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Character Check

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"Can't any one of your damned little Scooby club at least try to remember that I hate you all?"
Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, making a heartfelt plea to his scriptwriters

A Character Check is when the writer realizes the character is no longer behaving the way he or she was first portrayed, and tries to cover it up by throwing in a scene in which the character ostentatiously reverts to form. Related to Author's Saving Throw, but a Character Check seldom leads to any lasting change and is not necessarily popular with the fans, who may have become attached to the "new" version of the character and dislike the brief resurgence of the old one.


Very common with Designated Villains or Jerkass characters who have moved into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory; this sort of reminder of "how things used to be" is a frequent side effect of Badass Decay and Villain Decay. Also likely to result from Depending on the Writer. There is also a certain amount of Truth in Television here. Someone may have changed over time, but can still fall back on old habits now and again. However, fictional characters are usually expected to behave more consistently. This trope may make the audience exclaim, "I Forgot Flanders Could Do That!"



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     Anime and Manga 
  • A textbook example from Dragon Ball Z is how Vegeta behaves in the Buu saga, where he lets himself fall under the Mind Control of Babidi just to feel "like himself" again.
  • Due to being a Long Runner, the Pokémon anime frequently fazes in and out with characterisations:
    • During Team Rocket's phase as more dangerous, serious minded villains in the Best Wishes! arc of the anime, they still had odd Not So Above It All moments as a reminder this was the bumbling Team Rocket trio. XY afterwards reverses it around. They're back to being buffoonish, but still have several moments of being genuinely sinister and cold-blooded.
    • For most of his later run, Brock was demoted to lovesick comic relief and Mr. Exposition. However occasional limelight episodes did still demonstrate the cool headed battle competence he had in his earliest appearances. This is especially apparent in most of his one off reappearances since being Put on the Bus.
    • Kiawe of the Sun and Moon series was a more situational case. He similarly started off a serious minded battler, though as the series itself transitioned to more light hearted Slice of Life, his comical traits were put in limelight more often. Most times the series returned to more intense plots however he returned to form.
  • High School D×D plays this for comedy by having Issei perform a Character Check on himself. After Azazel compliments Issei on the maturity of a decision he just made, specifically noting the notorious Chivalrous Pervert had left a woman's bust size out of it (It Makes Sense in Context). Issei is started to realize he's right, and looks to the teammate who most reliably calls out his perversions. She has nothing to add. Issei's narration meanders off into existential angst for a moment, how could he forget the things of beauty he's repeatedly professed to live for, before deciding there are more pressing issues right now.
  • In My Hero Academia, Endeavor, the #2 Hero, not only is a unpleasant jerk, but was so obsessed with raising a child who could surpass All Might (the #1 Hero) that he married a woman with an ice quirk to breed a Superior Successor. This obsession led to him abusing his son and chosen successor Shoto by giving him Training from Hell, neglecting his other children save for Toya, who was heavily wounded in a training accident and eventually became a supervillain, and abusing his wife, resulting in her having a breakdown and scarring Shoto's face. Eventually, Endeavor becomes the #1 Hero after All Might's retirement, and, realizing his triumph is a hollow one, seeks to become a better hero and father. That said, the narrative reminds the viewers of Endeavor's past misdeeds, and shows that he's still a jerk. For example, when Midoriya and Bakugo intern for Endeavor at Shoto's request, Endeavor says he only took them on because his son asked, and despite mentoring them well, coldly says their success or failure won't affect his hero work.

     Comic Books 
  • Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have been engaging in a hot and steamy affair for a while, and it has even reached the point that he trusts her with his Secret Identity and she helps out fighting Gotham's criminal element. Several issues have shown her still acting like a criminal as a message to Bruce that she isn't a member of his "little club", and never really will be.
  • Suzie was originally a Dumb Blonde and Cute Clumsy Girl, not to mention the protagonist of the comic named after her, but after her boyfriend Ferdie took over the book she was reduced to being the Straight Man Love Interest in stories about his cluelessness and clumsiness. Occasionally though, especially in stories were Ferdie wasn't around, she'd revert to her original personality.
  • The writers of the tie-in comics for The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! turned Yellowjacket back into Ant-Man.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool gives out Character Checks to several villainous Memetic Losers, reminding readers that in-universe, these characters are serious threats and always have been:
    • Batroc the Leaper, long dismissed by modern fans as a silly villainous French Captain Ethnic, is depicted as nothing less but a consistent badass. Which is only natural, since his entire schtick has always been he's a savate prodigy skilled enough to go toe-to-toe with Captain America despite never having taken any sort of Super Serum.
    • Gwenpool herself has her first defeat when she goes up against M.O.D.O.K., dismissing him as "that lame supervillain who looks like a giant floating head". Unfortunately for her, whilst that's his Memetic Loser reception, the comics have always portrayed M.O.D.O.K dead seriously as a super-smart sadist who is always Crazy-Prepared for opponents, wields Psychic Powers with extremely destructive capabilities, and actively revels in killing and torture.
    • A non-villainous example? Deadpool. When Gwenpool brings up that she never really cared about Deadpool due to his memetic status as a random-wacky meme-spewing nut, this bites her hard. As Deadpool naturally lampshades; yes, he is a 4th-wall-breaking lunatic, but he's also a legitimately skilled warrior, genuinely intelligent beneath the madness, and most importantly of all, he's both far more experienced at abusing his 4th-wall-break powers and has greater Popularity Power at his disposal.

