accused of selling out by the other detectives.

  • Dr. Nero spends the first book of the H.I.V.E. Series as what appears to be the villain, but it's soon made clear that he is really just a teacher who loves lasers and stylish overdoings. After the kids' initial wariness, they begin to trust him, to the point where Nero might be considered A Father to His Men.
  • Sharpe does this occasionally, most notably in his first encounter with Cpt. Frederickson.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts novel Honour Guard, Commissar Viktor Hark is assigned to the Ghosts with the express purpose of seeing to Gaunt's removal from command and clashes with him repeatedly on matters of authority. He later proves himself to be a competent and charismatic leader, as well as a good shot with his plasma pistolnote , and ends up joining the Ghosts at the end to serve as one of Gaunt's go-to people when there's a problem that needs to be deal with.
  • In Discworld, Vetinari is represented at first as a tyrant, but in the later books it is shown that he only has the well being of the city at heart (whether the city likes it or not is a different issue altogether). Note that this in no way prevents him from being a tyrant (and even referring to himself as one): he's a ruler with near-absolute power and everyone knows it. His job security lies mainly in the fact that he runs the city with such an iron fist that it'd fall apart in a week if he got assassinated. The only real overt abuse of his power is him throwing any and all mimes into the scorpion pit (which everyone in the city generally regards as one of his better qualities).
  • Brothers in Arms has Duv Galeni, who seems at first to be obstructing Miles and then later outright framing him. Miles thinks he's acting out of a desire for vengeance — Galeni's family were strongly tied to the Komarran resistance and were all killed in the revolts, while Miles' father is often (wrongly) blamed for the massacre that started it. While Galeni is indeed kind of stuffy and humorless, he's also both competent and loyal, and isn't behind the frame-up; it's actually a plot by Galeni's Not Quite Dead father and Miles' clone brother. And Galeni's so serious about his job precisely because he's supposed to be a poster child for Barrayaran-Komarran rapprochement.
  • In Watership Down, the rabbits of Efrafa who like Woundwort (namely the officers and the other higher-ups) consider him one of these. The rank and file are either quietly sullen or too beaten down to care.
    • Woundwort, despite his defeat and unconfirmed death, ends becoming a Memetic Badass to all the rabbit descendants in both warrens.
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth series features "Evil Magician Trent" who, when he becomes the only known possible choice for king, proves himself such a capable ruler he becomes known as "Good King Trent".
    • It's also made fairly clear when he comes into focus that the "Evil Magician" title was a political one — he was evil because he wasn't supporting the current ruler.
    • Also happens when Magician Murphy temporarily takes the throne in Isle of View. He was evil at one point, but is now The Atoner (hence why he was put in charge), and the other characters are surprised that he does a good job.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • In the first novel, For the Emperor, Kasteen, Brocklaw, and the rest of the 296/301st imagine and fear that Ciaphas is going to be the typical tyrannical Commissar (with the mass executions and the like). They quickly take to him when they realise that he isn't.
    • Cain tries to avoid the martinet stereotype so common across the galaxy when sent to a new regiment, as they tend to die heroic deaths unusually far away from the enemy. The only time he's seen executing his own men is a Mercy Kill after they're implanted by genestealers.
  • Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. While the Voldemort takeover of the magical world leads to a harsh regime (for the non-Slytherins, at least), the fact that muggleborns and “blood traitors” are there at all suggests he was able to protect them somewhat. Dumbledore actually made Snape promise to be this before his death.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet series, once the naval forces get over their reaction to John Geary as the King in the Mountain they start to resent the changes he makes, from forcing them to act less Mildly Military to making them fight in formation and stay in place even when they could win glory by attacking. At one point, he explicitly thinks that they thought that Black Jack could come back and save them all without changing anything. But eventually, after a couple of remarkably one-sided victories, the fleet comes around to Geary's way of thinking.
  • Serge Storms: In Shark Skin Suite, Judge Kennesaw Montgomery Boone is introduced as a rabidly pro-corporate judge and the last person Crusading Lawyers Brook and Shelby want presiding over their case against corrupt bankers. However, their brilliance, the blatant stupidity and criminality of the other side, and some of Serge's trivia gradually win Boone over into an extremely Reasonable Authority Figure who enjoys watching the collapse of the corrupt defense team.
  • In Warbreaker, God-King Susebron turns out to not only be not a bad guy, but he's also not even in charge. When he takes charge, he turns out to be the Big Good, if anything.

