Cartesian Karma are consequences a character has to face for actions they technically committed despite not being in full control of their body at the time.
So your characters were previously brainwashed, betrayed the heroes, went on their own sort of rampage and needed saving to return to their ideals. Luckily, the good guys manage to accomplish this through laborious amounts of screaming, fighting them, and friendship power. And now that character is back to normal, yay! Everything should be all strawberries and hotcakes, right? I mean, they've clearly come to their senses and are back on the right of things.
Well unfortunately not always. There are some possible problems with characters regaining their focus that, should they occur, need to be faced.
Simple problems might be that relationships are strained, as other people might not be quite so eager to forget the character's actions off the bat. A brainwashed character who commits actions that would have crossed the Moral Event Horizon had they been freely chosen obviously won't be as easily redeemed, even with the all-forgiving power of friendship. More problematic is that the characters aren't completely back to normal, and traits from their former self may still linger on even after they've overcome their vices. Can this get any worse? It can.
The most problematic issue becomes when a character essentially has to live up to their actions and face the music, thus being dealt Cartesian Karma. After all, sure it's great that they're not trying to eat your soul, kick puppies, or burn down that orphanage any more, so what's the deal?
Tragically in failing that, they still managed to kick a few kittens, and rob the local grocery market. And law enforcement isn't exactly ready to take 'I was brainwashed by a Super-villain/mind-virus' as a valid legal alibi. Also anybody 'normal' seeing you in your altered state might be equally hard to work out, especially if it's not something you could explain without telling too much. The consequences of one's actions simply don't vanish when the mentality causing them does, so even mind-controlled characters have to face some sort of retribution, like it or not. Except when they don't.
What's more, who's to say you were just eating children and playing hopscotch during your brainwashed-existence, and won't have to face any serious danger or genetic experiments? Any damage sustained, bodily changes or physical alterations aren't going to go away just because you've come to your senses. Those are going to have to be faced as well. If the your brainwashed self ate a few too many donuts in the baddies hideout, back-to-normal you is simply going to have to live with his/her sustained diabetes.
Can lead to My God, What Have I Done? moments, even Out, Damned Spot! if the character feels perpetually guilty by their previous actions upon being dealt Karma. A heroic or moral enough character, if determined and truly guilty, will probably try to reconcile with their past actions in order to fix their record and deal with the situation.
Sometimes the narrative itself sees fit to affix responsibility on the character, when the party responsible for the brainwashing should be called out instead.
- Tacitly averted in Zatch Bell! with Koko who was sadistically brainwashed, but is later rescued by Sherry and restored back to her original, kind innocent state. It's a good thing she's not a wanted criminal now or anything and can happily go to college too, especially after (publicly) razing most of her town and kidnapping dozens of people. It would have to be inferred that her savior Sherry has some pretty good connections.
- In the final chapters where the final battle for King is had, it's mentioned that damage to the land and possibly the people is undone (the one communicating would be the book). Considering how the battle for Mamodo King is called the God's Trial, this would explain why a lot of calamities and such were undone.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Possibly subverted when one of the side characters gets kidnapped by the ants, brainwashed and altered to be one of them. She's eventually comes to her senses, and as Killua points out, her entrusted one Gon is not one to judge, and it helps the Hunter organization itself isn't one to persecute her just because she's now a chimera ant.
- His teacher and role-model Kaito, who is made into a living rag doll for the ants to manipulate that Gon desperately wishes to bring back. The realization that he can't do so, and Kaito truly is 'dead' is what pushes Gon into a Deadly Upgrade.
- Fairy Tail: Jellal is back on the side of the angels after his stint trying to resurrect Zeref with the Tower of Heaven (which he was brainwashed into by Ultear pretending to be Zeref), but the Magic Council (as well as several others he wronged during this time) are not buying it.
- Constantly in Valvrave the Liberator.
- Particularly with Haruto. As the pilot of Unit 1, he sometimes gets possessed by a sort of monster impulse that makes him attack his friends. What happens can range from biting someone and inadvertently body-jacking them, to, well, the incident that the series is infamous for towards the end of season 1. Notable/played with in that most of the retribution for these things comes from his own guilt and fear that he's a monster.
- This is also the case with L-elf, who was body-jacked by Haruto in the beginning - Haruto in his body shot L-elf's friend in the eye and betrayed L-elf's team. Since his teammates don't know about the body-jacking until the end, they blame L-elf for it and wonder what could have made such a loyal soldier turn traitor. He manages to use the situation to his advantage, helping the Ordinary High-School Student JIORans form a decent enough military to defend their town, but you can see the sadness in his eyes throughout...
- In Tales from Earthsea, Arren murders his father, the king of Enlad, at the start of the film and steals his Magic Sword. Later, it is revealed that Lord Cob has been controlling him. Even though he is freed from Cob's influence, Arren decides to go home to answer for the murder.