     Fan Works 

  • In Paddington, Mr. Curry, while he dislikes Paddington like in the books, is portrayed more as grumpy than as a Jerk, even alerting the Browns to Paddington's whereabouts near the climax. In Paddington 2, he is much more antagonistic to the bear, even using Paddington's wrongful arrest to his own advantage.

  • In the Star Wars Corellian Trilogy, the group travels for a time with an astromech that can speak Basic. After being damaged, the droid becomes exceedingly paranoid and aggressive; when Anakin points out that "Q9 is acting funny", the droid runs diagnostics to get back to normal.

     Live Action TV 
  • Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a lot of these, with the most jarring and noticeable being the attempted rape of Buffy in Season 6. Only slightly less subtle was the scene in which he plays poker with other demons for kittens.
  • Sylar in Heroes was prone to these in Season 3, as the writers veered erratically between portraying him as The Woobie and remembering, "Oh, yeah, this guy was a psychotic serial killer in Seasons 1 and 2." The utterly gratuitous murder of Elle was a case in point.
  • Lionel Luthor of Smallville started out as a prime example of a Magnificent Bastard. He was cruel, manipulative, and gloriously evil. In Season 5, he started acting like a good guy while acting as the "Oracle" for Jor-El. In Season 6 the writers wanted to "slap [the audience] in the face" with a reminder of who he used to be, so they had him blackmail Lana into marrying Lex. Then, sad to say, he went back to being a good guy.
  • Sawyer from Lost started out as the resident Jerkass with occasional glimpses of a heart of gold and gradually moves toward outright heroism over the course of the series. Throughout, however, he has moments reminding everyone that he is at best a Hero with an F in Good who Wants a Prize for Basic Decency. One of the most notable examples occurs in the episode "The Long Con" in which he performs an elaborate con to get posession of the castaways' guns. Charlie asks Sawyer why he did it, and his response is that he's "not a good person. Never did a good thing in my life."
  • In M*A*S*H, the whole Margaret arc. She went from Hot Lips to Margaret. At first there was some homage paid to Hot Lips, then the writers just gave up. Margaret underwent a lot of genuine Character Development as the series progressed, becoming friendlier and less antagonistic. However, a rather noticeable Character Check occurred in the fifth season episode "The Korean Surgeon", in which Hawkeye and B.J. attempt to save a North Korean doctor who is a P.O.W. by shaving his beard and giving him a haircut and telling everyone that he is South Korean, so that he can join them at the camp. Margaret and Frank discover what's going on, and threaten to go over Colonel Potter's head to resolve the matter; something they'd frequently do to Henry Blake, but not to Potter as he was far more competent, extremely well-connected, and Margaret respected him a lot more (as Potter was regular army). The threat (and indeed the whole plot) seems more suited to an episode from the first three seasons (when Blake was in charge), so it comes off as a bit jarring.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth Doctor episode "State of Decay" does this for two neglected personalities of the Doctor. After several serials of the Doctor's characterisation being unusually dark, grumpy and Chessmasterly, "State of Decay" returns him to the witty and capricious mode he'd been in for the previous three seasons — but the story itself is written with all the characteristic tropes of his first three seasons, being a Gothic Horror Pastiche about weakened ancient godlike beings attempting to regain power. (Partial explanation: "State of Decay" was a recycled script. It was originally from the Gothic Fourth Doctor period that had been scotched at the time by Executive Meddling and was later resubmitted; by that time the show's management had changed twice.)
    • The Sixth Doctor was intended to be this — after the Fifth Doctor, an extremely kind-hearted, subtle and humanlike incarnation, the desire was to return the Doctor to being a flamboyant and socially tone-deaf character (similar to the popular Fourth Doctor in some of his madder characterisations) who was more threatening, morally-ambiguous, and borderline impossible to deal with (similar to the Ur-Example of the character, the First Doctor). Unfortunately, the writers failed to execute this with the subtlety it required, leading to a Establishing Character Moment of him trying to murder his own companion that cast a long and poisonous shadow over his personality in the eyes of fans.
    • The TARDIS started out broken; completely unsteerable to the point where the Doctor can never leave a place and time that he's not completely done with, because he can never return. During the Fourth Doctor's tenure, he switched to using the "secondary control room", which allowed him to steer the TARDIS for the first time (onscreen, anyway), although due to his personality he often wouldn't and even installed a "Randomiser" to make control of it impossible again. The new series establishes right from the very beginning that the Doctor knows how to fly his TARDIS now, showing it capable of maneuvers stated to be completely impossible for most of the Classic Doctors (the earliest example being the Ninth Doctor's And Another Thing... rematerialization in "Rose"), but every so often a story will start with the Doctor mis-steering the TARDIS and ending up somewhere unwanted, such as "The Idiot's Lantern" ('50s Britain and not '50s America), "Tooth and Claw" (the Victorian era rather than the '70s), and completely Deconstructed in "Aliens of London" (a year after Rose left instead of a few hours). This is lampshaded during the Eleventh Doctor's tenure; the TARDIS briefly gains the ability to talk, and at one point the Doctor accuses her of never taking him where he wanted to go. She retorts that she always took him where he needed to go.
    • After literally decades of the Doctor being depicted as young(ish) and often romantic (especially since the series' return in 2005), the introduction of the Twelfth Doctor was intended to be a return to the type of the character that led the show in the 1960s and early 1970s - older, wiser, grumpier, and less likely to fall in love with his companions. As the next item on this list shows, that last point ultimately didn't take.
