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Betrayal Tropes

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"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"
Wash, Firefly

How characters betray each other's trust. Usually a Plot Twist of some kind, except when it isn't.

Contrast A Trusting Index and Loyalty Tropes.

Of course, beware of spoilers in these tropes.


  • Assassins Are Always Betrayed: Professional killers are always at risk of being double-crossed by their employers.
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  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: The Alpha Bitch is betrayed by one of her Girl Posse.
  • Bastard Understudy: A villain's underling biding their time until they can betray the villain.
  • Because You Can Cope: A character abandons someone they're charged with taking care of when it becomes clear that the charge doesn't need them anymore.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: Leaving someone to suffer or die instead of helping them.
  • Betrayal by Offspring: A parent is betrayed by one of their children.
  • Betrayal Fic: A fanfic about betrayal.
  • Betrayal Insurance: A character makes plans against someone in case that person decides to turn on them.
  • Big Bad Friend: The hero's friend turns out to be the main villain.
  • Black Shirt: Someone who secretly wishes for the enemy to win so they can side with them.
  • Board to Death: A business meeting set up to betray and kill the invitees.
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  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Someone gets betrayed by the person who was supposed to be protecting them.
  • Broken Pedestal: Someone finds out that the person they idolized wasn't quite as heroic and noble as they thought they were.
  • Category Traitor: Someone gets accused of betrayal for liking something that goes against their culture.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: The Cavalry has arrived! Wait...why are they shooting us instead of helping us?!
  • Cavalry Refusal: Your supposed rescue party isn't interested in saving you.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: A character who always stabs everyone they help out in the back.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Characters or governments who collaborate with an occupying power against their people.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Character betrays the heroes due to coercion by a hostile power who has someone they love in their power.
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  • Conflicting Loyalty: A character must choose between two sides that they're on.
  • The Corruptible: A character under the sway of The Corrupter or otherwise in danger of betraying their side.
  • Dangerous Deserter: A military deserter gone renegade and evil.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: A character impersonates a beloved dead member of another group.
  • Deceptive Disciple: A student who seeks to betray their master.
  • Deceptive Legacy: A kid is lied to about an absent parent.
  • Defecting for Love: A character switches sides due to falling in love with someone of the other camp.
  • Defector from Decadence: Someone leaves behind a group they're a part of out of disgust at their bad ways.
  • Devour the Dragon: The Big Bad kills his top minion to get stronger.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: The villains disguise innocent hostages as their minions in hopes of getting them killed by their would-be rescuers.
  • The Dog Bites Back: A being who's been abused and tormented gets even with the people who were picking on them.
  • Double Agent: A member of an organization who is secretly a mole working for an opposing organization.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: A person is betrayed by the one they trusted most.
  • Evil Former Friend: The villain used to be friends with the hero.
  • Face–Heel Turn: A good guy becomes evil.
  • False Friend: They were only pretending to be your friend so they could manipulate you into advancing their scheme.
  • False Innocence Trick: A villain feigns innocence in order to set up the heroes for something nasty.
  • Failure-to-Save Murder: When a character blames a hero for letting someone die, when that hero did everything in their power to save them.
  • Fake Defector: A good guy pretends to change sides to pull one over the enemy.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Helping out a villain is rewarded with the villain doing the person who helped them wrong.
  • Finding Judas: Betrayal for benevolent reasons by a non-villain.
  • Going Native: Finding more in common with another group than your own, sometimes to the point of betrayal.
  • Gold Fever: Greed for riches drives you to betray your friends.
  • The Heretic: A character who betrays their religion, or whose beliefs are seen as a betrayal by their religion.
  • Heroic Team Revolt: The hero's True Companions turn against them and leave due to the hero's very unheroic and immoral behavior.
  • I Can Rule Alone: One half of a Duumvirate decides to backstab the other half in order to take full power for themselves.
  • Inside Job: A crime is committed or assisted by someone affiliated with the target.
  • Insidious Rumor Mill: A character lies or manipulates the friends, family members, and colleagues they share with someone they're in conflict with to turn their backs on that person.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Pretending to surrender so you can strike when the enemy has lowered their guard.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: A villain hurts someone a person cares about in order to punish them for something they did.
  • Inevitable Mutual Betrayal: Two sides form an alliance with the explicit intent of betraying each other when it's done.
  • Instant Allegiance Artifact: A piece of Applied Phlebotinum that alters one's mind and can make someone change sides.
  • In the Back: The best place to stab or shoot someone if you're a cowardly and treacherous bastard.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: The heroes leave a pistol with one round to a betrayer with the intention of having them shoot themselves.
  • Love-Interest Traitor: Surprise! Someone you thought you could love is working for the other side!
  • Love Makes You Evil: Love can be an ugly thing that can bring out someone's worst, sometimes to the point of betrayal.
  • Lovable Traitor: A character with a likeable personality and a penchant for stabbing folks in the back.
  • Lured into a Trap: Someone, sometimes someone who is normally someone's friend, betrays them by leading them into a trap by people who mean the person harm.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Crossing your fingers behind your back when taking an oath to show that you're lying.
  • Mistaken for Betrayal: Something happens to cause a rift between two friends and make them believe that one has betrayed the other.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The bad guy mistreats his minions and his underlings repay his abuse by turning on him.