- After Jean Gray has been brought back from the The Dark Side in The Dark Phoenix Saga, she's found guilty of genocide and sentenced to death by the Shi'ar empire, despite the empress' romantic relationship with Charles Xavier. Unfortunately for everyone, fighting for her life reawakens Marvel Girl's Dark Phoenix side.
- Her beau Cyclops faces similar problems being imprisoned after he took over the world and killed Charles Xavier while under the Phoenix's influence.
- In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Cyclonus is infamous among the crew of the Lost Light for having fought for Galvatron during the war, and was involved in several atrocities. Most Autobots consider him basically a Decepticon, despite the fact that he is technically unaligned (the purple paint job can't help). In fact, Cyclonus was under the influence of The Darkness when this occurred, and thus unable to resist Galvatron's commands. He seems to not make too much of issue of it however, not caring about the Autobots' approval.
- Thorgal: Thorgal is imprisoned by his wife Aaricia, who refuses to acknowledge him as her husband after he returns from his amnesiac stint as the pirate lord Shaigan the Merciless (which was pushed by Kriss de Valnor, who wants Thorgal all to herself), during which she and her children were branded and exiled. She only forgives him after he singlehandedly takes out a pirate invasion.
- During the Superior Spider-Man arc, Doctor Octopus controlled Spider-Man's body. After Peter gets his body back, many of his prior relationships are strained, especially that with his former lover, Black Cat, who has made a FaceHeel Turn and doesn't believe or care that it was Octavius in Peter's body when she was attacked.
- In the end of the The Dark Knight, this is played intentionally by the Joker in order to manipulate Dent and get him to commit enough crimes that he "falls" and has all the blame shifted toward him, thus destroying Gotham City's hope in their law enforcement. Batman is able to avert this only by taking the blame for Two-Face's murders himself.
- Captain America: Civil War: Sure, Bucky was under mind-control from HYDRA for all of his career as the Winter Soldier. That hardly means he's off the hook for decades of terrorism and assassinations, forcing him to stay in hiding from the authorities at the start of the movie. Despite his reassurance to Steve that he's no longer doing these kind of things, it's easy for Zemo to cast blame on Bucky for bombing the U.N. building just by wearing a scarf and a prosthetic mask. Only Captain America (and his followers) believe he's innocent, and it's more for emotional than rational reasons. T'Challa doesn't accept the brainwashing argument as an excuse for the death of his father, and pursues Bucky as Black Panther to kill him. Neither does Tony Stark when he finally learns the Winter Soldier is responsible for the murder of his parents. He goes ballistic, and none of Cap's words are enough to calm Iron Man in his attempt to vaporize Bucky.
- The Hangover is about a non-supernatural version of this. The protagonists are a group of guys who throw a monster of a bachelor party in Vegas that they can't remember any of the following morning due to how intoxicated they were,note forcing them to figure out what happened and come face-to-face with all the outrageous things that they did in order to find the missing bachelor and bring him to his wedding.
- The horror-comedy Ava's Possessions is similar, with its protagonist being a young woman who recently endured a Demonic Possession and now has to answer for all the things that the demon made her do, which cost her her job and her friends and may well get her thrown in jail.
- This sort of thing appears to happen a lot in Star Trek. A character is temporarily possessed by a more powerful force or otherwise suborned against their will to perform actions contrary to their own interests or inclinations. But they then carry on in post afterwards with no sanctions once they're free of possession, or can demonstrate that they were not in control of themselves at the time. note The only time this issue appears to have been addressed is when Captain Picard was assimilated into the Borg Collective and is used to co-ordinate their strategy against the Federation. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine opens with a freed Picard ferrying Captain Sisko to his new command. Sisko is one of the very few survivors of the Borg attack that used Picard to plot and lead its strategy. Sisko's command, and his wife, were killed in that offensive. Therefore his attitude to Picard is one of very thinly disguised hostility, loathing and hatred. Picard understands this, realizes this is part of his Cartesian Karma, and allows Sisko to express his deep hostility and bitter resentment.
- Babylon 5: When Michael Garibaldi was brainwashed into betraying Captain Sheridan so he could be turned over to the authorities on Earth, he is declared persona non grata aboard Babylon 5. He ultimately averts this trope by planning and leading Sheridan's rescue himself, with the help of Franklin, Marcus, and the Mars Resistance.
- Dungeons & Dragons will sometimes require characters to receive an Atonement from a cleric even for actions that were performed under magical mind-control, due to trickery, or otherwise involuntarily or unwittingly. However, in such a circumstance, the cleric does not have to make the personal sacrifice of experience points normally required by the Atonement spell.
- The Forgotten Realms have a lot of this.