    • After two and a half seasons depicting the Doctor as "besotted" (Steven Moffat's term) with companion Clara Oswald, to the extent of obsession over her safety in Series 9, with feelings for her that caused him to abandon his principles, the Series 9 finale, "Hell Bent", sees the Doctor erase his core memories of Clara and ends with him, at least for now, returning to being the indomitable Time Lord we've come to know. Only to zigzag immediately with "The Husbands of River Song" placing the Doctor into another romantic, bittersweet scenario in which he acts like a lovesick puppy, though it's implied he's taken some of the lessons from his experience with Clara to come out of it less damaged (justified in-universe by the fact he has had most memories of Clara erased, most specifically anything related to being in love with her, but he still remembers he went down a dark path with her).
  • Mary and Edith from Downton Abbey spent most of series 1 engaged in The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry, only for various deaths, intrigues and the First World War to make them realize there were far more important issues at hand. At times they seem to get along quite well, only for writer Julian Fellowes to remember they're supposed to dislike each other and throw in a barbed comment or two between them.
  • One of the biggest complaints of the series finale of How I Met Your Mother is that Barney returns to his womanizing ways from seasons 1-5 after he and Robin get divorced.
  • The Cat in Red Dwarf was originally introduced as a Drop-In Character, somebody who was caught up in his own self-obsessed world, only occasionally interacting with the other crew, and sometimes even being a nuisance. This got forgotten over time, as he became more and more a part of their adventures, piloting the ship and making use of his Super Senses to get them out of trouble. But the plot of the reunion special "Back To Earth" effectively hinges on reminding us of the early Cat, complete with a hilarious Call-Back to an episode in the very first series.
    • He also lost most of his intelligence for a season or two (he was never the brains of the operation, but 'ultra stupid' wasn't the joke with him, until it was.) This too was dropped with the return to his old self, though he remains a full part of the team and their adventures.
  • This was done subtly in the Stargate Atlantis episode "McKay and Mrs. Miller". Rodney McKay calls Samantha Carter "blue eyes" and insists on checking some mathematics himself. While McKay has always been condescending (and there's nothing out of character about him wanting to check the work himself) it's out of character for the Stargate Atlantis version of McKay to talk to a female scientist in this manner. It is however completely in character for the original version of McKay when he was introduced in SG1 (fitting since working with Carter in Stargate Command like he was doing in this episode was how he was originally introduced). Keep in mind, the original character was before he developed from "jerk the audience hates and wants to see fail while Carter wins" to "jerk with a heart of gold whom the audience sympathises with and even enjoys seeing charging in to save the day, even if it's still funny sometimes to see him suffer".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Q was introduced as a threatening god-like being who had judged humanity, found them wanting and had decided to exterminate the entire race. Almost immediately after his introduction, he was re-written as an omnipotent prankster akin to Loki. Picard even stopped seeing him as a threat and more of a nuisance. But then there was the final episode, where Q was suddenly ready to destroy humanity again.
    • Then there was Worf. In the first two seasons, Worf literally growled a lot, and smiled like a predator whenever it looked like violence might break out. Later in the series, he simply became a strict, honor-bound warrior with a more martial outlook to any situation, who never growled and never smiled. Occasionally the writers would write in a battle-lust scene for him, and once, quite jarringly, had him let loose with a belly-laugh as other Klingon characters might do. Aside from these brief touches, he was practically stoic.
    • For that matter, it happened to an entire race. When the Borg were first introduced, they were supposedly only interested in advancing themselves technologically, and correspondingly it made sense for them to ignore organic beings unless they considered them a threat. But after assimilating Picard, the writers forgot about the idea that the Borg only care about the tech of the races they encounter and basically turned them into techno-zombies, assimilating everyone they came into contact with. And yet, for some reason, when it was more convenient to explain how the characters escaped the Borg, they would bring back the idea that individual Borg drones "will ignore us unless they consider us a threat!"
  • On Star Trek: Voyager, an entire group of people had this happen to them. The Maquis crew aboard Voyager initially had some serious problems trusting the Starfleet crew they were supposed to work with. By the time of the seventh season this had largely disappeared, as is natural considering how long they were stranded together. For some reason, the writers then decided to have an episode devoted to the mysterious murder of Maquis crewmembers, and immediately all the old distrust came out. Suddenly, all Starfleet officers couldn't be trusted, even to the point where they objected to Tuvok handling the investigation. Naturally, once the episode was over, the mixed Voyager crew became one big happy family again.
  • Chelsea from That's So Raven Took a Level in Dumbass as the series progressed. The sequel Raven's Home presents her as more in-line with her season 1 persona, if not even Older and Wiser.
  • Lola from Zoey 101 was a originally a Snarky Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Similar to her predecessor Dana. In season 3 Lola Took a Level in Kindness and became more cheerful. However, she would still show signs of her original character from times to times by being a bit snarky with people.
  • Deadwood: After a full season of working on the side of the good guys and taking a level in kindness, Al Swearengen reminds everyone that he's a ruthless and sadistic throat-cutter by brutally torturing one of Hearst's mooks. Along the way, he admits that he's just doing it for fun and holds no illusions that he has any sort of moral high ground over the man.
  • Game of Thrones: A giant complaint of the last season is that Jaime reverts back to his season one persona, pre-character development. Not only reigniting his Undying Loyalty to Cersei but also making the absurd claim that he never cared about innocents when one of the most pivotal of his character moments was the reveal that he stained his reputation to save a city's worth of innocents.