    Video Games 
  • Arc Rise Fantasia: Very downplayed, but Prince Weiss can count as this. He first shows up as The Evil Prince, eager for world domination and not above killing his opposition. Turns out, he is actually the good option! He triggered a genocide against a religious group, but said group was intending to cause the end of the world, even if unknowingly, he was never tyrannical against his own people, different than what Alf did when he rose to the throne. He also never harmed anyone in his own family, he loved his mother dearly and his attempt to save her causes others to curse him and his father, and despite the theories on the country, his father genuinely committed suicide, much against Weiss' will, he even attempts a peace treaty to end the war and join forces against the evil gods, but is killed by his brother by attempting that. He was extremely pragmatic and definitely crossed the Moral Event Horizon at some point, but he was never as evil as he initially seemed.
  • Bhelen from Dragon Age: Origins qualifies for this trope, at least to a degree. Bhelen's rise to power is typical of The Evil Prince: in the Dwarf Noble origin, he successfully arranges to have one sibling killed and the other sent off to the Deep Roads. When his father dies from grief, Bhelen attempts to bring the Assembly in line with blackmail and fraud. If actually put on the throne, he extends greater freedom to the casteless and opens Orzammar up to trade. He isn't completely benevolent, however: his first act as king is to eliminate all of his political rivals, including having one entire house (potentially dozens of people) killed off for opposing him. Most of his opponents oppose him more as a threat to their horrible and self-destructive traditions more than anything; for example, his intention to marry his casteless lover (the Dwarf commoner's sister no less) is used against him as political propaganda.
  • Logan from Fable III qualifies for this. After you spend a significant portion of the game preparing to revolt against his tyranny, you find out that he did what he did in an attempt to protect Albion from the attack of the Crawler. While this still does not make him a good guy by any means, it makes his actions far more understandable.
  • Bug Fables has Queen Elizant II. It's made clear from the beginning of the game that she is not a very popular ruler, with even main party member Leif openly disliking her. Her actions also don't paint her in a good light as she has strained her kingdom's relationships with its allies. Her appearance also doesn't paint her in a good light, with her White Mask of Doom and stern tone. Even her castle's music doesn't paint her in a good light. She's actually a Red Herring for the game's true Big Bad, the Wasp King and once he manages to steal the artifacts to the Everlasting Sapling, her façade cracks, revealing that she is actually a heroic queen who just wants to keep her kingdom safe.
  • Wandersong has the Baron who runs the factory in Chismest. The game builds him up to be a Bad Boss, but once the Bard meets him, he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment when he realizes he's done more harm than good for Chismest, and he shuts down the factory for good.
  • The New Order: Last Days of Europe:
    • Before its release, the demos had hyped up a man known only as The Father, a mysterious minister who unites the tribes of northern Siberia under a religious regime. Before the full game came out, fans expected the worst from The Father, and predicted that he would be a Sinister Minister leading either a Russian Orthodox version of ISIS or perhaps something even worse. In the full game, however, it turned out that The Father is Alexander Men, a real-life Good Shepherd whose "Divine Mandate of Siberia" is a beacon of egalitarianism and religious tolerance in the post-apocalyptic Russian wasteland, and him reuniting Russia is considered one of the best possible endings.
    • In the United States, it's possible to play a George Wallace Presidency this way. He gets elected on a segregationist platform supported by reactionaries in the Deep South, and while it's possible to play him as exactly the racist he ran as, the player can choose not to take action to repeal the Civil Rights Act while also passing significant welfare reforms. Doing this can surprise many liberals, and even Wallace himself, whose views on race start to soften as a result. Unfortunately, his segregationist supporters will also be surprised by this turn of events, and doing nothing to oppose civil rights can cause them to turn against him and radicalize, rallying around the outright Nazi Francis Parker Yockey.
    • Inverted by Igor Shafarevich of Komi, a mathematician turned conservative politician whose ideology is classified as Conservative Democracy. He seems like the most moderate leader in Komi's right-wing Passionaryy assembly in terms of ideological classifications, especially with the alternatives, Lev Gumilyov's Eurasian State (a highly stratified, anti-modernist regime that wants to revive traditional "Eurasian" culture and paganism), Sergey Taboritsky's Holy Russian Empire (a clerical fascist regime initially that turns out to be something even worse), and Ivan Serov's National Soviet Republic (a Commie Nazi regime), all being more Obviously Evil. Once he actually cements his power and sets out to reunify Russia, however, Shafarevich makes it clear that his support for democracy was all a sham, as his Russian Free Republic is actually a theocratic nationalist dictatorship with only a thin veneer of popular rule.
    • Albert Speer in Germany is another inversion. Compared to the doctrinaire conservative Martin Bormann, the reactionary warmonger Hermann Göring, and the fanatical SS chief Reinhard Heydrich, Speer is seemingly the most benevolent of the four candidates to succeed Adolf Hitler, a reformer who realizes that the Nazi system is both morally bankrupt and falling apart at the seams and has built a coalition of liberal dissidents, disaffected students, and moderate NSDAP bureaucrats. However, anybody who knows the first thing about the real-life Speer, specifically how he whitewashed his reputation after World War II in order to portray himself as an apolitical technocrat who knew nothing of the Nazis' worst excesses (in truth, he exploited slave labor in the concentration camps to achieve the Nazis' "production miracle"), can probably figure out that Speer's opposition to Nazism is hollow. When he takes power, he only "reforms" Nazi Germany in the sense of fixing the most self-defeating elements of its economic and colonial systems and applying only thin, surface-level changes to its politics and culture that leave the authoritarianism of the system mostly intact, in a manner comparable to the real-life Deng Xiaoping's leadership of China. Genuine reform only comes if he gets sidelined by a clique of liberal advisors called the "Gang of Four" who actually do start dismantling Nazism and transitioning the Reich into a democratic state, against his wishes. Some have described his path as the worst one for Germany, Europe, and the world, as while Bormann condemns the Reich to a slow death by stagnation and both Göring and Heydrich cause it to go down in flames, Speer can build a more sustainable "thousand-year Reich" that probably will actually last a thousand years and stands a good chance of winning the Cold War.

