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Beleaguered Childhood Friend

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Someone enters the door of the law office — it's a childhood friend, and he's accused of murder. The childhood friend goes out to dinner with the protagonist, and they think back to the good ol' days when they used to chase girls, play on the slip and slide, and smoke out in the tree house together.

The main character is determined not to let his Childhood Friend take the fall, and does everything in his power to help out the Friend (usually, in law shows, with the help of Unconventional Courtroom Tactics). Usually he succeeds.

Almost invariably, the main character discovers that the Childhood Friend is guilty as sin and/or off his rocker, leading the protagonist to wonder how their paths could have diverged so much, and lead to Post-Support Regret.

Not to be confused with Patient Childhood Love Interest or the "Unlucky Childhood Friend" subset of Childhood Friend Romances, which is about a childhood friend falling in love with the oblivious hero. Nor should it be confused with Big Bad Friend, who is still guilty and even actively evil... they just have their life together. Finally, not to be confused with I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine, although the two can overlap if the friend is played by a former colleague of one of the cast.

Subtrope of Childhood Friends. Compare with Broken Pedestal.


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  • Knight Hunters provides a variant with an assassin instead of a lawyer: not only is target Koichiro Kase 100% guilty of the crime of the week, he's also 100% guilty for the gambling scandal that ruined Ken's soccer career and attempted to burn him to death. And shot him. Kase is a really, really bad friend.

  • Messala from Ben-Hur (1959) is a classic example of this. He's Judah's childhood friend, just returned to the area, and even appears to have a thing for Judah's sister. Then he betrays them all. He's not beleaguered, he was gone for a while, but he's come back to town as a tribune. He wants Judah to help him, but he's not in trouble himself.
  • Twisted in The Fugitive, the protagonist Dr. Kimble is the Beleaguered Childhood Friend. It turns out Dr. Charles Nichols, the "stable fiend" was somewhat of a Broken Pedestal.
  • Spiral (2007) has Mason playing this role to Berkeley. They were close childhood friends when Mason's father killed his mother and Berkeley has since done all he can to support Mason despite how Mason is becoming increasingly unhinged.
  • In The Third Man, Holly Martins spends most of the film trying to prove his dead friend's innocence of the bad name he garnered selling diluted penicillin in post WWII Vienna, only to discover at the end that his friend (still alive after faking his death), did actually sell the bad drugs to make a profit.