     Tabletop Games 
  • Da Orks in Warhammer40000 have a gestalt psychic field that allows them to impose Clap Your Hands If You Believe onto the material universe, mostly for the purpose of making their ramshackle technology actually work. Occasionally a writer would try to make an Ork pick up a tree branch that he thought looked like a gun, and start magically firing bullets with it. These days this doesn't happen so much, partly by clarifying that Orks aren't quite that stupid, and partly by establishing that most if not all Ork technology do work in human hands, they just work better in an Ork's hands.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's use of Victoria warrants a mention. First she was a hoe, then a silly dancing ex-ho, logical. Suddenly she was psychotic, obsessive, evil, held a grudge against Trish Stratus of doubtful justification, claimed to hear voices in her head and saw things that were not there, such as carrying an imaginary title belt... not so logical. Then after Wrestlemania XX Victoria was silly dancer again, her seeming split with Stevie Richards, who she claimed "needed help" was about the only nod to how she was prior. Then she turned heel and dropped all prior characterization but went crazy again for a feud with Mickie James (who transitioned into sanity much more sensibly). As the feud with Mickie went on though Victoria stopped being psycho and started being a goof, the only thing missing from her original character being the dancing.

     Video Games 
  • In Marathon 2, Durandal was far less of a nutjob than the first game. Still, he does briefly stop to remind you that "If you insist on stumbling around when our time here is limited, I may just decide that you're not all that special after all and teleport you out into space." Probably justified in that he was going through the early stages of Rampancy in the first game (which includes a "psychotic anger" phase), and by the second game has calmed down and stabilized a great deal.
  • In the very beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud has a difficult and rude personality, characterised by various points where, in conversation, the player can choose between a couple of responses - usually a rude or abrasive one, and an apathetic or kind one. These scenes get fewer as the plot gets moving and Cloud's personality develops, and are completely abandoned after Cloud develops an agreeable, intentionally funny personality after reconstructing his memories, except for a scene towards the end of the second disc if the player chooses to have Barret in the party while hijacking the submarine - Barret will point out to Cloud that Cloud's whole personality is completely different to how it used to be and that he's come a long way, to which the player can have Cloud respond with either a rude or apathetic comment.
  • A series-wise one for Final Fantasy involves Gilgamesh, the wandering warrior who has managed to appear in multiple entries in the franchise (and yes, confirmed to be the same person) despite being in a series that runs heavily on Thematic Sequels for the most part. When he first appears, he mostly behaves like a dragoon from the series, using a Blade on a Stick and doing powerful jumping attacks. He later takes on a Multi-Armed and Dangerous form that functions like a Walking Armory, with this form most famously falling for using Excalipoor. This was Flanderized into being obsessed with swords in particular in his second appearance, in Final Fantasy VIII, and "multi-armed guy who hunts for swords" became his schtick for a long time. However, later appearances have him going back to using dragoon tactics much more, and one of his "hunt for a weapon" sidequests was for a halberd.

     Web Comics 
  • Homestuck:
    • Many characters had drifted to being more serious, as the events of Act 5 became very stressful and worrisome. This meant characters were less prone to cracking jokes, and more prone to simple kindness, depression, anger, etc. After a year's Time Skip in Act 6 however, they have been shown to act more similarly to their original characterization, with their new characterization still lingering however. The most notable characters this has occurred with are John, Dave, and Karkat, though it has occurred with everyone affected by the Time Skip to some extent, with the exception of Terezi.