  • Schlock Mercenary: LOTA invokes the trope hard even before LOTA officially becomes the "tyrant" in question: first by arranging for a general election for King of Credomar (promising to step aside if LOTA is not elected), and then securing a majority vote by fairly distributing the food the Toughs were meant to deliver. And just in case anyone would try to hire the Toughs to get rid of LOTA, LOTA's first decree is that all the lawsuits against them are to be dropped. LOTA wins the election by an 83% landslide and brings order and peace to Credomar, which until then had been a cesspool of anarchy and idiocy.
    Frank Hannibal: We'll vote you down, LOTA. We'll expose you for the tyrant you are.
    LOTA: In which case LOTA shall leave peacefully. But the voters shall all have full bellies.
  • In Tales of the Questor, Elder merchant Gilder begins as a bad tempered and seemingly petty leader — but was revealed later to be a character sincerely looking out for the best interests of his home village.
    • To a lesser degree, the local merchant is a grasping opportunist selling questionable goods with a unrepentant smile, but when he pulls Quentyn over for a chat, he has some honestly good advice about how the hero should bargain for the items he is undertaking his grand quest for. Mind you, he's doing this to sell a ton of cheap magic items as "trade goods," but Quentyn concedes his general counsel is on the money.
    • The first we hear of the Duke of Fenwyck is that the peasants were hoping he was less of a tyrant than the old Duke when he lowered their taxes, but then he turned around and seized all their livestock. However, shortly after Quentyn actually meets him he discovers that the Duke is being extorted by an Unseleighe Prince who has been threatening to call The Wild Hunt for the better part of a century, and thanks to the new Duke cancelling his father's "excessive" taxes he can't pay.
  • Norma, the new manager of the titular Multiplex, turns out to be less unsympathetic than she originally comes across.

    Web Original 
  • Turns out to be the case with The Nostalgia Critic in the Chick's Transformers-Bratz arc. He tranquilizes her and locks her in his basement to make her watch the latter movie, but it transpires that he just wanted her to be proud of herself for being able to sit through it. Aww? Aww.