  • In the O. Henry story After Twenty Years, two friends meeting for the first time after twenty years apart are a policeman and a criminal. The police officer, not recognized by his friend, gets a plainclothes detective to pose as him and apprehend the criminal since he can't bear to do it himself.
  • Subverted in The Dresden Files when Elaine Mallory reenters Harry's life and asks for help unraveling a faerie fracas. She appears to betray him, but leaves him a way out only he would know, allowing him to save the world just in the nick of time.
  • In Guards! Guards!, Vimes's childhood friend, (or at least fellow member of the street gang the Cockbill Street Roaring Lads) Lupin Wonse gets seriously beleaguered when he becomes the personal assistant to a dragon. Vimes realizes that he summoned the damn thing in the first place. Of course, he wasn't a friend so much as the guy him and his friends picked on. He had implicitly been Vimes' Obstructive Bureaucrat rival for a while and didn't really come to him for help at any point.
  • In The Regeneration Trilogy, Prior becomes a double agent of sorts—he's working for the Ministry of Munitions during World War I to apprehend pacifists, while trying to shelter a family of pacifists he had known as a child. His unique position looks like it could be very useful for helping his friends, and even getting one of them out of jail. It doesn't end well.
  • Novelist Greg Iles' Turning Angel used this to bring the main character into the plot of the story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in the Babylon 5 episode "Knives", in which an old friend of Londo's comes seeking aid as he is about to be (falsely) declared a traitor to the Centauri Republic. In truth, he wants Londo to kill him in a ritualistic duel which requires the victor to adopt the loser's family into his own, since a conviction of treason would result in execution and the confiscation of everything the convict owns, leaving any surviving family destitute.
  • An episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Lie to Me", involves an old friend of Buffy's named Ford offering Buffy up as a trade to Spike for Ford's becoming a vampire. There's an attempt by Ford to make Buffy understand why he was doing this (he was dying of cancer), but Buffy explains to him that it doesn't make what he's trying to do right. She does try to convince him to save himself (and the others he was bringing with him) but he doesn't listen.
  • This starts the plot of Chuck, with the twist that Chuck isn't particularly fond of his former roommate and friend for a very good reason. Subverted when it turns out that Bryce has had Chuck's best interest in mind all along.
  • Not childhood, but this happens a number of times on Highlander whereby an old immortal friend of Duncan's shows up, reminisces some, and then turns out to have either gone bad since Duncan last saw them or to have always been a little bit rotten after all.
  • Not quite childhood friends, but you can pretty much lay money on the fact that every time an old friend of one of main characters in Law & Order or its spin-offs shows up, they'll be involved in the crime of the week and guilty as sin.
  • Reversed in an episode of Lost: it's Kate, not her friend, who is in trouble with the law. Also, she visits her friend (a doctor) to help her with her mother's illness rather than her legal trouble.
  • Miami Vice: On many occasions, the detectives are approached by an old friend who has gotten themselves in trouble. Often the trouble involves illegal activities on the friend's part. It usually ends badly.
  • One episode of Midsomer Murders ends with Jones discovers not only that his ex-cop friend was guilty, but that he'd committed murder when he was ten (or so he thought).
  • An episode of The Orville has Gordon reunite with Orrin, an old friend from his academy days. However, Orrin has just escaped from Krill custody at a time when the Union is trying to align with them against the Kaylon, putting Gordon at a great dilemma of whether to help the man who saved his life long ago flee, or turn him in for the current greater good.
  • In the Pie in the Sky episode "In the Smoke", Henry Crabbe and Nick Spencer were friends as rookie policemen, then their paths diverged. Henry helps Nick out when he gets in a jam, and there's some philosophizing about the different paths their lives have taken.
  • The Pinkertons episode "The Sweet Science" plays this completely straight with detective Kate Warne and her childhood friend Henry Fox, who's now a crooked pugilist.
  • In an episode of Power Rangers S.P.D., Sky's best friend from years ago, Dru, shows up unexpectedly after having been Missing in Action. Sky is elated to see him, and it seems as though Syd and Z are smitten with him. However, Jack doesn't trust him, and Sky himself admits that Dru's story doesn't quite check out, but he continues to ignore his suspicions until Dru attempts to assassinate Commander Cruger. Even then, Sky is reluctant to accept the truth and tries to persuade Dru to get help until Dru shoots him.
  • The Practice has at least one such episode (usually a 2-3 parter) per season.
  • Presented as a hypothetical situation in Seinfeld. George says that Jerry is such a good friend, that he wouldn't turn him in if he killed somebody. When asked if he'd turn Jerry in, Kramer says he would. Jerry can't believe Kramer would turn him in, but Kramer throws it back at him saying he didn't think Jerry would go around murdering people, and would he be next?
  • Various Star Trek series also would have a fellow from the Starfleet Academy (often an old buddy of the captain's) come in and need desperate help.
  • In Third Watch, this character type was subverted slightly, as Bobby's drug addicted best friend ended up shooting him (Bobby) dead despite Bobby's efforts to help him.
  • An old war comrade of Leo McGarry's turns out to be one of these in The West Wing, and a friend of Toby's comes in asking for whistleblower protection when what he really wants/needs is immunity.

    Video Games 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, your party comes across an old and strongly respected friend of Jolee Bindo (the mentor of the party), who has been accused of murder and asks for your aid in clearing his name. In a twist, he's guilty but ostensibly on your side (his victim was a spy for the enemy faction) presenting the player with a nice moral dilemma in a game where the dark side seems to be almost all random pointless thuggery otherwise.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
      • In the first case, Wright's old friend Larry Butz is the defendant, although in this case the childhood friend really is innocent.
      • Later, Edgeworth, who was also Phoenix's childhood friend, has become cold and dedicated to always getting a guilty verdict in his prosecution. Wright ends up defending him, as well. In this case, Edgeworth really is innocent too, of both crimes, even though he himself thought he was guilty of the second one.
    • In the Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth series, Edgeworth ends up defending Larry twice. The first time, he's the initial suspect in the killing of Mask De Masque II, because he tried sneaking through the chimney, and the second time, in the second game, he's the first suspect in the present section of the third case.

    Web Original 
  • In Season 1 of Within the Wires, the beleaguered friend is the unwilling patient of a research hospital, trapped and struggling to find a way out while listening to its mandatory curriculum of "Relaxation Cassettes." By the time "Cassette #4: Sadness, Lungs" is received, the patient rediscovers a childhood companion who offers further aid in escaping the Cassettes' Narrator herself, who reveals that she's offering this help purely because of remembering their prior relationship.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer immediately sets out to find (and exonerate) his childhood friend Lucas Troy after Troy is accused of treason. Turns out Archer is Wrong Genre Savvy and Troy did commit the crimes so he could have enough money to elope with Archer.