    • A whole two-page sequence shows Rose, who had been becoming far more serious and dark, being 'returned' to her original self by John in which he expresses concern about how she hasn't been making many jokes lately, and she kids along with him, pretending to be a Straw Vulcan-type character.

     Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! portrays The Wasp as energetic, witty, and caring, like in Marvel Adventures. However, one episode, "459", inexplicably reverts Wasp to her Silver Age personality. She desperately wishes her teammate Ant-Man would love her, and flirts with other male superheroes to make him jealous. Unlike most instances of the trope, she ends up regretful of this by the end of the episode and apologizes for her meanness after Ant-Man is hurt in the field.
  • Occasionally Stewie from Family Guy will go back to his evil genius persona from the earlier seasons, usually for a quick joke or the occasional odd episode.
  • Rufus and Amberley were mostly diluted to Hero Antagonists after the pilot episode of The Dreamstone, however odd episodes made attempts to return them to center spotlight. Shades of their original characterizations also re emerged throughout Seasons Three and Four.
  • Done to a few of the engines throughout the long run of Thomas & Friends, despite Flanderization altering a lot of their personalities drastically, their old forms from the original novels and episodes do occasionally return. For example, Thomas, now more a Kindhearted Simpleton, will occasionally act cheeky or pompous, while Toby, now altered into a Lovable Coward, will show glimpses of his Big Brother Mentor persona.
  • Daffy Duck has two very clear personalities: the Screwball Cloud Cuckoo Lander - which is how he originally was during his debut and early years, followed by the Jerkass with a big case of Small Name, Big Ego and an intense greed streak.note  Nowadays, it is the latter personality — the perpetual arrogant loser — that takes center stage and has become the one most people audiences are familiar with, thanks primarily to director Chuck Jones making ample use of it. However, some productions do attempt to merge the two personas, to varying degrees: ranging from occasionally slipping into "screwball mode" when it would give him something of an edge to being an snarky egotist with a thin grasp on reality (e.g. The Looney Tunes Show).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "28 Pranks Later" has received criticism for reverting Rainbow Dash back to her Season 1 self by pranking Fluttershy even if she knows that she doesn't like it.
    • In season 8, we get a refresher course in what Mad God Discord can be like when rubbed the wrong way. In the end, they had to give him what he wanted, no strings attached to appease him.
    • Season 9 has Twilight Sparkle acting the way she did at her absolute worst back in Season 2, with Pinkie Pie even coining the term "Twilighting" to describe when she goes completely off her nut for no good reason.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, the usually kind and emphatic Sunset Shimmer also started out as the spin-off series' first Big Bad. The character still has the Hair-Trigger Temper she boasted prior to reforming, occasionally being easily set-off and prone to throwing out volleys of insults and threats until calmed down.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Even though Mitchell has been taking a level in kindness in Season 2, in “Our Sun is a Star!", he's just as mean as he was in Season 1. However, this episode takes place in January, and Mr. Peterson is shown taking down Christmas decorations, so it's possible that this episode could have taken place after "Holidays in Boxwood Terrace", where it was revealed that he only pretends to be a jerk, and Mitchell becomes part of the group. That episode was one of the very last Season 1 episodes, and Mitchell didn't start becoming nicer until "Try and Try Again", a Season 2 episode.