- Including Laeral Silverhand donning a relic of the local evil death-god and catching a bad case of artifact possession. Of course, as a semidivine being herself, she recovered after the crown was destroyed, but people threw suspicious glances for some time. Eventually this died down to lame taunts about bad luck with headgear from a political opponent, though.
- Elminster Ecologies appendix II is narrated by a rather grumpy druid, so the approach is rather simple, and not quite unreasonable:
Bara: ...moldering ancient spells and magical items of great and obnoxious power. More than once have I come upon some mess caused by adventurers only to have them tell me that they couldn't prevent an incident's occurrence because their mage was "under the control of an ancient and malevolent artifact of evil". If you must come to the High Moor and you must hunt treasure there, be careful. Check things for curses before you pick them up and play with them. Being mind-controlled doesn't give you free rein to come in and muck up the region I protect.
- A subtle one in Starcraft I: the main reason Mengsk abandons Kerrigan to the Zerg is that when she was still a literal Confederate puppet, she was one of the Ghosts responsible for the murder of his father, mother and sister. That she has no memory of it or that she hates the Confederacy for their experiments doesn't matter to him, and ends up causing the plot of Brood War and the next two games when she finally gets her revenge on him.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Nanashi can refuse to unseal the Sealed Evil in a Can, but then the being he made a Deal with the Devil with can force him to do it. Many deaths later, he's called to a hearing for his execution. The Reasonable Authority Figure notes that if he's not always under full control over his body, even if his heart's in the right place, he can't be trusted.
- Done so in Homestuck, to a more general sense.
- After being brainwashed by the Condesce into turning evil, Jade is eventually killed by Aranea, and Paradox Space declares her death just, nullifying her God Tier immortality. It must be noted that Aranea has a hand in that decision, using her abilities as a Sylph of Light to cause a "Lucky 8reak". Shortly after, the same thing happens to Jane, who was also brainwashed; Aranea wasn't directly shown impacting the decision this time, but since her situation was no different from Jade's, it's likely that Aranea's manipul8ion that caused Jade to die simply remained consistent from then on and caused Jane's death, too.
- In Dominic Deegan, Jayden renounced her faith by reciting a Heresy while under mind control and lost her white magic as a result. It takes a while for her magic to return.
- Subverted in Ducktales 2017's penultimate Season 1 episode. While Scrooge initially blames Lena for letting Magica De Spell into his home, he does listen to her reasons (Magica is her aunt and she had no choice) and acknowledges his own role in letting things get that far. He then makes her an offer.
Scrooge: Help me get my family back, and you'll have a place in it.
- Family Guy: Both Mayor Adam West and Meg are apparently unwilling sleeper-agent Russian spies, the former of which has been outed. No consequences of this have come up so far, but it's hard to question it when one ponders how someone as suspicious and incompetent as Mayor Adam could have become Mayor in the first place.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the sole truly evil things Trixie has ever done were while she was under the influence of the Alicorn Amulet, which turned her into a megalomaniac. Otherwise, she's just a rather harmless braggart. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of Ponyville (including Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship herself) were still distrustful of her in her next appearance, No Second Prances, despite the regrets she expressed. Granted, she did go to depths to find the artifact and explicitly use it for revenge, which provides some reason. There's also the fact that she is just plainly not a nice pony. Her magic shows consists of bragging and inviting ponies up for contests, only to humiliate them through trickery and not actual skill. Starlight calls Twilight out on this when she is unsupportive of her befriending Trixie, though as Twilight points out, forgiving her brainwashed antics doesn't excuse Trixie being a Jerkass in her own right.
- The Powerpuff Girls: In "Mime for a Change", after the evil Mister Mime is turned back into Rainbow the Clown, his cheerful song of thanks is interrupted by the Girls beating the snot out of him and Rainbow being taken to jail for all the trouble his alter-ego caused.
- In Young Justice, the Light manages to take control of the Justice League, and sends some of their strongest members through a Boom Tube to an alien planet called Rimbor to wreak havoc for sixteen hours. As a result, Earth suddenly stops being an Insignificant Little Blue Planet and gets a lot of hostile alien attention, especially in light of this whole "superpower" thing. Furthermore, the League members involved feel obligated to go to Rimbor and try to clear their name, which puts the League at a disadvantage against the Light's new plans.
- This can play out in reality when a person is acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity. Many people think this means they got off on a technicality and see it as basically cheating. However, while they do avoid prison, "get out of jail free card" is only technically true. Instead, they are committed to the nearest mental institution for an evaluation and then treatment. Very often, that means they will spend more time than would have been the case in prison, even for the rest of their life. Not only that but of course the stigma remains regardless. This is assuming they're acquitted with the insanity defense at all (it only works in a tiny number of cases when tried). Some jurisdictions don't even have it, so mentally ill defendants are simply treated in prison (often poorly, given lack of resources) when they might be sent to a hospital otherwise instead.