  • The Mole: A cover agent who infiltrates the opposing organization by pretending to be on their side.
  • The Mutiny: Insurrection aboard a ship against the ship's captain or commander.
    • Anti-Mutiny: Insurrection against a captain or a commander who has chosen to defy their original orders.
  • Nasty Party: A "party" intended to get people together for betrayal and elimination.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Criminals are willing to betray each other if it suits them.
  • Not Actually His Child: A father learns that the kid he's been raising isn't biologically his, and he's been cuckolded.
  • The Oathbreaker: Breaking an oath is one of the most basic forms of betrayal.
  • Obvious Judas: YMMV trope where it's painfully obvious to the audience that a character will betray the rest.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: The "big figure" of the good guys suddenly decides to rebel for some reason.
  • Parental Betrayal: When a parent (a mother or father) betrays their own offspring.
  • Personal Horror: The one thing worse than being betrayed by others is betraying yourself and your sense of who you are.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: When a messenger is sent to someone with a message instructing the receiver to kill them.
  • Popularity Cycle: Enjoy being popular. You're inevitably going to lose it.
  • Post-Support Regret: A character is betrayed by someone they cared and vouched for against people who talked badly about them, making them regret defending and believing in them.
  • Prisoner's Dilemma: Do you cooperate, stay silent and hope your partner doesn't betray you, or do you rat them out and hope they don't do the same to you?
  • Properly Paranoid: Sometimes, something is out to get you.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: The villain used to be a student of the hero.
  • Pushed at the Monster: I don't have to outrun the monster. I just have to outrun you.
  • The Quisling: Someone decides to pledge allegiance to an invading force, selling out their own country or world.
  • Rash Equilibrium: A meeting between enemies has both sides making plans against the other in response to trickery from the other side.
  • Real Stitches for Fake Snitches: Someone who keeps their mouth shut can still be punished if they're framed for ratting out their side.
  • Rebellious Rebel: Rebelling against a group of rebels.
  • Regretful Traitor: A traitor who finds that backstabbing their friends wasn't worth it after all.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: An evil, crazy or fanatical offshoot of a more respectable organization, often viewed as traitors by the other organization.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: Outside forces restrict a rescue operation, often in ways that force heroes to act against their own morality.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Someone gets punished for betraying someone other than the punisher.
  • Shoot the Builder: When the villain has those who built their lair disposed of to prevent any secrets from getting out.
  • Shoot the Dangerous Minion: A villain's minion is getting too dangerous for his own good! Better get rid of them before they start getting ideas...
  • The Smart One Turns Traitor: The smartest or wisest of a team turns out to be or ends up becoming a traitor to their group and their cause.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: The newest member of the team turns out to secretly be a villain intent on destroying the group from within.
  • Social Deduction Game: A game where one or more players is secretly a traitor.
  • The Starscream: An underling of the main villain who plans to overthrow their boss.
  • Stealing the Credit: A character betrays someone by taking all the credit for their accomplishments.
  • The Stool Pigeon: A character who rats other people out.
  • Subverted Suspicion Aesop: Someone believes a character claiming to be good or reformed to be untrustworthy. After it looks like they're just being paranoid, their suspicions of the other person really being evil become validated.
  • Team Killer: A character who kills people on their own side or team.
  • Traitor Shot: A close-up of a character that is meant to draw suspicion upon the character.
  • Transhuman Treachery: A character who becomes something other than human abandons and seeks to prey upon their former species.
  • Treacherous Advisor: A mentor or other important character betrays the one they're teaching or looking out for.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: A character giving you a mission has ulterior motives for the mission and turns on you either during or after the mission.
  • Treachery Cover Up: A treacherous deed needs to be covered up, for the perceived greater good.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Betrayal is treated as worse than any other evil thing a villain has done.
  • Trouble Magnet Gambit: A character betrays someone by planting something on them that will get the other person in deep trouble.
  • Turncoat: A character that switches sides in order to help out the other side.
  • Undercover When Alone: A character keeps up their cover even when there is no one to see them.
  • Unfriendly Fire: A character "frags" someone on their own side of the conflict.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Someone is being manipulated all along and doesn't know it.
  • Uriah Gambit: A subordinate is sent on a mission meant to get rid of them.
  • The Usurper: A character who takes a position of power (such as a ruler) away from its legitimate holder.
  • Vichy Earth: Aliens rule humanity instead of exterminating us, complete with Les Collaborateurs among the human side.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Someone finds out that they have been lied to by a loved one and ponders whether the fabrication means that everything concerning their relationship with this person was insincere.
    • Becoming the Mask: What was intended to be the cover of the mole ends up becoming how they really are.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: A character who once betrayed the group is welcomed back with open arms.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Bitter rivals used to be the best of friends.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Manipulating people by pretending that someone hurt you.
    • Police Brutality Gambit: A suspect in police custody seeks to make people think the police brutalized them in order to make them drop charges and/or get back at them.
  • Wrong Side All Along: It turns out the heroes were unwittingly helping the bad guys.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: The villain is called out for going ahead with hurting people they promised wouldn't be harmed.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The villain kills a subordinate after they've successfully done what they were ordered to do.

Alternative Title(s): Treachery Tropes


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