    Western Animation 
  • In Max Steel and the Mutant Menace, Faron Ferro, Jefferson Smith's replacement as Max's boss, begins as an aggressive control freak whose attitude collides with Max's free spirit, but they get along after having some words during a training session.
  • In the Anniversary (and final) episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Mojo Jojo finally manages to Take Over the World, and immediately makes it a better place... only to ruin it purely out of boredom.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the Bible stories episode, David (Bart) kills Goliath II (Nelson) but his triumph is short-lived when it turns out the people really liked Goliath, who built schools and roads. David is arrested.
    • Played with in an episode where Homer takes over the power plant.
      Homer: Mr. Burns' reign of terror is over! Now begins MY reign of terr...
      The crowd gasps
      Homer: ...riffic management!
      Carl: I thought he was gonna say terror.
      Lenny: Nah, I didn't think he was going that way.
    • On two separate occasions when Springfield Elementary has faced a staffing issue, a terrifying, intense man named "Leopold" has stomped forward to hiss threats at the kids... and then warmly introduce the least threatening replacement imaginable.
      "All right, you little punks. Pick up your freakin' ears... because I'm only going to say this once. From now on, things are gonna be very, very different around here — with your new principal, Ned Flanders!" ("Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song")
      "All right, you listen up, you little FREAKS. The fun stops here. You are gonna SHUT your stinkin' traps and behave, DAMMIT! This is one substitute you're not gonna SCREWWWW WITH!! ...Marge Simpson!" ("The PTA Disbands")
  • In Green Lantern: The Animated Series episode "Steam Lantern", Hal is knocked into a universe where the Anti-Monitor has destroyed all but one world which is ruled by a man who appears to be a stereotypical Evil Overlord. At the end of the episode, it's revealed the guy wasn't trying to be evil, he was trying to protect the people of the world and his robots had gone overboard in their duties. He realizes his mistake in the end, shuts down his robots, and helps bring his world into Hal's universe.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Coach", Coach Russo appeared to be a Drill Sergeant Nasty, exhausting everyone in class, possibly making up for her accomplishments and overly favoring Jamie. However, halfway into the episode she stops Jamie from bullying Gumball and manages to make her apologize, to everyone's astonishment. After that point, she's treated as a regular gym coach and not a tyrannical Evil Teacher.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Gauntlet of Fire", after Torch admits that his daughter, Ember, will make a good Dragon Lord, Ember turns to the dragons watching them and shouts "AGREE WITH HIM!", causing all the dragons to look at each other in shock and confusion. Ember quickly clarifies to them she's just kidding and isn't going to make that her thing like Torch did. Torch lets out a loud laugh at the display.
  • Kamp Koral: Zigzagged in "Deep Sea Despot". A delirious Mr. Krabs appoints Squidward the temporary camp master. The other campers insult Squidward and wreck the camp, until they are forced to relent and ask for his leadership. Squidward orders them around and they fix up the camp in a day, making it better than ever, and everyone thinks his leadership might not be bad after all... but the next day, he takes so much pleasure in having proved them wrong that he submits them to grueling work just to serve himself.

    Real Life 
  • This happens in real life, too. Managers are often under a lot of pressure from their superiors to prove themselves when they first start a new assignment, plus a little bit of performance anxiety with an untested group of underlings they've never met before can make "by the book" pretty appealing. As they become more comfortable with the job and the people around them they loosen up because then they know what to expect and who they are working with. As a matter of fact, many people get concerned when a manager seems too nice on the first day as this might mean A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Peisistratos was an Athenian tyrant after Solon, but only a tyrant in so much as he seized power by force, then becoming a benevolent ruler. Of course, Ancient Greece did not automatically assume the tyrannos to be a malevolent ruler.
  • Frequently a deliberately invoked technique for leaders who find themselves in a new position. It's often better to start out strict and ease off over time, than it is to start off easygoing and try to tighten things up later. In the former case, subordinates appreciate the newfound liberties (while still knowing that things can go back to the less pleasant ways if necessary) while in the latter case, subordinates will just resent someone who "used to be cool". This can backfire, however, if the new leader tries to change things too drastically and rapidly after replacing a more laid-back (and well-liked) predecessor.

Alternative Title(s): Bait And Switch Umbridge